Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Jerry and Sandy's Adventure, May, 1964

There are holes in the timeline still to be figured out but so far this is what we know happened.

Palo Alto, California-May 1964-The starting point in a 1961 white Corvair owned by Jerry.
Los Angeles, California-“No gigs in L.A. We played all the time, at Hunter and Nelson's, and probably with them, and Willy Legate was also there as I recall.”[1]
They leave Los Angeles with the Kentucky Colonels, who are in another car (standup bass on roof), driving through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. There were no gigs in any of those states but they did park and pick at rest stops.

Southern Missouri
Jerry, Sandy and the Kentucky Colonels visit Slim Harrell, "a music lover but not a musician who passed away many years ago"[5], at a trailer park in an unknown town in Southern Missouri. There's an all night jam and Cajun food around a bonfire.

Bloomington, Indiana
5/24/64-Jerry and Sandy go to Bean Blossom to watch Bill Monroe perform.
5/24-Neil Rosenberg takes Jerry and Sandy to visit Marvin Hedrick, Mr. Tapes of Bloomington.

5/28/64-hang out and picks with Neil Rosenberg. They meet at Ruby's White Sands outside Dayton, OH to hear the Osborne Brothers with Benny Birchfield. They tape record the show with Jerry's Wollensak T-1500 reel to reel.
Jorma Kaukonen attended school at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH in 1959-1960; it’s 26 minutes from Dayton, OH. He also opened for the Black Mountain Boy two months before on 3/6/64 at The Tangent, Palo Alto as seen in the Stanford Daily.[6]

"Jerry and I played at Neil Rosenberg's house and on the front porch and early-psychedelic living room of a guy named Ron Kurtz (later to become a well-known bodywork author)."[7]
"There was another porch in Bloomington where Jerry and I spent most of our time playing, a few blocks from Neil & Ann's house...the porch of Ron Kurtz, a guy who later moved to Boulder. The inside was dark and lighted with colored lights and other psychedelic things...plenty of drugs around, though I don't think we got into that with the folks there. Ron liked the music and we picked out there for hours, usually while Neil was away at classes during the days. Then we'd go back over to Neil's and play more music with him."[2]
  
Columbus, Ohio-5/29/64[[3]-Jerry and Sandy sit in with Robby Robinson’s band with Sid Campbell at Chet's’s in Columbus, OH. Afterwards they go to Frontier Ranch (a country music park east of Columbus near Reynoldsburg) where Don Reno and Red Smiley were doing a Saturday afternoon show.[2] Three years later Robinson would die in a plane crash.[4]

"I remember when Jerry Garcia and Sandy Rothman were in Columbus. Roger Johnson, at the Columbus Folk Music Center, for a couple of weeks had been telling a bunch of us that jammed at his store on Saturdays that some bluegrass pickers from California were gonna be coming through.  Back in those days I kept a list of the music stuff that was going on... On Saturday, May 30, 1964, I headed for Roger's for the usual Saturday stuff.  I parked my car & I noticed as I crossed the street a Corvair with a couple of guys asleep inside.  I didn't think much about it and went on to the store.
After a little while the two guys from the Corvair came in & there were introductions & hand-shakes all around.  I don't think Rothman played but Garcia joined in the jamming on banjo and, of course, the first thing we noticed was his missing finger.  In between songs Garcia told Roger and me and whoever else was there about the night before, Friday, 5/29/64, at Chet's (or Irv-Nell's, I forget when the name changed; would have been way before it became Bob & Mable's)  and how Robby Robinson had switched to mandolin so he (Garcia) could play banjo and how much fun it had been.   Unfortunately Marty and I did not go to Chet's that night, so we missed all that.  But I sure understood & related to Garcia's enthusiasm!"[3]

5/30/64[3]-Jerry and Sandy met Steve Gibbs via Neil Rosenberg in Columbus in 1964.  "He's the one who took us to the Folk Center (must've showed us the place, then left to leave us sleeping in the car?) and introduced us to Robby and Irv-Nell's bar (sic Chet's). Says we stayed at his place a day or two."[2] Jerry and Sandy jam at the Columbus Folk Center.

"I don't remember how long we played at Roger's, but it couldn't have been too long as we all left to go to Frontier Ranch (a country music park east of Columbus near Reynoldsburg) where Don Reno and Red Smiley were doing a show... it wasn't the regular Sunday show... it was some kind of Saturday bluegrass special day and there were other pickers on as well... But that's where we all went.  First I headed home and picked up my sister, Margaret, and Marty and then we took off for Frontier Ranch.
When Don & Red weren't on stage we went up to the parking lot on the hill & some picking got started with Ross Branham, Leslie Wilson, Robby, Don VanLoon, Sid Campbell and others whose names I don't remember.  Garcia was there, maybe Rothman too, but they didn't pick... I remember Garcia especially was taking it all in and clearly having a wonderful time just listening and observing. After the show we went home and I have no idea what Sandy and Jerry did, but I think I heard somewhere, maybe later from Sandy, that they went on to Nashville. The next time I saw Sandy was several months later and he was at Frontier Ranch playing banjo with Bill Monroe."[3]

Panama City, Florida-Early June 1964-Jerry and Sandy play a gig with Scott Hambly, who was in the air force, on Tyndall Air Force Base.
 "Jerry and I also drove down to Florida to visit Berkeley mandolinist Scott Hambly (another highly original and accomplished instrumentalist like Jerry, and a one-gig replacement for David Nelson in the Black Mountain Boys) while he was stationed at Panama City's Tyndall Air Force Base. I listened to the two of them picking as we played an impromptu show that Scott had arranged at the NCO club and thought that it would be hard to find two city-based bluegrass musicians better matched for sheer profusion of notes and ornamentation. A flock of notes flew with the airplanes over the warm Florida sands that night."[8]

