Friday, September 10, 2010

Grateful Dead Tour Itinerary February 1970

(a scan of a poster for the Grateful Dead appearance in San Antonio on February 21, 1970)

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
Rather than go in strictly chronological order, I am focusing on periods where recent research has been done by myself or others. Over time I hope to have the entire 1965-70 period. My principal focus here is on identifying which dates have Grateful Dead shows, which dates might have Grateful Dead shows, and which dates are in dispute or may be of interest. Where relevant, I am focusing on live appearances by other members--mostly Jerry Garcia, as a practical matter--in order to get an accurate timeline.

What follows is a list of known Grateful Dead performance dates for February 1970. 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 1970, 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.

In February 1970, the Grateful Dead were starting to reap the benefits of their great new album Live/Dead, released in November 1969, which was receiving plenty of airplay now that FM rock stations were all over the country. One interesting note about the month of January 1970 was the fact of only one scheduled show by the New Riders of The Purple Sage, and no guest live 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.

February 1970 was a particularly momentous month for the Grateful Dead, notwithstanding the string of fantastic live performances. Sometime in the late January-early February period they recorded Workingman's Dead (the exact date has never been determined, to my knowledge), and while they toured madly throughout the month they realized that manager Lenny Hart was stealing from them. In late January 1970 Hart had proposed merging Grateful Dead operations with Chet Helms's struggling Family Dog on The Great Highway. This was actually a brilliant and intriguing idea, but while Helms may have kept somewhat casual accounts, he was no crook--when Lenny Hart refused to show him the Grateful Dead books, Hart had to scurry back to Novato. Sometime in February, per McNally, Ramrod told the band "it's [Lenny Hart] or me," and Garcia said "well, you know we can't do without [you]."

Lenny Hart had stolen $155,000, bankrupting the band for all intents and purposes. Throughout this, the Dead played absolutely remarkable music, and Hart's perfidy ironically condemned the Dead to endless touring, and their 1970 and '71 peregrinations produced legions of Deadheads.Yet somehow, in the midst of an irrational and ill-advised touring schedule--one of Lenny Hart's many failings as a manager--the Grateful Dead played epic performances throughout February 1970, while still finding time to fire their manager and record one of their classic albums.

I have linked to existing posters where available.

February 1, 1970: The Warehouse, New Orleans, LA: Grateful Dead/Fleetwood Mac Bust Benefit
The Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac and The Flock had played New Orleans on the weekend of January 30-31, and the Dead were busted after the second show.

After bailing out over a dozen people, the Dead were out of cash, a clear sign of the hand-to-mouth life of a touring band in those days. They added an extra show at The Warehouse on Sunday night. Fleetwood Mac agreed to play as well, as they did not have a show until February 5 in Boston (The Flock had to move on). The show was well attended, thanks to the local FM station.

According to Fleetwood Mac's soundman Dinky Dawson (in his fine book Life On The Road, 1998: Billboard Books, p, 121-124), although the New Orleans cops were out in force looking to bust pot smokers, buckets were passed around for people to drop money in to help the Dead, and in thanks the band passed around bottles of Cold Duck (a cheap champagne-like concoction). They announced from the stage "its Electric Duck, so only take a few sips," and the New Orleans police, used to 200 years of vice, somehow missed the reference. Peter Green, and probably other members of Fleetwood Mac, ended up on stage during "Turn On Your Lovelight" (and who does that strange rap at the end?).

February 2, 1970: Fox Theater, St. Louis, MO: Grateful Dead/Aorta
The Dead's next show after New Orleans was a Monday night show in St. Louis, 700 miles to the North, a sign of the irrational touring schedule that soon-to-be-fired manager Lenny Hart was responsible for.  With an unplanned Sunday night show in New Orleans, and dead broke, I have always wondered how the band got their sound system 700 miles up the road in time for the St. Louis show.

