March 9, 2013

Pigpen Photo Album

We'll talk and screech madly through the night
in heated arguments about the Witch doctors of Africa
as versus
the Hindus of India and Voodoo men of the West Indies.
We'll howl through eons
whilst Charlie Mingus puts it down
and Luigi's hot rod in his
Persian-rugged attic roars like a drunken mouse with
his head caught under the feet of Dali's stilted elephants.
Why doesn't the middle class put up?
because they've got their all holy standards warped!
They must dig the life of calm
quiet suburbia; until their tract-house orgies are bared.
But, we'll howl, rant, scream
kick and pick up on frothing sounds - loud
cascading forth over Peyote rocks
and crashing into ourselves,
pierced with flats - sharps
and that crazy sound: off minor.
Read? - don't play it high society isn't so bad
it's the tract-house and 20,000 - 60,000 class
that's got middleclass values up to here and who
picture themselves as clairvoyant white knights
destined to save me, or us - they boil my blood.
Dean Moriarty roars into the Opus One at 3:30 a.m....
"Ron! how you been? Crazy!
Look Jack, we got a lookin' all so clean
gig goin' over Hunter's Point
so let's splee this one an' make that!"
That cat Moriarty from the Doldrums is just about so crazy
as a man can be.
"Dean, I, Speedy, Linda, Sammi, Breeze, Yvette, Carlo
and many unknowns hold wild atheistic meetings
and we sit around and not pray
and drink we do, swear, blaspheme - etc.
because we have no god."
This is what Jon Kreebson writes of himself.
Now who knows what howling times we have
in crazy grottos of the city
while Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti,
and Kerouac sit in the spot;
many crazy, unsuspecting poets know me in the place.
They put the aforementioned in with Chaucer
and his cohorts. Howl over pebbled craziness
with cascading jive marrying Peyote
in a wild explosion frescoed with intermingling
and crazy peace of mind.
Lateef wailing blue.

--R.C. McKernan

See also:


  1. Sorry about the delay...this took longer than I expected.
    It's still a work in progress, as I may add or change some things in the next few days.
    Suggestions are welcome.

  2. great work as usual.. just a note: if those would bear numbers or dates we could actually talk about them.. i knew most of the b/w ones but a lot of the colored ones are new to me.. i guess you tried to get them sorted chronologically .. but there are few who are then placed wrong..

    1. That's a good point. I only know the dates for a small fraction of them; for many of the live ones, I don't even know the year. So any labeling would be limited.
      Of course, I could put in the research to date & caption some of these... But personally, I like it as it is, non-captioned. (My time for expanding this project is also brief.)
      The chronological approach is just general, there is a lot of going back & forth since it was more important to me to have a thematic progression and a certain flow to the pictures. So they're ordered partly by year, partly by my aesthetic sense of how they should be grouped.

  3. LIA,
    Once again i am so thankful for your constant contributions with essaya and pic of the history. There is alot of color pics and the Janis pics with the hats that are first timers for me. thnx a plenty for the tribute research.
    Street Pig!

    1. Ron Rakow took the PigPen + Janis pics on steps of 715 Ashbury (across street from the Dead house). There are a few more out there -

  4. I added about 25 photos and upgraded a few others.

  5. This morning I was marveling at his harp playing. "That crazy sound: off minor". Yes!

  6. I added 30 more photos, about half of them from Europe '72.

    A mawkish teenage letter titled "Kathy" Pigpen wrote in 1961 surfaced a few years ago, and can be seen here:
    The info states, "The poem was written to McKernan's classmate at Palo Alto High School, shortly before he dropped out of school. Within a few months he had hooked up with Jerry Garcia..."

