My Musical Family - Joy Riggs

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My great-grandfather, Bandmaster G. Oliver Riggs, right, gives a cornet lesson to my dad, William J. Riggs, near Bemidji, Minnesota, in the early 1940s.
Updated: 59 min 51 sec ago

Channeling Family History

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 5:04pm
Help – I’ve already fallen behind in watching Ken Burns’ new film The Roosevelts: An Intimate History on PBS, and now I discover that season two of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr. is starting tonight on PBS.

I never even saw one episode of season one! I guess I’m going to have to block out more time in my schedule to watch television. It counts as research, right?

I also never found the time to finish Gates’ four-part show in 2010 called Faces of America, although I enjoyed it very much. All of these shows are right up my family history/research alley. Maybe I can binge-watch this weekend, and get caught up on those Roosevelt episodes, too.

Tonight, the new season of Gates’ latest show kicks off with “In Search of Our Fathers,” an episode featuring writer Stephen King and actors Gloria Reuben and Courtney Vance, who learn more about their fathers’ histories.

Here’s a preview:



Other well-known Americans who will be included in this season include Tina Fey, Ben Affleck, Billie Jean King, Carole King, Anderson Cooper, Angela Bassett, and Ken Burns himself. You can’t get away from that guy these days.

I want to be sure to catch the episode he’s in, based on the brief clip shown in the preview, where he tells Gates: “My mother died when I was eleven. I think the reclaiming of the loss made me an amateur historian.”

The other quote I particularly liked from the preview was from Billie Jean King, who was busy making history herself when I was a kid. She tells Gates, “The more you know about history, the more you know about yourself.”

If you need to contact me tonight, don’t bother calling between 7 and 8. I have a date with Twin Cities Public Televsion, and I will be busy finding out more about myself.

Categories: Citizens

12 Unbelievable Photos of My Great-Grandfather

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 5:53pm
You won’t believe where we’ve spotted Flat G. Oliver Riggs on vacation this summer! The 143-year-old bandmaster really got around, visiting his old music-related haunts in Bemidji, Des Moines and Chicago. He also found time to attend a Riggs family picnic in the Twin Cities. It must help to travel light.

Take a look and vote for your favorite!

No. 12: Reconnecting with old friends Paul Bunyan and Babe in Bemidji
Paul Bunyan and Babe date back to 1937; G. Oliver directed Bemidji bands from 1919-1923.
No. 11: Admiring himself at the Beltrami County History Center
G. Oliver with his 1922 Bemidji Boys’ Band
No. 10: Along the Bemidji lake front, circa 1900 (via the history center exhibit)
Before G. Oliver’s time as director, band concerts were held along the lakeshore.
No. 9: Surrounded by descendants at the Riggs Family Picnic



No. 8: With his mini me, Griffin — or is it the other way around?



No. 7: Goofing at the Drake Tent at the 2014 Iowa State Fair
G. Oliver, Oberlin grad, class of 1892; Steve, Drake grad, class of 1990
No. 6: Strolling the grounds of the 1909 Iowa State Fair
G. Oliver played cornet in an Iowa regimental band at the 1910 State Fair.
No. 5: Visiting the Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair Exhibit at the Field Museum in Chicago
G. Oliver’s future wife, Islea, attended the World’s Fair with her parents and sister.
No. 4: Admiring the Bean and the contrast between old and new in Millenium Park
G. Oliver studied violin in Chicago in 1894.
No. 3: Touring the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
G. Oliver and his Montana Cowboy Band performed in the auditorium lobby in 1912.
No. 2: Shopping for music at the Fine Arts Building at 410 S. Michigan Ave.
G. Oliver studied cornet under Chicago bandmaster A.F. Weldon. 

No. 1: Pondering the quote in the lobby of the Fine Arts Building

The historic 10-story building was designed specifically for working artists – people like G. Oliver!

Categories: Citizens

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