Archive for the ‘Life and death’ Category

Tom Davis (1952-2012)

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Very sorry to learn of Tom Davis’ passing yesterday. He was 59.

I met Tom and interviewed him the spring of 2009 when he was promoting his very funny memoir, Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss. The 66-minute interview is posted here.

I’m at the Gathering of the Vibes this weekend. Tom came to the 2009 GOTV as my guest, and I had the pleasure of organizing a reunion with Donna Jean Godchaux; the two were friends when she was a member of the Grateful Dead. I also introduced Tom to members of the Dark Star Orchestra; the band dedicated “Bird Song” to Tom in last night’s performance.

“Looking into the Next World” for Hugo

Monday, November 21st, 2011

A piece of music for our beloved cat Hugo, whose life must end today. He has been “Looking into the Next World” for a while now, and the time has come. We love him intensely and we will miss him terribly.

My 1991 interview with Bear

Monday, March 14th, 2011

I have nearly six hours of tape from my January 1991 interview with Owsley Stanley. I’m about to go on tour for two weeks, and I will be reviewing and excerpting the recording as time permits, with the aim of broadcasting a large portion of it on Dead to the World March 30 and the Grateful Dead Hour ASAP.

Here are two bits I pulled from the first hour for a radio broadcast last Sunday. I only had a few minutes between the time I heard the news of Bear’s death and going on the air on SiriusXM’s Tales from the Golden Road.

Bear interview January 1991 – excerpt 1

Bear interview January 1991 – excerpt 2

I just thought you might be interested in what he sounded like.

“He got plenty done this time around…” – Bob Weir

Mike Potashnick RIP

Monday, January 24th, 2011

On the day Jam Cruise returned to terra firma, we received the terrible news that Mike Potashnick had died at the age of 52. Mike was the emcee of Gathering of the Vibes and a beloved character on our music scene.


The New England Arts and Music Community Celebrates the Life of Michael J. Potashnick with Memorial Celebrations in Burlington, VT and Bridgeport, CT

BRIDGEPORT, CT (Jan. 24, 2011) – On Monday, January 10, 2011, the Gathering of the Vibes festival lost its crowd-rallying, on-stage “Voice of the Vibes,” Co-M.C. Michael J. Potashnick. The news of his sudden passing sent ripples throughout the New England arts and music community. A beloved friend to countless people, the spirit and memories of Michael J. Potashnick will not fade away.

Organizers have announced that two gatherings will take place to honor and celebrate the life of the 52-year-old producer who died from pneumonia. The first gathering, organized by the Lake Champlain Maritime Festival, will take place Sunday, February 13th from 2-5 p.m. at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, 153 Main Street, Burlington, VT. Friends and family are invited to join together for an afternoon of storytelling, remembrance and celebration.

Hosted by Gathering of the Vibes, the second celebration will take place Sunday, February 20th on the campus of the University of Bridgeport’s Arnold Bernard Center from 3-9 p.m. The Bridgeport gathering will include live music and dedications by some of Michael’s favorite artists.

Those planning to attend either event are requested to RSVP via the “Michael Potashnick Memorial” Facebook page by clicking here. Those wanting to make contributions in Michael’s memory are asked to kindly donate to his favorite charities: The United Way and the SoNo Arts Festival in Norwalk, CT.

Though Michael had been involved with Gathering of the Vibes every year since its inception in 1997, he also was like family to much of the New England arts and music community. He was an integral part of the Lake Champlain Maritime Festival, the SoNo Arts Celebration, Bridgeport’s Polka Dot Playhouse, Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, Burlington’s Flynn Center for the Performing Arts and the All Good Music Festival in West Virginia.

“Michael was family,” said Ken Hays, founder of the Vibes. “He exemplified what the Vibes means to so many, reminding us from his spot on center-stage of the love we have to offer each other, and that through music, we can truly see the light that brings harmony and balance to the world. We will miss him tremendously.”
A slideshow photo tribute in memory of Michael can be viewed on the Vibes home page:

Those who would like to contribute stories and photos to Michael Potashnick’s memorial services are asked to submit medium/high-resolution photographs (preferably in JPEG format) and stories (1-2 paragraphs) through a special memorial website,, or email them directly to

Born Oct. 7, 1958 in Trenton, NJ, and raised in nearby Morrisville, PA, Michael’s arts roots ran deepest in Bridgeport, CT and Burlington, VT, during his career. He studied theatre at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, performing in more than 85 plays and musicals, including appearances on the popular soap operas, “General Hospital” and “Another World.” In 2006, Michael relocated from Connecticut to Vermont, where he was best known in his fundamental roles as Production, Stage and Site Manager at Lake Champlain Maritime Festival, the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, and Burlington’s First Night, among other events in the Burlington, region. He was a perennial favorite at the Gathering of the Vibes Festival, acting as Production Manager from 1996-2004 and Co-Emcee from 2004 through 2010.