My original theory is that the equipment truck left New Orleans Sunday morning (February 1) and the Dead played their Sunday show on Fleetwood Mac's sound system. The Dead and the Mac were among the first two bands to tour with their own PAs, and Dinky Dawson and Owsley were good friends and professional peers. Expedience notwithstanding, the Dead would have known they could put on a quality show using the Mac's equipment. I'm assuming that the band members themselves were going to fly to St. Louis in any case, so their plans would not have changed.

Notwithstanding my theory, a thoughtful Commenter found an interesting review of the show in the February 3 St. Louis Post Dispatch. It seems the Dead's equipment did not even arrive until 7:00 pm the night of the show. This fact points against my hypothesis, although going 700 miles in a truck even in two days in February could be no picnic (update: another Commenter found some evidence that the Dead's equipment had been held by the New Orleans police, so they had to rent locally, which would have explained the delay).

The review also reveals that the show was part of the homecoming weekend of St. Louis University, explaining the sold out (3,000 capacity) show on a Monday night. We have an excellent tape of part of the show, and the newspaper describes some of the rest of it, so we have a relatively good picture of this hitherto obscure event.

One other footnote: the group Aorta featured guitarist Jim Vincent (aka Jim Donlinger), who ultimately moved to San Francisco and joined the group Lovecraft (different than but related to HP Lovecraft, but I digress). Vincent ended up playing in Howard Wales's band in early 1972, and thus played with Garcia when Jerry sat in with Howard Wales a few times.


February 4, 1970: Family Dog On The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Santana/Kimberly
This show was filmed by KQED-TV in San Francisco for Public Television. It has since been released more or less as broadcast (on April 27, 1970) as A Night At The Family Dog. From the vantage point of this century, it's a wonderful view of three of San Francisco's finest bands, looking young and strong and playing some of their best music, with a lively crowd. It's well worth viewing.

Nonetheless the TV broadcast gives a somewhat misleading picture. Santana never actually played The Family Dog and the Airplane were too big to play there except for unannounced stealth shows. The Dead played there regularly, but all three bands would never have played together in such a small place. The crowd at the Wednesday night show was all invited, and apparently there were considerably fewer than were usually let in to a sold out show (according to Ralph Gleason's February 6 column in the Chronicle). 

That being said, the musicians and audience are clearly enjoying themselves, so even if the bands played limited sets in a sort of artificial situation, its as good a picture as we are going to get of shows in those days. A local group called Kimberly warmed up the crowd (per Gleason), and the broadcast (and the video) included a jam with Jerry Garcia, Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen, Michael Shrieve, Carlos Santana, Gary Duncan and Paul Kantner, and there's no doubt that the musicians were having a good time.

February 5-8, 1970: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Taj Mahal/Big Foot
The Grateful Dead played a four night run at Fillmore West. In contravention to the practice of previous years, the Dead played one long set instead of two sets separated by the other two bands. Put another way, this was an early instance of a "modern" configuration where the opening acts did not come on after the headline act had played the first set.

Taj Mahal had an excellent live act who had never broken through beyond a certain level. His band featured the great, underrated guitarist Jesse Ed Davis (among many other accomplishments, Davis played lead guitar on the original recording of Jackson Browne's "Doctor My Eyes").

Big Foot was a power trio from Sacramento. Although hardly remembered today--outside of Sacramento--there is an interesting footnote to their story. Big Foot featured guitarist Mike Botham and drummer Reed Nielsen, and played original material in a manner similar to Cream. Nielsen went on to pair up with former Sanpaku guitarist Mark Pearson, and form the Nielsen Pearson Band, where he switched over to guitar and piano. Subsequently, Nielsen has become a successful Nashville songwriter for the likes of Vince Gill and Tim McGraw. A lot of Nashville songwriters used to be in a band, long ago--but I doubt any of the other successful ones were a drummer in a power trio that opened for the Grateful Dead at Fillmore West.

