Thursday, January 1, 2015

April 22, 1971 Bangor Municipal Auditorium, Bangor, ME: Grateful Dead/NRPS (Northern Excursions)

The Grateful Dead's concert at the Bangor Municipal Auditorium on April 22, 1971, was promoted by Music Productions of Boston in Association with Phonic Productions
By the 1980s, the Grateful Dead had conquered the entire Eastern seaboard, and in particular ruled the I-95 corridor from the DC Beltway on up. The Dead's popularity extended far beyond the big cities where they had originally made landfall. In the state of Maine, for example, at the very Northern end of I-95, one of the less populous states in the nation (ranked 41st), the band played no less than 15 times from 1979 through 1988. While they mostly played civic centers in Portland and Augusta, even on the West Coast we heard about famous shows at Lewiston and Oxford Plains. Now, sure, people from all over New England went to those shows, but they could have been held anywhere, yet they were held in Maine. The Dead had managed to carve out their own kingdom in distant Maine,  just as they had in New Jersey and Connecticut.

Yet far before the Grateful Dead became an established attraction in Maine and upper New England, there was an outlier: a single show in Bangor, Maine, at the Bangor Municipal Auditorium on April 22, 1971. We have an excellent board tape of this show, and it's pretty good, if a trifle short. Bangor, ME, then as now, was far from the centers of power and culture on the East Coast, and a very strange place for the Dead to make their first foray into upper New England. In return, a close analysis suggests that they played a rather strange show.

The band would not play New Hampshire, Vermont or Maine again until 1978, so it must not have had the desired affect. Yet the show was on one of Dead's most famous tours, less than a week after Princeton, and just days before the fabled five night stand at the Fillmore East, and still the show exists as a tape in a vacuum. This post will try and look at what we can discern about the Bangor show of April 22, 1971, and consider how strange the Grateful Dead must have appeared to the local fans.

St. Stephen, New Brunswick (Canada) is just a few hours East of Bangor. Downtown has free parking. 
The Grateful Dead, Bangor Municipal Auditorium, April 22, 1971
A fulcrum of the Grateful Dead's success were their Eastern tours in the Fall of 1970 and the Spring of 1971. The band was broke, but had decided to play their way back to solvency by touring relentlessly. The Dead had the foresight to record two accessible, classic albums just as FM rock radio was established nationwide, so Workingman's Dead and American Beauty made them a desirable concert attraction beyond the underground rock palaces of San Francisco, Manhattan and a few other big cities. In particular, many East Coast colleges had entertainment budgets and undergraduates who wanted to see a real Fillmore East band, and the Grateful Dead were ready to deliver. Legendary college shows followed, with tapes to prove their worth: Stony Brook, Temple, Princeton and on and on. The 70/71 Dead were just accessible enough for general rock fans, but still weird enough to remind them that the universe beckoned.

Bangor, ME is the last significant city on Insterstate 95, which traverses the East coast all the way up from Florida. Bangor is two hours north of Portland, ME, which in turn is two hours north of Boston. Beyond Bangor there is very little, save the small town of Orono a few miles north, the home of the University of Maine. It is another two hours of mostly empty driving up I-95 to the Canadian border (Deadheads may prefer to take Route 9 East to reach Canada at Saint Stephen, New Brunswick). Historically, Bangor was a center of logging, and the logs were turned to lumber that helped build Boston, New York and the whole East Coast. Bangor is at the confluence of some rivers, so the lumber went by boat, and Bangor was thus populated by loggers and sailors for a few hundred years. Bangor has had a population of about 30,000 since the 1960s.

The University of Maine was founded in 1862, in the town of Orono (pop. 8500), at a time when Bangor was the leading commercial city. The University of Maine is a well-regarded school, but it will come as no surprise that the biggest sport at the University is ice hockey, as the Maine Black Bears are a perpetual NCAA hockey power. In many ways Bangor appears to function as the "city" for the University, although the 10,000+ student body is bigger than Orono, and when the two are combined, they are not far smaller than Bangor itself.

The Bangor Municipal Auditorium was a 5948-capacity auditorium built in 1955 (and torn down in 2013). On Thursday, April 22, 1971, the Grateful Dead and the New Riders of The Purple Sage played a four hour show on a Thursday, in between shows in Providence and Durham, NC. 

The Show

One Bertha [5:31] ;
Me And My Uncle [3:06] ;
Next Time You See Me [3:23] ;
Loser [6:17] ;
Playing In The Band [4:28] ;
Cumberland Blues [4:23] ;
Hard To Handle [9:13] ;
Deal [4:54] ;
Me And Bobby McGee [5:42] ;
Casey Jones [5:01]
Two China Cat Sunflower [5:17] >
I Know You Rider [4:59] ;
Greatest Story Ever Told [2:37] >
Beat It On Down The Line [2:58] ;
Sing Me Back Home [8:42] ;
Good Lovin' [2:09] >
Drums [5:29] >
Good Lovin' [9:14] ;
Johnny B. Goode [3:26]

A cursory glance at the setlist suggests that the Bangor show was a typical '71 show. It was played pretty well, too, albeit a little more on the rock'n'roll side and away from spacey jamming, but that was characteristic of that period. The strangeness of the show doesn't set in until you think about it. The Grateful Dead were playing far north of their usual Boston territory, hours away from anywhere they had ever played. Probably few if any people in the auditorium had ever seen the band before. However, if there as any FM radio up in Maine at all--I don't know anything about that yet--some of the patrons had probably heard songs off Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. And there had to be a lot of students from the University of Maine, and you have to figure that people in the dorms found the guy with all the records (needless to say, in my dorm that was me) and said, "hey, play me something from this group that's playing in Bangor on Thursday." So people would have had an idea of what to expect.

The Grateful Dead played 17 songs at Bangor Auditorium. Four of them, just four, had been previously released on albums: "Cumberland Blues," "Casey Jones," "China Cat Sunflower" and "Beat It On Down The Line." The last two were pretty obscure in 1971, and would hardly have been played on New England FM radio. How many songs did the Dead play off their current hit album, probably getting a lot of play in Boston and points North? Um, zero. Really, zero: no "Truckin'", no "Sugar Magnolia," nothing anyone might have heard in the dorm, save for the two songs off Workingman's.

The Dead played five original songs that are completely familiar to us, but which would have been completely unknown in Bangor ("Bertha," "Loser," "Playing In The Band," "Deal" and "Greatest Story Ever Told").  To the audience, the most familiar song that the Dead played would have been "Me And Bobby McGee," then a hit single for the late Janis Joplin. It would have been hard for the crowd to fathom why the Dead played someone else's hit single, although perhaps they thought it was a tribute to Janis (and perhaps it was).

All told, the Dead did eight cover versions. However, the 70s weren't like the 80s or 90s--even if you were interested in such things, it could be very difficult to find out the names and histories of cover versions by any band. Certainly there wasn't big country or soul scenes in Maine, and I doubt there was too much radio. In any case, back then radio was pretty segmented, so if something wasn't a major AM hit, no one knew anything about other types of music. Songs like "Sing Me Back Home" or "Hard To Handle" had been Country and Soul hits a few years earlier, but it's unlikely that any but a few total music heads recognized them. "Johnny B. Goode" and perhaps "Good Lovin'" may have been known, but all in all the cover songs would have been quite obscure to the audience. Even the ones who owned a few Dead albums must have been pretty mystified.

As for the New Riders Of The Purple Sage, they were confusing enough to audiences in New York and San Francisco. They must have wondered to themselves "why was the star of the show appearing with the opening act, sitting down playing a strange instrument?" I don't know the Riders' set, but since they had no album yet, no one in Bangor could have recognized the original material. Once again, depending on the songs, a few people may have recognized "Lodi" or "Honky Tonk Women," but all in all the Riders were just another opening act. 

