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!

Happy Birthday USA

Happy 4th of July, my friends and I have a very appropriate song for you to celebrate this holiday with today.  ‘U.S. Blues’ is a Grateful Dead song written by Hunter and Garcia and it was released on their 1974 album Mars Hotel.  In 1973, the Grateful Dead started playing a song called ‘Wave That Flag’ and this eventually developed into ‘U.S. Blues’.  This is a patriotic rock song as can be seen in the first line of this song combining the colors of the USA and the song that was a hit for Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis ‘Blue Suede Shoes’.  Uncle Sam is not taking your taxes here, he is saying hello and slapping you a high five.  Garcia has been up on stage in many concerts and he sings that it ain’t luck that he learned to duck, which always makes me think of the Blues Brothers movie where the bar patrons are throwing bottles at the band.

Garcia is cool up on stage with a pulse remaining at an even seventy-two, but he wants the audience to make some noise and he instructs the fans to pop the bag to create a pressure wave, which should get others jumping.  Jerry wants the audience to make some waves by rocking the boat and perhaps there will be a feast later, if somebody skins the goat.  The fans know how to show their spirit as the chorus comes in telling everyone to wave the flag, wide and high, which sort of reminds me of Francis Scott Key watching the British as they bombarded Fort McHenry, because he was so happy to see the flag still standing.  In 1973, the U.S. was withdrawing troops from Vietnam which was less-than-triumphant close, and the song makes a comparison with summertime being done and gone.

Garcia declares that he is Uncle Sam and that he has been hiding out in a rock and roll band.  He is proud that he got to shake the hand of someone who shook hands with P. T. Barnum and Charlie Chan.   Rhyming finishes this song off with shoes, fuse and Blues, as Jerry offers a toast, says he will share your wealth, run your life, and steal your wife.  Back to back could be two people looking in opposite directions or a sequence following immediately after another.  Chicken shack could be a place that serves food or the British blues band that Christine Perfect was in.  Robert Hunter wrote the lyrics for the song ‘One More Saturday Night’ which him and Bob Weir clashed over when Weir rewrote them and then Weir asked if he could call the resulting song ‘U.S. Blues’, which Hunter would not permit.  In the end, Hunter didn’t want to have any association with ‘One More Saturday Night’ and it was credited solely to Weir.  This song ends with the line, “You can call this song the United States Blues”, which may be a dig at Weir.

In the Grateful Dead Movie, a 1977 music documentary, Jerry Garcia came up with the idea of opening this with a cartoon, a lengthy eleven minute opening sequence that takes viewers through memorable Dead iconography including album covers from Blues for Allah and From the Mars Hotel, as well as the relatable misadventures of a dancing skeleton.  The Dead are sitting on couches wearing space suits watching TV.  We see the Blues for Allah skeleton with long white hair wearing a red robe and sunglasses, playing a violin.  Then we are out in space where a psychedelic yellowish animated character whose body looks like a corn on the cob and he has arms like the Michelin Man is playing a giant pinball machine knocking planets into each other, before an explosion brings Uncle Sam Skeleton into the picture.  The music changes into ‘Beat It on Down the Line’ while he is riding a motorcycle into a desert valley and he probably dropped some acid.  He changes radio stations and finds ‘The Wheel’ playing and then he dreams about floating on a raft in a swimming pool, but he ends up in a jail cell.  The Statue of Liberty breaks down the wall and frees him and all of his friends, then the animation ends and we are watching ‘U.S. Blues’ being performed at the San Francisco Winterland Arena in October 1974 and the crowd is dancing.

Red and white, blue suede shoes
I’m Uncle Sam, how do you do
Gimme five, still alive
Ain’t no luck, I learned to duck

Check my pulse, it don’t change
Stay seventy two, come shine or rain
Wave the flag, pop the bag
Rock the boat, skin the goat

Chorus
Wave that flag, wave it wide and high
Summertime done come and gone, my oh my

I’m Uncle Sam, that’s who I am
Been hiding out, in a rock and roll band
Shake the hand that shook the hand
Of P. T. Barnum and Charlie Chan

Shine your shoes, light your fuse
Can you use them old U.S. Blues
I’ll drink your health, share your wealth
Run your life, steal your wife

[chorus]

Back to back, chicken shack
Son of a gun, better change your act
We’re all confused, what’s to lose
You can call this song the United States Blues

The Devil’s Music

According to legend, Robert Johnson the first member of the musicians that died at the age of 27 club, sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his guitar playing ability.  Eddie James “Son” House perpetuated this rumor after Johnson disappeared for about six months, only to return with a seven-string guitar and an exceptional ability to use it, as previously he only learned the basics of the guitar and could scarcely play.  That fateful day changed the course of music forever, when Johnson stood at a crossroads near Dockery’s plantation, on the Sunflower River, between Ruleville and Cleveland, Mississippi and bartered his soul to the devil, to become a talented guitarist able to coax sounds from his guitar that no one had ever heard before.