Pre-deceased by his loving mother, Louise Potashnick, Michael is survived by his father, William Potashnick; stepmother Peg Potashnick; brother David Potashnick; and ex-wife Marianne Castaldo. Michael also is survived by his extended Gathering of the Vibes family; friends and colleagues in Burlington; as well as the countless members of the New England arts and music organizations he touched and influenced during his 26-year career.

VOTE! It is a matter of life and death

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Jon Carroll in today’s San Francisco Chronicle:

…a good reason to vote: Because something bad might happen if you don’t. Like Proposition 23 might pass, although I make no recommendations. If you stay home and mutter that the Democrats and the Republicans are the same and they’re all crooks paid off by special interests and things are so bad they can’t get any worse, don’t worry: They can get worse.

Read Jon’s column here.

Enough with the anti-gay bigotry

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has taken a deserved beating in the courts recently, but the posturing, pandering putzim in DC aren’t gonna give up any time soon. I’m talkin’ to you, John “I Never called myself a Maverick, except in the title of my autobiography and a few zillion campaign ads” McCain.

Jon Carroll in today’s San Francisco Chronicle:

Senators live in Washington, D.C., most of the time. They mix with rich people and powerful people at private cocktail parties and dinners. They are aware that some of the people they socialize with are gay. They are aware that some of their colleagues, and the aides to their colleagues, are gay. They no more believe that gay people are a threat to unit cohesion than they believe that aliens have established villages on Jupiter.

And yet they have to pretend for their people. Their constituents, their base, still believe that one gay guy in a shower room is going to panic the other soldiers. It’s not true, of course, but the panderers have to keep their base happy in this election year – one-third of the Senate is up for re-election – so they get all misty-eyed about manly showers with manly men. Or something.

Also, they seek to convince voters that gay people are a threat of the American family.

Read the whole column, please.

Voting with my wallet

Friday, August 13th, 2010

I walked into the Main Street Coffee Works in White Haven, Pennsylvania. I used the bathroom on my way in and then went to the counter to inspect the menu. Facing into the seating area was a TV set tuned to Fox News.

First of all: why is there a goddamn TV set in a coffee house? And: Fox news?

Not hungry enough to find that crap appetizing, I walked out to look for another place for lunch. I briefly pondered telling someone in the coffee house why I was leaving.

I got my chance to say something after all. As I was getting into my car, the proprietor came out and asked me if I was planning to come back inside. “No,” I replied.

“The bathroom is for customer use only,” he said. “Were you planning to buy something?”

“I was,” I said, “until I saw that you have Fox News on.”

“That’s a piss-poor excuse…” he said as I fastened my seat belt and closed my car door.

Not a poor excuse at all; it was a rare opportunity to vote with my pocketbook against fascist propaganda.

Another great Jim Marshall story

Friday, March 26th, 2010

From Tony Zepezauer, posted here with his permission:

Back the early ’90s I decided I had to have a Jim Marshall of the Dead, and started saving my money for one. The boom in 60’s rock collectibles was still a couple of years off, and I don’t think he was even represented by a gallery at that time, so when I thought I had enough I just looked him up in the phone book and gave him a call, and he invited me over to pick one out.

When I arrived, he was on the phone so I was left to browse for a good 15 minutes in the Rock and Roll Museum that was his front hallway. There was a BIG color print of Jimi torching his guitar at Monterey; a Life magazine cover with the Rolling Stones that I’d never seen before; and lots more great stuff, some familiar, some un-, that I don’t remember now. Lots of jazz musicians I think.

Eventually he finished his call, apologized unnecessarily, and we sat down in the kitchen to get down to business:

“What’ll you have to drink?”

