Here Comes Sunshine: Garcia ‘73

Good Ol’ Grateful Deadcast​​ 

Season 7, Episode 6 

Here Comes Sunshine: Garcia ‘73 

Archival interviews: 

- Jerry Garcia, KQRS, 10/19/71

- Jerry Garcia, by Bill Cooper, WRNW, 5/82.  

- Jerry Garcia, by Ben Fong-Torres, KSAN, 1975

- Jerry Garcia, by Joe Smith, Off the Record, 5/23/88

- Robert Hunter, by Blair Jackson, Live at Shoreline, 2004. 

JESSE: Special episodes of television shows would sometimes begin with their characters breaking the fourth wall, speaking directly into the camera, just like I am now, or—like in Masterpiece Theatre—with the host sitting in an easy chair smoking a pipe. So let’s start today’s episode like that. Imagine me sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. There are lots of Dead tapes and old issues of the Golden Road strewn about. I’m in my desk chair. It’s not tobacco. And since the Deadcast is for families and proudly podcasting everywhere in the world, this week, I’m also in drag. Much love to all our trans, nonbinary, and otherwise awesome Dead Head comrades out there, especially those stranded in places with people who lately—somehow—have found time to hate. And since you’re wondering, it’s a casual beachy sundress sort of situation with spangle pom-pom things on the sleeve. Pretty comfy, really. 

But the real reason we’re starting off like this today is to note that we often get requests for an episodes about the Jerry Garcia Band or his work with David Grisman or some other aspect of Garcia’s career outside the Dead, and we have to remind the requester that—structurally—we are, in fact, the Good Ol’ Grateful Deadcast and that Garcia’s side career is out of our jurisdiction. We’ve made a few exceptions over the years, specifically a bonus episode about Garcia’s years in the folk and bluegrass scenes, and one about his self-titled solo debut. Our mission this season is to get into the new Here Comes Sunshine box set, which captures five fantastic Dead shows from 1973. But to get into the Grateful Dead in 1973, a side trip is necessary. And, as we learned, from a business perspective, things were kinda blurry back then. 

AUDIO: “Finder Keepers” [Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders, Live at Keystone] (0:00-0:26) - [Spotify

JESSE: That’s “Finders Keepers,” sometimes known just as “Keepers,” Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders with Bill Vitt and John Kahn, from their 1973 album Live at Keystone, recorded in Berkeley that summer, and in the works behind the scenes of Here Comes Sunshine. Garcia had been playing with the band for nearly three years, though they still didn’t have a proper name, which was symbolic of Garcia’s approach to playing outside the Grateful Dead. Here’s how he described it to KQRS in Minneapolis in October 1971. 

JERRY GARCIA [10/19/71]: I also play with another fella out in San Francisco named Merl Saunders. He's an organ player. And Tom Fogerty, who used to play in Creedence Clearwater [Revival], and the same rhythm section that’s on that Hooteroll? record, John Kahn and Bill Vitt. We’d play around in bars. 

KQRS RADIO HOST [10/19/71]: Just for kicks? 

JERRY GARCIA [10/19/71]: Yeah, it’s groovy to be able to play in a situation which is not of any great interest to anybody, but just a chance to get off. 

JESSE: It was also mega-casual. But in 1973 that started to change.  

AUDIO: “Old & In the Way” [Old & In the Way, Live at the Boarding House, 10/73] (0:00-0:30) - [Spotify]  

JESSE: In early 1973, Jerry Garcia co-founded another new band — the bluegrass quintet Old & In the Way, who would record their own legendary live album that year and have a transformative effect on bluegrass itself. Like the Garcia/Saunders group, they maintained a mostly parallel existence to the Grateful Dead that was also going on at the same time as the five shows on the Here Comes Sunshine box set. Joe Jupille is the proprietor of, the most incredible living source of dates and data around Garcia and the Dead. Joe is also working on his own book, Fate Music, shaping up to be the deepest account of Garcia’s musical life outside the Dead. Welcome back, Joe. 

JOE JUPILLE: To me, this period is the most blissful period of Jerry’s life. He's got 17 irons in the fire; he's crushing it in every project; the music is interesting and diverse and flowing. His life is set up at Stinson with his wife and kids, and they're pretty happy. The commercial success is coming. It's just perfect, man. I mean, it's just a moment in time that I just wish he could have had more of. 

JESSE: In our last episode, we spoke about the range of businesses launched around the Dead in 1973 and the surrounding years. There was Grateful Dead Records, Out of Town Tours, Fly By Night Travel, Hard Truckers speaker cabinets, and the boutique Kumquat Mae to go along with Alembic and Ice Nine Publishing. Though it stayed formally casual, 1973 was also the year that Jerry Garcia might first be considered a business of his own. 

AUDIO: “The Harder They Come” [Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders, Live at Keystone] (0:00-0:29) - [Spotify]  

Stinson Beach 

JESSE: Richard Loren would play a pivotal role in Jerry Garcia and the Dead’s universe starting in 1973. He wrote a great memoir titled High Notes. In the ‘60s, Richard’s resume included time working with the Doors, the Jefferson Airplane, and Liberace, but his connection to the Dead came quite circuitously through mandolinist David Grisman and a band that would play a surprising role in Jerry Garcia’s musical life. 

RICHARD LOREN: I knew David Grisman when I was his agent. When I was working for the Doors, he and Peter Rowan were playing on Earth Opera.  

AUDIO: “The Red Sox Are Winning” [Earth Opera, s/t] (1:16-1:34) - [Spotify

JESSE: That was “The Red Sox Are Winning” by Earth Opera, a band featuring Peter Rowan and David Grisman that we’ll be hearing a bit more about today. To jump forward, though, by 1970, they’d mostly dissolved. 

RICHARD LOREN: In 1970, David and I had a partnership, basically, and we represented Peter Rowan’s two younger brothers for a while. We were living in New York.  

JESSE: In the summer of 1970, Grisman had visited California, run into Jerry Garcia at a Grateful Dead/Jefferson Airplane softball game, and wound up playing some overdubs on American Beauty. 

AUDIO: “Ripple” [American Beauty] (1:36-1:59) - [] [Spotify] [YouTube

JESSE: We told that story on our “Ripple” episode. But a few weeks later, the Dead were in New York at the Fillmore East. 

RICHARD LOREN: So David calls Jerry at the hotel, and he's had tickets put aside, so we went to the show. And after the show, like four in the morning, Jerry, David and I are backstage, and I get to meet Jerry for the first time. So Jerry said, “Well, what are you up to?” And David told him what he and I were up to with the Rowan Brothers. He said we were having a rough time getting gigs for them, and breaking them through with a record deal. And Jerry said, “Well, you guys have got to come to California.” Well, in a New York second, we were in California. 

AUDIO: “Dreamless” [Earth Opera, s/t] (1:04-1:25) - [Spotify

JESSE: That was “Dreamless” from the first Earth Opera album. 

RICHARD LOREN: I went out first, and David came out later with the Rowan Brothers. Peter Cippolina was the other Cippolina, the famous [Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist John] Cippolina’s father — he was a realtor kind of a guy, and I was introduced to him by [Jefferson Airplane’s] Marty Balin. I said I was looking for a place, for me and for David and the Rowan Brothers when they came west to San Francisco. He says, “Well, I’ve got this place in Stinson Beach you should check out.” So we found the compound on the water in Stinson Beach, and it was just a great place to hang. There was a garage that we turned into a studio. It was our little compound, trying to break the Rowan Brothers. Serendipitously, Jerry happened to just be living at the top of the hill, and we lived on the water. 

JESSE: Jerry Garcia, Mountain Girl, and their growing family had moved to Stinson Beach in the summer of 1971, purchasing a house with the money made from his first solo album.  

RICHARD LOREN: I said, “Hey, Jerry, we just got to a place, I just got a place down on the water.” So that became a place where Jerry became a lot more friendly with David and the Rowan Brothers. When the Rowan Brothers caved, they didn’t make it commercially, Jerry asked me, he said, “Would you be my manager? For all my projects outside of the Grateful Dead?” Because Jerry knew my background as an agent. It was ‘72 that he actually asked me to be his manager. 

JESSE: Jerry Garcia’s solo career had begun with complete informality, playing Monday night jams at the Matrix in San Francisco when he wasn’t playing the Dead. Merl Saunders joined up in the fall of 1970 and by early 1971 he and Garcia were gigging multiple nights a week when the Dead weren’t on the road. By the end of 1972, it was getting hard for Garcia to keep track. 

