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Saturday, February 20, 2016

On the Bus with the Garcia Band

I was going through the tour documents for the Jerry Garcia Band's November-December 1983 tour, which was unusually long. I haven't compared the various JGB tours, but this one and/or the late '77 tour are the two longest I can think of, without double checking.
I have more documents from the 70s than the 80s, so I don't know how uncommon this was in the latter decade, but I note that the big middle of the tour involved lots of overnight bus trips, something I have never picked up for any other tour.

The above is a rough map of the tour once the road tripping started, from Cleveland forward. (They had played 11/23 in Chicago and had Thanksgiving Day off, flying on Friday 11/25 to Cleveland.) I figure almost 3,200 miles on the bus, most of them (in the grey-shaded boxes) overnight from the previous night's show. So, on Friday, 12/2 they played the Tower in Upper Darby (outside of Philly), presumably ending rather late (they were wont to do that), hopped a bus for 300 overnight miles to Boston, played two shows, and hopped another bus 275 miles to Long Island, gigged at SUNY Stony Brook, and did 325 miles up to Vermont right after that show, enjoying a much-needed night off on Monday 12/5. What a hectic touring pace!

Again, this strikes me as exceptionally uncommon. They must have been in dire financial straits, or maybe it just seemed like a good idea at the time. I can't imagine how that bus must have smelled, nor do I wish to try.


  1. Nice! Sounds like a grueling stretch for the band — and some of those early/late show gigs were some pretty long nights. fwiw, Hunter said this about the Nov ’84 Garcia/Kahn tour: “the GD were on the financial skids in ’84…this tour looked like a moneymaker with no appreciable overhead - just Jerry, John, and me traveling by bus with a skeleton crew” (Jackson, p. 334). I think Daoud Shaw says in his Jake Feinberg interview that the Feb 81 JGB tour was by bus, too. Is it safe to assume that the JGB (6 members) must have been pulling in less money than the GD were in 81-84, so it makes sense that their tours were more bare bones affairs?

    It's a contrast with Ozzie Ahlers’ account of the 1980 JGB tours, which sounds like more posh affairs:

    1. It's interesting, because I have actually seen the tour documents for the Feb-March 1980 tour, and there was more mixed more transportation.

      2/13 fly commercial DC-Albany
      2/14 drive 165 mi. to Boston
      2/16 drive 140 mi. to New Haven
      2/17 charter plane to Syracuse
      2/20 fly commercial to Hartford
      2/21 fly commercial to Newark
      2/23 drive 90 mi. to Philly
      2/24 drive 110 mi. to Long Island
      2/26 drive 180 mi. to Provy
      2/27 drive 180 mi. back to NYC

      Six of the last seven nights were at the Navarro, for gigs in Stony Brook, Union NJ, Hempstead, and Passaic.

  2. Don't forget, if you rent a bus, you can smoke to your heart's content, but if you fly, you were stuck in airports and it was a different matter (even in the 80s).

    Plus, smoke what. This is not a snark comment (I save those for ToTD), but rather a serious remark.

    1. That's a very good point. There are some near-miss horror stories about the logistical problems caused by Garcia's addiction on their 1981 trips to Europe (airport bathrooms and whatnot, although the source is Rock Scully, so grain of salt). Sticking Garcia on a bus instead of a plane makes sense for all parties concerned with minimizing the chances of a brush between the law and a famous junkie.

  3. February '81 JGB tour was mostly by bus.


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