Saturday, February 5, 2011

October 26, 1978 Paramount Theater, Portland, OR: Jerry Garcia Band/Bob Weir Band

In late October of 1978, the Jerry Garcia Band did a brief Northwestern tour, playing three dates in Portland, Eastern Washington State and Seattle. Although the circulating tapes of the shows are apparently quite good, these largely ignored shows are significant in that this is where Jerry Garcia first heard Brent Mydland, and suggested to Bob Weir that Mydland might work as the Dead's keyboardist. At the time, Mydland was a member of The Bob Weir Band, who were opening all three dates. However, for various reasons, the Bob Weir Band had never played with Jerry Garcia before then, so the Portland show would have been Garcia's first real chance to hear Brent perform. Although the exact date of the conversation between Garcia and Weir is unknown, it apparently occurred during this weekend, so the October 26, 1978 show in Portland takes on an unexpected significance.

Keith And Donna Godchaux
Although the exact details are hard to uncover from this distance, the Dead were unhappy with Keith Godchaux's playing in 1978, and Keith and Donna Godchaux themselves were unhappy with what the Dead's endless touring was doing to their personal and family life. At some point in the late fall--I have never been able to determine exactly when--Keith and Donna announced at a band meeting that they were quitting the band. It was clear that they would have been pushed out if they hadn't left of their own accord, but they seem to have left under relatively graceful circumstances. Keith's tragic death in an automobile accident on July 23, 1980 put a pall over his departure. By all accounts, he was a shy, nice person and no Dead members were much interested in publicly discussing in detail their musical frustrations with him, not wanting to speak ill of the dead.

Nonetheless, in 1978 the Dead's frustration with Keith's playing seems to have centered around his unwillingness to play any keyboard with some sustain. His rare forays on electric piano and Hammond organ in the early 1970s were always provocative, but Keith seemed to have little interest in pursuing those keyboards. Weir admitted that his penchant for playing slide guitar in 1978 stemmed from frustration at Keith's unwillingness to play organ, and Weir tried to make up for it with the slide. My own opinion is that the return of Mickey Hart changed the rhythmic emphasis of the band, and it implicitly required the keyboard to fulfill a different role than when there was only one drummer. With only Bill Kreutzmann at the traps, the grand piano had room to be a secondary percussion instrument, but Mickey Hart took up all that room. Garcia and Weir must have assumed that Keith would emphasize more melody and sustain on a different keyboard, but he seems to have simply refused.

Keith's unwillingness to play organ or synthesizer seems to have built up a lot of musical frustration for the rest of the band, particularly Garcia and Weir. If Garcia was considering Brent Mydland as a possible Keith substitute, then it means Garcia and Weir had at least implicitly been discussing the subject for some time (does anyone know when Weir "debuted" as a slide player with the Dead?).

Bob Weir and Heaven Help The Fool
Soon after the Grateful Dead signed to Arista Records in late 1976, both Garcia and Weir agreed to make solo albums for the label. I assume the solo deals were part of the Dead's Arista contract. Weir's solo album Heaven Help The Fool was released by Arista in January 1978. The album was produced by Keith Olsen, producer of both Terrapin Station and the hugely popular Rumors, by Fleetwood Mac. The album was consciously conceived as a radio friendly, non-Grateful Dead album. Weir was the most photogenic of the Dead, and the professional cover photo (above) is typical of 70s rock albums, not at all the implied psychedelia of an elaborate Kelly/Mouse album cover.

Weir was trying to mine the sort of vein of players like Boz Scaggs and Steve Miller, who had been hip San Francisco rockers in the day, but had achieved great success by producing streamlined versions of the bluesy music that they had first played at the Fillmore. There were no "jams" on Heaven Help The Fool, and all of the 8 songs had pretty conventional structures. All of the musicians on the album were established Los Angeles session men with substantial credits, such as members of Toto. The only familiar name to Dead fans was singer Bill Champlin, but at that time he too was a Los Angeles session man, providing backing vocals for many hit albums.