RICHARD LOREN: When I became his manager, we got an office in Mill Valley. We were both living in Stinson Beach. I had my secretary from the Rowan Brothers. We rented a house, and every morning at nine o’clock in the morning, Jerry would come into the office. It was kind of like a clubhouse scene we had. John Kahn would come in, just Jerry’s friends. It would be a place to hang out. He’d come in, drop down his briefcase, roll a big fat one, do a couple lines, and the morning began. We did everything in that little office. We talked about when he could play gigs with Merl and Jerry when the Dead weren’t playing. I’d interface with the Dead at the time, and find out through—I think it was Cutler that was actually doing the booking at the time. Jerry never wanted to interfere with any of the gigs that the Dead were on. It was always Dead came first. And whenever there was free time, Jerry wanted to play. He wanted to play all the time that the Dead weren’t playing, so it was my job to make that happen. We did local tours, local gigs. It was a bunch of guys, getting high and talking about where we want to play. Then Jerry would leave at noon, and I’d book all the shows. 

JESSE: It sounds like a fun scene. 

RICHARD LOREN: A bunch of us were interested in the occult, and my office with Jerry was where people came to talk about that kind of stuff that nobody else talked about: the metaphysical, the occult, the weirdnesses, aliens, all that kind of stuff. We were all into that stuff. Not all the Dead, but Jerry, me, John Kahn, Alan Trist, Phil came in every once in a while. Our relationship was natural from the beginning. We were a great team. We helped each other and [I helped] him navigate a business that was volatile and crazy, including all the members of the Grateful Dead and the crew. He needed me to be… he needed a manager, to take care of all of the business end of his affairs. He wanted a friend to do that. I went to every show of Old & In the Way, and every show of Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders band. Every one of ‘em — until 1981, when I quit. 


AUDIO: “Free Flight” [Jerry Garcia & Howard Wales, Side Trips 1, ~7/6/70] (7:07-7:37) - [Spotify

JESSE: That was Jerry Garcia and Howard Wales with John Kahn and Bill Vitt at the Matrix, probably recorded July 6, 1970, now Side Trips, Volume 1, from the aptly named track “Free Flight.” Garcia played with Wales throughout the spring and summer of that year, but the open jams got a little too popular. We spoke with the late Howard Wales during our American Beauty season. You can hear more of this conversation in our “Brokedown Palace” episode

HOWARD WALES: It was one of those small places, people coming from all over town. And then of course, when everybody found out about this jam session, that meant that anybody and everybody or whatever, just came down, and it became a really not a good thing.  

JESSE: With too many guests dropping by, Howard Wales retreated and Merl Saunders took over in the fall of 1970. Merl was easy to get along with. 

RICHARD LOREN: One of the sweetest gentle souls you could meet. Being in his presence was a gift. He wasn’t a heavy talker. But when he said something, it had meaning and it was meaningful. He was a special man. 

JESSE: By early 1971, the Garcia/Saunders group was playing multiple nights a week at the Matrix and other bars around the Bay Area. Another key point in the band was the bassist. According to Garcia, he met John Kahn on the bandstand at the Matrix and didn’t learn his name until one night when they shared a ride home. Here’s Robert Hunter speaking with Blair Jackson in 2004, an interview included on the Live at Shoreline DVD. 

ROBERT HUNTER [2004]: With John, he had somebody that could play the blues with. Jerry had a hunger to learn more and more about jazz and the blues, and in came Merl and John, who at that point were both very masterful in those areas. Those were the directions that Jerry wanted to go very much, and they were good for him that way. 

JESSE: Though Garcia and Saunders were the nominal bandleaders, Garcia formed a lasting musical bond with Kahn. Here’s how Garcia described it to Bill Cooper on WRNW in 1982.  

JERRY GARCIA [5/82]: Ever since, back when I would play with Howard Wales and through with Merl Saunders, John and I have had this… all the things you hear of that are called the Jerry Garcia Band are, in reality, the John Kahn and Jerry Garcia Band, really. He and I have a certain simpatico, a certain concept of music, which is we’re very like each other, musically. Just enough difference to make it interesting.  

ROBERT HUNTER [2004]: John was a wonderful wit — so dry, so funny. One of the best combinations you could have around, to have a good jaw with or just sit back and listen and be cracked up all the time was Nicky Hopkins, John Kahn and Jerry Garcia. 

AUDIO: “My Funny Valentine” [Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders, Live at Keystone] (0:23-0:47) - [Spotify

JESSE: That was “My Funny Valentine” from the Garcia/Saunders/Vitt/Kahn album, Live at Keystone. With Saunders, alongside R&B, blues, and open jams, Garcia began to play jazz standards for the first time, a vocabulary that would increasingly inform the music he made with the Grateful Dead starting in 1973. Though Jerry Garcia’s work with Merl Saunders and his membership in Old & In the Way are rightly called side projects, each was also a full-time genuine band in its own right. Looked at another way, working with Jerry Garcia was a side project for Merl Saunders. In 1972, he and John Kahn had been members of Paul Butterfield’s touring band, while Merl also worked on soundtracks for movies like Fritz the Cat. Our guide to the Garcia/Saunders project is Merl’s teenage roadie. Please welcome to the Deadcast, Merl Saunders Jr.  

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: I would help them get the organ out of the house and into the van. And he'd take it down to the Keystone and I would plug it in, put the pedals on and turn it on. And either hang out or come back and get it the next day. Steve Parish and Joe Winslow, who was the guy that started Hard Truckers, were the roadies, and they gave me with my first $12, which was the first thing I made. I was probably 13 when that happened.  

JESSE: That’s some heavy gear to be moving around. 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: It was on a dolly roller, so I could roll it around. And the Leslie, at a very early age I learned how to pick that up and put it on stages. We didn't go to the gym, we just exercised with the musical equipment. 

JESSE: For Merl Jr., it was the beginning of his own career in the music industry. 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: I was always into electronics and tinkering and making things work. I would pull the back off the B3 and make sure it was oiled, so that the drawbars would work, stuff like that. Change the tubes in the Leslie, and the power tubes that were in the back of the B3. 

JESSE: In meeting Garcia, Merl Jr.’s father had joined a big musical family. 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: My first remembrance of the Grateful Dead was going to Pigpen’s wake at Weir’s house. That’s the first time I remember being around the Dead. I was a kid, running around with all these… I just tell people, like, I was around — they were my father’s friends. My father was… I think he was probably at least seven or eight years older than most of the other people. He was the only one that had kids that were [our age]; we were the oldest kids, me and my siblings. And it was basically me that hung out, and that's it. But there were no kids really, my age.  

JESSE: It was definitely an after-school job with some odd hours. 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: If I was at the shows, I would do homework, or I would just be… I would hang out. I didn't really watch the music that much. I was a 13-year old kid, and that wasn’t the music of my generation. I was 12, 13. I would sit in the room and listen to them rehearse — that was, like, the worst thing you’d want to do, sit in a room with your father and watch him do his thing.  

JESSE: His father’s co-workers were generally pretty chill, though, and he got along well with Garcia. 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: I played guitar, so he would show me stuff. But like everybody else, he was one of my father’s friends — he wasn’t mine. I hung out with him when he was around. He helped me with homework.  

JESSE: In other ways, Merl Jr.’s dad was helping Garcia with his homework. 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: Garcia was still learning, but as far as what they were playing, and the type of… Bill Vitt was basically a jazz drummer. John Kahn was like an R&B bass player. I would consider him, like, an R&B [bass player]. He loved the Motown shit. He loved that kind of bass playing, the bass playing that carries the band. My father would like to solo everywhere, and Vitt could keep up with him. And Garcia was stepping out. 

AUDIO: “My Funny Valentine” [Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders, Live at Keystone] (1:07-1:29) - [Spotify

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: The other guitar players my father played with, they were people like Grant Green and Jackie King — guys like that, who are technically amazing guitar players. But Garcia hung in there. He hung in there and learned it, that was the thing. Garcia was kind of into R&B because the music was a different tempo than what the Grateful Dead played in, and it was more straight playing. When I think of Garcia, it wasn’t like early on. He was more of an R&B player like what he eventually became, like a jam band player. 

JESSE: Especially in 1971 and 1972, they were busy.  

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: They’d play two or three nights a week. They’d rehearse in my grandmother's garage on Page and Ashbury Street, right down the street from Haight Street, the next block down. Which is why on that Heavy Turbulence record, there was a song called “Welcome to the Basement.” That’s why that song is on there.  

AUDIO: “Welcome to the Basement” [Merl Saunders, Heavy Turbulence] (0:22-0:45) - [Spotify

JESSE: Released in spring 1972, Heavy Turbulence was the second product of the band that started at the Matrix, released only a few months after Garcia and Wales’ Hooteroll?, which had been recorded a bit earlier, in late 1970. I don’t think Garcia plays on “Welcome to the Basement,” but he’s on the rest. Let’s pause, though and hold onto the fact that, in 1971 and 1972, if you were there at the right time, Jerry Garcia was apparently jamming in the Haight, literally two-and-a-half blocks from the Dead’s old place at 710 Ashbury. 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: People kind of knew it was them because people would just be hanging out outside. People would just be lined up. There was a big apartment building across the street, and people would just be sitting out there listening to the music. 

