Thursday, October 1, 2015

August 28-29, 1970, Thee Club, Los Angeles, CA: Acoustic Grateful Dead/New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Roxy (Marshall Brevetz)

An ad for the Grateful Dead's acoustic appearance at the debut weekend of Thee Club, on 8409 Santa Monica Blvd. I found this ad on the fascinating Posterscene site, which has many rarely seen concert ads from newspapers
A traditional and informative way to consider the history of the Grateful Dead is to look at the intersection of the band with important and unique individuals, such as Ken Kesey, Owsley or Bill Graham. When trying to interrogate the less well-known corners of Grateful Dead history, the same approach is just as valuable, but we have to focus on less well-known figures. Marshall Brevetz--whose last name is sometimes spelled differently--was an important behind-the-scenes player in the rock world in the 60s and early 70s, first in Miami and later in Los Angeles. Brevetz's career is well worth a book, which I am afraid to say no one appears to be writing, but he found himself at the nexus of a lot of interesting rock events. Brevetz had a lot of connections to the Grateful Dead, as well, and that connection explains a little known booking at the Thee Club in Los Angeles on August 28 and 29, 1970. Thee Club was short lived, but the Dead's connection to Brevetz went back way earlier. This post will look at the Dead's known relationship to Marshall Brevetz, and in so doing shed some light not only on the 1970 Thee Club bookings, but a hitherto unknown Grateful Dead show at a Brevetz' club in Hollywood called Thee Experience on March 22, 1969.

Marshall Brevetz and The 60s Miami Rock Scene
The South was slow to open itself to psychedelic rock, not due to lack of interest from young people, but due to the more conservative nature of the region and police hostility to long hair, drug use and draft resisters.  Miami, while very much part of the South, was also primarily a resort town and a destination for many people from the Northeast, and thus it had the relaxed informality of many seaside communities. While not necessarily hippie friendly, and while not yet quite Margaritaville, it was less conservative than other port cities in the South, so its not surprising that Miami was one of the first places in the South to attract a critical mass of hippies.

The first "psychedelic" venue in South Florida was a club called The World, in an old National Guard Armony Hangar on Biscayne Boulevard near NE 142nd St in Miami. Brevetz, as far as I know, booked the acts for the club. A long ago eyewitness recalled
It was total Psychedelia. There were 5 or 6 stages high up over the dance floor.   Black lights, strobe lights and oil/slide light shows were everywhere.   The house band was The Kollektion, a Super Group made up of members of the best local bands in South Florida, such as the Mor-Loks, the Shaggs, Sounds Unlimited and Dr. T & the Undertakers. 
Several bands would play every Wed., Fri. & Sat. nights, with a host of national acts, such as:  Spirit, Spencer Davis Group, Iron Butterfly, Mitch Ryder, Wilson Pickett, Moby Grape and Wayne Cochran.  Today, the building is a warehouse.
By early 1968, rock music in Miami had outgrown, The World, and Brevetz and others opened a club called Thee Image. Thee Image was Miami's biggest and best known psychedelic rock club, even though it was only open for about 13 months. It was located in a former 32-lane bowling alley at 18330 Collins Avenue, just North of Miami in Sunny Isles Beach. It was principally operated by a band from Tampa, FL, originally called The Motions, who had then changed their name to Blues Image in an homage to The Blues Project. Blues Image were reputedly hip Florida's best live band, with twin drummers and a funky, swinging sound. Besides helping operate the club, they were the house band and apparently played just about every weekend there, whether or not they appeared on the bill.

Thee Image opened on March 15, 1968 with The Mothers of Invention, and the last gig that I can find was April 26, 1969 with Ten Years After. The club had three stages and multiple rooms, along with a wall of Ampeg speakers, so it wasn't just a converted building. The club seems to be remembered fondly by performers and fans, but there is very little in the way of photographs or live tapes, and only a few posters circulate.

A poster for the Grateful Dead's second weekend at Miami's Thee Image, on April 19-21, 1968
The Grateful Dead in Miami, April 1968
The Grateful Dead came to Thee Image in April, 1968. They also apparently did some unproductive mixing  of Anthem Of The Sun at famed Criteria Studios in Miami, but it's unclear whether they went to Criteria because they were playing shows in Miami, or vice-versa. Some prior research by me showed that the Dead actually played seven shows in Miami, not just three. They played two weekends at Thee Image, on the weekend of April 12-14 and then the following weekend (April 19-21, above--you can see tiny print that says "held over"). As was typical of the 60s, the Dead seem to have brought some San Francisco traditions with them.

A commenter on a 60s Miami thread recalls
The Grateful Dead played the next three nights after the Cream played (they broke up shortly after that). The Dead members (Garcia in particular) were chewed out right in front of me that weekend by the two brothers (names...?) who went into business with Marshall to open Thee Image in the first place. The Dead had not drawn a crowd as expected and were blamed for the lack of attendance. I had never seen them play before but thought they were wonderful. The only song of theirs on the radio around that time was "Morning Dew." They were working on their album, "Anthem of the Sun." I had the pleasure of going to Criteria with them and they told me how they made their sound (with the grand piano part).  
Luckily I hung out with them for their entire stay and they ended up staying over a week, playing two weekends. 
Those interested in Thee Image in general are well advised to read the entire thread, as well as other threads about 60s Miami rock on that site. The affection and respect former patrons and employees of Thee Image have for Brevetz is very evident, even decades later.

Based on what we can discern from afar, it looks like the Dead dealt with poor attendance at Thee Image with a San Francisco solution: a free concert in the park. This isn't really a guess: the Dead put on the first free concert in Graynolds Park in Miami on Sunday, April 14, apparently very well attended, and--surprise!--the next weekend's shows at Thee Image seem to have been well attended, too. The Dead have been popular in Miami and South Florida ever since.

However, the Grateful Dead got too big for Thee Image, and never played there again. Nonetheless, Brevetz helped book a rock festival in Hallandale, FL, just North of Miami, on December 28, 1968, so the Dead indeed played for him yet another time in Florida. Thee Image ran into problems, mainly with the authorities, and Brevetz briefly ran a "teen club" called The Real Thing. Yet in early 1969, both Brevetz and house band Blues Image moved to Los Angeles. Thee Image closed shortly afterwards, in April 1969. Brevetz managed Blues Image, and they eventually had a pretty big hit in 1970 with "Ride, Captain Ride."

An ad from the opening week of Thee Experience, Marshall Brevetz's club at 7751 Sunset Boulevard on The Strip in West Hollywood. Note the spelling of "Brevetz"--it remains uncertain exactly how his last name was spelled. The ad is from the March 14, 1969 Los Angeles Free Press
Thee Experience, 7751 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA
Brevetz moved to Los Angeles and opened a nightclub called Thee Experience, on "The Strip," in West Hollywood, just outside the LA city limits, at 7551 Sunset Boulevard. It may be that Brevetz had run an earlier Miami club called Thee Experience as well, but I have not yet determined that for certain. In any case, a "Thee" prefix became a sort of Brevetz signature.

The middle 60s had been the high water mark of live rock on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, with the legendary Whisky Au Go Go as the most famous location. By 1969, the Whisky was still thriving, and the record companies were clustered around Hollywood, but as the rock market had become much bigger, the best live bands often bypassed the Sunset Strip as the venues were simply too small. It appears that Hollywood had become more of a hangout and less of a place for touring bands, and smaller clubs that had really been conceived as dance clubs weren't as conducive for the kind of business being conducted in Hollywood.

From what I can tell, Thee Experience was planned as a place where industry people could hang out, and record companies could book their newest bands, giving industry people and local tastemakers a chance to hear them and spread the word. Casual jamming seems to have been encouraged, and there are numerous (if rather vague) tales of numerous players sitting in whenever they were in town. With studios and record companies in Los Angeles and many musicians making their home in Southern California, the idea that a civilian could go to see a hip new band and potentially rub shoulders with the industry and see a late night jam with some heavy players seems very enticing.

The only feature I know for sure about the decor of Thee Experience was that its front had a giant mural of Jimi Hendrix, and the front door was his mouth. Although this seems quite weird, Marshall Brevetz was apparently friendly with Hendrix (and many other stars) so while he may not have had formal permission, Hendrix must have at least been somewhat OK with, and in any case, he seems to have shown up to jam some nights in June (and possibly other times, too). There was also a light show, which may have been a little outdated by then for style conscious LA, but in any case it was no casual enterprise. In various references to Thee Image, there are regular recollections that the club had extremely pretty waitresses. While that may have been a Hollywood thing (and may still be) rather than specifically associated with Thee Image, in a town full of aspiring actresses, a joint remembered for attractive staff had to have stood out.

Thee Experience was apparently quite a memorable place. But you don't have to take my word for it. Legendary record executive Sally Stevens has posted some very remarkable memories of Los Angeles and the industry back in the day. Now, you should really read the whole thing, if only for the pictures. However, for the purpose of getting a flavor of Thee Experience, you should start by reading her post on being a waitress there back in 1969 (and how Jim Morrison got her fired, but that can't be summarized--read it yourself). 

