— Many years ago, Pat Hayes decided he didn’t want to be Lamont Cranston anymore.
The decades-long frontman for one of Minnesota’s most enduring bands had become so synonymous with the Lamont Cranston Band that many of his fans actually thought his name was Lamont Cranston (the band is actually named for the alter ego of the pulp hero The Shadow).
Growing tired of the same song requests and the same routine, Hayes tried to jumpstart a solo career completely removed from the Lamont Cranston name. But wherever Hayes went, his own alter-ego seemed to follow.
“I tried to stop it,” said Hayes, who brings himself and the Lamont Cranston Band to the Riverbend Blues Festival in Mankato this weekend, “but it was too late.”
The association, by that time, was long since cemented. And the musician whose band gained its broadest measure of fame in 1981 with their Billboard hit “Upper Mississippi Shakedown” decided to stop fighting the inevitable.
“For awhile, I wanted to change and not do ‘Shakedown’ anymore,” Hayes said. “But I couldn’t do it. ... I decided that if I can’t shake it, I might as well enjoy it.”
Fans have embraced the Lamont Cranston Band for more than 40 years. Founded in 1969 the band has been through countless lineup changes and has released more than 15 albums.
Throughout the years, the band has also been something of a proving ground for talented Minnesota musicians. Former Lamont Cranston Band member Bruce McCabe, for instance, helped found the Hoopsnakes (one of the Twin Cities’ most popular live bands through the mid-90s) and eventually joined Jonny Lang’s band.
Even now, in the November of the band’s lifetime -- Hayes said he has “a good five years left” before he retires -- the band is in the midst of releasing another album. Hayes said he was hoping to have copies of the record available for this weekend’s performance, but the completion date was bumped back a few weeks.
Hayes said the new album is full of all original material -- Hayes’ first such album in 15 years -- and showcase his well-known harmonica skills. The album also features McCabe, who returned as a guest musician for many of the songs.
“I’m real happy with this thing,” Hayes said. “It’s more like the old stuff -- a lot of harmonica.”
The Lamont Cranston Band’s last release came a few years ago when members were approached by some fans who had a bootlegged recording of the 1987 People’s Fair in Mankato. The recording had unusually good sound, so band members re-mastered and released it as a live album.
“I remember that festival,” Hayes said. “It was a beautiful spring day. The energy level was so high. We were playing in the sun. It was a great thing.”
Hayes said Mankato holds a lot of memories for the band.
Longtime and beloved saxophone player Rick O’Dell played his last show in Mankato before collapsing the next morning with a fatal heart attack.
Hayes also said he particularly enjoyed playing the Kato Ballroom and for the People’s Fair.
“We always have a good time down there.”
Though he doesn’t disclose his age, Hayes first started playing music in 1965 and said he enjoys perfroming as much as ever.
“I’ll keep doing this until I drop dead,” he said. “Even if I have to play on the back porch for the neighborhood kids.”