Thursday, April 28, 2016

Orpheum Theatre, San Francisco, CA 1192 Market Street, San Francisco, CA: Summer 1976 (plus Live FM Broadcasts Part X)

An ad for the six Grateful Dead appearances at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco from July 12-18, 1976
Given the number of venues where the Grateful Dead or Jerry Garcia played many dozens of times, the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco should hardly loom large in their tour histories. And yet it does. Jerry Garcia played one show there in 1976, the Grateful Dead had a six night run and then there was a peculiar seven-show JGB reprise in 1988 and '89, and that was it. There are venues all over California, not to mention the rest of the country, where the Dead and Garcia played more runs over the various decades, yet the history of Garcia and the Dead at the Orpheum remains far more interesting. This post will look at the exact circumstances of Jerry Garcia's and the Grateful Dead's appearances at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco.

The Orpheum Theatre, at 1192 Market Street (at Hyde) in San Francisco, in 1931
Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead, 1976
The Grateful Dead had "retired" from live performance after a five-night stand at Winterland in October, 1974. They were determined to simply record albums for their own label, and play around a little bit when the circumstances were right. Most rock fans, myself included, figured they were goners, but in fact the band did record Blues For Allah and play four shows in 1975. The Dead played wonderful, unfettered music in '75, but it was a dream that was not to endure. By 1976, Grateful Dead Records and Round Records had collapsed, the band's deal with United Artists had been cashed out, and the band members were broke. To fulfill their UA contract, they assigned Owsley to produce a live double-lp from the Winterland shows, taking care not to use any of the good jams.

Releasing an all-but-intentionally weak album was not unprecedented for the Grateful Dead, but it was a particularly risky strategy when they were trying to resurrect themselves as live performers on the national stage. By 1976, the Grateful Dead were looking like a band of old hippies. Sure, there were plenty of old hippies around, but the likes of the Jefferson Starship and Steve Miller Band had cleaned up their sound and were playing shorter songs you could hum. A poorly-recorded cover of Johnny Cash's "Big River" wasn't a ticket to high-rotation nationwide FM airplay.

Still, the Grateful Dead managed to make one shrewd and long-lasting move in 1976. Everyone knew that the Dead had a loyal audience, but truthfully, even the Dead didn't know how that would translate into ticket sales. How big a place could they really play, and how many cities would it be profitable to tour through? The band bypassed all that. In the booming rock market of 1976, playing a 12,000-capacity basketball arena and only selling 9,000 tickets would have been seen as a failure of sorts, and the Dead couldn't afford that in their comeback attempt.

So the Dead took a relatively unprecedented step. They took their four biggest East Coast markets, chose some 2000-seat theaters, and sold the tickets only by mail order. Up until this time, there had been only one rock concert mail-order-only effort that I know of, the Bob Dylan/Band tour in early 1974. Despite the clunkiness of mail order at the time, the hype surrounding mail order had allowed national promoter Bill Graham to emphasize how the Dylan/Band tour was an Event, not just another band on the road. The Dead shrewdly took the same tack, surely inspired by Graham, but executed by New Jersey promoter John Scher. The unique twist was that the band only offered tickets to fans currently on the Deadheads mailing list. They signed on with their most loyal promoters in each city, and made sure that there was an FM broadcast in each region. The band were replaying their 1971 strategy with Grateful Dead ("Skull And Roses"), and providing a "virtual" free concert in all those markets. No other major band would do that in 1976, or ever again.

The Steal Your Face album, released in June 1976, had an iconic cover, but little else of lasting value
Grateful Dead Summer Tour 1976
June 3-4 Paramount Theater, Portland, OR: Grateful Dead
The Dead opened with two shows out of town, in Portland, OR, perhaps their most loyal market. To my knowledge, these shows were not part of the mail order, but almost stealth warmup shows. Bill Graham Presents produced these shows.

June 9-12, 1976 Boston Music Hall, Boston, MA: Grateful Dead (Wednesday thru Saturday)
Broadcast: Saturday, June 12, 1976,WBCN-fm, Boston
The Boston Music Hall shows were promoted by Don Law, who had been producing the Dead in the Boston Area since the Boston Tea Party days back in the 1960s.