The details of Robert Johnson’s life are shrouded in the mists of time, but it is believed that he was born in Hazelhurst, MS in 1911.  Robert met Virginia Travis and they were married in Penton, Mississippi, on February 17, 1929.  They lied on their marriage certificate, Robert claiming he was 21 and Virginia stating she was 18, when he was really 17 and she was only 14.  They started out their married life living with Robert’s half-sister Bessie and her husband Granville Hines on the Klein plantation just east of Robinsonville.  Johnson had already been a performer before getting married, but apparently, he loved his young wife enough to put his music playing on hold and try family life and farming, an occupation from which he had previously run away from.  There the couple lived for over a year until a pregnant Virginia decided to leave Robert and the farm to have her baby in her family’s care in Penton.

With Virginia gone to Penton, Robert took the opportunity to do some guitar playing, working his way up Highway 1 to what he expected would end as he reunited with his wife and child.  Virginia died in childbirth on Thursday April 10, 1930.  When Robert arrived at Penton with his guitar in hand, Virginia’s family and the community blamed him for her death, because he had been out playing the devil’s music.  Robert Johnson demonstrated his ability on street corners throughout the Mississippi Delta and in the 29 songs he recorded between 1936 and 1937.  Johnson was partial to women and whiskey, and he was allegedly poisoned by a lover’s jealous boyfriend or husband.

When Johnson disappeared, he lived with the family of an accomplished black Delta blues guitarist and road contractor, four years his senior, Isaiah Zimmerman.  Ike Zimmerman and Robert Johnson practiced in the graveyard at night, because Ike said that the only way to learn the Blues was to sit on a gravestone at midnight in a cemetery, so the ghosts could come out and teach you how to play and this may have perpetuated the myth that he sold his soul to the devil.  When Robert felt that he could not learn any more from Ike, he hit the road with Ike’s blessing ready for live performances with his newly learned hoodoo magic.  In 1932, Robert played for Son House and Willie Brown, and they were both amazed by his improvement.

‘Love in Vain Blues’ was recorded by Robert Johnson in Dallas in his final recording session in 1937 on the Vocalion label.  In 1939 the song became the final one of his songs to be released as a 78-rpm record.  The song describes the heartbreak of a man following the end of a love affair.  He uses the metaphor of a departing train to describe his sense of loss.  At the end of the song, Johnson calls out the name “Willie Mae”, who was his lover at the time.

I followed her to the station, with a suitcase in my hand
And I followed her to the station, with a suitcase in my hand
Well, it’s hard to tell, it’s hard to tell, when all your love’s in vain
All my love’s in vain
When the train rolled up to the station, I looked her in the eye
When the train rolled up to the station, and I looked her in the eye
Well, I was lonesome, I felt so lonesome, and I could not help but cry
All my love’s in vain
When the train, it left the station, with two lights on behind
When the train, it left the station, with two lights on behind
Well, the blue light was my blues, and the red light was my mind
All my love’s in vain
Hoo-hoo, ooh, Willie Mae
Oh oh hey, hoo, Willie Mae
Hoo-hoo, ooh, eeh, oh woe
All my love’s in vain

Chief Architect of Rock

Little Richard Penniman recorded this great soul tune ‘I Don’t Know What You’ve Got (but it’s got me)’, which combines the spirit of church music with the raunchiness of blues and the swing of New Orleans jazz and he turned it into something new, the sound of rock ’n’ roll.  The song was written by Don Covay in 1965 and it reached No. 12 of the R‘n’B charts and it features a young Jimi Hendrix on the guitar.  At the age of 21, Jimi Hendrix joined Little Richard’s touring band The Upsetters in September 1964, and Jimi only played with Little Richard for five months, leaving after not getting paid for a period of five and a half weeks.  He was ready for a change after the Little Richard stint, feeling that he couldn’t imagine himself being in a shiny Mohair suit for the rest of his life and wearing patent leather shoes and a patent leather hairdo to match.  Many people say that Jimi Hendrix was fired for upstaging Little Richard.

