Friday, June 22, 2012

Bob Weir And Kingfish 1984-1987

The 1999 Kingfish album Sundown On The Forest, recorded over many years
After an extended three year run by Bobby And The Midnites, including many live shows and two studio albums, the band ground to a halt at the end of 1984. By this time, it seems that Bob Weir had crossed over, like his bandmate Jerry Garcia, and become a musician who had to be constantly performing. While there may have been an economic motive, since the Dead had not released an album since 1981, and the band's finances were reputedly quite dire, nonetheless in his thirties Weir may have realized he had a chance to tour and perform as much as he wanted to, and he seems to have enjoyed the opportunity.

This post will document Weir's extracurricular activities as a part-time member of Matthew Kelly's band Kingfish, from 1984 through 1987. This is not an exhaustive look at Weir's live performances during this period, nor is it any more than a series of intermittent snapshots of Kingfish during the same timeframe (the numbering system is arbitrary, and exists only to facilitate Comments). Nonetheless, it is an interesting perspective on Weir's activities during that time, when it seemed like the Grateful Dead had sort of peaked and would never get any bigger than they already were. All of my information comes from carefully writing down whatever was announced on the Grateful Dead hotline, supplemented by information from the San Francisco Chronicle or Relix magazine. Some shows or personnel may have been changed at the last minute. Anyone with additional information, insights, corrections or recovered memories (real or imagined) is encouraged to Comment or email me.

Kingfish with Bob Weir #11a (Kingfish Revue)
First show: October 24, 1984 Keystone Palo Alto
Last show: October 26, 1984 The Stone
Garth Webber-lead guitar
Bob Weir-guitar, vocals
Matt Kelly-harmonica-harmonica, guitar, vocals
Rahnie Raines-vocals
Barry Flast-piano, keyboards,vocals
Dave Margen-bass
Dave Perper-drums
Notes: Matt Kelly had reactivated Kingfish, which had only existed intermittently since Weir had departed the band in August of 1976. For the Fall of 1984, the band called themselves 'The Kingfish Revue,' and Weir joined them for two shows in the Bay Area. Kingfish would play a set, and featured some songs by singer Rahnie Raines, Weir would then play a brief solo acoustic set, and then he fronted Kingfish for some classic songs from his previous endeavors with the band. A few other guests showed up, most notably including guitarist George Thorogood one night at the Stone (on October 26).

Garth Webber was an exciting young guitarist, largely unknown during the time that he played with Kingfish. By 1986, however, he had replaced Robben Ford in Miles Davis's group, a clear benediction of his skills. Keyboard player Barry Flast had gone to college at Boston University in the 1960s, and had ended up in the group Tom Swift And The Electric Band. That group (with Billy Squier on guitar) became a sort of 'house band' at Boston's Psychedelic Supermarket, opening for everyone who came through town, including the Grateful Dead. David Margen had been in Santana in the 1970s.

Kingfish with Bob Weir #11b (Kingfish Revue)
First show: December 22, 1984 Keystone Palo Alto
Last show: December 26, 1984 The Stone
Garth Webber-lead guitar
Bob Weir-guitar, vocals
Matt Kelly-harmonica-harmonica, guitar, vocals
Rahnie Raines-vocals
unknown-keyboards, vocals
Dave Margen-bass
Bill Kreutzmann-drums
Notes: For some reason, Barry Flast was apparently not available for these shows, but I'm not sure who filled in on the keyboards (I'm not even sure how I came to know that).  Chris Herold was a guest at the Keystone Palo Alto on December 22. Herold had been the original drummer in Kingfish, and before that in the New Delhi River Band, but he was probably largely retired from music by this time. The most interesting detail about these two Kingfish shows was Bill Kreutzmann's presence on the drums.  

Kingfish #12
First show: January 5, 1985
Last show: February 14, 1985
Garth Webber-lead guitar
Matt Kelly-harmonica-harmonica, guitar, vocals
Barry Flast-piano, keyboards, vocals
Dave Margen-bass
Bill Kreutzmann-drums
plus: Brent Mydland-organ, vocals (Jan 21, 22, 24)
Notes: Kreutzmann's flurry of activity in the mid-80s has always been an indicator to me that members of the Dead were always looking for a little extra cash. I recognize that the occasional gig in Garberville or at a Keystone was often just for a laugh, or to get out of the house. I also understand that musicians often like to play challenging music at times, just because they they need to do it. However, Bill Kreutzmann would not have done a 16-date East Coast tour, playing simple rock and blues with Kingfish in the Winter, unless he needed the cash. I have to assume there was good money in playing the shows, since Brent Mydland must have been flown out for the three dates in late January.

