Thursday, December 29, 2011

December 31, 1968: Winterland Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Santana/It's A Beautiful Day

The cover for the video of The Grateful Dead's performance at the last show at Winterland in 1978
The Grateful Dead turned New Year's Eve into a Bay Area institution. If you include Jerry Garcia shows and guest appearances, the Dead played 24 of 26 New Year's Eves in the San Francisco Bay Area, including every year from 1970 to 1991. The Dead were the last of the intact ballroom bands from the psychedelic 60s, and it was an axiom that the Dead carried on the tradition started by Bill Graham of an all-night New Year's Eve show, with rock bands until dawn. New Year's Eve shows at the Fillmore, Winterland or the Avalon in the 60s are always described as "legendary," and they probably were. Yet despite that, we have almost no information about any of those events: no reviews, no eyewitness accounts, no photos, only the most fragmentary of tape evidence and not even any setlists. How do we know the shows were legendary?

Yes, yes, I know, everybody was way gone and no one recalls a thing, and so on. But wasn't that true of every show? Somebody must remember something, right? Therefore, in honor of the title of this blog, I am going to try and assess what little information there is about the Grateful Dead's New Year's Eve show on December 31, 1968. The Grateful Dead played the last show at Winterland exactly ten years later. What do we know about their first New Year's Eve Winterland performance? What can we reasonably assume? Why do we know so little? If we are lucky, I can inspire some long-dormant memories in the Comments, and a vivid flashback or two may eventually give us some real context. I myself think the 1968 New Year's Eve show must have been a remarkable event, and I find it frustrating to have such a high profile show and so little actual information.

What Do We Know About The Grateful Dead's Performance?
We know one very important fact about the Grateful Dead performance on New Year's Eve, 1968, even if it is a frustrating one. We know that the Winterland New Year's Eve show was the first attempt by the Dead's engineers to record the band live on 16-track tape. This was probably the first attempt to record any band live on 16-track tape. The band had been working with Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor at Pacific Recording in San Mateo throughout the fall, recording an album tentatively titled Earthquake Country. They tried working with 8 tracks and then 12 tracks, but did not like the tinny sound that resulted. Ampex was a high tech company located near Pacific Recording, and the band befriended the engineers and persuaded them to deliver one of the first 16-track recorders ever built to Pacific instead of Columbia Studios in Los Angeles.

The band and their engineers even got some of the Ampex engineers to agree to help them sneak the heavy recorder out the door and out to Winterland, which is how the attempt to record at Winterland came about. The Dead, at this point, weren't particularly planning a live album, but just generally experimenting with recording. Since they tried to record most or all shows anyway, it obviously seemed like an interesting experiment to try recording the band in sixteen tracks instead of two, so they snuck the machine out the door and off to Winterland.

Not surprisingly, recording the Grateful Dead in sixteen tracks was a daunting technical exercise that failed. However, the band was enamored enough with the experiment that they chose to try recording at the Avalon Ballroom a month later (January 26, 1969). That time, however, the band got it right, figuring out whatever technical problems had plagued them at Winterland. However, 16-track tape was very expensive and the Dead were famously cash poor, so they simply taped over the Winterland material in order to record at the Avalon. If I have the timeline correct, they also taped over much of the Avalon material, too, when they recorded the subsequent month at Fillmore West, so any traces of the original Winterland show are long gone. We do have Live/Dead to show for it (and the 10-cd Live At Fillmore West), so I'm thankful for that, but any Winterland recordings ceased to exist within a month.

I have to assume also that with their engineering crew working with brand new technology, any efforts to record the band the "regular way" were pushed to the wayside. I have no idea about outputs and inputs, or any of that, but I have to figure that the reputedly huge 16-track Ampex box swallowed up all the available space, and there was neither opportunity nor motive to record a tape using the 2-track recorder they used on the road. It may have been as simple as there being no extra room for the smaller tape deck. I have to assume that any BGP recording equipment was pushed aside also. As a result, though, when the Fillmore West 16-tracks were erased, there appears to have been no other recordings.

Deadbase XI does have a partial setlist for New Year's Eve '68:
Midnight Hour
Dark Star>
  St. Stephen>
  The Eleven>
  Turn On Your Lovelight. 
Assuming "Midnight Hour" was actually played at midnight, and that the list was continuous, that sounds like a pretty cool way to start the New Year. However, we know no such thing. First of all, where does the list come from? If it's a memory, I hope whoever it was is reading this blog. In any case, if it's a memory, it's probably just the highlights of the show. The more intriguing possibility is that this list comes from a tape box. Perhaps while the New Year's Eve tape was erased, the tape box was at least still legible? If true, then we would at least have some confirmation that the named songs were actually performed. However, I do not know Deadbase's source for the partial setlist [update: superb research by a Commenter reveals that one piece of tape endures: a recording of "Midnight Hour." However, it seems to have featured members of most of the bands, and so was probably recorded at an early morning jam, not at midnight, so we don't have a clue what was played at midnight. Of course, they could have played the song twice).

The New Year's Eve Order Of Battle
Until about 1970, Fillmore and Fillmore West concerts had a different structure than modern rock concerts. Generally, all three billed bands ("on the poster," I like to say) performed twice, in round robin fashion. The opening act would perform the 1st and 4th sets of the evening, and the headliner the 3rd and 6th sets. Thus while the Grateful Dead typically played two approximately hour long sets on nights they played the Fillmores, the sets were separated by the other two acts. I have been able to estimate a typical schedule for a regular Fillmore West show (based on some research of my own and an eyewitness account of the Saturday, March 1, 1969 show. For those interested in the details, see Appendix 1 below). If the Grateful Dead headlined a Fillmore or Fillmore West show from 1967 to 1969, the evening usually looked something like this:
  • Opening Act:   8:00-8:45pm and 11:45-12:30am
  • Second Act:     9:00-10:00pm and 12:45-1:45am
  • Grateful Dead: 10:30-11:30 and 2:00-3:00am
"Closing Time" was officially 2:00am in San Francisco, but it could be overlooked if there were no drinks being sold (the Fillmores had no bar), no fights and relationships with the cops were good.
Thus while most Fillmore shows ended before 2:00, late running shows for the likes of the Dead were manageable. For many bands, including the Dead, the first sets would be shorter than the allotted time. Headliners like the Dead were probably allowed to play as long as they wanted to for their final set.

With this framework in mind, I have attempted to speculate on what the New Year's Eve 1968 schedule may have looked like. Keep in mind that we have nothing to go on--I don't even know what order the bands came on, or even when the concert started. But here's my educated guess of the evening's running order [update: an eagle-eyed Commenter has noted that the poster identifies the show as running from 9:00pm to 9:00am, so I have revised the pre-midnight timing somewhat]:
  • It's A Beautiful Day 9:00-9:40
  • Santana                   9:50-10:30
  • Quicksilver             10:40-11:40
  • New Year's festivities? 11:40-12:00pm (complete speculation on my part)
  • Grateful Dead         12:00-1:00am
  • IABD                       1:15-2:00am
  • Santana                    2:15-3:00am
  • Quicksilver              3:15-4:15am
  • Grateful Dead          4:30-5:30am
  • Jam session?            5:30-6:15am (it appears there was a big jam)
  • Breakfast                  6:00am-9:00am

I have assumed that the Grateful Dead started their first set at midnight, presumably with "Midnight Hour," but I may be pasting later experiences onto the past. Maybe the Dead had started at 11:30, and were roaring through "St. Stephen" at midnight, and they turned on strobe lights and set off fireworks. No one actually knows. But there were four bands, and the Dead in their prime, and it was a long night, so something must have happened. Here's hoping my post sparks a long-dormant flashback [update: another Commenter finds a source who recalls that QMS played at midnight, starting out with "Dino's Song."If this memory stands up, then I would invert QMS and the Dead on the proposed schedule].

Appendix 1: Fillmore West Scheduling
I know that all three bands on Fillmore West posters played twice around, so that means there were 5 set changes. Shows generally started at 8:00pm. I know that headliners were told to do two one-hour sets, as this was a crisis for visiting English bands like The Who and Cream, used to doing much shorter shows. In the earlier days of the Fillmore, opening acts played much shorter sets, like 30 or 45 minutes. However, when there were multiple headliners, every headliner probably got an hour.

Based on the lengths of various surviving live tapes (not just the Dead), a lot of bands played first sets considerably shorter than their allotted time, and often second sets as well. Most bands were used to doing 40 or 50 minutes and did not have two hours of material. By 1969, however, even second acts had a number of albums, and were prepared to play two long sets at Fillmore West, so sets probably ran closer to full length. Bands almost all used the Fillmore West sound system, so the set changes were considerably shorter than they would be today. The Grateful Dead were one of the few exceptions to this rule, as they used their own sound system, so I allotted more time for their first set change in my schedules. Keep in mind also that bands had considerably less spare equipment in the early days, and while the set changes were easy, a busted amplifier or something could cause a time consuming headache.

My outline of a Fillmore West schedule was borne out, and to some extent guided by, a detailed description of someone who attended the Saturday, March 1, 1969 show at Fillmore West, featuring the Grateful Dead, Pentangle and Frumious Bandersnatch. Our correspondent had to be out of the Fillmore West by midnight, so I had to speculate more about the late night sets. On that night, the Dead's first set was 45 minutes and the second set was 67 minutes. Keep in mind that their allotted time would also be taken up with some tuning up and stage business prior to the show, usally not preserved on tape.

Appendix 2: Notes On The Other acts, December 31, 1968
Happy Trails by Quicksilver Messenger Service, released in March, 1969
Quicksilver Messenger Service
December 31, 1968 was the last performance of the classic quartet lineup of Quicksilver Messenger Service. John Cipollina (lead guitar), Gary Duncan (guitar, vocals), David Freiberg (bass, vocals) and Greg Elmore (drums) recorded the debut album (released May 1968) and the legendary Happy Trails, released in March, 1969. Happy Trails, recorded in November of 1968, mostly at Fillmores East and West, was the album that immortalized Quicksilver, but that lineup of the band was already gone by the time of its release. Gary Duncan quit the band after the 1968 New Year's show, and he would not return until the next New Year's Eve (at Winterland with the Jefferson Airplane). However, when Duncan returned, he brought singer Dino Valenti with him, and the musical character of Quicksilver was never the same.

However, while it is easy to sentimentalize the final performance of the Quicksilver quartet, in fact they were a tired, unhappy band who had not written or likely even performed a new song in a year. They had been playing the same main numbers over and over for two years, and while they had it down to a powerful formula, it had nowhere left to go. I'm sure that Quicksilver put on a good show New Year's Eve, and it probably sounded like Happy Trails, but only those who were seeing them for the first time would have been really impressed.

Santana was some months away from signing with Columbia Records, and their debut album would not be released until August, 1969. However, they were a popular local group who were often second billed at the Fillmore West, and they headlined smaller halls around the Bay Area. Given that they did not have an album, they were hardly unknowns. The late 1968 Santana band did not have the same lineup that would be made iconic in the Woodstock movie. In December 1968, Santana was
  • Carlos Santana-guitar
  • Gregg Rolie-organ, vocals
  • David Brown-bass
  • Doc Livingstone-drums
  • Marcus Malone-congas
By March 1969, Livingstone and Malone would be replaced by Michael Shrieve, Mike Carabello and Chepito Areas.

