Saturday, July 25, 2009

June 9, 1968 Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead (canceled show)


This brief article from the June 10, 1968 Hayward Daily Review describes an attempt by The Grateful Dead and The Jefferson Airplane to hold a free concert the previous day (Sunday June 9) at Speedway Meadows, in honor of Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy had been assassinated in Los Angeles on the morning of June 6, 1968, and it was a shattering event for the nation.

However, it must also be conceded that the Dead and the Airplane liked to play for free, over the objections of the city of San Francisco, and may have relished the confrontation. The show could not have been formally publicized, since its lack of a permit notwithstanding, even by 1968 The Dead or The Airplane (much less both) would have flooded the park with people if a free concert had been announced. The Dead and The Airplane had been playing The Carousel, and the previous week the Dead had played the park somewhat unnanounced, to publicize their last show of their previous stand.

Nonetheless, at this distant remove it does present an interesting vignette: equipment on stage, the Dead and Airplane milling around, 3,000 eager rock fans, a bunch of Cub Scouts, and some cops.

1981 High Noon with Mickey Hart

High Noon was a Bay Area club band featuring Merl Saunders, Norton Buffalo and Mickey Hart. Their first appearance, under the name “Norton Buffalo and Merl Saunders” was at a benefit on May 22, 1981 at the Fox-Warfield Theatre, in San Francisco. That performance was discussed at length here. In the interests of completeness, here are the balance of their shows.

High Noon
Mike Hinton-electric guitar
Jim McPherson-guitar, keyboards, percussion, vocals
Norton Buffalo-harmonica, vocals
Merl Saunders-organ, synthesizer, grand piano, vocals
Bobby Vega-electric bass
Mickey Hart-drums
Vicki Randle-congas, percussion, vocals

Update: Since this post was originally written, a posthumous cd of Jim McPherson's music has been released. High Noon was formed partially as a vehicle for McPherson's songs, but since McPherson died an untimely death in 1985, the material languished for some decades. The cd is called A Promise Kept. Two of the songs on the cd, "Left Out In The Cold" and "Cross The Bridge," feature High Noon.

McPherson was a talented musician from the South Bay who played and recorded with a number of groups, including The Trolls, Stained Glass, Christian Rapid, Copperhead (with John Cipollina), Roadhog (with Robert Hunter) and the Merl Saunders band. For more about Jim McPherson and his music, see here; for Blair Jackson's appreciation of McPherson's music, see his article here.

June 25, 1981 Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz
Jerry Garcia Band/High Noon

June 26, 1981 Fox-Warfield Theatre, San Francisco
Jerry Garcia Band/High Noon/Mike Henderson

July ?, 1981 "San Quentin Bike Show"
High Noon with Joan Baez
Lead guitarist Mike Hinton recalled this intriguing sounding event in the Comments, although I don't know exactly what it was. He recalls a number of other shows, as well. Due to gaps in the Grateful Dead's touring schedule, I have located them in July, but they could have been spread out at various times around the Summer of 1981.

July ?, 1981 The Oasis, Sacramento
High Noon

July ?, 1981 Cabo's, Chico
High Noon

July ?, 1981 The Golden Bear, Huntington Beach
High Noon

July ?, 1981 The Country Club, Reseda
High Noon/John Lee Hooker and The Coast To Coast Blues Band

July ?, 1981 The Belly-Up Tavern, Solana Beach
High Noon

July 25, 1981 Phoenix Theater, Petaluma
High Noon

July 28, 1981 The Stone, San Francisco
High Noon
Joan Baez sang “Diamonds and Rust”. I have a low quality audience tape.

July 29, 1981 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley
High Noon

July 30, 1981 Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto
High Noon
A good audience tape circulates. Joan Baez sings several numbers.

August 6, 1981 Napa County Fairgrounds, Napa
Jefferson Starship/High Noon

August 9, 1981 Old Waldorf, San Francisco
High Noon
Joan Baez also performed at this show.

December 12, 1981 Fiesta Hall, San Mateo County Fairgrounds, San Mateo
Grateful Dead/Joan Baez/High Noon
High Noon had a different lineup for this show:
Mike Hinton-lead guitar
Jim McPherson-guitar, organ, vocals
Merl Saunders-organ, electric piano, piano, vocals
Chuck Rainey-bass
Mickey Hart-drums
with Bill Kreutzmann-percussion
Joan Baez-vocals

Chuck Rainey is a famous and excellent session musician. After a few numbers, Joan Baez and Bill Kreutzmann came out and the band backed her for a few of her well-known numbers. Later, Joan would be backed by the Grateful Dead, but that’s another post.

December 17, 1982 Pyramid Pins, Garberville
Mickey And The Daylights

This was a one-off, but it seemed to feature the High Noon crowd:

Barry Melton-lead guitar, vocals
Mike Hinton-lead guitar
Kathi McDonald-vocals
Merl Saunders-keyboards, vocals
Bobby Vega-bass
Mickey Hart-drums

As an odd footnote, the group seems to have begun working with Country Joe and ended working with Barry Melton.

