The Clubhouse Sessions

Darkstarathon Episode 3


Ross James, Phil Lesh & Brian P


for Grateful Deadheads


Crickets and Cicadas sing

a shrill buzz

a rare and different tune


The space between the dark of night

and the dawn of light



by Uncle John



Liberty Coruzzo wears roses in her hair

She still attracts a crowd

who all cry out at her & stare

get drunk and laugh out loud

Foxy boys chase young girls & chat with

beautiful women with butterfly hairpins

The old timers cheer at the sight of

Liberty on the back of a terrapin

singing like leaves blowing in the wind



We were at the carnival fair

and noted when the times were so good

We climbed the stone stairs past the turn in the street

where we recalled our childhood

We ran into Ida Red & the queen of the magazine

Michelle & I

among the crowd and smoke

the endless noise and scenes



Freya Chanteur sings with the band

She holds a tarantula painted on a rouge-colored fan

and with  a wave of her hand

sees the face of Jesse in the crowd

and cries with her eyes clear and loud

She falls in love with his gentle stare

Time passes through his fingers in her hair

In a public act of loyal tradition

she marries the gypsy on a terrapin



We went to the Tally-Ho tavern

 to see a fiddler's contest held there

We were amused by this unusual lady &

knocked out by the perfume in the air

We watched from the window the wanderin' and weary

in their chameleon webs in the thick of night

In the distance there is the faint sound of misty bells

while they visit the world through slits of their shells

"Daniel Rafael" Michelle introduces me


Terrapin World

Watch for Preview here

Green River & Flat Top Mountain 

Heavenly View from John Perry Barlow´s Bar Cross Ranch, Wyoming

Estimated Prophet

Uncle John sits down with John Perry Barlow

on his ranch in Wyoming & he talks about the song




Courtesy, Grateful Dead Productions & Thanks to Deadheadland.com


Terrapin Narration

by Uncle John

How sweet the sound

with delicious food

& festive smiles in friendship gatherings

Terrapin Crossroads


May 2012

The darkness of the hour brings us to the moment of the dawn of Terrapin. On Sunday there is a “ring of fire”, a solar eclipse of a new moon blocking the sun. Phil Lesh & friends gather together at Terrapin Crossroads for a night of free music. On Tuesday, there is a rare blackout in northern San Rafael, that is a Godsend to me and others to attend this night of free music. Patrons listen, artists draw, and workers are in sync, while the musicians, Phil Lesh, John Kadlecik and Jon Graboff are lifting the spirit of everyone in this great atmosphere. The night begins with a wine tasting. Around 9pm Phil & Company are playing in the bar and singing together on tunes we all find familiar. How sweet it is!
They decide to play another night for free. I am driving through San Rafael listening to “Dark Star” and as soon as I reach the parking lot all the lights go out. It is an area-wide power blackout. I go inside as more candles are being lit. People wait patiently, and the crowd, as usual, is talkative. Someone mentions the crescent moon and bright star and I head out back to see. It’s a brilliant sky and there is a crescent moon in the northwest and a bright planet surrounded by the dim stars of dusk. To my left are glass windows looking into the Terrapin Crossroads dining room where there is a grand assortment of candlelit lights and to my right is the canal below the Yacht Club where the water is rippling. There is the din of the crowd inside but Terrapin Station the song comes to mind and I sing here quietly,

“Inspiration move me brightly
Light the song with sense and color
Hold away despair
More than this I will not ask
Faced with mysteries dark and vast
Statements just seem vain at last
Some rise some fall some climb to get to Terrapin
Counting stars by candlelight
All are dim but one is bright
The spiral light of Venus
Rising first and shining best
From the northwest corner
Of a brand new crescent moon
Crickets and cicadas sing
A rare and differ’nt tune
Terrapin Station
In the shadow of the moon
Terrapin station
And I know we’ll be there soon
Terrapin – I can’t figure out
Terrapin – if it’s an end or the beginning
Terrapin – but the train’s got its brakes on
and the whistle is screaming – Terrapin”

Standing in the reflection of the candlelight’s glow, Jill Lesh passes by me outdoors while I’m still eyeing the moon and listening to the ripple in the water. What a place this is!
The power outage continues and the electric instruments and microphones are replaced with stools and acoustic guitars and a whole lot of big candles. As Venus sets in the sky the musicians take the stage. They are facing the unique challenge of singing in a garrulous crowd with the hope to be heard. People respond from their hearts and someone exclaims “Just when we thought it couldn’t get better, we get a candlelit acoustic performance.” How blessed we are. As Phil tunes up, the crowd quiets down and he encourages them to keep up their banter. “I haven’t started yet” he shouts.  When they do begin there’s clarity in the darkness.
Picking their acoustic guitars and using their voices as instruments they give us a very special night. It is a quiet audience loving every minute here, and often joining in the chorus sing-along. The culmination of this seventy minute set is an incredible acoustic version of Bob Dylan’s “Visions of Johanna” a song he wrote the night of the great Northeastern blackout in November of 1965, that I remember. Dylan, at the Chelsea Hotel with his pregnant wife, describes the events of that night he calls “the great freeze-out” in his gifted poetic way. Jill sits on the stairway listening to Phil play, Jon hum and John sing “Visions of Johanna” with conviction in the passion of what’s happening now.

“Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin’ to be so quiet?
We sit here stranded, though we’re all doin’ our best to deny it……”
The crowd reacts when he sings:
“The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place.”

John K. is like a genius who sparks, the way he plays his guitar mirroring the candlelight’s reflections, his angelic voice and sure-fire sound. JG plays great Johnny Cash and I love that we love the same songs. Phil is healthy, intuitive, full of the unexpected, without anticipation,  filling the void of spaces and empty nests with a timely prepared spontaneous tune lighting our hearts in the darkness with the sunshine of his love.


August 9, 2012

The Grate Room

Terrapin Crossroads, San Rafael, California

Terrapin Hoedown

It's a Terrapin Hoedown, folks!

First, it's a sit down round the table for dinner with sunflowers, and gifted hours, the musicians stay to share a spaghetti dinner with many of the patrons. 

Outside, a twelve year old, Alex, plays an Ibanez acoustic and rolls out "Sugar Magnolia". His voice is on the edge of puberty and his guitar playing is excellent. It really revs up the atmosphere.

 It's amazing what Phil Lesh and family and co-workers have accomplished at this place. His restaurant looks like a ship with port holes on the side, with an amazing bar, Grate Room music hall in a perfect harbor environment, close to where the Front Street studio sounds of the Grateful Dead grew in this neighborhood. Every concert and show they do here is significantly great, striving to be better with their best.

Tonight is a hoedown, a rollicking foot tapping, fast moving, fiddlin' mandolin country kickin' dance party! "This is about as close as we get to playin' on our front porch," Phil Lesh opens, leads the band with his trustworthy bass, Jon Graboff on pedal steel, Connor O'Sullivan on mandolin, the multi-talented Tony Leone on drums, vocals and mandolin, Grahame Lesh on guitar and vocals, Aaron Redner, the amazing fiddler from Hot Buttered Rum, Ross James, solid guitarist and all-around cowboy, and guest vocalist Elliott Peck. There is plenty of space to dance even with the tables, and talkers sip wine in the background.

The musicians kick in high gear with a variety of tunes, The Band's "Up On Cripple Creek", Johnny Cash' "Big River", Van Morrison's "And It Stoned Me" the Grateful Dead's "Ramble On Rose", "I'll Fly Away", a gospel song I'm familiar with , Steve Earle's "Galway Girl", and the incredible violin playing of Aaron on all these tunes especially with the singing of Elliott Peck on Bob Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight", she is incredible in this song;  Phil and Grahame sing Hunter-Garcia's "Lazy River Road" and Phil performs the rarely done "Black Peter" that really fits here. Robert Hunter originally wrote this song to be brisk like Kershaw's "Louisiana Man" and the lines are powerful.

"See here how everything lead up to this day, and it's just like any other day that's ever been, Sun goin' up and then the sun it goin' down Shine through my window and my friends they come around, come around, come around."

The whole feeling of this evening is like a Louisiana Hayride,  and I'm enjoying watching the girls who are dancing The Breakdown, a lively shuffle, an American country dance, and the place is so fired up when the band launches into "Sugar Magnolia",  and it´s the perfect closer,  one of the best versions I have ever heard, and in the spirit of the moment  feeling the best,  healed from all the pain of the day, Grahame Lesh delivers  enthusiastic vocals backed by an incredible musical performance leaving the crowd with the best possible wave it could ride.