February 11, 1970: Fillmore East, New York, NY: Grateful Dead/Love/Allman Brothers Band
The Dead played a Wednesday at Fillmore East, and then skipped a night and played the customary Friday-Saturday weekend show. This was completely unprecedented in the history of the Fillmore East. No other headline band at Fillmore East broke up a run with a day off--much less to play a relatively small club uptown.

The reason, as we have ultimately determined, was that Warner Brothers wanted the Dead to play an industry "showcase" at Ungano's (see below), and a few shows at Fillmore East essentially financed the trip. Since the Fillmore East was among the very few venues were the Dead were willing to play on the house sound system, they could simply fly to New York (with their guitars) and play the Fillmore East without the equipment truck.

The Dead had met the Allman Brothers, but never heard them play (although Jerry and Duane Allman had jammed in Atlanta on July 7, 1969). February 11, 1970 was a truly legendary night. After a perfunctory, if enjoyable early show, most of the Allman Brothers and some members of Fleetwood Mac (in town with nothing to do) joined the Grateful Dead onstage for an epic rock jam that included an unforgettable "Turn On Your Lovelight."

February 12, 1970: Ungano's, New York, NY: Grateful Dead
I have written about this show at length. Contrary to some speculation, it was advertised in the Village Voice (scroll to the right). Thanks to a truly amazing Comment Thread, I now can state for a fact that the show occurred and also explain why the Dead played a mid-town Manhattan club (at 210 W. 70th Street) in the midst of a Fillmore East run.

This show was a Warner Brothers showcase for Talent Agents and other music industry professionals. The Dead were a great live act with a hot new album (Live/Dead), but not everybody knew that. It is worth noting that the Grateful Dead became big on the East Coast college circuit after this, and while I would not attribute that to this show alone, it had to be a factor. A commenter on an earlier post, who worked at Ungano's, makes a critical point
What we actually wound up becoming was a show case club for agents, record companies and managers.We we uptown and not far from most of their offices, so 210 West 70th turned out to be an ideal location.
The Fillmore East was in Lower Manhattan, while Ungano's was way uptown (near Central Park--Seinfeld territory), so it was not a competitor to Greenwich Village venues like the Fillmore East. At the same time, professionals working in mid-town at all the record companies could get to Ungano's easily, so the club made a great industry showcase that did not realistically compete with Village venues.

February 13-14, 1970: Fillmore East, New York, NY: Grateful Dead/Love/Allman Brothers Band
These epic shows have been well documented, and I could hardly add anything here.

February 20, 1970: Panther Hall, Ft. Worth, TX: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Grateful Dead
The Dead played a few Texas shows with Quicksilver Messenger Service. Quicksilver had not toured since late 1968 (they only played a few shows in 1969), but their first two albums remained staples of FM radio, so they were as big or bigger than the Dead. The 1970 lineup included not only the "classic" Quicksilver quartet (John Cipollina and Gary Duncan-guitars, David Freiberg-bass, Greg Elmore-drums) but Nicky Hopkins on piano and Dino Valenti on vocals. Although Hopkins was universally appreciated, opinion about Valenti was decidedly mixed and remains so to this day.

According to my analysis, since the Dead flew to Fillmore East, the equipment truck would have driven from San Francisco and met the band in Texas.

February 21, 1970: Convention Center Arena, San Antonio, TX: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Grateful Dead/John Mayall with Duster Bennett/Its A Beautiful Day
Both this show and the Houston show the next day were billed as kind of indoor rock festivals. John Mayall was a headliner in his own right, and Its A Beautiful Day had a popular debut album. The show started at 6 pm, a clear sign that patrons were in for a lengthy evening.

John Mayall's band was a variation on his Turning Point/Empty Rooms band, a quartet with an acoustic guitar, flute and electric bass, and no drums. The late, great Johnny Almond was the lead soloist on flute and saxophone (formerly of Zoot Money's Big Roll Band, with Andy Summers), Jon Mark played acoustic guitar and Alex Dmochowski played bass. People with too many albums will recognize Dmochowski under his nom du Zappa "Erroneous," playing on Waka Jawaka and Grand Wazoo. When Mayall ended this lineup in June 1970, Mark and Almond formed the excellent Mark-Almond Band.

