Jerry Garcia Band | 12.31.07 | Montana

Words & Images by: Phil Santala

Jerry Garcia Band featuring Melvin Seals :: 12.31.07 :: Whiskey Jack's :: Big Sky, MT

Melvin Seals & JGB :: 12.31.07 :: Montana
As Melvin Seals and the Jerry Garcia Band took the stage at Whiskey Jack's, two things struck me almost immediately: Seals pours his heart into his Hammond B-3 organ and his smile out onto the crowd. A relative newcomer on the concert scene, Whiskey Jack's treated the capacity crowd to an intimate event that seemed to be anything but small or contained. Maybe it was the high mountain air, the copious amount of timber or possibly just a great soundman, but the acoustics of the venue were fabulous, which can definitely make or break the energy at smaller venues.

It might seem hard to have the Jerry Garcia Band sans Jerry, but the quality of the performance is not noticeably compromised. Lead guitar player Stu Allen spent years playing in Grateful Dead cover band The Jones Gang prior to joining JGB in 2004. His voice is hauntingly familiar of early '80s Garcia, and the similarity brought goose bumps to many around me throughout the night. Melvin Seals played with the original incarnation of the Jerry Garcia Band for years, as did drummer David Kemper. Besides that, Jerry always said JGB was Melvin's band, and now I know why. Seals' personal enjoyment of the tunes he played was reflected in his singing. Not so much the singing he did into the microphone, but the singing he did to himself as Allen sang lead.

Stu Allen - Melvin Seals & JGB :: 12.31.07
st The setlist had its moments. During "Second that Emotion" the power went out momentarily but the band immediately picked up the energy when the lights came back on. "Midnight Moonlight" was a fitting song to take everyone into the break, and J.J. Cale's "After Midnight" was absolutely poetic, a rip-roaring tune to take us into the new year. JGB did a good job of mixing things up, slowing us down with a soulful "Dear Prudence" followed by a bluesy, quick-tempo "Ain't No Bread in the Bread Box."

Seals' Hammond hammering during "Dear Prudence" wasn't just eloquent it was down right holy. It was easy to see how Seals could describe his style of playing as "church vibe," a fusion of gospel, jazz and funk that is sure to please. Again and again he looked out to the crowd, grinning and feeding off the energy he was building inside the audience.

The last few songs can almost be viewed as a microcosm of the past year, and perhaps the one ahead, too. Charles Johnson's "Sisters and Brothers" made its third appearance in as many shows on New Year's Eve, and I didn't mind one bit, especially since this version came with a treat. "Sisters and Brothers" segued into Ada R. Habershon's "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." The result was sweet and poetic. Seals' gospel influenced funk fusion made this jam a real showstopper. These are two songs about life, about how joyous it can be, even in fearful, uncertain and sorrowful times. I recalled one of my recently departed brethren, and, with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face I danced.

JGB :: 12.31.07 :: Whiskey Jack's :: Big Sky, MT
Set I: Cats Under the Stars > Second That Emotion, Money Honey, They Love Each Other, Midnight Moonlight
Set II: After Midnight, Mission In The Rain, Tough Mamma, That's What Love Will Make You Do, Like A Road, Dear Prudence, Ain't No Bread In The Bread Box, Sisters And Brothers > Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Tangled Up In Blue

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VERNIXX Mon 1/7/2008 04:27PM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


The Seals & Allen band are great.

Perhaps they should consider their own legacy and perhaps make it THEIR'S instead of retroactive.

Dnumde Mon 1/7/2008 05:36PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Man, I wish I lived in Montana. You got to love Melvin, I say GOD DAMN! Anyway, great setlist hope it rocked.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Tue 1/8/2008 04:39AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

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how long will this line up last?

Melvin is a dynamo!!!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Tue 1/8/2008 04:44AM
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the appropriate title is Melvin Seals and JGB. :)

nedsflow Tue 1/8/2008 08:20AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

What a way to begin a new year!

manida Tue 1/8/2008 08:33AM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Melvin Seals may be a great musician, but Jerry Garcia wouldnt stand for the way he's treated the other musicians (except maybe David Kemper) in the lineup through the years. Just ask Jaclyn LaBranch, Gloria Jones and Judah Gold what they think of Melvin.

