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Skip Heller

October 4 ,1965, El Paso, TX — Johnny Cash is arrested for smuggling amphetamines across the border from Mexico. Meanwhile, in the thriving metropolis of Philadelphia, Skip Heller is born.

HartfordRaised in and around the City of Brotherly Love, he develops an early interest in music, largely the result of seeing John Hartford on the Smothers Brothers and Glen Campbell television shows. At age 4, he buys his first record, EARTHWORDS AND MUSIC, with money he got for his birthday, thus beginning a lifelong habit of running to a record store every damn time he has money in his hand.

His school years are uneventful. There's a brief bout with piano lessons. Also, he discovers rockabilly music at age 8, and decides he wants to play guitar. His grandmother takes him to see an Elvis Presley concert at the Spectrum (the local sports arena), and in effect seals the deal. He loses all interest in piano lessons (since none of what he's being force-fed has anything to do with Elvis, Ricky, or even Jerry Lee) and starts screaming for a guitar

As his little mind is being progressively warped by early rock'n'roll and some big band records he comes across at his grandmother's house, he stumbles onto the weekly Dr Demento radio show, and is exposed by this to a music from a wide variety of periods and American cultures, including everything from the klezmer comedy of Mickey Katz to the iconoclasm of Frank Zappa. Demento also plays John Hartford. If Skip's parents have anyone to blame for the questionable musical and sociological development of their eldest son, it is Dr Demento.

In 1975, Skip's little sister, Jennifer, then five years old, suffers a fall from the fenced-in porch of the second floor of his grandmother's South Philadelphia apartment and is rushed to the hospital. For about six weeks, every day after school is spent in the waiting room of a South Philadelphia hospital. The understandably nervous mother, then in vocational school to become a librarian, has the presence of mind to find stuff to occupy the time of Skip and his younger brother Joel (then 8). For Skip, she finds the thickest Elvis-related book she can get her hands on — Irwin Stambler's Encyclopedia of Country Music. The young Skip, with little else to occupy his time, absorbing the book for months, reading, re-reading, and memorizing bios of country music performers ranging from Uncle Dave Macon to Bill Monroe, Merle Haggard, and Kinky Friedman. He soon after discovers WRCP, a local country station, takes out a subscription to Country Music magazine, and starts collecting country records along with comedy, old big bands, and early rock'n'roll. A budget 45's rack at the Berlin Farmer's Market makes things easier, with singles three for a dollar. Also, he manages to trashpick old records around the neighborhood.

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Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Pan Americanos: The...

Steady Beat Recordings


Beyond These Hills:...

Self Produced



Panamerican Records


Bear Flag

Dreambox Media


Singles Drinking...

Self Produced


The Shirley Scott Trio WAS the Time

From: Bear Flag
By Skip Heller



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