Video | Phil Lesh & Friends And John Mayer – Cornell 1977

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UPDATE: Photographer Jay Blakesberg shares the backstory of Mayer’s appearance:

Here is what I know. Based on some silly comments that always seem to appear when an artist that is not usually associated with this scene shows up…

John is not trying to join Phil and Friends, or The Dead, or trying to replace Jerry. Phil and Jill ran in to John in LA last week and invited him up. The basic premise of Terrapin is an intimate venue where ANYTHING can happen! Phil brings in players from every genre, to make Terrapin a special place with magical musical moments as often as possible.

John accepted the invite and drove up from LA. He hung out with all the musicians, was humble, polite, social, engaging and very cool. Before they went on stage Phil was giving him some words of encouragement and John said “I’m just going to try and find the space between the other 2 guitars”. Phil said “well with 3 guitarists, that’s a really good plan”. With that they walked on stage. I would say most of the audience knew John was there, but no one really knew what to expect. John started off quietly, with some simple but beautiful fills in between what Stu and Scott were doing. Within a few songs he really found his groove and the solos he did were all right in line with the Grateful Dead vibe…powerful and pretty. He was doing what every other guitarist who plays this music does…pour their heart and soul in to it and make music that moves us all.

By the second set, John really found his place in the script and with every song he got stronger, louder, and won over everybody in the room. Terrapin was on fire! The crowd was loving every moment of this legendary 1977 show they were playing, and John added so much fuel to that fire. The set ended with Morning Dew. John took the last solo, and completely blew every single mind in that room. Stu joined him for some intense guitar madness at the end of the solo, and when that song ended, the room erupted. Phil was beaming, as was everyone else on and off stage. THAT is the Magic of Terrapin Crossroads…#savedbyrockandroll

John Mayer at Terrapin CrossroadsHere is what I know. Based on some silly comments that always seem to appear when an…

Posted by Jay Blakesberg Photography on Saturday, June 13, 2015

As we reported, guitarist John Mayer was Phil Lesh & Friends’ surprise guest at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, California on Friday night. Mayer joined Lesh’s ensemble in re-creating one of the most famous Grateful Dead shows of all-time -Cornell ’77.

Last night’s performance was part of a series of shows at Terrapin Crossroads honoring each year of the Grateful Dead’s career. Phil Lesh was assisted by Mayer, guitarists Stu Allen and Scott Metzger, keyboardist Scott Guberman, drummers Pete Lavezzoli and Alex Koford and vocalist Jeannette Ferber at Friday’s first of two 1977 tributes. The band utilized the same setlist the Grateful Dead did at Barton Hall on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York on May 8, 1977. Lesh and his mates even re-created the show’s “Take A Step Back Banter” along with a full performance of each song the Grateful Dead played on 5/8/77.

John Mayer was at the heart of a Billboard report in May about a potential fall tour with at least one member of the Grateful Dead. Bob Weir recently declined comment when asked about the potential tour featuring Mayer. In 2013 JamBase ran a series of articles detailing musicians we wanted to see perform with Phil Lesh and the most controversial response came to a post about John Mayer. Now everyone has a chance to see what a Mayer/Phil pairing would entail as video of last night’s show has surfaced:

Set One: New Minglewood Blues, Loser, El Paso, They Love Each Other, Jack Straw, Deal, Lazy Lightnin’, Supplication, Brown Eyed Women, Mama Tried, Row Jimmy, Dancin’ in the Streets

Set Two: Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain, Estimated Prophet, St. Stephen > Not Fade Away > St. Stephen, Morning Dew

Encore: One More Saturday Night

Mayer stuck to guitar on Friday night as there wasn’t even a microphone set up in front of him. Allen handled the Jerry Garcia vocals while Joe Russo’s Almost Dead/Wolf! guitarist Scott Metzger sang the Weir tunes. Mayer did have plenty of chances to solo in such songs as “St. Stephen,” “Fire On The Mountain” and “Morning Dew.” With three guitarists on the stage, there were moments when at least two of them would solo at the same time.

The late Dick Latvala, the Grateful Dead’s first official archivist, was a huge fan of Cornell ’77. As noted by Nicolas Meriwether of the Grateful Dead archive, Latvala wrote this in his journal just based off an audience recording, “After a few hearings I remain pretty convinced that this is the best show I’ve yet heard from the 1977 tour. Of course, there are shows where they excel on some of the above tunes, but overall, I haven’t heard a finer show. Every song is done well and what is extremely nice is that they put extra charge into some of their age-old standards that usually always sound the same. The jam that ends the second set is outstanding. It has to be one of the best ‘Not Fade Away’s I’ve ever heard … ‘Morning Dew’ was possibly the best version yet, with a burning finish …”

When a recording of 5/8/77 was entered into the prestigious National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress, the show gained even more fame. Unbelievably, the Grateful Dead doesn’t have a master tape of Cornell ’77 in its archives, which is why it was passed up for release on 2013’s May ’77 box set. The great Betty Cantor-Jackson recorded the show and it was one of hundreds of soundboard recordings to reach fans hands in 1985 through an auction of her storage space. When asked about the status of the source tape, current Grateful Dead legacy manager David Lemieux told Relix, “I do not know specifically but I have heard from many people that they know where it is and they know who has it and that’s fine. We’ve certainly made a note that we’d love to have it back as we would with any master Grateful Dead tape that we don’t have in the vault. But there’s really nothing we can do about it. We’re not going to pay for our own tape. That’s one thing I don’t think we’d ever do is to pay to buy them back and I don’t think they’ve been offered to the band in a long, long time. They know where we are, we’re easy to find and I think it has been made clear that we would love to have them back. Some people would just rather have the tapes in their closet than in the vault, but that’s fine. It is what it is. Again, there’s nothing we can do, we don’t lose sleep over it, but it is as it is.”

For further reading on Cornell ’77, we highly recommend Blair Jackson’s essay and Meriwether’s piece.

Tonight, Phil Lesh & Friends will re-create another Grateful Dead show from 1977. A webcast is expected to be available via Terrapin’s online store.

Watch a YouTube playlist of our Grateful Dead 50 tribute, the Songs Of Their Own video series, with Guberman and Lavezzoli among the musicians participating: