About Us

Michael Lydon founded Patrick Press in 1990 to publish his book, Writing and Life. Through the next two decades he published fifteen Patrick Press books, most of them essays on literature and music, and most of them copy center chapbooks, elegant but homemade. These Patrick Press books are listed in the Bookstore.

In the spring of 2011 Lydon decided to move Patrick Press into the age of on-demand printing and e-books. An early casualty of the new push was the name Patrick Press. To get a “doing business as” certificate, Lydon needed a new name, and he decided on Franklin Street Press, named for his childhood home in the country town of Duxbury, Massachusetts.

Franklin Street Press is a small company based in New York’s bustling East Village. Lydon is CEO, chief writer, book designer, and cook and bottle washer. Ellen Mandel photographs, edits, and proofreads. Peter Lydon, Michael’s elder brother, consults from his home in Berkeley, California. The Source Unltd, a copy shop on East 9th Street, is our printer and bookmaker. We are starting to use the Espresso Book Machine at the McNally/Jackson bookstore on Prince Street in nearby Soho.

Starting a website is a big step for little Franklin Street Press, and we wish the company growing success in 2012!

 

Michael Lydon

 

Here’s my story in six words: I love writing, I love music.

The Irish, as the world knows, have a way with words, a bit of the old Blarney. Books and lively talk were the air I breathed as a child. All us kids knew Winnie the Pooh and When We Were Six by heart. Many a night we curled up on the sofa quiet as mice as Mom read us Kidnapped and Cheaper by the Dozen. I read Huckleberry Finn in fourth grade, The Pathfinder fifth, and Oliver Twist in the sixth.

We also had a piano at home. My mother sang Handel, Dad loved “Who is Sylvia?” and my big brothers dug Duke Ellington. I studied clarinet, but convinced I’d never be able to play jazz, I quit, I’d become a writer instead, editor of my high school literary magazine, staff reporter for the Yale Daily News. When the Beatles came to America, I panned them, praising Martha and the Vandellas instead. 

I covered the civil rights movement for the Boston Globe, was in Philadelphia, Mississippi when they found Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney’s burned-out station wagon in a ditch. In “Freedom Now!” I heard freedom for myself.

After college I reported for Newsweek from “Swinging London” Carnaby Street and the Who. Rubber Soul converted me to the Beatles. I interviewed John–abrasive–and Paul– too charming. Newsweek transferred me to San Francisco in time for the Human Be-in in ’67. As psychedelics and hippie rock became national news, the Fillmore Ballroom was my beat, Janis Joplin my inside source.

At Monterey Pop I let my mind be blown. At concerts and communes friendly hippies encouraged me to be myself. I let my hair grow long and quit Newsweek. Jann Wenner, asked me to help start Rolling Stone. After a few issues I left for a hippie cabin in Mendocino, hitchhiking down to the city to join the Rolling Stones on a wild ride across America to Altamont. My first book, Rock Folk, collects those pieces and reflects the tumultuous times I shared with a generation.

I met Ellen Mandel who played piano; she encouraged me to try her old Harmony guitar. As soon as I could play the two chords, I was launched. I bought a harmonica, a Gibson flattop, a Bob Dylan songbook, and started writing my own songs. After years of avid listening, I figured I’d add my voice to pop’s worldwide chorus. 

Ellen and I made our coffeehouse on an unpaid San Francisco talent show with Robin Williams. We moved to Manhattan, joining all the ambitious kids putting their acts together in the Big Apple, opening for Muddy Waters and Mose Allison.

In the mid-80s I began writing essays on writing itself and on great realists like Balzac, Dreiser, and George Eliot, authors I knew and loved. Wanting to get these essays out to the public led to my founding Patrick Press. In the mid-90s I had a great opportunity to write Ray Charles: Man and Music, a full-length biography of the Genius. That kept me busy for four years, took me all over the country and deeper than ever into the heart of pop music.

In the past decade I’ve written a dozen new essays on music and writing, a few on my philosophy, and I’ve continued to write songs and perform them at every available opportunity. A good day for me? A few hours to write in the morning, a few hours to play in the afternoon, and then a few hours playing with a band of good musicians a nice (and nicely paying) party gig at night.