Sunday, September 6, 2009

North To San Francisco: The Warlocks in The South Bay, 1965

View Warlocks-Grateful Dead: South Bay 1965 in a larger map

The Warlocks formed out of the remnants of Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Band in Palo Alto, and played their first gigs in Menlo Park on May 5 of that year. By December of 1965, they had changed their name to the Grateful Dead and played the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. Any band that forms in the suburbs has plans to make it big in "The City," but The Warlocks actually pulled it off. This post views the early Warlocks gigs as a geographical procession towards San Francisco. I have made a few concessions (which I will acknowledge) to illustrate my point, but it is a fair analysis to say that the stakes get bigger for bands as they get nearer the center of the action, and The Dead met the challenge.

Very little information survives about the Warlock's earliest gigs. Dennis McNally and Blair Jackson have done the best work in ferreting out memories of their earliest days, but actual details--dates, setlists, and so forth--are hard to come by. Some of the venues that The Warlocks played at are known, however, and some sense of the Warlocks development can be discerned from considering the standing of these forgotten outposts. For those not intimately familiar with South Bay geography, I have included a Google Map (above) marking the Dead's progress up The Peninsula. The map itself shows a steady Northward progression from Palo Alto, then a sleepy college town, to increasingly busy clubs near San Francisco International Airport, and finally to San Francisco itself, a geographic actualization of the Dead's musical and cultural transformation as they moved from Palo Alto to The City.

This post represents the best distillation of the limited information available to me at the time. Anyone with additonal facts, insights, corrections or recovered memories (real or imagined) please include them in the comments or email me.

The Top Of The Tangent, 117 University Avenue, Palo Alto

Downtown Palo Alto in 1965, where The Warlocks formed, had become a tiny bohemian outpost because it was kind of empty. The nearby Stanford Shopping Center had sucked the life out of downtown,  so housing was cheap and businesses few. As folkies, some members of The Warlocks had played a few of the coffee houses, but the main port of call for Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Band Champions was The Top Of The Tangent, at 117 University. The Tangent was a pizza parlor, and The Top Of The Tangent was a coffee shop on the top floor where folk musicians played and hung out. Mother McCree's debuted there in about June 1964, and most of their gigs were probably there.

Peninsula YMCA, 240 El Camino Real, Redwood City (January 16, 1965)

The Jug Band definitely played a few other places, such as The Off Stage in San Jose, but one of their last gigs was at a  "Hootenanny" at the Peninsula YMCA in Redwood City, on January 16, 1965 (there is a chance they played one final gig a few weeks later at College Of San Mateo). Redwood City was a few miles up the road on El Camino Real, the main "Strip" of the South Bay Peninsula.

El Camino Real (literally "The King's Road") was an extension of Mission Boulevard in San Francisco, and it went through the center of every town from South San Francisco to Santa Clara (originally a trail connecting Mission San Francisco to Mission Santa Clara). As a result, the El Camino Real was the main commercial strip for every town along the way. By day, stores on El Camino sold washing machines, automobiles or insurance; by night people went to movies, restaurants, bars and nightclubs there. Each town on the Peninsula had its differences from the others, but all of them looked somewhat similar from the vantage point of El Camino Real.

Magoo's Pizza, 635 Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park (May 5, 12, 19 & 26, 1965)

The Warlocks formed in early 1965 because Mother McRee's had run out of gigs--Jug Bands seemed to be "over" in the South Bay, but electric blues and R&B, like The Rolling Stones played, was starting to come to life. The very first gig the Warlocks played was on May 5, 1965 at Magoo's pizza parlor in Menlo Park, at 635 Santa Cruz Avenue, just off the El Camino. The Warlocks played every Wednesday night in May at Magoo's. Most of the audience were High School students from nearby Menlo-Atherton High, or junior college students from equally near Menlo College. Santa Cruz Avenue was near Kepler's Books, a local bohemian hangout, and just a long walk from downtown Palo Alto, but a bunch of local High School and College kids were a lot more than had seen the Jug Band.

Frenchy's, 29027 Mission Boulevard, Hayward (June 18, 1965)

The Warlocks replaced their bass player, Dana Morgan Jr, with Phil Lesh, and played a gig on June 18 at Frenchy's, in Hayward. I have discussed this previously. This gig did not go well, and they were terminated after a day. The Warlocks seemed to have retreated to rehearse and lick their wounds. Since Dana Morgan Jr's father owned the music store that they borrowed equipment from, Garcia and Weir got jobs instead at Guitars Unlimited in Menlo Park, also on El Camino Real.

