Reprinted with permission (Jeff Potts, author) from the
4-10-2004, p. B6,
in the section "Life Style".
other Index related articles
Doug Henkle loves music.
It doesn't matter if it's folk, bluegrass or jazz. If it's good, Henkle will swoop down on your performance, purchase a CD, and then immortalize your contributions to music in his Internet-based folk library, www.folklib.net .
"Music has been a part of my life for a long time," said the retired member of University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh's software support staff in the academic computing department. "I very much appreciate music I've seen. This is just some way of giving back to these artists for the great enjoyment they've given me."
His Web site not only provides a road map to the performers Henkle has enjoyed through the years, but also has the most complete guide ever collected about artists' bodies of work, the bands they performed in, and a complete list of commercially available recordings.
He began the project in January 1995, and launched the first version of his Web site in November of that year with only a few dozen listings, mostly in the folk genre. In the years since, the site has grown to include more than 1,200 artists and has expanded its focus to primarily Wisconsin-based musicians in multiple genres.
Most sites devoted to non-mainstream music will list artists and possibly link visitors to their official home page. Henkle takes it one step further and links the artist to every page he can find devoted to their craft, whether produced by a record label, booking agent, or fans. The detail is what sets the FolkLib Index apart from all other Web sites.
"One of the reasons I'm writing these discographies is so people know these artists existed," Henkle said. "I'm a historian in detail but not in the personal sense. I don't think I'll ever write a biography, but keeping track of where they've performed and the recordings they've made is very important."
Research went from a pastime to a full-on obsession in August 2002 when Henkle retired from the university.
When he's not spending time with his family, at church, or singing in the church choir, Henkle can be found at the library buried in research materials, in second-hand record stores looking for a lost gem, or attending a live performance.
"In the name of research I'm forced to go to a lot of concerts and music festivals," he smirks, admitting with his smile the research is half the fun. "Most of the recordings I'm looking for are not available in stores -- you have to buy them directly from the artist."
Last year alone he attended more than 100 performances all within two hours of Oshkosh. That fact alone not only shows his determination to document as much Wisconsin music as possible, but is also testament to the great Wisconsin music scene.
He'll continue on the same path for the next two years, until he's ready to turn his research and Web site into a book.
The primary purpose of the book is to document the wealth of music that has been, and continues to be recorded and released by Wisconsin artists. Henkle suspects his audience will primarily be people without Internet access and those who do, but who do not know about the FolkLib Index and the services he has been providing since 1995.
He envisions the book as being useful to musicians, record collectors, fans, and researchers, stating "if you discover a familiar name you never knew lived in Wisconsin, or if you can walk into a music store with this book and find the listed title you are missing then the author's purpose has been served."
To date the Wisconsin portion of his Web site already contains more than 1,000 entries with an almost equal number still waiting to be added.
For Henkle those numbers can be a bit overwhelming at times.
He attended the Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) awards once and was impressed by the 100-plus nominees on the docket. Then he began subtracting the familiar names, and realized there were still 100 Wisconsin that he had never heard of. Now consider the WAMI's have been held for more than two decades and that's a lot of musicians.
It's incomprehensible, just impossible to document that many musicians," Henkle said. "But most of these people were in pop in rock, and some have been written up in books before. None of the rest of the people I knew have been, so I decided to leave pop and rock to other authors because other authors are already doing it."
Anyone who visits Folklib.net is asked to look through the listings of artists, groups, and recordings, and if you know of an addition or revision to contact Henkle through e-mail at email@example.com [SIC, firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Information received before Dec. 21, 2005 [SIC, 12-31-2005] will be added to the Web site and included in his book. Information received after Jan. 1, 2006 will only be added to the Web site.
If I didn't set a deadline I'd be doing this until I died," Henkle said. "Then somebody else would have to finish it. But once they looked at the amount of research I'm sure they'd walk away. It's a big area, a lot of music. I know I will not get anything that is absolutely complete, but whatever I get out there will be more than exists now -- which is nothing."
9-05-2006: removed obsolete contact information at the Northwestern. Jeff is currently employed at the Grand Opera House (Oshkosh).
Known links to this page:
| Wisconsin Music Site Map |