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.

Aftermath
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.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

July 2, 1967, El Camino Park, Palo Alto, CA: Mary Poppins Umbrella Festival and Be-In (Early Palo Alto)

Fans at the Mary Poppins Umbrella Festival and Be-In at El Camino Park in Palo Alto, on Sunday, July 2, 1967. The photo by Bill Howell is from the Stanford Daily of July 4 '67.
It is a classic trope of Grateful Dead historians to recall and describe their first Grateful Dead show. I can recall my first Grateful Dead show, a little bit, but if I had not spent many years trying to track it down, it might have been largely forgotten until now. Over the years, I confirmed bits and pieces of information about the show, but other facts were contradictory or uncertain. Indeed, my research was more archaeological than historical, taking a few known details and attempting to construct a complete picture.

My principal effort was focused on the date. However, thanks to the Internet--if only Classical Archeologists had access to some sort of Ancient Roman Internet, but I digress--I am happy to report that while I wasn't far off, many of my suppositions were actually incorrect. A premier Grateful Dead scholar found a detailed review of my first show, in the Stanford Daily campus newspaper, and now the facts are clear: on Sunday, July 2, 1967 at El Camino Park in Palo Alto, the Grateful Dead headlined the Mary Poppins Umbrella Festival and Be-In.

Some Historiography
I will deal with the history of the history of the Palo Alto Be-In in my appendix, in the interests of college professors who care about such things. However, a few key points are worth making at the beginning of this post. In 1972, I got an FM radio of my own, and my musical world expanded. I promptly listened to all my older sisters LPs, and I rapidly decided that the Grateful Dead were my favorite group. Within a few months, I recalled that I had already seen the Grateful Dead. I remembered that when I was 9 years old, my family had gone to El Camino Park, Palo Alto's oldest park (ca. 1914) and seen the Grateful Dead at a free Be-In. I distinctly recalled the park and the psychedelically painted drumset, along with hippie girls painting people's faces. This wasn't really a recovered memory, since it had only been five years earlier. I asked my older sister about it, and she recalled that the Dead had played "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl."

Whenever a performance date in Grateful Dead history is disputed, readers reflexively cite existing sources. In this case, however, every single citation has me as a source, without exception. The first Grateful Dead list that circulated were from the Paul Grushkin Book Of The DeadHeads, which was based on Dennis McNally's current list at the time (and itself based on the Janet Soto list). More informally, a list compiled by John Dwork circulated amongst various people. I had told both Dennis McNally and John Dwork about having seen the Grateful Dead in Palo Alto in 1967, and that is why early lists say "June 1967" without a date. I also made sure that the editors of Deadbase knew about it, and that is why "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" appears in Deadbase setlists for the Palo Alto Be-In (dated "June-xx-1967").

Once the Internet was fully operational, I made an extended effort to identify the exact date of the Palo Alto Be-In. Indeed, in a lot of ways, searching out dates such as this was one of the reasons I started this blog. In any case, for reasons I will detail below I came to the conclusion that the likely date of the Palo Alto Be-In was Saturday, June 24, 1967. Subsequently, this date has been accepted as definitive and circulated in various sources, such as Dead.net. I can say confidently that I was the source, not just because I was the only person interested, but because since I now know the date was wrong, I can say with certainty that no one independently confirmed my research.

The July 4 1967 Stanford Daily had a relatively detailed news article about the Sunday July 2 Be-In at Palo Alto's El Camino Park (text reproduced below)
The Stanford Daily, July 4, 1967
The Stanford Daily was the campus paper for Stanford University. Per its name, it appeared 5 days a week during the school year, and once a week the rest of the time. Stanford being Stanford, and all, they have digitized their archives and seem to have continually improved their search function. As a result, a professionally trained researcher was able to find a news article about the Grateful Dead's appearance in Palo Alto, repeated here in its entirety.

