Friday, June 24, 2022

February 3, 1970 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead (Lost and Found) [FDGH VII]

The KQED-tv Special A Night At The Family Dog, recorded in February 1970, was released in 2007
 

February 4, 1970 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA:  Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Santana/Kimberly "A Night At The Family Dog" (Wednesday)
Most of the concrete information we have about the Family Dog on The Great Highway comes from Grateful Dead scholarship. Almost all of the surviving live tapes from the Dog are from the Grateful Dead, or are associated with the band. Of the non-Dead, non-Garcia tapes that exist, many were recorded by either Owsley or Alembic (Bob Matthews et al), each affiliated with the Dead. On top of that, what press coverage there was on the Family Dog was often anchored by reporting about the Dead or Jerry Garcia. 

For the wider audience of rock fans, and even of Deadheads, the most prominent knowledge of the Family Dog on The Great Highway was the Public Television special A Night At The Family Dog, recorded at a special concert for an invited audience on Wednesday, February 4, 1970. The show was initially broadcast on PBS-tv affiliate stations nationwide on April 27, 1970, and re-broadcast various times. With only three commercial networks and the occasional independent station, Public Television shows were widely watched in a way that would be unfathomable today. I assure you that the PBS Night At The Family Dog special was watched by young people nationwide in large numbers, and was probably influential in suggesting that events like this went on in San Francisco all the time. Certainly, if you were in cold Des Moines or windy El Paso and saw Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and Santana sharing the stage, everybody dancing and a big jam afterwards, it would make you believe that San Francisco was the promised land indeed.

I have looked into this event at some length, starting a decade ago when I discovered a contemporary San Francisco Chronicle article about the Wednesday night filming of the KQED special by Ralph Gleason. Although Gleason was disingenuous about his role--he was co-producer of the TV special--it was a striking description, and our only source of information up until that time. It seems, however, that there was a lot more to the story. At least some of the music from the special was likely recorded the night before. Now, that may mean that there was a dress rehearsal the night before, with professional video and audio, some of it seems to have been used in the TV special. Alternately, it may mean the date of February 4 was incorrect.

So: while we might have the date wrong, we might actually be missing a show. There could be audio, and there could even be video. Let's look at what we know today.

The Grateful Dead's performance at Chet Helms' Family Dog on The Great Highway on February 4, 1970 is fairly well known today. The hour-long video of concert highlights, originally broadcast on Public Television, has since been released in 2007 on DVD as A Night At The Family Dog. In 2005, the Grateful Dead released the recording of their entire set from that night. Thus both the audio and some video are available from the show, a rare and potent combination. However, while the music is well-covered, and video is available, very little has been recalled about the circumstances of the actual event itself. Even the Dead's cd release is scarce on details. Still, you can watch the video, play the cd, light one up--legally, in most states--and get a feel for what it might have been like Back In The Day.


Grateful Dead scholarship never rests, however, and it seems that the video and cd may have been somewhat more of a pastiche than we originally thought. One of the best sources of the era has been Sally Mann Romano, the ex-wife of the late Jefferson Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden. Her 2018 book The Band's With Me is a must-read for anyone interested in California rock history in the late 60s and early 70s. In a Twitter exchange, Romano recalled that the filming of the TV special was actually two nights at the Family Dog, on Tuesday and Wednesday (February 3 and February 4). The first was probably conceived as a rehearsal and sound check, prudent considering that filming live rock concerts was still in its infancy. Some very good evidence, however, suggests that at least some--and perhaps all?--of the TV special and the subsequent Archival cd release was actually from February 3.
Owsley Stanley's tape box for the recording at the Family Dog on February 3, 1970. The sticker says "Probably really 2/4/70"--I disagree.

What About Tuesday, February 3?
The Owsley Stanley Foundation has a long-term project of preserving Owsley's live recordings, even when the tapes themselves may not yet be released. Recently the Foundation announced that an Owsley 2-track recording of the February Family Dog had been preserved. The tape box itself says "See 16-track," an indicator that Owsley's recording was different than the Bob Matthews/Alembic recording that would have been the basis of the PBS video special. Owsley, always scrupulous about dates, has marked the box "Dead #2/Airplane #1, 3 Feb 70 Family Dog." A sticker on the box, in different handwriting, says "Probably really 2/4/70," since February 4 was the known date of the live recording of the special.

As I have documented in the previous post in this series, the Family Dog on The Great Highway had re-opened the previous weekend with a comparatively stealthy appearance by the Jefferson Airplane on Friday and Saturday, January 30 and 31. When I asked Sally Mann Romano about this on Twitter, however, she specifically did not recall that weekend's shows, and her recollections are uniformly precise. She plainly recalled going to the Family Dog for two days, presumably February 3 and 4 (Tuesday and Wednesday), and she understandably said that she surely would have remembered spending 4 out of 6 nights at the Dog. Mann Romano's recollection was the first indication of a rehearsal filming on the night before the official event. 

Now, the most-likely explanation for Mann and Dryden not going to the Dog on the prior weekend is in the only-the-Jefferson-Ariplane category. The most likely reason was that the Airplane were thinking about firing Dryden, and were trying out drummer Joey Covington, all without telling Spencer or his wife. Indeed, Dryden would be pushed out of the band a month later, and Covington took over the drum chair in March. The actual dating of Covington's arrival is confusing, and not a rabbit hole I will go down here, but suffice to say inviting Covington to a secret gig and not telling the current drummer was just another day in Jefferson Airplaneville. 

What we are left with, however, is the knowledge that there may have been a rehearsal at the Family Dog the night before the official PBS taping. Today, even small venues are set up for live video with synchronized sound--we can all do it ourselves on our phones now anyway--but this was new stuff in 1970. Video cameras were giant at the time, and needed their own locations. Separate trucks were needed for the video feed and the sound recording, and cable snakes would have been laid everywhere. It's not surprising that a full tech rehearsal was in order. And it's also likely that the entire rehearsal was filmed and the music recorded, if only to ensure that there was backup material in case the "official" event on Wednesday (Feb 4) had technical problems.

If there was a full rehearsal the night before, it would not be at all surprising to find out that the official video may have been a pastiche of both nights. At the time, the entire industry considered live recording another way to create product, not an historic record of an event. One track on the Woodstock movie soundtrack album, for example, was actually recorded at Fillmore East (CSNY's "Wooden Ships"). The Grateful Dead released the Family Dog show as part of their Download Series in 2005, but that series was poorly curated and had almost no recording information. The date was listed as February 4, but that was probably based on an assumption. The cd has 9 tracks. The final six are the same as the ones on Owsley's tape (above). I don't think the Dead repeated six songs--either there was only one show, or I think the Dead played better the first night rather than the second, and three of those tracks were used for the PBS video{see the Appendix below for track listings].

What About The Grateful Dead on February 4, 1970? First Hypothesis
If in fact, the existing audio and video recordings of the Grateful Dead were from February 3, not February 4, what did the Grateful Dead play on February 4? It raises the tantalizing possibility that there would have been existing professional recordings of the Dead from the "official" night that were never used. Since there was an invited crowd on Wednesday night, probably there were plenty of crowd shots, but the Dead's actual performance would have been different. My guess is that the Santana and Airplane sets were used from the 4th, as was the jam.

According to the Owsley Stanley Foundation, the tape with the Grateful Dead from February 3 includes two Jefferson Airplane tracks, "The Other Side Of This Life" and "Somebody To Love." Neither of those are on the Family Dog video. There's also some implications from the numbering--since there is a "Grateful Dead #2" and a "Jefferson Airplane #1" it follows there are additional tapes with the Dead and the Airplane. As far as a soundcheck goes, my assumption is that the Dead and the Airplane showed up for the soundcheck, and the Dead are famous for using soundchecks as an opportunity to play as long as they felt like it. Now, granted, we can hear some audience after "Hard To Handle," but it's not unlikely a few friends and family were around. 

Santana was a hotter band than the Dead or the Airplane at the time, and less likely to show up for the soundcheck the previous night. It's just an assumption on my part, but it's plausible. Kimberly, I should add, who opened the show, appear not to have been recorded. Kimberly were associated with Santana management, which suggests the privileged part accorded to Santana's presence.

Unfortunately, however, video tape and 16-track recording tape were expensive. If it was determined that the Dead's February 3 set was superior, then the Dead tapes for the 4th would simply have been erased. Owsley seems to have taped the rehearsal night, but it seems less likely he would have been allowed to tape the "official" performance, if only because space at the mixing board would have been at a premium. There remains the remote hope that some fragments exist, somewhere, or perhaps some production notes. It's a little more complicated since Bob Matthews recorded 16-track tape for Alembic, but it's entirely plausible that the existing recording was either from February 3 or an edit of the two nights.

Since no one had asked Sally Mann Romano, the existing Owsley tape was casually indicated (by the sticker) as incorrectly dated, when in fact I suspect it was accurate. Any missing Dead tape from the 4th has likely disappeared. Sic Transit Gloria Psychedelia. But here's to hoping some undated audio and video fragments of the Dead's performances on February 3 and 4 1970 can be identified and resurrected. I trust Owsley to have gotten the date right. 

An Alternative Hypothesis: Maybe The Date Was Wrong?
Of course, there's another possible explanation for the dating confusion. Maybe the date of the concert really was February 3, not February 4. February 4 has been accepted as the proper date for decades, but it's not supported by an advertisement or announcement, because there weren't any. Ralph Gleason's article was Friday, February 6, which suggests that he saw the bands on Wednesday, February 4. But the Chronicle was a morning paper, so if he went on Tuesday (February 3) he still could not have published until Friday.