The LA Collegian, March 28, 1969, describing the opening of Thee Experience (due to a file issue, you'll have to embiggen it yourself. The key part is quoted below).
The Grateful Dead at Thee Experience, March 22 and 23, 1969
I am the only person I know to have attempted to make a list of live performers at Thee Experience during the 9 months or so that it was open. My list can be seen elsewhere, and I actually have additional information that has never made it onto the post. Thee Experience featured the up and coming bands of the record industry in 1969, some of them popular today, some legendary and some just the answer to trivia questions. However, my list came from advertisements, mostly in the LA Free Press (very kindly provided by a fellow scholar).

Thee Image opened on Friday, March 14, 1969 with the bands T.I.M.E and Blues Image, along with songwriter Steve Young and The Magical Berri Lee, whoever that was. T.I.M.E was associated with Steppenwolf, and Blues Image was managed by Brevetz. Since Blues Image had released their debut album on Atco in February, the opening was par for the course for Hollywood--a band with a debut album, another hip band with connections, an up-and-coming songwriter and a mystery act. We have not been able to find an ad for the second weekend, but it seems that a newly-signed Columbia act called Chicago Transit Authority played the club. 

However, esteemed linguist and Frank Zappa scholar Charles Ulrich found an article in an obscure paper called The LA Collegian, which I have clipped above. Besides an ad for the third weekend at Thee Experience, with little known bands Alice Cooper and Rockin' Foo, plus blues legend Slim Harpo, there is some remarkable information in an article about the newly-opened club. Under the headline "New Rock Groups Heard at Thee Experience Opening:"
Two weeks ago, The [sic] Experience opened to guys 21 and over, girls 18 and over.
Last weekend, The Experience featured Chicago, nee Chicago Transit Authority, an up and coming blues group out of Daley's Hog Farm.
The group plays tight, urban Chicago blues, modified by their non-blackness and electricity. Chicago, properly promoted, may become one of the major groups of the 1970s. Blues Image, a heavily instrumental white blues group and Little John Farmer finished the bill.
The light show, together with the oval stage, provide a suitable experience.
The club also has become a gathering place for bigger groups. Saturday night [March 22], there were two guest sets, by San Francisco acid-blues Grateful Dead, and Los Angeles' own Mothers Of Invention. Eric Burdon, lately with the Animals, has also "jammed" on occasion. 
This article, despite some grammatical issues, places the Grateful Dead at Thee Experience on Saturday, March 22. This is confirmed by a contemporary (May 17 '69) Rolling Stone article about the rock scene in Los Angeles, which mentions Thee Experience (although they spell Marshall's last name as "Brevitz"). In the Stone, author Jerry Hopkins says
Meanwhile, back on the Sunset Strip . . . Marshall Brevitz is quietly running Thee Experience. He came to L.A. after serving seven weeks as the original operator of Miami's Thee Image and three more weeks running a larger club called The Real Thing, leaving Florida after his license had been canceled. He says it took him five months to collect backing for Thee Experience, opening the small (capacity about 300) club in middle March.
Food prices in the club are high, but everything else seems about right. The tab at the door is $2 during the week, $3 weekends——half price after 12:30, and all-day Sunday jam sessions have included the Grateful Dead, Steve Miller, Eric Burdon and members of Steppenwolf, Black Pearl and Iron Butterfly. The modest light show, by Athanor Visual Team, is also one of the best in town.

A poster for the March 21-22 weekend show at Pasadena Rose Palace with the Butterfield Blues Band, the Grateful Dead and Jethro Tull, then on their first American tour.
How did the Grateful Dead end up at Thee Experience on March 22, 1969?
There are some clues. On March 21 and 22, 1969, the Dead played at the suburban Pasadena Rose Palace, opening for The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. There were three acts on the bill--the opening act was a little-known English band called Jethro Tull--but Pasadena was still the 'burbs, so the show probably ended at midnight. The Dead were not really popular in Los Angeles in the 60s, but, as we learn from the Hopkins article in Rolling Stone, the Pasadena shows were booked by Bill Graham
Seasoned dance and concert promoters from Miami, Chicago and San Francisco——the last being the Fillmore's Bill Graham——have entered the sagging Los Angeles night club scene in recent weeks, creating a healthier rock prognosis than has existed in nearly a year....
Graham is handling all the booking for Scenic Sounds, concert promoters who recently left the Shrine Exposition Hall in downtown Los Angeles for the Rose Palace in Pasadena...
It was as Scenic Sounds moved to Pasadena that Graham arrived. "Just say I'm helping them," Graham said. "I'm helping Tommy (Nieto) do the booking. He'd had some troubles with the agencies there and so I'm doing all the booking for him. I don't think he's gotten a fair shake of late. I think I can do more than he can now. Later hopefully he can take the whole thing back again."
Graham says he is not receiving anything in return for this advice and services. "I am not involved in the financial picture in any way," he said. "I am not getting paid. Absolutely not."
During this period, the Grateful Dead were booked by Bill Graham's Millard Agency. So while Bill may not have been taking money for booking shows at the Rose Palace, he was booking some of his own acts--other Millard bands played the Rose Palace as well--so it wasn't all charity. But the sequence of events makes sense. Graham's agency booked the Dead for two nights in Los Angeles, and the band was probably off stage by 10:30pm. After their obligation to Graham was over, the Dead could scoot over to Hollywood and play for Brevetz. As for Graham, he of all people knew how the Dead could build an audience by playing unscheduled events. Once his tickets were sold, Bill was going to be good with the Dead playing for free around town. It's a mark of the Dead's friendship with Brevetz, however, that they chose to play for him.
A 1973 article from the Kansas City alternative paper Public Notice, describing the author's experiences with Owsley and the Grateful Dead while he was a dishwasher at Thee Experience in March, 1969

A Weekend With Owsley
The implication of the Hopkins' Rolling Stone article was that the Dead participated in a Sunday afternoon jam. This has some logic to it--the Dead would have rushed over to Thee Experience to get their set in, but they wouldn't necessarily been anxious to rush back to some cheap hotel. Indeed, while 7551 Sunset Blvd was just 15.7 miles from the Rose Palace, and now Google says "24 minutes without traffic," even back in the day there was traffic 24/7 in Los Angeles. Given the choice between hanging out all night and jamming in the afternoon or driving back to Pasadena, what do you think the Dead would choose? Why would the Dead even try and drive? As my cousin once said, "What do you do at a blue light?"

Remarkably, a recent correspondent has more or less confirmed that the Dead spent a fair amount of time at Thee Experience. That pretty well confirms the idea that the band played a late night set on Saturday, March 22, and then did some jamming the next afternoon. Correspondent Roger, now a sensible person, was then just a transplanted hippie from Kansas when he got a job at Thee Experience shortly after it opened. Just a few years later, he wrote up his remarkable encounter with Owsley and the Grateful Dead for a Kansas City underground paper called Public Notice (there is a problem with the file copy, and you will have to embiggen it yourself, or else read it here at DeadSources). Owsley, perhaps with no sound duties to occupy him, seems to loom large in the story. Roger:
I once spent time in a nightclub kitchen with the man who saturated the West Coast with purple, owl-embossed LSD in the late 1960's, Augustus Stanley Owsley (that's why the owl) III, a man known for such flamboyances as parachuting into Golden Gate Park to distribute tabs of his acid to the loved-in hippies there. Neither Owsley nor I chose to be there, in the kitchen of Thee Experience, 7751 Sunset Strip, Los Angeles; he was following the Grateful Dead and I was following some faded Kerouac adventure dream that took me to California and back to Kansas in that weird year of '69.
I was washing dishes in a three-chambered sink while he was standing with his back rested against the freezer door, shooting the gas from cans of whipped cream into his lungs by holding the whipped cream cans upright and bending the nozzle into his mouth, bouncing against the freezer door as the nitrous oxide went to his head. He stood there and emptied a dozen cans that night, always asking me to find more for him in the freezer after he finished a couple and wanted a couple more.
...And so for two days I continued fetching Owsley cans of whipped cream from the freezer. He even stayed on after the Grateful Dead left. And I, the waitresses, the light show man, the wimpy chef--all of us kept waiting for the scream from the floor of the nightclub as someone rolled in 3-D hysteria of LSD. It never happened. After Owsley had gone, one of the waitresses reported that she had felt a little strange eating a few mushrooms from the salad bar the night before, but there no confirmed LSD experiences among the staff members. 
Researching the 1969 Grateful Dead isn't exactly linear, but some confirmation of this story is provided by this obscure web link with memories from a former (extremely attractive) waitress at Thee Experience.

It is hard to dissect the exact timeline from this tale, but it seems the Dead stayed for a while, and Owsley somewhat longer. Roger confirms the Dead's performance, as he says "The Dead played for next to nothing" without elaboration. praising the loyalty artists had to Marshall Brevetz. So I am confident the Dead played a late Saturday night set, and wouldn't be surprised to hear that at least some of them jammed on Sunday afternoon (March 23). My beating heart cannot take any speculation on an evening where the Spring 69 Mothers played a set followed by Primal 69 Grateful Dead, so I won't think about it. The Dead had already played at least 8 times for Brevetz, and they seemed to have played a 9th time (and possibly a 10th time, if there was a Sunday jam), pretty much just for fun. 

Thee Club, 8409 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA
In August of 1970, the Grateful Dead were hardly performing. They were mostly recording American Beauty in San Francisco, with producer/engineer Stephen Barncard. Their regular producers, Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor, were on tour with Tom Donahue's Medicine Ball Caravan. The Grateful Dead had originally been supposed to go on the Caravan, but had stepped away from it at the last moment. However, Bob, Betty and the Alembic sound system were booked, so the Dead had little choice but to stay home and record. However, the band was able to play acoustically, without Bob and Betty, and as a result they played a few unique shows during that month.