May 22, 1981 Fox Warfield Theatre, San Francisco: Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart/Holly Near/Norton Buffalo and Merl Saunders/

After the Grateful Dead re-introduced their acoustic lineup at the Fox-Warfield Theater in September, 1980, they realized the more streamlined acoustic configuration was a more viable lineup for benefits. Less equipment and more modest expectations made the show less of an event, while still capitalizing on the Dead’s drawing power. Keeping with their Bay Area policy, whenever they were billed as other than “The Grateful Dead”, fans expected something different and less dramatic than a full Grateful Dead electric extravaganza.

After a low-key SEVA benefit at Berkeley Community Theater, on April 25, 1981, featuring only Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir on acoustic guitars, John Kahn on stand-up bass and Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart on drums, the band had a somewhat higher profile event at the Fox-Warfield (the theatre, at 982 Market Street, did not change its name to The Warfield until a few years later). An anti-nuclear power (No Nukes) benefit was held, with “Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart” as the headline act. There were a number of interesting aspects about this show that remain unreported, since it was not a high-profile show outside of the immediate Bay Area (and there being no internet and all). Specifically, there was a one-time Grateful Dead configuration, and the first and best appearance of a band later known as High Noon.

To dispense quickly with the Grateful Dead part: the band came on last, introduced by Wavy Gravy as “Captain JerryBobKreutzHart,” taking care not to call them the Grateful Dead. Brent Mydland was on board playing acoustic piano, but John Kahn remained on acoustic bass. Of course, this was a West Coast perception, as between the two acoustic benefit performances there had been an entire East Coast tour, but for most people in the Bay Area John Kahn had been on bass the last time we saw the Dead.

Some time later I asked Dennis McNally why Phil hadn’t played those shows, and Phil had apparently told Dennis “because no one asked me.” Thus this show and the April 25 BCT show have to stand as Grateful Dead shows without Phil Lesh, making them unique indeed. The actual performances were quite good (you can decide for yourself), but the fact that Kahn played bass instead of Phil seems somewhat forgotten—certainly it isn’t noted on Deadlists or Archives.

Country Joe McDonald, always a willing hand at Bay Area benefits, was the third performer, and “Norton Buffalo and Merl Saunders” were set to go fourth up. Country Joe played 4 numbers by himself, and then rather unexpectedly was joined by a band. The backup band featured the aforementioned Saunders and Buffalo, but they simply walked on stage, and began to back Joe.

The band was:

Country Joe McDonald-vocals, acoustic guitar
Mike Hinton-electric guitar
Jim McPherson-acoustic guitar
Norton Buffalo-harmonica, vocals
Merl Saunders-grand piano, vocals
Bobby Vega-electric bass
Mickey Hart-drums
Vicki Randle-congas

Joe continued his set—my notes say “Breakfast For Two”, “Save The Whales” “one more” (which means I didn’t know the title) and “Feel Like I’m Fixing To Die Rag.” The semi-acoustic backing of the musicians was tasteful and funky, and Joe sounded great, a little more soulful than the more folk oriented sound he typically aimed for.

Joe’s “electric” set was enthusiastically received, as all of the songs named were well known in the Bay Area, and Joe knew how to maximize the skills of the group. The lineup was full of surprises—I had never heard Merl Saunders play grand piano, I had never heard Mickey Hart as the sole drummer in a group, and while I had seen Mike Hinton’s name on various albums (like Diga Rhythm Devils), it was as a percussionist not a guitarist. Jim McPherson had been in the San Jose band Stained Glass and then in Copperhead, but had mostly played bass.

When Joe finished his set, much to my surprise the band continued to play on, with Joe on board as rhythm guitarist. My notes show the following songs

[instrumental]
High Heeled Sneakers [vocals Buffalo and Saunders]
The Fever [vocals Saunders]
Take A Chance [vocals Buffalo]
You Move Me [vocals Saunders]
[instrumental]

The whole set (including Joe’s part) was about 45 minutes, and it was tremendous. The band had a very laid back rhythm and blues feel, but done acoustically it did not fall into funk clichés. The solos from Merl, Norton and Mike Hinton were relaxed, but they did not fall into the “deedle-dee” soloing common of bands who like to jam. For a one-time band put together for a benefit, it was a very well thought out and atypical configuration.

A few months later, all of the band members except Joe McDonald started playing local clubs as “High Noon with Mickey Hart.” I saw them open for Jerry Garcia Band, and I was very let down—the band played electric, every song was too long and the solos were not good enough to justify their endless length. They were an OK club band, actually, but the magic of the first show seemed to be dissipated. Most of the club shows featured Joan Baez, but she was considerably less effective as a frontperson than Joe McDonald.

A few brief comments about the other acts, just for completism: comedian Darryl Henriques was poorly received, Kate Wolf and her guitarist, Nina Gerber, were enthusiastically received, and singer/songwriter Holly Near (with Vicki Randle on congas) was competent but unspectacular.

