Thursday, April 19, 2012

November 29-30, 1968: Hyde Park Teen Center, Cincinatti, OH Grateful Dead/The Lemon Pipers

A flyer for the November 30, 1968 show at the Teen Center in Cincinnati, OH
Grateful Dead scholarship has become a charming, labyrinthine structure where the worm sometimes eats its own tail. A fellow scholar recently had a fascinating post about a largely forgotten guest appearance by members of the Grateful Dead at a Jefferson Airplane concert at Detroit's legendary Grande Ballroom, on November 24, 1968. The date seemed to conflict with Deadlists' assertion of a Grateful Dead show in Cincinnati, OH at a place called The Hyde Park Teen Center. A lengthy discussion on the Comment thread not only unraveled the Cincinnati date, it brought forth a surprising burst of information and analysis about the hitherto forgotten appearance by the Dead in Cincinnati. I was just one among several participants in the conversation, but the accumulated knowledge seems too interesting to leave buried in a Comment thread. This post will accumulate all that we have learned from that thread, so in advance I am shouting out to my fellow scholars, some of them anonymous, who made this post possible (JGMF, Yellow Shark, Light Into Ashes most prominently).

On November 29 and 30, 1968, the Friday and Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, the Grateful Dead played two shows at the relatively tiny Hyde Park Teen Center in Cincinnati, OH. They were in between high profile shows in Detroit and Chicago, and since the holiday weekend probably upended some normal booking opportunities, two nights in comparatively conservative Cincinnati were the best option available. Details are, of course, murky, but a few reliable sources suggest that the Dead rocked the house and let the sleepy town know what they were missing out west.

Grateful Dead Touring Schedule, November 1968
The Grateful Dead had booked some college shows in Ohio on the weekend before Thanksgiving. They played Friday, November 22, 1968 at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Columbus, and a free concert on Saturday, November 23 at Ohio University, in Athens, OH. Commenter Light Into Ashes found some eyewitness comments on dead.net:
A comment for 11/22:
"Crummy weather driving to Columbus to see these guys, didn't know much about them at all. Promoter did poor job of advertising and ticketing--only about 250 ppl in a 3,000 seat auditorium! Should have put this show on somewhere closer to the college campus, maybe? But where? Columbus was not a rock n roll city at the time... Sufficiently weird show (mostly stuff from "Anthem") that I decided to follow them to Athens, Ohio the following night."

And for 11/23:
"Mem Aud.... 1929 theater style auditorium with balcony, max occupancy 2500, that night a room full of kinetic heads, the local freak scene, maybe a couple hundred folks max, lights up, people milling about, equipment set up on oriental rug on stage, folks walking up and down the steps to the stage where a number of people stood talking to each other, chatter, laughter, excitement, patchouli, and then amid it all an undersound of music emerging from the seeming randomness and the show was on! ... I know Pig was wailing out front and learned since that it was Tom's first night on keys, which freed Pig for vocal theatrics. Oh did the boys play...long into the evening!"
Another witness confirms the small crowd: "Sort of catch-as-catch-can atmosphere, big venue, but small audience (heck Thanksgiving was here!), as in Columbus the night before. Small turnout for two nights in a row made me wonder if this band had a future! Again, general weirdness and jamming prevailed."
The Hyde Park Teen Center show has been listed for many years on Deadlists and elsewhere as Sunday, November 24, but in fact no evidence supports that. It does seem logical, admittedly, but the handbill (above) directly contradicts that.

