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Album Review – Willie Waldman Project “Total Improv”
When I saw this pop up as a new release on Bandcamp about a month ago I was happy for two reasons: one being that I have heard Willie and his assorted musicians in the past and loved it, and also…improv is a great way to experience music. I have been listening to it for about a month now and offer my thoughts here:)
First off, I like the cover art – there is something whimsical about, simple even but it still really portrays the idea of improv in an abstract way…if you ask me anyway!
The album kicks off with “Exodus” and hits you early on with some great guitar work and a simple but complimentary back beat. It is an enjoyable song to listen to although it has an underlying nervous energy. Right near the mid-point the music plays around with soaring toward the great heights of openness and then crashing back into a valley of horns and guitar. Also some parts of it sound to me like a very loud, obnoxious train departing for some far-off land… and I mean that in a good way!
A great counter-point follows, with “Misty Night” coming across much more softly and lending you some cool down time after the charging sounds of “Exodus”. There is some really great trumpet playing here also along with a catchy drum sound that I always think of as a “club beat.” Listening to it evokes a scene of walking along a river in some urban setting, maybe a few water taxis rolling by as the bars close up around 3 am…the night is winding down and it’s been good one. Even though “Exodus” is a close second-place, this song is my favorite on this album.
Arriving next is “Carnival”, for me the only so-so song on this release. It feels more all-over-the-place than it needs to (even for improv) and also is the longest song. That may be a contributing factor in my opinion because some parts of it I really liked, such as the guitar that comes in around 2:40, but overall it just went on too long for me.
The next song, “Lightspeed” has some extremely effective clarinet at the beginning that lends a throaty vibe to the music. You can really pick out the separate instruments on this selection and I particularly liked the Tabula peeking through the background of the sound. It is a chill tune, good for pondering or exploring the universe. Even when it picks up the pace in some sections (starting around the two minute mark) it still maintains an underlying calmness from the bass guitar notes. Groovy party music for the lounge after the warp drive is engaged 🙂
Speaking of the Tabula, welcome it warmly at the opening of “Firestorm” as it lends a distinct Middle Eastern vibe that carries through the entire first half of this song. About midway through the tone changes to something more experimental although the Tabula remains in place. And then, with about two minute remaining, along comes a great collection of sounds and notes colliding to provide a dramatic, if somewhat unsettling section prior to a smooth exit on the trumpet.
The final two pieces on this record are “The Loon,” and “Wood”. While the first of these is light and airy, the final song is a very classic jam and a fitting end-piece to this fine release. Every time I listen to “Wood” I can picture myself sitting around in a comfortable, familiar place with friends and collaborating in the way that these musicians do. We might not hit is as well as these talented people…but it would be great fun!
I also want to note that throughout this record there is some really great bass guitar work that lends a solid foundation to the tracks. It also takes a more prominent role on some songs (a fine example being “Wood”) and delivers great grooves. “Total Improv” is an overall solid listen that gave me (so far) a month of enjoyment with very regular listening. The compositions are expansive and I found myself discovering nuances each time I played it. I encourage you to check it out!
You can visit their Bandcamp page at https://williewaldmanproject.bandcamp.com to listen to this record and find out more about the band.
Please remember to support your local musicians and artists, during these challenging times and always. Community is powerful 🙂
As I was casting about for new music this week I ended up looking toward Michigan and came upon the recent release by Detroit’s The Tellways which is titled Out To The Cosmos. I gave it a listen and came away impressed by the composition of the music and the nice way that they weave Motown and R&B influences in with island sounds. Soul and reggae music have always had a subtle equivalency to me and those parallels are evident within the music on this record.
The lead-off track is “Anxious” and it is a good listen with a slightly (and appropriately) nervous undertone, simple yet poignant message and some very nice horns 🙂
The next song is “Keepin’ Me Up” and you can definitely hear those Motown influences within the music. That call-back to soul and R&B was evident within the first minute and yet was still subtle enough to blend in well with the Caribbean rhythms.
“Believe Them The First Time” has a slow, soothing flow to it and delivers a direct and simple message. I really liked how the horns were woven in here also and the way they provided accents to the other instrumentation on this song. I have listened several times and this remains my favorite on this album.
