"Stranger Than Fiction" was produced by Kathi Kamen Goldmark, the founder of the all-author garage band, the Rock Bottom Remainders. 40 authors chose their favorite songs and performed them in 11 recording studios in 5 states, over a period of 3 years. The CD features liner notes by Warren Zevon and cover art by Gretchen Schields.
Excerpts From the Liner Notes by Warren Zevon:
Webster's says a hobby is "an activity pursued outside of one's regular work primarily for pleasure". Yes: Hitler did watercolors. However, as far as we know, he didn't paint in public.
Which brings us to the matter at hand. Here are some of the most distinguished men and women of American letters, obstreperously practicing a common avocation to which they bring skill levels that range from the amusingly inept to the downright catastrophic: They all want to sing. They all want to sing for you.
Can Stephen King, probably the most popular author since Luke, be weepy because he has no worlds left to conquer? The Sultan of Brunei plays polo.
What terrible compulsion can be acting upon the celebrated and much-loved Amy Tan? Sylvia Plath collected bees; a nice quiet pursuit, although it didn't seem to cheer her up.
Why is Norman Mailer willing to jeopardize his well-earned place alongside Proust, Dreiser and Mann in the front rank of twentieth-century novelists for a bizarre and unsavory flirtation with the blues?
You'll have to try to answer these questions for yourself.
The House Band
Accordion Glamorous Accordion Princess Big Lou - CH2: 8
Bass David O. Golia (San Francisco, Miami) - CH1: 1, 9, 10, 12,16; CH2: 1, 2,9, 11,12, 13,15 Christopher Kee: - CH1: 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 11, 15; CH2: 4, 5, 6, 7, 10 Biolcati Massimo (Cambridge) CH1: 14 Glenn Schuetz (Austin) - CH1: 13; CH2: 8, 16
Dobro Joe Goldmark - CH2: 5
Drums Ron Erwin (Austin) - CH1: 13; CH2: 8, 16 Scott Goulding (Cambridge) CH1: 14 Lee Levin (Miami) - CH1: 4, 12; CH2: 2, 3, 11, 13 Billy Lee Lewis - CH1: 2, 8, 9 Ken Owen - CH1: 6 Peter Tucker - CH1: 1, 3, 10, 11, 16; CH2: 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 15 Feral Wails - CH1: 15
Fiddle Doug Adams - CH2: 12
Guitar Jeff Skunk" Baxter (Los Angeles) CH1: 1 Jim Campilongo - CH1: 6, 8; CH2: 2 Bob Halperin (Cambridge) CH1: 14 John Inmon (Lead guitar, Austin) - CH1: 13; CH2: 8, 16 Jimmy LaFave (Austin) - CH1: 13, CH2: 16 Bob Livingston (Austin) - CH2: 8 David Phillips - CH2: 10 Michael Ross (San Francisco, Miami) -CH1: 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16; CH2: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13 Jerry Jeff Walker (Austin) - CH1: 13; CH2: 8 Warren Zevon CH2: 3
Harmonica Bob Halperin (Cambridge) CH1: 14
Keyboards Stewart Cochran (Austin) - CH1: 13; CH2: 8, 16 Billy Philadelphia CH1: 2, 8; CH2: 5 Henry Salvia - CH1: 1, 3, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 16; CH2: 1, 6, 7, 10, 13, 15 Rick Ulfik (New York) CH1: 15 Warren Zevon CH1: 16
Ocarina Eric Lenchner CH2: 11
Pedal Steel Guitar Joe Goldmark -CH1: 6, 9; CH2: 2 David Phillips - CH1: 3, 15; CH2: 10, 12
Percussion Jaime Brockett & Robert Wrecking Ball" Reich (Cambridge) CH1: 14 Pete Devine CH1: 5, 15 Jeff Narell CH1: 1,4,16; CH2: 4
Steel Pans Jeff Narell CH1: 4; CH2: 4)
Tambourine Peter Tucker - CH2: 1
Washboard Pete Devine CH1: 5,15
The Tourettes Keta Bill, Kathleen Enright, Kathi Kamen Goldmark - CH1: 13,15,16; CH2: 4, 6, 10, 13, 15
