In early 1990s Chicago, we had Wesley Willis: A schizophrenic musician who lived on the streets and recorded odd CDs to pay the bills.
But back in 1960s and 1970s Los Angeles, it was Larry "Wild Man" Fischer who became a cult figure for his similar bout with schizophrenia and how it translated into music. Frank Zappa first brought wider attention to Wild Man, who eventually became a "spiritual godfather" to Rhino Records, having recorded the store-turned-record-label's first-ever release.
Rhino founder Richard Foos sent this note out today on the passing of Fischer:
I wanted to let everyone know that this morning the spiritual godfather of Rhino "Wild Man Fischer" passed away.
Wild Man used to hang out at the Rhino store, So when we wanted to record a theme song for the store and press it on a 45 we had him make one up.
When we decided to record our first album the only fitting artist was Wild Man. Somehow we managed to sell five thousand records which gave us enough money to release the next album.
Wild Man's creativity, passion and chutzpah to become as he would say "bigger than the Beatles" despite having a total lack of musical training, ability to keep a tune, and being schizophrenia symbolized the can do spirit we had in the early days of Rhino and fueled us on to never give up.
Wild Man never achieved his goal of being bigger than the Beatles but his passion sparked a little label that has brought joy to millions...
Read more about Wild Man on his Wikipedia page. Here's Wild Man's self-titled "Wild Man Fischer Story":
And here's a 15-minute clip from a documentary all about Fischer: