|A promotional picture of Jerry Garcia for the December 23-24, 1966 Grateful Dead show at the Avalon Ballroom, published in the December 20, 1966 San Francisco Chronicle|
What follows is a list of known Grateful Dead performance dates for December, 1966. 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. 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 an infamous rock band by the end of 1966, 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.
Grateful Dead Tour Itinerary, December 1966
|A listing for the Grateful Dead/Jerry Pond shows at The Matrix, from the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner, November 27, 1966|
The Grateful Dead had played the tiny Matrix club in January of 1966, but they rapidly graduated to shows at the Fillmore and the Avalon. For some reason, the band played a Monday-to-Thursday run at the Matrix at the end of November. It's hard to say why. If the Dead were desperate for money (their normal state) and the Matrix was financially worth their while, why hadn't they played there more often? Yet the Matrix only seated 100 people and dancing was not allowed (really), so it couldn't have been too lucrative.
I have floated the idea that the Dead were interested in getting a live recording of themselves, perhaps as a sort of demo tape. I haven't convinced everyone, but at least it's worth noting that the Dead played different kinds of sets than they appear to have played at The Fillmore. The opener was local folksinger Jerry Pond. The Dead did not play the Matrix again, although Jerry Garcia played there many times in subsequent years.
|A promotional photo of Jerry Garcia and Pigpen, for the Grateful Dead/Country Joe and The Fish concert at Pauley Ballroom on the UC Berkeley campus. Published in the San Francisco Chronicle, December 1, 1966|
On Friday, December 2, the Grateful Dead headlined at the Pauley Ballroom in UC Berkeley with Berkeley heroes Country Joe and The Fish. Both bands were in the process of signing record contracts (the Dead with Warners and Joe and The Fish with Vanguard). Pauley Ballroom had a capacity of about 1000. It's unlikely the University allowed shows to go on past 11:00pm. This was probably the last live performance of Joe and The Fish with original drummer John Francis Gunning.
Saturday, December 3 is an open date on the Dead's calendar. If there is a rumor of a lost show, this seems a very likely date. Colleges and high schools were ending their terms, so there would have been a lot of activity, and perhaps the Dead played a dance or something. They were popular, but still broke, and could hardly turn down a paid booking.
|Listing for the opening night of Grateful Dead's performances at the Fillmore on the weekend of December 9-11. Published in the San Francisco Chronicle, December 9, 1966|
The Grateful Dead were sole headliners at the Fillmore for the first time on the weekend of December 9-11. They had shared top booking a number of times, depending on how you want to define "top," but there's no question they were the principal attraction this weekend. Big Mama Thornton was just starting to get known to white hippies, but she wasn't a big draw. Tim Rose had had some modest hit singles, and was getting a little radio airplay, but he was no headliner. Thus, the Dead were topping the bill by themselves, another sign of their rising popularity.
I have speculated about these shows at length, mainly from the point of view that Tim Rose almost certainly performed his own very different arrangement of "Morning Dew." The Dead's version is so different that I doubt there was any musical influence from Rose, but I wouldn't be surprised if hearing Rose's version was an impetus for Garcia and the Dead to start playing their own arrangement publicly.
December 14, 1966: Gym, City College of Marin, San Rafael, CA: Grateful Dead
This largely unknown show was a Pep Rally/Dance for Marin's junior college. My eyewitness was (then future) Sons Of Champlin road manager Charlie Kelly. When you read the entire tale, you'll see why Kelly's memories of the entire week are very clear, and while the show may have been Thursday December 15, there's no question that Kelly's reactions are accurate (to tell the tale briefly: Kelly returned home from basic training to celebrate his 21st birthday by seeing his childhood friends The Sons Of Champlin play The Avalon, and then shipped out to Vietnam, so it wasn't a week he would forget).
If the Grateful Dead were playing a College of Marin Pep Rally the week after they headlined the Fillmore, there's a good chance they were playing a college dance on Saturday, December 3 (above).
|The listing for the Otis Redding/Grateful Dead concert at the Fillmore on December 20, 1966, from the San Francisco Chronicle of the same date|
Much has been in retrospect of Otis Redding's appearance at the Fillmore. Otis Redding headlined three nights at the end of 1966 (December 20-22), and although it was a midweek booking, since it was heading towards Christmas that may not have mattered as much. Bill Graham endlessly repeated the story that the Bay Area rock bands begged to open the show, and Janis Joplin demanded front row seats every night (I heard Graham himself tell this story at a lecture in 1976). The story was generally told as a talisman to show either how much the rock musicians liked soul music, or how popular Otis Redding was in crossing over to a rock audience. Over the years, this story has been re-told many times, and sometimes it expands in the retelling.
The outlines of the story are basically correct. Otis Redding headlined three nights, and the Grateful Dead opened Tuesday (December 20) and Country Joe And The Fish opened Thursday (December 22). The middle night's opening slot was taken by the Oakland R&B group Johnny Talbot And De Thangs, who played both the local soul circuit and also on occasion at the Fillmore. I don't doubt that the Dead and Country Joe and The Fish were enthusiastic about opening for the great Otis Redding.
