The Deadcast takes a special season-closing look at Jerry Garcia’s classic eponymous debut with co-producer Bob Matthews and friends, recorded during the summer of 1971 by Garcia and a small crew of close collaborators including Bill Kreutzmann and Robert Hunter.
by Jesse Jarnow
After spending the spring of 1971 on the road with the Grateful Dead, and the early part of the summer putting together the live album that became Skull and Roses, Jerry Garcia kept right on truckin’. A few days after the Dead’s final Fillmore West performance (where Garcia also played with the New Riders of the Purple Sage and the Rowan Bros.), Garcia returned to Wally Heider’s San Francisco studio, site of the previous year’s American Beauty sessions, with a plan that was equally ambitious and laidback. Except drums (by Bill Kreutzmann) and a few trumpets and radio samples (by Robert Hunter), Garcia made all the sounds, improvising most of the second side from the ground up. The result was Garcia’s classic self-titled debut, available (once again) on LP from Garcia Family Provisions.
Co-producer Bob Matthews placed a sign on the door, “Anita Bryant, closed session” in an effort to deter surprise guests. By going through San Francisco musicians’ union paperwork, Dead scholar Joe Jupille was able to determine what else was being tracked at Wally Heider’s during those weeks in July 1971. Joe’s vigilant research has combined with generations of other Dead historians to create JerryBase.com. Using their handy search functions you can see just how busy Jerry Garcia really was in the summer of 1971. For those hoping to linger a bit longer in Wally Heider’s this summer, check out the new season of Freak Flag Flying by Deadcast pals Steve Silberman and David Crosby, literally recorded at Heider’s.
One of Jerry’s activities in July 1971--right between album sessions--was the long interview and photo session that became the cover of Rolling Stone issue #100. The interview was with Jann Wenner and Yale Law professor Charles Reich. The photo shoot, Garcia on Stinson Beach, was by Annie Leibovitz. Both, along with an additional Stoned Sunday Rap with Reich, became the excellent book, Garcia: A Signpost to New Space, available from Da Capo/Hachette wherever you get your books.
Excellent episode! When I began listening to Dead music again, after 15 years off of it, the first Garcia album was my way back in. It’s cool as hell. Anyway, 1) I’ve often wondered if the mystery bellowing voice during “Bird Song” was a subliminal “sample” of Janis Joplin, the song’s subject? And 2) if I’m thinking of the right Brewer and Shipley album, Red Rhodes plays pedal steel on it. At that time he’d played on albums by a ton of folks, from The Byrds, to The Ventures to James Taylor, but was mostly the right hand man of one of my faves, Michael Nesmith (I once wrote a blog post drawing connections between Nesmith and Garcia that inadvertently won me a job working for Nesmith for a short while). I wonder if Bob Matthews would know if Jerry and Red ever crossed paths at Heider’s? I know that Steel players are a rare and weird bunch who seem to flock together-perhaps a pedal steel chat happened? And here’s a fun connection: Red Rhodes played his own version of Garcia’s pedal steel part on a 1973 cover of “Teach Your Children” by a So Cal country rocker named Garland Frady, on an album produced by Nesmith. Find it on YouTube.
Thanks for all your great work and looking forward to next season!
You might dig my podcast,
where’s that sound coming from—the Dead/Garcia seem to figure in half the episodes. It’s on Apple, Podomatic and I assume other places. I suck at promoting it, for all the work I put in…
I listen to this on Apple Podcasts, and I've been looking forward to this episode. However, it doesn't appear on Apple Podcasts - the most recent episode shown is from July 22, "Playing Dead, Part 2."
When "Bird Song" was re-introduced in 1980, it was actually modulated up from the original key of "D" to the key of "E", not the other way around as discussed in this episode. It is indeed typical for older musicians to lower keys as they age, but not in this case.
I imagine that it's less tricky to solo over the middle section in "E" than in "D". It is for ME at any rate!!!
I also think the timbre of the higher key just sounds better in "E". But that's me- I became a Deadhead in 1985, so that might contribute to my preference!
This is easily the greatest podcast I have ever listened to. The right combination of fact, music, whimsy, guest stars and literary references, with an illuminating sense of context (most important to me!) make this a must-hear for ANY music fan.
Another amazing episode - very grateful, many thanks, please keep them coming. Just a quick question, every time A Signpost to New Space is mentioned, Jesse has an amazing audioclip. Any chance those who own the clips can be persuaded to post or sell them (like Jerry on Jerry)? It is a great book, but hearing Jerry speak in person is so much more engrossing. Thanks!