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Monday, May 26, 2014

Mahalo, Jer

 LN jg1989-01-27.jgb.all.sbd-moses.84866.flac1644

Can't believe I haven't annotated any 1989 Garcia Band. For my money, 1988-1989 is one of the great JGB periods, which a fresh and healthy Jerry (that's what starts to break down, for me, 1990-1991), solid band, some fresh material, rehearsed arrangements, and lots of classic American songs. Nothing too crazy, lots of good music.

Friday, January 27, 1989 finds Garcia healthy and frisky after, I believe, an extended Maui scuba vacation. This is his first public appearance since the New Year's Eve Dead show, and the first Garcia Band gig since early December (2-3), also at the Orpheum. The Dead would play four shambolic Chinese New Year shows at Oakland's Henry J. Kaiser Auditorium starting a week from this night, so 1/27 really does feel like warming up.

It's hard to listen to any show in isolation, which is what I'd really like to do here - put some fresh ears on a show that has a positive connotation in my head, just listen to it on its own terms. But I can't. I know I am a fan of the next night, and the next Orpheum weekend (March 3-4), which I also really like, and the rest of the spring, which is a peak period for me.

But I can't hear this one out of its context, and the greatness of the context leads me to sympathize with this show. Where vocals are flubbed (as they really are throughout the night), I hear Jerry shaking out the cobwebs. Where things are a little brief, I call them "tight". When entropy strikes arrangement, I give them unearned credit for how they meant it to sound. I try not to beat myself up about it - it probably is a good show. But I also think it's true that I am looking ahead to what's coming.

Setlist Notes

It's certainly an interesting show. Here's the setlist with some notes. 

JGB setlist 1/27/89 Orpheum Theatre

"Let's Spend The Night Together" is a great song on any measure, and most every Garcia version is excellent. The fact that he played this so well and often with Nicky Hopkins gives it special resonance. In the Hopkins era it served as a "jam vehicle", stretching out and thus not usually played on a night with another long number such as "Don't Let Go". This night we get both, but LSTNT, coming out of 13 years of mothballs (last played 1/28/76), clocks in at a brisk 6:47. This resurrected version stayed much tighter, usually clocking in 10 minutes, I'd estimate. I don't think it stayed long in this show opener slot, but I'd have to check. It's still a work in progress, but I have always argued that toying with the repertoire is an unalloyed good - when he's working up new material, Garcia is engaged. (The version from the next night, 1/28/89, is much hotter and is overall outstanding.)

"Waiting For A Miracle" (Allan | deaddisc | TJS): Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn penned this lovely paean to popular hope amidst war and poverty in Managua, Nicaragua in winter 1986. Jackie LaBranch heard it on the radio and brought it to the Garcia Band (Jackson 1989, 44), which sandpapered it a little, roughened it up some, and put a radio-worthy version on the double-disc live Jerry Garcia Band (Arista 18690, August 1991). This is a great example of the idea that fresh repertoire reflects fresh Jerry - here, he not only agreed to tackle a new number, but Garcia -I presume, since he's the one who has to sing 'em- made some lyrical edits that really worked, scuffling for a nickel and struggling for a dime instead of struggling for a dollar and scuffling for a dime, looking more toward the future than toward the past, standing up tall instead of proud. This is probably just driven by how singable the different sounds could be for this particular singer, but Garcia certainly made the song his own.

"I Hope It Won't Be This Way Always" (Allan | deaddisc | TJS): The canonical version is from the Angelic Gospel Singers' 1968 Nashboro release Jesus Paid It All (deaddisc). Founded in 1944 by Margaret Wells Allison and her sister, adopting its first male member in 1961, and performing and touring about sixty years, the Angelic Gospel Singers are dubbed by the Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music "the longest consistently selling female gospel group in African American history" (via wiki). A staple in observant African American households, they're probably rare in white homes and largely silent in white cultural accounts. John Kahn's place was an exception – he loved and curated a huge record collection around inter alia every black American musical idiom, including church music, and brought this one to the Band from the likely-sounding compilation All Time Gospel Hits (perhaps Nashboro LP 7034, 1966) (Jackson 1989, 44).

