Thursday, January 26, 2012

March 12, 1978: Suffolk Forum, Commack, NY: Jerry Garcia Band/NRPS/Robert Hunter and Comfort

An ad from the February 20, 1978 edition of the Village Voice, promoting the March 12, 1978 concert by the Jerry Garcia Band, the New Riders of The Purple Sage and Robert Hunter and Comfort
In about 1962, Jerry Garcia, David Nelson and Robert Hunter formed a bluegrass band. The little trio rehearsed in the Belmont, CA living room of David Nelson's parents, with Garcia on banjo, Nelson on mandolin, and Hunter on guitar or bass. Later, with the addition of Norm Van Maastricht on dobro, the group became the Black Mountain Boys and played around what few bohemian folk clubs there were in the Bay Area. The Black Mountain Boys soon evolved into other bluegrass ensembles, usually without Hunter, since his literary talents were far ahead of his musical ones. Nonetheless the trio of Black Mountain Boys that rehearsed in a living room were the first collective band that would slowly lead to the Grateful Dead and its sprawling madness. The 60s happened, and lots of water passed under the bridge, some of it slowly and some of it great torrents. Yet it came to pass 16 years later, in a concrete block of a hockey arena, that the old Black Mountain Boys had an unexpected reunion of sorts. On March 12, 1978, at the Suffolk Forum in Commack, NY, in Eastern Long Island, the Jerry Garcia Band, the New Riders of The Purple Sage with David Nelson, and Robert Hunter and his band Comfort all shared the bill.

By 1978, All three of the protagonists had certain degrees of rock stardom, but the arcs of their various bands were all in different states. The Jerry Garcia Band trailed the Grateful Dead in popularity, but it was beginning a steady climb to massive success on its own. The once-promising New Riders had already peaked, while Robert Hunter was just stepping forward in an effort to become a national rock star, an effort he would soon put aside. This post will look at the standing of the three bands at the time of the concert, considering the different paths the musical careers of the three Black Mountain Boys had taken up until this time.

The Suffolk Forum, Commack, NY
The Suffolk Forum in Commack, NY was a hockey and basketball arena that had opened in 1959. It was an old concrete block for the most part. Commack was in Suffolk County, about an hour due East of Manhattan, some ways out on Long Island. It mostly housed minor league hockey and basketball franchises, but it had hosted its share of rock concerts in the 1970s. The Grateful Dead never happened to have played there, but it was the sort of aging dump that could be relatively cheaply rented for concerts, since a bunch of rowdy hippies could hardly cause any meaningful damage to such a venue. Country Joe and The Fish had played there in 1970, Hot Tuna were regulars and many similar acts had come through over the years. The venue had had various names over the years. It had been built as the Long Island Arena, then it was called the Commack Arena, and by 1978 it was called The Suffolk Forum.

Long Island was booming from World War 2 onwards, of course, but the Suffolk Forum was largely passed by. In 1972, the huge Nassau Coliseum was built in Uniondale, one county nearer to Manhattan, and Suffolk Forum took a back seat. Suffolk Forum had a capacity of 4000 for hockey and 6500 for basketball, so the concert capacity was probably around 6000. Nassau Coliseum had a capacity of about 16,000, and with its proximity to the city, it became the primary concert venue. The New York Nets of the American Basketball Association and the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League were also housed in the Nassau Colisuem. The Nets had been housed in Commack for the 1968-69 season, but had moved to the Island Gardens prior to Nassau. By 1978, only the Long Island Ducks of the Eastern Basketball Association used Suffolk Forum as a home arena.

The Jerry Garcia Band, 1978 edition
The Grateful Dead had made their bones on the East Coast thanks to relentless touring. In the 1970-71 period, the Dead had played show after show at tiny college gyms and aging movie theaters, converting the audience to permanent deadhead status one show at a time. They had not played Commack Arena (as it was then known), but they had played the gymnasium at Stony Brook and the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, so there were plenty of fond flashbacks out on the Island. As a result, later in the 1970s, the Grateful Dead were huge on the East Coast, in many ways much more popular than they were out West. In the late 70s, the Dead played big places like Nassau Coliseum, and when they played smaller theaters, they were in Manhattan or Boston, not out in the suburbs, and the shows were instant sellouts.

Jerry Garcia had begun to tour the East Coast in earnest when the Grateful Dead had gone on hiatus in 1974. He had toured with Garcia-Saunders, then the Legion of Mary and then the Jerry Garcia Band. Even though the Grateful Dead had returned to touring in 1976, the Jerry Garcia Band had toured the East Coast again in December 1977. Garcia had just finished the Cats Under The Stars album, although it would not be released until April of 1978. By the end of 1977, the Garcia Band was playing the same types of smaller venues in the suburbs, smaller cities or colleges that the Dead had played in the early 70s. In a few cases, Garcia actually played the same venues, like The Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. For younger Deadheads, or people who lived a long way from Manhattan or Boston, seeing the Garcia Band in a nearby county or college was a way to get a Dead fix in between tours.

The Garcia Band had booked a big Eastern tour in March of 1978. Probably this tour was intended to support Cats Under The Stars, but for whatever reason the album had not been released yet. Whether there was a practical reason for this or not has never been clear to me. However, since Garcia Band tours were profitable on their own terms, the fact that the record had not yet been released was not catastrophic, even if it was poor marketing. The Garcia Band had played a few warmup gigs in February in the Bay Area, a good sampling of which can be heard on the official Garcia release Bay Area 1978. The national tour began on March 9, 1978 at the Cleveland Music Hall in Cleveland, OH. Suffolk Forum was Garcia's fourth date on the tour.

The 1978 edition of the Jerry Garcia Band included regulars John Kahn and Keith and Donna Godchaux, along with new drummer Buzz Buchanan. Maria Muldaur shared harmonies with Donna, and was considered a regular member of the band. However, Maria's presence was not advertised. In the parlance of the time, if her name was in the ads, it would have been expected that she would be singing "Midnight At The Oasis" and the like, and that wasn't the plan (not that it would have been a bad thing, mind you).  Thanks to the newly completed Cats album, the 1978 JGB was the first lineup of the Garcia Band that performed a fair amount of original material along with the traditional cover material that Garcia had always played. Garcia had steadily become a bigger concert attraction each year, just as the Dead had done, and in fact that rise would continue more or less throughout his entire career. Since Suffolk Forum probably had a concert capacity around 6000 it was perhaps the biggest played Garcia had played so far on the East Coast up to that point.

Robert Hunter and Comfort
By 1978, Jerry Garcia's bands were hardly strangers on the East Coast. The real surprise to Easterners would have been the presence of Robert Hunter and his band Comfort. All Deadheads had been surprised when Hunter emerged from the shadows to release two solo albums in 1974 and '75. Bay Area fans had had the opportunity to see Hunter perform with his bands Roadhog (1976) and Comfort (1977), but they had never gone on the road. Hunter had spent the Fall of 1977 working on a studio album with Comfort called Alligator Moon, but for various reasons that project appeared to have been shelved. Nonetheless, taking a band on a true road trip was an expensive proposition, and the ever-loyal Garcia arranged to have Comfort open a number of his East Coast shows, assuring that Hunter and his band could arrive in style. The Suffolk Forum show was the first East Coast show where Hunter and Comfort would open for Garcia.

I have dealt with Comfort's history at length, both in performance and with respect to what little is known about the recording of Alligator Moon, so I will not recap it all here. Unlike on the West Coast, however, where Hunter was, by now at least, an accessible figure to those Deadheads who were curious, conversely, on the East Coast Jerry Garcia's writing partner had never performed in person. In fact, Hunter and Comfort's East Coast debut had been a few days before the Suffolk Forum show, when they headlined a pair of nights at My Father's Place in Roslyn, NY, also in Long Island, on March 9 and 10. So the Deadheads who were most excited to see Hunter in person would have already seen him, but even so, for most of the several thousand attendees at Suffolk Forum, Robert Hunter and Comfort were largely a mystery. Since there had been no pictures of him on his two Round Records solo albums, even Hunter's appearance may have been unknown to most Deadheads.

