Friday, July 22, 2011

Warlocks Resumes, 1965 (pre Grateful Dead Employment)

The back alley behind 536 Bryant Street in Palo Alto in June 2009. On New Year's Eve 1963, Bob Weir heard banjo music coming from Dana Morgan Music at 536 Ramona, and found music teacher Jerry Garcia waiting for his banjo students. They agreed to form a jug band, and the Grateful Dead saga began.
It is an apocryphal rock-and-roll trope that real rockers don't want jobs. Keith Richard, the legend goes, only had non-musical employment once, as a Postal assistant at Christmas one year, and he was fired after three days for keeping a mouse in his pocket. Bruce Springsteen never had a job at all, as far as I know. Sometime in the late 80s, Jerry Garcia was asked in an interview if he was satisfied with his musical career, and whether he had achieved his professional goals, and Jerry said that his goal had been not to have a real job. From that point of view, his membership in the Grateful Dead had made his career a success "so far."

The Grateful Dead were a bunch of misfits, would be outlaws who did not feel comfortable in the paths that the "straight" world would have mapped out for them. The band members were an early wave of post-Beatniks who wanted something different from their life than the proverbial white picket fence and 2.2 children, commuting to the plant or the office 5 days a week. Indeed, with one exception the band members non-musical history only prepared them for being bohemians, so it is fortunate that the 60s came along when they did. This post will consider the educational and professional activities of the original members of the Grateful Dead prior to the formation of the Warlocks in May, 1965. It will not be a long post.

Jerry Garcia: Garcia had attended Balboa High School in San Francisco, but he dropped out around the 11th grade. After getting into some kind of scrape in 1959, a judge offered him the opportunity to join the Army instead of jail--a common enough choice at the time--and the 17-year old Jerry took the Army. Ironically, he was assigned to a base in San Francisco (at The Presidio), so opportunities to go AWOL were many and tempting. Garcia did discover country music in the Army. If he had been sent to a base in the South, he might have been a better soldier and learned about bluegrass more quickly, but it was not to be. Garcia was given a less-than-honorable discharge, but not a dishorable one (I think it was a General Discharge) in 1960. Not having an Honorable Discharge was a barrier to success in the early 1960s, when many males had served in the Armed Forces.

After his debut with Army buddy Robert Hunter as "Bob and Jerry" at Peninsula School, for which they were paid 5 dollars, Garcia played around folk clubs in various combinations. He did not earn a living from playing live music, or even much money, but he was actually paid. He also occasionally played electric bass with a band called The Zodiacs, who played Stanford Frat parties and the like. Bill Kreutzmann and Pigpen were occasional members of The Zodiacs as well.

Garcia also had a job of sorts doing the lighting at a Palo Alto theater group called Commedia Del Arte, around 1962. I think they were on Emerson Street (possibly on the site of the Aquarius Theater). I'm not sure Garcia actually got paid to do the lights, but he could have put it on his resume.

Garcia's principal source of income was as a music teacher at Dana Morgan Music on 536 Ramona Street in Palo Alto. Garcia gave guitar and banjo lessons to aspiring musicians, mostly teenagers, and probably taught mandolin and fiddle as well. Many people in the Palo Alto/Menlo Park area proudly recall that Garcia taught them guitar. The whole Grateful Dead saga began on New Years Eve 1963, when Bob Weir heard banjo music coming from the back of Dana Morgan's. Garcia was practicing, wondering why none of his students were showing up. Garcia told young Bobby that he was planning to form a jug band, and Weir said "I'm in," and so the story began.

In mid-1965, Garcia and Weir had borrowed equipment from Dana Morgan Music to start the Warlocks. When they pushed aside Dana Morgan Jr, the owner's son, as bassist, in favor of Phil Lesh, Morgan Sr demanded his instruments back and effectively fired Garcia and Weir (who by this time was a music teacher as well). Garcia and Weir moved their students over to Guitars Unlimited on El Camino Real in Menlo Park, and borrowed more equipment. When Garcia and Weir actually gave their final guitar lessons at Guitars Unlimited is unclear--probably late 1965.

Bob Weir: Bob Weir attended various High Schools, but did not graduate from any. I think he briefly attended Menlo-Atherton High School, and some private schools, but I'm not sure where. He seems to have met John Barlow in Prep School in the East. I have been told that his mother asked the future founder of Pacific Free High School (too long a story to go into) to "get him to stop playing that guitar and get him into something that will make him some money," but that did not happen.

