Sunday Spotlight: Pure Jerry

This week, with Jerry Week in our rear view mirror, we moved on to a fresh new topic- forgiveness. It’s been a great week talking to people, hearing incredible stories of complete forgiveness (and maybe not so much) and more! Today in our featured Sunday Spotlight, we’re slipping back into music mode, and paying Jerry Week one final adieu until next year. Today we’re shining our (love)light on the band, Pure Jerry.

Pure Jerry brings to life the music and the spirit of the late Jerry Garcia.

Michael Morrow was kind enough to take time out to talk to me a little about the band.

purejerry1How did the band come to be the band- how did you wind up with your present lineup?
The band came together in 2012 after I had played for many years with a number of GD cover bands, reggae and jam bands on the road as a sideman. In 2010, I was playing with Steal Your Face, Splintered Sunlight, Grizful Dead on keyboards… just kinda lying low. Out of the blue I got the call from Melvin Seals and JGB to audition for the guitar spot. My friend (JGB bassist) Jimmy Tebeau contacted me after Stu Allen announced his departure. So I went out west and played but was passed over in favor of current guitarist Dave Hebert. Since I had done a few months of prep for that gig, a JGB style band seemed fun, interesting and timely. I just did not want to go back to being a hired player. Organist John Bigham is a huge Melvin fan and we knew just what to do. We have gone through a few lineup changes since our start but we recently settled into a solid group. Marci has been instrumental in helping me keep things together and get to where we have.

For those who might not know, what is your role in the band?
I play and sing the Jerry Garcia parts.

What sets you apart? Why should people come out and see Pure Jerry?
purejerry3The reason people should come and see us play is because we capture a sound that no longer exists. We have a lot in common with bands like Dark Star Orchestra, in so far as we bring a certain vibe of excellence without fakeness. Besides the modern version of JGB that everyone has heard, we also play Keystone era and classic rarities from the seventies and onward. For the discerning Deadhead, we are something different… a moment in time revisited. The music was the stuff Garcia really wanted to play and it has power. Our people just love what we do and they tell us all the time. We could not be happier.


And if people do want to come and check you out, what’s coming up next for you
?
Our next show is August 28th at World Cafe Live w/Karmic Repair Co. Then Aug 29th is a headlining spot at Wizfest in Laurens NY.

PURE JERRY is:purejerry2
Michael Morrow- Vocals, Guitar
Ivan Funk- Drum
John Bigham- Organ, Piano
Marci Segal- Vocals
Raija Madsen- Vocals
Keith Synder- Bass

For more information on upcoming gigs, band members or to see past set lists (trust me, they’re pretty cool), head over to their website www.purejerry.com and we hope to see you out at a show soon.

Sunday Spotlight…The Woodstock Trading Company

Today’s Sunday Spotlight is with Seth Glass of the Woodstock Trading Company in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. We thought this was an appropriate business to feature as we wrap up Jerry Garcia week. We discuss the start of their store, the culture, inspiration…and a couple of left turns.