To promote the album, Weir formed a band and did modest tour in February and March 1978. It was called The Bob Weir Band and received direct support from Arista, in distinct contrast to the casual gigs of bands like Kingfish or the Legion Of Mary. Also, rather than simply play out of the way Bay Area dives like the Keystone Berkeley, the Bob Weir Band debuted in Los Angeles at The Roxy, playing a three night stand from February 17-19. The Roxy was primarily used to showcase bands to the rest of the record industry. The balance of the tour was mostly in major cities like Boston, New York and Philadelphia. While there were a few out of the way colleges thrown in for good measure, the general purpose of the tour was to create a buzz that would inspire radio airplay, rather than just encouraging the Grateful Dead faithful.

The five week tour of The Bob Weir Band ended with a show at The Old Waldorf in San Francisco on March 25, 1978. The Old Waldorf was the premier rock club in the Bay Area, and the prime showcase for record companies promoting new rock bands. Neither Jerry Garcia nor any other member of the Dead had ever played there, and it was very much outside of the Deadhead orbit. The fact that the Bob Weir Band played the Old Waldorf instead of the Keystone Berkeley was a clear sign that Arista was supporting Weir's album in an attempt to break it outside the Deadhead universe. It also meant that since Weir was not playing regular Deadhead stops, there had been no shows with the Jerry Garcia Band.

The Bob Weir Band
The initial lineup of The Bob Weir Band was
  • Bob Weir-guitar, vocals
  • Bobby Cochran-lead guitar, vocals
  • Brent Mydland-Hammond organ, electric piano, harmony vocals
  • Rick Carlos-bass
  • John Mauceri-drums
None of the band members had performed on Heaven Help The Fool. The musicians who had played on the record would have been much too expensive to take on the road, as they made huge money playing sessions in Los Angeles. Lead guitarist Bobby Cochran had been in a mid 70s version of Steppenwolf, and in 1977 he had joined The Flying Burrito Brothers. The Burritos evolved into a group called Sierra, who released their eponymous album on Mercury Records in October 1977. Cochran's version of the song "I Found Love," which he performed with both the Bob Weir Band and Bobby And The Midnites, can be found on the Sierra album.

Weir apparently had called multi-instumentalist David Lindley about playing on tour with him (wouldn't that have been something!), but while Lindley was unavailable, he recommended drummer John Mauceri. Mauceri had regularly played with bassist Rick Carlos, so I assume they came as a pair. I actually saw Mauceri and Carlos playing as part of David Blue's band in August 1973 (along with guitarist Don Felder, pre-Eagles). Mauceri and Carlos seem to have gotten together as the rhythm section for the touring band of a duo called Batdorf and Rodney, who released three albums in the early 1970s.

John Batdorf and Mark Rodney were singing guitarists who toured with Carlos and Mauceri as part of their band. At some point around 1974 or '75, near the end of the duo's tenure, Brent Mydland joined them as keyboard player. I'm not certain whether or if Carlos or Mauceri were still in the band at the time Mydland joined, but that seems to have been the connection between them and Brent Mydland. When Batdorf and Rodney split up, John Batdorf, Brent Mydland and some others formed a group called Silver, who released an album on Arista in 1976, but Silver also split up.

Bob Weir Band, Fall 1978
After the tour in early 1978 (February 17-March 25), I only know of one other date, where the Bob Weir Band opened two shows for the Jefferson Starship on June 9 and 10, 1978 at Nassau Coliseum. Although Heaven Help The Fool was not a success, Weir must have enjoyed the group since he reconstituted them for the Fall of '78. However, the limited performances of the group indicate that they were not getting the full support of Arista this time around. The band played a show at Rancho Nicasio in Marin on October 16, and also shows at Keystone Berkeley and Keystone Palo Alto right around then, although I have not been able to identify the exact dates.

The local Bay Area dates seem to have been warmups for the higher profile "tour" where the Jerry Garcia Band and The Bob Weir Band played medium sized halls in the Pacific Northwest. There was one change to the group, as Dee Murray replaced Rick Carlos on bass. Dee Murray was an established session man, who had played on Heaven Help The Fool. Murray (1945-92) had been an original part of Elton John's band, and had played on every Elton John album up through Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy. When John replaced Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson, they had remained in LA playing sessions. The Pacific Northwest dates for The Jerry Garcia Band/Bob Weir Band were:
  • October 26, 1978: Paramount Theater, Portland, OR
  • October 27, 1978: Special Events Pavilion, Eastern Washington University, Cheney, WA
  • October 28, 1978: Paramount Theater NW, Seattle, WA (early and late show)
Because Arista had been using the Bob Weir Band to push Heaven Help The Fool, Weir had played almost no Bay Area dates, nor had their been any co-billings with Jerry Garcia. Thus Garcia had never heard Brent Mydland play, or at least not any more than a brief snippet of a rehearsal or performance tape. According to Garcia, after hearing Brent play organ, somewhere in the Northwest he suggested to Weir something along the lines of "this guy could work." One critical point was that if Keith Godchaux left the band, Donna would as well, and a third voice would be needed. Garcia must have heard Brent sing enough in the Bob Weir Band to be confident on that score, and Brent was in, even if he didn't know it at the time.

