'Pure Jerry' Series Showcases Live Garcia

In the tradition of the Grateful Dead's "Dick's Picks" and "From the Vault" albums of archival live recordings, a series of concert recordings of the band's late guitarist/singer's solo outings has be


In the tradition of the Grateful Dead's "Dick's Picks" and "From the Vault" albums of archival live recordings, a series of concert recordings of the band's late guitarist/singer's solo outings has been established. The "Pure Jerry" discs will be sold exclusively online via JerryGarcia.com.

The series is being manufactured and distributed by Jerry Garcia Estate LLC, which oversees licensing of Garcia's name and likeness as well as administrations of his solo recordings.

"There has been such a lack of focus on the music since he died," Christopher Sabec, who has headed the organization since early 2003, tells Billboard.com. "It really seemed to be the gaping hole, what was missing was Jerry's music, and I have really made that my priority."

The Estate established its own library of Garcia's work when the Dead reorganized its storied vault and returned solo tapes to the individual band members. Nearly 80 boxes of tapes yielded more than 500 concert recordings, as well as studio sessions. The latter spawned last year's five-disc "All Good Things: Jerry Garcia Studio Sessions" Rhino box set.

Now the concentration has moved over to the live recordings. Two-track recordings will be cleaned up and released under the "Pure Jerry" banner, while a soon-to-be-announced series of shows captured on multi-track recordings will be released through Warner Strategic Marketing and Rhino.

"Pure Jerry" is inaugurated with a three-disc set stemming from a 1977 Jerry Garcia Band appearance at San Francisco's Theatre 1839. The release features Garcia backed by the Dead's Keith and Donna Jean Godchaux on keyboards and vocals, respectively; John Kahn on bass and drummer/vocalist Ron Tutt.

The 18-track set is created from incomplete tapes of the JGB's July 29 and 30 shows at the venue, a former synagogue located next door to the famed Fillmore Auditorium -- the Dead's de facto home venue -- that hosted shows for just one summer. That the tapes needed substantial restoration is hardly noticeable in the finished product.

Most of the selections are covers, including such time-tested Garcia favorites as Bob Dylan's "Simple Twist of Fate" and "Tangled up in Blue," as well as selections by the Miracles, the Temptations, Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley. There are also several tracks Garcia penned with frequent collaborator/lyricist Robert Hunter, including a passionate, somewhat dreamy take on the Dead favorite "Friend of the Devil" that opens the second disc.

"We're trying to be just as true to Jerry as a working musician as we can," Sabec says. "This is about Jerry; raw, pure Jerry."

Three or four new additions to the series will emerge each year, chosen from a library of recordings numbering more than 500. Sabec promises the series will showcase the many sides of Garcia's musical personality.

"It's unbelievably impressive," he says. "In the '70s alone, he performed with something like 35 different ensembles, in one decade. There's a wealth of material to go through, lots of variety."

While acknowledging the Estate's ongoing success with such things as ties based on the late musician's art and the more recent establishment of J. Garcia wines, Sabec says he wants to stay true to the musician's spirit.

"Jerry wasn't a tie designer, Jerry wasn't a vintner," he says. "Jerry was a musician and it is my goal to see that he is remembered that way."