Friday, November 26, 2010

John Kahn Live Performance 1967-68: T&A R&B Band and Memory Pain (John Kahn II)

(a scan of the Berkeley Barb ad for The New Orleans House in Berkeley, from June 7, 1968, featuring a June 11 appearance by Memory Pain)

I have been working on a series of posts detailing bassist John Kahn's live performance history separate from his work with Jerry Garcia. In my first installment, detailing Kahn's move to San Francisco in late 1966 and his subsequent activities through the end of 1968, I mentioned that Blair Jackson had learned that Kahn played in two original rock bands during that period, The Tits And Ass Rhythm and Blues Band and Memory Pain. I recited what little information I was able to learn about both those groups, which was meager indeed: a single surviving ad for each band, and a few vague details about who might have been in the groups.

Fortuitously, however, I was contacted by Bob Jones, a long-time Bay Area musician who was in both T&A and Memory Pain with Kahn, and he was kind enough to share considerable details about those bands. Rather than expand the previous post beyond its current bloated size, I felt that Jones's information was worthy of a post of its own, before we move on to Kahn's work in 1969, when the fun really begins. I will recap a little of the previous post for context, but for a fuller picture of John Kahn up to 1968, readers will need to review the previous post.

The Tits And Ass Rhythm and Blues Band
In 1967, John Kahn had switched from playing electric guitar and string bass to playing electric bass in a cover band. Like most creative musicians, however, it appears that he was more interested in playing music of his own choosing, even if it included a share of cover versions. Somewhere, Kahn met Bob Jones. Even Jones doesn't remember where, although he thinks it may have been at a 1967 jam session held by the Anonymous Artists Of America, where Mike Bloomfield was also present. The AAA were a Santa Cruz Mountains band who moved to San Francisco in mid-1967 (and are worthy of a series of posts on their own terms, but on another blog).

By 1967, Bob Jones had already been in a successful band called The We Five, best remembered for their folk-rock hit "You Were On My Mind." They toured and recorded successfully from about 1965-67, but their sparkling harmonies and short song were engulfed in a wave of bluesy psychedelia. Jones played guitar and sang harmonies, and played a critical role in the band's arrangements. He promptly formed another group. Jones (via email):
After We Five, John Chambers ( We Five's Drummer ) and I were determined to only play Stax Volt style R&B.  We first formed "The Mystic Knights of the Sea", an R&B horn band.  This did not go that well, but did have Ron Stallings as the tenor player and one of the singers.  Ron and I did a lot of Sam and Dave material because, well, we could actually do the harmony.  The band lived with their old ladies and children on 17th street in the Haight.

This morphed into the T&A Band.  At this point we had added John as the Bass Player.
At any rate, we got John in the band and we all moved into a flat on Oak Street, just east of Haight.  So, John, me and my wife and kid, Ron Stallings and John Chambers and his wife and kid all lived in the same flat.  Believe it or not, a racially mixed band was still a hard thing to do in those days.

Anyway, I played guitar, Kahn bass, Chambers Drums and Stallings Tenor.  Me and Ron sang.  We did other gigs especially a lot at the Sausilito Ferry club, the Charles Van Damme.
Deadheads and 60s music fans may recognize a few of these names. Drummer John Chambers was a touring member of We Five (they did not change their name to We Six), and would later play in The Loading Zone and then the Elvin Bishop Group, among others. Ron Stallings (1946-2009) had been in the San Francisco Mime Troupe in the mid-60s, and in 1979 he would turn up playing tenor sax in Reconstruction, with Jerry Garcia and John Kahn. He also was part of the horn section for latterday lineups of Huey Lewis And The News, and played in many Bay Area aggregations throughout his life.

The Charles Van Damme was a grounded Ferryboat in Sausalito harbor, known under various names, but most famous in the 60s as The Ark. I had thought that the 'T&A' name was a reference to playing strip clubs, but Jones says the name was just an effort to stand out amongst the numerous cleverly named groups of the time. However, the only actual advertised date I have been able to recover for the T&A band was at Berkeley's New Orleans House, on December 15-16, 1967. It's worth noting that even in liberal Berkeley, advertising in the radical Barb, the club chose to bowdlerize the name to 'T&A,' a sign that even the 60s had limits.

Over time, however, the Tits And Ass Rhythm and Blues Band fell apart. Jones:
Eventually Chambers did not see eye to eye with me and Kahn about material and arrangements and the group broke up.  Kahn started taking me to jams at the Heliport on the condition that I borrow some of Chambers' drums and play drums.  I protested "but I'm not a drummer".  John kept saying "I've heard you play and you play just like Al Jackson ( Booker T's Drummer )".  You don't overplay like everyone else but you just groove."  So I went to these Jams where it was Charlie Schoning on organ, Kahn on Bass, me on drums and Fred Burton ( later Southern Comfort's guitarist and co-leader of SC with me ) on Guitar.  Somehow this band changed into Memory Pain because I wanted to do so much Percy Mayfield material.  Ira Kamin became the organ player.

During this time and well into "Live at Bill Graham's Fillmore West" John and I got together a lot, played scales(!) and wrote songs.  Many of them ended up on the SC album.  We were very close and thought alike on many things both musically, politically and socially.

I think it might be a little inaccurate to describe T&A and Memory Pain as "lead" by John.  We were hippies and doing our best to have bands be democracies ( which lead to a lot of problems and resulted in a lot of inaction ).  Because we were both quite opinionated, John and I had the most influence on what, how and where we played.
Fans of the Jerry Garcia Band know that John Kahn found and hired the musicians--with Jerry's approval, of course--and it is telling that Kahn liked a spare, swinging pulse long before he found Ronnie Tutt. Although Tutt was the archetype for a Jerry Garcia drummer, in general the band favored versatile drummers who tended to underplay rather than overplay, a distinct (and intentional) contrast to the double drum assault of the Grateful Dead. It's particularly revealing that Kahn's ears were sharp enough to recognize a great drummer even before the player himself did, since Jones initially saw himself as a guitarist who was just fooling around on the drums.

Charlie Schoning was the keyboard player for The Anonymous Artists Of America. He had a very interesting history as well, coming to the Bay Area in 1965 from Tacoma as a member of The Frantics, who evolved into Luminous Marsh Gas (a Moby Grape precursor). Schoning would go on to play in groups like Quicksilver Messenger Service under the Nom Du Rock Chuck Steaks.I have only been able to identify a single advertised Memory Pain show so far, on June 11, 1968 at The New Orleans House, opening for Buddy Guy (the Barb ad is up top). It seems that the eventual iteration of Memory Pain was
  • Fred Burton-guitar
  • Ira Kamin-organ
  • John Kahn-bass
  • Bob Jones-drums, vocals
I don't know anything about Ira Kamin's background, beyond his association with the Bloomfield/Gravenites axis.

Without getting too far ahead on the John Kahn story, Jones and Kahn became the primary rhythm section for Mike Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites, who limited their playing to the Bay Area, and organist Ira Kamin was usually part of the Bloomfield band as well, at least in 1969 and early 1970. In mid-1969, Jones and Burton formed the group Southern Comfort, who released an album on Columbia in 1970. The Southern Comfort album was John Kahn's first producer's credit on an album. Kahn co-produced the album with Nick Gravenites, and the band recorded some songs written by Kahn and Jones during 1969. Southern Comfort's lineup was
  • Fred Burton-guitar
  • Ron Stallings-tenor sax, vocals
  • John Wilmeth-trumpet
  • Steve Funk-organ, keyboards
  • Bob Jones-drums, vocals
  • various guys-bass 
Kahn was the producer of Southern Comfort, and played keyboards on a few tracks, but the bass chores on the album were handled by Bob Hubermans. Art Stavro seems to have replaced Hubermans, and then Karl Severeid replaced him.

John Kahn and Bob Jones 1969
Mike Bloomfield, despite having walked away from the Butterfield Blues Band, Super Session and the Electric Flag, was still a big star. Great guitar players were bigger than ever, and Bloomfield was as good as it got. I also think that Bloomfield owed albums to Columbia as a result of how he departed Electric Flag in mid-1968, but Bloomfield's management situation was very tangled and can't be addressed here. In any case, Bloomfield was planning to record with Columbia, with Nick Gravenites acting as producer. Bloomfield did not like to leave home much, so his early 1969 shows were generally limited to The Fillmore West. Kahn and Bob Jones became the rhythm section for Bloomfield, and it seems that Memory Pain evolved into Southern Comfort. The exact timing of this evolution is uncertain.

Southern Comfort bookings start appearing in September 1969, so presumably Memory Pain ground to a halt sometime before. I am still working on this angle of the saga, but I will try and give a substantial picture of John Kahn's live activities with Mike Bloomfield in the next installment.

