Ralph Gleason discusses jazz, jazz artists, and jazz festivals ; part 3
BROADCAST: Jul. 31, 1971 | DURATION: 00:44:15
Interviewing Ralph Gleason while Studs was in Berkeley, California (3 parts). Bob Dylan and Joan Baez sings "Daddy, You Been on My Mind." Elsa Knight Thompson.
Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.
Studs Terkel Gleason. This is, as you can gather, an informal conversation as it would by its very nature be in San Francisco. We're in Berkeley right now in the studios of KPFA, which for listeners who may not be acquainted with it is part of the Pacifica Foundation, three stations, KPFA, KPFK Los Angeles, WBAI in New York and I believe now a station in Houston. Ralph is, I guess you'd call him as A&R man, advisor for Fantasy Records for many years, the very respected jazz rock critic, social observer "The San Francisco Chronicle", written for "Ramparts" magazine and one of the founders of "Rolling Stone", the new journal. We're sitting here with Elsa Knight Thompson too, who is--how shall we call her? The heart of KPFA? The strength of it, one of the stalwarts of it.
Studs Terkel The Pacific Coast. Well, since you're talking about the specific Pacific Coast. We're listening to the two of the most influential figures in the education of the young. Bob Dylan and Joan Baez at a Newport Folk Festival concert of four years ago. Your thoughts. Ralph Gleason.
Ralph Gleason But at any rate, the reason that I think Dylan as I said earlier these people are the teachers and not just the star figures of their time. They're the teachers of that time. I think that Dylan, with songs like "Desolation Row" and "Ballad of the Thin Man" and the rest of these things actually describe the condition, the poetic--poetically described the social condition, the soul condition of people in this country in the presence of this amazing technological construct that is so heavily structured that despite our repugnance at the term totalitarian, it's almost the only term that can be applied to it. And yet, at the same time, one of the things that I think that the young people have learned today is the joy of living and the joys that can be had from mere existence which is part of the triumph of Black music. Now, when you think about that tape I just played, which is of two major American performing artists, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, screwing up all over the place in a concert which the audience loved, they couldn't have done anything wrong. It was marvelous. When you saw them appear together, it had all the charisma of great theater, and yet it was totally improvised. It was totally spontaneous. They might rehearse a tune in the dressing room before they came onstage, you didn't know whether or not she was going to appear with him or he was going to appear with her. And when they got out there they might take a song like that and forget what they were doing, forget their lines, blow everything, and yet it had a kind of charm that you can't get out of formal structured things. And I think that that's an important part of what's going on today. We're always in history involved in pendulum swings or other sides of the coin or duality of an outlook in one way or another with one thing you have another thing, maybe many other things. It's never one view of anything that's the truth really, we as we grow older we learn, you know, that the question of absolute truth is very elusive at any point. And we've got all this thing to fight against to maintain ourselves as human beings in this society and, yet, there are joys to be had. And rock music is providing access to some of that, showing roads to follow to get to it. And it's not--it is at one and the same time imitative, music of protest, music of message, educational system. All of these things wrapped up into one. And it doesn't surprise me to find that the appearance, for instance, of a Mick Jagger on a field in Northern California should attract, you know, half a million people or however many it was that were there at Altamont. People freak out when I say outrageous things, this has been going on for some years now, and I got a lot of angry letters from people when I wrote in the "Chronicle" that, you know, Dylan was providing a body of work that was to his contemporaries in terms of illumination and quotable applicable phrases because it was so open that everybody can find themselves into it, what Shakespeare and the Bible had been to us, and this is true.
Ralph Gleason You get it from, I had a letter this morning from a newspaper man, a journalist whom I admire and respect who is a jazz fan. This is where we met, and he's objecting to all the things that go on today with young people, he's objecting to what he sees as their anti-intellectualism.
Studs Terkel Now we come to something very fascinating. This involves the growth, the progress of Ralph Gleason in the past 20 years. Friends, colleagues of yours and of mine, jazz fans who love jazz very much and still listen to jazz, can't quite understand what's happening and are somewhat sore as though they're missing something, they don't quite understand what it is. It's as though someone were a very enlightened liberal, too, in the '30s and doesn't quite understand what was happening in the '70s, too. There's a connection here between the two.
