Please make yourself at home! Check some tags, do some reading, leave a comment.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

I work for the union

Garcia was a member of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), local no. 6 in San Francisco.

He initially applied on August 24, 1965 and was approved for membership one week later. He gave his address as 71 Miguel Street, San Francisco, claiming to have resided there for four years. He claims his occupation as music teacher. Question #29 asks "Have you played any professional engagements during the time you were not a member of the Federation, and if so, where and with whom?" Answer: no (of course).

Like a lot of creative types, Garcia was paperwork-challenged, as indicated by his very messy card.
  • Applied 8/24/85;
  • Admitted 8/31/65;
  • Dropped 4/12/66;
  • Readmitted to membership 7/16/66;
  • dropped 3/31/68;
  • Readmitted to membership 7/13/68;
  • dropped 3/31/69;
  • readmitted 4/3/70;
  • dropped 6/30/72;
  • readmitted 9/21/72;
  • suspended w/ $100 fine 3/25/74
  • dropped 9/30/74;
  • readmitted 5/12/75;
  • dropped 12/31/80
  • readmitted 3/26/81, con't to 9/21/82

I don't know if he got someone to keep his paperwork together after that time (I think so) or if there were more ebbs and flows that I just wasn't able to pin down.


  1. I wonder what impelled Jerry to join, at least in earlier years? Why August 31, 1965? One suspicion would be that The Warlocks needed to be union members to play The In Room.

    I am aware that there was some deal between the American and US Musicians Union, dating back to the 1950s. I believe the deal was that an equal number of American and English musicians had to tour the opposite country. Originally this was to prevent US musicians from touring England and "taking" jobs from English musicians. This was why blues musicians toured England without their bands, and were backed by the likes of The Animals or The Yardbirds.

    However, the polarity reversed with the British Invasion, and "too many" English bands wanted to tour America. I am pretty sure that this was all ultimately settled, but I still think that an American musician couldn't get a work visa to England without being a Musicians Union member. So I think the reason for Garcia to join the Musicians Union on April 3, 1970, was in anticipation of playing England later that Summer. Notice that Jerry's membership expires at the end of the Europe '72 tour.

    Still, even if my speculations are correct, it doesn't explain the adding and dropping throughout the 60s. The Dead were very hard up for cash in those years, and whether or not joining the union was expensive, it wouldn't have been a welcome cost.

  2. Could have it something to do with his ability to play and/or produce on studio sessions? He doesn't do much studio work on anything but Dead records (and not much of those in the studio) after 1982. Perhaps he didn't need it to record at Club Le Font? Of course the last two band albums were not recorded in regular studios.

    1. I wondered if the Union membership thing had something to do with playing on studio sessions, but the dates don't seem to track. Jerry's first session at Wally Heider's are in about May '69 (he played on "Teach Your Children" in October), and he seems to have not been a member of the Union. Garcia played in CBS studios (on Folsom) in 72-73, but at least some of that time he seems not to have been a union member (the Bromberg session was Aug 17 '72, for example).

  3. Fascinating. There is definitely an untold story behind the dates here. And Garcia apparently was not too diligent in keeping current on his membership in the '60s!

    What was the reason for the '74 suspension?

    There are a couple early Dead interviews where they make negative comments about the musicians' union. In the Helix '69 interview Garcia & the others say that they're a bunch of goons who have nothing to do with musicians. And in the Mojo Navigator R&R '66 interview, Garcia & Weir go on an extended complaint about union practices - Garcia says it's an inconvenient, stupid hassle, and Weir gripes, "Who needs it man, it never does anything for us...and all it does is take money from us and bum kick us. And it never gets you any jobs."

  4. Regarding needing union membership to play at the Inn Room - are there union records for the other band members?

  5. I didn't check.

    I should say that these data are not necessarily complete. There could have been a dozen ins and outs written on another card that got lost somewhere along the line. And it's also possible that this is just the random variations around a creative type who is paperwork-challenged. That's my guiding hypothesis here.

  6. For what it's worth, my experience has been that AFM records, at least when it comes to notating what was recorded in a studio, are notoriously inaccurate. They may get the dates and session hours correct, but the musical information is often off by quite a bit.

  7. "we were the Warlocks for, oh, six months or so; and during that time we played Big Al’s Gashouse and those kind of scenes, and bars, those Whiskey a Go Go kind of places, with fake IDs and all that shit – Weir was only 17, and Pigpen was 19. We had a whole hustle, we had to join the union and all that."

  8. Family bar was "next to the Sailor's Union of the Pacific" at 1st and Harrison (Carroll 1992).

  9. Not precisely a union issue, but a labor issue: the Carousel advertised on KMPX even as it was being struck. Ca. Early May 1968, Ron Rackow [sic?] said he had to do it for the money, having "lost $50,000 over the last nine weeks because of [his] sympathy for the strikers". RR says he had the GD and JA permission to run ads on KMPX, but striker Bob McClay says he was with Jerry at the Chelsea in NYC on 5/7/68 and JG expressed surprise at the move. ! ref: Jassen 1968.


!Thank you for joining the conversation!