Brent Mydland And The Grateful Dead
I do not know the exact timing of the band meeting where Keith and Donna Godchaux quit the Grateful Dead, but I think it was in December of 1978 or January of 1979. Their final tours with the Dead were excellent, and Keith played wonderfully. I saw Keith and Donna's last show with the Dead, at the Oakland Coliseum on February 17, 1979, and the band played fantastically well, pulling many old songs out of the hat (I had been waiting for years to hear "Big Railroad Blues," for example). Although there were odd rumors out in the crowd, without an Internet no one knew that it was Keith and Donna's last show, and nothing was said about it from the stage.

Keith and Donna's departure was leaked out somewhat casually, I think in an announcement in Joel Selvin's Chronicle column. There were no articles or information about who might replace him. The Dead booked a show for April 22, 1979 at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, but there was no public discussion of who would play keyboards. All of my friends and I made up fantastic rumors about Bill Champlin, Merl Saunders or the return of Tom Constanten, but it turns out that the Grateful Dead knew all along that Brent would replace Keith and Donna. To my knowledge, no other player was rehearsed or even discussed. Until Brent walked on stage at San Jose, the crowd had no idea who was going to be in the Dead. My friend said "hey, it's the guy who played with Weir at The Roxy" and that was that. But it all seems to have been decided in Portland and Washington the previous October, when Garcia heard Brent Mydland playing live.

Some Jerry Garcia Band Notes
Over the years, Dennis McNally, Blair Jackson and others have discussed Brent Mydland replacing Keith and Donna in the Grateful Dead, but no one really talks about their departure from the Jerry Garcia Band. Keith and Donna's final appearance with the JGB was November 4, 1978 at the Keystone Palo Alto. It seems obvious that John Kahn and Garcia had been plotting to form Reconstruction, a big change in musical direction. Keith and Donna's departure made the timing of the transition simple. While Garcia's illness in late November may have delayed Reconstruction's debut slightly, in that the Dead didn't normally tour much in January, Garcia and Kahn must have been thinking about it for some time.

However, the manner in which Garcia and Weir decided on replacing Keith Godchaux suggests something about Garcia's isolation. By 1978, Garcia toured relentlessly with both the Dead and his own group, and by that time he seems to have almost never to have gone outside his home, hotel or studio otherwise, as he was increasingly recognizable. When it came to replacing Keith Godchaux, Garcia must have been correctly concerned with finding a keyboard player who could play organ and sing in a live format, but the fact is Garcia probably had few opportunities to hear other players. The Dead no longer played rock festivals and were very rarely billed with any other acts whatsoever, so he simply may not have heard anyone.

My reasoning here actually has to do with the Jerry Garcia Band after the Keith and Donna era. When Garcia and Kahn reactivated the JGB in October, 1979 the keyboard player was electric pianist Ozzie Ahlers. Ahlers had played in Robert Hunter's band Comfort throughout early 1978, and the band had opened for the JGB in a number of shows. Garcia had heard Ahlers play live, and must have liked what he heard. When Ahlers left after mid-1980, he was replaced by Melvin Seals. According to Garcia, he first heard Melvin Seals playing Fender Rhodes electric piano with Elvin Bishop, when Bishop was opening for the Dead, and he kept Seals in mind.

