Jerry Garcia had a long and storied history as a performing artist, in numerous aggregations, the most famous of which was the Grateful Dead. One of the many innovations that the Dead popularized were live performance broadcasts. A few legendary radio stations, like KSAN-fm in San Francisco, KPFA-fm in Berkeley and WNEW-fm in New York, have a particularly legendary status amongst Deadheads for their historic and widely circulated broadcasts of Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia concerts. Yet the first, seminal and arguably longest broadcaster of Garcia performances has gone largely unnoticed. KZSU, the Stanford University radio station, not only broadcast Jerry Garcia as far back as late 1962, they broadcast him regularly until 1989. There is no comparable station in Garcia or Dead history. Appropriately enough, Jerry Garcia's first studio recording was broadcast on KZSU in Fall 1962, and the Garcia Estate has released that long lost recording as Folk Time. In light of this release, this post will consider the history of Jerry Garcia broadcasts on Stanford's KZSU. The story of KZSU and Jerry Garcia is so multi-faceted that even this blog can not cover the story in one post, so for today I will just unravel the tale of Garcia's early 60s performances on KZSU.
The Hart Valley Drifters, KZSU Studio A, Stanford University, November or December 1962
As many Deadheads now know, Jerry Garcia's first studio recording was with his early Old Time music band, The Hart Valley Drifters. The lineup was
Jerry Garcia-guitar, banjo, lead vocalsIn November of 1962, friend and fellow musician Ted Claire, invited them to record at the KZSU radio studio. The tape was made so that Claire, a Stanford student, could play part of it on the college radio show that he hosted on the station The story, however, is far more quixotic than that simple explanation. The KZSU "studio" was pretty much just a room at the radio station facility on campus. The recording was done by Claire himself, with a single microphone (on an Ampex 350s at 7 1/2ips, for you tape lineage folks), and not much preparation. The musicians themselves were pretty new to their instruments, but no matter: it is a portal to another world, when everything was still possible. Photographer Jerald Melrose was there, and his photos turn the release into a true time machine.
Ken Frankel-banjo, fiddle, guitar
David Nelson-guitar, vocals
Norm Van Maastricht-dobro
Robert Hunter-bass, vocals
In the Fall of 1962, Ted Claire hosted a Friday night show on KZSU called "Folk Time." At the time, there were two strains of folk music in America, "popular" folk music like The Kingston Trio and Joan Baez, and "authentic" folk music, which was bluegrass, "Old-Time" and blues, played by the original practitioners or in their styles. Jerry Garcia and his friends preferred the latter. I don't know if Claire hosted "Folk Time" every single Friday. Some trace evidence in the Stanford Daily campus newspaper suggests that one Phil DeGuerre may have been an occasional guest host. DeGuerre would resurface in the story in the next decade as one of the filmmakers behind Sunshine Daydream (Veneta, OR, August 27 1972) as well as the remake of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (with Jerry on the soundtrack), but that was all still in the future.
The remarkable story of the actual recording has been well covered by David Browne and others, so I don't need to recap it all here. Scholar and researcher Brian Miksis found that Claire had kept the original tape, and with some negotiation and remastering, an amazing album followed. Miksis' liner notes tell the whole story, but the essence of it was that near the end of the Fall '62 semester, Claire broadcast part of the Hart Valley Drifters tape on his Friday night "Folk Time" show. The story that has remained under the surface has been the remarkable role that KZSU played in Jerry Garcia's career, and I will dig down deep into that soil.
Jerry Garcia's First Radio Broadcast: Berkeley or Stanford?
The intellectual dynamic of the Bay Area since the early 20th century has been an ongoing discourse between the University of California at Berkeley, opened in 1868--don't call it "Cal" unless you are mainly interested in sports--and Stanford University, opened in 1893. Rivals and partners in many endeavors, each a world class university, they compete for hegemony across the intellectual spectrum. In my day, at least, superiority was judged not by football (please), but by Nobel Prizes. As I recall, Stanford was ahead 17-16 when I was in graduate school. In Garciological studies, the same dynamic is in play: Berkeley and Stanford vie for supremacy.
