UNCLE JOHN'S NOTES
Ain´t no time to hate
Barely time to wait
WAKING THE DEAD
It is just after noon on a sunny Saturday when I call Bob Weir at his home.
¨Hi¨, I hear a voice through a fog.
¨Oh, I´m sorry, did I wake you up?¨ as I introduce myself.
¨That´s OK,¨ answers Bob Weir. ¨Where are you?¨
¨I´m in downtown San Francisco.¨
¨Where can I come and pick you up?¨ Bob asks
¨Project One, I´ll be outside, Grace Alley, Tenth Street.¨
He sets the approximate time.
Bob Weir´s songwriting partner, John Barlow, tells me about Bob. ¨It takes dynamite to get me up. That line really does describe him¨ John Barlow says to me at Bar Cross Ranch in Wyoming, reflecting on the line from their song ¨I Need A Miracle Everyday¨.
UNCLE JOHN reads poetry to remember Robert Hunter and John Barlow
Epilogue* ¨THE JOURNEY¨
@ Sweetwater Music Hall, Mill Valley, California, October 21, 2019, 8 PM
When the moment comes
Remembering with grief and gratitude
by Uncle John
I have many fond memories of Robert Hunter and great gratitude for his treasure chest of lyrics. The Grateful Dead band member, I remember the poet, playful, trumpeter, vocalist, songwriter, musician, artist, father, lover, joker, scholar, hermit and invisible man.
We are poets on the crossroads of life. We are both crossing Haight Street from opposite sides at the same time and there is no traffic in the road, and I have a rose and he stops to smell the rose and Robert Hunter calls me by name.
The first time I meet Robert Hunter backstage, he puts out his hand and says to me,
¨Shake the hand
That shook the hand…¨
Monday night, September 23, Robert Hunter´s spirit left his body on Earth. I am at the library that evening listening to Berkeley poet laureate Rafael Jesus Gonzalez talk about the sounds of poetry, that poems are meant for more than the pages they are written on. They belong in songs, or uttered, spoken, tasting the words, and sharing in a way we can all understand. He talks about taking an instrumental song and putting words to it, as Robert Hunter can.
I recall when Hunter stops me at the Shady Grove one night to share with me his flash about dying. ¨Phil Lesh´dad was dying and Phil brought me a tape of music. When I listened to that music the words fell from my mind to the page in one uninterrupted flow.¨ The song is ¨Box Of Rain¨, the last song the Grateful Dead played before Jerry Garcia past away.
Robert Hunter and his band Comfort is the opening act for the Jerry Garcia Band at the Keystone in Palo Alto. After the Garcia Band set, about thirty people crowd into a small room backstage. Robert Hunter turns to Jerry Garcia and says, "Hey man, you sounded great tonight!" "You sounded really good yourself" Garcia says back at him. "Did you hear 'Roses'? and Robert Hunter breaks into the song before Jerry can answer. "....She had ribbons, ribbons, ribbons in her long brown hair..." He repeats his question to Garcia and continues the song a capella..."I don't know, maybe it was the roses, All I know is I could not leave her there....." Donna Jean sang this song on stage with Hunter and his band tonight, a very special moment, and Hunter's voice rings through the room with sweet clarity.
One night I capture Hunter in a small hallway and I have an acoustic guitar in my hand and ask if I can play a song for him. He says yes, ¨if you whisper it in my ear¨
I lean up close to his ear and sing in a whispering voice a song I wrote:
¨Well I tried to catch your words that seem
To keep on talking to
The man willing to listen
Found the song was really you
I picked up the cards and came on down
To where the sources be
I saw your heart shining through their faces
And heard you mirroring me¨
It is the night the Grateful Dead song composers Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia play together for the first time. It is pouring rain in Berkeley. Robert Hunter surprises us with an old spiritual Christmas standard ¨It Came Upon A Midnight Clear¨.
Hours after this show, after midnight, the sky clears under a full moon. I am driving with my wife and Kim McCarthy down this narrow alley in Berkeley and we encounter a car with its hood up. I stop and get out, and the girl driving the car says she needs a jump start. ¨Sorry,¨ I say, ¨but I don´t have any cables¨. Suddenly, a man steps out of the shadows holding battery cables. It´s Robert Hunter! ¨Here, take a hit off of him,¨ he says to the girl as he hands her the cables.
He turns and asks me, ¨Got any booze?¨
I had been following the Grateful Dead for about two years and moved to San Francisco to work as a high school poetry teacher. I knew an artist, K.C. Jones, who lived in the same building I did. Some of my students were taking art classes with him. I would hang out with K.C. while he painted and I would write poetry. I am having a conversation about the Grateful Dead with him one day, and in particular, Robert Hunter. I said to K.C. ¨You know, I don´t think Robert Hunter exists. He never shows up onstage or in photographs and I think he´s the Fig Newton of Jerry Garcia´s mind.¨ K.C. jumps up, goes to his record box and pulls out Workingman´s Dead, points to the last man in line next to Garcia on the cover. ¨That´s Robert Hunter!¨ he says. He puts the record on the turntable. ¨Uncle John´s Band¨ comes on.
I am sitting on a bench with Keith Godchaux at his baby grand piano. I have a deck of cards in my hand. ¨Do you believe in magic?¨ I ask Keith.
¨Definitely!¨ he answers.
¨All I know is something like a bird within her sang¨ Jerry Garcia sings.
It is Jerry who helps me understand this mission of love to find the secrets of Divine immortality. It´s all about a river and a bird. One night Garcia, backstage at a show, points to the Gibson guitar and asks me to play a song for him. ¨You don´t have to plug it in¨ he says. I pick it up to play, though I´m not well versed on the guitar, and I sing to him:
¨When moon drops that come from remembering you looking into my eyes,
When you come around again to sing like a bluebird flies,
When I walk beside your footsteps that come from heaven by the sea...¨
Playing In The Band
I am having brunch with Phil Lesh in San Francisco, and someone at our table asks him, ¨Do you ever listen to the Grateful Dead on the radio?¨
¨If I want to hear the Dead, I play¨ he says.
¨Bob Weir has both hands on the Wheel, and I´m sitting by his side,
¨The faster I go, the rounder it gets¨, Bobby says to me, reminiscing about riding in the open speedway of the desert, playing in the sand.
to be continued
Tribute to the sun and the sea
Hoist a flag boy atop your ship
"they Love Each Other
Lord, You can see it's true"
Poetry for KIDS in English & Spanish
THUNDER ON THE MOUNTAIN
ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER
THINGS HAVE CHANGED
TRUMPETS OF THE OCEAN
Lyrics by Robert Hunter
The day the constitution
became a metaphor
BOB WEIR in front of the Bananas music store in San Rafael, California June 27, 2018
in between gigs with DEAD & COMPANY
THE RIVER OF LIFE
To be concluded
Watchin' the river flow
lookin' to see
painting a picture
still as can be
Playin’ with the band
This is not about gossip and ugly rumors, but about the personal side, the spiritual and positive, the witty and wise, and the musical legacyof the Grateful Dead
THE TREE OF LIFE
Playin' In The Band
Ain't no time to hate, barely time to wait...
