Season 4, Episode 5

JESSE: Donna Jean Godchaux sang with the Grateful Dead from early 1972 through early 1979. But you probably already knew that.

AUDIO: “The Music Never Stopped” [One From the Vault, 8/13/75] (0:50-1:10) - [Spotify]

JESSE: But before that, she was Donna Thatcher.

AUDIO: “On the Rocks” [Tim Davis, Pipe Dream] (0:18-0:42) - [Spotify]

JESSE: That was “On the Rocks” from Tim Davis’s album Pipe Dream, her last credit as Donna Thatcher, probably recorded in 1971, just before meeting the Grateful Dead. It was an epilog to the first phase of an already illustrious career that began in the early ‘60s, around the same time The Warlocks were figuring out how to play together. There were a lot of differences between the early careers of the Grateful Dead and Donna Thatcher. Perhaps the biggest is that she could be heard on radio stations and jukeboxes coast to coast.

AUDIO: “When a Man Loves a Woman” [Percy Sledge, When a Man Loves a Woman] (1:42-2:12) - [Spotify]

JESSE: A lot of her story has remained untold. To tell it, please welcome to the Good Ol’ Grateful Deadcast, Mrs. Donna Jean Godchaux-MacKay. We’ll start right at the beginning.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: My dad's name was Chet Thatcher, he was a pilot. That's how he actually passed, was in a plane crash. My mother's name was Jamie — she was Jamie Jeffries, and she married Chet Thatcher. And then little Donna Jean was born. And all hell broke loose!

JESSE: Like many members of the Grateful Dead, at least one of her parents was involved with music.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: My dad played a little guitar and sang a little. And he and his sister [Dixie] used to sing on the radio in Texas somewhere, but not really on a big scale at all. I couldn't tell you when or what station, or what town. But I know that Daddy told me that he and Dixie sang — he played guitar, and they both sang on a radio show. And I don't think it was a weekly show or something like that. But they had maybe sung a couple of times on some radio show. I couldn't tell you where that was, but I remember my dad sitting with a guitar many, many, many times, and playing guitar at our house. As far as a musical family, outside of my dad playing guitar, I don't know where I fell off the truck.

But my mother's side of the family are all super intellectuals: they're all business owners, my mother’s sisters and brothers. My mother's brother was a NASA brain trust. He helped develop the wheels for the moon buggy that went on the moon. He did so many things that he never told anybody [about], because everything was so top-secret. We didn't know anything about him, almost until he died. Wernher von Braun came to his funeral. People were talking about what he had done. My uncle invented the heart monitor for NASA, that's when it was first used. And my uncle invented it! And so all of my uncles were like that — very intellectual, engineers. All of my mother's sisters were business owners.

And Keith always told me, he said, “You should have been a lawyer.” Because I'm so analytical and everything. But I did fall off the truck somewhere. My mother was a mathematician. She had the first college here in this area, teaching IBM to people when nobody had even heard of IBM. So, I come from a real intelligent family. Like I said, I don't know where I fell off the truck. I’m corrupted — just corrupted from almost day one. I don't know how that gene got in me, but it never went away! [laughs] I don't know where I got it really. I just knew that I had to sing, and I had to have music in my life, period. I remember distinctly, just loving music so much that it just took up every space in my head when I was six years old. And I started listening on the radio to the popular ladies of that era, like Jo Stafford.

AUDIO: “You Belong to Me” [Jo Stafford, The Ultimate Jo Stafford] (0:27-0:39) - [Spotify]


AUDIO: “The Wayward Wind” [Gogi Grant, The Wayward Wind] (0:13-0:28) - [Spotify]

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: So many of those [women] from that era. And I would listen on a radio, and I would learn all of the words to the popular songs, learn the melody. And then I just fell into—naturally, when I was that young— finding the harmony parts. So the next time the song would play on the radio, I would sing the harmony part. I would learn all three parts to the song. This was when I was very, very young. I just automatically could hear harmony from that early age. And of course, that progressed. I wrote my first song when I was nine years old. I was taking piano lessons, and I played for my piano teacher. I said, “I wrote this song, and I want you to hear it.” She rapped my fingers, and she said, “Don't ever do that again!” And it just shocked me, because that was where I was at: I wanted to write music. She was just, “You don't play anything musical unless it's written on that page.” That was the last time that I had a piano lesson with her. But when I was 12 years old, I [wrote] a song about my boyfriend. I entered a talent contest here in Florence, Alabama, at the local TV station. They were putting on this contest, and so I went on and played the piano and sang a song that I wrote. I won that talent contest at 12.

JESSE: The song was named after her boyfriend.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: His name was Jean. And he was so embarrassed. This was in junior high school, and he was so embarrassed that I had written a song about him, and was singing it publicly! Oh my gosh. He was 13, he was in a grade ahead of me… so I was in love with an older man. Oh, I really did think I was in love. “I met a boy, his name was Jean” — you know, all of that. Goodness gracious.

JESSE: But more than her family, given where Donna was from, it would be surprising if she didn’t fall into music.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: I was born here in the Muscle Shoals area. So when I was 12 years old, recording studios started popping up here — just all over the place, really. I don't know if it was in the water, whatever it was, but something was going on here that just created this atmosphere for anyone who was creative-minded, and especially musically creative. [It] just came together, like in a wad. We just grew up together doing this, when I was in junior high school. So it was a pretty good startup, for somebody in the northwest corner of Alabama.

