Tuesday, July 21, 2009
October 13, 1967 Modesto, CA--Lost Gig, or Forgotten Biker Gang?
This remarkable news article (left) from the Modesto Bee of Monday, October 16, 1967, suggests two possible interpretations, both intriguing:
1) The Grateful Dead played a gig in Modesto on the weekend of October 13-14, and some trouble happened at a house party following the gig, or
2) There was a Modesto biker gang called The Grateful Dead
Let's consider the first possibility, which is the function of this blog.
In 1967, The Dead, though underground legends with an album on Warners Brothers, were quite broke. The best gigs--often the only gigs--were on weekends, and they tried not to leave weekends unbooked. On Saturday, October 14, they played the Continental Ballroom in San Jose. This begs the question of whether they had a Friday night gig. While its hardly certain that they did, generally speaking a broke rock band struggles to book a gig every Friday and Saturday night.
Modesto, California is about 90 miles East of San Francisco. Although not a large city in its own right, it is the center of commerce for an extensive agricultural industry that includes Gallo Wines and Blue Diamond Almonds. While hardly a center for the arts, Modesto has always been an out-of-town gig for San Francisco performers, and many 60s rock bands played one nighters in Modesto (as an aside, Quicksilver's Gary Duncan came from Ceres, a small town outside of Modesto). Its very plausible that the Dead would play a Friday night in Modesto. Venues included The Strand Theater (Van Morrison and Them played there August 23, 1966), the Modesto Skating Rink (The Doors played there on April 6, 1967) or the California Ballroom.
Following this logic, if the Dead played a Friday night gig (on October 13, 1967) in Modesto, and there was the inevitable party afterwards, perhaps some nastiness made the insular local police assume that "The Grateful Dead" were San Francisco troublemakers who were little different than the local gangs who hung out in Modesto, and perhaps they were correct. While--obviously--I don't believe Bob Weir and Mountain Girl were duking it out with local hoodlums, a 4am fistfight at a post show party, between locals and city hoodlums might very well be blamed on the only attendees with a "name", even if band members left the party hours before. 1967 Modesto was just naive enough that the Dead might have appeared like a gang to local police, no doubt to the pleasure of all the skinny, cautious band members.
The other hypothesis, very delicious but outside the scope of this blog, is that a Modesto Biker Gang called themselves "The Grateful Dead" instead of "Lucifer's Losers." That would be too, too awesome--I'd love to see the gang's colors, but its probably too much to hope for...