Thursday, December 15, 2016


Most of you know that I am a big fan of the Grateful Dead, was on the bus for a very long time. One of the lesser deities in the Grateful Dead pantheon of gods was the late John Dawson aka Marmaduke, a multi instrumentalist and vocalist who played with Jerry very early on and then again with and without him in the New Riders of the Purple Sage.

Dawson was a co writer and also played on Friend of the Devil.

My buddy and blog reader and contributor Kerry is an audiophile and record collector and found this record recently. He sent me this note the other day:
Since you’re the only serious Dead Head I know I’ve got a question for you about a John ‘Marmaduke’ Dawson solo album I found in my ‘collection’ today: John Dawson - Guitar and Autoharp (R4M-0738R4M-0738).
I bought it at a flea market in an inner sleeve, no cover. Looks like a custom/private pressing.
I can't find any information online, zero, and not not much information on the label except the song lists, Side 1 and Side 2 catalogue numbers and the text "recorded by Forrest Boothe”. There’s a ‘peace symbol’ drawing on the label so it must be from ’66 or later. Must be very rare.

Side 1

1. The Three Rogues (trad.)
2. Freight Train (Elizabeth Cotton)
3. Birmingham Town ( Dawson)
4. Soldier Boy ( Dawson)
5. He Had A Long Chain On (Jimmy Driftwood)
6. Study War No More (trad.)
Side 2

1. Alberta (Folk Blues)
2. Don't Think Twice (Dylan)
3. Song Of The Deportees (Woody Guthrie)
4. La Bamba (Son Jarocho)
5. Girl From The North Country (Dylan).
I sent this letter to a few knowledgable people, got a response from two, Corry and Howard, neither had heard of it. David Gans did not reply to my query. I think that it is early, can find nothing for Forrest Boothe in my own google hunt. Not sure if the peace symbol locks us in to post 66 but who knows? FYI Don't think twice was written in 63, Girl from the North Country an old British folk tune also released by Dylan in 63.

Kerry is going to record this for me. I can't wait to hear the Jimmy Driftwood He had a long chain on tune.

Anybody have knowledge of this that can help fill in the blanks in the dead family discography?


Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for investigating the mysterious John Dawson album. Must be really rare if your friends don’t know about it. Haven’t asked Chip yet but I will email him today (if I have not deleted his email address).

Still trying to find more information, not having much luck though I did find out that the album was pressed by RCA Victor Custom Records according to the catalog numbers (Side 1. R4M-0738 / Side 2. R4M-0739).

Apparently, sometimes RCA would test-press tapes and assign an R4RM (or R4RS for stereo?) catalog number to LPs they later released as ‘official’ RCA records, e.g. Meet The Temptations - The Temptations. Side 1. R4RM-3711 / Side 2. R4RM-3711


Corry342 said...

KB, thanks for this interesting detail. It looks like RCA Victor Custom had a pressing plant in Hollywood (as well as Indianapolis and Rockaway), so doesn't that point to a Southern California project? There were a lot of "Make Your Own Record" services back then, but would a Northern California service use a Hollywood plant?

John Dawson attended Occidental College in Los Angeles at some point (or points) between about 1964 and '66.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Robert (and Rob!) - if anybody would know about that record it’d be John Dawson’s brother.

Amazon says they just shipped the VTF scale and the gel-type stylus cleaner I bought, but the package won’t get here till the 20th. I’ll make you a digital copy right away after I finally get the turntable going. The record looks new, unplayed, should be good.


Blue Heron said...

I remember meeting Dawson's brother about forty years ago, my faulty memory thinks it was in Oxnard of all places...

Jeff said...

Will you be posting the audio once it has been ripped? As a longtime New Riders fan and collector of privately pressed folk records I'm DYING to hear this!

Thanks for the post.

Blue Heron said...

Will be up to the owner how this music is disseminated, Jeff. Appreciate the interest and will let you know.

Kerr A. Lott said...

Hi Corry,

Right, I read the same thing online, LA, so that would probably date the recording between '64 and '66. The record is, without a doubt a Marmaduke recording and it may be his earliest. RCA Victor pressed a lot of records for other companies from what I have read online so the recording may have been planned for public release on another label - obviously it never was. I wonder how many copies exist of this album?

Hi Jeff,

Thanks, I am eager to hear the record too! At some point in time I may post the audio on YouTube. I will sell or auction the vinyl LP. Visually I grade it a strong VG+, hopefully it will sound as good as it looks.

Blue Heron said...

I did find our Forrest Boothe,I believe. http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=7241175
At the end of the PDF, spoke on music and effects libraries in 1975. Worked in San Francisco W.A. Palmer. Wish my old bud Don Pearson was still around, he probably knew the guy.

Palmer was an old ampex and abc engineer who perfected a high fidelity tape player.

Kerr A. Lott said...