Dothan, Alabama
"The vicious insect life of Florida drove Jerry and Sandy to Dothan, Alabama (1.5 hour drive) to hear the well-known players Jim and Jesse McReynolds.
"Jerry loved bluegrass and bluegrass legend Jesse to the extent that he stopped on a cross country drive to watch the Grand Ol Opry TV show in a Dothan, AL motel room and record the McReynolds Brothers on his trusty Wollensak reel-to-reel."[9]
"Garcia is driving. It's springtime of 1964, a Friday evening somewhere down South. We've been rambling around the Midwest and South for weeks, a couple of California would-be pickers in search of bluegrass. The Corvair's radio is crackling as I scan the dial. The unmistakable sound of Allen Shelton's banjo comes on, dimly. It's "Lady Of Spain."

"Hey," says Jerry, "that's Shelton!"
"Hey, yeah! Wow...Friday night...Jim and Jesse must be on the Opry."
"Can you tune that in any better?"

Now we hear Jesse's voice. He's giving the upcoming show dates.
"Write that down," Jerry says excitedly, tossing me the black spiral notebook he keeps in his shirt pocket. (We did make it to a few of the shows Jesse announced...but were too shy to do more than ask for their autographs on a songbook we bought.) I write: "Sponsor, Crestview Mobile Homes," and the call letters of some TV and radio stations, with various dates and times. "They're on TV tonight!" "We're not that far from Alabama," Garcia says. "We need some sleep anyway. Let's go there, get a motel room, and see if we can watch the show!" Not only watch the show - we lug Jer's trusty old Wollensak out of the car and into the room. We're gonna tape it if we can.
So we're sitting on the edge of a bed in a small motel near Dothan, Alabama, a place we don't know anything about, staring at the TV set, having determined that this very band, with Shelton, is going to be on in a few minutes. The Wollensak's microphone is as close as we can get it to the television's speaker. Food? Coffee? No, we weren't thinking about things like that. We were just waiting.

"Hey, listen-isn't that their live theme playing behind the announcer?"
"Yeah-it's them. Turn on the machine!"
"...And now, from WTVY, Dothan, Alabama...let's make welcome Jim and Jesse and all the Virginia boys!"

It was all there, of course: "Sunny Mountain Chimes," "Childish Love," "Las Cassas, Tennessee," "More Pretty Girls Than One," "Carroll County Blues," "Gone Home," "Nine Pound Hammer," "Love's Gonna Live Here," "Where the Soul of Man Never Dies," and a host of others, featuring the impeccable harmony vocals of the McReynolds brothers with Don McHan, Shelton's amazing banjo, Jim Buchanan's elegant fiddling, Jim's smooth rhythm guitar, and the singular mandolin creations of Jesse McReynolds.
On the surviving low-fidelity 7" reel tape you can hear us gasping and talking over the music, unable to contain our excitement at seeing this stuff right in front of us on local television."[9]
The McReynolds brothers are from Dothan, AL.

Sunset Park, Pennsylvania-Early June 1964 “We stopped at Sunset Park and caught a Monroe show. I introduced JG to Grisman there. (I had met him the previous year in NYC.).”[1]
They drive through New York City late at night.

Beverly, Massachusetts-Jerry and Sandy and The Colonels stay at Roland White's first wife's place.

New Haven, Connecticut-June 1964-Jerry drives alone from Beverly, MA and performs at The Exit, New Haven, CT solo, and with Marshall Leicester and some locals.

Jerry drives 2.5 hours back to Beverly, MA to get Sandy and they drive back to Bloomington, IN.
Sandy stays in Bloomington, IN and Jerry returns to the Bay Area alone, by July.
I would love to talk to any hitchhikers Jerry may have picked up on his way home!
About three weeks later Sandy Rothman joins Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys.



1.)^Rothman, Sandy, 2015-10-26, email to author.
2.)^transcribed from recorded Band introduction, and Grushkin, Paul, Grateful Dead:The Book Of The Deadheads, pg. 194.
3.)^Godbey, rank, 2015-10-23, email to author.
4.)^Hobbs, Marlene, wife of Robby Robinson, 2015-10-13, email to author.
5.)^White, Roland, 2015-11-03, conversation with author.
6.)^Rothman, Sandy, 2015-01-17, email to author.
7.)^Rothman, Sandy, 2012-03-18, email to author.
8.)^http://www.thebestofwebsite.com/Bands/Jerry_Garcia/Misc/Rothman/3_Jerrys_Banjo_Years.htm
9.)^Rothman, Sandy, Jerry Garcia & Sandy Rothman travel down south - Background for new Jesse McReynolds CD, 2010-08-27, http://woodstockrecords.com/woodstock122.shtml

2 comments:

  1. This such a fantastic piece of Archaeology and journalism. I assume you are all over figuring out about Irv Nell's in Columbus and the The Exit in New Haven, and so on. Jerry's first gigs in those states (and Tyndall in FL).

    I have heard informally that the tapes Jerry and Sandy made on this trip still circulate in bluegrass circles. It would be great if there was some kind of cd of them--you've already done the liner notes, right?--with Sandy as producer. I don't know who would release it...one of Grisman's labels maybe? I'm not sure he's in touch with Sandy after all these years, but it would be appropriate.

    Great work. This post gets a permanent place in the firmament.

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  2. Nice story. Reminded me of my days in Bloomington and interviewing Bill Monroe at Bean Blossom for a folklore paper. I played on a few front porches in Bloomington. The local C&W tv shows were great into the 70s.

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