Residents in north Brainerd had an unexpected surprise on a sun-filled Saturday afternoon, May 2 — and it was music to their ears.
Country music filled the air as the Mark Petersen Band performed its own traveling music concert to fit in today’s COVID-19 pandemic world, all while social distancing. With food and bar establishments closed in the Brainerd lakes area and beyond, there are limited options to see live band and live entertainment in person without extra creativity.
The Mark Petersen Band — consisting of the Mark Petersen himself on vocals and guitar, Ernie Renn on bass and steel guitar and Wayne Vervallin on drums — performed a traveling concert situated on a trailer 6-feet apart from one another being pulled by a truck down the streets in north Brainerd — parade style.
The Mark Petersen Band is a house band performing every Sunday at the Bridge Tavern in Crosby, when it is open.
Petersen is a singer songwriter who is nationally known for writing songs such as “Cadillac Style” and “I Can’t Reach Her Anymore” sung by Sammy Kershaw; “Refried Dreams” sung by Tim McGraw; and songs sung by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.
One of Petersen’s biggest fans and a friend is Maurice Duval, who drove the truck and trailer full of entertainment. Duval came up with the idea.
“I thought this would be a fun thing to do and be an Americana type thing to do to raise people’s spirits,” Duval said. “We were out for about an hour and a half in north Brainerd. People came out and applauded us. People threw cash at us, it was crazy.”
Duval talked with the Brainerd Police Department to make sure it was OK to do a traveling concert. Duval said they were told as long as the band is there to create peace and tranquility and was there only to entertain and not disturb the peace, they would be fine. Another city requirement was the truck must stay under 15 mph, following city policy on vehicles driving in parades.
Petersen said Duval talked him into doing the traveling concert.
“I first wanted to make sure there were no laws against us to do it,” Petersen said. “He talked me into it and it is a nice way to boost morale.
“We were met with such enthusiasm. Everyone was so happy. It was a gorgeous day and people were sitting on their front porches and when we came by they came out to take pictures.”
Petersen laughed about being out of shape for playing over an hour, as he hasn’t performed since early March. He plans to practice before the band does another concert.
The band is planning another traveling concert at 3 p.m. May 16 in northeast Brainerd. The route is expected to start around Cemetery Hill on Evergreen Avenue and G Street. It will move toward Washington Street to go down 13th Street Southeast to move to south Brainerd. This concert will include a band called Wanted, consisting of Russ Austad and Arlan Britz. The concert is expected to wrap up under two hours.
Duval said if invited they would do more traveling concerts in nearby towns, such as Crosby and Pequot Lakes, if the weather is nice. He said if cities would like the band to come they may contact him at 218-851-6343 for consideration.
“We would like to go around and have some fun,” Duval said. “People saw us on Facebook and it exploded. We were going to do one this weekend, but it will be too cold.”
About Mark Petersen
According to Petersen’s Facebook page, he was raised in a musical family. His aunts formed a group called "The Petersen Sisters," who performed for area dances in the 1950s and provided the inspiration for him to pick up the bass and guitar. At age 17, as a guitarist, he joined "Black Gold," a local pop country rock band, and when he turned 19, he hit the road with a professional road group called "The Blackwater Band" playing bass guitar. When he was 21, He joined "Steve Hall & The Southbound '76,” and helped them win first place in the "Seagrams Seven International Battle of The Bands" for Minnesota in 1981 and first place in the same category for North Dakota in 1982. Drummer Steve Hall's comedic puppet "Shotgun Red" was discovered as a byproduct of the 1982 national finals, and paved the way for the group to leave the nightclub scene in favor of playing arenas, stadiums, state fairs and cruise ships, eventually leading to a year-long theater stint in Branson, Missouri, in 1990, and a 12-year run as the matinee headliner aboard the General Jackson Showboat at Opryland USA, the post stated. Petersen also served as acoustic guitarist and band leader for RFD-TV's "Shotgun Red Variety Show" for their debut season in 2011.
Peterson’s songwriting career took off in 1991, with the help and guidance of Buddy Kalb at Ray Stevens Music, the publishing company where he also received valuable music business tips from Ray Stevens himself, Ray's manager Don Williams — brother of singer Andy Williams — and Nashville producer and premier guitarist Chet Atkins.
In 1992, he joined the writing staff at Harold Shedd's Music Mill, where he wrote or co-wrote more than 180 songs. The writing staff at that time included Jimmy Stewart, writer of the Earl Thomas Conley/Keith Whitley song "Brotherly Love;" Tony Haselden of “Mama Knows,” “A Little Less Talk” and “You Know Me Better Than That;” Don Von Tress of “Achy Breaky Heart;” and DeWayne Blackwell of “Friends In Low Places.”
Petersen currently lives in Brainerd with his wife and their five adopted cats.