Here’s a collection of very local old-time performances by no less than Jerry Garcia, David Nelson, and their friends between ’61 and ’64. They are outtakes sent to us by Red Light because of our involvement long ago in the recordings. These songs are a few of those compiled in a full box set called “Before the Dead”. The venues range from a birthday party to the closest bar to Stanford campus, to our very own KZSU. The KZSU tracks are filed in our library as the Hart Valley Drifters.
1. (4:01) “All My Trials” sad, somber Bahamian song performed here as more upbeat and sweet than the versions of Joan Baez and PP&M.
2. (3:10) “Trouble in Mind” bluesy guitar improv leads to a gorgeous vocal performance by Garcia.
3. (2:51) “Brown’s Ferry Blues” chatter in the intro. A fun, albeit loose grassy performance.
4. (3:40) “Katie Cruel” interesting to hear their version of this eerie yet beautiful Celtic song made famous by Karen Dalton.
5. (3:17) “Little Birdie” bright, sweet banjo and vocals by Garcia. Lyrics seem to have inspired “Dark Hollow” of the Dead.
6. (3:10) “Legend of the Johnson Boys” banter intro. Loose fiddle over a bouncing bass line. Bit of a square dancer.
7. (2:25) “Man of Constant Sorrow” Jerry is the solo voice in this old classic, offered in a Celtic mood like Roscoe Holcomb.
8. (3:25) “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms” fast. Fantastic, blazing, banjo and a close-mic’d mando.
9. (3:25) “The Little Sparrow” Downbeat with twinkling banjo. Almost a southwest vibe.
10. (3:16) “Deep Elem Blues” a more traditional and upbeat version of a song played years later very much in the style of the Dead. Mando soloing. Jerry’s wife Sara sits in.
11. (2:07) “Who’ll Sing for Me” Great vocal harmonies in a sorrowful and sweet song.
12. (2:19) “Salt Creek” Blazing instrumental stays true to Bill Monroe’s recording.
13. (2:31) “Rosa Lee McFall” Beautiful love song. Compare to the Dead’s version on Reckoning.
14. (2:16) “If I Lose” Upbeat and fun. Great banjo on Jerry’s part again.
15. (2:21) “True Life Blues” Brings a rocky vibe to an old traditional number performed by the likes of Bill Monroe and Del McCoury.
16. (2:32) “Raw Hide” Everyone knows this blazing instrumental. Jerry shows his full prowess on the banjo.
17. (3:05) “Drink Up and Go Home” Downbeat with plenty of playful banjo licks. Maybe a better version than the later recordings by Grisman and Garcia.