He was a unique, visceral lead guitarist whose greatest influence was Fairport Convention guitarist Richard Thompson. Laughner was briefly considered as a replacement for Richard Lloyd when he departed Television, a band whom he championed from their earliest days. Laughner had severe drug and alcohol abuse problems that led to his death by acute pancreatitis in 1977 at the age of 24. Rumors to the effect that Laughner was despondent, even suicidal, at the time of his death have been contradicted by Laughner's last known message, written and mailed to Cleveland singer Ruby Port on the evening prior to his death. This letter revealed his intent to move to a retreat in the Ohio countryside, where he could write new music as well as rest and regain his health.
Bangs wrote a eulogy for him. Laughner's only known entrance into a recording studio was for the Pere Ubu single sessions, though he left behind countless lo-fi live, rehearsal, and demo recordings. In 1994, Tim/Kerr label released Take the Guitar Player for a Ride, a 15 track compilation drawn from these tapes. This compilation has since gone out of print.
Fans continue to circulate bootleg recordings and a Cleveland-based label, Handsome Productions, offers a comprehensive collection of his music on CD, officially endorsed by his estate. As of 2007, the Smog Veil record label is reported to be releasing a Laughner box set (with tapes procured from Handsome Productions, David Thomas, and Tim Wright) which should materialize in late '07 or early '08. Smog Veil announced July of 2008 that the box-set would more likely be released in 2009. Read more on Last.fm.
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