Daniel Antopolsky
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Daniel Antopolsky

Bordeaux, Aquitaine, France | Established. Jan 01, 1963 | SELF

Bordeaux, Aquitaine, France | SELF
Established on Jan, 1963
Solo Americana Blues

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06
Daniel Antopolsky @ Bush Hall

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Saving Country Music featured Daniel Antopolsky last year as being the mystery man in a famous photo of Guy Clark, Susanna Clark, and Townes Van Zandt, and being the man who saved Townes’ life in 1972. “I’m playing my third show in 45 years,” Daniel said as the took the stage for an intimate official SXSW showcase. He had traveled all the way from France to play just the one show, and a camera crew had followed him. Though he was incredibly nervous, Daniel had an excellent performance, and brought with him high-caliber songs that showed why at one point he was a peer of Townes Van Zandt.



Daniel Antopolsky preparing for his 3rd show in 45 years.
Daniel Antopolsky preparing for his 3rd show in 45 years.

Daniel Antopolsky on stage at The Hideout - Kyle Coroneos - Saving Country Music


Daniel Antopolsky (aka ‘The Sheriff Of Mars’) by Chris Lambie
March 3, 2016 Feature Stories, News

Daniel Antopolsky grew up in Augusta Georgia. He loved Mickey Mantle, worked in his dad’s hardware store and graduated college. In the 70s he dropped out, grew his hair long, hit the road with a backpack and made some music. His travel buddy was Outlaw Country legend Townes Van Zandt. They each wrote songs along the way including Van Zandt’s signature ‘Pancho and Lefty’. Daniel’s ‘Sweet Lovin’ Music’ is the title track of his first album, recorded only last year in Nashville. What happened in the 40 years between that road trip and now?

The 70s alt-music scene was rife with rebellion and risk taking. Daniel once saved Van Zandt from a heroin overdose by getting him to a hospital just in time. The ominous writing was on the wall so Daniel departed that scene before Van Zandt eventually departed this life via another OD. After traversing the US, Daniel headed abroad. He eventually met and married a French girl and they wound up on a little farm outside Bordeaux, France. Every day since, he’s been writing songs, playing guitar and singing mostly for his own enjoyment.

Daniel nestled into family life, escaping the temptations and pitfalls of a competitive career in ‘the biz’, ‘I couldn’t keep up with all that,’ he says. ‘Music was never meant to be that way. It used to be, when people made some music, it was around a campfire – like cowboys or the Aborigines in Australia. I’m so happy just writing, I don’t even wanna go to the village,’ he laughs. His songs celebrate nature, simple pleasures, love, humour and hope. ‘You have to find wonder in the world. When you quit being a kid, you’re done. I like to say ‘hello’ to everybody, whether I’m pumping gas or at the grocery store. I like to say ‘Howdy folks, how ya doing?’

Daniel’s optimism and joie de vivre is infectious. When filmmaker Jason Ressler discovered Daniel and his music, a new chapter was written in the artist/farmer’s life. Producers Gary Gold and John Capek (both Grammy nominees) knew the unearthed songs were fit for recording in Gold’s studio. But all agreed there was more to this story than the songs could deliver alone. With cinematographer Matthew Woolf – and a Kickstarter campaign – on board, a 90 minute documentary The Sheriff of Mars looks behind the album Sweet Lovin’ Music. ‘Daddy Liked Living in a Frontier Town’ is the first single from the late bloomer’s debut recording. Daniel describes himself as ‘a greenhorn in the studio’. ‘I’m not used to singing with a microphone and headphones. When I’m playing, I do it different every time. I don’t have any discipline.’ I suggest the charm of his songs lay in the pure and raw nature at their heart. ‘Pure?’ he considers. ‘Maybe it’s just simple. May I’m just a hillbilly!’ He laughs heartily. ‘They put these great musicians in the studio – unbelievable! The guitarist, Jason, is like a third generation studio musician. One plays fiddle, mandolin, banjo, electric guitar, slide guitar. Steve is a great bass player in Nashville. For the Chicken song, they brought in these really great gospel singers.’ There’s no radio in Daniel’s truck or tractor. His twin daughters rule the car stereo. ‘I liked Doc Watson and Oscar Brand, when I was a little, little boy. I loved hootenanny shows, Otis Redding, so many… I never say the same thing twice!’ He adds Simon & Garfunkel, Fats Domino, Elvis, Dylan, Hank Williams and gospel greats to the list.

Although Daniel doubts there are any early recordings floating around, he has ‘hundreds of cassettes all jumbled up and a little patched up notebook’ full of promise sitting tight in his 16th century farmhouse. ‘I can’t say how many are good. I know a lot of them are not good, but maybe the lyrics have something. If you have something to give, you want to give something that’s nice.’

Despite his decades in Europe, Daniel’s lost none of his Southern US drawl. He laments that he can’t remember his mother’s voice as she passed away when he was very young. ‘My aunt is recorded at the University of South Carolina for having this Sou-uthern accent. “Hey Honey. How ya doin’ Sugar…?” Just great.’ Filmmaker Jason Ressler suggested I ask about Daniel’s ‘Australia’ song. ”It’s about a koala and I would like to ask you if I’ve made any mistakes, if there’s any way to improve this song. It’s maybe a children’s song. Would you like me to sorta read you some lyrics?’ The spoken sample soon gets melodic. It’s a quirky, comical delight. ‘You’re not only the first Australian that ever heard it,’ he says, ‘but I believe you’re the first human!’ he exclaims. ‘I just saw a TV show about koalas. They look so cute with their powder puff ears and cute nose. I know they’re not so nice and they can hurt you with their big claws, but some people are trying to help them.’ After learning the correct pronunciation of ‘dinky-di’ within the lyrics, Daniel sings a little more. ‘Now we’re about to finish this torture for you… I won’t make you suffer much longer,’ he says. Interested in wildlife protection, at home Daniel helps wild pheasants survive the hunting season and loves tending his ‘adorable’ chickens. He says, ‘Every little heartbeat is a gift. It’s great to see the sun rise every day. There’s all kinds of wonderful people in the world. Nobody belongs on a pedestal. ‘ He was buoyed by the humility of footballers who openly thanked God and family on the Superbowl stage. After getting into Eastern spirituality in his hippie days, he’s returned to Judaism. (‘Hey, I don’t have God in my back pocket. That’s something infinite. My brain is finite.’)

I haven’t referred to Daniel by his surname. Editorial convention has no place in the Sheriff’s world. I read that China’s second richest man just bought an 18th century castle and vineyard in Bordeaux. But I know which door I’d knock on if I landed in the region. ‘I’m no expert on Australia but I’d sure like to go,’ he says. ‘Being from the South, I always felt a sort of closeness with your country. We don’t speak English like the English, you know? We don’t have to be so fancy. We speak Rock’n’Roll and the Blues. Hey, I just saw Crocodile Dundee. I love that, I swear to God, that non-city non-sophisticated feeling.’ Appearing at SXSW 2016 may blow Daniel’s mind, but I bet everyone will want to say ‘Howdy’ to this amiable fish-out-of-water. - Rhythms Magazine


There’s all these iconic photos from country music’s Outlaw era that are great to look at and try to transport yourself back to that time to feel the magic that must have been in the air. Headstrong Texans reshaped the music and opened it up to one of the most creative eras in American music history, and what a thrill it would have been to be there. The above photo circa 1972 on Guy Clark’s porch in east Nashville has always been one of my favorites to ogle at and try to imagine being in the audience of this back porch session for the ages.

There’s Townes Van Zandt on the left in his white boots playing a fiddle. Who knew Townes even played fiddle? Then there’s Clark’s wife Susanna probably singing lead or harmonies, and Guy himself playing a guitar he probably made or customized himself. But who is the dude with the weird pants and pointy nose sitting to the far right? I’ve asked this question of folks who proclaim themselves experts on Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt before, but I’ve never received an answer. Is he just some random neighbor or friend who happened to be in the shot, or a lost icon of a by-gone era who could lead to a discovery of new music that just like a cool old photo, could re-connect you to the magic of a past time?

The answer is the latter.

As has been recently revealed, the man in the funny pants is named Daniel Antopolsky, and his placement in the photo is anything but random or accidental. He was a singer and songwriter himself, a dear friend of Townes Van Zandt’s who is even given credit for saving his life, and according to some, the left-handed guitar player was the inspiration for “Lefty” in Van Zandt’s signature song “Pancho & Lefty.”

