Sunday, October 17, 2010

January 23, 1988, Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, Oakland, CA: Carlos Santana and Friends and Tower of Power with Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir

(A San Francisco Examiner photo from January 25, 1988, of Boz Scaggs and Jerry Garcia singing "Shake, Rattle and Roll" at the Kaiser Auditorium on January 23, 1988)

In general this blog is about research and not about first person narrative, since by my definition a show that I attended as an adult has a hard time qualifying as "Lost." However, while I am not a person who collects pieces of paper, as I have to draw the line somewhere, I am not immune to my own memory. An old newspaper photo fell out of a file the other day, and I was reminded that one of my greatest rock concert experiences was at a 1988 Benefit Concert for Medical Aid To El Salvador, organized by Carlos Santana. Jerry Garcia was one of many featured acts, and while I went expecting Garcia to play a brief set with John Kahn--his usual Benefit contribution in that period--in fact Garcia plugged in his electric and rocked the house with Carlos, Tower of Power, Wayne Shorter and many others. Garcia's energy level was never consistently great throughout the 1980s, but that Winter night he grinned from ear to ear and ruled the stage.

Looking around, however, I find very little about this show. It is written up briefly on TheJerrySite, and Blair Jackson's brief, if enthusiastically accurate, review from the late, great Golden Road magazine (posted at TheJerrySite) gives a brief flavor. I'm not aware of a circulating digital tape, however, but as I listen to my dusty old cassette I am reminded of what an exceptional event this was. Not only were there numerous fine acts who played excellent sets, but both the headliners and numerous guest players collaborated on stage to make it a one-of-a-kind evening usually only seen in the acoustic setting of Neil Young's Bridge Concerts. Garcia was in the center of it, and at the time at least it made me feel that there was a seemingly infinite set of musical possibilities for Garcia in the coming years.  With that in mind, I thought I would document the whole concert, because no one else seems to have done so in an accessible forum.

The Booking
The concert was advertised as "Blues For Salvador: Building A New El Salvador Today." Carlos Santana's current album was entitled Blues For Salvador, a mostly instrumental solo album. The title was both a tribute to the country of El Salvador, trying to recover from a difficult US-sponsored war, and Carlos's son (named Salvador). The advertised acts were (in this order):
  • Carlos Santana & Friends
  • Caribbean All-Stars
  • Jerry Garcia
  • NRBQ
  • Bonnie Raitt
  • Boz Scaggs
  • Tower Of Power
January 23, 1988 was a Saturday night, but most bands do not tour much in January, so the All-Star cast could be assembled more easily than at other times of the year. Based on the billing, I had assumed that Santana would play with a one-off version of his band--numerous people had been in and out of Santana, so it wouldn't be hard to to find a quorum. I also assumed that Garcia would play a set with John Kahn, his standard Benefit configuration in the 1980s. If I was really lucky, Garcia would plug in for a little blues jam at the end of the show. That was OK with me. I didn't have a great urgency to see Garcia and Kahn, but I enjoyed them, and I liked NRBQ, Bonnie, Boz and Tower, so it would be a good night no matter what.

The show was sold out, as you would expect. However, while I saw a few people I recognized, many of the people I knew skipped the show on the grounds that it wasn't Dead-centric enough. Seeing Garcia play a few numbers with Kahn wasn't that big a draw in the Bay Area. However, Santana was a huge star, and the other acts had their followings, so it wasn't like there weren't plenty of fans. Nonetheless, I would describe the crowd as having been "Dead-Friendly" but not at all a hardcore Deadhead crowd. Certainly there seemed to be few if any people from way out of town, since this wasn't part of any tour.

Caribbean All-Stars
I believe Carlos Santana began the show by playing a solo version of the song "Blues For Salvador" (with Chester Thompson on organ), but he introduced the Caribbean All-Stars himself. This was a telling sign of how seriously Carlos took this event. Even if it was named after his current album, it was clearly an important personal mission for him. The Caribbean All-Stars were a sort of reggae jazz-rock band, not bad, but I wasn't ready to push up to the front of the crowd for them. I retired to the bar. I watched them on the video feed--keep in mind, this suggests that there is video of this entire event--so I saw Carlos come out and jam with the band up in the bar. As a proud Oaklander, however, I had to go head back down for Oakland's finest export.

