Grateful Dead Magazine Articles

Playboy Interview w/J. Garcia Pt. 4

Collected from
Back Previous Bus Stop Forward (Beth Dyer)
Organization: University of California; Santa Cruz
Reprinted without permission from Playboy, March 1972...

GRATEFUL DEAD I HAVE KNOWN (pt. 4) by Ed McClanahan

SCENE: The Dead's business office in San Rafael, where Bob Hunter, the Dead's lyricist, has just been telling everybody about a friend recently returned form a trip to Cuba. Enter Ramrod, one of the band's equipment handlers.

HUNTER: Hey, you know who So-and-so talked to? Fidel Castro!

RAMROD: Yeah? Far out! How'd he get his number?


Now the first time I ever saw Jerry Garcia was in midwinter 1965, in Ken Kesey's house up in La Honda. I'm lounging around Kesey's living room, see, and this extraordinarily curious looking party comes shuffling through. In point of fact, he's the very first true freak I've ever laid eyes on, this somewhat rotund young man with a hairdo like a dust mop dipped in coal tar, and after he's gone Kesey says that was Jerry Garcia, he's got a rock'n'roll band that's gonna play with us this Saturday night at the San Jose Acid Test, their name is the Warlocks but they're gonna change it to the Grateful Dead.

At the time, to tell the truth, I wasn't exactly galvanized with excitement by this bit of news; after all, only a few Saturday nights before that I'd attended what I've since some to regard as the Olde original Acid Test, a curiously disjointed but otherwise perfectly ordinary party at Kesey's house featuring nothing more startling than an abundance of dope and a drunken Berkeley poet who kept loudly reciting Dylan Thomas and, at midnight (hours after I'd gone home, adept as ever at missing the main event), the ritual sacrifice and subsequent immolation of a chicken.

But what I didn't know then was that 400 people would turn up for the San Jose Acid Test, which beget the Palo Alto Acid Test, which beget the Fillmore Acid Test, which beget the Trips Festival, which beget Bill Graham, who (to hear him tell it, anyhow) beget Life As We Know It Today. Still, like I said, I couldn't possibly have know that at the...

Michael Lydon (in Rolling Stone) on Jerry Garcia: "Some call Jerry a guru, but that doesn't mean much; he is just one of those extraordinary human beings who looks you right in the eyes, smiles encouragement and waits for you to become yourself. However complex, he is entirely open and unenigmatic. He can be vain, self-assertive and even pompous, but he doesn't fool around with false apology. More than anything else he is cheery -- mordant and ironic at times, but undauntedly optimistic. He's been through thinking life is but a joke, but it's still a game to be played with relish and passionately enjoyed. Probably really ugly as a kid --lumpy, fat-faced and frizzy-haired -- he is now beautiful, his trimmed hair and beard a dense black aureole around his beaming eyes. His body has an even grace, his face a restless eagerness, and a gentleness, not to be confused with 'niceness,' is his manner. His intelligence is quick and precise and he can be devastatingly articulate, his dancing hands playing perfect accompaniment to his words."

Turn to Part 5. . .

Back Previous Bus Stop Forward