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Saturday, August 01, 2015

Cats in the Studio: September 1977

I can’t write up everything I have gathered around the recording of Garcia’s 1978 masterpiece Cats Under the Stars, not now, and, alas, perhaps not ever in any true sense of the word “everything”. Once I write the book I plan on just throwing open all of my materials and letting others have at it insofar as they might care to.

The Dead organization’s calendar for the month of September 1977 listed Garcia in the new Front Street studio (built for the recording of Cats) from September 6-22 for overdubs, mixing, and mastering. Let me just briefly drop a few notes from a one week, Friday September 16, 1977 through Thursday the 22nd, based on the union paperwork. All of these sessions were paid by Arista Records and the named artist is Jerry Garcia Band. The union scale looks to be $110 for a three-hour session.

Friday, 9/16/77, 6 pm
Session leader: Merl Saunders, 1353 17th Avenue, San Francisco (double scale)
Also: Jerry Garcia (address a PO box in Corte Madera), John Kahn (a different PO box in Corte Madera), Keith Godchaux (PO box 1073, San Rafael, i.e., the Dead’s business address) and Ron Tutt (a PO box in Topanga).
Song: “Rubin”

Monday, 9/19/77, two sessions, 5-8 pm and 8-midnight
Session leader: Kahn (double scale)
Also: Garcia (1st session only), Tutt, Saunders (double scale)
Song: “Rain”

Tuesday, 9/20/77, 3-6 pm
Session leader: Keith (double scale)
Also: Kahn, Tutt, Saunders (double scale)
Song: “Rhapsody In Red”

Tuesday, 9/20/77, 7-10 pm
Session leader: Merl (double scale)
Also: Garcia, Kahn, Godchaux, Tutt
Song: “Rhapsody In Red”

Wednesday, 9/21/77, 2-5pm
Session leader: Kahn (double scale)
Also: Godchaux, Tutt, Bob Hogins (Petaluma, CA), Robert F. Ogdin (Nashville, TN) (4x scale), Saunders (double scale)
Song: “Gomorrah”

Wednesday, 9/21/77, 6-9pm
Session leader: Merl (double scale)
Also: Kahn, Garcia, Godchaux, Tutt, Ogdin (4x scale)
Song: “Gomorrah”

Thursday, 9/22/77 6-9pm
Session leader: Tutt (double scale)
Also: Garcia, Kahn, Godchaux, Saunders (double scale)
Song: “Love In The Afternoon”

My comments are pretty obvious, if you follow along with my MO.

First, Merl! Though there is a listing for Garcia sitting in with Merl in late 1976, I believe it’s probably spurious. After playing together steadily for almost five years, Jerry and Merl suddently stopped doing so in July 1975, for reasons that remain obscure. They picked up again in late 1978, Jerry sitting in with Merl at Shady Grove and then “reconstructing” the old gang, with some fresh tunes and arrangements, for most of 1979. Merl is credited on Cats, so this is not new information, but seeing him here all week, and getting double-scale, just makes raises all kinds of questions about the nature of these men’s relationship. I don’t get it.

Second, Bob Hogins. Discogs shows him to have been in the a Buddy Miles/Santana kind of orbit, did some work with the Rowans and Barry Melton. Keyboards, a little horns, some arranging. He is not credited in the deaddisc entry for Cats, which tells me he wasn’t credited on the record. Hm.

Third, Robert F. Ogdin of Nashville, who gets 4x scale. Discogs describes Bobby Ogdin as a “prominent american session pianist and keyboardist [who] is also Vice-president of the Nashville branch of the Recording Musicians Association.” He boasts well over 100 credits with all kinds of country stars. He crosses with Tutt in various places, and his own credits page shows Cats, despite that his name isn’t given at deaddisc (and, again, I assume, not on the record itself).

Fourth, why so many keyboard players? My hunch is that they are good with arranging, but that’s just a shot in the dark. Anyone?

Fifth, Merl gets double-scale all the time, but he is listed as leader three times, Kahn twice, and Tutt and Keith once. It seems like there was a rotation to share the double-scale leader’s pay among the guys who aren’t Jerry, consistent with what we have long understood about Jerry’s egalitarian approach to things.

Anything else jump out at you?


  1. Robert Ogdin, Elvis Presley's keyboard player in 1977. Also played with Chet Atkins, Lucille Ball, Garth Brooks, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Charlie Daniels, and many others.

  2. Maria Muldaur told me some fun stories about the making of this record for "So Many Roads." They were up so late that she brought her own espresso machine to stay awake. They called it "Italian cocaine."


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