That is followed by “I Don’t Need To Tell You” and “Cool And Luke” which flow nicely within the album although I did not think they were especially notable other than the beginning to “Cool Hand Luke.”
When I read the title of the next track, “Space Force,” I was not sure what direction it was going to take…and I am still not 100% sure of its underlying intent. Humor? Sarcasm? It remains a mystery to me but I did find the line, “we brought our own water,” to at least be quite funny.
“Tellway Stomp” is a feel good song celebrating the band’s sound and positive influence and is followed by “You’re Really Something (2020)”, another track where you can really hear the R&B vibes. The next three songs (“Closer – 2020”, “Let Me In -2020” and “Friendly -2020”) are solid inclusions, with the middle track of the three being the standout. It runs a close second-place for my favorite song on the album.
The album closes out with “Bow To Your Sensei (2020)” which is a very good (mostly) instrumental track with solid composition that includes horns, and some great guitar and bass. It feels a little heavy when listening but puts a nice finishing touch on “Out To The Cosmos” and sent me away feeling good 🙂
Overall I really like this band and what they bring instrumentally and with their direct lyrics. When you listen to this record is comes across mostly as a reggae / ska mix but you definitely find yourself with several pleasing, “Wait, what was that?,” type moments. And it will certainly get you feeling groovy and dancing!
You can check out all of The Tellways music and info at their Bandcamp page https://thetellways.bandcamp.com
And please remember to support your local music scene, musicians and artists. Community is powerful 🙂
The Arches just released a new album called “Abandoned” – I checked it out and here are my thoughts 🙂
First of all – that cover art is great and especially eye-catching to me as I am an “urban decay and abandoned industrial things” photographer myself. Check out their Bandcamp page for a higher resolution photo – It is quite a stark image. I also think there is a mysterious cat lurking in one of those upstairs portholes…or an extremely large rat…what you do think?
The set starts out with “Just Killing Time” which has a slight haunting quality to it, especially as the lyrical refrain “I know you’re no good, I know you’re no good for me,” floats over the music. This is probably the most “pop” song on the album although I suspect The Arches may not be aiming for pop notoriety…it just struck me that way when I listened to it.
There are some good drum beats on the next track “Rise UP” which gives it an “anthem you can dance to” feeling. That song then bleeds over well into “Mikola.” It is one of those great transitions that I always try to put into playlists I make…they just fit next to each other. Now, I have no idea what that word means or what meaning it might have to the band…but do not look it up on Urban Dictionary if you are a PG-rated person!
The next track, “Baby Face Assassin,” is a music-only number that really caught my attention. It had me making up my own lyrics, albeit a simple “there’s a baby face assassin coming for me, and I think that it’s time to leave” as I closed my eyes and got a little lost in the composition.
The next two songs were the toughest part of the record for me. “Apocalypsing” really had me scratching my head a bit…although that usually means I missed the point so I suspect some of you out there will love it. The following track “Stuck in a Loop” has a kind of eerie discordance inside of it running alongside a very pleasant keyboard melody. It left me feeling just a little bit uneasy.
The album finishes up with “Time Will Tell’ (a dreamy atmospheric type song) and “Mikola Outro” which sends you on your way in a contemplative mood, possibly feeling slightly lost and thoughtful. It had that effect on me anyway.
Overall, this is an interesting record which delivers a variety of emotions as you listen to it. It clocks in at a tight and well-composed twenty-one minutes. On their Bandcamp site for this album The Arches comment that, “There is beauty in loss and abandonment, in everything.” These songs delivered a sense of that beauty while also leaving me just a little bit uneasy.
You can check out more on The Arches and buy this album and other music at their Bandcamp page https://the-arches.bandcamp.com/music
Support your local music and artists – community is powerful 🙂
Yes, I know that I am late to the news on this one but I just had the opportunity to listen to the recent release “Thank you, Dancers!” from the Slim Dunlap Band. This epic was recorded April 27, 2002 at the Turf Club (and as you folks know…I do love the Turf Club 🙂 and really presents a good feeling of what it was like to see Slim and the band in concert. A nice, easy familiar feeling that makes you feel good. Go somewhere and listen to this music – it’s on Bandcamp and I am certain other places also. If you want a place to start check out Breeder’s Cannonball or Busted Up.
