I have been constructing tour itineraries for the Grateful Dead for brief periods of their history. There is so much information circulating on websites and blogs (including my own) that go beyond published lists on Deadlists and Dead.net that these posts make useful forums for discussing what is known and missing during each period. So far I have reviewed
- The Warlocks May-December 1965
- The Grateful Dead January-April 1967
- The Grateful Dead May-June 1967
- The Grateful Dead November-December 1967
- The Grateful Dead March-April 1968
- Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia July-August 1969
- Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia September-October 1969
- Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia November 1969
What follows is a list of known Grateful Dead performance dates for December 1969. I am focused on which performances occurred when, rather than the performances themselves. For known performances, I have assumed that they are easy to assess on Deadlists, The Archive and elsewhere, and have made little comment. As a point of comparison, I am comparing my list to Deadlists, but I realize that different databases may include or exclude different dates (I am not considering recording dates, interviews or Television and radio broadcast dates in this context).
My working assumption is that the Grateful Dead, while already a legendary rock band by 1968, were living hand to mouth and scrambling to find paying gigs. Even by 1969, most paying performances were on Friday and Saturday nights, so I am particularly interested in Friday and Saturday nights where no Grateful Dead performances were scheduled or known. One interesting note about the month of December 1969 was the complete absence of any shows by the New Riders of The Purple Sage, nor any guest appearances by Jerry Garcia. Given the surprisingly numerous NRPS shows in November, I cannot think this was simply a coincidence. We have discussed possible reasons for the paucity of NRPS shows between December 1969 and April 1970 elsewhere, so I will not recap it except to say that it appears the Riders did not have a bass player.
I have linked to existing posters where available.
December 4, 5, 7, 1969 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA Grateful Dead/The Flock/Humble Pie
The Grateful Dead were booked from Thursday to Sunday at Fillmore West. The Saturday night show (December 6) was canceled because of Altamont. Notwithstanding the Dead were scheduled to play at Altamont, the entire potential audience for the Fillmore West show would have been there anyway.
The Flock were a very interesting group from Chicago featuring electric violinist Jerry Goodman, later in Mahavishnu Orchestra and Dixie Dregs, among other groups. Humble Pie were a British group on their first American tour, fronted by guitarists Steve Marriott (ex-Small Faces) and Peter Frampton (ex-The Herd). At this time, the Pie tried to sound more like The Band, with a bit of Soul edge; their hard rock sound would come in another year or so.
December 6, 1969 Altamont Speedway, Livermore, CA Rolling Stones/Jefferson Airplane/Flying Burrito Brothers/Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young/Santana
The infamous Altamont event has been written about so much that I will try not to add anything. Suffice to say the Dead were scheduled to come on last, after The Rolling Stones, but chose to return to the safety of the San Francisco Heliport instead. Ironically, they ended up back at Fillmore West, hanging out and recovering from the strange day.
December 10-12, 1969 Thelma Theater, West Hollywood, CA Grateful Dead
The Thelma Theater, at 8849 Sunset Blvd in West Hollywood, just past the Los Angeles City Limits, had previously been known as The Galaxy. Around late 1966, Iron Butterfly had been the house band there. The venue was in the heart of the Sunset Strip, and the legendary Whisky A Go Go was just across the street.
The Thelma Theater had opened on November 12, 1969, probably with Poco as the headliner. The implication seems to have been that the Thelma would be some sort of upscale rock club, but it was an idea some years ahead of its time. I don't know who backed or booked the venue. It doesn't seem to have lasted very long. The Dead played Wednesday through Friday, as I assume they were looking for a booking to fill out the weekend along with the San Bernardino show. Stephen Stills dropped by to jam with the Dead on Wednesday, December 10.
The address currently houses Panini Pizza. The famous Viper Room is across the street (at 8852 W. Sunset).
The Dead played their first of a number of shows at the Swing Auditorium on December 13, 1969. The Swing, on E Street in San Bernardino (I'm not certain of the precise address) had been built in 1949 and had a capacity of up to 10,000, making it one of the largest indoor venues the Grateful Dead had headlined up to this point. Many bands played the Swing over the years, and the Dead played there again a number of times.
Many non-Californians assume that San Bernardino is part of Los Angeles, but that is only true in a very broad sense. The city of San Bernardino is actually 60 miles from Downtown Los Angeles, and even further from Santa Monica or the Coast. Given the history of Southern California traffic, that can sometimes be two hours of more of driving, at any time of the day or night. Thus San Bernardino was really new territory for the Grateful Dead, far away in many senses from Los Angeles proper.
I had never seen a poster or review of this show, but a reader sent me in the poster of the show (above-thanks Brad!). Its not surprising to see that given the size of the venue, the Dead were sharing the booking with Country Joe and The Fish and The Flying Burrito Brothers. There are also photos, incidentally, and it appears that Jerry Garcia played a Fender.
