I have just been eyeballing some articles that appeared in the amazing, incredible, Golden Road, edited by Blair Jackson and Regan McMahon. I think I just peeled the onion back to a really important issue to which I have, until now, paid too little attention, and that's the issue of Round Records (RR). I just want to make a brief comment here. Steve Brown had a great piece from the perspective of the GD Record company in the Summer 1986 issue (1) with the following tidbit.
Despite their reputation as a group of guys who liked to take risks, Rakow and the Dead decided that rather than jeopardize Grateful Dead Records, which was co-owned by all the voting members of the organization, they would create a second label to handle the more financially dubious solo projects members of the Dead were interested in pursuing. Thus was born Round Records, owned 50/50 by Garcia and Rakow.
IMO, Garcia owning RR 50/50 is very interesting, for at least three reasons.
First, I think it’s great evidence of the extent to which Garcia was the firmest (only?) supporter of Rakow in the group. As we know with hindsight, this was a devastatingly bad piece of character judgment on Jerry’s part. Neither his first nor his last, but certainly one of the most consequential.
Second, having his own finances tied directly to the fate of the record company might have given Jerry the incentive to put his own name on his band, eventually to professionalize it. As someone who has puzzled a lot over the question of why Garcia would put his name on his band, if he was after a bit of anonymous gigging –a premise almost certainly true of most of the early and some of the later GOTS stuff—this helps clarify the probable reason. No-one else’s records were going to make money, so he needed to make sure that at least his stuff did as well as possible, since that’s basically what would finance Round. Business drove the decision. How mundane, I know. But worth noting about a guy who tried and failed, as so many did, to live outside of all of that.
Third, it really speaks to how committed Jerry was to the other GD members, the Family, etc. He was not only subsidizing their solo projects (did anyone really think that Diga or Seastones or Keith and Donna would sell?), but also taking on disproportionate risk. While he had a tendency to leave women and side band members (except John Kahn) high and dry, Garcia jumped two feet in in committing to his GD bandmates (and, beyond the scope, John Kahn). True, they backed him with the Albatross of the Movie, but Jerry was pretty much carrying everyone and everything. We know this. Yet he is often condemned for irresponsibility (and often, to be sure, demonstrated it) in his personal relationships. Here's a thought: maybe carrying that many others is about as much as we might expect of anybody …
I know everyone knows all of this, but I thought I'd put it out there. And remind myself that I have a lot to learn about Round Records.
(1) Brown, Steve. 1986. If I Told You All That Went Down … A fond look back at Grateful Dead Records. Golden Road 11 (Summer): 21-27.