King, Godfrey, Harrison, DeLeon, the Piners, and Mr. Penn

Our Man at Folk Alliance (continued)

I get home about 3 a.m., check messages. The first one is "Hi Frank, Hi Jon, my name is Sean Penn. I'm looking for somebody who must be your houseguest, Arthur Godfrey. Please get him to call me at this number, thanks." Excellent, I'm thinking, wild. Next message is "Hi, Hi, this is Arthur Godfrey's new stalker, Sean Penn, calling again, trying to get in touch with Arthur Godfrey, I'll be up all night at this number, he can call me, drunk or sober, doesn’t matter." Classic. So I try to raise Arthur on his cell phone, get the machine. I call information to get the number of the hotel, but there's no such listing. 411 is such a bunch of losers now, it's unbelievable. So I'm looking at this number in the Bay Area, it's 3 a.m., 1 a.m. to him, said he'd be up all night. I'll be damned if I do nothing, so I dial it.

Sean picks up, I tell him who I am, that I'm Arthur's buddy calling from Nashville. "Hey Frank, thanks for calling back," he says, "what the hell's going on?" Okay, I got a homie on the phone, this is a no brainer. We yuck it up about Arthur and a few things for a bit. He says that he's gotta come to Nashville and talk with Steve Earle's partner Sarah about this political thing they're doing, might Arthur be gigging anywhere Saturday night? "Yeah," I say, "actually I have this music webzine and we're having a gig at a club called The Basement on Saturday night, and Arthur's on the bill." "Great," he says, "I'll come and hang with your crew at The Basement Saturday night then."

And come Sean did, with a few friendly henchmen and my man Arthur, down to The Basement around 9 p.m. I'd gone to the hotel at Arthur's urging around 5 and met Sean briefly, very nice guy. Shy in a certain way, and forward in others, magnetic, as you might expect. By the time they got to the club, it was full but not too full, and many of the people in attendance had heard that a movie star was showing up, so the hubbub was minimal.

Sean missed Michael Weston King from the UK, but did see a set of the Piners, from Portland ME, Austin's Bianca DeLeon, and my talented friend from Chicago, jazz poet musician Joy Eden Harrison. I also played my best stuff of the weekend, and then Arthur got up for an hour to close the show in fine form. He had good sidemen, Tom Carlsen on bass and Kyle Hotchkiss blowin harp.

Sean threw Arthur and friends a party at his hotel room afterward. That was a cool hang, my favorite part was that he kept asking his guys to dial numbers that he'd talk to on the speakerphone open on the table we were at: "Get Bonnie Raitt on the phone, Get Hunter Thompson on the phone" kind of thing, it was funny. And when they were home, he'd be telling them all about Arthur Godfrey! He's just a really passionate artist, and he'd made a new discovery. I left and walked Joy back to the hotel at 2, and I heard the shenanigans went on for some time thereafter (according to the gossip columnist who spelled Puremusic wrong and then didn't even correct it the next day, what a jerk).


So, the amazing part is that Sean stayed on the case the days to follow, talking to Arthur at length and (through his Nashville and SF staff) sending his package to any number of influential friends in the industry. (Story goes that it was Sean who brought Jewel to mega-manager Danny Goldberg, now also a big exec at Artemis.) All the while he's still shooting a film in Memphis, mind you. And the saga continues.

To see how the story turns out, stay tuned for an Arthur Godfrey update. The moral, of course, is that if one pursues their art with verve, integrity, and perseverance, it creates the opportunity for unpredictable and wonderful things to happen. This is our wish for all of you out there.  • FG

Arthur Godfrey Interview in issue #17 in the archives

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