It's true that Sally Mann Romano, my most reliable witness, remembers two nights, which is why that is my preferred hypothesis. But there are other possible explanations for her memory (the Airplane were not coming in off the road, unlike the Dead, for example). In any case, the context of her memory was that she and her husband were definitely not there four nights out of six (January 30-31, February 3-4). I'm still inclined to thinking that the Dead played two nights, but I am at least acknowledging another possibility.

[update: legendary scholar David Kramer-Smyth found a link (see the Comments) to a Good Times review of the event. It isn't very informative, but it does indicate the event was on Wednesday (February 4), so that points toward performances on Feb 3 and Feb 4]

"Hard To Handle"
Even casual poking around will lead you to online comments from people who recall seeing the public tv special in April of 1970 and being absolutely floored by the Dead. We did not have direct access to the video until it was released in the 21st century (I don't know if it floated around in collector's circles previously). The Dead performed three songs on the video: "Hard To Handle," "China Cat Sunflower" and "I Know You Rider." Only one of those songs was on a previously released album ("China Cat" was on Aoxomoxoa). "Hard To Handle" would not be officially available until Bear's Choice in early 1973, and the "China Cat>Rider" medley did not come out until October '72 (on Europe '72). So numerous teenagers got on the bus hearing songs that would not circulate officially for a few more years. Now, it turns out we didn't even have the date correct.

Appendix 1: A Night At The Family Dog TV show
Broadcast on Public Television stations on or about April 27, 1970
Produced by Ralph J. Gleason and Bob Zagone for National Educational Television (NET)

A Night At The Family Dog DVD
with Grateful Dead/Jefferson Airplane/Santana
Eagle Vision: released 2007

  • Incident At Neshabur - Santana
  • Soul Sacrifice - Santana
  • Hard To Handle - Grateful Dead
  • China Cat Sunflower - Grateful Dead
  • I Know You Rider - Grateful Dead
  • The Ballad of You And Me And Pooneil - Jefferson Airplane
  • Eskimo Blue Day - Jefferson Airplane
  • Super jam featuring members of Santana, Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane

 A Night At The Family Dog audio
Grateful Dead Download Series
Grateful Dead Records: released 2005

  • Hard To Handle
  • Black Peter 
  • Me and My Uncle 
  • China Cat Sunflower > 
  • I Know You Rider 
  • St. Stephen > 
  • Not Fade Away > 
  • St. Stephen > 
  • In The Midnight Hour

 (plus bonus tracks from other 1970 shows)


The Family Dog on The Great Highway, at 660 Great Highway, ca. 1969

The Family Dog on The Great Highway, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA
The Family Dog was a foundation stone in the rise of San Francisco rock, and it was in operation in various forms from Fall 1965 through the Summer of 1970. For sound historical reasons, most of the focus on the Family Dog has been on the original 4-person collective who organized the first San Francisco Dance Concerts in late 1965, and on their successor Chet Helms. Helms took over the Family Dog in early 1966, and after a brief partnership with Bill Graham at the Fillmore, promoted memorable concerts at the Avalon Ballroom from Spring 1966 through December 1968. The posters, music and foggy memories of the Avalon are what made the Family Dog a legendary 60s rock icon.

In the Summer of 1969, however, with San Francisco as one of the fulcrums of the rock music explosion, Chet Helms opened another venue. The Family Dog on The Great Highway, at 660 Great Highway, on the Western edge of San Francisco, was only open for 14 months and was not a success. Yet numerous interesting bands played there, and remarkable events took place, and they are only documented in a scattered form.

660 Great Highway in San Francisco in 1967, when it was the ModelCar Raceway, a slot car track

The Edgewater Ballroom, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA

As early as 1913, there were rides and concessions at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, near the Richmond District. By 1926, they had been consolidated as Playland-At-The-Beach. The Ocean Beach area included attractions such as the Sutro Baths and the Cliff House. The San Francisco Zoo was just south of Playland, having opened in the 1930s. One of the attractions at Playland was a restaurant called Topsy's Roost. The restaurant had closed in 1930, and the room became the Edgewater Ballroom. The Ballroom eventually closed, and Playland went into decline when its owner died in 1958. By the 1960s, the former Edgewater was a slot car raceway. In early 1969, Chet Helms took over the lease of the old Edgewater.
One of the only photos of the interior of the Family Dog on The Great Highway (from a Stephen Gaskin "Monday Night Class" ca. October 1969)


The Family Dog On The Great Highway

The Great Highway was a four-lane road that ran along the Western edge of San Francisco, right next to Ocean Beach. Downtown San Francisco faced the Bay, but beyond Golden Gate Park was the Pacific Ocean. The aptly named Ocean Beach is dramatic and beautiful, but it is mostly windy and foggy. Much of the West Coast of San Francisco is not even a beach, but rocky cliffs. There are no roads in San Francisco West of the Great Highway, so "660 Great Highway" was ample for directions (for reference, it is near the intersection of Balboa Street and 48th Avenue). The tag-line "Edge Of The Western World" was not an exaggeration, at least in American terms.

The Family Dog on The Great Highway was smaller than the Bill Graham's old Fillmore Auditorium. It could hold up to 1500, but the official capacity was probably closer to 1000. Unlike the comparatively centrally located Fillmore West, the FDGH was far from downtown, far from the Peninsula suburbs, and not particularly easy to get to from the freeway. For East Bay or Marin residents, the Great Highway was a formidable trip. The little ballroom was very appealing, but if you didn't live way out in the Avenues, you had to drive. As a result, FDGH didn't get a huge number of casual drop-ins, and that didn't help its fortunes. Most of the locals referred to the venue as "Playland."

The Family Dog In 1969
Chet Helms had opened the Family Dog at 660 Great Highway to much fanfare on June 13, 1969, with a packed house seeing the Jefferson Airplane and The Charlatans
. One of the goals was that the Dog would feature mostly San Francisco bands and a variety of smaller community events and groups. Since so many San Francisco bands were successful, and had record contracts, this didn't confine the venue to obscurity. A lot of great bands played the Family Dog in 1969, but the distant location and the gravitational pull of major rock events hosted elsewhere in the Bay Area kept the Family Dog isolated. We know only the most fragmentary bits about music played, events and audiences throughout the year.  Despite the half-year of struggle, Helms had kept the Family Dog on The Great Highway afloat. He had entered the new year of 1970 with a new plan.He had new backers, and he would merge his operations with the Grateful Dead's. It didn't happen, however, and the Family Dog on The Great Highway ws closed by the end of the Summer of 1970.

 

Appendix 2: Excerpts from Ralph Gleason's San Francisco Chronicle column, February 6, 1970


"Do you have a set schedule for what's going to happen?" the technician asked Bob Zagone of KQED. "We don't have a set schedule for anything, Zagone said. 'We have a loose schedule."

They were in the KQED mobile video tape recording truck outside the Family Dog. Several other trucks and a generator, roaring away like a power drill, were set up in the parking lot. Zagone and the KQED crew were getting ready to videotape a Jefferson Airplane party at the Family Dog for National Educational Television.

There's a young band called 'Kimberly' going on stage starting in a few minutes," Zagone said. "The it will be Santana. After that I don't know what's going to happen."

The cables were strung all along the sidewalk and into the hall and the huge TV cameras on dollies were rolling back and forth through the place in the wild assembly of San Francisco hip society.

On stage the musicians were plugging in their guitars and tuning. In a little while Kimberly, a neat, melodic band, began. Light men experimented with different combinations. Rock critics wandered through the hall. "It has the right feeling tonight," Mike Goodwin of Rolling Stone said. And poet Lew Welch pointed out that it was one of the few times in recent memories that you could actually get close to a band and not be jammed by the press of a crowd.

After Kimberly, Santana took over and the rhythms of the drums and the bass melded with the guitar and conga drum and rose to an incredible [something]. It ended with Santana almost leaning over backwards, hitting the guitar strings and bassist David Brown, his eyes squeezed shut, flailing away at the guitar. The crowd screamed. Out in the truck, Bob Zagone complained "we're not getting that audience noise" and Bob Matthews, who was doing the sound, whipped out a mike and set it up taping the audience.  



"We'll go dark as they start their set and bring the light up gradually," Zagone said and the Grateful Dead began. In the truck the multiple images on the little screens made a fascinating montage. Jerry Garcia's face silhouetted but still clear, approached the mike on the screen and he began to sing. The little screens that showed the pictures [of] the various cameras were registering, flicked from one to another. "Gimme a two shot," Zagone said, "Let's see both those guitars."

Out in the crowd, which was dancing or sitting on the floor and around the sides of the stage, John Carpenter of the L.A. Free Press said "when is it going to be aired?" and hoped a definite date could be set. The man from N.E.T said probably in April. "It's a good night," Carpenter said. "I had forgotten what San Francisco was really like. I've seen people I haven't seen in years."

On stage the sound was into those rhythmic phrases that make the Dead such groovy dance music and several guests were dancing behind the band and on the stage. Still photographers leaped up from the audience and shot pictures like the paparazzi in "Z."




Then the Airplane came on and Grace smiled and Marty sang "Do you want to know a secret, just between you and me," and the lights flickered off the sweat on his forehead as he sang and Spencer drove into the drums with a fierce concentration and Jorma sang "Good Shepherd" and the crowd gyrated and the cameras rolled back and forth.