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Tell me about Woodstock Trading Company. When did it open and what type of goods do you sell? What inspired the start of Woodstock Trading?
“It was on a lark, I guess. I was going to Dead shows, the first one was May 20th of 1984. It was in the Civic Center in Philly so there was no real parking lot scene. I really didn’t know how involved this whole thing was. When I finally went to a show at the Spectrum, there was a parking lot scene and I was like “this rabbit whole runs deep!” I felt a little in over my head, in a way. I was like “these cats are serious”. You kind of realize that, as odd looking as it is, it felt like I was at the Star Wars bar. Then there was this one gig I was gonna go to at the Spectrum, and all my friends bailed. So I said “Hey Ma, how would you like to go see the Grateful Dead?” In 1985 or 1986, whenever it was, she wasn’t the oldest person there. So it wasn’t that strange. I think the structure and nature of it, which at that time I was accustomed to…but somebody from elsewhere, it was like visiting a church ceremony. You feel like everybody seems to know what to do and when. It’s like going to Rocky Horror or something like that. You’re like…everybody’s cheering now for no reason that I understand….somebody says this certain word that everyone says “yay!”. She used to go with me all the time to the stores that were sort of like ours, even when I was too young to drive. None of us were really crazy about these stores. I liked a lot of what they had, but not crazy about the people that worked there. They were kind of slackers or they didn’t care. They were just rude or whatever. The stores themselves were kind of dirty and seedy. They sold a lot of drug paraphernalia and I don’t think any of us were that comfortable with that idea. Like if you want to sell incense and Grateful Dead T-shirts, that you have to have drug paraphernalia. We didn’t understand that. I forget where we were or what we were doing but she was like “What would be involved in starting up a store like that?” I didn’t know. I had no idea. I didn’t take her seriously. But she wanted to know where would we begin. I’m like “you wanna do this?!” She was serious. Meanwhile, she was running a medical practice that had 4 practices, a skin care company, pretty involved stuff. I said, “you’re gonna add this to your repertoire of things to do?” There was no internet, it was like 1986 at the time. So we started to look at Relics magazine and look at the classified ads. That’s all you had to go on. I started making phone calls and even visited the guys at Relics, which was a real experience. We slowly found sources for material. It wasn’t easy. You couldn’t go on Google and say “where does one get wholesale Grateful Dead shirts?” The phone book was our search engine. It was just a slow, organic process. We added things, things disappeared. And we were like “we’re kind of becoming a thing here!” We didn’t realize it, but people were showing up and saying “my friend’s in from Minnesota and we had to take him here”. We were like “we’re becoming a place to be?!” Then it became social where if the Grateful Dead was in town, people would meet here. They’d chat, talk and then go from there. We were becoming a hub of weirdness. People collected tapes, because that was a thing, and they were organizing meetings at our store. There’d be like 20 people there, socializing and talking about tapes. It was bizarre. Our intention, always, was that it was about family. We wanted parents to feel comfortable about their kids being here. We wanted a clean place. We’re not into the drug thing. We’re not against the “drug thing”, whatever you want to call it, we believe in legalizing and all that. But hey, go to a show sober. You’ll probably enjoy it more and remember more, it’ll cost you a lot less and you don’t have to endanger your or anyone else’s lives in the process. But just the idea that you can make a separation..that you can be into the Dead and not be a druggie. It carries a stigma; that if you’re into the Dead, you’re into drugs. Unfortunately, it shouldn’t be. But we also knew that the Grateful Dead thing then, wasn’t forever. We wanted to try and create something of a feeling like being in a parking lot of a Dead show but a lot cleaner (laughter). We always looked at the event of Woodstock, 1969, the concept of it, as being an illustration, a demonstration of the direction of youth culture. How they expressed themselves, the music, the words, the politics, and how they behaved at that event was indicative of its time. The same is true for all the other Woodstocks, and people argue “well, the last one there was a riot”. They were basically doing the same thing, illustrating youth culture at that time. Youth culture was reacting to a feeling of exploitation, as being looked at as people we have to sell to. And their response was, and I’m not saying their response was good, I don’t condone rioting, but nobody should be surprised. There they were, in August, with no cover, trying to be sold a bottle of water for 10 bucks. That’s how revolutions start. I don’t think it was right what they did, but I’m not surprised. It was an illustration of the direction of musical youth and culture at that time, just like it was in 1969, it was just different. We celebrate musical culture, not just music itself. The Grateful Dead…it’s really the fans. They’re just a band. It’s the fans that determine what the band is going to become.”

Who runs your store?
“My mother (Gladys) and myself (Seth) are partners. My father (Harvey) is a retired physician and is our shipping department, basically. We kind of amuse ourselves that we refer to ourselves as departments. It makes us feel corporate. There are other tasks that he helps us out with too. We have a HUGE collection of beads (we have more beads than a bead store) and he helps with that.”

So how many Grateful Dead shows have you been to?
“That’s some question. If I had to ballpark it, I’d guess somewhere between 60-70.”

Were they all local shows or did you travel?
“The furthest I went to was San Francisco for a New Years gig. We had a lot of people. We had people that said, “you’re coming to this this year, right? Then these tickets show up and we think we know who sent them. We went there to support some artists doing a meet and greet at the Psychedelic Shop. Great guys! Stanley Mouse, Elton Kelly, Rick Griffin, Victor Moscoso, all these really amazing cool cats. I kind of worked as a gopher, cause that’s what they needed really, and I guess security. Haha. That shows you what kind of a crowd they were getting. (Laughter) I was considered security. They needed a lot of help dealing with the signing and physical work of it. So they were like, “we get to see the Grateful Dead for New Years”. But most (shows) I went to were local. Two or three were at RFK and Washington, D.C. I just didn’t wanna travel. I don’t have the patience. I like to have my own bedroom, my own bathroom. Plus, when I meet people that go to a lot of shows, they’re really picky. It you go to too many shows, you become very critical and jaded. Like “Yeah, tonight was good but the shows up in Merriweather were better.” That’s all I hear from them. I’d be like, “Did you enjoy tonight?” They’re like “I guess”. It devalues the experience if you go to too many shows. Plus, I was in school. It was a pretty serious major so I couldn’t really travel. I also couldn’t find anyone who’s company I could really tolerate for a long period of time without me getting really annoyed with them and I didn’t wanna get ditched. Eventually, everybody gets on the other persons nerves at some point. I just don’t have the time or patience to travel. I love the tour heads to a point, but sometimes it just looks wasteful.”

