By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Music has made the world go around for musician Mike Cummings of Winsted since he was a fifth grade percussionist in the elementary school band in Preston.
Since moving to Winsted to open a barber shop in 1983, he has been sharing his musical talent at Holy Trinity Church services, and entertaining people with his folksy tunes at area events.
This past June, Cummings played his guitar and sang at Winsted’s Arts in the Park, where people commented that he sounded a lot like Bob Dylan.
“Mostly, I have been told I sound like Roger McGuinn,” Cummings said. McGuinn was lead singer and co-founder of the band, the Byrds in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Cummings attributes his folk, blues, and bluegrass style music to the influence of performers like Dylan, McGuinn, John Prine, Doc Watson, Leo Kottke, Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin, Pete Thompson, Neil Young, James Taylor, and Townes Van Zandt.
Growing up on a family farm in Fountain, Cummings started playing guitar when he was 12 years old. He had asked his parents for the guitar as a birthday present.
“I started playing because I wanted to, not because anyone encouraged me,” Cummings said.” “My parents weren’t musical people. There just wasn’t any appreciation there.”
After he learned a few chords on his own, he put the guitar away until he was about 17 years old.
“I think it really got on my dad’s nerves,” Cummings said.
By the time Cummings was in high school, he decided he would try to play the guitar again, but it just didn’t have the quality sound he wanted, so he spent his own money and bought an Ovation guitar.
“I probably paid $250 for it, which was pretty spendy at the time,” Cummings said.
It didn’t take him long to learn to play it, and the singing just seemed to go along with it.
“Friends of mine and I would bring our guitars to school and we would sing and jam together in the band room,” he said.
Following his graduation in 1976, Cummings remained at home to help his dad on the farm, and continued playing his guitar and singing with his friends.
“I can’t remember the first time I sang in public,” Cummings said. He guessed it was probably at age 21 or 22.
After farming for several years, Cummings was ready for something different, and chose to attend a barbering school.
His first job cutting hair, after finishing school, was in Owatonna, where he worked for about two years until he learned of an opportunity to open a barber shop in Winsted in 1983. His shop was located next to the Pantry, in the old theater building.
He not only started a new business in Winsted, but soon met his future wife, Marie Fiecke, who grew up on a farm just south of town. They married in 1986 and have two children Chris and Alecia.
One of the things that Marie remembers while she and Mike were dating was wherever they went, it was just expected that Mike would take his guitar.
“There were a lot of campfire parties,” Marie said. “Between Fountain and Lanesboro, they would have these burnings. House burnings, and barn burnings.”
“One time, they had a couch burning and everybody brought their couches. When they had to get rid of a tree stump, they would have a stump burning. They would sit around and sing in the aftermath. It was like a festival,” Marie said.
In 1988, Mike closed his barber shop.
“I actually enjoyed being a barber,” Mike said. “There just wasn’t much money in it at the time.”
He now works for Esis in Richfield as a claims adjuster. He has been commuting to the cities for 25 years.
Today, music remains an important part of Mike’s life.
He now owns six guitars four acoustics, and two electric guitars.
Two of his acoustic guitars are Martins. He owns a high-end Martin that he uses for church, and a lower-end, cheaper Martin that he uses for camping.
“Anything you need to know about music trivia, he would be the person to ask,” Marie said. “All of the bands, their members, where they played, what year they broke up, for the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.”
“I always tell him he should go on one of those trivia shows,” Marie added.
Besides retaining music facts, Mike has most of his music memorized.
“He listens to a song two or three times and can play it,” Marie said.
Mike still likes jamming and heads over to the Three Crows on River Street in Delano many Saturday mornings to play with other musicians.
“Sometimes you will only have three or four people there, and sometimes you will have 12. There are fiddles, guitars, banjos, mandolins. They get some high-end talent,” Mike said. “Last time, there were just three or four of us. It was great.”
Mike would like to do more singing and performing. He is available for weddings, parties, and other events. He can be reached at (320) 485-4397.