If you can imagine it, there once existed a bizarre cross between American punk's Legendary Stardust Cowboy, the author of the histrionic "Paralyzed," and rockabilly's the Phantom, who won our hearts with the mysterious "Love Me."
His name was the Dootz, and he singlehandedly created a stylistic blend that can only be described as mutant American primitivism. This radical sound, born in the early '80s, was downright psychotic to the point of being transcendental. It was the creation of one David Frey Johns, who had spent most of his life singing to records in his room and wailing in friends' showers, hoping one day to be heard in a social context.
As a child David Johns was called "Duke" by his father, a nickname that eventually evolved into "Dootz." "My dad and I used to sing together when we went to church," the Dootz once told me, "but we had our own version of 'Onward Christian Soldiers.' Everybody else was singing it the right way.
Johns' earliest musical influences were typical--Elvis, the Beatles, Buddy Holly--but he was especially devoted to James Brown and Jackie Wilson, two performers who possessed an intense emotional style both on record and in performance. At times, the future Dootz even considered himself more of a soul singer because he could reach deep down and pour himself inside out with feelings from real-life experience.
By the time I was in the 4th grade, I had left the flat Oklahoma landscape behind and was living in East Tennessee in the suburbs of Knoxville, Tennessee. My father was a preacher and my mother was an English teacher, and there we sat at the foothills of the Smokey Mountains.
Unlike in the Land of the Buffalo, folks actually sang in East Tennessee, and had some of the purtiest voices ever imaginable. My mother was from a small town in East Tennessee, and like Dolly Parton, mother's voice was crystal-clear, pure, unblemished by popular trends.
In Knoxville, I began learning to play the violin in a symphony orchestra funded by the public school system. I sang regularly at church and was taught vocal discipline by mother as she accompanied me on show tunes, folk songs, and hymns. And I even began to learn the acoustic guitar.
In short, I had entered Tennessee, the most musical state in America. (When I make this statement even today, nobody ever seems to argue or disagree with me, so it must be true.)
Needless to say, even though I was listening to pop, folk, and rock, I was not collecting music on record. I don't even remember buying any records the whole time I lived in Knoxville. Perhaps that was because I was creating, performing and learning the music itself rather than trying to keep some part of it as a plastic product.
Although I don't remember the experience of buying vinyl in Knoxville, Tennessee, I do remember the voice and presence of Cas Walker.