John Kadlecik playing with DSO, Hollywood, CA ©2008Ebb Eskew

Like many of us who post and tweet about new projects we are beginning,John Kadlecikannounced to his friends on Facebook and his followers on Twitter that he has started something new. The John K Band.    

 and a few online posts about the rehearsals:

“Yesterday’s rehearsal rocked! So the 4/11 show in DC will be “the John K Band,” with Scott Fitzpatrick on drums, Paul Grepps on keys, Katy Gaughan on percussion, Larry Joselof on bass, and yours truly on guitar and vocals… some of my old originals, plus a bunch of JGB, Phish, and other covers…”   


 John’s online friends are also all fans of his music, Kadlecik being well known as the lead guitarist in the Dark Star Orchesta  (DSO) for the band’s first 12 years. DSO is the nation’s best known touring Grateful Dead tribute band, with John taking on the part of Jerry Garcia.

Since Jerry’s death in 1995, many players have stepped up to the plate, and Deadheads have opinions on all of them. But the majority of ‘heads agrees on one thing, when it comes to sounding like Jerry on vocals and guitar, John nails it.    

For the younger generations of Deadheads, John is their Jerry.

John Kadlecik playing with DSO, Hollywood, CA ©2008Ebb EskewDeadheadland talked with many young fans at DSO’s performance at All Good Music Festival 2009  in West Virginia, and consistently they shared two stories: how young they were when Jerry died, and how many times they have seen DSO.  Those are their shows, their tour experiences.

In fact, the existence of a younger generation of Deadheads is due largely to DSO’s incessant touring, and John’s beautiful interpretation of Jerry’s work.

As summertime 2009 had just about come and gone… my oh my… It John Kadlecik playing with Furthurwas announced that John would be joining Phil Lesh and Bob Weir of The Dead in a new musical adventure, taking the long strange trip a little bit further than it’s gone before.

Furthur  was a smash hit! Requiring more of John’s time, he played his last shows with DSO in October December.

Furthur had a few shows through the Fall, New Years Eve, a series of stealth live audience rehearsals in Mill Valley, CA, and then a full-fledged 22 show Winter tour last February, culminating with Phil Lesh’s 70thBirthday Celebration in San Francisco on March 12th. The next big thing for Furthur is Furthur Festival in California on Memorial Day weekend, and then a Summer tour /festival run.

After spending most of winter time on the road, it must have felt good for John to get home and patch his bones, and warming them beside the fire, get a moment’s reprise to breathe.

 John, and his wife Katy Gaughan , who is also a musician, live on the east coast, in the Washington DC area.

Listen to Djesben on My Space

With time in between tours, John had time – for maybe the first time in many years, because DSO seemed to tour constantly.  He had been planning on sitting in with Djesben, Katy’s jazz band, at an upcoming gig. It seems though, that John wanted to be starting something… Rehearsals evolved into the John K. Band.

John K playing with Furthur  Jerry Garcia one time commented that he liked to keep busy with side projects, because it forced him to keep his chops up between Grateful Dead John Kadlecik playing with DSO, Hollywood, CA ©2008Ebb Eskewtours. And it is fitting, that John will include some  Jerry Garcia Band songs in the John K Band. He also will include some Phish, and plenty of other covers (he knows hundreds of non-Dead songs too!), as well as his own original songs too. Expect improvisational jams and really creative set lists, and something different from Furthur or DSO, though something fans of those bands ought to really dig.

One thing about us Deadheads, we like to know what is up! John was kind enough to answer some questions for Deadheadland:

Deadheadland: Tell us about the John K Band! What is your intention, and who are the players? 

Larry Joselof, Katy Gaughan, & Paul Grepps - John k Band John Kadlecik: I have wanted to get a DC/Baltimore-based electric rock-n-roll band in the vein of NRBQ/Phish/JGB/etc. happening for a few years; so I’m really psyched that this is finally coming together now. I am on guitar and vocals, of course. And my wife Katy Gaughan is on percussion. She is a drum circle facilitator and has been playing locally for ten years with her band, Djesben.

Larry Joselof is a friend of ours who plays bass with a local group called Ten Feet Tall. Paul Greppsis on keyboards and he used to play in jambands in the Wilmington, DE scene. And Scott Fitzpatrick (drums) played with several original jazz/rock groups in New York City before relocating to the DC area.