June 14-15 Beacon Theater, New York, NY: Grateful Dead (Monday-Tuesday)
June 18-19, 1976 Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ: Grateful Dead (Friday-Saturday)
Broadcast: Saturday, June 19, 1976, WNEW-fm, New York, WOUR-fm, Utica
The Dead had two key promoters in the New York Metro area. Howard Stein had promoted the band on the New York side of the Hudson, at Flushing Meadows, Capitol Theater in Port Chester, Gaelic Park and The Academy Of Music, among other venues. The Dead gave him two nights at the Beacon, but the weekend shows were reserved for John Scher at the Capitol Theaer in Passaic, NJ. Scher was the Dead's promoter on the New Jersey side of the Hudson, and he was organizing the East Coast leg of the tour. Scher got the prestige broadcast, but Stein's Monday and Tuesday bookings were no small thing, since the band would fill the Beacon on nights when it might usually be dark.

I am aware that the Passaic show was simulcast on Utica's WOUR as well as WNEW. I don't know if there were other simulcasts, in New York or elsewhere.

June 21-24, 1976 Tower Theater, Philadelphia, PA: Grateful Dead (Monday-Thursday)
Broadcast: Thursday, June 24, 1976, WMMR-fm, Philadelphia
The Jerry Garcia Band had played the Tower a few times. The Dead's booking at the Tower was with the Electric Factory. It was a sort of peace offering, rekindling a profitable business relationship that had started in 1968, only to have it undermined by crew misbehavior in 1973. Once again, by playing Monday through Thursday, instead of the weekend, it made for an attractive booking for the Electric Factory. The Dead promptly returned to the Philly Spectrum the next Spring, and there were no more problems with the Electric Factory.

June 26, 1976 was the official release date of Steal Your Face. It is entirely possible that some record stores were already selling the album before that. Radio stations could have been playing it beforehand. but I'll bet only the sponsoring stations were really playing it.

June 26-29, 1976 Auditorium Theater, Chicago, IL: Grateful Dead (Saturday-Tuesday)
Broadcast: Tuesday, June 29, 1976,WXRT-fm, Chicago
The Chicago promoter was probably Aaron Russo, who had promoted the band back during the Electric Theater/Kinetic Playground days in the 1960s.
update: a Commenter reports that the promoter was Flipside and John Scher Presents. I do not know if Flipside had associations with Aaron Russo, but it was Russo who had initially promoted the Dead in Chicago and established them in the region.

July 12-14, 16-18, 1976 Orpheum Theatre, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead (Monday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday)
Broadcast: Sunday, July 18, 1976, KSAN-fm, San Francisco
The Grateful Dead shows at the Orpheum were produced by Bill Graham Presents. They were not part of the mail order. On the Sunday in June that tickets went on sale, there were huge lines at the BASS ticket outlets. The lines were magnified by the fact that the shows had reserved seats, long not a factor in Bay Area Dead shows. I managed to snag one ticket for Saturday, July 17. I was not a minute too soon.

The FM Broadcast was on the last night, Sunday, July 18. Graham did it up in style, giving everyone in the audience a glass of champagne, and surprising the band when he brought the curtain up with a toast from the audience. Pretty women in swimsuits, with banners that said "Miss Jerry," "Miss Bob" and so on, put roses on the band. Graham himself, not in a swimsuit, had a banner that said "Mr. Donna." The triumphal return to six nights of packed houses made the Dead's gamble pay off. The Grateful Dead were an event, instead of a washed up choogly hippie band.

The Kingfish album was released in March, 1976. It had some initial success, but it couldn't be sustained
Grateful Dead Member Finances, 1976
However, the Orpheum itself had been critical to the Dead's successful tour, but not in a way that was obvious at the time. In early 1976, although the Dead had produced a new studio album in 1975, and Phil Lesh and Owsley were putting together Steal Your Face, the Grateful Dead were a band in name only. Once Ron Rakow wrote himself a check for about $275,000 in April--which was most of the money they got for SYF--, Grateful Dead and Round Records were finished. The band had no label and no money.

It goes largely unnoticed that between September 28, 1975 and May 28, 1976, when tour rehearsals began, there is no evidence that the Grateful Dead played together as a group. I would love to find some hint, but I don't think there is any. I think they didn't play. The last session I know of was at Ace's in August 1975, for material probably intended for a follow up to Blues For Allah, that nevertheless ended up on Jerry Garcia's Reflections.

