Rare Book & Manuscript Library
 

Bob Fass Recordings and Papers, 1960-2011, bulk 1963-1991

Summary Information

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1786
Bib ID 11749061 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Fass, Bob, 1933-
Title Bob Fass Recordings and Papers, 1960-2011, bulk 1963-1991
Physical Description 190 linear feet (157 record cartons, 5 document boxes, 80 audiocassette boxes, and 18 flat boxes)
Language(s) English
Access

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.

Significant portions of the collection have been digitized. See the container list for links to individual items. Note that many of the items are only available in the reading room of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library for contractual reasons.

Slides (boxes 127-148) and papers (boxes 239 and 250-276) are still in process. Please contact the library for more information about these materials.

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

Arrangement

Arrangement

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

Description

Scope and Content

The Bob Fass Recordings and 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.

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. Reusing tapes seems to have been a standard practice at WBAI. Tapes and cases also appear to have been mistakenly swapped on occasion during the decades prior to their arrival at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Item descriptions will be corrected as the items are digitized, and the finding aid updated accordingly.

  • Series I: Radio Unnameable

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

  • Series II: Other Radio Shows

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

  • Series III: Bootlegs, Demo Tapes, and Other Live Recordings

    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.

  • Series IV: Personal Materials

    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

    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

    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.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

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.

Significant portions of the collection have been digitized. See the container list for links to individual items. Note that many of the items are only available in the reading room of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library for contractual reasons.

Slides (boxes 127-148) and papers (boxes 239 and 250-276) are still in process. Please contact the library for more information about these materials.

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

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single copies of materials may be made with written permission of the copyright holder. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. Please contact the library for more information.

Preferred Citation

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

Accrual

An addition is expected in 2019

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

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

Revision Description

2017-10-20 File created.

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

2019-07-03 Links to digitized content added. kws

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

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Sound recordings Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Video recordings (physical artifacts) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

Subject

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Ben Israel, Steve Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Brussell, Mae, 1922-1988 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Counterculture -- United States -- History -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Democratic National Convention (Location of meeting: Chicago, Ill.). Date of meeting or treaty signing: (1968 :.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Dylan, Bob, 1941- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Efron, Marshall Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Fass, Bob, 1933- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Folk music Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Hoffman, Abbie Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Jazz Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Krassner, Paul Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Radio talk show hosts Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Steig, Jeremy Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
WBAI Radio -- : New York (State) -- : New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Youth International Party Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

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.