Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bob Weir and Kingfish Tour History, January-June 1975 (Kingfish II)

After the Grateful Dead "retired" from performing in October 1974, Bob Weir started to play some gigs with his friend Matt Kelly and former New Rider Dave Torbert in their band Kingfish. After a few late 1974 gigs, Weir became a member of the band, and the group started to learn new material and gig seriously around the Bay Area. This post covers the period from January to June 1975. The Grateful Dead were working on the album in Weir's home studio that would become Blues For Allah, but save for a few stealth dates they were not a performing entity. Weir and Kingfish performed steadily however, and I suspect the dates listed here are only partially complete.

Kingfish 1974-76
Robbie Hoddinott-lead guitar
Matt Kelly-harmonica, guitar
Bob Weir-rhythm guitar, vocals
Dave Torbert-bass
Chris Herold-drums

This is the second installment on Kingfish's performance history (for the first, see here). The sources from my dates include Deadbase IX (to which I was an initial contributor), the fine Weirworks site, some contemporary newspaper archives and a few other sources. I believe there are still many dates to add to this list. If you know of one from this period, please Comment or contact me.

January 3-4, 1975 Chateau Liberte, Los Gatos, CA Kingfish
At the time, Kingfish was playing regular shows at this tiny joint in the Santa Cruz Mountains, between Santa Cruz and San Jose

January 14,1975 Winterland Kingfish/Valley Boys/Little Roger
Bill Graham had begun presenting local bands at Winterland on Tuesday nights for just $2.00, calling it "Sounds Of the City." This was an attempt to make Winterland into a competitor to local nightclubs, a strategy he had employed with Tuesday nights at The Fillmore West and Fillmore East. Generally there was a fairly popular local club headliner, and some lesser known bands. Kingfish fit nicely, as Weir and Torbert were well known but Kingfish was not.

Buddy Cage of the New Riders of The Purple Sage sat in for most of the show, and he sounded great. Interestingly, Kingfish played two songs with Cage that I am not aware of them playing any other time, both sung by Torbert: Buck Owens "A11" ("Don't play A11 on the jukebox") and Dolly Parton's "My Blue Tears." They also played "Groupie," a Torbert song from the Riders Panama Red album. I suspect that these numbers were leftovers from the pre-Weir incarnation of the band.

Little Roger and The Goosebumps were a local band featuring Roger Clark and Dick Bright. They became infamous with their song "Stairway To Gilligan's Isle" (The Gilligan's Island theme done to the tune of "Stairway To Heaven." I saw them do it once at Winterland, and they brought down the house).

January 15, 1975 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA Kingfish
[update] Sophie's was at 260 S. California Avenue, in the older "Mayfield" section of Palo Alto. At the time, Sophie's was run by Ken Rominger, who also managed the Bodega, in Campbell (near San Jose). Two years later, the venue would become the Keystone Palo Alto.

January 18, 1975 Longbranch, Berkeley Kingfish
The Longbranch, at 2504 San Pablo Avenue, mostly featured local bands on the way up.

January 24-25, 1975 Keystone Berkeley Kingfish/James And The Mercedes
A tape survives of Friday, January 24. Kingfish has begun doing Weir's blues version of "CC Rider," which will ultimately be adopted by the Dead. They have also begun closing shows with "One More Saturday Night, " the one original Weir Grateful Dead song that Kingfish will do, as a concession to Weir's fan base. The second night is known from a newspaper listing.

James And The Mercedes was fronted by James Ackroyd, formerly of James And The Good Brothers. I believe Bob Weir's girlfriend Frankie was a backup singer for James And The Mercedes.

January 26, 1975 Chateau Liberte, Los Gatos, CA Kingfish/James And The Mercedes
For a great eyewitness account of this show, complete with pictures, see Cryptdev's great blog post.

February 14-15, 1975 Keystone Berkeley Kingfish/Grayson Street

February 16, 1975 Margarita's, Santa Cruz, CA Kingfish
Margarita's was a new rock club in Santa Cruz, at 1685 Commercial Way. Kingfish opened the club on a Sunday night.

February 19, 1975 The Gold Rush, Sacramento, CA Kingfish
[update] Originally known from Weirworks, where the show was listed as "River City, Fairfax." River City was a tiny watering hole in Marin County, where Phil Lesh was a regular, but a Kingfish gig seemed unlikely. A terrific board tape has surfaced, however, and the show was actually in Sacramento. The "River City" was a 19th century nickname for Sacramento, so the transposition wasn't implausible.