Tower Of Power
Tower Of Power, the pride of Oakland,  were next up. Tower had been through a variety of changes, as always, but their A-list horn section still ruled. I am not certain of the line-up in that era, but Emilio Castillo and Steve (The Funky Doctor) Kupka still led the band. Even those who do not have a particular affinity for funk music should see Tower if they ever get the chance. I don't know exactly who was in the band at the time, but they were all good players--guitar, bass, drums and the 5-piece horn section.

Carlos introduced Tower Of Power as well, with the surprisingly personal revelation that Tower meant a lot to him not just because of their great music, but because he had met his wife at a Tower concert. Tower launched into some jumping numbers, and they were as good as ever, even if we knew they were going to end by pulling out the stops on all their best numbers to end their set. A few songs into their set, however, after a nice version of "Way Down Low To The Ground," Tower stopped to announce some special guests, and the evening took a stunning left turn.

A whole string of guests came out to join Tower Of Power. Conguero Armando Peraza and timbalero Orestes Vilato, long time anchors of the Santana Latin percussion section, were joined by Santana organist Chester Thompson, himself a Tower alumni from the previous decade. A thunderous roar greeted Jerry Garcia's arrival on stage, wearing a Hawaiian shirt over his mandatory black tee. Unexpectedly, he was followed out by Bob Weir, wearing not just a Hawaiian shirt but shorts (in January!), and then of course Carlos Santana himself.

What were they going to play now? There were 14 players on stage, with four guitars and five horns on top of a huge rhythm section, so my ability to speculate went right out the window. I assumed, per usual practice, that they would play some blues number that everyone knew, so that everyone could take their solo. Fair enough. Wrong.

Amazingly, Tower Of Power continued their set, and everyone on stage joined in. Why not? Everyone who had lived in the Bay Area in the 1970s knew the songs, and the guys on stage were no different. First up was a ten-minute version of "What Is Hip." This was followed by the classic "Soul Vaccination" (with a bit of "You've Got To Funkifize" thrown in). The highlight of the nine-minute version was just after the second verse, when it was time for the solo, and Castillo shouted "who wants it?" and Jerry let it fly, making it clear that for all the firepower on stage he was ready to bring it. If you've ever wondered what happens when you go all the way down Shakedown Street, I can say with certainty that it leads you straight to Bump City.

Remarkably, at the end of the song, there was another shift in personnel, and the Tower rhythm section was replaced by Santana drummer Graham Lear and bassist Randy Jackson (yes, the American Idol guy-really). Carlos stepped up to the mic and announced that it was an incredible evening, and introduced saxophonist Wayne Shorter, who would join in on soprano sax for the song "It Speaks For Itself." Shorter is a giant of twentieth century music, an amazing saxophonist and composer, and an anchor of some of the greatest lineups of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, the Miles Davis Quintet and Weather Report. This was the only public performance of Shorter and Jerry Garcia, and this moved the night from memorable to epic.

After a beautiful 8-minute performance, Shorter and most of the Santana players left the stage, except for Armando Peraza, and the Tower rhythm section returned. Weir lead the band through a smoking "Turn On Your Lovelight," and Peraza--at the time about 64 years old--absolutely rocked the house on congas. Garcia followed with a great version "Goodnight Irene, " and Garcia, Weir and Peraza left the stage. The stunned and enthusiastic crowd were calmed by an excellent version of Tower's classic "You're Still A Young Man,"  dedicated to Bill Graham.

It was amazing to think that this was only the first half of the concert, but as far as I and many others were concerned, it had already been a great night and we were into the bonus round. But there was still much more to come.

