Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead Hour no. 489

By David Gans

Week of February 2, 1998

San Francisco keyboardist Merl Saunders was a musical partner of Jerry Garcia's starting in 1970. As you'll hear in this interview, their work together was tremendously enriching to the guitarist. The recorded output of their collaboration is quite impressive, as the discography on attests.

When Jerry was recovering from his diabetic coma in 1986, it was Merl who went to his bedside every day to help him recover his musical consciousness and retrain his nerve paths.

Merl suffered a stroke in 2002 that put an end to his performing career. Complications from an infection ended his life on October 24, 2008.

This week's archival GD Hour post features an interview with Merl Saunders on the occasion of the release of Keepers. The opening track on that CD is a studio recording of "Mystery Train" featuring Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Vassar Clements and John Kahn of Old and in the Way.

Thank you for a lifetime of warm, inspiring music, Merl. It was a pleasure to know you.
- DG

Merl Saunders and Friends, Keepers


Merl Saunders Live: Still Having Fun

Merl Saunders, Fiesta Amazonica AYAHUASCA ZONE

You can browse or search the Grateful Dead Hour program logs on the GD Hour web site. Let me know if there's a particular program you'd like to hear, and feel free to post requests and comments here or by email to

Thanks for listening!
David Gans

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Joined: Jun 7 2007
Great Sugaree

I love the live Sugaree. Completely different take on it. Thanks for this David. I'm going through these gradually. This is a great show. Merl comes across as a very pleasant and interesting man.

DantheMan's picture
Joined: Jun 13 2007
Play on through eternity, MS

I only saw Merl once to my knowledge when he played keys on the other one at BCT '84-85 era. Always loved his work with Jerry, and now I know that Keepers is a MUST for my ears. Need to work out how to re-release Blues for the Rainforest. $50+ on Amazon? Too rich for this white punk off dope. Peace out, homies, and NICE JOB to you, David Gans, for this and all the choice tunes over the years. Everyone should buy your Weird Ones...CD - even as a pig in a poke, as it were. I know I will take a cha-cha-chance on it! DtM

Joined: Jun 4 2007
Merl & Jerry - Mystery Train

Love this song done by Merl & Jerry.
This was recorded originally by Elvis . Elvis was later backed in studio vocals by a young lady named Donna Thatcher,
who later married Keith Godchaux and they both became members of the Grateful Dead.

lethedoom's picture
Joined: Jun 4 2007
very welcome

Hurray--better late than not at all. Thank you David and for these fine offerings.


BALTIMOREDEAD333's picture
Joined: May 3 2008

love the version of GEORGIA ON MY MIND

marye's picture
Joined: May 26 2007
cool stuff

Merl has some great stories, and that spooky thing at the end...


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