Garcia Family Provisions has offered the first taste of the inaugural Heads & Tails release that hears Jerry Garcia team up with psychedelic-blues pioneer Paul Butterfield on “Save Mother Earth”. Recorded on January 19th, 1972 at the Lion’s Share in San Anselmo, CA, the 17-minute track will appear on the first volume of Heads & Tails, which pieces together partial recordings from Garcia’s back catalog, when it arrives November 3rd.

A predecessor to the proper Jerry Garcia Band which would officially take shape in 1976, this project born out of a weekly jam at San Francisco’s Matrix featured Garcia alongside keyboardist Merl Saunders, bassist John Kahn, and drummer Bill Vitt. While the Matrix closed in spring 1971, the band continued to play throughout the Bay Area when Garcia wasn’t touring with the Grateful Dead. Despite playing together for the bulk of the 1970s, the group never took a name, instead identified by the leading men Garcia/Saunders.

The night of January 19th, 1972 wasn’t just any ordinary Wednesday night jam, as Paul Butterfield was in attendance. Butterfield broke down barriers between blues music and the rising tide of psychedelia with his 1966 live album East-West with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, just around the time the Grateful Dead were making waves with genre blending of their own.

Despite some mutual musical characteristics, Butterfield had not previously crossed paths with Garcia and Saunders. Fortunately, they had a mutual connection through bassist John Kahn who had actually auditioned for Butterfield’s band in the late ’60s but didn’t get the gig. He did, however, link up with drummer Bill Vitt when they both started supplying the rhythm for Mike Bloomfield, Butterfield’s former guitarist.

While Butterfield and Garcia/Saunders weren’t acquainted beforehand, the pair’s jam quartet was built for the kind of open-ended looseness that the situation called for, and the resulting recording shows one hell of a first impression. This recording marks Butterfield’s only known appearance with Garcia and Saunders together.

While Garcia didn’t stay in Butterfield’s orbit, this appearance preceded a change of scenery for Kahn and Saunders, who followed Paul to Woodstock to help put together Better Days. The two ended up going out on the road with Butterfield, though Saunders admitted in a 1988 Relix interview it lasted “six months before I got tired and moved back.” Author Jesse Jarnow contends in a press release that it was probably closer to six weeks, but at any rate by the end of summer 1972, Kahn and Saunders were back in the Bay Area playing with the classic Matrix quartet configuration.

The recording of “Save Mother Earth” takes up an entire side of the vinyl-oriented Heads & Tails, Vol. 1. The other side will feature a recording of the proper Jerry Garcia Band from February 5th, 1988. Announced last month, Heads & Tails was conceived as a solution to a number of issues plaguing the keepers of Garcia’s vast vault of unreleased recordings. Chief among them was the state of some tapes that for the most part feature remarkable shows, but contain certain imperfections that limit a complete release. Instead, the new archival series will pair recordings from different shows, with one date on the ‘heads’ and another on the ‘tails’. Learn more about Heads & Tails here.

Jerry Garcia w/ Paul Butterfield – “Save Mother Earth” – 1/19/72