ANETA, N.D. – When Herlof Huso gets paid for his singing gigs, he knows exactly what he wants to do with his earnings.
“I put it in my piggy bank or I spend it on Legos,” Herlof said. While singing and playing with Legos are favorite pastimes of the 6-year-old boy from Aneta, performing definitely edges out toys for the No. 1 spot.
“I want to make people smile,” Herlof said.
He does just that with audiences as small as two visitors at his house watching him strum on his six-string Taylor guitar and croon the words to Elvis’ “Only Fools Fall in Love,” to as large as the thousands of NDSU basketball and wrestling fans who stood while he sang the national anthem last fall.
During the past year Herlof has brought smiles to faces in venues as close as the nursing home in nearby Aneta, to as far away as the lobby of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. While performing for large audiences is new to Herlof, singing isn’t. As a baby, he hummed along with his mom while she sang to him, said his parents, Elizabeth and Scott Huso.
“We have a video. He’s 6 months old and she is singing ‘Midnight Rider’ and he is humming along,” Scott said.
Both Herlof’s parents enjoy music, singing together in church, Scott said. The two also formed a musical group called “Blue Sky Wonder.”
“We played a lot of music and sang, and he caught on,” Scott said.
Huso bought his son a ukulele when he was 3. Shortly afterward, Elizabeth was driving down South Washington in Grand Forks and noticed a sign on Kenny’s Music Shoppe that said “Music Lessons for All Ages.”
Elizabeth called and asked if “all ages” included 3-year-olds.
“They encouraged me to bring him in,” Elizabeth said.
After taking ukulele lessons for two years, his dad bought Herlof a nylon-string acoustic guitar. He now has a second guitar, the steel -stringed Taylor that he can plug into his dad’s amplifier.
“He now owns the most expensive guitar in the family,” Scott said, with a smile.
Scott and Herlof jam together for fun while Elizabeth sings along. Herlof’s repertoire is varied, ranging from praise music, to country, to rhythm and blues.
“Hit the Road Jack,” is one of his signature songs, belted out in a 6-year-old’s version of a guttural tone. Herlof also likes singing “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” ”Drink in my Hand,” and “Desperate Man," the latter two sung by his favorite artist, Eric Church.
Because Herlof is 6, Elizabeth sometimes tweaks the songs’ lyrics to make them age appropriate, she said. She also makes sure Herlof is on board with performances before she commits him to sing and play guitar in front of audiences.
Herlof’s answer to whether he will perform, invariably, is a resounding “yes.”
“It makes me feel happy,” Herlof said.
When he’s not performing or attending first grade at Northwood Public School, Herlof experiments with playing new arrangements on his guitar.
“I never have to tell him to practice," Elizabeth said.
Nor does she and Scott have to remind her son of the house rules. One of, if not the only, time Herlof turned down a chance to perform was this past summer when he was singing on stage with the Johnny Holm Band during the Grand Forks County Fair and Exhibition. Holm asked Herlof to do another encore with the band and the boy politely told him “nope.”
Holm asked why.
“I have to go to bed,” Herlof told Holm.
To find out more about Herlof or watch videos of him performing, check out his website: www.herlofhuso.com.