It’s All About the

In their 1963 single ‘Surfin’ Bird’, the surf-rock garage band The Trashmen sang:
“A well a don’t you know about the bird?
Well, everybody knows that the bird is the word!
A well a bird, bird, b-bird’s the word.”

The song was inspired by two contemporary songs by the doo-wop group The Rivingtons, those being ‘Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow’ and ‘Bird is the Word’.  The bird refers to a dance craze in the 1960s.  To do the bird you face your partner.  Place your feet together with knees slightly bent, and your body slightly forward, and your arms (become your wings) stretched out horizontally with your elbows bent.  Flap your wings while you are pushing your hands down and your elbows up at the same time, then do this in reverse.  Meanwhile you raise your heels alternately and in rapid motion, then you occasionally hop forward (girls hop backwards while you are going forward) and then this is done in reverse.  Clap your hands, kick your right foot out with your heel touching the floor while you are pivoting your left foot a quarter turn to the left, all the time keeping your wings flapping.  Repeat this three times, then return to your original direction.  (Girls do same, but kick their left foot, pivot their right foot and do their quarter turn to the right.  Hey, nobody ever said that this dance was easy!

The Minneapolis group known as The Trashmen noticed that these two songs sounded alike, so they mashed them together in a live performance.  A DJ at the show brought them into the studio to record the mashup under the title ‘Surfin’ Bird’.  The Rivingtons sued the Trashmen for plagiarism and now they are credited as the writers of this song.  While The Trashmen’s inspiration for ‘Surfin’ Bird’ is well-documented, the exact origin and meaning of the saying bird is the word is less clear.  Bird has carried many slang connotations throughout its history, from “prostitute” to “the middle finger”.  In the context of the song, “the word” meant the best, something that is cool, or hip, and later on this phrase evolved into meaning, “I really agree with what you just said”.  “Bird is the word” may characterize something that is good, cool, or new, but to me, it always makes me think about turkey.

The Rivingtons formed in the early 60s in Los Angeles, California, and this doo-wop group is mostly known for these two hits.  The group consisted of lead vocalist Carl White, Al Frazier, Sonny Harris and Rocky Wilson Jnr all of whom had previously worked as backing vocalists on recordings by Paul Anka, Duane Eddy and Thurston Harris, as the Sharps.  The song ‘Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow’ is composed of primarily of nonsense syllables and it features a deep bass voice which is accompanied by the rest of the group’s divine vocal harmonies.  The phrase “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow” reportedly came to Wilson while he was in jail, following a fight a fellow inmate supposedly whispered this in his ear.  This song reached #48 in 1962 and it was later covered by the Beach Boys.

The Trashmen were made up of lead guitarist Tony Andreason, guitarist and vocalist Dan Winslow, bassist Bob Reed and drummer Steve Wahrer.  The Trashmen’s ‘Surfin’ Bird’ peaked at #4 on the Billboard charts, later inspiring fun or ironic covers by popular performers from The Ramones to Pee-wee Herman.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, don’t eat too much turkey and try to stay safe.

I Took the Deadhead Quiz

Supposedly there are all sorts of levels of being a Deadhead, and some people will call themselves Deadheads because they wear a tie-dye tee shirt and go to a show or two.  The Grateful Dead have not been a band for 25 years now, so who are these people to judge me?   Being a Deadhead is about appreciating the music and it should have nothing to do with twirling instead of dancing, or living in a van, or sometimes someone else’s van.  I was rated a part-time Deadhead by the survey and they told me that I never really lived the lifestyle full time, but I thought that most of the questions were stupid.

Do you twirl when you dance?
Yeah!
Sometimes
I don’t think so.
What? No.

How many Dead Shows have you gone to?
Over 100
20-100
1-20
0

Do you have a song list in your wallet right now?
Yep
No, but I used to.
No, I have never done that.
I don’t know what you are talking about.

What is your favorite Dead song?
“Dire Wolf”
“Dark Star”
“Shakedown Street”
“Truckin'”

Ever go to a show and ask for a miracle?
All the time
Sometimes
No, I always had tickets.
What?

Have you ever sold grilled cheese sandwiches at a show to make money?
Sure, gotta get by somehow.
Once or twice.
No, I always had money.
Umm. No.

