According to his mother, Desper showed musical talent from the beginning. “He’s always been able to play,” says Phyllis Mitchell, 77, of Lebanon, Ore. “His sister always said that she thought he should be up with Bob Dylan and those guys.”
But the chance for another crack at stardom didn’t come until Anson’s phone call. He and Desper finally got together for coffee, and Anson later brought along his business partner, Paul Montone, to meet the man with the flowing white hair and the peaceful disposition. Desper had pawned his own guitar a year earlier after injuring the ring finger on his left hand, so Anson and Montone took him to a nearby music shop to watch him play.
“He took the guitar down from the wall and started playing,” Anson recalls. He and Montone turned to each other with eyebrows raised. “He sounded great. We just couldn’t believe what a presence he was. He’s just so unique and confident.”
Back in the spotlight
Discourage Records reissued New Sounds as a vinyl album last February. The first pressing of 1,000 copies has nearly sold out. To mark the June debut of the album’s singles online, a comeback concert was arranged.
Several weeks after the concert, Desper is still basking in happiness from his success. “People told me there was a lot more cheers when I came on than for the people playing before me,” he says with a broad smile. “That makes me feel good that I get to perform and see the happiness of other people.”
He made $200 from the concert and so far has collected enough royalties to keep creditors at bay. Anson and Montone hope a larger record label can eventually sign Desper and give him the exposure he deserves. They created a website, a Facebook fan page and a MySpace page to help more fans find him.
Desper is just glad to have a new opportunity to share his music. “It’s just good music, heartfelt music,” he says. “It would encourage anybody and motivate them in the right direction.”
And perhaps others can take inspiration from his long-awaited overnight success. “It’s fascinating,” he muses, “because it’s now what I would like to have had back then. But I kept playing. And then I just picked up the phone one day and there they were. That was all there was to it.”
Susan G. Hauser is a writer in Oregon.