Little Richard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of its first group of inductees in 1986.  He was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.  He was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.  Rest in Peace Little Richard (1932-2020).

Dave’s Picks 33

The Live For Live Music site which is a premier music media, marketing, and production company reported that the Grateful Dead just landed their 100th different album on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States.  This is an achievement that’s never been done before by any artist or group.  They released around 200 albums, most of them concert recordings and most of these albums belong to the Dave’s Picks series of live recordings curated by the band’s archivist David Lemieux.  The Dick’s Picks series started in 1993 and Dave was put in charge of the Grateful Dead’s vault after the August 1999 passing of original Grateful Dead tape archivist Dick Latvala.  Dick’s Picks were followed by a series from 2007 to 2011 called Road Trips, and Dave’s Picks started in 2012.  There were 36 Dick’s Picks albums, 17 Road Trips, and 34 Dave’s Picks albums released by the Grateful Dead.  The record 100th charting album is Dave’s Picks Vol. 33: Evans Field House, N. Illinois University, Dekalb.  It landed at #45 in January 2020.  Dave’s Picks Volume 33 is a three-CD live album, featuring 21 songs.  Actually, of the 100 Grateful Dead albums that reached the charts, 43 managed to enter Top 40.

The Grateful Dead have managed to accomplish a feat that’s almost unheard of in the music industry.  The band that rose to fame largely outside the usual industry framework studio releases and album sales has now had 100 different albums land on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States.  The Beatles had many higher charting albums than the Grateful Dead, as they had 15 #1 albums, but they only had just over 40 albums that made the Billboard 200.  The Rolling Stones have around 60 albums that made the Billboard 200.  Out of the Grateful Dead’s 100 total albums which have made it to the Billboard 200, 43 of them have managed to crack the Top 40.

Many highly successful groups don’t ever get to 10 charting albums, and 100 is nearly unheard of, but the Grateful Dead rarely miss the Billboard 200 whenever they have something even slightly different to share with fans, and quite a few of their more recent releases have landed inside the upper half of the chart, beating out new projects from rappers and pop stars of today.  The number of live recordings the Grateful Dead has released is now far greater than traditional studio albums, and their legion of listeners are unique in their dedication to buying whatever the band releases and in their desire to hear every concert in the group’s past, no matter the setlist or how similar one concert may be to the last (though they do differ quite a bit typically).