One of the least known appearances of the Grateful Dead in August 1970 was their appearance at Thee Club, in Los Angeles, on that club's opening weekend. The strange spelling of the venue has lead to much confusion in its own right--sometimes it is listed as "The Club"--but Thee Club was the correct name of the venue. What little we know of Thee Club comes from a Robert Hilburn column in the Los Angeles Times.

Robert Hilburn's column from the Los Angeles Times on Aug 28, 1970, about the not-quite-ready-for-opening of Marshall Brevetz's Thee Club on Sunset Strip.
In his roundup of the weekend rock events, Hilburn writes
At the same time Thursday [Aug 27], a few blocks down Santa Monica Boulevard, Marshall Brevetz, the round, Buddha-shaped owner of the new Thee Club, was hosting some 600 friends in a preview of his new rock facility.  
"This club has to happen," he said, the day before the opening."People want a place to go to hear rock music and meet their friends and relax. They want to be able to get out of their house or apartment for a night, and there aren't many places for them to go."
As he spoke, Thee Club, just East of La Cienaga Blvd, seemed far from ready. There was dirt all over the floor, the carpet wasn't down, chairs and tables hadn't arrived, booths weren't installed, and the sound system wasn't finished.
But Brevetz was getting a lot of help. As the owner of Thee Experience rock club on Sunset Blvd for nearly a year (it closed last January), he made a lot of friends. He built a good reputation amongst both musicians and customers. 
Thee Experience was a major hangout for some of the top musicians in the country. Often, they would just drop in and get on stage and play. Jimi Hendrix, to cite one of numerous examples, was in Thee Experience 10 nights in a row one time.  
The friends were helping Brevetz now because they want to see the club succeed. They have felt a void since the closing of Thee Experience. For musicians, it provides another place to play. For audiences, it provides another place to go.  
By late Thursday, much progress had indeed been made. The carpet was down, the lights up, the chairs and tables in place. There was also a large buffet for guests. But the sound system hadn't been completed in time for a full sound check so Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention, who had agreed to play at the preview, didn't perform. Brevetz didn't want to use the sound system until it was fully checked. Nothing gives a club a bad reputation in the music industry as fast as bad sound.  
At 8:45 pm the doors opened and Brevetz, still in his work clothes, welcomed the booking company agents, writers, record company representatives and other guests. "It's going to be alright," he said later, surveying the jammed room.  
Though the public opening was still a night away, Brevetz was, as always, optimistic. There were still some things to be done--the sound, some more flooring--but he was back in business. It felt good for him and his friends. The Grateful Dead is set to appear tonight [Saturday Aug 29] with Blues Image on Sunday [Aug 30] and Iron Butterfly [Aug 31] set Monday.  
Did the acoustic Grateful Dead actually open Thee Club on Friday and Saturday, August 28 and 29, 1970? We know from contemporary references that acts were playing Thee Club within the next few weekends, but the question is whether Brevetz got the club ready in time for the Dead. I think we know the issue--if the sound system was good to go, the Dead would have been happy to try out their new material regardless of the status of the flooring, and if not, well, then not.

A different ad for the opening of Thee Club on the weekend of August 27-29, 1970, with the acoustic Grateful Dead, the New Riders of The Purple Sage and Roxy (from the great Posterscene site)
But it would have been pretty good, if it happened. Brevetz was certainly right about the evolution of the market. Even by 1970, people were a bit tired of a huge, rowdy hall. How would you feel about seeing the Grateful Dead playing acoustic in a 600-seat club? With nice food, and a bar, and presumably the same knockout waitresses who had worked at Thee Experience?

The New Riders of The Purple Sage would have been a complete mystery in Los Angeles at the time, and it would have been a trip to see Jerry playing pedal steel guitar with some honky tonk band. Roxy was also a terrific band, for what its worth, and lead singer Bob Segarini was an old pal of the Grateful Dead's, to boot (he had been in The Family Tree, and would go on to make records with The Wackers, and later became famous as a dj in Montreal).

The show remains a mystery. If it happened, and I hope and think it did, it would have been a sort of Hollywood hipster thing, kind of un-Dead, and that would account for the paucity of memories about it. A bunch of record company groovers who saw everything in LA wouldn't differentiate this from one or another event. The next two nights also featured bands close to Brevetz (Blues Image and Iron Butterfly) and the guest list was probably the same all three nights.

Was there a tape? Probably not. But there is a tape marked as San Diego, August 5, 1970, that is hard to account for, and perhaps that could be more correctly attributed to Thee Club. Still, once again, the Grateful Dead were ahead of the curve, and thus got left behind. Rock and roll supper clubs became a big thing a few years later, with places like The Roxy in LA or The Bottom Line in Manhattan, but Thee Club was simply too early, and the Dead's appearance--or non-appearance--at its debut seems impossible to trace at this time. Hopefully someone will have a flashback, and tell us about it in the comments

Thee Club definitely opened, because there are references to it in LA papers for the next few weeks, but they fade away. I have to assume it didn't stay open very long. Brevetz seems to have gotten out of the club business. Remarkably, however, he went on to his greatest success. In the early 1970s, Brevetz became the manager of singer and songwriter Bobby Womack, probably when Womack moved to Los Angeles. Womack (1944-2014) is one of those guys about whom modern fans say "I don't know any of his songs," and I have to answer "yes you do."

Bobby Womack got his start in gospel music in the 1950s with his brothers. They were signed by Sam Cooke in the 1960s, who changed their name to The Valentinos, and they recorded secular music. Today, their best known hit is Bobby Womack's "It's All Over, Now" which the Dead got from the Rolling Stones' record. In the early 70s, Womack really hit his stride, and Brevetz was his manager. The titles of classic hits like "Breezin, "Lookin' For A Love" and "Across 110th Street" may not ring a bell, but they would very likely sound familiar if you heard them. Womack was successful as a singer, a songwriter and a producer, and his credit lists from the 1970s alone are simply too long to list here.

Womack's downfall was cocaine. He became running mates with Sly Stone (and worked on Sly's classic album There's A Riot Going On), and things got way out of hand. Of course, since Womack was writing and recording numerous hits, there must have been plenty of money around, but it went to the wrong place. Although Womack's career declined somewhat as the 70s wore on, he was never actually unsuccessful, and continued to make good music into the 21st century. Somewhere along the way in the 70s, Brevetz dropped out of the Womack picture. All I really know is that Brevetz had an art gallery in Los Angeles called Thee Gallery, the last thread of the Brevetz trademark.

Marshall Brevetz was a dealmaker, and he managed artists like Blues Image and Bobby Womack to success. His clubs didn't really make money, but they were popular hangouts with fans and musicians, as Brevetz' long track record demonstrated. Certainly the Grateful Dead played for him long after they had any financial incentive for doing so. If you Google around, you will find numerous reminiscences of Brevetz, all of them fond, many of them from people who were just fans who met him. He apparently had time for everyone, from Jimi Hendrix to random teenagers, and that was probably the secret of his ability to put deals together.

Yet Brevetz dealmaking was probably the source of his demise. In 1981, Brevetz was convicted of possessing cocaine for  sale, and he served 15 months of a 3-year sentence. He was paroled in 1983. In 1986, Brevetz was found slain in El Sereno, a Los Angeles neighborhood apparently gangland style. It is hard not to assume that someone unpleasant thought Brevetz owed him money. Since Brevetz just ran an art gallery in Studio City--which wasn't near El Sereno--, it wasn't like he was any kind of Player, but in the high-80s, negotiating debts was not part of the process. A terse news article in the Los Angeles Times tells the tale.

Murder Victim Identified as Associate of Slain Man
September 10, 1986
The body of a man found shot to death in a Fontana field last week has been identified as that of a Studio City artist who disappeared with an associate, who also was found slain gangland style, Los Angeles police said Tuesday.
The bound and gagged body of Gary Abrams, 35, was discovered about 10:50 p.m. on Sept. 3. His friend and employer, Marshall E. Brevetz, was found shot to death about 9:15 p.m. the same day in the El Sereno area of Los Angeles. The artist's body was not identified until late Monday.
Brevetz, 47, owner of Framed Art Posters in Studio City, and Abrams were last seen on the afternoon of Sept. 3 leaving the poster store, Los Angeles Police Lt. Jim Duke said. Police have not named any suspects. Investigators are unsure of a motive, Duke said.
Brevetz, a former recording studio owner and business manager for entertainers, was paroled in 1983 after serving 15 months of a three-year sentence for possession of cocaine for sale.

