Wild Man Fischer

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Wild Man Fischer
Wild man fisher.jpg
Background information
Birth name Lawrence Wayne Fischer
Born (1944-11-06)November 6, 1944
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died June 16, 2011(2011-06-16) (aged 66)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres Outsider music
Occupation(s) Songwriter
Years active 1968–2006
Labels Bizarre, Rhino,
Collectors' Choice
Associated acts Frank Zappa, Barnes & Barnes, Mark Mothersbaugh, Rosemary Clooney, Dr. Demento

Lawrence Wayne "Wild Man" Fischer (November 6, 1944  – June 16, 2011) was an American songwriter in the outsider genre. He was notable for being responsible for Rhino Records' first release, Go to Rhino Records (1975) and was described as a 'cult figure'.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Fischer was born in Los Angeles, California, United States and attended Fairfax High School.[1] Fischer was institutionalized at age 16 for attacking his mother with a knife. He was later diagnosed with two mental disorders, severe paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Following his escape from the hospital (he said no one ever bothered to take him back there), Fischer wandered Los Angeles singing his songs a cappella for 10¢ US each to passers-by. Discovered on the street by Frank Zappa, Fischer became an underground concert favorite. Zappa was responsible for Fischer's initial foray into the business of recorded music, an album called An Evening with Wild Man Fischer (1968). The album consisted of 36 tracks, some of which had minimal musical accompaniment by Zappa and members of The Mothers of Invention, while most were simply accurate representations of Fischer's street performances (sung and spoken).[1]

Zappa and Fischer soon fell out however, over royalties (Zappa retained the rights to the songs) and because of Larry's bi-polar condition. Zappa's widow, Gail, declined to release An Evening with Wild Man Fischer on CD.[2][3] The album was reissued after she died.[4]

On September 23, 1968 Larry appeared on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, singing "Leaves Are Falling" and "Merry-Go-Round."[5]

In 1974 Larry appeared as a guest vocalist on noise band Smegma's album Sing Popular Songs.

In 1975 he recorded Rhino Records' first release, a single entitled "Go To Rhino Records". Two years later he recorded their very first LP, Wildmania.

In the 1980s, Fischer worked with Barnes and Barnes to produce two albums, Pronounced Normal (1981) and Nothing Scary (1984). In 1986, Barnes and Barnes also wrote and produced "It's a Hard Business", a duet featuring Fischer and Rosemary Clooney. The song was the result of a telephone friendship that began after Clooney heard Fischer's song "Oh God, Please Send Me a Kid to Love". In 1987, Fisher performed his only East Coast performances at the Mass College of Art and Design. In 1988 a judge awarded him royalties on his song "Merry-Go-Round" (from the videocassette release of the movie Medium Cool), but the attorney representing Fischer did not know how to reach him, as he had become homeless again.[1]

Rediscovery[edit]

In 1998, Date with the Devils Daughter, an album by Robert Williams (a drummer formerly with Captain Beefheart) includes "Hello Robert", which consists of messages that Fischer left on Williams's phone.

In 1999, Rhino released The Fischer King, a two-CD package comprising 100 tracks and a 20-page booklet, which sold out within weeks. The limited-edition album comprises his entire Rhino catalog, including all three of the Rhino albums plus singles, unreleased material, interviews done for this release, and his duet with Clooney. It releases almost everything Fischer ever recorded, except An Evening with Wild Man Fischer, for which the Zappa family still held the rights.

In 2004 he was the subject of a comic book entitled The Legend of Wild Man Fischer by Dennis Eichhorn.[6]

In October 2004, Fischer appeared on ABC-TV's late-night talk/comedy show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!.[7][8] He sang "Monkeys vs. Donkeys" while tapping on a backwards acoustic guitar, and also sat for a chat with the host, wherein he explained what it meant to have "the pep" (i.e., when his bi-polar condition is "up" and he's singing happily).

In 2005, Josh Rubin and Jeremy Lubin, collectively known as The Ubin Twinz premiered their documentary about Fischer (five years in the making), entitled Derailroaded: Inside the Mind of Wild Man Fischer, at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. Fischer's best-known album, An Evening with Wild Man Fischer, remained unreleased on CD until its 2016 CD release on Gonzo Records. The awareness brought to Fischer by Derailroaded did bring all three Rhino albums back in print on CD through Collectors' Choice Music.

Fischer made his final appearance on August 16, 2006, at the Trunk Space in Phoenix, Arizona.

Later life[edit]

In 2003 Larry suffered a six-month-long paranoid episode, convinced somebody was trying to kill him, and he started living on the streets again. He called Bill Mumy up to 20 times a day, hanging up each time, until Mumy finally had to change his phone number. Fischer eventually moved in with his aunt Josephine, but three weeks later she was diagnosed with terminal cancer (this happened during the filming of Derailroaded). Larry and his family consented to move him into an assisted-living mental institution. The medications he was prescribed helped him control his behavior, but it also eliminated his "pep," his creative drive.[1]

The last seven years of his life were spent peacefully but uneventfully. Fischer died of heart failure in Los Angeles, at the age of 66.[9]

Discography[edit]

  • May 1968: Laminas (rare 7" 33rpm project of UCLA art students, three tracks by Larry, miscredited as "Fisher")
  • 1968: An Evening with Wild Man Fischer, Bizarre Records
  • 1975: "Go To Rhino Records" (single), Rhino Records
  • 1977: Wildmania, Rhino Records
  • 1981: Pronounced Normal, Rhino Records
  • 1981: "Don't Be A Singer"/"I Got A Camera"/"Do The Salvo" (single), Rhino Records
  • 1981: The First One ...(First-1) (compilation), A.T.C. Records
  • 1981: "Larry Comes Alive" (7-inch EP), A.T.C Records
  • 1983: Nothing Scary, Rhino Records
  • 1999: The Fischer King, Rhino Records (compilation of all Rhino recordings)

Videography[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]