Monday, July 6, 2009

May 1, 8, 15,22, 1967 Rendezvous Inn, San Francisco: The Grateful Dead/The Wildflower

In May of 1967, The Dead, largely holidaying and rehearsing at the Russian River, had a regular Monday night gig at The Rendezvous Inn. The Rendezvous was a gay bar on Sutter Street, just above Powell, near Union Square. I don't know for certain the exact days, but McNally says they began "a brief series of Monday nights" (p.193) and the dates listed here are the first four Mondays in May. The band had a gig on May 29 in Napa, so I have assumed they played the first four Mondays in May.

There had been gay bars in San Francisco since at least the 1950s, though they kept a much lower profile than they did subsequently. The Wildflower, an Oakland group, played at least some of the gigs, and their manager was Bill Belmont (McNally, p. 288). Belmont worked for the Dead in late 1969.


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  2. In the new interview book Jerry on Jerry, Garcia remembers the Rendezvous gig - the thing is, he remembers it as being just one show, so I suppose McNally found elsewhere that it was a series of shows.

    "One of the weirdest gigs we ever played was one we played back when we were at 710 Ashbury early on. These guys came over and they were from this place that was a gay bar... We got hired for this gig and we were game. Sure, hey, yeah, twentieth anniversary of a gay bar... We went there and played, and the audience was all men, and this was in the days before guys were out in drag, so nobody was in drag, not a soul, and there were all these handsome young men. It was so strange... A wonderful audience. Just great. They were just as nice as can be, and they all politely kept their hands off Weir as we walked through the crowd... They were so well behaved. It was such a nice trip, but the unusual thing, there were no chicks, not a single chick there." (p.176-77)

  3. Thanks for this, a great find. One of the weird things about the Rendezvous gig(s) was that unlike every other 60s show, the attendees aren't anxious to admit they were there or describe their experiences.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the Dead were booked for one show with an option (of sorts) for others, but actually played just one or two shows.

  4. One bargoer, Jerry Pritikin, has left his memories on several websites - a couple examples:

    "Back in 1965, I used to go to a downtown upstairs gay bar called the Rendezvous at 567 Sutter St. in San Francisco. The manager of the bar was looking for ways to attract a younger crowd from Berkeley and Stanford on Sundays and wanted to change the [bar's] Sunday Sing-a-long. So he hired a couple of local bands to alternate for a month. One of the bands was the “Neighborhood Children” and the other was “The Grateful Dead”. There was no cover charge and beer in a bottle cost 25 cents. Hank Wilson, the manager, was content when about 40+ showed up." (5/17/15 comment)

    "The Bar was there in the early 60s... It attracted young gays from both East Bay and down the peninsula. It had a sing-a-long piano bar on Sunday that attracted older gays. It had a large dance floor. The manager was Hank Wilson. In 1965, he thought he would try to attract students... He hired 2 bands to alternate during the summer, both local, one was called the Neighborhood Children that played other bands' music, and the Grateful Dead."

    There are some discrepancies in his memory - he places it in 1965, which is way too early; and he remembers it being in the summer (close enough).
    He also says the shows were on Sundays (McNally said Mondays) - replacing a Sunday afternoon singalong the bar had (another patron also remembers those).
    He also recalls the Dead alternating weeks with another band, which is possible.

    A couple other people have also vaguely mentioned seeing the Dead there, but without much detail. Other things were on their minds! One example:
    "Chris and I were classmates...he was very lonely at Berkeley and I was his first close friend there. I took him to the Rendezvous on the bar’s anniversary ostensibly to hear the Grateful Dead. I wanted him to know I was gay and find out if he was. He recognized immediately that it was a gay bar..."

    This account confirms Garcia's memory that the Dead played there on the bar's anniversary.
    In any case, rock music continued to be a fixture at the Rendezvous, and it became quite a popular establishment.