Friday, July 10, 2009

Robert Hunter and Comfort: Performing History 1977-78

Robert Hunter performed and recorded with the band Comfort for about a year, from mid-1977 to mid-1978. In particular he wrote a lengthy suite of songs called “Alligator Moon” which is well worth listening to for any Hunter fan. Hunter was unhappy with his studio version of the suite, so the album was never released. Circulating live versions of the suite are excellent—it’s a shame they never saw an official release. A few Hunter/Comfort studio recordings were released on the album Promontory Rider.

I started compiling lists of Grateful Dead shows in the early 1980s, soon after receiving the “Janet Soto” list. My Comfort list mostly comes from contemporary copies of BAM and Relix Magazines, as well as a few circulating flyers. In the 1990s, someone named Doug Aldridge was working on a complete Hunter performing history, but his work seems no longer to be online (although some parts of it are accessible at Setlists.com).

Since there was no Internet or anything when I compiled this, I had no way of checking on late additions, cancellations or much of anything. There were considerably more dates, particularly around the Bay Area. Any updates, insights or corrections are welcome (note: dates added to the original post are shown as added).

ROBERT HUNTER AND COMFORT 1977-78
Robert Hunter-vocals, guitar
Kevin Morgenstern-lead guitar
Rodney Albin-violin, mandolin
Richard McNees-keyboards
>Ozzie Allers joins in February 1978, replacing McNees
Larry Klein-six string bass
Pat Lorenzano-drums
Marlene Molle-vocals
Kathleen Klein-vocals

Larry Klein, the bassist, was from Seattle, and I do not believe he is the same as the bassist Larry Klein who played on Joni Mitchell’s albums.

May 12, 1977 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Robert Hunter and Comfort
A setlist exists, which is my only source for the date.

July 29-30, 1977 Shady Grove, San Francisco, CA
Robert Hunter and Comfort

August 11, 1977 Shady Grove, San Francisco, CA
Robert Hunter and Comfort

August 25-26, 1977 Shady Grove, San Francisco, CA
Robert Hunter and Comfort

September 21, 1977 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Robert Hunter and Comfort [added]

October 20-22, 1977 The Troubadour, Santa Monica, CA
Robert Hunter and Comfort
Possibly moved to November [added: see Comments]
[update] The former soundman confirmed the October date. He recalls that
the show at the Troubadour was definitely that night in October because it was the night of the Lynnyrd Skynnard plane crash. the other band (who was supposed to open the show) was from macon, georgia (who knows who they were?) and so we swapped and did a short set - the idea was to do a showcase for label executives, but no one showed up - and then the macon band did a really, really long tribute set.
October 23, 1977 Fubar, Santa Barbara, CA
Robert Hunter and Comfort [added]

October 26-27, 1977 Rancho Nicasio, Nicasio, CA
Robert Hunter and Comfort [added]

October 28, 1977 Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA
"Hooker's Ball" Robert Hunter and Comfort/others [added]

November 10, 1977 Crossroads Inn, Santa Cruz, CA
Robert Hunter and Comfort [added]
A poster turned up on the Grateful Dead Archive.

December 4, 1977 Uncle Charlie’s, Corte Madera, CA Free Clinic Benefit
Robert Hunter and Comfort

December 5, 1977 Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA
Robert Hunter and Comfort
Live broadcast on KFAT-fm (Gilroy, CA). There is an excellent 18-minute version of the Alligator Moon Suite, mixed by Bob and Betty in the truck. I discuss the entire show at length elsewhere.

December 16-17, 1977 Crossroads Inn, Santa Cruz, CA
Robert Hunter and Comfort
The Crossroads was at the Old Sash Mill complex, where Highway 1, Highway 17 and River Street converge.

December 19-20, 1977 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Jerry Garcia Band/ Robert Hunter and Comfort

December 22-23, 1977 Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA
Jerry Garcia Band/ Robert Hunter and Comfort

February 7-8, 1978 Shady Grove, San Francisco, CA
Robert Hunter and Comfort
Richard McNees left the band at the end of December, and was replaced by Ozzie Ahlers.

February 18, 1978 Marin Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium, San Rafael, CA
Jerry Garcia Band/ Robert Hunter and Comfort

February 19, 1978 Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz, CA
Jerry Garcia Band/ Robert Hunter and Comfort

March 4, 1978 Rio Theater, Rodeo, CA
Robert Hunter and Comfort/Peter Rowan

March 6-7, 1978 Shady Grove, San Francisco, CA Robert Hunter and Comfort

March 9-10, 1978 My Father’s Place, Roslyn, NY
Robert Hunter and Comfort
There were early and late shows each night. Each show had two sets, a solo acoustic set by Hunter and a full electric set with Hunter backed by Comfort. Some of the second night (March 10) was broadcast on WLIR-fm (Hempstead, NY). Setlists are available for all sets.

The soundman recalls:
my fondest memory is of the shows at my father's place. I had spent a lot of time there during high school and half of comfort were from upstate new york, so all the parents' showed up. my mother got very stoned from all the people passing her joints in the audience.

March 12, 1978 Suffolk Forum, Commack, NY
Jerry Garcia Band/New Riders of The Purple Sage/ Robert Hunter and Comfort

March 14, 1978 Music Hall, Boston, MA
Jerry Garcia Band/ Robert Hunter and Comfort

March 16, 1978 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA
Jerry Garcia Band/ Robert Hunter and Comfort

March 17, 1978 Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ (early and late show)
Jerry Garcia Band/ Robert Hunter and Comfort

March 18, 1978 Warner Theater, Washington, DC (early and late show)
Jerry Garcia Band/Robert Hunter and Comfort
UPDATE: A tape of a Comfort set from an WHFS-fm broadcast has surfaced. I assume that the Comfort set was broadcast along with the JGB show. It does beg the very interesting question of who paid for it (for a band to play live on commercial FM radio, the record company had to pick up the lost advertising costs). I assume Arista did it as a favor to Garcia, but that raises a host of interesting issues in its own right, such as whether Arista was considering releasing the Alligator Moon album.

March 19, 1978 Stanley Theater, Pittsburgh, PA
Jerry Garcia Band/ (Robert Hunter and Comfort)
UPDATE: A commenter says that while the Jerry Garcia Band played this night, Hunter and Comfort did not. 

A long unseen poster for the March 22, 1978 concert at Sebastopol Veterans Hall (thanks JGMF)
March 22, 1978 Veterans Hall, Sebastopol, CA
Jerry Garcia Band/Robert Hunter and Comfort [added]
For more about the Sebastopol concert, see here. Ozzie Ahlers may have done double duty, and played with the Jerry Garcia Band on an emergency basis.

April 15, 1978 Knightsbridge, San Rafael, CA
Robert Hunter and Comfort

May 7, 1978 SUNY Albany, Albany, NY (afternoon show)
Bonnie Raitt/ Robert Hunter and Comfort
(update) In the Comments, the former Comfort soundman recalls that this was an outdoor show at SUNY Albany.

May 7, 1978 Memorial Auditorium, Utica, NY (evening show)
Robert Palmer/ Robert Hunter and Comfort
(update) The soundman recalls that Robert Palmer headlined. The New Riders were apparently scheduled originally as the headliners, but somehow got replaced.

May 8, 1978 SUNY, New Paltz, NY
Robert Hunter and Comfort

May 9, 1978 Paradise Club, Boston, MA
Robert Hunter and Comfort

May 11-12-13, 1978 The Other End, New York, NY
Robert Hunter and Comfort

May 14-15-16, 1978 The Cellar Door, Washington, DC
Robert Hunter and Comfort

May 19-20, 1978 Main Point, Ardmore, PA
Robert Hunter and Comfort

May 21 and 23, 1978 Player’s Tavern, Westport, CT
Robert Hunter and Comfort

May 24, 1978 Hard Rock Café, Hartford, CT
Robert Hunter and Comfort

May 26-27-28, 1978 My Father’s Place, Roslyn, NY
Robert Hunter and Comfort

Comfort stopped touring at this point. Hunter continued to tour, with bassist Larry Klein, and some excellent tapes of the duo’s performances endure, but that is a different post. Comfort did reform for the Rodney Albin Memorial (Wolfgang’s, San Francisco August 28, 1984) but Hunter did not perform with them. There was also a 1988 reunion show at The Shady Grove, which did include Hunter.

35 comments:

  1. No Hunter & Comfort show on March 19, 1978, only the Jerry Garcia Band. Great blog. Keep up the good work.

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  2. I was nosing around, and finally discovered Doug Aldridge's 70s Hunter set lists (and the rest of them) in a different location. Here they are

    http://www.darkstarcrashes.com/hunter/1970s.html

    Well worth a look, as it includes set lists as well as concert dates.

    Corry

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  3. I'd say that Ozzie Ahlers was added in late January. David Gans's "Dead Ahead" column in BAM magazine (#27, February 1978, p. 72) notes that Ahlers was added. The rest of the column reports on stuff from January/early Feb, including the planned JGB/Comfort dates on 2/18 and 2/19.

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  4. I found another Comfort date: September 21, 1977 at Keystone Berkeley.

    Corry

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  5. Hunter has confirmed that Ozzie Ahlers did replace Richard McNees on keyboards, but he doesn't remember the date.

