Saturday, October 30, 2010

December 10-12, 1972, Winterland: Grateful Dead/High Country (10)/Sons Of Champlin (11)/Rowan Brothers (12) (opening acts)

The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers, both pillars of late 60s improvisational music, met in Piedmont Park in Atlanta on July 6, 1969. The bands were booked together at the Fillmore East on February 11 and 13-14, 1970, when the Allmans were still unknown enough not to headline, and they had an epic jam on February 11. Even after the tragic death of Duane Allman in a motorcycle accident, the groups remained close, but it was difficult for working bands to play together. Although the Dead and the Allmans managed to guest at each others shows on July 16 and 17, 1972 (Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley at the Dead's Hartford, CT show on July 16, and Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir with the Allmans in the Bronx on July 17), they had long dreamed of playing together. Finally, Bill Graham announced the double booking for three nights in Winterland on December 10-12, 1972, and Joel Selvin mentioned it as an upcoming show in his Sunday Lively Arts column in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Even at the time, it seemed surprising that the two headline acts would play Winterland together. Both the Dead and the Allmans had headlined Winterland in the past, and both bands were bigger than ever. The Allman Brothers 1971 Live At Fillmore East album was a huge hit, and their current album Eat A Peach was even more popular. The Grateful Dead had released three popular albums in a row (Workingman's Dead, American Beauty and "Skull and Roses"). Their new triple live album Europe '72 was about to be released, and Warner Brothers had high hopes that this too would be a hit. However, the three shows were booked for Sunday through Tuesday, nights when Winterland was usually dark, and when most bands didn't perform, so they were effectively "extra" paydays for both the promoter and the bands. Thus the bands would be free to indulge themselves musically without interfering with any regular activity. The Dead did not have any conflicts on the weekend of December 8-9, but Bill Graham did and the Allman Brothers did as well (see below).

It was not to be. On November 11, 1972, Allman Brothers bassist Berry Oakley died in a motorcycle accident, and all Allman Brothers activities were put on hold again. For obvious business reasons, the Grateful Dead and Bill Graham kept the booking, and the Dead headlined Winterland by themselves. The Dead had headlined Winterland by themselves before, but never for three nights, and three school nights at that. For whatever reasons, Bill Graham chose to have opening acts all three nights. These shows were the last regular, indoor Grateful Dead shows in the Bay Area for many years that had opening acts (New Year's Eve and the occasional benefit excepted). The choices of the opening acts are actually quite interesting, and its plain that the Dead--and probably mainly Jerry Garcia--chose the acts.

Winterland Background
Winterland, at the corner of Post and Steiner, just two blocks from the original Fillmore (at 1805 Geary), had been used by BGP since 1966 for acts that were too big for the Fillmore or Fillmore West. By late 1971, with the Fillmore West closed, Winterland became Bill Graham's main venue. Most Winterland shows had three acts, like the Fillmore West. However, bands that played a particularly long time, like the Dead, often had only one opening act. Part of the economics of Winterland was that BGP sold a lot of popcorn, soda and beer (in the upstairs bar), so the earlier people came and the longer people stayed, the more profitable the evening was.

The Grateful Dead had headlined a show at Winterland on October 9, 1972, a benefit of sorts for their road crew (so they could buy a house, apparently). The New Riders had apparently opened the show. The band had headlined another benefit on March 5, 1972, supported by The Sons Of Champlin. The Dead had also headlined New Year's Eve 1971/72, supported by The New Riders and Yogi Phlegm (as The Sons Of Champlin were known at the time). They had also headlined a weekend in May 1971, supported by The New Riders, James And The Good Brothers and RJ Fox (the Friday May 28 show was canceled since Garcia was ill, and the Dead ended up playing May 29-30).

Although the Grateful Dead were popular in the Bay Area, they had played so regularly that there was little urgency for tickets. When the Dead played a seated venue, like Berkeley Community Theater, there was tremendous pressure to get good seats, but for general admission venues like Winterland, the shows generally took a while to sell out. That's not to say they didn't sell out, as they mostly did, but tickets would typically be available for many days. Thus three shows on a weeknight was untested territory for both BGP and The Dead. While the three opening acts would have added little to ticket sales, they would have encouraged people to arrive early, and there may have been some concern on BGP's part that the Dead could not have sold out all three nights. As it happened, advance copies of Europe '72 was being played on FM radio stations the week before the show, and all three shows seemed to have sold out. Other than New Years Eve, no opening act ever appeared again with the Grateful Dead at Winterland.

