Music Notes: Kindred Spirits Unite

by Steve Houk

Warren Haynes, National Symphony Orchestra channel Jerry Garcia at Wolf Trap.

Warren Haynes (Photo by wcmickle via Flickr)

If you ask Warren Haynes, one of rock and roll’s most respected, talented and hard-working rock guitarists, who his true muse is, well, I gather he would mention a variety of influences, like Eric ClaptonDuane Allman and blues luminaries like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and B.B. King. They’ve all made a mark on his powerful and roots-based sound and presentation.

But as far as someone who is truly woven deeply into the fabric of Haynes’ gifted expression, who is thoroughly enmeshed into the innermost fibers of his being? It would have to be none other than the late Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia, for sure. Some aspects of Haynes’ playing often eerily mimic Garcia’s, building on its intricate foundations. He has paid homage to Garcia often in his original works, especially in the moving ode “Patchwork Quilt” which includes poignant lyrics that directly address Garcia’s influence: “…there’s a banjo moon in a tie-dyed sky, hippies dance and babies cry, church bells ring as a silver-haired angel looks down, and the blood of his music runs through the veins of our guitars.”

Over the last 15 years, Haynes has taken his Garcia adulation to the Nth degree — not only does he play in his own band Government Mule and has an ongoing spot in the Allman Brothers Band, he has also become a recurring member of the Dead’s various post-Garcia machinations, including Phil Lesh and Friends and The Dead. In these various ensembles, Haynes has conjured up Garcia with such sweet exactness and humble reverence that if you closed your eyes, you’d think Jerry was back up there, or at least the spirit of him.

This summer, Haynes’ adoration and appreciation will be at its brightest in “Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration,” a national tour coming to Wolf Trap on June 26. This time, Haynes joins the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Emil de Cou, to celebrate the eclectic canon of one of music’s most acclaimed guitarists, songwriters and personalities in a combination rock music/symphonic tribute. To many, and to himself as well, Haynes seemed like a natural to take the slot.

“We got a call from the people representing the Garcia Estate, saying they wanted to do a series of symphony shows doing Jerry’s music, and that they were going to have a few guest performers, and they wanted to know if I wanted to be the first guest artist,” Haynes recently told “I was very honored.”

Jerry Garcia (Photo by clender via Flickr)

Haynes has a major hand in selecting the music that will be performed. Taking songs from both the Dead catalogue and Garcia’s solo work, it will undoubtedly be a labor of love.

“I’m picking some songs that I’m less familiar with, and some things that I’ve never sung or played before, mostly because of how wonderful I think they’ll sound with the orchestra,” Haynes said. “I didn’t want it to be  just a random selection of cool Jerry Garcia songs. It’s gonna be all music that the orchestra is gonna embellish in a way that’s gonna freak everybody out.”

A true Sunshine Daydream … for sure. Fare thee well, Mr. Haynes.

“Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration” featuring Warren Haynes and Emil de Cou, conductor, Wednesday, June 26, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, Filene Center, 1551 Trap Road, Vienna, VA 22182. $22-$55, 877-965-3872, and here.

Steve Houk writes about rock luminaries here and on his blog. He is also lead singer in a local classic rock cover band, Second Wind.

[CORRECTED: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the address for Filene Center as 1645 Trap Road.]

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