In the Winter and Spring of 1976, both Garcia and Weir had new albums. Reflections and the Kingfish album had been released in February and March of that year, respectively, and both bands were touring across the country, making a stab for conventional rock stardom. Kingfish was broadcasting live concerts in a few cities, and even had a show recorded for the King Biscuit Flower Hour, a syndicated nationwide radio program probably inspired by the Dead's 1971 Fall Tour.

March 11, 1976 Roxy Theater, Los Angeles, CA: Kingfish (early show)
Broadcast: KMET-fm, Los Angeles
The Kingfish album had been released in March 1976. United Artists did the traditional promotion for new bands, booking Kingfish at LA's most prestigious record company haunt, the Roxy Theater. The Roxy, at 9009 Sunset Boulevard, had been started by the owners of the Whisky-A-Go-Go, but it was more oriented towards the bar, as a place for industry people to hang out and drink on the record company tab. Kingfish was booked for four nights (March 10-13, Wednesday-Saturday).

On Thursday, March 11, the early show at the Roxy was broadcast on KMET-fm. UA would have subsidized the radio station by paying for the lost ad time (probably by purchasing future ads). Former KSAN-fm dj Thom O'Hair was the host.

March 27, 1976 Calderone Theater, Hempstead, NY: Kingfish (early show)
Broadcast: WKIR-fm, Hempstead, NY
Hempstead, NY, in Long Island, was the home base of WLIR-fm, a station which emphasized live broadcasts. Many WLIR broadcasts were from a club called My Father's Place in nearby Roslyn, but they also broadcast from a local studio (Ultrasonic) and sometimes from the Calderone Theater. The early show was broadcast on WLIR, apparently on a delayed basis.

April 3, 1976 Beacon Theater, New York, NY: Kingfish (early and late shows)
Broadcast: King Biscuit Flower Hour (nationally syndicated)
Howard Stein would have been the promoter of the Beacon show. I don't know the exact date of the broadcast, probably about a month or two later. If typical patterns were followed, Kingfish would have broadcast about 25 minutes or so, sharing the hour-long program with another rising band on tour (both the early and late shows were ultimately officially released in their entirety--see the Appendix).

With Garcia and Weir both constantly on tour, the Dead would hardly have had any chance to rehearse. But of course they really had nowhere to rehearse, either. The Garcia Band rehearsed (jammed, really) at Keith and Donna's in Stinson Beach, and Kingfish, if they rehearsed at all, would have used Ace's. The Dead had no money, and could not have afforded a real rehearsal space. At this time, 20 Front Street was just a warehouse used by the Garcia Band. No one called a Dead rehearsal, and in any case Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann had hardly played a live gig with anyone since the new year, nor had Mickey Hart (although Mickey was working on Diga). Lesh may have played occasional gigs with his bar band, Toulousse To Truck, but if they even happened, they were just jams. Kreutzmann had no band at that time, as far as I know.

On top of that, and perhaps most importantly, even if the band had decided to rehearse at Ace's or somewhere, they had no sound system. When the band was a permanent touring operation, they had gear set up in their rehearsal space. But for now, they had no sound system and no gear. Sure, the Garcia Band and Kingfish no doubt had some of the equipment, but that was split up between separate road crews, and probably in separate places. In order to make a June tour, the Dead not only needed to rehearse, they needed a location and a sound system, and they had no money for either.

May 21, 1976 Orpheum Theatre, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia Band
The Grateful Dead's summer tour had been announced around May, to give everyone time to deal with the mail order. However, while Joel Selvin (in the SF Chronicle) may have indicated that the Dead would play the Bay Area afterwards, we still knew nothing about the details. Meanwhile, the Jerry Garcia Band had regularly been playing the Keystone Berkeley, and sometimes at other clubs around the Bay Area. Thus it was quite a surprise when the Jerry Garcia Band announced a concert at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, on May 21, 1976, There had never been a rock concert at the Orpheum, and indeed no one I knew had ever been there for any event whatsoever. To top it off, Garcia almost never played concerts, as opposed to clubs, and this wasn't even a Bill Graham Presents show.

The back story can now be seen, although it wasn't at all clear at the time. A few weeks after the May Orpheum gig, tickets went on sale for the six Grateful Dead concerts at the Orpheum in July, produced by BGP. So we thought that Garcia had been "trying out" the Orpheum for the Dead. That was true as far as it went. However, some years later we found out that the Dead rehearsed at the Orpheum for a week or so after the Garcia Band gig. There are photos and tapes to confirm it. There was even apparently professional video shot, probably on May 28. The wonderful Voodonola edit marks this as the July 12 '76 soundcheck, but I am going with May 28. When the Dead soundchecked on July 12, I doubt they set up a full movie lighting rig when they would have been trying to get their sound right on opening night (see the Appendix below). The audio tapes are from May 28-30, but there may have been more rehearsals than just those. Clearly the gear was left in place at the Orpheum after the JGB show. But that was still only half the story.

