Youtube When Guns N' Roses lead singer screams "Welcome to the jungle!" he…
- Posted on Nov 16th 2010 3:00PM by Mike Ayers
Those concerts immediately caused a stir within the Dead community and in bluegrass circles. The band tackled the Dead classic 'Ripple,' but focused more on traditional songs such as 'Two Soldiers,' 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' and 'Deep Elem Blues,' as well as Mississippi John Hurt's 'Casey Jones' and Jimmie Rodgers' 'Blue Yodel #9.'
The first public performance for this short-lived group happened on March 17, 1987, where Garcia, along with David Nelson, Sandy Rothman and John Kahn played a benefit concert that caught the ears and eyes of longtime Dead promoter, Bill Graham. For Graham, something clicked.
"He happened to hear it and had this flash that it would be a good thing to put it out there," Rothman, Garcia's longtime friend and mandolin player for this incarnation, tells Spinner. Thus, Graham booked them on both coasts as the opening act for an electric set of the Jerry Garcia Band. In New York, fans were thrilled to see Garcia perform at the smaller Lunt-Fontanne Theatre instead of Madison Square Garden, where the Dead usually performed.
"I'd seen the Grateful Dead a lot, but I wasn't that familiar with East Coast audiences," Rothman says. "He'd always talk about how great they are. They're a very interactive audience. I knew the crowds would be behind him, but the interest they showed was remarkable to me."
Those moments are now presented on the reissued 1988 album 'Almost Acoustic' and a new companion album, 'Ragged but Right,' which Rothman culled from those shows. At times, the band would perform songs onstage with rarely having practiced them, such as 'I Ain't Never' and 'Two Soldiers.' They'd work a bit out before taking the stage, with a lot room for improvising once they were on stage.
"We usually played a bit in the backrooms [before the shows]," Rothman says. "In Jerry's typical way, he'd talk about everything in the world, all the time. He'd eventually get around to writing out a little set, which he did every day."
Unfortunately, the band's studio sessions never moved passed the planning stages.
"We talked about [recording]," Rothman says. "It's easy to explain to some extent. I've often been asked about why this ended, and I think it would've been a pretty major undertaking, had it gone forward. We were all pretty lucky to have him doing this much, at that particular point when he should've been slowing down and maybe taking a year off."