Never before has a true insider, a member of the Grateful Dead family from the band's early days through today, told the story of life on the road with the Grateful Dead. From San Francisco to Europe to Egypt and back again; from wild parties and horrible tragedies; from laughter to heartbreakthis is the inside story of the most legendary American rock 'n' roll band of all time and the tale of a man who lived it, from roadie to manager and brother.
"The Grateful Dead was all about improvisation, and Steve spoke that language with flourish...Steve was a central figure, often in the lead of what was going on backstage, in the hotels, on the airplanes, busses, boats, or whatever. If ever I get around to writing a book, you'll be reading plenty more about Steve."
- Bob Weir, from the foreword
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.74(w) x 9.58(h) x 0.84(d)|
About the Author
Steve Parish traveled with the Grateful Dead for over thirty years, first as a roadie and later as manager of the Jerry Garcia Band. He still works closely with the band and lives in California.
Joe Layden is an award-winning journalist and author of more than twenty books including Street Justice and the #1 New York Times bestseller The Rock Says. He lives in upstate New York.
Read an Excerpt
Home Before Day Light
My Life on the Road with the Grateful Dead
By Steve Parish, Joe Layden
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2003 Steve Parish
All rights reserved.
I grew up in Flushing Meadow, Queens, not far from where the World's Fair was held in 1939/1940 and 1964/1965. The fairgrounds, overgrown and abandoned in the years in between, provided an oasis for me and my prepubescent buddies, a place where we could hang out and engage in mischievous behavior of one type or another. Safely out of range of our parents and the authorities, we'd paddle boats out onto a little pond and shoot off firecrackers, shatter bottles with our BB guns, maybe smoke a few cigarettes. As we grew older and the sixties became "THE SIXTIES," with all that the term and the decade implies, cigarettes gave way to marijuana, and marijuana to LSD. It was a time and a place of wild experimentation, and we were about as open-minded and empty-headed as a bunch of kids could possibly be.
Let me give you an example. My Uncle Fred was a dermatologist and allergy specialist who practiced medicine in Boston, and periodically he'd send samples to my parents. There was nothing illicit about these transactions — I'm sure Uncle Fred looked at it as an innocent way to help some relatives through the cold and flu season. Over the years my parents accumulated quite a stash of medication, and for the longest time I never considered touching it. But I was fascinated by the human body (Uncle Fred had given me a copy of Gray's Anatomy, and I'd devoured the whole thing by the age of ten), which I saw not so much as a temple, but as a playground.
One day after school, when I was about sixteen years old, I came home with a couple friends of mine, Arthur and Mike, and after hanging out and listening to music for a while, we decided to rummage around in Uncle Fred's pharmacy. We found some little blue-and-white capsules, filled with Carbitol, and began drinking them. Carbitol, I later learned, was a powerful barbiturate, as strong as Seconal, and it hit us like a ton of bricks, largely, of course, because we ingested so much. I remember leaving the house that day, my legs getting rubbery, and staggering down the street in what felt like slow motion. I remember carrying Arthur and Mike (who were smaller than me) after they passed out, and leaving them at a bus stop and then hiding out for a while at Willie Blye's Luncheonette, afraid I was going to get into trouble, but not really sure exactly what I'd done wrong.
Later, I woke up in my own bed, in my own house, with a New York City cop kneeling on my chest.
"You stupid fool!" he yelled. "If you want to kill yourself, do it like a man. Like this!"
The cop pulled out a .38 service revolver and pressed it hard against my temple. I could smell the gun, feel the cold steel against my skin, and suddenly I realized I wasn't dreaming.
"Heeeeyyyy," I slurred. "What's goin' on?"
The cop looked at his watch. "Your two friends are in the hospital right now. Within a half hour they should both be dead, and we're going to arrest you for murder."
