The last thing anybody wanted to do in the Grateful Dead family was to work in an office. Heaven forbid! Every single member of the family was as suited to working in an office as they were to being in the Marine Corps, though it should be noted that Ken Babbs of the pranksters was a former Marine, who had joined with Kesey and ‘gone troppo’ as they say in Australia. But I digress somewhat. Back to talking of that yawning hole of a dark and mysterious cave, that somewhat daunting place, known as the office. I always thought of it as ‘the orifice’, sometimes it was wet and wild and welcoming, and other times I dreaded the thought of going there! Let me try to begin at the beginning and forgive my meandering style for I am recalling events of long ago.
Immediately after Altamont,two days later to be precise, Garcia invited me to leave Mickey’s barn where I had been crashing, and to stay at his house in Larkspur with Hunter & Christy and Mountain Girl and a tiny baby Sunshine. It was a noble gesture on his part as I was being hounded by the press; various law enforcement agencies were actively investigating and wondering what had happened at the ‘hippie event’ that they had studiously avoided being involved with in any way shape or form; the Hells Angels were pissed off; and the general atmosphere was about as welcoming as the gates of purgatory. It was a ‘serious bummer’ of a time with all that had seemed so promising and positive about the San Francisco experience laying in tattered ruins around the feet of the Grateful Dead. The reputation of the Stones was in ruins. My own position could best be described as ‘precarious’. The day before I had gone to Jerry’s house I had met with all the Presidents of the California clubs and it was a tense and difficult meeting. I was treated with courtesy I must say and for that I was more than Grateful – I about shit myself when I was told the club wanted to see me but I felt ‘duty bound’ to go as one of the people central to the organisation of the gig and the tour manager of the Rolling Stones. Let us not forget that only 24 hours before this meeting a man had died in the full vision of several film cameras and everyone knew that he had been stabbed by a member of the club. These were decidedly NOT happy times. Anyway, I survived the experience and have forever treated the club and its members with gratitude for that for (to put it mildly) they were seriously pissed off, and rightly so.
Anyway, I moved into Jerry’s and tried to relax. Jerry was busy mastering the pedal steel guitar which is a notoriously difficult instrument – it’s the most complex of all the guitars by a country mile. He would sit in a small room with a television set on the table watching cartoons, wearing head phones. The peddle-steel would play through the phones and Jerry would sit there with a slightly stoned, myopic, expression listening to sounds that only he could hear, and endlessly playing to himself. Once in a while he’d emerge and come out to the back garden and there we’d sit and discuss bands and how they were organised. Jerry was rendered speechless by my telling him that the Rolling Stones office in London only had three employees. The Grateful Dead had a management office and had just been ripped off by Lenny Hart, and Jerry was tussling in his mind with how to do a root and branch reorganisation of the band’s affairs so that everyone could survive. Whether he, and the band, liked it or not, I explained, they were simply going to have to become more ‘professional’ on every level. The days of anarchic hippie enthusiasm alone being the driving force behind the band would have to be put behind them. A proper office needed to be ‘invented’, one that dealt with the band’s affairs professionally but that equally recognised that the people who would have to work in the place did not want to replicate the conditions in a government department.
Garcia was not exactly ‘office material’ himself and had dreaded having to deal with his former manager. He found the whole office trip mildly ‘intimidating’ and agonised over how to stop the band being ripped off by the next manager that came along. His solution, very Jerry-like in its ‘Jerry-ness’ was to have three managers instead of one! A ‘troika’ of ‘wise men’ would be central to handling the band’s affairs with David Parker (and his then wife Bonnie) handling the money, me handling all aspects of touring and live performance, and Jon McIntyre (in a very poorly defined area of responsibility) handling ‘the rest’. Alan Trist was brought in to handle the publishing in (again) a somewhat strange organisational position where the band’s publishing company (Ice Nine) existed as an autonomous business and financial entity separate from the band’s affairs. Rock Scully, a previous manager of the band, handled matters to do with the record company. None of the people involved had any music business experience outside the band, other than their involvement with the Carousel Ballroom, all of them (apart from me) had known Jerry for many years. I was ‘the outsider’.
-Sam Cutler, 2018