January 30, 2021

Who's Who on the Rolling Thunder Cover

Guest Post by Dr. Beechwood (@DrBeechwood on Twitter
With additions & edits by Light Into Ashes.
 
 
Mickey Hart left the Grateful Dead after the 2/18/71 show in Port Chester, New York. Mickey didn’t stop playing music though, and returned to his ranch in Novato, California, where he’d built a studio in the barn. There he would record his first solo album, Rolling Thunder, as well as more projects in later years. 
Mickey had first moved onto the ranch back in 1969, and it soon became a haven for an ongoing crowd of friends, family, musicians, crewmembers, and hangers-on. Mickey lived there through the ‘70s; after he moved out, the barn burned down in a fire. All the buildings on the ranch are gone now, and the land is currently part of a Novato park.  
 
This Warner Brothers promotional photo of the Grateful Dead was taken at the ranch in fall 1970 by Herb Greene: 
 
 
There are also other shots from the photo session showing a bigger group of people, for instance this group shot
 
https://thegdwheel.com/page-66/
 
Or this sprawling crowd: 
 
 
I think those photos were taken behind the barn that would soon be converted into a recording studio. Out on Mickey's remote ranch, the barn was a rustic place to build a studio, but it served him well: 
 


For more on the history of Mickey’s barn studio, here’s a good place to start:
 
The studio appears to have been built in the first place as a result of tangled machinations between Columbia & Warner Brothers over who would get to sign the Dead to another recording contract. Part of the story is here:
 
To sum up, in 1970 Alan Douglas and Columbia Records cast a kindly eye on Mickey’s recording aspirations, offering him a studio with the intent of luring the Dead into signing with Columbia. Not to be outdone, Warners gave Mickey a three-album record contract (even as he left the group) to keep the Dead happy with the label. A year and a half later, Mickey finally delivered his first album, Rolling Thunder. But time had marched on, and the Dead were leaving Warners to form their own label, so Warners didn’t pay attention to (let alone release) Mickey’s further album offerings, and quietly dropped him.
 
As far as press reports, the first glimmer of Mickey’s studio comes in a November ’70 Billboard article stating that Alan Douglas was providing the studio for a recording project on his record label, as part of the same deal that produced the Hooteroll album:
“Douglas Records will record two albums with individual members of the Grateful Dead, a Warner Bros. group. In the arrangement, Alan Douglas, head of Douglas Records, will produce and release one LP featuring Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia and organist Howard Wales… The second album will be based on a percussion concept developed by the Grateful Dead's two drummers, Bill Kreitzman and Micky Hart... The Kreitzman-Hart LP will be recorded at a fully equipped 16-track studio Douglas has installed in Hart's barn in Navato, Calif. The studio, designed by Kreitzman, Hart, and Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead under the supervision of engineer Dan Healey, will be completed within the month.”
 
A Billboard article on the Dead in Jan ’71 announced that “Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann…are recording an album in the new studio in Mickey’s barn… [It] will be on Warner Bros.” (Douglas had now dropped out of the picture.)
 
A May ’71 Billboard article confirmed that Mickey was recording a solo album for Warners. Now that Mickey had left the Dead, Kreutzmann was no longer mentioned, and indeed wouldn’t appear on the album. (Bill said in his memoir, “Our brother Mickey left the band and retreated to his ranch in Novato and it really strained our relationship for a while.”)
 
The studio was mentioned again in a facetious June ’71 SF Examiner article:
"Hidden in an old barn on 50 acres of farm land outside Novato is Hart’s Rolling Thunder studio. The fully equipped, ultra-modern, 16-track recording complex took three years to complete – a stroke of genius, finished just in time for the trend toward the basics. Hart plans to incorporate into his music the live sounds of barnyard animals... He calls it Organic Rock."
(Tom Campbell, "Musical Moos of Organic Rock," SF Examiner 6/12/71)
 
This idea, too, was dropped. Not one to be rushed, Mickey emerged a year later with a more straightforward set of songs and Indian-inspired instrumentals, aided by all the friends in the Bay Area rock scene he could round up. Far from being an album of “percussion concepts,” it’s more of a conventional guitar-rock album, spiced up by a horn section, with most of the songs written by either Robert Hunter or Dead friend Peter Monk, and two songs borrowed from the Dead. (One single was even released, ‘Blind John,’ sounding very much like a Jefferson Airplane track – in fact, the Airplane soon released their own version.) It didn’t storm up the charts or stir up much interest for future Mickey Hart albums, but remains quite listenable.
 
The rest of the Dead still kept in touch with Mickey and dropped in to help with the album. The well-known 8/21/71 jam at Mickey’s ranch would have taken place during the album recording sessions. More info on the background of that day is here:
The players that day included several who were working on Mickey’s album, including members of the Dead, John Cipollina, Robbie Stokes & David Freiberg.
 
Once the album was released in '72, Mickey continued recording other album projects at his studio (including “Fire on the Mountain” and “Area Code 415”), using many of the same crew as on Rolling Thunder – the above players, along with Barry Melton, Jim McPherson, Steve Schuster, and others. (They’re sometimes called “the Marin County Collective” though I don’t know where the name originated.)
These recordings would remain unreleased as Warners ignored Mickey’s submissions, but by 1974 he found a more fruitful use for his studio when it became the recording base for several Round Records releases. The barn studio would remain in use for various people’s projects until Mickey left around 1981. 
 

 
(See also more photos of the studio here: https://thegdwheel.com/page-128)
 
 
The Dead had been delighted to find the ranch, a new bucolic paradise where anyone was welcome to stay and soak in the country life. As Rosie McGee writes, "The many buildings, some no more than shacks, became home for members of the Dead's extended family, who came and went randomly." The Grateful Dead Family Album has a number of happy memories of life on the ranch: “Over the first few years, almost everyone in the Dead Family lived there at one time. And they kept leaving and coming back, to make music, to party, to ride horses, to share sunrise ceremonies, to stay for a while, or just for some quiet time.” (But as people crowded into the house and moved into every available building on the place, including barns and sheds, this meant “endless cooking” by the women!)
https://thegdwheel.com/page-68 (the ranch residents)
https://thegdwheel.com/page-67 (a party for Tower of Power)
  
But the ranch wasn’t always full of parties. David Browne’s book So Many Roads has a darker look at Mickey’s time there in the early ‘70s. Even as Mickey’s studio was being built, he was in low spirits, his father’s betrayal weighing on him.
According to Mountain Girl, after Lenny Hart bolted with the band’s money, Mickey was “in a terrible state of apology and depression and said that leaving the band was the only thing for him to do. He was so ashamed and humiliated.” Mickey gradually withdrew over the course of 1970: “The road was hard for me. It was getting really difficult with all the drugs and stuff…I tried everything.” His friend Sue Swanson said he “went into a tailspin,” and the lively atmosphere at his ranch became “sad and confusing.” (So Many Roads p.171-72)
By early 1971, as McNally describes it, Mickey was “a complete wreck.” (LST p. 392) For Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey was getting too erratic to deal with: “It became impossible for me to play with him.” Mickey “was in bad shape…getting into dark drugs…[he] wasn’t able to play.” The Dead had enough when Mickey bugged out during the Capitol Theater run, and asked him to leave. “He was deeply hurt by that.” (Deal p.151-52)
Other friends remember the ranch growing “dark” as Mickey isolated himself. His girlfriend Jerilyn Brandelius said, “He was a complete hermit, and he was very depressed and broken-hearted… He cut himself off from everybody. He was so upset with everything that happened with his dad and the band.” (SMR p.233)
 
Making Rolling Thunder was a period of recovery for Mickey – as he put it, “building my studio and learning what I sounded like.” He considered the Rolling Thunder album to be “what my life sounded like for one year…the soundtrack to Mickey Hart that year.” (Swing 51 #13) McNally writes that “building a studio and coming to ground had been beneficial for Hart” – and on top of that, the funds from Warners “gave him the means to improve the barn’s equipment.” (LST p.437-38)
 
 

 
Rolling Thunder was recorded from early 1971 to mid-1972 and was released in September of 1972. I haven’t found any exact recording dates, but would guess that much of 1971 was spent tinkering with recording experiments that didn’t make it to album.
The March 1972 Dead newsletter announced, “For those of you who are curious about what happened to Mickey Hart, he's still in Marin County working on what he hopes to be the final stages of his own album; he's been working on it for about a year now…it’s called ROLLING THUNDER.” The August newsletter proclaimed that the album “is finally finished after a year and half's work” and would be released in September. 
Like later albums recorded at the barn, the final album wasn't mixed there but was mixed over at Alembic Studios. (Mixing facilities in the barn seem to have been inadequate.) Judging by the number of people credited with engineering and mixing the album (eight in all), it took a lot of work to get the final mix down. 
 