However, everyone seems to forget that the Fillmore Auditorium was in the heart of the largely African-American Fillmore district. Prior to Bill Graham, the Fillmore was an important stop on the R&B circuit, under the aegis of promoter Charles Sullivan, whose retirement opened the door for Graham to take over the lease. It's very likely that Redding had played the Fillmore before. In any case, while I don't doubt that there were a few open minded hippies in the audience, the fact is that most of Otis's audience was probably African American, and many of them would have lived right there in the Fillmore. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but I don't think Otis headlining the Fillmore signified anything more than that he was very popular and Graham knew a good booking when it came his way.
One implicit tip-off about the audience came from Graham's version of the story. If Janis was requesting front row seats every night, then there were seats, presumably folding chairs. The festival seating, light-show vibe was not in the cards for the no doubt well-dressed African American crowd. With all those caveats aside, it's still cool that the Grateful Dead were happy to open the show. They had just headlined the Fillmore 10 days earlier, yet they seemed to have been honored to have been on the bill, as were Country Joe And The Fish.
|A poster for the Grateful Dead's appearance at the Continental Ballroom in Santa Clara on Wednesday, December 21, 196|
The Continental Ballroom, at 1600 Martin Avenue in Santa Clara, not far from downtown San Jose, has a very intriguing and largely untold rock and roll history. The building was San Jose's main rock and roll palace from about 1965 to 1970, and lots of great bands played there. I don't know about the building's history or ownership (and not for lack of trying to find out), but in general it was not associated with a single promoter. Part of the legend of the Fillmore and the Avalon comes from their association with Bill Graham and Chet Helms, respectively, and both men were very good at memorializing their own achievements. That isn't to deny the importance of the Fillmore and the Avalon, but the Continental was an interesting place, too, but there was no major figure to tell the story.
The San Jose area had a thriving live rock scene from 1965 onwards. Initially, many of the popular groups were made up of local teenagers, like The Syndicate Of Sound, but there was a huge population of suburban kids with cars, and there was plenty of live rock. Some really good bands came out of San Jose as well, particularly the Chocolate Watch Band. However, San Francisco and Berkeley tended to look down on San Jose, and so the Watch Band and other San Jose groups never really got their due at the Fillmore (Graham's rivalry with CWB manager Ron Roupe didn't help). There were many great rock shows at The Continental with San Jose bands, and when the San Francisco bands got popular they played a lot of shows there as well.
Since the San Jose market was oriented towards teenagers, a show on December 21st was effectively a weekend, since it was the Wednesday before Christmas and almost all students would have been out of school. Note the Munsters theme on the poster--this show isn't really directed at a psychedelic crowd. At this point, the Grateful Dead would have merely been a name that San Jose kids would have seen in the paper. However, San Jose had the kind of market where teenagers just went out to have fun, and saw whoever was around. They may have been kind of surprised by the Dead, but in fact San Jose had some good bands, so the kids probably really liked it. The light show may not yet have been a typical thing at San Jose shows. Elgin Marble was a local San Jose band who were around for a few years, but I don't recognize The Yellow Pages.
|A mention of the upcoming concerts at the Avalon Ballroom on December 23 and 24, 1966, featuring the Grateful Dead, Moby Grape and the Steve Miller Blues Band, from Ralph J. Gleason's column in the San Francisco Chronicle on December 23, 1966. Note the listing for the Smokey Grass Boys at The Jabberwock; the Smokey Grass Boys was a bluegrass band featuring David Grisman, Herb Pedersen and Rick Shubb|
With the Fillmore closed for Christmas, the Grateful Dead took the opportunity to headline on the weekend before Christmas (Christmas was on a Sunday). The San Francisco Chronicle published its second picture of Jerry Garcia in a month (above). One of the reasons that Garcia became such a figure long before the Dead's music itself became popular was that he seems to have received a lot of publicity of this sort, probably much to his own dismay.
This weekend's shows at the Avalon were more important in the histories of Moby Grape and the Steve Miller Band than for the Grateful Dead. Moby Grape had debuted the month before, after rehearsing at The Ark in Sausalito. Their manager Matthew Katz had put on a show at California Hall at the end of November, but he had no idea about underground promotion, and there were only a few dozen people present. Moby Grape immediately split with Katz--with whom they are still in litigation 46 years later--and guitarist Peter Lewis started booking the gigs. Lewis had gotten the Grape a few nights at the Matrix, and now they were on the bill at the Avalon. Moby Grape was a great band, and a great live band, and playing the Avalon meant that everyone was about to find that out. Lead guitarist Jerry Miller had been friendly with Garcia since the Warlocks days, when Miller (and drummer Don Stevenson) had been in a group called The Frantics.