The Winter 1985 Kingfish tour has the unique distinction of being the only Kingfish tour with Grateful Dead members who were not Bob Weir. However, the tour ended with an ugly incident. According to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, Matt Kelly ended up suing Kreutzmann for damages after a violent altercation near the end of the tour. The case was settled, apparently, and the details remain obscure, and probably better left undiscussed. I would note, however, that although Kelly and Weir remain friends and collaborators to this day, Matt Kelly never again played with the Grateful Dead after this tour.

Kingfish #12 performances
  • January 5, 1985 Country Club, Reseda, CA w/Zero
  • January 6, 1985 [Southern California?]
  • January 21-22, 1985 Lone Star Cafe, New York, NY [Brent Mydland on organ and vocals]
  • January 24, 1985 Paradise Club, Boston, MA [Brent Mydland on organ and vocals]
  • January 25, 1985 Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ w/Jorma Kaukonen/NRPS/Leon Russell 
  • Brent Mydland was advertised for the Capitol show but did not appear. Bill Kreutzmann came out from behind his kit and went to the mic to apologize to the crowd  
  • January 26, 1985 Tower Theater, Upper Darby,  PA
  • January 28, 1985 Hunt's, Burlington, VT
  • Kingfish was late to the show, except for Bill Kreutzmann. Bill came to the front of the stage and gave a 40-minute monologue. Tape exists. The band eventually arrived.
  • February 1, 1985 Lupo's, Providence, RI
  • February 2, 1985 Key Largo, Islip, NY
  • February 3-4, 1985 Lone Star Cafe, New York, NY
  • February 7, 1985 Mabel's, Champaign, IL
  • February 8-9, 1985 Cubby Bear, Chicago, IL
  • February 10, 1985 Headliners, Madison, WI
  • February 13, 1985 Rainbow Theater, Denver, CO
  • February 14, 1985 Glenn Miller Ballroom, U. of Colorado, Boulder, CO
There were two shows announced on the Hot Line that were canceled: March 8 at The Stone and April 11 at New George's in San Rafael. I assume that this was because of the altercation between Kelly and Kreutzmann. It's not impossible that some of the last shows on the main tour were not played as well.

Kingfish with Bob Weir #13
First show: March 1, 1986 Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ w/Sounds Of San Francisco/Zero
Last show: March 2, 1986 The Palladium, New York, NY w/Sounds Of San Francisco/Zero
Garth Webber-lead guitar
Bob Weir-guitar, vocals
Matt Kelly-harmonica-harmonica, guitar, vocals
Anna Rizzo-vocals
Barry Flast-piano, keyboards,vocals
Steve Evans-bass
Dave Perper-drums
Notes: Kingfish toured steadily throughout 1985, and underwent various personnel changes. Bob Weir joined them for two high profile shows in Passaic and Manhattan. At the time, this triple-bill was a sort of homage to psychedelic San Francisco, and it seemed about as relevant as The Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Sounds Of San Francisco was a sort of all-star band, put together for East Coast tours. This time out, the Sounds were John Cipollina, Greg Douglass, David Margen, Dave Perper and vocalist Alex Ligterwood (Santana). Zero also featured Cipollina at this time. Weir would not have needed to rehearse much, if at all, in order to sit in with Kingfish. Weir played a solo set as well.

On Sunday, March 2, Bob Weir appeared on an NBC Radio show called 'Sunday Night Live,' recorded at the Hard Rock Cafe in Manhattan. During the show, Bob Weir, Matt Kelly and Albert Collins sat in with Paul Shaffer and the David Letterman Show band for a version of "T-Bone Shuffle." I'm not sure whether Weir's booking on NBC Radio caused him to sit in with Kingfish, or the other way around, but I'm inclined to the latter scenario. Artists are usually only paid union scale to appear on TV or radio, so it would make sense that Weir was already there for a paying concert.

On Monday, March 3, Weir made a solo appearance at a Philadelphia club called Pulsations. According to Relix, John Cipollina apparently sat in.