When the Grateful Dead recorded the shows that were used on the Skull & Roses album, their concerts were filled with songs that were unfamiliar to their audiences
Contemporary Set Lists
The Bangor set list was typical of that leg of the tour. We look at '71 set lists, and see many familiar songs, but in fact they are familiar because of the Skull And Roses album and a thousand tapes. In fact, 1971 Dead concert setlists were quite challenging compared to contemporary groups, who mostly played songs off their last few albums. Here is a brief survey of the shows right around Bangor, compared the same way:

April 15, 1971, David Mead Field House, Allegheny College, Meadville, PA
21 songs: 5 from albums, 5 newly written, 11 covers

April 17, 1971, Dillon Gym, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
19 songs: 5 from albums, 5 newly written, 9 covers

April 18, 1971, Lusk Field House, SUNY, Cortland, NY
17 songs: 6 from albums, 3 newly written, 8 covers

April 21, 1971: Rhode Island Auditorium, Providence, RI
19 songs: 6 from albums, 4 newly written, 9 covers

April 22, 1971: Bangor Municipal Auditorium, Bangor, ME
17 songs: 4 from albums, 5 newly written, 8 covers

April 24, 1971, Wallace Wade Stadium, Duke U, Durham, NC
19 songs: 5 from albums, 4 newly written, 10 covers

In fact, the distribution of songs at Bangor is typical, but the Bangor combination is the most pronounced. I did not try to give a "credit score" to each event (you can decide for yourself), but some of the shows have a very different feel. The legendary Princeton show, for example, has only five songs that had already been released on albums, but they are "Truckin'," "Casey Jones," "Sugar Magnolia," "Beat It On Down The Line" and "Turn On Your Lovelight." Four out of five of those songs would have been among the Dead's best known, including the best known off the three prior albums.

Sly And The Family Stone were huge in 1970, and they had played Bangor before the Grateful Dead. They were still touring behind their epic album Stand!
60s Rock In Bangor, pre-Grateful Dead
The rock touring circuit was still very new in 1971. It had started to get out to colleges, because young people who had read about the Fillmores in Life magazine wanted to see those bands. Since it was common in those days for colleges to have entertainment budgets, once hippies took over the "Entertainment Committee," or whatever it was called in a school, booking agents could start sending Fillmore bands out. That accounts for many of the Dead's bookings in 1971. For example, in the above list, 5 of the 6 were at colleges (and a booked date at Hofstra in Long Island on April 19 was canceled, probably due to a conflict with Bill Graham Presents at the Fillmore East).

Yet Bangor was different, since it wasn't booked by a college. I do not know who Phonic Productions were, nor Music Productions of Boston. Nonetheless, I have to think the promoters depended on a lot of University of Maine students coming over from Orono, since they were just 9 miles up the road. Bangor Municipal Auditorium had 5948 seats, and the population of Bangor was only about 30,00 at the time. Even if we include the 10,000 (ish) UofM students, that's still just a population of 40,000 to fill a 5900 seat building. If you think about it in population terms, it's a tall order.

There doesn't seem to be much precedent for rock shows in Bangor or the University, although researching it is like finding needles in a haystack. I did find a little evidence of Moby Grape playing Augusta, ME in Winter 1968, but that has been impossible to confirm. The one really contemporary antecedent I can find appears to be a concert at Bangor Municipal Auditorium on November 9, 1970, with headliners Sly And The Family Stone. Apparently Sly was late (or out of it) and thus came on stage very late, common for him at the time, and it did not go over well with the crowd. Amusingly, the opening act was a then little-known act called The Faces, with Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, who could absolutely kill it in in those days, but no real recollections seem to survive beyond anger at Sly's tardiness.

The only other Fillmore band I can find a trace of was a performance at the University of Maine by Mountain, on September 26, 1970. I assume this was a college sponsored event, of course. Mountain was a great band in their day, the epitome of "heavy," and probably audible all the way to the Canadian border. So there had been at least a few rock bands in Bangor and Orono prior to the Grateful Dead, but not many. The harsh winters would not have been encouraging to touring bands.

Beyond the tape, we seem to know nothing about the show. Some between song chatter on the tape suggests that the Dead were told they had to end by midnight, accounting for the slightly shortened show. At 7:00pm, when fans were coming into the show, the temperature was 43 degrees, with a wind of 6.9mph. When the show ended, it was down to 39 degrees, with a windchill of 33, thanks to the 10mph wind. That sounds kind of chilly to me, but I think for Maine in the Spring it was a pretty nice day.

How many people attended the show? The capacity of 5948 was far larger than the typical places that the Dead played, and the band had never played anywhere near Bangor. When the Dead played colleges in Pennysylvania or New York, even in a rural area the dorms would have been salted with students from the Philadelphia or New York City suburbs, so there would have been some buzz. The University of Maine, however, was primarily filled with people from Maine, so there had to have been precious few who had actually seen the Grateful Dead in concert. I can't imagine that the show was sold out, but it's hard to fathom how well the show did. One thing to recall about places like Bangor, particularly in 1971, was that while the population was small, there wasn't so much to do. A show at the Fillmore East competed with other rock shows, NBA games and Manhattan nightlife in general. In places like Bangor, often people just went to things because it was something to do. Still, we know nothing about the success of the show, save that the Dead never played Bangor again.

There is one tantalizing hint on the Archive, from a Commenter called Sammo, who says:
A little shorter because of the threat of having the power cut off around midnight, but otherwise quite enjoyable. I got to sit on the stage right in front of Uncle Jerry for most of the show. Got lots of photos including Jerry with NRPS. This was just a few days before the Fillmore (Ladies & Gentlemen).
The only implication I can draw from this was that the show was mellow enough that a local was able to sit on the side of the stage. Of course, "Sammo", whoever he might be, might have been connected in some way, but generally speaking at packed shows security is tighter, even for people who are friends with the promoter. Thus I am taking his comment to mean the show at Bangor was pretty laid back. But other than that, we have nothing. If anyone knows anything, or even has a few unverified third-hand stories about the show, please put them in the Comments.

There is a similar tantalizing but inconclusive hint over at
The Dead played so long that they turned the lights on in the auditorium. When the band just kept on playing, the power was cut. Garcia said that they would never play Bangor, maine again know what?...they never did!! This was my first show, at the tender age of 13. i was never the same after that.
The Grateful Dead show at the Lewiston Fairgounds in Maine on September 6, 1980 rapidly became a legend from Coast to Coast. 
The Grateful Dead did not play upper New England until 1978, and they did not play Maine until 1979. When they played Maine again, they played in Portland. In the late 19th century, the city of Portland, two hours warmer, with a correspondingly less icy port, became the confluence of several New England railroads and grew in importance. Portland, with a population of 60,000 or so, surpassed Bangor 100 years ago, and remains the commercial center of Maine. Portland, per its name, is right on the coast, so it is a popular tourist destination, at least in those months when Maine's temperature is forgiving (I went to Portland, ME once, and I can vouch for the fact that it's a great city to visit).

By the late 1970s, the Dead were established touring legends. Even rock fans who were not necessarily fans of the band's music often wanted to see them once just to say they had done it. In between shows in the Dead's strongholds of big East Coast cities, the Dead and the Jerry Garcia Band started to play farther afield. The first Dead shows in upper New England were May 5, 1978 in Hanover, NH (at Dartmouth College) and May 6, 1978 at Burlington, VT (at the University Of Vermont). The next show in Maine was at Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, ME  (concert capacity 9500) on May 13, 1979. The Dead went on to play some more shows in Portland and nearby Augusta. Then on September 6, 1980, the Dead headlined an outdoor show at the Lewiston County Fairgrounds. The tape is fantastic, the show was by all accounts great, and the Dead seemed to own Maine and upper New England from then on. However, the locus seemed to have been in Portland, with Bangor left out of the loop.

The distinctive hyperbolic parabolic architecture of the Alfond Arena at the University of Maine in Orono, ME. The Grateful Dead played here on April 19, 1983
Coda: Alfond Arena, U. of Maine, Orono, ME April 19, 1983
The rock concert industry extended its tentacles throughout the 70s, but they seemed to have a hard time gaining a foothold in Maine. Now and again, as best as I can tell, a band would play Bangor or Orono. Aerosmith headlined a concert at Orono on September 30, 1973, but of course they were just a regional band at the time (their debut album had been released earlier that year). The New Riders Of The Purple Sage played a show at UM on November 6, 1975. While the Riders always put on a good show, their wave had crested by then, and I wonder if anyone had seen their earlier iteration in Bangor was still there.

Once the Cumberland County Civic Center was built, rock concerts started to come to Maine, but of course they were in Portland, two hours to the South of Bangor. While the first concert in Cumberland Civic was ZZ Top (in '77), the Dead made it a regular stop. Somehow, as near as I can tell, Maine became an East Coast version of Oregon, with a Deadheads-per-capita ratio far in excess of cities where the Dead played regularly. I don't know if the hippie communes were anywhere near Bangor--probably not--but there was one final reprise at the Northern edge of Interstate 95.

On Tuesday, April 19, 1983, the Grateful Dead played the Alfond Arena at the University of Maine. The Alfond had opened in 1977, built to bring the U. of M. hockey team back from Bangor. The Alfond Arena was recognizable for its "distinctive hyperbolic parabaloid architecture," so it was not at all a typical basketball arena, having been custom-designed for hockey. The 1983 Orono show was a classic "routing gig," a show booked to cover expenses for a band on the road. The Grateful Dead were far bigger than they were back in '71, but only in certain places. The weekend before Orono, the Dead had played two nights at The Meadowlands in New Jersey (Apr 16/17), and later in the week they had shows in Providence (Apr 20) and New Haven (22/23). But the band had to do something in between, and whatever money they made in Maine on a Tuesday was more than they would have made staying in a hotel in Secaucus, NJ. 

