Some folks have probably already concluded as much, but I thought it was time to be frank about it. Henry Turner is a fictional character who was dreamed up around January or February of 2011 when we were living in a storage container in Florida for the winter. One day, I sat outside the storage container to watch the vultures circle overhead, and wrote a song about a schizophrenic guy living on the streets, telling anybody who’ll listen that he used to be a major league pitcher back in the ‘70’s. That song eventually became “Who the Hell Are You?”.
Then, we started writing more songs about that guy. We were gonna make a 7 inch about him. We even recorded the 7 inch while in Florida, but ended up scrapping it because we didn’t like some of the songs. So we wrote more and more, eventually enough to make up a whole album about Henry Turner.
Then, one day while driving from Bloomington to some-small-town-in-Missouri, I decided a book should be written about him. I thought this would be a neat thing to do because 1) it would give the songs greater context, and 2) it would further give flesh and bones to the Turner character. At first I tried to get our friend Keith to write the book, because he is a real writer. But it was just too much for him to take on at the time, so I decided to write it myself.
Somewhere along the line, I started writing the book from the perspective of Turner being a guy that I actually knew in real life. It was exciting. I went to the library and researched some actual historical Turner families from Georgia, and linked the fictional Henry to those families. Strangely, I found out that there was a post civil war senator named Henry Gray Turner who married a woman named Lavinia Calhoun Morton – who, according to the librarian who was helping me, might be loosely related to me. The lineage gets muddy somewhere in early 1800’s New York City, so according to the librarian it’s tough to say for certain, but it was neat to think about.
The plan became this: we would release the album/book as a tribute to Henry Turner, a close friend who had recently died. There were a few reasons for this. First, it would give even more authority and dignity to the Turner character. Second, it would be an experiment in group psychology to see how people reacted to this person. The hope was that feelings would be mixed – some people would appreciate the voice being given to this damaged (but interesting) man, some people would find Turner’s crimes repulsive and unforgivable, others would be critical of my relationship with this homeless man and feel he was being taken advantage of, and so forth.
All these things happened. There was even a recent Maximum Rock and Roll review that demanded the profits (of which there are none, I can assure you – this is DIY punk, after all) be given to Savannah Turner, Henry’s (nonexistent) daughter! Pretty funny.
So that’s how the whole thing came to be. The book had some typos and the songs had some blemishes, but everyone involved with bringing it to life did a great job, I think. If Turner had existed, I don’t know if he would be proud or not. But, for me, at least, he’s part of the inspiration for the fact that the profits from the Gathering of the Goof Punx festival go to organizations (Streetlight/Porchlight Shelters, Sisters of the Road, etc.) that help individuals in similar situations as Turner was during the fictional end of his life.
So that’s that, I guess. Hope you enjoyed the story! If not, we’ll try better next time. Until then, keep looking out for each other!
The original introduction video, for some fun context:
This is the story of the first two weeks of tour. It’s also the story of how we broke three vans in less than ten days, got Phil arrested, survived a tornado, catapulted a dead carp, extracted our van from a shady chop shop, took a joy ride with a guy that spent 9 months in Riker’s Prison for trying to kill a guy, got a van stolen, commandeered a Misfits car, hung out with Crazy Joe for an hour in Brooklyn - and made it out alive. Hold on, lemme explain.
CLEVELAND AND BLOOMINGTON
It all started in Cleveland. Faithful ole Scott Hamilton (who, at the time, was our 6th van named after a famous sports star) was having transmission problems, and transmission problems usually mean it’ll be more expensive to fix the problem than the entire van is worth in the first place. No big deal. Sell the sucker on Craigslist and get a new one! So, for 600 bucks Scott Hamilton was sold, and a new one - John Elway - was purchased for 900 bucks. John Elway had a brand new transmission, new radiator, and most importantly, a WORKING TV AND VCR! First thing we did was hook up a Nintendo and Nintendo 64 to it. Things were looking good.
The first show of tour was Plan-It-X Fest in Bloomington, Indiana. On the way there from Cleveland, Danielle and I noticed a funny smell coming from John Elway, so we stopped off at a mechanic’s to have it looked at. They take one look at it and say:
"This thing is a death trap. If you drive it out of here, you’ll kill yourselves and everyone around you."
But it had a Nintendo! Clearly, we needed a second opinion.
We drove to Bloomington, played the fest, and it was a blast - Noah even fulfilled his life-long dream of performing Spaghetti Hands in front of a crowd. Afterwards, we took it to another mechanic who said:
"This thing is a death trap. Everybody will die a firey death if you drive it out of here."
But…but…Nintendo! Niiiintendo! Clearly, a third opinion was necessary considering the circumstances! Right?
And guess what? That third opinion said, “This’ll be just fine if you get the radial arm welded! Go to Thornton’s Welding and they’ll take care of you.” We headed out to Thornton’s, they welded that sucker together, and sent us on our way. Alright! We celebrated with a few hours of Super Mario 3.