When Jerry Garcia made his famous trip across country with Sandy Rothman in 1964, Weir apparently took over his students for a few months. Weir remained at Dana Morgan's, and moved on to Guitars Unlimited. Music Teaching music was (and is) a sort of freelance occupation, and fewer people claim Weir as a teacher than Garcia in the Bay Area.

Weir's only professional pre-Warlocks performances were with Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Band Champions, and it is debatable whether they actually got paid.

An ad for Swain's House Of Music at 451 University in downtown Palo Alto. The ad is from the March 7, 1967 issue of the Cubberley High School paper, The Catamount.
Bill Kreutzmann: Bill Kreutzmann actually graduated from Palo Alto High School in 1965. By that time, he was married and had a child, so while he was able to avoid the draft (as sole support of his family), college was seemingly out of the question. During High School, Kreutzmann had played drums with a pretty successful Palo Alto band called The Legends. The Legends played "R&B," which at the time meant mixing James Brown songs with rock songs, and sometimes played for racially mixed audiences in East Palo Alto as well as the Stanford fraternity circuit. Kreutzmann occasionally filled in as drummer for The Zodiacs.

Kreutzmann also gave drum lessons at Swain's House Of Music, a competitor of Dana Morgan's. Swain's was at 451 University (near Waverley) just a few blocks over from Dana Morgan's.

Ron "Pigpen" McKernan: Pigpen had been expelled from Palo Alto High School in 1964 or '65, for some transgression or series of transgressions. Pigpen apparently had a job as a janitor at Swain's, but he did not give music lessons.

Phil Lesh: Unlike the other Warlocks, Phil Lesh bordered on the respectable. He had graduated from Berkeley High School in 1958, and attended the College Of San Mateo. CSM was a junior college with an excellent music program that included an excellent big band. Lesh played trumpet in the CSM band (Santana's Mike Shrieve was the CSM big band drummer some years later). Ultimately Lesh transferred to UC Berkeley in about 1961. Although University of California admissions were structured to favor California residents and junior college transfers, the fact that Lesh got into UC Berkeley means he had to have been a diligent and successful student. Lesh met Tom Constanten at Berkeley, and the two of them also studied with Luciano Berio at Mills College in Oakland The connection to Mills was probably through the UC music program (although Mills is a Woman's College, male students are admitted to its graduate programs, and there has always been reciprocity between UC and Mills classes). Phil also did some work at KPFA in Berkeley, which (similar to Jerry's stint as a lighting director) would not have been paid, but would have counted as work experience.

Phil dropped out of UC Berkeley about 1962. Unlike the other Warlocks, he had a variety of actual jobs. He worked at a Casino in Las Vegas with Constanten, and he drove a Post Office truck as well. Lesh has recalled hearing "Subterranean Homesick Blues" while driving the truck. Although the USPS was a "straight" job that required a uniform, many beatnik-types liked the work since it often involved being on your own most of the day, and Phil seems to have been no exception. Lesh, to my knowledge, never received a dime for a musical performance prior to performing with the Warlocks at Magoo's Pizza in Menlo Park. He had performed with school jazz ensembles, but those were not (by definition) paying gigs.

The Pacific Coast Stock Exchange building at 300 Pine St in San Francisco. Phil Lesh worked there briefly in the early 1960s as a board marker for Dean Witter.
While dropping out of UC Berkeley made Lesh a "dropout" along with the rest of the Warlocks, he was the only band member to have had to consciously avoid the middle class. Phil has occasionally alluded to various jobs he held between 1958 and 1965 in one interview or another. For a variety of reasons, Phil's most interesting brush with another path was alluded to in an extensive interview with Blair Jackson in The Golden Road. Phil said that through his father he got a job as a "board marker" for Dean Witter at the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange.

A board marker put up qoutes for the stock trading on the floor of the old P-Coast (board markers were the equities equivalents of MQTOs, for those readers for whom that has meaning). Working on the trading floor, Phil would have had to have worn a tie, thus being the only member of the Dead to have had to worn a tie for employment. Phil's presence on the P-Coast was fascinating to me personally, because at the time I read the interview, I too was working on the Pacific Stock Exchange, albeit on the infinitely more exciting Options Floor around the block.

