Thursday, July 3, 2014

May 27, 1989 Oakland Coliseum Stadium, Oakland, CA: John Fogerty with Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir (Centerfield)

Time, as Steve Miller has observed, keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future. As we slip forward, we inevitably see things differently. Nonetheless, on occasion it is a healthy exercise to recall events as they appeared at the time, in contrast to how they seem now. The Grateful Dead headlined a Benefit Concert at the Oakland Coliseum Stadium on May 27, 1989. There were many fascinating aspects to this booking, but in retrospect the most fascinating was that former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty was second on the bill, and it was known before the show that Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir would be part of his backing group.

Creedence had been hugely, titanically popular, but Fogerty had been in a bitter dispute with his record company since the mid-70s, and as a result had refused to play any of his great Creedence songs in concert. By 1989, however, although Fogerty's ire towards Fantasy Records had not subsided, for various reasons he had come to terms with his old songs, so it was widely known that not only would Garcia and Weir be backing Fogerty, but that they would be playing Creedence classics as well. Everything pointed towards an event of historic proportions.

I went to the show, as did about 40,000 of my closest friends. The weather was great, the crowd was nice, the vibe was relaxed, the show ran smoothly and everyone went bonkers for John Fogerty. And yet, and yet, somehow, for Deadheads like me and others, the glow wore off quickly. It was historic to see Fogerty, and unique to see Garcia and Weir play with him, but somehow it seemed like just another rock show. I love Creedence songs, but they are basic, and Garcia and Weir's talents were not particularly needed. Somehow, my memory of that show faded into a lost opportunity, of Garcia playing with a legendary opening act and just comping away.

Yet Deadheads tend to celebrate recordings from "This Day In History," and when May 27 came around, there were some casual reminiscences about the event which caused me to re-think it. It also turned out there is accessible YouTube video of the entire Fogerty set. Seeing the video reminded me of the show, and caused me to think about it the way I thought about it at the time. So watch the video, if you haven't already, and we can think about how the show seemed so bright and exciting at the time, and in many ways genuinely was--regardless of how I feel about it today.



In Concert Against AIDS, Oakland Coliseum Stadium, Oakland, CA, May 27, 1989
Grateful Dead/Special Appearance by John Fogerty/Tracy Chapman/Los Lobos/Joe Satriani/Tower Of Power
It seems shocking today that a Benefit concert for a terrible disease would be seen as a progressive political act, but such was the Reagan 80s. At least in San Francisco, efforts to prevent AIDS and provide care for those suffering from it had finally expanded beyond the gay community into the general culture. Nonetheless it was still significant when major rock bands headlined a large benefit concert in the Bay Area's biggest venue. Concern for AIDS had finally reached parity with Amnesty International and the Rain Forest, which was a welcome thing. The Coliseum benefit was the largest of several events around the Bay Area, all organized by Bill Graham Presents, and meant to raise awareness as well as money.

Originally the Oakland show was supposed to have joint headliners, with both the Grateful Dead and Huey Lewis and The News. A few weeks before the show, however, Huey Lewis had to drop out of the show. Rather sheepishly, his management publicly conceded that the stadium show was cutting into ticket sales for Lewis around Northern California, and they couldn't afford to work for what was effectively nothing. Lewis and The News were popular, and had had a number of big AM hits, but their last album (1988's Small World) had only reached #11, whereas the previous two (1983's Fore and 1986's Sports) had both reached #1. The News had played around the Bay Area a lot, and while they put on a good show, their fans apparently weren't going to see them an infinite number of times.

The Dead, of course, had no such concerns. At a press conference, Jerry Garcia graciously said that Huey had to listen to his management, it was part of the business. Yet the Dead had just played two shows at Stanford's Frost Amphitheatre (May 6-7) and had booked three nights at Shoreline (June 18, 19 and 21)--on weeknights no less--and still packed them all. We take this for granted now, but in the Bay Area it was a public reminder of both how huge the Grateful Dead were and how committed their fan base was. Huey Lewis And The News were the biggest act in the Bay Area at the time with respect to record sales, and yet the Dead outdrew them by several multiples. The Dead were no longer an aging hippie band who hadn't broken up--they were the biggest draw in town.

John Fogerty
I no longer recall the exact sequence of booking, but I think John Fogerty replaced Huey Lewis on the bill. It wasn't entirely necessary, as the Dead sold so many tickets. Still, it was in Bill Graham's interest to make the concert a special event, and Fogerty's presence certainly met that criteria. Fogerty had a unique status in the Bay Area at the time, and everyone was reminded of that when word was unofficially "leaked", I believe through Joel Selvin's Chronicle column, that not only would Garcia and Weir back Fogerty, but that Fogerty would be playing old Creedence songs.

Creedence Clearwater Revival had originally formed in El Cerrito High School in 1959 as The Blue Velvets. The band was a quartet, featuring John Fogerty on lead guitar, his older brother Tom on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, and childhood friends Stu Cook on bass and Doug Clifford on drums. The group soldiered on throughout the 60s, under various names (like The Golliwogs), releasing a few singles and playing numerous shows around Northern California. All four of the band members had various obligations to the military, so although the band always played, they could not participate full time in the San Francisco rock explosion of the mid-60s.

By 1968, however, with John Fogerty's service in the US Army Reserve coming to an end, the band could be all-in. The Golliwogs changed their name to the hipper sounding Creedence Clearwater Revival, and took a Monday night residency at a local rock dive called DenoCarlo's, at 750 Vallejo Street, later better known as the Keystone Korner. Soon the experienced band was playing much bigger shows around town. Their long-time label, Fantasy Records, despite mostly being a jazz label, figured they had something and recorded and released Creedence's first album quickly, releasing it in July 1968. The album got good local FM airplay, and the single "Suzie Q" reached #11.

In January 1969, Creedence Clearwater released the album Bayou Country. When John Fogerty was finally released from US Army Reserve duty, he wrote the song "Proud Mary" to celebrate. That song, along with "Born On The Bayou," began a long run of hits for Creedence. The band was hugely popular on both AM and FM radio, a rarity at the time, they were popular with hippies and servicemen, and the band's Southern flavor--they were all from a tiny town near Berkeley, nothing Southern about El Cerrito--broadened their appeal way beyond the usual bunch of hippies.

Bayou Country reached #7 on the album charts, and until Creedence broke up in 1972, they had 4 more top 10 albums and 10 singles in the top 10 as well. For all the famous bands that came out of the Bay Area in the 60s, Creedence outsold them all, both at the time and later. Yet the band's breakup in 1972 was very bitter, and made more so by lawsuits between John Fogerty and Fantasy Records. Fogerty was primed to have a great post-Creedence career, but his anger over how he felt Fantasy had taken his money caused him to lay very low. Ultimately, Fogerty forewent his Creedence royalties so that he could sign with Warner Brothers, and he had some good hits with them, like 1985's "Centerfield."

When Fogerty finally started touring to support his albums, around 1986, he absolutely refused to play any of his Creedence material, since he didn't want any money to go to Fantasy. At the same time, Fantasy was not interested in promoting Creedence, either, so by mid-80s standards, Creedence Clearwater Revival was somewhat forgotten relative to other classic rock bands. However, when Fogerty played a Vietnam Veteran's Benefit in Landover, MD on July 4, 1987, he apparently had a change of heart and his band played 8 Creedence classics, to the enthusiastic reception of the audience. So while seeing Fogerty perform Creedence songs was rare, it was not entirely unprecedented. It is also possible that some legal matters had been resolved with Fantasy, so Fogerty was freer to do what he wanted, but in any case it made the show far more intriguing.

The Concert
The weather for the Day On The Green concert was perfect. Bill Graham, apparently, had an exclusive arrangement with some greater power, so that it never, ever rained when he was having a major outdoor show, and his deal remained in place for the May '89 AIDS Benefit. Another oddity about the AIDS Benefit was that there were no less than five opening acts for the Grateful Dead, which I think was some kind of record for a Bay Area Grateful Dead show. Although I don't precisely recall, I have good reason to think that we were intentionally late, and only arrived in time to see John Fogerty and the Dead. By 1989, I no longer had any desire to spend 12 hours in the sun, just to wipe myself out for what I wanted to see at the very end.

I don't believe the show was sold out, although I no longer can remember for certain. By 1989, the Dead were huger than ever, thanks to "Touch Of Grey", and I think the Coliseum show was an opportunity for a lot of people who had always wanted to see the Dead but hadn't been been able to get tickets. Frost and Shoreline shows sold out pretty rapidly, so regular rock fans who wanted to see the Dead were out of luck. Thus the crowd was very Dead-positive, with plenty of Deadheads, but far less like the insular club of Deadhead veterans that were characteristic of Bay Area shows at the time.

Johh Fogerty hit the stage in the late afternoon, last up before the Grateful Dead. His band, previously announced, was
John Fogerty-lead guitar, vocals
Jerry Garcia-guitar
Bob Weir-guitar
Randy Jackson-bass
Steve Jordan-drums
Jackson and Jordan were well-known and well regarded as session players. Randy Jackson was a working member of Santana's band at the time, among many other gigs. Today, of course, Jackson is best known as a judge for the TV show American Idol, but that was far in his future. Jordan had played the Bay Area recently, on the 1988 tour with Keith Richards, whose album he had co-produced. Fogerty played 11 songs in about 45 minutes.
Born On The Bayou
Green River
Down On The Corner
Rock And Roll Girl
Centerfield
Proud Mary
Midnight Special
Bad Moon Rising
Fortunate Son
encores with Clarence Clemons-tenor saxophone
Suzie Q
Long Tall Sally
We had pretty good seats, but by definition of having seats, we were pretty far back--behind first base, as I recall. However, there was a big video screen, so we could see what was happening onstage.  I was seeing a lot of rock bands at the time, and I was pretty excited about seeing Fogerty. A lot of bands were doing what amounted to "Legacy" tours, like Pink Floyd and The Who, and I had mixed feelings about them. I had seen Fogerty a few years earlier, next door at the Coliseum Arena, and while he did a good show, the absence of all his great hits left a shadow over the concert.

