John Fizer - Treasure Man (1977) LP

LP in edition of 500
Lost 1977 album from the cosmic country/folk musician who is legendary in the Berkeley, CA community

John came up in the same '60s folk scene as Dylan, shared bills with Jerry Garcia and has a song featured on Smithsonian Folkway's Original Folk
Barely saved from obscurity by a series of chance events, John Fizer’s only recorded album entitled Treasure Man will finally see the light of day. John’s story is a sad but triumphant one. The album producer James Johnson and his daughter met John in Berkeley, CA where he is beloved by the community and has been holding court, performing and living rough since the summer of ’69. John became known as the "Treasure Man" where he would hang semi precious stones, crystals and jewelry from a tree and children were invited to choose a treasure.

James got to know John and found out in his former life he was a musician with an amazing treasure trove of sound that had never been released. James explains, "He is brilliant (he does the Sunday NYT crossword in 20 minutes) and has a fascinating story. I learned he started out playing in the same lower east side folk scene as Dylan in the 60’s and has a song out on the Smithsonian Folkways CD Original Folk. He learned I am a 3d sound designer and handed me an old 3rd generation cassette and asked if I could make it sound better. When I listened I was blown away. Such amazing songs, singing and guitar playing."

Though the Treasure Man masters were initially thought to be lost they were eventually unearthed deep in John’s old Volvo where he he had lived for many years. James continues, "I cleaned up John’s old cassettes over a year making them sound as good as possible. After asking John four times over a year if he had the original master and him saying no, one day out of the clear blue he showed up with a 15 ips/sec 1/4” half track master of some of his songs he recorded at Mountain Ears Studio in Boulder in ’77 with a smokin' hot Ray Bonneville Blues Band backing. Now I knew the world was going to hear his music the way John intended big, fat, analog and on vinyl."
The A side was originally recorded at the legendary Mountain Ears studio in 1977 with Ray Bonneville, Brad “Honeyboy” Hays, Erik “Bobo” Johnson and Brian “Sluggo” Brown. The B side was recorded live at Freight and Savage in Berkeley, CA, where John reigned for decades. A great effort went in to restoring the original reels thanks to some of the world’s finest restoration specialists and engineers including Tardon Feather (analog restoration), James Johnson (producer) and Bob Katz (mastering). 

"I had Tardon Feathered bake it and clean off the mold growing on it and sent it to Jamie Howarth to do the Plangent processes as he has done many times for Neil Young and the Grateful Dead. It sounds amazing. John Chester who was chief engineer at the old Fillmore East and was on the technical crew at Woodstock did the very hires digital transfer. For the B side I worked from a board recording of a 90’s show at the venerable Freight and Salvage. Bob Katz, one of top mastering engineers in the world did his ambient recovery techniques and we mastered the whole thing," James says.

Like so many others from this era, success for John was just out of reach though it wasn’t without trying, including opening for Jerry Garcia at the famous Keystone. John spent some of the best years of his life sharing his songs with the students of UC Berkeley and with those he met on his travels around the States, turning down a career in music to be simply a musician.

Artwork by Darryl Norsen
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