Jerry Garcia at the 1962 Winter Berkeley Folk Music Festival

new photographs from his folkie-beatnik era in the berkeley folk music festival collection.

Jerry Garcia in front row, listening to Sam Hinton @ 1962 Winter Berkeley Folk Music Festival. Photographer unknown.
Jerry Garcia, with Ralph Rinzler and Jean Ritchie @ 1962 Winter Berkeley Folk Music Festival.
Jerry Garcia listening to Bessie Jones and the Georgia Island Sea Singers, with Sam Hinton and John Herald @ 1962 Winter Berkeley Folk Music Festival. Photographer possibly David Freed or Roland Jacopetti.

As the Berkeley Folk Music Festival’s digital repository begins to go online in beta form, all kinds of amazing items are surfacing from the over 50,000 artifacts. This one is for all the deadheads out there. Both the metadata librarians and documentarian Brian Miksis (who helped bring the Jerry Garcia: Before the Dead CD to fruition) noticed a young Jerry Garcia in attendance at the 1962 Winter Berkeley Folk Music Festival.

These photographs have never been seen publicly, so far as we know. It makes sense that he would have been there as this was the era when he was deeply interested in the folk revival, learning and performing traditional songs and beginning to get obsessed with Scruggs-style bluegrass banjo picking.

The first one features Jerry listening intently to a lecture at the University of California by Sam Hinton, whose subtle ideas about how to interpret traditional folk music authentically perhaps influenced the aspiring young Garcia.

In the second unearthed photograph, Jerry sits happily in a University of California Berkeley lounge next to two folk revival luminaries, Ralph Rinzler and Jean Ritchie.

My favorite image has Jerry smiling and maybe even singing along with Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers. Is this where he encountered songs such as “Turkle Dove,” later known in his own repertoire as “Turtle Dove”? To be sure, it was on a few recordings by Bessie Jones, but perhaps Garcia heard it at Berkeley in 1962 in person.

Below, you can hear Bessie Jones’ version, recorded by Alan Lomax in 1960, one year after the folklorist himself presented a lecture at the Berkeley Folk Music Festival as a guest scholar at the event (recorded for posterity and to be featured soon). For more background, here’s Bessie Jones telling Lomax more about the song. That is followed by Garcia’s version, performed in 1987 with Bob Weir and Joan Baez.

These are just some of the many treasures that will emerge from this incredible collection as the Berkeley Folk Music Festival Project develops.

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