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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

JGB: early 1980s drummers and backup singers.

I posted some listening notes from the 10/13/82 JGB show at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz, CA. A priori, two things are particularly interesting about that show. First, it's the public debut of drummer Greg Errico with the Jerry Garcia Band in this particular stint (he had done a mini-tour with them in July 1980). There's much more to say about him and that. Second, there are no backup vocalists, as this was a ca. four-show interregnum between the departure of two female vocalists after the June '82 east coast tour and the arrival of Jacklyn LaBranch and DeeDee Dickerson on 10/24/82 at the River Theater in Guerneville, CA. (I'll do a post or two on that show as part of this thread, I hope.) (For some more backing vocalists talk with data relevant to what I'll post here, see this discussion of the personnel working the late '83 JGB tour.)

As as so often the case, Corry replied with knowledge that far exceeds that which is the present public "state of the art". All of this has been known by Corry all along, mind you, but it just never made the various leaps from him to what's currently publicly "known". So glad he is blogging so we can recover and extend all of this!

Anyway, he left a series of great comments, which I am going to try to respond to ad seriatim before I try to summarize where I think we are in terms of the early 80s drummers and backup singers. It's more complicated that one might think. In fact, these are among the last reasonably consequential Garcia mysteries from the 80s onward.
Comment 1:
Do you know anything about Jimmy Warren? Where he came from, what he did before, whether he ever did anything after? I don't.

Warren wasn't a guest star, he was in the JGB for 18 months and played dozens of shows. One of the biographers (Blair?) said "he had problems," but who knows what that meant.
Not much to go on. I would love to be able to talk to him, to learn more.

Here's Blair: "Electric pianist Jimmy Warren was, to put it delicately, sympathetic to Kahn's and Garcia's offstage behavior ... even John Kahn admitted that 'things got kind of out of control around then. Jimmy Warren was just sort of a friend. It didn't work out and it went on too long ...'" (Jackson 1999, 321). I believe he mostly played a Fender Rhodes. He came in with Melvin in January of 1981 (I believe "12/20/80" is just a mislabel of 12/20/79). He and Liz Stires were an item, so this band initially had both the Liz Stires-Jimmy Warren couple and the Essra Mohawk-Daoud Shaw couple. I doubt he was especially "problematic" in terms of personal issues among those within Garcia's orbit at that particular time. Blair continues on pp. 321-322 about the fact that Garcia was in pretty deep at this point. I don't know anything about his tenure except that TJS lists his last gig as September 7, 1982. So, yeah, 18 months, no flash in the pan.
Comment 2:
Essra Mohawk and Liz Stires were the vocalists from June 25 '81 (Santa Cruz) through Aug 25 '81 (Keystone PA).
I don't list this 8/25/81 show. Should I?

I have just checked on 5/30/81 and 6/25/81, and indeed there are no vocalists on the former and two female backing singers on the latter. So I'd say 6/25/81 is, as far as we currently have evidence, the return of backing vocalists to JGB after 2.5 years of having none.
Comment 2
Julie Stafford replaced Essra Mohawk starting on September 7, 1981 (Concord Pavilion). Stafford and Stiles [sic] were the singers through June 24 '82 (Capitol Theater, Passaic). 
Julie Stafford is completely missed by TJS. I know that she is credited for background vocals on "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" from the Run For the Roses album. I never knew that Essra was in for such a short time, really just a handful of shows. In fact, I am a little bit skeptical of this. I have to go back and check some stuff.

What's more, I know that Liz Stires left after the Mosque (Richmond, VA) show on 6/22/82. She was not there for the rest of the tour. I need to revisit tapes, but a review of the 6/23/82 Stanley Theater (Pittsburgh, PA) show (1) says that there were two keyboard players and one female vocalist.

What's also strange is that an eyewitness to the 10/24/82 River Theater (Guerneville, CA) show, which we know featured the return of female vocalists after the brief four-show interregnum of 10/13 and 10/21-23, thought that "Julie" was one of the singers. This was how Julie Stafford first came to my attention as someone who might have sung onstage with JGB, something which another band member from this time has confirmed. Update: that appears to have been reference to 5/31/82.

