HOW DO WE INCREASE THE FAN BASE?
Hey Johnny Dowd fans!
Yes, you! Particularly you American fans. There are some things I want to say about the amazingly creative musician, Johnny Dowd. I want to hear from you as well. But first, I get to sound off. As Johnny says in one of his songs: “so shut up and pay me some attention.”
I don’t have to tell you how great Johnny’s music is. He is one of those artists that truly comes along once in a blue moon. Very few musicians can incorporate a wide range of music and moods and give them his own unique stamp like he does. You know that. I know that. So why doesn’t he have a bigger following?
Fellow fans and I have often speculated about why more people haven’t gotten with the Dowd program. Is it his voice? Maybe. But Dolly Parton and (especially) Iris DeMent make Johnny sound like a New Yorker by comparison. So that theory doesn’t hold a lot of water. Is it the dark subject matter of a lot of his songs? Well, that certainly is overemphasized by a lot of music writers who don’t get the complete picture. Johnny’s music isn’t burning with optimism’s flames. But the writers often overlook the humor and yes, the humanity (hope that doesn’t make Johnny gag!) in his music. Even though he doesn’t share the world view of Casper The Friendly Ghost, Johnny’s music isn’t depressing. Like good blues musicians, Johnny cures depression by singing about the rough patches we all hit, making them a shared experience and letting the listener know he or she isn’t the only one going through hard situatons. Besides, Nick Cave’s music isn’t a barrel of laughs and he seem to be doing just fine. Could Johnny’s age be working against him gaining new fans? That’s possible in America’s youth-obsessed culture. But Johnny Cash didn’t seem to have any trouble attacting younger listeners during his late career revival. So that’s not the entire answer either.
Well, talk is cheap and speculation is even cheaper. Whatever the reason(s), the fact remains that Johnny Dowd doesn’t have the larger audience he deserves. Which leads to the ultimate question: what can we do about it?
Some of you might say the lack of a bigger following is Johnny’s problem to deal with, that no one put a gun to his head and forced him to pursue a second career in music. Fair point. But if you’re a fan of JD, then you are probably passionate about music, like I am–listening to recorded music and going to concerts aren’t minor diversions or occasional treats, they are an integral part of your life, especially the music of rare talents like Mr. Dowd. Don’t you think Johnny deserves more success? Wouldn’t you like to see him tour regularly in his own country, instead of just Europe? These are rhetorical questions for you folks. Not everyone has to love Johnny’s music. But there’s certainly enough appeal in his music to attract a larger audience.
I’m not suggesting anyone leave their jobs and become cult followers of Dowd. But if we all chip in some of our spare time, then maybe we can help Johnny.
Some of the traditional ways of spreading the word are still valid, even in the Age Of The Internet. Things like telling friends about Johnny, and buying them his CDs as gifts if you exchange presents with them can help. If you’re lucky enough to have a good community/noncommercial or college radio station near you, request his tunes on shows that play good alternative music. If you have the time and inclination, try to get your own show on a community radio station; they frequently look for new programmers. If you know a club owner or promoter, suggest they book Johnny. If you know (or are) a touring musician with a sizable following, see about getting Johnny on tour as an opening act, like Pere Ubu recently did.
I’m pretty much a Neanderthal when it comes to the internet, so I’ll start the discussion and ask others to share their suggestions. If you have a music blog or want to start one, that’s a great way to promote Johnny’s music. It doesn’t have to be exclusively devoted to JD like this fine blog I’m writing this for. Posting about Johnny on music discussion boards is another good idea–I’ve done this a lot myself. Even what seem like little things like posting images of Johnny on your avatar (my avatar on thefall.org is the cover of That’s Your Wife On The Back Of My Horse) or quoting Johnny’s lyrics on signature lines are helpful.
Other ways of using the internet for JD are beyond my personal ability but maybe not yours. The a capella group Straight No Chaser gained a lot of attention–and subsequently a career–from a single YouTube video that went viral. If you are skilled in that area, put together a clever, attention getting video (with Johnny’s consent) for posting on YouTube, Vimeo, at al. Using bots to promote Johnny, instead of stealing an election, is something to consider as well.
That’s my spiel. Please reply with your ideas for helping Johnny out. Let’s have a conversation. But let’s follow it up with action. Johnny is sixty-nine years old and like all of us, isn’t immortal. While I hope he is able and willing to tour into his eighties like Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, time isn’t on his side. Let’s figure out things we can do to increase Dowd awareness and do them. Johnny Dowd’s time is NOW!
“on the final leg of super fun euro tour–i want to thank all the peeps who came to the shows–it was blast playing for you–also thanks to melle and suze–u were/are incredible–and to joost who kept the whole machine running–and course mike who played like a demon—special thanks to kat dalton–without her there would be no johnny tours or music career–and to to dave hinkle who keeps zolar moving co. going—and to jenifer edmondson-[ace blogger and merch salesman]”
Check out Melle’s blog for his behind the scenes take on the Feeling Bad tour and Johnny Dowd.. You’ll have to scroll to get to the tour,because Melle is a busy,creative guy, so I suggest you read from the top and see what he and Suzanne are up to these days. Here’s some excerpts to whet your appetite:
January 25, 2018
After the uncomfortable handshake, the Americans are in the car. John and Mike. With bags so big that there might be more Americans. It just fits.