I was too stoned to know whether he was serious or just trying to scare me. I knew only that I wanted to see my friends. Later that night, after I'd passed out again, our family doctor came to examine me. When his stethoscope touched my flesh, I bolted upright, imagined the cop with his gun, and smacked the doctor right in the jaw. Realizing what I'd done — seeing this dear old man who had cared for me since I was a baby crumbling to the floor — I panicked and ran shirtless out of the house. I remember bits and pieces of the next hour, snapshots of a crazy kid careening half-naked through the streets, crying, screaming, looking for his friends. I remember bursting through the doors of the hospital like a madman and being chased from floor to floor by orderlies and nurses and security men, and avoiding them by diving under beds and over tables, like something out of a Marx Brothers movie. I remember throwing up in a telephone booth on the third floor of Queens General Hospital (I think it was the third floor, anyway), which greatly pissed off one of the orderlies, and I remember stumbling out of a basement door, just in time to see another of my relatives, my Uncle Joe, driving up in his '58 Pontiac, and screaming "Get in!"
Arthur and Mike both lived (in fact, Arthur has been coming to Grateful Dead shows for years, and remains a good friend of mine to this day), and we received only a slap on the wrists from the authorities, but my parents were pretty pissed. My father, you see, knew something about the consequences of breaking the law, and he was determined that his son would follow the path of the righteous. Dad was a union guy, vice-president of Teamsters Local 757. It was the kind of work that brought out his best qualities. He was great with people, capable of being smooth and charming, but tough enough to stand up to bosses and hoodlums. Dad was mechanically inclined, too — he could fix anything. And he passed these skills on to me. I learned how to use my hands, and by accompanying my father to union meetings (where I met all kinds of interesting characters, including Jimmy Hoffa), I gained insight into the process of negotiation and the power of the spoken word. I also inherited from my father a deep stubborn streak, and while I had great love and respect for him, it was inevitable that we'd eventually butt heads.
What I didn't know for the longest time was that my father was a self-made man who had overcome some severe setbacks earlier in his life — that he'd spent the better part of seven years battling a life-threatening bout of ileitis, and that he'd later run a tavern in Bayonne, New Jersey. This was just after Prohibition ended, when the bar business was not for the faint of heart. My dad got pretty good with his fists, although he would later claim that he never went looking for a fight, but merely did what he had to do in order to protect the honor of his business. Regardless, he collected some thirteen counts of disorderly conduct over the years and eventually wound up in prison. When he got out, he moved to New York, met my mother, and started a new life. A life that he swore would never involve prison or crime — for himself or anyone in his family.
Like a lot of people, Dad was caught off guard by the counter-culture revolution of the 1960s, with its emphasis on free love and altered states of consciousness. My friends and I embraced the new world with reckless abandon. We smoked pot, experimented with LSD and various other types of drugs, and embraced the work of free-thinking artists of all types — from the writings of Ken Kesey and William Burroughs to the music of the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, two bands that hailed from the San Francisco area, which seemed to be ground zero in this whole psychedelic movement. I knew by the time I was seventeen that I wanted to live in California, and that one day I would.
My father hated what he saw happening to the country he knew and loved, and especially hated what it all seemed to be doing to his son. Filled with wanderlust and stoked by massive amounts of chemicals and a healthy disrespect for authority, I began getting into trouble. My alleged involvement in a case involving a stolen car cost me my driver's license. Although I was a fairly intelligent and well-read kid, my grades began to slip, primarily because I stopped going to school. All I could think about was moving out West. But how to do it? The answer came in a series of conversations with a friend of mine named Curtis who had already moved to San Francisco, and who talked endlessly about the weather, the girls, and the drugs (which were far easier to obtain than they were in New York). So a few of us came up with this brilliant idea: I'd fly out to San Francisco, hang out with Curtis, score some illicit material, and bring it back East. We'd cut it up, sell it, and use whatever profit we made to help fund an eventual relocation to the West Coast. There was just one problem: we weren't criminals. In fact, we were pathetically naive and ignorant.