[This one known deviation from the Warlocks march up El Camino Real has been left off my map, because it made the map hard to read. I don't think this is a major point (crypto-Hegelians should email me for a detailed exposition on Hayward as Antithesis), but I wanted to acknowledge that I am aware I left something off]

Cinnamon Tree, 900 American Way, San Carlos (August 1965)

In August, The Warlocks renewed their assault on the world, this time with more success, although it may not have seemed that way at the time.They had a booking agent, Al King, who booked numerous acts into El Camino Real clubs, so even though the band was low on the totem pole, at least they had started to climb it.

The Cinnamon Tree opened in July 1965 as a "teen" club, with no liquor served (though no doubt plenty was consumed). The idea was to give teenagers something to do, particularly on weekends. The club was located on an industrial road between El Camino and the Bayshore Freeway. Since it featured teen audiences, one of the popular bills was a "Battle Of The Bands" were numerous groups played a song or two, hoping to win a cash prize (thus insuring that each band's friends came to the show). The Illustrated Trip places Warlocks gig(s) at The Cinnamon Tree in August.

Blair Jackson (in his fine 1999 book Garcia: An American Life) quotes Mike Shapiro, lead guitarist for a South Bay band called William Penn And His Pals, who says "we used to Battle Of The Bands with [The Warlocks] at The Cinnamon Tree...we actually lost to them and I thought they were the sh*ts"(p.70). Its not clear from Shapiro's context if they played one or several Battles with The Warlocks, but its clear they played. While "Battle Of The Bands" judging was notoriously suspect, for The Warlocks to win, it must have meant that rowdy, raggedy blues had some incipient following on the Peninsula.

Big Al's Gashouse, 4301 El Camino Real, San Mateo (August 1965)
Big Al's Gashouse was a pizza-and-beer joint, affiliated with similarly named places in North Beach and around the Bay Area (there really was a "Big Al"). Big Al's was another pizza place, like The Tangent or Magoo's, but at least it was connected to the City, if not really part of it. The exact date of the Warlocks gig (or gigs) is unknown, but McNally and Jackson (in The Illustrated Trip) place it in August.

Big Al's Gashouse burned down in January 1966. It was eventually replaced by a suburban hipster bar called The Trip, which opened in November 1966, but by that time the Warlocks were very far past that road.

There was also a Big Al's Gashouse in Palo Alto, at 4335 El Camino Real (next to the bowling alley). I know that live bands performed there, but it was a pizza and beer joint, not a topless place. It closed around 1968. I'm not sure which Big Al's The Warlocks may have played in--possibly both of them.

Fireside Lounge, 2322 El Camino Real, San Mateo (August 1965)

The Fireside Lounge was run more on the Las Vegas model, if without the gambling. There was dinner and drinks to go with the dancing, sometimes a floor show, or topless dancers late at night. The object for a band was to keep people dancing so that they would buy drinks. I have written about the Fireside Lounge elsewhere, albeit with respect to another band.

According to McNally and Jackson in The Illustrated Trip, The Warlocks played one or a few gigs at The Fireside Lounge in August of 1965. It was probably a sort of "audition" gig, but the band didn't return there, to my knowledge.

The In Room, El Camino Real, Belmont (mid-September to late October 1965)

The In Room was a popular nightclub in Belmont, although I have not yet been able to identify the exact location (on the map, I located it El Camino Real and Ralston Avenue, a principal intersection the business strip, and The In Room was certainly near there). McNally describes it as
a heavy hitting divorcee's pick-up joint, the sort of swinging bar where real-estate salesmen chased stewardesses and single women got plenty of free drinks. Dark, with red and black as the color scheme, it was the kind of place that sold almost nothing but hard liquor (p.88)
The Warlocks were booked at the In Room for six weeks, from mid-September until late October of 1965. They played five 50-minute sets a night, five nights a week. 150 sets later, The Warlocks were a real band. The first week they had backed The Coasters for a set each night, but for the balance of the run they covered the gig themselves. They would start out playing almost straight-up, but as they got higher and the night got looser, their playing got more "barbaric." Oddly enough, they started to build their own audience of nascent freaks, who would show up for the later sets, distinctly different than the hard-drinking pick up crowd. One night, for example, a band of Tacoma transplants called The Frantics ended up hanging out there, which is how Moby Grape guitarist Jerry Miller and Jerry Garcia first met.