It was a great evening. San Francisco within a week had two TV specials shot here. Both on rock. There will be more and if they end up on the screen as good as they are in person, the rest of the country will see something unique.



 

Friday, March 25, 2022

May 27, 1973 Ontario Motor Speedway, Ontario, CA: Allman Brothers Band/Grateful Dead/Waylon Jennings (What Might Have Been)


May 27, 1973 Ontario Motor Speedway, Ontario, CA: Allman Brothers Band/Grateful Dead/Waylon Jennings/Jerry Jeff Walker (Sunday) Bill Graham Presents--canceled
The biggest rock concert in American History was the "Summer Jam" at Watkins Glen Grand Prix Racecourse in Watkins Glen, NY, where 600,000 fans saw the Allman Brothers Band, the Grateful Dead and The Band perform on July 28, 1973. Three-quarters of those fans got in for free, however, as the crowd overwhelmed the fences. The highest paid attendance at any concert was the next Spring, at Ontario Motor Speedway in Ontario, CA, 35 miles East of Los Angeles on April 6, 1974. 200,000 or more fans fans, at least 168,000 of whom paid, saw Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Deep Purple and The Eagles headline over a slew of other popular bands.

Yet on Memorial Day weekend in 1973, on Sunday May 27, Bill Graham Presents had booked the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers at the Ontario Motor Speedway. It would have been the first show at the Speedway, and the first time the Dead and the Allmans had been booked together since the Fillmore East in 1970. The show was abruptly canceled, almost certainly due to tepid ticket sales. Yet the paired booking and the venue would prove to be the biggest winners in the history of rock. What happened? 

This post will review what we can determine about Bill Graham's grand plans for the Ontario Motor Speedway on May 27, 1973, and why he was too early.


Winston Churchill ca. 1946

Winston Churchill was famously reputed to have said of his decisions in World War 2 that "History will be kind to me, as I intend to write it." It is largely forgotten now that the perpetually-broke Churchill made his living as a best-selling author of history books, so this was no casual assertion. [For the record, Churchill's actual quote was "For my part, I consider that it will be found much better by all Parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history"]. Giant figures in rock music, notably Bill Graham, implicitly took Churchill's adage to heart. Graham is widely viewed as the greatest rock concert promoter in the 20th century, a view widely promulgated by Bill Graham. It isn't untrue, by the way--it's just that Bill made sure that the entire rock world heard his version of events first and loudest.

Bill Graham's modern twist on Churchill, however, was not as an author but as an interview subject. Graham gave more interviews than perhaps all rock promoters put together, always had a great story, told them well, and never told a provable lie. Sure, sometimes he favored his own interpretation of events. Every journalist and rock star biographer told Bill Graham's version of the story, and the very best of Graham's practices and innovations--and there were many, to be sure--took front and center, cementing Graham's legacy forever. Rock History was indeed kind to Bill Graham, but he was instrumental in the composition of that history.

In the Spring of 1973, Bill Graham took a big swing in the Southern California rock market, planning to put on the biggest concert in regional history. He struck out, massively. He never mentioned the event again, not in a meaningful way, and the story disappeared. In retrospect, Bill actually looks pretty good: he was absolutely right about everything, but he was just a little bit early. But that wasn't the story he wanted to tell, so he didn't tell it. Only the bare outlines remain.


Rock Festivals and Major Rock Venues: Status Report early 1974

Rock Festivals were a product of the 1960s. Gina Arnold's excellent 2018 book Half A Million Strong (University of Iowa Press) tracks how "free shows in the park" evolved into "giant multi-day events in some farmer's muddy field" over the course of a few years (yes, she's my sister but you should still read it). By the time of the biggest festivals of 1969 and 1970, most famously Woodstock, hundreds of thousands of people would come to some outlying area and camp out for several days, while live rock music blasted 24/7. Legendary as these events were, most fans did not attend more than one giant event, and most communities that endured a huge rock festival did not tolerate a second one.

The live rock music business got bigger every year, and various efforts were tried to find a way to have "festival" events on a large scale. Multi-act events were appealing to promoters because they inherently hedged risk in a volatile music market. Since shows had to be planned many months in advance, it was hard to anticipate how one band might have a breakout hit, and how another may have become over the hill, or even broken up, in the few short months between booking the show and playing it. In early 1969, for example, Led Zeppelin found themselves playing tiny auditoriums, sometimes as the opening act, with their debut album roaring up the charts, while at the same time Vanilla Fudge found themselves no longer the draw they had been the year before. A rock festival, with dozens of acts over a few days, could more easily absorb the hits and misses. Promoters continued to search for a way to book multiple acts profitably.

An aerial shot of the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Course on July 28, 1973, with some of the 600,000 fans in attendance at the Allman Brothers/Grateful Dead/Band rock concert

Rock Concerts at Auto Racing Tracks
The immediate and vast popularity of rock festivals posed a very specific land-use problem. Places like Indian Reservations and farms were not really viable for major, multi-day events, since too many things could go wrong. Equally importantly, despite or because of the increasing crowds, it was all but inevitable that rock festivals would become "free concerts." Liberating as this may have seemed at the time, it ensured that the events could not make enough money to provide a safe, repeatable event for bands, patrons and host communities. The financial opportunities of rock festivals were huge, however, and since nothing says "rock and roll" like "land use," over the years there was a concerted effort in the concert industry to find spaces that could successfully and profitably host occasional, loud outdoor events with giant crowds.

One of the intriguing solutions for hosting giant rock festivals was to use facilities designed for auto racing. Race tracks were usually somewhat removed from urban areas while still being near enough to civilization to attract a crowd. Auto races themselves were noisy, and major race events tended to occur just a few times a year and last an entire weekend, just like a rock festival. Since race tracks were permanent facilities, they generally had fences, bathrooms, water, power and parking, so in many ways they would seem like ideal venues for huge rock events. Indeed, some of the major rock events of the 1969 and the 1970s were held at race tracks. 


Two of the most successful rock festivals were held at Dallas International Speedway and Atlanta International Raceway, both organized in 1969 by promoter Alex Cooley. Both tracks were giant NASCAR "super-speedway" ovals.  The Rolling Stones' debacle at tiny Altamont Speedway might not have happened had it been held at its original site, the newly-opened Sonoma Raceway, then a newly opened Road Course in rural Sonoma County, near the San Francisco Bay. 

I looked at some of the history and economic dynamics of Auto Racing tracks as Rock Concert sites in another post, although for purposes of scale I focused on the Grateful Dead. Generally speaking, while auto racing had been popular since the invention of the automobile, horse racing had been hugely popular in cities and county fairs throughout the United States, long before cars were invented. However, after WW2, when the GIs returned and economy boomed, America moved from its rural roots to a more urban and suburban universe, and the automobile became a more important part of everyone's life. A national boom in the popularity of auto racing corresponded with a slow decline in the popularity of horse racing. 

By the early 1960s, numerous custom-built facilities served the hugely popular auto racing industry, with oval tracks (for NASCAR and "Indianapolis" cars in the South and Midwest), road courses (for sports cars on both coasts) and dragstrips (nationwide). These facilities were actually ready-made for rock concerts, but there were some huge cultural divides. With a middle-class family audience for auto races, and their Dow Industrial sponsorship from major companies, racetrack promoters were neither tuned into nor inclined to sponsor long-haired outlaw rock concert events flaunting nudity and drugs. 

On July 8, 1972, Concert 10 presented a multi-act rock show at Pocono International Raceway in Long Pond, PA. Due to a huge rainstorm, the headliners did not appear until the dawn hours of July 9. The fine print says "the natives are friendly and the security, hassle-free"

Rock Concert Economics: 1973

In 1973, there was a huge audience for live rock music, but that audience was young, and without much ready cash. Also, since rock music stood for "rebellion," the most popular of rock music attractions were vulnerable to the complaint that they were charging "too much" for tickets. The inevitable result of these pressures was that popular rock bands put on concerts in larger and larger venues, instead of charging more at smaller places. By 1973, the most popular bands were selling out basketball arenas with capacities of 12,000 or more, even in so-called "secondary" markets. Ticket prices were reasonable, around 4 or 5 dollars usually, but the total number of tickets sold was larger than ever.

By the early 70s, multi-act "Festival" shows had mostly been financial debacles and public relations disaster, and it wasn't just Altamont: check out the saga of the "Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival" in Griffin, Indiana on Labor Day weekend of 1972. Smart promoters were looking for other workable venues, and race tracks re-appeared on the horizon. An interesting thing to consider about auto racing was that--because of the noise--they had to generally be well outside any populated areas, but still within driving distance of a lot of potential fans. At the same time, since fans had to drive a fair amount, a race track generally offered a whole slew of races during a weekend at the track, not just a headline race. These economics pretty much defined multi-act rock concerts, just for a different, younger fan base.

On July 8, 1972 there had been a huge multi-act rock festival at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania. Pocono Speedway, in rural Long Pond, was nonetheless in driving distance for a huge population of teenagers in greater Pennsylvania and parts of Northern New Jersey. Pocono Raceway was less than an hour from Scranton, Allentown and Nazareth, and about 90 minutes from the suburbs of Philadelphia and Newark. There was a huge population of suburban rock fans with access to their parent's cars. 120,000 fans showed up to see Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Faces, Humble Pie, Three Dog Night and and numerous other bands, completely overwhelming the facility. The interest was there.

