Thursday, October 16, 2014

Blair Jackson visited our Grateful Dead course yesterday and shared his vast knowledge of the band and its history. Aficionados will recall that he and wife Regan McMahon published The Golden Road from 1983 to 1994. The band members enjoyed the magazine and gave him extraordinary access; as a result, The Golden Road was widely regarded as the best fanzine of its era. Blair also wrote the first serious history of the band in 1983, and his Garcia biography was an enormous contribution to our understanding of a fascinating artist and figure.

As I told the students before we launched this class: if this isn't fun, we're not doing it right. And yesterday was really fun.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Rosie McGee at Freight & Salvage

Rosie McGee shared her photographs and memories at the Freight & Salvage this week. Truly illuminating, and a great counterpoint to Nick Meriwether's historical overview last week. The sheer amount of visual information in Rosie's photographs, and the way her stories complement and contextualize that information, made her visit especially rewarding for us. A lot of that information can be found in her memoir, Dancing with the Dead, but it's always a pleasure to hear it conversationally as well.


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

No Simple Highway at the Freight & Salvage

The Grateful Dead class got off to a great start at the Freight & Salvage last week. Nick Meriwether, Grateful Dead Archivist at UC Santa Cruz, deftly framed the Dead's influences, milieu, and project. It's a new course and a new venue, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but I'm now looking forward to the next five meetings. The OLLI staff did a fantastic job, we got to use the green room, and the technology worked! Next up: Rosie McGee, author of Dancing with the Dead.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Berkeleyside Covers the OLLI Course on the Dead

So grateful to Berkeleyside, the award-winning news site, for running a piece on my Grateful Dead course at UC Berkeley's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Natalie Orenstein, who graduated from Berkeley High in 2009 (!), did a nice job on the story.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ralph J. Gleason and the Grateful Dead

My forthcoming book on the Grateful Dead has a lot to say about Ralph J. Gleason, who covered music (and the San Francisco music scene) for the Chronicle. He also wrote for Ramparts magazine until he became so infuriated by Warren Hinckle's depiction of the hippies that he resigned and co-founded Rolling Stone magazine with his protege, Jann Wenner.

Gleason's son Toby allowed me to digitize a family photograph of his father. I just received it today. It shows him with Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh at the Monterey Pop Festival, which Gleason also cofounded. Please enjoy it responsibly.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Grateful Dead Sign with UMPG

The Grateful Dead signed a deal with Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG), which will handle global administration of the Dead's songbook.

UMPG traces its history back to the Music Corporation of America (MCA), which was cofounded by Jules Stein and booked musical acts in and around Chicago during the Capone era. Stein's granddaughter now runs The Nation magazine.

Stein hired Lew Wasserman, who was Ronald Reagan's agent and eventually ran the company. He was considered the king of Hollywood for many years. His best friend of five decades was Sidney Korshak, who was the Chicago mob's lawyer and a fascinating figure in his own right. MCA acquired other companies and eventually merged with Universal Studios. Comcast bought NBC Universal from GE in 2009.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Review of The Invisible Bridge

My first book review at The National Memo. This is the third volume in Rick Perlstein's epic history of the modern conservative movement, and his achievement is very impressive. I wouldn't say he has any special insight on California political history, but if you like that material as much as I do, this book is excellent grist for the mill

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Branford Marsalis on Playing with the Grateful Dead

This material is too late to include in the book, but I relished Branford Marsalis's reflections on playing with the Dead in 1991. Lots of mutual respect along with the virtuosity. And in the Wall Street Journal, no less.


Friday, August 29, 2014

The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs

Truthdig posted my review of Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs today. It was my good fortune to attend a book event last week at Pegasus, where I met the author for the first time. I also picked up the poster--actually, four copies, three of which I'll send to the book's editor, Steve Wasserman, at Yale University Press. This book was Steve's first acquisition there, and I'm glad it's getting a great reception.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Victoria Beckham Rocking the Dead T-shirt at LAX

Happily, the accompanying article explained everything: "The Grateful Dead was an American rock band formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, California, who were best known for their unique and eclectic style."

Next line, perhaps, of this hot scoop: "Located 35 miles south of San Francisco and 14 miles north of San Jose, Palo Alto is a community of approximately 63,000 residents."

On second thought, I'm for whatever it takes to teach a little history. If it's a Spice Girl T-shirt, so be it.

The Spice Girls were a British pop girl group formed in 1994.