Grateful Dead

Welcome to My (Blog) World!

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. Basically, for the past few decades, much of my mind and spirit have been dominated by my interest in the Dead and the many tangents that have led from that incredible source of light and life. Of course, I’ve held jobs that have nothing to do with the Dead, raised two great kids, led what for all intents and purposes is a “normal” life, and listened to thousands upon thousands of hours of non-Dead music. But the Dead have always been at least in the background, and often in the foreground, of my life ever since Live Dead came out in November of 1969 and I subsequently saw my first show at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York, March 20, 1970. As Bob Weir sang (of a woman, I presume) in “Lazy Lightning,” “it’s an obsession, but it’s pleasing.”

I suspect most of you have seen my byline around this site on stories or product promos, have read liner notes I might have penned for various Road Trips and other releases, and some may go back to my days as editor/publisher of The Golden Road Dead fanzine, or even further to my years at BAM, the free Bay Area music magazine I worked for between 1976 and 1983. If you went to Pelham (New York) High with me in the very early ’70s, you might’ve read my first-ever Dead review—of the Vintage Dead album.

Golden Road magazine publishers
Regan and Blair on duty
at Red Rocks, 1987
I moved to the Bay Area from suburban NY in the fall of ’73, arriving just in time to catch the 11/11 Dead concert at wonderful Winterland — quite a contrast from my previous GD show at giant and decrepit Roosevelt Stadium in Joisey on Jerry’s 31st birthday. For a few years, I’d felt I was destined to live in the Bay Area someday. Then, spending some of the summer of ’73 living with my older bro in the Oakland Hills and going to see several Garcia-Saunders and Old & in the Way shows (not to mention Van Morrison and all sorts of other faves who played in clubs here), pretty much convinced me to transfer to UC Berkeley for my last two years of college. I got my degree in Political Science (was and still am a political junkie), then went to the graduate School of Journalism there, with an eye toward being a rock critic. That segued into my long tenure at BAM, and that’s what allowed me to write my first book about the Dead, The Music Never Stopped (which, at the time, 1983, was the only history of the band available). The following year, my wife, Regan, and I started The Golden Road, which took me even deeper in the Dead world and gave me the opportunity to interview and write about so many of the cool folks who have been part of the scene through the years. We put out 27 issues between the winter of ’84 and the middle of ’93, by which point we were about to have our second child and didn’t have the time or space in our house to keep putting out a magazine. During that time my main gig was being a writer and editor at Mix, the leading U.S. sound and recording magazine, and I continue to write for Mix to this day.

After Jerry died, I spent a couple of years working on the book Garcia: An American Life (published by Viking in 1999), co-produced the So Many Roads box set with my buddies David Gans and Steve Silberman, and also got involved with helping put out posthumous Garcia releases, including the All Good Things box. When Rhino took over the management of the Grateful Dead’s archival release program a few years ago, I signed on to work occasionally for the re-vamped website and joined with Vaultmaster Supreme David Lemieux to play a small role in shepherding the Road Trips series.

So, that’s who I am. 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…


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shwack's picture
Joined: Apr 12 2008
Blair Blog

Yeah,this should be fun and interesting.
How far we have come as a community!
I recall being astounded by your book, The Music Never Stopped(Putnam Pub.
June 1983) as being the only historical source out there at the time.Wore it out
and got another copy,paperback (Delilah Books I think...)
Cheers to you,sir, on this blog launch!

shwack in nh

Joined: Jun 6 2007
Beyond Europe '72...

I can't see beyond the box at the moment, as I'm in the thick of working on a humongo essay for it (boy, has that been fun! And time consuming...). So, I've been listening to little except E'72 stuff for about the past month. I have no idea what they'll come up with next year, but it's gonna be tough to top E72 Complete, to say the least. Fortunately, it's not a competition: '89 vs. '72! I love it all!

 But I still manage to listen to other things. I'm quite keen on the forthcoming Robbie Roberston solo album "How to Become Clairvoyant"--very old school, classic RR sound, with lots of Eric Clapton on it. I interviewed Robbie yesterday for an article I'm writing about the album for the April issue of Mix. I've also been digging the new Paul Simon album, which is a return to form for him I'd say, after that rather disappointing collaboration with Brian Eno. Is that PS album out yet? I haven't been to a record store in a while. A couple of weeks ago Regan and I went to one of the Arhoolie Records 50th Anniversary celebrations at the Freight & Salvage club in Berkeley and that was tremendous fun--Ry Cooder was the ostensible headliner; he's one of my all-time favorites and he didn't disappoint, doing a mixture of old songs like "Vigilante Man" along with a hilarious new tune called "No Banker Left Behind." Love that guy! Wish he'd tour more (or at all, for that matter). Hey Rhino guys, when do we get a big, deluxe Ry Cooder box? ;-)

 And two nights ago, on Valentine's Day, Regan and I went out to the Rancho Nicasio in rural West Marin County and had a nice dinner and saw one of our favorite local groups, the Baguette Quartette, who play French music from the '20s to the '50s.

 So, I try to mix it up. I watched the Grammys... liked Lady Gaga's song; thought Dylan was scary (but dug the Avett Bros.and Mumford et al); wish Eminem would cheer up a bit; liked one of the two Arcade Fire songs... couldn't care less about who won or lost anything, as the choices are almost always lame and disappointing. Not worth investing the energy in that part of it, but I like the spectacle for the most part...

