Friday, May 12, 2017

Lost Jerry Garcia Jams (Meta-Jerry)

Jerry Garcia's history as an improvisational musician has been groundbreaking not just for his formidable talents, but also for the breadth of available recordings.  A few great 60s jazz artists like Miles Davis and John Coltrane have a fair number of live and studio recordings circulating, both official and unofficial, but even those legacies are dwarfed by available Garcia material. Not only did the Grateful Dead themselves and Deadheads tape relentlessly, Garcia toured far more than almost anyone else of his stature so there are literally mountains of Garcia tapes.

There are tapes of perhaps 2000 out of 2400 Grateful Dead shows, and about 1300 of 1600 Garcia shows. This doesn't count studio sessions, jams with various friends and who knows what else. I suspect there are few, if any, people who have heard them all. Nonetheless, Deadheads of all stripes rarely fail to marvel at the sheer breadth of Garcia's musical adventures: from spacey "Dark Star" to Bakersfield-inspired "Big River," from traditional bluegrass picking on "Pig In A Pen" to a reflective "Babe It Ain't No Lie," from playing steel guitar on the #1 hit "Teach Your Children" to processed guitar on Ned Lagin's electronic music. It is a true challenge to make a whole out of all Garcia's known musical parts.

Yet for all that, there are still undiscovered Garcia countries. These countries are so distant that we may never visit them, but we know from other travelers that they really existed. Most Garcia scholars focus on recordings that exist, to attempt to calculate the scope of the known universe. This post will be an attempt to expand the known Garciaverse itself by listing some of the known Garcia jams and guest appearances for which we appear to have no recordings, in order to contemplate the vastness of it all.

Missing Garcia Music
A few ground rules
  • This is a list of untaped or unheard Garcia jams or guest appearances that expand our idea of Garcia's music. If we are ever lucky enough to uncover any of this material, whether good or bad it will expand our picture of what kind of music Garcia was trying to play, whether we like it or not.
  • This is not a list of every untaped or undocumented Garcia jam. Someone ought to make that list, but that someone is definitely not me.
  • This isn't even list of undocumented Garcia that contains known components. I'd love to hear a Blues For Allah rehearsal that had Ned Lagin playing electric piano on "Crazy Fingers" instead of Keith Godchaux, if it exists, but that's just a different combination of known elements.
  • Nor is this a list of Garcia jams where we only have a slice of the pie. I'm sure the Rob Wasserman Trios session outtakes with Garcia, Wasserman and Edie Brickell are cool, but we have two album tracks, so for this post that counts as the known universe
  • If you think I left something off that belongs in this list, please add it in the Comments
Searsville Lake, near Stanford University, in the early 60s. Jerry Garcia performed at parties here, playing electric bass with The Zodiacs
Troy Weidenheimer and The Zodiacs: Searsville Lake and elsewhere, ca 1963-64
Jerry Garcia was a folk musician in 1963, giving lessons at Dana Morgan Music in Palo Alto. He was also just a musician, and a broke one, too, so when store manager and guitarist Troy Weidenheimer had a gig and didn't have a bassist, Garcia filled in. Leaving aside the idea of live Garcia bass playing, itself unprecedented, Garcia himself identified Weidenheimer as a significant musical influence, and I am aware of no known tape recording of Weidenheimer's music, even without any famous friends.

The Zodiacs apparently played fraternity parties around Stanford University at places like Searsville Lake. The band had a floating membership, but Garcia would sometimes play bass, Bill Kreutzmann would sometimes play drums, and Pigpen would sometimes play harmonica. The band's membership could float because they had no songs and didn't rehearse. According to Garcia, Weidenheimer would just call out a key, stomp his feet in time and start to play some blues. At the time, Garcia was mainly a bluegrass musician, but the Zodiac approach to electric blues sure came in handy a few years later.

