Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Mary, Mary

At a certain point, we all become caricatures of ourselves. For example, Donald Trump announced today that he was not, in fact, worth the $9 billion he claimed last week; it was more like 10. The sketch kinda writes itself.

Throw me in the bucket with the rest, though: I have committed the ultimate Dead-obsessive cliché – taking a break from the Dead…with the Jerry Band.

I know, I know, but it’s from the stupidly talented lineup with Ronnie Tutt and Nicky Hopkins. Nicky Hopkins sounds exactly like if you asked someone to do an impersonation of “an Englishman who won’t live to see 40.” Nicky had problems, and so does the show, but they are the ones endemic to all Jerry Band shows: everything is too slow except for the ballads.

The ballads are way too slow. (The tempo of Night They Drove Old Dixie Down is “legally deceased.” On the music, it’s written in Italian, so it sounds better, but the dirge-like nature of the tune cannot be overlooked.

Rest of it’s great: check out an uncredited Merl Saunders (?) doing his rhythm guitarist impression on the nasty and dirty clavinet on Let It Rock, a Mission in the Rain, and…

That Garcia guy: maybe he has been a bit overlooked these last weeks, but he could play a little. Sing a little, too.



  1. There was another guy playing electric piano at these shows, along with Nicky on the grand. Nicky introduces him, but he gets his name wrong (it’s not “Tim Hensley”) confusing decades of scholars. Someone figured it out, but I am sworn to secrecy until it comes out (really).

    THe interesting question is “why did Jerry and John think they needed a guy playing Fender Rhodes when they had Nicky Hopkins? It’s a serious question.

    • Not Merl? The guy’s really not bad: he’s got a clavinet and does some cool WHEEEEooooWHEEEEoooo noises in Tore Up

      • Merl had been rather unceremoniously fired by his friend John Kahn, since his friend Jerry was too cowardly to say he wanted a change. Supposedly they had agreed that they would alternate bad news, and Kahn had dumped Billy K, and Jerry went back on it when it was his turn with Merl.

    • Weren’t there a number of second keyboardists and rhythm guitarists in Jerry Band over the years with no publicly stated reason for being there?

      • yes. JGMF knows all, not saying yet.

      • Hopefully the reason for the secrecy is that there’s gonna be an official release along with the big reveal that some badass mystery player was part of the lineup.

        Otherwise, I have no idea why they’d have to keep it secret.

  2. I actually saw the Jerry Garcia Band with Nicky Hopkins twice (Oct 17 and Dec 19 75). I was a wee lad, and didn’t know better, but the strangest thing, which I have never seen repeated since, was Nicky’s piano setup. Nicky played a huge black grand piano that barely fit on the stage, so he played with his back to Jerry and John. However, he had a giant (36′ by 24″ or something) mirror propped up on the piano, where the music would have gone if he was reading any. So he looked at them in reverse while he played, and they did the same.

    I already did the jokes about Jerry needing to tour with a giant mirror–it was just strange. I don’t know of any photos that show it.

  3. You’ve got to hear bob menke’s matrix motb ( mouth of the beast) recording of this show. It is incredible. It’s true it wasn’t merl but another second pianist, can’t remember right now but I’ve read about it.

  4. More than you might have ever needed to know about the Booker/Hophins era of the Jerry Garcia Band:

  5. Always loved the Nicky Hopkins JGB. Too bad he was such a sickly drunk. The 15-minute ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ s they would do were fantastic. And tho I love Cippolina, I always preferred Jerry’s fiery work on “Edward”

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