Thursday, August 10, 2006

Eli Polonsky 8/9/06 - Annual Jerry Garcia Memorial Tribute

Jerry Garcia passed away of heart failure at age 53 on August 9, 1995. Every year around this time I do a tribute show, and try to present some glimpses from his incredible musical career spanning over three decades.

Bed/talkover music: Jerry Garcia - Love's Theme (1969)
A solo instrumental piece commissioned for the soundtrack of Antonioni's 1970 "hippie" cult film "Zabriskie Point", which is the only release on which it ever appeared.

01. Bobby Freeman - Do You Want To Dance (1958)
Although it's not included in any authorized biographies or discographies of Jerry Garcia or The Grateful Dead, there are published interviews with people who knew Jerry early on such as his early 60's folk bandmate David Nelson, future bassist Phil Lesh, and first wife Sarah Ruppenthal Garcia claiming that, when he was in high school, a teenage Jerry Garcia was the guitarist on this Billboard #5 hit for this Bay Area Rock'n'Roll/R&B singer very shortly after receiving his first guitar. If this is true, it would make the solo in this song Jerry Garcia's first legitimately recorded piece of guitar work, one that he did not include among his accomplishments.

However, there are also those who refute this claim, including legendary oldies DJ and reissue producer Little Walter DeVenne who claims that Freeman originally sent a demo with vocal, percussion and piano but with no guitar or bass to Jubilee Records in New York, where those instruments were added by session musicians. The liner notes inside a Bobby Freeman reissue CD seem to correlate a similar story. So, who knows what really happened here? I'm certainly not in a position to make any definite judgments, but without any mention in any "official" histories, it seems very unlikely that the guitar solo in the hit song as released was actually by Garcia.

02. Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions - Overseas Stomp (1964)
The only legitimately released recordings of any of Jerry's many folk and acoustic projects in the early 60's, this jug band also included future Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan. It was released on Grateful Dead Records in 1999.

03. The Emergency Crew - I Can't Come Down (1965)
This was from a pre-Grateful Dead six-song demo recorded but not released by Autumn Records in November, 1965 under a temporary name assumed between having to relinquish the name "The Warlocks" due to another band with that name, and before discovering the name "Grateful Dead" just the next month. It was eventually released in 1999 in the Grateful Dead box set "So Many Roads", and then remastered with improved fidelity in the Grateful Dead box set "The Golden Road" released in 2001.

04. Jefferson Airplane - Comin' Back To Me (1966)
05. Jefferson Airplane - Today (1966)
Arguably the best love ballads of the original psychedelic era, these two Marty Balin songs recorded in November 1966 for the Airplane's breakthrough second album "Surrealistic Pillow" include Garcia on guitar. Due to the Grateful Dead's new contract with Warner Brothers when this album was released by RCA in spring 1967, he could not be credited as a musician, but he was saddled with an album jacket credit that he would go on to categorically deny, "Spiritual Advisor".

06. The Grateful Dead - Dark Star (1969)
This live version of Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia's psychedelic epic was recorded on April 27, 1969 in Minneapolis, during the era which many consider to be the peak of the Dead's acid jamming period. It was released in 2002 on Volume 26 of the "Dick's Picks" series of archival concert recordings from the Grateful Dead's vaults.

07. The Grateful Dead - St. Stephen/Not Fade Away Medley (1970)
This classic pairing of Hunter/Garcia psychedelia melding into a high-energy rave-up Buddy Holly jam is from the free outdoor concert performed at MIT's Kresge Plaza on May 6, 1970 amidst an anti-war rally on a national day of campus protest following the killing of four Vietnam War protesters by National Guard troops at Kent State University in Ohio two days earlier. MIT's college station WTBS (now WMBR) had a mono patch from the soundboard and recorded the performance to reel. The tape has been in the radio station archives since then, and in 2000 it was digitally remastered by David Gans, producer/host of the nationally syndicated Grateful Dead Hour.

08. Brewer and Shipley - Oh, Mommy (I Ain't No Commie) (1971)
This song from the folk-rock duo's Tarkio album was their only song including Jerry Garcia, who played on pedal steel. The original album listed the guest musicians, but did not specify on which tracks any of them appeared. This led to a widespread erroneous assumption that Garcia played on the Billboard #10 hit song from the album "One Toke Over The Line", but he didn't.

9. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Teach Your Children (1969)
(Note: Neil Young did not perform on this track of the album).
Recorded in October 1969 and released on CSNY's Deja Vu album in 1970, this was the song including guitar work by Jerry Garcia which has gotten the most radio airplay over the past four decades. Though the Grateful Dead's 1987 top ten hit "Touch Of Grey" attained a higher chart position, "Teach Your Children" has had much more cumulative airplay on radio stations of a variety of formats, and it continues to be widely played today. Jerry plays the classic pedal steel track.

10. David Crosby - Laughing (1971)
This gem from Crosby's overlooked and underrated masterpiece album "If I Could Only Remember My Name" includes Jerry on an ethereal pedal steel, as well as musical backup by Phil Lesh, Billy Kreutzmann and vocals from Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell. As gorgeous and pristine as psychedelia ever got.

11. Jerry Garcia Band - Dear Prudence (1990)
This Beatles cover is a nice example of the latter day Jerry Garcia Band, released in 1991 on the live 2-CD album "Jerry Garcia Band". Backing musicians were John Kahn, Melvin Seals and David Kemper, backing vocals Gloria Jones and Jackie LaBranche.

12. The Grateful Dead - So Many Roads (1995)
From Jerry Garcia's last public performance at the very last Grateful Dead concert on July 9, 1995 at Soldiers Field, near Chicago IL., one month to the day before he passed on. Starkly expressing the weariness and pain Jerry was feeling by this time, this song is the only legitimately released piece of music from that concert, included as the title track of the "So Many Roads" box set in 1999.

I wish I had more time for more of Jerry's career. I used up my Digital Millennium Copyright Act allotment of four Grateful Dead songs, but I still could have played more Jerry Garcia solo work and accompanying work as a sideman, if I had more time. Well, it was what it was, and I hope you enjoyed it.
See you at the shows, and back on the airwaves in October!
Eli Polonsky


Blogger irenie said...

Hey there Eli,
Sounds like a wonderful show!
Wish I couldve heard it.
Take care-

1:32 PM  

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