Unlike some middle-aged rock acts, Fogerty looked healthy and sounded great, probably a function of Fogerty having mostly spent most of the previous 15 years at home with his family instead of grinding it out on the road like The Dead. Nonetheless, it was strange for me in many ways, as it must have been for many fans that were present: here was John Fogerty, a huge rock star, playing a relatively historic show, and here we were obsessing over what his backup guitarist was doing.

Garcia And The Fogertys
Most serious Deadheads knew that Garcia had played with Tom Fogerty, John's brother. Tom had left Creedence in 1970 over various issues, reducing the band to a trio. Merl Saunders had been on Fantasy Records since the mid-60s, and he had known the Fogerty brothers long before they were famous. Since Merl and Jerry regularly hung out at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, at 10th and Parker, the so-called "House That Creedence Built," it was hardly a surprise when Merl had invited his old friend Tom to play guitar alongside of Jerry in 1971. Tom Fogerty had played quite a few shows with Garcia and Saunders, up through late '72, and played on various studio projects with Merl and Jerry as well.

However, by 1971, relations were strained between John Fogerty and Fantasy Records, so it is very unlikely that John Fogerty ever hung out at 10th and Parker. While I assume that John Fogerty and Jerry Garcia had met backstage at some rock festival or something, the Dead and Creedence had hardly ever played shows together. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one indoor show together, a multi-act People's Park Benefit at Winterland on May 28, 1969. In that respect, it was if Garcia and John Fogerty had gone to high school together. They had many shared experiences and mutual friends and nemeses, no doubt, and had--in effect--passed each other in the halls many times, yet hardly knew each other.

Did Garcia Rehearse With John Fogerty?
The question I would most like to have answered about this show is "who rehearsed?" From watching the video, it is clear that John Fogerty had run through the songs with Randy Jackson and Steve Jordan. Now, Creedence songs are delightfully basic, as well as famous worldwide, so pros like Jackson and Jordan hardly needed many takes. On every song, however, Jackson and Jordan both provide a funky bottom and plenty of accent. They knew the tunes, and they knew how to make them swing, so I think they had worked on them with Fogerty.

Jerry Garcia, however, was notorious for never wanting to rehearse. Weir is far less notorious for avoiding rehearsals, though it is also known that he is famously not on time, so it may amount to something similar. Since John Fogerty wasn't particularly close to any members of the Dead, it's clear that Bill Graham was the one who got Garcia and Weir to accompany Fogerty, and in so doing make it "an event," in classic Graham style. Could Graham have persuaded Garcia to rehearse? The alternative is strange, namely playing a show in front of 40,000 people with at least two band members completely flying blind.

Here's what I think, although I am anxious to hear if anyone knows different. Fogerty knows his songs are simple, and assumes that everyone knows them. I think Fogerty had a rehearsal with Jackson and Jordan on a prior day. On the day of the show, I think Garcia and Weir had a dressing room run-through with Fogerty and the rhythm section, agreeing on the tempos and the intros. Sandy Rothman has described how the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band did not really practice songs, they just agreed on an intro and tempo and sang a chorus together. Granted, Rothman, Garcia and David Nelson had played all those songs before, but it was usually twenty years earlier. Still, one chorus run through was sufficient. So I think Fogerty talked Garcia and Weir through the planned songs, but they had never really played together until they got on stage.

Jerry Garcia-Electric Guitar and Backing Vocal
Garcia's appearance with John Fogerty has seemingly receded in importance over the years. Fogerty has been a relatively regular performer, touring with Bruce Springsteen for example, so his mere performance of old Creedence songs is no longer a big deal, just another classic rock guy. Creedence songs have a nice groove, but they aren't jamming platforms, so of course Garcia just plunks away through the entire show, and nothing about his playing at the Coliseum is really memorable.

However, watching the video again, after all these years, caused me to think about the show in a different light. On one hand, Jerry Garcia's health in 1989 was as good as it had been in at least a decade, nor it would ever be that good again. Yet the stunning success of "Touch Of Grey," gratifying as it must have been, insured that the bubble of Garcia's life meant that he was more insulated than ever. Garcia wasn't just a legend to Deadheads, he was in the pantheon now, the biggest rock star in the Bay Area, in a beautiful cage with no escape.

When Fogerty kicks off the familiar, booming riff of "Born On The Bayou," Garcia is tucked back on stage left, next to Steve Jordan's drums. Randy Jackson is on the other side of Jordan, and Weir is right next to Jackson. Although Garcia plays a very simple figure behind Fogerty for "Bayou," his eyes are on Jordan, and Jerry has a big, happy grin on his face. I'm not imagining this--Garcia has a big grin on his face throughout the entire set, and he mugs happily with Jordan as the drummer plays fills and accents through the set. Weir seems to be having the same kind of fun with Randy Jackson over on stage right. Fogerty is the star, front and center, but the band is getting their own groove on behind him.

The Fogerty set isn't a big deal to Deadheads, but it's hard to get around the fact that Garcia is having a great time. Whether Fogerty was "bigger" than Garcia is beside the point. Fogerty is a genuine star, with genuine hits, so he is the center of attention while he is on stage. For any singer less important than Fogerty--as in, just about all of them--Garcia could not hang back, but he can do so here. For 45 minutes, it's like Garcia is at the Keystone Berkeley or something, hanging out with his peers, playing the guitar parts that are dictated by the music, simple though they may be.

When they get to the third song, the unforgettable "Down On The Corner," Jerry is practically jumping up and down. In a small but fascinating moment, he steps up to the mic to sing the backing vocals. Now granted, the whole English speaking world knows that it goes "Down on the corner/Out in the street/Willie and The Poor Boys are playing/Bring a nickel, tap your feet," but Jerry actually steps up to sing. Over the years, I've seen and heard Garcia make lots of guest appearances with various artists. Yet how often did he sing the chorus of other people's hit songs?

After "Down On The Corner," Fogerty introduces the band, and Garcia's back is turned when it is his turn, as he's tuning up. Fogerty says "wake him up!' and Garcia turns around. "On guitar, Jerry Garcia!" Garcia grins and goes back to tuning, and Fogerty says "Genius at work." This is just musicians goofing around, albeit goofing around on stage in front of 40,000 people, but Garcia gets to be just another dude on stage, perhaps for one of the last times. A few months later (August 2, 1989), he would share the stage with Carlos Santana and Ruben Blades but that was for a TV special where he was a featured guest. At the Oakland Coliseum, he's just a hired gun playing a bunch of top 40 songs.

The event is clearly a big deal for Fogerty, as well. He puts on an A's cap, and says what an honor it is to play in his hometown in center field, and then, of course, plays "Centerfield," but Jerry seems to enjoy that too. Garcia joins Weir for the backing vocals for "Proud Mary" and "Midnight Special." Most interestingly, on "Bad Moon Rising," Weir sings the backing vocal, but Garcia does not step up to his mic. Nonetheless, he can be clearly seen mouthing the familiar lyrics, along with every other person in the Oakland Coliseum.

Clarence Clemons joins in for the encore. Bruce Springsteen was the biggest act in the country at the time, and having his chief henchman on stage made the set even more of an event. As a Grateful Dead footnote, I believe this was Clarence's first stage appearance with Garcia [update: my belief was incorrect. Clarence had played with the Grateful Dead on Dec 31 '88, and may have already played with the Garcia Band as well, back in March]. Clarence's second appearance with Garcia would come about 90 minutes later, when he joined the Grateful Dead for much of their first and second set at the Coliseum. Clemons would go on to play a number of shows with the Jerry Garcia Band, but on this May afternoon it was the first most public onstage intersection of Bruce's world with Jerry's.

Aftermath
The Dead played their headline sets later that day, and went on to even greater success. John Fogerty came to grips with his past, and generally speaking Creedence songs played some part in his future shows. Fogerty and the Dead only crossed paths one other time, however, once again and far more tragically engineered by Bill Graham. At the memorial concert in Golden Gate Park for Graham's death, on November 3, 1991, the Dead played the final set. Graham's deal with higher powers was good one last time, and despite being November, the weather was great. John Fogerty joined in for four songs, obviously with no rehearsal, but with plenty of confidence that it would work. The music was nice, but I don't think Jerry was grinning ear to ear this time.

As Deadheads, we always wanted certain things from Jerry. When Garcia didn't give us what we want, we grumbled, and thanks to the magic of tape and digital recording, we can collectively complain about it for decades. Good times! But we have to keep in mind that what we wanted wasn't always what Jerry wanted. For a Memorial Day Saturday, Garcia wanted to be in a band, playing songs the way they were written, singing his parts when they came around, grooving with the drummer and letting the front man do the heavy lifting. Did it ever come around again that Jerry got to play simple, popular songs with a front man with enough gravitational pull so that it wasn't All About Jerry? In that sense, Garcia's role as John Fogerty's backing musician is a last look backwards for Garcia, a time when he could just be in the band, if only for 45 minutes.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

January 20, 1967 Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA: Timothy Leary with The Grateful Dead

There have been circulating lists of Grateful Dead shows since at least the early 1980s. I got my own copy of the Janet Soto list in 1981, Paul Grushkin published Dennis McNally's list in 1983 in his The Official Book Of The Deadheads, John Dwork had a circulating list and so on. When the first edition of Deadbase was published in early 1987, the baseline text for Grateful Dead scholarship was established. As the collective enterprise expanded to multiple additions of Deadbase, Deadlists, Dead.net, The Jerry Site, and so on, our knowledge of the history of Grateful Dead performances expanded enormously. Yet in the never-ending quest to find new "lost" Dead shows, a quest that appears to be led by me right now, we lose sight of some unexplained mysteries that have been on "The List" for so long that we no longer question them.

A show that has been part of the Canon since the early eighties is a performance at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on Friday, January 20, 1967. The headliner at this show was former Harvard professor and "acid guru" Timothy Leary, and he was supposedly "backed" by the Grateful Dead. Upon reflection, this must have been a very strange event, so strange that I wonder if it even happened. I am aware of no eyewitness accounts, no reviews and no recollections from members of the Grateful Dead. I do know the source of our knowledge of the show, however, and it is quite fleeting. This post will consider what little we know about the Grateful Dead's performance on January 20, 1967, at the Santa Monica Civic, supporting Timothy Leary. This would have been the Grateful Dead's first performances in the Los Angeles area since their February and March sojourn with Owsley the previous year. In early 1966, the Grateful Dead were unknown, but by early 1967 the Dead were at least underground sensations who were newly-signed to Warner Brothers Records.