Bob Jones, meanwhile, continued working with Mike Bloomfield long after John Kahn had switched his primary attention to Jerry Garcia. Jones also had a substantial performing and recording career throughout the 1970s. He cut back somewhat on music in the 1980s, though not entirely, and ultimately returned to Oahu, where he was born, and he continues to perform regularly in Hawaii. Jones's most recent production is a tribute to Michael Bloomfield by his band Bob Jones And The Drive, and Jones is ideally equipped to know how Bloomfield liked it to sound.

For the John Kahn Live Performance History for 1969, see here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

John Kahn Live Performance List 1967-68 (John Kahn I)

(an ad from the December 15, 1967 Berkeley Barb, showing John Kahn's band opening for Morning Glory. h/t Ross for the scan)

If you've ever known anyone who was a member of a band, even an amateur band of schoolkids, you know that even the simplest of activities generate a flurry of complications. Just agreeing on a rehearsal requires a complicated series of negotiations about time and place. These complications are magnified if the band is electric, since choices for rehearsal spaces are fewer, and equipment must be transported, set up and plugged in before any music making can take place. While professional bands have some advantages over amateur bands, in that they may have equipment crew or dedicated rehearsal spaces, working musicians have more conflicts than casual amateurs, so the endless series of decisions is extended to serious matters like booking performance dates, band transport and dividing up the money.

The practical difficulties of working in a band make Jerry Garcia's commitment to multiple bands even more remarkable. The Grateful Dead were a full-time occupation by any measure, and yet Garcia found time for numerous side projects. The most prominent of these side projects was The Jerry Garcia Band, which existed from 1975 to 1995. It's effective predecessors began in 1970, so really the group had a 25-year lifespan. The Garcia Band could not have functioned without Garcia's bassist and friend John Kahn organizing the group: hiring and firing band members, setting up what few rehearsals there were and apparently acting as bandleader for the practical day-to-day decisions that are required of any group. Kahn also worked with Garcia in a variety of acoustic settings, such as Old And In The Way and their mid-80s duets, and he was a crucial presence in the studio for Garcia's solo work from 1974 onwards.

Without John Kahn, the majority of Jerry Garcia's side projects would not have occurred, or at the very least would not have been so expansive. Presumably David Nelson and John Dawson directed the day-to-day of The New Riders when Garcia was a member, and David Grisman seems to have been the most likely organizer for some of Garcia's acoustic excursions (Old And In The Way, Great American String Band, Garcia-Grisman), but without Kahn there would have been very little live electric Garcia to share with the world. Put another way, since Garcia wanted to expand his extracurricular activities even as the Grateful Dead got famous, if he had not found Kahn he would have had to have been invented.

For all that, very few Deadheads ever consider what John Kahn brought to the Jerry Garcia Band besides his exceptional bass playing and affinity to Garcia. This post will begin a series that will look at John Kahn's musical and professional activities prior to and as he began working with Jerry Garcia, but outside the context of Garcia projects. A fuller picture of Kahn's background and musical experiences will broaden our understanding of Garcia's music and perhaps modify some casual assumptions about Kahn.

Blair Jackson Interviews and Research
The only scholar who has looked seriously at John Kahn was Blair Jackson. Blair published the first real interview with John Kahn, a groundbreaking piece that was published in a mid-80s edition of his great magazine Golden Road. Some of the interview as well as additional interview material was published in Jackson's biography Garcia: An American Life (Viking Books 1999). I will quote Blair here, as he is the best source on Kahn's musical background. Jackson reports that Kahn had been raised in Beverley Hills, the son of two Talent Agents in the movie business.
He studied piano and music theory while he was still in grade school, and in high school he added rock and roll guitar to his arsenal. "But then I got heavily into listening to jazz and all of a sudden all I wanted to do was be a jazz string bass player and listen to jazz records all the time," he said. "I loved Scotty LaFaro and the Bill Evans Trio, and I also listened to a lot of Ornette Coleman and Coltrane. So I took up the string bass and studied classical music quite a bit."
After high school, Kahn attended the University of Southern California for a semester, then transferred to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in late 1966. Gradually Kahn became somewhat disenchanted with jazz, and he started drifting into the rock 'n' roll world that was exploding all around him. In 1967 a roommate offered him a job as bassist in a rock cover band, so Kahn traded in his electric guitar for an electric bass, and he emulated the great R&B and blues players of the day--James Jamerson, Hamp Simmons (of Bobby "Blue" Bland's band), Duck Dunn and Chuck Rainey, to name a few. "Another guy who influenced me was Paul McCartney," he said. Over the next couple of years, Kahn played in several different groups, including two that he led, Memory Pain and the Tits And Ass Rhythm and Blues Band (Jackson, p.187).
Even this brief precis of Kahn's early career before he started playing in "name" bands in mid-1968 brings forward a number of very interesting points.
  • Kahn was raised in Southern California, but he never really worked there as a professional. It is common to hear Kahn referred to as a "session man," but all his studio work was either in San Francisco or on sessions with people who were part of the San Francisco scene, like Jerry Garcia and Mike Bloomfield (I will get to the Maria Muldaur question in a later post). Kahn was Bay Area all the way as a musician, even if he flew to Los Angeles or elsewhere for some sessions
  • Kahn was well grounded in jazz, even if he stopped playing it in 1967 or so. That made him a good fit for the jazzier excursions of the Garcia/Saunders bands, and for the jazz sensibilities of the Garcia Band in general
  • Kahn spent some time in 1967-68 playing in a cover band, so he had a grounding in learning tunes quickly and interpreting them, not as typical a skill of original musicians as you might think. That also meant he knew a lot of classics like "Roadrunner," so he wouldn't have had to rehearse them much
  • Kahn was grounded in formal training in piano and music theory, so he could talk to studio pros in their own language, while Garcia himself, for all his skills, was largely self-taught and more intuitive.
  • Kahn did not take up electric bass until he was a trained, experienced musician on the string bass and the electric guitar. This sequence of events is surprisingly similar to Garcia's abrupt adoption of the electric guitar after mastering the acoustic guitar and banjo (among other instruments). Both Kahn and Garcia played free of cliches, to my ears, even on an off night, and their parallel yet atypcial backgrounds on their respective instruments must have been a significant factor
John Kahn Live Performances 1967-68

John Kahn's studio and recorded history is well covered on the excellent Deaddisc site, so I am not listing any of that material except in the most general way. For the balance of this post, and for subsequent posts, I will be looking at John Kahn's live performance history. The focus of this history will be trying to assess how Kahn's musical experiences provided context and substance for his future role as Jerry Garcia's chief partner in personal musical endeavors. I am aware that I will be simplifying any discussions of other musicians, particularly Mike Bloomfield, but in order to keep these posts manageable I am going to try and keep a sharp focus on John Kahn.

Tits And Ass Rhythm And Blues Band
The amusingly named Tits And Ass Rhythm And Blues Band featured Kahn on bass along with Bob Jones on guitar, John Chambers on drums and Ron Stallings on tenor sax. Jones and Stallings shared the vocals. Jones had been a guitarist and singer in the hit group We Five ("You Were On My Mind"), and both Jones and Stallings would end up in a group called Southern Comfort. Southern Comfort released a 1970 album on Columbia produced by Nick Gravenites and Kahn. Stallings (1946-2009) had been in the SF Mime Troupe, and was in many groups subsequently. Deadheads may recognize Stallings as a member of Reconstruction in 1979, and he was a latterday member of Huey Lewis And The News's horn section.

December 15-16, 1967: New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Morning Glory/T&A Rhythm And Blues Band
The only listing I have been able to find for the band is at Berkeley's New Orleans House, one of the earliest Bay Area clubs that encouraged original rock bands. Note that even in Berkeley the name is bowlderized (the Berkeley Barb ad is up top). For a more complete picture of The Tits And Ass Rhythm and Blues Band, see the next post.

Memory Pain
June 11, 1968: New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Buddy Guy/Memory Pain
Thanks to Ross, I have found a sole marker for a performance by Memory Pain (the ad above is from the June 7, 1968 Barb). Thanks to Kahn's old compatriot Bob Jones, I have been able to find out about Memory Pain. The group mainly played blues, particularly songs by Percy Mayfield, who had written the song "Memory Pain.

Although Jones was a guitarist, Kahn had begun taking him to jam sessions at the Sausalito Heliport as long as he played drums. Although Jones had no formal training as a drummer, Kahn liked Jones's nice groove and tendency to underplay, so for Memory Pain Jones took over the drum chair. Fred Burton was the guitarist, and Ira Kamin played organ. Once again, for more on Memory Pain, see the next post.

