Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: jerry garcia (page 2 of 123)

Play It, Fats

Everyone who thought Fats Domino died years ago raise your hand in the Comment Section.

Uncontrollable Pianist

I didn’t know you played the piano, Mr. Davis.

“You a dumb motherfucker, motherfucker.”

I know.

“I’m a trained fucking musician. Not one of those little pop stars learned how to play guitar from the fucking radio. I went to fucking Julliard. Course I know how to play the fucking piano. I can play just about everything.”

Why didn’t you ever make a record where you played all the instruments? Like Prince used to do?

“Too much fucking work.”

Sure. Who were some of your favorite piano players?

“Ahmad Jamal could play some shit. Make your dick stand up. Monk. I liked listening to Monk more than playing with him. You’d be soloing and he’d comp under you with those weird fucking chords God gave him. Monk thought that shit was funny. It was. I laughed when he did it to other people. Not when he did it to me. Bill Evans. Quiet little motherfucker. I liked that about him. Most piano players got fucking opinions. Bill shut the fuck up. Made his playing better in my opinion.”

Did you ever play with James Booker?

“What, you think all black people know each other?”

No, I think all musical geniuses know each other.

“Well fucking played.”

Thank you, sir.

“Yeah, I knew him. I hired that crazy n—-r.”

I am begging you not to use that word.

“You want me to talk about James fucking Booker without saying ‘crazy n—-r?’ That’s what the motherfucker was. If James Booker wasn’t a crazy n—-r, then there ain’t no such thing.”

I would be fine with that. Wait. You hired him?

“Yeah. ’72. Got rid of Herbie and Keith. Needed a new piano player. Heard this cat and his sound. I was interested. Booked him for a weekend to try him out. Club up in Boston, nice place, treat me with respect. Motherfucker misses six planes in a row. Anybody can miss a plane. Takes a special motherfucker to miss six. Finally gets here. Calls from the airport. I send someone to get him. He ain’t there. Motherfucker took a bus hostage.”

How do you take a bus hostage?

“How the fuck should I know? Maybe like in that movie with the motherfucker and the bitch and the bus.”


“You starting to understand me. That’s good. I like that.”

What happened next?

“I go down to pick him up at the police station. He accuses me of being CIA.”

What did you do?

“Slapped him like a bitch.”

Not a shock.

“Police was cheering me on. I throw his wig on him, put him in the car, get him loaded, and we make the date on time.”

How’d it go?

“He lasted twenty minutes.”


“I call off Honky Tonk. Band starts to play, but this motherfucker goes into Goodnight Irene. Starts singing. I don’t know where the fuck he got a mic. I got two guitar players, a bass player, a drummer, a percussion man, and two horns in my band. This motherfucker’s playing more than all of us put together. No room for anything else.”

James tended to do that.

“Then he took his dick out and put it on the conga drum.”

Oh no.

“Goes back to the piano and plays some more. He ain’t listening to me. I was getting angry. Then he starts making homosexual advances at a waiter. Asking to see the waiter’s butthole.”

“Aw, man, you hired that crazy bastard, too?”

“Too? Why didn’t you warn me, you Mexican motherfucker?”

“You hired him three years before I did.”

“Motherfucker, we both got time machines.”

“Oh, yeah. Oops.”

Dead And Gone, I May Be Dead And Gone

A little more Jerry Band featuring James Booker. This is from the (short) rehearsal a day or two before the weekend shows. The mix is more helpful on this one, especially through headphones–Garcia is panned hard right and Booker’s all the way on the left–but holy shit it does not work. The sound is beautiful but doomed, like a supermodel falling down an elevator shaft.

Also: James Booker may or may not know he is at a rehearsal, as he appears to address an imaginary audience several times.

Always A Dead Connection

Like so many other things, this was John Kahn’s fault. You will recall that in October of ’74, the Grateful Dead pulled the ol’ “fake retirement” trick–one of the hoariest gimmicks in show biz–and now Garcia had no touring money coming in. This is suboptimal for a man with three children and a mortgage, and so Garcia ramped up the Jerry Band. Whereas before, he stuck mostly to the Bay Area and played with locals, now he would take to the road and get some of that sweet, sweet East Coast cash. Those coffers ain’t gonna replenish themselves.

First, he put together the Legion of Mary–his best solo band, hands down–which was Kahn on bass (of course), Merl Saunders on organ and terrible vocals, Martin Fierro on out-of-tune saxophone, and the Greatest Drummer of All Timeā„¢ Ronnie Tutt. Sadly, this combo proved short-lived; Garcia fired Saunders and Fierro (not personally, of course; he let Parish make the calls) and added legendary British pianist Nicky Hopkins. Those big, brutish block chords in Sympathy for the Devil? That was Nicky.

But Nicky wasn’t a road dog like Garcia was: he was unhealthy since he was a kid, and he drank too damn much. He was a chatty drunk, too, and would introduce songs for ten minutes. Plus, according to Ronnie Tutt, he had bad time. (What Ronnie Tutt thought of Garcia’s time, he has kept to himself all these years.) A new keyboardist was needed. Someone reliable, professional, a real team player.

So Garcia hired an insane junkie.

