in: Press & Sun-Bulletin 9/1999

Sun sets for Moondog, blind musician who made Tier home

By Connie Nogas
Staff Writer

Many Tioga County residents still remember the tall man with a long, flowing grey beard who wore a horned helmet, held a spear and stood on Owego's sidewalks as he waited for the bus to New York City.

What some of them didn't know was that he was an accomplished pianist and percussion musician who composed and recorded music for five different record labels. Janis Joplin turned one of his songs All Is Loneliness into a hit. You can still hear the music of Louis "Moondog" Hardin in movie sound tracks as well as radio and television commercials.

"I hear little snippets of his music in movies, public radio," said his friend , Mike Gulachok of Owego.

Hardin, 83, who lived in Candor from 1958 through 1974, died last week in a hospital in Munster, Germany. He leaves behind memories of Moondog encounters like the one Candor psychic Phil Jordan had in the early 1960s. Back then, Jordan was a young boy walking to a school function on a cold, blustery night. "All of a sudden, I looked up and there was this Viking standing there," he said.

Born in Maryville, Kan., he adopted the nickname Moondog after a pet dog who bayed at the moon. When he was 16, a dynamite blasting cap exploded in his hands and blinded him.

He came to New York City in 1943, met some of the New York Philharmonic's musicians and made his living as a street musician. He dressed as a Viking because he was fascinated by Viking mythology and because it would draw attention to himself, said former Binghamton University Music Professor Paul Jordan.

"It was a way of establishing a special identity in the world as a blind, penniless musician," Paul Jordan said. "He would stand on the street corner and recite poetry," said Rusty Fuller of Owego.

Hardin would sell musical scores and poetry to tourists. "Most people probably threw them away, thinking they helped a beggar," Paul Jordan said.

He came to Candor in 1958 because he was looking to get out of the citv yet wanted to be close enough to commute. Local residents helped him build his "hemlock shack" as he called it. To get around, he tied small ropes from tree to tree on his property, Gulachok said. He sometimes held concerts there and often gardened at night. "It didn't make any difference to him because he was blind," Paul Jordan said.

Gulachok and some friends once took him for a ride on the Susquehanna River on a paddleboat. "It was quite an amusing sight to see this fellow dressed in Viking garb at the paddle wheel, steering it," he said.

Braille grocery list in band, Hardin often shopped at John's Fine Foods in Owego. "He would read it off to me, and I would go and get his groceries," said store owner John Hitchings, who still listens to his albums. "It was interesting music, nice, soft, relaxing, music."

Hardin used to stand in front of the Srnoke Shop, waiting for the bus to take him to New York City. That's how Fuller got to know him, as a teenager working in the shop he now runs.

Also a teenager back then, Gulachok wondered who the Viking was and introduced himself during a visit to New York City. Paul Jordan heard his music as a teenager growing up in New York City and also introduced himself on the street.

Years later, Paul Jordan played some of Hardin's music as a church organist in New Haven, Conn. The Congregation loved it.

Determined to find him, Paul Jordan went to New York City. He got out at the Port Authority. "I said to the taxi driver: Take me to Moondog. He knew exactly where he was. That's how much of a fixture he was." he said.