A deep discussion with John Sebastian concerning his boyhood and musical development in Greenwich Village and the folk movement, his founding of The Lovin’ Spoonful, his move to California and his solo career which continues today. A raconteur of the first order who has had a front row seat when he hasn’t been on stage himself to some of the most important events in American popular music of the last 60 years.
Especially good Spotify playlist link due to John’s involvement and direct references.
The 3 Lovin’ Spoonful albums produced by Eric Jacobson are essential, all remain relevant today.
Born in Greenwich village with a professional musician father, John was perfectly positioned to catch the “Folk Music Wave” who’s epicenter was his neighborhood. The Even Dozen Jug Band (more of a recording project than a touring band) was an early recording experience. Like Cambridge’s Jim Kweskin Jug Band, The Even Dozen Band was loaded with talented musicians who would go on to great success.
John developed a friendship with Bob Dylan which took them upstate to Woodstock. Here in 1964 John plays a favorite Gibson J 45 lost to the sands of time. Bob goes electric on a Japanese bass.
At this point John had more experience working numerous recording sessions. He was able to help Dylan when he decided to add musicians for his 1965 LP “Bringing it all back Home”.
The Dylanologist are yet to nail down if and on what cut John (or Steve Boone) add the bass parts. Best guess is Maggies Farm. A Fender Precision Bass can be seen in John’s hands at the BIABH sessions. Note the Fender “Tweed” amp sitting on the chair left of Bob.
Steve Boone bass player for The Louvin’ Spoonful also played some bass at these sessions as did Harvey Brooks. Same Bass different wardrobe than Sebastian.
Here’s John with that J 45 again along with fellow Greenwich Village running buddy John Hammond on a Wurlitzer keyboard. Bob is playing his Gibson Nick Lucas acoustic which John sold him. This whole scene looks like lots of fun.
If you are interested in the Folk performers that went on to larger careers in rock then you will enjoy “Turn!Turn!Turn the 60s folk rock revolution” by Ritchie Unterberger. This guy has a head for details. There is a Vol II “Eight Miles High Folk Rock’s Flight from Haight-Asbury to Woodstock”
John’s first solo Lp after The Lovin’ Spoonful released early 1970 recorded in L.A. for Reprise is a fine LP
In this podcast, John discusses his chance attendance at Woodstock and being pressed into performing as well as his memorable tie dyed outfit and how he created it.
Mr Unterberger also wrote the liner notes for John Sebastian’s “Tarzana Kid John’s last LP for Reprise released in 1974. The list of musicians on this album is amazing : Lowell George,Amos Garrett, The Pointer Sisters, Buddy Emmons, Emmylou Harris, David Lindley, David Grossman, Ry Cooder and Phil Everly. Whew!
1996 saw the release of “I Want My Roots” John Sebastian and the J-Band which featured Jimmy Vivino, Fritz Richmond James Wormworth, Paul Rishnell, Annie Raines and Rory Block.
For “Chain’ Gus’s Ghost” released 1999 The J Band added Geoff Muldaur and Yank Rachell.
John is on board along with Fritz Richmond, David Grisman, Dan Hicks, Taj Mahal and others for Ms Muldaur’s 2006 CD “Maria Muldaur and her Garden of Joy”. “Good Music for Hard Times” Man were they prescient.
Zeke Schein’s discovery of possibly the 3rd known photo of Robert Johnson sent the Blues community into a tailspin. In SLN Podcast #21 he lays out the story in a most thoughtful and intriguing manner.
“Portrait of a Phantom”, Zeke’s book gives a detailed account of the acquisition of the photo and the story of it’s life altering effect. It is a literary achievement that more than tells the story of the 3.25 X 4.25 tattered photo. His descriptions of life in NYC in the early 21st century are a delight.
