April 27, 2011

Grateful Dead Archive Receives Vital Dick Latvala Materials

The Grateful Dead Archive is honored to announce the final accrual for the Dick Latvala Collection, a vital affiliated collection in the larger Grateful Dead Archive. Personally delivered to UC Santa Cruz’s McHenry Library by Latvala’s son Rich, this generous gift completes the Latvala Collection with a number of important recordings, many in Dick’s inimitably hand-decorated boxes, along with a cache of files.

Scholars and fans will be pleased to note that Deadheads often illustrated their letters to Dick, just as they did their missives to the band. While the Archive generally does not accept gifts of equipment, there was no question about the significance of the Technics reel-to-reel recorder that accompanied the bequest: This is the machine that Dick used to create his incomparable collection of reels, now housed with the Grateful Dead Archive. In keeping with Dick’s commitment to sonic perfection, it was maintained scrupulously, and arrived in pristine condition, like it had just rolled off the assembly line—except for the gold-toned Steal-Your-Face sticker, prominently mounted on the front.

Best known as the namesake of the famed recording series Dick’s Picks, Latvala (1943-1999) became an avowed fan in 1966, first seeing the Dead perform at the fabled Trips Festival held in San Francisco’s Longshoreman’s Hall that January. A longtime taper who attended more than 300 shows, he went to work for the band later and eventually was named the first Vault Archivist, a role that finally allowed him to midwife the series of live recordings bearing his name and much beloved by Deadheads to this day.

His centrality to the scene and the contribution he made the Grateful Dead phenomenon were as outsized as his ebullient personality, and his unwavering drive to care for the band’s recorded legacy made him one of the two dedicatees of Dennis McNally’s authorized band history, A Long Strange Trip, along with Jerry Garcia. As McNally said in an interview, “there’s God and His chief disciple … the dual dedication is very heartfelt. Garcia gave me my chance … And Dick was his great follower.” The Archive is most grateful to Rich and his mother Carol for this gift.