THE JERRY GARCIA BAND-
“HOW SWEET IT WAS”
BY BEN UPHAM III
After becoming an official “Deadhead” at the Winterland 12-27-77 show I was anxious to see the band again as soon as possible. My next actual Grateful Dead show wouldn’t take place for 3 1/2 years (6-14-80 Spokane), however, just as special, on October 27,1978 at the “Performing Arts Pavilion” at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wa. (about 15 miles from Spokane) I saw this fine double bill. The Bob Weir Band was opening and the Jerry Garcia Band were the headliners…Both bands were on the road together for a very brief, three show tour, hitting Portland, Cheney, and Seattle. They were promoting their new solo albums, “Heaven help the Fool” for Weir and “Cats Under the Stars” for Garcia, both are excellent records that were selling well at the “Eucalyptus Records” store that I worked at in Spokane at that time.
Anticipation grew for this “Dead Event”, and some good friends of mine from Ford, Wa. (25 miles North of Spokane) were turning their van into an official “Garcia Tour Bus” packing it full of friendly Hippie folks that were heading to the show!
We all got prepared for the show (as good Deadheads do) and made our way into the venue on campus.
The Bob Weir Band played first and it was a high energy set that sounded great! The band featured Weir on Guitar and Vocals, Bobby Cochrane on Guitar and Vocals, Brent Mydland on Keyboards, Dee Murray on Bass and John Maucer on Drums. They played a set mostly comprised of tracks from the new record, but threw in a few songs that the Deadheads could really relate to such as “Minglewood Blues” and’ Lazy Lightning”.
“Poison Ivy”, “Easy to Slip” and “Shade of Grey” were the standouts for me.
After a short intermission Garcia and his band took the stage. No announcement at all, they just walked on and the crowd went nuts!
This incarnation of the Jerry Garcia Band consisted of Garcia on Guitar and Vocals, Keith Godchaux on Electric Grand Piano, John Kahn on Bass, Buzz Buchanan on the Drums and Donna Jean Godchaux & Maria Muldaur on Vocals.
The band was amazing…They came to jam, and jam they did! The first set was 65 minutes of pure Heavenly Rock Music like I had never heard before! It was so unique from the Dead, yet had so much in common as well.
How Sweet it Is
That’s what Love will make You Do
Russian Lullabye (Have a Listen: Russian Lullabye Cheney 78)
Second that Emotion
Each song was an open doorway to jamming and soloing…Garcia was playing wonderfully and having a great time. John Kahn was as good on Bass as Lesh (in my opinion) and really complimented Jerry’s style. All of my JGB Photos are from this show.
After their break the Band came back out for a killer second set that included three songs from the new record.
Love in the Afternoon
Ruben & Cherise
I’ll be with Thee
Everybody left the show very satisfied and happy and we all gathered outside for a big outdoor party well into the night…
CLICK HERE TO SEE MY JGB CHENEY 10-27-78 PHOTOS
My next experience with the Garcia Band came almost three years later on August 7, 1981 at “Freeborn Hall” on the University of California at Davis Campus. I was living just North of Redding, Ca. at the time. This show took place on a very hot day. I believe that it was 104 degrees outside, and unfortunately the venue had no air conditioning (or it wasn’t working). I believe that it was the same temperature inside the building, only much more humid from the mass of sweaty Deadhead bodies!
The Garcia Band had some different players this time. Kahn was still there on Bass, this time joined by Melvin Seals on Organ, Jimmy Warren on Electric Piano and Clavinet, Daoud Shaw on the Drums, and Essra Mohawk & Liz Stires on Vocals.
Set one was about 50 minutes in length (possibly shortened due to the heat?) and consisted of:
The Way you do the Things You Do
They Love each Other
Simple Twist of Fate
Second that Emotion
The version of “Simple Twist of Fate” (Bob Dylan song) was the standout, with Kahn showing us all his great abilities as a soloist on the Bass.
When the Band came back out for the second set it was just plain uncomfortable in that building! Sticky is an understatement! But the set we heard was SO COOL that it made things bearable…
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
Night they Drove Old Dixie Down
The version of “Heavens Door” was out of this World! Jerry was playing all these gentle delicate notes that were bouncing off of the tops of everyone’s heads. The rush that it created seemed to divert attention from the dreadful heat!
About eight months later we got to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day with the Jerry Garcia Band in Chico, Ca. at Chico State University.
This show was taking place under much mellower weather conditions (thank God).
The Band personnel was only slightly different from the Davis show, as they had replaced Drummer Shaw with Bill Kreutzmann of the Grateful Dead! This show had it’s own VERY UNIQUE twist of fate to it making it stand out as a very rare and historic Jerry Garcia Band show!
The show was scheduled to start at 7:00 and at about 6:30 there was an announcement from the stage that the show was going to be running a little bit late since Bass player John Kahn was brokedown on the road about a hundred miles away…Okay….Just light up another joint, relax and wait for the Bass player…right?
NO….As it turns out there was another Bass player in attendance that was VERY ABLE to hop up and join the Band onstage for the entire first set! He just so happened to live in Chico and was an old buddy of Jerry’s anyway! The Band takes the stage at about 7:10 with none other than Dave Torbert on Bass from the original New Riders of the Purple Sage! Dave played like he had been with the Band for years! Absolutely saved the day!
How sweet it is
Simple Twist of Fate
Let it Rock
Sitting Here in Limbo
Torbert’s showing up was indeed a Twist of Fate that kept us all from Limbo…The whole set was the Highlight!
