GRATEFUL DEAD INFLUENCE PART TWO
It was summertime 1966 in Northern California. A lose group of writer’s, musician’s freeform performers came together as a fringe community that blossomed from the fertile alchemy of LSD.
They were broke but kept each other fed with food donated by the sons and daughters of parents who were entrenched in worldly commodities.
One of these social outcasts who did not appreciate High School started hanging at Dana Morgan Music, where a fellow who taught guitar by the name of Jerry Garcia often jammed between students with other local musicians.
He started to pick up chords and techniques from musicians like Michael Cooney or those hanging at the shop like Jorma Kaukonan, David Nelson and Robert Hunter. He already knew the rudiments of playing the guitar but lacked experience.
When they decided to start a jug band it was mutually decided, Weir should learn how to evoke notes out of a washtub a broom handle, string and of course a compliment of jugs. He managed to hang together with his new band members, which gained him respect and admiration.
Jorma spent hours instructing Weir in his unique style of gripping the neck, finger position, and using pressure to produce a distinctive tone that separates Weir’s sound from most other guitarists and certainly those of the rhythm variety.
Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions became popular and the group played almost every weekend around the mid-peninsula area.
In a couple months the Champions dissolved leaving Jerry, Bob, and Pigpen, who convinced Jerry to start up a electric blues band. The music shop’s owner son, Dana Morgan played bass and allowed band members to borrow instruments for their gigs.
Now in the interim Jerry crossed the country with fellow musician Sandy Rothman and followed the Kentucky Colonels on a tour of the South. They left from LA after a jam with Billy Ray Latham, the banjo picker for the Colonels.
Jerry’s main priority was meeting Bill Monroe. But when Sandy and him had a chance to talk to their hero neither spoke a word. They both just stood posing with their instruments, petrified. Jerry and Sandy collected a treasure of Bluegrass recordings on reel to reel tapes. They traveled East as far as Sunset Park, Pa. Where Jerry first met a Mandolin player named David Grisman. One day in June Jerry decided he better return home to Sara and their baby girl.
That is when they continued with the same core members of the Jug Band and went electric mainly as the result of Beatles records and movie, a Hard Day’s Night.
About this time Jerry contacted Billy Kreutzmann, asked if he was interested in playing with an electric blues ensemble. Billy had been playing rock and roll with local bands and working in a salary job. Not part of the Jug Band scene, already married at the time.
By the following New Years they progressed from a hot Jug Band to a rock and roll band with a blues flavor. Pigpen fronted the outfit.
An opening came for a bass guitarist when Dana Morgan Jr. couldn’t make the practices. Jerry had a flash that a trumpet player and composer he knew could adapt and learn the bass guitar.
Phil Lesh thought it might be a blast to try it. He never played a rhythmic instrument before, so his approach was unorthodox. He proceeded from an avante-garde jazz background and brought an immediate transformation in their sound.
Okay so let’s point our gaze at two friends who gave the Grateful Dead dozens of songs to add to the mix. Bob Weir first met John Perry Barlow at Prep School in Colorado. Kept in touch over the years. Yes, Weir and Hunter worked on a number of great songs together but they did not compliment each other’s talents and both knew it.
So Bob reconnects with his old school mate JP Barlow who provided lyrics to his bevy of tunes. The partnership lasted for years to come. They co-wrote amazing songs such as Black ‘Throated Wind’, ‘Mexicali Blues’ and ‘Let It Grow.’
More GRATEFUL DEAD to come.
If you appreciate these mini-essays you will enjoy my Novel Series ‘PSYCHEDELIC PROPHET’ Please ask for it at Libraries and Book Stores GS
COPYRIGHT 2016 GLENN A SEGAL