"Leslie McKlasky" in Budapest. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber
By Ruth Ellen Gruber
Though I've met Hungarian bluegrass musicians and Hungarian American Indian hobbyists, I had my first encounter with a Hungarian country music singer when I was in Budapest this past week. He is Laszlo Gemesi, AKA "Leslie McKlasky", and I almost literally ran into him as he stood singing for tips in the underground metro passageway at downtown Deak square.
A grizzled guy in his 50s, Leslie was dressed Johnny Cash-style, all in black, including a black cowboy hat, and, with a harmonica slung around his neck, was playing a guitar that -- he told me -- his uncle in Canada sent him in 1980: the varnish was worn off the fingerboard. He told me he would be playing at some sort of line dance festival in northern Budapest this coming weekend, but I won't be able to attend, as I've already left Hungary this trip. Still, news of this opens up yet another door into the imaginary wild west....
Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber
McKlasky speaks some English, but when he sang me a song, the lyrics were not terribly comprehensible. He has posted a few videos on his simple web site and on youtube.
This one gives a Zelig-like photo montage of what appears to be a history of country music in modern Hungary.....in his biographical information on the web site, he also provides an interesting view of the country music pubs and low-key country circuit that existed in the 1980s and 1990s.
Here's a rather scratchy concert video. It all looks (and sounds), I have to admit, as if it takes place in a different dimension...but that's what fascinates me and makes it fun...