There’s certain names that seem to appear in nearly every walk of music, and one of those names is Howard Wales. Best known as a collaborator of Jerry Garcia, Wales backed a range of acts including Ronnie Hawkins, the Four Tops, James Brown, as well as an extended stint performing alongside guitarist Harvey Mandel. In 1970, Wales contributed parts to several songs on the Dead’s American Beauty LP and went on to perform a regular Monday night jam sesssion with Garcia at The Matrix in San Francisco. The following year, the duo recorded and released a fusion album titled Hooteroll? featuring a cover art by painting by Abdul Mati Klarwein, known for his famous work that adorns the cover of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew.
Last week I was reminded of this amazing album by none other than my good pal Buddy Miles, who mentioned the Wales/Garcia collabs as his favorite work by Jerry. Featuring several members that would later become the Legion of Mary, Jerry steps out of his element into a space that many say went on to influence the direction the Dead would take in subsequent years. That’s a discussion for another day, but for now dig Jerry’s funked out playing on “South Side Strut.”