By mid-1968, Kahn appears to have been living in Marin County, and probably in Mill Valley. According to Blair Jackson, Kahn had met and jammed with Steve Miller and Mike Bloomfield. In Summer 1968, Kahn went to Chicago to try out for a new version of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, no doubt recommended by the many Chicago expatriates in the Bay Area. For various reasons, however, Kahn did not get the job and he returned to the Bay Area (the job went to Rod Hicks).

Mike Bloomfield
Mike Bloomfield was the first American rock guitar hero, a giant of a musician by any standard and tremendously important to the history of American rock music in the 1960s. Thus let me say in advance that my thumbnail sketches of his career and work do not do him justice, but this series of posts is focused on John Kahn and what he contributed to Jerry Garcia's music--this is a Grateful Dead blog after all--so I have to be selective about the information I will be emphasizing about Bloomfield.

To briefly summarize Bloomfield's career up until mid-1968:
  • Bloomfield was one of a few white suburban musicians who played electric blues as well as the Chicago greats, and had one of the first white blues bands (of about two) that played Chicago folk clubs around 1963-64
  • Bloomfield played on Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone" sessions and was part of Dylan's band when Bob "went electric" at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival
  • Bloomfield was the lead guitarist for the seminal Butterfield Blues Band, whose October 1965 Vanguard album, when 4 white guys (Bloomfield, Butterfield, Elvin Bishop and keyboardist Mark Naftalin) and Muddy Waters's rhythm section showed definitively that white guys could play the blues if they were good enough
  • When the Butterfield Blues Band played the Fillmore, starting in February 1966, they were far and away the most accomplished electric band playing the Fillmore (any Deadheads who have not heard live versions of the Butterfield Blues Band's song "East West" should stop reading right now and do so). All the San Francisco musicians, including the Grateful Dead, Country Joe and The Fish and Carlos Santana (to name a few) were profoundly influenced by the band's twin guitar attack and Bloomfield's exceptional playing
  • After quitting the Butterfield Blues Band in February 1967 as they were about to break through nationally, Blomfield formed the ambitious Electric Flag, an eight piece band that planned to play all styles of American music simultaneously, who debuted at the Monterey Pop Festival in July of '67
  • Right before quitting the Electric Flag, Bloomfield spent a weekend in Los Angeles with his friend Al Kooper, recording some loose jams on an album entitled Super Session. This best selling, groundbreaking record featured Bloomfield's best studio playing, elevated rock jamming to a level of seriousness hitherto only attributed to jazz musicians, and brought the term "Super" into rock parlance (as in "Blind Faith is a supergroup")
Believe it or not, this list is only the highlights of Bloomfield's amazing contributions during this period. For a more complete picture, see the fine book Michael Bloomfield: If You Love These Blues (Jan Mark Wolkin and Bill Keenom, Miller Freeman Books, 2000) and the Mike Bloomfield history website.

August 31, 1968: Palace Of Fine Arts Festival, San Francisco, CA: Mike Bloomfield Jam Band/Quicksilver Messenger Service/The Lamb/Linn County/AB Skhy/Ace of Cups  
After the success of 1967's Monterey Pop Festival, there was another year of efforts to try and duplicate the experience of the event. The Palace Of Fine Arts was built for the 1915 Pan-American Exhibition, and the landmark had been rebuilt in 1965. This four day event was an attempt to use the entire grounds as a festival site, and the affair was not repeated. The last day of the event (September 2, 1968) featured the Grateful Dead, but in fact that day was canceled and the Dead flew to Sultan, WA for the last day of the Sky River Rock Festival. However, the event was anticipated with great fanfare in the San Francisco rock market.

We know something of the performance on August 31 from a detailed description by teenage diarist Faren Miller.The original billing was somewhat different, and Miller's diary only describes who she saw, so some of the billed acts may have played on different stages (including John Handy, Steve Miller Band and Big Mama Thornton). However, she does indicate that HP Lovecraft were a no-show.

Mike Bloomfield, at the time unaligned, since he had left the Electric Flag, played an unbilled performance on the second day by leading "The Mike Bloomfield Jam Band."  At this time, Bloomfield was a bigger star than anyone on the bill, since groups like Quicksilver and the Dead were still more like underground sensations. Miller describes the event in some detail, and it featured the sort of loose, bluesy jamming that typified Bloomfield's subsequent career. Research has suggested that John Kahn was the bassist for this event. Faren Miller does not identify the bass player, and I remain uncertain as to whether Kahn actually played. I have to assume for various reasons (that will be made clear) that Kahn lived near Bloomfield, and some casual jamming had led to the opportunity to play at the Palace Of Fine Arts festival. Apparently, Kahn had met Bloomfield when he saw one of Kahn's bands at a club.

Although there remains some uncertainty, the "Mike Bloomfield Jam Band" on August 31, 1968 was probably
  • Mike Bloomfield-lead guitar, vocals
  • Nick Gravenites-guitar, vocals
  • Mark Nafatalin-organ, keyboards
  • John Kahn-bass
  • Bob Jones-drums
  • unknown-congas
  • plus guests The Ace Of Cups (backing vocals), Steve Miller (guitar), Curly Cook (guitar), uncertain [Ron Stallings?] (tenor sax)
Amazingly, the Super Session album, only recorded on the weekend of May 28-29, 1968, was released by Columbia in late July and was a breakout hit, so a public Bloomfield "jam" would have been a very high profile event, even if unbilled on any poster.

September 26-28, 1968: Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper/It's A Beautiful Day/Loading Zone
Al Kooper was a staff producer at Columbia, and with a breakout album on the charts (not to mention the Kooper produced Blood Sweat & Tears debut album), Kooper decided to publicize Super Session with a live Bloomfield/Kooper jam for three days at Fillmore West. For the original Super Session, Bloomfield had chosen Electric Flag bassist Harvey Brooks and Kooper had selected drummer Eddie Hoh. Keeping with Bloomfield's penchant for not repeating himself, Kooper chose a different drummer (Skip Propop, formerly of The Paupers) and Bloomfield chose (quoting Kooper) "his friend and neighbor John Kahn." At this time, Bloomfield lived in Mill Valley, so I have to assume Kahn lived there, too. On the album, Bloomfield alludes to having jammed with Kahn "a few times."

The highlights of the weekend at Fillmore West were released on a Columbia album called The Live Adventures Of Mike Bloomfield And Al Kooper. This Columbia double-lp was the first recording on which his name appeared (Kahn had played uncredited on a Bloomfield/Barry Goldberg album called Two Jews Blues). Mike Bloomfield was a big star (and Kooper wasn't nobody), so having his name on the album was an important credit for an ambitious player.

There was a curious coda to the weekend. Bloomfield, for reasons that I will discuss in a subsequent post, was uncomfortable with the idea of success, and he had a tendency to bail out when things were going well. After two great nights at Fillmore West, Bloomfield abruptly checked into a hospital with insomnia (a perpetual problem for him). This left Al Kooper without his star. The hilarious Kooper wryly recalled "I think I'd rather cut my dick off than tell Bill Graham half his show ain't gonna make it that night. As expected, he went nuts, screaming as if I'd murdered his best friend."

The interesting part, with respect to John Kahn, comes in the detailed description of the weekend provided by Kooper in his must-read book Backstage Passes And Backstabbing Bastards (1998, Billboard Books)
I got on the phone and called Carlos Santana, a local hero not known outside of San Francisco at the time, and Elvin Bishop, Steve Miller, Jerry Garcia and others. Once again San Francisco responds, and every musician in town shows up and offers his/her services. It was a helluva show that night. Steve, Carlos and Elvin all came up and did three or four songs apiece, and we ended up playing way past closing time. The audience was happy. Graham was happy. Columbia was happy (p139).
Its fascinating to find out that Kooper and Garcia already had a relationship (another intriguing subject for various reasons), but more interesting to find out that Garcia was at least invited to jam onstage on Kahn on September 28, 1968. Garcia never mentioned seeing Kahn with Al Kooper, so I assume he was busy and didn't go to Fillmore West, although the Dead didn't have a show that weekend.

Now, although Garcia respected Bloomfield's playing (he wasn't deaf), the acerbic Bloomfield was never nice about the Dead, yet Garcia seems to have been friendly with Kooper, so it's hard to parse how much of Garcia's unavailability might have been a scheduling conflict. Despite Bloomfield's attitude, however, Kooper described in some detail how the Dead had loaned Kooper and Bloomfield rehearsal space and equipment for a few days prior to the show (p.137), so certainly any competitiveness Garcia might have felt towards Bloomfield was subsumed under the need for fellow musicians to cooperate.

Nonetheless it was not to be. The Garcia/Kahn meeting would wait almost two more years, while Kahn continued working with Bloomfield and various Chicago expatriates.

