Tag Archives: Birthdays

Composer Richard Festinger

Composer Richard Festinger

Composer Richard Festinger

Woodstock?

If you look around his web page, you’d never know that Richard Festinger played guitar with Joan Baez at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

You would find out that on April 8, 2017 the Boston Musica Viva performed his A Serenade for Six at 8:00 pm, Edward Pickman Hall, Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA.

Composer Richard Festinger

World-renowned

You would also find that “Richard Festinger’s music has been performed throughout the United States, and in Europe and Asia. His works have been composed for numerous ensembles, including Parnassus, Earplay, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the New York New Music Ensemble, the Alexander String Quartet, the City Winds, the Laurel Trio, the Left Coast Ensemble, the Alter Ego Ensemble,…

The list continues on for several more lines.

Composer Richard Festinger

Uptown circles

How does one go from Woodstock to there? Not all historic events are personally historic and perhaps Woodstock wasn’t so much a turning point, as simply a stop along the way.

Restinger was born on March 1, 1948 in Newton, Massachusetts. Josh Levin in a 2010 article in Journal of he Society for American Music wrote that Restinger “has been a well-respected figure on the American contemporary music scene for three decades, especially in the ‘uptown’ circles of New York City and in his native San Francisco Bay area.”

Composer Richard Festinger

Post Woodstock

After Woodstock, according to Wikipedia, “intent on pursuing a performing career in jazz, he attended the Berklee School of Music in Boston, where he studied composition with Herb Pomeroy and improvisation with Gary Burton.”

He was there between 1970 and 1972.

He returned to California in 1972  where he had previously studied at Stanford University between 1965 and 1968 and in 1976 received a BM from San Francisco University.

Composer Richard Festinger

More degrees

He continued his studies and received an MA in Music Composition from the University of California, Berkeley in June 1978 and five years later his Ph.D in Music Composition also from Berkeley.

Composer Richard Festinger

Full CV

Composer Richard Festinger

His complete CV is at his site. It is an amazing listing of outstanding accomplishments: administrative positions, positions held, a list of works (dozens), published music, recordings, grants, awards, honors, and residencies.

Most recently, he was the Composer in Residence, Bogliasco Foundation, Liguria Study Center for Arts and Letters,
Bogliasco, Italy, October-November 2016.

Composer Richard Festinger

 

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Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

There is a sufficient Wikipedia entry  and an interview at the 4WaySite to suggest that a blogger could create a worthwhile post about Greg Reeves.

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

One would think.

Reeves, as most 60s rock fans remember, was the bassist for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and played with them at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

Solid.

After that, things are a bit hazy, but we are talking about the 60s and Woodstock alum.

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

A few grains of salt

In the 4Way interview, Reeves says that, “…the very first instrument I learned to play was a miniature guitar… I taught myself from a book that came with the guitar. I was six-years-old and in the first grade.

His Wikipedia entry also states that “he may have graduated from Warren Western Reserve High School in Warren, Ohio in 1968.” If so, he graduated at the age of 13.  He must have skipped a few grades between first grade and high school.

Certainly not impossible, but implausible.

If his Wikipedia birth date  is correct (April 7, 1955) then Reeves was certainly the youngest performer at Woodstock: 14 years old!

In Reeves evasive words, “I was very young, very young!

Having said that, a December 1969 Rolling Stone article describes a “Greg Reeves, a quiet, 19-year-old .” Seems more likely, eh?

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Motown

Before Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Reeves had a Motown connection via Rick James and Motown producer and writer Norman Whitfield may have recruited Reeves.

All Music states that “The bass player in the recording [Cloud Nine by the Temptations] is Greg Reeves, who was soon to join Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.” Reeves says that while he was slated  to play bass on that song, he (with Whitfield’s suggestion) switched to tambourine.

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Mynah Birds

Rick James’s wandering music path led him to Canada in the early 60s. There is a story of James getting into a fight there and Levon Helm and Garth Hudson rescuing him. Another story, another time.

In any case, James formed the Mynah Birds and  one of the players in that band was a young Neil Young.