The ad in the Village Voice (up top) just mentions the Garcia Band and the New Riders, so many patrons may have been quite surprised to find that Robert Hunter himself was opening the show. Indeed, the extant tape of the Comfort show begins with an unknown stage announcer saying (approximately) "we'd like to open with someone who's very dear to us back in San Francisco, Robert Hunter and his band Comfort." This wasn't precisely Hunter's Eastern debut, since that had taken place a few days earlier, but it was certainly Hunter's coming out party in the East.

The New Riders Of The Purple Sage
The New Riders of The Purple Sage had always sold a lot more concert tickets on the East Coast than in the West. The first five New Riders albums had sold a lot of copies and the band had toured up and down the Eastern seaboard. By the mid-70s, however, the New Riders fortunes seemed to have faded. The commercial promise of hippie country rock in the early 70s had been eclipsed by, of all things, actual country music. 'Outlaw Country' of the sort performed by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings was more in the public ear than the New Riders and their ilk, and the Riders status had declined accordingly.

Also, after the departure of Dave Torbert in late 1973, the subsequent New Riders albums (Brujo and Oh What A Might Time) had been letdowns. Torbert's replacement, Skip Battin, was a solid musician, but he lacked Torbert's appeal and songwriting depth. In 1976, Battin had left to join the re-formed Flying Burrito Brothers, and he had been replaced by Stephen Love. Love helped revitalize the New Riders with two pretty good albums (Who Are Those Guys? and Marin County Line), so the band was playing well even if they weren't as successful.

In February, 1978, however, for reasons unknown, Stephen Love and pedal steel guitarist Buddy Cage had left the New Riders. The Riders had dates to fulfill, but lacked a quorum, with only John Dawson and David Nelson, the two original members, still on board, along with drummer Patrick Shanahan. Emblematic of the status of original country rock bands at the time, the Flying Burrito Brothers were also in a poor state as well, so for about six weeks in Spring 1978, the two bands joined forces. The three members of the New Riders were joined by the three remaining members of the Flying Burrito Brothers, who included a former Rider (Battin), and they played some shows as the New Riders of The Purple Sage. For March of 1978, the New Riders lineup was
John Dawson-vocals, guitar
David Nelson-lead guitar, vocals
Gib Gilbeau-violin, guitar, vocals
Sneeky Pete-pedal steel guitar
Skip Battin-bass, vocals
Patrick Shanahn-drums
Although from one point of view this lineup was a country rock All-Star team, from another point of view it was an indication that two of the pioneer country rock bands of the late 60s did not even have enough members to field full lineups anymore. However, the Suffolk Forum show in March was the first time that the New Riders had opened for the Jerry Garcia Band, and the payday for opening a show at a 6000-capacity arena ($7.50 a ticket) had to be pretty good, so the  the Flying Burritos of The Purple Sage teamed up to make it happen.

The odd interval of the merger of the New Riders and the Burritos in 1978 has left no musical evidence. To my knowledge, not even a setlist has survived, much less a tape. Somebody made a nice audience tape of the Comfort set (thank you, whoever you were), and I think there was a JGB tape as well. I have to assume that the '78 Riders played a few NRPS classics along with some Burrito staples, and presumably some covers that both bands shared, like "Six Days On The Road." I'd love to hear Sneeky Pete let it fly on "Glendale Train," since I'm convinced his steel playing on the Avalon sound system encouraged Garcia to get a pedal steel guitar so he could hear himself. It would be fun to hear Nelson and Dawson picking and singing on some songs like "Devil In Disguise,' as well, just for the variety.

Ironically, presumably one of the end results of the Flying Riders was that some lesser known NRPS songs weren't likely to have been performed. If a setlist does appear, however, I hope that either "Kick In The Head" or "Crooked Judge" made the list, however unlikely that may have been. The appeal to me would be that all three bands would then have played custom written songs, not covers, with lyrics by Robert Hunter, which in itself would have been a first time event (Update; Commenter rb1229 reports that Buddy Cage and Stephen Love were still in the band at this time, so the "Flying Riders" period must have been a bit later. He also reports that the Riders played "Crooked Judge," so all three bands did indeed play custom-written Robert Hunter songs).

March 12, 1978: The Suffolk Forum, Commack, NY
The Suffolk Forum may have been an old dump, but the members of the Grateful Dead always played very well in run-down old ice rinks, and the Suffolk Forum seems to have been no exception. The show seems to have run from 8:00 pm until well after 5 in the morning. Hunter and Comfort played a full set, the New Riders got their licks in, and the Jerry Garcia Band probably came on sometime after midnight and let it all hang down with two full sets and an encore. An eyewitness recalls--somewhat vaguely, of course--
We arrived at 2:30, gates opened at 7:30. The coolest crowd in the parking lot - no line or rush to the door, even though it was general admission with an open floor (no seats) - we got right up front. Robert Hunter Band, New Riders, then JGB with Keith and Donna, Bill drumming and also Maria Muldaur singing with ... See MoreDonna. We left at around 3:30 AM and I think the show went on until about 4:00ish. My first "Dead show", I was a H.S. sopohmore - what were our parents thinking?
Another says
I was a HS freshman, managed to get tickets and went with a good friend and 2 girls...one of the girls older sister took us and got us seated in the press box (I have no idea how). I remember venturing down to the floor and hanging right in front of the stage for a while, then back up to the press box...no trouble at all, an amazing crowd. As I recall, NR's played until around midnight, then Jerry came on....we left the show around 3:30-4:00 am, and I recall hearing it went on until around 5:30 but not sure ... 
To residents in the distant part of Long Island, a trip into Manhattan to see the Grateful Dead, even if they could get tickets, might have been very difficult indeed. But a trip down the road to spend all night with a couple of members of the Grateful Dead, the New Riders and the mysterious Robert Hunter? Yeah baby.  I think precisely because Suffolk Forum was an old venue, there was little concern about letting a bunch of hippies loose until 5:00 in the morning. It wasn't like they were going to be any harder on the place than hockey fans. It was shows like these that put Jerry Garcia in the hearts and minds of the East Coast, making people into Deadheads for life, just as the band itself had done in Port Chester or Stony Brook in the previous decade.

The Wildwood Boys, 16 Years On
In 1962, the three Wildwood Boys were barely in their twenties, with no meaningful employment history and fewer prospects. They had a desire to be musicians or artists, but in choosing bluegrass they would have selected one of the least profitable forms of professional music. As they rehearsed in the Nelson living room, it must have seemed quixotic indeed that the trio would ever make any kind of living from actually playing music.

By the time the Jerry Garcia Band, the New Riders and Comfort convened at the Suffolk Forum in March of 1978, by my count the trio had cumulatively released 31 albums and sold literally millions of records. And the 31 albums doesn't count guest appearances--including on a #1 single--, production credits, Best Of albums and other professional by-products. While Robert Hunter had only released two of those albums, he had written the lyrics for literally dozens of songs, not all of them by the Grateful Dead. Many of those songs had been staples of FM radio for much of the 1970s, and phrases from Hunter's pen, like "what a long strange trip its been" or "driving that train, high on cocaine" were steadily passing into the American vernacular. Nelson was a rock star himself, if not a major one, while Garcia was more and more recognized by a single name, one of the true marks of American celebrity.

On the night of March 12, 1978, the Garcia Band had played the night before in Providence, RI. Hunter and Comfort would have had the previous night off, and had been playing elsewhere in Long Island. I'm not sure exactly where the New Riders were coming from, but they were definitely on the road. The three bands would have convened on the Suffolk Forum in the afternoon sometime, and the crews would have set about their business, leaving time for the musicians to relax and hang out.

The Jerry Garcia Band had never played with the New Riders per se, but since NRPS had opened for the Dead so many times, Garcia and Nelson had shared the backstage many times. Hunter wasn't unknown at Grateful Dead shows, so they had all been in the dressing room before. Nonetheless, the New Riders did not open for the Grateful Dead as often as they had used to.  Garcia, Nelson and Hunter were probably all backstage at New Year's Eve in Winterland on December 31, 1977, but that would have been like a giant office party, where nothing personal probably happened. Prior to Commack, Hunter would have been just a guest, if an honored one: this time, he was on the bill. Other than the crews and the odd visitor, the three Wildwood Boys would have had far fewer distractions than in San Francisco or Manhattan.