For a list of High Noon shows, see here.

Friday, July 24, 2009

February 5, 1972 Keystone Korner, San Francisco: Jerry Garcia/Merl Saunders


This notice in the Hayward Daily Review of February 3, 1972 (left) reveals an undocumented Jerry Garcia show, as well as shedding some light on some other shows.

Garcia and Merl Saunders were booked into the Keystone Korner on February 5, 1972. This date is unknown in Deadbase, the Jerry Site or other lists known to me.

Since Garcia and Saunders played a radio show for KSAN-fm at San Francisco’s Record Plant the next day (February 6, 1972), it seems logical that they played a club in San Francisco the night before, and simply carted their equipment over to the Record Plant for the radio broadcast the next day.

Deadbase, and by extension The Jerry Site, list dates for the Keystone Korner on February 3 and 4, 1972. The Jerry Site observes that these dates are not certain, and may in fact have been the Lion’s Share. We can see from the entertainment listings that other acts were scheduled at both Keystone Korner and Lion’s Share. However, both venues were very musician-friendly, and other bookings does not rule out stealth performances by Garcia and Saunders at either or both venues. The source of the dates is probably Dennis McNally’s research (passed on to me and in turn passed on to John Scott for Deadbase IX), and that probably means the February 3-4 gigs at Keystone were listed in the paper at some time.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pre August 1967-Mickey Hart

The chance meeting between Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann is a foundational story of Grateful Dead cosmology . According to Dennis McNally (and everyone else), Mickey Hart was at the Fillmore on August 20 or 21, 1967 to hang out with his friend Sonny Payne, the drummer for Count Basie (co-billed that night with Charles Lloyd). A stranger introduced Hart and Kreutzmann, and then disappeared. Billy and Mickey hit it off, went over to the Matrix to see Big Brother and The Holding Company, and started hanging out together.

Hart was invited to Grateful Dead rehearsals, but could never find the warehouse (actually the Potrero Theater on 308 Connecticut). The first time Hart heard the Dead was when he saw them at the Straight Theatre on September 29, 1967. He was invited to sit in for the second set, and by the end of the night was a member of the band. It’s a great story, and one of the many magical moments of Grateful Dead history. Nonetheless, sitting in with the Grateful Dead on no notice takes a hell of a musician, which Mickey Hart surely was (and remains)—it seems logical to think he played music with other bands after leaving the Air Force in 1965 and before joining the Grateful Dead in September 1967. For all the many interviews that Hart has done, I am not aware of any information from him about who he played with.

McNally outlines the basic story (p.222-224): Hart grew up in Brooklyn and Long Island, estranged from his drummer father, Lenny Hart. Hart played a lot of music in the Air Force from 1961-65, and managed to get in touch with his father, who invited him to help run a drum-centered music store in San Carlos, California. Mickey helped manage the store (called Drum City, on 894 Laurel Street in San Carlos) and practiced drumming, but I find it difficult to believe that he didn’t play with other musicians. Let’s face it: mediocre drummers who are absolutely stone crazy usually have more offers of gigs than they can manage, so sensible, friendly guys who are fantastic, versatile drummers have to be in great demand.

I’ve only found one reference to Mickey’s pre-Dead Bay Area career, and Hart himself has never mentioned it. Around late 1965/early 1966, Hart joined a San Mateo group called William Penn And His Pals. Even more remarkably, he was the second drummer, presaging his future. Hart seems to have left the band in short order, however, before organist Gregg Rolie joined (pre-Santana Blues Band) and they recorded their garage classic “Swami.” The fact that William Penn And His Pals, a pretty successful local band, wore Tri-Corner hats and pseudo-Revolutionary War garb, like Paul Revere and The Raiders, has to have been an unappealing memory to someone with Grateful Dead sensibilities.

Since Hart was introduced to the Dead by a stranger, no one in or around the band had any idea who he might have played with prior to joining them. His only pre-Dead association was his father Lenny, the band’s manager from 1969-71, which ended very badly, so no one around him knew his background. This meant that Hart was in a position to control his own story, and while he seems to have enjoyed describing his childhood, his grandmother, his struggles in High School and his time in the Air Force, hart has left a blank in his musical career from 1965 to 1967. I grant that as store manager he may not have had time to tour with bands, but I remain certain that he played with a variety of Bay Area groups, probably in the South Bay, and I remain very curious as to who they might have been.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

October 13, 1967 Modesto, CA--Lost Gig, or Forgotten Biker Gang?


This remarkable news article (left) from the Modesto Bee of Monday, October 16, 1967, suggests two possible interpretations, both intriguing:

1) The Grateful Dead played a gig in Modesto on the weekend of October 13-14, and some trouble happened at a house party following the gig, or

2) There was a Modesto biker gang called The Grateful Dead

Let's consider the first possibility, which is the function of this blog.