In late 1962, UC Berkeley student Phil Lesh was an engineer (meaning: tape operator) at KPFA-fm (94.1), part of the publicly funded Pacifica network. KPFA was not affiliated with UC Berkeley but it was an intimate part of Berkeley political and cultural life (and remains so). Specifically, Phil was the engineer for a night time folk program called "The Midnight Special." At least some of the time, folk singers performed live on the show, from the KPFA studios. Appearing on KPFA's "Midnight Special" was a rite of passage for many local folk performers. Phil and Jerry made a tape, and Phil played it for host Gert Chiarito, who invited Jerry to perform on the show. Thus Garcia and Phil Lesh anticipated David Gans by a few decades, performing live from the KPFA studios in Fall of 1962. Garcia went on to perform other times on The Midnight Special, as did Pigpen, Peter Albin and others. Were Garcia's performances on KPFA taped? If they were, it wouldn't have mattered, since they very likely would have been taped over subsequently.
Yet did Garcia appear on Berkeley's KPFA before or after he appeared on Stanford's KZSU? We may never know, since no log of performers (or other evidence) on The Midnight Special has ever turned up. However, for partisans of both universities, we can offer some nice parity. KPFA in Berkeley hosted Garcia's first live radio performance, and his first broadcast on FM radio. KZSU at Stanford, meanwhile, hosted Garcia's first studio performance and his first broadcast on AM radio, as KZSU was solely an AM station at the time.
One byproduct of the massive expansion of American higher education after World War 2 was the rise of radio stations associated with colleges and universities. In the Post WW2 universe, college was seen as more than just a degree factory where future employees were produced, and schools had a host of activities that were meant to broaden both the college community and the individual students themselves. In the case of Stanford University, radio station KZSU started in 1947 as part of the Department of Communication. Its facilities were used by the speech and drama department, although unlike some smaller schools, Stanford was not providing a professional program for future broadcasters. KZSU was only broadcast on 880 on the AM dial, and the station could only be heard in campus buildings, like dorms and fraternities (see the appendix below for some more details).
By the early 1960s, radio played a more important part in student life, but KZSU was still a campus-only station. As far as I know, all Stanford freshmen and all women were required to live on campus. There was not enough housing for all undergraduates, so some Stanford men lived off campus, but I do know that the majority of undergraduate students still lived on campus in any case. All women students and all Freshman males lived in campus dorms. Some men also lived in fraternities, but the sororities had been shut down some decades earlier. KZSU broadcast to the dorms and fraternities.
Although KZSU was only audible on campus, it had an outsized importance to Stanford students. FM radio was exotic, and little was broadcast on it, and regular AM stations in San Francisco and San Jose were the only other options. There were a few Top 40 stations (KYA-1260 and KFRC-610 in the City, and KLIV-1590 in San Jose), a country station (KEEN-1370) and various news-talk-music stations for adults (like KSFO-560, KNBR-680, KCBS-740 and KGO-810). So Stanford's student-run-for-student-listeners station was a good choice for a dorm resident.
KZSU producers, announcers and disc jockeys were all students. The programs were a mixture of Stanford sports, news updates, documentary-type specials and lots of music. A wide spectrum of music was covered, including jazz and classical. It being the early 60s, when folk music was popular with college students, there was folk music on KZSU as well. Certainly more folk was broadcast on KZSU than was heard on any commercial station, and that is how the connection to The Top Of The Tangent came about.
It is a well-known piece of Garciaography that Garcia and his folk pals really made their bones at a tiny folk club called The Top Of The Tangent in Palo Alto. What has remained under the radar is how critical KZSU was to the modest success of The Tangent. Without KZSU, the Top Of The Tangent might not have thrived, and thus the whole story of Garcia, Weir, Pigpen and Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Band Champions would have taken some different, unknown course.
