Calling From a Star: The Merrell Fankhauser Story, by Merrell Fankhauser (2015): Books

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For nearly 60 years, Merrell Fankhauser has been playing music professionally, so one can certainly imagine how exciting his autobiography, Calling From a Star: The Merrell Fankhauser Story must be.

Born December 23, 1943, the critically acclaimed singer, songwriter and guitarist spent the first decade of his life in Kentucky. Merrell Fankhauser had a happy and carefree childhood revolving around fishing, hunting, and exploring the great outdoors. Although he always enjoyed music, the bug really bit when rock and roll was born. Now living in Southern California with his parents and younger sister, Merrell picked up the guitar and was soon a fixture on the local circuit.

Surf rock was all the rage, and Merrell’s band, the Impacts, made an instant impact. They released an album, “Wipe Out!,” in which a slightly modified version of the title track later became a huge hit for the Surfaris. The saga of how the tune was hijacked is revealed in full detail, which gave Merrell Fankhauser a taste of the shady side of the business early on. But there’s actually no bitterness or regrets to be had anywhere in Calling From a Star: The Merrell Fankhauser Story, as an undying commitment to the music keeps the boat afloat.

Flaky management, aborted record deals, spotty promotion, and broken promises never prevented Merrell from doing what he loves. But his successes far exceed his disappointments. Sticking to what fires his soul, Merrell has consistently turned in artistically satisfying work.

The mid-1960s spawned an incredible musical and social revolution, and Merrell Fankhauser was stationed right on the frontlines. Bands like Merrell and the Exiles, Fapardorkly, and HMS Bounty produced some mighty cool and inventive sounds, running the floor from pop to folk rock to psychedelic experimentation. Merrell charts the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of these bands and their recordings with vivid recollection.

An interest Mu, a continent believed to be lost in the Pacific Ocean where ancient Egyptian civilizations dwelled, prompted the name of Merrell’s fabled ’70s bluesy progressive rock band. Not long after Mu was formed, Merrell moved to Hawaii. Music, meditation, and Maui Wowie flourished and flowed amid the gorgeous terrain.

Collaborations with numerous well-known musicians, including John Cippolina of Quicksilver Messenger Service, Ed Cassidy of Spirit, and Peter Noone are documented in Calling From a Star: The Merrell Fankhauser Story, along with the strange behavior of Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart), visiting Sky Saxon in the hospital, meeting John Lennon, a UFO sighting, having a heart attack, driving in circles on Northern California highways, getting scratched by actress Jane Russell, band reunions, and family relationships.

Aside from his many musical accomplishments, Merrell Fankhauser has also been hosting The Tiki Lounge Show for over a decade, which features interviews with legendary performers and is aired on both TV and the internet. Refusing to rest on his laurels, Merrell continues to remain active, prolific, visible, and creative. Boasting a positive attitude, he approaches projects with enthusiasm and an open-mind.

Candid and rich with color, Calling From A Star: The Merrell Fankhauser Story (Gonzo Multimedia) not only provides a pass into Merrell’s world, but offers a raft of historic information. A conversational tone, coupled with neat photos, lends the book to be an easy and pleasant read. Calling From a Star: The Merrell Fankhauser Story is so good that I hated to see it end. But there is talk of a sequel, which is fantastic news. Merrell’s contributions to the music scene are priceless, and I’m thrilled to say his memoir is just as worthy.

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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