Ralph Gleason There certainly is. A friend of mine who is a jazz critic once argued back at someone who was attacking him for a patronizing attitude and pointing out some aspects of discrimination in this society. And this guy said, "You know, I don't need to be told that. I rode the bus with Fletcher Henderson in the '30s." Well, I'm sorry, man, but that isn't enough and it's irrelevant. It really has nothing to do with anything. And, you know, there's a line in, in, oh, wow, I've lost the name of that book, that's terrible. Roy Ottley's book. "Knock on Any Door". That was Roy Ottley, wasn't it?
Ralph Gleason Yeah, but the thing was where he says in the book, nobody knows how anybody else feels. And that's something we've got to keep clear, you know, white, Black, pink, blue, orange, green. Nobody knows how anybody else feels, and it's presumptive to think that one does. The problem with jazz fans is simply the problem of age. I mean, a new music is here which can in some ways walk side by side with jazz, in some ways a mix with jazz, in some ways depart from jazz. Their taste for it will have no effect upon
Studs Terkel You were pointing out something interesting before we went on the air talking, a man both of us admire very much, one of the great writers of our time, Nelson Algren, that you find that in Dylan, in Dylan Thomas', in Bob Dylan's "Highway Revisited", [sic] you know, "Highway 61 Revisited", you found almost a musical expression many years later of what Nelson did so beautifully in "A Walk on the Wild Side".
Ralph Gleason You see, there's--I don't know whether Bob Dylan ever read Nelson Algren or not. I wouldn't be surprised if he had. But when he talks about all those nightmare figures and talks about the agents coming down, you know, and strapping people in the machines and all these figures of speech and poetic images that are in there which describe an oppressive society motivated by profit and his relations with human beings. All of this relates directly to what Algren wrote about. I find it regrettable and sad that some of my friends do not share my enjoyment and my feeling for the contemporary musicians, much less regard them with the respect with which I regard them, or see them as important as I see them. I have gotten a great deal of joy out of moments like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez onstage singing those songs together, the kind of joy that I've gotten out of Duke Ellington, his music and Miles Davis's music as well as I've gotten out of Nelson Algren's books, and I want to--see, Dylan said a magnificent thing, which was "anybody not busy being born is busy dying." And none of us want to die, Studs, I mean, and the only way to stay alive is to stay open. The minute you shut yourself off and shut yourself up, you start to rot. You die of dry rot. You've got to remain open to new things, and things change while remaining the same. You know, my father used to say there's nothing new under the sun, and that's true. You know, Tom Swift--
Ralph Gleason Solid. Tom Swift and the photo telephone is now upon us, you know, and but we still have to remain open to new views of these things, because we don't we go so far in the other direction that all lawns must be mowed, all sidewalks must be swept, all hair must be cut a certain length.
Studs Terkel So we come to you, Ralph J. Gleason. For so many years a respected jazz critic, internationally known, and incidentally I remember Ralph but we never met, but correspondent as editor of a very magnificent magazine "Jazz Journal" back in the late 50s. Edited, anthologized for a number of books, one called "Jam Session" that was almost prescient, and you ap--some of the articles you chose, one by Anatole Broyard, "Portrait of a Hipster" that is so contemporary, but you yourself now, how it is that you've grown, you have just quit the "San Francisco Chronicle" for which you've been the jazz rock critic observer for a number of years.
Ralph Gleason Well, I was writing a daily column for the "Chronicle" which dwindled to three days a week and twice on Sundays, and I've now ceased to write for those columns. I write once a week on Sunday. I wanted to change. I felt I'd been doing the same thing too long, and I wanted to move into areas that seemed to me to carry more potential for communication and those areas are popular music in its recorded form and film and television. Now, we haven't gotten around to really studying the true impact of TV on this society, but I'm addicted to watching the talk shows. You know, Dick Cavett and Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin and these people, and these things are a more accurate reflection of the true state of this country than "The New York Times" is, because you'll find--I saw once on the Merv Griffin Show Judy Garland and Moms Mabley. Now, the implications of that confrontation on that show are greater than "The New York Times" has been able to communicate to us in all its years of publishing. I watched James Brown on the Merv Griffin Show communicate with some of the audience and some of the band and not was Merv Griffin. And what's implied with that is something that the "Times" had not been able to communicate to us. I think those shows are highly important, not necessarily because of the intelligence of any of the people involved in them, but because of their very existence they demand relevancy to the audience. Les Crane, for instance, was the first of those guys who really knew where it was at. I man, he had Bob Dylan on his program just as before him Steve Allen had Lenny Bruce, because they understood instinctively that these people had a direct relation, a direct touch, they were directly in touch with the contemporary times of, as of that moment. You get this out of those shows. The phonograph record is the true alternate media in this country, not the underground press. The underground press doesn't really reach that many people. The underground press thinks of itself as the [alternate?] media, but I don't believe that it is. I believe that the phonograph record is the [alternate?] media, because if you want to reach 500,000 people directly with your message in a space of three or four days and have it ingrained in their minds, make a hit record. John Fogarty with his songs. Johnny Cash with his songs. Bob Dylan with his songs. You know, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones. These people reach out and touch people instantly, and their message gets through. And that message gets through in a way that the entire educational system in Western society has utterly failed to cope with.
