Tag Archives: Grateful Dead

December 18 Music et al

December 18 Music et al

Lion Sleeps Tonight

December 18, 1961 – January 12, 1962: a South African song from the 1920s, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by the Tokens #1 Billboard Hot 100.

Solomon Linda, a South African singer of Zulu origin wrote the original song, “Mbube” (Zulu: lion) in the 1920s. Many, including the Weavers, Jimmy Dorsey, Miriam Makeba and the Kingston Trio, covered the song before the Tokens’ success.

December 18 Music et al

Blue Hawaii

December 18, 1961 –  May 4, 1962 – Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii movie soundtrack the Billboard #1 album.

Blue Hawaii was the fourteenth album by Elvis. RCA had released it on October 20, 1961. It is a soundtrack for Presley’s film of the same name. The album spent 20 weeks at the number one slot and 39 weeks in the Top 10 on Billboards Top Pop LPs chart. (see April 21, 1962)

December 18 Music et al

I Want To Hold Your Hand

December 17, 1963: radio DJ Carroll James at Washington. D.C. station WWDC, played a U.K. copy of  “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on the radio after a 15-year-old girl from Silver Spring, MD wrote to him requesting Beatles music after seeing the CBS-news segment.  James Carroll became the first disc jockey to broadcast a Beatles record on American radio. He had obtained the record from his stewardess girlfriend, who brought the single back from the UK. Due to listener demand, the song was played daily, every hour.

 

The next day, Capitol Records threatened to sue WWDC to stop playing song, but then reversed itself and decided to rush-release “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” Capital had previously scheduled the release for  January 13, 1964.  Capital cancelled Christmas breaks and made sure that pressing plants and staff could do an earlier release.

Capital succeeded and released the  song on December 26!  (next Beatles, see Dec 23)

Another Beatles Christmas Record

December 18, 1964, The Beatles: “Another Beatles Christmas Record” issued to UK fan club members.

They sing “Jingle Bells” which is followed by individual messages to the fans. John mocks the prepared statement.

When Paul asks John about it, John responds “No it’s somebody’s bad hand-wroter.” The conversation continues and the disc finishes with them briefly singing “Oh Can You Wash Your Father’s Shirt?”

American fans did not receive Another Beatles’ Christmas Record . They got an edited version of  the 1963 Beatle Christmas message. (next Beatles, see Dec 26)

December 18 Music et al

LSD

Acid Test

December 18, 1965: Big Beat Acid Test, The Big Beat Club, Palo Alto. The  poster/announcement for the event came in three colors: white, red, and yellow. The artists designed it to be cut in half (look at the “dotted” line down the middle) and the top of the right half attached to the bottom of the left.

December 18 Music et al

The recently re-named Grateful Dead were there. Tom Wolfe wrote about it in Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test , Owsley Stanley introduced manager Rock Scully to the Grateful Dead, and  Hugh Romney–known today as Wavy Gravy–first joined the festivities.

The Big Beat was the San Francisco Peninsula’s first “rock” club. Yvonne Modica owned it.

Timothy Leary

In 1966: Timothy Leary founded the League of Spiritual Development with LSD as the sacrament. (see Jan 8)

December 18 Music et al

The Family Way

December 18, 1966: with music by Paul McCartney, “The Family Way” movie premiered.

John Boulting produced the film. Roy Boulting directed it. John Mills and his daughter Hayley Mills starred. (NYT review) (next Beatles, see March 18, 1967; Family Way, see Jan 6, 1967)

December 18 Music et al

Grateful Dead Ron Pigpen McKernan

Grateful Dead Ron Pigpen McKernan

September 8, 1945 – March 8, 1973

“Bring Me My Shotgun” @ Family Dog At The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA, April 18, 1970
Grateful Dead Ron Pigpen McKernan

Grateful Dead Ron Pigpen McKernan

Blues roots

The Grateful Dead with Pigpen were a different band than without. Of course, the Dead went through several personnel and style changes over its time. The Dead themselves were not always the instigators of those changes. The blues-based approach Pigpen brought to the band gave it much more a rock and roll feel than any  of the band’s other incarnations.

Unlike most other of the young musicians of the 1960s, Pigpen came to the blues mainly through his father. Phil a blues enthusiast himself and a DJ on station KDIA, a black radio station.

Grateful Dead Ron Pigpen McKernan

Self taught

Rod taught himself piano, guitar and harmonica. When he moved with his family to Palo Alto, California he befriended  Jerry Garcia Rod also collected a huge number of blues 78 recordings which also led him to befriend John Fahey and future Canned Heat singer Bob “Bear” Hite.

