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Son of the Sun
Willie Dunn
Son of the Sun

Willie Dunn is a singer, songwriter, musician, playwright, director and filmmaker. You can hear that he is Canadian in his voice, his guitar playing and his songs which echo Leonard Cohen and Gordon Lightfoot. But Willie Dunn is also a native Indian, the son of a Red Indian mother from the MicMac tribe and a father with Scottish roots. To many the name Willie Dunn is synonymous with ballads and songs about his Indian heritage. Since he became known as a folksinger in the early 1970s, he has recorded several albums for TRIKONT, given hundreds of concerts around the world and worked with other native artists from the US like Floyd Westerman or Buffy St. Marie.

Michael Hurley

The Life and Times of Michael Hurley
(alias Doc Snock or Snog)

- born 20 December 1941, four brothers and sisters

- father works as a producer of operettas in Florida, family has to move a lot

- grows up in Eastern Pennsylvania, spends longer periods in Florida and California

“That was how I first came to hear the pedal steel guitar of country & western music. We would go into these steel joints on the ways to and from Florida.”

- spends his teenage years in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where he meets Jesse Colin Young (Youngbloods) and Steve Weber (Holy Modal Rounders)

“We smoked aspirin. I drank wine all the time.”

“When I was 17 I began to ramble. I hitchhiked to New Orleans, New York and Mexico. I was then learning to play the guitar. I just liked the looks of it. I liked banjos, too. I like mandolins, too. I liked anything with strings and a resonation chamber. I was having a lot of fun with it and eventually became a local party entertainer.”

- 1959 performs in coffeehouse in Greenwich Village

- meets blues and jazz historian Frederick Ramsey who records a demo tape and brings it to the attention of Moses Asch of Folkways Recordings.

“One day I was hitchhiking up the road with a guitar, never had a case for it. Fred picked me up. He asked what kind of music did I play. I told him mostly the blues. He invited me to his house to learn more blues from his legendary blues record collection. Fred could make good homebrew beer and had an organic garden. He taught me a lot about organics and homebrew and American blues and jazz, all of which I still love today.”

- 1965 records debut album “First Songs” for Folkways on the same tape recorder that taped Leadbelly’s “Last Sessions”.

“Moses Asch said go ahead on the Snock Archives.”

“Robin Remaily played a couple of fiddle cuts for the album I did for Folkways. I used to punch him sometimes. which is why he shot me with a 38. Luckily the bullet only lodged between my scull and my skin, it probably didn’t do no brain damage.”

- performs in New York’s Carnegie Hall along with Buffy St. Marie, Johnny Cash, Phil Ochs , Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters

“I wandered in New York City and hung out in the village. I was interested in beatniks because they didn’t have to go to school and got to drink wine and they were very cool. After a while, of course, I began to see through all this and went back on the rural route where I lived in a tepee in our own hipster campground.”

- meets Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg (The Fugs)

- works in different jobs such as a cleaner or broomsweep

“Most of the years of my so-called career I did not perceive any career.”

- 1967 The Holy Modal Rounders cover two of his songs on the album “Indian War Whoop”

- 1968 works as a carpenter in Vermont, draws cartoons and collects old records

- learns to repair cars

- 1971/72 records two albums “Armchair Boggie” and “Hi Fi Snock Uptown” for Raccoon/Warner Brothers curated by teenage friend Jesse Colin Young, then a successful country rock artists

- plays support for The Youngbloods

- 1976/1980 records two albums (“Long journey” + “Snockgrass”) for Rounder Records

“Snockgrass just means that it would be bluegrass, but Snock got a hold of it.”

- 1980s - 1990s records several albums for different independent labels, tours Germany and Ireland

“I’m playing for the nice night-life type. If you are with your girl and you feel romantic, maybe you wanna drink some wine and light a candle. I wanna appeal to you. I’ll play your requests. I’m not playing for the museum crowd that just wants to make an anthropological report on the sociological impact of Doc Snock. It’s for the action crowd.”

- 1996 plays with alternative country rockers Giant Sand and Friends of Dean Martinez

“I framed a bunch of my paintings and took them down to a gig I had at Folk City, and I hung up 11 of them onstage. I sold 7. That was the beginning of the end for me doing other jobs - selling Christmas trees, house painting, working at a barbecue stand.”

“The opportunities are more open now. Maybe all my past efforts have paid off.”

- plays support for Son Volt

“The summer months are my busiest time for music, but it’s also the best time to work on cars.”

- after the death of Townes Van Zandt and John Fahey there is only Michael Hurley left

“... let’s just shut up and listen and go to where Michael Hurley is. After all, we can always turn around and come back. He can’t.” Nick Tosches

(Compiled by Christoph Wagner from articles and interviews by Richard Martin, Peter Margasak, Robot Wisdom, Frank van den Elzen and Leslie Gaffney)

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Why Me?
Daniel Johnston
Why Me?

"I just sit here and daydream all day, smoke cigarettes and write songs."

It was as late as the beginning of the 90's, when for the first time I listened to Daniel Johnston tapes, which at that time were already seven years old. They were mainly available from a small label, STRESS RECORDS, led by Jeff Tartakov from Austin, Texas (Johnston's musical "home").

To me this music seemed to come from another planet, comparable to nothing I ever heard before.

It was like a shock from a strange world!
It was easy to become friend with Jeff. He was happy about customers from overseas and provided every interested person with information, tapes, singles and also with Johnston's drawings.
This contact was established by friends from Hamburg.

When I was visiting Jeff in 1994, I had a strange experience:
The record shop Sound Exchange was decorated by a huge Johnston graffiti: "Jeremiah, the friendly frog". The whole city of Austin was full of graffiti, on every wall there were pictures and logos, that were constantly painted over, one close beside the other.
But on this huge frog as well as on the rest of the wall, there was no other drawing to be seen.
This frog, I was told, was a relic.
No one would ever dare to desecrate it.
In 1999 Austin looks cleaned. It is hard to find any graffiti, but the frog is still there. But now the record shop gets offers from cleansing firms, which promise a white wall, since they would really like to remove the drawing....

Jeff Tartakov, who was Daniel's manager until the middle of the 90's, was fired, when Atlantic published the CD FUN, which was produced by Paul Leary (Butthole Surfers). Under Tartakov's sensitive and motivating care (Daniel's career was a permanent up and down between greatest euphoria and deepest depression), he worked with Kramer and Shimmy Disc in New York and recorded a song with Moe Tucker, the drummer of Velvet Underground. Mike Watt, Sonic Youth, Half Japanese, Kathy McCarthy and John Zorn idolized him! Kurt Cobain did that as well!
They all discovered his oeuvre: First the tapes from the 80's, then his first records and finally his big production FUN &endash; that was maybe something like his "Sgt. Peppers". His "White Tapes" he already had left behind for a long time. His actual music is new in every respect.

Today Daniel Johnston is still sitting in his parent's garage in a small town near Austin, smoking too much and drinking enormous amounts of Coca-Cola. He still has to take pills in the strangest shapes and colours that should help to control his manic-depressive moods.
He constantly composes this marvelous music.
Recently, together with Jad Fair, the music legend from Maryland and initiator of the unique band Half Japanese, he recorded the album LUCKEY SPERMS (astonishingly this CD is still in search of a label).
Together with a rock band he recorded the wonderful CD REJECTED UNKNOWN, which in the USA was only sold as a limited edition by a small regional label, but it is going to be published by the label WHICH?REC. soon.
Together with DANNY AND THE NIGHTMARES he is playing fast punk rock.
A few months ago he accompanied films by Harry Smith with his music (yes, Harry Smith, whose famous ANTHOLOGY OF AMERICAN FOLKMUSIC, a collection of American folk music of the 30's and 40's, has already made history for a long time (it is available as a wonderful CD box from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / Sony).
Actually also Daniel Johnston should be part of this disturbing collection of American music. He as well seems to be one of these forgotten voices of an undiscovered America.)

Right from the beginning I had this incredible desire to see Daniel Johnston playing live. I listened to the live tape of his 90's performance at the world famous SXSW Festival in Austin again and again. From time to time Johnston is touring New York. And from time to time he is performing in Austin.

During my visit at that time in Austin I could not see him play, so I decided to organise a concert in Germany for Daniel Johnston (and also "for myself", of course). But again and again there were confusions, troubles and delays concerning my plans to invite him. And also Daniel's unstable health thwarted this idea. That I could not see him in Geneva in 1998, finally finished me off. Ok! But then:

To Berlin he should come.
To the Volksbühne.
To this theatre and not to a club.
"Wow, it looks like the Royal Albert Hall! Is it a kind of Civil Hall, or what?" Daniel says, when he first sees this huge building in the middle of Berlin.
This night, as the concluding seminar of the 7X-University, a research series of the Volksbühne, Daniel is playing exactly the concert, his audience has always hoped for.
Only guitar and piano. (Daniel Johnston was very delighted with the grand piano. He loved to play it, because at home there is only an ordinary piano.)

Seconds before the concert started, Daniel and his father Bill are standing on the giant backstage of the Volksbühne. Daniel is waiting for his performance.
A huge applause sounds from behind the curtain.
"Are you nervous, Daniel?" Bill asks.
"No, I'm not nervous, Dad!" Daniel says. And then: "Where are you during the concert, Dad?"
"I am right near you, just beside the stage and if anything happens, please call me, ok?"
"Ok, Dad!"
And there he goes. His whole body is shaking, he is incredibly nervous or excited.
He is singing about his world in the most concrete terms.
"I had a dream."
"Well, we all live on, trying to get the job done."
"I had a welcome mat, but you never came around."
His language gives the impression of being chiselled.
He is playing the piano and the guitar like no other.

Actually, Daniel Johnston ought to be world famous.
"He can't handle the fame, but I don't think he can handle the rejection either." Bill told me later.

"Buy his records!" Detlef Kuhlbrodt wrote enthusiastically after the concert in a Berlin newspaper.

Trust your ears!

Order his tapes!

"These are the resources of the future."
my friend Bernhard Schütz said enthusiastically and fascinated after the concert, referring to Daniel Johnston, whom he just had expressed his deepest admiration in the dressing room, which was surrounded by fans.

Just listen!

Henning Nass, Berlin, January 2000

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