By Lee Zimmerman
One might be forgiven for having never heard of Merrell Franhauser, but given his 50-year career and a musical trajectory that’s taken him from surf to psychedelia, it’s hard not to believe that maybe they’ve been missing something. While he’s never become even close to a household name — even though apparently he’s crossed paths with several folks that have — his rock ‘n’ roll journey, from his birthplace in Kentucky to the California playgrounds of the swinging ‘60s to the idyllic environs of a jungle in Maui, makes for the stuff of an ideal musical fantasy. So regardless of whether one considers him a musical Zelig, a shameless self promoter, an obscure auteur or merely a hidden treasure, his autobiography “Calling From A Star: The Merrell Fankhauser Story” has all the makings of a Hollywood movie, albeit one that might encourage an ample amount of dramatic license.
Indeed, those who are most likely to enjoy this treatise are those who have rock star fantasies of their own. Fankauser’s tales of riding the wave of surf music craze during the first flush of its sunshine daydream makes for an interesting read. Fankhauser details how he and his bandmates managed to find incidental success with records that sold modestly well and through support gigs alongside some of the better-known bands of the era. But it’s his relocation to Hawaii and the 15 years spent in a tropical jungle that genuinely gives cause for daydreams, the fulfilment of a wish most people can relate to, a desire to escape civilization and live in a place without hassles or distractions. It may even inspire some to go out and accumulate some, if not all, of the more than dozen albums he’s released since the mid ‘70s. Given the fact that Fankhauser just turned 72, there’s a lot that needs discovering.
Still, having made much of his music in relative anonymity, it might be best to do things the other way around — that is, to hear the music first and then read his story. There’s no doubt that more of a familiarity factor would help him to sell more books. For now it remains to be seen if there’s enough of a fan following to boost the book’s numbers. Nevertheless, “Calling From A Star” is an enjoyable narrative all on its own to ensure that at least a few of its readers will be pleased to uncover what they’ve been missing all along.
Go to merrellfankhauser.com for more.