Grandson of a Kentucky Governor. US Air Force Vet. Manufacturer of LSD. Pioneering Audio Engineer. Those are four titles that belong to Owsley “Bear” Stanley. Music history remembers him best for that fourth description. And it was this weekend–24 years ago–that he recorded Janis Joplin at the Carousel Ballroom--only recently released. In an age when concert sound was by and large lo-hi, Bear had radical approaches to changing the abysmal sonic scene. It was so bad, that’s why The Who began performing Tommy in opera houses. Bear became most famous as sound engineer/designer for The Grateful Dead’s live performances. Not even Woodstock’s massive sound system a year later equalled his. This legendary wall of sound has been said to contain eighty-nine 300 watt solid-state amps plus an additional three 350 watt heads capable of projecting high quality audio to 600 feet and listenable audio for another quarter mile. Doing away with staggered towers and employing a linear source on stage, it let the band hear exactly what the audience did. A full explanation is beyond text limitations, so you may wish to consult this website for more insight.
In a simple, practical sense what does that mean to you? To achieve the best results and re-creation of what Janis’ audience heard 2 dozen years ago--push your stereo speakers together. This optimizes the signal routing to experience what the audience in 1968 heard. To appreicate what is a vast oversimplification here, check out the above site at gizmag.com.
There is no simple box that fits Bear as a man either. In the ‘80s he moved to Australia and became a citizen, battled throat cancer in the early 90s and prior to that in the 1950s,began living on a simple diet of eggs/butter/meat/cheese. Sadly, he died in a car crash in 2011.
Depending on your agility and alacrity, its time to separate your speakers again. We’re time traveling in major proportions this weekend and as Croudeland continues, a modern Richmond classic that defies easy labeling in any genre. Fans of The Taters know exactly what I refer to. They have been friends of the show since the late ‘90s. Its a sad fact of the music industry you often have to die/be killed/or face some other tragic situation to be remembered for your art. Of course, I’m not referring to mega million acts that fill arenas with mega-decibels of vapidity. Here we salute Brad, Craig, Jim & Chris... Baby Tater???
My pal Will Ray formerly of the Hellecasters once told me, “Its not the music business, its the music BUSINESS.” Its what the money-making end of creating entertainment commands in often unfriendly terms.
This week you will be treated to live music from the quartet of spuds just as we were treated as a charter for our new audio / visual series being worked on called Café Croude. My pal and WCVE webmaster/co-producer of this new series, Marshall Lloyd, video-ed & recorded The Taters in Croude Studio 4A... so... by tuning in this week, you’ll aso have the benefit of the inimitable humor of Craig Tater/Brad Tater/& Chris Tater. For more info and & gigs enjoy their site: http://www.thetaters.com/
The Electric Croude airs every late Saturday on WCVE Public Radio at the midnight hour EDT and simul-streaming on ideastations.org/radio.
Follow the producer/host on Facebook: Geo Maida
On Twitter: wcvegeorgemaida
PS. although Craig Tater refers to Hermie the Wistful Cricket as “The Bug,” the latter takes no offense.