Matt Umanov”s Guitar Shop has been a Greenwich Village landmark for 53 years. Zeke occupied sales “first chair” just inside the door. Chatting with Zeke on any given day was always a Great Hang. For one thing you’d probably be leaning on the counter elbow to elbow with John Hammond, Jack White, Steve Earl, Vince Gill or John Sebastian. Here Zeke holds a period correct Gibson L 1 close to the make and model Robert Johnson holds in the Hooks Brothers photo used for the box set of his music. Matt’s store will close in 2017. Umanov’s and 48th St. may be gone but NYC still has great guitar shops. Among them, Rudys in Soho where Zeke now works.
Tom Crandall with his E Bay skills helped Zeke get the photo. Here is Tom at the repair bench at Umanov’s a few years ago. Tom now runs T. R. Crandall Guitars on 3rd St. in NYC.
Most of us first were exposed to The Delta Blues through Sam Charters “The Country Blues” and the accompanying L P for RBF a division of Folkways.
The hardcore blues collectors considered Charter’s selections too commercial and countered with OJL “Really the Country Blues”
However the squabbling was put to rest by CBS releasing “Robert Johnson King of the Delta Blues Singers” in 1961.
In 1970 CBS released Vol II of “Robert Johnson King of the Delta Blues Singers” containing reissues of 10 Vocalion 78s plus 6 additional tracks 0f alternates takes and unissued masters. Don Law produced all of Robert Johnson’s recordings.
If you like this podcast topic you’ll probably enjoy the following books that explore the fascination and history of American roots music and recordings of it. Keep the highlighter at hand. These are dense reads.
The writing of Peter Guralnick needs no explanation to music fans. His “Sweet Soul Music” is a top 5 books on music for sure. This a smaller book but he’s alway enjoyable.
Make up your own minds Here are Robert Johnson photos #1 Hooks Brothers photo, #2 photo booth cigarette photo, #3 Zeke’s photo. Use your own senses and tell me what you think in the “leave a comment” section at the beginning of the blog. hint: check the eyebrows and fingers.
©Courtesy of the Estate of Robert L. Johnson
Robert Johnson’s music finds a home in many places Here luthier Mark Simon creates a special resonator guitar that also has a pick up designed for this model,the Terraplane.
So that’s it for now. Take another look at the 3 images and make up your own mind. Don’t forget to pick up a copy of Zeke’s book “Portrait of a Phantom” which lays out his odyssey.
Martin Kelly is best known to readers of this blog and listeners to the podcast as part of the team that created “Fender The Golden Age” along with his brother Paul the photographer and previous SLN podcast participant Terry Foster . Martin lives in Oxfordshire near London where he runs numerous businesses under the “Heavenly” banner. He manages bands, has a record label and produces films. You’ll have to get up very early to beat Martin to something Fender Vox or other music related items or ephemera.
Sure you’ve got the book. You’ve read it cover to cover and drooled over Paul’s beautiful photos but have you got the CD? If you haven’t you are missing a major piece of the puzzle, Full of great music played on Fenders by a very tasty selection of musicians but wait there’s more. Where did they find those vintage Fender radio ads? It’s on the ACE label out of the U K. Check their catalogue for some of the best Southern Soul compilations.
Here is your Spotify playlist for this episode, crazy varied just like we like them
This ’61 Vox Duo Tone was in a box by Martin’s door when he’d picked me up from the station. Maybe it wouldn’t win a beauty contest against a Strat but it sure is clean and ultra cool.
Here’s the custom colored Jazzmaster Martin discusses in the podcast not to shabby.
And here’s the “Ultra Rare” Rickenbacker 1965 Rose Morris model 1993 Martin found in Hamburg
That’s Sarah Cracknell lead singer for Saint Etienne and Martin’s wife. He found the Rickenbacker 12 string touring with the band.
Here’s anther item you don’t stumble on every day. I think these promotion items were used on the amps at trade shows. If they were sent to dealers they would be available today. They aren’t.
Leo put a lot of design time into his 12 string bridge which is why many consider the Fender 12 the most playable electric 12.
Any K&F amp is worth celebrating but this is a rare one with a 10″ speaker.
Martin manages The Rails which consist of James Walbourne and Kami Thompson daughter of Richard and Linda Thompson. Seek them out!