I was only able to find 91 of these 100 albums that made the Billboard 200.
In The Dark peaked at #6
Grateful Dead From The Mars Hotel peaked at #16
Wake Of The Flood peaked at #18
Sunshine Daydream peaked at #19
Dave’s Picks Volume 19 peaked at #19
Blues For Allah peaked at #21
Dave’s Picks Volume 32 peaked at #22
Go To Heaven peaked at #23
Europe ‘72 peaked at #24
Grateful Dead (also known as Skull and Roses) peaked at #25
Cornell 5/8/77 peaked at #25
Hundred Year Hall peaked at #26
Dave’s Picks Volume 7 peaked at #26
Dave’s Picks Volume 21 peaked at #26
Dave’s Picks Volume 26 peaked at #26
Dave’s Picks Volume 29 peaked at #26
Dave’s Picks Volume 31 peaked at #26
Workingman’s Dead peaked at #27
Built To Last peaked at #27
Dave’s Picks Volume 12 peaked at #27
Dave’s Picks Volume 25 peaked at #27
Terrapin Station peaked at #28
Dead Set peaked at #29
Dave’s Picks Volume 12 peaked at #29
Dave’s Picks Volume 27 peaked at #29
American Beauty peaked at #30
Dave’s Picks Volume 9 peaked at #30
Dave’s Picks Volume 23 peaked at #30
Dave’s Picks Volume 30 peaked at #30
Dave’s Picks Volume 14 peaked at #31
Dave’s Picks Volume 17 peaked at #31
Dave’s Picks Volume 6 peaked at #32
Dave’s Picks Volume 13 peaked at #32
May 1977: Get Shown the Light peaked at #33
Dave’s Picks Volume 3 peaked at #34
Dave’s Picks Volume 16 peaked at #34
Dave’s Picks Volume 22 peaked at #34
Rocking The Cradle: Egypt 1978 peaked at #35
Dave’s Picks Volume 28 peaked at #35
Dylan & the Dead peaked at #37
Dave’s Picks Volume 5 peaked at #38
Dave’s Picks Volume 18 peaked at #38
Dave’s Picks Volume 20 peaked at #39
Shakedown Street peaked at #41
Without A Net peaked at #43
Reckoning peaked at #43
Spring 1990: The Other One peaked at #45
Dave’s Picks Volume 33 peaked at #45
Live At The Cow Palace: New Year’s Eve 1976 peaked at #48
Steal Your Face peaked at #56
To Terrapin: Hartford ’77 peaked at #59
History of the Grateful Dead, Volume One (Bear’s Choice) peaked at #60
July 1978: The Complete Recordings peaked at #62
Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, Washington, D.C., July 12 & 13, 1989 peaked at #64
Live/Dead peaked at #65
The Very Best Of Grateful Dead peaked at #69
Europe ’72 Volume 2 peaked at #72
The Grateful Dead peaked at #73
Dozin At The Knick peaked at #74
Rockin’ The Rhein With The Grateful Dead peaked at #75
Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of Grateful Dead peaked at #75
Fillmore East 2-11-69 peaked at #77
Fallout From The Phil Zone peaked at #83
The Warfield, San Francisco, California, October 9 & 10, 1980 peaked at #84
Anthem Of The Sun peaked at #87
Pacific Northwest ’73–’74: The Complete Recordings peaked at #88
Europe ‘72 peaked at #91
Dave’s Picks Volume 24 peaked at #91
The Arista Years peaked at #95
One From The Vaults peaked at #106
Three From The Vault peaked at #112
Giants Stadium 1987, 1989, 1991 peaked at #118
Two From The Vault peaked at #119
Postcards Of The Hanging: Grateful Dead Preform The Songs Of Bob Dylan peaked at #120
What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been peaked at #121
Vintage Dead peaked at #127 Unauthorized
Truckin’ Up To Buffalo, July 4, 1989 peaked at #137
Dave’s Picks Volume 2 peaked at #145
Historic Dead peaked at #154 Unauthorized
Spring 1990: So Glad You Made It peaked at #157
Steppin’ Out With The Grateful Dead England ‘72 peaked at #160
30 Trips Around the Sun: The Definitive Live Story 1965–1995 peaked at #161
Ladies and Gentlemen… the Grateful Dead peaked at #165
The Best of the Grateful Dead Live peaked at #167
So Many Roads (1965-1995) peaked at #170
Ready or Not peaked at #172
Red Rocks: 7/8/78 peaked at #177
Houston, Texas 11-18-1972 peaked at #183
The Golden Road (1965-1973) peaked at #191
Europe ’72: The Complete Recordings peaked at #193
Nightfall Of Diamonds peaked at #196

The Grateful Dead are not one-hit wonders, as that term refers to an artist who had one hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 and then never appeared on the chart again.  The Grateful Dead had 14 singles that made the Billboard Hot 100 or the Mainstream Rock Tracks, one of them was a #1 hit and 3 songs made it into the Top Ten.  ‘Touch Of Grey’ peaked at #1, ‘Hell In A Bucket’ peaked at #3 and ‘Foolish Heart’ peaked at #8.  ‘Touch of Grey’ was the only Grateful Dead song with an accompanying music video.  ‘Throwing Stones (Ashes Ashes)’ peaked at #15, ‘Dire Wolf’ peaked at #37, ‘West LA Fadeaway’ peaked at #40, ‘Just A Little Light’ peaked at #41, ‘When Push Comes To Shove’ peaked at #45, ‘Ripple’ peaked at #50, ‘Truckin’’ peaked at #64, ‘Alabama Getaway’ peaked at #68, ‘Uncle John’s Band’ peaked at #69, ‘The Music Never Stopped’ peaked at #81 and ‘Sugar Magnolia’ peaked at #91. ‘Truckin’’ was recognized as a “national treasure” by the Library of Congress in 1997.  ‘Casey Jones’ and ‘Dark Star’ never made the charts.