That latter point is apparently up for debate, but what isn’t is that if Daniel Antopolosky wasn’t around, there’s a good chance Townes Van Zandt would have died of a heroin overdose way before he was able to pen many of his legendary songs. In the spring of 1972, Antopolosky and Townes Van Zant took off for Houston in Daniel’s white Dodge van. Two days into the trip, Daniel was carrying Van Zandt into the hospital where he was initially declared “dead on arrival” by the medical staff. Townes had slipped into a coma, and eventually they were able to revive him. But according to doctors, if Van Zandt had arrived to the hospital two minutes later than he did, he likely would have died.

“It was a crazy time,” Daniel Antopolosky recalls. “From the early 70’s, I remember I went out to Texas with Townes and it was just heroin everywhere. The needles were kept in a dart board, thrown into a dart board. And it was a big joke. And I was afraid of that. I just wanted to make nice songs.”

Daniel Antopolosky was born and raised in Augusta, GA, and attended the University of Georgia in Athens where he began playing music. This is where he met Townes Van Zandt, and accompanied Townes on a six month tour where he sang backup and occasionally performed a song or two himself. Daniel dedicated his life to songwriting, and was right there during one of Townes Van Zandt’s most prolific eras.

“What’s deep is, Daniel and Townes Van Zandt were in a shared hotel room 40 years ago, and they had two guitars. And they both were writing songs, and they both were young and creative and on fire,” producer Gary Gold explains. “So Daniel said, ‘I’m going outside to the parking lot to write my song.’ Townes stayed in the hotel room and wrote his song. They came together after writing each song and they played each other’s song. So Townes’ song “Pancho & Lefty” turned out to be an iconic song. The song that Daniel played for Townes, ‘Sweet Lovin’ Music’ has only been heard by Townes, and Daniel’s family.”

Unlike Townes, Daniel never received significant recognition for his music, partly because he quickly became disenchanted with the business, eventually running away to France to escape the heavy drugs and the pressure of being a professional songwriter. “I saw the competition in Nashville, just when I was really yearning for something spiritual like so many people do,” Antopolosky explains. “And of course maybe I had this feeling like I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be a part of it. That’s why I left the country. Maybe I ran away.”

And ran away he did. After traveling the country and world for a while, Daniel found himself back in Georgia where he met his future wife Sylvia who was a medical student from France. Daniel eventually followed Sylvia back to France, and after all of Daniel’s instruments were stolen in the city, they decided to move to a 30-acre farm outside of Bordeaux. Sylvia’s occupation as a doctor allowed Daniel to stay at home to tend the organic farm, raise chickens, and write songs.

But Daniel only wrote songs for himself and his family until he was “discovered” recently, and the idea was hatched to fly Daniel to Nashville to have him cut his first record with big-named producers and a full band, and chronicle it all in a documentary film. Of course coaxing a somewhat reclusive and shy songwriter to cut music in a big studio with a band behind him was not going to be easy, and overriding all of these concerns was the same self doubt that had stimulated Daniel to leave the songwriting scene of the 70’s in the first place. The first attempt to fly Daniel to Nashville to record was delayed because one of Daniel’s beloved chickens had fallen ill—illustrating the set of priorities Daniel has in his simple life on a French farm, well away from the thirst for stardom present in Nashville.

However Daniel Antopolsky persevered through the recording process, and is now set to release his debut album at 66-years-old called Sweet Lovin’ Music soon. A documentary of the project called The Sheriff of Mars is also set to be released sometime next year. It’s all reminiscent of Doug Seegers from 2014, who was another previously-known songwriter that disappeared for many years, and then re-emerged to modern acclaim.

So the mystery of the man in the funny pants is solved, which is sort of sad because the enigma of the unknown figure in the photograph was something interesting to speculate on. But the story of Daniel Antopolsky remains an interesting case study into fate, and how thin the margins are between fame and being forgotten. - Saving Country Music


Last year, Daniel Antopolsky went to Nashville to make his first album, recording 11 songs of the hundreds he’d written over the past 40 years. The sessions had been scheduled for the prior year but one of his favorite chickens on the farm where he lives in Bordeaux fell ill, so he put off the trip to care for her. After she died, he finally set out for Nashville. At 66, he’d like for his songs to be out there on their own rather than gathering dust in a heap of notebooks and scattered papers.