When Ted Claire recorded the Hart Valley Drafters in late 1962, he had been a junior at Stanford, and an aspiring folk musician himself. Claire, in fact, had been around Stanford as a freshman when Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter had played their first gig as Bob And Jerry in the Arroyo Hall lounge at Wilbur Hall. Claire does not recall it, even if he may have been there, but folk music was in the air in places like Stanford and Palo Alto in the early 60s. Thus it is not surprising that Claire found his way that Fall to parties at Suzy Wood's parent's house, where he met Garcia, Hunter, the Albins, Dave Nelson and the rest of the crew of bohemian folkies.
Even though the likes of Garcia and Peter Albin were not Stanford students, they weren't unknown around Stanford, because folk music was hip and popular at the time. Another Stanford student at the time recalled to me (in a private email)
when I was a freshman in 1962-1963 at Burbank House in Stern Hall...We had dorm parties where we were entertained by bluegrass duo Peter and Rodney Albin. I used to have a snapshot of the two of them but it is now lost.
Also in my freshman year, the guy across the hall from me, Ted Claire, was a bluegrass guitarist. I used to have a snapshot from the same roll, also unfortunately now missing, of Ron "Pigpen" McKernan sitting on the bed in Ted's room playing acoustic blues guitar.
Others recall Garcia appearing at dorm parties as well. "Payment" was probably some food and something to smoke, but the local folk musicians were intimately connected to Stanford, so that made a Palo Alto folk club a logical enterprise.
I have discussed the history of The Top Of The Tangent at some length elsewhere, so I will only briefly recap it. Two restless young doctors, Dave Schoenstadt and Stu Goldstein, decided to start a folk club in eary 1963. Their only guide was a Pete Seeger book called How To Make A Hootenanny. There was a delicatessen at the end of University Avenue that was nearest Stanford, with an extra room above it. The two doctors arranged to have shows there on Friday and Saturday nights, as well as a "hoot night" on Wednesdays. The little room held about 75 people. Sometimes there were touring folk acts, but more often the performers were from the Bay Area folk scene. Locals who shined at hoot night got a chance to play on the weekends, and could build their own followings. The Tangent deli was at 117 University, and the folk club was above it--hence "The Top Of The Tangent." In reality, however, everyone just called the folk club "The Tangent," so I will do that hereafter.
The Wildwood Boys, with Garcia, David Nelson and Robert Hunter, played The Tangent on February 22 and 23, 1963, just a month after the club opened. I have to assume that the group had excelled on a Wednesday hoot night some time earlier, but that seems to be lost in the mists of time. We can be certain of the date, however, because we have a pretty good tape of at least some of the performance from Saturday, February 23. Garcia tapes are so omnipresent that is was only recently that I started to pursue the issue of why we were lucky enough to have a Garcia Tangent tape at all, much less several Garcia Tangent tapes from 1963 and '64.
Here's the reason we have those early Garcia tapes--throughout much of 1963, every weekend Tangent show was taped, and parts of all those shows were broadcast on KZSU. I'll repeat that, just so you don't think I mis-typed--almost every Tangent show through at least June 1963 was taped, and parts of most of them were broadcast. So there's no mystery why we have prehistoric Garcia tapes. Don't forget, by the way, that everyone else who played the Tangent in '63--Pigpen, Peter Albin, Jorma Kaukonen, Janis Joplin, Herb Petersen and many others--would have been broadcast on KZSU as well. And yes, before we go on any further, I assure you that the Garciaological equivalent of SEAL Team 6 has been on the case for some time. If there's anything new to uncover, they'll get it.
