Jul 22, 2020

November 1965: Bending Your Mind


... Pete Rowan, guitarist from Boston, has joined the Bill Monroe group ... Scotty Stoneman is playing with the Kentucky Colonels ... Dave Grisman found the Warlocks to be the best rock-and-roll group he heard in California. He especially liked a song written by their lead guitarist, Jerry Garcia, titled "Bending Your Mind." ... Eric Andersen is writing a 35-minute song for the opening sequence of Andy Warhol's eight- or ten-hour movie to be called Poor Little Rich Girl ...

(by Israel Young, from Sing Out! magazine, November 1965)

1 comment:

  1. Sing Out was a folk music magazine, and "Frets and Frails" was a lengthy column rounding up various music news items (usually just a sentence or two each). This is the earliest mention of the Warlocks in print.
    McNally's book reports: "Garcia's New York bluegrass friend, David Grisman, had come out that summer to visit Eric Thompson and had seen the Warlocks play. On his return he mentioned them to his friend Israel Young, [who wrote the] 'Frets and Frails' column in the prestigious folk magazine Sing Out!... It was a good start, Garcia said, because the readership of Sing Out! was an elite." (p.98)
    And from the Shady Grove CD liner notes by John Cohen: "Jerry's picking pal, guitarist Eric Thompson, hooked up with David on a visit to the East Coast in the spring of 1964, and the two played with the New York Ramblers... Later that summer, Garcia and Grisman finally met in the parking lot at a bluegrass show at Sunset Park, a rustic country music venue in Sunset Park, Pennsylvania... Jerry and David hit it off immediately, and the following year David came out to Palo Alto to spend two weeks with Eric Thompson, Jerry and the fledgling Warlocks. When David returned to the East Coast he told Israel Young about this new folk rock ensemble. Izzy related David's encounter in his 'Frets and Frails' column in Sing Out! magazine and unwittingly gave the Dead their first national exposure."

    The readership of Sing Out was unlikely to be interested in this obscure Palo Alto rock group! The column was mostly devoted to well-known names in folk and country music.
    I don't know just when Grisman visited California in '65, but it was sometime in the summer, long before the November issue date. The other dateable news items in the column are from July 1965 (for instance, the aftermath of the Newport Folk Festival that year: "several VIPs of the Newport Folk Foundation...have tried to put the ban on electric instruments for next year's Festival to avoid booing on the part of the audience").
    So the Warlocks were still just a few months old when Grisman visited, well before their November '65 demo. 'Mindbender' may have been one of the first original songs they wrote. In giving his friend's rock band a plug in the magazine, Grisman does not seem to have been dismayed by Garcia's turn towards rock music. He told Relix in recent years:
    "I was impressed by Jerry and the Warlocks as they were incorporating bluegrass, old-time, and other “rootsy” influences and sensibilities into a rock and roll context. They were also having a lot of fun doing it. It was definitely a departure from most of what was going on at the time and a lot less slick, down-to-earth music with electric instruments. They were playing high school swimming pool parties!"

    By chance, the bookending news items feature familiar names. Garcia was a big fan of Scotty Stoneman and the Kentucky Colonels (calling them in a 1964 stage introduction "the best young bluegrass band in America"), but this bit of info was out of date since the Colonels had already disbanded by the time of this issue! Pete Rowan would form Old & in the Way with Garcia & Grisman in 1973. Eric Andersen wouldn't end up writing a song for "Poor Little Rich Girl" (as far as I know), although that year he did appear singing in Warhol's film "Space" with Edie Sedgwick. In 1970 he was on the Festival Express tour with the Dead, and later wrote a part of the Weather Report Suite over a bottle of whiskey with Bob Weir.