Free Sounds, Free Snacks, Free Sun Highlight Be-InSunday the Free University and The Experiment staged their Mary Poppins Umbrella Festival and Be-In at Palo Alto Park from 1 to 6 p.m. The action started promptly at 1:00 with four bands, the Anonymous Artists, the New Delhi River Band, the Solid State, and the Good Word supplying entertainment for the crowd. Gradually listeners grew from a few hundred to a few thousand. Beads, flowers, headbands, bells, painted faces, and multi-colored clothing were in abundance on Be-In participants. Smiles and happy laughter came from all directions during the easy-going afternoon. Free oranges and punch were provided by the Free University and The Experiment, while wandering participants also gladly surrendered their refreshments to those around them. One incident which marred the pleasant atmosphere of the Festival occurred when a policeman found a young man with an American flag draped casually over his shoulder. He was beckoned aside by the policeman who took the flag away and inspected it for possible stains or tears. However, the flag-bearer ran away at the first opportunity, leaving the officer with the flag.  
The highlight of the afternoon came at 4:30 when the Grateful Dead stepped on stage. As the group launched into "Dancing in the Street," the crowd of 4,000 moved closer to the stage. After coaxing from the "Dead," some of the crowd started dancing in a large circle, holding hands and swirling around. Snake dance lines wound through the crowd while tamborines, marracas, kazoos, and bells kept the beat of the music. The "Dead" kept up the performance for about a half hour, and then promised to come back for more. After they left the stage, the audience settled down and listened to some blues and more psychedelic music from the other bands. At the Be-In, the Free University provided tables for class enrollment and sold copies of various underground publications.

If you click on the link, you will see some contemporary photos. One of the photos has an intriguing caption:
The typical Be-In crowd was on hand Sunday at El Camino Park. The crowd includes those who are seriously involved in the aims of FUPA and The Experiment and the clean-cut teenagers who wish they had the guts and don't.

A cryptical poster for the May 14, 1967 Be-In at Alma Park in San Jose, featuring Country Joe and The Fish, The New Delhi River Band, Sweet Smoke, The Anonymous Artists Of America and Wakefield Loop
What Do We Know?
El Camino Park was an athletic field across from both The Stanford Shopping Center and ‘El Palo Alto’ (the tall tree that gave the city its name). The Park (at 100 El Camino Real) was at the intersection of Palo Alto Avenue, Alma Street and El Camino Real at the Palo Alto/Menlo Park border, and within easy walking distance of downtown. It is Palo Alto’s oldest park, first open in 1914. As a metaphor for the history of the Grateful Dead, El Camino Park was perfect: it was within walking distance of both The Tangent (at 117 University Avenue in Palo Alto) and Magoo's Pizza (at 639 Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park), as well as Kesey's Perry Lane cottage, The Chateau and Dana Morgan Music, so the whole arc of the Grateful Dead's history was as near as could be.

Palo Alto and Stanford University were less politically explosive than UC Berkeley across the bay, but no less embedded in the 1960s. There were two main activist groups in the Palo Alto area. One was called "The Experimental Group", or sometimes just "The Experiment," based at Stanford University. There was also a group of people who founded the Mid-Peninsula Free University, known as the MFPU, and colloquially as "Free U." Both of these groups were trying to provide what they saw as a relevant, alternative education not constrained by the traditional boundaries of a University. While The Experiment was based on campus, and Free U off campus, many of the participants were the same people. The instructors for both movements included both University Professors and regular people in the community. By early 1967, The Experiment and MPFU had merged, and they decided to hold a Be-In in Palo Alto as a fundraiser.

The story of MPFU in Palo Alto is an interesting one, but outside the scope of this blog. Suffice to say, the notion that Universities should and could teach something other than just traditional disciplines came pretty directly from the Free U. On one hand, this opened up wide pedagogic vistas for professors from diverse disciplines to take new approaches to their classes. On the other hand, the idea that "Basket Weaving" was a legitimate subject for higher education--your mileage may vary--also came directly from the Free U, as a look at their earliest catalogs will tell you.

On January 14, 1967, the first Human Be-In was held at the Polo Grounds in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. The name "Be-In" was both a play on and a distancing from the traditional campus events protesting Civil Rights and the Vietnam War: Sit-Ins, Teach-Ins, Do-Ins and so on. The Human Be-In was implicitly detached from politics, much to the dismay of the Berkeley activists like Jerry Rubin who spoke there. In a real but informal way, despite there being no Internet, Be-Ins caught on. By June of 1967, Be-Ins had been held in Los Angeles (Griffith Park), Vancouver (Stanley Park), San Jose (Alma Park), New York and elsewhere. San Francisco bands showed up wherever they could. In many cities throughout 1967, particularly those near college campuses, there would be a little "Be-In" with a local band, but it was no less real to the participants, even if it had no Fillmore groups.

