Thursday, February 23, 2017

December 17, 1966 Christmas Dance, Ladera School Multipurpose Room, Ladera, CA: Grateful Dead/Rhythm Method Blues Band

The old "Multi-Purpose Room" at the former Ladera Elementary School, at 360 La Cuesta Drive in Ladera, CA, above Menlo Park (photo February 2017). The Grateful Dead performed here at a Community Association Christmas Dance on December 17, 1966.
For all the decades of scholarship on Grateful Dead concert history, some dates from the early days remain elusive. When the Dead were just a working band, documenting each appearance, even for their fans, hardly seemed important. Thus scholars are left with little more than vague rumors and some triangulation to wonder what might be missing. My own best guess is that there are a few dozen missing Grateful Dead concert dates from 1966-67, and perhaps a similar number for The Warlocks. Since it has been 50 or more years, we are largely resigned to some pieces of the Grateful Dead's past being irretrievably lost.

Thus it was both delightful and astonishing when a blog about Menlo Park, CA, a critical town in Grateful Dead history, reported the definitive discovery of a hitherto unknown Grateful Dead concert on Saturday, December 17, 1966 in the tiny community of Ladera, in the hills just above Menlo Park. As if this wasn't announced, local Deadhead scholar Susan Suesser not only found two newspaper articles about the event, one of them even had photos. As if that weren't enough, Suesse, a longtime Ladera resident, even found some eyewitnesses.

Up until this time, the Ladera event had only faintly been recalled on a Facebook page for old Menlo Park residents, and only in the vaguest terms. Now, abruptly, we have a date and absolutely confirming evidence. This post will build on Suesser's great research, and help flesh out the context of the Grateful Dead's performance at the Christmas Dance at the Ladera School on Saturday, December 17, 1966.

A news item from the December 1966 Ladera Town Crier newsletter, entitled "Teens Go Top Drawer", reporting that the Grateful Dead had been hired to play at the Ladera School (thanks Susan Suesser for the clip)
Ladera Community Association Dances, 1966
Ladera was a small, unincorporated community in the hills just above Menlo Park and the Stanford University golf course. There were probably about 1400 residents. Ladera School was the local public elementary school (K-5). The Ladera Community Association apparently had put on a series of dances for the local teenagers at the school throughout 1966. There was no High School in Ladera (the kids probably went to Woodside High), and there was certainly nothing to do for teenagers, as Ladera had no movie theater or "downtown." So I suspect that the dances were to keep the local teenagers entertained.

It seems that there had been a series of dances, perhaps monthly, and they had been somewhat profitable. Ladera was the kind of place where parents didn't disapprove of rock music, particularly, but they weren't going to let their kids drive off to some place called "The Fillmore" in San Francisco, either. The dances must have been well-attended, since apparently the Community Association had turned a profit. So the kids asked for a "name" band for their season ending "Christmas Dance," and as it happened, one of those bands had an open date. The local weekly newsletter, the Ladera Town Crier, reported on it  under the heading "Teens Go Top Drawer" (thank you Susan Suesser for extracting this from the Menlo Park Library):
A little short of a miracle, the "Grateful Dead" has signed to play at the Ladera Christmas dance. What has brought this about, is that the kids themselves have been saving the profits that they have made from past dances so that now they can afford to pay for this important (and expensive) group. 
They will be well worth hearing. To quote from Ralph Gleason's article (Dec 8 Chronicle) "The Grateful Dead is a contemporary rock band, a good deal of whose music is blues based. They have evolved a magnificent playing style that features some of the most exciting instrumental rock music anywhere. 
Included in their group is Ron "Pig Pen" McKernan who plays organ and harmonica and sings. Many young white performers in folk and rock music seem to be little but imitations of negro singers. Pig Pen, on the other hand, does not do this and he is tremendously effective. He sings like himself; the music and style is blues, but he is not imitation." 
That sounds good. And the sounds next Saturday night (December 17th at 8:00 o'clock) will be an exciting experience for everyone who can hear them. This will be a real Christmas present for those who attend.



A sign on the building photographed above that says "multi-use room." Most California elementary schools of the era had a combination gym/auditorium called a multi-purpose room (photo February 2017)
Ladera and The Ladera School, ca. 1966
Ladera is a "Census Designated Place," which essentially means it is an identifiable community that has not been incorporated into a town or city. The community has an interesting history. In 1944, prominent families in Stanford and Palo Alto formed a Public Housing Association, with the idea of forming a Housing Cooperative. Structurally, this would have been legally similar to co-ops in Manhattan and elsewhere, except that this Co-op was for a few hundred single-family homes on a California hillside. Money was raised, land was purchased, and construction was begun after 1946.

However, financing for the construction of the Ladera housing co-op was soon stalled because of the unwillingness of the founders to restrictive housing covenants. According to Peninsula legend, these had to do with restricting African Americans.  This is not inconsistent with the history of Menlo Park. A teacher who was hired to work at Peninsula School in the early 1950s--not coincidentally my Mother--recalled big signs for housing developments in Menlo Park (on Middlefield near Willow) that cheerily advertised "Caucasian Only," "No Orientals" and other restrictions. Although perfectly legal at the time, that wasn't acceptable in Palo Alto, where she lived. We Palo Altans are pretty smug, I admit it, but we have our reasons.

In the end, a local real estate firm (Hare, Brewer and Kelly) took over the lease and finished Ladera in the late 40s, superseding the well-intentioned co-operative.Thus while Ladera was nearest to Menlo Park, it wasn't necessarily so close to it, and they probably had little desire to incorporate into the town, as they were probably a lot more simpatico with Palo Alto. Ladera had enough population, however, that they also had their own elementary school, right off Alpine Road, at 360 La Cuesta. Like all of the California elementary schools of that era, designed in the 1950s, the Ladera School had a "Multi-Purpose Room," which was a combination gym/auditorium. The dances were held in the Multi-Purpose Room. Although it's hard to be certain after 50 years, it looks like the original Multi-Purpose Room is still intact. A long-range view is at the top of the post. A sign on the door (above) that says "Multi-Use Room" is a pretty good clue that it's the same (if any old Laderans can confirm or dispute this, please Comment).


The first page of the County Almanac from January 3, 1967, describing the Grateful Dead at the Ladera School on December 3, 1967. The local ads give a good feel for the community at the time.
December 17, 1966 Christmas Dance, Ladera School Multipurpose Room, Ladera, CA: Grateful Dead/Rhythm Method Blues Band
Often shows from Back In The Day were advertised, but did not actually occur. But this one did. Thanks to Susan Suesser's heroic research in the Menlo Park Library, we actually have the newspaper report of the concert. The local County Almanac reported in its January 3, 1967 issue
The "Grateful Dead" came from San Francisco in full tonsorial and electronic splendor to play, with the Rhythm Method Blues Band donating their services to fill in any chinks of silence that might threaten the evening. A troupe headed by George Kelly put on a show of colored light, swirling dyes, movies and slides, also donated services.
(you can see a transcription of the entire article, including photo captions, on the indispensable Deadsources blog)
It may seem strange from our distant remove that the Grateful Dead, revered and reviled for being underground psychedelic outlaws, just a few months removed from playing Acid Tests, would play a teen Christmas dance in the suburbs. Yet the Dead were a working band, living hand to mouth and supporting at least a dozen people, plus a few dependents. They were trying to work every weekend, and the weekend of December 16/17 was open. Here's their known schedule during that period:

December 9-11, 1966: Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Tim Rose/Big Mama Thornton (Fri-Sun)
December 14, 1966: Gym, City College of Marin, San Rafael, CA: Grateful Dead (Wed)
December 17, 1966: Ladera School Multipurpose Room, Ladera, CA: Grateful Dead/Rhythm Method Blues Band (Sat)
December 20, 1966: Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA: Otis Redding/Grateful Dead (Tues)
December 21, 1966: Continental Ballroom, Santa Clara, CA: Grateful Dead/Elgin Marble/Yellow Pages (Wed)
December 23-24, 1966: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Moby Grape/Steve Miller Blues Band (Fri-Sat)

There were a lot of high school and college dances in December, so there's a reasonable chance that the Grateful Dead played some school dance on Friday, December 16. The Ladera date was a mystery for decades, so I wouldn't rule out another such find.

One unknown footnote was the opening act mentioned in the Country Almanac article, no doubt a local band, namely The Rhythm Method Blues Band. If anyone recalls anything about the Rhythm Method Blues Band or its members, or has any flyers or artifacts, I would be delighted to post them here. Naturally, this blog will guarantee anonymity to any Rhythm Method members who want to make sure that their grandchildren never find out about such a thing.

Additional photos from the January 3, 1967 County Almanac, including the inimitable Mr Pen
The story of the Ladera dance was resurrected by Susan Suesser on Linda Gulker's excellent Menlo Park blog, InMenlo. Some remarkable memories were still fresh:
Barbara Rusmore, formerly of Ladera, recalls being involved in preparations with the neighborhood art group. The team created window covers from long rolls of newsprint and dye, with a wax resist (sort of a one-time glass window effect) that appear in the photo printed in the Country Almanac. She also recalled police providing security, very loud music and a dancing but orderly crowd. 
Ann Wilsnack, another former Laderan, recalls, “Yeah, I brag about helping to organize a Grateful Dead Dance when I was in high school. The Ladera Community had put on a lot of dances for the teenagers and had actually made money on them. Someone found out that the Grateful Dead would do a dance for $2,000. We had money in the coffers and decided to spring for it. I may have been the one making arrangements with their manager, which is probably why I found myself in a circle hanging out with the Dead and their manager. Months after the dance, we hadn’t had another dance. My mom said that it was predictable, that after the blowout with the Grateful Dead, we wouldn’t go back to the local bands.”
After the blog was posted, Suesser heard some flashback memories from old Laderans. Suesser said in a private email (to scholar and blogfriend LightIntoAshes) that apparently tickets were $1.00 and locals could bring one friend. Another person wrote her to say that he didn't like Pigpen, so he left.

A 1967 ad for the Alpine Valley Country Club, at 4139 Alpine Valley Road in Portola Valley, about a mile from Ladera. Kingfish played a wedding reception at the Club in 1974.
Ladera Encore, 1974
Ladera is a tiny place, unknown even to many people who live in the Peninsula or South Bay. It is remarkable that the Grateful Dead played there. Strangely, there was a sort of encore. The Alpine Hills Country Club, at 4139 Alpine Valley Road, is just a mile down the road from Ladera, in the nearby town of Portola Valley. An ad for the Alpine Valley Country Club can be seen on the same page of the County Almanac that reported on the Grateful Dead concert.

On Thanksgiving weekend of 1974, a wedding reception was held at the Alpine Valley Country Club. Since the groom was an old friend of the Grateful Dead from the 60s, he hired Kingfish. Bob Weir had just joined the band, and this was perhaps his third or fourth gig with the band. So Bob Weir played a mile from the Ladera School, just eight years later. Ladera and Portola Valley are so small, there were probably people who attended both.

Oh yeah, I should add, according to his Facebook post, the groom said that his bride resented the fact that Weir wore a brown suit to her wedding, and pushed him into the swimming pool. So a good time was had by all.


The Woodland School, 360 La Cuesta Drive, Ladera, CA in February 2017

Aftermath
In the 1950s and 60s, housing had sprung about in suburbs throughout the Peninsula and South Bay, and schools were built to accommodate all the students. By the mid-70s, however, the region had changed. There were fewer children, wealthier residents and a changing economy, so there was kind of an oversupply of public schools. In Palo Alto, for example, the High School that Robert Hunter had attended in the 1950s (Cubberley) had closed in 1979, and became a Community Center. The elementary school I had attended in the 1960s (Crescent Park) was razed for a housing development.

In the case of Ladera School, declining enrollment meant that it made more sense to close the school and lease the property. Since the 1980s, the Ladera School has been home to a private K-8 school called The Woodland School, which is well-regarded in the Peninsula. Nonetheless, while the property is still bright and well kept, it has the distinctive architecture of late 1950s California Public Schools, which is why I think the original Multi-Purpose Room is basically intact.

If you grew up on the Peninsula, like I did you always heard all these stories--"Jerry went to my high school," or  "my sister said that the Dead played a dance at her school," or "my Dad knew Bob Weir's Mom." Most of them were either exaggerations or completely incorrect. But all those people who recalled on Facebook that the Dead played Ladera School? All true, every word of it, and it was in the local paper, waiting to be found. So thank you Susan Suesser, Deadhead and Scholar, for tracking this one down and making it flesh.


A clip from Ralph Gleason's column in the SF Chronicle from December 9, 1966
Appendix : Full Gleason Quote, SF Chronicle December 9, 1966
The Ladera Town Crier (above) included a quote from SF Chronicle critic Ralph Gleason about the Grateful Dead. The quote was edited, probably due to space reasons. Here is the entire, far more interesting quote. Incidentally, the Crier lists the quote as from December 8, but actually it was from Friday, December 9.
Then at the Fillmore Auditorium, who is of the great line of women blues singers, going all the way back to Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, is featured along with the contemporary rock band The Grateful Dead, a good deal of whose music is blues based.
Big Mama is unique in her time and an extraordinary singer, as has been pointed out here before. 
The Grateful Dead are a group of young Caucasian musicians who have evolved a magnificent playing style that features some of the most exciting instrumental rock music anywhere.  Included in their group is Ron "Pig Pen" McKernan (whose father Phil McKernan used to have that morning blues progran on KRE in Berkeley) who plays organ and harmonica and sings.  
Many young white performers in folk and rock music seem to be little but imitations of negro singers. John Hammond Jr, when he was at the Jabberwock last weekend, sounded as if he was trying to be an 80 year old Delta Negro. Pig Pen, on the other hand, does not do this and he is tremendously effective. He sings like himself; the music and style is blues, but he is not imitation.