The unlikely path that led Antopolsky from Bordeaux to Nashville began in Augusta, Ga., where he was raised Modern Orthodox, which he said was no big deal in the Deep South of the 1950s. “We thought of ourselves just as Americans. We weren’t closed off at all,” he said, sitting in the back room at the Fanelli Café during a brief visit to New York this past summer. Sporting a few days of stubble, he had on a worn gray Yankees cap and a notepad and pen tucked into the pocket of his black button-down shirt. Observing the Tisha B’av fast, he didn’t consume anything as he talked in a rapid-fire Southern drawl about his life, tossing in a few quotes from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, whose book The Empty Chair he kept on hand. One message he took to heart was: “Learn to wait. If despite all your determined efforts you cannot seem to reach your goals, be patient. Between acceptance and anxiety, choose acceptance.”

He was just like any kid in those early days, he said—a Mickey Mantle fan, who enjoyed underage drinking as well as Your Hit Parade and American Bandstand. He listened to folk, blues, country, bluegrass, rock ’n’ roll, gospel. He went to Hebrew school and spent time at the old-fashioned hardware store his father ran, which carried saddles, fishing tackle, pocket knives, and gear for making moonshine. His mom died of Parkinson’s when he was 10, and his father had a fatal heart attack seven years later. Afterward he wrote his first song, about a boy whose dad was killed working in the coal mines. Mostly he played country and folk classics like “Puff the Magic Dragon” and songs by Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary.


Antopolsky (far right) and Townes Van Zandt (far left) with fellow musicians. (Photo: Palm Pictures)
At the University of Georgia in Athens in the late 1960s—where he ended up with a degree in public relations and advertising he never put to use—he became a weed smoking, long-haired hippie with beads. Skipping Vietnam because of the luck of the draw, he tried his hand at carpentry, working at the hardware store and for a chicken processing plant, but none of those jobs panned out. Supporting himself with money he’d come into when he was orphaned, he led a happy-go-lucky existence devoid of responsibility and seriousness but full of travel and adventure. In Athens, he was befriended by the legendary singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt, whom he joined on the road for six months, sometimes singing backup and even performing a song or two himself. Antopolsky’s songwriting started to take off around that time. “If I wrote a nice song,” he said, “I saw it was a wonderful way to touch people.”

In April 1972 they crossed paths with William Hedgepeth, a magazine journalist who was profiling Van Zandt, then an up-and-comer who musicians in Nashville were raving about, for the now long defunct Audience Magazine. Hedgepeth invited Van Zandt to his home in Atlanta, and he showed up with Antopolsky, described somewhat exuberantly by Hedgepeth in his article as “a stringy-haired and bearded benign-faced troll … who exudes the frenzied looking ecstasy of a super-hirsute and shoeless Rabbi.” Hedgepeth mentioned an anecdote shared by Van Zandt about when the two had first met. He was in bed with a woman when Antopolsky barged into the room through beaded curtains strumming a guitar, shirtless, dancing and singing his song, “Lovemaking Is as Basic as Food,” which went on for 10 minutes before he was told to get lost.

Hedgepeth was charmed by Antopolsky’s antics and in a recent interview by phone from his home in Blue Ridge, Ga., remembered him as being “a well-meaning and goodhearted guy” who was devoted to songwriting. “He was certainly more of a verb than a noun,” he said, and he had always wondered what had become of him. Of Antopolsky’s music, he wrote at the time: “His songs are epic-length stream-of-consciousness comments on contemporary life which he sings to the frenetic accompaniment of his own persistently-untuned guitar while stomping, bouncing up and down, wooing and oooing and ahhhing like some bizarre combination of Spike Jones and Tiny Tim all bloated to the gills with amphetamines.”

After two weeks staying with Hedgepeth, they set off in Antopolsky’s white Dodge van for Houston, where two days later Van Zandt nearly died of a heroin overdose. Antopolsky rushed him to the hospital as he was slipping into a coma. He was admitted D.O.A., but the doctors managed to revive him, saying if it had been two minutes later he would’ve been a goner. When asked about it, Antopolsky said he’d steered clear of heroin and had urged Van Zandt to be careful, limiting himself to alcohol, pot, and psychedelics. As musicians in the Outlaw Country scene gravitated toward the darker side of things, he veered the opposite way. “They looked at the hard side of life and saw people suffering,” he said. “I did too, but I thought there has to be a ray of sunshine.”