What do you think made the Grateful Deads’ following so unique?
“I’ve wondered that and lulled some thoughts. They were the only band here in America, that not only survived the 60’s, but continued to thrive and grow through the 70’s, 80’s and even the 90’s. They were able to evolve musically. Like Jefferson Airplane, when you listen to them, sounds so dated. Pink Floyd evolved. But the whole circus that comes to town…they still are a band of the 60’s, and the people that listen to them try to hold onto the ideals of the 60’s. It was a decade that was highly romanticized. Probably too much so. We still had the Vietnam war, though the war brought out the best in some people. It made some people become political that otherwise wouldn’t have been. They recognized the value in life and how important our country is and how crappy our leadership is. We were complacent. Nobody thought about it until then. So, maybe the fact that they survived the time and maintained the ideal of the time while being apolitical. Up until very recently, the Grateful Dead were not a political band. They did not associate themselves with politicians, not even democrats. They didn’t support Greenpeace, PETA, any of these organizations. They were very careful what charities they associated with. The first one was probably Seva Foundation. Also Rex Foundation. They, as a result, didn’t turn anybody off. But why did they have their traveling “band”? They didn’t say “Hey, everybody follow us”, it just kind of happen. I guess it’s an organic process, where about 10-15 people got on a bus, followed them around and then needed another bus eventually. I’ve wondered myself. Not only why did it happen for them, but why hasn’t it happened since quite like that. It happened to Phish to a point, but they’re younger, the kids are a little crazier. They had a different set of ideals that didn’t quite mesh. I don’t know, it’s a weird thing. The band didn’t choose us, we chose them. You listen to the music and are like “This is good music. It’s interesting. It’s diverse.” During a concert you’re gonna get jazz, blues, rockabilly, reggae, old time music, blue grass, Yada Yada. But what core did it strike? It’s not obvious. Why did this tremendous furry flock develop? It’s a weird communal existence. There’s nothing like it. I don’t know how comfortable they were with it. I don’t know how I’d feel if I looked out into a parking lot, and I was in a band, and saw all this and they were here for me. I’d feel weird about it. I’d be nervous. “We created an army!?” The rock star thing in general I can’t imagine. What it’s like to walk around and see your face on somebody’s t-shirt. How weird would that be? It would spook me. That has to screw with your ego.”

Did you watch or listen to any of the Fare Thee Well shows?
“Yeah. I was actually very impressed. I didn’t go, I was a shlep. I’ve seen the Grateful Dead and I remember them as I remember them and am very satisfied with that. Even if I had the time and money to go, I probably wouldn’t. I just wanted to leave things the way they were. Plus, there were people that never saw the
Grateful Dead in any form, with or without Jerry, and I felt they should go. I’m always pissed off at a show, especially at a casino or something, and people got comped and they have better seats than I do and they don’t even wanna be there. But I was impressed. I was all prepared not to like Trey, but he did a very good job. He didn’t try too hard to sound too much like Jerry. He didn’t try to hard not to sound like Jerry either. It sounded really great. I had no particular expectation. There were some unpolished moments, but the Grateful Dead, and I think it was Bill Graham that said it “the Grateful Dead are not the best at what they do, there the only ones that do what they do”. It’s true. Sometimes they clunk, but you can’t avoid the clunks if you want the peaks. That’s it. Sometimes you’ll come home from a show and think they were really struggling and you get the tape later and listen to it and go “Where was I? This is good.”

What was your reaction and do you remember where you were when you heard the news of Jerry passing?
“It was a Tuesday or Wednesday and I was upstairs at the store. The phone rings and it was one of our attorneys at the time, who was a hard core head, and he was like “Jerry’s gone, ya know.” I didn’t know. He told me to put on the radio. I put on XPN and they were playing “Terrapin Station”. Then, I switched to another station and they were playing a Dead song. Every station I went to was playing a Dead song. It was real. We were just gonna close and put a black sash on the door and go home. I didn’t know what to do. It was like 9:00 in the morning. And then people just started showing up. The store wasn’t even open yet! There were like 100 people here. It turned into a thing. We became where everybody went. Nobody knew where to go, what to do. So we became the place where everybody congregated. We were like zombies. It was a weird experience. Nobody knew if they wanted company or to be alone. So, they kind of had both here. If they wanted to socialize, you could or if you just wanted to sit and stare, you could. We couldn’t close, even if we wanted to. If we did, they would just sit there on the front lawn.
I remember it well. It was surreal flipping through the stations and hearing nothing but Dead. To this day, if I hear two or three stations playing an artist, I think somebody just died.”

