Fairfield/Westport’s Top Ten Musicians of the Last Hundred Years

rockin eve

Last week we launched the Fairfield Ten — an exhibit at the Fairfield Museum celebrating the great musicians and songwriters that have lived here the past hundred years.

I was on the committee to choose the list. It wasn’t easy because so many great artists have lived in this area. My work on the Fitzgerald film has provided a keen insight to the breadth and depth of talent here dating back to the early 20th century so I knew selecting ten musicians was not going to be easy.

Quite frankly, you could find ten interesting nominees every decade or at least in each category of music, from classical to rock, Broadway to jazz, punk, funk, even disco — our task was to choose the best of the best, while at the same time including various eras and genres.

First thing we did was invoke the 25-year rule — nominees had to have started their professional careers prior to 1989. Nominees also had to have a permanent residence here for more than a few years.  That alleviated the pressure of addressing the abundant crop of current players worthy of consideration or those that were here for just a short visit. Here’s our list:

Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson, The Remains, Leonard Bernstein, David Brubeck, Jose Feliciano, Chris Frantz & Tina Weymouth, Richard Rodgers, Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards, Keith Richards and Donna Summer.

Upon reflecting over this list, I realized that it doesn’t matter what sort of music floats your boat, each of these artists has touched you in some way.  These songs were part of growing up, celebrating graduations, birthdays and weddings, they’ve been in the movies we love and these songs have gotten us threw tough times too. These artists made music that mattered. And as I’ve been listening to their tracks over the past few months, its clear that these artists made music that endures.

Because it was too damn hard to whittle our list to just ten, we also identified another 11 great names and profiled them on the museums’ website.

Opening night we had a panel discussion and I was fortunate to be asked to moderate. In the photo above from that night, I felt like Forest Gump because I had no right to be in a photo with such an esteemed list of musical talent, even if I was a player behind the scenes. Still, it was a wonderful experience to have the honor of introducing each of these incredibly talented musicians.

The exhibit runs through April, so if you’re in the area, check it out.

The Great Gatsby: Westport, Connecticut, a documentary film

Scott and Zelda zooming off from their 1920 summer home in Westport, CT.

Scott and Zelda zooming off from their 1920 summer home in Westport, CT.

In 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda summered in Westport. During their four month stay, The Great Gatsby was conceived, inspired by the locals, the mansions and the town.

The Great Gatsby: Westport, Connecticut tells the story of why some believe Westport was the source of much of what Fitzgerald conceived for one of America’s greatest novels.

Keir Dullea will narrate our film. Many other Westporters are making contributions and the project is for the Westport Historical Society.

We intend to talk to a variety of sources who have given much thought to this period in Fitzgerald’s life and we’ll see where it leads . . .

But at this time I would like to recognize Barbara Probst Solomon for her outstanding article on this very subject written for The New Yorker in 1996. The team is very excited about having the opportunity to interview her on film to learn more about her views on Fitzgerald’s time here. Her work provided the inspiration for all of us to want to know more.

Jimmie Dale Gilmore of the Flatlanders Comments on My Year as a Clown


With the Flatlanders in New York playing Carnegie Hall this week, I thought I’d share what Jimmie Dale Gilmore said about my book. I’ve known Jimmie for many years, but it was still a surprise to get a call from him about my book. To be honest, that’s about as good as it gets. If you’re in NYC on April 13th, his show is not to be missed.

“When we first meet Chuck Morgan, the main character in Robert Steven Williams’ new novel, My Year as a Clown, he’s broken, twisted and confused. And that’s what makes him so interesting. Like other intriguing literary heroes, Chuck is at his best after life has knocked him to the ground, forcing him to find a new way to be strong again; damaged maybe, but more confident this time, with a kinder, more open heart.” Jimmie Dale Gilmore, singer, songwriter, guitarist, member of the Flatlanders

Thanks Jimmie.

Homeless Man in the Backyard

homelessA homeless man was living in my backyard brush. Someone spotted him and the cops came and moved him along. The man was wearing khakis and used a camouflage tarp to keep out of sight. He’d set up camp and had been there several weeks.

The guy hadn’t bothered anyone, nor had he broken into nearby homes. He must possess impressive survival skills because the weather has been miserable–which is one reason why I hadn’t noticed him back there.

After he’d been reported, it still took the cops awhile to find him, he was that well concealed.

During a week that we saw yet another record for the Dow Industrials, there seems to be a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. Many cities are in collapse, education is a shambles in neighboring Bridgeport, Waterbury, Hartford and New Haven. One could say many of the have-nots are down to their last not.

My backyard homeless man may be anecdotal, but for millions, times are still tough, for some, much worse.

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