Feature: Wednesady, May 19, 2004
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
The Man Who Fell To Earth From Lubbock

The stardust has never worn off this cowboy.\r\n

By KEN SHIMAMOTO

It might be the weirdest piece of music ever committed to tape in Fort Worth.

On “Paralyzed,” an explosion of madness recorded at Sound City Studios on Camp Bowie Boulevard in 1968, the Legendary Stardust Cowboy thrashes away at a single guitar chord over a rudimentary two-beat, tunelessly bellowing indecipherable lyrics and whooping like an Indian in an old western movie. In the middle of the song, there’s a drum solo that sounds like someone dropping trash cans down a flight of stairs, followed by a blatting bugle. The pandemonium starts up again only to subside, like the end of an epileptic seizure. Hearing the song for the first time is disorienting, to say the least. Its impact is both hilarious and primal.

Incredibly, the record was not only a regional hit, it made the national charts and briefly propelled the Lege — as he’s known to his friends — to celebrity of a sort. He appeared on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In and earned the distinction of being the only performer ever to walk off the show because people were laughing at him. Back in Cowtown, he became the stuff of bona fide local legend for stealing his own master tapes from a business associate and unrolling them down Henderson Street. In 1984, the Lege released a “comeback” album, Rock-It to Stardom, on Fort Worth-based Amazing Records, and toured Europe, Australia, and New Zealand the following year. Since 1986, he’s lived in San Jose, Calif., still performing, recording, and harboring the dream that originally brought him to the Fort: appearing on The Tonight Show as a guest host.

Norman Carl Odam is an unlikely musical hero. That’s the name the Lege’s parents gave him when he was born, in Lubbock in 1947. But since high school, he’s called himself the Legendary Stardust Cowboy. He has an extremely limited vocal range, has trouble singing in time, and can barely play his instruments. Yet, some surprising people like him. Chameleon-like British rocker David Bowie based his Ziggy Stardust character on the Lege after receiving a copy of “Paralyzed” from Mercury Records upon signing with the label in 1968. Bowie even covered Odam’s song “I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship” on his 2002 Heathen c.d. Joe Ely, who grew up with Odam in Lubbock, has said that his old friend “might be the greatest jazz musician ever to come out of West Texas.” Ely’s claim sounds preposterous, but it’s still indicative of a degree of bewildered admiration.

While the Lege sees himself as a showbiz figure on a par with Elvis, Tom Jones, or Frank Sinatra, to aficionados of left-of-center music, he’s an authentic primitive in the manner of backwoods rockabilly wildman Hasil Atkins. What he’s not: some drug-crazed psycho. (Odam never touches anything stronger than Diet Pepsi.) While his persona plays on the myth of the cowboy as rugged individualist, he’s also representative of the kind of lonely, alienated outsider who dreams of winning acceptance through celebrity. Indeed, his greatest appeal might be in his guilelessness. Contacted by phone in San Jose, he asked me, “Do you think the Legendary Stardust Cowboy could be the next American Idol?”

All of which begs the question, “Is this guy kidding or what?” According to Amazing label boss Jim Yanaway, who recorded the Lege in 1984 and accompanied him on his world tour, “Norman is as serious as any dedicated musician.”

One who would agree with that assessment is Tony Philputt, an Indiana-born filmmaker who’s dedicated the last 13 years to telling the Lege’s story. Since 1991, he’s been working on a documentary film about the Lege, entitled Cotton Pickin’ Smash. Philputt, now living in L.A., is a true believer. He exhausted all of his resources making the film and filed for bankruptcy shortly after finishing a rough cut in 1999. Since then, he’s re-edited the movie to make it more digestible by the casual viewer. “At first, I just wanted to cram in every fact that I could. Then I realized that I needed to pace the film for the average schmo drinking a beer on a Sunday night.”

Even before undertaking the film project, Philputt spent years chasing the Lege. At 15, he was “the first big punk rocker in Indiana.” In 1979, he was given a copy of “Paralyzed” by a friend who told him, “This is right up your alley.” The record was a revelation to Philputt. “I thought, ‘It took four people in the Velvet Underground to make this much noise!’ It also piqued my curiosity. How’d this ever get on a major label?” With the dawn of the internet still a couple of years down the road, Philputt scoured the public library for clues, to no avail. Fortunately (although maybe not for his finances), Philputt’s Lege fixation seemed to run in his family: An uncle who was also a music fan told him the story of the Laugh-In appearance and showed Philputt a picture of the Lege that he’d drawn in eighth grade after seeing the show.

With so little information to go on, Philputt gave up the search until 1984, when he was working in a record store. “I used to do the ordering,” he said, “and one day I was calling in an order and [the distributor] asked, ‘You don’t do much with country stuff, do you?’ I told him we didn’t and he said, ‘Then you probably won’t want this Stardust Cowboy thing.’ I said, ‘I’ll take ten!’” When Rock-It to Stardom arrived, Philputt was still disappointed. “The cover was saturated red and the picture on the inner sleeve had his face in shadow — there wasn’t one clear picture. What did this guy look like?”

The genesis of Cotton Pickin’ Smash was almost accidental. When his roommate bought a car and wanted to spend a summer driving around the U.S., Philputt took a chance. He had finally gotten Odam’s address off another record, a single Odam had made on a California label. So he wrote a fan letter, asking if they could visit him. Philputt was surprised to receive a lengthy affirmative reply from Odam and immediately hit the road with a video camera and “15 years’ worth of questions.”

Rather than the Clint Eastwood figure of his imagination, he met a small, slight, bespectacled figure who seemed obsessed with current events and the weather. Staying at Odam’s house and capturing his story on videotape whetted Philputt’s appetite to know more about the Lege’s life and career. As he moved around to the record collectors conventions where he went to sell videos, he scheduled subsequent interviews with people who’d known or worked with the Lege.

The toughest piece of the puzzle for Philputt to track down was the videotape of Odam’s Laugh-In appearance. “Anyone I talked to who had seen it, saw it the first time it aired,” he said. Odam had been taping reruns of the show for years, but the producers had removed all musical performances before releasing the shows to syndication to avoid having to pay royalties. Finally, Philputt got in contact with the production company. “The woman I talked to said it was impossible,” said Philputt. “She said the rights to Laugh-In were owned by three people that hated each other.”

Undeterred, Philputt wrote a letter to the production company, asking that it be given to all three principals. “I told them that I was a college student working on a thesis on ‘Atonality in Modern Pop Culture,’ and that I needed the clip to be able to show a progression from Stravinsky to Stockhausen to the Legendary Stardust Cowboy.” Two weeks later, he received a call from the production company, asking for his address. Philputt said the Lege appeared unimpressed on viewing the clip. “They’ve edited it!” Odam said. “I was on for longer than that!” Philputt’s big score still left one major roadblock in place: The producers wanted $20,000 for the rights to use the Laugh-In clip in his documentary — money Philputt just didn’t have.

Interviewing the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, even by phone, can be a surreal experience. He tends to free-associate wildly, until he’s asked a direct question. Then he’s less loquacious. Maybe he’s tired of telling his story. He’s done it before, most extensively in autobiographies he penned to promote his records in ’69 and ’84.

“I’ve been under enemy attack in Fallujah,” he said. “I came here under Marine escort.” In between assuring the reporter that “we’ve got no space shuttle earthenware here” and crunching on almonds (“gobbling goblets”) because “I’ve got to watch my calcium intake so I can listen to Norah Jones,” he said that he’d come from a meeting with the mayor of San Jose and that May 30 would be “Legendary Stardust Cowboy Day” in the city. He talked about starting a union for cowboys, “so we can have a jacuzzi in every bunkhouse.”

Odam said that growing up in Lubbock was “horrible. There was nothing to do. Everybody I know left.” From an early age, he was obsessed with cowboys, space travel, and show business. “It’s just the way I came together at birth,” he said. He took up music as a way of gaining popularity with his peers and would perform daily on the steps outside his school. The response was mixed: Some fellow students cheered him, while others pelted him with dirt clods and Sweetarts. In his green 1961 Chevrolet Biscayne with “NASA Presents the Legendary Stardust Cowboy” spray-painted on the sides and a map of the moon on the roof, he’d show up uninvited to perform at parties, clubs, and burger joints. “I was highly controversial,” he said. “The school principal kept taking my guitar away.” After high school, he studied electronics and ran a drill press in a factory, still dreaming of stardom.

