3 Minute Hero Hitch your star to our wagon of poor decisions.


3 Minute Hero: Unicorns, Board Game Vinyls and Russian Scientists…


The Minneapolis-based ska ensemble of 3 Minute Hero banded together in 1996 after several jam sessions in the dorms at Minnesota State Moorhead. Get to know 3 Minute Hero as told by lead singer/trombonist, Jeff Nelson.

What brought you all together to be 3 Minute Hero?
What brings together any group of people to be a band? Common love of writing and performing music. The promise of artistic fulfillment. The Scrooge McDuck- sized piles of gold resulting from said artistic fulfillment. Also, the Fargo- Moorhead area, where we started out, is large enough to pull in national acts of all sizes, but the pool of local bands to open for those acts is not huge (or wasn’t, when we were there), so you can be a band just starting out and find yourself opening for Fishbone, which happened to us. Instant gratification for one’s musical endeavours are rare but welcome.

How did you come up with your band name?
It's the title of a song by The Selector.

How long have you been together performing or creating music?
We’ve had a few incarnations. Version 1.0 started in 1995. We toured hard and recorded three albums from 1995-2000. In 2000, we decided that five years of being on the same bus was enough and that we should take some time to be by ourselves and think about what we had done. We also, in no particular order, got married; had babies; joined other bands; saw the world; and, in one unfortunate turn, moved to Indiana. In 2007 we had our first reunion show. Overwhelmed by the response, we had one the following year. Then another one. Then we started playing new material. Finally, after guitar player, Jay Kalk, moved back from Hawaii and drummer Jonathon Tebeest moved back from New York, we had to admit that we were a real band again.

How would you describe the music you play; what generally do you most identify with & what bands do you most relate to musically?
We play horn rock. Extensive field studies show that it pairs remarkably well with drinking and dancing.

Can you collectively name two of your biggest musical influences? (Or individually)
With eight guys in the band, a list of our influences would read like a playlist of somebody who is, at worst, confused, and at best, musically promiscuous. Performance-wise, we’ve always aimed towards two polestars. James Brown’s live album “Love Peace Power: Live from the Olympia in Paris” in 1971 is the best live album of all-time. That’s an empirical fact. And Elvis’s “Aloha from Hawaii” live album, just for how the flow of a live show should go. And because he’s the King. Not skinny little Elvis; gigantic glorious Old Testament Godzilla Elvis.

What cover music do you play if any at all & are there any specific reason for that particular artist or song?
We don’t do too many covers. We’ve been partial to a band called the Scofflaws. We’ve also been known to bust into a “Lowrider/Final Countdown” medley. Don’t judge.

Who writes your music?
Our songwriting process is a lot like those rogue Russian scientists who sew multiple dog heads onto one body to see what happens. Jay and I have written most of the music. Our current project is one that I presented as a whole to the band and was lucky enough to get everybody’s support on, because it’s enormous. Here are the things are new album is: 1.) a triple-album, 2.) a concept album, 3.) a board game. I shit you not.

Have you been able to record? Where?
We’ve been lucky to record four albums, all in excellent local studios. The last album (“F Minus: Uncollected Works”) and the album we’re currently working on (“Jumbo-Jet Whispers & Thunder-Lizard Serenades”) were/are being recorded at producer/drummer Jonathon TeBeest’s studio in Madison, Wisconsin. I will go on record to say that, yes: it’s worth the drive to Madison. That wasn’t easy for me.

Have you been on tour – where?
We have seen cacti and cheesesteaks in their natural environments.

Where do you normally perform?
In town, we have been playing Bunker’s and Lee’s. Bunker’s is an exceptionally good sounding stage and room. And they let the band make their own cheeseburgers. Lee’s is an institution. Plus, they’ve got a goddamn puma on the wall. A Puma!

How do you plan to expand on the future of your band?
We are at a point where we only do things that we think are awesome. Is there a market for concept-triple-vinyl-board game albums? We honestly don’t give a shit, but we think it’s cool. We believe in it. Our fans - and we easily have the best fandom out there - think it’s fun, and they’ve been with us through all kinds of ridiculousness.

The band's Facebook and website seem like you guys like to be pretty humorous; is that the same attitude you take when writing music and performing?
Yes. We live in a world where people shoot cartoonists and chop the heads off of innocent human beings. Until our wishes of attachable justice-seeking laser chainsaws are granted, humor is our best weapon against the forces of hatred and the absurdity of everyday life.

Why the unicorn? Your website seems more like a blog? Do you guys consider music as just an aspect of who you are asa band or are there more "serious" things you want people to identify you by?
The age old question: “Why the unicorn?” To which we respond: “Why not the unicorn?” Unicorns are the shit! Unicorns are narwhals with gumption. All it took was one narwhal to ask, “What if we grew legs, hooves, and a beautiful shimmering mane, and crawled out of this briny mess?” Nobody’s ever seen a lazy-ass narwhal majestically galloping up to a waterfall beneath the gentle glow of a full moon, rear up on its hind legs and whinny.