Kingfish with Bob Weir #14
First show: April 26, 1986 River Theater, Guerneville, CA
Last show: October 31, 1986 Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, Oakland, CA
Steve Kimock-lead guitar
Bob Weir-guitar, vocals
Matt Kelly-harmonica-harmonica, guitar, vocals
Anna Rizzo-vocals
Barry Flast-piano, keyboards,vocals
Steve Evans-bass
Jimmy Sanchez-drums
Kingfish with Bob Weir #14 performances (Spring)
  • April 26, 1986 River Theater, Guerneville, CA
  • April 27, 1986 Keystone Palo Alto
Notes: In the Spring of 1986, Steve Kimock replaced Garth Webber as Kingfish's lead guitarist. In fact, it's not totaly impossible that Kimock played the March shows in New York with Weir and Kingifish (if anyone knows, please mention it in the Comments).  Singer Anna Rizzo had also joined. Rizzo was (and no doubt still is) an excellent, bluesy singer, but had never gotten a real opportunity to shine. She had been in various mostly Berkeley-based ensembles, including Sky Blue, Grootna and Country Joe's All-Star Band. She was also a pretty good drummer, although she didn't get any opportunity to prove it in Kingfish. Weir played two gigs with Kingfish in the Spring.

On April 28, Weir headlined a show at Wolfgang's, called "A Benefit For A Sick Friend." As far as I know, Weir played solo, although I wouldn't be surprised if he had played a little with David Nelson and Tom Stern, who were also on the bill (as were Tom Constanten and the Tim Ware Group).

On May 29, 1986, Weir made a solo appearance at an East Village disco called The Saint for an event called 'The Great Sixties Ball.' The other acts on the bill were Country Joe McDonald and Buffy St. Marie. This was significant, since in its prior incarnation The Saint had been The Fillmore East. Weir was joined at various points by Matt Kelly, Barry Flast, Jorma Kaukonen, Anna Rizzo and Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary).

Update: I have discovered that Kingfish played an Anti-Nuke Rally in Corte Madera on June 7, 1986 (at least one song is accessible on YouTube), and also at the Rainbow Music Hall in Denver, CO on August 11, 1986.

Kingfish with Bob Weir #14 performances (Fall)
  • September 7, 1986 Ranch Rock, Pyramid Lake, Nixon, NE Mickey And The Daylites/Kingfish with Bob Weir/Robert Hunter and The Mystery Band/Problem Child/Zero
  • October 29, 1986 Arlington Theater, Santa Barbara, CA w/Robert Hunter
  • October 30, 1986 Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz, CA
  • October 31, 1986 Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, Oakland, CA w/JGB
Notes: On July 8, 1986, Jerry Garcia went into a diabetic coma, and the entire Grateful Dead universe was thrown into upheaval. Although band members were too proud to make a point of it, there had to be a serious cash flow problem for everybody. Weir was better positioned than others to make a little money touring, but he had broken his arm in a mountain biking accident, and was limited to being just a vocalist until the end of the Summer.

Various bands associated with the Grateful Dead played at an outdoor event at Pyramid Lake in Nevada (hot enough for ya?). Weir appeared with Kingfish, but only as a singer, since he couldn't play guitar. The Mickey And The Daylites and Robert Hunter and The Mystery Band ensembles were unique configurations that never played any other time. Although there were six bands on the bill, many of the musicians played in multiple groups

Fortunately, Garcia was back in action in October. Weir, too, was back in October, his arm fully healed so that he could play guitar. Weir and Kingfish played three shows in California. Weir and Kingfish headlined two of them in small theaters, and one of them was second on the bill to the Jerry Garcia Band at the Kaiser Convention Center. In fact, per their usual practice, Weir and Kingfish closed the Oakland show, rocking the night away, but the newly-recovered Garcia was still the headliner.

Kingfish with Bob Weir #15
First show: May 26, 1987 The Bacchanal, San Diego, CA
Last show: May 30, 1987 Country Club, Reseda, CA
Steve Kimock-lead guitar
Bob Weir-guitar, vocals
Matt Kelly-harmonica-harmonica, guitar, vocals
Anna Rizzo-vocals
Barry Flast-piano, keyboards,vocals
Steve Evans-bass
Dave Perper-drums
Kingfish with Bob Weir #15 performances
  • May 26, 1987 The Bacchanal, San Diego, CA
  • May 27, 1987 The Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, CA
  • May 28, 1987 Fender's, Long Beach, CA
  • May 29, 1987 De Anza Theater, Riverside, CA
  • May 30, 1987 Country Club, Reseda, CA
Notes: Weir had one last brief run with Kingfish in May, 1987. Although I only have setlists for one of these shows, I assume that it was the standard configuration: Kingfish played a set, Weir played solo and then Weir joined Kingfish for some of their regular material, by this time almost 12 years old.

