The True Origin of 420 – Setting The Record Straight

October 15, 2012 By 26 comments
Brad Bann aka The Bebe 420

Ever since I read an article about a group of guys named the Waldos claiming to be the originators of 420, I had doubts from the start as something didn’t make sense. Why did they choose 4:20 as the time to meet at the statue and who was the one that first coined the term? This never made any sense to me and I knew something wasn’t right. Suspecting there was a true originator, I began sending out energy for them to contact me for this article. Today was that day.

I received an email from a guy named Brad Bann aka “The Bebe”, claiming to be the Father of 420, saying that it all started in 1970 with a group of guys called “The Bebes”. They lived on a golf course, in a neighborhood called “Peacock Gap” in San Rafael, California.

Bebe says, “The Bebes and the Waldos are still good friends to this day, however it’s time the truth be told.” He goes on to say, “The Waldos were a group of guys I ordained”, referring to Steven Capper as the “Original Waldo”. He went on to explain how the Waldos were a small group of guys he dubbed “Waldos”, because they were goofy. “During the summer of 1970 at San Rafael High School, there were two groups of people involved in bringing forth the term 420, the Bebes and the Waldos. The Bebes beat the Waldos to the punch on nearly every phrase. The Waldos put a story on the Web in 1998, but not the real story. They never mentioned the Bebes because they would have some explaining to do.”

The Bebe and one of the other Bebes named, “Bone Boy”, sent their claim to High Times in 2003, after someone sent them the article they did on 420 and the Waldos. They waited for months, yet never received a reply.

420 Letter From Bone Boy

The Bebe Is The Thomas Edison Of 420

With over 420 million Google results, the morphing of the number 420 into an international phenomenon is fairly baffling to me, an early ’70s graduate of San Rafael High School in Marin County, California.

I’ve been sent numerous stories over the years regarding tracing the beginning of 420. I’ve listened to syndicated radio talk show hosts devote nearly entire shows to 420 on April 20th, heard radio shows celebrate each weekday with a Reggae tune at 4:20, and have seen 420 features on TV. How about the number being a police code, or penal code, or The Who’s 1965 album cover of “My Generation” in front of Big Ben at 4:20, clocks in the film, “Pulp Fiction” set to 4:20, etc… Anyway, I can tell you, as one who has firsthand knowledge of its true origin, that nearly everybody has been had…

It is amazing to me that even sociologists have weighed in with their “expert” 420 viewpoint (and they get paid for this!?) of what it means. “420 creates an intense sense of group belonging among friends, strangers, and crowds” or “a kind of mystical, spiritual, or extraordinary sense of belonging, where the group exists as a reality greater than itself”… What? Way too stoned in Madagascar I’m afraid.

True, the term initiated its international acronymic ascent in the early 1970’s- actually 1970 at San Rafael High School (SRHS). And the notions SRHS alumni left Marin County, taking 420 to the collegiate level, mostly along the West Coast, the I-5 and 101 corridors, and in fact, all the way past Seattle and up to Prudhoe Bay are true as well. I know, I took it to the Arctic Sea with an Arctic 4-twone standing on frozen water. The number also surfaced and spread throughout the Grateful Dead concert community, thanks in large part to the Waldos I’m certain, taking the term east, promoting the newly fabled number on a national scale. Deadheads are a great promotional vehicle, however this is about where the myths end and the truth takes off…

I’m sorry, but the real story is rather short, unimpressive and unimaginative. It is spontaneous though, just like the character who first coined the term, completely by accident, like most things from his youth. Brad Bann aka The Bebe (Beeb – a nickname) about seventeen at the time, is the Father of 420 and many other terms that caught on around the campus of SRHS in the Fall of 1970. Take for instance “Waldos”, used in the current “420 Smokelore”, denoting a group of guys. It was a word originally made up to describe an odd, awkward, out of place person. Its predecessor was “Gome” or “Gomer”, after the TV character, Gomer Pyle and our neighborhood Gomer, Gary “Gomo” Schweitzer. When Bebe didn’t know you, he would call out, “Hey Waldo” or “Hey Gome”. Bebe also had specific nicknames for everyone and everything in our neighborhood: The Blue Boys, Puff, Du, Hello Andy, Turkey, Bone Boy, Thorgy, The Mead, Pig Newton, the Incredible Walking Man, and Bonfiglio (Or Bonfig), a tag he would use to address bearded hippies of the era. There was Dune (pot, taken from the title of a sci-fi novel) and “Alfred”, a term meaning, “To borrow, but never return”. He spawned Jimmy Bardoni, a fictitious name he would use whenever he got into hot water. Bebe not only concocted 420, he labeled the guys who claim to have created it. “The Waldos” (Though they were not the Waldo Father’s of 420) were perhaps the greatest promoters of the number back then. I mention all of this in an attempt to lay a foundation, I suppose, of a history of “Mindless Term Invention” by the Bebe.