Marshall Brevetz was a flyer in the day, and he came to an unfortunate end. Possibly his end was his own doing, but it is sad nonetheless. Certainly many 60s characters engaged in all sorts of nefarious activities and lived to tell the tale in their memoirs, but Brevetz was not among them. Still, it is better to remember what Brevetz brought to the table, and not for his mistakes. Brevetz was the linchpin of the South Florida rock scene in the 1960s, and the Dead were a huge act in the Greater Miami area their entire careers, mainly thanks to him. They didn't forget him, either, coming to play his new nightclubs in both 1969 and 1970, in return for just about nothing. The Dead owed Marshall Brevetz and didn't forget, and that is a bigger legacy for him than a sad ending in El Sereno.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

October 9-10, 1976 Oakland Coliseum Stadium: The Who/The Grateful Dead

The promotional poster for two shows at the Oakland Coliseum Stadium on October 9-10, 1976. The art was used for some newspaper ads, but no actual posters were circulated except as commemorations. 
The history of the Grateful Dead generally tracks rock concert history, since the band were pioneers in developing the industry. It is not necessarily that the Dead were always the "first" to do something, or even that they often were, but that so often they were on the leading edge. The Dead helped build the concert industry with their willingness to play anywhere, often for young and untried promoters. Thus the Dead played Acid Tests, The Fillmore and free concerts in San Francisco, and set out upon the road. In the rest of America, the Dead were often the first major band to play the nascent psychedelic ballrooms in every city, and they helped establish the college circuit as well, in the late 60s and early 70s.

Of course the Grateful Dead were in the vanguard of playing rock festivals, and were always willing to take a chance with such dodgy events. Legendary and fun as so many early rock festivals were, whether world famous like Woodstock or just legendary local events, like in Poynette, WI, the Dead's presence gave rock festivals that certified 60s feel. By the early 70s, however, fans, cities and promoters were tired of huge events in a muddy field, and Bill Graham was amongst the vanguard in staging rock concerts in football stadiums. The stadium shows were usually all-day affairs with several bands, giving everyone a taste of a rock festival, but with adequate parking, food and facilities.

However, the rock concert industry that the Dead had helped to create was ever growing, and the Dead participated in one of the formative events of its growth. On October 9 and 10, 1976, the Grateful Dead shared a bill with The Who for two days at the Oakland Coliseum Stadium. This was actually a heavily hyped event that did not at all entirely turn out the way the participants expected. Nonetheless, everybody made money, a good time was generally had by all, and in fact the weekend of stadium shows was yet another signpost to new space, even if it was a planet no one really wanted to be on. This post will examine the October 9-10, 1976 shows with The Who and The Grateful Dead in their original context, and examine how the events presaged the huge football stadium events that would follow for succeeding decades.

A picture of a packed Oakland Stadium at an unknown DOG event, sometime prior to 1996 (and the building of Mt. Davis)
The Economics of Early 70s Stadium Concerts
In the late 60s, it became clear that rock concerts were a booming business. Thanks to FM radio, there was an ever growing population of young people ready to spend money on seeing the hot new acts coming to their town. Unlike their parents, who seemingly required their own seat and some semblance of decent treatment, rock concerts could be put on in any rundown theater or auditorium, with the young patrons stuffed in like cattle, and a good time would still be had by all. However, the dramatic volatility of the rock concert market itself put both bands and promoters in an unexpectedly tenuous situation.

The nature of touring rock bands, with Hammond organs and amplifiers, meant that touring schedules had to be worked out in advance. This meant that promoters had to book halls some months beforehand, and gamble that the act would sell tickets when they finally came to town. For rising new acts at the time, 90 days was a lifetime--teenagers could easily have discovered a new favorite group and then discarded them within those three months, and thus have no interest in seeing them play by the time the actually got to their city. A promoter who booked the concert would still be on the hook for renting the hall and paying the band, and if he went bust and didn't pay the act, the band might find themselves stuck in Des Moines or Dallas with no money to travel on.

In the entertainment business, big wins are supposed to pay for the losses, but the concert business made that hard. A new band might book a string of one nighters across the United States months in advance, only to find out that they were hugely popular by the time they got there. But if the hall was sold out, what could the promoter do? Neither band nor promoter could make more money than they had originally envisioned. This wasn't a hypothetical problem. Led Zeppelin's first two American tours in early 1969 saw them opening for all sorts of bands, which seems ludicrous at this remove (Zep second billed to Jose Feliciano at the Ohio University Junior Prom is particularly infamous). The promoters could have sold more tickets, but the band could not add nights and larger halls were previously booked, so money was left on the table.

Huge rock festivals seemed to offer a solution to this problem. With numerous acts playing for days on end in a giant field, the number of tickets that could be sold was seemingly limitless. With numerous acts, all tastes could be accounted for, and concerns about whether an act's new album was any good or whether it was getting FM airplay were reduced. Someone on a Festival bill had a hot album, and someone was getting airplay. From the promoter's point of view, this was reducing risk while still providing significant upside. In Wall Street terms, a 60s rock festival, strange as it may seem, was a lot like a Mutual Fund that emphasized growth: low expenses and a wide portfolio designed to insure that some stocks would rise significantly.

In practice, very few 60s rock festivals lived up to their goals. Woodstock was an economic catastrophe, of course, with its backers only rescued by a very profitable movie, but that only worked one time. Most festivals fell prey to various kinds of mismanagement and bad luck. For one thing, the festivals often got so large that they effectively became free events anyway, defeating the purpose of being able to charge large numbers of people for admission. A few big rock festivals made money, like the Atlanta Pop Festivals (1969 and '70), but most didn't. On top of that, communities were uncomfortable with 100,000 or more young people coming to town--they were afraid something was going to go wrong, with Altamont as the case in point.

Starting in the early 70s, promoters began looking around to find a way to capture the festival profit margin without the downside. Not only were communities sour on giant rock festivals, the truth was that most people who had been to a giant rock festival didn't plan on going to another one. Word was passed down to younger siblings--Hendrix was great and all, but one ham sandwich in two days wasn't any way to enjoy it. The rock industry was still young, like its audience, so various things were tried--concerts at race tracks, concerts at football stadiums and so on. No one seemed to find a successful formula for building in the possibility that you could sell way more tickets than you had hoped for, without taking a huge risk.

An ad for the two DOGs at Oakland Stadium on June 5 and 6, 1975, featuring numerous touring acts.
Day On The Green (Stadium Concert Template, Early 70s)
Bill Graham Presents, as usual, was pretty shrewd about figuring out how to commoditize the growing rock concert market. Starting in 1973, BGP had put on a series of big stadium shows called Day On The Green (aka DOG), first at Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park, and then at the much larger Oakland Coliseum Stadium, where the Raiders and A's played. It wasn't that these were the first stadium concerts, by any means, but they were run in a way that made sense for the promoter, bands and fans. Every DOG was a simplified one-day rock festival, with the risks mitigated for the promoter, and the discomforts marginalized for the fans. The bills were designed to attract the maximum number of fans, usually of high school age.

Here were the parameters:

  • The concerts were in the daytime, which minimized parental concerns about sending their kids off for the day
  • The Coliseum was easy to get to, with ample parking. Indeed, many fans (and their parents) had already been there for sports events, so it wasn't some hard-to-find muddy field
  • Tickets were less than twice as expensive as Winterland tickets, so if you saw four or five bands, it was a good deal
  • More than one of the acts was a Winterland headliner, sometimes all of them
  • The acts tried to cover a cross section of music, so if a carload of high school friends came, everybody might have a band they looked forward to seeing
  • Unlike earlier events, like the Beatles at Candlestick Park (Aug 29 '66), top-of-the-line sound meant that everyone could hear the show now, even if they couldn't always see the stage.
  • At a football stadium, there was always going to be food and bathrooms, and of course the food made for a tidy profit 
  • Most importantly, the shows weren't really expected to sell out. This meant that either there was plenty of room to hang out, which was important for the proverbial carloads of friends, and also that if a band was really hot, there were plenty more tickets that could be sold. Presumably the headline act had a deal with BGP where they got a piece of increased ticket sales (a guarantee vs a percentage of the total gate, for example). 
The formula worked, and was copied all over the country. Regular touring bands could play together at stadium events, sell a boatload of tickets and get heard by a wider audience, but everyone was home soon after nightfall.

A newspaper ad for the first two DOG events in San Francisco, at Kezar Stadium on May 26 and June 2, 1973.
BGP Days On The Green 1973-76
May 26, 1973 Kezar Stadium, San Francisco Grateful Dead/Waylon Jennings/New Riders Of The Purple Sage
BGP tried out the DOG model with the Dead at Kezar, a far smaller stadium than the Coliseum (the SF 49ers had played there until they moved to Candlestick in 1971). The mellow crowd had a great time at the crumbling old stadium in Golden Gate Park, even though parking was a serious problem.

June 2, 1973 Kezar Stadium, San Francisco Led Zeppelin/Lee Michaels/Roy Harper/The Tubes
The next weekend at Kezar was a disaster. This show was less of a mini-festival, and more of just a big rock concert. First of all, Led Zeppelin's amp stack was pointed in a different direction than the Dead's, and the noise was heard for miles. Secondly, the stadium was jammed with liquored up high school students, and they did not go over as well with the neighborhood as the Deadheads. After this, save for one interesting exception, there were no longer rock concerts at Kezar Stadium (p.s. yes, Vince Welnick was in The Tubes).

August 5, 1973 Oakland Stadium, Oakland Leon Russell/Loggins & Messina/Elvin Bishop/Mary McReary
BGP figured out the DOG model at this show. Leon Russell was still a big deal, Loggins and Messina were rising stars, and Elvin Bishop was locally popular. About 20,000 showed up to have a good time, and the formula was born.

