Carl Unbehaun is a singer-songwriter from Minnesota.
Carl Unbehaun was born on July 5, 1950 in Racine, Wisconsin. Six weeks later, Carl's family moved to Circle Pines, Minnesota where he lived until age six, moving to rural St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin where he attended a one-room school for five years.
Carl gives credit to his mother for instilling a love for melodious music in him. As a youth, he had short stints with the accordion and alto sax. In 1964, Carl and his friend, Rick Davis, schemed about a dance band to be called The Rushin’ Torrents, but the band never got past the planning stages.
In 1963, Carl’s brother, Joe, started the first rock ‘n roll band in Polk County, Wisconsin, playing lead guitar. At 14, Carl joined The Tremadons when its bass player, Les Ryback, moved to Michigan. He bought a short-scale Gibson bass and Fender Bassman amp at B-Sharp Music in NE Minneapolis, and his life was never the same. Rounding out the line-up was Luis Karl on drums and Jerry Prokop on rhythm guitar/lead vocals. Carl's first gig was at the Danish Brothers Society Hall in Luck WI. They rented the hall, charged a dollar at the door; he thinks he made $12 that evening . . . a lot of money for a kid. Other venues were Wisconsin State College--River Falls, the Country Dam (near Amery WI), Pines Ballroom (in Bloomer WI), and at ski resorts. The first song he ever sang on stage was Dizzy Miss Lizzy.
Short-lived dance bands were common (and still are), so Carl, in 1965, joined The Esquires who were based out of North Branch, Minnesota, again when their bass player quit. Other members were Don Karsky (drums), Dale Madison (lead guitar/vocals), and Art Madison (rhythm guitar/vocals). The Esquires' mainstay was Hillcrest Ballroom, west of Mora MN.
Next stop was playing 12-string Rickenbacker in The Lovin’ Kind, a dance band comprised of high school students in St. Croix Falls. On lead guitar was Al Lunde; on keyboard, Mike Cobb; on bass guitar/lead vocals, Jim Lunde; and on drums, Dave Lucken. Carl claims his social stock rose dramatically by joining this group. They performed at the D'Lux Teen Club in Milltown as well as school and town dances, petering out in late 1966 or early 1967. Carl sold all his equipment, writing music off as a passing phase in his life.
In 1969, while in college, Carl got a call from Don Letendre to start a band. Carl’s brother, Bill, came up with four name possibilities: Maltese Garage Door, Chocolate Syringe, Imperial American Raisin, and Pretzel Assassination. The latter won out, Carl playing bass and doing some lead vocals, but the band only lasted a year or so, playing to dozens of mildly excited fans in NW Wisconsin. It was comprised of Letendre (guitar/vocals), Ken Nelson (drums), and Benny Baillargeon (keyboard/vocals) with Erling Voss as the unofficial manager. The boys got tired of Don's tardiness, so they replaced him with Al Lunde on guitar. Ultimately, it was a bad choice because Al didn't sing, and Don was the soul of the group. Gigs were dreadfully sparse. Carl recalls Fic's Hoot in Cumberland WI and driving to Prairie du Chien WI to play for a catholic church teen dance where the priest got the boys drunk.
Things changed in 1972 when Carl bought an Ovation Balladeer guitar and started writing songs. He did gigs at the Spotted Horse, east of St. Croix Falls (now called Kassel Tap), and an extended gig at The Camelot Room at Wayne’s Café in Amery, Wisconsin where he tried out his convoluted brand of music. Fans enjoyed quirky titles such as The Man in Charge of Hiring and Firing, Smoking, and Cushing Lutheran Church.
Later that year, Carl joined up with the Common People, based out of Amery, Wisconsin. He was slated to play bass but ended up on guitar, playing dance music at Straight 8 in Range WI, Tac-Lo-Ban in rural Amery WI, Eagle’s Lounge in Fox Creek WI, and K & K Bar in Clayton WI. Other members were Rick Stener on bass and Dewey Fansler on drums. This group was instrumental in turning Carl into a lead singer and front man.
In May, 1974, Carl was asked to form a super group of local musicians which became SPUNK (Don Karsky, drums; Rick Stener, bass; Bruce Bjork, lead guitar; Carl, rhythm guitar). SPUNK was the house band at the Dalles House in St. Croix Falls. They rehearsed four afternoons a week and performed 2-4 nights a week, occasionally doing Wednesday gigs at Brenneman’s in Turtle Lake WI. But the band preferred to remain a house band for growth purposes. FM dance music was the fare, but late in 1974, internal strife caused Stener to leave, and Don Cordes joined the group as its co-lead guitarist, sending Carl back to bass duties where he always preferred to be. SPUNK delved into underground music and dedicated the first set of the evening to show material, often lifting selections from Dr. Demento. Starving Musician Syndrome and disagreement over direction caused the group to disband in September, 1975. Though far from his most lucrative project, Carl counts SPUNK as the most creative and important group venture of his life. The Dalles House basement rocked on weekend nights as customers downed Harvey Wallbangers, Tequila Sunrises, and Black Russians, then hit the roads for the drunk drive home.