They should seriously consider changing the name of this band.....its time.

petemora starstarstarstarstar Tue 1/8/2008 11:40AM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
fordaj starstarstarstarstar Tue 1/8/2008 12:06PM
Show -8 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
HarryCooterman starstarstarstarstar Tue 1/8/2008 05:41PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Stu Allen is haunting, for sure. Melvin is a powerful force behind those keys. Congrats to Stu for the much due attention! Midwest love to ya!

rjd999 Tue 1/8/2008 08:29PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I mean, they do go by Melvin Seals and JGB, and they do songs that Jerry band played, but on the other hand, a nice chunk of those were covers anyways, so who cares? how many jerry originals do they do? they are all right in my book, melvin is one of my favorite musicians out there, i love the percussive style of playing hes got on that organ... id love to see them if they came out around my way

jaghabpv Tue 1/8/2008 10:31PM
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msb - melvin seals band.

guitardave starstarstar Wed 1/9/2008 06:38AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Melvin is cool. I was lucky enough to catch a handful of Jerry Band shows in the late 80s and early 90s. His organ playing was a huge part of that group's appeal. Jerry was always psyched to rock out with the JGB. It might bear noting that Ronnie Tut was the original drummer when he wasn't playing with....ELVIS!!!???

breadloaf starstarstar Wed 1/9/2008 07:57AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I am glad to see that I am not the only person who has been a little nonplussed that they have continued to use the JGB moniker. I mean, it is obviously a leg up business-wise, and I respect both the musicianship and the tribute to Jerry, but the real legacy, covers or otherwise, belongs to Mr. Garcia. I think it is a bit cheesy that they have kept the name this long- but, perhaps because I have many fond memories of seeing the man himself front his band(s).

breadloaf Wed 1/9/2008 08:00AM
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Is it really true the comment that Melivin played in the original lineup of the Jerry Band? I started seeing them in the late 70's and maybe years of the life have caught up with me, but I do not recall Melvin being part of the first Jerry Bands I saw. Can anyone help me on that? Thanks.

guitardave starstarstarstarstar Wed 1/9/2008 08:52AM
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It is not true. The first Jerry Band had Nicky Hopkins from Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton Fame. Keith Godchaux logged many years in the mid to late 70s before Melvin came on the scene, as well. Not to nitpick with the author of this article, but they don't call themselves The Jerry Garcia Band, it is simply JGB. The name JGB doesn't bother me so much, Melvin is a torchbearer for some great music that I loved. If it helps to get him bookings and he is putting out quality music, then so be it. Its a jungle out there in the club scene.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/10/2008 05:53AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

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I have one recording of the nicky hopkins with him. that is really really good. My favorite keys with JGB was Ozzie Allers, no one sounds like him!

In my mind, tho its not officially JGB, Garcia Saunders was the first incarnation. Ozzie Allers played in 1980 I know for sure.

If u want to look at this more. go to and search all the shows, its really interesting!!! peace yall.

breadloaf starstarstar Thu 1/10/2008 07:49AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

guitardave, thanks for jogging my memory. I believe I also saw Nicky Hopkins tour with Hot Tuna around that time also, right? I'm clearly overly sensitive or overprotective to Jerry's legacy, and I'm sure that the show was not only tons of fun but excellently played. However,I feel strongly that the comment "It might seem hard to have the Jerry Garcia Band sans Jerry, but the quality of the performance is not noticeably compromised" is not appropriate at all. Based on the fact that the author was not accurate about the various linups of JGB, I am wondering if he actually saw them with Jerry in order to make that comparison. For me, Jerry had such a singular presence that it went way beyond the sound itself.

guitardave starstarstar Thu 1/10/2008 11:08AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Jerry was a great singer and guitarist, but his whole is even far greater than the sum of his very talented parts. What a vibe. I enjoyed "The Dead" and Phil and Friends because they did a great job, but in a way it just makes you miss him more and more. No one can re-create that liquid guitar, and the plaintive passion in his voice. Its often overlooked that he is one of the greatest ballad singers in rock history, too.

