This is the eighth year in a row I’ve run this series in April.
This is the story of a hoax that almost was. Its motivating force was a hunger for fame, or infamy, or whispered legend in a particularly American sort of way. It begins on a beach somewhere in south Florida.
Earlier this year, a test pressing (literally a test, for labels and artists to hear before ordering a full run of new record) of an unknown musician’s record was put up for sale on Discogs, a resale website popular with collectors. Two days later that test pressing almost became, at a price tag of $ 18,000, the most expensive album ever sold on the site, besting a record set last year for a sublimely rare Prince piece which sold for $ 15,000.
The lightning-fast turnaround on this record-breaking sale, however, seems to have been a fiction woven by the record’s creator. This morning, Discogs canceled the transaction.
The album, called 301 Jackson St., was recorded by Billy Yeager, a Florida man who has pursued musical fame (or at least notoriety) for 37 years, by his own account. Despite a clear talent for guitar and a cosmically eccentric and dubiously effective knack for self-promotion, Yeager has been stymied repeatedly. The most eccentric — and ill-conceived — example of his promotional facility, bar none, came when Yeager spent two years planning and executing a hoax that would eventually convince a television station and a weekly paper to believe that he was Jimmy Story, the son of Jimi Hendrix, who was in possession of lost recordings from the psychedelic legend. To pull off the scam, Yeager dyed his skin brown. As The Miami Herald wrote in 1996:
The recently proclaimed, mumbling, mentally defective, cordovan-hued, long-lost love child of Jimi Hendrix is really a Swedish-blond, singing surfer guy from Hollywood beach.
Both the TV station and the newspaper were victims of an incredibly detailed hoax — including forged photos, signatures and birth certificate — that was two years in the making by itinerant surfer/musician Billy Yeager. He then called The Herald to claim, er, credit for the hoax, executed for attention.
Now, it seems clear that Yeager has attempted to perpetrate another hoax: He is, it seems, the seller who posted 301 Jackson St. on Discogs. He’s also likely the buyer. Which means that $ 18,000 never changed hands and also raises the possibility that the test pressing of 301 Jackson St. does not exist at all.
And, of course, the story takes place in Florida. Where else could it be? So what if a musician tried to pawn himself off as a descendant of Jimi Hendrix? What if he claimed to an unreleased LP of Hendrix recordings? He’s just a scammer trying to cash in to the tune of a few thousands dollars.
What if the shit hits the fan? Perhaps an obsessive, deranged Hendrix fan takes our boy (Chuck) hostage. Maybe a criminal outfit figure they can score big with a Hendrix LP, so they go after Chuck. Let’s toss in local police. The FBI. A private eye hired by the Hendrix family.
At some point and feeling the pressure, Chuck confesses the truth. But here’s the thing: All of the groups and people pursuing him don’t buy it. They figure Chuck is lying to get people off his ass. In fact, his denials may increase the pursuers’ belief that the LP is the real deal.
Put Chuck on the run. Chased by a half-dozen outfits. Throw several of Florida’s finest weirdos with whom Chuck intersects… voila! A comic tour du force!
There you go: My twenty sixth story idea for the month. And it’s yours. Free!
Each day this month, I invite you to click on RESPONSES and join me to do some further brainstorming. Take each day’s story idea and see what it can become when you play around with it. These are all valuable skills for a writer to develop.
See you in comments. And come back tomorrow for another Story Idea Each Day For A Month.
For other posts in my A Story Idea Each Day for a Month (2017) series, go here.