Dion McGregor dreamed of being a songwriter. But McGregor, a freeloading Bohemian who spent years crashing couches in New York City, never quite got his big break. (His career peaked in 1965, after he cowrote his only hit, Barbra Streisand’s “Where Is the Wonder.”) Instead, his true talent emerged each morning just before he woke up.
McGregor talked in his sleep. He didn’t just mumble the occasional incoherent word, as most sleep talkers do. Rather, he narrated his dreams in a breezy, conversational tone. The somniloquies came complete with a plot, dialects, jokes, rhymes, puns, songs, and wild tongues. They could have been confused for surrealist poetry or Monty Python sketches. In one dream, McGregor took a hot-air balloon trip to the moon.
Another time, he narrated a battle where the only weapon available was mustard. He once played Russian roulette with a poison éclair.
When his roommate, a composer, asked to record the whimsical vignettes, McGregor agreed—but only because he thought they’d give him ideas for new song lyrics. For seven years, his roommate recorded the snoozing songwriter every morning, muffling his own laughter in a pillow down the hall. In 1964, talent agent and the Tonight Show co-creator Jules Green caught wind of McGregor’s tapes and urged Decca Records to release them as an album. They agreed, and, although “The Dream World of Dion McGregor” was a total flop, it sparked a cult following. A release of new dreams is due this year for the album’s 50th anniversary.