Your store sounds more like a culture than simply a store. What can people expect when they come to your store?
“Some of the veil has been lifted a little bit. When people walk into our store, they have no idea what we are. They just impulsively come in the store. Usually it’s somebody that says “I’ve been driving up and down route 70 for ten years and I’ve never come in here and decided that today’s the day”. They have no idea what to expect and so we get an interesting mix of reactions. A little bit of surprise, because of the humble exterior. It’s kind of like the kids in Willy Wonka when they came to the chocolate room. It’s tight and colorful and it’s sort of sensuous. Your senses are gonna be engaged immediately. You’ll hear whatever music we’re playing you’ll notice our incense (even if we’re not burning it you’ll still smell it), then you’ll start to see…how to describe it….an overgrown jungle of color and imagery. It’s a lot to take in at once. It takes people a few seconds to decompress from the gray world into ours. Then they actually will speak to us. Some people are really nervous! We get some people that feel like they’re really in over their head. Then they start speaking to us and realize that we’re pretty harmless people and we sometimes will have people that put up their defenses in the form of an offense and can be condescending and speak to us like we’re brainless hippies or whatever. We accidentally convince them that we’re not. We’re all over-educated. Our training is in chemistry and science, mine in chemistry and biology. They also assume our politics are extreme left of center, yet we own a business. (Laughter). After 26 years of business you’re gonna end up somewhere in the middle of left and right. Then of course we have people ask if we sell pipes. We never did. We know glass blowers, and we’re glass blowers ourselves, we know a lot of the pipe makers and we love them and they’re really cool cats and all that and I have nothing against “it” as such, but I just don’t want it here. Believe me, it’s hard to say no because it’s money. There’s good money in the pipes and it’s hard to resist. We’ve debated more than once, maybe we should, it could really help us monetarily, and the glass blowers would love to sell to us…”

Would you change your mind if marijuana was legalized?
“That’s a legitimate question. I don’t know. It would have to be federally legal, before I did that, not just in the state of New Jersey. But the problem is, we’d still have to check ID’s and the idea of having to do that, having to have a back room or separate room….I don’t know…it’s kind of weird.”

It’s been fun finding out about your store and what inspired the start of it, 26 years ago!
“I think it was just seeing the process of being at a Grateful Dead show, the call and response and that sort of feeling of unity that sparked something in my mom to think “I want to be part of this”. It has all of the trappings of what a really good religion or culture should have without too much of the elitist crap and restrictions and rules.”

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Address and website:
The Woodstock Trading Company, 1880 Rte 70 East, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
http://www.woodstocktradeco.com
Facebook: Woodstock trading company

This weeks poll results…

Thank you to those who participated in this weeks Grateful Poll. Here are the results:

1. Have you ever been to a Grateful Dead show?
I lost count: 66.67%
No: 16.67%
31-60 shows: 16.67%
11-30 shows: 0%
1-10 shows: 0%

Comments:
“1 show was in 1979 and last was 1994 I did about 25 per year”

“I didnt really lose count but its over 60 so that was the next option.”

“About 40 with Jerry and another 50 without.”

2. For the “Fare Thee Well” shows, did you:
None of the above: 42.86%
Watched a pay per view event, etc.: 28.57%
Listened to a stream: 28.57%
Go to California: 0%
Go to Chicago: 0%

Comments:
“Wish I could”

“got them on comcast”

“I was away on vacation”

“I would have loved to been there to see them live, but watching pay per view all three nights was good enough.”

“Didn’t wanna go with Trey playing guitar. Now I wish I had gone.”

3. Where were you when you heard the news of Jerry Garcia’s passing?
“tok ak”

“Sleeping in my bed. My mom came in and woke me and told me.”

“At work (worst job i ever held ) fitting, getting the worst news there”

“I was at work when I heard it on the radio. Very sad”

“i don’t know”

“At work. Thought someone was messing around cause they always did that to me. Put on WXPN to hear it was true.”

“Driving to San Jose”

4. What is your favorite Grateful Dead song?
“eyes of the world”

“Scarlet Begonias”

“all of them”

“There are too many to say. I heard “Sunrise” the other day at sunrise, and I was touched.”

“Truckin'”

“The other one- comes a time”

It’s Not Just About the Grilled Cheese: The Music and Magic of The Grateful Dead Scene

Earlier we talked to someone who shared her thoughts about what it was like to be “on tour” with the band. What it was like in the lot, what they did to earn a living and more. Today we talked to someone about being “on tour” with a focus on what was going on on the inside– of the venue and the person. Thanks to Willie for today’s interview. Willie currently resides in Colorado and shared his perspective on the music, magic and mayhem of the life of a Deadhead.

Have you always been a deadhead? How did you get into the music (and the scene)?
jeryygaricaThere was a period of time that I actively resisted the Grateful Dead. When I was 14 or 15 I entered a “folk music phase.”  Tired of all the Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Yes, Genesis stuff that my brothers were feeding me, I started getting into Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and bluegrass big time, so I was beginning to lean that way. I was a regular at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. I got a copy of Old and In The Way but for whatever reason I didn’t give the GD a chance, though I was certainly hearing the music.  Whenever I listened to bootlegs, it all just sounded like a bunch of tinkling noises and shitty vocals.
Somewhere along the line, I got a copy of Europe ’72 and I fell in love with Jack Straw, China>Rider and Brown-eyed Women among other songs. My first show was Hartford 10/15/1983 where they played St Stephen. I didn’t know that was a big deal and I certainly did not  “get it” but a few songs sounded familiar, even though I’d not heard them. I started listening to tapes and other records like Wake of the Flood and by the time of the shows at the Philadelphia Civic Center in the spring of 84 rolled around, I had some expectations regarding the performance and a year later I was pretty into it.

