50 facts about the Electric Fetus

Electric Fetus
The Electric Fetus at 2000 4th Ave. S in Minneapolis, Minn. (MPR Photo/Brandt Williams)

It's been 50 years since the Electric Fetus first opened its doors. Over the years, the record store has built its reputation as a musical hub in the Twin Cities. The Fetus's five decades are filled with encounters with musical legends and fragments of Minnesota history. To celebrate the Fetus's fiftieth birthday, here are 50 Fetus Facts.

The present home of the Electric Fetus was built in 1917

In 1917, the one-story brick building (which now houses the Electric Fetus) at 2000 S. Fourth Avenue was constructed by A.W. Duncan -- according to Minneapolis building permit B126713, dated April 4, 1917. The building is described as 150 feet long, 60 feet deep, and 17 feet high. The contractors are Johnson and Johnson; no architect is listed. The buidling originally housed a drugstore. (Source: "A History of the Electric Fetus" prepared for the Greater Twin Cities Blues Music Society, July 2006 )

The present Electric Fetus building used to be a post office

The 1930 Minneapolis city directory lists the CaronStarn Drug Company, Post Office Station No. 11, E. F. Manufacturing Company, Elizabeth Holt Dry Goods, and Glickman's Grocery at 2000 S. Fourth Avenue. (Source: "A History of the Electric Fetus" prepared for the Greater Twin Cities Blues Music Society, July 2006 )

The regional office of White Castle was located in the present Electric Fetus building from the 1930s into at least the mid-1950s

Minneapolis city directories from 1940 and 1955 list White Castle System Corporate Office, among other tenants, at 2000 S. Fourth Avenue. (Source: "A History of the Electric Fetus" prepared for the Greater Twin Cities Blues Music Society, July 2006 )

There was a protest at the Fetus over closing of Dania Hall

After being denied a renewal of its license, Dania Hall in Minneapolis was forced to close on June 28, 1968. About 200 young adults gathered in front of the Electric Fetus to protest the closure of this Cedar-Riverside venue. (Source: Star Tribune 7/4/68 )

Electric Fetus co-founders Ron Korsh and Dan Foley both quit the University of Minnesota to open the store

Ron Korsh, a student in the architecture school at the University of Minnesota, was unhappy with a studio project assigned to him. He decided to quit college and look for a money-making enterprise. He noticed a storefront for rent at 521 Cedar Avenue South. "At that point," he recalls, "I was already thinking about opening a store of some sort. Perhaps a record store as I had an interest in music." The space rented for about $18 per month. Electric Fetus co-founder Dan Foley remembers the beginning somewhat differently. Foley, like Korsh, was enrolled at the university at the time. They were up late one night listening to the new music coming from San Francisco and London. Korsh asked, "Why not open a record shop?" Although neither had any experience in running a store, they decided to do it. Foley used his student loan money, less than $5,000, as start-up capital for the store. Foley never completed his degree in child psychology. He says his education got "sidetracked by the times." (Source: "A History of the Electric Fetus" prepared for the Greater Twin Cities Blues Music Society, July 2006 )

The "Electric Fetus" name was inspired by the Electric Lotus in New York and by Zap Comics

Foley and Korsh credit each other with the store's name, which was inspired by a retailer in New York, the Electric Lotus. They liked that name, but needed an identity of their own. They started brainstorming with the word "electric," and one of them paired it with "fetus." The combination could have been inspired by a popular Robert Crumb cartoon of a curled-up man plugged into an electrical socket that often appeared in the underground Zap Comics. (Source: "A History of the Electric Fetus" prepared for the Greater Twin Cities Blues Music Society, July 2006 )

Early radio advertisements didn't say the word "Fetus" on air

The name offended some. On early radio advertisements, the announcer would not pronounce the second word, saying only "Electric" followed by a bleep. In time, radio stations got more comfortable with the name. (Source: "A History of the Electric Fetus" prepared for the Greater Twin Cities Blues Music Society, July 2006 )

Early advertisments were handmade

The first Electric Fetus advertisements appeared mainly in the Minnesota Daily and alternative publications, such as the Free Press. Most of them had a homemade quality, often contained references to topical events, and were produced by Korsh, Foley, or Colby. One advertisement queried, "Will the Fetus Eat Us? No! We'll let the records, lights, pipes, incense, and posters do that." Another ad featured thick-lettered words that appeared to billow like smoke out of a peace symbol, announcing that the store was "open every nite 'til 10." (Source: "A History of the Electric Fetus" prepared for the Greater Twin Cities Blues Music Society, July 2006 )

The Electric Fetus's first location was in the West Bank

The first Fetus was at 512 Cedar Ave. S. (Source: City Pages )

A nude poster of Richard Nixon was confiscated from the Fetus by police (graphic content)

