Aug 14, 2014

July 16, 1967: Jerry Garcia Interview & Electric Be-In


I: “Grateful Dead,” that has a nice sound to it. How’d you happen to come by it?
G: Well, we were looking—we were trying to think of a name. We’d gone through a whole big thing, lots of cute phrases, anything. And we were about three weeks, I guess, without a name. I was over at Phil’s house, the bass player’s house. And there was this huge dictionary, the Oxford New World Dictionary or something. I just like opened it up, and the page that I turned to, the first thing my eyes fell on when I looked at the page was “the grateful dead” in big black lettering. And it was so, it was such a flash…
I: Yeah, sure. Was it a quote then from something?
G: No, in that particular context it was an ethno-musicological term. It’s a genre of ballad, the ballad type, y’know, like there are “murdered girl” ballads. Well, there are “grateful dead” ballads. So it tied in nicely, in a way. Plus the fact that lots of people have mentioned the Tibetan Book of the Dead in connection with it, although I don’t know whether that particular phrase ever appears in it. I don’t think it does.
I: It also seems to fit in with sort of ironic, anti-war stuff. I know there’s a cummings poem, for example, that talks about “these happy and heroic dead” or something sarcastic.
G: Right, right. It’s that, plus it’s also like a very brief phrase you could describe as being the psychedelic condition. If you wanted to talk about it like that. It’s any number of things. It’s just a loaded phrase. It looks good in print, it sounds good, it’s got a sort of euphonic thing going for it.
I: Are you, well I don’t know, is your record selling well on Warner’s? Then I imagine they’re looking already to cut a second one, or have you…
G: Right, right. I think we’re going in recording probably in about 4 or 5 months. I don’t anticipate we’ll have an album out in less than seven months.
I: That’s too bad.
G: Well, we’re starting to think differently about music now, I mean we’re taking it in different terms. And we want to like get settled comfortably in the new thing that we’re trying to get at before we start to record again. And our next recording will be more purely a recording for the sake of producing a finished work. It won’t be our material the way we perform it, it’ll be something else; it’ll be our material but with more sophistication.
I: Oh, you mean something like the Beatles’ latest album where there’s a lot more studio stuff in it?
G: Yeah, there’ll be a lot more stuff in it, right. We’ll spend more time in the studio, more time on production.
I: It’s clear to everybody that the psychedelic drugs are connected with the music now or at least with the scene around San Francisco, and I assume it’s being taken up everywhere else where this kind of music is happening.
G: Well, it’s not as though the music produces the scene, and it’s not as though the drugs produce the music. The way it is instead is that musicians as a body, young musicians who are interested in expanding their horizons musically and every other way…I would say it’s because the young people nowadays I think are interested in finding out what there is to find out about themselves. It’s a matter of like concern about spiritual development. But that’s just a phrase, y’know, that’s just a word, those are just words. There’s really more to it than that, but I think that whatever it is, for a musician anyway, it’s a valuable experience: anything that makes you more aware is a valuable experience, for an artist of any sort. Y’know I think that the drugs are like, kind of like a gift to man, in a way. They’re a way of finding out things, y’know, finding out things about yourself.

(Grateful Dead Interview Continued)

Having now left San Francisco and moved to New Mexico where they can “make new music” outside of the haight hassel [sic], the GRATEFUL DEAD will likely be in tribal retreat for a time. The below portions of an interview with Jerry Garcia, lead guitar, are continued from the last issue.

I: How long have you been involved with music?
G: I started playing the guitar when I was 15… I stayed in school for maybe another 2 years. And when I was 17 I dropped out completely. And devoted my energy to music. I also was turned on first when I was 15, when I was a kid in school in San Francisco.
I: To what?
G: Grass. And, y’know what was going on in those days. The 15-year-olds in the school were all drinking. Drinking is an awful thing, it’s a bad physical experience. So I was interested in anything new. When somebody offered it to me – grass – I smoked it and got just greatly high…it made everything much funnier.
I: So drugs are just part of your…
G: They’re just part of our life style, right.
I: You don’t need them for the music?
G: No, no, no. Only incidentally. They’re both a part of my life. But so is everything else, eating, breathing… The thing that happens when you get high and play is like new ideas present themselves, new possibilities. You’re more open to the changes in the music, but more important, you’re more open to the changes in the people. There’s a very real kind of communication going on between the dancers and the musicians, you’re working with each other. If you’re a little stoned, you’re less into yourself, less into demonstrating your ability, you’re less into your own thing and more into the total thing… Playing itself is a high, playing is in fact the best high that I know… There’s no comparable experience in drugs. Nothing like it.
I: Do all of you live in the Haight?
G: …We’re moving to the Southwest… You know, we’re concerned about our productivity. And what we’re going to do is like get away from the, well, from just this kind of thing.
I: Talking, you mean?
G: Right, right. Get away from a lot of people and a lot of action and a lot of energy and just go out and do our own thing for a while.
I: Have you made any connections with the Hopi Indians?
G: Some of the people in the Haight went down there and made a very bad impression… They acted more like American tourists than people who were trying to represent any brotherhood.
I: Your music, is it rooted in the blues? I mean a lot of them on the album are at least.
G: Yeah, the album, at that time we were mostly doing blues-oriented things. Now we’re starting to get into a different thing. Although the blues is like, you know, blues is something we all grew up with. But we all come from very different musical trips. Pigpen’s background is very heavy country blues…Phil’s is heavy classical. He played violin and trumpet and then he composed for a while…… (Phil plays the bass.)
I: You have the same five then that you’ve had all along?
G: Right… There’s so much new music and so much good music. And it’s getting better all the time. Things are getting better all the time.
I: Quoting a Beatles song? I came up through rock when I was 16 and all that. When I got to be 20, I stopped listening to the radio because the music just sounded like it was played out. Now suddenly the last two years…
G: New Energy…
I: Look around the crowd here today. Certainly these people aren’t all hippies. (The Golden Gardens Be-In)
G: No, but they’re all people. Like the more straight people that come to these kind of scenes, the easier it’ll be for them to see that hippies aren’t going to hurt them. The whole scene is like good-natured……

