Most people ignored him. Even though he smiled and could talk softly. He offered his wares. "Want to buy a song for a dime?" Ten cents...one thin dime...one tenth of a dollar was all it took for Widman Fischer to sing his original compositions to you. Most often I heard him sing "Merry Go Round," but occasionally he'd belt out "Linda and Laurie."
Oh Linda!...Oh Laurie!
Oh Linda!...Oh Laurie!
Sort of a lilting up and down voice collage much like the "Merry Go Round" refrain. A human calliope.
He was a fixture on the streets of L.A. in the late 60s and a regular on the UCLA campus where I spent my junior and senior years of college.
By the time I was ready to graduate, Widman Fischer, who we all knew was a paranoid schizophrenic, but harmless, had witnessed first hand many of the people and events of those politically flaming days.
Anti-war demonstrations, take overs of the Administration building, Black Panther Party shootings, you name it, it happened in 1968 or thereabout. What also happened that year was a new concept in university literary magazines. It was called Laminas I and came in a box, in layers. There were poems and essays, short stories and cartoons, line drawings and music. The latter was a 7" LP that, among other things featured a handful of performances by Widman Fischer. I briefly helped edit the magazine and received a free copy for my time.
It came as no surprise to me that in the years that followed, none other than Frank Zappa became aware of Larry Fischer (aka Widman) and recorded him. Even though I spent much of 1970 out of California, I'd heard that Zappa was having Widman Fischer open for him at some concerts. If anyone could appreciate the genius of Larry Fischer it would be a risk taker like Zappa.
I have a few pieces of that 1968 magazine in a box. I don't know what happened to the 3 poems I had published in that issue, or some of the art work, but I do still have the recording. I kept it, because of its size with a small, select, group of 45s I used for a teaching unit on the concept of death and dying in popular music. The little 33 1/2 rpm recording fit nicely in boxes with the 45s.
Last week, while watching a PBS program about a lost collage by Frank Zappa, I thought of Widman Fischer and his music. Sure enough, I located the recording from almost 50 years ago. The once white record sleeve is faded, but the record itself is in good shape. I'm, hoping a Zappa collector or collector of off beat music will be interested, because I have a lot less than 50 years to find a home for some of the things I clung to for so many years. Want to hear a song for a dime?