The next post will cover John Kahn's live performance history during 1969.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Robert Hunter and Roadhog: Performance History, May-October 1976

(a scan of a flyer for a Roadhog performance at a Round Records memorabilia sale on September 26, 1976)

In the modern Internet age it is difficult to explain how mysterious Robert Hunter was to Deadheads in the early 1970s. His name was listed as lyricist on most Dead albums, and occasionally there was a quote in Rolling Stone magazine attributed to him. He was reputed to be one of the figures on the cover of Workingman's Dead, and once in a while a picture had been published of him. Even if you had seen one, however, there was no way to easily access it, so he remained elusive. A few quotes from Jerry Garcia suggested that Hunter had played folk or bluegrass music with Garcia in the early days, but compared to even the late 1970s there was very little material circulating, so most people had never heard the 'Wildwood Boys" tape fragment that is in wide circulation today. By all accounts, a distant presence was all Robert Hunter desired to be during that period.

Thus it was a great surprise in June 1974 when Round Records released a Hunter solo album, Tales Of The Great Rum Runners. Abruptly it turned out that the Dead's poet could write music without the band, and sing and play as well. The album had a sort of demo tape feel, and Hunter has dismissed his vocal performances on the album (they sounded alright to me), but it was instantly fascinating to get a feel for what Hunter brought to a Hunter/Garcia song. Hunter's solo material lacked the musical expressiveness and melodic gift that Jerry Garcia brought to the music, but they had a lyrical density that the more terse Garcia apparently preferred to edit out.

Rum Runners was followed by an even better album, Tiger Rose, produced by Garcia and released (on Round) in March 1975. However, while Hunter the songwriter was made deeper and more tangible by two fine albums, the man himself remained a cipher. There were no pictures of him on either album, and no conventional music industry press where he gave interviews or posed for photos. During the 1974-76 period, the Grateful Dead proper stopped touring, only recording an album (Blues For Allah) and playing the occasional show. Thus they dropped out of the mainstream, and while the various members of the band played Bay Area clubs (and sometimes elsewhere) with regularity, there was very little coverage of the Dead's activities, even in the Bay Area. Thus it was with great astonishment that my friends and I discovered in mid-1976 that Robert Hunter was playing an obscure venue in San Francisco with a band called Roadhog. My friend and I had to go--only McGannahan Skjellyfetti would have been more exotic than this.

I saw Robert Hunter and Roadhog on a weeknight in May 1976, at a little place on Market Street in San Francisco, near the Civic Center. I will not bore anyone with college memories about how I am certain that it was in May and on a weeknight, but the chronology is clear. I'm not even sure how we found out about it, as the Green Earth Cafe did not advertise. I think we heard that Hunter had a band in Joel Selvin's Chronicle column, and then found a listing in BAM Magazine. I do recall my friend actually calling the Green Earth Cafe (hi Mitch) to insure that it really was Robert Hunter of the Grateful Dead. None of our other Deadhead friends wanted to go, but to us it just seemed too exotic to pass up.

Roadhog was pretty good, in a bar band sort of way, but it honestly didn't matter, because Hunter was such a mystery that it transcended the show. It would be like going to a bookstore to hear book Thomas Pynchon or B. Traven read--would you care what they read? Roadhog only lasted a few months, however, and then Hunter went off the radar for a while. He reappeared with the fine group Comfort, and then began his long career of intermittent solo touring, group appearances, book readings and other work, to the point where he became as familiar a face as any other member of the Dead. Very few people ever saw Roadhog, however, so this post will attempt to rectify that a little bit by publishing what little is known about the performance history of the band (thanks to Doug for re-posting his list, and indeed for keeping it in the first place).

Robert Hunter and Roadhog performing at the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity house at a "Beta Nooner" afternoon keg party in May 1976 (photo courtesy of and (c) Bill Kn)
Roadhog
  • Robert Hunter-vocals, acoustic guitar
  • Shelly Ralston-vocals
  • Jeffrey Dambrau-guitar
  • Ted Claire-guitar, vocals
  • Jim McPherson-electric piano
  • Rodney Albin-bass, violin
  • Bill Summers-drums
Ted Claire, Jeffrey Dambrau (sometimes spelled Dambreau) and Rodney Albin had been part of the South Bay folkscene in the early 1960s, from whence sprang Garcia, Hunter and others. Rod Albin had started a little folk club called The Boar's Head in San Carlos, which was among the first places that bohemian folkies could play back in '62. Albin had been an important part of the Haight Ashbury scene (his brother Peter was a founding member of Big Brother), but he had never found a specific musical home. When Albin switched to violin, other members of the band played bass, including (on one song) Robert Hunter.

Jim McPherson had been a South Bay musician, too, but he was part of the thriving San Jose rock scene. He had recorded a couple of 60s albums with a group called Stained Glass, a heavy rock band in which McPherson played bass and organ as well as singing and writing. In the early '70s, McPherson had worked with John Cipollina in the group Copperhead. Hunter had apparently not known McPherson prior to Roadhog, but somebody--probably Mickey Hart--had recommended him for the group.

Shelley Ralston's and Bill Summer's backgrounds are not known to me. Googlers should be warned that this Bill Summers was not the guy who played with Herbie Hancock.

When I saw Roadhog at the Green Earth Cafe, they played three sets. It was a school night, so we only saw the first two sets. Hunter was clearly the main fulcrum of the group, but they were very much a group. They performed many songs from both of Hunter's albums, some unrecognizable songs and a few interesting covers. Shelley Ralston had a prominent role in the vocals, singing Donna Godchaux's parts from the record (even now I recall she was great on "That Train") and no doubt giving the rusty Hunter some confidence on the choruses. She also did a great cover of Patsy Cline's "I Fall To Pieces."

There were no Grateful Dead covers. Other members of the group sang a few numbers, although I couldn't identify them. Rodney Albin played electric violin and led the band through Doug Kershaw's country cajun classic "Louisiana Man." The only cover I recall hearing Hunter singing was country singer Tom T. Hall's hit "The Night Clayton Delaney Died." While the Grateful Dead and others were proud country rockers by 1976, their style was more oriented towards Buck Owens and the Bakersfield sound, epitomized by Merle Haggard. More conventional Nashville fare, like Tom T. Hall, was not part of the rock repertoire, and at the time it was fascinating to see Hunter pull off a convincing version of the song. For a band of San Francisco hippies, Roadhog had a more traditional country/honky tonk sound, a little more Centrist than the Western Swing style of groups like Commander Cody.

Roadhog Performance History, May-October 1976

May 1976: Green Earth Cafe, San Francisco, CA: Roadhog
The Green Earth Cafe was on Market Street, near the Civic Center, somewhat past the Warfield (the Warfield is near 6th Street, and the Civic is on 9th). I don't know the exact address [JGMF figured it out: 1806 Market Street]. It served food and beer and wine, but it wasn't a bar. Roadhog seems to have played every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in May, 1976. There was no cover charge. Roadhog may have started as early as April, and may have creeped into early June. Word seems to have gotten out, however, and their Summer performances at The Green Earth were on weekends and received at least a minimum of publicity. The stint in May seems to have been as much to get Hunter and the band used to performing as anything.

An interview in BAM in January 1978 (I think by David Gans) was the first real conversation Hunter had with the press, to my knowledge. In that interview, Hunter referred to initially playing as 'Lefty Banks' in order to perform without pressure. While I have never seen a Lefty Banks booking (I'm still looking), Hunter alluded online to playing as Lefty Banks with Roadhog, so perhaps he started earlier than I realized at the Green Earth Cafe, and word only leaked out later that it was Hunter. For now, however, I am leaving this entry as May 1976.

Update: some advanced scholarship suggests that Robert Hunter was making stealth appearances with Roadhog as early as October 1975. A Commenter looked at the English magazine Dark Star, written in the October/November 1975 period (h/t JGMF):

The "Weather Report" column, p. 5, has this: "Barry [Melton]'s most recent appearance was at the Klamath potato festival ... also at the destival [sic] was the bluegrass unit Road Hog, featuring Bob Hunter on mandolin."

I am guessing this is the Klamath Basin Potato Festival around Merrill, OR. This is a harvest season event, it seems, usually mid-October by what I have seen.

So, if this is right, for now it might be a 10/??/75 Klamath Basin Potato Festival entry.

At the top of the bill was Barry Melton's band featuring Peter Albin and David LaFlamme.
[update] Commenter and Scholar JGMF has found some dates from the Green Earth Cafe that pre-date the public admission that Robert Hunter was playing with Roadhog
April 2-3, 1976 Green Earth Cafe, San Francisco, CA: Roadhog
April 16-17, 1976 Green Earth Cafe, San Francisco, CA: Roadhog
Both of these booking were Friday>Saturday weekend shows.
May 6-8, 1976 Green Earth Cafe, San Francisco, CA: Roadhog
May 20-22, 1976 Green Earth Cafe, San Francisco, CA: Roadhog
Both of these bookings were Thursday>Saturday weekend shows. I must have seen one of the Thursday shows, most likely the May 20 show.