The road is a strange place, and musicians and regular folk often think about mundane things like how to get some food rather than historicity. Still, Providence isn't far from Long Island, so Garcia must have got there pretty early in the afternoon. Did Garcia, Nelson and Hunter think about rehearsing bluegrass tunes in a South Bay living room long ago? 16 years earlier, they had been hoping they could actually get paid to do what they were going to do for fun anyway. Here the three were, household names in different ways, as their traveling circuses met up at a hockey arena in Eastern Long Island, a long way from Belmont, CA. It had been a long strange trip indeed, but I wonder if they even noticed.

Aftermath
I can only think of one other instance where Garcia, Nelson and Hunter played on the same bill, and it was a more somber occasion, if a fine concert. On August 28, 1984, at Wolfgang's in San Francisco, all three played at a memorial for Rodney Albin, a close friend of all of them from back in the day, and a member of Comfort. Garcia and John Kahn headlined the show, Nelson played with a one-off bluegrass group and Hunter played his last show with the Dinosaurs. The benefit for Rodney Albin's family made for a fine memorial, but when you see your old friends because somebody passed away, it's not what you think of when you are younger. The Albin event was full of old friends and well wishers, too, making it an oddly less personal event than just hanging out in a hockey arena on the East Coast. I don't know if Hunter and Nelson even remember the Suffolk Forum, but I like to think that at some point each of the Wildwood Boys at least recalled how far they'd managed to get by picking, singing and writing.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Horn Tour (September 1973 Tour Itinerary)

A poster for the September 26, 1973 Buffalo concert by the Grateful Dead
In September of 1973, the Grateful Dead undertook a brief 10-date tour of the East Coast. In retrospect, the unique feature of this tour was that eight of the dates featured a horn section for much of the second set. The horns weren't playing a few set pieces each night, but rather augmenting the band on various numbers and getting their own solos. The two horn players, tenor saxophonist/flautist Martin Fierro and trumpeter Joe Ellis, were both members of Doug Sahm's touring band, who also opened all eight shows. I'm not aware of any publicity or discussion of the horn section at the time of the tour. To my knowledge, the horn section only became known after the fact, when tapes surfaced and the pieces were put together.

Everyone has heard (or can hear) the tapes of the "horn section" shows on the Archive, so I don't need to analyze them musically. However, this post will consider the economic and musical motives and decision making of the Grateful Dead and its members with respect to bringing a horn section on tour. According to Martin Fierro, the horns were not well received, but I think the principal barriers to repeating the experiment were economic. Whether you think it is a good thing or a bad thing that the Dead never went out again with a horn section is moot, and in any case up to you. This post will look at the September 1973 'horn section' tour in its context. As a practical matter, I have included a tour itinerary for the month of September (part of my tour itinerary series), presented below, since it helps to keep the events in mind.

The Grateful Dead, Fall 1973
The Grateful Dead had extracted themselves from their Warner Brothers Records contract around March, 1973, and to the surprise of the entire industry the band had gone completely independent. Jerry Garcia in particular had engaged himself in a wide variety of musical activities, and was in the process of starting his own record company, Round Records. The Dead had a pretty steady income from touring, so that provided the cash to fund their various other endeavours. It seems that the economic plan was that touring would provide cash flow, and album sales would provide profits. It was a good plan, even if it was somewhat naively optimistic.

In September, 1973, amidst the usual heavy pace of Grateful Dead touring, the following projects were known to be underway:
  • The Grateful Dead had mostly finished recording Wake Of The Flood, slated to be the first release on Grateful Dead Records
  • Jerry Garcia had recorded a live album at Keystone Berkeley in July, 1973 with Merl Saunders, John Kahn and Bill Vitt. Saunders and Kahn were mixing the album with Bob and Betty, to be released on Fantasy Records (Merl's label) in early 1974
  • Ned Lagin had moved to California to work on various electronic music experiments with Phil Lesh, Jerry Garcia and other members of the band, in the project that would become known as Seastones
  • John Kahn was beginning to select songs for Garcia's second solo album, which would be recorded in February 1974
  • Jerry Garcia was working with his bluegrass band Old And In The Way, and there had been an abortive plan to make a studio album with them
The Grateful Dead had also internalized their touring operation. The band had been one of the very first to tour with their own sound system, and while other bands had copied the Dead's lead, the Dead's own system was still state of the art. The band also had an in-house Travel Agency and Booking Agency, so they would not have to be dependent on outsiders. Although both the booking agency and the travel agency were stand-alone businesses, the Grateful Dead were now earning substantial fees in many parts of the country, so instead of sharing 10% with outsiders, they the money went to friends and allies. The Booking Agency was run by Sam Cutler, and besides the Dead the agency also booked the New Riders Of The Purple Sage, the Sons Of Champlin and Doug Sahm. Cutler's agency employed various 'family' members, including various wives (Rick Turner's wife Gail and Spencer Dryden's wife Sally, for example).

The Grateful Dead and Horn Players
Being a rock fan was more atomized in the early 1970s. All we knew was what we read in Rolling Stone, watched on Don Kirschner's Rock Concert or saw in person. Networks of tapers, much less internet message boards, were all but science fictional. Thus to those fans who saw the Grateful Dead in September 1973, it must have seemed quite surprising to have two horn players join the Grateful Dead on stage. Looking backwards, however, it was not unprecedented. Horn players had sat in with the Grateful Dead a number of times in the 1960s. Charles Lloyd had played flute and tenor sax with them a few times, at the Human Be-In and likely at the Rock Garden in 1967. Contrary to popular belief, Lloyd was not the only flautist who sat in with the Dead, as Sanpaku's Gary Larkey sat in on a few occasions in 1969. There are a few other instances of flute and/or sax players sitting in as well, including August 3 and August 28, 1969, even if we haven't definitively identified them.

In the 1970s, however, fans had few sources of information, and almost no tapes circulated, so seeing a horn section with the Grateful Dead would have been a big surprise. The only real clue to fans would have been the Hooteroll? album, where Martin Fierro and a trumpet player (Ken Balzall) had been part of the mix. Sometime in the summer of 1973, the Grateful Dead had included a horn section in the recording of "Weather Report," but Deadheads would not know that until Wake Of The Flood was released in October. Martin Fierro had sat in with Garcia and Merl Saunders on July 19, 1973, but only the most super-connected of Deadheads would have heard about it. Thus from the point of view of East Coast Deadheads in 1973, a saxophonist and trumpeter appearing on stage with the Grateful Dead would have seemed quite abrupt.

Martin Fierro and Joe Ellis
Martin Fierro (1942-2008) and Joe Ellis  (1941-2008) were the horn section for the 1973 edition of the Doug Sahm Band. Fierro, at least, had been part of the Sir Douglas Quintet a few years earlier. Fierro was from El Paso, TX. Whether or not he knew Sahm from Texas, when Fierro moved to San Francisco in 1969 he rapidly connected up with the expatriate Texas musicians who had moved to San Francisco. Fierro had played with Mother Earth, a band full of Texans, appearing on their albums and possibly touring with them as well. According to Fierro, he met Garcia at a "drum circle" type jam in Golden Gate Park in 1969.

Fierro had recorded with Garcia and Howard Wales in Fall 1970 on the Hooteroll? album, apparently because Fierro had met Wales in El Paso while the organist was touring with Lonnie Mack. Fierro was also in a part-time band called Shades Of Joy, who opened for the Dead a few times (including February 27 or 28, 1969 and March 5, 1971). Shades Of Joy had a reputation as a pretty far-out improvisational band, featuring Fierro, organist Joachim Young and guitarist Jackie King. I have to assume that Fierro's ability to play with Wales and his jamming with Shades Of Joy gave Garcia confidence that Fierro could play productively with the Dead.

Joe Ellis was raised in Sacramento, but he had moved to San Francisco in the early 60s after a year at Julliard. He was an established jazz trumpeter, touring with Stan Kenton and Ray Price, among others. He also started the Latin Jazz group Ellis Island in the 1970s. He is a familiar name from the backs of albums, for those of you old enough to recall learning about musicians that way. Like many players, I assume Ellis worked paying gigs like the Doug Sahm Band in order to play his own jazz the rest of the time. Sahm was a sophisticated musician, but the horn parts for his band would have been easy for a player of Ellis' caliber. However, Sahm would have paid more than a jazz gig in some cafe, so it was a good way to make a living in music while still playing what you wanted. Stan Kenton was one of the most sophisticated arrangers in jazz, so Ellis would have been well equipped to handle the music of the Grateful Dead.