In September, 1981 a small plane crashed into the venue, and the resulting damage lead to the building being torn down.
December 14, 1969 Aquarius Theater, Los Angeles, CA Grateful Dead
Another blogger has pointed out that Tom Constanten's own self-history includes a date at the Kaleidoscope Theater in Los Angeles on December 14, 1969. I am starting to warm to this possibility, for a number of reasons. The theater called the Kaleidoscope, at 6230 Sunset Boulevard, had a long entertainment history. By late 1969, The Kaleidoscope was called the Aquarius Theater, and it mostly featured a musical production of Hair several nights a week. However, the theater was used by record companies for concert showcases on nights when Hair wasn't playing, mostly Sunday and Monday.
Following this logic, December 14 was a Sunday, making it a plausible candidate for a concert event at the Aquarius (I'm assuming any theatrical performance that day would have been in the afternoon). The Grateful Dead had a new album out (Live/Dead), and it was typical record company practice to have "showcase" events in Los Angeles and New York for new albums. Warner Brothers had such an event in New York at Ungano's, on February 12, 1970, as we have discussed at length, so it makes sense that there was a West Coast one as well. Since tickets would have been distributed by Warners and other industry players, it wouldn't be surprising that there was little or no publicity and few regular fans attended, and thus the show wasn't taped and there is little recollection of it.
I don't consider December 14, 1969 at the Aquarius Theater to be confirmed, but its well within the realm of the probable.
December 19-21, 1969 New Old Fillmore, San Francisco, CA Grateful Dead/Osceola/Rhythm Dukes/Jef Jaisun
Bill Graham had vacated the Fillmore Auditorium for the Fillmore West in July of 1968. In mid-1969, another group took over operation of the old Fillmore, led by Al Kramer and members of the band The Flamin Groovies. The New Old Fillmore attempted to compete directly with Graham. The Dead were the largest group to play there, both on the weekend of November 7-8 and this weekend. The New Old Fillmore faded away as a rock venue in Spring 1970, although we know it was not finished yet.
The opening numbers of Friday, December 19, feature what appears to be the Grateful Dead's first acoustic set. Garcia and Weir play some acoustic duet, apparently because Phil Lesh has been delayed.
Ross has written at some length about this weekend. The poster says 'Rhythm Dukes (Moby Grape)' because the band featured ex-Moby Grape members Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson (along with the bassist and drummer from the group Boogie). To my knowledge no member of the Grateful Dead would play the Fillmore after December 21, 1969 until a jam session at a Thanksgiving party on November 27, 1985, when Bob Weir and Mickey Hart joined in.
This long lost Dead show was discovered in the entertainment listings of the Berkeley Barb (December 16, 1969). Ross found a notice in the December 13, Oakland Tribune which sheds a little light on the matter:
St. Mary's College High in Berkeley is participating in a high school-sponsored rock festival to be held Dec. 22 at the Napa Valley Sports Camp. The 40-acre site is located about five miles west of Napa on Highway 12 in Brown's Valley. Groups scheduled to appear are The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Rejoice, The People and The Loading Zone. Booths selling food and merchandise will be located throughout the site for the duration (9 a.m.- 5 p.m.) of the festival. Tickets are now available at St. Mary's.I have written about this show extensively elsewhere, although its mostly just speculation on my part.
December 26, 1969 McFarlin Auditorium, Southern Methodist U., Dallas, TX Grateful Dead/Zephyr
The Grateful Dead were heading East to a three-day New Year's Eve stand in Boston. However, equipment traveled by truck, and the despite their fame the band led a hand-to-mouth existence. Thus the Dead played a few shows on the way East, essentially to finance the trip. Live/Dead had just been released, so it was even more in the Dead's interests than usual to play a few high profile shows across the country.
McFarlin Auditorium is a 2386-seat theater built in 1926 on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. It is not often that the Dead played venues that had also hosted Winston Churchill. Playing a small theater in Dallas in 1969 when school was out of session seems like a financial risk, and I don't know how many people actually attended the show. However, since the Dead's equipment had to cross the country anyway, it was probably financially worth it, even if Dallas was not really Grateful Dead territory in those days. Thanks to a helpful Commenter, we know that the opening act was Zephyr, a great band from Boulder, CO. Zephyr was a great band that featured guitarist Tommy Bolin and singer Candy Givens. Besides being the pride of Boulder, they had opened for the Dead at least once before (July 3, 1969 in Colorado Springs).
The Dead opened the show with their second-ever acoustic set. Garcia and Weir played a half-dozen numbers on acoustic guitars, apparently waiting for Bill Kreutzmann to arrive. A few more members joined in for a semi-acoustic "Uncle John's Band," and then the electric show began in earnest. The two acoustic shows in December both seem to be covering delays, and the relative rarity of them suggests that Garcia and Weir weren't that happy with the duo setup. After various other attempts in the next few months, they seemed to have worked out the two-guitars-and-rhythm-section configuration that Garcia first saw with Pentangle in February 1969.
