Posts Tagged ‘Grateful Dead’

DG’s Stanford “Overture”

Wednesday, January 24th, 2024

Here is the address I delivered to the first session of “MUS 49 — Psychedelia and Groove: The Music and Culture of the Grateful Dead,” a class I am teaching for Stanford Continuing Studies.

I wanted to call this class DID IT MATTER? DOES IT NOW? The answer is “Yes, and… yes!”

Please think of this as the OVERTURE, with hints of themes to come. Just let it wash over you! Lots of these bits will be elaborated on as we go.

• We’re here because the Grateful Dead brought together a group of brilliant and musically diverse people, created a sophisticated musical language, and invited us to listen in on an ongoing conversation, in which the group gave equal weight to their original songs and their interpretations of songs from elsewhere – all woven together with a unique form of collective improvisation. As the years went by, they continued to expand their sonic palettes along with their repertoires, and large numbers of us stayed with them through all the changes.

• We’re here because the Grateful Dead played more than 2000 shows in thirty years, a great percentage of which are thoroughly documented in various media, and because several generations of Americans – and a few people on other continents, too – organized their lives to a great extent around their relationships with this band and its fan community.

• We’re here because the Grateful Dead cultivated an audience that welcomed new songs and was happy to hear a fresh twist on an old one.

• We’re here because the sailor gave at least a try.

• We’re here because there are web sites devoted to Grateful Dead set lists; web sites where you can listen to hundreds of concert recordings for free; a scholar who makes mandalas that attempt to describe the universe of “Dark Star,” and another who delves deep into union records and rental receipts to map out Jerry Garcia’s musical travels from the 1950s til he died in ’95.

• We’re here because a lot of people like licorice.

• We’re here because, as Gary Lambert likes to point out, the Grateful Dead performed unstructured, abstract music to audiences of thousands on a regular basis.

• We’re here because Jerry Garcia brought some of his bluegrass practices to the proto-Grateful Dead, thinking it would be great to have “an electric band where the instruments talk to each other.”

• We’re here because various members of the Grateful Dead collected and transmuted input from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Charles Ives, Ken Kesey, Chuck Berry, Lord Buckley, Ornette Coleman, Mississippi John Hurt, Bill Monroe, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Jesse Winchester, Hamza el-Din, The Band, Ken Nordine, the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir, reggae, jazz, blues, musique concréte, African and Indian scales and grooves, samplers, synthesizers, and such.

• We’re here because as Mikal Gilmore wrote, “At their best, they were a band capable of surprising both themselves and their audience… playing as if they had spent their whole lives learning to make music as a way of talking to one another, and as if music were the language of their sodality, and therefore their history.”

• We’re here because you ain’t gonna learn what you don’t wanna know.

• We’re here because the studio recording of “Dark Star” is less than three minutes long while live performances tended to go for 20 or so and once peaked at 48 minutes.

• We’re here because Sue Swanson, Connie Bonner, and Bob Matthews decided to help their pals the Warlocks become famous so they could all meet the Beatles.

• We’re here because the Grateful Dead produced not one but two brilliant songwriting partnerships – Jerry Garcia with Robert Hunter, and Bob Weir with John Perry Barlow – and because every other band member also contributed eminently worthy material.

• We’re here because, as Regan McMahon observed, Grateful Dead music is loaded with biblical references, death, and gambling. And I would like to note that Grateful Dead music features at least one talking dog.

• We’re here because a friend of the devil is a friend of mine.

• We’re here because when I became a Deadhead, I couldn’t find any books on the Grateful Dead until 1973, and when I published my first book on the subject in 1985 there were maybe half a dozen. As I speak to you today, there are hundreds of books about the Grateful Dead, and my personal contribution to the pile is up to five of ‘em!

• We’re here because a significant number of key behind-the-scenes players in the Grateful Dead world were women. There was plenty of sexism in that the various sub-subcultures of this scene, of course, but women were essential to the operation.