The Tananarettes Keta Bill, Kathleen Enright, KK Goldmark, Dian Langlois - CH2: 13
The Android Sisters Kathleen Enright, KK Goldmark, Meg Mackay - CH2: 5
Big Meat Combo Michael Battaglia, Chris Marzolo, Rich Morin, Billy Pearsley, Janice Tanaka -CH2: 6
The DaveChris Choir Dave Boat, David O. Golia, Christopher Kee, Christophe Murphy, Chris Ticknor CH1: 10
Yes Men Louis Hohenstein, Dave Nelson, Josh Rosen CH1: 10
Chain Gang Jaime Brockett, KK Goldmark, Ruthette Gross, Bob Halperin, Jane Yedlin (Cambridge) CH1: 14
Kazoo Orchestra & Party Gang Keta Bill, Harry Choron, Sandy Choron, Inese Civkulis, Audrey deChadenedes, Jim Foster, KK Goldmark, Tony Goldmark, Patti Kelly, Dian Langlois, Walter Mayes, Ira Meltzer, Lucas Muncal, Wonderbuns Murphy, Dave Nelson, Gail Parenteau, Susanne Pari, David Peller, Billy Philadelphia, David Phillips, Billy Quiver, Roger Rapoport, Kathy N. Right, Faith Sale, Carla Selvin, Amy Tan, Julie Todd, Rick Ulfik
Note: The information in parenthesis tells which track the person performs on. For example, (CH1: 5) means that Maya Angelou performs on chapter 1, track 5.
Maya Angelou (CH1: 5) has written five volumes of autobiography and many collections of poetry, as well as "On the Pulse of Morning," the poem she read at the inauguration of President William Jefferson Clinton. Dr. Angelou distinguishes herself from many of our other artists, since she can actually sing. For more info, see her DQYDJ bio page.
Lou Aronica (CH 2: 11) composes and records his own songs. In his spare time, he is Senior Vice President and Publisher of Avon Books.
Marc Ian Barasch (CH2: 11) is the author of The Healing Path, Remarkable Recovery and Healing Dreams (forthcoming). He is currently producing a movie, "Disturbance," for TriStar. A legitimate claimant to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and the throne of the Romanoffs, he can be found rapping stark naked to a beatbox in his living room with alarming, if not clinical frequency.
Dave Barry (CH1: 4, CH 2: 3) played in a number of truly loud bands in college in the 60s, including one band, the Federal Duck, that had a state-of-the-art (for the 60s) strobe light. After that he got into the newspaper business. (See also the Rock Bottom Remainders.)
Roy Blount Jr. (CH1: 6, CH2: 11) has collected, on tape, l863 songs involving food. His latest book is Be Sweet, A Conditional Love Story. For more info, see his DQYDJ bio page. (See also the Rock Bottom Remainders.)
Blanche McCrary Boyd (CH2: 2) is a writer because she can't sing.
Lori Marie Carlson (CH1: 7) is a writer and translator.
Sandy and Harry Choron, "The Chorelles" (CH 1: 12, 15; CH2: 11) are the proprietors of March Tenth, Inc., a literary agency and book production firm. Nothing phases them.
Tomie dePaola (CH1: 15) is a well-known writer and illustrator of books for children. When he was three years old, he wanted to be Shirley Temple. This is his chance.
Digby Diehl (CH2: 15) is the Literary Correspondent for Good Morning America, and the author/co-author of numerous books. Having discovered that the sound of a saxophone played really badly most closely approximates the sound of his native Albanian goat horn, he is famed for lengthy solos during marathon polka contests.
Kay Diehl (CH2: 15) is a writer/editor and recovering urban planner. Ejected from her church choir for singing flatted fifths, she met her husband while on a Salvation Army tour of mental hospitals.