The In Room was in Belmont, half way between Palo Alto and San Francisco. The Warlocks had played a little further up the El Camino (The Fireside and Big Al's), but the In Room stood for a mid-point. The Warlocks were a real band making real money (if not a lot), but they were still doing their own thing and finding their own audience, so they were half way there.

An ad for the In-Room at The Chalet, a hotel at 635 Old County Road in Belmont. This ad was from the Friday, February 12, 1966 edition of the San Mateo Times
Update: Fellow scholar Dave Sorochty tracked down a contemporary ad for The In-Room, in the San Mateo Times (from February 12, 1966). The hotel was called The Chalet (see the picture above), and the lounge was called the In-Room. The actual address was 635 Old County Road. Note in the ad that the host is Rich Romanello; about a year later, Romanello was running a nearby club called Winchester Cathedral, and he promoted the initial incarnation of the groundbreaking Sly And The Family Stone. 

[There is some general talk that The Warlocks played some High School dances in the South Bay in Fall 1965. It is possible, but its important to remember that in the 60s and 70s everybody in the South Bay had a Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia story, and most of them were wishful thinking. Every High School had a story about how the Dead played there back in the day, or Jerry Garcia went there, and they can't all of been true. Supposedly the Warlocks played Palo Alto High School on September 19, 1965, but it has been impossible to confirm this]

Pierre's, Broadway at Columbus, San Francisco (early November 1965)

At some point, The Warlocks made Phil Lesh's former roommate, Hank Harrison, into their manager. Harrison did very little for the group in his brief tenure. One gig he did get them was playing at a topless joint on North Beach called Pierre's. Pierre's, on the corner of Broadway in Columbus, the same corner as City Lights Bookstore, had been a popular Latin Jazz nightspot in the early 1960s. As topless joints took over Broadway, Pierre's went topless as well, but the club was fading.

Topless dancing in the 1960s was considerably tamer than strip clubs today. The Warlocks had at least intermittently backed topless dancers at The In Room. Club owners didn't care what weirdness a band played as long as they kept the beat going, so topless clubs were a chance for fledgling bands to work on  their chops.

The Warlocks played a brief and unsuccessful stint at Pierre's in early November of 1965. A friend of the band wandered in (I believe it was Peter Albin) and found them playing to a nearly empty house. The Warlocks had made it to San Francisco, but they were in a club that was past its prime, where music wasn't even the main attraction.

The gig wasn't a complete bust, however. While in San Francisco, they made a demo on November 3, 1965, for Autumn Records, San Francisco's leading independent label. At this time, the band was worried that there were other bands called The Warlocks, and was experimenting with different names, and the demo is colloquially known by the name The Emergency Crew. The material was eventually released on Birth Of The Dead in 2003.

Parallel to the commercial fortunes of The Warlocks, the band had been hanging out with Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. In their new incarnation as The Grateful Dead, they had begun playing Acid Tests with the Pranksters (remember, LSD was legal until October 6, 1966). The band was unbilled, since The Acid Tests themselves were only cryptically advertised. I have not dwelt on the underground side of the story, since it has been so well covered by Tom Wolfe and others. During this period, however, after some band members attended a private event in Soquel (at Ken Babbs's spread), the band played an Acid Test at a house in San Jose on December 4 (near downtown).

Fillmore Auditorium, 1805 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco (December 10, 1965)

By early December, The Warlocks were officially The Grateful Dead, although they were still known as The Warlocks. On December 10, 1965, they played the second Mime Troupe Benefit, which was the second Bill Graham production and the first Bill Graham event at the Fillmore. On the bill were two of the leading San Francisco "underground" bands, The Jefferson Airplane and The Great Society (with Grace Slick). The Warlocks presence was acknowledged by Chronicle columnist Ralph Gleason and by night's end the Grateful Dead were part of that scene for good.

The Grateful Dead's first appearance on a poster was at the January 14, 1966 Fillmore show. The fact that Bill Graham made sure the poster said "Grateful Dead-formerly The Warlocks" suggests that the Warlocks had enough of a following that it was worth mentioning. This suggests there were many more Warlocks gigs than we currently know about. At this point, however, we only have this telling but fragmentary smattering of performances, leading The Warlocks up El Camino Real in their journey to San Francisco and transforming themselves into The Grateful Dead.

