Sunday, August 15, 2010

March 9, 1968 Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco: Buck Owens And The Buckaroos

(an ad from the Sunday, March 3, 1968 San Francisco Chronicle for Buck Owens and His Buckaroos at the Carousel Ballroom on Saturday, March 9, 1968)

The traditional saga of The Grateful Dead alludes to how The Dead and other San Francisco bands took over the Carousel Ballroom at 1545 Market Street in order to compete with Bill Graham and Chet Helms, and how it was a glorious failure, ending when Graham himself took over the lease of the Carousel and converted it to the Fillmore West. All this is true, more or less. The timeline for the Dead's management of The Carousel has always remained surprisingly vague for such an important event. However, I can not only shed some interesting light on the sequence of events of the Dead's brief reign there, but a remarkable piece of World Historical fact as well.

It had never occurred to me to wonder who was the last act to play the Carousel before the Dead and then Bill Graham took over the Carousel. What a surprise to find out that on Saturday, March 9, 1968, The Carousel featured the first San Francisco appearance of Buck Owens and His Buckaroos. Certainly Owens had played the Bay Area many times, but this was apparently his first time in the City proper, a sign of Buck's increasing mainstream success. The musical and industry importance of Buck Owens is hard to overstate, and that is without considering Owens's enormous success as a Television star on Hee Haw. As a musician, Owens pioneered what is known as the Bakersfield sound, a potent mixture of country, rockabilly and rhythm and blues that battled Nashville for supremacy throughout the 1970s and 80s.

Rock musicians who loved country music all leaned towards the Bakersfield sound, and players like Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman and Jerry Garcia were foremost among them. Since The Eagles are the founding fathers of modern popular country music, the fact that The Eagles were an Angeleno rocker version of Bakersfield music means that Owens decisively won his "battle" against the staid Nashville sound of the 60s and 70s.

Buck Owens influence on Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead is no less fundamental. Owens and his Buckaroos played clean, rocking music that was the blueprint for Workingman's Dead, and Garcia specifically mentioned Owens's inspiration many times. The biggest success of the Bakersfield musicians was Merle Haggard, and some of Haggard's songs ("Mama Tried" and "Sing Me Back Home") also made it into the Grateful Dead repertoire. People interested in some of the roots of Garcia's twangy Fender sound of the early 70s would do well to listen to Buckaroo guitarist Don Rich.

Owen's influence on Garcia doesn't stop with Merle Haggard and Don Rich. Old Garcia pal Pete Grant recalls driving somewhere with Jerry Garcia in mid-60s and hearing Owens's 1964 song "Together Again." The pedal steel guitar solo by Tom Brumley was so beautiful that Grant and Garcia agreed on the spot that they had to learn pedal steel. Grant learned before Garcia, as it happened, but the Buckaroos music was one of the signposts for the future Garcia, even if it lay dormant for a few years (and I should add that the New Riders occasionally played "Together Again").

Hegel says that progress comes from  contradiction and negation, so to a crypto-Hegelian like me it makes perfect sense that while the Grateful Dead were planning to take over the Carousel Ballroom, the last booking by an outside promoter featured an artist that most hippies would have dismissed outright. Jerry Garcia, of course, had he not been otherwise booked on March 9, 1968 (playing two shows at the Melodyland Theater at Disneyland with the Jefferson Airplane), would have been very excited to see Buck Owens and The Buckaroos in concert (Garcia, David Nelson and Herb Petersen apparently saw Buck and Merle back in 1964). What a surprise for any time traveling Deadheads to find out that just two and half years after Buck played The Carousel, the new Grateful Dead album would sound like a Buck Owens album.

Carousel Timeline

(part of Ralph Gleason's Chronicle column from March 13, 1968)

The chronology of the Grateful Dead's Carousel adventure has been permanently obscured by the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper strike that took up most of January and February 1968. Ralph Gleason was the major source of information for historians of the major San Francisco bands, and with Gleason mute, details for the January and February period are lost. It does seem, however, that the various San Francisco bands put on two shows at the Carousel essentially as clients, and decided to make a permanent arrangement in March.

From 1965 onward, the ballroom was had usually been open for Dinner and Dancing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, usually with a big band providing the music. Various promoters would rent the hall at times, usually on Saturday night, which is how The Yardbirds and even the Grateful Dead (on October 31, 1967) came to play there.