Elvin Bishop opened for the Grateful Dead in Santa Barbara on June 4, 1978, and that must have been when Garcia noticed Seals. We know that Garcia was listening, since he came out to jam with Bishop, a very rare occurrence for Garcia in that decade. One way of looking at this information is to say that Garcia's primary keyboard players from 1979 to 1990 were all in bands that opened for him in 1978. Ahlers had played in Comfort in February and March 1978 when they opened for JGB, Seals with Elvin Bishop opening for the Dead on June 4, and Brent Mydland in the Bob Weir Band on October 26-28, 1978, and Ahlers, Mydland and Sears anchored the Dead and the JGB keyboard chairs for the next twelve years (this doesn't account for Jimmy Warren, but he wasn't the primary keyboard player, and in any case he is a mystery in his own right). Thus if the Bob Weir Band had not opened for the Garcia Band in Portland and Washington, Garcia may never have heard Brent, and the history of the Grateful Dead would have taken some other course.

24 comments:

  1. Bob Weir: "Keith didn't really like it here. He was bored with life in general, and he would freely tell anybody that. The darkness came upon him, and it pretty much took control."

    Blair Jackson notes that by mid-'78 Keith was completely wasted most of the time - onstage he barely played, and offstage he was surly & dour.
    Mountain Girl: "That was one of his goals - to get messed up. He really liked to get trashed."
    Richard Loren: "Keith was just strung out, nodding, wrecking hotel rooms, and being really crazed."
    Lesh tells a story in his book of how Keith set a hotel room on fire with his lighter while looking for a bottle of pills he'd dropped on the floor...

    Lesh: "Keith's playing had degenerated to the point that most of us were simply trying to lose him onstage... Never a paragon of self-esteem, Keith's increasing drug & alcohol use had put him in an almost vegetative state. His musical timing was suffering, and he had developed some annoying habits onstage, notably slavish imitation of Jerry's lead lines, a tic that began to irritate Jerry no end."

    By the end of '78, Keith & Donna were quite miserable - as Donna said, "The Grateful Dead is not benign... We realized that if we did not make a serious change soon, that it was not going to turn out well. We were physically, spiritually, and emotionally wasted... We knew we had to make a change, [but] neither one of us are quitters - we talked for weeks about how to make a change."

    Donna: "The tour before we finally left, Keith's and my personal life was so horrible, and in the band as a whole the feeling was that 'the music stinks, every concert stinks.' It just got progressively worse. [In Jan '79 she left the tour early, telling the tour manager, "I can't handle this, I'm going home." So she went home, skipping the last two shows in Buffalo & Detroit.] Then Keith and I did one more tour, discussing all the way how we could get out of it."

    Donna recalls that the band in general had become quite nasty by this stage. "After every show, one clique would be getting together to bad-mouth another clique...every week somebody was getting fired. I said to myself, 'This is hell.'"
    She remembers the band being unhappy "after almost every concert. Most of the time it was the blame game, depending on who was in the room. The adrenaline's still there, and the atmosphere is so charged that you need some kind of closure, and unfortunately with the Grateful Dead it was hardly ever there...everyone was judging the evening based on something different, so that made for some complicated scrutinies."

    It's also worth mentioning that Keith & Donna had become quite violent. Once they smashed into each other's cars repeatedly at a GD rehearsal, wrecking both cars; Donna also had a habit of destroying hotel rooms.
    Donna: "I never went a day without getting drunk...I punched out limo drivers...I would never be able to count the hotel rooms that I completely destroyed...If they didn't have my cleaning back in time at the hotel, I would just freak out and tear everything up... Keith was in a sling from where I'd broken a chair over his arm. I would have my eyes black from where he'd hit me. Once I did half a tour with a tooth missing that he'd knocked out."
    According to McNally: "Garcia would simply moan, 'Oh fuck'... It was painful to watch them, and it would get worse when they tried to get the rest of the band to take sides. As Hart put it, 'The music became secondary to the soap opera.'"

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  2. CONTINUED...

    So - before the Feb '79 tour, "Keith and I decided we wanted to get out and start our own group or something else - anything else. So we played that benefit concert at Oakland [2/17/79], and then a few days later there was a meeting at our house and it was brought up whether we should stay in the band anymore...and we mutually decided we'd leave."

    It's interesting that even though that last Feb show is pretty good (as are a number of shows on that tour) and features several newly revived songs, the band hadn't actually decided yet that K&D were out...though everybody must've seen the writing on the wall long before that. But at least per Donna's memory, there was no band meeting before Feb 17.

