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.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

September 2, 1966, Ayn and Lyn Mattel Debutante Ball, La Dolphine Mansion, 1760 Manor Drive, Hillsborough, CA: The Grateful Dead/Al Trobe

Joan White's San Francisco Examiner Society column from Monday, September 5, 1966, celebrating a debutante ball on the previous Friday featuring the Grateful Dead at a mansion in the wealthy South Bay town of Hillsborough
People such as myself who have regularly analyzed the historic lists of Grateful Dead concert appearances have been aware of the band playing at a debutante ball in exclusive Hillsborough on Friday, September 2, 1966. Like many people, I had generally assumed this to be Bob Weir's sister's debutante ball. However, Eric of LoneStarDeadRadio recently sent me the newspaper source for the information, and it tells a somewhat different story. It's still true, though: the Grateful Dead, then known as scary long-haired, drug-addled outlaws, played a high society ball for the most eligible of young ladies, at perhaps the biggest mansion in the toniest town in the Bay Area.

Debutante Balls and High Society in the United States
Before we get down to the serious business of Grateful Dead performances, a word about debutante balls is in order. For some centuries in France and England, young women of the upper classes made their "debut" amongst their peers when they were eligible to marry (as Jane Austen put it, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife"). They were presented to eligible young men in a series of parties and dances, and formally speaking their "debut" was when they were presented to royalty. Wealthy Americans adopted similar traditions, although obviously without the presentation to Royalty. At least until the 1960s, most major metropolitan areas had a system of parties and events that led to a formal "cotillion" where eligible young women from usually wealthy families were formally presented as part of adult society.

The parents of these debutantes had usually spent significant money on parties and dances leading up to the major event, although there was no formal structure. The young women were known as "debutantes," and were often local celebrities in their own right. Such events were written up in the  local papers. The major papers in the Bay Area all had "society columnists:" the infamous Patsy Lou Montandon was the San Francisco Chronicle's society columnist (her immortal 1968 book How To Be A Party Girl is a true camp classic), and Joan White was the SF Examiner columnist. Appearing in the society column in effect made a young woman part of the upper class, whether or not that was a true representation of the family's income.

A photo from the September 5, 1966 San Francisco Examiner. The caption reads "Bob Weir of "The Grateful Dead" wails away at ball which was also attended by his deb sister, Wendy Weir."
Joan White's Column in the San Francisco Examiner, Monday, September 5, 1966
For those of you who can't expand the screen easily, here are the key parts of the article (up top):
Brilliant Deb Ball In A Bay Chateau
Debs Danced To Rock 'n' Roll Beat
by Joan White, Examiner Society Editor
La Dolphine, the beautiful Hillsborough mansion that has been silent and unoccupied off and on since it was built before World War 1, burst into brilliant life with a rock 'n' roll beat Friday night, for a deb ball the Albert C. Mattels gave for their granddaughters, Ayn and Lyn Mattel.
The Mattels have been leasing the home, which is modeled after Le Petit Trianon at Versailles, for six months of the year from the Hugh Chisholms.
The 18th century styled chateau is set in 3 1/2 acres of terraced gardens which were floodlighted with pink and white spots for the party. Despite the evening's chill, the young set stayed outside to dance to the rhythms of the Grateful Dead, while their elders remained in the ballroom where Al Trobe played.
It was a wonderful mixture of old elegance and Carnaby Street. In fact, two young men, Bruce Webster and William Lombardo, wore their dinner jackets over mod pants and boots. And another was in acceptable black tie with the exception of the wide mod belt that circled his waist.
One of the members of the Grateful Dead is Bob Weir, the brother of Peninsula Ball deb Wendy Weir, who made her bow earlier this year at a marvelous pop party at San Francisco Airport.
The beat of the band was so infectious that the adults were eventually lured to the outdoors dance platform where credible frugs were performed by Mrs. Ernest O. McCormick and Berens Nelson, and Mrs. William Wallace Mein Jr and Bryan Hemming.
Guests were shuttled up the drive to the mansion by Volkswagen buses. Pots of yellow spider-chrysanthemum lined the divided staircase where dinner tables were covered with moss green cloths and centered with yellow and white chrysanthemums and white candles.
La Dolphine Mansion, 1760 Manor Drive, Hillsborough, CA, just south of San Francisco
Society And 60s Rock
Up until the mid-60s, becoming a debutante was an indisputably glamorous thing for a young woman to do. Debutantes could hope (truthfully or not) to be the envy of all their peers, and might even become local celebrities. Young people are young, however, and one different thing about "society" events is that they were attended by both young and old people. Where a dance was involved, the sixties solution was to have two groups: a big band to play dance music for adults, and a rock group to provide dance music for the younger set. The groups would typically alternate, giving each social set a break to relax and mingle while the opposite group played. In the Bay Area, at least, and probably in many places, playing a society dance was a common paying gig for working bands. In some cases, they had to wear suits and ties to do it, but a paid booking was a paid booking.

The La Dolphine event seems to have been on a far grander scale than a typical debutante dance. For one thing, the mansion was so big that the two bands could play simultaneously. The Grateful Dead played outdoors, while pianist Al Trobe (probably leading a Count Basie-style big band) played in the ballroom. Keep in mind also that probably about 200 people were invited to the event, at most, and only half of them would have been interested in a rock band. Thus the Grateful Dead were engaged to entertain 100 teenagers.

In September 1966, the Grateful Dead had not yet released an album, and they were more infamous than famous. Nonetheless, they were becoming San Francisco headliners. The La Dolphine ball was on the Friday of Labor Day weekend, and on that Sunday night the Dead would be headlining the Fillmore. While the Dead were far cheaper to hire in Fall '66 than they would be later, hiring a Fillmore headliner would be far more expensive than the usual teenage dance combo. Clearly, the event was on a higher order than a typical dance.

Eric of LoneStarDeadRadio, who procured the newspaper article up top, did have an interesting, if unverifiable story that he sent me in a personal email
amazingly enough after I posted it in Facebook someone commented that he is married to the sister of the 2 girls mentioned in the article the Mattel sisters Ayn and Lynn he said they were in Europe and wouldn't come home for deb ball unless grandma Mattel got the Dead to play so the old lady made it happen or so the story goes
I find this story pretty plausible. Under normal circumstances, a debutante ball would not hire an expensive city headliner, when any local combo would do. However, if the granddaughters insisted on a certain band, a family that could accord to rent La Dolphine could afford the Dead's fees, whatever they were. Given that Bob Weir's sister was part of the same society circles, it would not have been hard to approach the band, and the group surely needed the money.

So, props to the Mattel sisters, for choosing to have the Grateful Dead when they could have had anything. Certainly if I was having a party for 100 of my friends, and I wanted a band for dancing, the 1966 Grateful Dead would be a great choice. I suspect the Dead may have dusted off some favorites by the Rolling Stones and the Olympics that didn't get played as much at the Avalon and the Fillmore, but I doubt we'll find out. Many of the attendees may have only been vaguely aware, if at all, of the name of the scruffy, unsigned band who were playing the dance music. But here's to hoping that Ayn and Lynn are still out there, and maybe they can tell us the setlist highlights, at least.

The Players
Albert C Mattel
Albert C Mattel had been President of the Honolulu Oil Company, until it was bought out by Jersey Oil in 1962, which is today better known as Exxon. The Honolulu Oil Company was associated with the 19th century steamship captain and entrepreneur William Matson, who was a pioneer of the San Francisco to Honolulu trade. However, the Honolulu Oil Company was based in San Francisco, and when it was sold in 1910 its principal fields were in Kern and Coalinga, CA. While the Mattel family was clearly quite wealthy, there was no connection to the Mattel toy company.

Hillsborough, CA
Hillsborough is a wealthy Peninsula town halfway between San Francisco and Palo Alto. It is on the hills overlooking the Bay, just above San Mateo and Burlingame. Beginning with the formation of the Burlingame Country Club in 1893, Hillsborough society flourished around this area, with many of San Francisco’s most influential citizens commuting to country leisure via the newly minted Burlingame Train Depot. Several magnificent estates remain, including La Dolphine, orginally built for George Newhall by Lewis Hobart in 1913, then on 20 acres and known as Newmar.

The peninsula south of San Francisco had originally been a mixture of farms and "country estates" for wealthy city residents. The Southern Pacific train line extended down to Menlo Park because SP partners had huge estates there. After Leland Stanford and Timothy Hopkins purchased land in 1875 to create Palo Alto and Stanford University, the line was extended down to Palo Alto. By the mid-20th century, however, while the South Bay was prosperous, they were by and large typical middle class suburbs.

A few communities, however, were still the provinces of the rich, particularly old San Francisco money. Old San Francisco money styled themselves as very European, and flashing wealth in public was frowned upon, but debutante balls were a place where conspicuous consumption was not forbidden. In the picture above, I suspect that the necklaces the Mattel sisters are wearing were not costume jewelry. Hillsborough was by far the toniest and richest community in the South Bay, followed closely by Atherton, where Bob Weir grew up. Nonetheless, save for a few families, possibly including the Mattels, most residents of Hillsborough and Atherton were not crazy rich in the way that Silicon Valley residents are today.

The Good News perform at a debutante ball, with their strobe-light-ready clothing. The caption from  a forgotten newspaper says "Peninsula Deb Janet Laird, Steve Boyden dance to the Big Beat"--clipping courtesy Tim Abbot
Wendy Weir's Debutante Ball, Spring 1966
For many years I (and others) had assumed that the La Dolphine event was for Wendy Weir, and that was why the Grateful Dead had played it. However, while Wendy must have been instrumental in making sure the Dead played La Dolphine, according to the article, it turns out that Wendy had come out in the Spring of that year. Joan White's article says "Peninsula Ball deb Wendy Weir, who made her bow earlier this year at a marvelous pop party at San Francisco Airport." If Wendy Weir debuted at a marvelous pop party, why didn't the Grateful Dead play at it? The issue appears to have been one of scheduling.

Generally speaking, debs do not "come out" in the Summer, so Wendy's event must have been in April or May of 1966, or even earlier. A debutante dance was a carefully planned event, so all the arrangements must have been made months in advance. Back in February and March of 1966, the Grateful Dead had relocated to Los Angeles, seemingly permanently, to "make it" in the music business. Thus they would not have seemed to have been available for Wendy Weir's event. Of course, we know that the Dead had returned to the Bay Area by April, but the debutante ball would already have been booked. If there had even been a plan to have the Grateful Dead play for Wendy, and there's no certainty that there was, the band missed any opportunity to book themselves in advance.

However, the discovery of this article solves a peculiar little mystery, and as a result I know which pop band played Wendy Weir's party. Sometime ago, I published a post on the interesting history of Redwood City's first blues band, The Good News. Besides being one of the first white blues bands in the Bay Area, modeled on the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Good News also seem to have been the first band around the Bay Area to tour with their own light show. The light show was mainly a strobe light, but that was pretty far out for the time. The band wore outrageously colored Day-Glo clothes that looked exotic under the strobes.

I learned about The Good News in detail from their lead guitarist Tim Abbott. Abbott went on to play with The Chocolate Watch Band (and later Shango), but he mentioned in passing that The Good News had played a debutante party for Bob Weir's sister at the SFO Airport. I had wondered about that, since I had thought her big event was at La Dolphine, but Joan White's article confirms that Wendy came out at the Airport. Strange as it may seem, SFO Airport was fairly new at the time, and there was a lounge that could be rented. I suspect that if guests were flying in, it was very convenient. In 1966, at least, it must have been a desirable place to host an event, and with the strobe lights and DayGlo clothes of The Good News, it must have indeed been a marvelous pop party.

The picture of the Good News above was sent to me courtesy of Tim Abbott, and it was taken at a South Bay deb party, even though Abbott no longer remembers which one, where it was held, or what the newspaper was. It's not impossible that the picture actually was from Wendy's deb party, but in any case it's a good representation of what her event must have been like.

Yet the world of the South Bay was still quite small in the 60s. When the Mattel sisters wanted a specific band at their event, one of the band members had a sister who was part of their social circle. The Good News were a popular South Bay blues band in Spring 1966, but since they never recorded, they are thoroughly forgotten now. However, besides lead guitarist Abbott, the other members included lead singer Dave Torbert and drummer Chris Herold. Both Torbert and Herold would leave The Good News to join The New Delhi River Band with David Nelson. Torbert and Nelson went on to join the New Riders Of The Purple Sage, and when Torbert left the Riders, he re-united with Herold. Herold and Torbert went on to form Kingfish in 1974, and of course Bob Weir joined Kingfish a few months later. I wonder if Torbert and Herold recalled that they had played Wendy Weir's debutante ball eight years earlier?

