Birth of the Dead

Studio & Live Material from 1965-66

Released: 2003

Tracks

The Studio Sides
The Autumn Sessions
Early Morning Rain [3:19]
I Know You Rider [2:39]
Mindbender (Confusion's Prince) [2:39]
The Only Time Is Now [2:21]
Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks) [3:14]
Can't Come Down [2:59]
The Scorpio Sessions
Stealin' (Instrumental) [2:37]
Stealin' (with Vocals) [2:33]
Don't Ease Me In (Instrumental) [1:58]
Don't Ease Me In (with Vocals) [1:59]
You Don't Have To Ask [3:32]
Tastebud (Instrumental) [7:00]
Tastebud (with Vocals) [4:31]
I Know You Rider [2:33]
Cold Rain and Snow (Instrumental) [3:12]
Cold Rain and Snow (with Vocals) [3:12]
The Hendricks Session
Fire In the City [3:19]

The Live Sides
Viola Lee Blues [9:39]
Don't Ease Me In [2:44]
Pain In My Heart [4:25]
Sitting On Top of the World [3:52]
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue [5:13]
I'm A King Bee [8:53]
Big Boss Man [5:11]
Standing On the Corner [3:46]
In the Pines [4:55]
Nobody's Fault But Mine [4:16]
Next Time You See Me [2:48]
One Kind Favor [3:45]
He Was A Friend of Mine [4:46]
Keep Rolling By [7:57]


Birth.jpg

Liner Notes:

The path of Birth Of The Dead from inception to your hands really was a long, fairly strange trip. But as Hunter said, "All good things in all good time." In 1986 we were sitting around talking about these new things called compact discs and the room they allowed to collect archival material. Being Dead Heads and - Lou especially - tape collectors, we ruminated on the material that The Warlocks and earliest Dead had recorded prior to their years with Warner Bros.

The idea for a collection grew, and we got Garcia's approval. Of course, when we asked him what he thought about it, he just told Lou, "Have fun with it, man." And we did. But the Dead's then-manager didn't like some of our choices, and, after a while, In The Dark absorbed everyone's energy, and the idea languished. Some things never change - Warner Bros. had been interested in their outtakes in 1986, and their esteemed representatives a Rhino still are, now in 2001. So we dusted off our notes and found that it still seemed like a good idea. As Dead crew chief Ram Rod is fond of saying, "The good shit lasts."

Early in 1965 various influences brought together a bluegrass banjo player-turned-lead guitarist (Jerry Garcia), a big-band jazz trumpeter/avant-garde composer-turned -bassist (Phil Lesh), a blues singer/harp player/Farfisa organ-grinder named Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, a folksinging acoustic guitarist named Bob Weir, and an ex-R&B drummer named Bill Kreutzmann together to form a rock 'n' roll band called The Warlocks.

These five got their first taste of bonding during a six-week engagement at a bar called the In Room in Belmont, a town south of San Francisco, where they played cover tunes for five 50-minute sets a night, six nights a week. From the beginning, they were odd. The biggest influence on their playing style was John Coltrane, who sent them off on long improvisational quests. They weren't pretty, and their show consisted of Pigpen, a great vocalist but a guy who looked more like a rampaging barbarian than Paul McCartney. But then, the blues aren't supposed to be pretty. And The Warlocks were first of all a blues band.

In November 1965 The Warlocks were almost conventional. They were working in Pierre's, a strip joint on Broadway in San Francisco, and on the third of the month they went to a tiny studio by the train station to audition for a record company, recording what's known in the business as a "demo" (demonstration). The company was Autumn Records, which already had hits by Bobby Freeman ("C'mon And Swim") and The Beau Brummels ("Laugh, Laugh"). Autumn had two things going for it: a producer named Sylvester Stewart - who would eventually become known as Sly Stone while becoming a major figure in rock in his own right - and the owner, Tom Donahue.

Donahue had fled the payola scandals on the East Coast and come to San Francisco, where he'd swiftly become a major figure, both because he weighted way more than 300 pounds and, more importantly, because he was a DJ at the leading Top 40 station KYA. He and his partner, Bobby Mitchell, had a management company, a radio tip-sheet, and Autumn Records, which produced shows at the Cow Palace as well as LPs.

The six songs The Warlocks recorded that day - four originals, one traditional, and Gordon Lightfoots "Early Morning Rain" - reflected the pop style of Autumn as well as a lot of listening to The Beatles. The recordings show lots of potential, especially "The Only Time Is Now," but mostly reveal a band that had been together just about five months.

They recorded under the name Emergency Crew because bassist Phil Lesh had recently spotted a record in a store by another group called The Warlocks. Later in November, they chose the indubitably odd name Grateful Dead. It was perhaps not a coincidence that they pretty much left show business for the next three to four months, spending most of December and January as the musical centerpiece of a series of social experiments called the acid tests, which posed the question, What would happen if you turned increasingly large groups of people loose on psychedelic drums and music?