When was your last show?
My last show was Riverport Ampitheater 7/6/1995. A grade school friend and I (he played the first GD I ever heard, Steal Your Face, when I was 11 years old) met in St. Louis. We’d known each other since 4th grade and it was the first time we ever saw them together. The scene was a mess, the Deer Creek gate-crashing, cancellation etc, had just happened and there were death threats on Jerry. They kept the house lights up all night at one of those Riverport shows and had us go through metal detectors both nights. Jerry looked sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I could tell, in one form or another, was near. Jerry dying hadn’t really crossed my mind.

Did you stop seeing them (in various incarnations) altogether when Jerry died? 

Honestly, when Jerry died, I didn’t go see ANY music at all for almost a year. It really took the wind out of me. Not because my identity was so wrapped up in being a Deadhead, but because I had been measuring most music against the Dead for so long, that nothing else seemed that enjoyable. I know now that was probably bullshit and I was having some sort of low-grade depressive response to him dying.
I wasn’t listening to the GD that much in the following years. In like 2000 or 2001 I  had about 10 tapes I unearthed and I played the crap out of them but I was never much of a tape collector so I didn’t have a lot to listen to.
At first, I wasn’t interested in any of the follow-up bands but eventually I did start to go see them. I saw Phil and Friends five or six times, the first time in 2003 (The Tower Theater a couple days after Thanksgiving in 2003 was fun, Phish was in town that weekend too) I saw The Dead at Red Rocks in 2004 and again in Denver in 2009. I saw Furthur five or six times too. I thought that Furthur was a “good product.”  I enjoyed them a lot, especially the songs that the GD did not generally play. I mean hearing the full Terrapin suite was pretty cool and it didn’t matter that Jerry wasn’t part of it.  It was nice to hear the music played well by musicians who had obviously practiced. I guess that’s what happens when your band leader is not a heroin-addicted fuck-up. I mean, in music I give Jerry an A+. In money, drugs and women, I give him a D, maybe even an F.

11824085_10207659341748304_1574087150_nWhat kind of impact do you think Jerry had on you/ your life/the path you’ve taken? 
Well, there were a lot of responsibilities that I blew off to go see the Grateful Dead, but that’s not on Jerry, that’s on me. It would be dishonest of me to blame anyone else. I don’t know that Jerry or the GD has had an impact on the path I’ve taken, but I’d say that other Deadheads did. I still treat the world with a sort of laid-back hippy sensibility that I picked up hanging out with Deadheads, but cause too, is debatable.

I think if there was one thing that I learned from Jerry/GD it was to live in the moment and that the moment can never be brought back.

Did you want to elaborate on that?
There would be times when the music was great and I’d be dancing or just letting the music blow through me or whatever and I’d think to myself, “How are they able to do this? Make this sound?”  It was as if it were some kind of chamber recital or something. “It really can’t get any better than this can it?”  And at that, the music would climb still higher and reach some sort unimaginable holy-shit kind of level. “This can’t really be happening can it?”

I would be stupefied. I could no longer dance or even move in response to the music and I would just stand still with my eyes closed and my face toward the sky, unable to understand how they were able to create this THING. It would bring me to tears, and I would think to myself, “Just savor this, taste it, let it wash over you because it’s going to last in THIS MOMENT and then it will be over. If your lucky, you’ll have other moments like this one, but THIS ONE is gone.”  In this way, I learned how to live in the moment, whether it is good or bad. When I am spiritually fit, I try to let things wash over me and give myself permission to feel the feelings that are appropriate to that situation, good or bad. I really learned that while standing in hockey rinks, stadiums, amphitheaters, soccer fields and county fairgrounds all over the country and I am so, so grateful for that.

An excellent perspective if you ask me.

On Tour: A Former Follower of the Grateful Dead Recounts Tales From the Tour for Jerry Week.

You’d see them at every show. If you’ve been to dead shows, you’ve seen the droves of “tour heads”- people who made their living, their home, on the road with the Grateful Dead. Or maybe you’d just see them on the news when the Dead rolled through your town? Perhaps you heard about your neighbor’s nephew who blew off his scholarship to UConn to sell “Kynd Veggie Burritos”? Ever wonder how they did it? Why they did it? Or what they’re doing now?
We’ve got one story from the golden era of the good ol’ Grateful Dead….

tourticketWhen was yotourur first dead show?
July 30th, 1983. It was in Ventura California.