Quite simply, the birth of 420 occurred at precisely 4:20 in the afternoon to begin a bedroom bong session at the house of Du and Puff on a Saturday in October of 1970. The Bebe along with the brothers began preparing to “bong out”, when Bebe glanced at the clock on the nightstand and said, “It’s 4:20, time for bong loads”. After getting high, they proceeded to do some audio recording with Bebe, as we did frequently, using his assortment of voices, including his impression of Abraham Lincoln, and said as tape was rolling: “4 score and 20 years ago…” As it turned out, 420 became an instant code in our neighborhood. We gravitated to any and all Bebe terminology he conjured up. 420 seemed to just roll off the tongue better than any other number, 4:19, 2:37, 3:58 etc, and gosh knows we needed a code to use in front of non-stoners, especially for the parental establishment. I remember once Bebe saying, “It’s 420” in front of Hello Andy’s mother, and she responded by saying in a minor panic, “My goodness, it can’t be that late yet, I have to go pick up your sister!” As knucklehead teenagers, I guess we never realized parents were on such prompt time schedules. 420 developed its own lexicon, “Do you have any 4-twone?”, “Who’s got the 4-twone?”, “This is excellent 4-twone” or “420”, and “I’m too 4-twentyed”. Sign language and lip reading also evolved, as well as a hesitation code of sorts, where a person would say 4, then moments later, 2, followed shortly thereafter by a 0. There was the countdown as well 4-2- Zero. Way too stoned: “4-twoned”. It was also used to define certain kinds of weed, “420 Colombo” and “Thai 420” for Thai sticks.

I submit the story just shared is the truth and nothing but the whole 420 truth. 420 was only designated as an actual time at the moment of its inception. It was never intended as a time of day to get high, but evolved into that as well as the coronation of April 20th into the stoner holiday all over the world. It was and will always be, first and foremost, just a simple code, period. 420 is an accidental anomaly. There is no deep meaning. A guy looked at a clock as he was about to “smoke out” with some buddies, blurted out the time, and it became local stoner lore. If Bebe would have said, “It’s twenty minutes after four”, the term probably would have never gotten legs to get out of the bedroom that day. 420 just sounded “Stoner Poetic”.

The Waldos were a real group of guys, ordained by Bebe. One of them, Bebe referred to as the “Original Waldo” I believe. But now it’s time to examine the story. Of the Waldos in 1970, I believe one was a junior, one or two were sophomores and the others freshmen. Two of them I believe lived in the same neighborhood, and the others in different parts of town. One dude’s dad was a DEA agent as I recall.

School finished at about 3pm, for some earlier. Some may have had sports after school, some didn’t. Now, let me get this straight: Guys are going to return an hour and a half after school was dismissed to meet at a statue, get high and go look for pot plants a lengthy drive away? If this is believable, you must be in possession of some excellent 420. Have you ever driven from San Rafael to Pt. Reyes? It’s about an hour each way (without commute traffic). So at 4:20, guys get together at the Louis Pasteur statue in the middle of campus, away from sports fields or gymnasiums, pile into a car and cruise out to Pt. Reyes looking for pot plants based on some map, then return? 4:20 seems kind of late to be driving an hour or so to look for pot plants. Might the sunset have interfered with their ability to find anything? What time did they get home, especially if they indulged in herb and did a bit of wandering out at Point Reyes? Which, by the way is highly likely. Of course they didn’t have any homework.

If they played sports, how could one be sure practice was going to end close to 4:20? It is a reasonable assumption that practice for any sport lasts close to two hours, but wouldn’t the coach be the only one with that information? A meaningful question that should be asked of “The Waldos” is, “Why did you choose 4:20 as the time to meet at the statue as opposed to 4:15 or 4:30?” Seems so implausibly random. And, which of the Waldo’s was the one who first coined the term? One might suggest they chose the time because they gravitated to the Bebe’s new code and turned 420 into their time of day to partake in herb. But even that would be flawed, because they chose 4:20 as a time of day to meet and drive somewhere, not get stoned.

Postmarks on letters is an interesting tool in tracing the beginnings of 420, but I’m sure that if Bebe saved any of his reel to reel tapes of prank phone calls, 420 would no doubt be heard.

I was in Las Vegas with a friend during NCAA March Madness this year. As we were going down the elevator from our hotel room to the lobby, we stopped at several floors acquiring passengers along the way. Most were sporting shirts from their favorite teams. When I asked one young man what time his team played, he replied, “Game starts at 4:20”. Most of the eight other people in the elevator began to chuckle. People from various parts of the country knew exactly what the number represented.

