On August 19, Round Records & ATO Records will release the two-disc GarciaLive Volume Seven: November 8th, 1976 – Jerry Garcia Band, a previously unreleased and uncirculated performance recorded at Sophie’s in Palo Alto, CA. The original reels, along with several other recordings, which have come to be known as the “Houseboat Tapes,” were only recently discovered by former Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Band vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux. The chance finding is the subject of a Q&A with Godchaux in the current issue of Relix. Pre-order for GarciaLive Vol. Seven can be found at Garcia Family Provisions (http://jerrygarcia.shop.musictoday.com/).
Once a supermarket, Sophie’s was an unassuming and intimate venue where the Jerry Garcia Band played four times in 1976. The hall eventually became the Keystone Palo Alto and hosted the group many more times through the years. Palo Alto itself holds a distinctive place in Garcia’s history. After a brief stint in the Army, it was where Garcia settled and became fully committed to music in the early 1960’s when he was teaching guitar and playing in bands around the area.
With former Elvis Presley drummer Ron Tutt manning the throne, longtime Garcia collaborator John Kahn on bass, Keith Godchaux on keys and Donna Jean Godchaux on backing vocals, this ensemble performed almost 70 shows that year and became known as one of the Garcia Band’s strongest lineups. One local critic agreed, and said, “More than any other Garcia band this one allows him room to run through all his guitar styles, often within a single song.”
Many of the covers performed that evening were mainstays of the Jerry Garcia Band’s repertoire, such as “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” made famous by The Temptations, Hank Ballard’s “Tore Up Over You” Jesse Stone’s "Don’t Let Go,” Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up,” JJ Cale’s “After Midnight” and Peter Rowan’s “Midnight Moonlight.” Performances of Garcia/Robert Hunter originals “Friend of the Devil” and “Mission In The Rain” were standouts that evening as well.
The Jerry Garcia Band, in its many incarnations, was often underappreciated, yet a vital outlet for Garcia’s wide ranging artistic musical expressions. As much as the Grateful Dead pushed the limits of where live performances could go, the Jerry Garcia Band gave Garcia a forum to fully enable his insatiable curiosity by stretching out on a completely different playing field, with endless possibilities.
Once thought as lost, Donna Jean’s surprise discovery of these tapes allows us to experience the breadth of Jerry Garcia as a solo artist on an amazing night in November 1976, for the very first time.