A year later, BGP gets it right, with the Dead and The Beach Boys at the spacious Oakland Stadium on June 8, 1974. (TYA and King Crimson in their prime later that week at the Cow Palace, by the way). 
June 8, 1974 Oakland Stadium, Oakland Grateful Dead/Beach Boys/New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
I have written about this show at some length. By adding The Beach Boys, all sorts of high school students who might not have wanted to see the Grateful Dead were willing to come to the show. About 30.000 were at the show, far more than had paid to see either band in San Francisco at any previous show, but still only about half capacity. I was there, and it was a very pleasant day indeed.

July 13-14, 1974 Oakland Stadium, Oakland Crosby, Stills Nash and Young/The Band/Joe Walsh/Jesse Colin Young
These two shows were a very big deal, the reformation of CSNY, in anticipation of an album that never came. The concerts probably sold out, although I don't think they did so immediately. The Band performed very rarely, and made the event special even to (relatively) older fans who weren't certain they wanted to go a stadium. Joe Walsh provided some rock and roll energy, and Jesse Colin Young was mellow and sensitive. This weekend was a case where playing a bigger venue allowed the band and promoter to maximize the number of people who attended.

March 23, 1975 Kezar Stadium, San Francisco: Doobie Brothers/Graham Central Station/Mimi Farina/Jefferson Starship/Jerry Garcia And Friends/ The Miracles/Joan Baez/Santana/Tower of Power/Neil Young SNACK Benefit
I have written about this event at length. At one point, it appeared that the San Francisco schools would have no money for Sports or Arts, and Bill Graham stepped in to organize a giant benefit. In the end, the money was found (it was an accounting error), but the city had agreed to allow one last Kezar concert. Jerry Garcia And Friends turned out to be the unretired Grateful Dead, of course, and performed "Blues For Allah" live over FM radio. Neil Young brought some friends also.

May 24, 1975 Oakland Stadium, Oakland Chicago/Beach Boys/Bob Seger/Richard Torrance/Eureka
June 29 1975 Oakland Stadium, Oakland Doobie Brothers/The Eagles/Commander Cody/Kingfish
These two were more conventional DOG shows. Many of these bands were headliners, but pooled together, entire high schools must have attended. Note Bob Weir and Kingfish fourth on the bill on the June Eagles show. They probably came on at about 11:00am.

August 3, 1975 Oakand Stadium, Oakland Robin Trower/Dave Mason/Peter Frampton/Fleetwood Mac/Gary Wright
This show was the perfect example of the economic concept of 1970s BGP Days On The Green. It would have been scheduled months in advance. Robin Trower and Dave Mason were reliable Winterland headliners, with popular albums that you would be hard pressed to name today (For Earth Below and the self-titled Dave Mason). The other three acts had just released albums, and in the case of Fleetwood Mac, they had an untried lineup. Gary Wright was totally obscure (unless you liked Spooky Tooth, which no one but me did), and had an odd three-keyboard/no-guitar lineup.

A few weeks after the show, every high school and freshman dorm could only talk about how Peter Frampton rocked the house and how Fleetwood Mac's new lineup was the bomb. Almost none of these people knew about the lengthy pedigrees of Humble Pie and Peter Green, and the numerous albums that came before. The Coliseum was packed because BGP caught Frampton and Mac on the way up.

August 23-24, 1975, Oakland Stadium, Oakland Led Zeppelin/Joe Walsh/Pretty Thngs (canceled)
This much-anticipated event was canceled due to Robert Plant's auto accident. Had it happened, the era of the mega-act might have come to San Francisco a bit earlier than it did. Zep had headlined Kezar, but that held about 60% of what the Coliseum could hold.

September 20, 1975 Oakland Coliseum, Oakland Lynyrd Skynyrd/Johnny Winter/Edgar Winter/Earthquake/Climax Blues Band
i don't actually know anyone who went to this. Still, it fits the model, three bands with similar appeal whose combined appeal was greater than any of them individually, supported by a rising touring act and a local band (Berkeley's Earthquake).

April 25, 1976 Oakland Coliseum, Oakland Peter Frampton/Fleetwood Mac/Gary Wright/Status Quo
May 1, 1976 Oakland Coliseum, Oakland Peter Frampton/Fleetwood Mac/Gary Wright/UFO
In the Spring, Frampton, Mac and Gary Wright returned. Once again, this would have booked some months earlier, and BGP absolutely bet right. The legendary Frampton Comes Alive had come out in January 1976, and was on its way to being the best selling album of all time (at the time). As for Fleetwood Mac, after the popular "Over My Head" (#20 on Billboard) in Fall '75, the followup of Stevie Nicks' "Rhiannon (#11) was even bigger, with "Say You Love Me" still to come (which also reached #11). As for Gary Wright, "Dream Weaver" was already imprinted on every radio listeners DNA. Both of these shows were packed with what turned out to be the hottest acts on the radio at the time.

June 5, 1976 Oakland Stadium, Oakland Boz Scaggs/Tower Of Power/Santana/Jeff Beck and Jan Hammer/Journey/Nils Lofgren
June 6, 1976 Oakland Stadium, Oakland J Geils Band/Jeff Beck and Jan Hammer/Blue Oyster Cult/Mahogany Rush/Sammy Hagar
This weekend featured a mellower sound on Saturday, with Boz Scaggs and Santana, and a harder rocking one on Sunday. Peter Frampton apparently joined J Geils for a few numbers. Both of these shows were popular and well-attended, but not the must-see events of the Frampton/Mac shows the month before. 

June 11, 1976 Oakland Stadium, Oakland Marvin Gaye/The Temptations/Nancy Wilson/Harold Melvin and The Bluenotes/Donald Byrd 
June 12, 1976 Oakland Stadium, Oakland Natalie Cole/Smokey Robinson/Staple Singers/BB King/Archie Bell and The Drells/Teddy Pendergrass SF Kool Jazz Festival
On a side note, there were two outdoor Coliseum shows produced by BGP for the "Jazz Festival" that mainly featured R&B acts. Awesome as these lineups seem today, these shows were not exceptionally well attended, to my knowledge, and big outdoor shows never caught on with soul acts. There were a couple of reasons for this. One was that African-American music fans didn't think they were recapturing a lost 60s experience by standing in a big field with 60,000 people. Another was that while white fans bought soul albums in large numbers, they generally tended not to attend concerts by those acts, and you can't say race wasn't a factor. 

Finally, and most interestingly, the one really successful outdoor African-American music event, called WattStax, which brought 100,000 people--mostly black--to the LA Coliseum, was not exactly greeted by the city with benevolence. There is an interesting book in production that dissects the peculiarly white nature of rock festival culture, but we will have to wait for it to come out (U of Wisconsin press, by the way). 

July 2, 1976 Oakland Stadium, Oakland Beach Boys/America/Elvin Bishop/John Sebastian
This was another typical mellow DOG. John Sebastian was back on the charts with "Welcome Back Kotter," and Bay Area perennial Elvin Bishop had struck gold with "Fooled Around And Fell In Love" (which had peaked at #3 in May).

August 3, 1976 Oakland Stadium, Oakland The Eagles/Loggins & Messina/Linda Ronstadt/Renaissance
The first three bands were all big at the time, but not the mega-acts they would become when the rock industry got really huge. It was events like these that showed the drawing power of a combined rock bill [for complete details of every DOG in Oakland, see here].

The Who's album The Who By Numbers, released in October 1975 on MCA Records.
Jerry Garcia and Pete Townshend--The Secret History
Jerry Garcia and Pete Townshend were good friends, as rock stars go, but in the early days they didn't meet that much. Apparently they met and hung out at Monterey Pop and hit it off, but they had had relatively few opportunities to meet after that. Woodstock was one such, and perhaps there were one or two other times. But in the era before email and cell phones, two road warriors like Jerry and Pete were never going to connect much.

In the Summer of 1975, to the knowledge of almost no one in the Bay Area, Pete Townshend moved his family to suburban Walnut Creek, CA. Walnut Creek, at the time a fairly sleepy suburb just over the hill from Berkeley, was the unlikely location of a Meher Baba study center. Ironically, the address of the center was at a building (at 1300 Boulevard Way) where the Dead had scheduled an apparently canceled weekend of shows in March 1968. Although Townshend hasn't talked about it much, the autobiography of Townshend's daughter indicates that she spent her summer being an "American suburb child" with the likes of Justin Kreutzmann (he was about 7 at the time), so Townshend must have spent some good time with Jerry.

Walnut Creek is pretty well-to-do these days (the median home price is now $681K), but back in 1975 it was just another bedroom community. I'm pretty sure there will still Walnut farms back then, too,w hich would now be replaced with expensive subdivisions. Also, at the time, Contra Costa was decidedly and intentionally unhip, as anyone with pretensions to culture moved to Berkeley (16 miles away) or Marin (32 miles), if not San Francisco (25 miles). If you were a teenager aspiring to leave, 1975 Walnut Creek must have seemed pretty bland. I have often wondered--some teenagers must have made Doritos runs to the 7-11 in the Summer of '75, and come back and told their friends "Pete Townshend of The Who was in line in front of me buying cigarettes." No one would have believed them. I wouldn't have let them drive home. I would have been doubtful that they had met an actual Englishman, much less the guitarist for The Who. Yet apparently Townshend was there all summer, and Pete and Jerry must have had their only chance in their busy professional lives to just hang together.