There are various tantalizing comments on
The bridge flooded out.
I remember hearing in the parking lot that the bridge south of Orono on I-95 had flooded out and that there were deadheads who couldn't get to the show. Apparently there was lots of rain the day before. I was just glad that we decided to leave the night before and get here early.
Security was uptight lots of
Security was uptight lots of people didn't get in till after the show started because security was slow and searched everyone to the max
First Acid Trip
Yes I waited and waited, but had to try it. I do remember people pushing and shoving to get in. Yes Security sucked. We missed most of Jack Straw. But the Acid was good. Fun, Fun.
Seemed to be allot of excitement
There was a feeling in the air that we were going to get a show like the one at UVM . Maybe because was a collage show or just the loooooooooooong ride in between shows. I was a bit let down at this one yes the on the road again was fun the Sugaree was hot and spanish jam was tight but still after it was over I thought we would get more at this one. oh well is why we went to every show never knew what night was going to be The night
And over on the archive
Remember going to this show -- lots of tickets for sale in the parking lot from Univ. of Maine students. The first one we spoke to tried to charge us more than the face value. "But there are LOTS of tickets for sale tonight," we said."Yeah, but I have to make SOMETHING off of this," he said, as we pulled away.
Something had evolved in Maine, and the Grateful Dead had conquered the state, just as they had intended a dozen years earlier. Even at the farthest end of I-95--just a few hours from Saint Stephen--the Grateful Dead had carved out their little kingdom.

The Wheel Keeps Turning, And You Can't Slow Down
Of course, the memorable concert in Orono in 1983 wasn't the Grateful Dead. On October 14, 1983. at the Memorial Gym, REM headlined over Let's Active and Willie B. Smith. REM's incredible debut album Murmur had been released earlier in the year, and Let's Active featured their producer Mitch Easter. REM was a great live band early in their career (not that they ever weren't) and anyone who saw them on this tour would still be bragging about it to this day. Once again, Orono was the far Northern end of a run around East Coast colleges and cities, and the story played out again. As the rock market expanded, Bangor and Orono finally became a regular stop, and the likes of Phish and Bob Dylan played there in the 90s, and I hear that Phish played a memorable show in 1994. Bangor was in the rock circuit by then, and once again the Dead were right, but early, having started up the train before the track was even ready.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

January 13, 1980 Oakland Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA: Grateful Dead/Beach Boys/Jefferson Starship/Joan Baez/Carlos Santana (FM XIX)

A t-shirt from the January 13, 1980 Cambodian Refugee Benefit concert at Oakland Coliseum Arena that was headlined by the Grateful Dead
In general, this blog focuses on Grateful Dead concerts that have only faint evidence of their existence. For a show that is only known from long-ago newspaper listings, the biggest question is often whether the event actually occurred at all. Yet Grateful Dead history is so vast and has so many tentacles that many shows that are fully documented all but disappear from any historical accounting. Such is the peculiar fate of the Benefit for Cambodian Refugees held at the Oakland Coliseum Arena on January 13, 1980, headlined by the Grateful Dead. Many, if not most, Bay Area Deadheads went to the show, and it was broadcast on KSAN-fm, so great tapes were available the next day, but still the show is rarely recalled in any form.

In many ways, the January Coliseum show was a final whiff of some long-gone formats. In the 60s, Bill Graham had put on a number of high profile benefits with multiple acts, where bands like the Dead had usually played a shortened set. Although the Dead were the headliners by 1980, they still played a shortened set at the Coliseum that night, a configuration that would not occur at a major venue again. KSAN had broadcast many Dead shows, but the station was wobbling with new competition and a new format. Yet for one night the clock was turned back for a final time. January 13, 1980 was the last live Grateful Dead KSAN broadcast. An era was ending, although nobody seemed to notice at that moment. This post will take a closer look at the January 13, 1980 Grateful Dead show at the Oakland Coliseum Arena, in order to relocate it in its original context.

A postcard view of the Oakland Auditorium. 
The Grateful Dead, New Year's 1979/80
The Grateful Dead's 5-night stand at the Oakland Auditorium Arena from December 26 to 31, 1979, is rightly considered a watershed moment in Grateful Dead history. At the end of 1978, Bill Graham had finally closed Winterland, leaving the Dead not only with no home court, but no direct link to the Fillmore era. Shortly afterwards, following a great show at the Oakland Coliseum Arena, on February 17, 1979, Keith and Donna Godchaux had left the Grateful Dead. Many changes were afoot in the Grateful Dead universe.

The Dead's initial concerts with Brent Mydland on keyboards were relatively cautious. On August 4 and 5, 1979, the Dead had played two concerts for Bill Graham at the Oakland Auditorium Arena. Graham had started using the old Auditorium for rock shows earlier in the year, with the first show having featured the J Geils Band and April Wine on March 24, 1979. The Oakland Auditorium had been built in 1915 and numerous performers had played there over the decades, including Elvis Presley, James Brown and even the Dead on occasion. However, few Bay Area rock fans at the time even knew that the arena existed. From the very beginning of the August 4 show, however, it was clear that the Grateful Dead had a new home.

It was also plain to anyone paying attention that Bill Graham had known that he had access to the Oakland Auditorium, so he had a ready-made Winterland replacement for not only the Grateful Dead but any other bands who sounded better in a general admission setting. Although the old Auditorium was somewhat run down, that didn't matter at a Dead concert (nor for J. Geils, Alvin Lee or The Tubes, who were typical of the 1979 acts). The Auditorium was larger than Winterland, the parking situation was better, it was far easier to get to, and since it was across from a Junior College, it was a far more pleasant neighborhood to park in than Winterland circa-1978.

Brent seemed to find his sea-legs on a very well-received Fall '79 East Coast tour. To end the year, Graham booked four shows at Oakland Auditorium, and they sold out very quickly.  I went to the main outlet of the ticketseller BASS (a forerunner of Ticketmaster, more or less), and got in line at 8:00 am, and there was a huge line, and tickets were not even going on sale until noon. In 1977, just two years earlier, I had gone to the ticket outlet at a stereo shop in the suburbs after tickets had a gone on sale, probably at about 12:30 in the afternoon, stood in a line of three people, and bought as many tickets as I wanted for New Years and the other two nights. By 1979, that was a Lost World--if we had not stood in that line Sunday morning, we would not have had tickets.

After the instant sellout, an additional night was added for December 26. This show was a benefit for Wavy Gravy's charity SEVA, and that show too began a tradition of Grateful Dead support for that charity. It is worth noting, however, that in 1979 the Dead were still in the mode of headlining a specific show for a specific charity, which must have competition for their services fairly intense amongst their friends and associates. By 1982, the Dead had conceived of the Rex Foundation, and largely stopped doing benefits for individual charities, but in 1979 they were still in their original mode.

There are two other significant aspects to the '79 New Year's run, one hardly noticed and the other enshrined in Grateful Dead legend. What seems to have been elided in Deadhead history was that the New Year's '79 show appears to have been the formal beginning of the annual road trips to the West Coast by Eastern Deadheads. Obviously, many a Deadhead had made their Western pilgrimage in the past. But here was an extended run during a vacation period, not so hard to fit into work or school, and it was like a homing call. I went to all five nights in '79, and each night there seemed to be more and more people from outside the Bay Area. This gave each successive night a livelier feel, as the high energy Easterners saw the whole event differently than us locals. New Year's Eve, as I recall, was a wild, strange night indeed, a sort of party with representatives of every state of the Deadhead Nation. This phenomenon only became more pronounced with each passing year, but I recall New Year's Eve 79/80 as having a very strange, rowdy vibe, as if something was in the water (which it very well could have been...).

Of course, the famous (or infamous) historical aspect of the '79 run was the little lawn outside the Oakland Auditorium. A lot of Deadheads had shown up from wherever, and a few of them asked BGP manager Bob Barsotti if they could camp in the park, since the Bay Area weather was as balmy as always. He said yes, probably not really thinking about it, and the "Shakedown Street" vending scene was born right there. What has largely been forgotten was that your typical local Deadhead, like me, arrived shortly before showtime--parking was a breeze--and split immediately afterwards. The people who were the patrons of the nascent Shakedown Street were the Deadheads from out of town, who often had fewer places to be and were interested in soaking up the atmosphere. The camping scene at Oakland had a readymade audience from out of town, even if many of those Deadheads were staying elsewhere, and that dynamic made the little scene grow.

