Yesterday was the 60th Birthday of one Jonathan Richman, protopunk pioneer, genius songwriter, all-around nice guy, and San Francisco resident. In honor of the occasion, we asked another local songwriter -- Sonny Smith of Sonny & the Sunsets -- to comment on the glory, influence, and kidlike humor of Richman. Or just to say a few words about the Massachusetts native, "Roadrunner" singer, and major influence. (One listen to Sonny & the Sunsets' delightfully chilled-out new album, Hit After Hit, and the flavors of Richman are clear.)
Smith is on tour in Norway right now, so it took him a little while to get back to us. Turns out it was worth it: Smith, via e-mail, tells us the story of the first time he heard Jonathan Richman.
We present the following just as it was sent to us by Smith:
I was maybe twenty and driving from denver and I had a mercury monarch that blew a gasket in the desert, outside of elko, nevada, and so i had to hitchhike back to california. Two guys picked me up and said they would drop me off at the next town with a greyhound bus. I just wanted them to take me all the way to san francisco so i pretended to be asleep when we got to the nearest town. My thinking was it would be harder for them to kick me out of the car if i was sleeping. Its the only scheme i had... They were playing jonathan richman, so i was pretending to sleep and all the while hearing a bunch of his stuff. That was the first time i heard him. After we passed the town and were on our way to san francisco i faked waking up and said "who's this?" but they didnt answer me. Later i figured out they were german.
And there you go. Happy birthday, Mr. Richman. See our original post for more of Richman's music; below, check out "Reflections on Youth," from Sonny & the Sunsets' Hit After Hit.