The next morning Leo was not feeling much better but had pretty much given up on complaining to the jail personnel. On the 18th U.S Marshals came to get him and moved him over to their holding cell at the federal building in downtown Minneapolis. They did think he looked ill enough to call for a doctor though and Leo received some medical attention prior to his preliminary hearing on October 19th. After that he was transported back to the Hennepin County jail to await his next court appearance. He did not eat anything on the 20th and by that evening, when he met with his lawyer, his skin was noticeably grey. The attorney was concerned and offered to arrange for some medical treatment but Leo had other things to discuss.
“Have you talked to my wife?” he asked in a soft, low voice.
“I tried, I really did. But she isn’t at the house and it looks like most of the things inside are gone. I peeked in a few windows when no one answered, ya know? Looked cleared out and the neighbors said a moving truck was there a few days ago.”
“No notes or nothing?”
“Nothing Leo. And I tried your sister but, well, quite frankly she doesn’t want anything to do with you. You sure about not wanting a doctor? I can get one in here. You look like hell.”
“Ah, it’s too late,” Leo replied with a feeble wave of his hand, “not much time left I don’t think. We need to talk about that guy I told you about, that bomb-maker. You gotta help find him and bring him in. Here’s a few,”
“Listen,” the lawyer interjected, “I know you are fired up about finding this guy. Right now, let’s just try to get you into a medical ward, ok? I think we need to focus on your case and getting you better also.”
“It don’t matter about me right now, I gotta make sure someone gets that guy.”
“I’ll be back in touch Leo, right now I have to go see another client,” the lawyer replied and quickly gathered up papers into his briefcase.
“It ain’t gonna be ok I tell ya,” Leo muttered, “you gotta get this info from me now.”
“I’ll get it next time, ok?”
Then the man was gone and the jail guards took Leo back to his cell where he collapsed into his hard bunk and fell asleep. He did not line up for the morning roll call on the 21st and a guard found him semi-alert in his bed. They left him lying there through breakfast and then, when he did not want to get up to go to lunch, forcibly carried him from his cell to the meal line. Munching his way slowly through a ham sandwich Leo sat alone at the edge of a table. They also had to carry him back to his cell when meal time was over and the guard who closed his cell door turned back to speak to him.
“You’re making this all harder than it needs to be Humbert,” the guard said, “you ain’t gonna make any friends here if we have to carry you to every damn meal.”
Leo sighed first, then replied, “I’m sick, you know that right. It’s pretty damn obvious if you look at me. Maybe one of you should finally get me a doctor.”
“I heard about you complaining about being sick and I’ll agree you look it. I thought they were getting you one? That should’a happened already.”
“Well, it didn’t,” Leo answered, “and I doubt it will. I don’t think anyone here is listening.”
The guard ambled away without a reply to that and Leo drifted off to sleep. He did get himself up for dinner and although he did not eat much that seemed to make the guards happy. He made a phone call that evening attempting to reach his lawyer and wrote a short note that was later found in his cell. The contents of that note have never been revealed although it is thought to have been directed to his attorney. On the 22nd Leo continued to comply with getting himself up for meals and tried several more times to reach his lawyer. After the evening meal he played two hands of cribbage in the common area and then went back to his cell.
At 6:52 pm jail guard Henry Willis, who had been working there for nine years, announced that he was going on his break a few minutes early. Due to another guard having left sick a few hours earlier, and no replacement being available, this left just one guard on-duty at the front desk area of the jail. That guard, Jerry Timmons, had only been working there for three months, having just come off his probationary period of employment.
“Yeah sure thing Henry, I’ll keep the place in shape for ya,” he replied to Willis’ announcement.
Ten minutes later a man entered through the side door, a way that official persons, deputies and medical staff usually used to access the jail. The man, past middle-age and about six feet tall displaying wisps of sandy blonde hair under a large brim fedora, walked up to the desk and announced he was a doctor.
“Ah, hello. I don’t recall seeing any orders up about a medical visit,” Timmons replied. “You sure you’re in the right place?”
“I am,” the man replied and then stood silently, green eyes blinking back at the guard.
