My mom, Mary B. Lane, was a professor of early childhood education. And she taught at NYU in the 50s. She was born in 1911, by the way, and adopted me at age 56, in 1965, when I was 10 months old. Single parent adoption. One of the first or second in the state of California.

She was one of the founders of Head Start. She started the teacher groups that became Head Start. Yeah. And then in the ‘60s she came out here and was teaching, she was a professor of early childhood education at San Francisco State.

Yeah, I was very fortunate too especially when I found my birth mother. My birth sister, who I ended up hooking up with, came and met me when I was in Chicago at the Further show there. And I have a good relationship with my birth half-sister to this day. But my birth mother ended up passing away shortly after I met her the one time.

I actually grew up first in San Mateo for the first four years. And then believe it or not a house right at the top of Upper Terrace, you know, Masonic and upper Terrace, those million dollar mansions, right. I actually lived in those. My mom was a college professor, on her salary she was able to afford that back in the ‘70s. So I lived on Ashbury Terrace. It’s amazing, sometimes I drive by there, and I’m like, man, I can’t believe I lived there for about eight years. Then we moved to 16th Street. 16th above Castro, a duplex. And then my mom bought this place on Dolores now as a rental thing. But then when I came back from college, unexpectedly, she let me live in the back apartment here. I have been here ever since.

I started pretty early on music. I remember, well, my mom told me that I had been banging on pots and pans. And she also told me that I was like listening to the floor for the pipes under the floor or something like that, which neither of those I remember.

But I do remember when I was nine she took me around the city to a few, three or four places to see if I wanted to take some music lessons. One was like a Yamaha piano store. A bunch of kids getting lessons in there. I wasn’t interested in that. Then there was another like that, a class thing or something. Wasn’t interested.

And then she took me to this guy’s house, he had a studio in his basement and he was like a rock drummer. He had a recording studio and he also taught drums. So I was very interested in that. Yeah, and he was up by Tower Market there up by Portola. So I took lessons with him for a couple, two or three years, and then he decided he wasn’t going to teach any more or something. So he referred me to Steve Savage, at Blue Bear School of Music. Who I just did a thing with him. They unveiled a room in my name which was very nice at his new facility that they have downtown there.

I took lessons from Steve Savage a little while, a couple years. And then I just had a drum set. So I just played, met kids in junior high school and played in bands and stuff, and just kind of chose that instead of trying to get a job.

The first band I was in was called Ice Age with my friend Dave Shu—we are best friends until this day. He is a guitar player. He played in Spearhead for a while. And his dad and his dad’s friend. It actually sounded like Iggy Pop, like New York songwriters, exactly. When I finally heard Iggy Pop, I was like, my God, that is Ice Age. It’s like rock and roll, you know New York sounding stuff. Because those guys are from New York, Dave’s band.

After I graduated high school, I went out to Berklee College of Music in Boston. I came right home right away. I didn’t really dig it. And I joined a band right away when I was 18 called the Uptones. It was like a gigging ska band, the guys which I’m still friends with to this day. And actually they still play around I think. But, yeah, they had some success in the Bay area.

I ended up leaving that band for one called the Freaky Executives. It was an 8-piece funk band. We played around the Bay area a shit ton, going up and down the state actually. That was fun until about 1988. Then I was briefly in Primus before they made it in 1988. Then I didn’t have a gig for a while. And then later on, I started doing Alphabet Soup and the Charlie Hunter Trio in the early 90s, starting playing the clubs. There was like a club scene out here. It’s actually come back. And I always say every 10 or so years. The night life goes from a bunch of bands to DJs and it gets played out, and then they go to live bands again. Actually there’s live bands again on Valencia Street. I can’t believe it.

Anyway, like ’93, ’94 there was a bunch of live music going on. I had Bay area gigs here and there. Did some stuff with Les Claypool, and actually met Bob Weir through Les Claypool, Rob Wasserman and been here ever since.I think, it was September ’93, I did the session with Rob and Les. It was a Levi’s 501 jeans ad and Rob Wasserman got the gig to do that. And he asked Les did he know a drummer, and he thought he was going to do upright bass and electric bass and drums and he asked Les to refer a drummer, so Les called me to the session, it was down here at Hyde Street studios. And, yeah, it was John Cutler engineering.

