‘King Biscuit Flower Hour’ Tapes Now Making It Into Record Stores
On his desk in New York City, Barry Ehrmann has a legendary tape that Bruce Springsteen fans have only dreamed about.
It’s the complete Max’s Kansas City show from February ‘73, with Springsteen staples such as “Spirits in the Night” mixed in with unreleased songs such as “Thundercrack,” “Bishop’s Dance” and something simply titled “John Wayne.”
“There are other Bruce Springsteen recordings from that era, but nothing like this,” Ehrmann said.
Will you ever hear it? Maybe, maybe not. The legendary radio show “King Biscuit Flower Hour” recorded hundreds of shows during its 15-year heyday, and Ehrmann’s company, King Biscuit Flower Hour Records, wants to bring them to the public
Now there’s just the tiny problem of getting permission.
Six of the shows hit stores Tuesday. Right now, though, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Greg Lake, America, Canned Heat, Deep Purple and Kingfish fans are the lucky ones, with classic performances from the ‘70s and ‘80s released last week with digitally perfect sound.
But while the company has bought the master tapes of all the shows, getting the rights to release them commercially is a separate battle.
With 450 artists and more than 1,000 performances on 16,000 reels of tape, the goods are there.
“Basically it’s just a clearance process. We own the multitrack tapes and really nothing else - none of the underlying rights,” Ehrmann said.
That means getting approval from both the artist and the artist’s record company - most of whom want to release their own albums, not have someone else put them together for them.
KBFH will work with them, though; Greg Lake remixed his own show, and Kingfish sent founding member Matthew Kelly to assist.
“If we can clear 35 to 45 percent of the material, we’ll be in good shape,” Ehrmann said.
Other radio shows - the “BBC Rock Hour” among them - didn’t save the original master multitrack tapes. KBFH’s have been stored in an underground, climate-controlled vault for decades.
Engineers and producers such as Jimmy Iovine (Tom Petty, Springsteen) and David Briggs (Neil Young) worked for KBFH, so many of the tapes are top notch. Remixing many are Gary Lyons (Rolling Stones, Queen).
For Ehrmann, it’s a labor of love.
“I grew up with it. I grew up cruising around on Sunday nights, listening to it on my radio,” he said. While the radio show has been in reruns for years, Ehrmann is in talks to start it going again.
Rarities that Ehrmann would love to get out include a 1980 Beach Boys concert where Brian Wilson participated for most of the show; a Black Sabbath “Sabotage” tour; a ‘78 Peter Gabriel concert with guest Robert Fripp; David Bowie’s ‘76 “Thin White Duke” tour and more.