I do not usually focus on released albums, as the Deaddisc site generally does such an excellent job. My focus has always been on live performances, specifically the different dates and venues and exact lineups that performed. However, a recent discussion about Jerry Garcia's brief East Coast tour with Howard Wales in January 1972 begged an interesting question: when was Hooteroll? recorded?
The Hooteroll? album was released in December 1971, on Douglas 5 Records. Credited to Howard Wales and Jerry Garcia, the label seems to have been the private imprint of jazz producer Alan Douglas, but since it was manufactured and distributed by Columbia (with a Columbia record number), it was essentially a Columbia release. Hooteroll was released the month before Garcia's first solo album (Garcia) on Warner Brothers. I can't imagine that Warners was pleased to have an album of Jerry Garcia jams in the store at the same time as his first solo album. On the other hand, the Columbia sponsored tour of the East Coast in January 1972 acted as pretty good publicity for the Garcia solo album, so it all worked out well in the end.
The passage of time, however, has obscured the timing of the recording. JGMF has established fairly convincingly that Merl Saunders took over for Howard Wales in the Monday night jams at the Matrix on or about September 7, 1970. Without a doubt, Saunders was partners with Garcia, Kahn and Vitt by October 1970. Did Garcia go back and record the album later with Howard Wales?
The personnel on the Hooteroll album was
- Howard Wales - piano, organ
- Jerry Garcia - guitar
- John Kahn - bass
- Curly Cook - rhythm guitar
- Bill Vitt - drums
- Michael Marinelli - drums
- Ken Balzall - trumpet
- Martin Fierro - saxophone, flute
Wales, Garcia, Kahn and Vitt were the "Monday Night Band" at The Matrix from about April through August, 1970. Martin Fierro is a familiar name to Garcia fans, as he joined the Garcia/Saunders group in 1974, but his performance on Hooteroll seems to pre-date that by at least 3 years. Curly Cook was a familiar name in Bay Area music, having played with Steve Miller Band, AB Skhy, Crowfoot and others, but who felt that the quartet needed a rhythm guitar player? Douglas? Did Garcia ever talk about the recording of the Hooteroll album?
Questions abound. Who were drummer Michael Marinelli and trumpeter Ken Balzall? What studio was the album recorded at? Was Garcia present in the studio, or did he overdub his parts? If Garcia did some overdubbing, on some songs at least, it would have explained Curly Cook's presence. Alan Douglas had a reputation as a producer of having a clear idea of how his artists should sound, even if the artist wasn't as inclined in that direction. I have a feeling that Douglas felt that Garcia could become established as a jazz player--not a bad idea--but that may not have been Garcia's intent. Douglas had attempted a similar thing with Jimi Hendrix and organist Larry Young, so I am not simply imagining this.
I do have a theory. I think the material was recorded in the Summer of 1970. In the Fall of 1971, various people must have persuaded Garcia to let the album be released as a favor to Howard Wales. I think the motivating force was Clive Davis. Davis had always wanted to sign the Grateful Dead, and he had signed the New Riders at least in part in order to court Garcia. Davis would have been sympathetic to the idea that Garcia could have been made into some kind of jazz guitar hero, and he would have encouraged the release of what was otherwise fairly uncommercial music. Davis surely knew that the Grateful Dead's contract with Warners would be over by 1973, and he had to be interested in the Dead.
Since Warner Brothers was releasing the Garcia album, they may have tolerated the Columbia release in order to attract attention to Garcia as a solo act. Interestingly, Warner Brothers was not thanked for giving permission for Garcia to appear on the album, leading me to wonder what Garcia's contractual status was as a solo artist.
However, Alan Douglas and co-producer Doris Dynamite did produce another album in San Francisco in the middle of 1970, instrumental music that was used as the soundtrack to the Spanish allegorical Western movie El Topo. Since El Topo was released in December of 1970, I have to assume the soundtrack was recorded in the Summer or Fall of '70. The soundtrack album was credited to the group Shades Of Joy. The principal arranger for the music was Martin Fierro. Howard Wales appears on the album, as does trumpeter Ken Balzall. Also on the record are drummer Jerry Love and bassist Roger "Jelly Roll" Troy, both of whom would join Wales in early '72 when he toured the East Coast with Garcia.
The credits for El Topo say that the album was recorded at CBS Studios in San Francisco, with Douglas and Doris Dynamite as the producers. I think Douglas invited Garcia, Kahn and Vitt to jam with Howard Wales on CBS's dime, with an eye to releasing an album in the future. I suspect that many of Fierro's horn parts were added to Hooteroll later, as was Balzall's trumpet. Cook or Marinelli may have been present at some of the jams, or overdubbed some bits and pieces as needed. A few long nights in the Summer of 1970 would have provided enough material for the album and the outtakes that were added later.
The extreme vagueness on the record cover about recording details is typically a sign that something funky was happening with the recording or the timing, since usually album covers were full of things like the name of the studio and thanks to special friends. The engineer is named on the album (Russ Geary), who was not the engineer on El Topo (Glen Kolotkin handled the desk for the soundtrack). The album was mixed by Tom Bongiovi, who would work with Douglas many times (Bongiovi's younger cousin is the famous rock singer Jon Bon Jovi).
Whatever the very peculiar circumstances of the release of Hooteroll might have been--and they had to be peculiar--Garcia was a willing participant. There are pictures of Garcia and Wales on the back and inside covers, and Garcia played several dates with Wales's band in early 1972. Still, it's odd: an album recorded in the Summer of 1970 by a band who had moved on (Saunders had replaced Wales), playing noncommercial music and released on a label that wasn't Garcia's, fully a year later with no explanation, while a Warner's solo album was released, publicized by Garcia's first paying East Coast solo shows playing nothing off the solo album.
Garcia may have been willing or even eager to do a favor for Howard Wales, but he was too busy recording and touring to be working on strange backroom deals with record companies. Given the strangeness of Hooteroll's recording and release--I am open to any other theories, but they are likely to be just as convoluted as my proposals--someone had to have a vested interest in making sure Garcia appeared on the Wales album.
The back cover of the album has a photo of Garcia and Wales sitting on a couch, smoking a joint--racy stuff for 1971. A close look at Garcia's hands suggests that the photo's negative is reversed, since Garcia's left hand appears to be missing a finger. A look at the original LP credits says Photographs: Ron Rakow. Whatever peculiar path was that led to Hooteroll's release, Garcia was always willing to go along with Rakow's schemes, and I have to think that we owe the album to Mr. Rakow. I have to say, for all the aspersions rightly cast on Rakow, if I am correct about this we would not have had an idea about the music of Howard Wales and Jerry Garcia without the release of Hooteroll, so he did everyone a musical favor there. The true story may never be known--Rakow doesn't talk much--but at least the music made it out into the world.
Update: JGMF has done some amazing research, and makes a pretty convincing case for Hooteroll having been recorded at the end of 1970. He also illustrates how there were considerably more machinations between Douglas Records and the members of the Dead than I had realized, which adds to my idea that Columbia was courting the Dead in anticipation of stealing them from Warners.