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The Lost Souls

More than a few towns in the ´60s were haunted by teen combos called the Lost Souls; Dickinson, North Dakota was one such haven. These Lost Souls started out in 1965, holding court for three exciting years. They became one of the top acts in their area, regulars at community dances and proms, and support act for the Turtles in Minot and Fargo. They made it big locally with their second 45, Artificial Rose, which was picked up by a major label for national release. Looking back at it all, Bob Karn, lead singer of the band, has no regrets. "We were so young, naive and vulnerable that we probably got hoodwinked on much of this promotion stuff, but what the hell - we had a tremendous ride, and it was about the music, and the fans, not the bucks! We got rich just performing".

Bob moved with his parents to Dickinson in 1965, two days before the start of the school year. But he knew no one. "I wanted to turn right around and go home," Bob says. But almost immediately he bumped into organ player Jim Birdsall, another senior. Their interest in music brought them in touch with junior Gary Decker, a guitarist. The three held an initial jam session in Jim´s basement. Encouraged by the results, Gary then brought in Terry Kudrna, a junior from Trinity High School, to play drums; lastly, sophomore Monty Lee, was added as lead guitarist.

Word about the new group spread, and Trinity´s cheerleaders were hot for them to entertain at the Catholic school's upcoming Halloween dance...Lost Souls at a Catholic School? Doing songs like Midnight Hour ("when love comes tumbling down")? Nevertheless, the event took place - the band played for 20 minutes with what Bob describes as "very minimal equipment" and a repertoire of about three or four songs.

Things began to roll when the Lost Souls entered a statewide Battle Of The Bands at the 1966 North Dakota State Fair. "We won that contest, beating out the Embermen Five, and were awarded a three-hour recording session as the prize," explains Bob. "Gloria Hovland was the main judge at the competition, she provided us one of her songs and also went with us to record it in Minneapolis." It's Not Fair b/w Enchanted Sea was released in 1966 on the "Gloria" Label. 500 copies were pressed and distributed through local stores or sold at dances. The only radio attention came from KDIX in Dickinson. But it wasn't quite enough to take the Lost Souls to the next level.

Then the right song came along - Artificial Rose, a demo written by the duo Maresca/Curtis, who had penned several top 40 hits in the early '60s for Dion. Bob remembers: "Al Sargent, our agent, connected us with Ernie Maresca and his writing partner Jimmy Curtis. He negotiated with them to provide him some of their demo recordings for us to record. We choose Artificial Rose". Sargent arranged a session in Minneapolis with Dave Hoffmann and Bob Everslage of the Unbelievable Uglies as producers. The resultant 45 was released locally on Al's "Dawn" label. For several weeks´ in 1967 Artificial Rose b/w Please Tell Me Why inched up KQWB Fargo's survey chart, even managing to top national hits by the Doors and the Young Rascals. The Lost Souls suddenly found themselves playing in front of a couple thousand fans at the Moorhead Armory, the biggest venue available in the area. Bob remembers the appearance well. "It was a huge dance. We got promoted real heavily and received a "Big Break Award" Trophy. They made a bunch of money and we got our name spread around the Fargo/Moorhead market."

When local sales hit the 7000 range, the fact was brought to the attention of Liberty Records, who licensed Artificial Rose for national release. The Unbelievable Uglies' Hoffmann and Everslage, then connected to the L.A. label through their own band, had made the contact. What Liberty did to promote the release or the Lost Souls is unclear - "little if anything" is the probable conclusion. Bob knows that the 45 was distributed in North Dakota again, but the record was already played-out there. Not long after, the label cut its ties with the band.

The original Lost Souls split in 1968 when college and marriage forced members to go their separate ways. Jim Birdsall, and Ron Whener who had joined the band on bass in 1967, continued with a new line-up including Greg Jordahl of The Trenchmen and two canadians, Glen Acorn on Drums and Doug Scales on vocals. This didn't last long and in 1968 after several thousand miles on the road the story was over.

As with so many bands from the upper midwest, the Lost Souls suffered on the geographical isolation of their homestate. Jim Birdsall sums it up: "The talent was there, but we weren't in the right city. We were in the middle of North Dakota."

THE LOST SOULS original 45´s:
It´s Not Fair b/w Enchanted Sea - Gloria 778 (1966)
Artificial Rose b/w Sad Little Girl - Dawn 808 (1967)
Artificial Rose b/w Sad Little Girl - Liberty 56024 (1967)


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