The Doug Sahm Band, Fall 1973
Doug Sahm had been a somewhat successful recording artist in the 1960s, as leader of the Sir Douglas Quintet, and had had hits with "She's About A Mover" (1965) and "Mendocino" (1968). The talented but mercurial Sahm had moved from Texas to San Francisco, but he had never broken through to the next level of success. As a Bay Area resident, Sahm had become friendly with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. By 1971, however, Sahm returned to his Texas roots and moved to Austin.

By 1973, Sahm had signed to Atlantic Records, who were heavily invested in him and had high hopes for his solo career. That year, Sahm released two solo albums on Atlantic Records. Earlier in the year, he had released his first Atlantic album Doug Sahm And Band to great acclaim, not least because Bob Dylan sang and played on the album, along with Dr. John and many other luminaries. Later in 1973, Sahm would release Texas Tornado, mostly recorded at the same sessions.

Record company orthodoxy at the time was to put bands out on the road opening for better known acts, in the hopes of broadening their audience. Ideally this not only sparked album sales, but created some buzz by getting new fans to request songs on their local FM radio station. As long as a band had a good live act and was willing to tour a lot, there was a lot of potential in this business model. English bands in particular found great success by crisscrossing the country, first third on the bill, then second and finally headlining. Such acts as Dave Mason, Savoy Brown, Climax Blues Band and particularly Foghat won over their fans one concert at a time. A record company using this marketing strategy generally gave their bands "tour support," essentially a cash advance against royalties that allowed bands to afford to be able to tour, even if they were not actually netting any money.

The Doug Sahm Band opened eight dates for the Grateful Dead, from September 11 through September 26. Since the Sahm Band had at least 7 members, the tour only makes financial sense if Atlantic was helping out, but given the fact that Sahm released two albums that year they surely were. A glance at the surviving posters for the mini-tour show that the Sahm Band was only mentioned on one, at The College of William And Mary in Virginia, even though we know they opened all the dates. It's important to remember, however, that posters were no longer an important part of promotions by 1973. Any posters were mostly ceremonial, as the principal advertising was on FM radio and newspapers. The Doug Sahm Band was surely mentioned in any FM radio ads for all the concerts. Each show has an early start time, accommodating the extra band and making a marathon event out of each night.

Sam Cutler's Booking Agency was handling Doug Sahm as well as the Grateful Dead, and the economics of bringing a horn section on tour only make sense if the horn players were already on the tour. Taking two extra musicians and their gear would not necessarily have made good business sense for the Grateful Dead, but since Fierro and Ellis were already on the tour, the economics were different. The Dead didn't "need" an opening act on the tour, as I doubt Doug Sahm sold that many tickets, but with Atlantic helping with expenses, the tour made sense for Sahm and got the horn players out with the band. Incidentally, I am confident that Fierro and Ellis were paid for their participation onstage with the Dead, although I have no idea how much. Musicians are professionals, and don't work for free. Just like a carpenter or web designer, they will help a friend for free for fun, but regular work entails getting paid. If there was a one night jam, nobody got paid, but if players are on stage every night it would have been paid for. However, in this instance, the Dead only had to pay Fierro and Ellis to play, not cover their expenses.

Assessment
Opinions vary on the Grateful Dead's experiment with horns, but it's important to remember that the whole experiment wouldn't have been possible without the Doug Sahm Band opening the tour. There had to be an exact confluence of events: a band with a horn section opening the tour, a cooperative booking agent and record company support for the band. Within a year, there wasn't even any opening acts on Grateful Dead shows anymore, much less a band with horns supported by the record company, so whatever the Dead's plans might have been, the experiment would have all but impossible to repeat.

Some people, myself among them, thought the horn section was well worth trying, even if the musical results were not entirely satisfactory. Others, probably the majority, may have appreciated the experiment in the abstract, but they didn't really like it. I myself wish it had been done again, but with entirely different players. Unfortunately, the economics as described above did not repeat themselves.

In 1973, the Grateful Dead in general and Jerry Garcia in particular were in a period of great experimentation, both the impetus for and a byproduct of their independence from the record industry. Garcia was playing with a bluegrass group and a funky bar band along with the Dead, there was an electronic music experiment afoot with Ned Lagin, and numerous album projects were in the works. Touring with a horn section was something that successful bands had done or would do over the years. Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones, to name just a few famous examples,  periodically toured with horn sections in the 1970s. The additional musicians made the arrangements of the songs quite different for those who had seen the bands numerous times.

Unlike the Stones and Springsteen, however, the Dead were about improvisation, and they needed a much higher level of performance to justify the guests. While Fierro and Ellis were good players, any solos they took were essentially subtracting from Garcia's, and that was a trade-off that most listeners didn't want. On top of that, while Fierro had a soulful tenor sax sound that fit in well with the Garcia/Saunders aggregation, I don't feel that he was inventive enough for the Dead. I also think that the tenor sax didn't have a harmonic "space" to play with the Grateful Dead. This is one reason that I think that the most successful reed players with the Dead tended to play flute (like Charles Lloyd or Gary Larkey) or soprano sax (like Branford Marsalis). Tenor players had a harder time fitting into the mix, regardless of their talent level.

Another factor in the Grateful Dead using a horn section on stage was the problem of monitors. The Dead had as extensive experience as anyone with electric instruments, but the technology wasn't really in place yet for merging acoustic instruments with electric ones. One reason that the Dead gave up acoustic performances after 1970 was the difficulty in amplifying the instruments and hearing them on their onstage monitors. The singers had problems with monitors as well. Much of Deadhead criticism of Donna Godchaux (sexism aside) had to do with her off-key harmony singing. Yet she had no such problems with the Garcia Band, since they weren't so loud. The first time out, I'm sure that even the Dead sound crew couldn't get the monitors right. For playing horns in a jazz-like setting, the musicians have to hear the other players, particularly Lesh, Weir and Godchaux, and if they had problems doing that it would not be easy to improvise comfortably. Technology would solve the problems eventually--they were certainly resolved by the time Branford Marsalis started to sit in--but the technology may not have been up to it in 1973.

Garcia, Weir and Lesh were all big jazz fans. Lesh had even been a trumpet player as a teenager. I think they all must have liked the idea of bringing a horn section on the road. I have to think they were conceiving of it as a once-a-year thing, where they would bring horn players on the road for a leg of a tour once each year. This would have made it fun for the Dead and made the shows special for those who saw them. Perhaps with different guests, with a soprano sax player such as Wayne Shorter (Weather Report) or Steve Marcus (Larry Coryell's Foreplay) the concept would have worked. The first time out, however, catching everyone by surprise, the good but not great Fierro and Ellis did not quite pull it off. A formal horn section on tour was never repeated, but it's a credit to the 1973 Grateful Dead that it was tried at all.

September 1973 Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Tour Itinerary
What follows is an itinerary of Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia performances for September 1973 known to me. For other posts in the Tour Itinerary series, see here.

September 1 or 2, 1973: Bluegrass Park, Camp Springs, NC: Bluegrass Festival, including Old And In The Way (OAITW did not play)
JGMF discovered that Old And In The Way with Jerry Garcia was advertised for this North Carolina bluegrass festival, but they do not appear to have played. The fact that Garcia even tried to schedule an East Coast bluegrass show the same month as Garcia/Saunders's East Coast debut and a tour with a horn section is remarkable. I think the logistics of getting Garcia to and from the show were too daunting. Bluegrass festivals were and are run on a shoestring, and they could not have afforded to fly Garcia in and out.

Update:
September 1-2, 1973: Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
A recent find by JGMF shows Garcia and Saunders booked at the Keystone Berkeley, putting paid to any fantasies about bluegrass festivals. Since these shows were hitherto unknown, doesn't it seem likely that September 1 was the debut of Doug Irwin's Wolf guitar?