The front cover art was designed by Alton Kelley (per the Grateful Dead Family Album) and credited to Kelley/Mouse Studios - they had done the art for several Dead albums. The back cover was a collage of photos with no identifying captions. The photography was credited to Ron Rakow & Bruce Baxter, who probably put together the collage. (Ed Thrasher, Warner Brothers art director, was thanked in the album notes for “art direction,” but considering his similar credit for the Anthem of the Sun cover, most likely he had little involvement.)
 
 
 
For the first time, I have tried to identify the people on the back cover. In this research I was helped directly or indirectly by the following people: Rosie McGee (RM), Mickey Hart (MH) and his assistant, Rose Solomon, Dennis McNally, Sue Stallcup, David Gans, and Jesse Jarnow. 
I appreciate Light in Ashes for allowing me to post on his blog. And please see our earlier collaboration identifying the people on the back cover of Aoxomoxoa:
 
Many of the photos are dark, blurry, or otherwise difficult to identify. Despite this, I have made significant progress with the help of the people acknowledged above.
 
The photos depict the following groups of people:
(1) Musicians who played on the album: drummers such as Zakir Hussain and Greg Errico, Dead members who contributed, and other instrumentalists such as Stephen Stills, Robbie Stokes, etc.
(2) People who helped with the project, either as recording engineers, roadies, or managers.
(3) Friends and Family, mostly people who lived at the ranch, including some infants.
 
The collage is by no means a complete Rolling Thunder group portrait -- not everyone who worked on the album is shown. The album insert thanks a large number of people, some of whom I have identified on the cover and some who may be there but I haven’t found them yet. The ones thanked but not ID’ed include: Bill Champlin (organ), Paul Kantner (vocals), Sam Andrews (guitar), Mike and Nancy Hinton (marimbas), Carmelo Garcia (percussion), Dan Healy (mixing), John Wollman and Rick Davis (engineers), Rock Scully (director), and Jerilyn Brandelius.
 
 
 
Here’s the list of people we have identified positively or tentatively. In general I’ve tried providing more info on the lesser-known people and what their roles were. If you have more information, can identify the unknowns, or question some of the current ID’s, please let us know in the comments and we will update the post accordingly! 

#1: Mickey Hart, drummer for the Grateful Dead, Oct. 1967 – Feb. 1971. He would rejoin the Dead in Oct. 1974.

#2: Unknown

#3: According to RM, this is Johnny d'Fonseca, Jr. – son of Johnny d’Fonseca, Sr. (see #17)
Johnny d’Fonseca Jr. (1958-1987) was the drummer in the Jerry Garcia Band for six months in 1979-80, but had been in Mickey’s circle for some ten years before that. Robert Hunter wrote in the liner notes to After Midnight:
“Little Johnny Dee was the son of Big Johnny Dee, a jolly Jamaican carpenter who built Mickey's studio in the pastures of Novato. I remember Little Johnny as a quiet kid who grew up around the scene and liked to work out on Mickey's drum kit, which was always set up in the studio, getting tips from the master along the way.”

#4: Unknown

#5: According to MH, this is Danny Rifkin, one of the Grateful Dead’s managers since 1966. He appears to be naked.

#6: According to RM, this is Sandi Winslow.
Sandi was the wife of Joe Winslow (1948-2012), one of the Dead crewmembers who came from Pendleton, Oregon. Joe worked for the Grateful Dead road crew in 1971-74; per Dennis McNally, in 1974 “crew member Joe Winslow, his wife Sandy, and some other former crew members began Hard Truckers, which manufactured speaker and instrument cases and cabinets.” (Long Strange Trip p.481)

#7: MH says that this is one of the engineers on the album, but he doesn’t remember which one. The listed engineers included Mickey Hart, Dan Healy, John Wollman, Rick Davis & David Freiberg. We know it’s not Mickey, Dan, or David, so maybe it is John Wollman or Rick Davis.

#8: RM identifies her as Debbie Eisenberg, aka “Debbie Doobie.”
She’s given “special thanks” in the album credits, was later listed as part of the “crew” for the Rhythm Devils’ Apocalypse Now Sessions, and was also thanked in the Go To Heaven credits as part of the Front Street crew. (She’s also the “Debbie” listed as a supporting musician on Aoxomoxoa.)
 

#9: Grace Slick, according to RM.
Grace was the lead singer for the Jefferson Airplane. She contributes piano & vocals to ‘Blind John’ on the album.

#10: Rolling Thunder (1916-1997).
“His Western name was John Pope,” Mickey wrote. He met the Dead in 1967 and frequently stayed at Mickey’s ranch in the ‘70s, acting as a Shoshone medicine man. The Dead family were quite impressed with him; Jerilyn Brandelius wrote, “He came to heal and provide spiritual guidance to many of us through the years. He was a regular visitor at Mickey’s ranch with his warriors and while he was in residence, we got up for a sunrise ceremony every morning.”
Mickey named the barn studio and the album after him, even opening the album with his ‘Shoshone Invocation.’ The sunrise ceremony also inspired the Dead song ‘Sunrise.’
 
#11: MH identifies this horse as Tychain.
“At the Novato ranch…Valerie acquired for Mickey a thoroughbred racehorse named Tychain.”
 
#12: Stephen Stills.
Singer, songwriter, guitarist, and founding member of the Buffalo Springfield and Crosby Stills & Nash. At the time of this album he was working as a solo artist and also formed the band Manassas. On this album he plays bass on ‘The Main Ten’ and helped with mixing.

#13: Phil Lesh, Grateful Dead bassist. Here he plays bass on ‘Pump Song.’

#14: Unknown child.

#15: RM identifies him as LuVell Benford (1940-2014).
Dennis McNally writes that he met the band in 1966 and visited them at 710 Ashbury: “LuVell Benford was a tall, striking black man from Oakland, a businessman with a most enlightened air about him, whom Weir first recalled seeing at Olompali riding a white BWM motorcycle with white saddlebags, a big white cowboy hat on his head. He was noticeably warm and generous, more monklike than any trader could reasonably be.” (Long Strange Trip p.161)
According to one biography: “Born in Pasadena, CA in 1940…after graduation he joined the Marines to “see the world”. He spent several years stationed in Asia where he took up Martial Arts and Buddhism. After his discharge, he found engineer work at IBM’s inaugural base and became acquainted with a local researcher, Timothy Leary. A single acid trip changed his fate over-night. Rebelling against his life as a “suit”, he moved to San Francisco and fell in with the burgeoning counterculture movement, befriending Jack Kerouac and witnessing the birth of The Grateful Dead. Legendary music promoter, Bill Graham, hired him to be a bodyguard for his artists and he spent the better part of a decade jet-setting and hobnobbing with stars.” He later moved to Hawaii.
 