Ever sell anything else at a show to make money?
What are you, a cop?
Who wants to know?
No, but I have bought some stuff like that.
No way.

Is Trey a better guitarist than Jerry?
I am going to pretend you didn’t say that.
No way
Maybe
Who?

How into balloons are you?
Totally into them!
I used to be.
Not at all.
Balloons? You mean at kids’ parties?

Do you mind sleeping on the couch of someone you don’t know?
No, it is actually kind of fun.
It is a little uncomfortable.
That doesn’t sound fun.
That sounds awful.

Have you ever gone on tour?
More than once.
Yes, once
No
A tour of what?

Do you like punk music?
No way man.
Not really.
It is okay.
I love it!

What would you do at a Dead Concert if someone was in your seat?
Seats? I don’t want a seat.
It wouldn’t bother me.
I would ask them politely to leave.
I would ask security to deal with it.

Do you like patchouli?
I love that stuff!
It is pretty cool.
Not really.
I don’t know. What is it?

Did you used to buy a lot of blank tapes?
Tons.
Quite a few.
No, I have never done that.
Why would I do that?

Have you ever hitchhiked?
Sure, I have done that a lot.
Sometimes.
Maybe once.
No, that is not safe.

Do you say “kind” a lot?
All the time.
I used to.
Not really.
Nope.

Have you ever used “?” as your occupation on a form.
Yeah, all the time.
I have before.
No, I have always worked or gone to school.
Why would I do that?

How excited do you get when “Alligator” gets played?
So excited!
Pretty excited.
Ehh, that isn’t my favorite.
I don’t know it.

Does your car have a ton of Dead stickers on it?
I don’t have a car.
Yeah, all sorts.
It has a few.
No.

Have you ever called in sick to go to a Dead Show?
No, but I have quit my job.
Yes, more than once.
No, but I thought of it.
No way.

What do you do when the bus comes by?
Get on man!
See if they can give me a ride.
I am not sure.
I don’t need a bus, I have a car.

How often do you wear tie-dye?
All the time.
Often.
Only during shows.
Never.

Do you like veggie burritos?
Love them!
They are pretty good.
They are okay.
Not at all.

Have you ever told someone about “The Deadhead way?”
Of course.
I think I have.
I don’t think so.
I have no idea what you are talking about.

Do you like it when Bob sings?
Yeah, he is awesome.
Yeah, but Jerry is better.
Not really.
Who is Bob?

Do you miss Pigpen?
Yeah man, he was awesome.
Not so much.
I don’t really remember him.
You mean the character from “Peanuts”?

Has it been a long strange trip?
Totally.
Sometimes it seems that way.
Not so much.
Has what been a long strange trip?

How much product do you use in your hair?
I have never used product.
I rarely use it.
A fair amount.
I use a ton.

Do you think long hair looks good on people?
Yeah, it looks awesome.
It looks pretty cool.
It depends on the person.
Not at all.

I ran across this cool video with Tom Davis and Jerry Garcia in the kitchen for “Cooking with Jerry,” from the Grateful Dead’s Ticket to New Year’s DVD.

Another video surfaced, a segment with Mickey dressed as Spock and Jerry as Santa.

An Instrumental Instrumental

‘Raunchy’ was an instrumental song composed by Bill Justis and Sid Manker in 1957 and produced by Sam Phillips.  This wild, primitive instrumental was originally titled ‘Backwoods’, but Phillips renamed the tune ‘Raunchy’, teenage slang for dirty or messy.  In 1998, the single by Bill Justis And His Orchestra was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in the Rock & Roll genre.  ‘Raunchy’ is one of the first rock songs to use the “twangy” lead guitar effect, which was later developed by others and became common for several years following this song.  In the mid-50s, great guitar innovators like Duane Eddy known as the Sultan of Twang started playing lead riffs drenched in tremolo and echo in the lower registers of the guitar, creating the bass-y sound that since then has become synonymous with “twang”.  Duane Eddy used his vibrato bar while plucking his open bottom string to get this twang sound.

