KFRC-FM "PERSPECTIVE" SHOW
STEVE O'SHEA, DJ
DJ: Our perspective tonight: we want to lead off the whole thing by talking to some wild characters called the Grateful Dead. And I should have had you guys on before because you’re one of the popular groups around the area. And I’ve had other groups and I said ‘Okay, who’s sounding good?’ And they said ‘the Grateful Dead’. And I just finally got around to getting you on the show. Around the table we’ll go, meet first Pigpen. What a horrible name.
Pigpen: Not my fault, Jerry gave it to me. [Laughter.]
DJ: What’s your real name?
DJ: Ron? Your fan club yesterday or something was telling me you’re 21 years old.
DJ: You look like 38 - what happened, I know.
Pigpen: Uh...couldn’t tell ya.
DJ: Jerry Garcia. Jerry was on a previous show with us when Ken Kesey was down. And Jerry’s name is mentioned quite often when we talk about guitar pickers, many times on this show.
Garcia: Guitar pickers…
DJ: Yeah, we’ve talked about guitar and who’s doing this well and that well, and somebody always mentions Jerry Garcia. It’s good to have you back on the show.
DJ: And a wild shirt on today. Bob, what’s your real name, I didn’t catch - Bill, first of all Bill...okay, doesn’t matter.
Kreutzmann: Bill Kreutzmann’s the real name.
Kreutzmann: It’s just too long to pronounce.
DJ: And your instrument is...
DJ: Drums. Okay, and Bob...
Weir: I’m the rhythm guitarist.
DJ: Are you the spokesman for the group? You threw something like an 18-syllable word out a while ago here - knocked the whole thing dead. Is he the mouthpiece...
Garcia: No, that was a long mumble.
DJ: Oh, is that what it was? And there’s one member, better give him credit.
Garcia: Phil Lesh, who’s the bass player, who’s off on an errand or something, somewhere.
DJ: And, well, off on an errand is fine, yeah. But the Grateful Dead, playing almost every weekend somewhere or another around San Francisco. Things have been going pretty good for you, right?
Garcia: Oh yeah, I’d say so.
Weir: Real good.
Garcia: Remarkably good.
DJ: I’ve had a chance to catch you a couple, three times at the Fillmore - a lot of good blues. And one thing I know about the Dead, seems like the instruments, everything is always right together, there’s never any sloppiness - bing-bang, you know, the guitars are always – [clapping time] everybody hits at the right time. Is that what it is?
Garcia: It’s pure luck. All of us have a sense of time that’s funny at best. Somehow after being together for a year, we’ve learned to keep it the same type of funny.
DJ: Okay, where did the name ‘Grateful Dead’ come from, and how did the group get organized?
Pigpen (to Garcia): Run it down to him.
Garcia: Okay, we were trying to think of a name for the band. Our name was originally The Warlocks - not ‘Originally The Warlocks’, just ‘The Warlocks’ – first it was, anyway, ‘The Warlocks’ was our name now. We discovered that there was a band back east, or something like that, recording under that name. We decided, ‘Oh, no, we can’t have that, we can’t be confused with somebody else.’ So we were trying to think up names, and for about two or three weeks we went on the usual thing of like coming up with thousands and thousands of very funny names, but none of which we could use. Like Vitamin E and the Vivisectionists...
Weir: ...and the Reality Sandwich.
DJ: That’s a wild thing, the names of groups. Somebody just came up with ‘the Grateful Dead’ and it sounded right?
Garcia: Well no, we didn’t come up with it. Here’s what happened was, we were standing around in utter desperation at Phil’s house in Palo Alto, and there was a huge Webster’s New World Dictionary, I believe - big, you know, monolithic thing. And I just opened it up. And there in huge black letters was "The Grateful Dead" and it was just so, you know...
DJ: Prophesized, ‘out of the book.'
Garcia: ...just canceled my mind out, kind of, and I thought well, you know. So we decided to have it, but, it was funny ‘cause like we didn’t really like it too much at first, and we thought it was, it kinda made us shudder. And you know, we were worried that ‘aw, nobody’s gonna go for it, it’s too weird’ and whatever - but, finally enough people called us that and we called ourselves that enough times that that’s who we are by now.
DJ: About a year you’ve been together then?
Garcia: Year and a half, about a year and a half.
DJ (to Kreutzmann): Bill, how’d the group get together, what were all of you doing?