#16: RM identifies him as Bruce Baxter – one of the photographers for the cover. He also gets "special thanks" in the credits.
Dennis McNally’s book describes him as “Loose Bruce Baxter, a Texas heir who would live at [Mickey’s] ranch for some time. Periodically, Hart recalled, they’d clean him up and send him to a meeting with his mother so that he could continue getting his $10,000 monthly allowance.” (Long Strange Trip p.308)
Robbie Stokes (see #56) writes, “There was Bruce B., who drove a Mercedes sedan and had a pretty, blonde hippie girlfriend named Lacy. He was the scion of a famed Texas ranch outfit, the famous King family, and was rumored to be loaded with inherited Texas money. He seemed to be some sort of, ahem, "businessman."”
According to McNally, it was Bruce who had turned the Dead on to cocaine in 1970: “Loose Bruce Baxter, their wealthy friend, had showed up with a large baggie full of the powder.” (p.362)
Loose Bruce’s sister was Frances Carr, a wealthy heiress who worked for Out of Town Tours with Sam Cutler; in 1975 she and Cutler opened up Manor Downs in Austin, Texas.
 

#17: RM identifies him as Johnny d'Fonseca, Sr. – (see also #37)
D’Fonseca (1934-1977) was a carpenter & caretaker who lived on Mickey’s ranch for several years in the ‘70s. Per Dennis McNally, he came into the Dead orbit in 1968: Ron Rakow was managing the Carousel “with his lover, Lydia d’Fonseca, as chief bookkeeper and secretary… Lydia’s brother Johnny, a superb carpenter, took care of the rebuilding of the stage… [Circa 1970] Lydia’s brother Johnny d’Fonseca, who had been the carpenter at the Carousel, moved himself and his family to the ranch and, working with Dan Healy’s designs, remodeled the barn into a studio and took care of everything else that needed fixing.” (Long Strange Trip p.256, 308
He received a well-deserved "special thanks" in the album credits, and continued to work for the Dead family for a few years longer.
 
#18: MH identifies him as Greg Errico.
“Hart and Errico became friends in about 1968. Hart simply invited himself over to Errico's house in Mountain View and introduced himself.”
Greg had been a drummer for Sly and the Family Stone, but left the band in 1971, and at this time was mostly doing session work. He had stayed on Mickey’s ranch, and played on one track on the album. In later years he joined Mickey in the Apocalypse Now Sessions, played drums for the Jerry Garcia Band at a number of shows between 1975-1983, and sat in with the Grateful Dead at a couple shows including 12/31/78.
 
#19: David Gans identifies him as David Freiberg.
Freiberg was a founding member of Quicksilver Messenger Service, and joined Jefferson Airplane in 1972; he would later be a member of Jefferson Starship. He also played in the PERRO sessions and on some of Mickey’s album projects. On this album he contributed to a number of tracks, including the water pump in ‘Pump Song,’ and also helped with the mixing.

#20: Robert Hunter, lyricist for the Grateful Dead. He wrote lyrics for three songs on the album: ‘The Main Ten’ and ‘Pump Song’ were shared with Weir’s Ace album (where they were retitled), and ‘Fletcher Carnaby’ is only found here.

#21: John Barlow, lyricist for the Grateful Dead. As far as I know Barlow doesn’t have any lyrics on this album.

#22: Unknown drummer.

#23: RM identifies him as Rex Jackson (1945-1976), Grateful Dead roadie from Pendleton, Oregon, who had worked with the band since 1968.

#24: RM identifies him as Mickey Hart, but I’m skeptical.

#25: Unknown drummer.

#26: RM identifies him as Gerald Durham’s older brother (see #44)

#27: RM identifies her as Cookie Eisenberg.
Cookie was Mickey’s girlfriend at the time, and gets a "special thanks" in the album credits. She met Mickey in New York in Spring '68: “Cookie had connections to [wealthy heir] Billy Hitchcock and the world of Millbrook [and] was part owner of a travel agency… Through Cookie the Dead had met a new circle of people, extremely wealthy New Yorkers…” (Long Strange Trip p. 282, 308)


 #28: Sue Stallcup identifies him as David Parker.

Parker had been the financial manager of the Grateful Dead and NRPS since Lenny's departure in 1970:
“Next door is the office of David Parker, business manager—who also happens to be an 11-year friend of Jerry Garcia’s. At one time he played washboard and kazoo in Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions.”
 
#29: Unknown.

#30: Jon McIntire (1941-2012), one of the Grateful Dead’s road managers since 1969.

 

#31: Unknown infant.

#32: Bill Kreutzmann, Grateful Dead drummer. He doesn’t play on the album.

#33: Unknown.

#34: Unknown.

#35: RM identifies him as Alla Rakha (1919-2000), the famed Indian tabla player who often accompanied Ravi Shankar.
Alla Rakha was a special inspiration to Mickey: as one Dead newsletter put it, “Mickey met Alla Rakha in 1967 and gave himself over to the teachings of Indian rhythms during their first meeting.” Mickey took lessons and called him “my greatest teacher” and “the highest form of rhythmic development on this planet.” Alla Rakha contributes “rain” on the opening track of the album.

#36: Unknown

#37: Unknown person standing next to an airplane. Possibly Johnny d’Fonseca, Sr. (see #17).
Robbie Stokes writes, “There was a ranch hand named Johnny D. who flew light planes at night with add-on bladder tanks for extra fuel for purposes unknown … I will leave that to your imagination, but consider the time and place.”
 
#38: MH identifies him as Zakir Hussain.
Hussain was Alla Rakhar’s son and continued in his father’s steps as a tabla player. He met Mickey in 1970 and they became close in long jam sessions at the barn. Hussain plays tabla on three tracks on the album. Along with more percussionists, Mickey & Zakir would later collaborate in the Diga Rhythm Band and other projects, and continue to play together to this day.
 
#39: Ali Akbar Khan (1922-2009).
Classical Indian musician, sarod player, and teacher; founded the Ali Akbar College of Music in Berkeley in 1967, where Mickey studied and teamed up with other players. Khan does not appear on this album, but a 1970 concert of his is featured on the latest volume of Bear’s Sonic Journals.
(A new practice tape from September '68 has also appeared, but most likely it's not Khan playing, but the Berkeley drummers.

#40: Bob Weir, Grateful Dead guitarist. Appears on several tracks.

#41: Barry “The Fish” Melton.
Guitarist and founding member of Country Joe and the Fish, which had broken up; at this time he was recording as a solo artist. He was friends with Mickey: he appears on three tracks here and frequently recorded projects with Mickey at the barn; he even started one of his solo albums there.

#42: Unknown musician, MH thinks he’s possibly from the Tower of Power.

#43: Steve Schuster (confirmed by Steve).
Flute and horn player, mostly known for playing with Jefferson Starship. He plays flute on a couple tracks on the album, and recorded other songs with Mickey as well. He also appears on later albums in the Dead orbit: Tales of the Great Rum Runners, Cats Under the Stars, Blues for Allah, and Shakedown Street.

#44: RM identifies him as Gerald Durham. I couldn’t find any information on him.

#45: Mic Gillette, horn player in Tower of Power.

#46: Stephen "Doc" Kupka, horn player in Tower of Power.

#47: Mickey Hart.

