|The Sizzling Sensation That's Sweeping The Nation
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Daniel began recording what he thought of as John Lennon- and
Beatles-inspired music in the late 1970s on a $59 Sanyo monaural
Boombox, singing and playing piano and chord organ.
He gave tapes of his music to anyone who would take them and
created the comic book-inspired art that usually accompanied his
his first year away from home at Abilene
Christian University, where his bipolar
disorder became more evident and
problematic. It was noted that a few
friends had gotten a call saying to come
to the bridge near the campus where on
arrival Daniel's friend noticed him
splashing in the creek laughing
In 1990, he played at South By Southwest, a music festival in Austin, Texas. On the
way back to West Virginia on a small, private plane piloted by his father, Johnston
had a manic episode and wrestled control of the plane away from his father,
removing the key from the ignition and throwing it out of the plane. His father, a
World War II fighter pilot, managed to successfully crash-land the plane in a wooded
area. Although the plane was destroyed, Johnston and his father emerged
unharmed. As a result of this episode, Johnston was involuntarily committed to a
Johnston gained a cult following in
Austin, Texas. A 1985 MTV special
on Austin brought Johnston wider
attention, and a number of record
stores outside Texas began selling
In 1991, Johnston was able to air his
music on a radio show while being
hospitalized at a West Virginia mental
hospital. While hospitalized, Johnston
sent requests to his manager to have
Yoko Ono produce his music and to
contact PepsiCo about the possibility
of becoming spokesman for the soft
drink Mountain Dew. Johnston had
written a song praising Mountain Dew
during this hospitalisation, in which he
claimed to have been locked up for
being "crazy about Mountain Dew."
One of his first cassettes he named:
"Hi, How Are You?"
Because that's what people always say to each other.
The big things that I take away with me from listening to Daniel's music is that there
is a bit of the raw and odd in all of us. That's why we can all relate to his music so
much. Bigger still is that he is living proof that earnestness carries more weight than
anything else ever can or will.