We look forward to Martin completing his major book on the history of Vox. This was laying on his kitchen table so you can believe he’s up to the task.
John Cohen has done almost everything worth doing, photographer, filming maker, musician, teacher. We went to his home in Putnam County N Y for a full afternoon’s conversation. This is the first of 2 podcast that resulted from our extremely pleasant visit.
Here John Is shown on the right with his Old Time Music band The New Lost City Ramblers accompanying Maybelle Carter.
Cohen’s neighbor in first loft on the Lower East side was photographer Robert Frank who’s seminal work “The Americans ” was published while John Lived next door
As neighbors should Robert was kind enough to produce photos for John’s Old Time Music band The New Lost city Ramblers
It’s hard to over estimate the influence of Folkways Records especially “The Anthology of American Folk Music” However well know that is, I do believe the following 4 LPs from Folkways also deserve ” Rosetta Stone” status
If you only get one John Cohen book (not a good idea IMHO) “There is No Eye” is the one to get. This is his first monograph and contains photographs from his days in New Haven, New York’s East Side, Peru, Greenwich Village folk music scene0 and groundbreaking trips to the American South to seek out regional musicians, monumental.
This book results from a session that was supposed to be a dry run for a film sound synch experiment that failed. Both Cohen and Dylan had the good instinct to catch lighting in a bottle. These images capture Robert Zimmerman becoming Bob Dylan, fascinating.
As long as we’re on the subject of Bob don’t miss “John Cohen Here and Gone”, photos of Woody Guthrie, 60’s music festivals, The New Lost Ramblers, what I believe was a cover shoot for Dylan’s “Self Portrait” and a lengthy conversation with Bob that originally ran in “Sing Out”. This book was printed by Steidl
Another masterful printing job by Steidl. Pawn grandfather’s watch to buy this book. Close to time traveling back to the source, the resulting photos from John’s trips to the American South in search of what he called “old time music” and is now called “Americana”. He found it and more. 1963, The High and Lonesome Sound, photos, a CD of audio recordings and a DVD of his film made primarily featuring Roscoe Holcomb. Way too much to take in in one sitting.
“Pull My Daisy” 1959 is a silent black and white film shot by Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie from a Jack Kerouac play featuring Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Larry Rivers and others. John Cohen worked on this groundbreaking film which provides a look at The Beat Generation from within
The importance of The Newport Folk Festivals was immense. It began in response to the successful annual Jazz Festivals in Newport, Rhode Island managed by George Wein who recruited Albert Grossman to run the Folk Festival. Careers were started there. Most of the “rediscovered ” country and blues musicians played there. John Cohen and The New Lost City Ramblers played the first Folk Festival. It began in 1959 in “The Casino” now the International Tennis Hall of Fame. This is how it looks today.
As the festival and the popularity of folk music grew the location moved to Freebody Park and the grounds of St Michaels school and for 1965 Festival Field now a housing site.
St Michael’s School today.
Dylan using Joan Baez’s O 45 Martin guitar Performs “Mr Tamborine Man” on the grounds of St Michael’s School at a workshop at the Newport Folk Festival 1964
It’s time for a shout out to our mutual friend Ed Grazda (John Cohen’s friend and photographer of Mr Cohen’s portraits) on the occasion of the publication of his new book, “Mean Streets” photos of New York in the 1970s – 80s. More time traveling.
Much more to be added to this blog soon
Recorded in Kingston N.Y. Part 2 of our conversation with Geoff where he discusses his time in the steel business (go figure?) and return to music recording the wonderful personal C D, “The Secret Handshake” , his 8 year classical music project in Antwerp, “Private Astronomy, the C D that features his arrangements of classic Bix Beiderbecke tunes, The Roots of Geoff Muldaur a project that now numbers 8 C Ds of material (the actual source recordings) that have inspired Geoff. Let’s hope the notes for this project will become an autobiography and trips to Japan that result in The Martin Guitar Co. producing the Geoff Muldaur Model Martin Guitar. If you caught SLN podcast #16 we know you’ve been waiting for part 2.