LSD and Jerry Garcia

LSD
The Grateful Dead started out as the house band for Ken Kesey’s acid tests and the group has a long history of being immersed in the drug culture.  Drugs and music often go together, but the connections between the Grateful Dead and LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide, a hallucinogenic drug) are quite unique.  The acid tests were parties primarily held in the San Francisco Bay Area during the mid-1960s, where people including the Merry Prankster’s indulged in taking LSD and these parties influenced the early development of hippie culture and kick-started the 1960s psychedelic drug scene.  In 1964, the Merry Pranksters set out together on a cross-country trip in an old bus they dubbed Further to help publicize the release of Kesey’s novel Sometimes a Great Notion.  This bus was a 1939 International Harvester school bus that was covered in kaleidoscopic graffiti and it was driven by Neal Cassady, who was immortalized in Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel On the Road as Dean Moriarty.

Albert Hoffmann was a Swiss scientist that worked for Sandoz, the company that isolated an active substance called ergotamine from ergot, a fungus found in tainted rye.  Hoffmann synthesized LSD in 1938 to learn about its psychedelic effects.  Albert created 24 lysergic acid combinations, then he created the 25th, reacting lysergic acid with diethylamine, a derivative of ammonia.  The compound was abbreviated as LSD-25 for the purposes of laboratory testing.  He ingested 250 micrograms of LSD on April 19, 1943 and this day is now known as “Bicycle Day”, because he began to feel the effects of the drug as he rode home on a bike becoming the first person in history to intentionally take an acid trip.

In the late 1940s, the CIA received reports that the Soviet Union was producing mass quantities of LSD, so they wanted to learn more about this new drug and they began testing subjects.  The CIA initiated a top-secret program known as MK-Ultra during the Cold War which was unethical.  They thought that this drug could be used for extracting information from an unwilling subject and these experiments with LSD persisted until 1963.

On the suggestion of his friend and neighbor Vik Lovell, Ken Kesey volunteered for MK-Ultra experiments with LSD while he was a college student at Stanford University.  Kesey was paid to ingest various psychoactive drugs, including LSD-25, and report on their effects to the government-sponsored scientists conducting the experiments.  He began surreptitiously taking some of these drugs back to Perry Lane where they became an important part of the scene there.  In April of 1961, Kesey worked as an orderly at the Menlo Park Veterans Hospital, where the CIA-funded research experiment were taking place and one day he found that his keys fit certain locked doors where the psychoactive drugs were kept and from this experience he was able to write One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  In 1962, Robert Hunter, the Grateful Dead lyricist was another willing participant who earned $140 for participating in four research sessions at Stanford, one per week for four weeks. During the sessions, he was administered psychedelic drugs, including mescaline, psilocybin, and LSD.

At the time, psychedelics were not illegal, they were considered to be a way to expand human understandings of the mind and subconscious and LSD was not illegal in California until October 6, 1966.  There was no evidence that they might be dangerous, cause harm, or result in long-term addictions or health problems.  Ted Kaczynski, who is better known as the “Unabomber” was another participant along with the notorious Boston mobster James Joseph “Whitey” Bulger.  In 1968, Tom Wolfe published a book titled The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which talks about Ken Kesey being the founder the Merry Pranksters and becoming a cult hero.  Jerry Garcia was nicknamed “Captain Trips” from the acid tests and in the early days of the group, wherever the Dead went, LSD followed.

Owsley Stanley was the Grateful Dead’s sound engineer and their financial patron, a clandestine chemist that became the world’s first illicit LSD chemist.  Owsley became the group’s official soundman starting in 1965.  In 1974, they asked him to produce a sound system that was powerful enough for the increasingly large spaces the Dead were playing, so Stanley and his associates designed a towering rig that featured more than 500 speakers, plus noise-canceling parallel microphones, delivering clear sound for a quarter mile and this was called “The Wall of Sound”.  When Phil Lesh played his bass through this new sound system, he thought “It was like the voice of God”.

Owsley Stanley was nicknamed “Bear” and he used his acid funds to provide rehearsal space and sound equipment for the band in their early days.  Without his technical innovations, him being one of the first people to mix concerts live and in stereo, the band might never have emerged from the San Francisco scene.  He had the foresight to plug a tape recorder directly into the sound board during Dead shows, so the music the band made at the peak of its power has been gloriously preserved in recordings.  Long before the Summer of Love drew thousands of hippies to Haight-Ashbury, Owsley was already an authentic underground folk hero, revered throughout the counterculture for making the purest form of LSD ever to hit the street.