After these shows, Weir started making regular appearances with the band Go Ahead, whose other members were Brent Mydland, Bill Kreutzmann, Dave Margen, Alex Ligterwood and Jerry Cortez. Weir followed the same pattern as he did with Kingfish; Go Ahead would play a set, Weir would play a solo set, and then Weir would join Go Ahead and rock out. The history of Go Ahead is unwritten, and I will write it, but that is a subject of another series of posts.

May 28, 1989 San Gregorio Music Festival, San Gregorio Resource Center, San Gregorio, CA
Bob Weir and Kingfish/Maria Muldaur and Band/Dan Hicks and The Acoustic Warriors/NRPS/Country Joe McDonald/Terry Haggerty 
Weir's final appearance with Kingfish was a one-off show at an outdoor festival in San Gregorio. San Gregorio is an obscure town in San Mateo County, not quite coastside, but just down the hill from La Honda where Kesey had holed up back when the Warlocks were morphing into the Grateful Dead. A large area around the town had been turned into a Nature Preserve, and it appears that this show was a benefit in support of that. Whoever organized it must have been an old hippie, given the bands, but then of course most of the residents in the coastside part of San Mateo County in those days were old hippies anyway, so it was appropriate. I don't know exactly who was in Kingfish at that point, although it probably didn't matter from Weir's point of view. Surviving video shows that Chris Herold sat in on drums for a song. By this time, Weir had first played with Kingfish fifteen years earlier, and in some ways they were like the old blues and R&B acts that had inspired them in the first place, playing their traditional material for people who had been fans for a long time.

Matt Kelly let Kingfish slide away in the 1990s. Weir and Kelly remained friends, and Kelly was a member of Ratdog for a while. However, Kelly left that group, and ultimately moved to Thailand, where he has focused on charity work. Kingfish, after an unheralded start in 1974, lasted over 15 years, remarkable for any band, and Bob Weir was a part of it near the beginning and near the end.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Jerry Garcia And Perry Lederman

The 1966 Gibson Byrdland that Jerry Garcia gave to his friend Perry Lederman in August, 1979 (the photo is from the site of the auctioneers, Gruhn Guitars)
By all accounts, if you were fortunate enough to know Jerry Garcia well, he was a difficult, complicated guy. Given Garcia's commitment to great music over the decades, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that he was a driven, ambitious rock star. In that respect, while he was outwardly a lot more benign than some of his peers, he had devoted his life to taking the steps he needed to take, and the results weren't always pretty. On top of this, he had some trying personal habits, well outside the scope of this blog, that cannot have made him easy to work or live with. Nonetheless, I am confident that Garcia's relentless drive and ambition was in the service of his own musical goals, rather than oriented towards himself, beyond recognition as a great musician.

One marker of Garcia's true feelings about music was his generosity towards fellow musicians, particularly friends from his past who had not had the success of the Grateful Dead to buttress their lives. Much of Garcia's generosity was mundane, if important: sharing the take at bar gigs, appearing on people's records to create some sort of buzz or insuring that friends had a chance to open for the Dead or Garcia when the opportunities presented themselves. Here and there, however, some of Garcia's acts of generosity gave interesting insights into the value he placed on music and fellow musicians. One such act of generosity has to do with a guitar that Jerry Garcia gave to an obscure guitarist named Perry Lederman. It's an interesting, nice story, which can be found on the web if you are looking for it, but I am going to look at it from the point of view of what it illuminates about Garcia.

Perry Lederman
Perry Lederman was born in Brooklyn, NY, moved briefly to Ann Arbor in 1959, and then spent the 60s and 70s in Berkeley. Up until the early 60s, sophisticated finger picking on the guitar was a mysterious art, occasionally heard on record but all but impossible to learn. The few that knew were like high priests of an obscure, forgotten religion. By all accounts, in the early 60s, when the likes of Jerry Garcia and Jorma Kaukonen were still figuring things out, Perry Lederman was one of the finest fingerpickers in the country. There is very little recorded evidence of his work, but it seems to have been a profoundly advanced form of blues, perhaps comparable to some of Jorma's work with acoustic Hot Tuna.

