Autobiography of a Grown Man
by Loudon Wainwright III
After the War (II) my father Loudon (II) came home with his bride Martha (I).1 My parents had sex and nine months later I was born albeit almost backwards.2
My youth was spent in Westchester County, New York and Beverly Hills, California.3 I remember being particularly happy when we lived in Southern California.4 However there was romantic agony - I had a tremendous crush on Liza Minnelli who happened to be a classmate of mine in the 3rd Grade.5
In 1956 the family moved back East to Westchester.6 That year I bought my first record - a 45 r.p.m. single of "All Shook Up" by Elvis (I) and music suddenly seemed terribly powerful and important. In 1961 I was sent away to a boarding school in Middletown Delaware called St. Andrew's (seen on screen in Dead Poets Society), where my father had gone 20 years earlier. It's not such a great idea to go to the same boarding school as your old man especially when you both have the same weird first name.7 Incidentally, a few years later I wound up seeing my father's shrink - another bad move.
I started playing the guitar around 1960 and after seeing Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in 1962 I acquired a brand new musical role model.8 I was unhappy at St. Andrews, but thank God for teenage rebellion - it can get you through.9 I graduated in 1965, went on to drama school at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh,10 dropped out in 1967 and headed west to San Francisco where all the other long-haired lemmings were bound at that time.
Suddenly it occurs to me that some of these biographical details may seem familiar to you, that you may have already gleaned these tidbits from earlier bios. Well, let's just be professional and go over it one more time, shall we? It makes the record company happy.
Okay so now I'm about 20 years old and you'd think all that rebellion stuff would be out of my system. But as Belushi (I) used to say, "Nooooo...." I had to get busted for pot. And not in a reasonable state like Vermont or Rhode Island, but Oklahoma for God's sake. In jail I was given a free haircut.11 Good old Dad flew in from London and bailed my ass out of jail, which of course is not a safe place for any young man's ass to remain for any length of time. Nevertheless my time in the slammer (5 days) changed my life. I had short hair and had to get a job to pay the old man back. I worked a variety of jobs - movie house janitor, boatyard barnacle scraper, and cashier-cook-dishwasher at New York's first macrobiotic restaurant, the Paradox on East 7th Street.12 This was also the time I started to write my own songs. Male singer-songwriters were a happening commodity back then and I was signed to Atlantic Records in 1969. The first album came out in 1970 and the career's been up and down ever since.13
I suppose if you were writing my obituary today you'd refer to 1972's "Dead Skunk" (#1 in Little Rock Arkansas for six weeks) and my 3 appearances on the M*A*S*H TV show in 1975 as Capt. Calvin Spaulding, the singing surgeon. Hopefully you'd mention my two Grammy nominations for the albums I'm Alright (1985) and More Love Songs (1986). And you'd remember and include the fact that Johnny Cash recorded my song "The Man Who Couldn't Cry" for his highly acclaimed 1994 album American Recordings. Undoubtedly your editor would remind you to say something about last summer's BBC II TV show, Loudon And Co. and the topical songs I've been writing for N.P.R. and Ted Koppel's Nightline on ABC. If and when you do write the obituary I'm sure Virgin Records would be happy to supply you with any photos you might require. You'll probably want to finish off the piece with a quote from one of the fabulous songs which have appeared on the 15 great albums I've made. How about this one from the most recent album Grown Man?
"He died on Monday where he lived, it happens to us all
Shot through the air expecting nets, flight and then a fall."
- Human Cannonball, 1995
1 "During the War in the Marine Corps/ They met and then married one day" -Westchester County, 1982
2 "The doctor reached inside of her/He turned me round then pulled me out"-April Fool's Day Morn, 1982
3 "When I was 10 years old I was alive/In the Benedict Canyon on Hutton Drive" -Hollywood Hopeful, 1976
4 "Nothing bad has happened yet/Everyone is happy" -Thanksgiving, 1988
5 "After school we two engaged in pre-pubescent play/At your house afternoons we spent cruising your black driveway/In your junior Thunderbird electric kiddie car/I chauffeured you you lounged in back/Back then you were a star" -Liza, 1974
6 "Tennis courts and golf courses galore" -Westchester County, 1982
7 "My parents should shoulder some blame for calling their kid a strange name" -T.S.M.N.W.A., 1992
8 "I got some boots a harmonica rack/A D-21 and I was on the right track" -Talking New Bob Dylan, 1991
9 "In Delaware when I was younger I would live the life obscene/In the spring I had great hunger/I was Brando, I was Dean" -School Days, 1970
10 "Pennsylvania's Western daughter" -Ode to Pittsburgh, 1970
11 "Don't shave off my beard, don't cut off my hair/It took me 2 years to grow it and it just isn't fair" -Samson & The Warden, 1971
12 "Several stars played guitars and were backed with feeling/By a chop-stick wielding rhythm section" -Bruno's Place, 1970
13 "For 20 odd years I have strummed on guitars/5,000 lost flatpicks, four fingertip scars" -Career Moves, 1993