In 1969, Fetus owners were hauled into court over a supposedly obscene nude poster of President Nixon. Richard Nixon (Source: Star Tribune archive 2/11/69 )

Pioneering electronic psychedelic group Silver Apples brought sprawling synthesizer to the Fetus

Psychedelic electro group Silver Apples spent time at the Electric Fetus in October 1969. They hung out in the back room, talking with customers. Simeon of Silver Apples is known for his revolutionary invention of the Simeon Synthesizer. (Source: Star Tribune 10/5/69 )

The Fetus sold bootlegs (shh!) for a period

As bootlegs proliferated in the early '70s, they were available for a time at the Fetus. Among them: the Beatles' Kum Back, the Roling Stones' Live album and various Bob Dylan records. (Source: Star Tribune 3/31/70 )

The Fetus once faced criminal charges for displaying an altered flag

Owner Keith Covart pled innocent regarding an altered American flag on the premises. The flag, which was displayed in the shop window, replaced the 50 stars with a single peace sign. (Source: Star Tribune 4/7/70 )

The Fetus was the site of a meeting to organize a student boycott of local concerts over inflated ticket prices.

$5-$10 for Crosby, Stills & Nash tickets in 1970? "That's outrageous!" said one of the protesting students. (Source: Star Tribune 4/30/70 )

A drawing of Spiro Agnew as a hippie was once a hot seller

A drawing of former Vice President Spiro Agnew as a hippie, created by John Miller (an artist for the Minneapolis Tribune), quickly became a best seller at the Fetus in November 1970. (Source: Star Tribune 11/8/70 )

The Fetus was selling rolling papers as they were beginning to get use for more than just tobacco

Sales were booming at the Fetus in 1971 for items including water pipes, hash pipes, insence and insence burners. (Source: Star Tribune 1/28/71 )

The Fetus worried about new high-rise apartment buildings in Cedar-Riverside

The Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, where the Fetus was originally located, was set to undergo some changes in the '70s. Most of these changes revolved around bringing more modern buildings and skyscrappers into the neighborhood, including new apartments. Keith Covart, of the Fetus, explained the change as potentially being "a super plastic, unlivable, almost unbearable situation." (Source: Star Tribune 1/31/71 )

The Fetus offered to give a free record to anyone who showed up naked

In 1972, the Fetus pulled a publicity stunt. If a customer walked completely naked from the back of the store to the front, they could recieve a free record. 40 people, representing both men and women, showed up and participated. One of them was local musician Maurice Jacox, who said he and his female roommate stripped down, got free albums (and a marijuana pipe for each), and hung out in the nude for half an hour. (Source: Star Tribune 5/5/72 )

The Fetus moved to its present location in 1972

Keith Covart (who bought out Ron Korsh's shares in the Fetus after Korsh got bored with retail and returned to college) says he had trouble finding new quarters for the store after losing the original Cedar-Riverside location. Some landlords agreed to rent to him, then change their minds. A storefront at 2010 Fourth Avenue South was finally secured, and the Electric Fetus moved there in June 1972. The landlord of the building, which also held a hardware store, said he received a bomb threat after signing a lease with Covart, but decided to go ahead with the deal. (Source: "A History of the Electric Fetus" prepared for the Greater Twin Cities Blues Music Society, July 2006 )

The Electric Fetus Company was incorporated in 1972

On October 30, 1972, the Electric Fetus filed articles of incorporation with the Minnesota Secretary of State; Filing No. 2E-599. (Source: MN Secretary of State )

The Wolverines Big Band played their first gig at the Fetus's fifth anniversary

In 1973, Minneapolis jazz orchestra the Wolverines Big Band played their first-ever gig at the Electric Fetus fifth anniversary party. The group has disbanded and changed quite a bit throughout the years, but are still playing to this day. (Source: Star Tribune 04/16/82 )

The National Lampoon said the Electric Fetus had the worst name for a business

In its early years, the Fetus got a particular kind of national media recognition when New York's infamous comedy magazine cited its name as the worst business name in America.

Keith Covart became sole owner of the Electric Fetus in 1978

Co-founder Dan Foley sold his share of the Electric Fetus to Covart, who became the sole owner, in 1978. The store celebrated its tenth anniversary by giving away free T-shirts with Electric Fetus logos. (Source: "A History of the Electric Fetus" prepared for the Greater Twin Cities Blues Music Society, July 2006 )

A hairy guy in a bikini won a 1978 bathing suit competition

Miss America has discontinued its bathing-suit competiton -- and so has the Electric Fetus, but in 1978, customers were invited to suit up as part of a promotion for David Bromberg's album Bandit in a Bathing Suit. First prize went to a hairy guy in a bikini, second prize went to a St. Bernard.