#48: Peter Monk (1937-1992).
Poet and monk, born Peter Zimels. He wrote lyrics for three songs on this album and also the Grateful Dead’s ‘Passenger.’ From Alan Trist’s biographical note in the Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics: “He majored in Philosophy and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1958. He served in the US Navy from 1958 to 1962. On leaving the Navy, he again made his way around the world from New York, through Europe to Asia and eventually to Sri Lanka and Thailand, where he became an ordained Buddhist monk, a calling he took seriously for the rest of his life. Returning to the United States in late 1967, he served as some kind of spiritual force during his years in the Grateful Dead’s extended family, attending many births and performing many marriages.” (He would perform the wedding ceremony for Jerry Garcia & Mountain Girl in 1981.)

#49: Jerry Garcia, Grateful Dead guitarist. He plays on several tracks on the album, including “insect fear” in ‘Pump Song.’

e

 

 

 

#50: Ron Rakow, one of the photographers for the cover.
A hustler and business manager, he’d lent money and enthusiasm and crazy schemes to the early Dead scene, and became manager of the ill-fated Carousel in 1968. In 1972 he presented the Dead with the plan for their own record label, which he would manage in another ill-fated venture.
 
#50 was formerly identified as Jim Staralow, aka Curly Jim, aka CJ Stetson, former manager of the 13th Floor Elevators who’d hung out with the Dead since 1966. He co-wrote a couple songs on the album with Peter Monk. Unless he's lurking elsewhere on the cover, this ID seems to have been a mistake.
 

#51: RM thinks this is Terri Eisenberg, daughter of Cookie Eisenberg (see #27). (I don’t know how old Terri was at the time.)

#52: John Cipollina (1943-1989).
Guitarist for Quicksilver Messenger Service; by this time he’d left that group, forming the band Copperhead and doing session work. As an old friend of the Dead’s he could often be
found at Mickey’s jam sessions and recording projects, and plays on several songs on the album.

#53: Unknown.

#54: MH thinks this is one of the engineers on the album. (Resembles Mickey.)

#55: Larry Shurtliff aka “Ram Rod” (1945-2006). Grateful Dead roadie & crew chief since 1967, highly respected by the band. 

#56: MH identifies him as Robbie Stokes.
Stokes was a guitarist who’d been in the band Devil’s Kitchen. He plays on several tracks on the album, and was a frequent visitor to Mickey’s studio.
“My band Devil’s Kitchen’s road manager Ron Litz…gave me a solid tip that Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead was open to area hotshots coming up and sitting in on some tracks at his studio. Devil’s Kitchen … broke up in 1970, [but] I ended up hanging out there a year and half, playing on Mickey’s solo LP "Rolling Thunder" and Robert Hunter’s "Tales of the Great Rum Runners"”
 

#57-59: Unknown.

#60: Greg Adams, horn player in Tower of Power.
(Formerly identified as Terry Haggerty, guitarist for the Sons of Champlin. The band was still active in ’71-72 (under various names), and Haggerty appears on just one track on the album. I don’t think he played with Mickey very often; most of the rock musicians at Mickey’s sessions were ‘between bands.’)

#61: Emilio Castillo, horn player in Tower of Power.

#62: Skip Mesquite, horn player in Tower of Power.

For comparison, some undated Tower of Power pics: 


November 27, 2020

The Dead's First Songs

After the Warlocks formed in mid-1965, it didn’t take them long to start writing original songs. “The general consensus was that we’d never evolve very far if we just kept covering other people’s stuff,” Phil recalled, and they soon got to work. Several songs were ready for their November ’65 studio demo, and a steady stream of new songs followed in 1966 as the Dead expanded their repertoire. Most of these were quickly abandoned over the course of the year: “all of them were embarrassingly amateurish, so they didn’t last long in the repertoire,” Phil said. After Robert Hunter joined the group as resident songwriter in 1967, their early songwriting period was dismissed and largely forgotten. But, in these first couple years, the Dead wrote some twenty songs that made it to tape, an interesting and diverse batch of mostly pop-radio-friendly tunes that hint at a possible alternate band history: the Dead without Hunter. 
 
Weir remembered in a recent interview, “There was a lot of stuff we all co-wrote... About half of the tunes in the earlier years were stuff we all worked up together. We would work on them wherever we were rehearsing... Back then we’d pretty much rehearse daily. A lot of that was just jamming. And from that came a lot of music that we turned into songs. Then we’d apply lyrics to them [as] best we could. Until Hunter came along. Hunter changed that dynamic because he was just better at it than we were.” 
 
This list will cover the songs the Dead wrote up to the point Garcia started writing songs with Hunter. The songs are listed in the approximate order they were written (as near as I can determine). The dates given are for the recorded performance history of each song, but due to all the missing shows in this period, it’s safe to assume that many of these songs were played well before or after the known dates. 
The credit given is generally just for the lyric writer – the music arrangements for these songs can probably in most cases be credited to the whole band. In these early days the band often wrote the lyrics as a group, with everyone pitching in. Many songs really were "all worked up together" as a collective, without one writer dominating the others. Songs are attributed to the Grateful Dead when no individual writer is known. 
 
 
July 1965 – June 1966 
This may have been the first song the Warlocks wrote, and was the first to be mentioned in print: an issue of Sing Out! Magazine reported that when David Grisman visited the Warlocks sometime in the summer of ’65, “he especially liked a song written by their lead guitarist, Jerry Garcia, titled ‘Bending Your Mind.’” 
Contrary to that report, Weir recalled, “Phil wrote most of the lyrics – we all contributed a little bit.” 
Garcia & Lesh share vocals in the November ’65 studio demo, and they must have liked this spooky song since it lasted a while in their repertoire; there are a couple live versions on tape (from 2/6 and 5/19) and it was filmed at the Fillmore in June ‘66. Garcia would allude to this song later in Cryptical Envelopment, with the condemned man whose “mind remained unbended.” 
https://archive.org/details/gd65-11-03.sbd.vernon.9044.sbeok.shnf (also released on “Birth of the Dead”) 
 
Nov 1965 – Jan 1966 
Weir remembered early Dead songs as being a communal process: “I started to get into writing with the other guys. I was writing in tandem with Jerry and Phil particularly. And Pigpen would chip in as well. ‘I Can’t Come Down’ was one of them. Stuff I don’t think ever made it on record. They were our first attempts at songwriting.” 
For this song, Weir recalled, “We wrote all the music and Jerry wrote the lyrics. Jerry excused himself for a moment and went off. He came back with a couple of verses and we put together a chorus.” Garcia sang the lead in this chugging rocker, bolstered by Pigpen’s harmonica and a group chorus.   
The lyrics are not Garcia’s finest hour, as he rattles off one silly rhyme after another. He later told McNally, “I’m really a jive lyricist. My lyrics come from right now – put pencil on paper, and what comes out, if it fits, it fits. I didn’t think about them, I just made the first, obvious choices and never rewrote. It took me a long time to sing them out, because they embarrassed me.” (p.97) 
This may be one reason the song was so short-lived; it appears in the November ’65 demos and was last reported on 1/7/66.   
https://archive.org/details/gd65-11-03.sbd.vernon.9044.sbeok.shnf (also released on “Birth of the Dead”) 
 
THE ONLY TIME IS NOW (Dave Parker) 
Nov 1965 – Feb 1966 
Talking to Gans, David Nelson recalled that “the lyrics for ‘The Only Time Is Now’ were written by David Parker. Parker wrote another lyric, but Nelson couldn't remember which song.” 
The writing style is clearly very different from Garcia’s – Garcia’s songs almost always leaned heavily on lame rhymes in every line, while this song is actually poetic and unrhymed. They should have asked Parker to help on more songs! 
This minor-key folk-rock song is done in three-part harmony, with Lesh taking the lead. This is another song that apparently didn’t last very long; it was part of the November ’65 demos and its last appearance on tape was 2/6/66. 
https://archive.org/details/gd65-11-03.sbd.vernon.9044.sbeok.shnf (also released on “Birth of the Dead”) 
 
The first Warlocks songs were communal efforts, and Parker wasn’t the only friend to contribute. In a 1976 interview, Garcia remembered that Willy Legate chipped in too: “He even wrote some lyrics to some of our early songs before we started recording, but we’ve subsequently stopped doing the tunes.” Whether these were songs we have, or lost songs that were never taped, is unknown. 
 
