Friday, January 09, 2015

Oscuro - February 2, 1975

(Editorial note: I debated whether to post this, for two reasons. First, these are people's lives. I will try to stick to the facts. Second, as an aesthetic proposition, obscurity needs to be done in moderation -- it isn't always fun to try to take in, in looking at a painting or in trying to do a little light reading around Jerry Garcia's Musical Life Outside the Grateful Dead. In the end, obviously, I decided to go with it, on chiaroscuro grounds.)

Monday morning coffee, February 3rd, 1975 Marin IJ, beneath the "Storm Rips Into Bay Area" headline and next to that seventies classic "Ford Sees Some Bad Times Ahead", we learn that "Wife Of Guitarist Bob Weir Reported Shot In Stomach". Sunday, February 2, Bob and Frankie Weir arrived back in Mill Valley at 5 a.m. after a Kingfish gig (at the Gold Rush in Walnut Creek), quarreling, and around 6:15 she shot herself in the stomach, Weir picked the gun up and threw it out the window; she's off to the hospital.

What a nightmare for all involved, to say the least. Thankfully, we learn the next day that Frankie is recovering, a graft of chiar into the oscuro, as there must be (conditional on not being at the center of a black hole).

That same Tuesday morning coffee finds Lenny Hart's obituary on the same page. Leonard, 55, former manager of the Grateful Dead, disappeared Sunday, February 2, after a long bout with cancer. Funeral is Wednesday, 2 o'clock at the Chapel of the Hills in San Anselmo, and his body will be put to rest in Mount Tamalpais Cemetery.

The curriculum vitae is worth posting for the record:
Hart, married and divorced five times, became the manager of the Grateful Dead in the 1960s after one of his seven children joined the group. He left the Marin-based rock group in 1970. In 1970, he went to San Diego, where he studied religion and became an ordained minister in the Assembly of God Church. After he returned to Marin, he worked as a part-time instructor in the Mill Valley School District’s music program. Last semester he taught a class in the education department at Dominican College in San Rafael. His home was at 10 Bayview Drive, Kentfield.
Hart was born and reared in New York City. He served with the Marine Corps during World War II and, after the war, worked in various capacities in the music business.
Astute readers will be aware that one of the capacities in which Lenny worked the music business was as convicted felonious thief from, among others, that one of his seven children. That was right before the God part, which was right before the (unmentioned) prison time. This is not speaking ill of the Dead. This is stating facts.

Mickey reminds us of some of the human cost of Lenny's Perfidy:
He robbed us blind.
One night in 1970 some guys came on stage after a show to reclaim Pigpen's organ. We were stunned. From our perspective we were doing really  well, playing nearly every night to one or two thousand people. The next day Phil and I went to see Lenny. Phil asked to see the books. Lenny refused in a suave, bankerly sort of way and at that instant I knew: he had stolen our money. While we had been struggling on this incredible adventure in sound sharing, my charrning dad had been skimming off everything. How much he took, we could never discover.
Lenny went to jail for it. I couldn't go anywhere near him or the trial. I didn't want to play, didn't want to go out on the road. Confused, unbalanced, I wanted to flee and hide, bury my head and cry. I stopped touring with the Grateful Dead in 1971 and went to ground at the Barn (Hart 1990, 144-145).
All of which is to say, for JGMF purposes, that Sunday, February 2, 1975 can only have been a pretty shitty day. True, these clouds cover the Garciaverse less intensely, less ominously than they do, say, Bob Weir's and Mickey Hart's worlds. But perhaps nothing moves faster through strong-tie social networks such as these than the deathly things. And there were no ties, in the Garciaverse, stronger than the Dead ties. It's remarkable to reflect on how close these men were, forged together musically by the shared experience of playing together before a crowd while high on LSD, but also across all the other sinews that bind business partners, collaborators, friends, and loved ones together.

Bob and Jerry were like junior and elder brothers, and they spent lots of time together even during the Dead's touring hiatus. Indeed, On February 1st, the day of the Kingfish gig in Walnut Creek, Garcia plays some tracks with Bill Cutler (some of which probably appeared on Cutler's Crossing The Line (Magnatude, 2008) (! ref: DTTW 11/17/93) - I note that Jerry and Bob share playing credits on one track ("Ridin' High"), which could well have happened that day. That very session could have happened at Ace's (Weir's home studio, 422 Tamalpais Avenue, Mill Valley, CA, 94941), scene of the Weir incident, where later in the month all of these guys would start getting together to record what would become the atmospheric Blues For Allah (Grateful Dead Records LA-494, September 1, 1975).