Big Brother and The Holding Company: Avalon Ballroom, October 16, 1966
Big Brother and The Holding Company were part of the same underground scene as the Grateful Dead, and bassist Peter Albin went all the way back to Garcia's folk days. The Dead and Big Brother had shared bills many times, so Garcia surely knew all their material. We think of the jagged, structured Big Brother sound as on a different plane than the free-flowing Grateful Dead. Yet on Sunday, October 16, 1966, the local fanzine Mojo Navigator reported that Jerry Garcia sat in with Big Brother for a few numbers at The Avalon Ballroom. He would have known the tunes--I wonder which ones they were?

The grounded ferry boat Charles Van Damme, in Sausalito, where it was a venue called The Ark in the mid-1960s
Jerry Garcia, Jerry Miller, Michael Brown, others: The Ark, Sausalito, CA ca October 1966
Guitarist Jerry Miller had been in a Tacoma group called The Frantics, who ultimately ended up in San Bruno, of all places. One late night Miller found himself in a pickup joint called The In Room in nearby Belmont, and found a very strange band playing there, and became friends with another guitar-playing Jerry.

Just a year later, Miller was in a band called Moby Grape, and rehearsing on an old paddleboat steamer in the Sausalito Harbor called the Charles Van Damme, which was better known for housing a nightclub called The Ark. The Wildflower, another local band, had formed at the California College Of Arts And Crafts in Oakland, and was also regular part of the underground scene. As the Grape were always rehearsing in anticipation of a November '66 debut, guitarists like Jerry Garcia and the Wildflower's Michael Brown regularly dropped by The Ark to jam with Miller and anyone else who wanted to play.

Jerry Garcia, Peter Green, Pigpen, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood: Novato, CA January 13, 1969
Most Deadheads are aware that Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green twice jammed on stage with the Grateful Dead (Feb 1 and Feb 11 '70), as fabulous Owsley tapes endure of both nights. What is less well known is that Green and Garcia had jammed a year earlier and the circumstances were quite different. In the 60s, it was expected that when English bands played the Fillmore, they would jam with whatever San Francisco bands were in town, not just to share music but to show that they were fearless gunslingers. Most of these jams were not recorded.

On Fleetwood Mac's second trip to San Francisco, the Dead were in town, so on an off day, the Mac went over to the Dead's rehearsal studio. According to Mac road manager and soundman Dinky Dawson, the lineup that day was Green, bassist John McVie, drummer Mick Fleetwood, Garcia, and Pigpen on piano. On the menu: Chicago blues, with Pigpen as Otis Spann. Wow. Don't stop thinking about tomorrow.

Rubber Duck (Joe McCord): various, mid-1970
The Rubber Duck>Garcia connection is a very odd one, which had largely been ignored until JGMF managed to unravel some of the story. Joseph McCord was a mime who performed in Berkeley and the Bay Area in 1969-70, backed by a floating contingent of rock musicians, generally using the name Rubber Duck. On several occasions, Rubber Duck opened for the Grateful Dead or related aggregations. It seems that much of the music for the performances was somewhat improvised.

Remarkably, on several occasions in 1970, Jerry Garcia was part of the ensemble improvising behind McCord. JGMF managed to pin down some dates at Mandrake's, in Berkeley, on June 2 and 3, 1970 (the lengthy comment thread, including comments from McCord, is quite informative), and it appears there were some others, too. I'm not certain who else played with Garcia when he backed McCord.

Later in 1970, McCord converted his performances into an off-Broadway show called Tarot, which played briefly in New York in early 1971. An album also called Tarot, apparently consisting of the backing music to the show was released on United Artists in 1972, although the show had long since folded. The record was credited to a group called Touchstone, and included organist Tom Constanten. Constanten had been one of the musicians backing McCord in Berkeley, though it doesn't appear that TC and Garcia backed him on the same dates.

Your mileage may vary with mimes, but Garcia's performances with McCord are not at all similar to his other endeavors, since he was in effect providing "soundtrack music" rather than making an exclusively musical presentation.

