inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #0 of 51: David Gans (tnf) Wed 7 Apr 99 11:53
    

Our next guest is not a book author, but I think you'll find his tale an
interesting one anyway.

Michael Wanger is the producer of a new CD on Grateful Dead Records titled
MOTHER McCREE'S UPTOWN JUG CHAMPIONS, a very early live performance by the
band that became the Grateful Dead.  Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Ron "Pigpen"
McKernan were members of Mother McCree's; within a year of this live
recording, the trio had gone electric and changed their name to the Warlocks.

Michael Wanger want to high school with Bob Weir and played music with him,
too.  Hisbrother Pete made the recording that was originally broadcast on
KZSU, the Stanford radio station.

In real life, Michael produces award-winning videos.
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #1 of 51: an alternative mike in the theatre of the mind (jberger) Mon 12 Apr 99 14:08
    
Mike, what was your view of working with Grateful Dead Productions?
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #2 of 51: Michael Robert Wanger (vidkid) Mon 12 Apr 99 22:33
    
All in all, working with Grateful Dead Productions was pretty cool. 
Any project can have a few bumps along the way, but this one went
reasonably smoothly.  In 1996 when I first met with Peter McQuaid, CEO
of GDP, to discuss releasing the McCree recording as a CD, he warned me
that things move very slowly at Grateful Dead Productions.  The fact
that 2.5 years went by before the CD was released is a testament to his
foresight.

I had never produced an audio CD which made the guidance offered by
various GDP folks all the more helpful.  It was Peter’s idea to search
the archives of Palo Alto publications for ads or articles about Mother
McCree’s or the Tangent.  Peter also suggested that Tim Truman create
the cover art.

Anne Cutler, of Gecko Graphics, took on much of the producing role in
creating the CD booklet.  She researched all the song publishing
information and secured permission to use the old photos I had chosen. 
She even brought her digital camera to my house to photograph some
wood textures for use in the booklet.

John Cutler and Jeffrey Norman, who did the audio work, put a great
amount of emphasis on achieving a consensus between the three of us
regarding the equalization and general “packaging” of the audio.  It
was John’s idea to start the CD with Pete Wanger’s narration to set the
scene.

Gary Lambert wrote a fun-filled article about the CD for the Grateful
Dead Almanac, giving the story all the drama I never realized was
there, and Dennis McNally did a great job of contacting radio and print
people which has resulted in many interviews.

Needless to say, I felt well supported by GDP.  It was interesting
getting to know some of the people whose names I’d only seen in credits
all these years.  Everybody has stories about the band.
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #3 of 51: David Gans (tnf) Tue 13 Apr 99 06:44
    

>things move very slowly at Grateful Dead Productions.

Aiin't that the truth!  But they do move.


I really love the cover art!  Tim Truman's best.
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #4 of 51: David Gans (tnf) Tue 13 Apr 99 06:44
    

Tell us about Young Bob Weir.  The photo of him from the high school yearbook
is priceless!
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #5 of 51: blather storm (lolly) Tue 13 Apr 99 09:12
    

I *heart* Jeff Norman.
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #6 of 51: Gail Williams (gail) Tue 13 Apr 99 09:32
    
Where did this early recording come from, anyway?
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #7 of 51: David Gans (tnf) Tue 13 Apr 99 16:07
    
The Top of the Tangent in Palo Alto.  Michael's brother Pete and another guy
taped a lot of shows there for broadast on KZSU, the Stanford station.
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #8 of 51: Michael Robert Wanger (vidkid) Wed 14 Apr 99 09:55
    
Young Bob Weir?

I guess Bob has always been a unique individual.  I remember him as
having an irrepressible sense of humor, and he liked to goof around
pretty much all the time.  His humor seemed to know that there was more
going on than was immediately apparent.  Where some might see a
misfit, some may see a poet.  Setting off a cherry bomb in science
class has a certain appropriately demonstrative effect, don’t you
think?

When his football coach told the team to take their helmets home that
night and write their last name on white tape and stick it on the back
of their helmet, Bob showed up the next day with his name written in
Old English calligraphy.