The 5-show run at Oakland Auditorium featured great shows in a comfortable setting, with an excited audience full of energetic out-of-towners. Tickets for the January Coliseum show went on sale after the Auditorium sold out. Most of the local fans, like me and my friends, cheerfully bought tickets. However, we more or less forgot about the Coliseum in the midst of the excitement over Oakland, so there wasn't much in the way of expectations.

The Kampuchean Refugee Crisis
I am not particularly a big fan of Joan Baez's music, particularly with the Grateful Dead, but she is always on the right side of history. By 1979, the world had become aware of the terrible rule of the Khmer Rouge and the genocide in Cambodia. The battle-tested Vietnamese army had moved in and kicked out the the Khmer Rouge and their leader Pol Pot, but Cambodia was a broken country with millions of starving refugees. There had been some high profile rock concerts in London, featuring Wings, The Who, Queen and others (December 26-29, 1979 at Hammersmith Odeon), and in turn Joan Baez had prevailed upon Bill Graham to promote a rock concert to raise money for the Cambodian refugees. Since the Vietnam War had only ended in 1973, the politics of Southeast Asia was still a fraught subject in the United States, but to her credit Baez focused on the suffering of actual humans, and the bands responded.

As I recall, the event was structured as a telethon, managed by KSAN-fm. This was in the early days of 800 numbers, and the idea was fairly new. Throughout the KSAN broadcast, there were various entreaties to call the pledge line. When Joan makes the remark at the end of the tape "we made mucho bucks tonight," that is what she is referring to (with the rather dated afterthought "and this is one time that I don't mind saying that," a whiff of the long-gone 60s). I assume that t-shirt sales and other merch had their profits directed towards the same charity. True to their roots, the Grateful Dead avoided explicitly political benefits, but they were generally on board when it was a matter of helping other people.

KSAN-fm had been a classical station prior to May 1968. KMPX-fm had become the first free-form "underground" rock station in early 1967, but the entire staff had walked out on March 18, 1968. It was an unprecedented strike by hippies, and a bunch of San Francisco bands showed up to jam out a rally in solidarity with the strike. Jerry Garcia, who came from a union family himself, showed up around dawn to jam with Traffic, who were playing Fillmore West that weekend.

KMPX Supremo Tom Donahue took the entire KMPX staff and format over to KSAN, and they started broadcasting rock music on May 21, 1968. KSAN was owned by Metromedia, a national chain, and the SF rock format soon spread to sister stations in Los Angeles (KMET) and New York (WNEW). The FM rock revolution was off and running, yet another San Francisco contribution to 20th century rock history. By the early 70s, KSAN was the number one station in the Bay Area for the valuable 18-34 demographic. The station was hugely profitable, and it stayed popular by staying hipper than its competitors, always playing new records, broadcasting live shows and having iconically cool djs.

By the end of the 1970s, however, the fm radio landscape had changed. KSAN's audience was older and didn't listen to the radio as much. The djs liked new wave music like Elvis Costello and The Clash, and that wasn't as popular as old Led Zeppelin records. There was also a well-funded competitor, KMEL-fm ("The Camel") and the truth was, KSAN didn't represent the hip counterculture anymore: it was the culture. So the handwriting was on the wall. Metromedia management didn't like the old djs, who in turn hated being asked to compete directly with the new Album-Oriented Rock format of KMEL, instead of just playing what they liked.

By early 1980, KSAN hardly played the Grateful Dead. The djs didn't want to play music by old fogeys like the Dead, and the managers didn't think the Dead were mainstream enough, compared to Fleetwood Mac or Journey. But for a day, KSAN turned back the clock and had a fundraiser for the Cambodian refugees, exhorting their listeners to call in and pledge. The big events of the night were broadcasts of the sets by the Jefferson Starship and The Grateful Dead.

The Beach Boys "comeback'" album, 15 Big Ones, which featured new material by Brian Wilson
The Bands
The Beach Boys had been nearly finished at the beginning of the 70s, but they had come back strong. In the middle of the decade, AM radio became more focused on oldies, and the Beach Boys classic hits aged very well. By 1980, the Beach Boys were actually more popular than they ever had been as a concert attraction, although that was mainly due to the expansion of the industry. Of the "classic" Beach Boys, four of the original five were still in the band (Carl and Dennis Wilson, lead singer Mike Love and guitarist Al Jardine). Along with original Brian-Wilson-replacement Bruce Johnston, the band was filled out with some pretty good live players (with Billy Hinsche on keyboards and a few other musicians).

Legendary genius Brian Wilson had reappeared in the studio in 1976 for the new album 15 Big Ones, and although his status was always shaky, he remained a part of the group. Intriguingly, he started to appear at some concerts in 1980, and was apparently playing at the Coliseum show. I'm not sure why The Beach Boys actually played this show. I have a feeling that the high profile Cambodian Refugee  concerts by Paul McCartney, The Who and others had inspired Beach Boys management to participate in a similar event.

The Jefferson Starship were in a strange window. On one hand, the band had sold a tremendous amount of records since they had arisen from the ashes of the Jefferson Airplane. Their current album, Freedom At Point Zero, was no exception. It had just been released in November of 1979, and it would rise to #14 on the Billboard charts, behind the hit single "Jane." Oddly enough, however, the Starship were a shrinking concert attraction, particularly in San Francisco. On New Year's Eve, they had played double shows for two nights at a nightclub (called X's, in San Francisco). Now, I'm sure it was sold out, but that was a far cry from the 5 packed nights at the 7000-plus capacity Oakland Auditorium that the Dead had headlined.

Although the Starship were seen as traditional San Francisco rock royalty, only Paul Kantner remained from days of yore, though David Freiberg, too, had been in Quicksilver in the 60s. The rest of the Starship (Mickey Thomas, Craig Chacuiqo, Pete Sears and Aynsley Dunbar) were relatively recent arrivals to the Marin scene, so it was hardly a reunion of the old days. Although Kantner was surely up for a benefit, not to mention hanging out with the Dead, I expect that RCA Records was interested in making sure that the band was involved in the seemingly high profile concert along with other major acts.

Joan Baez remained a committed activist, which looks better and better as the years were on, but she was more of a famous name than an important artist. Her most recent album had been 1979's Honest Lullaby on CBS. She would not release another studio album in the US until 1987.

Carlos Santana was as big a star as ever, and that never changed. He also was all but guaranteed to be at any major benefit or happening event, both because he has a social conscience and because
he liked to jam. As part of Santana's commitment to the lifestyle encouraged by guru Sri Chimnoy, Carlos often referred to himself as Devadip Carlos Santana. In the Bay Area at the time, it was generally understood that when Carlos was billed as "Devadip," patrons could expect something jazzier, spacier or more spiritual than the popular jams of "Well All Right" or "Oye Como Va" that typified the Santana band.

The cover of the Jefferson Starship's 1979 album Freedom At Point Zero, on RCA Records
The Show and The Broadcast
I know the January 13 show at the Coliseum was sold out. I myself had a ticket, but did not go because I was sick. I had not been well for the December run, but had gone anyway, which was well worth it, but I was paying the price two weeks later. Of course, the fact that the Dead set would be broadcast made my decision easier. My friends were indirectly pleased as well, since I had a tape in their hands the next morning. So my perceptions are a bit second hand, from the broadcast, my friends and a few other tidbits of information.

As near as I could tell, the show was "Dead-friendly," if you will, but not as much of a hard core Deadhead audience. The out-of-town visitors had probably all left town by then. There must also have been a few like me, who for one reason or another could not or did not want to make a Coliseum show after five nights at the Auditorium. At the time, the Bay Area was still full of people who had seen the Dead a few times over the years and liked them, but didn't consider themselves Deadheads. Those people weren't going to have spent four hours in line to get Auditorium tickets, so I suspect many of them took the opportunity to see the Dead at the Coliseum.

Based on a comment on Deadlists, it appears that there were almost no audience tapes made at the show. One partial tape seems to have finally turned up on the Archive, but its a sign that the hardcore were either not there or were treating it casually. Obviously, with an FM broadcast, the need for audience tapes was less critical, but that usually never stopped tapers.

I assume that Joan Baez opened the show with a few solo numbers. No one mentions it, probably because they were still in the parking lot. Joan has a huge voice, and the confidence to hold a giant crowd by herself, which is actually a rare thing in a folksinger. It appears that Carlos Santana also played solo. I saw him do this another time, several years later at the Kaiser Convention Center (the name for Oakland Auditorium when it got remodeled in '85). Carlos would go on to sit in with both the Starship and the Dead, so he was definitely part of the show, even if his own solo portion was probably brief.