Jerry Garcia and Howard Wales were advertised as playing the Matrix in the Monday, June 22 edition of the SF Chronicle. In fact, Vince Guaraldi took over the keyboard chair for Wales.
Jerry Garcia, Bill Champlin, Vince Guaraldi, John Kahn, Bill Vitt: The Matrix, June 22, 1970
The principal Jerry Garcia side exercise, jamming R&B in nightclubs with a variety of keyboard players, got started in 1970 at The Matrix, first with Howard Wales, and then with Merl Saunders. Yet at least one night, when Wales was unavailable, the surprise guest was jazz legend Vince Guaraldi. Although Guaraldi was best known for his "Peanuts" piano theme, for this night he was playing a well-amplified Fender Rhodes.

So this is something else entirely, Garcia and his regular rhythm section of John Kahn and Bill Vitt, improvising with an amplified Vince Guaraldi. We figured out the date--June 22, 1970--and thanks to Guaraldi biographer Derrick Bang, we even have an eywitness. The eyewitness, the Head Son himself, Bill Champlin, was invited by his pal Bill Vitt to sit in, so we not only have Jerry and Vince, we have Champlin on rhythm guitar. Did I mention Vince Denham on saxophone? What did it sound like, and what tunes did they jam off? There's no tapes, of course. We'll just have to wonder.

Jerry Garcia, Vince Guaraldi, Seward McCain, Mike Clark: Pierce Street Annex, Summer '72
In the Summer of '72, Merl Saunders and John Kahn had departed to Woodstock, NY, to join the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Garcia was left with no side band. It turns out that for amusement, he played some fusion jazz on weeknights at a Fern Bar called The Pierce Street Annex--which happened to be the re-named Matrix. And he didn't play it with just anyone.

Once again, Garcia connected with Vince Guaraldi, but instead of playing "Linus And Lucy" on the piano, Gauraldi played a Fender Rhodes straddling two 150-watt amplifiers. Garcia had his usual array of amps, and on drums was the titan of Oakland funk, Mike Clark. There's no doubt about this, according to both bassist Seward McCain and Clark (saxophonist Vince Denham probably sat in at least once, too). The idea of Garcia, Vince and Clark playing "Bitches Brew" style music, as Clark described it, is mind-boggling.  Of course there's no tape. I speculate at length, elsewhere. Try and wrap your brain around this one.

Ned Lagin has released a fine new album, Cat Dreams
Jerry Garcia and Ned Lagin "electro acoustic" ca. 1972-73
Ned Lagin has a unique place in the history of the Grateful Dead. The musically trained keyboard player met the band at MIT in 1970, after having written them a letter. He sat in with the band on organ and electric piano various times in 1970 and '71, visited the band in the Summer of '72, and ultimately moved out to the West Coast in 1973. Deadheads recall his remarkable experiments with Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Jerry Garcia, collectively known as Seastones. Deadheads also recall Ned some 1974 performances where he bridged his modernist synthesized experiments between sets with Phil Lesh with some jazzy electric piano, as the Dead returned to the stage. There is plenty of recorded evidence, too, carefully curated in a wonderful website.

Yet buried in the list of Ned Lagin's many endeavors with members of the Dead are some unheard experiments. In particular, it seems that in both '72 and '73, Ned regularly played acoustic duets with both Jerry Garcia and David Crosby. Lagin probably played a clavichord. What music did Lagin play with Garcia (or Crosby, for that matter)? Even if they played old folk songs, and they very well may not have, Jerry and Ned playing "Dark Hollow" would be very different than, say, Garcia and David Bromberg doing the same thing. According to Lagin, he and Garcia had some kind of long-range plan for recording "electro acoustic music," whatever that might have been.

Jerry Garcia and David Bromberg: Grateful Dead Headquarters at 5th and Lincoln, San Rafael, ca. 1973
Esteemed scholars Blair Jackson and David Gans included too many amazing quotes to count in their wonderful oral history of the Grateful Dead, This Is All A Dream We Dreamed. One remarkable comment came from Grateful Dead Records employee Steve Brown, who casually mentioned that David Bromberg dropped by a few times to jam at the 5th and Lincoln HQ (1016 Lincoln in San Rafael), and Brown had wished there had been a tape recorder. The truly staggering talents of Mr Bromberg are too various to mention, but they idea of free jamming between him and Jerry--never mind the instruments, Bromberg plays 'em all, and he knows every old timey and blues song ever--is too much to contemplate (yes, I know Garcia and others played on a few Bromberg album tracks in 1972, but this is different).