Since the network news had covered the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park, the music industry caught the wave, and it all led to the Monterey Pop Festival on the weekend of June 16-18, 1967. All of the San Francisco bands, with only the barest of record sales, if that, were high profile guests with hip acts from London, Los Angeles and New York. Attendance at the Monterey Fairgrounds was somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000, far more than anyone had anticipated. After Monterey Pop ended, the Dead's crew cheerily absconded with the rented Fender amps. According to Rock Scully and a few others, they used the amps to put on free concerts for a short while. The Palo Alto Be-In was clearly one of these events. After a while, Scully contacted Fender and told them in which warehouse their borrowed amps were located, and invited them to pick them up. Scully thoughtfully added, "if you're going to San Francisco, be sure to where flowers in your hair."

Just a few days earlier, on June 28, 1967, the New Delhi River Band had played a lunch time show at the ritzy Cabana Hyatt House on El Camino Real. History has no record of who was Miss Boutique
The Warlocks, The New Delhi River Band and Some Palo Alto History
The members of The Warlocks had lived in Palo Alto prior to 1965, even though many of the most famous events in band history took place in nearby Menlo Park. On December 18, 1965, the Grateful Dead had played the Palo Alto Acid Test at a then-new club called The Big Beat (the story of which is told in fascinating detail in David Browne's new book So Many Roads).  Still, The Grateful Dead had left Palo Alto behind in February 1966, leaving first for Los Angeles and then returning to the Haight Ashbury. The Dead had played Stanford University once, at Tressider Memorial Union deck on October 14, 1966, but they had not played Palo Alto proper. This isn't surprising--there were no venues in Palo Alto for them to play.

David Nelson, a co-conspirator of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter since early 1962, had "gone electric" a little later than his friend Jerry. However, in mid-1966, Nelson had founded the New Delhi River Band, which had sort of become the leading psychedelic band in the South Bay, however dubious and unremunerative an honor that might have been. I have made a study of the long-hidden history of The New Delhi River Band, and suffice to say by mid-1967 they were at the high water mark for a local band. The NDRB included bassist Dave Torbert and future Kingfish drummer Chris Herold along with Nelson (guitarist Peter Schultzbach and singer John Tomasi were also members). No recordings of the band have yet surfaced--Nelson says he has some--but all accounts say they were a fine psychedelic blues band.

Garcia, Nelson and Robert Hunter had formed the bluegrass trio The Wildwood Boys in 1962. Five years later, Hunter was in New Mexico, but both Garcia and Nelson were playing guitar in psychedelic blues outfits. The Dead had an album and were Fillmore and Avalon headliners. The New Delhi River Band were just headliners at the Fillmore of the South Bay, The Barn in Scotts Valley, an important and now-lost venue. Here they were playing for free in front of 5000 people, where it had all began. It had to seem like big things were just around the corner. And they were, although not in the way that everyone might have envisioned.

Mary Poppins Umbrella Festival and Be-In, El Camino Park, Palo Alto, CA: New Delhi River Band/Solid State/The Good Word/Anonymous Artists Of America/Grateful Dead
Although details about the Palo Alto Be-In have been hard to come by, quite unexpectedly several rolls of film turned up. Happily, they are in the safe hands of the Grateful Dead Archive at UC Santa Cruz, and can be viewed in detail by anyone so inclined. If only every Dead show had 145 photographs.

From the photos, we can see pictures of the Grateful Dead performing, along with another group, The Anonymous Artists Of America. According to an eyewitness from an earlier post of mine on this subject the AAA (as they were known) came on after the Dead. Given the newspaper article, it makes sense that the Dead played from about 4-30-5:00pm, and then the AAA came on to end the event. So it seems that the photographer arrived at the show with the Dead, and stayed until the end, which is why there are no photos of the earlier bands. [update: careful analysis from a Commenter shows that the photographer must have been there the whole time, but he seems to have focused on the Dead. There appear to have been several other bands, but not pictures of all of them performing. Two bands preceded the Dead, neither of them NDRB or Solid State. AAA seems to have been after the Dead, and there was at least one other band after that, but impossible to discern more than that. There was also a peculiar band playing ornate marching band instruments that performed from a flatbed truck). 