The Dead had no sound system and nowhere to rehearse. The Orpheum solved both those problems. The band rented a sound system, apparently from a Santa Barbara company, that was suitable for small theaters, and tried it out in the Orpheum in advance of the tour. Remember, without having a touring apparatus, Dan Healy and the rest of the crew would have had to put together all the pieces. Some of the "rehearsing" may have actually been for the crew to put the equipment together. The band could fake the music if they needed to, but the equipment had to be sorted out first.

However, the Dead had no money. So Garcia almost certainly had to play the Orpheum gig in order to get the money to put the gear in place. The May 21 show financed the rehearsals. Now, that was a great show, as you can hear from the 2001 release of the cd Don't Let Go. The Orpheum, though in a truly threatening neighborhood, was a wonderful venue once you were indoors. As I recall, although it wasn't a a BGP show, Bill Graham was present and wandering around. The actual promoters were a local outfit called "Carlos And Star Productions," who had many Grateful Dead connections. It seems that Carlos And Star financed the show, but hired Graham's production crew to run the stage, a common arrangement.

An ad for Hair at the Orpheum from the Stanford Daily on October 30, 1970, 
A Brief History of The Orpheum Theatre
The Dead needed to rehearse in a small theater with seats, not a big ice rink like Winterland. What was the story with the Orpheum?

The Orpheum Theatre was at 1192 Market Street, at 8th Street (which becomes Hyde Street), in the Tenderloin District. The Tenderloin was the city's theater district, just a ways from downtown. The Orpheum had opened in 1926, as the New Pantages Theatre. It had 2,203 seats. Originally it was a Vaudeville house, as Pantages was a Vaudeville chain. It was the fifth of Market Street's six great music palaces, another of which was the nearby Warfield, which had opened in 1922. Come the 1930s, the New Pantages was converted to a movie house, and so the Orpheum Theatre was just a movie palace up until about 1970 (for the complete story of The Orpheum, complete with pictures, of course you must go to Jerry Garcia's Brokendown Palaces ).

In 1970, however, the Orpheum again began to be used for theatrical presentations. Hair, the first 'Rock Musical" had had a brief, successful run at the Geary Theater, nearby on Market. Hair had been a hit on Broadway in New York, and now it had theatrical companies in many cities. Hair had an extended run at the Orpheum, which was larger than the Geary. A surviving program from 1972 lists future famed choreographer Kenny Ortega in a lead role. Ortega's was the first choreographer for The Tubes, a few years later, and he would ultimately go on to direct the High School Musical movies and many other Hollywood successes.

Although Hair was a musical, it had rock band backing, and McCune Sound is noted in the program for doing the sound. McCune Sound was well established in the San Francisco rock community, and indeed would provide a system for the Grateful Dead's one-off show at the Great American Music Hall in 1975. Since McCune would have provided a quality system for the Orpheum, there would have been a professional awareness that the Orpheum could work for rock bands.

I think the Orpheum showed some movies in between Hair presentations. However, by the mid-70s it appeared to have been closed. It would re-open in 1977 as a theater, however, for the San Francisco Civic Light Opera, so I think it must have been undergoing renovation. Bill Graham must have known all this, and that was why an empty theater in good shape was available for a week of Grateful Dead rehearsals and then a week of concerts a month later. The Orpheum was not in use, so it was available for the Dead as a testbed for their one-off small theater sound system. It is my recollection that a small piece of the Wall Of Sound was used at the Orpheum, I think the old vocal stack, but clearly the system had been designed for that tour alone.

Grateful Dead Touring, Fall 1976
Even though the Steal Your Face album got deservedly terrible reviews and tanked immediately, the mail-order Summer tour showed that the Grateful Dead were still an event. Using the Deadhead mailing list was the shape of things to come, even if that, too, was not clear at the time. From the music industry's point of view, the Dead's audience showed that they were ferociously loyal and indifferent to whatever record was currently released. That may seem obvious now, but it wasn't obvious then.

