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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Black Roots about Native Americans?

I am thinking about Native American musical influences on Garcia.

As far as I can tell, they are mediated by whites: Hank Williams's "Kaw-Liga," Bill Monroe's "Cheyenne,"Peter Rowan's "Land Of The Navajo" (which the latter inspired).

Is there any black traditional music with Native American narrative or musical themes? Like, any old banjo tunes about the Seminoles?

Some notes on classifying Garciaverse Musics

In narrating Jerry Garcia's Musical Life Outside The Grateful Dead, I think in terms of the various musics he played.

One cut is geographic: 1) world vs. 2) American.

In terms of musics he directly quasi-publicly performed, The World is mostly only reggae and Indian music (e.g., Diga). He got some stuff from Canada, but it was either Americana (e.g., The Band) or pan-white pop (e.g., Bruce Cockburn's "Waiting For A Miracle") - not what I'd call "Canadian music".

Everything else from The World comes to Garcia pre-mediated through America.

Within the second bucket, I want to distinguish a) indigenous music (Hawaiian, Native American) from b) music made by non-indigenous peoples.

As noted above, Native American music came to Garcia pre-mediated by whites. When he played "Native American", he was playing white renderings of that music. I am guessing he jammed around at Hart's with Rolling Thunder and others -- I wonder if there are calendars, diaries, tapes?? --, but it falls sort of short of my fuzzy event threshold ("musics he directly quasi-publicly performed").

It seems like the same is likely true of the other indigenous American music that Garcia engaged, Hawaiian.  Let me put it another way: he directly heard Hawaiian music (grandmother Tillie loved it - McNally 2015, 36), but in playing pedal steel guitar he was playing what white people were doing, inspired by the islanders' music. So it doesn't get the full-on music font.

b) is the set of musics that get the special font and the central real estate in my table on Garciaverse musics.


  1. I suspect that the Native American musical influence on Garcia was zero. Of the examples mentioned - "Land of the Navajo" was straight country-western, and I believe OAITW omitted the actual native-American-inspired part of "Cheyenne" to just play the regular bluegrass part. Songs being set in the West or mentioning Indians of course would not apply. So I'm not sure if Garcia ever played even vaguely native American music - there's barely even an echo of indigenous music here.

    Hawaiian influence is a different case, where Garcia (as far as I know) didn't actually play Hawaiian music; but historically it was crucial in the origins of the steel guitar, branching out into country music and blues slide guitar. (Garcia taking a slide solo in 'Hurts Me Too'? Tampa Red called that "Hawaiian style.")
    But what applies to Garcia applies to everyone else, too - Hawaiian music left little trace on mainland postwar musicians' repertoires, but shaped the instruments and styles that they played. So the indirect Hawaiian influence on Garcia is the same as its influence on all pedal-steel & slide-blues players.


    Talks about Native American influences on the blues.


!Thank you for joining the conversation!