I don’t know much about Widespread Panic, other than they come from the same school of music — and are associated with — Phish and other bands that use the Grateful Dead blueprint. Like Phish, the band does a lot of covers (including a great version of the Dead’s Fire on the Mountain, below). All the covers — and that the fact that the band’s website leads off with a nice tribute to JJ Cale — makes it obvious that they get it. Listening to a few tunes makes it clear that they are extremely talented.
Here is a part of AllMusic’s profile:
One of the many neo-hippie jam bands inheriting the road-warrior mantle left behind by the Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic established a devout grassroots following on the strength of constant touring and a loose, rootsy brand of Southern rock informed by jazz and blues textures. The group’s origins date to 1982, when vocalist John Bell and guitarist Mike Houser first began playing together while attending college in Athens, Georgia. When bassist Dave Schools left academia to join the duo the next year, Widespread Panic were officially born. The band recorded its debut single, “Coconut Image,” in 1986; drummer Todd Nance joined soon after, followed by the addition of percussionistDomingo “Sunny” Ortiz and finally keyboardist John “JoJo” Hermann.
Hart and Adam Gazzaley, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco, discussed the use of music to counteract the declines in mental powers caused by aging. Hart also led a drum circle.
Acknowledging various dates takes on a melancholy feel as a person gets older. This site has been up since the beginning of March, and I’ve probably run 10 or so posts on people who have passed away during that time. There also are the birthdays of folks who are no longer around.
In any case, Jerry Garcia would have been 70 years old today. Above, he plays Irving Berlin’s beautiful Russian Lullaby with David Grisman.
Los Lobos, Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir do perhaps the greatest American patriotic song. Thanks for visiting the site.
This video becomes very interesting soon after the one minute mark.
The Rev. Gary Davis–whose 116th birthday is next Monday–was one of the main bridges that connected the African-American blues performers of the 1930s and 1940s with the mostly white generation of rock and folk performers who now are elder statesmen themselves or already are gone.
It’s kind of silly to list a lot of Grateful Dead links. Folks who like the band know where they are, those that don’t like the band don’t care. But, anyway, here are some good ones: U.S. Blues, Dire Wolf, Cumberland Blues and Alabama Getaway (skip the first two minutes; someone switched on the camera early). The above performance, which of course technically isn’t the Dead, was apparently impromptu. Too bad nobody focused the camera.
There are pages upon pages at Google on the band. One I’d like to point out is The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, which is a massive collection of information published by David Dodd, a researcher at the University of California at Santa Cruz. It apparently hasn’t been updated for a few years, but it still is monumental.
One point that strikes me about the band is the deep connections to Americana that slip into Robert Hunter’s lyrics. Many of the songs are overtly tied to American history. Those and others throw in terrific cultural references. Examples include U.S. Blues lyrics such as:
Shake the Hand that shook the hand of P.T. Barnum and Charlie Chan
and this verse from Alabama Getaway:
Majordomo Billy Bojangles Sit down and have a drink with me What’s this about Alabame Keeps comin back to me?
I think that the band, or at least Hunter, were more closely tied to the mainstream of American music and culture than casual observers recognize. Dodd’s site provides many more examples and interesting commentary.
I don’t know much about Phish, other than they are a terrific band. The have obvious similarities to the Grateful Dead both in the music and how they run their concerts, have a tremendous number of songs — including many covers — and my 15-year old son loves them.
Here is a link to the band’s site, a list of covers and the audio of the performance of Terrapin Station on the third anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s death. Please send me other good Phish links and I’ll add them.
I know, cute headline.
It’s hard not to like Levon Helm. The Band was said to be one of the most important in rock and roll history. I never really got that, but it didn’t mean I didn’t like them. Helm also is a cancer survivor, plays in schools to get kids interested in music and, from the looks of things, is an all-around good guy. It’s interesting that the people perceived to be nice seem to have the most sustained and successful careers.
Here is Helm’s band playing The Band song Ophelia:
It’s a terrific band. Here it is playing the Grateful Dead song Tennessee Jed on the Letterman show. Finally, here is a great clip from The Last Waltz of The Band doing The Weight with The Staple Singers.