WUMB November Program Guide

You Don’t Have To Be a Dead Head

“It was right around the day that Jerry died, was the day it seemed my life had just begun…”

So begins the song Mexico 1995 by Asheville, North Carolina band Tellico on their debut release RELICS AND ROSES.  The song is singer Anya Hinkle’s look back at her four month trip from Nogales, Arizona through Guatemala and back, mostly by bus and mostly by herself.  It’s a compelling enough story of an eye-opening journey to a different world, a profound contrast following her college experience.  Yet there was something about the song’s title and the “Jerry” reference (Garcia) that made it more potent.

That missing factor became apparent one night during the first week of July.  I was listening to World Café on WUMB that night.  Host David Dye was talking with author David Browne about his book, So Many Roads – The Life And Times of the Grateful Dead.  Then it hit me.  This August 9th would mark 20 years since Jerry Garcia passed away.  It’s funny how when you put a significant anniversary to an event, the memory windows open by themselves.

Love them or hate them, you don’t have to be a Dead Head to appreciate the Grateful Dead’s impact on musical culture.  Coming from a background of Jug Band, Blues, and Bluegrass music, they morphed into an entity all their own as a touring machine–an extended family of employees, friends…and of course, fans.  Then again, to merely call Dead Heads “fans” is a colossal understatement.I am not a Dead Head.  I have many friends who are.  I worked with many at my little radio station on the Central Coast of California.  I liked the Dead’s music enough.  But by three years of working radio with some Dead Heads, I did not need to hear the band for my next lifetime or two.  And yet, even I have a couple of Grateful Dead stories (and I enjoy hearing their music again).

Back in August 1995 at my old station in California, it was decided we had to do something besides play a lot of Grateful Dead on the air to observe Jerry Garcia’s passing.  We did that already anyway!  The solution surprised me at first.  Coming into the station the next day, something was different.  There were lots of people dancing to Grateful Dead music in our driveway (this is a small town—the station building was a converted duplex house).  If I remember correctly, the music was coming out of our station vehicle…a 1969 VW Microbus, no less!  Some people stayed for hours.  A day that could have been somber was instead a celebration of music and community.

So if you are a Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia fan, or an out and out Dead Head, invite some friends over on August 9th.  Wear your Skull & Roses shirts, dance to the music, and share your Grateful Dead experiences with one another into the night.  20 years later, you know Jerry would like it that way.

And after you lift a glass to Jerry, maybe hoist one for TT The Bears, Johnny D’s, and now The Beachcomber in Quincy.  Spend a couple hours trading stories of the music you’ve seen at these clubs as they go off into the sunset.  Then go support live music that matters to you at the next places you find it.    

-Perry Persoff

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