    Now as for the JGB - John Kahn suggested that the JGB folded in Nov '78 because Garcia had had it with Keith.
    He said that in late '78, "Jerry caught Keith stealing something inside his briefcase; his drugs or something. He was inside Jerry's briefcase and then he was gone right after that. I'm sure he would have been gone anyway; it was in the works that they were going to split up. He made Jerry mad...Keith would burn me and Jerry out of drugs all the time."
    I don't know if Kahn's memory is accurate here (I had assumed it was just scheduling reasons that the JGB stopped in Nov '78, because the Dead had a heavy tour schedule from then til mid-February), but it is another piece of the puzzle to consider.

    I don't know just how early the Dead started thinking of dropping Keith. (Weir started playing slide guitar in April/May '78, I think - haven't pinpointed the first show.) It seems to have been a gradual decline on Keith's part - he experimented a little bit with organ/electric piano sounds occasionally in early '77, but that side of his palette disappeared by '78. And personal behavior that might have been annoying at first became unendurable over the course of '78.

    It's interesting to me that from all accounts it was GARCIA'S suggestion that Brent could be the next keyboard player...considering Brent was in Weir's band, and Weir would have been more familiar with him earlier on. (Maybe Weir initially thought Brent was 'off-limits' for the Dead?)
    Lesh: "Jerry asked Bob to contact Brent, ask him if he was interested, and send him some tapes so he could learn some of our stuff."
    Brent: "Bob gave me a call one night out of the blue and said, 'Would you be interested in being in the Dead? It's not for sure, but Keith & Donna might be leaving soon, so you ought to check out some of this stuff,' and he gave me a list of some tunes to listen to."
    No one ascribes a date to this, but it sounds like it was some time before K&D left...so apparently the rest of the band was planning to spring a coup on K&D! (And perhaps waiting for a rehearsal break.)

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  3. CONTINUED...

    It's hard to understand why the band clung onto K&D for so long, without even asking them to take a break or anything (that we know of). But, after all, this is a band that already had a lot of experience with self-destructive drug abusers within its ranks; Phil suggests they mainly just ignored it.
    Inertia carried the band along (as it often did), and of course none of them wanted to be "cops". Better to sweep things under the rug & hope they cleared up over time. Rational, sober discussion & decision-making was not the band's strong-point! (They had dropped Pigpen and TC in the past, so dropping Keith would not have been a radical step, and they were virtually playing without him anyway...but I'm sure nobody wanted to confront the issue.)

    Donna later tried to explain her behavior:
    "It wasn't the Grateful Dead. It's what success does to your self-image, what it does to the human spirit. It's destructive, and some people can handle it and some can't. The point is, you're out there so long before people who adore you...and you realize you can't live up to their image, so you're in a very strange position. And I'm not even Jerry... And I know the effect it had on him."

    But Keith & Donna did stay together, and apparently had a happy life after they left the Dead. She said Keith became healthy from being an absolute wreck, and they played in another band together during his last year. It seems that back in a smaller-scale environment, they became more peaceful & reconciled. As she said, "In a way though, we did pretty well: after ten years we were still in love and still married."
    So, they had a relatively happy ending, except that he died.

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  4. LIA, thanks for all the great quotes. I guess things with Keith and Donna were grimmer than I realized at the end. It sounds like everybody in the Dead, including the Godchauxs, knew that the February tour would be the last, even though it wasn't discussed until afterward. Presumably Weir had already talked to Brent by that time.

    It's also interesting to hear about Garcia giving up on Keith as a member of JGB. I would have to guess that Kahn started hatching Reconstruction just after that. For Garcia, going back to working with Merl sounds like it would have been a relief.

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  5. Very interesting, saw the JGB often and always felt their sound was enhanced solely due to the great Grand Piano sound without the noise I often associated with the Midi, synth sound that came out of the Dead in the '80s. Less was more, all those early mid '70 Dead shows with Piano front and center made it a more enjoyable pleasurable listening experience imho.
    save

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  6. I don't listen to the Grateful Dead, but Keith was playing very, very well in October '78 with the JGB. It's a little non-linearity in the overall story, I think. And, indeed, the story behind the November 3, 1978 JGB tape (the soundboard portion of the show at which they play "So What") was allegedly that it was one of Jerry's favorites, and he made a copy for someone.

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  7. I think artists in general and the Grateful Dead in particular are often poor judges of their own performances. Musicians often remember the experience of playing--the sound was bad, your stomach hurt, you were mad at the piano player--but the experience of listening is often quite different.