Good Old Boys with Frank Wakefield, David Nelson and Jerry Garcia: various 1974-75
Garcia's bluegrass performances with Old And In The Way were both legendary and influential. It's far less well known that Garcia played a few shows in the Bay Area with banjo legend Frank Wakefield, along with David Nelson. The shows seem to have been from mid-1974 to early 1975. Unlike many other entries on this list, a reliable source claims to have actually heard a tape. So we may yet hear another side of Garcia's banjo playing, accompanying Wakefield, himself a bluegrass legend. This story is too long to tell here, but fortunately I have done it elsewhere.

Jerry Garcia, Tony Rice and David Grisman jammed in 1993, but not for the first time
David Grisman Quintet with Tony Rice and Jerry Garcia: Mill Valley, CA 1975
Garcia fans are familiar with the casual but brilliant acoustic collaboration of Jerry Garcia, David Grisman and guitarist Tony Rice, recorded on two evenings in 1993 at Grisman's garage studio, and released in 2000 as The Pizza Tapes. Rice, an acoustic guitar titan, had been the guitarist in the original David Grisman Quintet back in the mid-70s.

In the liner notes, however, Grisman skates over his complex history with Garcia by merely mentioning that Rice and Garcia had not played together since the time Garcia dropped into a DGQ rehearsal in Mill Valley in 1975. Think about it: one of the most important ensembles in American acoustic music, young and in their prime, rehearsing, and hey--the mandolinist's old bluegrass buddy drops in for a jam. I wonder what they played?

Jerry Garcia and Pete Sears: Mill Valley ca mid-1980s
By the mid-1980s, Jerry Garcia was touring pretty heavily with both the Grateful Dead and The Jerry Garcia Band. The shows were lucrative, and Jerry was an icon, so there was a lot less opportunity for him to just hang out and play music. Nonetheless, Garcia seems to have found time to jam regularly with Pete Sears, an Englishman who had spent a decade in Jefferson Starship, and would spend another decade in Hot Tuna. Sears lived in or near Mill Valley, and Garcia would apparently drop by and trade licks, blasting away on his electric guitar while the versatile Sears carried the day on his electric piano.

Garcia even introduced Sears and David Nelson, with the idea that maybe the two should form a band together. I couldn't help but think that maybe Garcia was setting the table for another group with which he could make guest appearances. We do have a few instances of Garcia and Sears playing together, but never as a free-form duo, without the pressure of a rocking crowd and heightened expectations. Ultimately, Sears joined the David Nelson Band, so Garcia got his way, but he wasn't around to sit in.

Once "Touch Of Grey" hit, Garcia was in a gilded bubble of his own making. It was hard enough to find places where he could just play music in peace,  which was one of the many attractions of hanging out in David Grisman's garage. But the opportunity to randomly stop by with an old friend or have a new one drop in out of the blue were pretty much gone. It remains remarkable, however, that for the thousands of hours of known Garcia tapes, there are still things we wish we would get to hear.

Who among us can ever forget the catchy tunes and lilting rhythms of Magma's second album, released in 1971, 1001 Degrees Centigrades?
Appendix: Everybody Else
The other members of the Grateful Dead got around, if not quite like Jerry, but for the most part their collaborations are either on tape or would not expand our perspective. However, there are still a few appearances that may cause us to think again about the band members' music.

Jimi Hendrix, Bob Weir, others: music pavilion, Monterey Pop Festival, June 17 or 18, 1967
At the Monterey Pop Festival, various equipment companies had displays backstage in little tent-like pavilions, to encourage musicians to try out different gear. Bob Weir was jamming away at one of them, with several other musicians, including a frizzy-haired black guitarist who could really play. On Sunday night at the Festival, Weir saw that same guy come onstage right after the Dead.

