With his bass, Paul Manske could make the music swing, whether he was playing with rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson or with one of his own groups like the Hillbilly Voodoo Dolls.
A force on the Twin Cities music scene for more than four decades, Manske, of St. Paul, died of a heart attack Monday at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. He was 57.
"He wasn't feeling well Sunday night, and I think they [hospital doctors] thought he had some kind of infection," said guitarist/singer Paul Bergen, Manske's longtime partner in the Hillbilly Voodoo Dolls, "and then he had a heart attack the next morning."
In addition to performing on the local barroom circuit since the 1970s, Manske booked, managed and even produced bands, in his basement studio. Even though he sometimes sang lead, he never acted like a frontman but always like a leader, tending to the no-fun but necessary things like buying insurance and making sure that club owners paid the musicians.
He had good taste, especially when it came to blues, R&B, rockabilly -- essentially any kind of roots music. To reflect his musical loves, he usually wore his hair in a vintage slicked-back pompadour or sported a hipster fedora.
"He was the biggest music fan in town," Bergen said. "If you were good or doing something interesting, he was your biggest champion. He helped out a lot of people, and he wasn't making a nickel from them. ... He was always the first guy to step up to the plate when anybody needed help. He was the first guy to put a benefit together."
Manske was the kind of music lover who, when he didn't have a gig of his own, was attending someone else's. On Friday night, he went to see Garland Jeffreys, a 1970s New York rocker on the comeback trail, at the Ritz Theater. On Saturday, Manske played his final gig, with his trio Swing Bang, at Shaw's Bar in northeast Minneapolis.
"The best hang in town was his house," Bergen said of Manske's place in the Midway area of St. Paul. "His record collection is insane. He'd be: 'Have you heard this guy before?' Sixty percent of the records at my house, I got from him or heard at his house."
Manske, who grew up in St. Paul, spent more than 12 years as the bassist in Raggs, a popular rock bands on the Twin Cities bar circuit in the 1970s and '80s. In 1986, he formed the Boogiemen to play danceable R&B. In 1996, Manske and Bergen formed the bluesy rockabilly Hillbilly Voodoo Dolls, which probably had more success on the road (they played European festivals) than in town.
Manske is survived by his wife, Karen; mother, Lucille Greene; and a sister, Jean Emerson. Visitation will be 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Holcomb-Henry Funeral Home, 536 N. Snelling Av., St. Paul.
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