In 1967, The Dead, though underground legends with an album on Warners Brothers, were quite broke. The best gigs--often the only gigs--were on weekends, and they tried not to leave weekends unbooked. On Saturday, October 14, they played the Continental Ballroom in San Jose. This begs the question of whether they had a Friday night gig. While its hardly certain that they did, generally speaking a broke rock band struggles to book a gig every Friday and Saturday night.

Modesto, California is about 90 miles East of San Francisco. Although not a large city in its own right, it is the center of commerce for an extensive agricultural industry that includes Gallo Wines and Blue Diamond Almonds. While hardly a center for the arts, Modesto has always been an out-of-town gig for San Francisco performers, and many 60s rock bands played one nighters in Modesto (as an aside, Quicksilver's Gary Duncan came from Ceres, a small town outside of Modesto). Its very plausible that the Dead would play a Friday night in Modesto. Venues included The Strand Theater (Van Morrison and Them played there August 23, 1966), the Modesto Skating Rink (The Doors played there on April 6, 1967) or the California Ballroom.

Following this logic, if the Dead played a Friday night gig (on October 13, 1967) in Modesto, and there was the inevitable party afterwards, perhaps some nastiness made the insular local police assume that "The Grateful Dead" were San Francisco troublemakers who were little different than the local gangs who hung out in Modesto, and perhaps they were correct. While--obviously--I don't believe Bob Weir and Mountain Girl were duking it out with local hoodlums, a 4am fistfight at a post show party, between locals and city hoodlums might very well be blamed on the only attendees with a "name", even if band members left the party hours before. 1967 Modesto was just naive enough that the Dead might have appeared like a gang to local police, no doubt to the pleasure of all the skinny, cautious band members.

The other hypothesis, very delicious but outside the scope of this blog, is that a Modesto Biker Gang called themselves "The Grateful Dead" instead of "Lucifer's Losers." That would be too, too awesome--I'd love to see the gang's colors, but its probably too much to hope for...

Monday, July 20, 2009

June 24, 1967 El Camino Park, Palo Alto: "Palo Alto Be-In" Grateful Dead/Big Brother And The Holding Company/Anonymous Artists Of America

References to this concert have appeared off and on in Deadbase over the years, and sometimes in other lists (such as Dead.net) as “undated June 1967.” I have seen a grainy photo from the event, but on the whole this show has slipped through the cracks of Grateful Dead scholarship. As the last of the 1967 “Be-Ins,” and the Grateful Dead’s first concert in the town where the band was formed, the El Camino Park Be-In deserves a higher profile.

El Camino Park was an athletic field across from both The Stanford Shopping Center and ‘El Palo Alto’ (the tall tree that gave the city its name). The Park (at 100 El Camino Real) was at the intersection of Palo Alto Avenue, Alma Street and El Camino Real at the Palo Alto/Menlo Park border, and within easy walking distance of downtown. It is Palo Alto’s oldest park, first open in 1914.

After the initial “Human Be-In” in Golden Gate Park (on January 14, 1967), The Diggers, the Grateful Dead and other like-minded souls were holding Be-Ins in the Bay Area and around the continent. There were Be-Ins (or similar events) in Los Angeles (Griffith Park), New York (Tompkins Square) and Vancouver (Stanley Park), for example, and around the Bay Area in Berkeley (Provo Park), San Jose (10th and Alma) and finally Palo Alto. The Palo Alto event was the last of these events, and while no one has ever specifically claimed responsibility for its organization, it does seem that it was intended to cap a brief era that had begun only a half-mile away at Perry Lane.

The date is not an absolute certainty, but can be triangulated from the Dead’s schedule (eyewitness David Biasotti saw Jimi Hendrix in Golden Gate Park the next day, so the event was on a Saturday). It was a nice day, and there were a few thousand people present, but it was not a large crowd. While Palo Alto’s leading hippies were migrating North to San Francisco or West to the Santa Cruz Mountains, the scene’s beginnings were still present. Palo Alto, while unhip, was a tolerant town and seemed perfectly willing to allow revelry to take place in a city park on a weekend afternoon. My father, not interested in rock music per se, but having the foresight to recognize cultural touchstones when they occurred in his town, took his whole family—I was nine years old. I mainly recall Bill Kreutzmann’s psychedelically painted drum set, and my younger sister getting her face painted by nice hippie girls. My older sister recalls the Dead playing “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.”

Woodside High School graduate David Biasotti recalls that The Sons of Champlin played with a horn section, rare for them at that time. Other witnesses recall Tim Leary’s presence. The Anonymous Artists of America lived in a commune in the Santa Cruz Mountains, near the notorious Kesey spread, and the Pranksters had willed them the famous “Thunder Machine.” The AAA were a loose aggregation, and one of the members was Jerry Garcia’s ex-wife, Sara Ruppenthal Garcia (although she may have left the group by this time).

For those familiar with the saga of the borrowed amplifiers used for Monterey Pop (a story retailed by Joel Selvin and Rock Scully in their books, among others), this was almost certainly one of the events where the “borrowed” equipment from the Festival was used before it was returned. Ken Kesey’s parties on Perry Lane (today the site of Oak Creek Apartments) had begat psychedelia, and The Warlocks performances at Magoo’s Pizza had begat the Grateful Dead, and just a few years later, the former Palo Alto band anchored what may have been the biggest concert in Palo Alto up to that time.