Or, it could have happened at Mickey's place. 
Jerry and Mickey spent lots of time together at Hart's Barn in Novato during this period (see the Arnold references below), the former working and Mickey, the "ostensible host … allowed to live unhindered with [his] pain" (Hart 1990, 145). Just a few days before Lenny's death, Jerry spent January 27-29, there producing the Good Old Boys' Pistol Packin' Mama (Round Records RX-109, March 1976), probably picking a few tunes uncredited. These men were in the flow of each other's daily lives.
I try to keep a sharp focus on Garcia's Musical Life Outside the Grateful Dead, as the subtitle has it. But the surroundings define the shadings, like the customs house in Caravaggio's The Calling of Saint Matthew; the pieces of our lives "bleed together" in artistic and more literally sanguinous senses. Did these events affect Jerry Garcia? Surely, they did, though I can't say how. There's no passing unscathed through these kinds of storms, though, even toward the outer edges. Having brothers in pain, confronting the shit that a turbulent storm can lay bare as it strips away the silty protections of temporal distance (and the psychological armoring and good, old-fashioned capacities-to-forget that unfold across it), whether these be memories of Lenny's Perfidy or anything else, these things getting kicked up always matter, bedding back down onto a new floor, a course altered, if imperceptibly.

(Some things, of course, never change. The February 6 IJ runs a rather ignominious piece in the day's obituaries, again under the deceased's name: "Leonard B. Hart, onetime Grateful Dead rock group manager, was not an ordained minister of the Assembly of God church, according to Rev. Reuben J. Sequeira, pastor of the Assembly of God in San Rafael. … Sequeira said he checked with the national headquarters of the Assemblies of God and learned the office has no record of Hart ever being ordained with the church.")

! ref: "Obituaries: Leonard Hart," Independent Journal (San Rafael, CA), February 4, 1975, p. 4.
! ref: "Obituaries: Leonard Hart," Independent Journal (San Rafael, CA), February 6, 1975, p. 4.
! ref: "Frankie Weir Is Recovering," Independent Journal (San Rafael, CA), February 4, 1975, p. 4.
! ref: “Wife of Guitarist Bob Weir Reported Shot In Stomach,” Independent Journal (San Rafael, CA), February 3, 1975, p. 1.
! ref: Arnold, Corry. 2011. Grateful Dead Solo Album Contracts, 1970-73. Lost Live Dead, January 15, 2011, URL, consulted 1/24/2014.
! ref: Arnold, Corry. 2012. Album Projects Recorded at Mickey Hart's Barn, Novato, CA 1971-76. Hooterollin' Around, August 24, 2012, URL, consulted 1/24/2014.
! ref: Hart, Mickey, with Jay Stevens. 1990. Drumming at the Edge of Magic: A Journey Into the Spirit of Percussion. New York: HarperCollins.


  1. "Just a few days before Lenny's death, Jerry spent January 27-29, there producing the Good Old Boys' Pistol Packin' Mama (Round Records RX-109, March 1976)"

    Where'd you find this? (I've got March 1976, no idea where I got it!)

    1. March 1976 was the release date. The recording dates were January 27-29, 1975, based on images of and information about Vault tapes.

  2. Might as well put some more Lenny notes here.

    "Grateful Dead Bust Their Dad," Rolling Stone, September 2, 1971, p. 14.

    Pinpoints LH's departure to March 1970. "Manager John McIntire shook his head ... 'So much of it's so cut and dry, it's amazing how stupid we were,' he said. 'It was a classic trip: Elmer Gantry coming: in. We deserved it But you wouldn't think he'd fuck his own kid'."

  3. McNally reports: "In 1975, Weir's longtime romance with Frankie collapsed, the victim of too many years on the road for Weir and insufficient rewards for Frankie. Always dramatic, she would in the end shoot herself - not fatally - during a particularly tempestuous scene, and shortly afterward they separated." (p.481)

    That said, the Dead were a gun-totin' group of people, and sometimes accidents could happen - especially around Weir.

    For instance, McNally relates one incident at Olompali in 1966:
    "One night they were practicing, and it went so poorly that Weir grew frustrated and took off up the hill. They called it quits for the evening, at which point Pigpen spotted a deer in the driveway. Bill got out a .22... Just after he fired, the deer bolted and then they heard Weir, up the hill, cry out. Kreutzmann moaned, 'Oh, fuck.' Pigpen ran away and croaked, 'You did it.' Fortunately, the bullet landed near but not in Weir." (p.145)

    I believe Barlow also told a story in one interview in which, once when Weir was staying at his ranch, Barlow drunkenly fired at him one night, fortunately missing - unfortunately I can't find that interview now...

    1. Found it - Weir attended Barlow's wedding in 1977, and after the hard-drinking party fell asleep in the bunkhouse.
      Barlow recalled, "This was in a period of my life when I felt like the best way to make a certain kind of point was to shoot off a gun indoors. It will get everyone's attention... So I asked around, everyone says Weir went to bed. 'He did what?' This is not permissible! So I went out to the bunkhouse to reinvigorate him, and I figured I could whang off a round into the floor and get his attention...what I didn't realize was that it would ricochet off the concrete this .357 slug turned into shrapnel and sprayed the wall behind him. It was a miracle that I didn't kill him."
      McNally reports, "Barlow departed the ranch on his motorcycle. The gathered guests dug the fragment out of Weir's shoulder... Somehow the wedding itself went off fairly smoothly." (McNally p.503)

    2. Thanks for the pin down on that!

      I can't believe Browne writes up a period starting 17 days after this. Does he mention it? I can't even allow myself to crack that book open until I can give it serious time, which will not be soon.