December 28, 1969 Miami-Hollywood Speedway, Pembroke Pines, FL
Santana/The Band/Canned Heat/BB King/Grateful Dead/Johnny Winter/Vanilla Fudge/The Turtles/Mother Lode/Butterfield Blues Band/Hugh Masakela/Tony Joe White/Amboy Dukes/Sweetwater/Cold Blood/others
This was a three day festival, and the Dead played the middle day, in between Dallas and Boston. I don't know all the bands who played the festival, only the ones listed on the surviving ad that circulates, and I don't know who played which day.
There is a fair amount of information about this concert on the Internet, although most of the news stories and reminiscence are about the festival in general, rather than anything specifically about the Grateful Dead. Also, there were three rock festivals at Florida race tracks in late 1968 and late 1969, and the locations are often confused with one another:
December 28-30, 1968: Miami Pop Festival, Gulfstream Park, Hallandale, FLDecember 29-31, 1969 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA Grateful Dead
Gulfstream Park is a horse-racing track in Hallandale, which is just North of Miami Beach. The Dead played the middle day (Dec 29 68) of the three-day festival. Michael Lang, one of partners at Woodstock, was one of the principal organizers of this festival. Sometimes this event is referred to colloquially as the "Hollywood" Festival. Hollywood, FL is the town just North of Hallandale.
November 28-30, 1969 Palm Beach Pop Festival, Palm Beach International Raceway, Jupiter, FL
The Rolling Stones headlined this three day event, in their last performance prior to Altamont. The Grateful Dead did not perform, although its possible Ramrod and Rex Jackson were there as part of the Rolling Stones crew.
Jupiter, FL is on the Coast, near Palm Beach, about 90 miles North of Miami. Palm Beach International Raceway was a road racing course built in 1964. It was used for various rock events in the 1960s and 70s, but Florida always had a tense relationship to outdoor rock festivals. Throughout the 1980s, the course was known as Moroso Motorsports Park. The facility is still an active race track, currently undergoing upgrading, and has returned to using the name Palm Beach International Raceway.
December 27-29, 1969: Miami Pop Festival, Miami-Hollywood Speedway, Pembroke Pines, FL
Once again the Dead played the middle day (Dec 28 69) of a three-day Festival. Pembroke Pines is North of Miami and West of Hollywood. Hollywood Speedway was a small oval track for stock cars, and also a Drag Strip. The site is now a housing development and shopping center. The approximate address is 15285 Pines Blvd, Pembroke, FL 33027, which was the address of the Hollywood Sportatorium (built 1975, torn down 1988), where the Dead played on May 22, 1977, and the race track was adjacent to the Sportatorium. Sun-Life Stadium (formerly Joe Robbie Stadium), where the Miami Dolphins and Florida Marlins play, is also located near Pembroke Pines (in the town of Miami Gardens).
The Boston Tea Party was effectively Boston's Fillmore, and it had opened on January 20, 1967 at 53 Berkeley Street. Over the years the Tea Party had become part of the "Fillmore circuit," and most of the major 60s touring bands had played the venue. Boston's first FM rock station, WBCN, started broadcasting out of the backroom of the Tea Party as well, so it was the pre-eminent Boston rock venue.
The Boston rock market was huge, since the City had numerous colleges and Universities to provide a ready-made audience. So it was no surprise that other venues arose to compete with the Tea Party, including the Psychedelic Supermarket at 590 Commonwealth (the Dead played there twice in 1967) and The Ark at 15 Landsdowne Street, where the Dead had played a three night stand in April 1969. However, on July 12, 1969 the Tea Party building at 53 Berkeley caught fire and the building was burned out. The Boston Tea Party then took over the site of The Ark at 15 Landsdowne. Thus when the Dead played there only New Year's Eve show outside of San Francisco, it was at a venue they had already played, albeit under a different name.
15 Landsdowne Street has remained a music venue under various names, and is now the site of The House Of Blues. I do not know how different the current building is from its time as The Boston Tea Party.
January 2-3, 1970 Fillmore East, New York, NY Grateful Dead/Cold Blood/Lighthouse
The Grateful Dead finished their brief, if lengthy National tour with a weekend at the Fillmore East. They played early and late shows on both Friday and Saturday night, which was the standard arrangement there.
Cold Blood was booked by Bill Graham's Millard Agency, as were the Dead. Lighthouse were a Canadian group who played a sort of orchestral pop, similar in some ways to Blood, Sweat & Tears.
Anyone with updates, corrections, insights or other valuable information should Comment or email me.