By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Muldaur used the first free time he’d had in ages to learn how to read music, and the following year he and D’Amato began working on the first of two duet albums. Later that year they moved to Woodstock, and Muldaur began playing with guitarist Amos Garrett. Blues great Paul Butterfield was also living in Woodstock, and in 1972 Garrett and Muldaur teamed with him to form the group Better Days. “This marked the beginning of a big musical shift toward an electric situation for me,” Muldaur says. “I wasn’t going around in VW buses playing for the intelligentsia anymore.
“The music with Paul was unbelievable, too,” adds Muldaur of Butterfield, who died of a heroin overdose in 1987. “He could sit in with a band that was cooking along, and he’d blow two notes on the harmonica and it all got better. The guy just had a touch.”
After two and a half years with Butterfield, Muldaur wanted out, and in 1974, with his marriage to D’Amato over, he moved to Martha’s Vineyard, where he spent the next decade. During those years he released six albums, including Geoff Muldaur Is Having a Wonderful Time and Motion. He was running out of gas, however, and didn’t record anything, from 1981 until 1984, when, in June, all those years of the musician’s life caught up with him and he crashed. “I stayed on my sister’s couch for nine months working on getting sober; I got a job waiting tables.”
The following year Muldaur relocated to Princeton when he was asked to run Carthage and Hannibal Records, and while he was there he discovered he was good with computers. At that point he left the music world entirely, and became a well-paid computer consultant. “I was wearing suits and getting paid good,” recalls Muldaur of his years away from the music business, “but when my friend [musician] Bob Neuwirth came to town he wasn’t impressed when he saw my fancy office.” Neuwirth persuaded Muldaur to come on an Italian tour he had planned, and suddenly, Muldaur’s long sabbatical was over.
Muldaur settled in L.A. in 1999, and the following year he released a solo album, Password. Two years later came one of his most complex and beautiful recordings, Private Astronomy: A Vision of the Music of Bix Beiderbecke, a cycle of arrangements Muldaur scored for five piano pieces that had been transcribed in 1931, shortly before the legendary coronetist drank himself to death at the age of 28. Private Astronomy is a magnificent and mysterious work, and it’s also a long way from the Texas Sheiks. But then, Muldaur has always had range, and has always been immersed in distinctly different facets of American music. Every year he hosts a barbeque, and Richard Thompson, T-Bone Burnett, Loudon Wainwright, Dave Alvin, Jim Kweskin, Greg Leisz and Bob Neuwirth are among the friends who regularly show up. They’re all part of the roots music brain trust working to keep American music alive, and they all revere Muldaur’s contributions to the cause.
Geoff Muldaur,Texas Sheiks (Tradition & Moderne Records)