Frank Wakefield Meets Jerry Garcia, Part II 

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Pistol Packin Mama 1975.
LtoR (top): Pat Campbell, Chubby Wise, Frank Wakefield,
Don Reno, David Nelson

(bottom): Jerry Garcia at the mixing console.

Photo by Jim Moss

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The Frank Wakefield 


Frank Wakefield on Recording Bluegrass with Jerry Garcia, by Jim Moss 

Part 2

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Frank Wakefield (continued):  The other songs on the album were: Leave Well Enough Alone,

Ashes of Love, Baby Out of Jail, Dim Lights, Deep Elem Blues, Pistol Packin Mama,

Toy Heart, On Top of Old Smoky and Glendale Train.   Garcia really wanted to try

Don Reno's banjo, but he was afraid to touch it and he was sort of scared of Don

because Don was such a great musician and a legend.  So I carried Don's banjo

back to Jerry in the control room so he could try it.  Jerry couldn't hardly believe

that he was getting to play Don's banjo.  David and Garcia were both sort of

scared of Chubby too.  After a bit,  I took the banjo and said to Don,

"Now Don, here's a tune you wrote that I can play exactly like you."  I put a clamp

on the neck in A and played "I'm Using My Bible for a Road Map".    Don first

started his harmony style with this song.  Don's harmonies on that were really pretty.

When that song first came out people thought it was a steel guitar on it. 


After I played it for Don I said, "I been showing a lot of banjo players how you

play that tune.   Now ain't that exactly how you play that tune, Don?"  Don looked

at me and said, "Well, more or less."   "More or less", I said, "I have been telling

everyone that's exactly how you play it."  Don took the banjo from me and said

really softly, you know Don always spoke real soft, "Well, first I take the clamp off".

He played "I'm Using My Bible for a Road Map" in A without a clamp and it

sounded exactly like he had a clamp on.  Don never used a clamp when he played.

He played the guitar without a clamp too.  He could play in any key without using

a clamp.  I think that is why Don never got as much recognition as Earl because he

played without a clamp and other musicians couldn't copy him.  Don was one of

the greatest musicians in Bluegrass.  He was a super great musician and wrote

many great songs.


Chubby Wise was a super great musician too.  There is no mistaking that sweet

rich sound of Chubby's fiddling.  There probably isn't a Bluegrass or Country

fiddler who hasn't played the tune he wrote back in 1934, "The Orange Blossom



When recording Pistol Packin Mama, we just went into the studio and played

the way we wanted.  When the LP came out, it sold about 25,000 copies

in about a week.   Garcia's name and David Nelson's name on the album had

a lot to do with that...  with the record selling so well.   A lot of Dead Heads

and New Rider fans bought the album.  For most of them, it was their first

exposure to Bluegrass.  I am happy that they got to hear such greats as Don Reno

and Chubby Wise as their first Bluegrass because it made a lot of new fans for

Bluegrass music.  Most of the Dead and New Rider fans who bought the LP

probably didn't think they were getting a Bluegrass album.  They bought the

album because Garcia and David were on it and they were popular with them.

They accidentally found out how good Bluegrass music can be. 


The record wasn't out long when some legal complications over money developed.

As good as Pistol was selling, United Artists took the record off the market.

For awhile after that the album was showing up in cut-out bins in record stores

for about $1.99.  Grateful Dead records sold us their entire stock of CDs

a while back and we now sell them, but when they are gone, they

will be gone for good.  


And that is the story behind the album, "Pistol Packin Mama".

Frank Wakefield 

The Frank Wakefield Official web site 
( From Nov. 18th, 1997 to May 14th, 2007 ) 


Frank Wakefield Bio


Frank Wakefield "On Film"



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