Monday, January 25, 2010

The TV John Show

"TV John" Langworthy is hard to explain. And come to think of it, he's hard to describe. Like Disney World, TV John must be fully experienced in order to be fully appreciated. Click on his link and watch the YouTube video below or at his website and you'll get an idea what he's all about. That doesn't mean he'll be any easier to explain.

Right across the river from Washington, D.C. is a section of Arlington called Rosslyn, and on the corner of 19th and N. Lynn Street was once a restaurant and bar known as the Tex Mex Grille. It was here that I played my first non-Jersey open mike, which led to my first non-Jersey regular gigs, all thanks to TV John Langworthy, who ran the open mikes and booked the performers.

Ask TV John what "TV" stood for and he'd smile broadly and say something like "Total Victory!" You'd get a different answer every time, so you'd stop asking. You could never really tell when -- or if -- the guy was putting you on. When he hosted my old band ('Thirty Thieves') he'd make ostensibly clever remarks all night about Ali Baba, even though that wasn't the source of our name. He liked to introduce each act (usually two a night) with ludicrously lengthy monologues that failed to have anything to do with the performer in question. And when the bar didn't draw a decent crowd (or any crowd at all, not unusual for Rosslyn) he'd sit down with you at 2 a.m. and try to make a deal that consisted of you foregoing any sort of payment whatsoever for the grueling four hours you just put in.

The Tex-Mex Grille is long gone, the very building it was in demolished and replaced. It was home base for a lot of us, a way to make a few bucks and play a low-pressure gig and blow off some steam. In the summer we'd perform on the outdoor patio, the only drawback being that occasionally you'd have aircraft coming in for a landing at nearby National Airport and the screaming engines would sorta drown you out. But you could also play as loud as you wanted right back (at least outdoors) since Rosslyn basically shut down on weekends, and for a time it was the closest thing I ever had to a Stone Pony-type club of my own. And we all had TV John, who threatened to drive us all nuts.

He was a legendary character, and every musical history worth a damn is peopled with legendary characters, so that's at least one I am proud to lay claim to. And for all his madhouse kookiness, TV John did me several solids, such as taping our gigs (which I still have and will share with you in the future) and lending me PA equipment because I didn't own my own. And really, how can you not love a guy who gets up in public on a regular basis and so joyfully does stuff like this:

Godspeed, TV John. Godspeed.


  1. I'm just glad he lent us his PA!

  2. You should arrange a reunion. Or better yet, just show up for a taping of the "TV John Show," guitar in hand, looking for an amp to plug into as if no time has passed whatsoever.


  3. I really should. He'd probably act like he just saw me last week.

  4. Dream songs! And what ever happened to William Dicke? I have his CD around somewhere...

    ... those were the days, my friend! Remember the taco bar? [gulp]

  5. That was a serious blast from the past. John's video was a bit lame, but the song was actually not bad. That might be the most coherant thing I've ever heard him do. John was certainly a character and Tex Mex was a great gig for that time. Close to home and no pressure at all. And we had some great nights there and some good audiences at times.

    My favorite TV John experience was the night you and I packed up early and rolled downtown to meet a drummer we didn't know to cover a gig for John at a club in Georgetown. It turned out to be a freakin' jazz club and we were not what the owner was expecting. Unbelievable! But then again, nobody expects the inquisition. We someone pulled it off and got paid, but it sure wasn't jazz and the owner wasn't exactly thrilled. And I remember the drummer wanting to sing all the time. What a totally surreal experience.

    BTW, the guy Meghan mentioned is actually Willem Dicke rather than William ( I saw his name on the performers list at Dogwood Cafe right here in Falls Church sometime in the past year, so he's still around and still performing. He's got a CD on cdbaby--not bad, but nothing particularly exciting.

    Enjoyed working on the song tonight and looking forward to hearing the next step in its evolution.

  6. As I recall, we were a hit at the jazz club and the owner seemed pleased by the end of the night. And the way TVJ got us to do it was pretty clever -- he told you I was on board before he even spoke to me, and told me you were doing the gig regardless of my involvement, which was not true. Hey, it worked!

  7. Oh, and John replied to this entry in the comments section of a more recent one:

    "Hi John, I am delighted to find your blog, and thanks for including me in it. Visitors here are hereby informed that you are a great songwriter singer and acoustic guitarist. You are tall and handsome, resembling the Million Dollar Man, so you should include your photo. You are also an incredible cartoonist and all around nice guy. Yes, we definitely made some musical dreams come true at Tex Mex Grill, and the crowds always looked forward to your walking in the door with your guitar: you have stage presence! I am your #1 fan, and I look forward to seeing you again. Thanks for your blog - it is a good one."


  8. I help to book the TV John Show so call me 301 915 5644 and we can get you back on. It's done now in Rockville.

  9. Amazing. Still waiting for the real John Langworthy to appear. Deliverance is just around the corner I hope. Love to hear a recording by John - "One Pair of Hands" as sung by Carroll Roberson on utube.