An exclusive interview with Jerry Garcia, lead and pedal steel guitarist with the Grateful Dead.
We drove up to the house in the early evening. A beautiful girl, with long flowing hair, met us at the door. We entered Jerry Garcia's comfortable, Marin County home, nestled in the woods of Larkspur. Robert Hunter, Jerry Garcia's old lady, Jerry Garcia and an unidentified individual were sitting around a Victorian room, when we entered.
We talked about our magazine and then the interview began.
Q. When did you join and what was the original name?
JG. You know all that stuff, it's all over the place.
Q. How about a one sentence resume.
JG. Okay, well originally we were the Warlocks and we started in about late '64, winter of '64, that's when we started our first playing in the music store, with electric instruments.
Q. And you were with the band since it started?
JG. Yes I was.
Q. What was your original influence?
JG. You mean with this particular group?
JG. The Beatles; not musical influence but that was the influence that, essentially, they got us into the idea of playing music being an electric band. I mean we were all musicians before that.
Q. What do you think of the new album?
JG. Which new album? Ours? I like it. It was fun to make.
Q. How long did it take you to record it?
JG. Ten days.
Q. How would you compare it to your other albums?
JG. I like it. It was satisfying. It's still satisfying. I like it. I could dig to do it again. I think we could do it a little better.
Q. Do you think it's the best of the albums you've recorded?
JG. In some ways.
Q. How did you like Live Dead?
JG. Well, it was an accurate picture of what we were doing at that time, which was about two years ago.
Q. The new one is pretty much acoustical, isn't it?
JG. Well it's in and out. It's both really. There's a lot of stuff with acoustical guitars, but there's hardly anything that's purely. There's nothing in fact that's purely acoustical, nothing with just acoustic instruments.
Q. What prompted your change in style?
JG. The Change came with writing songs. See, like I've been more into writing songs in the last two-three years, two and a half years.
Q. Did you write most of the songs on the new album?
JG. Yea, me and Hunter did.
Q. Are you working on a new album right now?
JG. Yea, uh well the material is pretty well gotten together.
Q. You haven't recorded anything yet?
JG. No, not yet.
Q. What kind of stuff will it be?
JG. It'll be another album.
Q. I mean basically in the same bag as the last one?
JG. It'll be more like it than not like it, but it won't be, you know, exactly the same. But it'll have songs on it.
Q. What kind of relationship does the Dead have with Warner Bros.?
JG. It's pretty good, our relationship with them, it's pretty good, now.
Q. How much freedom do you have when you do an album?
JG. We have complete, absolute, total freedom.
Q. Does the company censor in any way?
JG. No, no.
Q. Where have you played in America and Europe?
JG. Wait, let me make a correction on that. Uncle Tom's Band [sic] is going to come out as a single and they're going to blur the 'God Damn' in it. There's 'God Damn' in it. They're going to blur it for AM radio play, right. Otherwise it won't get played anywhere, and I would rather have it played even if it's a little bit mutilated than have it not played.
Q. What ever came of that thing that happened with you and the, uh, Philadelphia radio station?
JG. The radio show that that happened on probably got kicked off the air, but you know the whole thing is completely... It was completely unnecessary. It was just a...it was a...a mistake, you know, I mean it's not even like I had anything to say in that particular interview, and it was like...it all happened in my hotel room you know, and uh...it was just a rap, just a rap.
CONLAN: Like you were just kind of rambling on and that's your language...
JG. Exactly... I was just talking, I was just simply rapping man, like anybody you know, and...their normal procedure would have been to go thru the tape and cut out everything that would be objectionable to the FCC and uh, but uh, in this particular case the guy felt...he didn't want to do it or something...for some reason he felt that like he didn't want to destroy the continuity or something for some reason and so he didn't do it, and he played it raw over the radio, which you know...it's not like there was something really important happening in that tape, so in that sense it's kind of foolish.
Q. Is the Riders of the Purple Sage just sort of an offshoot of the Dead?
JG. Well it's a band in its own right. I mean it's a band that, it's a good band you know, I like it, I really enjoy the music. I think Marmaduke writes really good songs.
Q. Why did you form the New Riders of the Purple Sage?
JG. I didn't form it. I got my pedal steel and the best place for me to learn to play anything is to start playing with somebody, and Marmaduke was singing down in a little club in the Peninsula, and I'd take my pedal steel down and play with them on Wednesday nights, and we did that for a month or so. Couple of months, and then you know, like a couple of more months later we started, it just started working out, it started working out so it was easy.
Q: Is that sort of the same thing as Micky Heart and the Heartbeats? [sic]
JG. No, Micky Heart and the Heartbeats is me and Micky and Phil.
Q. Is there going to be an album by the Riders of the Purple Sage?
JG. Eventually they'll get a contract, yea from somebody.
Q. Do you think it will be someone else besides Warner Bros.?
JG. Maybe. See, it's not for me to decide. I'm not the leader of the band, I'm only the pedal steel player.
Q. Who is the leader?
Q. But like it seems to me that it's always billed as you and the New Riders of the Purple Sage.
JG. That's because everybody knows my name, but you know it doesn't have anything to do with it.
Q How long have you been playing the pedal steel guitar?
JG. Um, about a year, a little over a year, a year and 2 or 3 months.
Q. What made you decide to learn how to play it?
JG. I like it, I like the way it sounds.
Q. Who had you heard playing it?
JG. Um, you know I've been hearing it on country and western records for years.
Q. Where have you played in Europe and England?
JG. We've only played in England, and that was in Newcastle.
Q. Is it different playing there than playing in the U.S.?
JG. Yea, all foreigners. It was very similar. It was hard to see them, the stage which was a mile high.
Q. What's Sam Cutler's position now?
JG. Sam Cutler's our road manager.
Q. Has Tom Constantine left the group?
JG. Con-stan-tin, Con-stan-tin, Con...stan...tin.
Q. Well however you pronounce, he has left the group?
JG. Well, we still see him. He isn't playing with us or anything.
Q. The scene in the San Francisco hip community has changed considerably since you made it as a group, I wondered, how does it feel to play the Fillmore now as it did to play in say 1966 when you were just beginning to make it?
JG. Well, remember last night? You know how last night was? Were you guys at that show last night?
JG. Over in Berkeley. You weren't? Well, that was a pretty good example of how it was three or four years ago. And any weekend at the Fillmore is how it is now. But I couldn't possibly tell you, I couldn't explain it.
Q. What were the people like then?
JG. Crazier, it used to be crazier, it used to be a lot more fun. It used to be less crowded.
Q. Are you planning any more of those Speedway Meadows things?
JG. If a good opportunity comes up, yea, we're always game for something like that. If a good opportunity comes up and [line missing]
Q. Did you play at Monterey?
Q. How would you compare that to Woodstock?
JG. Oh, completely different... Monterey was like the transition where the old time jazz festival and stuff like that started to become like something new. There was a lot less people and it was a lot more organized.
TOBY: Woodstock was really unorganized?
JG. Well there was no way, there's no way you can organize 300,000 people.
Q. Why didn't the Dead play at Altamont, I know you were influential in planning that.
JG. Well we got there late. We got there in bits and pieces.
Q. I thought it was because of all the violence?
JG. Well that too. You know, I mean we didn't really enjoy the idea of playing once we got there and saw what an incredible melee it was.
Q. Are there any possible free concerts with you or with you and the Airplane?
JG. Uh, coming up on this coast you mean?
JG. No, but maybe the east coast.
Q. In Central Park?
JG. Uh, not Central Park. See, we don't plan on those things. Like in advance or anything like that. I mean, if a thing comes up and all of us in the band, it's there to do and we have the resources right on hand to do it and everybody feels like it, I mean everybody, the guy who's going to get the truck is going to get the truck, and everything holds together like that, then we do it see, but like to plan it, except in some cases, is not too groovy.
Q. Do you enjoy playing when it's a free thing or at regular concerts?
JG. I like to play, pretty much, yea.
Q. Is there any particular place that you really like to play most?
JG. No, I don't have any preference.
Q. About two years ago I read, Ralph Gleason wrote, that you were working on a set of songs with a certain unnamed poet. What ever happened to that?
JG. Well we are still working on it.
Q. Who's the poet?
Q. You know Ken Kesey, don't you?
JG. Yea, I met him.
Q. I was wondering if you knew him very well, or what your relationship with him has been, what you think of him.
JG. I like him, he comes around.
Q. Have you had any good experiences with him!
JG. Sure, lots of them.
Q. Would you want to tell us about any of them?
JG. No, I can't remember any of them. I mean it's not like that you know, I mean I'm not into, I don't have any memoirs or anything like that, or even particularly funny anecdotes, or at least I'd rather not use that for my remaining two minutes with anecdotes.
Q. How long have you been playing regular guitar?
JG. Regular guitar? Acoustical guitar? What kind of guitar?
Q. Well, acoustical and electric guitar?
JG. I started with electric guitar and when I was 15 I started with electric guitar, and then uh, a few years later I got into acoustic guitar and went into finger picking, and then I played five string banjo for a whole long time and, that was bluegrass music, country music.
Q. What basically was your musical experiences before you formed this band?
JG. Well, as I said I started with electric rock and roll guitar, went into folk music, and blues, old time blues.
Q. Who have you been influenced by in your guitar playing?
JG. Oh, a lot of people, really a lot, old records, records from the twenties and thirties.
Q. What kinds of records do you listen to now?
JG. Anything, pretty nearly.
Q. How long have you known the other members of the band?
JG. Years, it's been years, I've known Phil now for I guess about, nearly ten years, I've known them all for a pretty long time.
Q. Who is your current manager?
JG. John Macentier. [sic]
Q. How long have you had him as manager?
JG. Well, he's been working with us for about two or three years now, ever since we had the Carousel Ballroom.
Q. What did you think of the so called "revolutionary movement?"
JG. I don't know, I'm in the middle of it, I feel all of it, all the different aspects of it. I just see it as a real slow revolution. Real fuckin' slow, man.
Q. Are you very political?
Q. Do you agree with some of the people that rock music is a manifestation of revolution?
JG. Um. It isn't that to me, but I could see that someone could think it is, yea. I agree that there are people that say that, yea. Well I think that the whole thing about what revolutions are is all completely different. I mean the unfortunate thing about the revolution that's going on now is that there's a lot of people that are still stickin' to like an old line revolutionary tack. Which has been shown to be a miserable failure, and it's like, I think that the revolution that's going to make some sort of dent or some change, is already over, it's already happened in principle and the waves of it are now moving away from ground zero at the rate of about, you know, a mile every four years (chuckled) or something like that. You know it's going real slow but eventually the whole world will be a different place. As a result of things that have already happened. It's already gone, it's already past, and the rest of it is like telling everybody who missed it that it's already happened. A friend of mine says that it's a cleanup action. Mop up action. And I'm inclined to agree with that.
(from the first issue of Hard Road magazine, July 20 1970)
Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com
See also http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2010/06/june-21-1970-pauley-ballroom-uc.html for a look at the 6/21/70 show.