It’s difficult to describe the music, or the persona, of Reverend Fred Lane, but I will try. The above pictured album cover probably paints at least a thousand words…
Fred Lane is an ultra obscure musical weirdo cult hero along the lines of Half Japanese, Daniel Johnston, Jandek, R. Stevie Moore or Wild Man Fischer, but he’s way, way more obscure than any of these comparatively famous freaks. At least you know the general territory. Lane was/is the stage name of a Tuscaloosa, AL-based artist/sculptor named T.R. Reed who put out two albums under the Fred Lane moniker in 1983, From the One That Cut You (recorded in 1975) and Car Radio Jerome in 1986. These albums were then re-released by Kramer’s Shimmy Disc label in the late 80s.
First the music: cartoony big-band free-jazz swing skronk sometimes bordering on total cacophony with dada lyrics and elements of easy listening, 70s Zappa, spy-fi, The Residents, Spike Jones, country and No Wave thrown in for good measure. It’s truly unlike anything I’ve ever heard before and that’s not a throwaway assessment. The music of Reverend Fred Lane exists in its own very, very specific angel dust funhouse mirror continuum in the same way that a film like Eraserhead or Forbidden Zone stands out when compared to other mere movies.
In the mid-70s there was an Alfred Jarry-influenced absurdest arts group/event in Tuscaloosa called the Raudelunas Pataphysical Revue and this is where Reed’s “Reverend Fred Lane” alter ego was born, as the joking MC for Ron ‘Pate’s Debonairs. No pants. A tuxedo jacket. Coke-bottle glasses, a leering grin and a waxed mustache made the sleazy Reverend’s mad look which was then topped off with Band-Aids. Although it is an act, it’s not one that’s completely obvious at first and Lane might seem to some listeners to be genuinely demented.
From the One That Cut You was literally inspired by an illiterate threatening love note/confession from someone named “Fuear” that was wrapped around a knife that was found in a secret compartment in a 1952 Dodge truck. Reed wrote both a song and also a stage show based on the note for his Fred Lane character.
The note read:
“I hope the paine is gone. This is the one that cut you? P.S. Don’t wear about Jimmy I will take kear of him the same way I took kear of YOU.”
Dig his song titles: “Upper Lip Of A Nostril Man.” “Car Radio Jerome.” “The French Toast Man.” “Danger Is My Beer.” Who could forget “I Talk To My Haircut”? I can’t imagine what this music sounded like to unsuspecting listeners in the 70s and 80s. And how in the world did people find out about it? (Apparently John Peel played Fred Lane on his BBC radio show. I heard of him because Kramer gave me his CD.)
Only two Fred Lane albums ever came out, A guy named Skizz Cyzyk has been working on a documentary about Fred Lane and the Raudelunas collective for over a decade now. He says of the Alabamy art/freak-out scene, “Had it been in NY or SF there would be textbooks written about it by now.”
Interesting point. The Fred Lane CDs are long out of print and sell for upwards of $75 for used copies on Amazon. Fred Lane seems like an obvious candidate for a deluxe collector’s edition CD reissue of some sort. In the meantime, there’s a download link on the Remote Outposts blog.
“The French Toast Man”:
“From the One That Cut You”:
“I Talk To My Haircut”: