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.)
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