Jesse Jarnow

stella blue’s maiden name

In a bit of synchronicity/convergence that often seems to happen around the Grateful Dead, my beach reading this weekend was Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire.

Though not on the beach, I also spent some time listening to the Dead’s June 17th, 1972 show at the Hollywood Bowl as part of my ongoing #deadfreaksunite project. It’s the first show post-Europe ’72 and likewise Pigpen’s final performance. He doesn’t sing, and his B3 is mostly inaudible on the truly shitty audience recording, with the very big exception of the debut version of “Stella Blue,” which is near-perfect. Music writers (myself probably included) toss the word “haunting” around with abandon, but Pig’s performance on “Stella Blue” is one case where it’s almost literally applicable.

And here’s where the Nabokov comes in:

Line 627: The great Starover Blue

…neither his first nor second name bears any relation to the celestial vault: the first was given him in memory of his grandfather, a Russian starover (accented, incidentally, on the ultima), that is, Old Believer (member of a schismatic sect), named Sinyavin, from siniy, Russ. “blue.” This Sinyavin migrated from Saratov to Seattle and begot a son who eventually changed his name to Blue and married Stella Lazurchik, an Americanized Kashube. So it goes.

And there it is, Stella Blue’s maiden name: Stella Lazurchik. Sounds like a hippie to me. (I was pretty excited to make this discovery but, naturally, David Dodd & Annotated Grateful Dead Song Lyrics site is all over it.)

And here it is, an mp3 of the first version of “Stella Blue.” Note the alternate lyric post-”dust off those rusty strings.”

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