The two good doctors who ran the Top Of The Tangent knew that Stanford students would be a key component of the audience of any folk club. Since KZSU featured weekly shows of many different types of music, The Tangent sponsored the Tuesday night folk show. The host was either (Stanford student) Ted Claire or (Dr. and Top Of The Tangent co-founder) Dave Schoenstadt. The hour long show was aired at 9:00pm Tuesday nights. A sample description, from the Tuesday May 14 edition of the Stanford Daily (clipped above), says
9:00: Flinthill Special- An hour of authentic American folk music, records, tapes, live talent (Dave Schoenstadt)"Flint Hill Special" was the name of a famous Flatt & Scruggs bluegrass standard, and in the code of the time, "authentic American folk music" meant "serious" folk music, like bluegrass or old-time music, not "popular" sing-alongs like the Kingston Trio.
Ted Claire's deal with the doctors was that he would tape the weekend Tangent shows, and broadcast some highlights over the air on Tuesday nights. So the boys and girls in the Stanford dorm who liked folk music could listen to KZSU and hear what they missed at the Tangent that weekend. Little did they know that a few years later they'd be seeing Jerry, Janis and Jorma at the Fillmore, playing many of the same songs just a little bit louder.
Rodney Albin had created the first Peninsula folk club in the Summer of 61. The Boar's Head was near El Camino Real in Belmont, about halfway between Stanford and San Francisco. Garcia and the crew had played the Boar's Head in the Summers of '61 and '62, but the action, including Rodney Albin, moved to the Tangent in 1963. There were two other folk clubs further South, the Offstage near San Jose State and the Brass Knocker in Saratoga, so along with some special events at the junior colleges, there was something like a little folk circuit. The realization, decades later, that live music from the Tangent was being broadcast out to the Stanford dorms helps explain how the Top Of The Tangent caught on so quickly in the Winter and Spring quarters of 1963 in sleepy downtown Palo Alto.
The SEAL Team has informed me that Ted Claire, and only Ted Claire, had permission to tape shows at the Tangent. This was so he could broadcast some of them on his Tuesday night show. This made Claire's show unique, and in turn provided publicity for The Top Of The Tangent. The famous and well-circulated tapes from The Tangent in 1963 (Wildwood Boys Feb 23 '63, Jerry and Sara May 4 '63 and Pigpen, Peter Albin and The Second Story Men) all derive from master tapes that were recorded for KZSU.
What happened to the rest of the tapes? The most likely answer is that they were recorded over. High quality reels were expensive in those days, particularly to penniless bohemian college students, so it is very likely that few people thought to preserve what had been recorded the weekend before. In particular, the idea of a huge stack of pristine reels, carefully labeled in a climate controlled vault, would have been unthinkable to both college kids in the dorm and scuffling banjo instructors with a wife and baby to feed. What money they had went to rent, food and cigarettes. We are lucky that any survived at all, and if we are even luckier a few more scraps may yet surface.
Given the history of the Grateful Dead and live broadcasts, however, it's remarkable to consider that in the first half of 1963, live performances by Jerry Garcia and many of his future-famous friends were broadcast into the Stanford dorms on KZSU (880am) on Tuesday nights at 9:00pm. Perhaps a few years later, some of those former Stanford undergraduates were at the Fillmore or Avalon, and thought that Jerry or Pigpen or Janis or Jorma sounded somewhat familiar, but probably figured "it's the drugs." Not in this case.
The Trail Goes Cold
Just about our only source of concrete information about shows at The Top Of The Tangent comes from ads in the Stanford Daily. The Tangent ran ad every Friday, and we can piece together much of the story of 1963 (see JGBP's excellent overview, which parallels my slightly different approach). However, in the summer, although the Stanford Daily published intermittently, there were no Tangent ads, since there were few students around to attend shows. Thus we don't have any idea whether the pace of shows continued throughout the summer of '63 or not.
