The Improvisors

How did you become a Deadhead?
I was in my mid teens when I first saw the Dead at the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park. Rock'n'roll was the automatic turn-on, I simply couldn't hear enough. I saw them again at Speedway Meadows (talked to Jerry on a call-in at KYA the night before the show!). Again at Provo Park in Berkeley, which was cool 'cuz they were almost a part of the crowd, the gig was so informal, and the last free show was when they closed Haight St. and the Dead played on the backs of a couple of flatbed trucks to a huge crowd on the closed-off street. The band's progression turned me on more and more as they got deeper into improvisation. I also dug the melding of soul/R&B and rock/pop music. I'm not really a Deadhead now, the Dead ended for me when Pigpen died.
What is your favorite Dead show and why?
The New Monk in Berkeley. The show had been advertised as a Jerry Garcia Band show but the Dead showed-up instead and they did all covers. This was the last time I saw Pigpen, he did not look good at all. This is my favorite show because 1) I can remember some of it and 2) it was totally unique for them. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Johnny B. Goode are the two great tunes I remember them doing.
What is your favorite Dead song and why?
Toss-up between The Other One and Alligator. You get the idea: funky psychedelia with soulful vocals.
What is your favorite aspect of the Dead scene?
Being able to see a great band live for free was a big attraction to the Frisco bands in the sixties. The fact that a number of them were amazing musicians had a lot to do with it. The freedom to freak freely, especially while tripping, was a signature aspect that I loved.
What, if anything, do you think is important about the Dead, and about the Dead phenomenon?
I'm hard-put to think of a really good answer to this question. I would probably have to say that the tribal nature of the Dead experience is an important phenomenon, it was something that grew out of the free gigs in the park and continues to this day at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival and Burning Man as well as numerous reggae, americana and world music gatherings.
The Dead were heavy in the mix of the San Francisco Sound improvisors in the sixties. They were somewhat unique in that they didn't just jam out on a blues progression or do extra choruses of songs in their book, they just got way out there sometimes. It was obvious, in retrospect especially, that they were listening to the vanguard of new jazz musicians in addition to getting gloriously high. They were partly responsible for the crazy good Fillmore lineups, giving Bill Graham tips on who to book into the hall. I do miss those days but am glad that there is so much great music here and now!
Copyright Information
I am the copyright owner. I believe my submission is fair use. This work is available from the UC Santa Cruz Library. This digital copy of the work is intended to support research, teaching, and private study. This work is protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). Use of this work beyond that allowed by Fair Use requires written permission of the copyright holder(s). Responsibility for obtaining permission, and for any use or distribution of this work, rests exclusively with the user and not the UC Santa Cruz Library. If the work itself or our research has indicated that one or more individuals or entities is a current copyright holder, that information may be included in the Copyright Information field. Other sources for copyright information include the Creator field or copyright statements on the work. When available, contact information for requesting permission from copyright holder(s) will be linked from the Copyright Information field. If you have additional or conflicting information about ownership of rights in this work, please contact us at



Great oral history! The first one on the new GDAO site. We were listening to The Other One when your submission came across the desk at the GDAO command center, part of the Hollywood Palladium on 1971-08-06 show featured on the site (great show, by the way).

Jun 27, 2012


Thanx..Is the GDAO command center also the swag vault? I'm trying to get a mental picture of the GDAO command center and I'm just going, well, mental....I tried to be brief in my post and held back on language (my friends may doubt that it is actually me who made the post!). I'd really appreciate getting a recording of that New Monk show, the only one I know of was made by Carlos and Jorge Santana, who my friend and I were sharing a joint with during the show. I realize taping was a little spotty back then.

Jun 30, 2012