Holding On To History: Bobby Aro had fun with “Finn-glish” in the 50′s

Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 10:04 PM CDT
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ZIM, MN. (Northern News Now) - Bob Dylan may lay claim to Minnesota Highway 61, but St. Louis County Highway 7 belongs to Bobby Aro.

“In my shack by the swamp on Highway number 7″ goes the Bobby Aro song, “Highway Number 7″.

“Highway 7, my dad used to sing that song when he was cleaning out the garage.” said Paul Metsa.

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Paul Metsa is a well known Iron Range musician. As a youth, he used to work at the same radio station as Bobby Aro. Aro was a native of Zim on Highway 7. He went to radio school in Chicago and became a popular DJ in Texas before returning to the Range. Aro deejayed at WHLB, WMFG and WEVE. He also fronted a band called the Ranch-aros and started cutting records with an Iron Range Finn vibe.

“He had the radio voice, he had a sense of humor, he had that whole Finnglish thing where you combine Finn and English.” said Metsa.

“That’s where my raha goes, to buy my Minnie her clothes, I buy everything to keep her in style” is an excerpt from another Bobby Aro record.

Aro’s Finnglish records and radio shows caught the fancy of Finn fans from Side Lake to Lake Nebagamon according to local record collector Tom Johnson.

“There are certain bands I would say ruled the roost in what they did and where they did it and up on the Range, Bobby Aro, of course connected with the radio station, gained such a popularity of what you could say was his genre.” said Johnson.

His genre was built on hard work and hustle.

“He was pressing his own records in the late 1950′s. way ahead of his time. He was a hustler, he hustled his own ads, he put out his own records, he wrote his own songs.” said Metsa.

“Oh Suomaleinen gals, won’t you come out tonight, come out tonight, come out tonight.” is the chorus of a Bobby Aro song.

Bobby Aro’s hustle wasn’t just for himself. Paul Metsa tells us he was raising a family as a single parent.

“He was raising three kids, his wife passed away in 66, he was playing at night several nights a week and and working the morning shift on the radio.” said Metsa.

Was Bobby Aro actually Finnish himself? He always claimed he wasn’t and that he got his accent from an English teacher of Finnish descent. His act was close enough to win him fans in Finland and he even played at least one gig there before passing away in 1996.

Bobby Aro records spun a Finnish vibe in the glory days of AM radio
Bobby Aro records spun a Finnish vibe in the glory days of AM radio(kbjr)

“He performed in Helsinki one time and they were ready for him because he already had a minor hit over there. So, Bobby is a hero of mine on a lot of different levels.” said Metsa.

After his passing, the Saint Louis County Board renamed Highway 7 as Bobby Aro Memorial Highway.

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