The parallel development at this time was rock concerts at football or baseball stadiums, full-size major league ones. There had been experiments with stadiums going back to the Beatles, but they had been unsatisfactory. The live rock music audience had gotten bigger, however, and sound systems had improved as well. The first "modern" rock concerts at football stadiums were on May 4 and 5, 1973, when Concerts West hsd produced Led Zeppelin shows at Tampa Stadium and also at Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta. Upwards of 40,000 fans attended each concert. All fans bought tickets, too, setting paid attendance records at the time for such venues. Uniquely, Led Zeppelin were the only act for both shows, with no opening bands. 

The rock market was finding new mega-venues, and Bill Graham wasn't going to be left out. Graham was a self-promoter, yes, but he thought big--he was going to break in two mega-venues of his own, one at home in the Bay Area and the other down in Southern California.

Bill Graham was the king of concert production in San Francisco, but he had only occasionally put on shows in Los Angeles. Southern California did not have a dominant promoter, however, so there was still room for Bill to operate. To do that, however, he needed to make a splash, and to make a splash he needed a place. It looked like that place was the Ontario Motor Speedway, an innovative and newly constructed auto racing track that had only opened for full-time racing in Summer 1970. 

The city of Ontario, CA, had been founded in 1891, and named by transplanted Canadians. Ontario is 35 miles East of Los Angeles, and 23 miles South of San Bernardino. Part of San Bernardino County, it is on the Western Edge of the proverbial Inland Empire. Ontario had been the site of a World War 2 Army Air Force Base, which remained an Air National Guard base after the war (and would remain so through 1995). The airport had also been established for civilian use in 1946 as Ontario International Airport. The Airport was joined to LAX in 1967, and jet flights had begun at the airport in 1968. Although Ontario only had a population of 64,118 in the 1970 census, as a result of the airport and the airbase it was at the nexus of a substantial freeway network. I-10 and I-15 met at Ontario Airport, so all of Southern California could get there easily.

Auto racing was booming in the 1960s, yet Los Angeles was underserved by facilities. Yes, there was the epic Riverside Raceway, another 25 miles East, but that made it even farther from LA proper. More importantly, Riverside was just a road racing facility--albeit a great one--and that limited the types of major events that could be held there. Ontario Motor Speedway was conceived as a full-service answer to every auto racing sector in the Los Angeles area, in a location near the city. The airport location was crucial, too, since major auto racing teams barnstormed around the country like touring rock bands, and drivers and even their race cars were often flying directly from track to track. 

Ontario Motor Speedway was custom built to provide first class facilities for all the major types of racing: an oval for NASCAR and Indianapolis cars, a road course (that included part of the oval) for road racing and a dragstrip. Besides advanced pit facilities, OMS also pioneered what we now call "clubhouses" and "luxury suites" for sponsors. It was a well-conceived endeavor. The plan was to have not only top level NASCAR and USAC (Indy Car) 500-mile races, but Formula 1 and NHRA Drag racing. The inaugural race was the (Indy Car) California 500 on September 6, 1970, with paid attendance of 178,000, a huge crowd even by auto racing standards. Jim McElreath beat out an All-Star field of drivers that included Mario Andretti, A. J. Foyt, Dan Gurney and the Unser brothers.

Mario Andretti (5) in a Ferrari 312B F1 car, about to lap Mark Donohue (26) in a Lola-T192 Chevy F5000 car. Andretti would win the Questor Grand Prix, the only F1 race at Ontario Motor Speedway, on March 28, 1971

After a hugely successful opening, however, Ontario Motor Speedway had a number of events in 1971 and '72 that did not live up to financial expectations. The racing was great--it was the early 70s--but after the September '70 opening, the Speedway didn't catch LA like it should. The big plan was that Ontario would host a 2nd United States Grand Prix, which hitherto had been the exclusive province of Watkins Glen in New York. As a prelude, Ontario Motor Speedway held a non-Championship Formula 1 race, the Questor Grand Prix, on March 28, 1971, won by Mario Andretti in a Ferrari 312B. The event was a financial bust, however, and Formula 1 cars never ran at Ontario again (ultimately Long Beach, CA, would get the second US Grand Prix). Although 1971 went alright, the 1972 Ontario attendance, despite great racing, were a financial letdown. Thus by 1973, Ontario Motor Speedway would have been open to the possibility of different promotions. 

Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim, CA July 10, 1973

Southern California Stadiums
There were plenty of stadiums in Southern California, but none of them were particularly ripe for rock concert promoters. Dodger Stadium was under the full control of the Dodgers, and they didn't share it. The Los Angeles Coliseum was old (opened 1921) and in and was near "undesirable" (read: "too African-American") neighborhoods. The Rose Bowl, in Pasadena, had access and parking issues. That left Anaheim Stadium, in Orange County. But it was just across the road from Disneyland, and The Mouse would not want weekend parking disrupted by hordes of young rock fans. In fact, starting around 1976, Anaheim Stadium would become the primary home of stadium rock concerts in Southern California, with the full cooperation of Disneyland, but that was a few years away. In any case, Bill Graham was from out-of-town, not well-placed to talk local stadium operators into cooperating.

Ontario Motor Speedway was a different matter. It had been well-conceived and well-built, but after initial excitement, the attention had died down--same as it ever was for LA--and it was going to need additional sources of revenue. May 27, 1973 was the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, and the biggest day for auto racing in America. Since all American race fans would be glued to their Televisions watching the 57th running of the Indianapolis 500, it was a perfect day for Ontario Motor Speedway to try something else. Bill Graham had figured out that he had a perfect venue in Southern California, and more importantly, a venue that needed him and his rock-concert expertise. 

What did the Ontario Motor Speedway offer as a rock concert venue?
  • Its location (35 miles E of LA, 23 miles Southwest of San Bernardino) put in close proximity to tens of thousands of potential rock fans.
  • The convergence of the I-10 and I-15 freeways meant that an even larger pool of rock fans could drive to the Speedway fairly easily, from either San Diego (on I-15) or nearer the Pacific Coast (I-10). Ontario was just outside of Central LA, so the majority of potential fans could circumnavigate the often brutal traffic jams that the region was infamous for.
  • In Southern California, it's always sunny and it never rains, so weather wasn't a consideration.
  • The racing facility had parking for 50,000 cars, and apparently there were satellite lots as well. No need to worry about cars abandoned by the side of the road on some farm road.
  • The grandstands featured 95,000 seats, with 40,000 "bleacher" seats in temporary grandstands, and a substantial crowd could fit on the infield. It was plausible to imagine 200,000 or more fans at an Ontario Speedway rock concert (178,000 had attended the inaugural California 500 race). This was double the capacity of even the enormous LA Coliseum.
  • Ontario Motor Speedway had debt to service and was looking for other sources of revenue, so they would be eager to work with a partner like Bill Graham.
  • Most importantly, the huge grandstands around the track, and hence around the facility, ensured that the facility was cordoned off. That meant it was plausible to ensure that only those with tickets would get into the show. At giant rock festivals, the economic issue was always gate-crashing, but that was usually in some giant, muddy field. The Speedway acted as fence, and entry was through controlled tunnels under the grandstands.
Robert Hilburn's column in the LA Times May 5, 1973

A feature in the Los Angeles Times mapped out the strategy I described above. Robert Hilburn was the Times' principal rock critic, and he had a "Saturday Roundup." On May 5, the Ontario Speedway concert was the primary topic, with a photo of Gregg Allman and quotes from a high-powered public relations executive (remember, in Los Angeles, PR equaled prestige).

Bill Graham Going All Out For Rock (Robert Hilburn, LA Times May 5 '73)
Bill Graham, rock's most creative--and often controversial--concert producer, is staging an all-day (8am to 5:30pm) rock show May 27 at the Ontario Speedway featuring the Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers Band and Waylon Jennings. Upwards of 150,000 persons are expected.

It's ironic, of course, that Graham, once so critical of outdoor festivals and other big-money events that lured rock stars away from more intimate ballrooms such as his Fillmores East and West, should be the man behind the Ontario spectacular, but there is no one better equipped to make the event a success. Graham, even his severest critics will conceded, puts together the best concerts in rock.

Though most of his energy is spent in San Francisco (he produces concerts regularly at Winterland and the Berkeley Community Theater), Graham does produce occasional shows in Los Angeles, most notably The Rolling Stones' benefit concert last January at the Inglewood Forum.

Gary Stromberg, a partner in the Gibson & Stromberg public relations firm, said special security measures will be taken for the concert. "California Highway Patrol, Sheriff's Department officers and local police will have road checks within five miles of the Speedway to insure that only cars with special stickers and concert tickets will be allowed in the vicinity."

Stromberg also said the Speedway has high fences and special tunnel entrances that were built specifically to deter would-be gate-crashers. There is parking at the Speedway, he added, for approximately 50,000 cars.

The event is titled "A Happening on the Green," and special non-musical treats are reportedly being arranged by Graham.



This aerial shot of Kezar Stadium (exact date uncertain)


Meanwhile, Back In San Francisco

Whatever your modern-day view of Bill Graham might be, he didn't think small. In May 1973, Graham was planning to expand his empire with a dramatic entrance into the Southern California market. But he had big plans for Northern California as well. On May 4, information was quietly leaked (through the Hayward Daily Review rock column "KG") that the Grateful Dead would headline two concerts at the Cow Palace on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 21-22. Also on the bill would be Willie Nelson and the New Riders of The Purple Sage. This was a surprising booking on a number of levels.

