Favorite room: A spare bedroom transformed into a “shrine” to music, musicians and personal memories.
Created by: Mark Milner, south Minneapolis.
The back story: Over the years, Milner, a longtime musician and recently retired teacher of music and theater, accumulated a vast library of recorded music and of musical memorabilia, starting with the Louis Armstrong autograph he got when he was 10 years old. A copy of that autograph now hangs in the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, which Milner has visited six times. “They needed one, found out I had one, and said, ‘Send a Xerox,’ ” Milner said. Since that first acquisition, he has picked up autographs and quirky memorabilia celebrating a highly diverse group of musicians, from Frank Zappa to Stephen Sondheim. Milner also has a lifetime of memorabilia from his own musical history, including Brocade Pacifier, his high school band in Ohio, and Bozo Allegro, a jazz rock group that played the Dakota and other local venues in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He’s a guitarist and bass player, but he also plays French horn, banjo, tuba and piano. “There’s not too much I couldn’t get music out of,” he said.
How he created it: Milner was living and teaching in St. Paul when he commissioned a woodworker to build a large full-wall storage cabinet to help him organize his vast collection of CDs. “I have a couple thousand, easily,” he said, as well as a small library of music-related books. He stores his CDs mostly alphabetically, but some by genre and era. “Like the Buckinghams. If they were under ‘B,’ I would forget them, so I put them under ’60s,” he said. When he met his wife, Terry, and moved into her house in Minneapolis, the CD collection came with him. After her daughter grew up and moved out, Milner laid claim to her former bedroom and began creating his shrine. In addition to the CDs, he covered every wall with memorabilia, from album-cover art to framed autographs to offbeat keepsakes celebrating musicians both world-famous and obscure. There’s a brush-with-fame snapshot of a room in Tobago where Beatles John Lennon, Ringo Starr and their wives once stayed. (Milner was at the same property, but staying in a different room.) On a more personal note is a framed card from Terre Roche of the singing sisters, the Roches. “Terre had one solo album. When I bought it, she sent a card, ‘Dear Mark. Thanks for ordering my wreckerd. Terre.’ ” One kooky treasure: a Christmas card Milner received from Tiny Tim in the 1990s and a framed “cheat sheet” for the chords from Tim’s “Pizza Polka Rap,” on which Milner played tuba. “It was his last recording,” said Milner. “He was a sweetheart. A lovely man.” Another quirky artifact: Milner’s shorn ponytail, with its “birth” and “death” dates, in a display case. There also are a few nonmusical keepsakes, such as his father’s World War II rifle and a grouping of sock monkeys. “One of them, my grandmother made for me. They’re sentimental sock monkeys,” he said. “I’m running out of space. I have more memorabilia than I’ve got walls.”
The payoff: “It’s a living scrapbook,” he said of his shrine. “This is my whole life, right here.” Nobody else touches his treasures. “This is my space. It’s a very comfortable place for me to be.” The room is where he listens to music, plays guitar or just relaxes and savors his memories. He has no clue what his offbeat collection might be worth, but its value to him is priceless. Which object would he grab if the house were on fire and he could save only one? “That’s impossible,” he said. “I think I’d go down with the ship.”