Bluegrass legend puts out album of Grateful Dead music

Tue Oct 26, 2010 8:18pm EDT
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By Randall Mikkelsen

BOSTON (Reuters) - Before there was psychedelic rock and the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia played bluegrass.

Now, a legendary mandolin player whose music inspired Garcia and his Black Mountain Boys bluegrass band in the early 1960s has released a CD revealing the deep country roots of the Grateful Dead's music.

The new recording by Jesse McReynolds and Friends was released this month on Woodstock Records and is titled "Songs of the Grateful Dead." McReynolds recently performed songs from the CD at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry -- country music's home -- where he earned a standing ovation.

"I'm always looking for new ideas," said McReynolds, who rocked the traditionalist bluegrass world in 1965 with an album of Chuck Berry covers and has also recorded with The Doors.

"I didn't want this to sound like straight bluegrass," he told Reuters. "I wanted it to be more of my own sound, pretty much -- bluegrass and the Grateful Dead sound."

McReynolds, 81, made his name playing and singing with his brother in a country act called Jim & Jesse. The pair started in 1947, and Jesse developed a style of "cross-picking" that became much emulated. Jim McReynolds died in 2002.

"Songs of the Grateful Dead" was conceived and steered by Sandy Rothman, who played with Garcia in the Black Mountain Boys and shared the Grateful Dead guitarist's admiration for Jim & Jesse. Other former Black Mountain Boys on the record include guitarist David Nelson, who co-founded New Riders of the Purple Sage with Garcia, and longtime Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, who contributed lyrics to a new song on the album.

"It's just something I wanted to do as a tribute to Jerry and Robert Hunter," said McReynolds.   Continued...