Clive Davis had always been interested in signing Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead, and the band's 1976 summer had to make him more positive about it. A few weeks after The Orpheum shows, the Dead headlined two shows at small stadiums in the Northeast (Colt Stadium, Hartford, CT Aug 2 and Jersey City, NJ Aug 4) to apparently full houses. Their Fall tour included a number of larger venues throughout the Midwest, culminating with a pair of Oakland Stadium shows with The Who. The Dead were back as a touring act, whatever their status as a recording one.

The cue sheet for the DIR Productions King Biscuit Flower Hour 90-minute special featuring the Grateful Dead from the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco. The concert was recorded July 18, and broadcast on November 28.
King Biscuit Flower Hour, November 28, 1976: The Grateful Dead At The Orpheum Theater, San Francisco, CA (July 18 1976)
For Thanksgiving Weekend, the King Biscuit Flower Hour broadcast an edited version of the KSAN Orpheum show (the broadcast, complete with commercials, is available on the Archive). At the time, for any Deadheads outside of San Francisco or the few cities where the Dead had broadcast in the Summer, this was a unique opportunity to hear live Grateful Dead, no small thing.

An ad for the BGP 76 New Year's shows (probably from the SF Chronicle), including the Grateful Dead and Santana at the Cow Palace and The Tubes at Berkeley Community Theater
December 31, 1976 Cow Palace, Daly City, CA: Grateful Dead/Santana/Soundhole
Broadcast: KSAN-fm, San Francisco
Arista had to be comfortable having bet on the Grateful Dead, since they must have helped finance the Dead's New Year's Eve broadcast from the Cow Palace. Remember, in 1976, the Dead had not yet released anything on Arista, so any record sales from the broadcast would accrue to Warners or UA. Arista was betting on the Dead's future here, not their past. Note also that when judged by record sales, Santana was a far bigger act than the Grateful Dead would ever be. However, in San Francisco on New Year's Eve, the Grateful Dead would always top the bill.

Orpheum Redux, 1988--and The Fillmore Returns
The Orpheum Theater in San Francisco, probably from the early 1970s (via JerryGarciasBrokendownPalaces)
The San Francisco Civic Light Opera took over the Orpheum Theatre for theatrical productions in 1977, but their venture folded by 1981. The Orpheum was taken over by the Shorenstein Hays Nederlander (SHN) organization, and they used the Orpheum as an outpost for touring Broadway shows. Despite the seedy Tenderloin neighborhood, the venture has been successful to this day, helped in no small part by the nearby Powell Street BART station. From 1976 until now, there have only been a few rock concerts at the Orpheum, mostly Jerry Garcia Band shows in 1988 and 1989.
May 7, 1988 Jerry Garcia Band--This was the night after the JGB show at the Fillmore Auditorium (May 6), where Howard Wales had made a surprise reappearance on a lengthy "Don't Let Go."
December 2-3, 1988 Jerry Garcia Band/Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman--The next night (December 4), Garcia, Weir and Wasserman played Neil Young's Bridge Benefit at the Oakland Coliseum Arena.
January 27-28, 1989 Jerry Garcia Band
March 3-4, 1989 Jerry Garcia Band--Clarence Clemons sat in for the entire show on March 3.
When we understand why the Jerry Garcia Band, and pretty much only the Jerry Garcia Band, played the Orpheum Theatre during this window, we can see both the underlying economics of the JGB and the importance of Jerry Garcia to the operations of Bill Graham Presents.

Through much of the 1970s, the ever-expanding rock market in the Bay Area had followed the Fillmore model, where rising bands had played second or third on the bill to established headliners. By the 1980s, however, better employed and more knowledgeable rock fans preferred to see bands they liked as headliners rather than openers. Rock fans were much more likely to pay to see Weather Report or Robert Cray play a full show at the 2000-seat Warfield Theater rather than see a 40-minute set opening at the Oakland Coliseum. At the same time, headliners played longer and longer sets, and opening acts were not really part of the package at arenas. 

In late 1985, the old Fillmore Auditorium had re-opened as a rock venue. It was not run by the BGP organization, but they were on good terms, and Graham occasionally rented it out. The new Fillmore mostly booked younger, "Alternative" bands, along with some older groups who needed a crowd on their feet dancing. In a parallel development, Freddy Herrera and Bobby Corona's Keystone partnership had come to an end, and the three clubs were closing. Jerry Garcia, the mainstay of their bookings, had simply gotten too big for the clubs, and Bill Graham was finally going to take over booking most of the San Francisco Garcia shows. This left open the question of where Graham should book the Garcia Band in San Francisco. 

