The Hartbeats show on August 28, 1969 at Chet Helm's Family Dog On The Great Highway is only known from a tape in the Grateful Dead vaults. The tape is very interesting indeed, and yet, to my knowledge, nothing else whatsoever is known about this show, even though it begs a variety of very interesting questions. I am writing this post to consider the various unknowns about this show, in order to indicate how many interesting questions remain unanswered. Anyone with some hard information, or even entertaining speculation, is encouraged to Comment.
[update: for a contemporary discussion and resolution of these mysteries, see my post here]
- Knowledge of the show comes from a Bear cassette master of the show labeled "Hartbeats," with the date of the show and presumably the location.
- Although there are some tape flips and some resulting missing snippets of music, the show seems to be 81 minutes and sounds like a complete set.
- The band lineup appears to be Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart and organist Howard Wales.
- A flute player joins in at the beginning of "Dark Star," just shy of the 10-minute mark, but he is hard to hear and seems to drop away
- Chet Helms saw the Family Dog as a "community resource," so casual jam-type shows seem to have been common, if hard to trace
- The Grateful Dead were playing on Friday and Saturday night (August 29-30), so it seems plausible that they might set up their equipment a day early to have some kind of jam session.
- This is the first time I am aware of Howard Wales playing with Jerry Garcia
- Howard Wales band, AB Skhy, had moved from Wisconsin in May 1968, but to my knowledge they had not played with the Grateful Dead prior to this date
- I know of no advertisement, notice, flyer or review of this show, and I have looked at just about all of the SF Chronicles as well as the relevant listings for the Berkeley Barb (and Tribe), and there is no listing or mention for even a "jam session" at the Dog
- Did anyone other than Owsley use the name "Hartbeats" for this show? Was that just convenient shorthand for a jam, or was that a name that Garcia and others actually used? It wasn't actually used in 1968, and although I'm aware that it appeared on a 1969 bill at the Matrix and 1970 at the Dog, but we don't have have tapes of those shows
- Assuming we have the complete "Hartbeats" set, did any other bands appear? If they did, did any Grateful Dead members (or Howard Wales) sit in?
- Who played flute?
August 1969 is exactly when Garcia starts working publicly with the New Riders of The Purple Sage, and I don't think its a coincidence that the same time frame seems to indicate the first stirrings of what would become the Jerry Garcia Band, through the circuitous route of Howard Wales jam sessions at The Matrix in 1970. The Family Dog on The Great Highway was intended as a sort of hippie clubhouse, and Dead manager Lenny Hart had good relations with Chet Helms. On top of that, since the Dead were debuting at the Family Dog the next night, the pre-opening night jam may have served as sort of equipment check as well.
The 1968 Matrix tapes that circulate as "Mickey and The Hartbeats" were actually billed as Jerry Garcia And Friends. Garcia made a casual remark between songs that the band was known as Mickey And The Hartbeats, which may have been a sort of joke, and the name has stuck over the years. The Hartbeats were billed twice more in, at the Matrix in February 1969 (Monday thru Wednesday February 24-26) and at the Family Dog in April 1970 (Friday thru Sunday April 17-19). We know nothing of the Matrix shows, and have only a setlist for the April shows, which suggests that it was a tryout of the acoustic configuration that would debut publicly on the May 1970 Eastern tour. We can make assumptions about what "Mickey And The Hartbeats" implied, but there is surprisingly little real information. Nevertheless, it seems that "Hartbeats" implied Jerry Garcia and other Dead members, but no commitment to playing regular Grateful Dead songs or a typical set.
Given the distance of the Great Highway from the rest of San Francisco and particularly Marin, I am less likely to think that anyone there just "dropped by," in distinct contrast to, say, Broadway, where the Matrix was located. Someone invited Howard Wales, and someone invited him when Constanten wasn't present. This leads me to think that Wales had already jammed with Garcia, since it seems like such a trek. I am sure Wales wanted to jam with Garcia, but he was a working musician with a band, so coming out to a jam would take time away from his band, and he would be less likely to do it if he wasn't guaranteed a real chance on stage. Howard Wales may be the one person who really recalls this event, since to Lesh, Hart and Kreutzmann (and the crew) this was just another night at the Dog.
As for the flute player, no one obvious comes to mind. I have examined the tendency of Deadheads to assume that Charles Lloyd always played with them, and I find that is as unlikely as ever. Since I am the official historian for Sanpaku, whose flute player had jammed with the Dead as recently as the week before, I was able to confirm that Gary Larkey did not play with them that night. I looked at various jazz bookings, at the Both/And and elsewhere, but no obvious candidates present themselves. The reed-less McCoy Tyner Trio was playing the Both/And, and while there was a jazz festival in Concord, no flute players stuck out as likely to make the trip far across the bay.
As long as I am reduced to shooting in the dark for a flute player, I will throw out two names:
- Andy Kulberg of Seatrain: Kulberg had played bass and flute for Blues Project, and his band Seatrain still played the Blues Project instrumental "Flute Thing." Seatrain, based in the Bay Area, was billed at the Matrix all week. Granted, this would have created an inherent conflict--what was Kulberg doing at the Dog on a night when he was booked at the Matrix?--but the Dog may have started early and Seatrain may not have had to come on at the Matrix until later.
- Steven Schuster: Schuster, a fine sax and flute player, had been the equipment manager for Quicksilver Messenger Service since 1967, and was a regular part of the scene. His instrumental abilities would come more to the fore in the 1970s, when he was a member of the Keith And Donna Band.
Update: Ross did some great research, and suggests that this show took place during the afternoon. This would explain why the show was never advertised, since it was just a jam session, and why working musicians like Howard Wales and perhaps Andy Kulberg could jam without conflicts.