I’ve been lost in the past for a few days. Having recently recovered several boxes of my late father’s memorabilia, I’ve been sifting through family history: a Chicago studio photograph of my grandfather as a two-year old in 1896, another of him as a newly minted 2nd Lieutenant in Camp Stanley, Texas in 1918, a WW II ration book, my father’s 1956 diploma from Columbia (PhD in Philosophy), and a collection of his reprints (including, for example, Richard de Bury and the ‘Quires of Yesterday’s Sophisms’, 1976). Topped off with a letter I wrote to my grandparents as a twelve-year-old.
One of my Christmas presents is also keeping me adrift in the past: Dennis McNally’s A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead. Having grown up in the Bay Area, many of the locations, bands, and events packed into McNally’s book are instantly evocative. [Please don’t say “Proustian.”—Ed.] [No frickin’ way will I say “Proustian.”]
Still, a couple of things were news to me, including the story of how Ben & Jerry introduced the Cherry Garcia flavor without bothering to ask Jerry Garcia’s permission. To top it off, B&J then approached the Dead’s publicist to plan some promotion for the new flavor. The publicist blew his stack but Garcia, as per usual, didn’t get worked up about it. The band’s attorney had a different point of view and with Jerry’s blasé assent secured him a very sweet deal from the Vermont hippie capitalists.
This story from McNally’s book also came as a surprise: Jerry, among his many non-Dead musical endeavors, played pedal steel guitar on the 1970 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song Teach Your Children. My first response was to listen to the song again. You should try it for yourself now—tune out the preachy, harmonized vocals and the banal acoustic rhythm guitar and focus on the pedal steel. It’s pure Jerry. And it makes the entire song.