Thursday, January 5, 2017

September 7, 1981 Concord Pavilion, Concord, CA: Jerry Garcia Band/The Edge/Queen Ida (Jerry For A Dollar)

A ticket stub for the Jerry Garcia Band show at Concord Pavilion on Labor Day 1981. Note the price. It's not because the seat was "Obstructed View"--thanks to radio station KMEL-fm, all seats were $1.00.
The arc of Jerry Garcia's career is now so iconic that it seems inevitable. Not only did the Grateful Dead traverse the firmament from underground outlaws to rock stars, and then to dinosaurs, and finally to legends, but Garcia himself had his own separate journey from "underground upstart" to "great artist" that stands apart from the Dead itself. The decades of a dedicated clump of fans sustaining the Dead and Garcia until the larger culture caught up with them is now a great entertainment story in its own right. Yet the story was not written before it started. All along Garcia made decisions about his career, and the Grateful Dead's, often in the face of some financial risk. In the end, when the long-dated call was exercised, the payoff was huge, but the significant cost of carry often goes unnoticed. Now and again, when we look at Garcia's history, we see brief glimpses of roads not taken. Other futures were possible, but Jerry appears to have rejected them.

On Labor Day, September 7, 1981, the Jerry Garcia Band played the Concord Pavilion, a 9,000-capacity outdoor venue in suburban Concord, just 20 miles East of Berkeley, but far away in cultural terms. The Garcia Band had played the Pavilion before, in a modestly attended show six years earlier (October 17, 1975, with Kingfish and Keith And Donna), but this was different. In the East Bay, the Jerry Garcia Band just played late night shows at the smoky Keystone Berkeley, packing the house for those over 21 and willing to stay up really, really late. But here was Jerry, headlining a big concert in the suburbs, with two other bands. The house was full, mostly with suburban kids and twenty-somethings who hardly knew the Grateful Dead, much less the somewhat exotic Jerry Garcia Band, which only had only released one mostly forgotten album from a few years earlier.

It's no surprise the house was sold out--tickets only cost $1.00, subsidized as a promotion for the local rock station. This was the record biz, where the real money was: the suburbs, FM radio, and being a rock star. Jerry was great at it. But it appears he didn't like it, so he never did anything like this again. This post will take a close look at the surprisingly unique Jerry Garcia Band concert at Concord Pavilion on September 7, 1981.

An ad from the July 31 1981 edition of BAM, for the August 6,7 and 8 JGB shows in the Central Valley area
State Of Play: Jerry Garcia Band, 1981
By 1981, the Grateful Dead had been together for 16 years, and Jerry Garcia had been some kind of solo performer under his name for about 11. The Grateful Dead were an established rock institution, but that wasn't entirely a good thing. The band hardly got airplay any more on FM radio, and their album sales were unimpressive when compared to peers like Steve Miller or Fleetwood Mac. Garcia's solo career was obscure to non-Deadheads, and frankly unknown by lot of heads, too. Garcia was nearly 40, pudgy and bearded. Now sure, Garcia had always been pudgy and bearded, but compared to Stevie Nicks or even Mick Fleetwood, he wasn't that photogenic. The Dead were a popular concert attraction, but lots of people had seen them once or twice, just like having seen Ten Years After or Jefferson Starship, and didn't feel the need to see them again. It didn't seem like the Dead's audience was expanding.

The Grateful Dead had made a huge splash with their month of concerts at The Warfield and Radio City Music Hall in October, 1980, and they would release two live double albums and a video from it. Yet neither of the live albums (Dead Reckoning and Dead Set) were any kind of success, and by mid-1981, the band had even given up playing acoustic. It was hard not to think the Dead were falling back into the status quo of being an aging, popular rock band who were just playing to the faithful. Although the group did well on the road, they barely kept pace with the huge expenses their own style of touring required. Truth be told, in 1981, the Grateful Dead were just making a living.

Jerry Garcia, meanwhile, had taken what he considered his most serious stab at being a solo artist with his 1978 Jerry Garcia Band album, Cats Under The Stars. Despite the excellent original material, along with heavy touring and some East Coast radio broadcasts, the record absolutely bombed. In 1978, rock radio was bisecting towards either slickly-produced "Arena Rock," such as Journey and REO Speedwagon or faster, poppier "New Wave" groups like Blondie and Talking Heads. The Garcia Band was neither, and FM radio ignored them accordingly. Garcia admitted that he was pretty depressed by the failure of Cats, and even temporarily discontinued the Garcia Band, getting his side gig on instead with John Kahn's funky Reconstruction band.

By 1981, however, Garcia seems to have been back in the saddle. Ozzie Ahlers had left the reformed Jerry Garcia Band in 1980, replaced by organist Melvin Seals. Seals was soon joined by pianist Jimmy Warren, and the five-piece JGB gigged steadily. In the Bay Area, the Garcia Band mostly played the three Keystone clubs, although they occasionally played a small hall in towns without Keystones. It was quite surprising, then, when the Garcia Band played a high profile show at the Warfield (on June 26, 1981) with Phil Lesh on bass, only to introduce two new female backup singers. John Kahn nonetheless retained his bass role, and the new, seven-piece Garcia Band continued to play the Keystones and smaller halls when the Dead were not playing.

What we now know is that the Grateful Dead organization was not in good financial shape. Notwithstanding Garcia's desire to play constantly, cash was in short supply. Around this time, Garcia developed a distinct interest in producing a movie, and had bought the rights to Kurt Vonnegut's Sirens Of Titan. Since movie production costs money, regular Garcia Band gigs seem to have been the engine to get that cash. What we also know now is that Garcia and Kahn were going to record a new Garcia Band album in the Fall, with none other than the great Ron Tutt returning to the drum chair. Daoud Shaw, formerly of Van Morrison's band and a fine drummer himself, had been holding down the drum chair since January of 1981.

On September 7, 1981, pretty much no one knew any of this. What we knew was that the Jerry Garcia Band was playing a big outdoor concert in suburban Concord with two other bands. It wasn't at a Keystone, so you didn't need ID or to stay out late, and it was an easy ticket so you could bring your roommate or your girlfriend or whoever you wanted. And it was a $1.00. If Jerry had played an outdoor place like SPAC for a $1.00 in 1981, how many people would have come? It's a serious question. In any case, in Concord, the answer was about 9,000, which was the approximate capacity of Concord Pavilion. Most of the people there weren't Deadheads, particularly up on the grass, where it was General Admission. I'm not guessing--I was there, too.

KMEL 106.1 ("The Camel")
The explosive growth of the record industry from the 1950s through the 1980s had to do with radio. Put simply, bands that got their music played on the radio sold tons of singles and albums and made lots of money. Generally speaking, bands that got played on the radio had better concert attendance, too. The rise of the Grateful Dead from cult act to concert stars came when FM rock radio, which had begun in San Francisco in 1967, went nationwide by 1970. High school and college age fans tuned in their FM stereos and heard songs like "Uncle John's Band" and "Truckin'" and went to check out the Dead when they came to their college. Sure, Dead concerts were something else entirely, but without radio to prime the pump, fans would never have heard of the band in the first place. By 1981, the Grateful Dead were almost never played on rock radio.

From 1968 onwards, the trendsetter for FM rock radio was San Francisco's KSAN. The Dead were close to the station, and had broadcast live over the air many times, adding to the reputations of both the band and the radio station. Garcia had done the same with some of his own bands. By 1980, however, KSAN's hippie rock format was aging out of its own demographic, since hippies didn't like "New Wave" music but old hippie bands weren't cool. Much further down the dial, well-funded rival KMEL (106.1) started pushing more mainstream "album oriented rock" (AOR) in 1977. In 1980, KMEL started broadcasting with very few ads, making them much more appealing to listen to, regardless of the actual music played. KSAN, to the shock of old hippies--who, admittedly, were hardly listening to it anymore--switched to country music. KMEL now ruled the Bay Area rock airwaves.

KMEL had a huge, powerful 69,000 watt signal that covered the entire Bay Area. In particular, as the commuter footprint of the Bay Area expanded, KMEL could be heard clearly in every car, workplace or coffee shop in every suburb. KMEL dominated the 18-34 demographic, so there were plenty of national ads for fast food, car insurance and designer jeans. Any band that wanted to make it in the Bay Area wanted to get played on KMEL, but with its tight formats, they didn't play a wide variety of music. Given the mandatory AOR menu of Zep/Mac/Journey, there wasn't much room for new releases.

The Concord Pavilion, Concord, CA. View of the stage from the grass bowl.
Contra Costa County and Concord Pavilion
Contra Costa County was on the opposite side of the Berkeley Hills, and the various towns were 10 to 25 miles from Berkeley. This made them about 30 to 50 miles from San Francisco, depending on the commute. In 1937, the new Caldecott Tunnel allowed easy driving access from Berkeley to Contra Costa, but it was a modest road, with two lanes both way leading to and from Ashby Avenue. Most of the Contra Costa towns were fairly rural, and indeed in the main town of Walnut Creek, their were walnut groves until at least the 1970s.

By the 1960s, however, Contra Costa increasingly became a "bedroom community" for commuters to Oakland and San Francisco. In 1964, the Caldecott Tunnel was upgraded to include two more lanes (for a total of six, two of which could be rotated to accommodate the commute). By 1969, Oakland's Grove/Shafter freeway was connected to the Caldecott, so Contra Costa commuters could go from the county all the way to the Bay Bridge by freeway, and all the corresponding towns expanded.

There had been plenty of teenagers in Contra Cost in the 1960s, and they certainly loved rock music, but they all had to look longingly at Berkeley or San Francisco. Even people from Contra Costa itself dismissed the county as the culturally unhip country cousin of Alameda County, wryly referring to the Caldecott as "The Culture Tunnel." By the 1970s, however, with Conta Costa towns expanding in all directions, the County took some steps to bring culture to them. Concord was the main city in Contra Costa, east of towns like Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill, but with plenty of open space up in the foothills. In 1975, the Concord Pavilion opened, mainly to provide a permanent home for the Concord Symphony, and also to provide a venue so that the locals did not have to go through the Caldecott for anything fun.

The Concord Pavilion was modeled after venues like Tanglewood (in Lenox, MA) or the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), which were the summer homes of the Boston and New York Symphonies. The venue was semi-circular, with reserved, covered seats near the stage and a huge, grass bowl behind it. Variations on this design became common for rock venues in the 1980s when "sheds" like Shoreline Amphitheater were built, but Concord Pavilion was the first such venue in the Bay Area,

Concord Pavilion was open from about May through October every year. There was a wide variety of shows, including symphonies, musicals, and old TV star showcases. There were also a few rock concerts. However, since Bill Graham did not initially book the Pavilion, the acts were pretty unhip. Graham apparently considered Contra Costa outside his range. A competing promoter had opened the little-known Concord Coliseum in 1967, but despite some good acts it folded. There had been that JGB/Kingfish/Keith And Donna show (October 17, 1975), but it was on a cold, windy night and while the seats were filled, the grass was empty. Concord had teenagers, but they didn't know or care about the Grateful Dead.

Around 1977, Bill Graham started booking at least some shows at Concord Pavilion. I saw Jeff Beck there in 1977, and while he was electrifying (of course), it was clear that the venue hadn't really been designed for rock. The seats were far from the stage and the covered roof and the wind did weird things to the sound. Nonetheless, it was easy to get to Concord Pavilion, easy to park and bathrooms and concessions were easily available. In any case, more and more families moved to Contra Costa, so there were more incipient young rock and rollers there every year.

The double-live album Dead Set was released on Arista Rcords on August 26, 1981. It had been recorded in Fall 1980 at the Warfield Theater and Radio City Music Hall
September 7, 1981 Concord Pavilion, 2000 Kirker Pass Road, Concord, CA: Jerry Garcia Band/The Edge/Queen Ida And Her Bon Ton Zydeco Band
The promotional structure of the Concord JGB show reflects a unique moment in time. The biggest rock station in the Bay Area, very well-funded, had a big party celebrating itself. In effect, the concert was free, but the need to have a $1.00 ticket allowed for crowd control (mind you, BASS charged their usual service fee on top of the buck). KMEL must have paid the performance fees for the bands, and the venue made its money selling popcorn and beer. It was the last three-day weekend of Summer, and lots of teenagers and young adults were looking for a blowout, so KMEL hired Jerry Garcia to provide it.

Why would KMEL hire a musician that they hardly, if ever, played on the radio for their own party? In the cosmology of the time, playing a gig like this was a sign that you were past your prime, a death knell for any working rock band. At the same time, KMEL needed a big enough act that rock fans would feel like they were getting something "special," and Garcia was a bona fide rock star, even to people who hardly knew his music. This was KMEL's way of showing people that they were big-time, that they could get a real rock star to play their party. Although I no longer specifically recall, I believe KMEL djs whipped up the crowd between sets, and one probably introduced the Jerry Garcia Band.