September 4, 1968 Suzanne Bradford Debutante Ball, Burlingame Country Club, Burlingame, CA: The Sons Of Champlin/Walt Tolleson Orchestra
Bay Area Rock bands regularly played Debutante Balls in the 60s, usually on their way up the ladder. Just for comparison, here is a clip from Oakland Tribune society columnist Robin Orr, describing an event where the Sons Of Champlin alternated with a local big band. I think this event was a more typical debutante ball, while the Mattel sisters event at La Dolphine was grand even for the well-to-do.

Two members of the Sons Of Champlin, pianist Geoff Palmer and guitarist Terry Haggerty, were the sons of professional musicians. In fact, Terry's dad, Frank Haggerty, a fine jazz guitarist, even played some gigs with Al Trobe, so it's not impossible that he had played the La Dolphine show.
Robin Orr's society column from the Oakland Tribune on September 5, 1966. A debutante dance was held at the Burlingame Country Club that featured both the Sons Of Champlin and The Walt Tolleson Orchestra

Thursday, January 2, 2014

April 25, 1981 Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, CA Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann (SEVA Sing Out For Sight Benefit)

The Berkeley Community Theater as it looked in 2009. just across Allston Way from Provo Park
At first glance, the benefit concert at the Berkeley Community Theater featuring an acoustic performance by Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and John Kahn on April 25, 1981 does not seem like a good candidate for this blog. There are some fine tapes circulating, people remember the show, and much of it seems pretty par for the course. When placing the show in its original context, however, the acoustic benefit turns out to have been a template for things to come. The show seems "typical" to us because so much of it was replicated throughout the rest of the '80s. Yet there were other aspects of that night at the Berkeley Community Theater that were not duplicated. This post will look at the acoustic benefit concert on April 25, 1981, and we will see how it was a tryout of a variety of new approaches for the members of the Grateful Dead, some of which became permanent and others that were rarely or never seen again.

April 25, 1981 Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, CA: Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir/Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann/Odetta/Country Joe McDonald/Rosalie Sorrells/Kate Wolf SEVA Sing Out For Sight Benefit
My notes from the April 25, 1981 Berkeley Community Theater SEVA Benefit
In September and October of 1980, the Grateful Dead had thrilled their fans with acoustic sets at the Fox-Warfield Theater, the Sanger Theater (in New Orleans) and Radio City Music Hall. While most fans, myself included, did not expect acoustic sets to be part of every Grateful Dead show going forward, many of us felt that such sets would be a recurring feature when the Dead played the appropriate venues. However, after the Fall '80 run of shows which provided the basis for the Dead Reckoning album, the Grateful Dead all but stopped playing acoustic. Yes, there were touching stories about the Dead performing at the Ronald McDonald Children's Hospital in San Rafael, and they did play an acoustic set on New Year's Eve at the Oakland Auditorium, but those were the only two such shows. As 1981 dawned, it was hard to get over the idea that maybe acoustic shows would be gone for another ten years.

So it was a pleasant surprise indeed when a show was advertised at the Berkeley Community Theater for April 25, 1981, featuring an acoustic appearance by Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann. The show was a benefit for Wavy Gravy's SEVA Foundation, for whom the Dead had played benefit concerts the previous two Decembers (Dec 26 '79 and Dec 26 '80, both at Oakland Auditorium). There were four other acts listed on the bill, so whatever the show was going to be, it definitely wasn't going to be a typical Dead show.

When we arrived at the Berkeley Community Theater, a 3500-seat civic theater that also served as the Berkeley High School auditorium, we were all given a little folded program that listed the acts in order of appearance (I have never seen one since--maybe one will turn up on the Grateful Dead Archive). Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann were listed as playing third, right before intermission. I assumed that this was because the Jerry Garcia Band had another show that night at The Stone, where they usually went on stage at about 11:00pm.

The show began with an introduction by Wavy Gravy, who repeated his SEVA bit word for word from the previous years' benefit concerts. After an opening set by local resident and resident legend Country Joe McDonald, and then a fine set by Sonoma folk singer Kate Wolf, accompanied by guitarist Nina Gerber, the members of the Grateful Dead came on stage, probably at about 9:00 pm. Garcia, Weir, Hart and Kreutzmann were announced by Wavy, but we were quite surprised to see John Kahn on stand up acoustic bass. There was no Phil Lesh, and no piano player.

No one had seen John Kahn play acoustic bass in public since the days of Old And In The Way, and the idea of a Grateful Dead set without Phil Lesh was thoroughly unprecedented. Almost immediately, people started to contemplate whether this actually "counted" as a Grateful Dead show. In any case, although the Berkeley Community Theater doesn't have great acoustics, to my ears, the group sounded terrific and did lively versions of nine songs. Unlike the Fox-Warfield, Garcia and Weir were on their feet rather than seated at stools, and it seemed to make the tempos more energetic. Weir said "we started out something like this. Then we went on to become the Rocky And Bullwinkle of Rock and Roll." There were even some surprises--an acoustic version of "El Paso," not seen at the Fox-Warfield, and a truly unexpected encore of Buddy Holly's "Oh Boy."

After 40 fun minutes, the band was offstage. A big segment of the audience left. For one thing, the program had said that Garcia and Weir were up third, and they were done. For another, many people wanted to follow Jerry's black BMW down University Avenue and across the Bay Bridge to The Stone, rather than sit through some folk acts. I did, too, but I didn't have a way to get to The Stone, so my friends and I stayed to see the balance of the show instead.

Hart and Kreutzmann came on after intermission and did a duet on tar and hand drum, respectively, OK, I guess, if you like that sort of thing. They were followed by Rosalie Sorrells, a more traditional folk singer (there's a chance that I have inverted Kate Wolf and Rosalie Sorrells' spots in the running order, but I don't think so), and finally Odetta. Odetta was a folk legend from the 1950s, who also fell into the category of "OK if that's what you like." The promised finale was just the evening's performers singing "Amazing Grace." Weir and Country Joe joined in on the chorus with everyone else, and Hart and Kreutzmann banged out a beat. Jerry was probably tuning up backstage at The Stone by that time.