Phil Lesh & Terrapin Family Band
"Playin' In The Band"
TREE OF LIFE
From the beginning,
Launching in five years
1stcar in space:
UNCLE JOHN'S BLOG @ http://www.air.bz
"Take Me Out To The Ballpark"
Photo: Joe Alper
Bob Dylan, Suze Rotolo & Lena Spencer January 1962
One of Bob's earliest musical performances is at the Caffè Lena, Saratoga Springs, New York
FIRST SOUNDS RECORDED IN INTERSTELLAR SPACE
Playin' With the band
LIVE PERFORMANCES & DEAD REHEARSALS
Lyrics, ROBERT HUNTER
Bob Weir & Trey Anastasio
You can call him author & read his book
You can say he’s this great writer or that doctor with the look
You can call him the actor & see him in a movie role
If the artist were a wheel we’d pay to see him roll
He’s the best at what he does whatever that may be
Playin’ the guitar & harp & keys to history
Who can say it better like the wind that blows
He's a bandleader who knows life is like a rose
Students of his comparative literature
Recognize him by the sound of his signature
Beat on the instrument of present communication
Launching poems transformed by rhythm
Into songsheets on the workstation
As we listen to him in our English class
We write with inspiration & wise sass
Bring our poems wherever we go
Motivating us to keep on as we grow
In the shadow reflect 'n glow
BOB DYLAN @ Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York
June 13, 14 & 15, 2017
Phil Lesh & Terrapin Family Band
"Playin' In The Band"
June 1 & 2 Terrapin Crossroads Grate Room, San Rafael, California
June 24, Fox Theatre, Boulder, Colorado
The Rock Collection
June 23, Terrapin Crossroads Grate Room, San Rafael, California
Dead & Company
June 3 & 4 Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, California
June 20 Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, New York
June 30 Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois
Review by Uncle John
posted @ MUSIC.aero
In the land where the lily and rose bloom all year time and again
Where God sends his angels to heal the spirits of men
Looking out toward the calm sea and bright star
Dancing then waiting and wondering how you are
Turning a page and letting the loose ends mend
Oh how good to hear but let us not pretend
Let the sun shine be kind the kids said
Pray & listen to the Grateful Dead
Cast him an estimated forerunner, member, conductor and engineer
Triangular guitars and wheels to steer
A giant eye with twenty narrows and seven hills to climb
Brightens up our time
Keeping back in shape
Little made up rhyme
With bandana & cape
Ready before and after the break
LAST FLASH OF THE GRATEFUL DEAD
FIVE DAYS & A FEW FLASHBACKS
"What I want to know
Where does the time go?"
(Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia)
"Lord, the band kept us so busy, we forgot about the time."
(John Perry Barlow/ Bob Weir)
This work is a contemporary narrative with a musical motif, narrated by the author with personal testimony, and dialogue with artists, authors, musicians, dancers, singers, poets, songwriters, and stars. This journalistic odyssey observes the world's most interesting band, whose brilliant creative performances, and individual intellectual insight, provide us with this ostentatious modern day literary account. On the road & at home with the Grateful Dead and their family of bands and musical company, this book records a distinctive recital of spiritual events, revealing a new orchestrated portrait, a sculptured arrangement of golden memories. There is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert! It is a unique and unconventional experience.
FARE THEE WELL
Celebrating 50 Years of the Grateful Dead
Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California
1st day June 27, 2015
It is early evening in Santa Clara, California, 2015, the first day of the Fare Thee Well shows, and the Grateful Dead take the stage in the twenty-first century for the first time. There is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert! It’s a special, timeless feeling, intuitive moment, unity of spirit, gathering of the souls, grounded in vibration, with light and sounds to stimulate our senses, balance our emotions, displace our worries and fears, opening the well of inner kindness, smiling in the peace of our moments shared. The band jams into “Truckin” singing five of the hundred verses Robert Hunter wrote with the band on the road. “Sometimes the light’s all shining on me. Other times I can barely see. Lately, it occurs to me, what a long, strange trip it’s been.”
The last days of the Grateful Dead are full of the first. Their sound is distinct, loud and unique. They're not just another rock ‘n roll band playing, but a musical collaraboration of intuitive consciousness, telepathic notes, energetic stimulation, stability, and balance we interpret in dance and spirit. We all recognize the Grateful Dead and their unique ability to be harmonious, focused, intense, with empathetic talent in collusion and cooperation, in a maze of transformation that speaks individually and collectively to each member of the audience.
