For most people, succeeding at one thing is a monumental accomplishment. But for Oakland-based Renaissance Man David Gans, succeeding in many fields is ... well ... business as usual. Case in point: David's live, debut solo album, SOLO ACOUSTIC (Perfectible Recordings), which adds more luster to an already sterling resume. To anyone even mildly interested in the music and stories of the Grateful Dead, David's is already a familiar name. In addition to being the host of the nationally syndicated Grateful Dead Hour radio show for fifteen years, he is the co-author of Playing in the Band: An Oral and Visual Portrait of the Grateful Dead; the author of Conversations with the Dead; and the editor of Not Fade Away: The Online World Remembers Jerry Garcia. His musical credits include producing Stolen Roses: Songs of the Grateful Dead, and co-producing the Dead's Gold Record-winning boxed set, So Many Roads (1965-1995), and Might as Well: The Persuasions Sing the Grateful Dead. But those activities are only a small part of the David Gans story. For it has been performing music that has always been the most important part of his incredibly creative life. Long before he 'got lucky' (as he puts it) and became part of the Dead's creative family, David Gans was playing guitar and singing, both on his own and with various bands. 'I was a musician and songwriter before I'd ever heard of the Grateful Dead,' he explains. 'My sensibility was already formed when I first encountered that weird and wonderful music. Of course the Dead's music is detectable in mine, but there's so much more to music, and so much more to me, than just that. 'The place where my solo show and the Grateful Dead's music intersect is in the ballads,' he adds. 'There aren't a lot of jam bands out there playing 'Black Peter' or 'Brokedown Palace,' but I really love those songs so I sing them a lot.' As for other influences, David cites an eclectic list that includes The Beatles, Western swing, traditional country, and a host of singer-songwriters including Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, John Prine, and Steve Goodman. His finger-picking guitar style was developed from the examples provided him by Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons of the Doobie Brothers, both of whom David knew in their pre-Doobie days. It was in the mid-1990s, after more than 20 years of earning a living as a journalist and radio producer, that David decided it was 'time to put my own music back on the front burner where it belongs.' In 1997, he and Eric Rawlins released the CD, Home By Morning, which featured instrumental support by the likes of influential mandolin maestro David Grisman and pedal steel guitarist Bobby Black. David Gans' reputation as a musician has enabled him to sit in with many highly regarded national acts, including moe., with whom he gigged at three sold-out 1997 shows in San Francisco; the String Cheese Incident, Peter Rowan, Vassar Clements, Merl Saunders, the Ominous Seapods, Vince Welnick, the Mickey Hart Band, Blueground Undergrass, Donna the Buffalo, Dark Star Orchestra and many others. Also in 1997, David began working weekly with a rotating cast of players he collectively presented as The Broken Angels. On January 31, 1998, the band did a sold-out show at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. Joining them were Dead bassist Phil Lesh and keyboardist Vince Welnick. The Broken Angels' biggest splash came later that year, when they recorded David's 'Monica Lewinsky.' The CD single, which brilliantly lampooned President Clinton's dalliances with the notorious White House intern, was a minor worldwide hit, greatly increasing David's musical profile. 'Monica Lewinsky' also served to emphasize David's sense of humor, which continues to manifest itself on SOLO ACOUSTIC, both in 'Down to Eugene' (co-written with Seattle singer-songwriter Jim Page), which pokes affectionate fun at the vast legion of Deadheads, and his cover of 'Normal,' Martin Mull's devastatingly accurate send-up of suburban married life among the formerly hip. Since 1998, David Gans has played the role of troubadour, regularly hitting the road to bring his unique musical vision to an ever-growing legion of fans. SOLO ACOUSTIC stands as a document of his musical life of the past few years, and, perhaps more importantly, as a tantalizing hint at what lies ahead for this most gifted musician.
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