Tag Archives: Phil Lesh

Happy Birthday, Phil Lesh

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Today is the birthday of Phil Lesh. He was born in 1940. Don’t know who Phil Lesh is? Well, he’s most famous for being the Grateful Dead’s bassist.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Lesh,

Philip Chapman Lesh  is a musician and a founding member of the Grateful Dead, with whom he played bass guitar throughout their 30-year career.

After the band’s disbanding in 1995, Lesh continued the tradition of Grateful Dead family music with side project Phil Lesh and Friends, which paid homage to the Dead’s music by playing their originals, common covers, and the songs of the members of his band. Phil Lesh & Friends helped keep a legitimate entity for the band’s music to continue.

According to http://www.dead.net/band/phil-lesh,

One of the strongest intellects and most extraordinary musical talents in rock history, Phil Lesh re-defined what the bass could sound like, and in so doing heavily influenced what the Dead sounded like. Instead of being part of the rhythm section, Phil’s bass was a low-end guitar, and his improvised interplay with Garcia and Weir made the Dead the not-quite-rock-band rock band that it was. Raised in an eastern suburb of San Francisco, he began his music studies with classical violin before switching to “cool jazz” big-band trumpet a la Stan Kenton. Later he studied with Luciano Berio and composed avant-garde music in the realm of Stockhausen. In 1965 he attended a Warlocks [the name of the Grateful Dead before they were called “Grateful Dead”] show at a pizza parlor in Menlo Park, and afterwards his friend [Jerry] Garcia informed him that he was the new bass player in the band. Fortunately for future Dead Heads, he said, “Why not”?

Searching for the Sound:  My Life with the Grateful Dead
In 2005, Phil’s book Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead was published. Here’s a short review I wrote of the book:

I can’t possibly convey how wonderful this book is. Every Deadhead needs to read it.

Phil Lesh is a geek in all the best ways! I have to read this book again with a dictionary on hand so I can learn all the unfamiliar words he uses. And of course, he talks about playing music in terms that I (as a non-musician) simply don’t understand.

But don’t let either of those things deter you. Most of the this book consists of stories about the band, the history of the Grateful Dead and Phil’s place in it.

Did you know that Phil was the last of the original members to join the Grateful Dead? Did you know the first song they played as a band (in a rehearsal) was “I Know You Rider”?

From stories of the Acid Tests in the early 1960s to the loss of Jerry in 1995, this book is essential reading.

 

How I Met Mr. Carolina and the Boys

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Sometimes I don’t know how much background I need to give in order for a story to make sense. Sometimes I can just start in the middle of everything and tell a story, but sometimes I have to give so much background info that I’m a thousand words in and exhausted by the time I get to the story I want to tell. That’s how I feel about how I met Mr. Carolina and the boys.

It all started with the Grateful Dead. Yes, that’s the place to start.

I was not a Grateful Dead fan when the Grateful Dead actually existed. I guess I’d heard of them in 1987 when “Touch of Grey” hit the charts, and my first true love did put “Sugar Magnolia” on a mix tape when he was trying to woo me in 1992. But I’d gone most of my life not being a Deadhead. Then I met the boyfriend who turned out to be not very nice. I’ll spare you all the gory details, but he was a Deadhead. We listened to the Grateful Dead all the time, and we started seeing a lot of Further, and I became a Deadhead too.

(If you didn’t know, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furthur_%28band%29

Furthur was a rock band founded in 2009 by former Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh. The original lineup also included John Kadlecik of the Dark Star Orchestra on lead guitar, Jeff Chimenti of RatDog on keyboards, Jay Lane of RatDog on percussion, and Joe Russo of the Benevento/Russo Duo on drums.[1] Named after the famous touring bus used by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters in the 1960s, Furthur was an improvisational jam band that performed music primarily from the extensive Grateful Dead songbook, as well as their own original music and that of several other well-known artists. In addition to the original members (with the exception of Jay Lane, who left the band in March 2010 to rejoin his previous band, Primus), the band’s lineup included backup vocalists Sunshine Becker of the a cappella ensemble SoVoSó and Jeff Pehrson of the folk rock bands Box Set and the Fall Risk.)

