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Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Roving Gambler: JGJK, Orpheum Theatre, Boston, February 2, 1986

Nine days after kicking off a lucrative little acoustic tour with the D.A.R. in D.C., Garcia and Kahn closed things off at the Orpheum in Boston. The main point of interest is "The Roving Gambler", which makes its only known public appearance in the GOTS era (what some might call the Grateful Dead era) of Garcia's career. It's well-rehearsed and peppy. I don't know what inspired it - maybe Bill Walton, who attended, requested it. No idea why they dropped it, either.

LN jg1986-02-02.jgjk.all.aud-koucky.79935.flac1644

Jerry Garcia and John Kahn
Orpheum Theatre
1 Hamilton Place
Boston, MA 02108
February 2, 1986 (Sunday)
Koucky MAC flac1644 shnid-79935

--set I (6 tracks, 33:42)--
s1t01. [0:38] It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry [6:47] ->
s1t02. Friend Of The Devil [6:27] (1) [0:07]
s1t03. I've Been All Around This World [5:13] (2) [0:06]
s1t04. The Roving Gambler [2:57] ->
s1t05. Valerie [6:37] ->
s1t06. Run For The Roses [4:29] (3) [0:21]

--set II + encore (8 tracks, 7 tunes, 50:25)--
--set II (7 tracks, 6 tunes, 42:36)--
s2t01. tuning [0:28]
s2t02. Deep Elem Blues
s2t03. Spike Driver Blues
s2t04. Jack-A-Roe
s2t05. Gomorrah
s2t06. Bird Song
s2t07. Ripple
--encore (1 track, 7:49)--
s2t08. Goodnight Irene

! ACT1: Jerry Garcia and John Kahn
! Lineup: Jerry Garcia - ac-g, vocals;
! Lineup: John Kahn - ac-bass.


! R: symbols

! JGC:

! db: (unk aud, shn); (this fileset).

! metadata: the text file called these early and late shows, but the review in the Boston Globe clearly identifies two "40-minute sets that ranged from fairly good to fairly terrible" (Morse 1986).

! review: Morse 1986. "Garcia was all over the place, hitting a few highs... but some pronounced Jerry-atric lows that not even the presence of that ultimate Dead Head, the Celtics' Bill Walton, could prevent. And as a flatpicker, Garcia was no threat to Doc Watson, though his soul and improvisational ability occasionally saved the program. Still, one expected more from the Captain Trips of the '60s than this." Steve Morse had been covering the Dead steadily for a long time, and this is pretty significant criticism. "Jerry-atric lows" is a well-turned phrase.

! R: field recordist: Bill Koucky

! R: field recording gear: 2x Sennheiser 441 > D5 (Steve Adelman's gear)

! R: field recording location: orchestra

! R: field recording media: Maxell MX-S

! R: transfer: playback on Nakamichi DR2 > Presonus Firebox > firewire/PC XP Pro > Wavelab 5.0,
recorded as 24 bit/96 KHz PCM WAV > Waves L3 Multimaxmizer (threshold -3.5, ceiling -0.1, type I dither, ultra shaping) > 16 bit/44.1 KHz PCM WAV > CDWAV 1.9 > FLAC (level ). Transfer / mastering by C.Ladner.

! R: solid tape.

! R: s1t02 FOTD burp of some kind around 1:20.

! s1t02 (1) JG: "Thank you."

! s1t03 (2) JG: "Thank you."

! song: "The Roving Gambler" (s1t04): played in early '60s. I like Ramblin' Jack version essential RJE. This is a #singleton inside the GOTS empirical frame. Clearly rehearsed it, but played it this one night only.

! P: s1t04 Roving Gambler is a little cursory, but it's punchy.

! P: s1t06 RFTR sounds very lucid, with nice energy.

! s1t06 (3) JG: "We're gonna take a quick break. We'll be back pretty soon." Sounds like a set break announcement, not a show-closer. update: indeed, Morse confirms single two-set show.


  1. It's an interesting point that Jerry liked to Rove, since he toured endlessly, and he liked risk, which meant that he himself was very much a Roving Gambler. In that respect, it reminds me of "Roadrunner," a song which I think Jerry meant every word when he sang it, even if it was just some old song.

    I should point out that the "Jerry-atrics" alluded to by the reviewer would be 31 years older today.

  2. Back in the pre-Dead days they all knew a song called "Billy Grimes, The Rover", more on the Rover trope. It's a good'un.

  3. Take a listen to that GD version of Tom Dooley in Chicago '78. Same tune, different lyrics--don't you think?

  4. I don't have the '86 show handy right now, but listening to Tom Dooley it does sound very similar.

    Funny, I was thinking about the contrasting between a Rambler and a Rover, and here we have tape from the Rambler Room.

  5. Not to beat a dead horse, but I dug a little deeper (for 14 seconds) and found this: It's nothing much but does sustain the notion that these two songs ("The Roving Gambler" and "Tom Dooley") are related or connected. I leave the detective work and analysis to you.

    What's interesting to me here, in both cases (1978 and 1986), is how the hell this song came to be played. I love it. Other people must have too. So why abandon it? Also, where did it come from? Does Jerry play or it or even mention it at any other point?

    Maybe the botched lyrics from '78 were dissuasive, so it wasn't part of the 1980 acoustic repertoire. And this, in turn, pushed Jerry to learn the simpler (but not simple) "Roving Gambler" lyrics. Maybe?

    Again, I'm not trying to belabor the point. But nonetheless: Any thoughts?

  6. If it weren't for belaboring the point, I'd have no blog!

    I wish I had answers to this. We know the story of how the Dead did Ripple that one time in '88, a little kid from Make A Wish or some functional equivalent. But so many other one-offs just appear and are gone, with no understanding. I wish I knew.

  7. Yes, it's the same melody line in Tom Dooley and Roving Gambler.

    Garcia probably had a ton of these Gambler - Loner - Wanderer sort of tunes rolling around in his head. This version may have been inspired by the Stanley Brothers take on the tune.

    Seems like the JGAB was a good vehicle for these kinds of "Americana Rambler" songs & vibes, they had a bunch of similar tunes in the repertoire. Too bad the band was short-lived, would have been nice for them to mine the songbook even deeper than they did...

    Also worth noting, this date was the final concert performance of Valerie.


  8. Final Valerie - wow. The last great non-GD Garcia-Hunter original. It's a reasonably dark tune, of its time.

    Yeah, lots of roving and rambling.


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