Where Was Phil?
After the Berkeley show, the Grateful Dead set out on an Eastern tour, playing fairly large venues in many of their strongholds, like the Philadelphia Spectrum and Nassau Coliseum. Shortly after the Dead returned, most of them played another Wavy Gravy event, an Anti-Nuclear Benefit at the Fox-Warfield on May 22. Along with some of the same acts at Berkeley (support included Country Joe McDonald backed by what would become High Noon, and Kate Wolf), they were billed as Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, and the ads made it clear that they would play acoustic. When Wavy introduced the band, he called them "Captain JerryBobKreutzHart," not the Grateful Dead. Once again, John Kahn was on standup bass, but this time Brent Mydland had joined in on grand piano. Where was Phil?

People like me had all sorts of theories. Perhaps since Phil had no background in folk music, unlike Bob and Jerry, then maybe he wasn't interested in playing acoustic music. Maybe he didn't like Wavy Gravy. Maybe he hated the sound of his bass amp. In any case, Phil was still on tour with the electric Grateful Dead, so it didn't seem that it represented a crisis. About 5 years later, I met Dennis McNally, who took the time to answer some of my questions, and he told me why Phil didn't play the two benefits: because no on had asked him.

Jerry Garcia, Benefits and The Grateful Dead
In retrospect, the April 25, 1981 Berkeley Community Theater show was an interesting experiment for Jerry Garcia, and by extension the Grateful Dead. The Berkeley event and the Warfield event that followed the next month have no precise parallels, so it's easy to simply treat them just as exceptions. Yet a closer look shows how the ever-restless Garcia was looking for a way to meet his various obligations in a way that still make them reasonably fun. The clue to this is the funny detail that Phil Lesh was not asked to play at the two benefits.

Why would Phil Lesh not have been asked to play the two shows? The plausible explanation is that Wavy Gravy arranged the benefits, and asked Jerry Garcia to play acoustic. Garcia agreed, and asked John Kahn to join him, which of course he did. With Garcia on board, Wavy could safely book Berkeley Community and The Fox-Warfield, without having to worry much about ticket sales. I believe the primary reason for the acoustic benefit was twofold: firstly, acoustic performers need far less equipment, thus cutting down on expenses, and the simplicity allows for multiple performers. Secondly, from Wavy's point of view, asking Jerry to play 45 minutes or so as the highlight of a multi-act show was asking far less than requiring him to put on a mult-set show as the sole headliner.

Nonetheless, Wavy knows everybody, and once he started asking around I assume other members of the Dead wanted to be involved. However, once Garcia and Kahn had Weir and the drummers, they knew they had a band. Given what we know now about Garcia penchant for not rehearsing, Phil wasn't likely to have been excluded from any practices, since there probably weren't any. Garcia and Weir probably just talked a few minutes before they went on stage and told the others what they were going to play. Ultimately, Phil's feelings may have been hurt, and he was probably a little bit suspicious of Kahn's closeness to Garcia, but it was just for two relatively minor shows.

Prior to 1981, the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia had done many benefits for a wide variety of causes, almost always due to a personal connection to the organizers, rather than a passion for a specific cause. Yet from 1981 onwards, both Garcia and the Dead had a completely different approach to benefits. Garcia seems to have figured out that playing acoustic was a far better arrangement for him when he agreed to a benefit. Everyone would expect a shorter show, he didn't need to worry about sound and lights, and his "entourage" was probably just Kahn and Steve Parish. Over the next dozen years or so, Garcia and Kahn played numerous benefits, sometimes with Bob Weir or other guests, and sometimes just as a duo. But the acoustic setup allowed Garcia to agree to help whom he wanted without having to involve the rest of the band, and address touring schedules, arranging a PA, and numerous other distractions.

As for the Grateful Dead, after 1981 they largely stopped playing any benefits save for their Rex Foundation concerts. The Rex Foundation benefits debuted on February 16-17, 1982 at the Fox-Warfield. For the Dead, the advantage to the Rex Foundation approach was obvious. As Grateful Dead concerts required planning for lights and sound, the shows had to be part of a regular tour. At the same time, as Grateful Dead concerts were increasingly lucrative, it may have become a sensitive issue as to what causes the Grateful Dead might support. By funneling their charity through the Rex Foundation, the Dead and their associates could support a broad range of endeavors, rather than tying a single concert to a single charity.

Jerry Garcia had always had many requests to perform at benefits, and by playing acoustic he could fulfill them without complicating his own busy schedule. Bay Area Deadheads rapidly adjusted to the idea that a local benefit with Garcia generally meant an acoustic appearance by Garcia and Kahn, and everyone made their plans accordingly to attend or not  There were occasional exceptions, of course, (notably the January 23, 1988 show at the Kaiser Convention Center, featuring Garcia jamming away on stage for hours with Tower Of Power, Santana, NRBQ, Wayne Shorter and others), but no one in the Bay Area in the 80s generally expected Garcia to plug in at a benefit.

The April '81 Berkeley show was also one of the first in the Bay Area that featured an all-acoustic format, with well-known "electric" musicians like the Dead and Country Joe returning to their folk roots and playing shorter acoustic sets. I'm not saying that the Berkeley show was "the first," (the real predecessors were the "Bread And Roses" benefits, but that is a tangent here), but it was an early example of the sort of shows that were made a staple not only by Wavy Gravy in the next several years, but also by Neil Young at his Bridge Concerts. One reason that the Berkeley and Fox-Warfield shows in 1981 do not stand out so much in our minds was that they now seem very typical of 80s benefit concerts. However, when they were actually put on, they were fairly unprecedented.
Arinell's Pizza, on 2119 Shattuck, where I would have gone had Jerry Garcia played Berkeley Community Theater and Keystone Berkeley on the same night.