Owsley could be described as an insane genius, a rebel without a cause, as he never fit and was a complete outsider, kind of a lost soul.  He was brilliant at everything.  He was in the Air Force and he worked as a rocket engineer.  Somebody gave him a half a dose of pure Sandoz acid, and it was beyond anything he’d ever taken before.  At the time, he was taking classes at the University of California, Berkeley, and after his LSD experience, he went to the Bancroft Library and spent a couple weeks reading all the existing literature on LSD and then he began to manufacture acid.

Owsley did two years in federal prison in the early Seventies for manufacturing acid, where he taught himself how to make jewelry.  For twenty years, Owsley lived off the grid in a remote section of the Australian rain forest and he passed away March 13, 2011.  Bear manufactured millions of hits of the cleanest LSD, at a time when the drug was still legal.  He’s directly credited with expanding the minds of many of the most influential figures of the 60s, including John Lennon, who once tried to obtain a lifetime supply of Bear’s potent product.

Jerry’s Love Life
After his brief stint in the military, Garcia headed to Palo Alto, California, where he hung out in several bookstores and cafes.  Palo Alto is home to Stanford University, and as a university town, the community had many progressive people, artists, and activists for Jerry to befriend.  One of his favorite places was Kepler’s Bookstore, founded in 1955 by Roy Kepler, a conscientious objector during World War Il and a noted peace advocate.  Jerry frequented the store with a guitar in hand, writing poetry and music almost daily.  He found a place to live at the Chateau, a large house with rooms for rent in Menlo Park, just a mile from Kepler’s.  Many artists, musicians, and poets, including Robert Hunter, lived at the Chateau.  As he moved in and out of the coffee houses in Palo Alto, Jerry began to keep company with Robert Hunter, and soon the two began collaborating in songwriting, a partnership that lasted a lifetime.  Alan Trist hung out with Jerry at Kepler’s, and he later became part of the management team for the Grateful Dead.

Jerry Garcia met Barbara “Brigid” Meier around March of 1961, when she was fifteen and Jerry was eighteen and she became a regular in Jerry’s circle.  They met when her friend Sue invited him to join them on a hike.  Jerry and Robert Hunter played folk songs and they had a kind of hootenanny for her 16th birthday party.  A few months later they became sweethearts and were a couple until around Christmas of 1962.  Barbara enjoyed hanging out with him and his friends Robert Hunter and Alan Trist as they wrote music and poems.  Barbara, who was quite beautiful, worked as a fashion model and her image appeared in local and national magazine advertisements.  Barbara often used the money from her modeling gigs to buy cigarettes and other necessities for Jerry, and she also bought him his first acoustic guitar.

Late in life, Jerry Garcia took up scuba diving in Hawaii, sometime in the late ’80s and he was introduced to the sport by Vicki Jensen, a friend and former ranch hand of Garcia’s bandmate, Mickey Hart.  Garcia had recently come out of a diabetic coma, but he loved the water.  In 1993, Garcia hooked up with Barbara Meier again, and he took her scuba diving and proposed marriage.

In 1963, shortly after his relationship with Barbara Meier ended, Jerry met Sara Ruppenthal as he was walking across the Stanford Shopping Center parking lot, carrying a guitar in his hand, Jerry hitched a ride on her bicycle, and the two quickly hit it off.  She was working at the coffee house in the back of Kepler’s Books, where Garcia, Hunter, and Nelson regularly performed.  Sara was a student at Stanford University, active in the peace movement and into folk music.  She enjoyed listening to the music that he played and a relationship developed between them.  Jerry and Sara Ruppenthal formed the group Jerry & Sara and the couple made a few public appearances together with Sara singing and playing the autoharp or guitar.  Jerry and Sara enjoyed a passionate, carefree time together, but their happy-go-lucky days ended when she became pregnant with his child.

