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John Taber: From Bill Graham & The Dead to Celtic producer

Special to Prospector
KVMR Celtic Producer John Taber at this summer's Worldfest, where he was snapping photos for The Center For The Arts.
Submitted photo |

OK, KVMR 89.5 FM Celtic Festival Producer John Taber maybe hasn’t seen it all in music, but he’s certainly been there a lot.

A 15-year employee of Bill Graham Presents, Taber worked The Band’s famous, star-studded Last Waltz, he was there for most of the fabled Days On The Green, and he helped at the closing of the legendary Winterland concert venue.

So what’s the sort of thing that tops the list?

“Based on the events I’ve been involved in, the most mystical and magical experience in the air is to walk through the Celtic Festival any given Saturday night,” he beams with an ear-to-ear grin.

Oh, and it just so happens the 19th annual KVMR Celtic Festival and Marketplace takes place this weekend at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. (See separate story, page 15.)

This is the fifth year Taber has headed up the festivities, one of several music/concert-related balls he juggles locally. And this week it’s a giant one.

He also wears technical director, staff photographer and stage manager hats, some at the same time, at the Center For The Arts, plus he’s manager of the up-and-coming audience favorite rock/roots band Achilles Wheel.

Just how did all this come about?

“I fell in love with music at a very early age,” he recalls. “I was in a foster home and I was totally into the radio of the day through ’60s Top 40 Radio.”

After high school, he joined the Graham organization, with his musical tastes evolving into the free-form San Francisco sound and other gems Bill Graham was booking.

From 1983-89, he pretty much worked exclusively for the Grateful Dead at their concerts on backstage security.

“My job was to be a sort of buffer between the people who ‘knew’ the Grateful Dead and the people the Grateful Dead actually knew,” he explains.

“But, sometimes, even that could change day-to-day,” he laughs.

After that, he got a “real job” (mortgage broker) for ten years and found himself and his family in Nevada County.

“And then I stumbled into the KVMR broadcaster training class, got involved with the Celtic Festival, gradually people who were there moved on, and, all of a sudden, ol’ Jed’s a millionaire,” according to Taber.

Well, festival producer, at least.

“But it does get me back to having a career solely in musical production — something I’ve aspired to do,” smiles the man who was voted “Citizen of The Year” in The Union’s 2014 readers’ poll.

And he’s got an extra twinkle in his eye when he mentions his adult “kids.”

Son Aaron, the youngest at 27, is an award-winning New York City chef (one of Zagat Magazine’s “Top 30 Chefs Under 30” in the nation’s largest restaurant city).

Daughter Jes, written up in the LA Weekly for her previous foodie work locally, runs the “Eye Of The Avocado” catering service and hosts a biweekly eclectic music series on KVMR called “Room Temperature Butter” (alternate Mondays, including next Monday, Nov. 5, 10 p.m.-midnight, 89.5 FM, kvmr.org streaming).

Oops. Dad does KVMR radio, too, with the all-concert “Saturday Morning Live” alternate Saturdays 4 a.m.-7 a.m. and one of three hosts for the weekly “Dead Air,” the music of the Grateful Dead, Saturdays 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

But not this weekend. There’s this festival going on, we hear.


For those unable to attend in person, KVMR will broadcast the Celtic Festival from approximately 11:15 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11:15 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday (89.5 FM, kvmr.org streaming)


Just how many times do you get to hear folks from Kazakhstan? Well, a group of entrepreneurs from the Central Asian country are visiting Nevada County, and they’ll be guests over a special edition of The Talkies noon Thursday.

On The Air is a weekly irreverent look at Nevada City’s volunteer-driven community radio station at 89.5 FM and streaming at kvmr.org. Complete KVMR schedule and the Oct. 2-4 Celtic Festival information available at the station’s website, http://www.kvmr.org.

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