Roads Not Taken
Nonetheless, while the 1981 Berkeley show seems to have shown the way for events to come, in certain other ways, it had some experiments that were never seen again. Garcia would try all sorts of things, but if they didn't work he simply didn't repeat them. It seems clear to me that Garcia was asked to play the benefit acoustically, and by some process Weir and the drummers got invited. They played the Warfield as well, with Brent along. Yet a full group configuration was never repeated. Garcia didn't like to rehearse, so paradoxically it meant he could bring along anyone he liked to a benefit. However, in the future, Garcia pretty much limited himself to playing with Kahn and Weir (there was one show for Neil Young's Bridge on December 4, 1988, with Weir and Rob Wasserman). Once Garcia discovered the virtues of simplicity, he seems to have preferred to keep it as simple as possible.

The other memorable experiment that was not repeated was an electric Garcia Band show on the same night as an acoustic benefit. I knew a bunch of people who went to both shows, and they considered it a great adventure. Staid, pleasant Berkeley Community Theater for a folkie benefit, then hopping in the car for the half-hour run across the Bay Bridge to The Stone, and knocking back a few beers while the Garcia Band did their thing.

If Garcia had liked this experiment, he could have tried playing Berkeley Community and then the Keystone Berkeley. The two places were only three blocks apart, and that would have been an evening: catch the early Jerry set at a BCT Benefit, walk over to Keystone Berkeley by way of  Arinell's Pizza on Shattuck, and then drop into the Keystone Berkeley for watery beer and "Tangled Up In Blue" until the bar shut down. But that, too, was not to be, as for whatever reason Garcia eschewed two gigs in one night ever again, as far as I know.

If you listen to the April 25, 1981 tape on the Archive, though, it sounds pretty alive. Garcia is on the edge of a new thing, playing acoustic rock with John Kahn and a couple of members of the Dead, and finding out that doing a favor for a friend can still be fun if you keep it simple. The inexorable gravitational pull of Garcia meant that having fun at benefits rapidly became institutionalized as well, but for a night, before it got assimilated, Garcia was reminded of why he might have got into it in the first place.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Roosevelt Stadium, Danforth Ave and NJ Rte 1 [NJ440], Jersey City, NJ 1972-76 (Jersey City Story)

The Grateful Dead first came to fame or infamy in the city of San Francisco. The band's second big stronghold was the Borough and island of Manhattan. The Dead played many shows in Manhattan from the Summer of '67 onwards, at the Cafe Au Go Go, Fillmore East and numerous other venues. Manhattan is America's media capital, and bands who are an underground sensation in Manhattan rapidly become underground legends throughout the country. Yet the story of rock music from the 60s to the 70s was a story of moving from the city to the suburbs. Despite the fact that every Manhattan Dead show was enthusiastically attended in the early 70s, the Grateful Dead did not play Manhattan from March 1972 through June 1976.

From 1971 onwards, the Grateful Dead became a significantly more popular concert attraction. Although the details varied from city to city, in general the larger venues that the band played were farther away from the hip bohemian downtown psychedelic ballrooms where the band had played in the 60s. Whether the Dead were playing college basketball gymnasiums or Civic Auditoriums, the venues were larger and somewhat more respectable. In many ways, the performance history of the Grateful Dead tracks the history of the rock concert business in general. The Grateful Dead were there at the beginning, and were instrumental in creating the "Fillmore Circuit" that grew hand-in-hand with FM radio in the late 60s. When the rock concert business expanded into the suburbs in the 1970s, the Grateful Dead were a big part of that as well.

As Grateful Dead concerts became larger and more profitable events after 1972, the Grateful Dead stopped playing Manhattan. After a seven night run at the Academy Of Music in March 1972, the band did not play the island until June of 1976. Yet all around the Tri-City area, in Connecticut, Long Island, Westchester and New Jersey, the Dead were bigger than ever. This unremarked dynamic of 70s concert promotion stemmed from the fact that rock bands made their name in the city, but they made their money from kids in the suburbs. If the suburbanites couldn't come to the city, the bands had to come to them.

Jersey City, New Jersey is just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. The Statue Of Liberty and Ellis Island are just off of Jersey City, directly across from the World Trade Center, but JC gets no respect from New York. For most of the last 150 years, Jersey City was just a railroad town, as several major railroad lines brought freight and passengers into the Port of New York from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and points South and West. Jersey City was a noisy, working town, with little cultural heritage, unhip and full of immigrants. And yet Jersey City played a critical role in the rise of the Grateful Dead in their prime, and so the tale of Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City is a microcosm of the story of how the Grateful Dead went from being a 60s underground band to a major concert attraction.

Between July 18, 1972 and August 4, 1976, the Grateful Dead played 8 shows in Jersey City. These were the nearest shows to Manhattan from March 28, 1972 (their last show at the Academy Of Music) through June 14, 1976 (the first show at The Beacon). Five of the shows were at Roosevelt Stadium, whose baseball capacity of about 24,000 was one of the largest venues the Grateful Dead had headlined up until that time. Jersey City could draw already established fans from New York, while expanding the audience of teenagers in suburban New Jersey. More importantly, the promoter for the Jersey City shows was John Scher, who would go on to have a critical role in bringing the Grateful Dead to the country in later decades. Without unheralded Jersey City, however, the whole saga of the Grateful Dead in the Northeast would have unfolded in a very different way.

A map of Railroads serving the Port Of New York ca. 1900. More railroads came into Jersey City and its nearby towns than into New York city proper.
The Fillmore East
Bill Graham had initially dominated the rock market in New York with the Fillmore East. Fillmore East contracts had a typical clause that any band playing there was not allowed to play an advertised show within a certain number of days and miles of the booking. Thus if a band like the Grateful Dead were booked at Fillmore East, they would not be allowed to advertise a show within 50 miles and 20 days of the Fillmore East show. This was a standard contract for the day (and probably still is), but it had a significant effect on the rock market in the surrounding suburbs.

50 miles from New York covers an awful lot of people. Thus what few Grateful Dead concerts there had been in New Jersey up until 1972 had tended to be junior college dances that were not actually advertised off campus. The April 17, 1971 Princeton University show at Dillon Gym, just inside the 50 mile limit,  for example, was a campus event that was not really promoted to outsiders. The effect of the Fillmore East was such that there were hardly any significant rock concerts in New Jersey in the 1960s. New Jersey rock fans, and there were plenty, had to choose between going to New York or Philadelphia to see their favorite bands. In many cases, New Jersey teenagers chose Philadelphia, partially accounting for the huge success of The Electric Factory promotions at places like The Spectrum.

