David Nolan, 48, 'the soul of Wetlands,' radio host
By Lincoln Anderson
March 10 - 16, 2010
David Nolan, the longtime sound man and deejay at Wetlands and the
host of WBAI radio's "Morning Dew" show, died Thurs., Feb. 25. He was just 48.
According to his wife, Joy Linscheid, Nolan was on his way home from
his archivist's job at the 92nd St. Y, and was in the Lexington Ave.
subway, heading first to pick up his daughter, Alison, 8, from the
14th St. Y after-school program, when he suffered a massive heart
attack. His wife said the coroner's report found major heart disease.
About 250 friends and colleagues gathered at St. Mark's Church on E.
10th St. last Wednesday to pay their respects to Nolan. They
remembered him for his vibrant love of life, passion for "jam band"
music, dedication to the craft of audio recording and his enjoyment
of exotic teas.
Reverend Winnie Varghese, pastor at St. Mark's, presided over the service.
Nolan grew up in Queens and Jericho, Long Island. Early on, he became
a devotee of the Grateful Dead, and would turn his lifelong passion
for music into his career. He graduated high school at 16, and,
shortly after, moved to the East Village.
Nolan was an early member of 534 E. 11th St., a homesteader building;
under a city program, he and others fixed up the abandoned tenement
with their "sweat equity."
Lisa Ramaci, one of the original tenants, remembered meeting Nolan 30
years ago when he was "a brash teen" of 18. The building had no
running water, heat, windows or roof but did have three heroin
shooting galleries. The homesteaders were in their 20s, the oldest
31. They thought Nolan too young.
"With deep misgivings, we let him in," she said, "but we gave him the
Nolan, though, pitched in right away doing repairs, and became a
vital part of the building's "quilt," she said.
"There was not a single moment or a single day, that I regretted
voting him in," Ramaci said. "His contribution to house meetings were
always fair and thoughtful. ... Our quilt has been weakened and
sundered," she said, her voice breaking with emotion. "It will never
be the same."
Turning to Nolan's coffin, draped under a light tan cloth, Ramaci
said, "Go see Jerry Garcia and Pigpen in heaven. Maybe someday we can
drink tea again."
Rabbi Yossi Pollack, formerly of the Stanton St. Shul, now of
Westport, Conn., met Nolan through the jam-band scene as a seminary student.
"We shared many shows, including a few road trips," Pollak said.
"Dave didn't have a mean bone in his body; he always smiled, grinned
and enjoyed life," the rabbi continued. "I struggled with how in this
world this beautiful soul could have been taken away from us so early."
Pete Shapiro, who took over Wetlands, the Tribeca music club, in the
1990s after it had been operating for seven years, said Nolan made
him feel right at home.
"He was in the deejay booth," recalled Shapiro, then 23. "He just
turned around and gave me a big hug and a firm handshake, and said,
'Welcome.' He really was the soul of that place." The club closed in 2001.
Jake Szufnarowski, who put on music shows at Wetlands, said he
recalled Nolan in his booth, "with a Maglite in his mouth," intensely
flipping over tapes to continue recording music sets without missing
more than "three-quarters of a second."
"He probably has the biggest collection of live music in New York
City, and the world and he made it all himself," Szufnarowski said.
Nolan also worked on recordings with the Gotham Radio Players,
achieving just the perfect sounds for a car crash or car door slam.
Starting in 2002, he was chief engineer for "Newsweek On Air." The
show's co-host, David Alpern, said, "David improved the music, made
the editing tighter."
As a volunteer, Nolan recorded the annual marathon poetry readings of
the St. Mark's Poetry Project. He also did poetry recordings at the
Bowery Poetry Club and Poets House.
In his most recent job, he was the audio archivist at the 92nd St. Y.
He had given notice, and was set to start a new job doing audio
archiving at WNYC radio.
To WBAI listeners, Nolan was known as a founding host of "Morning
Dew," which started as a Grateful Dead show, but has branched out to
Bob O'Donnell, a co-host, said, "Before there was an Internet, Dave's
'Dead Air' and 'Live Air' [precursors of 'Morning Dew'] were our chat
rooms, they were our jukebox." People would listen to the show to get
rides to concerts, he said.
Nolan was a part of an on-air community that included the
aforementioned "Rabbi Yossi," as well as the likes of "Taper Todd"
and "Concert Joe," said O'Donnell, a.k.a. "Bonnaroo Bob."
Seth Winner said Nolan was the force behind establishing a New York
chapter of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections; they now
have a room at the 92nd St. Y to which they invite top classical and
jazz recording engineers.
"He was the glue that held it all together," Winner said.
Ed Haber, of WNYC, said Nolan recently recorded the Tuli Kupferberg
benefit concert in Brooklyn.
"He wanted to plug in. They told him he couldn't do that but he did
it anyway, and broadcast it," Haber said, as the audience laughed warmly.
Nolan also participated in the annual Rainbow Gathering, an event for
world peace held in a national park to avoid the need for permits.
Andy Morse, a.k.a. "Andy The Music Man," who met Nolan at the 1999
gathering, played the Grateful Dead's "Ripple," inviting the audience
to sing along, as his daughter Willow sat in the crook of his arm.
"This is actually Dave's guitar," he said, before taking a deep
breath and pausing. "Moments of silence are good, right?"
As for his choice of song, he said, "I think it's perfect, because
David is like a stone that creates that ripple effect in the lives of
people he touched."
During the service, speakers praised his parents, Judy and Walter
Nolan, for raising such a wonderful person.
Asked afterward if they did anything special, his mother said, "It
was him. He was a free spirit. ... He was even more amazing than I realized."
Afterward, at the reception, Rachel Abbie Kay, daughter of Aron Kay,
a.k.a. the "Yippie Pie Man," said Nolan used to babysit her.
"He recorded me for WBAI when I was 7," she said. "He had me say,
'You're listening to 'Live Air' on WBAI.'"
His friends said the two nights before he died, Nolan had enjoyed the
music he loved so much, attending shows by Furthur, with the Dead's
Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, at Radio City Music Hall.
Said "Concert Joe," "When you look for 'Dead Head,' it should be his
picture it doesn't, but it should."