Steve Miller had been based in Chicago, but he had scouted out the Bay Area in Fall 1965. He returned in his VW Microbus on October 15, 1966, stopping off at the Fillmore to jam with his friend Paul Butterfield. By Thanksgiving, he had imported some friends from Madison, WI and they started playing as The Steve Miller Blues Band. They weren't making any money, however, and Miller was still living in his van. Once Chet Helms offered the group $500 for this weekend at the Avalon, Miller was in town to stay.
December 25, 1966: Christmas Party, Big Brother house, Lagunitas, CA
In December, 1966, the Grateful Dead were living in an unused resort camp in Lagunitas, in the San Geronimo Valley. The Dead shared the camp with Quicksilver Messenger Service. Living "next door," a few miles away, in a rambling ranch house, were Big Brother And The Holding Company. For obscure reasons, Big Brother called their house "Argentina." On Christmas, Big Brother had a Christmas party, and invited their next door neighbors. Big Brother, Quicksilver and the Grateful Dead had an all day and all of the night Christmas party for all their friends and roommates, and apparently the jamming went on constantly.
Members of all three bands had begun 1966 as penniless folk musicians who were experimenting with electric music. They barely had any gigs, and had no realistic chance of succeeding in the music industry. By the end of the year, all three bands were popular local attractions who were making enough money to support themselves and their friends, and the music industry had come to them. The bands had made few, if any concessions to conventional business practices and they knew that their music was getting better every day. By all accounts, it was a happy, memorable party for everyone who attended, before it all went national during the so-called Summer Of Love in 1967.
Supposedly, one of the reasons that Jerry Garcia chose Forest Knolls in Lagunitas for his final rehab was that he though it was on the same site as the Dead's 1966 camp in Lagunitas. It wasn't far away, in fact, but it wasn't actually the same site. Here's to hoping that Jerry ended that final night jamming with Janis, Cippo and Pigpen anyway, just as he had 29 years earlier.
|A poster for the "Beaux Arts Ball" at Governors Hall in Sacramento on December 28, 1966|
There are a number of posters for this event. There is a poster with no groups mentioned that advertises the event at the College gym, and it appears that "The Beuax Arts Ball" was a presentation of a student group at Sacramento City College. Two others that advertise the Dead and Quicskilver at Governors Hall at the Fairgounds do not seem to be directly school connected, although I cannot read all the writing. To my knowledge, this would have been the Dead's (and Quicksilver's) Sacramento debut.
In many colleges, certainly on the West Coast, an annual "Beaux Arts Ball" was a sort of campus wide arts festival, but it's a little odd that it was taking place when school would have been out of session. It may be that "Beaux Arts Ball" was a promotional title of sorts, and didn't really have any meaning beyond that. It doesn't quite explain the Sacramento City College poster, but that could be a parallel event, or a poster from another year. I have contacted Sacramento sources who may have attended this event, but they haven't recalled anything yet.
|A poster for the Grateful Dead's headline appearance at the Santa Venetia Armory, near San Rafael, on December 29, 1966, with Moby Grape and The Morning Glory|
Ralph and Al Pepe promoted dances in Marin County. They often used the Santa Venetia Armory. Although it was a separate town about 2 miles North of San Rafael, Santa Venetia is almost a separate district of San Rafael. The Santa Venetia Armory, at 155 Madison, was the National Guard Armory, and apparently a regular site of “Teen” dances in the mid-60s. It was used briefly for psychedelic rock concerts in 1966-67, before it was superseded by the Fillmore and the Avalon.
While typical Pepe dances had local bands who cranked out cover versions, they seemed to have recognized that the Fillmore bands were a little different. Almost all the Pepe posters are done in the same boxing style. The highlighted L-I-G-H-T-S suggests that the music won't quite be the regular dance fare. It's important to recall, however, that the Fillmore and the Avalon were promoting themselves as dance halls, and most of the the audiences were young, so a dance wouldn't be an alien setting by any means for the Dead. In any case, if Pigpen was cranking it out, there would be plenty of dancing going on.
Moby Grape was playing their second booking with the Dead in a week. Morning Glory were a local Marin band who had sort of an Airplane sound. They weren't bad, actually, and released an OK album on Fontana a year later.
|A picture of Marty Balin from the December 29, 1966 San Francisco Chronicle listing of the New Year's Eve concert at the Fillmore on December 30 and 31, featuring Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service|
The Grateful Dead played the first of their legendary New Year's Eve shows in 1966. The initial version featured Jefferson Airplane, the Dead and Quicksilver for a show that was advertised from 9pm to 9am. I wonder how many sets the Grateful Dead played, and who jammed with who? Of course, as I have discussed elsewhere, 60s shows like this were so epic that no one can remember a thing about them.
On New Year's Day, the Grateful Dead played with Big Brother at the Panhandle near Golden Gate Park. As a practical matter, assuming that the Dead played in the early afternoon, they must have gone straight from the Fillmore over to the Panhandle. Big Brother had also played a New Year's Eve show, at an obscure venue in Golden Gate Park called Kezar Pavilion. While Big Brother was not booked until 9am, since they and the Dead both lived in Lagunitas, neither of the bands would have made any effort to go home before playing in the afternoon.