It was a very quick session and then Rob right away said, do you want to come up to Weir’s house and work on a musical that he was doing, this thing that he was doing with David Murray and Taj Mahal. And so I went up there to play with Rob and Bob in his studio. And I guess they were like, hey, this kid is pretty good, let’s add him to their duo that he had been doing, so that was the beginning of Rat Dog.

I knew who Weir was, of course, but it wasn’t really my scene. Man, I never went outside the city, where I had seen any concerts. So Grateful Dead really didn’t play in San Francisco and the only people I’d seen lining up for the Warfield was mostly Jerry Band, the hippies and all that shit, I just wasn’t into it. So I never ventured.

When I first got the gig with Bob, the Grateful Dead was still playing and he got me some tickets to go see them in Oakland. So I did see them one time. But I hadn’t really listened to much Grateful Dead at all. The first thing I listened to was actually Heaven Help the Fool, the Bob Weir album. So I thought the Grateful Dead sounded like that. It sounded like Steely Dan or something, you know ‘80s stuff.

The funny story was, on an early RatDog tour, we went out to this ranch in Virginia, these hippies invited us out. We’re hanging out with all these hippies and you know smoking pot and things like that. They had a nice big wooden barn kind of house. So I was kicking back by the pool and there was some music playing. I was like, hey, this is pretty cool, man, who is that? And you hear the needle scratch. And they look at you, this is Jerry Band, like you are supposed to know that. But that was the whole thing with Bob, if you look at Bob’s history he pretty much consistently hired dudes that didn’t know the Grateful Dead.

My first take, we would go up there to the studio at his house and there was nothing to eat up there, we’d be sitting there for hours and shit. And I was like, man, I remember the session with David Murray and those guys, like, hey, man, let’s order a pizza or something.

No, he was really cool, man. For me it was just, I dug the idea of being in a band where you go on the road. I was really looking forward to going on the road. Once we started traveling around, I saw how cool everybody was, and even like at first it really wasn’t what a lot of people wanted to hear, especially right after Jerry died. People were really receptive, really cool.

But you know Bob has never really wanted to do what the people wanted him to do. They wanted him to get a lead guitar player. He never wanted to get a lead guitar player. He’d been playing in Jerry’s shadow for forever. He wanted to be the guy out front, so I felt like I was part of something special there, a band that was put together from the ground up, bass, drums and rhythm guitar and everybody added after that. It was like, it was a band that Bob wanted to have. He had a vision of something that wasn’t the Grateful Dead, not the typical, get the guys that can make it sound like the Grateful Dead, he just did not want that.

And the trio grew to six, and we got Robin Sylvester and became a jam band, and then Dead & Company…and I’ve been looking at Bob’s back for thirty years now. The playing’s changed, of course. But it’s… I can’t really describe how it has, because sometimes I will listen to some stuff from back then. And I’ll be oh, man, I’m so much better now and sometimes I will listen and be like, hey, I was better back then.

Wolf Brothers is like a really advanced RatDog. So the horn, now we have horns, and you have got Barry in there. So it’s almost like a guitar. You have got basses you have got Jeff. Some of the stuff is a little faster now. He had the stuff real slow, but some of the stuff is slow now.

You know, I’m trying to think about how to answer that question, man. How has the playing changed? I know I’m more seasoned now. And I would think that I’m better. I’m always looking forward to the next gig. Of course, we are playing the same songs as we always play. And we are actually playing some of the Rat Dog songs and actually developing them even still. You know those songs they are going to get thoroughly fleshed out. So it’s nice.

I am just glad to still be playing with Bob, man. And it’s been so many years. You get so used to it. I am so used to looking at his back, I’m so used to it, and right now I even know when the song is going to start it’s like 1, 2, 3, bam. I think now I’m better at getting the tempos, you know, the songs start. I’m more in tune with him, I think I’m more in tune with Bob now. I actually went through a thing last year where I really started paying attention to him. And what I did was I just crank his guitar in my mix in my earphones and really paid attention to what he was playing and, yeah, that has kind of helped too.

I guess I just got really good at playing with him. So sometimes we will surprise each other because we will do the same thing at the same time. Now we are really in sync.

And yes, I’m a Dead Head.I’m a born again. I became a born again Dead Head and then a born again Jerry fan like I started listening to Jerry Band all the time. I, in fact, now when I put some stuff on, I put on Jerry Band first. I’ve been geeking out on a Jerry Band show from the late ‘70s with Buzz Buchanan, as a matter of fact.

See Jay Lane and Sages and Spirits at Skull & Roses Festival—Buy Passes here!