Time To Embrace The Grateful Dead.


So when we last left our hero, I had just gone from touring & working with bands from Philly to Maryland to following the Grateful Dead. First it had been just segments of tours. Now, I had flown to the 1st show of summer tour (in Minnesota) with tickets but no ride or places to stay lined up. It was exciting ! After the show in the twin cities I somehow squeezed in with a caravan of three vehicles on the way to the next stop: Alpine Valley, Wisconsin. And when I say squeezed in, I mean it was tight ! I had only met these people the night before, and they didn’t owe me anything, but they gave me a ride nonetheless. I would soon learn (in my own perception of just how things went down at shows) that there are essentially three rules of touring:
1. Everybody gets into the show if possible. If you were traveling with people you would help them find tickets, pop open a door, or do anything you could to get everybody in.

2. Everybody gets a place to stay. We would commonly fill up any floor space at the hotels we stayed at. Make sure people got to their respective campgrounds, had sleeping gear or at least protection of some kind against the elements

3. Nobody gets left behind. Especially if you came across people who were really high and had no idea who they had come with or where they were staying. We would stay until the police were clearing the parking lots and gather up anybody who looked like they needed a ride or help. This was especially true in the big cities where venues were often downtown in bad areas where you could easily see how a person (picture a young college girl really high for their first time) could be taken advantage of and end up in a real dangerous situation.

On the way to the next show, many of us dropped acid and there’s nothing more fun than a roadtrip through America’s Heartland than such a trip while tripping.
I remember us finding a bounce house at some stop off the Interstate. The look the locals had, as they held back their children while the heads took over, is forever burned in my brain. I can only imagine it was similar to what the Merry Pranksters encountered Twenty years earlier on Kesey’s Further Bus. I kind of feel sorry for those kids now but Hey, I was high in a bounce house, AWESOME.
I also remember us holding empty soda cups to our ears along the way. By pulling them slightly away and then back, in beat with the music we were listening to (most likely Dead tapes) a really cool sound effect was created that I still do at concerts today. < I don’t know why I decided to include that bit just now, but writing all of this down is bringing back buried memories and I’ve really wanted to get some of this on paper before It escapes me anymore than it may have already.>

Now for Alpine Valley. We arrived to find long, long lines for the giant camping areas that would be our home for the next four nights. I decide to jump out and check out what was ahead. Dumb move. Fascinated by the scene in front of me, I quickly lost track of my ride and soon found myself barefoot, high, with none of my gear wandering around aimlessly with 50,000 or so other heads. I think I stayed up for most of the night meeting new people, visiting camps and just connecting. Not really worried, I found my ride the next day and all was good.
This was the Dead at its best. Camping, heads freely vending selling whatever you could imagine. I think this is where I hooked up with the Smoothie guy and helped out to make some quick cash. I also remember finding a small stream next to the camping areas that provided a nice muddy respite from that year’s scorching heat. On my way one night to the stream I found a case of beer in the woods that I quickly sold for a $1.00 a pop. I soon realized you could get and sell anything on tour. Including drugs. Yes, soon I was “a swinger” making pretty good money on mushrooms and acid that friends would front to me. And we took our jobs seriously. We felt that we were performing a noble service providing psychedelics to those who were there just for a show or two. Spreading the light, so to speak. And back then, in the late 80’s, enforcement by authorities was minimal.
So I made my way back to Kennett Square. The shows were awesome, I met new friends, also “on Tour”, including a hot, young redhead named Shawna. She came back with me to Dunleigh Castle and we reluctantly worked 9 – 5 jobs (me in a fabric warehouse), but while in love, I recall us having a less than perfect time together. But hopeful, and me again drawn to dramatic change in my life, we moved down to Charleston, South Carolina where she had grown up.
We drove down and back a couple of times figuring out the move. The last time she stayed with her folks, while I returned alone to grab my stuff. My 1976 purple Datsun F-10, complete with a back window full of Dead stickers, was filled to capacity. This included a two-foot pot plant that I had seat-belted next to me. I left PA and drove all night, excited about my new life in Charleston and my relationship with Shawna. Upon arrival, some friends of Shawna let me stay with them. I was “couch-surfing” essentially, the plan being Shawna and I would soon get a place of our own. But Nooooooo, I was soon told by Shawna that she had re-fallen for her high school beau and I was on my own. Her friends, thinking this was pretty uncool, (if not down right mean) let me stay with them, giving me, not only a roof over my head, but a group with whom to hangout with as well. We were all young heads partying it up - experimenting with drugs, love, and everything that goes with communal, alternative living. I went about trying to get techie work with the few Theatres in town with no success. Not giving up, I soon found a job at a candle shop. Located in the touristy section of downtown Charleston, this was no regular candle shop. I learned how to carve candles, in daily demonstrations, becoming the first male carver in company history. The first guy to work at the store, I had charmed the manager since my interview, a real southern belle named Jane Petty, age 28 (to my 20 at the time.), and within two weeks was enjoying all the benefits of a job: a paycheck and SEX with the new boss. Hmm, guess I’ve always had a thing for older women. And redheads (though Jane was a brunette).
But things didn’t stay the same back then for long. After my 21st Birthday, my relationship with Jane having run its course, I was back on the road. I hooked up with a friend, another John, and headed West. A friend of his gave us our first ride all the way to Boulder, Colorado, a Deadhead Mecca “where the four winds blow.” We met a girl, who claimed to be an illegitimate daughter of Jerry Garcia, named Melody and the three of us began our trek, down towards Albuquerque. Mind you, it’s January and it’s Winter. Now picture this: three heads on the side of the Interstate with bags of belongings, guitars, not trying real hard to get a ride. What a freak show we were. John and I would soon argue, however, (over the girl ?) him leaving us to make his own way. This made getting rides for Melody and I easier and we soon made it through the desert to Barstow, CA. Memorable, was a side trip into Winslow AZ where she picked up an old guitar she said was one of Jerry Garcia’s first. I’m not sure if I ever bought her story, but hey, it makes a good tale. She could play, though, I remember her performing a perfect rendition of Me and Bobbie McGee for a trucker who picked us up.
Freezing our ***** off in Barstow, spirits low, ready to break into anything to get out of the weather, we were soon rescued (so to speak) by an off-duty cabbie, really high on speed, who would drive us all the way to Santa Cruz, CA. Here, the deadhead scene was strong, the Pacific Garden Mall was filled wth kids just like us. Melody was soon picked up by some serious – looking, older hippies, and I don’t think I ever saw her again. But I was too busy taking everything in. Upon my return to the West, everything made sense all of a sudden. I understood the significance of San Francisco & Haight-Ashbury; Santa Cruz and Highway 1: Humboldt County and the Redwoods – I had grown up in this crazy state, but it took living on the East coast, dead tour, and my subsequent return to “GET IT” California was a new place for me. And I was now twenty-one, a tour veteran, and ready to party.
I saw Jerry Garcia perform solo with his own band at the Orpheum Theatre. It was transformative. It was different than seeing the dead. Those shows were for rocking out and getting really high. Jerry shows, where we also rocked out and got really high, had a more spiritual feel to them somehow. And with him mixing in some Gospel tunes, it’s no surprise we called attending JGB shows –“going to church.” Now wait a second, did I just equate the dead, jerry, and touring with, with …. RELIGION ?

Stay tuned for the continued adventures of J.T. Next time, Johnny gets super - spiritual and has trouble in Indiana.

johnnybliss johnnybliss
41-45, M
1 Response Jul 26, 2010

I posted this out of order it should be read before "The Grateful Dead, Hare Krsna and Mt. Shasta"