Friday, July 10, 2009

June 4, 1978 Campus Stadium, UC Santa Barbara, Isla Vista, CA: Elvin Bishop with Jerry Garcia

The Grateful Dead headlined a show at UCSB. The supporting acts were Warren Zevon and Elvin Bishop, as at the time the Dead themselves were not enough a draw to fill even a small stadium in Santa Barbara.

I was in college in Berkeley at the time, and friends drove down for the show. I cross examinde them upon their return the next day, and one very observant friend mentioned that Jerry Garcia came onstage and played a blues song with Elvin Bishop, taking a brief and unmemorable solo. I have never read any mention about this since, but I am absolutely confident that my friend (hi Mitch) did not imagine it, so I am posting it here.

When Elvin Bishop left Chicago and the Butterfield Blues Band to move to San Francisco in May 1968, he appeared on stage regularly with Garcia and the Dead for the next year. As his own career took off in the 1970s, his hectic touring schedule meant that he rarely crossed paths with the Dead. Thus it is not surprising that a rare instance of appearing on the same bill with the Dead would engender a Garcia guest appearance.

Although Bishop has always affected an “aw shucks” country-boy persona, he is a very sophisticated guitarist who always has a top-flight band. I do not know if Melvin Seals was his organist in 1978, but he definitely was by 1979, and future Bob Dylan and Garcia Band drummer Don Baldwin was already Bishop’s drummer.


  1. A correspondent has sent me a (copyrighted) photo of Jerry Garcia playing with the Elvin Bishop Group from this show. Jerry, playing his Tiger guitar, can be seen next to Bishop guitarist Johnny Vernazza, so all of this really happened.

    I'm still waiting to find out what song Jerry played on.

  2. My notes say this: "Garcia plugs in for one blues number with Elvin's bandL 'Goin' Fishin'"

    I list the following sources:
    Golden Road #11 (Summer 1986), p. 33;

  3. Thanks for the details. I love the internet.

  4. Waku (Not sure i spelled that right?) was the opening act.

  5. Bob, thanks, I had completely blanked on the opening act. The spelling was indeed weird--something like "The Big Wha-Koo"

  6. I recall the lead guitar for Waku was dressed in a white satin jumpsuit and his rock star persona was over the top. LOL Who was that guy? Seemed even more ridiculous when the one of the Hell's Angels rode a bike up on stage during NFA, on mic.

    I don't recall Jerry onstage with Elvin Bishop but if he was, wasn't it the first time he played with Melvin Seals and Donny Baldwin?

    "I got with Elvin Bishop for about 6 years and had the hit 'Fooled Around And Fell In Love'(1976) and that was the height of that. But that was how I met Maria Maladur. I did some work with Maria and at that time John Kahn (bassist for the Garcia Band) was her boyfriend. That’s where John heard me and offered me the opportunity to come over and play with the other band.”
    Melvin played with the Jerry Garcia Band from 1980 until Jerry’s death in 1995."(1)

    Here's a video of Elvin Bishop Band from 1978 and a much thinner Melvin is there. He shows up at the :07 mark
    and the 2:10 thru 2:32 mark.
    Donnie Baldwin sings at the drums in this one.

    1.)^Warner, Ross, 2005-03-29, Melvin Seals: Keeping The Circle Unbroken

  7. According to a poster for the Rio Theater, David Palmer of Steely Dan was in The Big Wha-Koo.

  8. Sounds like quite a time. Via, poster peetstr50, 2/27/2013, URL

    The lineup that day at the UCSB football stadium was to be first a local reggae rock band - I believe they were called Waa Koo and they were quite good- , followed by Warren Zevon, then the Elvin Bishop Group and then the Grateful Dead.

    But after the local band played there was a little bit of a wait followed by Elvin Bishop, NOT Warren Zevon. (?) Then after Elvin Bishop put on a down-home kickass performance, he says "Stick around, were gonna have a little jam session with Jerry Garcia and the local boys." Members of Waa Koo, The Elvin Bishop Group and Jerry Garcia played for about 30-40 minutes. Lots of fun!

    But then there was a kinda long wait. And Warren Zevon's band took the stage. Then Warren came out and he was VERY very drunk. And he proceeded to be abusive and disrespectful to the audience.

    And now you know why Warren Zevon was booed off the stage at the UCSB football stadium back in June 1978

  9. Oh yeah, and does anyone have a tape of the Elvin Bishop and/or Warren Zevon sets that they might be willing to share? I'd like to hear them for myself.

    1. Looking for the same Audio, were you able to ever get a hand on a copy?

  10. I had a monitor board cassette of the Elvin Bishop- Jerry Garcia jam from this show but it went missing several years ago. I was the bass player in Whakoo and played Elvin's encore With Garcia and a few other guys from my band. The tune was "Right Now Is The Hour" that Elvin created with Whakoo at The Catalyst in San Jose about a week before the Santa Barbara show. Them's the facts.

  11. Thanks Eric! Do you recall if Melvin Seals (Elvin's keyboard player) took part in the jam?

    Someone told me (from long ago memory) that the song "Fishin Blues" was part of the jam. Could Elvin have interpolated those lyrics that into the song you described? It sounds like the kind of thing Elvin would do, take a bluesy tune and stick in some lyrics that fit from another song.

  12. Man, that is great, thanks for sharing.

    There is supposedly an audience recording out and about, but I have never been able to hear it.

  13. Eric Gotthelf, can you say more about who was on stage for the jam? As I understand it now, there were three of you Whakoo guys onstage: yourself, guitarist Chuck Cochran, and singer Dave Palmer. Is that right?

  14. fwiw, Deadbase has an eyewitness review of this show by Mike Dolgushkin which confirms all of this info. He mentions an aud tape and discusses Garcia and Whakoo's guitarist joining Bishop for his encore (apparently he didn't notice that other two Whakoo members).