Louisville man wrote the book on Townshend

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Fri Oct 17 06:51:52 CDT 2008

>From The Louisville, KY Courier-Journal:

Mark Wilkerson fell in love with The Who, there was nothing special about 
his story.

Like millions of others before him, a teenage Wilkerson was 
jarred by the band's volatile mix of explosive rock 'n' roll, raw emotion 
and the keen, confrontational intelligence of songwriter Peter 

Wilkerson's passion, however, refused to f-f-f-fade away. It 
grew and deepened, eventually finding voice in a massive Townshend biography 
that took the Louisvillian 10 years to research and write. "Who Are You: The 
Life of Pete Townshend" also became Wilkerson's life.

"I'd get up at 
like 4:30 in the morning and work a couple of hours, go to work, take my 
laptop and go sit in my car and work at lunch time, and then after work I'd 
go sit in the library until it closed," said Wilkerson, 38, an aircraft 
maintenance supervisor at UPS.

"Who Are You," released by Omnibus Press 
in the United Kingdom in March and in the United States last month, is the 
size of a smallish ottoman. At 642 pages, it can only be described as 
exhaustive and, in many ways, definitive.

You'll learn everything 
possible about Townshend's incredibly complex personality and creative 
process, one that's marked by staggering genius and constant conflict -- a 
combination that for years kept him at the bottom of a bottle of Remy Martin 

Clearly, Wilkerson had a rich subject. His research culminated in 
a 27-page bibliography, including everything from 1960s newspaper articles 
to fan Web sites. He interviewed Townshend and many key figures in the 
musician's life, including family and childhood friends.

It isn't a 
fan-boy's book loaded with gushing opinion. Wilkerson instead presents 
Townshend's life in black and white.

"The one thing I knew from the 
beginning is that no one cared what I thought about this guy," said 
Wilkerson, 38. "They care about Pete."

Wilkerson, who was born in England 
but moved to Kentucky as a child when his father wanted to be closer to 
family, actually wrote "Who Are You" twice.

The first version began as a 
hobby. Around 11 years ago Wilkerson read a Townshend bio that left him 
frustrated, so he fashioned a timeline of Townshend's career, filling it in 
with details and adding narrative where needed. The timeline grew into a 

Wilkerson began posting chapters online, which got the attention of 
Who fans, and their encouragement led Wilkerson to Lulu, a self-publishing 
company. The 2006 edition of the book was well-received, and Wilkerson was 
invited to a major Who convention in England.

While strolling the 
streets of London, he bumped into none other than Townshend, to whom 
Wilkerson had mailed a copy of the book.

"I walked up and said, 'Hey, I'm 
Mark, I wrote the book about you,' and he talked to me for about 10 minutes, 
telling me he was really happy with it and really liked it," Wilkerson said. 
"That led to him saying, 'Let's do an interview,' and as soon as I got an 
interview with him, all of the other people I had tried to get in touch with 
all of a sudden wanted to talk to me."

With so much new material, 
Wilkerson had no choice but to rewrite. The second version, nearly 900 pages 
long, got the attention of Omnibus Press editor Chris Charlesworth, who had 
covered The Who for the London music press. After 200 pages were weeded out, 
"Who Are You" was published in hardback in the UK and in paperback last 
month for the U.S. market. Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, a diehard Who fan, 
wrote the foreword.

Wilkerson will do a small book tour, beginning Sunday 
at Barnes & Noble, at The Shoppes at Plainview Parkway. Wilkerson will 
discuss the book at noon and conduct a signing. Dates in Philadelphia, 
Boston and Washington will follow, all of them tied to the Who tour 

"I don't know how much interest there's going to be in the book," 
said Wilkerson, who will present Townshend with a copy at one of the 
concerts, "but it was pretty awesome timing that, on the day it came out, 
they announced this little mini-tour."

-Brian in 
The Who This Month!


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