Gleason's March 13 column says
The Grateful Dead and a group of other San Francsico bands, including the Jefferson Airplane, have taken a lease on the old Carousel Ballroom on Market Street (formerly the El Patio) and beginning Friday night will run dances there regularly. Friday, Saturday and Sunday the Airplane and the Dead will play there for dancing. Next weekend, Chuck Berry and the Buffalo Springfield will appear.
The Carousel is owned by Bill Fuller, the Irish ballroom operator who has similar properties in Chicago, New York, Boston, London, Manchester and throughout Ireland. As part of the current arrangement, it is hoped to organize a European tour later this year with some of the San Francisco groups based on Fuller's ballrooms.
None of this came to pass of course. The Carousel Ballroom was just an early example of various peculiar business decisions that characterized the Dead's history, just one of many reasons I find it comical that the Dead are now promoted as business icons. Although the idea of an acid-drenched tour of Irish Ballrooms throughout North America and the United Kingdom and Ireland is fascinating to contemplate, and we can only wonder at the "Peggy-O">"Dark Star">"Whisky In The Jar" medley that we missed, I am happier with the Universe as presently constituted.

Irish music was a fixture at the Carousel, along with Big Bands, and Saturday night rock bands. As far as I know, only one country act played there, right before the Carousel's transformation into a rock palace, and it turns out to be the Buckaroos who posted the signpost to new space. And I might add, all they had to was "Act Naturally."

28 comments:

  1. That's a good story from Peter Grant, I hadn't seen that before!

    Garcia had seen Buck Owens in previous years, in fact once right after that drive with Peter Grant.
    John Einarson says, "Along with bluegrass, Garcia loved that raunchy, Telecaster twang coming from Buck Owens, and in particular, Owens’ guitarist Don Rich. Herb Pedersen of the Dillards, who used to hang out with Garcia in those days, told me about this local Buck Owens show he went to in 1964 with Garcia and David Nelson, right after Buck’s ‘Together Again’ hit. It was some of the hippest stuff they’d ever heard. Jerry was completely turned around by Buck’s music, which was essentially country but also had the rawness of bluegrass."

    John Dawson: "If you were a guitar player and you wanted to play country, you had to listen to Don Rich. Everybody did, including Jerry, of course. We'd all listen to that Carnegie Hall record that Buck Owens did and try to figure out how Rich made those sounds."

    Garcia: "We're part of that California-Bakersfield school of country & western rock & roll - Buck Owens, Merle Haggard. We used to go see those bands and think, 'Gee, those guys are great.' Don Rich was one of my favorites. I learned a lot from him. So we took kind of the Buck Owens approach on Workingman's Dead. Some of the songs in there are direct tributes to that style of music, although they're not real obvious."

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  2. Here's another. But before getting to that, can I ask you for your sources on those quotes, LIA? I'd like to be able to use them!

    In general, I'd love to see this set of blogs that we all frequent citing sources more fully, i.e., in a scholarly way. It'd be great to be able to identify new sources of information!

    Anyway, here's the quote (with source ;-)):

    Q: the early Dead albums were influenced by Buck Owens? JG: “Yeah. There was a time when the whole band went to see Buck Owens; Buck and the Buckaroos at the old Forester’s Hall in Redwood City. And that was his classic band, with Don Rich and Tom Brumley and all those guys. The classic Buckaroos. And they were so good. I mean, it was as good an electric band as there was. They sounded just great, you know, all that Fender equipment. It was beautiful. And they were playing Bakersfield rock and roll, essentially. Bakersfield country & western is rock and roll, for all intents and purposes. The notes are the same, the licks are the same, the whole style is the same. Buck could have been a rockabilly guy if he wanted, no question.”

    Jones, Greg, and Pickard, Andrew. 1992. Crazy Fingers: Jerry Garcia & the Banjo. Relix 19, 2 (April 1992): 16-19; quote from p. 19.

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  3. Foresters Hall in Redwood City is (still) located at 1204 Middlefield (at Maple near Main). The hall was built in 1913, and appears to be in active use.

    "Together Again" was released in 1964, although exactly when isn't clear.

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  4. Together Again was a B-side that became a hit in its own right; the single was released in February '64, and it was a #1 in June. (The album was released in July.)

