Saturday, October 30, 2010

December 10-12, 1972, Winterland: Grateful Dead/High Country (10)/Sons Of Champlin (11)/Rowan Brothers (12) (opening acts)

The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers, both pillars of late 60s improvisational music, met in Piedmont Park in Atlanta on July 6, 1969. The bands were booked together at the Fillmore East on February 11 and 13-14, 1970, when the Allmans were still unknown enough not to headline, and they had an epic jam on February 11. Even after the tragic death of Duane Allman in a motorcycle accident, the groups remained close, but it was difficult for working bands to play together. Although the Dead and the Allmans managed to guest at each others shows on July 16 and 17, 1972 (Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley at the Dead's Hartford, CT show on July 16, and Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir with the Allmans in the Bronx on July 17), they had long dreamed of playing together. Finally, Bill Graham announced the double booking for three nights in Winterland on December 10-12, 1972, and Joel Selvin mentioned it as an upcoming show in his Sunday Lively Arts column in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Even at the time, it seemed surprising that the two headline acts would play Winterland together. Both the Dead and the Allmans had headlined Winterland in the past, and both bands were bigger than ever. The Allman Brothers 1971 Live At Fillmore East album was a huge hit, and their current album Eat A Peach was even more popular. The Grateful Dead had released three popular albums in a row (Workingman's Dead, American Beauty and "Skull and Roses"). Their new triple live album Europe '72 was about to be released, and Warner Brothers had high hopes that this too would be a hit. However, the three shows were booked for Sunday through Tuesday, nights when Winterland was usually dark, and when most bands didn't perform, so they were effectively "extra" paydays for both the promoter and the bands. Thus the bands would be free to indulge themselves musically without interfering with any regular activity. The Dead did not have any conflicts on the weekend of December 8-9, but Bill Graham did and the Allman Brothers did as well (see below).

It was not to be. On November 11, 1972, Allman Brothers bassist Berry Oakley died in a motorcycle accident, and all Allman Brothers activities were put on hold again. For obvious business reasons, the Grateful Dead and Bill Graham kept the booking, and the Dead headlined Winterland by themselves. The Dead had headlined Winterland by themselves before, but never for three nights, and three school nights at that. For whatever reasons, Bill Graham chose to have opening acts all three nights. These shows were the last regular, indoor Grateful Dead shows in the Bay Area for many years that had opening acts (New Year's Eve and the occasional benefit excepted). The choices of the opening acts are actually quite interesting, and its plain that the Dead--and probably mainly Jerry Garcia--chose the acts.

Winterland Background
Winterland, at the corner of Post and Steiner, just two blocks from the original Fillmore (at 1805 Geary), had been used by BGP since 1966 for acts that were too big for the Fillmore or Fillmore West. By late 1971, with the Fillmore West closed, Winterland became Bill Graham's main venue. Most Winterland shows had three acts, like the Fillmore West. However, bands that played a particularly long time, like the Dead, often had only one opening act. Part of the economics of Winterland was that BGP sold a lot of popcorn, soda and beer (in the upstairs bar), so the earlier people came and the longer people stayed, the more profitable the evening was.

The Grateful Dead had headlined a show at Winterland on October 9, 1972, a benefit of sorts for their road crew (so they could buy a house, apparently). The New Riders had apparently opened the show. The band had headlined another benefit on March 5, 1972, supported by The Sons Of Champlin. The Dead had also headlined New Year's Eve 1971/72, supported by The New Riders and Yogi Phlegm (as The Sons Of Champlin were known at the time). They had also headlined a weekend in May 1971, supported by The New Riders, James And The Good Brothers and RJ Fox (the Friday May 28 show was canceled since Garcia was ill, and the Dead ended up playing May 29-30).

