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Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Conversation With Jerry

So many data, so little time. One item on my lengthy "to-do" list is to try to process every Garcia interview. It's finite, naturally enough, and thus in principle do-able. In practice, well, only so many hours.

Anyway, this one is a bunch of raw tape for Rolling Stone 20th, 1987 sometime. Some really good material. Jerry seems a little uncomfortable on camera and this is not his most fluent interview, but still the sheer charismatic intelligence just jumps off the screen. There are a few neat lines in here that I really like.

Raw notes follow.

A Conversation With Jerry
1987 Rolling Stone interview uncut

grandmother listened to Grand Ole Opry when he was a kid
mother liked Hawaiian music 1:42 father was a professional musician surrounded by music all my life

The first record I remember was a record called "Gee" by The Crows. see

2:19 R&B black music
the first music I heard that I thought had an identity other than R&B was Chuck Berry 3:05 when he came out with Maybelline … and that guitar … the guitar was the thing that pulled me into those records first … Chucks stuff was the first stuff that had that other added thing

successful black record would be covered by lame white

Lil Richard Fats Domino

3:56 first started playing with my cousin Danny I had taken piano lessons as a kid
electric guitar accordion story with a good big laugh 4:20 he's the one that introduced the idea of improvising to me 5:23

Beatles it was more the movies than the records their first records were so sappy, I didn't really like em that much, frankly. 6:59 but when the first movie came out Hard Day's Night had great flow, great style and the thing of fun

that's what kicked the Beatles off on the west coast in terms of the folk music coffeehouse post-Beatnik circuit

acoustic to electric 8:43 really the big thing was the addition of drummers

the folk scene continental already Cambridge NYC Denver Chicago Berkeley SF Peninsula LA 10:26 interconnected university towns that was where you worked

1142 the thing about the Haight-Ashbury was that the rent was cheap 1205 economics pure and simple

1400 amazing contrast between traditional working class musicians who could get ripped off by sharpies. GD were more educated than that. [NB artifact of postwar America!]

1443 we were never climbers in that [showbiz success] sense. We were already having fun doing what we were doing. We already knew that it had almost no commercial potential, apart from the community we were in. more good talk late 14 minute

1538 Acid Tests one of the truly democratic art forms to appear in this century

it didn't require that we be intelligible on any level

1650 the Acid Test experience gave us glimpses into the form that follows chaos. If you throw everything out, and lose all rule and stop trying to make anything happen, on any level, other stuff starts to happen. 

Bay Area I've always thought it was the greatest place there is.

18-19 some Warlocks talk

late 19 story about Family Dog shows Lesh lady what this little séance needs is us

23 Sgt. Peppers

25 Bringing It All Back Home some moments of amazing poetic beauty Baby Blue that was when his songs started speaking to what the freak on the street was experiencing

27 Monterey we'd been hanging out with Hendrix before the shows etc. I knew him from when he played with John Hammond so he wasn't a complete stranger

The way it was with the friends of ours who died during that period of time, it was like most deaths, they were mostly just fuck-ups, they weren't suicides, or the culmination of a tragic existence. Janis was not that sort of person. 3136 She was a loose drug user. Like any drug user, sometimes you get more than what you think it's gonna be, and you take it, and the next thing you know, you're dead. That could happen to anybody.

3249 rock and politics I never thought it was a good idea. In the Bay Area at that time, there were two big philosophical pillars. There was the SF approach, there was the Berkeley approach. The B approach awas the politics, the endless argument, the pro-con dualism. The SF approach was psychedelic in the largest possible sense which is that everything that happens happens and that's the way it is. It lacks the polemic …

politics and music is taking something beautiful and putting it in service of something evil 3524

3830 I've always been a big fan of the classic Motown stuff of the 60s and the Muscle Shoals, Memphis, Otis, black music has a way of going in and out of bags …same as anything else

3922 the magic part of music, even today … 10% of special shit

41 it's always nice for the kids to have music. Punk music was music the kids could dig, and it was thoroughly obnoxious to adults.

4150 If commitment counts, when you're onstage, and whether you're bleeding over every note or whether you're wounding yourself physically or on whatever level [interesting look he gives], that's real. It represents a kind of commitment to music that I admire.

