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The University of Hartford

He Was A Friend of Mine
By Ed McKeon

      My life would be considerably different if I had never met Bill Domler.
      
I was driving on I-84 in Farmington scanning the dials of the FM radio, searching for some interesting music.  This was 1984 after all (MTV, hair bands, and the remnants of disco), and commercial music was very dissatisfying.  Then a voice broke through the clutter singing, “Give yourself to love.”  The announcer, Bill Domler, said it was Kate Wolf.
      
I ended up at Bill’s print shop, which at the time was on New Britain Avenue in Hartford.  He was not only the Speediest Print in Town; he was the only person selling folk music recordings in the Hartford area.  I bought the Kate Wolf album that day, and had a long discussion with Bill.  The next visit I bought a Silly Wizard album.  I was hooked, Bill Domler helped me rediscover folk music, and a friendship was budding.
      
Over the next few years Bill convinced me to take a radio show at WWUH, and to help him at the New Harmony concerts (now Roaring Brook).
      
I also learned that without Bill, folk music in Hartford might not be as prominent as it is.  He revived folk music radio at WWUH (at a time when the morning drivetime slots were filled with alternative rock music).  He started, or helped start the Sounding Board, Roaring Brook concerts, the Connecticut Audubon Concerts, the Print Shop concerts (where he gave 100% of the gate receipts to the visiting artist) and the Connecticut Family Folk Festival.  He produced a number of concerts on his own, and also produces a few timeless folk albums.
      
Bill was a dyed in the wool traditionalist.  He was an advocate for preserving the old songs, but he always had an ear to the new.  Think of this, he was the first to bring the following folks to Hartford to play in tiny coffeehouses: Nanci Griffith, Stan Rogers, Dar Williams, Bok, Trickett and Muir, Oregon, Beausoleil, the Neilds, Lucy Kaplansky, Kate Wolf, David Massengill, David Mallett, Richard Shindell, Terrance Simien and the Mallet Playboys (zydeco!), Bill Staines, The Balfa Brothers, Lui Collins, John Gorka, Patty Larkin, The Washington Squares, Bill Morrissey, Uncle Bonsai, Townes van Zandt, Silly Wizard, John McCutcheon.  And this is only those I can think of off the top of my head.
      
Bill was always interested to hear what you thought, though he might not agree.  He was adventurous and respectful.  He might not agree with your taste, but he would defend your right to have an opinion.  I dragged him to concerts by Billy Bragg, the Roaches, Cindy Lee Berryhill and the Pogues.  And though, in the end, he would much rather have been listening to Harry Lauder, Michael Cooney, Iris Dement, the New Black Eagle Jazz Band or Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, he always wanted to know what was new on the folk music horizon.  Just two weeks ago, he told me he had convinced his father Len to book Erin McKeown and the Tarbox Ramblers at the Sounding Board.
      
Now that I consider it, Hartford would be considerably different if we had never met Bill Domler.  I’ll miss him.  I know we all will.  He was part of the folk music process, and the music will live on, because he loved it so.   I hope he’s somewhere singing. 

(Bill Domler died on April 2, 2001 of head injuries he sustained in a fall.)

 

Editors note:

Bill celebrated his 20th year on WWUH in 2000, he stopped doing a regular weekly radio show last fall. He was a driving force for the folk world and we will surely miss him.

Copyright©WWUH: May/June Program Guide, 2001

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