Harrison knew McCartney for about a year, even though he was a few weeks shy of his 15th birthday.  The two were students at the Liverpool Institute and they frequently took the same bus to and from school and a friendship blossomed, and they began jamming together.  The Quarry Men were named after the Quarry Bank High School where the band was formed three years earlier and when they were looking to bring in a third guitarist, McCartney suggested his friend.  In 1958, George Harrison performed ‘Raunchy’ for John Lennon and Paul McCartney on the top deck of a bus in Liverpool, and it was so note-perfect that Lennon decided, despite earlier reservations about Harrison’s age, to let him into his band the Quarrymen, which later became the Beatles

In 1959, the Garcia family moved to Cazadero, a tiny town in the redwoods eighty miles north of San Francisco and Jerry Garcia started attending Analy High School in Sebastopol, Sonoma County, California.  Analy had a band called the Chords, which Jerry joined and their material was largely 1940s big-band tunes and they played at youth canteens, and high school dances.  In 1959, he showed an ability to play convincing rock and roll on the Chords’ occasional contemporary tunes.  The band even won a contest and got to record the song ‘Raunchy’.

‘Raunchy’ was the birth of the first Rock ‘n’ Roll instrumental song.  Combining a tenor sax with a lower-register guitar turned out to be a very successful idea.  In 1957, this blend gave Bill Justis a #2 record with ‘Raunchy’, featuring Sid Manker’s guitar along with Justis’ sax, but what made ‘Raunchy’ so unique was Manker’s guitar, as he forged the song’s distinctive riff not from the traditional middle strings but from the bass strings, creating a cavernous, resonant sound further buffered by studio echo.  The single proved Sun’s best-selling instrumental release ever, staying in the pop Top 40 for 14 weeks.  Justis and Manaker concocted the song in Justis’ home while making fun of Rock n’ Roll, convinced that they too could do it well if only they tried.  Bill Justis was older than most teenage Rock fans, and had little interested in Rock as a musical style.  However, he soon realized that Rock’s basic and simple sound was actually harder to achieve than he first thought.  The instrumental wave started with rock and roll and ended, in America, with The Beatles and the British Invasion.

From Innocence to Jerry Garcia

In 1995, the year that Jerry Garcia died, Squeeze the British rock band recorded ‘Electric Trains’ on their eleventh album, Ridiculous.  ‘Electric Trains’ was released as a single and it peaked at #44 in the UK Singles Chart.  Two versions of the single were released, each with entirely different B-sides and later Chris Difford recorded a stripped-down version of the song titled ‘Playing With Electric Trains’ on his 2002 solo album I Didn’t Get Where I Am.  Squeeze came to prominence in the United Kingdom during the New Wave period of the late 1970s and continued recording successfully in the 1980s and 1990s.  They are known in the UK for their hit songs ‘Cool for Cats’, ‘Up the Junction’, ‘Tempted’, ‘Labelled With Love’, ‘Black Coffee In Bed’, ‘Another Nail in My Heart’, ‘Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)’ and ‘Hourglass’.  They were not as commercially successful in the U.S., but they did have American chart hits with ‘Tempted’, ‘Hourglass’ and ‘853-5937’.  All of Squeeze’s hits were written by band members Chris Difford who wrote the lyrics and Glenn Tilbrook who wrote the music.  They were hailed as “the heirs to Lennon and McCartney’s throne”, because of their classic 1965 pre-psychedelic Beatles-like sound that produced catchy songs during their peak of popularity in the early 1980s.

‘Electric Trains’ is about a boy that grows up from a childhood that was filled with fun and games and he enjoyed playing with electric trains.  He gets turned on to music as he enters puberty.  He likes girls and starts having sex and then he forms his own band.  His music becomes popular, but I am not exactly sure what he is saying in the end of this song when he mentions the Grateful Dead.

When I was crowned a mummy’s boy by friends I didn’t like
I made a meal of trips to school upon my father’s bike
I used to sit between his legs, perched on a piece of wood
If it ever rained on us, I’d slip beneath his hood
And at home the radio was on
From Julie Andrews to Jerry Garcia
Life was all fun and games
I was out of my head and underneath my bed
Playing with electric trains

At home the stereo was on
My head was filled with rock
I played a willow cricket bat guitar
And soloed round the clock
My records stacked up in a pile
Collected from the charts
And Top of the Pops

Kneeling with torchlight shining
Before me in my bed
My eyeballs stuck in readers wives
Pubic hairs proudly counted everyday
Manhood took me slowly
Out into the milky way

