Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Music: Jerry Garcia

Today happens to be the 10th anniversary of the death of one of my favorite musicians. When most people think of Jerry Garcia, they immediately think of the Grateful Dead, and for good reason considering how legendary of a group the Dead was. Rather than contribute yet another Garcia tribute centered around the Dead to the interweb, I've decided to focus on Garcia's musical legacy outside of the Dead, beginning with the pre-Dead era stuff that I'm sure that most people are completely oblivious to.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usPrior to being Jerry Garcia the psychedelic guitarist, he was known as Jerry Garcia, the up-and-coming banjo player. The banjo is an extremely difficult instrument to play and Garcia mastered it early on in his musical journey. One of the groups that he was apart of in the early 1960s was called the Sleepy Hollow Hog Stompers. The following two songs come from a performance of theirs at the Boar's Head Coffeehouse in San Carlos, CA on June 11, 1962.

Sleepy Hollow Hog Stompers - Little Birdie
Sleepy Hollow Hog Stompers - Crow Black Chicken

Even after putting down the banjo and picking up the guitar in order to join the rock world later in the decade, Jerry continued to return to his bluegrass roots at various times during his life. In the early '70s, he was a member of an all-star cast of bluegrass musicians known as Old & In The Way. Jerry played both banjo and guitar for this outfit and was accompanied by David Grisman on mandolin, Vassar Clements on fiddle, Peter Rowan on guitar and John Kahn on bass. Here are a couple of great excerpts from a session of theirs at The Record Plant in Sausalito, CA on March 2, 1973:

Old & In The Way - Going To The Races
Old & In The Way - Old & In The Way Breakdown

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Aside from side projects rooted in bluegrass, Jerry also dabbled with other musical styles that he loved, including jazz, funk and R&B. One of two such groups that he was a part of during the 1970s was known as Legion of Mary. Joined by Merl Saunders on keys and organ, John Kahn on bass, Martin Fierro on sax and Ron Tutt on drums, Legion of Mary was definitely the funkiest band Jerry was ever associated with and gave him the opportunity to experiment with the jazz fusion music that was popular at the time. The first song offered here is an instrumental from an unreleased recording known as "Dick's Gift". The song is called "Finders Keepers", and is some straight up, low down dirty funk! The second song, called "I'll Take A Melody" is from a recording of their show at The Keystone in Berkeley, CA on May 21, 1975.

Legion of Mary - Finders Keepers
Legion of Mary - I'll Take A Melody

Jerry reunited with Merl Saunders and John Kahn in 1979 to form the other jazz group that featured the signature sounds of Jerry's guitar playin'. Known as Reconstruction, this band was often more up-tempo and swingin' than Legion of Mary, kind of like Legion of Mary on speed. The two samples offered below come from their show at The Keystone in Palo Alto, CA on June 22, 1979. The first number is an instrumental cover of the classic Doobie Brothers song "Long Train Running", and the other tune is a cover of Jimmy Cliff's "Strugglin' Man".

Reconstruction - Long Train Running instrumental
Reconstruction - Strugglin' Man

A performance that many Jerry fans and Deadheads are familiar with is one that took place at the Oregon State Prison on May 5, 1982. Featuring Garcia on acoustic guitar and John Kahn on bass, it is a great collection of heart felt songs that I'm sure that the prisoners enjoyed listening to. The sample that I've provided from this performance is a rendition of the Grateful Dead tune called "Ripple", a song with some great and introspective lyrics.

Jerry Garcia - Ripple

Jerry had a close friendship with David Grisman for many years, and the two began performing together again shortly before Jerry's passing. Here's another song from their show at Squaw Valley, CA on August 25, 1991 that I mentioned in my David Grisman post from a couple of months ago. This is another song that was a regular part of the Grateful Dead's repertoire.

Garcia & Grisman - Friend Of The Devil

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Aw, what the hell, I guess I'll post a song by the Grateful Dead too while I'm at it here. This is a song that I've been enjoying a lot lately from their great live double disc album called Europe '72. Jerry's guitar is definitely groovin' heavily on this tune.

ALBUM: Europe '72 (Warner Bros., 1972)
Grateful Dead - Cumberland Blues

If your Jerry Garcia fix is not quite adequate yet, I recommend going over to Diane Warth's great blog called Karmalised, where you'll notice some mp3s for download over on the left margin of the website. One of the songs is a version of "Uncle Sam's Blues" performed by Hot Tuna and the Grateful Dead together.


Blogger born to run said...

if you like the '69 dead, they're releasing a ten cd limited edition set in november of fillmore west shows.

10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lately, Ive really gotten into the Great American String Band, and I absolutely love Old & In The Way. One of the great bluegrass lineups of all time in my opinion.

11:21 PM  
Blogger freeman said...

Thanks for the news born to run. 1968-9 is one of my favorite periods for the Dead.

The Great American String Band is another great group that Jerry was a part of. I don't have access to my entire collection right now, otherwise I would have offered some of them, along with something from Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, Black Mountain Boys, the Jerry Garcia Band, and even some Ornette Coleman with Jerry popping in as a guest performer.

After finishing this post last night, I listened to that Old & In The Way show in it's entirety. It's too bad they didn't stick together longer since that was indeed a stellar group.

1:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:13 PM  
Blogger freeman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Diane Warth said...

Nice tribute, great tunes, and yousendit is a terrific tool. thanks for that, too.


10:54 PM  
Blogger Thomas L. Knapp said...

Cool post ... it doesn't feel like it's been 10 years since Garcia died. Guess I need to dig out "American Beauty" for a listen ... although it would go better with a certain chemical that I don't have on hand at the moment.


12:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Freeman, you can delete the spam comment ... I don't think there's any way to block him or others using Blogger, but if you're diligent about deleting them, the assholes seem to get the message.

12:07 PM  
Blogger freethoughtguy said...

Hmmm ... What do you think of a Jerry Garcia stamp?

Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Bill Haley, Ritchie Valens, Dinah Washington and Otis Redding (among others) have received this honor, so a precedent has been set for American stamps honoring American rock, jazz, and blues musicians.

3:19 PM  

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