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Willmar library exhibit promotes its music catalog, summer reading program

Tony Texley talks about his library display. DAN BURDETT I TRIBUNE

The Willmar Public Library has a message for all the bibliophiles out there: it’s not just about the books.

In conjunction with its summer reading program, Read to the Rhythm, the library is taking an opportunity to greater promote its extensive music portfolio.

“It makes sense,” said Kathy Torkelson, children’s librarian. “Music, movement and books are a natural fit. Research has shown there is a clear link between experiencing the tone, melody and lyrics of music, and the process of acquiring early literacy.”

This suit and tie was worn by Lloyd Nerland, a guitarist with Jay-Bee and the Kats. DAN BURDETT/TRIBUNEThe library recently commissioned Tony Texley, a Willmar resident who possesses an ample collection of memorabilia from the heyday of garage rock, to produce a music-themed display that greets librarygoers as they enter the building.

Texley has been securing memorabilia for much of the past three decades and the display features a collection of items ranging from 45s to show prints to garb and autographs.

A Pipestone native, Texley began his collection after his mother discovered a vinyl by Steve Ellis and the Starfires while cleaning his brother’s closet.

Ellis was well-known on the garage rock scene of the 1960s and had built a large fan base in the southwest corner of the state. He seemed primed for the big time, Texley said, once sharing the stage with Chuck Berry and the Everly Brothers, but was killed in a motorcycle crash in 1967 south of Pipestone.

Some of the display's items are signed by the artists. DAN BURDETT/TRIBUNESomewhere along the way, Texley discovered Ellis’ sound and was hooked. The collection simply grew from there.

“It’s great to be able to offer this to the library,” he said. “There seems to have been a strong reaction from people who remember these bands and it’s always fun to visit with them and talk about this music. Things were so different then. Music was a constant in small towns. Now all the halls and ballrooms are gone. There’s really nowhere to see this kind of music live anymore.”

A featured item of the display is the suit and tie worn by Lloyd Nerland, a guitarist with Jay-Bee and the Kats, a Huron, South Dakota-based act, who scored a modest hit in 1964 with their surf pop jam “Tension” and were inducted in 2013 in the South Dakota Rock Association’s Hall of Fame in Sioux Falls.

“They had a huge following back then,” Texley said. “The sounded so much like (rock n roll Hall of Famers) The Ventures. People were just amazed. They were a very talented group.”

The display will continue through summer. Texley plans to swap out some of the pieces with those hanging in his basement home office.

Read to the Rhythm was launched June 8 and is open to those in preschool through fifth grade. Upcoming sessions will be held at the library from 10-10:45 a.m. each Friday, concluding at the end of August.

For more information on the program, visit For more on Texley’s display, email or call 320-235-8156.

Dan Burdett

Dan Burdett is the community content coordinator at the West Central Tribune. He has 13 years experience in print media, to include four years enlisted service in the United States Air Force. He has been an employee of Forum Communications since 2005, joining the company after spending two years as the managing editor of the Redwood Gazette and Livewire in Redwood Falls. Prior to his current position, Dan was the presentation editor at the Tribune.

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