    The John Einarson quote is from this excellent article on acoustic Dead:
    http://www.acguitar.com/issues/ag111/feature111.html

    The other two quotes I believe are from Blair Jackson's Garcia book, in the Workingman's Dead chapter (though at the moment I don't remember if they're in the actual book, or the 'outtakes' on his site). He doesn't note the sources for his quotes, though!
    Since I'm not a primary researcher & rely pretty much on websites & books, it's my good fortune that Blair Jackson was so thorough & diligent! (Definitely looking forward to his upcoming Jawbone book, Feed Your Head, about '60s rock in San Francisco...not due til March 2011, though.)

    I'm rather unhappy that so many old magazine/newsletter Garcia interviews are unavailable online. I do think there should be a comprehensive list online of available interviews; there probably is one, that I just haven't spotted yet.
    I have mixed feelings about citing sources in a scholarly way, given my habit of stuffing posts with frequently unattributable quotes from websites, and how densely I mix sources sometimes....in my upcoming post, for instance, it would be impossible. And, unlike some of you folks, I feel like I'm not presenting any new or out-of-the-way info, just copying stuff that's already common & in print.

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  5. The interesting part of this for me is the reference to Bill Fuller - who only passed away a couple of years ago - after an excellent innings of 91. I would like to note that Fuller was an Irish owner of ballrooms rather than the owner of Irish ballrooms. The proposed tour could have included London's very own Carousel Ballroom - which the Fuller family still run as the Electric Ballroom (we saw Tom Constanten plus QMS and the JA remnants there late last year).

    Although the Fuller-rated tour did not happen in 1968 as originally planned, it must have run very close to coming off as Middle Earth got as far as advertising the Grateful Dead with Fairport Convention at the Roundhouse (October 11-12, 1968). Fuller had facilitated the booking by all accounts and ads were still running a couple of weeks before earlier. When time allows I will try and unravel more details of this.

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  6. Thanks, LIA!

    I understand that I have no right to expect you or anyone to blog in any way other than what suits them. I am just hoping, because referenced stuff is more usable for me than non-referenced.

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  7. John Einarson's book Desperados has a comment from Tom Brumley (Buck Owens' pedal-steel player), which I believe is about these shows:
    "I remember when we started having hippies coming to our shows... We did the Fillmore in San Francisco in 1967, and that was an experience. There wasn't a chair or seat in the building. Everybody was on the floor smoking pot, having a good time. We filled that place two nights in a row, and they loved it. It was absolutely amazing."

    I'm pretty sure he's mixing up the Fillmore with the Carousel; and the suggestion is that the experience was amazing for the band not because of their show, but from the totally new experience of having a floorful of pot-smoking hippies watching them!

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  8. Buck Owens and The Buckaroos did play Fillmore West on October 11-12, 1968. Jimi Hendrix Experience was playing Winterland, so Bill Graham figured that he could fill Fillmore West with a different audience. I'm assuming Brumley is referring to the October shows.

    I saw Bill Graham give a sort of talk at UC Berkeley when I was in college (a thousand years ago) and he mentioned the shows, and said they were a financial debacle. Still, its interesting to think of Buck Owens playing the building both as The Carousel and as the Fillmore West.

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  9. Hmm, so the October '68 shows were a "financial debacle"? That's different from "filling the place two nights in a row"... (Perhaps Brumley was overcome by the clouds of pot smoke?) I assume one reason Graham would've billed the Buckaroos in October was because they HAD filled the place in March.

    Hendrix's latest album had been released in September and I think was already at #1, so that may be one reason the Buckaroos (and probably also the Dead over at the Avalon) might've faced smaller crowds on October 11/12... Possibly the audiences for each band were pretty much the same!

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  10. Of course, we don't know what Graham paid Buck Owens. He said something along the lines that although the crowd was disappointing, Buck played a great show anyway.

    I think in a lot of rooms, musicians just see the people in front of them. It was probably hard to tell from the stage how many people were sitting in the back, and how many people came and went, and so on. So it may have been a pretty good crowd, but far short of what BGP needed to make it a good weekend.

    Graham mentioned this as an example of how you couldn't book too many shows in a weekend (this was about 1976).

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  11. Historical footnote: according to Jimbo Juanis's "Bay Area Bits" column from Relix 16, 2 (April 1989), pp. 29-30, Buck Owens "performed his first San Francisco concert in over twenty years with a sold-out show at the Victoria Theatre on January 15th [1989]."