“Oh, thanks, I’m not really a drinking man.”

“WHATTA YA MEAN, not a drinking man?! SCOTCH or GIN?”

“Um scotch”

“OK then. I’m giving you the good stuff since I plan to separate you from your money.”

Then we started looking through proof sheets, until I ended up picking the one I’d been leaning towards from the beginning, a classic image that was first on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Then we sat and drank and talked for a while, and at some point I must have mentioned that someday I might like a photo of John Coltrane by him as well. He immediately led me into the living room and started flipping through a bin of already-printed photos, one more amazing than the next, occasionally stopping for a moment to show off one he was particularly proud of, such as a low-angle shot of a beaming B.B. King looking down at the camera. Finally he found the Trane picture he was looking for, and said he’d give me $50 off if I bought it with the Dead pic, so what could I do? (This isn’t it but it’s from the same
session.) These two are now, of course, among my most treasured possessions.

Interestingly, two things came up during our brief chat that I’ve since read in interviews and reminiscences: He loved his mother, and he HATED people parking in his driveway. (He lived just a couple of doors down from the busy intersection on Market where Cafe Flore is, surely a tempting spot for people parking illegally ‘just for a minute’.) He even told a story that combined the two: One night his mother called him thinking she was having a heart attack. He told her he’d be right there, hung up and called 911 and sent them to her house, then rushed outside only to find a car blocking his driveway. So (he told this part with considerable relish) he kicked in the driver’s side window, released the parking brake, pushed it out into the street and left it there. He met the paramedics at his mom’s place, where they determined she’d only had a panic attack, not a heart attack. When he got home, the car’s owners were there, none too happy, and the police too. He told the police the whole story, they radioed dispatch to confirm the 911 call, and then told the owners that they were out of luck.

Besides that story, he talked about his mom a lot. He was worried that she would need to move to a nursing home, and though she didn’t want to go, he had searched for and found one with a lot of Armenians so she would feel more at home.

He seemed to take a liking to me for some reason, though my shy, retiring self couldn’t have been more different from him, and insisted that when the Dead print was ready, we would go out to dinner to celebrate. That didn’t happen, something came up at the last minute, but he did personally deliver the finished print to my workplace. I didn’t find out until years later that he had a reputation for having a volatile temper. I’ll always remember him as a sweet guy, and the best photographer of musicians ever, bar none.

Jef Jaisun on Jim Marshall

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

This is from my friend, musician and photographer Jef Jaisun:

Jim shot my promo pix in 1972. By 1975 he’d inspired me to pick up a camera myself, and I’ve been doing it ever since. Wish that had happened 10 years earlier.

Twenty years ago I wanted to use a photo of his on a t-shirt… Muddy Waters and Big Mama Thornton, circa 1967. I called him up and asked if he wanted royalties or what. His response, “Just send me a shirt, you old hippie!”

About 10 years ago I saw the original photo hanging on the wall at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago. Much to my surprise, it depicted Big Mama and Muddy’s entire band. The April 1968 poster I’d worked with, promoting concerts at Pepperland and Berkeley Community Theater (produced by Barry Olivier), had cropped them out.

Jim Marshall set the gold standard for rock photography, and photographed many of the greatest blues and jazz artists of our time. He was a friend and a mentor, and I don’t know what any of us would be doing today without his inspiration and his iconic images in our lives. His Leicas belong in the Smithsonian. He belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In fact, they should name an entire wing after him. No disrespect meant to my fellow photographers (and I’m sure there’s none taken), but for all practical purposes, without Jim Marshall an entire generation of our visual musical heritage would likely not exist.

He was one of a kind. Just like his photos.

KPFA raises $130,000 for Haiti

Thursday, January 21st, 2010


(Berkeley, CA – January 20, 2009) Pacifica radio station KPFA in Berkeley, California is no stranger to on-air fundraising – it’s been running off listener donations since it debuted as the world’s first listener-sponsored radio station in 1949. But the response to KPFA’s one-day Haiti fundraiser took even the station’s managers by surprise.

“In this economy, we would expect a normal day of fundraising to bring in about $45,000. For our Haiti fundraiser we set a goal of $100,000” says KPFA General Manager Lemlem Rijio. “By the time our phone room closed at 8:PM, we had raised over $130,000.

