Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia in Santa Cruz County 1965-1987

(the poster for the Grateful Dead concert at Cabrillo College Stadium, Aptos, CA on September 2, 1967. Thanks to Ross for the scan)

Update: This post has been substantially updated, with new and more accurate information

On April 24, 2008, the Grateful Dead announced the gift of their archives to the University of California at Santa Cruz Special Collections Library. The archive includes all the non-musical material accumulated by the Dead over the years, from contracts to fan letters, and it will not only provide a major insight into an important California cultural phenomenon in the second half of the 20th century, it will end up being really helpful to the likes of me. Rotating displays of some of the material will apparently be regularly on display at McHenry Library at UCSC.

The Grateful Dead and UC Santa Cruz were always like minded entities, despite a lack of formal connection. Wikipedia summarizes the pre-history of UCSC by saying "the formal design process of the campus began in the late 1950s, culminating in the Long Range Development Plan of 1963." The same might be said of The Grateful Dead. Since the Dead and UCSC were both founded in 1965, they have both been devoted to different ways of doing things, whether dispensing with grades (which UCSC did not give until 1997) or refusing to play a song the same way twice. In honor of the Archive, this post will trace the limited appearances of The Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia in Santa Cruz County.

The City of Santa Cruz and its University are isolated from the rest of the Bay Area by mountains, cliffs and the Pacific Ocean. Thus it had remained economically isolated until the last few decades, and part of Santa Cruz's charm was its insularity. This meant, however, that major rock shows were few and far between.

The Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead were in Santa Cruz County three times, and played at least two of them.

November 27, 1965 Ken Babbs Ranch, Soquel Acid Test
There was an Acid Test at Ken Babbs house, written about in Tom Wolfe's book The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. By all accounts, the Grateful Dead-who were still probably called The Warlocks, depending on who you believe--were there but did not perform, unless they did. So, to summarize, the Grateful Dead or The Warlocks were there and did or did not perform, probably.

September 2, 1967 Cabrillo College Football Field, Cabrillo Junior College, Aptos, CA
Benefit for SCA Santa Cruz
Grateful Dead/Canned Heat/The Leaves/Andrew Staples/Sons of Champlain (sic)/New Delhi River Band/Second Coming/New Breed/BFD Blues Band/Gross Exaggeration/Yajahla Tingle Guild/People/Jaguars/Art Collection/Morning Glory/Ben Frank’s Electric Band/New Frontier/Chocolate Watch Band/The Other Side/E-Types/Mourning Reign/Imperial Mange Remedy/Omens/Ragged Staff/Talon Wedge & Others.

This was a two-day Festival (Saturday and Sunday September 2-3) over Labor Day weekend, with music from 3-12 pm each day. The "beneficiary", SCA Santa Cruz, is now unknown to me, but the wording suggests that this was a campus sponsored event (which had to be not-for-profit). The bands listed above were spread out over the two days. The Dead most likely played on Saturday September 2, as they had another gig (at Rio Nido Dance Hall) on September 3. The Dead, Canned Heat,  Butterfield Blues Band and San Jose's own Chocolate Watch Band were the big names. The others were an interesting mixture of mostly South Bay bands (update: I have since learned there was an LA band called BFD Blues Band, so I believe they played and not Butterfield).

This two-day "rock festival' was the only major outdoor event at Cabrillo College, suggesting that whatever happened, it did not go down too well with the powers that be. Nonetheless, Cabrillo College (at 6500 Soquel Drive in Aptos) was just 9.1 driving miles from the UCSC Campus Entrance, so at least when the band turned South on Highway 1 they were pretty close to Campus.

September 24, 1983 Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, Watsonville, CA
During this period, the Grateful Dead and Bill Graham Presents were experimenting with different venues around California. While the site was pleasant, and the afternoon weather was great as always, the facility lacked the parking to manage thousands of Deadheads parking at once, and the venue was somewhat overwhelmed, in the genial pleasant way that Deadheads used to do such things. Still, the band played well, and that's what matters. Nonetheless, I do not recall this venue being used for a major act again, I think mainly due to the parking situation (note: earlier I had this as October 24, not September, due to brain fade).

