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Traditions in the Artist's Work

Traditions In
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Wisconsin Folks

Frank Montano

Woodland Flutes
Bayfield, WI

Frank Montano. Photo by Andy Kraushaar.Frank Montano says he was born “back in the woods” in a little two-room house in 1941 on the Red Cliff Ojibwe reservation. Frank was from a big family, seven sisters and four brothers, raised by his mother Catherine Le Mieux Montano and his father Joseph Montano.

Frank’s father is part of the reason why Frank makes music today. Joseph Montano was an immigrant from Jalisco, Mexico who swam across the Rio Grande River to enter the United States in the mid-1920s. At first, he made a living doing migrant agricultural work and by playing in Mexican mariachi bands. His migrant trail led to Wisconsin. One day, when he was playing mariachi music in Milwaukee, he met Catherine. After they married, they went north to live among her people in Red Cliff.

Frank’s family moved from rural Red Cliff to Wisconsin’s largest city when Frank was still a boy. In Milwaukee his father became a metalworker at Ladish, a major factory. Joseph usually worked second shift so he wasn’t around on weeknights. That made the weekends special. Joseph would cook favorite Mexican dishes and spend time teaching his kids how to play music. Frank learned how to play guitar and mandolin from his dad. That was the start of his musical career.

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