In honor of his 69th birthday, TipJar remembers sitting down with Bob Weir in March of 2004 in Boulder, CO, where the conversation ranged from song selection and his ongoing enthusiasm for performing, to his then recently developed facial hair and unique exercise routines. Happy Birthday Bob!
Bob Weir: Howdy.
Thanks for taking the time to sit with me.
That was a great show tonight. You guys really stretched the first set out.
(Laughs) Ha, yeah. I’m startin’ to develop the notion that it’s better that way. I think it’s best that we front-load the shows since peoples’ attention spans tend to shrink as the night progresses.
It does seem that people tend to pay a bit more attention during the first part of the show. Is that because they’re looking for more of a visceral punch later in the evening?
Uh, yeah, that’s because later in the night they’re in their cups. (laughter)
You’ve been playing many of these songs for a long time now. Do you still get a big kick out of performing?
Uh what do you think man?! (laughs) It’s all I ever wanted to do! You know, these are truly wonderful songs. The bulk of my songs are great tunes and then the Hunter-Garcia songs are just incredible. You really can’t beat ’em.
Indeed. Your songs are classics and tonight was a great example of how well the Grateful Dead songbook holds up. You broke out Bertha, Sugar Magnolia, Black Peter, Brown Eyed Women and Ripple, just to name a few.
Oh yeah. And Black Peter tonight was only the second time that we’ve done it. We just recently worked that one up, and the same with Bertha.
(Bob Weir. Boulder, CO. March 15, 2004. Photo by Tony Stack)
Cool. How do you decide to introduce one song or another?
Well in tonight’s case our keyboardist Jeff Chimenti made me do both of ’em. He’ll say hey Bob do this one, or hey do that one.
Is that sort of like Bill Graham urging you to do Sugar Magnolia?
Yeah, kind of. But you know, uh, Sugar Mag, we don’t do it that much. Because if we did, I’d lose my wood for it and I like to stay excited about the songs I play.
No doubt. I would think that might be the case with any song. How about a cover like It’s All Over Now. Are you always up for it, or do you just like to break it out now and then?
I Used to Love Her (But It’s All Over Now)*. I think it’s originally a Bobby Womack tune.
Uh, you know I think the original version of that was the uh . . .
The Rolling Stones covered it and made it famous, but I think Bobby Womack wrote it.
Uh Yeah, the Stones covered it, but the original version was by a band called . . . I’m blanking. Are you gonna be here tomorrow night?
Unfortunately not . . . why’s that?
Well, by then I will have remembered who did it (laughs). It was a one-hit wonder group. [Goes and finds guitarist Mark Karan, who remembers the name of the group]. Ok, it was by a group called the Valentinos! And if you listen to it, it’s a lot faster by the end of the song than it was at the beginning. It’s sort of like rock and roll dixieland.
Yeah, that’s almost a big band sound there with the drums really swinging. I’ve heard Ratdog take that approach on certain songs such as Good Mornin’ Little School Girl. You kind of put a jazz rumble to it . . .
The Chicago dudes called that a rhumba (laughter).
I’ve also noticed that you guys have rearranged some songs. Is that to keep things fresh and interesting for you all?
Well, it’s gonna happen. A lot of it is stuff that comes about by accident and then we incorporate it. In fact, that happened tonight on a song. Um what was it? Oh it was on Odessa. I blanked out for a second out there and then something structural happened that was fortuitous. I think we’re gonna try and catch that from the recordings and incorporate it. That’s a good example of how we come to rearrange a song.
Cool. And did you do something during Truckin’ that was a little different?
Oh yeah, I was looking for a dynamic drop which you might have noticed, but I don’t think the other guys caught it.
I think you commented “just like a Swiss watch” right after the song.
Yeah (laughs), that’s what I say when things aren’t exactly perfect.
Not a music related question, but some folks are wondering if your beard is going to be a permanent thing? Do you plan to keep it or might you eventually shave it off?
Ha, the deal is that I’ve been working for over a year on developing the full Yosemite Sam. You know you get attached to this stuff. So, it’d probably be good for me to shave it off, but I gotta wait until it really, really gets wild before I contemplate getting rid of it.
That sounds fair. Will you be coming to Red Rocks this summer?
Well, I’ll be touring with Ratdog through the spring and I think the tour wraps up somewhere in New England, maybe New Hampshire, but I’ll be back with the The Dead this summer at RedRocks for sure, in June or July I think.
And of course at some point you gotta get some surfing in right?
Uh, unfortunately that’s not gonna happen for a while. I’ve been so busy.
Darn. Do you ride your mountain bike at all anymore?
I don’t bicycle that much anymore because I’m so busy that I really have to maximize my workout time. And the problem is that on a bicycle there’s always a downhill and the downhill is free and I can’t afford that. I can’t afford to let my heart rate sag when I’m moving. A third of the time that you’re on a bicycle basically you’re heart rate is actually going down and like I said I need to maximize my workout time.
So what do you do for exercise these days?
I do various cardio exercises, but I’m moving towards doing more yoga.
Do you have a lot of aches and pains from all these years of playing music?
Oh yeah. All the time. Especially my shoulder. But soon I hope to be at a place where I’ve muscled up enough so that I can just do yoga to keep in shape. There’s a lot of stuff I want to do. I wanna be able to walk on my hands.
Oh wow, you’re not just talking about balancing on your head?
No I do that too. But I’m looking to get to where I can walk around on my hands a bit.
Wow, I’d like to see that!
Well hang in there and you just might.
Well great meeting you. And again thanks for your time.
You bet. Have a good one.
Interviewed by Nick Hutchinson at the Boulder Theater in Boulder, CO, 3.15.2004.
*The Valentinos’ original version of “It’s All Over Now” was played to the Rolling Stones during their first North American tour in June 1964 by New York radio DJ Murray the K. Murray the K had an extended series of interviews with the Stones on his WINS Swinging Soiree hit radio show following his similar success as the first radio DJ in the USA to have the Beatles with him on the air (February 1964). He played the Valentinos’ song to the Stones, who “raved on it” and said “it was their kind of song.” He also played the Stones’ “King Bee” (their Slim Harpo cover) the same night and remarked on their ability to achieve an authentic blues sound. After hearing “It’s All Over Now” by the Womacks (aka the Valentinos) on the WINS show, the band recorded their version nine days later at Chess Studios in Chicago. Years later, Bobby Womack said in an interview that he had told his manager he did not want the Rolling Stones to record their version of the song, and that he had told Mick Jagger to get his own song. His manager convinced him to let the Rolling Stones record the song. Six months later on receiving the royalty check for the song he told his manager that Mick Jagger could have any song he wanted.