Bob left Menlo School, where I’d gotten to know him, after our
freshman year.  He told me he was going to a school in Colorado that he
couldn’t get kicked out of.  Then, he had to find another school for
his junior year because, according to Bob, the Colorado school called
his parents and said, “Pleeeease, Mr. and Mrs. Weir, please don’t send
Bob back.”

He then went to a progressive school in Palo Alto where the students
were not required to attend class.  Bob spent much of his time there
developing his guitar playing skills.  He got so good that I remember
thinking that he could eventually become a recording session musician,
the kind who plays behind the big name recording artists.

One day when we were playing our guitars together in his back yard, he
started playing a solo version of “Seventh Son.”  After his clean
instrumental opening, he launched into the vocal part with so much
power that it almost blew me off my chair.
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #9 of 51: Michael Robert Wanger (vidkid) Wed 14 Apr 99 09:58
    
Lolly, do you know Jeff?
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #10 of 51: blather storm (lolly) Wed 14 Apr 99 10:27
    
You bet. For going on 20 years now, since when he lived on Lincoln Way with
Dave Frazer.
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #11 of 51: David Gans (tnf) Wed 14 Apr 99 12:18
    
I first met him when Lolly and I and Jeff's wife were all on the same
softball team in the Music Industry League.
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #12 of 51: blather storm (lolly) Wed 14 Apr 99 12:29
    
David keeps reminding me! That was such fun. Our team had Missbach and
Yeager and, who else? I subsequently fielded a team for the SF Conservatory
of Music and we played against BGP and some others - but it wasn't as well
organized as the early days, so we opted city league instead after a while.
Uh, sorry for the drift...
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #13 of 51: David Gans (tnf) Wed 14 Apr 99 13:34
    
Missbach was here in the WELL for a few years, but was gone by the time you
arrived, Lolly.

Sorry for more drift :^)
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #14 of 51: Michael Robert Wanger (vidkid) Wed 14 Apr 99 22:30
    
Ahem...  ;-)

Regarding the cover art, when Peter McQuaid first suggested Tim
Truman, I asked Tim to send some samples of his work.  He faxed me
bunches of pages and upon looking them over, along with some old GD
Almanacs, I was a little concerned about what I would describe as the
“darkness” that much of his work has.  Naturally, I wanted the cover
art to be indicative of the fun and good times that the Mother McCree’s
CD represents.  In discussing this with Tim, the word we agreed upon
to describe the artwork-to-be was “whimsical.”  He sent me some rough
sketches that were very similar to the final artwork, and I was just
totally impressed that he could come up with something on the first try
that seemed to have just the right feel.

Upon completing the painting, he told me that he thought it was the
best thing he’d ever done.  He sent it off to GDP and they approved it
immediately.  They sent it to Anne Cutler to incorporate into the CD
booklet, and when she saw it she said, “I think this is the best thing
Tim’s ever done.”

Oftentimes, artwork goes through revision after revision and sometimes
never quite hits the mark, but Tim just nailed it.  A dream story for
a producer.
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #15 of 51: David Gans (tnf) Thu 15 Apr 99 08:00
    
And it really is a fine piece of work!

See for yourself at http://www.vidkid.com/McCree.html
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #16 of 51: David Gans (tnf) Sun 25 Apr 99 10:14
    

So, what was the deal with JUG BANDS?  What do you know about the genre, and
how did it suddenly become the happenin' thing in the early '60s?
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #17 of 51: Michael Robert Wanger (vidkid) Tue 27 Apr 99 10:58
    
Ragtime and jug band music were two popular styles that flourished
consecutively from the 1890's to about 1930.  It's happy, good time
music, and was really “of the folks,”  The instrumentation - washtub
bass, washboard, tin cup, kazoo, jug (which took the place of a tuba in
a Dixieland band) - was made from stuff that could be found around the
house.  This allowed folks who couldn’t afford “real” instruments to
get together and play music without a whole lot of expectation behind
it.

As to the folk music revival of the early sixties, it was partly a
rebellion against plastic Madison Avenue values and the slickness of
rock stars whose music at that point was, for the most part, to quote
Jerry Garcia, “pretty limp.”  Acoustic music seemed a lot more “real”
than electric.  That’s partly why so many people went negatively nuts
when Bob Dylan plugged in a few years later.

