It's a common thing in college, if you fancy yourself a guitarist, to find a public space with great acoustics, sit
down, and play. Dormitory stairwells can be ideal -- for sound, if not elbow room. When Ackerman was a student and even after
he dropped out, he could often be found playing his guitar in campus stairwells.
while, small crowds began to gather. So he looked for a bigger space with good acoustics, and found a set of arches. "It
provided almost a venue," he recalls. "It was out of the rain if it was raining. No one was invited, it's just that
they knew this thing existed." It became a weekly event, with Ackerman and a few other guitarists playing the archway.
The crowds grew, from a couple dozen to a few hundred.
"So I had this audience
who kept saying, 'How come you don't have a record?' I didn't have a good answer for that, so I finally said, 'Look, anyone
who wants a record, put a five-dollar bill in this basket here and give me your name, and when I'm done recording it I'll
bring you a record.' And a bunch of people did, and I got just enough money to go into Mantra Studios in San Mateo,
California, and record my first record in two afternoons."
He almost canceled
the whole deal when he was told that the minimum order was 300 copies. "I was certain that I'd have 150 of
these in my closet for the rest of my life."
That album, recorded in 1976,
was In Search of the Turtle's Navel. It's still in print today. Not only did it launch Will Ackerman's musical
career; it also launched the Windham Hill label.