All In The Family: Richie Pechner
From building cabinets for the Wall Of Sound to snapping candid photos on tour, Richie Pechner turned out to be a real Renaissance man for the Grateful Dead. Find out what he learned on the road with Ramrod, which Dave's Picks made his list for "Desert Island Dead," and more in this edition of All In The Family.
When did you first spark interest in photography? What were some of the first photos you took?
I saw my Dad taking photos as a kid and must of impressed him enough with my interest and curiosity for him to buy me my first camera at 10 years old. I was a newspaper boy for the IJ and won a free trip to the1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley. During the snow storm at the opening ceremony I wound up next to Richard Nixon’s limo and took a snap of him through the car window. Although not a great shot it did express the conditions at that moment and the IJ ran it with the story about the Marin paperboys attending the Olympics.
You were in on the Grateful Dead at their earliest stage. Fan or roadie first? How did your skills suit the band’s needs at the time?
First go around was when Danny Rifkin asked me in November of ’66 to drive one of the vehicles to NYC for some gigs. So started out driving and worked my way into the crew. Learned from Dany Healy and Ramrod, two of the best at what they did. Healy rigged all five vehicles with CB radios so we could caravan in style. Ramrod tried to teach me how to roll a joint with one hand while driving. Needless to say, there was lots to learn for a 18 year old hick from Novato.
Tell us a little bit about your role in the Wall Of Sound era.
I had a been a carpenter for a bit by that time so when the Wall of Sound design started to solidify, it became clear that we would need to build our own cabinets. I helped set up our own cabinet shop and we started cranking out cabinets.
Let’s get into the Pacific Northwest and your time on the road capturing the band. Any standout moments/memories?
That tour needed more crew then any previous tour due to the added complication of setting up the WOS. We were still working out how to rig it correctly. I was on the crew and not there to take photos. Ramrod had given me a Halliburton case for my Nikon so I brought it on the road. I was lucky to get a break every now and then and grab some snaps. Best memory was at the Portland Memorial Coliseum show on 5.19.74. It was the first time on that tour that we got the Wall up and running in enough time so the Band could rehearse. Got a stadium worker to give me a lift on his fork lift so I could grab some full stage shots. When the there was a break, the guys started calling me out and goofing off for the camera.
How has your career as a photographer extended beyond the Grateful Dead?
I have continued to shoot rock and roll and have worked in the film industry as well. My work is online at http://rpechner.com
RICHIE PECHNER'S GRATEFUL DEAD
First exposure to the Dead/first show:
June 11th, 1966 at the Avalon Ballroom
Favorite Dead Song/Songs:
"Bertha"/"Not Fade Away"/"Going Down the Road"
Favorite Dead Era/Years:
Desert Island Dead:
Dave’s Picks Volume 9
Being A Dead Head Means…
I've never considered myself one...but it was one of the best experiences of my life.
We as fans of the band sometimes felt so proprietary because"we had a wall of sound" and others didn't. What a long strange trip it's been...
is not easy, can't imagine trying to do it driving. I bet Richie has a lot of awesome stories to tell, he should write a book and include a lot of his pictures, easy sell.