"Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions"
Tracking Down the McCree Tapes
The original recording of the McCree band was made in July, 1964, by Stanford
students, Pete Wanger and Wayne Ott, who were collecting material for their
KZSU-FM radio program, "Live from the Top of the Tangent." Wayne
Ott describes the recording equipment as follows:
"These recordings were made using a state-of-the-art Sony condenser
microphone with an external "phantom" power supply. The tape recorders
used included a Sony dual track recorder, Ampex 601 portable recorder, and
Ampex 350 professional studio recorder. All audio equipment used vacuum
tube amplifiers, and recording was done on 1/4" analog tape at 7 1/2
inches per second."
These Tangent recordings, which included many other performers (The Enigmas,
The Jaspers, Bolek and Dave, Buddy Bonn) were edited into 10 half-hour "Live
from the Top of the Tangent" programs (7.5 ips, 2 track mono), and
then broadcast on KZSU-FM.
The existence of the McCree recording was a partial impetus for producing
the Grateful Dead Documentary. In 1968, I asked
my brother, Pete Wanger, for a copy of the McCree material. I gave him a
5" reel of 1/4" tape to put it on. The 5" reel was a used
tape which had some music by Bob Dylan on it. This copy, recorded at 7.5
ips, 1/4 track mono, contains the following material:
1. Overseas Stomp
2. Ain't It Crazy (The Rub)
3. Boo Break
4. Yes She Do, No She Don't (I'm Satisfied with My Gal)
5. Memphis, Tennessee
6. My Big Fat Woman
8. Beat It on Down the Line
9. Cocaine Habit Blues
10. Beedle Um Bum
11. On the Road Again
Two of the songs from this 5" reel, "Ain't It Crazy" and
"Yes She Do, No She Don't" along with Jerry's "Boo Break"
were used in the audio documentary, broadcast on San Francisco's pioneer
rock station, KSAN in June, 1969. Several listeners recorded the documentary
off the air and the McCree songs made their way into many tape trader's
Fast forward 26 years. In the fall of '95 I got a call from my friend Vance
Frost, with whom I had produced the 1969 Documentary. He'd been cleaning
out his garage and found the 5' reel of McCree songs and wanted to return
it. Unfortunately, I didn't have a 1/4" tape deck to play it on and
the tape sat around for several months. Finally, I contacted David Gans
who made an audio cassette of the 5" reel.
The audio quality turned out to be surprisingly good, but the fact that
there is a complete fade out after every song reminded me that there must
be at least a one-generation better recording out there somewhere. I contacted
my brother to see if he could remember what source the 5" reel had
been copied from. He searched around for any sign of McCree or Tangent tapes
and came up empty handed. For the next several months, every time I talked
to him I tried to jog his memory as to the whereabouts of the original material,
but it seemed to be missing in action.
In the Spring of '97, we were cleaning out the attic of our mother's house
after she had passed away and came across a box containing the ten original
"Live from the Top of the Tangent" programs. I felt like we had
In August, '97, I brought the Tangent tapes and the 5" reel up to the
Grateful Dead audio studio to make DAT protection copies. Jeffrey Norman,
John Cutler and I listened to the beginning of each of the Tangent tapes
during which I heard my brother's very young voice announce who was on that
particular program. We got up to tape #8 before we heard any mention of
Mother McCree's, and were delighted to hear not only four new songs ("My
Gal," "He's in the Jailhouse Now," "Crazy Words Crazy
Tune" ("Washington at Valley Forge"), and "Shake That
Thing"), but also a great interview with some of the band members along
with a very enthusiastic Jerry Garcia. Tape #10 revealed "The Monkey
and the Engineer," bringing the total to 15.
In late January, '99, I went back into the studio to put together all these
pieces for the CD. Because we needed some applause segments to link the
songs together, Jeffrey started going through the Tangent tapes once again.
While scanning through one of the first tapes we were surprised to find
some McCree material that had not been announced at the beginning of the
tape. It was a song we already had on the 5" reel, but it led us to
review all the tapes more closely. This revealed one brand new song on Tape
#9, "Boodle Am Shake," bringing our total to 16 songs, a Boo Break
and an Interview.
It is likely that all these songs were recorded during three different sets,
all on the same night. For the most part the order of the songs was easy
to determine because at the end of almost every song, during the applause,
Jerry asks, "What's next?" to which one of the band members usually
As mentioned in the Producer's Notes, Jeffrey
Norman has done a wonderful job of weaving the pieces together to give the
impression of a continuous live performance. Only two songs, "Boodle
Am Shake" and "Shake That Thing" break the continuity because
they fade in rather than start from the beginning. But that's the way they
are on the original tapes.
One of the big questions that remains, as some of you who have followed
along this far may be wondering, is what source was that 5" reel recorded
from? It contains some of the material from the Tangent programs, and many
songs NOT on the Tangent programs.
If I ever find out, I'll let you know.
McCree Home Page
The "McRhea" Flyer
Order the McCree CD from