What most memorable experience you have had as a band?
When we discovered that we all share the same set of biological grandparents.

And finally, what is your spirit animal?
The mighty brown bear. I like salmon and berries. I like to sleep. I occasionally lash out and eat people who think I’m tame. Maybe a dragonfly though.

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Works in Progress #13: Release The Bats!


Many moons ago, when you were still at your mother's teat, we played an outdoor show somewhere in Iowa. It was at a college and like all outdoor shows at colleges in Iowa this outdoor show also featured a pig roast.  Normally, this would slide under the radar as an inconsequential detail, but at this time in 3 Minute Hero history, we had a member of a non-Christian monotheistic religion in our retinue. He was (and probably still is) of the Jewish persuasion. This was fascinating to us, for some reason. We would lurk about wagering whether or not he would take part in the ursine feast before him. This particular instance came after a handful of other pig roasts. Had he not taken part, he would have been reduced to the non-existent 3 Minute Hero per diem or, even worse, an emergency sandwich from my cooler consisting of a bread-like substance and off-brand apple butter. He ate the pig. One of our number yelled out, "Release the bats!" and it was hilarious, because, as everybody knows, the releasing of the bats is one of the best parts of the whole entire Pentateuch.

An interesting part of this story that has no relation to what I'm trying to get at is that earlier in the day, Eric Johnson made a heroic frisbee catch, but when he landed, he crushed a baby bunny. Explain THAT to God, Eric.

So, bats. That's where I was. "Release the bats," became, over time, a battle cry in the face of the absurd. That's what this song is to me. We head out on these fool's errands, we get side-tracked, the side-tracks become the main spurs, we go to Iowa, we eat pigs, we defy our Maker, we crush bunnies.

"With his cape made of wind

And a crown fashioned from junk

He joins the cattle,

Their romance for battle

He is an antique marching band steam punk.

He's drowning in sweat

From a nightmare more crushing than debt:

He wants a future

All stitched and sutured,

The past on his feet

And the future on his

Head, shoulders, knees, and toes,

Shoulders, knees, and toes,

You know how it goes

So we say it again.

I can.



Release the bats! Flip the switch!

Release the bats! Ring the bell!

Release the bats! Upon my signal...

Unleash hell!

Release the bats, the kind that live beneath our hats,

Won't somebody please think of the children?


And when he comes home

He is broke, but not broken or alone:

He has stories,

A chest pinned with glories,

And a shell shock fear of the telephone

Ring Ring Ring Ring

Don't touch that thing!

It's a relay station

For echolocation

Evasive maneuvers: one and a two and a

Sing. Sing a song. Make it last. Your whole life long.

Sing. Sing a song. "

What's that? You think this song should have clarinets and accordions in it? Consider it done, but only because you asked and you read all the way to the bottom.

All of this particular material is copyrighted ©2015 Jeff Nelson.



Works in Progress #12: Kill a Unicorn


Do you know what's hard? Go ahead, smart-ass -- I'll throw in a caesura here for you to formulate an ultra-perverse answer.

[Excellent work.]

Some people think coal-mining is hard. Some people think landing on and subsequently destroying an earthbound comet is difficult. Child's play. Writing lyrics to songs? Now we're getting somewhere. Some of the songs on our forthcoming album have been lodged in my head -- like an iron spike -- for well over a decade. I thought I knew the words to them. Guess what? I don't! That's because the lyrics in my head, which have fit so nicely in these songs for so long, don't actually fit in the space allotted. I have apparently been given the remarkably frustrating gift of being able to conjure up a 5-gallon music pail and then fill it with 22 gallons of lyrics (most of which are about monkeys, pies, or rage). Do you know how badly those lyrics stain my priceless Oriental rugs?

Enough of my completely valid first-world problems, here are some lyrics that do fit.

"It's way to late to do us any good --

I should have started earlier: I know.

Now an opportunity has been missed

And everybody's pissed

Off, and rightfully so.

When you're young life can go by so slow:

At a glacial pace, at the speed of tree

And waiting on the sideline is me

Waiting for a silver bullet -- waiting for a god to fall from the sky

Saying, "Me oh my, get to the front of the line."

But it's too late today, it's too late tonight, it's too late for me to put up a fight.

It's too late today, it's to late tonight I know.

I should have planned ahead

Or even even just planned,

Nothing I do is even in demand.

I could've worked harder,

I could've done more,

Now all that's left is to go fight the war.

"The war is over, son."

I don't even care who won.


