"Stella Blue." I've heard it over and over again. "What moments stand out in your memory - concert performances that are etched in your soul," I ask. I could be on a farm in North Carolina, an apartment facing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, a cabin in Kansas or a lake house in Indiana, but the responses are almost always the same. I see a distant look in someone's eyes - a nostalgic smile and sometimes, a painful memory, and like clockwork comes the answer: "Stella Blue. It was hearing 'Stella Blue'."
One person, who had stopped counting his concerts when he hit 500, summed up why he kept going to shows over the years with a simple response. "I was in search of the perfect 'Stella Blue,'" he said. "Time stopped when Jerry sang 'Stella Blue.' When the lights went off, and the whole stadium went black, except for a blue hue that surrounded Jerry, we knew 'Stella Blue' was coming and we sat in silence, and watched as Jerry's silver hair blew in the wind. He was going to take us gently home - because that's what happened during 'Stella Blue.' So, I kept going back to hear just one more 'Stella Blue.'"
I never did see a "Stella Blue" live, and since doing these interviews, I've found myself getting lost in the Youtube and archive.org abysses, listening to hours of "Stella Blue" and, I suppose, also searching for that "perfect" version. I doubt that it exists, though, because like most Grateful Dead songs, the perfect "Stella Blue," is likely the one that you hear when you really need it.
So, I urge you to take a minute, listen to these "Stella Blue" tales and take a moment to remember what it was like when shades of blue blanketed the stage and Jerry Garcia walked up to the microphone and began singing those first telling lyrics:
All the years combine, they melt into a dream
A broken angel sings from a guitar.
In the end there's just a song comes cryin' up the night
Thru all the broken dreams and vanished years.
Stella blue. Stella blue.