I don’t usually cover bands; that falls to Tom and Denny at www.minniepaulmusic.com The exceptions are those from my home town of St. Louis Park, Minnesota!
Members of the band included:
Cliff Siegel (aka “Little Cliffie” Stone): Lead Singer. Cliff was often described as a cross between Mick Jagger (Rolling Stones) and Eric Burden (The Animals). He lived at 3108 Louisiana in the Park and was in the Class of 1964. Cliff later became Lauren Siegel and worked at KARE 11.
Rick Levinson: Rhythm Guitar – 4216 W. 25th Street, Class of 1966. The name the High Spirits was born during a conversation in Rick’s kitchen. Also billed as Rick Anthony, he left the group in 1966 and went on to become a doctor. With fellow physicians, Rick went on to form a very successful Minneapolis band called Dr. Rock.
Bob Cohen: Lead Guitar. Bob was from Golden Valley. He replaced Rick Levinson in 1966. He had been in the Vigilantes with Rick Beresford and Randy Resnick. Bob lives in L.A. and continues to be a technology wizard.
Owen Husney: Lead/Rhythm Guitar – 2580 Vernon Ave., Park High class of 1965. In 1967, Owen switched to bass to accommodate the addition of lead guitar player David Rivkin. Owen became a music publisher and the man who discovered and managed Prince. He continues to be a very successful executive in the music industry with Warner Brothers.
- David Rivkin: Lead Guitar – 3721 Glenhurst, Class of 1966. David had come from the Chancellors in 1965 and left the High Spirits in late 1968 to join Stillroven. David sang backup on the High Spirits’ “(Turn on Your) Love Light” while still with the Chancellors.
Doug Ahrens: Drummer. Doug was from Southwest Minneapolis, Class of 1965. Prior to the High Spirits, Doug had been in a band with Mike Judge, who went on to be a guitar player/singer for the Chancellors. In 1967, Doug went into the National Guard and was replaced by Brad Burgeson.
Jay Luttio: Keyboards. Jay was from South Minneapolis, Class of 1965. Jay sang backup on all High Spirits records. Jay has always been the ultimate keyboard guy, able to transition from Piano Lounge entertainer to solid blues keyboarding in a nanosecond. Today he is a successful financial accountant.
Rick Beresford: Rick used the name Rick Becket, and was from Edina, Class of 1966. he and Bob Cohen had been in the Vigilantes, along with Randy Resnick, who lived on 25th Street around the corner from Owen Husney. Rick joined the group in April 1965 at the age of 16, playing bass and singing harmony. He left the High Spirits in 1967. Rick has continued to play music and is currently in a Minneapolis band called the Blues Benders with two of his sons.
Frank Prout: Bass – 5201 W. 28th Street, Park High class of 1964. Frank had been a member of Gregory Dee and the Avanties, and joined the High Spirits in late 1966. He left the group in 1967.
- Tim Millette: Tim was the original bass player; he left the band in the spring of 1965 to join the Lords. Tim writes:
I also played with Jojo Smith, the Deep End, and others. My longest lasting gig was with the Fabulous Wanderers, with Tinker Todd, Phil Lamont, and Bruce Norstad, who was inducted into the Rock/Country Hall of Fame with Damon Lee and the Diablos. I also worked with David Anthony, Bill Roslansky with Stagefinders, and Marsh Edelstein with Marsh Productions. Bill and I ran for a long time the Barn, later to be called the Purple Barn. Bill and I also worked together at His and Hers (in the Foshay Tower), Young America (local clothing store for men), Nic-O-Lake Records (where a lot of records were made in the basement. If recalling it correctly I think Dave Dudley recorded “Six days on the Road” there. I also was the bar manager for Bill, Stu Swartz (father I think owned part of Channel 9) and Dean Constantine who had a dance show, I think on Sunday mornings. We finished our last gig as the house band for Pudge’s on Ford Parkway in St. Paul when they first opened. We played some at the old CC Tap, Papa Joe’s on Northern, Crest a Go-Go in Fairbault for many years, and countless bars in the metro area. We did have a hit with “Road Runner,” but once I realized I wasn’t going to be a star, it was time to start a regular job.
