new logo
Wednesday – Saturday 10am - 5pm
Closed Sunday - Tuesday and holidays
Adults $8
Students $6

The Little Cannons

Of all the people in the Hall of Fame, Steve Cannon is the only one with two plaques; one for himself and one for the "Little Cannons."

Before moving over to WCCO in 1971 Steve Cannon hosted KSTP’s “Morning Watch,” from 6:00 – 9:00 am, Monday through Saturday.

In 1959 KSTP artist Bill Davey drew, for the first time, all the Little Cannons who were on the show at the time.

From the KSTP promo:
“The Shakespearean janitor is Abilene Anderson; the mail boy is Jethro. The sorehead with the records is Mean Sam, and next to him is the marvelously inadequate Ma Linger. Contemporary Collins is the cool one at the right.”

Contemporary Collins

According to an interview in the June 11, 1974, Sun Newspaper, Abilene Anderson was the first of the “Little Cannons,” created while he was working for WLOL in 1957 - ‘58. He picked up Contemporary Collins while “starving in San Francisco.” Morgan Mundane, the world’s greatest sports prognosticator, and Ma Linger first appeared at KSTP, but BackLash LaRue must have come later, since he was not mentioned at all in the Sun article.

By all accounts, Morgan was the most developed of all the characters, fooling many listeners into thinking he was real. Cannon described him as living at the Fairmont Hotel (9th and Hennepin) and hanging out at Lincoln Rec (721 Hennepin, billiards and bowling, 1935 - 1958) and the fictional Hurley’s Hanging Gardens in Nordeast. “Morgan wears serge suits year ‘round, thin ties, starched white shirts, and wide brimmed hats. He loves good hats — he’ll pay $30 for a Churchill hat and won’t drop five on a new tie, that’s just the way he is. He wears high gloss black wingtips by Allen Edmonds, short white clock pattern socks. He doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink or chase around. Money? He’s a gambler, of course. And then there’s the pittance I pay him; doesn’t amount to much.”

“One of Morgan’s most famous escapades occurred when he headed a tour group to the Rose Bowl to see Minnesota play Washington. He brought the gang from Hurley’s Hanging Gardens up Nordeastway (another one of Cannon’s creations) and they travelled in the back of a Ballard-Skellet moving van, which, along the way, got lost in Nebraska and caught fire on the Santa Monica freeway. Every day Morgan faithfully called Steve on the air from a pay booth.”

His other enduring character, Ma Linger, “was saddled for years with a dull, middle class marriage to this guy Pierre, then bang, she goes out on her own, starts a new life after 50, and she’s moving.

“The lady’s got great wheels – like she says, the legs are the last thing to go. How old is she? Indeterminate age. But I know she’s toying with the idea of a face lift.”

And finally, there’s BackLash LaRue. BackLash is the media director for a boutique advertising agency in Lower Town St. Paul. A fashion leader, always known for a “touch of mink,” he buys his entire wardrobe from his personal tailor in Glendive, Montana.


Lee and Mary Sievers surrounded by a few of their
papier-mache sculptures

(1982 photo by Tom Nelson)
So who made the sculptures? We were lucky enough to find the January 10, 1983, edition of the Sun Sailor featuring an interview with artists Lee and Mary Sievers. When we gave Lee a call in 2011 he was very candid and open. “In 1980, Cannon was doing spots for NAPA. They decided that they wanted a premium to give away in their stores.” The Sievers were already known for their papier-mache characters. NAPA asked them to “meet Cannon and listen to the show so they could get a sense of their personalities.”

At the time, Lee was working four days a week as an artist for Advertising Communications in Bloomington. One day a week, he would climb into his loft studio where he made more than fifty sculptures for ad agencies, store display windows, and private collections. Elayne Galleries in St. Louis Park featured them on a regular basis. The price tag for each sculpture was around $1500.

  Lee said Cannon liked the figures when he saw them, but asked to have “a touch of mink” added to BackLash LaRue’s sleeves.

Lee and Mary are still married with children and Lee is still doing commercial art, but no more figures.

When the characters arrived here in 2010, we really wanted to build a nice display for them, but Morgan needed some repair. We didn’t know about the Sievers at the time, so we called on Rick Liljeblad, a former art director at Medtronic who has done many volunteer projects for us over the years. Not only did Rick repair Morgan, but with the help and enthusiasm of the Museum staff, he created a wonderful interactive display that we hope you will enjoy next time you stop in for a visit.

Steve Raymer