JESSE: The musical center of gravity in the Muscle Shoals area was FAME Studios. Originally founded above a drug store in Florence, FAME moved down the road to Muscle Shoals and evolved over the early ‘60s into one of the premier American hit factories. FAME was an abbreviation for Florence Alabama Music Enterprises and it became an umbrella for songwriters, musicians, and publishers, as well as inspiring a local music industry. One of the local studios was owned by DJ Quintin Ivy, who also owned Tune Town, the record store right across the street. The studio was sometimes called NorAla, for North Alabama, but Donna knew it was Quinvy. She was the first to record there.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: It was a song called “I'm Out of Touch.” I think Quin wrote it, but I’m not sure about that. It was a little teeny-bopper, Lesley Gore-type song. I started doing demos in that studio when I was a teenager… oh my gosh. All the people that I grew up with that were in the music business already — you know, we were teenagers together. Roger Hawkins and David Hood and Jimmie Johnson and Spooner Oldham — all of these guys who are now national treasures when it comes to studio recording, and having played on so many hit records, they were the people that I grew up with, my friends. It was a very relational, organic thing that happened with all of us down here. It still remains: I'm back in Muscle Shoals now, and these people are still some of my best friends in the world, and always will be. So it was always kind of a family affair on a certain level. But I wouldn't trade anything for having that upbringing. And so, needless to say, I started singing and doing demos at FAME studio and other studios. Quin Ivy was my manager at the time when I was a teenager. And I remember ABC Paramount wanted to sign me and make me the next Lesley Gore, or something like that. And I ended up… a car hit me in Florida, and nearly took my legs and my foot off. So that kind of curtailed that business right there, and I'm glad that it did. I'm glad that it did, because I would have gone another way. I'm glad I went the way that I did, let's put it that way. I was 18 when that happened — 17 going on 18.

JESSE: When she recovered, Donna’s career really took off, thanks to a friend she met around the studios: Jeanie Greene.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: Jeanie was four or five years older than me, and she was signed with RCA Victor when she was 13, and had singles out. A great singer. I was doing mainly demo sessions at the time when I first met Jeanie. And so obviously, we were at FAME, or I was singing at FAME, doing some kind of demo work. And then Jeanie was there to do something else. We just automatically connected and started singing together. When chances for demos or sessions came up, we were just there. I mean, like I said, we grew up organically having things piece together as we went — nobody [was] having any grandiose desires to do anything except what was in the moment. We took advantage of every moment and made music. And that's what we did.

JESSE: Jeanie’s husband was Marlin Greene.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: Marlin kind of—well, not kind of—he did produce “When a Man Loves a Woman.”

AUDIO: “When a Man Loves a Woman” [Percy Sledge, When a Man Loves a Woman] (1:14-1:42) - [Spotify]

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: Percy Sledge, who sang “When a Man Loves a Woman,” was just an orderly at the hospital here in Sheffield, Alabama, which is part of the Muscle Shoals area. Percy was in the hospital, and I remember Jeanie Greene and I went to his hospital room, and took the Billboard magazine to show him that “When a Man Loves a Woman” was Number One in the nation. I mean, that's how organic and just… ground, you know, from the ground —

RICH MAHAN: Down-home.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: Down-home, thank you!

AUDIO: “When a Man Loves a Woman” [Percy Sledge, When a Man Loves a Woman] (2:27-2:50) - [Spotify]

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: That was the initial bud of what became Southern Comfort, which was our vocal group name. I'm trying to go through kind of piece by piece how all of this happened…

JESSE: A lot of it was Jeanie Greene.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: Very much a mentor. She's the one who initially put together Southern Comfort, our voice group, and was the instigator and the mother behind the whole thing. I mean, she was incredible. And she taught me so much. We were very, very good friends. In fact, when she passed a few years ago, I spoke at her memorial. And I'll just never forget what she put into me and how she made it possible for me to be talking with you today. It was so much fun. And it was at a time when the music was just crackling here in Muscle Shoals, and big time. We didn't realize that we were making history. None of us did, you know? We just wanted to play music. That's as far as that went really, as far as our understanding of what could be and what was about to happen, and was in the beginnings of a worldwide musical expression coming out of a little tiny ‘burb in Alabama.

JESSE: Some music scenes are based around clubs or record stores. This one lived in the otherworldly space of recording studios.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: At that time, [there were] not really places to hang out outside the studio. Most everything, relationally, happened within the studio structure. And that's where we would kind of congregate. I was a cheerleader, and sometimes I would have to come from cheerleader practice to the studio, FAME, in my little cheerleading outfit. The guys still talk about that — they remember me coming in my little short uniform. I could go on and on about things like that. But I remember being at FAME many times with Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn: writing for Aretha Franklin, just smoking their cigarettes, on the piano, just hanging out. That's what we did, we just hung out together. And it turned into something that is such history. It's incredible. I still say to this day that you never know when you're making history.

JESSE: Over the course of the ‘60s, FAME churned out hits featuring Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, and many more. And like other hit factories of the era, it didn’t always properly credit the musicians involved in the productions, like the vocal group known as Southern Comfort. It’s hard to put together a complete list of the singles and LPs on which Donna Jean performed. But we know a bunch.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: I remember singing on Cher's first solo album that she did in Muscle Shoals.

AUDIO: “I Walk On Guilded Splinters” [Cher, 3614 Jackson Highway] (1:58-2:21) - [Spotify]

JESSE: That was “I Walk On Guilded Splinters” from Cher’s 1969 album 3614 Jackson Highway. You can see Donna on the front cover in a black hat, standing between Jeanie Greene and producer Tom Dowd.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: Of course, Elvis Presley, but that was in Memphis, at American Sound Studio, where we did “Suspicious Minds” and “In the Ghetto,” and many of the other songs that were on his comeback schedule.

AUDIO: “Suspicious Minds” [Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” 7-inch] (0:39-0:55) - [Spotify]

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: And that was a tremendous, tremendous surprise, Elvis Presley asking us to be on his record. He was wonderful. He was so generous, and… let’s see, how would I describe Elvis Presley? He was very generous and accepting and encouraging, and just a really sweet guy to us. We have this one photo that is the only photo that exists of us with Elvis. It's online, you can see it pretty much anywhere. But having our picture made with Elvis Presley was just like, you've got to be kidding me. If I had known when I was 10 years old, going to the theater to see Love Me Tender that I would be singing with that guy, I don't think I could have lived.

AUDIO: “Suspicious Minds” [Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” 7-inch] (2:47-3:07) - [Spotify]

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: We did a bunch of stuff in Memphis with Neil Diamond.

AUDIO: “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show” [Neil Diamond, Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show] (1:35-2:05) - [Spotify]

JESSE: Southern Comfort was a hot commodity, recording a few standalone singles of their own. This is “Milk and Honey” released in 1969 on Cotillion.