One of his close friends from the early days in Augusta, Albert Low, said recently that he thought Antopolsky had a positive creative influence on Van Zandt, and vice versa. “That’s when Daniel’s music started blossoming,” he said. “Townes really helped him learn how to structure songs.”

***

Not long after Van Zandt’s OD, Antopolsky started taking epic trips with Low, a fellow Southern Jewish hippie, known in those days as “Crazy Al.” They zigzagged around the country, avoiding interstates, visiting cities, state parks, and college towns and performing at open mics or wherever. With his sidekick Low, now a 64-year-old respiratory therapist who settled down in California, he wandered in search of meaning, always with his guitar, though never getting paying gigs. “He was always real prolific about writing, and he always kind of wondered if his songs were good enough to be out there,” Low said. “He always felt that if it was going to happen, it would just kind of fall into his lap.”

‘His songs are epic-length stream-of-consciousness comments on contemporary life which he sings to the frenetic accompaniment of his own persistently-untuned guitar while stomping, bouncing up and down, wooing and oooing and ahhhing like some bizarre combination of Spike Jones and Tiny Tim all bloated to the gills with amphetamines.’
After exploring the United States, they ditched the Dodge in California and procured tickets to travel the world—from Hawaii to Japan and then all over Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Their journey of several years took on a spiritual hue. “He was always pursuing a higher path,” Low said, recalling how they embraced Eastern spirituality, reading Krishnamurthi, whom they also met, and Gurdjieff, seeking out holy men and staying in ashrams. Antopolsky was writing songs the whole time, often on scraps of paper, and must’ve felt they had some value because he copyrighted all of them.

Antopolsky’s music, which could be called Americana, has always been fueled by a relentless optimism that was out of step with the mood of protest and rebellion of his era. “I always wanted to make songs that would bring people together and make them see that there’s something bigger than just their own personal thoughts,” he said. Eventually, his traveling days over, he wound up back in Georgia in a funk, unsure what to do next or where to go. That changed when he went to a party in Augusta one day in 1985 and met a French Jewish medical student who he ended up following back to France and marrying a few years later. After a stint in the city, where all of his instruments got stolen, he and his wife Sylvia, a doctor and the family’s main breadwinner, settled down on a 30-acre farm outside of Bordeaux. “I wanted more quiet and space and trees,” he said. He got into organic farming, and though he couldn’t get the business end of it going, still does farm work daily—“Keeps my energy grounded,” he said—tending chickens and growing tomatoes, corn, onions, peppers, eggplant, and green beans, mostly for family and friends.



After the birth of his twin daughters, Hannah and Liza, who are now 21, he returned to Judaism and started donning tefillin every morning and saying various prayers throughout the day. He observes Shabbos, keeps kosher, likes to read the Torah sitting in his pickup truck, and attends a synagogue in Bordeaux, where there’s always a police presence. “It’s a little scary sometimes for us now,” he said, referring to the hostile climate that has pushed a rising number of French Jews to move to Israel . “I wish everyone could pray as they like and get along with everybody,” he said.

The whole time he has been in France, he has gone every night to a little room upstairs in his 16th-century farmhouse to work on his music. He would have quietly gone on like this had he not encountered Jason Ressler, a filmmaker based in Bordeaux, who met the family in Tel Aviv through a mutual friend. Visiting them back in France, he heard Antopolsky’s music one night and was transfixed. “I thought, ‘These are some of the best songs I’ve ever heard,’ ” he recalled, and asked him to play more. Then he came up with the idea to record some of the songs for posterity and maybe to get one on the radio. He reached out to a producer he knew in Nashville, Gary Gold, and arranged an introduction at his recording studio. Antopolsky played a dozen songs for Gold and co-producer John Capek (both industry veterans who have been nominated for Grammy Awards). They liked what they heard and decided to make an album.

Gold said recently of that first time he heard Antopolsky’s music: “I thought it was coming from a very innocent but wise and deep place” and considered it a missing piece of the American musical canon. But working with a guy who has been making music by himself for so many years posed some challenges. “It was sort of like finding someone who was raised by a pack of wolves,” Gold said, recalling their negotiations over editing and arranging. With the song “Chickens,” for instance, Gold wanted him to pare down the lyrics, which were heavy on chicken names and stories. But Antopolsky wasn’t having it, so Gold gave in. “These chickens were his friends,” he said, “and it was as if he didn’t want one of the chickens’ feelings to get hurt because they got left out of the song.”