By the time the second set rolled around John Kahn was there and we were treated to a sweet second set that consisted of:
I’ll Take A Melody
Russian Lullabye (Have a Listen: Russian Lullabye)
Night they Drove Old Dixie Down
Tangled up in Blue
“Melody” and “Lullabye” were the second set killers this time. A very enjoyable show that was quite historic in the guest Bass player scenario.
Sadly, I would only see one more Garcia Band show, but happily it was probably the BEST ONE!
Over eleven years had passed by since the Magical event took place in Chico. I recall seeing that the Garcia Band announced a show in Seattle and I scored a ticket pronto! The show took place at “Memorial Stadium” right underneath the Space Needle in the heart of Seattle. It was on the same date as the dreadfully HOT Davis show from 1981….August 7th. Only this time in was the year 1993 and it was outdoors on a PERFECT DAY…75 degrees, gentle breezes, and clear Blue Skies! Perfect weather for an amazing show!
We drove over from Spokane (275 miles, roughly a 5 hour drive). The place was PACKED! And there was a pretty bad back-up of people waiting to get in. I’m not sure if it was caused by the security search or what but the HUGE LINE was moving very slowly and it was approaching time for the show!
As I was about 25 people away from the point of entry I heard the Band start playing “How Sweet it is”…and I still had a ways to go once I got in, this was a very large stadium! Slightly frustrated by the slow proceedings getting in the security started to “Hurry Up” a bit once they heard the Band was playing. “How Sweet” is normally a 7-10 minute song and it took all of it for me to just get where I could actually see the field! From that point it was SMOOTH SAILING…I made my way down from the nosebleed section to the field as the band was playing their second song, “Stop that Train”. Everything was starting to sound really good as I made my way down onto the field.
I found my “Sweet Spot” about 40 yards from the stage, Dead Center. I Lit up a joint and smiled at the sky! Then the band played a song I had never heard before…”The Maker” (by Daniel Lanois) and it was a purely blissful time…Everything around me was in perfect Harmony with the Moment…Huge Smiles on all the faces I could see, Wonderful Twirling Dancers everywhere, and…as I turned around to take in the view of the whole stadium I noticed that the place had “Tye-Dye Flags” all around the entire perimeter of the stadium. I really cannot describe accurately the feeling of joy and peace that came to me during that song. Melvin Seals was playing gorgeous Piano fills around Jerry’s echoed leads and the background vocals by Gloria Jones & Jaclyn LaBranch were simply beautiful. David Kemper was the Drummer this time around. The song ended with Jerry and Melvin having a Musical conversation between their instruments that was really delicate and tender…the notes drifting up high into the clear Blue Sky, just Amazing stuff…
At this point I am totally dialed in to the energy of the Moment and appreciating all of the great talent that is in front of me. The rest of the first set was spectacular, with the highlight being the Crying Solo by Jerry in “Like a Road”…
How Sweet it is
Stop that Train
The Maker (Have a Listen: The Maker)
Run for the Roses
Like a Road (Have a Listen: Like a Road)
Lay Down Sally
Sisters & Brothers
For the second set I made a very smart move. I made my way up to the VERY FRONT…Right in front of Jerry…where I could make some eye contact with him…The second set started very cool…Nice and slow…working it’s way into the first song which was “Shining Star”…I had never heard Jerry do this song and it was another Diamond in his Crown that day! The female vocalists were outstanding on this track and gave me massive goosebumps in 75 degree weather! After the nearly 20 minute version of “Shining Star” the band was in high gear and glided right into the best version of “Waiting for a Miracle” that I’d ever heard! Jerry’s solos were stunning that day, just cascading huge flows of notes out over the happy crowd. The rest of the set was mind-blowing and totally captivating with every song shining bright and clear…Once again I find myself struggling to find words that can describe these songs…Maybe the Yardbirds said it best when they said, “Over, Under Sideways, Down”, as it seemed like the band went EVERYWHERE!
Shining Star (Have a Listen: Shining Star)
Waiting for a Miracle
Simple Twist of Fate
Ain’t No Bread in the Breadbox
Don’t Let Go
Luck Old Sun (Have a Listen: Lucky Old Sun)
And with this show I ended my Live Experiences with Jerry Garcia…
I only saw him play live 6 times (2 with the Dead and these 4 with JGB) which by Deadhead standards is a very small amount, being that many Deadheads have seen HUNDREDS of shows. My tastes are very broad Musically and so I never was able to put all of my energy into seeing one artist tons of times…It was more important for me to see as many of the really good ones at least a handful of times.
Jerry Garcia was a superior musician and he played beautifully every time I was at one of his shows…I feel very Blessed to have seen and heard him as I did. When I listen to the Tapes of these shows now I am able to transport myself back in Time to the event, and if I close my eyes I can visualize the things that I saw. It has enriched my life greatly and I thank you for that Mr. Garcia…
JERRY GARCIA BAND DISCOGRAPHY:
1971 Hooteroll? (w/ Howard Wales)
1973 Live at Keystone (w/ Merl Saunders)
1978 Cats Under the Stars
1982 Run for the Roses
1988 Almost Acoustic (Live)
1991 Jerry Garcia Band (Live)
1991 Garcia Grisman
1993 Not For Kids Only (w/ Grisman)
1996 Shady Grove (w/ Grisman)
1997 How Sweet it is (Live)
1998 So What (w/ Grisman)
2001 Don’t Let Go (Live)
2001 Shining Star (Live)
2004 After Midnight (Live 1980)
2005 Garcia Plays Dylan (Live)
2009 Let it Rock (Live 1975)
2010 Ragged But Right