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

Tag: jerry garcia (Page 2 of 137)

That Time Phil Was Fatter Than Garcia: A Half-Assed Investigation

As is by now cliche, the Grateful Dead’s career can be sorted into chapters: Baby Dead, Single Drummer, Double Drummer, Brent, Vince, John Mayer; even the noobiest of noobs knows this. These chapters can be  further broken down: Baby Dead can, like the years that followed–be sliced into Single/Double Drummer, and then Vince be split into Bruce/No Bruce, but the Brent Years can be shaved the finest. There’s Pre and Post Coma, obviously, but there was also a magical and mostly forgotten period towards the beginning of Brent’s tenure: That Time Phil Was Fatter Than Garcia.

We can eyeball it to Fall of ’80, but exact dates for TTPWFTG are unknown as of now.

It couldn’t have lasted more than one tour. This shot’s from 9/6/80 in Lewiston, Maine, which for some reason I thought was the Dead’s only trip up to Massachusetts’ vestigial tail, but they went there a lot. As you can see, Phil had been indulging in Maine’s signature dish, which is a deep-fried plaid hat slathered in mayonnaise. (Phil also broke into Stephen King’s house after the show, as he did at least once during each of the Dead’s visits to the state.)

Speaking of plaid:

We see that in October of the same year, Phil is still a huffalump.

By March of ’81, however, the Lord has reasserted His hand on the wheel, and normalcy reigns once more over the lot, as Phil and Garcia retake their appropriate positions on the Axis of Dead Chubbiness.

Lo, do you hear the winds a-winding? Feel the earth ‘neath your feet, or knees, or whatever you’ve got pressed up against the earth? Are you reeling in the years? Will you one day dandle your tyke ‘pon your knee and teach the old stories, the cruel stories, the lost jewels of birthright? Will you tell your child about That Time Phil Was Fatter Than Garcia? Will you do that for me?

Stop typing.


Do something useful with your life.

Don’t wanna.

Garcia: The Folk Years

Hey, Young Garcia. Whatcha doing?

“Being hep, man.”

Cool. Are you at a hootenanny?

“More of a sing-a-long.”

God, folk music is dorky.

“Don’t knock it, man. These tunes are the American canon. Europe has Beethoven and we have Woody Guthrie.”

Oh, just buy an electric guitar already.

“I like what I’m doing.”

Uh-huh. Who are your friends?

“Well, the fellow’s name is Peter Paulenmary.”


“And I don’t know the girl’s name, man. She’s kinda freaking me out.”

There’s an Amish intensity to her.


Sitting And Staring Outside The Hotel Window

“Don’t do laser eyes, Weir.”

“Love laser eyes, Jer. No one else is doing it.”

“I don’t care.”

“None of the Stones. That Mick Jagger fellow pouts. That’s, uh, the opposite of laser eyes, facially speaking.”

“You look nuts, man.”

“I look focused and energetic.”

“You know: like a laser.”

“This is the worst trip to a balcony since Juliet, man.”


What exactly is going on with Garcia’s nub-grip on his cigarette? How does that work? Did he use his index and ring fingers like plucky tweezers, or is the butt jammed in the web between stumpy and ring? I’m so confused.

And A Friend I Love At Hand

“Weir, you know a little French. Why is everyone calling us pwa-loos?”

Les poilus. It, uh, means ‘the hairy guys.'”

“Just like back home, man.”

Plus ça change. Hey, Jer?”

“Yeah, man?”

“Seeing the world is fun and all, but it’s much better when you do it with your friends.”

“Don’t get sentimental on me.”

“Just saying. You hungry?”

“Weir, if you bring up Arthur fucking Treacher’s one more time, I’m gonna scream.”

“Paris is a very cosmopolitan city. There might be one.”

“There won’t even be a McDonald’s for seven more years, man. Let it go.”

“How about sushi?”

“Maybe. It’s 1972, man. We might have to stick to French food.”

“Then, uh, we’re off on a culinary adventure.”

Francois’ Tower

“Hey, Jer.”

“Yeah, Weir?”

“Gendarme’s got your arm.”

“Good one, man.”

“Y’know, in addition to looking nifty, the Eiffel Tower is also the tallest FM radio transmitter in Europe.”

“Y’don’t say.”

“Oh, yeah. I don’t know any of the deejays over here, though.”

“Wolfman Jack’s Gallic cousin, Wolfman Jacques.”

“I bet he plays a lot of Johnny Hallyday.”

“Give the people what they want, man. Especially if they’re French, or they’ll chop your head off.”

“They’re, uh, easily-riled folks. Historically speaking.”

“Historically speaking.”



“I just realized that this is where they film Superman II eight years from now.”



“Don’t say stuff like that out loud around civilians, man.”


Every Silver Jerry’s Got A Coat Of Grey



–carious Lee? Oh, hey. I have more questions about this.

“Figures. Shoot.”

What the fuck, man?

“The speakers?”

Obviously. Among other things, but obviously the speakers and their configuration is our primary focus. Are they being held up by the power of suggestion?

“Among other things.”

Like rope?

“Could be. I personally don’t recall tying anything down, but someone definitely could have.”

Wow. My further line of inquiry concerns the overall jankiness.

“Lotta jank with the Dead, yeah.”

This picture has been placed at Silver Stadium in Rochester, New York, and dated to 6/30/88.

“If you say so.”

This was a show at Silver Stadium in June of 1986:


Professionalism could be achieved in 1986. It wasn’t ’72 anymore.

“And yet the kids came.”

Every other band was right to work their crews like dogs.

“Good thing I don’t work for one of them. We ran into those guys a couple times.”


“Those Van Halen jagoffs. Mike’s okay, but the brothers like getting drunk and biting people. They’re vicious little fuckers. And Bobby’s terrified of David Lee Roth.”


“Instinct. For most of the people he meets, David Lee Roth inspires a fight-or-flight response.”

I can see that. Precarious, could you look at one last photo, please?

“Do it to it, chief.”

This is, once again, the Grateful Dead at Silver Stadium in Rochester, New York, on the 30th of June, 1988.

“Need a little zoom-and-enhance on that one.”

No, I like the long view that shows just how bush a league could be. That, sir, is the limit of bush. No league can contain more bush than that. That picture represents the exterior of infinity.

“What you need to remember about our audience–”

Don’t use the drug excuse.

“–is that they were on drugs. It’s true. Most of ’em spent the show staring at a stranger’s neck.”

Stop it. A couple of tie-dye banners. Some curtains to hide the exposed machinery. A proscenium. Something. Anything. You could have done anything and it would have been an improvement, as this is the bare minimum. You stacked heavy shit up, plugged it in, and cracked a beer.

“We were drinking beer while stacking shit up and plugging it in.”

I expect more out of the Grateful Dead’s road crew.


Lee’s Tower


I didn’t call for you, Precarious.

“You were gonna.”

Yeah. I was just stunned into silence. Dude, what the fuck?

“Be more specific.”

I cannot. The lack of aesthetics and basic safety requirements is all-pervasive. The stage looks like a Radio Shack, but not a good one; the Radio Shack in the bad mall, where the knife fights break out every so often. The bad mall wasn’t always the bad mall, but the economy and demographics and all that. Used to be a place that sold fancy popcorn. Flavored, seasoned, nice packaging. Now there’s nine stores that sell baseball caps. Time will do her marching, Precarious.

“You got a question?”

I asked it: What the fuck?

“Their choice of apparel and instrument is on them.”

Granted. Do you remember why Garcia was wearing his going-to-court jacket on stage?

“I do not.”

Did the road crew make fun of Bobby’s pink guitar?


Was there any thought whatsoever given towards purchasing a tie-dyed scrim to hide some of the more unattractive geegaws and wedged monitors?

“Obviously not.”

Why not?

“This way is easiest for us.”

A performance stage shouldn’t be set according to the laziness of the road crew.

“Not lazy. Efficient.”

What about the tower of speakers behind band?

“Yeah, maybe that was a little lazy. We probably should have set up the rigging.”

Wooden palettes and a forklift, right?

“How else would you do that?”

Holy shit, those cabinets at the top aren’t even strapped down, are they?

“I don’t recall anyone dying, so we must have done it right.”

That’s not how that works.

Go Tele On The Mountain

“Hey, Jer?”

“What, Weir?”

“I’m kinda digging this Telecaster. Thinking about maybe becoming a Tele guy.”

“A what?”

“Telecaster guy. Get myself a shirt styled in the cowboy fashion. Maybe one of those haircuts that requires unguent to maintain its integrity.”

“Haven’t I told you to stay away from unguents, man?”

“At least once a day since 1968.”

“It’s good advice I’m giving you.”

“I think the Deadheads would appreciate the change. Perhaps they could learn to line-dance.”

“They can barely stand in lines, man.”

“Jer, I’ve heard the sound of my soul, and that sound is ‘twang.'”

“Just play the damn song, Weir.”


Special People

One of the best things about the Dead is how little clothing the members owned. Bobby wore that shirt, like, every other day in ’72.


Where’s you get that guitar. Bobby?

“It was handed to me as I took the stage.”

Sure. But it’s not your usual axe.

“Huh. Guess not. But, uh, like I said: I’m handed a guitar as I take the stage. I don’t get into the logistics.”

Okay. Hey, Mrs. Donna Jean. Whatcha doing?

“Trippin’ balls, sugar.”

Professionalism at every turn.


That is a Les Paul Special, which was also available with a single-cutaway, but looked cooler in the double-cut configuration and coolest in the so-called “TV Yellow” finish. (That shade was believed to look fabulous on black-and-white teevee sets.) Gibson only made ’em from ’55-’60, when they were replaced by the far-less-cuddly SG.


Anyone know of any other shows when Bobby played that guitar? Scholar Michael Clem informs us that Garcia played an identical instrument during the Summer ’71 tour:

Is it, in fact, the same guitar that Bobby is wielding in the picture above, which we are told is from 10/18/72 at the Fabulous Fox Theater in St. Louis? Go ask your families, Enthusiasts. Demand answers from those parasites, and meet me back here around midnight. Bring sandwiches.

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