As is so often the case, Blair Jackson was on the job, reporting on "Waiting For A Miracle" and "I Hope It Won't Be This Way Always" in the Golden Road, along with another new-to-the-Garcia-Band-repertoire number, "Throw Out The Lifeline", again brought in by Kahn from all-male North Carolina gospel group the Sensational Nightingales.

Race, Class, Gender, and JGB #21b

If I were feeling expansive, I'd add to Blair's characteristically excellent account a little analysis of the race, gender and class contours laid bare by the advent of these songs to the JGB repertoire.

On race, I have argued (xxx) that THE Jerry Garcia Band, #21b, the one that ran almost continuously for over a decade from summer 1983, integrated two of the three musics that formed the core of Garcia's musical life: white and black American roots and rootsy contemporary music. (The third, electronica, was supplied by the contemporary Grateful Dead.) In the past, Garcia had maintained different bands for these purposes, playing lots of contemporary (and some older) black music with Merl and white roots music in his country and bluegrass side projects. After the mid-1970s, the he starts bringing in more Dylan and Garcia-Hunter material, i.e., rootsy white contemporary Americana, refines the (white) bluegrass offerings to a few Peter Rowan originals (Mississippi Moon and Midnight Moonlight), and leavens everything with a big dose of R&B. JGB #21b was a racially integrated American musical act. It's hard for me to overstate the importance of this as a statement about Garcia's musical interests and commitments. I am fascinated that Kahn brought in the black church number while Jackie LaBranch brought in the deeply white and Canadian Cockburn's tune.

I am also fascinated by the gender and "class" contours of the fresh material. Jackie LaBranch brought "Waiting For A Miracle" to the group, a black woman who was definitely part of the band rather than its leadership (the Garcia-Kahn duopoly). Maybe every band (and leadership) worth its salt alights to a good song when it comes along – that'd be the hope. But I think that there are loads of bandleaders who weren't really looking for suggestions from the backup singers. The whole jazz band leader trip, show business itself, cuts against that kind of democracy. The Garcia Band has often been lauded for its relatively egalitarian ethos, especially early on and especially when it came to divvying up receipts from a bar gig. But as it got more lucrative, this has to have given way – does anyone really think that the band got the same amount as Jerry for a 1990s gig at the Warfield? I don't think so. But it probably wasn't a straight line, and I conjecture that it was down as much, at times, to Garcia's level of engagement as to the bottom line. In late 1988, Garcia is healthy, open, thriving, engaged. "Jackie's got a song? Let's try it." As either Jackie or Gloria can be heard repeatedly on this and other contemporary Garcia Band tapes, I'd give that a "Yeah, Jerry!"


Why did Garcia play the Orpheum for Bill Graham six times in four months in late 1988-early 1989 (December 2-3, January 27-28 and March 3-4), and then never again? I assume the Warfield was being renovated, but I just don't know. In 1990, the Garcia-Graham partnership would move a quarter mile down Market and would never leave.

The poster advertises a special guest. Was this meant to be Clarence Clemons, or was there an opener? I don't know.

Anyway, I love this period. The next night is better than 1/27, but this show has its moments.

Jerry Garcia Band

January 27, 1989 (Friday) - 8 PM
sbd-moses flac1644 shnid-84866

--set I (8 tracks, 52:04)--
s1t01. Let's Spend The Night Together [6:47] [0:41]
s1t02. Stop That Train [6:40] [0:25]
s1t03. Someday Baby [5:34] [0:50]
s1t04. Run For The Roses [5:22] [0:20]
s1t05. Mississippi Moon [7:41] (1) [0:49]
s1t06. Waiting For A Miracle [5:05] [0:03] %
s1t07. I Hope It Won't Be This Way, Always [4:35] ->
s1t08. Deal [7:07] (2) [0:07] %

--set II (7 tracks, 62:53)--
s2t01. The Harder They Come [10:14] [0:20]
s2t02. And It Stoned Me [5:52] [0:14] % [0:02]
s2t03. Knockin' On Heaven's Door [8:19] [0:37]
s2t04. Think [5:57] [0:06] %
s2t05. Don't Let Go// [14:36] %
s2t06. That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day) [9:18] [0:09]
s2t07. Midnight Moonlight [7:05] (3) [0:04] %

! ACT1: Jerry Garcia Band #21b
! lineup: Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals;
! lineup: John Kahn - bass;
! lineup: Melvin Seals - keyboards;
! lineup: Jacklyn LaBranch - backing vocals;
! lineup: Gloria Jones - backing vocals;
! lineup: David Kemper - drums.


! 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: On poster there is a special guest listed. Was that supposed to have been Clarence Clemons (sp?), or was there an opener?

! db: (Dan Cole MAC shnf SBEs, deprecated); (Dan Cole MAC shnf); (sbd flac1644, this fileset).

! historical: the "year too late" thesis. Sounds to me like they are thinking about recordable arrangements. Also of note, a few things. First JGB of 1989, and first JGB gig in almost two months! The prior shows (December 2-3, 1988) were also at the Orpheum, as were the next two (March 3-4, 1989). That's six gigs in a three month span at the same room, which he'd never play again, and which he had only played a few times in the previous 15 years (twice, to be exact - 5/21/76 and 5/7/88). What gives? I wonder if the Warfield was being renovated?

! R: main source (through s2t04): unknown soundboard tape > ? > A (big) cardboard box, maxell XL2S90 cassette dolby B > Nakamichi CR3A,(Dolby B) eq out  > hp computer > Sound Forge (vol@5.5db) > CD wave >  Flac > you!

! R: "Guessing 2nd or 3rd gen SBD", to which I'd say, "at most". This is a nice tape.

! R: second source (s2t05-s2t07): MAC (Sony D6C w/Sony stereo mic) > 1 cassette > Nakamichi CR3A playback onto HP Computer (no dolby) > Sound Forge Vol@ 5.5DB > CD Wave > Flac7.

! R: transferred by John Moses 5-7-07.

! R: s1t01 maybe fast? Jerry's guitar is buried in the mix, organ very prominent.

! P: s1t01 LSTNT Too bad the guitar is so low in the mix, because Jerry sounds on his game. @ 3:15 this is a very well rehearsed-sounding return from the break. Jerry's soloing 5-min mark sounds great. I want to check out an audience recording. Tight stop.

! P: s1t03 Someday Baby JG flubs the first verse. But after that he is singing very nicely, sounds great on this soundboard tape! Melvin big lead late 2, very forward in the mix and sounding strong. Arrangement gets a little squirrely again later, and Jerry just closes up shop.

! P: s1t04 RFTR this sounds great. Jerry sounds amazing here.

! s1t05 (1) after MM, as after several other tracks, one can hear the ladies talking. Here, one of them says "That was real good", and I can't disagree with her.

! P: s1t06 vocal flubs on WFAM, but he's giving it his all. Seems like a bunch of songs have that profile this night. I think Gar is performing courageously, with great ease and fluidity. @ 3:12 someone misses the change, things get a little loose in the cage for a bit. Extra vocal effort 3:30, "like the ones that DIE, tryin' to set the ay ay ayngels in us free"! Gar is extemporizing vocally, in lieu of remembering the words. But they hadn't been playing this long.

! song: WFAM (s1t06): hadn't been played much. xxx

! song: IHIWBTWA first time played. Next night maybe second, and maybe that's it?

! setlist: do a setlist analysis. xxx

! s1t08 (2) JG: "We'll be back in a few minutes."

! P: s1 gets good points for energy, but it's a little sloppy. First show of the year, first show in xxx weeks! I have in my mind that Garcia had probably just been scuba diving in Hawaii before this. He sounds clean as a whistle. And to those who don't like such speculation, to heck with ya. s2 is good. This is probably an average show from an above-average period, really showing Jerry rested, relaxed, and playing well.

! P: s2t04 Think some very heavy guitar work in the 2-min range. Melvin steps up 2:49, playing nicely. More very heavy guitar 4:45 forward, "give up my woman!" over 5 mark.

! P: s2t05 DLG more vocal flubbing at the start of the song. Garcia's shaking the cobwebs out. Very exceptional work on DLG, using his voice to push his guitar, as if by extending his diaphgram he's just moving his guitar grasp just a little bit.

! R: s2t05 DLG cuts out, not much missing

! R: s2t06 TLOS level adjustment early on

! s2t07 (3) JG: "Thanks a lot, we'll see ya later."



  1. This time period and your analysis supports my general thesis that Garcia was a self-conscious and successful bandleader in the style of Miles Davis. It is a conventional trope to assert that Jerry was stoned or passive, and played songs he knew at slow tempos, but I think that analysis does not support that.

    Some of Garcia's execution may have suffered from his various problems, but he clearly had a Davis-like idea that the Garcia Band was not defined by specific direction from the leader(s). Your post clearly shows how Garcia was picking out songs from a variety of genres for interpretation, and then in effect forcing his band members to put their own stamp on the music by not announcing what he wanted.

    Bandleaders with the stature of Miles Davis or Jerry Garcia cannot "suggest" things to their employee bandmembers without forcing an environment where the employee guesses what the boss really wants. The only choice is to create an ocean where everyone swims, and let them swim.

    By the late 80s, Garcia could have played "Deal" and "How Sweet It is" and sold out just as many shows. He did not have to learn a Bruce Cockburn song brought in by his backup singer, nor an obscure gospel song, and yet he did so. He was not leading the band passively, even though he never stated anything to the contrary. Truth be told, other than a Spring 78 interview in BAM, I don't think Garcia was ever actually asked any serious questions about the Garcia Band.

    Jerry liked slow tempos, it's a fact. But he had musical reasons for that, whether we like them or not, and was perfectly capable of rocking out on "Evangeline" whenever the setlist called for it. On his very last recording session (of the Jimmy Rodgers song Blue Yodel #9, with Kahn and Grisman), Per McNally, Garcia rejected the first take as not slow enough, telling everybody to play it "Down from the bottom, brother...Say way down from Dixie now. Nothing is moving on the river" (McNally p.612). Whether or not that's how you like Jerry, that's how Jerry liked it, right up until the end.

  2. The Warfield's renovation was in mid 1988. It was closed April through most of September. They took out the seats on the floor and changed the name from Warfield Theatre to The Warfield.
    —Bill in Chico

  3. Fascinating.

    I had always had it in my head that after Jerry left Freddie in mid-1987, which he did, he went to Graham/Warfield. But it wasn't really the Warfield until December 1989 - end. When JGAB and JGB played the Warfield for BG in late 1987, it was a special gig (acoustic and electric, recording the album, direct from Broadway, all that). Unless I am missing one, post-1987 JGB didn't play the Warfield until the end of 1989. In the intervening two years, it was the Orpheum and a series of other venues (Greek, Concord Pavilion, Old Fillmore, etc.).

    I know this has probably been obvious to everyone else, but I had forgotten it, if I ever knew.

  4. once again, thanks for the pointer. Haven't listened to this yet, but listening to 1/28/89 as I write this, and highly enjoying it. The fine sound quality doesn't hurt either.

    Does that Blue Yodel session that Corry refers to above circulate? I have the released version of course.



    1. Just the official release, no other outtakes that I know of.

  5. It was 1978 when the Persian smoking powder took hold.

    1. Yes, that's how Jerry seemed to narrate it. After the coma, in the In The Dark period, he often said he was really hooked for 8 years, which I would put to 1978-1986.

      Thanks for contributing, anon.


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