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Sunday, March 02, 2014

Ronnie's Return, Pete's Payoff: JGB in Provy, November 15, 1981

Ticket stub for JGB 11/15/81, contributed by Doc Gillespie to TJS.
LN jg1981-11-15.jgb.all.aud-stankiwiecz.127050.flac2496

Ron Tutt is a great drummer, but am I biased?

Ron Tutt is a beast. Check out the little one-minute fragment discussed in note #1. No biggie, just fun. Then pick some of the other songs I note and hear him play.

Question: Is my perception of Tutt's greatness here perhaps driven by a subconscious desire that it should be so? From a Garcia-on-the-side perspective, his presence is the most interesting thing about these shows, and this could bias my listening.

Tutt's Return and Garcia's Affairs

After two and a half years and a lot of gigs (I could try to count it, probably will when the time comes), Ron Tutt walked --I have no evidence that he was pushed-- away from the gigging/touring Garcia Band in summer 1977. He seems not to have left on bad terms, or otherwise is such a pro that he kept working with these guys, because I am pretty sure I have him in Club Front in September. I need to check the Cats Under The Stars credits, though my sense is that they won't clarify much. Either way, from, say, Fall 1977 they appear to part ways (except for the occasional joint appearance on a tax lien slapped on the Jerry Garcia Band and the three partners in it - Garcia, Kahn and Tutt).

So The Return of Ron Tutt, as Steve Marcus billed this tour on the Grateful Dead Hotline, wants to feel like a Good Thing to me. Why? I think it represents Jerry starting to get on top of his long-blighted financial affairs. I believe that this tour represents an early step in a multistep process of Garcia getting his business affairs together in the first half of the 80s. This feels like closure for Garcia and Tutt, and that's something that Jerry achieved all-too rarely in his relations with others, personal or professional. His biggest character flaw, if I had to pin it down, was that he lacked the courage/capacity to give people bad news, like "I am leaving you", to their faces. He either just ran away and tried to avoid it or he had Parish do it. Really chickenshit stuff, with folks like Merl Saunders, who deserved better.

But maybe here, in late '81, with Tutt and with presumed (but not confirmed) opener Peter Rowan, Garcia is getting in front of something and trying to make it right. I am not saying he wasn't a kind, generous and righteous dude in all kinds of other respects. He could do crazily random, generous things. But if you had had a relationship with him that he had fled, he usually didn't come clean about it. He was just not emotionally equipped to confront hard interpersonal things.

Is this guilt money? Probably. The late work with Merl (e.g., Blues From The Rainforest) feels for all the world like Garcia leveraging his name to sell some records for his friend. The albums with Grisman clearly reflected their rediscovered joy in playing together and shared love of American music, but they also set Grisman, and his record company Acoustic Disc, in good financial stead. But guilt money is better than the silent treatment, the cold shoulder, not Jerry's, but the decidedly uncuddly Parish's; never mind a steel-toed boot in the ass. It's good to help old friends (à la Rowan opening on this tour, I conjecture). It's good to clean up old loose ends (à la Tutt playing on this tour, I hypothesize).

(Aside: if I am correct, that the "function" of this tour was to generate some paydays not just for Jerry and John, but also for Ron Tutt and Peter Rowan; and, if in turn, that suggests that Garcia is tying up some old unfinished professional business, maybe with some personal feelings involved; then I find the timing amazing. As he descended into opiate addiction he also settled some very unsettled (and unsettling) money and personal matters. Persian is like an institution, a variance-suppressing device, in principle a calming and settling (and, if you like, deadening) force. Marx on religion as the opiate of the masses and all that. Making sure you are on a sound financial footing does take some of the thrill out of life, though the alternative is the kind of ride that'll kill you. Who needs the stress? If the Persian "helped" get his mind around stabilizing his affairs, then that would be a positive, and even a possibly intended, in a very diffuse sense, consequence of his drug use. Of course, that ride'll kill you, too, but then again, they all do, eventually.)

Back to my question, reframed and disposed of

Because this tour might represent a small moral and personal victory for Garcia, with whom I obviously sympathize, I might be hoping, needing to hear musical excellence, giving my listening a kind of valence bias. But I don't think that's what's going on. Two other things seem more likely. First, my interest in the topic generates an attention bias. I am listening to and for Mr. Tutt, and I hear him. And what I hear is freaking outstanding. Second, and I think this explains most of the variance, it could just be that the man could and can play the drums.

Yes, I think that's it. Ronnie Tutt is a monster.

Show and Tapers

Oh yeah, there's a guitar player, and he's pretty good on this night, too. Love his energy, tone, power, articulation on this tour. Excellent playing. There are some newly-emerging vocals limitations, but it's in a place where he can still manage it, and often does so through inventive inflections and so forth. I am not saying his voice is better than it had been earlier in the year, rather that his singing is sometimes more interesting.

Richie Stankiewicz made some really nice tapes. Thank (Tetragrammaton) for the tapers! Tim Friend, Steve Rolfe, and probably others walked into the Providence early morning with great pulls from this show.

A nice tape of a nice show. Check it out.