"Ripple" closes with three mandolin players and Phil sings with the spirit of Garcia.



Uncle John

@ Terrapin Crossroads  with Terrapin Family Band


At the live music karaoke with Phil Lesh, Grahame Lesh, Ross James, Scott Padden & Alex Koford playin’ in the band is on a new stage in the Terrapin Crossroads bar. I open the show with “When I Paint My Masterpiece”, inspired to do The Band’s version by the recent show in the Grate Room with Amy Helm, and add in the Grateful Dead echo at the end. All day I practice going on a date “with a girl from Greece” but it comes out “Boticelli’s niece”. Boticelli is an artist whose work I recently been studying. I also notice some of the better art work that I’ve seen is by musicians who play multiple instruments with excellent dexterity, and include Jason Crosby and Jackie Greene. Bob Dylan has become a prolific artist with great talent. Phil Lesh sets me at ease on stage. His presence is so natural to the setting, and his sound is what we been seeking to hear, and Phil makes us feel like we're in his living room.

At the Terrapin Crossroads, Rick follows with “Ramblin’ Man”. He is an excellent singer. He sang here many decades ago, before The Seafood Peddler, when the place was “Dominic’s”. The band played Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and jazz songs in the back corner of the room where the end of the bar is. Dominic Murphy first set anchor here in this canal in San Rafael in 1864. I don't know the history but it's always been a watering hole here for locals and travelers, known for its fine dining and musical atmosphere. Tonight’s “Fire On The Mountain” fits in here perfectly. Danny knows these songs and I watch the smile on Phil Lesh as he plays “Box Of Rain” while Danny sings. 

As the tide rises the music reckons the ship’s direction and the wind carries the sound with picture thoughts and inspiration. The music tonight is lively rock ‘n roll with covers by the Rolling Stones, an excellent rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Big River”, and a dark, traditional, well done version of the southern “Deep Elem Blues”, first covered by Jerry Garcia and David Nelson at the College of San Mateo in 1962. The closing song “All Around This World” reckons it’s been a long and fun night.

Several of the Karaoke Night regulars are here and their act improves with each performance.  Brian P. does a credible Van Morrison with “Brown Eyed Girl”, and pictures him too with his hat and mike in hand. My favorite are the Grateful Dead cover songs. The music is genuine. When I listen to the poetry of Robert Hunter, I hear the music of Jerry Garcia, like looking at a painting inspiring the creative. Several musicians are watching the show here tonight including Jason Crosby, Pete Lavezzoli, and vocalist Emily Sunderland. Ted performs the Grateful Dead’s Señor with lyrical precision. Around the corner from this place is Front Street where the Grateful Dead recorded and rehearsed with Bob Dylan, and Dylan, who wrote the song Señor, sang his version and then Jerry Garcia sang his version too. When Phil was reminiscing through the old Front Street neighborhood with his wife Jill, they found this place, bought it and created Terrapin Crossroads.

What truly inspires me to do “When I Paint My Masterpiece” is Jerry Garcia, who is who he is because of his rare talents an an artist and musician. His old drawings, and later, paintings, inspire me just as his songs move us brightly, giving us hope and motivation.   The Band's version of this song has me reminiscing through children’s art work, nieces with art talent, a museum visit this spring to see Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings, and the occasional doodles I find in a notebook, and the connection between art and music; and specifically the presentation a fortnight before of Amy Helm joining Phil Lesh, Grahame Lesh, Alex Koford to sing in unison, with perfect harmony vocals, to the Grateful Dead’s sweet song “Attics Of My Life” that closes the show that night. What is  truly amazing is that all the cell phones are shut off in the entire place. Maybe it’s a magnetic storm or the audience is truly as captivated as they seem. No sounds of thumbs texting. Not a voice talking any words, or making any moving sounds throughout the Grate Room! All that can be heard are these four voices and the guitar of Ross James. I truly appreciate the depth of Ross’ musical accomplishment, playing solo perfectly, every note in harmony, every chord and vocal in unity, it is truly a unique moment in our generation. At the onset of a sound, the shhh is so low one could barely make out the whisper. No one breaks the quiet in this audience, these moments of peace, reckon’ it’s as good as it gets, pictures a musical masterpiece, inspiring me to sing this song with this band.


Terrapin Crossroads Backyard Sunday afternoons



PHIL LESH reading the kids stories before the show