Eyewitness Accounts


Memories of Moondog by John Walker NY
A Short Story by John Sokol
Memories of Moondog from Jazz Corner's Speakeasy: Archives
More Memories of Moondog from Jazz Corner's Speakeasy: Archives
More Memories of Moondog from unknown newsgroups


Memories of Moondog

by John Walker NY
Dear Thomas,
      Unfortunately I have very little tangible Moondog material, certainly nothing that you don't have represented already. I do have the very powerful memory of a chance encounter with Moondog back in the early '70s [when I was in my late teens] and nearly stumbled into him standing at his legendary 'post' in midtown Manhattan. He was in full Viking regalia, simply standing stock-still in the middle of the sidewalk. It was one of those dream-like experiences exacerbated by the fact that [as it must have been the weekend or a holiday of some sort] the entire block-stretch of sidewalk was otherwise deserted--so the experience entailed a chain of perception: first, of hurrying down the street [to catch a train or a movie, probably], turning the corner and almost running into this entirely unanticipated Viking! It was one of those Candid Camera moments, where what you really want is a second opinion, someone, anyone, to confirm that there is indeed a large Viking holding down the sidewalk in midday midtown. And, of course, there was no one! And, given that there was no chance of eye-contact [though this wasn't immediately apparent to me] there was no way to easily convey acknowledgement. When I finally realized that he was blind, my first thought was, 'Does this man realize that he's wearing a Viking-suit?', as if perhaps his house-mates had laid out these clothes for him as a practical joke. Then I realized that unless he was also devoid of the sense of touch, it would be unlikely that he was unaware of the large pair of steer-horns protruding from the fur-covered helmet he was wearing. It was perhaps several seconds later that I finally realized that this was the legendary Moondog, who my father had told me about years earlier when I was no more than Kindergarten-age and going through a Viking-phase of my own! In the interim I'd been exposed to his image in the form of publicity for his late '60s Columbia albums and indirectly to his music via Big Brother & the Holding Company's cover of "All Is Loneliness", but I had no real sense of him as a performer; his performance on this particular day seemed to be purely visual. After gawking for several minutes from a distance of perhaps ten feet, I must have decided that announcing my presence with the fact that he'd been a theoretical role-model for me when I was five ['Yes, son, work hard and stay focussed and perhaps one day you too can be a Viking...'] might be rather jarring to him and instead opted toslink off to my original destination.
      And, in all honesty, I had completely forgotten about this encounter until I was in the midst of your remarkable website!
      All best, jw

received from John Walker NY




Memories of Moondog from Jazz Corner's Speakeasy: Archives

Moondog-Nice Threads!


Author Message # Date/Time
(no name) 1 04-20-1999 / 05:26 AM
(no name) 2 04-20-1999 / 03:48 PM
(no name) 3 04-20-1999 / 10:44 PM
(no name) 4 04-20-1999 / 11:04 PM
(no name) 5 04-20-1999 / 11:28 PM
(no name) 6 04-21-1999 / 12:46 AM

1. 04-20-1999 / 05:26 AM

Now that I've gotten your attention, I'd like to invite you inside the incredibly gifted and unique world of "Moondog"!

As mentioned on other sites, I was exposed to "Moon" at a relatively young age (19-20 years),and his "musical mission" had a profound effect on me,not unlike Miles and others.

I asked for the recollections of my college roommate, Alex, who had experienced "Moon" firsthand,and here they are:


Date: Tue, 20 Apr 1999 01:22:37 -0700

Hi Ron,

It wouldn't surprise me at all if you remember more of what I told you
about Moondog than I do. Back then, the memories were only a few years old
at most and pretty fresh.

I first heard Moondog on a record by Tony Schwartz called "New York 19"
(issued by Folkways and still available from Smithsonian Folksways, one of
the finest and most engaging recordings I've ever heard and a worthwhile
addition to anyone's collection). Tony was an avid collector of anything
recorded, people sent him material from all over the world (a sample on
NY19 includes a recording of the famous Wimoweh, by the people who
originated it), but for this album he recorded stuff in his mailing
district (the 19th, this being in the universe before zip codes, ie the
mid-50s). He caught Moondog playing on the sidewalk, a set of triangular
drums and a triangular struck-string instrument he called an ood, all built
by himself. In the background you hear foghorns and steamboat whistles in
NY harbor. You can almost feel the fog in this haunting and eerie cut, a
sound that I can hear in my head, in detail, to this day.

Moon habituated Wall Street among other places, and often stood in front of
the Federal Reserve Bank, the existence of which he vehemently protested
because of its manipulation of the economy and because it called itself a
bank, which it wasn't.

His real name is Louis Hardin. He was blinded (at 9 I think) by a blasting
cap, the only detail of his early life I know. He made all his own clothes,
using squares of various sizes as a construction module. His main garments
hung about him like robes, usually several overlapping layers, mostly
greens, but you wouldn't know they were made of squares, since they all
hung on the diagonal, more like they had mysteriously gathered about him of
thier own accord. His shoes were squares of leather folded and stiched to a
simple but functional shape, and he wore a leather cap of the same
construction. The point of the front square came down over his eyes, and
from beneath it hung his long, grey hair and a beard he probably never
trimmed since it started to grow. He looked like he had grown up out of the
ground, ominous, magical. The effect was somewhat Viking-like, mostly I
think because of the cap, which had slightly horn-like corners in the right
places, but not like the Wagner-image, more like a forest spirit. He made
his living begging on the street and from tips from the music he played there.

My sister was married to a wild and impulsive character who, when he was
interested in something, went to find it. Having heard him on NY19, he went
looking for Moon, found him, made friends, and spent a fair number of
evenings sitting around his flat listening to his music. Moon was into
non-standard rhythms, a lot of his stuff at that time was in odd /4s and
his melodies had a truly unique flavor, an interesting combination of
innocence and sophistication. At the time he was writing a lot of music for
orchestral performance and had interested a few fairly high-up musical
people in it, but most of it didn't get performed. Many of these
late-evening sessions got recorded, but unfortunately the tapes were lost.
I regret this enormously, since I was still something of a youngster and
didn't get to be there.

I first met Moon when with some friends on a junket to NYC. He was, as
Steve mentioned, on 6th Avenue at the time (Avenue of the Americas). We had
a car and picked him up. He thought there was some live jazz at Washington
Square in the Village, and we went down there to listen and caused quite a
commotion, since most the people there, although predominatly beat-types,
had never seen anyone so far out as Moon before and couldn't belive their
eyes, had a hard time concentrating on the music. Once you got past the
overwhelming visual presence, though, Moon was a kind and gracious man,
loved to make a joke, always on the aler for a young thing with
possibilities. I'm guessing he was in his middle-late 40s at that time
(1960 or so).

Later that summer, all of us friends went with my sis and brother-in-law
took Moon camping in Stokes State Forest in northwestern New Jersey. Moon
had a piece of land and a shelter in upstate New York, so he was used to
being in more-or-less wild surroundings, but I was amazed how, using his
staff, he could negotiate the paths we took. Moon had quite a little camp
of followers, but I think not many close friends, and he was delighted to
be out there with us, had a great time skinny-dipping in the little pool of
the stream next to our camp.

One Moondog recoding I particularly like (sorry, I can't quote the label)
is a series of rounds. The lyrics of one of them goes like this:

See how the willow bows before me
Unlike the oak I'm uprooting,
Remarked the wind.

Not long ago NPR did a piece on Moondog that had a lot of clips of the
drum/saxophone suite, along with a lot of interesting information about him
and an interview. Every so often they play his stuff as inter-music on All
Things Considered. There's probably an archive at the NPR site, for anyone
who might want to go hunting.

I should mention that there was a rock group that called themselves
Moondog, but musically there is absolutely no relationship to be found
there, it was just a cool name they came up with, maybe they had heard of
the man, maybe it referred to the aura that sometimes surrounds the moon
when there are thin, high clouds, which is known as a moondog.

