MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One of the things people like about country music, is that every song seems to tell a story.
This is the story of how a local country singer bought a rundown club in Sauk Rapids and turned it into the best country bar in Minnesota.
There are all kinds of clubs and bars in Minnesota. You’ve got your rock clubs, your biker bars and yes, your high-end fern bars. But how do you spot a good country bar?
It’s best to start with the exterior, and you might look for these clues: If there’s an old thrashing machine somewhere in the parking lot, along with a full-sized NASCAR replica, or if there are any odd looking transportation devices stuck high up on a pole — you may have just found yourself a country bar.
But you won’t know if it’s a good country bar until you step inside and hear the music — and meet the owner.
Rollie Hogrefe does a little of everything around this place, but he’s also the owner of Rollie’s Rednecks and Longnecks Bar in Sauk Rapids, which WCCO viewers voted the best country bar in Minnesota.
But don’t let the name scare you away.
“Redneck is a big misconception. To me, it’s just a working American — a contributor,” Rollie said. “We don’t cater to just one group, we cater to everybody, pretty much.”
The space is like a museum dedicated to the country music genre.
“We’ve had a lot of great shows and a lot of good times here,” Rollie said.
But the story of how Rollie came to own the place, plays like a classic country song.
“I was broke,” he said. “I’d been playing in bars around the area for about thirty years, and I used to play this bar back in the day when it was called The Hitchin’ Post, and I told my wife, ‘If it ever comes up for sale, we’re gonna buy it and turn it around.”
In 2009, that dream came true, and they opened the first night with an ode to his father, who had passed away.
“My dad was a huge Stonewall Jackson fan, and I told my mom when I bought the bar the first act would be Stonewall Jackson for my dad, and by God, we got him up here, and he played here, and he did a great, great show,” Rollie said. “He called me a week later to thank me for the show and he told me he was out fishing with George Jones. And George Jones said, ‘Hi, Rollie.'”
For those not familiar with the artists of the genre, a call from George Jones is akin to getting a call from Mick Jagger.
“And that kickstarted everything, it went so well,” Rollie said. “And after that we got Conferderate Railroad, T.G. Sheperd –we’ve had so many bands the walls are full of them here.”
Most of the artists that are hung on the wall have also graced the stage, where there’s even a hidden piece of the Grand Ol’ Opry.
Yet even after rubbing elbows with country music’s biggest stars, it’s friends and family that Rollie holds most dear.
“I have two daughters — Amanda and Hannah — my son Zachary and my wife Deanna — she’s the star everything around here,” Rollie said.
He and his family turn out top-notch food. There’s the barnyard burger, the “Rollinator,” and the chicken wings are as good as they come.
“We finish them off with a little bit of curry, we call it love,” Rollie said. “The greatest part about owning this club is meeting new people and developing great friendships.”
So if good music, good food and good friends are what keeps a good redneck happy, Rollie’s as happy as they come.