We do have a pretty good idea of how Santana sounded at the time--a very good idea, in fact. Santana had played Fillmore West just two weeks earlier, co-headlining with The Grass Roots for four nights from December 19-22. In 1997, Columbia Legacy released  a two-cd set of highlights of Santana's performances that weekend as Live At The Fillmore West '68. While not as incendiary as the version of Santana which would follow, they were already a terrific band, and way ahead of their time, so they must have rocked the house in a big way. While Quicksilver was just repeating themselves, Santana was very much a New Thing, and the crowd must surely have recognized it.

It's A Beautiful Day
It's A Beautiful Day, just like Santana, had not yet released their first album, but they were a popular live attraction already. Just a month earlier (November 28-30), IABD had co-headlined a weekend at Fillmore West with the new British band Deep Purple (who had a hit with "Hush") and San Francisco funksters Cold Blood. It's A Beautiful Day had formed in late 1967, and had been through a variety of players, but the lineup had stabilized by the end of 1968 into a powerful group.
  • Patti Santos-vocals
  • David LaFlamme-electric violin, vocals
  • Hal Wagenet-lead guitar
  • Linda LaFlamme-organ
  • Mitch Holman-bass
  • Val Fuentes-drums
It's A Beautiful Day's first album was released in mid-1969, to huge acclaim, and it got massive FM airplay in San Francisco and elsewhere. Songs like "White Bird" and "Hot Summer's Day" were staples of FM rock radio for many years. However, due to serious management disputes between bandleader David LaFlamme and manager Matthew Katz, a series of lawsuits has made the band's albums, particularly the first one, very difficult to get on cd. As a result, IABD was never really able to capitalize on the resurgence of interest in classic rock bands in the '80s and 90s.

Wolfgang's Vault has several nice recordings of IABD from mid-1968, performing most of the first album. Although subsequent performances were no doubt more nuanced, it is clear from these tapes that IABD had their whole sound completely figured out, which is why their first album was so good. In many ways, It's A Beautiful Day was one of those groups like The Doors or Devo who have their musical identity completely determined by their first album, but were unable to progress much beyond it. IABD was probably pretty impressive to the Winterland crowd, as they were already at their high water mark.

Millard Agency
In 1968, the Grateful Dead were booked by the Millard Agency, the talent agency wing of Bill Graham's music industry empire. Graham had loaned the Dead some money in mid-68, and they had apparently agreed to be booked by Millard in return. Among the other groups booked by Millard at the time were Santana, It's A Beautiful Day, Cold Blood, Elvin Bishop and Aum. It was not a coincidence that those groups regularly appeared with the Dead during the 68-69 period. New Year's Eve 1968 was a big deal, by any standard, and with the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver topping the bill, the show was going to sell out. Graham's bookers had the sense to make sure that their own agency's bands were on the bill that night, to make sure they got heard. To be fair, Santana and It's A Beautiful Day were terrific live acts that must have gone over well with the crowd, but there was a distinct business reason to choose them over other local acts.

Appendix 3: Fillmore West, December 31, 1968-Vanilla Fudge/Richie Havens/Cold Blood
BGP inaugurated another New Year's Eve tradition in 1968, namely having multiple concerts in the Bay Area, rather than just a single event. Besides the high profile Dead/QMS show at Winterland, another concert was held at the Fillmore West. The Fillmore West was about a mile from Winterland, and less than half the size, but it was still a substantial hall for the era. I think the three bands were chosen specifically because they appealed to a somewhat different audience than typical Dead or Quicksilver fans. Vanilla Fudge were the inventors of "Heavy Rock" and had a very East Coast style; Richie Havens was a mostly solo folk artist, and local favorites Cold Blood played horn driven funk. Although both concerts were advertised on the same poster, I think the Fillmore West bands were selected to appeal to people who wanted to attend a New Year's Eve rock concert, but not by San Francisco band. Admittedly, Cold Blood were local, but they weren't an "acid rock" band, and in any case they were booked by Millard, so they were going to be on this high profile bill. 

I'm not particularly interested in the '68 Fillmore West New Year's Eve concert, per se. However, once again we know absolutely nothing about the show. If any information surfaced about the concert, it might be possible to triangulate a little bit about the Winterland show, with respect to set lengths, New Year's celebrations or special add-ons. Once again, all information about any San Francisco New Year's Eve concerts in the 1960s seems to have gone down the rabbit hole, with only the faintest traces left at the surface. New Year's Eve in San Francisco must have been truly legendary, because no one seems to remember a thing. Here's to hoping there's still some flashbacks yet to come.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

December 31, 1982: Oakland Auditorium Arena, Oakland, CA: The Dinosaurs

My notes from the Dinosaurs' performance in Oakland on December 31, 1982
The December 31, 1982 Grateful Dead show is usually recalled for a variety of reasons. Most prominent of those reasons is the third set, when Etta James and the Tower Of Power horns joined the Dead for a high-energy R&B set that harkened back to the Pigpen era. The 1982 New Year's Eve show was also the last Dead show at the old Oakland Auditorium Arena, before it was upgraded to become the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center. One fact of the show that usually gets overlooked, however, was that it was the only Grateful Dead show where Robert Hunter performed as the opening act. Hunter performed as part of his then-new group The Dinosaurs, which featured veterans of bands that had been the Grateful Dead's peers and rivals in 60s San Francisco. An old arena, an old band, and what was left of their old friends: at the time, enjoyable as the show was, it was a nostalgic look back that in itself would not be repeated. This post will look at Robert Hunter and The Dinosaurs opening set on New Year's Eve 1982/83, in the context of the Grateful Dead's history.

Robert Hunter and The Dinosaurs
Robert Hunter had returned to live performance in late 1975. He had had two bands, Roadhog in 1975 and '76, and Comfort in 1977 and '78. Hunter then scaled back to tour as a duo with bassist Larry Klein, and from 1979 he had toured as a solo artist, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Comfort, a fine live band, had opened some Jerry Garcia Band shows in the Spring of 1978, and Hunter had opened some Jerry Garcia Band shows as a solo act in 1980. On a 1980 swing through the East Coast, Hunter had not only opened for Garcia, but each night he joined the Garcia Band for two of his own numbers, "Tiger Rose" and "Promontory Rider." Yet Hunter had never performed with or even performed on the same stage as the Grateful Dead. Given that the Grateful Dead didn't have many opening acts in the 1975-82 period, perhaps that is not at all surprising.

In July of 1982, Barry "The Fish" Melton, formerly of Country Joe and The Fish, invited former Big Brother and The Holding Company bassist Peter Albin to play a one-off gig in Marin County. In response to some kind of good natured heckling from the crowd, Melton remarked from the stage that the band was just "a bunch of old Dinosaurs." Although both Melton and Albin were under 40, they felt a long way from the Avalon and Woodstock, when their bands headlined and their albums were bestsellers. This inspired Melton to form a group of players from that era to play occasional gigs in the style that brought them to fame in the first place. Their first show was August 13, 1982, at the Old Waldorf in San Francisco. The initial lineup of The Dinosaurs was
  • Barry Melton-lead guitar, vocals (ex-Country Joe and The Fish)
  • John Cippolina-lead guitar (ex-Quicksilver)
  • Peter Albin-bass (ex-Big Brother)
  • Spencer Dryden-drums (ex-Jefferson Airplane)
The band was joined by a variety of guests of similar vintage. Stepping on stage at The Old Waldorf for a number or two were ex-Charlatan guitarist Michael Wilhelm, ex-Stained Glass (and High Noon) organist Jim McPherson and ex-Quicksilver drummer Greg Elmore. Robert Hunter was apparently enticed on stage to join Melton in singing their joint collaboration "Jesse James." The band played another well-received gig in Southern California, at The Roxy on September 18, but I don't think they had any guests, since all their old friends mostly lived up North. Nevertheless, At the time, psychedelic rock seemed all but extinct, so calling a collection of original Fillmore guys "Dinosaurs" seemed appropriate. More shows were booked.

By December, Robert Hunter had returned from a solo tour of the East Coast, and he threw in his lot with The Dinosaurs. Hunter's presence gave the Dinosaurs a connection to perhaps the five most iconic San Francisco bands of the 60s. The Dinosaurs played another show on November 21, at the Inn Of The Beginning in Cotati. I don't know if or how many friends dropped by, but Cotati was a nice safe place to figure out what they were doing.  The Dinosaurs "re-debuted" with two shows on December 10 at The Old Waldorf, then San Francisco's most high profile rock club.

Since many of the older San Francisco musicians were hardly working anymore, it turned out that they were very available for guest appearances. One of the perhaps unexpected dynamics of The Dinosaurs was that the concept was a perfect platform for old friends to get together on stage, since the fan base of all those groups was by now largely the same. Although the five Dinosaurs, now including Hunter, were the core group, both Old Waldorf shows featured numerous guests who each sat in for a number: Merl Saunders, Country Joe McDonald, Mickey Hart, David Nelson, Greg Elmore, Dave Getz (Big Brother drummer), Sam Andrews (ex BB guitarist, now playing saxophone) and Michael Wilhelm. Nicky Hopkins sat in on piano for the entire late show. Old friend Dan Hicks (an ex-Charlatan himself) opened the shows. Given that almost none of the band members or guests had record contracts or current albums at the time, there was a fair amount of attention given to The Dinosaurs. When it was announced that The Dinosaurs would open for the Grateful Dead on New Year's Eve, for some Deadheads at least, certainly including me, there was a fair amount of interest. It was also a strangely appropriate throwback to the New Year's Eve concerts of the 1960s.

New Years Eve at The Fillmore and The Avalon
On December 31, 1966, the first full year of psychedelic rock in San Francisco, Bill Graham Presents had put on a legendary show at the Fillmore, featuring the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service. The poster bragged that the event would run from 9pm until 9am, including breakfast. A dozen blocks away, at the Avalon, Chet Helms held a similar extravaganza, featuring Country Joe And The Fish, Moby Grape and Lee Michaels. Big Brother and The Holding Company put on their own New Year's Eve concert at the Kezar Pavilion in Golden Gate Park. New Year's Eve was thus established as a night when the psychedelic crowd raved all night, all over town, or so it seemed.

Of course, not a soul remembers a thing about any of these New Year's concerts. There is a brief tape fragment of a jam from the Fillmore, but other than that I know of no tape, no review and no first-hand eyewitness account of any sixties New Year's show in San Francisco, save a Hot Tuna tape from 1969. Once I was at an Avalon reunion, in April of 1994, and Barry Melton and Jerry Miller led the Dinosaurs through a great version of Moby Grape's "Murder In My Heart For The Judge." After the song, Melton fondly reminisced from the stage, "I remember doing about a 63-minute version of that with Moby Grape one New Year's Eve." After pausing to let that sink in, Melton wryly added, "it as probably about 4 minutes, but it seemed like 63." All the participants seemed sure they had a good time, even if they are not certain what it actually consisted of.

