Best known for his tenure fronting the hugely influential New York
Dolls, David Johansen is a true chameleon; throughout the course
of a career which saw him transform from a lipstick-smeared
proto-punk hero into an urbane blue-eyed soul man and finally into
a tuxedo-clad lounge lizard, he remains a rock & roll original, an
unpredictable iconoclast and a true cultural innovator.
Born January 9, 1950, in Staten Island, NY, Johansen joined his first
band, the Vagabond Missionaries, in his mid-teens. A tenure with Fast
Eddie & the Electric Japs, as well as an attempt to mount a career
as a theatrical actor, followed before a club-hopping Johansen met
bassist Arthur Kane, who extended an invitation to join his band,
Actress. After changing their name to the New York Dolls, the group
began building a notorious reputation for their menacing, edgy music,
drug-fueled lifestyle, and outrageously campy, drag queen-inspired
glam image. The Dolls established an enduring cult following, and
their influence on the rise of punk was unmistakable.
The Dolls officially broke up in 1975, and Johansen went on to
release a string of solo albums from the late 70’s into the early 80’s.
At the end of 1984 he resurfaced in the pompadoured guise of Buster
Poindexter, a supposed ethnomusicologist armed with an expansive
knowledge of R&B chestnuts. After debuting the Buster character at
a series of mid-'80s downtown New York loft gigs with the Uptown
Horns, Johansen continued honing the identity in the piano bars of
Manhattan, establishing a lounge swinger persona which predated
the lounge-kitsch revival of the mid-'90s by a decade.
As Poindexter's popularity grew, he began fronting a large band
dubbed the Banshees in Blue and building a devoted following on the
New York club circuit. In 1987, he issued an LP, Buster Poindexter,
which featured the party classic "Hot Hot Hot," an effervescent cover
of an obscure 1984 soca hit. In addition to reviving Johansen's career
as a musical performer, Buster also renewed his long-dormant acting
bug, and he was tapped to co-star in the 1988 features Married to
the Mob and Scrooged. The character remained Johansen's focus in
subsequent years as well, as evidenced by the albums Buster Goes
Berserk in 1989 and Buster's Happy Hour in 1994. He maintained a
relatively low profile in the years prior to the spring 2000 release of
David Johansen & the Harry Smiths and it’s 2001 follow-up, Shaker.