    The same thing happens, in a more mundane fashion, if you teach a class or give a presentation to a group. You might feel you achieved none of your intended goals, but the audience still might have been quite impressed.

    The Dead had problems with Keith and Donna, and vice versa, but that doesn't mean there wasn't some great music by both the GD and JGB in 1978.

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  8. From reflecting on my own post and all the great comments, I now think that Keith and Donna remained in the Dead throughout 1978 because of Jerry Garcia. Even LIA's great research doesn't seem able to find a quote where Garcia criticized Keith's playing, and note that Kahn only said that Jerry got fed up with Keith's behavior, not his playing.

    Weir and Lesh seem full of complaints about Keith's playing, but I have to guess that Garcia either implicitly defended Keith (probably by silence) or that the others felt unable to broach the subject. That's why it's significant that Garcia suggested to Weir that Brent might work out--Weir and Lesh were waiting for Garcia to concede that Keith wasn't workable anymore.

    Garcia had an economic stake in Keith's presence that was different than the others, and there had to be at least a whiff that Jerry might choose JGB over the Dead. This is not to suggest that Garcia would have "broken up" the Dead over the JGB, but by 1978 he could tour profitably without the Dead, and he could have chosen to do more JGB tours and fewer Dead ones. Don't think that the other Dead members didn't consider this.

    To JGMF's comment, it seems that Garcia was happy with Keith's playing right up until the end, but too many other issues intruded. Based on the chronology we have determined, I wonder if Phil Lesh had either met Brent Mydland or heard him play before his tryout with the Dead...my guess is "no." I think Phil was so happy for a change, he took Jerry and Bob at their word, which was ultimately justified musically.

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  9. Great conversation all around, thank you all!

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  10. An audience review of the 10/28/78 JGB show on the jerrysite is ecstatic about Keith's playing that night.
    Personally I always felt that late '78 was a real low-point for the Dead's shows, a lot of very sludgy playing... The lack of enthusiasm could be mine (I haven't revisited those shows lately), but the tapes from that time were mostly very dispiriting.

    Lacking more info, I'd be hesitant about taking the position that Garcia 'defended' Keith in the Dead in any way, except perhaps through non-discussion. (And Donna suggests there were a lot of post-show discussions.) We have Lesh's viewpoint that Garcia was irritated by Keith's playing; we also have the fact that Garcia basically asked Weir for his keyboard player shortly after those Oct '78 shows. That doesn't sound like a strong defense!
    I agree that Keith being in two Garcia bands would have been a complicating factor that might've kept the rest of the Dead from complaining too loudly, deferring to their non-leader... (And remember, the Dead only played a few isolated runs between early July '78 and mid-Nov '78.)
    But it would no longer have been an issue after Nov 3 '78 - which coincidentally or not, is right after Garcia first heard Brent.
    From Donna's report, it sounds like the next 3 months of Dead touring was the nail in the coffin. The band may simply have felt like they had to wait til their next long tour break in Feb before they could really hash it out/break in a replacement.

    Actually, I can't remember seeing any interviews where Garcia talks about Keith at all...there must be one.
    Though there is a Gans interview from April '81 where Garcia says that Brent "is an excellent musician, and a great choice for the band... What we always wanted was somebody that would produce color. The thing of having another percussion instrument in an all-percussion band was really too much of the same thing. The effect the piano had on the ensemble was something we could accomplish with guitars, so we were really looking for that sustain - you know, we were all hungry for color."

    Although, in the same interview, he also praises the Cats Under the Stars-era JGB: "I've kept having new versions of my band that I wasn't quite satisfied with... My band was good during that period of time. I was really comfortable with the way that band was going... We had some real beautiful things going, nice things. [He mentions their Moonlight Mile and Let Me Roll It as being especially good with Donna's harmonies.] I'm just waiting for the band to evolve to the place where I can take it in those directions again. I may get some singers in the band."
    So from the perspective of '81, he seems quite nostalgic for the Keith-era JGB, at least the harmonies!

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  11. First off, thanks to LIA for the great research and post.

    I don't know if there's anything to this but if one watches the dvd of the Closing of Winterland (12-31-78), at one point during the middle of a jam, Garcia walks up to Keith and says something to him.

    That always puzzled me because what in the world would Garcia say to Keith in the middle of a jam?

