The Jerry Garcia Band was founded in 1975 by Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. Over the years the lineup has changed multiple times and next to John Kahn & Jerry Garcia, Melvin Seals (nicknamed “Master of the Universe” by Garcia), has had the longest standing in the band. His career spans 30 plus years as a preforming/recording artist and producer. At the age of 8, Melvin began playing piano and gospel music for a church. Over that period of time he’s played with many great musicians, just to name a few Charlie Daniels, Elvin Bishop, Chuck Berry, Donna Jean Godchaux, Mookie Siegel, Pete Sears, G. E. Smith, Barry Sless, Mark Karan and the list goes on.
In 1980 Melvin Seals joined the Jerry Garcia Band and remained a member until Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995. He and John Kahn thought to continue Jerry Garcia’s legacy only to have John Kahn pass away as well in May of ’96. However, Seals kept the band alive and is still performing to this day.
Melvin Seals was involved in many others projects as well such as The Mix with guitarist John Kadlecik and Steve Kimock’s Crazy Engine and was the first Jerry Garcia Band member to headline an outdoor music festival, the Grateful Garcia Gathering in 2007. Also in 2005 Seals released his first solo CD entitled Melting Pot.
Current members of JGB Band are:
Dave Hebert, guitarist and singer Dave Hebert (AKA A’Bear) from Manitou Springs, Colorado. Dave replaced Stu Allen on June 11, 2011 when he was called away for an emergency C-section for his wife and has continued since. Dave has played with many musicians like Vince Welnick, Steve Kimock, Devon Allman, Tom Constanten, Berry Sless, Papa Mali and David Gans.
Dave on playing with the band, “This is one of the greatest projects I’ve been involved in am really honored to be a part of it.”
Jimmy Tebeau has been with the band for 3 years, starting in September 4, 2009, playing bass guitar. He studied jazz and music theory in college and earned an Associate in Arts degree in 1994. Owner of Camp Zoe in Salem, MO – a 400 acre festival site/campground. Jimmy has played with many artists such as various members of the String Cheese Incident, Vince Welnick, Chuck Berry, Butch Trucks, Devon Allman, Papa Mali, Future Man to name a few.
I asked Jimmy how he got started with JGB and his response was, “ I was producing large music festivals in Missouri from 1998 through 2010. We would average 5000 people at these events which would take place several times each summer. I was hiring JGB to come in each year and open the show for my band starting in 2003. I noticed each year Melvin would have a different bass player in the band. So by the fifth year I asked the booking agent to book the band without a bass player so I could play in JGB at my own venue at my own festival opening for my own band. This started the “playing together” relationship which ultimately lead to me being hired full time. “
I also asked Jimmy what he thought about playing the Capitol Theatre; “This was my first time playing at the Capitol Theatre. I really enjoyed the experience. I have played many venues all over the country. This is absolutely one of the best places for a musician to play. The production is top notch and the staff is very pro.”
Pete Lavezzoli, respected music historian with two books to date, was born in South Florida, taught himself to read and play music from age 10, and became a professional drummer and vocalist in his late teens. Pete joined JGB in December of 2009 when good friend Stu Allen recommended him as the new drummer. He’s had the pleasure of playing with many other artists such as Vince Welnick, Donna Jean Godchaux, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Jeff Chimenti, Jeff Mattson, Peter Rowen, Bobby Lee Rogers, Albert Castiglia and Stu Allen. He is currently in the recording studio making an album with Donna Jean Godchaux & Jeff Mattson.
The way Pete explained JGB was is “I really dig playing with JGB man. It’s roots music, groove, done traditional style. When I play I try to emulate the drummer of the time to get that true authentic sound.”
The two ladies of the band are Shirley Starks & Cheryl Rucker. Cheryl told me, “Shirley and I became members after Jerry’s passing. Gloria one of the original background singers is a very close friend of ours. She would invite us to various shows which is how we met Jerry and Melvin. I have not played with any other bands just sang in school and church choirs ever since I can remember. We also met Melvin through church.”
This evening the band, which does not typically play venues of this size, played the historic Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. The venue, which has seen the likes of The Grateful Dead, Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, Pink Floyd, Traffic, The Rolling Stones and so many other awesome bands, was built in 1926 and served as a movie theater, catering hall and concert venue. Recently just re-opened in December 2011 by new owner Peter Shapiro (who was one time owner of Wetlands Preserve and current owner of Brooklyn Bowl) is once again allowing for them “kids to dance and shake their bones.” With over 1000 people in attendance the Melvin Seals and JGB Band did those halls proud.
Melvin seemed to be in high spirits the second night of a two night run and although he typically doesn’t talk much he seemed over joyed to be there as he interacted with the audience and dedicated the show to Jerry. Taking a couple pages from the Jerry Garcia Band song book, as requested by The Capitol Theatre, and did them proud. The 2 shows from played were from the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco June 12th & 13th of 1990. The entire band was in high spirits and the music certain reflected it as they played with a zest that every person in the house felt and through back at the band. Dave’s playing and singing were right on as he moved around the stage and interact with Jimmy on bass whose smiles and resounding bass licks moved the band on to higher and higher heights. Melvin’s on Hammond B-3 Organ took us to church taking the crowd to higher and higher heights.
1st Set (06/12/90)
How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You, I’ll Take A Melody, I Shall Be Released, Run For The Roses, Stop That Train, Tough Mama, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Deal
The Way You Do The Things You Do, Mission In The Rain, Dear Prudence, Russian Lullaby, Think, Gomorrah, Midnight Moonlight
1st Set (06/13/90)
Cats Down Under The Stars, They Love Each Other, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, That’s What Love Will Make You Do, Like A Road, My Sisters And Brothers, Let’s Spend The Night Together.
I Second That Emotion, And It Stoned Me, Tears Of Rage, Rubin And Cherise, Waiting For A Miracle, MISSED Tore Up Over You, That Lucky Old Sun, Tangled Up In Blue