The Story So Far
As a radio station music director in the late 80’s, a record came across my desk that changed my life. It was called “Car Radio Jerome” by Rev. Fred Lane & His Hittite Hotshots. I simply didn’t know what to make of it, but I knew that I liked it and had never heard anything quite like it before.
The album ran the gamut of styles I wasn’t expecting to hear, from Sinatra-ish big band swinging (White Woman, Upper Lip Of A Nostril Man), to spaghetti western soundtrack anthems (The Man With The Foldback Ears), to depressing country ballads (Pneumatic Eyes), and even something that sounded like a kids record but for kids with demented parents (The French Toast Man). The artwork, the band musicians' names, and even the technical description of the album’s pressing included on the cover all led me to blissful confusion. I wasn’t sure if it was a comedy album, and if so, just who did Fred Lane think his audience was? This was comedy that was sure to go over most peoples heads. I wasn’t even sure if I “got it”. But at the same time, these were very well-written and arranged songs, played with a lot of feeling by what sounded like a group of questionably-competent musicians. In fact, some of the playing is so hysterically bad on the album, that I couldn’t believe anyone would seriously release it. I’m no stranger to music that’s “so bad it’s good”, but this was something different - this WAS good... period.
Not long after, another Fred Lane album showed up on my desk, “From The One That Cut You”, this time released under the name Fred Lane with Ron ‘Pate’s Debonairs. This album was even stranger than the other one, with song titles like Fun In The Fundas, Danger Is My Beer, I Talk To My Haircut and Meat Clamp Conduit. According to the album’s liner notes, the music came from a live musical stage production, a promo poster from which was tucked inside the jacket sleeve.
My curiosity was piqued. Who was Fred Lane? Where did this come from? Thus began my search to find out all I could about Fred Lane. About the only information I was able to come up with was that NYC’s Shimmy Disc Records was intent on bringing Fred Lane to peoples attention by re-releasing the Fred Lane catalog: first with Car Radio Jerome (originally released in 1986), and then From The One That Cut You (originally released in 1983). Apparently there were plans to release two more: Raudelunas ‘Pataphysical Revue Starring Ron ‘Pate’s Debonairs Featuring Rev. Fred Lane (originally released in 1975), and a brand new album called Icepick To The Moon, but Shimmy Disc never released either album and would not release any information about Fred Lane except to say that “he wishes his true identity kept under wraps”.
That didn’t stop me. For years I continued trying to find out all I could about Fred Lane. With the rise of the Internet’s popularity in the late 90’s, I began searching for any mention of Fred Lane, and as a result, found a few fan pages that mostly repeated all the same information I already knew. But while researching a potential documentary film about Outsider Music and Visionary Pop Musicians, I stumbled upon Stewart Russell’s website, The ‘Pataphysical World of Fred Lane And Friends. Stewart is a Fred Lane fan from Glasgow, Scotland (now relocated to Toronto, Canada) who somehow managed to track down Fred Lane himself, as well as many of Lane’s old bandmates. Thanks to Stewart, I have found answers to many of my Fred Lane questions, and have been able to contact those involved in order to make a documentary about it.
I don’t want to go into too much detail here since most of the details are already available on other websites, but suffice it to say, there is a lot more to the Fred Lane story than I expected, and it’s an interesting story I intend to tell in my documentary. Many of the cast have gone on to interesting and impressive careers and they all consider their Raudelunas years to have been an important springboard to what they're doing now.