Robert Hunter and Roadhog performing at the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity house at a "Beta Nooner" afternoon keg party in May 1976 (photo courtesy of and (c) Bill Kn)
May 1976: Beta Theta Pi Fraternity House, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA: Roadhog
Roadhog was invited to perform at a noontime outdoor concert at a Fraternity House in Stanford. Resident Bill K (who not only kept his photos all those years, he very kindly gave me permission to post them) reported:
It came about this way.  A friend of mine was a serious Deadhead and somehow learned about Robert Hunter and RoadHog performing in San Francisco.  He drove us all up to The City to catch the show and negotiated a performance of the Band to highlight a traditional spring party held on the lawn of the Beta Theta Pi house at Stanford.  The event was called the Beta Nooner.  A live band, kegs of free beer and, as the name implies, the show started at noon and went on for most of the afternoon.

At the time, there was a ban on Grateful Dead performances at Stanford, so we felt all revolutionary to sneak in a performance by this band.  I can’t tell you what they played, but it was a great concert.  I can’t even tell you the specific date, but  it was probably in April, or maybe May of 1976.  Sorry I can’t be more precise with the dates, but memories fade after so many years.
I asked about the mysterious "ban" on the Grateful Dead, and Bill reported
Of course, the actual facts mutated into the legend.  My fraternity brothers and I were not really rock promoters, but did have to get some kind of permission from some authority figure to put on this outdoor concert.  I did not make that appeal.  We did get permission, but I remember being told that, “The Dead were banned from playing at Stanford.”  Oooh, cool.  As is so frequently the case, the rumors overran the truth.
June 4-5, 1976: Green Earth Cafe, San Francisco, CA: Roadhog
Doug Aldridge was attempting to track Hunter's performances at one point, and his site was inaccessible, but now it's back on line. It remains the only source for Roadhog dates.

In any case, Hunter and Roadhog played a weekend show at the Green Earth in June. I believe this was sort of a "coming out" party, announcing the mysterious Robert Hunter's accessibility to the wider world.

June 9, 1976: The Omnibus, San Francisco, CA: Roadhog
I don't know anything about the venue.

June 11-12, 1976: Green Earth Cafe, San Francisco, CA: Roadhog
[update[JGMF confirmed these from BAM listings.

June 15, 1976: Shady Grove, San Francisco, CA: Roadhog
The Shady Grove was at 1538 Haight Street, between Ashbury and Clayton. The Shady Grove wasn't large, but it was larger than the Green Earth.

While the Shady Grove was within walking distance of 710 Ashbury, it's worth recalling that Hunter never lived in 710 with the Dead, and hardly lived in San Francisco at all, so it would have had less personal significance for him than it might have for others.

June 16, 1976: The Omnibus, San Francisco, CA: Roadhog

July ?, 1976: Rio Theater, Rodeo, CA: Roadhog
An uncertain date from a list, provenance unknown.

Summer 1976: Barney Steele's, Redwood City, CA: Roadhog
The most intriguing note I have on a Roadhog performance is a performance at a Redwood City saloon named Barney Steele's. Barney Steele's was basically a pickup joint, with a cover charge to keep out riffraff. The purpose of the band was to keep the patrons dancing, so they would get hot and buy beer. One of the bar managers was one Norm Van Maastricht, whom some readers may recall was a member of the Wildwood Boys along with Garcia, Hunter and David Nelson.

Maastricht, who still played guitar, apparently joined Roadhog on stage for at least a few numbers, a funny coda for the former Wildwood Boys.

July 15, 1976: Shady Grove, San Francisco, CA: Roadhog
 I have a brief (5-song) audience tape of a Roadhog performance with this date. It seems like a plausible date, since it's a Thursday.

July 30-31, 1976: Green Earth Cafe, San Francisco, CA: Roadhog
The July 30 show was immortalized by a fine Jerry Moore audience tape. The tape gives a good idea of the band's sound, although it lacks some of the cover versions of when I had seen them earlier. Perhaps as Hunter's name became more prominent, the focus was more on his songs.

This was a weekend booking (Friday and Saturday).

August 6, 1976: Shady Grove, San Francisco, CA: Roadhog

September 3-4, 1976: Green Earth Cafe, San Francisco, CA: Roadhog

September 17-18, 1976: Shady Grove, San Francisco, CA: Roadhog

September 26, 1976: Record Factory Parking Lot, San Rafael, CA: Roadhog
Round Records, in a state of financial distress held an afternoon "memorabilia sale" in the parking lot of a Marin record store--can you imagine what eBay treasures must have been available for a pittance?--and Roadhog were the featured performers.

David Gans was present and had the foresight to take photos of Robert Hunter and Roadhog, which are accessible on Gans's Flickr site, and well worth a look. I know of no other photos of Roadhog in action, or even at rest. A tape apparently endures, and the setlist says that Roadhog played "Friend Of The Devil" and "Kick In The Head," a sign that Hunter was beginning to acknowledge his status in the Grateful Dead universe.

October 2, 1976: West Dakota, Berkeley, CA: Roadhog
West Dakota, at 1505 San Pablo Avenue, was at the former site of The New Orleans House.

October 10, 1976: Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Roadhog
The Keystone Berkeley was one of the Bay Area's major rock clubs, and certainly well known to Deadheads, as Jerry Garcia and Kingfish had played there regularly.

October 29-31, 1976: Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Roadhog with Robert Hunter
What seems to be Roadhog's most high profile show also seems to be their last, or the last that I could find anyway.  This was a three-day weekend booking (the clip is from the Hayward Daily Review of October 31, 1976), and Sunday night was Halloween, so plenty of people planned to go out. Still, whatever transpired on this Halloween in Berkeley, this seems to be the last trace of Roadhog. 

Hunter and Rodney Albin went on to form Comfort in 1977, another fine band. Hunter largely went solo after that, and Rodney Albin unfortunately died too soon in 1984. In 1981, Jim McPherson worked with Mickey Hart in his band High Noon, but he too left unfinished business when he died in 1985 (to some extent rectified by the recent cd release of his studio work, A Promise Kept). The musical activities of Jeffrey Dambrau, Ted Claire, Shelly Ralston and Bill Summers after Roadhog are unknown to me.

Roadhog seems to have left a very small imprint, surprisingly so given the intensity of interest in all things Grateful Dead. I think the group's penchant for playing San Francisco saloons means that many who saw them may have had little idea who they were seeing, particularly if Hunter was initially using the name Lefty Banks. Nonetheless, I have to think many people may recall seeing the group somewhere around the Bay Area in 1976, or may have some obscure artifacts, so I am hoping that this post can be continually updated as new information comes to light.

Update: A flyer has surfaced (h/t Yellow Shark) advertising a Roadhog show at the Shady Grove for the weekend of March 4-5, 1977, well after the band's presumed "last" show in 1976. However, since Robert Hunter's name isn't mentioned on the calendar, it's clear he wasn't a member of the band by that time. Whether Rodney Albin was still a member, and how many other shows Roadhog played after Hunter's departure, remains a mystery.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Rolling Stones, Oakland Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA: Novemer 9, 1969 Late Show (Liver Than You'll Ever Be)


(a scan of the cover of the bootleg Rolling Stones LP Liver Than You'll Ever Be, on Trademark of Quality Records)

The Grateful Dead were a remarkable band in a remarkable time, and one indicator of that was their propensity for playing a part in interesting events that had little to do with them directly. For example, the Dead played an interesting role in the history of bootleg recordings, one that largely goes unnoticed. Its primary effect on the Dead, however, was to make it standard for venues to search incoming patrons for recording equipment--ironic for the only band that tolerated and even encouraged audience taping back in the day.

An audience recording of the Rolling Stones performance at the Late Show at the Oakland Coliseum Arena on Sunday, November 9, 1969 was bootlegged and released as an album called Liver Than You'll Ever Be. This album was such a sensation that it was reviewed in Rolling Stone magazine, and its very likely that the Stones' live tour album Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out was released to counteract consumer demand for the bootleg. There had been successful bootlegs before, mostly of Bob Dylan albums, but they had either been studio or professional live recordings, and the record companies (and Bob Dylan) felt that improved security could prevent those tapes from falling into the hands of bootleggers. Liver Than You'll Ever Be revealed that people would pay money to listen to an audience recording of a live rock concert, raising the specter that profitable record company practices could be disenfranchised by some cowboys with a reel-to-reel and a few good microphones.

