The bootleg phase of my life began in 1992.
I was working part time at a Sentry grocery store in Sun Prairie Wisconsin and one day while heading to break I stopped by the magazine rack for some reading material. There was a copy of Relix magazine.
This is one from 2011, but you’ll get the idea.
I had never seen this one on the rack before and it looked like a Deadhead magazine. There was an article about Mickey Hart and drum circles, Dead shows, and similar stuff and I thought it seemed a little out of place and rather specific for our small town collection of magazines. Someone must have had an in with the magazine rep and requested it.
While on break I looked it over and it was exactly what I expected. Interesting reading, a couple articles I looked over. There were advertisements for hydroponics and t-shirts and music festivals. However, there was something that did catch my eye. There was a section in the back for tape traders.
At first I was amused by this and their ads. You know, stuff like:
“Are You Kind? All tapes stolen from car. Need help to rebuild collection.” “Looking for Nassau ’78 with Box of Rain encore.” “Need show from birthday. Tape didn’t work. Desperate!”
There were also adds for people listing what they had and what they wanted:
“Have lots of pre 1975 shows to trade for newer.” “Have Garcia solo’s to trade for Dead.”
It all seemed very sub-culture and strange. I knew that there were whole sections at the Dead shows where people set up (fully allowed by the Dead with special tickets I believe) giant boom microphones and taped the shows. I had heard some Grateful Dead in my time and was probably more put off by the whole scene than wooed by the music. Kind of a “not for me, but you go ahead” sort of mentality. Maybe that was because the people that I knew that liked the Grateful Dead never made it out of the smoke filled van in the parking lot of the venue.
In actuality I knew very little about the scene at all. Apologies.
Anyway, I was about to go back to work when I spotted something that changed things in a big way.
What’s this? Hendrix!? There was one add that mentioned having Hendrix to trade. Now Hendrix I could get behind. I copied the info down and subsequently wrote a letter requesting his list. I explained that I had very little to offer in trades, but I was very interested in Hendrix.
Scott, the trader sent me his list:
Along with the list, Scott explained a few basics of tape trading and very pleasantly offered to trade for blanks. This was the process of sending a blank tape for every tape you requested. So, you want a 90 minute show, you send 2 blanks. One the trader keeps for himself and his effort, the other he records your request on and sends back to you in a stamped self addressed envelope you provide… actually a pretty good system.
I hesitated for a bit, wondering about the likelihood of sending 8 blank tapes to a stranger and actually getting back what you requested, but ultimately, I took heart, had the blanks and the packaging weighed at the post office and put the stamps on the return envelope and went for it.
Having a lot of the Hendrix studio releases and a few live shows, I focused on the smaller odds and ends. I found items that I wanted then built them together in 45 minute blocks like a crazy Hendrix puzzle. In hindsight it was an ugly list. Lots of little pieces:
Talk show appearances, rehearsals, studio outtakes and jams with notables: Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy, Stevie Wonder, Buddy Miles. Have a look at the numbers with check marks at the lower left. This must have been Scott’s catalog and number system. I had no idea at this point what it took to effectively keep track of hundreds of recordings. Knowing what I know now about how much time it probably took to find, queue and record all these selections for me I cringe. Scott though, was very cool about it though and they were back to me in a couple weeks. He included a friendly note, which he dated, forever stamping the start of my bootleg period.
These tapes became the start of my collection and interestingly, despite loving to make covers… I never made covers for these. I think because I would have needed too much room to document all that was on them. So I kept the request list that I sent as my guide to Hendrix Tape 1, Hendrix Tape 2, Hendrix Tape 3 and Hendrix Tape 4.
Also, they were not my first 4 once I started my catalog and numbering system.
There were the beginning of it all though and I am keeping them in the vault for posterity, even as I digitize the rest and pass them on.