Some Acoustic Jerry Memories With Sandy Rothman & David Nelson
The Log Cabin Boys: Thanksgiving – 1986
David Nelson: By November, Jerry was getting out and doing stuff again. When it came time for the annual Grateful Dead Thanksgiving party, it was decided to have it at the Log Cabin in San Anselmo, CA. It’s an American Legion hall kind of place, but really nice – designed like a log cabin. And the three of us were the “Log Cabin Boys” for the night.
Sandy Rothman: We were all just sitting around a table with all the other families and people milling around in typical party fashion. Everybody was doing what they were doing and occasionally listening to us. I guess we were providing ambient music in the room, but it wasn’t like a performance – just a lot of fun.
David Nelson: Before the party, Sandy and I were saying to each other, “Jeez – Jerry’s just been to the ends of the universe and back; what’s he going to remember about those old tunes?” So the two of us tried to put our heads together: “Let’s try that song,” and, “I think I remember how that one goes.” By the end of the evening, we realized that Jerry remembered more of the words than we did! But that was the way Jerry always was: listen once; play it.
Sandy Rothman: Jerry was on the banjo at the Thanksgiving party, as well. I’m not sure where we were when the decision was made for him to play guitar instead of banjo. It had to have been at some get-together before the Poster Art Benefit we played at the Fillmore, though.
Ripple In Still Water: The Fillmore Show – March ‘87
David Nelson: Garcia calls a couple weeks or so after Thanksgiving and says, “Listen: I’m already booked at this benefit gig for the poster artists of the 1960s at the Fillmore in March – why don’t you and Sandy play, too? John Kahn’s going to be on bass; let’s do it with the four of us.”
Sandy Rothman: That was our first actual public performance as the “Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band,” a default name because we couldn’t think of anything else. The idea of what we wanted to do was to not be as bluegrass-sounding. We wanted to play a little more of an old-time mountain style that didn’t include as much banjo. Whenever we did add some banjo, I played it – Jerry asked me to, and he stayed on guitar.
David Nelson: We went to Garcia’s house the day before the gig to rehearse. Jerry says, “We’re only going to do like, three songs, okay?” And then it was, “Well, what should we do?” We tried 5 or 6 songs altogether and figured that any of those felt pretty good.
We go to the Fillmore the next night and we play our three songs. Now, keep in mind that this is the first time the three of us had been on stage in public together since 1964 – but it seems to go pretty well. Plus, we had John Kahn on bass, which was totally great.
Afterwards, we head back to our dressing room saying, “I wonder how that went over?” “Do you think they got what we were trying to do?” We’d no sooner sat down in the dressing room than Bill Graham bursts in through the door – just explodes into the room.
We were like, “Hey, Bill! Fancy meeting you here!” And Bill says, “I’ve got to do this!” – talking real dramatically, you know? “I’ve got to do something with this. I love it – it traces the roots of the music from the original Grateful Dead songs all the way back to …” And he’s going on and on, pacing around the room and waving his arms and we’re just sitting there nodding at him: “That’s right, Bill – that’s right.”
And of course, Garcia has this totally humorous take on it, laid back on the couch, smiling and gesturing with his hands, “Go on, go on …” And we’re still nodding, “That’s right, Bill – that’s right.”
It was so funny and Sandy and I had all we could do to keep from splitting our sides laughing. Bill ends his little speech with, “I’ve got to take this somewhere, but I don’t know where to book it …”
He pauses and Jerry jumps right in: “Take it to Broadway, Bill!” And Bill goes, “Broadway!” He backs out of the room, nodding his head and pointing at us, going, “Broadway …”
We just went, “Holy shit.” But the next thing we know, there are 18 shows sold out at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater on Broadway. Amazing.