September 5, 1973:  SS Bay Belle (New York City Harbor), New York, NY: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders/Bo Diddley/Elephant's Memory/Mission Mountain Wood Band
The Jerry Garcia/Merl Saunders band made their East Coast debut at this Hell's Angels party on a boat that sailed around the New York City harbor. Some tickets may have been available to civilians, but most opted to stay safely ashore. There is some film of this event in the movie Hells Angels Forever. I assume that Garcia was well paid to perform at this event.

The SS Bay Belle show was apparently Garcia's debut performance with the Doug Irwin designed Wolf guitar.

September 6, 1973: Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
Garcia and Saunders made a more conventional debut at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, about twenty miles from New York City. I believe this event was the first performance by Garcia for John Scher, who generally booked the Capitol. Scher had promoted the Grateful Dead's July 18, 1972 Jersey City show. He became the principal promoter of the Dead and  in the New York Metro area.

Keep in mind that the Garcia/Saunders Live At Keystone lp had not been released yet, and the audience would have had very little idea what to expect. There were a couple of live tracks on the first two Merl Saunders albums, but for most fans at the Capitol every song would have been a complete surprise. Bill Kreutzmann played drums for the two September shows. In my mind, the fact that Fierro did not sit in at the Capitol was a sign that he was not yet in town.

September 7, 1973:[venue], Harpers Ferry, WV: Bluegrass Festival, including Old And In The Way (OAITW did not play)
Once again, Old And In The Way was booked but did not play. Since Bill Graham was promoting the Dead at Nassau, he would not have wanted his star attraction tied up at a bluegrass festival a few hundred miles away.

September 7-8, 1973: Nassau Veteran's Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, NY: Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead's East Coast tour kicked off with two weekend shows at a large hockey arena, the Nassau Coliseum in suburban Long Island. Bill Graham promoted the shows, a rare East Coast venture for him. Nassau Coliseum was the biggest venue the Dead had played in NYC Metro up to this point. I wonder if the shows were sold out? The Nassua Coliseum, capacity 16,000, had just opened in 1972 and the Dead had played there in March of '73.

New York arenas often had prohibitive expenses for overtime and the like, so there was an incentive to run neither long nor late. I assume that is why the Doug Sahm Band did not open these shows, and thus why Fierro and Ellis did not join the Dead for the second sets.  

A poster for the Grateful Dead/Doug Sahm concert at the College of William and Mary, September 11 1973
September 11-12, 1973: William and Mary Hall, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA: Grateful Dead/Doug Sahm And His Friends
The Dead played a Tuesday night at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. At the end of the show, Weir announced from the stage that they would be playing the next night as well. For the second night, the chairs were removed, so I assume the first night had reserved seats.  The Doug Sahm Band is mentioned on the poster, and six hours of music were promised. Fierro and Ellis made their debut with the Dead, playing on several songs in the second set both nights. They would play much of the second set for the balance of the tour.

September 15, 1973: Providence Civic Center, Providence, RI: Grateful Dead/Doug Sahm Band
Bill Graham promoted this Saturday night show in Providence. The original poster lists two nights, the 14th (Friday) and the 15th. Presumably the 14th was canceled due to lack of interest. Although the Providence Civic Center is quite large, with a capacity of 15,000, the fact that only one show was held seems to be a sign that the East Coast pattern of everyone within driving distance going to every show they could get to was not yet in place.

I think the weekend booking was a misstep by Graham. If he had known that he could only book one night, the Dead might have played somewhere else on Friday. The Grateful Dead were bigger than they had ever been on the East Coast, but still not huge yet. However, this tour may have been one of the first where the Grateful Dead had very specific requirements for the arenas having to do with concrete flooring to support their sound system. The full 'Wall Of Sound' wasn't in place yet, but it was getting close. I note that the band was just playing hockey arenas, with no moderate sized theater shows stuck in between on weeknights. It may also have taken a considerable amount of time to set up and take down the system, so there may had to have been a couple of days between venues. That may account for skipped Fridays or Saturday nights on open dates (e.g. Friday Sep 14 and Saturday Sep 22).

September 17, 1973: Onandaga War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, NY: Grateful Dead/Doug Sahm Band
The Dead played a Monday night in Syracuse. The Onandaga War Memorial Auditorium, built in 1951, had a capacity of 8,200.

September 20-21, 1973: The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Grateful Dead/Doug Sahm Band
The Philadelphia Spectrum, built in 1967, had a capacity of 18,000. I believe it was the largest indoor arena the Dead had headlined at this point in their career. The Grateful Dead had headlined the Spectrum twice before, on Sept 24 '72 and March 24 '73, but they had never played two nights. Philadelphia loved the Dead, however, as did New Jersey, so it's no surprise that the city was one of their early strongholds.

The Dead played a Thursday and a Friday night at The Spectrum. I assume tickets were not sold for the Thursday show until the Friday show was nearly sold out. Nonetheless I find it strange that they band did not play anywhere on Saturday night, or even Sunday. The choices for dates are strangely off for this tour, and I think either some dates must have fallen through or there sound system setup hampered the Dead's flexibility.

September 24, 1973: Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, PA: Grateful Dead/Doug Sahm Band
The Dead played the very large Pittsburgh Civic Arena on a Monday night. I wonder how much of the 17,500 capacity was filled?  Was there a conflict with the arena, so that they couldn't play Saturday or Sunday night? The hockey (NHL) and pro basketball (ABA) seasons would not yet have been underway, so I'm inclined to think that logistical problems associated with the sound system's size forced the bands into some unfavorable days of the week.

September 26, 1973: War Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY: Grateful Dead/Doug Sahm Band
The Dead's little tour ended in Buffalo on a Wednesday night. The War Memorial had a capacity of 18,000 as well. However, cities like Buffalo were used to getting big acts on weeknights, so the event may have been pretty well attended.  The poster (up top) lists "Grateful Dead and Friends" and advertises a 7pm start, an early time that implies an opening act to the concertgoers.

The horn section experiment ended after this night. Whether or not the band liked the concept musically, going forward they would not have an opening act, nor play the sort of arenas that allowed for six-hour shows, so they never really had a chance to repeat the experiment even if they wanted to. It is remarkable, however, that in the midst of all the Grateful Dead and Garcia were working on in mid-1973, they took the time to consider reconfiguring their live show in a very radical way.

September 30, 1973: Community Center, Stinson Beach, CA: Old And In The Way
The Grateful Dead tour ended on a Wednesday, and the band members presumably flew home on Thursday. By Saturday night, Garcia was playing a bluegrass show at the tiny Community Center in Stinson Beach, near his house. The group was preparing for a sort of mini-tour, and Owsley was going to record them (and did), so this was probably a refresher gig of sorts.

For the month, Garcia had played ten dates with the Grateful Dead, eight of them with two extra members, two shows with Merl Saunders and one with his bluegrass group. In many ways, September of 1973 is one of the most radically diverse months of Garcia's career, and it is often dismissed because Deadheads don't like Martin Fierro. I myself agree that the horn section experiment was not a musical success, but it's still a remarkable effort for a largely improvisational band to bring along two extra players just to see how it would work out. 


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jerry Garcia Band Personnel 1975-1995

The cover to Cats Under The Stars, the Jerry Garcia Band's 1978 album
So much new information has come to light about the exact personnel configurations of the Jerry Garcia Band that I decided to make a list. It made more sense to publish the list, so here it is. In general, this list supersedes anything on the Jerry Site or Deadbase IX. I have linked to various posts (mine and others) where some information has come to light. In some cases, I have sorted out some information, but I have not yet written the posts yet. If I launch into explanations for everything, the post will be unreadable, so you'll have to take my word for a few things until I finally complete the appropriate posts.

This list is focused on actual members of the Jerry Garcia Band, or substitutions for those members. I have not attempted to include any guests, such as times when Maria Muldaur may have made guest appearances prior to 'officially' joining the band, or some Clarence Clemons appearances in September 1989, and so on. I am concerned about 'first' and 'last' shows for each lineup, but I am not trying to create a thread for discussing shows that are in and of themselves disputed.

The numbering system for each lineup is arbitrary, and only exists in order to facilitate discussing the lineups in the Comments. Anyone with additions, corrections, insights or speculation is encouraged to chime in. I am conceiving of this post as a permanent installation, and I will make changes to the list as new information comes to light.