February 23, 1975 Golden Bear, Huntington Beach, CA Kingfish
A tape survives from February 23, which is how we know the date. That was a Sunday, and I have to assume the band did a couple of nights at the intimate Golden Bear. Weekend gigs (Feb 21-22-23) seem logical, but that's just speculation.

February 28, 1975 Keystone Berkeley Kingfish
Known from a newspaper listing.

March 2, 1975 Winterland Kingfish/Alice Stuart/West
Kingfish headlined another Tuesday night "Sounds Of The City." At one of the Winterland gigs, New Riders pedal steel player Buddy Cage sat in with Kingfish again. The BGP list has Terry and The Pirates instead of Alice Stuart, but a contemporary newspaper listing has her, and I am inclined to that. West featured guitarist Ron Cornelius.

March 7, 1975 Crown College Dining Commons, UCSC, Santa Cruz, CA Kingfish
[update] An intrepid UCSC student managed to hire Kingfish to play at the school. For the complete, unexpurgated story, see cryptdev's blog here.

March 14, 1975 East Gym, Humboldt State College, Arcata, CA
Known from Weirworks.

March 20-21, 1975 Keystone Berkeley Kingfish/Soundhole
The dates are from a contemporary newspaper listing in the Hayward Daily Review. Soundhole was a popular Marin band who had worked with Van Morrison.

March 22-23, 1975 Pitschell Players Cabaret, Los Angeles Kingfish
This date has circulated for awhile as March 21, based on a tape. However, it conflicts with the Keystone date, which I have seen listed.Thanks to Commenter RD, we know that Kingfish played Pitschell Players Cabaret on both March 22 and 23, with two shows each night.

April 5, 1975 Cow Palace, Daly City, CA Hot Tuna/Kingfish
[update] Hot Tuna was at their peak as a draw, and at a musical peak as well, with Greg Douglass added on slide guitar. Kingfish opened their headline show at the 11,000-seat Cow Palace.

April 19, 1975 Palomino Club, North Hollywood Kingfish 
The Palomino was a country club in North Hollywood, although by the mid-1970s it was more like a Cowboy bar. This gig has a unique setlist. Dave Torbert and Robbie Hoddinott apparently had some sort of altercation with the law and were not present. Doug Sahm, a Grateful Dead associate of many years, played bass on an emergency basis. A person who attended the show described it as "almost a Weir solo show." The setlist includes a number of songs not associated with Kingfish, like "El Paso," "Big River" and "Me and Bobby McGee." I'm not aware of Weir or Kelly ever speaking about the circumstances.

April 20, 1975 County Bowl, Santa Barbara Jackson Browne/Phoebe Snow/Kingfish
Unlike Jerry Garcia's various aggregations, Kingfish functioned quite well as a normal rock band, and Weir seemed to enjoy playing in regular concert settings. Santa Barbara County Bowl was a small stadium (by football standards), used for medium sized events.

April 25, 1975 Union Ballroom, U. of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT Kingfish/Smolder Bros
The Grateful Dead had played this venue in April 1969.

April 27, 1975 Gym, U. Nevada-Reno Kingfish/Sutro Sympathy Orchestra
Reno is only about a five hour drive from the Bay Area. The listing for the show is above, from the Reno Evening Gazette of April 26, 1975. Sutro Sympathy Orchestra was a Reno band.

April 30, 1975 Sophie’s, Palo Alto Kingfish
Sophie's was at 260 South California Avenue in Palo Alto. It was later better known to Deadheads as the Keystone Palo Alto. The listing above is from the Hayward Daily Review of April 25, 1975.

May 3-4, 1975 Keystone Berkeley Kingfish
Known from a newspaper listing.

May 8, 1975 Inn Of The Beginning, Cotati Kingfish
From a flyer. Discovered thanks to other scholarly work.

May 26, 1975 County Bowl, Santa Barbara Jefferson Starship/Kingfish
Kingfish opened for Jefferson Starship at Santa Barbara County's modest stadium.

May 29, 1975 Oakland Coliseum Doobie Brothers/Eagles/Commander Cody/Kingfish
Once again, Kingfish was willing to open a major Bay Area rock concert. This was a huge "Day On The Green" at the Oakland stadium.