At the same time, the Warfield was scheduled to undergo another renovation in the 1988. BGP held no rock shows at the Warfield between March 31 and December 28, 1988. Graham, always planning ahead, seems to have arranged to rent the Orpheum as a proxy Warfield. The Shorenstein family were San Francisco real estate royalty, and Graham would have had many connections with them. Although the Orpheum had extended runs of touring Broadway shows (through the powerhouse Nederlander organization), there were always gaps in the schedule. By the mid-80s, touring Broadway shows had rock concert quality sound systems, so that was no problem, either.

The unavailability of the Warfield in 1988 was less of a problem for BGP than one might have thought, because at the same time they had taken over the operation of the Fillmore Auditorium. BGP arranged to hire the successful bookers of the Fillmore, so they kept the relationships with the cool Indie bands. Yet they were able to book some old-time BGP connections, like Ron Wood, Carlos Santana and Leon Russell, providing another layer of performers to appear. Meanwhile, over at the Orpheum, there were a few shows that weren't fits for the Fillmore, like Miriam Makeba/Hugh Masakela (Apr 15) and King Sunny Ade (June 17).

BGP booked two Jerry Garcia Band shows, May 6 '88 at the Fillmore, and May 7 at the Orpheum. One would have implicitly expected that the Fillmore Auditorium, historic, beautiful and sounding great, would become the post-Keystone home of the Jerry Garcia Band. Yet the balance of the year's JGB shows were at the Orpheum, not the Fillmore, and in fact the Jerry Garcia Band never played the Fillmore again. The Orpheum was the proxy for the Warfield, and the Warfield became the JGB's home court for the balance of Garcia's career.

Why not the Fillmore as the JGB's San Francisco home? The answer wasn't the venue, nor the sound, nor the vibe, but the bar. The Fillmore in 1988 had bars, but the main one was upstairs at the back of the auditorium. It was primarily designed for people to wait out opening acts that they did not like, since the stage was inaudible from there, and indeed often acoustic acts played in the bar while the bands played on stage. Indeed, I spent many a pleasant hour in the Fillmore bar in those days, waiting out some tedious Indie band until the likes of Graham Parker would come on stage.

However, the financial lynchpin of the Keystones had been the ease of buying drinks while Garcia was playing. At the Keystone Berkeley, there was no real distinction between the barroom and the stage, and The Stone and Keystone Palo Alto had table service. The Orpheum had a better bar than the Fillmore, and it was larger (2203 vs around 1500), so it won out over the historic Fillmore. When the new, revised Warfield re-opened in early 1989, it had dramatically improved bar service downstairs and upstairs, and it was custom made to sell drinks to relaxed, employed JGB fans ready to spend an entire evening hanging with Jerry and John. 

Dave's Picks Volume 18, the Grateful Dead recorded at The Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco on Saturday, July 17, 1976 (released May 1, 2016)
The Warfield became the Jerry Garcia's San Francisco home, and ultimately Garcia played the club around 100 times, mostly after 1989. Yet it was the Orpheum which had provided proof-of-concept back in '88, just as the the theater had done back in 1976. The Orpheum itself has not held a rock concert that I am aware of after Garcia's performance on March 4 '89 (although I have not done a thorough study). It has undergone various renovations, and it is a hugely successful venue for traveling Broadway shows. Even the sleazy Tenderloin district has improved somewhat, and the Powell Street BART stop remains as a critical asset.

The Grateful Dead at The Orpheum is finally getting it's musical due, a few decades too late. The JGB Don't Let Go cd was released in 1998, and on May 1, 2016 the glorious show from Saturday, July 17, 1976 will be released as a Dave Pick's. I was there, and I can assure you it was a classic show. It was all the more so because no one knew what was going to happen. We had heard rumors that "Truckin'" and "China Cat" and the like were out of rotation, but there was no established network for finding out what the band had played elsewhere, much less getting the tapes.

