Drummer David Kemper on His Years With Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia


Thanks!!!!   Great interview.  Gave his Jerry Band drum set to Dylan's daughter.  Remarkable.   

I thought the same thing, I would have kept it!

Jerry Band really wasn't the same after Kemper left.



what a turd

Grate interview!


They used a different drummer on the final JGB tour in 1995. What happened? 

Jerry had a roadie that looked after him, Steve [Parish]. He was always a friend. But he came to me one day and said, “Look, Jerry wants to get a new drummer.” I said, “Jerry does?” He goes, “Yeah.” I go, “OK. Well, it’s been a great run. Thanks for everything you’ve done, Steve.”

They did a few gigs [with drummer Donny Baldwin], and I went about doing session work. Then I got a call from Steve saying, “Hey, they want you to come back.” So I came back and nobody said anything except Steve. He said, “Look, I’m sorry. It was me. I told them that you were tired of the gig, and that you didn’t want to play with them anymore.” I said, “You told them that? You told Jerry that? Why did you do that?” He goes, “So I could take more money.”


Parish the big WANKER!!

Great anecdote about Charlie too. Ultimate compliment. 

Nice interview, all positive. He even tries (and fails) to make Parrish come off OK.

I remember a different interview where he talked about how frustrated he was with the JGB. He thought they could be so much better, tighter, but they never rehearsed and he felt that they were more a bar band and could have been much more.

I thought that was kind of funny, first of all because basically the JGB was always a bar band, set up for Jerry to just have fun & play, and also because I've always felt that Kemper's era in the band was by far the tightest, most cohesive version of the JGB. 

As a studio drummer I can see why he'd want to rehearse and make it more a serious full-time group, but I doubt Jerry had much if any interest in any of that.

I didn't really have an issue with him leaving the band. He was good, but I always thought he was a bit of a heavy hitter, and I liked Baldwin's lighter touch.

At least for me, the issues I had with the JGB that last year or so had far more to do with Jerry not always "being there" than with Kemper not being there.

And it's also been my opinion that the Kemper, Campbell, Sexton band was by far the best group I've ever seen with Dylan. 

I dunno. Not sure if I completely buy Kemper's side of the story. Was Steve instrumental in booting Kemper? It sounds like it. I just find it a bit farcical that he did it all behind Garcia's back without Jerry OK'ing the decision on a certain level. Pretty sure the truth is somewhere in between the lines here. 

Kemper also says he came back to play after Donny. Huh? I have no recollection of this. What shows.




I don't see how Parrish could go off the reservation & let someone in JGB go without permission, & several sources confirm Baldwin as the final drummer.

From Wikepedia.....In September 1989, Baldwin assaulted Mickey Thomas while Starship was on tour in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Thomas's injuries required reconstructive surgery on his face and head, and Baldwin was fired from the band. From February 1994 until its demise in April 1995, Baldwin drummed for the Jerry Garcia Band.

The article mentions studio legend Larry Knetchel a couple times, who plays keyboards on the JGB songs on Reflections.


I've hung out with him numerous times back when he played with Melvin Seals. His memories seemed to jump around quite a bit both with his JGB years and Dylan years. The stories seemed to fit together like a puzzle that spilled out of the box and had a few pieces missing when tossed back in the box. The coming back to play with JGB after his exit is an upside down question mark. Baldwin was on drums at those last shows and at that point everything was on autopilot. His time with Dylan was the strongest of ensembles with Campbell and Sexton in the band. Those were amazing years to see Bob. Maybe it's me and my memory bank but some of these stories seem like the safe was left open when the bank closed.

>>Kemper also says he came back to play after Donny. Huh? I have no recollection of this. What shows.<<


Gaylord Birch replaced him for 10 shows in 85 and 86 - maybe that's what he was (mis)remembering.

> Not sure if I completely buy Kemper's side of the story.

I seem to recall hearing stories about Jerry having others do his dirty work for him. Like even breaking off relationships with girlfriends. Maybe someone should call into Big Steve's show on Sirius to get his side of the story.

per a 1997 interview:

BS: Nobody ever told you why? That’s been a big question: what happened to David Kemper?

DK: That’s been my big question too. We did that tour in ‘93. It was financially our most successful tour. We played big venues and sold out a large portion of them. But the success didn’t translate into the music. It wasn’t any different musically from the ones before. But everything else felt different somehow. I felt that Jerry was starting to change in some way that I don’t really understand to this day. Maybe he was tired of me.

BS: How were you informed of your termination?

DK: I got a call from Parish in January of ‘94, saying, ‘Well, here’s that phone call you’ve been expecting for 10 years. Where do you want us to send your drums?’ I said, ‘Well, Steve, why don’t you send them here to my house.’ And he said, ‘Don’t you want them sent to your cartage company?’ And I said, ‘No, have them sent here to the house.’ And he said, ‘Oh, by the way, we have a new drummer already.’ and I said, ‘Oh, OK..’ And he said, ‘Well, I don’t know what else to say but ‘goodbye.’’ And I said, ‘Well, Steve, you know, you always had a way with words.’ And that was it. No explanation, nothing.

