Two-Ton Mustard Seed
KFRC AM & FM
“The program of better living through the chemistry of love” … “presented by the public affairs department of KFRC — The Big 610 — in the community’s spiritual interest.”
In the mid to late 1960s, in the era of free love, hippies, peace and dope, came this odd program — a sound montage, as it were — which was heard, in slight variations, over San Francisco’s KFAX, KFRC and (perhaps) KYA.
“The Ever Changing Transcendental Multilingual Two-Ton Mustard Seed” was its full, official title (in shorthand, simply “Mustard Seed”) and Allan Pierce (photo, right, in 1983) was its host/producer.
Stylistically akin to The Beatles’ kaleidoscopic and cacophonic “Revolution 9,” which it actually predated by nearly two years, the program used clips and shards from popular rock and folk music, speeches, children’s stories, sermons and, of course, Paul Harvey News (witness Program 4, below) in order to express its message.
“Mustard Seed” was broadcast in a long-form version on KFAX (1100 AM) as early as the Summer of 1966, according to newspaper schedules that showed it running on Saturdays, variously, at either noon or 7 p.m.
Through 1967, a half-hour version was also heard on KFRC (610 AM and 106.1 FM) as part of the station’s Sunday night public affairs programming block, leading into the “Perspective” talk show.
By the Spring of 1968, “Mustard Seed” was no longer shown on KFRC’s schedule, but continued to be listed on KFAX at 11 p.m. on Sunday nights; it may have also been carried by KYA (1260 AM) during this timeframe.
The four programs heard here are from the collection of Larry Vanerwegen, who recorded them off the air by way of KFRC’s AM signal while at Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 250 miles down the California coast from San Francisco.
Some of the recordings are of less-than-perfect quality, owing to the distance and the atmospheric conditions during the nighttime broadcasts; some interference may also come from KAVL in Lancaster, Calif., also on 610 AM, located only about 100 miles to the east of Vandenberg.
Allan Royal Pierce was born on September 21, 1937. According to some sources, he was an announcer at KFAX, and produced “Mustard Seed” at the station’s studios at 1470 Pine Street in the city.
He worked briefly at Oakland’s KNEW in the early 1970s, then departed for South Africa, where, in 1979, he founded the landmark pirate station Capital Radio 604, which operated, unlicensed, on both medium- and shortwave until the government forcefully closed it down in 1996.
Much revered by South Africa’s music industry for his pioneering spirit, Mr. Pierce passed away suddenly on September 8, 2001, nine days short of his 64th birthday.
From a tribute to Mr. Pierce on the 3rd Ear Music website:
Allan Pierce was always the wise ever-slim & thin elder laid-back statesman, even in those early days. Grey sideburns & lengthy thinning hair – sometimes under the braided British golf cap – underscored by a broad constant well-weathered & experience-lined smile… and that voice! That voice that he could wield like a wand regardless of whether he was advising, scolding or charming you, on air or face-to-face; extracting the potential artist & rebels out of us all.
His role on earth seemed to be checking out the good in all humanity; giving people breaks & making us feel good about ourselves, whether we deserved it or not.
Mustard Seed – Program One (Circa 1967?):
The centerpieces of this edition are Phil Ochs’ epic “Crucifixion,” from his “Pleasures Of The Harbor” LP, released on October 31, 1967, and The Rolling Stones’ “We Love You,” released in the United States in September 1967.
Mustard Seed – Program Two (Circa Late 1967?):
Featuring “I’ll Be Your Mirror” by The Velvet Underground & Nico (July 1966); “People Are Strange” by The Doors (September 1967); “Child Of Clay” by Jimmie Rodgers (September 1967); and “It’s the Little Things” by Sonny & Cher (August 1967), as well as a reprise of “We Love You” by the Stones.
Mustard Seed – Program Three (Undated):
Mustard Seed – Program Four (Undated):
Audio courtesy of Larry Vanerwegen
Special thanks to David Kaye for additional background information and access to the recordings included with this presentation, and to 3rd Ear Music for permission to reprint the photograph and portions of their tribute to Allan Pierce.
SOURCES: Allan Pierce photograph (1983) by Ruphin Coudyzer, used by permission of 3rd Ear Music. Broadcast schedules from the archives of the Oakland Tribune (various dates). Text by David F. Jackson.