Palo Alto continued to have a number of free concerts in El Camino Park through the next 18 months, although none of the groups were as high profile as The Dead or Big Brother. At least two were headlined by the Steve Miller Band (in Fall 1967 and August 1968), then a popular regional group, but hardly underground legends. After 1968, Palo Alto pretty much gave up concerts in El Camino Park, and save for one Jerry Garcia/Kingfish/Rowans gig on June 8, 1975 (not a free show), the park has been rock-free ever since.

Crossposted at Rock Prosopography 101.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

June 29, 1969 The Barn, Rio Nido: Grateful Dead (canceled show?)

A widely circulated poster features The Grateful Dead headlining three nights over “Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady and Joey Covington” and the Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band. The first two nights (Friday and Saturday June 27-28, 1969)were scheduled for the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, and the last night (Sunday June 29, 1969) at The Barn in Rio Nido. Rio Nido is a small community near Guerneville, in the remote Northwest corner of Sonoma County. The Rio Nido Barn is often confused with The Barn in Scotts Valley (near Santa Cruz), but I believe it was a tiny place previously known as The Rio Nido Dance Hall.

Jorma and Jack did not yet use the name Hot Tuna for their local gigs, and this gig with Covington was an early, electric iteration ot Tuna. The Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band were a locally popular Berkeley band, who had released one album on Vanguard in 1968. I have written extensively about their history elsewhere. As part of that research, CGSB harmonica player Brian Voorheis recalls these gigs very clearly, for a variety of memorable reasons.

After the Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Bands had two memorable nights in Santa Rosa (drummer Tom Ralston stood in for Mickey Hart for a few numbers on June 27, and Jerry Garcia played pedal steel with CGSB on the next night), the CGSB had a long drive back to Berkeley, still buzzing with excitement. Voorheis pointed out (in a personal email) that the Rio Nido gig on Sunday night was probably canceled, since his band would have stayed in Sonoma, or at least recalled a long drive to Rio Nido on Sunday afternoon. After such a memorable pair of gigs, a third night would not have passed unnoticed, so it seems more likely the third gig was canceled.

It is possible that the Dead played Rio Nido without supporting acts—the venue was so tiny that they wouldn’t have needed help to sell it out—but its just as likely that the third night made no financial sense for the promoter. Apparently, according to Deadlists, the announcer mentions the Rio Nido show at the conclusion of the previous night’s show, so its hardly a foregone conclusion, but CGSB’s experience at least raises the possibility the show never occurred.

June 28, 1969 Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa, CA: Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band with Jerry Garcia

A widely circulated poster features The Grateful Dead headlining three nights over “Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady and Joey Covington” and the Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band. The first two nights (Friday and Saturday June 27-28, 1969)were scheduled for the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, and the last night (Sunday June 29, 1969) at The Barn in Rio Nido. Rio Nido is a small community near Guerneville, in the remote Northwest corner of Sonoma County. The Rio Nido Barn is often confused with The Barn in Scotts Valley (near Santa Cruz), but I believe it was a tiny place previously known as The Rio Nido Dance Hall.

Jorma and Jack did not yet use the name Hot Tuna for their local gigs, and this gig with Covington was an early, electric iteration ot Tuna. The Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band were a locally popular Berkeley band, who had released one album on Vanguard in 1968. I have written extensively about their history elsewhere. As part of that research, CGSB harmonica player Brian Voorheis recalls these gigs very clearly, for a variety of memorable reasons.

After a memorable first night, where CGSB drummer Tom Ralston sat in with the Dead for a few numbers, Jerry Garcia returned the favor by sitting in on pedal steel guitar with the Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band for most of their set. Garcia had just purchased the steel guitar at a music store in Boulder, CO on April 13, and only recently begun playing in public with John Dawson, David Nelson and a few others, starting in May. He was still looking for opportunities to perform. CGSB harmonica man Brian Voorheis (in a personal email) doesn’t recall the precise set list, but he does remember some of the the country styled songs they were playing, some of which Jerry would have sat in on:

Who Will Buy The Wine (from Skiffle album), A-11 (a Buck Owens tune about a jukebox selection that makes him cry ), How High's The Water, Mama? (a Johnny Cash classic sung by Gary), County Fair (a Gary Salzman original ),and I may have done Johnny Cash's There You Go - can't remember if I was doin it yet. There could also have been Gary's other originals, (It's Hard To Keep Your Head Above The) Waterline, and I Couldn't Marry Juana (Cause I Couldn't Get Her Out Of Mexico).

For notes on the final night of the weekend, see here.

