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David Gans

David Gans

Known far and wide as the light behind the widely syndicated Grateful Dead Hour radio program, several books on the Dead and a number of intriguing CDs relating to the band and its music (see below), David Gans has been a musician, writer, radio producer, and photographer for more than 40 years.

As both a player and a journalist, he understands the transformative power of music – how it feeds our very life-force, bonds us together in obvious and unseen ways, teaches us, heals us, makes us better citizens of this fragile planet. "I came up in the time when we thought music could change world, and I still think it can – the only way the world can be changed: one soul at a time, by inspiration and example and not by coercion."

His writing career began at BAM magazine in 1976 with a piece on a "Russian Rock'n'Roll" band recently arrived in the Bay Area. He went on to write cover stories on a great variety of artists and producers, and he put his first-hand musical knowledge to work in music-tech pieces and interviews with songwriters, recording engineers, and inventors such as John Meyer and Leo Fender.

Gans joined the staff of M.I. magazine, published by Mix: The Recording Industry Magazine, and later served as music editor of the parent publication after M.I. folded. He joined the staff of Record (published by Rolling Stone) in time for its first issue and remained until its last, starting as the musical-instruments columnist and rising to the title of Senior Editor (West Coast) under the guidance of editor David McGee.

He has interviewed scores of artists, from new arrivals like Men at Work to monumental figures such as Neil Young, Jerry Garcia, Randy Newman, Ted Templeman, and dozens more. He brought his camera along on his journalistic expeditions, and wound up with a pretty decent archive of photos, a sampling of which can be seen on flickr.

A chance meeting on a 1982 press junket to the Jamaica World Music Festival led to Gans collaborating with photographer Peter Simon on the 1985 book Playing in the Band: An Oral and Visual Portrait of the Grateful Dead. Promoting that book led to an appearance on the KFOG Deadhead Hour; David got hooked on radio and eventually was asked to take responsibility for the weekly program. When other stations asked if they could carry the show, Gans went to the Dead and received permission to syndicate it nationally.

Moving into radio put an end to Gans' music-journalism career, for the most part. He has done the occasional free-lance piece, most notably a 1995 profile of plunderphonics artist John Oswald for Wired, and he is currently at work on a critical work on the music of the Grateful Dead. "It's my field of expertise," he notes, hastening to add that being deeply into the music of the Dead has never prevented him from understanding and appreciating a great variety of musical styles. In addition to his syndicated Grateful Dead Hour, Gans hosts Dead to the World Wednesday 8-10 pm on KPFA 94.1 fm in Berkeley. "Two hours of unsupervised air time every week, and I can play whatever I think is good. And I get to have live bands in the performance studio several times a year."

Gans' Grateful Dead expertise has served him, and the Grateful Dead, well: he has produced several important archival releases, including the definitive boxed sets So Many Roads: 1965-1995 and All Good Things: The Jerry Garcia Studio Sessions. He also conceived and produced Postcards of the Hanging: Grateful Dead Perform the Songs of Bob Dylan; a covers compilation titled Stolen Roses: Songs of the Grateful Dead; and, with Henry Kaiser, The Music Never Stopped: Roots of the Grateful Dead.

Making his own music has been the top priority since the late '90s, when Gans began touring on a national level. His "solo electric" performances have taken him to festivals from coast to coast, and he enjoys the great intimacy (and economic advantages) of house concerts. He's been playing in a "Beatles jam band" called Rubber Souldiers off and on for the last several years, and in 2012 he started an acoustic Grateful Dead-ish band called the Sycamore Slough String Band.

"I never made a plan in my life," he humble-brags. "I just saw doors opening in front of me and went through them. The Grateful Dead are a weird-ass role model, but they taught me to be true to my muse, tell the truth, and go for it."

