When Arica told me that she was contemplating an exhibition of Herb Greene's photographs of the Grateful Dead, I thought it was an excellent idea. With the exhibition coinciding with three concerts by the surviving members of the "Dead" at Soldier Field over July 4th weekend, this would be a truly historic exhibition.
I was not a "Dead Head" but I had seen them perform several times. In the early 1970's my husband, Jerry Wexler, had invited Jerry Garcia and their manager, Sam Cutler, to dinner. Jerry was in hot pursuit of the "Dead" as their contract with Warner Bros. was coming to an end and he wanted to sign them to Atlantic . In the end they re-signed with Warner Bros.
I did not know Herb, but in our first conversation we discovered that our paths must have indeed crossed, either at the Monterey Pop Festival or at concerts at the Fillmore West. We also had a number of mutual friends including Peter Albin and Sam Andrews of "Big Brother and the Holding Company", gallery owner and one-time Rolling Stones Records President, Earl McGrath, and Bill Brach.
Peter Albin had introduced my sister, Connie, and me to Bill on one of our visits to San Francisco. Bill became enamored of Connie and soon after, he arrived in Los Angeles with camera in hand. He asked us, along with our Afghan hound, Kabul, to spend the day at various locations taking portraits of us. After many decades Bill contacted me when he was preparing a book of his photographs.
Herb revealed that Bill was the person who had drawn hieroglyphics on a bedroom wall which became the backdrop for numerous portraits of the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane and other San Francisco bands. When I sent Bill the press release for Herb's exhibition he sent me the following history of the famous wall:
I met Herb at S.F. State. We took photography and film classes together. I rented a room from him and his wife (who later worked for Bill Graham) in '65 on Baker St., a few blocks north of the panhandle. He took me down the peninsula to hear a band called the Warlocks. They sounded like early Stones. It was a small place and the band was on the dance floor. Herb said I kept bumping into one of the microphones and as I was dancing my ass off I didn't realize it.
My bedroom had this gashouse green wallpaper that was beginning to peel off so I took a paint scraper and scraped it all off. Under the wallpaper was a plaster wall and it had "Happy New Year Folks 1936" written in large letters. I was taking a class in Egyptology from an Egyptian woman who always wore lots of gold jewelry and part of the class was learning hieroglyphs.
Using a felt tipped pen I began to practice my hieroglyphs on the wall as well as doing a few abstract drawings until most of the wall was covered. The room had east facing windows and in those days no one used flash, just natural lighting (which was great in S.F. because it was often foggy and the light was diffused) and a nice light filled the room. When I moved out Herb used the room as his studio.
There really are only six degrees of separation!! ~Renee Pappas