Jerry Garcia: The Early Days (David Nelson Looks Back)
Come Thursday, I went to the Boar’s Head early to help Rod and Pete set things up. It was looking pretty ridiculous. Broken chairs, makeshift tables here and there, a tiny little stage made from a shelf unit cut in half, and an old RCA “hand grenade” microphone plugged into a 12-watt Bogen amplifier. Pathetic, but we didn’t care, nor did we know any better.
None of us had any idea if the Kepler’s crowd or Garcia would show up. By 8 or so there were a few familiar faces, so Rodney kicked things off with some finger-pickin’ songs, then Pete and I got up and played “Woody’s Rag” with me on mandolin, Pete on guitar. A while later we heard a motorcycle pull up outside and that was a sure sign. Those colorful beatniks were starting to filter in. Hipsters, chicksters, all manner of eccentric individuals were coming up the stairs to check out the scene. In no time the place was buzzin’. Nobody took the stage just yet, it seemed as if we all were waiting for something as the party rolled on. Some time later a friend nudges me to look around and there’s Garcia, guitar in hand, heading for the stage. In a brief shuffle I grabbed a seat as everyone settled down to listen.
Quietly and matter of factly he started strumming. And with that soulful, dark-eyed gaze, he began singing, “When first unto this country, a stranger I came …” a great song that tells the story of an early settler’s hardships and love. Then he did some finger picking—I think it was “Wilson Rag”—then more songs: “Peggy-O,” “Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie,” “Whiskey in the Jar” and others. The audience was spellbound, myself included. As we listened on, excitement grew. An invisible fire had been sparked. Everyone felt connected in some way, a feeling of kindred spirit, a “cause” with gusto.
It was decided we should do this more, and Rodney got Mr. Houchen’s okay for every Tuesday and Thursday night. These little wingdings gathered momentum in the weeks that followed. Jerry brought friends, he must’ve told everybody, because suddenly the place was crawlin’ with performers of all kinds. One friend was Bob Hunter, who had been playing as a duet with Jerry at a couple of private gigs. They did “Saro Jane” and other folk songs. There was Marshall Liescester, who played amazing five-string banjo and guitar and knew all these really cool Appalachian tunes and blues—everything from “Rabbit Chase” to “Keep On Truckin’ Mama.” Also from the Kepler’s crowd was Sherry Huddleston, who sang “Milk Cow Blues,” with Garcia adding guitar. A big hit was Dave McQueen, a black guy from East Palo Alto nicknamed “David X” who didn’t play an instrument, but had this wonderful velvety voice that could sing you off into a cloud: “Trouble in mind, I’m blue …” Warm, funny and personable, David X hosted many after-gig parties at his house.
Most remarkable of those who found their way to the Boar’s Head was a 14-year-old kid named Ron McKernon. He had intelligent eyes on a face that had been roughed up by severe acne, and the ultimate rock ’n’ roll greasy-hoodlum jelly-roll hairdo. His outrageous appearance belied a shy and reserved demeanor. He showed up one night and to our astonishment delivered a set of country blues with electrifying authenticity. He played harp and guitar and sang totally naturally in his own way, yet sounded like one of the classic blues greats, the real thing. It blew our minds.
David Nelson played in several bands with Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter in the early 1960s, the Hart Valley Drifters and the Wildwood Boys most notably. He was also a founding member of the New Riders of the Purple Sage in 1969 and today leads his own band.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
- Relix Live Fridays: Trey Anastasio at The Fox
- Grace Potter & The Nocturnals "The Lion The Beast The Beat" (Official Video)
- The Allman Brothers Band Before Gregg?
- The M & Ms: Medeski, Mali, Mercurio, Moore at (Le) Poisson Rouge (A Gallery)
- Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger "The Pequod"
- Trey Anastasio with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center
- More Visions of the Hangout Music Festival 2013 (A Gallery)
- A Blowout for the So So Glos
- Interlocken Festival to Feature Neil Young, Furthur, String Cheese Incident, Black Crowes, Zac Brown and More
- Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers "Friend of The Devil" at the Beacon
- The Salvation of Page McConnell (Relix Revisited)
- Interlocken Adds Widespread Panic and John Fogerty, Furthur to Play Workingman’s Dead
- Warren Haynes and Joe Bonamassa "If Heartaches Were Nickels"
- The Final Ingredient in Dogfish Head’s Grateful Dead Tribute Ale Is…
- Stone Gossard Readies His Moonlander
- Trey Anastasio Band at The Hangout (Video Stream)
- Doctor’s Orders: So what should we call the Super Ball IX Newspaper?
- John Kadlecik Posts Statement on Bob Weir’s Collapse
- "I Wanne Be In moe.": The Latest Volunteers
- Bob Weir Escorted Off Stage During Furthur Show
- Furthur Cancels BottleRock Show as Bob Weir Is Out Of Commision
- Vote for Your Favorite "I Wanne Be In moe." Contestant
- Doctor’s Orders: What’s Your Favorite Furthur Song? (Win Copy of Relix Signed by Phil and Bobby)
- On The Verge Poll