Lucky Lindy's Legacy

Posted by Anita on October 19, 2022

(written by Anita Taylor Doering, Archives Staff)


Lindy Shannon at the controls at WKBH radio. Photo courtesy of Peter Hansen.


Charles Lindbergh Shannon or “Lindy” was known to La Crosse teenagers of the late 1950s and 1960s as the “man behind the music.” Shannon hosted a radio show, wrote a newspaper column about music, and managed the record department at Leithold’s Music. This trio of jobs set Shannon up to be the leader of La Crosse’s pop music scene from the mid-1950s through the mid-1970s.

Shannon was born in 1928 and raised in La Crosse, dropping out of school before going to high school. An eye infection put him months behind at school and instead of making up the lost work, he decided to quit school and pursue his dream of working in the music industry. His first music job was at Terry’s Music Store in 1945 when Shannon was 16 years old. Shannon served in the U. S. Army from 1950-1952 and returned to La Crosse and began his long career in radio, first with WKTY then WLCX and finally WKBH in March 1956 ending that run in 1970, although did reprise his role with special shows into the 1980s.


Lindy Shannon managed the record department at Leithold Music for nearly 30 years. Photo courtesy of Peter Hansen.

Shannon is credited with bringing the first Top 40 format to regional WKBH radio and in the 1960s worked with his deejay peers Pete Lakin of WLCX and Johnny Waleen of WKTY. He also managed the record department at Leithold Music for nearly thirty years until Leithold phased out records at the end of 1981.

Elvis came to perform at the Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium May 14, 1956, and performed two shows to screaming fans. Shannon was able to record his interview with Elvis in between the shows to include on his WKBH radio show. Shannon came to the interview prepped with information about Elvis and with questions from Shannon’s audience. In the background, the listener can hear fans outside of the auditorium pounding on the doors in anticipation. 


One of Shannon’s greatest gifts in the music business was to be able to forecast the musical tastes of the Coulee Region. While not intending to became a musical promotor of local talent, Shannon began helping young bands with getting started in the music business. This is undoubtedly his most rewarding legacy.

Newspaper interviews with Shannon and early local rock and roll band members recall that the first group to approach Shannon were The T-Js. In 1957, bandmates Jack Roubik, Tom Terry, Duane Schroeder and Will Weigel walked into Leithold Music and asked Shannon to listen to their song. Shannon liked what he heard, recorded them on a reel-to-reel tape and played “Party Party” on his radio show, giving the band air time.

The band became local celebrities and Shannon became a music promoter and also created his own “Lindy” record label. He booked the bands into local gigs, and became an agent working with Roger Gilbeck in 1962 when they formed the Lin-Beck Entertainment company. While The T-Js didn’t last too long, 1957-1959, they paved the way for other local bands to have their shot. Shannon was just glad to help.


 Image of the Lindy record label with TJs hit “Party Party” courtesy of Discogs.


Many of the bands played gigs at bars and the musicians were often underaged, the drinking age being 18 years at that time, so young fans appreciated the opportunity to hear these groups live at other venues. In the 1960s, Shannon and his fellow disc jockeys hosted dance parties, many supported by Pepsi-Cola. One to three regional bands would be booked by Shannon and the fun would cost up to a dollar for three hours at the Avalon Ballroom, the YWCA Teen-arena or the Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium. Oktoberfest also had a teen tent where local bands would play as well.

In 1968 Shannon started the annual La Crosse-Winona Music Appreciation Awards which were decided by active musicians, disc jockeys and venue hosts. These were held in the Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium and attracted over 1,100 fans! A dance followed the awards presentation.


Many young bands got their start at Shorty’s Tavern owned and operated by Eleanor “Ma Shorty” Held on Irish Hill. Promoter Lindy Shannon would frequent Shorty’s on Sunday afternoon, taking in the jam sessions. Shorty’s also booked evening gigs of local talent as well, beyond the genre of rock and roll. Photo courtesy of Linda Gunderson and Rita Chandler.

During the 1950s-1960s, a popular place to play and hopefully catch the attention of Lindy Shannon was at the Sunday jam sessions at Shorty’s Tavern on Irish Hill. Musicians would play with others and new bands would be formed. There was no cover charge on Sundays but there was when a hired band was on the premises.

Rita Chandler, youngest child of Valerius and Elnora "Ma" Held, who grew up helping her family with the bar, recalled that there was some alarm system in place that if law enforcement was on their way to raid Shorty's, her mother got a call or signal. It was just enough time to yell out to the underaged patrons to get into the basement. The basement also was the living quarters of the Held family.


Johnny and the Shy Guys performing on Shorty’s stage in 1964. The band’s big hit was “Shorty’s Shack,” a remake of the popular song “Sugar Shack.” Photo courtesy of Linda Gunderson and Rita Chandler.

Over time, radio became more centrally controlled and disc jockeys could no longer do their own programming. Shannon ended his days as a local band agent and promoter by the mid-1970s. Leithold’s closed down their record department at the end of 1981.

A “Ma Shorty” Appreciation Day was held at the former Shorty’s Tavern in 1982 organized by Shannon. The new bar owners renamed it “Top of the Hill” and organized a Lindy Shannon Appreciation Day for 1983 comprised of an entire day of music provided bands associated with Lin-Beck Enterprises. A later series of Lindy Shannon reunion shows organized largely by Bill Harnden and Tari Tovsen from 1992-2022 funded a music scholarship at UWL in Shannon’s name. Shannon died in 1995 and is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.


Ticket from the final Lindy Shannon reunion show held on August 28, 2022.

The La Crosse Public Library Archives is actively collecting photographs, posters, recordings and oral history interviews to create an archive and document this early La Crosse rock and roll history. If you have something to share, talk to Anita 608-789-7136 or email