The mysterious bootleggers had recorded five shows on the California leg of the Stones tour (in San Diego, Los Angeles and Oakland), but the live sound of the late show in Oakland was far superior. While it may have taken a few shows for the Stones to find their groove, one other fact distinguished itself about the late show: the Rolling Stones had played the show with their own system upgraded by the Grateful Dead's equipment.

Bootleg LPs
The history of bootleg lps is an important counter-narrative in the history of rock music of the 60s and beyond. While bootleg lps ultimately fell prey to various nefarious business interests--they were illegal, after all--they initially served an important role in kicking some closed doors open. Prior to the commercialization of cassettes, any interesting recordings of popular bands could hardly be circulated, as few people had (or would deal with) reel-to-reel tape recorders. Bootleg albums answered the demands for more music by the most popular artists, and forced record companies to at least keep the pipeline full of music, even if their self-dealing business practices remained intact.

The shadowy history of bootlegs is well covered in the fascinating book Bootleg: The Secret History Of The Other Recording Industry (St. Martin's Press, 1995), by rock's foremost archaeologist, Clinton Heylin . The early bootleggers, whom Heylin interviewed (they use pseudonyms) had motives similar to pioneering Deadheads, primarily interested in getting the music out to the fans by whatever means were available. Heylin's book is unique and fascinating, and well worth reading for anyone remotely  interested in the subject. The first important bootleg was a 1969 Bob Dylan record called Great White Wonder, featuring tracks from what are now known as The Basement Tapes. The idea that Bob Dylan, rock's greatest songwriter, had an entire album of exceptional songs already recorded--albeit in rough form--suggested to fans that record companies were hiding something, restricting the flow of music like diamond merchandisers, in order to stimulate sales. The mysterious, white covered double lp, lacking any credits or information, was itself bootlegged numerous times, and was reputed to have sold an incredible 500,000 copies, although that is surely exaggerated and no one really knows.

Great White Wonder had been followed by various other Dylan bootlegs, most famously a professional recording of Bob Dylan and The Hawks at Manchester Free Trade Hall on May 17, 1966. For various reasons (that Heylin explains), the bootleggers chose to let people believe it was the performance at London's Royal Albert Hall. This album, "released" under various names like Royal Albert Hall, In 1966 There Was and Play F*ckin' Loud, revealed that Dylan And The Hawks were one of the greatest live rock acts ever, and yet the performances had remained under wraps for years. I myself heard that album in 1973, and it stunned my teenage self to realize that what I thought to be Dylan's best recording was unreleased. Yet both of these albums were not recorded by civilians: Dylan and The Hawks had recorded the Basement Tapes themselves, and professional engineers had recorded them at Manchester. Still, Royal Albert Hall had shown that people wanted to hear live recordings, for all their ragged imperfections.

The Rolling Stones 1969 American Tour
In the late 60s, the the troika perched atop rock's pyramid was The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. All three groups had stopped touring in 1966, except for occasional special performances. Since 1966, the live rock concert business had adopted the model of San Francisco's Fillmore and Avalon ballrooms, and rock concerts had not only become Big Business but Serious Art and Major Events. When The Rolling Stones announced in the Summer of 1969 that they would be touring the United States in the Fall of 1969, this was far and away the biggest tour in the very short history of modern rock music. The only possible comparison would have been the Blind Faith tour of Summer 1969, but the frenzy over the Stones dwarfed even them. The Rolling Stones current album was the amazing Beggar's Banquet, making it clear to even the most casual listeners that with songs like "Sympathy For The Devil" and "Street Fighting Man," the Stones were more a powerful musical force than ever.

The rock business had changed dramatically since the Stones had last toured America in 1966. Also, there was little precedent for a giant circus like the Rolling Stones, since few bands exclusively played large arenas. Since the Stones needed experienced road crew, one of their tour managers was a veteran San Francisco manager named Bill Belmont. Belmont had managed a San Francisco group called The Wildflower, had been road manager for Country Joe And The Fish and had worked for Bill Graham's Millard Agency, on whose behalf he had gone on tour with The Grateful Dead. Belmont knew all the equipment men in the Bay Area (they weren't called "roadies" yet). Thus it came to pass that two of the relatively small Rolling Stones crew in 1969 were Grateful Dead regulars Ramrod and Rex Jackson (McNally p. 340).

Sunday, November 9, 1969, Oakland Coliseum Arena: Rolling Stones/Ike & Tina Turner/B.B. King/Terry Reid
The story of the bootleggers and the subsequent recording and release of the Liver Than You'll Ever Be is told in fascinating detail by Heylin, and the key details of the Stones album are recapped on the web. Suffice to say, no one stopped the tapers because preventing audience taping was not a concern. Deadheads will be interested to hear that the key taper recalls  
What I used was a Senheiser 805 'shotgun' microphone and a Uher 4000 reel-to-reel tape recorder, which was real small, 7 1/2 inch per second 5" reels.
The part of the story that interest me comes from the early show at the Coliseum. The Oakland show was only the third night of the Stones tour. The first show had been Friday, November 7 in Fort Collins, CO. Clearly, that show was intended as a safe "out of town" opener before the big debut at the Forum in Los Angeles on Saturday, November 8, where the Stones would play both an early and late show. A lot had changed in the rock and roll concert world since the Stones had last toured. According to Dennis McNally, on the plane to Colorado, Belmont had to explain to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards that their plan to play half an hour was no longer acceptable, as an hour was the minimum that crowds expected, and Jagger and Richards improvised a few acoustic numbers to fill out the set (p. 340).

The first show in Oakland was only the Stones' third night and fourth show on the tour. During the early show, the sound reinforcement system blew out, and Keith in particular was very unhappy with the poor live sound. According to Joel Selvin, in between shows Ramrod and Rex Jackson suggested that they go back to the Dead's headquarters in Novato and get their equipment, battle tested and Owsley tuned to perform exceptionally under adverse conditions. They raced across two bridges to get the equipment, returning in time for the Stones set on the late show. While the expert taping of the show made the recording great, there's a reason that the live sound for the late show was so good, and that was that the Dead's sound equipment plugged holes in the Stones rig.

I am confident that Jerry Garcia and the rest of the Dead were at the Coliseum show, and they would have all enthusiastically assented to loaning out their equipment. To some extent, Garcia and Weir had formed the Warlocks in an effort to emulate The Rolling Stones. When the Stones had played San Francisco on their 1966 tour, the Jefferson Airplane had opened the show, and the Airplane had snuck Garcia backstage as a member of their crew so that he could attend the show. The Dead had played the New Old Fillmore on November 7 and 8, but they had November 9 off, and I don't doubt that they were all backstage.

It's a nice vignette: Garcia and the band backstage, more like fans than musicians, no doubt flattered and pleased that their own equipment was better than that of the mighty Stones. Since the Stones had a show the next night (in San Diego) and the Dead did not have a show until the next Saturday night (November 15 at the Lanai Theater in Crockett), I don't doubt that the Stones bought some of the Dead's equipment on the spot. The perpetually broke Dead were probably happy to make the transaction, as Owsley and the crew would have had a whole week to obtain and modify replacements.

Liver Than You'll Ever Be
The Liver Than You'll Ever Be album was released just a month later, prior to Christmas 1969. The tour had finished on November 30 in West Palm Beach, FL, and then the mess of Altamont on December 6 had blasted the tour into a stratospheric event that stood in contrast to that Summer's idyllic Woodstock.  As most record stores were somewhat independent in those days, the album apparently wasn't too hard to get in major cities. The album received a glowing review from Greil Marcus in the January 1970 Rolling Stone, and the clamor for the record caused it to be redistributed and to some extent re-bootlegged (Heylin has all the details).

The record industry, and particularly Allan Klein, who controlled the Stones catalog, were completely panicked. The idea that a civilian could bring taping equipment into an area and make an album that people liked to listen to as much as an "official" recording put the company's whole business model at risk. Deadheads today know how great a good audience recording of a show can sound, but to most listeners this was a complete revelation. To add to Klein's panic, the Stones were playing songs live from their forthcoming album (Let It Bleed), and purchasers of Liver Than You'll Ever Be were getting to hear some songs ("Midnight Rambler," "Live With Me" and "Gimme Shelter") before their official release, and that too violated industry orthodoxy.

The result? After various kinds of posturing and panic, the record industry focused on banning recording equipment from rock arenas. The men behind the legendary bootleg label Trademark Of Quality, who were intimately connected in expanding the reach of Liver Than You'll Ever Be across the country, take personal responsibility for the ritual at rock concert venues where security staff searched everyone for illicit tape recorders. The recording industry may have overestimated sales of bootlegs, but they recognized a threat to their monopoly, and the industry's efforts to choke off bootlegs served its purpose until the commercialization of the Internet.

