Richard Pierson

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I was born May 24th, 1950 in Lake City, Iowa and raised on a farm in western Wisconsin, just across the St. Croix River from Minnesota and the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. I played drums in…
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Artist Biography by

I was born May 24th, 1950 in Lake City, Iowa and raised on a farm in western Wisconsin, just across the St. Croix River from Minnesota and the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. I played drums in the school band and developed a taste for jazz and blues records while hospitalized and bedridden at age twelve. During high school, I played a little garage rock and, in ballrooms left over from the swing era, danced in a sweaty, smoky mass with hundreds of other horny teenagers to the accompaniment of show bands (as horn bands with a soul repertoire were known) and so called teen combos.

A late '60s and early '70s stint as an art student was split between several institutions of higher learning and produced no degree but included a 1971 spring semester at California Institute of the Arts, then in Burbank. Students had access to two Buchla modular synths, though I was dabbling primarily in video and performance. Nevertheless, I received a soft sell indoctrination in the compositional methods of John Cage thanks to the happenings class taught by Alan Kaprow.

In 1974 I first faced a club dance floor from behind a pair of turntables and a mixer, though I soon scored a radio job and spent the next few years writing and producing, with on-air work as a sideline. I went to work in Twin Cities area clubs during the 1978 disco boom, and, attracted by what I imagined to be the opportunity for greater programming freedom afforded by Chicago's small cluster of new wave clubs, moved to that city in 1981. Demo tape in hand, I made straight for the old Dogs of War Record Pool office, likely all that remained of South Michigan Avenue's Record Row. I discovered that unlike the smaller, more collegial Twin Cities scene, Chicago's deejay culture lacked communication between the post punk dance clubs and a larger urban scene with its own underground component in after hours juice bars like Frankie Knuckle's Warehouse. Since only insiders could name many of the import and indie releases played in the new wave clubs, I decided to poll some of the deejays and the stores they frequented for a chart I called the Modern Dance Product Survey. This chart appeared in tandem with my dance music record review column beginning in 1983, the year I joined the Billboard Dance Panel as a reporting deejay. I reported to Billboard until 1988, and my column ran in Chicago Music Magazine till 1994. By 1991, after completion of a residential rehab job with wife Tina Yu, I enrolled in Northeastern Illinois University, and worked in the school's Midi Lab for four years. During this period I studied composition, orchestration, and oral interpretation of literature, and composed several original pieces both with and without text, which I performed in music department concerts staged in the NEIU auditorium. My master's thesis on deejay culture marked my completion of the NEIU M.A. program in speech.

Desert Island Picks

Louis Armstrong Story Volume 3-Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines

Last Tango In Paris-Gato Barbieri

Trout Mask Replica-Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band

Solid Gold 30 Golden Hits-James Brown

Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano-John Cage

A Love Supreme-John Coltrane

Kind of Blue-Miles Davis

Nefertiti-Miles Davis

Exotica-Martin Denny

Blonde On Blonde-Bob Dylan

Afrobossa-Duke Ellington

Sophisticated Lady-Duke Ellington

Couleur Café-Serge Gainsbourg

Electric Ladyland-Jimi Hendrix

Commodore Sessions-Billie Holiday

Computer World-Kraftwerk

The Lotte Lenya Album-Lotte Lenya

The Original Mambo Kings-Machito etc.

Mingus Ah Um-Charles Mingus

Genius of Modern Music-Thelonius Monk

Zungo-Olatunji

Libertango-Astor Piazolla

Tambo-Tito Puente

Jazz At Massey Hall-The Quintet (Parker, Gillespie, Powell, Mingus, Roach)

Dread In A Babylon-U. Roy