A radio documentary of the Dead was produced in 1968/69 by Michael Wanger and Vance Frost, and broadcast on KSAN-FM San Francisco in June 1969.
The band was interviewed in December 1968, as well as Ralph Gleason and members of Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Excerpts of the 1964 Mother McCree's show and 7/3/66 were used.
The transcript, with the producers' notes, is available on their site:
For its historical value, I am reproducing their transcript here.
(Brackets [ ] indicate producer's notes.)
JOHN CIPOLLINA: The Grateful Dead. The Grateful Dead, by John Cippolina. The Grateful Dead go to my head, even though I've been sick in bed.
PHIL LESH: Well, if you want coherence, gentlemen, you've come to the wrong place.
PAUL KANTNER: Well, Mrs. Freiberg, what do you think of the Grateful Dead?
MRS. FREIBERG: I think they're fantastic.
RALPH J. GLEASON: I'm certainly grateful they're not dead!
MRS. FREIBERG: They always make everybody feel good.
JOHN CIPOLLINA: It's sin, it's sin, it's sin, I know it's sin!
RALPH J. GLEASON: Because it's so groovy.
JOHN CIPOLLINA: Chuckle, chuckle, giggle.
MRS. FREIBERG: I don't know. They're groovy.
RALPH J. GLEASON: The whole world of music owes a great debt to the Grateful Dead it seems to me because…
(*Music - "Born Cross-Eyed")
MICHAEL WANGER: Grateful Dead is a rock band. They've been playing around together in one form or another since 1964. In the 5 years that they've been playing together, they've released 2 albums and 2 singles. They were one of the first bands that played in what was later to be known as the San Francisco rock ballroom scene.
RALPH J. GLEASON: They're everybody's favorite band. It's the most consistent musical turn-on out of the whole rock scene.
VANCE FROST: If any one person in the band could be called leader, it would be Jerry Garcia, the lead guitarist and big cheese.
JERRY GARCIA: When I was a kid, I wanted an electric guitar really badly, for some reason. Not sure exactly why. I think I liked the way they looked. It's like my earliest trip, ya know, wow!
VANCE FROST: He got his first guitar when he was fifteen. For the next two years he played rock and roll, and then got involved in folk music during the early '60s.
JERRY GARCIA: …just because rock and roll was getting to be pretty limp. Ya know, for about five years there it was really lame.
MICHAEL WANGER: During this time he learned folk style guitar and fingerpicking, which led to 5 string banjo. He became fairly famous in the Bay Area as a red hot banjo picker.
(*Music, from the album "Wheatstraw Suite," Elektra Records, EKS-74035 by the Dillards. Herb Pedersen, banjo; Dean Webb, mandolin - "Bending the Strings")
JERRY GARCIA: Like, that's what really turned me on and that's what I devoted all my time to and all that, but then at no time was it ever possible for me to make any bread playing music, ya know, or make a living, even, playing music or anything. And I didn't want to work either. So I just hung out and played.
VANCE FROST: He hung out in Palo Alto, mostly at Dana Morgan's Music Store where he taught guitar and banjo. He also hung out at a local folk house known as the Tangent where he performed occasionally, often on the same bill with Jorma Kaukonen.
[Kaukonen became lead guitarist for Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna.]
MICHAEL WANGER: It seems that he was always in one bluegrass band or another, the most successful of which was made up of David Nelson, Eric Thompson and Jerry. But everyone knew them as the Black Mountain Boys.
VANCE FROST: Dave Freiberg of Quicksilver Messenger Service remembers that…
DAVID FREIBERG: During that time I was helping to run this place called the Offstage in San Jose. I remember Garcia from that and the Black Hill Boys… Black Mountain Boys, he used to play banjo with them. Good ol' Jerry.
(*Music - "Bending the Strings" continues.)
MICHAEL WANGER: Late in 1963, when everyone else was first turning on to the Beatles, another local folky, Bob Weir, discovered the ultimate aesthetic satisfaction found in a good ten cent jug band.
VANCE FROST: After he met Jerry Garcia, he decided to found his own ten cent jug band.
BOB WEIR: It was in the back of Dana Morgan's music shop and Jerry had come to teach guitar lessons and it was New Year's Eve and nobody was interested in going getting guitar lessons. Myself and a friend of mine dropped by and we just sat and rapped and decided that we had enough talent amongst us, or questionable talent amongst us, to start a jug band. And the jug band got rolling very shortly thereafter. And I, of course, played hyperventilated jug and wash tub bass.
VANCE FROST: They called themselves Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Stompers and played at the Tangent throughout the summer of 1964.
[The jug band was called Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions. A self-titled CD, compiled from some of their July of 1964 Tangent performances, is available through Grateful Dead Records. The recordings, made by Peter Wanger and Wayne Ott, are some of the jug band's last performances.]
