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Dakota Midday: The Sunny Sounds of the Free Design

The Free Design

The late 1960s were a golden age for what today is called sunshine pop. This was a time when vocal groups like the Association, the Mamas and Papas, Fifth Dimension and others hit the top of the charts with cheerful songs about riding in beautiful balloons and winsome girls handing out rainbows.

Perhaps the sunniest group of all was a quartet of siblings from rural New York who called themselves the Free Design. With arranger and songwriter Chris Dedrick at the helm, brother Bruce and sisters Sandra and Ellen created music that was lyrically happy and playful, yet also musically sophisticated and adventurous.

Unfortunately the Free Design never found much commercial success, but some 25 years after calling it quits, the group’s music was rediscovered and today has a cult following. Chris lost a battle to cancer five years ago, but Sandra Dedrick is still performing and recording. She’s just released a new album called Love You. She joined Dakota' Midday's Fifth Friday and discussed the Free Design's magical music.

For more information, visitThe Free Design and Sandra Dedrick.

Karl was born to northeastern South Dakota crouton farmers, but was orphaned as a toddler during the Great Salad War (1966-67). Rescued by a flock of chickadees, he grew up in the woodlands of Sica Hollow. Legends of a bird boy living in the trees attracted the interest of renowned ornithologist and amateur bandoneon repairman Dr. Vogel Gehrke. With a handful of suet, Dr. Gehrke coaxed the timid boy down from the trees. He adopted him, named him Karl and taught him not to molt on the carpet. Dr. Gehrke’s book, The Bird Boy of Sica Hollow, was a best seller and Karl became a minor celebrity and teen idol. He appeared as a guest star on numerous television programs, most notably an awkward role on The Love Boat as the boyfriend of Captain Stubing’s daughter, Vicki. After critics panned his 1980 album, Bird Boy Does Disco, Karl retreated from public life and returned to Sica Hollow. Living in an isolated tree house, Karl achieved a reputation as a mystic. Pilgrims and seekers from around the world came to ask him about the meaning of life and for vinaigrette recipes. Growing tired of answering questions, he climbed down from his tree, shaved his massive white beard and took a job as the host of SDPB Radio’s Dakota Midday where he could ask the questions instead. After three years in that position, he ran out of questions and became host of Jazz Nightly instead. Karl makes his home in Vermillion with his charming wife Kari and three delightful children, Kodey, Kasey and Spatula. His hobbies include reciting the alphabet, combing his hair and doing volunteer work with delinquent songbirds.