[update: thanks to inspirational Commenter LightIntoAshes, we know the concert took place, and we have an eyewitness account from Owsley himself]

Ralph Gleason's SF Chronicle column on Friday, January 27, mentions the Grateful Dead playing with Timothy Leary the previous week.
Evidence
The primary source for adding a Tim Leary/Grateful Dead show at Santa Monica, comes from a generally reliable source, San Francisco Chronicle music columnist Ralph Gleason. He wrote four columns a week on music for the Chronicle, and he regularly covered the San Francicso psychedelic ballroom scene in great detail (along with jazz, blues and country music). The excerpt above is from Friday, January 27, 1967, and it says:
Tonight and tomorrow night, Dr. Timothy Leary will unveil the mystery of religion as show biz in his two dates here at the Berkeley Community Theater (tonight) and Winterland (tomorrow night). The Leary production was a sell-out in Santa Monica, I'm told, and the Grateful Dead played with him. 
This weekend the Dead won't be along (they're at the Avalon Ballroom) and it's not known if another rock band will perform. The Leary happening includes films, a light show, chants and a psychedelic trip induced without drugs. "It really works," an expert in this genre told me. Personally I wouldn't miss this out of sheer animal curiosity. It may be the most interesting religious event since the last Black Mass. 
A few details stand out from this description. Gleason was a supporter of all kinds of music, but he was a journalist first. When he says the show "was a sell-out in Santa Monica," and then adds "I'm told," he is noting that this was unverified by him, and raises the hint that perhaps some exaggeration may be taking place. When he says "'It really works,' an expert in this genre told me," his deadpan tone suggests that the whole thing is hype.

One of the best sources for San Francisco 60s rock history was Gleason's columns in the Chronicle, and they were relatively accessible in later years through good libraries. A mistake in Gleason's column will be repeated over and over in numerous rock tomes, a clear sign that their root source was the same. Thus I am pretty certain that the Dead's Santa Monica performance was uncovered by research on Gleason's column. Someone must have figured out that the show was Friday January 20 rather than Saturday January 21, but I have never seen an ad or listing in the paper (please send one if you've got it).

If Gleason did in fact attend one of the Leary shows in San Francisco or Berkeley, he did not write about it, which leads me to think he didn't drop by. We do have one reliable account of the Bay Area shows, however, from writer Charles Perry. Perry was a Berkeley hippie at the time--he was briefly Owsley's roommate in 1964 or so--but he became a writer for Roling Stone. Perry wrote the excellent book Haight-Ashbury: A History, in 1984. At the time, 1967 seemed farther ago than it does now, but many of Perry's friends and acquaintances had been through the whole thing, so Perry's sources were far more contemporary. In the book, Perry has an excellent chronology, clearly based on the Chronicle, but with additional details, no doubt provided by people he knew.

Perry says that the two Leary performances at Berkeley and Winterland were busts, with Leary droning on to largely empty auditoriums. There was a rock group present, a hip but obscure band called The Outfit. According to Perry, The Outfit noodled along while Leary talked. I'm not surprised that Leary drew tiny crowds: by the standards of the 1967 rock market, Winterland and BCT were huge (8900 capacity between them), and Leary was not a popular figure in the Haight. No San Francisco rock band could have sold 8900 tickets on a weekend, so it's no surprise that Leary didn't. This too, provides some grounds for suspicion about the Santa Monica show. Was Tim Leary more popular in Los Angeles? I doubt it. As for the Grateful Dead, while they did have some underground cachet, they had no record and they had hardly played LA. The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium had a seated capacity of 2500, still nearly twice as large as The Fillmore, a lot of seats for the era. The more we look into this, the stranger it seems.

The Lee Conklin poster for the Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service show at the Avalon Ballroom on January 27-28, 1967, while Timothy Leary was at Berkeley and Winterland, backed by The Outfit.
The Grateful Dead, January 1967
January of 1967 was an extremely busy month for the Grateful Dead, but it is true that the weekend of January 20-21 is blank except for the Santa Monica show. The previous weekend (January 13-15), the Dead had played the Fillmore with a new Los Angeles band called The Doors. In the middle of it, the band found time to play at the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park on Saturday, January 14. All of hip San Francisco was there, as was Timothy Leary. Leary spoke to the assembled crowd at some point, but all observers say that despite his celebrity status, he had little impact on the audience.

On the weekend of January 27, the Dead played three shows at the Avalon. Friday (January 27) and Saturday (January 28) the Dead played with their pals the Quicksilver Messenger Service. On Sunday night (January 29), the Dead were joined by Big Brother and The Holding Company and Moby Grape in a benefit for the San Francisco Hare Krshna temple (no word on whether Jerry joined in for some jamming on their well known hit "Hare Krshna, Hare Krshna, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,"). On Monday, January 30, the Dead began recording their first album at RCA Studios in Los Angeles.

Yet the Dead were a working band, and perpetually in need of cash, so it makes sense that they would try to find a paid booking anywhere they could. If they were paid to play on a bill with Timothy Leary, they would have done it if the money was good. In those bygone days, it only cost $20 to fly from San Francisco to Los Angeles on Pacific Southwest Airlines, which wasn't much money even then. So the Dead, who only had one crew member at the time, could have bought six tickets, and perhaps a few extra for the guitars or managers, and flown down to the show. What is more curious is their pairing with Timothy Leary, which was at odds with what would come to follow for both Leary and the Dead.

Timothy Leary addressing the crowd at the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, January 14, 1967
Timothy Leary
The whole subject of Timothy Leary is complex and interesting for those people who are interested in that sort of thing, but I am not particularly one of them. Thus I will just recap some key points of Leary's history up through 1967, as the rest of his story is quite accessible on the web. Leary (1920-1996) had ended up as an untenured 39-year old Assistant Professor at Harvard in 1959 (his actual title was Lecturer in Clinical Psychology). Leary was a popular and charismatic lecturer, with a lengthy list of accomplishments up to that point, but he was hardly conventional. Along with his colleague Richard Alpert (later known as Ram Dass) Leary begin clinical studies on the effects of Psilocybin and LSD.

Leary had a knack for attracting attention, and by 1962 he was actually turning away volunteers for his experiment, which apparently led to a small black market for LSD around the Harvard Campus. From another point of view, however, though Leary's research interests were sincere, his methodology was sloppy, and it seemed unlikely that he would get tenure at Harvard. This is common for Assistant Professors at Ivy League colleges, but they are supposed to get tenure elsewhere and return to the Ivies some years later in triumph. Leary, who liked undergraduate women and liquor as well as psychedelic drugs, focused more on having a party and burnishing his image.

By the time Leary was relieved his duties in May, 1963, he was already infamous. He spent the next few years as a sort of public figure, advocating the then-legal use of LSD. When the Pranksters and then Owsley arrived on the scene, there became two distinct threads of LSD advocacy. Leary had fallen in with some wealthy patrons, Peggy and Billy Hitchcock, who lived at the Millbrook Estate in New York, so he could afford to have a philosophical bent. In the Fall of '66, Leary had a sort of tour where he lectured at college campuses. He also claimed to have founded a religion, with LSD as its holy sacrament, a distinctly different approach to LSD than the one shared by Kesey, Owsley and the Dead. Thus there was a distinct philosophical divide between the Haight-Ashbury's view of LSD as a tool for living, and Leary's more patrician philosophy.

The Outfit, with Bobby Beausoleil on guitar, played at Chinatown's Dragon A Go Go on September 6, 1966
The Outfit
By early 1967, Leary was a public figure. However, he was more of a well-known figure amongst adults and "The Establishment," and younger, long-haired rock fans were somewhat indifferent to him. By 1967, Leary was 47 years old, and a master at presenting himself in provocative soundbites, like "Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out." I think many young people in 1967 thought Leary was cool, in some sort of general way, because he advocated getting high, but he hardly had iconic status. Young people weren't ultimately that interested in 47-year-old ex-Professors and their philosophical views when they faced the reality of themselves and their friends getting drafted. San Francisco, which then as now saw itself as hip central, would also have been dismissive of Leary because his hipness was of a patronizing East Coast variety that never goes over out west.

The fact that The Outfit was hired to support Leary at his performances actually tells us quite a bit. The Outfit remain a super-obscure SF band, but they were cool insiders to the core, even if their music probably wasn't particularly memorable. We know the story of The Outfit from the classic fanzine Cream Puff War #2. Originally formed in 1965, by mid-66 The Outfit rehearsed at the Straight Theater on Haight Street, along with the Grateful Dead and others. By this time, band members were singer Win Hardy, bassist John Ciambotti (later in Clover), drummer Steve Bonnicelli (later in Flying Circus), rhythm guitarist "Cousin Robert" Resner and lead guitarist Bobby Beausoleil. Robert Resner was the cousin of Straight partner Hillel Resner, so the band was hooked in from the beginning. One of their managers was Bard Dupont, the original bassist for The Great Society, chosen for his Beatles-like hair, and another real scene-maker.

By early 1967, The Outfit hadn't really made any progress. Beausoleil had left, first to play with the intriguing Electrik Chamber Orkustra, and then to join with a disturbing Haight denizen named Charles Manson (which is why Beausoleil is serving life in prison). The Outfit added Jim Brown on lead guitar, who had been writing songs with Hardy. Some brief hope of a Columbia records contract in December, 1966 came to nothing, and the band returned to San Francisco. However, though hardly well known, The Outfit were always well connected, so they had the connections to be chosen to back Leary. For a group like The Outfit, a paying gig was always welcome, even if the circumstances were not exactly rock and roll. By the time of the Leary shows, Bard Dupont was no longer the manager and singer Win Hardy was out of the band, too, and The Outfit were down to a quartet (Jim Brown-lead guitar, Cousin Robert-guitar, John Ciambotti-bass, Steve Bonicelli-drums).

