Mickey Hart & the Grateful Dead

The Mickey Hart Story
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Met Mickey in New York when the Grateful dead were playing at the Pavilion in  the old Worlds Fair grounds in Flushing Meadows, New York. A friend of mine brought them to a Health Club in New York. I  set it up so that they would be there after closing time. They came for a swim and a sauna. They invited me to their gig in Flushing. After the gig we stopped in their hotel and partied till dawn. While they were in New York we saw a lot of them. They frequently came to my friendís apartment on 72nd Street . Spent some interesting nights with Jerry Garcia. All of that will be in the book I am writing about my life. Many of the stories are on my web site. More stories below.


We were all going to travel together to Woodstock. We were waiting to start, when Rock Scully, their road manager at the time, came in and announced that the roads were jammed and that they would be going in a helicopter.

Because of this, we missed Woodstock, but the girl I introduced to Pigpen was taken along. If you ever see the shot of them arriving, you will see her with the group. We were with them when they did the free concert in Central Park and at their gigs at the Fillmore East, with limo rides uptown to big parties in a 13 bedroom apartment on the East Side. All of that, plus some of the things that happened at the Fillmore East will be in my book about my adventures.

Cut to Sonoma: When I moved back to California in September of 1969. Did not want to spend another winter In New York. As much as I love New York, Forget the winters. I lived on a small ranch in Sonoma. I had a horse and also kept Mickeyís horse for him. He used to come over from Novato. We had become friends. He was also dating my friend from New York.

  

While booking the Japan Center Theater for a concert with a Japanese singer and The San Francisco Taiko Dojo Drummers, I Bumped into Mickey in the theater. He was recording a Taiko Dojo Drum group from Japan; they were on stage, rehearsing. I wandered in to listen and to see Mickey. We went to lunch and I told him about the San Francisco Taiko Dojo Drummers that I had booked for my concert.

A few days later Mickey called me to see if I would take him to one of the drum rehearsals. Mickey wanted to learn how to make a large drum, something I learned from Senichi Tanaka, the Sensei of the group, but it is better to get it from the master. I called Senichi, to get his permission. Taiko Dojo drumming is like marshal arts and it is spiritual. They always bow to the large main drum when they enter the rehearsal room. I respected Senichi and his group.

Took Mickey to a rehearsal and introduced him to Senichi Tanaka. Both men are extremely head strong and both are extremely talented. Senichi told him how to make a drum. Later Mickey called and said he couldnít find a skin for the drum. I had given him the name of a place, but Mickey wanted to make one bigger than any skin they had. He asked me if he could borrow their drum. I knew better than to even ask, I saw what respect they paid to their drum. I related that to Mickey and then he ask me if I could get them to Francis Ford Coppolaís Birthday Party in Yountville, in the Napa Valley, on the coming Sunday Afternoon. This was Friday! If Coppola liked them he would use them for part of the music score to the film "Apocalypse Now".

Saturday found me in San Francisco, in Japan town, at the plaza. The drummers were performing that day in the square. I contacted Senichi and spoke to him about Sunday. Explained that it would be good to be heard by Coppola. He finally said okay and I made the arrangements. The Party was a success.  Coppola, Mickey and I sat on the lawn while the drummers whaled away. He like the drummers. Mickey invited Senichi and his group to his ranch the next day, to get acquainted.

 

They were an hour and a half late picking up the drummers to drive them to the ranch. Mickey had a nice spread for them and they enjoyed themselves. I didnít go because of other commitments, but Senichi called me. Two days later Mickey called to say that he was having trouble negotiating an agreement with Senichi, and asked if would I help out. It seemed that Senichi wanted a flat $5,000.00 for the gig. Mickey was paying all of the other musicians scale.

Senichi told me that he didnít know how much time was required or what the schedule would be. In those days there wasnít much of a structure with the musicians in the rock bands. Day to day, so to speak, but the Japanese arenít like that, so I asked Mickey for a schedule of what would be expected of the drummers. Mickey told me that it would require three days, at about four hours each day. I asked Mickey if he would pay them $2,000.00 for that time and a guarantee for film credits.. He agreed, I called Senichi, and after a long pause he said, "Okay." He asked for a contract and wanted me to read  it and approve it before he signed it.

Told Mickey that it was okay, but Senichi wanted a contract. He told me to see Geraldine at the studio the day of the recording and she would have a contract ready. On the first day, I had other business and arrived at the recording session after they had been working for a couple of hours. Went straight to the office, where Geraldine had the contract ready. After reading it, there was no way I would ask Senichi to sign it. The major problem was that the contract was set up to pay on a per day rate, instead of the full amount for the gig. If they got the job done on the first day, they deserved the full pay, not just for a days pay. They saved the studio that much and more by shortening the time used.

Geraldine couldnít make the change, Mickey had to do it. So, I took the contract into the studio, a large warehouse with a huge screen showing "Apocalypse Now". Mickey was on his way out of the studio, so told him there had to be some changes made to the contract. He was in a hurry, and was not in a good mood. I told him I couldnít give the contract to Senichi, that a simple change was needed. Mickey didnít want to hear about it and said, "Go ahead and make the change." I told him that I was going to do what I felt was fair. He said, "Go ahead" and left the studio. I took the contract back to Geraldine, who changed it, then signed it and gave me a check for $2,000.00.

   

Mickey returned to the studio and they began recording again. Senichi saw me and waved. I gave him the check. He didnít look to happy either. 
      I had told Mickey that Senichi was a strong person and that it would take some tact to get anything different than their own sounds. I had been at Mickeyís studio, one night when he transformed a musical saw-player into a whole other kind of player. The saw-player went away with a whole new look at how to play a saw. I was really impressed with Mickeyís work. But, this wasnít a saw player. This is thousands of years of culture that hadnít changed. Mickey tried, I saw it. There was a huge conflict of wills. Mickey finally said, "Go ahead, play for me." The Taiko Dojo drummers were fantastic. I saw the tape of the performance at Mickey's Ranch. I hope Mickey still has it on tape, It was brilliant.

Mickey never called them back for another session. A few days later, I stopped at the ranch, Geraldine showed me the film of the rehearsal. It was a disaster. When I was at the studio, I only caught a glimpse of what really happened, although I felt I knew. Mickey was trying to create another saw player, only it was on the wrong man. Needless to say there were two very frustrated men that day at the recording studio. I was glad Senichi had his money. I felt responsible for him. I was in the middle and at least the finances were resolved and no one lost face.  Senichi has since been in a few films, one of them was "Rising Sun" with Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes.


Samantha Younghans, Paula Samonte  & Mickey Hart
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About a week later, I was in the Deadís offices in San Rafael, when one of the girls came running into the room and told me, I had better leave, that Mickey was on his way and they didnít want him to see me. It seems he blew up with Geraldine when he found out about the payment. They didnít want a scene in the office. I was late for a meeting, so I left. I really wanted to stay and talk to him, but they said I should wait a week or so until he cooled off. The next time I saw Mickey, he was helping a band at a theater in the Bay Area. I was back stage, but he wouldnít talk to me.

After months of non-communication, I wrote Mickey a letter. I told him, that since both of us are Virgos, that we were probably both right, that, I didnít hold any anger for his actions, and that I would not contact him again. To this day it stands. Sad thing. I really liked and respected the man.

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