The Garcia portion of the first part analyzes as follows
Tower Of Power with guests (38:00)
  • Emilio Castillo-tenor sax, vocals
  • Steve Kupka-baritone sax
  • [T of P]-tenor sax
  • Greg Adams-trumpet
  • [T of P]-trumpet
  • [T of P]-guitar
  • [T of P]-bass
  • [T of P]-drums {note--not David Garibaldi}
  • Carlos Santana-guitar
  • Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
  • Bob Weir-guitar, vocals
  • Chester Thompson-organ
  • Armando Peraza-congas
  • Orestes Vilato-timbales
plus: Randy Jackson-bass
   Graham Lear-drums
Caribbean All Stars horns-tenor and alto sax
  • What Is Hip (10:00)
  • Soul Fascination (9:00) [plus Caribbean All-Stars horns]
  • It Speaks For Itself (8:00) [plus Shorter, Jackson, Lear, minus TofP bass and drums]
  • Turn On Your Lovelight (5:00) [Garcia, Weir, Peraza, TofP]
  • Goodnight Irene (6:00) [Garcia, Weir, Peraza, TofP]
Bonnie Raitt, NRBQ and Boz Scaggs
I will not dwell too much on this section of the concert except to say it was great.

Bonnie Raitt (guitar, vocals) with Johnny Lee Schell (bass, vocals)
  • Love Me Like A Man
  • El Salvador
  • Angel From Montgomery
Al Anderson (guitar, vocals), Terry Adams (keyboards, vocals), Joey Spampinato (bass, vocals), Tom Ardolino (drums)
  • Feel Good Too
  • White Lightning
  • instrumental
  • Make Love, Not War
Bonnie Raitt with NRBQ
  • Green Light
  • The Last Time
  • The End Of The World
  • Me And The Boys
NRBQ with Boz Scaggs (guitar, vocals)
  • Feel So Good
  • Got A Mind To Give Up Living
  • Nadine
Scaggs dedicated "Got A Mind To Give Up Living" to the recently passed Paul Butterfield. Scaggs once performed this song once with the Dead in 1983.

After the NRBQ sequence, the stage was reconfigured for yet another jam extravaganza. By this time, the show had been going on for over three hours, but the musicians clearly had no intentions of stopping.

Carlos Santana And Friends
The initial configuration was
  • Carlos Santana-guitar
  • Jerry Garcia-guitar
  • Bob Weir-guitar
  • Chester Thompson-organ, DX7 synthesizer
  • Randy Jackson-bass
  • Graham Lear-drums
  • Armando Peraza-congas
  • Orestes Vilato-timbales
various players came and went throughout the final set, as I shall document.

The first two numbers seemed to be Santana numbers, although I can't pin them down exactly. Roughly speaking, the sound seemed to be like mid-80s Santana with Garcia and Weir as part of the band. Jerry was rolling, but in the context of the band, so it wasn't a cutting contest. I have always felt that Carlos needs some good players to challenge him, and Garcia and Weir made great foils for him, and to his credit Carlos answered the call like the major player that he is.  Some Tower horn players joined in for the second number, which gave the sound a nice funky overtone. Santana has played relatively little with horn players (Jules Broussard is the only real exception I can think of) but it made for an interesting contrast.

For the next two numbers, most of the Santana players stepped down, and NRBQ and Boz Scaggs stepped to the fore (I no longer recall if Carlos remained on stage). First, Terry Adams and NRBQ led Garcia, Weir and others through "Johnny B. Goode," with Terry singing the first verse and Bob Weir singing the last one. The version was actually quite ragged, but everybody seemed to be having fun.

As "Johnny B Goode" crashed to a halt,  Terry Adams led the ensemble into the old Bill Haley chestnut "Shake, Rattle and Roll." This 1954 classic is one of the first rock songs in their life that many people heard on the radio. NRBQ played it on a regular basis, and audiences recognize it immediately, on a visceral level, and would start singing along. When NRBQ came to the chorus, the entire crowd usually started singing along with it at the top of their lungs. Amazingly, in what I believe to be a practically unique event, Jerry Garcia did too.

Usually Garcia didn't sing backups at jam events, probably for practical reasons (eg guitar cords) as much as anything. But when the famous chorus to the song came up, Jerry joined Boz Scaggs and Big Al Anderson to belt out "shake, rattle and roll" along with everyone else in the building. In fact, Garcia stepped up so quickly that I recall someone else on stage (I think NRBQ bassist Joey Spampinato) being unable to get to the mic. I have since tried to look into it, and I'm not aware of The Warlocks every having played "Shake, Rattle and Roll," nor any other band Garcia was in, so in fact this may have been the first time he ever got to sing along. Garcia would have been about 14 when the song came out, and it seemed like he had been waiting the whole time to belt it out. You can see it in the photo above; since it was the only time Garcia shared a mic with Boz Scaggs the whole night, I can be certain of which song they were singing.

