Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bob Weir and Kingfish Tour History, August-December 1975 (Kingfish III)

After the Grateful Dead "retired" from performing in October 1974, Bob Weir started to play some gigs with his friend Matt Kelly and former New Rider Dave Torbert in their band Kingfish. After a few late 1974 gigs, Weir became a member of the band, and the group started to learn new material and gig seriously around the Bay Area. This post covers the period from August to December 1975. The Grateful Dead were working on the album in Weir's home studio that would become Blues For Allah, but save for a few stealth dates they were not a performing entity. Weir and Kingfish performed steadily however, and I suspect the dates listed here are only partially complete.

Kingfish 1974-76
Robbie Hoddinott-lead guitar
Matt Kelly-harmonica, guitar
Bob Weir-rhythm guitar, vocals
Dave Torbert-bass, vocals
Chris Herold-drums

This is the third installment on Kingfish's performance history (for the first two, see here and here). The sources from my dates include Deadbase IX (to which I was an initial contributor), the fine Weirworks site, some contemporary newspaper archives and a few other sources. I believe there are still many dates to add to this list. If you know of one from this period, please Comment or contact me, and I will add them to the list.
(note: dates added to the original post are shown as added).

August 9, 1975 Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford University Eric Clapton/Kingfish
I am aware of no Kingfish gigs between June 20 and August 9, and there are almost no Jerry Garcia gigs for that period also. I have to assume Garcia and Weir were focused on finishing off Blues For Allah. Although Kingfish had its own throwback sound, they communicated well as a conventional rock band, and opened a number of big shows around the Bay Area. Stanford University, after some bad experiences with Frost Amphitheatre in the early seventies, still alllowed the occasional rock show. Eric Clapton had only returned to performing the year before, and this was a very big deal of a show.

I attended this show, and Kingfish absolutely knocked me out. I had seen the Dead a few times, and I understood they weren't the Dead, but Kingfish managed to get a lot of motion out of a very few notes. Weir and Torbert's experience in larger venues really showed. Torbert was a terrific presence, too, for those who weren't lucky enough to see him, and his Cowboy Surfer cool made a nice contrast to Weir's dynamic presence (I'm pretty sure the girls really liked him too).

Clapton and his band were great, and Carlos Santana showed up to jam on the encore, but that's for another blog.

August 14, 1975 Fox Theater, Venice, CA Kingfish
The Fox in Venice was a converted movie theater. Commenter RD reports there were two shows this night.

There are probably a number of gigs I am missing from this period.

August 15, 1975 La Paloma Theater, Encinitas, CA Kingfish
A commenter recalls this show quite clearly (added).

August 24, 1975 Trenton Speedway, New Jersey State Fairgrounds, Hamilton Township, NJ Aerosmith/Kingfish/Poco/Slade/Nils Lofgren/Mahogany Rush/Hootchie Kootch
14,000 people attended this outdoor event at a race track in New Jersey, for Kingfish's first journey away from the West Coast. I have written about it extensively elsewhere. [added]

September 13, 1975 Stanford Music Hall, Palo Alto Kingfish/Link Wray/Barry Melton
Kingfish returned to the Stanford Music Hall, where they had played the previous New Year's Eve. This was the second time I saw them, and they played a lengthy, dynamic show. It is easy to listen to old Kingfish tapes and shrug that their playing seems rather simplistic, but it had a very powerful effect in concert.

Barry Melton was added to the bill at the last minute, and opened the show with a solo performance.

October 4, 1975 Winterland Kingfish/Sons of Champlin/Keith and Donna
Kingfish was a terrific live band, but many California Deadheads had seen them a number of times by now. One friend of mine who attended the concert said that while Keith and Donna and The Sons were great, he felt that Kingfish wasn't playing anything new. In that respect Kingfish was acting like a normal rock band, but Deadheads were used to constant variation, even at the cost of sloppinesss.

October 17, 1975 Concord Pavilion Jerry Garcia Band/Kingfish/Keith and Donna
I attended this show, and once again Kingfish played great, although even I noticed that I was starting to become awfully familiar with Kingfish's material on only my third show. Even though Jerry Garcia was the advertised headliner (the ad above is from the October 5, 1975 Oakland Tribune), Kingfish closed the show. In the Bay Area, at least, when Kingfish and the Garcia Band shared the bill, Kingfish usually closed.

Although the show was well attended, it was nowhere near sold out. Garcia and Weir were so omnipresent in the Bay Area that there wasn't an air of specialness to their performances. For Bay Area fans, that lead to a relaxed atmosphere at local shows.

November 6, 1975 Elting Gym, SUNY, New Paltz, NY Kingfish/Keith and Donna
Kingfish and Keith and Donna toured the East Coast in November. In the Bay Area, with Jerry Garcia a regular in nightclubs since 1970, Deadheads were very casual about the opportunity to see Grateful Dead spinoffs. In the East, however, the chance to see 4 members of The Dead (Weir, Kreutzmann, Keith and Donna) plus an ex-New Rider (Dave Torbert) in the same night was somewhat of a big deal. The Kingfish/Keith and Donna bill played medium sized theaters that neither band could have played at home. I have to presume that the bands also only used one crew and one sound system, another efficiency.

November 7, 1975 Beacon Theater, New York, NY Kingfish/Keith and Donna

November 9, 1975 Pritchard Gym, SUNY, Stony Brook, NY Kingfish/Keith and Donna
We only have scattered dates from the East Coast tour, mostly based on what tapes have survived. The Beacon show was on a Friday, and the Stony Brook show was on a Sunday. I have to believe the bill played somewhere in the Tri-State Areaon Saturday night. I don't think the tour played every night, but most tours make sure they fill in their weekends.

November 10, 1975 War Memorial Auditorium, Trenton, NJ Kingfish/Keith and Donna
Kingfish returns to Trenton. The small auditorium is only two-thirds full (per a review), but that's pretty good for a Monday night. A Commenter reports that there was an early and a late show. [added]

November 14, 1975 Brooklyn College, New York,  NY Kingfish/Keith and Donna
Again, this show was a Friday night, and I'm sure the bands played somewhere Saturday night.

November ?, 1975 Ballroom, U. Mass, Amherst, MA Kingfish/Keith and Donna
Facebook contributors have very specific recollections of a show at U. Mass somewhere on this tour.

November 18, 1975 My Father's Place, Roslyn, NY Kingfish
Two shows. Keith and Donna probably didn't play this club date.

November 21, 1975 Loews Theatre, Syracuse, NY Kingfish/Keith and Donna

November 22, 1975 Masonic Temple, Scranton, PA Kingfish/Keith and Donna
I do know a Scranton native who attended this show, and it was a very big deal for any Grateful Dead related bands to play in Scranton. He had nothing much to compare it to, but he thought it was a terrific show (and he went to Harvard).

November 23, 1975 Orpheum Theatre, Boston, MA Kingfish/Keith and Donna

November 24, 1975 Palace Theater, Albany, NY Kingfish/Keith and Donna
This was a Monday night show, which suggests that the tour played a lot more than just weekends.

November 28?, 1975 Thiel College, Greenville, PA Kingfish/Keith and Donna
A commenter writes

Somewhere between Nov 22-29, 1975, Kingfish & Keith & Donna played a small college (Thiel Coll) in rural western PA. And for our little coterie of Deadheads adrift in northeast Ohio at the time, it WAS A BIG DEAL! We showed up expecting a Dead show type crowd experience but instead were greeted by a practically deserted sleepy college town and equally sparsely populated theatre! We have an amazing story surrounding this adventure, perhaps for another time...It DOES get stranger
I have assumed that the date was Friday, November 28, although I don't know that for certain. A correspondent adds
The show was in a (small) theater, probably in the student center (it definitely was not in a gym).  I'm not sure if the Passavant Center on campus was there in 1975 (2,000 seat) but if it was the venue, it would have been (way) less than 1/4 filled for that show.
This hitherto forgotten event serves as a nice reminder that when a band featuring a member of the Grateful Dead came to a smaller city or a more out of the way place, it was still a memorable event for those in attendance. Deadheads lucky enough to live in the Bay Area or New York City could be casual about regular Deadheads and accessible Garcia appearances, but part of the Dead's magic was their relentless journeying to unconquered territory (added).

November 29, 1975 Tower Theater, Upper Darby, PA Kingfish/Keith and Donna
This was the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Once again, a Friday show somewhere seems likely.

December 2, 1975 Lisner Auditorium, GWU, Washington, DC Kingfish/Keith and Donna

December 5, 1975  Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ Kingfish/Keith and Donna

December 6, 1975 My Father's Place, Roslyn, NY Kingfish
I assume we are missing numerous dates from the East Coast tour.

December 19-20, 1975 Winterland Jerry Garcia Band/Kingfish/Keith and Donna/Clover
A Poco/Kingfish/Keith and Donna bill scheduled for Winterland on December 19 was converted to a Garcia Band/Kingfish/Keith and Donna bill for two nights. I attended the first night. Marin stalwarts Clover opened the show (Clover guitarist John McFee had played pedal steel on "Pride Of Cucamonga"). Keith and Donna played a brief but excellent set, joined by Matt Kelly of Kingfish on harmonica for the set closing "Scarlet Begonias." After a great set by the Jerry Garcia Band, Kingfish closed the show. For the final number, Keith Godchaux and Nicky Hopkins sat at the same piano, while saxophonist Stephen Schuster played along as well.

Kingfish continued to tour throughout 1976, and they also recorded an album at Weir's studio, released on Round/UA in March of 1976. However, once the Dead returned to action, it was clear that Weir's role in Kingfish was part time at best. Weir stayed with Kingfish until August of 1976, when his Grateful Dead schedule took over permanently. Weir would continue to guest periodically with Kingfish over the next few decades.


Until I complete my research on 1976 Kingfish dates, the best source is Weirworks, which I have not yet been able to improve on.

21 comments:

  1. The Kingfish/Keith and Donna tour played the Trenton War Memorial Auditorium, in Trenton, NJ on Monday, November 10. They were very favorably reviewed in the November 12 Bucks County (PA) Courier by Don Wolf. The modest auditorium was only 2/3 full.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A review of the 11/9/75 SUNY Stony Brook show is available at http://dspace.sunyconnect.suny.edu/bitstream/1951/28128/1/Statesman%2c%20V.19%2c%20n.%2026.pdf.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I saw a wonderful show on 8/15/75 at the beautiful La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas, CA. It was an extremely foggy night and somewhat otherworldly when we left the venue. Don't remember that much of the material but they did play a wicked Mona. I still have Kenny Sanders fine poster for this gig. Place had couches instead of chairs. Also saw them few years later at the Catamaran.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the update. Didn't Garcia/Hopkins play the same venue, on December 27-28, 1975? I heard a strange story once, at a show, about Hopkins breaking down and Garcia abruptly announcing from the stage that the show was canceled.

    ReplyDelete
  5. One brief addition from my concert scrapbook:

    The 8-14-75 Fox Venice date was 2 shows (7 & 11PM);

    ReplyDelete
  6. On November 10 at the Trenton War Memorial their were 2 shows and each were 2/3 filled.

    ReplyDelete
  7. You asked, "does anyone know when Weir 'debuted' as a slide player with the Dead?" When I reheard Warren Zevon's studio version of Werewolves of London and the slide work on that, I theorized that when the Dead learned that tune is when Bobby had the impetus to play slide guitar live. First GD performance of the song on April 19, 1978, did Bobby play slide prior to that date?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. Who cares? Booby's "slide playing" is like listening to a gerbil being dragged over a cheese grater.

      Delete
    3. He played slide a few times in late 1969, usually on Easy Wind. The first Easy Wind slide was at the Aqua Theatre, Seattle 1969-08-20, then the Family Dog 1969-08-30 and 1969-09-11 and finally Boston 1969-12-30.

      Delete
    4. Might as well give all of Bob's slinky slides from '69 that I've spotted:

      Easy Wind Seattle 1969-08-21 and Family Dog 1969-08-30 (I had Dog 1969-09-11 too but I missed the duplicate, I haven't checked it but I'm not doubting it), Lovelight Fillmore 1969-12-20, Smokestack Fillmore 1969-12-21, on Miami 1969-12-28 I'm not sure if it's Jerry or Bob playing slide on Lovelight (it's not for very long), 1969-12-29 Easy Wind.

      I'm pretty sure I've not missed any Easy Winds, the other versions have no slide.

      Is the 1969-02-27 Lovelight Jerry's first venture into slide? I've not spotted any earlier. He played it pretty regularly for the rest of the year

      Delete
    5. I haven't examined Garcia's use of slide in Lovelight at all, can't help there.

      I wonder if Weir's slide-playing in Easy Wind was something they tried in rehearsals, as a way of keeping a Delta blues feel, but didn't survive many live playings. (Kind of like Garcia's slide playing in Hard to Handle - though it took Garcia quite a while to mercifully drop the slide in that song!)

      Delete
  8. hey ...I have a handbill from the Stanford music hall kingfish show sept 13

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yes, the date turns out to be September 13, I have changed it after you reminded me. I saw a copy in on online book by the promoter (Andrew Bernstein).

    You wouldn't have a scan of it, by any chance? I'd love to post it here (corrarnold at gmail dot com).

    ReplyDelete
  10. I can't remember the date, but Kingfish played the old Orange Theater in Orange, CA. My guess is it was just before or after the August Shows in the LA/SD area.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I was at the Venice concert and am sure it was on 8/12 not 8/14, cause it was the day before the GAMH Blues for Allah show , and I was also at the Trenton show on 11/10

    ReplyDelete
  13. Bobby's worst slide is better than anyone else's best. , cept Jerrys

    ReplyDelete
  14. I saw the Halloween '75 Garcia show with Nickey Hopkins and it was spectacular, then I heard the NYE show and Hopkins was horrible WTF?

    ReplyDelete
  15. It was a bad time for Nicky.

    ReplyDelete