JGMF's determined research showed that on Sunday, November 24, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir showed up to jam with the Jefferson Airplane at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit. According to a former Grande employee
worked at the grande for 3 yrs......the dead the airplane and procol harum were the best of all.........i remember an airplane show on a sunday nite/2 show nite/ i hid all my friends in the attic so they would'nt have to pay for the second show......well, we got high w/grace, paul and jorma.........jerry and phil and bob sowed up about 12:30 and jammed with the airplane til about 4:00 in the morning.........no shit ........terry reid also played two sets.
In 1968, rock and roll orthodoxy had not yet been fully established. As a result, the Grateful Dead had a two night stand at the Kinetic Playground in Chicago on November 27-28, the Wednesday and Thursday of Thanksgiving. There are hardly major rock shows on those nights anymore, and experimental bookings such as these were probably how promoters discovered that people don't go to rock concerts on Thanksgiving. Nonetheless, Chicago was a big gig, so headlining over Procol Harum and Terry Reid for two nights would have made the Dead's Midwestern sojourn worth their time. The Dead also had a Sunday night (December 1) show in Detroit, another  headlining performance at a high profile 60s venue. That left open dates on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, and that seems to have led to some gigs at a small venue in Cincinnati. As I have emphasized often, if the Dead were going to spend nights away from home while they were on tour, any paying booking was worthwhile, because it would at least cover expenses.

Jim Tarbell And The Cincinnati Rock Scene
Ohio had a very exciting 60s rock scene, and there is some interesting history to be written, but the interesting parts didn't take place in Cincinnati. This is ironic, since Cincinnati is a large city that is apparently a pleasant place to live--hey, Peter Frampton lives there--but back in the 60s, the hip towns in Ohio were Cleveland and Kent. Cleveland has a great rock history, and Kent has a long history of being the cool college town in Ohio, but Cincinnati seems never to have had that underground vibe.

However, Cincinnati was still a city, and cities had teenagers. Jim Tarbell was a youth counselor working for the city, and he figured that one way to keep kids off the streets was to book a concert. He put on a show at an abandoned church near Hyde Park on Erie Avenue. Jim Tarbell became the first to start booking underground Fillmore-type bands in the city. In 1998, he recalled:
[Vanilla Fudge in 1967] was the first show at the Hyde Park Teen Center [his first promotion], and the opening of the center was quite a deal. It was on Erie Avenue, next door to the library on Hyde Park Square. Vanilla Fudge was really hot at the time. They had emerged as one of the major rock acts about the time of them coming to Cincinnati. 
Later in 1967, Tarbell went to San Francisco and went to the Fillmore, and saw the Grateful Dead. Thus he was primed to book the band when they came through the Midwest for the first time. Tarbell recalled:
You can still see people wandering up and down Erie Avenue with smiles on there faces wondering what happened. It was the Grateful Dead and all they embody, which was a little extreme for Cincinnati at the time. They were two hours late, and they played for three hours. They were running around chasing teenage girls. People were literally hanging from the rafters
So there's not any doubt about the Dead having played Cincinnati. A handbill survives, the promoter recalls it, and despite a little historiographical confusion, the date fits nicely with the Dead's touring schedule. This information was hiding in plain sight, but if JGMF had not posted his lengthy analysis of whether members of the Grateful Dead had jammed with the Jefferson Airplane on Detroit on November 24, 1968, none of this would have come to light. The usual crew of Commenters--of whom I am proud to be one--managed to piece together with certainty that the Dead played the Hyde Park Teen Center on Saturday, November 30.

Elsewhere, it has been noted that an Ohio group called The Lemon Pipers opened for the Dead in Cincinnati. They were a local band, who had a big national later with a song called "Green Tambourine."

The internet is a unique research tool, however, as an anonymous Commenter added this tantalizing detail:
I was at the dead show on 11 30 68 cincy hyde park teen center. I passed out posters for Jim Tarbell around town{ I even have a couple of these rare buggers left,if any body is interested} The poster says two shows one at 7:30 the other at 10.But I also remember that there was a show for hyde park community center members only on the day before or after, cant remember.
So not only did the Dead play Cincinnati on November 30, they may have played a sort of underground show the night before. Keep in mind, the Dead would have had to get from Chicago to Cincinnati with all their equipment, and with the weather always a threat on the East Coast, heading out on Friday (after the Chicago Thanksgiving show) rather than Saturday would have been prudent. Still, they would have been in Cincinnati with nothing to do on a Friday night--why not play? The 1968 Grateful Dead were always up for a public display of their talents. To the extent the Dead had a promotional 'approach,' that was it: let the people hear them and music would do the rest.

