Book Review

Tribal Jive – Here & Wow by Gerry Fialka

Local folk journalist Hank Rosenfeld’s latest book is KSAN San Francisco. In bookstores mid-August, it’s a deep delve into how FM rock & roll radio shaped a righteous revolution. This is a brave document on community: Risky! Radical! Rewarding! A real account compiled by a free spirit, Rosenfeld, who worked in the Jive “Gnus” Department in the 1970s. He’d moved to San Francisco in 1977, “looking for the Beats.” His father warned him about moving to California because of “the Lotus eaters out there.” Yikes! Yummy?

The hero of The Jive 95 is Tom “Big Daddy” Donahue, who, among other exploits, produced the last Beatle’s concert, at Candlestick Park, on August 29, 1966. He came to San Francisco as a top 40 DJ “400 pounds of solid sounds!” at KYA-AM. Hank summarizes: “A year later, he created his psychedelic FM rock & roll community, blasting music as their weapon and comedy their kiss, countering a mainstream culture of endless war, racism, sexism, homophobia, injustice, poverty, and other greedy ills going down taking down,” and adds “facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy” – from the musical Hair. On the Jive 95, you heard, for the first time anywhere, “The San Francisco Sound,” which folks were dancing to in local ballrooms like the Fillmore: The Jefferson Airplane; Grateful Dead; Janis Joplin and her band, Big Brother & The Holding Company; Santana; the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Charlatans, etc, just ahead of “The Summer of Love.”  Put that in your smoke and pipe it! It was THE only station for a new generation of young people – those post-WWII boomers looking for connection, a place to hang out and meet others that looked like themselves.


Donahue’s first interview on the Jive airwaves was with Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh. But for me, Big Daddy’s most insightful conversation was with Frank Zappa, an astute articulator of the counterculture and music. He declared KCSN “the hippest station in the universe.” That chapter and other “Side Trips,” feature magical links (, via QR code, so anyone can actually hear them. Readers can also read and hear Frank’s timeless PSA, where he warns people not to do speed, because “it’ll turn you into your parents.”

Mr. Zappa plays revealing songs that uncover the hidden psyche effects of the counterculture environment. A rare, witty Mothers outtake, “Agency Man,” tackles advertising. His playlist includes essential greasy, East LA tunes from Vernon Green, The Penguins and Richard Berry, and avant-garder Pierre Boulez. Most crucial is hearing Frank explain his love for the sea shanty “Handsome Cabin Boy,” by A.L. Lloyd & Ewan MacColl, the act he would see at the infamous Ash Grove. The Mothers of Invention, The Grateful Dead and Kate Bush have all done cover versions. MacColl explained, “The Handsome Cabin Boy portrays a common sailor’s dream that among the crew is a girl dressed as a boy. Oddly enough, in songs based on this fantasy, it is nearly always an officer who discovers the girl’s identity. In this case the plight of the pregnant cabin “boy” might be considered tragic, seen from the girl’s viewpoint. But as sailors see it, the situation is inexhaustibly comic.”

Other Jive 95ers include Wesley “Scoop” Nisker, who passed away August 1, 2023. Scoop was known for his famous news-ending cheer, “If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of yer own!” I was fortunate to interview the cosmically humorous Scoop on 10-14-09 I have interviewed over 30 people mentioned in this mind-blowing book, which includes another amazing Venice veteran, Robin Menken, who writes in her foreword: “We were the weirdos…we were inventing a world and leaving no trace. Let the world catch up.” Robin spreads mustard on much needed subversive influencers. Menken was a known as a Bay Area DMT shaman and hippie queen, and went on to performing and directing Second City productions in Chicago, and appearing on cover of Rolling Stone with husband, Country Joe McDonald.

“Scoop” Nisker was given that moniker by Abbie Hoffman while he covered the Chicago Eight trial in ’69. He anchored a radical “Gnus” department, which, in covering the antiwar movement scooped everyone in covering the antiwar movement: one listener sent reel-to-reel tapes of the Jive 95 Gnus to Vietnam, where Roger Steffens dubbed them and sent them to troops all over the country. Additional Scoops include a “Side Trips” like an audio linked with Lennon & Ono from their seminal Bed-In for peace hotel room in ’69. Scoop, who led retreats and wrote for magazines like Lions Roar and tells Hank his best moment in ten years at KSAN (the station only made it 12 years before corporate giant Metromedia, mocked as “Metromeaningless” on air, was meeting Darryl Henriques. Henriques, an Angeleno featured on Star Trek, and in motion pictures like The Right Stuff, created The Swami From Miami, enlightening those tuned-into KSAN with his mantra, “Om shalom,” and wise guy wisdom such as, “All is one. And more’s the pity.”

