- The Warlocks May-December 1965
- The Grateful Dead January-April 1967
- The Grateful Dead May-June 1967
- The Grateful Dead November-December 1967
- The Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia January 1968
- The Grateful Dead March-April 1968
- Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia July-August 1969
- Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia September-October 1969
- Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia November 1969
- Grateful Dead December 1969
- Grateful Dead January 1970
- Grateful Dead February 1970
- Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia March 1970
- Grateful Dead November 1970
What follows is a list of known Grateful Dead performance dates for March, 1969. I am focused on which performances occurred when, rather than the performances themselves. For known performances, I have assumed that they are easy to assess on Deadlists, The Archive and elsewhere, and have made little comment. As a point of comparison, I am comparing my list to Deadlists, but I realize that different databases may include or exclude different dates (I am not considering recording dates, interviews or Television and radio broadcast dates in this context).
My working assumption is that the Grateful Dead, while already a legendary rock band by 1968, were living hand to mouth and scrambling to find paying gigs. Most paying performances were on Friday and Saturday nights, so I am particularly interested in Friday and Saturday nights where no Grateful Dead performances were scheduled or known.
In March 1969 the Grateful Dead were primarily focused on finishing the Aoxomoxoa album at Pacific Recording in San Mateo. As a result, their performances were confined to easy weekend trips, allowing them to make a little money while still staying around town to work on the record. At the same time, since the band was in town they made a few benefit appearances on the side, and I suspect that March '69 was a month where any rumored or reported Garcia sightings are more likely to be true than not. Given Garcia's predeliction for performing live, I suspect that he tried to drop in around town at the Matrix or somewhere, even if I can't yet prove it.
I have linked to existing posters where available.
Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia Tour Itinerary March 1969
February 27-March 2, 1969: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Pentangle/Sir Douglas Quintet/Frumious Bandersnatch
This weekend stand at Fillmore West was the basis of both Live/Dead and the Live At Fillmore West 10-cd box set. I myself have gone on at length about the importance of Pentangle to Jerry Garcia's concept of acoustic music performed live, so I won't repeat myself or others. Suffice to say, it was a concert weekend for the ages.
Sir Douglas Quintet opened the first two nights (Thursday 27 and Friday 28) and the last one (Sunday 2), but were replaced by Frumious Bandersnatch for Saturday (March 1), per an eyewitness. The reason given was "illness" but I think it may have been some obscure dispute between Doug Sahm and Bill Graham.
|The Datebook listing for the San Francisco Chronicle, Monday, March 10, 1969|
Given the Grateful Dead's always precarious financial position in the 1960s, I always start by assuming that a weekend where I don't know about a show simply means that I haven't looked hard enough for it. However, while the weekend of March 7-8 features no Grateful Dead or Jerry Garcia appearances to my knowledge, I think it's relatively unlikely the band played that weekend. The group had to stick around the Bay Area because they were working on Aoxomoxoa, so that means that any weekend adventures couldn't be too far away.
However, the Dead were booked in San Francisco (at the Black And White Ball) the following weekend, Southern California the weekend after that, and then the Central Valley and Las Vegas at the end of the month. Contract riders would have likely prevented them from playing an advertised show anywhere around those places on March 7-8, particularly in San Francisco. I suppose Sacramento is possible, but I have a pretty good idea of Sacramento rock history and I'm not aware of a Grateful Dead show there in March 1969. It's remotely possible they played The Sound Factory that weekend, or attempted to, as I don't know who played there on March 7-8, but I can comfortably eliminate UC Davis for various reasons I won't belabor here. I think March 7-8 was just one of those weekends where the Dead were unable to book a show.
Of course, with no Dead show since Sunday March 2, how long do you think Garcia could go without playing somewhere? With that in mind, I note that there was a jam session at the Matrix on March 10, a typical enough event at the club on Mondays. Of course, I am just grasping at straws here, but I don't think my suggestion is far-fetched, if admittedly unprovable.
|An excerpt from Ralph Gleason's March 12, 1969 SF Chronicle "On The Town" column|
Both Dennis McNally and Deadbase have the Grateful Dead listed as performing at the SF State Legal Defense Committee benefit at Fillmore West. McNally was always carefully sourced, so I am confident that he would not have listed them without some indication that the band in fact played the event.
However, I still consider this show unconfirmed, because it has been my experience that every free concert, benefit or "Event" in San Francisco in the 1960s was always suggesting if not assuring that the Grateful Dead were invited or expected. An article that says they were "expected" didn't always translate into an actual appearance by the Dead, so I'm not taking it as a proven event yet.