The Dead followed up the tests with some practice time in L.A. with their sound-system guru, the inestimable Owsley "Bear" Stanley. In the summer of 1966 they moved to an idyllic retreat called Olompali, now a state park in Marin County north of San Francisco. While there, they pursued their second recording venture, with Gene Estribou, who had a studio at 737 Buena Vista West, a few blocks from their then-office (and later home) at 710 Ashbury Street, in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco. It was unfortunate that their equipment was heavy enough to be nicknamed the "lead sled" and the studio was on the fifth floor. Still, they got some tracks down, and you can hear them grow.

The final studio piece of this puzzle is "Fire In The City," which they recorded with jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks, cofounder of the legendary, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. Jon had been hired to produce a soundtrack for a movie called Sons And Daughters, which documented one of the early events in the anti-Vietnam war movement, a series of actions in Oakland, California, led by the Vietnam Day Committee in October 1965.

In the end, the Dead would always be more about live performance than studio recording, and so Disc 2 of this collection is the Dead live in 1966, when they were primarily an improvisational electric blues band led by the least-likely-looking angel of harmony, Pigpen.

The tracks on the second disc come from the Dead's vaults and from a variety of shows, some of which are unclear (hey, even the experts don't know it all). They're either incredibly rare - Garcia's "Standing On The Corner" or the folk song "In The Pines" - or classy, like "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." The Dead may have grown more sophisticated over the next 29 years, but it's a treat to hear them as babies, still ripe with the first promise of a long and wonderful career.

-Dennis McNally & Lou Tambakos
Dennis McNally's book
A Long Strange Trip/The Insider History of The Grateful Dead will be published by Broadway Books, a division of Doubleday, in the summer of 2002

 

Credits:

Disc 1: The Studio Sides
The Autumn Sessions
Produced by Tom Donahue & Bobby Mitchell
Recorded at Golden State Recorders, San Francisco, CA (11/3/65)
Engineered by Leo De Gar Kulka
Tracks 5 & 6 were first released on the album So Many Roads (1965-1995), Arista #GD-14066 (11/9/99)
All other selections are previously unissued
(Note: tape box lists artist as "The Emergency Crew")
The Scorpio Sessions
Produced & Engineered by Gene Estribou
Recorded at Buena Vista Studio, San Francisco, CA; Western Recording, San Francisco, CA (6/66)
Tracks 8 & 10 were issued [in limited quantity] as Scorpio single #201 (7/66)
All other selections are previously unissued
The Hendricks Session
Produced & Arranged by Jon Hendricks
Recorded at Columbus Recorders, San Francisco, CA (3/67)
From the documentary film Sons And Daughters
Originally issued as Verve singe # VK-10512 (4/67)
Disc 2: The Live Sides
Miscellaneous live performances recorded July 1966, in San Fancisco, CA. The venues & exact dates are unknown
Engineered by Bear & Rock Scully
All selections are previously unreleased

Featuring:

Ron "Pigpen" McKernan: organ, harmonica, vocals
Jerry Garcia: lead guitar, vocals
Bob Weir: rhythm guitar, vocals
Phil Lesh: bass
Bill Kreutzmann: drums
With Jon Hendricks: lead vocals on "Fire In The City"

Concept & Compilation: Dennis McNally & Lou Tambakos
Compilation Produced for Release by James Austin, Dennis McNally, Lou Tambakos & David Lemieux
Executive Producer/Grateful Dead Productions: Peter McQuaid
Associate Producer/Research Coordination: Michael Wesley Johnson
Archival Research/Grateful Dead Archives: Eileen Law
Project Coordination/Grateful Dead Productions: Cassidy Law
Business Affairs/Grateful Dead Productions: Eric Doney & Nancy Mallonee
Grateful Mentor: Dennis McNally
Mastering/Production Consultant: Joe Gastwirt at Oceanview Digital, Los Angeles, CA
All Autumn Recordings were taken from masters courtesy of The Center To Preserve Music Culture
Product Manager: Jimmy Edwards
Project Coordination/Rhino Entertainment Company: Jo Motta
Business Affairs/Rhino Entertainment Company: Malia Doss
Discographical Annotation: Gary Peterson
Liner Notes Coordination: Shawn Amos
Editorial Supervision: Vanessa Atkins
Editorial Research: Daniel Goldmark
Reissue Art Direction: Hugh Brown, Greg Allen & Rachel Gutek
Design: Rachel Gutek@guppyart & Greg Allen@gapd
Digi Cover & Under Clear Tray Photos: Herb Greene
Back Digi Cover Photo: Paul Ryan
Poster On Book Cover: Wes Wilson c1966 B.G.P.
Project Assistance: David McLees, Bill Inglot, Steve Lang, Patrick Kraus, Jan Simmons, Blair Jackson, Steve Silberman, Hale Milgrim, David Gans, Owsley Stanley, Jeff Gold, Jeffrey Norman, Connie Mosley, Gary Lambert, Bill Belmont, Neil Ruttenberg & Randy Perry
Rhino Wishes to Thank: Mickey Hart, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Alan Trist, Mark Pinkus, Susana Millman, Ihor Slabicky, Steve Woolard, "Golden John" Robinson, Ed Perlstein, Ira Gastwirt, Nick Merriwether, the vast universe of Dead Heads & everyone at Grateful Dead Productions

 

 



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This album was released in 2003.



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