Music Article

Spoony Tunes

Soundgarden's video sidekick -- The band's new video ''Spoonman'' launches famed street performer Artis the Spoonman into the limelight

No, that's not singer Chris Cornell with a shaved head in Soundgarden's new video, ''Spoonman.'' The mohawked, goateed star is actually Artis the Spoonman, a Seattle fixture who's spent 22 years making music with cutlery. The guys in Soundgarden ''are fans of mine,'' says Artis, 45. ''They've been watching me since their teens or earlier.''

Artis is known as a sidewalk shaman in Seattle — reciting beat poetry at the Pike Place Market and performing acrobatic rhythm jams by whacking thrift-shop spoons against his cheeks, thighs, lips, arms, and whatever else is handy. He started in 1972 while washing dishes in a tavern, and has since busked his way from West Coast espresso bars to Late Night (with David Letterman) and Lincoln Center (with Itzhak Perlman). ''I haven't stayed anywhere longer than six weeks since 1974,'' says Artis, who isn't itching to find a regular, indoor gig, even now that his kitchen-drawer cadenzas have made it to MTV. ''It's a huge honor,'' he says. ''But there ain't no higher honor than somebody walking by on a sidewalk and stopping to pay you attention.''

Originally posted Mar 25, 1994 Published in issue #215 Mar 25, 1994 Order article reprints
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