Links to online articles and blogs

  1. For a 1,000-word condensation of my biography of Shig, check out this version published by ZYZZYVA.

  1. Jan Herman, who once worked at City Lights, offered his thoughts on Shig via his blog, Straight Up. His article also appeared on the Huffington Post.

  1. Mimeo Mimeo, a small press journal and blog that provides a “forum for critical and cultural perspectives on artists’ books, fine press printing and the mimeograph revolution,” was intrigued by the detail on Shig’s Review and posted this item.

  1. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Leah Garchik reported on comments made by RE/Search Publishing’s V. Vale at the October 3 launch party held at the Caffe Trieste in San Francisco.

  1. Patricia Wakida, Associate Curator of History at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, offers her thoughts on Shig here. Patricia is working on her own biography of Shig, which she hopes to publish soon.

• Since I published the site, people around the world have discovered it and contacted me. In June of 2012, I was intrigued to receive an interview request from Michalis Limnios, who lives in Greece and writes blues.gr. While Limnios’ blog deals mainly with the blues, he sometimes steps into other fields. His interview with me can be found here.

Comments from:

David Amram

Nancy Yamahiro

Stanley Fullerton

David Amram

David Amaram is a jazz musician and composer who was close to many of the Beats and appeared in Pull My Daisy, the 1959 film directed by Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie. The film included Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso, Larry Rivers, Amram, and others.

Amram’s memories of Shig offered a good deal of information that was new to me.


I often tell young people that the only thing worse than obscurity in our society is recognition.

All this was never a concern of Shig's.

He was a rare person who never seemed to need approval to make him approve of himself.

He was interested in others, and in living life on his own terms.

Thanks to Richard Reynolds, we finally can gain some insight into the life of this remarkable person. Those of us who knew him (and since I will be 81 this coming November of 2011, the ranks are growing thin) are also learning much more than we ever knew about someone who,  while always gracious and often genial, remained a private person.

He was much more evolved than most of us, and later in life, be came a devoted student of the Japanese shakuhachi and was able to entertain himself.

But long before this, he understood the power of intently listening as well as seeing, as a way to stay ahead of the curve and always seemed to be aware of what was happening, often before it happened. Being in his company was like being with many of the great musicians I have known. It was never necessary to engage in small talk to communicate.

Like many musical people (as well as athletes, dancers, actors and visual artists,) Shig often operated on a non-verbal ESP level.

He was extremely articulate and enormously well read, but he knew that communicating was done on many levels, and he always seemed to be on just about all of them.

We often talked about non-verbal communication and how important it was for literary people to be able to be aware of the languages of the soul which are never verbally articulated but surround us.

Since, like Shig,  I was a friend and appreciator of Bob Kauffman and his poetry, Shig and I realized that we had a bond of understanding with other free spirits, who like Bob, operated on that mysterious but REAL ESP level. This was just something that was understood.

Fortunately, what I call the Burger-King-ization of ancient sacred religions by money-grubbing hustlers (i.e gurus with limos and New Age charlatans) was not part of the scene when I first remember crossing paths with Shig in the late 50s.

In the 50s, many of us realized that spirituality was a natural force among us and was just part of the environment for all living things, not a commodity that was supposed to be packaged and merchandized.

Shig was one of those spiritual people who also had an enormous knowledge of comparative religions and could have taught at any University.

And he was as great a listener as he was a raconteur and loved to hear other people's stories.

When I told Shig how I had first visited California in the summer of 1948, coming across country to visit my high school sweetheart, working in Los Gatos as a carpenters helper and plumbers helper, and took a day off to come to North Beach and found it  to be a a paradise, he told me that if we had ever met during that time, we both would have been sleeping in the park or on a bench, which is what he did when he first arrived to stay a few years later.

"No more park benches for me now." he said one night at the Caffe Trieste "I have my own place. But having done that years ago, I understand those who are in that situation now, and I don't judge the value of their character by their income.”

When we did spend time together, we stayed up all night rapping about music, poetry, visual arts, sports, politics and shared dreams. That's what we did every time I would see him, whenever I was able to find a way to come to San Francisco.

Everyone who spent time with him always hated to end the day or night.