June 27, 1969 Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa, CA: Grateful Dead w/Tom Ralston

A widely circulated poster features The Grateful Dead headlining three nights over “Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady and Joey Covington” and the Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band. The first two nights (Friday and Saturday June 27-28, 1969)were scheduled for the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, and the last night (Sunday June 29, 1969) at The Barn in Rio Nido. Rio Nido is a small community near Guerneville, in the remote Northwest corner of Sonoma County. The Rio Nido Barn is often confused with The Barn in Scotts Valley (near Santa Cruz), but I believe it was a tiny place previously known as The Rio Nido Dance Hall.

Jorma and Jack did not yet use the name Hot Tuna for their local gigs, and this gig with Covington was an early, electric iteration ot Tuna. The Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band were a locally popular Berkeley band, who had released one album on Vanguard in 1968. I have written extensively about their history elsewhere. As part of that research, CGSB harmonica player Brian Voorheis recalls these gigs very clearly, for a variety of memorable reasons.

The first night (June 27), after CGSB and Hot Tuna (Jorma, Jack, Joey) had played their sets, Mickey Hart had not yet arrived. It might seem that the Dead would be unconcerned, since Bill Kreutzmann can hold down the drum chair quite well on his own. For whatever reason, the Dead invited CGSB drummer Tom Ralston to sit in with the band until Hart arrived. Ralston was originally from Michigan (where he was in a band called The Renegades), had migrated to Berkeley and played with the group Sky Blue before joining CGSB, and he later played with Country Joe McDonald for some time.

Although an accomplished drummer, Ralston was quite surprised to be asked to sit in with the Dead with no preparation. Hart arrived after a few numbers, but it was a memorable night for the Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band. Since so many Dead tapes are accessible, you can decide for yourself what you think of Ralston’s drumming—he certainly doesn’t embarrass himself. No one precisely recalls when Hart arrived and stepped in, but it was certainly before “Dire Wolf” (the 8th song of the first set) which was later released on an archival cd.

For posts on the next two nights, see here and here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

October 15, 1966 The Avalon San Francisco, CA: Big Brother and The Holding Company with Jerry Garcia

The Family Dog had a “One-Year Anniversary” and the Avalon featured Big Brother and The Holding Company, the Sir Douglas Quintet and the 13th Floor Elevators. Members of the Dead and Quicksilver were hanging out, and according to the Mojo Navigator fanzine, Garcia played a song with Big Brother.

Members of the Dead, Quicksvilver and Big Brother apparently finished off Saturday night’s show with a big blues jam. The Dead had a gig at the Sausalito Heliport on this night, but they were playing a free concert in the Panhandle the next day (October 16th) so no doubt they all raced over for the party.

June 4, 1978 Campus Stadium, UC Santa Barbara, Isla Vista, CA: Elvin Bishop with Jerry Garcia

The Grateful Dead headlined a show at UCSB. The supporting acts were Warren Zevon and Elvin Bishop, as at the time the Dead themselves were not enough a draw to fill even a small stadium in Santa Barbara.

I was in college in Berkeley at the time, and friends drove down for the show. I cross examinde them upon their return the next day, and one very observant friend mentioned that Jerry Garcia came onstage and played a blues song with Elvin Bishop, taking a brief and unmemorable solo. I have never read any mention about this since, but I am absolutely confident that my friend (hi Mitch) did not imagine it, so I am posting it here.

When Elvin Bishop left Chicago and the Butterfield Blues Band to move to San Francisco in May 1968, he appeared on stage regularly with Garcia and the Dead for the next year. As his own career took off in the 1970s, his hectic touring schedule meant that he rarely crossed paths with the Dead. Thus it is not surprising that a rare instance of appearing on the same bill with the Dead would engender a Garcia guest appearance.

Although Bishop has always affected an “aw shucks” country-boy persona, he is a very sophisticated guitarist who always has a top-flight band. I do not know if Melvin Seals was his organist in 1978, but he definitely was by 1979, and future Bob Dylan and Garcia Band drummer Don Baldwin was already Bishop’s drummer.

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.

Bill Kreutzmann’s All-Stars 1984

Bill Kreutzmann’s All-Stars

David Nelson-guitar, vocals
Larry Murphy-steel guitar, violin, guitar
Lazer Murphy-bass
Bill Kreutzmann-drums

January 21, 1984 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
January 28, 1984 Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA
March 2, 1984 The Stone, San Francisco, CA
March 9, 1984 The Catalyst, Santa Cruz, CA

I used to copy down everything from the Grateful Dead Hotline. Since there was no internet, sometimes I just wrote down the information and wondered what it was. Although I lived in the East Bay at the time, I don’t know anyone who went to these shows, so I don’t know what the band sounded like or what material they played. So despite the invention of the internet, I still know little more about this group than when I wrote this information down.

I do vaguely recall some information from BAM Magazine or Relix or something, that suggested that this band was based in Garberville, where Billy K lived, and perhaps had played some gigs up there before playing in the Bay Area. At the time, I believe David Nelson was playing in a Zydeco band.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

February 27, 1971 Fillmore West: James and the Good Brothers with Jerry Garcia and Jack Casady



The New Riders of The Purple Sage, with Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar, headlined four nights at The Fillmore West (25,26,27,28 February 1971), supported by Boz Scaggs and James and The Good Brothers. The poster is well known and tapes of some of the Riders shows circulate widely.