The Big Beat, 998 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto (December 18, 1965)

The Grateful Dead had played San Francisco, and after an acid test in the wilds of Western Marin (Muir Beach Dec 11, 1965), in a symbolic moment they returned to Palo Alto for an Acid Test. The Big Beat was Palo Alto's first rock club, but Prankster Page Browning rented it the Saturday night before it opened. Although The Big Beat was in South Palo Alto, far from the bohemian downtown, it was ironic that Palo Alto got its first rock club just as Palo Alto's most famous rock export had graduated.

After playing at The Big Beat Acid Test, the band was now playing in a different league, briefly journeying to Los Angeles with Owsley in February of 1966, but returning to San Francisco, not Palo Alto, and ultimately to Marin. They did play nearby Stanford University numerous times over the years, as part of regular rock band touring, but the scruffy Warlocks had made the journey up El Camino Real and become something different in the process. The Grateful Dead only played Palo Alto itself one more time, at the free Palo Alto Be-In on June 24, 1967, and only the tiniest traces remain of their peculiar 1965 oddysey up The King's Road.


  1. A careful Italian reader (Hi Bruno) has pointed out some egregious errors on my part, which I have no corrected. For anyone who read the earlier version, The Warlocks/Grateful Dead played the December 10, 1965 Fillmore gig, but did not appear on a Fillmore poster (as Grateful Dead-formerly The Warlocks) until January 14, 1966. Also, Hank Harrison was Phil Lesh's former, not current, roommate when he was briefly the Warlocks manager.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thanks for correcting this as I know for a fact The Dead did not adopt that name until 1966 and were the Warlocks all of 1965. I saw them many times at the Cinnamon Tree battling against the Knightriders and William Penn and his Pals and The Mystics. They also battled at the Terrace Club in RWC and St. Matthias as I recall. I was a huge Knightrider fan and thought they were the hottest group back then.

  2. Corry - excellent review and analysis! It just so happens I'm working on a GoogleEarth Tour of GD venues and your blog has helped to fill in some of the early venues and locations. But damn, I was hoping you knew the exact location of the In Room! LOL! We'll have to keep sleuthing...

  3. Recently, a whole collection of previous unseen and extremely rare Acid Test posters and handbills has been discovered, including a couple pieces of original artwork by Jerry Garcia. Included in this collection was an original hand-colored handbill for the Palo Alto Big Beat Acid Test, as well as a Poster for Mother McCree's at the Tangent in 1964, a Poster for the Warlocks first paid gig at Magoo's on May 5, 1965, a poster for the Warlocks fourth performance at Frenchy's on June 18, 1965, Phil Lesh's first gig. A set of tickets for the In Room in Belmont on Sept. 1, 1965 and a poster for the first Acid Test at the Spread in Santa Cruz on Nov. 27, 1965 as well as a Fillmore Acid Test handbill and a handbill for Carthay studios in Los Angeles on March 19, 1966. It also appears that Jerry Garcia designed several of these items himself.
    The site that features all of this and more is here:
    There are 33 pages altogether, which can be accessed from the main page.

    The whole collection can be viewed here :

    Further details like the Jerry Garcia original artwork can be viewed here:

  4. I have a poster that shows The Warlocks having played at Palo Alto HS on September 19, 1964, not '65 as you indicate - which may mean that the poster is a fraud that someone put together only recently, getting the year wrong. (The band is billed as The Warlocks Featuring Jerry Garcia, with admission $1.50 at the door.)

  5. Thanks for commenting.

    The Warlocks "Palo Alto High School" New Years 64 poster has been floating around for years. A company makes "commemorative" posters of past rock events, and you can usually get them for 10 or 20 bucks in record stores (remember those?). That's OK, I guess, if the facts are correct, which they very much aren't in the case of that poster. Leaving aside the date issue, the photo is from 1966. I guess I would be more laissez-faire if I didn't actually attend Palo Alto High School, but it galls me to constantly rebut this poster.

    For the record, Bill Kreutzmann actually graduated from Paly, and Pigpen probably attended. There is a persistent rumor that the Warlocks played, but the date keeps changing (Sep 19, 1965 has been floated), which leads me to suspect that its wishful thinking. But hey, Santana played the 1969 graduation dance (June 10, 1969--you can look it up).