The Anonymous Artists Of America were formed by a bunch of Stanford University dropouts. They had an electronic music device, a sort of primitive synthesizer called a Buchla Box, designed by electronic music pioneer Don Buchla. The AAA lived in a giant, crumbling mansion in the San Bruno Mountains that used to belong to a railroad baron. The AAA weren't really very good at their instruments, by their own admission, but they focused on being creative. The AAA was very hooked into the Prankster/Underground scene, and indeed they had performed at the infamous Acid Test Graduation on Halloween 1966.

The AAA also played regularly at The Barn in Scotts Valley. Often the New Delhi River Band would headline Friday nights, while the AAA would headline on Saturday. The members of AAA are pretty obscure today, but one of the singers was Jerry Garcia's wife Sara. After Jerry and Sara had split up, Sara--a Stanford dropout herself--had left the Pranksters and joined up with the AAA. So it was no surprise to see them at the Palo Alto Be-In.

I have to assume that The New Delhi River Band and Solid State started off the Be-In. [update: a careful look at the complete photo set shows that the first two bands were neither New Delhi River Band nor The Flowers. So there must have been more groups, and those two might have come on at the end, after The Dead and AAA. It's plain that the Daily writer didn't really know, and was taking someone else's word for everything but the Dead performance he witnessed]. If it really started at 1:00, and the Dead came on at 4:30. something else must have filled up some time. Palo Altans who attended many of the El Camino Park Be-Ins have the traditionally vague memories, and they recall seeing Timothy Leary, Eldridge Cleaver and others speaking at them. However, I don't know which events they might have been. More likely, speakers from the Free U filled up time between acts.

Solid State was the new name of a local psychedelic jazz rock band formerly called The Flowers (sometimes just Flower). They had been hooked in with Ken Kesey, not surprisingly, since tenor saxophonist Paul Robertson was one of Ken Kesey's attorneys. Another member of Solid State was bassist Gordon Stevens, whose family ran Stevens Music in San Jose (at 1202 Lincoln Ave in the Willow Glen neighborhood), where all the San Jose band like The Syndicate Of Sound got their gear. For much of the Spring, The Flowers had been the house band at The Poppycock, Palo Alto's first psychedelic club. Even I don't know anything about The Good Word.

So the Grateful Dead came on at 4:30, per the Stanford Daily. This makes sense to me, too. My family must have heard about it somehow, and while my Dad didn't really care about rock music he was interested in culture. If there was an interesting cultural event happening a mile from our house, then he was intetested. So it makes sense that we got there at 4:00 or something, and heard the Grateful Dead play, and then left. Based on the review, and my sister's memory, perhaps the Dead only played "Dancing In The Streets" and "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl."

An MPFU newsletter that advertised a June 23, 1968 El Camino Park Be-In featuring The Sons Of Champlin, Charlie Musselwhite and Berkeley's Notes From The Underground
Aftermath
There were several more free concerts at El Camino Park. The Steve Miller Band and The New Delhi River Band headlined another Free U event on October 1, 1967. There were two more in 1968, one on June 23 that featured the Sons Of Champlin, and one on September 29 that featured Steve Miller (with guest Carlos Santana), Frumious Bandersnatch, Phoenix and possibly others. After that, however, even tolerant Palo Alto had had its fill, and there were no more free concerts in El Camino Park.

The MidPeninsula Free University had a tumultuous history, but it pretty well came to an end by 1971. David Nelson and then Dave Torbert had joined Jerry Garcia in the New Riders Of The Purple Sage. A close look at the Be-In photos shows John Dawson hanging out backstage, so he was there, too. So not only the Dead, but some other people at the El Camino Park Be-In went on to rock stardom, even if the AAA, the New Delhi River Band, The Good Word and Solid State are largely lost in the mists of time.

There were only two more rock events at El Camino Park. In 1972 there was a concert featuring the Indian Fusion group Shanti. And on June 8, 1975, Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders headlined at El Camino Park over Kingfish and the Rowan Brothers. The concert was not free, but it was a mellow event by all accounts. Did Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Dave Torbert recall that they had played before, for free, on a Summer's Day in 1967?

Appendix: Historiographical Error Log
Since all the information about the Palo Alto Be-In comes from me, I thought I would briefly parse out how I came to my earlier incorrect conclusions. In a post some years ago, I proposed that the correct date was Saturday, June 24, 1967, and the groups were the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and The Holding Company and The Sons of Champlin.

