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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Swain's Music Store, Palo Alto, CA

I don't do much pre-GD, but Andy Childs's lengthy history of the GD in ZigZag in October 1973 mentions a Palo Alto music store, called Swain's, which I don't remember hearing about before. I need to read the whole piece more closely, and wonder how well it has stood up as a work of history. Anyway, since I have done a few pre-GD posts, and since LLD and Cryptical Developments both have local histories, I thought I might put this out there.
Later on towards the end of 1962 [Pigpen] got a part-time job at Swain's Music Store in Palo Alto, and it was there more than anywhere else that the Grateful Dead seed began to grow. ... Now Swain's Music Store, where Pigpen was working, was run by a guy named Troy Weidenheimer who had ideas about forming his own rock'n'roll band. He of course knew Pigpen, Pigpen knew Garcia, Garcia knew Kreutzmann, and so … a short-lived band called the Zodiacs was formed. Troy played lead guitar, Pigpen was on harp. They used a wide selection of drummers but most of the time it was Bill Kreutzmann, and Garcia would sometimes join in on bass guitar when he wasn't involved with his own bluegrass groups.

Sorry, no page number available - this comes from an electronic text copy.


  1. I've always wanted to know more about the Zodiacs - it always seemed to be a 'hidden' early electric band for some of the Dead, perhaps even a precedent for the Warlocks.
    McNally, though, says that Troy Weidenheimer was manager of Dana Morgan's store, where Garcia taught. (He also says it was summer '63 when Garcia joined the band. Jackson's bio suggests the Zodiacs were going concurrently with Mother McCree's jugband in '64, which I doubt.)

    By the way, if the paragraph you quoted indicates the general quality of the ZigZag article, I'd love to see more of it.

  2. Swains House of Music (451 University) was where the band originally rented their kit from - it is separate to Dana Morgan's but I have come across a couple of places where it is assumed that Dana Morgan was running Swains - but that is incorrect. It is an intriguing early history that crosses over with the whole College of San Mateo thing which will eventually become our “master work”. I agree with the dating of the Zodiacs to 1963 rather than 1964. Ross

  3. After the Warlocks were kicked out of Dana Morgan's and had to return their instruments, Swain's was one place (along with Guitars Unlimited) they got more instruments.

    I've read that Troy Weidenheimer taught guitar at Swain's. He may well have been a manager both there and at Dana Morgan's; later on in the '60s he ran his own music-instrument business (Troy Music) in Vancouver, Canada.

  4. The Childs article is jam-packed with stuff. I detected some elisions and errors, though, so I am not sure how reliable it is. Anyone know the back story on this series of articles? There are three parts totalling something like 18,000 words.

  5. For the Palo Alto readership (you know who you are), 451 University in Palo Alto is currently the Apple Store. The building was about 3 blocks from Dana Morgan's (on Ramona just off University).

    There were 3 Music Stores in Palo Alto, and one in Menlo Park (Guitars Unlimited). The two downtown stores (Dana Morgan's and Swain's) no doubt drew from the same pool of employees and customers, so it would be no surprise if Troy Weidneheimer (and everyone else) worked in both places.

    The the other Palo Alto music store was Drapers in Midtown. Midtown was the newer part of Palo Alto, far from the Bohemian enclave near University Avenue. On the other hand, I suspect that the Cubberley musicians, like Gregg Rolie, got their instruments at Drapers.

  6. I taught folk guitar and five-string banjo at Swains in the mid-60's. I knew Pig Pen (as well as Jerry, Bobby Weir and the rest)but I don't recall this 'Troy' person. Nor do I recall 'Pig' ever working at Swains, at least while I was there.

    1. I took guitar lessons from Troy Weidenheimer at Dana Morgan's in 1963. Jerry Garcia taught banjo. Pigpen worked there at the time. I wasn't sure what his duties were but he was always there it seemed. Swains was down the street on University Ave. I don't remember any of those guys ever working at Swains. Swains didn't have the "Bohemian" atmosphere the Dana Morgans had and I really can't imagine Pigpen working there. Maybe Troy and Gerry taught there but I don't remember Troy as managing Swains. I don't remember the manager's name but the rumor was that he had played with the Dave Clark Five. I returned to Dana Morgans in the late 60s and taught guitar there until I moved away in 1974. By the time I returned to Dana's the Greatful Dead had moved to San Francisco and were well on their way. I think they moved there in '65. Troy had moved to Vancouver.

    2. I'm Troy Weidenheimer's wife. He confirms that he taught at both Dana Morgan's & Swain's, but never managed either. And Pig didn't have a job at the former, simply hung out a lot. Troy's still playing BTW & teaching some private lessons & workshops.

    3. Thank you for the information, and for the update on Troy.

  7. There is some conflict as to which store Troy Weidenheimer worked at. Norm van Maastricht (one of Jerry's bandmates at the time) remembered him teaching guitar at Swain's circa 1962-63, when Jerry still lived at the Chateau.
    But Dennis McNally (the Dead biographer) said Troy was a manager at Dana Morgan's store. For all I know, they were both mistaken and he really worked at a different music store!

    Possibly he taught at Swain's during a different year than Anon was there.

    JGMF unfortunately did not share any more of the ZigZag article, but it's also possible (not seeing the rest) that the author may have mistaken Swain's for Dana Morgan's.

    I also doubt that Pigpen ever worked at Swain's, but Weir once said he worked as the janitor at Dana Morgan's. (I'm sure "worked" is a very loose term here. Weir said, "Pigpen and I swept up in the music shop... Pigpen would work at the music store because he could hang out with musicians, but basically he didn’t want to work any more than he absolutely had to.")

    By the way, I'm sure many of us would love to hear any memories or tales of Jerry, Pigpen & Bobby in the Palo Alto days from Anon, if he has any he'd like to share.

  8. I'll just affirm LIA's guess that others would love to hear any thoughts, memories, anything at all from Anonymous. One of the great things about these blogs is that they can serve of repositories not just in terms of the information in the posts, but, sometimes more importantly, in the readers' comments as well.

    LIA, the ZigZag article is really really long. Word tells me it's 18,000 words. That's longer than your posts! Happy to email you a copy if you want.

  9. Would love a copy of the ZigZag article & other relevant early Dead articles - my email's accessible in my profile!

  10. What I remember about Swains in the '60's is that it sold pianos and sheet music as well as some instruments. It had a bigger showroom and always seemed quiet and had a more staid and "dead" atmosphere---but it had the local Vox amplifier franchise, and if you were a Beatles fan, you drooled over the Vox amplifiers. --I bought my trumpet, guitar and amplifiers from Dana Morgan. We kids always felt welcome there. Dana Jr always treated us with respect and we appreciated that.


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