FM rock stations like KMEL filled a lucrative but narrow niche. Most rock fans listened to FM radio in the car, and sometimes at work or around the house, but "real" listening took place by listening to records (yes, vinyl ones) on the home stereo. More and more cars had cassette decks, too, so radio wasn't guaranteed every rock fan on the road. Auto sound systems were better and better, so a massive signal insured great reception, crucial for a rock fan with good speakers in their car. FM rock was corporately owned and nationally programmed, so Led Zeppelin and Journey were the order of the day whether it was Northern California, South Florida or Chicagoland. KMEL didn't want to be "Cutting Edge"; that was for Berkeley and college radio. AOR stations wanted to appeal to the broadest swath of the 18-34 consumer, so "Fun But Mainstream" was on tap. The thinking was, if a young man was out on a date in his orange TransAm, he could put on KMEL and his prospective girlfriend wouldn't say "what is this noise?"

You may think that the 1981 Jerry Garcia Band would have been a terrible choice for a party featuring a cross-section of 18-to-34-year old suburban rock fans, and you would have been completely wrong. The Garcia Band rocked the house. Now, don't forget that in those days, the JGB was basically a bar band, The crowd didn't "know" Jerry Garcia's music, but he played 4 Motown songs, 3 by Dylan or The Band, a Jimmy Cliff classic and a Beatles tune (setlist below).  Most rock fans were going to recognize something. The few thousand reserved seats around the stage were mostly filled with more serious heads who had jumped on tickets immediately. I do know of one Deadhead who drove up from Santa Cruz. Ok, I don't actually know him, but he took my future wife to the show on a date (we would not meet for another year, and I should add that she was distinctly unimpressed by the show). But up in the General Admission area, on the grass, where I was, it was mostly just locals out for fun. Not Dead-hostile, by any means, but just generally looking to have a fun, rockin' afternoon.

Sure, Garcia and Melvin Seals took his usual long guitar solos, but almost every band took long solos in those days. The tempos were more laid back than most arena bands, but it was a sunny afternoon and no one was in a hurry. If you listen to the opening track, you can tell that Jerry has kicked off "The Way You Do The Things You Do" at a pretty lively pace, for him. He knew that it wasn't the Keystone. Anyway, if you were there for the party, you could leave your seat for "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," go to the bathroom, find your roommate, then get a hot dog, and still get back to your seat before it was over. I don't think many people "got on the bus," but it was only a buck, so the expectations weren't high.

From a Deadhead perspective, there were a number of interesting factors. I have written at some length about the previous time I had seen the Jerry Garcia Band, appearing at The Warfield Theater in San Francisco on June 26, 1981, with Phil Lesh on bass and two new female singers. I had heard about a few Keystone shows since then, so I knew that Kahn had returned. When the band came on stage at Concord, however, Bill Kreutzmann was sitting in the drum chair. No explanation came from the stage, because none ever did. In fact Billy only covered the kit for this show and three Keystone shows (Sep 18-20), just keeping it warm for Ron Tutt. Yet it was something to contemplate during the show, even if ultimately Bill was just passing through.

The female singers wore sort-of matching outfits and left the stage when the solos started. From up high, you could see them sitting backstage. Information about the Garcia Band was so difficult to come by that I don't think I had even learned their names. Even if I had, I doubt I would have realized that Essra Mohawk had left, and Julie Stafford now shared the gig with Liz Stires. Mohawk and former drummer Daoud Shaw were married, and had apparently known it was a temporary gig. With Tutt coming, Shaw had moved on, and Mohawk went with him. Somehow I pieced this together over the next few months, but there was literally no one to ask. I'm not even sure how I figured it out--a combination of BAM Magazine, Relix and Joel Selvin's column, probably.

Another thing set the Concord Garcia show apart: there were three bands on the bill. In almost all Garcia Band settings, any opening acts were either solo acoustic or a band from the Grateful Dead family, like Comfort or Kingfish. Yet here was Garcia headlining the big venue, and two other electric bands played full sets. Second on the bill was The Edge, a promising Bay Area club band featuring ex-JGB keyboard player Ozzie Ahlers and Lorin Rowan (Peter's younger brother, from the ill-fated CBS Rowan Brothers album). Ahlers joined the short list of former members of a Garcia ensemble who opened for the Garcia Band. They played enjoyable reggae-rock, if nothing exceptional. Opening the show was Queen Ida And Her Bon Ton Zydeco Band, who played a lively set of zydeco music, a style largely unknown in the Bay Area at the time.

Both of the opening acts were good, and appropriate to a Garcia Band show, but they weren't going to get played on KMEL. The bands may have had some independently released material, but The Edge was too unknown and Queen Ida too "ethnic." How they got on the bill is anyone's guess, but then one of the co-sponsors of the concert was BAM (Bay Area Music) Magazine, a free biweekly music magazine, back when free meant "everyone reads it." BAM favored mainstream Bay Area bands like the Doobie Brothers, of course, but they tried to cover everything, and BAM was always supportive of the Grateful Dead. Did I mention that Blair Jackson was a chief editor of BAM? As a co-sponsor, BAM would have helped publicize the show--KMEL couldn't exactly advertise it on competing stations--and the editors may have put in a good word for some appropriate bands.

Jerry Garcia Band, Concord Pavilion, Concord, CA; September 7, 1981
I: The Way You Do The Things You Do, Knockin' On Heaven's Door, Roadrunner, Sugaree
II: The Harder They Come, Mississippi Moon, Second That Emotion, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Dear Prudence, Tangled Up In Blue
E: How Sweet It Is

On Labor Day, 1981, about 9,000 Bay Area rock fans paid just $1.00 to hear the Jerry Garcia Band and two other fine local bands fill the afternoon with music. Bill Kreutzmann made a surprise guest appearance and we all got home before dark. It never happened again,


Alternatives To Known History
The Grateful Dead had an intricate, if contested, relationship with record companies. In contrast, the Jerry Garcia Band pretty much had almost no connection to the record company promotion side of the music industry. The Dead, though iconoclasts, used record company promotional muscle to arrange live broadcasts all over the country, and counted on their companies to stuff the bins of Tower Records with their releases. Save for the single attempt with Cats Under The Stars in 1978, the Jerry Garcia Band did no such thing. Save for Cats, there wasn't even a commercial Jerry Garcia Band release until 1990.

With no releases to promote, Jerry Garcia was mostly exempt from the peripheral demands of being a late 20th century Classic Rock rock star. Throughout its existence, the Garcia Band either played local joints--first the Keystones, and later The Warfield--and sometimes toured the East and Midwest. They came to town, played their music, got paid and traveled on. No local dj introduced the band, Garcia didn't have to submit to radio station interviews, or privileged advertisers who got backstage passes to "hang out" with the headliner. Steve Parish controlled the backstage, so Jerry could spend his time playing his guitar or hanging with any friends in town. Come showtime, the Garcia Band played whatever they wanted, Parish took the cash and the little circus moved on to the next gig.

One whiff that suggests that the Concord show was part of the "regular" music business lies in a little known interview from that afternoon. Garcia was interviewed at length for a then obscure outfit called "MTV News," The unseen interviewer reads out some sincere but traditional questions that Garcia must have heard hundreds of times. Garcia, always gracious, does not sneer at the interviewer and gives frank, interesting answers, but it doesn't seem like his heart is in it. The proximate cause of the interview seems to be that the Grateful Dead had just released a live album (Dead Set) two weeks earlier (August 26 '81) and Garcia's interview is an earnest, if fruitless attempt to attract some attention to the record. If the Concord show hadn't been sponsored by KMEL, and perhaps with a nudge from Arista, Garcia probably wouldn't have submitted to such an interview from a naif he didn't know, what with Blair Jackson (and probably BAM staff writer David Gans) likely already sitting backstage. But that's how things went in the music biz--the biggest dogs get the treats, even if they have no other claims to them,

The 1981 Labor Day JGB concert was a rare instance where Garcia could have crossed over. A nice payday, maybe get some promotion for the Dead album and make some new fans. We know the idea of "going mainstream" was at least crossing Garcia's mind. He would be recording a new Garcia Band album with none other than Ron Tutt in the coming months, and he wanted to make a movie, so maybe a profitable Garcia Band wasn't a bad idea. Submit to a few interviews, tolerate some jerks backstage--how hard was that? What if Garcia was willing to play, say, The Singer Bowl in Queens for a $1.00, promoted by Arista and a local FM station? How many East Coast heads would have done "Jer For A Buck?" What if the Jerry Garcia Band had toured sheds like everyone else in the 1980s, sharing headline bills with kindred spirits like Willie Nelson or Crosby, Stills and Nash? A lot of money would get made, and maybe also a movie based on a Kurt Vonnegut novel, scripted by Tom Davis.

Garcia seems to have gazed into the abyss, and it must have gazed back at him. But he didn't leap. The Garcia Band album floundered, ultimately released as the tepid Run For The Roses a year later, With very few exceptions, the Garcia Band mostly played the big sheds and arenas with no support other than familiar backstage faces like Bob Weir. The Garcia Band edifice was entirely self-built, self-financed and self-sustaining, No dj announced their arrival on stage, and no radio station ads hawking their new albums inundated the FM airwaves for each tour.  The Garcia Band had not played live on FM since '78, and save for one oddball final broadcast in San Jose in 1982, the Garcia Band would never again broadcast live, leaving that franchise to the Grateful Dead.

The Concord Labor Day gig was just a gig, and Garcia and Kahn probably forgot it soon after it happened. Still, it was a moment when Garcia's history could have taken a different, more profitable turn, if at the expense of some independence. Garcia looked, and took a sniff, and passed. The Jerry Garcia Band kept on its own self-guided path, for good or ill, for the balance of its existence.

Some tracks on Jerry Garcia's Run For The Roses album had been recorded with Ron Tutt and the Jerry Garcia Band in the Fall of 1981. The album was finally released in the Fall of 1982, and also included some tracks left off Jerry Garcia's 8 year old solo album (known as Compliments Of Garcia).
Coda
The Jerry Garcia Band moved on, maintaining their insular track. KMEL-fm was the dominant rock station in the Bay Area for a few more years, until The Camel was in turn upended by KFOG. Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead, meanwhile, just continued their contrarian path. Only a few days after the Concord show, the Grateful Dead played some stunning shows at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley (Sep 11-13 '81), establishing a key venue for the band throughout the 1980s. The Jerry Garcia Band then played three nights at the Keystones (Sep 18-20), with Billy K still holding down the drum chair. With a new double-lp live album just released, the Dead made the inexplicable decision to tour Europe instead of the States. The story, as retailed by Rock Scully, has it that they filled in for a canceled Who tour, and Pete Townshend made sure that "his guy" would meet Jerry (or Rock) before every show, to provide unnamed services. In any case, the Dead played Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, PA (Sep 25 '81) to warm up, then Buffalo (Sep 26 '81) and then a big show at Capitol Center in Landover, MD (Sep '27 '81), which probably funded the whole trip.

The European tour opened in Edinburgh, Scotland on September 30, 1981. It's not clear whether Jerry took the High Road or the Low Road, or who got to Scotland afore ye. Thus the Grateful Dead toured Europe, instead of the States, which doesn't seemed to have helped sales of Dead Set. Meanwhile, the sessions that would lead to Run For The Roses were recorded with Ron Tutt at Club Front throughout the Fall of 1981. The JGB tour with Tutt was kicked off with two Keystone dates (Oct 25 and 27 '81) and then went east starting on Halloween at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia. Garcialand retained its equilibrium--no FM djs, no unwelcome backstage guests, no meaningful interaction with the late 20th century music industry.

September 6, 1982 Concord Pavilion, 2000 Kirker Pass Road, Concord, CA: The Tubes
The very next Labor Day, on September 6, 1982, KMEL had another party with another aging rock band, this time The Tubes. My college roommate and I went to the show, and paid our dollar. It was a magical summer, with a great pennant run by the San Francisco Giants and manager Frank Robinson (shout out if you recall the 10-game stretch where Joe Morgan played third base and Darrel Evans played shortstop). We listened to the Giants all the way to Concord that day, and then saw The Tubes. I had seen The Tubes in their prime in 1975, and the 1982 iteration wasn't as epic, but they were still great. Yet it was all downhill for The Tubes from there. Who thought that Vince Welnick would end up as the Dead's keyboard player? I didn't.

The Concord Pavilion show on September 7, 1981 was a foot in cold water, a glimpse of a foreign land left unexplored. Pay a buck, let Jerry rock the house. OK with everyone there, except, apparently, Jerry. As the song goes, Gotta Travel On.



Thursday, December 1, 2016

Jerry Garcia Live on KZSU-am and fm, Stanford University, 1963-64 (KZSU I and FM Part Zero)


The KZSU (880-am) listings from the Stanford Daily for Tuesday, March 5, 1963. At 9:00pm is "The Flinthill Special," hosted by Ted Claire, "authentic American folk music, including tapes recorded last weekend at the Top of the Tangent, Palo Alto's newest coffee house."