“$130,000 in 13 hours — That’s an all-time record for KPFA.”

Normally, it’s illegal for noncommercial broadcasters like KPFA to raise money for other organizations. But after major disasters – 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and now, the earthquake that has devastated Haiti – the FCC makes exceptions. When the agency announced last week it would issue waivers to broadcasters fundraising for Haiti relief, Rijio put in an application and got the word out to the largely volunteer staff of KPFA.

“We organized the fund drive over the course of a three-day holiday weekend. The people we normally pay to coordinate our pledge room knew that the station is strapped for cash right now – so they all volunteered their time. DJs and program hosts came in to help answer phones. And it’s a good thing they did, because every time we asked for donations, our listeners filled every phone line we have coming into the building,” Rijio said. “I’m awed by the way our community has come together.”

Donations from the one-day drive will be split evenly between two organizations which have been saving lives in areas where other relief organizations have been unable or unwilling to go. Doctors Without Borders has established ten operating theatres in Haiti – including one in Port Au Prince’s sprawling Cite Soleil slum. Partners in Health, which has been working in Haiti for over 20 years to address the root causes of disease, warned yesterday that as many as 20,000 injured per day could be dying of infections like gangrene and sepsis.

“Because of the coverage KPFA has been carrying since the earthquake, we’d had listeners calling in who want to help, but didn’t know what organizations to give to,” said Rijio. “We chose Doctors Without Borders and Partners in Health because both have long track records in Haiti. They’re already delivering assistance and saving lives. Their work has earned the respect of the Haiti solidarity community. And they’ve received the highest rankings possible from organizations that rate charities on their financial effectiveness.”

Over the years, KPFA has distinguished itself with in-depth independent reporting on various crises in Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. In stark contrast to much coverage in the mainstream media, coverage on KPFA has highlighted the resiliency of the Hatian people in the face of this enormous crisis, the relative calm in the affected areas, and problems with the militarization of the international response in Haiti.
KPFA will continue to take Haiti relief pledges through its website,, through Sunday, January 24th.

Johnny Downer (1971-2009)

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Johnny Downer, a brilliant guitarist and a sweet, gentle guy, died in Mexico the other night with his guitar in his hands.

I got the word yesterday from Pete Cartwright, who set up a gig for Johnny and me in Sebastopol a few years back (one of my favorites of that year). Bandmate Tim Sawyer called tonight and gave me some more details.

He had had some heart issues that he didn’t get help with, preferring to dismiss them as “allergies” etc. In light of my own recent health history, this makes the loss even more painful. I hadn’t seen Johnny in a while – not since Free Peoples played on my show on 10/1/08. If had known he was ignoring his health, I would have sought him out and kicked his ass in the direction of a doctor.

Free Peoples was just about my favorite Northern California band of the last several years.

Here’s “China Doll” from 10/16/05 in Sebastopol, Johnny and me. I wish we had played together more often.

DG on talk radio 12/4

Friday, November 27th, 2009

CORRECTION: not tonight – NEXT Friday, December 4.

I am going to be talking on Live from the Left Coast, a progressive-talk show hosted by Angie Coiro, from 7 to 8pm PST Friday 12/4/09. She wants me to talk about my cardiac adventure, the ensuing lifestyle adjustments, etc. Angie is a good friend and an excellent interviewer; I guest-host this program from time to time, and I listen often, too. Should be fun.

The program streams live on, and is broadcast on 960 AM in the San Francisco Bay area.

Health care costs

Monday, September 14th, 2009

The bill from my hospitalization in Carson City: $87,452.70

Politicians & the gas crisis

Friday, April 28th, 2006

Today’s SF Chronicle has two photos on the front page, with this caption:

House speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., departs in a hydrogen-powered car … after a news conference on gasoline prices in Washington – and then gets out and prepares to climb into a sport utility vehicle powered by gasoline…. Hastert and President Bush have called for an investigation into oil company profits.

The article, by Marc Sandalow, is titled “DRIVE LESS? POLITICIANS WON’T ASK: Republicans and Democrats rail against oil companies for the high price of gasoline — but they don’t dare suggest we change our ways”

When did you start/stop smoking?

Monday, April 10th, 2006

There’s a “Two Cents” item on, asking “When did you smoke your first cigarette? Your last?
My response is included.