Upshot, I have some doubts about this particular time period. Corry, can you say more about how you came to this understanding?
Comment 3:
David (Daoud) Shaw was the drummer for the Jerry Garcia Band starting in January '81, and he remained the drummer through Aug 23 '81. [ed: Comment 4 says this was 8/25/81.]
I have always followed TJS and had Shaw in through June 1, 1981, which has always left open the question of who played the June-July-August shows. I am more than happy to fill Shaw's name into the drum slot here, but can I ask again about sourcing?
Comment 3:
The next JGB show [ed: after 8/23/81, implied by comment 2] was Sep 7 '81 at Concord Pavilion. Bill Kreutzmann played drums.For the three other Sept JGB shows (Sep 18 Keystone Berkeley, Sep 19-20 The Stone), Ron Tutt played drums. Tutt also played drums on the tour that started in Palo Alto on Oct 25 and headed East from Oct 31 (Philadelphia) through Nov 19 (Denver). On the Grateful Dead hotline, the tour was billed as "The Return Of Ron Tutt."
It absolutely blows my mind that it was billed this way, and that this has somehow been lost to history insofar as that is represented at TJS, etc. It also reconciles one little factoid which has been bugging me, which is that Ozzie Ahlers has said that Tutt played some shows after he left. These would be them, I guess.

I list Kreutzmann on 9/19/81 at the Stone, though that may have just been me following TJS. I did conclude that "[drummer] is an animal" in my listening notes.
Comment 3:
Bill Kreutzmann returned to the drum chair on Dec 17 '81 at Keystone Berkeley and seems to have held it through Jun '24 82. I have not absolutely confirmed that, however, and it's possible that there were subs at some show (Gregg Errico, Gaylord Birch, etc) or that someone else took over the drums entirely. I do know that Kreutzmann generally played drums at Bay Area shows during this period, because I asked anyone who went to a show. 
Yes, there is an old tape of 12/17/81 with audience chatter suggesting that Kreutzmann is in the house.  And, with you, I assume that there are some discontinuities or non-linearities kicking around from night to night.

So much for bullet-type responses to Corry's comments. What's the big picture?

First, we still have some meaningful gaps in our knowledge of who was on stage in the 1981-1983 period, especially. This is true in terms of drummers and backup singers.

Second, this is probably a case where lots of listening is required. I wish I were more perceptive in terms of being able to hear different drumming and singing styles, but I am not. Sometimes audience chatter and stage talk can reveal a thing or two.

Third, we may never be able to pin it all down. Much as I like knowing, not knowing is OK, too. Keeps some mystery in the whole thing.

Thanks for giving lots of food for thought, Corry!

(1) John Allison, "Garcia band hot at the Stanley," Daily Collegian (Pennsylvania State University), June 25, 1982, p. 13.


  1. Great stuff. I never realized how unclear it was as to who was playing in the JGB during this time period. I thought we knew everything! I guess I will have to revisit some of these shows and see what I can come up with.

  2. I got the Janet Soto list in Fall 1980, along with most everyone else I knew. I decided right then that it was up to me to keep up the list, as did other people. However, I also took the step of tracking every Garcia Band and Dead spinoff date, too, right off the Grateful Dead hotline and advertised around the Bay Area. The dates for Deadbase IX, the first "GarciaBase," was largely based on my lists for this period (previous years were based on a mixture of my list and Dennis McNally's research, and the setlists themselves were the work of the Deadbase authors).

    In general, I'm very confident of dates that were advertised, although some could always have been canceled or added at the last minute. At the time, however, shows were simply billed as The Jerry Garcia Band, with no mention of who else was in the group. Garcia never introduced people on stage, so the identities of Jimmy Warren and the female vocalists were a mystery until they had been in the band for some time.

  3. Just to run through some issues quickly:

    there was no August 25 '81 date, that's just a typo on my part for Aug 23

    there is no question that the backing vocalists debuted on June 25 '81--that is worthy of a post in itself

    The East Coast '81 tour was billed as "The Return Of Ron Tutt" on the hotline. I have assumed that the Oct 25 and Oct 27 were warmup shows for Tutt, although I don't know that absolutely.

    Sometime after the fact (possibly years) I somehow determined that the September 18-20 '81 shows featured Tutt instead of Kreutzmann, but my sources would have been sketchy (asking people what they recalled, basically). If you have some good evidence that Billy K played drums, I would go with that. Given Tutt's schedule, however, he could have flown in for one show (which someone I met saw) and Kreutzmann could have played the other two, or any other arrangement.

  4. I didn't know Essra Mohawk was Garcia's backup singer until after she left the band, but I don't recall exactly how I learned that. For those of you who like to play Six Degrees Of Separation, Essra (really named Sandy Hurvitz) is the closest link between Frank Zappa and Jerry Garcia. She was a regular guest with the Mothers in New York in 1967, and Zappa signed her to his label (henchman Ian Underwood actually produced her album).