• We’re here because one of those women, Eileen Law – the face and voice of the Grateful Dead – was my main contact in the office when I was covering the Grateful Dead for BAM magazine in 1976, and it was her voice on the ticket hotline in the later years.

• We’re here because Donna Godchaux had the chutzpah to approach Jerry Garcia at a club gig and tell him that her husband was his next keyboard player – and it turned out to be true!

• We’re here because Jerry Garcia played the banjo when he was young and then came back to it in 1973 with Old and In the Way, a band that introduced a lot of hippies to bluegrass!

• We’re here because there were days when all we ever wanted was to learn and love and grow.

• We’re here because, as Peter Richardson told me, “The Dead seemed to flourish when Ronald Reagan was in office – first as California governor (1966-74) and then as president (1980-88).”

• We’re here because the Grateful Dead played so many benefits that they eventually founded a nonprofit, the Rex Foundation, that continues to do good in the world to this day, in memory of Rex Jackson, a member of the Grateful Dead road crew.

• We’re here because Les Kippel and Jerry Moore started a tape trading newsletter that evolved into a Grateful Dead magazine called RELIX that still exists today, and because of Mikel and Dupree’s Diamond News and Unbroken Chain and The Golden Road, and other periodicals that served the music and the community.

• We’re here because, as Nick Meriwether of the the Grateful Dead Studies Association tells me, there have been more than 600 papers presented at Popular Culture Association conferences representing more than 25 different disciplines “from musicology and literary studies to history and sociology.”

• We’re here because a web site called has listings of Dead cover bands and other related musical happenings every day, from coast to coast.

• We’re here because I know musicians in their 30s who couldn’t possibly have seen Jerry Garcia play live but who have become fluent speakers of the Grateful Dead language and practitioners of collective improvisation.

• We’re here because a band that isn’t the Grateful Dead played a sold-out concert at Red Rocks in Colorado a few years back, celebrating and re-creating the Dead’s sold-out performance in that venue 40+ years earlier.

• We’re here because the Grateful Dead played a big part in the evolution of concert sound, eagerly collaborating with various geniuses to improve everything from guitar pickups to PA speakers and everything in between.

• We’re here because Deadheads and other recording enthusiasts taped pretty much every Grateful Dead concert after the first few years, and distributed copies for free: VIRAL MARKETING before that term existed!

• We’re here because the Grateful Dead served their community by fighting for the right to issue their own tickets for their shows, and created a ticket office run by fans of the band to make sure the people who loved the Dead the most got to see the shows.

• We’re here because Lonnie Frazier got healed on a surprise road trip to see the Grateful Dead in Colorado, and because there are so many more like her who found fellowship in the Deadhead community. They didn’t all make movies, but I’ve heard so many stories! I’ll borrow a line from John Denver, of all people, to describe the feeling so many have reported when they arrived in the Grateful Dead world: “coming home to a place we’d never been before.”

• We’re here because as Jerry Garcia recovered from a diabetic coma in 1986, Merl Saunders spent days helping him to relearn the guitar.

• We’re here because the Grateful Dead inspired artists of all kinds to make graphical portmanteaus of GD and other corporate logos – such as a t-shirt that combines Grateful Dead and Federal Express on the front and WHEN YOU ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY HAVE TO BE THERE EVERY NIGHT on the back, or MORNING DEW replacing MOUNTAIN DEW on a soft drink logo.

• We’re here because you know it’s gonna get stranger.

• We’re here because Tom Stack sold unauthorized t-shirts in the parking lot on Dead tour, became a licensee, and wound up running Grateful Dead merchandising for several years.

• We’re here because Courtenay Pollock went walking one day and wound up making tie-dyes for the Grateful Dead.

• We’re here because Ben and Jerry are Deadheads, and so are retired senators Patrick Leahy and Al Franken, former vice president Al Gore, Steve Wozniak, Bill Walton! and Tucker Carlson. And Steve Liesman, senior economics correspondent for CNBC, also plays in a Dead tribute called Stella Blue’s Band.