When I finally extricated myself from the not-very-nice boyfriend, I thought I had lost Furthur and the Grateful Dead too. I thought that part of my life was over, and I’d never hear those songs again.

I got over that silliness in a couple of months.

I realized the music belonged to me as much as it belonged to anyone else. My not-very-nice boyfriend might have introduced me to that music, but he didn’t own it.

I’ll fast-forward through the part of the story where I was homeless and living in a highway rest area (if you want to read about that, you can go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/06/11/hummingbird/.) I’ll skip the part where two friends from college who’d heard I’d disappeared found me and offered love and support. (That’s a story for another day.) I’ll go straight to the part where I used the money I’d earned selling hemp jewelry combined with money friends had donated to my cause so I could buy a van to live in and work out of. One week after I’d gotten the van registered and licensed, I was off to the big city where Furthur was playing.

I drove all alone for hours to get there. My new-to-me van didn’t have a working radio, so I had no music to distract me from my thoughts. Was this trip the right thing to do? Would the van make it? What if I ran into my ex-boyfriend there? Would I make enough money selling jewelry to even get into one of the three shows Furthur was doing? Would I make any friends?

I didn’t really expect to make any friends. In real life, I’m shy, and it’s not easy for me to make friends. And if you’ve ever been to Shakedown Street

(the parking lot, or large area, outside os [sic] Grateful Dead or Phish shows where everything from drugs, burritos, tie dyes, incense and clothing were sold. Shakedown was the place where one could chill before or after a show and find whatever it is one was looking for. Most known for it’s [sic] open air drug supermarket where cats would have nitrous oxide tanks in the back of cars and sell balloons of nitrous for $5. also [sic] people would walk around uttering “trips trips” or “kind bud, according to http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Shakedown+Street)

or a Rainbow Gathering or a music festival, you know those places are not hotbeds of middle-age, single women.

But I was excited to go, excited to be in the hubub of the parking lot, excited to (hopefully) make it into the show.

The first day on the lot was fun enough. I sold a few things, traded for a few things, gave water to thirsty kids and dogs, and generally hung out. That night I tried to sneak into the outdoor show, but I had no idea what I was doing and ended up surrounded by scratching, jabbing plant matter. As I tried to get out of the mess I was in, a security guy (who was probably young enough to be my kid), heard all the noise I was making and yelled, Get out of the bushes! I yelled back, I’m trying.

After I made it out of the cacti and trees, I sat out in the van until after the show, thinking maybe there would be some hanging out. Of course, the cops ran everyone out of the parking lot after the show, so I drove to the nearest Stuff-Mart and got some sleep.

I returned to the lot early the next day. Not long after I parked, a car full of people pulled in next to the van. More people joined them. Most of the people were young men, although there was an older-than-me woman with them and a man younger than her but older than the rest who seemed to dote on her. They hadn’t been there long when the older man offered me a bottle of water. I took it gratefully.

Several hours later when the late autumn sun was beating down, one of the young men asked me if I wanted some shade. He said they had a tarp and asked if they could stretch it from the car and attach one end to my van. I agreed and helped a little to get the cover in the right place. I didn’t spend much time in the shade, but did have short, pleasant conversations with the various people hanging around.

On Sunday, not long after I arrived in the lot, the folks who’d hung out next to me the day before got there without the car. (I believe they came riding in standing on the running boards of a pickup truck.) I went over to talk with them and we exchanged names. Sweet L admired a copper bracelet I was wearing, and I told him a friend of mine had made it. The dogs of the couple who I later found out spent most their time having whisper fights needed water, so I said we could fill the bowl from my five gallon water jug. One of the young men jumped up to help me. That young man was Mr. Carolina.