Jug band music, like Bluegrass, became a lively part of the folk music
scene as folkies pursued more interesting and authentic forms beyond
what The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary were playing.  The Even
Dozen Jug Band, had John Sebastian (later of the Lovin’ Spoonful) and
David Grisman among its members.

The most successful of the sixties jug bands, The Jim Kweskin Jug
Band, out of Boston, breathed new life into old classics, and added a
good dose of playfulness, as well.  Geoff and Maria Muldaur were both
members of this band.  Interestingly, Geoff was recently quoted with
some remarks about the Kweskin Jug Band being a kind of predecessor to
a certain style adopted by the Grateful Dead.  He said something like,
“We were the first band to bring the party on stage.”  

While the Kweskin band definitely liked to goof around a lot, my own
personal opinion is that after the Beatles first appeared on the Ed
Sullivan Show in February, 1964, it all of a sudden became very hip to
get silly.

Jerry, Bob and Pigpen jumped on the jug bandwagon for their first
collaboration before reforming, electrically, as The Warlocks.  In
fact, six of the tunes on the Mother McCree’s CD (Overseas Stomp, Yes
She Do No She Don’t aka I'm Satisfied with My Gal, Boodle Am Shake,
Borneo, Beedle Um Bum and Crazy Words Crazy Tune aka Washington at
Valley Forge) are lifted directly from the first Kweskin album,
entitled "Jim Kweskin and the Jug band" (Vanguard, VSD-2158).  The
Kweskin band also performed a version of My Gal, but Pigpen definitely
makes this song his own.
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #18 of 51: David Gans (tnf) Tue 27 Apr 99 11:30
    

I think "Dupree's Diamond Blues" (on Aoxomoxoa) is a good example of the
Dead's jug band influence.
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #19 of 51: Michael Robert Wanger (vidkid) Tue 27 Apr 99 12:40
    
Especially the chorus, with the banjo and funky feel.  That song is
sort of a rewrite of the old folk classic "Betty and Dupree."  BTW, do
you know the origin of the word/title Aoxomoxoa?  I just know it's
spelled the same way forward and backward.
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #20 of 51: David Gans (tnf) Tue 27 Apr 99 12:55
    
Rick Griffin was way into palindromes in his art.  I'll bet it was his doing.
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #21 of 51: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 27 Apr 99 17:53
    
Michael, excuse me if you've already answered this, but were you
around when these tapes were recorded? If so, do you have more tapes
that aren't part of this release? I know Mother McCree had a lot of
people dropping by Jerry's garage to play with them, I hung out in that
garage a few times back then. I would LOVE to hear some of the jams
that included some of those other folks, too.
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #22 of 51: David Gans (tnf) Tue 27 Apr 99 18:14
    
You were there, Cynthia?  TELL!
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #23 of 51: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 28 Apr 99 11:49
    
Well, it was a loooooooong time ago, David. I was 15 at the time and
everything I remember is filtered through the eyes/mind of a
15-year-old, of course.

I was hangin' out with Andy Robbins, my then-boyfriend, his pal Lonnie
Turner (who later played bass with Steve Miller), John Dawson (I think
that was his name, he later had some connection with the Dead) and Bob
Weir. We sometimes would go over to this OLD GUY's garage (that was
Jerry Garcia) and everybody would jam while I'd get restless, since I
didn't play an instrument.

I do remember driving around one night in a beat up station wagon, Bob
at the wheel, me in the middle and Andy riding shotgun. We had a jug
of Red Mountain and we were cruising the back roads west of ... of ...
Menlo Park maybe (?), drinking and laughing like idiots because the
station wagon had almost zero brakes and for some reason we thought
that was funny.

It's a miracle we didn't get killed.  
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #24 of 51: David Gans (tnf) Wed 28 Apr 99 12:13
    
Great story!
  
inkwell.vue.36 : Michael Wanger
permalink #25 of 51: David Gans (tnf) Wed 28 Apr 99 20:42
    

So Michael, you and Weir were in a band together.  You called it The Uncalled
Four - great name!  Who thought up the name?  Did you play in public much?
  

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