Rock Scully did a lot of things in his life as manager of the Grateful Dead. He got them their first record deal, the Woodstock gig and also possibly helped make the ill-fated decision to have Hells Angels act as security at the Altamont Speedway Free Festival.
All this and more was reported after the Dec. 16 death of Scully, which was important enough to get him lengthy obituaries both in The New York Times and Rolling Stone. Scully, 73, died of lung cancer. He’d managed the band from 1965 through 1984.
Scully also spent some years as a resident of Louisville — after his gig with the Dead ended and before he could embark on the next chapter of his life. Why? It was a romantic relationship that brought him here, and ultimately the end of that relationship saw him return to his native California.
The relationship was with a Louisville native named Amy Moore. Moore, now 60, currently lives in Atlanta. But when she and Scully lived here together, from 1989 through 1992, she owned the then-thriving Winning Colors automotive paint touchup shop. Scully helped her run it.
Accounts differ as to why Scully was no longer with the band. The Times wrote he was fired due to his addiction to morphine and cocaine. Band leader Jerry Garcia, coincidentally, was addicted to the same drugs, and the Times said the band blamed Scully for Garcia’s addiction. There also were claims he stole money from the band, which Scully disputed.
Moore presents a gentler picture, not so much that he was fired, or the band was angry with him, but that they wanted him to sober up. “Mostly it was just get yourself together and you can come back and work here,” she says.
Moore and Scully had been a couple since 1981.
Incidentally, before she dated Scully, Moore also dated Jerry Garcia. He thought enough about her that he wrote the album Run for the Roses in her honor. This is because the blonde-haired Moore was from Louisville, home of the Kentucky Derby, aka the “Run for the Roses.”
Garcia also put her on the album cover, riding a tiger-striped dinosaur.
Moore and Scully first met in 1972. She was an adventure-hungry 18-year-old who hitchhiked from Louisville to California with $60 in her pocket, alongside her 17-year-old friend Sabrina Guinness. (Guinness, incidentally, is a fascinating story in her own right, linked romantically to Mick Jagger, Prince Charles and Jack Nicholson, and also an heir to the Guinness brewing fortune. She wed famed British playwright Sir Tom Stoppard this past June.)
Because they had so little money, it took the pair two months to finally make it to their goal, San Francisco. Once there, they encountered Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh, who had a crush on the teenage Guinness.
Lesh invited the pair to the studio, where the Dead were working on their album Europe ’72.
“I didn’t even like the Grateful Dead at that point,” Moore says. “After meeting all these cool people, I thought they were pretty special … They were so young, so successful, so cool compared to anyone I’d ever met.”
Scully was already 32, but he hit it off with Moore, though they didn’t connect romantically at the time. Soon she left California and moved to Texas, drifting away from the band and Scully.
She reconnected with Scully and company in 1980 at a Dead show in Texas. From there, she moved back to California, had her brief relationship with Garcia and then started her much longer relationship with Scully.
Moore moved from California to Louisville in 1987. Scully followed two years later in order to work on his sobriety and make progress on his then memoir-in-progress, which was later released as “Living With the Dead: 20 Years on the Bus with Garcia and the Grateful Dead.”
Scully was a fun, easy-going optimist, she says, and enjoyed the city, though not its rain. “He liked Louisville and thought it was a great little city,” she says. “(He thought) there was a lot of culture here, and everybody was so nice. Rock was never one to complain.”
Due to his travels with the band, Scully already knew people here and made new friends. “No place was strange to him,” she says.
Because Moore was so close with Scully, she learned things most fans probably don’t know, including that the song “Friend of the Devil” was written by Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter about Scully.
The song tells the tale of an itinerant soul who finds a way through life, even as he runs into bumps, humps and, yes, even the devil.
The protagonist has two children, one that doesn’t look like him, which was also true of Scully, as he helped raise a young woman named Acacia, though he wasn’t her biological father. “The whole song’s about Rock,” she says. “I think it’s cool as hell.”
Scully enjoyed Louisville’s music scene and would frequent performances by the Merry Pranksters, a Louisville-based jam band that took its name from the northern California proto-hippies who hosted the famed “acid test” parties where the Dead first came to prominence.
Scully also came here, frankly, to dry out, and he attended 12-step meetings while here, which is where he met Louisville resident Paul McDonald.
“He told me while he was here that he was smiling more,” McDonald recalls. “His father noticed, and said, ‘Why are you smiling?’ He said, ‘I’m getting my feelings back.'”
Though Scully enjoyed Louisville, the relationship could only last as long as his sobriety, which started to crumble around 1991 or 1992, Moore says. He was away from his sponsor and started to relapse. “That’s why we had to go our separate ways,” she says.
Scully returned to California, driven to the airport by McDonald, and found his place in the band had largely been usurped by others, Moore says. “There were a lot of guys that wanted his job,” she says. Still, he remained tight with the band until the end. “If he ever ran into them, he was their brother.”
Certainly the Dead’s Bob Weir seemed to intimate as much in a recent tribute to Scully:
“We bowled ahead and made history together – the kind people write books and make movies about. Rock was a big part of it all … He put in the miles with us. He knew the words to all the songs. He knew the right things to say, to tell people, to let them know what we were all about without ever actually explaining anything, because he knew it couldn’t be explained.”
As for Moore, there were no hard feelings, and she and Scully remained close friends. Also, she says, he got sober and stayed that way for the entire last portion of his life. She says after he stopped drinking and taking drugs, he started to age almost in reverse and looked better in his 70s than he had in many years.
“He had a spark in his eyes and was really fascinated by everything you said,” she says. “He was just a wonderful guy. I feel that one of my best friends died.”