Although the action had moved to Winterland by 1967, there was always a blowout show in San Francisco on New Year's Eve, headlined by a couple of major bands: the Airplane, Big Brother and Quicksilver in 1967, the Dead and Quicksilver in '68, the Airplane and Quicksilver in '70, with appropriate supporting acts. No one remembers anything about any of those shows either. By 1970, the New Year's Eve franchise was effectively bequeathed to the Grateful Dead, and in some form or another the Grateful Dead or Jerry Garcia had performed on New Year's Eve in the Bay Area ever since.

By 1982, The Grateful Dead were the last of San Francisco's psychedelic squadrons still riding the range. Quicksilver Messenger Service and Big Brother were gone, and after a brief and interesting reunion in 1978, Country Joe and The Fish were emeritus as well. Jefferson Airplane had morphed into the Jefferson Starship, but although a few old Airplaners were still on board (Grace Slick, Paul Kantner and David Freiberg), the music that Starship was very far from anything that used to get played at the Fillmore. That left the Dead, still exploring the path they set out for themselves 17 years earlier, long after their peers had faded away or stepped off. In that respect, the Dead were very much like a coelacanth, a prehistoric fossil still living in modern times, so it was appropriate that the Dinosaurs were opening for the Fillmore's only non-fossilized life.

The Dinosaurs
The Dinosaurs were a fun, lively band. Melton and Cipollina were both excellent lead guitarists, and Albin and Dryden were a solid rhythm section. Hunter and Melton shared most of the lead vocals, with Cipollina and Albin taking an occasional turn. The Dinosaurs made no specific effort to have a 60s San Francisco sound, because they didn't need to. They just played their music, and it just so happened to remind you of the Fillmore and the Avalon. Given that the New Year's Eve concert with the Dead was the highest profile the band had ever (or would ever) play, they invited a few of their friends to join in. Of course, those friends had pedigrees as well, but that too was simply a byproduct.

As far as I know, the Oakland New Year's Eve show was the Dinosaurs fifth booked date, although some of the dates had featured early and late shows. Now, saying it was their fifth show is slightly misleading, since all of the band members except Dryden and Hunter had other ensembles, and sometimes they played together, so some members had played together many times. As a result, given the standards of psychedelic blues in general, the band members were pretty comfortable with their material. While a few connected tapers had heard some recordings (it's not impossible that I had, too, by that time), in general the experience of hearing the Dinosaurs was quite new to the audience.The Dinosaurs came on stage some time after 8:00pm and played about an hour.

Dinosaurs Setlist, Oakland Auditorium Arena, December 31, 1982
"Who Makes The Moves"-Melton and Hunter shared vocals on this original song.
"One Way Out"-Hunter sang lead on this venerable blues song, made famous by the Allman Brothers. Hunter didn't really have the voice for it, but that didn't really matter. For this song, the Dinosaurs were joined by Nicky Hopkins, looking healthy and playing a Yamaha electric grand piano, similar to the kind Keith used to play (no mirror for Nicky this time). Hopkins was living at least part time in the Bay Area, and playing regularly with John Cipollina in one of his many bands. Hopkins, too, had played New Year's Eve in San Francisco (in 1969 with Quicksilver). Hopkins played throughout the rest of the show.
"Love"-This was an old Barry Melton song from the Country Joe and The Fish days, I believe from their debut album.
"Promontory Rider"-Hunter sang one of his more recognizable electric songs, recognizable not least because he had performed it with the Jerry Garcia Band in 1980.
"I Can't Dance"-Melton sang another old song from his own career. Melton in particular said later that he never had any intention of writing new songs for the Dinosaurs.
"Save The Whales"-Country Joe McDonald came on stage to sing his biggest solo hit.
"Street Life"--Hunter sang a song that would turn up on his Amagamalin Street album a few years later. Hunter, unlike Melton, used the Dinosaurs to try out all sorts of new songs.
"Level With Me"-Melton sang this one. I'm not sure of its provenance.
"St. Louis Blues"-Hunter sang this blues song. I think it was a traditional blues tune that was lyrically modified by Hunter, but I'm not sure.
"How Blue Can You Get?"-Kathi McDonald, one of the lead singers for Big Brother and The Holding Company in the early 1970s (after Janis), came out and belted out this standard to close the show. McDonald was very high energy, and with both lead guitarists wailing away, it was an appropriately high octane ending to the set. For this song and the encores, the band was joined by Steve "Teenage" Douglas on tenor sax, a legendary session man who had played on many Phil Spector hits.

"San Francisco"-Melton sang lead on this high energy boogie celebrating San Francisco music.
"D.I.N.O.S.A.U.R.S."-Hunter sang the Dinosaurs sort of theme song, which he had written. It was a slow, ironic ballad that ended the set on a suitably nostalgic note, given that it was a band of a bunch of old guys opening for the last of the breed.

Although there was a conscious element of nostalgia applying to the Dinosaurs opening for the Grateful Dead, the music was energetic and enjoyable. There was no effort expended to make the music "modern" or "relevant," To some extent it reminded me of seeing traditional music in its native habitat, like seeing The Preservation Hall Jazz Band in New Orleans. Even though the Dinosaurs were an amalgamation of members of bands who had once been booked themselves for New Year's Eve in San Francisco, they were proud representatives of a past musical style, rather than apologetic or bitter.

Robert Hunter was making his first New Year's Eve live appearance ever, as far as I knew. Other members of the Dinosaurs, however, had appeared many times on December 31. Just limiting myself to the sixties, John Cipollina had played New Year's Eve all four years from 1966 to '69 with Quicksilver (first at Fillmore, then three at Winterland). Barry Melton and Joe McDonald had headlined New Year's Eve shows at the Avalon in 1966 and '67. Peter Albin, as a member of Big Brother, had played New Year's Eve in 1966 at Kezar Pavilion and '67 at Winterland. Spencer Dryden, as a member of the Jefferson Airplane, had headlined New Year's Eve shows in 1966 (at the Fillmore), '67 and '69 (at Winterland). The Dinosaurs's appearance on New Year's Eve with the Grateful Dead was a true encore, when a quorum of Veterans of the Ballroom Wars gathered together to stand with the regular forces of the Grateful Dead.

Robert Hunter continued to perform with the Dinosaurs for another year-and-a-half. He wrote and performed a number of interesting songs with the band, while continuing his solo career. However, Hunter found himself at friendly odds with Melton and the others, as the sole songwriter in a band full of jammers. Hunter stepped aside, and Merl Saunders took his place from late 1984 onwards. The Dinosaurs continued in various forms until the mid-90s, including membership and numerous guest appearances by many of the band's peers and friends from the good old days. Hunter participated in the Dinosaurs's studio album, released in 1988. However, Hunter never opened for the Grateful Dead again, making New Year's Eve 1982 a singular event.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Grateful Dead New Year's Eve Opening Acts 1970-79

The 2003 video of the 1978 New Year's Eve concert, Closing Of Winterland
When the Grateful Dead had played New Year's Eve concerts in San Francisco in the 1960s, they had been part of legendary bills that supposedly played from 9pm to 9am. These all-night affairs were somewhat scaled down as the 70s started, and by the end of the decade, the Dead were usually the sole major attraction. This post is an overview of the configuration of each Grateful Dead New Year's Eve concert from 1970 to 1979, with respect to the schedule and the opening acts. The live performances of the Dead on these dates are well-known and well-documented, so I won't comment on them here. Rather, this post is about considering the organization of the events themselves.

December 31, 1970: Winterland
Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage and assorted friends/Stoneground
From 1966 through 1969, Bill Graham had had legendary New Year's Eve events at the Fillmore, Fillmore West and Winterland, that were scheduled to go from 9pm to 9am. No one remembers anything about them. The Grateful Dead had played The Fillmore in 1966, sharing the bill with the Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service. The Dead played New Year's again in 1968 at Winterland, sharing the bill with Quicksilver, and supported by Its A Beautiful Day and Santana. In 1969, the Grateful Dead had played Boston, while the Jefferson Airplane had headlined New Year's Eve at home.

For New Year's Eve 1970, the Dead returned home to headline Winterland. The Jefferson Airplane were off the road, due to a very pregnant Grace Slick, but with two hit albums under their belt the Dead were now big enough to headline Winterland on their own. This New Year's show seems to have been a much smaller production than previous years, and indeed, quite different than any New Year's which followed.

Stoneground was a San Francisco-based group that was backed by KSAN chief Tom Donahue. Stoneground was put together from various defunct Bay Area outfits, and played a lively kind of soul-influenced rock. They featured no less than five lead singers, including lead guitarist Tim Barnes (ex-Immediate Family). Stoneground had been the "house band" for Donahue's Medicine Ball Caravan traveling rock festival and movie, which the Dead had dropped out at the last minute. The tour had ended up in England, where pianist Pete Sears (who also had a Donahue connection) joined the group. Stoneground had recorded a planned debut album at Trident Studios in London, with Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor producing, as Alembic had been contracted for the Medicine Ball tour. However, the album was re-recorded in San Francisco with different engineers. Sears returned to the Bay Area with the band, however, and I believe he was still in Stoneground when they played New Year's Eve.

The New Riders of The Purple Sage were familiar to most Deadheads by this time. The December, 1970 iteration of the band still had Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar, but Spencer Dryden (ex-Jefferson Airplane) had taken over on drums. John Dawson, David Nelson and Dave Torbert anchored the band.

The poster lists the show starting at 8pm. I assume Stoneground began at 8:00pm, followed by the New Riders. I think the Grateful Dead came on at midnight and played a single extended set (of about 100 minutes and change). After the Dead set, Hot Tuna came out, joined by Bob Weir, and played about five songs. Hot Tuna at that time was Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Papa John Creach (electric violin), Joey Covington (drums) and Will Scarlett (harmonica).

There are many oddities about Hot Tuna's appearance, not the least being that they appeared after the Dead. The timing of the entire show is uncertain, but while it probably extended past official San Francisco "closing time" at 2:00am, it was was not an all-morning extravaganza, just an extended night at the Fillmore. Also, for hard core fans, the Dead had apparently played a benefit at Winterland just eight days before (Dec 23), and the bill included the Riders and Hot Tuna, so it wouldn't have been that different a night (not to say that I wouldn't have enjoyed both of them).

December 31, 1971: Winterland
Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Yogi Phlegm
The 1971 New Year's Eve show started to establish the basic format for the balance of Grateful Dead New Year's Eve shows, although it evolved somewhat over the years. In 1971, there were two opening acts to get the party started, and the Grateful Dead came onstage at midnight. The Dead's set was broadcast in its entirety on KSAN, as was the New Riders'.

Yogi Phlegm was the new name of The Sons of Champlin. The band believed they no longer had the rights to the name The Sons Of Champlin, and they had changed their sound to emphasize jazzy improvisation. The name was a joke about gurus, which no one got, and most people called them 'The Sons' anyway (Bill Graham hated the name and insisted on calling them The Sons). Although Yogi Phlegm's music sounds incredibly contemporary now, they were generally disliked compared to their previous, more danceable incarnation as The Sons. The members of Yogi Phlegm were Terry Haggerty (lead guitar), Bill Champlin (organ, guitar, vocals), Geoff Palmer (piano and various), Dave Schallock (bass and guitar) and Bill Vitt (drums). Vitt was the main drummer for Garcia-Saunders at the time.