Santa Monica Civic
The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, located at 1855 Main Street in Santa Monica, was built in 1958. It had a seated capacity of 2500, and at the time of its construction it was the second largest auditorium in Los Angeles. I have to assume that a former college professor like Leary wanted his audience seated so they could concentrate on his lecture, not dancing around. Over the years, the Santa Monica Civic was used for many musical, sporting and other events, but it was never the province of one promoter, so it doesn't have particular cachet as a rock venue. In later years, as the rock market got bigger, Santa Monica Civic tended to be used only when other arenas weren't available. Because it is in the Greater Los Angeles area, however, many well known tv shows and albums have been recorded there, including The TAMI Show in 1964 and the Eagles Long Run live album in 1980.

I personally have a theory that the The Grateful Dead played Santa Monica Civic on January 17, 1969 (since there is no Santa Barbara Civic Auditorium), but that is a topic for another post. As for confirmed shows, the Dead only played Santa Monica Civic one other time, on March 7, 1970. I believe the 1970 show was promoted by Bill Graham or an associate, so the Civic was a venue that would be available to outside promoters. However, even with the unseated 3000 capacity, the Dead would outgrow Los Angeles venues the size of Santa Monica Civic in the next few years anyway, so it's not surprising that the Dead never played there after 1970.

Some Traces
So what are we left with? An unverifiable assertion from Ralph Gleason that the Grateful Dead somehow "backed" Tim Leary to a packed house in Santa Monica, even though the very next weekend Leary played to minimal crowds in the Bay Area, supported by an obscure band that would play any gig? Any subsequent reports of Grateful Dead connections to Leary, such as the band members' trip to Millbrook in June '67 (the Dead were playing the Cafe Au Go Go, and Weir had reconnected to John Barlow, who had an in at Millbrook), omit any mention of the Santa Monica gig. Leary was at the Human Be-In, but it wasn't surprising that the Dead never met him there. Why weren't any reminiscences about Millbrook flavored by any recollections about backing Leary in Santa Monica?

Are we to believe that the Grateful Dead flew down to Santa Monica to play a show with Timothy Leary, and never spoke to him? Now, Leary was notoriously autocratic, and would have thought nothing of having some sort of underling "instruct" his "backing band" on how to support his greatness, but who are we dealing with here? The 1967 Grateful Dead were hardly likely to noodle quietly for 40 minutes while Leary droned on about philosophy--they were more likely to break into an extended rave-up on "Caution: Do Not Stop On Tracks," which wouldn't have gone over well with the one-time professor.

Underneath his engaging persona, Leary had a reputation as a master manipulator. However, I suspect that one of his main methods in 1967 would have been to get people around him to drop acid, and then to take advantage of them when they were in a somewhat confused state. This strategy would have failed spectacularly with the Dead. For the 1967 Grateful Dead, dropping acid and performing was pretty much like a typical office worker having their coffee prior to the first meeting of the day, so the band would hardly have been intimidated by any high minded head games perpetrated by Leary or his minions.

If the Dead had been annoyed or offended by Leary, and particularly if they had pranked him by playing loud, or any other thing, I would think that it would have been mentioned over the years, given how many times the Dead were asked about LSD. It's more likely that the Dead simply agreed to play before or after Leary spoke, and just played a set or two of music. So whether it was a good show or not, it was just another gig for the band, and they may not have met Leary at all. Nonetheless, when you reflect upon it, it is curious to consider two icons of the 60s, one at his peak, about to go down,  and the others still on their way up, on the same bill, and none even recalling the event at all.

There is a final point to consider. When I first wrote about the Grateful Dead's touring itinerary in 1967, I made the point that most paying shows were on weekends. As such, the historiographical goal was to find empty weekends that may may have a secret lost show attached to them. Given that the Dead may have indeed gone down to Los Angeles to perform on the same bill with Timothy Leary, there may have been other Grateful Dead shows in the Los Angeles area that weekend. One of my fellow researchers is on the trail of just such a thing, and that may add a lot to the puzzle. If he comes up aces, I will be sure to report it here, but for now we have to just consider that it may have been a possibility.

It's plausible that the Santa Monica show with Timothy Leary was just another paid booking for the Grateful Dead, at a time when they needed it. If they were in Los Angeles to play more than one show, then maybe the Leary show hardly weighed on the minds of the band members, so when Leary and the Dead had their "summit meeting" some months later at Millbrook, none of them recalled it.

One of the attractive things about blogging about modern history is that the history is still contemporary. If any readers have any light to shed on this event--a listing, a review, a rumor, a screwy hypothesis--please include it in the Comments or email me.

Update: Commenter and Scholar LightIntoAshes has the scoop:
McNally has a small confirmation of the show with Leary in January, saying that the Dead opened for his lecture, and Danny Rifkin found his slide show "quite gorgeous."

Luckily, we have a longer, more complete account of the evening - it turns out Owsley also attended!
From Greenfield's biography of Leary:
"Six days after the Human Be-In, Tim appeared with the Grateful Dead at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Los Angeles. Owsley Stanley would later recall, 'Somebody played a sitar and Tim did a rave, and then the band played. He was being Guru Tim.'

Tim later described his appearance as 'the highlight of the road tour. Hall jammed. Grateful Dead jammed. The LSD alchemist Owsley was everywhere dispensing his White Lightning pills.' He omitted mentioning the 'little old lady' who threw rotten eggs at him while yelling, 'You ruined my son with your devil drugs!' ...

'Tim did his lecture and people threw packets of hash and LSD and joints and flowers, and an old lady threw some eggs,' Rosemary Woodruff remembered. 'My mother and father were in the audience, and when I asked my mother, "What did you think of Tim's lecture?" she said, "Well, Daddy doesn't like the smell of incense, honey."

'I was backstage listening to Tim while watching Owsley pace and do the monitors. And he said, "Are you sure you guys take acid?" Because Tim was going on and on.'

'Everything he said was very provocative,' Owsley Stanley recalled. '"Fuck authorities. To hell with your parents. Turn on, tune in, drop out. Take acid, don't care about what anyone would say, do as you please.' He scared a lot of people because they thought he was too weird. And he was. He just kind of went around the bend. Everyone was saying, "Look, Tim, you're out of control here. You've got to cool it. You're bringing too much heat on everything. We don't want a lot of attention." But he wouldn't listen.'" (p.303-4)

On p.330, it's also mentioned that founding members of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love went to see Leary at this appearance, though with no extra details.
So apparently there was a sort of 'multi-media' show, and Leary gave some sort of lecture, and then the Dead closed the show. There are many remarkable details embedded within these quotes. For one thing, the Grateful Dead had parted ways with Owsley in August 1966, since his "business interests" were not aligned with the Dead's goal of being successful professional musicians. Nonetheless, they were all still friends, and it sounds like Owsley was the guest soundman for the night ("do the monitors").

The most tantalizing detail is that the the founders of The Brotherhood Of Eternal Love went to see the Dead. Unraveling the double helix of connecting strands between the Dead and the BOEL would practically take a book, and fortunately one is being written right now. So it turns out that not only did the Dead and Tim Leary share the stage in Santa Monica in January 1967, but all sorts of wheels were set in motion for underground America as well.

updateII: Commenter runonguinness has found an eyewitness account, from Rosie McGee's book (in chapter 4)
During that trip to Hollywood, the band was asked to play for one of Timothy Leary’s League for Spiritual Discovery events, held in a Santa Monica auditorium for an audience of several hundred.

Backstage we all ceremoniously dropped acid with Leary and his entourage, taking our time before going out onto the stage that was covered with carpets and decorated with floral arrangements and candles. At first, we all sat cross-legged in a circle and listened as Leary started the evening’s “guided trip” by reading from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, while a slide and light show of eclectic images played on a large screen above him. (The book is a translation of an eighth century text that is traditionally read aloud over the body of a person who has just passed on, in the belief that it will guide them on their journey from death to whatever follows.)

Leary likened the stages of a psychedelic journey to the stages of transition described in that classic book and he spoke at great length. As I started to come on to the acid, my initial impression of Leary from the Be-In was validated—that he was impassioned and sincere, but tedious as hell.

I guess his more formal and serious framework for a psychedelic trip was too rigid for someone who’d so recently participated in the no-holds-barred Acid Tests. As I looked around at the guys in the band and the others who’d come with us, I saw I wasn’t alone in my impatience with Leary.

When he finished the first part of his talk, he asked the band to play, and I don’t recall it being a particularly long set. I do remember that the audience just sat there in their auditorium seats.

The most enjoyable part of the night was coming down from the acid at the beach house of a friend of Bear’s. The entire house was geared toward post-psychedelic comfort and warmth. There were overstuffed chairs and couches throughout the house, upholstered in muted shades of gold, purple and red, and covered with pillows. The lamps were fitted with amber or red bulbs, and candles were everywhere. Light and fragrant incense burned in the living room and the music, alternately classical guitar and Indian sitar pieces, was set at a low volume.

The contrast between the trip itself in a sterile auditorium and that homey re-entry was striking. That night I learned for the first time what a difference environment makes to the quality of a psychedelic experience.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

September 21, 1968 Pacific Recording, San Mateo, CA ("Jam with Vic and David")

Eric Burdon And The Animals on stage at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival on August 11, 1967. (L-R), John Weider (guitar), Vic Briggs (guitar ) and Burdon.
Grateful Dead history is a sprawling beast, and the internet contributes to that sprawl. Mining message boards and Comment threads often turns up all sorts of fascinating information, but the fragmentary nature of the communication makes it hard to gather that knowledge coherently. Patience is a virtue, however, particularly in archaeology, because digging slowly and carefully reveals sights unseen.

Back in 2007, David Lemieux posted a fragment of tape on Dead.net of a jam at Pacific Recording in San Mateo on September 21, 1968. in Fall '68, the Grateful Dead were just beginning the recording of what would become Aoxomoxoa, and Bob Weir and Pigpen were possibly not going on with the band. In 2012, a scant five years later, on a Deadlists post, I found out that there were two other guitar players on one of the tracks. David Lemieux said that they were listed as "David and Vic." We all assumed that the "David" was David Nelson, who had recently admitted that he had been invited to jam with the Dead-minus-Bob Weir around that time. But who was "Vic?" David Gans asked Nelson, who had no idea. There was another problem, too: Gans played the tape for Nelson, who said it wasn't his playing. Never mind who was Vic--who was David?