Duster Bennett was a kind of "one-man band" who played the blues and toured with John Mayall. For Mayall's encore, Bennett joined in with Mayall's band.

February 22, 1970: Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, TX: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Grateful Dead/John Mayall with Duster Bennett/Its A Beautiful Day
This show began at 1 pm.

February 23, 1970: Austin Municipal Auditorium, Austin, TX: Grateful Dead
The Dead played a Monday night in Austin. If there was anywhere in the South where the Dead might have gotten a good crowd on a Monday night in February of 1970, it was Austin, but I still wonder about the wisdom of this show. I'm not aware of a tape, review or eyewitness, so I have no idea how it was received or whether the show was well attended.

February 23, 1970: Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Santana/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Its A Beautiful Day/Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks
The Grateful Dead were busted in New Orleans, and still out on the road, but they were hurting for cash, since they had to bail out something like 19 people. The other San Francisco bands held a benefit for them, appropriate since the Dead had done so many benefits for others. According to Ralph Gleason's February 25 Chronicle column (above), the benefit raised $15,000 for the band. I believe this was the only time there was a benefit for the Grateful Dead themselves.

February 27-March 1, 1970: Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
The Grateful Dead ended the month with a three night stand at The Family Dog. Whatever the exact timeline of the month's events, Lenny Hart was surely fired by this time. It must have been odd for the band to play a weekend for Chet Helms, knowing that their former manager had booked the date as part of a dubious rip-off. The Dead were personally friends with Helms, so socially it was probably manageable, but it must have added to the strangeness of the weekend (and I'm not counting the fact that Lenny Hart was the drummer's Father).

Friday, September 3, 2010

March 18, 1968: Pier 10, San Francisco-KMPX Strike Rally (also: March 20, 1968 Avalon)

(headline from the March 19, 1968 San Francisco Chronicle)

The Grateful Dead were together for 30 years, more or less continuously, and performed long after the bands that had been their peers were just a memory. Part of the Dead's enduring appeal was that they had played at so many important rock events in San Francisco and the United States that they became a living link to a remarkable time, like the Roman Coliseum or the coelacanth. This leads to a peculiar prosopographical problem, however: the Dead's legendary status causes them to be assigned to every important rock event in the 60s, and the evidence does not always point that way. Despite years of extensive Dead scholarship--far more advanced than any other band besides The Beatles and a few others--some 60s performance dates that have been in Deadbase or on Deadlists for years are far less settled than they appear.

KMPX-fm in San Francisco was the first "Underground" rock station, broadcasting album cuts and hip music and setting the stage for a radio revolution. It began broadcasting on February 12, 1967, with a midnight-to-six shift (the dj was Larry Miller) and by early April program director Tom (Big Daddy) Donahue was broadcasting rock 24/7. It revolutionized the San Francisco scene, rock music in America and the FM dial in general. By 1968, KMPX was one of the most successful stations in the Bay Area (along with its sister station, KPPC-fm in Pasadena), with hip advertisers and the 100% support of all the bands, who recognized that KMPX was playing their music when the AM stations would never do so. Bitter relations between the owners and the hippie workers, however, caused the staff to go out on a very high-profile strike on the morning of Monday, March 18, 1968.

According to Deadlists, Deadbase, Dead.net and various other sources, the Grateful Dead played in support of the strikers on three occasions:
  • March 18, 1968 outside the radio station
  • March 20, 1968 at the Avalon, and
  • April 3, 1968 at Winterland
With all these sources listing the concerts (admittedly, Dead.net does not list the March 18 event), the nature of scholarship is such that everyone takes for granted that these shows are "settled fact" when in fact quite the opposite is the case. This post is an attempt to look at what is known about any Dead performances on March 18 and 20, 1968, which turns out to be considerably different and far less than one might originally think.

