Eugene Weekly : Eugene Celebration : 9.3.2009

Eugene Celebration 2009

The Process and the Product
Mayor’s Art Show, 2009 edition

Who Gets to Choose?

Cats Down Under The Stars
Melvin Seals and JGB close Saturday night’s Eugene Celebration

Blues to POP
Plenty of shows worth the price of admission


Cats Down Under The Stars
Melvin Seals and JGB close Saturday night’s Eugene Celebration
By Vanessa Salvia

Stuart “Stu” Allen has come a long way since his early days in Minneapolis. Originally from Kentucky, he moved to Minnesota to attend college, and easily fell into music, forming Blue Man Jive, a sort of acoustic-electric proto-jam band, and The Jones Gang, a still-active Grateful Dead tribute band. Though many years have passed since then, given Allen’s talent and experience, it’s not terribly surprising that he ended up playing the part of Jerry Garcia, one of music’s most adored figures. 

Allen joined Melvin Seals and JGB in 2004, singing and playing guitar with Seals, who had worked with Garcia as part of Jerry Garcia Band for 15 years. When Seals formed JGB one year after Garcia’s death on Aug. 9, 1995, it was intended as an honor, to keep Garcia’s music alive. They’ve certainly done that although Seals could have called it anything other than JGB and accomplished the same goal. 

If you’re a Deadhead, you already know who Melvin Seals is, and you know you’ll love this: Seals playing organ on “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “Deal” and “Tangled Up In Blue” in that tasty way Garcia loved; David Kemper, Jerry Garcia Band’s drummer for about 10 years, who left for session work and six years with Bob Dylan, who has now returned to the fold; bassist Martin Holland, singers Judith Coleman and Mary Holland and guitarist and singer Stu Allen. 

“As far as Stu singing and playing the part of Jerry Garcia, he does a fantastic job,” says Eugene resident Chris Vatland, an admitted Deadhead, music lover in general and friend of Allen’s. “I’ve talked with other people who don’t know Stu and talked with people at the shows, and I just overhear people at their shows and they’re quite impressed that they pull off the sound.” Vatland says Melvin Seals and JGB don’t try to emulate the same notes in a particular song, but they do manage to recreate the “tone” of what a Jerry Garcia Band show would have been like. “It feels like the Jerry Garcia Band,” he says, similar to what the Dark Star Orchestra does in trying to convey the experience and sound of a Grateful Dead show. Melvin Seals and JGB reproduce that feeling of being at a Jerry Garcia Band show, “in a small setting and not in a big stadium,” Vatland says. “That’s a wonderful opportunity for people who maybe weren’t going to shows back in ’94, to have that chance to experience that sound.”

Melvin Seals and JGB play at 10:30 pm Saturday, 9/5, at the Library Stage.