• We’re here because Patti Smith recorded “Black Peter” the day Jerry Garcia died and let me put it on a record called Stolen Roses: Songs of the Grateful Dead.

• We’re here because Stephen Inglis made a record of Grateful Dead songs in a Hawaiian slack-key style, and because the David Murray Octet recorded a kick-ass version of “One More Saturday Night,” and because Wake the Dead play their Dead music in a Celtic groove.

• We’re here because the a grade-school singing troupe called the Barton Hills Choir has released two albums of Grateful Dead songs.

• We’re here because Grateful Dead was something of a killer app for online community.

• We’re here because Grateful Dead was something of a killer app for online streaming of live concerts.

• We’re here because the Grateful Dead created their own career path: while most of the music business profited most from the sale and airplay of studio recordings, the Dead made their living playing live. Over time, as CD sales collapsed, the rest of the industry came over to our side: the bands that once toured to support their records now make records to support their tours.

• We’re here because Time Magazine, in an early-‘70s article about music fans, characterized the GD audience as “male lonerism” – but we turned it into a family-friendly culture that now sports three and even four generations of Deadheads.

• We’re here because at Jerry Garcia’s funeral, Bob Dylan told John Scher that Jerry had been the only person alive who knew what it was like to be him.

• We’re here because the Grateful Dead persisted long enough to become a formidable entry in the annals of the record business after all. Among other things, the Dead are tied with Frank Sinatra for the most top-40 albums at 56, and the Dave’s Picks CD series has the most releases of any single band, at 49 and counting.

• We’re here because Phil Lesh is about to turn 84 and he’s still playing music, and because Bob Weir is 76 and tours with a ten-piece band and occasionally plays with a symphony orchestra.

• We’re here because the Grateful Dead are more popular now than they’ve ever been.

• We’re here because Bill Kreutzmann’s son Justin made a film called Let There Be Drums, worked as a producer on The Long Strange Trip, and is currently making the definitive documentary on the life of Jerry Garcia.

• We’re here because “Sure don’t know what I’m goin’ for/But I’m gonna go for it for sure” turned out to be a viable career plan for me.

• We’re here because I have been curating Grateful Dead music on the radio and elsewhere for going on 40 years and I’ve never gotten the slightest bit tired of it.

• We’re here because Gary Lambert is a wonderful co-host! We have collaborated improvisationally on SirisuXM’s Tales from the Golden Road for 16 years, shooting the shit about the Grateful Dead.

• We’re here because Joel Selvin, longtime music writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, recommended me to teach a class on the Grateful Dead.

• And we’re here because, as it turns out, several hundred of you are interested enough in this subject that you signed up for the class. Thank you!

DG teaches GD at Stanford!

Thursday, December 28th, 2023

I have signed on to teach a Grateful Dead class for Stanford Continuing Studies. It’ll be six Monday evenings, starting in mid-January (skipping one week in February).

You can find out more, and/or sign up for the class, here:

The sessions will be recorded, and students will be able to watch later. This will be helpful to people on the east coast!

From the syllabus:

Grateful Dead music is collaborative and improvisational. Accordingly, I have invited guest speakers to join me in at least five of the classes. I’ve been an oral historian and a radio interviewer for more than 40 years; I have learned that conversation is a vastly more effective mode of presentation than lecturing.

Regardless of the stated keyword for the session, each of the speakers will have things to say about multiple topics, so we won’t really be confined to the nominal theme. Instead, students will benefit from the experiences of many experts, each of whom is also a life-long Deadhead with personal stories and perspectives as well as historical and critical knowledge.

For each session I will consult with the guest to create a playlist of, say, 60-90 minutes – reflecting various aspects of the band’s musical and cultural development.

We’ll trace the Dead’s trajectory from private parties and pizza joints to theaters and hockey rinks and stadiums, examining their achievements and struggles. We’ll see how this music and this culture affected the lives of thousands of fans; we’ll take a look at a tribe that has grown over the decades and now features Deadhead families four generations deep.