The Grateful Dead had an extraordinarily loyal audience in San Francisco, but the band wasn't really that big. The Dead had headlined three weeknight concerts at the (officially) 5400-capacity Winterland back in December (Sunday-Tuesday December 10-12), followed by New Year's Eve. Those four shows had sold out without meaningful advertising. Yet the Cow Palace was a 16,000-capacity barn in Daly City, on the outskirts of San Francisco. Were there really enough Dead fans to fill it up for two weeknights? Willie Nelson was a rising star at this time, but he was no proven commodity in the Bay Area. Tickets went on sale, but it almost seemed to be a stealth show.


The San Francisco Examiner, May 14, 1973

On Monday, May 14, Graham showed his hand. The two Cow Palace Grateful Dead concerts were rescheduled for Saturday, May 26 at Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park. Kezar Stadium, opened in 1925, had been the home of the San Francisco 49ers until the 1971 NFL season. Kezar was now largely unused, but it was in the center of the city and relatively easy to get to by freeway from surrounding counties. On top of that, most Bay Area residents knew how to get to Golden Gate Park, so it was a workable destination. Kezar was small for an NFL stadium (about 60,000), but huge for a concert facility. With no competing sports dates, Kezar would be easier to schedule than an active stadium.

More importantly, the weekend after the Grateful Dead, Graham announced that Led Zeppelin was going to headline Kezar Stadium. As noted, Zeppelin had begun their tour by headlining stadiums in Tampa and Atlanta. Now Graham was going to book Zep's biggest concert on the West Coast. Over the course of just eight days, Graham was planning to put on the Grateful Dead at Kezar (Saturday May 26, with Waylon replacing Willie), the Allman Brothers and the Dead at Ontario (Sunday May 27) and Led Zeppelin back at Kezar (Saturday June 2).

Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin To Play Kezar (SF Examiner, May 14 '73)
The Grateful Dead-Waylon Jennings concerts scheduled for May 22-23, have been canceled and the entire event, called a "Boogie on the Green," has been moved to Kezar Stadium, starting at noon, on Saturday, May 26.

Tickets sold for the Cow Palace shows will be honored at Kezar, or can be refunded through the Bill Graham organization. More tickets will go on sale at Ticketron Wednesday.

The New Riders of the Purple Sage will open the show, which will utilize the Kezar turf as well as stadium seats.

Led Zeppelin is scheduled for a Kezar Stadium concert Saturday, June 2. Tickets at Ticketron beginning Thursday.
The Grateful Dead/Waylon Jennings show at Kezar drew about 30,000 fans, and was a huge success. The Led Zeppelin show on the next weekend was sold out, drawing twice as many fans. The noise bothered the local neighborhood--the sound system was in a different location than it had been for the Dead--, and Led Zeppelin's fans were not as welcome in the Haight-Ashbury as Deadheads. Bill Graham had proof-of-concept for his "Day On The Green" all-day stadium concerts, but he moved them to the more accessible Oakland Coliseum. They would thrive there for many decades.


May 12, 1973 Pomona Progress-Bulletin listing

 May 1973 Status Report: Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, Waylon Jennings, New Riders
The Allman Brothers Band would be the premier attraction at the Watkins Glen Summer Jam concert on July 28, 1973, attracting around 600,000 fans. 150,000 of them even paid. From the Summer of 1973 through the Fall of 1975 the Allman Brothers were one of the premier concert attractions in the country. You can make a good case that Led Zeppelin and Emerson, Lake & Palmer were equally as popular as the Allmans, but they weren't bigger. Now, granted, the Rolling Stones didn't tour and Bob Dylan only played indoor arenas, but the Allmans were a massive outdoor draw all over the country. Watkins Glen was the biggest, by far, but it wasn't a fluke.

Most rock fans from the era recall that Summer '73 was when the Allmans broke through with their mega-hit "Ramblin' Man," a catchy country tune that was not particularly typical of the bluesy jamming on which the Brothers had made their bones. "Ramblin' Man" was reminiscent of "Blue Sky," sure, and maybe "Revival," both of them Dickey Betts songs as well, but it wasn't at all like "Statesboro Blues" or "Whipping Post." So the idea that the Allmans began to dominate the US concert market when they got their big hit single is compelling. But it's wrong. 

The Allman Brothers had a massive successful US tour in the Summer of 1973. The first highlight was an epic double-bill with the Grateful Dead at Washington, DC's RFK Stadium, on the weekend of June 9-10. Yet that event was eclipsed by the triple-bill at Watkins Glen on July 28. Nonetheless, the Allmans' follow-up release to Eat A Peach, which had come out back in February '72, would not even be released until August of '73, after the Watkins Glen show. "Ramblin' Man" was the first single, released at the same time, and it would go on to reach #2 on the Billboard charts. Now, sure, advance copies of Brothers And Sisters and the "Ramblin' Man" 45 were probably on FM radio (or even AM) in late July, but the huge successes of RFK and Watkins Glen were before the album and single had even been released. The Allman Brothers Band were huge because they were huge. FM radio listeners had caught up to them, and FM radio played them constantly throughout 1972 and '73.

The Allman Brothers Band's third album At Fillmore East had been released in July 1971. As America was slowly catching up to their stunning sound, Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident on October 29, 1971. As a result, the band's followup, Eat A Peach, a double-lp that was half studio and half live, received extraordinary (if well-deserved) attention. And if that wasn't enough, Derek And The Dominos had a hit in Summer '72 with the by-now18 month-old "Layla," and Duane's interplay with Eric Clapton drew even more attention to him. The Allmans were in the process of recording the sequel when bassist Berry Oakley died in a motorcycle accident almost exactly a year after Duane (on November 11, 1972). Interest in the Allmans inevitably redoubled. In 1973, Capricorn Records released a double album of their first two records (Allman Brothers Band and Idlewild South) as Beginnings, so the Allmans were all over the radio throughout the Summer, even though they did not yet have a new album. 

The Grateful Dead, meanwhile, had risen above the level of cult status, even if they were only somewhat of a "major attraction." The band had released four gold albums in a row (Workingman's Dead, American Beauty, Grateful Dead ['Skull & Roses'] and Europe '72), and they, too, got their share of play on FM radio. In the case of the Dead, the songs played on FM were likely the more rocking songs in their repertoire (like "Bertha" or "Sugar Magnolia"), rather than big jams like "Dark Star," but they were Dead songs nonetheless. The Dead would leave Warner Brothers to go independent at the end of 72, but they would not release their final record on the label (Bear's Choice) until July of '73.

The New Riders of The Purple Sage no longer featured any members of the Grateful Dead, but they still shared booking and other services with them. By May 1973, the Riders had released three albums on Columbia. The Dead tried to book the Riders as openers when it fit. Clearly, they fit in at Kezar but not Ontario.

Waylon Jennings (1937-2002) was an established country singer, but he had roots in rock and roll. Jennings had been the bass player for Buddy Holly and The Crickets, and had graciously offered to give up his seat on the airplane to The Big Bopper, on the fateful flight on February 3, 1959 that crashed, killing Holly, the Bopper, and Ritchie Valens. Jennings had gone on to success as a Nashville singer, but he had never been happy with how his records were made. By '73, country rock was starting to become a commercially viable enterprise, with the Eagles as the most prominent band, along with a slew of other groups like Poco, the New Riders and Pure Prarie League. The unhappy Jennings, however, tapped into something much more potent than hippies playing rock and roll with a twang.

The more potent and lasting merger of country music and the 60s would be the music coming out of Austin, TX. Genuine country musicians, with proper Nashville pedigrees, would move to Austin, grow their hair, light one up and pretty much play the same music they had been playing before. OK--maybe there was a bit more attitude, but that wasn't incompatible with older roughneck country, anyway. One of the earliest converts was Jennings. 

In 1972, Jennings had had a pretty good hit with the song "Ladies Love Outlaws," and RCA still wanted him to be a typical Nashville artist. By 1973, however, Jennings had moved to Austin, TX, to join fellow outcast Willie Nelson, and RCA finally saw the light. Jennings kept the beard he had grown, and "Outlaw Country" followed, with Willie and Waylon in the forefront. Sharing bills with the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers in California was a huge break from country practice. Jennings was consciously and enthusiastically aligning his music with long hair, weed and loud, loud music.

What Happened: Ontario Motor Speedway
On Monday, May 22, Robert Hilburn explained in the Los Angeles Times that the Dead/Allmans/Waylon concert would be canceled. The reason given was that the police were going to insist that the concert end by nightfall, because of some incident at a concert in Stockton.

Ontario Rock Concert Canceled by Graham (Hilburn LA Times May 22 '73)
The all-day Grateful Dead-Allman Brothers-Waylon Jennings rock concert Sunday at the Ontario Motor Speedway--which had been expected to draw upwards of 150,000 persons--has been canceled, producer Bill Graham has announced.

"Trouble with several youngsters at an April 29 outdoor concert in Stockton caused Ontario civic official to take a hard, long look at the May date," Graham, who was not involved in the Stockton event, said. Specifically, police said the concert--the first of its kind at the huge speedway--would have to end three hours before dark, or approximately 5:54pm, he added.

Since the Allmans and the Grateful Dead were scheduled to play several hours each, Graham said he doubted he could honestly end the show by that time." He pointed out the Dead played six hours recently at an outdoor concert in Des Moines, Iowa. Though normally outspoken, Graham made it clear he was not blaming anyone. "All the Ontario officials and police were extremely cooperative. Under the time limits imposed however, I didn't feel we could have given the kids the show we promised.

