TORONTO – An American record label’s search for a long-lost musician has found the enigmatic runaway hiding somewhere over the border, in Canada.
Randall Wulff self-produced a record called “L’Amour” at a Los Angeles studio under the name “Lewis” in 1983. It didn’t circulate very widely, the music was soon forgotten, and not long afterward Lewis himself seemed to disappear, said Jack Fleischer, a friend of Matt Sullivan, whose Light in the Attic Records has reissued “L’Amour.”
That is, until Wulff’s music began circulating online earlier this year, prompting praise from bloggers and musicians, and a shot-in-the-dark attempt to find him by Fleischer and Sullivan.
They hopped on a plane to Canada, Sullivan wrote in a blog post and began canvassing a major Western Canadian city, asking people if they’d seen the musician, showing them a photo taken in 1983.
Late on the second day of their search a gut feeling encouraged them to drive to the other side of town, Fleischer said Wednesday in an interview from Los Angeles.
“He was sitting right there.”
Out the window of the car, Sullivan wrote, he saw Wulff, now 60, sipping a cup of coffee in the sunshine.
Older, said Fleischer, but unmistakable.
“With the cane, big gold watch. All white, white shoes, white shorts, white shirt open down to the navel, nice coiffed blond hair. And I just couldn’t believe it. It was like seeing a unicorn,” said Fleischer.
The way Fleischer tells it, Wulff was born in Calgary in 1954, to a construction worker and a Hudson’s Bay Company clerk. As a young man, he went to New York City to work in finance, catching a few lucky breaks in the stock market.
He travelled to L.A. in 1982, because during the recession “he was really kind of running out of money.” He was also struggling with his identity — was he “a musician or a money-man,” Fleisher said.
He made “L’Amour,” and sent copies of the dreamy, romantic, synth-pop folk album to some of his New York stockbroker friends.
“They really didn’t know what to make of it,” said Fleischer.
Then he seemed to drop off the map, though he did self-produce a second record at Thunder Road Studios in Calgary in 1985. And in the late 1990s, he was making recordings at a studio in Vancouver called Fiasco Brothers.
Studio manager Len Osanic said Wednesday that Wulff (a.k.a. Lewis and Randy) is definitely still alive and somewhere in Canada — or Hawaii, he added. (Both Osanic and Fleischer were careful not to say too much to protect Wulff’s privacy.)
“Randy’s the real deal,” said Osanic, who said he hadn’t been familiar with Wulff’s prior recordings while they worked together up until 2005. “He’s spent a lot of time thinking about his music and songs.”
But he said was surprised by the musician’s sudden popularity.
“It’s kind of like a Bob Dylan thing. You might hear him sing and not know that he’s going to be famous,” he said. “Maybe his music is just coming in vogue,” he said, 31 years late.
Sullivan’s record company has re-released “L’Amour,” and will soon reissue the 1985 album, “Romantic Times.” But Wulff told Sullivan and Fleischer that he didn’t want to cash in.
“He has a lot of funny ways of phrasing things,” said Fleischer, who said Wulff told Sullivan that he wasn’t into “coin,” because “you get too many zeroes attached to things, things get complicated.”
Wulff told Fleischer that now, he just makes music.
“He stays up until 4 a.m. playing his guitar.”