Jeff Harrington joined the musicians union of Winona, Minnesota, at age 13 after being confronted by a cigar-smoking union boss at a sock hop. His band, the Preaching Kind, which riffed on an ordinary repertoire of party stuff and show tunes, was one of a handful of groups in this tiny college town along the Mississippi River. While attending a Mills Brothers concert one summer, the group sent a lightening bolt through Harrington. “What they did with their singing was what really got me,” Harrington said. “The rhythms, the way they leaned everything, the funkiness—the things that everyone was borrowing from them.”
Upon graduating from high school in 1969, Harrington enrolled at the University of Minnesota. He met a group of musicians from nearby McCallister College, with whom he formed the rock group Foxglove. One member, Reid McLean, was moonlighting as a booking agent for Marsh Productions, a local promotions agency. Founder Marsh Edelstein took note of Harrington’s potential and began booking him as a solo act on the Twin Cities’ lounge circuit. In a self-financed effort to raise his profile as a songwriter, Harrington booked time at Micside, located at 2541 Nicollet Ave. Without a band, Harrington enlisted local funk-rock outfit Passage to help supply the backing tracks for Quiet Corner. Issued on his own Programme Records, mom-and-pop shops like Electric Fetus and Oar Folkjokeopus stocked Quiet Corner, which doubled as a studio debut for Harrington and the otherwise undocumented Passage. Harrington would release one more full-length locally before making his way out to the West Coast to work as a staff writer for Atlantic Records.