Although the Grateful Dead were popular in the Bay Area, they had played so regularly that there was little urgency for tickets. When the Dead played a seated venue, like Berkeley Community Theater, there was tremendous pressure to get good seats, but for general admission venues like Winterland, the shows generally took a while to sell out. That's not to say they didn't sell out, as they mostly did, but tickets would typically be available for many days. Thus three shows on a weeknight was untested territory for both BGP and The Dead. While the three opening acts would have added little to ticket sales, they would have encouraged people to arrive early, and there may have been some concern on BGP's part that the Dead could not have sold out all three nights. As it happened, advance copies of Europe '72 was being played on FM radio stations the week before the show, and all three shows seemed to have sold out. Other than New Years Eve, no opening act ever appeared again with the Grateful Dead at Winterland.

Sunday, December 10, 1972: Grateful Dead/High Country
High Country was a bluegrass band formed in Berkeley in Fall 1968. Leader and mandolinist Butch Waller was an old friend of Garcia's. In the early 1960s Waller and banjoist Herb Pedersen had been in a group called The Westport Singers who played the same folk circuit as Garcia. Later, Waller and Pedersen were in a group called The Pine Valley Boys with David Nelson (there's even a picture).

Bay Area bluegrass was a lonely enterprise in the late 60s, and numerous people went in and out of High Country. David Nelson was at least a part-time member in late 1968 and early 1969, and remarkably enough Jerry Garcia filled in on banjo at least once. A tape from a performance at The Matrix survives, usually dated as February 19, 1969. We know for a fact that this date must be wrong, as the Grateful Dead were playing Fillmore West that night, and I believe the date to be February 24, 25 or 26 (I have discussed the dating of Jerry Garcia and High Country at The Matrix at length elsewhere).

High Country continued to perform, however, and by 1972 they had an album on Raccoon, a Warner Brothers imprint controlled by The Youngbloods. High Country was still a traditional bluegrass band, however, and playing acoustic music for a rowdy Winterland crowd must have been daunting indeed. Of the few comments online about this show, no one seems to recall High Country playing. There's no question in my mind, however, that Butch Waller's friendship with Garcia got the band this high profile gig. In any case, it doesn't seemed to have harmed them, as High Country has stayed together over the decades, playing Berkeley's Freight and Salvage almost every New Year's Eve.

December 11, 1972: Grateful Dead/Sons Of Champlin
The Sons Of Champlin had as long a history performing at the Fillmore and The Avalon as The Grateful Dead. The Sons had released three fine albums on Capitol, and they were widely regarded by fellow musicians as one of the most creative and adept bands. However, little success had come their way, and they broke up in 1970. Later in 1970. they had gotten back together under the name Yogi Phlegm, playing an advanced mixture of fusion jazz and soulful rock. By late 1972 the group had bowed to the obvious and begun calling themselves The Sons Of Champlin again.

The Sons were the Dead's Marin neighbors and peers, even though they lacked the Dead's success. When The Sons had opened for the Dead at Winterland on March 5, 1972, a few members (guitarist Terry Haggerty and bassist David Schallock) had gotten stuck in traffic, and Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh had filled in for some opening blues numbers. This unique occurrence was a clear indicator of The Sons' personal and professional status with the Dead (update: I should add that for much of the 70-72 period, Bill Vitt drummed for both Jerry Garcia and The Sons. I think by December 1972 The Sons had replaced Vitt with Jim Preston, but it was another important musical connection between the groups).

December 12, 1972: Grateful Dead/The Rowan Brothers
Chris and Lorin Rowan were singer/songwriters from Massachusetts, the younger brother of Sea Train guitarist Peter Rowan. The pair had been signed to Columbia Records by Clive Davis, and David Grisman ended up producing their debut album. Among The Rowan Brothers very few early performances had been opening for the Grateful Dead at Fillmore West on July 2, 1971. For that show, Jerry Garcia had played pedal steel guitar and David Grisman had played mandolin, in itself a unique pairing (Bill Kreuzmann had played drums and Bill Wolf had played bass that night). However, Garcia did not perform live with them again as a regular band member, although JGMF points out that Garcia played pedal steel for two numbers when the Rowan Brothers had opened for Hot Tuna and The New Riders the previous month (November 3, 1972).

