As the founding member of The Grateful Dead, Garcia performed with the group for the entirety of its 30-year career. As well as participating in a range of side projects, Garcia was the unofficial leader of the band and his attitude towards music permeated everything the group were renowned for. He unified their sound with his swashbuckling guitar performances. One such moment can be revisited below as we take a listen to his isolated guitar for the song (or perhaps it’s better called a jam) ‘Truckin”.
Before the release of ‘Touch of Grey’, the band’s eighties heartthrob, ‘Truckin” was The Grateful Dead’s highest-charting single, and with good reason. The song is pumped full of guitar licks and rolling rhythm which will please any Dead fan but also comes with the delightful caveat that it was written by four of the band’s songwriters. It means that ‘Truckin” is a curious number for the Dead.
Few of The Grateful Dead’s songs were written this way, preferring instead to let Garcia and Robert Hunter handle things and the nuance can certainly be heard in the robust studio production. A low-slung shuffle makes the track’s sonic landscape feel blurry, but it hasn’t stopped the song being recognised as an integral piece of pop culture by the Library of Congress who included the song as a national treasure in 1997.
However, we’re more concerned with the live performance of the song from 1972, at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Hall and the guitar of Jerry Garcia. Brought to us by YouTuber First Last, they say of the isolated track: “This is the Right Channel Audio from this soundboard tapes and is primarily Jerry’s guitar. Not sure who was running the mix, but this is a nice treat!”
It certainly is. Through this isolated track we get to not only hear the intricacies in Garcia’s playing, something usually covered by the cacophony of rock happening on stage alongside him, but the technical ability and all-round experience Garcia provided too. As ever, the most choice cuts are taken from Garcia’s improvisations.
For Garcia music was about the moment. Whether that moment took him off course for the chorus was by the by, for Garcia it wasn’t the destination but the journey that was important. This attitude, complemented by the band’s impressive musical chops, meant the group and their performances will go down in history.
A key part of writing their name in the annals of rock will be Jerry Garcia’s guitar, of which below, you can hear an up close and personal introduction.