Drumming At The Edge of Jerry:
An Interview with David Kemper




BS: And in addition to the insularity of the band, I also detect in your analysis a sense of stagnation in the music, an implication that it never evolved.

DK: I don’t think it did evolve. I don’t think we got any better over the years. We were what we were. Always. I think the band could have been a lot better, the music could have been a lot better, and, in their position, I think the people closest to him could have influenced Jerry in a more positive way. Jerry was surrounded by a lot of temptation that didn’t have to be there had certain folks been more conscious of his weakness. But I could be wrong. When you’re that successful, and you can surround yourself with anybody you want to, and if you have that much money and influence . . . well, hell, Jerry did what he wanted to do. That’s one of the things we admire about him, right? Live your life the way you want to live it. And if you want to dress funny or wear the weirdest looking shoes, wear ‘em, and those corduroy pants and the black t-shirt with a burn in it and dandruff from his beard. Like for four days he’d wear the same thing. I could never quite understand it. But it was Jerry.

found this poking around the interwebs:


Jerry Garcia – Signed & Inscribed Garcia Book to Band Member


A copy of the book "Garcia: A Signpost to New Space" signed and inscribed to his longtime drummer, David Kemper. Kemper performed with the Jerry Garcia Band from 1983-1994, before joining Bob Dylan's band (1996-2003; he was Dylan's longest lasting drummer.) Garcia writes "Dear David, This book is mostly bullshit-!! but music is not. Thanks for your Beautiful !! playing, Love, Jerry." We've never seen a Garcia inscription anywhere as frank or personal; this is as good as it gets. In overall excellent condition. We acquired this from a dealer who acquired it from Kemper; 

If that note from Jerry is real it sure seems like he wasn't sober at the time.

I’ve had only one personal interaction with Kemper and found him to be polite, mellow and forthright.

Back in the late 80s the Grateful Dead were trying to figure out how to better handle their merchandising, their trademarks, and their licensing business. Since at that time they were using George (Star Wars) Lucas's facilities to record, there was an idea to also utilize Lucasfilms’s merchandise-related expertise in some way rather than wrestle with all that business in-house. This level of corporate professionalism would certainly cost officially-sanctioned vendors big bucks and there was no Kickstarter or start up incubators back then, especially for rock-and-roll merchandise-related projects.

I was working for a small group of folks, one who also worked for Jerry, looking to acquire the rights to use GD artwork for making and reselling hologram products including stickers, spinning discs, trinkets, jewelry and wall art. The 3D technology was new and exciting at the time and the Dead‘s own merchandise people were somewhat interested in being early adopters and selling the holo-products inside shows. Plus, we were already connected to a network of hippie stores, hologram galleries and other retail outlets. So we had a cool product line and a way to sell it. If we could afford to purchase the rights. There was even talk of Jerry sitting for a holographic portrait (he was keen on the technology), but getting him down to the holo-studio proved impossible.

With limited funds of their own, the product group need to raise substantial money to pay Lucasfilms their anticipated fees and start production. We flew down to LA with a suitcase full of prototypes to pitch Kemper to invest. We sat around his living room table and explained the proposed investment to him and his wife.

As I recall, shortly after the project began the Lucasfilm angle dissolved and our additional funding dried up so the final deal was never consummated. A limited number of holo products were produced and sold and GD Merchandising became their own corporate behemoth.

^ "rainbow-spectrum metallic" holo-foil button produced at some stage of the officially-sanctioned merch project (dated 1990). These were embossed holograms, not printed with ink.


One of our customers who made non-sanctioned holo foil products (stickers and spinning discs) was featured on the back cover of the Dozin at the Nick CD hawkin his wares outside the arena (May 1990).




Thanks for the link, Woz.

>If that note from Jerry is real it sure seems like he wasn't sober at the time.<

Whew! Good thing we have a hand-writing intoxication forensics expert on hand!

fhanks Poz for posting. i had no idea Kemper played w Dylan. such a great inteview


david kemper was amazing.

does he play with anyone currently?

Unfortunatly, no he doesn't

I love Kemper’s drumming, was perfect for Garcia Band. 

But his (new?) story here, about how he came back briefly after he was fired? That has more holes than a golf course. I never thought Donny Baldwin was even an adequate replacement for Kemper, but I do know that Kemper never played with Jerry again after Fall 93. Kemper is either straight up telling a tale, or he has his memory seriously mixed up. 


A good drummer is always in demand. Interesting that he isn't busy.

His departure from Dylan also seemed premature. Bob is Bob and his decisions are usually known only to himself, so perhaps he just wanted a change. Yet at the time it felt a bit strange as the drumming took a step back in the band. Perhaps Kemper is what you would consider a difficult personality. 

Didn't seem to happy about the business side of Melvin's JGB. Is that why Zach left as well? I guess John K has a better manager or something.

Melvin isn't known for treating nor paying his musicians well, so they're pretty much always changing.

Seems like David figured that out within the first month or two. I only recall him playing a handful of shows (maybe around like spring 08?)

On the flip side I think melvin makes a lot of really good regional musicians nationally visible, where they otherwise might not have had an opportunity like that