4237 Elvis's death had a special kind of significance for me. At the time, I was playing in a solo band of my own, and I was using Ronnie Tutt, who was Elvis's drummer. Elvis was about to go on tour, and I was having to cancel all my recording plans because Ronnie was gonna be on tour. All of a sudden, Elvis died and I got the drummer. So, in a way, it affected me very specifically.

4320 more Elvis liked the rawness of Mystery Train and Sun catalog … Elvis's power as a performer was incredible. Great about Elvis's dream of having his show be orchestra, white gospel, black gospel, roc and roll, etc. Garcia admired that.

4503 Elvis was a victim of the Judy Garland syndrome. What do you do when you've risen to absolute success. Where is there for you to go? Las Vegas? Wow, some reward. Gee, that's great: work as hard as you can, and you get to go from Mississippi to Las Vegas. It's wrong. He deserved something better. But the music world doesn't have the imagination to invent it for him, and he wasn't lucky enough to have come up with his own guidance system. He was under the influence of other people who felt they knew what he could do and what he couldn't do and what the business could open for him. He had no alternative. In some senses that's the music business's thing. It's reductive and unless you invent your own alternative for where you want to go, and how you want to improve, and how you want to contain your own improvement, it doesn't happen for you. The music business says to you 'Repeat your success, do your formula thing, and live on that, or die from boredom, or get pathetic like Elvis'. To me that's unacceptable. In that sense, Elvis is a martyr to the thoughtlessness, the mindlessness, of the music business. That's how little it cares for the performers, and how little it really cares about the music.

4840 We've been willing to sell out on some levels for a long time, but nobody's been buying!

4945 selling out, advertising, etc. "The new fascism is rock n roll."

5415 For me, music is the thing that moves me forward in my life.

56 minute Lennon talk

57 talk about Janis

59 The music belongs to the people who buy the tickets. If they want to take it home with 'em after the show's over, they're welcome to.

5945 the only thing that makes [rock n roll] happen is commercial exploitation.

6142 GD as institution: "By dint of having survived this long" …


  1. It seems Jerry's memory of when Tutt performed with him is a bit off.
    Under your heading 4237:
    After Elvis' demise on 8/16/77, Jerry's next show with Tutt never happened. Buzz Buchanan started drumming for Jerry on 11/15/77, that was Jerry's first show after Elvis left the building. Englishtown, 9/3/77, was the first GD performance after Presley's death.

  2. On second look, it appears Jerry was talking about recording with Tutt after Elvis passed, so that being said, here's the rest of 1977's recording sessions (that are known).
    Here's what I have:
    August and November 1977 Jerry Garcia Band
    Cats Under The Stars[3]
    A lot of time and effort went into the sessions. John Kahn commented in an interview;
    "We put so much blood into that record. That was our major try. It was all new material and we did it ourselves. We spent so many hours in the studio."[19]

    It was all new material and we did it ourselves. We didn't even have a board(recording console) until after we did the tracks. All we had to start with was a 16-track tape recorder, and we'd record directly into the machine. Then we got the board that's still there and used that for mixing. It wasn't even a real studio. It became a studio during the making of Shakedown Street.[6]

    Garcia also commented on the efforts that went into the recording;
    I worked real hard at it and was very diligent and almost scientific about it. There was a lot of heart in it, you might say.
    The record was not a success financially but remained Garcia's favorite recording.[19]

    On another occasion in the early 80's he also discussed this LP;
    "Cats Under The Stars is my favorite one. That's the one that I'm happiest with, from every point of view in which I operate on that record. We did all those tunes on tour right after the album came out, with John and Maria, Keith and Donna and I think Ronnie Tutt was still playing drums with us on those first few tours."[19]

    Garcia discussed the LP in an interview in the late 80's."The record I worked hardest at and liked best was Cats Under The Stars. That was kind of like my baby. It did worse than any other record I ever did. I think I probably gave away more copies than I sold. It was amazingly, pathetically bad. But I've learned not to invest a lot of importance in 'em, although it's nice to care about your work."[19]
    In the early 90's he still thought well of the album;
    "As far as I'm concerned Cats Under The Stars is my most successful record - even though it's my least successful record! I've always loved it and it just never went anywhere."[19]

    9/6-22/77 Jerry Garcia Band
    Overdubs, mix, master.