We’ll hear how the music changed over time, as the dialogue among these musically diverse characters inspired growth both individual and collective; we’ll see how the Grateful Dead invested in high-quality audio tools and sound systems to deliver maximum creativity at maximum quality from the Summer of Love to the summer of ’95.

Critical Envelopes play Dead in Berkeley tonight

Saturday, November 18th, 2023


Critical Envelopes!
David Gans and Joe Rut – guitar & vocals
Joshua Raoul Brody – keyboards & vocals
Dave Jess – bass
Andrew Griffin – drums & vocals

(mostly Grateful Dead)

Showtime is 7pm
Art House Gallery and Cultural Center
2905 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley
$15-25 (Students $10) all ages!

Joe Rut and Dave Jess wanted to play some Dead music. Right around the time we started talking about it, the amazing Joshua Raoul Brody said he’d like to do more of this sort of conversational improvisation. Joe brought Andrew Griffin into the discussion, and here we are! Four of us (with Bob Bralove) played “Dark Star-> Keep Your Day Job-> Dark Star” at this summer’s Very Jerry benefit at the Ashkenaz (watch our performance here), and the current quintet had a great gig at Winery Sixteen 600 in Sonoma last month (watch it here). So here we are! Let us entertain you!

Poster art by Michael Dolgushkin

Grateful Dead Hour no. 1830

Sunday, October 15th, 2023

Week of October 16, 2023

Part 1 30:17
Grateful Dead 4/19/82 Baltimore Civic Center

Part 2 25:40
Grateful Dead, Wake of the Flood (50th Anniversary Remaster) (Rhino)
Jerry Garcia Band, GarciaLive vol 20 (Round Records)
Grateful Dead, Here Comes Sunshine 1973 (Rhino)

Support for the GD Hour comes this week from:

The Jerry Garcia Family and Round Records, unveiling Heads & Tails, an all-new archival series showcasing unreleased live performances on a single LP. Volume 1 presents exciting selections from Garcia/Saunders with Paul Butterfield, and the Jerry Garcia Band. You can find more information about the release and pre-order at

Our Deadhead friends at Nutribullet, makers of juicers, blenders, and other kitchen tools!

A 1968 story from Phil Lesh

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

From my 11/9/84 with Phil Lesh:

We worked for about six months at Columbus Recorders, putting all these two-track tapes of gigs together. We used stuff from the Great Northwest tour with Quicksilver, where we played out asses off with this material – really hot. Some of the tapes were terrible…

One of the gigs that’s like the core tape of Anthem of the Sun was that gig Garcia talked about in the movie, where he “threw me down the stairs” because I stopped playing for a while. I was lost – I couldn’t figure out what the fuck was going on. He said, “Motherfucker, you play” – mumble mumble. He just kinda pushed me out of the way. There were three steps up to a narrow door. I had my bass, and I just wanted to get past his ass and get out there, put my bass in the case and go home.

That was one night we weren’t high on acid. I don’t remember being high on acid that night. We were just playin’. If you’re not on drugs and you play shit like that, I dunno – maybe it… it makes you wireder, more edgy. It’s the kind of thing where people could take cocaine just to come down. Don’t laugh.

That was the first act of violence that any one of us had ever directed toward another one. It blew my mind, for about six or eight hours…. “You ever touch me again… “ You know how it is. And of course, the first thing he said to me the next day was, “Hey, I’m sorry,” and I said, “Hey, forget it.” That’s all you can really say.

The tape was so hot that we didn’t connect that incident with those tapes for a while. I think Jerry was the first one that connected that. He told me about it, and I said, “Are you shittin’ me?” Even after all that misunderstanding, we used those tapes of that night: St. Valentine’s Day, 1968, Carousel Ballroom. We used that for the core of “The Other One,” and “Alligator,” too.

This is the episode Jerry referred to in The Grateful Dead Movie. Remember? Those tapes turned out to be “crackling with energy.”

