Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead Hour no. 421

Week of October 14, 1996

Guest: David Nelson

David Nelson Band, Keeper of the Key

Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band 1987 (unreleased)

Black Mountain Boys 3/6/64

David Nelson Band, Limited Edition

Jerry Garcia 11/62 College of San Mateo

High Country w/ Jerry Garcia 2/69 Matrix, SF

Grateful Dead (unreleased 1969 studio recording)

Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band 1987 (unreleased)

David Nelson is one of Jerry Garcia's oldest musical pals. They played together in folk and bluegrass bands on the San Francisco Peninsula in the early 1960s, along with Robert Hunter, Eric Thompson, and others. Nelson was a founding member of the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a pioneering country-rock band fronted by singer-songwriter John "Marmaduke" Dawson and featuring Jerry on pedal steel guitar. Grateful Dead members Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart played with the NRPS at first, too, and the Dead's engineer/producer Bob Matthews played bass for a while.

The New Riders toured with the Dead in 1970 and 1971, presenting marathon shows that opened with acoustic sets by GD/NRPS combinations, followed by NRPS and then the electric GD. The Riders became successful enough on their own that it was necessary to become an independent band; pedal steel guitarist Buddy Cage, who was playing with Ian and Sylvia when they all took that "Might as Well" ride on the Festival Express in 1970, signed on with the New Riders, joining the core of Marmaduke, David Nelson, bassist Dave Torbert (who later played in Kingfish with Bob Weir) and drummer Spencer Dryden (late of the Jefferson Airplane).

Nelson left the New Riders in 1982. At Jerry's request, he served as Bob Dylan's guitar technician on the Dylan-Dead tour in the summer of 1987, and Jerry recruited him for the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, which opened for the electric JGB at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in New York City.

In the early 1990s, Nelson hit the road with the ridiculously great and tragically underappreciated David Nelson Band, with bassist Bill Laymon, guitar/pedal steel genius Barry Sless, keyboardist Mookie Siegel, and various drummers. That's what was happening when Nelson appeared on KPFA on July 31, 1996, an edited version of which became Grateful Dead Hour #421, originally broadcast the week of October 14, 1996. Nelson brought some recordings of his early days with Garcia, Hunter, and company, as well as some unreleased live material form the JGAB's 1987 shows.

Nelson also treated us to a rare bit of studio weirdness called "Barbed Wire Whipping Party," a very high experiment conducted with the aid of the 16-track recorder in the San Mateo, California studio where the Dead were working on Aoxomoxoa.

"Hunter said, 'I want you to get some people for voices, and I want you to read these lines like chants - say them over and over again, and we'll make tape loops put of them,'" Nelson recalled. "One of them was 'Push it and pull it and push it and pull it,' and another was 'Meat, meat, gimme my meat! Meat, meat, gimme my meat!' ... He had this idea to make loops of all this stuff and fade them in and out, and read this poem, 'Barbed Wire Whipping Party.' You can barely hear it - it's an odd mix. Oddly enough, it's an odd mix.... 'The barbed wire whipping party in the razor blade forest! No is permitted... the other day I went to Mars and talked to God, and he said, "Hang in there" ...'

"Betty Cantor set up a microphone and Matthews had rigged the recorder so that anything that goes into this microphone is repeated 16 times. Three or four of us were standing there with headphones, and Betty says, 'Stay in the general area.' And we heard, 'area area area area.' So we start chanting, 'Area area area area, stay in the general area...' And the rest is chaos."

Also present at this interview was Stephen Barncard, the recording engineer/producer who made timeless magic with David Crosby and his pals on If I Could Only Remember My Name, recorded American Beauty, and produced several albums by the New Riders.


You can browse and/or search the Grateful Dead Hour program logs on the show's home page, Let us know if there's a particular show you'd like to hear, and feel free to post requests and comments here or by email to gdhour [at]

Thanks for listening!
David Gans
gdhour [at]

Program time 51:31

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Joined: May 26 2007
KOPN's Professor...

Are you talking about John Henrikson? Has he been ill? Or was he injured?

GD Hour blog
Station list

lethedoom's picture
Joined: Jun 4 2007
like another dimension

This was the sort of reaction I had hoped we would get here.

I like the Dead Show on KOPN at

and I posted a comment at

lethedoom said...

Welcome back Professor and good luck with your healing and physical therapy.

I noticed that this Dead Show file is about half the usual size and at
96kbps instead of the 128kbps of former posts.

