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Park Rapids summer resident releases second CD of songs

A couple of years ago, retired Grand Forks businessman Judd McKinnon recorded some of his favorite songs to give to his children and grandchildren. That went so well that he's just released another CD, this one called "Country Memories."

"He reminds me of Mr. Smooth," said Gary Emerson of Gentilly Music Co. of East Grand Forks, who recorded both of McKinnon's CDs. "He has a great voice and he's a great singer."

For "Country Memories," McKinnon brought some favorite local musicians to Emerson's recording studio to back him.

"So, actually, the CD is a real good representation of a lot of area musicians, some of the best," McKinnon said. "I don't know about me, but I'm trying to match them."

The 12 tracks include such mellow standards as "Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On" and "Love's Been Good to Me," plus two originals by songwriter Eric Adams of Fargo and Nashville, Tenn.

McKinnon, 72, owned McKinnon Co., a beer and beverage distributorship and family business he took over from his father. For 20 years (until 1992), he lived in Crookston, where the company had a branch.

"I always enjoyed singing," McKinnon said. "I had, from time to time, done a little bit of singing. But with work and everything, you know how that goes. I didn't really have much time."

Emerson, a professional musician and sound and video installation contractor, said McKinnon came to his recording studio a couple of years ago to inquire about recording some of his favorite songs for his family. They talked and Emerson gave McKinnon some ideas about how to proceed. Soon, McKinnon returned with a list of songs and a guitarist.

"When we got done (recording), Gary says, 'This is way too good. We have to put this on the market,'" McKinnon said.

The talented local musicians on "Country Memories" include Emerson and the Jazz on Tap guys, Mike Blake, Bob Cary and Kris Eylands. There's pianist Arlene Norton, plus Al Finney, Maury Finney and John Scheving and backup vocalists Brenda Beck and Vicky Anderson.

Before he went into the studio, McKinnon said, he tuned up with vocal lessons from Maria Williams Kennedy of Bel Canto Studio. His wife, Corky McKinnon, took the photos for the CD cover.

McKinnon is enjoying this new part of his life.

"I suppose you could call it a hobby," he said. "But the last few years, we've been pretty busy with it, actually. The summer before, I wound up singing in a supper club in central Minnesota. So, I actually got myself a job through this thing."

During a stay in Palm Springs, Calif., he met Peter Marshall, the original host (1966-1981) of "The Hollywood Squares," and an actor and singer who was performing in the desert resort town. Marshall sang a lot of McKinnon's favorite music by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Perry Como. The two men ended up writing, and McKinnon picked up some of Marshall's CDs.

When it came to promoting "Country Memories," McKinnon asked Emerson to work with him and promote a recording of his own. Emerson's CD is called "My Favorite Instrumentals," and its 12 songs include "Green Onions," "In the Mood" and "Love is Blue."

Both CDs are for sale in dozens of area stores. In Grand Forks/East Grand Forks, that includes all Hugo's and Valley Dairy stores, Home of Economy, Budget Music and the North Dakota Museum of Art gift shop. The recording is available through and iTunes. Some local radio stations have played his music on the air.

In the meantime, McKinnon continues to get invitations to sing in public.

"I've been singing every 10 days here through November and December, and I've been asked to do a few things," he said. "So, we'll see how it goes. It's fun."