John Villemonte

Often, it’s the gift of a guitar that fuels the dreams of aspiring songwriters, but for John Villemonte, a tape machine gifted to him at the age of 15 brought dreams of cutting his own LP. Though a quick study of piano, trombone, and guitar, Villemonte took to songwriting more deliberately. Between 1972 and 1976, he worked hard, setting onto his half-track recorder nearly a dozen songs he thought were pretty good, but not quite there. Colorado called, and John spent time in the Rockies, hiking and climbing for a few summer months. Inspired by his roommate Scott Key’s Forest And The Sea LP, Villemonte returned to Wisconsin seeing visions of his name printed atop a cardboard jacket.

Finding the half-track inefficient for his project, Villemonte acquired a Teac four-track and a handful of cheap Radio Shack microphones. He set up shop in his basement and immediately set to tinkering. Flautist Adrienne Arlen sat for a session, but Villemonte performed the remaining parts on borrowed and rented instruments himself. From these sessions emerged “I Am The Moonlight,” the lachrymose centerpiece to his song cycle. Using his alumni credentials at the University Of Wisconsin, Villemonte gained access to a team of tape machines and daisy-chained several together to simulate a mixing board. By the end of 1977, he had a finished project and no idea what to do with it. Two hundred copies of People Like Us were pressed up, passed out at local stores, and given away to friends and family. A friendly DJ spun it on-air a few times, the local weekly reviewed it, and slowly but surely the few boxes of LPs disappeared.

John Villemonte Appears on: