Ongoing History of New Music Daily: Artis the Spoonman

Question: Who is the most famous spoon player in the history of music.

If you’ve seen the Soundgarden video for “Spoonman” or heard the song, you’ll know about Artis, an Alaskan-born street performer originally from Santa Cruz, California, who moved to Seattle and was often seen at the Pike’s Place Market, a place where Chris Cornell once worked.

His real name is Roger Leroy Wensel and playing the spoons was his only source of income since 1974. He was 40 when he contributed to the Soundgarden song and is still playing the spoons today at age 72.

And he’s done well. After “Spoonman” came, he was sent on an international cultural tour by the Smithsonian Institute.

Check out Monday’s post on strange FM radio signals from space. And don’t forget to check out my podcast The Ongoing History of New Music where you listen on SpotifyApple PodcastsGoogleStitcher, or wherever you get your on-demand audio.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

3 thoughts on “Ongoing History of New Music Daily: Artis the Spoonman

  • February 2, 2021 at 12:12 pm
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    Back in the mid-’90s, Consolidated were booked to play a show at my university with MC 900 Ft. Jesus as a supporting act. 900, sadly, backed out a week or two before the show to do something else (on MTV, I think?) and hastily-redone posters went up around campus advertising the Spoonman as his replacement. Maybe a half-dozen people turned up on the night of the show, so he ordered a couple of buckets of popcorn for us from the bar and we all sat on the edge of the stage shooting the shit for about 45 minutes. He read a couple of poems and the spoons obviously came out at one point, but it was mostly a chill conversation with a really nice guy, and Consolidated didn’t skimp on the energy in their performance, either.

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