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Frank Ruggiero with the Boone Mountain Times posted a second, longer and more in depth article detailing his recent interview with David Gans:

David Gans Playing in the Band

By Frank Ruggiero  in the Boone Mountain Times

The music never stopped for David Gans.

A celebrated radio host by day and singer-songwriter by night, Gans is a storyteller 24/7, a member of the old school who sees music beyond the notes.

“I think music can change the world,” he said. “I came up in that day, and I still believe that. I’m not a heavy-handed political commentator … but one of those people who uses music to inspire people to be healthy and kind.”

As host of radio’s nationally syndicated The Grateful Dead Hour, Gans has delivered inspiration for 25 years. Celebrated as a “singer-songwriter-guitarist-radio producer/host-author-journalist-record producer-photographer,” Gans’ many talents fit together seamlessly.

“I was a musician from the time I was a kid,” said Gans, 56, adding that writing was always a driving force behind the sound.

Though always a writer, time spent in the ’70s as a musician-of-all-trades in San Francisco’s Bay Area led to life-changing opportunities in the writing world, when Gans took jobs for magazines like BAM and Jann Wenner’s Record. “All of which were great ways to find out more about music and meet people in this business,” he said.

This spawned a 10-year tour in the music news industry, an experience that enriched his own perspective of music through myriad interviews with such stalwarts of rock as Tom Petty, Rod Stewart, Pat Benatar, Leo Fender and the Grateful Dead.

This latter encounter prompted an enduring (and career-defining) friendship with America’s preeminent jam band, its all-encompassing approach toward music a perfect fit for Gans’s musical philosophy.
As a fan of the Dead, Gans sought out those stories in particular and, in 1977, scored an interview with rhythm guitarist Bob Weir.

“They recognized that I knew what they were doing and understood, so I made friends with various band members and other members of their team and family,” Gans said. “Just by being a supportive journalist, I was welcomed into their world.”

Gans offered readers a vivid glimpse of this world in 1985, when he and co-author Peter Simon released the book, “Playing in the Band: An Oral and Visual Portrait of the Grateful Dead.”

That spring, Gans promoted his work on a San Francisco radio program, The Deadhead Hour, putting together a set of defining songs to musically illustrate his work, when he realized this was something he really enjoyed. Gans took the helm that year, and The Grateful Dead Hour was born.

“By then, I had sufficiently warm relations with various parts of the Grateful Dead world, that when the opportunity came up to syndicate the show, I took it,” Gans said.

But not without a blessing from the Dead.

“I started getting requests from other stations, asking if they could carry the show, too,” Gans said. “So, I went to my friends in the band and asked, ‘What do you guys think?’ They said, ‘It sounds like a good idea for everybody; just go for it.’

“None of this was by design, intention or even planned – it just happened. I had developed such relationships with these guys that I could get their support when I tried to do something. They trusted me, and (bassist) Phil Lesh made that explicit at one point: ‘You don’t have to call me to ask for permission to do this or that – if it’s worth putting on the air, we trust you.’ And that was a great feeling.”

Broadcasted on at least 82 stations, 75 radio and seven Internet-based, The Grateful Dead Hour features music from and inspired by the Dead, woven together with Gans’s firsthand stories from the Golden Road and interviews with musicians and other Grateful Dead luminaries.

And when it comes to the Dead, there’s never a shortage of music.

“I’ve been doing radio for the Grateful Dead for 25 years, and there’s never been a single moment in that whole time where I didn’t have a wealth of material to choose from … It’s a completely well-stocked pantry of great music – delicious and largely nutritious, too.”

And for Gans, music is a key ingredient and part of this complete breakfast.

“Music is my life, man,” he said, citing a talent that flourished from age 6 with the clarinet to guitar at 15 and beyond. “I guess I have some natural affinity for music, a good ear for learning melodies, picking up chords … I’ve always been driven to express myself that way.”

Gans came of age in the time of singer-songwriters, visiting music halls in San Jose, Calif., to sing the likes of John Denver, Cat Stevens, Jackson Browne and John Prine.

Growing up with songbooks from The Beatles’ “White Album” and Crosby, Stills and Nash’s self-titled album, Gans aimed to master the singer-songwriter dynamic. But in college, his roommate and songwriting partner introduced him to the Grateful Dead, “and that completely blew my world wide open,” Gans said. “But the thing that grabbed me (about the Dead) was the songwriting, a great catalogue of American music those guys put out.”

He calls it a musical university, one in which a student could spend the rest of his life exploring.
“But also bear in mind, I’ve been writing songs since I was 16,” he said. “So, I’ve never completely surrendered myself to being a fan of something else. Even though I’d been earning my living putting Grateful Dead music on the radio for 25 years, it was never more important than pursuing my own songwriting.”

In 1997, he released Home by Morning, a duet album featuring Gans and singer-songwriter Eric Rawlins, which was followed the next year by the well-timed single, “Monica Lewinsky,” by David Gans and the Broken Angels.

Five solo albums would follow, but Gans relishes his live performances the most, particularly the degree of spontaneity involved. At a Bears Picnic Festival in Pennsylvania, Gans wound up sitting in with just about every band there. “It was fun, and it’s nice being that kind of musician who people welcome into their sets as guests, which means I can pick up guests to play with, as well.”

One such guest was Phil Lesh, and Gans is considered responsible for rousing the world-renowned bassist from retirement.

“He had not played much … since Jerry (Garcia) had passed (in 1995),” Gans said. “I was working on a benefit … in the Bay Area, putting together a Grateful Dead jam for this event, and asked if he’d come and sit in.”

Lesh agreed, and the September 1997 show promptly sold out. David Gans and Broken Angels with Special Guest Phil Lesh played a couple more benefits, this time for Lesh’s Unbroken Chain Foundation, featuring a group of musicians unique to each performance.

“He liked the idea of a rotating cast of musicians, so he started doing the same thing under Phil Lesh and Friends,” Gans said. “He saw something he liked, then went and did it himself with some world-class collaborators.”

“World-class” is a fitting term for Gans’ own collaborators, including the New Riders of the Purple Sage, the late Vassar Clements, The String Cheese Incident and Peter Rowan. Gans recently joined Rowan’s younger brothers, Chris and Lorin, in Rubber Souldiers, a jam tribute to The Beatles.

“It’s a labor of love,” he said. “We call it a Beatles jam band, taking their songs and kind of stretching them out, because here’s the thing – The Beatles wrote some amazing songs with amazing melodies, chord changes and kick-ass grooves, and then they quit after three minutes. Come on, man, take that song and stretch it out and let people dance a while.”

But Gans’s solo shows promise dancing aplenty. Using a looping device, he’s able to accompany himself, as it were, by building simultaneous layers of guitar work. “It’s a way of allowing myself to improvise with myself,” he said.

Having originally intended the loop to serve as a rhythm guitarist, allowing him to experiment and improvise on lead, Gans realized its full potential.

“Take ‘Cassidy’s Cat,’ a whole bunch of themes from Grateful Dead songs I intertwine, put together in a fresh way,” he said.

His repertoire includes beaucoups of looping figures of his own device, though Gans also performs what he calls “the straightforward stuff,” having generated 40 years’ of songwriting material.

“I play a fresh set list every time, working from my own repertoire of original material and covers from others,” he said. “It’s a real-time performance, interacting with the audience, what feels right, what seems to get their attention. In other words, I’m doing it live like the Grateful Dead taught me, and telling stories, too.”

Gans’ own story continues, naturally, through song. He’s releasing a new single, “Life is a Jam,” this spring, soon to be available for download at www.dgans.com. His last full album was 2008’s The Ones That Look the Weirdest Taste the Best, but for now, he plans to make music single-mindedly.

“It’ll be interesting to try doing things one song at a time for a while,” he said. “We’re at a moment in the history of music when all the old institutions are falling apart, so we have to find new ways to do things.

“Rejoice, rejoice; we have no choice, but to carry on.”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE: http://www2.mountaintimes.com/entertainment_focus/David_Gans_Playing_in_the_Band_id_001237

By: Frank Ruggiero
Published: 8:38 AM, 04/29/2010 Last updated: 9:45 AM, 04/29/2010

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