It's better to be lucky than good. I was pretty sure I knew who Vic was, and I was right. The 'Vic" on the tape was Vic Briggs, who at the time had just left his post as lead guitarist for Eric Burdon And The Animals. Thanks to our extensive history of the second, psychedelic Eric Burdon And The Animals from 1966 to 1968, I was in touch with Briggs, who has an extraordinary memory. Briggs not only confirmed the event, he remembered the other guitarist. This post will discuss the context of the September 21, 1968 jam at Pacific Recording with Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Vic Briggs and David Crosby.

The Grateful Dead, Fall 1968
Somewhere around September of 1968, the Grateful Dead had the infamous meeting in which Bob Weir and Pigpen were either threatened with being fired or actually fired, depending on what version you believe. Garcia and Lesh, apparently, felt that Weir and Pigpen's musical abilities had not grown as quickly as the other four band members, and that maybe the band would be better off without them. Pigpen's opinion was never directly known, but according to McNally, by October Weir basically considered himself fired.

However, the perpetually broke state of the Grateful Dead meant that the band continued to play shows with Weir and Pigpen, since they had no other meaningful source of income. Supposedly, the Dead had signed some contracts that required six musicians to be present, but in any case, Weir and Pigpen still played the late 1968 shows. By the end of the year, Weir seemed to have stepped up his game, and Tom Constanten had mustered out of the Air Force, allowing him to take permanent command of the keyboards. No meeting ever memorialized the changed status--Weir and Pigpen seemed to have simply figured out that they weren't going anywhere. The fact that Garcia, Lesh, Hart and Kreutzmann played occasional gigs at The Matrix as Mickey Hart And The Hartbeats also seemed to have fulfilled their own need to play certain kinds of unstructured music.

However, it's hard not to draw the conclusion that during the Fall '68 period, Garcia and Lesh were at least thinking about other musicians to replace Weir and/or Pigpen, and indeed Tom Constanten did take over the organ slot. Elvin Bishop was not aligned to a group in 1968, and he jammed some with the Hartbeats, and Jerry and Phil must have at least thought about him. David Gans confirmed with David Nelson that Nelson was invited to jam at Pacific Recording without Weir, probably in December, a pretty clear sign that the band hadn't made up it's mind. According to Nelson, the first song they played was "The Eleven," another sign to me that the "jam" was an audition, not just a goof.

Bob Matthews had started working at Pacific Recording in San Mateo in the Summer of '68, assisted by Betty Cantor. Mostly they recorded demos of unsigned song writers, including one session by John Dawson. By Fall, the Dead were ready to start recording their next album. On Friday, September 20, the Dead played Berkeley Community Theater, and on Sunday September 22, 1968, they played the Del Mar Fairgrounds near San Diego. The fact that the Dead not only went to the studio on the intervening Saturday night, but brought in two unaffiliated guitar player friends from out of town seems to be a pretty clear sign that Bob Weir was right to think his status in the band was shaky indeed.


Vic Briggs (in the hat) letting it rip on "Monterey" as Eric Burdon and The Animals play a Berlin television show in 1968

Eric Burdon And The Animals, 1966-1968
Vic Briggs had been one of two lead guitarists in the psychedelic configuration of Eric Burdon And The Animals, which ran from November 1966 through the end of 1968. The Animals had been a hugely popular "British Invasion" band from 1963 through 1966, but on one of their last tours, lead singer Eric Burdon had taken a day off in San Francisco (around August 9, 1966). Burdon experienced that rarest of events, a "warm San Franciscan night," and visited the Fillmore and Avalon, and it changed his music and life. Burdon, still a big star, reconstituted the Animals as a jamming psychedelic blues band.

I will refrain from telling the entire story of the second Animals (though you can read it all here), but guitarist Vic Briggs joined the group in November of 1966. The band's first American tour began in February of 1967. Although fans knew about Burdon from the "old" Animals, the new group's live sound was closer to Quicksilver Messenger Service, but with a dynamic lead singer. Briggs' jazzy approach to the guitar contrasted nicely with the bluesier approach of fellow guitarist John Weider (bassist Danny McCulloch and drummer Barry Jenkins filled out the group). Although live tapes are scarce, all the evidence suggests they were  a tremendous band. To the extent that the Animals sounded like Quicksilver, it was somewhat coincidental, since only Burdon had been to San Franciscos, and the Animals had ended up with their sound by their own path.

Needless to say, Eric Burdon and The Animals were a big hit in San Francisco. On March 26, 1967, the Dead were playing the Avalon, and The Animals--who at the time were much bigger stars--dropped by the show and played some songs as a guest act. This was where Vic Briggs first met the Dead. The Animals also played the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967. The band was very popular, and hugely popular in San Francisco. Although Burdon's lyrics sound dated now, the group had big hits, with "When I Was Young," "San Franciscan Nights, " "Monterey" and "Sky Pilot." Briggs took the swinging electric sitar solo on "Monterey," which he played on guitar when the band played live.

The second Animals had a great run, but they were beset by management and financial issues, and Eric Burdon could be a difficult bandleader. Briggs left the group in July 1968, on fairly amicable terms. Even though the entire band had relocated to Los Angeles, the Animals' guitar post was turned over to another old English pal, Andy Somers, today better known as Andy Summers, and famous as one-third of The Police. Eric Burdon And The Animals soldiered on until the end of 1968, while Briggs chose to become an independent producer in Los Angeles. When the Grateful Dead invited Briggs up to the Bay Area to jam in September 1968, Briggs was unaffiliated with any group.

David Crosby, Fall 1968
David Crosby's story is known to most rock fans, so I won't detail it. The famous party at Joni Mitchell's house where Graham Nash sang a third harmony part for Crosby and Stephen Stills (on the song "You Don't Have To Cry") took place in July 1968. By August 1968, Nash had left The Hollies and soon relocated to Los Angeles. By September 1968, Crosby, Stills and Nash were working together and plotting world domination. However, from the point of view of the Grateful Dead, who were long-standing friends, Crosby was another guy without a band. He had left The Byrds at the end of 1967, and had hardly recorded or performed since. Even if the Dead knew about Crosby's collaborators, it would hardly have seemed set in stone yet.

It's hard not to draw the conclusion that the Dead, or at least Garcia and Lesh, were shopping for new bandmembers. There had been a meeting where Weir and Pigpen were at least threatened with being fired, even if it was financially unviable, and the Dead were about to record their third album. Why invite two guitarists from Los Angeles up to the Bay Area, if the Dead weren't at least considering their options?

The 1969 Capitol/EMI album Wings Of A Man, by former Animals bassist Danny McCulloch, produced by Vic Briggs
Antion Meredith (Vic Briggs)
Fortunately, as a result of having worked extensively on the history of Eric Burdon And The Animals, I had been in touch with Vic Briggs. In this century, Briggs uses the name Antion Meredith and lives in New Zealand. The Vic Briggs story of being a musician in the 60s is a great one, but his life is, if anything, even more interesting after that, but you'll have to read about it yourself (and it's well worth the time).

Fortunately, Antion's memory is spectacularly good and his stories are always engaging, making him an ideal contact for a rock prosopographer. Thanks to the miracle of email, I found out quickly that I was right--Vic Briggs was the guest jammer.

(personal email from me to Antion Meredith)
It seems there is a tape in the Grateful Dead vault dated September 21, 1968 (a Saturday), and the tape is marked "jam with David and Vic." At the time, the Dead were thinking of firing Bob Weir and Pigpen (band politics) and fooling around with others. The 'David' was future NRPS guitarist and old Garcia pal David Nelson. However, other people, including the Dead's archivist [David Lemieux] said "I have no idea who the 'Vic' might be." Well, hey, I've got an idea who the Vic might have been...

Any chance you skipped out to Pacific Recording in San Mateo (near SF) in September '68 to jam with Garcia and the boys (not Weir) on "The Eleven" and other difficult stuff? Any chance they offered you the gig?

(personal email from Antion Meredith to me)
Lot of energy around this week.  On Tuesday I did an interview on
national TV here in NZ:
http://www.3news.co.nz/A-story-of-love-yoga-and-vampires/tabid/372/articleID/251728/Default.aspx

And today this print interview hit the internet:
http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/north-shore-times/6808993/Singing-to-a-new-tune

And now you write to me about that jam session.  I’m going to to tell you as much as I can remember about it.  For some reason I have barely talked to anyone about it in the last 45 years; probably because no one ever asked me.

We first met the Dead at that one off gig we did at the Avalon Ballroom in April of 1967 [sic-March 26, 1967].    I really hit it off with Bill Kruetzman and Phil Lesh who were sharing an apartment with their ladies in Haight-Ashbury a few blocks from the Dead House. (This meant that they never got busted along with the rest of the Dead when the cops raided the Dead House, but that’s another story).

After the Monterey Festival I went to stay with them when we played the Fillmore [June 27-July 2, 1967].  I flew back to LA for us to play the Whiskey [July 6-8] and then John Weider and I flew back to SFO to spend two weeks just hanging in the land of Hippiedom.  This was all in 1967.

Later, in the fall [October 19-21], we were back in the Bay Area.  I stayed with Bill and Phil again.  I also met Mickey for the first time.  He had joined the band since I had last been there.

I cannot remember how it came about but yes, I did find myself down at the San Mateo studios with Jerry and we played together.  I cannot remember who else played except for one person and this may surprise you.  If indeed this was the same tape (there may be a problem with dates, as I’ll explain in a minute), the David referred to is none other than David Crosby.

That’s right, one and the same, of the Byrds and later Crosby, Stills and Nash.  I have no idea what David was doing there but I am 100% certain he was there.  He didn’t play any lead, he left that to Jerry and me.  I do not remember who played bass, drums or anything else.