Deadicated's picture
Joined: Jun 4 2007
Hola from the Midwest

How does one not bring up the E72 box? There are no words to describe how absolutely whatever the whole thing is, no? But now that things are simmering a bit, the Dead mind can only wonder what's in store beyond next September. Have you a box you would pronounce the end all? And, on another note, what non-Dead music tides you over?
Thanks for subjecting yourself to the madness.

" Where does the time go? "

JackstrawfromColorado's picture
Joined: Jan 2 2009
I agree

The chemistry is so tight with Furthur right now that I really hope they do not tinker around with the line-up. Quite frankly I think they are a level above the Dead of 2009. That being said I just loved the 2 Rhythm Devil shows I caught last summer. In my opinion the more bands out there the more ways of achieving our GD fix! Now would I love to see the 4 back together? Of course! But I just don't see any reason to mess around with Furthur right now.

"It's got no signs or dividing line and very few rules to guide"

Joined: Jun 6 2007
Joy and Suffering

There's certainly BOTH in Grateful Dead music (and a million shades in between)... That's an interesting topic, Willy; maybe we'll tackle it up the road...

Joined: Feb 16 2011

How lucky we are to have you posting your thoughts and energy here.

Became a fan about 4 years ago. Have read everything I can, listened to a ton and I do spend time thinking about the why's of the band.

For no other reason than fun, I'll share this I re-read recently, in 'Darkstar,' Greenfield's book. I was struck by the possible meaning.

Sitting at the Dead's offices, late in the Dead's career, Jon Mcintire said Jerry and he were talking about creating art, with Mcintire offering that art is created from suffering, as fuel for the act. "He got this furrowed brow while his eyes were flashing back and forth and he said, 'I know that's the stereotype. I know that's what history teaches us. But I'd really like to know what can be created from Joy.'

What if it were true? And what if they were doing something fundamentally 'new', historically?

Thx. Look forward to reading more.

Joined: Jun 6 2007
Ah, yes, questions...

I'm sure folks have a million questions and I'll do what I can to answer 'em (if I can keep up!). I get a lot of queries about the Garcia release situation, as I have been quite involved with that through the years. To be very honest, I'm not sure why more stuff isn't coming out faster. It appears that a lot of the legal hurdles surrounding the estate have been overcome, which is good news. One thing that delayed work for a while is that over the last several months all the tapes in the Garcia vault have been digitized--a very time-consuming effort. (This is something the Dead should probably do, too, but the scale of that project would be positively herculean, and not cheap, to say the least.) Anyway, there WILL be more Jerry releases coming, but I can't give you specifics about when. That last one--the Sandy Rothman-produced "Ragged But Right" featuring the JGAB--is very cool. As for the situation with Mickey and Bill and Furthur, I AM going to take the 5th on this one. I'm not really in a position to comment on it or say anything authoritative about it, as I have not been privvy to any inside info about it. I will say this, though: I love what Billy's doing with 7 Walkers; I think it's great the Rhythm Devils are out there from time to time doing their thing; and I'm a big fan of Furthur and their drummer Joe Russo. (I have a cool Joe Russo interview I'll be posting on in the next couple of weeks.) Hopefully the Core Four will get together to make some music somewhere up the line. I wanna hear more Global Drum Project, too!

josh e bear's picture
Joined: Feb 29 2008
Hey Blair > good to say High <

..Hey Blair... I got on the bus in sept. 88 MSG,, and boy , so lucky and glad I did.. never looked back...

I am grateful for the shows I caught.. and I know your name from years of reading Relix and other such magazines and Your books...

I guess my questions are far and wide... maybe even too controversial to bring up among family ... but, at this stage in the game..whatever..

... Like, why dosent Billy & Mickey want to play with Phil and Bob anymore ...does that stem from Deborah Koons and all the went down at Jerrys Passing ?

would you even know..?? I guess I can speculate like any other fan...

maybe is that topic is to dark or supposed 2 be a kept a secret., it just don't matter anymore

.. More Importantly :

who is charge and when are they going to start releasing all the great DVD / Video Footage I know is in the Vault... 88-89-90, all those years were filmed... all the shows..

I feel that the footage, good or bad , should be released to the fans.. Its Healing to be able to sit down on a weekend nite, put in a nice DVD of a show you at, and kick back and enjoy it

SO VERY HEALING & NEEDED. .. Please put in the good word, Release the VIDEOS

I, for 1, would pay top dollar for a DVD Box set over a Audio Box Set , or any given day..

...also, who are the spinners ? haha joking ..

I read once the Bear had a super cool way of Audio-Rigging the Pyramids to some some crazy effects, but that never happened, either.

I guess, what I really want to know is, what did Jerry think of all the spinners and tour heads?

im sure it was nothing but love and maybe these kids are as odd as us ,, haha

glad yer on-board Blair , good to say hi > truckin > other 1 > jam > drumz > stella blue

Captain Stormfield's picture
Joined: Nov 4 2007
Cool! Looking forward to this...

I promise I won't ask one thing about the Europe '72 box set (ha, ha)! Anyway, I was wondering if you could shed light on why the Pure Jerry series disappeared? I do know that Rhino does not control the Garcia vault (that's the Garcia LLC), nor did Rhino release the Pure Jerry series. Nevertheless, I've been disappointed to see this series come to a stop (again). Can you discuss it at all? Will we see more non-Dead Garcia material soon?

marye's picture
Joined: May 26 2007
hey, I think I was just up the hill there...

Great idea! Looking forward to this.


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