JERRY GARCIA (live at the Tangent, July, 1964): I got an idea. I know everybody comes to these places and I don't know what everybody expects or... Yeah, they come and they listen… Everybody listens and says, "My, my." And says, "My, my." And, ya know, and scratch their head, ya know and kind of wonder. And, ya know, half the times a lot of people don't enjoy, you know, you come here over a certain amount of years, you build up a lot of sort of unenjoyment. You wind up unenjoying a lot of things. So, as long as you're here, and as long as some of you may be unenjoying this all, and have unenjoyed things in the past, you can all have a little Boo Break. And if you want to, you can just boo us. Everybody can boo us. Go ahead. BOO!
(*Music (live at the Tangent) - "Yes She Do, No She Don't" (aka "I'm Satisfied with My Gal").
MICHAEL WANGER: As you could probably tell, Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Stompers borrowed heavily in style and content from the Jim Kweskin Jug Band.
VANCE FROST: Borrowed!? You mean "stole."
MICHAEL WANGER: There was, however, other material which later influenced their change from acoustic to electric styles of music.
JERRY GARCIA: Back when we were doing the jug band, we were doing a few, like, rhythm and blues numbers. We did some, like, Jimmy Reed tunes.
VANCE FROST: One reason for this blues influence in the Jug Band was another member, Ron McKernan, better known as Pigpen.
MICHAEL WANGER: Mr. Pigpen.
BOB WEIR: And the nucleus of the jug band really was sort of me and Jerry and Pigpen. Pigpen has a really rich and varied background particularly in blues. I think he started out playing blues piano. His father was a rhythm and blues disc jockey for a while, and I think that's what got him into it. And so, anyway, he was just perfect for the jug band. He was the inspiration behind our rhythm and blues singing, which catapulted us into the rock and roll phenomenon.
JERRY GARCIA (live at the Tangent): We'd like to have Mr. Pigpen McKernan here, known in the more esoteric circles... Mr. Pigpen McKernan would like to sing a Lightnin' Hopkins song…
PIGPEN: I wouldn't like to, but I will anyway.
JERRY GARCIA: He's gonna sing a song called "the Rub" and we're not going to be responsible for it's contents. Or his.
[Pigpen was fairly nervous about getting on stage and performing, and would often consume a bit of alcohol before singing in front of a live audience.]
(*Music (live at the Tangent) - "The Rub")
VANCE FROST: After being a jug band for over a year, and not tasting the sweet wine of success…
[The jug band lasted no more than seven months. As mentioned earlier, this July, 1964, performance at the Tangent is one of their last.]
MICHAEL WANGER: They didn't even sniff the cork.
VANCE FROST: …they longed for a new medium of expression.
JERRY GARCIA: Ya know, it was getting to be time to start playing electric music, that's all.
BOB WEIR: Louder, you mean.
JERRY GARCIA: Right, to play louder.
MICHAEL WANGER: Time to play louder!
JERRY GARCIA: Right, time to play a little louder.
BOB WEIR: And we decided to become a rock and roll band.
(*Music - "Don't Ease Me In")
JERRY GARCIA: The step was really a lot like what, the way the changes really happened in the blues, like when they went from acoustical instruments to electric instruments. Ya know, and then blue records like, long about the forties, all those blues records started having electric instruments, ya know. And, you know, it's just like we went through that same change, from a jug band, which is like a really early trip, into, like, the next step, which is like a sort of early, a sort of primitive blues 'cause that's all we could play, right?
VANCE FROST: To be a real rock and roll band, they needed more than Jerry and Bob on guitars and Pigpen on organ. They picked up two more local musicians from Dana Morgan's music shop. First was Dana Morgan Jr. who, aside from helping to run the store, played bass.
MICHAEL WANGER: The other member was Bill Sommers who taught drums there. They called themselves the Warlocks.
["Bill Sommers" is the name Bill Kreutzmann used at the time he joined the band.]
JERRY GARCIA: Warlocks is just a word that means male witches.
VANCE FROST: So, I guess it was just a male witch band.
MICHAEL WANGER: Chocolate Witch Band?
[Chocolate Watchband was a San Jose, California band.]
JERRY GARCIA: No, not really. It was mostly a rock and roll band. It was pretty elementary. It wasn't very far out, really. It was just that we really enjoyed doing it. We didn't start really getting pretty weird until we started working in bars.
(*Music - "Don't Ease Me In" continues.)
VANCE FROST: Two of the bars they played in were the In Room and the Fireside, both in Belmont.
MICHAEL WANGER: During their barroom days, Dana Morgan left the group and was replaced by bass player by Phil Lesh, who had never played bass before.
VANCE FROST: Ever.
(*Music - "Stealin'")
BOB WEIR: It'd be Saturday night and be real crowded and the whole scene would get into sort of a pressure cooker system with all these drunk people on the floor and we were just really, we were merciless, like I say.
JERRY GARCIA: Yeah, we had quite a shoot 'em up show for that time, ya know.
BOB WEIR: The bartenders, they were good and crazy, they were potheads. And, like, for instance, we'd be playing and they'd line the bar up with ashtrays and fill the ashtrays with lighter fluid and light 'em. The whole bar would go up in flames, seemingly, and the place would get pretty crazy for a minute. And we'd just pick louder and more intense.