DHL: You mentioned some JGB, and Phish, as well as originals…
JK: I have been writing or co-writing music in every band I have been in since 1986 (except DSO) and I have a small catalog of original songs that I still like to perform. And I know several hundred non-Grateful Dead cover songs that I have been itching to play, as well.
DHL: You are playing on Sunday April 11tha the Bossa Lounge. Any other gigs?
Paul Grepps - John K Band
JK: There’s a couple of possible dates in May. On Monday, May 10th there’s a benefit for the July 4th Smoke-In in DC ( with Tom Constanten, and I’m also working on a show in Baltimore for May 14th.
DHL: Is the John K Band something you had in mind or is it spontaneous?

JK: Many “spontaneous” projects are years in the making. 😉 I played one show as the “JK Band” in Chicago in 1999, I think, and DSO was playing too much to maintain a project like that. I had planned to get something going last summer, and I had August 1st on hold at the State Theater in Falls Church, VA to do a Jerry Garcia birthday celebration… then Furthur came along!

(Ed. Note: a bus came by… and I got on… that’s where it all began…)

 Scott Fitzpatrick - John K bandDHL: Is it just for kicks , maintaining your licks, or is this a new project you want to grow with?

JK: Right now, the John K Band is mainly a project to play locally, and most of musicians have a lot of other commitments in their lives, but down the road, who knows? 

DHL: Will it be improvisational too?
JK: My whole drive on guitar has been about improvisation since I first picked it up in 1984. I was a classical violin student, and doing pretty well at that, when I began to get curious about improvisation. My teacher at the time had very little to offer me on the subject, but when I started teaching myself guitar, improvisation seemed “built into” the instrument, and six months into playing guitar I had a pretty good handle on the 12-bar blues form.  

I am a little frustrated that there are folks who think I wasn’t improvising in DSO… my number one motivation in performing Grateful Dead setlists was getting to play the completely unstructured “Space” part of the show on a regular basis.

JKrehearse at home DHL: Will you be playing any instruments other than guitar? Any acoustic?

JK: For now I expect to just play electric guitar. Down the line, I may try electric violin, but I have a hard time hearing that without someone else playing guitar along with it. I might also do an acoustic version of the band someday, and I know several multi-instrument string players here that would be a lot of fun to play mandolin and violin with, in addition to 6-string, 12-string, and resonator acoustic guitars.

DHL: Curious about your original songs, do you write the words and music? Have you performed them before? Are any recorded and available?

JK: Writing lyrics for me is like pulling teeth, but fortunately I have known several prolific lyricists in my life, and musical ideas for songs come to me all the time. As I mentioned earlier, I have played original songs with almost every band I have been in. The songs that I still enjoy playing mostly come from a band I played with in the early to mid ’90s called Hairball Willie, and I have subsequently performed them with Uncle John’s Band, Wingnut, and the JK Band in the Chicago area, Firewheelin DC, and touring nationally with The Mix.  
 The Mix was a group I was in from 2003-2005 with Melvin Seals, Greg Anton, and Kevin Rosen, and we were actually signed to a recording contract with Rainman Records. The Mix recorded and released one CD, titled “American Spring” and two of my old songs are on that one (“Sister Smiles” and “What’s Become of Mary”) as well as a couple songs each from Melvin, Kevin, and Greg. Greg Anton’s songs feature lyrics by Robert Hunter, and I contributed the melody to the title track, “American Spring”. That CD is still available on the Rainman Records website, as well as Amazon and the like.    

 DHL: Tell me about Djesben

JK:Djesben is Katy’s band, along with Topher Dunne (Chapman Stick, 12-string acoutic guitar) and Christian Crowley (Chapman Stick, mountain dulcimer.)   They formed a little over ten years ago in DC to commemorate the 100th birthday of Duke Ellington, with an Indonesian Gamelon twist, and the name, Djesben, comes from the Javanese slang for “jazz band.” (Ed. Note: say “djesben” out loud and you will get the name! and it is fun to say)    They have been kind enough to allow me to sit in with them on violin once in a while, and I know they are working on a CD.  


Check out Djesben’s music on My Space  

Thank you John! Really look forward to hearing John K. Band;
my suspicion is that it will be something very sweet.


Photos used by permission from Ebb Eskew.  Rehearsal shots were provided by John Kadlecik.  Other pictures by Brian Markovitz and Deadheadland.