The P-Coast Equities Floor in the early 1960s had a reputation as a stifling place. When I told my options compatriots that Phil Lesh had apparently worked on the Equities Floor twenty-odd years earlier, their attitude was that it was no surprise that he left, the implication being that if Phil had worked on the Options Floor (which opened only in 1976) he might have stayed. While that is unlikely on the face of it, the Equities Floor had its roots in the 19th Century and showed it, so it's no surprise that Phil found it unrewarding. If he had discovered all the risk and reward of options trading, maybe David Freiberg would have ended up as the Warlocks bass player. To answer the question no doubt foremost in everybody's mind, I think Phil would have been a frontspreader rather than a backspreader.

Even in the mid 1980s, I knew some old Equities brokers who had come over to the brave new world of Options. Of course none of them would have remembered the name of any board marker, ever, much less one who only worked there briefly, so it was futile to ask. There were probably a bunch of skinny kids in ties and ill-fitting jackets, many with glasses, and to think that just a few years later one of them would be headlining major performances under strange psychedelic conditions was too much to comprehend. Of course, the old Pacific Coast Stock Exchange building is now an Equinox Fitness Club, and that too was impossible to imagine at the time. Sic Transit Gloria Psychedelia.


  1. As the oldest of the Dead, Phil had by far the most college & work experience - in fact, he was the only member with any such experience! (None of the others got past high school, or had any regular job outside music stores that I know of.)

    Phil mentioned in his book that he considered joining the army after dropping out of SF State in '57 (as a way of playing trumpet in the army band!), but was rejected.
    When he went to college in San Mateo in '58, he got a part-time job at the college library evaluating the condition of their music important experience for him!

    Around '59, he says, "I had to leave school after the semester was finished. There was no money, and I didn't have a job for that summer." So Phil tried hitchhiking to Calgary to find work in the oil fields (!) - he rode a boxcar as far as Spokane ("one of the great experiences of my life"), but his contact fell through & he had to return home. His parents "made me get a job in a bank, and I worked there just long enough for school to be starting again in San Mateo." (He managed to graduate in 1960.)

    Later, when he was at UC Berkeley in fall '61: "My main source of support was still my parents, but stockbrokers Dean Witter & Co had also hired me as a board marker. My job was to read the ticker tape of transactions from the NY Stock Exchange and post the fluctuating prices on a blackboard for the 6 hours or so the market was open each day. Talk about dark Satanic mills!"
    In an interview: "I got a job as board marker at the Dean Witter office, before they had computerized boards. I had to be there at 5:30 in the morning, and my job was to keep the brokers up to date. I read the ticker tape & wrote it down. I did that for the whole school year."
    In his book he admits, "At least I was done early, I didn't have to attend many morning classes, and I still had time to volunteer at KPFA, the local public radio station."
    Phil's work at KPFA is also important, as it gave him some experience with studio engineering - the next year he also "served as sound mixer for Mills College performances of the newest electronic music." Also, as the engineer for the Midnight Special folk show, he got to be the first person to record Garcia, for one of the shows sometime in '62 (although I don't know if the tape survives).

    Phil quickly dropped out of Berkeley in late '61 (he called it "bullshit"), but due to TC's pull was able to audit Luciano Berio's grad-level composition class at Mills College in spring '62.

    Around summer '62, Phil went to Las Vegas to stay with TC and work in a hotel where TC's father worked (the idea was to get money to go to Europe & study with Berio), but that fell through.
    Phil tells us, "After some weeks of increasingly fruitless job-hunting, I was forced to admit that I had no practical skills whatsoever, having failed to secure employment at various local industrial firms." (He even tried applying at a nuclear test site where he'd have to hitchhike 70 miles to work!)

    It was at that point that he applied at the Las Vegas post office. "I stayed in Vegas ten months, working for the post office until the last 2 or 3 months."
    "After working through the fall at the post office, I got bored and switched jobs, becoming a keno teller at the Frontier Casino... I worked the graveyard shift six nights a week." [In an interview he says it was at the Horseshoe Club.]
    Phil was once asked, "What's the worst job you ever had?" He replied: "A keno dealer at a casino in Las Vegas. That was soul-destroying. I lasted three months."
    Eventually he was laid off: "Because the management wasn't doing so well. At least that's what they said - maybe I wasn't doing my job well. I don't know to this day: how do you do a bad job as a keno marker?"