Graham said he is proceeding with plans to present Leon Russell Aug. 5 at the Ontario facility. Ticket sales for the Sunday event were described as "healthy" by a spokesman for the San Francisco-based producer. 

You can buy this story if you like. Maybe there were some elements of truth to it, I don't know. Here's what I think--the concert didn't sell enough advance tickets, and it no longer made economic sense. Remember, Graham's team would have had to construct a huge stage and a ginormous sound system, and fly the Allman Brothers, the Dead and Waylon Jennings in from out of town.  The Times article says that the concert was "expected to draw upwards of 150,000 patrons." If Graham had those kind of ticket sales, he would have found a way around any police objections (if those objections were real), by paying for better lighting, more security or whatever it took. But I don't think the ticket sales were there. Given that we know that the Allmans and the Dead would pack Watkins Glen just two months later, why could that have been?

Although this fine album was a massive hit, it doesn't shout "Los Angeles Summer of '73" to me

The West and The East

The West Coast and the the East Coast were very different concert markets in the 1970s. The Midwest and the South probably were different, too, but I have done less research into them, so I won't generalize. A characteristic of East Coast events from 1969 onwards was the willingness of large numbers of young people to get in their cars and travel for rock concerts. An event like Woodstock drew not just from New York state but all of New England, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Population was much more distributed in the East. There were a lot of medium-sized cities full of young people anxious to see major rock bands, and they would travel. The phenomenon of Deadheads driving hundreds of miles to every show originated as an East Coast phenomenon. 

The West, even in California, was considerably less populated in the 1970s. The vast suburbs of Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Fresno and Vegas were far smaller then. It wasn't that young people didn't love rock and roll as much, they surely did, but once you got outside the major metro suburbs, there just weren't that many people. Fresno, to name just one outlying city, had 165,655 residents in the 1970 census, while it would have 542,107 in 2020. There were just fewer young people ready to hop in their parents' cars and see a big rock show. Few Deadheads from San Francisco would have been planning to travel down to Ontario, since the Dead were playing the afternoon before. As for LA, the Dead had already booked three shows at the Universal Amphitheatre on June 29-July 1, so it's not like Deadheads would lose out.

Los Angeles and San Francisco aren't the same, which is what makes California great

Also, while both the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers were popular bands, I don't think they were particularly popular in 1973 Los Angeles. Now, sure, there were plenty of fans who liked each band, or both bands. But LA was huge, so any band could sell tickets--Jethro Tull, Black Oak Arkansas, The Yes, you name it. But the Allmans and the Dead were hippie guitar hero bands--was that what was happening and what was going to impress everybody in LA on Monday morning when you got back to school? I don't think so.

Did the Allmans or the Dead have a hit single on the radio? Definitely not. Did this matter in Los Angeles? Well, you decide, but it was the biggest record industry town in the history of the record industry, so I think you had to be super-cool or on the charts, and the Dead and the Allmans were neither. I think ticket sales were tepid, and Graham canceled the show. 

Some months later, in the East it was different. The tens of thousands who bought tickets for Watkins Glen weren't downtown Greenwich Village hipsters, they were kids in Syracuse or Allentown or Parsippany who wanted to see some big time rock bands. None of those bands were coming to their town, and their parents weren't necessarily OK with them driving to Manhattan, but some racetrack out in the countryside? Yeah, why not? The kids could have got permission to go the US Grand Prix, so why not a concert?

Graham's assessment of the Allman Brothers and the Dead as a booking pair was correct, but his location was off by 3000 miles. He was also right about the Ontario Motor Speedway, although he picked the wrong bands. The following Spring, Ontario Motor Speedway would hold the "California Jam" on April 6, 1974, an all-day affair headlined by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Deep Purple and the Eagles. Actual attendance was well North of 200,000, but more importantly paid attendance was around 168,000, breaking every record known for a paying concert. That record would hold until "Cal Jam 2," also at Ontario Motor Speedway, on March 18, 1978. Cal Jam 2 had at least 175,000 paid.

So the planned May 27, 1973 concert at Ontario Motor Speedway had all the right pieces for an epic success of unimagined proportions, but in the wrong combination. We are left with only a poster.

 
 
Postscripts
  • The August 5 Leon Russell concert booked for Ontario alluded to above seems to have been moved by Bill Graham to Oakland Coliseum, the first in what was a decades-long success in outdoor stadium concerts at that venue.  The Grateful Dead show at Kezar (on May 26) was a huge success, but the sold-out Led Zeppelin show did not go over well with the neighborhood, leading to the shift to Oakland Coliseum.
  • The first concert at Ontario Motor Speedway has been entirely forgotten. On November 24, 1973, Three Dog Night and the Guess Who headlined a rainy Saturday at the Speedway. There were several opening acts, something like 25,000 people and per a Dennis Hunt Times review, a miserable time was had by all. It must have served as proof of concept, however, since Cal Jam was held five months later.
  • Bill Graham and the promoters of the Watkins Glen attempted another event at Ontario on August 3,1974, headlined by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Tickets were even sold, but the event was canceled.
  • Ontario Motor Speedway was a well-designed and forward looking auto racing facility, but it did not succeed financially. The Speedway was open from August 1970 to December 17, 1980. Per Wikipedia, by 1980, the Ontario Motor Speedway bonds were selling at approximately $0.30 on the dollar. Generally unknown and unrealized by the bond-holding public, the 800 acres (3.2 km2) of land originally purchased at an average price of $7,500 per acre, had now risen to a value of $150,000 per acre. Chevron Land Company, a division of Chevron Corporation recognized the opportunity to acquire the bonds and effectively foreclosed on the real estate. For approximately $10 million, Chevron acquired land which had a commercial real estate development value of $120 million, without regard to the historic significance or future potential of the speedway.
  • From above, you can still see traces of Turn 3.


Appendix: Where Was Ontario Motor Speedway?

The speedway was bordered on the north by 4th Avenue (then referred to as San Bernardino Avenue), on the south by Interstate 10, the west by Haven Avenue, and the east by Milliken Avenue, which still has the eastward curve needed to make room for turn 1 and turn 2 of the racetrack.   Milliken Avenue is one of (maybe the only) street with curves like this in the entire city. 

Contrary to those news reports about the Ontario Mills Mall being built inside the old racetrack, this is not the case.  Ontario Mills Mall lies across the street, due-east of what was the racetrack, on the east side of Milliken Avenue.  When the Speedway was still in existence, the future home of Ontario Mills Mall was either empty fields, or parking areas, depending on the year. 

Even though virtually nothing remains of the race track, other than some of the raised-berms that made turn number 3 at the corner of 4th and Haven Avenues, The City Of Ontario has retained some of the history and heritage of the racetrack by building Ontario Motor Speedway Park a few blocks west of the racetrack site and by using auto racing inspired street names in and around the old speedway.  Let’s give Ontario some credit for these street names! (Jaguar Way, Corvette Dr, etc)

Appendix 2: Population of Ontario, CA
1960    46,617        103.8%
1970    64,118        37.5%
1980    88,820        38.5%
1990    133,179        49.9%
2000    158,007        18.6%


Friday, January 28, 2022

Halloween Weekend 1969: Loma Prieta Room, San Jose State and Family Dog on The Great Highway (Oct 31-Nov 2 '69) [FDGH V]

 

The Grateful Dead: Halloween Weekend, October 31-November 2, 1969
Over the years, it seemed like a Law Of Nature (or a Federal statute) that the Grateful Dead had to play on Halloween. Skeleton iconography attracts skeleton iconography, and a Dead concert on Halloween always seemed like a good idea. 

A close look at Halloween 1969 poses a paradox for the band. They were booked for the weekend at the Family Dog on The Great Highway, where they could draw 1500 or 2000 fans each night at $3.50 a head. Yet they only played the Dog on Saturday and Sunday, leaving the actual Friday night of Halloween for a campus event at San Jose State College. The newly-opened Student Union Ballroom held, at most, 700 people. Even if it was oversold, since student admission was only $2.00, the payday wasn't going to be the same as at the Dog.

What were the Grateful Dead and their management thinking? This post will take a look at the different threads in play for the Grateful Dead over the weekend of October 31-November 2, 1969.


Grateful Dead Economic Status Report, Fall 1969

In late 1969, the Grateful Dead were hurting for cash. They had spent so much money on Aoxomoxoa that they weren't earning anything back on royalties. Live/Dead would be a kind of success, but it wouldn't be released until November, so royalties wouldn't show up until later. The Dead, being the Dead, of course, were always spending too much money on equipment, and keeping a lot of friends and girlfriends on the payroll. This took cash, and the Dead didn't make that much.

Of course, the Dead's cash flow problem was greatly aggravated by the fact that manager Lenny Hart was absconding with a significant amount of the band's money. Hart's management "strategy" was dubious, at best, and in hindsight some of it may have been oriented towards bookings that facilitated Hart's greedy fingers, rather than the band's best interests.

The Family Dog on The Great Highway had a capacity of something around 1500 (the Fire Department capacity may have been a bit lower). Some contemporary comments in the Examiner suggest that a full house at the Dog approached 2000. Whether that meant they oversold the house, or people came and went throughout the night, it gives us an idea that the gate was about $6500 per night (assuming paid attendance of about 1850). Assuming costs for expenses, opening acts and profits, figure that the Dead could clear $4000 on a great night. 