  5. I've been looking over some long dormant notes, and Gregg Errico's debut with the Jerry Garcia Band was July 18, 1980 at The Stone. There was a quartet lineup of the JGB (Garcia/Kahn/Ozzie Allers/Errico) that played in July and August 1980.

    I only just noticed that The Jerry Site doesn't list a drummer for that period. I also have a hand written note about a show at Calderone Theater, Hempstead, NY on July 29, 1980. Someone must have told me about that (Bobby Forrest, if you're out there, it was probably you).

  6. My notes say "vocals" for the Oct 28 '82 show in Reseda, but I have always assumed that the vocalists were DeeDee Dickerson and Jaclyn LaBranch. This would fit with them debuting in Guerneville, as a safe out of town opener. Still, the "Julie" account is confusing--does your eyewitness recall whether the singers were white or black?

  7. What is "the Janet Soto list"?

    The eyewitness to the River Theater (Guerneville, 10/24/82) show is Julie Anzaldo, and she is exceptionally credible. She and her husband John saw a great fraction of Bay Area Jerry shows from '79-90s or so, and taped many of them. She may come post here, but in any case she says she is 100% sure that the backup singers on 10/24/82 were two white women, Julie and Liz.

    I am confused about so many things now. Liz has said she left the JGB after the 6/22/82 Mosque (Richmond, VA) show. I apparently have Essra entirely wrong. And if Jaclyn and DeeDee didn't start on 10/24/82, then we have their debut date wrong, too.

    Gonna have to listen very carefully to some tapes, I think, and get some authentications from the people involved insofar as possible.

  8. The Janet Soto list was the typewritten list of Grateful Dead shows through 1979, made up for some unknown reason by GD staff member Janet Soto. It remains the ur-text for all Grateful Dead scholarship. All the "original" lists, in the Grushkin book, McNally's list (which was the basis of Grushkin's, I think), the John Dwork list and finally the Deadbase list all came from the Soto list.

    The Soto list started to circulate in 1980. Someone gave it to me, I can't remember who now, and it just blew my mind. Now, of course, I would just see it as full of mistakes, but at the time it was the key to a lost world.

  9. As for the subject of who was in the Garcia Band in 81-82, it's becoming more and more curious. Maybe Liz and Julie were in the Garcia Band for longer than I thought.

  10. TJS lists Greg Errico as playing on 12/17/75 and replacing Ron Tutt on 12/31/75 so Tutt could play with Elvis that night at Pontiac Stadium in front of 60,000 people!

    Also, TJS 11/3/81 has an image with Kreutzmann on drums...I am trying to track down the photographer but no luck so far.

  11. TJS has a hiccup for Dec 17 '75. The description is for New Year's Eve (Dec 31 '75), because Tutt was busy with Elvis. I can say for a fact that Tutt played at Winterland on Dec 19 '75, as I was there.

    By the way, do we have a confirmation that Gregg Errico was actually the drummer on New Year's Eve? If TJS got it from Deadbase, it's no help, because DB got it from me and I got it from a tape cover, so we don't really know. Supposedly Mickey Hart sits in for a few numbers (it does sound like two drummers at the end), but i don't know that for a fact either.

  12. slip, I looked at the picture on TJS and it's definitely Billy K. If the photo is dated correctly, then it only adds to the mystery. Perhaps Tutt played far fewer shows than I thought, or maybe he missed a few dates.

    I had no idea the personnel for the period was so unsettled. A great catch on the photograph.

  13. Pictures may be the *least* reliable form of evidence except when their provenance is clear, has been documented, and travels with the pix. The internet has made it much easier for people to share photos, but unlike sound files there has been less progress in making sure good data (including photogropher!) travel with the images. I wouldn't assume anything based on that picture. That's partly why it's so important for TJS only to attach well-documented images with well-established dates (and preferably provenance).

    There are contemporary published reviews of the December '75 shows. They were a big deal because, as Joel Selvin put it, it was the "Dead Three Ways", with Keith & Donna, Kingfish and JGB all appearing. I am sure the scuttlebutt on the street must have been that there would be a GD reunion of sorts, no?

    Anyway, we can probably pin those December '75 shows down reasonably well in terms of personnel. That'd be a big service because right now the information is all over the place.

  14. I did manage to find out a little bit about Jimmy Warren. He played keyboards in a Marin County punk/new wave band called Wet Nurse.

    The lead singer for Wet Nurse was Liz Stires's brother Ernie (their father was Trey Anastasio's music theory instructor, btw). Liz's site says she was a member of Wet Nurse as well. In any case, this is the only trace I have found of Warren's pre- or post-JGB career.

