Friday, February 17, 2017

"Franklin's Tower"

I never really got into the Grateful Dead. I've heard some really nice performances from them, but I've also heard a lot of noise, as if 6 people were playing 7 different songs. But just as my appreciation for Bob Dylan grew from covers of his music, so did my appreciation for the Grateful Dead.

Dickey Betts, Jaimoe, Jerry Garcia, 1972
When Jerry Garcia passed away in 1995, as a tribute to his friend and fellow guitarist, Dickey Betts added a tease of "Franklin's Tower" to his beloved, and similarly structured, "Blue Sky". That tease stayed there until he stopped touring in 2014, which is a pretty big compliment. I didn't know what it was when I first heard it, which likely would have been my first Allman Brothers show in 1996 (Wisconsin State Fair!). Eventually I got hip to "Franklin's Tower", which the Allman Brothers covered in full starting in 2000. With Oteil singing, it was likely included as something to give Gregg a singing break after Dickey's departure from the band earlier that year left them with just one vocalist. It turned into a pretty epic set piece, typically going full circle with "Blue Sky" teases by Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes.

After years of a lot of jam band music festivals, I have a softer spot for the Grateful Dead and their music. They may not have the greatest singing voices (nor do I), and have given some totally uneven performances over the years, but they wrote and made a lot of great music. Millions of stoners can't be wrong, and the remaining members continue to sell out stadiums and inspire the next generation of musicians.

Since February is Grateful Dead Covers Project month, I put together an acoustic version of "Franklin's Tower". Naturally, it's deceptively simple - it was a "go to" song for jams I used to take part in at Brooklyn's Rocky Sullivan's, and like he Dead, some were epic and some were not. I was able to arrange some peaks and valleys along the way, and even a quick animation to accompany. Roll away...

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