The Grateful Dead album Blues For Allah, released in September 1975 on Grateful Dead Records.
The Who And The Grateful Dead, Summer 1976
The Grateful Dead had stopped touring after October, 1974, seemingly yet another in a long line of 60s bands giving it up. Yet to the surprise of most, the band stuck together and kept recording, and by the Summer of 1976 they had returned to touring. Sure, their "new" live album, Steal Your Face, was miserable, but the Dead had plenty of fine live albums under their belt by this time. In July of 1976, the Dead had played six shows at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco that were rapturously received. But six nights at The Orpheum was just about 17,000 seats or so. And if you include all the people who went multiple nights--a lot--far less than 17,000 Bay Area fans had gotten to see the Grateful Dead in 1976.

As for The Who, with their usual drama, they had released a fairly successful album in October 1975, The Who By Numbers. They had had a popular but trivial hit, "Squeezebox." After a successful American tour in the Fall of 1975, they were bigger than ever. They had played in America in the Spring of 1976, and then a few huge shows in France and the UK in May, followed by even bigger shows in the US in August. The Who played a final leg of their tour in North American arenas in October 1976. In the Bay Area, however, The Who played not one but two shows, because they were doubled billed with the Grateful Dead. The Dead were not nearly so large an attraction as The Who, but they were a largely intact 60s band just the same, giants from an era where most of their peers seemed gone forever.

Up until the Dead/Who show, there was a distinct difference in the Bay Area between a show by a big act at a big indoor arena versus the Oakland Coliseum Stadium. If an act like Bob Dylan, George Harrison or The Rolling Stones were booked at either the Oakland Coliseum Arena or the Cow Palace, the two big basketball arenas, the day that tickets went on sale was kept a secret and the tickets were expected to sell out in a day (the '74 Dylan shows were actually mail order). Conversely, even DOG shows with popular headliners like Peter Frampton or The Eagles were hyped for weeks, implicitly encouraging entire dormitories or high school football teams to carpool together. That was why even the biggest DOG shows had opening acts starting at 11:00am, because it was an all-day party that many were attending just because they were hanging out with their pals, unlike a Rolling Stones show at the Cow Palace.

However, the co-billing of The Who and the Dead was presented as a certified event, with the exact date of ticket sales kept a secret, just like a Rolling Stones show. The implication was that all the 100,000+ tickets would sell out quickly, because seeing a full show by two legendary titans would be a never-to-be-seen-again-event. It turned out to be true that a Who/Grateful Dead bill was not to be repeated; but it also turned out that the shows weren't going to sell out. Not even close. After the first day that tickets went on sale, there were tons of tickets still for sale, and that was after everyone discovered they had bought tickets for their friends, who had in turn done the same. The Who and The Dead had sold a lot of tickets, but nowhere near as many as Bill Graham and everyone else had thought.

Rock Fan Allegiances, 1976
Now, with every old-timer nostalgic for all the long-gone bands, we forget how sectarian fandom was. The truth was that back in '76, the Grateful Dead and The Who had fairly distinct fanbases. Sure, there were a lot of people like me who loved both groups, but those kind of rock fans had a ton of albums and liked all sorts of groups. More importantly, the truth was that there were a lot of people who liked The Who that didn't want to see the Grateful Dead in concert.  Deadheads were pretty mellow, on the whole, and whether or not they were aware of The Who beyond a few hit singles didn't interfere with their desire to see the Grateful Dead.

All the cool rock bands had played the Fillmore in the 60s, but less than ten years later the fans of those groups had split into various factions. These weren't absolute divisions, but they were big enough to be meaningful. One big thread was that a lot of people who liked English bands like The Rolling Stones and The Who didn't like American hippie blues bands like the Dead and the Allman Brothers. A lot of fans of shit-kickin' American music were good with the Dead, but poofily dressed Englishmen like Roger Daltrey or Rod Stewart were somewhat suspect. All the fans still had long hair, of course, and all the bands were rooted in American music, but somehow the sectarian divide was strong.

The rock audience was still largely under 30 in the mid-70s. Thus the antipathy of Stones and Who fans to the Dead or the Allman Brothers had nothing to do with "Casey Jones" or "Whipping Post." It was about your high school parking lot, or what the pretty girls in your college thought of those bands. Now, of course, every serious Who fan was going to the Coliseum, no question. And plenty of Who fans were probably at least interested in seeing the Grateful Dead, if only to check off that box. However, for a stadium show, serious fans weren't enough--those serious fans had to bring their girlfriend and their roommate, and meet their brother and his girlfriend at the show. That was the business model for a Day On The Green.

The DOG with the The Who and The Grateful Dead was the first time that I distinctly recognized that there was a lot of negativity about the Grateful Dead. In High School, the Dead had been popular in a culty sort of way, like Pink Floyd. Not everyone liked the Dead, of course, but those that didn't like the Dead just ignored them. Sure, I had heard plenty of sneering about the Dead, but I had always figured that at least some of that was just individual animosity, directed at me or at life. The DOG was cultural--all sorts of people who were willing to pack the house for two weekend afternoons of Peter Frampton and Fleetwood Mac were not willing to see the Dead and The Who, mainly because they didn't want to sit through the Dead. The implicit part was that they didn't want to spend the afternoon in a packed stadium with all the people in their school who liked the Dead. The Dead were thus officially outdated, and the sell-by date on their package was Oct 9 '76.
Dick's Picks Vol 33, featuring both complete Dead shows from the 1976 Coliseum shows, released in 2004

October 9-10, 1976, Oakland Coliseum Stadium, Oakland, CA: The Who/Grateful Dead
The Who and The Dead played both Saturday and Sunday at the Coliseum. The story was put out that 86,000 tickets were sold. BGP must have leaked this oddly specific number, as the Coliseum likely held at least 50,000 for a big outdoor show. I have always assumed that the real sales were 90% of this number, with a lot of free tickets being given away and the like, in the tradition of "papering the house." To be clear, although Bill Graham was clearly surprised that the show did not sell out instantly, he would have made money anyway and surely the Dead and The Who got paid bigtime. Still, Graham didn't get fooled twice; he misread the effect of the Dead on the show, but he didn't do it again. From then on, he recognized that the Dead were a unique attraction, not easily combined with other regular acts on tour.

I went on Sunday, October 10. I had an extra ticket that I planned to give away, for good karma. I nearly couldn't find anyone to give it to, because there were so many tickets being given away. When the Dead came on stage in the early afternoon, there was a nice crowd, but it was clear that many fans had not yet shown up. The Dead played a standard two-set show (later released along with the prior day's show as Dick's Picks Vol 33). As the second set wore on, more and more people were starting to work their way to the front of the stage. Whether they had been in the seats, or not in the park at all was unclear, but it was plain that these people were there for The Who, and they had no interest in the Dead in any way.

By the end of the Dead's second set, the audience was filled with serious Who fans, and the crowd had a distinctly non-Dead vibe. Now, The Who weren't Lynyrd Skynyrd or anything. Their fans seemed friendly enough and they behaved politely. But they weren't there for the Dead, and they weren't going to sit through them. Some of them may have heard the Dead the day before, but presumably they weren't impressed. It was an odd experience, with the Dead's second set music rising to its peak while the audience on the field was progressively less interested, on a per capita basis, with anything they were playing.

The stage was in center field, and so of course the outfield bleachers were restricted to those people backstage who wanted to see the performances. The story goes that Garcia was out there late in the afternoon, dancing to The Who without his shirt on. No photographic evidence survives, to my knowledge.

Days On The Green remained a staple of the Bay Area for the next few decades. However, there was a distinct BGP dichotomy. A stadium show either had carefully selected acts with a shared audience base, or a titanically huge touring act that could sell out the stadium on their own. By the late 1980s, multi-act DOG events were usually just Monsters Of Rock Heavy Metal day (Motley Crue/Whitesnake/Poison--I think I actually saw that one) or a mega act with some filler opening the show. On August 30, 1989, I even saw The Who at a packed Oakland Stadium, with everyone sitting in folding chairs, and no opener. The Who dedicated their encore to the Dead, and played--of all things--"Born On The Bayou."

The Grateful Dead played the stadium again, too. They shared the bill with Bob Dylan in 1987, and headlined an AIDS benefit on May 27, 1989--where, it is worth noting, Jerry and John Fogerty played "Born On The Bayou." But other than that, the Dead's big outdoor home in the Bay Area Shoreline Amphitheater, a custom-built rock palace, not a converted multi-use stadium. The Dead and The Who even played together one more time, for a German TV special in Essen on March 28, 1981, and Townshend finally got to jam with Garcia on stage, 14 years after they became friends. Reputedly, the Dead had bailed out The Who by taking the dates that they had guaranteed for promoters when The Who were unable to play for some reason.