The Caffe Trieste was a magnet for us back then and over 50 years later remains one today, and every time I go there, I expect to see Shig walk in the door or already at a table holding court. If Shig found someone totally disingenuous, he didn't need a background check to determine why. His own instincts were pure, so he was able to intuit what was happening.

He also knew that today's fashion usually ends up in tomorrow's landfill so he wasn't concerned about being hip, groovy, trendy, or fashionable.

He was a special kind of truth seeker, without ever having an holier-than-thou attitude.

And he was really funny as well as much beloved.

When my cantata Let us Remember, with a text by Langston Hughes, was premiered at the San Francisco Opera House in 1965, I ran into Neal Cassady, Ginsberg, Corso, pianist
Freddie 'Redd, actor Gary Goodrow, and Peter Orlovsky.

We all hung out since I didn't have to conduct the concert, and when I went to City Lights to see everyone, Shig told me "Be sure and write something good for the trombones to play. They'll make the singers sound better. And get Corso to comb his hair and change his shirt before he attends the concert."
Shig couldn't come to the performance, so when I got back to New York I gave a home-made LP from the radio broadcast of the cantata for him to hear which never arrived, since my courier from NY went to New Orleans on the way and stayed there and never left.

When I saw Shig a year later, he told me he had heard the radio broadcast of the cantata.

"I liked Langston's text," he said, "and the chorus, soloists and Oakland Symphony were in fine form, but I  would have liked less from the violins and more from the trombones."

Shig will always remain a presence in  North Beach for all who ever crossed paths with him. Along with Kerouac, Howard Hart, Philip Lamantia, artist Sam Francis, Gregory Corso, and an army of musicians who are also longer with us, I always think of calling them as soon as get to San Francisco and they always remain in my heart, even though they are not available at the moment.

And I know I can’t telephone Shig anymore either.

We can hope that Richard Reynolds’ fine work will be the first step to letting people know more about Shig, so that they can get in touch with him in their own way.

David Amram
Oct 16 2011
Putnam Valley NY (when not on that endless road)

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Nancy Yamhiro

Attorney Nancy Yamhiro is Shig’s niece. Her father is the brother of Shigesato’s wife.

I got the link to your website through John Perino at Focus Gallery. I stopped in the poetry reading the other weekend and was asking him if he had any of Shig’s postcards. The last time I saw Shig, he gave me a handful of his old postcards. I have been collecting them from various people over the years.

Big Shig (John’s Dad) and little Shig (Shigeyoshi) were very different but eerily alike. My father was a psychologist, and when we moved to California we all fell in love with little Shig. We enjoyed the treat of being invited up to his pad. When I was a little girl I met a number of his friends but never paid them much attention as I was always mesmerized by Shig himself.

I loved that he could walk into the Trieste and people would vacate his favorite spot for him.  Anyway I just wrote to say thank you for collecting so much about him and creating this website - its lovely and all the pictures are fantastic.

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Stanley Fullerton

Painter Stanley Fullerton, now seventy five years old, passed a good deal of time at City Lights in his formative years and has never forgotten Shig.

You have done a great thing for the memories of life in North Beach and San Francisco in general in pointing to the presence of Shig Murao in the founding of City Lights books, and his striking presence in the general atmosphere of the arts in San Francisco.

Shig was a pillar of an attitude of general art life of that period, not to be forgotten by those of us who knew him. Even though we left North Beach for other pastures in the race for a larger portion in the seeking of a life in art, we had the foundation of closeness with real and soundly made poets, painters, and characters of a period of a few glowing years. The presence of the man in the bookshop was an honest rock that could never be equaled in our memories, and he is solidly in my heart when many lesser persons are shadows.

In my life's travels there has never an equal in such an important place, that was a shop where we stood a chance of getting new knowledge, for those of use who were lettered and taught none of the stuff in City Lights, nor the conversations and handshakes that were commonly given there. I am a seventy five year old painter who saw all these things and talked with man behind the counter many times and learned the stuff of the mind that got me this far from that time period. I am certain you will hear other heartfelt memories of this giant of a soul!

Stanley Fullerton

Shig Murao: The Enigmatic Soul of City Lights and the San Francisco Beat Scene

This photo of Shig, scanned by a reader, appeared in the March 1970 issue of Holiday magazine.

Photo by Arnold Newman.