420 is now a brightly colored number in the fabric of Pop Culture. When something enters, then becomes part of Pop Culture, the truth of where that “something” originated demands to be uncovered. That moment for 420 has been “now” for quite some time. How did it come to be? How was it intended to be used? Who first conceived and uttered the term? Who is responsible for creating this iconic three digit number?

It’s a simple truth, really. Brad Bann aka The Bebe is the Thomas Edison of 420.”

 

The moment of truth. I finally had the answer I’d been seeking and it was time to set the record straight, once and for all.

420 Interviews

To verify credibility, I began contacting all of The Bebes, gathering information on the story. I confirmed all of their full names and identities, some of which asked to keep secret for personal and/or professional reasons. After interviewing 10 Bebes and hearing all of their stories, it was easy to conclude that there was definitely a hidden truth, that needed to be revealed. Everyone told the exact same story!

Meet Dave Dixon aka Wild Du, one of the Dixon brothers who was there when Bebe coined the term 420. Bebe describes Wild Du as, “a “Core Bebe”, who I sold knife sets to businesses up and down the California Coast with, just out of high school. Him and I started “The 420 Band” in 1972, and still play to this day.” Wild Du says, “I first met Bebe at the neighborhood gathering when we were 15. We went to the brick yard to play and Bebe started throwing bricks and poking holes in the mortar with his fingers, causing a ruckus, which ended up in getting us both arrested.” He went on to say that the Waldos have admitted that the Bebes coined the term 420 to him, just not to the public.

Dave is now 58 years old, still lives in San Rafael, California grinding knives and playing guitar with Bebe.

Then there’s Wild Du’s brother Dan Dixon aka Puff, the other Dixon brother who was there when Bebe coined the term 420. Bebe describes Puff as another “Core Bebe”, saying, “Puff was popular with the Bebes and the Waldos, this is how all the words the Bebes made up, became language that the Waldos ended up using, like 420. Puff and I were in the Army in Germany together and were always seen together during high school.” Puff says, “The Waldos admit that the Bebes coined the term 420, there is no question. They even tried to recruit me, to make their story more credible.”

Dan is now 57 years old and lives in Oklahoma, where he is a retired caregiver for his mother in law. He spent his career as a Basketball Coach, later to become a Pharmacy Tech, providing health care to those in need. He loves football, basketball, golf and 420.

When brothers Wild Du & Puff were asked to recall the exact Saturday in October, 1970, they both remembered puffing in the house with Bebe on those particular weekends and confirm being there when Bebe coined the term, however were unable to pin down the exact day. Wild Du thinks it happened on the first (10/03/70) or second (10/10/70) Saturday of October, because it was the beginning of school.

Tom Thorgersen aka Thorgy was the neighborhood Norwegian weed dealer, who handled all of the Bebe’s 420 needs. Bebe recalls, “Thorgy was the big 420 weed dealer in the 70s & 80s and the Bebes spent a lot of time at Thorgy’s.” Thorgy started smoking at 12 years of age, to calm his hyperactivity. His mom even offered to help him grow it. He shared stories about calling in to radio shows with the Bebe and doing 420 pranks on the air, and listening to the reel to reel audio recordings of Bebe’s version of Abraham Lincoln’s address, “4 Score and 20 Years”. Thorgy says, “Steve Capper is an opportunist who wasn’t even close to making up 420. We made fun of the Waldos, aka “Wallies”, they were the weaker link, the ones who didn’t fit in. It will be nice to finally have the truth be told.”

Tom is now 55 years old and still lives in San Rafael, California. He is a Carpenter with a passion for rebuilding old cars.

Dave Anderson aka Hello Andy was, “The main spokesman for the Bebes, who tried desperately to organize and explain Bebe behavior”, says Bebe. Hello Andy recalls, “Everything Bone Boy said is true. Bebe was always making up nicknames for everyone and spent a lot of time in his bedroom making prank recordings. He was always making weird sounds and was great with voices. One time we made this recording of police calls where Bebe would say stuff like, “One Adam Twelve. We have a 420 on 4th Street. Send 2 units. Over”. He would do things like aiming rocks at a target, looking long and hard at it, then saying something like, “Estimating angle 420″, then throw it. Hello Andy goes on to say, “I lived in between Bebe and Du & Puff, and took part in plenty of bong outs at their house. It’s highly likely that I could have been there at the time he first said it, however there is no question that Bebe certainly coined the term 420, which later became our special code. To be honest with you, I never even considered Steve Capper a Waldo.

Dave is now 57 years old, lives in Sacramento, California and is an Engineer. He likes Golf, sports, music, movies and a little 420 from time to time at a concert or special occasion like the Bebe’s 420 reunion.

