A one-man band artist has parlayed his talent for playing music and self-promoting into a $25,000 win.
Alex “Crankshaft” Larson, who just four short years ago set up shop and became a regular mainstay at the weekend Anoka Classic Car Shows, playing his acoustic drums, guitar, kazoo, harmonica and singing for tips, recently was named first-place winner of a national Artist Signal Internet voting contest for unsigned bands.
Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders garnered 106,764 votes.
“I had no idea how dedicated my fans would be about the whole contest,” said Larson, a resident of Anoka since 2007 and a 2002 graduate of St. Francis High School.
This was Larson’s second attempt at entering the national contest. In his first try, he ranked about 24th.
He will use his winnings to produce three music videos for songs he’s written for a new CD to be released in January 2013. The remainder of the money will be used to hire a publicist to promote the album.
The competition for top spot of the Artist Signal contest was fierce to the end. In its final days of the 90-day contest, the band that was in second place over Labor Day weekend, Randy Burk and the Prisoners, edged into first.
That set Larson’s modus operandi into high gear. He went so far as to stand on the corner of Ferry Street and Main in Anoka in full Crankshaft ‘60s regalia during rush hour traffic holding a sign saying “Vote for Crankshaft.”
In another effort, he stood on the trunk of his 1959 Chevy with his sign hoping to attract votes from school-age kids passing by on their bus trips home.
That’s not to mention the promoting he did during the 90-day contest period (June 10 to Sept. 7). He posted signs at his performances, passed out more than 2,000 business cards and networked with local radio stations, some who gave air time in a shout out for Larson’s cause. He also used Facebook asking friends for their pledge to vote. Those friends solicited the support of their friends, which concentrically increased Larson’s contest rating.
“That was a huge bump right from the get-go,” Larson said.
One of Larson’s dedicated voters, a metal shop worker, set a baking timer to go off every hour and would vote accordingly.
In the end, Crankshaft edged out Randy Burk and the Prisoners of Iowa by just 20 votes. Grand total – the Prisoners, 106,744: Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders, 106,764.
However, in the final moments of the contest, Artist Signal decided to award $25,000 to both groups.
Somewhat of an anomaly, when Crankshaft, 29, performs, he looks as if he’s stepped out of the ‘60s. Dressed in a suit with his dark hair slicked back and wailing away on his instruments, he strikes an imposing sight, singing and playing a potpourri of punk rock, country, rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues saturated with soul.
With the exception of a year of piano lessons at the age of 10 and a year of guitar lessons at about age 11, Larson is pretty much a self-taught musician.
“If you have the passion and the creativity, that’s all you need,” he said.
He pens his own songs, mostly about blue collar living.
Crankshaft cut his teeth on playing in flop houses for underage drinkers, he said.
When he’s not playing solo gigs, Crankshaft performs with his trio the Gear Grinders.
Currently, Larson is concentrating on a 30-day east of Mississippi national solo tour that will take him 4,000 miles on roads from Wisconsin to Virginia, North Carolina to Alabama, to name a few states. This marks his second national tour.
For now, Crankshaft, a former construction worker, who took the plunge into full-time music pro in 2010, is concentrating on his music.
As for winning the Internet contest, Larson says he’ll reinvest his winnings into his artistry.
“This is a huge break for my career to have that capital,” he said.
For more information on Crankshaft, visit www.crankshaftmusic.com.
Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]