Daniel Hecht

Wisconsin's Daniel Hecht was a conservatory-trained classical guitarist who spent his post-collegiate years living in chicken coops, writing songs at demolition derbies, and playing for grazing cows. Hecht did more than embrace the American Primitive aesthetic; he lived it. “Baba Dream Songs” was written during Hecht's time in a commune near Madison. Although Fahey was interested in issuing Hecht’s recordings on Takoma, it was his friendship with Moondog, the modern classical composer, that influenced Hecht to go it alone and issue them privately. Dragon’s Egg Productions was founded to record and issue his first album, 1973’s Guitar, and it was a truly primitive affair. Pooling resources from friends and family, Hecht pressed 1000 copies of the album and even conjured the crude but charming cover art, while his wife provided the pastoral sketch of their home on Old Sauk Road for the reverse side. Limited in both quantity and distribution, Guitar made little impact beyond the disciples of American Primitive. A few years later, Fireheart/Fireriver, Hecht's second album, exceeded expectations, selling several thousand copies and catching William Ackerman attention and that of his then-infant Windham Hill label. Hecht and Winston would sign to Windham Hill in a matter of months, with the latter’s monumental success pushing the label's stock in the marketplace way up. Daniel Hecht’s third and final album, Willow, benefited wildly from the label’s newfound success.

Sadly, Hecht’s guitar career was forced into decline due to a terrible bout with psoriasis that would take the skin of his hands when he played. At the end of a performance or recording session, his guitar was often a gory mess. Hecht was forced to stop playing through the mid-1980s, but after his psoriasis went into remission he staged one final six-week tour of auditoriums in China and was greeted by overwhelming crowds. After returning home, he tucked away his guitar and enrolled in an MFA program at the University of Iowa. While writing his six best-selling mystery novels, Daniel Hecht hasn’t had much time to play guitar anyway.

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