|Dick Latvala, 1993. © Susana Millman
After the band’s first gift of materials, the first major collection to be donated to the Archive came from several friends of Dick Latvala
, who presented his collection of more than 500 reels, many in elaborately decorated boxes, along with several linear feet of his papers. Much of that material documents his work to determine which shows were fan favorites.
What Latvala did not document, however, were the hundreds of letters, most hand written, he penned to fans who emailed or corresponded to tell him what shows they thought should be released. One letter, recently donated by Archive supporter Steve Armato, demonstrates that effort, a thoughtful note letting Armato know that Latvala shared his high opinion of the show in question, May 21, 1974
—one known for its legendary, longest-ever version of “Playing in the Band. ”
Latvala cautions Armato that the process of getting the band to approve a release “really isn’t as simple as one might assume at first glance,” which those familiar with the decision-making process at Grateful Dead Productions at the time would second. But his enthusiastic affirmation of Armato’s opinion—“that incredibly long ‘Playing in the Band’ is one of my favorites, also”—is a sentiment that Deadheads familiar with the show share. Dupree’s Diamond News
publisher John Dwork calls it “a wild ride through a dark and stormy sea of swirling musical chaos” that is “stunning in its dark power” in his review of the show in the second volume of The Deadhead’s Taping Compendium
|Latvala’s Letter to Armato, Jan. 9, 1994
Armato recalls with pleasure getting Dick’s hand-written reply in 1994 and he saved it until the Archive was underway. Having donated a wonderful pair of posters and visited the Archive last November, he thought of the letter and asked whether the Archive might be interested. Any correspondence from Dick is potentially interesting to us, and this note is useful on several levels, not only for its insights into Latvala’s work but also his connections with the broader Deadhead scene. Our thanks to Steve for thinking of the Archive and for making this piece of history available to scholars and researchers.
The Archive is delighted to announce the donation of two artifacts from well-known Grateful Dead author and band family member Jerilyn Brandelius: a wonderful broadside reproducing Robert Hunter’s lyrics to “Touch of Grey” and a pristine copy of the backstage pass to a 1980 show, shown at left. Both gifts fill in gaps in our collections.
Deadheads know Jerilyn from her book, Grateful Dead FamilyAlbum
(Warner Books), which not only presents the history of the band but also the band members, from childhood through their time in the Haight and after. Far more than just photographs, the book captured scholars’ attention for its inclusion of remarkable and evocative ephemera
like a Beat-influenced poem by Ron “Pigpen” McKernan and a watercolor of fellow Haight-Ashbury band Quicksilver Messenger Service on stage.
The broadside commemorates a reading by band lyricist Robert Hunter at Berkeley’s Black Oak Books
Created by the Okeanos Press, it is a superb example of handpress printing immortalizing the band’s Top 10 hit, “Touch of Grey.” As an artifact, it represents the confluence of the Dead’s art with their Beat antecedents, which Black Oak and the Okeanos Press both honor.
The backstage pass is also important. Although the Archive has hundreds of backstage passes, that section of the Archive is far from complete, and we rely on the generosity of donors like Jerilyn to help us build a complete set.
Jerilyn’s donation is a gracious nod from the band family to the Archive, and we are most grateful to her for her thoughtfulness and generosity.
One timeless Deadhead saying is, “we are everywhere,” a phrase that not only makes the un-secret society universal, but also describes the tantalizing and elusive ways that the Grateful Dead phenomenon has been diffused into the larger culture.
One striking recent example of this graced the cover of a recent flower catalog. Horticulturally-inclined fans were surprised and delighted when the cover of one of their spring garden catalogs bore the banner headline, “2012 AARS Winner ‘Sunshine Daydream’.” Inside the Jackson and Perkins
catalog, there is no mention of Robert Hunter’s authorship of the phrase; the somewhat breathless prose only describes the rose, noting that this “stunning grandiflora is the first rose to win AARS honors from the House of Meilland in France.” (The online catalog description is here
Roses have always been central to the Dead’s iconography, beginning with Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse’s seminal image for the band’s appearance at the Avalon Ballroom in 1966, which adapted an illustration by Edward J. Sullivan for The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam: a skeleton surrounded by roses.
The pinnacle of that association was Mouse and Kelley’s timeless classic Blue Rose, their airbrush masterpiece for the band’s 1978 New Year’s show that also celebrated the closing of beloved San Francisco landmark Winterland Auditorium. That image depicted a holy grail for rose breeders, a blue rose; now the horticultural world has returned the favor, acknowledging the band with this tribute to Hunter’s lyrics for “Sugar Magnolia.”
The Archive is delighted to announce the recent gift of two books of poetry by Robert Cooperman, an award-winning poet and author of sixteen books whose many accolades include the Colorado Book Award for Poetry. Recently he was named as a finalist for the Foreword Magazine Book of the Year.
These two books, Not Too Old to Rock and Roll (Snark 2003) and A Tale of the Grateful Dead (Main Street Rag 2004), are of interest to Dead scholars and fans for their powerful, thoughtful and deeply evocative verse treatments of themes dear to Deadheads. Cooperman is known to Dead scholars for his appearances at the annual Southwest/Texas American and Popular Culture Association conferences, where he read his Dead-related work, and one of his poems, “Halloween Costume Party,” was published in Dead Letters: Essays on the Grateful Dead Phenomenon, Vol. 1 (2001).
These two books capture Cooperman’s range nicely, from the more formal, studied exposition of the interlinked poems comprising A Tale of the Grateful Dead to the delightful, and occasionally haunting, poems that trace some of the broad arcs of Deadhead experience in Not Too Old to Rock and Roll.
Deadhead literary scholars and the Archive owe Cooperman thanks for his generous gift—and Deadheads everywhere owe him thanks for his poetic tribute to the Grateful Dead.