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Los Angeles with Rick James

So that it would seem that James introduced Reeves to Young when all three were in Los Angeles in the late 60s…but in the 4Way interview, Reeves explains things this way.

He’d been living with Rick James. Neil Young invited Greg to a party at the house Stephen Stills was renting from Monkee Peter Tork. The next day, “David [Crosby] and Graham [Nash] drove up to the apartment where we lived on Olive Drive at the time, right behind the Playboy Club on Sunset Blvd. From the pool I saw them knock on the door, and Rick yelled for me. They asked Rick James who I was and Rick came, got me and brought me out front to the limousine that Graham Nash and David Crosby were in and asked me in front of them, would I mind going with them to jam. I asked Rick James “Aren’t you coming too?”. He said “They want you to come alone”. I went back to the house, grabbed my Fender precision bass guitar and Gibson acoustic guitar, climbed into the limousine and never came back to Rick’s house again. They would not let me go. From the first time jamming with me, they would not let me leave. I stayed with Stephen Stills, Dallas Taylor and Graham Nash at Peter Tork’s mansion in Studio City.

To this day I don’t how Graham and David knew where Rick and I lived. 

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves
Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Here and gone

Reeves recorded and toured with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young from August 1969 to January 1970, including obviously the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

His account of that event is unique. I have read much about Woodstock but had never heard that, “When Graham Nash and me [and Dallas Taylor] arrived at Woodstock, it was raining buckets of water. We came via helicopter. The helicopter crashed landed on the main power line, that was supplying all of the electric power for the concert!

After the crash landing the pilot instructed us not to touch anything in the helicopter and sit still. We did this and it seemed at the time forever. It was hairy scary to say the least! To top off the misery, when it was our turn to play live, we discovered Chris (our roadie) had not flown our equipment to Woodstock correctly. I used Jim Fielder’s bass from Blood Sweat & Tears to play “Sea Of Maddness” with Neil and Dallas Taylor. It was pouring down rain when we performed. Jimmy Lee Marshall Hendrix was on stage with us laughing his ass off at us playing in the rain.”

In September 1969, the band played at that year’s Big Sur festival. You can see Greg in the background during their playing “Down By the River.”

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Stills v Reeves

For various reasons that come at different angles depending on who is doing the talking,  Reeves was asked to leave/was fired in April 1970. One side says Reeves was unreliable and into odd things. Another side says that Stephen Stills had ego issues. In any case, Reeves was gone.

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Life post CSN & Y

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Neil Young was his best friend in the band and invited Reeves to play on Neil’s classic 1970 After the Gold Rush album.

Neil was also instrumental in getting Greg out of a Mexican prison. Reeves was there from September of 1977 through April 1978: I spent time in a Mexican jail with the Mexican president’s nephew as a political prisoner, because we had tried to smuggle marijuana across the border. True story! Neil Young sent me money (via Western Union) to pay the Mexican police (Judicial Government Police) for my freedom…

He stayed with music and then went away from music. Again from the (excellent) 4Way interiview: I went back to school and got an associate degree in Mandarin Chinese here in Orange County, Ca. at Coastline College. My transcript shows a 4.0 average – honest injun [smile]. I also got my head together serving God and being, as I am now, totally obedient to God.

The All Music site lists a long credit list. We can finally hear some of the music Greg has been writing all these decades now that he has released a single, Workin’ Man.

Happy birthday Greg. Whenever it is!

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

 

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Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

August 19, 1938 – January 15, 2018

Sleepless son of the sleepless fatherStory Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

My father listened to the radio in the middle of the night. If I woke I could hear the soft tones of some seemingly distant program or if the Yankees were playing on the west coast, the announcer’s play-by-play.

I loved listening to the radio in the middle of the night.  As a teenager I’d slowly dial the tuner to find music or whatever caught my ear. I still am a night-listener, though nowadays it’s mainly podcasts.

At some point years ago when dialing around I heard someone telling a story. A remarkable voice.  In that sleepy-middle-of-the-night zone, I was hooked, but confused in a few minutes.