Sara knew Jerry wanted to be a professional musician, and neither of them had adequate means to support themselves, let alone a baby.  But none of this seemed to bother Jerry, as when Sara told him about the baby, he replied, “Well, I’ve always wanted to get married.  Let’s get hitched”.  Jerry and Sara married at the Palo Alto Unitarian Church on April 23, 1963.  The couple’s daughter, Heather, was born December 8, 1963.  Shortly after Jerry purchased a banjo and he began to practice long hours, hoping to be skilled enough to support his family with the money he earned from gigs.  He seemed to have potential.  Less than a month after they were married, Jerry performed at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, winning an amateur bluegrass competition for his performance with the Wildwood Boys.  In 1967, Sara and Jerry officially divorced after a long separation.  Sara Ruppenthal read Aldous Huxley’s book Doors of Perception, which instigated her interest in and fascination with psychedelics.  Jerry took LSD for the first time with David Nelson and Sara Ruppenthal in 1965.

Carolyn “Mountain Girl” Adams Garcia grew up in Hyde Park, New York as Carolyn Adams, and after she was expelled from high school she took a cross-country journey at the age of 17 in 1963 with her brother Don who was heading for graduate work at Stanford University, and then she made her way to Palo Alto.  She got a job at Stanford University, working for Carl Djerassi in the organic chemistry lab analyzing psychiatric drugs, and she eventually was fired for, dipping into the experimental psychedelic chemicals that she was analyzing.  Carolyn got a ride from Neal Cassady, he picked her up and took her out of a coffee shop, whisking her off into the mountains where she saw the bus that she immediately fell in love with and after that, they couldn’t get rid of her.

She joined up with author Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, and because she was a tall girl, she was given the name Mountain Girl.  Carolyn had a daughter by Kesey who they named Sunshine.  When Kesey went to Mexico to avoid arrest, she had a relationship with another Prankster named George Walker, who she married in 1966, but they separated and were divorced in 1978.  Years later she married Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia who she had a relationship with that lasted nearly 30 years and they had two daughters together Annabelle Walker Garcia born in 1970 and Theresa Adams “Trixie” Garcia born in 1974.  Jerry raised Carolyn’s first daughter Sunshine, as his own, and she became an older sister to Annabelle and Theresa.  Carolyn met the musicians who would form the Grateful Dead when they were performing as a jug band at a Palo Alto pizza parlor and beer joint.

In early February of 1966, the Dead followed the Merry Pranksters down to the Los Angeles area to continue and expand the Acid Tests.  Carolyn met Jerry at the Watts Acid Test on February 12 when she was basically living in a bus, that had no furniture and the refrigerator only had chicken.  The Grateful Dead were willing to play and to the people that came to listen to them, it didn’t really matter that much what they played, because they were usually so high that they didn’t know what the hell they were playing anyway.  They played strange old folk songs that turned into blues tunes.  They didn’t play very long sets, because it was too chaotic with all the crazies in the audience, and nobody really paid much attention to them, but they were brave enough to get on stage at these Acid Tests.

Kesey was arrested for possession of marijuana at La Honda in 1965 and he was arrested again on January 19th, 1966.  He tried to avoid jail time, by faking his own suicide and then he ran off to Mexico, where he hid out for much of 1966.  He became dissatisfied with the life of being a fugitive, and he snuck back over the border in the fall of 1966, but was arrested by the FBI in October.  In June of 1967, he reached a plea bargain, and started serving his time in the San Mateo County Jail and that is when the Merry Pranksters split up.

Carolyn started living with her brother and his family in San Francisco and this is when she and Jerry started seeing each other.  She moved into the Grateful Dead’s house at 710 Ashbury where she did a lot of cooking and some house maintenance.  She had a baby that was fathered by Ken Kesey by this time.  710 Ashbury ended up getting creepy after a while and the house got busted for pot, but luckily Jerry and Carolyn weren’t home at the time.  They arrested Pigpen and Bob Weir, even though they didn’t smoke pot, and nobody wanted to go home for a long time because they were paranoid.

They got a house in Larkspur which they shared with Robert Hunter and his girlfriend Christie Bourne.  Hunter was very prolific at this time, writing a lot of stuff together with Jerry.  Really good songs that ended up on Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty.  Carolyn was in her late twenties with three little kids, when Jerry Garcia came upon a windfall of cash receiving a $20,000 advance from Warner Bros. for a solo album and they used this money to purchase a really neat house in Stinson Beach.

