Dead Notes #14 :: The Howard Wales Interview

It’s no secret Jerry Garcia was a freak of nature when it came to juggling his time with the Grateful Dead and multiple side projects. In 1970 alone, he was riding high on the FM radio success of American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead, which kept the band truckin’ endlessly and tirelessly from university to city theaters. Garcia was averaging four sets an evening, spending upwards of four-plus hours or more on stage. First, an opening set with new country rock group New Riders of the Purple Sage and then three more hours with the Dead. For most folks, getting home from a tour like that would be cause for hibernation and chill out for a while, but instead, Garcia was often found in late night pick-up jams around the Bay Area. One such musician’s haven was the Matrix, a unique free-for-all club originally owned by Marty Balin of the Jefferson Airplane. The haunt catered to the greatest of the hippie ideals of the 1960s: Come all ye faithful and jam.

Towards the tail end of the '60s, Garcia was introduced to a Hammond B3 player by the name of Howard Wales, who held a jam session every Monday night at the Matrix. Howard had a fiery and otherworldly approach to playing, keeping the evenings fresh and fun for all involved, especially Jerry, who started coming down more regularly to play along with a core rhythm section of John Kahn on bass and Bill Vitt on drums. The gigs were kept loose, so naturally the band veered towards jazz -- possibly best described as ‘Owsley Acid Jazz’. The ad hoc gatherings resulted in a 1971 studio album entitled Hooteroll? — a 35-minute album that became a clandestine notch in the discography of Jerry and his cohorts.

Howard Wales & Jerry Garcia :: Space Funk

This coming Record Store Day (Black Friday), the Jerry Garcia Estate is set to reissue antother of Wales and Garcia's recorded collaborations:  Side Trips, Volume 1, available  for the first time since 1998. The 2-LP set -- recorded in 1970 at the Matrix -- is available in a limited-edition run of 2500, expertly pressed by MPO and sure to disappear quickly.

We recently caught up with Wales to explore his time with Garcia and their relationship both on and off the stage. Below is our rap with one of the more mythical musicians in the Grateful Dead orbit. words / d norsen

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