JERRY GARCIA: There was two factions. The was the bartenders who were crazy, and they wanted us to turn up, and the customers wanted us to turn down.
BOB WEIR: I was 17 and looked 12, and I had a phony ID that said I was 21.
JERRY GARCIA: We worked there for like, oh, I dunno, two months, three months, something like that. Ya know, like, the people that came, the attendance gradually got tinier and tinier until there was, like, nobody there, man. There was just no fuckin' body there but they would never fire us for some reason.
BOB WEIR: The owner of the place always told us, "You guys gotta turn down, man, you gotta turn down. The people are leaving." And we turned up and up and up.
JERRY GARCIA: That was our chance to get crazy, playing in bars.
(*Music - "Stealin'" continues.)
JERRY GARCIA: Our playing in the In Room was about contemporary with the first Family Dog shows at the Longshoreman's Hall.
VANCE FROST: It was immediately after those first Family Dog days that the Grateful Dead began climbing the ladder of success.
MICHAEL WANGER: They moved from Belmont bars to places like the Matrix in San Francisco.
BOB WEIR: It was also our barroom days that taught us the, more or less, science of, or art of playing to dancers. And so, we were pretty into playing for dancing crowds. That was pretty much what the scene in San Francisco was and so we grew with that.
DAVID FREIBERG: I ran into them at the Matrix a few times and noticed that there they were, by God, almost the entire Mother McCree's Uptight… Uptown, whatever it was, except, by God, they were electric, man. And there was…
JOHN CIPOLLINA: Electric and fuzzy.
DAVID FREIBERG: …Garcia playing a guitar, playing blues, and fast and everything. They really impressed me. And then came the Acid Tests. I heard 'em play at one or two of those.
JERRY GARCIA: Oh yeah, well, there was the Acid Tests, which, like, took us a lot of new places, and that's when we adopted the name the Grateful Dead and people started calling us that. Like, the name didn't take for a while. We offered it as a suggestion, ya know, I mean, it was like, and some of the guys in the band didn't like it, ya know, and, it was kind of creepy, ya know, and everybody, ya know, "Wow, the Grateful Dead is sure weird." And even Bill Graham, he'd hired us a couple of times as the Warlocks for the Mime Troupe things, ya know, and we told him that we changed our name and we were now the Grateful Dead and he wouldn't bill us as the Grateful Dead 'cause he thought it was too weird.
VANCE FROST: In the Land of the Dark, the Ship of the Sun is led by the Grateful Dead.
MICHAEL WANGER: That verse from the Egyptian Book of the Dead is thought by many to be the source of the group's name. Others feel the source was a large, meaty prune.
JERRY GARCIA: No, no. It might be incidentally, but that's not the source. The source was a dictionary, great big dictionary. It was either an Oxford or the Webster's, the Oxford New World…
BOB WEIR: Yeah, it was the Oxford New World.
JERRY GARCIA: Great big dictionary. We went through millions of incredibly funny variations.
MICHAEL WANGER: Like what?
JERRY GARCIA: Oh, like Mythical Ethical Icicle Tricycle… was one of the more conservative ones.
JOHN CIPOLLINA: Whatever happened to the good ol' Grateful Dead?
(*Music (live at the Fillmore, 1966) - "Sittin' On Top of the World")
BOB WEIR: The good old Grateful Dead was trips.
JOHN CIPOLLINA: It started out with the Acid Tests, and the Acid Tests really made a lot of people think differently. I think it set the trend, anyway, for the rock state as it is now. The Grateful Dead were right there. They were together, they were the Grateful Dead. And for the most cases, the Acid Tests went off just super smoothly. This is when Bill Graham came in.
JERRY GARCIA: If it all happens right, there gets to be a point where there gets to be so much stuff happening that you can't ignore it anymore. You know, it's like bringing some alternative to sitting in front of the TV. And among the alternatives are, not only can you go to the circus, but you can be the circus yourself. You can make your own circus, you can do your own thing. And that's like a, ya know, doin' the thing of dancing or just standing up in front of a bunch of people and hollering and screaming, ya know, like the freaks that testify, ya know. They get stoned and get up on stage, man, and they, ya know, and it's like, that's something, man, that's a groove, it's, like, a place to star, ya know, it's like you do that and you've done it. They get to stand up and deliver, ya know, like anybody. They can be the star and, man, I would dig…
BOB WEIR: It was really stupendous. I mean everybody uh, everybody… it turned into a party.
JERRY GARCIA: Right, a big party.
BOB WEIR: And we just kept going and going and it was… we did about a two and a half hour set, and uh, when we were over, it was over. Everybody got some.
RALPH J. GLEASON: The whole rock thing is a group-ish experience.
JERRY GARCIA: Right, it's just so much bosser when everybody dances, man. It's just so much more joyous. I would rather accompany the place than be the star of the show, ya know.
DAVID FREIBERG: …about the time when the Grateful Dead raided us out at our farm, dressed up in war paint and wearing feathers and bows and arrows. And we all came in and got stoned, after they raided, circled our house. We surrendered…
JOHN CIPOLLINA: Very begrudgingly.
