Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Tag: jerry band (Page 1 of 2)

The Link, No Longer Missing

I come not to bury the great Jesse Jarnow, but to praise him and simultaneously call the wrath of The Lord upon his bearded face.

As you know, Enthusiasts, there are certain maxims that apply to the Grateful Dead. We know that Life is Short, and therefore we must Listen to ’73. We recognize that the proper unit of the Grateful Dead is not the song, or album, but the show. If it’s ’71, then Garcia is out of tune. We hold these truths to be self-evident. And this: There is always a Dead connection. NASA, Whitney Houston, the Soviet Bloc: all hitched and roped to our dissolute heroes.

Even Elvis.

But there was no connection to Roy Head, that razzlin’, dazzlin’, pay-for-your-vajazzlin’ superstar from Cascabel, Texas. Roy didn’t travel in the same circles as the Dead; they both knew Doug Sahm, but Roy kicked Doug Sahm’s ass every St. Patrick’s Day from 1963-82, and so they weren’t really what you’d call friends. All roads dead-ended, all tethers withered, all paths turned grassy and vague.

Until now. The great Jesse Jarnow reveals that Sarah Fulcher sang with both Roy Head’s back up band, the Traits, and the ’73 version of Garcia’s Jerry Band. Everyone here at Fillmore South thanks Mr. Jarnow for this tip. However, he must also be indicted in the harshest of terms. Why was I not notified immediately of this news? Why was the interview not paused so he could text me, and allow me to process the information in a civilized fashion, instead of having to read it along with the rest of the world like a rando?

I will not be treated like a goddamned rando. I await rectification of the insult.

This is why you don’t have friends.


Non-sequitur. Let the nice people hear Ms. Fulcher sing.

Whatever. Here’s her with Garcia, Merl Saunders, a bass-playing drug dealer, and an uninspiring drummer:

And here she is with Roy Head:

Philling In

The rarest of all possible Phils: playing a Fender in the Jerry Band. This was 6/26/81 at the Warfield, and this (and the previous night) were the only gigs that Phil did with Jerry Band; John Kahn was absent, and Corey from Lost Live Dead may know why. (Don’t worry: the band did have a drug dealer amongst its members even without Kahn’s presence.)

It sounded like this:

Not Quite The Royal Wedding

This was 9/15/76, and the Duchess was a real boat, not some poorly-named North Shore bar. The New York branch of the Hells Angels–friends of the Dead since the ’72 Academy of Music benefit–threw a party in a location they knew could not be raided by the cops. It wasn’t a dinghy, either. Check this fucker out:

Did you check that fucker out? (The Duchess used to be called the Bay Belle. Ships can change names. For example, in the 60’s the SS Lew Alcindor changed its name to the SS Mohammad Ali.) A boat’s officially big when it’s required to have other, smaller boats hanging off the sides. (One day, Carnival Cruises will build a ship so large that its lifeboats are so big that they themselves need lifeboats.) They didn’t go much of anywhere–just circled Manhattan a couple times–but Jerry Band played, so it was probably worth putting on your floaties. (This was the version of Jerry Band with John Kahn in it, just in case you’re a stats nerd.) But why listen to me? Read about the show from someone who was there.

Or just watch it.

Whatever floats your boat.

Always A Dead Connection

Like so many other things, this was John Kahn’s fault. You will recall that in October of ’74, the Grateful Dead pulled the ol’ “fake retirement” trick–one of the hoariest gimmicks in show biz–and now Garcia had no touring money coming in. This is suboptimal for a man with three children and a mortgage, and so Garcia ramped up the Jerry Band. Whereas before, he stuck mostly to the Bay Area and played with locals, now he would take to the road and get some of that sweet, sweet East Coast cash. Those coffers ain’t gonna replenish themselves.

First, he put together the Legion of Mary–his best solo band, hands down–which was Kahn on bass (of course), Merl Saunders on organ and terrible vocals, Martin Fierro on out-of-tune saxophone, and the Greatest Drummer of All Time™ Ronnie Tutt. Sadly, this combo proved short-lived; Garcia fired Saunders and Fierro (not personally, of course; he let Parish make the calls) and added legendary British pianist Nicky Hopkins. Those big, brutish block chords in Sympathy for the Devil? That was Nicky.

But Nicky wasn’t a road dog like Garcia was: he was unhealthy since he was a kid, and he drank too damn much. He was a chatty drunk, too, and would introduce songs for ten minutes. Plus, according to Ronnie Tutt, he had bad time. (What Ronnie Tutt thought of Garcia’s time, he has kept to himself all these years.) A new keyboardist was needed. Someone reliable, professional, a real team player.

So Garcia hired an insane junkie.

James Booker’s tenure with the Jerry Band lasted a weekend, which makes him the Anthony Scaramucci of the JGB. Quite frankly, I can’t believe Garcia kept him on for the second night. Go listen to the show. Booker overpowers Garcia, and Kahn, with the deluge of music coming from his piano and, even more hilariously, refuses to listen to Garcia in the slightest. Booker cuts off his solos, goes into verses when Garcia starts singing the chorus, and at least once takes over the lead vocal halfway through the song. Also: the tunes end when James Booker says they end, and that’s it. (Every song. Every single song ends with Garcia trying to finish up the song but Booker keeps playing, or he’ll just ripcord out of the song while Garcia is soloing away merrily in the background.)

Was he amused? Pissed? I bet Garcia was pissed. I’ll bet his eyes got darker and darker throughout the evening, and that he made fun of Kahn for the suggestion for years afterwards.

Anyway, this is the 1/9/76 show. There was a second show the following night, and then James Booker was bundled back onto a plane bound for New Orleans. Garcia called up Keith and Mrs. Donna Jean and never hired any geniuses ever again.

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