    After reading above about Garcia being pissed about Keith copying his licks (which I had read about before somewhere), it's possible though admittedly doubtful, that Garcia said something to Keith to the effect of "can you stop copying my licks?"

    I realize this is probably not the reason he said something to Keith during that jam (apologies for not knowing what song it was but it was on the first dvd so probably the first set or beginning of the second) but I was always baffled that during the middle of a jam, he would walk up to Keith to say something to him.

    At the very least, I assume it would have been hard for Keith to catch what he was saying.

    One final note. I've been listening lately to some January and Feb, '78 Dead shows and the level of playing during that time period blows me away. It's really a continuation of the energy they had in late '77.

    Now I can't say that I've done any thorough comparison of that period with late '78 / early '79 but my gut instinct tells me the energy level and creativity level of the end of '78 didn't match that of the beginning of '78.

    If this is so, it could have been due to drugs (Garcia getting more into Persian and Keith getting more out there and Lesh possibly drinking more), wear and tear of being on the road for almost another year (they had only been on the road for 1.5 years by end of '77), or a combo of things but I just don't remember being blown away by anything I've heard from late '78 / early '79 to nearly the level I've been compared to the ridiculously great playing of early '78 (the well-known 1-22-78, Eugene, OR being a typ example).

    The one I heard very recently from that period and is an aud recording of Feb 4, 1978 (Milwaukee) and thus freely available at archive.org (get it here:
    http://www.archive.org/details/gd78-02-04.aud.vernon.12199.sbeok.shnf ). It's a great aud recording with excellent versions of Ten Jed, Dancin, Playin, Black Peter > Around & Around. This night is between the two nights that make up DP 18 (Feb 3 & 5, 1978).

    Anyway, thanks again for the good & entertaining post (interesting to read about Dee Murray, who's name I remembered from Elton John's big albums, playing with Weir - he died at the age of 45 from skin cancer according to Wikipedia).

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  12. Corry did the post, I just did the comments!

    It wasn't uncommon for the Dead to talk to each other mid-song...I think there's an instance in the GD '74 Winterland movie as well, where Jerry has a joke with Donna while Weir's singing in the middle of a song - of course, now I can't remember which one.

    I agree that late '78 is a big drop from early '78 - to me those February Dick's Picks shows are as good as the year gets; and the spring tour has some highly regarded, but repetitive shows (though I prefer '77). They were very hot (or coked-up, if you will) in some summer shows like 6/4, 6/25, 9/2, some in early July. They had problems in Egypt...the October Winterland run has its moments...but the Nov/Dec tour to me sounded like a real slog, aside from a few standouts like 11/20 and 12/16. They seem to have perked up in Jan/Feb '79; at least many of those shows sounded a lot more energetic to me.

    But Keith-wise, in the Dead his playing had been on a slide since '76, which is the last year where we get real jazzy piano improv in the jams. Whether it was a change in the Dead's approach (fewer 'outside' jams; more rock and less jazz) or a change in Keith's interest, by '77 he's sticking much more to chordal backing, and often never leaves the chords. Which I think is the cause of Jerry's comment that he was just playing what the guitars were already playing.

    Someone else would have to detail how Keith's playing progressed through the JGB in those years, but it seems he was much more of a contributor to late-'78 JGB than late-'78 Dead. It's my guess that in the Dead, the personal problems with Donna didn't become disastrous until the last few months (the Dead weren't on the road that much in mid-'78).

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  13. Sorry Corry for snubbing you accidentally. Thanks for the great post! Great stuff! (and thanks LIA for letting me know)

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  14. Bill, I never took it as a snub. One of the great things about blogging is the collective nature of it. LIA's research on all the quotes was so great that I periodically forgot it was my post, too, since it added so much to the discourse.

    I, too, had always wondered what the Dead said to each other onstage. Back in the 70s, they use to tune a lot, and I would see Garcia and Weir talking while they tuned up between songs. What were they talking about? Even if they were talking about the next song, which I mostly doubt, what were they saying?

    Most of these interludes were edited out of tapes, much less of videos, so they are mostly forgotten, but there was often extensive private chitchat between songs.