Because of Rock Scully's assertion that they borrowed the Monterey Pop amps, used them and returned them shortly after, I knew that the Palo Alto Be-In had to be soon after the Monterey weekend of June 16-18. There was a big event on Wednesday, June 21, the Summer Solstice, so it seemed logical that the Dead would play the next weekend as well.

One of my eyewitnesses said he thought that the Palo Alto show was the day before Jimi Hendrix played for free in the Panhandle, and since that date was known to be Sunday, June 25, Saturday the 24th fit nicely.

The same eyewitness, a Palo Alto resident who went to most of the Be-Ins, couldn't remember whether it was the Dead or Big Brother. He admitted that it wasn't such a big deal to him: Jerry Garcia had been his guitar teacher, so although he liked the Dead, he had already seen them a bunch of times. He did distinctly recall the Sons Of Champlin, but now I think he was thinking of the 1968 show.

Various other people on Facebook posts and the like said that Big Brother played El Camino Park, which made it seem like they played. Based on Big Brother's schedule, the Palo Alto Be-In seemed the only likely candidate, so I figured they both played. It now seems that Palo Altans who recall Big Brother at El Camino were just imagining it. Big Brother did play a very obscure show at the relatively nearby Foothill Junior College, but it would be hard to mistake one place for the other.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

March 24, 1970, Pirate's World, Dania, FL (Truckin')


The traditional Grateful Dead concert lists all cite a Grateful Dead performance at Pirate's World, in Dania, FL, just North of Miami, on March 24, 1970. A 90-minute board tape with that date, apparently most of a complete show, seems to confirm the date. Yet this seemingly obscure event provides far more mystery than one might think. For one thing, Pirate's World was an amusement park, and the Grateful Dead didn't play a lot of shows at amusement parks. For another, it isn't even clear if March 24 was the correct date, and if it was, why was it changed? Finally, no matter what the date, the Grateful Dead spent some time that week sitting around the hotel pool. During those days, the Dead wrote "Truckin'", perhaps the band's most iconic song.

This post will look into the peculiar venue of Pirate's World, the ambiguous issue of the actual date they performed, and why exactly the Dead seemed to have enough time to sit around a hotel pool and write a song.

The Grateful Dead seem to have completed the basic tracks for Workingman's Dead from March 9-16, 1970, just before they went truckin' off to Buffalo
The Grateful Dead, Spring 1970
The first few months of 1970 were tumultuous for the Grateful Dead. They had been all over the country, from the Fillmore East to Hawaii and back, by way of New Orleans and St. Louis. They had fired their organ player, fired their manager, hired a new road manager and recorded an album. By March 8, they had already played about 34 shows (decide for yourself if they played Ungano's on February 12). As near as anyone can tell, the sessions for Workingman's Dead were February 16-19 and then March 9-16, when the basic tracks were completed.

The crazy touring schedule was a legacy of recently fired manager Lenny Hart, who--to put it kindly--did not have the best interests of the band in mind. By March, touring was under the control of new road manager Sam Cutler. Still, even Cutler's firm hand must have been tested by the peculiar concert schedule that the Grateful Dead were still obligated to fulfill. Somewhere around March, it started to become clear that Lenny Hart had ripped off the Dead for some serious money, $155,000 in fact, a huge sum for the time. Yet the Dead, always contrarian, chose to work their way out of trouble.

Having just completed basic tracks for what they must have known would be an excellent album, the Dead apparently decided they needed a "road song," like many other bands. Unlike other bands, however, like Canned Heat (whose "On The Road Again" had been a huge hit), the Dead had to bring their lyricist on the road with them. So for the March East Coast tour in 1970, the Grateful Dead were joined by Robert Hunter. Hunter had been backstage at many a Dead show, of course, but to my knowledge, he hadn't been on the road outside of California.

The projected tour was very brief:

Tuesday, March 17, 1970: Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, NY
Quixotically, the Dead began their little tour with a show with the Buffalo Philharmonic.

Friday and Saturday, March 20-21, 1970: Capitol Theater, Port Chester, NY
The anchors for the tour were two double shows at the newly-opened Capitol Theater. The Capitol was in suburban Port Chester, in Westchester County. Westchester was within the New York Metropolitan area, but not at all the city per se.