The Winterland New Year's performance would have been the first time that locals would have seen Buddy Cage on pedal steel with the New Riders. Cage had replaced Garcia out on the road. His first show had been in Atlanta on November 11, 1971. Given that the NRPS album had just been released, many fans were probably surprised and dismayed that Garcia was no longer in the group. The same would probably have been true of the Bay Area listening audience. They would have tuned in expecting to hear Garcia with his "new" group, having heard the NRPS album on KSAN, only to discover that he had left the band.

As a side note, the Dead and the New Riders record companies would have paid for KSAN to broadcast the band. Warner Brothers (for the Dead) and Columbia (for the Riders) would have compensated KSAN for the amount of ads that they would have lost by broadcasting an uninterrupted live show. Yogi Phlegm did not have a record company at the time, so there was no entity to underwrite a broadcast of them. In that respect, the fact that the New Riders were broadcast and the Sons were not had nothing to do with KSAN's "feelings" about The Sons (Yogi Phlegm) vs the Riders, as it would have been strictly a business decision.

The configuration at Winterland was different that year, with the stage on the right side of the arena instead of the rear. It would return to its "conventional" set-up by the next Fall.

December 31, 1972: Winterland
Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Sons Of Champlin
New Year's '72 was structured just like the 1971 show. The same two bands opened, although The Sons were back to calling themselves The Sons Of Champlin. Their lineup was the same as the previous year, although old friend Tim Cain joined in on saxophone for much of the show. The Sons played a long set, captured in a glorious Betty board, and the New Riders played a long set as well. Once again, the Dead started their first set at midnight and played two extended sets. The Dead were broadcast on KSAN, as were the New Riders, but not The Sons.

Both the Dead and the New Riders had new albums (Europe '72 and Gypsy Cowboy, respectively). Both the New Riders and The Sons were booked by Sam Cutler's agency, so this was definitely a family affair. New Year's Eve 1972 also inaugurated the tradition of playing "Sugar Magnolia" at midnight.

December 31, 1973: Cow Palace, Daly City
Allman Brothers Band/Marshall Tucker Band/Charlie Daniels Band
As early as 1976, at a lecture in Wheeler Hall in UC Berkeley, I heard Bill Graham tell his oft-repeated story that he called the Dead in the studio and offered them $75,000 to play the Cow Palace, and they refused. They counter-offered with the idea that they would play a party at Bill Graham's Marin County house. This is a great story, but I feel there has to be more to it. I wonder why the Dead turned Graham down? Perhaps they felt there sound system wasn't ready yet. In any case, the Dead played Winterland three nights in February and the Cow Palace in March, so I can't fathom what their specific objection might have been to a New Year's Eve Cow Palace show.

The Allman Brothers Band, perhaps the most popular touring attraction of 1973, headlined the Cow Palace instead for New Year's Eve in the Bay Area. Their performance was broadcast nationwide on a network of FM stations. Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann and Boz Scaggs showed up to jam sometime after midnight, giving everyone in the country the impression that this was what happened every night in San Francisco. The Allman Brothers and The Grateful Dead had headlined the biggest rock concert ever that Summer in Watkins Glen, so there was a lot of symbolism embedded in Garcia's guest appearance. The nationwide network went off the air at 1:00am (4:00 am Eastern), but KSAN listeners were happy to hear 'Big Daddy' Tom Donahue's voice-over telling everyone that KSAN would stay on the air until the end, which they did. The event still ended before 2:00am, as far as I know.

Oakland Tribune Keystone Berkeley ad for Dec 29 '74
December 31, 1974: Keystone Berkeley
Garcia-Saunders/Lucky Strike
With the Grateful Dead on hiatus, Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders played New Year's Eve '74 at Jerry's main haunt, the Keystone Berkeley. One peculiar fact about this show is that we seem to know nothing about it. There is no tape, no review, no eyewitness account, and the show was never advertised, to my knowledge. The listing in the Oakland Tribune, for example (above), simply lists the local band Lucky Strike as playing the Keystone Berkeley on New Year's Eve. At times, I have wondered whether Garcia and Saunders actually played Keystone Berkeley on New Year's Eve '74.

The source of the date was Dennis McNally's original Garcia list (through me to Deadbase IX). McNally was scrupulous about sources, so I am confident the date was scheduled. Paradoxically, the lack of a headliner on the Keystone ad makes me think Garcia was booked that night, albeit stealthily. I find it highly unlikely that the Keystone Berkeley would leave New Year's Eve to a local band with no cover, when they had acts like Kingfish (Sunday Dec 29) and Van Morrison (Mon Dec 30) on other weeknights. I think Lucky Strike, a popular East Bay club band, was just a placeholder. I do suspect that Lucky Strike actually opened for Garcia, however, because they would have been counting on a paying gig for New Year's Eve.

Why, then, was Keystone Berkeley so stealthy about publicizing Garcia's New Year's Eve performance? I think there were three reasons:
  • They were confident that the show would be packed via word-of-mouth. They probably just put Garcia's name on the marquee on the day of the show, and perhaps made sure there was an announcement on KSAN, and let the buzz take care of itself
  • The Keystone Berkeley would have been more concerned that too many people rather than too few would show up, particularly on a New Year's Eve when everyone had been drinking. New Year's Eve would be exactly the sort of night that some rumor would get started that the Grateful Dead were playing the Keystone, and unprofitable madness might ensue
  • I also suspect that the guest list was huge, because it would have been like a private party for many people in the Dead's extended family. With a huge guest list, the Keystone might not have been concerned about ticket sales, since they may not have wanted to oversell the place. This would also account for the fact that there seem to be no eyewitnesses and no tapes, as there were relatively few civilians who actually bought tickets
It still begs the question--does anyone know anything about the December 31, 1974 Keystone show?

December 31, 1974: Stanford Music Hall, Palo Alto
I have written about this concert at length, so I won't recap it all here. Suffice to say, with the Grateful Dead on hiatus, Bob Weir and Kingfish used New Year's Eve to break in a new rock venue, formerly (and now again) known as The Stanford Theatre, an old movie house built in 1925. The downtown Palo Alto theater was pretty run-down at the time.  A good time appears to have been had by all.

The opening act was Osiris, featuring as its lead singer Pigpen's younger brother Kevin McKernan. Kevin was a dead ringer for his brother (I saw him once, riding by on his bike--he looked like Pig on the cover of Live/Dead), and he sang just like him too. An eyewitness reported a dead-on cover of "Hard To Handle," just like Pigpen's version with the Dead.

Hayward Daily Review Keystone listing for Dec 26 '75
December 31, 1975: Keystone Berkeley
Jerry Garcia Band/Grayson Street/Lucky Strike
Once again, the Jerry Garcia Band played the Keystone Berkeley for New Year's Eve. We do have an excellent tape. It appears that the JGB played a first set around 10:00pm, and then started the second set at midnight. However, once again we have no advertising, no review and no eyewitnesses. I have to think that the same conditions applied as they did the year before. Since the Dead had actually played a few shows in 1975, a rumor that they were playing could get started easily, and hundreds of people on University Avenue, trying to get into a sold out club on the basis of a false rumor, would not have done the Keystone any good.

Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Matt Kelly joined Garcia onstage at the Keystone. I have to think that Kingfish could have easily found a New Year's Eve gig, somewhere, but Weir seems to have chosen joining Jerry at Keystone Berkeley instead. This is one of the clues that leads me to think that the '74 and '75 Keystone Berkeley NYE shows were sort of like private parties.

Grayson Street and Lucky Strike were listed as openers. Grayson Street was also a popular East Bay club band, a blues rock band with a whiff of soul. Their one constant was saxophonist Terry Hanck, who worked with many Bay Area bands. Once again, I feel confident they actually played, probably starting at 8:00pm, because working bands need to work. The Keystone Berkeley, by the same token, would have wanted to encourage people to come early and drink beer.

December 31, 1976: Cow Palace, Daly City
Grateful Dead/Santana/Sons Of Champlin [replaced by Soundhole]
For New Year's Eve 1976, The Grateful Dead co-headlined the Cow Palace with Santana, and The Sons of Champlin opened the show. Santana had opened for the Grateful Dead on New Year's Eve before, in 1968, when Santana was still a popular but unsigned local band. By 1976, Santana was actually a bigger concert attraction than the Dead. However, Santana, although they had just come off a hugely successful European tour, seems to have accepted the premise that "traditional" New Year's Eve in San Francisco consisted of the Grateful Dead playing at midnight, so Santana appeared prior to the Dead. 1976 was the last New Year's Eve show where the Grateful Dead had a true co-headliner.

By 1976, The Sons of Champlin had backed away from their more jazzy experiments and veered back toward a funkier, more danceable sound. The Sons' current album was A Circle Filled With Love (on Ariola). The Sons's lineup for New Year's Eve '76 included old hands Bill Champlin, Geoff Palmer and Terry Haggerty, along with Rob Moitoza (bass), Jim Preston (drums), Steve Frediani (sax) and some other horn players (probably Mark Isham and Mike Andreas). Santana had just released their 10th album, Festival (on Columbia). Santana's Fall '76 lineup, besides Carlos, was Tom Coster (keyboards), Pablo Tellez (bass), Graham Lear (drums), Raul Rekow (congas), Chepito Areas (timbales) and Luther Rabb (vocals).

The concert started at 7:00pm, with the Sons [update: an eyewitness report by Jerry Moore himself, in an old Relix, available on the Grateful Dead Online Archive, reports that the Sons were replaced by Soundhole. John Cipollina sat in with Soundhole for their encore, as his brother Mario played bass in the band], and Santana came onstage around 8:00 pm and played a full 75-minute set. The Grateful Dead locked in the structure of New Year's for the next 15 years or so, as they played their first set at 10:00pm, returning to the stage at midnight for "Sugar Magnolia." Both the Santana and Grateful Dead sets were broadcast on KSAN in their entirety (the Dead's set became a Vault release). The show ended before 2:00am.

December 31, 1977: Winterland
Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage
The Grateful Dead returned to Winterland with the New Riders for New Year's Eve 1977. The innovation of 1977 was that the Dead played a run of shows that culminated on New Year's Eve. This too became a regular tradition. For what it's worth, I bought tickets for New Year's Eve 1977 and two other nights the day they went on sale. I arrived about an hour after the BASS window opened (at Pacific Stereo in South Palo Alto), stood in a line of three people and bought as many tickets as I wanted. The Dead were popular at this time, but still basically a cult act.

The structure of the show was fairly conventional. The New Riders played at 8:00pm, and the Dead played their first set at about 10:00pm. The New Year's Eve celebration, and the beginning of the second set, were delayed until 12:30 so Bill Graham could come over from the Cow Palace, where Santana, Journey and Eddie Money were playing. Graham had been the "star" of that celebration, and he wanted to "star" in the Dead's as well (I think he rode down to the stage in a giant papier-mache joint, or something).