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  15. I'm not much of a banter-seeker in those years, but there's at least one episode from this period that must be pointed out:
    http://www.archive.org/details/gd1978-11-18.sbd.miller.81131.sbeok.flac16
    In the last 30 seconds of the From the Heart of Me track, the band starts cursing each other out like middle-schoolers as they get ready for the next song. It's pretty hilarious...if you ever wondered what they were saying to each other between songs...

    (The rest of the show is pretty strong, by the way, with a rare Ollin Arrageed jam.)

    Anyway, synchronicity struck with this post, as I had actually written part of a post on the end of Keith & Donna, when Corry beat me to it. After some soul-searching, I decided to use the material in the comments here rather than do a duplicate post on my blog. After all, I'm devoted to the *early* Dead, and if I suddenly posted about 1978, readers might wonder if they were in the right blog!

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  16. The funniest part is that I originally conceived this post as being about The Bob Weir Band, and an excuse to mention the fact that Dee Murray played with them for a few dates in the Fall. I ended up writing more about Keith and Donna than I expected, and then LIA's research made the whole thing take off.

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  17. These things do tend to take on a life of their own ...

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  18. One of the most baffling comment scenes to me is the following. On the 3-28-81 Rockpalast video broadcast of the show in Germany, Pete Townsend comes out and plays with the Dead on NFA > Wharf Rat > Around & Around > Good Lovin.

    Right after they go into Good Lovin (last song of the second set), Garcia walks up to Townsend, says something to him, and Townsend then walks off stage.

    There's nothing that indicates any animosity between the two (Garcia’s all smiles) but I've always wondered what that was about. I figured it was along the lines of, "Pete, we're gonna finish the set with this one and I'll talk to you after the show."

    You can see it for yourself here on youtube:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fc7npDaySok

    (Good show by the way and excellent camera work - my fave Dead vid by far. It's a shame the Dead don't officially release it.)

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  19. I found a comment about the Bob Weir Band from bassist Rick Carlos, on the Wolfgang's Vault page for the BWB show at the Old Waldorf on Mar 25 '78, here
    http://www.wolfgangsvault.com/bob-weir-band/concerts/old-waldorf-march-25-1978.html

    Wow ! Nice to find this. I have no photos or recordings of my days with Bob. The bass was recorded "line direct" so the sound is rather dry compared to what was coming from my amp but I'm happy just to hear this stuff again. I recommended Brent for this gig even though he was always hard to work with . We had played in bands together since high school. John Mauceri is back to his original name "John White". After the Weir gig John went on to play with Danny O'keefe , Jackson Brown and Etta James. Great memories ! Rick Carlos.

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  20. Brent Mydland was a perfect fit with the Dead from the first show. I was listening to his debut performance from Spartan Stadium, San Jose 1979 and he really does a great job.
    By the way that show will make a great vault release. David Lemieux, the archivist mentioned to me it's one of his favorites, especially the terrific "Scarlet/Fire" and "Estimated>He's Gone."

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  21. Reposted from a different thread: You asked, "does anyone know when Weir 'debuted' as a slide player with the Dead?" When I reheard Warren Zevon's studio version of Werewolves of London and the slide work on that, I theorized that when the Dead learned that tune is when Bobby had the impetus to play slide guitar live. First GD performance of the song on April 19, 1978, did Bobby play slide prior to that date?

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  22. As far as I know, spring '78 is when Weir started playing slide; so Werewolves may well have been the impetus. That was also the tour where they started doing the realllly long drum breaks. The Dead sound very energetic & excited on some shows that spring...perhaps overly so.

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  23. Weir played Slide on Werewolves of London 4/19/78 - for sure.
    Listen to it here:
    http://archive.org/details/gd1978-04-19.fob.sonyECM250.walker-scotton.miller.94494.sbeok.flac16

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  24. There's a recent interview with Ozzie Ahlers -
    http://www.jakefeinbergshow.com/2013/03/jfs-110-the-ozzie-ahlers-interview/

    In early '78, Ahlers was playing keyboards in Robert Hunter's band Comfort, and they opened for the JGB a number of times. Ahlers says that at two of these shows when Keith "wasn't feeling well," he sat in for Keith in the JGB! (He isn't sure of the cities.)
    So Ahlers would've had some JGB experience long before he actually joined the band in '79...it makes sense that Garcia would call on him.

    In a parallel GD universe though, imagine if Garcia had invited Ahlers to join the Dead & Mydland to join the JGB?....

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