Let's review what we can take from the JGMF Comment Thread
  • Members of the Grateful Dead (Garcia, Weir and Lesh, apparently) played with the Jefferson Airplane during the second show at Detroit's Grande Ballroom on Sunday, November 24, 1968
  • The dating of a Grateful Dead show at Hyde Park Teen Center in Cincinnati on November 24, 1968 is spurious
  • However, the Grateful Dead very definitely played the Hyde Park Teen Center in Cincinnati on Saturday, November 30, 1968. 
  • Promoter Jim Tarbell recalls that the Dead arrived late, but played for three hours and left a huge impact on everyone who attended
  • The handbill suggests an early and late show, and there's no recollection of that. Most bands in those days played 50 minute sets, and perhaps the Dead, with or without permission, simply asserted that they would play their usual extended show
  • A Commenter recalls the show, and recalls some sort of 'members only' Grateful Dead show at "Hyde Park Community Center." If this show happened, it would have been the night before, namely Friday, October 29 (the band was playing Detroit on Sunday, December 1). 
  • The hitherto unknown show the night before the advertised show is very plausible, if unconfirmed. The Dead would have been in town, and at the time they were well inclined towards playing stealth shows for their intended audience. If it happened, I assume it was at the same venue with no publicity. However, that scenario is mediated by Tarbell's memory that the Dead were "two hours late," which implies they were arriving from out of town
The takeaway: a newly discovered Dead/Airplane jam, a confirmed Dead show, and a plausible indication about yet another lost Dead show. Is blogging great or what?

[update] Two Nights And Three Shows At The Teen Center
The Comment thread for this post has been remarkably illuminating, confirming some of the foggier details only alluded to before. Daniel Stevenson, who ran the lightshow for the gigs, weighs in with an excellent summary of what actually went down:
Everything that Paul has recounted is right on the mark. I was one of the members of the lightshow for that event, and extraordinary it was. It was a two night series, one show on Friday night and two on Saturday. The Lemon Pipers did not open--ether was no opening act. Just the Dead. The Teen Center was a decommissioned church that Tarbell converted into the Hyde Park Teen Center.

The Dead did show up late on Friday night, with Owsley on sound, as Paul states. They did not set up in the basement, but on the raised altar stage. Tom Constaten was also there, and has some interesting recollections of the performance. On Friday night, they started with a rather sloppy version of Good Morning Little School Girl, but in short order got into the groove and blew the roof off the place, at least to my recollection.

This was our first gig as Flavorscope Lightshow. We were pretty green at the time. We literally set up in the rafters of the church and projected through a window carved into the domed ceiling. I remember, at one point, sticking my head out--figuratively and literally--and hearing music that changed my life. (That's It for the Other One and New Potato Caboose, etc.)

On Saturday, we gathered mid-morning at the Center to tweak equipment. The Dead showed up and proceeded to practice and jam until late afternoon. I remember Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman working out dual drum solos, as other members came and wen. Bob Weir, at one point, did a rendition of Silver Threads and Golden Needles. There are other details which I will not recount. Pigpen was a damned nice guy, as were all.

Jim Tarbell opened Ludlow Garage in late summer or early fall of 1969 (can't recall the dates, but they are on record). It began with a Friday festival at the Cincinnati Zoo: Paul Butterfield (with full horn section), Vanilla Fudge, and others. The Garage opened, if I recall correctly, the next night with Grand Funk. Flavorscope did the Zoo gig (rear projection, which with westerly winds, functioned more as a sail than a lightshow), and the next night moved to the Garage. We were the house lightshow at the Garage from fall 1969 through summer of 1970. Also did the Dead show at the University of Cincinnati field house in April 1970, the night before the Ludlow Garage performance of the Allman Brothers that is now available on disk.

If you are interested in checking out the list of groups that played the garage during this period, it is available on line (Ludlow Garage set list). Though it may not be to your liking--or merely the unhip Midwest--shows by groups from the Michigan scene, such as the MC5 and Stooges, were also powerful, and no less prescient when it comes to trends a decade or so later.