AUDIO: “Milk and Honey” [Southern Comfort, “Milk and Honey” 7-inch single] (0:08-0:33)

JESSE: For another single, they took on a slightly different identity.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: Are you familiar with the blues artist Eddie Hinton? Eddie was the singer [of] this other configuration that we had, The Living Example. Yeah, we were The Living Example. And we did “Leaving On a Jet Plane” and released that as a single on Atlantic.

AUDIO: “Leaving On a Jet Plane” [The Living Example, “Leaving On a Jet Plane” 7-inch single] (0:44-1:14)

JESSE: A new era was coming at Muscle Shoals.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: Boz Scaggs came, and he was a Californian. And we were not used to the psychedelic aspect of things. And so it was a real unique experience, being on the Boz Scaggs record, with Duane Allman. So I met him, but we didn't hang out together. But it was kind of fun for us as a vocal group, and I guess the musicians as well. We were used to the R&B thing down here, and here comes San Francisco. And so it was a whole new thing that happened with us, mentally and everything else, musically, to do this session with Boz Scaggs, and it was very different. And it was very San Francisco. And so we were charged at getting to do something like that. It was fun. I loved Boz Scaggs and Jann Wenner was his manager at that time, and Jann was there. So we hung out a lot with Boz and Jann Wenner.

JESSE: Donna Jean sang with Brother Duane Allman several times, including the self-titled 1970 debut by Judy Mayhan (no relation to my co-host Rich). Duane Allman had wanted to be involved in Muscle Shoals so badly that he left his brother Gregg in LA and lived in a tent in the Muscle Shoals parking lot. This is Duane Allman’s dobro and Donna Jean’s vocals with Southern Comfort on “Look What I’ve Got” from the 1969 album Boz Scaggs.

AUDIO: “Look What I Got” [Boz Scaggs, s/t] (1:40-2:10) - [Spotify]

JESSE: Donna sang with Dionne Warwick, Joe Tex, on “Take a Letter, Maria” by R.B. Greaves and more. But things were changing around 3614 Jackson Highway.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: Jeanie Greene and I were the only people with long hair in Muscle Shoals, and we had our beads and our peace sign, and our headbands and long hair and all that. We were the only people. So we got really stared at a lot, because we were so different. It was then that I heard the name the Grateful Dead. And I remember going: ew, that's terrible! Who would name their band the Grateful Dead? That's awful. And I, of course, thought that they must be just the deepest, darkest, weirdest people in the world. I had no thoughts or intentions or anything of ever being a part of that situation. But I did want to go to California really, really badly. And so after five years of a real lucrative career here in Muscle Shoals, I had to tell Jerry Wexler, “I'm leaving the group and I'm going to California.” And it was not really for another musical direction. It was an adventure — I wanted a new adventure in my life, and I picked up and went to San Francisco. And that's when everybody loved the Grateful Dead.

AUDIO: “That’s It for the Other One” [Anthem of the Sun] (1:32-1:49) - [] [Spotify] [YouTube]

JESSE: In early October 1970, Donna’s work friends from Union Oil dragged her to Winterland for a pretty incredible four-band bill that changed her life.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: I said, “I'm not taking any drugs. I'm just gonna show you guys how crazy you are. And it's just drugs, that's why you like that band. And so I didn't even… I smoked nothing, I took nothing. I was on the back row of the balcony of Winterland. And I remember the New Riders [of the Purple Sage] played, Quicksilver [Messenger Service] played, and then the [Jefferson] Airplane played. And then I thought: “Wow, this is kind of cool. They can play music.” And then the Grateful Dead came on — and they were magical. It was like—[sighs]—something that I had never heard before. Literally, the expression blew my mind. I was about all of that, at that time, and I just couldn't believe that they could do that. I remember saying to myself, and probably anybody around me: “How do they do that?” And I was just floored. I turned to the person next to me, and I said, “When I sing again, it's going to be with that band.” Because when I went to California, and San Francisco, it was not directed just to have another musical experience; it was to have an adventure. I had no thoughts about what I was going to do next, musically, until I saw the Grateful Dead. And I went, “Okay. [If] I sing again, it's going to be with that band.” That started that ball rolling.

AUDIO: “Uncle John’s Band” [10/4/70] (4:17-4:47)

JESSE: We talked at length about that October 4th, 1970 Winterland show in both the “Till the Morning Comes” episode in our American Beauty season and our episode about Keith Godchaux earlier this season. Just as importantly, becoming a Dead Head brought Donna even deeper into a new group of friends.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: We all had a little group of folks. Some of us were working at Union Oil in San Francisco. One of the girls that worked there was friends with Keith. And so Keith was in this group of us who went, and we would see the Grateful Dead. And Keith was so shy, and I had never really talked to Keith. And then I just found myself falling in love with this guy. I had never talked to him, and he was feeling the same way. I remember going to Walnut Creek where my friend Carol lived. And she said, “Oh, well, I'm gonna invite Keith over.” And I thought, “Oh, great! This is great.” But I had never heard him play piano before. And she told me that, you know, he did play piano. And I thought, “Yeah, everybody plays the piano… blah blah blah blah blah.” And so us getting together had nothing to do with us coming together as musicians. We just fell in love.

Keith and I had never talked before really. And when we did talk, he said, “Well…” This was at Carol’s house. She had gone to bed with the guy that she was living with. Keith was getting ready to leave, and we still hadn’t talked. He had come to visit, she had asked him to come, she knew that I was coming from the city — blah, blah, blah. Long story short, Keith was getting ready to leave, and he just looked at me. It was one of those things across the room. And he said, “Well, I love you.” And I said, “Well, I love you too.” And so we sat down on the couch and talked about when we were gonna get married. And I’d still never heard him play the piano.

It was after I got with Keith that I heard him play. And it was at Clifford's Knight’s Inn in Concord, California. And he was in a little jazz trio. And I thought oh my gosh, this guy is the real deal. I couldn't believe how fabulous he was on the piano. I was just… flabbergasted, that I was in love with this guy that was this fabulous [of] a musician. And it so happened that when I was there that night, at the Clifford’s Knights Inn listening to them — remember the olden days when the band would take a break, and there would be the jukebox little thing at each booth, and you could pick out music? Every thing that came out of that situation was songs that I had sung on, it just so happened. And I said, “I sang on that, Keith!” And I remember Keith going: “She's a hauling-ass singer!”