(*Music (live at the Fillmore, 1966) - Changes to "Big Boss Man")
DAVID FREIBERG: But we were caught, ya know, with our proverbial pants down.
JOHN CIPOLLINA: Oh, they couldn't have picked a better time to get us…
DAVID FREIBERG: The pants down and the pot out, right?
JOHN CIPOLLINA: Yeah, we were lying around on our floor. I remember we were listening to "Music of the Planets." It was after dinner.
DAVID FREIBERG: We were listening to the Planets, man.
JOHN CIPOLLINA: Right after dinner we used to always listen…
DAVID FREIBERG: And never got to "Neptune, the Mystic."
JOHN CIPOLLINA: And then, plow plow!!
DAVID FREIBERG: Woo hoo!! Whah hah!!
JOHN CIPOLLINA: You know how it started, they were sitting around their camp. They went on this big Indian trip, naturally, 'cause they had camp crafts, they had an archery range, and, uh, they were the Grateful Dead. And one night they were sitting around with, uh, make-up. Jerry Garcia was beautiful. He had "Tippy Canoe and Tyler, Too" written across his nose. And they got themselves all done up, ya know, had…
["Tippy Canoe and Tyler, Too" aka "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too," an 1840 presidential campaign slogan of William Henry Harrison.]
DAVID FREIBERG: Worked themselves into a frenzy doing a war dance.
JOHN CIPOLLINA: …the psychedelic processes. And they said, "Let's go get the Quicksilver." And they really got us. We were just, we were loose.
PHIL LESH: I feel that we did a horrible job of raiding the Quicksilver because if we had been really Indians and we had really been raiding 'em, they would have killed us all. 'Cause they had guns and we didn't!
JOHN CIPOLLINA: They're really good sports, man. You shoot a Grateful Dead and he'll die!
(*Music (live at the Fillmore) - "Big Boss Man" continues.)
SPENCER DRYDEN: It was at the Avalon Ballroom about, oh, two and a half, three years ago, and they played the fastest tune in the world that I wouldn't believe. And Owsley had this speaker system that looked like a giant set of monoliths or something. I mean, it looked like a big sculpture. And here were these weird cats, man, just pumping it out faster than the speed of light. They've always been a good band.
RALPH J. GLEASON: See, there's nothing like the excitement of the first times in any of these things, and there's nothing like, there has never been anything like the experience of that whole thing exploding, when it exploded and everybody realizing, "Oh, my God, there are others!"
JERRY GARCIA (live at the Fillmore, 1966): It's called "Viola Lee Blues"
(*Music (live at the Fillmore) - "Viola Lee Blues")
RALPH J. GLEASON: I remember the Dead playing at the Fillmore, one of the first times I heard them at the Filmore, playing "Viola Lee Blues" and it was a tribal stomp. I mean, it really was, and the audience was stomping and the band was stomping and in the breaks the sound of the feet went stomping right on. It was really unbelievable.
VANCE FROST: In March, 1967, the Grateful Dead went to the RCA studios in Hollywood to record their first album for Warner Brothers. Essentially what they did in their first album was to document what they'd been doing in the San Francisco ballrooms for the past year.
JERRY GARCIA: Well, yeah, that stuff is kinda like folk rock and roll. I mean it was dance music, ya know, 'cause like all the places that we played all along were dance scenes and that was our whole trip.
MICHAEL WANGER: Although the material went down easily enough, the spontaneity of live performance was lost in the sterile environment of the studio.
JERRY GARCIA: Ya know, we didn't know anything about it, ya know, so we went down and ground out the first record in four nights. We were inexperienced about recording and about where to record and who to record with. But, when we went into the studio, it was like, there we were for the first time in the studio world, ya know, and there was the whole thing, "OK, what's next?" ya know, and engineers…
BOB WEIR: It was dry.
JERRY GARCIA: …and guys looking at their watches, ya know. And that's that whole scene, that's the business world again, ya know, doing its business and definitely not concerned with music. And so, ya know, we just did it, ya know, we didn't know what the fuck, ya know.
(*Music - "Cold Rain and Snow")
BILL KREUTZMANN: Yeah, it was a good first record, but nothing new in the drumming world, just rock drumming with a back beat. Nothing special.
SPENCER DRYDEN: I always loved Bill Sommers' playing, ya know, when he was the one drummer with the band. And I was always amazed at what he could do, technically-wise.
BOB WEIR: He really excels, by the way, in a sort of a Motown thing. He has a sort of a swing to him that's uh, he can get, like, different rhythms going that sort of ride over each other. And they all have a sort of a different little, just a different little feel to them, a different little swing. And, uh, Bill's, like, the best rock drummer I've heard at that.
SPENCER DRYDEN: I always thought he was like Philly Joe Jones of rock, 'cause it never looked like he put any real effort into playing, and yet his sound came out, ya know, just very booming and piercing and cutting and just used to kick the band along.
(*Music - "Cold Rain and Snow" continues.)
(*Music - "Good Mornin' Little School Girl")
RALPH J. GLEASON: Well, I dig Pigpen singing the blues, I mean, I enjoy that.
