Archive for the ‘“Grateful Dead”’ Category

Paperback edition of “This is All a Dream”

Saturday, November 5th, 2016


The paperback is here! Order a signed copy by clicking the button below. You can tell us who to make it out to in the “instructions to the seller” field.

John Conroy Images

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Keith Godchaux 5/25/74

I ran across John Conroy‘s excellent photos the other day, and he was kind enough to share this one along with a link to more of his photos. This picture of Keith Godchaux was taken at the UC Santa Barbara stadium on May 25, 1974 (a show I also attended!); there are more images from that day that I know you’ll like, along with lots of other interesting stuff. Check ’em out!

“Confessions of a Dead Head”

Friday, August 26th, 2016

Confessions of a Dead Head by the Starburst Commander is a sweet little (under 100 pages) memoir of a guy whose first show was at Winterland in 10/74. He touches all the bases: hilarity on the highway; post-show coffee-shop hijinks; a borrowed account of meeting a band member; getting deep into the songs; emotional processing and catharsis at shows.

I enjoyed the book immensely and I recommend it to all.

The Starburst Commander moved to Mexico a few years back. I lost touch with him for a while, but we’re back in contact and we’ve made an arrangement to make his wonderful book available again.

Here’s an interview I did with the author in 2009.

And here’s an excerpt:

Dentist and I love “Stella Blue” and once listened to a live bootleg version of it more than 30 times in a row. We were on a construction site off of St. Stephen’s Road in Lafayette, CA. This was back in the cassette tape days, and by replay number six we had the timing down on the rewind.

“Stella Blue” is the perfect combination of brilliant musical and lyrical writing. This song is Garcia and Hunter in their element and at their very best. There is not one wasted word. Every line, every verse sets us up for the next line and the next verse. And when Jerry finishes it up on his guitar, we have a genuine masterpiece. It is as perfect as a song can be, and Hunter’s lyrics are a true reality check.

“Dust off those rusty strings just one more time.” It gets me every time. “Gonna make ’em shine” – that last hope of hopes. It is beautiful, but starkly lonely. It seems a brutally, pessimistically optimistic song.

Then – “There’s nothing you can hold for very long” – Stella Blue. Fuck me four times sideways. Like a lamb to the slaughter I follow every word. My emotions are pulled in every direction. Am I sadly happy or happily sad? This song leaves me longing for the knowledge of something I don’t quite understand, and Jerry’s solo continues to take me apart before he slowly puts me back together again. The pauses between his notes here are perfect evidence of his musical genius. Style over speed, quality over quantity. Never a blur, always succinctly clear. I find myself anticipating each note and the wait is sweet.

“It is truly a sweet little memoir that does what good memoirs do: it takes the intensely personal and uses it to speak to the universal. There is no way anyone who touched the scene in even the most superficial way will not find echoes of their own feelings beautifully expressed. Well worth a read.” – Steven Gimbel, author of Grateful Dead and Philosophy

Confessions of a Dead Head

Dead to the World 8/10/16

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Dark Star->
St Stephen
Dead & Company 7/30/16 Shoreline Amphitheater

Don’t Let GoJerry Garcia Band, GarciaLive vol 7 (11/8/76 Sophie’s, Palo Alto CA)

It’s Just Happening
When the Zombies Come
Emily Yates live in the KPFA studio

China Cat Sunflower->
I Know You Rider
Morning Dew->
Casey Jones
Dead & Company 7/29/16 Toyota Amphitheater, Wheatland CA

Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers – Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders, GarciaLive vol 6 (7/5/73)

She Said She Said – The Beatles, Revolver

Berkeley Public Library benefit Thu 6/2

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Join the Berkeley Public Library Foundation on June 2, 2016 at 7:00pm for a special gathering hosted by noted authors and chroniclers of the Grateful Dead, Peter Richardson and David Gans.

Richardson, an American Studies professor at San Francisco State University and author of No Simple Highway: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead, will join David Gans, journalist and author of This is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead, to share perspectives on the cultural milieu which shaped and was shaped by The Grateful Dead.

The event will take place at Spats on Shattuck, one of Jerry Garcia’s Berkeley hangouts in the 1970s.

Tickets are $40 with proceeds benefitting the Berkeley Public Library and can be purchased here. Appetizers and beer are included in the ticket price.

This event is part of AfterWORDS, the Berkeley Public Library Foundation’s seasonal series of up close events with artists, authors and thinkers. Proceeds support It’s Time for Central, a fundraiser for Berkeley Public Library’s new Teen Room at the downtown Central Library.

About the Organization

The Berkeley Public Library Foundation raises funds for and advocates on behalf of the public library. The Foundation provides funding for library innovation and to help sustain the excellence of the buildings, services, collections and programs at all five locations of Berkeley Public Library. The current focus is on the “It’s Time for Central” campaign for improvements to the first and second floors at the Central Library, including a dynamic new space for teens, improved lighting and technology, a flexible reference room for expanded community activities, a more welcoming entryway, and display areas for public art. The Foundation also works to increase public awareness in the wider community that the public library is a living, evolving institution vital to our diverse community.

Capitol Theatre interview

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

This Is Why You Should Turn On Your Lovelight with David Gans

Shows are Wednesday, May 4 (with the Broken Angels) and Wednesday, May 11 (solo, with special guest Garrin Benfield). Both shows start at 8.

I’ll be signing books and CDs before and after the show.

More gigs and more info here.

Rosie McGee on TIAADWD

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Kind words for This Is All a Dream We Dreamed from Rosie McGee, who is one of the voices in the collective narrative.

“The beauty of this unique book lies in the authors’ decision to let ‘those who were actually there’ tell the Grateful Dead story in their own words, from their own memories of living, working and traveling with the Dead, culled from hundreds of interviews conducted over many years. The bonus of these ‘mini-memoirs’ from the band members, crew, associates, family and friends lies in their recalling details of everyday life inside an environment that was all but ordinary. Great reading, plus an important reference book to add to your Grateful Dead bookshelf!”

Rosie McGee, photographer/author and one of those who were there, then.

This Is All a Dream We Dreamed

Grateful Dead Hour no. 1438

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

Week of April 11, 2016

Part 1 29:03
Grateful Dead 9/16/91 Madison Square Garden, New York City

Part 2 25:59
Alabama Music Hall of Fame Induction 2/26/16
David Gans introduces Donna Jean
Donna Jean Godchaux’s speech

Donna Jean Godchaux Band w/ Jeff Mattson, Back Around

Donna Jean Godchaux-Mackay invited Gary Lambert (my cohost on SirisuXM’s Tales from the Golden Road) and me to introduce her at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame banquet on February 26. Gary wasn’t able to attend, but he wrote the first draft of the speech I gave at the banquet (with some help from me and some corrections from Deej). Here it is:

Those of us who hail from the Sovereign Republic of Psychedelia were first made aware of Donna Jean Godchaux in 1972, when she became the first and only woman to attain membership in that otherwise very male band of misfits known as the Grateful Dead. But what we Deadheads didn’t yet know was that we might have heard that beautiful voice before, on some of the most memorable records ever made. Y’see, before Donna Jean Godchaux fell in with those West Coast ne’er-do-wells, she was Donna Jean Thatcher, who started her career in the Muscle Shoals music scene while still a student at Sheffield High School, and also served as head of the cheerleading squad. In fact, Donna would sometimes head to recording dates straight from practice.

Donna’s sweet, soulful harmony vocals were heard on Percy Sledge’s hit, “When A Man Loves a Woman”, the first solo album by San Francisco’s own Boz Scaggs, as well as records by Solomon Burke, Joe Tex, Neil Diamond, Cher, Ben E. King, and others. Then there was the trip to Memphis, where she was one of the singers on “Suspicious Minds” and “In the Ghetto,” by Elvis Presley, the King of Rock’n’Roll his own self.

In the early ’70s, Donna pulled up stakes and moved to California, where she met, fell in love with and married a talented piano player named Keith Godchaux. Her friends dragged her to a Grateful Dead concert at an ice-skating arena turned rock palace called Winterland, and as she put it, “I just got my little pea brain blown right there.” With no real basis in practical reality, she turned to the friend sitting next to her and declared, “When I sing again, it’s gonna be with that band.” And damned if she didn’t make it happen. A few months later, she and Keith caught a small club date by one of Jerry Garcia’s various side projects. During a break between sets, Donna summoned up the nerve to speak to Jerry and inform him that – and Donna confirms this exact quote – “My husband is going to be your next piano player.” This was especially off-the-wall given that she had no reason to believe the Dead were looking for a keyboard player. It turned out that the Dead were starting think about finding someone to augment the band, as their founding organist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan’s health and energy declined. To Donna’s amazement, Jerry promptly wrote out his home number and told her to give him a call. Call she did, and shortly thereafter, Keith was invited to audition for the band, getting the gig in the fall of 1971.

A few months later, Donna herself broke into the boys’ club, just in time for the Dead’s legendary 1972 European tour. She’d later recall with a laugh that the transition from the Muscle Shoals rhythm section to the Grateful Dead was like going “from the tightest band in the world to the loosest.” But contrary to their reputation as psychedelic anarchists with a penchant for structure-free jams, the Dead had evolved musically – they’d always had a deep and abiding love for folk, country, blues, R&B and other American roots music forms, and those influences were evident in both the band’s choice of cover material and in their rapidly growing repertoire of fine original songs, which had fully flowered on such albums as Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty. Donna quickly proved to be a perfect fit in the Grateful Dead through the ‘70s, bringing poignant harmony to a ballad such as “Looks Like Rain,” adding gospel fervor to Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home” and country sass to her lead vocal on Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough.” She wrote and sang lead on two songs with the Grateful Dead – “Sunrise” on Terrapin Station, and “From the Heart of Me,” on Shakedown Street – and with the Jerry Garcia Band, she gave us “Rain” on the landmark 1977 studio album Cats Under the Stars.

Her travels with the Dead took Donna around the world, from Winterland (where she first saw the band) to the great concert halls and arenas of America and Europe, and even all the way to the foot of the Sphinx and Great Pyramids in Egypt.

The rigors of the road also took a toll, and the Godchauxs came to a mutually agreed-upon parting of the ways with the Grateful Dead in 1979. After losing Keith in a car accident the next year, she married her second husband, David Mackay – himself a fine musician – in 1981. The couple returned to Muscle Shoals in 1994 with their sons, Zion and Kinsman, who are both fine musicians. But music remained integral to her being, and it was only a matter of time before she’d come back to recording and performing, among her own circle of kindred spirits here at home, occasionally sitting in with some of her old pals from the Grateful Dead, and also connecting with a younger generation of players profoundly influenced by the Dead. Among those new friends was Jeff Mattson, a brilliant disciple of Jerry Garcia who also happens to be crazy about Southern Soul, and who became one of DJ’s primary co-conspirators in her current Donna Jean Godchaux Band – a group that manages to find and celebrate the common ground between San Francisco-style jamming and what she likes to call the “back porch groove” of Muscle Shoals.

By virtue of her history-making tenure in the Grateful Dead, Donna Jean Godchaux is already a member in good standing of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Now, it’s all come full circle for Donna Jean Thatcher from Sheffield High School. And while being enshrined in that place up in Cleveland is no small thing, there’s nothing quite as sweet as receiving the love and respect of folks in your own backyard. Accordingly, it’s a great honor to welcome to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame our dearest Deej – Donna Jean Godchaux-MacKay.

(I don’t have a transcript of Donna’s remarks – you’ll just have to listen to the show!)

Congratulations, Donna Jean!!

Support for the Grateful Dead Hour comes this week from:

Dead and Company – Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, John Mayer, Jeff Chimenti and Oteil Burbridge – on tour from coast to coast June 10 through July 30. Complete details and ticketing at That’s Dead and Company, on tour starting June 10th. Deadandcompany-dot-com

The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. On Friday, April 22, The Gipsy Kings present a tour-de-force of world music, blending flamenco, rumba, salsa, and pop. Events, information, and ticketing at

Glide Magazine reviews TIAADWD

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

Very kind review by Doug Collette @ Glide Magazine. An excerpt:

…one of the greatest virtues of An Oral History of the Grateful Dead is the palpable way the discourse captures the good-natured whimsy and openness to serendipity at the heart of the band’s formation on through much of their career…

jambandsonline reviews TIAADWD

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

Jam Bands Online reviews the book. An excerpt:

Whether long time fan or someone seeking a look inside the history of the band, this book will offer you glimpses into not only who the band was, what they set out to do, how they did it, the ups and downs, the twists and turns, and everything and everyone who made it all work. It paints a picture, colorful and quirky, of a band’s early and humble beginnings, and takes you on their journey from playing in small spaces to the large stage. There is a larger understanding of their reputation for being the major psychedelic jam band throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s, up to Jerry Garcia’s untimely passing.


Saturday, February 20th, 2016

Link to today’s playlist.

Columbus Dispatch review of TIAAD

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

Margaret Quamme reviews This Is All a Dream We Dreamed in the Columbus Dispatch Sunday, January 17, 2016

‘”Although the book’s ideal reader is probably a passionate fan, even the casual observer will find plenty to relish, including nuggets such as an account of a surreal concert at the pyramids in Egypt, and comments such as manager Rock Scully’s on the importance of having Pigpen McKernan — whose drug of choice was alcohol — in the band: “When Garcia’s guitar neck turned into a snake, Pigpen saw it as a guitar; Jerry could rely on him to do that.”‘

Read it here.

Triple book review

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Deadspin looks at Bill Kreutzmann’s Deal, David Browne’s So Many Roads, and our This Is All a Dream We Dreamed

The Grateful Dead Literary-Industrial Complex Is A Long, Strange Trip All Its Own

DG-BJ interview on KPFA

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

David and Blair, interviewed by Richard Wolinsky on KPFA‘s Bookwaves. Originally broacast 1/14/16. Click here for the extended podcast version.