In any case, both Dr. Schoenstadt and Dr. Goldstein were drafted into the Army in 1963. Yes, in those days, even doctors were not exempt from military service. So they were forced to hand over the management to a friend, a flamenco guitarist named Ron Zaplawa, who managed the Top Of The Tangent for the next few years. When Stanford returned to session in the Fall of '63, the taping deal with the Top Of The Tangent was not restarted, which is probably the reason we don't have any late 63 tapes from Garcia or anyone else.
|KZSU-am listings from the Monday, October 28, 1963 Stanford Daily. Pete Wanger reads the news at 8:00, 9;00 and 10:30 and Ted Claire hosts "Folk Time" at 10:00|
Even though Ted Claire was no longer taping at the Top Of The Tangent, he was still a disc jockey at KZSU. A Stanford Daily listing from Monday, October 28, 1963 (clipped above) says
10:00 FOLK TIME Bluegrass presented by Ted ClaireSharp eyes will notice that the news programs at 8:00, 9:00 and 10:30, hosted by one Pete Wanger. Wanger was a "producer" at KZSU, whatever exactly that meant, and he would play an important role in the next adventure. Back in May of 1963, an article in the Stanford Daily had explained (in the May 1 issue, see below) the forthcoming plans for KZSU. Rather than just being an AM station heard only in the dorms, KZSU would broadcast in FM as well over the regular airwaves, on frequency 90.1. The transmitter was only 10 watts, so well into the 1970s KZSU-fm was only audible in the neighboring towns of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View and Los Altos, but the thinking at the time was probably that it was sufficient to cover the area where Stanford students might be expected to reside. KZSU expanded to FM in the Spring of 1964.
At the same time, music had stopped being presented at the Tangent in early 1964. It's possible that the entire deli was closed for remodeling. Although the two founding doctors were still in the military, music was presented again at the Top Of The Tangent starting on May 1, 1964. Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Band Champions were the featured act. This time, there was music both upstairs and down. Pizza was newly added to the menu, and The Tangent seemed to be appealing to both local families and college students at the same time. Because of Palo Alto liquor laws, there were no bars in downtown Palo Alto, but the Tangent served beer, so that counted for a lot more than it might in other towns. We know from Stanford Daily ads that Mother McRee's played The Tangent more than once in the Spring of 1964.
The most peculiar thing about the July '64 Jug Band appearance at the Tangent was that there seems to have been a flyer for the engagement. SEAL Team 6 assures me that the flyer is real, but we don't know of flyers for other Tangent engagements (although I'm aware of one that may have circulated for May 1 '64). 60s flyers and posters for Grateful Dead shows are so common that it did not occur to me until recently that the Tangent was somewhat of an outlier--why were there no flyers, even crude ones, for other shows there? What makes sense to me now is that Tangent shows were normally advertised in the Stanford Daily, but the Daily rarely published in the Summer. Thus if the Jug Band wanted to play Summer dates at the Tangent, they would need to drum up an audience themselves,
|Mike Wanger and Bob Weir, about 1961 (from Mike Wanger's site)|
It seems that Pete Wanger was producing a show called "Live From The Top Of The Tangent." Various long-forgotten acts were recorded (inlcuding The Enigmas, The Jaspers, Bolek and Dave, Buddy Bonn), and those tapes existed at least as of 1997. I assume the show was broadcast in the Summer of '64, but I am only making a plausible guess. Presumably, the material on the McRee's tape was broadcast on KZSU-fm shortly after it was recorded, possibly in its entirety. According to Mike Wanger, it appears that three sets were recorded, along with an interview, probably on the same night, and then the tapes were edited together for the radio. Producer Jeffrey Norman took the edited material and reconstructed it, so while the tape is spliced, it probably gave a good picture of what a night with the Jug Band was like.
