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Archive for the ‘John Wesley Harding’ Category

[ATTENDED: September 24, 2018] Wesley Stace

Wesley Stace once recorded  under the pseudonym John Wesley Harding and released some 20 albums.

He has somewhat recently reverted to his real name for performance and wrote about the pseudonym in the New York Times

I’m the last person who should have bothered with a fake name in the first place. I didn’t need a Bowiesque persona, nor did I have a drab real name, but I did need a disguise, assuming that my “career” would tank in about two weeks, proving an embarrassing obstacle to a more attainable-seeming future in academia.

So “John Wesley Harding” it was, founded purely on the coincidence of my Christian name and a Bob Dylan album title. Both I and the cowboy John Wesley Hardin were named for the founder of the Methodist religion (though of the two of us, I’ve probably followed his teachings slightly more closely, having killed fewer people.) For some reason, Dylan misspelled Hardin “Harding”; no one knows why and to my knowledge no one’s ever bothered to ask. (My own favorite theory is that Dylan omitted so many “g”s from titles like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’” that he decided on a little restitution.)

And after a coincidentally precise 25 years, I have decided, for my new record, to ditch the tried and tested “John Wesley Harding” brand in favor of my real name. Why? I am hardly a household name, but whether you’re a Cougar, a Prince or a Harding (and unless you’re a Will Oldham who changes his name from Bonnie-Prince-this to Palace-Songs-that at the drop of a hat), it’s the sort of decision that doesn’t come lightly.

The reason is simple: I wrote a couple of autobiographical songs, and then I kept writing them. It was the first time that I’d ever bothered to write that kind of confessional song. All songs are autobiographical, but these were also true: things that happened to me. It wasn’t an aesthetic decision; it was something that just presented itself, because I was feeling low and stuck in hotel rooms on a dull book tour. I wrote to comfort myself; you could go so far to say, as a form of therapy.

This move has been facilitated by the fact that I’ve been writing novels for the last 10 years under my real name: that decision was a no-brainer. The first novel, “Misfortune”, was a Dickensian kind of thing, and having the misspelled name of an outlaw on the spine would have been silly. That extracurricular use of my real name means that Wesley Stace has continued to exist on some level over there on the bookshelf. But it gets tiring having two names. Introductions to readings are too long anyway without that added complication: time to get it all under one roof.

That’s a long introduction for a short set (about 30 minutes). (more…)

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