“Ok, well, I’ll look again. Who are you here to see?”
“Some sick prisoner obviously, I think they said his name was Homberg.”
Timmons was looking through the daily log book and other papers but thought he recognized the name. “Humbert? Leo Humbert?”
“Yeah, sounds right,” the man replied while glancing at his pocket watch. “How about you let me in to see him before any more of my night gets wasted?”
“I still don’t see it here, you know, the order for a medical on Humbert. It’s always in here.”
“Ok kid, no offense, but I come here all the time. I don’t recognize you, so maybe you’re new. But they sent me to see this guy so let’s just get it over with, ok? It’s probably damn indigestion anyways.”
Timmons glanced down at the orders book again, up at the doctor, over to the door and then back at the doctor. The man had a resigned, nonchalant look on his face and did not raise any of the young guards suspicions. After several more seconds Timmons let him in, forgetting to have the doctor sign the official visitor log.
“I’ll walk you down doctor, just hang on until my partner gets back, ok?”
“What’s the cell number? I can just walk down there and ask him a few questions. Like I said, it’s probably indigestion.”
“Well, yeah, it’s 104.”
The doctor walked off at a brisk pace once Timmons opened the interior cell walkway door for him and was surprisingly back at the same gate about two minutes later, rapping his knuckles again the bars. Timmons hurried over to let him back through to the secured area.
“That was very fast doctor. Is he ok?”
“Oh yes, he’s just fine. Quite a faker. I’m going to return to my own dinner now if that’s ok with you,” the doctor replied, gesturing toward the secured exit door.
“Of course, yes sir. Hope you have a good night,” Timmons replied cheerfully and unlocked the door.
Ten minutes later Henry Willis returned, realized something unusual had taken place in his absence and rushed down to Leo’s cell. He found him lying on the floor, gasping for breath and with his eyes starting to roll back into his head. He opened the cell and went in to attempt to help but when he leaned down Leo grabbed his shirt and hissed into his ear.
“Remember that hotel fire, 1940, it was murder, look up the clock-maker. Find him.”
After that declaration Leo become unresponsive and he died a few hours later at the hospital. The official cause of death was never released although allusions to it being related to diabetic shock were made in the press and by jail authorities.
Leo Humbert, a historical curiosity and a bit on an enigma, was buried on October 26, 1967 at Sunset Memorial Park. Amanda faded into historical obscurity and Stanley Bittenhopper was never caught or heard from again.
For those of you who want to know, this is the article that started this long journey along with a few other documents relating to the story of Leo Humbert’s life.
That conversation was an eye-opener for Amanda of course, even though Leo did not tell her the entire story of his second life or the complete truth about some parts that he did share. His actual motivation for the disclosure is not known, as he could easily have just stayed silent as he was once again processed through the legal system. He would have known of course that his arrest was sure to get back to her as she would certainly have been questioned as part of the investigation. It may also have been that he actually wanted to be the one to tell her instead of her finding out through law enforcement. It was noted by the officer who was standing nearby that he apologized to his wife twice and even stated that she deserved to have had a better man than him in her life.
At the conclusion of that call Leo was escorted back to his cell and several hours later turned over to the US Marshal service in Denver. Then, after the completion of all the necessary legal proceedings and paperwork, Leo was taken via train back to Minnesota on October 12, 1967. Arriving on October 14th, he was processed into the Hennepin County jail as prisoner number 12500. The following day he was interviewed by a detective with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. After the usual formalities, the conversation turned to the bank robberies.
“You want to tell me anything about that Grey Eagle job that I don’t already know?” The agent, a tall and angular man with bushy brown eyebrows and deeply set blue eyes, peered at Leo over a stack of reports in his hand as he spoke.
“Probably not. I can’t believe I got picked up. I was almost in the clear, damn it!” Leo’s voice was terse and bitter although he shook his head in resignation after that outburst. “I’ve been free for a long time, long time. Damn sad way for it all to end.”
“So, what else have you been up to all of these years Humbert?”
“You know, you just go ahead and look it up. I’ve been a respectable business man. You cops can’t just let a man go, can ya? Always chasing our shadows around, can’t let a man be free to earn a living.”