Studs Terkel We come to one of your interests now, your prime interest, the journal is a very fantastic one, the story of it, "Rolling Stone", this relatively new magazine. Recently in Chicago, Joseph Haas, a very excellent journalist was offering a portrait of you and "Rolling Stone": "Where it's at in the new rock culture," Joe Haas wrote in "Panorama" of "The Chicago Daily News". How this came to be, what it is and what it means, [really?], with you and your young colleagues.
Ralph Gleason Well, "Rolling Stone" is the idea of a young man named Jann Wenner, who was a student at the University of California during the FSM, and after he got out Cal, he worked with me on "Sunday Ramparts", and he'd been writing in the college paper, he'd been writing a rock and roll column. I'd been doing the same thing in the Chronicle at that point. And I naturally met him, and when "Sunday Ramparts" folded, he was out of a job and we were thinking of things to do, we had a number of projects at that point, and he said, "How about a magazine devoted to rock and roll in this country?" And I said, "Solid," and lent him 300 bucks to print the sample issue, and we did. And slowly, after many mistakes, and after many setbacks, it spread out all across the world. And then we print an edition of 30,000 in England now, or maybe it's more than that by now.
Ralph Gleason See, it's all wrapped up, your, the music is the glue that holds it all together, but it affects everything. I think "Rolling Stone" is the most important publication in the country today. More important than "Time", more important than "The New York Times". More important than "The Saturday Review", more important than "The New York Review of Books". When I pick up a copy of "The Progressive" and I find that they have an article by William O. Douglas addressed to young students in this country and what they should do, I sat down and I wrote a letter to Justice Douglas and said, "When you want to address the youth of this country, for God's sakes, don't waste your wordage and your time in one of the political magazines of the old folks. You know, there's no point to it. You want to reach the youth? We reach the youth."
Ralph Gleason I mean, he's hip to this, but unfortunately we tend to think in the ways that we have thought, and you know, we think that the way to the youth is the same way that it was to us, but it isn't. So you get by radio, by television, by phonograph records, by the only printed media that I know of that really does get out and reach them, which is "Rolling Stone". Where we do reach them.
Ralph Gleason Yeah, that was his comment. Hopefully, "Rolling Stone" should be edited for the little old lady in Dubuque's grandchildren who have long hair, like rock music, and smoke dope, and are opposed to the Republican and Democratic parties.
Studs Terkel This is Dubuque you're talking about. That's interesting. By the way, you probably know, you have an idea of the nature of your readers, the nature of those who listen to the music, are part of the rock culture. We know now the [hit? hip?] small towns in the heartland so-called America, too, in the Midlands.
Ralph Gleason And they're never going to be the same, Studs. It's never gonna be 77 trombones again. Ever. That's gone, past, it's only in the movies, just like the West is not gunfighter and what's the one up in the Ponderosa pines and all that? A name like that, yeah. It really is and that's all never-never
Studs Terkel But there's a, you're talking about a fantasy now on the part of older people, those in power, a fantasy that this is true. And you're saying it's no longer true, therefore it's archaic and becomes a fantasy.
Ralph Gleason There is a small week, a bi-weekly news mag--newsletter called "Hard Times" out of Washington, Andy Kopkind. And he ran several issues ago a CBS radio report which consisted of interviews with the young people who were at the Washington Monument when Nixon came out and talked to them. Now, that was a perfect illustration of what's going on. I mean, President Nixon actually thought he talked to them. I'm sure, you know, in his heart of hearts, he thought he talked to them, and as these kids said, "My God, he talked to us about football games."