With my hesitation aside, I would note that the Dead's contract with the Black And White Ball would probably have prevented them from advertising a show in San Francisco. The three bands on the bill could hardly have filled Fillmore West on a Wednesday night, so a "stealth" headliner makes a lot of sense. The San Francisco State College student body was on strike, and it was a highly charged political event in San Francisco. Rock Scully, among many others in the Haight-Ashbury, had been a graduate student (in English) at SF State, so there were plenty of social connections between the Dead and SF State, which was the primary precondition for the band to perform at a benefit.
Also, if the Dead did actually headline the benefit, I would note that A.B. Skhy was second on the bill. This may be the first time that A.B. Skhy was booked with the Dead, and if so it might have been the first time Garcia had gotten to hear Howard Wales.
March 15, 1969: Hilton Hotel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: The Black And White Ball
The Black And White Ball had been the San Francisco Symphony's principal fundraiser for many years, but it had not been held in some time. The event was re-instituted for 1969, and the head of the entertainment committee was Bob Weir's mother. A careful reading of the Society Pages during the late 1960s showed me that the common entertainment for Debutante Parties and the like was a pair of alternating acts: a big band for the grown-ups to dance to, and a rock band for the younger folks. These were relatively well-paying gigs, so danceable Fillmore bands like The Sons of Champlin or The Loading Zone regularly played debutante parties and other such events, paired with a big band and playing alternating sets.
Thus Mrs. Weir's decision to hire her son's band was not mere nepotism. For a major event that had a ticket price of $17.50, a Fillmore West headliner was appropriate, not a Fillmore West opener. Young people, even well-to-do ones, were not going to pay 5 times the going concert price without some main attraction. Of course, the Grateful Dead completely botched the entire event. McNally (p.304) has a detailed discussion of the entire debacle. Owsley's endless fiddling caused the band to come onstage late, and it was all downhill from there. The Dead were not warmly written up in the society pages to follow, although Chronicle columnist Herb Caen gallantly said that Mountain Girl was the prettiest girl there.
The revival of the Black And White Ball did not go well, and the event was once again mothballed for nearly 20 years. If I remember correctly, when the event returned in 1988, Bob Weir made a guest appearance. The event finally hit its mark, and was a major City event for many years to follow.
|Barb Mar 14 '69|
Rancho Olompali, and the mansion on the grounds, had a long and complicated history dating back to 1843. In the Spring of 1966, the Grateful Dead had even lived in the crumbling old house, hosting a series of unforgettable parties (Girl From Mill Valley, anyone?) before they moved on. By 1969, the mansion was owned by Don McCoy, a wealthy hippie friend of the Dead's who had formerly lived at 715 Ashbury, and it housed a commune known as the Chosen Few. Early in March, there was a massive drug bust and then a mysterious electrical fire that burned down the mansion.
According to both the Chronicle and the Berkeley Barb, members of The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and the Sons Of Champlin were expected to jam at this hastily assembled benefit for the busted Commune members. Without an eyewitness or tape, it's impossible to say for sure what happened. Considering that Glenn McKay's Headlights was on the bill, that definitely points to Airplane involvement along with the Dead. Given Garcia's penchant for jamming, the Winterland show sounds like an opportunity for some kind of Mickey And The Hartbeats or Hot Tuna action. A Garcia/Bill Champlin/Jack Casady/Hart jam sounds mighty tasty to me, but there I am, just grasping at straws...
I have written about the event here and here. The Sacramento band Sanpaku believe they played at this event, but their recollections are rather vague.
|A newspaper ad for the March 21-22, 1969 show at the Rose Palace in Pasadena|
The Rose Palace, at 835 South Raymond Avenue in Pasadena, was built in 1964 to accommodate the construction of floats for the Rose Parade held every New Year's Day. The rest of the year, it was occasionally used for other functions. In 1969 and 1970 it was used for rock concerts. The first event seems to have been the weekend before (Iron Butterfly/Steve Miller Band/Blues Image). Recollections on The Archive for the Saturday, March 22 show suggest that it was a large, cavernous building, probably Winterland sized. A commenter on the Archive for March 22 recalls Owsley using the show for some interesting sonic experiments with stereo.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band had been the best American rock band in 1966, and their early performances at the Fillmore had been hugely influential for the Dead, Carlos Santana, Country Joe and The Fish and many others. By 1969, however, Butterfield's original front line (guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop and organist Mark Naftalin) had moved to the Bay Area, and his band was an entirely different set of Chicago musicians, probably featuring guitarist Buzzy Feiten. They were still an excellent group, and Butterfield was a bigger name than the Dead (outside of San Francisco, anyway), so he closed the shows. Opening was Jethro Tull, on their first American tour. They were a tremendous live band and must have given the crowd a nice jolt.