This was the only time that Jerry and I played together.  In retrospect I don’t remember why I never jammed with the Dead. I was around for some of their rehearsals at the Marin Heliport during the summer of 67 but I do not recall ever jamming with them except on this one occasion.  And, as I said, I can’t even remember if any more of them were there playing with Jerry, David and I.

A friend of mine who was also close to Jerry once asked him about me and my playing.  Jerry said to him “You know, I’ll tell you one thing about Vic.  When we played together, everywhere I went, there he was, right there with me.”

I certainly took this as a compliment because, in those days, there were not many guitarists’ who could keep up with Jerry.

That’s as much as I remember.  Now, here’s the problem.  Looking at your site and the dates on it, I would say that this event happened on Saturday October 21st 1967.

I remember a couple of days after we finished our Fillmore gig [October 19-21, 1967], flying to LA with Mickey Hart.  The Dead were heading for LA, I think to record.  That was when they rented that big mansion house which later became notorious.  It is shown in Lisa Law’s Flashing on the Sixties book [note: Pacific Recording was not open in 1967, so the date has to be September 1968, not October 1967].

I’m not 100% certain and my mind was starting to get pretty addled at the time, so it is quite possible that I confused this with 1968.  In October of 68 I was by then an independent producer/arranger in LA and it is certainly possible that I was up in the Bay Area for a visit.

Anyway, here’s what I know for sure.
  • I jammed with Jerry at the San Mateo studio.
  • David Crosby was there, also playing.
  • It was a Saturday (I have this funny talent for remembering the energy
    of different days of the week and associating them with events that
    happened on that day). So it may be that my memory is off and this actually happened in 1968.
  • However, no one ever said anything to me about maybe joining the Dead.
One day I’ll tell you how Jerry and I met up again at Bill Walton’s house in San Diego in 1989 and how I was inspired to buy the first guitar I had owned since 1970.
September 21, 1968
Although Vic Briggs was our only eyewitness to the September 21, 1968 jam, there was nothing casual about the event. The Grateful Dead had gigs on a Friday and a Sunday, and the Sunday gig was out of town, and yet they invited two friends over for a jam, with two other players missing. Both of the players were Los Angeles musicians, too. Now, it's possible that both of them had reasons to be in town, which Vic alludes to, but it still had to be planned and organized.

Pacific Recording is in San Mateo, on the South Bay Peninsula, between Palo Alto and San Francisco. It's not near anything, and LA rock musicians do not "hang out" in San Mateo. The Dead themselves were based in Novato at this time, an hour to the North, so it wasn't really convenient for them, either. I would note, however, that San Mateo was only a few minutes from San Francisco Airport, so if either of their guests were flying into or out of SFO, Pacific Recording would have been extremely convenient.

Maybe it was just for fun. Maybe the players were in town, and Garcia and the Hartbeats were having a jam without Weir and Pig, and invited them over. No one asked Vic to join the band, so at the most any plans were somewhat unspoken. Still, it happened. Members of the Grateful Dead invited some guitar player friends to the studio and the thought of another version of the Grateful Dead had to at least have crossed Jerry's mind, if not Phil's. We are fortunate to have the very slightest trace as to what they might have been thinking, just for the evening of September 21, 1968.






Thursday, April 3, 2014

March 18, 1973 Felt Forum, New York, NY: New Riders Of The Purple Sage & Special Friends (FM VI and 1/2)

The Village Voice ad from February 15, 1973 for the March 18 NRPS show at the Felt Forum
(this is a modified version of an earlier post)

On March 18, 1973, the New Riders Of The Purple Sage played The Felt Forum, the auditorium in the basement of Madison Square Garden. The show was broadcast in its entirety on WNEW-fm, New York City's leading rock station. Besides being a fine broadcast of the New Riders in their prime, the show featured numerous special guests. Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Donna Godchaux helped out on vocals on different songs, Jerry Garcia played electric guitar and banjo on a few numbers, Bob Weir sang a couple, and Keith Godchaux played grand piano for much of the show. The most memorable part of the performance, however, was when Garcia, Weir and Godchaux joined the New Riders and began the second set with a trio of gospel numbers: "Cold Jordan", "I Hear A Voice Calling" and "Swing Low". Garcia played banjo and Weir played acoustic guitar, the only instance of the two playing acoustic together on the East Coast between 1970 and 1980.

The Grateful Dead were playing three nights at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale in Long Island, but for whatever reasons (probably the New York Islanders) they were booked for March 15, 16 and 19 (Thursday, Friday and Monday), so they had the Sunday night off to hang out with the New Riders. It's remarkable enough that the Dead guested on a radio broadcast, but thanks to the great Its All The Streets You Crossed blog, we can now see that the Grateful Dead were all but advertised in the Village Voice. The ad above is from the February 22, 1973 edition of the Voice, a full month before the show, and the ad says "New Riders Of The Purple Sage & Special Friends." The message would be unmistakable: in 70s rock talk, "Special Guests" would have meant 'opening act who hasn't been booked yet', but "Special Friends" would imply extra people on stage. It wouldn't take a genius to note the Dead's performance dates on Long Island and see that they had the night off.

There were plenty of live FM performances in the 1970s, but relatively few of them featured guests, as the record company was paying for the band to be on the air. The economics of 70s FM broadcasts depended on some entity, usually a record company, buying up the ad time that was "lost" during the time the band was playing live on the air without commercials. Generally speaking, if a record company paid for their band to be broadcast live on FM radio, they did not want their sponsored act upstaged by friends, however talented, when the purpose of the financial subvention was to promote the company's act. Columbia Records, the New Riders label, would have paid good money to make sure that the New Riders were broadcast live for some hours on the biggest New York rock station. As a practical matter, I suspect that Columbia agreed to purchase a substantial number of ads through the month of March, rather than laid out cash per se, but the net effect would have been the same.

In the case of the Dead, however, since they were bigger than the New Riders and had a unique relationship to them, Columbia would have been ecstatic to have the Dead join the New Riders on the FM broadcast throughout the entire Tri-State area. For the Dead, the significant factor here was that by Spring 1973 they had left Warner Brothers and were working for themselves, so they didn't have to concern themselves with whether their own record company "approved" of them appearing with their friends. In early 1973, Grateful Dead co-manager Jon McIntire (reputedly "Uncle John" himself) was the manager for the New Riders Of The Purple Sage. Both the Dead and the New Riders were booked by Out Of Town Tours, Sam Cutler's agency, so coordination would have been easy.

In fact, as an indication of the clout of the Dead in this context, not only were the New Riders broadcast in their entirety, but the set of opening act Ramblin' Jack Elliott was broadcast as well. At the time, Elliott, though a legend, did not have a label and had not released an album in three years (his last album had been released in 1970 on Reprise). However, Elliott was also booked by Sam Cutler, and clearly the presence of Jerry Garcia was enough to induce Columbia to subsidize the broadcast of Ramblin' Jack's set as well as that of the Riders.

However, since the Dead were performing elsewhere, their contract with the Nassau promoter, whom I believe was Bill Graham, would have prevented them from being mentioned by name. Also, since the name "Grateful Dead" was not formally invoked, the band members could show up and perform on whichever or whatever songs they felt like. Knowing what we know today, Garcia must have had his banjo with him because he was probably practicing constantly, trying to get up to speed for Old And In The Way, which had just begun to play in the Bay Area. It's a great touch that he used it to perform with the Riders--I think March 18, 1973 was almost the only time he played banjo on stage with them (Garcia did play banjo briefly at a unique show at The Matrix on July 7, 1970). Besides the mini-acoustic set, Garcia played banjo on "Henry" as well as electric guitar on "Glendale Train," obviously just having the kind of fun he couldn't have if the marquee had said "tonight: NRPS with Jerry Garcia."
The Village Voice ad from February 15, 1973 for upcoming Capitol Theater shows
Pity poor John Scher. In New York at the time, Ron Delsener promoted shows North of the Hudson River (New York City proper) and John Scher generally promoted shows South of it (in New Jersey). Scher's principal venue was the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ. Scher had booked the New Riders at the Capitol for Friday, March 23, 1973, five days after the Felt Forum show. The New York City (Tri-State) metro area is so large that the Passaic show would have drawn a different crowd than the Felt Forum show, even though they were only 20 miles away from each other.

The Grateful Dead had been booked for March 15, 16 and 19 at the Nassau Coliseum. Their scheduled opening act was their Marin County compatriots The Sons Of Champlin, who had recently released an album on Columbia as well (the great Welcome To The Dance). However, after the first night, the Sons found out that the entire family of bassist David Schallock had been murdered, in a terrible tragedy. The Sons all rushed home. Who filled in as the Dead's opening act? Well, apparently the New Riders played with the Dead the other two nights (there's even a tape of March 19).

However, with the Dead having made a surprise guest appearance at the Felt Forum show, and the Riders opening for the Dead, the buzz would have been in the air, so everybody in New Jersey must have assumed that the Dead were going to drop in at Passaic, too. Never mind if that's a rational judgment: I guarantee you everybody standing in line for the show that night had heard about New York (probably in a greatly exaggerated fashion) and was fully expecting Jerry and the boys to make an appearance. Anyone on the Deadheads mailing list could have seen that the Dead were booked for Utica on March 22 and the Spectrum March 24, so it would have seemed perfectly plausible.

The 1973 New Riders were a great live band, and I'm sure they put on a terrific show at the Capitol, but the audience was probably still let down. It must have been tough for the Riders to rock through their best songs while a crowd of Jersey Deadheads (plus some Philadelphia lunatics, of course) shouted "Jerrrry!"

Thursday, March 6, 2014

April 17, 1971, Dillon Gym, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ


The ad for the Dillon Gym show, in The Princetonian student newspaper of February 22, 1971. This appears to have been the only publicity for the show, which seems to have sold out instantly.
On Saturday, April 17, 1971, the Grateful Dead played a show in Dillon Gym at Princeton University. Beyond the enjoyment of the packed house, the show has become legendary in Grateful Dead circles because, for whatever reasons, a crisp board tape circulated as far back as the early 1980s. Although the band had had some rocky moments when Mickey Hart left the band in February, by April the Dead were firing on all cylinders. For listeners a decade later, the Princeton show was an expansion of the "Skull & Roses" album, with the Dead playing a striking cross section of American music along with their own original material. Dead fans have been enjoying the Princeton tape ever since, complete with epic Pigpen raps in a 27-minute "Good Lovin'" and a 16-minute "Turn On Your Lovelight." The Princeton show was celebrated at great length in the Tapers Compendium, and it may be one of the best-known Dead tapes ever.