Jerry Garcia had a long and storied history as a performing artist, in numerous aggregations, the most famous of which was the Grateful Dead. One of the many innovations that the Dead popularized were live performance broadcasts. A few legendary radio stations, like KSAN-fm in San Francisco, KPFA-fm in Berkeley and WNEW-fm in New York, have a particularly legendary status amongst Deadheads for their historic and widely circulated  broadcasts of Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia concerts. Yet the first, seminal and arguably longest broadcaster of Garcia performances has gone largely unnoticed. KZSU, the Stanford University radio station, not only broadcast Jerry Garcia as far back as late 1962, they broadcast him regularly until 1989. There is no comparable station in Garcia or Dead history. Appropriately enough, Jerry Garcia's first studio recording was broadcast on KZSU in Fall 1962, and the Garcia Estate has released that long lost recording as Folk Time. In light of this release, this post will consider the history of Jerry Garcia broadcasts on Stanford's KZSU. The story of KZSU and Jerry Garcia is so multi-faceted that even this blog can not cover the story in one post, so for today I will just unravel the tale of Garcia's early 60s performances on KZSU.



The Hart Valley Drifters, KZSU Studio A, Stanford University, November or December 1962
As many Deadheads now know, Jerry Garcia's first studio recording was with his early Old Time music band, The Hart Valley Drifters. The lineup was
Jerry Garcia-guitar, banjo, lead vocals
Ken Frankel-banjo, fiddle, guitar
David Nelson-guitar, vocals
Norm Van Maastricht-dobro
Robert Hunter-bass, vocals
In November of 1962, friend and fellow musician Ted Claire, invited them to record at the KZSU radio studio. The tape was made so that Claire, a Stanford student, could play part of it on the college radio show that he hosted on the station The story, however, is far more quixotic than that simple explanation. The KZSU "studio" was pretty much just a room at the radio station facility on campus. The recording was done by Claire himself, with a single microphone (on an Ampex 350s at 7 1/2ips, for you tape lineage folks), and not much preparation. The musicians themselves were pretty new to their instruments, but no matter: it is a portal to another world, when everything was still possible. Photographer Jerald Melrose was there, and his photos turn the release into a true time machine.

In the Fall of 1962, Ted Claire hosted a Friday night show on KZSU called "Folk Time." At the time, there were two strains of folk music in America, "popular" folk music like The Kingston Trio and Joan Baez, and "authentic" folk music, which was bluegrass, "Old-Time" and blues, played by the original practitioners or in their styles. Jerry Garcia and his friends preferred the latter. I don't know if Claire hosted "Folk Time" every single Friday. Some trace evidence in the Stanford Daily campus newspaper suggests that one Phil DeGuerre may have been an occasional guest host. DeGuerre would resurface in the story in the next decade as one of the filmmakers behind Sunshine Daydream (Veneta, OR, August 27 1972) as well as the remake of The Twilight Zone (with Jerry on the soundtrack), but that was all still in the future.

The remarkable story of the actual recording has been well covered by David Browne and others, so I don't need to recap it all here. Scholar and researcher Brian Miksis found that Claire had kept the original tape, and with some negotiation and remastering, an amazing album followed. Miksis' liner notes tell the whole story, but the essence of it was that near the end of the Fall '62 semester, Claire broadcast part of the Hart Valley Drifters tape on his Friday night "Folk Time" show. The story that has remained under the surface has been the remarkable role that KZSU played in Jerry Garcia's career, and I will dig down deep into that soil.

Jerry Garcia's First Radio Broadcast: Berkeley or Stanford?
The intellectual dynamic of the Bay Area since the early 20th century has been an ongoing discourse between the University of California at Berkeley, opened in 1868--don't call it "Cal" unless you are mainly interested in sports--and Stanford University, opened in 1893. Rivals and partners in many endeavors, each a world class university, they compete for hegemony across the intellectual spectrum. In my day, at least, superiority was judged not by football (please), but by Nobel Prizes. As I recall, Stanford was ahead 17-16 when I was in graduate school. In Garciological studies, the same dynamic is in play: Berkeley and Stanford vie for supremacy.

In late 1962, UC Berkeley student Phil Lesh was an engineer (meaning: tape operator) at KPFA-fm (94.1), part of the publicly funded Pacifica network. KPFA was not affiliated with UC Berkeley but it was an intimate part of Berkeley political and cultural life (and remains so). Specifically, Phil was the engineer for a night time folk program called "The Midnight Special." At least some of the time, folk singers performed live on the show, from the KPFA studios. Appearing on KPFA's "Midnight Special" was a rite of passage for many local folk performers. Phil and Jerry made a tape, and Phil played it for host Gert Chiarito, who invited Jerry to perform on the show. Thus Garcia and Phil Lesh anticipated David Gans by a few decades, performing live from the KPFA studios in Fall of 1962. Garcia went on to perform other times on The Midnight Special, as did Pigpen, Peter Albin and others. Were Garcia's performances on KPFA taped? If they were, it wouldn't have mattered, since they very likely would have been taped over subsequently.

Yet did Garcia appear on Berkeley's KPFA before or after he appeared on Stanford's KZSU? We may never know, since no log of performers (or other evidence) on The Midnight Special has ever turned up. However, for partisans of both universities, we can offer some nice parity. KPFA in Berkeley hosted Garcia's first live radio performance, and his first broadcast on FM radio. KZSU at Stanford, meanwhile, hosted Garcia's first studio performance and his first broadcast on AM radio, as KZSU was solely an AM station at the time.


The Roots Of College Radio
One byproduct of the massive expansion of American higher education after World War 2 was the rise of radio stations associated with colleges and universities. In the Post WW2 universe, college was seen as more than just a degree factory where future employees were produced, and schools had a host of activities that were meant to broaden both the college community and the individual students themselves. In the case of Stanford University, radio station KZSU started in 1947 as part of the Department of Communication. Its facilities were used by the speech and drama department, although unlike some smaller schools, Stanford was not providing a professional program for future broadcasters. KZSU was only broadcast on 880 on the AM dial, and the station could only be heard in campus buildings, like dorms and fraternities (see the appendix below for some more details).

By the early 1960s, radio played a more important part in student life, but KZSU was still a campus-only station. As far as I know, all Stanford freshmen and all women were required to live on campus. There was not enough housing for all undergraduates, so some Stanford men lived off campus, but I do know that the majority of undergraduate students still lived on campus in any case. All women students and all Freshman males lived in campus dorms. Some men also lived in fraternities, but the sororities had been shut down some decades earlier. KZSU broadcast to the dorms and fraternities.

Although KZSU was only audible on campus, it had an outsized importance to Stanford students. FM radio was exotic, and little was broadcast on it, and regular AM stations in San Francisco and San Jose were the only other options. There were a few Top 40 stations (KYA-1260 and KFRC-610 in the City, and KLIV-1590 in San Jose), a country station (KEEN-1370) and various news-talk-music stations for adults (like KSFO-560, KNBR-680, KCBS-740 and KGO-810). So Stanford's student-run-for-student-listeners station was a good choice for a dorm resident.

KZSU producers, announcers and disc jockeys were all students. The programs were a mixture of Stanford sports, news updates, documentary-type specials and lots of music. A wide spectrum of music was covered, including jazz and classical. It being the early 60s, when folk music was popular with college students, there was folk music on KZSU as well. Certainly more folk was broadcast on KZSU than was heard on any commercial station, and that is how the connection to The Top Of The Tangent came about.


The Stanford Daily KZSU 880 listings for Tuesday, May 14, 1963. The Flinthill Special is hosted by Dave Schoenstedt, who had organized the folk shows at Top of the Tangent with Stu Goldstein, a fellow physician. The Top of the Tangent sponsored the Flinthill Special show, and Claire and Schoenstedt shared hosting duties
"The Flint Hill Special" and The Top Of The Tangent
It is a well-known piece of Garciaography that Garcia and his folk pals really made their bones at a tiny folk club called The Top Of The Tangent in Palo Alto. What has remained under the radar is how critical KZSU was to the modest success of The Tangent. Without KZSU, the Top Of The Tangent might not have thrived, and thus the whole story of Garcia, Weir, Pigpen and Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Band Champions would have taken some different, unknown course.

When Ted Claire recorded the Hart Valley Drafters in late 1962, he had been a junior at Stanford, and an aspiring folk musician himself. Claire, in fact, had been around Stanford as a freshman when Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter had played their first gig as Bob And Jerry in the Arroyo Hall lounge at Wilbur Hall. Claire does not recall it, even if he may have been there, but folk music was in the air in places like Stanford and Palo Alto in the early 60s. Thus it is not surprising that Claire found his way that Fall to parties at Suzy Wood's parent's house, where he met Garcia, Hunter, the Albins, Dave Nelson and the rest of the crew of bohemian folkies.

Even though the likes of Garcia and Peter Albin were not Stanford students, they weren't unknown around Stanford, because folk music was hip and popular at the time. Another Stanford student at the time recalled to me (in a private email)
when I was a freshman in 1962-1963 at Burbank House in Stern Hall...We had dorm parties where we were entertained by bluegrass duo Peter and Rodney Albin. I used to have a snapshot of the two of them but it is now lost.
Also in my freshman year, the guy across the hall from me, Ted Claire, was a bluegrass guitarist. I used to have a snapshot from the same roll, also unfortunately now missing, of Ron "Pigpen" McKernan sitting on the bed in Ted's room playing acoustic blues guitar. 
Others recall Garcia appearing at dorm parties as well. "Payment" was probably some food and something to smoke, but the local folk musicians were intimately connected to Stanford, so that made a Palo Alto folk club a logical enterprise.

I have discussed the history of The Top Of The Tangent at some length elsewhere, so I will only briefly recap it. Two restless young doctors, Dave Schoenstadt and Stu Goldstein, decided to start a folk club in eary 1963. Their only guide was a Pete Seeger book called How To Make A Hootenanny. There was a delicatessen at the end of University Avenue that was nearest Stanford, with an extra room above it. The two doctors arranged to have shows there on Friday and Saturday nights, as well as a "hoot night" on Wednesdays. The little room held about 75 people. Sometimes there were touring folk acts, but more often the performers were from the Bay Area folk scene. Locals who shined at hoot night got a chance to play on the weekends, and could build their own followings. The Tangent deli was at 117 University, and the folk club was above it--hence "The Top Of The Tangent." In reality, however, everyone just called the folk club "The Tangent," so I will do that hereafter.

The Wildwood Boys, with Garcia, David Nelson and Robert Hunter, played The Tangent on February 22 and 23, 1963, just a month after the club opened. I have to assume that the group had excelled on a Wednesday hoot night some time earlier, but that seems to be lost in the mists of time. We can be certain of the date, however, because we have a pretty good tape of at least some of the performance from Saturday, February 23. Garcia tapes are so omnipresent that is was only recently that I started to pursue the issue of why we were lucky enough to have a Garcia Tangent tape at all, much less several Garcia Tangent tapes from 1963 and '64.

Here's the reason we have those early Garcia tapes--throughout much of 1963, every weekend Tangent show was taped, and parts of all those shows were broadcast on KZSU. I'll repeat that, just so you don't think I mis-typed--almost every Tangent show through at least June 1963 was taped, and parts of most of them were broadcast. So there's no mystery why we have prehistoric Garcia tapes. Don't forget, by the way, that everyone else who played the Tangent in '63--Pigpen, Peter Albin, Jorma Kaukonen, Janis Joplin, Herb Petersen and many others--would have been broadcast on KZSU as well.  And yes, before we go on any further, I assure you that the Garciaological equivalent of SEAL Team 6 has been on the case for some time. If there's anything new to uncover, they'll get it.

The two good doctors who ran the Top Of The Tangent knew that Stanford students would be a key component of the audience of any folk club. Since KZSU featured weekly shows of many different types of music, The Tangent sponsored the Tuesday night folk show. The host was either (Stanford student) Ted Claire or (Dr. and Top Of The Tangent co-founder) Dave Schoenstadt. The hour long show was aired at 9:00pm Tuesday nights. A sample description, from the Tuesday May 14 edition of the Stanford Daily (clipped above), says
9:00: Flinthill Special- An hour of authentic American folk music, records, tapes, live talent (Dave Schoenstadt)
"Flint Hill Special" was the name of a famous Flatt & Scruggs bluegrass standard, and in the code of the time, "authentic American folk music" meant "serious" folk music, like bluegrass or old-time music, not "popular" sing-alongs like the Kingston Trio.

Ted Claire's deal with the doctors was that he would tape the weekend Tangent shows, and broadcast some highlights over the air on Tuesday nights. So the boys and girls in the Stanford dorm who liked folk music could listen to KZSU and hear what they missed at the Tangent that weekend. Little did they know that a few years later they'd be seeing Jerry, Janis and Jorma at the Fillmore, playing many of the same songs just a little bit louder.

Rodney Albin had created the first Peninsula folk club in the Summer of 61. The Boar's Head was near El Camino Real in Belmont, about halfway between Stanford and San Francisco. Garcia and the crew had played the Boar's Head in the Summers of '61 and '62, but the action, including Rodney Albin, moved to the Tangent in 1963. There were two other folk clubs further South, the Offstage near San Jose State and the Brass Knocker in Saratoga, so along with some special events at the junior colleges, there was something like a little folk circuit. The realization, decades later, that live music from the Tangent was being broadcast out to the Stanford dorms helps explain how the Top Of The Tangent caught on so quickly in the Winter and Spring quarters of 1963  in sleepy downtown Palo Alto.

The SEAL Team has informed me that Ted Claire, and only Ted Claire, had permission to tape shows at the Tangent. This was so he could broadcast some of them on his Tuesday night show. This made Claire's show unique, and in turn provided publicity for The Top Of The Tangent. The famous and well-circulated tapes from The Tangent in 1963 (Wildwood Boys Feb 23 '63, Jerry and Sara May 4 '63 and Pigpen, Peter Albin and The Second Story Men) all derive from master tapes that were recorded for KZSU.

What happened to the rest of the tapes? The most likely answer is that they were recorded over. High quality reels were expensive in those days, particularly to penniless bohemian college students, so it is very likely that few people thought to preserve what had been recorded the weekend before. In particular, the idea of a huge stack of pristine reels, carefully labeled in a climate controlled vault, would have been unthinkable to both college kids in the dorm and scuffling banjo instructors with a wife and baby to feed. What money they had went to rent, food and cigarettes. We are lucky that any survived at all, and if we are even luckier a few more scraps may yet surface.

Given the history of the Grateful Dead and live broadcasts, however, it's remarkable to consider that in the first half of 1963, live performances by Jerry Garcia and many of his future-famous friends were broadcast into the Stanford dorms on KZSU (880am) on Tuesday nights at 9:00pm. Perhaps a few years later, some of those former Stanford undergraduates were at the Fillmore or Avalon, and thought that Jerry or Pigpen or Janis or Jorma sounded somewhat familiar, but probably figured "it's the drugs." Not in this case.

The Trail Goes Cold
Just about our only source of concrete information about shows at The Top Of The Tangent comes from ads in the Stanford Daily. The Tangent ran ad every Friday, and we can piece together much of the story of 1963 (see JGBP's excellent overview, which parallels my slightly different approach). However, in the summer, although the Stanford Daily published intermittently, there were no Tangent ads, since there were few students around to attend shows. Thus we don't have any idea whether the pace of shows continued throughout the summer of '63 or not.

In any case, both Dr. Schoenstadt and Dr. Goldstein were drafted into the Army in 1963. Yes, in those days, even doctors were not exempt from military service. So they were forced to hand over the management to a friend, a flamenco guitarist named Ron Zaplawa, who managed the Top Of The Tangent for the next few years. When Stanford returned to session in the Fall of '63, the taping deal with the Top Of The Tangent was not restarted, which is probably the reason we don't have any late 63 tapes from Garcia or anyone else.


KZSU-am listings from the Monday, October 28, 1963 Stanford Daily. Pete Wanger reads the news at  8:00, 9;00 and 10:30 and Ted Claire hosts "Folk Time" at 10:00
The Summer Of 1964
Even though Ted Claire was no longer taping at the Top Of The Tangent, he was still a disc jockey at KZSU. A Stanford Daily listing from Monday, October 28, 1963 (clipped above) says
10:00 FOLK TIME Bluegrass presented by Ted Claire
Sharp eyes will notice that the news programs at 8:00, 9:00 and 10:30, hosted by one Pete Wanger. Wanger was a "producer" at KZSU, whatever exactly that meant, and he would play an important role in the next adventure. Back in May of 1963, an article in the Stanford Daily had explained (in the May 1 issue, see below) the forthcoming plans for KZSU. Rather than just being an AM station heard only in the dorms, KZSU would broadcast in FM as well over the regular airwaves, on frequency 90.1. The transmitter was only 10 watts, so well into the 1970s KZSU-fm was only audible in the neighboring towns of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View and Los Altos, but the thinking at the time was probably that it was sufficient to cover the area where Stanford students might be expected to reside. KZSU expanded to FM in the Spring of 1964.

At the same time, music had stopped being presented at the Tangent in early 1964. It's possible that the entire deli was closed for remodeling. Although the two founding doctors were still in the military, music was presented again at the Top Of The Tangent starting on May 1, 1964. Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Band Champions were the featured act. This time, there was music both upstairs and down. Pizza was newly added to the menu, and The Tangent seemed to be appealing to both local families and college students at the same time. Because of Palo Alto liquor laws, there were no bars in downtown Palo Alto, but the Tangent served beer, so that counted for a lot more than it might in other towns. We know from Stanford Daily ads that Mother McRee's played The Tangent more than once in the Spring of 1964.

The most famous recording in Tangent history, however, was the tape of Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Band Champions, recorded by KZSU producer Pete Wanger and later released it's entirety by Grateful Dead Records. I now have a clearer idea of the history of KZSU, Garcia and The Tangent, but the Summer 1964 recording fits none of the prior iterations. Nonetheless, with a close look some of the differences can be explained, and the picture comes more clearly into view, if still not fully focused.

The most peculiar thing about the July '64 Jug Band appearance at the Tangent was that there seems to have been a flyer for the engagement. SEAL Team 6 assures me that the flyer is real, but we don't know of flyers for other Tangent engagements (although I'm aware of one that may have circulated for May 1 '64). 60s flyers and posters for Grateful Dead shows are so common that it did not occur to me until recently that the Tangent was somewhat of an outlier--why were there no flyers, even crude ones, for other shows there? What makes sense to me now is that Tangent shows were normally advertised in the Stanford Daily, but the Daily rarely published in the Summer. Thus if the Jug Band wanted to play Summer dates at the Tangent, they would need to drum up an audience themselves,

Mike Wanger and Bob Weir, about 1961 (from Mike Wanger's site)
We know that Pete Wanger was a producer at KZSU, and while we don't know exactly what that meant, it seems to suggest he had the leverage to broadcast what he wanted, within reason. Pete's younger brother Mike had been friends with Bob Weir since freshman year of high school (probably at the Menlo School) in Fall of 1961. Weir then changed schools several times, but still played folk music with Mike Wanger. Weir's first public performance, at the Tangent in 1963, was with a one-time-only group called The Uncalled Four, with Weir, Mike Wanger, Debbie Peckham and Rachel Garbett (blog readers will be delighted to know that Rachel Garbett's mother was my first grade teacher the next year). Although Bob Weir had graduated to the Jug Band by 1964, he was still friends with Mike.

It seems that Pete Wanger was producing a show called "Live From The Top Of The Tangent." Various long-forgotten acts were recorded (inlcuding The Enigmas, The Jaspers, Bolek and Dave, Buddy Bonn), and those tapes existed at least as of 1997. I assume the show was broadcast in the Summer of '64, but I am only making a plausible guess. Presumably, the material on the McRee's tape was broadcast on KZSU-fm shortly after it was recorded, possibly in its entirety. According to Mike Wanger, it appears that three sets were recorded, along with an interview, probably on the same night, and then the tapes were edited together for the radio. Producer Jeffrey Norman took the edited material and reconstructed it, so while the tape is spliced, it probably gave a good picture of what a night with the Jug Band was like.

By the Fall of 1964, Ted Claire had graduated (he would later surface in Robert Hunter's Roadhog), and by the Fall of '65, something else was happening. Interestingly, the fledgling Warlocks played "hoot night" at the Tangent a few times in 1965. Not only had the little club had expanded its booking to include occasional rock bands, but according to my eyewitness, since Jerry and the boys had always played the Tangent anyway, so who would stop them? The Warlocks probably played the same numbers that the Jug Band had played. Still, KZSU was not broadcasting from the Tangent, so there was no taping going on,

update: Scholar and Commenter LightIntoAshes reports that Live At The Tangent continued into 1965, although we doubt there was any Garcia material
Pete Wanger was one of the producers of "Live from the Top of the Tangent," which aired in ten half-hour programs. They didn't broadcast the McCree's set as a single show; instead, several songs were scattered throughout the programs. Presumably each episode had a variety of performers. 
Only a few of the songs on the McCree's CD were actually included in the programs. Fortunately Wanger kept a compilation reel of McCree's songs that hadn't been broadcast. It certainly isn't a complete show, just selections. Phil DeGuere was one of the hosts of the "Live from the Tangent" show on Friday nights from October '64 to early '65, so the show was still airing later than this post suggests. (April '65 was the last one I saw in the Daily.) 
What I don't know is whether the shows taped in summer '64 were still being broadcast over the next school year. The "From the Tangent" programs in '64-65 were in a pretty big time slot (typically 9:00-10:45), so I suspect they were still taping new material & performers at the Tangent. 



The May 1, 1963 article in the Stanford Daily that explains the forthcoming FM future of KZSU
Aftermath
Stanford, as always, was ahead of its time. When FM rock radio started to be a big thing in 1967, KZSU had already gone FM. KMPX-fm was broadcasting live rock shows as early as May 30 1967. KZSU was not far behind, as it started regular broadcasts from a Palo Alto club called The Poppycock in early 1968. The Poppycock was at 135 University Avenue, just a few doors down from The Tangent at 117 University. The earliest live FM broadcast I can confirm on KZSU was the hip comedy trio Congress Of Wonders, live from The Poppycock on February 15, 1968. There were intermittent live broadcasts up through the 1970s, depending to some extent on what venues were available within the tiny 10-watt range of KZSU-fm's transmitters. Garcia would return to the KZSU airwaves in 1973 and beyond. In various ensembles, Garcia was broadcast performing live six or seven more times, through 1989, but that tangled story will have to wait for the next installment.

Appendix 1:KZSU History
From the KZSU page on Stanford's website:
We exist to serve the Stanford community with quality radio broadcasts, including music, sports, news, and public affairs programming. 
The station is owned by the Board of Trustees of Stanford University and is governed by a Board of Directors appointed by the President. We got our FM license in 1964, and upgraded from 10 to 500 watts in 1978. Before 1964, KZSU broadcast as an AM carrier current station (through the University's power supply) on 880 kHz, starting in 1947 as a part of the Department of Communication. 
KZSU is a non-commercial station funded mainly by Stanford student fees, in addition to underwriting and listener donations. KZSU's staff is all volunteer, made up of Stanford students, staff, alumni, and community affiliates.

Appendix 2: KZSU In The 1950s
Longtime Bay Area radio executive Fred Krock has some recollection of KZSU in the 1950s. While Krock was a student about 10 years before the time discussed above, the circumstances in Palo Alto and Stanford were still not that different in 1963.
When I started college in 1950 KZSU at Stanford was a carrier current station broadcasting on 880 kHz, a frequency that was not used by any broadcast station in the area. The Stanford speech and drama department had good quality new RCA studio equipment used for radio classes and by the station. 
Still, broadcasting was not important at Stanford. It did not give a degree or have graduate studies in broadcasting. The speech and drama department’s classes mostly were taught by the same professor or one particular instructor. I talked with that professor about his broadcasting classes. He stated very clearly that, “Stanford was not a broadcasting trade school.” I asked him who would find his classes useful, and he replied, “Future public television program directors can get an idea about what was required to work in broadcasting.” 
Later [in the 1950s] I tried to interest Stanford in getting a FM license for KZSU. I had arranged for alumni working in electronics to install a donated FM transmitter at no cost to Stanford. The reply was that Stanford as a private university had no obligation to supply radio programs to the residents of Palo Alto. Years later KZSU did get the FM license that it uses today. 
At Stanford all undergraduate women and all male freshmen were required to live on campus. An exception was made for students with a family living nearby, who could live at home. Some men lived in fraternity houses, but the school had banished sororities and all the former sorority houses had been converted into dormitories. KZSU served all these locations. 
Stanford Research Institute (SRI) was located in Menlo Park, on part of a former military base. Some students even lived in the original army housing, so KZSU leased a program line from Pacific Bell and fed programs to a carrier current transmitter at SRI [for those who have read Jesse Jarnow's fine book Heads, the fact that Jerry Garcia was broadcast into SRI as early as 1963 has a certain Humbeadian synchronicity]. 
Stanford did not have enough dormitory space for all male sophomores, juniors, and seniors, therefore many lived off campus and could not hear KZSU. There also was housing for married graduate students near College Park. They also did not hear the station.




Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Fox Warfield and The Warfield Theater, 982 Market Street, San Francisco, CA (Jerry's House)

The 1981 Grateful Dead double-lp Reckoning, recorded at the Warfield Theater and Radio City Music Hall in September and October 1980
For fans and scholars of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, the Warfield Theater in San Francisco has to loom large. The 2300-capacity theater, built in 1922 at 982 Market Street, was first bought to Deadhead attention when the band played an historic 15-date engagement in September and October of 1980. About a decade later, when the Dead had finally outgrown the little theater, it became the home base of the Jerry Garcia Band. In the end, there were a couple of dozen Dead shows, and Garcia played there around 100 times himself, apart from the Dead. Throughout the entire period and right up through today, The Warfield has been a premier music venue in San Francisco, and the list of performers who have played there is like a rock history tutorial. Yet the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia were fundamental in establishing The Warfield as a rock Signpost in San Francisco.

The Warfield was a premier rock concert venue in San Francisco from late 1979 onwards. It was a beautiful old theater, with wonderful acoustics, and over time more and more rock fans were willing to pay premium prices at the Warfield instead of a lesser price at a giant arena. You could probably write a book about the rock history of the Warfield, and it would be a good overview of late 20th century rock music. Merely from the perspective of the Grateful Dead, after Jerry Garcia moved forward in 1995, the Warfield became the home base of Phil Lesh And Friends, and there were numerous intimate, fantastic performances for those ensembles as well, making the Warfield a Deadhead nexus for 25 years.

In many ways, the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia were instrumental in making the Warfield a viable venue at the end of the century. In that respect, it was a modern replay of an old 60s story, where the Dead were among the first to try out new venues. The Warfield story is different because the Dead were already established when they first played the Warfield, but it is no less interesting for that. This post will look at the history of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead at the Warfield Theater.

The Fox-Warfield Theater around 1964. "Black Sabbath" was a Boris Karloff movie (Ozzy Osbourne was a child living in Birmingham). The Fox-Warfield sign was on the marquee into the early 1980s, long after Fox had sold their interest,

Loew's Warfield
The Warfield was one of the great Market Street movie palaces in San Francisco. It first opened on May 13, 1922. The theater was built by Vaudeville promoter Marcus Loew (1866-1938), and the theater was named after David Warfield, one of his best friends, and an original investor in what would become the MGM-Loews empire (of course, for the complete story, as always, you have to go to JerryGarciasBrokendownPalaces). The Loew's Warfield originally presented Vaudeville along with movies and theatrical productions. There may also have been a speakeasy associated with the theater in the 1930s. When Vaudeville died out, the Warfield mostly showed movies, but live performances returned in the 1940s.

Since there were live performances at the Warfield in the 1940s, they must have hired plenty of musicians. It is at least plausible that saxophonist Jose Garcia, Jerry's father, may have performed at the Warfield. He gave up music after his kids were born--exactly when isn't clear--but he could still have played the Warfield before he gave it up. Nonetheless. at the very least Jose Garcia would have known that the Warfield was one of the principal entertainment venues in San Francisco, and in some alternate Philip K. Dick universe it would have made him proud to know that his son ended up the king of the venue.

The Warfield, under various names, continued as a movie palace. By the 1960s, the theater was known as the Fox-Warfield, a name it would keep for some time. The theater went through various owners, and the theater chain National General refurbished the theater in 1969. The theater re-opened in 1970 with a guest appearance by Mae West, promoting her film Sextette. Throughout the 70s, the film mostly showed second-run fare. National General seems to have sold the Warfield to Mann Theaters, and by the end of the 70s it was owned by one Mike Thomas, who ultimately sold it to Bill Graham. In 1979, the theater was still known as the Fox-Warfield, and that was what was on the marquee, even though I think there was no longer any connection to a Fox Pictures entity. If you bought a ticket at BASS (a Ticketmaster forerunner), it said "Warfield Theater," but informally the place was called the Fox-Warfield or The Warfield, If you lived in San Francisco or had been to the theater, you called it "Fox-Warfield" to casually indicate that you knew what was on the marquee (a very San Francisco thing).

Bob Dylan's controversial 1979 album Slow Train Coming
Warfield Theater Rock and Roll Highlights 1979-95
November 1-16, 1979: Bob Dylan (14 shows)
The first rock shows at the Fox-Warfield were very dramatic: 14 concerts by Bob Dylan over a period of 16 days. Dylan was still a legendary figure in rock at the time, and although he had toured somewhat during the 1970s, he was not the perpetual road dog that he would become a decade later. When Dylan played live, he either played in huge arenas or made some sort of quasi-stealth appearance. The Fox-Warfield shows were a complete break not only for Bob Dylan, but for major rock acts in general. Here was a major headline act playing for two weeks at a small theater, when two nights at a basketball arena would have sold more tickets. The shows were a major event, and a major coup for Bill Graham, and they sold out instantly. Of course, no one knew what Dylan would play--he was Dylan, after all.

On August 20, 1979, Dylan had released his most controversial album, Slow Train Coming. All of the songs emphasized his new-found Christian faith, a startling development for a nice Jewish boy from Hibbing, Minnesota. On October 18, 1979, Dylan had performed three songs from the album on Saturday Night Live with his new band. Still, performing songs off your new album was what people did on SNL, and anyway, he was Dylan. His new band was small, but they were disciplined session pros (Fred Tackett-guitar, Bill Smith-keyboards, Tim Drummond-bass and Jim Keltner-drums) supported by three gospel-style backup singers.

Opinions varied about Slow Train Coming, although few Dylan followers were unreserved fans of it. However, what no one expected at the Fox-Warfield shows was that Dylan would do nothing but his new "Christian" songs, with nary an old tune to be found. Dylan's choice of material in concert was always a fraught subject, not least because he has so much great material, but the idea of him performing no old material whatsoever was not appealing. All of the songs were either from Slow Train Coming or new, unreleased material, much of which would turn up on Dylan's next album, Saved. No one was happy, except, apparently for Bob Dylan, who found himself once again in the center of a musical controversy.

Reviews were scathing. Even despite their being no Stubhub equivalent, people who had bought tickets for multiple nights could not dump their tickets fast enough. I saw one of the later shows, and while there were some enthusiastic fans, for the most part the crowd was grim and silent, with a lot of frustrated hostility directed towards Dylan. Bob, of course, fed off that hostility and played his new songs with great intensity. All in all, it was a very strange concert experience.

The one unequivocal winner in the strange equation was the Fox-Warfield. There were comfortable seats both upstairs and down, the sight lines were great from everywhere and the sound was tremendous. Although the Tenderloin neighborhood was unpleasantly seedy, the Fox-Warfield was accessible by both BART (at the Powell Street station) and numerous city buses. Bill Graham Presents immediately started booking shows at the Fox-Warfield, and it was an instantly popular venue. For acts on the rise, it was far better to see them headline a full show at the Warfield than second on the bill at the Oakland Coliseum. I saw The Clash at the Fox-Warfield, for example (March 2, 1980), on the London Calling tour, and it was an all-time show, even for an old hippie like me (for a complete list of Warfield bookings between 1979 and 1980 see the Appendix below).

March 25, 1980: Bay Area Music Awards ("Bammies")
Bay Area Music Magazine, or "BAM," was a free bi-weekly music publication in the Bay Area, which started in 1976. It played a huge role in publicizing Bay Area music, both for national bands from the region, like the Grateful Dead, and for more local acts. BAM also played a formative role in the career of many journalists, notably Blair Jackson and David Gans.

In 1978, Dennis Erokan, the publisher of BAM, decided to have a Grammy-like "Bay Area Music Awards," which was dubbed The Bammies, to publicize both the paper and the music. The "award" was a straight-up popularity contest, and the event was just a big party, but everyone had a good time. In 1980, one of the first years, the party was held at The Fox-Warfield. Although no members of the Dead performed (Garcia and others would play in later years), Garcia was definitely present in 1980. He probably won "best guitarist" that year, as he did most years.

The significance of this event was that Garcia had definitely been to the Fox-Warfield prior to the Dead's lengthy residency later in the year. I don't think it was that big a deal, but if Richard Loren had been running the idea by Garcia, he could have said "you know, the place where that awards show was held." Garcia would have at least had an idea of what he was agreeing to.

The 1981 Grateful Dead double-lp Dead Set, recorded at the Warfield Theater and Radio City Music Hall in September and October 1980
September 25-October 14, 1980: Grateful Dead (15 shows)
For any Deadheads who hadn't attended the Dylan shows at the Fox-Warfield, or hadn't even been aware of it, the Fox-Warfield Theater suddenly loomed large. Bill Graham Presents announced a 15-show run by the Grateful Dead, from September 25 through October 14 of 1980. The 15 shows were significant, too, since it was one more than Dylan, a fact pointed out in the local press.

For the previous few years, the Dead had only played larger, general admission venues, namely Winterland, the Oakland Auditorium and Oakland Coliseum Arena. Those Deadheads from elsewhere, who had moved to the Bay Area--and there were more and more of them--were generally used to seeing the Grateful Dead in larger arenas or small stadiums. The only time in the prior decade that the Dead had regularly played small theaters had been the Summer '76 tour where they re-introduced themselves to touring.  The Dead had played the 2200-seat Orpheum in San Francisco for six nights, but fifteen nights was another order of magnitude.

As if this wasn't enough, the idea of playing almost every night for three weeks made the idea of traveling to see the Dead in San Francisco very appealing. I don't know how many people actually got to to do that, but the Fox-Warfield shows were definitely something that got Deadheads all over the country thinking about it.  Shortly afterwards, the 9 shows at Radio City Music Hall at the end of October were announced, and it was a Brave New World indeed for the Grateful Dead.

Tickets for the 15-night Fox-Warfield run were only available by mail order. We all requested everything we could afford. I no longer remember the parameters. I think we ended up with tickets for nine shows. It was a completely different experience to not only know I would be attending numerous nights, but to have an actual reserved seat. I realize now that there had been occasional shows around the country at smaller, reserved seat theaters (like at the Richmond Mosque on May 25, 1977), but those had seemed be one-off events.

I was fortunate enough to attend the first Dead show at the Fox-Warfield on September 25, 1980. and it was magical indeed. We had heard faint rumors that the Dead might play acoustic, but I had written that off as wishful thinking. Yet lo and behold--when we walked into the gleaming Fox-Warfield and got to our seats on the lower balcony, there was the now-familiar stools for Bob and Jerry, grand piano for Brent and limited drum kits for Bill and Mickey. It was really going to happen. Of course, my friend and I spent our time guessing what song would come first (I went for "Dark Hollow," my friend for "Uncle John's Band"), but it was a burst of undiluted magic when "Bird Song" lit up the theater.

The 15 Dead shows at the Fox-Warfield were indeed magical, even for veteran Bay Area fans who had seen numerous Dead shows. Each show was three full sets, starting shortly after 8:00pm and going until well after 1:00 AM. The sound was perfect, and the relaxed vibe of sitting in an assigned seat, pretty much a new experience for Bay Area fans, meant that we could really focus on the details of the music instead of hassling with knuckleheads. The Dead played an astonishing wide variety of electric and acoustic songs throughout the run, and special moments were too plentiful to even count. Even if the Dead and Garcia had never played the Fox-Warfield again, the 1980 run alone permanently inscribed the venue as a legendary stop in the Dead's touring history. The albums Reckoning and Dead Set made sure that the rest of Deadhead nation knew about the Warfield as well.

Bob Dylan's unloved 1980 album Saved

November 9-22, 1980: Bob Dylan (12 shows)
The Fox-Warfield had had numerous great shows throughout 1980, culminating with the Dead's long run (see the Appendix below). Bill Graham surprised everyone with Bob Dylan's return for a 12-show engagement, seemingly to "make up" for the Gospel Debacle of the year before. Tickets did not move quickly. Remarkably, there were ads on the leading rock station, KSAN-fm, with Bill Graham himself talking over a rehearsal tape of Bob Dylan and his band performing (as I recall) "Blowin' In The Wind'." Bill assured listeners that Bob had assured him that he was rehearsing his old material. The implicit pitch was that it wasn't going to be an "all-gospel" Dylan show, all in all a very strange pitch for a radio ad. Still, the shows did not sell out.

Come the first few Dylan shows, and the reviews were not positive. Dylan, using the same band, did indeed perform about five old numbers out of 17 or so songs (on the first show, they were "Like A Rolling Stone," 'Girl From The North Country," "Just Like A Woman," "Senor" and "Blowin' In The Wind") but the balance was all of his new "Christian" material. Even the older songs were oddly re-arranged, in typical Dylan fashion, and didn't evoke classic Bob. No one was really pleased. There wasn't a rush to buy the remaining tickets for the other Dylan shows at the Fox-Warfield.

November 16, 1980: Bob Dylan plus Jerry Garcia
Bill Graham had his own remedy for Dylan shows that weren't selling out: invent some drama. Graham used his clout to get musicians to make guest appearances at the shows. Carlos Santana made a guest appearance on November 13, followed by Mike Bloomfield on November 15. For the seventh concert, the surprise guest was Jerry Garcia, who played electric guitar on 12 of the 22 songs, including "Simple Twist Of Fate." Garcia and Dylan had met previiously, but this was the first time they had played together on stage.

May 22 1981: No Nukes Benefit--Garcia, Weir, Hart and Kreutzmann/others
On April 25, 1981, 4 members of the Grateful Dead and John Kahn had played acoustically at a SEVA Benefit at Berkeley Community Theater. The significance of this event was that it triggered the pattern of Garcia playing benefits as an acoustic act, a far simpler process than arranging an entire electric performance with mountains of gear. The SEVA Benefit was followed by a similar anti-nuclear power benefit at the Fox-Warfield a month later. The headline act--introduced by Wavy Gravy as "Captain Jerry Bob KreutzHart"--was an acoustic performance by Garcia, Weir, Hart, Kreutzmann,Brent Mydland and John Kahn. Phil Lesh did not play either benefit, because apparently no one asked him.

Most of the people in the Fox-Warfield crowd in 1981 had probably seen at least one show from the Dead's long stand in the Fall, and it was great to hear some of the same material again in the same venue. Little did we know that this would be essentially the last performance of the "Acoustic Grateful Dead," save for a single benefit in 1994.