“None of us have been chasing you around Humbert. And I seriously doubt that a couple recent bank jobs are the total of your transgressions since you got out of Stillwater,” the agent replied in a condescending tone. “How many banks has it been?”
“Listen, you can keep all of those damn fantasies to yourself. I’m stuck here now and I’m sure you all are going to find a way to pin those jobs on me. But that ain’t what I’m worried about.” Leo sat back in his chair, sweat beading up on his forehead and a slight tremor running through his body.
“You ok there?” the agent asked, “you look a bit pale.”
It took several moments for Leo to compose himself and when he did reply it was with a shaky voice. “You’ve got a bigger problem I’m telling you, a bigger problem. There’s a crazy clockmaker out there, running free, and now I’m going to rot in prison instead of being able to find him. I was on his trail. I was going to take care of the guy before he killed more people.”
Leo fell silent after that, his skin turning clammy and eventually he placed his head down on the steel table in the interrogation room. Despite repeated attempts by the agent to get him to talk again he stayed silent and eventually was walked back to his cell, a guard having to hold him up by one arm.
Leo remained in that condition all through the 16th of October, unable to get up to eat breakfast that morning. The agent from the MBCA did return at 11 a.m. that day and tried to resume their conversation. Leo though just sat sluggishly in the interrogation room chair, unresponsive to questions, even those about the, “crazy and mysterious clockmaker you were going on about yesterday.” On the morning of the 17th he called out to a guard, stating that he needed to be taken to a doctor. When the man approached his cell, Leo stated that he was diabetic and having an attack, demanding to be taken to a hospital. It was fairly obvious that he was in some kind of distress; however, the guard had not been made aware of any potential medical issue with Leo. He did go and confer with his superiors and about an hour later the jail commander walked down to Leo’s cell.
“What’s your beef, Humbert? You think you need a doctor?”
“I already told them, I’m diabetic. I need a hospital.” Leo’s voice was faint, his breath labored and heavy.
“You know, I looked through all of your records that they brought us. Ain’t nothing in there about you being a diabetic. Seems to me like there would be, don’t ya think?”
“I never, I, I didn’t mention it most of the time. But you look, you’ll find it in there. I’m sure it’s in there somewhere, you just aren’t looking in the right place. But I really need to go to the hospital. I’m gonna die.”
“Yeah well, I’ll tell you one thing I do know Humbert.” The officer rapped on the bars of the cell with his hand. “You escaped from Stearns County, you and that other fella. Maybe you’re just looking for a little ride outta here, get away from the jail, and then you take off. Seems like an easier plan that all that sawing you went through in Stearns.”
“I’m not running damn you, I’m just sick.”
“Well, I’ll tell ya what Humbert. I’ll see about getting a doctor in here to take a look at ya. But you won’t be leavin’ my jail, I’ll guarantee ya of that.” As he walked away the jail commander chuckled under his breath and promptly forgot about Leo’s request.
…to be continued
He headed toward Denver, although it is unlikely that he planned to stay there for very long. Perhaps he was planning to ask Tracy to go somewhere with him or maybe he just wanted to see her one more time. That is one of those facts which will never be known. One thing we do know is that Leo, who owned two vehicles, actually took the time to steal an Oldsmobile Starfire from an alleyway in Minneapolis before setting out on his journey. He later on commented that he did it on impulse, feeling as though he might not have much time left as a free man. He managed to make it to Kearney Nebraska in that vehicle without any trouble and checked in to the Midway Hotel there on September 20, 1967. After a light dinner Leo returned to his room, setting down his fedora on the sofa just before suffering a severe diabetic incident.
It is likely that he would have died right there on the floor of his room at the Midway if not for the lucky intervention of Doctor Timothy Sanibar. Leo’s attack caused him to collapse onto the floor and in so doing he knocked a lamp off the side table, which crashed to the floor with the bulb shattering upon impact. Doctor Sanibar was walking past the door of Leo’s room just as this occurred and heard the noise. After knocking on the door twice and receiving only a faint moan in response, he opened the door to find Leo on the floor and semi-conscious. Unsure of the exact nature of the condition, the doctor shouted for help, which brought a man from the room across the hall over to assist him. They carried Leo to the doctor’s car and then whisked him away to the hospital.