  6. Location of the In Room in Belmont is apparently 1048 Old Country Road, if this poster is to be believed:

    There's another Warlocks poster at

    These were posted by Steve Silberman, and apparently came from Hank Harrison. I make no representation as to their authenticity.

  7. I will more than happily make representation as to the authenticity of these two posters. They have been generated on a computer and are undoubtedly counterfeit. If nothing else, the Comic Sans font is used in both and that was first made available by Microsoft with Windows 95 (in 1994).

  8. And there isn't an "Old Country Road" in Belmont, either.

  9. Leaving aside that there's no reason whatsoever to think either poster is authentic, I wonder if the Warlocks played the CSM Gym?

    1. The played on the bill at the CSM gymnasium with the "13th Floor Elevators" as the headliners. I believe KYA-Radio produced the show.

    2. Wahoo, this is a pretty fascinating detail. The 13th Floor Elevators did not come to San Francisco until Fall '66, but during that time the Dead would still take almost any paying gig, so they could have played with the Elevators.

      The 13th Floor Elevators were booked to play CSM on October 15, 1966, along with Harbinger Complex, Canadian Fuzz and the Staton Brothers. I believe it was a radio station sponsored show, probably KYA (Harbinger had links to KYA, I think). Some kind of flyer or something exists for the Grateful Dead playing the Sausalito Heliport, of all places, on that night. And of course, there was the 1st Anniversary of The Family Dog and the ALF concerts in Golden Gate Park. But still, its possible.

      Any chance you can pin down a date to the Dead and the Elevators? It would be a fascinating detail.

    3. I am pretty confident of the 13th Floor Elevators arriving in San Francisco on August 22, 1966 and there certainly would not have been any Warlocks/Elevators shows at all. The "New Peanut Butter Sandwich" date (Avalon Ballroom - October 15, 1966) strikes me as the first real opportunity for any co-mingling amongst the two bands. Interestingly, back in very late August (I think August 29, 1966) Jerry Garcia gave an interview where he mentioned the Elevators sounding like a SF band - "a little like Big Brother". I guess this means either he was speaking after hearing the single (the most likely scenario) or that he attended the Fillmore show on August 26 - they were replaced by Country Joe and The Fish for the August 27 show. Prior to that the only West Coast show appears to have been on August 25 in Marin. Patrick Lundborg speculates a school dance but it seems a little early for dances to be happening as it would pre-date Labor Day weekend. I have another idea where it may have been held, but regardless it seems most unlikely JG would have been there.

  10. oddly enough, Old Country Road is a typo and it should read Old County Road - which runs parallel to El Camino Real. The location is very close to the Cal Tran station. Regardless of this - the handbills rank right up there with some of the worst attempts at faking a handbill that I have ever seen.

  11. Although I refuse to post my actual opinion of these fakes, they still beg some interesting questions. If the "source" (ahem) of these posters was Hank Harrison, unlike some other prominent fakes that circulate, HH probably went to the In Room and may have recalled the address. From that point of view, 1048 Old County Road, or some address close to it, is the closest we have come to the location of the In Room. I wouldn't discount it, despite its source.

    To some extent, the same is true of the CSM poster. The fact that someone attempted a fake of the poster suggests that the Dead really played there.

    For any Art Historians reading--I'm sure there is a vast, silent audience of prosopographically minded Deadheads with Art History degrees--I know the story of Hans Van Meegeren and how he invented a plausible provenance for his fake Vermeers. I don't think that applies here.

  12. Hey folks, Steve Silberman here. I just deleted those posters from my directory and I'm sorry for any confusion I caused. Yes, I got them from Harrison's Facebook feed and yes, I'm aware that there are, shall we say, trust issues associated with Harrison. I'm so sorry if I was naive here. They're gone.

  13. Hey, speaking personally I'm glad they were in there. The history of art includes the history of inauthenticity in the name of Art.

    Honestly, why would a fake poster be made of the In Room with the address of 1048 Old County Road (with a typo!-perfect)? Somebody may have had access to the real address.

    1. I moved to the area in the early 60's and it wasn't until I started meeting the locals, that I thought it was Old Country Road too! It's a common mistake, even back then that "newbies" made.

