While it’s no secret that I’m a bit underwhelmed with the post-Jerry Garcia Dead’s sound, I think many folks who weren’t big fans of the band before might actually, ironically, prefer this current incarnation. Guitarist Warren Haynes’ sound is certainly more “familiar” sounding to the masses as his playing is a tad more “straight-forward” than Jerry’s was. Jerry spoke from his soul and the music took you there. It was different from anything else out there. And that’s what made it so damn one-of-a-kind. But it was an acquired taste and often took folks a bit of time to hear what was going on there (to the untrained ear it can sometimes sound a bit harsh, or so I’ve been told), but once tapped in, it was the centerpiece of joy and inspiration. It was NOT, however, great background music (unless you were singing along) as it demanded your attention. It’s possible that I just need more time to tap into Warren. Though something tells me that’s not the case. But I’ll be listening nonetheless.
When the Grateful Dead introduced TOUCH OF GREY to the world, it signaled the beginning of the end of an era. Legions of new “fans” stormed the scene expecting a band that played amusing little ditties like GREY (a fun song, absolutely, but not really the kind of thing the Grateful Dead were known for). Suddenly, the tight little community was inundated with concert-goers more concerned with the drug-scene than with the music. People were getting too high, too drunk, and oftentimes violent. Before we knew it, the Grateful Dead was banned from playing many of its long-standing favorite venues! The scene never fully recovered, IMHO.
I’m curious to see what this newfangled Dead will choose to play for the masses on the David Letterman show tonight. Will they pick some great, weird oldie that will shock and amaze? Or will they decide to play something a bit more… “mainstream”? We’ll see. No doubt, either way, a few more folks will climb on board the bus as a result.
Dead.net posted a History of the Grateful Dead on David Letterman. It’s a fun journey back in time. I saw all of these shows when they originally aired. Enjoy!
History of the Grateful Dead on David Letterman
The members of the Grateful Dead, mostly Jerry and Bobby, have a long relationship with David Letterman going back to 1982. The two guitarists first appeared on Letterman on 4/13/82, during the Grateful Dead’s Spring tour, on a night off between shows at Nassau Coliseum and the Glens Falls Civic Center. On this episode, they played two acoustic songs, Deep Elem Blues and Monkey & The Engineer, with Jerry and Bobby revealing terrific senses of humour in describing the origins of the moniker Dead Heads. Classic stuff. Bobby had a bit of a cold, and his voice was a bit off, but they played these acoustic tunes very well.
The next visit to Letterman was on 9/17/87 on the night off during a five night stand at Madison Square Garden, at which they played Bob Dylan’s When I Paint My Masterpiecewith the Letterman house band backing them. While talking with Dave, they discussed their new video So Far, the shows at MSG, and the success of In The Dark. Bobby then did one of the oddest things these guys have ever done on TV, he attempted to lift Jerry via a parlour trick, with Dave and Biff helping out. The sight of an unwitting Jerry, in a nice coat, sitting as the crew tries to lift Jerry with two fingers is one of the most hilarious images of the band I’ve ever seen. Just the way Dave looked at the camera and said “we’re going to lift Jerry” had us all cracking up. I’d been at the two previous shows at the Garden, and they were playing very well and, obviously, having loads of fun.
In 1989, during a five night run at the Brendan Byrne Arena at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, Bobby and Jerry once again visit Dave, on 10/13/89, this time playing Second That Emotion with Paul’s band once again backing them up. Also very cool during this appearance was during the commercial breaks, they played along with the band on the music the leads in and out of the commercial breaks, including Good Lovin’, Mighty Quinn and Hideaway, amongst a few other things.
In 2003, The Dead appeared on Letterman with that version of the band, featuring Bobby, Phil, Mickey and Bill, as well as Jeff Chimenti and Rob Barraco on keyboards, Jimmy Herring on lead guitar, and Joan Osborne on vocals. They played a rocking version of Casey Jones.
Bobby and Jerry also appeared separately on Letterman, the former playing The Winners with Rob Wasserman in 1991, and the latter playing Friend of the Devil with David Grisman in 1993.