inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #26 of 46: Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Mon 11 Oct 99 16:10
I majored in Radio/TV/Film, at the time believing I wanted to be
involved in TV news. After I transferred to Tufts, and then to UC
Berkeley, I majored in political science, but took mostly journalism
and art history courses. Today, I think TV journalism is pretty
disgraceful for the most part; glad it's not part of my working
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #27 of 46: David Gans (tnf) Mon 11 Oct 99 16:56
I'm glad you didn't go into broadcast news!

I remember the first time I met you, Blair, in the office of BAM Magazine at
901 Ventura in Albany.  Actually, I heard you before I saw you: someone was
doing a hilarious Ed Sullivan impression out in the front room, and it turned
out to be you.

That's not a question, but I had to tell it.  I was a fan of your work before
then, and from that moment on I liked you as a person, too.
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #28 of 46: Steven Solomon (ssol) Mon 11 Oct 99 16:59
Blair, NPR <> is running a "Top 100" musical
compositions of the 20th Century "poll". Basically, they've assembled a
group of musicians, listeners, musicologists, etc, to pick out their
own top 300, and then they let the public pick their faves of that

One Dead tune appears. Of course, it's "Dark Star". 

What puzzles me, as seminal and/or defining "Dark Star" could be, is
the absence of other performances. The infamous Cornell '77 "Not Fade
Away" where they strapped Buddy Holly and John Coltrane on the same
rocket n' let 'er rip, is one example.

So, I guess what I'm wondering is, does the concentration on
compostion in preference to live performance blind current critics to
one of the most essential paths to appreciating the Dead?

And, what about the synthetic nature of thier actual compositions, and
their interpretations of folk and americana. Hard to handle?
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #29 of 46: Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Tue 12 Oct 99 09:55
I think you're totally right, Steven. Critics just don't do the mental
work necessary to "get" the Dead; it's an acquired taste, I suppose,
just as so much jazz is. That said, I think the Dead have a handful (or
two) of classic tunes...not the kind of stuff that would ever show up
in a poll, but is there a more perfect ballad than "Stella Blue," for
example? "Uncle John's Band," "Attics of My Life," "Brokedown
Palace"...all perfect songs in my view. I try to stay away from all
those 100 Best this and that 'cause they just piss me off if I invest
any time in them. Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide have become
completely devoted to churning out those annoying lists week after
week. Ugh! TV Guide had a Greatest Moments in Television History where
an event like the Kennedy assassination placed below the final episode
of the Mary Tyler Moore show. What kind of sick society even compares
those two events? Very strange.

Actually, I'm amazed "Dark Star" would turn up on that list at all...
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #30 of 46: David Gans (tnf) Tue 12 Oct 99 10:50

List-compiling seems to be one of those things that a lot of people like and
a lot of people have no interest in.  I get lots of email from people who
want to know my opinion of the best version of this or that...
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #31 of 46: David Gans (tnf) Tue 12 Oct 99 11:04

And it's nice to see a Dead song mentioned, even if it is one of the least
song-like "songs."  I mean, every "Dark Star" is different, so which one
would you submit?    :^)
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #32 of 46: Gordon Taylor (warfrat) Tue 12 Oct 99 12:49
I was visiting your website,, and there is a
page where you explain the reasons why you wrote this book and the process
and trials you went through in writing it. To back up a bit, we now have,
is it 3 books?...that are biographies of Jerry Garcia; yours, Rock
Scully's and Robert Greenfield's. In the works is the bio being put
together by Dennis McNally.

