Grateful Dead Magazine Articles

Playboy Interview w/J. Garcia Pt. 6

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. 6, yep, this is loong!) by Ed McClanahan

"I don't have too much trouble with that kinda stuff, dealers and guys like that. Because I think there's thing to it, like bein' able to say, No, man, I don't feel like goin' on that kinda trip today. And when you learn how to do it, you just don't find yourself in those situations very often. And it's not necessarily to be putting somebody down, or even to be turning down some kind of energy exchange or whatever, it's just learning to assume that everybody can understand everything, and just tryin' to communicate with that principle always in mind. So I don't have too much trouble with those guys, actually... "


Anyhow, I didn't go to the San Jose Acid Test. But a few Saturday nights later I did make it over to a ratty old night club called Ben's Big Beat, in the mud flats beside the Bayshore Freeway for the Palo Alto Acid Test; and the what's-their-names, the Grateful Dead, they were there, too, Jerry Garcia plucking strange sonic atonalities out of his Magic Twanger, backed up by a pair of cherubic-looking boys named Phil Lesh, on bass guitar, and Bobby Weir, on rhythm guitar, and a drummer -- Bill Kreutzmann -- who looked so young and innocent and fresh-faced that one's first impulse was to wonder how he got his momma to let him stay out so late, and, mainly, this incredibly gross person who played electric organ and harmonica and sang occasional blues vocals -- Pigpen, someone said his name was -- beyond a doubt the most marvelously ill-favored figure to grace a public platform since King Kong came down with stagefright and copped out on the Bruce Cabot show. He was bearded and burly and barrel chested, jowly and scowly and growly, and he had long, Medusalike hair so greasy it might have been groomed with Valvoline, and his angry countenance glowered out through it like a wolf at bay in a hummock of some strange, rank foliage. He wore, as I recall, a motorcyclist's cap, crimped and crumpled Hell's Angel style, and heavy iron-black boots, and the gap between the top of his oily Levis and the bottom of his tattletale-gray T-shirt exposed a half-moon of a distended beer belly as pale and befurred as a wedge of moldy jack cheese. Sitting up there at that little spindly-legged organ, he looked enormous, bigger than life, like a gorilla at a harpsichord. But the ugly mother sure could play! To one as dull of ears as I, who'd always pretty much assumed that the only fit place for organ music outside of church was the roller rink, those ham-fisted whorehouse chords he was hammering out seemed in and of themselves to constitute the most satisfying sort of blasphemy. And sing! The way this coarse-voiced ogre snarled his unintelligible yet unfathomably indecent talkin'-blues phrases would curl the very Devil's codpiece; fathers of teenage daughters must have shuddered in their sleep as far away as Burlingame that night. Verily, he was wondrous gross, was this Pigpen; yet such was the subtle alchemy of his art that the more he profaned love and beauty, the more his grossness rendered him beautiful. "Far out!" the teeny-boppers and their boyfriends in Ben's Beat kept exclaiming while Pig worked. "Isn't he far f*ckin' out!" It was an expression I'd not run into before, but even at first hearing it seemed destined, if only for its commodious inexactness, to be with us f or a good long while. In any case, it accommodated Pigpen very nicely; he was indeed one far-out gentleman, no doubt about it, none at all.

Turn to Part 7. . .

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