AUDIO: “Welcome to the Basement” [Merl Saunders, Heavy Turbulence] (1:22-1:43) - [Spotify

JESSE: According to JerryBase, in 1972, Jerry Garcia performed 86 times with the Grateful Dead, 64 times with Garcia/Saunders, and a half-dozen on an East Coast tour with Howard Wales, plus assorted sits-ins — not counting studio sessions or rehearsals. With two groups running smoothly, in early 1973, Jerry Garcia decided it was time to start a new band. 

Old & In the Way 

AUDIO: “Pig in a Pen” [Old & In the Way] (0:46-1:02) 

JESSE: But Old & In the Way was pretty different from Garcia/Saunders in many respects, with the smallest of official legacies and a massive impact. In some ways, Garcia was resuming a career he’d put aside only eight years earlier. Here’s how he described his banjo days to Joe Smith in 1988.  

JERRY GARCIA [5/23/88]: By ‘59, I didn't think it was cool anymore to play rock and roll. Rock and roll was getting to be unfashionable. And somebody turned me on to folk music, and I heard that sound of bluegrass banjo and that completely copped my attention.  

JESSE: From 1961 to perhaps early 1965, Garcia immersed himself in banjo. If you’re interested in that, we recommend the Before the Dead box set

JERRY GARCIA [5/23/88]: So that was a three-year, four-year excursion into that world, where I really learned how to pick things apart. The way how to learn bluegrass banjo [is] you had to slow the records down, learn it note-for-note like that. That gave me the discipline to learn how to do that stuff.  

JESSE: But there was a transition, as he told Ben Fong-Torres on KSAN in 1975. 

JERRY GARCIA [1975]: The instrument just stopped being flexible and stopped being interesting. I didn't really decide it, like ‘I can’t play this thing anymore.’ But LSD made me want to hear longer sounds, be freer and not be restricted so much, musically, and not be such a victim of self-discipline.  

JESSE: Jerry Garcia’s adventures in bluegrass are too numerous to recount today, but the one with the most lasting impact was an encounter during his cross-country bluegrass odyssey in the summer of 1964. This is from Dennis McNally’s Jerry On Jerry audiobook, available from Hachette. 

JERRY GARCIA [Jerry On Jerry, Chapter 4]: That's really how I met them mostly, except for Grisman. I met him in a parking lot in Pennsylvania — at Sunset Park, a bluegrass park. We picked together. He knew of me because my reputation had spread to the East Coast with my friends. I was known by reputation, really. So I might as well have been there. But I couldn’t have hacked it, I don’t think. It was too ugly for me. 

JESSE: We spoke with David Grisman in 2020 for our shows about American Beauty, and here’s how he recalled it. 

DAVID GRISMAN: They didn't have festivals in 1964. It was a country music park called Sunset Park in West Grove, Pennsylvania. And every Sunday afternoon in the summer, they had shows and a lot of them were bluegrass shows. So that's how I got to hear bluegrass. And Jerry, too — he was on a little pilgrimage across the country that summer, and he showed up there at a Bill Monroe show.  

JESSE: We spoke a lot more about bluegrass and Old & In the Way than we did about David’s brief but right-on contributions to American Beauty. David Grisman was a serious Bill Monroe head, which is also how he met Monroe’s latest singer in the mid-’60s. We are so honored to welcome to the Deadcast, the most righteous Peter Rowan. 

PETER ROWAN: He would show up at all the Bill Monroe shows up in the Northeast, and we just got to be friends. Plus, we were partners in recreational pastimes, if you know what I mean. He was very free-thinking; David is very free-thinking. I could present a new tune that I had written that had no place in bluegrass, and he’d go, “Oh yeah.” And that was the basis of the Earth Opera material, was stuff that I had written in Nashville that was just not really—on the surface—country music.  

JESSE: The two played together in a few bluegrass combos, including the briefly-lived 1968 ensemble the Bluegrass Dropouts, also featuring fiddlin’ Richard Greene and banjo player Bill Keith, a former member of Monroe’s band and legend in his own right. But together Peter Rowan and David Grisman founded Earth Opera. 

PETER ROWAN: Originally, it was just David and I. And we modeled our duet playing on the band that was called the Incredible String Band. We approached it from that point of view, just two instruments. And then Earth Opera became a bass and drums, and then even horns.  

AUDIO: “All Winter Long” [Earth Opera, The Great American Eagle Tragedy] (1:29-1:50) 

JESSE: That was from the group’s second album, The Great American Eagle Tragedy, featuring viola from John Cale, recently departed from the Velvet Underground. To me, they make a lot more sense thinking about them as being modeled on the Incredible String Band. But Earth Opera ran aground, Peter Rowan joined Seatrain, made an album with Sir George Martin, and David Grisman and Richard Loren managed Rowan’s younger brothers and relocated to Stinson in 1971. Everybody up to speed? 

PETER ROWAN: David and Jerry — bluegrass people seek each other out. Garcia had been a bluegrass banjo player early on, and he and David hit it off. Anywhere that David was going to be, he'd find bluegrass. 

JESSE: Jerry Garcia had put banjo behind him and was deep into the pedal steel guitar, joining Marmaduke and David Nelson in the New Riders of the Purple Sage. But by the end of ‘71, he’d stepped aside from the New Riders. At some point the previous year, he’d picked up the banjo more seriously, and it’s hard to know for sure, but it didn’t hurt that a few world-class bluegrass pickers were massing at the bottom of the hill. David Grisman. 

DAVID GRISMAN: When I moved out to California, I moved to Stinson Beach. And not long… I think Jerry, when I first moved out there, he was living in Novato. I visited him there. Then we moved to Stinson each a little bit after that, and we started hanging out. And not long after that, Peter Rowan moved to Stinson Beach. His brothers lived there, who I was working with as a producer. I brought Peter up to Jerry's house—he lived in the highest house up on the hill—and I took Peter up there to meet Jerry. We just naturally started playing bluegrass because both Peter and I had worked in real bluegrass bands.  

JESSE: Peter Rowan. 

PETER ROWAN: Old & In the Way was: the sun has gone down, we’ve all had supper, let’s all go up to Jerry’s house and pick. Jerry was, at that time, he had two young girls — Trixie and Annabelle, they were both living there with him and Mountain Girl. It was just a special time. They had settled as family. If you look over the history of the whole thing, that moment of domestic bliss didn’t last forever. 

DAVID GRISMAN: He loved to play bluegrass and so did Peter. He had played with Bill Monroe and I played with Red Allen, so we just started going up there and jamming on bluegrass tunes. Jerry, pretty much immediately, said, “Well, you know, I can get us gigs.” Yeah! We made about $150 bucks a night, which was an even split. It was a lot of money back in those days.  

JESSE: Richard Loren. 

RICHARD LOREN: Jerry said, “Well hey, man, this is really this is really cool. Let's play a few gigs.” So for the first couple of gigs, the Rowan Brothers played. They played Stinson Beach at the firehouse.  

DAVID GRISMAN: Jerry, he could fill all those clubs: the Lion’s Share in San Anselmo, the Boarding House. There was a place called Homer’s Warehouse in Palo Alto, the Keystone-Berkeley, Keystone-Palo Alto. He liked to play all the time. 

RICHARD LOREN: Jerry didn't like to rehearse very much. He was just: [let’s] play! 

PETER ROWAN: With Jerry in the band, of course, we automatically had an audience. Even with Merl Saunders and the Grateful Dead, he had a great local following in the Bay Area. And it was all by chance that we all sort of… by chance, or by wizardry, I don't know which, but we all ended up out there, and we actually had work — because bluegrass is not the place to go for work.  

JESSE: The trio of Grisman, Rowan, and Garcia represented something fairly powerful that’s worth examining. Joe Jupille. 

JOE JUPILLE: What really drove Jerry was more music with great players — more music, less bullshit, and Old & In the Way was absolutely perfect [in that regard]. He didn't even need to bring a roadie. He didn't need anybody to haul amps for him. He could just show up with his banjo. Great music, low key, no pressure, no expectations. Of the frontline players, he was the least accomplished. Whether it was Richard Greene or Vassar on the fiddle — between Rowan, Grisman, and Greene, or Rowan, Grisman and Vassar, Garcia was the least accomplished. And so it was challenging for him: he was young and hungry and had all the energy in the world. And that was the sweet spot, that he could have challenging music with friends who are hot pickers, and without having to deal with all the BS. 