  14. Steve, I am right there with you. I obviously had my doubts, but I'd much rather see that stuff posted and properly identified than to have them floating around forever and ever without any such reference point. And obviously my decision to post the links suggests that, like Corry, I thought there might be a kernel of historical truth in re the address of the In Room.

    In short: 's'all good!

  15. The In Room was located on Old County Road "a few lots north of the Belmont Iceland" (815 Old County Road) approximately 1 mile north of Ralston Avenue on the east side of the street (same side as Iceland) according to a long time Belmont resident named Jim who worked there as a bouncer after getting out of the service. The bar was in business from 1964-66, was wild and closed after local neighbors complained to the police. The Beau Brummels also played there. Currently the 1000 block of Old County Road is just south of Ralston Avenue on the west side or train track side.

  16. Johnny, this is amazing information, and as close as we have come to the actual address. It sounds like The In Room was on Old County Road in between Marine View and Masonic (numbered 500-800 or thereabouts).

    Ralston and El Camino was accurate as far as the general neighborhood, but that was just a wild guess.

    Jim the bouncer doesn't recall the Warlocks, by any chance?

    thanks so much.

  17. Corry, You have the numbering right. About half way between the two streets you mentioned. There are apartment complexes there now. According to Jim, the club was previously an up scale restaurant and not affiliated with a hotel which is on the internet. Jim does remember seeing the Warlocks and the Beau Brummels there although he wasn't into that music. I have a friend in the Sacramento area who sees Sal Valentino of the Beau Brummels at an open mic and I've asked him to ask Sal for his In Room memories. The saga continues!

  18. "The Warlocks played a brief and unsuccessful stint at Pierre's in early November of 1965. A friend of the band wandered in (I believe it was Peter Albin) and found them playing to a nearly empty house."

    In “20 Years Dead: Tall Tales”, Golden Road no. 05 (Winter 1985), p. 15, Peter Albin tells of seeing them as the GD at Pierre's. Says they were playing behind the strippers. It wasn't empty, either: "The place was filled with sailors".

  19. Albin also goes into detail about the Pierre's show in Greenfield's Dark Star bio, page 68.

  20. The Portland Acid Test (pretty much always misdated) falls in to the remit of this window (late December).

  21. Have you made any headway in pinning down the Portland date? It's always been one of those vague Prankster memories that has seemed impossible to lock down.

  22. The Portland Acid Test is indeed one of those floating dates because no one recalls the date & there's apparently no handbills!

    But I don't think it was in late December '65.
    The Acid Tests then were always on Saturday - the 4th, the 11th, the 18th. The following Saturday was the 25th - somehow I doubt even Pranksters would bother heading clear up to Portland to throw an Acid Test on Christmas.

    I've seen January 1 listed, but that's doubtful for similar reasons. It would take some dedicated Pranksters to make a 10-hour drive across two states on that date (or, worse, the 31st).

    Bear thought it was January 15, which seems to make the most sense. Indeed, after the two holidays, it's the only free Saturday in January. So I think that's the right date. (Unless they did it on a rare weekday!)

    There may be another way to check. The main thing people remember about that Acid Test is the blizzard endured on the ride there, on I-5 through southern Oregon; so checking weather reports of January '66 might help pin down the date. I had no luck with that approach, though.

    1. The Farmers Almanac supports snow and ice conditions leading up to Christmas 1965 and through New Year. By mid January rain and drizzle are the order of the day.

      In support of the date I proposed (January 1) I did give this some thought a while back and these were some of my notes to Corry:

      "I really should post something on the Lost Live Dead blog about this, but my memory was jogged about the date of the 1966 Portland Acid Test. I have sat for years on a date of January 1 for this without thinking too much about it. I noticed you listed January 15 as a possible date - but that clashes with known performances at the Fillmore (14) and Matrix (15/16). I spent a while this morning looking for substantiation for my date of January 1 and find that Blair states (pp94) in "An American Life" that (a) the first 66 show was the Portland Acid Test, and (b) it pre-dates the Fillmore Acid Test (which was on January 8. In "Searching for the Sound" (pp73) Phil Lesh talks of "Upon our return from Portland, all the scuttlebutt was ablaze with the plans for the "Big One"; the Trips Festival, to take place in San Francisco's Longshoreman's Hall." I see substantiation for the much earlier date in this statement as the announcement for the Trips Festival had been made at the turn of the year when Stewart Brand first courted publicity for the event with the Montgomery Street "parade" on December 31 - when I believe the band were travelling to or already in Portland."

