Peter Jesperson, the ultimate music obsessive, didn't play an instrument and wasn't about to learn. He had to figure out a way into the music business.
The Minnetonka native managed a hip south Minneapolis record store (Oar Folkjokeopus), spun records at the area's premier punk club (Jay's Longhorn Bar) and cofounded the essential Twin Cities indie record label (Twin/Tone). Then, Minneapolis' most influential tastemaker in the 1970s and '80s became the Replacements' manager.
"I had an epiphany when I heard that first Replacements tape," said Jesperson, recalling Paul Westerberg handing him a cassette at Oar Folkjokeopus. "I was really ridiculed and criticized at first for my obsession with them. I just knew they were great, and they were important, and they would stand the test of time.
"To have them as revered as they are in 2023 is probably the most gratifying experience in my entire life. I got it right once in my lifetime."
Jesperson, 69, chronicles his lifetime in the music biz in a new memoir, "Euphoric Recall." He tells his personal tale from being a Beatle and Bowie-maniac to experiencing the highs of the Replacements and R.E.M. (he was their road manager) to getting sober and working in L.A. with the likes of Steve Earle and Kris Kristofferson. The book doubles as an insider's history of the burgeoning Twin Cities indie rock scene in the '70s and '80s.
Jesperson will talk about many of those topics in a Q&A with longtime radio DJ Mary Lucia at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Electric Fetus, with performances by Curtiss A and others.
Music lovers will want to hear about the beloved Replacements, who were as brilliant as they were a carefree, intoxicated train wreck.
"They weren't able to fake it. But that was part of what made them so great," Jesperson reflected this month. "Somebody that great has to have a flip side. There was a contempt for the glossiness of people launching a career by how they look rather than how they sound."
Record store as college
Growing up in Minnetonka, Jesperson got hooked on the Beatles after seeing them on "The Ed Sullivan Show." His music obsession became so unquenchable that as a teen he helped distribute New Musical Express, the British weekly, in the Twin Cities area. Then he got a job ushering at the Guthrie Theater (favorite concerts being the Mothers of Invention in '69 and Neil Young solo in '71) and talked his way into a clerk gig at Oar Folk.
"The record store was a huge part of my life — it was my college," Jesperson said of his decade at the corner shop on Lyndale Avenue at 26th Street. "I did go to vocational school to study radio broadcasting and electronics."
He did a stint on KRSI radio and spent four years as in-house DJ at the Longhorn, the hub of the punk and new-wave scene, for $15 a night and free drinks. In 1977, he co-founded Twin/Tone Records with recording engineer Paul Stark and sports journalist Charley Hallman.
The label issued records by the Suburbs, Wallets, Soul Asylum and, of course, the Replacements, among others. In '79, Twin/Tone offered a compilation, "Big Hits of Mid-America, Volume 3," a continuation of a 1960s tradition started by the local Soma label.
"I thought we were sitting on a gold mine. I took boxes of it over to England and brought them to record labels and the BBC and every DJ in London," Jesperson remembered. "A few went nuts for it. [Legendary BBC radio DJ] John Peel played three songs on it while I was there, which blew me away. The record made a splash locally and we got good reviews."
Of course, Jesperson felt it deserved more. At least, it will get a new life with a reissue this week, including a release concert Saturday featuring Curtiss A, Suicide Commandos, Hypstrz, Fingerprints and Yipes at Hopkins Center for the Arts.
An inveterate cheerleader for good music, Jesperson thinks Curtiss A "should have been hugely famous. And I can't comprehend why Robert Wilkinson [of Flamin' Oh's] didn't get a national recording contract."
No one said the music biz was fair.
"Peter's our idiot savant from the '70s and '80s but he knew what he was doing," said Rob Sheeley, owner of the Mill City Sound record store in Hopkins, who is rereleasing "Big Hits" on his BackGroove label. "Peter was the guy who had all the grace and the ability to talk to everybody and get people motivated to do stuff. And he still is."
Honest about drugs
Five years ago, Jesperson got approached by a publisher about writing a memoir of his career. He had penned record reviews and record-label biographies but nothing in long form. He delivered a 163,000-word manuscript last year to a different publisher, Minnesota Historical Society Press, that had to be cut in half.
He knew he'd have to discuss his battle with alcohol and drugs.
When he first started writing the book, he was hesitant to discuss the topic because his son was in high school. But now that Autry is a 21-year-old college senior, Dad felt more comfortable about being forthcoming.
"That wasn't one of the more pleasant parts, writing about it, but I didn't have trouble delving into it," Jesperson said of his substance abuse. "Drugs played an important role in my life, but I'd never want to make an endorsement of it. I had to be honest about it.
"I made a lot of mistakes, and I did a lot of dumb stuff but all of that stuff combined got me to Jennifer Menard and I can't imagine my life without her," he said of his wife, who he met 30 years ago at, appropriately, a Slim Dunlap performance at Los Angeles' Virgin Megastore, then the world's largest record store.
The book's title, "Euphoric Recall," comes from a drug treatment term Jesperson heard from his counselor in 1991.
"She was scolding me for having fond memories," he said. "I said 'If I try to exclude this, it would be untruthful' because I had lots of great times but it got so bad that I almost died. 'Euphoric recall,' to me, means something much broader.
"Music grabbed me at a young age and it's what I wanted to do through thick and thin and I've certainly had plenty of thin — and there were times when I made great money. But I don't care about money. 'Euphoric recall' is for 50-plus years I've gotten to work with the music I love."
Based in Los Angeles since 1995, Jesperson serves as a consultant and talent adviser. He's trying to land a publishing deal for Dunlap, the Replacements guitarist sidelined by a stroke, and a recording contract for an artist known as Gold Star.
"Art is one of the things that makes me believe that there is magic in this world," Jesperson said. "Music is magical and life-affirming."
Plus, he half-jokes that he's skill-free. "So I can't do anything else."
What: Q&A conducted by Mary Lucia, with a book signing and performances by Curtiss A, Steve Almaas, Tim O'Reagan and Robert Wilkinson.
When: 7 p.m. Tue.
Where: Electric Fetus, 2000 4th Av. S., Mpls.
Tickets: Must buy a $29.95 book to receive a free ticket; electricfetus.com.
When: noon Sat.
Where: Roadrunner Records, 4534 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls.