"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
7. Borneo
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 libraries.

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 struck gold.

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 responds.

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

Set List

Producer's Notes

The "McRhea" Flyer


Order the McCree CD from
Dead Net


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