Setlist History: Jerry Garcia's Return to Stage After Coma

Jerry Garcia returned from his long, strange, scary coma, and got back on the stage with the Grateful Dead on December 15, 1986.

The lovable guitarist fell into a coma on July 10th and as he recovered, the then-44-year-old musician discovered there were parts of his motor skills that needed to relearn how to play the guitar.

To prepare for getting back on the road with Bob, Phil and the rest, Jerry played 10 small gigs at The Stone in San Francisco from October to early December, leading The Jerry Garcia Band.

The ticket of Jerry's comeback with the Dead included an image of his legendary Tiger guitar.

Once satisfied that he was healed, The Dead rolled out a trio of gigs at the familiar Oakland Coliseum Arena whose capacity was about 18,000.

The psychedelic legends kicked off the show with "Touch of Gray," a tune they'd performed live for years, but wouldn't officially release until that next summer.

The optimistic pop hit about perservering would be the band's first and only single to make it into the Top 100 of the singles chart or top the Mainstream Rock chart.

The fact that it's companion video was the first of the group's to get a modicum of MTV airplay, the song marked the beginning of the final chapter of the Dead's rich history - so it's just that it led off this comeback gig.

It also allowed the emotional crowd who had finally gotten their favorite band back together an opportunity to cheer and sing the chorus with emphasis: I WILL SURVIVE.

That's how you start a show.

The third song in was the first of two live debuts for that special night, "When Push Comes To Shove," a new one Jerry wrote with his longtime collaborator Robert Hunter.

The song was included on In The Dark, (along with "Touch of Grey") and performed 50+ times over the next three years, but then it fell off the rotation.

"Black Muddy River," is another Hunter/Garcia tune, would also be recorded for In The Dark and made its debut that night in Oakland. It, too, was special.

While "Touch of Grey" might have been the pop hit of the LP, "Black Muddy River" felt like a deeper song, and became one after the Soldier Field '95 show, where it was the last tune Jerry would sing before he died a month later.

I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And listen to the ripples as they moan
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own.

The Grateful Dead performed "Black Muddy River" 66 times -- often as the last number of the night.

When Dead & Co. toured, they played it 26 times, also usually at the end of the show.

And what was the first song of the final Grateful Dead show with Jerry? "Touch of Grey," the same song the led off his comeback show.

The final Grateful Dead show with Jerry Garcia.

The guy who sang the very last song at that Soldier Field show, Weir, is 76 years old and hasn't stopped touring.

Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros featuring The Wolfpack have been playing in New York this week. In fact on Tuesday they closed their show with "Black Muddy River."

They still have three more shows scheduled at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, then three in Florida at the end of the month including NYE. Tickets are available on his website.

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Last updated: 23 May 2024, 08:16 Etc/UTC