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  12. While the Bakersfield sound of Buck n Merle at times approaches rock n roll, rock n roll it's not--the twangy pickin's not bad, perhaps [at least the jazzier sections], but the changes tend to be a bit hokey, as are the vocals/lyrics. Then one might say...Jerry for all his innovative sounds was not exactly Hendrix or Zappa...(and speaking as one who's lived and worked in Bakersfield...well, you wouldn't dig Bucks people)

    speaking of FZ, perhaps you have something on a few early Dead shows, where they played with Zappa/Mothers (a poster or two around): LA dada-greasers meets the Haight-psychodelic country. Sort of Hegelian, nearly.

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  13. While true that Buck & Merle are not rock - just the briefest listen to Buck Owens' stuff makes it clear what a huge influence he had over the Dead's 'country style'. The Dead were very faithful copiers of the Bakersfield sound...

    I don't recall the Dead ever playing "with" Zappa; but on their first visit to New York in June '67, he was playing upstairs from the Cafe au Go Go during their run there. (The 6/1/67 Tompkins Square post on this blog mentions it.)
    Zappa, of course, was known for being a non-drug person (and enforcing the same on his band). Rock Scully said, "Zappa, having never dropped, was generally a complete butt and no fun at all."
    The Dead were distressed at how tiny the Cafe au Go Go was, making the stage sound a mess - as Phil says, "The band was playing directly into a brick wall at point-blank range, and the ambient noise and bounce back were deafening."
    (Mountain Girl said, "We hated the Cafe au Go Go. It was painted all black inside and it smelled really bad. You could reach up and touch the ceiling. The stage was tiny and the equipment had to be wedged in there. It seemed like we'd come a long way for such a small gig." Laird Grant adds, "That place was really strange. You're jammed into this brick, low-ceiling tube...and everyone was sitting down instead of dancing like we were used to. That was a weird trip.")
    Phil Lesh talks about seeing Zappa in his book. The Dead went to see Zappa at the upstairs theater, the Garrick: "Real nice place - too bad we couldn't play here. The Mothers of Invention comes on and dives into an insane torrent of sound. We listen, jaws on the floor. Zappa's music is brilliantly composed and precisely played - hey, he won't let his band smoke pot - but short on any kind of improvised epiphanies."
    Laird Grant was surprised to find Zappa's audience throwing fruits & vegetables at the band! The Dead, it seems, were spared. (Incidentally, they weren't playing any country at this point, being more interested in 40-minute versions of Alligator...)

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  14. Don't forget that Zappa and Garcia both covered "WPLJ" ("White Port and Lemon Juice").

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  15. Google around: posters there are announcing shows, like 66-67 or so with Dead and FZ/Mothers of Int. (and other SF regs), possibly also Beefheart's band. At least one at winterland I think. And later...80s I believe the JGB actually opened for Zappa in a few places. I 've read that....FZ sort of tried to help JG clean up a bit (or thats how FZ fans put it).

    I wonder what Lesh would say of the B-field honkay tonk influences. Yeah, to a degree..maybe, Big River, some of Euro 72 etc...but that's certainly not just it. St Stephen's not exactly the grand ol opry.


    According to what I read FZ at times was an definite asshole, but ... lets just say, by the 70s he probably had seen a lot of drug casualties, and then put his anti-dope policies into effect (and really FZ's band, the underwoods, etc were as responsible for his sound, as...FZ). I doubt he was an actual snitch--then, it's sort of like situational ethics: if you knew some big heroin deal--or even the lsd manufacturing (that the dead often supported..allegedly)-- was going down and people being killed, do you rat...or no? Having been associated with quite a few tragedies due to narcotics trade, I'm not sure I'd say ...no.

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  16. Well, a poster circulates for a June 21, 1968 show in San Jose with the Mothers and the Dead, but the show was canceled (per Charles Ulrich, the expert on these matters). It was a weekday and I think the culprit was just poor ticket sales.

    Garcia and FZ shared a bill in the 80s at, I think, Rosemont Horizon. Any social relationship between Zappa and Garcia is just wishful thinking. Not that they wouldn't have gotten along as a matter of fact, I'm sure it would have been fine, but both of them would have been surrounded by others who wanted a piece of them and there wouldn't be any chance to hang out or play.

    According to Rock Scully, some of the enmity of Zappa towards the Dead stems from the Mothers sneaking off to get high with the Dead. In any case, many of Zappa's "feuds" with other musicians (like Lou Reed) were exaggerated for effect, because Frank thought it made good press, so I don't think he had any serious animus towards Garcia or the Dead.