I chased the girls and made them cry
My hair grew down my back
The passing of my teenage years
Were spent down in the sack
I played guitar and formed a band
I puked up all night long

As people came to sit and stare
While I raced through my songs
The sound of music passed by me
Just like the Grateful Dead

Totally Free

In 1980, Christopher Cross had a hit with ‘Ride Like The Wind’, and in 1981 Frank Zappa parodied the song as ‘Teenage Wind’.  Arthur Barrow is a multi-instrumental musician, that played bass guitar for Frank Zappa and later he worked with Joe Cocker, Diana Ross, Billy Idol, The Motels, and many others.  Barrow went to high school with Chris Geppard, aka Christopher Cross and when he heard Chris’s song on the radio, he told Frank about it and Frank told him that he could write a song like this in 5 minutes and this song is the result.  Frank Zappa recorded ‘Teenage Wind’ on his album You Are What You Is and another version of this song appears on You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, vol. 4, but this does not contain any references to the Grateful Dead. 

Frank’s music is an acquired taste, but he has always been unique.  Frank didn’t drink or take drugs and he wrote impossibly complex music that had no real form or structure, but this was how he expressed his artistic freedom and he ended up becoming one of music’s most eloquently passionate opponents of censorship.  The thing that I like most about this song is that it is about enjoying freedom without taking on the burden of responsibility.  The teenaged character in this song wants to go to a Grateful Dead concert, sniff glue, and get ripped while listening to Jerry’s guitar solo.  The teen also mentions going to see a show of 200 Motels, which is a 1971 surreal musical film was written and directed by Frank Zappa and Tony Palmer.  This musical is a tale of life on the road mixed with performances by the Mothers and the Royal Symphony Orchestra.  Ringo Starr played ‘Larry The Dwarf’ (dressed as Zappa), Keith Moon was ‘the Hot Nun’, but critics were distinctly underwhelmed by this film.

It’s a miserable Friday night
I’m so lonely
And nobody’ll give me a ride
To the grateful dead concert…oh rats!

I got to be free
Free as the wind
Free is the way
I got to be

Maybe I’m lost
Maybe I sinned
I got to be
Totally free

Our parents don’t love us
Our teachers they say
Things that are boring
So we’re running away
And we will be free
And people will see
That when we are free
That’s the way we should be

Nothing left to do but get out the ‘ol
Glue
(sniff it good now…)

Our parents don’t love us
Our teachers they say
Things that are boring
So we’re running away

And we will be free
And people will see
That when we are free
That’s the way we should be
(we must be free!)
The glue! the glue! I can’t find the glue!
(we must be free as the wind)
If I was at the concert now, I’d be ripped!
(we were free when we were born)
I could tighten my headband for an extra rush
During jerry’s guitar solo
Then I could go to a midnite show of 200 motels!
(we were born free, but, now we are not free anymore!)
“opal, you hot little bitch!”
“you can take this pin n’ hang it in yer ass!”
“you ain’t the devil!”
“where’s my waitress? “
But we wanna be free
An’ were gonna be free

Yes, we want to be free and we’re gonna be free
… did you know that
Free is when you don’t have to
Pay for nothing
Or do nothing
We want to be free
Free as the wind

Free is when you don’t have to
Pay for nothing
Or do nothing
We want to be free
Free as the wind

Free is when you don’t have to
Pay for nothing
Or do nothing
We want to be free
Free as the wind

Free is when you don’t have to
Pay for nothing
Or do nothing
We want to be free
Free as the wind

First Song to Reference the Grateful Dead

Eric Burdon and The Animals recorded their song ‘Monterey’ in 1968 on their album The Twain Shall Meet.  This song described the Monterey Pop Festival which set the standard for all the music festivals that followed like Woodstock.  The music and lyrics were composed by the group’s members, Barry Jenkins, Danny Mcculloch, Eric Victor Burdon, Johnny Weider and Vic Briggs.  This song was released as a single in 1967, and it reached #15 on the U.S. pop singles chart and went to #16 on the Canadian RPM charts. 

Eric Burdon and the Animals performed at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and the lyrics in this song describe the atmosphere of the festival and some of the notable musicians who played, including The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Ravi Shankar, The Who, Hugh Masekela, The Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix, as “young gods” with music “born of love” where “religion was being born”.  The band described a scene at which “children danced night and day”, and they sang “even the cops grooved with us”.  “His Majesty Prince Jones” was a reference to Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, who was an MC at the event. 

Burdon said this festival was a profound experience for him and that Owsley was doling out all the acid here, handing it out in different color tabs each day, kind of like backstage passes.  Eric wrote his full name, Owsley Stanley III, on his arm, like a tattoo, with a magic marker as a reminder, but he said that it wasn’t all about drugs, although they contributed to an awareness.  Burdon still believes that love will conquer all, but the whole Summer of Love thing was just a marketing ploy.

The people came and listened
Some of them came and played
Others gave flowers away, yes they did
Down in Monterey
Down in Monterey
Young Gods smiled upon the crowd
Their music being born of love
Children danced night and day
Religion was being born
Down in Monterey

The birds and the airplane did fly
Oh, Ravi Shankars music made me cry
The Who exploded into fire and light
Hugh Masakela’s music was black as night
The Grateful Dead blew everybodies mind
Jimi Hendrix baby, believe me, set the world on fire, yeah

His Majesty, Prince Jones, smiled as he moved among the crowd
Ten thousand electric guitars were grooving real loud, yeah
You want to find the truth in life
Don’t pass music by
and you know I would not lie, no I would not lie,
No, I would not lie
Down in Monterey

Three days of understanding of moving with one another
Even the cops grooved with us
Do you believe me, yeah?
Down in Monterey
I think that maybe I’m dreaming
Monterey
Down in Monterey
Did you hear what I said?

I Thought We Had It All

In 1996, David Murray recorded his album Dark Star (The Music Of The Grateful Dead).  On this album, the David Murray Octet recorded 6 Grateful Dead songs along with this one ‘Shoulda Had Been Me’ which was written by Bruce Cockburn, Michael Nash, and Bob Weir.  Weir sings this song while playing acoustic guitar accompanied by Murray playing a horn.  This song was also played by Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman and by Ratdog a total of 11 times.  David Murray was known for playing tenor saxophone and bass clarinet and he played a set with the Grateful Dead at a show on September 22, 1993, at Madison Square Garden in New York City where he added his soulful tenor to ‘Bird Song’, as well as to the entire second set, which blew away the audience.

Bruce Cockburn is a Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist from Toronto who recorded his song ‘Waiting For A Miracle’ in 1986, which Bob Weir liked so he turned Jerry Garcia on to this tune and the Jerry Garcia Band started playing it.  Michael Nash is a producer and composer/songwriter, and a keyboardist, who was in the American soul and R&B group Rose Royce that had a big hit with the song ‘Car Wash’.  Rob Wasserman was a Grammy-winning highly respected bass player and composer who also performed and recorded with Lou Reed, Neil Young, Brian Wilson, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, and Bruce Hornsby, among others.

Bob Weir started the band Ratdog as a side project in 1995 just prior to when the Grateful Dead broke up, but their roots can be traced to 1988 to when Weir started playing with Wasserman as a duo.  They toured for six years together under names like Weir & Wasserman and Scaring the Children.  When Jerry Garcia died this became Weir’s primary band.  Ratdog went through several different formations and they played a combination of Grateful Dead songs, covers and some originals.

Bob Weir started working on a song called ‘The Ballad of Satchel Paige’ and it became clear that there was just a whole lot more than just a song while he was taking a vacation down in Mexico.  He met a screenwriter and they started talking about the life and times of Satchel Paige and at one point, he figured that it would make a great musical.  Weir began working on it for several years with Grammy Award-winning bluesman Taj Mahal and jazz sax dynamo David Murray.  This song ‘Shoulda Had Been Me’ was written as part of a planned musical about the life of the baseball player Satchel Paige, who started his career pitching in the Negro leagues.  This song dramatizes Paige’s reaction to the news that Jackie Robinson had been tapped as the first black baseball player to play in the major leagues.  The legendary Negro Leagues pitcher who made his Major League Baseball debut at age 42 with the 1948 Cleveland Indians became the oldest rookie in Major League.  The musical was supposed to open in Philadelphia in ‘97, but the backers pulled out and unfortunately it seems like the Satchel Paige musical will never see the light of day.

