You pays your money and you takes your choice.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The unknowable genius of Peter Stampfel

He lives in Soho and doesn't pay that much for it. He has birds and a cat named Roscoe. He has a lovely wife and daughter who were attempting to get out of the house to drive to Baltimore for an art school interview when I came in, and were still attemping it when I left. He plays in a band with Sam Shepard's son Walker (my former neighbor, schoolmate, and novelistic eponym), and used to play in a band with Sam Shepard. And he remembers the early days of Greenwich Village, playing with Steve Weber in the Holy Modal Rounders (their first gig, he collapsed and Weber left, or was it Weber who collapsed and Peter left? whatever it is, it's my recollection that's fuzzy, not his), taking enough speed to choke an elephant, and thinking Bob Dylan was only carrying a guitar around to get laid. In his book The Mayor of MacDougal Street, Dave Van Ronk called him "some kind of genius...I'm just not sure which kind." He single (well, multiple)-handedly gave birth to freak folk in 1976, when he recorded Have Moicy! with Michael "Snocko" Hurley and the Unholy Modal Rounders in the hills of Vermont. He's working on a compilation of recordings of 100 songs, one for each year of the 20th century, to act as a kind of lesson for the ages for those kids who have no memory of that century. And they aren't folksongs, either -- I'm talking stuff like "Hello My Baby, Hello My Honey" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." Aside from being a genius, he's a really cool dude.

All this, and you can see him! He'll be playing with his new band, the Ether Frolic Mob, at the Jalopy in Red Hook on April 18.

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