By the mid-60s, Lederman had become fascinated with Indian music, and his performances were often extended raga-like performances on a 3/4 size electric guitar. Needless to say, in 1965 very few people were playing 20 minute guitar instrumentals, and only Lederman was playing them on a 3/4 size electric guitar. There were actually a few players who did such things, Sandy Bull and John Fahey being the most prominent in America, and a guy named Davy Graham in England. Lederman was apparently as great as any of these people, and a true original. Fahey was based in Berkeley, for the most part, and along with some other amazing unheard musicians like Steve Mann and Tom Hobson, Lederman was part of a small circle of players in the Bay Area that newly arrived guitar players looked up to.

A similar learning process was going on with bluegrass music. A small number of musicians from the suburbs, rather than Appalachia, like David Grisman (Hackensack, NJ) and Jerry Garcia (Menlo Park, CA) had become fascinated with the sophisticated picking in bluegrass. While there were bluegrass masters to learn from, much of the learning was still largely self-taught. The more blues oriented players, while building on classic records by the likes of Skip James and Rev Gary Davis, were traveling in more uncharted territory. As far as is generally known, Jorma Kaukonen is usually cited as someone who learned from the brilliant blues style pickers just a few years older than him (like Steve Mann and Ian Buchanan), and Garcia is usually framed as someone who aspired to be Earl Scruggs or Bill Keith on the banjo, rather than as a bluesy guitar picker.

Lederman apparently spent the latter half of the 1960s and the early 70s studying Indian music with Ali Akbar Khan. Lederman did not make his living from music, nor apparently had he ever done so. As a result, he dropped off the radar entirely. In 1979, Lederman's house burned down and he lost everything he had. A plea went out to all his friends for help. Garcia was one of those friends who responded.

Jerry Garcia and Perry Lederman
It seems that when Garcia heard that Lederman had lost everything in a fire, his first concern was that Lederman would have no instrument to play. This may seem like projection, in that Garcia's first concern after a fire would have been his lack of an instrument, but by what accounts there are of Lederman's life, Garcia was probably right. The first thing Lederman needed was a guitar, and Garcia gave him one. By 1979, Garcia wasn't rich, but he was definitely doing alright. He gave Lederman a 1966 Gibson Byrdland guitar with a Gretsch headstock (a picture of the actual guitar can be seen above).

The nice part of this story was that Garcia and Lederman, who had apparently been friends in the early 60s, stayed in touch over the remaining years. As Garcia became more famous, the guitar became more valuable by virtue of having been associated with Garcia. In 1992, Garcia sent Lederman a signed note authenticating the guitar as a gift. In 1994, when the Dead played Boston Garden, Lederman and his family were invited backstage to see Jerry, This is no small point--by 1994, about half of Boston wanted to be invited backstage to meet with Jerry, but Lederman and his family got the call.

Lederman died of Hodgkins Lymphoma in 1995. Before he died, he had finally put together a privaely released cd from some of his tapes. While apparently an extremely nice man, he hadn't left his family much. Conveniently, however, since Garcia had given him a guitar 15 years earlier, it had only increased in value. It was auctioned off to the tune of $40,000, and even Garcia's authentication letter garnered $1500. Lederman was obscure, but he had impressed Garcia, and a gift freely given from one musician to another turned out to be a boon to the recipient's family as well.

A Private Garcia
My focus for this post is not on Garcia's generosity, which was admirable and has been well-documented, but on the different insights that the Perry Lederman story gives us about how Garcia actual thought about things that mattered to him. From that perspective, Garcia's relationship with Perry Lederman is surprisingly informative.

First of all, let's think about the formation of Jerry Garcia as a musician in the early 60s. It's a common metaphor, encouraged by Garcia himself, that his principal musical aspiration in those days was the bluegrass banjo, as played by the likes of Earl Scruggs and Bill Keith. Similarly, its a commonplace to identify Jorma Kaukonen as the aspiring young bluesman, striving to sound like the Reverend Gary Davis, under the tutelage of the likes of Ian Buchanan. Garcia is always associated with the young bluegrass players in the Bay Area, and Jorma with the young bluesmen.

Garcia's friendship and admiration of Lederman seems to turn this on its head. Lederman played some very sophisticated, blues based music, and according to various eyewitnesses, his performances often included extended improvisations on the electric guitar. Thus Garcia's predilection for extended modal blues jams like the kind heard on "Viola Lee Blues" or "Caution" may not at all have been unprecedented. I think Lederman's music--as far as I can tell--was in the extended blues mode, with endless variations on a basic theme. The big differences seem to have been that Lederman would often have been playing acoustic as well as electric guitar, and often on a smaller 3/4 size guitar, and never with a band. Garcia may have considerably transposed that type of playing, but it turns out that he must have had some musical models when he started a solo on"Viola Lee," and Lederman may have been one of them.