JESSE: Clifford’s Knight’s Inn. Good memory, Donna! With those coordinates, I was able to find an old news clipping about the Jerry Michaels Four, the house band, with a rarely seen photo of a 22-year-old Keith Godchaux in front of an upright piano, only a few months before meeting his soon to be wife.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: We started working on music. Eventually, some of them turned up on the Keith & Donna album. So we already had our musical interests.

JESSE: But then, the cosmic gears shifted.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: This was not even a year before we joined the Dead, and I remember coming home from Union Oil one day. This is after Keith and I—no, it wasn’t after we were married… yes, it was, it was after we were married. I said, “Listen, let's listen to some Grateful Dead.” And Keith said, “I don't want to listen to it anymore. I want to play it.” And I said, “Okay, well let's go get in the band!”

The whole thing was magical. When I had initially talked to Jerry, down at Keystone in San Francisco when he was playing with his band, I touched his arm when he was going off stage for a break and told him, “You know, Keith, and I have something to talk to you about. My husband, and I have something to talk to you about.” And he said, “Well, come on backstage, and I’ll hear what you have to say.” Keith and I were way too nervous to go backstage, and so we didn't. Garcia came out from the backstage, sat in the audience with us and said, “Well, what is it?” And I said, “Well, I need your home telephone number so that I can call you and set up a time for us” — I can't believe I even did that — “because Keith is your next piano player.” And he gave me his home phone number, and the number for the office. I said, “I will try the office first. And if I can't get there, then I will call your home phone, but not before.” So I would call the office and I would say: “This is Donna Godchaux, and Jerry asked me to call. And so I’m calling.” And they never gave him the message. I called his home phone, and he said, “Well, we're going to be rehearsing on Sunday, and you guys come on down.” And so we came to rehearsal, and the band had forgotten to tell Jerry that rehearsal had been called off. It was that frontage road in San Rafael. We got there, and it was just Jerry. And he apologized that the band wasn't there. So Jerry and Keith played, and it was magical. They just started jamming together, and it was magical. Jerry called Kreutzmann to come down. So Jerry and Kreutzmann and Keith played together, and it was magical. I had brought some tapes that Keith and I had made of us playing and singing together. And it was all very… it was just crackling with this spiritual type [of] energy. The full Grateful Dead rehearsal was the next day. And so Jerry said, “Well, come on to rehearsal.” And by the end of Monday, Keith played with the whole band, and he was in the band that day. The next day.

JESSE: The first day Keith and Donna had hung out with Garcia, they’d brought some of their demo recordings with them.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: Some of the stuff we played Garcia, when Keith first played with him that day, we had our reel-to-reel recorder with songs that we had written. In rock and roll, things get lost. I don’t know what happened to those tapes, but I would give anything if I had them.

JESSE: But, in addition to hearing Keith’s piano playing, Garcia also heard Donna Jean sing. Oddly, her Muscle Shoals background didn't come up at all.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: We just never really talked about it. And the whole time I was in the band, that never was really anything that was talked about, that was incorporated in me getting in the band. It was just not the language that was spoken at the time. I didn't care about that. I just wanted to sing with the Grateful Dead. And they asked me to sing with them when he joined and I said, “No, I want Keith to get to do it first.” And so as Keith was rehearsing with them, I would just sit and listen and listen, and start learning the harmony parts, and how to relate to their kind of vocal harmonizing, which is different than what I had been used to. It had been more the classical way that you sing, in thirds and fifths and this and that. The Grateful Dead singing was not like that. They would switch parts to where a lot of times I couldn't tell who was singing leads, because the parts would interchange in such an unusual pattern. I had to relearn, in my head, how to think about harmony — which really taught me a lot. I credit Muscle Shoals a lot for my upbringing and experience in the studios that I carried with me, of course. But then, the Grateful Dead taught me a lot about getting out of that kind of box, into another mindset about how to sing harmony. And so Keith did two tours with him.

JESSE: Music from Keith Godchaux’s early tours with the Dead can be heard on the new Listen To The River: St. Louis ‘71 ‘72 ‘73 box set. This is Keith conversing with Garcia during “Playing in the Band” at the Fox Theatre on December 10th, 1971.

AUDIO: “Playing in the Band” [Listen To The River, 12/10/71] (3:41-4:11) - [] [Spotify]

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: We talked every day. And he was like a fish out of water. He was so scared, you know, he was so—not scared— he was so shy. He was just a very low-key, he was more inward. And so I was really the person that he could go: Oh, my gosh! Yeah, we talked every night. Once Keith got talking, he was very, very deep. He was a deep thinker. He was also legitimately a genius. Things that got him interested in talking about were very deep things. He wasn't superficial in any way. It had to be a subject that really engaged him, and engaged who he was.

JESSE: In the very early morning of January 1st, 1972, Donna stepped onstage for the first time with the Grateful Dead.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: And then I was ready, and I thought pretty set, to join. And so that's when I ended up singing within that New Year's Eve. I was just so overwhelmed at, number one, being on a stage, which I had never been on. Number two — with the Grateful Dead! It was just like, oh my gosh. And then the audience, who had never heard a female sing with the Grateful Dead. I just thought: are they gonna absolutely hate me? Are they gonna start throwing eggs and tomatoes on the stage? You have to be tough, getting into the Grateful Dead situation. Really, you had to know who you were and what you were about, to be able to stand up in that kind of situation. And somehow or other, I just pressed it through. And it was… those years with the Grateful Dead are my greatest memories of all time.

JESSE: Before Donna got on the stage with the Grateful Dead on a more regular basis, in early 1972, she joined the rest of the Dead as the backing band on Bob Weir’s solo debut, Ace.

AUDIO: “Playing in the Band” [Bob Weir, Ace] (0:41-0:53) - [] [Spotify] [YouTube]

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: It was a kind of pre-emptive thing of getting me involved more specifically in singing with the Grateful Dead. To this day, Bobby is one of my best friends. I love that guy. We’re brothers and sisters.

