Zen Tricksters

Grateful Web recently had the honor of visiting with Donna Jean Godchaux-MacKay. While most folks are familiar with Donna Jean as the radiant co-vocalist of 1970s Grateful Dead, augmenting some of the seminal group’s most celebrated tunes such as “The Music Never Stopped,” “Cassidy,” “Mississippi Half-Step,” and “Playing in the Band,” she holds deeper roots in Americana as a 1960s session musician of the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.

Some 14 years ago, Donna Jean and the Tricksters (Donna Jean Godchaux and the Zen Tricksters, basically) put out an album of the same name.  It included a song called “Shelter.”  As the pandemic took over our lives, Donna Jean thought about the new meaning of the song and….but let me let her tell you about it:

The Grateful Dead – New Riders of the Purple Sage – Marshall Tucker Band concert on September 3, 1977, is a special moment in the Dead’s legendary career. The largest concert in New Jersey history, it drew well over 100,000 fans to hear the Dead in spectacular form (and after a three-month break necessitated by Mickey Hart’s car accident and broken shoulder). Not just the Dead: as Mike Falzarano toured with the New Riders a few years later, most shows would include someone saying that they’d seen the Riders at Englishtown.

The roster of current and former Zen Tricksters include some of the most venerable musicians in the Jam Band scene today. Originating from Long Island, New York, this band has played together and apart for over 30 years and its members, not only “life long” Zen Tricksters, play and have played with other bands of renown, including Dark Star Orchestra, Phil Lesh and Friends, The Other Ones, The Dead, and Assembly of Dust.

In celebration of the return of the Dead, the historic 3/2/69 Fillmore West show will be brought back to life by The Zen Tricksters on 3/2/09 at Mexicali Live in Teaneck, NJ to give all who missed it an opportunity to experience it live.

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