For all the great music played this evening--and there was a lot--this is the most powerful memory in my mind, 22-plus years later: in an evening of high-level jamming, getting to see a grinning Garcia sing along to an old that song he liked, a reminder of why he played music in the first place. There's a tendency to think about Jerry in terms of "Dark Star" and bluegrass, but this was a glowing reminder that he liked rock and roll just as much as anything.

Amazingly, the evening still wasn't over. Carlos Santana reappeared, as did Bonnie Raitt, and Carlos sang (!) a song in Spanish, with backup vocals from Bonnie. I no longer precisely recall the configuration on stage, but Garcia and Weir were still up there. For the final number, most of Tower Of Power had reappeared and Garcia, Weir, Santana, Chester Thompson, Peraza and Vilato joined them for a final funk fest, and the amazing evening finally ended.

Analysis of Last Set (approximately 45 minutes)
  • Carlos Santana-guitar
  • Jerry Garcia-guitar
  • Bob Weir-guitar
  • Chester Thompson-organ, DX7 synthesizer
  • Randy Jackson-bass
  • Graham Lear-drums
  • Armando Peraza-congas
  • Orestes Vilato-timbales
  • with NRBQ, Tower of Power , Bonnie Raitt, Boz Scaggs
  • [instrumental]-plus Tower of Power horns
  • [instrumental]-plus Tower of Power horns
  • Johnny B. Goode-NRBQ plus Garcia, Weir
  • Shake, Rattle and Roll-NRBQ plus Garcia, Weir, Scaggs, Raitt, Steve Kupka (bari sax)
  • [Spanish song]-Santana [vcls], Raitt [vcls], Garcia, Weir, others
  • [funk song]-Santana, Garcia, Weir, Thompson, Peraza, Vilato, Tower of Power
The concert received very little attention, given its size. Although Santana and the Grateful Dead were both popular in the Bay Area, they weren't newsworthy. The San Francisco Examiner ran a brief review by Phil Elwood, I think, and of course the picture (up top). I no longer recall if Joel Selvin reviewed the show for the SF Chronicle. Blair Jackson reviewed it in Golden Road some months later, and I believe it was mentioned in Relix, but otherwise it simply passed under the radar. Because it doesn't fit nicely into a category, like "Jerry Garcia solo shows," it tends to be ignored.

I have had a pretty good audience version of the tape for many years, but there didn't seem to be a lot of tapers at the show (certainly there was not a taping section, just a few mic stands peeking up). I'm not aware of a circulating upgrade of any of the audience tapes, but I'm basically lazy about that and may be ill informed. In any case, if you haven't given it a listen recently it's well worth it.

There must have been a board tape, however, and since there was a video feed running up in the bar, there may be (relatively) professional video as well. I don't know for a fact that the video ran the whole time, but I assume it did. What became of it? Bill Graham was Carlos Santana's manager at the time (I think), and Graham was always sharp about preserving historic material. Personally I doubt Wolfgang's Vault has it, or I think they would have released it, but of course if they do have it then it would be nice to get it out there. My own suspicion is that this in Carlos Santana's possession--or at least the possession of Carlos's management team--and that is why it has remained uncirculating.

A video of this event would be a pretty remarkable document. It was a one-of-a-kind event, and unlike a lot of recordings it would really help to see who is doing what, rather than just listening. Over the years, a lot of stuff that I had thought would never see the light of day have risen up to the surface, so I can only hope that the January 23, 1988 show joins them.

Update: The Final Word
JGMF thoughtfully sent various things, including the Selvin and Relix reviews. More importantly, he sent the notes for the extant digital tape. I will publish them in their entirety here, leaving the above post as an homage to my memory. Note that I missed the fact that Terry Haggerty was there, and I'm a huge Sons fan. More importantly, the lineage suggests access to the video source, so the tape is preserved...