(from the Helix, issues v1n8, date unknown, & v1n9, 16 August 1967)  

* * * 

The Grateful Dead played the Electric Be-In at Golden Gardens Park on the afternoon of July 16, 1967, before playing the Eagles Auditorium that evening. Here are two short newspaper notices.


About 2,000 hippies mingled with “straight” sun-bathers yesterday afternoon to hear six hours of rock music at the Electric Be-In at Golden Gardens.
The free show, arranged by United Front Productions and Overall Cooperative Structure (O.C.S.), was highlighted by a visit from The Grateful Dead, a San Francisco band.
Other groups playing in the outdoor concert were The International Brick, The Karma, The Daily Flash, The Time Machine and Papa Bear’s Medicine Show.
Concessioneers always seem to show up when a crowd gathers. The Be-In was no exception.
Bearded salesmen had a profitable day peddling hippie magazines and plastic flowers to the crowd.

(from the Seattle Times, July 17, 1967)


The cool sounds of the International Brick failed to lower the temperature of the heat-haze hanging over a Golden Gardens Be-In yesterday.
A crowd of 2,000 squares and hippies gathered on the brown grass of the "straight" beach to hear the "new sounds" of six acid-rock groups. 
It was easy to distinguish the hippies.  They wore clothes.
San Francisco's Grateful Dead, in Seattle to play for a dance in the Eagles Auditorium last night, performed last. 
Their manager, Rock Scully, says the Dead are Number Two in the Bay Area.
Lead guitarist Jerry Garcia describes the Grateful Dead sound as "loud and somewhat unpredictable," influenced by almost everything. 
The 5-piece band performed on the bed of a truck with electricity furnished by a small, portable generator.
The crowd sat or stood in the blazing sun four hours to listen to the Brick, Karma, The Daily Flash, The Time Machine, Pappa Bear's Medicine Show and The Grateful Dead, in that order.  The Chrome Syrcus was there, too, but it took the day off and just listened.  The rock groups, with the exception of the 'Dead', are Seattle natives.
Tim Harvey of Overall Cooperative Structure and Jerry Mathews of United Front Productions arranged the beach Be-In. 
The show was free –a 'Gentle Sunday' gesture by hippie performers who "know the people love music so they play for them."
Harvey noted that the Seattle police and the Park Board had been especially cooperative. 
But the local Be-Inmates aren't as hip as their Bay Area brothers.  Scully explained that in San Francisco everybody brings a child's toy to a Be-In – helium filled balloons on strings, for instance.
One Class of 1980 hippie was with it, however. 
Jackie Delay, two-going-on-16, toured the scene in the altogether on the shoulders of a tall, hippie friend.  When an International Brick spotted a police helicopter and yelled "Everybody wave," Jackie did.  His pants.

(by Hilda Bryant, from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 17, 1967)

Thanks to


  1. A neat little Garcia interview from summer '67, talking about the band's name, recording, drugs...
    Garcia mentions that "we’re starting to think differently about music now," trying to get at something new - they were indeed making a huge jump to their Anthem-style music in those months. And he accurately predicts that on their next album, "we’ll spend more time in the studio, more time on production... It won’t be our material the way we perform it, it’ll be something else...with more sophistication."
    He also talks a bit about psychedelics' effect on the music - opening up communication with the audience & the other players - but insists, "Playing is in fact the best high that I know. There’s no comparable experience in drugs. Nothing like it."

