Click photo to enlarge
MONTEREY, CA -- 091804 -- Jackie Greene, Sacramento-based folk and blues singer-songwriter performs on harmonica and guitar with his band Saturday afternoon, September 18, 2004 on the Jimmy Lyons Stage at the 47th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival. (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS PHOTO/AKILI-CASUNDRIA RAMSESS)

Let the bad boys throw television sets out of Vegas hotel windows. When Jackie Greene wants to party like a rock star, he simply invites his friends over to the Fillmore Auditorium.

For the past three years, the rootsy rocker has celebrated his birthday by checking into the hallowed San Francisco venue and convening a grand jam session. He kicked off this year's residency on Wednesday, and performs again Friday and Saturday.

Last year, the closing night hootenanny featured more than a dozen guests, including Phil Lesh, Jeff Chimenti, Mark Karan, Nicki and Tim Bluhm, Joan Osborne and Sal Valentino. He's expecting many of the same suspects this time around.

"Usually the last show is the blowout when all the guests come out and I basically go nuts," says Greene, 31, from his home outside Sacramento. "There's a game plan and depending on who shows up, that plan is implemented.

"But the plans can all go out the window; that's happened, too. Part of the idea is it's pretty laid back. We're there all night."

Throughout the run, Greene will be backed by his working band featuring guitarist Nate Dale, bassist Jeremy Plog and drummer Zach Bowden, a tough, muscular combo well-versed in the rollicking blues, vintage R&B and folk traditions that animate his music.

"We don't use a lot of tricks," says Greene, who sings lead and plays various guitars, keyboards and harmonica. "We're kind of a down and dirty rock band."

Greene has been around long enough now to outgrow his early coronation as a Dylan-esque wunderkind. It's been a decade since he gained national attention with "Gone Wanderin'" (DIG), a savory Americana session that won the California Music Award for best blues/roots album in 2003.

A pair of stellar albums on Verve Forecast, 2005's "Sweet Somewhere Sound" and 2006's "American Myth," revealed his sweeping ambition as a songwriter. Rather than auditioning as voice of his generation, he embraced a huge swath of American music dating back to the weird old days before World War II remixed the country.

His latest album, 2010's "Till The Light Comes," features some of his lushest arrangements. While the album's production is impressively detailed, Greene disavows any perfectionist tendencies, "mainly because I'm not patient enough."

"I definitely thought I put a lot of effort into it and was a little bit hurt it didn't do as well as I thought it should do," Greene says. "What can I say other than darn?

"That was sort of a heady record, because that's how I was feeling. I often wonder if the best thing isn't to just throw out a collection of songs. Maybe the next one will be a collection of easy tunes."

With his love of Ray Charles and Freddie King, Dylan, Muddy Waters and Tom Waits, it's not surprising that he's become an essential part of the post-Grateful Dead universe. Greene spent a good part of the past six years touring with Phil Lesh and Friends, the bassist's band devoted to exploring the Grateful Dead songbook. He's also worked widely with guitarist Bob Weir in a variety of settings (they play as a duo at Monterey's Golden State Theater on Dec. 16).

But before he started walking with the Dead, he was mostly unfamiliar with the band's vast catalog. "I liken it to discovering your new favorite band," Greene says. "I knew 'Truckin'' and the greatest hits, but that's all I knew. When I started playing with Phil, I ended up with stacks of this heavy material, and I ate it up.

"The songs are so freaking good. It clicked right away. All my influences are in there, too. We come from the same places."

Part of what makes Greene's annual Fillmore run such a welcome development is that he generally keeps a low profile. Born in Salinas and raised on the rural outskirts of Sacramento, he's never seen himself as part of the Bay Area music scene. Generally averse to hanging out, he's far more interested in honing his writing than in tripping the light fantastic.

"If you're out partying all the time, your productivity goes way down," Greene says. "Still, I've slowed down in recent years. I've got a ton of songs, but I'm biding my time. I just feel like I want the impact to be really big, whatever that means in my own head.

"I'm the kid who goes to the library and doesn't hang out that much. But I like a good party."

jackie greene

When: 9 p.m. Friday
and Saturday
Where: The Fillmore,
1805 Geary Blvd.,
San Francisco
Tickets: $40.50,
www.livenation.com