However, Kathy Staka and George Mangrum’s weekly rock column in the Hayward Daily Review from March 4, 1971 (above) reveals that on one night at least, Garcia played banjo with James and The Good Brothers. I have inferred from the column that it was Saturday, but it could have been any night (and all nights, for that matter). Airplane/Hot Tuna bassist Jack Casady also seems to have played along with the trio, who generally featured two guitars and an autoharp as well as three-part harmonies.

James and The Good Brothers were a Canadian trio (James Ackroyd and twins Bruce and Brian Good). They made contact with the Dead on the infamous “Festival Express” train trip, and were invited to San Francisco. They recorded an album for Columbia (NRPS’s label), produced by Betty Cantor-Jackson, with Bill Kreutzmann on drums, and possibly an uncredited Jerry Garcia. A live KSAN broadcast of the trio (with no guests) from the Record Plant (Sep 5, 1971) circulates on Sugarmegs.org, personally a bit too folkie for me, but I do not know if it was representative or typical of their live show.

July 16, 1969 Longshoreman’s Hall, San Francisco: New Riders of The Purple Sage

This date originally appeared in Deadbase as a Grateful Dead date. According to Blair Jackson (in outtakes from his Garcia autobiography), it was in fact the first New Riders of The Purple Sage show, which was described as “shambolic.”

Of course, John Dawson, Jerry Garcia and David Nelson had played as a trio in Menlo Park in May, and Garcia had played pedal steel guitar with various semi-acoustic configurations (including Bob Weir, Peter Grant and possibly others) at Peninsula School in Menlo Park (early June) and California Hall (June 11), but the Longshoreman’s Hall seems to be the first formal show of the five-piece NRPS (Garcia, Dawson, Nelson, Lesh, Hart).

This was some kind of Hell’s Angels party, and there were probably other acts, but they are unknown to me. I do not know if the band was actually billed or introduced as The New Riders of The Purple Sage. An August 1, 1969 gig at Berkeley's Bear's Lair was advertised as "Marmaduke, Jerry Garcia and Friends", but later August gigs were under the New Riders name.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

January 25, 1964 Little Theater, College of San Mateo Folk Festival, San Mateo, CA: Black Mountain String Band

The article from the San Mateo Times of January 25, 1964 advises that “The Black Mountain String Band from Palo Alto will present bluegrass music in the style of Bill Monroe with five-string banjo, guitar and mandolin.” Almost certainly, the banjoist is Jerry Garcia, with David Nelson and mandolin and probably Sandy Rothman on guitar (although possibly Eric Thompson was still in the group). In other guises, this group was called The Black Mountain Boys.

Other acts of modern interest include Berkeley’s Pat Kilroy, later of The New Age, and The Liberty Hill Aristocrats, featuring Rodney and Peter Albin. Belmont’s Stephen Ehret was later in the group Wildflower.

January 16, 1965 Hootenanny, Peninsula YMCA, San Mateo, CA: Mother McRee’s Uptown Jug Band Champions

Dennis McNally alludes to the last performance of Mother McRee’s Uptown Jug Band Champions, saying it was “yet another CSM [College of San Mateo] Folk Festival” (p.79). It’s not clear if he was referring to this gig. Note that it appears that McRee’s played the Off Stage (a coffee house) in San Jose, so the Jug Band played another venue besides The Tangent. Based on the wording, it appears that Mother McRee’s were sort of the headliners—a nice way to go out.

Other acts listed in the notice in the San Mateo Times of January 16, 1965 (left) were the Skip Henderson Quartet, Cathy Poole, Chuck McCabe, Peter Albin, Orpheus’ Children, Jim Docker and Karen Wendling. Peter Albin, of course, helped found Big Brother and The Holding Company. Orpheus’ Children featured guitarist Stephen Ehret, who was in the fine psychedelic group the Wildflower, based at CCAC in Oakland. The Wildflower have reformed and rerecorded some of their old songs. Los Gatos based Chuck McCabe recorded an album called Phoenix in 1969 for ABC Records.

The Peninsula YMCA has moved. 240 El Camino Real appears to be a parking lot, based on the Google Satellite picture.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

August 18, 1972 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Jerry Garcia-Merl Saunders


This listing from the Hayward Daily Review (August 17, 1972) shows Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders scheduled to play the Keystone Berkeley on August 18, which was a Friday. The Grateful Dead had played Sacramento on August 12, and would play San Jose on August 20, followed by four shows at the Berkeley Community Theater starting on the 21st.

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.

June 1, 1968 Panhandle, Golden Gate Park: Grateful Dead/Charlie Musselwhite/Petrus

The Dead, Charlie Musselwhite and Petrus were playing three nights at the Carousel on May 30, May 31 and June 1. With typical upside down logic, the entire bill played for free in the Panhandle on the last day (Sunday). While it may have made good publicity for the evening's show, it would have been better if it had been done earlier in the run. This performance is alluded to in various places, but I never seen it broken out in a list separately, so I am doing it here. I will add the reference when I can find it.