By late 1972, The Rowan Brothers' debut album had finally been released on Columbia. Columbia was (rather unfortunately) pushing the LP with a qoute from Jerry Garcia where he said, essentially "these guys could be the next Beatles." The quote was taken out of context, and it assured that the Rowan Brothers could never live up to their hype. The album was produced by Bill Wolf and "David Diadem," the name Grisman used for the record (Bill Wolf would be the sound engineer for the "Last Five Nights" at Winterland in October 1974). On stage, the two Rowans wore spangly Nudie-type jackets. John Douglas played drums, while Wolf played bass. Grisman played keyboards, strangely enough, but he came out from behind his organ to play an electric mandolin solo. I suspect few people had any idea that this was the guy who had played on American Beauty.

The night of December 12, 1972 was not only my first Grateful Dead concert, but the first rock concert I had ever gone to. I can thus say with certainty that by 8:00 pm on Tuesday, December 12, The Rowan Brothers were the best rock band I had ever seen. When the Dead came on shortly afterwards, with Garcia and Weir wearing spangly Nudie suits, like C&W stars, I just assumed that all bands did that, since the Rowan Brothers had also. What did I know? Maybe all keyboard players took mandolin solos--I had nothing else to go on.

After these shows, it was clear that the Dead could not only sell out Winterland by themselves on a weeknight, but that the shows were long enough that opening acts did not add to the experience. Certainly the Dead in the 1970s were so overwhelming on stage that it was hard to even remember what had happened before they came on, and I can't say I missed having opening acts. Still, it was interesting to see a unique situation where Garcia and the Dead were apparently asked which of their friends they wanted to invite to open their shows, and to see which old friends were put on the bill.

Appendix: December 8-9 conflicts
I presume the Dead/Allmans Winterland extravaganza was scheduled for December 10-12 because of other weekend conflicts. The Allman Brothers had a whole tour scheduled, and they were booked at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, MI on Saturday, December 9. In fact, the Allman Brothers played this show, their first without Berry Oakley, replaced by new bassist Lamar Williams. However, it must have simply been too daunting to plan to fly to San Francisco afterwards, so that must be why the Allmans had to back out.

Bill Graham Presents had other shows booked for the weekend at Winterland, as he did almost every weekend. Friday December 8 featured J. Geils Band/Loggins & Messsina/Tranquility, and Saturday December 9 featured Quicksilver. Quicksilver in fact canceled, and I believe Winterland was dark that night--very rare for a Saturday--but I assume it was too late to consider adding another Dead date. Knowing how big the Dead were about to become, it seems obvious that a Saturday night should have been added, but that can hardly have been self-evident at the time.

Friday, October 29, 2010

November 9-16, 1970 New York: Action House, 46th Street Rock Palace, Fillmore East (November 1970 Itinerary)

(scan of the ad for The Action House in Long Island, from the Village Voice of November 5, 1970)

The Grateful Dead had an East Coast road trip in November 1970 that has captured the imaginations of Deadheads over the years, primarily due to some amazing tapes that have memorialized those events. However, there are a few other shows that have little or no taped evidence that shed some interesting light on the Dead's rising but still shaky professional status at the time. While not unknown, the week of shows from Monday, November 9 through Monday November 16 are largely overlooked events. If only because I have found ads for some of the events (thanks to the fantastic Its All The Streets You Crossed So Long Ago blog about New York rock prosopography), some of these less remembered events deserve a second look.