Although Leo’s condition was critical when he arrived, the medical staff managed to stabilize him and by mid-day on the 21st he was feeling better. He did cooperate with the staff and appeared to be taking part in the plan they were working on to properly treat his diabetes. Internally though, he had a different plan and on the morning of September 23rd Leo snuck out of the hospital and stole a vehicle from the parking lot of a local department store.
Leo was, of course, not exactly recovered fully from his attack and found himself having some trouble concentrating while he drove. On at least two occasions he drifted off the road and almost hit trees, swerving back into the traffic lanes and coming close to hitting a few other vehicles. Those incidents, one near Sterling Colorado and the other outside of Hudson were reported to the local police by several citizens. Due to the lag time in the reporting though, once a patrol vehicle was dispatched to look into the situations, Leo was much further on down the road. He drove through Denver and then into the western outskirts where the apartment he had set up for Tracy was located. Leo was just three blocks away from that address when he saw flashing lights in his view mirrors and then looked down, realizing too late that he was going twenty miles over the speed limit. Perhaps his caution had left him and he was excited to be so near to the end of this part of his trip. It is also possible that his medical condition had effected his judgement or that he had lost focus again due to it. Whatever the reason, the lights were on and he decided to pull over rather than run.
Leo cooperated with the officer who approached his vehicle and attempted to make light of the situation, saying he had to get home because his wife had made dinner and he was running late. The officer, who played along with the act, was already in possession of some information that made Leo’s arrest almost a certainty. Unknown to him there was a car theft ring operating in Kearney, one that a long running investigation had finally started to track down. Those Nebraska thieves were running cars to chop shops in Golden Colorado, which was the municipality in which Loe had just been pulled over. Due to that on-going investigation and some cooperation between the two police forces, all vehicles reported as stolen in Kearney were also immediately communicated to police in Golden. Leo’s stolen vehicle had been on the officer’s watch list since he started his shift and he would have been pulling it over even without the speeding offense.
Leo was in fact arrested and soon after that his outstanding warrants in Minnesota were discovered. By the evening of September 23rd, as he lay down on a cold steel cot with a very thin jail mattress, he knew that he was facing a significant number of charges. He thought about many things that night, including all of his past glory, the good times, the women and money, and even spent a little bit of time contemplating his family in Minnesota. The one thing that he spent the most time on though was Stanley. Somehow that whole situation bothered him much more than any of his other regrets or remorse. Leo realized that now, with a long prison term ahead of him and his own health failing, he was not going to be able to deliver the true justice that needed to be brought down upon the Clockmaker. Stanley had hurt a lot of people, including children, he had betrayed Leo and he was obviously a deranged individual. It was possible that many more people were going to be hurt, all because Leo had not been able to find Stanley and deliver justice. That really rankled him and he wondered if there was any way that he could still manage to make that happen.
Leo slept very little that night and refused to eat breakfast the next morning. That day, both tired and resigned to his fate, he listened half-heartedly to the officers and agents who rambled on about all of his outstanding warrants, his crimes, extradition and prison time. It kind of all seemed like a dream in which he was barely participating, something happening to someone else as he observed it from a remote place. Leo was not feeling well in general and, although he did not mention it or complain, it is noted on his processing records that, “a medical examination should be done at the earliest possible opportunity.”
On the morning of the 25th Leo, who up to that point had not bothered to call anyone including a lawyer, asked for the use of a phone. Once he was sitting in front of it he just stared ahead, eyes squinted up a little bit and a frown on his face. Then, just as the officer who was observing was about to tell him to make the call or be taken back his cell, Leo lifted the receiver and dialed. It rang twice before a woman picked up.
“Hello Amanda. It’s Leo. There are some things that I have to tell you.”
…to be continued…
That conversation burned in Leo’s mind for a couple of days as he became more and more determined to take another shot at finding Stanley. Kittle told him that he knew little more about the man, that they had been matched up on the job completely by coincidence and the Clockmaker had not been very talkative. Although Atlanta was the last known location, Leo doubted Stanley would have stayed around there for very long after the building almost went down following the explosion. Thinking about that specific event really managed to get Leo fired up as he still harbored much anger about the Marlborough job and all the resulting loss of life, especially the children. By May 6th he had made up his mind. He was going to track Stanley down and finally make him pay for everything that had happened in the past and most especially for the Marlborough. It was going to take some extra cash to do that though so Leo began to plan out a bank job to fund his revenge mission.