  2. In mid-'63, sick of Las Vegas, he moved back to SF: "I had once again landed a part-time job at the post office, this time as a driver - my duty was to collect the rush-hour end-of-business mail from all the drop boxes up & down Market Street, with a detour up Van Ness."
    He mentions late '63 as a low point in his life: "I was 24 years old, a college dropout with no girlfriend, working at a nowhere job, not making music of any kind."
    For a brief time in '64 he provided incidental music for the Mime Troupe in SF. (He also found his girlfriend Ruth, who stayed with him into the early Dead days.)
    Apparently, if his dates are right, he worked at the post office for over a year - he mentions listening to Subterranean Homesick Blues in the post office truck, and that was released in March '65. (He also met Danny Rifkin, future Dead manager, who was also working at the post office.)
    Shortly afterward, he was dismissed from the post office for being unkempt & long-haired... "The rest of that spring I spent sitting around, letting my hair grow, taking acid, fuckin' off, having fun, and being supported by my girlfriend."
    Fortunately, he went to see the Warlocks not long afterward...

    BTW, you mentioned Blair Jackson interviewing Phil for Golden Road, but I think you mean David Gans' interview with Phil for Musician in '81?
    It's amusing because he keeps referring to his parents' dismay at all this! "They wanted me to have a profession...they wanted me to have something to fall back on in case music disappeared."

  3. As for Jerry, his story was very different - as a guitar player, he was able to make some money playing in folk clubs. He also actively avoided getting any kind of job, so qualifies as the most "bohemian" of the Dead. Apparently, in the early '60s he mainly lived by bumming off friends and stealing food!

    Teaching guitar seems to have been a desperate move for him - it started in summer '63 after he married Sara, and she was apparently on his case about making a living & supporting the family. (Their marriage was apparently not an easy one, and definitely was second-place in Garcia's interests next to doing bluegrass gigs!)
    From various stories, it sounds like Garcia was not so keen on teaching, and was ever-ready to drop scheduled classes or hand off his students to other teachers! (Phil tells one story about how during one class, Jerry "excused himself to use the restroom, climbed out the window, and never returned"!)

    In March '61, per McNally, "Garcia volunteered as a lighting technician for a production of Damn Yankees." This sounds like it was an informal deal for a friend, and Garcia seems not to have had any involvement in theater afterwards.

    In August '64, Garcia had another interesting experience - one of his fellow musicians was in contact with Lenny Bruce's lawyer. Bruce needed transcripts of his shows to use in court cases, and somehow Garcia's name came up as the ideal person to transcribe Bruce's shows.
    Garcia found it a memorable experience: "He had a shorthand way of talking when he was mumbling like a speed freak, but it was real content... I learned so much, it was incredible. What a mind. He'd thumb through a magazine and riff. I'd find the article [and] he could condense all the key stuff... It would be a mumble in seven syllables, but it had bits & pieces of everything in the article."

  4. As for the others -

    According to Weir, "Pigpen and I swept up in the music shop... Pigpen would work at the music store because he could hang out with musicians, but basically he didn't want to work any more than he absolutely had to." At that time Pigpen was still living with his parents.

    Kreutzmann (like Garcia) had a wife & kid. Per McNally, "He worked in a a wig shop and taught drumming at Morgan's and sometimes at people's homes, with Brenda and Stacey waiting in the car." (Lesh confirms, "He supported them by selling wigs by day and teaching drums at night at Dana Morgan's.")
    McNally notes that in '65 Kreutzmann was still "a senior at Palo Alto High because he'd stayed back a year... Since Brenda was legally an adult because she'd graduated from high school, she was able to sign for Bill's absences from school." But it seems he did graduate, just as the Warlocks got started.

    According to Weir, "At the tender age of 15 I ran away from home, got a job on a ranch... Being a cowboy was most like work." (It was actually John Barlow's family ranch in Wyoming.)
    In '64, "I was lucky enough to get a job teaching beginning & intermediate students on the guitar...I was actually pretty good at it. I was good at working with kids." When Garcia left, Weir took on some of his students.
    One student, though, tells this story: "Weir came and subbed for Jerry during a lesson once. He didn't seem like a man to me... He wanted to show me some electric stuff. That was not what I wanted to learn... He said, 'Well, what are you doing?' I played Spike Driver Blues by Mississippi John Hurt. He just flipped - 'Wow, man, how do you do that?' He wanted me to show it to him... 'So what else is Jerry showing you?' Of course I was disappointed - I'd come to learn, not to show... Then I stopped taking lessons for a month until Jerry came back."

