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   Bob Fass papers, circa 1960-2011 [Bulk Dates: 1963-1991]

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Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Bob Fass Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

Summary Information

At a Glance

Call No.:MS#1786
Bib ID:11749061 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Fass, Bob, 1933-
Title:Bob Fass papers, circa 1960-2011 [Bulk Dates: 1963-1991]
Physical description:190 linear ft. (157 record cartons, 5 document boxes, 80 audiocassette boxes, and 18 flat boxes)
Language(s):In English
Access: This collection has no restrictions. This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. All audiovisual media in this collection must be digitized before use. Please contact the library to arrange access to these materials. All digital media in this collection must be imaged before use. Please contact the library to arrange access to these materials. Photographs must be handled using gloves. Paper materials (boxes 250-276) are still in process. Please contact the library for more information about accessing these materials.  More information »

Arrangement

Arrangement

Descriptive information created for many of the audiovisual recordings is preliminary. Item identification is based on information found on the packaging of the item, which may not be accurate or complete. Item descriptions will be corrected as the items are digitized, and the finding aid updated accordingly.

The collection is arranged into six series. Materials in each series are arranged chronologically where dates are known; otherwise they are arranged alphabetically.

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Description

Scope and Content

The Bob Fass Papers contains materials created by Bob Fass, host of the late-night program Radio Unnameable on New York City’s WBAI radio station. The collection primarily consists of audio recordings of Radio Unnameable and other radio programs hosted by Bob Fass between 1963 and 2011. A small number of video recordings, photographs, correspondence, printed ephemera, and motion picture films are also included in the collection.

Radio Unnameable provided a platform for many key figures of 1960s counterculture and helped launch the careers of artists including Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, and Joni Mitchell. Guests frequently featured on the program include Greenwich Village-based folk musicians such as Larry Estridge, Tuli Kupferberg, and Sammy Walker; political activists including Abbie and Anita Hoffman and other members of the Yippies; the political assassination conspiracy theorists Mae Brussell, Flo Kennedy, and Ted Gandolfo; and comic performers and satirists Paul Krassner, Marshall Efron, and Wavy Gravy.

Bob Fass also used his radio programs to cover protests and current events of interest to his audience, including the 1963 March on Washington, the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and the 1988 Tompkins Square Park Riot. Some events, such as the Yip-In at Grand Central Station in April of 1968, were covered live in the field on Radio Unnameable. Others, such as the November 1975 revolt on Rikers Island, were covered via telephone calls from listeners who had information to share.

The bulk of the audiovisual recordings in the collection are on open-reel audiotapes and audiocassettes. Other formats include VHS, U-Matic, and 8mm videocassettes, many of which were used to store digital audio recordings before compact discs became widely available. A few dozen open reel videotapes contain video recordings. Most of the collection’s later audio and video recordings, dating from circa 2001 to 2011, are on compact discs and DVDs.

Series I: Radio Unnameable, 1963-2011

Series I contains recordings of Radio Unnameable. The series is divided into subseries chronologically, due to the large number of recordings in the collection.

Subseries I.1: Radio Unnameable, 1963-1969

Subseries I.1 contains recordings of Radio Unnameable broadcast between 1963 and 1969.

Subseries I.2: Radio Unnameable, 1970-1977

Subseries I.2 contains recordings of Radio Unnameable broadcast between 1970 and 1977. In 1977, Bob Fass was banned from WBAI for five years after a dispute with the station’s management, during which time he broadcast from WFMU in New Jersey.

Subseries I.3: Radio Unnameable, 1982-1989

Subseries I.3 contains recordings of Radio Unnameable broadcast between 1982, when Fass was reinstated at WBAI, and 1989.

Subseries I.4: Radio Unnameable, 1990-2011

Subseries I.4 contains recordings of Radio Unnameable broadcast between 1990 and 2011.

After 1982, Radio Unnameable was no longer broadcast nightly, and as of 2006, it began to be broadcast once per week.

