I took six months of banjo lessons from Jerry in '65/66, just before and when the Dead started taking off. He basically grew up playing banjo and guitar, and the banjo was actually his primary axe for most of his life up until about '67.

If you really want to hear Jerry's banjo playing in its prime, look for an old out of print album in used record shops, called the "Good Ol' Boys". There, you will hear what his playing was really like in the early/mid '60's. It was very Don Reno influenced, lots of single string, just enough Scruggs style to hold it all together. He was pretty hot, even by today's standards. Although at the time when OAITW was done, I felt that his banjo skills had slipped somewhat as a result of concentrating primarily on the electric guitar, among other factors.

When Jerry and I would get together for lessons during '65, he was hot as a firecracker on his old Weymann five-string. Although he showed me a lot of stuff, he wasn't really into writing things down much. We concentrated on banjo shape positions, chord inversions, and single string stuff, kinda like plectrum banjo techniques, which I'd also been working on for a couple years prior. His right hand was a marvel, considering...

And yes, much of what Jerry played on the guitar came directly off the banjo. At the time Jerry learned banjo, there were no tabs and very few accessible pickers. So even though some may feel that today's players are better, the fact was that he was original, doing it his own way, right or wrong. And, he loved it; and that's what was important for him.

After finishing the lessons with Jerry, for several years it seemed like I'd run into him regularly, in surprising locations sometimes, and we'd jam for hours along with lots of other bay area pickers. He was always willing to play with anyone at the drop of a hat; pretty down to earth especially considering the goings on back then (with the Dead). It was at one of these gatherings that I met an electric guitar player called "Clinton Kodak".

I later dropped into the house where Clint was working out with his electric band, and it was pretty good. On a later stopby, I heard this outrageous single string banjo work coming from the back bedroom, so I popped in and grabbed a guitar (then banjo). Although my folks had known this guy in DC and he looked mighty familiar, I hadn't recognized him even though I'd seen him play when I was a little kid. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Clinton Kodak was actually Eddie Adcock, there jamming with Jerry. Jerry whispered the little secret to me while Eddie was out of the room, and explained that he was "trying to make it in the rock world - so don't tell anyone".

Jerry and Eddie had a lot in common, I suspected. And this proved to be fairly true, as we played straight bg, rock & roll tunes, hard rock, blues tunes, ragtime, etc. late into the night (some 10 hrs); forgot to eat dinner.

So, if you think Jerry was cool, then you should also check out Eddie Adcock, the father of newgrass. Someone should do a book on Eddie's playing styles sometime soon... yes? (hint, hint).

Thanks to Earle White for this information!