    When the Warlocks started, Weir was still in high school, due to constantly being kicked out of schools. (His main curricula was getting into trouble, "playing guitar and chasing chicks." Lesh says he was dismissed from Menlo-Atherton for "an irreverent attitude.")
    Lesh's book has a funny section where Weir's parents insist that he can stay in the band only if he finishes his senior year at Drew High School. "For the first few months of the year...he actually got to school, if only to catch up on sleep, and did fairly well for someone who was playing in clubs until 3:00 a.m."
    Eventually Weir dropped out, though, as his parents seem to have accepted the inevitable. Interestingly, a couple of important characters in the Dead story (Bob Matthews and Sue Swanson at Menlo-Atherton High in '64/65, and earlier John Barlow at Fountain Valley school in Colorado) were his classmates in high school - so Weir's schooldays did turn out to be significant for Dead history!

  5. A couple minor additions...

    Garcia's brief stint in theater lighting at the Commedia Del Arte theater in March '61 was actually an important moment in Dead history as well, because it was there that he met Robert Hunter.

    Also, I tried looking up a bit more about Ruth, Phil's gal in '64/65 - he calls her "extraordinarily supportive" and she does have a small role in Dead history too - she bought Phil's first bass for him (since he was, after all, unemployed at the time), and it was also her dictionary where Garcia found the words "Grateful Dead" in Nov '65.
    Nonetheless, at the Muir Beach Acid Test the next month, Phil met a new girl (Rosie), and took up with her immediately. (Maybe not coincidentally, it was also during the Acid Tests that Garcia's wife Sara finally split with him.)

  6. And a few final comments for today....

    Though the Dead were a bunch of misfits, they were at different degrees of misfitness!

    As far as the conventional world, Phil had aimed the highest and fell the lowest - he was unable to finish college, keep any job for long or even find one he was interested in, his composing dreams died, and he couldn't even get work as a musician. In straight terms (and perhaps his own), he was a failure.
    So it's little wonder he eagerly accepted an offer to play bass for a new pizza-joint rock band!
    Marshall Leicester has a different view of the early Warlocks days than is usually told: "I especially remember Lesh as being the decisive force in...the moves that got Dana Morgan out of the band. That was the moment at which something was...being done as a concession to grown-up bourgeois life and the need to make money and...the possibility of making it something greater... Some of us chicken bourgeois types were afraid Jerry'd lose his job at Morgan's by firing his boss's son. But Lesh was adamant about that. I think some of us went to Phil at one point and said, 'Would you back off a little? We're worried about whether Jerry's going to be able to survive.' And Lesh said, 'No way. I've waited too long for this.' Phil was really ambitious and could be really hard-nosed."

    Jerry himself had coasted along the bohemian margins for a few years by that point - though his bluegrass ambitions were dashed, he had succeeded in not getting a real job, and was able to find numerous little gigs in a series of bands. So you might say he'd already found his niche - the Warlocks at first must have seemed like a temporary way to have fun with friends, much like the jug-band.

    Bill Kreutzmann was easily the most "normal" of the bunch, graduating school & holding down a job & supporting a family - he wasn't in Jerry's social circle, just a nearby available drummer with experience. Phil called him "Captain Straight," and Jerry considered him "weird," until eventually a more pranksterish Bill started to emerge over time.
    Fittingly, Bill remained the most financially keen among the Dead - he was sort of their de facto business manager in the Warlocks days (along with driving their equipment to gigs in his car).
    Rock Scully said, "Every band has an internal manager, and before Danny [Rifkin] and I came along, it was Kreutzmann. He made the deals for the Warlocks, and dealt with club owners even though he was under 21. Even after we came into the picture, Billy keeps his hand in on the business end. He always signs the checks, always has his eye on the lookout for what could be."