I believe this was the last time the Dead played in the Panhandle. They had moved out of 710 Ashbury for good in March, so casual shows were no longer possible. It is a footnote of importance to San Franciscans that the Panhandle is not actually part of Golden Gate Park, although it is sort of adjunct to it. The Panhandle is between Oak and Fell Streets, from Stanyan (bordering Golden Gate Park) just east to Baker.

Petrus featured singer Ruthann Friedman, who had written “Windy” for the Association, and guitarist Peter Kaukonen (Jorma’s brother). They were based in Half Moon Bay. Friedman had been a folk singer in the 60s, playing up and down California. Friedman had also sang the song “Little Girl Lost and Found” by The Garden Club, a made-up group (all the voices were hers), which was a modest hit in Los Angeles. Although Petrus broke up, Friedman released a 1969 album on Reprise called Constant Companion that was a collector’s classic (cd released on 2006 on Water), which also featured guitar by Kaukonen.

December 14, 1966 Gym, College of Marin, Kentfield: Grateful Dead

Future Sons of Champlin road manager Charlie Kelly saw this show and told me about it in a personal email. He was an Army draftee at the time, and he had a memorable week’s leave, where he celebrated his 21st birthday at the Avalon seeing his High School friends band, The Sons of Champlin. Kelly would join the Sons crew when he returned from the Army in mid-1968. He also recalls seeing the Dead for the first time at this show.

Given what a memorable week this was for Kelly, I do not lump this show under the “vague memories” category. Kelly recalls that this was some kind of pep rally in the gym. There is a chance it was on December 15 (Thursday). Kelly recalls that he wasn’t that impressed with the Dead’s performance.

In 1966 and 1967 bands like The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service, while popular Fillmore headliners, were just getting by financially. Any paying gig was welcome, and high school and junior college gigs paid a few hundred bucks, making the show well worth it. Presumably the Dead played the type of numbers heard on the Rare Cuts and Oddities cd.

September 9, 1971 Gold St Club, San Francisco: Pigpen


A remarkable listing in the September 8, 1971 Oakland Tribune says “Ron McKernan, better known as “Pigpen” of the Grateful Dead, will make his first solo performance in concert at in the Gold St. Club in San Francisco tomorrow night at 9:30.”

I wonder if this even happened, as I have never even heard a rumor about Pig playing solo. I wonder if there is even a rehearsal tape, even if he never played. I know nothing about the venue either.

Gold Street in San Francisco is in North Beach, near Jackson between Montgomery and Sansome.

May 12, 1967 Marigold Ballroom, Fresno, CA: Grateful Dead/Road Runners


Dead.net shows the Dead playing Fresno on Thursday May 11, but in fact the show was May 12 (two shows 9:45 and 11:15). David Hale reviewed the show fairly favorably (for a 1967 daily paper). He mentions the songs “Golden Road, “New, New Minglewood Blues” and “Viola Lee Blues,” but his language doesn’t make it certain that they actually played them.

(The excerpt is from David Hale's review in the Fresno Bee on May 13, 1967)

June 16, 1967 Cheetah, Santa Monica The Cheetah, Santa Monica, CA: Grateful Dead

Dennis McNally begins his discussion of the Grateful Dead’s appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival by saying “The Dead had played Los Angeles the night before, where Phil’s bass was stolen” (p.204). Rock Scully says “My biggest mistake was booking the Dead to play a club in LA the night before” (p. 105). In Scully’s version, Jerry’s guitar gets stolen. However, neither book mentions where they played, and I am suggesting that they played The Cheetah in Santa Monica. Since Scully refers to playing “a club” in Los Angeles, and there were relatively few clubs in Southern California that hosted Fillmore-type bands with paying gigs, as a lot of local clubs (like The Whisky A-Go-Go) simply paid union scale, I think The Cheetah is most likely.

The Cheetah was at 1 Navy Pier, in Santa Monica. It had been built in the 1930s as the Aragon Ballroom, and had reopened in March, 21,1967 as The Cheetah. It was open 7 nights a week, with bands most nights, but there were not regular posters, so publicity for Cheetah shows is hard to come by. The Dead had played The Cheetah before (April 30, 1967), and had also played The Cheetah in New York on June 12. There was also a Cheetah in Chicago, in the Aragon Ballroom. Its not clear what connection there was between the three Cheetahs, but there was probably at least an informal one, as the Santa Monica Cheetah was modeled on the New York one. I’m assuming the Dead played a successful gig in April, and booked a follow-up gig for six weeks later.

To review the facts
• McNally and Rock Scully assert the Dead played “a club” in Los Angeles on June 16
• The Santa Monica Cheetah is a likely venue
• The Dead had played The Cheetah before
• This is a different show than the June 12 show at The Cheetah in New York