Saturday night was as musically explosive as Friday.  
This all makes perfect sense. The Grateful Dead rolled into Cincinnati on Friday night, because they had nowhere else to be. On Saturday, hanging out waiting for that night's show, they took the time to work with their equipment, jam and hang out. With full time to set up, they were able to do two shows on Saturday. That means there were three shows in Cincinnati on the weekend. The asymetrical booking also explains some conflicting memories --some people saw Friday night, and some saw Saturday, which explains why different people remembered single or double shows.

Cincinnati Aftermath
The Grateful Dead played Ohio plenty of times in the ensuing decades, and Cincinnati got its share of the action. Once again, the Dead's willingness to play whatever small, underground shows were available seems to have paid off. Bands that took the more traditional route and played third on the bill at the local civic auditorium rarely got a chance to show what they were capable of. The Dead filled in an empty night on their itinerary with an apparently wild, tiny show for some teenagers, and I'll bet everyone who went told dozens of friends on Monday morning.

Jim Tarbell went on to become a major rock promoter in the Cincinnati area in the 60s and 70s. The Teen Center went on until about 1969, and then Tarbell moved the action to Ludlow's Garage, at 346 Ludlow Avenue in the Clifton neighborhood in Cincinnati. Although the Grateful Dead never played Ludlow's, as they were already too large for the tiny old warehouse with a capacity of about 1200, many cool bands came through there. Grand Funk Railroad opened the Garage on September 19, 1969, Santana played October 21 and 22, and the Allman Brothers played their first show North of the Mason Dixon line on December 19 and 20 (opening for The Frost). The Allmans came back a few times in April and May 1970, and one of the April shows was recorded and released some decades later (an old employee says almost every Garage show was taped...hmm).

Ludlow's Garage held its last show on January 20, 1971 (Captain Beefheart, Ry Cooder and Pure Prairie League), sized out of the market like so many would-be regional Fillmores. 346 Ludlow now appears to be a Yoga studio. Tarbell went on to become a successful restaurant owner, and then a City Councilman and Vice Mayor of Cincinnati. Not a bad run for a former youth counselor.

Thanskgiving weekend, 1968, in a big, sleepy conservative city. Some legendary crazy band with records that never got played on the radio are playing the youth club at the old church on Saturday night. Check it out? Why not? Maybe it will give you something to talk about at school on Monday morning...

13 comments:

  1. Thanks for consolidating it all.

    And, yeah, it really is a golden age for knowledge. I feel so fortunate that there are other lunatics to share in the discovery!

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  2. And, a technical question: does anyone have any evidence one way or another on whether material in comments is any differently discoverable via, e.g., a Google search than would be material in the body of a post? Just curious.

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  3. For various non-blog related reasons, I have to back down from my once-a-week schedule for this blog. I will be defaulting to a biweekly schedule, and the next post will be on Thursday, May 3.

    I am also putting the other blog on a biweekly schedule, so that the Commentariat will have something to talk about. The next post on Hooterollin Around (http://hooterollin.blogspot.com/) will be on Friday April 27, and the following one will be on May 11.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Another fabulous post - thanks so much! I have one minor correction to offer: The Lemon Pipers had their #1 hit with "Green Tambourine" at the beginning of 1968, played the Fillmore and Winterland in March (with Moby Grape, Traffic, and Spirit), and by November of that year they were already in decline after they failed to score a follow-up hit. It would have been interesting to hear what they sounded like live, because they supposedly a lot more bluesy and "psychedelic", in contrast to the bubblegum material that they had to record to keep their contract with Buddah.

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  5. An eyewitness has written in to report that the Teen Center was in the basement of a church. The church seems to have been largely (or entirely) unused at the time. The concerts were intended as fundraisers for the Teen Centers, and were held in the church itself, above the Teen Center.

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  6. sorry to be chiming in late here, but a friend of mine's father was a teenager in cincinnati at the time and somehow had become a dead fan in advance of this show. he showed up early to help them unload their instruments and helped them set up the stage, and said they were all very nice. not much additional color, but further confirmation that this show actually happened.

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  7. Hi Andrew,
    Could you ask your friend's Dad if he set up the GD's equipment on the altar in the church?

