Pre-Dead Jerry Garcia Recordings to Be Released

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Hart Valley Drifters' 'Folk Time' album cover

Hart Valley Drifters’ ‘Folk Time’ album cover

Before he plugged in an electric guitar and launched the band that would become the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia was a banjo-picking bluegrass and folk musician in the region known as the Peninsula, south of San Francisco. He worked with a number of acoustic music groups in the early ’60s, one of which was called the Hart Valley Drifters.

On November 11, Round Records will release Folk Time, by the Hart Valley Drifters—the earliest known studio recording by Garcia. In addition to the 20-year-old Garcia on lead vocals, banjo and guitar, the group also included Robert Hunter (who later became Garcia’s songwriting partner in the Dead) on bass, David Nelson (later a founding member of New Riders of the Purple Sage, and still with them today) on guitar, Ken Frankel on banjo, fiddle and guitar and Norm Van Maastricht on dobro. Pre-order is available here.

This previously uncirculated recording was made in the fall of 1962 at Stanford University’s KZSU radio station Studio A by Ted Claire. According to a press release, “Claire organized the session to capture material for his radio programs Folk Time, the namesake of this release, and Flint Hill Special. The Folk Time session captures an early moment in Garcia’s career when he’d become well-educated in American roots music, and was becoming a self-taught multi-instrumentalist.”

Related: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders get a boxed set

Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter in 1962

Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter in 1962

On Folk Time, Garcia can be heard singing throughout, taking the lead on every track. Song material includes the Stanley Brothers’ “Roving Gambler” and “Think of What You’ve Done,” and Dock Boggs’ “Sugar Baby.” The collection winds up with Doc Watson’s take on the Mississippi Sheiks’ “Sitting On Top of The World” in an arrangement quite different than the one on the Grateful Dead’s debut album.

Folk Time is now available for pre-order at Garcia Family Provisions in advance of its release date. The CD or digital download are available on their own or bundled with an exclusive Hart Valley Drifters t-shirt and/or a limited edition 18”x 18” screen print of the album art signed and numbered by artist Miles Tsang in an edition of 300.

Listen to a track from the album, with Garcia singing lead…

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