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Thursday, August 4

Jerry Garcia and his Bands: The long, strange trip of the Jerry Garcia Band, Reconstruction, Legion of Mary, and the JG Acoustic Band

Jerry Garcia and his Bands: The long, strange trip of the Jerry Garcia Band, Reconstruction, Legion of Mary,Old and in the Way and the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band 

Despite the grinding tour schedule of the Grateful Dead, Jerry didn't ever really kick back and cool his heels. He formed the first JGB in 1975, the year that saw the GD take a serious break from touring. On and off for the next twenty years, he would play and tour sporadically with many incarnations of "his" band. The only stable member was his bassist, John"Mule"Kahn". The member with the next longest tenure was Melvin Seals. The hot seat in the JGB was the drummer. He used Ron Tutt and David Kemper the most but even Billy Kreutzmann joined in the fun. Especially on Garcia, Jerry's first solo album, in which he played every instrument but drums and Kreutzmann handled those duties. That first solo album provided so many classics that the Grateful Dead ended up using almost every song on the record. 

Jerry used his side projects to indulge his creative side with players that did what they were told. The Grateful Dead was a beast that could be a dragon moving forward or six horses all going in opposite directions. He played a wide range of styles that gave him the freedom to be creative. Reggae, Motown, Dylan covers, and bluegrass songs all made regular appearances in his shows. He played with Keith and Donna Godchaux and Maria Muldaur. He played with session ace Nicky Hopkins. He even played with sax and flute player Martin Fierro. The lineup changed all the time. 

Perhaps the biggest change was in 1987, when he played his famous run at the Lunt-Fontaine Theater on Broadway. This show featured an early and late show, each show, matinee and late show, starting with an acoustic set and then followed up by an electric set.

Later in the 90's he joined up with friend David Grisman for "Grateful Dawg" music. This incorporated Jerry's "Grateful"style with Grisman's "Dawg" style for a tour of acoustic shows around the country. The two had been old friends and finally got the time to get a couple albums and a tour together as Jerry was doing his best to stay clean. The early JGB show's were referred to as "money(dope)shows. Jerry knew just his presence at the Keystone could give him enough money to stay in drugs and through the 80's even though there are many great JGB shows, he was playing at the Keystone for a reason. 

Jerry was a stubborn man who didn't like to be told what to do. The whole Grateful Dead was a band of misfits who didn't like to tell people what to do. It became extremely hard to try to help their old friend Jerry, when the guy with the hairnet and house shoes opened the door and called their bluff. He knew he could play anywhere with anyone and the heroin won over any threats the rest of the Dead might have made.  It was a sad situation but with JGB he could make a couple calls and have a band on stage in an hour or two. The Dead required months of planning and negotiations before going on tour.

 Luckily, we got some good albums from Jerry and most of them had songs that leaked over to the GD. "Sugaree","Bird Song", "Might As Well" and "Mission in the Rain" are just a handful of the tunes he wrote and took to the Dead because no matter what, the Grateful Dead was his main band. Maybe if they had taken some time off after Brent died and rested for awhile, he'd have lasted longer but if I had wheels I'd be a wagon. Jerry Garcia did what he wanted too and played when he wanted too. The stylistic differences in the two bands always made me feel like The Grateful Dead was a party but Jerry Garcia Band was going to church. The man had too much music pouring out of him for just six other people to contain.  Thankfully, we have the Pure Jerry and Live Jerry cd's to hear the magic he was making in his "down" time.
Written by: Greg Heffelfinger

a somewhat clear graph of who played what when
If you can't read this graph, here is a clearer version

I would never presume on genius or try to stifle it in anyway, I'm just grateful we have the recordings of all his side projects.

Solo Albums:                                              Garcia and Howard Wales
Garcia 1972                                                Hooteroll? 1971
Compliments 1974                                      
Reflections 1976                                         Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band  
Run for the Roses 1982                               Almost Acoustic 1988

JGB albums:                                               
Cats Under the Stars 1978                          
Jerry Garcia Band 1991                              
Jerry and Merl albums:
Live at the Keystone Vol 2. 1972
Keystone Encores 1988

Garcia and Grisman albums:
Jerry Garcia David Grisman 1991
Not For Kids Only 1993

Old and in the Way
Old and in the Way 1975

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