WYSO

Book Nook: Liner Notes, by Loudon Wainwright III

Sep 18, 2017

Loudon Wainwright III has spent the past half century writing and performing songs that range from whimsical to confessional to downright silly. This clever man possesses a brilliant wit. His distinctive voice continues to entertain, provoke, and amuse. Now that voice has been transferred to the pages of a candid memoir called "Liner Notes."

Wainwright has had a complicated love life. Many of his songs have been informed and inspired by the twisted complexity of his relationships with spouses, lovers, and his children. Several of Wainwright's offspring have gone on to become singer/songwriters like their dad. These musical children are also the progeny of mothers who were also gifted singers.

Wainwright's first two records were sparse folky efforts that garnered favorable reviews but didn't sell very well. After his first record label dropped him Wainwright signed with another one and adjusted his appearance and approach; from a clean cut preppy look to the bearded mountain man visage, his sound; from solo acoustic to country style back-up band, and his luck; he had his one and only radio hit with the tune "Dead Skunk."

The success of that song was very good and also very bad for the artist. In his memoir and in this interview Loudon discusses how that song about roadkill created expectations that he simply was unwilling to fulfill. He still performs regularly but he rarely plays that tune. If he can help it.

The first time I noticed the name Loudon Wainwright was during the 1960's. I was reading Life Magazine and I observed that the publication had a writer by that name who wrote some wonderful pieces. That writer was his father. Later on when I was attending St. Andrew's School in Middletown, Delaware, I heard the name again. The Wainwrights, both the father and the son, preceded me in attending the school. Memories of that son's exploits on the football fields at St. Andrew's were still being talked about on campus while I was there.

It was also there in Delaware, when I was younger,  that I first heard about the start of Loudy's musical career. He was releasing his first records. At the time some critics were comparing him with Bob Dylan. I have been a fan for all this time and had always wanted to interview him. This program marks the realization of my long held dream to finally have a conversation with one of my musical idols.

The Book Nook on WYSO is made possible by five local library systems in southwest Ohio: the Greene County Public Library,  Washington-Centerville Public Library,  Clark County Public LibraryDayton Metro Library, and Wright Memorial Public Library.