PHIL GETS ARRESTED
A few days later we were driving through Delaware, Ohio on the way to Columbus for a show. I looked in the rearview mirror, and son-of-a-gun, there’s a cop pulling us over. He took one look at us, and told us to all get out of the vehicle, because, well, look at us - we were obviously smuggling drugs or weapons through Ohio, or doing something else illegal. After a very illegal and very sexual pat-down by the cop, he proceeded to tear apart the van looking for something, anything he could find. Eventually, he found a corn-cob pipe that was Phil’s - not a pipe for marijuana, mind you, but an old-man-style corn-cob pipe.
He arrested Phil for possession of drug paraphernalia.
But here’s where things get good!
We followed the cops to the Delaware jail, bailed out Phil for 300 bucks and were on our way, but with a court date for two weeks later in DELAWARE FUCKING OHIO! So Phil and Rob put on some nice shirts and ties and went back into the courthouse/jail to see if they could take care of it sooner than that. They told us that since it was a Friday, the only people there to talk to would be the Prosecutor, “and you don’t wanna talk to the Prosecutor, they’re the ones that are going to try to get you in trouble!” But we figured, fuck it! Let’s go talk to the Prosecutor!
The Prosecutor appeared and said, “Discuss.” Phil said, “Well…I don’t really know…I’ve never even had my license run before and I just want this over with. My livelihood is playing music and I’ll be in New England when the court date is set.”
"So…you’re in a band?"
That’s when his whole demeanor changed.
"Okay…tell you what. I’m not gonna be the prosecutor for your case. I’m gonna be your defense attorney. And you know what? Fuck Ohio, and fuck it’s backwards laws. We’re going to get this taken care of right now."
Yeah, okay! Sounds good! He shuffled us around the building and we eventually ended up in an empty court room where he opened up a laptop and told Phil to read what was on the screen. He had opened up a Wikipedia article about himself, which described him as a FAMOUS JAZZ CRITIC THAT WAS ROOTING ON THE DOWNFALL OF THE MAJOR LABEL MUSIC INDUSTRY!
So our Prosecutor-turned-Defense-attorney that was a famous jazz critic argued Phil’s case before the judge, the judge agreed, and guess what? They ended up OWING US MONEY! The court cut us a check and we were back on the road.
THE DERECHO TORNADO
You know that big storm that everyone’s been talking about on the news, the one that left millions of people from the midwest to the east coast and killed almost thirty people? Probably fifteen minutes after leaving the Delaware, Ohio court in celebration, we pulled over to check out a funny sound on the van. The skies turned black. Quarter-sized hail began raining down and breaking windows. The surrounding telephone poles exploded in sparks and fell to the ground. A nearby barn was ripped in half and thrown into the middle of the street just up the road from our van. We sat inside the shaking van in terrifying silence, and ten minutes later, it was over. We drove through the wreckage for the next thirty miles. It was fucking crazy and scary.
THE SCRAP YARD, THE CHOP SHOP, AND THE NEW JERSEY SLEAZE
A few days later, the Nintendo van – John Elway – started acting funny, and we took it to a mechanic in Massachusetts. They took one look at it and said, “This thing is a death trap, you’ll kill yourselves and everyone around you!”
“No. I don’t care if it has a Nintendo. The frame is rotted out completely and it’s going to snap in half any minute. The moment you hit a bump the wrong way, you’ll all die. And your Nintendo will break.”
That sealed it, I guess. We put all our stuff in the Wild’s van, and Steve Dags from the Wild and Rob Taxpayer raced off to a scrap yard in New Hampshire to sell John Elway before the show in New Hampshire, which started in less than an hour. They raced through the New Hampshire hills with the radiator over-boiling, the gas tank empty, the frame about to snap in half, and the time running out – and had to pay off the scrap yard employees to stick around and buy the junker. For 400 bucks! It was something, I guess…
After spending a few days in New England with our pals in Ramshackle Glory and having the Wild haul our sorry asses around, we found a sweet mini-van just over the New Jersey border for sale from a sleazy dealer. We took it for a ride and it seemed like a steal – I swear it did!
Ten minutes after buying the minivan, in the middle of rush hour traffic in downtown Manhattan at the corner of two of the busiest streets in the country – Broadway and Canal – the minivan died. Just completely caput. New Yorkers were backed up for miles, honking their horns and swearing at Noah, the poor driver.
We called AAA and they towed us to what seemed like a mechanic’s shop. A mechanic’s shop in Hell’s Kitchen.
That night, we looked up the name of the name of the Hell’s Kitchen mechanic online, and it turns out it was a chop shop – a place where they sell parts from your vehicle on the Black Market and extort money from you. Apparently AAA was getting paid off to send broken down vehicles there.
