David “Dawg” Grisman is a mandolin player, composer, and longtime leader of the David Grisman Quintet. The Dawg’s music descends from both Bill Monroe’s bluegrass and the string jazz of the Quintet of The Hot Club of France. Jerry Garcia was a singer and songwriter, guitarist and banjo player, and a founding member of the Grateful Dead.
Grisman and Garcia first met in 1964 in West Grove, Pennsylvania; Bill Monroe was performing at a bluegrass festival. They stayed in touch through the years. Grisman was asked to provide mandolin for the songs “Ripple” and “Friend Of The Devil” on the Grateful Dead’s acclaimed American Beauty album. Around the same time, Grisman moved west and settled in Stinson Beach, just north of San Francisco. In 1973, the restless and prolific Garcia teamed with Grisman in the loosely knit Old & In The Way project that brought renewed attention to bluegrass music.
Separately, each man enjoyed success throughout the seventies and eighties, though Grisman’s popularity pales in comparison to the cultural phenomenon of the “Dead”. Garcia tired of the adulation and rigors of endless touring, and began to seek refuge at Grisman’s house. Grisman had a home studio and his own record label, and recorded their music sessions for posterity, with Joe Kerwin on bass and Joe Craven on percussion.
Grisman’s daughter Gillian Grisman filmed some of these get togethers, and produced Grateful Dawg, a documentary of the two friends’ final years together.
Let’s hear these fine musicians play a number, shall we? On Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting In Limbo”, Jerry Garcia’s guitar playing is too quiet, but David Grisman’s mandolin comes shining through.
My parents introduced me to the Grateful Dead at an early age. They bought the band’s first album, and took me and my sister to a concert around 1967. Though a ubiquitous presence in my life, they have never been a favorite band. Some friends embraced the Dead with great fervor, and followed them loyally for years. Probably some of your friends, too. My appreciation of the band has grown over time.
On the other hand, I loved David Grisman’s music from the first time I heard it. My friend Beep, a devout Grateful Dead fan, made the introduction. Grisman became my favorite musician during my college years; an unusual choice to be sure, but the late seventies were lean years for good music, and I am hard wired for driving swing music.
Here the Garcia/Grisman quartet (with Kerwin and Craven) play a relaxed version of the Grateful Dead standard, “Friend Of The Devil”:
During the few short years as Grisman & Garcia, they recorded prolifically, using a wide variety of material — their own compositions, old folk songs, and even modern jazz standards. Their love of old timey music is evident in their choices.
“Off To Sea Once More”:
Although “Off To Sea Once More” is not profiled, here is a fine compilation of articles discussing old folk songs:
Watching these clips, I think to myself, “Wow, these old guys can play!” Grisman, the technician, brings added structure to Garcia’s free-form approach, honed by years working with the Grateful Dead. Garcia lends pathos and world-weary wisdom in his singing, not to mention his lovely, Djangoesque approach to the guitar. So many good clips from two concerts in February, 1991.
“The Thrill Is Gone”
David Grisman and Jerry Garcia are also featured in profiles with their own bands. Grisman’s contribution to my collection far outweighs his general popularity, though I’d argue he is an innovator, at a minimum a revivalist of swing jazz using stringed instruments.
The lack of presentation skills is startling. Don’t these men understand that musicians should wear matching suits? The T-shirt and sweat pants look whispers “I am comfortable in my ability, so let me be comfortable when I am working.” Substance over style. My father sometimes showed up for work in paint-stained trousers from working on his model railroad. He wore a beard, too.
All Grisman/Garcia songs can be found on iTunes.
David Grisman & Jerry Garcia Songs:
Shady Grove, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭✭✭
Dawg’s Waltz (Live), David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭✭
Sitting In Limbo (Live), David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭✭
Friend Of The Devil (Live), David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭✭
The Thrill Is Gone, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭✭
Dawg’s Waltz, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭✭
Jenny Jenkins, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭✭
Off To Sea Once More (Live), David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭
Grateful Dawg, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭
Walkin’ Boss, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭
Rockin’ Chair, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭
Freight Train, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭
When First Unto This Country, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭
There Ain’t No Bugs On Me, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭
A Shenandoah Lullaby, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭
Guitar Space / Summertime, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭
So What, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭
Milestones, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭✭
A Horse Named Bill, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭
The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ✭
All songs by The Grateful Dead and the David Grisman Quintet.
Shady Grove, Doc Watson ✭✭
Shady Grove (Live), Doc Watson & David Holt ✭
Pretty Little Miss, Patty Loveless ✭✭✭
Midnight Moonlight, Old & In The Way ✭✭
Shenandoah, Bill Frisell ✭✭
Shenandoah, United States Air Force Band ✭✭
Milestones, Miles Davis ✭✭✭
Milestones, Charlie Parker ✭✭✭
So What, Miles Davis ✭✭✭✭
So What, George Benson ✭✭
Sitting In Limbo, Jimmy Cliff ✭✭✭
Friend Of The Devil, Grateful Dead ✭✭✭✭
Friend Of The Devil (Live), Grateful Dead ✭✭✭
Friend Of The Devil, Lyle Lovett ✭✭✭
The Thrill Is Gone, B.B. King ✭✭✭
Summertime, Big Brother & The Holding Company ✭✭✭
Summertime (Live), Big Brother & The Holding Company ✭✭
Summertime (LIve), Big Brother & The Holding Company ✭
Summertime, Miles Davis ✭✭✭
Summertime, Sidney Bechet ✭✭
Summertime, Billy Stewart ✭✭
Summertime, Artie Shaw ✭✭
Summertime, Paul Desmond ✭
Rockin’ Chair, Jack Teagarden & Louis Armstrong ✭✭
When First Unto This Country, The Bray Brothers & Red Cravens ✭
Off To Sea Once More, Ewan McColl ✭
The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest, Bob Dylan ✭