DAVID FREIBERG: Pigpen's vocals are perfect Pigpen's vocals, which means he sounds like Pigpen, not like anybody else. You can say some funny things about critics who think they have to criticize because he doesn't sound like something else that they've heard.
RALPH J. GLEASON: Yeah, I dig him. I would like to hear him more when I hear the band. The last two times I heard the band, he didn't really sing very much.
DAVID FREIBERG: I like Pigpen's singing, see. And I like his harmonica playing. Good harp player.
(*Music - "Good Mornin' Little School Girl" continues.)
(*Music - "New, New Minglewood Blues")
JOHN CIPOLLINA: And then Bob Weir, who plays, uh, God knows what.
BOB WEIR: I'm more or less trying to develop a style of guitar-playing that incorporates the use of maybe several lines at once.
JOHN CIPOLLINA: Bobby Weir's considered a rhythm guitarist, whether he is or he isn't. He has a certain area that he covers musically.
BOB WEIR: Jerry plays lead guitar and he plays really good, ya know. And it would be redundant, and perhaps superfluous to have, in my opinion, to have two screaming lead guitarists in the group. And anyway, my mind doesn't think like Jimi Hendrix.
[Short excerpt of Jimi Hendrix' guitar break from Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower"]
PAUL KANTNER: His function is sort of the same thing as the drum essentially is. It's to set up a support for Garcia to play. He's not supposed to be out there playing Eric Clapton to Jerry Garcia. It's not what his gig is. He could no more do that than I could step up to Jorma on an equal footing.
(*Music - "New, New Minglewood Blues" continues.)
(*Music - "Beat it on Down the Line")
JOHN CIPOLLINA: I would describe Jerry Garcia by saying "taste."
RALPH J. GLEASON: See, I can listen to Jerry Garcia play the guitar and get my mind hung up the same way that I can with jazz guitar players who are developing a theme as opposed to just making sounds and patterns.
JERRY GARCIA: You know, like, I got a lot of my guitar ideas from country fiddlers, too. Scott Stoneman particularly.
(*Music - "Beat it on Down the Line" continues.)
RALPH J. GLEASON: One of the things that's good about both Jerry and Jorma, as guitarists, is that when you hear them, you can tell it's them. They have an individual voice on the instrument.
JOHN CIPOLLINA: …because it is fresh and it's original and he's really just being himself.
JERRY GARCIA: Country guitar players I listen to a lot. 'Cause they're the ones with the most chops.
MICHAEL WANGER: They're fast.
JERRY GARCIA: Yeah, right, right, right. I originally heard the tune off a Carl Perkins record and he was, like, a good country guy, country guitar player, and he played finger style, and he did a kind of a rockabilly version of "Sittin' on Top of the World."
(*Music - "Sittin' on Top of the World")
JOHN CIPOLLINA: He's got a very unique style for electric guitar.
RALPH J. GLEASON: See, he's a one man band because, in the first place, he knows where he's at and he's got absolutely perfect time. Now you'll notice every once in a while when they'll get into something that sort of diffuses in a way, it's Jerry's time that brings them back. He holds it together. Remove Jerry from the band and it disintegrates.
(*Music - "Sittin' on Top of the World" continues.)
RALPH J. GLEASON: I also have come to really dig Jerry's singing. I didn't really dig it in the beginning. I thought he wasn't a strong singer. And I suppose by some standards he may not be a strong singer. I find what he does, vocally, in the band, to be very enjoyable.
(*Music - "Sittin' on Top of the World" continues.)
VANCE FROST: Of all the songs on the first album, it's "Morning Dew" which sounds the most together. Each member of the band, on his own, develops a line which contributes to the overall musical figure.
(*Music - "Morning Dew")
(*Music - "Viola Lee Blues")
MICHAEL WANGER: A lot of people wonder what the words to "Viola Lee" are.
VANCE FROST: Yeah, I wonder.
MICHAEL WANGER: Bob Weir tells it as it should be.
BOB WEIR: That was
'Read it and eat it, turkey crowed it
Down de levee, candy coated
Read it and eat it, candy coated down
If you miss jail sentence, it's your own damn fault'
(*Music - "Viola Lee Blues" continues.)
JERRY GARCIA: When I got the idea for that arrangement, for that whole way of doing "Viola Lee Blues," it was, uh, it was about the same time that… The thing that inspired the ideas for it, the riffs in it, was, um, uh, that, what the hell, what's that guy's name…?
(*Music - "Viola Lee Blues" continues.)
MICHAEL WANGER: In lettering the cover for the Dead's first album, Stanley Mouse designed some hieroglyphs in the form of a sentence across the top.
VANCE FROST: Many thought this was the quote Egyptian Book of the Dead.
WILSON BURROWS: That's what I thought. (door slams)
JERRY GARCIA: Well, that's what it originally was, see, but we didn't like it because we thought it was a taste pretentious. So we talked to Stanley who did the lettering and said, "Could you do something that, like, almost says something but doesn't quite?" And so, that's what it is. And like, and the result of that has been that all the places we've been where people have had that album, they've been able to… we've been able to hear the translations, you know. Fantastic ones, incredible ones.