Tananarive P. Due (CH2: 13) is author of the supernatural suspense novels My Soul To Keep and The Between. Check out her website at www.tananarivedue.com. She lives in Kelso, Washington, with her husband, novelist Steven Barnes.
Tom Dupree (CH2: 11) used to be a rock critic a long time ago. This performance is evidence that his new career, as Director of Creative Services/Senior Editor of Avon Books, was a good move.
Ken Follett (CH2: 14) burst into the book world in 1978 with Eye of the Needle, a scorching chase thriller with a memorable woman character in the central role. Since then all his books have been worldwide bestsellers. His latest is The Hammer of Eden. He lives in London, England where he plays every Monday night with the band Damn Right I Got the Blues. Check out his website at www.ken-follett.com.
Ben Fong-Torres (CH2: 1) is a former editor of Rolling Stone and author of Hickory Wind: The Life and Times of Gram Parsons and The Hits Just Keep On Coming: The History of Top 40 Radio. He has interviewed Bob Dylan and looks forward to meeting Elvis Presley.
Kathi Kamen Goldmark (CH1: 2, CH2: 16) is President & Janitor of "Don't Quit Your Day Job" Records, founder of the Rock Bottom Remainders, and co-author of a couple of the best-kept secrets in publishing. She likes to think she is ready for anything. For more info, see her DQYDJ bio page.
Bob Greene (CH1: 10) is a syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune, and a best-selling author whose books include Be True To Your School, Hang Time: Days and Dreams With Michael Jordan, and the novel All Summer Long. He also tours with Jan and Dean as a backup vocalist.
Matt Groening (CH2: 11) is the creator of The Simpsons, Futurama, and Life In Hell. He quit his first rock & roll band, the Ooga Booga Blues Band, when they took away his tambourine. (See also the Rock Bottom Remainders.)
James W. Hall (CH1: 2) is the author of nine thrillers, the most recent of which is Body Language.
Carl Hiaasen (CH1: 4) is an award-winning investigative journalist, columnist and novelist who has thought up more hilarious ways to hurt (fictional) people than anyone we know. His singing, however, is benign.
Oscar Hijuelos' (CH1: 7) most recent novel is Empress of the Splendid Season. He thinks this bio would be perkier had he not been on the other side of the world when it was written.
Molly Ivins' (CH1: 13; CH2: 8) biggest claims to fame are that the Minneapolis Police Department named its mascot pig after her, and that she was once banned from the campus of Texas A&M. Her all time favorite fan letter begins, "Dear Miss Ivins, you are the favorite writer of all us guys here on Cell Block 8." If she had a sense of rhythm she would quit her day job immediately.
Louis B. Jones (CH2: 9) is a novelist and garage bander.
Stephen King (CH1: 1, 16; CH2: 16) was born in 1947 and had a relatively quiet childhood until 1956 when he received a 78 RPM RCA Victor recording of "Heartbreak Hotel" by Elvis Presley. A year later he discovered lunatic piano player Jerry Lee Lewis and lunatic serial killer Charles Starkweather. He has been rocking ever since; his hobby is writing novels. (See also the Rock Bottom Remainders.)
Bob Livingston (CH2: 8) is a singer, songwriter and performer who bridges cultural barriers around the world with his unique and innovative musical vision, drawing on the long traditions of East and West. He plays and records with Jerry Jeff Walker, serves as Chair of the Austin Music Commission, and is the Director of Texas Music International.
Mary Mackey (CH2: 12) began her singing career in a Methodist Church choir and has been backsliding ever since. She is the author of nine novels and four collections of poetry, which have been translated into thirteen languages. Her most recent novel is The Fires of Spring.
Norman Mailer (CH1: 3) began his singing career at P.S. 181 in Brooklyn, where he was asked to become a listener.
Norris Church Mailer (CH2: 10) sang Gospel at the First Freewill Baptist Church in Atkins, Arkansas, and was encouraged thereby to try out for, with success, the Triple Trio at Atkins High School.
