Deadheads know multitalented David Gans as an author, radio host, journalist, and musician, all roles he has played for Dead scholars and fans for decades. He has also been a tireless supporter of the Archive, contributing his time and expertise as well as a fascinating collection of materials documenting the writing of his Playing in the Band: An Oral and Visual Portrait of the Grateful Dead (St. Martins, 1996).
His latest gift is a set of hundreds of tapes and CDs of his long-running syndicated radio show, The Grateful Dead Hour, which add a rich vein of music and commentary to the Archive’s already extensive musical holdings.
Gans’s knowledge of the Dead is nonpareil, and listeners to the Grateful Dead Hour not only hear first-rate gems from the band’s thirty years of performances, but also interviews, commentary, and recent performances by the surviving band members, all of whom continue to make great music—and headlines—today. Gans’s long experience with the band—he first saw them in the early 1970s—along with his years of interviewing and reading make him one of the foremost authorities on the band’s music and history.
That erudition shines in every Grateful Dead Hour as well as in his more freewheeling Tales From the Golden Road, cohosted with Gary Lambert and heard weekly on Sirius XM. Gans salts his broadcasts with insights into the band’s development and achievement that make each broadcast a trove of useful information for scholars. The Archive thanks him for his generosity and support.
As I was writing this, Gans’s latest musical project, The Sycamore Slough String Band, has been playing in the background. A superb collection of mostly Dead covers (listen especially to their superb reimagining of “New Speedway Boogie”), the band’s First Rehearsals CD showcases the magic that can happen when fine musicians well-versed in the Dead’s unique approach to small group improvisation get together to play their favorite tunes from the Grateful Dead songbook. The band’s bluegrass/newgrass arrangements tease out new layers of meaning to chestnuts long familiar to Deadheads, making this one of the most exciting revisits of Dead music in many years. Recommended.