What’s the farthest you’ve traveled from your hometown to see the band?
That was actually probably the farthest from home I ever saw them, although technically I didn’t travel from my hometown to “see the band”. I was on vacation with my family. We were visiting my cousins. My cousin Jill was a deadhead and actually had an extra ticket to the show. I think I was maybe 14. She was 19. My parents reluctantly let me go with her and her boyfriend at the time. I think they still regret making that call (laughter).

You obviously caught the “bug”. Was it an instant thing once you got to that show?
I loved it right away. And I mean I can’t even say that I was a casual fan or I know a few songs from the radio. I literally had never heard a dead song in my life. I mean, I’m sure I heard Casey Jones or Truckin’ or something somewhere along the way, but literally went in with no clue. Not a clue.

So, did you intend to see them again?
I intended to go home and buy all their records. I intended to go home and find out when they’d be in my area. I intended to do whatever I could to make myself a part of what I had just experienced.

What was the next time you were able to see them?
Well, I was in 9th grade so my parents were not exactly on board. I definitely adopted the lifestyle. My clothes changed, my friends changed, the summer between 9th and 10th grade, I turned into a complete deadhead. But my parents wouldn’t let me go to any shows. It wasn’t until I was a senior, yes a fucking senior, that they agreed to let me go. And I know you’re thinking, why didn’t you just go anyway? But I was actually a total goodie two shoes when it came to stuff like that. But anyway, I talked them into letting me go to Hershey (in 85), and my older sister and my cousin went with so they couldn’t say anything. After that I knew that as soon as I turned 18, I was gone. I did the whole summer of 86 tour with Dylan and Petty. And pretty much every spring, summer, and fall tour from 86-95 after that.

So, how many dead shows would you say you’ve gone to (whether or not you got in)?
I wish I would have kept stubs for everything so I had an exact number. I know a lot of deadheads keep count, most probably. I never did. My best guess though is about 300. Although now that you said whether or not I got in, I’m gonna say it is more than that. We worked the lot for a lot of those so we didn’t go in to every show we went to.

So 300 you went inside for and many more that you did not.
Right.

When you say you “worked the lot”, what did you do?tourrfk
We (my 2 friends and long time tour buddies from high school) started out selling vegan banana bread and bottles of water. We eventually started selling beer. There was more money to be made there. We used to sell Sammy Smith’s Oatmeal Stouts. Wow. I haven’t seen one of those in forever. We sold Pale Ale’s and a few others too. We may or may not have sold “other” things along the way, but we kept it as legit as possible for the most part. My friend Gin did hair wraps. She did them for years and years and years. If you ever got hair wraps on dead lot, there’s a good chance Gin gave you one.


And that was enough money to sustain you?

Definitely. We had a good system. The first 2 or 3 shows of the tour, we’d sleep in the van. We’d shoot to get in to 2 out of tourpicsevery 3 shows. Sometimes we’d do straight up trades for tickets. Other times we’d just try to make enough cash to get in at least 2 nights out every 3 night run, and in the summer, we’d basically shoot to get into very stadium show. Easier to get in, plus it’s usually one at a time, so why bother heading to that town if you’re not gonna go in. Not like they’ll be another show there the next night (usually). After sleeping in the van for a couple of nights, on an off night, a travel day or a night we didn’t get in, we’d get a motel. Shower, do laundry, count money, get supplies, all that. We definitely had a good run. Never went more than a week without showering or washing clothes and stuff. I know a week probably sounds like a long time right? (laughs) Trust me, it’s not when you’re on tour!
So, how did you typically travel from show to show?tourbus
In our van. It was Gin’s brother’s van. He sold it to us for really cheap when he went away to school. We didn’t even use it for a year because we were still in school. We saved money and fixed it up. We pulled out the back seats and put a bed set up and like these drawer like things. And a little fridge. There was only 3 of us like 75% of the time, so it was perfect.

What about the other 25%?
Well, we’d have people come out with us occasionally. Sometimes we’d meet people who needed rides or whatever. I know it sounds unsafe, but back then it was quite different. We’d give somebody a ride from like Foxboro to Buffalo for like 10 bucks and some pot and maybe some of whatever they were making or selling. It was very communal, very barter system-esque.

If you were living “on tour” what were you doing in the “off-season” (the few times a year when there was no shows and no GD tour)?
There wasn’t much of an off-season. People think of the 3 tours a year. But they always played west coast shows in preparation for their tours so you’d have those, plus the Chinese New Year run, the New Year’s shows, there were Jerry band shows. I think we’d spend time at the beach or in the mountains. You know like at the end of a tour we might say, let’s take off to Santa Cruz and hang there for a few weeks until it’s time to head out for wherever. I myself went home every year I was on tour from Thanksgiving until like a day or two after Christmas.