I was your diamond shining in the rough
You were my truest muse, first and only love
My inspiration, you made me rise above
I thought we had it all

Seasons changing now, the bird is on the wing
Guess it’s autumn now, ain’t no hidden spring
No dogwood blossoms, no robin sing
Leaves just turn and fall

Funny how blue skies can turn to grey
Funny how fortune can turn and walk the other way
Can’t take back time, just don’t work that way
Still there’s just one thing I gotta say

Ain’t no denyin’, ‘cause it’s plain to see 
Shoulda had been me

Yesterday’s a stranger, strolls on by so fast
Best forget the future if you’re living in the past
Nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’, all except what’s gonna last
Rest is all just days gone by

Nightbirds calling as the shadows fade away
Guess it’s gettin late now, ain’t much left to say
No hide-and-seek twilight games left to play
I just can’t figure why

I turned the tides for you, showed the breeze where to blow
Made the thunder roll, made the rivers flow
Spun dawn into daylight, with the sundown aglow
If that wasn’t enough of a show

I’d shine the moon and when nighttime was done
Put out the stars, call back the sun
I’ll be a man, I’ll hold my tongue
But I know that, you know that, I was the one

Ain’t no denyin’, ‘cause it’s plain to see 

I’m all done cryin’, yes it’s just gonna be
Ain’t no denying, just let it be
Shoulda had been me
Shoulda had been me
Shoulda had been me
Shoulda had been me

Happy Birthday Bobby

Bob Weir turns 73 years old today, being born on October 16, 1947.  Bob is currently in a group with the bass player Don Was and the drummer Jay Lane called Bob Weir and Wolf Bros that was formed in 2018, but they have suspended their tour due to the Coronavirus.  Bob is also in the band Dead & Company which consists of former Grateful Dead drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, along with John Mayer (guitar), Oteil Burbridge (bass/drums), and Jeff Chimenti (keyboards).  They have also cancelled their tour because of the global coronavirus outbreak.  Dead & Company was formed in 2015 when the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and Bob Weir joined forces with artist and musician John Mayer, Allman Brothers’ bassist Oteil Burbridge, after the Fare Thee Well series of concerts. 

Weir was also the frontman for the band Kingfish, and Bobby and the Midnites, RatDog and he was in the group The Other Ones, The Dead, a band called Furthur.  In 2012, Weir toured with Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes and singer/songwriter Jackie Greene as the Weir, Robinson, & Greene Acoustic Trio.  On April 25, 2013, Weir collapsed onstage during a Furthur performance but he performed with the band two days later, but then he sat out for several weeks and resumed performing that summer.  Jerry Garcia developed a belly as he aged, but Bob Weir has always stayed in good shape and he has always brought his all to concerts.  Bob meditates and he exercises with his Apple watch and it seems like he just keeps going like the Energizer bunny.

In 1999, Weir married Natascha and together they have two daughters, Shala Monet Weir and Chloe Kaelia Weir.  Coincidently John Mayer is also celebrating his birthday and he will turn 43 today.  To celebrate Bob’s birthday, Fans.live is airing a marathon free broadcast streaming celebration that begins at 10 AM ET, and features footage from The Dead’s final five “Fare Thee Well” shows in CA and IL, as well as performances from Dead & Company, RatDog, Bob Weir and Wolf Bros, Phil Lesh & Friends, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Bobby & Phil Duo, and more.  There will also be messages from Weir’s collaborators and friends.

You Know He Had to Die

Bob Weir eulogized his roommate, the guy that he lived with in the Grateful Dead’s Victorian at 710 Ashbury, Prankster Neal Cassady in the first song that he wrote ‘(That’s It For) The Other One’, but strangely Neal was living when this song was written, however he died on the night that the Grateful Dead first played this tune.  Cassady was a complicated soul whose creative energies found release through an immoderate enthusiasm for sex, automobiles, and drugs.  In 1946, Cassady met Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg at Columbia University and they all became members of the Beat Generation, which was a group of disaffected artists.  In the spring of 1954, Allen Ginsberg stayed with Neal and his wife Carolyn Cassady in San Jose, but Carolyn found Neal and Allen engaged in oral sex, so she told Allen to leave.  The next year, Ginsberg wrote the poem Howl about Neal Cassady’s exploits.  Two years later, Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road, where Neal Cassady was used as the model for the character Dean Moriarty.  Cassady was depicted as the helmsman of Ken Kesey’s epic 1964 cross-country journey in Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which was published in 1968.  Cassady would play another part to in American literature in 1990, when his second wife Carolyn wrote her book, Off the Road: Twenty Years with Cassady, Kerouac and Ginsberg, which details her marriage to Cassady, his sexual relationship with Ginsberg and Neal’s job working for the Southern Pacific Railroad as a brakeman.

