Sunday, July 12, 2009

June 29, 1969 The Barn, Rio Nido: Grateful Dead (canceled show?)

A widely circulated poster features The Grateful Dead headlining three nights over “Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady and Joey Covington” and the Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band. The first two nights (Friday and Saturday June 27-28, 1969)were scheduled for the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, and the last night (Sunday June 29, 1969) at The Barn in Rio Nido. Rio Nido is a small community near Guerneville, in the remote Northwest corner of Sonoma County. The Rio Nido Barn is often confused with The Barn in Scotts Valley (near Santa Cruz), but I believe it was a tiny place previously known as The Rio Nido Dance Hall.

Jorma and Jack did not yet use the name Hot Tuna for their local gigs, and this gig with Covington was an early, electric iteration ot Tuna. The Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band were a locally popular Berkeley band, who had released one album on Vanguard in 1968. I have written extensively about their history elsewhere. As part of that research, CGSB harmonica player Brian Voorheis recalls these gigs very clearly, for a variety of memorable reasons.

After the Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Bands had two memorable nights in Santa Rosa (drummer Tom Ralston stood in for Mickey Hart for a few numbers on June 27, and Jerry Garcia played pedal steel with CGSB on the next night), the CGSB had a long drive back to Berkeley, still buzzing with excitement. Voorheis pointed out (in a personal email) that the Rio Nido gig on Sunday night was probably canceled, since his band would have stayed in Sonoma, or at least recalled a long drive to Rio Nido on Sunday afternoon. After such a memorable pair of gigs, a third night would not have passed unnoticed, so it seems more likely the third gig was canceled.

It is possible that the Dead played Rio Nido without supporting acts—the venue was so tiny that they wouldn’t have needed help to sell it out—but its just as likely that the third night made no financial sense for the promoter. Apparently, according to Deadlists, the announcer mentions the Rio Nido show at the conclusion of the previous night’s show, so its hardly a foregone conclusion, but CGSB’s experience at least raises the possibility the show never occurred.


  1. Deadlists is incorrect about the stage announcement at the end of 6/28/69.
    6/28 was a very short show (about 70 minutes), even shorter than 6/27, so presumably the Dead started late and had a strict time cutoff. As the audience clamors for more, the announcer explains that the Santa Rosa police won't let the show go past midnight: "I'm sure they'd like to play all night, but we have to stop now.... There'll be a jam session tomorrow night, in the afternoon, 8:00, they'll be here."

    I don't know whether to believe him. If it was the Family Dog, I could see the Dead showing up at an unscheduled Sunday jam session - but a Santa Rosa auditorium?
    At any rate, Rio Nido is only some 20 miles away, so this doesn't really answer whether the show at the Barn was cancelled. The poster conspicuously lacks any show times - theoretically the Dead could have played both places in one day. Or possibly, the third show was just held in Santa Rosa instead?

    1. The esoteric issue of June 29 '69 has been answered by the stage announcements at the end of the Kaukonen/Casady/Covington set released by the Owsley Stanley Foundation (Before We Were Them, recorded Jun 28 '69, released December 2018 and highly recommended).

      The electric set of Casady/Kaukonen/Casady appears to have ended the show on June 28. The announcer thanks them, and then adds (rather loosely transcribed):

      "This got in the papers by mistake, that we were going to do a jam session tomorrow, but then we decided to do it. We are going to hold a little jam session up at Rio Nido tomorrow night. Jorma and Jack will be there, and Jerry Garcia and some others, and the band Weird Herald."

      Weird Herald features Jorma's old pals from the South Bay, the guitarists Paul Ziegler and Billy Dean Andrus. So it sounds like the Rio Nido event did happen, but it wasn't a Dead show, but rather more of a jam. I hope Jerry got to jam with Billy Dean.

    2. Isn't it great when a stage announcer tells us exactly what we want to know?

  2. Is The Barn the same place as the Dance Hall?