Santana & Friends
Kaiser Auditorium
Oakland, CA

Primary source:  MAC(Nakamichi 700s FOB split 30' either side of center>Sony-D5)>D>D>WAV>SHN.
Taper:  unknown

shn to flac1644 conversion by jj 8/15/2009, TLH

Disc 1 - First Set
     Caribbean All-Stars (*w/ Santana and Armando Perassa)
01  Santana Intro  [00:46]
02  Caught In The Middle  [07:57]
03  Unity  [07:32]
04  Rub-A-Dub Tonight  [13:02]
05  Rasta*  [11:57]
06  Loosen Up*  [12:54]
07  Bill Graham intro/Alicia Mendoza speech  [02:27]
Total time:  56:38

Disc 2 - Second Set
     Santana & Chester "CT" Thompson
01  Blues for El Salvador  [03:44]
02  Santana Intro of Tower of Power  [01:16]
     Tower of Power
03  Real Soul Love  [04:36]
04  Down To The Night Club  [02:43]
05  She's a Pro (But She's a Con)  [04:29]
06  How Can This Happen To Me  [04:35]
07  Playin' For Keeps  [04:53]
08  Way Down Low To The Ground  [04:58]
     Tower of Power w/ Santana, CT, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Perassa (*w/ Wayne Shorter)
09  introductions  [00:59]
10  What Is Hip  [11:50]
11  Soul Vaccination  [09:26]
12  Mandela*  [09:36]
13  Lovelight  [05:04]
14  Goodnight Irene  [06:30]
     Tower of Power
15  You're Still A Young Man  [05:14]
Total time:  79:57

Disc 3 - Third Set
     Bonnie Raitt & Johnny Lee Schell
01  Love Me Like A Man  [05:54]
02  Viva El Salvador  [04:42]
03  Angel from Montgomery  [04:58]
04  Raitt introducing NRBQ  [00:34]
05  I Want You To Feel Good Too  [05:13]
06  White Lightnin'  [04:37]
07  Let's Make Love, Not War  [01:39]
08  My Baby Pulls My Strings  [02:56]
09  Rocket In My Pocket  [04:09]
10  Hey Baby Be My Girl  [03:04]
11  Hold On Tight  [04:22]
12  Get Rhythm  [04:45]
     NRBQ w/Bonnie Raitt & Terry Haggerty (*w/ Boz Scaggs)
13  Green Light  [04:25]
14  The Last Time  [03:56]
15  The End Of The World  [03:16]
16  Me And The Boys  [04:07]
17  Muddy Waters tune " "*  [05:36]
18  Got A Good Mind To Give Up Living (And Go Shopping Instead)*  [07:07]
19  Nadine*  [04:33]
Total time:  79:56

Disc 4 - All Star Jam
     Santana, CT, Garcia, Weir, Raitt, TOP, NRBQ, Haggerty, Perassa, Caribbeean All-Stars
01  Cloud Nine[07:37]
02  Jam [10:12]
03  Johnny B. Goode  [03:51]
04  Shake Ratte & Roll  [06:53]
05  Concierto de Aranjuez  [08:33]
06  Squib Cakes  [10:01]
07  Bill Graham closer  [00:34]
Total time:  47:41

Comments:  In addition to the primary source, additional sources were used for splices:
Source B:  AUD(unknown mic/taper)>?>C>C>DAT - d1t06-t08, d3t11-12.
Source C.  SBD Hi8 Video Master>C>C>DAT - first couple of seconds of d2t14 and d4t02.
Disparities in overall recording levels were resolved with SF6 gain/attenuation.

Multiple sources provided on DAT via Jim Powell.  DAT>WAV(Sony PCM-R500>M Audio Audiophile 2496>Soundforge 6.0), editing/splcing(Soundforge 6), and SHN encoding (mkwact) via Chris Ladner.

misSHN in the rain, 2/04.


  1. There's a Selvin review, and one by Jimbo Juanis in Relix. They are en route to you, as well as the info file from a pretty nice digitally-circulating tape.