I believe The Beach Boys came on next. I'm sure they played about an hour, playing mostly legendary hits and probably a few newer numbers. This was hardly the first time that the Beach Boys opened for the Dead, but it was the first time since a Day On The Green stadium show next door, at the Oakland Stadium, on June 8, 1974. That day, the Beach Boys easily won over the crowd, as it was hard not to enjoy "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "Help Me Rhonda" done by the original band, all of whom could still sing. I don't doubt that the Beach Boys were still just as winning in 1980.

The one big difference from 1974 would have been the presence of Brian Wilson himself. However, on the archive, reviewer Malbuff recalls
But what I remember most about that night was the Beach Boys' performance. Brian Wilson had finally ventured out on the road for the first time in years, and there he sat, a big hulking figure at the piano, while throughout the set, Mike Love pointedly teased and belittled him to the point of cruelty. The others just looked on, embarrassed. It was like watching a dysfunctional family.
We don't have to guess about the Jefferson Starship set, since it was broadcast on KSAN (somewhere I have a tape). They played about 75 minutes, with Carlos Santana joining in on the "Somebody To Love" encore.
Ride the Tiger, Girl with The Hungry Eyes, Stranger, Jane, Awakening, Things to Come, Have You Seen the Saucers?/bass solo, Light the Sky on Fire/drums, Rock Music, Dance with the Dragon, [Carlos Santa joins for] Somebody to Love
This seems to have been a typical Starship set of the time, perhaps a song or two shorter. I'm sure they went over fine with the crowd, and they must have had plenty of fans. However, for all the erratic nature of the old Jefferson Airplane, that band could really achieve liftoff when all the band members clicked, even if that didn't happen too often. The Starship was more reliable but ultimately considerably blander. Also, Mickey Thomas, while ultra-competent as a vocalist, was just another arena-rock dude compared to Marty Balin, much less Grace Slick. Note that this set didn't even have the really big Starship hits, either, like "Miracles." So it was hard to get excited about the 1980 model Jefferson Starship.

KSAN went back to their telethon, as everybody got ready for the main event. I do not recall precisely what time the Starship left the stage, but I do recall in general that it was not a late night. It was a Sunday, however, and I must have had school (and most of the audience must have had similar concerns). So the open question was how long the Dead would actually play. At the time, there was really no precedent in the Bay Area for a Dead show where they played less than a full show, with at least two sets. We faintly knew that there had been such things in bygone days but those had nothing to do with the Grateful Dead of 1980. The very few times that the Dead had played with multiple opening acts had been outdoor stadium shows where time wasn't a big factor, so in one way the evening was up for grabs.

The Grateful Dead played a stripped-down 90 minute set. In fact, the band played really well, and there are many highlights in this largely forgotten performance. For many more casual Dead fans, whether at the concert or listening on the radio, this would have been their first taste of Brent Mydland with the Dead. By Winter 1980, the Dead were cooking hard with Brent and he sounds great with the band. Carlos Santana and old friend John Cipollina joined in for "Not Fade Away" and "Sugar Magnolia," and Greg Errico was along for "U.S. Blues," so in the end there were some more Fillmore West faces after all.

One Jack Straw [5:42] >
Franklin's Tower [11:44] ;
New Minglewood Blues [6:56] ;
Tennessee Jed [8:21] >
Looks Like Rain [7:12] >
Don't Ease Me In [7:16] ;
Playing In The Band [10:41] >
Drums [7:15] >
Not Fade Away (1) [14:27] >
Sugar Magnolia (1) [7:30]
Encore U.S. Blues [#4:18]

The rare configuration of this event gives a good insight into what the band must have considered the essence of a Grateful Dead show. Drums and space are there, and some nice jamming before and after. There's some good rock and roll, too, but no Weir cowboy tunes.

At the show's conclusion, Joan Baez came out and led many members of the bands in a couple of songs. Her first number is usually listed as "Land Of A Thousand Dances," but really it is the "Na, na-na, na-nahh" from the Wilson Pickett song, with Joan singing modified spiritual lyrics on the top. This was a good vehicle for the Beach Boys to exercise their vocal chops. "Amazing Grace" followed, and KSAN signed off. It was probably about midnight.

The 1981 double-lp Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea, released on Atlantic. The album featured Paul McCartney and many other rock stars, and it had been recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on December 26-29, 1979.
Last Calls
For many reasons, few people recall this show, or even realize that it existed. The December Oakland shows were rightly legendary, so even the locals forgot that the Dead played again two weeks later. The tape is really good, but there aren't really any unique songs or combinations that caused it to circulate too widely. Since there were few or no audience tapes, you didn't get the casual discovery of people's friends going "hey, what's this one sound like?" So, the January 13 1980 show stands as a somewhat forgotten signpost at a crossroads, looking to the past and the future.

  • The Grateful Dead played one more show with the Starship crowd, in May of 1982 in San Francisco. The last stands of the old Fillmore bands were at giant arenas, a far cry from the camaraderie of an elegant little room on Geary Avenue.
  • Mickey Hart and Joan Baez had probably met back in the day, but I have to think this event played a part in them becoming a couple in the next year. The Dead would go on to back Joan Baez in some studio recordings made at Hart's Barn studios in 1980. In December 1981, the band would back Joan for some acoustic performances with decidedly mixed results.
  • The only other time the Grateful Dead played a short electric set to accommodate a multi-act indoor show was at one of the performances with Baez. It was a very different beast than the Coliseum show, however: on December 12, 1981, the Dead played the relatively small pavilion at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds. Opening acts were Joan Baez, backed by the Dead, and also Mickey Harts' band High Noon, who also backed Joan (you can read about the show in great detail at the link).  The Dead did one more show sort of like this, with some variations, at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, on May 28, 1982. The bill was Jefferson Starship/Grateful Dead/Country Joe, with various guests (like Boz Scaggs, Pete Sears and John Cipollina), and the Dead played a shortened set there, too, but the old Fillmore West idea of big bands playing short sets at the same benefit pretty well faded away.
  • On November 15, 1980, KSAN-fm, once the mighty Jive 95, gave it up and went country. This was a good move from a radio standpoint, but the end of an era to aging hippies. The January 13 show was the last KSAN Dead broadcast.
  • The Grateful Dead soon got out of the habit of doing concerts for specific charities. By 1982 they had formed the Rex Foundation, and they could then share out the money to numerous causes, instead of having to decide to give it all to one entity in advance. The first Rex Foundation Benefits were February 16 and 17, 1982 at the Fox-Warfield. There were occasional high profile single-cause Dead benefits after that, but they were largely supplanted by Rex events. 
  • However trivial the Jefferson Starship seemed in 1980, they would go on to sell even more albums and become far more embarrassing--"We Built This City" indeed. Grace would return, Kantner would leave, eventually the Airplane had a desultory reunion, but finally Jorma and Grace declared "no more." Still, at the end of the line in 1990, Jefferson Airplane went out with a week at the Fillmore and a free concert at Golden Gate Park, thus ending in a way kind of as they began.
  • Highlights of the London Concerts for Kampuchea were released as a successful album. I suspect Bill Graham and others were interested in doing a similar thing for the San Francisco show, but no such thing happened. Nonetheless, the seeds of the massive Live Aid show can be seen in the footprints of the London and San Francisco benefit concerts for Cambodian Refugees.
  • As for Cambodia, the terrible rule of the Khmer Rouge had been ended by the invading Vietnamese army, with their combat skills honed from decades of war with the Japanese, French and Americans. The Vietnamese Army occupied Cambodia until the early 1990s, but eventually withdrew, leaving a form of stable democracy in the country, with the scattered Khmer Rouge hiding far off in the jungle. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Whatever It Is

A partially successful attempt at a three-day multi-media event 48 years ago was also the last of the Acid Tests (albeit a subsequent “Graduation” was held).  The campus of San Francisco State College became hosts to the Merry Pranksters, the Grateful Dead and a number of other performers that weekend. Without going in to any great detail here, the likely most significant point about the following list is the demystification of what the Grateful Dead were doing that weekend. There are three separate confirmed performances not properly documented elsewhere (as far as I know).