Sunday and Monday, March 22-23, 1970: Pirates World, Dania, FL
The Pirate's World bookings appear to have been "routing gigs," paying shows at modest places that pay the hotel and travel bills between more lucrative events.

Friday-Sunday, March 27, 28 or 29, 1970: Winter's End Festival, Miami, FL
A major rock festival was planned for Florida. It's not clear which day the Dead would have played, but I think the promise of a good payday was what kept them on the road, and got them to Florida in the first place. It's likely that if the band wasn't expecting to play the Winter's End Festival, they wouldn't have booked Pirate's World.

After the band left New York, it seems that nothing went as planned. Thus the story that "Truckin'" was written by Garcia, Weir, Lesh and Hunter around a pool in Florida makes a lot of sense. The band thought they would be playing three shows in Florida, and they appear to have played only one. Thus there may have been far more time to sit around and write, rather than coming and going to and from various venues.

A newspaper ad for The Capitol Theater in Port Chester for March, 1970. Almost all of these bands played Pirate's World as well during the first half of 1970
The Grateful Dead On The Road
The existing ticket for Pirate's World (up top) suggests that two shows were originally scheduled. Tickets were probably printed some time in advance. Yet there is only one tape, from a different date. There are various eyewitnesses, and none of them refer to multiple shows. So it seems that the shows that were originally scheduled for Sunday and Monday, March 22 and 23, were converted to a single show on Tuesday, March 24. This change in schedule is logical for a variety of other reasons as well.

First of all, in order for the Dead to have played Pirate's World on Sunday, March 22, they would have had to load out of the Capitol in Port Chester, get to La Guardia, fly into Miami and load in to Dania, some miles to the North, in about 16 hours. A tall order indeed, even for the vaunted Dead road crew.

Secondly, a Sunday and Monday booking was fairly unprecedented for Pirate's World. There is an excellent, detailed list of Pirate's World shows (at the always exceptionally well researched Concert Archive), and almost all shows were only weekend shows. It does seem that the week of March 20-28 was some effort at a sort of "Spring Break" series, since there were concerts booked all week. However, this was never repeated, so it suggests that the promotion wasn't very successful. The scheduled bookings for Pirate's World that week were:
  • Friday and Saturday, March 20-21, 1970: Country Joe & The Fish, Rose Creek Band
  • Sunday and Monday, March 22-23, 1970: Grateful Dead
  • Tuesday and Wednesday, March 24-25, 1970: Youngbloods, Storm
  • Friday and Saturday, March 27-28, 1970: Chambers Brothers, New Society Band
So in order for the Dead to have played Tuesday, March 24, the Youngbloods would have had to be moved or canceled. Now, I don't know anyone who has a complete Youngbloods tour list--OK, I do (me), but it ends in 1969--but if the Dead were reduced to one show, it seems reasonable to assume that the Youngbloods were reduced or rescheduled as well. Perhaps the Youngbloods just played Wednesday (March 25). So for now, I'm pretty comfortable with the Dead having played Tuesday, March 24, 1970 at Pirate's World. They probably got into Florida Sunday night, and hung out for a Tuesday show in anticipation of the big festival the next weekend.
Ahoy, mateys. Note the aerial trams overlooking the buccaneer-filled water at Pirate's World.
Pirate's World
Pirate's World was an 87-acre amusement park that had opened in 1966, just North of Miami in Dania, Florida. It was located just East of US1, North of Sheridan Street (the community is now called Dania Beach, FL, and Sheridan Street is also FL822). Most of the rides were pirate themed, and there was a body of water, and one of the rides was a trip on an "actual" pirate ship. The amusement park was initially very popular when it first opened, until Disney World came on the scene in Orlando in 1971. Pirate's World closed in 1975, although it is fondly remembered by young people in the area at the time.

There had been a variety of efforts to find suitable rock venues in the Miami area in the 1960s, and the Dead had played a critical role, if to little avail. Early in 1968, the Dead had played Thee Image, Miami's own Fillmore, and the band had also kicked off a series of free concerts at Graynolds Park. Later in 1968, the band had played a rock festival in nearby Hallandale (Dec 28 '68) and then, after Thee Image had closed, at a rock festival on the Seminole Indian Reservation in West Hollywood (May 23-24 '69),and at a speedway in Hollywood (Dec 28 '69). By 1970, police and civic pressure had forced touring rock bands to play outdoors in the Pirates World amusement park in Dania, just North of Hallandale (and just South of Fort Lauderdale). Note that the ticket stub suggests that when purchasing a ticket "all rides free." I wonder how "The Other One" would have sounded on a roller coaster?

From the point of view of the park, it seems that the concerts were an effort to bring in teenagers. Certainly the events were memorable for those who went. An eyewitness recalls
The concert area at Pirates World was inside the large amusement park. Maybe 2,000 people? 100 feet of floor space between the stage and a row of wooden bleacher seats that faced the stage. Totally open air, don't even think there was a roof over the stage.
lived in Ft Lauderdale from 67-69...returned to NYC in 69 and went back to Fla. numerous times. Happend to be there when this concert was announced and holy shit!I was in a band in NYC during 65-67 and bass player was a huge Dead fan. He was with us in Fla and attended this concert, too.Prior to concert, 5 of us decided to take the ride across Pirates World, sort of an ore bucket thingy. While we're waiting to get into our cage, who's in front of us but Garcia amd his entourage...we wait and they get into the cage...a few mniutes later ( we had an abnormally long wait) we get into our cage...proceed to go 1/2 way across the grounds, about 50 feet in the air, and the ride stops...we decide it is the cops who want to bust us (Fla. in 1970 was, shall we say, intolerant of long hairs) so we start smoking everything we have...3-4 jointz each at a time...paranoid, the ride finally moves and we get to the end and the kid who opens the door says "Garcia told us there were a bunch of heads behind him, and to make sure you got a good long ride."
best ride of my life.
57 years old now and man, do I miss the 60s.


A flyer for the original iteration of the Winter's End Festival in Miami, scheduled for March 27-29, 1970. Originally planned for a site just north of Miami, eventually an abortive version of the event was held at a place called Bithlo.
Winter's End Festival
The big event, however, was the "Winter's End Festival" scheduled for the weekend of March 27-29. JGMF did some excellent work looking into this canceled event, and has some excellent links. He also found the flyer above, which shows us that the original site of the Winter's End Festival was North of Miami, but still South of Pirate's World. This may account for the Dead having reduced from two dates to one, if local fans were expecting a big festival the next weekend.

I have since found out, however, that the actual story of the Winter's End Festival was far more complex and crazy than JGMF's links suggest. It was the last in a line of Florida rock festivals that always kept moving due to local pressure. The promoter of the festival turns out to have been an infamous character named Tom Forcade. Forcade (1945-78) was either a provocative entrepreneur, or an entreprenurial provocateur, depending on how you see things. Saying that Forcade was "a character" does him a disservice. He is worthy of an entire book, which is apparently being written. Suffice to say, and I say this advisedly, the most mainstream thing that Forcade ever did was start High Times magazine. Just to reiterate--starting High Times was Forcade's straightest, most plausible venture. I hope the book comes out soon.

In any case, Forcade promoted the Winter's End Festival near Miami, and it fell apart and kept getting moved. It finally moved to a place called Bithlo, Florida, in between Miami and Orlando. While I'm sure Bithlo is a pleasant suburb now, at the time it was just empty county land. Nonetheless, apparently Orange County Sheriff's deputies made every effort to dissuade and arrest festival goers. Some version of the festival took place, but the Grateful Dead did not participate. There are many crazy memories, if you poke around. The JGMF comment thread has some good ones:

I attended this concert and Johnny Winter, Mountain and the Allman Brothers did play and were incredible, the hog farm was there and did their usual great job with what they could pull together. Locals caused some difficulties - breaking into cars/mini buses and stealing whatever they could find, causing some fights, etc. But overall it was a decent experience for a crowd in the hot Florida sun and cool evenings. Looking back now, amazing that no one died but leave it to youth..... 

I was there with 3 buddies that drove down on spring break from Indiana State. While I remember it being a generally epic time details are unclear do to the orange barrels. I remember about all the Hog Farm had was huge kettles of onion soup. Nutritious! Wavy Gravy took over emcee chores and continually extolled its virtues and thanks to the farm. I remember him voicing the warnings of bad mescaline going around and where the first aid tents were. I remember the Governor of Fl waking thru and declaring the site a disaster area to allow for food aid because the stores were wiped out. Remember the naked mud slide area! As for bands, clearly remember Johnny and Edgar Winter (first time I jeard them together), Leslie West and Mountain, Allman Brothers, and seems to me Tin House and Rush who I hadn't heard of before. Unlike previous post i remember bands for the whole 3days. Pretty big mess on sunday after it was over. Left after concert was over to head down to Lauderdale where the engine in my buddies Comet Blew. Hung for a couple days til the cash was gone and hitched back to ISU. Remember getting run off the road in TN by an 18 wheeler! Dang hippies! Great fun! Peace out!

Truckin' was written in March of 1970, made its live debut in August and was released on American Beauty in November.
Shot A Man In Reno?
McNally sets the scene:
In mid-March the Dead set off on tour, accompanied for the first time by Hunter, who had concluded that the band needed a road song, and that he needed to see the road to write the song...Later in the tour they reached Florida, and Hunter sprang the verses of "Truckin'" on them...Weir, Lesh and Garcia joined Hunter, and the four of them sat around the swimming pool with acoustic guitars and worked up the song (p364)

A few decades later, David Browne interviewed Robert Hunter for Rolling Stone, who added a few more details (Browne, not coincidentally, has just released his excellent new Grateful Dead book So Many Roads, which I can highly recommend)

Q: "Truckin'" also was completed on the road with the Dead, wasn't it?A: Yeah, I think it was in Florida, and I had been writing it for some time. I think I finished it there — it was not a song I just dashed off. And then I gave it to them. They were all sitting around the swimming pool, the guitars there, and they did a good job on it. I wrote all the lyric. "Sometimes the light's all shinin' on me" — I think that's Phil. It took me a couple of months to write and it maybe took 'em about half an hour to put it together
It is very tempting to look at the lyrics to famous rock songs and tie them to the biography of the writers. Certainly, when the band sings about getting "Busted, down on Bourbon Street," that very thing had happened less than two months earlier, and had been a famous event that fans were supposed to recognize, definitely an intentionally autobiographical reference. When they sing, "Dallas, got a soft machine, Houston, too close to New Orleans," we can look at the February schedule and see that the Dead had finally played Dallas (Feb 20) and Houston (Feb 22) just the month before. As for "Truckin', up to Buffalo," it's hard not to consider that Hunter and the boys were just in Buffalo less than a week before they wrote the song,

Nonetheless, biographical analysis does writers a great disservice. As a famous Classics professor once said, refuting the idea that the Roman poet Ovid's love objects were too realistic to be fictional, "raise your hand if you think Johnny Cash shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die." Writers make things up. Sometimes, the fictions are constructed from real occurrences in the writer's life, but ultimately they are still inventions. We cheerfully assume that Hunter did not "cut his buddy down, dug for him a shallow grave and laid his body down." Yet, whenever the whiff of reality strikes us, we suddenly wonder if writers are incapable of modifying real events for their art. 

In fact, the Dead weren't in Dallas in February 20, as they were actually in nearby Fort Worth. Although Ft. Worth has just two syllables, it doesn't sing as well, so it became "Dallas." "New York, got the ways and means, but just won't let you be," is a true enough statement, so it doesn't matter that Hunter had actually been in suburban Port Chester rather than Manhattan. "Truckin'" is a road song, and the phrase "long strange trip" will be Hunter's legacy long after we have all passed. It is appropriate that it was written on the road, at some no doubt seedy hotel in a Miami suburb, while the band waited around for a big gig that was never going to come. But it's still made up. The only pity is that Hunter and the guitarists did not sit around the pool another day and take a crack at some other lyrics. 

Pirate's World Today
The town of Dania is now called Dania Beach. I assume, like most of Florida, it is full of new construction, housing developments and malls, sprawling in every direction. Pirate's World closed in 1975, overwhelmed by Disney World. There was supposed to be a Biblical Theme Park in its place around 1978, but nothing came of it. The park was replaced by housing, and erased from all but childhood memories. Still, if you Google Map Sheridan Street (FL822) in Dania Beach, FL, just East of US1 (N Federal Highway), there is still a body of water. It is called West Lake. Could West Lake be the last trace of Pirate's World? Of course, since it was an amusement park, there wouldn't exactly be sunken galleons with untouched treasure at the bottom. But still. Maybe you can stand at the corner of West Lake, shut your eyes, and crank up the March 24 '70 tape on your iPod. Maybe, for a minute, all rides are free, the band is playing and everything is possible. Then, after the moment passes, you can get back truckin' on.