Kreutzmann: We were working separately at other jobs as musicians, other bands.
Weir: Jerry, me and Pig were in a jug band – Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions.
Kreutzmann: We had a different bass player at one time, who brought us all together and knew all of us – we didn’t really know each other necessarily – and put us all together.
DJ: And then he canceled the scene, huh?
Kreutzmann: Yeah, he couldn’t play six nights a week at the club and things, so we found another bass player.
DJ: How often do you have to rehearse? Or do you rehearse?
Garcia: We try to rehearse every day, and we put in about six hours a day.
Garcia: Yeah, well that’s because its the only thing we do, really.
Garcia: We try and do it as good as we can, and put as much time as we can in on it, but because we’re all human beings and we’re all friends, we can’t make it ‘work’, you know I mean, we can’t say ‘okay, this is punch in and let’s play and then punch out.’ It’s like we get together and sometimes we might not play at all, we might just sit around talking for an hour or so, telling jokes or something, and then play a little and get some ideas, and it kinda works like that.
DJ: Oh. (To Pigpen) Pigpen, you play sitting down – all the time or many times?
Pigpen: Not any more.
DJ: Not any more...
Garcia: Pig burned his stool.
DJ: That kinda canceled out my question, didn’t it. I was gonna – alright, why did you play sitting?
Pigpen: It was easier to play that way.
DJ: Is that right? Just straight guitar though, I mean, you like sitting down doing it?
Pigpen: Not any more.
DJ: I thought maybe you were an Arthur Lyman reject or something, with the old Hawaiian guitar.
Garcia: Well, he plays the organ, organ and harmonica. He’s not one of the guitar players. He…
Pigpen: Thanks for straightening it out.
Garcia: Okay, don’t mention it, anytime. (laughing) And the thing about the organ is that…
Pigpen: …you’re stuck to it.
Garcia: ...you have this footpedal, you know, and it’s more comfortable for Pigpen to sit down and work the footpedal, but, after a few...
Pigpen: ...prodded me... (laughing)
Garcia: ...sessions of... (laughing)
Pigpen: ...long sticks... (laughing)
Garcia: ...we finally convinced him.
Pigpen: Then they threw my seat away.
DJ: Yeah, I hear there’s something called the ‘Pigpen t-shirt’.
DJ: Does that mean you’ve arrived, you’re a star now or something?
Pigpen: Well, it's their fault, over there, sitting down.
DJ: They’re the fan club sitting down in the other part of the room.
DJ: I’ll have to get ahold of one. Are they in production right now?
[The band all speaks at once.]
DJ: Is that for me?
Pigpen: That’s for you.
Weir: It’s for you – it’s fluorescent, no less.
DJ: Oh, is that lovely. Yes it is you. And I remember the picture now of one of the posters that, I think, Family Dog did. Didn’t he use the same picture? Or somebody?
Garcia: Who knows?
DJ: I don’t know, there’s so many posters. Lovely things too, I’m doing a wall in ‘em right now. Hey, thank you. I’ll wear that to – well, I’ll figure out somewhere to wear that. (Laughter.)
Garcia: Wear it anywhere.
DJ: And I’ll reciprocate and give you some of our sweatshirts here at the station, kind of a tradeout. We’ll just start a whole thing of trading shirts.
Garcia: Right, the barter system.
DJ: Yeah… OK, the Grateful Dead got together and, what, did you all decide you kind of like to play the same music, or did you decide this kind of music would be advantageous to play for popularity or commercial success, or how did that work?
Kreutzmann: [We] just play, like, what we wanna play, what we like personally. There’s five different musicians, five different tastes, and we try to cover each taste as best we can. Like Pigpen is predominantly blues, and my background’s been jazz drumming, and they just blend fairly well.
Garcia: Well, it’s like he says, our background is really varied, musician to musician, in terms of what our musical experience has been, and because of that – well, you know, like we get along pretty good, and somehow we can make the stuff work, you know. We have material that comes from all different kinds of areas, and our ideas about like writing songs are not really affected by rock ‘n’ roll, particularly, because none of us were really playing that much rock ‘n’ roll before we got together as a band. And really, we’ve learned how to play our music by being together for a year – and, like, I wasn’t really too much of a guitar player when I started with the band, and – well, what I play on the guitar now is really Grateful Dead guitar. It’s grown up with the band.