Studs Terkel I wish that we had that piece here. This is one of the remarkable, terrifying, funny--this is "Catch-22", piece of this by [unintelligible] in "Hard Times", it involved Nixon the time of the demonstrations coming out to the monument talk to the kids and he asked which came--he thought they were there on a picnic. It was very--he says, "Have a good time."
Ralph Gleason Sure.
Ralph Gleason You see, he does not know what is going on with the little old lady from Dubuque's grandchildren. The little old lady from Dubuque's grandchildren hate him. They will never be his. They can never be his. He may imprison them, he may send them to Vietnam, he may kill them, but he will never earn their love and respect. It's gone. Respect cannot be enforced. Dignity cannot be enforced. They have to be earned. That's one of the things that's at the root of the whole police thing. You can't respect those people.
Ralph Gleason You can be made, you know, to bow down to Pharaoh. You can be made to do that to survive. But you cannot be made to respect them. And the physical manifestations of respect are meaningless.
Studs Terkel We're talking to Ralph Gleason, oh, it seems centuries ago, and it was centuries ago I started this conversation, literally as far as the clock goes, about two and a half hours ago. Ralph Gleason, coming out of the small town in New York and hearing Black music, jazz for the first time, Hines, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and yourself. Now we have to come to you and "Rolling Stone", your own--
Studs Terkel Of course, this is fan--suddenly a thought comes my mind as you're talking. I remember meeting A.S. Neill in Summerhill 100 miles outside London, in a place called Leiston. And Neill was saying this in his way. He says by whose standards? And he says, [unintelligible] kid Edgar Wallace, [not that?] Wallace was good, but just like he is, he spoke of the Johnny Carson show and the talk shows, it had for him at that moment a certain meaning. He says not that the kid shouldn't have Beethoven, but not to be forced on him that which comes natural to him. So, in a sense, you are doing what Summerhill is doing. You recognize the truth of Summerhill.
Ralph Gleason Certainly. It took me 30 years to get out from behind the bum rap they gave me on Mozart. You know, I had to fight my way all the way or halfway around the world to come around to digging it because of what they had done to me. And they've done it on everything else. I mean, look. All you have to--just take it in literature. Take Allen Ginsberg. The confrontation at Columbia University with Lionel Trilling and his wife in the beginning. They hadn't the faintest idea. That was all put down. Now Allen Ginsberg is a revered poet. You know, if you want to take examples of it, well, you know, there's just, there's an avalanche of examples.
Ralph Gleason You know, that was the FDR new deal for education really, and it was about as conservative as that, fundamentally. And what eventually freaked out some of the people on the end of it was when they got into it far enough they saw that what they weren't really talking about was a new deal in education they were talking about a revision of the society, and the society banded together, joined hands, linked together to suppress it. Same thing with the People's Park. Same it took all of that. When you go back and examine the reaction and the established community organs of opinion in the newspapers and TV and radio to the beginnings of the civil rights movement, it was always the same thing. I mean, do not make waves. Do it slowly and carefully. But I mean, progress is made by waves, you know.
Studs Terkel When you said "Do not," I was thinking that crazy thought again, they're saying, "Go gentle into that good night, and don't rage against the dying of the light," and the kids are saying they want to rage against the dying of the light.
Ralph Gleason Solid.
Studs Terkel So we come back to Ralph, here I am, I'm the outsider. Chicago is my home. You heard of Chicago and August '68 and then recently again. Now, I've heard of San Francisco and Oakland and Berkeley. It is here it seems that--how--to what would you ascribe it? You know, we always have the romantic view of jazz's cradles, you know, a romantic view. New Orleans, then up to Chicago and Kansas City and New York and Washington, D.C. and the Duke. To what do you ascribe the fact that San Francisco, this area is the sort of the fountainhead in a sense, or the source of so much of the rock culture, so-called?
Ralph Gleason Urban renewal. They hadn't gotten around to tearing down all the buildings in San Francisco by the mid-'60s that were large enough to house ballrooms. You see, they were actually still there. So urban renewal and the tradition in San Francisco of being a good-time city. Back in--when was the first, when was the San Francisco issue of "Evergreen Review"? With the poets? It must have been 1952, '53, something like that. I did a piece in "San Francisco Jazz" at that point and I ended it with a quote from a lady of the evening of my acquaintance who said, "San Francisco is a town that everybody comes to ball in, baby." And it still is. You see, it's despite its Chamber of Commerce, cable cars and prettiness and the thing, it's still a good-time town and as Kenneth Rexroth pointed out, it was a town that skipped all that interior America, it was able, it was open to a different culture it was open to Eastern culture, for instance, it was open to culture coming from New Orleans and those other cities, not just necessarily straight across the heartland of White Protestant America.