So Noah and Rob took the subway to the chop shop the next morning, armed with tens and twentys for bribing chop shop workers, and were able to get the minivan moved to the street in front of the chop shop. They called another tow truck, and an hour later, a guy pulls up in a tow truck with a crazy cartoon rabbit painted to the side of it, smoking a cigarette, and blasting “Welcome to the Jungle”.
Rob flagged him down and asked, “You here for the ‘97 Dodge Caravan?”
The guy said, “I don’t know…yet.”
We slipped him a ten and asked, “So…you here for the ‘97 Dodge Caravan?”
“Yep, that’s the one!”
He hooked up our new broken down van – which had been dubbed Muggsy Bogues, after the small-of-stature basketball hero of the ‘90’s – and we hopped in the front cab with the tow truck driver. He began towing us to a legitimate mechanic in Brooklyn.
“You’ze guyz mind if I smoke?”
“Ya know, these fuckin’ New York cabbies, they drive me fuckin’ crazy. Drivin’ like maniacs. Ya know, I just got outta Ryker’s for trying to kill a guy. 6 months. Nearly beat a guy to death for drivin’ like a maniac. You’ze guyz don’t drive like maniacs do ya??”
“Ya know, I like you’ze guyz. I’m gonna just park the tow truck and go grab a beer with the two of youze. Whaddya say?”
Uh, that sounds great, but we’ve gotta be somewhere in ten minutes. Maybe next time dude!
He dropped us off at the mechanic’s in Brooklyn, which didn’t open until the next day. We played the show in Brooklyn an hour later and caught a ride to Philadelphia with the Wild. What sweethearts!
The next morning, Noah and Rob caught the Megabus from Philadelphia to Brooklyn. While Muggsy Bogues was being worked on, we walked down the street to grab some coffee. On the way, we passed by junk shop that was blasting Jimmy Hendrix. We stopped for a second to look at the piles of crap – old Greenday tapes, broken candlesticks – and this middle-aged Brooklyn hippie guy ran over to us and began yelling at us excitedly. His arms were wrapped in panties, he had necklaces with rusty bolts tied to them, and he had a huge bleeding gash on his arm.
“Come on in! You guys want something to drink? The name’s Joe, I was born right there where you’re standing! This here place has been here since 1900!”
We looked around. Piles of stuff everywhere. A hunting knife stabbed into the hardwood floor. Jimmy Hendrix songs skipping on the CD player.
“Jennifer! JENNIFER! THE BOYS ARE HERE! FIX ‘EM A DRINK!”
“Fuck you Joe!”
“JENNIFER! THE BOYS ARE HERE!”
“Fuck you Joe!”
“FUCK YOU JOE!”
He looks back at us.
“Ah, fuck it, here, drink some of this: it’s honey mixed with cheap vodka. Hey, you guys wanna play some music?”
He grabs an acoustic guitar with no strings, two wooden poles, and a harmonica, and we begin rocking out to Jimmy Hendrix while he mouthed the words. PURPLE HAZE! ALL IN MY BRAIN!
After a few songs, he stops, and deadpans: “You know, I used to play baseball for the Detroit Tigers?” and he starts telling us a story about how his pitcher beaned a guy during a play-off game. For serious.
Eventually, we start trying to leave, and he goes, “Whoa, hold on, lemme sing you some Opera!” He steps back and begins belting out some opera songs in Italian. It was beautiful.
We finally start heading towards the door, and Joe yells, “Wait, boys lemme give you something good!” He grabs both our cheeks and gives us a big ole smooch right on the lips. Then he throws us two drinking straws and says:
“Here ya go boys: think of me when you’re sucking!”
Then he throws us two mismatched high heals as gifts and we walk back to the mechanic’s. Muggsy Bogues was fixed.
I don’t know, a whole bunch more happened, but I’m getting tired of typing. We found a dead carp in Maumee, Ohio and us and the Wild dragged it to to a trail and made a Dead Carp Catapult. That was pretty fun. We found a porcelain dog named Schneezers and have become best friends with it. There is a Tumblr for Schneezers here: http://schneezers.tumblr.com/
Right now we’re in Atlanta, hanging out with the Wild after our last show with them. Gonna miss those people. Now it’s off to Chatanooga to see Rock City! Hope to see you all soon!
Since I last wrote, we had the new van, Muggsy Bogues, stolen from our show in Nashville. Some equipment was taken, most of our personal crap and cash, and that kinda jazz, but we are still kickin’. We rented a car up to the next show in Bloomington. There, Chris Clavin (the patron saint of Plan-It-X Records), “sold” us his car for 23 dollars and a promise to stay punk. His car is the Misfits car at the top of this post, a 1989 Buick LeSabre named Glenn Danzig. What an amazing dude.
We’ll keep you updated as more shit hits!