DJ: So five individual tastes form a whole new sixth thing when you get together.
Garcia; Hopefully, yeah. [Inaudible comment, laughter.]
DJ: Are you sticking with more traditional blues things, are you trying more experimental music now?
Garcia: We’re going in as many directions as we can go.
(Weir?): Whatever we like.
Garcia: Yeah, whatever we like and think we can do pretty well. We do a lot of blues, but we also do a lot of like traditional jug band music, and early blues, which is not the same as more recent blues, Chicago blues and stuff like that. We don’t try and make it stylistically the way it originally was. Stylistically is what we do, actually – what we do is attach our style to a particular song, and the style varies from song to song, depending on the song.
DJ: So, is the Grateful Dead kind of a profitable thing, I see you said this is what you guys all do now, have you become rich people or something?
Garcia: Well, we’re having fun and existing pretty well, and it just keeps looking better and better. From the very beginning, it kept looking better and better, because from the very beginning, we were working somewhere, and we went through some pretty hungry months, but we also played a lot, you know, really helped out – that’s really the best way to get a band going is just play continuously.
DJ: Yeah. We’re gonna pause for seven minutes here, KFRC News, and be back with the Grateful Dead in a matter of seven minutes, and me, Steve O’Shea on KFRC Perspective.
DJ: KFRC Perspective, with four or five members of the Grateful Dead. And anybody who frequents some of the underground places or some of the dance places in San Francisco is quite familiar with the Grateful Dead, and some of the good, hard, strong music they put out. Why so loud, is that equipment, or do you guys play loud, or were my ears on those occasions…
Garcia: We’re all deaf.
??: Is that what it is? [Laughter.]
Garcia: We’re all going deaf.
Weir: We’re not the loudest gang, either.
Garcia: No, we’re not really that loud, we’re not as loud as we used to be for example; our whole scene in fact originally was to be the loudest thing on earth, but we sort of sacrificed loudness for…
Garcia: Quality – maybe, sometimes, it depends; some of us still have an attack of volumeitis, you know, [laughter] and turn up to ten, and like it’s just…
DJ: Every time the band gets together, not in rehearsals but actually in performance at a dance or a concert, and you begin to play a set, is each set different, is each song different?
Garcia: Oh, yeah.
Kreutzmann: Oh, definitely.
Garcia: We try to never repeat a song twice in the same night…
Kreutzmann: We never do.
Weir: Never have done that.
Garcia: In fact, that’s been our policy all along, and we decided to not take any jobs until we can do a full night anywhere, five sets, ten sets, however many sets we had to do, and not repeat anything. So we’ve got a lot of material. Sometimes it goes through these changes where we do one song more than we do others, because we start to get into it, and then we’ll maybe put it aside for a while and work on some other ones. But like, when we get on stage, we usually don’t make up sets beforehand, we usually just have our list of songs, our book of material you know, and onstage we decide what to do because something might seem appropriate at the moment, and we’d rather work off the top of our heads than off a piece of paper. (DJ: Yeah.) So sometimes there are long embarrassing pauses in our sets [laughter] where we stand around and argue and occasionally come to blows.
DJ: I have some conversations occasionally, and this happens with people out of Los Angeles more than anything else, maybe that’s because those are the contacts of music I fall into. But they seem to say that when they get to San Francisco to watch the groups, they are agitated when they see a song finished, and they see a group take two, three minutes to tune or retune or whatever it is you do, plan the next song, stand there in a rather inanimate fashion, and come out with another song. Traditionally, as you know, out of old rock ‘n’ roll, and the many things that are still going on [at] all of the go-go places and the coffeehouses, a group not only has to play, they have to do a little bit of dance, little choreography, look sharp, all the same uniforms…
DJ: …and all that. Now, the Grateful Dead certainly does violate that rule of a show, and the footwork, and the fancy costumes and all of that.
Garcia: Right, well here’s what we hope to do…
?? (muttering): We can’t dance.
Garcia: …and convey, is we hope to make our music our show. And because we are our music, and music is us, and it’s all us essentially – that’s our show. And sometimes it’s a show, I mean sometimes it actually comes off like a show ‘cause sometimes we’re exceptionally turned on and we feel like talking, you know, to the audience and having some fun. And in that case it comes out a show in the Las Vegas sense in that it’s entertaining and it’s bright, it goes along from thing to thing. But the part that’s really the show is in the middle of some song that’s been going on for twenty minutes when things are getting very exciting musically, and that’s when it’s really a show, because that’s kind of the nitty-gritty of it.
DJ: Yeah. I didn’t mean to say that I personally wanted to take opposition to the way you do a show.
Garcia: Oh I know…
??: [Why would you] care if the group dances or not.
Garcia: I don’t think any – here’s the thing, I don’t think that people really care that much about that part of it anymore…
DJ: I don’t either.
Garcia: Unless they’re going out to a nightclub or something like that, or they’re going to be passively amused someplace, but like what we play for is dances, and people going out to a dance, we assume that they’re there to dance as much as anything, and our music is dance music, and that’s the kind of entertainment that doesn’t really require, you know, too much; it requires a sort of feedback between the musicians and dancers.
DJ: Now, let me get back to – Bob, you haven’t had a chance to yak too much yet. Who writes the material, or where do you come up with some of the stuff you do?
Weir: Well…most of it’s [??], either that or it’s public domain material, in other words it’s been around for a while, old folk songs and stuff like that, you know.
DJ: Do you do it your own way?
Weir: Yeah. Well, we usually take the changes and maybe change ‘em around, and do that.
DJ: That’s funny that a musician would admit that something is public domain – for those in the audience who might not know, ‘public domain’ means this song has been around so long that nobody really knows who wrote it, like an old folk song or something – like maybe ‘CC Rider,’ seems like it’s been around for maybe 300 years or something.
Garcia: Right, and everybody who makes a recording of it…
DJ: Yeah, that’s the funny thing I was going to get to; every time someone puts a record out they maybe will change one note or one word and they say ‘hey, I wrote this song’ and then they – I don’t know if they do collect the money from it, I suppose for the sales of their record they do collect some kind of money…
Garcia: I’m sure – I’m sure there must be tricks to that, but – I remember when I was playing folk music that there was a big thing because folk music is, of course, mostly public domain music, and guys would put together a version of a song and then say, ‘Traditional, adapted and arranged by so and so,’ and that way they would be able to claim a certain amount of money for whatever creative development that they made on the music, and still not for the body of music itself. I think that material like – the way we use songs at any rate, is mostly a matter of just taking the words and sort of the feeling of it, and then we sort of take liberties with it, because we don’t feel like we’re surrounded by traditional barriers that we have to follow.
DJ: Yeah, I just thought of something, I had a guest last week on the show, who was a graduate with highest academic honors from the Yale University school of music, and her specialty is concert piano; however she’s working right now with an organ company in public relations, demonstrating and that sort of thing, and I just thought – a lovely blonde from Yale – and I thought, what a great thing to get her together with Pigpen for a show, and talk about what’s been happening in organ music. That’s something we’ll have to talk about later on, maybe we could… Bill, let’s see, I have, what, oh – I want to get into favorite artists, performers, things that have influenced you guys and you steal from – in drums, who do you like in drums or what other instrument, what musicians around or ever around have influenced you?
Kreutzmann: I used to listen to James Brown’s drums a lot; a lot of nice Motown drumming; and I don’t listen to any rock ‘n’ roll at all ‘cause, personally, it’s not very good, I don’t like it. Jazz drumming is really what I listen to – Joe Morello, Elvin Jones…
DJ: Max Roach – did Max Roach die? Someone told me about it…
Kreutzmann: I don’t know.
DJ: …getting way back in the old jazz bands.
Kreutzmann: He’s a fine drummer, very good technician. And Buddy Rich… [??] Great drummers.
DJ: Is there any problem listening to jazz drums at home and then coming to work and playing in a more traditional blues medium?
Kreutzmann: Well, I try to use what I know about jazz in rock ‘n’ roll, make it more interesting. Rock ‘n’ roll really is fairly straight drumming, and jazz isn’t.
Garcia: Bill is anything but a straight drummer.
DJ: You can’t say that there’s a straight drumming that’s running through this music that we find around the west coast at all now. The drum is just as dominant [an] instrument as anything else.
??: I think that’s creative.
Kreutzmann: I think also that people should talk more about drummers, they don’t really very much. [Group laughter, chatter.]
Garcia: Yeah, let’s hear more…
Weir: Exactly, we should talk more about our Bill.