    If there was any social connection between the Dead and the Mothers it would probably have been through Ian Underwood, who was a serious Berkeley hippie and part of the Underground scene at the Open Theater. His group, the Jazz Mice, actually played The Trips Festival, and I'm not aware that he knew the Dead, but he could have.

    Lowell George was in the Mothers too, around 1969, but I don't know of any Dead/Mothers bills during that period.

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  17. I don't have the time to engage in a thorough search right now, but posters of GD/mothers shows are out there (even some on the collectible sort of sites...).

    According to Rock Scully, some of the enmity of Zappa towards the Dead stems from the Mothers sneaking off to get high with the Dead.

    That sounds about right--in fact, that's one of the reasons FZ broke with the MoI (who were not all so worshipful of FZ, either). I met a few of the aged Mothers back in 90s (at a Fresno show, actually) and while a bit reticent they sort of hinted they'd been royally screwed by FZ (and...Miss FZ, aka Gail).

    One 'head who hangs on a few GD related blogs recently told me....the GD more or less funded the manufacture of like 90% of the lsd in USA from like 70s to 90s...allegedly!..until that big bust, what in palo alto or something. :|

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  18. Phil Lesh talks about seeing Zappa in his book. The Dead went to see Zappa at the upstairs theater, the Garrick: "Real nice place - too bad we couldn't play here. The Mothers of Invention comes on and dives into an insane torrent of sound. We listen, jaws on the floor. Zappa's music is brilliantly composed and precisely played - hey, he won't let his band smoke pot - but short on any kind of improvised epiphanies."

    Interesting anecdote, though anyone who's listened to a decent chunk of the Zappa catalog for years would probably disagree with the Leshter's comments (or...laugh at them). The Mothers and FZ produced interesting jams from their inception (say...King Kong from the Uncle Meat era...even before then some wild fontana R n B stuff). And they added jazzy and/or modern classical elements as well--it was mostly composed, tho' with mucho improvisation as well.

    Really, FZ/MoI's musick doesn't always work and at times sounds pretty raw (if not...pornographic) but compared to say Beatles jingles or some semi-talented SF area hippies doing a 12 bars for an hour, quite amazing and complex-- ...chromatic, lots of key changes, odd meters and percussion etc. Apostrophe, Overnite sensation and other 70s FZ albums still rock to this ear (even over the top compared to all the pop-rock/emo /hip hop noize that's played on the radio now. a FZ number like Cosmic Debris's as wild as Hendrix ever played)

    Check out Trey (the phish dude) doing his version of Peaches in Regalia--that's not just a bar-band jam.

    Alas early Dead also tends to get a bit monotonous--there may be inspired jamming at times (as on Aoxoamoxoa, which a friend recently re-discovered for me)...but it's usually just blues-based--though with like China Cat Sunflower they moved in a new direction--not exactly honky tonk. I get the sense there was "artistic friction" in the GD--at times they sound experimental, even jazzy (like Blues for Allah... 'bout my fave album) as with the space jams, but they keep returning to the countryish sounds, American Beauty etc.--IMHO they were better playing freak jams than trying to imitate Merle Haggard's band...or the RnB stuff (Im not that much of a fan of Bobby Weir either). Whatever.

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  19. Though we've wandered far from the Buckaroos, and I don't want to venture into a Zappa discussion - I do want to reply...

    I'm sure there was some 'artistic friction' within the Dead - there must have been a lot of options that got dropped by the wayside, lots of compromises they fell into over the years. Personally I don't find early Dead very monotonous - nor do I find, say, Dark Star any less fascinating for not having lots of key changes & odd meters - but they wanted to move in a lot of different directions, and not stick with one style.
    I also like their space jams more than their country songs, and would've liked more thoroughly experimental Dead shows - but from mid-'69 on, as J says, they keep returning to the countryish sounds - in fact, they made a fetish of diving from deep space freakouts to some warm country cover. This was definitely an artistic decision that yes, even Lesh supported - they were happy in both spheres. Practically the whole band played in the New Riders sets as well as doing their own more 'psychedelic' music. (The 'honky tonk' sound came in more after Keith joined in '71.) They thrived on musical contradictions.

