When We Make it to the Promised Land

Posted on February 19, 2010

-by Dark Star Dan

I work every Sunday morning at a very famous multi-denominational church in San Francisco called Glide Memorial Church lead by Rev. Cecil Williams (www.glide.org) I am the house sound engineer and Betty Cantor-Jackson of Grateful Dead fame is our recording engineer. A couple of years ago, I remember going to Glide for an early morning set-up and saying to Betty, “Hey Betty, the Garcia Estate just released another one of your recordings.”

“Oh crap,” said *Betty, sitting behind the mix board in the recording booth and opening media to be used for the early morning Celebrations.  “Which one now?”

“The Jerry Garcia Band – July 29th and 30th, 1977,” I said.  “At the 1839 Theater in San Francisco.”

Betty, now sitting upright and clearly jogging her memory to find the gig in her mind.  “Oh” she said, “I remember those shows.” She continued, “I remember using the backstage restroom and hearing all this banging and noise coming from the alleyway outside.  I looked out the window and there was this big moving truck… It was the Peoples Temple staff getting ready for their move to Jonestown, Guyana.”

“Holy cow, Betty!” I exclaimed (although that wasn’t quite the language that I used).  “THAT story should be in the liner notes of this CD!”  Jim Jones and his followers fleeing their headquarters at 1859 Geary Boulevard as the loyal flock of dead-heads were blissfully enjoying the Jerry Garcia Band playing right next door! Talk about San Francisco history!

I couldn’t help think, what a contrast of religions: Jerry singing, “My sisters and brothers, keep the faith,” to Jones’ fatalistic vision, preaching to his flock “Drink the Kool-Aid”, ultimately leading to the mass suicide of nearly 1,000 people.  Powerful…

If only those doing the packing, or those planning their journey to Guyana, had only drifted into the hallways of the 1839 Theater. Their fate may have been different. If only they, and so many more people today, could hear the message of Jerry’s song:  “Through this world of trouble, we’ve got to love one another…”

~ sigh ~

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