Ralph Gleason Yeah, well, you know, we're losing slowly, but we're still making a good fight on that issue. It is the least puritanical of the cities, and it's been an open city in many, many ways. The rock thing happened here for a lot of reasons, just as the political thing happened here, because Harry Bridges could be an important citizen in San Francisco, because KPFA can exist in the Bay Area, Radio Pacifica, because the Chronicle for all its faults is still a kind of a paper that could support the long-haired kids in the rock places against the police department. Those things couldn't happen and haven't happened in Los Angeles and in New York. In L.A. at a rock and roll concert now, the cops come in and club the kids over their head if they catch them smoking anything they think may be dope.
Ralph Gleason Well, you know, I have a lot of trouble with that thing about cops. I don't believe in calling cops pigs, and yet the temptation is there. I don't believe that you can, you know, flat out categorize any human being and make it stick. You can't say a cop is a cop. And yet every time I say that isn't really true, in the back of my head something says "Look out," because even though I don't really believe that all cops are the same, I'm not sure that I've met the cop yet I'd want to smoke dope with.
Studs Terkel The fact is we come back to something here that here our guys, we've gone through this before slightly during one of the earlier hours of the calling a guy a pig. By the very nature of doing it dehumanizes the person, you've heard this very often.
Studs Terkel So, therefore, is a person doing--again the phrase "doing his job"--and that, of course, leads to something else, doesn't it? But back to San Francisco, the history of it. Here was the, you mentioned Harry Bridges, and here also was the home of perhaps the most all-encompassing general strike in recent history, back in the '30s,
Ralph Gleason The most [unintelligible] and general strike in recent history. See, that's faded, though, that's not even recently. That's really ancient history. That's what my children call the olden times, and Harry Bridges is a memory as well as a reality. And I don't think that that has a very fundamental effect on what goes on now except that its existence committed this other thing to come into existence, and it was possible to gain access to the media in the Bay Area in a way that it has not been possible to gain access to it in New York. I mean, it's a hell of a lot easier to get on a TV show news program in San Francisco than it is in New York City. And it always has been. And I think that this and the permissive attitude surrounding a particular kind of university campus, I mean, the University of California always had exchange students from foreign countries. It was not unusual for people dressed differently and looking differently than the average citizen to be walking the streets of Berkeley and San Francisco. This was a part of Berkeley and San Francisco. So all of that allowed this thing to come up. OK we now have it up there existing and we have the police in Berkeley rounding up everyone carrying a sleeping bag who looks as though he's under 21. The "Chronicle" this morning calls that a benevolent action. I don't find it being called a benevolent action by any of the people who were involved in it, and it ain't very benevolent to you if they round you up. But this is all supposed to send these wandering darlings home to their parents and basically it's designed to get them the hell out of the laps of the citizens of Berkeley. Now, we can't turn back history. We can't send those people home. We may send them home, but we can't send them home in another sense, because they have left home even if they are physically put there now by the forces of the society because the whole thing is fragmenting and cracking up and bursting apart and all the metaphors you want to use for it as the pressures become increasingly severe caused by the war, caused by the entire drive towards profit of the society, I mean, you know, in a very real sense, the only truly religious act recognized by this society is the making of a profit. F-I-T. And you know, all of those things bear down on the fabric of youth as that generation moves along, and they are faced with these incredible paradoxes that are impossible of compromise.
Ralph Gleason And it doesn't make any difference that he is whatever age he is now, he still doesn't understand, really, what happened in that courtroom. And you know, I listened to--or I read rather that the defendant who said, who told Foran that he was going to move next door to him, which one was that?
Ralph Gleason No, it wasn't Abbie Hoffman. It was one of the others. Well, that's really a rephrase of a Bo Diddley song, you know. It says, "I tell you what I'm going to do, I'm gonna move next door to you."
Studs Terkel Yeah. It's funny, again we come back to music, just as you, we closed yesterday's program, Part Two, with "Ballad of a Thin Man", and Bob Dylan singing "You don't know what's happening, do you, Mr. Jones?" We come back to--
Studs Terkel You don't know what's happening, do you, Mr. Jones? Or Mr. Hoffman, or Mr. Nixon, or Mr. Reagan. So we go, or Mr. Liberal would say, "Of another time." So we come, there's so many phrases out of San Francisco that have become now part of the American vocabulary, and you about the best-versed guy there is, and so a phrase, an area, Haight-Ashbury. What is it? What was it? What is it now? What's become of it? What's the meaning of it to you?