(*Music - "Viola Lee Blues" continues.)
RALPH J. GLEASON: The first Dead album is one of the most effective collections of nostalgia that I know of for the whole scene. It's absolutely beautiful. I still love it and I can play it and I've worn out a couple of copies and enjoy it because it has a sound that you just don't get anymore. They're kind of…they're very special songs of the realm of a very special time.
JERRY GARCIA: We felt very bad about it. We thought it was unfortunate.
VANCE FROST: Really?
JERRY GARCIA: Yeah. And we did it, and that was it, ya know. And then we had all the time afterwards, and after it was released, and listening to it hundreds of times to really regret it, ya know, because it was mediocre performances of material that we were able to do much better. It was uninspired completely. Never again, ya know, we'll never go about it that way again.
(*Music - "Viola Lee Blues" continues.)
JERRY GARCIA: After we recorded the album they said, "Well, we still haven't got anything here that'd be a strong single." So we said, "Ah, a strong single, sure!" So we went home and wrote a song, ya' know. "Wow, this'll be a good single." We just did it and that was it.
(*Music - "The Golden Road (to Unlimited Devotion)")
MICHAEL WANGER: Their first single, "the Golden Road," wasn't exactly a jukebox monster. The album, however, was gratefully received by you and I.
VANCE FROST: The following June, they played at the Monterey International Pops Festival and continued to play throughout the summer in the San Francisco Ballrooms. They also played many free concerts in the Park.
[Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.]
MICHAEL WANGER: In September, 1967, Mickey Hart, a drummer, saw the Dead for the first time.
MICKEY HART: How it happened was, we were down at the Fillmore. I was with a friend down there at the Fillmore, I'd never heard the Grateful Dead, and um…
BILL KREUTZMANN: Tell it like it really was…
JERRY GARCIA: Tell it like it was!
MICKEY HART: …and someone said, "There's the drummer for the Grateful Dead." And being so impressed, I walked over to him and I said, "Oh my, your record was so wonderful. I love your record, it was just great."
VANCE FROST: Do you sleep at night?
MICKEY HART: And I really liked the record… I must have been very stoned when I heard it.
BOB WEIR: The next day I heard that Mickey and Bill had moved their drums together into Bill's basement, and had been working together. Or something like that.
BILL KREUTZMANN: So we thought at that point we'd try two drummers and get something new.
MICKEY HART: Yeah, we set up one day at the Straight Theater. Actually, it was playing for the dance classes, remember?
[The Straight Theater was the old Haight Movie Theater on Haight Street. The name was changed in the late sixties.]
BILL KREUTZMANN: Yeah.
BOB WEIR: And so, that night Mickey sat in with us and it was a gas.
MICHAEL WANGER: After Mickey Hart joined the band, they began work on their second album ["Anthem of the Sun"], which took, in all, eight months to finish. It was during this work that they released their second single, "Dark Star."
VANCE FROST: It was a departure from their past recorded performances, but quite indicative of what the Dead were doing at that particular time, both in the studio and live. Although "Dark Star" was not included in their second album, it was more or less a sample of the things to come.
(*Music (studio) - "Dark Star")
VANCE FROST: In the tradition established by their first single, "Dark Star" didn't exactly jump up the charts.
MICHAEL WANGER: Yeah, what happened?
JERRY GARCIA: I don't know. We put it out thinking that maybe someone would play it, you know.
VANCE FROST: Tony Bigg played it.
[Tony Bigg was a local radio DJ, one of the few who would consider the Dead for "Top 40" airplay. He later joined KSAN and changed his name to Tony Pigg.]
MICHAEL WANGER: What a strange idea.
JERRY GARCIA: Right, but nobody would and that's been our whole story all along behind the record company and it's relative apathy about us in terms of promotion and all that. And it's, like, partly our fault 'cause we don't really go out and hustle.
(*Music - "That's it for the Other One")
MICHAEL WANGER: While recording their second album, they devised the concept of blending studio recordings with live performances in order to create a new form of continuity. This had an effect on their live performances in that instead of playing separate songs, they combined them together in a type of musical collage.
JERRY GARCIA: On the second album, ah, we were… we wanted to make a record. We didn't want to record songs, we wanted to make a record. You know, something that was in the medium of being a long playing record, that you put it on and it played out it's length of time and that's how long it lasted and that's what it did to you. And uh, we began to see that as being a form and it's akin to drama, ya know, to being able to start a thing and just going with it rather than having interruptions and breaks and so forth and so on. And we wanted to learn how to do that, so we learned the whole process of recording. We learned all about it, and we spent… and we had ideas that we wanted to do and we didn't know of any way to do them. We had to invent most of the technique that was used on that record just in the studio. You know, like, how can we make it sound as though the world's coming to an end. Or how can we make it sound like purple, you know, shit like that, stuff that's that far out. And we had to extract the shit from our head and figure out some way to implement it, if you know what I mean. It's mostly a matter of logistics, like three dimensional chess.
