Two chubby old rockers with beards
Date: Mon, 21 Aug 95 11:42:06 -0700
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: Two chubby old rockers with beards
Old-time Desperadoes, mindful of many a snipe over the years at the
expense of the Dreadful Grate, are demanding a Jerry Garcia obituary.
Two chubby old rockers with beards died recently.
There's a tribute to Wolfman Jack at
The Jerry Garcia celebration is at
It's probably true, as the faithful said, the answer to everything is
somewhere in the lyrics of a Grateful Dead song. Now Jerry didn't
write those lyrics, you know, so half of what we've been reading in
obituaries in the past few days was really about Robert Hunter. It's
just that there's not a one of those songs I like as much as I like
"Clap for the Wolfman" by the Guess Who. Howie Carr, the
contemptible vitriolist of the Boston Herald, offered the following
(paraphrased): "Two sixties bands with an extraordinary ability to
continue to sell out live shows, the Beach Boys, with 48 top-ten
hits, and the Grateful Dead, with one." Brian Wilson, another
well-rounded doper, certainly had some extraordinary music in him.
And still does, and soon to have an album produced by Don Was to
I loved hearing Wolfman Jack on the Don Imus program week before
last creaming over the big beautiful tubes of the 500kw transmitter
at XERF in Villa Acuna, Couahila, Mexico, just across the mud from
Del Rio, Tejas, the most powerful medium-wave station in North
America. Imus made fun of him, but the Wolfman was too cool to care
(and Imus couldn't conceal his warm feelings for the Wolfman). XERF
was founded to peddle Dr. Brinkley's goat-gland transplants for men.
The station had been famous for years for radio preachers selling
holy water from the River Jordan and the invaluable prayer cloths,
but the station also marketed baby chickens and rabbits, not to
mention rhythm&blues record collections touted by Dr. Jazzmo (I was
mystified by this Clifton Chenier, who apparently had decided to
replace the tenor sax solo with an accordion), but the Wolfman
bought the station (under mysterious circumstances involving more
guns than money and no lawyers) to turn it into the rock&roll voice
of the west.
All three of these characters created imaginary worlds populated by
millions of real people. The Dead let you live the life of the road
without the two hours of pushing brooms and the rooms to let fifty
cents. Wolfman Jack turned button-pushers stuck in traffic jams and
kids cruising the burger joints into wild creatures with strange
allure. Brian Wilson created two imaginary worlds, the one of
transcendant tunes of endless summer and and the other of
meta-transcendant tunes and unearthly sounds. All three made it
easier for their folks to get up in the morning, the Grateful Dead
perhaps most of all.
I learned in Sunday School that while you had to love your enemies,
you didn't have to like them. Surely we can extend the same
principle to friends like Jerry Garcia. I'm just a prisoner of
songs and backbeat and I can't get out enough to buy the Dead thing,
particularly their covers, but I sure do love it for itself. The
most foolish things said after Garcia's death were about there being
no more tours and no more Deadheads. It's an industry and a way of
life and I'm sure it will make it.
One of the first signs the Dead were something special: They bought
a $60,000 sound system for a $1000 tour. This was back when
rock&roll dollars came in megs, not gigs.
I know who the DooDah man is and I know when he passed that little
secret on to Jerry so that Jerry could pass it on to the rest of us.
It was in Boston about 1971-2 on Lansdowne street at the (New)
Boston Tea Party, where the Bonzo Dog Band (formerly Bonzo Dog
Doodah Band) opened for the Dead and Jerry exchanged truths with
Bonzos Vivian Stanshall and Neil Innes. Me and some pals had the
pleasant good fortune to exchange further truths with the Bonzo Dog
Band the next morning for brunch.
I never met Jerry, but I did know Stanley Mouse and Kelly, creators
of the Dead's graphic style. Mouse was a big old hippy (the host of
the Bonzo brunch) and Kelly was a little biker, but both of them
were cool company and warm people. A few years ago Jerry bought
Stanley Mouse a new liver.
There really were hippies back then, you know, and the Dead really
is for them and for everybody who catches those vibes. Hippie music
played by hippies.
I was once taken for Jerry Garcia while walking out of an Elvis
Costello concert at the Cape Cod Mausoleum. "Hey, it's Jerry Garcia"
they muttered from a respectful distance. I flashed them a big smile
and a peace sign and went on my way. It would have been even cooler
to have been taken for Wolfman Jack, but I just don't have the
Someone remarked of The Bridges of Madison County, "Maybe we ought to
include the ability to evoke a response in our judgements of artistic
A saying from Muscle Shoals, home of many a soul hit, "Behind every
great song there's a great pill." There was that magic moment there
when the Grateful Dead were seized with songwriting and
record-producing fervor and produced two five-star albums toot sweet,
"Workingman's Dead" and "American Beauty", and then never did
anything like that again. Prokofiev wrote his "Classical Symphony"
to shut up the people who said he couldn't write one and then went
back to doing his thing.
Happy Landings, Captain Trips.
[firstname.lastname@example.org (Tom Parmenter)]
© 1995 Peter Langston