Grateful Dead Hour no. 1704

Sunday, May 16th, 2021

Week of May 17, 2021

Part 1 34:58
Grateful Dead 4/1/80 Capitol Theatre, Passaic NJ

Part 2 20:56
Jerry Garcia Band, GarciaLive vol. 16 (Round Records)
Big Bill Broonzy, from Roots of Bob Dylan (Mojo)

GarciaLive vol. 16 is the complete JGB performance of November 15, 1991 at Madison Square Garden. Pre-order now at Garcia Family Provisions.

Support for the Grateful Dead Hour comes this week from KM Relief, offering CBD, made with Colorado hemp and all-natural ingredients. Caramels, topicals, tinctures, and more, all made with full-spectrum CBD for the most effective CBD experience.

SFAS interview with John Curl

Monday, April 12th, 2021

The San Francisco Audiophile Society asked me to interview John Curl about his work on the Grateful Dead’s sound systems over the years. The conversation took place via Zoom on Saturday, April 3, 2021. SFAS posted the video here.

This was actually my second interview with Curl for SFAS. The first one, on October 20, 2018, wasn’t recorded; they asked us to do it again for the archive. Here is SFAS’s writeup of the first one.

Kind words about THIS IS ALL A DREAM…

Saturday, March 13th, 2021

“I wanted to drop you a line about my impressions of This Is All A Dream…. I’ve enjoyed it immensely. Your formula of stringing together (more or less in line) snippets from multiple interviews of Dead Family members and associates works in spectacular fashion to bring this history to life. Many of the events described have been more or less well known for a long time but I’m finding the perspectives of two or more participants in an event recalled at different times lends so much more substance to it. And of course so many of these events have been heretofore been completely unknown to me. I’m delighted that you accessed all those first person accounts and wove them into this informative volume. Your book has an honored place on my shelf of Dead material.”

– Miranda Vand
quoted with her permission

My co-author lives on the next block, so when you order a hardcover or paperback, it’ll be signed by both of us! I’ve also got lots of music for sale in my online store,

DG’s daily live performance

Saturday, August 29th, 2020

I play a live set every day!

Tuesday through Sunday 4pm Pacific time on my FB page @dgansmusic
Monday 3-4:15pm on Deadheadland’s FB page and

I play for tips! Appreciating donations via PayPal and Venmo

You can also support my music by buying books and music at

Here’s a taste of my “solo electric” style: “Not Fade Away” from August 12.

Grateful Dead Hour no. 1660

Sunday, July 12th, 2020

Week of July 13, 2020

Part 1 33:32
Grateful Dead 9/9/91 Madison Square Garden, New York NY

Part 2 22:38
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Bear’s Sonic Journals: Found in the Ozone (
Grateful Dead 9/9/91 Madison Square Garden, New York NY

That’s it for 9/9/91. We heard the encore in last week’s program (in order to make things fit into the hour-long format).

The new release in the Bear’s Sonic Journals series is right up my alley! Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were right up there with the Grateful Dead and Asleep at the Wheel as role models for me and my musical mates in the early ’70s. Bear recorded them at The Family Dog in March of 1970, and these tapes and performances are brilliant!

The Grateful Dead Hour is made possible in part by The New Reverend Freakchild Album, The Bodhisattva Blues featuring Melvin Seals, Mark Karan and Robin Sylvester. The Bodhisattva Blues is available at your favorite digital music provider and from May these sonic offerings ease your sufferings in these strange times.

Interview with Keith Olsen 8/9/77

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

Bob Weir, Keith Olsen, and Davd Gans

Photo by Ed Perlstein

Producer Keith Olsen has died.

Here is a partial transcript of the interview I did with him on August 9, 1977 at Sound City in Van Nuys CA, while he and Bob Weir were working on Heaven Help the Fool.

