Frankly Speaking

Art Dudley: A Tribute

Issue 141

On July 11, 2021 at Brown’s Brewing Company in Troy, New York, a memorial event was held to celebrate the life of Art Dudley, who passed away on April 14, 2020. It was hosted by his wife Janet and daughter Julia.

Art was a friend of mine and so many others. For readers who may not know, Art Dudley was the deputy editor of Stereophile and one of the magazine’s most popular, entertaining and insightful writers. With the emphasis on writer – Art expressed himself beautifully, with a friendly, flowing style that conveyed his enthusiasm for audio and life. (I’d often be more than a little envious of how perfectly he’d express something in a review – then tip my head in admiration.) Whether he wrote about his treasured vintage Altec speakers, a favorite – or detested – recording, or his labors in reviving an old Garrard turntable, you got the sense that you were right there with him in his listening chair or workshop.

Before Stereophile, Art wrote for Listener, the magazine he founded in 1994, and The Absolute Sound, Backpacker, Fretboard Journal, Hi-Fi Heretic and others. He was known as one of the nicest and most equitable guys in the high-end world, yet did not shy away from expressing some strong opinions and could skewer people and things he found pretentious with devastating wit. He was an outstanding guitarist who played in bands ranging from the Mountebank Brothers bluegrass band to his early punk outfit, the Norm. (I believe he was in a band called the Aglets – someone please refresh my memory. And even if not, coming up with a band name like that would be classic Art.) He was a former sixth-grade teacher. I first met Art back in the days when he was managing editor of The Absolute Sound. You can read more about our friendship in my article about Art in Issue 109.

 

Art Dudley photos and memorabilia.

Art at a young age, a book he didn’t brag about, and other photos.

 

The memorial took place on a drizzly afternoon in downtown Troy. Most people I talked to drove a few hours to get there. For many of us, this was our first public outing since the pandemic hit more than a year ago, making it doubly emotional to not only remember Art, but also reconnect with everyone after being apart for so long. Here, in this celebration of someone no longer with us, it felt like we were starting to get our lives back. I’d bet a pair of 300Bs that Art was smiling at the juxtaposition.

Those also in attendance included Stereophile’s John Atkinson, Laura LoVecchio, Julie Mullins, Herb Reichert, Jim Austin, Sasha Matson and Michael Fremer with his wife Sharon; Walter Schofield (Krell), turntable setup expert Michael Trei, John DeVore (DeVORE Fidelity), Rob Doorack (Listener writer and fellow Blue Õyster Cult fan), Robin Wyatt (Robyatt Audio), Ken Micallef (Stereophile and others), Jeff Joseph (Joseph Audio), Michael Lavorgna (Twittering Machines), Bill Leebens (Leebens Marketing and Management) and Pat Gossard, John Pravel (Luxman) and too many others to list. Ken Micallef posted a YouTube video at this link.

Upon first walking in, the first things I noticed were tables of some of Art Dudley’s possessions. There were boxes of records, one containing only opera LP sets, and another box of books, mostly audio- and music-related. A second table displayed copies of Listener and other publications. (Did you know Art wrote a book on word processing? I didn’t. He thought it stunk.) This table also had drawings by Julia done when she was a child, along with letters and photographs. I could not help but smile at the latter.

 

Issues of Listener, the magazine Art founded in 1994.

Issues of Listener, the magazine Art founded in 1994.

 

Another table featured more books, records and other items, including a selection of Art’s ties (he was always well-dressed at shows) – and I was surprised to see a note that asked people to take the items as memories. Very touching. I took some items I thought Art would want me to have – a mono promo single of Phil Ochs’ “Kansas City Bomber,” some Donovan albums I never knew existed, a signed and framed page of sheet music from musician/songwriter Lee Feldman, who I’ve met and admire greatly, and other stuff including a well-worn copy of Aspen Pittman’s The Tube Amp Book, Volume 3.

The beer was excellent and the band, the Church Road Rangers, were superb; old-school bluegrass musicians who Art had played with.