Cassady met Ken Kesey in 1962 and he joined the Merry Pranksters and he became the driver of the psychedelic 1939 Harvester school bus called Furthur.  Neal taught Bob Weir how to drive when he was 18 and didn’t have a drivers licence.  Neal was an extraordinary driver and he could drive through San Francisco traffic at rush hour in stop and go traffic going 55 mph or 60 mph on the wrong side of the street.  He drove on the sidewalk and never stopped for a stop sign or a red light.  He had this special awareness and he just seemed to be in the right place at the right time.  Neal was a multitasker and he was always talking incessantly in rhymes and he could hold multiple conversations at the same time, like a master juggler, that never dropped a ball.  Bob described him as one of those guys you see with the Hindu pantheon, those guys with many arms.

On the cold night of February 4, 1968, while Neal Cassady was pumped up with Seconal and pulque (an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented sap of the maguey plant which is traditional to central Mexico), he announced that he was going to walk the railroad tracks from San Miguel to Celaya (about 15 miles) for the expressed purpose of counting the railroad ties.  Clad only in jeans and a T-shirt, he passed out on the tracks, and he was discovered the next morning in a coma and died the same day, four days short of his 42nd birthday.  Legend has it that his last words or numbers were “64,928,” allegedly, the ties he had counted.  Neal was a hard-living, fast-driving, pill-popping womanizer and Joe McCord the playwright who staged Tarot, a play about Cassady featuring music from Tom Constanten said that the last thing that Neal said to him was “The only way for me to get out of the Grateful Dead is to be dead.”

The other day they waited, the sky was dark and faded,
Solemnly they stated, “he has to die, you know he has to die.”
All the children learnin’, from books that they were burnin’,
Every leaf was turnin’; to watch him die, you know he had to die.
The summer sun looked down on him, his mother could but frown on him,
And all the others sound on him, but it doesn’t seem to matter.
And when the day had ended, with rainbow colors blended,
His mind remained unbended, he had to die, you know he had to die.

Spanish lady come to me, she lays on me this rose
It rainbow spirals round and round, it trembles and explodes
It left a smoking crater of my mind I like to blow away
But the heat came round and busted me for smiling on a cloudy day

Coming, coming, coming around
Coming around, coming around, in a circle
Coming, coming, coming around
Coming around, coming around, in a circle

Escaping through the lily fields, I came across an empty space
It trembled and exploded, left a bus stop in its place
The bus came by and I got on, that’s when it all began
There was Cowboy Neal at the wheel of the bus to never ever land

Coming, coming, coming around
Coming around, coming around, in a circle
Coming, coming, coming around
Coming around, coming around, in a circle

And when the day had ended, with rainbow colors blended,
Their minds remained unbended,
He had to die, oh, you know he had to die.

30 Years Later

A previously unreleased Grateful Dead concert from Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina on July 10, 1990 will be broadcast for free on Youtube tomorrow night beginning at 8:45 p.m. ET.  Go to this website to listen, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaMvpDDuGuw

The performance took place just weeks before pianist Brent Mydland died from an accidental overdose.  Set 1 includes, ‘Jack Straw’, ‘Loser’, ‘We Can Run’, ‘Me and My Uncle’, ‘Big River’, ‘Friend of the Devil’, ‘When I Paint My Masterpiece’, ‘Bird Song’ and ‘The Promised Land’.  Set 2 contains ‘Iko Iko’, ‘Playing in the Band’, ‘Uncle John’s Band’, Drums and Space, ‘The Other One’, ‘Stella Blue’ and ‘Not Fade Away’.  The encore closer is ‘Brokedown Palace’.  Set a reminder as you don’t want to miss out on this!