    It's said the Dead are going into "tribal retreat" and moving to New Mexico. They were starting to get tired of the Haight scene around this time; but as it turned out they wouldn't move quite that far away. It sounds like Garcia wanted to get away from the "action" & "energy" & publicity and get back into an Olompali-like scene - "we’re concerned about our productivity." (A couple times that year, they spent some time at a Russian River retreat, spending valuable time rehearsing & creating new material.)
    I think Robert Hunter was in New Mexico at the time, but within the next month he'd move to SF to join the Dead.

    I don't have more info on what was played at these Seattle shows. (The Eagles Auditorium show was with Magic Fern and the Daily Flash, with the Union Light Co. light show, and was scheduled from 7 to 12.)
    But there are some memories of nearby shows - a review on of their next show at the Masonic Temple in Portland, 7/18/67:
    "All the 'heads' of Portland were there. All 723 of them... Not so different from the debut album....frantic leads, meandering bass, single drummer, Fender amps turned up loud. Jerry playing his black Les Paul. Pigpen dinkin' away on the organ. Good stuff. A very intimate, but small event, in a very tasteful venue. No lightshow. A couple Portland bands trying hard to sound like Arthur Lee's Love."
    Another person kept a setlist for the following show at the Continental Ballroom in Santa Clara, 7/21/67 (which did feature "lights, visual projections & illuminations"):
    "My set list notes: Set one:1. Viola Lee Blues (30:00) 2. Morning Dew (5:00). Set two: 1. The Golden Road (3:00) 2. (Pigpen song) (13:00) 3. New, New Minglewood Blues (4:00) 4. (????) (14:00) 5. [Friend of Mine] (?) (8:00) 6. Midnight Hour (15:00). All times are approximate since I was just looking at my watch. I had the first album, so I'm sure songs 2, 4 and 5 were not on it."
    (The new Pigpen song was probably Alligator, or maybe the brand-new Lovelight. Hard to say what #4 might've been - maybe Dancing or New Potato.)

    1. "You know,we're concerned about our productivity.And what we are going to do is like get away from the,well,from just this kind of thing.

      Talking you mean?

      What a great exchange.It seems Jerry is saying instead of wasting my time talking with you as a group we could be off somewhere working on our craft or at the very least not wasting our time answering inane questions about Beatle comparisons and the Hopi Indians.

  2. Thank you! The afternoon show was my first. IIRC the truck faced the hill in back of the beach, and we sat in the trees facing the water and the band. I don't remember the set list, but I went to Eagles that night, and was on the bus forever.

  3. McNally writes: "Life at 710 was sufficiently hectic that horrible summer of love that the band at least briefly decided to move to New Mexico. Sue Swanson, Kreutzmann's new lady friend Susila, MG, and Vee went as scouts... They camped near the Four Corners and even found a lovely place near Taos, but were unable to pin down a lease. They also found themselves running out of money and were forced to wire home for more. At some point Vee grew suspicious when the band didn't seem all that thrilled with what the scouts had found, and concluded that they 'had just wanted us out of the house.' They returned home in time to join that band on a special jaunt [the trip to Toronto at the end of July]." (McNally p.209)

    So that would have been right when Garcia was giving this interview, telling the Helix the band was moving to New Mexico. As it turned out, they decided not to go.
    But Laird Grant (the band's first roadie) had quit in June '67 and headed to New Mexico - he apparently settled in Taos (where he may still live today?). Robert Hunter was also living there, but in August decided to take up Garcia's invitation to join the group. He was then staying near Taos, shortly after the Haight ladies had visited - this doesn't seem like a coincidence! So there was a fair amount of Dead traffic between 710 and New Mexico that summer.

    Phil's poet friend Bobby Petersen also lived in Taos at some point. When the band finally played New Mexico in 1971 (Albuquerque 11/17/71), according to a reviewer they took a trip to Taos - which was considerably out of their way. It seems there's an untold story about the band's connections there.

    1. Rosie McGee also moved to Taos in 1974 and lived there for a few years.

    2. After splitting with Garcia during the Acid Tests in '66, Sara Garcia also went to Taos with her new boyfriend (and with Robert Hunter's encouragement). "We went off to Taos determined to find The Answer. We saw God in the rocks. We weren't taking any drugs, but everything seemed really alive at this hot springs we went to. We didn't find the answer." After running out of money, they returned to Palo Alto. (p.101)

      With four people in the Dead's circle staying in Taos for a while (at different times), and the Dead visiting there, I'm sure they must have had some social connection there - this all can't be coincidence.

    3. Even before this interview, the Dead had been thinking about moving to the southwest for some time. A Ralph Gleason Chronicle article on the Dead in March '67 reported, "They are leaving the Haight-Ashbury soon. They expect to live for awhile in the Southwest, perhaps Santa Fe, New Mexico."