Thus we were stunned to hear "Samson And Delilah," stunned to hear a noodly jam open the second set that turned into "Comes A Time," stunned to hear the entire second set done as a continuous medley, stunned to see "Eyes Of The World" wrapped by verses of  "The Other One," confused by Donna's non-appearance in the second set with no explanation, and stunned by the blazing, unexpected "Not Fade Away" as the second encore. The next night (Sunday July 18) was broadcast on KSAN, and we were treated to "Might As Well," "St. Stephen" and "The Wheel," and clearly a Brave New World of the Grateful Dead. Whatever you think of 1976 tapes now--your mileage may vary--at the time it seemed like everything was possible. Who was to think that the Grateful Dead would never grace the Orpheum stage again?
The cover of the 2001 release on Grateful Dead Records of Don't Let Go, the complete Jerry Garcia Band performance at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco on May 21, 1976

There are a few details that are worth recapping here

The "July 12 1976" Orpheum Video
I have read believable but unconfirmed comments on line that the May 28, 1976 Orpheum rehearsal was professionally photographed and video taped (there was no such thing as amateur video at the time). This is not widely known or assumed, however. The great Voodonola has posted a video of the Grateful Dead at the Orpheum identified as a July 12, 1976 "soundcheck." Since it is clearly a rehearsal without an audience, this was a plausible assumption. However, for a number of reasons I do not think the hour-long video is from July 12. The video isn't casual, as there are bright stage lights and multiple cameraman, at least one of whom is on stage. Two points:
  • On July 12, the Dead were starting a high profile six-night run at a venue they had never played. I find it unlikely that they would set up significant equipment on a night when they were trying to nail down the sound
  • The numbers they play are mostly new or newly-arranged (like "Dancing In The Streets" done disco-style) and they sound unformed to me. During "Stella Blue," Garcia stops the band so he, Weir and Donna can go over some harmony arrangements. By July, the Dead had played 18 dates, and the material was far more hammered out.
I think United Artists was paying for some promotional video and photography in May, with the hopes of using it for some kind of publicity. It never saw the light of day, however. Does UA have anything else in their vaults (which would housed by Vivendi Universal Music Group, actually, since EMI they bought UA in '78, and the bankrupt EMI was sold to Vivendi in 2012)? For now, I am considering this "July 12" video to have come from May 28, 1976, until we get better information.

Kingfish KBFH show
Although Kingfish would have only broadcast about 25 minutes on the actual syndicated radio show, the King Biscuit people started a record label where they would release entire performances. Kingfish was one of the few bands to agree to license their material, so both the early and late shows from the Beacon were released in 1996 as Kingfish In Concert: King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents. It remains the most thorough and best capture of Bob Weir and Kingfish live in concert in their initial incarnation.

Incidentally, the syndicated King Biscuit show circulated their shows with specially made LPs or reel to reel tapes, which were sent to the radio stations. So that means there would be a "collectable" Kingfish KBFH LP from 1976, for those that seek out that sort of thing.

Robert Hunter and Roadhog at The Shady Grove
Back in 1976, there was still not much of a universe for Deadheads traveling to San Francisco for big runs of shows. But there were a few. The Dead must have had some awareness of this, since the one night of the week during the Orpheum run that they didn't play (Thursday June 15), Robert Hunter and Roadhog played at The Shady Grove in the Haight, not far down the street (if you took the 5 Fulton or 7 Haight bus). I believe there was a Jerry Moore audience tape. At the time, Hunter had not performed outside the Bay Area under his own name, and not at all outside of the West Coast, so seeing Hunter perform in person would have been exotic indeed.

KSAN Re-Broadcast
KSAN re-broadcast the Sunday, July 18 Orpheum show a number of times. For reasons that never made any sense to me, some of the later broadcasts included the songs in a different order. It may have had something to do with the King Biscuit Broadcast, as perhaps the master tape got re-edited somehow.

New Year's Eve 76 cd
Rhino Records released a 3-cd set of the New Year's Eve Cow Palace show from 1976. The Santana set from that night can be heard on Concert Vault.


  1. There were originally two shows booked at the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh, one of which I purchased tickets for. Ultimately the shows were cancelled, either to add/expand the Chicago run or because Pittsburgh sales were too low. Or maybe both.

    1. Mike, this is fascinating. Were the tickets mail order? I had no idea there were canceled shows on the Summer mini-tour.

    2. Corry: At the end of the June 12, 1976 WBCN broadcast, there is an announcement of the cancelled Pittsburgh show about 2:55 in to the track

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  3. great post, thanks. Aaron Russo's Chicago club was actually called the Electric Theater, and later the Kinetic Playground

    1. whoops. Bad typo. Thanks for catching it, I fixed the post.