That's about all I can think of at the moment. Hope it adds to the thread.

Alex

----------

Cheers,
Ron


2. 04-20-1999 / 03:48 PM

I remember seeing Moondog around 1969-71, day after day, standing in front of the CBS building (Blackrock) on Sixth Avenue (NYC). I also recall buying a Moondog 45 rpm disc in Reykjavík, Iceland in 1956 or 7--can't recall the label but Danny I would know, it was owned by Woody Herman.


3. 04-20-1999 / 10:44 PM

Chris - I remember as well - how can that vision be erased. I believe he did a record for CBS or maybe Vanguard. Ok so what was his real name and what happened to him. My dog was born in July and I really wanted to call him Moondog after this incredible characted, but opted for Luna instead


Best Lois


4. 04-20-1999 / 11:04 PM

Lois-

I could tell you his real name,but I'm gonna be mean and make you read my college roommate's tale which started this thread. I've never met him,but the stories Alex shared with me in the early sixties were so vivid that I feel like I DID meet and know him!

Go to post#1,and read it all,ok? There's some good stuff in there,really. I know you're busy,but take a short break and read some Moondog reminisences.


5. 04-20-1999 / 11:28 PM

Ron I am so ashamed - there it is and I thought I had read carefully and even went back and missed it a second time. But you didn't say what happened to him


6. 04-21-1999 / 12:46 AM

Lois-

One thing at a time!

"Louis Hardin (Moondog) is by now living in Europe (mostly in Austria, as far as I know). He's quite old, I'm afraid, more than 80."

This information was supplied by my friend Gianni Gualberto, who lives in Italy!
Ciao!



More Memories of Moondog from Jazz Corner's Speakeasy: Archives

Moondog RIP


Author Message # Date/Time
Uli 1 09-12-1999 / 11:29 AM
jaS 2 09-12-1999 / 11:40 AM
Tom K. 3 09-12-1999 / 12:07 PM
WeSee 4 09-12-1999 / 12:33 PM
Uli 5 09-12-1999 / 12:49 PM
Chris A 6 09-12-1999 / 12:57 PM
Uli 7 09-12-1999 / 01:32 PM
frankiepop 8 09-12-1999 / 02:46 PM
Ron Thorne 9 09-12-1999 / 05:49 PM
Tom K. 10 09-13-1999 / 09:22 AM
frankiepop 11 09-13-1999 / 09:31 AM
frankiepop 12 09-13-1999 / 09:33 AM
Jimmy Cantiello 13 09-13-1999 / 05:43 PM
Jimmy Cantiello 14 09-13-1999 / 07:52 PM
steve(thelil) 15 09-13-1999 / 08:29 PM
jaS 16 09-14-1999 / 12:51 AM
Ron Thorne 17 09-14-1999 / 04:53 AM
lazarus 18 09-15-1999 / 10:06 AM

1. 09-12-1999 / 11:29 AM

See NYT. Had it first this morning, didn't say anything. While reading the chitribune my wife said. Moondoc died, i met him, played his music with the highschool band. Only in America. Got some fame in Europe as of late but had to give up his viking headgear because they did not let him to band rehearsals.


2. jaS 09-12-1999 / 11:40 AM

Very. very sad message! He was one of the best.


3. Tom K. 09-12-1999 / 12:07 PM

You're right, jaS. And if things continue like this, we'll be soon be left with the young lions ...


4. WeSee 09-12-1999 / 12:33 PM

I assume you mean Moondog? Sorry to hear it.


5. Uli 09-12-1999 / 12:49 PM

sorry, have been running into troubles with my splelling lately. Where is Lois when you really need her?


6. Chris A 09-12-1999 / 12:57 PM

I used to see Moondog standing outside the CBS building (Blackrock) in New York, wearing a costume of army blankets. He was certainly one-of-a-kind, but "one of the best?"

Best what, jaS?

Just curious.


7. Uli 09-12-1999 / 01:32 PM

thanks Lois!