Kreutzmann: Well, like the lead guitarist is always brought out, maybe because [??] on the stage, but I think that [??]…
Garcia: It’s because I’m [??] than you are…
Kreutzmann: …I’m sure that’s what it is. [couldn’t make out all of this]
DJ: The world’s picked up Ringo and took Ringo to their hearts, and so maybe there’s a chance that something will happen like that. What about…
??: Yeah, Bill’s not quite as [??] as Ringo. [Group laughter.]
DJ: Bob, what about telling us some of the people that you might be infuenced by, other musicians?
Weir: Oh, I like just about anybody who’s good, I like good blues, good country-western, good jug band music, good, you know, I like good eastern music, and listen to it all and try to absorb as much as I can from, you know, any particular kind of music.
DJ: You mentioned you were in a jug band previous to the Grateful Dead. Tell me something about a jug band, I don’t think we’ve really ever talked about jug bands and what that kind of music means on this show.
Weir: Uh…yeah…da-da. [Laughter.]
Garcia: Our jug band was pure anarchy, it was complete and total anarchy. We had just lots and lots of people in it, and Pigpen and Bob and I were more or less the ringleaders, and we’d work out various kinds of funny material, I mean it was musically funny and it was like a musical vacation to just get on stage and have a good time.
DJ: Doesn’t this music really stem from southeastern United States folk?
Garcia: Oh sure, it’s essentially country music, in that it’s rural, and its development was rural, and it mostly was the result of musicians not having enough to buy fancy instruments, so they bought kazoos and whatever was around.
DJ: A comb with maybe a piece of tissue (Garcia: Right) was as far as I ever got in music. Pigpen, who has influenced you?
Pigpen: Oog. Mostly blues people – Lightnin’ Hopkins, John Lee Hooker, and then in a more modern bag, like Bobby Bland and Junior Parker and Little Walter and those kind of people.
DJ: It’s funny when I ask groups these questions, the same people come up time after time. (Pigpen: Sure.) What about Al Kooper, have you had a chance to hear him with Blues Project?
Pigpen: Uh, no.
DJ: No – well, do. They’re going to be back in December, and make an effort just to hear what he’s up to, some kind of…
Garcia: Tremendous studio organist.
DJ: Yeah, he, all of a sudden in a harder, even harder than you guys, blues number, here will come something that’s just way out of the classics on the organ, running around up above a blues song, in a wild effect.
Garcia: Right – he’s really tasty.
DJ: Jerry, who influences you?
Garcia: Everybody. Anybody. It doesn’t matter. My first guitar influence, when I first started playing guitar, I guess nine years ago, I wanted – the first guitar I got, the first guitar I wanted to get was an electric guitar, and I wanted to play like Chuck Berry more than anything else in the world at that time. I got the guitar and learned some of the songs there were – I mean, I had no idea how to play really. Later on I got interested in folk music, fingerstyle guitar playing, and then five-string banjo, I played five-string banjo, devoted all my energy to it for about three years, and then came back to the guitar when we formed the band. Everything, every kind of music that I’ve heard, turns me on. I just play what I can hear and what I can remember and what I can learn from records, and – I’m really shameless about it, you know, steal from anybody.
DJ: That’s probably a good thing – absorb as much as you can and then create on top of that yourself and come up with a new thing, which is again what we’ve talked about with the band. The Grateful Dead, seems like things are going pretty well for you – anything that we should plug ahead, a week or two ahead, anything you want to mention?
(Group mumbles): Gosh… Fillmore?…weekend after next?... Who’s up with – oh, Cotton.
Garcia: Jimmy Cotton! Great blues band.
DJ: That’s the big Sunday benefit, is it not?
Weir: Yeah, he used to be –
DJ: …starts at 3 in the afternoon on Sunday next and goes until when, who knows.
Garcia: And everybody who’s interested in blues must see Jimmy Cotton.
Weir: Yeah, he used to play harmonica with Muddy Waters.
Garcia: And his drummer is Sam Lay, he used to be Paul Butterfield’s drummer. And I understand...[??].
DJ: OK. Good successes to you. When the record comes around, let me know and we’ll see what it sounds like and that sort of thing. Thank you for coming by – the Grateful Dead, there they are.
??: Thank you.
DJ: This is Steve O’Shea, on KFRC Perspective.
Thanks to David Sorochty for the complete interview.
(The earlier transcription of an incomplete 7-minute copy was taken from http://www.angelfire.com/fl/goodbear/interview66.html)
Audio of the full 23-minute interview is here: