Thursday, August 8, 2019

7/3/69 Reed’s Ranch

Guest Post by Dr. Beechwood
1969 was a massive touring year for the Dead. They played about 140 shows and toured across the country multiple times. In the Bay Area, they played favorite venues such as the Fillmore West, Avalon Ballroom, and Winterland, and they generally played “underground” club shows in other parts of the country, such as the Ark in Boston, the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, the Kinetic Factory in Chicago, and of course the Fillmore East in New York City. They also played a number of college ballrooms, including the University of Arizona, University of Utah, Purdue, University of Oregon, and the University of Colorado (on April 13, 1969). And, on the other end of the crowd-size spectrum, Woodstock on August 16. The summer of 1969 began with two nights at the Fillmore East (6/20 and 6/21), a free show in New York City’s Central Park on 6/22 , then two shows in Santa Rosa (6/27 and 6/28). The show listed in Deadlists.com at The Barn in Rio Nido on 6/29 was, as we know thanks to some detective work by Corry, the main proprietor of this blog, likely just a jam session with Jerry and Hot Tuna and others.

A bit more than 50 years ago, on July 3, the Dead returned to Colorado for their second show of the year in the Rocky Mountain State (after the 4/13 CU-Boulder show). But this venue was not a university ballroom—it was “Reed’s Ranch” in Colorado Springs, located about a two-hour drive south of Boulder and 60 miles south of Denver. According to local Steve Schmitt in an article published in the Colorado Springs Independent , "It had a really small stage, and it was actually inside a rodeo barn, so it kind of smelled like horses and cattle." Colorado Springs is the location of Colorado College, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and more recently, a significant number of conservative religious institutions. The venue may have been chosen partly because Bob Weir went to high school for his sophomore year in 1962-1963 in the town of Fountain Valley, located about 10 miles to the southeast of Colorado Springs. This is where he met his collaborator John Barlow. In fact, according to the Colorado Springs Independent , he returned in 2015 for the 50th Anniversary of his classmates (who would have graduated in 1965) and actually played with a local band, in addition to playing (with a borrowed guitar?) Me and My Uncle with some of his friends at the event.

The actual ranch no longer exists, as the modern town of Colorado Springs now has a population of nearly 500,000, whereas in 1969 it was less than 200,000. There is a neighborhood located about 10 miles northwest of downtown called “Reed Ranch” (population 836), thus it’s likely that the original ranch was sold and subdivided for residences. This location is consistent with the hand-drawn map that was on the poster (see above), as well as a comment in a short Reddit thread from a Colorado Springs local who said it was near Centennial Road.

The concert was on a Thursday night starting at 8:30 pm, according to the poster, and tickets were $4.00. Another band on the bill for this show was Alice Cooper. I don’t know if they played together other times, but at this point, the band “Alice Cooper” had been together since they formed in high school in 1966. In 1969, their music was more psychedelic than their classic rock material of the 1970’s. Their first album was released on June 25, 1969, only a week before this concert, and it came out under Frank Zappa’s “Straight Records” label. According to jerrygarcia.com , other bands on the bill were Zephyr, a Boulder band formed in 1969 by Tommy Bolin (later of the James Gang and Deep Purple), the “Holden Caulfield Blues Band” and Devin Mikles (or Deven Michaels), a solo act , according to a post by user “Devin Mikles” on Dead.net.

Somone with username “MFP Productions” (SEE UPDATE BELOW) on archive.org wrote that he was part of the promotion team who set up this concert. He mentions picking up Owsley, who was still the Dead’s soundman at the time, at the Denver airport and bringing him to the show. He (Duane) stated that ticketless fans broke through the doors after the music started, so they opened them up (presumably to avoid a riot, likely because security measures were “informal”). He said that some of these interlopers were local cowboys, who came in to start causing trouble (“rednecks kicking hippie’s asses” was a common occurrence back then). But after the Dead opened with Green Green Grass of Home, a country song made popular by Porter Wagoner, he said the cowboys mellowed out and “all was cool”.

The promoters apparently lost a lot of money, but at least it was a memorable evening. Eyewitness accounts from the 60’s can be suspect, but another poster on Archive, “Doc Holliday987”, was at the show, and says that it was “a mini-Woodstock” in a large barn. He writes that the Dead came on around 3 am and that fans were there until nearly dawn. Another person is quoting his friend “Glenn” who stated that Jerry was "out of it" and that Phil had to tune his guitar. I’m skeptical. In any case, the Dead only played about 10 songs, and the entire set (that is known from the recording) lasts about an hour and a half. Archive.org poster (“Mind Wondrin”) mentions that the Dead were kicked out of a Ramada Inn in Colorado Springs when Pigpen smashed a cigarette machine.

The band at this time consisted of Jerry, Bob, and Phil, Pigpen and Tom Constanten on keyboards, and the two drummers. It’s the same lineup that appears on Live Dead which was recorded at several shows in the Spring. But the repertoire had changed since early ’69, with the addition of some relatively new cover tunes that they played during this show, such as Green Green Grass of Home (debut 5/31/69 Eugene OR) and Slewfoot (debut 6/11/69). There’s a great recording online, and the music speaks for itself, so I’m not going to do a detailed show review. Highlights include Morning Dew, High Time, and He Was a Friend of Mine. If you want to read some commentary about the show, check out the "Rock the Body Electric blog or just listen to the Archive.org recording (by Bear?) mastered by Charlie Miller: https://archive.org/details/gd1969-07-03.sbd.miller.92771.sbeok.flac16 or https://archive.org/details/gd1969-07-03.132377.sbd.miller.flac16 

Setlist: 
Green Green Grass of Home
Slewfoot
Sittin’ on Top of the World
Morning Dew
High Time
Me and My Uncle
Casey Jones
Hard to Handle
He Was a Friend of Mine
Lovelight

Postscript: If you’re interested in another one of my guest posts on a different Dead Blog, check out the Grateful Dead Song Chart, which shows every time they played one of their original songs.

Update 10:20 am on 8/8/19: One of the promoters of the show, Duane Washchuck, just called me to discuss his memories of the event. He moved to the Haight in the summer 1968 and said that he saw a free Dead show that summer. Based on info from the Grateful Dead guide, it was likely the 6/1/68 Panhandle show. By 1969 he was living in Colorado Springs and he says that he and his friends were the first hippies in the area, living in the area near Cheyenne Mountain and Rock Creek. Together with about four of his friends, all in their early 20's, they formed a production company called "MFP Productions", the acronym stands for "Mother F'ing Punks". He said they would do light shows and body painting at a music venue called "Kelker Junction", and he mentioned The Who as one of the bands he saw there. According to this Facebook page, The Who played one show there on August 18, 1968.

One of the MFP guys was named Eddie Shackleton, and he knew some people in the Dead organization. He was apparently responsible for landing the gig. Because the Dead were driving out to Chicago for the July 4-5 shows, they decided to add this show for the night before. Given that it today it's a 14 hour drive from Colorado Springs to Chicago, and that they were playing until dawn, it's amazing that the band made it to Chicago on time and were in any condition to play that night! The MFP guys painted a bread truck with info about the show and drove it around the area. But because of the lack of security, they lost a bunch of money on the gig when the doors opened and people flooded into the venue. Duane said that the the barn was packed and that he estimates 300-400 hippies and cowboys were in attendance. Duane doesn't remember much about the show, understandably, but did remember climbing into the rafters of the Barn to plug in the main power after someone had unplugged a cord. Duane said, "It was such an honor to be a part of this experience."

Thanks to Duane for sharing these memories, and he requests that if any of the MFP guys reads this, to get in touch with him via email at duane.azre@hotmail.com.

And thanks to Corry for letting me contribute to Lost Live Dead!


2 comments:

  1. Google tells us, "driving time from Chicago, IL to Colorado Springs, CO. The total driving time is 15 hours, 28 minutes." Not sure about speed limits and road conditions in 1969, but how did they play so late and make that trip in time? And played well in Chicago no less.

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  2. A welcome guest post on a long-dead blog!

    It's curious how late the Dead went on; one attendee on setlists.net also reports that "the Dead stopped playing just before first light." Perhaps the show was loosely organized without much concern for time, or bands were running late! (With Owsley present, any kind of delay was possible...)

    As far as the trip to Chicago the next day, perhaps the band flew and the roadies drove, which was the routine on other tours.
    They did an equivalent feat a few days later, playing in Atlanta the night of July 7, then in Toronto on July 8 - another 14 or 15-hour drive. I presume the Dead took a plane!

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