One of Jerry Garcia's early folk groups, and the first of his projects to be documented on a recording, the Hart Valley Drifters formed in 1962 in San Francisco.
Inspired by acts like the New Lost City Ramblers, the Stanley Brothers, and the artists on Harry Smith's famed Anthology of American Folk Music collection, the group featured Garcia on banjo, guitar, and vocals, Robert Hunter on bass, David Nelson on guitar, Norm Van Maastricht on Dobro, and Ken Frankel on guitar, fiddle, and banjo. Though Garcia and Hunter had been collaborating together since 1961, the only documented live performance of this group was in November 1962 at a folk festival in nearby San Mateo. Around that time, the band recorded a session at Stanford University's KZSU radio station, which was aired on the popular Folk Time show later that month. Their repertoire included a number of old-time traditional tunes as well as more contemporary folk revivals songs. While Hunter would go on to become the Grateful Dead's longtime lyricist, and Nelson would later join Garcia in the New Riders of the Purple Sage, the Hart Valley Drifters' 1962 session was their only recording as a group, and it also marked Garcia's first known appearance on record. The tapes were long thought to be lost, but in 2008, they were unearthed by former Stanford studio vet Ted Claire who had produced the original session. In 2016, the recordings were released by ATO Records under the title Folk Time. ~ Timothy Monger, Rovi