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DesertDead

If Pig was still alive

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Would like to please hear some thoughts about what would have transpired for the GD if Pigpen were alive today.

 

 

 

 

Inadvertent assist for the thread idea to Gr8ful Pair, for his contributions to the lyric sampling thread continue along one righteous, bluesy theme.  Dig it, Brah.  

 

 

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It's an imponderable question. Not to be morbid or fatalistic, but a person who believes in destiny might suggest that Pigpen died for the music to be able to blossom in to what it has become.

 

In regards to your question: imagine '74 with Pig healthy and playing in the band. The music would've been completely different, for neither better nor worse.

 

Amongst the original Grateful Dead camp, I think it's unanimously agreed upon that he was the very heart and soul of the group.

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Sometime after I posted this it occurred to me that I may have posed this same question to the Board before.

 

The truth is, I can’t remember if that’s true, or if I’m just imagining that it’s true.

 

I’m pretty sure, though, lol!  😂

 

 

 

So amid this mea culpa, I hope this becomes a lesson for younger, healthier minds:  don’t do drugs.  

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I think whether said before or not, the band would have evolved very differently. Pig was the King Bee, and Pig was all about some blues. 

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This won't be popular....please remember, it's just an opinion based on taste.

 

Assuming Pigpen's health was never compromised and stayed with the band in his full capacity as the front man, I don't think the band evolves to their full potential and we are likely not here today.

 

(Of course, it's also possible that the band continues in the path they were on by 1970 of progressing beyond his capabilities and either continues working around him, or brings on another keyboardist to play many songs).

 

Pig was a blues musician.  During the mid-sixties, much of the American youth was being introduced to blues for the first time and you were seeing its' influence throughout the music of the day.  Stones, Clapton, etc were all re-working blues material into their sets.  The times contributed to his appeal.  He was a mix of the blues and the counter-culture.  However, he was not the best bluesman (imo) out there, and I don't think his musical appeal would have outlasted the era.

 

Had the Grateful Dead not progressed past Pigpen and his blues-centric style, I am not sure they would have become the cultural and musical entity they were.  With or without Pigpen,  I don't think they were ever a great blues band.  That includes Weir's blues numbers.  Advancing the blues beyond what it once was is something very few have achieved (ex. Clapton, Allman's, Stevie Ray Vaughn).  The Dead, with Pig at the helm, were not taking the blues to any new levels of lasting significance. 

 

They Dead became a genre of their own.  Superb musicianship.  The ability to play a gentle and beautiful ballad, while still able to achieve the power of the Other One.  Lyrics that pull from history, love, beauty, psychadelia, Americana, and many other influences and cultures.  The confluence of rock and roll, jazz improv, psychadelia, bluegrass, ballads, cowboy music, country music, Dylan music, etc....all in one band.  They became all of that and more.  To call them a musical act associates them with all of the other bands throughout the history of time and diminishes what they were. They truly are the "band beyond description".

 

Pigpen could really only operate in one of those arenas.....singing the blues.  I cannot envision how the band evolves into the musical phenomena that they did if Pigpen remained as a featured musician, or as the front man for any more than only minimal amounts of material. 

 

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An Alternate Reality in Grateful Dead History

 

An actual conversation among our friends

 

 

Yeti van Marshall,  New Jersey

As the 20th year approaches strange thoughts go round my head. If Jerry had suffered the injury to his left middle finger, instead of the right hand, I ponder the following …. Jerry does not become GD guitarist?

 

Doc Watson,  North Georgia

Jerry goes on to play guitar but he is not as skilled. He joins his friend Robert in writing songs for Broadway. Pigpen meets Jonny Winter and they form a blues band in Houston. After several extended tours, Janis joins them to add a screaming vocal to their favorite song "Paying in the Blues Band." Houston becomes the center of a new culture for the young that are turning away from main line culture.

 Fifty years later we celebrate the blues in a small bar on the bay.

 

Poetry Girl, Carolinas

Phil continues to play trumpet and goes on into jazz. Bobby never meets his real father and mother and doesn't find his brother from a different mother, Jerry.

 

 

 John A,  San Francisco

Weir is a lounge act in Vegas.

 

 

Chuck O’Vegas,  Los Vegas

Jorma and a host of others leave the brisk foggy Bay Area for the steamy new blues scene in Houston,  and the San Francisco sound becomes a niche sideshow. Acid is considered a strange and marginalized affectation while all the cool kids get heavily into Burgundy wine. This leads authorities to be concerned about a new generation of winos, into "sex booze and the blues." In reaction, the federal government ties appropriation of highway funds to the states to a requirement that the drinking age be raised to 30

 

           

 

            This is why I drink Burgundy wine in the winter.

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Quote

 

John A,  San Francisco

Weir is a lounge act in Vegas.

 

 

Hey - I even recall actually saying that!

 

Mojo - good post.  What it doesn't account for, however, is that while Pigpen was still at a reasonable facsimile of his peak blues self the Dead were already evolving, and at an incredible pace.  Garcia was ultimately the front man even by '68 when the psychedelic stuff came into full bloom.  The band was in full 40+ minute Dark Star bloom in Europe '72, while Pig still commanded 3-4 songs a night. I'm not convinced that even in full health he'd have been more of a presence than that. 

 

What would almost certainly have happened is there'd have been no major evolution of Weir as blues man. Personally, I wouldn't have lamented that. 

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2 hours ago, John A said:

 

What would almost certainly have happened is there'd have been no major evolution of Weir as blues man. Personally, I wouldn't have lamented that. 

Wait - you don't long for Bobby's rendition of The Same Thing?

 

Yeah - I think Jerry was going to stir the drink whether Pig was in the mix or not.  Jerry was just next-level and his talent would/could not be denied.  

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I agree with John A. Jerry's personality and playing   was too strong, dominate for him not to become the leader of the band. A band, his band, the Grateful Dead. The influence of Robert Hunter, the times,  and LSD must be acknowledged also. Pigpen started things but what came to fruition is based on so much more than whether he 'left' the band. Constanten, Keith, Donna, Brent, he'll, even Jerry left the band. The question is impossible to answer but I might as well try, might as well try.

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certainly the evolution started while Pigpen was still alive and his failing health definitely made it easier for him to stand down. 

I think the GD is more than Jerry though.........it is the perfect storm of those musicians.

I have never read of anyone speak to this matter, especially Pigpen's ego or lack thereof......but if Pigpen were healthy the whole way through, would he have so willingly gotten out of the way, and by doing so, allow the evolution?

 

He was the first front man and only front man.  After Pig, they became a band of equals.  If not for failing health, would it have evolved the way it did?  Everyone has an ego.  Who knows how long they could sustain with their nationally famous front man becoming part of the backdrop?  But this is exactly the type of topic and hypothetical that I love to waste time on. 

 

Someone noted that Jerry's talent would not be denied and he was going to stir the drink either way.  No doubt.  But he alone is not the GD.  I believe they are the perfect storm of mostly equal parts, and am always hesitant to call Jerry the leader.  He didn't even like to call himself the leader.  Is it conceivable that Pig may have not liked the evolution, and the band may have gone separate ways over the matter?  Who knows and who cares really?  But fun to think about for me.

 

Yes. Jerry's talent was not to be denied.  However, IMHO.....there is a significant difference between The Jerry Garcia Band and the Grateful Dead.  No doubt Jerry and whatever band he played with would become a world famous band and touring entity.  For sure, Jerry could not be denied that. But the Grateful Dead is a whole different ball game.   

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I think what folks are forgetting here is that while Pigpen was still healthy he, along with Weir, were actually kicked out of the band for a brief period due to the perception they were falling behind the rest of the group's musical evolution. There's no crystal clear timeline or narrative to this, but in late summer/early fall 1968 they were fired! 

 

If it was Pigpen's band in the days of the Warlocks and the initial transition to being the Grateful Dead, you had better bet it was Garcia's band by 1968.

 

A good essay can be found on this subject here:

http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2011/03/1968-firing.html

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