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  8. I worked in the light show for the Dead shows in Hyde Park in Cincinnati. The light show was done by Flavorscope in conjunction with another guy who's name escapes me that also did light show work in Cincinnati. The concerts weren't in the basement of the church, it was in the church itself. I believe that Owsley was there running the sound equipment, there were issues getting enough power to it and with all that stuff in addition to the bands equipment it took maybe 1/3 of the space up. I don't remember that it was a 2 night show but its possible that it was. The show was great and the place was packed and hot and sweaty. Somebody stole the new suede leather jacket my mom had got me (I was 15 then) but other than that it was a blast, we had never done a light show for a nationally known band before. I don't remember having an opening act, I think I would have remembered if it was the Lemon Pipers but its possible they were there and I just don't remember them.

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    Replies
    1. Paul, thanks for the eyewitness account. Owsley was the soundman during that period, so your memory of him sounds correct.

      Delete
    2. Paul, it's Dan. Where are you, my friend?

      Everything that Paul has recounted is right on the mark. I was one of the members of the lightshow for that event, and extraordinary it was. It was a two night series, one show on Friday night and two on Saturday. The Lemon Pipers did not open--ether was no opening act. Just the Dead. The Teen Center was a decommissioned church that Tarbell converted into the Hyde Park Teen Center.

      The Dead did show up late on Friday night, with Owsley on sound, as Paul states. They did not set up in the basement, but on the raised altar stage. Tom Constaten was also there, and has some interesting recollections of the performance. On Friday night, they started with a rather sloppy version of Good Morning Little School Girl, but in short order got into the groove and blew the roof off the place, at least to my recollection.

      This was our first gig as Flavorscope Lightshow. We were pretty green at the time. We literally set up in the rafters of the church and projected through a window carved into the domed ceiling. I remember, at one point, sticking my head out--figuratively and literally--and hearing music that changed my life. (That's It for the Other One and New Potato Caboose, etc.)

      On Saturday, we gathered mid-morning at the Center to tweak equipment. The Dead showed up and proceeded to practice and jam until late afternoon. I remember Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman working out dual drum solos, as other members came and wen. Bob Weir, at one point, did a rendition of Silver Threads and Golden Needles. There are other details which I will not recount. Pigpen was a damned nice guy, as were all.

      Jim Tarbell opened Ludlow Garage in late summer or early fall of 1969 (can't recall the dates, but they are on record). It began with a Friday festival at the Cincinnati Zoo: Paul Butterfield (with full horn section), Vanilla Fudge, and others. The Garage opened, if I recall correctly, the next night with Grand Funk. Flavorscope did the Zoo gig (rear projection, which with westerly winds, functioned more as a sail than a lightshow), and the next night moved to the Garage. We were the house lightshow at the Garage from fall 1969 through summer of 1970. Also did the Dead show at the University of Cincinnati field house in April 1970, the night before the Ludlow Garage performance of the Allman Brothers that is now available on disk.

      If you are interested in checking out the list of groups that played the garage during this period, it is available on line (Ludlow Garage set list). Though it may not be to your liking--or merely the unhip Midwest--shows by groups from the Michigan scene, such as the MC5 and Stooges, were also powerful, and no less prescient when it comes to trends a decade or so later.

      Saturday night was as musically explosive as Friday.

      Delete
    3. Daniel, thank you so much for checking in and explaining the exact sequence of events. It all makes sense--the Dead had time to do two shows on Saturday because they had arrived the night before. It also explains the slightly differing accounts of single or double shows--it depends on which night people went. Interesting about the Lemon Pipers--I wonder where that story came from?

      Thanks again. I added most of your Comment to the main post.

      Delete
    4. Great to have such a detailed eyewitness account!

      Delete
  9. Hey guys, I am the Director of the Ohio Music Museum & Hall of Fame. If anyone knows of people that want to sell any original Ludlow Garage Posters, or shows from the Hyde Park Teen Center, please have them get ahold of me. My email is producer@chucklandshow.com Thanks!

    ReplyDelete