    Pigpen was the misfit among misfits - not even bothering to fit into the straight world, one can hardly imagine him filling out a resume! His only discernible ambition was to hang out in blues clubs and get drunk. John Dawson said, "Pigpen was the real beatnik. Everybody else was imitation beatniks."
    But the situation flipped once the Warlocks started - there, Pigpen was not only in his element, but of necessity a band-leader.
    Rock Scully pointed out that when the Warlocks formed, they had to learn a new repertoire from scratch, and most of it was Pigpen's songs. "Most of the folky Mother McCree tunes get thrown out except for the Pigpen stuff, the traditional blues... Pig also brings the needed momentum of R&B to the repertoire. In the earliest incarnation of the band, Pigpen played a large role because he was the one with the most musical knowledge. He was the Grateful Dead, according to Garcia, according to me. I mean, four sets a night in bars! Who else in the band was going to do it? Pigpen had all that stuff down. In a pizza bar they don't want to hear a whole set of bluegrass & folk ballads - they want something that's jumping. The Dead have to get tight fast...Pigpen is turning them on to records as fast as he can."

  7. LIA, thanks for the fantastic comments and quotes. I'm not sure which interview of Phil's I read back in the day. I was convinced that he said that he worked at the Pacific Stock Exchange, but I don't know where Dean Witter's "main office" might have been, or what he meant by that.

  8. Phil just vaguely says "office" in this interview - for instance, he says in early '62 "I still had a job, doing the same thing I'd done in San Mateo... Every day, up early and down to the stockbroker's office. But that left me free from 12:30 on, cause that's when the market closes in New York."
    He might've been more specific in another interview...

    Looking back, I see I neglected another entry on Phil's resume!
    "My first summer [at San Mateo] I got a job at a resort run by a couple of Nazis from Argentina [a husband & wife team]. I lasted a week; I happened to drop a tray of glasses right in front of the woman, and she fired me on the spot."

    It's also occurred to me that the one reason we know about Garcia's brief stint as a theater lighting tech in '61 is because he met Robert Hunter there. He may have had all kinds of temporary little gigs in those years that have been forgotten. As much as Phil, Garcia was certainly able to "pass" in the straight world, when he wanted to.

  9. This was a FANTASTIC post, and I include the comments in this. Really enjoyable.

    I get the impression that this annex-of-a-blog is a little off the beaten track, but it's got the right dosage of OCD-ness to really appeal to me. (I'm the guy who was born in Ireland while the original line-up of the New Riders were playing with David LaFlamme among haybales at the Family Dog, and who searched in vain for years until your research threw up this important fact).

    Best regards.

  10. Rob, thanks so much for the kind words, although frankly LIA's comments make an even better post than mine.

    You've certainly assessed this blog correctly--it's an annex, no research (I will fact check), just odd little musings about some things I run across in my research. I'm glad someone appreciates it for what it is. Born-In-Irleand-During-An-NRPS show seems like a perfect description of the "target" audience of this funny little enterprise. Nice to have you on board.

  11. I have a couple more additions! Important ones, too... has a new "Celebrating Jerry" clip that's a little conversation with Jerry from 1974. He talks a little about his pre-Dead days:
    "I’d scuffle, I’d hustle, I’d scam. I didn’t want to work, I didn’t want to have a job, didn’t want to live that life, and I didn’t care what I did in order to not have to do it... I never felt pressed by that. I’d sleep in the bus depot, theater lobbies behind the ticket booth. I didn't give a fuck - I got into all those trips, because I didn’t want to make myself into somebody..."

    Aside from being quite a statement of Jerry's philosophy in itself, this opens up the possibility that Jerry was volunteering as lighting tech at a theater in 1961 in return for being able to sleep there!

    We know that at that point, Jerry was living in his car - so sleeping in a theater lobby would actually have been a step up in comfort. When he met Hunter, the two of them would hang out in his car in a parking lot, eating purloined pineapple from tin cans....
    It's not often realized just how down & out Jerry was in that post-Army period, but he often remembered those days with fondness.

  12. As for Bob Weir, it turns out he was actually in a band before Mother McCree's, in fall 1963.
    "I had a four-man group that wasn't much of a band. We performed, I think, once. We called ourselves the Uncalled Four. I was going to Pacific High School then, and I actually met Garcia for the first time that night backstage at the Tangent. It was a real brief thing."

    McNally mentions the performance - they played 2 or 3 folk tunes including Banks of the Ohio. Weir was scared stiff, and his main memory of the show was dropping his pick on the floor. The other band members were Debbie Peckham, Rachel Garbet, and Michael Wanger. (Peckham was then Weir's girlfriend. Wanger appears later in Dead history - he made the important radio documentary on the Dead in 1969, using a Mother McCree tape his brother had made at the Tangent in 1964. And I believe it was Rachel's brother Michael who found an old stash of Bluebird 78s that Mother McCree's mined for rare tunes.)