Sunday, December 10, 1972: Grateful Dead/High Country
High Country was a bluegrass band formed in Berkeley in Fall 1968. Leader and mandolinist Butch Waller was an old friend of Garcia's. In the early 1960s Waller and banjoist Herb Pedersen had been in a group called The Westport Singers who played the same folk circuit as Garcia. Later, Waller and Pedersen were in a group called The Pine Valley Boys with David Nelson (there's even a picture).

Bay Area bluegrass was a lonely enterprise in the late 60s, and numerous people went in and out of High Country. David Nelson was at least a part-time member in late 1968 and early 1969, and remarkably enough Jerry Garcia filled in on banjo at least once. A tape from a performance at The Matrix survives, usually dated as February 19, 1969. We know for a fact that this date must be wrong, as the Grateful Dead were playing Fillmore West that night, and I believe the date to be February 24, 25 or 26 (I have discussed the dating of Jerry Garcia and High Country at The Matrix at length elsewhere).

High Country continued to perform, however, and by 1972 they had an album on Raccoon, a Warner Brothers imprint controlled by The Youngbloods. High Country was still a traditional bluegrass band, however, and playing acoustic music for a rowdy Winterland crowd must have been daunting indeed. Of the few comments online about this show, no one seems to recall High Country playing. There's no question in my mind, however, that Butch Waller's friendship with Garcia got the band this high profile gig. In any case, it doesn't seemed to have harmed them, as High Country has stayed together over the decades, playing Berkeley's Freight and Salvage almost every New Year's Eve.

December 11, 1972: Grateful Dead/Sons Of Champlin
The Sons Of Champlin had as long a history performing at the Fillmore and The Avalon as The Grateful Dead. The Sons had released three fine albums on Capitol, and they were widely regarded by fellow musicians as one of the most creative and adept bands. However, little success had come their way, and they broke up in 1970. Later in 1970. they had gotten back together under the name Yogi Phlegm, playing an advanced mixture of fusion jazz and soulful rock. By late 1972 the group had bowed to the obvious and begun calling themselves The Sons Of Champlin again.

The Sons were the Dead's Marin neighbors and peers, even though they lacked the Dead's success. When The Sons had opened for the Dead at Winterland on March 5, 1972, a few members (guitarist Terry Haggerty and bassist David Schallock) had gotten stuck in traffic, and Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh had filled in for some opening blues numbers. This unique occurrence was a clear indicator of The Sons' personal and professional status with the Dead (update: I should add that for much of the 70-72 period, Bill Vitt drummed for both Jerry Garcia and The Sons. I think by December 1972 The Sons had replaced Vitt with Jim Preston, but it was another important musical connection between the groups).

December 12, 1972: Grateful Dead/The Rowan Brothers
Chris and Lorin Rowan were singer/songwriters from Massachusetts, the younger brother of Sea Train guitarist Peter Rowan. The pair had been signed to Columbia Records by Clive Davis, and David Grisman ended up producing their debut album. Among The Rowan Brothers very few early performances had been opening for the Grateful Dead at Fillmore West on July 2, 1971. For that show, Jerry Garcia had played pedal steel guitar and David Grisman had played mandolin, in itself a unique pairing (Bill Kreuzmann had played drums and Bill Wolf had played bass that night). However, Garcia did not perform live with them again as a regular band member, although JGMF points out that Garcia played pedal steel for two numbers when the Rowan Brothers had opened for Hot Tuna and The New Riders the previous month (November 3, 1972).

By late 1972, The Rowan Brothers' debut album had finally been released on Columbia. Columbia was (rather unfortunately) pushing the LP with a qoute from Jerry Garcia where he said, essentially "these guys could be the next Beatles." The quote was taken out of context, and it assured that the Rowan Brothers could never live up to their hype. The album was produced by Bill Wolf and "David Diadem," the name Grisman used for the record (Bill Wolf would be the sound engineer for the "Last Five Nights" at Winterland in October 1974). On stage, the two Rowans wore spangly Nudie-type jackets. John Douglas played drums, while Wolf played bass. Grisman played keyboards, strangely enough, but he came out from behind his organ to play an electric mandolin solo. I suspect few people had any idea that this was the guy who had played on American Beauty.

