Lead vocals, guitar (acoustic and electric),
was born on June 7, 1963 and grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee,
WI. The son of an American Baptist minister, he comes from
a large (7 children), artistically gifted family. Both his
parents and some of his siblings have worked in theater
and the movie industry. His father also played guitar, and
Gordon grew up hearing a lot of country and western music,
Broadway show tunes, and church hymns, all of which are
reflected in various V.F. songs. His early musical influences
include the Carter Family, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Robert
Johnson and Louis Armstrong. Later influences include the
Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan.
Gordon started playing guitar
in the 6th grade and started writing music in the 7th grade.
By the time he was in high school, he was playing and singing
his musical compositions, some of which appear on V.F. albums,
in local clubs and coffee houses. He was also an excellent
student and was active in drama (he actually auditioned
for the role of the boy in the film "Ordinary People")
and played on the school tennis team at Rufus King High.
His reputation as a popular oddball, known for wearing a
bathrobe to school every Monday, earned him the homecoming
king crown his senior year.
Legend has it that Gordon met
Brian Ritchie, a local musician a few years older than himself,
in a punk club the night before Gordon was scheduled to
perform at the National Honor Society induction ceremony
at his high school. Brian and Gordon agreed to play as a
duo. Before the performance, teachers admonished Gordon
to stick to ballads, in keeping with the solemn atmosphere
of the ceremony. But halfway through a ballad, Gordon and
Brian burst into "Gimme the Car". The kids loved
it, but the teachers were so infuriated they suspended Gordon
and kicked him out of the NHS. This incident is the origin
of the line "I hope you know that this will go down
on your permanent record" in the song "Kiss Off".
After graduation, Gordon worked
odd jobs as a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman and in
a shop making submarine sandwiches while trying to get gigs
for the band. Fortunately for him, the band soon took off
and he was able to focus on his music.
Gordon is a devout Baptist
and his religious beliefs come out in several V.F. songs.
He tries to make it to church even when on tour; he prefers
churches with primarily black congregations because, frankly,
the music's better!
The Violent Femmes took a 2
year hiatus beginning in 1986, during which time Gordon
joined a gospel band called the Mercy Seat. In addition,
he has recorded with numerous other musicians (see side
projects), written songs for movie soundtracks, has
written a play performed off-Broadway, and has produced
other bands' albums. He lives in Connecticut. His hobbies
include playing guitar in church, playing violin with the
New York Chamber Music Association, learning the German
language, reading literature and poetry, and listening to
classical and jazz music.