April 20, 2004

Alt-Alt Country: Peter Grudzien & The Legendary Stardust Cowboy
(originally aired 18th Aug 2003)

Being an openly gay country music artist probably isn't that remarkable these days. Back in the early 60's, when Peter Grudzien started performing his lurching homo-bluegrass tunes in Greenwich Village bars, it was. Sometime in the decade that followed, he discovered psychedelic music, incorporated it into his Hank Williams/Johnny Cash inspired oeuvre and started producing some rather surreal shit. It all finally made it onto vinyl in 1974 with The Unicorn, an album of "madhouse hillbilly music from The Twilight Zone" (Jello Biafra). Want a sample? Check out White Trash Hillbilly Trick (lifted from the Aquarius Records site)

As a young man growing up in Lubbock, Texas in the 60's, Carl Norman Odam (aka The Legendary Stardust Cowboy) knew he was destined for great things (preferrably being the first man on Mars or, failing that, a country singer). To his end, he would drive around his hometown in his Chevy and conduct impromptu performances on its roof, "singing" songs in a style composed mainly of hog hollerin, elephant cries, rebel yells and - because he was part Shawnee - Native-American war whoops.

When it finally came time to spread his wings and leave Lubbock, he headed for New York where he hoped to ingratiate himself on his hero, Tiny Tim, and score a gig on The Johnny Carson Show... En route, he met a pair of vacuum cleaner salesmen who agreed to finance the recording of his first and only hit "Paralyzed". This completely unhinged slab of hoot'n'hollerin proto-psychobilly made it into the Billboard Top 100 and earned him an appearance on the prime-time TV variety show Laugh-In (regarded by Rolling Stone as one of "The Greatest Moments in Rock and Roll TV")

Sadly, he faded into obscurity after this, but in recent years he has gained a cult following and released a number of albums which can be purchased from his web-site. (Or, if you're a cheap, miserable varmint, you could always just download his 1998 live recording, Live In Chicago from emusic.)

(Final note of interest: The name of David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" character was, in fact, inspired by The Ledge.)

Posted by Warren at April 20, 2004 11:24 PM |