JESSE: David Grisman was a 27-year-old mandolin phenom who’d not quite found a place for his mandolin playing just yet. He was a veteran of the festival circuit, numerous get-together bands, his Earth Opera partnership with Peter Rowan, a side of managerial hustle with Richard Loren, and an exacting vision for his own music that he hadn’t yet fulfilled. But even having a charismatic banjo player and shredding mandolinist isn’t quite enough for a bluegrass group, as Grisman points out. 

DAVID GRISMAN: And I just felt like… I always thought, Well, bluegrass is half vocal style. And I never thought much of my singing. Pete Rowan was a great bluegrass singer, and Jerry was a better singer than me.  

JESSE: I discovered Old & In the Way pretty early in my own music listening life, and the Rowan/Garcia vocal blend is one of my all-time favorites. 

AUDIO: “White Dove” [Old & In the Way] (0:42-1:12) 

JESSE: But it took me years to realize the full scope of Peter Rowan. He’s got a handful of original songs on the Old & In the Way album released in 1975, but it wasn’t until I started listening to their performances that I realized not only how big their repertoire was, but how many Peter Rowan tunes were in it. Richard Loren.  

RICHARD LOREN: Peter Rowan is the most undervalued, under-understood, underexposed, under-appreciated [of the] folk rock musicians and songwriters. I can’t believe he’s not world-famous. I mean, he is in his way. 

PETER ROWAN: Here’s the thing: I knew that, if we were going to play bluegrass, I, as a writer, had to put something in there that was going to interest a guy like David Grisman, who was always looking for something new. So right from the beginning, they were the songs that Seatrain wouldn’t do. They were “too funky, too country.” They didn’t have the ear for that — but Jerry and David had the ear. It was like, “Oh, we know what to do with these songs.” 

AUDIO: “Midnight Moonlight” [Old & In the Way] (0:25-0:57) 

PETER ROWAN: Some people point out that “Midnight Moonlight” is the first song that said, Okay, here are two chords — this is the solo, just two chords, and you can play over the solo. Which was sort of my idea, to have a completely different emotional feel in the middle of the song, where people can just play freely. 

AUDIO: “Midnight Moonlight” [Old & In the Way] (4:10-4:40) 

PETER ROWAN: The interesting thing about them for me was, again, to make them more not challenging, but more fun for the instrumentalists to put the passing chords in. If “Midnight Moonlight” was to be a straight bluegrass song, it would only be, like, in E; you wouldn't have put in all the F# minor and all the passing chords. The passing chords are basically what was left out of all the old bluegrass songs — I put them in my songs because I felt they had an emotional appeal. And also Jack Bonus’s song, “The Hobo Song,” had similar [chords]. 

AUDIO: “The Hobo Song” [Old & In the Way] (1:16-1:42) 

JESSE: “The Hobo Song” was hardly traditional bluegrass fare. Jack Bonus was a Bay Area horn player of weird repute who recorded a solo record for the Jefferson Airplane’s Grunt Records imprint in 1972 that featured both David Grisman and Peter Rowan’s brothers. 

PETER ROWAN: It was like, okay, all the songs are related. A lot of them have a lot of the same chords. “Wild Horses,” it’s got that B minor in there in the key of A. That was a chord that became popular in bluegrass. The Osborne Brothers or the Country Gentlemen would go from an A to a B minor, or G to an A minor. It has a certain emotional quality that Bob Dylan was pretty influential on that, and the Beatles. It was part of the music of the ‘60s, and in bluegrass and folk music, they had started using that chord that has an emotional pull to make that chord change. 

AUDIO: “Panama Red” [Old & In the Way] (0:16-0:40) 

PETER ROWAN: Without dwelling on that chord change in itself, all those songs that came into “Panama Red,” it has a B minor in it; “Midnight Moonlight” has a B minor; “Wild Horses” has a B minor; “Hobo Song” has a B minor. In [relation] to the keys they’re in, it has that emotional quality. I think it united those songs; I think it made a group of original songs that had an identifiable feel. Which is kind of what you want — you want an identity with something recognizable about the material. 

AUDIO: “Wild Horses” [Old & In the Way] (0:41-1:02) 

PETER ROWAN: And then the contrast of those types of songs with “White Dove,” for instance, it’s a beautiful contrast. Although it’s the same keys and same chords, it takes a simpler approach, and it’s very slow. There was a nice contrast between everything, and yet, there was a thread through it all. 

AUDIO: “White Dove” [Old & In the Way] (0:12-0:41) 

PETER ROWAN: We were rehearsing “Panama Red,, “L.A. Cowboy,” I was introducing my material to the band and [Jerry] said, “Hey, man, you should take these tunes to Marmaduke and [David] Nelson — the New Riders are making a record.” And I guess that’s one of the new records that Jerry wasn’t to be part of. It was like… they did those tracks in Nashville, and I believe Norbert Putnam was the producer. I had never pitched a song to anybody before, and he said, “Yeah, they’re rehearsing over at some place in San Rafael.” I said, “Do you think I could just go over and sing it to them?” He goes, “Yeah, man.” 

AUDIO: “Panama Red” [New Riders of the Purple Sage, The Adventures of Panama Red] (0:00-0:26) - [Spotify

JESSE: Peter Rowan’s song would provide the title and first track of the The Adventures of Panama Red by the New Riders of the Purple Sage, released in the fall of 1973. Both songs were perfect additions to the New Riders’ dope smokin’ canon. Jerry Garcia would perform Rowan’s “Midnight Moonlight” and “Mississippi Moon” for most of his solo career. While Old & In the Way worked hard at being casual, their existence proved a little more serious. They played at least 47 shows in 1973. Though Old & In the Way look like a band, sound like a band, and unquestionably were a band in every sense of the word, they were a bluegrass band, which is a far more fluid thing than a rock band. Like jazz, it’s accepted that players come and go, and sometimes align perfectly for the briefest of moments. That February, just as Old & In the Way were starting up, while the Dead were on tour, Rowan and Grisman accepted a gig backing Bill Monroe on a TV special in Los Angeles as representatives of the next generation of bluegrass players. But Monroe’s bus broke down and they had another new band on their hands. 

AUDIO: “Muleskinner Blues” [Muleskinner, s/t] (0:00-0:38) 

JESSE: Muleskinner was promptly signed to Warner Bros. Alongside their old comrade Richard Greene on fiddle, Muleskinner featured the phenomenal guitarist Clarence White, who Jerry Garcia had once followed cross-country when White was a member of the Kentucky Colonels and who’d gone on to join the Byrds.  

PETER ROWAN: Muleskinner was just a live moment that we had. It was just something that we had. We were so used to doing it that way; we weren’t a studio band. To make a record was — a vehicle for what? I don’t think the record company pushed it. I think they just figured: well, what the heck. Here’s a tax writeoff, this is a good musical moment. Without management, without the thing being organized on the highest level, which is not always the most clean level… 

JESSE: It was a brilliant musical moment, though, right in the middle of Old & In the Way’s existence, one more fluid assemblage of world-class players. For the generation that included Grisman and Rowan, their time was just about here.  

PETER ROWAN: We're not thinking about the marketplace, we're thinking about the music — we're thinking about the joy of the whole thing, the buzz. We did it for the buzz. You can put that on my tombstone: ‘we did it for the buzz.’ [laughs] 

JESSE: The buzz was definitely good. But things were also getting slightly real. The Muleskinner moment passed all too quickly. They formed spontaneously in February 1973, recorded a studio album at the end of March 1973, bringing John Kahn along with them, and then it was over.  

PETER ROWAN: It was Warner Bros. You have to wait on a label like that: when are they going to release it? Clarence, sadly, met his end before the album was released.  

JESSE: Clarence White died in July of 1973, tragically hit by a car while loading out from a show, ending Muleskinner all too quickly. It was an unimaginable tragedy, and it’s impossible not to wonder how Muleskinner and Old and In the Way might’ve found a happy coexistence. He was 29.  

AUDIO: “Muleskinner Blues” [Muleskinner, s/t] (1:40-2:12) 

JESSE: There’s a lot of talk about influence in music, and it’s not unfair to count Old & In the Way as one of the Grateful Dead’s biggest influences in 1973. Take a gander at this version of “Cumberland Blues” from March 28th in Springfield, Massachusetts, now Dave’s Picks 16— exactly when the rest of Old & In the Way was busy in the studio with Muleskinner—and tell me Garcia’s guitar playing isn’t banjo-freshened.  

AUDIO: “Cumberland Blues” [Dave’s Picks 16, 3/28/73] (4:13-4:44) 

JESSE: Both Old & In the Way and Garcia’s group with Merl Saunders had fairly enormous repertoires that were constantly evolving with dozens of bluegrass tunes, spirituals, blues numbers, jazz charts, R&B covers, originals by Peter Rowan and more, all coursing through Jerry Garcia’s music in 1973. 