The night of December 12, 1972 was not only my first Grateful Dead concert, but the first rock concert I had ever gone to. I can thus say with certainty that by 8:00 pm on Tuesday, December 12, The Rowan Brothers were the best rock band I had ever seen. When the Dead came on shortly afterwards, with Garcia and Weir wearing spangly Nudie suits, like C&W stars, I just assumed that all bands did that, since the Rowan Brothers had also. What did I know? Maybe all keyboard players took mandolin solos--I had nothing else to go on.

After these shows, it was clear that the Dead could not only sell out Winterland by themselves on a weeknight, but that the shows were long enough that opening acts did not add to the experience. Certainly the Dead in the 1970s were so overwhelming on stage that it was hard to even remember what had happened before they came on, and I can't say I missed having opening acts. Still, it was interesting to see a unique situation where Garcia and the Dead were apparently asked which of their friends they wanted to invite to open their shows, and to see which old friends were put on the bill.

Appendix: December 8-9 conflicts
I presume the Dead/Allmans Winterland extravaganza was scheduled for December 10-12 because of other weekend conflicts. The Allman Brothers had a whole tour scheduled, and they were booked at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, MI on Saturday, December 9. In fact, the Allman Brothers played this show, their first without Berry Oakley, replaced by new bassist Lamar Williams. However, it must have simply been too daunting to plan to fly to San Francisco afterwards, so that must be why the Allmans had to back out.

Bill Graham Presents had other shows booked for the weekend at Winterland, as he did almost every weekend. Friday December 8 featured J. Geils Band/Loggins & Messsina/Tranquility, and Saturday December 9 featured Quicksilver. Quicksilver in fact canceled, and I believe Winterland was dark that night--very rare for a Saturday--but I assume it was too late to consider adding another Dead date. Knowing how big the Dead were about to become, it seems obvious that a Saturday night should have been added, but that can hardly have been self-evident at the time.

15 comments:

  1. A slight addition - weren't the Allmans supposed to be on tour with the Dead in Texas, Nov '72? The joint Winterland shows may have been planned at the same time. If not for that accident, we could have had MULTIPLE Dead/Allmans superjams at the end of '72.

    From an October '73 article by Cameron Crowe:
    "The original idea for these supershows started over a year ago when a full length, cross-country tour with the Allman Brothers was booked into some of America's largest stadiums. The two bands have been long time friends, going back to the days the members of the groups first met each other backstage at the Fillmore East. Both bands were set to hop on planes to begin the tour last fall when Allman bassist Berry Oakley was killed in a motorcycle accident just a few days before their opening show in Houston, Texas. The joint tour was cancelled until this past summer, when the Allmans and the Dead made an appearance at the RFK Stadium in Washington."
    http://www.cameroncrowe.com/journalism/articles/crowe_jrl_dead2.html

    Anyway, it's interesting that by '72, the Dead could choose the opening acts they liked! (In fact, it's interesting they had opening acts at all.)
    I'm a little surprised you make no personal comment on your first Dead show. Presumably they were better than the Rowan Brothers?

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  2. I did like the Dead better than the Rowan Brothers, but that's not a definitive statement. It was all pretty overwhelming. My favorite song that night was "Johnny B. Goode."

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  3. I'm sure you are right about the Dead and the Allmans playing Texas and elsewhere, but I haven't been able to find a schedule of canceled Allmans shows from Nov 3 to Dec 9. It really is an interesting perspective on a road that couldn't be taken.

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  4. "However, Garcia did not perform live with them again."

    That's not right. Winterland, November 3, 1972, Garcia sat in with the Rowans, as documented at the Jerry Site.

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  5. JGMF, thanks for that, I updated it. From my point of view, personally, its a shame that Garcia didn't see fit to repeat his appearance.

    Was Jerry's last appearance on pedal steel ('til 87) the Thanksgiving show at Armadillo World Headquarters, with Doug Sahm and Leon Russell?

