Late Night with David Letterman had only been on the air a couple of months when Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir stopped by for a chat. They were some of the biggest names to appear on the young show at that point, and Letterman seemed more than a bit nervous when they sat down. “Let me, uh, ask you just a question you’re probably tired of hearing of,” he said. “Um, you probably more than anybody, uh, represent San Francisco and all of the Be-In’s and that sort of thing. What year would this have been?”
Garcia admitted that his memories were a bit dim, but he did share some memories from the old days. “At the time it seemed like things were going to change real fast,” he said. “There was this amazing momentum. When the acid tests were happening they started with 50 or 60 people and within a matter of weeks it had escalated to 3,000 or something. It had this amazing juggernaut quality of picking up lots of people as it went along…There was a sense of history going on.”
The band had just played two nights at the Nassau Coliseum, and they explained why they didn’t mind fans taping their shows. “The shows are never the same, ever,” Garcia said. “When we’re done with it, they can have it.”
After a commercial break, Garcia and Weir strapped on acoustic guitars to play the folk cover “Deep Elem Blues.” Dave said it was something they “hadn’t done musically in this country,” but they’d actually done it in concert just the previous week and it had been in their live repertoire since 1966.
They wrapped up the show with a cover of Jesse Fuller’s “Monkey and the Engineer,” which Weir introduced as “a gripping tale of tragedy narrowly averted.” The duo returned to Letterman in 1987 to jam with Paul Shaffer, but the full never band never got a chance to play – and since both Letterman and the Dead are wrapping up their careers in the next few months, it doesn’t seem like it’ll ever happen.