Bix Beiderbecke has been a favorite of Geoff’s since Boyhood. Private Astronomy his arrangements of Bix’s original piano and other compositions that Bix recorded in his lifetime. In this podcast Geoff discusses Bix, the hand picked musicians and the recording process for this C D.
A wonderful C D personally recorded by Geoff an absolute must. I think he actually likes this one
This really belongs in the blog for podcast #16 but I just came across this copy of the L P by Better Days Geoff spoke of in glowing terms in that podcast It includes their version of “Walking Blues” and “Highway 28”
We sit down in Kingston, N Y with Geoff and have a far ranging conversation on all things musical. We get into his early fascination with Blues and Jazz recordings accompanied by his friend Joe Boyd and Joe’s brother Warwick. Geoff’s involvement with the Cambridge scene including his time with the famed Jim Kweskin Jug Band. Geoff and his wife of the time Maria’s 2 L Ps followed by his time in Woodstock as vocalist for Paul Butterfield’s band Better Days. Just too much to list here plus there will be a part 2 podcast #17.
Geoff with his Geoff Muldaur model Martin in Kingston Sept 2017
If you have fond memories of The Jim Kweskin Jug Band (most of us do) then Jim and Geoff’s newest C D release “Penny’s Farm” is an absolute delight. Jim and Geoff both vocalize and play guitar all tunes sometimes aided by Cindy Cashdollar on steel guitar, Suzy Thompson on Fiddle among others with Van Dyke Parks adding Accordion to Bobby Charles “Tennessee Blues”.
Geoff Disparages his first L P, “Sleepy Man Blues” for Prestige claiming “I wasn’t ready”. Don’t listen to him. As Richard Thompson says”There are 3 great white blues singers and Geoff Muldaur is 2 of them” He’s already doing it on these early recordings.
Here’s the L P that started the ball rolling for Jim Kweskin and the rest of the Jug band. Geoff Muldaur’s arrangements and performances were a key to this L P’s lasting appeal
Another trip down memory lane. Albert Grossman saw fit to move The Jug Band from “Folkie” label Vanguard to Reprise the happening record company out of L.A. “Garden of Joy” was their first L P for the label.
If you have a Spotify account you can play complete versions of all the tunes referenced in Geoff’s podcast. Click on any tune to play on your device.
Geoff and his wife Maria released 2 L Ps for Reprise “Pottery Pie” and ” Sweet Potatoes” seek them both out. Maria then hit with “Midnight at the Oasis” produced by Geoff’s long time friend Joe Boyd featuring Amos Garrett one of the great Telecaster players. The boys were then turned loose “In the musical candy store” for “Geoff Muldaur is Having a Wonderful Time” the participating musicians on this is L P is staggering
Throughout our interview reference is made to Geoff’s long time friend, Joe Boyd. We highly recommend Joe’s book , “White Bicycles” It’s a great read. He has lead an amazing life in music. That’s Geoff and Maria among others on the cover.
In pt.#2 Alderson discusses building his own studio, RLA Sound on W. 65th St in NYC with backing from his friend Harry Belafonte. He produces ground breaking free jazz from the likes of Sun Ra and many others for the ESP label.
Always on the cutting edge of audio technology Alderson uses A P I solid state amplifiers (precursor to Melcor Amplifiers), faders in his stand up board, speakers of his own design, sticks with the Altec 1567A for mixing and mic preamps and an early Ampex 1″8 track tape machine.
He has a hit with Johnny Nash “Hold me Tight” recorded partially in his studio and partially in Jamaica.
Alderson scores another hit L P with the Pearls Before Swine’s “One Nation Underground” which is about to be rereleased by Drag City on vinyl and other formats with the original Mono mix restored by Richard.
