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August (Augie) Blume Memorial

August (Augie) Blume, a great friend of WTJU specifically and jazz in general, passed away on February 6, 2009 at the age of 82.

August G. Blume

In his long career, Augie met and interacted with many people in an incredibly wide range of areas from WWI Aces and Aircraft enthusiasts to 1960s counterculture folks. When we first met Augie we were unaware of his past history with radio stations in San Francisco and other cities.

WTJU is lucky to have had him share his knowledge and joy of the music in our studios many times over the years. Below are a just a very few of his accomplishments:

In the late 60s Augie was the Promotions guy for RCA Records. According to Jesse Colin Young, Augie was responsible for convincing RCA to re-release the Youngblood’s song “Get Together” (originally released in 1967 and a hit in San Francisco…) catapulting it into the Top 10 in 1969.

Augie Blume was later promotions man for Grunt Records, a group-owned subsidiary of RCA and the Jefferson Starship's record label.

ZBS was a company that in the 1960s used classic radio shows as their model but brought all the "cultural" aspects of the 60s into them. These radio plays frequently pushed the boundaries and brought unwanted legal attention to some radio stations that featured them. The programs were having a difficult time breaking into the larger radio market and had experience several setbacks. Augie got Grunt Records to back the program and set the series up in seven-minute increments and helped market them to college radio where the shows eventually aired on 350 college radio stations and became a huge hit enabling ZBS to continue their programs for many years (WTJU ran shows from the ZBS series in the 1970s).

Augie was frequently on the outskirts of the counterculture world and though the above suggests his 60s bona fides he is probably best known for his recorded interview of John Coltrane. This was first published in The Jazz Review 2, no. 1 January 1959 and recorded at Blume’s home in Baltimore, Maryland prior to that evening’s performance of the Miles Davis Quintet with John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones at The Crystal Caverns, Washington, D.C. WTJU was lucky enough to have Augie play the original interview and tell stories on the air of those times.

WTJU joins his friends and long-time companion, Ruth Latter, in mourning the loss of this amazingly generous man.

Gary Funston & Chuck Taylor

August Blume - Jefferson Airplane

Steve Rowland Reminisces about Augie Blume
Producer "Tell Me How Long Trane's Been Gone"
(used by permission)

August Blume was a special friend of mine. Strangely, perhaps, I never met him in person. We only spoke on the phone. But over the past 9 years we got to know each other pretty well, and had some wonderful conversations about life, love, relationships, music- of course, and they all centered around his sense of spirituality, about being part of the universe, being mindful and loving.

I first contacted August in 2000 or so to ask his permission to use some excerpts of his important 1958 interview with John Coltrane. I was producing a 5 hour radio documentary about Coltrane for public radio. It was done on a shoe-string budget with a lot of volunteered time and a lot of love.

Prior to calling August, I had gotten involved in a tough negotiation with the son of a well known music writer about using excerpts of another interview. The son demanded a huge sum of money for just 2 minutes of tape. I didn’t have the money, nor would I have paid that much if I did. He was not interested in sharing the material and didn’t seem to think that including his dad in Coltrane’s story had much meaning. He refused to budge on his price and told me he was sure I’d write a grant application and return to him begging. I never did.

Next, I had to call August Blume, who ever that was. I was hesitant, and not wanting to go through another version of what I had just experienced briefly considered the ‘use it now, ask later’ approach – but that is not my way. I called with trepidation, steeled to deal with another mercenary music person.

I got August on the phone and was immediately struck by the warmth in his voice. I introduced myself and said that I had heard a copy of his tape and was interested in using it my documentary about Coltrane. Before I could launch into my explanation of how important the interview was, or how much I loved Coltrane, or anything, August jumped in and said something like “ Wow, that would be cool man. Go right ahead.” I was shocked and at a loss for words. Did I hear him right? I told him that the show would be heard on hundreds of radio stations and would be given to them free of charge. “great, man. I made that tape so people could hear it. Anything you want to do with it is fine with me.” Did I hear that right?

We continued to talk. I told him that the tape needed some restoration work. The quality was pretty bad, but the interview was profound. I thought that it could be improved with a major restoration job. I offered to pay for the restoration, use a few excerpts, and then return the full and restored interview to him.

“All sounds good to me. Want me to send you the tape?” Did I hear him right? Was he offering to send me the tape, just like that?

We talked some more. He told me some amazing stories about getting into jazz while he was in the army, becoming Muslim, and then getting disillusioned with Islam, when his fellow worshippers, mistakenly thought he was Jewish and peppered him with anti-Semitic insults. It was this path that made him the perfect person to interview Coltrane in 1958 – because both men were open, searching, sincere, and highly intelligent. What a conversation they had. Coltrane had grown up with two wonderful Methodist minister grandfathers and appreciated that religion. His wife at the time was Muslim. He appreciated that religion. And he told August “I was disappointed to find out how many religions there are in the world.” How could they each be right, he wondered.

It was important because this was near the beginning of Coltrane’s spiritual quest – his search for ‘one-ness’ in the universe, his search for and desire for peace and brotherhood for all on this planet. August knew what he meant as few others at that time could have. It was an important conversation, and that we have a record of it, is huge. August had the depth and the good sense to talk with an artist about his feelings about God.

My dis-belief did not stop there. A few days later, in the mail, I received a small package. I opened it up and stood there, nearly trembling. August had packed up and mailed to me the original reel-to-reel tape of that interview.

I was stunned. How could he trust me this way after one conversation? Who was this remarkable, selfless and generous man, who really wanted to share these thoughts and feelings about the nature of life with others?

I sent the tape- carefully – to a top restoration specialist in Florida, had him fix it up and return it. Then I – carefully – packed up the original and a bunch of CD copies and returned them, as promised to August.

He continued to freely hand out copies of the CDs over the years – to friends like Carlos Santana and perhaps anyone who asked for one. He truly meant what he had said – that the interview existed for people to hear it. He was delighted with the way it was used in the documentary, and I was not only grateful for that, but delighted to meet such a remarkable soul.

Steve Rowland
producer "Tell Me How Long Trane's Been Gone"
4631 Pine Street, #E-410
Philadelphia, PA  19143

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The opinions expressed by announcers or guests on WTJU are not necessarily the opinions of WTJU or the University of Virginia.