People who do not live or work in New York simply assume that anyone in New Jersey (or Long Island or Connecticut) who wants to see something in New York can simply take the train. In the case of rock concerts, particularly back in the day, that was not always the case. Certainly, New York has  public transit that is the envy of other American metropolitan areas. However, the purpose of the far-flung network of trains and subways was and is to get people to and from work, mostly in Manhattan. Although the subways run all night, the commuter trains were much thinner on the weekend, and they generally stopped at midnight. The early show at Fillmore East was viable for teenagers from Long Island, as they could get back to Penn Station by midnight, but on the whole nighttime rock concerts in New York City weren't really accessible from the suburbs by rail.

It may seem like an obvious point, but it's worth noting that the Grateful Dead audience in the early 70s was very young. Sure, a loyal clump of fans had been seeing the band in Manhattan since '67, but even they were hardly over 25. Most of the new Dead fans in 1972 or so, like fans of all rock bands, were 21 or younger, in many cases a lot younger. New Jersey teenagers could usually get access to their parents' car, but parents were not necessarily sanguine about a carload of kids going into Manhattan until three in the morning. Thus Philadelphia was often an easier option, even if it was farther than Manhattan from many parts of New Jersey. The Spectrum was on the edge of Philadelphia, with a huge parking lot, and didn't require navigating the city in order to get there. John Scher's first innovation was taking advantage of Jersey City's convenient location and easy access to both Manhattan and the Jersey suburbs.

Jersey City, NJ
Jersey City is a world away from Manhattan, but still right next door. Jersey City and its nearby sister, Hoboken, are on a Peninsula bounded by the Hudson and Hackensack Rivers. Newark is just across the Hackensack, a few miles to the West. In 1908, a subway tunnel was built from Jersey City to Manhattan. The Hudson Tube is now the backbone of the PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson) Train lines. With direct trains to the World Trade Center, Greenwich Village and Penn Station, commuting to and from Jersey City is like living in a lost New York Borough, even though that is never acknowledged by New Yorkers.

Jersey City is also home to the Holland Tunnel, which opened in 1929, so Jersey City's connection to Manhattan has been fluid and intimate since long before World War 2. At the same time, although stuck out on a narrow strip of land, by the 1960s Jersey City became far more accessible to the rest of New Jersey thanks to the New Jersey Turnpike. Thus Jersey City was near Manhattan, with its own subway access, yet was still accessible to much of the population of suburban New Jersey. Jersey City had seen its commercial peak come and go by the 1960s, and it was definitely on the downward slide. What that meant, however, was that existing venues were available for rent, even to dubious hippie endeavors.

Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, NJ (1937-82)
Roosevelt Stadium had been built in 1937 at Droyer's Point,  on the edge of Jersey City that was farthest from Manhattan. It had a baseball capacity of 24,000. From 1937-50 it was home to the highest level New York Giants farm team, the Jersey Giants of the International (AAA) League. Jackie Robinson's "professional" (white organized baseball) debut was on April 18, 1946, when the Brooklyn Dodgers top farm team, the Montreal Royals, opened their season on the road against the Jersey Giants. Over the years, Roosevelt Stadium had hosted heavyweight fights, high school and college football games and other events, along with minor league baseball.

However, minor league baseball declined after the 1950s, and Roosevelt Stadium did not have a minor league team after 1961. Once fans could watch New York major league baseball teams on TV, the appeal of a minor league team shrank. There were occasional special events, such as NASL soccer games, but by and large the stadium was unused during the Summer. Roosevelt Stadium was a civic facility, so I presume that by 1972 they were pleased when John Scher came along and offered to book a series of concerts throughout the Summer.

John Scher himself was only in his 20s, but once Bill Graham closed the Fillmore East, it became possible to book groups in New Jersey. Scher had started to book smaller shows at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, not far from Jersey City. The John Scher story is a great rock story, but too long to tell here. Although in his early 20s in 1971, Scher had recognized his moment:
Decisiveness has been a hallmark of Scher’s career and one of the cornerstones of his success. The Fillmore closed in June ’71; by December, Scher began his 18-year run at the Capitol Theatre. The 3,000-seat former vaudeville house in downtown Passaic — which was showing porn flicks before Scher and partner Al Hayward took it over — became a near-mandatory stop for touring acts, and demonstrated that New Jersey could stand on its own as a major pop market.
Scher also booked shows at the New Jersey State Fairgrounds in Hamilton, near Trenton. Roosevelt Stadium was old and crumbling, but that also meant that Jersey City was presumably unconcerned about what a bunch of hippies might do to it.

Roosevelt Stadium had a capacity of 24,000 for baseball. Since fans were allowed on the playing field as well, the total capacity had to be in the range of 35-40,000 for general admission rock shows. From the point of view of a concert promoter, this meant that a successful booking could sell a lot of tickets, a far different situation than the fixed profit/loss ratio of a theater with reserved seats. Roosevelt was far larger than any venue that the Grateful Dead had headlined in the New York metro area. Furthermore, its size meant that everybody who wanted to go could not only get a ticket, they could bring their brother, their girlfriend and their roommate as well. As the Dead became a larger and larger draw in New York, the availability of tickets at the Roosevelt was one of the factors that got so many New Jersey teenagers "on the bus."

Village Voice July 6, 1972. The "Surprise Group" at the State Fairgrounds was The Allman Brothers

July 18, 1972 Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, NJ: The Grateful Dead
The July 18, 1972 Grateful Dead show at Roosevelt Stadium was different than Dead shows that had come before. The Dead had typically played several nights in a row at smaller theaters like The Academy Of Music or Fillmore East. They had also played a few Summer outdoor shows, at places like Flushing Pavilion and Gaelic Park (in the Bronx). Yet here the band was in a space between the suburbs and the city, in a place accessible to both, on a Tuesday night.

Despite the fact that Roosevelt Stadium was a rundown facility in a city that was in decline, it had two things that set it apart from metropolitan venues: it was near two major New Jersey roads and it had 10,000 parking spaces. Roosevelt Stadium was at the intersection of New Jersey Route 440 (formerly NJ Route 1) and Danforth Avenue. NJ440 links the New Jersey Turnpike Extension (Exits 14-14C) to the Pulaski Skwyay. The Pulaski Skyway has been immortalized in the opening credits of The Sopranos, and it dates back to 1932. The Skyway links US Routes 1 and 9 to the Holland Tunnel, and was thus a key transit point linking New Jersey and Manhattan by automobile. Pretty much all of the populated parts of New Jersey have easy access to the Turnpike, Route 1 or Route 9, so getting to Roosevelt Stadium would have been a breeze.

