WE WANT YOU! To take the DEAD TEST!
by Rich Saltz & Russell S. Glowatz
After Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead, most of us have been overwhelmingly positive regarding the experience, and the choice the Core Four made in choosing Trey Anastasio as lead guitarist for the five show run. Yet some remain critical of Trey, and even after throwing down, they do not believe he was the right selection. And while much criticism has boiled to the surface over Fare Thee Well, this friction seems to stem from the central question in an ongoing debate that has been happening for the last two decades: can anyone truly fulfill the role of Jerry Garcia in all the various Grateful Dead offshoots and incarnations?
The simple answer is no. There’s no one out there that will truly, 100%, replace the magic that Jerry brought to the stage, time and time again, over a thirty year period. No one can truly mirror Jerry, nor should they. Yet despite this debate, several exemplary musicians have dared to cross the threshold through the years, and bring their own style and cadence into play for our listening pleasure. They’ve created new magic, their own magic, and shared it with the rest of us. These men should be honored; not for emulating Garcia, but for stepping into a situation where, no matter what they do, or how they perform, they will be roasted one way or another. Whether they aim towards replication or reinvention, criticism is often the hallmark of many of these performances. As deadheads, we are a critical bunch, and while it may be unfair to compare the stylings of these men to Garcia himself, we often can not help ourselves.
Nevertheless, each of those that dared are outstanding performers in their own right…the former GD band members would have never chosen them otherwise. For the rumored upcoming tour, the three band members that are allegedly taking John Mayer with them, would not be if it wasn’t for his consummate skills, and his understanding of the Dead canon as a whole. You do not have to be a fan of John Mayer music to appreciate his competence as a guitarist extraordinaire. The band realizes this, and as deadheads we should respect the band’s decisions, and applaud the musicianship of Mayer and the rest these men, even despite our personal opinions.
In the spirit of celebration of 50 years of transcendent music, we present this quiz to test your wits in respect to a handful of these guitar players’ stylings. Rich Saltz, a fellow Deadhead, edited together the below Soundcloud clips, without any labeling, so we deadheads can challenge our preconceived notions about who our favorite deadhead family guitarists have been. With an aim towards open-mindedness, please press play on the below Soundcloud file, and while you’re listening, scroll down and take the quiz. Choose the lead guitarist that you think is playing in each respective clip. Rich chose to take six versions of the first break of Morning Dew, played by six different guitarists, and leave it up to our wits, experience, and overall knowledge to guess who’s who. The original intent was to listen to each clip without the added prejudice of knowing who is playing them, and then decide which one is your favorite…in upping the ante, we’re now asking you to identify each respective player.
While many of you will surely hypothesize correctly, we imagine many of you will not as well. And in making errors in identification, perhaps some folks will drop their preconceived notions relating to who is better than who. If even through doing this, one person develops a new respect for one or more of these impeccable guitarists, then this experiment will be absolutely worthwhile. The most important thing is to be kind through this process, and in any comments thereafter. Criticism is fine, but try to make it constructive and purposeful, and most of all, respectful.
And while only six guitarists were chosen for this test (Jerry Garcia, Trey Anastasio, John Kadlecik, Stu Allen, Jimmy Herring, and Warren Haynes), many more deserve a shout out. Including those mentioned, we’d like to thank the whole bunch of Dead family lead guitarists for continuing to spread the music we hold dear to our hearts. So thank you Steve Kimock, Mark Karan, Jeff Mattson, Larry Campbell, Barry Sless, Jeff Pevar, Al Schnier, Jackie Greene, Robben Ford, Derek Trucks, John Scofield, Stanley Jordan, Keller Williams, and likely a few others as well, for giving us your best over these past couple decades.
Now press play, sit back, and enjoy the Dead Test! And most importantly, have fun!
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© Watts Glow Grateful Productions, 2015