Red Blanchard - citied as a major influence by none other than Jerry Garcia.
Red Blanchard – citied as a major influence by none other than Jerry Garcia.

. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – KCBS-AM – Bill Weaver Show – Red Blanchard Filling in – June 30, 1954 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection.

It’s difficult, if not impossible to figure out what inspires people – what element, turn of phrase or point of view becomes so imbedded in the personality of an individual that they are cited decades later as the defining moment of who they later became.

A long time ago, I got a phone call from my friend James Austin, who was in the process of producing a project with The Grateful Dead at Rhino Records. James asked if I had a record or had heard anything about an obscure song called The Sound Of Worms by a guy named Red Blanchard. Blanchard, it turns out, was a radio personality in the Bay Area in the early 1950s, who held sway over thousands of teenagers with his nightly radio show on KCBS in San Francisco. He coined the word Zorch! to describe something extremely cool. His reputation went so far as to have Time Magazine refer to him as “the uncrowned King of Juvenile San Francisco”. One of his signature tunes was a bizarre record called The Sound Of Worms – and it was that song which captivated Jerry Garcia and laid an indelible impression on his formative years, growing up in the Bay Area. Red Blanchard, in addition to his nightly legion of fans and radio show, he was also something of an entrepreneur; discovering a singer/songwriter by the name of Jimmy Drake, who he dubbed Nervous Norvous and who turned in numerous Novelty classics such as Transfusion and Ape-Call, which also featured Blanchard in various bits.

So to let you know what this rather strange 45 minute radio show is all about, and why you are listening to it – this is the guy who shaped a lot of teenage lives in the early 1950s in the Bay area of San Francisco.

Sounds strange now, and a lot tepid as far as outrage is concerned. But it made Jerry Garcia what he became a decade later – so it couldn’t be all bad, no?

Here is Red Blanchard, substituting on Bill Weaver’s Afternoon show as it was heard on KCBS-AM in San Francisco, June 30, 1954.

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