The quality of Alderson’s recording of the 1966 Live tour is an acknowledged fact. Nevertheless CBS decides to send another recording team to record 3 of Dylan and the Band’s shows. When CBS finally releases as Bootleg Series #4, the “Judas” Manchester Free Trade Hall show, erroneously known as The Royal Albert Hall Show for years, they choose Richard’s 2 track recordings from the P A microphones because they sound better than the 3 track tapes their recording team produced. You can hear the difference in “Visions of Johanna”. Ricard’s tape ran out on the phrase “my conscious explodes” the next line is “The harmonica’s play…”( at 20minutes 37 seconds running time in Podcast #15). The difference in sound is obvious. The acoustic guitar becomes “boomy” and Dylan’s voice becomes distant. Once again, thank God for Richard and his recordings.
We recommend Robbie Robertson’s book “Testimony.. a good read
Here is the 36 C D box set that Richard Alderson recorded in 1966 on tour with Bob and the Hawks. You need to get it while you can
We can’t go any further without acknowledging the many contributions of our recording engineer, Mike Crehore who has been present for all of the SLN podcast recordings. Mike is front and center on this podcast contributing his knowledge of audio recording to the discussion with Richard, much appreciated Mike.
We do hope you have enjoyed our conversations with Richard Alderson. There is so much more to his story much of it yet be written. We eagerly await listeningto his new projects and hope to get him back for more stories.
For years mystery and rumors have surrounded the 1966 tour of Bob Dylan and The Hawks (soon to become The Band) bootlegs continually surfaced most often of the “Judas” concert mislabeled “The Albert Hall Concert” actually recorded at The Free Trade hall in Manchester England. Unknown to almost everyone Bob Dylan decided to have most of the concerts recorded by the audio engineer, Richard Alderson who Albert Grossman had commissioned to build a portable sound reinforcement system for the tour. Dylan had problems with the sound of electric accompaniment since his infamous concert at The Newport Folk Festival the previous July of 1965. Richard Alderson recorded almost all of the concerts and delivered the tapes to Bob after the tour where they were placed in the Columbia Records vault and forgotten. In 2016 Sony Legacy woke up and realized what they had and released a 36 CD box set , “Bob Dylan The 1966 Live Recordings”.Sidetrack Liner Notes is pleased to explore the story of these recordings and much more of Robert Aldersons story to date.
Richard on the right. Not every science guy in high school went on to tour with Dylan.
Spotify Playlist for #14
Richard lived in the heart of Greenwich Village at the height of the 50s-60s folk music scene as well as Jazz and comedy acts that were playing a proliferation of clubs at his doorstep
He was asked to install a sound system for The Gaslight one of the premier clubs on McDougal St.
Richard used this sound system to record 2 nights of performances of Bob Dylan performing some of his original material for the first time now known as “The Gaslight Tapes”.
Many bootlegs and copies of copies of these tapes have been released over the years but look forward to a new C D this year of a proper release from the Richard’s original recordings.
We fast forward to 1965 when Bob decides to add electric instruments to his act. The new “electric” recordings are well received but reaction to the live shows is mixed. Nevertheless Bob recruits a Canadian band, The Hawks plays some shows in the U. S. and prepares a “World Tour”. Albert Grossman, Bob’s manager commissions Richard Alderson to build a portable audio system and hires him for the entire tour. The following is a film put together by Sony Legacy to support the 2016 release of the 36 C D box set of the recordings Richard made of these shows “Bob Dylan The 1966 Live Recordings.”
Brisbane Australia, early in the tour: L to R; Richard Alderson, Unknown, Robbie Robertson, Unknown , Bob, Richard Manuel
Later in the tour below Mikey Jones, Bob, Robbie Robertson
You knew this was coming. Here is a rundown of the gear Richard used for the house sound (PA) and to make the recordings.
Microphones: Sennheiser 405 for Bob’s Vocals, Electro Voice 666 for guitar & bass amps, Piano,Organ & Drums, Neumann U-47 for drum overhead (cymbals) no direct feeds, all acoustic
Mixer: a pair of Altec 1567 A, Vocal Limiter: Teletronix LA-2A
Amplifier; 3 McIntosh 275, Stage Monitors: 2 Altec 604
House Speakers (PA): 4 Klipsch La Scalas, Recorder: Nagra III B
May 24, ’66,Bob sitting on a Fender speaker cabinet backstage at L’Olympia with Francoise Hardy holding a copy of James Brown’s LP “Think”. She I believe is sitting on one of the road cases made for Alderson’s audio equipment. A drum case for Mickey Jones can be seen as well as a stack of Fender guitar cases in the back.
©Barry Feinstein MOJO 5/08
The Offending Instruments probably shot at the same time as the above shot.
©The Bootleg Series Vol. 4, Sony Legacy
J.J. best known as the lead guitarist for Twisted Sister regales us with tales of his mis-spent you and musical journey to date. prepare to be entertained.
The Pinkburst Project ?
Uveitis is an eye disease which J.J.’s daughter Samantha suffered from. To raise awareness and money to fight the disease J.J. commissioned a unique collection of guitars and amps which were successfully auctioned off. His passion for guitars and amps guided him in selecting the brands and models chosen for the project.
A Gretsch 6120 and a Vox A C 30
A Gibson Les Paul Standard
48th St unfortunately is in the rear view mirror now but not too long ago it was lined with music stores a veritable “field of dreams” for musicians. J.J. remembers the Gretsch White Falcon at $600. as the most expensive guitar in the windows.
Spotify Playlist for this episode
Middle 1950’s model
Early 60’s model
In 1972 The Rolling Stones toured with Mick Taylor on guitar. Did they ever sound better live?
J.J. recounts the seeing the 3 Madison Sq. Garden shows. Here are some shots from the same tour but in San Francisco at Winterland June 6.
Subscribe to Sidetrack Liner Notes on I Tunes to get the rest of J.J.’s podcast soon to be posted as episode #13. He doesn’t let up.
11: Terry Foster, all things Fender
Author and Fender historian Terry foster sits down to discuss some of his findings and a review of the early history of Leo Fender’s electric instruments.
Terry along with Martin and Paul Kelly authored this beautiful homage to Leo Fender’s company.
The Radio Shop guitar. Leo and Doc Kaufman’s first guitar
K & F amp. Note finger jointed cabinet. It is assumed that Doc got the tool for this process when he and Leo parted amicably
Fender Electric Instrument Co’s first line.
L-R: Princeton Steel and Princeton Amp, Deluxe Steel and Model 26 Amp and Organ Button Steel with Pro amp
Direct String pick up description from a copy of 1947 catalogue 151-A
Young Mr Hayzlett seems justifiably pleased with this drying rack of Champion lap steels awaiting their MOTS pearloid covering at the original Fender plant Santa Fe Ave. in Fullerton. This photo indicates the level of Fender’s production before the introduction of the Broadcaster.
Leo Fender was a legit fan of Western Swing music. He supplied many of Southern California’s top bands with instruments and amplifiers. They in turn gave him valuable info concerning the function and reliability of his gear. Leo Fender did not play guitar so their feedback was crucial to improving his products.
Note “boxcar” pickup on Leon’s triple neck, same as K&F lap steels
Herb’s triple neck features the trapezoid pickup
Spotify playlist for this episode
The California Playboys were a local Southern California Western Swing band that Leo Fender supported with equipment and kind attention foreshadowing the importance of teenage musicians to The Fender Co. Video produced in Fullerton 2012
Where would we be if Richard hadn’t written & published this book ?
Bury yourself for a few weeks in Tom Wheeler’s most excellent “The Fender Archives”
Setting up up for a future SLN podcast where Terry will discuss Leo’s creation of the first commercially successful solid body electric guitar, The Broadcaster which will become the inimitable Fender Telecaster. Several musicians will emerge as important: Merle Travis and Les Paul.
photo courtesy Rockabilly Hall of Fame
Les Paul at home in Mahwah N.J early 80s with adolescent photo of himself as “Rhubarb Red” Same harmonica, rack and Gibson guitar.