Copyright CLender

Copyright CLender

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 Clapton, Duane 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’ amazingly 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, not copying it, but building on its intricate foundations, and he has also paid specific 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.”

And 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, but he has become a recurring member of the Dead’s various post-Garcia machinations, including Phil Lesh and Friends and The Dead, among others. And in these various ensembles, Haynes has conjured up Garcia with such sweet exactness and humble reverence that if you closed your eyes, often you’d think Jerry was back up there…or at least the spirit of him was there.


But never has Haynes’ adoration and appreciation shone as bright as when he joins various nationally renowned orchestras this summer across the US for the Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration, which comes to Wolf Trap on June 26th, this time pairing Haynes with the NSO, 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.”

Copyright CLender

Copyright CLender

Haynes has a major hand in selecting the music that will be played, taking songs from both the Dead catalog and Garcia’s solo work, and it’s no doubt 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.

For tickets click here:

Steve Houk wrote this piece, along with many other pieces about rock luminaries that can be seen on his blog at 


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