ALL THE YEARS COMBINE

By David Gans

An excerpt from This Is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead by Blair Jackson and David Gans. Signed (by both authors) copies are available from perfectible.net

Len Dell’Amico (video director): I wanted to be there the day Dylan showed up at Front Street. My mother had given me his first record when it came out, so I was into Dylan when he was a folk singer. To me, he’s the greatest recording artist of all time, period. There’s no doubt in my mind. His output — what can you say? I’d never met him or worked with him. But I got the sense from Jerry that the two of them had a closer relationship than has been revealed by either one. Because once I got [Jerry] talking, it was clear they had talked on the phone a lot and they had spent time together in New York when [the Dead] played in New York. Bob had even given him a tour of New York City in his van. I think that was somewhere between ’78 and the Christian tour in 1980.

So, Front Street, spring ’87, Dylan’s due any minute. Smoke. The door opens, there’s Bob, he’s got a man with him, and the crew is like, “Eh.” You know the crew — their job is to cut down your hat size. They were incredibly effective at that. “Hey, come on in! This is everybody.” “This is Bob.” And Parish says, “We’ve already got a Bob. You’re going to be Spike.” To be treated like a shlub — Dylan loved it! 

He was so slight, like a wisp of a man; the wispiest ghost-like presence you could imagine. The conversation in the room went to whatever it had been. It wasn’t like, “Now we’re going to talk about Bob, or Spike.” I went to the bathroom and I came back in and, I swear to God, this literally happened: I’m sitting there and people were talking and I said to myself, “Wasn’t there somebody famous here a second ago?” This is how weird Dylan is. I had to think for a second. “Yeah, Dylan was here when I left the room.” And I looked around and he was still there. But his presence was as close to nil as I’ve ever experienced, at least in that setting. And then the next time I looked, he wasn’t there and I didn’t see him leave. I didn’t notice. The total opposite of Garcia, who just dominated any room he was in and was so welcoming and outgoing.

Bob Weir: When we were in rehearsal, Dylan didn’t bring a guitar; there was some sort of mixup. We had to go get him one. We sent out to a couple of music stores and brought in a couple of Fender Strats, ’cause that was what he asked for. And on a whim, I also called up Modulus, ’cause I was playin’ Modulus guitars and they make a sort of a Strat knockoff. I said, “You got any Strat knockoffs that you can bring by?” And they did. And it was Pepto-Bismol pink.

At the end of a couple of days, we were wrapping up a rehearsal — it was just me and him left in the building at the time — and he was standing there scratching his head, lookin’ at these three or four guitars that we had, and almost goin’, “Eeny, meeny, miney, moe.” I asked him, “Are you trying to figure out which one you’re going to go with?”

He said “Yeah. This one sounds good; this one plays good.” Then he looks at the Modulus and says, “This one’s really the right color, isn’t it?”

David Gans is one of the best-known media guys in the Grateful Dead world as well as an exceptional solo interpreter of GD music; he has played with Phil Lesh, written songs with Robert Hunter and Bob Weir, and played with many of the best-known jam band musicians around. He started as a journalist with Bay Area Music (“BAM”). In the early ‘80s he helped KFOG’s legendary “M. Dung” morning DJ with a Grateful Dead show, and he’s been helming the Grateful Dead Hour ever since. He’s also co-host, with Gary Lambert, of the Dead Head program “Tales from the Golden Road” on SiriusXM satellite radio. He’s the author of Playing in the Band: An Oral and Visual Portrait of the Grateful Dead, and (with Blair Jackson) This Is All A Dream We Dreamed, An Oral History of the Grateful Dead. He will perform at Skull and Roses.