    9/16/77 Merl Saunders[35]
    John Kahn, Keith Godchaux

    9/19/77 John Kahn[36]
    Keith Godchaux, Ron Tutt and Merl Saunders

    9/20/77 Keith Godchaux[37]
    Merl Saunders, John Kahn and Ron Tutt

    9/21/77 John Kahn
    Keith Godchaux, Ron Tutt, Bob Hogins, Robert Ogdin (Nashville, TN)

    9/22/77 Ron Tutt[38]

    9/23-28/77 Grateful Dead

    9/26/77 Mystery Cats[39]

    10/17/77 Grateful Dead

    10/18/77 Grateful Dead

    11/2-8/77 Jerry Garcia Band

    12/20/77 Jerry Garcia Band[32]

  3. 9/21/77 John Kahn
    Keith Godchaux, Ron Tutt, Bob Hogins, Robert Ogdin (Nashville, TN)

    Robert Ogdin was one of two Elvis' keyboard players, doing a solo in the final Elvis performance in Indianapolis on 6/26/77.

  4. Sorry to clutter the site with these multiple posts but I just found that Bob Hogins is Elvis Costello's keyboard player in 1996 for "The Goldmark Round Up: Steelin' From His Past".
    He also played with Buddy Miles' "Them Changes" album (1970) and is credited with background vocals, electric piano and trombone.
    He's also on Santana's "Live" (1972) playing Hammond organ.

  5. Mistaken again, it was Joe Goldmark's album, "The Goldmark Round Up: Steelin' From His Past".

  6. Bob Hogins was a well-known player around the Bay Area scene in the 1970s. He played a little with Quicksilver in the early 70s. He played with Santana as part of the Buddy Miles band. I saw him with one of the various reformations of Country Joe and The Fish around 1977-78. He also played a lot with Barry Melton. It's very interesting to see that he played with Jerry, but he was a pretty good player and around the scene, so it's quite plausible. The Elvis guy (Ogdin) is more interesting.

  7. Far and away the most intriguing quote is Garcia's remark that he already knew Jimi Hendrix from playing with John Hammond: "it's not like he was a complete stranger." That's fascinating on so many levels.

    John Hammond, son of the famous record producer, was a well-known guitarist in the early 60s, for the folk blues crowd. Hammond had access to his dad's records, not to mention the occasional old blues dude, and so he was way ahead of many of his peers (I believe he went to Antioch College, but I can't recall right now). By the mid-60s, Hammond had "gone electric." At some point, around 66, he was playing the Cafe Wha in the Village. Jimmy James and The Blue Flames would open the show, and Hammond would "headline" later in the evening (replacing Randy Wolfe, later AKA Randy California, on stage, believe it or not).

    Did Hendrix tour the West Coast with Hammond? How else would Jerry have known him? Amazing.

    1. Garcia's comment is very misleading.

      Hammond met Hendrix in NYC in late August 1966, and they played together at the Cafe Au Go Go briefly (for a week or two in September) before Chas Chandler came and snatched up Hendrix & took him to England that September.
      There's no possible way Garcia could have met Hendrix at that time, unless he made an otherwise unknown visit to NYC in September '66! Hendrix definitely didn't go to California at that point.

      So I think Hammond probably just mentioned to Garcia at some point that he'd played with Hendrix. (Unless Hendrix mentioned it backstage at Monterey, which seems doubtful.) Maybe a good question here is, when did Hammond & Garcia meet?

    2. I like your analysis. Hammond was around the circuit in the early 60s, even if he was just playing coffee shops and sleeping on people's couches. Garcia would very likely have met him. It makes far more sense that Jerry was referring to Jimi being a friend of another friend (Hammond), so he wasn't a stranger by that definition.

      Hammond appeared on stage with the Dead once or twice.


    I'm pretty sure that this video is the core piece of media for 'Jerry: the Movie". Not sure if they were planning on mixing in additional interviews, or some additional documentary elements, but this vid, as the website suggests, is the main chunk. BTW, I've been waiting to see this film project develop for years. Wonder if its threatened by the Scorsese-led documentary. My thought is that this interview and the "Jerry: the Movie" project would make a nice PBS American Masters addition.


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