[Talking about interview with San Francisco Chronicle’s Joel Selvin, which took place just as KO returned from England with the Terrapin Station orchestrations.] I had just gotten back from England, and here I was with a whole bunch of stuff that the band had never heard: a 58-page score of strings and horns and a 32-voice choir…

The Grateful Dead were overwhelmed: “Oh my god, we’ve lost the band.” I [had done] a mix at Abbey Road… wanting to hear every note that everybody played. The strings and the horns were excruciatingly loud in the mix compared to where they should be. They’d never heard a string mix before… It’s quite a shock, especially when you have no idea what this short weirdo from Los Angeles, California is going to do to your song. All I could do with Jerry was sing him a bunch of parts that I heard, and say, “This is what I’m going to be writing with Paul Buckmaster.” Then you get over there, and Paul Buckmaster being Paul Buckmaster – what a mind!

Those lines are very much Jerry’s melody lines. The woodwinds and reeds are just a counterpoint to it. When he first heard it, we didn’t have the melody yet; the melody was his guitar, and we just had the strings. I said, “Don’t worry.”

We learned a lot in section rehearsals up at Front Street. They were learning a song, but something seemed weird about it. When everybody went off to get a bite to eat, I asked the drummers and Phil to come back. I sez “Okay, let’s run down the tune.”

“What? No guitars? No voices?”

“Sure. You all know where you are.” All of a sudden they had to start thinking… Billy’s going [whispers] “Mickey, how many bars til the bridge?”

I said, “Don’t worry about it – don’t count the bars – it’s got to be a unit.” In the section rehearsal, it just clicked. Without anything else happening in the room, Phil was the instrument that had to play the chord changes.

Phil is a very inventive bass player, and he’s also a super-intelligent person. Duty called! “My god, it’s me! I’m now the rhythm guitar player; I’m holding down the bottom of this tune; I’m also setting any internal rhythm of this tune – any focus on where the chord change is going is all focused on me” – and it clicked. He just fell right into it. To switch into a focused space, he was the easiest one of all. It was amazing.

It allows Weir to do a more inventive rhythm guitar part, where he doesn’t have to be down there at the bottom coppin’ the bass note, the low E string all the time, to make sure there’s a good fundamental; the fundamental’s there, or it’s passed through in a passing tone, always leading to what the next chord is, without any doubt in the listener’s ear. Phil got right into it, and Bob just said, “Great! Here I go.”

Working with two drummers took a long time at first. Being able to translate from live performance, when you can get away with a lot, to the studio – and these little extensions of our ears called microphones, that are a quarter of an inch off a snare drum, quarter of an inch off each bass drum head. Here you have two snare drums, two bass drums, eight tom-toms, 15 cymbals. That’s a pretty giant set! Where is the beat? The feel was inconsistent, depending on who hit first and hardest. I’m talking about milliseconds. The difference of feel between an upbeat and a backbeat… When you have a drummer that is naturally on the back side of the beat, and one on top of the beat… That’s the two colors of the drummers. Something’s got to give. You have to pick the person who’s right for the feel of the tune – which drummer’s doing to be the most solid, have that drummer be the pulse and let the other drummer be the color. That’s really the stuff that Mickey does the best: the color. I used Billy for snare drum and bass drum and pulse, pretty much on the entire album,.

On preparing to work with the Grateful Dead

I remembered what they sounded like when I heard them play live once, several years ago, and they blew me away they were so good. I always wondered why they couldn’t get that on record.

I listened through Blues for Allah once, and I think I gave it away to a friend. It wasn’t very well done, I told them. It seemed like they rushed through it, and then I found out afterwards that they spent five months recording that album.

Five months, really? Then Garcia said, “Let me rephrase that: we spent four and a half months trying to figure out what we should do first, and then the last two weeks recording.” Garcia’a so great. [laughs]

Production by committee is really hard; record-making by committee is really hard. It can work, but the instances of it working are very few and far between.

I’m really pleased with [Terrapin Station]. There were some trying moments, when we really had to grind away to figure out if what we were doing was right. It was a fine line. I didn’t want to dictate to the Dead, ’cause I would destroy a rapport. I didn’t want to let them dictate to me what was going to on the record. I wanted every performance to come out of them, but be open to ideas like… Tom Scott doing a solo on “Estimated Prophet.”