June 26 1981: Jerry Garcia Band/High Noon/(Mike Henderson)
The Jerry Garcia Band played a very surprising show at the Fox-Warfield the next month. I happen to think this was a critical show in Jerry Garcia Band history, and it would take me several thousand words to explain, so I won't do it here (but I have done it elsewhere--warning: this ain't short). A few key points to ponder:
  • Phil Lesh appeared as the bass player, and was even advertised as such. He also played the night before, in Santa Cruz. No explanation was given, prior to, during or after the show. For all we knew, he was permanently replacing John Kahn, although that turned out not to be the case
  • This weekend of shows at Santa Cruz and the Fox-Warfield (and a stealth warmup in Salinas) were the debut of background vocalists in the Jerry Garcia Band, which would be a continuous feature of the JGB thereafter (save for a few transitional dates in 1982). The singers were not introduced from the stage.
  • The Jerry Garcia Band had consistently played for Bobby Corona at The Stone in San Francisco, and only played for Bill Graham Presents outside of cities where the Keystone Family operated (Berkeley, Palo Alto and San Francisco). The June 1981 show was about the only exception to this rule.
Much to the dismay of the crowd, the Jerry Garcia Band did not come on stage until midnight. Apparently someone in High Noon was late, so regular Keystone opener Mike Henderson, not advertised, played a solo blues set from about 8;00-9:00. High Noon played from about 9:30-11:00, but the crowd was very restless by the time the curtain was raised on the Garcia Band. Yet with the unexpected tableaux of the full band with Liz Stires and Essra Mohawk singing, and Phil Lesh on bass, performing a slow, stunning version "I'll Take A Melody," Garcia won over the crowd within minutes, and all complaints about lateness evaporated. The show did not end until after 2:30 am, very rare for the Fox-Warfield.

February 16-17, 1982: Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead returned to the Fox-Warfield in February of 1982. These were the first two shows of 1982, warm-up shows on a Tuesday and Wednesday before two weekend nights at Golden Hall in San Diego (Feb 19-20) and a big Sunday night show (Feb 20) at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion. At this time, the Dead's home base was Oakland Auditorium, but the Fox-Warfield offered a complete contrast. The delicate clarity of the Fox-Warfield was a wonderful counterpoint to the rocking intensity of The Aud.

March 29-31 1983: Grateful Dead Rex Benefits
The Grateful Dead returned to the Fox-Warfield for three shows in March of 1983. These shows were significant for any number of reasons. The most prominent reason was that these three shows were the first benefits for the newly-formed Rex Foundation. The Grateful Dead had always done plenty of benefits, but as concert receipts became bigger and they had more and more friends, it had become an issue as to who they would play for and how money would be distributed. Garcia partially dealt with that by playing acoustically at benefits of his own choosing, but it still left a problem with Grateful Dead Benefit shows.

After 1983, the Rex Foundation solved that problem. The Grateful Dead raised money for their own Rex Foundation, named after late roadie Rex Jackson, and the Foundation board decided how to donate that money. Gifts of $10,000 or so could be given to numerous organizations and projects, without a benefit having to be assigned to a specific cause (McNally p. 547)

The other significant development of the March shows was the debut of the Grateful Dead's new mail order ticket service. It had been done before, of course, particularly at the 1980 Warfield shows. Starting in 1983, however, Deadheads could get tickets by mail for almost all Dead shows. This innovation remained in place for the balance of the Grateful Dead's touring history. The relatively small scale Warfield shows, with only about 6900 tickets available, was a good dry run for the ticket service.

If I recall correctly, all of the tickets for the Fox-Warfield were only available by mail order. When the Dead went on tour, the more typical arrangement was that a percentage of tickets were sold by mail order--I think about half--and the rest were sold locally. This arrangement served a couple of critical functions. First of all, it made it possible for Deadheads all over to get tickets for almost any Dead show anywhere in the country. At the same time, tickets were available locally, to insure that the band could draw on fans in any given region. This was important for building an audience. Also, the money that the Dead got from ticket sales, months in advance of the actual shows, served as the financing for the tours themselves, rather than depending on promoter's advances. In effect, Deadheads were "Crowdfunding" Dead tours prior to the invention of the internet.

A 21st century photo of The Warfield's interior

The Fox-Warfield Theater Becomes "The Warfield"
After the 1983 Rex Benefit shows, the Grateful Dead never played the Warfield again. Jerry Garcia only played there a few more times in the 1980s, although eventually it replaced the Keystones as the permanent home base of the Jerry Garcia Band. Yet everyone forgets these facts, lost in a dreamy reverie of the truly historic connection between the Dead, Bill Graham, Jerry Garcia and 982 Market Street. In fact, the Warfield had a peculiar history in the 1980s, including two remodels, and they have been crucial to the story, and all but written out of the history.

In the Spring of 1983, the rock concert business in San Francisco was booming, as it was nationwide. Bill Graham Presents dominated the Bay Area scene, booking not only major arenas like the Oakland Coliseum Arena and the Cow Palace, but also controlling smaller venues like the Fox-Warfield and clubs like The Old Waldorf and Wolfgang's. The rock audience now ranged from teenagers to middle-aged adults, and many people with good jobs and kids were more than willing to pay a premium for a seated show that started at 8:00 and was over before midnight, so the Fox-Warfield fit that cohort perfectly.

Thus it was a complete surprise when Bill Graham leased out the Fox-Warfield to an apparently wealthy Polish brother-and-sister duo, who planned to remake the Warfield into a "high-end" disco. Their reasoning, apparently, was that San Francisco had no such place, and thus the market was ripe. Anyone who knew the Bay Area knew this was a fool's errand. Consider a few facts that separated San Francisco (then and now) from other entertainment capitals like New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere:
  • 982 Market Street was in a dangerously seedy, crack-infested area. Rich people did not want to be wandering Market Street well after midnight. I'd been out on that street, and it wasn't pleasant
  • Bars in SF close at 2:00am, not 4:00am like in New York. That meant said rich people were going to be out on those streets a lot earlier than in New York
  • San Francisco, even in the Summer, is windy and really cold at night. If you were out on Market Street at 2:01 am in high heels and a crop top, you would freeze to death
  • There are no cabs at night in San Francisco. It's not New York or Chicago. BART stopped at midnight. If you were too high to drive, you'd never get home, which is why you would freeze
  • There has always been money in San Francisco, since 1849. However, San Franciscans style themselves as quasi-European (laugh at us if you want), and flashing it was never in vogue. Lots of wealthy San Franciscans liked going out, but if you wanted to admit that you only wanted to consort with the Special People instead of just going to a dive bar, you had to move to LA. The current Google-types who wear their jeans despite their million dollar stock options are just part of a hundred-plus years of SF tradition
The idea of dropping a million dollars in renovation to make the old Fox-Warfield into an exclusive high end disco that was only open on Saturday nights was madness. Bill Graham didn't need my help to figure this out. So he let the Warfield be turned into a disco, while keeping the master lease for himself.

The new Polish operators of the theater changed the name from the Warfield Theater to "The Warfield." Of course, only trainspotters like me had ever called it the Fox-Warfield, and even I referred to it in conversation as The Warfield, so it wasn't much of a change. But the official name change wasn't until the disco was in place in mid-1983. The big renovation was to tear all the seats out of the main floor, to provide room for dance floor instead. That had to have been expensive, and Graham didn't pay for it, his tenants did.

The Warfield re-opened as a disco in mid-1983, I don't know exactly when. It bombed almost immediately. Among the many things operating against it, besides the practical ones I mentioned above, was the fact that the idea was striving to make San Francisco "like other cities." People who live the Bay Area, even if they moved there last Tuesday, find that distasteful. All sorts of crazy ideas can be viable in the Bay Area--Acid Tests and home computers come to mind--as long as the locals are convinced that no one else is doing it. Once SF is supposed to emulate other cities, the door slams shut. The Warfield only lasted a few months in its disco incarnation. The Polish siblings gave up their lease, and Graham had his building back.

The timeline is a bit obscure here, although it has little do with the Grateful Dead. Continuous rock shows at the Fox-Warfield seem to end around June 1983 (June 7 Stray Cats/Mojo). There are no BGP shows until later in the year, and then save for one disco-oriented summer show (Peter Allen Aug 27), BGP seemed to return in force in the Fall (Little River Band October 14 '83). I think that Graham had rented the venue back from his bankrupt tenants, and was still working on revising the venue. Shows were intermittent until the Spring of 1984. The Warfield's peculiar status, by the way, helps explain why the Grateful Dead had played Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium in October 1983 and April 1984, as The Warfield (as it was now known) wasn't really available.

By mid-1984, The Warfield had returned to the regular mix of BGP venues, and artists both popular and important continued to play there regularly. The tone of the venue had changed a little bit, however. When the Dead had first played there, the fully seated Warfield encouraged a reverential audience. By 1984, however, with no seats on the ground floor, the feel of the place was far rowdier. This wasn't all bad, by any means, but it was different. Certainly, for people like me, who still generally preferred a reserved seat, that option still existed in The Warfield balcony, and that set the venue apart from other clubs, where if you weren't willing to stand all night, you weren't going to see and hear the band very well. The Warfield could appeal to two audiences for the same act: the one that wanted to drink and dance close to the stage, as well as the one that wanted a reserved seat to contemplate the show undisturbed.

update
A Commenter says I have the timeline incorrect, and the Warfield was remodeled in 1988, not 1983. He very well may be right. The story is the same even if the date is wrong, however

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: The conversion of the Warfield, from full theater seating to open-floor GA downstairs and fixed seats upstairs, was much later than the 1983 date cited here. The takeover and conversion of the building by the wealthy brother-sister team for that ill-fated disco project was one and the same as the 1988 renovation mentioned later. I attended and/or worked many fully reserved-seat shows in the old theater configuration up to the time the venue was closed for the overhaul in September of '88. Also, Joe Satriani on 12/28/88 was not the first show back in the converted space. The reopening was a 10th Anniversary celebration for the Punch Line comedy club on November 9th. The first show I saw in that configuration was an amazing performance by Prince, at two o'clock in the morning of 11/11, after his regularly scheduled gig at the Oakland Coliseum

Jane Dornacker as the leader of Leila and The Snakes (Pearl Harbor is center)
November 22 1986  Kantner Balin Casady Band/Todd Rundgren/The Tubes/Garcia, Weir and Hart Jane Dornacker Benefit
Up until the early 1980s, although the Dead were huge on the East Coast, they could still play relatively small places in the Bay Area like the Fox-Warfield or Marin Vets with a minimum of fuss. By the mid-1980s, this wasn't really possible. Although explicit Deadhead census data isn't available, I am convinced that the massive influx of Deadheads from the East into the Bay Area in the mid-80s meant that local Dead shows were no longer treated casually. After Garcia's coma, there was no chance for a Grateful Dead show in a small venue, even in the Bay Area.

Jerry Garcia did return to the Warfield in 1986, however, albeit under sad circumstances. Jane Dornacker had become a popular radio personality on KFRC-am, reporting traffic from a helicopter. She had moved on to big success with WNBC in New York (660-am, now WFAN), reporting traffic. Sadly, she had died in a helicopter accident on October 22. 1986. Even more tragically, her husband had recently died, orphaning their 16-year old daughter.

However, not only was Jane Dornacker a popular and beloved media figure in the Bay Area, she had deep roots both in the 60s underground and the 70s New Wave scene. Way back when she was a San Francisco State student in 1966, she had appeared with the excellent but unfortunately named Final Solution, as Earth Mother and The Final Solution.Ultimately she married the band's bass player, Bob Knickerbocker. So all of the San Francisco underground had known her from way back in the 60s.

As if that wasn't enough, Dornacker was a comedienne, songwriter, actress and singer in the 1970s. She fronted a band called Leila And The Snakes (Jane was Leila, Pearl Harbor was one of The Snakes), she co-wrote a classic Tubes song ("Don't Touch Me There") and she even appeared in the movie The Right Stuff. So when Dornacker died, she wasn't just a Bay Area media figure, she was an old friend of many from way back. So the hastily-organized benefit had a stellar cast indeed.

Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir played an acoustic set, helped out by Mickey Hart. The prevailing version of the Airplane crew (with Paul Kantner, Marty Balin and Jack Casady) also played along with Todd Rundgren and The Tubes. All of them had social and professional connections to Dornacker. Vince Welnick was not only in The Tubes, he was probably in Todd Rundgren's backing band for the show, as well.

The Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band's album Almost Acoustic was recorded at The Warfield and Los Angeles Wiltern Theater in Fall 1987
November 27-29, 1987: Jerry Garcia Band/Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band
The Jerry Garcia Band finally returned to The Warfield at the end of November 1987. In October, Bill Graham had put on a remarkable two weeks of shows with Jerry Garcia at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater on Broadway in New York. The shows featured an opening set by the newly-congregated Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, followed by a lengthy set by the full electric band. The billing was duplicated with three shows at The Warfield, followed by three shows at the similar Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles. Part of the reason for these bookings was to record the shows for albums, since for various reasons that was prohibitively expensive to do on Broadway.

I saw one of the November Warfield shows, and it was a wonderful setting. The Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band would have been somewhat overwhelmed at a rowdier place like the Kaiser Convention Center, but The Warfield was perfect for them. The open floor of The Warfield still lent a lively air to the electric set.

December 17, 1987: Joan Baez Christmas Concert/Garcia, Weir and Kahn
The Warfield was the site of another benefit, hosted by Joan Baez. Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and John Kahn were the configuration for this outing, joined by Baez for the last three numbers. Since Garcia never actually rehearsed for these events, it didn't matter precisely who was on stage, as long as they were willing to wing it with Jerry.

Feb 6 1988: Jerry Garcia Band
Mar 4-5 1988: Jerry Garcia Band
The modern era of the Jerry Garcia Band at The Warfield began in 1988. By this time, all of the Keystone clubs had closed, and in any case Garcia had become too big for them. The Jerry Garcia Band played a Warfield show in February and two in March. These weren't special events, tied to recording or anything else--just JGB gigs for his regular patrons. The March 5 show featured the truly unanticipated appearance of Howard Wales, for the first time in 17 years, letting it rip for a long version of "Don't Let Go."

