Grateful Dead Magazine Articles

Playboy Interview w/J. Garcia Pt. 7

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. 7) by Ed McClanahan

Summertime, midmorning, and I'm sitting in the living room of what was then Jerry Garcia and Bob Hunter's house, under the redwoods up a canyon in Larkspur, 15 or 20 miles north of San Francisco, sitting there in an old easy chair reworking my notes on last night's three sets at the Fillmore ("An Evening with the Grateful Dead," the show is titled, and Jerry played all three sets, straight through from 8:30 until nearly two a.m., two sets with the Dead and one with the country-cousin stablemates the New Riders of the Purple Sage, and will do the same tonight and again tomorrow night, yet while he's playing he looks as if he could happily go on forever). While I'm sitting there, Jerry, yawning and stretching and scratching like a freshly dehibernated bear, is puttering around the stereo in search of a record by a vocalist he's so far identified only as "my favorite girl singer," and Jerry's lady, Mountain Girl (a great, gorgeous creature, an Amazon's Amazon, a Valkyrie with raven tresses, the sort of awesome, Venus-of-Willendorf beauty who inspires me to pure press-agent flackery, the "one-hundred-sixty-pounds-of-eye-poppin'-pulchritude" school of prose) ... ahem ... and as I was saying, Mountain Girl is banging around in the kitchen fixing breakfast for me and Jerry and Hunter (who is right now standing in the doorway blinking myopically behind his enormous, sleep- frazzled Pecos Pete mustache), and Hunter's lady, Christy, is out back playing with Jerry and Mountain's two kids, and Jerry, dark eyes suddenly aglint behind his dandelion-yellow-tinted glasses, hollers "Eureka!" or "Aha!" or whatever and plunges his hand wrist-deep into a disordered stack of albums and comes up with ... no, no, not Joplin, not Grace Slick, not Joni Mitchell or Joan Baez or Laura Nyro, not even Tina Turner or Big Mama Thornton, but ... Dolly Parton?

Who'da thought it? Who'd ever have supposed that the favorite girl singer of the spiritual leader of the Heaviest Rock'n'Roll Band in the Known World would turn out to be my favorite girl singer ... Dolly Parton, the fairest wildflower that ever bloomed in Tennessee, the best female country vocalist since the prime of Kitty Wells? Far --how do you say? -- flung! Far f*ckin' flung!

Jerry's at the turntable now flipping switches and adjusting dials, blowing invisible dust off the record with French maid fastidiousness, delicately plucking up the tonearm, catching it the way one might pick up a small but outraged serpent, with two fingers just at the base of the skull, gingerly almost to the point of reverence, and a moment later the room is filled with the exquisitely melancholic strains of Dolly Parton's mourning-dove-with-a-broken-wing voice, keening,

"In this mental insti-too-shun,
Lookingo ut through these arn bars..."

It's her beautiful "Daddy Come and Get Me," about a girl whose husband has had her committed ("to get me out of his way"), and when Dolly comes to the lines "It's not my mind that broken/ It's my heart," Jerry Garcia, standing limned in soft morning sunlight before the arched front window, turns to me and... remember now, this is the Jerry Garcia, Captain Trips himself, the same Jerry Garcia who only 12 hours earlier utterly blew out 3000 of the most jaded, dope-devastated heads ever assembled even at the Fillmore (Dead fans are notorious in that regard) ... that Jerry Garcia turns to me and clasps his hands to his breast and rolls his eyes after the goofy, ga-ga fashion of a lovesick swain and utters an ecstatic little moan and swoons into the nearest chair... and for the next half hour, while our breakfast turns cold in the kitchen, he and Hunter and I sit there in the living room tokin' on a taste of Captain Trips' morning pipe and groovin' on Sweet Dolly's bucolic threnodies about lost loves and dying lovers and stillborn babes, and by the time her last words ("O Robert! O Robert!") fade into silence, I swear to God there's not a dry eye in the room....

Turn to Part 8. . .

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