Rare Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders Soundboards Surface

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What better opportunity than the anniversary of the day Jerry Garcia was born to share previously uncirclated recordings of the Grateful Dead frontman in action? Nearly a dozen rare recordings from Garcia’s time in the Grateful Dead as well as performances with keyboardist Merl Saunders have been shared via Bit Torrent site bt.etree.org this morning. The four Garcia/Saunders soundboards are especially nice treats.

Up first is a Garcia/Saunders recording from the Capitol Theatre in Passaic on September 6, 1973 which is thought to be the first time a soundboard of the show has circulated. Jerry and Merl are backed by Bill Kreutzmann and John Kahn on “Expressway (To Your Heart),” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “I Second That Emotion” and more. Next up is a soundboard recording of Garcia/Saunders visit to Keystone in Berkeley on October 11, 1973. On this night, Garcia and Saunders were aided by Kahn and drummer Bill Vitt. The big surprise in this one is the first and only know Merl/Jerry cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Sunshine Of My Life.” Jerry, Merl, John and Bill jam on the tune for over 15 minutes. Listen:

The third Garcia/Saunders soundboard to surface on bt.etree today is from the pair’s Keystone show on November 5, 1973 featuring Kahn, Kreutzmann, Martin Fierro. “The Harder They Come,” “Mystery Train,” “It’s Too Late” and “Money Honey” are among the songs the five-piece played on this night. This crispy recording marks the first time the show has circulated in any form. Finally comes a soundboard recording of Garcia/Saunders taped by Betty Cantor-Jackson at Keystone on February 16, 1974. The Jerry/Merl/John/Billy/Martin version of the band is joined by an unknown conga player and unknown guitarist for portions of the show. Rarities “Wondering Why,” “Little Bit Of Righteousness” and “Are You Lonely For Me Baby” are among the tunes included on this rare Betty Board.

As far as Grateful Dead recordings, there’s a reel from 1966 that may have been recorded at Owsley’s house in Watts which features “Hi-Heel Sneakers” and “Viola Lee Blues.” Another rare gem is a studio session from 1968 that finds the band working out “Clementine” and embarking on a “Space”-like jam. Keep your eyes on bt.etree.org to see what else pops up.

On the official end of things, the Jerry Garcia estate will release GarciaLive Volume Seven: November 8th, 1976 – Jerry Garcia Band on August 19. Today, Rolling Stone premiered “Mighty High” from the new GarciaLive installment:

Head here for more info on GarciaLive Volume Seven: November 8th, 1976 – Jerry Garcia Band.

[Hat Tip – Jesse Jarnow]