I recently wrote about the Grateful Dead's performance at the Aqua Theater in Seattle, WA on August 21, 1969. During this show, they were joined by a flute player for a few numbers, the third time it happened in 1969. This peculiarity has never been directly discussed, to my knowledge, so I will address it here.
I was recently looking at an excellent blog post that summarized all the known guest appearances with the Grateful Dead from 1967-75. Clicking on all the links, mostly to the archive site, I was reminded that every time a flute or saxophone player sat in in with the Grateful Dead, people have always asserted that it was Charles Lloyd. This gets repeated so often that it became gospel, and the archive site lists Charles Lloyd as the guest on Aug 21 (with a question mark), with similar (albeit skeptical) comments on June 13, 1969 in Fresno and August 3 at The Family Dog.
In fact, I think there is a lot less evidence that Charles Lloyd played with the Grateful Dead after 1967, much as he may have wanted to, and that the flute player on the August 21 Seattle show and the June 13 Fresno show was actually one of the horn players for the group San Paku, although I have not been able to determine that individual's name. August 3 is a different matter, which I will deal with at the end.
Charles Lloyd and The Grateful Dead
Charles Lloyd was an exceptional modern jazz musician who excelled on both the tenor saxophone and flute. He rose to prominence with drummer Chico Hamilton's great Los Angeles groups in the early 1960s, featuring Gabor Szabo on guitar and Albert Stinson on bass. In the mid-1960s Lloyd formed his own quartet, with Keith Jarrett on piano, Ron McClure on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. Lloyd was one of the first jazz musicians to see the commercial and musical possibilities of crossing over to the Fillmore market, and he played the Fillmore and Avalon a number of times (His Atlantic album Love-In was recorded at the Fillmore on January 27, 1967, when he was opening for Paul Butterfield).
Exactly where Charles Lloyd met the Grateful Dead isn't clear, but he was part of the San Francisco music scene in early 1967. In early January 1967 group was playing a club near the Haight called The Both/And (at 350 Divisadero--the ad above is from the January 24, 1967 Chronicle) and somehow Lloyd ended up onstage with the Grateful Dead at the Human Be-In, adding flute to "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl." A few months later, Lloyd played several nights with the Grateful Dead at a place on Mission Street called The Rock Garden, and probably jammed with them there as well. Lloyd and Garcia apparently hit it off, but efforts to record or tour together never came to fruition. Lloyd largely dropped out of playing live jazz for most of the 1970s, although he returned fully charged in the 1980s and remains an exceptional performer today.
Although Lloyd actually played more tenor sax than flute, Lloyd was one of the few flautists playing aggressive Coltrane-style jazz on the instrument (Eric Dolphy and arguably Herbie Mann and Jeremy Steig were among the others). Some of Lloyd's recordings, such as his great 1965 Columbia album Of Course, Of Course (with Szabo, Ron Carter and Tony Williams) were seminal recordings for jazz flute. As a result, Lloyd is so influential as a flautist that even though the August 21 flute playing (on "Minglewood" and "China Cat Sunflower") sound like Lloyd, most modern jazz flute players owe a lot to Lloyd, and most rock ones too (Ian Anderson certainly included). So the fact that the flute-playing on the August 21tape sounds like Charles Lloyd means less than you think, since most forward looking players at the time owed a lot to Lloyd.
Charles Lloyd is a great musician, and I love the idea that his 1967 jamming with the Dead was so memorable that he turned up in Fresno, San Francisco and Seattle two years later to sit in with them. I just don't think there's much evidence beyond wishful thinking to support it. A hard-nosed look at the history of Grateful Dead guests always points towards members of bands on the bill or players who live or have a gig in the town the Dead were in. I find the idea that Lloyd played tenor sax on "Dark Star" at the Family Dog quite plausible, since the Southern California based Lloyd might have had reason to be in San Francisco, but from that point of view John Handy is more plausible, and Lloyd in Fresno and Seattle are an awful reach, much as I'd like it to be so. Lloyd wasn't working much in 1969, for personal reasons (he was interested in Transcendental Meditation) but I actually think that makes him less likely to go to strange places to jam with his peers.
San Paku was a now little known band managed by the Bill Graham organization, and booked by Bill Graham's Millard Agency. During the 1968-69 period, the Millard Agency also booked the Grateful Dead. Other groups working with the Millard Agency included Santana, Elvin Bishop, Cold Blood, Aum and Its A Beautiful Day. A look at Northern California and West Coast rock poster from late 1968 through 1970 shows that all these bands played together many times, so the musicians all must have hung out regularly. It is not surprising to find out that members of those bands were periodic guests, studio collaborators or jamming partners with the Dead or Garcia: Bishop, Wayne Ceballos (of Aum), David LaFlamme (IABD) and Santana band members (including Carlos) were among the most prominent.
Its my understanding that San Paku was an eight-piece jazz rock group, perhaps with a Latin tinge, and they played with the Dead a number of times. I just find it more plausible that a guy from the opening act was a jamming partner in a place like Fresno or Seattle, far from home, than a jazz musician with no specific ties to either area. There are no circulating recordings of San Paku, so I have to guess as to their true sound. I know their lead singer was Rico Reyes, who worked with Santana and Quicksilver and later helped lead the fine group Azteca, and the guitarist was Sacramento musician Mark Pearson, later of Nielsen/Pearson Band. Supposedly they were a hopping group, but they broke up in Fall 1969, and I have been unable to follow up on my theory--hopefully a San Paku band member is out there and can confirm or reject my theory that the flute on the June 13 and August 21 shows was actually one of the players in San Paku.
August 3, 1969 The Family Dog At The Great Highway
The Grateful Dead played The Family Dog At The Great Highway on Sunday, August 3, and for the first three numbers ("Hard To Handle", "Beat It On Down The Line" and "High Heeled Sneakers") they are joined by flute and electric violin and later "Dark Star" they are joined by a tenor sax and electric violin. The archive notes list David LaFlamme on violin and Charles Lloyd on tenor, both of which seem like conventional choices. However, since there is flute on the first number and great tenor sax on "Dark Star", Lloyd seems like a pretty likely possibility. Lloyd probably lived in Los Angeles at the time, but its not so unlikely to think he would be in San Francisco (as opposed to Fresno).
There were so few electric violin players in San Francisco, or anywhere, that LaFlamme is a reasonable choice too. However, I wouldn't rule out Michael White as a possibility. White had pioneered electric violin playing in jazz with John Handy's mid-1960s group, based in San Francisco. By 1969, White was in the jazz rock group The Fourth Way, who were regulars at The New Orleans House rock club in Berkeley. In fact, The Fourth Way were scheduled at the New Orleans House on August 3, but that gig may have been earlier in the evening (bassist Ron McClure, formerly of Lloyd's quartet, was in The Fourth Way, so there were plenty of connections).
To my ears, the playing on "Dark Star" sounds more like White than LaFlamme to me, but we'll have to wait for some firmer evidence, as LaFlamme is still a plausible choice. The presence of the electric violin and tenor sax on this night make the "Dark Star" very different than most 1969 versions, and that is why I am inclined to think top-of-the-line players like Charles Lloyd and Michael White are participating. The version of "High Heeled Sneakers" is unique as well, with the electric violin triggering the song and a strange swinging tempo.