March 18, 1968
What can be stated for a fact is that Traffic, who was playing Winterland for two weekends, played on Monday morning between 9am and noon, and Jerry Garcia played with them at least for one song. I have written about this at length, and we can be certain of the performance since art student Andrew Wong took some great photos (well worth a look). Since I wrote that post, I have discovered that the location of the temporary stage was Pier 10 in San Francisco, roughly at Washington and Embarcadero.

Garcia's morning guest appearance with Traffic seems to have been converted to a full on Grateful Dead appearance, when little evidence actually suggests that. Even the best placed sources seem to have gotten some of the details garbled, and subsequent references are even less accurate. I am not concerned with worrying about how some of the facts may have gotten misread than with trying to clarify what is known versus unknown.

Eyewitness Accounts
Dennis McNally, who had the best access to people who were actually present, writes (p.257)
At 3am on the Monday after the Carousel opened [the weekend of March 15-17], the staff of KMPX went out on strike, walking out of the warehouse at Green and Battery Streets that housed the station to gather around a flatbed truck parked in the street. There members of the of the Dead, whose gig had ended only a couple of hours before, Steve Winwood, and others began to play. The strike became a party.
Since we know from Wong's photos that Garcia and Traffic played in daylight, McNally's description seems accurate but his timeline seems off (remember the state of mind at the time of the people who probably told McNally the story).

John Fogerty, the driving force of Creedence Clearwater Revival, recalled a more plausible story in a 1998 interview, with some telling differences. At the time, Creedence had just changed their name and not yet released their first album. They played regularly at a bar called DenoCarlo's at 750 Vallejo, later well known as the Keystone Korner. Creedence's demo of "Suzie Q" got regular play on KMPX, so they were enthusiastic supporters of the station. Fogerty (quoted in Werner, Up Around The Bend, Avon Books, 1999 p.69):
We heard about it, we were playing at Deno and Carlo's, and we rushed right over to the station and set up all of our equipment. We were the band, in fact, we were the only band until the next morning about nine o'clock, more famous people got there like the Grateful Dead. But actually, Creedence Clearwater played there at one in the morning and people talked about the noise.
As we will see, Fogerty has a lot more accurate picture of the sequence of the events. However, in Fogerty's version it is the Grateful Dead who showed up some hours later, when in fact it appeared it was just Jerry Garcia (and possibly Mickey Hart). Yet the image of the Grateful Dead jamming on a flatbed truck on Green Street at 3am is so engaging that it has simply overtaken the otherwise very interesting real story. Keep in mind, however, that Fogerty was surely long gone by the time Garcia actually appeared, so he too only heard second hand about events later in the morning.

Reporter George Gilbert covered the story for the San Francisco Chronicle, and his story appeared on Tuesday, March 19. Although Gilbert has a reporter's perspective, he gives a clear idea of the timeline of events.
I will quote him here:
It was almost 3 a.m. at KMPX-FM and everybody, despite the crisis, was grooving to James Brown.
Rocking on the balls of his feet and staring at the groovy chicks dancing in the studio was Augustus Owsley Stanley III, the Henry Ford of LSD.
The Grateful Dead arrived and offered their help. Ten or 15 hippies wandered about with sad, lost faces. Five hundred more waited outside.
After a brief background on the station, Gilbert continues
Exactly. But back to the show. Voco [KMPX chief engineer Abe Kesh], his black beard brushing the microphone, told an astonished audience that the staff was striking and everybody left the station at 50 Green Street and at five minutes after three o'clock in the morning the amplifiers were plugged in and the Creedence Clearwater band came alive. So did  lot of people on Telegraph Hill, only a few decibels west.
Fogerty's basic story is confirmed by Gilbert. When the strike was declared at 3am, Creedence was rocking and rolling on the back of a flatbed truck on Green Street. But their celebration was shortlived. On a Monday morning, even Baghdad-by-the-Bay has its limits.
[The cops arrived and told] the throng, now well over 500, to tune it down. Creedence Clearwater frowned. So did everybody else. The two cops left quickly and everybody cheered. But the cops returned in a little while with two seargeants. And the dance on Green Street was over.
"Everybody come over to Pier 10," somebody shouted from the makeshift bandstand. "We'll resume there."
Everybody did but somebody forgot the amps and 500 disgruntled hippies went home for the night.
For the balance of the article, Gilbert returns much later in the morning, and talks to a KMPX picketer, who happens to be extremely pretty (San Francisco rock fans will be delighted to know it was former Charlatans singer Lynne Hughes), and there is some general discussion of the finances of KMPX.