kidd420 Thu 1/10/2008 10:01PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Big Sky Rocks! Montana Rocks! New Years Eve on the Mountain, in the Midnight Moonlight with full fireworks display After Midnight!!? We let it all hang out! The smiles on the audiences face's said it all! Melvin Seals and JGB was wonderful!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Fri 1/11/2008 09:17AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

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right on breadloaf and guitar dave!! I agree! The video I have from 1980 with ozzie allers on Keys, is my all time favorite!! It has bad video quality,but great sound quality. Also the NYE dead 1978 was one of the other best ever!! During FIRE, Jerry was in the ZONE, seeing him smiling at the audience doing those liquid solos, is the most magical thing a person could witness. I miss Jerry so damn much!!!

breadloaf starstarstar Sat 1/12/2008 08:47AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

guitardave and milesgone, I suspect we're officially the "graybeards" here. Thanks for your posts. The "plaintive" remark is spot on. I play a bunch of acoustic stuff that Jerry did, like "Off To Sea Once More," (possibly the most pathetic song of all time!) not only because the material he chose was amazing, he was such a library of musical literature, but also because I feel it is important to carry it forward so others can hear it. In this same light, perhaps that is all Melvin and Co. are doing as well and I should lay off them. The thread we share is that we simply miss Jerry- terribly. I did go to a few "Dead" and Phil & Co. shows early on, but, for me, it just made me miss Jerry too much so I stopped, knowing full well that I am missing some good music. Miles, I was sick for NYE and could not go out, so I watched dvds of SRV in Austin and the GD NYE 1978 show you mentioned- my favortie Dark Star ever- rippling, shimmering, very jazzy- I forgot how damned fast Jerry could play when he wanted. I was seeing them a lot during that period, but was not able to be there (did see other NYE CA shows). For those of you who never saw Jerry in person, guitardave's comment was so accurate- there is something way beyond the sum of the parts- I believe it has to do with the fact that Jerry was well-read, had a great sense of humor, was artistically and culturally active, and basically curious about the mystery of life. It all comes out in the wash, as they say...thanks again.

herecomes_Sunshine starstarstarstarstar Tue 1/22/2008 12:56PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I'm sorry if this sounds dumb...but is the Jerry Garcia Band playin' any more shows? Or was this it.

CaptColorado starstarstar Fri 1/25/2008 08:00AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Manida is right on the money. FYI the REAL name of the band is JGB because they won't let that fat-ass take the original name. Great trivia question for y'all...What does JGB stand for?? It's not Jerry Garcia Band... give up? It is actuall Jewish Brotherhood Guild. NO SHIT. I have a good friend that used to be a roadie for them and he tells me all kinds of horror stories about Melvin. How he despises Hippies and pot smokers (don't bother giving him joints cuz he just throws them away.) To his weight breaking the axle of their tourbus, to all the people that won't play with him anymore because he'll only pay them like $100 a night when the shows make a couple of grand easy! He needs the money to buy chicken wings and ribs. Still the music is great because it came from the heart of Jerry not the bloated gut of Melvin. I only wish that Merl Saunders was still healthy enough to be shakin his funky ass and spreading the true spirit of Jerry...

TimCorcoran Fri 1/25/2008 12:50PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


CaptColorado, your no brother. Your just a sad person hiding behind a fake name. Your so tough man. But, its your opinion to dislike Jewish people (its the way you use it in Jewish Brotherhood Guild), people that don't don't like pot, people that are over weight, people that eat chicken wings and ribs. Or, could your anger be directed at Melvin because hes successful, and your not? Could it be a hidden race issue you have within yourself? If you have a problem with Melvin, maybe you should be a man, and take it up with him instead of spreading your hate here on a public forum... Do I know you personally? God, I sure hope not... Your mean spirited to the bone, and mean people suck. Your post needs to be deleted.