Tuesday, September 15, 2009

August 1, 1969 Bear's Lair, UC Berkeley: Jerry Garcia backing Marmaduke

This concert at the Bear's Lair Coffee House on the UC Berkeley Campus (at Bancroft and Telegraph, in the basement of the ASUC building) was apparently the first 'true' concert of the New Riders of The Purple Sage. John "Marmaduke" Dawson, Jerry Garcia and David Nelson had played a Hofbrau in Menlo Park in May, and had done a few songs at various concerts around town. They attempted to perform two weeks earlier at a Grateful Dead appearance at a Hells Angels Party at Longshoreman's Hall, but equipment problems scuttled that performance.

The story goes that Garcia was asked the name of the band for this gig and replied, "The Murdering Punks!" True or not, it was after this that Robert Hunter was assigned to come up with a name for the band. The first actual appearance of the name "New Riders Of The Purple Sage" appears later in the month, at a concert at The Family Dog (unless you are confident that the Seattle poster with their name on it is original).

In a 2009 interview with Blair Jackson, David Nelson suggests that Grateful Dead Bob Matthews played bass with the New Riders for these gigs. If that is the case, then these would probably be his only performances with the band. Both Robert Hunter and Bob Matthews rehearsed with the New Riders, but Hunter never actually performed with them, and Hunter implied that Matthews did not either. In any case--besides the fact that an under-rehearsed Phil Lesh is better than most anyone else, anyway--Bob Matthews was the Grateful Dead's soundman, and could hardly have left his post to go play with the Riders, so any gigs had to be very intermittent.


  1. Corry, do you think the NRPS (whatever they might have been called) played at the 7/16 Hells Angels thing? Your quote from Blair in the original post implies that they did (if poorly), while here you say that equipment problems prevented them from playing. Thoughts?

    Also, reading that Nelson interview, it doesn't sound like Hunter was assigned the task of finding a name, as much as he just came up with one.

  2. I think the New Riders played the 7/16/69 Hells Angels gig to the extent they came on stage and played some songs. Since my only knowledge of the gig was a comment (via Blair's website) that the gig was "shambolic" or words to that effect, I assume they played a few numbers, waited for a fix to some problems, and eventually gave up, or something like that. I've got to assume that with a bunch of rowdy Hells Angels, at a certain point the Dead needed to come onstage and let it rip. I have always assumed that the Bears Lair was the first "real" gig in the sense it didn't get interrupted.

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