Jerry Garcia Band
Ocean State Performing Arts Center
220 Weybosset Street
Providence, RI 02903
November 15, 1981 (Sunday) - 7:30 PM
Stankiewicz flac2496 shnid-127050

--set I (7 tracks, 67:16-1:15)--
s1t01. crowd [0:32]
s1t02. Sugaree [10:34] [1:46]
s1t03. Catfish John [9:48] [1:52]
s1t04. [0:06] I Second That Emotion [9:41] [0:03] % (1) [1:04]
s1t05. [0:05] Valerie [6:54] [1:10]
s1t06. [0:07] That's What Love Will Make You Do [9:30] [0:24] % [1:02]
s1t07. [0:13] Tangled Up In Blue [11:03] (2) [0:12] % pre-set II [1:15]

--set II (6 tracks, 70:39+1:15)--
s2t01. Mission In The Rain [11:40] % [0:04]
s2t02. The Harder They Come/ [12:11#]
s2t03. [0:49] Russion Lullaby [15:54] [0:27] % [0:27]
s2t04. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down [8:30] ->
s2t05. Dear Prudence [13:50] ->
s2t06. Midnight Moonlight ... [6:35#] %

! ACT1: Jerry Garcia Band #14b
! lineup: Jerry Garcia - el-g, vocals;
! lineup: John Kahn - el-b;
! lineup: Jimmy Warren - electric keyboards;
! lineup: Melvin Seals - organ;
! lineup: Ron Tutt - drums;
! lineup: Julie Stafford - vocals;
! lineup: Liz Stires - vocals.


! Recording: symbols: % = recording discontinuity; / = clipped song; // = cut song; ... = fade in/out; # = truncated timing; [ ] = recorded event time. The recorded event time immediately after the song or item name is an attempt at getting the "real" time of the event. So, a timing of [x:xx] right after a song title is an attempt to say how long the song really was, as represented on this recording.

! TJS:

! db: (Steve Rolfe shn); (Tim Friend, flac2496); (Tim Friend, flac1644); (Stanki flac1644); (Stanki flac2496, this fileset).

! map:

! venue: The text file called it "Ocean State Theater", which is how I have it in my head. TJS via JGBP lists "Performing Arts Center". I am using the venue name on the ticket stub.

! band: JGB #14b (

! R: field recordist: Richie Stankiewicz

! R: field recording location: 1st row balcony

! R: field recording gear: 2x Beyer M-88 mics > Sony TCD-5M

! R: Transfer MAC > Sony TCKA-3es and 1st gen > Sony TCKA-3es (s1t01-s1t03, s2t02), by Richie Stankiewicz.

! R: this is a splendid audience recording.

! historical: Lots of tapers (Rolfe, Friend and Stanki known to have walked out with great pulls), so awesome to see Provy represented. I'd bet there were others. Did Peter Rowan open?

! P Like this show a lot.

! P: s1t03 CJ @ 4:30 Jerry gets some really neat tone, again, sharper, 7:50 ff over the 8 min mark.

! P: s1t04 (1) Wow. The first minute of this material is Tutt leisurely pounding the shit out of his kit, doing some nice runs. I am not sure if they're having technical issues, so he's giving them something to work with, or if he's just moved to play. He's incredible, what a player.

! P: s1t05 Valerie not super high energy.

! R: s1t06 TWLWMYD sounds so nice!

! P: s1t06 TWLWMYD has good energy. Vocal limitations newly discovered on "trying hard to 'spress myself, 'cause baby, that's the way I feel". Beautiful liquid picking around 3:15. 3:40 takes another lovely turn, somehow feels rotated sideways, the show biz trick favorite of heavy metal guitarists, axe slung low and horiztonal to the ground. Melvin took a nice solo. JG solo great tone 7:30, some nice insistent playing, another run around 8-min mark, great peaks 8:01ff, some nice tight guitar work, complementing voice.

! P: s1t07 TUIB has some really nice energy in the 10-minute mark. Even John steps up and plays loudly for a while. Ronnie is right on the '1' just over 11-minute mark. Tight.

! s1t07 (2) JG: "We're gonna take a break for a few minutes, we'll be back in a little while."

! P: s2t01 MITR the vocal arrangement, or maybe it's just the delivery, feels a little barren. It's not a bad emotional register for the song, but Jerry sounds rather exposed vocally, which is a little weird to say with a septet.

! P: s2t02 HTC Jerry some very nice playing in the 3-minute mark. 6-min range, maybe some PA problems? Can't hear the keyboards at all. Crowd starts clapping along. Jerry: "Well, guess I'll take a solo." And a nice solo it is. The tempos are a little variable. Late 8, some nice fanning. Tutt is a beast.

! P: s2t03 RL off to a great start! Deep and familial. Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Jerry Garcia. He misses the start of the lyrics, but cuts his losses to "hear him croon". Reaching really high on the frets 5:45, risk-kay. Bass feature over 8. By 11:30 he is still playing, takes an extra turn or two even though Jerry has signaled that he's ready. This is not a bad RL bass feature for ol' John. In fact, the playing is nice. By 12:30 Jerry is quite clearly inviting John to step aside, which he does at 12:40. Long solo for John, about 4:40. Jerry's following solo is nice and high up the register.