I drive a bit. John sees a truck on the way. For piano transport. He knows that moving pianos in the Netherlands is difficult. Those narrow stairs in those high houses. Pianos need to go outside the houses around the houses. Mike knows that Dutch houses sometimes have hooks where they can lift pianos.
I finally know the way again. And bring them to their temporary home. It is a nice house.
In the evening we practice in the attic of their house.
We are going through songs.
Wreck on the Highway
Clementine (I think I think the best sentence in a song is)
Worried man blues
Tom Dooley (That sang my father and he taught me guitar)
And another one I now forgotten.
Singing together twinned and everything that goes wrong is much nicer than what sounds good.
On to the Altstad in Eindhoven!
A bit of a cunt photo, but my phone fell out and was not possible again.
January 30, 2018
On a sign it says that it is one of the oldest Christian settlements in Europe. It is a beautiful, London church where we play. Out of stock. On a Monday night. That’s because of johnny. Suus and me see them for the first time. Almost all my CDs have been sold afterwards. So many enthusiastic people, that I’m going to think something is wrong. It is a great experience.
Afterwards the after party in the hotel room of Johnny and Mike.
Quinn’s favorite troubadour is back! Fresh off the release of his exploration into American music’s public domain! His new record Twinkle, Twinkle will take you places with classic pieces of the American song book like “Sweet Clementine” and “House of the Rising Sun” that you once thought not possible. Give it a good look at http://johnnydowd.com/
“Imagine if Hank Williams had mutated into Captain Beefheart, acquiring a bunch of primitive electronic equipment along the way, and you’ll get some idea of where Johnny Dowd is at on Execute American Folklore. . . . Gloriously deviant.“
— Andy Gill, The Independent (London)
(The following is from a previous Facebook post for a Quinn’s gig Johnny was forced to cancel, but it bears repeating!-Editors)
Johnny Fucking Dowd at Quinns :
“The clock says noon, but is it midnight? The world without me? That’d be alright” -Johnny
It doesn’t matter what time it is when you hear Johnny Dowd, it’s always too late. The man’s music eclipses everything produced today in the Indie-mainstream. Wry and thought provoking (White Dolemite). Depraved and funky (3/29/48). Playful yet dark and hollow (A World Without Me). Every emotion inspired by these tunes exists balanced on a razors edge. The beauty can only be fully realized when everything falls apart to reveal the nebulous ambivalence of the webs Johnny weaves. The man’s an instituion and we’re all just lucky enough to be late to the party.
Amy Rigby has made a life out of writing and singing about life. With bands Last Roundup and the Shams in eighties NYC East Village to her solo debut Diary Of A Mod Housewife out of nineties Williamsburg; through a songwriting career in 2000s Nashville and during the past decade with duo partner Wreckless Eric, she’s released records on visionary independent labels Rounder, Matador, Signature Sounds and reborn Stiff Records as well as her and Eric’s own Southern Domestic Recordings. The Old Guys, her first solo album in a dozen years, measures the weight of heroes, home; family, friends and time. Philip Roth and Bob Dylan, CD/cassette players, touring, the wisdom of age and Walter White, groupies, Robert Altman, egg creams and mentors are paid tribute. Twelve songs written by Amy and recorded by Wreckless Eric in upstate New York, The Old Guys is the sound of a good girl grown up, never giving up
American alternative country musician. Born 29 March 1948 in Fort Worth, Texas, USA.
Previous band Neon Baptist disbanded in 1995, and Dowd was recording songs alone in the office of his Zolar Moving Co, songs that first appeared in 1995 on the cassette album Wrong Side Of Memphis, crediting Dowd as a solo artist, featuring Kim Sherwood-Caso on two instances of background vocals. Most of tracks were re-mixed or re-recorded for the CD version of the album, which was initially pressed as a self-released CD and then officially released on the European label Munich Records and the Chicago-based Checkered Past label.
“Imagine if Hank Williams had mutated into Captain Beefheart, acquiring a bunch of primitive electronic equipment along the way, and you’ll get some idea of where Johnny Dowd is at . . . Gloriously deviant.” – The Independant (UK)
“It’s weird, uncompromising and, compared with anything I’ve heard this millennium, certainly unique…beatnik rock, poetry, prose, jazz rock, rap, screaming metal guitar, retro pop, spoken word and country noir.” – MOJO
“There’s nobody quite like Johnny Dowd, a dapper Texan absurdist…like Charles Bukowski backed by a jazz-country funk shuffle…putting to shame artists half his age.” – Uncut
JOHNNY DOWD > www.johnnydowd.com/
Brian Sasaki & The Scuffed Souls > http://www.briansasaki.com
Josh Mover & The Shakers > http://www.joshmover.com/
Doors 8:30pm – Adv. Tickets $9.50 @ Ticketfly: CLICK HERE > https://www.ticketfly.com/event/1672963-johnny-dowd-toronto/