The fact that he ultimately decided to commit this particular crime in Minnesota may attest a little bit to the tight financial situation into which Leo had found himself. Considering his history in Minnesota it was not a good idea for him be involved in any crime at all in the state. Leo knew this and mostly abided by that limitation. It was enough that some federal agencies had information on him, but also true that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was very familiar with him and likely to consider him as a suspect, especially in a bank robbery. Leo was, however, already spending too much time away from both of his domestic situations and had limited funds due to the financial strain. He decided that it was worth the risk to hit a bank in Minnesota, promising himself that it would just be the one time. He had evolved as a bank robber after all and could manage it, especially if he went outside the limits of the bigger cities.
He did not go very far though, as he started to case the State Bank of Loretto, which is located just outside of the Twin Cities area. It was, and still is, a very small town having only about 350 residents in 1967. Leo had a bit of a problem remaining inconspicuous in such a small community and actually reverted back to his salesman routine, telling people he met that he worked for King Manufacturing. He had a whole story about King working with a construction company in St. Paul to locate areas for new development. Although that seemed to mollify the people he spoke with it also made him memorable to them when they were later questioned by the police. By May 11th Leo figured he had all the information he needed and the next day, which was a Friday, he enacted his plan. It was initially successful and he took off in a stolen vehicle with over eight thousand dollars, one of the biggest heists he had ever pulled off. He made his getaway, stopping briefly at the house in St. Anthony before leaving on the morning of May 13th. Unfortunately for Leo, the bank teller in Loretto had picked his mug shot out of picture lineup shown to him by the state police. Several other witnesses corroborated that information and added a few more details. By the time that Leo left his house that spring morning he was already a suspect, albeit initially an unnamed one.
There is very little information about this initial search for him and it is a hard to explain why Amanda never received a visit from law enforcement as they tried to find her husband. Leo and his address do appear in some public records of the time, although there are several addresses associated with him and perhaps the police just never got around to chasing down the St. Anthony location. It is also possible that the MBCA had information on his possible whereabouts in other parts of the country and decided it was more likely he had run off to one of those cities. For whatever the reason, she was never contacted and Leo remained a fugitive, coming back for only two short days in the four months following the Loretto robbery. He had a variety of excuses for this which he told to Amanda mostly in letters sent to their home, always accompanied by a packet of cash. By this point she was growing suspicious of her husband, although those thoughts were limited to his possible involvement with another woman.
All through the summer of 1967 Leo stayed mobile, traveling around the country on the hunt for Stanley while avoiding police and occasionally stopping in to see Tracy in Denver. Although there were several occasions when he thought that he was just a day or two behind his former partner he never actually succeeded in tracking him down. During most of this time Leo had what he calls in a surviving piece of writing, “a burning bank robbery bug, not just for the money but the excitement of it, that flush I feel when I’m in the middle of a job.” He resisted those impulses, mostly due to the heat that he perceived to be on him, although his funds began to run dangerously low in September of that year. His health had also been declining over the previous two years and, now in his mid-sixtes, he had noticeably aged. Leo’s jaw remained strong but his hair had receded considerably, his cheeks were pinching in and wrinkles had set in around his eyes. He regularly wore glasses and walked with a slight limp although his overall bearing remained upright and strong.
It may have been his declining health and perhaps a little bit of desperation that caused Leo to decide to rob another bank in small-town Minnesota. He was after all, familiar with the state and felt comfortable. This time he targeted the State Bank in Grey Eagle and made off with thirty-seven hundred dollars. He was not immediately identified as the robber; however, two days later the state police named him as a fugitive from justice for the Loretto and Grey Eagle robberies. The chase was on for real this time and Leo left Minnesota, likely determined to never return.