BOB WEIR [5/23/72]: This here’s Donna, and she’s gonna help us out on this next one.

[Audience applauds]

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY [5/23/72]: He always says ‘This here’s…’

JESSE: Besides starting to integrate her into the band, the Ace sessions proved important for another reason.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: That's when Bobby first coined calling me Donna Jean. Here I was, born in the South and lived here all my life, and I was never called Donna Jean. It was just Donna. You hear the cliche of people down here — Billy Bob, Peggy Sue and all of that. I was never called Donna Jean. And Bobby started calling me Donna Jean, and so it's all his fault. That was old days, that was old days.

AUDIO: “Greatest Story Ever Told” [Bob Weir, Ace] (0:51-1:02) - [] [Spotify] [YouTube]

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: We started that tour in New York. I remember the second time I was on stage with the Grateful Dead — I believe it was… was it the Academy of Music in New York? Was it with the Hells Angels, the benefit?

JESSE: It was, in fact, the Hells Angels benefit at the Academy of Music in New York on March 25th, 1972. That does sound a little intimidating, to be honest — not only Donna Jean’s New York debut, but in front of a theater packed full of Hells Angels.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: You know, it should have been, if I had a lick of sense in my head. But I didn’t, and I was not afraid. One of the reasons I was not afraid is that the Angels were very respectful of the band, and really—especially—of me. They were told by the president: don’t mess with her. And they respected that. So I never did have any fear. I always felt protected, and they were always very kind to me.

So here I am, this little girl from Muscle Shoals, Alabama — all of a sudden, I'm in New York with the Grateful Dead, on this stage, going to Europe. And it was just… can you tell I'm at a loss for words? It was unbelievable, to be in that place, at that time, with that band. And just getting my feet wet in that kind of a situation, to where I'm in front of people — no earphones, no cloistering, no controlled environments, and everything is out of control. So rather than having all of my little comfort zones, I had no comfort zone. It was just like being in another world, and I'm not exaggerating there. It was like being in another world.

JESSE: You can hear some of Donna’s first proper performance with the Dead, March 25th, 1972 at the Academy of Music in New York, released on Dick’s Picks 30. They do two songs the Dead only played once, but which would be part of Jerry Garcia’s side repertoire — Bert Berns’s “Are You Lonely For Me,” and the Motown classic “How Sweet It Is.”

AUDIO: “How Sweet It Is” [Dick’s Picks 30, 3/25/72] (1:47-2:27) - [Spotify] [YouTube]

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: You could have cut the energy with a knife — it was just thick. You can talk about energy all day long, but when you experience it, from one place to the next or one moment to the next… it was heightened, not only because it was New York, but the Hells Angels were there. I think New York probably prepared me for the next nine years of my life! For how it was gonna be. I loved it — I loved being on the road. I mean, it was hard. And especially when I had my son Zion on the road, it was hard leaving him at home, and it was hard to have him on the road. So that was a tricky thing, but we pulled it off.

JESSE: The ‘70s would be a whirlwind.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: Just even that decade itself — I mean, I’m okay to say this was one of the best decades of the Grateful Dead. All of these new songs that Garcia and [Robert] Hunter were writing, and Bobby and [John Perry] Barlow were just coming out of the woodwork. Every time we would come to rehearsal, Jerry [went]: “Well, I have this new song.” And it would be “Scarlet Begonias.” And hearing “Scarlet Begonias” for the first time… or “Row Jimmy” for the first time. Just name any of those songs, hearing them for the first time in rehearsal.

AUDIO: “Row Jimmy” [Listen To The River, 10/29/73] (7:28-8:02) - []

JESSE: That early “Row Jimmy” was from October 29th, 1973 at the Kiel Auditorium, part of the Listen To The River box set, which we heard about last episode.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: And then them having that kind of longevity — the way that the songs are written, the way that Hunter had this special way of putting words together that fit everybody. And you could make it your own, to where they're pretty much eternal in that the music never stops. It keeps going on and on, for years and decades, and decades and decades. And it's a music that I believe is not going to have its end. I think it’s gonna outlast a lot of things. Hunter could say something in a lyric that was almost eternal, to where it didn't matter what year you're in, what decade you're in, what century you're in, it still has relevance.

And that is totally in the spiritual world. It was not just talent that he had. It was a world that he was in, and it was very, very high. And that's why Garcia's music and Hunter’s lyrics are so high, because that's where both of them really were at. He was the real deal. The real deal. That's because they were already there — they were there. They didn't have to reach for it. It was just there. That's where they were at, you know? I've been asked this a lot: what was the spiritual content of the Grateful Dead? It was kind of anything goes, but there are unstated things that are very much in place that relate to the spiritual realm and spiritual world.

I really liked that, because I was raised in the South, where spirituality really wasn't as much as it was religion, and a religious view of what spirituality should be. I had never known a real spiritual atmosphere before. When I started hanging out with those guys in San Francisco, I was introduced into the real spiritual world for the first time — even though I'd gone to church for years and years and years. I never had a spiritual experience until I got in that band.

And I can't put into words or formulate an idea of what that is, or even really how to communicate it. All I know is that it was just there: it took me somewhere, took me into another place that was so much bigger, and deeper and wider — all of the good things that happen, or should be happening, when you are talking about spirituality. And it opened me wide open. I felt more spiritual then than I ever had in my life, and I still am in that place. It doesn’t go away — once you’re opened up to it, it doesn’t really go away.

AUDIO: “Scarlet Begonias” [Download Series 1, 4/30/77] (2:06-2:29) - [Spotify] [YouTube]

JESSE: That was “Scarlet Begonias” from the Download Series, Volume 1, recorded April 30th, 1977 at the Palladium in New York — formerly known as the Academy of Music, where Donna Jean had sung for the Hells Angels with the Dead five years earlier. Garcia was a different kind of singing partner for her.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: I always say that Garcia didn't have a pipe to pee in. But he was a great singer — just a great singer, because he knew how to communicate. Through that voice that he had, he used every bit of his voice. And it's so distinctive: you know when you hear Garcia that that's Jerry Garcia singing. I loved his voice. And like I said, it was not that he had pipes. He just had soul, and he had realness to his voice. He was a great singer.