Cleanliness And Godliness Skiffle Band with Mickey Hart: The Matrix, San Francisco, Spring or Summer, 1969
The Cleanliness And Godliness Skiffle Band were not a major band, with only two albums to their name, but they played an important part in Berkeley rock history. Skiffle music is essentially jug music with a New Orleans beat, and eventually the group evolved from a folk ensemble to a full out rock band. In any case, a band member recalls two nights at The Matrix opening for a very loud Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady (before the name Hot Tuna was in use). Mickey Hart dropped by, probably to see Jorma and Jack, and was intrigued by the skiffle band. The next night Hart bought along a New Orleans style rubboard, and sat in with CGSB.

Sometime later, the CGSB opened for the Grateful Dead in Santa Rosa. On the first night (June 27) Mickey Hart was late, and CGSB drummer Tom Ralston sat in for several numbers. On the second night (June 28), as a sort of thank you, Jerry Garcia sat in with the CGSB on his new pedal steel guitar. You can decide for yourself if the Garcia/CGSB set would belong in the first list.

Jerry Granelli, Phil Lesh, members of Magma: Chateau D'Herouville, France, June 1971
In a little noticed passage in Phil Lesh's autobiography, he mentions that when the Dead went to France to play at Chateau D'Herouville (eventually performing on June 21, 1971), Lesh got a chance to jam in the studio with "drummer Jerry Granelli...and members of the French band Magma, who really stretched me out musically."

Jerry Granelli was a well-known Bay Area jazz drummer, who had played with Vince Guaraldi, among many others. But Magma, well--there's a tale. Let's just go straight to the Wikipedia introduction (remember, this is real, not some weird invented time travel fantasy-emphasis mine)
Magma are a French progressive rock band founded in Paris in 1969 by classically trained drummer Christian Vander, who claimed as his inspiration a "vision of humanity's spiritual and ecological future" that profoundly disturbed him. In the course of their first album, the band tells the story of a group of people fleeing a doomed Earth to settle on the planet Kobaïa. Later, conflict arises when the Kobaïans—descendants of the original colonists—encounter other Earth refugees. 
Vander invented a constructed language, Kobaïan, in which most lyrics are sung
Now, sure, there have been ensembles who suggested they weren't from Earth. Jazz pioneer Sun Ra (Herman Blount) was from Chicago via Birmingham, AL, but said he was from Saturn. George Clinton and the Parliament/Funkadelic gang funkified the Sun Ra vision, but it was the same idea. And there was a French progressive rock band called Gong, led by Australian David Allen, a truly great and very odd band, all of whose numerous albums told the story of aliens from the Planet Gong, known as Pothead Pixies, who arrived on earth in flying teapots. The music was brilliant but the interstellar lyrics were a joke, even if not everyone got it. Gong were label mates with Magma, on BYG/Actuel, but even Gong did not make up their own language. The leader of Magma was the sort of bandleader that made up their own language, and not as a joke. The Grateful Dead, from that point of view, were just another California country rock band. I wonder if they made Phil sing harmonies in Kobai-an?

Allman Brothers Band with Bob Weir and Ronnie Montrose: RFK Stadium, Washington, DC June 9, 1973
Back in the day, Bob Weir rarely made guest appearances, and almost never without Garcia. When the Dead played two nights with the Allman Brothers in 1973, members of the Allmans sat in with the Dead on the final day (June 10). It is somewhat forgotten that on the first day, the Allmans closed the show, and Bob Weir and Ronnie Montrose sat in for "Mountain Jam." Montrose, in fact, was a great, underrated guitarist. He played on Van Morrison's Tupelo Honey album, for example, even though he had the most success as a hard rocker with Edgar Winter ("Frankenstein" and "Free Ride") and his own band Montrose, featuring lead singer Sammy Hagar ("Bad Motor Scooter" and "Spaceage Sacrifice").

But how did Weir acquit himself with the Allman Brothers? There are a fair amount of Allman Brothers tapes around from the early 1970s, but I don't know if there is a circulating one from the end of the June 9, 1973. Weir playing rhythm for Dickey Betts and Ronnie Montrose was a pretty intriguing proposition.