Take a look back at the first Jerry Garcia Band lineup that made its debut in 1975.
Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia was born on August 1, 1942 and died on August 9, 1995 at the age of 53. Each year, the “Days Between” Garcia’s birthday and the anniversary of his death mark a period of time to reflect on and celebrate the beloved musician’s life and career. This year, JamBase honors the Days Between by examining the evolution of the Jerry Garcia Band from inception in 1975 through a final performance in 1995.
This installment looks back at the initial Jerry Garcia Band lineup, which included Garcia, bassist John Kahn, drummer Ron Tutt and keyboardist Nicky Hopkins.
Garcia had participated in many bands and projects in the years leading up to co-founding the Grateful Dead in 1965. He continued working on side projects and solo material over the following decade, performing with groups such as the New Riders Of The Purple Sage, Old & In The Way, the Great American String Band and with keyboardists Howard Wales and Merl Saunders.
With Saunders, Garcia formed Legion Of Mary in December 1974, whose membership included Kahn, Tutt and saxophonist Martin Fierro. The official Garcia website states:
Legion of Mary was the group name used by the final lineup of Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders, beginning in December of 1974. The core members of the group, Garcia, Saunders, and John Kahn, had been performing together since 1971. New members included Martin Fierro on saxophone and flute, and Elvis Presley drummer, Ron Tutt. In fact, the presence of Tutt was what determined the band’s billing for each show—with him they were Legion of Mary, and without him they played as Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders. The group played together until the summer of 1975, after which the Jerry Garcia Band became Garcia’s main performing group when the Grateful Dead were off the road.
According to JerryBase.com, the original JGB lineup performed approximately 41 times in 1975. The first public concert billed as the Jerry Garcia Band took place on September 18, 1975 at Sophie’s in Palo Alto, California.
The setlist that evening contained several songs that would become JGB staples, such as “Catfish John,” Allen Toussaint’s “I’ll Take A Melody,” Bob Dylan’s “It Takes A Lot To Laugh It Takes A Train To Cry,” Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting In Limbo,” Holland, Dozier, Holland’s “(I’m A) Road Runner” and Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You).” Garcia also led a cover of Hank Williams’ “You Win Again,” which he began playing with the Dead in 1971.
Recorded in 1975, Garcia’s solo album, Reflections, was released in 1976 featuring a mix of covers and Garcia/Hunter originals. Half of the tracks were recorded by Garcia, Tutt, Kahn, Hopkins and keyboardists Larry Knechtel, including “Catfish John” and “I’ll Take A Melody,” as well as “Mission In The Rain” and a cover of Hank Ballard’s “Tore Up Over You.”
Hopkins’ short stint in the JGB followed accolades for his contributions to recordings by The Rolling Stones (“Loving Cup” and many more Stones’ classics), The Kinks, The Who and many other legends of rock ‘n’ roll. The English keyboardist was also a one-time member of Bay Area-based Quicksilver Messenger Service and performed onstage with the Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock in 1969. Following his time in the Jerry Garcia Band, Hopkins continued performing and recording through his untimely death at age 50 in 1994.
Tutt’s resume was most notable for being Elvis Presley’s drummer, a position he held simultaneously during this stint as a JGB member. Tutt, a Dallas native, died in 2021 at age 83. Kahn brought Tutt to Los Angeles for the recording sessions for Garcia’s 1974 solo album, Compliments and the drummer was soon performing with Garcia, Kahn and Saunders at Berkeley, California’s Keystone club.
In addition to Legion Of Mary, Tutt played drums with the Jerry Garcia Band through 1977. He can be heard on Garcia’s 1976 solo album Reflections and its follow-up, 1978’s Cats Under the Stars. Tutt served a second stint in JGB in 1981 and appears on Garcia’s 1982 solo album, Run For The Roses.
The initial Jerry Garcia Band lineup was captured on the officially released live album, Let It Rock: The Jerry Garcia Collection, Vol. 2.. Recorded at the Keystone on November 17 and 18, 1975, the tracklist includes covers of Chuck Berry’s “Let It Rock,” The Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend The Night Together” and the Little Milton popularized “That’s What Love Will Make You Do,” which all appeared on Complements.
Due to his commitment to perform with Elvis in Las Vegas, Tutt was absent from the Jerry Garcia Band’s concert on December 17, 1975 at the Keystone. Sly & The Family Stone drummer (and later a JGB member) Greg Errico filled in. Prior to that, Tutt’s schedule that fall saw him perform on November 29 with JGB at the Keystone, back Elvis in Las Vegas between December 2 through December 15 and return to play with JGB at in San Francisco on December 19. Tutt was absent from the JGB concert on December 31, 1975 at the Keystone, and was instead playing with Elvis at the Pontiac Silverdome near Detroit.
In 2017, Tutt discussed his tenures with Presley and Garcia telling Rolling Stone:
“Elvis’ music was a lot more in your face; you could never play enough. But with Jerry we never talked about it, but I just knew my role with that band, no matter what configuration it was, was to help keep it together. We weren’t there to do flashy solos. I don’t know that I ever even did a solo. That wasn’t our purpose. I almost liken it to a jazz gig in the sense that the songs had as we call ’em a head, a front, and then everybody played as much as they wanted to play and then did the out and that was it. There wasn’t much rehearsal.”
The 1975 New Year’s concert once again saw Errico replacing Tutt, with Garcia’s Grateful Dead bandmates Bob Weir and Mickey Hart also sitting in. The performance was the final JGB show with Hopkins as a member of the group and officially released as GarciaLive Volume 5.
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