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Preview: Archival Recordings of Jerry Garcia From 1961 to 1964 Assembled in New Box

Artist: Jerry Garcia
Title: Before the Dead
Release Date: May 11, 2018
Label: Round Records
  • 4-CDs
  • 5-LPs
  • Digital
On May 11th, Round Records will release its most ambitious project to date with the long-awaited Jerry Garcia boxed set Before The Dead. The project features a meticulously researched and curated compilation of recordings the iconic Grateful Dead founder made prior to forming the legendary band. Before The Dead includes never before heard performances, recordings that have never been commercially released and a small selection that have. From intimate live recordings to live studio recordings to field recordings, Before The Dead serves as a historical document in the spirit of renowned releases by Smithsonian Folkways and influential field recordings by Alan Lomax. The music on Before The Dead was selected and co-produced by longtime Grateful Dead publicist/author Dennis McNally and documentarian Brian Miksis. The audio was restored and mastered by Fred Kevorkian.

The first release from Before The Dead features the Black Mountain Boys (Garcia, Robert Hunter, David Nelson and Eric Thompson) in a rare 1964 live recording of “Rosa Lee McFall”. Written by Charlie Monroe, the song would remain with Garcia throughout his career, reinterpreted later on with The Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band and Garcia/Grisman. This is the first time this track has ever been released.

Before The Dead will be released in two physical formats: a 4-CD set and a limited-edition 5-LP boxed set. The 5-LP boxed set is pressed to 180-gram vinyl in a limited edition of 2,500 pieces and includes a special in-depth 32-page book featuring essays by McNally and Miksis, rare photos and memorabilia along with detailed listening notes and commentary on each track by Dr. Neil V. Rosenberg. Aside from being a renowned musicologist, Rosenberg was part of the Redwood Canyon Ramblers, an influential Bay Area bluegrass ensemble that would inspire a younger generation of players, including Garcia. Each section features a “Tales of the Tape” essay that includes details on how, when and where the music was recorded, how it was found and, in most instances, anecdotes about the particular date, including early interactions with many area musicians before they went on to greater things. Sara Ruppenthal Katz (formerly Sara Garcia, Jerry’s first wife) contributes an enlightening essay around the 1963 recording of her duo performance with Garcia at the intimate Pala Alto, CA club Top Of The Tangent (aka The Tangent). Tangent co-founder Stu Goldstein also adds a piece discussing the club’s origins and how it became a hot spot for the new folk scene that was developing in the Bay Area.

Before The Dead sheds light on the earliest period in Jerry Garcia’s odyssey going from the young, charismatic, developing multi-instrumentalist coming of age during the early 1960’s folk-revival (often sarcastically referred to as The Great Folk Scare) to one of the most influential and groundbreaking artists of the rock ‘n roll era. Like many during that time, Garcia’s influences were coming from the deep-rooted folk tradition of artists such as Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, The Carter Family, The New Lost City Ramblers, The Stanley Brothers, The Weavers, a young Joan Baez and the Harry Smith Folkways collections to name a few. These influences would resurface prominently in some of Garcia’s most important work with the Dead on the 1970 albums Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty — regularly cited as foundational in the creation of what is now referred to as Americana.

From beginning to end, the listener will journey through the musical evolution of Jerry Garcia and how the impact of the folk forbearers gradually permeates his playing and technique. You can hear the earliest origins of Garcia’s signature style budding as he had become a student of the music constantly absorbing and endlessly challenging himself. His instrument rarely left his side from dawn to dust. What shines brightly throughout the set is Garcia’s outgoing personality and sense of humor, often described as “magnetic”, a clear early indicator.

Throughout this period from 1961 to 1964 were pivotal first-time meetings, (documented in the book) between Garcia and people who would become life-long collaborators and friends. From his revered writing partner and early bandmate Robert Hunter, to mandolin master David Grisman, to each member of the Grateful Dead to the many artists who would go on to take their own place in music history, including acclaimed instrumentalist Sandy Rothman, David Nelson (co-founder of New Riders of the Purple Sage) and Clarence White, guitarist of the Byrds.

Before The Dead showcases Garcia in various ensembles and configurations starting with the rarest piece in the entire collection, the earliest known recording of Garcia captured at his girlfriend’s 16th birthday party in 1961 alongside future Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Outside of a short clip used in the Grateful Dead documentary Long Strange Trip, this recording has never been released, circulated or heard. Other highlights include the Sleepy Hollow Hog Stompers’ 1962 gig in San Carlos, CA, and the Hart Valley Drifters’ 1962 recording at Stanford’s KZSU Radio Studio A (Garcia’s first-known studio recording, released in 2017 for the first time). Arguably Garcia’s best and most beloved bluegrass band of that early period, The Black Mountain Boys are prominently featured via three separate occasions in 1963 and 1964, while a 1964 performance by Garcia’s Asphalt Jungle Mountain Boys rounds out Before The Dead.