James Booker’s tenure with the Jerry Band lasted a weekend, which makes him the Anthony Scaramucci of the JGB. Quite frankly, I can’t believe Garcia kept him on for the second night. Go listen to the show. Booker overpowers Garcia, and Kahn, with the deluge of music coming from his piano and, even more hilariously, refuses to listen to Garcia in the slightest. Booker cuts off his solos, goes into verses when Garcia starts singing the chorus, and at least once takes over the lead vocal halfway through the song. Also: the tunes end when James Booker says they end, and that’s it. (Every song. Every single song ends with Garcia trying to finish up the song but Booker keeps playing, or he’ll just ripcord out of the song while Garcia is soloing away merrily in the background.)

Was he amused? Pissed? I bet Garcia was pissed. I’ll bet his eyes got darker and darker throughout the evening, and that he made fun of Kahn for the suggestion for years afterwards.

Anyway, this is the 1/9/76 show. There was a second show the following night, and then James Booker was bundled back onto a plane bound for New Orleans. Garcia called up Keith and Mrs. Donna Jean and never hired any geniuses ever again.

Hard Box

What do you like better? Smoking or–


You didn’t hear the options.

“It doesn’t matter, man. Can’t beat cigarettes.”

When did you start?


What? That’s absurd.

“I was six in 1948, man. It was a different time. Kids could smoke. Shit, you got drafted at age ten back then.”

No, you didn’t.

“Most of the Korean War was fought with pre-teens, man.”

Not true.

“I looked older than my age back then, though.”


“Yeah. I think it was the beard.”

Might have been. Garcia?


You’re sitting on a box marked “fragile.”

“I was feeling kind of fragile today, man.”


One Of These Men Is Dead, And Yet We Are Informed That There Is A God

Psst. Hey. Garcia. Psst.

“Don’t psst at me, man.”

You gotta do me a favor.

“I really don’t.”

Please do me a favor?

“What, man?”

Keep that chick away from Harvey.

“I was planning on it. You see this look she’s giving me?”

That’s the look.

“That’s the look of love.”

Wasn’t that fun?



Garcia wore the fuck out of that turtleneck in late ’73.


I just broke the internet.

I Spy With My Little Eye…

  • Classic iPod. (Behind Mrs. Donna Jean.)
  • Amazon Echo. (In between Mrs. Donna Jean and Garcia.)
  • Two iPads. (To the left of Billy and Mickey.)
  • Phil’s booty. (Behind Phil.)
  • Precarious Lee’s handiwork. (Bottom left.)



Is that a humidor?

“On top of the monitor?”


“Nope. Ashes.”

Human ashes?



“Don’t worry about it.”

Is that secure? That angle is rather…



“It’ll be fine.”

Will it?

“Should be.”

Your words don’t fill me with confidence.

“I duct taped it.”

Oh, well, then it’s fine.

“I know.”

I was being sarcastic.

“I know. Don’t care.”

What Does The Vox Say?*

Garcia initially chose the Vox amp, but on the way back to 710 Ashbury, it blew a motivator. “Hey, what are you trying to push on us?” he said to the Jawas. Bobby pointed out that he had worked with the Fender before, and that it was in prime condition.


Insouciant. It means “indifferent,” but it’s French, so it means “indifferent in a sexy way.” That is the fashion in which the woman on the right is carrying her purse. Insouciant.


Is that Mickey’s stupid hat behind the blonde?


Hot Take: Robert Palmer>Steve Winwood.


Best thing Steve Winwood ever did was this:



*I’m sorry.


When A Blind Faith Takes Your Hand

This is either the 23rd or 24th of March, 1968. Traffic was playing at the Fillmore and Winterland that weekend, and they set up their gear for a free show in front of the local hippie-run FM station; Garcia dropped by to jam. (I DARE you to find a sentence more 1960’s than the one I just wrote. I dare you, motherfucker.) Garcia brought Mickey, and Mickey brought his stupid hat.

Anyway, you can go read the story on Hooterollin’ Around. I know it posted it yesterday, but fuck it: I was just that entertained by this well-researched and deeply strange post. Besides the free gigs in front of radio stations, and the famous flatbed truck show during the Haight Street Fair, and the Disneyland gig (!), there was this:

In a better, purer world, the Dead served as Chuck Berry’s backup band those nights. Well, they did for the first night.

A Partial and Loose Timeline of the Weekend the Grateful Dead was Chuck Berry’s Band:

  • A month before the show, Bill Graham hires the Dead for the gig, giving them a list of Chuck’s songs and a pep talk about rehearsing and show biz and then he and Phil started yelling at one another.
  • The Dead do not learn any of the songs.
  • The night of the show, Chuck Berry arrives alone in a rented Cadillac ten minutes before curtain time.
  • Bill Graham pays him in cash.
  • He exits the Cadillac.
  • With five minutes until lights up, half the Dead is almost ready; the rest are missing, too high to function, or wrist-deep in skank.
  • Bill Graham corrals the Grateful Dead, much like a border collie with sheep, but if the sheep were surly and sarcastic.
  • There is a crisis: Billy cannot get his hand out of the skank.
  • The crisis is averted: a sneeze is induced in the skank and everything opens right up.
  • The Dead take their places.
  • Chuck Berry enters.
  • “Why the fuck are there so many people up here?”
  • “Hi, Mr. Berry. I’m Bob.”
  • “Shut the fuck up.”
  • Chuck Berry says “Maybelline in E flat.”
  • The Dead play Johnny B. Goode in G.
  • Chuck Berry calls out “No Particular Place To Go” in A flat.
  • The Dead play Johnny B. Goode in G.
  • This is the point at which the fistfight broke out.
  • The Flaming Groovies were called into service for the second set, and the following two nights.
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