JESSE: She worked together easily with Garcia and Weir.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: We just kind of fell into it. Usually Jerry or Bobby, whoever’s song it was, had some idea of when they wanted the vocals to come in. And then we would just figure out what part sounded right where and just fall into it. And it was relatively easy to do that. Some of the songs aren't that easy — you'd really have to have to have to find it. They weren't like, from the I to the IV to the V to the I. The Grateful Dead’s music was very complicated, in some ways. In a lot of ways, actually.

JESSE: But in the years immediately after Donna joined the band, the band also graduated into bigger venues and bigger sound systems. The band had helped pioneer early monitor technology, but there was still a long way to go — and a vast chasm between the controlled studio environment and the utter lunatic chaos of a Grateful Dead show in the 1970s.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: As a singer, in singing with the loudest rock 'n' roll band on the planet at that time, I had this little tiny box in front of me. And so 99% of the time, I was just trying to hear myself. So, a lot of times—probably most of the time—my voice doesn't sound like me, because I'm screaming into the microphone, trying to hear myself, and so my natural voice isn't coming through. I was just screaming to try to hear anything. So, you know, that's part of the live experience. And a lot of times, it's just hard. It's hard. When you can't hear, then you're trying to compensate. And then that throws your natural ability and what you would do naturally to the wind. So, it was tough.

JESSE: In the mid-’70s, alongside Grateful Dead Records, there was also Round Records, owned by their Stinson Beach neighbors Jerry Garcia and Ron Rakow, who issued LPs by the Dead’s growing family. Not long after the Dead took a break from the road, the Godchauxs turned part of their house in Stinson Beach into a recording set-up.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: If you notice on the Keith & Donna album, it was recorded at Studio R. And Studio R was our living room — which was huge, number one. It had that grand, nine-foot Steinway. It was a big living room, overlooking Stinson Beach. Oh my gosh, it was fantastic. Oh man, that Steinway. That thing sounded so good. I’ve been spoiled ever since that time, with that instrument there in the living room. Just the most beautiful tone on that thing, I'm telling you. Spoiled, spoiled rotten. But yeah, that's where we did everything. And Zion was a baby, his room was in the back of the house. So all the recording was done right with… I have this baby a few feet down the hall.

JESSE: With Jerry Garcia close by, it was easy enough to get him in on the action, too. I love the little wah-wah bounce he adds to “Sweet Baby.”

AUDIO: “Sweet Baby” [Keith & Donna, Keith & Donna] (0:33-0:52)

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: We really put our minds together to do the Keith & Donna record. But some of the stuff that was on that record was written before we were in the Grateful Dead. But during the time that we were in the band, there was so much focus on what as before us at the time that that's where we were at and what we did. So the writing really didn't resume until after we decided to do the record.

Ron Rakow, who was with the Grateful Dead and Round Records at that time, called it “neo-gospel.”

JESSE: The album’s opening track channeled a different kind of Wall of Sound, covering Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, and Phil Spector’s “River Deep, Mountain High,” originally recorded by Tina & Ike Turner in 1966. I love hearing Donna harmonize with herself.

AUDIO: “River Deep, Mountain High” [Keith & Donna, Keith & Donna] (0:50-1:20)

JESSE: Garcia did the cover art, drawing on top of a photo of baby Zion Godchaux.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: I just remember having the photo there and Garcia leaning on our little kitchen island there, doing those doodles, I remember it very clearly, watching him do that. And doodling to all the songs that were on the album. If you notice, what he drew was basically the lyrics to the songs. He was an artist, I mean what can you say. That’s something that came as natural to him as music.

JESSE: After recording the album in the early part of the year, the Keith and Donna Band became a real entity over the course of 1975, playing nearly 70 shows in eight months, and even touring the East coast with Bob Weir and Kingfish, as Corry Arnold laid out in his chronology of the Keith and Donna Band.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: It was very serious. And Rex Jackson was our road manager. That's how long ago it was and how intense that we all felt about it. And of course, during the recording of the Keith & Donna album, we had a lot of Garcia on there. There were times where he would sit in with us, and then Kreutzmann as well. So it was a deal, it was a thing. We played a lot of college gigs and we had a blast doing that. We went through a couple of stages, but it was really fun having Billy Kreutzmann play drums. He’s just the best. What are you going to say? He’s the best.

JESSE: At the end of 1975, pianist Nicky Hopkins departed the original incarnation of the Jerry Garcia Band, and by early 1976, Keith and Donna were in.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: It was way different than the Dead because, of course, it was a smaller get up. The whole scene was much more concise. It was not the Grateful Dead, yet, it was Garcia. So you had kind of two different worlds coming together that were just beautifully matched. And Garcia loved playing with John Kahn, and he and Keith had been playing together in the Grateful Dead, and me singing as well. So it was a natural thing for us to be involved in that band. Garcia and Keith and I lived in Stinson Beach, and we had access to one another all the time. We were constantly listening to music at our house — figuring out songs to do, especially the gospel songs. Garcia was really into that, and so we had all these gospel albums — going through them and kind of picking what would really work well within the Garcia Band structure. It was a ball. It really was a blast just sitting there listening to those old gospel spirituals and just getting into it. Garcia was really into that.

JESSE: This is from the brand new GarciaLive Volume 17, NorCal ‘76. Thi song is “Mighty High,” a contemporary disco-gospel hit by the Mighty Clouds of Joy when the Jerry Garcia Band started playing it that year, vocals by Garcia, Donna, and Keith. This is from a mystery date in 1976.

AUDIO: “Mighty High” [Jerry Garcia Band, GarciaLive 17] (0:00-0:27) - [Spotify]

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: People think because I was raised in the South that I was into that, but not so much. Because I was raised in a white Baptist Church, so it was very contemporary — and boring, I have to say. I didn't have access to all the soulful gospel music. So it was a joy to me to get to experience gospel music in that kind of atmosphere, where it's just… cool, instead of stodgy. I loved it. I think Jerry had most of the music and I can't remember if Keith and I did or not, to tell you the truth. But I know that Jerry had a lot of that stuff. He just listened to music all the time. It was soulful. It wasn't just The Gospel; it was the gospel music, and how soulful and spiritual it was. Jerry was a very spiritual guy, and the Garcia Band was more kind of in tune with that specific soulful sound. So it was just natural to go there, and we went there.

