I found a great lost documentary about Tom Waits from the late 1970s recently. This piece from Interview Magazine in 1988 is perhaps even better. Here’s a sample Q&A:
Francis Thumm: What are some of your earliest memories of music and sound, and which people left a musical impression on you?
Tom Waits: Well Mario Lanza used to play golf with my dad, and my mom used to get her hair done with Yma Sumac. I went to a baseball game with Little Walter, and he told me I should get into show business as soon as possible. But I think the clearest memory I have is from when I was about 8 years old: I had a friend who lived in a trailer van by a railroad track, and his mom was enormous. I think she had got in the trailer, put on weight, and couldn’t get out. There was a lamp, a TV, and a beverage, and she always seemed to be in the same spot. Anyway, when he played, it was the first time I ever heard anybody play in a minor key, and I really recognized it as minor and was attracted to it. I still am. He taught me three chords-an A-minor blues progression-and I completely flipped. When I went to school the next day, sharing day, I got up in front of the class and played the guitar. Everybody else was sharing marbles and rocks. That was a big moment for me.
Then there was Uncle Robert. He had a tremendous rose garden, and he was a blind organist in a Methodist church in La Verne, California. In fact, after they tore the church down he took the pipe organ into his living room. I remember listening to him play the organ. And as his eyesight began to fail his performance seemed to drive into more interesting places.
Other sounds I remember: a train that went by my backyard in Pomona and my mother’s steam iron when it was boiling.
Here’s the whole thing. Read it!