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The Legend of Aqualung

Updated: Feb 19, 2022

Today's story is of a local legend. A name every Kanawha Valley resident recognizes instantaneously. Aqualung.

I first heard of Aqualung, I was just a little girl. My parents had let me watch a movie titled "Down and Out in Beverly Hills", in which Nick Nolte played a street person. As his character appeared on our family television, my dad (always ready to chime in with local fun facts) interrupted pausing the movie. He proceeds to tell us how this character is based on a real person and this person happens to reside right here in little ole Charleston, WV, Aqualung.

My father, ever the storyteller, shared all of the local rumors. He was said to actually have been a lawyer and that he had plenty of wealth- his decision to live on the street was a choice. People told of him writing in a secret language using unfamiliar symbols. There is even gossip about Aqualung helping the Charleston Police Department solve a murder when he came upon evidence tossed in a dumpster and turned it in to the authorities.

Aqualung had actually gained his popular nickname for his resemblance to the man on the cover on the Jethro Tull album, but the tales that surround Aqualung are countless. What we do know is that his real name was Bill Dunn. He liked being left alone and baseball. Aside from these facts, few ever got to know the man behind the legend. In a way, he is as mysterious now as he was when I was a child riding in the car past him pushing his cart around the streets of downtown. Bill disappeared some years ago, no one has claimed to have heard from him or seen him. I can find no evidence of his passing. We may never know if he is still walking around today, but I like to think if he is here, his preference is to still be left alone.

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