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

  • The recent release of Audio Fidelity limited release vinyl versions of two more Grateful Dead albums—Blues for Allah and Shakedown Street—in beautiful gatefold editions (both were in conventional single-album sleeves when they came out in 1975 and 1978 respectively), got my mind wandering to memories of how much I loved buying, playing and sitting around staring endlessly at what we quaintly called “records.
  • I remember back in the late ’80s, when the big invasion came after “Touch of Grey,” Garcia used to talk about the Dead possibly being shut out of so many venues because of bad fan behavior. He thought the band might have to come up with some alternate way of getting their music to the people — including the notion of setting up shop in theater for a week or two and perhaps broadcasting concerts to movie theaters (as they had for their Halloween Radio City show in 1980).
  • “It’s like the Dead were this delicious new kind of stew with all these great ingredients thrown together. You have Stravinsky, Beethoven, John Cage, Ravi Shankar, Buddy Holly, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, bluegrass, The Anthology of American Folk Music, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Elvin Jones, Wes Montgomery, Chicago Blues, Texas Blues, honky tonk piano, drumming from around the world and more, mixed together and out comes the Grateful Dead...

  • I don’t dig Phish. Lord knows I’ve tried. Through the years I’ve had so many people attempt to convert me. I dutifully auditioned live CDs fanatical fans would pass to me. I checked out every studio album that came my way, wondering if this would be the Phish album that would have songs that actually resonated with me. I recall when one came out a number of years ago a Phish Head pal proclaimed it “Phish’s American Beauty.”

  • When you and I celebrate our birthdays, maybe we go out to dinner with loved ones or toss back a few with pals. If we’re lucky, maybe some cool band is playing in town that night. When Wavy Gravy celebrates a birthday, a whole bunch of people in Africa and Asia have their vision restored, because thousands of miles away in America, Wavy has put on yet another concert to benefit SEVA, a organization he helped start more than 30 years ago (with Larry Brilliant and Ram Dass) that is devoted to combating cataract blindness. In the Bay Area, Wavy’s annual birthday bash ...

  • Robert Hunter and Alan Trist, who carefully shepherd the Grateful Dead’s publishing company, Ice Nine, have been quite picky through the years about which film and TV projects they will allow the Dead’s music to appear in. You just know that there must be an avalanche of requests to use “Truckin’” and “Uncle John’s Band” and other tunes, but by being so selective, they have helped maintain the integrity of their song catalog.

  • I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating: I believe The Grateful Dead Movie is the single greatest document of the Dead experience ever released. In just two-and-half hours, it explains—or at least illustrates—what is interesting and compelling about the Dead’s music, it captures what the fans were/are all about to a degree, dips into the band’s history a tiny bit, and serves up a heapin’ helping of some of the group’s greatest songs, from rockers to ballads to deep space. Seeing the movie in a theater with a couple of hundred other Dead Heads on 4/20—part of a nationwide one-night-only screening at 540 locations—reinforced the film’s greatness to me. It undeniably captures that ineffable whatever-it-is in spades.

  • A while back, someone sent me a story from Forbes magazine, in which the billionaire owner of the Indianapolis Colts, James Irsay, was crowing about having spent $970,000 back in 2001 to buy Garcia’s “Tiger” guitar at an auction by the instrument’s original luthier, Doug Irwin: “It was a 15-rounder [at auction],” Irsay told the mag, “but I made the determination that I’d rather have Tiger than all the other Jerry stuff in the world...When I got it, it was like he’d literally [just] put it down at Soldier Field [in Chicago, site of the final Dead show in 1995]. I mean there were pot crumblings in [the guitar’s “stash box”]. The strap is sweat-strewn...Jerry was, wow, man, what can you say about him? What a guitarist, man, and what a character.”
  • This summer, my lovely wife, Regan, and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary (thank you, thank you); a pretty decent accomplishment, I suppose, in this era of fractured families and sky-high divorce rates. You know how they say “opposites attract”? Well, I’ve never bought that for a second—or at least never sought out my own “opposite.”

  • A few days ago, someone on the Internet posted a list of Furthur’s spring tour “breakouts”—songs the band had never played onstage before. And it’s quite an impressive group of tunes, a mixture of cover songs by The Beatles, The Clash, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and others; songs the Grateful Dead played in different eras that Furthur hadn’t touched; and one-offs with guest singers … 31 in all (by April 3).
Blair's Golden Road Blog