The Student Union Ballroom at San Jose State held, at most, 700 patrons. Students would only pay $2.00, and they would have been the bulk of the audience. So even assuming a little bit of overselling and a few non-student admissions (at $3.00), and the possibility that a lot of students might come and go throughout the evening (allowing for more ticket sales), the realistic gate would be around $2000. The catch here was that San Jose State would have had an entertainment budget, and that ticket sales were meant to only defray the cost, not cover it. It's reasonable to assume that the Dead would have cleared $2500 or even $3000 for the Friday night show, which was still less than the Dog.

The difference in the two bookings was that San Jose State, though likely cheaper, was a sure thing. San Jose State was not going to go out of business. The Family Dog on the Great Highway, conversely, was always in a precarious financial situation. A band who booked a future show at the Dog had no guarantee the venue would be in business by that time. On top of that, rock concerts, like any live entertainment venture, were inherently risky ventures. The Grateful Dead, by what little evidence we have, had drawn well when they had played at the Family Dog for two weekends in August, and there was every reason to think they would do so again. 

There was one hangup, however: the Family Dog wouldn't be able to advertise the Dead show until that very week. Bill Graham Presents had booked the Dead with Jefferson Airplane for the prior weekend, and the contract would have required that the Dead could not advertise a show within 50 miles until their booking was complete. Now, it wasn't that Dead fans wouldn't want to see the band again--that was never a problem. It's just that concert attendance takes planning, and if you don't know there's a Dead concert on Halloween weekend, what if you've got something else going on? What if your sister already got the family car and you've got no way to get there?

Also, on any given night, anything could happen--rainstorm, earthquake, fire in the venue, riots in the neighborhood--that would lead to a financial debacle at the Dog. This risk was magnified by the prohibition on advertising until the previous Monday. Now, sure, the same things could happen at San Jose State. My guess, however, was that some part of the San Jose State concert booking was guaranteed, and that would be paid regardless, and very possibly paid in advance. The Dead were hurting for cash, and Lenny Hart was hungry for it, so a smaller, ensured payday on Halloween took precedence over a potentially larger one at the more uncertain Family Dog. So the Dog had a ghost of a show on Halloween without the Dead, and the Dead turned up for the balance of the weekend. Although non-musical details are scant, it seems that the Dead did well both nights at the Dog, so it was a financially sound weekend in the end.


Loma Prieta Room, Student Union, San Jose State University, 211 S 9th St San Jose, CA 95112
San Jose State College (now Cal State San Jose University) was the oldest college in California, first established as a Teacher's College in 1857. After various name changes, it became San Jose State College in 1935. After World War 2, thanks to the GI Bill and the Baby Boom, San Jose State expanded enormously. By 1969, it probably had 15,000 students or more (currently it has over 33,000, with 3/4 of them as undergraduates). The school is right at the center of downtown San Jose, which itself was expanding in the 1960s. The Student Union building at 211 9th Street had just been built in 1969. The main ballroom was on the third floor, and depending on the configuration, was either called the Ron Barrett Ballroom (capacity 588) or the Loma Prieta Room (capacity 700). The new ballroom had only opened on Tuesday, October 13, 1969. The very first rock concert at the Student Union Ballroom was held on the first Friday it was open. On October 17th, the New Riders of The Purple Sage played with a jazz-rock band called The Fourth Way.

 

The Daily Spartan of Thursday, October 16 reported on the upcoming dance the next night at the Student Union Ballroom

Two Bands To Appear For Dance
"Riders of the Purple Sage with special guest appearances by Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart of the "Grateful Dead" will be one of the two bands playing tomorrow night in the new College Union on Ninth Street
A dance sponsored by the College Union Program Board will feature "Sage" and "The Fourth Way," with guest appearances by members of the Charles Lloyd Quartet and John Handy's group.
The dance will be held from 9 pm to 1 am in The BALLROOM on the third level of the College Union. Admission will be $1.50 for students and $2 for the general public. There will be no pre-sale; all tickets will be sold at the door.
By October 17th, the Grateful Dead would have already booked their Halloween show at the same venue. In this instance, besides booking a paying gig for the New Riders, it seems like the Dead were checking out the venue in advance. It was a very odd feature for the New Riders to headline a venue on a Friday night, and then for the Dead the same venue two weeks later. This suggests to me that the Dead booked the Halloween show, and then realized they could book another show two weeks earlier. 

The Fourth Way was an interesting electric jazz-rock band. There were a lot of bands in the Bay Area fusing rock, jazz and electricity, but Fourth Way did it in a less frantic style than Miles Davis or the Tony Williams Lifetime. Fourth Way did release three albums on Capitol, now long out-of-print. Bandleader Mike Nock, formerly pianist with Yusef Lateer, Steve Marcus and many others played electric keyboards. The lead soloist was electric violinist Mike White, best known for playing with the John Handy Quintet. Bassist Ron McClure had played with Handy, and then with a Charles Lloyd Quartet lineup when it was based in San Francisco (along with Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette). Drummer Eddie Marshall rounded out the quartet.

We don't know what happened at this show. Was it well attended? Who knows? In the peculiar way of Dead history, however, while we don't have an eyewitness account, we have a tape. The Owsley Foundation was kind enough to transcribe the setlist for us. We can see that Bob Weir showed up for a few numbers, so there was a taste of Bobby Ace and The Cards Off The Bottom Of The Deck.
    Crossover
    Hello Trouble
    Long Black Limousine
    Six Days on the Road
    Next In Line
    Games People Play
    To Have the Hurting End
    Whatcha Gonna Do
    The Race Is On (w/Bob Weir)
    Cathy's Clown (w/Bob Weir)
    Saw Mill (w/Bob Weir)
    Mama Tried (w/Bob Weir)
    Me & My Uncle (w/Bob Weir)
    Fair Chance to Know

In any case, Owsley and the crew probably had a chance to figure a few things out about the room setup, and that had to help for Halloween.

October 31, 1969 Loma Prieta Room, San Jose State College, San Jose, CA: Grateful Dead/South Bay Experimental Flash (Friday)
We know the Grateful Dead played the Student Union Ballroom on Halloween, because we have a tape. It's around 90 minutes, and my guess is that it's the entire Grateful Dead performance.  We don't really know anything about the show itself.

There were two articles previewing the event in The Spartan Daily

GRATEFUL DEAD BRING LIVE MUSIC TO LIVELY SJS HALLOWEEN FLING

This Friday evening SJS is having its own “trick-or-treat,” when it brings out The Grateful Dead to play in the College Union Ballroom.
 
The Grateful Dead, pioneers of the San Francisco sound, will be making their first appearance at SJS Halloween night.
“The Dead” have added a little country to their blues and psychedelic elements, and the blend works well, according to people who saw them last weekend at Winterland.
“The Dead,” whose music has what many people term a euphoric effect, will play two sets, a total of one and a half to two hours. It is hoped that they will play some of their more famous sets which range from straight country, as in “Mama Tried,” to the blues encore, “Good Morning Little School Girl.” In the former, bass guitarist Phil Lesch produces a good country vocal sound, and in the latter, Ron (Pig Pen) McKernan is at his vocal best. 
Lead guitarist Jerry Garcia also has a good set as does organist Tom Constante and rhythm guitarist Bob Weir. The dependable work of drummers William Kreutzman and Mickey Hart is ideal in the country tunes. 
Accompanying “The Dead” will be the far out sounds of the “Experimental Flash.” In addition, two color horror films will be shown, “Billy the Kid vs. Dracula” and “Godzilla vs. The Thing.” Both films will be shown silently behind the bands. 
The dance will be held from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. and admission is $2 for students and $3 for the public. Tickets are on sale in [the] Student Affairs Business Office, located on the second level of the College Union.

(by Marty Pastula, from the Spartan Daily, San Jose State College, 29 October 1969)
BANDS TO PLAY AT MASKED BALL IN COLLEGE UNION

The Grateful Dead and Southbay Experimental Flash will perform at 9 p.m. tonight in the College Union to a masked audience.
In keeping with the theme of Halloween, the College Union Program Board (which is sponsoring the dance) has asked that all those attending tonight’s dance wear masks.
It is hoped that the debut of The Grateful Dead at SJS will be a pace-setter for future “name groups,” according to [the] CUPB student director.
The CUPB will provide masks for those who “forget their disguises.”
Tickets are still available in the Student Affairs Business office. [...]
[The] CUPB director added that in case it gets too warm, there will be “bobbing for apples” as refreshing but perhaps “ghostly” fun.

(from the Spartan Daily, 31 October 1969)

Setlist
Casey Jones, Dire Wolf, It Hurts Me Too, Cryptical Envelopment-> Drums-> The Other One-> Cryptical Envelopment, China Cat Sunflower-> I Know You Rider, Mama Tried, High Time, Sitting On Top Of The World, Next Time You See Me-> Easy Wind, Turn On Your Love Light

South Bay Experimental Flash
The South Bay Experimental Flash were a jazz-rock quintet from San Jose, although by 1969 they actually lived in Richmond. The main soloist was flautist David Ladd, well known over later decades in the South Bay as a session man and music teacher, along with organist Harry Critchfield and drummer Kirk Harwood.

The Poster
There is a relatively well-known poster associated with the San Jose Halloween concert (at the top of the post). I am no poster expert, by any means, but it does raise a few questions:
  • Why was there a poster? This was a student show, subsidized by the college, and not intended to turn a profit. Why authorize a color poster, since it's a needless expense?
  • I can understand some hippies on the "Entertainment Committee" who wanted to commission a poster because it was cool. But why print it? Why print hundreds of copies at real cost? For one thing, even by 1969, any Fillmore or Fillmore-type poster accessible on a telephone pole was immediately removed and put up in someone's dorm room. So posters were not only a cost, they didn't help sell tickets.
  • I can see one poster for display outside the Student Union ticket office. But why print more? Do they circulate? Some part of this doesn't add up, although it may be that the posters were reprinted later because they were appealing.

