David Nolan, 48, ‘the soul of Wetlands,’ radio host
By Lincoln Anderson
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 smallest apartment.”
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 other music.
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.”