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The O.K. Show, Episode 2: Mary Beth Mueller and her one-woman crusade against cancer

Photo by Nate Ryan/MPR
Photo by Nate Ryan/MPR
  Play Now [35:02]

by Andrea Swensson

September 30, 2015

Loud. Fast. Rules.

With those three simple words, one of the biggest rock bands to come out of Minnesota was born. Before they were known as Soul Asylum, Loud Fast Rules was a band of energetic young dudes from Minneapolis who served food at downtown restaurants by day and tore up the 7th St. Entry at night.

A lot has been written about Soul Asylum, especially their 1993 album Grave Dancer’s Union and their breakout hit, "Runaway Train." But I wanted to get a new perspective, and to talk to the woman who had a front row seat as they went from playing the Entry to playing MTV Unplugged.

I first met Mary Beth Mueller at one of her Kill Kancer fundraisers, and I was mesmerized by her ability to get up on stage and speak plainly and truthfully about her relationship with her bass-playing husband, Karl, and the throat cancer that took his life in 2005. Mary Beth is, for the lack of a better word, intense. She’s a fighter. She still carries a punk rock energy with her wherever she goes; as she puts it, she’s "going to go down swinging." And she’s not about to let cancer get away with the havoc it’s wreaked on so many of our lives.

On the first episode of this podcast I talked a lot about how music can make things better, and how I wanted to name this "The O.K. Show" because music makes things feel okay. Well, in Mary Beth’s case, that isn’t good enough. For her, things are going to be okay because she said so. She’s not going to sit around and wait for things to get better; she’s on the front lines making it happen.

For our interview, Mary Beth invited me over to her house and we sat amid Kill Kancer posters and Karl's old basses. We talked about her beginnings in the Minneapolis punk rock scene, meeting Karl, taking their marriage on the road as Soul Asylum's career exploded, and the war she's waged against cancer since his untimely passing in 2005.

Stream the episode here, or download it as a podcast via FeedBurner (which is compatible with most podcatcher apps like Feedly or Stitcher) or on iTunes.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and you'll soon be seeing the latest Kill Kancer posters plastered all over town. I'll be bowling with Mary Beth and all of my female colleagues at the Current on October 11 from 3-6 p.m. at the Bryant-Lake Bowl. You can pledge money toward breast cancer research ahead of the Kill Kancer Bowl-a-Thon and get more information here.

And for more of Mary Beth's reflections on the 10th anniversary of Karl's death, read this compelling essay she wrote over the summer for Innocent Words.


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This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.