Itinerary Overview
The Eastern leg of the Dead's Fall 1970 tour was:
  • October 30-31, 1970: SUNY Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY (early and late shows)
  • November 1 or 2: Lion's Share, San Anselmo, CA (Janis Joplin wake)
  • November 2: Harding Theater, San Francisco, CA (NRPS--unconfirmed)
  • November 5-8, 1970: Capitol Theater, Port Chester, NY
  • November 9-10, 1970: The Action House, Island Park, NY
  • November 11-14, 1970: 46th Street (Brooklyn) Rock Palace, New York, NY
  • November 15, 1970: The Armory, Albany, NY (GD did not play)
  • November 16, 1970: Fillmore East, New York, NY
  • November 20, 1970: The Palestra, U. of Rochester, Rochester, NY
  • November 21, 1970: Sargent's Gym, Boston U., Boston, MA
  • November 22, 1970: Middlesex Community College, Edison, NJ
  • November 23, 1970: Anderson Theater, New York, NY
Very briefly, fine tapes of the four Stony Brook shows, most of the Capitol shows, the Palestra (Nov 20) and one of the New York City shows (originally circulated as Nov 23 but more likely Nov 16) have circulated widely for many years. This run of shows is memorable for great performances, unexpected material and special guests (Jorma Kaukonen, Steve Winwood and so on). Other blogs analyze the tapes better than me, so I will not dwell on them here. I am interested in the week of November 9-16, and the complex financial dynamics underlying the Grateful Dead's touring at the time.

Grateful Dead Finances
In March 1970, the Grateful Dead had been forced to fire manager Lenny Hart, since he was stealing from them. He had taken something like $155,000 from them, a lot of money back then, effectively bankrupting the band. They had no choice but to tour relentlessly to retire the various debts they had accrued. Amazingly, they had recorded an album that was receiving huge airplay on FM radio, but Workingman's Dead had only been released in June 1970. Although the album was a big success, the nature of the record business was that the band would see little or no money from the record for some time, since it would initially just retire the substantial debts the group had accrued in the previous 3 years of recording for Warner Brothers.

With the help of their new road manager Sam Cutler, the Dead streamlined and normalized their touring, crisscrossing the country in an orderly fashion, trying to work every weekend and as many nights as possible in between. The group was making money on a cash flow basis, but they still had substantial obligations, and thus no choice but to maximize their touring revenue. In 1970, almost all rock concerts had two, three or four acts. One advantage for the Dead for touring with the New Riders of The Purple Sage was that by providing their own opening act, the band could ask for more money. No one had heard of the New Riders, of course, but the main purpose of opening acts was to encourage people to come early so that they would buy popcorn and soda.

As the 1970s and 80s wore on, both Bill Graham and the Grateful Dead were heavily invested in the idea that they had been partners since the early days of the San Francisco underground, but that isn't really borne out by the facts. While I think that the members of the Grateful Dead genuinely liked Bill Graham personally, they did not hesitate to compete with him by opening the Carousel in 1968, and Graham in turn snatched the Carousel away from them to start the Fillmore West (admittedly, it was losing money under the Dead's management). Professionally, the Dead understood that while Graham paid his bands--not true of every promoter--he had a business to run that did not always stand to favor the Grateful Dead. Thus when the Dead obtained bookings from promoters competing with Graham, the band did not hesitate to take them. The Dead always needed the money, and they had few illusions about Graham's willingness to use them to profit himself, if fairly enough.

New York City, Fall 1970
New York City has always been America's live entertainment capital, and of course live rock and roll has been popular in New York since the days of Alan Freed in the 1950s. Nonetheless, when Graham opened the Fillmore East in Greenwich Village in March, 1968, he imported the San Francisco notion that live rock music was Art, just like Jazz, Ballet and the Symphony. The Fillmore East was more like a Broadway theater (in an East Village kind of way) than a dingy dance hall, and it made rock music Serious Business.

By 1970, however, Graham's approach to rock music was the coming industry standard, and well capitalized competitors were coming into the New York market. The Fillmore East was the prestige booking in town, but it was not particularly large, so by 1970 Graham wasn't guaranteed to get every rock band who came to New York. New York's great public transit allowed teenagers from all over the Tri-State Area to come into the Village to see shows at Fillmore East (at least the early show, assuming their parents were compliant or ignorant). However, New York City suburbs themselves were the source of a lot of rock fans, and promoters were starting to see that shows could be promoted in the suburbs, as there was already a huge rock audience there.