    Sounds like a helluva lot of fun. I don't know what I was doing that night, but I sure wish I had made it to the Kaiser.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. There are a few clips of that show on youtube, I believe--quite good (JG with CS). Wayne Shorter and Garcia sounds interesting--tho' WS probably a bit bored. Shorter's supposedly a bit of an a**hole, but has produced some great music--first with Miles, then later Weather Report (also a few wild WR clips on YT, especially the band with Zawinul, Sir Jaco, and WS--Erskine I believe on sticks...River people...whoa).

  4. AUD source A included use of a custom-packaged mic pre and dbx221e noise reduction unit before the Sony D5 cassette deck.

  5. Thanks so much for this chronicle of one of the most memorable concerts I ever attended. I recall spilling out of the HJK Aud. well past 1AM with a clear realization that we all in attendance had shared a confluence of creativity and grace. What made me think of this old concert was the recent White House Blues All Stars broadcast on PBS and the President joining in on Sweet Home Chicago. We have come a long way from the Reagan Iran Contra and the Bush I. We still need at least 4 more years to to get the train back on the tracks and headed to Terrapin.

  6. R_Sparky, thanks for the kind words. This was a truly memorable event in every way, and only becomes more so as the years go passing by.

    1. Are there any live recordings available for this show? I saw the list above but I do not know if that means these are available anywhere.

    2. Sparky, as you can see from the appendix, there's definitely a good tape floating around, although I am not in a position to say where you can find it.

  7. Hello, I am a huge armando peraza fan. he always told me how much he loved playing with jerry. is there any way I can listen to his solos described here?

    1. There's a YouTube link to the show

      There may be other sources of the tape that are accessible. I dont know if this link actually has every note (it is 3:43:00 long, however, so it might)

    2. Can you elaborate on what Mr. Peraza said about playing with Garcia?

    3. I spent hundreds of hours talking to him. He regularly complained about how Bill Graham underreported gate receipts at Santana concerts, changed the nature of that band by inserting various male vocalists to appeal to the young female demographic like Journey, would tell Armando there are a hundred conga players as good as he was in Central Park (False!!), would routinely cut off Armando's mike during conga solos, changed the equal sharing of band receipts which gave each band member as much money as Carlos to paying Carlos much more, while long standing band members such as Raul Rekow only received $300 for stadium concerts.

      Armando always pointed to the Dead as an alternative to that. He complained that when he suggested Santana do a benefit concert just for their roadies like the Grateful Dead had done, Bill Graham vetoed the idea. This infuriated Armando, who said why should all the Grateful Dead roadies be homeowners while Santana roadies are living paycheck to paycheck?

      He continued to fight tooth and nail over this and eventually he prevailed. But Graham retaliated for this and other instances where Armando stood up for the band.

      He always spoke so highly of Jerry, many times. First of all, he said Jerry was a really nice person, he didn't pretend he was better than everyone else just because he wore "a big medallion" from his guru Sri Chimnoy like Carlos did, while chiseling other band members of their due.

      He always said Jerry was an incredibly good guitar player and it was always a blast to play with him. Jerry always split the gate receipts, even though Armando said he did not need that much money. Some of the takes from the Keystone gigs worked out to be pretty damn nice paydays, because sometimes the players got a percentage of the bar sales as well.

      But don't get me wrong. It wasn't about the money. Armando owned two houses, one in Foster City and one in the Sunset District of San Francisco because he saved money like a motherfucker during his stints with the George Shearing and Cal Tjader bands, which payed well.

      It was about the humanity of Jerry and their shared love of la musica.

  8. One of the best concerts ever! I was living in Berkeley at the time, transplant from Utah. Going to shows, Dead variety so I am sure that is why my friend bought tickets. I am more metal than Dead so I can say, loved the show! Thanks for recap, your memory is awesome, so appreciate it since, well lets just say, I am a dancer so my memories are of the physical kind.

    1. unk, thanks for the kind words. Interesting too to hear some confirmation about how many attendees were just regular rock fans hoping for a good show, rather than hard core Deadheads.

  9. We were there. I get this conflated with the other benefits of the time. Thanks for being specific. Let me throw in that Bonnie and NRBQ kicked pattotie.