30 September 1966

Sculpture Yard: Demon Lover, Anonymous Artists of America, The Infinite Painting & The Universal Structure

International Room:  Grateful Dead, The Only Alternative and His Other Possibilities with Mimi Farina, The Light Castle

Gallery Lounge: Don Garrett, Chloe Schott, Poetry Reading , Paul Robertson Jazz Band, Congress of Wonders, Ron Boise Musical Sculpture and Artwork of Dion Wright, Bob Branaman, Bruce Connor and Karen Koslow

Women's Gym: Bill Ham Light Show, Wildflower, Blue House Basement, J Baldwin's Tensed Membrane Screen, Rock Workshop

Men's Gym: Bernie Gunther (of the Esalen Foundation) Sensory Awakening, Robert Baker Cosmic Comic, The Merry Pranksters, Don Buchla

Women's Gym 125: Bob Beck Light Show

Education 117: Film Guild Movies

01 October 1966

Men's Pool: Water Polo, Light Show and Open Swimming

Common's Lawn: Wildflower, Anonymous Artists of America, Blue House Basement, The Committee, Robert Baker, San Francisco Mimi Troupe perform "Olive Pips"

Lowell High School Field: SF State v Santa Clara (Football - The Little Big Game)

Sculpture Yard: The Final Solution, Demon Lover, The Infinate Painting & The Universal Structure

Gallery Lounge: Don Garrett, Ron Boise Musical Sculpture and Artwork of Dion Wright, Bob Branaman, Bruce Connor and Karen Koslow.

Women's Gym: San Andreas Fault Finders, Dino Valenti, Universal Parking Lot, Congress Of Wonders (John Lennon Readings), Ken Kesey (with Freewheelin' Frank on harmonica and Kesey's cousin Dale on violin), Bill Ham Lightshow, Grateful Dead

Men's Gym: The Merry Pranksters, Don Buchla. A planned Jefferson Airplane and Paul Butterfield Blues Band after midnight performance in the Men’s Gym was never held due to Police intervention.

Education 117: Film Guild Movies

02 October 1966

Common's Lawn: Grateful Dead, The Only Alternative and His Other Possibilities with Mimi Farina, The Committee, Congress Of Wonders

Women's Gym 125: Bob Beck Light Show

Education 117: Film Guild Movies


Thursday, November 6, 2014

December 22, 1969, Napa Valley Sports Camp, Napa, CA Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Rejoice/People!/Loading Zone

The Scendrome listing from the Berkeley Barb of December 19, 1969, mentioning a benefit concert in Napa on Monday, December 22, headlined by the Grateful Dead
The 2013 release of Dave's Picks Volume 6, featuring a performance by the Grateful Dead at the Old (original) Fillmore on Saturday, December 20, 1969, was very well received. A bonus disc, with additional material from the next day's show on Sunday, December 21, 1969, added to the feast. It was a reminder of how many shows the Grateful Dead played back in the day, a hard working band always ready to put out. Amazingly enough, however, the Grateful Dead not only played a hot weekend at the Old Fillmore, they were scheduled to play an outdoor benefit show on the Monday after the weekend. Did the Grateful Dead really play a Monday afternoon show in an empty field in Napa, on December 22, 1969? They certainly advertised the show, and there is no reason to think they didn't play.

The Scenedrome entertainment listings of the December 19, 1969 Berkeley Barb yielded the unexpected information that the Grateful Dead would headline a benefit concert on Monday, December 22 in  the Napa Valley. In its entirety the listing (above) says
ROCK CONCERT: Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Rejoice, The People & Loading Zone. Disc jockeys from local stations will mc the event. Napa Valley Sports Camp, 5 miles west of Napa on Highway 12 in the quiet and beautiful Brown's Valley. $3.50 and tickets can be purchased from St. Mary's High School, Albina and Hopkins Streets. Berk, call Bill Doherty 555-1039.
[This is a re-post of a long-ago entry]

The cover of the Quicksilver Messenger Service's Shady Grove lp, released on Capitol in December 1969. Nicky Hopkins had joined the band, as Gary Duncan had left, and Dan Healy manned the mixing board. It featured the original recording of "Edward The Mad Shirt Grinder," which Hopkins performed with the Jerry Garcia Band in 1975.
The Dead had played The Old Fillmore on December 19, 20 and 21 (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), and did not have a gig until Texas on December 26. While non-Californians may wonder at an apparently outdoor concert on a Monday in December, remember that many people are on holiday during Christmas, and daytime winter temperatures in Napa are about, oh, 65 degrees or so. This show would be very plausible in terms of the Grateful Dead touring schedule as known.

As near as I can tell, the location would have been in between Napa and Sonoma, and somewhere in the vicinity of Napa Road and Burndale Road, probably near the current location of the Homewood Winery. In those days, Napa was fairly rural and agricultural, so while hippies may not have been entirely welcome, they would have been mainly only bothering cows (and the occasional race car at Sears Point International Raceway, just a few miles South).

What is particularly rare about this show is that it may represent a 1969 show by Quicksilver Messenger Service. There is no good Quicksilver tour history on the Web yet, but this would be only the 8th known show of 1969. The band definitely included John Cipollina, Nicky Hopkins, David Freiberg and Greg Elmore. Dan Healy occasionally played guitar and bass on stage with them during this period, as well. Gary Duncan and Dino Valenti would rejoin the group on New Year's Eve, though perhaps they used this as a warmup gig. Their album Shady Grove had just been released in December.

People! were a San Jose band, although they had not achieved much beyond their 1968 hit single "I Love You." People! did have some South Bay connections with the Dead, as bassist Geoff Levin had played bluegrass with Jerry Garcia and David Nelson around 1964 (check out photo # 1/22 on Levin's site). Rejoice is a common band from bills at the time, and The Loading Zone were old friends from the early days of The Fillmore.

The Yellow Shark was on the case, as always:
The show was actually a benefit for St. Mary's College High in Berkeley, and possibly other high schools that were responsible for sponsoring the event. I have a handbill somewhere - but have not seen it for years. Whilst it was common for high schools to sponsor shows in the 60s (proms, fundraisers etc.) they were generally held at the school itself or somewhere reasonably near by. What seems odd here is that the event was being held 40 miles away from Berkeley - which leads me to think there may have been other schools or colleges involved. A snippet appears in the December 13, 1969 Oakland Tribune: "St. Mary's College High in Berkeley is participating in a high school-sponsored rock festival to be held Dec. 22 at the Napa Valley Sports Camp. The 40-acre site is located about five miles west of Napa on Highway 12 in Brown's Valley. Groups scheduled to appear are The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Rejoice, The People and The Loading Zone. Booths selling food and merchandise will be located throughout the site for the duration (9 a.m.- 5 p.m.) of the festival. Tickets are now available at St. Mary's." 
What Was The Napa Valley Sports Camp?
Based only on the thin evidence that I have uncovered here, it appears that the Napa Valley Sports Camp was an outdoor area for some affiliated urban private high schools to use for athletic activities. I have no idea what they actually did there--does anyone play Capture The Flag anymore? In any case, I suspect that whatever casual athletic activities were undertaken would no longer be allowed. Not that it would matter, since land in that part of Napa Valley is so valuable it would never be rented as a relatively empty field. Today, the area is vineyards, farms or expensive homes, but no large, empty fields, that's for sure. Napa County was an agricultural area in 1969, with only the faintest hints at the wine and hospitality mecca that the area has become today.

The connection between private East Bay high schools and psychedelic Fillmore bands seems odd as well. Nonetheless, I do know that by 1969, many high schools had regular dances where Fillmore rock bands appeared. The Grateful Dead, for example, had played at Campolindo High School in Moraga in May of 1969. Further south, in the Fall of 1968, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Santana played the same dance, incredible as it may seem, at Los Altos High School. St. Elizabeth's High School in Oakland, high in the hills, and very likely to have been a co-sponsor for this event, had a surprising number of pretty hip bands that played dances there, so the connections ran deeper than we may think.

I have to think that the schools were looking to have a joint fundraiser, and turned to the bands to help out. I suspect the bands took a reduced rate, possibly just some sort of expenses. Since it was a Monday afternoon, none of the groups would have been working. If the Dead were willing to bring their sound system, having just unhitched it from the the old Fillmore the previous night, everything would have sounded pretty good.

It's a strange thought--the Monday afternoon before Christmas, a bunch of high school kids in a mostly empty field, in a bucolic setting, goofing off while Fillmore rock legends are jamming away. I checked out the weather, and it reached 55 degrees, with only the slightest hint (0.01 inch) of rain. So it was probably a pretty good day for a concert, as December days go.