    Aoxomoxoa is short on inspired jamming (though long on quirky, awkward songs & trippiness) - and the China Cat/St Stephen "direction" was one they dropped pretty quickly. Anthem of the Sun was a bold early attempt to combine tricky songs like Born Cross-eyed & New Potato with long free jam-medleys.
    One example of the early Anthem-era Dead style is their show at the Carousel one week after this Buckaroos appearance, 3/16/68 - two blues songs, yes, but also two half-hour visionary medleys - if the Dark Star>China Cat>Eleven isn't far-out enough, the Alligator>Caution gets into an "insane torrent of sound"... More formless than precise, and not as jazzy or 'composed' as they'd get later, but still wild & amazing to these ears.

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  20. Aside from the cancelled San Jose show mentioned by Corry, the only shows featuing both the Grateful Dead and the Mothers were at the Fillmore on June 3-4, 1966. The Quicksilver Messenger Service also played.

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  21. Well, there you have it. Dead/Mothers at Fillmore.

    Yellow Shark--that's an interesting collection of FZ musick as well.

    Really, the Dead and Jerry's dope habits probably interferred with the musical creativity. I caught a few shows and there were inspired moments--but a lot of noodling.
    The last Shoreline GD show I saw, '91 I believe, JG and PL had MIDI interfaces (Hornsby on keys, I think), and produced some interesting textures, along with the usual numbers. For 10 or so it was entertaining. At 30 minutes it ...wasn't. That's how Dead shows worked (as the archives show as well). 15 or 30 minutes of interesting jams don't make up for 2 hours of bar-band like playing. Zappa and bands may have noodled occasionally, but also included...the complex weird, jazzy sh*t. Entertaining at least 50% of the time...ah figure the odds are....50-50

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  22. J clearly much of what you say is a matter of taste, about which there's no point arguing.

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  23. Well yeah, and I share the blame in drawing out this discussion...
    Then again, I do agree with some things - Dead fans shouldn't be so myopic as to leap in defense of everything the band did!
    Lots of other bands are more "complex, weird, and jazzy", if that's what the listener is looking for. Some of us do like simple tunes too, but the Dead did devote a lot of show-time trotting out tired "bar-band" covers. And personally, I wouldn't listen to an entire 1991 show for pleasure.
    But then, I wouldn't post on a Zappa blog about how his music can't match the Dead's for inspiring me, either!

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  24. Getting back to the Buckaroos...
    There are a couple Buck Owens tunes the Dead covered in their first country phase.
    Sawmill was one they probably got from his version; they did it a few times in 1970 (also with the New Riders).
    Tiger By The Tail they only played once, in a show we don't have a tape of - 6/11/69. (Presumably Weir sang, as it's in his style.)

    As 6/11/69 is their first (and only) full-blown "country show", it's worth a brief look at the other songs they did that night, in no particular order:
    Slewfoot - a common traditional; Buck Owens recorded it later, so likely played it live in the '60s. It was also covered by Porter Wagoner, another important influence - the Dead also did Porter's song Let Me In a few times in '69/70, and later on, Tomorrow Is Forever (which he did with Dolly Parton).
    Let It Be Me, All I Have To Do Is Dream, Cathy's Clown - from the Everly Brothers. (The Dead would later do Wake Up Little Susie lots of times, Cathy's Clown once more - also untaped! - and So Sad To Watch Good Love Go Bad once - barely taped.)
    Silver Threads & Golden Needles - a country traditional, most familiar from Wanda Jackson or the Springfields (though the Everlys also did it).
    The Race Is On - George Jones. Weir was especially fond of George, also singing his songs Old Old House and Seasons of My Heart in a few other shows in '69.
    Mama Tried - Merle Haggard.
    Games People Play - Joe South.
    Green Grass of Home - another common country song; Merle Haggard and Porter Wagoner were among the ones who'd covered it.
    Me & My Uncle - a bunch of people were doing this; Weir got this one from the folk circuit.
    Wabash Cannonball - an old song, done by the Carter Family in the '20s, though Roy Acuff's version was the famous one.
    Railroading On the Great Divide - another old Carter Family tune, though the Dead likely got it from the New Lost City Ramblers.
    I've Just Seen A Face - the Beatles. (A totally left-field choice!)
    Dire Wolf - the only original the Dead played in that show, it was actually brand-new, the first of the Dead's own "country songs".