Bone Boy was the designated driver, chauffeuring The Bebes around in his Blue 66′ Barracuda, blasting 8-Tracks of Hendrix, Zeppelin, The Who, Santana, Doobie Brothers & more. Bone Boy says, “I never allowed toking out in my car, so we would drive around Marin County looking for scenic places to take the car and get high. Some of our favorite spots were, “The Wall”, “Windless”, Sequoia” and “360”.” Bebe says, “Bone Boy always had transportation and planned events. He was very good in sports, loved music and always had new albums. All the Bebes were good in sports and had very good communication skills. We all used Sonics, a loud piercing noise that Bebes could identify and locate each other, saved our asses more than once.” Bone Boy says, “We would go to Baskin Robbins and Bebe would make this high pitch sonic noise. People would just look around and wonder where it came from. He was always screwing with people, in an odd, fun way.” He goes on to say, “We lived on a golf course surrounded by houses and Bebe was always doing something crazy. One day, he showed up with a golf cart. When we asked where he got it, he said, “Don’t worry, nobody pays attention.” Bone Boy says, “I asked a teacher from San Rafael High School if they remembered The Bebe and he said they used to have staff meetings about Bebe and his pranks, all of the time”.

Bone Boy is now 57 years old, lives in Huntington Beach, CA and is a music industry veteran. He loves film, music, writing, teaching and the great outdoors.

Turkey was from Georgia and spoke differently with a southern twang. Bebe recalls, “He always had to go home early and would say, “my ass is grass”, then run home. He had a mini bike that would go 42.0 mph, some of our first transportation.”

Then there was The Worm, who Bebe says had a prosthetic arm and used to play tackle football with them. “I love that guy, so full of life. He was a real game person, many stories about and with him. He would love to be part of this.”

Blue and The Mead were two anti-social brothers called Blue Boys, who were a few years younger. Bebe says, “Blue Boy” was a term we gave to the younger guys who hung out with us.” Hello Andy recalls, “One time I watched Blue Boys, Blue and Scraun play a prank on the coach. They watched their watches and when the time came, they asked, “Hey coach, what time is it?” He replied, “4:20″ and they all started giggling.”

And finally we come to Brad Bann aka The Bebe. He was known as a prankster back in high school. He loves music, sports, and scientific facts. He still lives in San Rafael, California where he plays guitar and is the lead singer in a band, doing Frank Sinatra covers. When Bebe isn’t playing live gigs, you can still find him in his studio making funny songs and recordings. Today is actually his 58th Birthday. What a perfect time to reveal his hidden truth to the world. Hempy Birthday, Brother Bebe!

When asked if anyone possibly had any of the reel to reel prank calls and/or random audio recordings of The Bebe with 420; Bebe lost all of his, Wild Du’s were stolen and Bone Boy’s mysteriously disappeared. Unfortunately, nobody else had any recollection of having any of these recordings, however with the release of this new truth, hopefully some of them will manifest in the days to come.

420 Conclusion

The Bebes were a group of athletes from San Rafael, CA, who went to San Rafael High School in 1970. They lived in the same neighborhood called Peacock Gap, which was a golf course, surrounded by houses. They were well known for their prank phone calls and recordings. Brad Bann aka The Bebe was the leader of the group and was joined by all of his friends, whom he ordained and named as well. There was Dave Dixon aka Wild Du, his brother Dan Dixon aka Puff, Dave Anderson aka Hello Andy, Tom Thorgersen aka Thorgy, Bone Boy, Blue, The Mead, Turkey & The Worm.

The Waldos were a group of guys from San Rafael, CA, who went to San Rafael High School in 1970. They were known for being goofy, which is why The Bebe nicknamed them all Waldos. There was Steve Capper and David Reddix who have gone public with their names, Patrick, Larry, Jeff, John and Mark, who have not gone public as of yet. While these guys may have been responsible for promoting 420 across country, there is no question that they did not coin the term and have been dishonest with the world from day one. True credit goes to The Bebe and his brotherhood of Bebes.

420 Closing

One thing is certain to me, Brad Bann aka the Bebe coined the term 420 and the Waldos carried the term across the U.S. on tour with the Grateful Dead. I took the torch in 1993 and promoted 420 to the world via my website/s, reaching over 20 million people a year, totaling over 420 million people worldwide. Now there are billions of us.

People have asked me the same question, 420 million times, “What is 420?” The most common reply was usually an hour long explanation of 420 different things that it is and can be. After 20 years of promoting this magical number, I’ve come to summarize it down to, “It’s anything you want it to be.”

It’s been 42.0 years since Bebe first coined the term 420 and I am very honored and truly grateful for being chosen to send his message to the world, setting the record straight once and for all.

It all makes sense now.

Rob Griffin
Editor-in-Chief

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