Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Minnesota 13 was the Key to Moonshine in Minnesota

With John Perkins’ ninth benefit concert for the Edge Center in August, we will learn a lot about some little known facts concerning this “neck-of-the-woods”.  One of the more colorful facts is that there was a lot more “moonshine” being produced here than one might expect. In fact, the state of Minnesota was one of the centers of making illegal liquor during those years. It had its own preferred “brand” of the product taking “Minnesota 13” moonshine way beyond the region. John Perkins brings his “brand” of music to his annual Edge benefit concert this month. All the music he sings and plays is his own. John is a very talented musician, singer, and songwriter from the Sand Lake area of our state. You can sit back and enjoy his songs about the history, people, and way of life here in the Chippewa forest plus something about his other “home” in the “smoky mountains” where he spends half of the year enjoying life a little south of Asheville North Carolina. John will be joined by his “better-half” Sandy with her, spoons, Cajon and wonderful energy.  The show will be on stage at the Edge Center in Bigfork Saturday August 26 at 7PM. Prices $10 adults and $5 children.

Above, is a picture of John with his "Moonshine" prop that he made for this performance.

First a little bit about “Minnesota 13” moonshine.  Back in the 1800's it was thought that corn would not grow as far north as Minnesota until some University of Minnesota researchers developed a corn strain they called Minnesota 13. Sterns County was a production center for lots of Minnesota 13 during prohibition. But, there were more than just a few moonshine stills back in the woods this far north too. Here, other ingredients were used such as wheat and potatoes because there was so much of those available.

But that is getting a little ahead of the story. With Minnesota 13 corn being growing well down state, production rose and WWI provided ample market opportunities. The war ended, depression hit and so did Prohibition. All that did not stop the corn from growing, and with the silos filling, jobs disappearing and people needing money, the moonshine industry was born in Minnesota with Minnesota 13 being a preferred brand well beyond it boarders.

The production of  illegal booze including Minnesota 13 flourished until prohibition was repealed.

But let us go back to Northern Minnesota Moonshine for a bit. Back then in the early part of the 20th century and still today there is no federal law exemption distilling spirits for family or personal use and every state has its own set of laws regarding same.  You just couldn’t and still can’t do it legally. Now, there is a growing “craft distilleries” industry happening that is following up the “Craft Breweries” industry, but back in the 1920's and 30's no such thing existed, so everyone who made alcohol for drinking purposes was doing it to make illegal moonshine. Also back then the roads in northern Minnesota were not the best in the country, so getting around on them was not always easy, and then there was the winter with which to deal. So why not wait for a good snow storm to make sure you’d have no “visitors” on those snowy roads and fire up the still to make some spirits?  And if you needed more volume you could always hide it in some ingenious place like under a chicken coop.  That is enough about moonshine, and it is enough to just says it will be one of the topics in the John Perkins concert.  

You will be amazed at the amount of music John creates. Some of the songs you may have heard in his past concerts, but there is always so much more that will be new. He keeps finding new ways to be amazed by our world and passes that onto his audiences with his songs. There will be songs about homesteading at Max, the Zen of fishing, making maple syrup, a talking shed (that is a new one), and a “Box of Time” with a hole in the bottom. There will also be some of his other favorites that tell stories like “A Plow and a Friend” and “Whitewater Slim”, a 1928 logger who tried to ride the logs through Dead Man’s rapids on the Little Fork river. And don’t forget Chief Busticogan’s buried gold.

Audiences learn about both places John lives, laugh a little, and maybe shed a tear. But anyway it is strummed, it will be entertaining. To see an example of John's singing and song writing abilities, you can go to the following link: 

John plays a large variety of instruments including six, eight and 12 string guitars, a Resonator Steel Slide, and even a six-string banjo. Don’t forget there might also be a tambourine, jug, washboard, and Cajone on stage. For more information about John Perkins go to: And for some great Perkin’s music come to the concert on stage at the Edge Center in Bigfork Saturday August 26 at 7PM. Prices $10 adults and $5 children.

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