Book excerpt: Workingman’s Dead

Monday, January 11th, 2016

Here is an execerpt from This Is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead, by Blair Jackson and David Gans. You can order a signed copy here.

BOB MATTHEWS: After the experience of Aoxomoxoa — so much time, so much loss of direction, so many hands involved — on Workingman’s Dead we went into the studio first and spent a couple of days rehearsing all the tunes and recording them on 2-track. “Before we even start, let’s have a concept of what the end product is going to feel like.” We learned from Sgt Pepper’s [Lonely Hearts Club Band] that every album had a beginning of side one and an end of side one that segued mentally into the beginning of side two and out through the end of side two.
I gave copies of the proposed album sequence on cassette to each of the band members, and they went back to the rehearsal studio in Point Reyes and practiced with that concept in mind. So when they came into the studio, there was a vision in everybody’s mind about the continuity and the emotional feel of this project, ending up with the next to last one being one of my favorites, “Black Peter.”

BETTY CANTOR-JACKSON: Bob would handle the board most of the time, and I would do all the setup, handle the room, set up all the microphones, and I would run the machines. I got to do my first solo mixing on it, and it was the first record I got to master by myself.

BOB MATTHEWS: When I delivered the Workingman’s Dead reference lacquers to Joe Smith at Warner Bros., he gave me a hug and said, “I can hear the vocals!” He was also very pleased with the fact that we did the whole album in less than twenty-eight studio days, delivered. And he loved it.

ROCK SCULLY: That was a different Grateful Dead, really, from what it had been before. It showed how tight they were getting with Crosby and Stills, and Jerry playing pedal steel and working in the same studio as them [Wally Heider’s in San Francisco]. [Graham] Nash is the one who brought in that English thing of stacking vocals — building out the harmonies on top of each other and keeping the songs short and simple. That’s what Hunter was writing and it translated great to that. Jerry liked it simple, and he liked that presentation. He liked singing together, those harmonies.

ROBERT HUNTER: It’s what Garcia and I wanted to do. It gets back to our folk roots. It’s what the first album was supposed to be, actually. A lot of the songs on that are really just folk tunes rocked up. “Viola Lee,” “Cold Rain and Snow” – those are folk songs. Garcia and I knew we could write better songs than that; we knew that idiom cold. It shocked the public [when we turned in that direction], but they were just songs to us.

JERRY GARCIA: We didn’t mean for people to start taking a lot of cocaine when we put out [“Casey Jones”]. It’s clearly an anti-coke song. The words aren’t light, good-time words — it’s just the feeling of it. We were manipulating a couple of things consciously when we put that song together. First of all, there’s a whole tradition of cocaine songs, there’s a tradition of train songs, and there’s a tradition of Casey Jones songs. And we’ve been doing a thing, ever since Aoxomoxoa, of building on a tradition that’s already there. Like “Dupree’s Diamond Blues.”

BOB WEIR (1970): You try to make an album as good as you can and hope it will be salable. Workingman’s Dead came out with ten cuts on it as opposed to three or four [like on Live Dead].

[In the late sixties] we got into more extended improvisational stuff. Then, after a couple of years of that, we found sort of a happy medium, where we could do both extended improvisational stuff and songs. From a record company standpoint and the way the media’s set up these days, it’s easier to sell songs than it is to sell improvisational long pieces. That’s one of the restrictions of the art of making a record [that] encompasses the music, how long the piece is going to be, how appealing and how accessible it is to the audience. By accessible I mean easily understood. As opposed to John Coltrane, who played some dynamite music — I mean some really fantastic music — but he was never any superstar. And he had not much of an audience, because not many people could understand what he was playing. It bugs you if you are playing music the best you can play it and not many people are listening. And just because you’re a performer, a performer wants people to listen. Generally, you might consider changing your material or finding a new sort of material that more people will be interested in listening to and at the same time you will be interested in playing it. That’s kind of where we settled down, at least with Workingman’s Dead.

[Workingman’s Dead] was a sudden change for the record-buying public, but it was a gradual change for us, because over the period of months before that, inasmuch as we’ve been hanging out with David Crosby and Stephen Stills, particularly, and listening to them sing together, and just blown out by the fact that they really can sing together; and we began to realize that we had been neglecting our own vocal presentation for instrumental presentation. And so we started working on our vocal arrangements, and choral arrangements. As it turned out, the next record we did had a lot of that on it. And it represented a marked change from the way we had sounded in the past, though none of us had really given it any thought. We were just going straight ahead and doing what we’d been doing. It was a lot of fun to make that record. It happened very quickly, and there was a spontaneity about that record that was just beautiful.