8. frankiepop 09-12-1999 / 02:46 PM

i usually hate these superficial mourning threads, but today i join. a yr ago i started a moondog thread on a jazz bbs and nobody posted, except 1 inane post. moondog was not a jazz musician by any means, really, he borrowed some ideas, but he found jazz musicians to be disrespectful to their instruments.

i liken md to sun ra, many fans disregarded moon, due to his eccentricities, imho, not his music. however, one of the greatest composer's ever, stravinsky, never did. when md sued for the name 'md' against rock dj freed, igor called the judge and told him to treat md, well, 'a very important composer',


9. Ron Thorne 09-12-1999 / 05:49 PM

What a bummer!

frankiepop,I also started a "Moondog" thread here at Jazz Corner back in April entitled "Moondog-Nice Threads!". It's still in the archives here,though there were few responses, also.

Chris A.-

I think perhaps Moondog was one of the "best" at being true to himself,while being gentle and kind to virtually everyone with whom he came into contact.

And like jazz,he was an American orginal!

RIP,"Moondog".


10. Tom K. 09-13-1999 / 09:22 AM

Tell me who Moondog is/was ... I thought you were talkinbg about Jemeel Moondoc.


11. frankiepop 09-13-1999 / 09:31 AM

moondog played saxophones. i dont know if he improvised but he blew a lot jazz like notes. mostly, his music had a modern classical theme in more of a jazzesque setting.

he was blind, poor, and a bearded eccentric. he had some wild theories about vowels for instance. it is said that he lived homeless, altho that seemed due to just his overnite travels to nyc from his home to record. even in his last days, moon blew hard. on npr, elvis costello noted at a european fest, where elvis had booked moondog, that everyone was worried if moondog could holdup in the summer heat. after a 3 hr or so straight set, dog was still blowing hard as his youthful sidemen were wearing down.


12. frankiepop 09-13-1999 / 09:33 AM

i never cared much about elvis' music, except 'veronicaaa' but at least this dude does recognize the elder masters and tries to get them some attention thru himself, such as chet baker recordings also.


13. Jimmy Cantiello 09-13-1999 / 05:43 PM

I remember tippin' into NYC back in the "sixties" and seeing Moondog hanging around Times Square. He could best be described as a "blind Viking". Man, what a sight! A Viking in full regalia, standing in the middle of Times Square in NYC, willing to talk to anyone and everyone. A gentle soul, indeed. One of a kind, one of a kind.

Chris A.,

BTW, not to be picky, but, isn't Rockefeller Center (NBC) referred to as Black Rock?

It's very ironic that for the many times that I've seen Moondog in "the flesh", I've never heard any of his music. So it goes...


14. Jimmy Cantiello 09-13-1999 / 07:52 PM

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa. Apologies to Chris A. Upon forther reflection, I DO remember that CBS is known as "Blackrock", not NBC as I errantly stated. What was I thinking! Man, what an upstart I am. All due respect to Chris Albertson.................


15. steve(thelil) 09-13-1999 / 08:29 PM

Moondog was, as my father explained to me, a blind observer of the world around him and a philosopher. )He compared him to either Socrates or Plato.) IT seemed whenever I was in the city as a teenager (I lived in the burbs then) I would see him frequently on 6th ave, in the Viking like regalia he was known for.

He believed music should have mathematically correct melodies, and spoke of how great composers all had alot of "mistakes", which made it very stressful for him to listen to any music other than his own. (But he did)

His music, from that released on Columbia in the late 60's and/or early 70's thru more recent stuff, was jazzy in ways, but essentially unique. His most recent recording (in the last year or so) was all saxophones - plus Moondog playing a bass drum with a military stiffness. Nonetheless, it's somehow hip sounding stuff, definitely the work of a bent genius.

He moved to Germany a number of years ago, when a family took him in. I don't know the details, but I heard the wife/mother of the family say, in an interview, that he gave up the Viking garb and adjusted well to Germany and shelter. (The program implied he was homeless when he lived in NYC but there were no details and I'm not sure that it's true. It might be.)

