Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead Hour no. 272

Grateful Dead Hour by David Gans

Week of December 6, 1993

This week's program features an interview with Ken Nordine, a true cultural treasure (follow that link and read more about him!) who crossed paths with the Grateful Dead in December of 1990 by way of a very happy accident.

During a production meeting in my studio for the Grateful Dead's 12/31/90 "Coast to Coast Live" broadcast, we were talking about shorts recorded bits we could use to cover transitions during the pre-show and between-sets segments. I held up a copy of The Best of Word Jazz that had recently arrived in the mail, and Dan Healy leapt up to grab it. It turned out that Dan was a big fan of Ken Nordine. Rather than settle for playing tracks from the compilation CD, we decided to try to get in touch with Nordine to see if he'd be willing to record a greeting for the broadcast.

Ken was glad to hear from us. He told Dan he was planning to visit the Bay Area to spend New year's Eve with his friend TomWaits, and he offered to stop by our production room at the Oakland Coliseum on his way in from the airport.

A day or two after Christmas, we set up our "studio" in the visiting team's locker room at the Coliseum. True to his word, Ken had his driver deliver him to our midst as we worked. That was when we learned that many of the Grateful Dead were also fans! Jerry dropped whatever he was doing to come in and meet Ken, and other band members also came by to greet him. Before long, Ken had agreed to stick around and co-host the broadcast!

That collaboration led to another: On February 14, 1991, Ken Nordine and his friend Howard Levy (of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones) came to Club Front to record an album with Jerry Garcia, David Grisman and their band improvising behind his readings. Devout Catalyst is the name of the record, and it's a delight.

This interview took place around the release of a second Nordine CD on Grateful Dead Records, Upper Limbo.

"Alphabet Book" is just Jerry on acoustic guitar backing Ken. It's an outtake from Devout Catalyst, and it's right purty.


Grateful Dead 9/10/93 Coliseum, Richfield OH

Interview: Ken Nordine

Ken Nordine & Jerry Garcia 2/14/91
ALPHABET BOOK (unreleased studio recording)

Interview: Ken Nordine

Ken Nordine, Upper Limbo

Interview: Ken Nordine

Grateful Dead 3/11/93 Rosemont Horizon, Chicago

Interview: Ken Nordine

Ken Nordine, Upper Limbo

Every Wednesday, we post a program from the Grateful Dead Hour archives for your enjoyment and enlightenment. You can browse or search the playlists at or on the GD Hour Search page, and let me know what program(s) you'd like to hear by emailing me at

Thank you for listening!

- David Gans

Listen Now