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Tuesday, July 18

A conversation with Starfinder, Bear's grandson and the man behind preserving his family's Holy Grail of live music. Learn all the details how the first release came to be.... Doc & Merle Watson: Never the Same Way Once – Live at the Boarding House – May 1974. “A legend recording a legend,” Order your for just 80$ that's just 20 a CD.

A conversation with Starfinder, Bear's grandson and the man behind preserving his family's Holy Grail of live music. Learn all the details how the first release came to be.... Doc & Merle Watson: Never the Same Way Once – Live at the Boarding House – May 1974. “A legend recording a legend,” Order your for just 80$ that's just 20 a CD. 

The Owsley Stanley Foundation has released the first gem of many from the holy grail of Live unreleased music. Real music fans should be rejoicing and I will tell you the reason. The Owsley Stanley Foundation is a 501c(3) dedicated to the preservation of “Bear’s Sonic Journals,” Owsley’s archive of more than 1,300 live concert recordings from  the 1960s and 1970s. The first lost treasure that has been transferred, is a box set of a rare Doc & Merle Watson run of four shows. The finished product is a marvel to behold. I never heard such pristine live Doc. and Merle Watson music before, it literally made me weep for a bevy of reasons.     
 Grateful Music was lucky enough to sit down with Bear's son StarFinder and William "Hawk" Semins who are on the for front of preserving the holy grail of live music and let us pick their brain about all things about The Owsley StanleyFoundation and Bear himself. What transpired was a fascinating conversation that shined a light on a man we know a lot about, but hardly know. He is recognized worldwide by his nickname "Bear" 
 Myself and Ron Aldeberg spent over a half hour with
 Starfinder (Bear's son) and William “Hawk” Semins who is heavily involved with persevering Bear's Sonic Journal. 

K.L. Having access to Bear’s Holy Grail Of Music. Why did you pick Mere and Doc Watson and why these shows in particular for your first release?

Stardog: When we were looking at the tapes we knew these were going to be special. In was the early seventies and Bear already had his recording techniques down. He just recorded “Old And In The Way” at the same venue( The Boarding House) eight months prior to these shows. The quality of that recording was so good we knew Bear had mastered how to mic this venue for an acoustic band extraordinarily well. Plus, Doc and Merle were at their prime of their careers and were making unbelievably great music. So when we ran across these run of shows. 
 We had high hopes  that there would be a concert worthy to make a CD. Once we listened to the entire run. We looked at each other and were bewildered by the task of having to pick just one. They were all so good we decided in the spirit of our approach to Bear’s sonic journals, which is to release as much of this special music as possible. We decided to release the all four shows. We have four complete concerts, seven discs, and 94 tracks. Each night is not only remarkable but they vary in so many ways. The crowds are different, the energy of the band is different.  They play different songs, some rare gems and also the favorites like Tennessee Stud, they played that four times. We were discussing the project with their bass player  T. Michael Colman who had just starting playing with them and he said” Shit, don’t worry about four Tennessee Studs, we never played the same song once no less twice. That is what we ended up calling the box set “ Never the same way once”. 

K.L. How did you manage to make such an unbelievable box set so affordable. We covered the amount of timeless music, but it's beautifully packaged from the artwork down to the endless amounts of fascinating facts. Once music lovers are aware, they would be crazy to pass it up. Was that important to you and where you conscious of it throughout the process?

Stardog: A huge part of our goal is to get the music in the hands of the fans and price is obviously important in that endeavor. 

Hawk: I think it's important to emphasize that we are a recognized nonprofit 501C3. We have no staff on the payroll, it's a volunteer organization. Our number one mission is fundamentally,first and foremost to preserve the music in the achieve before it deteriorates. The second part of that mission is to distribute and get in the hands of the people. There are a lot of ways of doing that and doing a release like this helps us to raise money to continue the goal of this charitable mission. It's important to have something to show for two years of exclusively working on the preservation of the music for this release. A big part of getting it out to the people is charging a price that is affordable without devaluing what we are putting out in the market. We wanted to offer not just a fair price, but what's a price we can afford to offer that's makes it more likely that a music lover will buy it. I think when you compare it to other box sets or even double disc sets other bands put out, that for twenty five dollars fans can't afford not to buy it. Plus we got a lot of advice from Grisman's acoustic label, the Dead and countless others. We are not a record company or even pretend to be one, we our a preservation foundation and have a more important agenda and that is when someone donates to our charity this is just another thing they can look to know our goal is to preserve and distribute Bear’s sonic journals. 