(*Music (studio) - "Cryptical Envelopment")
JERRY GARCIA: When we recorded some of those things, we recorded some of them using an 8 track machine for the band, and then using a 4 track machine for the room, so that we had 4 tracks of the room, various parts of the perspective of the room, you know like one corner of it over here, one corner over here, one in the middle, done lots of different places, some at the Carousel, some on tours that we were on. And then we'd do things, like, in mastering we had the 8 track and the 4 track playing simultaneously. We'd be mixing them together, and cross fading them, you know, so as to get partly the sound of the band, partly the sound of the hall, reverberating you know. And it's just, like, extremely subtle and the only thing it does is give you a sense of enfolding space.
(*Music (studio) - "Cryptical Envelopment" continues.)
VANCE FROST: In producing the second album, "Anthem of the Sun," the group augmented their sound with the help of a classically trained musician, Tom Constaten (sic).
MICHAEL WANGER: ConSTATen.
[All this misguided emphasis on the pronunciation of Tom's last name is due to a misprint in the liner notes of the vinyl version of "Anthem of the Sun."]
VANCE FROST: After finishing his tour of duty with the Air Force, in November 1968, Tom became a full time member of the Grateful Dead. He plays keyboards, which lets Pigpen devote more of his talent and time to singing and harp playing. ConSTATen.
TOM CONSTANTEN: I knew Phil seven years ago when I was going to Berkeley. And we both got into a class with Luciano Berio. I was looking around for something to do and this the most interesting thing for me to get into. Mainly because I knew Phil, I knew Jerry. I knew what they were into musically and there was kind of a musical rapport.
(*Music - "That's it for the Other One" continues.)
RALPH J. GLEASON: Yeah, the way to listen to Phil Lesh on the album is to listen with stereo earphones.
JOHN CIPOLLINA: He's bridging the gap between the rhythm and the instrumentation.
BOB WEIR: He plays over a great deal of equipment, and pretty loud and very complex, very intricate and fast. About the most complex, intricate, and fastest of the bass players…
RALPH J. GLEASON: What they do is to play a continual solo.
BOB WEIR: (ahem) …goin' these days.
RALPH J. GLEASON: He's like a lot of the young jazz bass players of the last 7 or 8 years, in that he has no interest in playing 4/4 time. He plays a whole line which, of course, is in rhythm, but it's a whole line which is sort of contrapuntal to the theme of whatever is being done by the band at any given time.
BOB WEIR: And, uh, anyway, so, you can gather from that that Phil, at, at least one point, was a student of classical music.
PHIL LESH: I learned music theory in high school and college. I played instruments since I was 8 years old.
RALPH J. GLEASON: He's a fascinating musician to hear.
(*Music - "New Potato Caboose")
JERRY GARCIA: Like in a lot of those places, we have some things like two or three different performances, live performances, all happening at the same time and we're cross fading. That's why some of that stuff is like a dream, you know. Like, you listen to a guitar run and it's, like, it goes somewhere and all of a sudden it ..like there's another part of it that's almost a continuation but not quite, you know, comin' from another place. We did that a lot in "The Other One," particularly.
(*Music - "New Potato Caboose" continues.)
(*Music - "Born Cross-Eyed")
BOB WEIR: My song-writing career has been slowed up because I can't think of any decent words to sing. That's kind of gotten to me after the last album. You come to that particular point where you've written a song, and you hear it on the album and the words are so "nada." They don't really say anything, they're just, like I say, they're just a, they're something with which, a handle with which to carry a tune. And they could be ever so much more.
(*Music - "Born Cross-Eyed" continues.)
(*Music - "Alligator")
JERRY GARCIA: Well, "Alligator" starts out studio. The whole first part of "Alligator" is studio. And as soon as… right at the end, as soon as the drums come in, that goes into live.
(*Music - "Alligator" continues.)
RALPH J. GLEASON: The drums have been a prisoner in rock bands. The drums have been a prisoner of 4/4 time with a back beat. And the Grateful Dead have solved this by adding another drummer. Now these two drummers take off and engage in incredible rhythmic interchanges and variations, not only with the other members of the band, but with each other and on the basic tune itself. It's a very free thing.
SPENCER DRYDEN: Each one of them are in their own bag. They're playing their own thing, and it's somehow related to what the original was, but they're not directly related to each other. Once you make the original statement, and you've got that nucleus going, then you can, like, start branching out of that and you can get very, very free. You don't have to play the time all the time to have the time moving.
JOHN CIPOLLINA: Their two drummers are really… spend all their time complimenting each other, becoming a unit.
DAVID FREIBERG: There aren't many groups that can play music that lift people off the floor. Whether they're sitting down or standing up, they're still about three inches off the floor.
(*Music - "Alligator" continues.)
SPENCER DRYDEN: And they're beautiful. And they're not afraid to look at each other. A lot of musicians today, they get on the stage and they're afraid to look at the next cat playing because they're uptight or they don't want to communicate with the other cat. They think it's all in their fingers. They're not using their head at all.
RALPH J. GLEASON: But rock music is a kind of music that you can get to play in the context of a group and get to play at an extraordinary level of communication.
