FRENCH TOWNSHIP — There have been many words used to describe Iron Rangers throughout the years: “thrifty” and “clever” are just a few of the more favorable words that come to mind. Although Joe “Flip” Filipovich wasn’t raised here, he inherited a few of these traits from his parents and grandparents who are Rangers through and through.
Flip is a talented musician, artist and maker of custom guitars. He performs more than 200 shows annually and calls Cottage Grove, Minn., home. When he’s not playing a gig or teaching kids how to play the blues, he’s in his garage, converting antique oil cans into fully functional electric guitars.
Flip is scheduled to perform a solo show with his Hayburner Guitars on Friday at Side Lake Liquor & Lounge in Side Lake. He’s set to begin at 6:00 p.m. and play until 10:00 p.m. “If the weather’s nice, we’ll be outside,” Flip told the Hibbing Daily Tribune over the phone earlier this week.
Booked for back-to-back gigs both last night and tonight, Flip said that he makes frequent visits to the Iron Range and has several other gigs lined up for the area this summer at Minnesota Discovery Center and the St. Louis County Fair.
Music has always been a part of Flip’s life. “I guess I started with piano lessons as a kid,” Flip said, adding that he progressed from piano to eventually picking up the guitar when he was about 10 years old. “I have a cousin, well a couple of relatives, that play music and jam on the holidays on the Iron Range,” Flip said. He cut his teeth playing classic rock, blues, and country, “Just about everything.”
Last year, he had the opportunity to meet one Twin-Cities area musician whom he really admired and that chance encounter took Flip’s career in a new direction—straight to the top of the blues charts. “I met Tony Cunchetti about a year ago, I’m a big fan of his music,” Flip said, adding that the duo started collaborating together and competed as a duo in a blues competition. They won and had the opportunity to compete at the International Blues Competition in Memphis, Tenn., at the start of the year. “There are 200 acts in all the world picked to compete in this competition,” Flip explained.
Just before they left for the blues competition, they recorded an album, “Tin Can Tunes,” that has soared to the top of the charts. “We were just nominated for the Acoustic Blues Album of the Year by “Blues Blast Magazine” and made it to number two on the Roots Music Report Acoustic Blues chart,” Flip added.
As a performer, Flip’s deep bass voice and rhythm is reminiscent of Johnny Cash, and he strikes all the right chords on his hand-crafted oil can guitar, the Hayburner.
He started building electric guitars out of antique oil cans with his neighbor about two years ago. “We call them Hayburner Guitars,” Flip said. He now uses his hand-crafted guitars exclusively for recording and gigs and explained that he used it on the album he recorded with Cunchetti. “Tony played the acoustic and I played the electric and it’s cool They have a unique look and sound.”
Well-versed in a lot of genres. Flip said that the audience at Side Lake Liquor and Lounge can expect a good mix of classic rock, blues. And original songs.
“I love going to the Iron Range to play,” Flip said, “The audiences seem more appreciative of the music, maybe it’s the old country stuff or maybe it’s that there’s not a lot of opportunities to listen to live music, but I just love playing up there.”