KUMD’s “Highway 61 Revisited” lives on through Miriam Hanson

 Miriam Hanson poses next to a plaque dedicated to John Bushey in the KUMD studio. Photo by Justin Flesher

Miriam Hanson poses next to a plaque dedicated to John Bushey in the KUMD studio. Photo by Justin Flesher

John Bushey served Northern Minnesota as the beloved creator and DJ of KUMD’s Bob Dylan dedicated program, “Highway 61 Revisited,” for 26 years before passing away from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in February. Besides leaving long-time listeners of the broadcast with a heavy heart, Bushey’s absence also posed an important question: What would happen to the show?

Today, Bushey’s legacy lives on through to his replacement, DJ Miriam Hanson, a Duluth native who was recommended by Bushey prior to his passing.

“I remember listening to (Bushey’s) program when I was 15,” Miriam said. “I think Dylan’s music can appeal to a fifteen year old that hasn’t really lived a lot yet because it can be stripped down and touch you in a really basic way of relating to the world. Then as you get older, you start appreciating deeper levels of what he’s talking about.”

Despite being a childhood fan of the show, the future “Highway 61 Revisited” DJ wouldn’t become acquainted with Bushey until over two decades later.

Miriam attended college at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities where she double-majored in both Spanish and Portuguese. After graduating, she decided to move abroad and eventually landed in the Caribbean where she worked as a teacher on a small island.

“I ended up growing that school from four kids to eight kids to 11 kids,” Miriam said. “By the time I sold it I had 112 students and 21 teachers.”

 Mixing board located in the KUMD studio. Photo by Justin Flesher

Mixing board located in the KUMD studio. Photo by Justin Flesher

Upon returning to Duluth roughly 24 years after she’d first left for college, Miriam was surprised to see that Bushey was still producing his weekly show.

“I was so impressed by the dedication, commitment, and focus. He really had a mission to bring the music of Bob Dylan to the average listener,” said Miriam.

Today, Miriam focuses on curating a show that encourages non-Bob Dylan fans to give his music a try.

“I feel like I try and put a nod into the hardcore Dylan fans most shows, but mostly I’m trying to reach out to an audience that’s curious and really draw them in,” Miriam said. “I kind of just play what interests me, and hope that it will interest the average listener who’s not a die hard Dylan fan.”

 Storage room holding vinyl records in the KUMD studio. Photo by Justin Flesher

Storage room holding vinyl records in the KUMD studio. Photo by Justin Flesher

Historically, Dylan’s relationship with his hometown of Duluth has been rocky to say the least. He was known early on in his career for making up different stories about where he was from and didn’t return to play his first concert in the city until 1999, over three decades after the release of his first album. At the Bayfront concert, thousands of fans waited eagerly for some type of explanation or apology for his extended absence, but it never came.

“The only thing I remember him saying is ‘See that hill over there? I was born on that hill over there, and I’m glad to see it’s still there,’” Miriam recalled.

Miriam says that while many northern Minnesotans have been frustrated by the lack of attention Dylan shows his hometown, they’ll never abandon his music.

“It’s like the weather here,” Miriam said, “It’s so miserable most of the time, but when you have the perfect Duluth day, it’s so perfect that you forgive the other 300 days of misery.”

“I think that’s how it is with Bob Dylan, people feel like he never really gave us the time of day, but this area is in his music and people can feel that,” Miriam said. “His sense of democracy and championing the underdog comes from growing up here in Hibbing with the mining and the blue color world. Even though people complain, they still want to hear him.”

 Miriam Hanson looks through CD’s at the KUMD Studio. Photo by Justin Flesher

Miriam Hanson looks through CD’s at the KUMD Studio. Photo by Justin Flesher

The show airs from 5-6 p.m. on Mondays and Saturdays and includes everything from covers and rare field-recordings to timeless classics. Miriam says in her average one-hour show, 55 minutes or more are typically dedicated to playing music.

“I try and not talk too much,” said Miriam. “I let the music speak for itself.”

CultureJustin Flesher