I felt extremely sad that we were all getting together (delayed by the pandemic but better late than never) because of the loss of Art, yet heartened that Art had so many friends and had influenced so many lives. At one point, a number of people got up and spoke in tribute to him, and it was profoundly moving.

He will be forever missed and forever remembered.

***

Here are some more photos. I’m no Henri Cartier-Bresson, but wanted to share these.

 

Michael Fremer, Jim Austin, John DeVore and Julie Mullins.

Michael Fremer, Jim Austin, John DeVore and Julie Mullins.

 

Michael Trei, Rob Doorack and Jeff Joseph with Art's mono copy of Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain.

Michael Trei, Rob Doorack and Jeff Joseph with Art’s mono copy of Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain.

 

Janet Dudley, Laura LoVecchio and Sharon Fremer.

Janet Dudley, Laura LoVecchio and Sharon Fremer.

 

Some of Art's books.

Some of Art’s books.

 

Art in his punk rock phase. Yes, that's him...I checked!

Art in his punk rock phase. Yes, that’s him…I checked!

 

 

The Church Road Rangers.

The Church Road Rangers.

 

A table of Art's possessions, which people were invited to take home with them as memorabilia.

A table of Art’s possessions, which people were invited to take home.

 

Herb Reichert and Robin Wyatt.

Herb Reichert and Robin Wyatt.

 

Michael Lavorgna and John Atkinson.

Michael Lavorgna and John Atkinson.

 

Art should have the last word here.

5 comments on “Art Dudley: A Tribute”

  1. I always treasured Art’s writings; he had a way of making all his readers feel like they were his friends. I also appreciated the commonality of our senses of humor and our love of acoustic string music. I carried with me the assumption that sooner or later we’d get to meet at a hi-fi show somewhere, and share a laugh over a brief email correspondence we had during his “Listening” days – in one issue he included some very tongue-in-cheek “user instructions” for the magazine, one of which was not to “operate” it near water. I sent him a note saying that would make it difficult to read on the toilet. OK, so that doesn’t rise to the level of wry intelligence his “user instructions” demonstrated, but it needed to be said, and he seemed to appreciate it.

    There are very few public people whose deaths felt to me like the loss of a friend, despite the fact that we’d never met (and had probably not ever been in the same state at the same time). Art is one of them, right up there with Kate McGarrigle and Paul Sherwen.

  2. It is only a little sheaf we gather
    For all the laboring days,
    And few at last are the dreams we have,
    Tho the nights are long;
    And our hearts are doomed to ashes;
    And yet their flames
    Light such a little space in the dusk of Time
    This is the doom of those whose desire is unbounded,
    To feel in the dark,
    With groping hands,
    The wall insurmountable;
    To look forever on gold unwrought and on gems unset;
    To feel forever in wind and water,
    In wood and meadow,
    In mountain and valley,
    More than the mind understands or the lips can utter;
    This is our doom, we weavers of Times’ pale garlands,
    To seek forever, and find not, the Rose and the Poppy
    The Clover and Orchid, we dream of in secret dreams

    ~ Shaemas O Sheel

    Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
    And the poetry he invented was easy to understand

    God Speed, Mr Dudley, you served us well Brother .

  3. For someone I never met, Art seemed amazing: I’d followed his writings from *The Absolute Sound* through *hi-fi heretic* and finally through *Listener*, which was where I feel Art found his individual voice, and was ringleader of what was, for me, the most irreverent, irascible *and* informative collection of writers on audio and music. I was quite crestfallen when he pulled the plug on the magazine, to the point that I didn’t bother with any other magazines (even though one *other* great writer whom I knew well, the late Wes Philips, was alternately writing for both TAS and Stereophile). There weren’t too many other writers who could have me alternately cracking up out loud and nodding my head solemnly, frequently in rapid succession, on a monthly basis–so much to say, and so damned on-point. Thanks very much for writing and sharing this.

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