Subseries I.5: Radio Unnameable, undated

Subseries I.5 contains recordings of Radio Unnameable which were not labeled with date information. Materials in this subseries will be moved into the first four subseries of Series I as they are digitized and date information is identified.

Series II: Other Radio Shows, 1965-1990

Series II contains recordings of radio shows other than Radio Unnameable, which were also hosted by Bob Fass.

Subseries II.1: Beyond the Unnameable, 1972-1974, 1976, undated

Subseries II.1 contains recordings of Beyond the Unnameable, which was broadcast on WBAI from midnight until approximately 4 a.m. between 1972 and 1976.

Subseries II.2: Night Into Day, 1966-1972, undated

Subseries II.2 contains recordings of Night Into Day, a show composed of edited highlights of Radio Unnameable, which was broadcast on WBAI during daytime hours between 1966 and 1972.

Subseries II.3: Bob Fass Show, 1965-1990, undated

Subseries II.3 contains recordings labeled "Bob Fass Show" or "Bob Fass Aircheck."

Subseries II.4: WFMU, 1980-1984, undated

Subseries II.4 contains recordings from Fass’s guest residency at New Jersey listener-supported radio station WFMU during the time in which Fass was banned from WBAI, 1977-1982.

Subseries II.5: Radio Show Unidentified, 1966-2011

Subseries II.5 contains recordings from radio shows hosted by Bob Fass where the show is not identified. As the recordings are digitized and the content of these recordings becomes clearer, they will be moved into the first four subseries of the series, as appropriate.

Subseries II.6: Smaller radio production projects, circa 1965-1985

Subseries II.6 contains recordings of smaller radio production projects undertaken by Bob Fass in addition to his work hosting Radio Unnameable and its derivatives.

Announcements, routines, and other recorded components for radio 1963-1994, undated

Subseries II.7 contains announcements, satirical routines, and other short recorded components intended to be played on the radio.

Series III: Bootlegs, Demo Tapes, and Other Live Recordings, 1962-2011

Series III contains recordings featuring performers other than Bob Fass, and materials in other formats whose primary subjects are not Bob Fass. Some materials in the series include Bob Fass as one of many subjects—for example, the recordings of the Living Theatre’s production of Poland/1931, in which Fass played one of three leading roles. Other materials in the series, such as the field recordings in Subseries III.3, may have been created by Bob Fass, but he is not their primary subject.

Subseries III.1: Audition and demo tapes, 1962-2000, undated

Subseries III.1 contains recordings sent to Bob Fass by musical performers who hoped that he would play their recordings on his show—as he sometimes did. The series also contains demo tapes and other short recordings by more established artists, such as Country Joe McDonald and Buzzy Linhart.

Subseries III.2: Bootlegs and live recordings, 1952-2004, undated

Subseries III.2 contains bootleg recordings and recordings of live performances by musical artists including Bob Dylan, Sammy Walker, Jeremy Steig, and the Holy Modal Rounders. Recordings of stage performances and lectures by figures including the experimental theatre group the Living Theatre, satirist Paul Krassner, and conspiracy theorist Mae Brussell are also included in subseries III.2. Finally, the series contains recordings made at live events such as press conferences, political seminars, and WBAI board meetings.

Subseries III.3: Field recordings, 1963-2011, undated

Subseries III.3 contains recordings made by Bob Fass in the field at political protests, or simply at locations on the street in New York City.

Subseries III.4: Radio and television shows and recordings produced by others, 1963-2011, undated

Subseries III.4 contains recordings of radio and television shows created by performers other than Bob Fass, and studio albums by musical artists whose work Bob Fass appreciated.

Subseries III.5: Mix tapes, 1963, undated

Subseries III.5 contains musical mix tapes created by Bob Fass and his friends, to be played on Radio Unnameable, or for their own enjoyment.