What did your family think about it?
Um, they had a lot of real concerns at first. They were pretty pissed. But they did come around. They were grudgingly agreeable for the first couple of years. By the time I had been on tour for 5 or 6 years it was like old news. They worried like all parents do, but they would have done that if I was away at college or backpacking through Europe or whatever it would be. It even got to the point where they’d tell our relatives where I actually was instead of on vacation with my girlfriends or visiting friends in whatever state I might be in at the time.

Why did you do it? What made it worthwhile?
The music drew me in instantly. The people. The sights and the smells were intoxicating, literally and figuratively. I saw Jerry on that stage and I felt alive. I felt like I was literally flying around outside of my body and watching myself have an amazing time. And I was totally sober in that moment. After that it just became my way of life. Like anyone else has a daily routine, a way that they live, that was my way. It was worthwhile because I was happy. I was traveling and working and seeing amazing music and thinking for myself, and problem solving and doing all the things anyone else does, just in a different environment, and dare I say, having a hell of a lot more fun in the process! I learned so much. I met so many people. I saw so many things, so many sights and so many beautiful places.

 How did your life change when Jerry passed away?
The summer 95 tour was pretty bad. I mean, as far as Jerry looking just exhausted. But also because the vibe was so crappy. People on the lot were getting robbed on the regular by other people on the lot. You didn’t know who to trust. There was thistourvigil infiltration of kids who were not there for the right reasons at all. I think the scene was imploding. And I think it kind of had to. Between Jerry’s health and the gate crashers, and the accidents, and the drugs, I mean like hard drugs that were all over that had never been a noticeable issue before (at least not with our crowd), it was just a downward spiral. The band had so many people relying on them. I think Jerry dying was the only way it could have, or would have ended. For me personally, I was crushed. Gin and Stacey and I came home after Chicago and planned to do wash and hang out with our other friends and families and head out for fall tour. When the news came down we were shocked and crushed but not like surprised, if that makes sense. We took like a week or two to just talk and figure stuff out. Stacey decided to sell all her stuff and movie to Santa Cruz. She still lives there actually. She got married and works in some art studio or gallery out there as a receptionist. She has 2 kids. Gin and I stayed in Jersey. I went back to school in 97. I went to Temple and got a teaching degree. I wasn’t even sure what I was going to do. I would up moving to Costa Rica and teaching english in a little school that was run by a guy that I used to know from tour. Crazy small world, right? I lived there for 3 years. That’s where I met my husband. Things changed a lot after Jerry died, for all of us. Gin kind of stayed in that tour life. She gravitated towards the Phish scene and some other jam bands. I’d see her at shows from time to time. I haven’t seen her in probably 10 years now though. I’ve tried to find her. She’s not on Facebook or anything.

If you could go back and do it all again, is there anything you’d change?
Probably not. I might have tried better to keep in touch with friends from tour after Jerry died. I mean, I spent years with those people. Literally every day in close quarters. For a decade. And when Jerry died, it all just went poof! I can’t say I’d change much else. It was a great life while it lasted!

Jerry Week…A Personal, Behind the Scenes Account of the Man and the Band…

Today we are bringing you an interview with John, who worked with the Grateful Dead for 9 years. Read on as he shares some of his memories with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead.

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You have a special connection to the Grateful Dead that we’d love for you to share. What is it you did and how did it come to pass?
“I was a personal assistant for the band from 1987 to 1995, when Jerry died. Then I did a couple of music festivals for them. I did a couple of years with “The Other Ones”. First, I drove the catering truck. They had their own caterers. They were one of the first bands to have their own caterers. I was a runner for Electric Factory Concerts. So, every time they came into town, they would request me. One time, it was Bill Kreutzmann’s birthday at the Spectrum and they were gonna have a party after the show and they wanted me to bartend in the bands dressing room. So I did. It happened to be one of those nights I had the one liners blowin and I was just on. I had everyone laughing. Afterwards, the person that was in charge of catering asked me if I wanted a job. I couldn’t take it right away because I was paying my way through Temple. After the next semester at Temple I called the guy up and it just so happened that he needed someone to drive the catering truck. So, I did that the first tour. By the end of the tour, I was onstage with Dave, who was hired to tour before me as a personal assistant to the band. It was just too much for one person so they asked me if I wanted to do that in between driving the truck to and from, to help Dave out. A year later, they said, “We’re gonna get someone else to drive the truck. You’re on the bus now. We want you guys to be the ones taking care of the band.” It was everything from “send a runner out to get me this CD” to “I’ll take number 6 from the menu. And here’s my guests and they all want to order from the menu.” I was in charge of the backstage alcohol for a number of those years so any guests of the band were introduced to me and they would have to find me to get beer or vodka, whatever, any kind of alcohol. I met a lot of celebrities that way. It was kinda cool. One of my main jobs was filling the bags for the band and crew members each night. Before the show, I’d walk around with my little notebook and find out what they wanted to take back to the hotel room each night; orders off the menu, alcohol, non-alcoholic drinks. We pretty much stocked their hotel rooms for them each night. During the second set, I’d fill these bags for them and then as they’d leave I’d be standing there by the van handing their bags off to them.”