Carl scrambled back to the Common People with Rick Stener and new drummer, Steve Jorgensen, playing the same old haunts. The group lasted for about a year, but the magic was gone. Then Carl joined up with his brother, Joe, and Joe’s brother-in-law, Ronn Voss, to form Buckboard, a run-of-the-mill band that did small bars such as Lewis Bar and The Windjammer (east of St. Croix Falls). Buckboard didn’t last long, and Carl started doing a duo with friend, Bruce Bjork, (loosely known as Bruce & Carl performing mostly at the Taylor Place in Taylors Falls, MN.
In 1978, Carl did what he never thought he'd ever do: Play country music. The blessed event happened at Louie's Inn in Dresser WI. Dresser Junction was the house band's name, regardless of its numerous change of members (sort of a northern Menudo. After six months of country capers and putting up with the boss's off-key cameo appearances, Carl yielded his job to to the very talented Rick Larson.
Carl and Bruce Bjork then teamed up with "Disco Greg" McManus on drums, forming Stagecoach, a very short-lived group that played at The Windjammer and other small venues. Buckboard reemerged, lasting only into 1979 at which time Carl slid the guitar under the bed and got a real job to support his burgeoning family, taking gigs in fast-food restaurant management with Burger Chef, in the Twin Cities, and Mars Restaurants in Green Bay and Sheboygan, WI.
In 1981, Bruce Bjork convinced Carl to join the house band at his new bar, the Grizzly Den in Osceola, Wisconsin. The band never had a name but packed the house on weekends. Bruce’s wife, Julie, debuted at keyboard/vocals, and Relan Grove played drums. Later, Gary Reynolds took over the drum duties. Late in 1981 or early 1982, Carl left the gig and threw in with Tom Brown (guitar/keyboard) and Jim Raymond (drums) to form The Edsels, a 50’s/60’s three-piece group that became the house band at Denucci’s 35 Villa in Luck, MN. A little-known factoid is that Mary Volker was originally supposed to be the lead singer with the group, but she bowed out before the first performance.
The Edsels were, by far, the most successful musical venture Carl was ever part of. Playing 3-6 nights a week, The Edsels became a local phenomenon, packing them in wherever they played and selling Edsels’ merchandise.
In 1984, Carl took an English teaching position in Elmwood, Wisconsin but kept performing. This took a toll on him, so he bowed out of the group in 1985, being replaced on bass by Big Dave Peterson. The hiatus was short-lived, and Carl returned to the group the summer of ’85 but quit for good in the fall to devote himself to his teaching career and family needs.
While in Elmwood, Carl joined up with Ron Holcomb (bass) and Dennis Wood (drums) to form the Original Replicas. Playing at such places as Skylite and Eagle’s Lounge (Balsam Lake) and Wacky Wally’s (Wilson), the Replicas gained a respectable following but disbanded in 1987 when Carl’s contract was reduced.
Again, the guitar got slid under the bed, and Carl made another go at restaurant management, this time for Hardee’s, training in Hinckley, Minnesota and managing units in Loveland, Colorado, and Grafton, North Dakota. After three years of insanity, Carl said goodbye to the restaurant industry for good (with the help of his District Manager) and wandered for a couple years, taking some computer courses and substitute teaching. The Edsels tried to get him back, but he declined, instead entering the field employment and training field in 1993, and only playing guitar in church and at nursing homes.
Around 2000, Carl decided to do original music again, doing a duo with Bruce Bjork under the moniker Nattering Nabobs. Bruce & Carl played at Goochy Noochy’s Coffee House in St. Croix Falls (later called The Buzz) and at special events. During the 00’s, Carl would often join Bruce & Julie Bjork and Denny Armstrong as The Breezy Bay Boys and play special events, like Wannigan Days in St. Croix Falls. On a few occasions, Jim Raymond would pick up the drum sticks and the group became The Retreads, only playing at Whitetail Wilderness Campground near Webster, Wisconsin.
In the mid 00’s, Carl tried an experiment with friend, Don Karsky. As Plan B, they did original music only with Carl on acoustic guitar/vocals and Don on congas/djembe. Plan B did gigs at Chateau St. Croix, Festival Theater, and at special events, but the combination didn’t gel. So Carl played a few more gigs with Bruce Bjork, then went solo for good.
To date, Carl Unbehaun performs as himself at coffee houses and music festivals. He is a proud member of the Minnesota Association of Songwriters. Though he claims not to write comic songs, many of his songs are quirky with humorous overtones and are rife with lines that seemingly come from left field. He’s well known for tunes such as Visitors’ Day, Sucks 2 B U, Why Aren’t You Dead, and Ain’t Never Gonna Not Love Ya.
In 2011, Carl performed three half-hour sets at the Minnesota State Fair and continues to find inroads to performance venues throughout Minnesota, Eastern North Dakota, and Western Wisconsin. Though he’s never done a CD, he has home-brewed recordings and videos on his website, StrangeSongs.com and is planning an EP or CD in early 2013. He currently resides in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, with his wife, Jane, and Scottish Terrier, Lola.
- The Rushin' Torrents
- The Tremadons
- The Esquires
- The Lovin' Kind
- Pretzel Assassination
- The Common People
- Bruce & Carl
- Dresser Junction
- The Edsels
- The Original Replicas
- Nattering Nabobs
- The Breezy Bay Boys
- Plan B
- The Retreads
- Carl Unbehaun, Singer-Songwriter
No commercial recordings to date.