Little flyers were apparently passed out to some people warning about the delay until 12:30, but no one on my side of the crowd got any, and the crowd was pretty confused and unruly about the apparent delay. Fortunately, the second set was great, so it didn't matter. The show ended before 2:00am, as there was no third set.

The New Riders of The Purple Sage were kind of on an uptick that year. Their new album Marin County Line was their best in some time. New bassist Stephen Love added some new life to the band, and Dawson, Nelson and Cage were still lively. Drummer Patrick Shanahan had replaced Spencer Dryden, who had become the band's manager. However, in the spirit of the night, Dryden sat in anyway, giving the Riders two drummers. The New Riders set was released by the NRPS archives.

December 31, 1978: Winterland
Grateful Dead/Blues Brothers/New Riders of The Purple Sage
The New Year's Eve '78 show was the last show at Winterland, and as such a very nostalgic event. Winterland was the last direct link to the 60s. The Fillmore itself was still intact, but was hardly ever used for rock shows, so it had not been part of the rock scene for almost 10 years. The Fillmore West had become a car dealership (still is), so it too played no role in late 70s rock music. Winterland was a dump, but it was a rockin' dump, and it was sad to see it be squeezed out of the market for not being either big enough or nice enough. A big to-do was made about the closing of Winterland, and of course the Grateful Dead had to be the final act.

New Year's Eve 1978 was not only broadcast on KSAN and KQED-TV (the local PBS station), it was immortalized in an official video release. Although I am tremendously grateful to the people who got me a ticket (thank you Geoff W and Steve M), I am one of a minority who thought the whole show was a letdown, poorly organized and without much great music. Yes, the "Dark Star" that began the third set was truly magical, and the recording does not do it justice, but Weir ruined it by veering off too soon into "The Other One." Still, everybody but me (and Geoff W) remembers it fondly, so it must have been a great show, right?

I am a big New Riders fan, so I was looking forward to seeing them. We arrived at 7:45, about 15 minutes before showtime, to discover that the New Riders had been onstage since 7:30. It turned out that the last night at Winterland was the only show held there to actually start early. The New Riders were actually in a kind of down period at that time. Buddy Cage had left the band earlier in the year, replaced by Bobby Black from The Lost Planet Airmen, but he was also a fine player. Stephen Love had gone, too, replaced by Allan Kemp, who had been in the Stone Canyon Band with Pat Shanahan. The Riders weren't great, but they weren't bad, and I had wanted to see the whole set.

The New Riders had been moved up to accommodate televising the Blues Brothers' set at 9:00pm. The Blues Brothers are iconic now, but at the time they were a very hip and high profile addition to the New Years Eve bill. John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd were the newly popular stars of Saturday Night Live, and Animal House had just been released, so they were both huge stars. They had done their Blues Brothers schtick a few times on SNL, and then did a few Universal Amphitheatre shows in Los Angeles as The Blues Brothers, opening for Steve Martin, in order to record the album. Their album Briefcase Of Blues had just been released to huge acclaim, and the Winterland New Year's performance was The Blues Brothers' first show after the release of the album. At this juncture, Belushi and Ackroyd were much bigger stars than Jerry Garcia or the Grateful Dead.

To be fair, the Blues Brothers were absolutely great. All of the things which we have now seen a million times in the movies, or on SNL or YouTube, were done live and in person, and it was all totally new and surprising. The album had been released, but it wasn't ground into our skulls yet. The band was truly All-Star, including Steve Cropper (guitar) and Duck Dunn (bass) from The MGs, Matt Murphy (lead guitar) from James Cotton's band and Paul Shaffer (keyboards) and Steve Jordan (drums) from the SNL band. The horn section was led by the mighty Tom Scott, whom Deadheads will recall took the sax solo on the studio version of "Estimated Prophet." The band absolutely rocked the house, and although Ackroyd is a weak harp player and Belushi can't really sing, it didn't matter--Belushi in person was a star with a gravitational pull that can't be described, and he absolutely owned the place. The Blues Brothers played about an hour, and it was broadcast on radio and TV. I had to admit that I had reservations when they were booked, but they were absolutely great.

However, as a result of the Blues Brothers, the schedule for the New Years Eve show had been changed, which apparently was why the New Riders went onstage early. The Blues Brothers had come on at 9:00pm, so they would be on at the most advantageous time for TV. However, that left a two-hour gap from 10:00pm until midnight. It was filled by KQED reporters going around to very goofy, wasted people in the crowd and "interviewing" them for the TV audience at home. If you were in Winterland itself, however, after a very exciting set by the Blues Brothers, we stood around for two hours doing nothing. There was nowhere to sit at Winterland (unless you came realllly early and snagged a seat) so standing around was tiring. By the time the Dead came on, the crowd was both rowdy and tired, and honestly I felt the band was the same. Apparently the backstage party, with Belushi and Ackroyd among others, was pretty insane, and I don't think it improved the Dead's playing.

The Grateful Dead came on at midnight to play "Sugar Magnolia," like in days of yore. For all the talk of exciting guests, only old pal John Cipollina showed up, and great as he was, we had just seen him jam with the Dead two months before. Fortunately for the last night at the old ice rink, however, the Dead begat another New Year's Eve tradition and played a third set. For this night, the third set began at 5:00am. The Dead opened with "Dark Star" and I erased all my complaints, at least until Weir wrecked it. A touching "And We Bid You Goodnight" closed the old ice rink at about 5:45am. Then there was the much-heralded breakfast, the organization of which left much to be desired, but that is too trivial a subject for this blog.

An era had ended with the closing of Winterland, but supposedly there had been 500,000 ticket requests. From being a sort of cultish party the year before, New Year's Eve with the Grateful Dead became a must-see event.

December 31, 1979: Oakland Auditorium Arena
Grateful Dead/Flying Karamazov Brothers
All had seemed lost when Winterland closed, but of course BGP had known they had the Oakland Auditorium in their pocket. The old Auditorium was of the same vintage as Winterland, nicer, but still enough of a dump to have that old time psychedelic feeling. The venue was a bit larger than Winterland (7,000 vs 5,400), but it had a comparable atmosphere. The five-night run in December of '79 cemented the Oakland Auditorium as the new Home Court for the Grateful Dead, and as such it was the site of New Year's Eve 1979. This show cemented the format that would follow with few variations for the next dozen years of Grateful Dead's New Year's Eve shows. The structure was
  • A run of shows culminating in New Year's Eve
  • An New Year's Eve opening act chosen to be enjoyable, but with no concern for selling extra tickets (since NYE would sell out instantly anyway)
  • The Dead would play their first set around 10:00pm and start their second set at midnight, usually with "Sugar Magnolia"
  • The Dead would play a third set, often the platform for special guests or uniquely rehearsed songs
  • Although the show would go past 2:00am "closing time," the concert would be over by 3:00am
Every subsequent Grateful Dead New Year's Eve show generally conformed to this pattern. Here and there a few alterations occurred (For example, the Dead played an acoustic set for 1980 shows with no opening act; Joan Baez was the guest in 1981, but she came on before the first set rather than the third set, and so on), but in general the 1979 show took the realities and innovations that had been worked out by the preceding decade's worth of shows and built them into a format.

The Grateful Dead New Year's Eve performance was now an established Bay Area "Event." The run of shows made it well worth the while of Deadheads who lived elsewhere to come out and see all the shows, and Bay Area weather made it all the more attractive. The December runs was where I first started to realize just how many people from the East Coast were just as fanatical Deadheads, if not more so, than those of us out West. The Dead no longer needed a co-headliner on New Year's Eve. The main purpose of the opening act was to entertain excited people who had often attended most or all of the other shows, and were looking forward to a giant blowout to end the week.

The Flying Karamazov Brothers were a troupe of juggling performance artists who had started out in 1973 in Santa Cruz. There were four of them, all long haired and goofy, and they would do amazing feats of juggling while carrying on amusing patter with the crowd (I should add that they were neither brothers nor Russian). It sounds really dumb, but in fact it was really impressive and funny, and they quickly won over the revved-up New Year's Eve crowd in Oakland. Part of their act was to juggle all these crazy objects--champagne bottles, bowling pins, meat cleavers, burning torches--while carrying on with funny dialogue. By the end of the show, there would be four guys spread out on stage about 30 feet apart, juggling a combination of a dozen or more completely insane objects. As their New Year's Eve show peaked, with objects flying all over the stage, and half of them constantly in the air, Jerry Garcia appeared from stage left with his guitar and casually walked across the stage, passing right through the semi-circle of juggling Karamazovs. The Brothers never missed a beat, as no objects hit either the ground or Jerry, and he casually sauntered off on stage right. The crowd, needless to say, lost their minds.

In December, 1979, the Flying Karamazov Brothers were in the process of moving from being 'Street Performers' to 'Legitimate.' I had already seen them, perhaps in Sproul Plaza in Berkeley, but never in a full performance. By 1981, the Karamazov's were playing in London's West End, and they even made an encore appearance with the Grateful Dead. On March 28, 1981, in Essen, Germany, the Flying Karamazovs made an appearance during the Rhythm Devils section of a Grateful Dead show, so obviously the Dead were amused and impressed. In the intervening decades, the Flying Karamazovs have appeared on Broadway many times, and they are starring in London once again as of this writing.

The Grateful Dead, New Year's Eve, 1980-1991
There were many fine moments yet to come in Grateful Dead New Year's Eve performances over the next dozen years. After the 70s, however, the general parameters were set. Indeed, many people's fondest memories of New Year's shows were when the Dead actually diverted from their script, such as the time in 1981 when Bill Graham requested "Aiko Aiko" at midnight, instead of "Sugar Magnolia." When Graham died, it is not surprising that the Dead simply gave up the New Year's tradition, as it had become somewhat ossified. Still, it was fun while it lasted, and as time keeps slipping, slipping, slipping into the future, seeing the Grateful Dead on New Year's Eve--any New Year's Eve--seems all the more remarkable.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

New Riders of The Purple Sage, Bassist: 1969-70 (Yet Again)

I have spent an unnaturally long time on the subject of the bass player for the New Riders of The Purple Sage during their first nine months of existence, from July 1969 to March 1970. This is not even the first post entitled "New Riders of The Purple Sage, Bassist: 1969-70." I have also looked at length at the subject of canceled New Riders shows in March of 1970, with the conclusion that they were canceled due to the lack of a bass player, thus necessitating the hiring of Dave Torbert.

There is some conventional wisdom about the early history of the New Riders bass player, much of it demonstrably wrong. The amusing part about this conventional wisdom has been that the conventional wisdom has been promulgated by various band members, mainly Jerry Garcia, John Dawson and David Nelson, so everyone has assumed that it was correct when in fact it was, at best, considerably more fluid. Another key point that I continually emphasize is that there is very little reliable evidence of any sort about the 1969 New Riders.

I know of no photos or newspaper reviews of the 1969 New Riders, and there are only three tapes, one a studio demo. What few, vague recollections there are of the 1969 Riders usually stem from the times they opened for the Grateful Dead. The only person I have been in contact with who actually saw the New Riders in a nightclub was then a waitress at the club, and while she knew who Jerry Garcia was she had no clue about the band or the music. Our actual knowledge about the New Riders in 1969 is based on a sort of "Creation Myth" promulgated by the band's trio of founders, and the actual reality seems somewhat different.