Loma Prieta Room: Aftermath
The brave comment in the Spartan Daily about the Grateful Dead being the "pace-setter" for future name groups at the Loma Prieta Room turned out to be outrun by events. There were some more rock concerts at the Loma Prieta Room in Fall '69, the biggest name of which was Lee Michaels. Rapidly, however, the rock business got way bigger than any tiny 700-seat room on a campus, so while I'm sure there were occasional events, the Grateful Dead were far and away the biggest band ever to play the Student Union Ballroom.

The Loma Prieta Room was remodeled, and thus while the building is still in use, the Ballroom is not the same as when the Dead played there. During November 5-8, 2014, Cal State San Jose University held So Many Roads : The World in the Grateful Dead, A Conference & Symposium  in the Student Union building (though not the Loma Prieta Room, then under re-construction).

The Family Dog on The Great Highway, at 660 Great Highway, ca. 1969

The Family Dog on The Great Highway, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA
The Family Dog was a foundation stone in the rise of San Francisco rock, and it was in operation in various forms from Fall 1965 through the Summer of 1970. For sound historical reasons, most of the focus on the Family Dog has been on the original 4-person collective who organized the first San Francisco Dance Concerts in late 1965, and on their successor Chet Helms. Helms took over the Family Dog in early 1966, and after a brief partnership with Bill Graham at the Fillmore, promoted memorable concerts at the Avalon Ballroom from Spring 1966 through December 1968. The posters, music and foggy memories of the Avalon are what made the Family Dog a legendary 60s rock icon.

In the Summer of 1969, however, with San Francisco as one of the fulcrums of the rock music explosion, Chet Helms opened another venue. The Family Dog on The Great Highway, at 660 Great Highway, on the Western edge of San Francisco, was only open for 14 months and was not a success.

One of the only photos of the interior of the Family Dog on The Great Highway (from a Stephen Gaskin "Monday Night Class" ca. October 1969)

The Great Highway was a four-lane road that ran along the Western edge of San Francisco, right next to Ocean Beach. Downtown San Francisco faced the Bay, but beyond Golden Gate Park was the Pacific Ocean. The aptly named Ocean Beach is dramatic and beautiful, but it is mostly windy and foggy. Much of the West Coast of San Francisco is not even a beach, but rocky cliffs. There are no roads in San Francisco West of the Great Highway, so "660 Great Highway" was ample for directions (for reference, it is near the intersection of Balboa Street and 48th Avenue). The tag-line "Edge Of The Western World" was not an exaggeration, at least in American terms.

The Family Dog on The Great Highway was smaller than the Bill Graham's old Fillmore Auditorium. It could hold up to 1500, but the official capacity was probably closer to 1000. Unlike the comparatively centrally located Fillmore West, the FDGH was far from downtown, far from the Peninsula suburbs, and not particularly easy to get to from the freeway. For East Bay or Marin residents, the Great Highway was a formidable trip. The little ballroom was very appealing, but if you didn't live way out in the Avenues, you had to drive. As a result, FDGH didn't get a huge number of casual drop-ins, and that didn't help its fortunes. Most of the locals referred to the venue as "Playland." 

October 31, 1969 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Danny Cox/Alan Watts/Golden Toad/Hells Angels Own Band (Friday)
The Family Dog had opened to great fanfare on June 13, 1969, but since then it had lurched through October with little to show for it. The venue had been open almost every night of the month, mostly with a variety of community-oriented events that only charged $1.00 admission on weeknights. While in retrospect we can see that some of the weekend acts would have been playing some good music (Kaleidoscope or Brewer And Shipley, for example), they weren't really good draws. The Dead were taking the sure payday in San Jose on Halloween, but they would be back at the Family Dog on Saturday and Sunday (November 1 and 2).

So for Halloween at the Family Dog, the putative headliner was the Golden Toad and folksinger Danny Cox, both of whom would be opening for the Dead on the subsequent nights. The unexplained billing was "Hells Angels Own Band." Who were they? What did it mean? We kind of know it wasn't the Dead, since they were playing in San Jose. I guess you could claim they were going to show up late, but geography doesn't favor that, and in any case, why invoke the Hells Angels? I wouldn't go to any public event today that advertised anything to do with the Hells Angels, and this was Halloween 1969. Also, the Hells Angels never took kindly to anyone using their name satirically, so the usage must have had some kind of informal approval. 

Was this a biker party? Maybe--but why advertise it to the public? Also, bikers are bikers--were they going to look forward to a Renaissance Fair quintet playing 15th century melodies on hand-built replicas of medieval pipes (which is what Golden Toad did)? Sure, Golden Toad founder Bob Thomas was a personal friend (and sometime roommate) of Owsley, but would a bunch of cranked-up bikers care? Danny Cox was an enjoyable folksinger, but he was a big African-American guy, and the Hells Angels were never an advertisement for diverse inclusion. 

Nothing about the Friday night booking made any sense. I have one tiny clue: I had a clever, but inaccurate, theory that Owsley Stanley had made a tape of Danny Cox that would become the album Danny Cox Live At The Family Dog. The Owsley Stanley Foundation looked into it, and it turned out that Cox's manager would not let Owsley tape his act. Family Dog soundman Lee Brenkman thinks that Cox was recorded on Halloween. Brenkman referred to the event as the "Hell's Angels Halloween party", and added that "it was the last calm thing that occurred that night." Intriguing. Anyone with insight, rumors or clever speculation, please post in the Comments.

November 1-2, 1969 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Danny Cox/Golden Toad (Saturday-Sunday)
The Grateful Dead headlined the Family Dog on The Great Highway on Saturday and Sunday night. Thanks to Owsley Stanley, we have tapes of both nights. The playing on both nights is magical. The existing tapes are both two hours, and seem to be complete shows with a few minor snips. So Golden Toad and Danny Cox must have each done sets, capped by a two-hour blast by the Grateful Dead in their early prime. David Browne, in his great Dead reflection,  So Many Roads, reviews the November 2 (Sunday) tape, with its 30-minute "Dark Star" in its larger context, and it is well worth reading (as is the rest of the book). Whatever the commercial flaws of the Family Dog on The Great Highway, and they seemed to be many, the Dead played fabulously there. In early 1970, manager Lenny Hart would make plans to merge the Grateful Dead's operations with Chet Helms and the Dog, and it had to be at least in part because the band played so well in the room.

The Golden Toad had nothing to do with rock, of course. But they resolutely followed their own musical course, in a manner clearly aligned with the Grateful Dead's own single-minded mission. The Toad mostly played outdoors in at Renaissance Fairs (in Los Angeles and Marin) or in Berkeley, and usually only played indoors at Berkeley's Freight and Salvage or with the Grateful Dead. The Golden Toad were known to have a rather flexible membership, so they may have had numerous people on stage augmenting the root quintet (supposedly they had performed with up to 23 members) [see here for more about the Golden Toad].

Danny Cox's 3rd album was Birth Announcement, a double-LP released on Together Records in 1969 and produced by Gary Usher

Danny Cox was from Cincinnati, but he had relocated to Kansas City in 1967. Cox, a large African-American man, defied rather shallow 60s expectations by singing folk music instead of blues. His current album was his 3rd, Birth Announcement, a double-lp on Together Records produced by Gary Usher. Cox sang folk classics along with Beatles and Dylan songs, lightly backed.

Cox shared management with Brewer And Shipley, and like them he would record an album for ABC/Dunhill in San Francisco with producer Nick Gravenites. Recorded at Wally Heider Studios, it was released in 1971. Both John Kahn and Merl Saunders played on that album. During demo sessions for the record in 1970, Kahn introduced Merl Saunders to Jerry Garcia, who was recording in another room. Some weeks later, when Howard Wales didn't want to come jam at the Matrix, Kahn recommended Merl and the Garcia/Saunders partnership began.


In between 1969 Birth Announcement and his 1971 ABC/Dunhill albums, Sunflower Records released a 1970 Danny Cox album called Live At The Family Dog. Sunflower, associated with MGM, was a fringe label that had released the legal-but-unauthorized Vintage Dead and Historic Dead albums in 1971. Danny Cox only played the Family Dog this weekend and the next weekend in 1969, so assuming that the material was really recorded at the Family Dog--that's no sure thing--they could very well have been recorded this weekend. I speculated that Owsley might have recorded the tape, but it turned out not to be the case. Cox's manager, Howard Wolf, wouldn't allow Owsley to tape his act. As mentioned, soundman Lee Brenkman thinks that Cox was recorded on Halloween. (Scholarly readers will be interested to know that on the Family Dog lp, Cox records "Me And My Uncle," and it is credited to "Trad.--arranged Danny Cox.") 

Summary

  • The Grateful Dead played a tiny ballroom for 700 or so people on a college campus on Halloween Friday in 1969.
  • What went down on Halloween '69 at the Family Dog? Why book a Renaissance Fair pipe band and a folksinger and advertise Hells Angels Own Band? What was that?
  • The Grateful Dead played Saturday and Sunday night at the Family Dog. They played great music, and ticket sales were probably pretty good, because they usually were.
  • Opening act Danny Cox may have had his Halloween show recorded and released on Sunflower Records as Live At The Family Dog