AUDIO: “Eyes of the World” [Here Comes Sunshine, 5/26/73] (8:45-9:15) - [

JESSE: That was “Eyes of the World” from Kezar ‘73, on the new Here Comes Sunshine box set, where you can almost hear those songbooks colliding into something new inside the Grateful Dead — the precision of bluegrass skipping over jazzed changes and the Dead’s particular feel. 

AUDIO: “Eyes of the World” [Here Comes Sunshine, 5/26/73] (11:11-11:33) - [

JESSE: Joe Jupille finds this period especially compelling. 

JOE JUPILLE: The year is amazing for Jerry as an artist. And April 1973 shows the man just busy as hell — something like 24 musical events in the month. Maybe even 24 in the last 27 days… I have a post about it. The combination of playing mostly Black contemporary stuff with Merl, and then playing white roots stuff with Old & In the Way — it’s absolutely thrilling. So that’s my first hit on the period, is that it’s efflorescent, artistically and musically. And with a young man’s energy, so it’s really a sweet spot for him. 

Live at Keystone 

JESSE: In 1973, Jerry Garcia co-owned a record label. By the beginning of 1974, he co-owned two. And yet Live at Keystone, the debut by the Garcia/Saunders group, wasn’t on either. Nor was it on Garcia’s longtime label Warner Bros., but Fantasy Records — the biggest independent label in the Bay Area. Merl Jr. 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: When I first started hanging out, they were owned by the Weiss Brothers. This guy, Max Weiss, was the guy I remember. But yeah, they were there, and then they had a bunch of… they were mainly a jazz label. I think one of the biggest ones was Vince Guaraldi. I think they'd done the first Peanuts [soundtrack], or Charlie Brown, probably around ‘64 or ‘65. 

AUDIO: “Linus and Lucy” [Vince Guaraldi, A Charlie Brown Christmas] (0:00-0:19) - [Spotify

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: But they were a big jazz label, and then Credence… 

AUDIO: “Suzie Q” [Creedence Clearwater Revival, s/t] (0:25-0:40) - [Spotify

JESSE: With the perennial bestseller of Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas and the eye-popping and briefly unstoppable hit machine of Creedence Clearwater Revival, led by former Fantasy stock boy John Fogerty, Fantasy was a pretty happening place in the early 1970s when Merl Saunders returned to the Bay Area and took up a spot as house organist. After Heavy Turbulence, the group’s next appearance on a record was to back another Fantasy artist. 

AUDIO: “(Hold On) Annie Mae” [Tom Fogerty, Excalibur] (1:38-1:59) - [Spotify

JESSE: That was “(Hold On) Annie Mae” from Excalibur, the 1972 solo debut by Tom Fogerty, recently exiled from Creedence Clearwater Revival. Over 1971 and 1972, he’d become a fixture with the Garcia/Saunders band. The prospect of a supergroup featuring Saunders alongside a member of the Grateful Dead and Creedence Clearwater Revival had Fantasy pretty stoked. 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: For a loose aggregation of people, the record company had other ideas, marketing ideas, when they got together. 

JESSE: Tom’s ex-bandmates from Creedence would stop by to support him. 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: Yeah, Doug and Stu. Uncle Doug and Uncle Stu. I still call them that. They were my father’s friends until the end. The original band was Saunders, Garcia, and Fogerty. That’s how it started. I think Tom lasted probably a year, year and a half, and then he didn’t like the scene so much and wanted to do his own thing.  

JESSE: Tom Fogerty left in late 1972, around the time Sarah Fulcher sang a few gigs with the band, a configuration that can be heard on GarciaLive, Volume 12. She’s gotten an occasionally raw rap from tape collectors, but I think it’s unfair. To my ears, Sarah Fulcher’s vocals are a lot more like Pigpen than Donna Jean Godchaux, and she fearlessly improvised verses out of thin air. You might think you know all the verses to “How Sweet It Is,” but not when Sarah’s singing.  

AUDIO: “How Sweet It Is” [Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders feat. Sarah Fulcher, GarciaLive 12, 1/23/73] (4:03-4:41) - [Spotify

JESSE: I wrote liner notes for that edition of GarciaLive and interviewed Sarah Fulcher extensively. That recording, from January 23rd, 1973 at the Boarding House, has a backstory all its own thanks to Joe Jupille’s work spelunking in the Grateful Dead’s archives at UC Santa Cruz. 

JOE JUPILLE: The Jerry and Merl shows in January, after a couple of warm-ups, start to show a new level of seriousness. And I think this is driven by what ended up as the Fantasy record. They gave the band a kind of a name, the Merl Saunders Experience. That was how Rex labeled the tapes, and they never mentioned it publicly as far as I know. But that's how the tapes were labeled. And the second thing, of course, is the taping. So before 1973, one of the reasons we don't know much about the band in 1971, ‘72, is that Rex and Betty weren't taping, at least not systematically.  

JESSE: Though Richard Loren had established an office for Garcia’s solo ventures, from an outside perspective, it was a complete tangle of expenses. 

JOE JUPILLE: The intermingling of the finances of Jerry Garcia as a business entity, and the Grateful Dead as a business entity, it was catastrophic for everyone involved. ‘73 is of course when mega-Dead really hits: giant stadium shows, a small number of big-paying shows and obviously Watkins Glen. But it’s one thing to run a hip economy on hippie handshakes and stuff when you don’t have much money flowing through. But now, there’s just a lot more money sloshing around. That doesn't mean they use it more carefully or judiciously. 

JESSE: In terms of the music itself, for now, that’s neither here nor there. But one indisputable fact is that the increased flow of money left an increased paper trail that scholars can ponder in the Dead’s archive, with Jerry Garcia’s solo business fully intermingled with the Dead’s. 

JOE JUPILLE: So January 23rd, 1973, the opening night at the Boarding House, they spent $1,200 on tape, including those big giant custom-made 14-inch diameter Ampex 207s that Alembic was using. I think that’s what they did for Europe ‘72. And all of these other gizmos and gadgets, and the receipts are in the Grateful Dead archive. 

JESSE: It might not be a lost album, exactly, but after using the Alembic MM-1000 to capture the Dead’s New Year’s show at Winterland, it seems like it went right back to work at the Boarding House a few weeks later. The recordings didn’t quite catch, and they kept refining the band. Later in the spring, George Tickner—who’d go on to co-found Journey—played second guitar for a while. 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: George Tickner played, because Garcia was used to having another guitar player. I don't think Tickner sang, but he definitely [played], because he was part of that whole East Bay scene as well. 

JESSE: Bill Kreutzmann filled in on occasion. 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: Kreutzmann was more like an R&B drummer, vs. a rock drummer. I mean, to me. He was pretty steady, a solid beat. It wasn’t funky, but it was solid, like Bernard Purdie. I think Kreutzmann was the one that turned us onto the Meters. One of the Live at Keystone songs was from a Meters record. It’s sort of an homage to the Meters. “Finders Keepers” [is] an homage to the Meters. 

AUDIO: “Finders Keepers” [Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders, Live at Keystone] (0:40-1:13) - [Spotify

JOE JUPILLE: That kind of personnel churn is consistent with a kind of searching for the sound, which is partly driven by what's going to play on a record. And they ended up stripping it all away, and just going with the quartet. I don't know what drove that decision — it could have easily been an artistic decision that it wasn't going to work with Sarah, and George Tickner had other plans in his life, so it could have been a personal decision for him. I’m quite sure that they divided the money up equally from that record.  

JESSE: Richard Loren. 

RICHARD LOREN: The Keystone [albums] were all recorded by Betty Cantor. She’d come in and record every show of Merl and Jerry locally. Betty would give a copy of the cassette to Jerry at the end of the show. When I was hanging with Jerry in the mornings when we were back in the office, we would play some of the music.  

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: Live at Keystone was done as a multitrack. [Bob] Matthews and Betty, I think they had the machine up the soundbooth.  

JESSE: Live at Keystone was recorded over two nights, July 10th and 11th, 1973, and it wasn’t exactly a standard show for the band. Though they’d been together for nearly three years, most of the material had been introduced to the material only in the previous months or weeks. Their version of Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come” is the earliest known version. 

AUDIO: “The Harder They Come” [Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders, Live at Keystone] (0:31-0:59) - [Spotify

JESSE: “My Funny Valentine” by Rodgers and Hart was also a virtually brand-new addition to the repertoire. 