Yet for all of the high profile of the Princeton tape, the context of the show at Dillon Gym has become obscured. 1971 was a different universe, and the micro-universe of Princeton University itself was an even more distant land. Part of what made the Princeton show so special was the insulated nature of the show, a show financed by the University exclusively for its own students, a financial arrangement that would be unheard of today. At the same time, the students chose a happening Fillmore East headliner from the opposite side of the country, an opportunity only made possible by the fact that the rock concert market in New Jersey was not fully formed yet. This post will take a look at the Grateful Dead concert at Dillon Gym on April 17, 1971, and focus on what made the concert a unique event that could not be duplicated.

An announcement from the Friday, April 16, 1971 Princetonian, promoting the Princeton FREE Weekend. The fine print notes that the Grateful Dead show is, in fact, not free
Princeton University
Princeton University was founded in 1746 as the College of New Jersey, and it has been located in Princeton itself since 1756. It was just the fourth Chartered Institution of Higher Education in the American colonies. The University took the name Princeton University in 1896, and it is rightly regarded as one of America's finest undergraduate and graduate institutions. As an Ivy League school, Princeton students are always top-of-the-line. Of course, smart and accomplished as most Princeton students have always been, at least some of the undergraduates have always been at the school because of the wealth and prestige of their families, but that has always been a part of the Ivy League. Princeton, as the southernmost of the Ivies, has always had an historic connection to the South, so the school had a 20th century reputation as somewhat conservative.

The Borough of Princeton had been built up around Princeton University. Nassau Street was the main street of the Borough (now city) of Princeton as well as the front entrance to Princeton University. While in one sense Princeton is a college town, in another way it has a relaxed, wealthy feel that is quite different than your typical State University main strip. At the same time, Princeton is far more interesting than the usual moneyed enclave. Over the last few decades, and perhaps longer, former or current residents of Palo Alto have found Princeton eerily familiar, even if they have never set foot in the town before. The peculiar ways in which Palo Alto seems to be a younger, Western doppleganger for Princeton are too arcane to go into here, but suffice to say it is not a surprise to this former Palo Altan that the Grateful Dead's one show in Princeton was a stunning success.

The 1971 College Student
Undergraduates in 1971 would generally have been born between1949 and 1953. They would mostly have been in junior high when Beatlemania hit, so they mostly loved rock music. However, for the first explosion of live psychedelic rock, from 1967 onwards, they mostly would have had to wish and wonder. The original Fillmore scene, and similar scenes in places like Boston and Manhattan, were small and underground, and confined to bohemian enclaves in inner cities. Not many high school students were near enough to a Fillmore or a Boston Tea Party, and fewer still had a way to get there, with or without the permission of their parents.

However, when those 60s teenagers got to college, they were ready, ready, ready to rock and roll. They had read about all night debauchery and ear-splitting music--what was college if not a chance to experience that? In the 1960s, colleges still had entertainment budgets to provide extracurricular fun for their resident students. Sometimes this had comical results, like the time Jose Feliciano headlined the Ohio University Junior Prom, along with opener Led Zeppelin (yes, this really happened--May 19, 1969). By the time 1970 rolled around, however, the "entertainment committee" at most colleges had some serious rockers on it who tried to make sure that the best available bands came through. Booking agents caught on to this dynamic, too, and the Fillmore bands who were still together started playing more shows at colleges.

The Grateful Dead had been playing college bookings pretty steadily since 1969. To your typical college student, circa 1971, the Grateful Dead were the Real Deal. The Dead had been infamous since the Fillmore days, and were well-known to have "played all night" many a time. With two recent albums that featured hummable tunes, and getting airplay on FM stations, it wouldn't be hard for the long-hairs on the entertainment committee to to get the middle-of-the-roaders onboard. Since most colleges had entertainment budgets, a school like Princeton could afford the Grateful Dead's fee (around $10,000), because they weren't exclusively dependent on ticket sales. So for the students at Princeton, all future leaders of government and industry, a visit by one of the most infamous bands from the 1960s had to be very desirable indeed.

Princeton, conservative as it was, had been forcibly inducted into the 60s. Apparently, the first African-American students had been admitted to Princeton only in 1964. More dramatically, a court case in 1967 had forced Princeton to admit women. The very first women admitted as permanent students at Princeton were freshman in 1969, although apparently many of the first women at Princeton were actually transfers. Note that the show as advertised above was presented "in cooperation with the Classes of 1972, 1973 and 1974." Those three classes, who would have been Juniors, Sophomores and Freshmen in the Spring of 1971, were the first Princeton classes to have admitted women. Pigpen's admonitions during his legendary "Lovelight" rap may have been valuable advice for some of the more sheltered Princeton undergraduates.

The Flying Burrito Brothers (with Rick Roberts having replaced Gram Parsons) were playing Alexander Hall on April 22, the Thursday night after the Dead show.
The Northern New Jersey Rock Market, 1971 (ca. 01 BSE: Before Scher Era)
Up until the middle of 1971, the most important figure in the New Jersey rock concert market was Bill Graham, even though he had never promoted a concert in New Jersey. Once Graham introduced the Fillmore East, on March 8, 1968, he became a central figure in the East Coast rock market. Playing the Fillmore East could make or break a known or unknown band, so playing there was not only profitable but a mark of prestige, as well. The Friday night early show at Fillmore East was almost always reviewed in the Village Voice, Billboard, Cashbox and other periodicals, so a good showing had significant consequences.

Bands contracted to play the Fillmore East had a standard clause where they could not play an advertised show within 20 days and 50 miles of the Fillmore East date. Some of the details may have varied, and it may have been applied differently to opening acts, but headline acts had to fear the very-real wrath of Bill Graham. Graham, naturally, was hip to the idea that a band could play a free concert or unannounced club show in Manhattan, and create some very good buzz for a Fillmore East show, but he was not going to let another promoter take away the Fillmore East's hold on the hippest touring rock bands. Much of the teenage population of New Jersey was in the North, less than 50 miles from Fillmore East, and as a result, the most populous part of New Jersey in the late 60s and early 70s was a no-fly zone for headline rock acts. Jersey rock fans had to go to either Manhattan or Philadelphia for their rock fix.

The actual members of the bands may have only been vaguely aware of the restrictions of their contracts, if at all. However, their management, booking agents and record companies were acutely aware of it. The band members of the Grateful Dead might have thought it was funny to poke Bill Graham in the eye, but it would not have been funny to Warner Brothers or their booking agent. Graham's ability to enforce his contract did not rest on his legal standing--although I'm sure Bill had a sharp attorney--but on the very real threat that anyone who crossed him would find that their other bands were not booked at the Fillmore East.

An effective exception to the Fillmore East rule (which was probably shared by every other major promoter in Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and elsewhere) were student concerts at colleges. Even community colleges had entertainment budgets in those days, so bands like the Grateful Dead could play paying gigs at what were effectively student dances without violating any contracts. For example, I have confirmed that they played a Sunday night dance at the Edison County Community College in Edison, NJ, on Sunday November 22, 1970. The only "advertising" was a few mimeographed flyers (none yet recovered) posted around the school. So the Grateful Dead and other bands played a fair number of shows at New Jersey colleges, but those events were hardly known outside their schools. When the Fillmore East closed, the door in New Jersey opened for John Scher and others to promote shows, but up until the middle of 1971, live rock bands in New Jersey seemed largely to have been confined to colleges.

Rock At Princeton, 1970-71
Princeton was no junior college, so there was plenty of student entertainment. There was a professional theater company housed on campus, called McCarter Theater. McCarter Theater also acted as promoter for rock concerts on campus, whether or not the events were presented at the McCarter Theater itself. Reviewing The Princetonian newspaper for the 70-71 Academic year, I found quite a few campus rock shows:
October 3, 1970, McCarter Theater: Van Morrison
October 17, 1970, Dillon Gym: James Taylor (moved from Alexander Hall)
November 14, 1970, Alexander Hall: Miles Davis
November 21, 1970, Alexander Hall: Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
February 20, 1971, McCarter Theater: Tom Rush
March 12, 1971, Alexander Hall: Delaney & Bonnie & Friends (rescheduled from Nov 21 '70)
April 16-18, 1971: Princeton FREE Weekend
April 16: Palmer [Football] Stadium: Free Admission, Free Beer, Free Music
April 17: Dillon Gym: Grateful Dead/New Riders Of The Purple Sage
April 18: The Old New Quad: Mini Motherball Festival, Free Music
April 22, 1971 Alexander Hall: Flying Burrito Brothers
April 26, 1971 Alexander Hall: Cat Stevens
May 1, 1971 Alexander Hall: Kate Taylor
May 15, 1971 McCarter Theater: Incredible String Band
The McCarter Theater seated several hundred, and Alexander Hall seated about 1,100. Dillon Gym was the old gym, built in 1949, with a concert capacity of about 3,200. Bill Bradley, Princeton's best player ever, had played in Dillon, but in 1969 the University had opened the 5,000-capacity Jadwin Gym, so Dillon was relegated to campus uses. Dillon was used for bigger acts, like James Taylor, and particularly for acts that were perhaps too robust for venerable Alexander, built in 1892. However, Dillon  Gym still used folding chairs on the floor, rather than open seating.

There had been a surprisingly robust tradition of cool music at Princeton (as documented in the Princeton Alumni Weekly).  Generally, folk acts usually played McCarter Theater, and rock acts or larger folk acts played Alexander, but bands like the Dead played Dillon Gym. Relatively few acts played Dillon: James Taylor was so popular in 1971 that he was uprgraded to Dillon, and Poco played there in 1972. There was an apparently unique two night stand by Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention on April 27-28, 1973 (what nights those must have been--RIP, George Duke), which somewhat confirms my suspicion that Dillon Gym was considered a more suitable venue for bands with members named things like "Pigpen" and "Motorhead." According to the Alumni Weekly, acts like Bruce Springsteen, The Yes and Genesis also played Princeton in the early 70s.