Antopolsky on his farm in Bordeaux, France in the late 1980s. (Photo: The Sheriff of Mars )
Gold felt that Antopolsky’s songs, which he described as “very authentic, heartfelt, Americana roots music,” needed a boost getting traction in what’s become a saturated marketplace, so he suggested to Ressler that he make a film in a roughly similar vein to the 2012 documentary, Searching for Sugar Man . “The story could deliver the music,” he said, explaining that the songs alone don’t tell the tale of a peripheral Southern Jewish country singer who drops out of sight and then emerges 40 years later in France with a treasure trove of Americana gems.

Ressler brought on cinematographer and producer Matthew Woolf as a partner on the project, The Sheriff of Mars , a 90-minute feature whose title comes from a wacky character Antopolsky has drawn since childhood. The film is now nearing post-production, and with the help of a recently launched Kickstarter campaign it should be finished next year. The album, Sweet Lovin’ Music, is due out following the self-released first single, “Daddy Liked Living in a Frontier Town.” Antopolsky wrote its title song while he was with Van Zandt in the early ’70s during a fertile period for both. They were staying at a hotel on the outskirts of Dallas, and each went off on his own for a few hours and came back with a new song, Antopolsky said. He shared his, “Sweet Lovin’ Music,” with Van Zandt, who complimented him on it and then unveiled the song that was going to become his most famous—“Pancho and Lefty .”

Ressler theorized that the Lefty in the song may refer to Antopolsky, who said, “I’m left-handed, but that doesn’t mean I’m Lefty.” On the occasions when Van Zandt talked about how the song came about, he mentioned that Antopolsky was there but didn’t reveal who the characters were and even said himself that he wasn’t entirely sure what it was about.

Now with one album under his belt and a taste of what it’s like to have his music out there, sort of, Antopolsky would like to do more. Ressler, meanwhile, is trying to figure out how to put it all together. “Daniel is a genius songwriter who has a life’s work,” he said, “but nobody’s heard it. He didn’t get lucky, and he didn’t know how to play the game. But unlike Sugar Man, he never quit.”

*** - Tablet


(NOTE FOR SXSW - IT IS BETTER TO WATCH VIDEO ON LINK FOR THIS)

AUGUSTA, Ga
(WRDW) --

Music filled the ears of folks in Augusta today. A local folk singer paid a visit to his home town. Daniel Antopolsky is a long way from home. He was born and raised in Augusta but now he lives in France. He's here to give folks from home a taste of his music, and a shot to be on the big screen.

Lights camera action. Daniel Antopolsky traveled thousands of miles to come home. "Augusta is my home town. I haven't been here in so long, we come back in the summer sometimes, but I don't get to see everyone enough," he said.

The singer lives a simple life on an organic farm in France, but today, he's living more like a celebrity than a farmer. "You know I always wrote songs and I always thought there was something to some of them," Antopolsky said.

On this visit home he isn't alone. Along with his guitar, he also brought a film crew with him. They're making a documentary called The Sheriff of Mars, and it's all about him. "It's so touching. Do I deserve all of this? I don't know..." he said.

Antopolsky says more than fame, he hopes this documentary and his music bring happiness to others. "It's just wonderful ... I just hope it gives some people what people give me. I hope it gives everyone something good," he said.

If you did come out to the show this afternoon, you might be making an appearance in that documentary. If you want more information on Antopolsky or the documentary, you can go to www.thesheriffofmars.com - WRDW News 12 - Augusta, GA


Daniel Antopolsky, a 66-year-old part-time Edisto Beach resident, poses on the streets of Nashville, where he recorded his first album last year.
Daniel Antopolsky, a 66-year-old part-time Edisto Beach resident, poses on the streets of Nashville, where he recorded his first album last year. "The Sheriff of Mars"
Daniel Antopolsky is poised to release his first record, an improbable feat coming some 40 years after he traveled the countryside with one of America's great troubadours. But right now his mind is on his chickens.

Want to help?


A Kickstarter.com campaign is underway until Monday to fund "The Sheriff of Mars," a documentary about the life and times of singer-songwriter Daniel Antopolsky.