Even today, in the era of GPS and Google Maps, many people will not attend an event where the directions are not easy and the parking is not straightforward. This was doubly true when navigation was just off of a gas station map. Add in the fact that many of the people attending the Roosevelt Stadium were teenagers or college students driving family cars who needed explicit or implicit permission for the trip, and the fact that directions to Roosevelt Stadium from anywhere in New Jersey were easy, had to have made a big difference. The ease of parking must have been reassuring too, not least because Jersey City had a "dangerous" (read: predominantly poor and black) reputation, and a large parking lot suggested no unpleasant circulating in sketchy neighborhoods, looking for parking.

As for Manhattanites, they too would generally have had to drive to Roosevelt Stadium. The PATH Train did not go anywhere near the stadium, although I suppose many people could have taken the train over and tried to hitchhike. In any case, the journey from Manhattan to Roosevelt Stadium on a Tuesday night would have been short, so cramming as many people as possible into a VW Microbus would not have been a big deal. Still, the transportation footprint of Roosevelt Stadium meant that it was ideally placed to encourage carloads of aspiring New Jersey Deadheads to expand upon the already extant Deadhead communities in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

By all accounts, the Roosevelt Stadium show on July 18, 1972 was a big success. I have no idea what the attendance actually was, but my impression is that there was a fair sized crowd without the venue being remotely sold out, so despite the state of the facility there was probably plenty of room to dance and hang out. The show was the first New York Metro area show without Pigpen. In those days, news traveled slowly, and no one realized that Pig was seriously ill and might never play with the band again. According to legend, Bob Dylan attended the July '72 Roosevelt show as well. Dylan was also reputed to have attended the April 27, 1971 show at Fillmore East with the Dead and the Beach Boys, but like all things Bob that is hard to nail down.

September 19, 1972 Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, NJ: The Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage plus "Surprises and Special Guests"
We don't have to know any of the details of the Grateful Dead's July '72 appearance at Roosevelt Stadium to know that it was a success. The proof of its success was that John Scher re-booked the Grateful Dead a few months later. Given the timing, the September 19 show must have been arranged almost immediately after the July show. September 19, 1972, was a Tuesday, a surprising date given that school had probably already started for much of the potential audience. Nonetheless, once the school year began, Roosevelt Stadium would have been in use for High School and College Football games on Friday nights.

In any case, Roosevelt was probably an after thought--the Dead were playing weekend shows in Boston (Sep 15-16), Philadelphia (Sep 21) and Waterbury, CT (Sep 23), and Roosevelt fit nicely in between. The rent for the stadium was probably quite low on a Tuesday night, Scher did not need a huge crowd to have a profitable performance. This was fortunate, since the weather did not cooperate, and it was apparently a rainy, overcast day. Nonetheless, the show was more than just the Dead with an opening set by the New Riders. The show was scheduled for"6 pm to ?", and it was billed as "Another Dead Party."  As for the special guest, well, someone on the Archive recalls it, anyway:
This was the only time I know of that the Riders performed Death & Destruction. Yeah they started to do in the 90's but back in the 70's only time. Great sets. . . blue for the Riders, red for the Dead. Mind over matter swami between sets. On a bed of nails with cindar blocks piled on his chest

Village Voice August 17, 1972. Stan Fox and Doug Smith presented the Grateful Dead for three nights at the Stanley Theater, at 2928 Hudson Blvd (now JFK) and Pavonia Ave, near the Journal Square PATH Station
September 26-28, 1972 Stanley Theater, Jersey City, NJ: The Grateful Dead
Initially it seemed paradoxical to me that John Scher would book a stadium concert for the Grateful Dead on the edge of Jersey City on Tuesday, September 19, while a different promoter had the Dead for three nights in old theater near downtown, just a week later. Even the typical practice of not allowing competing shows in the same area seems to have been ignored, since both shows were advertised in the Village Voice at the same time. A closer analysis, however, reveals a key fact: even though the Stanley Theater and Roosevelt Stadium were just two miles apart, as a result of transit patterns, they were intended to attract completely different audiences.

The Stanley Theater, a 4300-seat movie theater built in 1928 at 2928 Hudson Boulevard (now John F. Kennedy Blvd), was the second largest movie theater on the East Coast behind Radio City Music Hall. By 1971, however, it had fallen into disrepair. Some promoters started renting it for rock concerts in 1972, and it was immediately successful. The theater apparently sounded great, and it was old enough that the owners were unconcerned about the risk of damage. More importantly, the Stanley Theater was one block away from the Journal Square PATH stop. As a practical matter, this made the Stanley Theater easily accessible from Manhattan, and therefore any Deadhead in New York with subway access could get to the Stanley. In contrast, the theater was in the center of the business district with no dedicated parking, so it was daunting and confusing to anyone coming from the suburbs.

I do not know about ticket sales for the three Stanley Theater shows, but with all of Manhattan and Brooklyn to draw from, even on a weeknight ticket sales were probably pretty good (based on the tapes, they definitely played well). The Stanley would have made an excellent winter home for Manhattan Deadheads, but the theater was flooded sometime in the Winter of 1973. Although the theater remained open for a few more years, there were no more rock concerts there, and the Dead had to look elsewhere to perform in the New York area.

July 31-August 1, 1973, Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, NJ: The Grateful Dead/The Band
The Grateful Dead returned to Roosevelt Stadium on a Tuesday and a Wednesday in the Summer of '73. This time, it was a certified big deal. The previous weekend, the Dead had joined The Allman Brothers and The Band at Watkins Glen Grand Prix Racecourse, performing at what was at the time the largest rock concert in history. As far as I know, the Dead played to pretty large houses at Roosevelt Stadium a few days later, and those two New Jersey shows were probably the biggest shows the Grateful Dead had headlined up until that time.

