He was institutionalized at age 16 for attacking his mother with a knife and later diagnosed with severe paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Following his release from the hospital, he wandered LA singing his unique brand of songs for 10¢ to passers-by. Discovered by Frank Zappa, with whom he recorded his first album, Larry became an underground concert favorite, earning him the title “godfather of outsider music”.
Zappa was responsible for Larry’s initial foray into the business of music, an album called An Evening with Wild Man Fischer, contains 36 tracks of “something not exactly musical”.
Zappa and Larry remained close, until he threw a jar at Zappa’s daughter Moon Unit, barely missing her. Due to this falling out, Zappa’s widow Gail did not release An Evening with Wild Man Fischer until long after Frank’s death in the early 1990s.
Fischer’s story is a rather sad one, as he was by all accounts genuinely off his nut and never fully reaped the benefits of his cult musical status. Still, he had a Zelig-like ability to turn up all over the place: His debut album, An Evening With Wild Man Fischer, was one of the first albums released on Zappa’s Bizarre Records in 1969. He appeared on Laugh-In in the ’60s. When Rhino Records was just a retail store in the ’70s, they got Fischer to record a promotional jingle, “Go to Rhino Records,” and released it as their first single, thus launching what would go on to become one of the biggest novelty and reissue labels in the industry. In the ’80s, Fischer recorded albums with Barnes and Barnes and cut a single with legendary jazz singer (and George’s aunt) Rosemary Clooney. It’s fair to say the man rarely let his mental illness interfere with his productivity.
The Wild Man was re-decovered in 1999, Rhino released The Fischer King, a two-CD package comprising 100 tracks and a 20-page booklet, which sold out within weeks. In October 2004, he appeared on ABC-TV’s late-night show, Jimmy Kimmel Live! He sang “Monkeys vs. Donkeys” while tapping on a backwards acoustic guitar.
In 2005, Josh Rubin and Jeremy Lubin, premiered their documentary about Wild Man Fischer, entitled Derailroaded: Inside The Mind Of Wild Man Fischer, at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas.
Fischer didn’t release any new music since the 1980s and had apparently been holed up in an assisted-living facility in Van Nuys since 2004, where he was taking medication to control his mental illness. Unfortunately, the meds also dulled what he called “the pep,” his frequent manic episodes that were responsible for most of his musical outbursts.
Fischer died of heart failure at age 66 on June 16, 2011.
Obituary: Los Angeles attracts more than its fair share of wingnuts (like this guy), but the loss of Wild Man Fischer really is a blow to the city’s offbeat charm. No longer will Sunset Strip crawlers and UCLA students be able to “buy an original song for a dime” (a favorite Wild Man sales pitch when he was out busking) on their way to happy hour. Wild Man Fischer might be an acquired taste at best, but his is the kind of crazy that makes the world a richer place (even if it too often fails to enrich the person behind the craziness).
We’ll miss you, Larry.