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: