Jerry Garcia’s legacy lives on

  • John Gorka Contributed photo

  • Deadgrass Contributed photo/MICHAEL SANDLER

Published: 8/8/2019 9:15:38 AM

Tomorrow marks the 24th anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s death, and while the man himself is gone, his music lives on stronger than ever. There are many bands out there that pay tribute to Garcia and the Grateful Dead, but no one does it quite like Deadgrass. This five-piece string band out of New York puts its own unique spin on all aspects of Garcia’s music.

You’ll be able to hear the fun, uplifting sounds of Deadgrass when the band takes the stage at the Heath Fair on Saturday, Aug. 17 at 7 p.m.

If you dig into Garcia’s musical history, you will find that the notion of a string band playing his music makes complete sense. Garcia had an affinity for all types of music and especially loved old-timey country and bluegrass. He explored this side of his musical life when he teamed up with mandolin player David Grissman, who is a key player in the modern bluegrass movement. He played with Grissman in a duo and in the band Old & In The Way.  Garcia further explored these musical interests in various other outlets including the Dead, so Deadgrass has a vast well of material to draw from. 

“Deadgrass’ repertoire is inspired by Jerry’s canon from his jug band days, Old & in the Way, the Jerry Garcia band and the Grateful Dead,” said multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Matt Turk of Deadgrass in a recent email, adding that the band isn’t firm on only playing Garcia’s music. “We do make exceptions — for example, we perform ‘Sugar Magnolia’ which is a Hunter/Weir composition.” 

Deadgrass was formed a couple of years ago by Turk and Grammy award winner C. Joseph Lanzbom, who plays guitar and sings vocals. They describe what they do as a string band adventure through Jerry’s musical world. The band has taken its music to festivals and clubs throughout the northeast and even toured California last year.

“Our fans are Deadheads who appreciate our take on this music and we attract bluegrass and string band fans as well,” said Turk about the band’s growing fan base. 

The Heath Fair

Deadgrass is one of six bands that make the Heath Fair much more than just a small-town agricultural fair. Music is a key element of the fair that also features everything from zucchini races to cattle shows. Bob Bourke books the music for the fair. It’s his first year in this role, having recently taken over the job from Carol Sartz, who did a great job in the position for many years. 

“I look for music that is relevant for a fair, mostly under the broad range of Americana,” he said. “I think country, bluegrass, folk, and fusion of these elements hold their own at the Heath Fair.”

And you’ll find this mix and more when the fair launches its 102nd year on Aug. 16-18. The musical portion of the fair will kick off on Friday night with a show by Mamma’s Marmalade at 7 p.m.  Hot off a crowd-pleasing performance at this year’s Green River Festival, the progressive bluegrass band from Northampton has been touring all summer in support of its new album, the extremely upbeat “Rockabee Fields.”  Look for Mamma’s Marmalade to kick things off in fine style. 

Then on Saturday, the day starts off with music for the little ones when Under the Tree Music Company performs at 10 a.m.  The group, led by Marcy Gregoire of Greenfield, has been performing a successful program for children at Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield for a while now and will be taking it on the road. There will be a group of musicians performing a selection of songs for kids that will celebrate farming, gardens and summertime fun.

Uncles of the Pioneers, a group of Hilltown-based musicians that includes dobro player Dennis Avery, will take the stage at 11:30 a.m. The group plays everything from country to pop to rock.

The afternoon will feature returning favorite The Lonesome Brothers (Jim Armenti and Ray Mason) at 1 p.m. The group’s alt-country tunes and humorous between-song banter makes for the perfect choice for the fair. The group will be followed by the outlaw country sounds of Josh LeVangie and the Pistoleros of Wendell at 4 p.m.  

The night will wrap up with Deadgrass at 7 p.m. 

Sunday will start off with a performance by the Shelburne Falls Military Band at 11:30 a.m. followed by The Gaslight Tinkers from Brattleboro, which will have the honor of being the final band of the weekend. The band will play at 1:30 p.m. Like Mamma’s Marmalade, The Gaslight Tinkers is another local group that wowed the crowd at this year’s Green River Festival. The group’s highly danceable music is hard to categorize: think of Latin grooves and reggae beats mixed in with a traditional fiddle tune and you’ve got a sampling of what the Gaslight Tinkers are all about.  The band’s superb musicianship and high-octane energy are guaranteed to end this weekend of great music on a high note. 

Bourke has done an excellent job putting this lineup together, but he said it wasn’t an easy job.

“We have such a rich music area to choose from, it can be difficult to choose between so many great acts,” he said. “I guess that is a blessing for my role as music guy for the fair.” 

Admission to the Heath Fair is $10 general admission and $8 for seniors. Kids 10 and under are free. All musical events are included with the price of admission. For more information, including directions, visit You can also catch Deadgrass at the Wormtown Music Festival in Greenfield on Sept. 13-15 in Greenfield. 

John Gorka at Greenfield Energy Park 

The Sunday in the Park summer concert series held at the Energy Park in Greenfield will wrap up the 2019 season with a show by singer-songwriter John Gorka on Sunday, Aug. 11, at 6 p.m. 

A New Jersey native, Gorka was a leader in what’s been called the new folk scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s.  With his rich, expressive baritone and emotionally honest songs, Gorka launched a career that continues to go strong. He’s released 14 critically acclaimed albums, completed countless national and international tours, and collaborated with the likes of Nanci Griffith, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Ani DiFranco, Lucy Kaplansky, Patty Larkin and many more. His most recent release last year is “True in Time.”

A donation of $20 is suggested. The Energy Park is at 50 Miles St. and in the event of rain, the show will be held at the Guiding Star Grange on 401 Chapman St. 

Members of Whiskey Treaty in Shelburne Falls and Jeffrey Foucault in Ashfield

As a way to lead up to the annual bridge of flowers road race and to celebrate the height of summer, three members of the Whiskey Treaty Roadshow will perform an intimate show at the Shelburne Falls Bowling Alley at 43 Bridge St. Friday night at 7 p.m. 

Performing will be Tory Hanna, Greg Smith and Billy Keane. The trio is hot off its recent West Coast tour and will be playing a mix of old and new Americana-rock tunes. Even though this is a small venue, the group will play with the kind of full-tilt energy we’ve come to expect from its members. Get there early or risk being turned away.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, the show is free.

And if you're looking to hear the entire band, they’ll be at the Parlor Room in Northampton on Nov. 2. 

Another musician who doesn’t usually play small rooms very often is singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault of Shelburne Falls. Last year, Foucault released the acclaimed album “Blood Brothers” and toured heavily in support of it. His schedule has lightened up a bit and he’s playing this local show at the Ashfield Lake House on Thursday, Aug. 15, at 8 p.m. The last time he played the area was at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls, so this is a rare opportunity to see him in a room this size. He’ll be bringing along his stellar band including his wife Kris Delmhorst. Get there early. Admission is free. The Ashfield Lake House is at 141 Buckland Road.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at

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