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History of Gandalf Publishing Print-ready version

by Chuck Mitchell
JoniMitchell.com
June 9, 2008

1965, Summer. We'd been married a couple of months, got our first out of town gig at the Jongleur in Jacksonville Florida, and set off with 3 guitars and a tiple and the rest of our baggage in my 1956 Porsche 356A coupe, which was about the same shape and size as a watermelon seed; well, maybe a little bigger, the size of the first space capsule. Nope. I don't know how we did it, either.

We had a dandy time, with adventures too numerous to tell, and we met Anne and Jack Williamson, who liked our music and subsequently offered to invest in our future. At that point, we talked with my attorney friend Armand Kunz and, after some letters and phone calls, we all agreed to set up a little business, with a part for publishing, a part for recording, and a part to oversee both of those parts, which I guess we can call the production part.

The Williamsons put up the money, Armand created the business, and Joni and Chuck, mostly Joni, wrote songs.

I'd been reading J.R.R. Tolkien and got Joni into Middle Earth, in between gin rummy, curtains, and songs.

We liked Tolkien's magic. We wrote him letters and got his permission to use names from his books for our bits of business.

We named the publishing part Gandalf, and the recording part Strider (aka Aragorn, Viggo Mortensen's character in the films. Viggo was 7 at the time, and had nothing to do with our decision.)

We named the production part Lorien; which, I believe (as verified by wikipedia) is short for Lothlorien, the forest realm of the elves in Middle Earth. Our realm was the fifth floor, Verona Apartments, corner Cass & Ferry, Detroit, Michigan.

Of all that small but well crafted business, the only bit still extant is Strider, which is the name of my record company, such as it is. Back in 1969 Los Angeles artist John Solie, who did the cover and miscellaneous other drawings for my album Dreams & Stories, also made a label of a little hippy guy with a guitar and a cool dab leaping over the word "STRIDER" (as well as the center hole of the old LP record). Surrounded by vines.

(John Solie has a website and you can look at his nifty art. He has a bronze of Mr. Bojangles that's wonderful. But he won't answer your emails. He says he hasn't a clue how.)

Actually, Gandalf is still extant too, but only as a vessel for Chuck Mitchell songs. When Joni and I split up, which was a year or so before we actually got divorced, all of Gandalf's holdings of Joni Mitchell songs were transferred to Joni's publishing company Siquomb, which was part of her legendarium that she invented at some point after (or maybe before, it depends on who's telling the story) she stumbled on, and then out, of Middle Earth.

Once the Joni Mitchell songs were gone, and the tenement castle abandoned for a converted garage in Coconut Grove, and one thing and another, the Lorien part of the business had no reason for being any more, and it evaporated, kind of. What had been all formal and business-like became lower case acronymns, aka's and dba's.

And that, my children, is how the story goes.

Chuck Mitchell has a web life too. Visit the singer and the actor.

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