Were there ever odd requests?
“Always. One time, after Jerry’s coma, they brought in a separate chef. So there was the one chef that would just cook traditional menu items. The other chef was cooking non-fat items. It was mostly for Jerry but they made it available for everybody so he wouldn’t seem so singled out. He would order off that menu each night but then he’d pull me aside and say “I want two meatball sandwiches, two hot dogs. Stick them all the way at the bottom of the bag.” He cheated on his diet with me more than a few times. When he did die, his publicist said it was too many hot dogs and milkshakes. I felt pretty bad about that. But I realized if I didn’t do it, somebody else was gonna do it. I was just doing what he asked me to do. I had a really good relationship with Jerry. I only remember him raising his voice once. That’s when the death threats happened on the last tour and he was scared. He didn’t raise it (his voice) at me, he raised it to the head of security. That’s the only time I ever remember him raising his voice.”

Had you been a fan of theirs prior to working with them?
“I was. I had seen exactly 50 shows before I got the job. And then I probably worked about 400 shows.”

What an opportunity! There you are, working with the band you paid to see 50 times! People I’ve spoken to in the past have said that they became disappointed in the celebrity or band or what have you, that they love after meeting them. That it jaded them. Did you have that experience?
“No. Because I became friends with them. And I never really acted like a fan. I always put on a professional face. I smiled a lot, the first year. They were always like “why are you smiling so much?” “I’m just happy to be here man!” If I showed my cards at all, it was that. But other than that, I talked to them about everything but music. Jerry and I had some pretty awesome conversations about random stuff.”

If you had to describe Jerry to someone that may read this who became a fan later or doesn’t know much about the band or Jerry, in particular, what would you say?
“He was way more cerebral and intellectual than he appeared. Conversations with other people that I overheard…he was a pretty intelligent guy. If your parents were to see a picture of them performing and they see the beard, being overweight, they’d think “this guy’s a mess”. He really wasn’t. He was a really intelligent guy.”

Any favorite stories you have that you want to share?
“There’s a million of them. There’s one where Jerry would like to call me a different name every day. It was about my third year in when he finally trusted me enough to have me in their little area other than to just take an order or something. I did a few Garcia band tours. I would clean up his dressing room when he went on stage, put his stuff away for him. He saw that I was the guy doing that and he started trusting me. I don’t know if he had had problems in the past. After that, he would just start bustin on me. That’s how you know someone really likes you, if they mess with you a lot. If they don’t like you, they’re not gonna mess around with you. So, after that first tour, he’d call me a different name every day. And he’d stick with that name all day long, remember that he’s calling me Jake or whatever. That whole tour, he was in such a great mood.
I’ll never forget he told me one time (during that tour) “I want you to dig a hole six feet deep. Stick a live, raw pig in there. Cover it back up. Light it on fire and let that fire burn for three days. Pull the pig out, strip away the skin, take the meat out, and I want that on two pieces of sour dough bread that you fly in from San Francisco.” He went through this whole thing and I’m standing there like “are you serious!?” His guy, Steve, was standing there saying “what are you waiting for? Go do it!” So he used to mess with me a lot. (Laughter)

There’s a little curtain wall in back of the stage, like little stage dressing rooms, on stage. Each band member had their own except for Bobby and Jerry. They shared one. I would go in there sometimes to get their bag or before they went onstage because they were the hardest ones to track down. Everybody else I could find to get their bag orders before they were ready to go onstage. They (Bobby and Jerry) would wait till the last minute, sometimes they would separate and I would have to catch them. Bob Weir would purposely stand in my way with his guitar so I’d have to stand in there till they took the stage. I caught a lot of stuff. I was the fly on the wall when they were deciding what to play, say stupid things, just messing around before they went on stage. Bob would get a kick out of that. He’d make sure I couldn’t leave for a while cause he knew I was so uncomfortable and nervous. I just wanted to get out of there. They’d see and read that and he’d stand there and not let me get by.”

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I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have the opportunity to get to know my favorite band on such a personal level. It must be surreal.
“It’s pretty cool. It was some of the best years of my life.  I asked for a raise my second year in and they gave it to me and gave me a raise every single tour after that. So I would do anything for them.”

That had to build so much confidence in you to go on and pursue the business you have for yourself now. (A catering company for many live entertainers)
“I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I hadn’t had those years. People are wired differently, I feel. I often called that my boot camp. I learned how to work 18 hour days and get up and do it again the next day. I learned how to deal with different personalities really closely and adjust yourself and your conversation to adapt to those personalities. I think that gets you far in life. I look back on all those years as teaching me how to maneuver through life. It’s been pretty good so far.”

A Grateful Poll…

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