Tuesday, January 5, 2010

December 22, 1969, Napa Valley Sports Camp, Napa, CA Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Rejoice/The People/Loading Zone

The "Scenedrome' entertainment listings of the December 19, 1969 Berkeley Barb yielded the unexpected information that the Grateful Dead would headline a benefit concert on Monday, December 22 in  the Napa Valley. In its entirety the listing says
ROCK CONCERT: Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Rejoice, The People & Loading Zone. Disc jockeys from local stations will mc the event. Napa Valley Sports Camp, 5 miles west of Napa on Highway 12 in the quiet and beautiful Brown's Valley. $3.50 and tickets can be purchased from St. Mary's High School, Albina and Hopkins Streets. Berk, call Bill Doherty 555-1039.
 You now know as much as I do.

Some interesting points:

The Dead would have played The Old Fillmore on December 19, 20 and 21 (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), and did not have a gig until Texas on December 26. While non-Californians may wonder at an apparently outdoor concert on a Monday in December, remember that many people are on holiday during Christmas, and daytime winter temperatures are about, oh, 65 degrees or so. This show would be very plausible in terms of the Grateful Dead touring schedule as known.

As near as I can tell, the location would have been in between Napa and Sonoma, probably around the current location of the Domaine Carneros Winery. In those days, Napa was fairly rural and agricultural, so while hippies may not have been entirely welcome, they would have been mainly only bothering cows.

What is particularly rare about this show is that it may represent a 1969 show by Quicksilver Messenger Service. There is no good Quicksilver tour history on the Web yet (I haven't gotten to it), but this would be only the 8th known show of 1969. The band definitely included John Cipollina, Nicky Hopkins, David Freiberg and Greg Elmore. Dan Healy occasionally played guitar and bass on stage with them during this period. Gary Duncan and Dino Valenti would rejoin the group on New Year's Eve, though perhaps they used this as a warmup gig. Their album Shady Grove had just been released in November.

The People were probably the San Jose band, although I'm surprised they were still together. Rejoice is a common band from bills at the time, and The Loading Zone were old friends from the early days of The Fillmore.

As to what this was a benefit for, or any other details, I am counting on the magic of the Internet.


  1. Wow, neat find!

    The DVD issue of the Night at the Family Dog has another Ralph Gleason special on it, the name of which escapes me right now (and which I am feeling too lazy to look up). It has live footage of QMS playing outdoors in what I believe is given as 1969. I have occasionally wondered what the date of that show might be. No idea if December would be plausible or not, but anyway ...

  2. Its always been mystery where that QMS footage from Go Ride The Music was recorded. Some commenters have suggested Sonoma State College. I suppose 12-23-69 is possible, even though the odds point more towards Spring 70.

    If you watch that QMS footage (and blot out Dino Valenti), there are no shots of Nicky Hopkins. Clearly he must not have signed a release of some kind.

  3. The show was actually a benefit for St. Mary's College High in Berkeley, and possibly other high schools that were responsible for sponsoring the event. I have a handbill somewhere - but have not seen it for years. Whilst it was common for high schools to sponsor shows in the 60s (proms, fundraisers etc.) they were generally held at the school itself or somewhere reasonably near by. What seems odd here is that the event was being held 40 miles awat from Berkeley - which leads me to think there may have been other schools or colleges involved. A snippet appears in the December 13, 1969 Oakland Tribune: "St. Mary's College High in Berkeley is participating in a high school-sponsored rock festival to be held Dec. 22 at the Napa Valley Sports Camp. The 40-acre site is located about five miles west of Napa on Highway 12 in Brown's Valley. Groups scheduled to appear are The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Rejoice, The People and The Loading Zone. Booths selling food and merchandise will be located throughout the site for the duration (9 a.m.- 5 p.m.) of the festival. Tickets are now available at St. Mary's."