After some research into other areas, I feel that I have a plausible hypothesis for the roles of Bob Matthews and Phil Lesh in the early New Riders of The Purple Sage. In making my case for this hypothesis, I can illustrate some of the interesting cross-currents and demands of a busy band in a period of expansion, and how many competing interests came into play. I remain stumped on the question of Robert Hunter's exact role, but I feel that will be illuminated in due time. Here then is my current thinking on the membership of the New Riders up until April 1970. I have appended a list of New Riders show from the appropriate period at the bottom of the post.

The Conventional Story
Many times, the story has been told that John Dawson was visiting a Grateful Dead rehearsal in Novato and heard that Jerry Garcia had bought himself a new pedal steel guitar in Boulder, CO. Garcia invited Dawson over to his house to hear it, and Dawson brought his guitar along and played his own songs so that Garcia would have something to play along with. Garcia liked the songs, and invited himself to back Dawson at his Wednesday night gig in Menlo Park at a hofbrau called The Underground. David Nelson joined them, and the trio decided to make a band of it.

Over and over the story was repeated that the boys figured out that if they used Mickey Hart and Phil Lesh, the Grateful Dead could tour with their own opening act and only have to bring two extra people (Nelson and Dawson) on the road. This would equal an extra $500 or $1000 per night, in theory, and would be well worth it, and thus the New Riders were born. At some point in early 1970, or so the story goes, Phil Lesh lost interest and was replaced by Dave Torbert. Hart left the band at the end of 1970, and Garcia departed in late 1971, and the New Riders spread their wings. The story has a nice, clean narrative with a simple arc, which is why it got repeated so often. However, it's only true in a very narrow sense.

The Actual Story
Once Garcia, Dawson and Nelson decided to make a band out of their little enterprise, there were a few shows in June 1969 with indeterminate lineups, probably including Jerry's old friend Peter Grant on banjo. McNally called this a "tryout" of the New Riders concept. Per Blair Jackson, the first actual show was opening for the Grateful Dead at a Hell's Angels party at Longshoreman's Hall on July 16, 1969. This was followed by an August 1 show at the Bear's Lair Coffee House in UC Berkeley. The Hell's Angels show featured no billing whatsoever, and the UC Berkeley date was advertised as "Jerry Garcia and Marmaduke,"and one listing added "and friends." The first appearance of the New Riders of The Purple Sage name was a four night stand at the Matrix on August 6-9, 1969.

The New Riders of The Purple Sage played a fair number of shows in 1969, almost all in the Bay Area, and mostly on weeknights. However, the Riders only opened for the Grateful Dead on three occasions: their debut at Longshoreman's (July 16), one weekend in the Pacific Northwest (August 20-23) and a weekend at the Family Dog (August 28-30). The idea that the Dead went out with the New Riders as their opening act in 1969 is a fiction, save for one weekend in Washington and Oregon. That weekend itself is so confusing, it's possible that the New Riders only played one show. There was a goof off night in a bar (August 20) when the initial show was rained out, and any history of the Oregon rock festival on a Saturday is lost, and I can only say with confidence that the New Riders played the middle night in Seattle (August 21).

Leave aside for a moment that the theme that Phil Lesh allowed the New Riders to be an opening act has little basis in reality. In the last several years, persistent scholarship has brought to light that the original New Riders bass player seems to have been legendary Grateful Dead engineer Bob Matthews. Dawson had alluded in the past to rehearsing with both Robert Hunter and Bob Matthews, but it had never been clear that Matthews played any gigs. Matthews, apparently, said that he had, and this was ultimately confirmed by David Nelson and others. Nelson has at least generally confirmed the idea that Lesh and Matthews shared bass duties at some point, depending on the gig.

Bob Matthews
Bob Matthews was a childhood friend of Bob Weir's, and as a result he was hanging out with the Grateful Dead from their earliest days. Matthews is best known as one half of "Bob and Betty," the engineering team that recorded Aoxomoxoa, Live/Dead, Workingman's Dead and numerous other live and studio efforts well into the early 1980s. He was an original member of the equipment crew, he helped build the sound system at The Carousel and he was an original member of the Alembic engineering team as well.

A close look at McNally, however, reveals that Bob Matthews was fired from the Grateful Dead's equipment crew in December, 1967 due to conflict with Mickey Hart (p.233). Now, fired or not, Matthews continued to work with the Grateful Dead for the next 15 years, so the conflict must not have been irreparable. However, from 1968 onwards Bob Matthews seems to have been an engineer and not a crew member. Thus if the Grateful Dead were going to take the New Riders on the road, taking Bob Matthews along meant taking an extra person. From that perspective, if Phil Lesh had little interest in playing with the Riders, then another body had to be added in any case. For many years I had assumed Matthews was part of the crew, but in fact he was not. When Matthews was along on the road, it would have been because the band was recording, and Matthews would have been too busy to play bass.

Matthews' presence as the Riders initial bass player makes sense in another way as well. We have discovered that there were more New Riders shows in the second half of 1969 than we had originally thought. However, Phil Lesh has never had a history of regularly playing Bay Area rock nightclubs on weeknights. I now think he never played those shows. If the New Riders played The Inn Of The Beginning, or the Poppycock, or some such place, Matthews more likely played the date. If the New Riders were opening for the Grateful Dead, Lesh played it. As to events in between, such as the weeknight "Hoedown" shows at the Family Dog, the truth is we have no evidence either way who played bass, but my guess is that Matthews and Lesh more or less split those duties.

Bob Matthews was employed by Alembic Studios in 1969, and would have been doing periodic contract work for the Grateful Dead. However, that would have left him free to play clubs on a weeknight. Since by and large Matthews had stopped going on the road, going out to the Poppycock or some such place would have been fun. Lesh, by contrast, has always been up for heavy touring, but he was rarely a guy who dropped in to play at nightclubs when he was off the road.

1969 New Riders Tapes
There are three 1969 New Riders tapes
  • August 7, 1969: The Matrix, San Francisco
  • September 18, 1969: The Inn Of The Beginning, Cotati
  • November 1969, Pacific High Recorders studio, San Francisco (4-song demo)
Almost all shows at the Matrix were taped, but not all were preserved. The owners, who were also the tapers, tended to keep what they thought were the best or most commercial recordings, and would tape over the other nights. Thus it is not surprising that there was only one extant tape from the Matrix, as that was par for the course at that venue.

However, The recording at The Inn Of The Beginning is considerably more mysterious. I have no idea why a New Riders tape from the Inn Of The Beginning was recorded or preserved, while no other live '69 New Riders has endured, save the Matrix. Who was taping the New Riders, even once? My own personal suspicion was that Owsley made the tape. I can't imagine that the 1969 Riders had a formal crew arrangement--although once again, no one knows--so if Owsley was present, he probably just invited himself to mix the sound, and taped it as a matter of course. One of my fond hopes has always been that Owsley taped a few New Riders shows from the earliest days, and kept them hidden in a box.

In the past, I have been told by people with better ears than mine that they were sure Phil Lesh played bass on the two existing New Riders live tapes. I have no reason to doubt them. I am interested in making a rather opposite point, however, which is that the tapes survived because of their superiority, and with Phil Lesh playing bass the New Riders were a better band. For example, Phil Lesh may not have played all four nights when the New Riders played the Matrix, indeed he may have only played one. However, since the Matrix owners typically only kept the best tape, it doesn't surprise me that they would have kept the one with Phil Lesh on bass. By the same token, whatever the peculiar circumstances that led to the Inn Of The Beginning tape being recorded and then preserved, if it is indeed Phil on bass, then either that was planned from the beginning (for example, if Owsley knew Phil was playing) or the reason the specific tape was preserved. 

In 1986, Relix Records released a retrospective New Riders of The Purple Sage album called Before Time Began. Among other things, it included a four-song New Riders demo recorded by Bob Matthews at Pacific High Recorders in November 1969. With Matthews working the board, it was no surprise that Phil Lesh played bass. I believe that this demo shows the true interests and talents of the band's various bass players--Phil Lesh was the better bass player, and Bob Matthews had the golden ears of an engineer. For a demo that was supposed to be played on the radio (and it was) and shopped to record companies, the New Riders needed their best-hitting lineup. Phil Lesh probably did not play many New Riders gigs, far fewer than we may have thought, but paradoxically it does seem that his performances are more likely to have been preserved.

Winter 1970
After November 1969, there are only four New Riders showed booked between then and the end of March 1970. At least three and possibly all four of them were never played. What happened? The first and most important factor is the recording of Workingman's Dead. Although the band themselves did not spend an excessive amount of time in the studio, producers Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor would have had substantial duties listening, mixing and editing, so Matthews would be considerably less free to drive around the Bay Area playing fun gigs with the New Riders. More importantly, since Matthews was not a paid member of the band's crew, but rather a contractor, he would have been directly or indirectly giving up paid work for the Dead in return for beer money with the New Riders.

Matthews's obligations in Winter 1970 would have left New Riders bass duties to Phil Lesh. It is here where the oft-repeated story that Phil was "just not interested" starts to fit in. There has been no time in his career when Phil eagerly sought out nightclub gigs around the Bay Area, much less in the midst of a busy schedule of touring and recording with the Grateful Dead. To the extent Phil Lesh ever played nightclubs in this period, it seems to have exclusively been at the Matrix. When Matthews was playing the club gigs in late '69, Phil seems to have been willing to play bass for a few New Riders shows, particularly if they were opening for the Dead. Don't forget, an opening set would have likely been considerably shorter than a couple of sets in a nightclub. But Lesh wasn't the guy who wanted to drive over to Cotati to play country rock all night on a tiny stage.

Phil Lesh had such a unique path to becoming a bass player that I have no doubt he musically benefited from playing simple songs with the New Riders. I'm sure his playing on Grateful Dead songs like "Black Peter" or "Friend Of The Devil" were much more surefooted for having played that sort of music with the New Riders. But Phil was still Phil--after a rehearsal or two and several concerts, Phil would have incorporated all the musical education he could have gotten from the New Riders music, and it would have just been an exercise from then on. I think Phil Lesh turned down any New Riders gigs in early 1970, and Garcia, Dawson and Nelson realized they needed a permanent bass player. At some points in the 1969 and early 1970 period, Robert Hunter had been rehearsing with the New Riders as the bassist, but all parties concede that he never actually played a gig with the band. The time frame of Hunter's participation with the New Riders remains interesting to me, if confusing, but it is more of a subject of intra-band collaboration rather than the New Riders touring history.

In April 1970 the New Riders signed up Dave Torbert, catching him "coincidentally" when he was returning from a surfing trip to Hawaii. Torbert had been in the New Delhi River Band with Nelson, and was friends with Dawson as well, so I doubt it was a "coincidence" that he got the call. Indeed, it would seem logical to think that after Matthews became occupied with recording, Nelson and Dawson planned all along to have Torbert take over bass duties, and were only waiting for him to return from Hawaii. The New Riders played a flurry of local shows in April 1970 in anticipation of the introduction of "An Evening With The Grateful Dead, featuring the New Riders of The Purple Sage, " which debuted on May 1, 1970 in Alfred, NY.

Matthews, never really that great a bass player anyway, was too important as a recording engineer, so he would never have been a candidate as a permanent member of the New Riders. Lesh had passed on the job, and in any case no one probably ever thought Lesh would take the job permanently. Although it took the arrival of Torbert to bring the New Riders on the road, extra money for just three bodies (instead of two) was still a sound business practice. Eventually, of course, Mickey Hart and then Jerry Garcia would leave the New Riders, but the first step had been finding a real bass player to stand in for two part-timers.

Appendix: New Riders Performances, 1969
May 7, 1969 The Underground, Menlo Park John Dawson
May 14, 1969 The Underground, Menlo Park John Dawson
May 21, 1969 The Underground, Menlo Park John Dawson
June 4, 1969 The Underground, Menlo Park John Dawson
June ?, 1969 Peninsula School, Menlo Park [billing unknown]
June 11, 1969 California Hall, San Francisco Bobby Ace And The Cards Off The Bottom Of The Deck
June 24, 1969 The Underground, Menlo Park John Dawson
July 16, 1969 Longshoreman's Hall, San Francisco Grateful Dead/Cleveland Wrecking Company/Ice [Dawson, Garcia, etc unbilled]
August 1, 1969 Bear's Lair, UC Berkeley Jerry Garcia, Marmaduke and Friends
August 6-9, 1969 The Matrix, San Francisco New Riders Of The Purple Sage
August ?, 1969 Lions Share, San Anselmo, New Riders Of The Purple Sage
August 13, 1969  Family Dog On The Great Highway, San Francisco New Lost City Ramblers/New Riders of The Purple Sage "Hoe Down"
August 19, 1969 Family Dog At The Great Highway New Riders Of The Purple Sage
August 20, 1969 El Roach Tavern, Ballard, WA Grateful Dead/others (possibly NRPS)
August 21, 1969 Aqua Theatre, Seattle, WA Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Sanpaku
August 23, 1969 Bullfrog 2 Festival, Pelletier Farm, St Helens, OR Grateful Dead/others (possibly NRPS)
August 28, 1969 Family Dog At The Great Highway Grateful Dead/Mickey And The Hartbeats/NRPS
August 29-30, 1969 Family Dog At The Great Highway Grateful Dead/Commander Cody/New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Rubber Duck Company
September 18, 1969 Inn Of The Beginning, Cotati New Riders Of The Purple Sage

Fall 1969, Peninsula School New Riders Of The Purple Sage
Steve Marcus attended this show, and recalls Phil Lesh on bass. This was different than the June event.
October 9, 1969 Inn Of The Beginning, Cotati, CA New Riders Of The Purple Sage
October 14-16, 1969 Mandrake's, Berkeley New Riders of The Purple Sage
October 17, 1969 Loma Prieta Room, Student Union, San Jose State College, San Jose New Riders Of The Purple Sage/The Fourth Way
October 22, 1969 Family Dog On The Great Highway, San Francisco New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Lazarus

November ?, 1969 Pacific High Recorders demo New Riders Of The Purple Sage
  (4 tracks released on the 1986 Relix lp Before Time Began; engineered by Bob Matthews)
November 3-4, 1969 The Matrix, San Francisco New Riders Of The Purple Sage
November 6, 1969 Inn Of The Beginning, Cotati New Riders Of The Purple Sage
November 13, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto New Riders Of The Purple Sage
November 18, 1969 Family Dog On The Great Highway, San Francisco New Riders Of The Purple Sage/David LaFlamme "Square Dance"
November 19, 1969 Fillmore West, San Francisco New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Big Brother and The Holding Company/Barry McGuire & The Doctor Naut Family
November 20, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto New Riders Of The Purple Sage

November 22-23, 1969 Family Dog On The Great Highway, San Francisco New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Anonymous Artists Of America/Devil's Kitchen
November 27, 1969 Family Dog on The Great Highway New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Lamb/Cleveland Wrecking Company/Deacon and The Suprelles/Rafael Garrett Circus
November 28, 1969 Inn Of The Beginning, Cotati New Riders Of The Purple Sage
January 19, 1970 Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley, CA: New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band Benefit For Center For Educational Change

March 12, 1970 Inn Of The Beginning, Cotati New Riders of The Purple Sage (canceled)
March 13-14, 1970 New Orleans House, Berkeley New Riders of The Purple Sage (canceled, replaced by Big Brother)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia Tour Itinerary May 1969

A poster for the 1969 Oregon shows on May 30 (Springer's) and May 31 (McArthur Court)
I have been constructing tour itineraries for the Grateful Dead for brief periods of their history. There is so much information circulating on websites and blogs (including my own) that go beyond published lists on Deadlists and that these posts make useful forums for discussing what is known and missing during each period. So far I have reviewed

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

What follows is a list of known Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia performance dates for May, 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.

May, 1969
By May, 1969 the Grateful Dead had completed the exhausting process of recording Aoxomoxoa. Of course, recording the Aoxomoxoa album was exhausting because the band had made it so: they had recorded an entire album by the end of 1968, tentatively entitled Earthquake Country, but chose to re-record the album on a newly-available 16-track Ampex recorder. The endless experimenting, overdubs and goofiness took another few months, and the Dead ended up in debt to Warner Brothers to the tune of $150,000, serious money for the time. In any case, by May they were done, and the Aoxomoxoa album would be released in June.

The Grateful Dead were always perpetually broke, and they must have known that their huge debt to Warner Brothers insured that any future record royalties would be few and far between. As a result they embarked on a fairly intense schedule of regional and national touring. By 1969, although the Dead were not really successful recording artists, they were legendary, as San Francisco and the Fillmore had mythic status, so the band had some cachet out in the hinterlands. The band capitalized on that by performing far and wide, very far from the safety zones of hip psychedelic clubs in big cities.

In the context of the Dead's forthcoming album and renewed commitment to heavy touring, it is a telling Garcia paradox that he would choose this time to start his first extra-curricular band. As I have discussed at length elsewhere, Garcia had brought a pedal steel guitar in Colorado (probably Boulder) in April. Old Palo Alto friend John "Marmaduke" Dawson had dropped by to hear him play it, playing his own songs, which Garcia was probably familiar with, so that Garcia would have a platform for accompanying him. Seemingly on the spot, when Garcia found out that Dawson was playing his songs at a Hofbrau in Menlo Park, Garcia offered to be his "sideman" and back him up on the pedal steel guitar.

John Dawson, David Nelson and Jerry Garcia have repeated the story about the birth of the New Riders numerous times. Dawson was playing his songs on Wednesday nights at a hip hofbrau on El Camino Real called The Underground, not far from where the Warlocks had debuted at Magoo's Pizza. All the stories imply a lengthy process where Garcia started to drop in, people started to find out, and Nelson was invited to join in, all leading to the genesis of the New Riders of The Purple Sage. However, like many events that are recalled with intensity years later, time seems to have elongated for the participants. There can hardly have been more than six occasions when Garcia played Wednesday nights with Marmaduke at the Underground, and it may have been even fewer. That's not to say that the stories are untrue, by any means, but the entire process was much shorter than may have been thought.

Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia Tour Itinerary May 1969
May 2-3, 1969: Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Mongo Santamaria
The Grateful Dead had not played Winterland or the Fillmore West with the Jefferson Airplane in some time. Of course, the Dead had set themselves up as competitors to Bill Graham in early 1968, so it wasn't a coincidence. Nonetheless, with Graham having taken over the Carousel and the Dead always in search of a paying date, bygones had become bygones and the two acts shared a Friday and Saturday booking at Winterland.

Mongo Santamaria was a highly regarded Latin Jazz bandleader and conguero. According to some comments on the Archive, on at least one of the nights, Mongo sat in for some serious jamming with members of the Dead and the Airplane into the wee hours. 

May 3, 1969: [Football Stadium], Sierra College, Rocklin, CA: Grateful Dead (afternoon)
Rocklin, CA, is a small town a half hour North of Sacramento, and 108 miles Northeast of San Francisco. Originally the site of a granite quarry in the 19th century, since it was on the original transcontinental rail line, a town grew up around it. With the quarry long since closed, Rocklin did not come to life again until Interstate 80 was completed in the 1960s, making the town a commutable suburb of Sacramento. While there is plenty of suburban sprawl today, and Rocklin seems part of greater Sacramento, in 1969 the town would have been small and distant. Rocklin's population at the tmie was probably around 20,000 (it's only 56,000 today).

Sierra College was a two year Community College, originally founded in 1936. I have to assume that the event was student sponsored, since there couldn't have been that much of a crowd, and student funds would have helped subsidize the Dead's fee. I am assuming also that the Dead played on the school's football field, but since the current stadium (built 2007) only holds 1,500, it must have been a casual event indeed. I have never seen a newspaper article, handbill or anything else about this show, so I have to guess what the circumstances may have been. Rocklin was near enough to San Francisco that the band could have played an afternoon show there and easily returned to Winterland for the Saturday evening show.

The Grateful Dead were booked on the West Coast in this period by Bill Graham's Millard Agency. The Millard Agency excelled at finding new gigs for San Francisco bands outside of the obvious Bay Area and Los Angeles venues. For the students at Sierra College in 1969, a Sunday afternoon visit by the Grateful Dead must have been the biggest thing ever to happen in Rocklin. Sometime in the 1980s, the San Francisco 49ers took to holding their training camp there--they may still--but until Joe Montana and Jerry Rice arrived, I have to think the Grateful Dead were the highest profile event since the railroad came to town.

May 7, 1969: Polo Grounds, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead (free afternoon concert)
While free concerts in Golden Gate Park had become standard fare in San Francisco, the city was uncomfortable with major headliners playing the park. This show was on a Wednesday, and I suspect that there was no pre-event publicity. The Polo Grounds had been the site of the Human Be-In, and while it could accommodate a large crowd, the City did not actually want a large crowd. According to extant tapes, both the Dead and the Airplane played single sets. I have no idea how large the crowd actually was.

May 7, 1969: The Underground, Menlo Park, CA: Marmaduke (tentative)
The earliest Wednesday that Jerry Garcia could have joined John Dawson at the Underground would have been this night. I am inclined to believe that since the Grateful Dead would have played an afternoon show with the Airplane at Golden Gate Park, and indeed came on first, the compulsive Garcia could have headed South to Menlo Park to check out Marmaduke's scene at the Hofbrau. The Dead would have only have returned from tour on about Monday, April 28, and there had to be both a Grateful Dead rehearsal (for Dawson to come hang out) and a visit Garcia's home (for them to play), so the earliest date I can see Garcia sitting in would be the first week of May.

Since no one has ever seen a newspaper listing or anything else for The Underground, it's hard to be certain about any of this--the Wednesday night gig, how (or whether) Dawson was billed, even the address of The Underground. A long-time Bay Area resident recalls the restaurant, and we know it's approximate location, but we can't be certain. For now, I think The Underground was at 1029 El Camino Real, and is currently the site of The Oak City Bar And Grill. My assumption for May 7 was that Garcia drove down, checked it out, and plugged in his pedal steel for a second or later set, noodling quietly in the background.