Jerry had never really done any harmony solos, and he got off doin’ ’em. “This is fun!” And he knows his electronics so well. He paid a bunch of money for that Slave Driver 360, which is a function generator that gave us that [sings line from the end of “Lady with a Fan”]. He had it sitting in here for three hours, idling, with signs that said, “Do not touch!” To let it get stable. That thing was crazy: when you play a note, you trigger a bunch of little ICs that say, “He’s playing an E and he’s wiggling it, so I’m going to give a control voltage to the oscillator in something down the line, and I will tell it to play an E and wiggle it.” It’s a most amazing piece of gear; it’s a frequency-to-voltage converter.

[discussion of Les Paul technique of playing a solo over the tape at half speed, used in “Terrapin Flyer”]

“Terrapin Transit” is there to destroy any thought you had about constant tempo – even though it was written and conducted in exactly the same tempo as the tune that preceded it. The violins were on, I think, an 8-beat cycle, the violas on a 7-beat cycle, the cellos in 6, and the second violins in 5… You can click your fingers right through that whole thing.

Weir is an accomplished rhythm guitar player. It’s an art that has been forgotten by too many people in this industry. Rhythm guitar is hard to play! It’s an integral part of making music….

Making the Grateful Dead accessible to people throughout the country in different walks of life and different musical tastes… Garcia has been such an underrated guitarist – he’s so melodic, and the ease of playing… I’ve seen that for years in the band, and I’ve just always wished that band could make a record that I could enjoy.

Dino English on the Grateful Dead’s drummers

Saturday, February 8th, 2020

Last week on Tales from the Golden Road we had a caller asking about drumming – a topic about which this guitarist isn’t nearly as well-informed as I’d like. Later in the program we got a call from Dino English, one of Dark Star Orchestra‘s drummers, adding lots of useful information to the topic. And this week, Dino sent me some more info by email to share with the world.

Here’s Dino:


Just to continue the drum discussion… listening to Betty Board of 10-2-77 off archive…

So this Betty board has Billy snare, kick and toms mostly on left while Mickey snare and toms Mostly on right. Betty [Cantor-Jackson], as well as Dan [Healy], would place stuff as if you were looking at the stage for the most part except Jerry and Bass generally up middle with keys on one side and Bob guitar on the opposite. In this case the keys are hard left, Bob fairly hard right.

First song, Casey Jones, if you put the phones on, you can clearly hear both drummers hitting the back beat at the same time. Both of them hitting the backbeat at the same time happened quite a bit … especially in the 70’s before Mickey started going more world beatish in the 80’s where he would hit a back beat on the toms more. He did do it in the 70’s as well but it was especially prominent after Mickey moved his big Tom to left and right above his snare is the later 80’s

On Jack Straw on this recording you can hear Mickey play backbeats on the toms as well and some snare back beats here and there.

Brown Eyed, on this recording, you have them both hitting back beats on snare.

Even though they are playing similar parts, it still adds to the over depth of the texture.

And of course in general, Mickey was the primary tom fill guy, while Billy driving the groove. Quite often they would trade up who is on hi hats and the other would play ride. But there was certainly times when they both played hi hat or ride at the same time.

They would sometimes fill at the same time as well with a similar rhythm (such as 16th note theme) or quite often Mickey would start and Billy would finish.

But yes, it was all in the purpose of serving whatever song it was they were currently playing. And giving each other space. They were clearly playing together rather than what quite often happens when you get two drummers together where one or both of the them wants to turn it into a drum battle while shitting all over the music.


And I should also throw in that on occasion, the channels accidentally got switched by the tapers if they got a board feed and mixed up right and left inputs. Then you’d have Billy on the right and Mickey on the left. But that’s clearly a mistake, as you can hear it if you dial into the same show with an audience recording where the right and left is clear.

And also you can tell it’s wrong by just knowing how they mixed. Both Dan and Betty have told me they mix as if looking at the stage. They both have their differences of how extreme things are panned. Dan tended to go extreme hard left and right with snare kick and hats and the overheads would work as a unifier of sorts with Billy’s right overhead and Mickeys left overhead being almost center (from the perspective of looking at the stage).  … while Betty would not quite pan the snare that extreme. 