To fund this doomed adventure I waited until my parents went away on vacation, and then I stole four hundred dollars from a peanut butter jar that my father kept hidden on a closet shelf, beneath his winter underwear. They'd be gone for ten days, which I figured was plenty of time for the scheme to be played out. I stayed at Curtis's apartment on Brady Alley in San Francisco, and quickly came to the realization that he wasn't exactly a big-time dealer, either. But he had contacts, and it wasn't long before I scored an ounce of what I thought was LSD (but which later turned out to be mostly speed). I flew back to New York, strolled right through the airport (this being long before the advent of drug-sniffing dogs and tight security), and proceeded to set up shop in my house. We expected to triple our money — and still have a little left over for personal use, of course. But as the clock began to tick and the phone failed to ring, my goal quickly changed. Moving an ounce of acid was not as easy as we had been led to believe, and pretty soon I was concerned only with breaking even, so that I could put the four hundred dollars back in that peanut butter jar before my father came home.
With time running out, and me getting desperate, I got a call from an acquaintance in the neighborhood who said he had found a couple buyers.
"Come on over," I said. They arrived within just a few minutes and quickly offered me four times what I had expected. Being too stupid and panicked to give this much thought, I closed the deal. The money was immediately returned to the peanut butter jar — I'd written down the exact denominations of the bills, and the order in which they were stacked, so that my father would never discover my theft. As luck would have it, though, my fumbling adolescent hands fucked up the perfect crime: the jar slipped out of my grasp just as I was replacing the lid and fell to the floor of the closet, hitting a shelf on the way down. I scooped the jar up and examined it for damage.
Please ... please ... please ...
At first I saw nothing, but then ... there it was ... the thinnest of cracks — a long, jagged line stretching from the rim to the base.
Stupidly and futilely, I wiped the jar with my shirtsleeve, as if that would erase the evidence. Then I tightened the lid and placed the jar back on the shelf, turning the crack toward the wall before I left. Maybe, if I was lucky, Dad wouldn't notice. Then again, maybe he would.
Pretty soon I was on my way to San Francisco — this time, I thought, for good. I went out with my friend Louis and the two of us moved in with Curtis on Brady Alley. It was during this time, in the summer of 1968, that fate stepped in and introduced me to the life I would lead. Curtis's apartment was just around the corner from a club known as the Carousel Ballroom, which the legendary promoter Bill Graham would one day transform into the equally legendary Fillmore West. Across the street from the Carousel was a recording studio, where the Grateful Dead were working on a new album, and sometimes I'd just hang around outside and listen, maybe talk to some of the guys on the crew. They seemed to be having a good time living the rock 'n' roll life: working odd hours, listening to music, smoking weed, charming the hordes of groupies that were an integral part of the scene. Best of all, I noticed, these guys, most of whom were only a few years older than me, seemed to be more than just employees. They seemed to be family, brothers-in-arms with the boys in the band. They were united in some great cause. Whether their mission was to make great music, to change the world, or to simply have a hell of a good time, I didn't know. And I didn't really care. I just wanted to be a part of it.CHAPTER 2
Within a few short months, unfortunately, I had returned to New York, not because I had grown tired of San Francisco or the laid-back hippie lifestyle, but simply because I had run out of money and lacked the ambition to seek any type of employment. I was into hanging out, getting high, listening to music, and generally absorbing as much of Northern California's counterculture atmosphere as I possibly could. But even that meager goal required funding, and I had none available. So, in November of 1968, I reluctantly headed back home.
My father didn't exactly welcome me with open arms — he was pretty sure I was on the verge of screwing up my life for good — but my mom was relieved to have me in the house, safe and sound. At the very least, she thought, I'd go back to school and complete the requirements for a degree. But that never happened. I had friends who were pretty bright and had graduated early, but I'd fallen too far behind to catch up at this point — not that I wanted to anyway. Although I enjoyed literature and reading about places I wanted to visit and great characters who had carved out their places in history, I wasn't much of a student. My last couple years in school I'd gotten into a bit of trouble, mostly silly shit involving vandalism and other typically stupid adolescent behavior. There was the time, for example, during my high school junior year, when I jumped up and slapped the ceiling — I don't even remember why — and wound up putting my fist through a tile. I stood there, dumbfounded, as the other kids laughed and white powder rained down on my head. Within a few seconds I'd been dragged off to the principal's office, and the next thing I knew they were talking about having me arrested. My mother didn't put up much of a fight. Mom was the sweetest, dearest person you could imagine; unfortunately, she was totally submissive to any type of authority, so, when it came to my wild behavior, she would just wring her hands and say, "I can't do a thing with him!" (In fairness, I should point out that my parents had no real experience in these matters. My older sister, Ellen, had been a perfect child, the kind who always did her homework, never talked back, and was admired and respected by just about everyone. She, too, was naturally exasperated by my behavior.) In the end, my mother and the principal agreed that it wouldn't be a terrible idea for me to visit the school psychologist. So I endured a few annoyingly reflective sessions, during which I was asked to describe my feelings while looking at a variety of pictures: a boy sitting next to a tree, a man sitting all alone on a bed. I drew pictures of my own, completed dexterity tests, and chatted with the psychologist about my attitude and outlook on life. In the end, the school psychologist came to the predictable conclusion that I was a young man with some serious ... issues.
"Steve could be a nuclear physicist," the psychologist told my mother. "Or he could be a truck driver. But there's no question that there's a fire burning inside him."
A fire burning inside him ...
He made it sound like a bad thing, like the flames had to be doused to prevent me from burning myself. But I kind of liked that idea — that I was a furnace, with tremendous energy and potential.
The psychologist convinced my parents that I'd probably benefit from at least a brief round of psychiatric care, so I spent a few hours with a shrink and to my surprise found it enlightening. I came away from those sessions with the understanding that I was my own person, that I was in control of my destiny. Sure, I was just an aimless, fucked-up sixteen-year-old kid, but I didn't have to remain that way. I was my own person, and it was up to me to decide how I wanted to live my life. I liked living on the edge, which most people — my parents included — viewed as a liability, a character flaw. The doctor told me this wasn't necessarily true. The trick, he said, was to find a way to take all that excess energy and turn it into something positive. I liked the sound of that, and I've used it as a guiding principle ever since. Admittedly, along the way there have been side trips down some seriously dark alleys. I've made mistakes, some big, some small. Trying to move an ounce of acid, I discovered, was a very big mistake. I wanted to make some quick money by selling drugs, and I was not someone who ever should have tried something like that. I was a sorry excuse for a criminal, destined to get caught. And that's precisely what happened.
Within a few days of returning to New York, I came home one afternoon to discover a gray Volkswagen parked in front of our house. Sitting in the car were two men. I'd never seen the car before and immediately suspected trouble. The hair on the back of my neck bristled as I walked into the house and saw my parents talking quietly. My mother paused, then said, nervously, "Steve, someone named Bill called for you earlier."
Excerpted from Home Before Day Light by Steve Parish, Joe Layden. Copyright © 2003 Steve Parish. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If anyone knew Steve Parish they would know that Steve was in his own way. Not only did he fabricate but he also forgot to put in the book that you needed drugs to get backstage. He was everyone's friend as long as you had a bag big enough to have him "turn" everyone on that he wanted. (like members of the band) Then he goes on and writes a book and disrespects the people that fueled his drug habit. He was a big, pushy, ugly, hypocrite who was nothing more than a valet to the Grateful Dead. Write another book Steve about how you forced yourself on women....YUK!
Fare the Well!
Fun read. An insiders look into the a truly great american band that pioneered sound and inspired many an ear. Perish provides a very humble and real life feel for the working mans life on the road with one of the most prolific musicians of our time. Thanks Big Steve.
This is the first book I have read about the band since Phil's Searching for the Sound came out. I will say this is first time I got some feel into Jerry's true dark battle with addiction and his beautiful soul. Thanks for your perspective Steve.
A page turner. A warning against hedonism. A tale of life in the fast lane. A behind the scenes view of modern day icons. Mr. Parish's memory after thirty years of life with the Grateful Dead after imbibing mass quantities of alcohol, smoking tons of weed, ingesting untold hits of LSD still holds true. Disproving the addage 'if you can remember the sixties you didn't live the. Mr. Parish seems to have a flare for spinning a yarn or as they say in Hawaii 'Talking Story'