I never met the man, and haven’t read any of his work, but Paul Williams – who just yesterday passed away – connects to my Sidewalk experience in a couple of small but important ways.
Just so you know, we’re not talking the miniature musician subject of the Still Alive – this guy is not. What this Paul Williams is – was – is the creator of Crawdaddy, the seminal sixties rock magazine. A huge Philip K. Dick proselytizer, Williams founded the Dick Society. He wrote dozens of books and various subjects. An accident almost twenty years ago produced a brain injury that developed into early onset dementia. All evidence suggests he was a great man.
His death makes a widow of Cindy Lee Berryhill, perhaps the first AntiFolk act to get a national record deal, possibly the person who coined the phrase AntiFolk, maybe an early inspiration for Jewel, and absolutely the leader of the Garage Orchestra and a very talented songwriter. She’s one of the notable names of the first wave of AntiFolk in the early eighties, releasing Who’s Gonna Save the World? in 1987. She was just in town last weekend for a Williams event at Boo-Hooray Gallery, and then a show at some other club.
To my knowledge, Williams never wrote about AntiFolk, but the creation of the zine scene he help produce – first with Crawdaddy and then with his efforts in championing science fiction – was how fanzines like AntiMatters, Urban Folk, and other scene zines (AU Base, Elephant Shoe, AntiZine… the list ends) came t0 be. Without he, there would be no me.
It’s the text that first attracted me to the scene. I’ve told people before that the first time I entered the Sidewalk, I was entranced as much by the articles taped to the walls telling me about the wealth of history the scene already had. It was that attraction to the available words that made me want to be part of the community, and years, later, made me want to tell its story. After many years, the Sidewalk is again presenting the story of the musicians of the club, with the recent online galleries and the framing of posters over the years. It’s about time.
And the idea of chronicling pop music in a significant way? That’s Williams. All him. He defined me, helped defined our scene, without our knowing it. His loss will be barely felt, despite this stranger’s importance.