Big Steve Parish Interview – Bob Dylan and the Dead plus Big Steve’s Weed!

Published on July 3, 2020

“Steve Parish has been a primary member of the Grateful Dead family for 50 years. Steve first joined the band as a roadie in 1969. It wasn’t long before he became Jerry Garcia’s trusted gear handler and began to manage the Jerry Garcia Band. Over the years, Parish and Garcia forged an unbreakable bond. Steve was Jerry’s best man at his wedding and was at his bedside when Garcia fell into a coma in 1986. Parish was the last friend to see Jerry before his untimely death in 1995. Steve has continued to maintain his relationships with the rest of the Grateful Dead family. As Weir once said to him “Blood is thicker than water but what we have is thicker than blood.”

RON: Let’s start off with talking about the other worldly pairing of Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead.

BIG STEVE: Oh my god! I could write a whole book about that. It was one of the greatest things, because I was a big fan of Dylan my whole life. He was the poet of my generation, I felt. And so many mystical, incredible things happened around him. It would take us an hour to go through it all.

Now Dylan, particularly, when he… I don’t know exactly what… I forget what year it was, but it was when Dylan was doing white face. He was coming out with paint on his face, with white paint on it. And so he was doing this crazy tour, and he was down at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco, a place we knew real well. And Jerry and I went down there. And when you come in the back door of the Warfield Theater, you’re right on stage. You walk through that back door there and you’re on the stage, and we knew that. So we came through the door there, and we stood up against the wall, and Dylan was playing. And he turned right over to his left and looked right at me and Jerry, and saw it was Jerry. We were up against the wall there. And we were in awe of him. And that kind of put the seed in Bob’s head to come and learn more about Jerry. He really liked him, and they got along super well. And he got along with everybody.

And so then he came over later, after he got done with his set. And that was the first time that we talked with him. And Jerry and him hit it off right away. They felt a mutual thing. Dylan was a man of few words, but you could feel him, you’d feel him, it’s like psychically amazing to hang with.

And then of course you know the way the road is, he went off, because he hadn’t gone out on the road in a while.

Anyway, make a long story short… He stopped traveling for a long time. He wasn’t out on the road, I think, for six or seven years. And then he came to us… He always wanted to play with Jerry, so he sent word to us, and we said, “Yeah, let’s try something.” He came down to our studio in San Rafael, it was a rainy, rainy, rainy night, just like it’s raining right now, really hard. And I was up there to greet him while the band was back playing. And I wondered how he would show up, with an entourage of people, would he show up in a limo, was he going to be helicoptered in and dropped in? But there was a knock on the door, a sheepish little knock, and I looked, I opened the door, and there he was standing there soaking wet. It looked like he walked to the place. He was wearing nothing but a leather vest, and he had a T-shirt on, but he was soaked.

And he came in and and we immediately began talking, he hung with us, and the rest is history. And he was just the greatest, man. But I was just flabbergasted, because I got to be his road guy, man, and take care of him and his equipment, and get to know him, and hang out with him, and that was amazing, because I too was a big fan of his my whole life. And he was a poet in my generation I felt. And he’s an amazing, really great guy.

He came in and started working with the guys. They were all honored.
But he had to be taught HIS music again, because he hadn’t been on the road. He acted like, “What, how do you play this song,” and that. And the guys had been rehearsing a lot of the stuff. He has an amazing quality of being so humble and open, that he picks up where you’re at, if you get my meaning. He’s more interested everybody else, and how things were going. He loved the Grateful Dead. He loved traveling with us. He loved our whole outfit. We became good friends.

RON: .I have a favorite Dylan song that Jerry played beautifully that’s has always my go-to song. I don’t know. It just hits my heart. “When I Paint My Masterpiece.”

He’s a great guy and a professional, and a bit of a mystery too, a strange character but also very intelligent and really good to talk to. And like I say, he takes no credit for anything that he did in that way, he just plays it. It was all part of the views of the world coming through him, you know? I was really impressed with him.

BIG STEVE: Very soulful rendition he did of it. He started playing that early in the Garcia Band. And Garcia Band, I’m lucky enough to start with him. Because I was the youngest guy around, nobody else wanted to go to all the night clubs with him every night. They wanted to just be home, if they weren’t doing Grateful Dead stuff. So I got to do that with him.

And Jerry loved Dylan, always really respected him as a poet. And he loved his songs and did Positively 4th Street. And always worked up other Dylan songs, Like a Rolling Stone, give real soulful renditions like, Takes a Lot to Laugh and Takes a Train to Cry. And then when he started doing Masterpiece, I just loved the way he did it too, because he realized what Dylan was saying there was really something that all artists, whether they be musicians or painters or whatever, can identify with. And all of us in life, that way, you know, your Masterpiece might be your podcast or whatever. You’re putting out the word of Grateful Dead music. You know what I mean? And so everybody has that. It’s such a great song. Jerry always was the greatest for playing other people’s tunes because he can get right inside them.

And I was lucky enough to also… Because I was at Garcia Band things, every time any other thing besides Grateful Dead would pop up, I did it with Jerry. So he would go play on people’s albums. It was just me and him, we’d go there, or Ramrod would go with us in the early days. And then it was so special, because he can listen to a song one time and play the most amazing stuff on it, so everybody wanted him on all their albums.

RON: I never tire of listening to Dylan.

BIG STEVE: No, nobody does. And he’s got this great catalog of stuff. You can go back to any of his years. I recently picked up Blonde on Blonde, and that blew me away. What a masterful album that was. And even his first album, I still love, man. And his tributes to Woody Guthrie and everything about that, it’s Americana. And he is an amazing guy. So I was really glad that we got to tour with him.

I haven’t seen him for a while now. Last time I really saw him was at Jerry’s funeral, but it fell on me there to do… It was a hard job to do the speech at his funeral. And Dylan came up to me and hugged me and shook my hand and said… When he said words to me that made me feel so good, because that’s the kind of guy he was. He’d see and feel for people and come and talk to you, but some other times you would expect him to come through, and he’s not that kind of guy. But what a great craftsman.

When I was a kid, I listened to Dylan all the time, and had just a little Victrola, play his records on there. And my father was really mad. My mother, they called me down, they said, “Hey, what are you listening to? That is terrible, man.” I said, “That is my [inaudible 00:22:18], that’s the guy. I really like this guy.” I was 15 years old and just starting to smoke pot and listen to him. And they played Frank Sinatra for me, and they said, “Listen to this, this is a singer right here. That guy can’t sing.” All this stuff. So I was sitting on the couch in my living room, and they were really laying into me about it.

Years go by and I’m working for the Grateful Dead for like almost 10 or 15 years. And my mother sends me some furniture, after she was done with it, and there was this couch. And so then after I wore it out, I brought it down to the studio. We did that with old furniture.

So in the front room of the studio, Grateful Dead’s famous Front Street Studios, San Rafael, where Dylan came that night, and I was waiting out there on a rainy night for him. And the band was playing in the back, and I was sitting up in the front office. It was about eight o’clock on a dark winter night, pouring rain, and there’s a knock at the door, and I was waiting for Dylan. So I go there, and there he is, all by himself. I don’t know, he could’ve been dropped there out of the sky. There was no car, there was nobody with him. He came and he wasn’t even wearing a shirt. He had a leather vest on. And he sat down on the couch and then we were talking, and I said, “Yeah, the guys are in the back, I’ll go tell him you’re here.”

So I go out front… I mean, I go in the back and get the guys and tell them, “Hey, Dylan’s out here. Come on.” So they put their instruments down and we walked back out there, and he’s fast asleep on that couch. And so they went back and they were playing again. And then I’m sitting there and watching him sleep and I realize, I said, “Holy shit, that’s the same couch that I got that fucking lecture from my folks about not listening to him. And now here it is 20 years later, and he’s sleeping on that couch.” The couch followed me, and he did too, man. It was fucking amazing, man. Can you dig what I’m saying here?

And he took no credit for any of his songs. He almost acts like they came through him, like the muse came to him or something. And he’s very humble about his music. The guys were so anxious to play with him, the Grateful Dead guys. And there’s a lot more to it. If you read my book, you see the story of this couch that I talked about with Dylan. It’s an amazing story, man.

RON: Right on it, man. That’s unbelievable.

BIG STEVE: Isn’t that weird? Isn’t that kind of fucking weird, man? You know? And that’s just the way it was. And he’s like that too. He lives in another world. Still got both feet in this world. And that’s how I’m going to end that right there.

BIG STEVE” The Big Steve line on Grizzly Peak is out there in 100 outlets in California, and it’s doing really well. I just had a really good time with it at New Year’s, going to do dispensary shows, and doing them all over California. My dispensary shows, I go and do a thing where I now sit, and I appear at the place and give out free samples, and we have a smoke out and just do stories and chats about the Grateful Dead, and smoking, and it’s very successful. It’s Grizzly Peak, the Big Steve line.

RON: Tell me about it. Describe the weed, is it Sativa?

BIG STEVE: The weed is a blend. It’s a hybrid mix of OG gush and blueberry cookie, which is a Sativa. And the two of them together make an absolutely fabulous strong [inaudible 00:11:47], it really works, and comes in seven pack little half gram joints that are good. I call them dog walkers, because you go out smoke with while you’re walking your dog.

Also, it comes in single individual Big Steve joints, which are a full gram. I’m really happy with it. It’s something that I can really get behind after spending my entire life in loving cannabis and being an advocate for it forever, and being in the Grateful Dead, where we had the most amazing cannabis come to us throughout the ages. I don’t think anybody had smoked as great a variety and worldwide styles and types as we did. And it was always the roadies. It was always myself that had the pot. The band guys, they just smoked our weed, and they hung with us all the time. And everybody would get gifts and score stuff in all different ways and grow it.

We started growing our own a long time ago, when we all lived in Stinson Beach in 1971. This mountain girl actually taught me how to grow pot, she was amazing at it. And so these represent the strains of the old days that we try to keep alive here.

We started growing our own a long time ago, when we all lived in Stinson Beach in 1971. This mountain girl actually taught me how to grow pot, she was amazing at it. And so these represent the strains of the old days that we try to keep alive here.

RON: How did you get into the weed business?

BIG STEVE: Well, everybody was trying to do sponsorships of marijuana. Now, I can name a million celebrities that started lines, three or four of them. But it turns out that actually, a lot of pot smoking relates to the Grateful Dead, and the history of the Grateful Dead, and the whole thing about us. And so we turned out to be somebody that everybody in California pot industry was coming and talking to us. They wanted us to sponsor with them.

And so on the whole Dead & Company tour, which I did this summer with those guys, we had people coming to us from all the companies, bringing us bags of samples of their wares, and talking to us. And nobody seemed… The band couldn’t make up their mind about who to go with. And then people started doing individual deals. Mickey did a deal.

And then that got me thinking, “Well, you know, it’s just not ever going to be something that everybody’s going to do together.” So I’d been getting courted all the time by these companies, because in my world, the radio show, I talk about cannabis. I believe in it so much as a medicine and a cure all for so many things in your life. It’s kept me going. Everybody who I know who strongly stayed with weed, and didn’t go in to all the other drugs, which everybody says, cannabis is a gateway drug, it’s really just the opposite. It’s a drug that keeps you from going into the gateways of all those other dangerous places. And so I was a big advocate on it always.

Finally, the right people came to me, and I knew right away. And I went over and looked at their operation, and I could tell they were the right people; their attitude, their whole philosophy of spreading the good vibes that go with it. Grizzly Peak, great people. And so I became real friendly with them and made a deal with them to sponsor it. But it’s turned out really good, just like I thought.

So we’re going to open these roadie bud houses, a couple of them in California, where you can smoke and hang out. We’ll have memorabilia in there, all this stuff, because we, the roadies, like I say, had the best stuff, and the best memorabilia too. But that’s another story.

RON: Perfect. Anything else you want to say?

BIG STEVE: Oh, good. Good. I trust you to pick the good ones on that. Because I can tell from your voice that you’re a good person. I know you’re not trying to… up to any shenanigans or anything, that’s why I’m trying to help you here.

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