    3., he doesn't mention it, actually. Covering 50 years in 400 pages, not every story can be told.
      However, he does provide some new details on Mickey Hart's life around this time, and Frankie & Bob Weir's relationship. It turns out they still lived together peaceably for a year after this incident. But for more details, you should crack open the book!

    4. I don't expect him to have mentioned any particular detail, but when I glanced at it he makes the Weir place seem rather idyllic, a pretty sharp contrast to what went down on 2/2.

      I can't crack it until I have time to actually think about it. I am a serial processor.

    5. It could be that the idyllic portrait of Frankie & Bob is an intentional contrast to McNally's depiction of a stormy ending. On the other hand, the account of Mickey Hart's life at the ranch is somewhat darker than in McNally. Our multiple sources now give us more angles of perspective....

  4. There's another near-miss gun mishap, George Hunter of the Charlatans with a rifle, from Olomapli summer 1966 reported by Rosie McGee (2013, p. 65).

    Here's her recollection of meeting Lenny, ca. fall 2969: "One night at a gig in the city, I noticed a stranger in the wings of stage left. He was a short, hefty guy in a sports jacket, carrying-what was that, the Bible in his hand? I observed him for a while, standing a few feet away, and then he turned in my direction. He introduced himself to me-Lennie Hart, Mickey's father. I could see the resemblance, except for the eyes. Where Mickey's eyes were full of intelligence and energy, Lenny had a look of fear and coldness about him" (McGee 2013, 186).

    Rosie would nevertheless take employment as Lenny's secretary, at first working out of the Novato rehearsal space.

    "He was always looking around, like he thought he was being watched or he was hiding something. I just couldn't stand his nervousness, self-righteousness and thinly disguised lechery, so the day he put his hand on my thigh while we were driving to the bank, I quit the job. Rhoney Gissen, a girlfriend of Bear's who had more fortitude than I did, took over. Later, the job went to Gail Hellund, who'd worked for Bill Graham in the city. A super-sharp woman with nerves of steel, she stayed with the band for years. I don't think any of the women close to the band ever took to Lennie and we certainly didn't trust him. But he was clever and able to keep questions at bay for a while ... (McGee 2013, 186).

  5. Rosie on Frankie:
    [279] "By 1973, Frankie, who'd spent time with Mickey in 1968 as Frankie Hart, had now been happily living with Bob as Frankie Weir for a number of years. [280] Frankie wanted to find a way for her and the other band girlfriends and wives to join their guys on the road more often. The perfect solution was to open a travel agency to handle tour arrangements for the Dead and the New Riders. In addition to providing cheaper airline tickets for the family, the agency would keep the commissions formerly paid to the outside travel agency. Soon after Cutler started Out of Town Tours, Frankie started the process of opening Fly By Night Travel, whose motto became "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow."
    "Wilma [a straight suburban mom from Novato with the requisite licensing for actually working as a travel agent] and I got to work at the regular hour of 8 a.m. and got as much done as we could before Frankie and her posse arrived and headed to her back office. In Frankie's office, there was weed to smoke, coke to snort, stories to tell and visitors to entertain. I honestly don't remember exactly what Frankie did at Fly By Night aside from taking calls from friends on her executive multi-line phone, signing checks and making executive decisions when necessary, but I was far too busy to pay much attention. I do know that it was pretty much a party back there most of the time.

    I didn't begrudge Frankie her fun in the back room. In fact, I spent my fair share of time hanging out with her after hours. I really enjoyed her company and that of her constant companions- singer/songwriter Darlene DiDomenico and Cutler's secretary Sally Dryden-so I tried to become part of that posse. That required my joining them after work at the Old Mill Tavern in Mill Valley, where they met other friends to play pool and drink the evening away. I tried to join in, but I'd never been much of a drinker and wasn't very good at it."
    (McGee 2013, 279-281).

  6. FWIW, "Frankie" is a recurring theme in a set of American ballads which center on a woman who cuts down her no good man with a .44. Not quite the same, but a weird little angle.

    ! ref: Lomax 1960, 557-558

  7. Frankie sounds more interesting the more one learns, for example in Browne 2015, 141-142. I just noted "Born Judy Louis Doop, grew up in SLO, won a dance contest, go-go-dancing at the Peppermint Lounge. Interesting discussion".

  8. I knew Frankie in the 1980's She worked on a cruiseship.

  9. Apparently Phil wrecked his car the same day that Lenny died.

  10. "shadows are always useful | in distinguishing the light." - Hernández 2017 [1872], 118.

    1. This comes up in the first canto of La Vuelta de Martín Fierro. Martín Fierro, overall, is the national epic poem of Argentina.


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