    I'm also wondering about the Rowan Brothers being instrumental in the formation of Old And In The Way. Garcia clearly got the Rowans signed to CBS, because Clive Davis always liked Jerry. I have to think that Garcia must have helped get Grisman the producer's gig, too, since why would CBS assign the "next Beatles" and their (supposed) $350,000 to an unknown mandolin player?

    Whenever there are articles or stories about OAITW, no one ever asks Grisman about producing The Rowan Brothers, because everyone forgets it. A Google Search won't turn it up, because he used the name David Diadem--no one ever asks him about that either.

    Peter Rowan and Garcia would have met through Grisman anyway, of course, but I think the Rowan Brothers project was essential in keeping Grisman in Garcia's neighborhood (literally), making it easy for the Garcia/Rowan/Grisman collaboration to happen naturally.

    It also seems that if I am right about the "last" pedal steel appearance being November 72, it seems like the banjo playing picks up right around that time. That too was probably not a coincidence. Garcia had played a little banjo from 67-72, but it doesn't seem to have been sustained. Once Grisman and Peter Rowan are in his town, Garcia finds it convenient to play bluegrass, and I think the Rowan Brothers project played a large if somewhat coincidental role in that. It sounds like a worthy subject to quiz Grisman about, since no one has asked him in decades, if ever.

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  6. the Dead and the Allmans

    Jam bands entertain me for a few minutes (more than b-grass does), and granted these be two of the best, at least when clicking, or sober enough to play. :]. I've read Jerry was sort of blown away by Dickey Betts' playing--with some reason. Betts was like the Paganinni of the country-rock (Duane, too--but he was more strictly blues). In some of those old AB jams--Jessica, Memory of E. Reed, etc--Betts created a uniquely beautiful, intense sort of country fusion sound. Gregg's not such a poor Ham.B3- player either--but there's alas some bad joss around , as with most of Rock Inc.

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  7. A parenthetical aside -

    It's intriguing that, as a young concertgoer, your favorite song of the show was Johnny B Goode. On tape, it wouldn't be regarded as one of the highlights of the evening; but people *at* the shows would have different reactions than people listening to the tapes years later.

    There was a discussion of '70s showgoers on the Archive forum a while back - one person mentioned that at the 6-17-75 show, his favorites were Beat It On Down the Line and Me & My Uncle. (!)
    Another said, "When you are a youngster, the rockers are the ones that stick with you, they get your attention... The first time I saw them (10/14/76) it was the Around that got me, not the long Dancin>Wharf Rat (my buddy fell asleep!) The next concert (2/26/77), I was impressed with the US Blues and the short Weir tunes, not the Playing>Wheel>Playing, or the Help>Slip>Frank... Didn't even know I had heard a 'Help>Slip' till I got the tape!"

    And one says, "By 74, there were lots of times during jams the audience was quiet, and while looking around, it wasn't a scene of quiet reverence as I can attest. It was sheer and utter boredom. Only when it was within 3 songs of the close, and esp. energetic, would everyone be engaged...most of the 72 jams, esp. long Stars, I tend to think would be in this "yawn" category. At the time, I absolutely deplored anything more than a five min song...I really do believe few at the time cared much about long jams."
    (Of course, many folks then disagreed with him!)

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  8. The Archive comments are relevant, because in the early 70s few people had access to tapes. Most people learned to like the Grateful Dead from records. The idea that every Dark Star was different wasn't really clear. Obviously people who'd been to more shows had a better idea, but most people liked the albums, went to a show or two and dug the vibe. Even by the late 70s, fully half of the concertgoers seemed completely unaware that Garcia and Weir alternated songs.

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  9. So Jerry plays steel during that 11/23/72 Armadillo World thing? Interesting. If so, yes, that'd be the last public steel performance he'd do until '87. I am just checking out the 3/18/73 Felt Forum NRPS show, and Buddy Cage is indeed there. For some reason I had recalled that he couldn't make it and JG was subbing, but that's not the case.

    By the way, on that Nov. 3 1972 Winterland show, JG sat in with both the Rowans and the NRPS.

    Your thoughts about the Rowans - Garcia - Grisman connection are interesting. Of course, Grisman and Peter Rowan knew each other from Earth Opera, among other things.

    I did try to ask Grisman about the Diadem pseudonym, but didn't get anything on it.

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  10. BTW, I have the Piedmont Park thing as July 7, not July 6, 1969.