May 29-30, June 1, 1975 Roxy Theatre, Los Angeles Kingfish
Kingfish opened the daytime Oakland show, and seems to have made it down to Los Angeles for the Roxy show. The Roxy was a high profile rock club in Hollywood.

June 7, 1975 Margarita's, Santa Cruz, CA Kingfish

June 8, 1975 El Camino Park, Palo Alto Garcia-Saunders/Kingfish/Rowan Brothers
In their first co-billing, Garcia-Saunders and Kingfish play a Sunday afternoon benefit at El Camino Park in Palo Alto. The park, at 100 El Camino Real,  was an easy walk from both the site of The Tangent and Kesey's Perry Lane haunts (by then redeveloped). It was also the site of the 1967 Palo Alto Be-In.

June 17, 1975 Winterland Jerry Garcia and Friends/Kingfish/Keith and Donna/Mirrors
The Grateful Dead did a benefit for the recently deceased poster artist Bob Fried, the famous "Bob Fried Memorial Boogie." Kingfish played two sets, prior to the Dead's huge set.

June 19, 1975 Keystone Berkeley Kingfish/Heroes
June 20, 1975 Keystone Berkeley Kingfish/Paul Pena
Heroes was a local band connected to the Dead indirectly. Leader Bill Cutler was an engineer and the older brother of future Dead soundman John Cutler. Paul Pena, although a solo performer, wrote the song "Jet Airliner" that was later a huge hit for the Steve Miller Band.

There are no further Kingfish concerts until early August. Given that Jerry Garcia does not perform either during this period, I have to assume that Garcia and Weir were focused on finishing Blues For Allah, which would be released in September of 1975.

update: not quite true. An eyewitness reports on a couple of Kingfish shows in July.
July 4, 1975, Toulomne County Fairgrounds, Sonora, CA: Kingfish/Commander Cody and The Lost Planet Airmen/Stoneground/Keith And Donna
An eyewitness reported seeing this show. Sounded like a good time.

July ?, 1975 Alpine Meadows Ski Area, Lake Tahoe, CA: Boz Scaggs & Orchestra/Kingfish
Kevin Hamm here.Yes,Kingfish played at least a couple of shows in july of 75.On July 4 at Sonora fairgrounds I saw Kieth and Donna Band,Stoneground,Kingfish and Commander Cody.A couple of weeks later I saw Kingfish open for Boz Scaggs and his orchestra at Alpine meadows ski resort.Not only did I tape the show on a cheap cassette player,but I caught Bob Weir in the parking lot and he gave me a little interview.I still have the tape! 

Next: Kingfish perfmance history from August through December 1975.


  1. Here's another possible ... can't vouch that it happened!

    Here's an excerpt, with the Kingfish mention.

    The 1975 High Fidelity Music Festival slated for San Francisco will feature a host of performers in concert, with ticket prices the lowest anywhere. The Festival, hosted by the Institute of High Fidelity, runs April 3 through 5 at the Civic Center with its 7,000 - plus capacity auditorium. located at 99 Grove Street. There will be four concerts, one each night and one on Saturday afternoon.

    On Thursday, April 3, Taj Mahal, noted Columbia recording artist, will kick off the Festival's entertainment with his self-styled blues music. He will be followed by Dizzy Gillespie, jazzman supreme, who will also receive the Artist of the Year Award that night. Concert begins at 9 p.m.

    On Friday, April 4, starting at 9 p.m., The Sensational Alex Harvey Band will bring its own unique brand of rock n' roll to the proceedings, to be followed by Styx, the hot Chicago based soul group with their hit single, "Lady." Aretha Franklin will be honored with the artist of the Year Award on Friday night.

    Saturday, afternoon, Kingfish provides the entertainment starting at 2 p.m. Kingfish, a new band, combines the talents of Bob Weir, rhythm, guitarist and vocalist of the Grateful Dead, and Dave Torbert, bass and vocalist of the New Riders, of the Purple Sage, in new directions in progressive rock. Earl Scruggs will be honored as Artist of the Year Saturday afternoon.


    "High Fidelity Music Festival To Feature Top Performers," San Francisco Sun-Reporter, Vol. XXXII, Iss. 13 (Mar 29, 1975), pg. 39.

