What Got You on the Bus?
An excellent suggestion from Hal R., picking up on a thread in another topic: how did you get on the bus? What was that moment that left no room for doubt?
Probably no two stories are the same, but they're all probably pretty interesting, so tell all here!
I walked in to my high school American Literature class and there leaning against the chalkboard at the front of the class was a record cover with a fantastic picture of a skeleton with roses in on its’ head and the words Grateful Dead above it. I had read about the legendary band in Rolling Stone and heard a song or two on Beaker Street AM radio from Little Rock late at night and on KUNI-FM public radio but I had never seen one of their records, it beckoned to me throughout the class. I couldn’t wait to hear it. Towards the end of class we got to have music in the background while we read for 20 minutes. The volume was pretty low but I liked the rhythms that I heard. My friend Archie and I started talking after class and he told me it was his record and I asked if I could borrow it.
I took it home, placed it on the stereo and looked at the picture of the band inside the cover. Wow, these guys are real hippies, with tie dye shirts; they are not pretty boys, that’s cool. Out of the speakers jumped Bertha with the loud bouncing bass line, a sweet lead vocal, nice harmonies, an organ, curious rhythm guitar and a great guitar solo. This was not Grand Funk Railroad or Black Sabbath; hey these guys are really good. They might be as good as Jefferson Airplane or Santana or CCR or maybe even Cream or the Doors. I turned the song way up and rocked and then what ? A country song? What is this? Mama Tried? Merle Haggard? Hell, I was trying to avoid that shit, I lived in the middle of Iowa corn country and it was everywhere. But hey it sounds pretty good the way they do it, I had to admit. Big Railroad Blues, a pretty good rocker and Playing in The Band, that one cooks. Play the next side and what? A drum solo, they are starting a record with a drum solo? But then there is this great bass line and really intense energy and great guitar and then it slows way down and speeds up and slows down and speeds up; this is different than any rock and roll I ever heard . But I think I like it, I think I like it a lot, I think. It’s kind of weird though. That must be the psychedelic part, but I kind of think I like it, lots, I think. Funny name, The Other One. OK, more rockers, Me and My Uncle, Big Boss Man, Me and Bobby McGee, Johnny B. Goode, great. Then a really slow song, “Wharf Rat”, I like the voice, but this is really kind of slow. Hey wait a minute, he just said fucker on a record! Wow, I think that’s cool. Then more great rockers Not Fade Away and Goin’ Down the Road.
I must have played the whole album 20 or so times in the next week or so and played Bertha, Playing In the Band, Me and Bobby McGee, Johnny B. Goode and Not Fade Away about 100 times. Seriously, I was hooked. Finally Archie demanded he get his record back. I picked up a copy the next time we went to Cedar Rapids, 40 miles away.
Next one was Europe 72 and I swear on the bridge between China Cat Sunflower and I Know You Rider some of kind of inner switch was turned on. You know what I mean. If you are here you understand. Then Truckin’ and the beauty of Morning Dew just strengthened it, whatever it was. I felt like the music was inside of me, like it was a vital part of me, an inner force.
If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
... in the late spring of '77. It's my understanding there were some pretty good shows going down about then. I "was just nineteen, with ways like a baby chile'" - I started smoking and fell in lust with a chiquita loca whose entire family of brothers and sisters were into the Dead. The oldest brother was hard-core into Pig and he kinda scared me. He looked a lot like Pig - you know, that picture where he's got that one eyebrow raised - help! My girlfriend, la chiqita loca, loved Donna - especially the Keith & Donna record and she turned me on to the Fire Up! record, too - Jerry, "a foa - Afta midnight ..." And then it was Terrapin, Europe '72, Skull & Roses, and I was going, going, going - ON THE BUS!!!
I took an extended Dead hiatus from '82-ish until Jerry passed. I grabbed "Hundred Year Hall" in '95 and was immediately back on the bus. I have been very fortunate to have been able to associate with those connected closely to sources who could keep me in Dead discs. I can't believe it's been 30 years and I still have the passion for the music. I love most musics but the Dead have a way of pushing all the right buttons and I listen to the shows I have on their anniversary. Awe shucks, by the time I get Road Trips, Vol.1 the anniversay dates will have passed - let's see, I think there's an open date ...
"From day to day, just lettin' it ride,
You get so far away from how it feels inside,
You can't let go, 'cause you're afraid to fall,
But the day may come when you can't feel at all."