      More of the story here:

  4. June 26-29, 1976 Auditorium Theater, Chicago, IL: Grateful Dead (Saturday-Tuesday)
    Broadcast: Tuesday, June 29, 1976,WXRT-fm, Chicago
    The Chicago promoter was probably Aaron Russo, who had promoted the band back during the Electric Theater/Kinetic Playground days in the 1960s.

    The promoter was Flipside and John Scher Presents.

    1. Thanks for this. I updated the post. Any idea of the corporate associations of Flipside? Was Aaron Russo involved with them (I know he was managing Better Midler at the time, but maybe Flipside was a successor)?

  5. Hey Corry. The shows scheduled for the Syria Mosque (a great venue now a parking lot)in Pittsburgh in late June 1976 were mail order only. I was stoked and ordered tickets for one night and was disappointed when they cancelled (but probably would have missed it anyway because of work). The shows were cancelled for the reasons cited by Mike Kolesar. Pittsburgh's WDVE 102.5 FM played Steal Your Face at midnight on the day it was released. June 26th sounds right after all these years. Not a big point, but I remember the Orpheum King Biscuit broadcast being in October or early November, shortly after my first GD show on 9/25/76. KBFH was always on Sunday night at least in the Pittsburgh area. I still have the tape which I labeled "Bicentennial Dead" because of all the hoopla associated with the Bicentennial that summer. Fun stuff as always.

  6. 6/26-29/76
    Promoter Flipside (Arny Granat and Carl Rosenbaum, who also own the Flipside record store chain with his brother Larry Rosenbaum)/John Scher Presents.

    6/28/76-First and only performance of Happiness Is Drumming, which evolved into Fire On The Mountain.[1]

    1.)^The Deadlists Project,

  7. Chi Concert Promoters Indicted,+chicago&source=bl&ots=xecTxeYAWG&sig=Bbq-k-xInPARBLO4M9-pm26ewLw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwidgoKK8rzMAhVY2WMKHUuUCCcQ6AEIOzAG#v=onepage&q=flipside%20productions%2C%20chicago&f=false

  8. I noticed that in contrast to other posts in the FM Broadcasts series, not much is said here about the funding for the radio broadcasts.
    I think it's assumed that United Artists covered the June shows, and Arista 12/31/76.

    Unlike 1971, I think the details about the Dead's financing in '76 are pretty vague - McNally says little - so UA's involvement is rather shadowy.
    UA had a deal to distribute the Dead's records, and were able to demand product by certain deadlines, but I don't know how much they did in the way of promotion. It's possible that UA execs learned that another Dead live album was coming out and had visions of the success of 1971 happening again, and so splurged on ads and radio shows. But I don't really know how the process went. (How much UA would've made on Steal Your Face as the distributor is a subject for further research.)

    Also unlike 1971, by '76 there was more of a tradition of live shows being broadcast on the radio - the King Biscuit Flower Hour, for one - and the Dead were touring less extensively, so they only broadcast six shows (versus over a dozen in '71), a smaller investment.
    The Dead seem to have been taking things cautiously - in the few big cities & small theaters they chose, I don't think they had any fears of not selling out; instead, I think the radio broadcasts were meant to help keep the hordes of ticketless gate-crashers away from the shows. (From what I recall, the Beacon Theater shows in NYC - which weren't broadcast - had the biggest crowd problems.)
    Of course, the Dead were also aware of the promotional aspects of the "free" radio shows, aimed as much at curious listeners who weren't trying to get into the shows.
    By the fall, the Dead returned to a more normal touring schedule, and in '77 they limited themselves to only four radio broadcasts. (Their finances were also presumably restored once they signed with Arista, since they were able to go for six months in late '76/early '77 without touring.)

  9. I think your point is well-taken that the 1976 broadcasts were far more low key than the 1971 shows. However, they still weren't free.

    I don't doubt that UA put forward far less money than WB had a few years earlier, but it's important to remember that the Dead were quite literally broke. If UA hadn't have fronted a little money, the Dead had no other sources of support.

  10. A interesting analysis, as always. A few notes. The old vocal stack from the wall of sound may have been used at the Orpheum, but I don't remember seeing it used during the regular tour. My recollection from the Chicago shows is that the PA was conventional for the time in every way. They may have used some of the WOS speakers for guitars, including Jerry's stack, but not for the PA. Also, the fall tour didn't just visit the midwest, recall the show from William and Mary on 9/24/76-- definitely part of the east coast.