Starfinder: Also when people buy it directly from our website they know that when they buy these releases that all proceeds go directly back into the 501C3 and the money goes to save more music. There are a lot of reels and some are very geriatric. They literally deteriorate over time, many of the tapes are a half a century old.There are over 1,300 reels in Bear’s sonic journals and it's vital we get them in a more stable format. That's the big thing we been working hard to raise money to get the project of the ground and we still have a lot more money we need to raise to assure we preserve the entire achieve. That's a big part of what we are doing is fundraising to assure this music is preserved. 

K.L I know I can speak for music lovers everywhere, we appreciate your hard work and  it's essential this music is not only preserved, but eventually released. That leads me to my next question what will be the next gem from Bear’s sonic journal? Is there a schedule we can see and start to lick our chops at or is that something that is hard to predict? 

Starfinder: No we can't pinpoint the exact Band and show. We are working on about 15 projects all in various stages of development. There are some many factors that we chip away at every day from third person parties. They range from the artists, their labels and in some cases the venue's themselves. So from a legal standpoint it's impossible to predict what project is going to rise up and become the next release. Our goal is to release these 15 projects we are working on to demonstrate the range of music Bear recoded. Everyone is aware of The Grateful Dead and the countless psychedelic bands from the sixties he recorded. But what they probably don't realize is how many jazz artist he recorded, how many blues artist he recorded. We have such a variety of reels recorded in the Bay Area. There are beautiful classical performances and countless folk artist. Some well known and many others rare with cult followings. Basically if a band came through the Bay Area then chances are Bear recorded them. That is why it's vital we succeed in preserving every reel. 

K.L. WOW! I had no idea. 

Hawk: These are not simple bootlegs Owsleywould approach these artist and get their permission to record and explain his technique. The Doc. Watson story is a fascinating one in particular. We believe they met for the first time at the Marin County Bluegrass Festival which Bear recorded just a few days before these shows. Well, Doc knew who Bear was and of course Bear knew who Doc was and the way T.Michael tells it. They sat around a table and had a very soft conversation, a very serious conversation and a very technical conversation. Well, Owsley hands a microphone to this blind maestro which I think is just a lovely imagine, so he could feel it and touch it while Bear explain his technical approach he was going to record him. Which of course the outcome of the conversation is the music you will here on this box set. 

K.L Well if that does not make you want to go out and order the box set than you don't have a pulse. My next question goes to Starfinder, your dad was a genius and a master of many endeavors. What do you think your father thought was his most important contribution to society? 
Starfinder: (Really digging deep as he answers this question choosing his words carefully akin to the great leaders throughout history) He was a passionate man, I think he thought his most important part of his legacy was in the field of music, but he was also very proud of his art. He was an amazing sculpture, among other mediums of art. (Pauses) Then again to some degree his political concepts and his essays he wrote in that field. I would say he believed that was his biggest contributions. I also recognize he was known for ah (laughs) for other things he did extremely well. He certainly subscribed to the school of thought that if you're going to do something do it right and he certainly accomplished that. 

R.A Getting back to the Doc.and Merle box set, the artwork is stunning and the box is beautiful. Are y'all planning on making any of it available to buy? 

Stardog: Great Question! Thank you for appreciating the art. Yea, I had a psychedelic vision of a Doc. Watson montage and made a few sketches and set them off to Mike Dubois. Who is a great push artist who has done work with The Dead and Fare Thee Well. He sent back many variations that eventually became the art for the cover. Unfortunately, we are behind in this area. We want to sell limited edition and numbered posters on the website and some hats, but I got behind in that aspect. 
Hawk: It's important to note that we all have day jobs and this a labor of love. We wish we could devote the time this project deserves, it's just not in the cards at this time. 

