Grateful Dead Magazine Articles

Playboy Interview w/J. Garcia Pt. 9

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. 9) by Ed McClanahan

"An Evening with the Grateful Dead," Fillmore West, first set, raw Official Accuracy Reporter notes considerably refined and amplified after the fact: The Acoustic Dead lead off, Bill the Drummer and the three guitars (all acoustic, no electronic augmentation) and Pig, his electric organ temporarily supplanted by an old upright piano-they open w. Cumberland Blues, much fine bluegrassy gittar pickin', good downhome lyrix like "a lotta po' man got de cumberland blooze/ he cain't win for looo-zin'"-sounds like it came straight out of Appalachia (didn't tho-Hunter wrote it) -- Jerry sings it just rite, his husky tenor a power-thru-gentleness sort of trip, almost unnaturally soft but with kind of lilting gulp that makes me think of Lefty Frizzell or the way Hank Williams sings Honky Tonk Blues-JG's voice's sweetness belies its tuffness, and is in perfect counterpoint to the uncompromising pessimism of Hunter's lyrix-seems to me the Dead are carrying their years in this meatgrinder racket really well, aging gracefully-Bobby Weir still has the face of a debauched Renaissance choirboy, beautifully modeled features, there are moments when he looks like a dissolute 12-yr-old-when does backup vocals for JG (or solo, as on Truckin' and several others) he sings in a voice not quite his own, the kind of voice that skims across the top of the glottis and comes out sounding like it never plumbed the depths of the throat at all-Pig has somehow shed 50, maybe 75 pounds in the five years since that night at Ben's Big Beat, and now stands revealed as what he was all the time beneath that S. Clay Wilson-ogreish exterior, a fierce-looking little guy in cowboy funk, boots and low-slung Levis and oily leather sheepherder's coat, a battered Stetson with its rolled brim cocked so low over his eyes that his touch, pinched little face is barely visible above his scraggly goatee, Gabby Hayes with teeth-Phil Lest almost never surfaces in the group, but is always working behind everybody else, providing substance on bass, fleshing out vocals, clowning, goofing around with little hippy-dippy mouth-breather mugging trips, he looks to be the loosest of them all onstage-Bill Kreutzmann is darkly handsome, dour, brooding, solemn, looks "deep" and plays the same way, hunches possessively over his traps and seems almost to lose himself in his own rumbling-hoof-beats-in-the-middle-distance rhythms-he is never flashy; his drumming is as steady as the drone of a tamboura, a fixed point around which the guitars work their airy filigrees; tonight's the first time the Dead have tried a strictly acoustic set on the Fillmore audience, and when Cumberland Blues is over, a scattering of old-line Dead fans, missing the electronically amplified bedlam of yesteryear, holler "Play louder! Play louder!"-but Jerry, smiling beatifically, steps to the mike and cools them out by explaining, very gently, "No, no, man, you don't understand, this is the part where we play soft, and you listen loud!" -- then they do New Speedway Boogie, Dire Wolf (Don't Murder Me), Candyman and two or three others, mostly from the Workingman's Dead album, then finish off the set with a reverently beautiful and altogether decorous rendition of that All-Time Number-One Sike-O-Deelik Space-Music Golden Oldie, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, everybody loves it, crowd really gets off behind it --a fine rousing set, looks like a good night...


"I just play the way I play, I play what I like to hear, I don't really think about guitar players anymore, I think about music, I like music, you know what I mean? When I buy records I don't buy guitar players, I buy ... music. Because all those guys, they're just learning to play the guitar, just like I am, and I don't listen to them much, because that'd be like learning from me. You know? They've derived all their sh*t from the same sh*t I've derived all my sh*t from. No, I listen to the real sh*t if I'm lookin' for ideas musically, guitarwise and so forth, I go to the masters, not to the other students. Like Django Reinhardt or B.B. King, you know, guys who really play. But the main thing is that I play music because I love music, you know, and all my life I've loved music, and as I've gotten more and more into lookin' at the whole, over-all thing. And that's where I am now, doin' that..."

Turn to Part 10. . .

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