He was an original. I'm glad I "discovered" him as a kid. He wasn't a personal influence for me or anything, but it was damn cool to see someone who was so "outside" conventional society but was still (sort of) a renown artist and figure.

RIP


16. jaS 09-14-1999 / 12:51 AM

Made the same reading misstake as Tommy! Sad about Moondog but happy that Jemeel still is one of the best.


17. Ron Thorne 09-14-1999 / 04:53 AM

steve(thelil)-

Beautiful post,in my view!

I heard a brief,concise synopsis of "Moondog" on NPR today,which prompted me to retrieve the following from the Jazz Corner archives (recent).

The following is an e-mail response from my Alaskan college roommate,who grew up in New Jersey and knew "Moondog" personally. His former brother-in-law knew "Moondog" well and may have even performed with him at some point.

The first paragraph is my personal statement,followed by my requests,with my roommate,Alex's remembrances,beginning in the 3rd paragraph.

"As mentioned on other sites, I was exposed to "Moon" at a relatively young age (19-20 years),and his "musical mission" had a profound effect on me,not unlike Miles and others.

I asked for the recollections of my college roommate,Alex,who had experienced "Moon" firsthand,and here they are:


Date: Tue, 20 Apr 1999 01:22:37 -0700

Hi Ron,

It wouldn't surprise me at all if you remember more of what I told you about Moondog than I do. Back then, the memories were only a few years old at most and pretty fresh.

I first heard Moondog on a record by Tony Schwartz called "New York 19" (issued by Folkways and still available from Smithsonian Folksways, one of the finest and most engaging recordings I've ever heard and a worthwhile addition to anyone's collection). Tony was an avid collector of anything
recorded, people sent him material from all over the world (a sample on NY19 includes a recording of the famous Wimoweh, by the people who originated it), but for this album he recorded stuff in his mailing district (the 19th, this being in the universe before zip codes, ie the mid-50s). He caught Moondog playing on the sidewalk, a set of triangular drums and a triangular struck-string instrument he called an ood, all built by himself. In the background you hear foghorns and steamboat whistles in
NY harbor. You can almost feel the fog in this haunting and eerie cut, a sound that I can hear in my head, in detail, to this day.

Moon habituated Wall Street among other places, and often stood in front of the Federal Reserve Bank, the existence of which he vehemently protested because of its manipulation of the economy and because it called itself a
bank, which it wasn't.

His real name is Louis Hardin. He was blinded (at 9 I think *) by a blasting cap, the only detail of his early life I know. He made all his own clothes, using squares of various sizes as a construction module. His main garments hung about him like robes, usually several overlapping layers, mostly greens, but you wouldn't know they were made of squares, since they all hung on the diagonal, more like they had mysteriously gathered about him of their own accord. His shoes were squares of leather folded and stiched to a simple but functional shape, and he wore a leather cap of the same construction. The point of the front square came down over his eyes, and from beneath it hung his long, grey hair and a beard he probably never trimmed since it started to grow. He looked like he had grown up out of the
ground, ominous, magical. The effect was somewhat Viking-like, mostly I think because of the cap, which had slightly horn-like corners in the right places, but not like the Wagner-image, more like a forest spirit. He made
his living begging on the street and from tips from the music he played there.

My sister was married to a wild and impulsive character who, when he was interested in something, went to find it. Having heard him on NY19, he went looking for Moon, found him, made friends, and spent a fair number of evenings sitting around his flat listening to his music. Moon was into non-standard rhythms, a lot of his stuff at that time was in odd /4s and his melodies had a truly unique flavor, an interesting combination of innocence and sophistication. At the time he was writing a lot of music for orchestral performance and had interested a few fairly high-up musical
people in it, but most of it didn't get performed. Many of these late-evening sessions got recorded, but unfortunately the tapes were lost. I regret this enormously, since I was still something of a youngster and didn't get to be there.

I first met Moon when with some friends on a junket to NYC. He was, as Steve mentioned, on 6th Avenue at the time (Avenue of the Americas). We had a car and picked him up. He thought there was some live jazz at Washington Square in the Village, and we went down there to listen and caused quite a commotion, since most the people there, although predominatly beat-types, had never seen anyone so far out as Moon before and couldn't belive their eyes, had a hard time concentrating on the music. Once you got past the
overwhelming visual presence, though, Moon was a kind and gracious man, loved to make a joke, always on the aler for a young thing with possibilities. I'm guessing he was in his middle-late 40s at that time (1960 or so).

Later that summer, all of us friends went with my sis and brother-in-law took Moon camping in Stokes State Forest in northwestern New Jersey. Moon had a piece of land and a shelter in upstate New York, so he was used to being in more-or-less wild surroundings, but I was amazed how, using his staff, he could negotiate the paths we took. Moon had quite a little camp of followers, but I think not many close friends, and he was delighted to be out there with us, had a great time skinny-dipping in the little pool of the stream next to our camp.

One Moondog recoding I particularly like (sorry, I can't quote the label) is a series of rounds. The lyrics of one of them goes like this:

See how the willow bows before me
Unlike the oak I'm uprooting,
Remarked the wind.

Not long ago NPR did a piece on Moondog that had a lot of clips of the drum/saxophone suite, along with a lot of interesting information about him and an interview. Every so often they play his stuff as inter-music on All Things Considered. There's probably an archive at the NPR site, for anyone who might want to go hunting.

I should mention that there was a rock group that called themselves Moondog, but musically there is absolutely no relationship to be found there, it was just a cool name they came up with, maybe they had heard of the man, maybe it referred to the aura that sometimes surrounds the moon when there are thin, high clouds, which is known as a moondog.

That's about all I can think of at the moment. Hope it adds to the thread.

Alex

Please note that this was written long before "Moondog's" death,and is still very poignant to me,at least.-Ron


18. lazarus 09-15-1999 / 10:06 AM

I like the music of Moondog very much.
A great original in american music. The eccentric tradition of Harry Partch, Sun Ra, Charles Ives, Residents, John Cage and Don Van Vliet (I know, they don´t comes from the same tradition but they´re a fine bunch of people anyway).

RIP



More Memories of Moondog from unknown newsgroups


Without a doubt, Moondog was in Viking dress.

When I saw him on 8th Ave. and/or 57th St (he used to hang out near Carnegie Hall in the late Fifties or Early Sixties), he was dressed in a style I would classify more as Druid than Viking. He seemed to be wearing a knit cap hanging about his head, and be completely encased in what appeared to be irregularly cut sheets of leather, stitched together rather randomly. He was quite tall (apparently) and carried a mighty staff. He stood motionless against the side of a building and pedestrians sort of swirled about him, leaving him plenty of room. Enormous dignity and presence.
I bought an LP of his music, and (according to my weakening memory) didn't particularly like it. He had a resonant speaking voice and as I recall talked the lyrics.

Once seen, never forgotten.

As reported on alt.obituraries --- Moondog was part of the street scene in New York City for much of the 'sixties, and as the obit relates, he might have had an influence on some of the minimalist composers of current opera; moreover, members of the group might just rejoice at having heard his (not so) simple thoughts (as poetry and music) during the times when he was on the streets ... and if no other way to connect to r.m.o, there is the helmet and spear ...

vertigo@ms22.hinet.net

Archer070 wrote:

When I was in the fifth grade, my parents took me on a trip to see the big city, and we walked right by this huge guy (well, he looked huge to me) in a viking suit, and I stared right up at him, wondering whether a man who was crazy enough to stand there in the middle of February with a spear was crazy enough to make a shishkebab out of an annoying little kid who was gawking at him. But he didn't. He completely ignored me, and just kept staring straight ahead with great dignity, which I thought must have been difficult to do in a Viking suit, and my mother waited until we were safely out of earshot and then said: "Takes all kinds, doesn't it?"