David Gans on Flickr

34 articles

List of articles in the library

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The Eagles' Don Felder: A Short Run To the Top

Profile and Interview by David Gans, Axe Magazine, 1980

IT SEEMED as though Don Felder came from nowhere to join The Eagles during the recording of On The Border (he is listed with ...

Waddy Wachtel: Confessions of a 'Mafia' Guitarist

Interview by David Gans, BAM, 7 March 1980

WADDY WACHTEL, ace guitarist and member of Peter Asher's "L.A. Mafia", has just finished the most important recording sessions of his career – his own. ...

Captain Beefheart: Ted Templeman on Captain Beefheart

Interview by David Gans, BAM, 10 September 1981

What did you expect when you did Captain Beefheart's Clear Spot? ...

Captain Beefheart, Doobie Brothers, Little Feat, Van Morrison, Van Halen: Ted Templeman: Super Producer

Interview by David Gans, BAM, 1982

The super producer talks about Little Feat, Van Halen, the Doobies, and staying sane in a world of crazies. ...

Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne: Ozzy Osbourne

Interview by David Gans, unpublished, January 1982

On the bus en route from Salt Lake City to Denver in the early morning hours of January 10, 1982 ...

Lindsey Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac: Lindsey Buckingham: A Pop Renegade

Interview by David Gans, Record, April 1982

AS THE NEXT Fleetwood Mac album nears completion, Lindsey Buckingham is faced with divided interests. Much of the responsibility for the success or failure of ...

Les Paul: 30 Years of Gibson Les Paul: A Loving Look at an American Classic

Retrospective by David Gans, BAM, 21 May 1982

THERE'S SOMETHING very special about the look, feel and sound of a Gibson Les Paul guitar. Ask anyone who's ever owned or played one, or ...

Fleetwood Mac: Where's Stevie?

Interview by David Gans, Record, September 1982

FANTASY ISLAND, Ca. – On the kitchen table in Mick Fleetwood's Malibu mansion sits a model of the stage design for Fleetwood Mac's upcoming American ...

Grateful Dead: Phil Lesh's Unbroken Changes

Interview by David Gans, Musician, November 1982

The Grateful Dead's Mad Professor of the Bass ...

Joe Jackson: Who Needs Rock'N'Roll?

Profile and Interview by David Gans, Musician, February 1983

JOE JACKSON works, from the very start of his two and a half hour show. He sings with every inch and every ounce of his ...

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: Tom Petty: Hot Spell

Interview by David Gans, Hit Parader, April 1983

Lighting Up The Night Under The Spotlight ...

Randy Newman: Setting a Standard for Pop Songwriting

Profile and Interview by David Gans, Mix, May 1983

EVERYBODY'S GOT his own definition of paradise, and every paradise has its troubles. Randy Newman's new album, Trouble in Paradise, takes this notion and examines ...

Steve Goodman: After A Bout Of Leukemia, Steve Goodman Hits The Road

Interview by David Gans, Record, July 1983

LOS ANGELES — Red Pajamas Records is a one-act label with a one-title catalogue. But Steve Goodman, proprietor and Red Pajamas recording artist, doesn't mind ...

Grateful Dead: Dawn of the Deadheads

Report and Interview by David Gans, Headliner, August 1983

THE PSYCHEDELIC era is ancient history, and LSD is so far out of fashion that it probably doesn't even need to be illegal any more. ...

Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie: Fleetwood Mac: A Band Apart

Interview by David Gans, Record, December 1983

OAKLAND, CA. — The second round of Fleetwood Mac solo projects has begun to come to fruition. ...

T Bone Burnett: Just Plain Folks

Interview by David Gans, Record, January 1984

T-Bone Burnett makes a case for himself as a regular guy ...

Was (Not Was): Was Not Was: All Over The Road With Two Motor City Outcasts In A Studio Tornado

Interview by David Gans, Musician, February 1984

"WHEN BLACK people hear our music," proclaims Don Fagenson, "they know we're white. Even our funkiest stuff. I think it happens to be a plus. ...

The Pretenders: Talkin' to the New Kids In Town

Report and Interview by David Gans, Record, May 1984

SO YOU'RE A rock musician who's had some marginal success and suddenly you're part of a band embarking on one of the most publicized and ...

Wire Train: Eye Of the Beholder: Wire Train's songs work on several levels

Report and Interview by David Gans, Record, June 1984

OAKLAND, Ca. – Neither Kevin Hunter nor Kurt Herr had much musical experience when they met at San Francisco State University and started writing songs ...

The System, Matthew Wilder: Rhythmic Self-Determination

Report and Interview by David Gans, Record, July 1984

Better songwriting through drum machines ...

Berlin, Missing Persons: Missing Persons and Berlin: Bimbo Rock

Profile and Interview by David Gans, Record, September 1984

Missing Persons and Berlin are less than the sum of their parts, so to speak ...

Twisted Sister: Twisted Logic (I'd Say Severely Bent)

Report and Interview by David Gans, Record, December 1984

IT IS A fundamental conceit of Heavy Metal that teenagers are a great oppressed underclass, forced to take out garbage, load dishwashers and do homework ...

David Lee Roth, Van Halen: What It Be, David Lee?

Interview by David Gans, Record, April 1985


Jefferson Airplane: Paul Kantner

Interview by David Gans, unpublished, 2 June 1986

This interview was an exploratory conversation for a book project that didn't happen. ...

Grateful Dead: Reporting Live from Deadland

Essay by David Gans, KPFA Folio, July 1990

I'M DANCING with my notebook in my hand at the Shoreline Amphitheater on Friday, June 15, 1990. I've been avoiding this Folio article for two ...

John Oswald: The Man Who Stole Michael Jackson's Face

Profile and Interview by David Gans, Wired, February 1995

John Oswald creates new works from existing sonic materials. His Plunderphonic got him in trouble with the copyright police. (It also got him gigs with ...

Grateful Dead: The Grateful Dead: Hundred Year Hall and the '72 European Tour

Interview by David Gans, The Grateful Dead Hour, 16 October 1995

The Album Network Special: Hundred Year HallPhil Lesh and Bob Weir interviewed 9/7/95 by Marty Martinez and David Gans ...

Jerry Garcia: A Lifetime of Inspiration

Essay by David Gans, Dupree's Diamond News, November 1995

HALLOWEEN 1995, just before midnight. I don't have any poetry to offer here. I lost that facility long before Jerry Garcia's death. I know too ...

Grateful Dead: Dead End: The Grateful Dead Call It Quits

Report and Interview by David Gans, Rolling Stone, 25 January 1996

Surviving members focus on solo projects ...

Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia: The Burden of Being Jerry

Retrospective and Interview by David Gans, San Francisco Focus, November 1996

Two writers – both insiders in the Grateful Dead community – discuss the trouble behind the late Jerry Garcia. ...

Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia: Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia

Interview by David Gans, The Grateful Dead Hour, 29 January 1997

Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia was victorious in her lawsuit against the estate of her late ex-husband, Jerry Garcia. Following the guitarist's death in August 1995, ...

Grateful Dead: Phil Lesh: A Chat at Maritime Hall, San Francisco

Interview by David Gans,, 11 October 1997

David Gans: Hello, man. Phil Lesh: Good evening, troops. [crowd cheers] ...

Grateful Dead: The Grateful Dead: An Interview With Donna Jean (Godchaux) MacKay

Interview by David Gans, The Grateful Dead Hour, 28 March 1998

David Gans: Well, here I am in Philadelphia with Donna Jean MacKay. Hello! ...

Grateful Dead: Carol Brightman: author of Sweet Chaos: The Grateful Dead's American Adventure

Interview by David Gans, Grateful Dead Hour, January 1999

Carol Brightman was an anti-war activist in the '60s and later the biographer of the writer Mary McCarthy. She sometimes wondered why so many of ...

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