  2. Having been to the Palomino Show, the word was that Torbert and Robbie were caught smoking pot in their dressing room. While the crowd was kept waiting outside, the Palomino management spent the time looking for audience members smoking pot as well. Good show tho with Doug Sahm sitting in for Torbert

  3. Some corrections and additions based on my concert scrapbook and hazy memories:

    Pitschell Players Cabaret dates were March 22 and 23, 1975, two shows each night;

    Kingfish played the Santa Barbara County Bowl on May 26, 1975 opening for Jefferson Starship, and blew them off the stage

    The 6-1-75 Roxy show was broadcast on KLOS-FM 95.5

  4. RD--thanks for your great comments. I have updated the posts accordingly.


  5. Oops - a self-correction: it wasn't the 6-1-75 show that was broadcast but rather a 3-11-76 show, also at the Roxy in LA (broadcast on KMET FM).
    And I have a Kingfish poster for 3 shows at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach for February 8, 9, 10. I think it was 1975 - I saw a lot of Kingfish and Legion of Mary around that time, but the kicker is Nicky Hopkins is listed as a band member. I have no recollection of ever seeing him with Kingfish, although that doesn't mean it didn't happen. And these dates seem very close to others (2-23-75 also at Golden Bear, or 1-17-76 at Golden Bear, even 2-7-76 at Winterland - Bob did get around but this is all so confusing!) It'd be nice to get some confirmation on the year and the lineup if anyone has further info...

  6. Superb job.
    One note on the late spring 1974 pre-Bobby show at Foothill Gym. Kingfish was opening that night for the Sons of Champlin, who were smokin' hot.

  7. Thanks for the kind words. Its funny, now that you mention that Kingfish opened for The Sons at Foothill, I recall that clearly. Memory is a funny thing.

    The Spring 74 Kingfish was a five piece, right, with Nick Ward on piano?

  8. Here's another Kingfish date: Saturday, January 18, 1975, Longbranch Saloon, Berkeley.

    This from the following column:

    “Rap-Up’s Wrap-Ups,” Oakland Tribune, January 12, 1975, p. 4-RAP.

  9. I updated the post. The date fits in nicely; Keith and Donna played the Longbranch before they played the Keystone and other more prominent clubs, so it makes sense that Kingfish got their feet wet there as well.

  10. Another Kingfish date: Thurs., May 8, 1975, Inn of the Beginning, Cotati, CA. Tickets 3 bucks, about the most the Inn was charging in those days.

  11. Hi folks,Kevin Hamm here.Yes,Kingfish played at least a couple of shows in july of 75.On 4th of july at Sonora fairgrounds I saw Kieth and Donna Band,Stoneground,Kingfish and Commander Cody.A couple of weeks later I saw Kingfish open for Boz Scaggs and his orchestra at Alpine meadows ski resort.Not only did I tape the show on a cheap cassette player,but I caught Bob Weir in the parking lot and he gave me a little interview.I still have the tape!

  12. Hi folks,Kevin Hamm here.Yes,Kingfish played at least a couple of shows in july of 75.On 4th of july at Sonora fairgrounds I saw Kieth and Donna Band,Stoneground,Kingfish and Commander Cody.A couple of weeks later I saw Kingfish open for Boz Scaggs and his orchestra at Alpine meadows ski resort.Not only did I tape the show on a cheap cassette player,but I caught Bob Weir in the parking lot and he gave me a little interview.I still have the tape!

    1. Kevin, thanks for these details. It fills in some interesting blanks in the story. It's particularly fascinating to hear about the Alpine Meadows show.

      There is a lost history of Lake Tahoe rock shows which I have managed to touch on now and again. An Alpine Meadows example from the 60s can be found here:

  13. Bob Weir and Kingfish played at Alpine Meadows Ski Area on Sunday August 31, 1975. Tickets were $7.00. Boz Scaggs with His Orchestra closed, according to my ticket stub and photos from that day.

  14. Addition: Sophie's, 1/15/75.

  15. Another: 2/1/75 at Gold Rush, Walnut Creek.

  16. Caught Kingfish in Asbury Park NJ in 1974, I believe. It was summer and at the Casino. Helped them load in with a buddy. Great show, top of their game. I moved from Jersey in spring 1975, so it had to be 74. Any info on this gig?

  17. 4/18/75 at the Swing Aud in San Berdoo, Average White Band / Kingfish

  18. Kingfish 8.31.1975 Alpine Meadows -