Did it actually happen? The high school kids were probably too busy chasing each other, and the Dead and Quicksilver didn't seem like that big a deal to them, since they played high school dances on occasion. I don't know of any eyewitness account. Of course, a tape might be definitive, but none has surfaced yet. One of America's leading scholars suggested that an undated fragment could belong to this date, so perhaps there may be some lost piece of tape waiting to surface, a memory of a multi-school dance on a December afternoon in a distant rural county.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

February 6, 1972 Pacific High Recorders, San Francisco: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders live on KSAN-fm (FM V and 1/4)

San Francisco's KSAN-fm, 94.9 on the dial, was San Francisco's leading FM rock station and a pioneer of live rock broadcasting.
Even in retrospect, some events just seem to be part of a long chain and don't generate much reflection. Yet some events that seem routine turn out to be full of significance when any attempt is made to categorize them. One such event in Jerry Garcia's history is his live broadcast on KSAN-fm with Merl Saunders, John Kahn and Bill Kreutzmann from Pacific High Recorders in San Francisco on Sunday, February 6, 1972. The show has circulated widely over the years, often under different dates, and one song was even officially released.

The February 6, 1972 performance was the first official broadcast in the Bay Area of Jerry Garcia performing his own music, separate from the Grateful Dead. For many, it was the first chance that  non-club goers--including teenagers who made up much of the Grateful Dead's audience--had to hear the Garcia/Saunders ensemble. Since KSAN continued to play tracks from it on the air for years, it also served as de facto publicity for Garcia/Saunders, since they would not release the Live At Keystone album until January 1974, almost two years later. And finally, the set was recorded at the very same studio where the Dead had recorded Workingman's Dead just two years prior. This post will take a closer look at the Garcia/Saunders show from February 6, 1972, and consider it in its larger historical context.

KSAN Live Broadcasts
I have written at some length about KSAN-fm and its tradition of live broadcasts. KSAN was the most popular station in the Bay Area in the early 70s--bigger than News, AM Top 40, you-name-it--and it achieved that status by being the hippest rock station. One of the ways that KSAN did that was by pioneering fm broadcasts of of live rock bands. Now, KSAN was not the first radio station to do that. The first was probably KMPX-fm in 1967, who had broadcast live Grateful Dead as early as February 14, 1968. KMPX was unequivocally the first hip underground rock station. However, due to a dispute with management, the staff went on a legendary strike, and the KMPX staff went on to found KSAN.

One of KSAN's many innovations was having local rock bands perform "live in the studio," for a few invited guests. Given that remote broadcasting was a new craft, performing live in a recording studio solved certain technical problems. The record companies loved getting the airtime for their bands (and probably bought ads in return). There was a sponsor for  these shows, but the sets were not interrupted by ads. Bands generally played about an hour.

In September 1971, KSAN inaugurated the "KSAN Live Weekend," in which mostly local bands played live for much of the weekend. Each band would play about an hour, the station would go back to the djs for another hour while they changed over the set, and the next band would then play, and so on. This would go on for several hours on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon and evening. That is why there are so many fm broadcasts from San Francisco of local bands all dated September 1971--they were all from the same weekend. Some of the broadcasts are now obscure, but a few became quite legendary. The most famous was an amazing broadcast of Van Morrison, which included a show-stopping version of Bob Dylan's "Just Like A Woman," which KSAN played on the air for years, as if it were a record.

Workingman's Dead was recorded in February and March 1970 at Pacific High Recorders on 60 Brady Street in San Francisco, in an alley behind the Fillmore West.
Pacific High Recorders
The venue that KSAN chose was Pacific High Recorders, at 60 Brady Street, right behind the Fillmore West. The studio had only opened in 1968, and from its beginnings, it catered to the longhaired San Francisco rock bands. The day-to-day operations were handled  by Richard Olsen ("traffic manager" in studio parlance), formerly of those San Francisco originals, The Charlatans. Dan Healy brought Quicksilver Messenger Service in to record Shady Grove, and in early 1970 Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor used Pacific High to record Workingman's Dead. The main room didn't actually sound that great, but it was very large and there was a stage at one end. The 1970 Jefferson Airplane performance film Go Ride The Music was filmed at Pacific High as well.

The size of Pacific High's main room made it perfect for KSAN's first live weekend.  The crowds were probably 100 or so, mostly invited friends of each band, but enough to give the performances a live feel. There was no bar, but it being KSAN I'm pretty sure everyone found a way to relax anyway. Still, by the end of 1971, the economics of the studio weren't really working out, and Pacific High was sold to Alembic Engineering, and 60 Brady Street became Alembic Studios. At the time, Alembic also provided the sound system for the Grateful Dead and customized instruments for Phil Lesh, Jerry Garcia, Jack Casady and others. Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor immediately set to resolving various sonic issues in the studio's main room.

One peculiarity of Alembic Studios was that they did not publicize the name Alembic Studios very much. Well after Alembic took over the studio, the name Pacific High Recorders was regularly used. Some of this may have been casual--the musical community called it Pacific High, and there was no reason to argue about it. Alembic may have also wanted to discourage the curious. In any case, when you see a credit like "mixed at Alembic Studios by Bob and Betty and The Grateful Dead" (such as on Europe '72), keep in mind that it was the same 60 Brady Street where Workingman's Dead had been recorded. So when KSAN supremo Tom Donahue introduces Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders as playing live from Pacific High Recorders, it's an anachronism, if an approved one. Jerry and Merl were actually playing at the site of Pacific High Recorders, in the Alembic Studio.

Some Logistics
On Saturday, February 5, Garcia and Saunders had played at Keystone Korner in San Francisco. They may have played there on February 3 and 4, too, or maybe the Lion's Share in San Anselmo, but on Saturday night they had played Keystone Korner. The Keystone Korner was at 750 Vallejo Street. 60 Brady was just over at Market and Van Ness. So whoever was loading out Jerry and Merl that night, probably Ramrod and Steve Parish, only had to truck the equipment 2.6 miles on Broadway and Franklin, and juke at Van Ness onto Brady, which was actually a little alley. After loading the equipment into Alembic for the night, they could just scamper on home. Thus for the next day's gig, all the crew had to do was turn up, as the equipment was already in place.

Few people remark that the first live FM broadcast of Garcia and Saunders actually featured Bill Kreutzmann on drums. The truth is that no one knows how often Kreutzmann subbed for Bill Vitt. Vitt did not like to travel out of town, as he had toured plenty with a band called Jack Bedient And The Chessmen back in the 60s, and no longer found it interesting. However, based on existing tapes, it seems that Kreutzmann played a fair amount of local shows as well. It may be that Betty Cantor taped more shows with Kreutzmann, but truthfully we just don't know. In any case, Kreutzmann played regularly with Garcia and Saunders and knew the material well.

I have to assume that Bill Vitt had the option of playing the show and chose not to. One possibility is that Vitt had another engagement. Vitt was in The Sons Of Champlin, then going under the name Yogi Phlegm, so perhaps they had a gig. Certainly Vitt was a regular at the Sunday night jam at the Lion's Share, but its not likely that he would skip that for a radio broadcast. Its also possible that the KSAN broadcast was effectively unpaid. Vitt may not have wanted to come into the city for nothing.

Most live FM rock broadcasts were subsidized by the band's record company. In return for allowing a band to play uninterrupted. the record company would pay for the lost commercial time. My assumption has always been that the company bought additional future ads rather than paying cash, but I don't know for sure. However, in early '72, Merl Saunders did not have a record out, and Warner Brothers were not likely to subsidize Garcia playing material that wasn't from his album. The hipness quotient was high, however, and there was probably a sponsor for the hour (usually Pacific Stereo, a local electronics chain), so it was worth it for KSAN. If that was the case, however, I don't think the musicians or crew got paid, except perhaps in party favors.

Hooteroll?, by Howard Wales and Jerry Garcia was recorded from October 1970 through mid-1971 and released in late '71.
An East Coast Precursor
Right before the KSAN broadcast, Jerry Garcia made his first tour outside of California under his own name. He played 7 dates on the East Coast with Howard Wales' band, playing some pretty jammed out music with Wales' quartet. The tour was generally overshadowed, however, by the stunning performances of the opening act. The newly minted Mahavishnu Orchestra featured a new guitar hero in John McLaughlin, and a new look for fusion jazz. Wales and Garcia seemed rather noodly by comparison.

Another scholar has considered the '72 Wales/Garcia tour in some detail, so I will not dwell on it. However, the important point in this context was that the Garcia-Wales set on the first night in Boston was broadcast on WBCN-fm. The January 26 '72 tape has been widely circulated amongst Deadheads for many years. The Mahavishnu Orchestra were also part of the broadcast. Both Mahavishnu and Howard Wales Hooteroll? album were on Columbia (Hooteroll? had been on Douglas, a Columbia subsidiary).

When the Grateful Dead had supported their double live album ("Skullf**k") with over a dozen live broadcasts in every city that the band played, the New Riders of The Purple Sage had been broadcast in a number of those cities as well (this is covered in the preceding part of this series, Part V, which I concede I have not actually posted yet). The Dead's album had gone gold, and the NRPS debut album was selling briskly as well. Columbia appears to have figured out that Jerry Garcia would get people to tune into the radio, so they used it to promote two of their albums. Thus Jerry Garcia's first broadcast under his own name actually took place in Boston.

