My Way IS the Highway

By Cynthia Johnston

Capturing Alligators

I don’t know much about music, but I know what I like.  Sorry to trot out such an old comedy standby but it actually applies here.  The idea of writing about music, even music I love, is way outside my wheelhouse.  But hats off to those who do.  Like my old friend, Grateful Dead historian Blair Jackson, who is contributing to the Wall Of News with excerpts from The Golden Road, a brilliant Grateful Dead tribute magazine he and Regan McMahon put out with unlimited devotion back in the mid-‘80s.  His illuminating piece in WON #13 about the Jerry Garcia Band (JGB) and Melvin Seals lived up to the introductory prediction, to wit:

“You will find it quite amazing how relevant this nearly 40-year-old information remains today.  This week’s first installment features an in-depth interview of MELVIN SEALS from GOLDEN ROAD #5, released in the Winter of 1985.”

This time I can gleefully say, I was there!

I have fond memories of stuffing parties at Blair and Regan’s where we gathered to “stuff” the magazine, each edition a work of art, into large envelopes to send out by the US mail.  It was the same group of life-long friends who sat near each other and danced together at countless Dead shows, as well as JGB and others.   

The amazing part for me?  I’ll be there again! 

Four days (plus one train, two buses and maybe a *blizzard or two”) from this writing, on Saturday, March 4th, 2023, I’ll be at the Crystal Bay Casino in Nevada, right on Lake Tahoe, watching none other than Melvin Seals & JGB. Quite amazing indeed.

There’s nothing I could say about Melvin Seals and JGB that Blair Jackson doesn’t say a whole lot better and with authority in GOLDEN ROAD #5: ( 

However, the March 4th Crystal Bay show is a double bill with The Alligators, and that’s a horse of a different color.  I saw The Alligators at Skull & Roses’ Thanksgiving Music Marathon at Cactus Jack’s in Ahwatukee, Phoenix, Arizona, in late November 2022. 

The event was billed as “Stuphing – an Entire Post-Thanksgiving Weekend of Grateful Dead,” and a “Bountiful Sonic Feast.” It was all that, and more. Stuphing, of course, rhymes with stuffing.  And what a swell party this is…

The Crystal Bay gig is one of several SKULL & ROSES Warmup Parties – barn burners leading up to the April 19-23, 2023, FESTIVAL in Ventura, California. Accordingly, several of the bands that will play Ventura – Melvin Seals and JGB, Pink Talking Fish, Jerry’s Middle Finger and The Alligators –  will be heating up the Crystal Bay Casino in Lake Tahoe on March 3rd and 4th.

The Skull & Roses juggernaut gets bigger every day so I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to capture The Alligators up close and personal again. Other than that, there’s nothing I could say about the Alligators that this video doesn’t say a whole lot better:

Good Lovin’ by The Alligators at Cactus Jack’s. Video by Cynthia Johnston


*About that blizzard. It’s now just three days before the Crystal Bay shows and Tahoe is rapidly shutting down. All roads in and out are closed with two feet of snow predicted for  Saturday and Sunday alone. When I heard they had to “avalanche bomb” the train tracks, I bailed. 

Around 6 pm I checked Skull & Roses’ Facebook about the Tahoe shows for an update. The Alligators posted this:

“We’re comin’ up…but some of us need to buy better shoes. See you all soon!”

If you watched the video, you know what he means about the shoes. 

As for whether they make it up the mountain, I gotta toss a Hail Mary on that one because today’s my deadline and I have to hand this in while the band’s still out shoe-shopping. Selah!

In 1980 Cynthia Johnston was NORML’s Marin County coordinator for the California Marijuana Initiative. She needed help producing a concert and met Steve Brown, the new NORML production guy and a former staff member of Grateful Dead Records. They hit it off and for many music-filled years—especially Grateful Dead—co-produced shows at Pacifica Community Television in Pacifica, California. She was an active member of BAWIM—Bay Area Women in Music. Her first Skull and Roses Festival was 2018, and she’s stayed hooked. “It was like the beginning of the whole hippie thing when there was room to dance freely and take pictures of the band close-up. And the music blew my mind! What had been lost was now found. I needed a miracle and this was it.” She began blogging before even hearing the word “blog” and currently has a website, My Way IS the High Way