New York Daily Mirror, 1951 June 11
He calls himself "Moondog". A sidewalk disc jockey, who squats every night in a 52nd street doorway between eight and six o'clock the next morning selling his own records, playing his own music in the long, lonely night on strange drums, like a hollow log or gourd. A big young man of 35, with great dignity and a strange name.
"It's an Indian name," he says. "When I took it, it just meant a dog that howls at the moon. Later I learned it meant an arctic rainbow."
He can only howl at the moon or at a rainbow. He can't see them. He's been blind since he was 16.
Musicians often congregate before his doorway theatre and clap their hands and stamp their feet to his drums. Dimitri Mitropolous was enthralled by his rhythms, Art Ford heard them and played his records on the air.
At 6 a.m. Moondog feels his way to the 51st St. bus terminal, checks his drums in a locker, spends 25 cents on a shower, and then feels his way back to his friends, Gabriel and Inez, who run the Spanish Music Center on Sixth Ave. He sleeps on the cellar floor, then practices and composes.
"A room is expensive," he says. "What money I make I use to have my music copied. Besides, I don't like a bed. I read that the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antonius preferred a hard floor. It's more relaxing. You'll find doctors concur in that opinion."
After the first winter on the street Moondog saved $ 600, and bought three acres of New Jersey land over the phone. He put a tent on it, and every other weekend travels two hours by bus and three miles by feet to his retreat.
"It's covered with maple, oak and dogwood trees, and they say you can see the Delaware River from it. I wanted a spring, but you can't have everything. It's nice. I can get completely detached and lose myself in my art."
Art is a street-walking vagrant, Moondog, who always gives you much less than what you pay for.
His real name is Louis Hardin. His father was an Episcopalian minister. His father and mother parted when he was a boy. At 16 Moondog was playing with a dynamite cap. It exploded, and blinded both his eyes. He went to schools for the blind, got a scholarship to the Memphis Conservatory, where he learned harmony, counterpoint, orchestration, and the organ. But he quit after eight months and came to N.Y. The first thing he did here was buy himself a front row ticket for a Philharmonic concert.
"I haunted the stage door and the first cellist introduced me to Rodzinski, who allowed me in at all rehearsals. After three years of listening at rehearsals the Carnegie Hall boss said I had to dress less artistically or stay away. I live and think and dress in my own way, so I stayed away."
Music is only another dream race, Moondog. No one runs away from himself, not even in the darkness.
He posed as a model for artists and sculptors for a while, and when there was no work, he took to the street with his music. Gabriel heard him on the street and offered to make a record of his songs.
His calls his rhythm "Snake Time", and uses such titles for his drum compositions as "Sagebrush" and "Timber Wolf". They're primitive with classic backgrounds.
"I'm essentially a classicist, Gabriel has recorded two drum pieces, and a third with drum and organ. I play both on the record. How? Simple. We first dub the drum rhythm. Then I put on earphones and listen to it while I play the organ part, and both are recorded together."
Moondog taught himself the violin, and is studying every instrument in the orchestra so he can record a whole symphony by himself.
His chief form of musical expression is the Round, a short piece set to a prose poem. He's written at least 60. Gabriel publishes them and Moondog hands them out to passersby.
"I'm writing my commentaries in Rounds. Some of them are quite bitter."
He showed me two:
"You the vandal, plunder the village as you will. The earth-worm will pillage you, the vandal, when you are under."
"School taught he that a ship was an 'it', and not a 'he' or 'she'. But when I went to sea a ship became a 'she' and 'she' turned out to be a man-o-war."