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woody guthrie tribute poster

(When I posted this story, I was operating under the true belief that “Shepard”, the young man referred to in the story, was Rick Griffin’s son. He said he was, and no one contradicted that story until I heard from a couple of people in September of 2014, who say that Shepard would have been a step-son. I have left my story as-is, because that fact doesn’t really change anything. You know what I know: Shepard says he was Rick’s son. He was probably a step-son. Enjoy the story.)

On May 23, 2001, at Experience Music Project, where I was a Guest Services Representative (a jack-of-all-trades), my supervisor gave me an assignment that was out of the norm. He stationed me outside the private/employee entrance and had me act as “security officer for a day”. I was told to sit in a chair, and to just make sure everything was copacetic. Well, everything was always copacetic at that entrance. My first surprise: after about an hour, bassist Rob Wasserman showed up in a Jaguar town car. I recognized him from photos, plus I had heard there was going to be a Woody Guthrie tribute concert at EMP that night, which Rob would be part of. He wasn’t talkative at all, which was fine…. I contacted security control and they buzzed him into the building.

odetta

Soon after, the great folksinger Odetta showed up. She looked like a queen. Just beautiful. She was very sweet. I think she showed up in a Yellow cab. (We had a nice, short visit later in the day.) Three other performers arrived: Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, roots-rock singer Jimmy LaFave, and Butch Hancock of the Flatlanders (a band he formed with Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore). Ramblin’ Jack was a little cantankerous, but harmless.

bob weir

Somewhere amidst those entertainers, The Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir showed up. He exited his ride and walked over to me. I greeted him; he was silent. I called the guards, to have them buzz the door open. It took several tries to get a response. Finally one answered, and I had to keep saying to him, “Bob Weir is here, Bob Weir is here”. — Because he didn’t buzz Mr. Weir in. He kept saying, “Just a minute”. I was feeling awkward, because Bob was just standing there staring at the door, not speaking, waiting to get moving. Finally, the guard called me and said he would buzz us both in. I was needed to escort Bob into the museum, because an artist wrangler was not available. We walked in, while Bob still kept quiet. He hadn’t even really looked at me. So I dropped my little line on him: “By the way, a friend of yours works here, and he told me to say Hi”. Bob seemed to come alive, and said, “Oh, who?” I said, “Shepard Griffin. He wants you to look him up.” Bob’s eyes lit up and he broke into a big smile. He thanked me, and went on his way. He truly seemed happy. As if his day had been made.

At the end of my shift, I went to the staff room to change out of my fine EMP jac-shirt, and there was Shepard Griffin. He thanked me for steering Bob to him. He said they had a great visit. It had been a while, and they were really happy to see each other.

rick griffin art

Shepard is Rick Griffin’s son. Rick was the great poster/LP cover artist responsible for some of the great art which will be forever associated with the Grateful Dead, including the cover of my favorite Dead LP, “Wake Of The Flood”. Shepard was a young, blue-haired, slacker/artist/pest. But a sweetheart. I was one of his best friends at EMP. He always had a sketch book with him in which he sketched fantasy-style art. He definitely had talent. He told me he was practically raised by the Grateful Dead.

It was a good day at EMP.

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