Ralph Gleason Well, Haight-Ashbury was a name given to a certain section of San Francisco because it contained the streets Haight and a street Ashbury. It became a, it was a low-cost housing area, was sort of a bohemian thing after North Beach where the Beatniks were, a number of them moved out into the Haight-Ashbury. It became a settlement for the hippies and their whole culture, and then it became the drug capital of the West as the drug people moved in, it became a teenage slum as it was more and more publicized for its freedom and its license to behave as one wished, and then it was rousted by the cops continually. Now it's one of those never-never lands, like oh, you know, the area between Times Square and 47th Street, or one of those other places in the big city where it's not really anything, and it's the names so when the tourists all arrive in their automobiles and they look for the hippies. But where are the hippies? The hippies are in Dubuque. You see, the hippies are the little old lady's grandchildren, the hippies are delivering the mail.
Ralph Gleason You see, I mean, Kerouac went to work in the railroad yards or on the Southern Pacific as a brakeman just as other poets went to work on the docks because they could earn, you know, an existence that way. People go into the post office now.
Studs Terkel In talking to Ralph Gleason, we're talking about the present, and I think it kind of look, possibly look into what might be the future, what might, we don't know. But it's California. You know, here we are San Francisco and Carey McWilliams, an alumnus of the state, spoke of California as I always thought Wisconsin was, a state of extre--Wisconsin gave us Bob La Follette and Joe McCarthy. California gives us Orange County, at the same time gave us Upton Sinclair, and you, Ralph Gleason, in a piece written so long ago it seems, the cool coast on jazz, but Californians a race of people, you quote O. Henry. You know, they're not merely a state, and Carey McWilliams and obviously you, too, think that what happens in the rest of the country may, happens here almost as sort of a harbinger sort of way.
Ralph Gleason Sure. The bad and the beautiful, you know, it happens here both, the good and the bad, always comes here first. And after it runs its course here, you now, it goes to New York and is idolized all over again. I mean, people characters out of the North Beach Beatnik scene that couldn't draw two people on a corner in 1956 were able to go to New York and they were celebrities in New York, and the same thing is true--you know, I see bands listed appearing in Philadelphia as direct from Fillmore West, bands nobody ever heard of out here, you know, a guy had a gig there one night when somebody else didn't show up.
Ralph Gleason Well, the Bay Area is the hope of the country, if there is a hope of the country. New York is over, dead and done with, it's the Arizona/New Mexico caves, what are the Indians that were in their caves?
Ralph Gleason See, even Mod Squad communicates to them. For all of the business, for all of the impossible business of getting a hippie and a Black militant to shill for the cops, that still gets through. And you take a film like "Getting Straight" with Elliott Gould and which is almost a parody of the whole activist movement in the last few years. They crack up when they see it.
Ralph Gleason He's, I'm going to suggest at some point that they treat him like they treated the chicks in France when the partisans retook the villages from the Germans. I think he should be shaved--
Studs Terkel Shave
Studs Terkel Ralph, I'm thinking you're really, technology plays a role obviously, the media plays a role, but more than that, the leap that's happened, and I suppose some kind of knowledge, whether it's truth or not it's certainly fact, that there are two countries, really. You're saying there are two countries and not a question of urban or rural. That's one.
Ralph Gleason It's an alternate culture, an alternate culture which at some very near time in the future is going to be subscribed to numerically by more people than subscribe to the old one. You know, what we're going to do then I don't know, that's going to be very interesting, because if anybody is able to organize or to direct the effort, and providing there is still a country, you see, you say in five years and we haven't blown ourselves up or just collapsed from the dead weight of oaks like Nixon and Agnew, if there still is a country, if someone is able to organize the young people who have just become of voting age, to really function as a unit in this country, practically anything can take place as a result of this, and we can have a whole new society.