Could you elaborate for us here how your book is different (understanding,
of course, that Dennis's book is not out yet) and what it took to pull
this project off? I understand it was a long time in the making. Certainly
well before Jerry died.
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #33 of 46: Dave Waite (dwaite) Tue 12 Oct 99 15:19
I've just picked up your book Blair.  I finished reading the 1st chapter and
enjoyed reading about J. Garcia's Youth. It reads like a story at a family
picnic with some of the folks having different rememberance of the same
situation. You leave it out there for the reader to decide what was behind
the story and the chain of events when they differ.  While I'm sure this was
intentional, it seems to make the book a much warmer biography.  Could you
talk a little about how you wanted this book to feel as we read it?
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #34 of 46: David Gans (tnf) Tue 12 Oct 99 16:21

GREAT question!
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #35 of 46: Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Wed 13 Oct 99 10:22
Dave, believe it nor not I thought of the book as a documentary film,
with my writing voice connecting large chunks of differing views of
Jerry's life. It felt more that way before I had to edit out thousands
of words, but that was my intent. I tried to be somewhat objective but 
I also wanted to some of my affection for the subject to shine
through. I mean, I'm not a hack writer who was assigned a book to
write. This was definitely a labor of love on every level. As for how
the book should "feel"...I don't know, really. I was going for a sort
of breezy, conversational feeling. The sad parts move me, the bummer
parts bum me out, the funny parts are funny to me, so it works for me!
But I've had some people say they think it's a little too sunny. One
person thought there was too much emphasis on drugs (and I thought I
played that down!). Some people think there's too much discussion of
specific tours, songs, set lists, etc. I can't disagree with any of
those viewpoints. It totally depends on where the reader is coming
from. I tried to write a book that would lay out a chronicle of
Garcia's life with a minimum of interpretation/judgment, and that would
be compelling to both hardcore Deadheads and more casual (but still
interested) fans.

Gordon, how my book is different from Greenfield's is that I placed
much more emphasis on the music than he did and also stitched together
a narrative about Jerry's life in and ourt of the Grateful Dead.
Greenfield's book is almost entirely stuff relating to Jerry's personal
life. (I think he did a great job, too!) Sandy Troy's "Captain Trips"
is like a sketch of Garcia's life; I like to think mine is more like a
portrait. I can't speak about McNally's book, but it won't be a
biography of Jerry. It's the deep history of the band we've been
waiting for him to write for the past 20 years! He's had unparalleled
access and spoken to everyone, so it should be something to behold.
I'll be very interested to see how he wrestles this behemoth to the

It's funny, I heard that Dennis has studiously avoided all the books
written about the Dead so he won't be influenced while he writes his
tome. I felt the opposite way. I read everything I could and I couldn't
wait to get my hands on Greenfield's book so I'd know what ground had
already been covered and how. If I were Dennis, I'd be reading them all
to see what NEW things I could bring to the literature. 

I see Rolling Stone says that his book will be out in 2001. I say no
way, but we'll see. I also hope he doesn't go with that "Long Strange
Trip" title Rolling Stone quoted. I think his original notion was
"Waiting to Be Born," which I think was perfect!
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #36 of 46: David Gans (tnf) Wed 13 Oct 99 10:34

Let's talka bout all that stuff you had to leave out.  How did you decide
what to cut?
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #37 of 46: Gordon Taylor (warfrat) Wed 13 Oct 99 10:54
All of which reads like it's own book!
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #38 of 46: Carol Gould (carolg) Wed 13 Oct 99 11:58
Blair, there are some people in history who seem to command many
biographical explorations over the years--for example, I was just at a
lecture given by a guy who is writing yet another biogrophy of Freud, from,
amazingly, a fairly original point of view.  Other notable people are
written about once or twice, and that's all you'll see of them in print.
Jerry is obviously a perpetually interesting character, and in our time has
generated many books, articles, etc. about him.  Do you predict that 20
years from now people will still be writing about him?  What do you feel are
the characteristics of people who are subjects of numerous biographies?
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #39 of 46: Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Thu 14 Oct 99 09:27
Cutting the book was the toughest job I ever had. I had a week to do
it and I knew going in I was going to have to cut X number of
manuscript pages, so I went through it systematically chapter by
chapter with a quota in mind, knowing that if I cut less than the quota
in one chapter I'd have to cut more in the next. What a way to work.
There was a certain narrative/story flow I wanted to keep intact, so
that was paramount. The tangents (many of them pretty cool, I thought)
were the first to go. Then  it became trimming the second and third
voices in various stories, then parts of longer quotes. Ugh. A horrible
process. Frankly, I'm surprised it still reads as well as it does,
because at the time it seemed like a wholesale evisceration.

Carol, I can't really tell you why people keep revisiting the same
subjects in biographies. My own standard is (and will be) do I have
something significant to add to the existing literature on a subject.
Personally, I think a lot of the bios that come out are unwarranted. I
mean, is it really worth revisiting jack kerouac's whole life just so a
writer can reshape facts to fit his hypothesis that he was gay?
Doesn't sound too interesting to me. Could a better bio of Jerry be
written? Yes. In fact, with another year and five hundred more pages, I
could do it myself. There's pretty steep learning curve with any
subject, but the Grateful Dead in particular is a tough subject to rein
in because there's so much subjective stuff to deal with about drugs,
morality, etc. I've said before that someone could come in and write a
really, really ugly Grateful Dead book and every word of it would
probably be true--there's so much darkness in the cracks of this story.
But obviously that's not the one I was interested in telling.
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #40 of 46: Ed Lammer (twitcher) Mon 18 Oct 99 15:36
Blair -
I found the material about JG's first marriage quite informative.
But, despite a number of quotes from Mountain Girl, I'm missing the
essence of their relationship and the domestic organization of their
lives during the Stinson Beach phase, and when JG had his own pad in
the city.  Did MG talk with you about this?  Was it not a topic of
interest to you? Of course, I'm only half way thru your book.
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #41 of 46: Ed Lammer (twitcher) Mon 18 Oct 99 15:43
I should note that you brought wide grins at our home when you made
that crack on KPFA about the Dead's late '71 sweep across midwest 
college campuses like Washington University  -- nailed!!
This freshman was swept.
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #42 of 46: Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Wed 20 Oct 99 09:52
Ed, one of the Dead's tour managers told me a story about Garcia doing
an interview on the Washington University campus (can't remember if it
was in '69 or '71). Jerry was wandering around trying to find the
radio station and eventually stumbled upon it.

As for the question about Mountain Girl, I'm not exactly sure what
you're looking for. As far as I know they were essentially living as
husband and wife in Stinson. The SF pad was mainly for nights when
Jerry played Keystone Korner or was working at Wally Heider's studio
and didn't want to drive back all the way to Stinson.
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #43 of 46: David Gans (tnf) Wed 3 Nov 99 19:03

Hey Blair, let's talk about the new Grateful Dead boxed set!  We got our
copies today -- the official release date is November 9.

There's a web page all about it, with sound samples, a new video for
"Liberty," and a spectacular photo gallery, at <>

What do you think?
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #44 of 46: Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Fri 5 Nov 99 13:32
Having been in the thick of making it--choosing selections, working on
the sequences, etc--I'm still too close to it be objective. I'm just
starting to be able to listen to it uncritically, to let it wash over
me as a "fan" would. There are things I love and things I like less,
but in general I think it's a nice piece of work that takes the
listener on quite a journey from '65-'95. I think if I was hearing it
for the first time, I'd love it. The packaging is cool and I love the
essays, particularly Eric Pooley's which I reread again last night. I
think the Web site is really happening, too! 

It's funny, but I think if David, Steve and I each made a five-disc
set they would be probably radically different from each other in some
ways, yet this boxset encompasses each of our visions of the Dead in a
way. Let the second- guessing begin!
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #45 of 46: Dave Waite (dwaite) Fri 5 Nov 99 13:49
Blair....  Glad yoru still here.  I'm about 2/3 through now... I read during
the commute....

One thing that shows through is the it appears that Jerry was the reluctant
band leader and reluctant project leader....Jerry is quoted as saying
something like, 'I don't want to be the 'cop', but if everyone is going to
defer that stuff to me, so be it.'

I'm not sure where I'm going with this... just hoping you might want to
inkwell.vue.50 : Blair Jackson
permalink #46 of 46: Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Tue 9 Nov 99 09:46
Jerry's quote was "I don't want to be a leader because I don't want to
be a mis-leader." I think when he wanted to assert himself everyone
deferred to him pretty much. I think he went through periods where he
felt uo being The Guy, and others where he wanted to sit back and let
everything happen around him without directing it.. My sense is the
last couple of years he was very passive about GD affairs...

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