Nov 1965 – May 1972 
So far the Warlocks’ songs followed the popular song styles of the day – they could have been fitting labelmates with the Beau Brummels on Autumn Records – but for Pigpen’s song they went for something more earthy and primal. Weir recalled in the 1993 Golden Road, “How the ‘Caution’ jam developed is we were driving around listening to the radio, like we used to do a lot, and the song ‘Mystic Eyes’ by Them was on, and we were all saying, 'Check this out! We can do this!' So we got to the club where we were playing and we warmed up on it. We lifted the riff from ‘Mystic Eyes’ and extrapolated it into ‘Caution’, and I think Pigpen just made up the words.” 
Lesh remembers it differently, that they were musically inspired by the sound of a train rolling down the tracks – “we can play this!” Which may be true as well, since it would explain the title (one of several early Dead song titles unrelated to the lyrics). 
The song is pretty much complete in the November ’65 demo (despite a rapid fadeout), so they may have been playing it for a while already. ‘Mystic Eyes’ was released in the US on the first “Them” album in July ’65, then put out as a single in October ’65. Although Caution was a straight lift from Them’s arrangement, the Dead knew they were onto something good, and it would find its way onto Anthem of the Sun. Aside from a few breaks Caution would stay in the sets as long as Pigpen could sing it (and would still be teased for years thereafter). No other song written before fall ’67 would be played as long. 
https://archive.org/details/gd65-11-03.sbd.vernon.9044.sbeok.shnf (also released on “Birth of the Dead”) 
 
The Dead’s setlists in 1965 are mostly a blank since the studio demo is the only surviving recording from that year. (If these were considered their best new songs, others might already have been rejected and left behind.) The picture improves in winter ’66, when a number of home demos and live shows were taped, showing the Dead busily building up their repertoire. Only a small fraction of the songs the Dead played in 1966 would be originals, but they still composed about a dozen new songs that year. Only one of those would eventually make it onto an album, and others were barely or never played live, as the band quickly discarded their efforts. 
For the broader 1966 repertoire, see: http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2010/01/deads-1966-songs.html 
 
aka THE MONSTER, aka NO LEFT TURN UNSTONED 
Jan – Sep 1966 
Lesh sings his first “difficult” composition for the Dead. Phil remembered this in ’94 as “a truly awful song I wrote… It’s so godawful I can’t even listen to it to find out what it was like.” He later said (on the Searching for the Sound CD), “I wrote the words and the music... This is known as 'Cardboard Cowboy' but it actually was called 'The Monster,' and I'm not sure why we called it that except maybe it was just so big and ugly and hard to play.” Lesh took this song as a warning example, and hardly ever wrote lyrics again.
‘Cardboard Cowboy’ seems to be a name given by collectors; Weir introduced it onstage as ‘No Left Turn Unstoned.’ It’s not as bad as Lesh remembers – the lyrics are a not very successful attempt at poetic cosmic psychedelia and Weir’s harmonies can be dodgy, but the band makes the song flow despite its difficulties. While being a little reminiscent of Mindbender, it’s also a clear forerunner for New Potato Caboose (and other Lesh songs) in how challenging it was for the band to play. 
Nonetheless, the Dead persevered with it: the song first turns up in a January ’66 home demo, fully fleshed-out, and in June they would record it at the Scorpio studio sessions. Though it was left unreleased, they kept playing it live for a while (as on a couple July ’66 tapes, where they've changed the intro). A September ’66 news article quoted the song and stated the Dead still had plans to record it, but by the time they made their first album they’d evidently changed their minds. 
https://archive.org/details/gd66-06-xx.sbd.vernon.9513.sbeok.shnf (track 28, mislabeled as ‘Tastebud’ – left off “Birth of the Dead”) 
 
WANDERING MAN (Lesh) 
Jan 1966 (demo) 
Lesh leads a gentle tune not quite like anything else the Dead ever did. This untitled song was completely forgotten until a lost rehearsal tape of it turned up. There’s no indication it was ever played live. Despite its simple feel and folky sound (only delicate guitar/bass accompaniment, and nice backing harmonies from Garcia & Weir), it’s recognizably Lesh's composition, not exactly a straightforward verse-chorus song. 
 
YOU DON’T HAVE TO ASK (Grateful Dead) 
Jan – July 1966 
One of the Dead’s strongest early pop songs, sung by Weir. Continuing their trend for nonsensical song titles, the Dead called the song “Otis” at the time, since ‘You Don’t Have To Ask’ would just be too obvious. 
Garcia recalled in the 1993 Golden Road, “I think we started it in San Francisco, but we worked it up in LA. It was kind of an R&B thing that had changes that worked a little bit like ‘Get Off My Cloud’ or ‘Louie Louie,’ maybe a little more complicated. It was a straight-ahead 4/4, it wasn’t a shuffle; which was unusual for us in those days, ‘cause we played mostly shuffles. It was a pretty good tune, but we threw it out at some point…because we went on to other stuff.” 
Rock Scully called it a “wonderful song that I think Pig and Jerry mainly put together.” 
The song was played frequently in live shows through early ’66 (with tapes spanning from 1/28 to 7/30). When one Los Angeles reporter visited the Dead in March ’66, Rock Scully told him they were about to release a single: “‘I Know You Rider,’ and the flip is ‘Otis On The Shake Down Cruise.’” This never materialized; Scully later said the Dead recorded a studio demo along with ‘Silver Threads & Golden Needles’ (which is on the “Rare Cuts” CD), but that appears to be lost unless the tape is still hidden in the Vault. In June the Dead would record it at the Scorpio studio sessions, but after that the song was unreleased and abandoned.   
https://archive.org/details/gd66-06-xx.sbd.vernon.9513.sbeok.shnf (track 23 - also released on “Birth of the Dead”) 
 
TASTEBUD (Pigpen) 
Feb 1966 – Feb 1967 
A straight, solid blues from Pigpen, so soaked in genuine blues tropes it sounds like a cover song. For all the blues covers that Pigpen sang, this seems to be the only original blues song he wrote with the Dead. Even Pigpen played the meaningless-title game: tape collectors knew this song as ‘Come Back Baby,’ but for whatever reason the Dead actually called it “Tastebud.” I don’t think the Dead have ever talked about this song, but it shows up on a handful of live tapes (from Feb to July ‘66), and they made repeated attempts to record it, first at the Scorpio sessions in June ’66, then for their first album in ’67. (Pigpen plays piano on both studio versions, giving the song an authentic Chess Records feel.) He sang a much longer version live, and revised the lyrics completely in the ’67 recording, tightening up the song, but it wasn’t released and disappeared thereafter. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qam-mB5SZXI (1966 – also an instrumental take,  released on “Birth of the Dead”) 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeDtiuis7PI (1967 – released as album bonus track) 
 
March 1966 (demo) 
Only one rehearsal of this mystery song exists. Surprisingly for Pigpen, it’s not a blues but an uptempo pop song (very similar in feel to You Don’t Have To Ask, which might be why the Dead dropped it). It seems unfinished, and might never have made it to the stage. 
 