Studs Terkel As you're talking, I'm thinking we've covered about two centuries, and you lived about 30 years ago or so, that you became interested in jazz and 30 years today's grown to about 300 years a century ago. Everything happened so quickly cascading upon us. Where does that leave us, Ralph? Our three-hour conversation with Ralph Gleason. I once called him jazz critic. He is still that. Rock critic, observer, but more than that I guess the only way I can describe you now is as a journalist. An advocate journalist. Oh, that's it! In the article about your magazine, about "Rolling Stone", a comment was made about objective journalism, and I'm always proud to say that Chicago has produced the greatest teacher the young have had since Socrates in Richard J. Daley. That is, he taught them, the young journalists, there is no such thing as objective journalism, that even when it's objective, he's objective but on whose side, by the choice of words and everything, so it's advocate journalism we subscribe to, of course.
Studs Terkel And young and tomorrow as well as today, but continuity, I think, as we're talking now another thought recurs to me, that you represent, you, Ralph Gleason, a sort of continuity and it's not--
Ralph Gleason So
Studs Terkel And I'm talking now about the leaps that occur, and this is for the young to know as well. You feel they do know, that is that there was somebody before them musically? You know, you said your kid found out through Sha Na Na of certain groups of the '50s. You think they are, there is, there won't be the loss of what happened in the '30s and the '20s musically or we haven't had--
Ralph Gleason No, I don't think so. You know, Miles Davis has an audience in the rock and roll palaces. And if ever anybody represented a link to the continuity of jazz music, Miles Davis does. The, you know, young people have learned that they can buy a record by the Cream and that this record leads them back to Skip James and Robert Johnson. It happens through a whole series of sociologically explicable incidents, I suppose, that it doesn't lead them also back to Louis Jordan, but it will in time, because if you read the interviews with Little Richard and B.B. King and Chuck Berry, they keep talking about Louis Jordan, and any point somebody is going to, you know--so as all these things get filled in, history will fill in the gaps for them, you know.
Studs Terkel As you're talking now, of course the thought occurs to me, another one, considering our colleagues of the past, and perhaps now and then, jazz critics, jazz observers, they--there's a bemoaning of the state of jazz. When they say that, I don't quite understand what they mean. The bemoaning that jazz seems to be dead. They say that rock has taken over.
Ralph Gleason Jazz criticism is dead. They're talking to an ever-diminishing audience. There's nothing the matter with jazz at all. Miles Davis is alive and healthy and successful and filling the Fillmore East and West, places these people are afraid to tread.
Ralph Gleason I mean, for instance, it's very interesting to observe the fact that jazz critics who in the '40s advocated the music of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie as revolutionary music and attacked those people who dug Louis Armstrong and say Bessie Smith at that time as being conservatives, are today themselves in a position of protecting a vested interest, i.e., they are conservative.
Studs Terkel Very funny, there's one jazz critic whose name you mentioned on a previous program, I couldn't help but think of a column you wrote in praise of a brilliant jazz commentator formerly of Chicago now president of San Francisco State University, S.I. "Call me Don" Hayakawa. And I found them very amusing. I found this column very amusing--
Studs Terkel Perhaps Ray Charles might be, the music of Ray Charles might be good to end on this, to me, very exhilarating conversation with Ralph Gleason, because Ray Charles himself represents church influence, church, jazz, handicap, almost everything. Overcoming.
Ralph Gleason See, there's a record by Ray Charles called "Drown in My Own Tears", and a little while ago I looked up that record, which appeared in the early '60s. I looked it up in the late '50s, matter of fact I looked it up in "Downbeat", and discovered that it got two stars, which is a middle and a low rating in "Downbeat" at the time, and yet that track from that concert performance of Ray Charles in Atlanta has come to be as important to the contemporary audience as Bessie Smith's was to us when we were their age. It just, it really, it's one of the greatest recorded performances of the last 20 years.
Studs Terkel So we'll hear Ray Charles, and I say to Ralph J. Gleason, hail and farewell, I've been wanting to meet him for a long, long time, meet him in his home territory, and I think in listening to Ralph I trust you, perhaps a few more insights as not to what rock music is, that's only part of it, "Rolling Stone" the monthly, I was about to raise, it's a monthly,
Studs Terkel That's Ray Charles and, Ralph Gleason was right in the choice of course, there was call and response, the artist and the audience. White kids as well as Black, and I haven't--I've neglected to thank Warren Van Orden of the KPFA staff, who have done a remarkable job, very sensitive job in engineering it, some might say producing this program, and of course Elsa Knight Thompson of KPFA for the use of the studio and the graciousness. San Francisco graciousness. Thank you very much.