KEITH AND DONNA with JERRY GARCIA
First show-August 5, 1975 Keystone Berkeley
Last show-August 30, 1975 The Orphanage, SF
Donna Godchaux-vocals
Jerry Garcia-lead guitar, vocals
Ray Scott-guitar
Steve Schuster-tenor sax, flute, congas
Keith Godchaux-electric pianos, vocals
Mike Larsheid-bass
Bill Kreutzmann-drums
Notes; in the period between the end of Legion Of Mary and the beginning of the Jerry Garcia Band with Nicky Hopkins (JGB #1), Garcia played a few dates with the Keith and Donna Band. A few of them were billed as "The Jerry Garcia Band." Whether this was a result of confusion on the club owner's part or because the dates were booked before Hopkins was ready is unclear. Since some dates were booked as Jerry Garcia Band, I am including this lineup on my list.

JERRY GARCIA BAND #1
First show-September 18, 1975 Sophie's, Palo Alto
Last show-December 31, 1975 Keystone Berkeley
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Nicky Hopkins-piano, vocals
John Kahn-bass
Ron Tutt-drums
>Gregg Errico-drums (December 31, 1975 Keystone Berkeley only)
Notes: This lineup was usually billed as "The Jerry Garcia Band with Nicky Hopkins." The lineup also recorded part of Reflections, although Larry Knechtel played many of the piano parts instead of Hopkins. Gregg Errico played the final show because Ron Tutt was playing with Elvis Presley.

JERRY GARCIA BAND #2
First show-January 9, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto
Last show-January 10, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
James Booker-piano, organ, vocals
John Kahn-bass
Ron Tutt-drums
Notes: I have a lot to say about this, but you'll just have to trust me for now.  I do not actually know yet how the Sophie's shows were billed (update: I finally got around to it. An eyewitness also reports that the shows were billed as The Jerry Garcia Band).

JERRY GARCIA BAND #3
First show-January 26, 1976 Keystone Berkeley
Last show-August 12, 1977 Pier 31, SF
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Donna Godchaux-vocals
Keith Godchaux-piano
John Kahn-bass
Ron Tutt-drums
Notes: this lineup recorded Cats Under The Stars, with some help from Maria Muldaur, Merl Saunders and Stephen Schuster.

JERRY GARCIA BAND #3a
First show-July 8, 1977 Calderone Concert Hall, Hempstead, NY
Last show-July 9, 1977 Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Keith Godchaux-piano
John Kahn-bass
Ron Tutt-drums, vocals
Notes: The JGB played a few shows without a female singer, for reasons unknown.

JERRY GARCIA BAND #4
First show-November 15, 1977 Keystone Berkeley
Last show-November 3, 1978 Keystone Palo Alto
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Donna Godchaux-vocals
Maria Muldaur-vocals
Keith Godchaux-piano
John Kahn-bass
Buzz Buchanan-drums
Notes: This lineup was billed as 'Jerry Garcia and The Mystery Cats" for a few East Coast shows, but the name never caught on, if it was even intended to.

RECONSTRUCTION #1
First show-January 30, 1979 Keystone Berkeley
Last show-September 22, 1979 Keystone Berkeley
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Ron Stallings-tenor sax, vocals
Ed Neumeister-trombone
Merl Saunders-organ, keyboards, vocals
John Kahn-bass
Gaylord Birch-drums
Notes: Reconstruction was really a different group than the Jerry Garcia Band, but they are included here for continuity. John Kahn had started Reconstruction as a contemporary jazz group, with the idea that Garcia would just be a guest. Shows were often billed as "Reconstruction with special guest Jerry Garcia."

RECONSTRUCTION #2
First show-August 4, 1979 Keystone Palo Alto
Last show-September 29, 1979 Keystone Palo Alto
Carl Lockett-guitar
>Jerry Miller-guitar, vocals (for a few shows, presumably in place of Lockett)
Ron Stallings-tenor sax, vocals
Ed Neumeister-trombone
Merl Saunders-organ, keyboards, vocals
John Kahn-bass
Gaylord Birch-drums
Notes: As Garcia's participation started to wind down, Reconstruction played a few shows without him, but there was very little traction and the group faded away. I have included the later Reconstruction lineup here for continuity.  It's possible that the last date was actually September 4 in Bolinas, but I am not pursuing that subject in this post.

A newspaper ad for The Keystones in October 1979 (probably from the SF Chronicle Sep 30 '79)
JERRY GARCIA BAND #11a
First show-October 7, 1979 Keystone Berkeley
Last show-March 27, 1980 Keystone Berkeley
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Ozzie Ahlers-electric piano, synthesizer
John Kahn-bass
Johnny De Foncesca-drums
Notes: Originally, it appears this lineup was designed to co-exist with Reconstruction, but Reconstruction tailed off before the new Garcia Band got started.

JERRY GARCIA BAND #11b 
First show-July 18, 1980 The Stone
Last show-August 9, 1980 Keystone Palo Alto
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Ozzie Ahlers-electric piano, synthesizer
John Kahn-bass
Gregg Errico-drums
Notes: Johnny De Foncesca died in an auto accident in the Spring of 1980, and Gregg Errico was brought in as a substitute for a brief tour.

JERRY GARCIA BAND #12a 
First show-January 22, 1981 Keystone Palo Alto
Last show- January 23, 1981 Keystone Palo Alto
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Melvin Seals-organ
John Kahn-bass
Daoud Shaw-drums
Notes: This lineup seems to have originally been conceived of as a quartet, although they only played two shows in that format.

JERRY GARCIA BAND #12b 
First show-January 27, 1981 Old Waldorf 
Last show-June 1, 1981 The Stone  
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Melvin Seals-organ
Jimmy Warren-electric piano
John Kahn-bass
Daoud Shaw-drums 
Notes: Jimmy Warren joined the band on their third date, at Garcia's request.

JERRY GARCIA BAND #13a 
First show-June 25, 1981 Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium 
Last show- June 26, 1981 Fox-Warfield
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Essra Mohawk-vocals
Liz Stires-vocals
Melvin Seals-organ
Jimmy Warren-electric piano
Phil Lesh-bass
Daoud Shaw-drums
Notes: I have a lot to say about these shows as well, but it's too long to summarize. For some reason, Phil Lesh substituted for John Kahn for the debut of the vocalists. There may have been a 'stealth' warmup show with Phil Lesh on bass in Salinas on June 24, as well. For now, you'll have to wait until the full post.

JERRY GARCIA BAND #13b 
First show-July 23, 1981 The Stone 
Last show-August 23, 1981 Keystone Palo Alto
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Essra Mohawk-vocals
Liz Stires-vocals
Melvin Seals-organ
Jimmy Warren-electric piano
John Kahn-bass
>Phil Lesh-bass (August 22, 1981 Fairfax Pavilion only)
Daoud Shaw-drums
Notes: This lineup seems to have been the first iteration of the permanent structure of the Jerry Garcia Band, with Melvin Seals and two female vocalists. Essra Mohawk was Daoud Shaw's wife, and Liz Stires was Jimmy Warren's girlfriend, so the JGB replicated its previous vocal team, using the wife and girlfriend of two band members. Mohawk was a successful songwriter and vocalist in her own right, and may have only planned to be part of the band for a brief time in any case. Phil Lesh filled in for another show in Fairfax, some sort of Benefit that was booked at the last minute.

JERRY GARCIA BAND #14a 
First show-September 7, 1981 Concord Pavilion 
Last show-September 20, 1981 The Stone
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Julie Stafford-vocals
Liz Stires-vocals
Melvin Seals-organ
Jimmy Warren-electric piano
John Kahn-bass
Bill Kreutzmann-drums
Notes: Local singer Julie Stafford replaced Mohawk on a more permanent basis. Shaw left also, and both of them returned to Philadelphia. Bill Kreutzmann filled in for a few shows, for the first time since the days of the Garcia/Saunders band. I saw the September 7 show, so I am certain about Kreutzmann's presence. I am just guessing about the trio of shows at the Keystones that followed (September 18-20). It's not impossible that Tutt played those shows.

