Songs Of Their Own | Ross James Radio Galaxy – Alligator

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To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead, JamBase teamed with Telefunken to produce the Songs Of Their Own 50-day tribute series featuring a daily cover of a Grateful Dead original song and culminating with our grand finale 50th video premiering the day of the final Fare Thee Well show in Chicago on July 5. We started the series with a list of 100 Grateful Dead original songs (exclusively their tunes, not covers they often played) and asked many of our favorite artists to record cover versions either at the JamBase office in San Francisco, at one of the many venues around the Bay Area, at Telefunken’s Connecticut studios and beyond. No song was allowed to be covered twice, and today’s participants Ross James’ Radio Galaxy hung up “Alligator.”

“Alligator” served as both the first lyrical contribution Robert Hunter made to a Grateful Dead song and as his first songwriting credit he earned on one of the band’s records, 1968’s Anthem Of The Sun. Also credited to Phil Lesh and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (who also penned lyrics and sang lead), “Alligator” was at times a jam vehicle in the early stages of The Dead, often followed by “Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks)” and/or a “Drums” segment during its some 60 or so live performances. It was first played sometime in early 1967 and a final abbreviated rendition came in 1971 at the Fillmore East on April 29.

The collaborative nature of the community fostered at Terrapin Crossroads often makes it difficult to answer the question, “What’s the name of this band?” Such was the case as we wrapped recording in an empty Grate Room this past Sunday and talked with Terrapin Crossroads Executive Director Ross James about how to correctly bill this video. Ultimately we settled on “Ross James’ Radio Galaxy.”

The session was recorded in the late afternoon and featured James, Jon Graboff, Scott Metzger, Alex Koford and Eric DiBerardino who had just played two sets at brunch over at the Terrapin Crossroads restaurant. Koford and Metzger had been posted up at Terrapin on Friday and Saturday as part of the now welldocumented Phil Lesh & Friends 1977 tribute shows with special guest John Mayer. Ross also played with Mayer in the bar during a late night set Saturday night. These guys were busy to say the least.

As if that wasn’t enough, Jason Crosby and Brian Rashap also joined the “Alligator” session. There were a few friends of the band and Terrapin family just hanging around so we flipped the setup and had the band perform in the house and the assembled audience on stage dancing. There was a dog, we think his name might have been Buddy, it was a beautiful scene.

Watch all of the Songs Of Their Own entries including Max Creek, Jackie Greene, Strangefolk, Midnight North, Anders Osborne & Luther Dickinson, Keller Williams and more via the YouTube Playlist below.