In 1975, Garcia and Adams eventually went different ways.  Jerry Garcia spent a lot of his time on the road in the mid-’70s, with a growing array of drugs and women and he always seemed to have a girlfriend.  One of those was Deborah Koons, a 23-year-old University of North Carolina grad who met Garcia when she hopped on the band’s bus after seeing her first Grateful Dead show in 1973.  Garcia and Adams separated in 1975 after he began a relationship with filmmaker Deborah Koons, as they both shared a passion for film.  The two spent months writing letters while she briefly explored Italy’s art scene.  Garcia began seeing Koons while he was still involved with Adams, with whom Koons had a less-than-perfect relationship and after his death the war of the wives ensued.  Garcia and Koons drifted apart in 1977 after she confronted Garcia about his heroin use.

Later in the spring of 1993, they resumed a relationship, and they were married on Valentine’s Day, 1994, 18 months before his death.  In 1995, Garcia finally recognized the need for acute change and he agreed to enter an inpatient treatment facility.  In mid-July, he went to the Betty Ford Clinic which was recommended by Koons.  But after two weeks, he wanted to check out early to celebrate his 53rd birthday at home.  He was weaned off heroin, but his body was still in very bad shape.  He was married to Deborah Koons when he died although they had no children together.

In Chicago during the autumn of 1978, Jerry Garcia began a long friendship with artist, Manasha Matheson.  Manasha Matheson met Jerry at a Grateful Dead concert and they lived together for six years and she bore his daughter, Keelin Noel Garcia who was born in December 20, 1987.  Manasha Matheson met Jerry Garcia while she was a student at Shimer College in Mount Caroll, Ill.  She was sitting near the front at one of his concerts in Chicago when a drummer came up to her and asked if she’d like to meet him, and after that she followed him on tour for a while, hanging out back stage and she became pregnant.  In August of 1990, Jerry and Manasha married in San Anselmo, California in a spiritual ceremony, free of legal convention.  Manasha was into health food, she was very supportive of his drug problems and she helped Garcia recuperate after his coma in ‘86.

While they were together, they shared a country manor, often had dinner delivered by taxi and went on scuba diving trips to Hawaii.  When they split up in late 1992, the rock star bought her a big house on a hill overlooking San Rafael, leased her a BMW and sent her $8,000 each month to run the household and take care of their child.  On Dec. 30, 1992, Matheson, said Jerry kissed her, told her he loved her, left the house and never came back.

Garcia and Adams reconciled, but had a bunch of on again, off again moments, and it was more of a plutonic relationship due to Jerry’s heroin and cocaine addictions.  When Carolyn and Jerry’s relationship became rocky, they sold the Stinson Beach house in 1978.  That’s when Jerry Garcia loved to work, so he would work every day if he could.  He was sometimes doing two shows a night in San Francisco and he was comfortable doing that.  In 1981, they got married and Carolyn became Jerry’s third wife.  They may have married partly for tax purposes and partly out of a fond flickering of a once-bright romance and possibly for the sake of his daughters.

In 1986, while Carolyn was back in Oregon, she got a phone call about Jerry being very ill.  Jerry was in a diabetic coma from high blood sugar, and it took him a long time to recover.  Carolyn moved back with Jerry to help out at that point, and they stayed together until 1990.  She got a call the morning he died.  It was not an unexpected phone call, but it was just really shocking.  She went by the memorial service, but she wasn’t allowed in.

 

A Real Challenge Just to Stay Alive

I just wrote a new song and it goes like this.  It is just lyrics, but I hope to get some music to go along with it.

This is my story and it must be told
I was trouble, that’s the way I rolled
It was late at night and nobody was on the road
I lived to party, that was my only code
Looked at my speedometer and it said 95
That’s the truth, it ain’t no jive
Someone in the back yelled, “Put on the breaks”
I looked ahead and got the shakes
The road was ending and doom was near
I held the wheel tight and put down my beer
I turned to the left and my car went into a slide
This is the night that I should have died
My breaks screeched as I blew through the stop sign
My car continued traveling sideways in a straight line
I hit the divider and my car rocked to and fro
I got two flat tires and I thought I would need a tow
I should have died out on Hadley Road that night
I should have been dead looking into the light
It all happened way too fast out there on Hadley Road
My body should have been all mangled and getting cold
Someone must have been watching over me
Or was this just a case of serendipity
God watches out for children, drunks and fools
I was always the one breaking the rules

Slip Sliding Away

I am still here, but my computer is constantly buzzing, so I have not been able to read anything lately, as the buzzing aggravates me to no end.  I ordered another computer today and I should get it by the end of September.  It is $500 less than the defective one that I just returned.