Days Between: Jerry Garcia Band – Final Lineup

On the anniversary of Jerry Garcia's death, revisit the final lineup of the Jerry Garcia Band.

By Andy Kahn Aug 9, 2022 10:32 am PDT

Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia was born on August 1, 1942 and died on August 9, 1995 at the age of 53. Each year, the “Days Between” Garcia’s birthday and the anniversary of his death mark a period of time to reflect on and celebrate the beloved musician’s life and career. This year, JamBase honors the Days Between by examining the evolution of the Jerry Garcia Band from inception in 1975 through a final performance in 1995.

While there is much to be said and written about the various eras of the Jerry Garcia Band – from its initial lineup to the Godchaux era, to the Reconstruction detour to the classic lineup and the acoustic lineup – the same is not true for the group’s final lineup.

The final JGB lineup has just one personnel difference from the classic lineup, as drummer Donny Baldwin was tapped in 1994 to replace David Kemper who had been a JGB member since 1984. Baldwin’s stint behind the kit for JGB started at a show on February 4, 1994, and ended with the group’s final concert on April 23, 1995 – both shows were at JGB’s most-played venue, The Warfield in San Francisco.

The Maker – February 6, 1994

Baldwin was behind the kit for 39 Jerry Garcia Band concerts. Baldwin’s addition saw the return of Bob Dylan’s “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” for the first time since 1986, Allen Toussaint’s “I’ll Take A Melody” for the first time since 1990, Jimmy Cliff’s “Harder They Come” for the first since 1991 and Los Lobos’ “Evangeline” for the first time since 1992. The Baldwin era included the addition of “Johnny Too Bad,” which was first recorded by the reggae group The Slickers and covered by JGB a few times in 1994 and 1995.

According to JerryBase, Baldwin was the 25th musician to take up membership in the Jerry Garcia Band. The final lineup was rounded out by the rest of the classic lineup – Garcia, bassist bassist John Kahn, keyboardist Melvin Seals and vocalists Gloria Jones and Jacklyn LaBranch.

Kahn was the only bass player in the Jerry Garcia Band and, besides Garcia, its only other consistent member. (Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh filled in for Kahn for a few shows in 1983 but was never a true member of the band).

Seals was the next longest-tenured JGB member behind Garcia and Kahn. He was one of six keyboardists who held membership in the band, along with Nicky Hopkins, Keith Godchaux, James Booker, Ozzie Ahlers and Jimmy Warren.

Jones and LaBranch were among 10 backing vocalists who spent time as JGB members, along with Donna Jean Godchaux, Maria Muldaur, Liz Stires, Essra Mohawk, Julie Stafford, Shirley Faulkner, Elisecia Wright and DeeDee Dickerson.

Jerry Garcia Band – May 17, 1994

Baldwin was the Jerry Garcia Band’s ninth drummer, joining previous time keepers Kemper, Ron Tutt, Gaylord Birch, Bill Kreutzmann, Daoud Shaw, John d’Fonseca, Buzz Buchanan and Greg Errico.

Prior to joining JGB, Baldwin was perhaps best-known as a member of Jefferson Starship (and Starship) from 1981 to 1989. A native of San Francisco, Baldwin toured with the Elvin Bishop Band from 1973 to 1978 and played drums on the hit single, “Fooled Around And Fell In Love,” which featured Jefferson Starship vocalist Mickey Thomas.

Melvin Seals was another of Elvin Bishop’s collaborators, and both Seals and Baldwin appeared on Bishop’s 1977 album, Rasin’ Hell. Baldwin and Seals contributed to Thomas’ 1977 solo album, As Long As You Love Me, both appearing on the track “Where Are We.”

Mickey Thomas – Where Are We

A notorious altercation in 1989 between Baldwin and Thomas while Starship was on tour in Scranton, Pennsylvania left Thomas severely injured and requiring surgery to repair facial fractures. The tour was subsequently canceled and Baldwin was asked to leave the band.

Baldwin rejoined Jefferson Starship in 2008 and continues to tour with the group. According to his bio on the Jefferson Starship website, Baldwin’s touring and recording credits include working with, “Kenny Loggins, Pablo Cruise, Chuck Berry, Van Morrison, Ronnie Montrose, Greg Allman, Heart, Lydia Pense & Cold Blood, .38 Special and Eddie Money.”

Jerry Garcia Band – April 23, 1995

In 1995, a three-night run at The Warfield held April 21, 22 and 23 proved to be the final JGB shows. Garcia’s death, on this date in 1995, effectively ended the band – and the Grateful Dead as well.

The remaining members of the final Jerry Garcia Band lineup came together in May 1996 to perform at the former Santa Cruz, California venue Palookaville. Billed as the John Kahn Band, the lineup also included newcomers, vocalist Larry Batiste and guitarist Ho-Young Kim.

According to Seals, the first concert avoided songs previously played by Garcia and the band. The keyboardist told Santa Cruz news outlet Good Times about the gigs, stating:

“It was going to be called The John Kahn Band. Kahn added some additional singers and musicians that were not in the Jerry Garcia Band, like Larry Batiste and a few other people. Kahn didn’t want to play JGB songs, but songs in the style that Jerry Garcia would definitely have played. At that time, people were hurting, and Kahn wanted to stay away from [Garcia’s] signature songs. So we played a lot of Motown songs like ‘Beechwood 4-5789,’ songs Jerry would have easily said yes to.”

The second concert, which was added after the first rapidly sold out, saw Kahn shift strategy, resulting in a few JGB staples being played. “Folks still wanted to hear this music in spite of the king not being on guitar,” Seals said.

John Kahn Band – May 5, 1996 – That’s What Love Will Make You Do

John Kahn’s death on May 30, 1996, at age 48, forced the end of the John Kahn Band after only two concerts.

The legacy of the Jerry Garcia Band was then taken up by Seals who has since toured as Melvin Seals & JGB, playing the repertoire Garcia developed over the years. Many members of the Jerry Garcia Band have performed with Melvin Seals & JGB, including Baldwin, LaBranch and Jones (who died in 2019).

“I saw an interview where Jerry was asked what he would like to think would happen after he was no longer here,” Seals told Good Times. “And Jerry said, ‘I believe the music is much bigger than me, and I hope it will live on.’”

  • Days Between: Jerry Garcia Band - 1st Lineup

    Days Between: Jerry Garcia Band - 1st Lineup 

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    Days Between: Jerry Garcia Band - Godchaux Era 

  • Days Between: Jerry Garcia Performing With Reconstruction

    Days Between: Jerry Garcia Performing With Reconstruction 

  • Days Between: Jerry Garcia Band – Seals, Kemper, LaBranch & Jones Era

    Days Between: Jerry Garcia Band – Seals, Kemper, LaBranch & Jones Era 

  • Days Between: Watch Classic Jerry Garcia Band Lineup Perform In 1990

    Days Between: Watch Classic Jerry Garcia Band Lineup Perform In 1990 

  • Days Between: Jerry Garcia Band Long Jams Spotify Playlist

    Days Between: Jerry Garcia Band Long Jams Spotify Playlist 

  • Days Between: Watch 7 Different Jerry Garcia Band Lineups Performing Live

    Days Between: Watch 7 Different Jerry Garcia Band Lineups Performing Live 

  • Days Between: Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band

    Days Between: Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band 


[Many thanks to JerryGarcia.com, JerryBase.com and Lost Live Dead for statistical data, personnel information, setlists and other resources. ]


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