Along the way Rod McKernan became Pigpen. How depends on who you ask, but answers are many offered lovingly. Pigpen entered Jerry Garcia’s musical orbit and became part of that orbits named permutations: the Zodiacs, Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions, the Warlock, and finally the Grateful Dead.

Perhaps a much an indictment of the other members’ weak vocals as a compliment of his, Pigpen became the Dead’s main vocalist. For fans like me, his renditions of Buddy Holly’s  “Not Fade Away” or his half-hour plus “Turn On Your Love Light” will always be his songs.

Grateful Dead Ron Pigpen McKernan

Beverages not blotters

Unlike the other members of the group, Pigpen’s drug choice was alcohol. That choice also endeared him to Janis Joplin who preferred beverages to blotters.

As the Dead moved into more extended jams that relied less on keyboards, Pigpen’s place in the band diminished, though his reliance on alcohol did not.

Grateful Dead Ron Pigpen McKernan

Health

Pigpen’s health declined and he had to leave the band to recover. His hiatus was between August and December 1971. For a band that seemed to be always on the road, he missed many shows.

Health issues again forced him to leave the band. His last show with them was on June 17, 1972, at the Hollywood Bowl, in Los Angeles.

On March 8, 1973, aged 27 he was found dead of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage. A sad addition to the 27 Club.

Grateful Dead Ron Pigpen McKernan

Next time you have 33 minutes and 41 seconds, give Pigpen a listen (again).

Grateful Dead Ron Pigpen McKernan

Remembering Loving Jerry Garcia

Remembering Loving Jerry Garcia

Happy birthday
August 1, 1942 – August 9, 1995

Remembering Loving Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia

Jerome John Garcia was born in San Francisco, CA. His father was Jose “Joe” Garcia, his mother, “Bobbie” Garcia. Brother “Tiff.”

Joe Garcia loved music, especially jazz, and played woodwinds and clarinet.

In the spring of 1947 when Jerry was four, his brother Tiff accidentally chopped off a large part of Jerry’s middle right finger. Later that year, Joe Garcia drowned  while on a fishing trip.

Jerry and brother Tiff moved in with Bobbie’s parents, Tillie and William Clifford. While living with them the boys enjoyed great autonomy. It was also during this time that Jerry’s third grade teacher encouraged the artistic side of Jerry. Jerry started to play the banjo.

Remembering Loving Jerry Garcia

Bobbie remarries…

In the early 50s, like so many other young Americans, Jerry discoverd early rock ‘n’ roll: Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, BB King,  and others.

In 1957 for his fifteenth birthday, his mother and step-father gave Jerry an accordion. He complained that that was not what he wanted until they exchanged the accordion for an electric guitar.

Remembering Loving Jerry Garcia

Brief military career and 1961

He joined the Army  in April, 1960, but the Army and he realized they were incompatible. He left that December.

In 1961, Jerry met a couple of people who would have a big impact on his future: Robert Hunter and David Nelson.

Remembering Loving Jerry Garcia

More people & Mother McCree’s

In early 1962 Jerry met Ron “Pigpen” McKernanBill KreutzmannPhil Lesh, and, in December, Bob Weir.

Jerry continued to play and by 1964 Jerry, Pigpen, and Weir formed Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions (with Dave Parker, Tom Stone, and Dave Garbett).

Remembering Loving Jerry Garcia

Warlocks > Dead

In 1965, Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann joined Jerry, Pigpen, and Bob to form The Warlocks. Their first show is at Magoo’s Pizza in Menlo Park, CA.

In December, The Warlocks changed their name to Grateful Dead and performed their first of many shows as the house band at a Ken Kesey Acid Test in San Jose, CA. . Garcia was 23; Lesh, 25; Pigpen, 20; Weir, 18; and Kreutzmann, 19.

Remembering Loving Jerry Garcia

Long strange trip

The Grateful Dead would play over 2300 shows, their last on July 9, 1995, at Chicago’s Soldier Field. A month later, on August 9, 1995 Jerry Garcia died.

Over his life, Jerry Garcia was addicted to several things. Luckily for us, one of those addictions was music. In addition to the 2300 Dead shows, Jerry seemingly played continuously with his own band (Legion of Mary, Jerry Garcia and David Grisman, Jerry Garcia and Friends, Jerry Garcia Band, and many more) or sat in with other bands (Mickey and the Heartbeats, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and many more).

Happy birthday Jerry. We thank you for your eternal music.

And of course there are places to listen: