A fellow scholar uncovered yet another lost Grateful Dead gig, and and it in turn revealed a number of other lost gigs. An AP Wire Service story from Monday, April 15, 1968 described a free concert at an Easter Sunday "Love-In" in Greynolds Park in Miami (the story above is from the Colorado Springs Gazette of April 15, 1968). A crowd of over 3,000 attended the event, and guitarist Mike Pinera of the Florida band Blues Image described it as "just like church." The article ends by saying "when the happening began to drag, a six-man combo from San Francisco called the Grateful Dead climbed onto the stage and added cool sounds to the love-in." On the weekend following the Love-In, the Grateful Dead played Miami's main psychedelic venue, Thee Image on Friday (April 19), Saturday (April 20) and Sunday (April 21). Thee Image was a former bowling alley at 18330 Collins Avenue, and had only begun presenting shows the previous month. The venue had debuted with The Mothers of Invention and Blues Image on March 15 and 16, 1968.
The fact that the Grateful Dead were in town the weekend before begs the question of what they were doing there. Up until now, after a possible San Francisco gig on April 3, 1968, it was thought that the Spring 1968 tour began on April 19, 1968 at Thee Image. However, it was one thing for the Dead to play for free in the Bay Area, since the expense of performing was little more than gas money and generator rental. It was quite another for them to fly to Miami a week early, potentially foregoing a weekend gig in California or elsewhere. However, a careful look at the poster for the April 19-20-21 gig at Thee Image (better viewed here) shows the words "Held Over," so in fact the Spring 68 Grateful Dead tour began on Friday April 12. The Grateful Dead April performance schedule properly reads
April 3, 1968 Winterland KMPX-fm Strike Benefit
April 12-13-14, 1968 Thee Image, Miami, FL (probably with Blues Image)
April 14, 1968 Graynolds Park, North Miami Beach, FL free afternoon concert with Blues Image
April 19-20-21, 1968 Thee Image, Miami FL (probably with Blues Image)
April 26-27-28, 1968 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA
According to the limited information available about Thee Image, the operators regularly produced free events in Greynolds Park, just across the bay at 17530 West Dixie Highway in North Miami Beach. Bill Graham had shown on his 1967 Dead and Airplane tour of Canada how free concerts by little known bands from out of town could draw a crowd, and indeed the Dead had pioneered that strategy in their first trip to Vancouver in August 1966.
However, the South was slow to open itself to psychedelic rock, not due to lack of interest from young people, but due to the more conservative nature of the area and police hostility to long hair, drug use and draft resisters. Miami, while very much part of the South, was also primarily a resort town and a destination for many people from the Northeast, and it had the relaxed informality of most seaside communities. While not necessarily hippie friendly, and while not yet quite Margaritaville, it was less conservative than other port cities in the South.
The first psychedelic rock venue in Miami was The World (Biscayne Blvd at NE 142nd St), which opened in 1967, and it turned out to be too small, so Thee Image opened in an old 32-lane bowling alley at 18330 Collins Avenue. Thee Image and the Vulcan Gas Company in Austin were the only two psychedelic venues in the South in 1968.
Update: it turns out that there was a poster from the week of April 5-14 that includes the Grateful Dead. The Dead came to Miami to work in Criteria Studios, probably mixing Anthem Of The Sun, although apparently little was accomplished.
Appendices: The Blues Image and Marshall Brevitz
Elsewhere, I have dealt with at some length about what is known about the history of Thee Image during the 13 months it was open (from March 1968 to April 1969). However, it is worth repeating a few words about The Blues Image and Marshall Brevitz, some of the principal entities behind Thee Image.
Blues Image were a 6-piece R&B band called The Motions from Tampa, Florida, with two drummers, one of several acts around the country who started playing with two drummers, including the Dead in San Francisco and Clear Light in Los Angeles. There seems to be a good argument to make that The Motions were first in 1966, but in any case none of the bands seemed aware of each other. The Motions moved to Miami because they felt they had a better chance to make it. They changed their name, too, and Blues Image was a homage to Al Kooper and The Blues Project, at that time an ultra-hip band (and rightly so). The best known members of Blues Image today are guitarist Mike Pinera, still rocking it today, and drummer/percussionist Joe Lala, active for many years as a session man and best known for working with Stephen Stills Manassas (not to mention a lengthy acting career).
When Thee Image opened in March 1968, Blues Image were not only the house band, they ran the club. It appears that Blues Image played pretty much every weekend at Thee Image, whether or not they were on the poster. Visiting musicians were very impressed with the group, and both Frank Zappa and Eric Burdon told them that they had to move to New York or Los Angeles to make it. Since Zappa and Burdon were both based in Los Angeles, Blues Image moved to Los Angeles. They released a few albums, enjoyable blues rock for the most part, but clearly somewhat tamer than their impressive live reputation, a typical result of 60s record production.
After their self-titled debut album on Atco in 1969, Blues Image's second album in 1970 was called Open, and it featured the single "Ride, Captain, Ride" a worldwide monster hit. Mike Pinera had actually left the band he helped found by that time, but he went on to play with Iron Butterfly, Ramatam, New Cactus, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent and many others. After a final album in 1971 (Red, White and Blues Image) the group broke up for good.
Although the Blues Image ran Thee Image, one of the key participants was a promoter named Marshall Brevitz. He seems to have been a big mover and shaker on the Florida rock scene in 1968. He organized two outdoor concerts in 1968 at Gulfstream Park (May 18-19 and December 28-30) in Hallandale, FL. Hallandale is fairly near to Thee Image. The Dead played the Hollywood Pop Festival in December 1968 (Hollywood is a small town near Hallandale). Brevitz worked with future Woodstock promoter Michael Lang on these concerts.
Brevitz, too, was looking for a larger stage than Miami could offer at the time, and he moved with The Blues Image to Los Angeles in April 1969. With the house band and staff gone, Thee Image closed. Brevitz opened a hip Hollywood (California) nightclub called Thee Experience, at 7551 Sunset Boulevard (between Stanley and Curson), with "Thee" a homage to the prior club. Blues Image initially were the house band at Thee Experience, until they were rapidly snapped up by Atco, just as Zappa and Burdon had predicted (Blues Image apparently backed Eric Burdon for a tour as well, in mid-1969).
In 1970, Thee Experience closed, and Brevitz replaced it with a venue called Thee Club, with his signature "Thee" intact. Thee Club was somewhat ahead of its time, an upscale restaurant and rock club, but the rock market was not ready for it. Still, Brevitz opened Thee Club with an appropriate bang, bringing in the acoustic Grateful Dead to open the venue on August 28, 1970.
Thee Club did not last long either, however, and Brevitz moved on to artist management, where his primary client was Bobby Womack. Womack was successful as a performer, producer and writer in the 1970s, but Brevitz died under suspicious circumstances in the late 1970s, and his intriguing career was cut short.