      A response from Corry prompted some further thought (I am sure he won't mind me using his words):

      "The Perry book is interesting for many reasons. He generally has 2 sources: the SF Chronicle, mainly Ralph Gleason's column (I have confirmed this now that I have looked at a lot of microfilm), and people he knew. Since he wrote the book in the early 80s, lots of people were still around and their memories hadn't entirely faded. I suspect that means that a Prankster or two told Perry that the Portland Acid Test was Christmas Eve. The question is whether or not to believe his sources memories.

      Weirdly enough, I find the Christmas Eve scenario convincing. Other than Kesey, who had family in Oregon, where else did anyone have to go? All the Pranksters were escapees from their backgrounds, far from their families in spirit if not in fact. Why not road trip to Portland for Christmas Eve?"

      The matter was left with my response "I could go for Christmas Eve but it is mentioned elsewhere that they stayed and rehearsed the following day and then we know that the Trips Festival had been announced (which would be around January 1) by the time of their return. Which means more than a week in Oregon. Possible of course."

      I think the weather adds to the December 1965 trip leading to a Christmas/New Year Acid Test in Portland. As time allows I will dig further.

      As an aside, tells me there was rain and drizzle in San Francisco the day I was born. No shock there then.

    2. I just read Rosie McGee's book, very interesting for the likes of us. She dates the Portland acid test as the weekend of January 14th, but she did not attend it. It was a very important period in her life--she had just met Phil Lesh--so there is reason to think her memories are not just casual.

      On the other hand, she cites various sources as triggers for her memory, including Phil's autobiography, so it's also possible that while she didn't see Phil the weekend of the 14th, he was just busy and she has now imposed the memory of the Portland Acid Test onto it.

      In general, the book is well written and includes many interesting details about the inner workings of the Dead family, particularly on the cash flow side.

  23. I am thinking both have been sucked in by common misconception and probably a Google search. Perhaps they didn't think as much about it as us sad old folks do.

  24. I forgot that the Dead were billed at the Matrix on January 15 '66....sigh. There goes my theory.

    It still seems incredible to me that the Pranksters would stage an acid test on either Christmas or New Year's, but I guess it's so.
    Granted maybe none of that crowd had families, as Corry suggests; but it must have been a very sparsely-attended acid test in Portland (how much advance word would there have been in any case?) - which may be one reason it's not well-remembered!

    Though I like to trust witnesses as much as possible, I'm not sure I'd rely on anyone's current memory for the specific date... True, Rosie had met Phil at one of the previous Tests; but it would challenge the best of us to recall the date of a specific weekend 45 years ago... Online sources like deadlists or postertrip do place the Portland Test on Jan 15 (per Owsley), but it seems they were wrong.

    There is a fragment of contemporary evidence. This page transcribes an ad for the January Trips Festival:
    Note the passage: "The Acid Test has been conducted in recent weeks at Santa Cruz, San Jose, Palo Alto, Portland, San Francisco, here, and is snowballing fast."
    That list of cities is suspiciously chronological, and it places Portland in-between the 12/18 and 1/8 Acid Tests. (I wonder where "here" is?)

    Tom Wolfe's book also sums up the post-Muir Beach Acid Tests at the start of chapter 19:
    "The Pranksters went on to hold Acid Tests in Palo Alto, Portland, Oregon, two in San Francisco, four in and around Los Angeles, and three in Mexico..."
    There, too, Portland is in between Palo Alto & SF.

    I see a very confused wikipedia entry currently splits the difference and places a Portland acid test on both 12/24/65 and 1/15/66 (while omitting Palo Alto)... Ha!

  25. Re: the 13th Floor Elevators -
    The COAU site says they canceled both the Aug 26 & 27 Fillmore shows - did they actually play the 26th?
    The Mojo Navigator that week said that "the 13th Floor Elevator failed to show at the Fillmore last Saturday night due to contractual obligations with the Avalon," which seems like it would have affected Friday night as well. But you may have seen more accurate info.
    In any case, the Dead were playing in Pescadero on those days.

    So presumably Garcia could not have heard them live when he was interviewed. (He says, "the 13th Floor Elevator, they're supposed to be up at the Avalon this weekend, their sound is like a San Francisco sound sort of, a little like Big Brother.")
    It's possible he never saw them live til 10/16/66.

