The first issue of The Tin Whistle had a picture of Gandalf I drew.
It all started when I got invited to this meeting to discuss a media project, I wasn’t sure exactly what. I think the meeting was held at St. Pat’s Church in Urbana, but I could be wrong. There were about eight or nine people there, including, maybe Stuart Tarr and Albie Fisher? If so, they would have been the ones to suggest I attend.
There was a dark-skinned dude, maybe his ancestors were from India or Iran, I can’t remember and if anyone can, please comment below. He spoke nearly perfect American as I recall. I believe he was a freshman at the University of Illinois. For some strange reason, he had an interest in helping an underground newspaper get started in the twin cities, and was looking for some people to take on this project if he provided the initial seed money.
Since I was the only one with any experience publishing anything, the dude eventually asked me if I was interested in running this new publication. I said sure, and he said, what name would you give it? I was holding a long, tin whistle in my hand, really just a prop for my hippie-hobbit persona, when I looked up and said, “How about The Tin Whistle?” Everybody loved that name.
I think the dude asked me how much money I needed to get started, and I said, “One hundred dollars.” He wrote me a check on the spot. I never really had any contact with this dude ever again. I can’t remember if I even paid him back the hundred dollars. I did have his telephone number because I called him for help one time, and he actually came running and saved me from a beating, a story I will get to shortly. However, he never expressed any interest in the content of my newspaper and just seemed delighted that he’d helped get it started. I’d like to find that dude today, just to see if any hidden agendas were in play. He looked like a total straight-arrow and it was hard to fathom his interest in counterculture journalism.
I heard the underground paper at the U of I, the seldom-published Walrus, had an office on the North End of campus, so I went looking for it. They welcomed me instantly, gave me keys to the building and access to all the art supplies. They also hooked me up with a cheap off-set printer. I had the first issue out in a matter of weeks. The Walrus staff was astounded. I made them look bad in a way because I’d almost single-handedly published an 8-page underground paper, while all they’d done is sit around and talk strategies for weeks on end. Eventually they would start getting issues out as well.
Before I published the first issue, however, this big black dude named Charlie Geron came by my new office. He’d heard I was going to publish an underground paper and wanted to know if he could write for it. I said “sure,” not knowing Charlie would soon become my star columnist.