by Jim Testa
Peter Stampfel has been an avatar of underground
music since before there was an underground, going back
to the formation of the Holy Modal Rounders in the Sixties.
But at age 76, he continues to be a relentless rock 'n'
roll machine, finding new collaborations and releasing new
music at a pace that would exhaust a musician one-fourth
You can make the argument that the Rounders (and
their Lower East Side compadres, The Fugs) not only invented
freak folk (and possibly psychedelia)
but punk rock itself; it's not that far a leap from Stampfel's
scratchy fiddle and Weber's warbly vocals to the Velvet
Underground, and from there to the Dolls and the Ramones.
You can read about the Holy Modal Rounders
here and there's a terrific interview by Robert Christgau
about Stampfel's home life on the L.E.S.
But when we got a chance to sit down with Stampfel at his
Soho co-op, we wanted to talk about his more recent ventures,
starting with his latest album Better Than Expected,
by Peter Stampfel & The Brooklyn & Lower Manhattan
Banjo Squadron (on Don Giovanni Records.)
Of course, a conversation with Peter Stampfel might start
with a specific topic, but quickly expands into a loquacious,
informative treatise about the history of pop music, the
intricacies of musical theory, famous personalities, or
wherever Stampfel's neverending memories take him. So we've
broken this interview up into several parts to make it easier
to read. At the end of the interview, we've compiled a discography
of records that Peter's completed since he turned 70;
there are 11 of them, and counting!
One: The Brooklyn & Lower Manhattan Banjo Squadron,
and the history of the banjo in American popular music
Two: Talkin' New York City Blues and Have Moicy!
Three: The Bottle Caps, Jeffrey Lewis, Lou Reed, and Bob
Four: His Legacy, and Discography (from age 70 to tomorrow)
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