Playing in the Shadow

Let’s say you are the replacement for Jerry Garcia in the Grateful Dead. Your new job is to go in front of 20,000 fans and play music that they probably know better than you do.

There is a great article from the NY Times (reg. required) which provides an insightful view of Jimmy Herring, who is taking up lead guitar duties for the Dead this summer. The Dead, comprised of former members of the now defunct Grateful Dead, have already played a few shows, with quite a few more in tap this year.

For a lead guitarist, their playing is their essential voice. Nonetheless, there is more to a performer than their on-stage performance. This article provides background and insight into this newest passenger on the bus.

Regarding Jerry’s playing, Jimmy mentioned: ” … He could sound like he was crying. He played ballads beautifully. I’ve also come to love Garcia’s sound, and his touch. His main sound was ice-bell clear, with reverb. With a sound as clean as that, your touch is everything.”

As one who was fortunate enough to see Jerry play live somewhere around 500 times, I absolutely agree! His tone was so pure, so bell-like, that it was often joyful and rapturous, and definitely instantly identifiable. Even Miles Davis, known not to be a fan of the dead or of rock ‘n roll, commented favorably on Jerry’s tone.