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  11. I think Grisman is kind of embarrassed by the whole Rowan Brothers thing. Not the music--its not a bad 70s rock album, though nothing special. But there was maximum hype from CBS, and I don't think the project worked out at all the way he intended. Its even possible that he changed his name on the album as a kind of Alan Smithee thing (the name scriptwriters use for film credits when they reject the script that has been changed without their approval).

    Just as Garcia needed a break from the ever-expanding Grateful Dead, Grisman may have needed a respite from frustrations at trying to work within the confines of a giant corporation. Peter Rowan's band (Sea Train) was going down the tubes, too, so that may account for the relaxed feel of the original OAITW. Grisman has always aspired to a producer role--look at him now, after all--and he may not want to talk about The Rowan Brothers because he doesn't want to criticize people who he may still be friendly with, possibly including Jerry.

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  12. I found some of the details about the Grisman/Rowan/Garcia connection. In 1970, Grisman aspired to be a producer, and his partner was former AAPA agent Richard Loren. Grisman and Loren persuaded the Rowan Brothers to move to Marin, and they all lived in Stinson Beach down the hill from Garcia.

    So I was wrong about thinking Garcia hooked up Grisman with CBS--it was Richard Loren who sold the Rowans and Grisman as a package, although Garcia's endorsement had to help. Even more interesting, Grisman was the point of intersection between Garcia and Richard Loren, who managed Garcia's "non-Dead" activities.

    This goes a long way to explaining the polite distance with which the other Dead members kept between themselves and Grisman. Grisman wasn't just a Jerry-quality musician (unlike, say, Tom Fogerty), but an ambitious producer who had introduced Garcia's manager to him. This meant that Grisman was an inherent threat to the other Dead members, since Garcia could always choose to spend more time with Grisman, hence lowering the Dead's earnings. I don't think anyone really felt that Garcia would leave the Dead, but dropping a tour or two from their annual schedule would have meant a significant reduction in income. I think John Kahn and Grisman were both viewed as threats to the Dead, albeit in somewhat different ways--Kahn was Garcia's comfort zone, and Grisman challenged him, but that summed up both sides of Jerry's personality.

    However, since Grisman and the Rowans were quite literally down the hill from Garcia, that was how the casual jamming began, and it does seem to have been the implicit start to Old And In The Way.

    Details are on p.404-5 of Dennis McNally's book, and an interview with Chris and Lorin Rowan here
    http://www.philzone.com/interviews/rowan_bros/

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  13. The genesis of Old and In the Way seems to have been Muleskinner, which was basically a session band that cut a single album for Warner Brothers in either late 1972 or very early 1973. Muleskinner comprised Peter Rowan, Grisman, John Kahn, Richard Greene, and banjo master Ben Keith, with both drummer John Guerin and bassist John Kahn contributing to the sessions. The group's sole studio album was co-produced by Greene and famed produducer Joe Boyd, who is best known for discovering and producing acts like Fairport Convention, the Incredible String Band, and Pink Floyd during his years in London. This group might well have been a more stable configuration had White not been killed in a tragic accident, being struck by a car while loading his gear after a gig.

    Obviously Grisman and Kahn already had connections with Garcia, and I think Rowan was already living in Marin by this time, so it was not that hard to see how they were able to coax him to break out his five string after several years to form Old and In the Way. Although OIITW did some early gigs without a fiddler, Greene was on board for a few months until Vassar Clements joined sometime between April and June 1973 (JGMF can probably clarify).

    The Muleskinner repertoire included a number of songs later played by OIITW, including "Blue Mule" "Land of the Navajo" and "Goin' to the Races." In addition to their studio album, Sierra Records released a CD in 1991 of their television performance at KCET in Hollywood on 2/13/73, just a few weeks before the initial OIITW gig.

    Muleskinner was a formidable group with considerable potential. However, Clarence White chose to tour with his brother Roland as "The White Brothers" until his death in June 1973. Keith, a life long east coaster, apparently drifted away, which opened the door for Garcia, rusty chops and all, to slide into OIITW.

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  14. Crypt, the Muleskinner connection is a very interesting subject that I have a lot to say about, but I'm going to save it for another post, hopefully coming up soon.

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  15. I have a lot to say, too!

    The first OAITW show with Vassar was June 5, 1973 in Boston.

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