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  26. scuzi for the slight derailing, but really one might ask...what does the shift from the psychedelic visions of like China Cat, St. Stephen, Viola Lee blues (really...the essence of Dead, 66-68 or so), Anthem of the Sun, et al to the fairly ordinary c & w sound of like Me n My Uncle, the race is on, the merle/buck imitations, etc. IMPLY? IMHO, it represents..a certain conservatism, or perhaps the GD decided they would fare better (like...financially) by bringing in a certain accessible sound--really that continued until American Beauty, at least (and for some reason I suspect Weir wanted the countryish vibe as well, instead musical explorations).

    They moved back to a trippier sound like in late 70s--with Keith on keys (perhaps the best GD keys-man), as with Mars Hotel--and really to their roots. For anyone planning on colonizing the solar system-- not sure Merle n the boys works as the soundtrack.

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  27. Aagh...I can't resist...loath as I am to keep replying, this is after all a site about illuminating dark corners of Dead history, & correcting misperceptions...

    It is true that a certain conservatism did keep surfacing in the Dead. Weir did do his share of cowboy tunes, but Garcia was also deeply immersed in country & folk music from the start - they started as a JUGBAND, remember - and when they did the country tunes, Lesh went with them all the way.
    If any of them had NOT wanted to do these songs, they wouldn't have done them; everything was done by mutual agreement (which is one reason I think Dead setlists started getting more static over time). Like him or not, Weir wasn't out there by himself; nor did they play those long trippy jams without him.

    There's also another factor you mention - that being more 'accessible' would make them more popular. This certainly crossed their minds in 1970 - when they put out their second live album in '71 it had a lot of those 'bar-band' covers - and they were duly rewarded with their most successful album yet.
    Their songs written in '70-72 (which are mostly Garcia's) are predominantly in a countryish 'roots-rock' style, most of the quirky Aoxomoxoa songs were soon dropped, Constanten left & they added more straight 'rock' covers - yet at the same time, their jamming styles were becoming more complex. Trippy explorations went side-by-side with this overall move towards simplicity.

    But the pressures on them to be more 'conventional' must have been pretty strong - Ned Lagin said some of the Dead's management in '74 were unhappy with their long spacy jams, objected to things like Seastones, and wanted them to focus more on the short poppy stuff - and Mars Hotel (like most of their '70s studio albums) has practically no jamming on it, just songs. Blues for Allah is the noble exception - and it was done when they WEREN'T performing live or facing impatient rowdy audiences, but playing for themselves.

    Keith brought that jazz-piano element that fit in well with what they were doing - and they did get trippy with him, for 30 or 40 minutes at a time - but I wouldn't call this going back to 'their roots'.
    Back in '65 they were quite literally a bar band - the shows we have in '66 are loaded with r&b and blues covers, and not much trippy jamming - songs like Me & My Uncle, Beat It On Down the Line, Chuck Berry covers, THOSE were their roots.

    Of course you could say that the psychedelic jams of '67/68 were when the Dead found their real voice & their true strength, and I'd agree with that. But that side only dominated for a couple years. The Dead after mid-'69 were like a juggling act, musically going all over the place - experimentalism found a smaller niche in their shows, yet the crowds kept getting bigger.
    Keith was great for the jazzy jams in the mid-'70s (and he also sounds enthusiastic in the country songs, for that matter) - but after '76 they left those behind, styles changed, and Keith audibly lost interest. The late '70s is when you see the real shift, from exploratory Dead to more entirely song-formatted shows, where the noodley 'spaces' after drums are the last vestiges of the acid tests.

    Anyway, I don't want to judge what they SHOULD have done or get into a discussion of taste (though personally, I could've done with a lot fewer Me & My Uncles) - just make clearer the directions they did take.

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  28. Adding to the Zappa comment thread -

    Frank Kofsky interviewed Garcia in September '67, and asked him about Zappa.

    KOFSKY: Do you have much chance to listen to his music, and if so, did you form any impression of it? I know you were in New York the same time he was.
    GARCIA: Yeah, he was playing right upstairs from us... We were at the Cafe [au Go Go] and he was upstairs.
    KOFSKY: What did you think? I'm sure you checked him out.
    GARCIA: I really admire Zappa. He's got a good head. He's a smart guy in a recording studio. And he's got his thing going. I myself - I don't like topical shit, you know? I really don't like it. I would rather hear Zappa do a thing that was pure music, 'cause I think he could do a great thing. But I think what he's doing is less than he's capable of, and I don't like that that much.

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