Garcia's concern after the fire that Lederman would have nothing to play was a clear mark of Garcia's musical admiration for him. If he was a regular friend, Garcia would have been concerned about money or a place to stay, but Garcia must have recognized Lederman a true player, and would known that having a guitar would have been his first concern. It's also revealing that Garcia gave him an electric and not an acoustic, a sign that Lederman's playing of raga-like improvisations had had a big impact on Garcia.

I only found out about Garcia's gift to Lederman after both had died (of course, the invention of the internet helped). Clearly, it was a private matter between two friends, only made public later when the instrument was auctioned off. Up until that time, I had no idea that Lederman and Garcia even knew each other. Now, it's not surprising that they had met, since serious professional folk musicians were relatively few in number, but Lederman did not fit the profile of someone for Garcia to admire.

In the endlessly cliched re-tellings of these stories, it is Garcia who looks to bluegrass players, and Jorma Kaukonen who was the patron of the fingerpickers after his success. All credit is due to Jorma for what he did for his fellow players after he was successful: he helped Steve Mann and Tom Hobson, produced an album by his friend Richmond Talbott (the original Blind Lemon Jefferson Airplane) and so on, all admirable activities. Yet Garcia is always framed in relation to bluegrass players, usually through his connection to David Grisman: Garcia helped bring Vassar Clements and Frank Wakefield the popularity their playing deserved, and so on.

It's not surprising that Garcia heard Perry Lederman play in the 60s, probably in Berkeley at the Cabale Creamery (at 2504 San Pablo), since folk musicians usually hear each other play. However, from what we know of Perry Lederman's music, it turns out that Lederman sparked a musical interest in Garcia that would not find any expression until several years later when Garcia, too, was an electric guitarist.

Jerry Garcia's Guitars
Over the years, there has been considerable scholarship devoted to Garcia's guitars, principally in Blair Jackson's book Grateful Dead Gear and various websites. Although I am not a musician, I have always thought that Garcia's guitar was a significant determinant in how he played, and I consider the topic of his guitars to be a critical part of the scholarly discourse about the Grateful Dead. The whole Lederman episodes hints at a couple of curious aspects about Garcia and his guitars that does not seem to have come up in past investigations.

A look at a fine site that has pictures of the guitars Jerry Garcia is known to have used with the Grateful Dead shows no sign of the Gibson Byrdland. The only hint of it is one Gibson Les Paul that appears to have a headstock (whammy bar) similar to the one on the Byrdland, so perhaps that piece was attached to various guitars. For all the various guitars Garcia was known to have played, particularly between 1966 an 1971, the Gibson Byrdland does not seem to have made known public appearances. Where did the Byrdland come from? When did Garcia buy it? How often did he play it?

Looking at the different Fenders and Les Pauls that Garcia played between 1967 and '72 begs another question: what happened to all of them? Garcia was no guitar collector, and we generally know the relatively few guitars he still possessed when he died (few compared to the likes of a collector like Stephen Stills, who apparently has several dozen guitars). Something must have happened to what appears to be eight guitars that Garcia played between '66 and '72. I realize that some of the Les Pauls may be the same or rebuilt, so perhaps it's fewer, but where did they go?

From what little information I have, I believe that Garcia gave away a fair number of instruments, and he sold the rest. I think that the late 60s San Francisco bands could afford good equipment, but they couldn't afford to hang on to spares that they weren't actually using. As a result, I think the bands sold or traded instruments and equipment to each other, as desired or needed. I have some reason to think that Ramrod was the go-between with other bands, just one of many functions Ramrod served for the group over his many decades with the Grateful Dead. It's interesting to think that the various guitars Jerry used from 1966-72 may have been used before or after him with the Jefferson Airplane, The Youngbloods or many other groups. I also know, if somewhat indirectly, that Garcia had a number of other guitars in the 70s and 80s that were never seen with the Grateful Dead, so he seems to have at least experimented with a fair number of instruments over the years.

Still, where did the Gibson Byrdland come from? I have to assume Garcia was interested and someone--I think Ramrod--acquired it for him, perhaps swapping one of Garcia's 'retired' Fenders or Gibsons. Garcia must have played around with it and found it wanting, and then it must have languished. A lot of guitarists feel that guitars need to be played, and its a nice gesture that Garcia gave the Byrdland to someone who would cherish it and play the hell out of it on a regular basis.