Learn more at www.kickstarter.com/projects/thesheriffofmars/the-sheriff-of-mars-music-documentary.

The part-time South Carolinian loves his birds nearly as much as his music. Give him a chance to riff about his hens and he's off and running, offering advice on everything from egg gathering to protecting the flock from a hungry raptor.

Antopolsky's devotion to his chickens is such that he delayed production of his first recording in Nashville, Tenn., for several months to care for a favorite hen named Loretta after she was bitten by a dog outside his primary residence, a farmhouse in France. But that may be getting a little ahead in our story.

Antopolsky, a 66-year-old Georgia native, is hardly a household name, though his friends insist he might have been had he stuck it out in Nashville back in the day with his good friend and running buddy Townes Van Zandt, a legendary singer-songwriter known for his hardscrabble folk-country classics.

Daniel Antopolsky is a 66-year-old part-time Edisto Beach resident.
Enlarge Daniel Antopolsky is a 66-year-old part-time Edisto Beach resident. “The Sheriff of Mars”
These days, Antopolsky hardly ventures back to his homeland except to vacation each summer with his family on Edisto Beach, a place he treasures for its natural beauty and quiet. But that could soon change if his album and an accompanying documentary about his life take off. The film is in the late stages of production and a Kickstarter campaign is underway to help finish it off.

The documentary is called "The Sheriff of Mars," a reference to a cartoon character Antopolsky has been drawing since he was a child. The Sheriff is a humble creature who spreads happiness wherever he goes. Co-director and producer Jason Ressler thought that summed up Antopolsky pretty well, and the nickname stuck.
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Ressler met The Sheriff a few years back in Tel Aviv, and they struck up a friendship. Ressler didn't realize his friend was a songwriter until Antopolsky pulled out a guitar one day and started playing some original compositions of Americana roots music.

"I couldn't believe how good they were," Ressler says. "I was like 'Where is this coming from and why haven't they been recorded?' "

Like most things with The Sheriff, that involves a bit of a story.

Daniel Antopolsky stands on a street in Nashville, where he recorded his first album last year.
Enlarge Daniel Antopolsky stands on a street in Nashville, where he recorded his first album last year. “The Sheriff of Mars”
Antopolsky has been playing guitar and penning tunes for decades, and that's how he befriended Van Zandt when the two met up at a coffeehouse outside of Athens, Ga., in the early 1970s. One thing led to another, and Van Zandt invited Antopolsky to go with him on an extended road trip to Nashville, Austin, Houston and other cities.

One night, they got stuck in Dallas, unable to leave their motel due to a big revival that was underway. They decided to stage an impromptu songwriting contest and each went off to a different spot to see what he could come up with in 45 minutes time.

"His song was 'Pancho and Lefty,' " Antopolsky says, referring to the country ballad later made famous by Willie Nelson and others. "I was the first person to hear it."

Legend has it that Antopolsky just might be the character "Lefty" is based on, though the Sheriff is demure on that claim. Van Zandt never divulged the identities of characters, though he did confirm Antopolsky was there when the song was written, according to Tablet Magazine.

Antopolsky also has been credited with saving Van Zandt's life after a 1972 heroin overdose in a Houston hotel. The Sheriff gave him CPR and got him to a hospital, where doctors revived Van Zandt in the nick of time. The Sheriff insists "it was no big deal," just something one friend would do for another.

Daniel Antopolsky, a 66-year-old part-time Edisto Beach resident, with one of the chickens he raises at his farm in France.
Enlarge Daniel Antopolsky, a 66-year-old part-time Edisto Beach resident, with one of the chickens he raises at his farm in France. “The Sheriff of Mars”
A childhood fear of needles kept Antopolsky far away from heroin, and the darker side of the outlaw country scene pushed him away from Nashville, which he considered too competitive. He "floated around like a butterfly" for a good while before falling in love with a French doctor and returning with her to a farm in Bourdeaux, France. There, they raised two daughters, and a lot of chickens as pets (he would never think of eating one).

He's had no regrets about that decision, though he hasn't quite shed his Southern roots. He bums around French wine country in a car with a Hyman's Seafood sticker on the bumper and treats his daughters to regular helpings of grits. Antopolsky, who wears an Edisto Beach T-shirt in a trailer for the documentary, says he loves his adopted home but never quite adopted its music or language.

