State News Roundup, Most Influential Wisconsin Musicians, Sexism In Tech Industry

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A dairy lobby sued the state this week over regulations on concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. We look into their case and check in on other top stories from around the state. From Les Paul to Clyde Stubblefield, plenty of famous musicians have called Wisconsin home. A music writer runs down his list of the most influential. We also hear about a controversial memo sent to Google employees and ask how pervasive sexism is in the tech industry.

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  • Writer Ranks The Most Influential Wisconsin Musicians

    We hear from a music writer about the most influential bands and musicians from Wisconsin.

  • 6 Influential Bands And Musicians From Wisconsin

    Evan Rytlewski said he takes using the word “influential” very seriously. When the Shepherd Express music editor decides a band has an impact, he asks several questions before doing so.

    “How many people did they influence? How did they inspire future musicians, and do we still hear the sounds they created in other people’s work?” he said.

    Neighboring Minnesota and Illinois have established themselves as states with prominent musicians — Prince, Bob Dylan, Kanye West, Sam Cooke, the list could really go on. And Wisconsin has plenty of talent that has made its mark on the industry.

    Here are some Wisconsin bands and artists Rytlewski has bestowed with the title of “influential.”

    Les Paul

    Lester William Polfuss, better known as Les Paul, was born in 1915 in Waukesha, and is regarded as a pioneer of the electric guitar. And it’s pretty hard to argue with that given one of the most popular electric guitars is named after him.

    Paul told NPR in 1996 that he got his start playing and singing country music on the radio in the morning and jazz at night.

    Rytlewski doesn’t just give him credit for being an inventor, he also said Paul’s technique in studio has left a mark on modern music.

    “He was one of the first big artists to use multi-tracking as sort of a studio effect on his albums. He just did all sorts of things that were way ahead of his time, and I don’t know how music would be different without him. I think he was really one of the building blocks of rock as we know it.”

    Paul died at age 94 from complications with pneumonia in August 2009 in New York.

    One of Paul’s biggest hits was recorded with his wife, singer Mary Ford.

    Clyde Stubblefield

    Clyde Stubblefield, known across the world as the “Funky Drummer,” was best known for his work with James Brown.

    And though he was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Stubblefield eventually settled in Madison, Wisconsin, where he built a deep connection with Wisconsin Public Radio, too.

    The sounds he created have earned him the title of “most sampled drummer,” and if you listen closely, you can hear his work in everything from Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” to the theme song of “The Powerpuff Girls.”

    “He’s influential not just for the songs themselves… it’s the way that the songs sort of worked themselves into the DNA of modern music as we know it,” Rytlewski said. “It didn’t just inspire songs, it inspired all forms of pop music, and especially rap.”

    Stubblefield died at age 73 in February from kidney failure.

    Bon Iver

    It’s hard not to include the Eau Claire band founded by Justin Vernon on this list. But even though the band was a key part of the folk revival wave that took place a few years ago, Rytlewski said Vernon’s legacy might actually be making his hometown a place for a community of musicians. It is already home to Vernon’s Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival.

    “I think his real legacy is likely to be the community he has built in Wisconsin. Before he came around and was a cheerleader for Eau Claire, nobody really thought of Eau Claire as a big music hub,” he said. “But here he is showcasing all the music that they’ve got there. He built a big studio showcasing there where bands from around the country travel to record now. He put the city on the map, sort of the way Curt Cobain did with Seattle in the 90s.”

    Jon Mueller

    A drummer, percussionist and composer, Waukesha’s Jon Mueller is a lesser-known musician, but within music circles is known for having an impact on post-rock and experimental music.

    “He’s really been one of these guys kind of below the radar who has conducted Milwaukee’s music scene and Wisconsin’s experimental music scene,” Rytlewski said Mueller, who has been a drummer and percussionist since 1985.

    Mueller was born in 1970.

    Violent Femmes

    In Rytlewski’s opinion, Milwaukee’s Violent Femmes, which got its start in the 80s and releases music to this day, has aged gracefully.

    Rytlewski said he typically considers bands influential for the broader impact they’ve had on the industry, but Rytlewski thinks Violent Femmes deserve a shout out for how iconic their first album, “Violent Femmes,” was when it was released in 1983.

    “They created one of the great debut rock albums ever,” Rytlewski said. “That first album is just filled with classic songs that we all know. Even if some of us don’t think they are the Violent Femmes, we all know the rhythms, we hear them at baseball stadiums.”

    He said he thinks the band — which has a distinct folksy, punk sound — has also resonated with its fans for being both unique and relatable.

    “It’s just a band that I think inspired a lot of people with their individuality,” Rytlewski said. “They were just three guys making music that kind of captured the angst of adolescence.”

    Steve Miller Band

    The band’s home is technically San Francisco because that’s where it was formed, but it’s frontman Steve Miller is from Milwaukee.

    The band is known largely for the popular singles it released in the 70s, like “Fly Like an Eagle” and “Rock ‘N Me.” The songs are a staple of classic rock, and Rytlewski considers the band’s music emblematic of a period in rock music.

    “To me he just embodies that era of rock ‘n’ roll, that super studio-centric, kind of electric, prog-y, bluesy, all-over-the-place rock,” Rytlewski said.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Karl Christenson Producer
  • Haleema Shah Producer
  • Evan Rytlewski Guest

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