The new configuration of The Warfield fit the latterday Garcia Band audience pretty well. Downstairs was an open floor and an accessible bar, more expansive than the Keystone Berkeley, but not too far from it. Upstairs was reserved seats, for the more restfully minded. Thus the basic spectrum of Garcia Band fans was covered by a single venue.

Orpheum Redux
Once again, however, Bill Graham Presents took time out to remodel The Warfield. BGP held no rock shows at the Warfield between March 31, 1988 and December 28, 1988. In the intervening time, Graham used the Orpheum Theater for a few shows, and the Jerry Garcia Band played there seven times (May 7 and Dec 2-3 '88, and Jan 27-28, Mar 3-4 '89). More intriguingly, however, Graham booked a show for the Jerry Garcia Band at the old Fillmore on May 6 '88, which he had recently taken control of. It might seem that the Fillmore Auditorium ought to have become the home of the Jerry Garcia Band, but that was not the case. Subsequent shows were booked at the Orpheum, and the JGB returned permanently to The Warfield at the end of 1989.

The key issue for the home base of the Jerry Garcia Band was not the history, nor the sightlines, nor the sound, but the bar. Garcia's successful tenure at Keystone Berkeley was based on the endless amounts of beer that were sold there. Garcia fans showed up early and hung out, and Garcia came on late, took a long break and played even later. All that equaled massive beer sales. The Fillmore, lovely and acoustically excellent as it was, wasn't conducive to beer sales. The main Fillmore bar was at the back of the house, upstairs and away from the floor. There was even a stage in the bar, for bands to play while the other bands were playing on the main stage. The Fillmore bar mainly sold drinks to people who didn't want to hear the band that was currently on the stage, completely the opposite of the Garcia fans interests. The physical setup of the downstairs at The Warfield was all about selling drinks, and the remodel improved that facility, although I don't know the specifics. After 1989, The Warfield had completely moved from a "concert venue" to a "nightclub," even though there were still reserved seats upstairs. [update: as mentioned above, a Commenter suggests that The Warfield became a disco in 1988, not 1983 and there was only one remodel)

1991's long-awaited live Jerry Garcia Band double cd was recorded at The Warfield in 1990
Jerry Garcia At The Warfield, 892 Market Street, San Francisco, CA
BIll Graham Presents returned to The Warfield, newly remodeled, on December 28, 1988, with a show featuring guitarist Joe Satriani. There were intermittent shows throughout the year, but BGP didn't use the venue that much. After a few more shows at the Orpheum, the Jerry Garcia Band returned to The Warfield with two shows in December 1989. By this time, the downstairs was scientifically designed to sell the maximum amount of drinks to patrons. This wasn't a negative--if you were downstairs hanging out with your friends or watching the band, you didn't want to navigate to the back of the house and stand in a line to get a drink. The new configuration had a lower level dance floor near the stage, but most of the main floor had long tables and attentive waitresses. It wasn't hard to catch their eye and get a drink, so it made the Warfield a very pleasant place to hang out. The upstairs reserved seats had their own separate bar on the mezzanine. A Garcia show, including all the set breaks, went on for many hours, and The Warfield was now even better equipped than the Keystone Berkeley to sell as many drinks as the patrons wanted to buy.

Jerry Garcia played the Warfield in its various incarnations, by my count, a total of 100 times, and 123 if you include Grateful Dead shows (21) and Dylan guest appearances (see JGBP for a complete list). 91 of those shows were in the remodeled Warfield, from December 1, 1989 through the final JGB booking on April 21-23, 1995. Highlights were too many to count. Almost all of the acoustic shows with David Grisman and Jerry Garcia were at The Warfield (13 shows). I was lucky enough to see a few, and I can assure you that if Graham bought them to Broadway, it would have been like Cats or Wicked, and would never have closed. Garcia made another guest appearance at The Warfield with Bob Dylan, as well, in May 5, 1992 ("Cat's In The Well" and "Idiot Wind")

The Warfield was a great concert venue in its 90s incarnation, and no doubt remains so. The neighborhood was still seedy, but it didn't get worse, and there was a BART stop (New Yorkers or Londoners take subway stops for granted, but San Francisco isn't like that). It was nice to have a waitress bring you your drink of choice instead of having to fight your way to the bar, just for a Miller Lite. I have to think that the Garcia shows were the most profitable at The Warfield. As Deadheads got older, and had relatively more money, a night with Jerry was a night to hang out for hours with friends and buy some cold drinks. With the Keystone family gone and Garcia's health in decline, pretty much the only way to see the Garcia Band the last few years was at the Warfield. In that respect, it was almost like seeing The Preservation Hall Jazz Band in New Orleans--the real thing on a hometown turf that was deeply rooted in its own history.

And, following the theme of a building whose performers were part of the history itself, after Jerry Garcia moved forward in 1995, the Warfield became the home base of Phil Lesh And Friends, and there were dozens more great performances. Many of the Phil Lesh shows at The Warfield were one-time only bookings, such as with Trey Anastasio and Paige McConnell of Phish, so current fans have an equally rich memory of great shows there. Finally, in 2006, the venue was sold to a non-BGP entity, but Phil And Friends played the final show, appropriately enough. Guitarist Larry Campbell wrote the beautiful "Waltz For The Warfield," and it is a fitting tribute to the old girl--which, I should add, remains a popular venue to this day.

London called, The Clash answered. You shoulda been there

Appendix: Warfield Rock Shows Nov 79-Sept 80 (Between Dylan and the Dead)
November 1-16 Bob Dylan (14 shows)

November 28, 1979 The Police/Pearl Harbor and The Explosions (Wednesday)
This show was moved from the Berkeley Community Theater, which is surprising, considering that BCT was much larger than the Warfield (3500 vs 2300). That means The Police would not have sold as many tickets as expected, and that their world domination was yet to come.

November 29-30, 1979 Bonnie Raitt/Norton Buffalo (Thursday-Friday)
Norton Buffalo was probably a member of Bonnie Raitt's band at the time, and his own band opened the show.

December 15 Karla Bonoff/Steve Forbert (Saturday)
Karla Bonoff was better known as a songwriter (with songs like "Someone To Lay Down Beside Me," made popular by Linda Rondstadt) at the time than as a performer.

January 11, 1980 Linda Ronstadt/Joan Baez/Hoyt Axton Benefit for Cambodian Boat People (Friday)
This benefit was tied to a similar, larger event at the Oakland Coliseum Arena two days later, headlined by the Grateful Dead and The Beach Boys. I think Bill Graham and Joan Baez were hoping to put together a charity album.

January 19, 1980 James Taylor/Karla Bonoff  (Saturday early and late shows) 
James Taylor was huge, and could have played the Oakland Coliseum Arena, but here he was (playing double shows) at the Fox-Warfield. In many ways, this was parallel to what Bob Dylan was doing, providing a special event for serious fans.

January 25, 1980 Van Morrison (Friday)
Van Morrison was a most-of-the-year Bay Area resident who commonly appeared in Bay Area nightclubs, but his fans were far more likely to pay up to see him in a theater than to pay less to see him in big arena.

January 26, 1980 Lee Ritenour/Tower Of Power (Saturday)

February 17, 1980 The Specials (Sunday)
The Specials (aka Specials UK) were a popular Ska revival band, an offshoot of the "New Wave" music coming out of England. They were very popular in England, far less so in the States. No one remembers them now.

February 22, 1980 Jefferson Starship/Stoneground (Friday)
Jefferson Starship sold far more records than the Grateful Dead, but by now they were only a modest concert attraction in the Bay Area.

February 24, 1980 Weather Report (Sunday)
Weather Report had played Berkeley Community Theater the previous night (Saturday Feb 23).

March 1-2, 1980 Clash/Lee Dorsey/Mikey Dread (Saturday-Sunday)
I saw the March 2 show. The Clash in their London Calling prime, with Mickey Gallagher on keyboards along with the core four. I'm glad to have been there.

March 8, 1980 Gary Numan and Tubeway Army/Nash The Slash (Saturday)
Gary Numan was another New Wave act, with sort of an early electronica type of sound.

March 15, 1980 The Jam/The Beat (Saturday)
I'm pretty sure that "The Beat" was not the group later known as The English Beat. Raise your hand if you recall San Francisco's The Paul Collins Beat (as they were called in England, since there was both a UK and US band named The Beat).

March 23, 1980 J Geils Band/3-D (Sunday)
The J. Geils Band were like the Dead in many ways, a veteran touring act with a loyal live following, but an indifferent recording history at the time. Their new EMI album Love Stinks was the beginning of the group's rise to 80s arena and MTV stardom. The Fox-Warfield show was a Sunday night, but the night before J Geils had headlined the Oakland Coliseum Arena. And on the Friday night (March 21), Geils had headlined Pauley Pavilion at UCLA, so a show at the Fox-Warfield was a definite treat for their fans.

March 25, 1980 Bammies (Tuesday)

March 26, 1980 Graham Nash/Leah Kunkel (Wednesday)
Graham Nash, though a legend, was not a big draw on his own. Leah Kunkel was a pretty good singer. Her father (Russ Kunkel) was one of LA's great session drummers.

March 28-30, 1980 Jane Olivor (Friday-Sunday)

April 5, 1980 Iggy Pop/Mi-Sex (Saturday)
There's only one Iggy. From this entire year, only Iggy and Bonnie Raitt are still standing tall, still touring and pretty much doing what they always have done. Think about it, but not too hard.

April 12, 1980 Ramones/No Sisters (Saturday)
America wasn't ready for The Ramones when they surfaced in the mid-70s, but they were ready now. Sing it with me: "Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock, rock, rock and roll high school."

April 16, 1980 Boomtown Rats/The Pretenders (Wednesday)
Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats had released their fourth album on Columbia. "I Don't Like Mondays" was their big hit, from July '79. The Pretenders debut album had been released on Sire in January, although some singles had been released earlier. "Brass In Pocket" was released in November '79. An eyewitness reported that The Pretenders, though oozing talent and charisma, were still new to performing and had a very shaky presentation.

April 26, 1980 Triumph/Van Wilks (Saturday)

May 25, 1980 Pat Travers/Def Leppard (Sunday)
Hard rocking guitarist Pat Travers big song on radio was "Snortin' Whisky (and Drinking Cocaine)." Hard to make this stuff up. Def Leppard, part of The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, had just released their first album on Mercury Records, On Through The Night.

May 27, 1980 Ian Hunter/Motion Pictures (Tuesday)
Ian Hunter had left Mott The Hoople some years earlier, and was now touring with Mick Ronson. His previous studio album, 1979's You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic, had been recorded with Ronson and the E Street Band, and featured the great song "Cleveland Rocks." His live album, Welcome To The Club, had just been released in March of 1980.

June 19, 1980 Judas Priest/Ray Gomez (Thursday)
Judas Priest was another British heavy metal band. They had been around for some years, but they finally broke through in America with their 1980 Columbia album British Steel.

June 22-23, 1980 Peter Gabriel/Random Hold (Sunday-Monday)
Peter Gabriel had just released his third solo album entitled Peter Gabriel. Throughout this year. the Warfield featured a lot of acts in the prime of their career, across a wide spectrum of tastes.

July 16-17, 1980 Rossington-Collins Band/Ronin (Wednesday-Thursday)
Rossington-Collins Band was formed from the survivors of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Ronin featured Waddy Wachtel and other LA session heavyweights.

July 24, 1980 Flash Cadillac/Benny And The Jets (Thursday)
Both of these groups were local cover bands. I don't know if this was some sort of special event, as it's very atypical. Bookings in this stretch included the Cuevas/Hearns fight and a touring production of "Aint Misbehavin"

August 15, 1980 Magazine/Pere Ubu (Friday)
Magazine and Pere Ubu were the hippest of the hip underground record collector alternative New Wave bands imaginable. I would have spent the show at the bar, but that's just me.

August 16, 1980 Devo (Saturday)
Devo was hip at the time.

August 23, 1980 Eddie Money/Tommy Tutone (Saturday)
Eddie Money, a former Bay Area club act, was on his third album (Playing For Keeps), but he had already peaked. Tommy Tutone was a local band on the rise, but they had not yet released their one big hit (1981's "867-5309/Jenny").

September 3, 1980 Christopher Cross/Toons (Wednesday)
Christopher Cross was a hugely successful pop singer, with singles like "Ride Like The Wind," and "Sailing."

September 25-October 14, 1980 Grateful Dead (15 shows)

October 16-17, 1980 B-52s/Ricky Jay (Thursday-Friday)
The B-52s were always riotous fun in concert. Ricky Jay was a magician.

October 23-24, 1980 Talking Heads/English Beat (Thursday-Friday)
The Talking Heads were still touring as a 4-piece at this time.

November 6, 1980 Gary Numan/Gary Myrick (Thursday)

November 7, 1980 Randy Hansen/Head East (Friday)
Randy Hansen was basically a Hendrix imitator, despite being white and right-handed.

November 9-22, 1980 Bob Dylan (12 shows)
There were guest appearances by Carlos Santana (Nov 13), Mike Bloomfield (Nov 15), Jerry Garcia (Nov 16) and Maria Muldaur (Nov 22).