It's time to grab life by the horn

It's time for you to get on board:

It's time to kill a unicorn.


It's way too late and the sun has come up.

I need something inside this cup.

Do they have coffee at the God-I'm Awesome-Cafe?


This moment shall pass,

It's just that life goes by so fast

When it's too damn hot

And you're down to your last shot.


Run my unicorn, run free,

Over the mountains majestically.

Run my unicorn run --

Over the rainbow and under the sun."


All of this particular material is copyrighted 2014 by Jeff Nelson. So no writing your own songs about unicorn slaying -- at least with these lyrics.



Trains: Variations on a Theme.


Do you know what's fun? Besides having that dream where you're fighting ponytail guy in the tippy tops of the bamboo forest in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"? Playing with Reel Big Fish. That was a lot of fun. That happened this past Tuesday at Mill City Nights in Minneapolis. Holy shit! Did you know that there are trains running right in the middle of Minneapolis? Trains! What is this? Trainsylvania? Atlanta? Anyhoo...Mill City Nights is located across the street (and, spoiler alert, train tracks) from Epic. We played Epic once and I was so sick that I exited stage right mid-song, threw up, returned and sang the rest of the song. If that is not the gleaming paragon of Midwestern work ethic, then I quit. Where was I? Trains! We were supposed to have jet cars or at the very least ghost chariots by now. Trains are so 1864. Do you know what else is so 1864? Eric Johnson. For those of you who get all of your 3 Minute Hero news solely through the website or hastily printed handbills, you may want to sit down: I have news of great import. First of all, everybody is OK. Second of all, after 19 years, I have attained the post of First Chair Trombone, so, suck it nerds. Thirdly, Eric Johnson has quit the band in order to work on his model railroad. It is, and I speak from experience, an amazing specimen. It's an HO gauge layout that depicts a fictionalized Milwaukee of the mid-1950's. It is beautiful and all of the surviving members of 3 Minute Hero wish him luck on this most noble of callings. Our parting request is that when he has finished this life's masterwork, he will invite all of us to his inner sanctum. His hair, flecked with gray and curling out from beneath his engineer's cap will speak of his years spent in solitude, hunched over boxcars and buildings, creating a universe of his own making. When he sweeps the curtain with his hand to reveal the decades of work, we, the remaining members of 3 Minute Hero, will say in a monotone unison, "We all thought you were crazy to quit the band in order to follow your dream of making an HO gauge replica of 1950's Milwaukee, but clearly, you were right: this is amazing. This is perfect." And having witnessed perfection, we will disappear in a puff of smoke that will at once seem too small, yet cause Eric to cough violently for days.

Good luck Eric. That was a lot of fun.

Toot. Toot.


Works in Progress #11: Okoboji Volcano [Parts 2 & 3]


What is the price of living in paradise? I'm not talking about dollars or rubles. I'm talking about the trade-offs. Some live in the shadow of volcanoes. Others live on active fault lines. Some of us even live in St. Paul. Regardless, Fate's drunk ass invariably shows up at our door demanding that which we thought was ours and when she does, you best have your New Balances laced up, a full tank of gas, and a week's worth of canned goods and bottled water because she is as relentless as she is capricious. This song, "Okoboji Volcano [Parts 2 & 3]" are about living in the shadow of the volcano and about how everything somehow comes together when you need it to. It is to be the first song of the second section of our forthcoming double-album titled "Jumbo Jet Whispers & Thunder Lizard Serenades: The Journey of 3 Minute Hero."

You always knew / What was best.

I took care of today / You took care of the rest.

All our worries: so petty and small --

It's so clear now after the fall,

But how can you know when she's going to blow?

You always knew / What was best about me.

That's why we're here / under the coconut trees.

All our worries: so petty and small --

So clear now after the fall,

But how can you know when she's going to blow?

Breeze blowing in off the ocean -- all right.

Breeze blowing in from the sea -- oh yeah.

Breeze blowing in through the valley and over the darkness of the water.

Breeze blowing in from the mountain -- all right.

Breeze blowing in off the the mountain -- oh yeah.

Hey man, that's not a mountain.

I know that's not a mountain.

We all know that's not a mountain.

All right.


Little baby puff of smoke / Everything is okie-doke.

Grab a bag of avocados then we go home.

Chop an onion, squeeze a lime / Guacamole just in time

for beer, chips, and Apocalypse Now.

Good thing we kept the Vespa and not the goats.

Good thing you took that course on how to fly helicopters.

Bingo-bango: sugar in the gas tank.

Bingo-bango: failure can be so sweet.

Bingo-bango: Okoboji volcano.

Driving here, driving there / Driving with no underwear

Lava lava everywhere / That's a bad poem.

Through the jungle / Through the trees,

Through the ancient idol's knees.