Thanks Robert, good sleuthing! Very interesting, especially the W.A. Palmer connection. Palmer's studio (in San Mateo as I recall, or somewhere else down the peninsula) worked mostly to provide sound tracks for motion pictures using Westrex 35 mm movie film recorders. Maybe he recorded the album and provided the master tape to RCA Victor to be pressed.

Strange coincidence that I would find that record; I bought a lot of speakers, a couple of Ampex 300 tape decks, lot of tube amps, vacuum tubes, etc. from the WA Palmer estate in 1996. Unfortunately somebody else got to the 18" Jensen field coil speakers before I did.

I was told by his son that Mr. Palmer came back home from WW II Germany with a Magnetophon reel-to-reel tape deck. Together with his friend J.T. Mullin Mr. Palmer reverse engineered the German machine and produced the first American magnetic film tape recorder.

In 1946 Merv Griffin was the first American performer to master a commercial disc from Palmer's and Mullin's new magnetic tape recorder, "Songs by Merv Griffin". in 1946, the second artist to use their machine was was Bing Crosby on the Philco Radio Time show.

Mullin and Palmer then worked with Ampex to produce the Ampex 200, the commercial version of their machine.

Palmer went on to work with Bing Crosby producing Hollywood movie sound tracks, their machine replacing optical film recorders.


Blue Heron said...

Nice work, Watson. I think that we will eventually crack this egg.

Found this strange video on Youtube. Palmer had at least some connection to rock and roll, wonder if anyone recognizes the group? No audio, unfortunately.


BTW, a Forrest Boothe lives in Sonoma, 93 - another one near L.A. in his sixties, might be the first guy, but don't want to bother him.

I see that Palmer belonged to the Bohemian Club. Weir did too. Might be a nexus there for Boothe. I know one of the luminaries there, Willie Matthews, but now we are getting a bit off the curve.

Kerry said...

Cool find Sherlock. Somebody must recognize that weird show band, the audio is probably missing because it was a WA Palmer project. Soundtracks is what Palmer did. Thinking about contacting William Palmer's nephew Bruce Palmer (not his son, my mistake) to find out if he has access to Palmer's or Forrest Boothe's tape archives

Anonymous said...

Check out Dawson's bio on Wikipedia. His father JCD III was a "Palo Alto" filmmaker so I'm thinking Dawson III was connected to WA Palmer Films. Had to have been. Which would explain Forrest Boothe's 'recorded by' credit on JD IV's album. Is the silent Palmer film of Dred Zeppelin perhaps?

Blue Heron said...

Seems a bit tall for dread but it could be the platforms. Too early anyway, Prime Movers became Dread Zeppelin in about 1989.

Anonymous said...

Was browsing the web this morning and found a website with dating info on RCA Victor Custom Records matrix codes. http://www.45rpmrecords.com/date_rca.php

Turns out R = 1964 which dates Dawson’s record (R4RM-0738).

McDuke was born June 1945, so he would have been 18 or 19 when he recorded Guitar and Autoharp.


Anonymous said...

From Rob B:

I just got some info from Bruce Dawson on your incredible flea market find:

WA Palmer films was in SF and that was where dad "worked" for many years before he opened his own office (Larry Dawson Productions in the Well Fargo Bldg. on Montgomery St).

1964 sounds about right maybe a little older...'63, '62? John would have been about 18 or19. The record was a one off that was in fact in a plain white paper jacket. I forget who designed the label. I am pretty sure it wasn't me. It actually might have been John himself. Dad arranged the recording session for John to highlight his talent. It was all John. No other accompaniment. No idea how many pressings were made.

As you can see this was definitely in John's folk song phase (if he actually had phases that is). If you ever have a chance to hear it, it's pretty cool and he did play a mean autoharp. 2 songs on side 1 were authored by John. That Autoharp went up for sale with the rest of John' instruments a few years back.

Only one other piece of misinformation...John Collins Dawson III was our grand father. Dead when our father was 6. Dad was Laurence Dawson.

Bruce Dawson

Blue Heron said...

Excellent info, everything is getting pretty well sealed up. I am pretty confident in the pressing date of 1964 because of Dylan's late 63 release of these two songs.

Soon we will have music!

Blue Heron said...

Record is now for sale on ebay - 4/2/17


Janez Guna said...

I have this LP on a cassette sent to me by the Marmaduke.

Peter G Werner said...

There's a Forrest E. Boothe obituary here, since people were asking about him:


Basically, he was a sound engineer for many years for W.A. Palmer Films. (Not sure how that company ended up recording the Dawson album, since it was primarily an industrial film studio, with some forays into television work, and not really a music recording studio.)

Forrest Boothe seems to be a name people search for a lot, actually, as he turns up on a lot of credits, and there are several internet pages asking about him. He also occasionally did electronic music for educational and industrial films, notably for this wonderful film on microscopy: