It’s Been A Long Time Since I Haven’t Seen You In Awhile


"King John" Fischer at the 2008 Colorado Street Bridge Festival in Pasadena. His band "Snotty Scotty and the Hankies" performs in the background.

Everybody has a favorite King John story. I have dozens, which often revolve around his creative use of English.

Like the time he bumped into a man at Disneyland and said, “I’m sorry sir. I didn’t know you were in my way.” Or how he once asked what day it was by inquiring, “What is the name of tomorrow?” Or how when he sings with the rock and roll cover band Snotty Scotty and the Hankies he turns Route 66 into Room 66; I Fought the Law becomes Hop Off the Log; and Double Shot of My Baby’s Love somehow morphs into Can’t Find My Baseball.

Jonathan Fischer, who turns 57 tomorrow, has a condition called Willams Syndrome (WS). People with WS are known for having heightened musical abilities and for being extroverted, polite, and very sociable. This describes John perfectly as he loves meeting people, often employing the icebreaker, “Do you live near a fire station?” In spite of his many physical problems, which are commonly found in individuals with WS, John is one of the happiest people I have ever known.

The first time I ever saw John was about twenty years ago in a bar in Pasadena called The Old Town Pub. The house band, then as now, was the Hankies, and during their set the bass player riffed the opening for I Can’t Turn You Loose. The crowd went nuts as the singer introduced “Dr. Martin Luther King John Fischer Boulevard Junior” to the stage. An extremely overweight man in overalls took the microphone and fearlessly tore through a couple of standards, butchering the lyrics along the way. The audience lapped it up. I remember thinking, “This guy has style.”

Over the past two decades John has been a beloved friend to me and my family and we’ve accompanied him to dozens of outings around Los Angeles, including the Doo Dah Parade in Pasadena every year, where he earned his nickname by being elected “king for life.”

At the time I first met John he resided in an assisted living facility in Pasadena and his weight hovered around 400 pounds. He later moved to a different facility in Long Beach where he lost 260 of those pounds by, in his words, “sweatin’ to the oldies.” He currently lives with his sister Susie in Van Nuys, where we will be tomorrow night helping him celebrate his birthday.

I’ve always said that it’s impossible to spend more than twenty minutes with John and not hear him say something that you will remember forever. We’ll only have time to stay with him for a couple of hours tomorrow night, so if the average holds, we will leave Van Nuys with a half-dozen new quotes to repeat for the rest of our lives. … While smiling.

(Here’s a video of John shredding on Wooly Bully (which he sometimes sings as Willie Bowman) with the band at the 2008 Colorado Street Bridge Festival: 2008 Bridge Festival)

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About deadwrite

Freelance writer, film historian, taphophile View all posts by deadwrite

3 responses to “It’s Been A Long Time Since I Haven’t Seen You In Awhile

  • Sean

    Awesome.
    My favorite was when a female companion of John’s complained that he had not purchased any gifts for her. John defended himself stating painly “I bought you a very nice Coke!”
    or at the Bridge festival when he came back to the group munching on a bag of Kettle Corn the size of a small child. “Hey John, Can I have some Kettle Corn?” His reply? “Yeah! You have to go buy it over there!”
    Classic.

    • deadwrite

      I love when he wanted people to put money in the tip jar for the band, so he said to the crowd, “Make sure and give money to the band because Snotty Scotty and the Hankies are very poor musicians.”

      • Kimi Stephens

        Or, my personal fave, when John was told he had to wait for Kim (me) to finish playing a piece on the piano before he could have some cheesecake. He walked over to the piano (where I was playing a ragtime piece), stood behind me, waited about, oh, 10 seconds, then interrupted the song and said, “‘Kay, that’s enough.”

        Guess I can’t blame him – cheesecake tastes WAY better than Scott Joplin!

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