IN IT FOR THE LONG WALK
MARQUETTE – Michael Lepovsky hasn’t done too many “official” things in the course of his life so far.
But one of those things is quite important to him.
“My mother named me Michael John, life named me Virgil Longwalk,” he said. “It is a legal pseudonym on my copyright registration, one of the few official things I’ve ever done.”
Christmas resident Virgil Longwalk is a singer-songwriter who recently put out a CD with a rather long title: “A Snow Pilot Ponders The Great Alger County Snow Redistribution Movement.”
It’s a 14-song disc that includes some original tunes inspired by the people he’s met and the place he has finally settled in after years of roaming: Christmas, Michigan..
Born in northern lower Michigan, Longwalk left home at age 16.
“My dad wanted me to get a haircut. He said it was that or I had to leave. I left. I hoboed around the continent, hitchhiking mostly, with a sleeping bag and a guitar to get me by,” he said. He had been to the Alger County community of Christmas as a youngster with his family in the 1960s and loved the quiet beauty.
And the music? Longwalk, like many young people from a certain era, started that after a milestone television moment.
“I was 11 about to turn 12 when The Beatles were on TV the first time,” he recalled. “My brother and I were watching ‘Walt Disney’ and our sisters changed the channel to watch The Beatles. That was it for me.
“My dad had an old Gibson that I asked him if I could play,” Longwalk said. “The Beatles got music started for me.”
He joined some bands in junior high and as a young adult, was in a group that picked up many gigs.
“But the music business is full of rats,” he said. “So I sold my electric guitar and got a 12-string. I grew up with country and folk music. Rock’n’roll was not in my blood, except for The Beatles.”
He hit the road and his travels brought him back to the Upper Peninsula.
“I tried to settle down in Christmas. I supported myself by playing cover tunes in the local taverns around the central U.P. Sixteen years ago, I walked away from playing publicly,” he said.
Longwalk’s venturing also took him to the Pacific Northwest.
“I spent some time near Puget Sound and made lots of friends there, but Lake Superior won out over Puget Sound.”
Shoveling snow for older folks in the Christmas-Munising area has become what Longwalk does. He calls them his “grandmas and grandpas” and one in particular woman is part of his CD project.
“I dedicated this CD to Audrey Dolaski, an elderly Munising treasure,” Longwalk said. “I wrote the song ‘Audrey’s Garden’ for her. I lived in a little house in her back yard for 11 years. She put wholesome back in this old hobo’s life and became my best friend ever.
“Audrey got sick while I was recording this CD. For nearly 2 years, I devoted my life to her well being and care. That’s a long time without a day off, but love conquers all. I kept her from a nursing home and she died at home just six days short of her 90th birthday (in 2012).
“She got to hear her song,” Longwalk said. “I played it live for her as a first day of spring present and told her that she was the only person on Earth to have ever heard the song. She cried and hugged me so hard it hurt my neck.
“Everybody loved Audrey.”
Longwalk is in his adopted hometown for the long run.
“I don’t ever want to leave everything I know and everyone I know a second time,” he said. “I’m a solo act on and off the stage. My soulmate Lori was murdered in Flint in the late 1970s and I have remained a solitary soul; never married, no children.
“All I will leave behind when I am gone is my music.”
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org