Gordon Gano

Gordon James Gano (born June 7, 1963)[1] is an American musician widely known as the singer, guitarist and songwriter of American folk punk band Violent Femmes.

Gordon Gano
Gano in concert with Violent Femmes, 2006
Gano in concert with Violent Femmes, 2006
Background information
Birth nameGordon James Gano
Born (1963-06-07) June 7, 1963 (age 58)[1]
New York, New York, United States
OriginMilwaukee, Wisconsin, US
GenresFolk punk, post-punk
Occupation(s)Musician, actor
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, violin, banjo
Years active1980–present
LabelsSlash Records, Reprise, Elektra, Mushroom, Beyond, Yep Roc

Early lifeEdit

Gano was born in New York City to actor parents Norman and Faye Gano, and grew up in Connecticut. The Gano family moved to Wisconsin in 1973, when his father opened an American Baptist church in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. Rev. Gano, an accomplished actor, also formed a community theater group in Oak Creek, and Gordon appeared in many of its productions, notably "Sing Out, Sweet Land" in 1976. His father played guitar, and exposed his son to a wide array of musical genres, including country and western, show tunes, and gospel.[1] The liner notes to the Violent Femmes's compilation album Permanent Record describe Gano as "a devout Baptist".

In 1979 the Gano family moved to nearby Hales Corners, where his father took over an existing American Baptist congregation. At this time Gordon began attending Milwaukee public school—Rufus King High School, from which he graduated in 1981. After graduating from high school, he worked briefly as an encyclopedia salesman.[2]

Older siblings from his parents' previous marriages living in the NYC area exposed the young Gano to such influences as The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, Brian Eno, Patti Smith, Jonathan Richman, and The B-52's. Gordon's garage band days began with covers of Bob Dylan, The Beatles and moved through Grateful Dead (Hunter/Garcia) songs to Lou Reed and Velvet Underground songs by 1979. Gordon began writing his own songs in the mid '70s, influenced by the vocal stylings of Lou Reed, the story-telling of Hank Williams, Sr. and the poetics of Patti Smith's "Babelogue". Given his acting background, Gordon wrote many of his songs for characters, whom he would portray while performing the associated song.


Violent FemmesEdit


Gano joined Violent Femmes in Milwaukee in 1981[3] with bassist Brian Ritchie and drummer Victor DeLorenzo. They soon developed an enthusiastic following thanks to songs such as "Blister in the Sun," "Kiss Off" and "Add It Up" (all included on their self-titled debut album). The band has experimented with a variety of sounds over the course of its career, such as country and western (Hallowed Ground) and pop-rock (The Blind Leading the Naked). Gano plays guitar, sings and writes most of the band's songs.

Other projectsEdit

During a Violent Femmes hiatus in the late 1980s, Gano formed a gospel-punk group called The Mercy Seat with vocalist Zena Von Heppinstall, bassist Patrice Moran, and drummer Fernando Menendez.[4] They toured internationally for two years and released a self-titled album in 1987 on Warner Music Group's Slash Records.[5][6] The album was re-released digitally in 2009 on Wounded Bird Records.[7]

Gano released his first solo album in 2002, titled Hitting the Ground. He shared vocal duties with Manuel Cruz, lead singer of the Portuguese rock band Ornatos Violeta in the song "Capitão Romance," with Gano singing in Portuguese. Gano also played violin[8] on Ben Vaughn's 1990 album Dressed in Black.[9]

Gano contributed to the 2004 multi-artist collaboration The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered (alongside artists including Beck, Eels, TV on the Radio and Death Cab for Cutie), on which he provides a rendition of Johnston's "Impossible Love."

Gano wrote, recorded and performed with ex-members of The Bogmen, Billy and Brendan Ryan, under the name Gordon Gano & The Ryans. Their only album, Under the Sun, was released in September 2009 on Yep Roc Records.



  1. ^ a b c "Band Bios: Gordon Gano". Archived from the original on July 3, 2007. Retrieved August 20, 2007.
  2. ^ Masino, Susan (2003). Famous Wisconsin Musicians. Badger Books LLC. p. 164. ISBN 1-878569-88-0.
  3. ^ "Violent Femmes". Discogs. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  4. ^ "All Music Guide Review". Archived from the original on June 7, 2011.
  5. ^ "Gordon Gano's Projects". Retrieved October 30, 2008.
  6. ^ "Gordon Gano's Gospel Hour".
  7. ^ "Mercy Seat Album Information". Retrieved September 24, 2009.
  8. ^ "Gordon Gano's Side Projects". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved August 22, 2007.
  9. ^ Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine Summary, Vladimir. All Music Guide to Country: The Definitive Guide to Country Music. Erlewine. p. 783. ISBN 0-87930-760-9.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Hilda and Zelda: the Teenage Years at IMDb