JESSE: Garcia and Donna got some of their best vocal blend in the smaller rooms where the Jerry Garcia Band played. This is “Catfish John” from GarciaLive Vol. 17, recorded November 12th, 1976 at UC Davis, and officially released 45 years later to the day.

AUDIO: “Catfish John” [Jerry Garcia Band, GarciaLive 17, 11/12/76] (0:39-1:14) - [Spotify]

JESSE: Donna Jean’s songwriting continued to the first Grateful Dead studio album after their road hiatus, 1977’s Terrapin Station.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: All of my songwriting has been on the piano. But I remember when we were thinking about making the album, which turned out to be Terrapin Station, and Jerry actually came to me and said, “Why don't you write a song for it, for this album?” With his encouragement, and almost like a directive— “I want you to write something for the album”—I really put everything into it, and wrote “Sunrise,” of course, on the piano. And layed it for the guys, and we started working on it, recorded it.

AUDIO: “Sunrise” [Winterland June 1977, 6/8/77] (1:29-1:53)

JESSE: That was from June 8th, 1977, the middle night of Winterland June 1977: The Complete Recordings.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: So Jerry was very instrumental in putting me in the situation of: “You're a songwriter now for this album.” So it was a good time for it, and it was a good time for me. And it was also such a departure from [the] traditional Grateful Dead sound. It was just something that was different, and something that was real, and something that was not only creative, but it's very deep. If you listen to the lyrics to “Sunrise,” it’s very, very literal in that it’s about Rolling Thunder, the Indian medicine man that we were very much in contact with the whole time I was in the band, and at sunrise services that he did with us in different situations. He was the real deal, he was the real deal. This guy was not faux — he was the real deal, he was a real shaman. And everything is very literal in it, about what went on in the sunrise service. He could literally make the birds stop and make everything go quiet by just moving a feather around. It was just wild.

JESSE: While there’s nothing else in the Dead’s catalog that sounds like “Sunrise,” I also think it not only contributes to the mystic mood of Terrapin Station but likewise puts Donna into the cosmic canon of the Dead’s lyricists.

AUDIO: “Sunrise” [Winterland June 1977, 6/8/77] (2:12-2:42)

JESSE: When the band was touring behind Terrapin Station, Donna had a chance to return to one of her childhood home towns.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: When I was in the fifth grade, I lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And there was Godchaux, and Godchaux Sugar. That was big down here. They called it “God Shaw” in the South, instead of “God Show.” We always had the French pronunciation.

JESSE: In 1977, the Grateful Dead returned to Louisiana for the first time since their bust on Bourbon Street in 1970.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: We were playing in Baton Rouge. The Grateful Dead were playing in Baton Rouge. Keith and I took the limo, and I said, “I want to go see where my house was, just to see if it's still there.” And you know what was there—in place of my house where I lived in the fifth grade, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana—was now Godchaux’s department store. I couldn’t believe it.

JESSE: One of her bandmates in the late ‘70s Jerry Garcia Band was drummer Ronnie Tutt, who very sadly passed away this autumn. About a year after the session for “Suspicious Minds,” Ron Tutt took over the drum seat in Elvis’s TCB Band. And for a few years between 1974 and 1977, Tutt juggled gigs between Elvis and Jerry Garcia. Despite their shared connection to Elvis, Donna and Ron didn’t talk about it too much.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: We rarely went there.. but then sometimes we would. And sometimes I would say, “Well, how’s Elvis?” And he would talk to me about what was going on with Elvis at the time. But that was a rare thing. One thing that was really unique about that — I believe we were doing Cats Under the Stars. We were in the studio, and I said, “Tutt” — I called him Tutt — “I don’t know why I’m asking you this right now, but the next time you see Elvis, would you tell him I said ‘Hello’?” And he said, “Yeah, I’ll do that.” And a few days later, Tutt had to leave to go play with Elvis. I ended up in the hospital and had to have kind of an emergency surgery. I was waking up from that surgical procedure, and I get a phone call from Ron Tutt. And he said, “Donna, I have to tell you that Elvis died.” And of course, I was horrified. And he said, “And I saw him, and I told him what you said. And he says, ‘Oh yeah, tell her I remember her, and I hope to get to see her again some day.’” How weird is that?

JESSE: Pretty weird. The world of music that Donna Jean Godchaux came from originally was not only very different from the Grateful Dead — it remained a parallel universe, as she learned in early 1979.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: We were playing Madison Square Garden. And I was getting out of my limo, wherever the parking lot was. And Jerry Wexler was coming out of his limo. And I said, “Jerry!” And he goes, “Donna?” And he said, “Fancy meeting you here.” And I said, “Well, I sang with this band.” And he said, “That's you?” So Jerry and I had this new greeting together, meeting and greeting together, because I hadn’t seen him since the Muscle Shoals days. And he didn’t know that it was Donna Thatcher that was Donna Godchaux. It was a real fun thing to meet Jerry Wexler in that context.

JESSE: Not too long thereafter, Donna Jean and Keith Godchaux departed the Grateful Dead.

AUDIO: “We Bid You Goodnight” [The Closing of Winterland, 12/31/78] (0:43-1:06) - [Spotify] [YouTube]

JESSE: That was from the very first moments of 1979 and the last moments of the Closing of Winterland. Things had gotten bad for Keith and Donna by then. At the end of February, they left the band, righted their course, and set to work on their own music. They performed occasionally with a group called The Ghosts.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: Keith and I were just… got into that situation just to play on a record. We had no intention of being The Ghosts or anything. That was not our band, at all.