AUDIO: “My Funny Valentine” [Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders, Live at Keystone] (7:07-7:33) - [Spotify

JESSE: Last episode, Rosie McGee told us about the Annie Leibovitz photo shoot in San Rafael, which was very close in time to the photos she shot for the Garcia/Saunders album. 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: They were shot during those two or three days that they recorded Live at Keystone. That is actually Keystone, and that picture, that was one of Annie Leibovitz’s first gigs out of college. I think she had just graduated San Francisco State maybe a year or two before, and she was just starting to get gigs from Rolling Stone magazine, which was in San Francisco at the time. And that picture is totally staged. I think Annie was like the director anyway, so I think it was her precursor to whatever… it evolved into the Vanity Fair shots where she was shooting all those people. But it was the first time she used the panorama camera. I remember because I was around 14 when that happened. But yeah, that was Annie. They just went and grabbed people in the audience to put in there. I think six or seven people were just from the audience, but everyone else was associated with the band. It was just everyone doing their thing, and she just shot the pictures. 

AUDIO: [camera shutter click] 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: It was the band and some other things, the guy, the club owner, Freddie, who owned the club. 

JESSE: Freddie Herrara, an important figure in Garcia’s solo musical life.  

AUDIO: [camera shutter click] 

JESSE: You can see Merl Jr. sitting right next to his dad. 

AUDIO: [camera shutter click] 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: I think Paul Pena's in there, you can see him down in like the right hand corner.  

JESSE: The author of Steve Miller’s “Jet Airliner,” Pena was the opening act that night. 

AUDIO: [camera shutter click] 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: But Garcia… they were roadies, and then a couple of people that worked in the Dead office, and a couple of people that worked in the Fantasy office were in that picture.  

AUDIO: [camera shutter click] 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: And then the cop was… Willie, he used to run the backstage at Winterland. That was the cop in the door. But he actually worked at Keystone Berkeley. And the same thing, the guy who was the nun was the doorman at Keystone San Francisco [aka Keystone Korner].  

JESSE: That’d be Clyde Williams, aka Willie. Richard Loren. 

RICHARD LOREN: If you look at that picture, I’m to the left of the nun. And I think I’m sitting with my knees up.  

AUDIO: [camera shutter click] 

JESSE: One person not in the Keystone photo who appears on the album is David Grisman. 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: Grisman overdubbed the mandolin solo in that song. He wasn't there live.  

AUDIO: “Positively 4th Street” [Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders, Live at Keystone] (5:07-5:40) - [Spotify

Making Reels 

JESSE: I love the way the mandolin shimmers all across “Positively 4th Street.” Jerry Garcia’s musical worlds certainly weren’t separate, and they’d continue to crash together, as we’ll hear over the next batch of Deadcasts. With photo shoots and record company contracts, the Garcia/Saunders group was definitely getting real, though they managed to avoid having a name for a while longer. When Live at Keystone was released in the fall, it was credited to the four musicians, with Merl’s name at the top, followed by Garcia and the rhythm section. And while Garcia and Saunders had to deal with paperwork, Old & In the Way stayed resolutely casual. They soon developed their own alter-egos. Richard Loren. 

RICHARD LOREN: Everybody had a nickname in Old & In the Way. Peter was Red, because he’d written “Panama Red.” Grisman called Garcia “Spud” and Garcia named David ‘Dawg,’ he gave him the name Dawg. And I was called Zippy because I was always kind of moving very quickly — I’m a high-energy kind of guy.  

JESSE: Thanks, Zippy! 

RICHARD LOREN: And the band was a whole lot of fun for me. I loved the music, the guys were a hoot to be around. And there was no pain-in-the-ass technical complications.  

JESSE: Well, except maybe one. 

RICHARD LOREN: It was just us and, actually, Bear. Bear was an unexpected presence — Bear, Owsley. He took it upon himself to show up at all the band gigs before showtime and set up the mics and all the gear for Old & In the Way. 

JESSE: Peter Rowan. 

PETER ROWAN: Owsley, who was known as Bear, he lived probably a quarter of a mile from me. And the first thing I noticed was that his dog suddenly came and lived with us. And it was like: what's going on? Even the dog doesn't want to live there anymore. So we named the dog Vajra, the name of a Tibetan symbol of enlightenment. This dog was very unusual. He was just a puppy and had just decided to live at our house, and we accepted him. I told Bear, I said, “Your dog’s down here.” And he goes, “Well, if he wants to be there, man, it’s just meant to be.” Okay… “We’ll take care of him.” He was a beautiful dog, an Australian shepherd. And he remained to be a mystical sort of canine — a canine Buddha. You’d often find him sitting with his front paws crossed and about six other dogs across from him at attention. He’d be like transmitting something to these other mutts that were opposite him. They’d be sitting in a half-circle. It was odd, it was really odd. 

JESSE: David Grisman. 

DAVID GRISMAN: He was a character and he of course had designed and ran the original monster sound system for the Dead. And then he went bye-bye — he got busted for making LSD, and he went to prison. He came out right when we were starting to play in these clubs. He had a Nagra, stereo Nagra tape machine, a very fine Swiss tape recorder. A stereo Nagra was a rare thing. He just followed the band around, recording.  

RICHARD LOREN: He took it upon himself to turn up at the band’s gigs—late—just before showtime, with mics and recording gear. He’d fiddle around endlessly with his equipment until everything was precisely adjusted, which caused long performance delays. It drove Jerry crazy. He would pace up and down, seething, until the signal was given by Bear that “we’re ready to go now.” That was, like, an hour after showtime. 

DAVID GRISMAN: Jerry would kind of screw with him. He wouldn't have enough time to set up. He was just giving him shit for some reason — not serious shit, but enough to remember.  

PETER ROWAN: It was his devotion that has kept alive this spirit of Bear’s: this is important, this needs to be recorded. Without Bear, we wouldn’t have had a record. I’m sure Jerry… Jerry was the leader. I’m sure he said, Hey Bear, man, let’s get this on tape. I’m sure Jerry said that. The Bear had their own inner world of communications, responsibilities and expectations. 

JESSE: One interesting thing is that both David Grisman and Peter Rowan interpreted Bear’s mega-presence around Old & In the Way to mean that he’d been fired from the Dead. But he remained on the band’s weekly payroll as he worked as a consultant on the developing sound system. He received exactly the same amount as the musicians onstage, and perhaps simply took it upon himself to become the recordist. He certainly made a lot of tapes. To provide an answer of exactly how many, and much more besides, please welcome back from the Owsley Stanley Foundation, Hawk. 

HAWK SEMINS: We have 105 reels that he recorded of Old and In the Way between April 21st, 1973 and October 8th, 1973. Eight months after he got out of prison, he started doing this. It’s an amazing collection of rare gems that we have.  

RICHARD LOREN: He delivered it from beginning to end, driving us crazy by being an hour late or more at every show, then setting it up. He was always late! We were on the road, we had to take a different flight. Then we said: fuck it, let him get there on his own. He was, like… insane. He’s a genius — an insane genius. He was a great guy to me. 

PETER ROWAN: Jerry loved Bear. He loved him. And he was the Bear, in all senses. I’ll tell you one funny thing. We were playing the Keystone one night, and we got there late. We got on stage, and nothing was ready — the microphones were all in disarray, and everything was feeding back. Bear hadn’t gotten there in time to set it up, and we’re all standing around, feedback everywhere. And Jerry walks up and he nudges me with his shoulder and he says, “Look at Bear, man.” We look up at the soundbooth, and there’s Bear — his face is lit by this green light of the board, the faders and everything, it’s sort of a green light on Bear’s face. And he’s got a bunch of patch cords in his mouth, hanging down like snakes, and a bunch more around his neck. You had to re-patch everything from the rock and roll show. Acoustic music at the time was way down the list as far as skills. But Bear was gonna get it right. Jerry says, nudges me: “Look up at Bear, man.” And I look up, and he goes: “He loves his job.” [laughs] There’s Bear, his face lit green by the board up the soundbooth, with his cables hanging out of his teeth. 

DAVID GRISMAN: He’d just set up his mics and he’d give us copies of the tapes. Jerry and I would listen to them up at Jerry’s place.  

JESSE: However salty the musicians may’ve gotten about Owsley’s occasional delays, the tapes also hold the material proof that they were glad he was there, as Hawk points out. 

HAWK: It appears to me that they very consciously, and very conscientiously, were taping every show. And there's one show in particular, July 18th in ‘73 — in the beginning, I think, the show ends after “Blue Mule,” and somebody in the crowd says, “Hey, you motherfuckers, play some more!” But they don't play some more. Instead, David and Peter run right over to Bear—and you can hear it on the tape—eagerly asking him how the tape came out. It’s absolutely priceless. They thought they nailed it, they immediately ran to Bear to say, “Was it as good as we thought? Because we can’t wait to hear the tape.” 

JESSE: There was one final missing piece to the puzzle, though. David Grisman. 

