By David Gans

My contributions to this year’s WALL OF NEWS will focus on photos and stories from my new book, Improvised Lives: Grateful Dead 1972-1985. Signed copies are available now from

Hollywood Bowl 7/21/74

From my journal: The Hollywood Bowl show was great, with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen for a hot hour, followed by the sultry Maria Muldaur. Paul Butterfield did five or six songs with her, and it was fine.

The Dead were hot, especially Jerry and Phil. Phil did a space-music trip with Ned Lagin on synthesizer between sets. Both Dead sets were short, but intense and creative. Garcia and Weir have a new intro for Jack Straw. The second ending of Sugar Magnolia is now a theatrical affair, with the music building up behind the dual vocal.

By this time I was part of a group of Berkeley heads, some of whom were my bandmates. I had read Hank Harrison’s The Dead Book and I was becoming more familiar with the songs, the band’s conversational style of jamming, and the sense of intimacy that existed between the band and its community of followers. We felt connected to the personas we projected onto the band members, which was an extension of our undertstanding that this was something more than a rock’n’roll band pounding out the hits. This was an ongoing, evolving relationship.

Because I was already a songwriter in my own right, I never gave myself over to any other musician’s style. I borrowed bits of both Garcia’s and Weir’s playing (and none of the three guitarists in our band felt obligated to assume the role of “Jerry” or “Bobby”). Instead, I did what I eventually figured out was exactly what they were doing: I told my own story in my own voice, using my own original songs and interpreting and reshaping material borrowed from others.

David Gans is one of the best-known media guys in the Grateful Dead world as well as an exceptional interpreter of GD music; he has performed with Phil Lesh, written songs with Robert Hunter, and played with many of the best-known jam band musicians around. He started as a journalist at BAM, the California Music Magazine, and wrote for many music magazines in the ‘70s and ‘80s. In the mid-’80s he helped with the KFOG Deadhead Hour, which became the nationally-syndicated Grateful Dead Hour, still airing from coast to coast. He’s also co-host, with Gary Lambert, of the Sunday-afternoon talk show Tales from the Golden Road on SiriusXM’s Grateful Dead Channel. He’s the author (with Blair Jackson) of This Is All A Dream We Dreamed, An Oral History of the Grateful Dead, and Improvised Lives: Grateful Dead 1972-1985, a book of his photos and stories. He will perform at Skull and Roses.