By 1973, the Grateful Dead were in their performing prime. All the college and High School students who had seen the Dead the previous Summer were on the bus now, and they indeed brought their friends, as well as their new girlfriend and their current roommate, and the crew of New Jersey Deadheads only got larger. The Grateful Dead played two tremendous shows at Roosevelt Stadium in 1973, supported by The Band. Over time, it turned out that performances by The Band were relatively rare, so most everyone who went to those shows must have looked back on them fondly. The poster just says "Rte 440," a clear indication that the audience was expected to drive to the show, and that Roosevelt Stadium was easy to find.

August 6, 1974 Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, NJ: The Grateful Dead
By 1974, the Grateful Dead were bigger than ever, and their show at Roosevelt Stadium was probably like an annual event. If I recall correctly, the show was originally scheduled for August 2, but got rained out. The show was rescheduled for Sunday, August 6. In between, the Dead had played two shows in Philadelphia. Probably a fair number of New Jerseyans went to all three shows. 

June 14-15, 1976 Beacon Theater, New York, NY: The Grateful Dead
June 17-18-19, 1976 Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ: The Grateful Dead
Things had changed after 1976. The Grateful Dead had temporarily retired after October 1974, so there were no Roosevelt Stadium shows in 1975. Various Jerry Garcia ensembles had played numerous shows in Manhattan, New York City and New Jersey, particularly at John Scher's home base, the Capitol Theater in Passaic, and Kingfish had played an outdoor show in New Jersey as well. When the Dead returned to touring, their first Eastern tours was in relatively small theaters, with tickets sold exclusively to Deadheads. Thus the Dead made their return to Manhattan, this time well uptown, at The Beacon (2124 Broadway at 74th St).

All the shows sold out instantly, and the buzz made the Dead's return an Event, rather than just another rock concert. The effect was magnified by FM broadcasts from every city on the tour. Transit issues had little to do with the shows at the Beacon and the Capitol--hard core Heads got the tickets, and got to the shows by whatever means necessary.

August 4, 1976 Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, NJ
Nonetheless, after their historic tour where they played multiple nights at smaller theaters, the Grateful Dead played two East Coast stadium shows. The Dead needed cash, and the fact was their were numerous Deadheads who had not had the opportunity to see the band at the smaller theaters. Besides Roosevelt Stadium, which was on a Wednesday, the Dead played Dillon Stadium in Hartford, CT (Deadlists shows "Colt Park," but Dillon Stadium is part of Colt Park). Although the Dead's history in Connecticut was not as dense as in New Jersey, a similar dynamic had played out there as well. Connecticut had a large suburban audience who wanted to see the Dead, and Dillon Stadium shows in '72, '74 and '76 still drew a fair number of fans from New York City proper (update: thanks to a loyal Correspondent, here are some great photos from that day)

1977-78 The Jersey City Indians and The Jersey City A's
Roosevelt Stadium had hosted other shows in the mid-70s besides the Dead. Although the facility wasn't great, the location was central, there was great parking and there was no minor league baseball team using the facility, so most Summer dates were available. This changed in 1977 when Jersey City hosted the Jersey City Indians, a AA franchise in the Eastern League. In 1978, the affiliation changed, and they became the Jersey City A's. Future Hall-Of-Famer Rickey Henderson was part of the last group of professional baseball players who played at the stadium where Jackie Robinson had made his organized baseball debut.

With so many dates booked by the baseball teams in 1977 and '78, there wasn't any room for rock shows. Whether John Scher would have booked them there is an open question. By 1977, the Grateful Dead were a substantial draw in New Jersey. On September 3, 1977, the Grateful Dead headlined an epic show at Englishtown Raceway Park, a drag strip in Englishtown, NJ, to over 100,000 fans. The next year, on September 2, 1978, the Dead headlined a show at Giants Stadium, the new football stadium in East Rutherford. Neither Englishtown nor East Rutherford had any meaningful public transit access--everybody who came drove, and I have to think a huge proportion of the fans were from New Jersey.

Without John Scher and Roosevelt Stadium, the idea that a New Jersey Summer highlight was a Grateful Dead concert would not have happened. Sure, the Dead would still have been extraordinarily popular, and they would have played somewhere, but it was Roosevelt Stadium made it a New Jersey thing. For all the decay of Roosevelt, it meant that there were no concerns from the city about anything a bunch of hippies might do to the place. For another, the easy parking and simple directions made it simple when the Dead's fans were still young, because it meant that their parents would let them take the family car. And the easy ticket meant that if you had a good time, the next year you could invite all your friends, and they could get a ticket, and the cycle would start over with all their friends. New Jersey has been the premier stronghold of East Coast Deadheads ever since.

Stadium Pizzeria. in Jersey City, NJ, at the Stadium Plaza Shopping Center, in the old parking lot of Roosevelt Stadium, in September 2012. It is the last trace of the stadium, as a gated housing development was built on the site.
Roosevelt Stadium continued to decline, and after 1982 Jersey City decided to close it. The stadium was torn down in 1985. Jersey City itself declined, with its ports and industries moving to Newark Bay, Bayonne and other places. The city was a decaying hulk of rotting train tracks and empty ports, a sad marker of when Jersey City had had six railroads loading and unloading cargo into the Port Of New York every day.

Yet, miraculously, during the financial boom of the 1990s, Wall Street discovered Jersey City. New York has the most expensive real estate of any American city, and space is at a premium. Crumbling Jersey City was in sight of the World Trade Center, and had direct subway connections to both Wall Street and Midtown. By the beginning of the 21st, Jersey City's unused harbors were filled in, its train tracks torn up, and gleaming high rises were full of Wall Street back offices and condos with the people who worked in them. Downtown Jersey City became another Brooklyn, and little sister Hoboken next door turned into a groovy Alternative Music mecca. The old Stanley Theater was fully refurbished, even if it mostly presented Latin Music shows.

At the other end of town, Droyer's Point, the site of Roosevelt Stadium, became a Gated Community called Society Hill. No trace remained of the ballpark, where Jackie Robinson, Jerry Garcia and Rickey Henderson played. There is a mall next to the Society Hill development, and only the anachronistic name "Stadium Plaza Shopping Center" hints at its prior life. The Stadium Pizzeria is the last unassuming link to Roosevelt Stadium, next to a Dollar Store, in the parking lot where the Grateful Dead conquered New Jersey.