I’ve tried to point this out to Charlie Miller at times (with varying results).

On a side note, Dan would make some exceptions. He would hard pan Mickey’s floor toms hard right when if looking at the stage they would be center. He said he did this because the floor toms took up too much sonic space.  

One thing that often seems to be true as well with all this stuff… there are always exceptions to the case. These are all things that developed over time and as with the music, very rarely would things stay the same. 

(added later)
I should mention the cowbell since it can be a pretty predominant part. On many tunes Mickey would often play the cowbell and toms as a textual thing while Billy held down the beat with a kick, snare, hi hat thing. That would be a classic example of them playing very different parts. Examples of this would be Let It Grow or Scarlet > Fire. 

Grateful Dead Hour no. 1592

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

Week of March 25, 2019

Part 1 16:43
Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, Acoustic on the Eel (Round Records)
Bob Weir & Wolf Bros 2/28/19 State Theater, Ithaca NY

Part 2 38:23
Grateful Dead 12/2/81 U of I Assembly Hall, Champaign-Urbana IL

A couple of months ago I got a package from Candace Brightman, who was the Grateful Dead’s lighting designer for more than 20 years. The box contained a handful of cassettes she had found in a closet, and she thoughtfully sent them along to me in case there was anything worth putting on the radio. Here’s one of those tapes – set 1 of December 2, 1981 at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. We’ll hear the rest of set 1 next week (but I don’t have set 2, sorry to say). Enjoy!

Support for the Grateful Dead Hour comes from:

The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. Lettuce comes to The Cap on Saturday, 4/20 with their classic funk, smooth and soulful grooves, and hip-hop-inspired beats. On Thursday, April 25, Nile Rodgers & CHIC come for a disco dance party at The Cap. The Fab Faux play fan favorites and music from the Beatles solo years at The Cap on Saturday, May 4. Every Wednesday is Grateful Dead night at Garcia’s, The Capitol Theatre’s venue-within-a-venue. Events, information, and ticketing at

Airshow Mastering, putting the finishing touches on new and classic music, including recent releases by the Grateful Dead, Mandolin Orange, Robben Ford and Bill Evans, Keller Williams, Fragile Thunder, and Victor Krummenacher.

KPFA’s annual Grateful Dead marathon 3/2/19

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Saturday, March 2, 2019, 9am to 1am Pacific Time
Broadcast live on KPFA Berkeley CA, KFCF 88.1 Fresno CA, and K248BR 97.5 FM Santa Cruz CA
Streamed live on,, and
Hosted by Tim Lynch, David Gans, and David Ogilvy
Featuring unreleased Grateful Dead concerts, miscellaneous audio treats, and live performances by Joe Craven & The Sometimers and the Fragile Thunder Duo.

PLAYLIST updated as we go…

DONATE ONLINE at, or call 1-800-439-5732
Thank-you gifts include music, concert tickets, coffee – and t-shirts by Darrin Brenner!

Phone room volunteers are welcome – just come on down! We’ll treat you to caramels and chocolates by Lillie Belle Farms and coffee from Grateful Beans!

Charlie Miller
Tony Ferro
Brooke Caputo
Kevin Cartwright
Katie Tertocha
Quincy McCoy
Phil Osegueda
Darrin Brenner / D Brenner Art and Design
Dan Bern
Stephen Inglis
John Whalen /
Brad Serling /
Stuart Steinhardt
Beauty’s Bagel Shop
Jeff Shepherd / Lillie Belle Farms
Sandy Hall / Grateful Beans and Leaves
Chef Jeff Rosen / Blue Heron Catering

KPFA GD marathon results

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

The 2017 KPFA Grateful Dead Marathon raised more than $30,000 for listener-sponsored, independent radio! Thank you!

Innumerable kindnesses transpired all over the globe in service of this cause. This link will take you to a long list of people who contributed to the Marathon. Our thanks to all of them, and hooray for all of us!

Here is the playlist.