Eventually, of course, the Dead became one of those acts that could pack stadiums anywhere, a seemingly infinite number of times. But the days when they were just another popular rock band, sharing the bill with other bands were definitively over in October 1976.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jerry Garcia, The Top Of The Tangent, 117 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 1963-64 (Lost And Found)

Very likely the first ad for Jerry Garcia by name in any publication. Newly married Jerry and Sara Garcia open for Mike Cooney at The Top Of The Tangent on Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4, 1963. From the Stanford Daily, Friday, May 3, 1963
In January 1961, Jerry Garcia was booted out of the US Army and relocated to the Palo Alto area. He hung out with various ne'er-do-wells, and after a while Garcia fell in with Robert Hunter, David Nelson and a few others. They were aspiring folk musicians, but there were hardly any places to play beyond the Stanford campus. By 1962 there were a few places on the Peninsula, but still none in Palo Alto. This changed in January 1963, when two bored doctors started to run a weekly folk club at a deli at 117 University Avenue called The Tangent. The music was presented in a room above the restaurant. The Top Of The Tangent held about 75 people, and they had shows on Friday and Saturday, along with a "Hoot Night" on Wednesdays. Jerry Garcia and his fellow aspiring Peninsula Folkies had a headquarters, and thus The Top Of The Tangent looms large in Grateful Dead history.

Early performances at The Top Of The Tangent have regularly been described in interviews by Jerry Garcia and others since the earliest days. Remarkably enough, relatively soon after trading Grateful Dead tapes became widespread, a few tapes of Garcia's aggregations playing at The Tangent turned up as well. Nonetheless, although the importance of The Top Of The Tangent was widely known, the venue itself remains clouded in myth.  Stanford University is Stanford, however, and while they digitized the archives of the student newspaper some years ago, it appears they have been recently upgraded. Suddenly the story of Jerry Garcia at The Top Of The Tangent comes into clearer focus. This post will take our newly-found information about Jerry Garcia and his friends at the Tangent and try and link it to other threads in Grateful Dead history.

The first ad in the Stanford Daily for The Top Of The Tangent, at 117 University, in the Friday, January 25, 1963 edition. "The Circle" was right across from the train station, and all locals and students would have recognized the location. Although The Tangent itself, a deli and later a pizza parlor, had been open for some time, the upstairs room had only opened as folk club that month.

Palo Alto, Stanford and Folk Music In The Early 60s
The city of Palo Alto was founded in 1875 on empty land to accommodate the forthcoming Stanford University, and the city and the campus have been intricately connected since the University opened in 1892. It is ironic, then, that downtown Palo Alto was quite far from the center of campus, and all but the sturdiest of undergraduates could not walk from school to the downtown area. As a result, by the mid-20th century, Palo Alto's downtown was far less of a university town than cities like Berkeley, Princeton or Chapel Hill.

However, one of the world's first shopping malls, the Stanford Shopping Center, had opened in 1955, triangulated between the Stanford campus and the downtowns of Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Businesses in downtown Palo Alto had suffered, and rents were cheap, so at least there was room for new ventures. McNally tells the story:
[Top Of] The Tangent started as an amusement for two bored young doctors, but it became, for two years, the home of folk music on the Peninsula. Stu Goldstein and David Schoenstadt were Stanford Hospital residents who knew nothing about folk music, but Max and Bertha Feldman's Palo Alto deli had a room upstairs, and it occurred to Stu and David to open a club there, using Pete Seeger's songbook, How To Make A Hootenanny, as their blueprint. They opened in January 1963, with open hoots on Wednesdays, and the winners playing weekends. The charge was a dollar fifty, and the performers got five or ten dollars. It quickly became Garcia's new musical home, [Garcia:], "a little community...a sweet scene." [p47]
In the early 60s, folk music appealed to college students. It's true, some non-college students liked folk music, too, but even those tended to be the sort of kids who were smart enough to consider college, but weren't particularly academically oriented. As far as commercial propositions went, then, if you were trying to make a dollar off folk music, there had to be college students nearby. So it's no surprise that the doctors chose a place that was at the end of University Avenue that was nearest to Stanford University. 117 University, at "The Circle," was at the foot of University Avenue, downtown Palo Alto's main street, and right across from the Southern Pacific Train Station.

The train station wasn't irrelevant either. Stanford, of course, had been founded by SP railroad magnate Leland Stanford, and the Palo Alto train station had been built to accommodate the university. Stanford students were always allowed to ride the SP trains for free, so Stanford always had a distinctly San Francisco orientation, since the students could get there so easily (to my knowledge, although the corporate parent of the SP Railroad was swallowed up sometime ago by the DRGW, Stanford students still ride the local trains [CalTrain] for free). The fact that the Tangent was in easy walking distance to the train station made it uniquely attractive to Stanford students.

The Stanford Daily was the campus newspaper. Since Stanford's central campus was at least a mile from downtown, the Daily was probably a primary source of information for the students. The Palo Alto Times was the town's daily paper, but it was a fairly stuffy publication, pretty good with state and national news but not exactly forward looking. It wouldn't have appealed to students, who had little contact with the town of Palo Alto anyway. The reputation of Stanford students, rightly or wrongly, was that they all preferred to go to San Francisco. Leaving aside how many of them had access to cars, if you were a student who was going to walk a mile to downtown Palo Alto, and you could stop halfway, at the train station, and go to San Francisco for free, what would you do?

The Daily appeared five days a week during the schoolyear, and one day a week when school was out. There was a certain amount of general news, mostly of the sort interesting to college students, and plenty of Stanford sports and reviews and previews of local events. The Daily was available on campus, and possibly a little bit around Palo Alto, but it was the best way to let Stanford students know what was up. So it's no surprise that Top Of The Tangent had a regular Friday advertisement, and that the Friday performance listings regularly described upcoming Tangent shows.

The Westport Singers, with Butch Waller and Herb Pedersen, and Janice Joplin, seem to have been the first performers advertised by name at the Top Of The Tangent, in the April 5, 1963 Stanford Daily
Jerry Garcia's official debut at Top Of The Tangent appears to have been on February 22, 1963, with The Wildwood Boys. I assume that The Wildwood Boys had demonstrated their prowess at an earlier Wednesday hoot night, but since we have tapes from both Friday (Feb 22) and Saturday (Feb 23), they appear to have been booked for the weekend. On the first night, the Wildwood Boys were just Garcia, Hunter and Nelson, but on Saturday, they were joined (more likely rejoined) by bassist Norm Van Maastricht. There was no Friday edition of the Stanford Daily, because school was closed for Winter break. In any case, up until April, the ads for Top Of The Tangent just advertised  "Folk Singing." The first ad I found with performers' names was on April 5, 1963.

Presciently enough, the performers on the weekend of April 5 and 6 were The Westport Singers and one Janice Joplin. Both acts had probably succeeded at hoot night, since they were otherwise unknown. The Westport Singers, who I think played a kind of old-timey/bluegrass hybrid, were from the Berkeley area. Banjo player Herb Pedersen was the hot young player in Berkeley, and when he first met Garcia, Palo Alto's hot banjo-man, they apparently circled each other like wary gunfighters. They soon became friends, however, and Pedersen ended up joining Old And In The Way when it reformed after 1995. As for Butch Waller, still the leader of the great bluegrass band High Country, his place in Grateful Dead history was assured on May 1, 1965, when he joined in on Jerry Garcia's first acid trip.

And as for blues singer Janice Joplin, from Port Arthur, TX, her most famous appearance at the Tangent was the time she didn't show up, per McNally. It may have been this occasion. When she didn't make it, her accompanist, guitarist Jerry Kaukonen, allowed that he could play a little blues. It turned out that, indeed, he could, and he became a regular at Top Of The Tangent himself.

The Top Of The Tangent did not advertise every single Friday in the Daily, but they seem to have had an ad most of the time. As you can see, the layout and size of the ad were always identical, and the text of the performers would change each week. This was typical of the way repeat advertising was handled by newspapers at the time. Given the ancient nature of these performances, what seems remarkable at a distance is that actually we have tapes of any Jerry Garcia performances at the Tangent, much less several of them. Reading the Daily, however, the explanation becomes clear: in 1963 and 1964, everyone who played weekends at The Tangent was probably broadcast on the radio.

Stanford had its own radio station, KZSU, broadcasting  on 880-am. FM broadcasts on KZSU began in the spring of 1964, with the commercials deleted, from a 10-watt transmitter on 90.1 fm (and still are today, although with 500 watts). However, KZSU-am was only audible in the Stanford dorms. Still, in the early 60s, KZSU-am probably got a good hearing on campus, as most students lived in those dorms. The Daily posted the nightly KZSU schedule, and there was a regular folk music show at 9:00pm on Friday nights, called The Flinthill Special, sponsored and run by The Top Of The Tangent. Throughout  1963 and '64, the 9:00pm Flinthill Special folk show was advertised as live music from the Top Of The Tangent. I doubt it was truly live--my assumption is that the shows were taped each week, and highlights were broadcast the next week--but it meant that Stanford students got a taste of live folk music every week.

In 1963, the host of the live folk show from the Tangent was Ted Clare, and in 1964 it was Phil DeGuere. Ted Claire was a Stanford student who was friends with Rodney Albin and others. He was a sometime member of The Liberty Hill Aristocrats, the old-timey band with Rodney and his brother Peter, and a decade later he was still playing with Rodney in a band called Roadhog, who were ultimately joined by Robert Hunter in 1974. So one host of the Friday night show was definitely a fellow traveler. Philip DeGuere, of course, besides being the producer of Simon & Simon and many other hit TV shows, was also the co-director of the legendary Sunshine Daydream movie, filmed in Veneta, OR on August 27, 1972. So both of the hosts of the KZSU show must have facilitated a few welcome tape transfers.