Nonetheless, Gilbert's article sorts out the essential points. The Grateful Dead came over to KMPX after their Carousel show (on March 17), probably intending to play. Creedence kicked off the show, but the cops shut it down. A plan to move the event to Pier 10 was stalled, and not surprisingly it did not re-start until daylight. I have to presume that by morning some or most members of the Dead had gone home, but Jerry was still around. It remains unclear who else played besides Traffic (Harvey Mandel and Mickey Hart are visible back stage), but it was probably a great morning.

The actual events are a great rock and roll story: the staff of the first FM rock station goes on strike, and the first local band to play in support of them at 3am turns out to be one of the biggest selling bands of the era. The Grateful Dead were probably ready to go on next, but the cops intervened--even so, Jerry Garcia hung around to jam with Stevie Winwood and Traffic, in itself an amazing event. Yet myth and confusion have changed the story to make it conform to the theme that the Grateful Dead played "every" important event in San Francisco rock history.

KMPX Strike Fund Benefit, Avalon Ballroom March 20, 1968
Many Grateful Dead chronologies list Monday, March 18 as a Grateful Dead performance, when in fact it should be a Jerry Garcia guest appearance with Traffic. Still, it's historically important and interesting to Dead fans even if it strictly belongs on Garcia list per se. However, the tendency to assume that the Grateful Dead played all important San Francisco events extends to the KMPX Strike Fund Benefit held on Wednesday, March 20. I have yet to find any evidence the Dead played the Avalon that night.

For one thing, the circulating poster (above) only lists All Men Joy, Blue Cheer, Ace of Cups, Black Swan and Creedence Clearwater. Ralph Gleason mentions the show in Wednesday column, and offers a different lineup:
Gleason lists Blue Cheer, Kaleidoscope, Charlie Musselwhite, Jeremy & The Satyrs, Frumious Bandersnatch and Santana Blues Band. Either of the bills sound pretty cool to me, but neither of them included the Grateful Dead.

Now, I agree it's possible the Dead just "showed up" and played anyway, but that is always the explanation offered, and I need something a little more concrete to go on. At this time, the Dead were working on Anthem Of The Sun as well as opening the Carousel and then leaving for Michigan, so they had to be pretty busy. On the Dead.net page, several people list themselves as having attended the show, but the only comment seems to be a description of seeing Creedence at the Green Street event.

Given that Jerry Garcia played on Pier 10 on Monday and that the Grateful Dead played a KMPX strike benefit at Winterland two weeks later (April 3), I think fond and foggy memories have simply converted all three events to Grateful Dead concerts. I personally think any week that begins with Jerry Garcia and Traffic jamming downtown would be a great week, so the fact that the Dead apparently did not play the Avalon on that Wednesday doesn't minimize it. I'd love to find out that the Dead played the Avalon--frankly I'd love to know which bands played Wednesday, regardless of the Dead--but for now I'm settling for the Garcia/Winwood Monday morning wake up. The Grateful Dead probably played more great 60s events than any other band of the era, but even they didn't play all of them.

Update
Well, maybe they did play all of them.
The Berkeley Barb's Jef Jaisun reported (in the Friday March 22 Barb) that the Grateful Dead and Kaleidoscope played the Avalon to a packed house.