March 27, 1969: Merced County Fairgrounds, Merced, CA: Grateful Dead
This date appeared on Grateful Dead lists for many years because of a tape labeled "3/27/69 Merced." Further research revealed that the tape was the same performance as the next night in Modesto, and was just a mislabeling of a different master tape. As a result, the Merced show has been considered a spurious date. However, I have some new information, and I am going to make a case that the Grateful Dead played the Merced County Fairgrounds on Thursday, March 27,1969.
It was generally well known that Bob Weir was adopted, and in 2004 Joel Selvin revealed the remarkable story of the family of John Parber, Weir's birth father, whom Weir finally met in 1996. Weir's half-brother Jim Parber was a fine musician, but he had died in 1991 after an extended battle with cancer. Jim Parber had been an aspiring guitarist and poster artist as a Merced teenager, so I wrote a post speculating on the likelihood of Jim Parber having seen the Dead in the Central Valley in the 1960s.
It was pure speculation on my part, as usual, but this time it turns out I came pretty close to the mark. One commenter was a Parber family friend, and he recalled Jim Parber attending Dead shows in the 1960s, itself a pretty remarkable thing to think about. The Commenter specifically recalled seeing the Dead with Jim Parber when they played Merced County Fairgrounds. Merced County Fairgrounds was the principal venue in the county, and it's not likely a Merced teenager would confuse the event with some other event. I take this as pretty solid evidence that the Dead really did play Merced on March 27.
Here's my thinking: the Grateful Dead had booked a Saturday night show in Las Vegas (March 29, below), and looked for Central Valley shows that would fit in with the schedule. They booked a Merced show on Thursday March 27. It may not have been a great payday, but if the band was on its way to Las Vegas anyway, it made business sense. Thus, while the "other" March 28 Modesto tape was mislabeled, it was mislabeled because the band really had played Merced on that date.
March 28, 1969: Student Center, Modesto Junior College, Modesto, CA: Grateful Dead
There is a tape of this event--two in fact--so we have good reason to think the event occurred. Nonetheless, I am not aware of any documentation of this event--a poster, an article, a review, even an eyewitness account. Modesto isn't large city, and Modesto Junior College was probably not a big school at the time. My current theory is that this was a student event, some sort of Spring Dance.
If the Student Association was having an event, it would have been partially funded by the school as well as tickets, so they could have afforded a little better band than a small gym might otherwise be able to accommodate. If it was a "Spring Dance" or something, it probably wasn't advertised much beyond the school itself, and it's even possible that the Grateful Dead's name wasn't attached to the event at all. If the Dead had booked a Merced show on a Thursday (27) and Las Vegas on a Saturday (29) they would have wanted to play anywhere on Friday night. They may have taken a Junior College dance for less than the going rate, possibly not advertised, just to cover road expenses. I have no idea whether the "Student Center" was the gym or some kind of student union building, but it sounds more like the latter.
|A poster for the Grateful Dead/Santana show at the Ice Palace in Las Vegas, March 29, 1969|
The Grateful Dead and Santana played an ice skating rink in Las Vegas on Saturday night. I believe this event drove the bookings in Merced and Modesto the previous nights. At this time, Santana was a popular San Francisco band, and they had played around California a bit, but their first album had not even been recorded (it would not come out until August). Both Santana and the Dead were booked by Bill Graham's Millard Agency, so the bands shared a lot of bills. The Millard Agency specialized in finding new concert opportunities around California and the West Coast for its San Francisco-based clients. This show seems to be a good example.
The Ice Palace was in downtown Las Vegas somewhere, but I'm not sure where. It appears to have been long since torn down. One interesting thing about the event is the notice on the poster that the show will be from 8:00-11:30 pm. It does seem surprising that 24/7 Las Vegas was putting a curfew on a downtown rock show. The time limit may have been because the show (or the permit anyway) was directed at teenagers, or it may have been Vegas distrust of hippies who didn't gamble or buy drinks, but it does mean that the show would not have run late. I do not know who The Free Circus were, or if they were a band or some sort of "act" (it being Las Vegas and all).