Saturday, January 21, 2012


Jerry Garcia got to record and release his first solo album as the result of a bidding war between record companies over the Grateful Dead. After the success of their albums 'Workingman's Dead' and 'American Beauty', Warner Brothers was keen to keep the band on their label as their contract was drawing to a close. Warner's Joe Smith offered Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, and Mickey Hart the opportunity to record solo records, as a demonstration of how generous the label could be. This was also after Garcia and Hart took part in the recording of the first album for the New Riders of the Purple Sage, which was released by Columbia Records. Columbia's Clive Davis was trying to lure the Grateful Dead over to his label. When the band finally finished out their contract, they would start their own label Grateful Dead Records.

'Garcia' was produced by Bob Matthews, Betty Cantor, and Bill Kreutzmann at Wally Heider's Studio D, San Francisco. Garcia and Kreutzmann recorded acoustic guitar and drum tracks, and Garcia added electric guitar, pedal steel guitar, bass, piano, organ, samples, and vocals later. Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter contributed to all but the instrumental tracks. Garcia said of the laidback feel of the record, "I don't want anyone to think it's me being serious of anything like that. It's really me goofing around. I'm not trying to have my own career or anything like that." He also admitted that he needed the advance to buy a house for his family: "I'm doing it to be completely self-indulgent musically. I'm just going on a trip. I have curiosity to see what I can do, and I've a desire to get into sixteen track and go on trips that are too weird for me to want to put anybody else I know through. And also I want to pay for this house." 'Garcia' was his best-selling album, peaking at number thirty-five in the US.


'Bird Song'

The single for 'Sugaree' peaked at number ninety-four. Hunter says, "Sugaree was written soon after I moved from the Garcia household to China Camp. People assume the idea was caged from Elizabeth Cotton's 'Sugaree' but, in fact, the song was originally titled 'Stingaree' which is a poisonous South Sea Manta. The phrase 'just don't tell them that you know me ... ' was prompted by something said by an associate from my pre-Dead days when my destitute circumstances found me fraternizing with a gang of minor criminals. What he said, when departing, was: 'Hold your mud and don't mention my name.' Why change the title to 'Sugaree'? Just thought it sounded better that way, made the addressee seem more hard bitten to bear a sugar coated name. The song, as I imagined it, is addressed to a pimp. And yes, I knew Cotton's song and did indeed borrowed the new name from her, suggested by the 'Shake it ...' refrain."


'To Lay Me Down'

'The Wheel' (Hunter, Garcia, Kreutzmann)

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