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Passings: Jim Sundquist of the Fendermen (1937 - 2013)

Jim Sundquist, one half of the Fendermen who hit in 1960 with Mule Skinner Blues, died on Tuesday at his home in Fairfax, MN from cancer. He was 75.

Sundquist and Phil Humphrey started the Fendermen in 1958. The two shared a lot, even before going into their musical endeavor including a birthday (November 26, 1937) and their school, the University of Wisconsin in Madison where they first met.

Jim had played music while in high school after teaching himself guitar and continued periodically while in college. He met Humphrey at a party but didn't see each other again until a chance meeting a time later when Sundquist was delivering bread and saw Humphrey's name on an apartment door bell.

They soon began collaborating musically, both playing Fender guitars which led to the group name. Sundquist's biography states that the duo played their first show at the Oats Bin in rural Wisconsin where they performed for beer. After performing standards and a little rock for a generally uninterested crowd, they broke into the old Jimmie Rodgers number Mule Skinner Blues. The crowd went wild and the song won them a permanent gig for the next few months.

The duo went on to playing more clubs in the Madison area where a local record store owner took interest and arranged for the song to be recorded and released on the tiny Cuca label. Even with strong crowd reaction at shows, no larger company would pick the song up nationally until a La Crosse, WI station finally played it leading to sales of 8,000 copies in two days.

Soma Records finally picked up the duo and had them rerecord the song. Personal appearances across the northern mid-west led to an appearance on American Bandstand. The song finally took off and reached number 5 in the U.S.

Success was fleeting and the two singers parted ways in 1961 with Humphrey's retaining the Fendermen name. Sundquist formed Jimmy Sundquist and his Muleskinners who recorded a few sides but never found the success of the original record. He eventually fell on hard time with both alcohol and drugs, something he finally kicked in 1990 when he became born again.

In 1991, Sundquist married his wife Sharrie and performed with her in a gospel duo. He also was a music and art therapist, working with the senior citizens for the last twenty years.

Sundquist is survived by his wife, five children and two stepsons.