The story of “Paralyzed” sounds like something out of a Hollywood movie: An unknown performer goes from total obscurity to national celebrity in only two months. In early 1968, Odam traveled to California to try to obtain a record deal, but “nothing was happening,” and he returned to Lubbock to work in a warehouse. Around that time, he saw Tiny Tim, another strange novelty act, performing his freakishly fluttering falsetto versions of ancient pop songs on tv’s Tonight Show. Odam resolved to go to New York and appear on the show himself. (That explains a lot: How many other people have taken Tiny Tim as their professional role model?) That September, Odam was on his way to the Big Apple when he stopped in Fort Worth to try to make some money. A pair of Filter Queen vacuum cleaner salesmen heard him singing in the parking lot of Dave Bloxom’s Locker Room Club and took him to the Sound City recording studio, next to their office in the basement of radio station KXOL on Camp Bowie Boulevard.

There, Odam met an extremely sleep-deprived T-Bone Burnett, just 20 but already a studio veteran. The future O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack producer and his partner, David Anderson, had already been up for days experimenting with sounds, but when one of the salesmen suggested they record Odam, they were game. The Lege was playing a dobro with a broken neck. He said he needed a drummer, so Burnett agreed to play drums, even though he’d never played before. They cut “Paralyzed,” then continued rolling tape while Odam played his songs, made animal noises, and told stories. As the session continued, curiosity seekers began to filter down from the radio station, making the Lege nervous. He insisted that everyone but engineer Frank Henderson leave the sound booth.

While Odam was still in the studio singing, Burnett took the snippet of tape containing “Paralyzed” upstairs and played it for KXOL station manager Jack Murray, who responded ecstatically, exclaiming, “It’s the new music!” When the station played the song that night, after promoting it over the air every 15 minutes throughout the day, the switchboard lit up: Perversely, Fort Worth listeners loved it. (As Burnett has pointed out, it says something about Cowtown that its citizens could so willingly embrace a record as unconventional as “Paralyzed.”) Among those who heard the song was local impresario Major Bill Smith, who’d produced Bruce Channel’s “Hey Baby” and Paul and Paula’s “Hey Paula.” He smelled a hit and wanted a piece of it. Smith released “Paralyzed” (with the equally bizarre “Who’s Knocking On My Door” on the flip side) on his own Psycho Suave label. Within a week, he’d made a deal with Mercury Records to release the record nationally.

Promoted as “the world’s worst record,” “Paralyzed” only scraped the bottom of the Billboard Top 200 for a couple of weeks, but that was all it took to land Odam on Laugh-In on Nov. 18, 1968 — scarcely two months after his Fort Worth recording session. On camera, Odam appeared in full cowboy regalia — boots, vest, chaps, and hat. He seemed confused when the show’s cast made fun of him, and he wound up walking off the set. That didn’t stop other variety shows from inviting him to appear. Then in December, a strike by the American Federation of Musicians led to a ban on televised live music. By the time the strike ended in May 1969, “Paralyzed” had dropped off the charts and the follow-up single, “I Took a Ride on a Gemini Spaceship,” had failed to duplicate its success. A third Mercury single, “Kiss and Run” — an attempt at a “straight” ballad — also flopped, leading the label to scrap a planned Legendary Stardust Cowboy album (after pressing two test copies, legendary in their own right, which are still being hunted by collectors).

Shortly after that, Odam broke into Smith’s office and stole a tape of 50 songs Odam had recorded with Burnett. Odam had the tape run off on a seven-inch reel, listened to the songs, wrote them down, then unraveled the tape down Henderson Street because “I didn’t want [Smith] stealing my music.” (At the same time, he destroyed notebooks containing the outline he’d written for a movie, Stardust in Your Eyes, which included narration, dialogue, and 18 songs that depicted the outer space adventures of the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, his winged horse Pegasus, and Gaylord the talking four-leaf clover.) Odam briefly had a manager, James Edgar “Chip” Whitmore Jr., but their relationship soured, and Odam was arrested for vagrancy after breaking into Whitmore’s apartment “to get my guitar before he had a chance to hock it.” Odam spent the next few years working a succession of dead-end jobs in Fort Worth and Dallas. It looked like the Legendary Stardust Cowboy’s moment in the spotlight was over.