Naturally, anyone reading this will immediately think "hey! Are the tapes still at KZSU?" The answer is probably, yes, I expect that the tapes are still there, but they have something else on them. Tape was expensive in those days, and tape recorders exotic, so tape was probably re-used over and over again. Since I only know of Garcia tapes having survived the Tangent, I think Mr. Clare and Mr. De Guere (and producer Pete Wanger, about whom more later) are the most likely culprits, and we thank them for that.

Jerry and Sara Garcia got married on April 25, 1963, and took a honeymoon trip to Yosemite National Park. Just two weeks later, they were opening the weekend's show at Top Of The Tangent. We are fortunate to have a tape of some of it. I expect the source was ultimately KZSU, since the penniless Garcias could not have afforded either a tape or a tape deck. The May 5, 1963 Stanford Daily ad that shows "Jerry and Sara" opening for Mike Cooney (the ad is up top) is probably the first time Jerry's name--any of it--was published in an ad as a performer.

The 1963 Monterey Folk Festival
One of the crossroads of pre-Grateful Dead history was the 1963 Monterey Folk Festival, held on the weekend of May 17-19. The series of relatively large ads in the Stanford Daily indicate that college students were a primary target for the festival. The most popular act, in fact, was probably the Friday night headliners, the trio of Peter, Paul and Mary. Today, however, the resonant booking is on Saturday night, with The Weavers, Bob Dylan and The New Lost City Ramblers.

The infamous story of the Monterey Folk Festival was that the Saturday afternoon event, listed here as "Folk Talent Show." According to McNally, The Hart Valley Drifters (Garcia, Nelson, Hunter on bass and Ken Frankel on mandolin) won Best Amateur Group. There was also a banjo and fiddle contest, a staple of bluegrass festivals. Bluegrass is fast-paced, difficult music, and there is a gunslinging element to playing it well. Similar to a "cutting contest" in jazz, the best players like to show off their chops. At a high profile event like this, everybody's six guns were ready for shootin'.

The story, detailed by Blair Jackson, was that the ultra-competitive Jerry Garcia came in second. Worse, for Jerry, was that he came in second to a frailer, the same Mike Cooney that Jerry had opened for two weeks earlier at the Tangent. Frailing is "old-timey" banjo, tasteful but not nearly as difficult as the three-finger style pioneered by Earl Scruggs in Bill Monroe's band. For a three-finger picker like Jerry to lose to a frailer on a judge's decision had to seriously rankle. The "outtakes" to Blair Jackson's books include some dismayed comments from judge Rodney Dillard (an excellent bluegrass musician himself), cranky that he still had to defend his decision 35 years later. 

Garcia's disappointment aside, there was plenty of great artists at the festival that directly or indirectly influenced Garcia and the Dead over the years, such as Doc Watson, Mike Seeger and Lightnin' Hopkins (on Saturday afternoon, the "Country Boys" were actually the White Brothers, with Clarence White). However, the road not taken was described by McNally, as Garcia recalls leaving before Dylan had even finished his set. Hunter says the sound was lousy, and perhaps it was, but Garcia was a purist, too, and not interested yet in "new music." Neither Garcia nor Hunter had really heard or heard of Dylan at this time.

The Black Mountain Boys, with Jerry Garcia, David Nelson, either Eric Thompson or Sandy Rothman and an uncertain bassist (possibly Norm Van Maastricht), played Top Of The Tangent on February 7 and 8, 1964
By early 1964, Garcia's bluegrass band had evolved. Hunter had been unceremoniously fired, if "not being told that you weren't in the band when you came to rehearsal" counts as fired, and he had moved to Los Angeles. On board was Eric Thompson and/or Sandy Rothman, depending on availability. Bluegrass bands didn't make any money, so it was hard to make gigs, not least since both Eric and Sandy were actually based in Berkeley. On February 7 and 8, 1964, the Black Mountain Boys were headlining the Top Of The Tangent (along with "the blues of Kellery Powers"). Tickets were $1.25. There were shows at 9, 10:30 and 12:00. The assumption here seems to be that college kids would drop in on a date, or to hang out, stay for an hour and move on.

The Black Mountain Boys and Jerry Kaukonen are at the Tangent on March 6 and 7, and Jesse Fuller was at The Offstage. From the March 6, 1964, Stanford Daily.
A month later, the Black Mountain Boys headlined at Top Of The Tangent on March 6 an 7, 1964. This time, they were joined by "folk artist Jerry Kaukonen." We know Eric Thompson was in the band at this time, because he seems to have been responsible for the tapes that exist. Both Eric and Sandy are referenced on the extant tapes. However, its important to remember that bluegrass bands weren't rock bands, and performer could casually step on and off stage as they saw fit. Early 60s folk and bluegrass groups did not have nearly the fixed lineups that were engendered by electric groups such as The Beatles. With amplifiers and trap drums, a band had to be organized; with just one mic at the Tangent, and a tiny room, anyone good enough could be invited on stage, assuming they had brought their axe.

Mothe McRee's Jug Band opens for Ken Carter, on May 1 and 2, 1964, at the Top Of The Tangent in Palo Alto. The Stanford Daily ad (from May 1 '64) says "Minors Welcome," which implird a change in poicy

Sometime in early 1964, the Tangent had closed for a while for remodeling. When it reopened, they had pizza, at the time a fairly exotic food. Notice that the May 1, 1964 Daily ad now says "Folk Music and Pizza." In April, 1964, Jerry Garcia had let the Black Mountain Boys lapse, since they had no gigs. Garcia played the occasional bluegrass gig when he could find one, but there was no money in it and very few players of Garcia's caliber. Jug band music was a different matter. It was good music, but you didn't have to be an expert to play it. This weekend show at Top Of The Tangent may be the first advertised Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Band show.

The Stanford Daily listing from May 1, 1964 for the Mother McRee show at the Top Of The Tangent

Like most newspapers, the Stanford Daily listed the shows of its advertisers in its roundup of local events. The May 1, 1964 edition includes some intriguing detail
The Tangent reopens this weekend with singer Ken Carter and Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Champions. New features are a pizzeria and room downstairs for people under 21. The same show will play in both rooms at 8:45, 10:30 pm downstairs, 9:30, 11:15 upstairs. Hoots and auditons will now be held every Wednesday evening. $1.25, 75 cents with discount card.
We learn a number of interesting things about the Tangent here. First of all, because of the timings, we know that the opening act would play downstairs and then upstairs, and would still be performing up there while the headliner was downstairs. Folk music was not particularly loud, so this was actually plausible, but it seems strange to modern fans.

More critically, it appears that the Tangent itself is trying to expand its market to include people under 21 as well as over. It's not clear to me why the insistence that there will be an upstairs and downstairs show is so critical. We know that Bob Weir and many others who were not 21--and certainly didn't look 21--had been regulars at the Tangent. It may be that after the remodel, the Tangent started to serve beer. Once there was beer, there had to be a distinction between upstairs and downstairs, at least officially.

Palo Alto has always had a peculiar relationship with liquor. Leland Stanford had originally wanted the town of Mayfield to host his university, but they refused his condition that they close all the saloons. Instead, Leland Stanford and his partner Timothy Hopkins bought up 75,000 acres between Mayfield and Menlo Park, and the dry town of Palo Alto was founded. Palo Alto laws required that there be no saloon within a mile of campus limits. When prohibition came, Mayfield merged with Palo Alto anyway (Mayfield's downtown was on California Avenue, the future and now-past site of the Keystone Palo Alto).

After Prohibition, bars opened a mile from campus--conveniently, the old Mayfield was just over the limit, and the county line was a mile away, in East Palo Alto. But downtown Palo Alto did not have a bar until--this is not a typo--1981. This helps to explain why decades of Stanford undergraduates were so anxious to go to San Francisco instead. Palo Alto residents like my parents were satisfied with this, because they did not want the sleepy downtown to become infested with sleazy bars that were open late. However, per California law, restaurants were allowed to serve beer and wine. This meant that a place like The Tangent, which served food, was one of the few places to get a beer in downtown Palo Alto, since they did not have to compete with any bars.

117 University Avenue, Palo Alto, as it looked in 2006. At the time, it was a dive bar (by PA standards) called Rudy's. The upstairs was only accessible by a door on the right (in the center of the photo), with the new address of 119 University. 
The Jug Band played a famous gig in July 1964 (The Daily did not advertise it), recorded and preserved by KZSU producer Peter Wanger, and rescued by his brother some years later. The live recording and subsequent interview with Jerry Garcia that was released is the only officially released trace of the folk music at the Tangent in 1963 and 1964, even though it appears that it happened every weekend.

In the end, it probably didn't matter. Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Champions went electric, as we know. The Tangent itself was open as late as 1969, after which it became The Full Circle. However, after January 1965 there were only periodic scheduled shows at Top Of Tangent, mostly improvisational theater. Casual hoot nights seemed to exist intermittently for the balance of the 60s, and indeed The Warlocks actually showed up at the Tangent a few times in Summer '65, because there was nowhere else for them to play.

However, by 1967, the action moved next door to a club called The Poppycock, at 135 University, but it too did not last beyond 1970. For many years, the building at 117 University Avenue was a pleasant, low-key bar called Rudy's, but it closed around 2013. The upstairs part now has a different entrance and a different address (119 University). Last I looked, there was some sort of high-tech startup there, but they had already moved to San Francisco, just like those who had come before them.