May 9, 1969: Hall Of Flowers, San Mateo County Fairgrounds, San Mateo, CA: Grateful Dead
The Millard Agency specialized in finding bookings in the Bay Area suburbs, particularly places that hadn't hosted major bands before.  Rock music was popular in the suburbs now, and there were a lot of fans who wouldn't (or wouldn't be allowed to) go to San Francisco but wanted to see hip bands.

I know nothing about this concert save it's listing in Deadbase: I don't know who promoted it, who else was on the bill or anything else. The San Mateo County Fairgrounds were right off El Camino, very much in the Warlocks old stomping grounds of a few years earler. The band did play a benefit at the Fairgrounds a dozen years later  (December 12, 1981 with Joan Baez) but I believe that was in a different building (Fiesta Hall). I think the Hall of Flowers was much smaller, but I can't prove that yet.

An alternate handbill for the May 9-10, 1969 shows at the Rose Palace
May 10, 1969: Rose Palace, Pasadena, CA: Farewell Cream movie/Grateful Dead/Kaleidoscope/Southwind
I have written about this show elsewhere. Pasadena was another suburban market, and the Dead had played there two months earlier. Rather uniquely, the "headliner" was a movie, a concert film of Cream's farewell performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London on October 26, 1968.

May 11, 1969: Aztec Bowl, San Diego State College, San Diego, CA: Canned Heat/Grateful Dead/Lee Michaels/Santana/Tarantula
Continuing the Millard plan of creating new markets, the Grateful Dead returned to San Diego for the second time (the first had been a two-night stand at the downtown Hippodrome on May 2-3, 1968). The Aztec Bowl was a modest sized football stadium. Canned Heat was the headliner, both because they had genuine hits (like "On The Road Again") and because they were much better known in Southern California. Lee Michaels had a certain following as well, and may have been booked through Millard, too. Michaels was a very talented musician, and had a fairly singular sound. Michaels sang and played Hammond organ at ear-splitting volume through a stack of Leslie amps, accompanied by only his drummer, Bartholomew "Frosty" Smith. It sounds weird, but actually it was really great.

Santana was also booked through the Millard Agency, who were slowly building an audience for the band throughout California. Santana had been signed to Columbia and had begun working on their first album, but at this time they would have merely been an underground legend in Southern California. They had played SoCal a few times, but this was their first time in San Diego. Tarantula were apparently a local group.

Interestingly, the Grateful Dead's set seems to have been broadcast on KPRI-fm (106.5) in San Diego, a very early instance of this practice. As a result of the circulating tape, we know that members of Santana joined the Dead for "Turn On Your Lovelight." The percussion section (presumably Mike Carabello, Chepito Areas and possibly Mike Shrieve) adds some oomph to the drum solos, and it sounds like Gregg Rolie adding a few vocals during the song as well.

May 14, 1969: The Underground, Menlo Park, CA: Marmaduke
This would have been either the first or second appearance by Garcia with Marmaduke.

May 16, 1969: Campolindo High School, Moraga, CA: Grateful Dead/Frumious Bandersnatch/Velvet Hammer
There are a variety of amazing stories about the Grateful Dead's performance at suburban Campolindo High School in Moraga, on the other side of the hills from Berkeley. Some of them may even be true. The key takeaway for the Grateful Dead's schedule seems to be that the Dead had an unbooked weekend, and seemed happy to get a payday, even if they weren't making as much as they might some nights. Perhaps a planned date fell through, and the Dead picked up the Campolindo date as the best available remaining booking.

Campolindo had held two major concerts in the 1968/69 school year, featuring Santana in the Fall (November 22, 1968) and the Grateful Dead in the Spring. Both headliners were Millard Agency acts, another indicator of the agency's shrewd plan to export the Fillmore sound to the suburbs.

May 21, 1969: The Underground, Menlo Park, CA: Marmaduke
Whether you think that this was the second or third show where Garcia played with Dawson, I have to think that David Nelson was already playing with them. Once again, however, we have no real evidence to go on. My assumption is that Dawson was singing his songs on acoustic guitar, with Garcia playing pedal steel and Nelson playing a Fender.

May 23-24, 1969: Big Rock Pow Wow, Seminole Indian Reservation, Hollywood, FL
May 23; Grateful Dead/Johnny Winter/Muddy Waters/Joe South/Nervous System/Jane & The Electric Jive Wire
May 24: Grateful Dead/Sweetwater/Youngbloods/Joe South/Aum/Sun Country
Psychedelic rock had broken through on the Coasts, and then along the I80 and I70 corridors where all the touring bands went through (Chicago, Salt Lake City, Denver, etc). It took a longer time for hippie music to reach the rest of the country. Florida was one of the first places where there were places for the Fillmore bands to play in the South, and the Dead played a big part. The band had played two weekends at Thee Image in 1968, Miami's premier psychedelic ballroom (though not it's first), and the Dead had also played the first free concert in Graynolds Park in Miami, on April 14, 1968.The Dead had played a rock festival in North Miami in December, 1968 as well.

By 1969, however, police pressure and fear of Jim Morrison had helped to shut down Thee Image. Florida's solution was to move the fun to an Indian Reservation north of Miami, where the local police had no jurisdiction. The 'Big Rock Pow-Wow' was a three-day festival, and the Dead were the headline act on Friday and Saturday. The excellent though now obscure band Rhinoceros were the Sunday headliner (May 25). Both Dead shows were released in their entirety on the Road Trips series, and Blair Jackson's liner notes tell the whole hilarious story.

A handbill for the People's Park Bail Benefit show at Winterland on May 28, 1969
May 28, 1969: Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Creedence Clearwater Revival/Grateful Dead/Santana/Elvin Bishop Group/Aum/Bangor Flying Circus 
People's Park Bail Ball
The People's Park protests in Berkeley were a seminal event in the Bay Area, too complex to go into here. Although initially a civic issue--an empty grass field was going to be turned into a parking lot by the University--it became a flashpoint for the needs of the community versus the needs of a State-run institution (UC Berkeley). Ultimately there were huge riots, the National Guard was called in and the entire conflict escalated significantly. From this point of view, the Grateful Dead playing a benefit for people who had been arrested at one of the many riot was more of a social statement than an explicitly political one. Obviously, the band's participation was not without political content, but the event would not have been seen as support of a specific political group but more as an act of solidarity.

This was a Wednesday night event, so bands weren't losing out on a paying gig. Generally, bands weren't paid at these sorts of benefits, although they might receive a little money for expenses--what constituted "a little" remains unknown. I presume that the organizers hired Bill Graham Presents to organize the show, but it was not a BGP show per se. The event ran from 6:00pm until 2am, and probably every band played a single set.

Solidarity and politics aside, bands and management liked playing events like this, even if practically for free, since it often introduced a group to new audiences as well as making them seem cool and in touch, an important market in the 60s. Creedence Clearwater Revival, for example, were hugely popular at this time, having had a giant hit with "Proud Mary" (released in January) and followed by "Bad Moon Rising" (released in April), whose B-side, "Lodi," received nearly as much airplay. Creedence was an East Bay band, however, and it was important for them to show that even though they were big stars now, they were still going to come out for a People's Park benefit (which the individual band members surely supported).

Many of the support acts were Millard acts, as were the Dead. Millard was sharp about making sure that fans who would come out to see the Airplane, The Dead and Creedence were going to hear Millard acts like Elvin Bishop, Aum and Santana as well.

I assume that the Dead played third from last, but I don't know that for sure. It's a meaningful point insofar as determining whether or not Garcia sat in with Dawson this Wednesday night. I have assumed that Garcia did not, but truthfully, it's not totally impossible. As always, confirmation of actual dates that Garcia played with Dawson at The Underground--or for that matter, any confirmation about when Dawson played The Underground, even by himself--are all but impossible to come by.

The Mike Aydelott poster for the May 29, 1969 UCSB show in Robertson Gym
May 29, 1969: Robertson Gym, UC Santa Barbara, Isla Vista, CA: Grateful Dead/Youngbloods/Lee Michaels
Santa Barbara's proximity to Los Angeles meant that there were a lot of rock concerts there in the 60s, but most of them were held at the County Fairgrounds in Santa Barbara proper. The University of California at Santa Barbara was actually in Isla Vista, about 10 miles West of the city itself. The campus had been a somewhat sleepy backwater in the UC system (it was established in 1944), but the post WW2 baby boom expanded the campus dramatically, starting in the late 1950s. By the late 1960s, Isla Vista and the UCSB community was a hotbed of anti-war activity. Still, there were relatively few major rock concerts on or near campus.

Once again the Dead led the way in taking time on a Thursday night to conquer new territory. Keep in mind that they had played San Francisco on a Wednesday, Isla Vista on a Thursday and then back North for a weekend in Oregon the next day. The Youngbloods and Lee Michaels were probably associated with the Millard Agency in some ways, as both groups played a lot with the Dead. Note that in 1969 the Grateful Dead needed two substantial supporting acts to play Robertson Gym. By the time I saw them there in 1977 (March 27), the Dead packed the place by themselves.

May 30, 1969: Springer's Inn, Gresham, OR: Grateful Dead/Palace Meat Market
Springer's Inn was an old ballroom that was built as part of a hotel that was the terminus of a long-ago electric rail line. It was actually in the town of Gresham, OR, 15 miles East of Portland. The are was fairly undeveloped at the time, and the poster doesn't even give an address--it just says "take Powell, right on 190th." That tells you there was nothing else out there. The actual address was 18300 SE Richey Rd, Gresham, OR 97080, but it wasn't necessary. Now, of course, there is a condo development, no sign of Springer's Inn and SE 190th Avenue doesn't exist off Powell Street (or as Robert Hunter has said, "That train don't run here anymore").

I have written about Springer's Inn at some length elsewhere, so I won't recap it all here. Suffice to say, the Grateful Dead were already hugely popular in Oregon, despite the relative lack of population in Oregon at the time. Rock was also moving to the suburbs, and distant Gresham could attract more suburbanites than downtown Portland, which didn't have a good venue at this time anyway, since the Crystal Ballroom had been closed.

The Palace Meat Market was a local Oregon band. Opening for the Dead this weekend was the highlight of their career.

May 31, 1969: McArthur Court, Eugene, OR: Grateful Dead/Palace Meat Market
McArthur Court, built in 1926 with a capacity of nearly 10,000, remained the home of the Oregon Ducks until it was replaced in 2011 by the Matthew Knight Arena.

The Grateful Dead were always immensely popular in Oregon, whether due to mystical connections through Ken Kesey and their road crew (three of whom were from the tiny town of Hermiston, OR) or just because Oregon liked the Dead. In any case, when the Dead headlined McArthur Court on May 31, 1969, it was one of the biggest rooms that they had headlined up until that time. The show appears to have been scheduled for the track stadium (Hayward Field) and moved indoors, but in any case it was a sign of the Dead's status in Oregon.

Ken Kesey and his Prankster pals were having some sort of Prankster reunion this weekend, and Kesey, Ken Babbs and others were in attendance at these shows, and may have appeared on stage in some capacity or other. Apparently it was a wild time, just another in a long list of memorable Oregon shows for the Grateful Dead.