By the Fall of 1964, Ted Claire had graduated (he would later surface in Robert Hunter's Roadhog), and by the Fall of '65, something else was happening. Interestingly, the fledgling Warlocks played "hoot night" at the Tangent a few times in 1965. Not only had the little club had expanded its booking to include occasional rock bands, but according to my eyewitness, since Jerry and the boys had always played the Tangent anyway, so who would stop them? The Warlocks probably played the same numbers that the Jug Band had played. Still, KZSU was not broadcasting from the Tangent, so there was no taping going on,
|The May 1, 1963 article in the Stanford Daily that explains the forthcoming FM future of KZSU|
Stanford, as always, was ahead of its time. When FM rock radio started to be a big thing in 1967, KZSU had already gone FM. KMPX-fm was broadcasting live rock shows as early as May 30 1967. KZSU was not far behind, as it started regular broadcasts from a Palo Alto club called The Poppycock in early 1968. The Poppycock was at 135 University Avenue, just a few doors down from The Tangent at 117 University. The earliest live FM broadcast I can confirm on KZSU was the hip comedy trio Congress Of Wonders, live from The Poppycock on February 15, 1968. There were intermittent live broadcasts up through the 1970s, depending to some extent on what venues were available within the tiny 10-watt range of KZSU-fm's transmitters. Garcia would return to the KZSU airwaves in 1973 and beyond. In various ensembles, Garcia was broadcast performing live six or seven more times, through 1989, but that tangled story will have to wait for the next installment.
Appendix 1:KZSU History
From the KZSU page on Stanford's website:
From the KZSU page on Stanford's website:
We exist to serve the Stanford community with quality radio broadcasts, including music, sports, news, and public affairs programming.
The station is owned by the Board of Trustees of Stanford University and is governed by a Board of Directors appointed by the President. We got our FM license in 1964, and upgraded from 10 to 500 watts in 1978. Before 1964, KZSU broadcast as an AM carrier current station (through the University's power supply) on 880 kHz, starting in 1947 as a part of the Department of Communication.
KZSU is a non-commercial station funded mainly by Stanford student fees, in addition to underwriting and listener donations. KZSU's staff is all volunteer, made up of Stanford students, staff, alumni, and community affiliates.
Longtime Bay Area radio executive Fred Krock has some recollection of KZSU in the 1950s. While Krock was a student about 10 years before the time discussed above, the circumstances in Palo Alto and Stanford were still not that different in 1963.
When I started college in 1950 KZSU at Stanford was a carrier current station broadcasting on 880 kHz, a frequency that was not used by any broadcast station in the area. The Stanford speech and drama department had good quality new RCA studio equipment used for radio classes and by the station.
Still, broadcasting was not important at Stanford. It did not give a degree or have graduate studies in broadcasting. The speech and drama department’s classes mostly were taught by the same professor or one particular instructor. I talked with that professor about his broadcasting classes. He stated very clearly that, “Stanford was not a broadcasting trade school.” I asked him who would find his classes useful, and he replied, “Future public television program directors can get an idea about what was required to work in broadcasting.”
Later [in the 1950s] I tried to interest Stanford in getting a FM license for KZSU. I had arranged for alumni working in electronics to install a donated FM transmitter at no cost to Stanford. The reply was that Stanford as a private university had no obligation to supply radio programs to the residents of Palo Alto. Years later KZSU did get the FM license that it uses today.
At Stanford all undergraduate women and all male freshmen were required to live on campus. An exception was made for students with a family living nearby, who could live at home. Some men lived in fraternity houses, but the school had banished sororities and all the former sorority houses had been converted into dormitories. KZSU served all these locations.
Stanford Research Institute (SRI) was located in Menlo Park, on part of a former military base. Some students even lived in the original army housing, so KZSU leased a program line from Pacific Bell and fed programs to a carrier current transmitter at SRI [for those who have read Jesse Jarnow's fine book Heads, the fact that Jerry Garcia was broadcast into SRI as early as 1963 has a certain Humbeadian synchronicity].
Stanford did not have enough dormitory space for all male sophomores, juniors, and seniors, therefore many lived off campus and could not hear KZSU. There also was housing for married graduate students near College Park. They also did not hear the station.