John Berquist collection

Biographical / Historical

John Berquist was a folklorist, musician and storyteller who worked primarily in Minnesota and Chicago. Born in 1947, Berquist studied cultural geography at Macalester College and, as a graduate student, at University of Minnesota. He worked as the Folk Arts Coordinator for the Minnesota State Arts Board and served as a consultant to the Smithsonian Institution's Folklife Program, music consultant for the Cousteau Society, hosted the folk music radio program Jackpine Jamboree, and produced several public radio documentaries. He was a scholar of Iron Range history, as well as Finnish American, Slovenian Button Accordion, lumberjack and union musical traditions. As a musician, Berquist wrote folk songs about miners, lumberjacks and the early Scandinavian and Slavic settlers in the Iron Range. In the 1970s, he composed "I like it in Duluth," which has been covered by several other bands. He performed in many groups including the Moose Wallow Ramblers, Nodding Wild Onions, South Side Swedes, Chicago Swedish Men's Choir, St. Paul Swedish Men's Choir, and the Heritage Company. He was active in the storytelling communities in Chicago and Minnesota, specializing in the telling of Ole and Lena jokes. Berquist helped organize numerous ethnic heritage festivals, including Laskiainen Festival, International Button Box Festival, and Ethnic Days at Ironworld USA (now Minnesota Discovery Center). As a labor organizer, he was active in the Chicago Local of the Industrial Workers of the World. He died May 12, 2016 in Eveleth, Minnesota.