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  6. Corry - You can add a March 22, 1978 show with the Jerry Garcia Band to the lists of Robert Hunter and Comfort shows. I can only confirm this as I saw a poster for the event at Sebastopol Veterans Memorial Hall whilst browsing the goodies at the TRPS event in San Francisco today. Ross

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  7. Larry Klein was not from Seattle (although I read on the internet several years ago that he was living in Washington or Oregon, and played in a band called Tiny Giants or something like that). Larry moved to SF around 1970 from barely-upstate NY - Rockland County or possibly Westchester. It's my understanding that Kathleen Klein (who was Larry's wife at the time, and I've also seen her listed under her maiden name, Kathleen McSomething I think) sang with Comfort regularly, rather than sporadically. She was definitely a member of Comfort before Hunter started playing with them, as well as afterward.

    Also, this Larry Klein definitely isn't the one who was in Joni Mitchell's band. In the second half of 1980 he was playing mainly in local bands in the Marin area. He also toured once in a while semi-locally (Humboldt area) with another band. Previously - up until a very short time before Keith died - Larry had been in Keith & Donna's post-GD band, the Ghosts. I forget who all was in that band. Greg Anton and Bill Middlejohn, Larry, Keith & Donna, and I believe some others. (It's probably googleable - sometime in the early 80's, Relix Records released an album by that band, with members varying from song to song. On the album, the name of the band had been changed from the Ghosts to the Heart of Gold Band, and I have seen Donna refer to it as the HofG Band in an interview online somewhere, too.)

    Interesting blog!

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  8. Thanks for the clarification. I don't know where I got the idea that Larry Klein was from Seattle--I think it was to distinguish him from the "other" Larry Klein.

    I'm always careful about assuming relationships for people with the same last name, so its good to have Kathleen Klein clarified too. Since Marlene Molle married Rodney Albin, it sounds like a tight-knit little ensemble.

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  9. I discovered this spring that a cut and incomplete version of the late set of 3-10-78 circulates as 3-4-78, My Father's Place, Roslyn, NY. Obviously wrong by the date alone, but I spent an hour or so comparing the two, and the "3-4-78", such as it is, is identical to the 3-10-78.

    Thank you for this blog--very informative.

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  10. Here are a few more. These are all listed in David Gans's "Dead Ahead" column, BAM no 23 (October 1977), p. 67. I obviously can't say whether they happened.

    October 20-22, 1977: Troubadour, LA ("might be moved to early November")

    October 23, 1977: Fubar (?), Santa Barbara

    October 26-27, 1977: Rancho Nicasio

    October 28, 1977: Fourth Annual Hookers Ball, SF Civic

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  11. The September 21, 1977 date may be Keystone Korner in SF (the jazz club), not Keystone Berkeley.

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  12. Not sure where to put this info so here it is:
    I have a copy of The Ghosts, 8/7/80, it's an audience recording from someone named Levene. John Cippolina plays on it.

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  13. There is a circulating tape dated 12/6/77 Keystone, FM broadcast, Bob-n-Betty in the truck, Alligator Moon.

    Is there any chance this might be right? I don't have a Keystone listing for 12/6/77. Odds are obviously that this is a mislabel of your listing.

    One interesting note: between Alligator Moon and Promontory Rider, Hunter invites any Cubberly alums of 1959 (he then says 1958) to come on by, because they'll be playing another set. Not sure where "there" is. Maybe an after-party at the Keystone Palo Alto?

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  14. The tape circulating as 12/6/77, per your description, has to be the Dec 5 '77 show from Keystone Palo Alto, broadcast on KFAT-fm out of Gilroy. Hunter is encouraging people to come down to Keystone PA for the second set.

    I say more about it here: http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2011/10/december-5-1977-keystone-palo-alto-palo.html

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  15. Tiny little thing, but David Gans's August 1977 "Dead Ahead" column in BAM has a few lines on the Hunter/Comfort 7/29-30/77 gig at Shady Grove, and I think specifically 7/29.

    Gans, David. 1977c. Dead Ahead: Hunter’s New Band/Garcia Live. BAM (August): 52.

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  16. 3/22/78-my notes say Ozzie Ahlers filled in for Keith Godchaux on this date, sorry to say I don't know where that comes from.

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  17. I was at Robert Hunter and Larry Klein gig at Shady Grove, I think it was in 1977 and also the 12/5/77 Keystone Palo Alto show.

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  18. A tape of a Comfort set from an WHFS-fm broadcast has surfaced. I assume that the Comfort set was broadcast along with the JGB show. It does beg the very interesting question of who paid for it (for a band to play live on commercial FM radio, the record company had to pick up the lost advertising costs). I assume Arista did it as a favor to Garcia, but that raises a host of interesting issues in its own right, such as whether Arista was considering releasing the Alligator Moon album.

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    1. It wouldn't be the first time Clive Davis would have thrown some money toward Friends of Jerry.

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    2. And here's a cite for that idea:

      Arnold, Corry. 2011. Grateful Dead Solo Album Contracts, 1970-73. Lost Live Dead, January 15, 2011, URL http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2011/01/grateful-dead-solo-album-contracts-1970.html, consulted 1/24/2014.

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    3. ha ha indeed. The WHFS show is pretty convincing evidence. I guess after CUTS (or Cats) stiffed, there was less enthusiasm for Alligator Moon.

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  19. Ozzie Ahlers has confirmed to me that he sat in for Keith on 3/22/78.

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    1. I have a post about this subject: http://hooterollin.blogspot.com/2013/07/march-22-1978-veterans-hall-sebastopol.html

      The big question is not whether Ozzie subbed in on occasion--he clearly did--but what was the date? It may have been Rohnert Park Oct 5 '78. In the Feinberg interview, Ozzie recalled playing Sebastopol, which pointed to Mar 22 '78. However, while Comfort opened the show, and Ozzie was clearly there, he may be conflating the show.

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  20. thanks for the memories. just stumbled on this. I was hunter's sound man from the fall of 76 to the end of 78. I was working all those shows.

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    1. doctor, welcome aboard. If you recall anything interesting, or recognize any mistakes, let me know (in comments or email at corrarnold at gmail dot com) and I will update the post.

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  21. well, a long time has passed.

    1. larry klein of comfort is definitely NOT larry klein who played with joni mitchell.

    2. the albany show was not at a theater. it was outdoors at suny albany if memory serves, but it was definitely outdoors. (somewhere I have a picture of me & owsley at that show).

    3. my fondest memory is of the shows at my father's place. I had spent a lot of time there during high school and half of comfort were from upstate new york, so all the parents' showed up. my mother got very stoned from all the people passing her joints in the audience.

    4. the utica show was not with new riders. I think it was supposed to be, but we wound up opening for Robert Palmer (addicted to love) - a very strange show. what I do remember for sure was ordering a pizza in the hotel room and it came without sauce, because apparently you have to tell them to add sauce when ordering a pizza in utica.

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    1. Your story about asking for pizza sauce in Utica sounds completely nuts, except for the fact that it's probably true. In Central New York (Utica/Rome area) there is "white pizza" (without sauce) and it is not taken as a given that pizza has tomato sauce. It's a strange town.

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  22. 5. also the show at the Troubadour was definitely that night in October because it was the night of the Lynnyrd Skynnard plane crash. the other band (who was supposed to open the show) was from macon, georgia (who knows who they were?) and so we swapped and did a short set - the idea was to do a showcase for label executives, but no one showed up - and then the macon band did a really, really long tribute set.

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  23. p.s. the reason I was digging around and found your site was because Marlene Molle passed away this morning and I was just searching for her voice from back then on the interwebs. it's been 30 years since I'd last seen her.

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  24. doctor, thanks so much for all these details.

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  25. As a reader, I also want to thank the good doctor for the details. Great stuff!

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  26. In Robert Hunter's interview with the UK magazine Dark Star (Dec 1980), after going into details about playing with Roadhog and the Barry Melton Band, Hunter talks a bit about the Alligator Moon album, saying he decided not to put it out because it put Barry Melton to sleep!
    "I think I will release it at some point. I've got it tied up with terrible vocals right now. People are on about why don't I put some decent vocals on the thing? Maybe I could recoup some of the losses on that, I don't know. Christie was in it, we did ballet with it, fully choreographed. We did 'The Hooker's Ball' and the whole 'Alligator Moon' suite with the ballet. It was quite impressive! I hear there are videotapes of it somewhere, but I have to get a hold of them. We did it down at Santa Cruz Auditorium with the Jerry Garcia Band. We also did it at Marin Civic Center and Ranch Nicasio. I guess we played it four times. That was some production. I had thirteen people in my crew, plus the three ballerinas."

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  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  28. Cross-posting this from over on the Roadhog post. Just seeing if anyone else remembers this - I'm certain I didn't imagine it, and the date seems pretty tightly constrained by the tenure of the band and by my student days:

    While it is not on your list, I do have a distinct memory of Hunter and Comfort playing another Beta Nooner at Stanford when I was a student there. It must have been in Spring 1978 if they disbanded later that year....

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    1. Fred, this seems pretty logical to me. Beta House had the phone number, Hunter and Albin probably remembered the gig. That's how bookings happen for local bands.

      I hope someone remembers with some additional details (you know how memories can be...)

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