Indie Rock Hero Daniel Johnston Summons an All-Star Band to Morning Becomes Eclectic

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I’ll be honest, the idea of having Daniel Johnston live on MBE, with a backing band he had never played with before until THIS morning, was a risky proposition on many levels (especially if you’ve seen the documentary on him, The Devil and Daniel Johnston).

He’s currently in the midst of his final tour (or so they say in the press release) and, in each city, has been joined by artists who idolize him.

The cult favorite — who first gained fame with a series of cassettes in the 80’s, was introduced to a wide audience by Kurt Cobain in the 90’s and continues to be a prolific songwriter — meets them day of show and then off they go.

Ben Lee with the Silver Lake Chorus
Mike Watt and Guy Blakeslee

Los Angeles, not surprisingly had an amazing cast of all-stars in studio — Ben Lee, Mike Watt, Maria Taylor, Guy Blakeslee, and Joey Waronker formed the band while Lucius sat in on vocals for “True Love Will Find You in the End”. The members of the Silver Lake Chorus squeezed into the studio for “Try to Love” and “High Horse”.

There were moments when I wasn’t sure this session was going to make it on the air. But it did. And it was magical. Especially BECAUSE it was so wildly raw.

Maria Taylor

Watch, or listen to the full session here.

There’s a story from behind the scenes that is truly worth sharing. When I went to clear the room for a short break before we went live, Daniel asked if he could sit down at the piano. He proceeded to play, making up beautiful songs on the spot. We were all in awe, standing in silence with grins and tears watching a genius at work. It was special beyond belief.


Daniel Johnston wows a lucky few with an impromptu piano set!

*Editor’s Note: I’ve long been a Daniel Johnston fan for his uncanny ability to tap into seemingly every listener’s most primal feelings through his songs. Though the fact of my being on the air until three AM the day of this session, and living on the other side of town prohibited me from being in the studio to witness the magic live – it did not prevent me from unexpectedly tearing up in front of my computer screen during this incredible rendition of “True Love Will Find You in the End”. – Marion Hodges

(All photos by Larry Hirshowitz)