K.L. Is there anything else you want to add about this amazing box set that we have not covered? 

Starfinder: I just want to reiterate how special this box set is and if you're a Doc.Watson fan or just a fan of music it's a must have. There is literally 5 or 6 tunes that we have the only known recordings of Doc. Watson performing them. One is Elvis Presley’s Hound Dog and another is just a super rare folk tune that literally took us a month to track down who own the rights to this obscure song. Doc. came across it and tells a story about the off tune, just before he belts out a fantastic version of it. Please visit us   and order your copy of this important music and help a cause that we feel very strongly about. This music must be preserved. 

K.L. I just want to thank both of you for your time and your dedication to a project that as a music lover it would be a crime if it's not completed in its entirety. I can only dream about the countless hours of perfect live recordings from the world of music and Bear's microphones. 

Starfinder: Thank you guys, I enjoyed it. 
Hawk: Have a good day! 

 More information about the above revelations. 
Owsley Stanley Foundation opens legendary live music vault with Box Set of rare Doc & Merle Watson recordings
Occidental, CA, May 22, 2017 - The Owsley Stanley Foundation is pleased to announce the release of Doc & Merle Watson: Never the Same Way Once – Live at the Boarding House – May 1974. “A legend recording a legend,” is how Doc Watson’s long-time bassist T. Michael Coleman describes these rare live recordings of the American bluegrass giant by counter-culture icon and concert sound pioneer Owsley Stanley (known as Bear to his family and friends).   
They will be available in stores on June 23rd, get your copy of this historic release at  
“Bear had marked these shows as among the gems in his Sonic Journal archive, in both the quality of the performances and the quality of the sound, which is one of the reasons we chose them as the first project to develop since his passing,” said Starfinder Stanley, Owsley’s son and President of the Owsley Stanley Foundation. Owsley, who died in Queensland, Australia in 2011, left an archive of over 1,300 recordings covering diverse artists and idioms. Known as Bear’s Sonic Journals, they initially served as working tools as he innovated his live music recording and sound production techniques, still widely admired today.  
 This landmark recording is the first box set of Doc Watson live recordings to be released.  It features entire sets of never-before released material from a fertile period in Doc Watson’s career for which live recordings are rare. 

The stellar performances were captured by Owsley’s renowned live recording techniques. The amazing audio quality rivals that of his Old and In The Way album, which is still among the highest selling live bluegrass albums of all time; indeed, these shows were recorded at the same venue just eight months later.  These vivid tapes were restored and transferred to the most exacting audiophile standards, utilizing state-of-the-art Plangent Process techniques to remove subtle timing distortions created by the recording and playback devices.

The album debuted recently at the 30th anniversary of MerleFest, the premier bluegrass festival named after Merle Watson and hosted in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. It is available now exclusively at as a 7 CD box set covering four nights of shows, with 32 tracks available for digital download.  The box set features a 16-page booklet of liner notes including new work by Watson collaborators T. Michael Coleman and David Holt.  A broader release, as well as audiophile format vinyl and analog tape releases of single nights from the run will follow, starting June 23.  
About the Owsley Stanley Foundation 
The Owsley Stanley Foundation is a 501c(3) dedicated to the preservation of “Bear’s Sonic Journals,” Owsley’s archive of more than 1,300 live concert soundboard recordings from the 1960s and 1970s, including recordings by Miles Davis, Johnny Cash, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Fleetwood Mac, Janis Joplin, and more than 80 other artists across nearly every musical idiom. All proceeds from the development of the recordings further the continuing charitable purpose of preserving Bear’s Sonic Journals and perpetuating Owsley's legacy.

To learn more, visit the Owsley Stanley Foundation at or on Facebook. 

By Kevin Long 
​Photos By Ron Adelberg