The Fetus refused to buy John Lennon's lighter after his death

Following John Lennon's death in the early eighties, dealers began selling off some of his belongings. When the Fetus was approached with the opportunity to buy John Lennon lighters, Bill Wade (Fetus manager) turned the dealer down. Wade said the focus for the Fetus would be mostly on Lennon records, seeing as they are a record shop. (Source: Star Tribune 1/1/81 )

The Electric Fetus was part of St. Paul's "Fun Fair"

The Fun Fair, which was marketed as a mini indoor state fair, was popular in February 1985. The Electric Fetus was one of many vendors who contributed. It was held in the St. Paul Civic Center, and included greasy food and a midway. (Source: Star Tribune 02/01/85 )

John Entwistle from the Who came by

Fuchs and his co-workers were confused by how quiet and removed Entwistle was being, they assumed he was just being rude. They came to find out after he left the shop that he was very deaf, and actually just couldn't hear them. (Source: from Bob Fuchs (date approximate) )

Around the World in a Day set a first-week sales record for the Fetus

Prince has always been a big seller at the Fetus. When his album Around the World in a Day was released in 1985, it moved twice as many first-week copies as its predecessor Purple Rain -- and four times as many first-week copies as the "red-hot" We Are the World album, staff told the Star Tribune. (Source: Star Tribune )

Alan Page stopped by

Alan Page (formerly of the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Supreme Court) stopped into the Fetus around 1987. Manager Bob Fuchs is a big fan, and was surprised when a co-worker of his didn't recognize Page. The co-worker commented on the large size of Page's hands, saying: "Wow, you must play basketball!" (Source: from Bob Fuchs )

The Duluth Fetus opened in 1987

In 1987, the Electric Fetus opened its location on Superior Street in Duluth, still a hub of the Twin Ports music community. Electric Fetus in Duluth

XTC hung out at the Fetus

When XTC came through Minnesota in 1989 to promote their album Oranges and Lemons, they made an in-store appearance at the Fetus, then ended their day with "a cocktail party attended by local music-business movers and shakers," reported the Star Tribune. (Source: Star Tribune )

The Fetus bought its building in 1994

Covart bought the building at 2000-2010 Fourth Avenue South in 1994. By this time, the Fetus occupied the entire building. (Source: "A History of the Electric Fetus" prepared for the Greater Twin Cities Blues Music Society, July 2006 )

Slug used to work at the Fetus

Slug (Sean Daley), of Rhymesayers fame, was a part-time clerk at the Electric Fetus in the '90s. Just like Jack Black in High Fidelity, Slug refused to sell Sean McPherson a record, instead pointing him to something else. As Sean recalls: "I tried to buy the Ugly Duckling EP Fresh Mode from Slug and he straight-up Jack Blacked me. 'I can't let you buy that,' he said. 'Go pick a different record.'" (Source: Star Tribune 1/10/97 )

The police illegally searched the Duluth Fetus for drug paraphanelia and the shop won $74,000 because of it

In 1994, there was a police investigation into the sale of illegal drugs in the Duluth area. As a result, a civilian informant bought various pipes at the Duluth Fetus location which prompted a police investigation into the shop. The Fetus argued that the investiagtion was illegal, and the shop ended up winning $74,000 in a settlement. (Source: Star Tribune 2/12/97 )

Mark Wheat got his first big break as a live DJ after a meeting at the Fetus

"My first big break as a live DJ came one day in 1997 while I was wandering those hallowed aisles," remembers The Current's Mark Wheat. "Mike Elias is now the owner of Barely Brothers record store in St. Paul, and you might remember him from his days as a DJ on KFAI; that's where I initially met him. He worked for a long time at the Fetus, too, and that fateful day he ambled up to me and innocently asked if I would be interested in joining him in a posse of like-minded DJs who would rotate shifts at a new Warehouse District club, then known simply as The Lounge. I jumped at the chance, enjoying the camaraderie of playing an eclectic mix with, among others, JG Everest (Roma di Luna) and Chuck Tomlinson (Radio K's Cosmic Slop.) Initially, the club was small, so we didn't have to worry about making people dance, but when Johann, the very enthusiastic and supportive owner, added a second room with a dance floor, he gave us all the chance to try -- and I jumped at it. I loved all the European house music that was big at the time, and I traveled to Europe to visit family every year, returning with a new stack of tunes. I was lucky enough to become the resident DJ every Friday and Saturday night between 1998 and 2002. Prince had a booth permanently reserved there, where he would regularly entertain out-of-town guests; Gwen Stefani in particular caused a stir, I remember!" (Source: Mark Wheat )

The Fetus used to offer free music samples -- by phone

For a period in the late '90s and early 2000s, the Electric Fetus partnered with the Star Tribune to allow readers to dial in and hear free 45-second excerpts from new records. (Source: Star Tribune )

The Fetus survived price battles with big-box retailers

In 1998, the Fetus said it was paying $10.40 per copy of the latest Prince album at wholesale rates -- meaning it had to price copies higher than that to cover costs and turn any profit. Meanwhile, the same album was selling to consumers for $8.99 as a "loss leader" at Best Buy.

"Mix and Burn" stations were implemented for customers to make their own CDs in 2006

The Minneapolis Electric Fetus installed Mix & Burn stations in 2006 to entice customers to spend more time in the store. These stations gave costumers the opportunity to listen to full albums and create their own mix CDs. (Source: Star Tribune 12/14/06 )

Fetus had a "state-of-the-art" CD repair machine

In 2007, the Fetus bought what was said to be a "state-of-the-art" disc repair machine. By using three different types of buffing, the machine repaired scratches, but it couldn't be promised that it would stop a disc from skipping. The process cost around $3 to repair each disc. By purchasing this machine, the Fetus was able to increase the amount of used CDs they bought by an additional 1,000 a month. Before the implementation of the machine, they had to turn people away who brought in scratched discs. (Source: Star Tribune 05/22/07 )

The Fetus helped launch "ThinkIndie," a downloadable music app to "rival" iTunes

With brick and mortar sales on a decline in 2009, the Electric Fetus launched ThinkIndie, a music downloading service. ThinkIndie set itself apart from other sellers such as iTunes and Amazon by focusing primarily on indie and local music. It also boasted higher quality digital downloads, and 40 years of music expertise from the Fetus's staff. (Source: Star Trib 05/01/09 )

The Fetus was damaged by the 2009 tornado

A 2009 tornado did some real damage to the Fetus. One of its large storefront windows was shattered, and a 700-pound air conditioning unit was lifted during the storm, which ended up caving in a portion of the store's roof. tornado damage (Source: City Pages )

Ringo Starr wore an Electric Fetus shirt to the 2010 Grammys

Ringo Starr had a Minnesota moment at the 52nd Grammy Awards in 2010. While presenting the award for record of the year (which went to "Use Somebody" by Kings of Leon), he wore a shirt from the Electric Fetus. Ringo Starr (Source: Star Tribune 02/01/10 )

There was an Electric Fetus in St. Cloud for 27 years

In 2014, the St. Cloud Electric Fetus shut its doors after 27 years in business. (Source: St. Cloud Times )

Prince was a Fetus fan

Prince would stop into Electric Fetus every few months. He "liked that people left him alone to shop" at the Fetus. In April 2016, Prince shopped at the Electric Fetus for the last time. According to retail manager Bob Fuchs, Prince bought six records during his visit, including Stevie Wonder's Talking Book, Joni Mitchell's Hejira, and Santana IV. The Fetus has since become a destination for Prince fans visiting Minneapolis. (Source: The Current )

Foodie Alton Brown "shopped for vinyl" at the Fetus

Following an appearance at the Orpheum Theatre, Food Network star Alton Brown made some stops around the Twin Cities. One of these stops included vinyl shopping at Electric Fetus. (Source: Star Tribune 05/12/16 )

Cyndi Lauper hung out in the Electric Fetus basement

Following her eleventh studio album release, Detour, in 2016, Cyndi Lauper gave press interviews in the basement of the Electric Fetus. Oake and Riley were among the lucky members of the press who were able to interview her. Jill Riley was especially excited for to interview Lauper, one of her musical idols. (Source: The Current )

Duluth's Fetus survived a 2017 fire

A portion of Superior Street was shut down in May 2017 after a small electrical fire caused smoke to fill the Electric Fetus in Duluth.

A "Fetus Girl" Lego set was launched in 2018

Brickmania created a Lego set of the Fetus Girl, based on a print by artist Adam Turman. The Lego set is being sold for a limited time, and was released just before Record Store Day 2018. (Source: The Current )

The musical High Fidelity was staged at the Electric Fetus

Just last month, the musical version of "High Fidelity" was performed at the Electric Fetus as an immersive theater experience by Minneapolis Musical Theatre. The musical is based on the novel by Nick Hornby. It follows the story of Rob, a picky record store owner who is also very unlucky in love. Since the majority of the musical takes place in a record store, staging it at the Fetus seemed only natural. (Source: MPR News )

The Fetus had an exclusive "Nothing Compares 2 U" copy from Warner Brothers

The Fetus had an exclusive "(Purple) Nothing Compares 2 U" 7" directly from Warner Brothers. They were the first store in the world to sell the new single. (Source: from Bob Fuchs )

Hanna Bubser, Colleen Cowie, Jay Gabler, Jeyca Maldanado-Medina and Luke Taylor contributed to this feature.

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