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Peter Grudzien is the original New York gay country musician
November 21, 2010 8:45 PM   Subscribe

Peter Grudzien lives in New York and makes psychedelic country music or at least used to, since only two albums of his material ever came out, The Unicorn in 1974, and The Garden of Love, which is mostly a collection of demos. His songs are varied, ranging from noise music to straight up country, and their subject matters are equally wide-ranging, from strange fare, such as lyrics about his clone being at Stonewall, to straight-up love songs. His best known original is probably The Unicorn, a beautiful song whose lyrics recast the early 70s New York gay demimonde in terms of a barren zombie-filled wasteland which will be reborn when the titular unicorn is found by the queen. Other songs on YouTube are White Trash Hillbilly Trick, New York Town and an instrumental cover of the Georgia Gibbs hit Kiss Me Another. Finally, here's a lovely cover of The Unicorn by Calgary folkie Kris Ellestad.
posted by Kattullus (16 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
There's a MySpace fan page which has a couple more streamable songs. However, someone left an comment that autoplays some completely unrelated music, so you have to scroll down and turn off the music before you can start streaming the Peter Grudzien songs. Note the lovely intro to The Unicorn present on the MySpace version, a short piano song called Innocents, which isn't on YouTube.
posted by Kattullus at 8:52 PM on November 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks. He kind of reminds me of a more urban, gayer, psychedelic Hasil Adkins. Definitely that outsider vibe.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:40 PM on November 21, 2010


Wow, really interesting. And I love anything Unicorn-related. So thanks!
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:48 PM on November 21, 2010


I also like the simple description on the the YT video for "The Unicorn:"

"Eccentric and sincere."
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:49 PM on November 21, 2010


Wasn't he on the Songs In The Key of Z outsider-music compilation?
posted by acb at 2:32 AM on November 22, 2010


Fascinating post. Cheers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:12 AM on November 22, 2010


acb: Wasn't he on the Songs In The Key of Z outsider-music compilation?

Yeah, covering "Star-spangled Banner Waving Somewhere" turning it into a song of gay liberation. It's interesting, but not as great as Grudzien's originals. Incidentally, here's a review of a concert featuring some of the Key of Z musicians, including Peter Grudzien, from a decade ago. Here's the bit about Peter Grudzien:
Next, openly gay country-folkie Peter Grudzien went on, kicking off with his "Key of Z" number "Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere." He sang some verses with the original Elton Britt words and others with his retooled ("Though I realize I'm homo that is true, sir / Don't judge me by my preference in sex...") lyrics. He did a few more songs in an early sixties Dylan mode, including "Hunky Honky," and then introduced his friend Rich to sing a couple of songs. Rich performed with his hands in his jacket pockets, to a prerecorded accompaniment. The first song was called "Country Punk," but it was neither-- it suggested nothing so much as Isabella Rosellini's tranced-out version of "Blue Velvet" from the David Lynch movie, and someone in the crowd yelled "Sing 'Blue Velvet!' at the end. After Rich's second song Peter returned and sang his strongest acoustic number of the night, "Kentucky Candy," in which the lyrics grow progressively more bizarre with each verse. I confess that until this song, I had more or less written Peter off as a novelty act, a one-trick pony, but this surreal narrative had some real power, and a memorable chorus. He finished up with the crowd-pleasing "Nothing," performed to another prerecorded backing track.
"Kentucky Candy" is really great, it's true. It's on The Unicorn.
posted by Kattullus at 4:23 AM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a great find. Thanks for posting.
posted by nola at 5:40 AM on November 22, 2010


Neat. That Unicorn song sounded really familiar -- is it reworking music from another song, or might it have been on some folk sampler lp I heard as a child?

Thanks for putting this together.
posted by Forktine at 5:53 AM on November 22, 2010


I wanna interview him.
posted by The Whelk at 7:22 AM on November 22, 2010


Forktine: The Unicorn LP has been out since '74.

I would agree that "Kentucky Candy" is probably the standout track (it's pretty epic), though the entire record is of a very high calibre. I love the demented little bits between tracks as well.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:33 AM on November 22, 2010


Forktine: That Unicorn song sounded really familiar -- is it reworking music from another song, or might it have been on some folk sampler lp I heard as a child?

It's not dissimilar to Tom Waits' You're Innocent When You Dream, but "The Unicorn" is older by four years.
posted by Kattullus at 10:59 AM on November 22, 2010


Actually, that's more the intro, Innocents, which you can hear on MySpace. But yeah, the song is reminiscent of some song, perhaps Cohen or Dylan. It could also be an old reworked folk melody, as Grudzien is apparently an encyclopedia of old country music.
posted by Kattullus at 11:02 AM on November 22, 2010


You must be kidding? A gay psychedelic country music ~singer who OD'd on Dylan lyrics?

Oh OK, what the hell. Everyone needs a funky B-side now and then.
posted by Twang at 1:33 PM on November 22, 2010


It's not dissimilar to Tom Waits' You're Innocent When You Dream, but "The Unicorn" is older by four years.

I'm guessing you think the 78 in the title of the YouTube link is the year the Waits tune came out, but it's just a reference to 78 RPM records. (The album came out in '87, I think.) There's two versions of that song on Frank's Wild Years and the one you linked was recorded to sound like an old scratchy 78.
posted by cropshy at 4:51 PM on November 22, 2010


Hah! Man, was I completely, totally wrong. I thought that Frank's Wild Years had been a musical that Tom Waits had written in the late 70s, but some Googling set me right. Waits wrote a script in 1978 that may or may not have been the basis for Frank's Wild Years, but the music was almost certainly written 1984-6. But, because of that misunderstanding, I've always thought that the 78 meant that this was a recording from then. Ooh la... how wrong I was.
posted by Kattullus at 7:03 PM on November 22, 2010


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