This storyteller, this Voice, had taken a turn somewhere and led me down the proverbial rabbit hole.

There was no Google. No internet to quickly look up a station’s schedule (if I’d even known what the station was). I never found out whose voice. Every few years in the middle of the night as the dial turned I’d hear him again and know I was in for another strange trip if I was lucky enough to have fallen at the beginning of this venture.

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

Joe Frank?

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

When I saw a headline that Joe Frank had died, I thought Joe Frank? Joe Frank died years ago. Then I realized I was thinking of old time  TV and radio personality Joe Franklin from New York City.

So. Joe Frank?

Yes. Joe Frank. After decades of wonder, enthrallment, and confusion, I’d found the voice.

Dozens of individuals and groups have since sadly noted Franks’s passing with glowing articles, interviews, and podcasts . If you Google “Joe Frank” the first page alone lists links to the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, NPR, WNYC, Slate Magazine, the Washington Post, Chicago Reader, and LA Observed.

WNYC’s Brooke Gladstone’s comments typify these unanimous plaudits: Joe Frank died Monday. He was 79. And he was a radio giant. He conducted interviews, read stories, wrote dramas, and none of it was like anything done before because it was so raw and, frankly, nuts. To many of us, it was shocking and sad. He wasn’t a huge star but his light has been reflected in the great work of people you do know

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

Who do we know?

People like Harry Shearer who said on Twitter: The great radio artist of our time has passed away. You will never hear anybody smarter, darker, funnier than Joe Frank. RIP, my friend. Check him out at https://t.co/yIYHeWiQHN No better honor of his memory than you hearing his work.

People like Ira Glass of This American Life who heard Frank and realized that this type of storytelling, this type of production, was what Glass wanted to try do, too.

Jad Abumrad, co-host and founder of the very successful radio program and podcast, Radiolab cites how important Joe Frank was to his career path. Abumrad spoke of when he first began Radiolab he was over his head, but after the show, Joe Frank came on…

“…and he was part of my shift. And every time, I’d just be like, what the F- is this stuff? I, I would just be sitting there listening to him and just like amazed and like mentally taking notes, being, like, oh, this guy has a feel and a — there’s a surreal-ity and a disorienting-ness to his stuff that I was just really fascinated by, and I was like, oh, I want to, want to do that.

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

Dressed like a chicken

To simply quote a piece Joe Frank cannot do justice to the power of listening to a piece, but just to give you an idea of Frank’s absurd genius, here is a small example:

There was a time when I danced on a street corner dressed as a chicken. My job was to draw attention to a furniture store down the block. One evening, when my shift was over, still wearing my chicken outfit, I walked into a bar across the street. I’d ordered a Bombay martini straight up, olives on the side.

A prostitute sat down next to me. She was young, willowy, had a faraway look in her eyes. Her name was Meredith. We talked about our careers, the importance of networking, setting goals, focus.

Then I excused myself, walked into the men’s room, entered a stall and sat down on the toilet and had a bowel movement that broke in two.

And half of it was still hanging out of me, so I had to wipe myself 50 times, repeatedly checking to see if there was more left on the toilet paper.

And written on the wall were the words, “Know that someone is suffering anonymously and unknown and that by the time you read this, I’ll be dead.”

Disgusting? Sure. Troubling? Yup. Intriguing? Absolutely. Keep listening? Hard not to. Where  was it going? How would it end?

Jad Abumrad spoke with Ira Glass on a Radiolab podcast tribute to Frank and both spoke enthusiastically, glowingly, and humorously about Frank’s influence on them. And if you have never heard Ira Glass drop a few F-bombs and you’d like to, follow that link!

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

A lifetime of illnesses

Joe Frank died of colon cancer complications, but health issues had filled his life from birth.

He was born Joseph Langermann on August 19, 1938, in Strasbourg, France, His parents and he escaped the Nazi pogrom in 1939 by fleeing to New York City.

Frank had club feet. His father died when he was five on a day of a procedure aimed at correcting that condition. His mother told him that his father had gone on a business trip.

