Larry “Wild Man” Fischer, the former mental patient and ubiquitous street musician who briefly attained stardom as one of the first signings to Frank Zappa’s Bizarre imprint, died in Los Angeles June 15 at 66.
Fischer had suffered from heart ailments for several years, according to a post by his former producer Robert Haimer (aka Artie Barnes) on the Live Journal page of his friend and fan, DJ Barry “Dr. Demento” Hansen.
Diagnosed as a teen with paranoid schizophrenia and manic depression, L.A. native Fischer was institutionalized at Camarillo State Hospital at the age of 16. After his release, he began performing on the streets of Hollywood, selling his eccentric songs to passersby for a dime. He received his nickname from soul singer Solomon Burke.
Zappa, leader of the Mothers of Invention, inked Fischer to Warner-distributed Bizarre/Straight, whose roster also included the groupie “band” the GTOs and Captain Beefheart. Zappa produced Fischer’s two-LP, 36-song debut “An Evening With Wild Man Fischer” (1968). Fischer parlayed that album into an appearance on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.”
Fischer’s relationship with Zappa ended abruptly after Fischer nearly hit his producer’s infant daughter Moon Unit with a thrown bottle. But his naive, bluntly honest, free-associating songs later made him an avatar of the “outsider music” cult.
In the late ’70s, Fischer became a habitue of the Rhino Records store in Westwood. He recorded “Go to Rhino Records,” the first single issued by the label’s eponymous label.
He went on to release “Wildmania” (1978) and a pair of albums with the novelty act Barnes & Barnes, who also produced “It’s a Hard Business,” an unlikely duet with Rosemary Clooney. Warner Music Group’s Rhino Handmade reissued his collected work for the label in the 1999 limited edition set “The Fischer King.”
Fischer’s life and career were explored in Josh Rubin’s 2005 documentary “Derailroaded.”