Stress Jingle #18: Peter Stampfel


Peter Stampfel is an American fiddle player, violinist and singer-songwriter. He is perhaps best known for his work in the legendary freak folk band The Holy Modal Rounders and was briefly a member of The Fugs. He's been involved in several musical projects including The Bottlecaps, the WORM All-Stars and The Du-tells (a duo with guitarist Gary Lucas). He has played with everyone from Bob Dylan and Mississippi John Hurt to American inventor and futurist Buckminster Fuller (which Stampfel described as a "80-year-old Lou Reed who hadn't sang in a while").

The Holy Modal Rounders were originally a duo consisting of Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber. Inspired by Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, they were part of the first wave of folk music revivalists - but, unlike their peers, the Rounders were the only ones who challenged tradition by taking it into weird and psychedelic realms. "I really hated the seriousness of the people on the folk music scene," Stampfel recalls, "I thought it was stupid." The Rounders' were the first traditionally based band that was not trying to sound like an old record, they subverted the form with surreal and silly lyrics which outraged the folk purists.

Their debut album, released in 1964, featured the first use of the term "psychedelic" in popular music. Shortly after their second release in 1965, Stampfel and Weber joined The Fugs, an underground assortment of poets and artists from the New York Scene, some of whom could barely play their instruments. Their music was rife with political and social satire, as well as explicit profanity and sexual references, and their raw punkish approach helped pave the way for the even more innovative outrage of the Mothers of Invention and the Velvet Underground.

For their third album the Rounders' were joined by playwright and actor Sam Shepard on drums. In 1967's Indian War Whoop the music takes an even weirder turn to a more chaotic and free-form area, with surreal spoken interludes and reverbed freak-outs. In 1968 the band made a bizarre appearance on the TV show Laugh-In. In the same year they recorded The Moray Eels Eat The Holy Modal Rounders, an album that featured "Bird Song", which would be made famous in the movie Easy Rider. The band continued throughout the next years, occasionally recording and going through different line-ups. In 2006 a documentary film, The Holy Modal Rounders: Bound to Lose, was released.

Peter Stampfel keeps making music and recording on his own. His last solo album, Dook of the Beatniks, came out in 2010. Since then he has been recording albums with Jeffrey Lewis, the WORM All-Stars and Luke Faust.

Recently, Stampfel and some friends (Zoe and Lilly Stampfel, Eli Smith, Hubby Jenkins and Aya Yamamoto)  got together to record a series of jingles for Stress.fm: 


"Next to Bob Dylan, Stampfel is the closest thing to a genius that scene produced."

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