March 1966 
This is another very short-lived Pigpen effort, this one a Coasters-style call & answer R&B song. (The "just a little bit softer now" section is borrowed from the Isley Brothers' 'Shout!') It exists only in one home demo and one live version (from 3/12/66). The tape record is unbalanced, but it’s surprising this catchy tune vanished so quickly – maybe the band felt it was too lightweight.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouIVbbsiGhk (demo - released on “Rare Cuts & Oddities”) 
 
Pigpen wasn’t the only blues fan in the Dead – Weir had picked up a jugband tune from old 78s that he made his own: 
NEW NEW MINGLEWOOD BLUES (Weir/Noah Lewis) 
May 1966 – April 1971 (+ revised version 1976-1995) 
“What?” you might ask, “Weir didn’t write this!” Though it started as a traditional song, Weir adapted the song considerably for the Dead. An October ’66 article in Crawdaddy mentioned “an unbelievable grooving piece about "Born in Jackson" (supposedly written by rhythm player Bob Weir).” Weir’s authorship of this 1920s jugband song may not seem apparent, but he brought it up in a recent interview: “My very first one was sort of a rewrite of an old jug band standard. I made it blues. I called it ‘Nickelwood Blues.’” [sic] 
The song already had a tangled history – first recorded as ‘Minglewood Blues’ by Cannon’s Jug Stompers in 1928, with totally different verses, it was revised by the Noah Lewis Jug Band in 1930 as ‘New Minglewood Blues,’ with two alternate traditional verses that were adapted by the Dead (“I was born in a desert… When you come to Memphis…”). Weir added a newly written third verse (“If you can’t believe me…”), gave it a harder blues-rock arrangement, and titled it ‘New New Minglewood Blues’ for the album. 
The first taped Dead version is on 5/19/66, and it was played through the year. Curiously, the song seems to have been dropped after the album release and doesn’t show up on any Dead live tapes from ’67-68, before it was revived in ’69. 
Weir would add more verses when he brought the song back in 1976, and in ‘78 the Dead recorded this version as ‘All New Minglewood Blues’ with the new set of verses (mostly about the “little girls” who’re after him), this time credited to “traditional, arr. Bob Weir.” So, despite the blues derivation, Weir did put some original work into this song – while the version on the first album is 2/3rds Noah Lewis, the Minglewood of later years is mostly Weir’s invention. 
 
May – July 1966 
Following Pigpen’s and Weir’s efforts, this is Garcia’s attempt at an original blues song, but it’s not very traditional. It’s usually credited to the Grateful Dead, but Garcia sings the song and the lyrics suggest his writing to me. The lyrics are amusingly negative; the proto-punk garage-rock feel of ‘66 is perhaps captured better in Cream Puff War. But the comical bleakness does foreshadow his later songs with Hunter a little bit: “seems like nothing ever changes, and nothing’s gonna turn out right.” 
This song didn’t seem to last long: there’s a home demo in the spring, and a few performances from 5/19 to 7/30. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkD1lroqz8g (demo – released on “Rare Cuts & Oddities”) 
 
CREAM PUFF WAR (Garcia) 
May 1966 – April 1967 
When the Dead played this song on TV, Garcia told Ralph Gleason, “I wrote this particular song! The only time I've ever written completely all the way, it's my song.” He gave more details in a KMPX interview: “The title came after the song. I already developed the idea - this is the only song that I claim totally - this is mine from beginning to end! I actually wrote it. We were down in LA, I was writing, I had the changes worked out and the bridge and the first verse... The whole thing was just meandering along. Pigpen said let's call it...Cream Puff War. (WEIR - No, I said it.) Or you did, somebody did. At any rate, the title doesn't really mean anything particularly…it was a name that happened to be around, and then later on I happened to work it into the lyric as the last line.” 
The Dead liked this one, and it was played more often than any of their other original 1966 songs – possibly because it was their first new song since You Don’t Have To Ask that allowed for a big jam at the end. It was also an unusually aggressive song for them, with Caution-like guitar flurries. (It’s similar to Love’s ‘7 and 7 Is,’ but that song wasn’t recorded until June ’66.) 
It debuted on a home demo in the spring, and live performances range from 5/19/66 to 4/8/67.  The Dead recorded it for their first album in 1967, and also released it as the single B-side
But Cream Puff War quickly disappeared after the album’s release. Garcia was not fond of this song in later years, telling Blair Jackson, “I felt my lyric writing was woefully inadequate.” When Steve Marcus asked him about the song, Garcia said, “It’s totally embarrassing. I’d just as soon everybody forgot about it.” 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wb2Gek6LeI8 (demo – released on “Rare Cuts & Oddities” – the chorus is different) 
 
KEEP ROLLING BY (Grateful Dead) 
July 1966 
This song is only known from a couple July ’66 shows, and judging from some slip-ups in the playing it was new. The actual title (if it had one) is unknown, but was probably not ‘Keep Rolling By.’ I’d guess that Pigpen played a big part in writing this one – he shares vocals with the others and takes a long rap at the end, so he must have had some hand in the composition. The chord pattern is quite similar to the Dead’s cover of the Stones’ ‘Empty Heart’ (which Pigpen sang with Garcia), and it also sounds a little like a distant descendant of the unknown Pigpen song back in March. This song has a few more twists in it, but despite the unusual vocal layers and odd lyrics, it still just seems like a vague groove, perhaps one reason it didn’t last. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_e8XvWkQ_JE (live, released on “Birth of the Dead”) 
 
It’s surprising to see that Pigpen was one of the Dead’s most prolific songwriters in 1966! Crawdaddy’s October ’66 piece on the Dead also named a standout live song called “The Creeper” which may have been Pigpen’s (the title sure sounds like his), but there are no surviving tapes. 
Though mostly known as the blues singer within the Dead, Pigpen also had a knack for writing songs in different styles as well. While Pigpen seems to have a hand in many songs that year, Garcia and Lesh were the primary writers in just a couple songs each, and Weir didn’t have much to say yet in ’66. By and large the Dead’s songs that year were group-composed, though, making it impossible to cut out percentages and say who wrote what. The next song a few months later, for instance, Pigpen sang but we don’t know how the writing process went: 
 
ALICE D. MILLIONAIRE (Grateful Dead) 
Oct 1966 – Feb 1967 
This sounds like it could have been a single. Pigpen was the lead singer, though his involvement in the writing is unknown. This may be because it was easiest for him to handle the fast word-heavy lyrics, or could be a nod to his growing fame as the Dead’s “frontman”…or maybe he contributed to the lyrics too.   
Ralph Gleason’s review of the 10/31/66 show notes that the Dead played “The LSD Millionaire.” They took the name from an October 5 Chronicle story about Owsley Stanley, the “Bay Area’s LSD Millionaire,” though the song has little apparent connection to Owsley. The name was softened by the time they recorded it for the first album in 1967. (As with several other early Dead songs, the title has nothing to do with the song, which was known by collectors as ‘No Time To Cry.’) But even though it’s quite a catchy pop tune, the song was rejected and disappeared immediately thereafter. Only one live performance is on tape, from 12/1/66. 

DOWN SO LONG (Grateful Dead) 
Nov 1966 – Feb 1967   
A jaunty lament, Down So Long remains unreleased and quite obscure. Garcia sings this song, so he’s been thought to be the most likely songwriter. The title phrase may have been inspired by Richard Farina’s 1966 novel “Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me,’ but Farina himself found the phrase in Furry Lewis’ blues song ‘I Will Turn Your Money Green,” which had been covered on his 1963 “Dick Farina & Eric von Schmidt” album (as ‘Stick With Me Baby’). The Dead could have heard Furry’s original as well, or Tom Rush’s recent cover on his 1966 “Take a Little Walk With Me” album (which in turn he got from Eric von Schmidt). 
In any case, the Dead’s song is original and not derived from previous blues songs. It’s noticeable that the lyrics in these last two ’66 songs are a great improvement from earlier Dead songs; in fact I strongly suspect that someone outside the band wrote this song (maybe Willy Legate?), since the writing and rhyme scheme seem outside the band’s usual abilities. 
The only live performances on tape are a couple from the Matrix in late ’66; the Dead also started recording it for the album a couple months later (complete with the cute ending tag), but left it unfinished. 
 
