animated gif of the words nobody special

Dancing with the DEAD

animated cartoon of a chicken doing the 'funky chicken'

Here you can read about my night in Cincinnatti, in the early seventies, as OXOXO, a stage guest, dancing with the Grateful Dead. I will be including a few other interesting evenings spent in the same room with this seminal San Francisco band. First, and forever more -

But for the THORNS, would we LOVE
the ROSES?

"It won't RUIN ya!!!"

My first live encounter with "Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions" was on December 24, l967. I've detailed on other pages how I spent my last 2 years of what would have been an education degree at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ. The spring of '67 had a big stir in the wind. On April 15, I went to Central Park in Manhattan, NY, to participate in a peaceful walk to the UN Plaza, along with an estimated 500,000 others - most notably, Dr. Martin luther King, Jr. and Dr. Benjamin Spock. It was a momentous day, King spoke of poor appalachian whites, hispanics and other "minorities" getting drafted into combat roles in Vietnam, out of proportion to their percentages in society (later, I would here a Senator on TV, during a Reagan era Senate confirmation hearing for Reagan's appointee as Ambassador to El Salvador, reveal that in the entire eight years of the Vietnam "Incursion" only one member of congress had not pull strings to get his son out of a front line role - it was the speaker himself, Paul Sarbanes - that was because his son refused to have any strings pulled for him...who was zooming whom?) I recall folks around me seeing a photographer on a balcony assume the man was an agent of some sort - they began to grimace and flipped the "bird" in his direction. Thinking of Dr. King's commitment to Gandhi's nonviolent principle of AHIMSA, I got the attention of those around me and said "No, no, like this!" and gave the peace sign. There were smiles and people around the bird flippers joined in with me. Soon the middle finger joined by its neighbor next to the thumb...THUMBS UP folks!

When Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions became the Warlocks became the famous story of Garcia picking the phrase grateful dead out of an unabridged dictionary, they captured the imagination of so many people who had turned from the "pop" pablum that was being served up in sanitized form by big AM radio. This was still the time before the Beatles and the Rolling Stones went "psychedelic" and many people found the "breath of life" their souls required in bluegrass, old timey, and country blues music. By the latter half of the sixties this included Chicago style "R&B" via Chess records. I still have notebooks from a Seton Hall Shakespeare course where I had scrawled page after page of Balloon-letter playbills featuring the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. This was after the Cuban "missile crisis" taught us - I was 16-17 - that life indeed could be smithereens 15 minutes from any right now...and here was a group that was monkeying with the mass mind, BIG time! Roll them dancing bones, indeed!!!

During the summer of 67, I got to go to be-ins in Central Park, and attended the Woodstock Sound-out festival that September, and hitched across the country to the Bay Area, but still hadn't had my epiphany of an experience with any "out there - beyond the BEYOND" musical groups. That would happen Christmas Eve, 1967, When the Group Image a local New York rock "collective" that never lasted long enough to become anything but legendary, opened for "Captain Trips" and the Other ONES" in a small old fashioned, proscenium-arched stage dance hall on the west side of mid-Manhattan. I was living with the Tipi-Town Tribe. Since some of them had been at Milbrook during the time of the League for Spiritual Discovery phase of Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert's lives, they were tight with the Group Image from that episode in all their lives. We were to be "house freaks" that night. Went to the ticket window and said the magic "woid" for the event - Charge IT!.

When we got inside, all 7 or 8 of us, we saw folding chairs lining three walls of the dance hall, with the stage in the center of the other wall. I don't remember Group Image set at all. I distinctly recall that when Garcia first came to his vocal microphone, he said, "It's one of these, boys." The band proceeeded to enter a long sinous rhythmic stretch, which developed into "Alligator". No one budged in their chairs. The place was sold to the allowed capacity, but it wasn't like even bars do it now, space stuffed to fire-marshall allowed numbers. Most of the people seemed to be younger than 21. We were about the only "freaks" of any sort. Our word at the time for the age group who would by the end of the sixties claim that THEY were THE SIXTIES was teenyboppers. Happily, the term has not survived. Pigpen who played organ, and harmonica, approached the vocal mike and growled, "GET UP AND DANCE, IT WON'T RUIN YA!!!"

I looked around the room - "wallflowers!" Even the two couples in our group were stone still, like statues. It was as if Pigpen had made a challenge which must be met, by someone. Here was San Francisco's premier band (in the mind of many), and nobody but an immigrant's kid from "DA STICKS, MAN, DA STICKS!!" seemed to grasp the, I lifted my self off my chair, hauled me bones out to the center of the floor, and let "dem bones" do what they felt like doing with the music. When I opened my eyes, I was surrounded by writhing "serpents" doing the "lizard lurch" - or as the Dyl-stir puts it: "wiggle, wiggle, wiggle like a big fat snake!"


*****All materials copyrighted 1998-9 Jesse Slokum*****

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