WE WANT YOU! To take DEAD TEST TOO!
Test by Rich Saltz, Words by Russell S. Glowatz
With the rousing success of the first Dead Test, our test maker extraordinaire, Rich Saltz, decided to whip up another one! While many that took the first test were able to hands down match every musician with their musicianship, many more could not, and based upon numerous comments throughout the interweb, deadheads found themselves humbled when faced with the anonymous mastery of all these musicians. This was truly the Pepsi Challenge for deadheads, with one majorly different aim. While the Pepsi Challenge was a blind soft drink taste test, with the aim to have folks choose Pepsi every time, the Dead Test was meant to confuse the senses, and ultimately open the eyes of some that otherwise felt that many of these musicians did not have the chops to step into Jerry’s shoes. If Jerry was Pepsi, we wanted you to see the merits of Coca-Cola, RC Cola, and even Tab, during this metaphorical taste test.
Well the results are in, and barring a couple of examples, no more than one-third of the 2,775 participants matched each of the song clips with their respective players. The two exceptions being Jerry Garcia and Trey Anastasio, where participants answered correctly roughly 50% of the time. Since we are all deadheads here, the higher percentage rate on Jerry makes perfect sense, but still nearly fifty percent of devout deadheads (because you had to be pretty devout to take the time for this quiz) were not able to pick Jerry out of the pack. The higher percentage on Trey also serves to highlight his unique approach when attacking the Grateful Dead catalog, or pretty much anything Trey plays. Even myself, who doesn’t exactly have a great ear for such things, can hear a Trey riff coming from a mile away. But the takeaway here is that two-thirds of us fell flat on our faces while taking the Dead Test.
There’s truly nothing wrong with failing miserably at such tests, and it goes to show that one can love this music just as much as the next guy or gal without having the ear to decipher the particular peculiarities between different players. I truly hope that this past quiz and the new one has or will open some minds to the playing styles of many musicians that have joined the extended Grateful Dead family since Jerry’s passing. While Jerry is truly one of a kind, and will always be the barometer when discussing such things, it’s been twenty years since papa bear’s passing, and in that time there has been exemplary moments of musical majesty that we as a community were lucky enough to take part in. And while when in the mood to listen to some GD music, we may, by default, pop on a show with Jerry, there are countless shows from the last twenty years that deserve one, two, or thousands of more plays as well.
With an eye towards the future, we have a lot of GD history yet to be made. With Bob Weir and Mickey Hart just added to the Lockn’ roster in September (joining Phil and Billy), there will be several collaborations with various guitarists filling Jerry’s old role. And while Lockn’ may already be a lock in the yet to be told GD history of 2015, there’s been a consistent rumor going around regarding three of the Core Four touring this fall with John Mayer. Say what you will about John Mayer’s music, but he’s an exemplary guitarist, with such grit, that I am certain that Jerry would have loved to collaborate with him, as Weir and Lesh have already done so. The man has an intricate understanding of the Grateful Dead canon, and has already proven he’s able to bring his own panache to the mix when playing with the boys. While you’d never catch me at a John Mayer concert, I will be lining up for tickets for this tour, as it will serve to be legendary in this, the 50th year of Grateful Dead.
In the spirit of celebration of fifty years of transcendent music, we present this quiz to test your wits in respect to a handful of these guitar players’ modus operandi. Rich Saltz, a fellow deadhead and guitarist extraordinaire in his own right, 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 version. Rich chose to take seven different clips from They Love Each Other (which is fitting because all these guys would love each other’s form), played by seven 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 whom. 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. If there were a Grateful Dead hall of fame, John Kadlecik, Jeff Mattson, Steve Kimock, Stu Allen, John Mayer and Mark Karan would all have their rightful place within, right aside Jerry Garcia himself.
Now press play, sit back, and enjoy Dead Test Too! And most importantly, have fun!
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Also, if you’re interested in the shows we used for the first Dead Test, here are the dates and bands:
Jerry Garcia – Grateful Dead- Cow Palace 12/31/76
Stu Allen – Phil & Friends – 6/12/15
Trey Anastasio – Fare Thee Well – 6/27/15
John Kadlecik – Furthur – 7/28/11
Jimmy Herring – The Dead – 8/10/03
Warren Haynes – The Dead – 7/4/09
© Watts Glow Grateful Productions, 2015