Series IV: Personal Materials, 1958, undated

Series IV contains materials from Bob Fass’s personal life, unrelated to his activities as a radio host, musical aficionado, theatrical performer, or political activist.

Series V: Unidentified Recordings, 1958-1972, undated

Series V contains audio recordings which cannot be adequately described or accurately categorized based on the information provided about them. As the recordings are digitized and their content becomes clear, they will be moved into the first four series of the collection as appropriate.

Series VI: Papers, Photographs, and Slides, circa 1960-2007

Series VI contains correspondence, printed ephemera, periodicals, photographs, and slides created or collected by Bob Fass throughout his life and career. Many of the materials in Series VI relate to recordings in the first five series of the collection. For example, photographs of the February 1967 Fly-In—recordings of which can be found in Series I.1—are included in Series VI. Other materials in the series document Bob Fass’s political and musical interests, personal life, and Greenwich Village counterculture more broadly.

Photographic prints are generally black and white, while slides are in full color.

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Using the Collection

Offsite

Access Restrictions

This collection has no restrictions.

 This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

      offsite requestMore information and link to off-site request form

All audiovisual media in this collection must be digitized before use. Please contact the library to arrange access to these materials.

All digital media in this collection must be imaged before use. Please contact the library to arrange access to these materials.

Photographs must be handled using gloves.

Paper materials (boxes 250-276) are still in process. Please contact the library for more information about accessing these materials.

Restrictions on Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Bob Fass Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Rare Book and Manuscript Library; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Papers Processed by Celeste Brewer, Christopher Laico, Vianca Victor, and Jonathan Jara, 2017.

Finding aid written by Celeste Brewer, 2017.

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion October 20, 2017 Finding aid written in English.
    2017-10-20 File created.

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Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Genre/Form

HeadingCUL Archives:
Portal
CUL Collections:
CLIO
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
ArchiveGRID
correspondencePortalCLIOArchiveGRID
photographsPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
sound recordingsPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
video recordingsPortalCLIOArchiveGRID

Subjects

HeadingCUL Archives:
Portal
CUL Collections:
CLIO
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
ArchiveGRID
Ben Israel, StevePortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Brussell, Mae, 1922-1988PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Counterculture--United States--History--20th centuryPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Democratic National Convention (1968 : Chicago, Ill.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Dylan, Bob, 1941-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Efron, MarshallPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Fass, Bob, 1933-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Folk musicPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Greenwich Village--New York, N.Y.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Hoffman, AbbiePortalCLIOArchiveGRID
JazzPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Krassner, PaulPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Radio talk show hostsPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Steig, JeremyPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
WBAI Radio--New York, N.Y.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Youth International PartyPortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Bob Fass was born in Brooklyn, New York, on June 29, 1933. After graduating from Syracuse University in 1955, he joined the U.S. Army, where he directed and acted in dramatic productions for the Fort Bragg Entertainment Workshop. He then returned to New York City to study acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse and the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. He joined the staff of WBAI in 1963.

In the 1960s, Fass helped create the format known as free-form radio on his program, Radio Unnameable. He became known for his long, discursive conversations with his listeners, as well as for the many musicians, performers, and activists who appeared on his show. Radio Unnameable provided a platform for many key figures of 1960s counterculture and helped launch the careers of artists including Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, and Joni Mitchell.

In 1977, a dispute over WBAI staff unionization resulted in Bob Fass being banned from WBAI for five years. During those years, he broadcast at WFMU, WBAI’s listener-supported counterpart, in New Jersey. He also returned to acting in theatrical works. He was reinstated at WBAI in 1982.

Throughout the 1980s and beyond, Fass continued to work as an actor and master of ceremonies for live events, in addition to hosting Radio Unnameable. He also produced several smaller scale projects for radio and public access television. Radio Unnameable ceased to be broadcast nightly after 1982. In 2006, it was reduced to once a week. Still—as of 2017—Bob Fass continues to host Radio Unnameable weekly after midnight on WBAI-FM.

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