"My language is Southern American, and I like to keep it pure," he says. "It's nothing to brag about. I'm just weird."

Through the years, he kept writing music, assembling hundreds of songs in the process. "When my wife and kids went to sleep, I would go upstairs to my tiny room and I write," he says. "I never knew what might come out of it."

He wasn't immediately keen to make a record when Ressler first suggested it. But during one stay in Edisto, Ressler convinced him to take a side trip to Nashville to meet with Grammy-nominated producer Gary Gold and others. They liked what they heard, and soon plans for a record emerged.

The initial recording plans got delayed when Loretta the chicken took ill. But a need to return to South Carolina to renew his driver's license offered another opportunity in the spring of 2013.

He finally ended up in Nashville and cut the record with some crack studio musicians. That presented its own challenges, as Antopolsky wasn't used to coming in on a certain beat or conforming to any set song structure. In the studio, he felt like a boy who had been raised by wild animals.

"I had no structure at all to my songs," he laughs. "I never do the same songs the same way twice."

Eventually, they laid down 11 tracks. The ever-humble Antopolsky isn't sure it's what people want to hear, or just what he will do if the album becomes popular. He admits he's a little afraid of failure, and maybe a little afraid of success, as well.

"I've never been competitive. It's not in my nature," he says. "I just love to write songs for people."

Ressler, however, is convinced there is still a place in the music scene for The Sheriff.

"For me, hearing those songs was like discovering Van Gogh," he says. "If those songs had been recorded in the 1970s, we would all know them today. I guess I'm trying to help correct that fluke." - Charleston Post and Courier


Daniel Antopolsky (“The Sheriff”) And Star of ‘Pancho And Lefty’ Focus of New Kickstarter-Funded Documentary

Daniel Nashville 4Daniel Antopolsky (AKA “The Sheriff”) is set to be the star of an upcoming documentary about his amazing story. According to the Kickstarter page launched to fund the project, “‘The Sheriff of Mars’ explores the life of Daniel ‘Donut’ Antopolsky, a 66 year old from Augusta, Georgia, who gave up the opportunity to become a Country & Folk singer in order to escape the craziness of the Outlaw Country music scene. Having been on a tumultuous journey, he’s never stopped writing songs. And at an age when most people are retiring, he’s recorded his first album with two of Nashville’s Grammy nominated producers and some of the best musicians in the world.”

He’s been credited as the life saver of Townes Van Zandt, and the real “Lefty” in the legendary song ‘Pancho & Lefty’. The independent filmmakers, who begun making this film as a passion project but realized they needed that injection of cash and expertise that Kickstarter would bring to finish it, explain, “Our movie will follow Daniel’s turbulent life as a Jewish boy from the Deep South, to touring and playing in his early 20s with the legendary Townes Van Zandt, then retreating to South East Asia until he found a “conventional” life with a wife and twin daughters on a farm in Bordeaux, France.”

Daniel Antopolsky has has an extremely interesting life, and not only is he a great musician but he also is hilarious and quite a character! This is shown tenfold in the intro video filmed to project the Kickstart campaign, which you can see here. This is something cool and different and I urge you to help make a wonderful piece of history! They need $24,000 in pledge money by Monday, December 15, and you can help make that happen. You can also find out more about Daniel in this recent article. - For The Country Record


Ramblin' Rhodes: Musician finding new fame without forgetting roots - The Augusta Chronicle


Discography

Sweet Lovin' Music

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Daniel Antopolsky (AKA "The Sheriff of Mars" or just "Sheriff" for short) has been making songs for 40 years without ever recording them until age 65. He's the missing piece of the Outlaw Country music era he shared with his friend Townes Van Zandt and is also part blues, folk, rock - influenced by gospel and the synagogue - that all blends into a uniquely Optimistic Americana that comes from the Sheriff's love of nature and belief in the goodness of people that he holds to despite having experienced the darkest sides of life. Plus the Sheriff is wild and funny and all heart. He lives on a farm near Bordeaux, France and his first album is called "Sweet Lovin' Music". And, yes, he's the guy whose name no one knew from the famous photo on Guy and Susanna Clark's porch with Townes.

A film about his life called "The Sheriff of Mars" will be completed this year.