Bruce Ivins, the best bioterrorist US taxpayer money could buy, was by all descriptions a resourceful man of many talents. Newspaper articles on him told of his fondness for playing keyboards at church and composing little humorous songs for departing colleagues at Fort Detrick/USAMRIID. But did the anthrax man also dabble as a country music recording artist?
Rick Noll, founder of the great but small independent label Bonafide Records, is a devoted scourer of the used records bins of the back country, from eastern Pennsylvania through to Maryland. He is particularly adept at finding old obscure vinyl treasures in the vicinity between York, PA and Frederick, Maryland.
It was Noll who reunited me with old Professor Schnitzel record from his Pennsy Dutch stomping grounds. If there's an unusual recording artist or a rare record hiding in the garages, attics, basements and barns of rural Pennsy and Maryland, he's the man to find it.
And so it is Noll who has possibly tipped us to the recording career of Bruce Ivins.
Here is a scan of a white label vinyl 7-inch single produced by Nashville Recordings. Nashville Recording was a record-making facility used by many interested in committing their music to vinyl. It "did a lot of small pressings in the 70s and 80s, with a NR # for their records they pressed," Noll tells me. "Most likely a couple hundred or so were done."
The A-side is Bruce Ivins and the Country Boys' rendition of Johnny Rodriguez's lugubrious "Pass Me By (If You're Only Passing Through.)" I've put this to press prior to getting mp3's for it.
The single's vanity label displays a droll sense of humor. "Poplar Records." Geddit?
"It's novel in its one man band approach with tinges of ineptitude -- an educated, somewhat accomplished, Hasil Adkins with chops!" exclaimed Noll. "Lots of crazy people put out records like this, but I think this one has a dark and ominous sound, [perhaps] hinting at a budding criminal mastermind!"
Noll estimates the recording could be from the 70's or 80's. It features what he believes to be a Casio and drum machine rhythm track, probably furnished by the keyboard, and simulated guitar also from the keyboard. This probably, but not assuredly, places it in the 80's.
"Pass Me By [has] too many keyboards, including a guitar-like one," says Noll. "All Shook Up, the B-side, is real fast and pretty good, mostly keyboards and drum machine."
It was the only single in a crate-load of 1,000 records Noll wanted, he told me.
"The 45 is a hoot," he says. "It has to be the same guy."
Maybe so. We don't know for sure. Perhaps it's all phlogiston, Bruce Ivins and the Country Boys another Bruce Ivins -- not the Bruce Ivins at the center of the anthrax case. It's all just a coincidence, what Klaatu was to the Beatles, sort of. It's just one more mysterious embellishment contributing to the fascination over lore connected to the nation's most famous bioterrorist. Like the FBI/DoJ case against Ivins, the evidence is circumstantial yet still compelling.
Maybe time will sort it out.
"Ivins was a much more many-sided, social, and in this sense normal person than FBI's Summary would lead one to believe," reads one of the many news stories on the scientist. "He played the piano in church, played and sang in a Celtic band, composed songs for departing colleagues, was an expert juggler ..."
And here is a large photo of Ivins playing keyboard in a band called Celtic Live from Bushwaller's Irish American bar in Frederick from 2006. Readers will note it's one of the popular keyboards which will now furnish everything from rhythm tracks to simulated instrument lines. It is most probably not the model on the single but does show Ivins was totally at ease with the type of instrument and its capabilities.
"I was a high school student who sang in the 10:30 Sunday "Folk Mass" at St. Johns," wrote a blogger who knew and reminisced on Ivins a couple of years ago. Bruce played the keyboards ... I remember Bruce being joyful then, and joyful when he played on the keyboards at mass."
"His pants were always high waters, and he wore threadbare oxford shirts," she wrote as part of a colorful recollection.
This post originally appeared on Dick Destiny blog.