Life in Princeton, ca '71. Want ads from the April 16 Princetonian have everything you need: stable your horse, buy an MGB-GT, get Dead tickets from Bob, a water bed, give Kevin a ride to Bennington, a tuxedo and a turntable. Which of these would you remember today?
April 17. 1971, Dillon Gym, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ: The Grateful Dead
Let's set the scene. It's Saturday night, April 17, 1971, at Princeton University. It's Spring, now, and about 20% of the student body are real, live women. There's a weekend event with free beer--my college never had free beer--and local bands, and a Fillmore East headline act is playing on campus. No need to take the Dinky train to Penn Station, because the real deal is coming to the little gym next to your dorm.

The old Tapers Compendium has a detailed description of the event from the campus point of view, thoroughly researched by Nicholas Meriwether. Princeton undergraduates have a strange tradition of "eating clubs," kind of like fraternities, only, apparently, not, but suffice to say every Eating Club was revved up for this Saturday night. Somewhat buttoned down Princeton was jumping on to a rocket ship to the end of the 20th century, and all the future leaders of industry and government were hopping on board. Everyone whose parents wouldn't let them to go to Fillmore East, or who couldn't sneak out of Prep School? No matter--the Grateful Dead were coming to Princeton.

Some Deadheads don't find the 1971 Grateful Dead to be as memorable as either the primal 69-70 music that preceded it, or the ethereal 72-74 configuration that followed, and generally I am inclined to agree. However, for converting 1971 college students, the 1971 model of the Grateful Dead couldn't have been better. With some known songs from Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, and some crispy soul, rock and country covers, the Dead were accessible to the average rock fan. With only four real players--Pigpen's organ only joined in occasionally--even the serious space was somewhat more comprehensible to the uninitiated. With a dose of professionalism and some Pigpen charisma, the 1971 college tour made Deadheads for life. People went to college to discover the wide world, and when the Grateful Dead brought the wide world to them--at Franklin and Marshall, or Bucknell, or Allegheny College, or Princeton or SUNY Cortland--people jumped on the bus with both feet.

The Princeton Alumni Weekly has a special memory of the Dead's show
The Grateful Dead’s invasion of Dillon on April 17, 1971 — Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang in tow — is famous among devotees for a quintessential performance of “Good Lovin’ ” by band member Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, then suffering from what would be fatal cirrhosis. “The concert was expensive, $10,000,” says [McCarter Director Bill] Lockwood, a faithful Deadhead who treasures a cassette recording he made that night.
The band played until “well past midnight,” Lock­wood recalls, and “a substantial part of the audience, which was all students, was stoned out of their minds.” Concertgoers passed ­marijuana joints down the rows of seats, he says. According to legend, when a Princeton proctor demanded that ­shaggy singer Jerry Garcia extinguish his joint, Garcia snarled, “I’ll never play here again.” He never did.
The story about Garcia and the Proctor (essentially a campus cop) always gets repeated. The truth of the matter is that the Grateful Dead would never again be small enough to play a 3200 seat gym  in Northern New Jersey. Ironically, once the Fillmore East closed, New Jersey became open territory. John Scher started promoting very successful Grateful Dead concerts at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, and the Dead played no more campus concerts in the state, for the very reason that New Jersey became one of the largest and most fervent Deadhead strongholds in the country, and any campus gym would have been overrun.

A clip from the Newsday article of April 8. 1971, announcing the cancellation of the scheduled Grateful Dead show at Hofstra University in Long Island on April 19, 1971, when 4500 out of 5000 tickets had been sold
The "Lost" Hofstra Concert, Monday, April 19, 1971
The uninitiated may wonder whether my fixation on advertising restrictions from the Fillmore East affected concerts in New Jersey. However, a fellow researcher sent me an article from the Long Island paper Newsday, on April 8, 1971 (clipped above), explaining how a scheduled Grateful Dead concert at the Hofstra Gym on Monday April 19, was abruptly canceled. The article begins
Since last Thursday was April 1, nobody at the Hofstra University Student Center took it seriously when someone called to say that The Grateful Dead was cancelling out of a scheduled April 19 concert at the school. "It was April Fool's Day," David Gould, student center director said yesterday. "At first we thought it was a joke."
Some joke.
Among the less humorous aspects were about 4,500 tickets that had already been sold at $4 and $5 for the concert, which was to be held in the 5,000 seat Physical Fitness Gymnasium because the Grateful Dead is a very popular rock group. 
At Hofstra, The Grateful Dead has lost much of its popularity in a very short time. A telegram followed the call, and since it was not April Fool's Day when the telegram arrived, reality dawned. Despite confirmation of the concert date on March 3, The Grateful Dead would not show up. The inevitable hectic scene of students lining up for refunds was the immediate result at the Hempstead campus yesterday.
The rest of the article, along with some background information about the band and comments from students, has some surprisingly vague quotes from Grateful Dead representatives.
Ron Rainey, who books the Grateful Dead for the International Famous Agency in New York, didn't help settle anybody's stomach with his explanation of the cancellation. "I don't really want to go into it in great detail," he said. But he did indicate the rock group "didn't want to be overexpose itself in the New York area." As for the group, Rainey said they were en route to Boston and he did not know how to reach them.
Then again, maybe it wasn't so much overexposure as overbooking that caused the washout. So opted Rock Scully, co-manager of the rock group, who was found at Fillmore East. Said Scully, "we get our contracts from both coasts and they don't catch up to us for an okay in time, sometimes. Our agent is often overenthusiastic in making bookings." He added, "it looked like a way-too-crowded itinerary."
As the blank tone of the Newsday writer suggests, neither Rainey nor Scully had convincing explanations, and indeed I believe they were merely intended to save face. According to Google Maps, Hofstra University is 28.5 miles from the Fillmore East. Regardless of what the exact contractual restriction of the Fillmore East, there was no way that Bill Graham was letting that stand. Long Island was a big market for the Fillmore East, since the Long Island Railroad and the Subway could take teenagers straight into the Fillmore East (the N, R, 6 and L were nearest). If Hofstra had sold out immediately, that might have been one thing, but since there were available tickets, Hostra could cut into the Fillmore East's box office.

Now, Graham was no naif, and probably knew perfectly well that the same people who bought the final tickets at Hofstra were probably going to most of the nights at Fillmore East anyway. Nonetheless, even though Graham was privately already planning to close the Fillmores, he had months more of shows to get through, and he wasn't going to let other promoters think they could horn in on his territory. Shutting down a nearly sold-out Grateful Dead concert was a clear warning blast to other promoters--cross Bill at your peril. Rock Scully and the booking agent were forced to make some token explanation that no one believed, but both needed Graham as much as anyone, and certainly the Dead had signed the original contract with Fillmore East.

Really, it's too bad. The Grateful Dead were rocking hard in the Spring of '71, and they were young and strong. What else were they doing on that Monday night? The night after Princeton, the Dead had played SUNY Cortland, 216 miles to the North of Fillmore East. What do you think they did next? I think they came back to Manhattan and hung out, and Garcia probably just practiced guitar all night. They would have had way more fun in front of 5000 rockin' Long Islanders, and who knows what Pigpen would have come up with. But business was business, and the Dead's contract with Graham mandated no Hofstra show two nights before a lengthy Fillmore East run.

Coda: Princeton Rocked (In It's Day)
Dillon Gym was just about exactly 50 miles from the Fillmore East, and with only one ad in the student paper and an instant sellout, Bill Graham had no reason to interfere with the Dead concert. This geographic constraint must surely have helped Princeton throughout the 70s, because even though Graham retreated to the West Coast, every other promoter must have had similar restrictions for their headline bookings. But Princeton seems to have been safely isolated from both Manhattan and Philadelphia, so the McCarter Theater was free to book shows. A search of the Princetonian reveals a lot of good shows in the early 70s. Just look at the Spring of '72
  • March 4 McCarter Theater: J Geils Band/Billy Joel (Peter Wolf must have melted the joint)
  • April 1 McCarter Theater: Mahavishnu Orchestra/John Prine (there's a double bill)
  • April 15 Alexander Hall: Curtis Mayfield (people, get ready)
  • April 24 Alexander Hall: New Riders Of The Purple Sage (I'll bet they smoked joints)
  • April 29 Alexander Hall: Mark Almond (these guys were great, if now largely forgotten)
  • May 5 Dillon Gym: Poco (another great live band)
  • May 14 McCarter Theater: Dave Mason (only you know and I know)
The fine shows continued throughout the first half of the early 70s. Since rock was expanding, there were a lot of touring bands, so a Princeton show was welcome on an off-night, even if the gigs were tiny. Frank Zappa did two shows at Dillon (April 27-28 '73), and Bruce Springsteen played an early and a late show at Alexander Hall (December 10, 1974).

By the late 70s, however, the rock market was just too big for tiny Princeton. For one thing, John Scher was booking a lot of shows at the Capitol Theater in relatively nearby Passaic, and he had a lot of clout, insuring that he kept the best bands. On top of that, the sort of acts that would have played McCarter or Alexander in the past were now commanding fees that required them to play Jadwin Gym. The Talking Heads and Bruce Springsteen played Jadwin Gym in the same week in 1978, and Bruce, of course, rocked the joint--whatever others may say, Mercer County is still part of New Jersey--but Jadwin paid a price. The whole crowd danced to Bruce while standing on folding chairs in the gym, and it created a $15000 repair bill. Although there were a few more concerts over the years, with The Kinks and 10,000 Maniacs and a few others, Princeton was priced out of the rock market. Bands still came to Princeton on occasion, but it was no longer a regular tour stop.

I'm sure that 70s graduates of Princeton all have their memorable rock moments, but it's hard not to see the Grateful Dead show as the day when uptight Princeton got down, whether anybody was ready for it or not. The Grateful Dead never came back, not because a Proctor made Jerry put out his joint--the Riders would not have turned up the next year if that were the case--but because the world where the Dead could play a sleepy little gym was just about to disappear, and the Princetonians who went were lucky enough to catch the bus before it got on the superhighway.