    According to Weir, "I didn't really meet Garcia on concrete terms until two months later on New Year's Eve. I was walking past the back of Dana Morgan Music [with a friend] and heard banjo music coming from the inside. The light was on, so we knocked on the door to see what was happening, and it was Garcia waiting for his students to show up, so he was just playing banjo. We talked for a while and then broke into the front of the store and got a bunch of instruments out and played for the rest of the evening. I think it had occurred to us by the end of the night that there was enough amateur talent around to start a jug band..."

    It's striking, though, that the first time they met was at the one-and-only performance of the Uncalled Four... I wonder whether Garcia was waiting backstage at the Tangent to go on with one of his bands (at that time, the Black Mountain Boys), or if he just always hung out at the Tangent.

    At that time, Garcia was actually becoming somewhat musically ambitious. He asked the Tangent's owners if they might become managers for the Black Mountain Boys and cut a record (they replied that it wasn't commercial enough) - in November the Boys tried to hook up with a promoter who would take them on tour - and in December Garcia's outfit opened for Bill Monroe & the Kentucky Colonels at the Ash Grove.
    Though Garcia would keep playing in various bluegrass groups through '64 along with the jug-band, eventually he realized that it was a dead end for him, with local bluegrass opportunities very limited.

    So I don't think it's really been pointed out that when the Warlocks started, both Garcia & Lesh were kind of at the end of their rope within their chosen fields (composing or bluegrass). Though the Warlocks may have been intended mainly as a "fun" experiment, I think there was definitely a frustrated ambition within these two guys that was let out when they saw they could become successful in a new musical field.
    The band that kicked out Dana Morgan Jr, rehearsed every day even when there were no gigs, sought a booking agent to get them work in clubs, headed up to San Francisco to join the scene there, changed their name, and recorded a demo for Autumn Records in hopes of getting a record deal, had a lot more ambition than is usually mentioned. It seems Garcia was finally trying "to make himself into somebody..."

  13. Garcia's need to sleep somewhere is a critical point. Kreutzmann had a wife, Weir and Pig were teenagers with parents, Lesh had a girlfriend and was at least on good terms with his parents, but Jerry was just adrift. Garcia got married in '63, true, but when he was of the age of Kreutzmann and Weir he was just drifting.

    You make a very good point that despite their bohemianism, the members of the Warlocks were very driven and ambitious, even if on a peculiar Blackbeard-The-Pirate kind of path.

  14. Rachel Garbett's name is spelled with two t's (Garbett not Garbet). I'm fairly certain her mother was my first grade teacher.

  15. You're right, it's two t's! (McNally got it wrong...he's often sketchy on details...)

    Mike Wanger has more memories of the Uncalled Four:
    "I met Bob Weir when we were freshmen in high school in the fall of 1961. Each school day began with an assembly in which we were seated, by class, in alphabetical order, so I was placed next to Bob. We soon discovered a mutual interest in guitar playing and folk music, and our time together centered around making music. Bob was the first person I'd ever seen wrap his thumb around the top of the guitar neck to fret the sixth string.
    Bob bounced around to a few other schools, but we continued to play together whenever possible. For a while, he went to a "free school" where attending class was an option. He met a beautiful blonde there named Debby Peckham, who was a dynamite guitar player, and Bob spent most of his school hours improving his guitar skills by playing with Debby. He got really good during that time.

    Almost every weekend I would go to the Tangent, sit close to the stage, watch the musicians' fretting hand, and then go home and play until I'd learned as much as I could remember. After school, I would get together with Bob and other friends to play music and exchange guitar licks that we had learned or figured out....

    In the fall of '63, Bob Weir asked me to join a band he was forming with Debby Peckham and Rachel Garbett. He and Debby played guitar, Rachel played autoharp, and, since we were all into bluegrass music, they needed someone who could play Scruggs-style banjo. I barely knew the rudiments, but it was better than no banjo at all. We had a great time working up arrangements to old-timey stuff that we found on a popular album, "Dián and the Greenbriar Boys." We performed only once at Top of the Tangent. It was Open Mic, or Hoot Night, and, as I recall, we played "Sally Let Your Bangs Hang Down," "Alabama Bound," "Green Corn," and "Brown's Ferry Blues."