DAVID GRISMAN: We didn't really have a regular fiddle player. I think there's even a radio show that's just Pete Rowan, me and Jerry. And then we played some gigs as a quartet without a fiddle. There was a guy named Brian Price, who was a local San Francisco guy, and he played a couple of gigs with us. He played a gig with us at the Boarding House, I don't know if a tape exists of that.  

JESSE: For you newgrass score-keepers out there, another interim fiddler was John Hartford, who passed briefly through the Garciaverse in April and May 1973, but an embedded fixture in the bluegrass world, where one can find all kinds of other recordings of him with Grisman, Rowan, and others. It was a bit later on, but there was one night when they couldn’t get a fiddler, so they tried something new. Owsley got it on tape. 

HAWK: One of the most awesome surprises [is] there’s a complete show where there's no fiddle that night, but Jack Bonus plays bluegrass sax for the entire set. That was at the Brig, on July 15th, 1973, the night that Clarence White died. I don't think they knew it — I don’t think they got the news until after the gig. I can only imagine how devastated they would have been, and there was no indication during the course of the show. But it’s just phenomenal. When I first started to listen to it, the sax actually sounds so appropriate playing the fiddle parts that it took me… I didn’t even think about it. Then I went: wait a second, that’s a saxophone! It’s incredible.  

DAVID GRISMAN: Then we started flying Richard Greene up. I think in the summer of ‘73, Richard wanted to form his own band. And Jerry had booked us five gigs on the East Coast, and Richard turned that down, because he was devoting his energy to his own band that he was forming. So we’re sitting there — who are we gonna get? These were large venues, so we could afford to hire any bluegrass fiddle player at the time. So Peter said, “I have Vassar Clements’ phone number.” 

PETER ROWAN: After playing a bluegrass show with Bill Monroe, we were driving the bus. A big deal for bluegrass people—really, road people—is to eat together. You’ll hear people say, ‘Oh, I knew him well, we ate together.’ We survived life together, we ate food together. So we stopped at Rual Yarborough’s house to have breakfast at two in the morning, coming out of Monroe, Louisiana. And it was a big honor for folks to stay up all night, wait for Bill Monroe to arrive and have breakfast, and move on about four in the morning and keep on driving back to Nashville and all that. Just after midnight, might have been something like that. While we were eating, he started playing some tapes, reel-to-reel tapes, while we were having breakfast and visiting. It was tapes from the New Years at his house from a few months before. This fiddle playing was just unreal. And he said, “That’s Vassar.” 

JESSE: Vassar Clements was a former Blue Grass Boy, too, playing with Bill Monroe as a teen in the early 1950s, and later the McReynolds Bros.  

AUDIO: “Blue Grass Ramble” [Bill Monroe, The 1950-51 Castle Sessions] (1:30-1:44) - [Spotify

JESSE: That was Vassar Clements performing with Bill Monroe on “Blue Grass Ramble” in 1950, a quietly radical player helping to urge jazz and bluegrass ever closer — a mission he’d continue when a group of musicians nearly 20 years younger called him for a gig. 

PETER ROWAN: And I called Vassar. I didn’t know Vassar, and he said, “Hey, how you doin’?” We’ve never met — but that’s bluegrass. If you’re in the bluegrass, if you’ve been a bluegrass boy, you’re known. You’re known, you’re part of it. It was just like meeting an old friend, really, Vassar. We did a little tour together here on the West Coast, me and Grisman and Jerry Garcia. He said, “Just send me a tape. I don’t need to know anything else.” It was like, whoa! Okay. We sent him a ticket and he met us in Boston. 

DAVID GRISMAN: And so we just called him up, and he was game. He showed up the day before the first gig, and we played the tunes. We were all starstruck — we were playing with one of the original masters of this music. He was. I think Vassar is really at the height of his powers on those tapes. 

JESSE: He quickly earned a nickname in the band, too. 

RICHARD LOREN: And Vassar was Clem because he always had a pipe in his mouth. 

AUDIO: “Kissimee Kid” [Old & In the Way] (0:02-0:27) 

JESSE: That was Vassar Clements’ “Kissimee Kid,” released on the Old & In the Way album and right at home next to Peter Rowan’s compositions. Vassar was hired for what turned out to be the band’s sole tour — a story we’ll actually save for another day. 

PETER ROWAN: There was no turning back. It was perfect, because Vassar was the golden thread that wove it all together.  

AUDIO: “Kissimee Kid” [Old & In the Way] (3:01-3:25) 

JESSE: In October 1973, as the Dead prepared to release Wake of the Flood, Old & In the Way played a pair of weekend shows at the Boarding House in San Francisco. David Grisman. 

DAVID GRISMAN: That was just another venue that we played at. But it was downstairs — you'd go in and then go downstairs. A dark club. Monroe was… well… was born in ‘67, so he would have been about five years old. He and Jenni Muldaur, Maria’s daughter, used to… they were down there, and they were just like wild Indians running around. It was on Bush Street in San Francisco. And I know it was up the street or down the street—I would consider it up, because it was a hill going down—from the first Thai restaurant I ever used to go to. Yeah, there were a lot of acts. It was like a folk club. They had different acts. I remember Old & In the Way played there one time with the Chieftains. 

AUDIO: “Carrickfergus (Do Bhí Bean Uasal)” [The Chieftains, The Chieftains in San Francisco, 10/1/73] (1:16-1:36) - [Spotify

JESSE: That was “Carrickfergus” from the Chieftains’ October 1st, 1973 performance at the Boarding House, gorgeously recorded by Owsley Stanley, preserved and released by the Owsley Stanley Foundation. Hawk. 

HAWK: Jerry saw immediately the connection to his musical heritage when he heard the Chieftains play and invited them to open for Old & In the Way because it was the perfect pairing — bluegrass and its antecedent sharing the same stage. 

JESSE: A week later, Old & In the Way played at the Boarding House again, and Owsley recorded it as usual. 

AUDIO: “Pig in a Pen” [Old & In the Way, The Complete Boarding House Recordings, 10/8/73] (0:00-0:31) - [Spotify

HAWK: He was particularly pleased, and I think the band was, generally, with all the shows in October of ‘73. He had marked it with stars, which is about as effusive as he gets. 

JESSE: It turned out to be one of the band’s very last gigs. They played once more in November in Sonoma, and then a brief set at the Golden State Country Bluegrass Festival in early 1974. David Grisman.  

DAVID GRISMAN: Jerry wanted me to be the leader of that band, and I just presumed Jerry just… he’s the guy that drew the crowds, and I just regarded him as the leader. I don’t know what Pete Rowan thought about it, but I just thought it was time for me to do my own thing. I’d been kind of emerging, writing tunes. And for whatever reason, we just didn’t continue doing that. 

JESSE: Richard Loren. 

RICHARD LOREN: The thing about it is it all ended too soon. They just disbanded within a year, and the members returned to their own projects, leaving a legacy that defied convention. It was incredible. 

DAVID GRISMAN: Bluegrass bands that I played [with] in Kentucky… I played with the Kentucky Colonels. Bluegrass is pretty virtuosic music. It's probably gotten way too tight and slick through the years. But at the time, I didn't appreciate everything about Old & In the Way that I probably should have, especially the fact that I didn’t realize how much Jerry enjoyed that. But I, for a number of reasons, wasn’t that exuberant about it. I kind of regret the fact that we could have kept that going. But, in a way, I don’t regret it, because it allowed me to go where I went. 

JESSE: Somewhere in the midst of this, Old & In the Way recorded a studio album, or part of a studio album. It’s hard to say. Peter Rowan. 

PETER ROWAN: We went into Mickey Hart’s studio, and we recorded four or five songs that didn't have the spark of how we responded to a live audience. We weren't all geared up to make that big connection with the crowd. It was self-conscious. But we did a nice version of “I Can See Clearly Now.” 

JESSE: Well, that I’d like to hear, a song that never surfaced in their live repertoire. Peter Rowan remembers the recording session as being during the later part of the band. 

PETER ROWAN: It's weird, that was on the other side of the curve. That was on the beginning of the downward slide. Jerry was starting to get busy with the Dead again.  

JESSE: There’s a Melody Maker article published in the spring that seems to indicate they’d already been in the studio by the end of March 1973 with a local fiddler. And there are some studio logs that suggest they may’ve been tweaking those tapes—or, some tapes—at the Record Plant in the fall. But memories are blurry, and no tapes have ever surfaced. 

PETER ROWAN: We didn't know what we were doing. I don't think we got anything out of those studio recordings, but I'd love to hear them again. They can't be that bad! We were a good band. 

RICHARD LOREN: There was no anger. We all got along great. It had nothing to do with that, at all. No ill feeling, nothing at all. Just people… Jerry had gigs to do, Peter had stuff to do. It’s kind of like the Traveling Wilburys: they just were together, and then they went their ways. 