Despite Jerry Garcia’s deep love for folk and bluegrass traditions, his time fully immersed in it was coming to a close. Encounters with one of his heroes, Bill Monroe, whose band he almost auditioned for (and Rothman went on to join), might have sent him deeper in that direction, but it was not to be. (Note: Garcia even used to tape Monroe’s shows, a possible foreshadowing of allowing fans to tape Grateful Dead shows later). By the end of 1964, The Beatles had become a household name, The Rolling Stones hit hard with their version of the blues and civil rights had become an important part of the social and political landscape. New influences and inspirations would impact Garcia’s direction as he went on to form The Warlocks, who would go on to become The Grateful Dead. However, the foundation in tradition was solidified during those early years and would resurface regularly throughout the remainder of his life in a multitude of ways, including the Dead, The Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, Old and In The Way, Garcia/Grisman and so much more.

Track List:
  • Bob & Jerry (May 26, 1961 - Brigid Meier's 16th Birthday Party - Menlo Park, CA)
    • Santy Anno
    • I Got a Home in That Rock
    • Oh. Mary Don't You Weep
    • All My Trials
    • I Was Born Ten Thousand Years Ago
    • Blow the Candles Out
    • Rack and a Rabling Boy
    • Trouble in Mind
  • Jerry Garcia, Marshall Leiceser, Robert Hunter (July 1961 - Boar's Head Coffeehouse, San Carlos, CA)
    • Brown's Ferry Blues
    • Jesse James
  • Jerry Garcia & Unknown Musicians (Summer or Fall 1961 - Boar's Head Coffeehouse, San Carlos, CA)
    • Down in the Willow Garden
    • Long Lonesome Road
    • Railroad Bill
    • The Wagoner's Lad
    • Katie Cruel
  • Sleepy Hollow Hog Stompers (June 11, 1962 - Boar's Head Coffeehouse, Jewish Community Center, San Carlos, CA)
    • Cannonball Blues
    • Little Birdie
    • Sally Goodin
    • Hold That Woodpile Down
    • Legend of the Johnson Boys
    • Shady Grove
    • Sweet Sunny South
    • Man of Constand Sorrow
  • Hart Valley Drifters (Fall 1962 - KZSU Radio Studio A, Stanford University, Stanford, CA)
    • Band Introductions
    • Roving Gambler
    • Ground Speed
    • Pig in a Pen
    • Standing in the Need of Prayer
    • Flint Hill Special
    • Nine Pound Hammer
    • Handsome Molly 
    • Clinch Mountain Backstep
    • Think of What You've Done
    • Cripple Creek
    • All the Good Times Have Past and Gone
    • Billy Grimes, The Rover
    • Paddy on the Turnpike (Boys, My Money's All Gone)
    • Run Mountain
    • Sugar Baby
    • Sitting On Top of the World
  • The Wildwood Boys (February 23, 1963 - Top of the Tangent, Palo Alto, CA)
    • Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms
    • Jerry's Breakdown
    • Standing in the Need of Prayer
    • Mule Skinner Blues
    • Saturday Night Shuffle
    • Pine County Breakdown
    • The Little Sparrow
    • We Shall Not Be Moved
  • Jerry & Sara Garcia (May 4, 1963 - Top of the Tangent, Palo Alto, CA)
    • Deep Elem blues
    • Will the Weaver
    • I Truly Understand
    • Long Black Veil
    • The Man That Wrote That Mome Sweet Home Never Was a Married Man
    • Foggy Mountain Top
  • Black Mountain Boys (Fall 1963 - Top of the Tangent, Palo Alto, CA)
    • Barefoot ellie
    • She's More to Be Pitied
    • Noah's Breakdown
    • Who Will Sing For Me?
  • Black Mountain Boys (January 10, 1964 - Top of the Tangent, Palo Alto, CA)
    • Salt Creek
    • Jody's Hornpipe (Monroe's Hornpipe)
    • Rosa Lee McFall
    • John Hardy / Closing Theme
  • Black Mountain Boys (March 6, 1964 - Top of the Tangent, Palo Alto, CA)
    • Katie Kline
    • Walkin' the Dog
    • Paddy on the Turnpike (Boys My Money's All Gone)
    • Love and Wealth
    • Sourwood Mountain
    • If I Lose
    • Homestead on the Farm (I Wonder How the Old Folks Are at Home)
    • Stoney Creek
    • Salty Dog Blues
    • Love Please Come Home
    • Make Me a Pallet on the Floor
    • Darlin' Allalee
    • In the Pines
    • Raw Hide
    • Black Mountain Rag
    • True Life Blues
    • Medley: Devil's Dream / Sailor's Hornpipe
  • Black Mountain Boys (Spring 1964 - Top of the Tangent, Palo Alto, CA)
    • Drink Up and Go Home
  • Asphalt Jungle Mountain Boys (Summer 1964 - Top of the Tangent, Palo Alto, CA)
    • These Men of God
    • Roll On Buddy
    • Goodbye Old Pal
    • Back Up and Push