Leonard Maltin (CH 1: 9; CH2: 5) is the film correspondent on Entertainment Tonight, editor of the annual paperback Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide, author of many books and articles, film critic for Playboy Magazine, host of a daily syndicated radio feature, and a teacher at the University of Southern California. He has played the piano since childhood, but never thought of singing in public and is already rethinking his decision to do so on this recording.
Greil Marcus (CH1: 12) is a member of the Rock Bottom Remainders, and the author of numerous fine books, the titles of none of which we can remember at the moment.
Dave Marsh (CH 2: 11) is a veteran rock critic and historian with, apparently, no sense or shame. For more info, see his DQYDJ bio page. (See also the Rock Bottom Remainders.)
Walter M. Mayes (CH 2: 6) performs as Walter the Giant Storyteller for audiences of children and adults around the world and is the co-author of Valerie & Walter's Best Books for Children: A Lively, Opinionated Guide.
Nion McEvoy (CH 2: 9), a slave to the rhythm from an early age, is Editor in Chief of Chronicle Books and a member of Rough Draft, the house band of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.
Jessica Mitford (CH 1: 5) was the most celebrated muckraking journalist of our time, as well as the first "Don't Quit Your Day Job" recording artist. Her 1995 rendition of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" astounded and delighted the literary world, bringing renewed critical acclaim to our favorite Renaissance woman. For more info, see her DQYDJ bio page.
Peggy Orenstein (CH 2: 4) is the author of Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap and is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine. She would rather daydream about a recording contract than work on her current (overdue) project.
Gail Parenteau (CH 1: 12) began her professional singing career as a member of the Detroit duo, The Bagel Sisters. She makes her living as a flack for aberrant entertainers and authors.
Susanne Pari (CH 1: 4, 11, 12; CH 2: 1) honed her R&B skills in the smoky nightclubs of Tehran back in the 1970s before the ayatollahs banned music altogether.
Ridley Pearson (CH 1: 4; CH 2: 3) writes best-selling crime fiction. In a former life he spent eleven years on the road as a folk-rock musician. He lives in the Northwest. (See also the Rock Bottom Remainders.)
Roger Rapoport is an author and a publisher.
Robert Reich (CH 1: 14) is a best-selling author (Locked in the Cabinet, The Work of Nations), professor of political economy (Brandeis and Harvard), and former Labor Secretary in Bill Clinton's chain gang.
Cynthia Robins (CH 1: 8) is the Fashion & Beauty Editor of the San Francisco Examiner. She's been a celebrity interviewer, a social anthropology columnist and a trend surfer for 25 years, and has written three books. She is working on an interactive beauty workbook for Chronicle Books.
Michael Ross (CH1: 1, 2, 3, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16; CH2: 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 12, 13) is the author of Getting Great Guitar Sounds, a guitarist, bon vivant and late bloomer in that order. For more info, see his DQYDJ bio.
Faith Sale (CH1: 12) has wasted countless decades being a book editor, and only now discovers she could have been a rock star. This is her first recorded performance.
Gretchen Schields (Cover Artist) is "Auntie Pea" to Kathi's "Auntie Poo" -the songwriting team that brought you "Potty Animal ". She is the cover artist for Amy Tan's novels, and designer of the Rock Bottom Remainders' famous souvenir T-shirts. For more info, see her DQYDJ bio page.
Peter Schneider (CH 2:11) is a long time publishing professional and very good garage level guitar player, who lowered his standards considerably to perform with us.
Joel Selvin (CH 1: 12) likes hanging out with the Rock Bottom Remainders because they let him do all sorts of things nobody else would. He is currently at work on a biography of Bert Berns, a songwriter almost nobody has ever heard of. (See also the Rock Bottom Remainders and his articles in the San Francisco Chronicle.)
Amy Tan (CH 1: 2,4,12; CH 2: 1,7) Before writing The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan sang alto in the Girl's Glee in High School. In 1994, she won the prestigious "Most Improved New Vocalist" Award from the Rock Bottom Remainders. For more info, see her DQYDJ bio page.