  15. Here is Steve Parish talking about Jimmy Warren:

    Blair Jackson asks him, "Who was Jimmy Warren, and how did he get that gig?"
    Parish: Well, you know something, Blair, you're talking now about the "shadow people" that walk in and out of the scene of the Grateful Dead --
    Jackson: It always seemed like a guy of limited talents, and you always wonder how a guy like that gets in a band like that...
    Parish: Well, that's an interesting question.... Jimmy was a mystery to all of us. Jerry and him had a nefarious relationship, and one day we were at the rehearsal hall and Jimmy came down with a Rhodes and Jerry said, "Set him up. Set his Rhodes up." And I said "Where?" 'Cause we had a pretty tight little setup, you know. He said, "He's gonna come play with us tonight." I think we were playing at the Keystone in the city and...he had Jimmy play way in the back....behind Melvin's organ....
    He was set in the dark, in the
    shadows and I thought at first he was just trying to learn the music, but it was the only time I ever saw Jerry put anybody in the band -- and understand this,
    Blair -- through the years, people ended up in that band that shouldn't have been there at times -- (Laughter) -- people that just came in and sat in and
    wouldn't leave (laughter). There were people brought in -- at one time, Tom Fogerty played in that band, and we had a great time with him. Merl [Saunders] would bring other people in, but Jimmy was something that Jerry and John
    [Kahn] -- they wanted him to play there, and it was for other reasons besides the music. It's the only time that ever happened. He didn't last very long, either.
    To his credit, he tried to fit in and he was a wonderful guy, Jimmy -- he was really a good-hearted guy -- but he had other problems that were overshadowing him being able to go and be a full-on musician. And he did
    travel with us on the road, too.
    Gans: You're a diplomat, Steve.
    Parish: He was a "shadow person," definitely a "shadow person."

    Many other things are talked about, but Blair's next question is also of interest JGB-wise:

    Jackson: One of the things John told me in an interview shortly before his death was that it seemed the Grateful Dead had turned against the Garcia Band. How did you deal with your conflicting loyalties --
    Parish: Oh, man. From day one, that was always coming up.... I constantly had to balance things with the Grateful Dead. We shared equipment, we shared a lot of stuff, and there was a beautiful symbiosis, and there was never a biting thing. But there was an underlying current in both bands against each other. In other words, if we were doing too much Garcia stuff, the guys in the Grateful Dead would say, "No, you can't do this, we gotta do this." The schedules would get too conflicting, and if there was too much Grateful Dead stuff, there was nothing but complaints from the guys in the Garcia Band....
    So, John had built up a big
    resentment of that thing; and the last couple of years when I was managing the Garcia Band, I saw Jerry's health becoming more fragile, and I tried to keep it so [he] at least did local gigs and maybe not tax him so much with so much road stuff; but we had to keep those musicians alive because they were relying on the Garcia Band, too. So John became very sore and sensitive about not being able to work as often as he thought we should.

  16. I saw The John Kahn Band at Palookaville in Santa Cruz on 5/4/96. He passed on May 30, 1996.

  17. JGB played here on 11/30/83, sorta relevent...

    Agora, West Hartford, CT

  18. J. Warren is still playing music & has been since he left the JGB. Music is just a side gig now & he does other stuff for a living. He's a GREAT guy who has straightened out all his old past issues & he's living a quiet normal life. He is still playing every so often in a small town local band located on the East Coast.
    (btw...that's not even his real name)

    He's kind of a quiet guy & doesn't talk much about his days with JGB. Although I know him well enough, it has been years since I have seen him long enough to talk to him again. I can contact him but he may be reluctant to chime in or do an interview of any kind.

    If it helps any, I can confirm the backup singers in the JGB on 11-3-81 were two white girls. I had never seen them before, (or after that again), & I have never known who they were.

  19. Thank you for sharing, Anon. That's great to hear. As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about the people who passed through the Garcia Band scene, it's painful to see how tough some of those (and perhaps prior and subsequent) times were for many of them. It's nice to hear of people coming through the other side!

    In a sense, Jimmy Warren (pseud.) lived to tell about it. I would love to preserve his recollections with a little oral history interview, better understand him and his background and everything. Future scholars will thank us all! He (and anyone) can contact me at

  20. Found this interview with Kahn from 1996, was not aware prior that the John Kahn Band had all those JGB players, or that they ever played a show:

  21. Somehow I might have missed that Kahn interview. Interesting, because Blair Jackson also interviewed him right around that time. I very much look forward to reading this.

    Thank you, groarc!


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