Phantom Tides: Haunting Music and The Grateful Dead

For October, I was asked to write an article on haunting music. Much to my surprise, there was a footnote about my involvement in a local Jerry Garcia tribute band and what I thought about The Grateful Dead.

The Grateful Dead (1970), Left to right: Bill Kreutzmann, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh.

The Grateful Dead. Hmmm….What do I think about a band that toured for 30 years, almost non-stop (albeit when Garcia had to take a break while IN A COMA)? What do I think about a group that had the most rabid fans in the world? What do I think about a band that used to haul a speaker system called The Wall of Sound (Google it)? I think a lot of them. Let me tell you about my experience with this band.

I believe in a past article, I went on about my father putting headphones on me when I was still in a crib. Was it “Mozart for Babies”? Nope. The Beatles? Wrong. It was The Dead.

I’m sure some of you are surprised to hear that my bearded, long-haired Dad would come home from working at the Post Office all day and force his first-born son to listen to this music. But I ask you, how much time have you devoted to listening to Jerry Garcia and his cohorts? Have you heard “Attics of My Life”? Ever listened to “If I Had the World to Give” in your room at night? “Till the Morning Comes” is another great one. These songs are all from the Dead’s early years. Pre-1977, the true heyday of band.

At shows across the country in the late ‘70s, the band did many an upbeat tune. They became popular for songs like “Scarlet Begonias”—a 10-minute rave up that gave a nod to Bob Marley and Paul Simon with cannon-like drum parts and crystal-clear guitars. But, this is not “my” Grateful Dead.

(Above) Bob Weir, 2007. Photo credit: minds-eye, CC BY-SA 2.0

The music I grew up hearing was different. Give “Alligator” a spin on YouTube from any 1968 show. Typical of the Dead’s live shows, they would extend songs. At many a concert, “Alligator” was followed by “Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks)”. If you wanna hear the early Grateful Dead at its finest (rhythm guitarist Bob Weir was 18 or 19 in 1968), crank this one up. Lead singer Ron “Pigpen” McKernan sings of a gypsy over a train-style drum off between Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart.

Haunting? Garcia’s last composition in 1993 called “Days Between” is a wrenching tune of despair “when phantom ships with phantom sails, set to sea on phantom tides.” I urge you to dig through the enormous collection of Grateful Dead music and find your “own” song from the only rock and roll band who sang ballads in arenas.

Jevon Daly (Center) and Shakey Bones.

Equal parts 1977 Dead and 1983 Jerry Garcia Band, catch Shakey Bones at Subiestock 2017 -Peace, Love & Pet Rescue on October 12 at Subaru Hilton Head. This local Jerry Garcia tribute group formed in 2008 or 2009 [Jevon can’t quite remember] at Corks Wine Co. and now features Craig Coyne and Andy Pitts on guitar, Jevon Daly on bass and Jack Friel or Chip Larkby on drums. Subiestock is a 50th celebration of the Summer of Love, with free pet adoptions from Palmetto Animal League, groovy door prizes, free food, wine and beer and the launch of the all-new Crosstrek. Call (843) 208-2400 or visit palmettoanimalleague.org for details.

 

By Jevon Daly

 

 

 

Jevon Daly has been performing in the Lowcountry since 1986; first with the HHHS Marching Seahawks and now with a number of different local lineups, including Lowcountry Boil Bluegrass Band, Unicorn Meat, Shakey Bones, Silicone Sister, JoJo Squirrel and The Nicest Guys in the World. He has slept on floors whilst traveling the East Coast on tour with LCB, a group that has played here since 1997. A class clown, fiddler, hair metal enthusiast and self-proclaimed “Biggest Deadhead on Earth,” Jevon lives in Bluffton with his wife and three kids. To find out where he’s playing next, check out Jevon Daly or Slowcountry Tunes on Facebook.