Do You Wanna Dance

Lyrics: Bobby Freeman
Music: Bobby Freeman

Only ever played once by the Dead, with the Neville Brothers as guests onstage on 31 Dec 1987.

But see below for a possible earlier involvement by Jerry Garcia.

Do you wanna dance and hold my hand
Tell me I'm your loving man
Oh baby, do you wanna dance

Do you wanna dance and make romance
Squeeze me all through the night
Oh baby, do you wanna dance

Do you wanna dance under the moonlight
Squeeze me all through the night
Oh baby do you wanna dance

Do you wanna dance and hold my hand
Squeeze me and say I'm your man
Oh baby do you wanna dance

Do you wanna dance under the moonlight
Squeeze and kiss me all through the night
Oh baby do you wanna dance
Did Jerry Garcia play on the original recording?

According to some accounts, Jerry Garcia played guitar on the original Bobby Freeman recording of "Do You Wanna Dance?"

The fullest account comes from David Nelson, quoted in Robert Greenfield's "Dark Star: An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia" (pp63-64):
"We all knew that he'd played electric guitar on Bobby Freeman's 'Do You Wanna Dance.' Before any of this. Before the folk thing. When he was in high school. In a real funky studio. If you listen to that recording, there are no drums. There are cardboard boxes. He was a kid from Balboa High. It was what he used to refer to as his 'teenage hoodlum period.' When he got that first electric guitar from his mom in exchange for the accordian. He got that guitar and was really happy with it and he told me that he just tuned it to one tuning. The solo actually sounds like it could be in that tuning because he said it wasn't until a couple of months later when he found out how to really tune it. It's very primitive and it's very much that style of plunging out and jumping in with both feet first. The solo itself is basically two licks used very modestly. Very modestly."
And Sara Ruppenthal Garcia backs this up in the same book (p36):
"And in high school, Jerry had played on Bobby Freeman's 'Do You Wanna Dance.' But he didn't consider that exactly worthy. What he really wanted to do was play with Bill Monroe."
David Nelson repeated the claim in an interview with Life magazine:
"You listen to that record, which was made in, like, someone's room, and you hear it. Cardboard boxes for drums, and then a very solid guitar solo comes in. It was crude but very solid. Had to be Jerry."
No mention of this is made in either Blair Jackson's "Garcia" An American Life" or Dennis McNally's "A Long Strange Trip." Rock Scully, in "Living With The Dead" says (p70):
"[Tom Donahue] has his own label, Autumn Records ... Garcia has done session work for Autumn Records (including Bobby Freeman's single "Do You Wanna Dance?") so Tom already knows him"
Phil Lesh also mentioned it in an interview linked to the 2004 publication of his book "Searching For The Sound":
"Well interestingly enough, Jerry's first instrument was rock and roll guitar. He played guitar on the Bobby Freeman song "Do You Want To Dance' when he was sixteen years old or something. It's like a rhythm guitar part."
What is odd about this story is the timing. Jerry Garcia would have been 15 when "Do You Wanna Dance?" was recorded, and had been playing the guitar for less than a year. The liner notes from a Bobby Freeman CD give this account of how the song was recorded:
"Bobby decided to visit the disc jockey on his own, taking with him a drum-playing friend ... Bobby accompanying himself on piano and his friend beating out the rhythm on the congas demonstrated his wares on four numbers, which the deejay took away with him. The vice president of Jubilee Records of New York was honeymooning in San Francisco and combining business with pleasure called in at the local radio station to see how his company's products were faring. The deejay instead played him Bobby's tape, and Mortimer Pailitz liked what he heard and within three weeks, Bobby was signed to Jubilee. They took the original tapes that Bobby had cut in Frisco, overdubbed a guitar, bass and drums, and released two of the tracks [including Do You Wanna Dance] on their Josie subsidiary in March 1958."
David Nelson's comments square with Jerry Garcia having played on the recording with his newly-acquired guitar, although I'm still not sure I believe that a record company would use as a session musician a 15 year old school-kid who barely knew how to play the guitar.

Some have speculated that Jerry Garcia knew Bobby Freeman when they were growing up--Freeman was only a couple of years older than Garcia. That's possible, though I don't know of any evidence to support it.

It seems that Rock Scully is wrong when he says that Garcia's session work for Autumn Records included "Do You Wanna Dance?" Tom Donahue and Bob Mitchell founded Autumn Records in 1963, some five years after "Do You Wanna Dance?" was recorded--though it is true that some of Bobby Freeman's later recordings were released by Autumn Records, and the Grateful Dead recorded some demos in their very early days (under the name "The Emergency Crew"). See Matt Schofield's discography for more information on Autumn Records.

Bobby Freeman's personal and business manager emailed me to say that it's not true that Jerry Garcia played on "Do You Wanna Dance". Bobby Freeman never knew Jerry - the closest they ever got was living a few blocks away from each other.

Another Footnote
In an interview around the release of "Before The Dead", Dennis McNally said this:
"In all the interviews I did with Jerry, which were considerable, I only ever caught him in one fib. It was something it's fairly clear that he didn't do that he claimed he did, which is play on a record by Bobby Freeman. I actually tracked down Bobby Freeman and said, "there isn't any guitar on that song is there?" I think it was a case of Jerry inflating his ego. He didn't yet have the accomplishments he'd later have. When I asked him about that once, he changed the subject real fast and we moved on. That was the only time I ever got the sense he was being anything less than forthcoming."

Further Information
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography


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