Jerry Garcia’s First Studio Recordings to Be Released on ‘Folk Time’

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PHOTO: Jerald Melrose. Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter

performing in the Hart Valley Drifters

The earliest known studio recordings by Jerry Garcia will be released for the first time on November 11.

The 1962 recordings of Garcia and his folk/bluegrass quintet the Hart Valley Drifters will be issued on the album Folk Time by Round Records/ATO Records.

Garcia and the Hart Valley Drifters recorded the sessions that year in Stanford University’s KZSU studio in Palo Alto, California, cutting the tracks for the station’s program Folk Time. The “lost” session resided in a closet for nearly 50 years before the reels were unearthed in 2008 by former Stanford student Ted Claire, who produced and recorded the original session.

Five decades later, the tracks reveal Garcia in his early adult musical phase, where traces of his signature style were incubating.

You can hear the album cut “Roving Gambler” below.

The Hart Valley Drifters featured a 20-year-old Garcia on lead vocals, banjo and guitar, his future Grateful Dead collaborator Robert Hunter on bass, David Nelson on guitar, Ken Frankel on banjo, fiddle and guitar and Norm Van Maastricht on dobro. Years before Garcia and Hunter would form an iconic songwriting partnership, and Nelson would co-found New Riders of the Purple Sage, the three crafted soaring three-part vocal harmonies in the tradition of some of their American folk and bluegrass heroes.

Around this time, Garcia had been educating himself on American folk and bluegrass tradition. After learning guitar and banjo, he became a self-taught multi-instrumentalist adding, mandolin, autoharp and fiddle to his repertoire.

In 1962, all five members were basically kids in the developmental stage of becoming great musicians. The band was trying to emulate their forbearers, more than expand on the foundation laid down before them. The Hart Valley Drifters recorded spirited renditions of traditionals such as, “Roving Gambler,” “Standing In The Need of Prayer” and “Cripple Creek,” as well as the Ralph Stanley composition “Clinch Mountain Backstep” and Earl Scruggs’ “Ground Speed” and “Flint Hill Special”. The session ends with a soulful version of the Walter Jacobs Vinson/Lonnie Carter classic “Sitting on Top of The World,” which Garcia eventually evolved into the lively rendition that would wind up on the Grateful Dead’s debut album five years later.

As exciting and enjoyable as it is to hear these early recordings, Folk Time fills a void in Jerry Garcia’s musical canon. The album serves as an important historical document of a legendary cultural icon in the process of figuring out how his early influences would inform the influential artist he would go on to become.

You can pre-order Hart Valley Drifters’ Folk Time at

Hart Valley Drifters – Folk Time Track List
Track Listing
1. Band Introductions
2. “Roving Gambler” (Traditional)
3. “Ground Speed” (Earl Scruggs)
4. “Pig In A Pen” (Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith [traditional] arr. by J. Garcia)
5. “Standing In The Need Of Prayer” (Traditional)
6. “Flint Hill Special” (Earl Scruggs)
7. “Nine Pound Hammer” (Traditional)
8. “Handsome Molly” (G.B. Grayson/Henry Whitter)
9. “Clinch Mountain Backstep” (Ralph Stanley/Ruby Rakes)
10. “Think of What You’ve Done” (Carter Stanley)
11. “Cripple Creek” (Traditional)
12. “All The Good Times Have Past And Gone” (Traditional)
13. “Billy Grimes, The Rover” (Traditional)
14. “Paddy On The Turnpike (Boys, My Money’s All Gone)” (Traditional)
15. “Run Mountain” (J.E. Mainer)
16. “Sugar Baby” (Moran Dock Boggs)
17. “Sitting On Top Of The World” (Walter Jacobs Vinson/Lonnie Carter)