There has been bitter reaction to the recent changes at the
DeadNet Tapers Section and Grateful Dead Hour posts, in part because not even a rudimentary explanation of why access to the music had been downgraded was offered. I hope you will restore the 128kbps quality or at least tell us why you downgraded the posting quality next week.

Thank you for all of the wonderful music you have shared with us and archived.

11:12 AM

the professor said...

My bad. my main production computer crashed just before I got sick. I restored it but apparently the settings for this application were not restored correctly. I will re-upload this week's show at the correct encoding. My apologies - thanks for pointing it out.

11:40 AM

robsjca76's picture
Joined: Jun 8 2007
On September 5th, 2007 jackJONES said:

"The GDH #335 featuring the oakland 94 show with Truckin'>That would be something>he's gone....such a haunting me chills just thinking about it! Just something amazing about that show."

Nice pointer indeed! Many thanks!

lethedoom's picture
Joined: Jun 4 2007
bring back the mp3s

Hunter's comment seems saccharine to me. What happened here is called 'Bait and Switch' when it happens in a market place.The sudden and unexplained and unpleasant change of format coupled with these silly exclusive players that demand a mysterious password if you use the pause control are sadistic.The site governor must be fantasizing about all the deadheads he is leading around by the nose.The only good quality of this Grateful Dead Hour format is to be found by comparing it to the quality of the archived 'Dead To The World' programs on the KPFA site which compress two hours of music into a 20mb mp3 file. That sucks worse, but this sucks too. I am sorry that David Gans is not posting these on or LAMA instead of here.

Joined: Jun 6 2007
Acoustic rocks

Great show! I always enjoy the more acoustic side of GD music. This selection highlights some of the roots and fine realisations of this approach, as well as demonstrating that there must have been some fun times in the studio during the Aoxomoxoa sessions.

Anyone know if David Nelson still has the 1940 Martin D-18 he played on Cumberland Blues, that he got from a trade with Jerry?

Happy Trails

Joined: Aug 16 2007
Choking up in Pennsylvania... different than choking up in baseball. As Jerry explains in this episode.
'Little Biride' rocks the house! I remember this program. Still have it on tape. Fantastic versions of 'Ragged But Right' and 'Turtle Dove.' Great choice here.

dead tanuki's picture
Joined: Aug 27 2007
Oh, mercy

but it was nice to hear some more pre-Dead Jerry. I love, lemme repeat that LOVE, the Mother McCree's disc, but I'd always wondered what Jerry sounded like in more of a pure bluegrass setting, since we all know that's where he started. Prayer answered. Thanks, David!

And let me add, for whoever at Rhino might be reading this, that I would line up to purchase a disc that collected whatever recordings might exist of Messrs. Garcia, Weir, Lesh, Kreutzmann, or McKernan before they formed the Dead. Garcia/Hunter folkie stuff? More Black Mountain Boys? More Pigpen? Bring it on.

GRTUD's picture
Joined: Jun 4 2007
Very Interesting

Noteworthy compilation of tunes, DG. I had never even heard of "Barbed Wire Whipping Party" before today. That song was funny and weird, which made me think of that era again. Not sure if I'm sad or relieved but I know that I'm grateful.

The Dude Abides!

deadheadgarcia's picture
Joined: Jun 4 2007
thanks David!

wow! thanks again DL and DG for giving us such awesome music to listen to!
I hooked up roadrunner just so I could stream the taper's section and grateful dead radio hour,
it works great and sounds beautiful! I was digging the mp3 downloads but whatever...I also got a cord to run sound through home stereo, rockin' and loud! Heck practically every show I could ever want streams in soundboard on don't forget...Also haven't heard any talk of the concert vault (Bill Graham's vault and king biscuit etc.) ALL BANDS! CHECK IT OUT!!
P.S. always looking to buy a new release....

Joined: Jun 5 2007
barbed wire whipping party

thanks for posting the barbed wire whipping party!
such a weird view into what was going on back then while they were recording AOXOMOXOA.....heard some stories. This definately verifies the studio weirdness!

hey dave....i had a couple of requests if you dont mind!
The GDH #335 featuring the oakland 94 show with Truckin'>That would be something>he's gone....such a haunting me chills just thinking about it! Just something amazing about that show.
and if you got time...
the gdh shows from 05/14/70 merimac college (352,353)

thanks again for everything!
keep on doing what you do!


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