DAVID GRISMAN: Then several years later, the Grateful Dead started their own record company, Round Records. Jerry called me up and asked me if I could put together, with Owsley, an album of Old & In the Way, which I did. 

JESSE: The chronology of the Old & In the Way album is, like a lot of things, a bit hazy. But, once again thanks to the British music press, we have a few more clues. In early 1974, before the band had even played their final show, Time Out quoted Deadcast buddy Alan Trist as saying Old & In the Way would be the next release from Grateful Dead Records. It didn’t happen exactly like that. As another Deadcast friend Ken Hunt discovered in 1980 when interviewing Jerry Garcia for the Dark Star zine, the delay was due in part to that familiar delayer-of-music, Owsley Stanley. But when Owsley finally got the recordings together with Grisman, they were incredible. 

DAVID GRISMAN: There were these two evenings at the Boarding House that were really well-recorded, and the music seemed to come together. 

AUDIO: “Pig in a Pen” [Old & In the Way] (0:36-1:03) 

JESSE: No, really, it’s one of the most beautifully recorded live albums I know of, right up there with the Bill Evans Trio at the Village Vanguard.  

DAVID GRISMAN: And I only found 10 songs out of all that stuff out of four sets that had a lot of tunes, I only found 10 that I thought were good enough to put on this LP. 

JESSE: Everybody’s a critic. Though David Grisman’s world class ears might have a strict filter, there are many hours of great Old & In the Way in the vault.  

DAVID GRISMAN: Years later, Jerry and I got back together, and I had started a CD company, Acoustic Disc. And one year, Jerry asked me to — I guess they had kept relicensing this original Old & In the Way record to various companies. And Jerry said to me, “Why don’t you guys put it out? The contract’s up.” Well, it turned out the contract wasn’t up. So I said, “Well, maybe we should check out all those other tunes from those two nights.” So we spent a few days in my studio listening to those shows. We both thought — well, hey, this stuff is pretty darn good. So that led to two more releases of other tunes that had never been issued that we put out on Acoustic Disc. 

AUDIO: “Catfish John” [Old & In the Way, The Complete Boarding House Recordings, 10/8/73] (0:06-0:27) 

JESSE: Here’s a link to the Complete Boarding House tapes, as well as David Grisman’s own Acoustic Disc podcast.  

DAVID GRISMAN: We had a really cool thing, but I didn’t appreciate it all that much at the time. And I was more-or-less headed in a different direction. Fortunately, Jerry and I got back together years later and revisited all kinds of music. 


JESSE: The legacy of Old & In the Way began before their album was even released.  

DAVID GRISMAN: Right after Old & In the Way, I formed a band with Richard Greene, the fiddle player who did some playing with Old & In the Way, actually. There’s a really good recording that we made in the Record Plant recording studio with Richard on fiddle. But we started a band called the Great American String Band and later became the Great American Music Band. And that was kind of the birth of “Dawg music.” I started writing a lot of music, and continued to do that and basically made a career out of it. That wasn’t bluegrass — I called it “Dawg music.” 

JESSE: Jerry Garcia was an occasional member of the Great American String Band, the last music he would make with Grisman for a decade-and-a-half, as Grisman set out on a path to transform acoustic music. Unfortunately, part of the reason for the decade-and-a-half break in the Garcia/Grisman sessionography is because of Round Records malarkey that resulted in Grisman not getting paid for Old & In the Way. But that got worked out. Though John Hartford had helped put Vassar Clements back on the map on the Steam-Powered Aero Plane album, Old & In the Way got Vassar’s playing in front of many more new ears. Richard Loren. 

RICHARD LOREN: Once he came here to play with Old & In the Way, every musician in the Bay Area wanted Vassar on their record, or [wanted to be] involved with him. He ended up playing on Keepers, the Merl Saunders solo album that had everybody on it. 

AUDIO: “That’s All Right, Mama” [Merl Saunders, Keepers] (1:52-2:21) - [Spotify

JESSE: Though it wasn’t released until 1997, a few songs from a January 1974 session represents the fullest collision of Jerry Garcia’s two extra-Dead projects—Garcia, Saunders, and Kahn, joined by drummer E.W. Wainwright—plus David Grisman on mandolin and Vassar Clements on fiddle. These bits are from “That’s All Right,” as is this. 

AUDIO: “That’s All Right, Mama” [Merl Saunders, Keepers] (2:23-2:53) - [Spotify

JESSE: The biggest impact of Old & In the Way is usually condensed to a factoid — that it was the best-selling bluegrass album of all-time, at least until it was displaced by the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou? in 2001. Probably the best selling bluegrass album of all time is Deliverance. You know, Deliverance. 

AUDIO: “Dueling Banjos” [Eric Weissberg & Steve Mandell, Deliverance OST] (0:14-0:23) - [Spotify

JESSE: But no matter how well Old & In the Way sold—and I’m not saying it didn’t sell oodles by bluegrass standards—it turned successive generations of Dead Heads onto bluegrass, and helped generate towards ever-more-progressive attitudes towards bluegrass and the musical spaces around it. Bluegrass was modern music, invented largely by Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys that passed through his band, most importantly Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. Along with other innovators like Newgrass Revival, Hot Rize, and John Hartford, the members of Old & In the Way—individually and together—helped point the way towards the future of bluegrass. Ironically, it was their innovations that truly turned bluegrass into a form of traditional music beyond the style of any individual musician and his band. In the 21st century, Old & In the Way remains a fantastic portal into bluegrass, pointing both backwards and forwards and sounding eternally like its present. Thanks, Bear. 

AUDIO: “Old & In the Way” [Old & In the Way] (2:29-2:58) 

JESSE: Of course, Jerry Garcia and David Grisman would pick up their conversation with a fruitful partnership in the early ‘90s, a topic too deep for today. Garcia and Merl Saunders had a more sustained partnership than Old & In the Way. Merl Jr. hung around Dead shows occasionally. 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: I remember going to shows, and they would kind of take care of me. The girl that I used to hang out with when I was in junior high, we'd go down to shows. I went to a bunch of New Years shows. I remember my father having to ask my girlfriend’s mother: “We’re gonna take your daughter to a show, we’ll bring her back after midnight.” We would park, and my father would say, “Meet me back here at the last song before the encore.” We used to crawl into where the speakers were when they had the wall of sound — we used to crawl into this cubby hole which was by where Billy entered the stage. And we would just sort of hang out in that little hole and pass Billy jays. 

JESSE: But hanging around the Dead scene also pointed Merl Jr. towards a career path. 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: I grew up around Bear and Parish and Ramrod and Kidd, Joe Winslow. The studio, there was a studio in San Francisco called His Master’s Wheels. But in the front of it was Alembic — so Ron Wickersham and all those guys were in the front of the studio. So that’s how I learned how to do guitars. I was a teenager, and I wanted to be a recording engineer. And the studio, His Master’s Wheels — it used to be called something else. But it was on 60 Brady Street, and Alembic was in front. 

JESSE: We’ve talked a lot about the influence of Alembic on the world of live audio over the last few years of the Deadcast. One very real way that the tech spread was when its employees began to use it outside the sphere of San Francisco bands. 

MERL SAUNDERS JR.: I was always a tech guy. I was the tech for all my father’s gear. And I got into guitars and tinkering with guitars. At probably about 17 or 18, like all the local people, it was kind of a joke for them to hire me away from my father. I went out on the road with David Crosby, I worked with Paul Kantner. And I had done stuff on my own: I worked with Michael Jackson, I worked with Frank Zappa. I worked with Robert Cray, amongst other people. I used to go out on the road with people and then just incorporate the technology that I had already known. I was on the road with the Hawkins Family, and they had an acoustic guitar and I remember they just let me borrow the Countryman piano pickup. 

JESSE: The Merl Saunders Experience transformed into Legion of Mary in 1974 before the Jerry Garcia Band in 1975 (minus Merl). Garcia and Saunders recombobulated for Reconstruction in 1979, and periodically through the ‘80s. But the basic Garcia/Saunders songbook formed the core of the Jerry Garcia Band, with many of the songs debuted in 1973 staying in Garcia’s repertoire all the way through 1995. But in some ways, 1973 was the key to it all. Joe Jupille. 

JOE JUPILLE: Watkins Glen is 600,000 people on 7/28. Four days earlier, he’s playing Crabshaw [Corner] in Sacramento for 200 people. He was happy playing for 200 people, picking some banjo, and then he'd go and play for 600,000 people at the biggest gig ever. 

JESSE: We’ll let Old & In the Way pick us on out of here with their traditional set closer, Peter Rowan’s “Blue Mule,” from October 1st, 1973 at the Boarding House, available from Acoustic Disc. 

AUDIO: “Blue Mule” [Old & In the Way, The Complete Boarding House, 10/1/73] (4:00-4:33) - [Spotify