Jim Yanaway is a record collector and R&B fanatic from Fort Worth who now lives in Austin. In the ’70s, he worked in musician and record distributor Slim Richey’s warehouse on Vickery Drive and hosted an R&B show, “Finger Poppin’ Time,” on KCHU-FM. At the same time, he was taping local blues talent — including fiery sets by Stevie Ray Vaughan at the Bluebird and U.P. Wilson at Tack’s Fun House that remain frustratingly unreleased — and planning to start a record label. In 1980, he launched Amazing Records, releasing a cross-section of Texas music that included blues (the Juke Jumpers, Omar and the Howlers, Denny Freeman, Gary Primich), rootsy rock (the Leroi Brothers), zydeco (Ponty Bone), and jazz (Return to the Wide Open Spaces, an album that reunited saxophonists James Clay and David “Fathead” Newman).

Yanaway first met the Lege in 1976 through Fabulous Thunderbirds drummer Mike Buck and invited Odam to appear on a live broadcast from the Modern Living Building at the State Fair of Texas. “I was cueing up records,” said Yanaway, “and when I looked up, there were people seven or eight deep around the booth, listening to Norman sing. It was a real cross-section of people — farmers in bib overalls, kids with cotton candy, Hare Krishnas — all mesmerized, with idiotic grins. They seemed to genuinely enjoy what the Lege was doing.” Even the host of the show scheduled to follow “Finger Poppin’ Time” called in to tell Yanaway that he was digging it. The show was the local Black Panthers’ weekly “Panthers and the People.”

Yanaway and the Lege stayed in touch after Odam moved to Las Vegas in 1977 and got a job as a busboy at the Dunes Hotel. Yanaway felt that Odam hadn’t been given a fair shake and wanted to record him. Originally, the plan was to record on New Year’s Eve 1979 — “at the overlap of the decades,” Yanaway said. When they met at Dallas/Fort Worth International airport, the Lege presented him with a manila envelope full of newspaper clippings about showbiz figures like Totie Fields, Shecky Green, and Morey Amsterdam “because Norman thought I’d be interested in reading about them. I wasn’t.” But Odam brought no luggage and, crucially, none of his songs. He assured Yanaway that “I’ve got ’em where no one else can get ’em,” pointing to his head, but he couldn’t remember his songs in the studio, and the sessions had to be aborted.

It was more than three years before Odam could get time off from his busboy job in Vegas to resume recording at Grand Prairie’s JD&D Studio in June 1983. The studio band, dubbed the West Texas Sci-Clones, consisted of guitarists Don Leady and Steve Doerr and Mike Buck on drums, who’d formed the Leroi Brothers after working together on the earlier, failed Legendary Stardust Cowboy sessions. While the schedule didn’t allow for any rehearsal time, the three were familiar with the Lege’s songs and had an idea of the basic approach he wanted: “jungle music.” Their strategy was “not to let thinking get in the way,” according to Yanaway. “We didn’t want to overwork the material.”

For the sessions, Odam used a guitar Yanaway had borrowed from his Richey Records coworker, Jim Colegrove — himself an experienced musician, then with the Juke Jumpers (now leading Lost Country). When Yanaway played him the chaotic results of the session, Colegrove said, “I could hear songs with chord changes. People think [the Lege] is a put-on, so they play whatever they want behind him. But I thought, you could put music over this.” Yanaway responded, “Why don’t you do that?” Colegrove overdubbed bass, guitar, and harmonica on the basic tracks. While he admits that the results were not totally successful, Colegrove speaks highly of the Lege today. “Norman’s a naïve artist, but he has an interesting mind that moves along interesting lines and comes up with interesting things,” he said. “You could hear someone like the Clash doing a song like ‘My Baby Tracks Me Down Like Radar.’ I just wish he could perform in meter.”

Amazing Records released Rock-It to Stardom in 1984. Some copies were pressed on colored vinyl: clear, blue, passionate pink (Odam’s favorite color, from a batch that had been manufactured for a Dolly Parton release), and gold (“because the Lege always wanted to have a gold record”). To promote the record, Yanaway concocted a press release full of “high-falutin’, pretentious B.S.,” including allusions to Hegel, Einstein, and Newton, from which “lazy reviewers could extract ‘quotes’ from Norman.” Yanaway’s friend, Rolling Stone scribe Chet Flippo, managed to get the record reviewed in People magazine. A tour was booked for the following year, to include stops in New York City, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

In preparation for the tour, Yanaway hired Fort Worth artist Frank McCully to create stage props inspired by Z.Z. Top’s “World Texas Tour”: a cactus, a gila monster, a prairie dog, a rattlesnake, and so on. Some of these props figure in a series of promotional photos, taken around sculptor George Segal’s Holocaust memorial in San Francisco, that are masterpieces of bad taste. In one, a gaunt concentration camp survivor stares bleakly through barbed wire while Odam blows a bugle in his ear. In another, a smiling gila monster sits atop a mound of corpses while the Lege grins at the camera.

While in New York, Yanaway and the Lege were walking past the Blue Note club in Greenwich Village when “the door exploded open and this maniac came running at us,” according to Yanaway. The apparently deranged individual stopped and asked the Lege, “Are you Norman Odam?” It turned out that he’d had to follow Norman at a high school talent contest in Lubbock two decades earlier.

At Gerde’s Folk City, the tiny club where Bob Dylan was discovered, the Lege was embraced by the cream of the Big Apple hip-oisie, who fell over each other scrambling to grab the paper plates — adorned with the Lege’s artwork, autograph, and mailing address — that he sailed into the audience while singing “Fly Me to the Moon.” On stage, the usually reserved and passive Odam was transformed into “a cocky little bastard,” according to Yanaway. In a video of his Folk City performance, he’s even wilder than he was on Laugh-In, “riding” his guitar like a horse and cavorting around the stage, thrusting his pelvis and shaking his hands like an unruly three-year-old imitating a tent-show evangelist. Toward the end of his set, he does a bizarre striptease, revealing scrawny arms and a concave chest, until he’s left wearing only his boxer shorts. “I was only trying to imitate Elvis or Tom Jones,” Odam said. “I had to leave my shorts on because it was chilly up there.”

On the tour’s European leg, he fronted a unit that included two refugees from the L.A. psychobilly-blues outfit Gun Club. On their opening night at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, they played before 850 people. In Australia, Odam performed on the country’s top-rated tv show, Hey Hey It’s Saturday — a kind of hybrid Laugh-In / Saturday Night Live / Gong Show. The day after his appearance, two Melbourne policemen stopped the Lege in the street and asked him for autographs. He obliged, signing their suspect books in gold ink. “Touring was easy, it was fun,” said Odam. “It wasn’t heavy-duty, it was light duty.”

On the flight back to the States, Yanaway and the Lege had a falling out. “I didn’t want to keep pushing [the Lege]. He wanted an opportunity, and I felt like I’d given him his shot,” said Yanaway. “Having done that, I wanted to work with really talented people.” The Lege wasn’t satisfied with Yanaway’s efforts, however. He said that he wanted to make movies. He still wanted to be a guest host on The Tonight Show. When the plane stopped off in Honolulu, Yanaway said, “I stood up, got my stuff, tipped my hat, told Norman ‘Good luck,’ and got off the plane. After that, I didn’t see him for 15 years.”

Chicago-born Art Fein is a rock fan’s rock fan. He grew up in the ’50s digging Little Richard and Elvis, was disdainful of the Beatles (“not as wild as Little Richard”), managed to endure the psychedelic ’60s, and wound up in L.A. managing rootsy punk-era rockers X and the Blasters. A journalist and author (The L.A. Musical History Tour, The Greatest Rock & Roll Stories), Fein has also hosted a cable tv show, Li’l Art’s Poker Party, since 1984. “I’m always interested in remarkable characters, and the Legendary Stardust Cowboy is a great one,” said Fein. “I’m amazed at the spontaneity of his writing. Songs like ‘I Ran Out of Baloney, So I Had To Eat My Pony’ are the product of an uninhibited mind — one that’s not challenged by sophistication.”

Fein met the Lege while visiting a Las Vegas record store that Odam used to frequent. He would also see him on the annual visits Odam made to L.A. “to watch the people going into the Academy Awards.” Fein wrote press releases for the Lege, had him as a guest on Poker Party, and booked a 1985 gig for him at Hollywood’s Club Lingerie where Elvis Costello and T-Bone Burnett were in the audience and Burnett even played drums on “Paralyzed.”

The opening act that night was the Soul Senders, a band from San Jose that included drummer Joey Meyers. While Meyers’ exposure to the Lege’s music was limited to having heard “Paralyzed” on a compilation called Rockabilly Psychosis and the Garage Disease, he was already hooked. “Even on a record full of unfettered, crazy psychobilly, he stood out,” Meyers said. “He personified marching to your own drummer. He wasn’t derivative of anybody.” When Meyers approached Odam and asked if he needed a band to back him in Northern California, the Lege responded enthusiastically. They played their first gig together six months later and have been playing together ever since, recording a single (“Standing in a Trash Can, Thinking of You”) and three albums (Retro Rocket Back to Earth, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy Rides Again, and Tokyo).