The Barn, Scotts Valley-no, sorry

Due to a 1999 article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, there is a suggestion floating around the internet that the Grateful Dead played The Barn in Scotts Valley between 1966 and 1968. The Barn was Santa Cruz County's unique link to psychedelic culture, linked to the Pranksters and many other interesting people. Sad to say, fascinating as the history of The Barn actually is, the Grateful Dead never played there (for the record, the article says bands like the Dead, Quicksilver and Big Brother played there, but only the last two actually did).

Jerry Garcia
As Jerry Garcia increased his extra curricular activities outside of the Grateful Dead in the 1970s and 80s, he came to play Santa Cruz a few times. This coincided with the rise in Santa Cruz's population and economic profile, because of the University and its proximity to Silicon Valley.

October 6, 1973 Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz Old And In The Way
Old And In The Way was a bluegrass band in which Jerry Garcia played banjo and sang. It was not "his" band, but he was so much more famous than the other musicians that Old And In The Way are remembered as Jerry Garcia's bluegrass band. This show--if it took place--would have been one of their last, and the other band members would have been Peter Rowan, David Grisman, Vassar Clements and John Kahn.

An old list compiled by Dennis McNally has a projected show at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium on Saturday, October 6. The band was also scheduled to play outdoors at Sonoma State College in Humboldt the next day. The Sonoma show was canceled, due to bad weather, but a show in San Francisco at The Boarding House was held the night after (October 8), and recorded for the band's groundbreaking 1975 album. I have been unable to confirm whether or not the Santa Cruz show actually happened (for various reasons this show has dropped on and off various lists; I know the whole story, but its very wonky and boring to explain the whole thing, so I'm sparing everyone).

The Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium at, 307 Church Street, is an excellent Art Deco style building that was completed in 1940. As Santa Cruz rose in importance, more and more performers started using the friendly little 2,000 capacity hall for warm up shows, or shows on off nights, and whether or not Old And In The Way actually played this show, Garcia played the venue several times in later years. The Civic is just 2.1  miles to the UCSC Campus Entrance, as close as Garcia got to campus.

February 20-21, 1975 Margareta's, Santa Cruz Good Ole Boys
This is another mystery. David Nelson and Frank Wakefield had a bluegrass group, and Garcia produced their album (Pistol Packin Mama). There is a chance Garcia played this gig, although its unlikely, and in any case I don't even know where Margareta's was.

June 20-21, Kresge Town Hall, UCSC, Santa Cruz Keith and Donna
A BASS Tickets ad lists "Keith and Donna, S. Cruz Jun 20-21." A Commenter went to one of the shows, and reported that it was at Kresge Town Hall. Kresge Town Hall is the principal auditorium for Kresge College, which has (per the website) a maximum capacity of 616 standing. To my knowledge, this was the only time that members of the Grateful Dead performed on the UCSC campus [updated].

October 8, 1975 Del Mar Theatre, Santa Cruz Jerry Garcia Band with Nicky Hopkins
The Del Mar Theatre is at 1124 Pacific Avenue. The theater opened on August 14, 1936. By the 1970s the theater was not in great shape, and the operators started filling out weekends with rock shows. Quite a few good shows were held there in the 1970s. The theater probably seated about 900.

This was one of the earliest shows by the newly organized Jerry Garcia Band, with the great pianist Nicky Hopkins joining stalwart bassist John Kahn and drummer Ron Tutt. Tutt also drummed for Elvis Presley, and the Garcia Band's touring schedule was limited to dates when Elvis Presley and The Grateful Dead were not performing. Due to the small size of the venue, the group played both early and late shows without an opening act.

The Jerry Garcia Band played the Del Mar Theatre twice more before it became a multiplex in 1978. The venue (still a movie theater, now refurbished), is 2.3 miles from the UCSC Campus Entrance.

February 26, 1976 Del Mar Theatre, Santa Cruz Jerry Garcia Band
Grateful Dead pianist Keith Godchaux had replaced Hopkins, and his wife Donna had joined as vocalist.

(Santa Cruz artist Jim Phillips's poster from the Del Mar)

August 19, 1976 Del Mar Theater, Santa Cruz Jerry Garcia Band

February 19, 1978 Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz Jerry Garcia Band/Robert Hunter and Comfort
Parts of this concert were recently released as part of the archival live cd Jerry Garcia Band: Bay Area 1978 on Grateful Dead Records.  Garcia songwriting partner Robert Hunter opened the show with his band Comfort.

March 30-31, 1979 The Catalyst, Santa Cruz Reconstruction
Reconstruction was Jerry Garcia's jazz-funk excursion with Merl Saunders. From 1979 onwards, Jerry Garcia regularly played a circuit of larger Bay Area nightclubs, and The Catalyst in Santa Cruz became a regular stop. The Catalyst, at 1011 Pacific Avenue, was the site of many fine Garcia shows for the next decade.  The Catalyst is 2.3 miles from the UCSC Campus Entrance.

Jerry Garcia played Santa Cruz 13 more times. For complete notes, see The Jerry Site.
May 27, 1979 The Catalyst, Santa Cruz Reconstruction
February 7, 1980 The Catalyst, Santa Cruz Jerry Garcia Band
January 18, 1981 The Catalyst, Santa Cruz Jerry Garcia Band
January 29, 1981 The Catalyst, Santa Cruz Jerry Garcia Band
April 21, 1981 The Catalyst, Santa Cruz Jerry Garcia Band
June 25, 1981 Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz Jerry Garcia Band with Phil Lesh
February 2-3, 1982 The Catalyst, Santa Cruz Jerry Garcia Band
October 13, 1982 The Catalyst, Santa Cruz Jerry Garcia Band
January 18, 1983 The Catalyst, Santa Cruz Jerry Garcia Band
March 5, 1983 Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz Jerry Garcia Band
October 16, 1985 The Catalyst, Santa Cruz Jerry Garcia and John Kahn (early and late shows)
February 24, 1987 Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz Jerry Garcia Band

There were a few performances in Santa Cruz County by members of the Grateful Dead in the 70s. I have recently discovered, via a Commenter, that the Keith and Donna Band, with Bill Kreutzmann, played the UCSC Campus. Keith and Donna played Kresge Town Hall, the Kresge College auditorium (capacity 616) on June 20 and 21, 1975. This was probably some sort of end-of-quarter event, as finals would have been a week or two earlier. To my knowledge, these Keith and Donna shows are the only appearances on the UCSC campus by active members of the Grateful Dead.

Jefferson Airplane Footnote
The Jefferson Airplane don't have an archive, to my knowledge, and it wouldn't be as interesting as the Grateful Dead's in any case. Nonetheless, just in case, the Jefferson Airplane played the UCSC "Spring Thing" dance two years in a row: first at the Cocoanut Grove on May 14, 1966, and then on May 11, 1967 at the  Cowell-Stevenson dining hall.


View Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia in Santa Cruz in a larger map


  1. What about Garcia playing Chateau Liberté in '74? TJS lists three dates (March 22, October 11, November 30).

  2. Chateau Liberte is actually in Los Gatos, most of the way over the hill. Its in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and on the Old Santa Cruz Highway, but its in Santa Clara County. The address of Chateau Liberte was 22700 Old Santa Cruz Highway, Los Gatos, CA, 95033.

    Only people from Santa Cruz would care about the distinction, but its an important one for the locals.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I stumbled across this blog recently as I am in the process of compiling a list of shows by venue, by region, and by capacity, for visual representations of the GD's evolution. My search for obscure venue capacities brought me here and I very much like what you're doing. Any clues as to the capacity of The Barn in Rio Nido (one show, in june 69)?

  5. Benito - I don't know of any specifics that are available for the Barn in Rio Nido, but we can put it in context (based on Corry's old notes) and hazard a reasonable guess.

    The venue, whilst only open briefly in 1969 as the Barn had been around at least since the 1940s and was previously called the Rio Nido Dance Hall (or at least part of it was) – and collocated with the Rio Nido Hotel. The slightly odd issues are that (a) the Dance Hall existed both indoors and out, and (b) that by the time it was The Barn, it is likely to have just been the indoors area, but also accommodating an adjacent snack bar area.

    Rio Nido is, even today, a small community on the Russian River in Sonoma County, about 75 miles North of San Francisco. Despite Rio Nido’s northerly location, it is still in Sonoma’s well-to-do wine country, but in the 60s Northern Sonoma County was quite rural, with a small population and few tourists. A dance hall in such an area would likely have both served the hotel and have been a community facility with enough room for the local folks to come together for social, and perhaps even political, purposes. From photographs, we know that it was a wooden structure and was located amongst trees with homes, or perhaps vacation homes, set around it. A few photographs exist with the Russian River Historical Society and can be found by Googling “rio nido” and “dance hall”.

    It would not have provided for a theatre or roller rink size audience - although both facilities have at one time existed in Rio Nido, but still would have been large enough to perhaps accommodate two or three hundred people - not unlike a school gym or hall. This is the best information that I have available.

  6. There is a good article about the history of Rio Nido here

    And what appears to be a picture of the entrance to the Dance Hall (in the 40s) here

    Of course, it remains uncertain which building became what

  7. There is a wider view of the Dance Hall here that allows you to see the outside seating area:

    I am reasonably comfortable about the Dance Hall and possibly the snack bar being re-introcuced as The Barn. Given that the CGSB support the Grateful Dead, perhaps the answer is to ask if Brian recalls.

  8. CGSB definitely did not play The Barn, as Brian Voorheis himself pointed out that after a big weekend of jamming with the Dead and a long ride home, they would have recalled returning to Sonoma.

    Since at the end of the 6/28/69 show an announcer refers to "tomorrow night" at Rio Nido, I think the Dead came back without CGSB or Jorma.

  9. The poster is of course slightly misleading to read - it actually advertises two shows and lists Jack Casady, Jorma and Joey Covington in the top half (Santa Rosa Vets Memorial Bld) on the Friday and Saturday, then lists The Barn for the Sunday in the bottom half - adding the CGSB and the Grateful Dead (as special guest stars). As such, I would have expected the CGSB to have stayed in Santa Rosa rather than headed back to the City - that would have only meant a 30 minute drive to Rio Nido.

  10. Right--but Brian recalls the long drive back to Berkeley, buzzing from having had Jerry Garcia sit in with them (as a "thank you" for Tom Ralston standing in for Mickey Hart for a few numbers the night before).

    If they had driven back to Rio Nido the next day, he would have recalled it, given the events of the weekend.

  11. I have amended my Grateful Dead list accordingly.

  12. I was at the Del Mar show and Link Wray opened.

  13. Some random Santa Cruz / UCSC Dead-related tidbits: Line-up of the Wakefield / Garcia / Nelson Margareta's show also included Pat Campbell on bass and Brantley Kearns on fiddle. Rumor has it there is a recording in existence. I saw The Dinosaurs (feat. Robert Hunter, Cippolina, Melton...others in 1979 or 1980 at UCSC's College IV (now Porter College) dining hall and the Dinos w/ Hunter also played a few other Santa Cruz shows around then, I think one was at OT Price's. Ken Babbs once had an event at the Louden Nelson Center ('82 - '83?) where he talked about the Furthur Bus trip and played 16mm (silent) films, probably some of the same footage that is now out in "The Magic Bus" movie. It was kind of hard to hear or understand what he was saying, or maybe I was just high. The JGB Catalyst shows were always great. El Rayo X and Ry Cooder were also memorable Catalyst regulars around that early 80's era + some Neil Young surprise unannounced shows. At that time Santa Cruz was a popular hangout for Deadheads between tours, a nice-climate tolerant community where kids on the road could make camp a while. Pacific Ave was often full of tie-dye, especially after New Years, etc. In a way, while SF and Marin were the band's central turf, Santa Cruz in the 80's felt like the center of touring deadhead culture - a place where hippie kids from all around the country would live and between tours.

  14. Hedley, thank you so much for these comments. I am pretty amazed--did you actually see the Margareta's show, or at least have reliable eyewitnesses? Where was Margareta's? I know Santa Cruz very well, so just naming the intersection or the part of town would be sufficient. Was it a bar, a club, a restaurant?

    As to Frank Wakefield, I love his stories as well as his music, but I think he likes to embellish his tales. If his story about not realizing Jerry was a rock star is "true," there's a bit of a timeline problem. It had to occur in late 75/early 76, and Wakefield had played with the New Riders when they opened for the Dead at a baseball stadium (June 8 '74).

  15. Been doing a bit of stuff that might provide for updating, if you are so inclined.

    1. My update is here:
      but I am always anxious for new information