I don't know about other cities, but when I attended rock shows in the 1970s, the BGP staff ritually searched everyone, looking for liquor and tape recorders, but not drugs. Liquor I understood--drunken idiots do not make for a safe or fun concert--but the tape thing made me scratch my head. I bought more records than anyone I knew, so how come my interest in live tapes was a threat? None of my semi-normal friends considered dodgy sounding live tapes a reasonable substitute for a proper album, so what was being threatened?

What taping threatened was the record industry business model, which controlled the release of recordings. Liver Than You'll Ever Be had shown the intense interest consumers would have in purchasing well recorded concerts that sounded good in the first place, released when they were still current and with blemishes and all largely intact. Nothing could be more threatening, and the Dead more than any other band went to extraordinary lengths to define another business model altogether. Maybe if Rex and Ramrod hadn't gone over to Novato to get the Dead's equipment, Liver Than You'll Ever Be wouldn't have been a gripping document that got reviewed in Rolling Stone, and all our taper friends could have carried their Sony D5s and mics into shows in their backpacks all those years.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

1972-73 Muleskinner/Old And In The Way Timeline

In 1974, an album mysteriously appeared without fanfare at World's Indoor Records, my primary local album emporium. It was a Warner Brothers album called A Potpourri Of Bluegrass Jam by Muleskinner. The members of Muleskinner were
  • Peter Rowan-guitar, vocals
  • Clarence White-lead guitar, vocals
  • David Grisman-mandolin, vocals
  • Richard Greene-violin, vocals
  • Bill Keith-banjo
along with guest musicians
  • John Kahn-bass
  • John Guerin-drums
Even at the time, I knew that Rowan, Grisman and Greene had been in Old And In The Way with Jerry Garcia and John Kahn. Old And In The Way had stopped playing by the end of 1973. I assumed that the Muleskinner album was an outgrowth of Old And In The Way. When the Old And In The Way album came out in 1975, it seemed to confirm that feeling.

Although Old And In The Way was long defunct by the time the album came out, it had a huge impact on modern bluegrass. Furthermore, both David Grisman and Vassar Clements, who had been known only to bluegrass aficionados prior to the album, have since become (rightly) revered as titans of modern acoustic music, and that has made the Muleskinner album seem all the more prescient. In 1994, Sierra Records released a cd of the first Muleskinner performance, a live television performance on February 13, 1973. The group was put together on an ad-hoc basis to be paired with Bill Monroe on a KCET-TV (Los Angeles public TV) special. Monroe's bus broke down, however, and the ad-hoc band played a bunch of familiar material to fill out the entire hour.

The group was so happy with their performance, they played a week at the Ash Grove in March, and then found time to record the Muleskinner album. Tragically, Clarence White died in June 1973, and any continued performances were moot. Since banjoist Bill Keith--an old friend of Rowan and Grisman--had returned to the East Coast before even the Ash Grove shows, a Commenter suggested that Jerry Garcia effectively "replaced" Bill Keith and Muleskinner became Old And In The Way. This is an intriguing theory, but an Emptywheel style timeline shows us a different picture.

I have constructed this timeline to demonstrate the interrelationship between Jerry Garcia, David Grisman and Peter Rowan, with respect to the formation of Old And In The Way. I am not making an effort to be precise about dates except for 1973.

1968
Peter Rowan and David Grisman are in the Elektra Records "psychedelic folk" group Earth Opera.

Richard Loren quits being the booking agent (through APA) for The Doors and Jefferson Airplane and moves to Europe.

Chris Rowan and Lorin Rowan, Peter's younger brothers, are aspiring singer-songwriters in Wayland, MA, near Boston.

Clarence White joins The Byrds, effectively becoming Roger McGuinn's partner throughout the next five years, as various members of the rhythm section come and go.

1969
Earth Opera breaks up. David Grisman's activities are vague at this time, but he isn't making any money or recording much. Still, he seems to have met Richard Loren, who has moved to New York, and formed a production partnership with him.

Peter Rowan moves to California and joins Sea Train, who are based in Marin County. During 1965-66, Violinist Richard Greene had been in Bill Monroe and The Bluegrass Boys with Peter Rowan and Bill Keith.

Chris Rowan goes to London in Spring 1969, and tries to make it as a singer/songwriter. He does not succeed.

1970
In early Summer, David Grisman visits California to reconnect with old friend Jerry Garcia, and plays on the forthcoming American Beauty album.

David Grisman and Richard Loren had formed a production company. Grisman already knew the Rowans through their brother, and Loren and Rowan agreed to manage the Rowan Brothers, with Grisman as producer and musical director. The Rowans are both writing and singing songs in a sort of hippie Everly Brothers style that seems to be in tune with newly popular group like Crosby, Stills and Nash.

September 20, 1970: Grisman and Loren visit the Grateful Dead at Fillmore East. Loren and Garcia hit it off, and Garcia suggests to Grisman that the Bay Area has a good rock club scene that might provide a good platform for the Rowan Brothers to develop their music. Grisman ends up on stage playing mandolin with the Dead during their acoustic set (per McNally p. 404-5)

October 1970: The Rowan Brothers, David Grisman and Richard Loren move to Marin County. The Rowans meet members of the Dead at a demo session at Wally Heider's in late 1970. Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann back the Rowans for some demos (some of which have turned up on a 2004 Taxim Records cd Now And Then).


1971
By 1971, Grisman, Loren and the two Rowans and possibly others are living communally in Stinson Beach, while working on their music 

July 2, 1971: The Rowan Brothers open the Grateful Dead's show at Fillmore West, with a band featuring Garcia on pedal steel, Kreutzmann on drums, Grisman on mandolin and engineer Bill Wolf on bass. The tape circulates and a few tracks were actually released in 2004.

July 1971: Garcia uses his advance to buy a house in Stinson Beach for himself, Mountain Girl and their family. The house (which they call Sans Souci) is not far from the Rowan house.

Summer 1971: According to McNally, Garcia wanders down the hill to visit, and is turned away by the gardener, who suspects Garcia of being a pot dealer. Eventually, all is happily resolved, and Garcia takes to hanging out. Notice that as of this time, Garcia had already recorded a demo and played live with the Rowan Brothers, but he only started hanging around them socially when he moved nearby. Besides renewing his old friendship with David Grisman (they had first met in 1964), Garcia becomes particularly friendly with Richard Loren.

Fall 1971: By Fall 1971--the exact date isn't clear until we see the Garcia business papers--Garcia had asked Richard Loren to manage his non-Grateful Dead affairs. With a solo album, and an ongoing partnership with Merl Saunders and John Kahn, Garcia's music is taking on an identity of its own. The fact that Garcia has his own manager is not lost on the rest of the Dead family, because if Garcia ever chose to cut back Grateful Dead touring to favor his own, the rest of the band's income would suffer. To my knowledge, this never happened, but it doesn't mean that band members did not consider it. This may help account for the considerable slack the band cut Garcia with respect to his refusal to rehearse and other proclivities.

November 7, 1971: Jerry Garcia plays his last show as a regular member of The New Riders Of The Purple Sage. He will guest a few times in the ensuing years, but Buddy Cage takes over the pedal steel guitar chair. This had been planned for some time, but Garcia seems to have played on the first few weeks of the New Riders tour with the Dead because their debut album had just been released, and the Riders profile would be considerably higher with Jerry in the chair. In any case, stepping down from the New Riders frees up lots of time in Garcia's schedule.

1972
Columbia Records wins a bidding war with Geffen, and signs the Rowan Brothers to a substantial advance. Grisman and Bill Wolf produce the album at great expense in San Francisco. Grisman's production and musical parts are credited to "David Diadem," for reasons that Grisman has never explained.

Late 1972: Sea Train begins to fall apart, and Rowan and Greene leave the group (Sea Train releases one more album, Watch, but that is irrelevant here). Presumably Peter Rowan begins to spend a lot more time at his brothers' house, if he had not already been living there.

Late 1972: Columbia releases the Rowan Brothers self-titled debut, hyping it with a quote from Jerry Garcia where he says "These guys could be the next Beatles." The quote is real, but taken out of context. In any case, it guarantees that no one can take the Rowans seriously, and they are doomed to the fate of Moby Grape.

Late 1972: According to many now apocryphal stories about the founding of Old And In The Way, Garcia, Grisman and Peter Rowan have taken to hanging out and playing bluegrass together at either Sans Souci (Jerry's) or the Rowan house. All three of them need a break from their various stresses of  their "rock lives:" Garcia dealing with the hugely popular Dead, Grisman producing a now over hyped band, and Rowan who is effectively jobless.

