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Holm away from home

Popular artist back in Fargo...

Johnny Holm
Musician and talent agent Gary Bitzer calls Johnny Holm the "Pied Piper of music" for his ability to get audiences active in the show. Special to The Forum

Popular artist back in Fargo

Even on vacation in Manzanillo, Mexico, Johnny Holm couldn't escape his adopted Midwestern hometown.

"I picked up a Mexican paper and saw, 'Hey, the Bison are in,' " Holm said, back at his Twin Cities home Tuesday.

He's talking about the North Dakota State University Bison playing Kansas in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament Friday. Holm may miss the 11:30 a.m. game, as he'll be driving to Fargo, where he lived for 25 years, for a show that night at The Venue at The Hub. Still, he'll work out a song for the team.

The entertainer has plenty of songs to choose from. He's celebrating 40 years of playing bars and ballrooms around the country, a career that started in what is now Mick's Office in Moorhead.

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"I do have a pretty big plan, actually. I hope I can get it done," he says of celebrating his milestone. "I want to do a '40 years of Johnny' thing, four or five different concerts throughout the Midwest. Get the best guys I've had through all these years. Do a couple of CDs together, one original and one some of the best songs we've done through the years."

One of those "guys" would be his 19-year-old daughter, Jordan, who now sings with the band.

"I never dreamed that would happen," he says. "I would have to fight with her when she was 13 and 14 and have to take her to The Quest (a Minneapolis club) to see all the punk bands she was into for a while. But I remember how much I liked going to see the bands, so I was there for her and it sure paid off."

Family ties are common in Holm's long run, says Gary Bitzer, an artist manager in Fargo who books bands. The experience is passed down through generations of fans, he says.

"It's a matter of legacy," Bitzer says, explaining that kids are now seeing Holm, years after their parents.

He should know - Bitzer played keyboards for Holm in the early '80s, before leaving to start the band Icebreaker.

"It's like going to a great restaurant that's been there for years," Bitzer says of Holms' word of mouth publicity. "People go where people are."

Holm's time on the road nearly caught up with him last November. Driving to a show in Dickinson, N.D., his van hit black ice, spun and rolled into a ditch.

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"I was thrown out the back window of the van which I didn't even know was big enough for me to get out of. Apparently it was," he says with a laugh.

He landed about 25 feet from the van and walked away with some scratches, bruises and bad memories.

"I remember the van spinning over and thinking, 'This isn't happening,' " he recalls. "All the years you've been on the road and you know that kind of thing can happen. The next thing I know is I'm standing in the ditch and my first thought is, 'Where's Jordan? Where's my daughter?' "

She was fine, as was the rest of the band, but the memory lingers.

"I thought I was going to play a couple of nights later, but that wasn't going to happen," he says. "I don't hesitate now to call and say, 'No, we're not going to come, cancel the job.' I always hated driving on ice and we had some minor accidents in the past and it's really not worth it. But when you're young, you'll go through anything. You just love to go through that storm."

And while he may call off the occasional show now, Holm has no intentions of calling it quits.

"This is all I've done. If you think about it, 40 years is a long time to stick at one thing," he says. "As long as I'm healthy I'll still do it in some capacity. Right now, we still do 180 one-nighters a year, so I'm busy, busy."

If you go

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  • What: Johnny Holm Band
  • When: 10 p.m. Friday
  • Where: The Venue at The Hub
  • Tickets: $3 building cover. (701) 232-6767

Readers can reach Forum columnist John Lamb at (701) 241-5533

Johnny Holm
Johnny Holm's band was overhauled in 2006, including the addition of his daughter, Jordan. "I wear people out. I've been fortunate to have guys stay with me a lot of years," Holm says. The current lineup includes, from left, pianist Bryce Niemiller, singer Johnny Holm, bassist John Scalia, drummer Scott Pearson, singer Jordan Holm and guitarist Shaun Mitzel. Special to The Forum

Related Topics: MUSIC
For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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