! P: s2t05 DP nice work in the 7-min mark, again over the 11min mark. Nice playing.

! R: s2t06 MM fades out


  1. your entries continue to bring new depth to the JGB-- an enterprise that to me had previously seemed like little more than some shallow bar band-type larking around for a paycheck. please keep 'em coming!

  2. Thank you so very much, Anon. That means a lot. And I will keep them coming!

  3. >>that suggests that Garcia is tying up some old unfinished professional business, maybe with some personal feelings involved;<<

    Along those lines, a few weeks after this show, Jerry marries Mountain Girl. McNally says (p544) "partly for tax reasons and partly out of a fond flickering of a once-bright romance." This fits your thesis and time frame pretty exactly.

  4. Jake Feinberg's interview with Melvin Seals casts an interesting light on this:

    I transcribed this starting around 55:45:
    Melvin: "There was the time that Ron Tutt came back to the band and when he came back to the band, he was in there obviously before I got in the band, he had found God and he was claiming to be a Christian and the first thing he said to me was…we have to help these guys, this is our mission, because he recognized the soul in me, that I'm a Christian guy, too. And he said to me that his mission was, the reason why he came back, he wanted to help Jerry and John. The only thing he did wrong, I think, is that he shoved it down their throats too hard about what they were doing wrong and that you've got to find God and Christ -- and he really wanted to preach the Bible to them, and they weren't ready for that."

    Sounds like there may have been more to Tutt's presence on this tour (and why it was a short reunion) than just recompense for old damages? Like you said elsewhere, Rowan may have just needed the gig, but I don't know what Tutt's standing was in "the business" ca 1981. It's fascinating to think that he came back into the lion's den for evangelical reasons... but anything's possible, though.

    fwiw, I don't think much of this era of JGB -- as white-hot as some of Jerry's soloing can be, I always hear a kind of steely soullessness to the music, which certainly reflects some of my own bias. The drug narrative, the super-fast tempos, the metallic edge to everything... even Tutt's alleged born again zeal gives this tour an edge of smarminess for me. I do agree that his drumming in every show of this tour (the ones I've heard) is impeccable, but imho the 81 band(s) were lacking a fundamental earthiness that's lacking coupled with an almost cynical, give-em-what-they-want-take-the-money-and-run edge to everything. My own narrative that I map onto all of this is that the back-to-back deaths of Keith Godchaux and Johnny D'Foncesa coupled with Reagen's ascendency (corresponding almost to the day with the debut 1981 JGB show) and whatever other persona/financial woes JG may have been experiencing just caused the big guy to dig his trench even deeper, put his shoulder to the wheel, and press forward into a cold new decade.

    But, that being said, I will echo Anon's comments. Your write-ups do bring many degrees of light and depth to the JGB's canon that continue to illuminate much of my own listening as well. Thank you for all of this!

  5. Wow, nick, that is amazing stuff. The Jake Feinberg interviews are uniformly outstanding and important, and I haven't really had time to fold what they reveal into my own understanding.

    Your thoughts on '81 fascinate me. I want to think a lot about them. I have to think that Keith's death hit Jerry hard, but I don't have any evidence for that. I don't know enough about Johnny D, but it makes sense that it would have hit hard because he was just a kid who had been hanging around. But, again, I just don't know. It seems pretty clear that none of it could have helped keep Our Hero open to the world. Things were rough out there, and, yeah, I think he just keep his head down and played.

    So there's a darkness that I hear, too, an edge. But I guess I prefer that to the flaccid nothingness I hear in so much '82 JGB. I did some notes on 2/4/82 where I express that a little bit.

    Thanks a million for reading and commenting and your kind words. I am having the time of my life with this stuff!

  6. Jake Feinberg also has an interesting interview with Daoud Shaw, who was the JGB drummer from January thru August 1981. It's a very interesting interview in it's own right--who would have thought that Van Morrison rehearsed LESS than Jerry Garcia--but Shaw has one relevant comment to this thread. Jake asks Shaw about leaving the Garcia Band, and he matter-of-factly says "we knew it was a six-month gig" (his wife Essra Mohawk was also in the band). So, leaving aside that it was an eight month assignment, Garcia and Kahn hired Shaw with an implicit end date. That suggests they had a plan for the end of the year.

    A pro like Tutt would be pretty well booked, and in order to get him for a couple of months, you would have to plan. So I think Garcia and Kahn made plans to hire Tutt in the beginning of 1981, but were not able to play the shows and record until the Fall. This knowledge doesn't change any of the points made above, but it's a reminder that a lot of planning went into it.

    Didn't the whole Sirens Of Titan film script project start around this time? There was a lot going on in this period, and I think sorting out personal and business affairs fits into the larger picture.

  7. The Sirens thing started earlier (financing it was said to have motivated the February 1980 JGB tour, but it may have been percolating in the late 70s). But it's all of a piece.

    I think your conjecture about needing to plan ahead for Tutt is spot on, it makes perfect sense.

  8. I am 95% certain that I was at this show, and I'm equally sure that there was no opening act, not Peter Rowan, nor anyone else.


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