JESSE: The band did a short tour, alternating sets and occasionally crossing over with Robert Hunter. If you ask your taper friends, there are some recordings of Donna Jean singing with Robert Hunter from early 1980, and that’s pretty cool to hear. But though Keith and Donna had very much needed to get out of the Dead, they remained part of the extended family, using the Front Street studio and more.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: We weren't, at that point, in the middle of the circle, but we weren’t estranged either. It was not that kind of thing. But what we were into was the Heart of Gold Band. And that's where we met Steve Kimock and Steve and I remain great friends to this day, I just love him. That was a real wonderful experience.

AUDIO: “Watching the River Flow” [Heart of Gold Band, Heart of Gold Band] (4:08-4:38)

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: Here's two geniuses playing together, they were both just extraordinary musicians. Playing together was just… it was an incredible thing. It was really powerful at the time — that's before Keith died, that we started that band. And then we carried on after Keith passed. But it was a really unique, wonderful experience as well, just being in a situation that was not in the Grateful Dead, but still of it, in a way.

AUDIO: “Scarlet Begonias” [Heart of Gold Band, Heart of Gold Band] (4:04-4:34)

JESSE: After Keith’s tragic death in a car accident in the summer of 1980, the Heart of Gold Band carried on in various incarnations. Donna Jean remarried in the ‘80s to bassist David MacKay, and they’ve continued the Heart of Gold Band and other projects. Since the ‘90s, Donna Jean Godchaux-MacKay has been recording and performing again. And last year, she actually put out a timely single, co-written with guitarist Jeff Mattson of the Dark Star Orchestra.

AUDIO: “Shelter” [Donna Jean and the Tricksters, “Shelter (Muscle Shoals Remix)” single] (0:39-1:09) - [Spotify]

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: We just hit it off, personality-wise and everything else together, and Jeff and I really took it to the next level when we started writing songs together. So, eventually, it morphed into Donna Jean and the Tricksters, and then we did record our CD. I keep wanting to say album… ugh, it's still ‘album’ to me! Anyway, we recorded that in I think 2007, if I'm not mistaken. Jeff and I had written this song called “Shelter,” which was on the album, and it came out beautifully, it was really nicely done. But there were a couple of things that Jeff and I really thought that didn't really hit the mark, that we had envisioned in writing the song. And so when the pandemic came, of course we had the time and space to do that. At the time, it was very heavy. And when I saw what was going on today, I thought: gosh, that song is even more relevant today than it was when I wrote it. We went into the studio, took the hard drive, and I got the three girls who are the main vocalists here when things are recorded in Muscle Shoals, and I had them redo the background vocals. And they were so strong and so good and so different, it just took the song way up into another place.

AUDIO: “Shelter” [Donna Jean and the Tricksters, “Shelter (Muscle Shoals Remix)” single] (4:40-5:10) - [Spotify]

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: I didn't expect any fanfare or money or anything like that — it had to do with just being out there for people to hear, because it was so relevant to what was going on in our world and what we're facing today.

JESSE: We’ve posted a link to “Shelter (Muscle Shoals Remix).” For nearly 50 years, Donna Jean’s life has been entwined with the Grateful Dead, whether as an active member or not. She was also a Dead Head, and she got to see the band one more time after leaving.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: I saw them in ‘95 in Birmingham [Alabama], after my husband, David and I had moved here. I hadn't seen them in quite a while, and then I saw them at that show in Birmingham. I was kind of amazed at how everything had changed: they all had their little earphones in, and they all had their different mixes that they could kind of mix each other either in or out. It was a whole different vibe than when I was in the band. So I was kind of amazed at how things had changed so dramatically. And then the next morning, Jerry called and asked did we want to come up and have breakfast with him? Which we did. And this was in April, before he passed in August. I believe it was April. So I got to visit with Jerry, and it was just the most wonderful, pleasant, just heart to heart time with him. He was feeling good, he looked good. And I was just heartbroken to find out that, after that, things just really went downhill so fast for him. But we had the best time together. We talked about things that nobody else knew that he and I had experienced together. And that we both still remembered, and laughed about we just had the best time. I will never forget having that special time with him. It was, once again, very magical that I got to spend that kind of time—that kind, and quality of time— with Jerry before he passed. I'm really grateful for that.

JESSE: A few years after that, she joined The Other Ones in 1998 for a performance and since then has performed on occasion with the other former members of the Grateful Dead. Most recently, in 2016, Donna Jean joined Dead & Company at five shows that June — one at Bonnaroo, two at CitiField in New York and two at Fenway Park in Boston. I was at one of the Boston shows and, as a younger Dead freak who never saw Donna Jean sing with the band in the ‘70s, it was really one of the more powerful musical experiences of my life to hear her next to Bob Weir in the vocal mix one more time.

AUDIO: “Passenger” [Dead & Company, 7/16/16] (1:52-2:17)

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: It was just a treat, needless to say, to be on stage with Bobby and Mickey and Billy again, and then Oteil and Jeff and John. It was not like going back, but it was like Back To the Future or something. I don't know where to put that in words, but it sure was fun. And it came together very quickly. It was not only fun, it was… it was time to get back with those guys on stage. I've been with them separately in different situations — we would be doing a tour with Donna Jean and the Tricksters or the Donna Jean Godchaux Band or whatever. And Mickey's band would be playing, or Billy would be playing with somebody. So I saw them intermittently in different situations, but never at the same time on stage together. So it was a great, great time for me, and I hope for them. And the audience seemed to really like it, so I'm glad it happened.

JESSE: Us, too. Thanks, Donna Jean.

DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX-MACKAY: I was just fortunate enough to live in a place where all of these studios and all these musical people were together in this little podunk northwest corner of Alabama. How often does that happen? And people ask me all the time: “Well, how did that happen?” And you just go, “Well, stars fell on Alabama or something.” I don't know. But it was one of those magical times, like the whole San Francisco thing happening was just magical. And t was there at that time, with that music and it was the same here, only it was across the United States and a whole different world. But nevertheless, it was two magical things musically, that [were] going on in America at the same time, pretty much. I got to be a part of both of those things is what still blows my mind to this day — that I got to be involved in such iconic musical expressions and experiments, these magical things going on, that I consider myself one of the most fortunate people in the world. I really have gotten to do everything that I wanted to do, to tell you the truth.