    - from (which also has some memories of Jerry as a banjo player, "the best bluegrass banjo player in Palo Alto")

    There's also some more interesting details in this discussion on the Well, confirming that Mike & Rachel Garbett were siblings who were both into playing old-time music with Weir (Mike was in McCree's) -
    It's also interesting to note that Garcia was older & more experienced than others in his social scene, so he would already have been used to people looking up to him... (It seems typical that he was older by several years than the rest of the Warlocks, save Phil.)
    Also, note that by '63 living with Sara, Garcia actually had a GARAGE to practice in! I'd bet it's no coincidence that, once he was "settled" with a house, he started to get a lot more focused on a music career...

  16. A couple more Garcia tidbits!

    David McQueen, a Palo Alto friend of Garcia's, said: "I used to do yardwork for extra spending money. I knew Jerry was broke and I enjoyed his playing at Kepler's, so we'd go on these yard jobs so he could earn money for cigs. It was fun for both of us...I said he was lousy at yard work."
    This would have been around '61. I wonder if any Palo Alto natives later remembered the Grateful Dead guitar-player as someone who'd worked on their lawn years earlier?...

    It's also worth mentioning that music was not Garcia's only interest. He had casually attended the California School of Fine Arts and studied painting, and up until 1961 was uncertain as to whether he'd be a painter or a musician. As he later said:
    "I hadn't decided I was really going to play music. I was still oscillating between the art world and music. I wasn't committed."
    "I wasn't really going anywhere special. I wasn't going to art school anymore - I was playing the guitar an awful lot, sitting around and poking around the guitar. But I wasn't thinking about myself as a guitar player, I was still thinking of myself as an artist."
    But a couple things happened in '61 that pushed him more into the music world - first the car crash in which a painter friend of his died, then meeting a couple folk/bluegrass musicians who really interested him.

    Garcia was also a cinephile - I'm not sure how much spare change he dug up for watching movies, but he was interested in the art.
    McNally notes that Sara Garcia was attending film classes at Stanford, and Garcia borrowed an 8mm camera to make home movies. Sandy Troy also said that Garcia would work on the soundtracks for student films at Stanford along with Sara, though I don't know the details.
    So that's another "road not taken," at least until Garcia got the chance to edit the GD movie in the seventies.

    And finally, though in his personal life Garcia could be quite aimless, musicians who knew him were struck by how scholarly & diligent he could be in tracking down song sources.
    David Nelson told the story of how he heard Garcia doing a very rare old song called "Days of '49" and asked where he'd picked it up. Garcia said, "Putnam's Golden Songster, man! You gotta check it out!" Nelson mused, "To this day, I never have found Putnam's Golden Songster..."

    I looked it up myself - and it was actually Put's Golden Songster, published in 1858! (A source also mined by other folk musicians looking for old miners' songs...)

  17. Here's a brief interview from 1995 where Garcia reminisces a bit about the old Palo Alto days - living in a car, getting odd jobs, playing the blues...

  18. LIA, this is a great find. It's a touching moment when Jerry says "maybe you can give me back the 15 minutes just before I die." It's also too bad that he's smoking away, but that's rock and roll, I guess.

  19. Even grim death gargling at the door can't keep Jerry away from his cigs! I think he was rarely spotted without one... He does look rather fragile & aged at this point.
    I'm reminded of an interview from 1986 after the coma which starts with the interviewer asking, "What are you doing to take care of yourself?" and Jerry gleefully replies, "Almost nothing!"

  20. Laird Grant, a friend of Jerry's from their teenage years, remembered some summer work experiences in the '50s:
    "I got Jerry a job one time. We worked picking apricots in the fields down in Santa Clara. We didn't do too good at that, so the guy put us on the cutting trays, and of course we sliced ourselves up pretty good trying to cut apricots and put them on the trays. We also picked beans. We worked for about a week in the fields there. I liked it...[but] after a week of doing that, Jerry went back and said, 'Bullshit. Enough of this stuff, man. This is too weird.'"
    "Jerry used to clean the bar for his mom. That was one of his gigs. He'd bus up the bar on Harrison Street during the morning before she opened." (Greenfield, p.11-13)

    But "work" was rare. Most of Laird's memories of the teenage Jerry involve Jerry being a total juvenile delinquent!