In the past, I had objected to the September 11, 1969 date for the following reasons:
- I could find no evidence of an advertisement or publicity for a September 11, 1969 Family Dog show, and I have done considerable research in that area
- September 11 was a Thursday, and the Family Dog almost never had Thursday shows, making it seem more unlikely that they would do so without publicity
- The audience tape sounded surprisingly well-recorded for a 1969 tape
- Any hard-core Head who recorded a 1969 tape would be highly unlikely to leave the balance of the tape uncirculated
- An unknown guest slide guitarist plays along, and he seems to know the song, legislating against a performance of a song that had probably been written only a few weeks earlier
I could find no evidence of an advertisement or publicity for a September 11, 1969 Family Dog show, and I have done considerable research in that area
Some detailed research by Ross revealed that for a brief period in Late Summer 1969 (at least), the Family Dog had afternoon jams for working musicians. The August 28, 1969 tape with Howard Wales and some members of the Grateful Dead, labeled as "Hartbeats," falls into this category. Afternoon jams obviate the question of who was working: it didn't matter if anyone had a show Thursday night, as the jamming was taking place in the afternoon. Of course there was no advertising--it wasn't a "show," in that sense of the word.
September 11 was a Thursday, and the Family Dog almost never had Thursday shows, making it seem more unlikely that they would do so without publicity
There would have been no audience for these afternoon jams, save for a few lucky hippies who wandered by (and there wouldn't have been that much foot traffic out there, either). These afternoon jams would explain not only August 28 and September 11, but the peculiar September 7, 1969 tape with members of the Airplane and the Dead playing rock and roll oldies.
The audience tape sounded surprisingly well-recorded for a 1969 tape
Any hard-core Head who recorded a 1969 tape would be highly unlikely to leave the balance of the tape uncirculated
What put me over the top on the Sep 11 tape was an interesting observation on the blog Grateful Dead Guide about Garcia and the Dead's penchant to experiment with audience tapes even when they had a soundboard
Those who might scoff at the idea that the Dead, with all their piles of tapes, would set up audience mikes at the same time they were taping the SBDs, should recall that even years later in summer '73, Garcia was still having Kidd Candelario make "AUD" recordings of some shows alongside the SBD reels! These are a couple examples that have surfaced:My new theory about the September 11, 1969 audience tape was that it was made by some member of the Grateful Dead sound crew, most likely Owsley himself. Naturally it sounds better than typical audience tapes of the era: it was recorded by a professional on a real microphone and a good reel-to-reel deck, not some handheld cassette job from the pre-D5 era.
From the notes: "Reels dubbed in 1979 by Will Boswell from Jerry Garcia's personal collection. Original recording made by the sound crew at the soundboard."
While the purposes of the audience recording may have been multi-faceted, if Dead staff recorded the show, it explains why the balance of the tape never circulated. The recording was made for the Dead's purposes, not as a souvenir of a concert for future listening. The recording may not have been of the entire performance, and even if it was, recording tape was expensive (and the Dead were always broke) so only part of it may have been preserved. This would explain why a single song from a nice sounding tape was preserved in isolation from any other recording.
Given that this was a jam session, while of course I would be fascinated to hear the whole thing, regardless of the presence of many or all of the Dead members, the balance of the tape may not have been of much interest to the Dead themselves.
An unknown guest slide guitarist plays along, and he seems to know the song, legislating against a performance of a song that had probably been written only a few weeks earlier
I have theorized in the past that the most plausible guess for the slide guitarist on September 11 was Robbie Stokes. Stokes was the guitarist for Devil's Kitchen, the "house band" at the Family Dog at the time. Stokes was a good slide player, and he would later move to Marin when the rest of Devil's Kitchen returned to Carbondale, IL. Stokes played on Mickey Hart's Rolling Thunder album and Robert Hunter's Tales Of The Great Rum Runners, and was part of the Novato "crowd" until he too returned to Carbondale in 1985, so he was definitely welcome on the scene.
In 1969, slide guitar was a known technique, but largely confined to acoustic or pedal steel guitars. Electric guitarists (like Garcia) occasionally fooled with it, but very few players used a slide regularly on electric guitar. Duane Allman was the one who gave the technique credibility, but although the Allman Brothers had formed by mid-1969, very few outside of the Southeast had heard him play. Allman himself had actually learned the technique in Los Angeles the year before (in the South, in a manner of speaking) from Ry Cooder (listen to Ry in 1968 on Taj Mahal's "Statesboro Blues"). Thus the universe of slide players comfortable enough to jam with the Grateful Dead was considerably smaller in 1969 than it would be a year or two later, and Stokes is a very likely choice.
The other fact to consider is that if my supposition was correct, September 11, 1969 was an afternoon jam, and they could have played "Easy Wind" more than once, so Stokes would not have been flying blind. In fact, my theory of the September 11, 1969 tape is that the sole purpose of the recording was to preserve "Easy Wind." The Dead had just started performing the song, and there had been 5 (known) performances starting August 21, 1969 in Seattle. Why exactly they needed a tape of "Easy Wind" can't be certain, but I do know that in order to publish and establish copyright to a song a recording of the song had to be submitted, so perhaps the band taped a performance in order to submit a publisher's demo. Its true that the band had other recordings, but there may have been mundane practical reasons that a competent audience tape would have been easier to record and duplicate than some tapes buried in the vaults.
My current working hypothesis is that the September 11, 1969 audience tape of "Easy Wind" was recorded by Owsley or another crew member at an afternoon jam at The Family Dog on The Great Highway. Although it was an "audience" tape, there was hardly an audience, and the recording was made with better equipment than was available to civilians at the time. The main purpose of the recording was to preserve a copy of "Easy Wind," for a publisher's demo or some other practical reason. A slide guitarist sat in (whether Weir is on the tape isn't clear to me), but he probably had a chance to hear a run through or possibly try out the song before the recording. There is no "missing" part of the tape, since the recording was only made to preserve that song.