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.
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?
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 Peters idea to search the archives of Palo Alto publications for ads or articles about Mother McCrees 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 Johns idea to start the CD with Pete Wangers 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 Id only seen in credits all these years. Everybody has stories about the band.
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.
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!
blather storm (lolly) Tue 13 Apr 99 09:12
I *heart* Jeff Norman.
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 13 Apr 99 09:32
Where did this early recording come from, anyway?
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.
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, dont 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 Id gotten to know him, after our freshman year. He told me he was going to a school in Colorado that he couldnt 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 dont 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.
Michael Robert Wanger (vidkid) Wed 14 Apr 99 09:58
Lolly, do you know Jeff?
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.
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.
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...
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 :^)
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 McCrees 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 hed 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 Tims 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.
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
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?
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 couldnt 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. Thats 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 McCrees CD (Overseas Stomp, Yes She Do No She Dont 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
David Gans (tnf) Tue 27 Apr 99 18:14
You were there, Cynthia? TELL!
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.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 28 Apr 99 12:13
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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