Grateful Dead

Blair's Golden Road Blog

Why a weekly blog? Well, for a while now I’ve wanted to have a place where I can talk about music, issues, events and people related to the Grateful Dead and the post-GD world on a regular basis — and also hear what you have to say about this unique and fascinating universe we’re all wrapped up in to varying degrees. In coming weeks, I’ll be bringing up various issues connected to the Dead world that we can bat around and (hopefully) have some fun with, I’ll talk about some recent books and films (good and bad) that have connections to the scene, no doubt take a trip or two down memory lane, and we’ll see where it all leads. If there are issues or questions you’d like to see addressed, let me know. Don’t be shy! We’re all friends here…

- Blair Jackson

  • “Nooooooooooo!” I can hear my cry in a very hazy memory. April 2, 1973. The house lights dim, a roar builds steadily in the crowd and grows to a deafening din as the band members amble onto the stage at the Boston Garden. As the spotlights brighten, I squint from my perch near the top of the upper level of the enormous arena. Something doesn't look right onstage. “What the-?” Oh, my God, Bob Weir's ponytail is gone! Jeez, you don't see the band for eight months and all hell breaks loose.

  • Three of my all-time favorite albums have gotten revelatory upgrades through new releases. Workingman's Dead and American Beauty are coming out as high-resolution, high-bit-rate downloads through HDtracks, a company run by audiophile record pioneers David and Norman Chesky. And the classic Merl Saunders-Jerry Garcia Live at Keystone album from 1973 appears in an expanded 4-CD iteration from Fantasy Records called Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings. Yay—I love new old stuff!

  • Look, I promise not to talk about every 20th, 25th, 35th, 40th anniversary of significant events in Grateful Dead history. But I can’t resist stepping into the Time Machine once again to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Dead’s first shows at Frost Amphitheater on the beautiful campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., Oct. 9 and 10, 1982. It was the beginning of a nearly annual tradition that also included weekend afternoon shows in 1983 and then from ’85-’89; 14 shows in all, before the university could no longer tolerate the Dead Head circus.
  • On the afternoon of April 26, 1988, in a nondescript room somewhere inside the Marin Veteran’s Auditorium building in San Rafael, Calif., Jerry Garcia and a couple of very articulate teenagers spoke at a press conference publicizing a Marin County-based social action group for high school students called Creating Our Future. The Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band was headlining a benefit concert at the Marin Vets for the organization that night. Also on the bill performing short acoustic sets were Brent Mydland, Bob Weir and Hot Tuna. (The encore featured Jerry, Bob, Brent and John Kahn playing Sam Cooke’s “Good Times” and The Beatles’ “Blackbird.” Very cool!)

  • Over in one of the discussion groups on Deadnet Central recently, someone was fondly recalling Keith and Donna’s final show, at the Oakland Coliseum on Feb. 17, 1979, noting it was a rare great show from their late period with the band.
  • If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve read your share of books about the Dead—from general histories, to band and crew memoirs, to picture-filled coffee-table books. But even if you think you know it all and have seen all you need to see, you owe it yourself to check out Rosie McGee’s remarkable new e-book, Dancing with the Dead—A Photographic Memoir. It really is both those things: a collection of about 200 photos, most never published before; and a fascinating memoir of life around the Grateful Dead and the San Francisco scene from 1964 to 1974.
  • The vending scene outside Dead shows started so innocuously. Before or after shows in the ’70s, if anyone was selling anything, it might be a handful of people peddling homemade T-shirts out of a backpack, or perhaps something small, such as pipes, stickers or low-key food items—brownies, cookies, etc. I remember buying my first Grateful Dead T-shirt—which depicted Garcia playing an acoustic guitar under the words “Grateful Dead” in nicely crafted American Beauty-like lettering—outside Manhattan Center in April ’71. In August of that year, I bought my first GD bootleg album outside Gaelic Park in the Bronx.

  • Forty years ago — August 27, 1972 — on a scorching Sunday afternoon in a large meadow in the heart of Oregon Renaissance Pleasure Faire land 13 miles west of Eugene, the Grateful Dead played one of the most famous shows of their 30-year career: The Field Trip, a hastily put together benefit to raise money for the financially imperiled Springfield Creamery, which was operated by Ken Kesey’s brother, Chuck. The area was Merry Prankster territory—it’s where Kesey and a few of the other Pranksters hailed from, and it’s where Kesey and Ken Babbs took The Bus after the Acid Tests. “Back to the land” was part of the hippie revolution/evolution for many; the Oregon Pranksters embodied that ethos.

  • Based on conversations I’ve had with friends through the years, I’m betting that a bunch of you have had a variation of my most troubling recurring dream: It’s near the end of a quarter or semester in college and I have a huge final exam facing me in an hour. I’m sweating bullets, because for some reason I have not attended one class of whatever course it is. Further, I don’t know where the exam is being given and, to make matters worse, this campus looks completely unfamiliar to me! I spend most of the dream walking haplessly into empty classrooms looking for where I’m supposed to be, or asking passing strangers if they know. I’m in full panic mode now, convinced I have a big “F” in my future, and that’s usually enough to wake me up. Which is a good thing because in the worst versions, I actually find the classroom and then look down at an exam on a subject I know absolutely nothing about—like organic chemistry or a language I’ve never studied. Aaaaugh!

  • On the morning of August 9, 1995, I was driving to my job as an editor at Mix magazine, listening to our local classic rock station and caught the end of “Uncle John’s Band.” A nice way to greet the day, I thought. But when the DJ came on right after and very solemnly intoned, “In case you haven’t heard…” Well, I hadn’t heard. Then came his unbelievable announcement that Jerry had died earlier that morning. I practically ran my car off the road. My wife, Regan, was on her way to work in San Francisco, so I couldn’t reach her (this is pre-cell phone for me), so I kept driving to work, flipping the radio dial to see if I could learn more. Through the years I’ve talked to many people who said they were not surprised by the news at all, that they’d actually expected it for some time. But I was completely shocked.

Blair's Golden Road Blog