One of his testicles never descended and when he was 20 he got cancer in his one testicle. Radiation saved him.

He had bladder cancer. He got colon cancer. He had scoliosis.

He had kidney failure and a first cousin donated their kidney to save Franks’s life, but later charged Frank for the kidney.

His colon cancer came back.

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

The road to radio

Away from doctors and treatments, Joe Frank attended Hofstra University (NY)–he said he’d cheated on his entrance exam. After earning a degree in English.

He attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, but didn’t finish the program.

He taught for 10 years at Dalton, an exclusive private school in NYC hoping to be a writing, but teaching was too time-consuming.

For two years, still living in NYC, he formed a company to produce musical acts at the Academy of Music in Northampton, Massachusetts.

On the drives between NYC and Massachusetts he listened to the radio, particularly liking baseball games, not so much for the way the announcers called the play-by-play, but the way the announcers told side stories. Radio became his passion.


Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

WBAI to NPR

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

In 1975, he began to work at the Pacifica station WBAI in NYC. According to Frank in an LA Weekly article,  “in 1976 I was given my own show [ “In the Dark.”] from 4 a.m. to 5 a.m., every Tuesday. I figured nobody was listening at that hour so I felt free to do whatever I wanted, and that was the beginning of the idea of telling stories on the radio. The show was well-received…”


In 1978, he moved to National Public Radio in Washington, DC and its “All Things Considered,” but that did not work out. He continued to work sporadically for NPR as an independent producer.

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

KCRW

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

In 1986, he and KCRW (Bakersfield, CA) found a partnership. His first series, Work in Progress, was followed by In the Dark, which morphed into Somewhere Out There, and finally The Other Side.

That relationship lasted until 2002 when a disagreement with Ruth Seymour, KCRW’s general manager, led to his firing.

By then the internet had arrived and Frank expanded his web page and his live performances.

He did return to KCRW before leaving again in due to recurring poor health.

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

Outside radio

Joe Frank was also a writer.  His site lists his published works:

Theatre Publications:

  • “The Decline Of Spengler” (New Directions 48, New York)
  • “A Tour Of The City” (Tanam Press, New York)

Three of Frank’s radio plays were produced for theatre:

  • “A Tour of the City” by Theatre Anima in Montreal, Canada, translated into French, which included performers from Cirque du Soleil.
  • “Rent-a-Family” by Stages Trilingual Theatre in Los Angeles.
  • “Jerry’s World Onstage” by Infernal Bridegroom Productions, Houston, Texas.

There are films he is associated with:

Short films based on Joe Frank’s programs:
“Hitchhiker,”
“Jilted Lover,”
“The Perfect Woman,”
“Memories,” 
directed by Paul Rachman

Coma and Eleanor
directed by Todd Downing

Magda and Dirt 
directed by Chel White

Finally, the industry recognized his talent with many awards.

  • George Foster Peabody Award “For creating radio of style, substance and imagination…”
  • Two Major Armstrong Awards For the “Most Innovative Radio Drama.”
  • Two Gold Awards from the International Radio Festival of New York for outstanding radio drama.
  • Two Corporation for Public Broadcasting Radio Program Awards for best Broadcast Performance.
  • A Broadcast Media Award from San Francisco University.
  • An Emmy Award for “Joe Frank: Storyteller” featured on public television station KCET.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award from Third Coast International Audio Festival. Listen to Joe’s acceptance speech (Stream | Download)
  • Mr. Frank is also a Guggenheim Fellow.

Joe Frank was also the author of “The Queen of Puerto Rico and Other Stories,” a collection of short stories based on his radio work published in 1993 by William Morrow.

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

Frank was 79 when he died on January 15 in Beverly Hills, California.  

“I’ve heard people say they’re not afraid of death but I never believe them — I don’t even believe religious people aren’t afraid of death,” he adds. “When a pope dies, people grieve. If they believed what they claim to believe, they would be celebrating the fact that the pope has gone to heaven. And the pope doesn’t want to die, either.”
Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

I wish I knew your name sooner, Joe Frank, but you will always be in my ears.

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank
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