The High Spirits’ first hit was a raveup of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “(Turn on Your) Love Light,” recorded on May 7, 1965 and issued on Soma Records. The B side was “Tossin’ and Turnin,” recorded at the same session. Rick London, the group’s manager, says that the session cost $500, borrowed from Cliff’s uncle. “We paid him back with the royalties and had enough left over for one more recording session. It was a three track studio at the time and we went from turning on the lights to cutting the master in just a few hours.” Rick played tamborine on the session. The record did well in the Twin Cities, and hit Number 1 in both Kansas City (the band performed in KC on two occasions) and Dallas during the fall of 1965, and also was beginning to do well in California. A Top 40 chart from San Jose in September 1965 showed that the record was ranked Number 33 in that market.
Their second release was “I Believe” (not the Frankie Laine song), recorded on January 12, 1966, and released on Soma. It was written by rhythm guitar player Rick Levinson. The flip side, recorded at the same session, was “Bright Lights, Big City,” a cover of a Jimmy Reed/Animals tune. The record did not do so well, and manager Rick London was replaced by Ira Heilicher.
The High Spirits were not so high-falutin’ that they were above playing the Class of 1965’s All Night Party or Park High’s Tropical dance on April 30, 1966! Good for you, boys!
From Rick Beresford:
Doug Ahrens and I reformed the band in 1968 with some musicians including Tom Hopp, now a country music writer from Steamboat Springs. We played for another year before the High Spirits finally folded altogether in 1969. However, many of the original High Spirits started playing reunion gigs in 1984, 1998, and 1999. We performed at the Medina Ballroom, the Fine Line, the Cabooze, and Mills City Music Festival. We played the reunion gigs with many of the original Twin Cities bands from the ’60s including Gregory Dee and the Avanties (the first group Frank Prout played in), the Chancellors, the Trashmen, Underbeats, Del Counts, Canoise, the Litter, and the Castaways. It was great to renew acquaintances again.
In 1968 the band took on a more psychedelic tone.
The music of the High Spirits can be found on the “Big Hits of Mid-America” compilation of Soma records.
On May 26, 2006, the High Spirits were inducted into the Minnesota Rock/Country Hall of Fame.
On August 29, 2015, the band had a historic reunion at the St. Louis Park Class of 1965’s 50th Reunion and tore the place apart! All six original members were present! See the video Here. And see Jon Bream’s story in the StarTribune Here.
Photos above and below by StarTribune photographer Kyndell Harkness.
Top 40 Charts from Minneapolis and Denver showing the popularity of “(Turn On Your) Love Light” can be viewed at:
Collage above courtesy Timothy D. Kehr. Additional text reads:
The “sound of The Spirits” is created by six hard-working, dedicated young artists. Seventeen year old leader Rick Anthony is the youngest, largest (6’4″) member. He plays rhythm guitar, sings bass, and does most of the writing and arranging. Eighteen year old bass player Rick Becket [Beresford] also sings high harmony and falsetto and writes an occasional tune. Classically trained on the cello, Rick sets down The Spirits arrangements on paper. Versatile eighteen year old John Paul Luttie plays seventeen instruments, including his electric organ. Lead guitarist Owen Husney is also eighteen. He credits his unique sound to sweater fingers and natural reverberation. Drummer Doug Ahrens, also eighteen, lays down the hard sound that rounds out the High Spirits instrumentally. Nineteen year old “Little Clifford” Stone is the oldest and teeniest (5’4″) “Spirit.” He has been singing since the age of nine, and has a repertoire of more than five hundred songs. The High Spirits acknowledge a dept to the Rolling Stones, Animals and Chuck Berry for their inspiration, but the “sound of the Sprits” is theirs alone. It’s sure to keep exciting the airwaves and tantalizing dance halls for years to come.