Cream Puff War turned out to be the only one of these songs that made it onto the Dead’s first album. (Alice D. Millionaire and Down So Long were among the songs recorded but rejected.) But one of Garcia’s most well-known and important lyric lines ended up hidden in one of the album’s cover songs. 
Morning Dew was a familiar song among folkies, but per McNally, the Dead picked it up after “Laird Grant had come across the song on a Fred Neil album late in 1966 and brought it to Garcia.” (Tim Rose also adapted the song from Neil’s cover around the same time in a hit single, independently from the Dead, but they took their own path.) 
“Can’t walk you out in the morning dew, my baby 
I’ll never walk you out in the morning dew again.” 
But Garcia changed the ending: 
“I’ll walk you out in the morning dew, my honey 
I guess it doesn’t matter anyway.” 
And with that, the song was transformed. 
 
Feb – Sep 1967 
Once the initial recording sessions wrapped up, Warner Brothers wasn’t impressed that the Dead’s first album only had one original song. Garcia said in the 1969 radio documentary, “After we recorded the album they said, ‘We still haven’t got anything here that’d be a strong single.’ So we said, ‘Ah, a strong single, sure!’ So we went home and wrote a song. ‘Wow, this’ll be a good single.’” 
He told KMPX in ‘67: “This was recorded after we recorded the body of the album, and [it’s] a new song; we were thinking specifically of a single, so we just played around, and came up with some nice changes and cooperated on the entire thing, and came up with the Golden Road, which is a good song; I mean it's like really fun to sing and fun to play…and it seems like a good single, whatever that is – we thought it could be a single.” 
It was a great pop single, but Golden Road did not tear up the charts. The Dead played it occasionally through the year, and only two live versions exist on tape, from 3/18 and 9/29. By the fall, they’d moved on. 
 
This song was one of the group compositions credited to the mythical “McGannahan Skjellyfetti” on the album (Pigpen’s idea), along with the traditional songs Cold Rain & Snow and the reworked New Minglewood Blues. Garcia claimed in ‘67 that “we haven’t copywritten any of the words in these [traditional songs] – the things that are traditional, we’ve left them traditional…we give credit to the people who were doing it.” The Dead’s actual copyright blurring seems to have escaped Garcia’s attention (several songs on the album had bogus credits), but Mr. Skjellyfetti has disappeared from more recent reissues. 
 
Up to this point, all the band’s compositions were recognizably pop or R&B songs – the kinds of tunes that might get played on the radio, or at least get toes tapping on the dance floor. But 1967 saw a big shift as the Dead became interested in more complex compositions, and their songwriting slowed down to a crawl as their music became more ornate and ambitious. The first new song after the album was a perfect example: 
 
NEW POTATO CABOOSE (Lesh/Bobby Petersen) 
March 1967 – June 1969 
Garcia told Ralph Gleason in March ’67, “We have this song called ‘New Potato Caboose’ and it’s not on the record or anything, it’ll probably be on the next album, it’s a very long thing and…it doesn’t have a verse-chorus form. We took it from a friend of ours who’s a poet named Bobby Petersen who wrote us this thing. And we just set it…” 
Lesh described it in his book as “a little thing I had pecked out on the studio harpsichord when we were at RCA for our first album - which later, with some lyrics from my mad beatnik college buddy, Bobby Petersen, became ‘New Potato Caboose’... It didn't spring into being all at once, but rather amalgamated itself over time, with small but crucial contributions from the whole band. Pig added a celesta part to the intro, Jerry a melodic phrase for the verse, and Mickey a glockenspiel riff and a very important gong roll. Bob sang lead on the song, since I wasn't ready to try singing leads yet.” (p.125) (Though a frequent singer in the Warlocks days, Phil had given up singing leads since Cardboard Cowboy.) 
Weir remembered it in the 1992 Golden Road: “That was a collaborative effort; I worked on it with Phil and Garcia. The lyric was done by Bobby Petersen - he just handed us a lyric. I needed a song to sing. 'Weir, take this lyric. We're going to make a song, and you're going to sing it.' We hammered on it for a couple of days and came up with it.” 
This was the first time the Dead had set an actual poem to music, so the lyric was quite different and more opaque than anything they’d sung before. And as with his previous tunes, Lesh worked out a tricky and complicated song structure, almost defying a melody. ('New Potato Caboose' also wins the award as the Dead's most eccentric absurdist song title yet.) 
It was not an easy song for the Dead to play: Garcia said, “It doesn’t have a recurring pattern, it just changes continually… There’s a lot of surprises in it, a lot of fast, difficult kind of transitions…that musically are real awkward. They’re not the kind of thing that flows at all but we’re trying to make this happen…just to see if we can do it… It’s a little stilted because we aren’t really able to get with it, ‘cause it’s all so utterly odd. But it has its points, and I think that’s like one direction that we’ll be able to move successfully in.” (GD Reader p.31) 
Weir commented, “It’s precise, it’s heavily arranged… Back then we could barely play it.” 
No live versions exist before 8/4/67, so the song’s earliest phase is still veiled; but the Dead stuck with it for a couple years, playing it often in shows up to 6/8/69. It says a lot about the Dead’s change in direction that such a difficult piece would have a longer lifespan than almost all of their earlier, more accessible songs. 
 
In May 1967, Robert Hunter sent the Dead a batch of lyrics, and they immediately started setting one to music – Alligator. 
Hunter wrote, “In 1967, I mailed to my old chum and fellow folkie Garcia three lyrics from New Mexico, extracted from songs I wrote and played at parties with some success, expecting no reply. I got the first and only letter I ever received from him…asking me to come out and join the band.” 
Lesh wrote in his book, “[Hunter] was currently living in Taos, and out of the blue he mailed Jerry a lyric at 710, which was promptly forgotten until Jer found it in his guitar case… Pigpen immediately added some lyrics to what Hunter had sent, and he and I came up with some music for them the same day. The whole band goofed up some chorus lyrics to add to the mix…and we had our first Hunter song. It was tremendous fun working with his lyrics, and I realized right away that here was the poetic sensibility we’d been lacking (our own lyrics, except for Pig’s, were decidedly lame). Immediately I hit on Jerry to get right back to Bob and ask for more lyrics.” (p.101) 
[It’s striking that Phil thought Pigpen was the best lyric writer in the Dead. In Hunter’s memory, the other two songs he sent were China Cat Sunflower and St. Stephen, but that begs the question of why the Dead waited another year to make a song out of St. Stephen.] 
Hunter had sent a song with two verses and choruses; the band added the verse “Hung up waiting for a windy day / Burn down the Fillmore, gas the Avalon,” and Pigpen wrote the long final verse describing the alligator, “Sailing down the river in an old canoe...” 
This wasn’t entirely his imagination – the band actually was canoeing down the river when they worked on this song. In late May 1967, the Dead stayed on a friend’s ranch on the Russian River; as Weir recalled, they “worked up a few songs, among them the first few strains of ‘The Other One’ and ‘Alligator.’” Lesh also remembered them working on these two songs during their May ’67 river rehearsals, although the Other One would take months longer to emerge on tape. “Most of the time we just jammed, searching for ideas we could incorporate into tunes.” 
Meanwhile, Alligator became an immediate fixture in the Dead’s shows – they even played it at the Monterey festival just a few weeks after writing it, proud of their latest composition. 
 