If you look at the Dead's touring schedule for 1972 and 73, there would not have been that many opportunities for the three of them to actually get together. In order to have formed Old And In The Way, the three of them had to have begun playing well before March 2, 1973, when Old And In The Way surfaces in public. Garcia in particular has not played banjo seriously for many years, and would have needed a fair amount of practice time to get his chops up.

November 3, 1972: To promote the album, the Rowan Brothers start performing live. I know of very few performances. Interestingly, David Grisman switched to keyboards, saving his electric mandolin for a solo or two. John Douglas played drums, and Bill Wolf played bass. One show we do know of, however, is November 3-4, 1972 at Winterland, opening for Hot Tuna and the New Riders. JGMF found a newspaper review that said Garcia played two numbers with The Rowan Brothers on the first night (as well as with the Riders).

December 12, 1972: The Rowan Brothers opened for the Grateful Dead at Winterland.


1973
January 1973: If you accept that Garcia, Rowan and Grisman had to take what opportunities they could to play bluegrass together, this month seems like a crucial month for them to start working out what they might want to do. During this period, Garcia/Saunders played 15 shows in 23 days (Jan 15-Feb 6), so bluegrass was not Garcia's only extracurricular activity.

February 9-28, 1973: The Grateful Dead are on tour, meaning there are no opportunities for bluegrass (yes, I know there is a gap between Maples on Feb 9 and Madison on Feb 15).

February 13, 1973: A KCET-TV program is scheduled to feature Bill Monroe and The Bluegrass Boys. The hour long program is scheduled to feature a live half-hour of Monroe, with an opening live "tribute" set by younger musicians. The group assembled is the basis of the "Muleskinner" group, but they do not use the name Muleskinner. Monroe's bus breaks down in Stockton, and the openers play the entire hour instead. The band for this show was
  • Peter Rowan-guitar, vocals
  • Clarence White-lead guitar
  • David Grisman-mandolin, vocals
  • Richard Greene-violin, vocals
  • Bill Keith-banjo
  • Stuart Schulman-bass
While most of the songs were bluegrass standards, Rowan's "Land Of The Navajo" was a recent song that would only become well known through the Old And In The Way record. Fortunately, video and audio of the entire show remains (and has been released). Intriguingly, Grisman is introduced as "David Diadem," for whatever significance that may hold.

Its important to recognize that the musicians went to great lengths to perform this show. Clarence White was a member of The Byrds at this time, and according to Christopher Hjort's definitive chronology (So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star, Jawbone 2008), The Byrds were at Cornell University on February 10 and Rockland Community College in Suffern, NY on February 16, so White had to log some serious air miles to make the broadcast. Grisman and Rowan lived in Northern California, as probably did Greene, and they would have had to drive down. Keith usually lived on the East Coast, so he most likely had to make a special effort as well. Its a sign of how much respect they had for Bill Monroe and each other that they made that effort.

February 24, 1973: Clarence White plays his last live performance with The Byrds, as the original band is getting back together. Roger McGuinn cancels all further dates, effectively making Clarence White a free agent, if an unemployed one.

March 2, 1973: Old And In The Way's public debut was a live KSAN-fm broadcast from the Record Plant in Sausalito. That same night they played at The Lion's Share in San Anselmo. If you look at Garcia's schedule in the preceding months, its clear that the genesis of Old And In The Way took quite some time.

March 3-14, 1973: Old And In The Way plays 4 more shows.

March 15-April 2, 1973: The Grateful Dead are on tour.

Late March 1973: I believe that the Muleskinner album is recorded in this period, as is the band's one week stand at the Ash Grove. Hjort has the recording in April with the Ash Grove dates on April 17-22, but that conflicts with known Old And In The Way dates. The Sierra Records liner notes say that the group played The Ash Grove "a month later" (meaning March), which fits my timeline better. There's also reason to think that the album was recorded even later, in May or June. Bill Keith was present at the recording sessions, but apparently did not play at The Ash Grove (I wonder who played banjo?).

April 12-May 9, 1973: Old And In The Way played 13 shows.

mid-1973: Clive Davis is forced out as the head of Columbia Records, and the Rowan Brothers are dropped by the label (along with many other Davis proteges). Although Grisman and the Rowans are presumably still friendly, the Rowan Brothers cannot support a producer.

July 15, 1973: Clarence White died after being hit by a drunk driver at 2am in Palmdale, CA, while White was loading equipment into his car. It would take me 10,000 words to explain how great a player Clarence was, and I'm not even a guitar player (apparently it takes even more if you can play). Suffice to say, any plans that Grisman, Rowan and others may have had for "Muleskinner" would have been put permanently in abeyance with Clarence's untimely death.

Some Conclusions-Old And In The Way
Old And In The Way may have been a surprise to Bay Area Deadheads when they debuted in March, 1973, but the circumstances leading up to the band had been brewing for some time. The musical reasons for the partnership of Garcia, Grisman and Rowan have been discussed at great length by all the participants over the years, but I am interested in pointing out how essential the Rowan Brothers were to the formation of Old And In The Way. The Rowan Brothers
  • Inspired David Grisman and Richard Loren to produce and manage them
  • Caused Garcia to suggest that Grisman, Loren and the Rowans move to Marin, and
  • Introduced Garcia to future manager Richard Loren
The happy accident of Garcia's new house being near the Rowan compound in Stinson Beach
  • Built up the relationship between Loren and Garcia
  • Renewed the friendship between Grisman and Garcia
  • Connected Peter Rowan to Garcia, through his brothers and Grisman
Since the Dead were on tour in February of 1973, and Old And In The Way debuted on March 2, Old And In The Way must have been planned in January. That means the Fall of '72, if not earlier, was when the bluegrass picking started in Stinson Beach, giving time for Garcia to work on his banjo chops in private.

Some Conclusions-Muleskinner
The first "Muleskinner" performance was February 13, 1973, but it must have been planned in January, if not before. So whatever plans were hatched for Muleskinner, they were simultaneous with Old And In The Way. Once The Byrds stopped touring (February 24), every member of Muleskinner did not have a regular band. Whatever Grisman and Rowan's hopes and plans may have been for playing with Garcia, they would have known that bluegrass would take a back seat to both the Dead and Garcia/Saunders. Thus I think the recording and the week at the Ash Grove represent a plan by Grisman, Rowan and Greene to have an ongoing performing and recording career parallel to but separate from Jerry Garcia.

A Potpourri Of Bluegrass Jam-Muleskinner
The Muleskinner album came out in 1974, with no fanfare. In fact, it appears (from the liner notes to the 1994 cd) that the "Muleskinner" name was made up after the fact. The appearances by the group in 1973 used some other name, probably just the names of the performers. The album itself has a very unfinished feel to it. There are several bluegrass standards, a few Rowan originals from Sea Train and Grisman's Opus 57, which was a sort of bluegrass standard in some circles. The album sounds like a demo to me, or tracks that would have been considered for an album, but not all used. The album was dedicated to Clarence White, which leads me to suspect that White's participation was a big part of the concept, and once he died the project ended.

The album was produced by Richard Greene and Joe Boyd. Boyd was a legendary producer (of Pink Floyd and Fairport Convention, among many others), who in the early 1970s was working out of Los Angeles mostly doing film music. How Boyd came to work on this project is unknown to me. While several of the songs are traditional bluegrass, a few of the numbers feature electric bass and drums and Clarence White on electric guitar. The bass and drums are kind of static, suggesting that they were overdubbed later. If you look at the timeline above, you will see that John Kahn was not connected to the Muleskinner crowd until after Old And In The Way, leading me to suspect that the overdubs were done in late '73 or early '74 (John Guerin, by the way, is an exceptional session drummer, who must have been doing these simple parts as a courtesy). I suspect an unnamed bluegrass musician provided most of the standup bass parts on the record, and Kahn only overdubbed a few.

The most distinctive aspect of the album are a few "semi-electric" bluegrass style tracks with overdubbed electric guitar and simple bass and drums. Clarence White's guitar sounds like a pedal steel, a sign he was using the patented "b-bender" to get that sound (too long a story to go into here). This hints at some sort of plan to make a sort of country-rock/bluegrass hybrid, that Clarence would have been uniquely qualified to execute. I suspect that when he died, the project ended, and Rowan and Grisman focused on Old And In The Way.

In an alternative universe, where Clarence White never got hit by a drunk driver in Palmdale, Grisman, Rowan and Clarence could have revolutionized country rock in some unknown way, while Old And In The Way thrived in parallel. Jerry and Clarence were old friends going back to the early 60s, so they would have been welcome on stage in each other's bands whether electric or acoustic, but none of that was to come to pass. Don't drink and drive.