The cover of the Jerry Garcia Band's 1982 album Run For The Roses
JERRY GARCIA BAND #14b 
First show-October 25, 1981 Keystone Palo Alto
Last Show-November 20, 1981 Rainbow Theater, Denver, CO
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Julie Stafford-vocals
Liz Stires-vocals
Melvin Seals-organ
Jimmy Warren-electric piano
John Kahn-bass
Ron Tutt-drums
Notes: The voice of Steve Marcus on the Grateful Dead Hotline announced this tour as "The Return Of Ron Tutt." Run For The Roses was also recorded during this period, with Tutt playing the drums, and that would not at all have been by chance. Although Roses was not a satisfying album, it was a sign of Garcia's seriousness that the tracks were recorded when Tutt was available.

JERRY GARCIA BAND #14c 
First show-December 17, 1981 Keystone Palo Alto
Last show-June 22, 1982 The Mosque, Richmond, VA
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Julie Stafford-vocals
Liz Stires-vocals

Melvin Seals-organ
Jimmy Warren-electric piano
John Kahn-bass
Bill Kreutzmann-drums
Notes: Kreutzmann returned to the drum chair for the remaining six months of this lineup. Stires left the band two days before the tour ended, for unknown reasons. 

JERRY GARCIA BAND #14d
First show-June 23, 1982 Stanley Theater, Pittsburgh, PA
Last show-June 24, 1982 Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ late show
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Julie Stafford-vocals
Melvin Seals-organ
Jimmy Warren-electric piano
John Kahn-bass
Bill Kreutzmann-drums
JERRY GARCIA BAND #15a 
First show-October 13, 1982 The Catalyst 
Last show- October 24, 1982 River Theater, Guerneville, CA
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Melvin Seals-organ
John Kahn-bass
Gregg Errico-drums
Notes: Jimmy Warren left and was not replaced. It appears that there were plans for new vocalists, but for some reason a few shows were played as a quartet. Gregg Errico returned on the drums.

JERRY GARCIA BAND #15b 
First show-October 27, 1982 Rissmiller's, Reseda, CA 
Last show-June 5, 1983 Tower Theater, Upper Darby, PA
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
DeeDee Dickerson-vocals
Jaclyn LaBranch-vocals
Melvin Seals-organ
John Kahn-bass
Gregg Errico-drums
Notes: My understanding has been that DeeDee Dickerson and Jaclyn LaBranch were singers in the choir for which Melvin Seals was the musical director. 

JERRY GARCIA BAND #21a 
First show-July 20, 1983 Keystone Palo Alto 
Last show-July 24, 1983 Nevada county Fairgrounds, Grass Valley, CA
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
DeeDee Dickerson-vocals
Jaclyn LaBranch-vocals
Melvin Seals-organ
John Kahn-bass
David Kemper-drums
Notes: David Kemper began his long run as drummer for the Jerry Garcia Band in July of 1983. Nobody in the band had met him beforehand--Kahn had simply called a producer friend in Los Angeles and asked him who was good. Kemper, who had been a studio musician since 1966, was good alright--really good. He stayed for 10 years. 

The cover of the Jerry Garcia Band's 1991 live album, recorded 1990
JERRY GARCIA BAND #21b 
First show-September 30, 1983 Country Club, Reseda
Last show-November 19, 1993 Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Gloria Jones-vocals
Jaclyn LaBranch-vocals
Melvin Seals-organ
John Kahn-bass
David Kemper-drums
>(Gaylord Birch-drums: Oct 7 '85>Feb 2 '86 see JGB #22)
Notes: Gloria Jones, another choir member, replaced Dickerson. This configuration of the Jerry Garcia Band played more shows than any other lineup, probably more than all the others put together.

JERRY GARCIA BAND #22
First show-October 7, 1985 Keystone Palo Alto
Last show-February 21, 1986The Stone
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Gloria Jones-vocals
Jaclyn LaBranch-vocals
Melvin Seals-organ
John Kahn-bass
Gaylord Birch-drums
Notes: Gaylord Birch played 10 JGB gigs during this stretch, all in the Bay Area. I presume that Kemper had another commitment, and since Birch was an established quantity from his time in Reconstruction, he was a comfortable choice as a sub.

JERRY GARCIA BAND #23
 First show-February 4, 1994 The Warfield
Last show-April 23, 1995 The Warfield
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Gloria Jones-vocals
Jaclyn LaBranch-vocals
Melvin Seals-organ
John Kahn-bass
Don Baldwin-drums
Notes: For reasons unknown, Kemper was replaced after 10 years by Don Baldwin. Baldwin had played with Melvin Seals and Mickey Thomas in the Elvin Bishop Group in the 70s, and then had joined Thomas in the Starship in the 1980s. Presumably Seals recommended him for the Garcia Band, although Garcia and Kahn would have been familiar with his drumming from the past.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

November 28-December 1, 1966: The Matrix: Grateful Dead/Jerry Pond

Tapes circulate from weeknight Grateful Dead performances at The Matrix in late 1966. The Dead were booked from Monday to Thursday, November 28-December 1. While the tape is a wonderfully clean document for the times, giving a pretty good representation of the band's sound in that era, much focus has been given over the years as to whether the tape is a compilation of the four nights, or from a single night. However, I am going to largely leave that discussion aside and consider why the Grateful Dead were even playing the Matrix on four weeknights, when they would be headlining the Fillmore just two weeks later. In the end, I will make the argument that rather than the tape providing a record of some or one of the shows, in fact the tape was the specific reason the Dead were playing the Matrix in the first place. Whether a compilation of four nights or a couple of hot sets, I will propose that the Grateful Dead played the Matrix in November of 1966 in order to make a demo tape of themselves.

The Matrix, 3138 Fillmore Street, San Francisco
The Matrix had been opened in August of 1965 in order to provide a place for the Jefferson Airplane to play. Marty Balin's father, Joe Buchwald, was one of the three backers. The Airplane rapidly graduated from the Matrix, of course, once they became famous, but in the mid-sixties the Matrix was the first club that encouraged hippie bands to play original music to hippie audiences. The Fillmore and the Avalon were the top of the scene, certainly, but both those venues were generally only open on weekends. Within the confines of the local scene, there weren't many other places to play. Hippies weren't welcome everywhere, and the North Beach clubs had mostly gone topless and preferred bands who simply played Top 40 music to accompany the dancers, and didn't pay well at that. For longhaired bands on the rise in 1966, The Matrix was one of the few available gigs, and all the new bands played there on the way up. The Grateful Dead, for example, had played the Matrix in January of 1966.

The Matrix seated about 100 people, tops, and served beer and pizza. Dancing was against the law, because of an archaic San Francisco ordnance involving "Dance Permits." As a result, fans went to the Matrix to sit and listen, so free-form blues jamming and other kinds of odd noodling was fine. The Matrix generally booked a band and a folksinger from Tuesday through Thursday, and two bands on Friday and Saturday. Sometimes, groups who were popular at the Fillmore or Avalon would play weeknights at the Matrix because it wouldn't conflict with paying weekend shows around Northern California. Whatever modest amount of money a band received for playing at the Matrix to 50 or 100 people, it was more than they would have gotten for rehearsing, as in 1966 there were pretty much no weeknight club dates for long-haired bands.

The Matrix Tapes
The operators of the Matrix, particularly manager/co-owner Peter Abrams, had the foresight to recognize early on that special music was happening in San Francisco, and he began to tape every show at the Matrix starting in mid-1966. Unfortunately, however, tapes of every show were not retained. Recording tape was expensive, as was storage space, so only the "best" tapes were kept, and the balance was taped over. This wasn't charity--the idea was that when the bands became famous, early live tapes of their performances would be very valuable. While the recordings at the Matrix weren't exactly state of the art, in many cases soundboard tapes from the Matrix are the earliest and most primal record of San Francisco rock music.

There are tapes from the Matrix circulating from numerous artists. A few have even been turned into legitimate releases over the years, by The Doors, The Velvet Underground, The Great Society, The Sparrow and Sandy Bull, among others. However, practice at the Matrix was to tape every set of a performer and then to keep either a compilation of best performances, or a tape of the "best" set. One frustrating result is that Matrix tape labels are only generally correct, not specifically. The 1966 Grateful Dead tapes, for example, probably originally said something like "Grateful Dead-November 66" without any specific explanation. I will leave the tape parsing to sharper ears than mine, but the surviving Grateful Dead Matrix tapes, usually dated November 29 and December 1, 1966, likely can not be dated more specifically than that. They are likely complete sets from some nights, with some other songs spliced in, but we can't know for certain without other evidence. This type of selection was true of all surviving Matrix tapes from every band, not just the Grateful Dead.

