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Sunday, August 29, 2010

How JGAB Ended

Can't believe I have never posted about the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band (JGAB), a.k.a. the "Black Mountain Boys" (1987 model), a.k.a., in a weird little Bill Graham marketing campaign, "Jerry Garcia: The Band Acoustic". This is the wonderful band consisting of Jerry (ac-g, vocals), John Kahn (ac-bass), David Nelson (ac-g, vocals), Sandy Rothman (dobro, mandolin, vocals), David Kemper (drums), and sometimes Kenny Kosek (fiddle). I won't get into the details of the configuration's origins and playing history here, though it's a neat story from a neat time in Jerry's musical life.

Instead, I just want to say one thing about how the JGAB ended, based on a just-completed read of a great Sandy Rothman interview from ca. 1989 (1).

Sandy says that the JGAB was supposed to do a studio album, but ended up with the live album (Almost Acoustic) instead because the planned studio time never materialized. This was "partly because Jerry was in high gear on a couple of other projects and partly because a certain enthusiasm about playing with these old buddies had cooled off ...” (1, p. 18).

This last phrase really intrigues me. It's never been clear how the JGAB ended, though like so many other Jerry configurations it may just have withered for inattention. There were a few super-fun shows in the summer of 1988 (early and late shows at the tiny Cabaret Cotati on July 7th, and a sweet show at the Frost Ampitheatre on July 9th), and then nothing more. Ever, AFAIK.

The way Sandy phrases this interests me, too. The phrase "a certain enthusiasm" and the use of the passive voice are both constructions that seem intended to obscure whatever agency lay behind the sentiments. We are not told whose enthusiasm this was that had cooled off, less still why..

So my simple question, almost certainly strictly rhetorical, is this: Jerry's, or the GD's?

(1) Juanis, Jimbo. 1989. Old and Even More in the Way: An Exclusive Interview with Sandy Rothman. Relix 16, 2 (April): 15-18.


  1. Another way of looking at this question is to consider why the Jerry Garcia Band lineups persisted. Every other Garcia configuration lasted a relatively brief period of time (6 to 24 months) and then Jerry simply moved on. Yet he played with Melvin Seals from 1981 to 1995, and while his repertoire and peripheral band members (except Kahn) evolved, he stayed in the same musical space the whole time.

    The "norm" is Jerry playing with a group for a year or two, and then simply moving on. Howard Wales, New Riders, OAITW, GASB, Reconstruction, JGAB all came and went. He played with Merl for four years, although you could argue that the "Legion Of Mary" period was quite different than what came before it.

    As far as JGB, he played with Hopkins for 5 months, Keith and Donna for 32 months, Ozzie Allers for a year, and then Melvin for a dozen. Who's the outlier? I think its Melvin. Garcia and Grisman seems to have been a different animal, but they rarely performed and never "toured" in that sense.

    It had to have been tough to play with Jerry in a side band and have a brief period of reliable income playing music you felt like playing, only to have Jerry's restlessness and other obligations end the arrangement.

  2. Speaking of the 1988 Cabaret Cotati shows, wasn't the Cabaret on the same site as the old Inn Of The Beginning (8201 Old Redwood Highway)? An interesting bit of historical symmetry, given that the New Riders played there in 1969.

    I think Ken Frankel was the booker of the venue by that time, and it was done as a favor/reunion for him.

  3. The Cabaret was not always in the same space as the Inn of the Beginning, no. I have notes somewhere.

  4. If I were saying it again to JC Juanis in the 1989 Relix interview, I might not say "a certain enthusiasm cooled." More accurate would be to say Jerry started to move in another direction, specifically involving Grisman, who had decided to end his longtime avoidance of Jerry personally (over some old business problem) right around the time JG was playing acoustic again, with us. Adding another performance entity to his already stretched schedule would've been impossible for Jerry. We (along with many fans) were sorry he elected to go in the other direction just when we were building our sound, but that's how it goes sometimes. We had a great run, though relatively brief.


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