    Hard to say whether it was a prose poem, a bit of "blues character" writing, or a distillation of a mood he was in, but I'll quote it - not to bring up any teenage flashbacks that might occur to readers, but since on a historical level, this shows an early version of the Pigpen persona that we later saw in songs like Two Souls and No Tomorrow:


    She makes me feel so warm in the cold, November motorcycle afternoon when she asks me what's wrong. She looks at me from across the warm little room and speaks so soft and low - "Ron - what's wrong?" When she asks, it hurts me, down deep, I have a sad and lonley time trying to tell her how I feel, I can't let her know how bad I need her, but I can't stop myself from feeling the way I do. And when I howl into the freezing dusk, I feel bitter towards myself, I hate myself for ever loving anyone. 90 M.P.H. in piercing fog, I feel tears whipping my cheeks, why am I crying? I can't cry unless I'm on the lonesome highway with roars and howls wailing in my ears. And sometimes when I feel like dying, I see her face floating before me, so soft and warm, and I feel like crying. Maybe because I've never had anyone care for me much before. And sometimes I feel a little lonley, and sometimes I feel like riding all night back to my home town, but I can't, no one is there to love me, no warmth in that little town, just foggy hills and lonesome roads, and someone who died a long time ago. And when I ride, and when I cry, and when the whole world turns back on me, I feel like saying a little quiet prayer of thanks. And when I'm bloody, climbing a hill, or laying in a barbed-wire ditch I feel like holding a baby's hand. Lord I feel like to die, but I know someone cares.

    R.C. McKernan

    1. Nice letter, wow this "Kathy" knew Ron well, I concur that Pig did allow us a glimpse of his persona as is poured it out for us on stage. Similar to Janis IMHO.
      Street Pig!

  7. Excellent collection. Many thanks for time & effort involved. I had never seen about half of them. But seeing them all together, you can't help but see the horrible effects of alcohol on him. Look how skinny and unhealthy he looks in that last photo. He looks 40 at 27. I think it's quite sad(and eyeopening) that the one legal drug around could devastate a person so quickly, while most everybody else who took acid and smoked weed survived mostly intact. Even a heroin junkie like Jerry lived into his 50's. RIP Pig

    1. So sad but unfortunately it's Dead on Spot...

    2. Sad but true.....Ripple killed more good people than Acid, yet which of the two is demonised?

  8. I added about 20 more photos. This will be the last big update - I'm finally through with this post. On to the next!

    1. Fantastic. I've always bemoaned that I've never seen a photograph of Blue Ron playing guitar. And there it is, the 5th one down, albeit a pre-dead one (BTW, he looks an awful lot like DeCaprio in Django in that photo.)

      The only other footage I can remember of him playing guitar is the Backstage Pass Hard to Handle. He's in a blue bathrobe plucking away.

  9. OK, I couldn't help myself and added a few more. But 200 photos is enough, don't you think?

    The picture with the M16, I have grave doubts about its authenticity - but if it's a fake, it's a good one, so it's included.

    1. Old-timers assure me that the M16 photo has been around since the 70s.
      I hadn't seen it before now, so perhaps it's an example of how the historical record gets winnowed down over time, and the artifacts of one era become forgotten by the next...

  10. the last photo in this set w Pig in the MIT shirt, is that Pig's "last photo" by Bob Seidemann?

  11. great contribution to his legacy. thanks for the hard work and effort!

  12. Another hiatus! I will not be able to finish any essays this month, sad to say. The next post here will be in May. Sorry about that!

  13. I was going to post another article this week, but a virus has knocked out my computer. So if all goes well, I'll be posting next week instead. Sorry about the delay.

    If I'd known in March it would be two months before I could write again, I definitely would've done an essay instead of this photo collection!

    1. More delays... My computer was recovered but is still having problems; basically I can't save anything on Word til it's fixed, which makes composing tricky. It's very frustrating, since I'm just bursting with posts that I'm anxious to write.

  14. Wonderful work! Thanks so much for your efforts. ~ Nicholas

  15. The depth is Captivating here. This is a new pinnacle of awareness, especially for those of us who never got to see Pigpen in person. This needs to hit The Road -- Loud. Thanks and blessings for this great work!

  16. I saw the M16 pic in the 70s as well.Before photoshop hahaha!