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Monday, August 03, 2015

That fiddle!

I can't believe how great the guest fiddler is on this show, 46 years ago today. There's also a sax and maybe a few other mystery players.

Goddamn, I wish I could have seen a show at the Family Dog.


  1. Hmm, I didn't think the fiddler was that great a player...though it was probably a daunting, noisy situation to be in. In any case, I was recently investigating who he might be, only to come up with dead ends. I now have a short list of SF fiddlers who aren't him, though!

    I find it sad that this is the only known time a fiddler played with the Dead live - all kinds of things could have been explored. (Imagine, say, Vassar Clements sitting in a '73 show?) In contrast, the Dead had a variety of sax guests over the years.

  2. Not papa john creech, i take it... in my defense i havent listened yet, but wouldnt he already be jamming with JA/HT?

  3. LIA, you have discussed this elsewhere - do you have a link to that discussion?

    The sax player is awesome, too. And are there other guitar players at some points early on?

  4. Some discussion here:

    The fiddler is not:
    David LaFlamme (It's A Beautiful Day)
    Michael White (The Fourth Way)
    John Tenney (Mother's Country Jam)
    or Art Fayer (Touchstone)

    Possible, but doubtful:
    Sid Page (Dan Hicks & Hot Licks - probably too good to have been this fiddler)
    Spencer Perskin (Shiva's Headband - ditto; might not have been in SF)
    Jerry Goodman (The Flock - ditto; not known if he was in SF)

    Other candidates:
    Rodney Albin (but he isn't known to have been playing 'electric' yet)
    Anonymous (no one we know)

    Papa John Creach didn't start playing with the Airplane/Tuna until October 1970, so I don't think he's ever been considered for this show.... I suppose it can't be ruled out, though, unless someone knows his whereabouts in '69.

    John Tenney made these remarks to me:
    "It doesn't sound like LaFlamme to me... He was much more melodic, and that scrubby bluegrassy (but non-authentic) playing at the end of "Caution Do Not Stop on Tracks" sounds weird in places, almost as if played on a 5-string hybrid violin/viola (I'm hearing high E string and also low C string both). That was not common yet that early; came in a lot more when real electric string instruments were developed in the 70s and 80s. Rodney Albin was a violin maker...he could have made a hybrid 5-string, definitely had the capability for it. He was not an excellent player, but then again neither is the player on these tracks. Incidentally he also made the electric violin that I played on then."

    I didn't hear any other guitar players?

  5. I have been on all sides of this debate at one time or another, raising up possible choices and then backing off when they are sadly but reliably shot down.

    I will get on the Spencer Perskin train for now. Sid Page and Jerry Goodman were definitely very good, and if John Tenney says the guy wasn't good, I'll defer to him. Spencer Perskin was enjoyable but no virtuoso. He was in the Texas group Shiva's Headband, which was based in SF for the summer of 68 (not 69). A long-gone website described some of their adventures, and let's just say that the only marginally successful band seemed to be a plausible excuse for driving around the country in a van full of Certain Agricultural Products. So I'm inclined to believe that Perskin could show up anywhere at any time, and would always be invited backstage.

  6. I believe Richard Greene was in San Francisco in this period as well... But again, the fiddling here is more limited than I would expect of Greene in tunes like Hard to Handle and High Heeled Sneakers - though he plays in a similar 'country' style, so stylistically at least they're not unalike. We need a good fiddle listener to check out these tracks, but I don't think the guest here was any virtuoso.
    We could add Greene to the list of possible candidates, nonetheless. I'm not sure he was playing with Garcia yet, this seems a bit early. However, they had met back in '63/64, and they'd work together briefly on the Tarot project in 1970, so Greene's presence at a '69 Dead show isn't in itself unlikely.

    I have a more exciting discovery to announce, though... Listening again to the first few tracks (especially High Heeled Sneakers), it does sound like there might be a third guitarist in spots. The trouble is, the fiddle in the mix kind of blends into the other instruments; and the mix itself is weak & wobbly, with all the instruments cluttered together; so any third guitar is just a distant noise well in the background.

    But in Mama Tried, the third guitarist is unmistakable, and up in the mix. Not only that, but he appears the night before on August 2 in the same spot as well!
    In performances of Mama Tried before & after these shows, after the first chorus Garcia just plays a brief lick before the next verse, and the one guitar solo comes before the last chorus.
    On August 2 & 3, though, another solo is added after the first chorus, in a very different style from Garcia's - in fact, it definitely sounds like Clarence White's B-bender style, very thrilling to hear, played the same way both nights. (Garcia then plays his usual solo before the last chorus.)
    The most obvious candidate for this guest guitarist would be David Nelson. Not only was he playing with Garcia at the time, but he also played a (more restrained) B-bender solo in Box of Rain a year later.
    I think he drops out of the show after Mama Tried.

    On 8/2/69, Nelson also plays lead guitar on Slewfoot (same style) while Garcia is on pedal steel. It's very cool, check it out.
    (As a sidenote: 8/2/69 was the last time Garcia played pedal steel in a Dead show until February 1970, since in August '69 he switched to playing it with the opening New Riders.)

    I believe Nelson also plays the guitar solo in Mama Tried on 6/28/69. It's not Garcia, it's in the same style (though slowed-down), and Peter Grant & John Dawson also guested at that show, making Nelson's presence very likely.

  7. Yes!

    Yes, total Bakersfield/B-bender/Tele style on Mama Tried. That is what I had heard. Nelson was also my first thought, for the obvious reasons. I can't remember if he is mentioned in the accounts of the Light Artists' Guild hassles from 8/1/69, and the Jerry and Marmaduke gig in Berkeley might have been just that, but on the other hand it could well have been proto New Riders, i.e., involving Nelson.

    I doubt Greene on fiddle. I have come to know his style pretty well. It's possible, and I certainly don't trust my own ears, but I don't think so.

    Also, in listening to the sax, is it baritone on spots? Made me think of 9/2/74, natch.


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