There are considerably fewer Matrix tapes in existence than is generally believed. Because of confusion over the Matrix's tendency to make compilations, the ravages of time and wishful thinking, many tapes have circulated under a variety of dates. Since it was known that the Matrix taped everything, it was plausible to hope that everything was preserved, but that was not the case. The Matrix had good relationships with the various bands, for the most part, so I doubt that there are Grateful Dead or Jerry Garcia tapes that were made at the Matrix that were not known to the Grateful Dead Vault, even if the Matrix owners held the originals. My interest is not in the dating of each November '66 Matrix tape, but in speculating on why the Grateful Dead even played the Matrix at all at that time.

Why Would The Grateful Dead Play The Matrix In November 1966?
The Grateful Dead played The Matrix in January 1966, when they were nobodies. They did not play there again until November 1966, and the Grateful Dead proper did not play there again. Jerry Garcia, on the other hand, seemed to use the Matrix as his private clubhouse from 1968 onwards, dropping by at jam sessions and playing with various casual ensembles like Jerry Garcia and Friends, Mickey Hart And The Hartbeats, a bluegrass band and David Crosby (aka "David And The Dorks"). Clearly the band was welcome at any time, as were most San Francisco groups. Why November of '66?

For once I am not going to make my usual argument and say that the Grateful Dead were scrambling for cash, and would take any paying gig. If that were true, then the Dead would likely have played the Matrix more than just one time, as there were no other weekday gigs to be had in the Bay Area during the 1966-68 period. For one thing, the Matrix was a tiny place, and I doubt that the Dead's relatively huge sound system even fit in the place, much less on the stage. I don't know how much bands got paid at The Matrix, but it wasn't much, and the Dead were starting to accumulate crew members, and they would need gas for the truck and so on, so a Matrix gig may have been barely break even, if that. It just seems to me that if the Dead could make money at the Matrix, they would have played there regularly in 1966-67.

There's another reason I find the November '66 booking odd, and that is the fact that the Grateful Dead were going to be headlining the Fillmore on the weekend of December 9-11, less than two weeks from the Matrix show. I do not know the exact structure of Bill Graham's contracts at the time, but I know in subsequent years his contracts prevented bands from advertising shows within two weeks or a certain number of miles from the Fillmore. I don't know Graham's 1966 protocol, but I can't imagine that he would want his headliners to play a nightclub show 10 days before headlining. The Grateful Dead were an underground sensation in San Francisco in 1966, but they weren't a sellout act. I know that the Dead were playing UC Berkeley on December 2 (at Pauley Ballroom), so Graham's contract couldn't be completely restrictive.

I know that some out-of-town bands who were opening at the Fillmore would play weeknight gigs at the Matrix, so Graham wasn't unsympathetic to the Matrix, but I can't find an instance of a 1966 headliner playing The Matrixso close to a Fillmore date. I have to think Graham formally or informally didn't allow his headline bands to advertise shows in San Francisco a few weeks before a Fillmore show, and that makes the Matrix show all the more mystifying. I would assert that if the Grateful Dead were playing four nights at The Matrix under their own name 10 days before headlining the Fillmore, it was with Graham's tacit or explicit permission, and the reason couldn't exclusively be a quick payday.

The Grateful Dead's Recording Contract
According to Dennis McNally, Joe Smith of Warner Brothers Records agreed to a contract with the Grateful Dead in October of 1966, although it was not completed and signed until some modifications in December 1966. The actual recording of the first album did not commence until January 1967. Thus, at the very least, we know the Grateful Dead had to be thinking about recording their debut album, since they knew it was imminent. The standard thing to do at the time was for new acts to record every single number in their live repertoire, in a straight run through without embellishment. The thinking was that not only could songs be considered for the album, but even songs that were not going to be used might have good ideas for arrangements, tempos, harmonies and other details that could be used on original material. Also, most bands had rarely or never heard themselves play, since "home recording" was not really possible for electric bands.

We know that the Grateful Dead had some live recordings and studio demos from mid-1966, but the band must have known that they had improved enormously since then. The Grateful Dead also had a relatively large repertoire for a new band, and no money, so spending days in the studio recording demos was not plausible. The obvious solution must have been to record one of their live shows, but that was not so easy in 1966. The Dead didn't have recording gear, or much anyway, and it would have cost money to hire an engineer and equipment. The Matrix might have seemed like a perfect compromise. The club was already set up to record everything, and all the Dead had to do was show up. If they got paid a little bit, it would defray expenses, which was better than paying out. Look at the list of songs that survive from the Matrix tape, regardless of what date or dates the tapes might be from [per Deadlists]:

"Nov 29 '66"
Me And My Uncle [3:47] ; Same Thing [11:35] ; Stealin' [2:51] ; Big Boy Pete [2:46] ; One Kind Favor [5:05] ; Early Morning Rain [2:15] ; Cold Rain And Snow [3:04] ; Viola Lee Blues [10:23]

Down So Long [3:29] ; Something On Your Mind [4:36] ; Lindy [2:48] ; Good Morning Little Schoolgirl [10:06] ; I Just Want To Make Love To You (1) [3:18]

"Dec 1 '66"
Minglewood Blues [3:36] ; Betty And Dupree [5:01] ; Next Time You See Me [3:39] ; I Know You Rider [3:58] ; Big Boss Man [3:51] ; One Kind Favor [5:23] ; Alice D. Millionaire [2:48] ; Cream Puff War [9:11]

You Don't Love Me [4:15] ; Beat It On Down The Line [2:29] ; It Hurts Me Too [4:34] ; On The Road Again [2:26] ; Yonder's Wall (1) [#4:01] ; My Own Fault [6:59] ; Down So Long [3:30] ; Cold Rain And Snow [2:56] ; Viola Lee Blues [15:02]

Deep Elem Blues [#4:49] ; Something On Your Mind [5:04] ; Big Boy Pete [3:04] ; Death Don't Have No Mercy [9:41] ; Lindy [2:59] ; Dancin' In The Street [11:14] ; Me And My Uncle (2) [4:11]






Let me apologize in advance if I have not kept up with the latest tape analysis, and included some material that may belong to another date. However, my general point is that the November Matrix tapes seem to include a run-through of everything in the Grateful Dead's live set at the time. Whether they are from two, three or four nights is beside the point. The Dead wanted a recording of every song they did. Whether they specifically wanted to listen to it themselves or wanted it for their future producer wouldn't matter. The key was they were looking for a timestamped recording of their current live act so they could figure out what might work and what might not.

I can't prove any of this, but all the pieces seem to be in place.
  • The Matrix tape is a compilation, as are all Matrix tapes, but the compilation seems designed to include every working number in their repertoire
  • The Matrix is one of the few places that could plausibly be used to record four nights of performance designed not to entertain the crowd but to go across their entire songbook
  • Bill Graham would have been supportive of the Dead getting signed, and might have been amenable to letting them use the Matrix as a recording venue, even at some slight risk to their headline shows in December
  • And rather more trivially, it might explain the weird false start on "Me And My Uncle," where the band stops and starts over. It would make more sense if the group was treating the shows like a demo session
At this point, probably, nobody remembers why the Grateful Dead played the Matrix. Owsley denied that they even played the Matrix in late 1966, of course, but that was just Owsley, as it seems pretty plain that they played there. Whatever the band's motives, I'm certainly glad they went to the one venue that taped everything and played seemingly every song they knew. In itself, however, that seems like an unlikely thing to do, and that's all the more reason that I think the band had more practical motives for playing the Matrix in November of 1966.

I have always wondered why the Dead never recorded any studio demos in late 1966 that showed the breadth of their material, as was standard practice at the time. It may have been, however, that they had already done the recording at The Matrix prior to the final signing of the Warners contract in December, and they may have already had a tape for producer Dave Hassinger to listen to. If I'm correct, than we may have a rare snapshot of the Grateful Dead's entire repertoire at a single moment in time, itself an all but unseen commodity.