RARE LIVE JIM PAGE RECORDINGS from KCMU FM at the UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
First, I LOVE Jim Page. Memories flash up and go back to 1972-1973. I was going to the UW and working at the brand new student-run radio station, KCMU FM. A highlight of just another day studying at the UW was to stroll over to the HUB, Student Union Building. If you were lucky, Jim Page was playing out front , right before you entered the main entrance of the HUB. Your day was instantly better.
Jim was a type of folk artist who had “busking” down to an art. As you walked up to the Student Union Building you might find yourself the subject of the song he was singing right then. In fact, when my brother Mark went to enter the HUB he was instantly a part of Jim’s lyrics. Mark wore a distinctive red and black checkered coat. As he walked up to Jim, he heard him sing “Here comes a man with a lumberjack coat” and Jim was off to sing a few more lines about Mark. Of course, besides entertaining people, Jim was there to take any of your cash donations.
And, of course, Jim took his act into the live music bars. He went on stage and played both before the music started and during the bands’ breaks. The crowd encouraged Jim to play his own songs and his improvised selections. And then he politely circulated through the crowd with his hat and took any tips that might come his way. This was his vocation for about 6 years. As Jim says “…things were a lot more open then. It was a great rollicking scene and I jumped right into the middle of it…..you had 15 minutes to get their attention, hold it while you did your thing, and set them up for the hat pass. I never said a word about it after I got off the stage, but just walked around the room holding my hat in my hand and nodding at people . There’s a thin line between begging and playing for hat money, and my feeling was that if they didn’t want to pay something before you got to them then you didn’t deserve it. “
Here’s one more little page in history. I was the general manager of KCMU FM in 1973. An idea struck me to see if I could get Jim Page to come to our tiny little newsroom and record some of his songs live. So, I found him in front of the HUB and put the question to him. He readily said yes and we set the day. Jim Page entered the station with his guitar, and we sat down at small table in the newsroom. First, I did a brief interview with him to find out how he came up with his song ideas. We talked about his beliefs in religion, and on politics, drugs, and other topics. Then Jim proceeded to sing about 12 of his songs. All we had was one old microphone which we positioned as best we could to cover both the sound from his voice and guitar. I recorded everything. The songs came out pretty well and I put them into a show we called “Array of Artists” which played nightly 5pm-6pm, Monday through Friday. This may have been the first time Jim was recorded live. I can’t be sure. KEXP FM, the station that KCMU evolved into, showed great interest in the Jim Page recordings and put the show on two CDs which I still have. I would love to see Jim and give him a copy of the CDs. It was a great adventure for both of us.
I also used to see Jim Page play at the Walrus Tavern in the Greenwood area of Seattle. He performed just as he describes. Jim was very respectful of the bar owners and the bands playing there. He played exactly as long as his given time. Then, Jim quietly got off the stage and unobtrusively made his way through the crowd to collect any money that listeners decided to give him.
You can even hear Jim doing his thing on an album called “The Pure Food and Drug”. Members included Harvey Mandel and Sugar Cane Harris. The album opens with someone playing acoustic guitar. Then you hear Jim’s voice come in and sing a totally improvised song about the band… great stuff. This lp was recorded live at the Fresh Air Tavern in Seattle.
Jim Page, “Introduction” – Choice Cuts – Pure Food & Drug Act
Jim Page says, and from my personal experience I agree, “Seattle was the wild west back then. It’s gone now except for vague odd mutterings of ghosts along the waterfront. And those of us that remember will not be fooled by shiny brochures and new stadiums. The richest man in universe may live across the water (Bill Gates?) but we know what came before”.