Given that touring plans have to be settled at least 30-60 days in advance, and any Garcia gigs had to be worked out around the Grateful Dead, it seems certain that the WBCN and KSAN broadcasts were conceived and agreed to at roughly the same time. It would be interesting to know if one inspired the other, or if they both arose of their own accord.
Howard Wales with special guest Jerry Garcia/Mahavishnu Orchestra
January 21, 1972 Academy Of Music, New York, NY
January 23, 1972 Field House, Villanova U., Merion, PA
January 26, 1972 Symphony Hall, Boston, MA
January 27, 1972 Symphony Hall, Boston, MA--WBCN-fm broadcast both bands
January 28, 1972 Palace Theater, Providence, RI
January 29, 1972 [unknown venue], SUNY, Buffalo, NY
Garcia/Saunders, Early '72
The Feb 6' 72 show was the first Garcia/Saunders music that I heard, and given the wide circulation of the tape, it seems to have been one of the first Garcia/Saunders tapes that most people heard. For many fans, probably most of us, for a very long time the Feb 6 '72 tape was also the earliest Garcia/Saunders tape. Thus, although the performance is a little simplified, it seems to set out the template for what was to come for Jerry Garcia in both Garcia/Saunders and the Jerry Garcia Band in the next 23 years: some Dylan, some R&B, all jammed out within their song structures. Indeed, in many way, the tape does set the table. But it may very well have been something new for Garcia.

Garcia and Saunders had played exclusively at the Matrix from their first appearance together on September 7. 1970, through the demise of the Matrix in May of '71. After that, their home base shifted to the Keystone Korner, and the played a few other local places, like The Lion's Share in San Anselmo. However, the earliest confirmed tape we have of them is May 20, 1971, and the quartet--Garcia, Saunders, Kahn and Vitt--play nothing but jammed out instrumentals. It seems that Garcia did not begin singing with the group until Tom Fogerty joined the group in June 1971. Garcia may not have felt comfortable singing without a rhythm guitarist. In any case, although Fogerty was a regular member of the group through the end of 1972, he did not make every gig. Garcia was a quick learner, too, so by February he already felt comfortable singing with another guitarist. I have engaged in an extensive dialogue about this elsewhere, so I won't repeat it, but suffice to say that the musical approach of the February 1972 Garcia/Saunders group appears to have been a recent development in Garcia's history.

The Show
I do not believe the February 6 show was part of a "Live Weekend." In later years, the "Live Weekend" had a Spring and Fall edition (I know there was one in April 1973), but I don't think there was one in early '72. However, KSAN was already regularly playing the material from the first live weekend, particularly Van Morrison's "Just Like A Woman," so they would have been eager to give Garcia a forum to play, and would have liked the idea that they would be able to re-broadcast unreleased material.
  1. It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry
  2. Expressway (To Your Heart)
  3. That's The Touch I Like
  4. Save Mother Earth
  5. When I Paint My Masterpiece
  6. I Was Made To Love Her
  7. Lonely Avenue
  8. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
I assume the show was late Sunday afternoon or early in the evening. KSAN did not like to relegate special events to late Sunday night, so Garcia/Saunders probably played at 7:00pm or so (if anyone recalls, please mention it in the comments). The set was a good spectrum of '72 Garcia/Saunders: two Dylan covers, 2 Motown hits, 2 R&B standards, an obscure contemporary cover (Jesse Winchester's "That's A Touch I Like") and a Merl Saunders original ("Save Mother Earth").

It's difficult to say if the Garcia/Saunders live broadcast had its intended result, since I think the participants were pretty casual in their intentions. I think KSAN's Tom Donahue invited them to play, Garcia and Saunders agreed, a convenient date was chosen, and the deed was done. Nonetheless, in retrospect the effect of the show was persistent.

For one thing, KSAN re-broadcast the Feb 6 '72 show with great regularity. Once "Live Weekend" became a regular event every Spring and Fall, KSAN's standard format was to have a band every other hour live in the studio. In the in-between hour, while the bands changed over their equipment, KSAN typically broadcast a live tape from a prior KSAN event. Thus the very first Garcia/Saunders live broadcast was replayed over and over. The rebroadcasts must have been partially responsible for the tendency of the show to circulate under various dates--the show was broadcast many times, and so a tape label that said, for example, "Garcia-Saunders September 1972" wasn't necessarily incorrect, even if that wasn't the original performance date. The tape spread far and wide, and for old-timers it was very likely the first live Garcia/Saunders that they had heard, or at least the first tape (Howard Weiner devotes a whole chapter to the tape in his book Positively Garcia).

Also, for at least the next 18 months, KSAN would play songs from the Feb 6 '72 broadcast as a regular part of their shows. This was a KSAN thing, playing music that wasn't available to other stations. They did this with Van Morrison's "Just Like A Woman" (from Sep 5 '71 at Pacific High)., The song I recall being played was "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry." Of course this was the first song on the tape, but I suspect it had been converted into an easy-to-play 8-track copy for djs (a "cart" in old-time radio talk).

If you were a rock music fan in the Bay Area, it was hard not to notice that Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders were regularly playing around the Bay Area. But it was a mystery as to what they sounded like. However, with not only the regular rebroadcast on KSAN of the entire show, but the periodic playing of "It Takes A Lot To Laugh" or other songs over the air, even suburban teenagers like me had an idea of what Garcia/Saunders sounded like. I think this effect was a clue to Garcia that Old And In The Way could be promoted in the same way.

As I have discussed elsewhere, just like an old-time bluegrass bands, Old And In The Way used a series of radio broadcasts to promote their music around the Bay Area. The first official Old And In The Way appearance was on a KSAN broadcast from the Record Plant in Sausalito on March 2, 1973. Several weeks later, on April 21, 1973, Old And In The Way played the Spring '73 "Live Weekend." I'm sure that the Pacific High tape was broadcast in April as well. On July 8 '73, Garcia/Saunders broadcast on KSAN again, once more from the Record Plant. Clearly, by this time Garcia had figured out that KSAN live broadcasts had their own currency as publicity. Saunders had his Fire Up album, the pair were playing the Keystone regularly, and they were about to record a live album, so the broadcast helped all those ends.

Merl Saunders' album Fire Up was released on Fantasy Records in early 1973, and it featured the track "Lonely Avenue," recorded at the PHR KSAN broadcast on February 6, 1972.
Fire Up Album
I do not know how much national promotion there was for Merl Saunders' mid-72 album Heavy Turbulence. I suspect there was not very much. However, Merl's early '73 album Fire Up was a different story. I recall specifically that Fantasy Records took out a full page ad in Rolling Stone, with an inset picture of Jerry, showing Merl and an Austin Healey at the Golden Gate Bridge, and the tag line was "Not Everyone Can Be In San Francisco" (my cousin, who had just moved to the Bay Area, cut out the ad and mailed it to his best friend in Piscataway, NJ).

Information was far less fungible in days of yore, but an ad in Rolling Stone was like a top-rated video on YouTube.  Since Fire Up included a cut from the Feb 6 tape, Jerry's take on "Lonely Avenue," it was a brief taste for the rest of the country about what might be going on at the Keystone Berkeley. We take vast amounts of music for granted now, but "Lonely Avenue" was the only whiff of the Keystone Berkeley that many Deadheads had until the release of Live At Keystone in January 1974.

Of course, the most long range affect of the Feb 6 '72 tape was the one that could have been least anticipated. Since the Pacific High tape was re-broadcast many times, well into the late 70s, it circulated widely, even if the date was sometimes wrong. As we all know, the circulation of tapes is what cemented Garcia's music to the psyche of his fans, and as one of the very few circulating FM broadcasts of solo Garcia, the tape spread far and wide.

This does beg the question of what became of the original tape, not least because it would make a great single cd release for the Garcia Live series. Since it was an original KSAN broadcast, at least theoretically it should have been in the KSAN Archives, which would have meant that it was briefly in the "Bay Area Music Archives" (too long a story to recount here) and thence to the Bill Graham Archives. If that was the case, then it should have ended up in Wolfgangs Vault. However, there is no sign of it there. This means that either the original tape was burned up in the 1985 BGP warehouse fire, which would be sad, or, perhaps, that a tape of Jerry Garcia recorded by their house sound crew in Alembic made its way into their own hands, leaving KSAN with just a copy. Here's to hoping the latter was the case. Maybe once more we can all Fire Up and hear it again, not a copy but the real thing, just as it was on a Sunday night in San Francisco long ago.