The first time I hear
"Uncle John's Band" is the first Grateful Dead song I listen to and I’m instantly and forever changed. This music is mellow, articulate, speaking to all aspects of our lives, and truly making us feel good about ourselves. “Uncle John’s Band” is the first song I hear at the first Grateful Dead show I go to, at the Fillmore East in NYC.
"Truckin'" is the first Grateful Dead song to climb the song charts. “Uncle John’s Band” follows “Truckin’” here tonight. Then they play Robert Hunter’s first song he wrote for the Grateful Dead, “Alligator” > “Cumberland Blues”, Phil Lesh’s first Grateful Dead song he wrote with Jerry Garcia, and Robert Hunter; Bob Weir first penned “Born Cross-Eyed” > “Cream Puff War”, Jerry Garcia’s first lyric and music song, then one of their first covers, Noah Lewis' song “Viola Lee Blues”. The band is playing its unique style of the song. Listening to the sweet spirits present I hear Noah playing his harp in the background and Jerry Garcia jamming with the Jubilee band, when suddenly a giant esthetic rainbow appears in the sky, and the crowd is amazed. There’s cloud cover in this time of drought, and a double rainbow appears while the band is still playing the end of its first set. To me this delightful moment is déjà vu. I recall a dream I had that was so real, almost heaven-like, of the Grateful Dead with rainbows and rings and spheres, but disturbing because Jerry was missing from the dream. I realize now the dream was a foreshadowing of this moment. As soon as the set ends, a few drops of rain fall on the crowd. A spectacular sunset follows. Promoter Bill Graham famously said of the Grateful Dead "They're not the best at what they do, they're the only ones that do what they do."
Bill Graham was the premier impresario and grand marshal of the rock 'n roll industry he helped to define. He produced the best in the profession and his shows were often described as fun. He had a tremendous care for the concerns of his audience and made his venues a comfortable environment so people could have a good time. At his shows, we dance among a large crowd in an open auditorium, where the propriety of the people provides the decorum for the show. The ushers here don't intrude on our space or confine folks to their seats. Each show is special. Bill Graham Presents......his favorite band he produces most often is the Grateful Dead. “Good things come to those who wait.”, Bill once said.
The Grateful Dead are the most prolific musicians in history. They have played together performing more songs for more people than any other music combo.
The songs of the Beatles in the sixties liberated us, and the words and music of Bob Dylan understood us and brought revelation, but the sounds of the Grateful Dead, that country folk rock jazzy blues jam beat feel good sound, transforms us.
The crowd here tonight seems to be mostly people who are seeing the Grateful Dead for the first time. Yet they seem to know the band intimately. They know the words to many of the songs. Deadheads across generations!
July 4, 2015 Fare Thee Well tour, Chicago
I'm staying in a hotel in South Chicago next door to Pearl's Place, the restaurant once renowned as the premier jazz & blues club. Pictures of musical legends Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Etta James, The Drifters, and others adorn the walls of great past shows here in the Blues Capital of America. I'm in Bronzeville, home of Gwendolyn Brooks, who was Illinois' poet laureate, whom I corresponded with when I was in college. I am riding the elevated train in Chicago on the first night of the Grateful Dead's "Fare Thee Well" here. There's a group of black people surrounding this one older man who's at the center of their group. One of them asks, "What's going on?" and another echoes, "What's happening here?" and the older gentleman responds, "Don't you know the Grateful Dead are in town, and that they're different from every other band that comes here? There's two reasons, one, the following they have, and two, the vibe. Even the big names like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones don't have this kind of following, and they don't have that vibe", he says with emphasis, and smiling.
It’s Saturday, a hot, beautiful, sunny day. The crowd is packed like a parade coming into Soldier Field for tonight’s Grateful Dead show. The person in front of me turns around and asks me, “What song are they going to do tonight?” I put out my hand and say, “Shake the hand that shook the hand is what Robert Hunter said to me the first time we met backstage.” “U.S. Blues! Thank you!”
excerpts from "Last Flash of the Grateful Dead" by Uncle John
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED