Mods & Rockers Festival: Grapeful For Monterey


Psychedelic-blues-rock band Moby Grape performed at the Monterey Festival. Unfortunately for them, contractual disagreements led to their performance not being included in D.A. Pennebaker's iconic film of the festival. As the Mods & Rockers Festival prepares to present its 40th anniversary celebration of the festival- which will include showing some Moby Grape footage among the rare outtakes -- the band's acclaimed lead guitarist Jerry Miller reflects on Monterey, Hendrix and the music...

We played first on Saturday morning because everybody was arguing. Nobody wanted to play first and I said that would be fine for me. Not the best position for breaking into show business! We were perfect. We played everything exactly right. Had we played later at anytime on that show we could have done the same as anyone else. Our original spot opening for Otis Redding later in the evening was given to Laura Nyro. But the festival ended up pretty good.

At Monterey it was the first time I had seen Jimi Hendrix since a few years earlier when we used to watch together a lot of the touring bands who would visit the Seattle area. All the guitar players would show up then at the Spanish Castle, the Tiki or Birdland. Myself, Jimi and Larry Coryell we would all go. There was a guy we would check out, Jerry Allen, who was funky to a rat. He'd get up there with his Stratocaster guitar and arch his ass out. Man, he was the funkiest. We saw the Wailers, too. Later, after he was established, Jimi wrote a song "Spanish Castle Magic." It was a venue in Midland, right between Seattle and Tacoma.

Once time we saw Gene Vincent. We saw Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and Little Richard. Chuck Berry was unbelievable. Chuck opened the show for Ray Charles, La Vern Baker, Frankie Lyman and the Teenager in 1957. I even took a date with me. I was 12. When Chuck came out and hit the opening notes to "School Days" I knew "this was it!" Everyone went to these gigs in the late '50s and early '60s because if you wanted to be a guitar player you had to. In 1952 I also saw Hank Williams. I was 7. My dad took me down there in a truck and we rode in the rain. I couldn't be in the area where everyone was drinking and fighting.

At the Monterey festival I saw Jimi and Otis take over the show. I saw Jimi before his set, sitting in the music room, the dressing room, hanging out. Brian Jones the guitar player from the Rolling Stones was there. We chatted. He was all over the place. He was having fun. As a guitarist, I don't think you can set things apart. Jimi's set at Monterey was extremely right. Monterey was perfect. I was sitting right in front of Jimi at Monterey. It was wonderful, especially with a pipe coming from your right and a pipe coming from your left. Pretty soon you're sitting there spinning. We sure had a good time. And Jimi got to see me too. We were both left-handed guitarists. Here we are a couple of schmucks from Seattle ...

In the movie Monterey Pop you get to see Jimi. What Jimi did was that he did the full chord thing. Anybody can play lead a hundred miles an hour. But to do a full package with a three piece, and have the P.A. and the lights. It was his day. It was beautiful. He had it. The sound was right, the color was right, And it was the chords. The Stratocaster and the Marshall amps. It came out with the full body flavor. The Marshall amps gave the bottom a nice hairy bottom and a full six-string blend with meat. The meat and potatoes.

After his show at Monterey Jimi was signing girl's breasts. They would pull up their sweaters, hand him a tube of lipstick, and he'd sign his autograph. I said to him, "That looks like a nice job."

Subsequently I saw him at the Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood when T-Bone Walker was gigging with John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed. I jammed with T-Bone and Jimmy Reed, and the people wanted Jimi to play, but they called out for "Purple Haze," and he didn't want to do it again.

At Monterey I saw Otis Redding deliver. He's in the Monterey Pop movie. What I saw that night was Otis turn that great big place into a living room. That's what you want to do. Jimi played for the big place, and filled the big place up. But Otis earlier when he got up there he turned the big place into a living room. And it was that intimate. That's what you call an artist that can bring it all in. I had never seen anything like it. Even in the very back, because I roamed around the place and they felt like they were in his living room. And Booker T. and the boys, Cropper, Dunn, Jackson, were so familiar with the material they set it all up. Just magic. From every place in the whole are it was good to hear and no one yelled. Cropper was always so clean and fine. And the band was always so clean and fine, yet soulful. Those tunes are classics. Cropper's guitar playing is beyond reproach.

The Monterey movie shows the community. It's wonderful. The Monterey festival, and the movie live on, even though some people who performed (who were friends of mine) like Jimi, Janis Joplin, Pig Pen, Jerry Garcia, are not with us. But their music lives on. That's pretty cool. It's not good that they're not here. I'd love to see them. Sometimes they become immortal by going out quicker.