Pretty, pretty, pretty please: let me go home.

Don't stop the carnival but do not look back.

Good thing T.C. showed you how to fly his Island Hopper.

Good thing we built our shack up on high land

Upon the packed down sand

You think we'd understand, but you'd be wrong.


You always knew / What was best.

You took car of today. / I took care of the rest.

Our daily worries so petty and small --

It's so clear now after the fall,

But how can you know when she's going to blow?


All of this particular material is copyrighted ©2014 Jeff Nelson.




3 Minute Hero Announces 2014 Roster

Once again, 3 Minute Hero has eschewed conventional wisdom in fielding a small-market team. "This season we're going to focus on raw power, talent, charisma, and stunning good looks," said band spokeswoman and award-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. She added, "That should provide results more favorable to the band's loyal fan base than when the band's focus was centered more on the consumption of off-brand snack foods and the non-stop viewing of Animal Planet shows." Regardless, fans will know how this strategy is working by the All-Star break.

1. Bryce Blilie - trumpet - ss

2. Dave Kittelson - bass - 2b

3. Jay Kalk - guitar/vox - c

4. Jonathon TeBeest - drums - rf

5. Eric Johnson - trombone - 1b

6. Al "Ice" Berg - keys - lf

7. Jeff Nelson - 2nd trombone/ld.vox - cf

8. Paul Gronert - sax - 3b

note: 3 Minute Hero has no pitchers. Opposing teams are encouraged to bring their own tee.





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Thanks Fargo!


This past Saturday, we returned to play Fargo for the first time in a long time. How long? Let's just say that if I had actually kept my vow to not trim my fingernails until I played music in Fargo again, this guy would be in second place.


Hot. We had a great time and it was ridiculous fun to see so many of you in the same place after so long. Thanks for making the trip out. Thanks to the good people at Dempsey's/The Aquarium, Chris Hennen, Raul Gomez at the High Plains Reader, John Lamb of INFORUM, and the Blilies for the most heavenly brunch in the history of brunches. I ate a serving of cheesy potatoes and thought I saw the face of God, but it was just Paul.

Yours, as always,



Works in Progress #10: 800 LB Gorilla (Parts 1 & 2)

Meow kitty!

After singing through the bridge of this song a couple of times last night in practice, Jay asked just exactly what the hell this was about and I launched into an overly descriptive account of a dream I had when I was all of 15. I won't get into details, but I had stayed up late watching "Planet of the Apes" and the movie's parting imagery inspired my subconscious to dream lascivious dreams of an alarmingly come-hither, human-sized Statue of Liberty. This was a vivid memory from a turbulent age -- an age when I came to realize that most of the things I loathed in other people I could conveniently find located squarely in my own thoughts and deeds. That's what this song is about for me: trying to deal with other people's shortcomings while becoming painfully aware of my own -- hating somebody else's behaviors while realizing that I was beginning to adopt those same behaviors because, well, they were effective. Stomping around like an 800 pound gorilla, for instance.

But yes, it's also about how the Statue of Liberty is a woman. With needs.

I've said too much.


"Responsible. Just the sound of the word is old hat --

Crazy as a camper full of cats

Crackling with sound and furry

Pounding home that I should scurry.

I know the smell of fear

and smells just like gin and spaghetti.

Good God I'm more than ready

To say as he says and do as he does.

And I'd dearly love to be anywhere but here --

Just drive and drive, but never have to steer.

Run away. Far away.

You don't know where I would fly:

Off the handle?

Out to the zoo?

Mr. Movies is showing me what I can do.


I stomp around, I stomp around, I stomp around.

Like an 800 pound gorilla.

I stomp around, I stomp around, I stomp around.

Like I own the town.

Like I'll split the ground.

Like an 800 pound gorilla.


Sing song -- King Kong -- damn dirty apes.

Show me the shoreline; I'll show you the shapes:

The copper crown of liberty's shade,

The languid eyes, the serious gaze

Above the fabric dripping down like honey from above,

More than money do I love

That she is French, lives in New York,

Always wears sandals, and carries a torch.


I stomp around, I stomp around, I stomp around.

Like an 800 pound gorilla.

I stomp around, I stomp around, I stomp around.

Like I own the town.

Like I'll split the ground.

Like an 800 pound gorilla."


All of this particular material is copyrighted ©2013 Jeff Nelson.



Jason Hoffman knows you left your back door open

Fine Line 1999. Jason Hoffman the original bass player for 3 Minute Hero sings a tune originally written by The Scofflaws. Back Door.

In the beginning of the tune we hear the horns making karate noises as they jump into various poses.




Here are a couple photos taken at a ska fest we played in Moorhead with The Scofflaws back in 1998.


Richard "Sammy" Brooks and Jeff



Buford O’Sullivan and Jeff


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