SPENCER DRYDEN: And I see Mickey and Bill, or when I play with Mickey, we dig each other. You listen to what you're doing and you're smiling at each other, and it's like a good rapport, a good feeling between people. You're not afraid to play what you feel.
(*Music - "Alligator" continues.)
JOHN CIPOLLINA: Bill and Mickey really work together.
DAVID FREIBERG: They hang out together even.
JOHN CIPOLLINA: Yeah, they hang out together. There's a basic fundamental, right there. Those two.
BOB WEIR: And they get in phase together and they become like one drummer with eight arms, so to speak.
BILL KREUTZMANN: See, we're not trying to be two drummers.
MICKEY HART: Right.
BILL KREUTZMANN: We're trying to be one drummer with how many limbs there are amongst us.
JERRY GARCIA: Eight limbs.
RALPH J. GLEASON: And what they do with them is, as far as I'm concerned, add another dimension to the rhythmic possibilities.
(*Music - "Alligator" continues.)
RALPH J. GLEASON: The second album is a testimony of how the Grateful Dead progressed from a group of guys who were having a ball doing something, just really having a ball doing it, into a bunch of very serious musicians who are doing something musically very heavy. It may not please everyone to the same degree, and it may also be that everyone isn't interested in hearing heavy music. But that's a heavy album.
JERRY GARCIA: It's a stereo record.
VANCE FROST: Yeah, we know!
JERRY GARCIA: We worked on it to get you high, ya know, and that's what it's supposed to do, really. And that's what that record was about.
RALPH J. GLEASON: And whether or not, from their own standpoint, they successfully executed everything they thought to do in that album, the concept of that album is magnificent. Just like the concept of the [Jefferson] Airplane album, "Bathing at Baxter's" is a magnificent concept. Those things are very heavy albums. All of that music is serious music, but some of it is not taken as seriously in the doing as others. I thinks these albums are very serious albums. These people were down to serious business. Just as serious as Stockhausen.
(*Music - "Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks)")
JERRY GARCIA: And this next album ["Aoxomoxoa"] is going to have lots of songs on it 'cause we've been into lots of songs lately. It's going to be mostly a vocal trip, really, just 'cause we've gotten into lyrics this time. And, at this point it's pretty amorphous. Like, we have lots of material, and we have much of it recorded, but we haven't decided exactly how to put it together, or exactly how we're going to present it, or whether it's gonna be a double album or a triple album or… 'Cause we've got, like, lots of different kinds of material. We have jam session stuff, we have all kinds of live scenes. Our material, at this point, is getting to be so interchangeable, that we can… it's getting to where we can do almost anything inside of anything else. What would be nicest would be able take one complete show with no editing and just say here it is, man.
MICHAEL WANGER: The perfect night.
JERRY GARCIA: Right, right. And it could happen and on the chance that it might happen sometime, we record.
BOB WEIR: And invariably, the really, the really good, perfect performances are never on tape which is, of course, the way it should be.
JERRY GARCIA: Like the latest trips that we're on is to do a thing that's like, uh, ya know, get some large unspecific sort of room and say, we're gonna do four hours, man, we're gonna do four or five hours of whatever we do, ya know, of everything that we can pull out of our hats. Like, really do a huge number that just goes on and on, man. It has millions of changes and goes millions of places.
(*Music - "Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks)" continues.)
VANCE FROST: Credits!
MICHAEL WANGER: For their voices, we thank Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Tom Constanten, Phil Lesh, Bill, the Drummer, and Ralph J. Gleason.
VANCE FROST: Mickey Hart, Mr. and Mrs. David Freiberg, John Cipollina, Spencer Dryden, Paul Kantner and Ralph J. Gleason.
MICHAEL WANGER: Special thanks to Baron Leo De Gar Kulka, Golden State Recorders, and Mike Larner.
VANCE FROST: This thing was written, produced and lovingly pieced together by Vance Frost and Michael Wanger.
(*Music - "Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks)" continues.)
RALPH J. GLEASON: I mean, they're not going to go on playing the same tunes the rest of their life, ya know. No musician can. It's built into music that you want to play different things and you want to have new experiences in the playing of music. Now, I think it's useful, in thinking of this kind of music, to consider the fact that these are musicians who are entering a new sphere in music. These are the real electronic composers. These are the people who are learning how to function in a combination of live performances, live recording in studios, and electronic application and electronic extensions of these things. And the Grateful Dead are experimenters.
DAVID FREIBERG: I love 'em! And that's far out.
SPENCER DRYDEN: Oh, I don't know. What about the Dead? It's a good band…
RALPH J. GLEASON: And that's because when you go to hear the Grateful Dead, it's almost guaranteed that you're gonna have a good time.
JOHN CIPOLLINA: And that's why, uh, I think a lot of people really go and see the Grateful Dead, time after time after time, is because they're really having fun.
SPENCER DRYDEN: Grateful Dead is like an attitude.
PAUL KANTNER: Well, that's what I… my general feelings are that you should go and listen to them and not talk about them.
JERRY GARCIA: Too weird.