Thursday, May 13, 2010
April 15, 1970 Winterland, San Francisco Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service--guest performers
An amazing tape survives of a fantastic Grateful Dead performance at Winterland on Wednesday, April 15, 1970. Although the tape is well known amongst Deadheads, almost nothing is known of the show. No posters, photos or contemporary reviews seem to have survived, which is surprising for a concert featuring three of San Francisco's finest bands at the biggest venue in town. In my previous post I speculated on the scant information available, and suggested that the show was put on by the bands themselves, with Bill Graham and his crew acting as some sort of contractor. The Dead had headlined at the Fillmore West the previous weekend (April 9-12), so it appears that the Dead could not be advertised until those shows were complete. Ralph Gleason's Monday (April 13) column (above) appears to be the first mention of the show. Listing upcoming events, he simply says "At Winterland Wednesday...Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Grateful Dead."
Separate from the peculiar circumstances of the show itself, in the middle of the 100 minute tape, a number of musicians join Jerry Garcia and others for a pretty exciting jam, even if its only six minutes or so. Since we have no information about the show, we can only speculate on who those guests might be. The jam takes place right after the drum solo, and after a quick (0:49) drum interlude the Dead blast into "The Other One." During the jam, an additional organ player, guitarist and conga player are audible, but given that there are no vocals, anyone could be onstage using the Dead's instruments to play along with Jerry, and the second drum interlude may be there to allow the band to rejoin the stage. I will limit my speculation to the guitarist, organist and conguero, but keep in mind that numerous other guests may be there as well.
I'm a listener, not a musician, but the jam mines very different territory than either a typical Dead jam or a conventional musician's noodling session. The jam isn't based on a song known to me (like "Turn On Your Lovelight," a song almost all 60s musicians knew well) nor does it use a standard blues or country progression. The musicians play fast, in a strange rhythm--these guys are all good and playing hard, so it isn't some pals goofing off on the wrong instruments. Whoever is on stage has to either be friendly with the Dead or have some musical credibility with them, and they have to be in town. My speculation as to the April 15, 1970 guests is based on who seems the most likely, as I have nothing else to go on.
The guitarist seems to be playing some choppy, fast chords, and sounds distinctly different than Bob Weir (I can't tell if Weir is on stage or not). For any guest appearances, the first guesses always have to come from musicians who were already there, and that points towards Gary Duncan of Quicksilver. Duncan was (and is) an exceptional rhythm guitarist with a very jazzy feel (listen to "Acupulco Gold And Silver" from Quicksilver's first album, for example). Jorma Kaukonen and John Cipollina, also on the bill, do not play in this style and it would be highly unlikely if it were them.
Band friend David Crosby was a regular onstage guest during the 1969-72 period, but the guitar playing sounds too choppy and jazzy for Crosby in 1970. Some years later Crosby headed in that direction (I'm thinking of the March 17, 1975 "Ned's Birthday" studio tape), so I suppose its possible, but I don't think Crosby played that way in 1970.
There seems to be a distinctly jazz tone to the guitarist, separate from his odd chords. If I have to speculate on an unexpected guest, I would propose local guitarist Jerry Hahn, then leading a group called The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood. Hahn had played guitar with John Handy, and then replaced Larry Coryell in the Gary Burton Quartet (a formidable task). The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood was playing Mandrake's in Berkeley on Monday and Tuesday of that week (April 13 and 14) and would return to the Matrix the next week, so they were definitely in town. Hahn was a formidable player and would have been known to every guitar player in town--certainly he might have been invited on stage.
Pigpen's organ would have been onstage, and Pig generally laid out for the extensive jamming. With a convenient organ, it was easy to invite a keyboard player on stage. To eliminate the obvious choices, Tom Constanten had left the band in January, and Ned Lagin had not yet met the group.
Of the three bands on the bill, only Nicky Hopkins of Quicksilver Messenger Service played keyboards (beyond the level of noodling). Hopkins was actually a pretty good organ player, based on some obscure recordings (the original "Edward" on Shady Grove, as well as its reprise on his solo album, and possibly the Rolling Stones "Let's Spend The Night Together"). However, I'm not aware of Hopkins ever playing organ on stage, so its difficult to say what he might have sounded like. I guess its possibly him, but it sounds too dissonant to my ears.
What local musician might be playing a jazzy, high energy organ along with Jerry Garcia? Howard Wales sure seems like a likely choice. He had jammed with Garcia at least once before (August 28, 1969), and very shortly Garcia would join Wales in Monday night jam sessions at the Matrix. The playing does sound like Wales, and the timeline fits nicely.
In the realm of pure speculation, if you accept my hypothesis that the guitarist was Jerry Hahn, then it might follow that Brotherhood organist Mike Finnegan was onstage also. Finnegan is a great organist who can play anything, so while he typically plays in a bluesy style, he could jam with anyone anywhere. Finnegan spent much of late 1970 leading the house band at the Lion's Share in San Anselmo, alternating duties with Bill Champlin, so he was certainly a "friend of friends" at least with the Dead. I suppose Bill Champlin is a possibility also, as he not only played organ but was a pretty far out musician as well. Champlin was working in a band called The Rhythm Dukes at the time, with ex-Moby Grape guitarist Jerry Miller, but I guess he could have found time to drop by Winterland. Nonetheless, my money's on Howard Wales.
It takes ears much sharper than mine to identify the styles of different conga players. However, even to my ears its pretty clear that this cat can really play--this isn't some lead singer bopping along by adding a little rhythmic color on the congas, its a real player laying it down. Even by 1970, relatively few congueros were part of the rock scene, so the candidates are fewer.
The first choice for rock congas in San Francisco is always the Santana band. Santana had just played the weekend at Fillmore East (April 10-12) and were going to a big show in London (Saturday April 18). I suppose its possible that some band members flew home to San Francisco, and then flew back out to London. If so, then either Mike Carabello or Chepito Areas are reasonable possibilities--they were both fantastic players and friends with the Dead. Areas usually played timbales with Santana, but he was a fine conguero as well (also a great traps player, and a pretty good trumpet player too).
For local players, the next most likely choice would be Rico Reyes. Reyes had been in the group Sanpaku who supported the Dead many times and were quite friendly with them. Reyes played and sang on some Santana albums, and ended up helping to lead a fantastic group called Azteca in the early 1970s. He also played on some Quicksilver albums around this time (Just For Love and Fresh Air). He was a fine player who would likely always have been welcome onstage.
The most intriguing suggestion (proposed on a Wolfgang's Vault thread) was percussion great Airto Moreira. Airto had just been in town with Miles Davis, opening for the Dead at Fillmore West. Airto was still sort of an adjunct member of the band, perhaps why they were advertised as the Miles Davis Quintet on the Fillmore West poster. I'm not sure of Miles Davis's subsequent touring schedule, but Airto may not have been booked for further dates even if they were on Miles's itinerary. I don't know the exact circumstances of Airto's friendship with Mickey Hart and the Dead, but perhaps it started this early.
I should add that all of these percussive speculations might be correct. I was fortunate enough to see Airto sit in with the Dead a few times in the 1980s, and he is a fantastic traps drummer, so perhaps he played traps while someone else played congas, and any number of percussionists might have been on stage. A picture would go a long way towards explaining this, but sadly I know of no such photos.
The April 15, 1970 performance is a fantastic performance, and its hard not to speculate on why the Dead played so well. Wednesday is not a typical working night for musicians, so perhaps a lot of friends were backstage, and Jerry and the boys decided to step up. It would be nice to know who joined them, if only to know who the band might have been trying to impress.