…to be continued
The time period from his loss of the King Company job and the start of 1966 were filled with longer and longer absences from home, an increase in diabetic symptoms and attacks, more crime and a return to his womanizing ways. He did maintain his cover while back in St. Anthony with Amanda and Sharon, getting right back into the groove of home life for the limited amount of time he spent with them. He read his newspapers, went to church, worked at his role as a father and purchased gifts for Amanda. He did still frequent the Gay 90’s club where he was a popular regular and as one former manager put it, “he loved that place and we loved him.” When he was not with his family in Minnesota he had his other side on full display as he frequented clubs in many cities, had a large cache of girlfriends and spent his days plotting crimes. When he did pull off a job, he was increasingly direct and stern when committing those acts, not suffering fools or any attempts by victims to deviate from his instructions. He did not kill anyone but several people suffered pistol-whipping or gut punches after he judged them to be non-complaint.
In late December of 1965 Leo was hospitalized in Montana after a severe diabetic incident and did not get released until ten days later. When he was finally out he walked away from the hospital feeling uncertain of his future. Beneath his tough demeanor even Leo knew that this last incident was a dire sign and that he may not have much longer to live. Although he never had followed medical advice very well he had thought he was getting along well enough with his combination of partial compliance with doctor’s instructions, home-made remedies and general tough-guy refusal to be sick. He was not so sure anymore about his immortality and quickly spun into a depression. Eventually he made his way back to St. Anthony and although he never told Amanda the details of his hospital stay, she could tell that he had been sick and was not doing very well. It was in January of 1966, while home with his family, that Leo met Tracy King one night at the Gay 90’s. He was still feeling low and a bit depressed and they quickly started dating.
The relationship accelerated quickly, much past the point Leo usually stoped at with his girlfriends and in May of 1966 he agreed to take her with him on his next trip. He had already staked out a possible bank robbery in New Mexico which is where they headed. The job was successful and that night Leo, flush with cash and with crime fueling his good spirits, got caught up in the mood and agreed to marry Tracy. He thought better of that by the next morning and realized he was in a bit of a situation. He had to admit to himself that he did have deeper feelings for her than was usual and also that he enjoyed her company quite a bit. She was young and full of energy, thought him to be quite the dashing gentleman and fit in well when they went out to clubs and dinner. Deciding that he wanted to make her happy, Leo paid a man in Albuquerque to pretend he was a minister, after which he took Tracy to a park where that man performed the ceremony.
Immediately after that they traveled to Denver, Colorado as Tracy stated she wanted to move there because she had family in the nearby area. Leo set her up in an apartment and gave her some additional money for living expenses. Telling her that he would be on the road quite often but would ensure that she was well-taken care of, he then departed and was back in St. Anthony by early June. As he whiled away some time in his domestic role Leo came to realize that he had complicated his life quite a bit and that his expenses were going to go up considerably. Having to maintain two residences, juggle his relationships and make time for everyone, along with plotting and committing enough crime to pay for it all, was going to be a challenge. Leo felt certain that he was going to be able to make it work. He did well for almost a year and although he was not getting rich from crime he did manage to make enough to keep both his Minnesota and Colorado lives rolling along smoothly.
On May 1, 1967 Leo was in Carson City, Nevada and involved in a car theft scheme that he had set up. In an unusual move for him there were some other players involved in this caper, mostly because it had expanded rapidly and Leo needed experienced car thieves to keep up with the demands of the chop shop he was working with at the time. One of these men, Charlie Kittle, who had just joined up with the car-theft crew had also known Leo in the 1920’s back in Bakersfield. A comment by Charlie one cold afternoon stunned Leo and brought some old feelings and memories back up to the surface. The two of them were hanging out at the chop shop after Charlie had turned over a Buick Skylark he had taken from a grocery store parking lot.
“What brought ya out here to Carson City anyway?” Leo asked.
“Hell, I was running from a botched job in Atlanta. Big mess really, on a safe cracking gig. Damn explosives malfunctioned and almost took the building down. Two guys killed right there. I ran for it but the noise had drawn a crowd out in the street. Musta’ been twenty folks that saw me clear as day. This is about a far away as I could get.”
“Sounds like one hell of a mess indeed,” Leo replied as he lit a cigarette.
“No kidding. Your old buddy was to blame for it, too.”
“Yeah, you know, that wacko clock-maker you hung out with in Bakersfield back in the day. It was his job. He’s the one that lit up that building.”
…to be continued