And for readers like me who loves aphorisms, Rosenfeld satisfies a thousand-fold. He hoicks up more than twenty of my major influences, “super heroes of the counterculture,” including Terry Southern, Tom Smothers, Joan Baez, Emile de Antonio, Paul Krassner, Allen Ginsberg, Lord Buckley, Sly Stone, Wavy Gravy, Stephen Gaskin, Groucho Marx, Aretha Franklin, Captain Beefheart, Alan Watts. Some hung out at KSAN. Some had their own shows (Alan Watts, Ram Dass, Travus T Hipp, and Dr. HipPocrates/Eugene Schoenfeld). This tome is the holy grail of countercultural thoughts, where you’ll find Ram Dass telling stories and saying:

“I look in [an enlightened person] their eyes and I see, here we are, all mad….there is a life. And there’s a mark, and yeah here we are—far out… So the mark of madness brings us together. Because those of you who are not sufficiently mad will have already tuned to some other thing. So I will assume we are already mad enough and now we can enjoy the madness, by asking questions and giving answers, as if that were all real.”

And this gem from Alan Watts (which really resonates with the Venice community): “Lo and behold, I had what I simply could not deny being an experience of cosmic consciousness, the sense of complete fundamental total unity forever-and-ever with the whole universe. And not only that, but that what this thing was fundamentally—despite everything and every kind of appearance in ordinary life to the contrary—that the energy behind the world was ecstatic bliss and love.” 
Here’s one from the radio station’s “First Freak,” DJ Larry Miller. After spinning Tower of Power, Oakland funk pioneers’ song, “What is Hip?”, Miller told listeners, “The working definition of ‘what is hip,’ is the search for the authentic experience.” Mike Bloomfield’s definition of rock radio: “The background track for your existence.” Hank be knockin’ outta da peace park!

Rosenfeld evokes media guru Marshall McLuhan by mentioning “the noosphere,” a term invented by a major McLuhan associate, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The noosphere, Ken Kesey explains during a long KSAN confab, is a “a stage of evolutionary development dominated by consciousness: a leap where R. Crumb’s ‘Meatball’ hit everything on earth, ‘the people, the plants, the rocks.’ Like LSD.” It’s exactly what we’re living in today: the global theater (updating the global village). So, all the worlds a stage: Sex, drugs and rock & roll.

The Jive 95 is a smart and funny history book, offering Hank’s freaky “tales to astonish” accompanied by the ultimate oral/aural musical experience. I recommend doing what novelist Margaret Atwood did as a teenager, when she bought McLuhan’s first book, The Mechanical Bride by knocking on his basement window, and he sold her a copy.  Jive 95 book signing events are updated at

I am grateful to Hank for including a special pledge of allegiance demonstrating how we can invent new metaphors and reword clichés into archetypes: “One ecosystem, under sun, in diversity, with joyous interpenetration for all!” – poet Gary Snyder.

Kudos, Hank. You’ve channeled Sky King, Ace of the Airways! Sky Pilot, how high can you fly?

Hearz sum more “Hot Lit in the Summertime” book recommendations:

*** “Craig Baldwin: Avant to Live” edited by Brett Kashmere & Steve Polta

*** “Cinema Ann Arbor: How Campus Rebels Forged A Singular Film Culture” by Frank Uhle

*** “Inventing the Alphabet: The Origins of Letters from Antiquity to the Present” by Johanna Drucker

*** “Inflatable Planet” the Ballon Hat book by Addi Somekh & Charles Eckert

*** THE SOUNDIES: A HISTORY AND CATALOG OF JUKE-BOX FILM SHORTS OF THE 1940s by Mark Cantor, introductions by Leonard Maltin & Will Friedwald

*** “Cosmic Scholar – Harry Smith” by John Szwed

Readers unite, printed word is essential. I really appreciate the Venice BeachHead crew, especially Eric Ahlberg, who is truly dedicated to communication ala Lawrence Ferlinghetti, whose mantra is “Open door, open book, open mind, open heart.” Celebrate books!!! “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” – Cicero. I second that emotion with Stephane Mallarme’s “Everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book.” Wise words!

I welcome your input, Gerry Fialka

THANKS TO PEE WEE HERMAN & SINEAD O’CONNOR FOR MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE, and Venice’s own Hare Krishna David, who is now dancing joy in heaven, we appreciate you spreading love in Venice.


Aug 29 – Suzy Williams, Michael Jost at The Trip
Sept 7 – SUZY SONG FEST -Celebrate Suzy Williams Songs – Benefit for the UnUrban

Oct 22 – Mark Cantor Jazz Films at Beyond Baroque
Nov 12 – PXL THIS Film Festival 33rd annual Toy Camera – Electronic Folk Art

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