    Here's a poster for the 13th Floors' 10/15/66 CSM show:

  26. Interestingly, there was a stock Acid Test poster pulled from a telegraph pole at the time. It does not mention Portland specifically but the lady who owned it gave some detail regarding the lack of advertising and and attendance. The implication is that it was put on at short notice. I guess we have enough to write this up now. I will do a little more digging and try and get something done soon.

  27. As an aside, Mountain Girl's Acid Test Graduation Diploma sold at auction last night for $24,255.00 including fees.

  28. I'm still waiting for an Acid Test Transcript.

  29. Big Al's Gashouse address is 4335 El Camino according to a glass ashtray I found on Flickr.

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  32. David Grisman saw the Warlocks sometime in 1965; he later told Relix, "They played high school swimming pool parties!"
    It was just a brief nonspecific comment, but it makes me think that when he saw them, they were indeed playing at some local teen's house party. Just imagine the kids splashing in the pool while the Warlocks bash out some Stones tunes!

  33. Nicholas Meriwether's book in the new PNW '73-74 box set asserts that the Portland acid test was "at Beaver Hall on January 6, 1966."

    While this is as close to an "official source" as we have, it is impossible to believe. With Matrix shows advertised for Jan 4-5, and a Fillmore acid test on Jan 8, a quick trip to Portland for an extra Thursday acid test is extremely unlikely.

    I tried looking up a date for the snowstorm they drove through to get to Portland.
    Newspapers on 12/28/65 reported that a blizzard had hit the Pacific Northwest the day before and was heading down the coast to California, closing mountain highways. By 12/29/65, many state highways were closed as the storm crossed over northern California. There was heavy snow in the Mt. Shasta-Siskiyou area, which the Dead drove through.
    Unfortunately it wasn't the only storm. On January 4, 1966, another blizzard hit northern California, with the same area north of Eureka beset by heavy snow, flooding, and road closures.
    (Around Christmas 1965, there had been a blizzard in the Sierras in eastern California, but no problems were reported in northern CA near Oregon.)

    Anyway, I'm now leaning towards a New Year's acid test.

  34. In ‘65 I saw The Warlocks a number of times at the Continental Roller Bowl in Santa Clara.

    1. Thanks Unk. I have heard rumblings about this. The Continental Roller Bowl was later the Continental Ballroom, right? At 1600 Martin in Santa Clara?

  35. In a 1972 KSAN interview, Garcia reminisced about the Dead's early days, when they were the Warlocks. 'Don't Ease Me In' is brought up:
    "That must be late '65 I guess. That's real old. That's our first single... We were still playing the bars when we did that. We played the Fireside, we played the Whisky A Go Go, we played all those joints. We even played Pierre's on Broadway. Topless... We never [played Mother's]. We couldn't make an audition there. We went up there and auditioned but they didn't like us. The Great Society auditioned the same day but they got the job."

    Garcia's a little vague on the timeline (saying "it was a long, long time ago"), but what strikes me in this list is the Whisky A Go Go. As far as we know the Dead only played the SF Whisky in March '67, but Garcia remembers it from the '65 period when they were playing bars.
    So I'd suggest that the Warlocks actually did play in the Whisky A Go Go sometime in '65, probably unbilled. But it could have been the Whisky club in Sunnyvale, which opened in summer '65 and was a lot closer to the Dead's home grounds at the time than the San Francisco branch.

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  37. The In Room was actually called the Chalet "In" Room, and was located at 635 Old County Rd. in Belmont. You can see a display ad in the nwespaper for their New Year's Eve event here:

    The Dead aren't listed, this is just to confirm the name and street address.

    The information you recieved from Jim via "mudd" above is correct. This is indeed just a couple lots North from the Belmont Iceland" (815 Old County Road). That's an ice skating rink that is aparently still there. YOu can see the sign and entrance on this google street view:,-122.2775254,3a,75y,34.41h,85.94t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1s6Kytq1q-34VYITiWyYkGzA!2e0!!7i16384!8i8192

  38. I believe there was a restaurant there called The Chalet. The In Room may have been part of the restaurant. This ad from Feb. 1965 says it was the In-Room and was at the The Chalet:

    This one from Jan 1966 calls it the Chalet "IN" Room:

    1. Great research! I added one of the ads to the post, and also threw in a photo from the late 50s (via FB). It's nice to finally have the address locked down.