While Meyers calls playing with the Lege “the funnest gig,” he admits that it has its challenges. “Norman always wants to try a different approach,” he said, “which makes practice almost moot. You just have to get behind him and kind of hold on.” Meyers described one show in a rough neighborhood in Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco, where a car parked in front of the club had been broken into. “In the middle of the set, [the Lege] went tearing outside, half-naked, firing his six-shooter. It could have gone bad at any minute.”

In 2000, Fein arranged for the Lege to play a date at Austin’s La Zona Rosa during South by Southwest, on a bill between Frank Zappa’s late-’70s drummer Terry Bozzio and ex-Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. The original idea was to have Joe Ely’s band back the Lege, but they had other commitments, so a pickup band had to be assembled on an hour’s notice. In desperation, Fein called Yanaway, who drafted “a bunch of guys who were standing around a beer keg,” including ex-Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs guitarist George Tomsco and Texas Tornados bassist Speedy Sparks. When Yanaway walked into the dressing room at La Zona Rosa, he found Odam “impassively looking at the door like the main character from Being There,” oblivious to the frenzied activity going on around him.

Today, Odam bristles at the mention of Yanaway’s name. “He thought I was an absolute lunatic,” said the Lege. “He told me, ‘You’re not going anywhere.’” Meyers, who plans to write a Lege biography, said that Odam’s ill will toward Yanaway arose because the producer took co-publishing credit for some songs on Rock-It to Stardom without consulting the artist, then sold his publishing company to cover a debt. Subsequently, according to Meyers, the recipient of Yanaway’s publishing rights “has been cashing Norman’s royalty checks and won’t return our phone calls. We’ve got a lawyer in L.A. working pro bono to try and get Norman’s royalties.” (Meyers said the Lege has received airplay in 26 countries.)

Yanaway denied the charge, saying that Odam was aware of the co-publishing agreement — which was intended to recoup recording costs — before signing his contract. “I paid him all of his mechanical royalties up front for all 2,000 copies of the record, including the ones that were sent out as promos,” Yanaway said. Since Rock-It to Stardom has never been released on c.d., the label boss added, “it’s not making any money now. When you consider the fact that T-Bone Burnett gave his co-publishing rights [for the Mercury records] back to Norman, [the Lege] has actually been paid more than he was due.”

Tony Philputt hasn’t given up hope that one day his film Cotton Pickin’ Smash will be released. In fact, he’s still working on it. A former NASA employee reported to Philputt that while working at Houston ground control in 1971, he played the Lege’s hit as a “wake-up” song for the Skylab astronauts, leading space center officials to permanently ban the record after the astronauts “performed poorly and were agitated.” Now Philputt hopes to include NASA audiotape of the song being played in the film. In fact, he said, “there’s a videotape of some NASA engineers singing [the Lege’s] ‘Who’s Knocking On My Door’ at somebody’s wedding reception.”

Even better, David Bowie has expressed willingness to be interviewed for the project — although he’s “incommunicado” for a year and a half until his current tour is completed. “Now I want to end the film with Norman appearing on The Tonight Show,” Philputt said. “I think Bowie could make it happen.”

As for Norman Odam, these days he works as a night watchman in a Santa Clara bank. His current band — bassist Klaus Fluoride (formerly of San Francisco punk originators the Dead Kennedys), guitarist Jay Rosen, and Meyers — works regularly around the Bay Area and recently played a show in France with punk-era figures Alan Vega, Lydia Lunch, and Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Odam’s been featured in Songs in the Key of Z, Irwin Chusid’s book on “outsider” music, and Lubbock Lights, a documentary about his homeboys the Flatlanders that screened at this year’s South by Southwest. This month, he plans to go back in the studio to record songs for an album to be called Okinawa, which he hopes to shop to a major label.

His advice to those who find him unmusical and his performance bizarre: “Don’t take it so seriously. Just have fun. That’s what I do.” He’s not surprised at the continuing interest in his music. “I transcend the ages,” he said.

His fans can write to the Legendary Stardust Cowboy at P.O. Box 36305, San Jose, CA 95158. He has no computer: “Poor cowboys can’t afford toys for rich Republicans,” he said.


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