Hunter promptly accepted the Dead’s songwriting invitation and headed back to California. The first song he wrote for them after arriving in September 1967 was Dark Star. After that, the Dead gave up any thought of writing songs without him for the next several years. 
But in the meantime, they’d composed a final trio of songs without Hunter. (These probably originated earlier in the year, but no recordings exist until the fall.) Weir in particular was on a creative streak this year, writing his first true songs. 
 
THE OTHER ONE (Weir) 
Oct 1967 – Sep 1985 (Cryptical) 
Oct 1967 – July 1995 (Other One) 
These song titles have always been a source of confusion, since the Dead never properly named them: when they released Anthem of the Sun they gave this suite a whole series of random nonsensical titles. It seems they always referred to Weir’s song just as “the Other One” (as Phil recalled, “at the time, we couldn’t think of a name for it, so we called it ‘the other one’”), but Garcia’s section most likely never had a name. These are the titles that have come to be generally accepted, though. 
Garcia’s song has an unclear origin – later asked what inspired the song, he shrugged, “I don’t know really.” Talking to Michael Lydon in ’69, Garcia said, “That’s one of my melodies…that’s like one of those things that just emerged, you know, I was just sitting around playing the guitar and all of a sudden bam, there it is, and it says something to you...” 
I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Dead discuss how they got the idea to wrap Garcia’s song around the Other One – along with Alligator>Caution, it was their first venture into the idea of song suites that would soon structure their sets. But the Cryptical bookend withered after a few years (despite a couple later revivals) as Garcia grew unhappy with it. By 1971, as Phil said, "Jerry decided he didn't want to sing the first part anymore." Garcia grumbled to Golden Road in 1988, “It's just not a very successful song. I find it uncomfortable.” 
As usual, it looks like Garcia didn’t spend much time or thought on the lyrics, to his later regret. His part of the song may have been tossed-off, but Weir’s song gestated for quite a few months. Weir thought of the Other One as “the song with the ‘tiger paws’ rhythm that Billy and me came up with.” Kreutzmann recalled that “while we were on that river trip [in May], Weir and I came up with an idea that would eventually form the basis of ‘The Other One.’” Per McNally, “One day back in April, Weir had heard a Yardbirds song on the radio on his way to rehearsal… Over the summer, he and Kreutzmann had worked at it.” (p.229) 
The Yardbirds song was ‘Little Games,’ released as a single in March ’67, so Weir could easily have heard it on the radio that spring. Weir later said the Dead were “profoundly influenced” by the Yardbirds, and the Other One rhythm is a straight lift from this song: 
Weir told Alan Paul, “This was my first stab at writing a complete song by myself. The three over four rhythm came first, influenced by Northern Indian classical music. We rehearsed it as an instrumental for about six months, during which it got its name, because we were working on three big tunes and, as it was unnamed, everyone just called it ‘the other one.’” 
Weir also told David Gans that the Other One “was one of the first tunes I ever wrote. Actually, we came up with the map, basically, for the song in a rehearsal somewhere, just kickin’ stuff around. And then I took it and started shaping it up…I was not done with it.” It took him months to come up with the final verses – in contrast to Garcia, Weir was a relatively painstaking lyric writer, discarding and reshaping verses when they didn’t feel right. 
For details on the lyric changes, see this page: On the first taped version in October ’67, the lyrics mostly concern Weir’s missing head and the heat taking him to jail – only one line from this would make it to the final version. By November, the Cowboy Neal verse was set. For the next couple months, the first verse still went “when I woke up this morning, my head was not in sight” – until a stop in Portland in February ’68, when Weir had an inspiration and wrote the “Spanish lady” verse. With time and diligence, he’d turned some breezy nonsense lyrics into a memorable narrative packed with psychedelic metaphors. 
 
Nov 1967 – March 1968 
In the meantime, Weir also came up with this bizarre blast of off-kilter rhythms and disorienting vocals. The lyrics are hard to understand from the recording, but the song turns out to be a clever and creepy twist on the old Christian hymn, “In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.” 
It was first recorded in the studio in November ’67, but on tape, the song’s performance history spans only a couple months, from 1/17 to 3/30/68. It’s unknown whether the Dead were still playing it when the Anthem album was released later that summer. (The following year they’d stumble through a half-remembered version in a 1/23/69 rehearsal.) 
There are three released mixes of the song: 
(I prefer the original album mix, which is both clearer and trippier than Lesh’s muffled-sounding revision. But the three are most easily distinguished by different endings: the original album fades on the last “by and by,” the remix adds a last crashing chord at the end, and the single cuts in some live feedback.) 
 
This short-lived song would be the last one Weir wrote for a couple years. Weir said in the 1969 radio documentary, “My song-writing career has been slowed up because I can't think of any decent words to sing. That's kind of gotten to me after the last album. You come to that particular point where you've written a song, and you hear it on the album and the words are so "nada." They don't really say anything, they're just…a handle with which to carry a tune. And they could be ever so much more.” 
Weir also told Crawdaddy in 1972, “I had retired for the longest time with ‘Born Cross-Eyed,’ which didn’t come out like I had imagined it. I had it all together in my head, but at that time, I just was not able to convey to a band what it was I wanted to hear. So it was useless for me to write a song. Garcia had been working with bands for a long time, and I was relatively new to it. Garcia knew how to tell a band what he wanted to hear and all that. If you’re writing a song, you have to be able to express yourself to the people you’re working with or you’re never going to get what you want. It’s frustrating.” 
 
Weir stopped writing after this, and wouldn’t attempt another song until 1970 (and then with Hunter’s help). Lesh worked out a couple songs with Hunter in the Anthem days (Clementine and the Eleven), but other than a couple group arrangements he would also fall silent for a couple years. After Hunter’s arrival, the songwriting balance in the Dead decisively shifted toward his compositions with Garcia. The next few albums would be dominated by Hunter/Garcia originals, and band arrangements were mostly confined to instrumentals. 
 
In his foreword to David Dodd’s “Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics” (p.xxi-xxiii), Hunter mused about how the Dead might have progressed without him: 
“Had I not joined…the band would have developed differently. It might have been less odd and more popular, for one thing. It would likely have remained more blues-based.” And the folk tradition that Hunter shared with Garcia would not have become so dominant: “the others were a little worried about the folk direction, but agreeable; the band was, after all, desperate for material.”   
Hunter felt the bandmembers were perfectly capable of writing more of their own songs, with practice. “I was surprised at the number of early lyrics by Garcia and Pigpen, songs that got an airing or two but apparently rang no bells for them. Both writers show distinct lyric promise. Their skills would have developed in proportion to the effort they exerted in songwriting…[but] words tend to be a chore when your first love is performing.” If Bobby Petersen had written more songs for Phil, “Phil would probably have come more forward in the solo vocal output, though this was something Phil didn’t seem particularly keen to do, not liking the sound of his own voice.” And “Weir himself was capable of writing a nice breezy lyric…but had no confidence in his abilities and didn’t develop the talent.” 
Without Hunter, the Dead may have continued writing songs as a group rather than splitting off into individual efforts. “In my absence the Grateful Dead would have tended toward a balance between the Garcia, McKernan, Weir, and Lesh vocal and writing base, drawing moderately from [friends] outside the group for lyric material… Folk-style repertoire would still have been evident, as with ‘Viola Lee Blues,’ but it would more likely have been covers than originals. But as it actually happened…for several years, the Garcia-Hunter song machine dominated the proceedings.”