Howard Stein's Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York was one of Bill Graham's fiercest competitors. Port Chester is about 35 miles Northeast of Manhattan--about 90 minutes driving in traffic--on the Northeast side of Long Island Sound, right near the Connecticut border. Numerous teenage rock fans who could not or would not be able to come into Greenwich Village, particularly for a late night event, suddenly found major rock acts accessible in Port Chester. The Dead, like many other groups, played both the Capitol and the Fillmore East, but there was overlap in the bookings and Graham and promoter Howard Stein were rivals for the Dead's East Coast appearances.

The Dead's Halloween booking at SUNY Stony Brook was in Long Island, far by road from Manhattan and all but inaccessible to Port Chester. In any case, SUNY students would have been a big part of the Stony Brook audience. In the week between Halloween and the Capitol, Jerry Garcia and probably the rest of the Grateful Dead appear to have flown back to San Francisco for Janis Joplin's wake, and the band probably even played (NRPS may have played a show too). When the Dead returned for the Capitol show on Thursday, November 5, however, they began a brief frenzy of shows that has remained largely unnoticed.

Capitol Theater, Port Chester, NY November 5-8, 1970 (Thursday thru Sunday)
The Dead's four night stand at Port Chester has been fairly well analyzed, thanks to some fine audience tapes that have endured, so I will not belabor it here. Suffice to say that instead of playing two shows each night, the band played one long show each night, opened by the New Riders. Port Chester seemed to have little concern about curfew, and the shows were famously long.

The Action House, Island Park, NY: November 9-10, 1970 (Monday and Tuesday)
The Action House shows seem to have been almost under the radar, but they definitely happened. Only some fragmentary tapes survive, some of which appear to from other dates altogether, but advertisements for the show confirm the existence of these two shows.

The Action House, near the Southern shore of Long Island, was essentially a discoteque with live bands, a common 60s configuration. The Action House had played a big role in the 60s rock scene in New York, particularly in the Summers when it would be open most nights of the week. The house band in 1966-67 had been The Pigeons, who became the very successful Vanilla Fudge. As The Fudge moved up the ladder, they were replaced by The Vagrants (from Queens) who featured guitarist Leslie West, who became famous in Mountain (surely you recall the great "Mississippi Queen"?). For a look at some of the interesting acts who played The Action House, see Its All The Streets You Crossed.

The Voice ad listed up top is from November 5, the first day of the Capitol booking, and Island Park (on the Southern shore of Long Island) is a long way from Port Chester. My guess is that the promoter's agreement with the Dead was that the shows would not be publicized until shortly before. This would insure that the Capitol shows would do well with advance sales. Also, the Village Voice ad (up top) only promotes a show on Tuesday, November 10. However, we know from the ad from Deadlists (above) that there were two shows. I have to assume that both shows were always scheduled, and first one (Tuesday Nov 10) and then the other (Monday Nov 9) were added as ticket sales warranted.

In the Fall, I doubt the Action House was open most weeknights. However, it would make business sense if a headline act was willing to play. Although the Dead's motives for playing weeknight gigs are plain--they needed the money--it might seem surprising that the promoters of both the Capitol Theater and the Brooklyn venue would not contractually prevent a weeknight booking in Long Island by their headline act. Of course, those who read widely know that Action House owner Phil Basile appears in (non-fiction) books like Wise Guy (the Nicholas Pileggi book that was the basis for the Ray Liotta/Joe Pesci Goodfellas movie). His business associates were not friendly people, and perhaps Basile had leverage where other promoters did not. In any case, it does seem that the Dead played two nights at a disco in Long Island between weekend engagements, but I'm not aware of a lot of eyewitness accounts.

46th Street Rock Palace, Brooklyn, NY: November 11-14, 1970 (Wednesday thru Sunday)
The 46th Street Rock Palace (at 46th and New Utrecht, near Borough Park) seems to have been a brief but substantial effort to compete directly with the Fillmore East. Brooklyn is accessible via Subway just like the East Village, so it presented a direct threat to Bill Graham. The Capitol Theater in Port Chester encroached on Graham's territory, leaving room enough to co-exist, but a converted movie theater in Brooklyn was a direct assault. However history has been smoothed over, the Dead could hardly have been in Graham's pocket if they signed up to do shows for his biggest potential threat. I can't imagine this went over well with Bill.

A tape only endures from the first night (Wednesday Nov 11). We know surprisingly little about the other nights, besides fragmentary reports of some setlist highlights. The same suspects who attended Fillmore East shows must have seen these shows, but we know almost nothing. Its another sign of how much we depend on surviving tapes, and how skinny are information is without them.

The Armory, Albany, NY: November 15, 1970 (Sunday)
The Grateful Dead and the Buddy Miles Express were booked to play a Sunday night concert in Albany. During the show, a bomb threat was phoned in, and the police cleared the building. The Grateful Dead did not return to the arena, however, and Buddy Miles announced from the stage that the Dead were no longer present, much to the audience dismay. I have written elsewhere about the Dead's curious departure, and the Comment thread has some interesting (if unprovable) speculation.

Fillmore East, New York, NY: November 16, 1970 (Monday)
Given the  competition going on between Bill Graham and his rivals, how did the Grateful Dead come to play the Fillmore East on Monday, November 16? First, it should be noted that the Fillmore East was never open on Mondays. The fact of a Monday night show in itself raises a flag of interest.

The Monday night show appears in no ad or handbill that I am aware of. During the Mothers Of Invention concert at Fillmore East on Saturday, November 14, a very pregnant Grace Slick came on stage and announced that the Dead and the Airplane would be playing Fillmore East on Monday night (the evening was hardly over--John Lennon came out to jam later in the show). Intriguingly, a flyer exists advertising Jefferson Airplane at the 46th Street Rock Palace on Monday, November 16. A careful look at the ad from the Village Voice (from October 15, 1970) shows the odd text "due to circumstances beyond our control, all shows cannot be publicized call theater for listings."

Since the Airplane were booked at Fillmore East on November 25-27, I think that their booking at 46th Street violated their contract with Graham. Graham asserted himself by taking the Airplane back from his competitors. He booked the Dead as well, probably just to show that he still had some pull with them, and knowing they could not turn down a paid gig. As it happened, Grace's pregnancy prevented her from performing, and Hot Tuna took over the Airplane's part of the Fillmore East show. What evidence exists suggests that Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen and Papa John Creach played with the Dead in the first set.

In the second set, it appears that Steve Winwood and Ramblin Jack Elliott and possibly others (like Will Scarlett) performed with the Dead as well. Traffic was in town to play Fillmore East (starting Wednesday Nov 18), so it made for an amazing night. Although I am no expert on tape provenance, a tape that circulated for years as "Anderson Theater Nov 23" appears to actually have been from Monday November 16 (a mis-dated but fantastic Traffic tape was actually from Nov 18 rather than Nov 23).

The Grateful Dead appear to have played ten out of twelve nights from November 5 through 16, and I think there must be many great memories and insights from those missing days, even if tapes never surface.

Aftermath: November 20-29, 1970
November 20, 1970: The Palestra, Rochester, NY (Friday)
This rightly famous night is well documented, with Jorma Kaukonen sitting in for an entire set, and John Dawson stepping up to sing a song as well.

November 21, 1970: Sargent's Gym, Boston, MA (Saturday)
Ned Lagin sat in with the Dead for the first time this night. Meanwhile, the Allman Brothers were playing the Boston Tea Party across time. Early on the morning of the 22nd, Duane Allman, Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir drop by WBCN-fm in Boston and play a little acoustic music over the air (the shy Pigpen demurs). Even more strangely, the opener for the Dead and the Riders was a trained Chimpanzee act. Apparently, the poor chimps were very upset with the firecrackers and noise of the rowdy Boston rock crowd.

November 22, 1970: Middlesex Community College, Edison, NJ (Sunday)
This show is unknown save for the date itself. It has always fascinated me. Of course, it fascinated me mainly because I lived in Middlesex County for some time, and I would see signs for the Community College (now County College) on Route 1 or I-95 as I went through Edison, and I would think "the Dead played here in 1970?"

The Dead simply needed money, and adding a modestly paying night in what was probably a Community College gym was worth it, a clear sign of their dire financial situation. If anyone knows anything at all about this show, or would just like to speculate about the Dead in Middlesex in 1970, please Comment.

November 23, 1970: Anderson Theater, New York, NY (Monday)
The Grateful Dead and The New Riders played a Hells Angels party on their last Monday night on the East Coast. The Dead had a Friday show in Chicago, so they would have had to finance their trip to the Midwest, and playing an Angels party was probably fairly lucrative. The Anderson was a former Yiddish Theater in Greenwich Village, not far from the Fillmore East. Whereas the Fillmore East had gotten fixed up and become a rock palace, however, the Anderson was still fairly run down. As such, however, it was easy to rent. The show would not have been advertised, except in the most casual sort of way, so the existing handbills were suitably vague.

The interesting consideration about The Anderson, however, is how our assumptions about the show have been upended. For many years the event was generally known as a "Hells Angels Benefit" (itself a misnomer), and some great tapes circulated of Traffic and the Grateful Dead, with Steve Winwood and others sitting in. It sounded like a fantastic Greenwich Village party, and most knowledgeable heads contemplated the event in their minds as they listened to the tapes.

I'm sure it was an interesting night, but none of the things we imagine were necessarily the case. The Traffic tape that circulates (with Ric Grech on bass--great stuff) was actually from Fillmore East on November 18. The Dead tape was finally determined to be from Fillmore East on November 16. What happened on Monday, November 23? No eyewitness actually seems to know, or recall. Suburban kids wouldn't have come on a Monday night and perhaps a lot of regular Heads took a pass on a Hells Angels party, but the Village Voice did review it (thanks to JGMF for uncovering this). It seems that Traffic didn't play at all, and a mime (Joe McCord?) opened for the Dead and the Riders. Does anyone really know anything else about the November 23 show that isn't misrepresented from some other date (usually Nov 16)?

November 27, 1970: The Syndrome, Chicago, IL (Friday)
The Dead played The Syndrome in Chicago on a Friday night. It seems odd that there the Dead had no Saturday night show booked anywhere. I have to think that some event was canceled.

November 29, 1970: Club Agora, Columbus, OH (Sunday)
There was a Club Agora in Cleveland, so I assume this was an affiliated venue. I don't think the Cleveland venue was that large. This seems like another show that the Dead took on to make Sunday a paying night, perhaps to make up for a canceled show (somewhere) the night before. The surviving tape suggests that it was long, but not a marathon, appropriate for a college town on the last night of Thanksgiving weekend.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

January 23, 1988, Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, Oakland, CA: Carlos Santana and Friends and Tower of Power with Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir

(A San Francisco Examiner photo from January 25, 1988, of Boz Scaggs and Jerry Garcia singing "Shake, Rattle and Roll" at the Kaiser Auditorium on January 23, 1988)

In general this blog is about research and not about first person narrative, since by my definition a show that I attended as an adult has a hard time qualifying as "Lost." However, while I am not a person who collects pieces of paper, as I have to draw the line somewhere, I am not immune to my own memory. An old newspaper photo fell out of a file the other day, and I was reminded that one of my greatest rock concert experiences was at a 1988 Benefit Concert for Medical Aid To El Salvador, organized by Carlos Santana. Jerry Garcia was one of many featured acts, and while I went expecting Garcia to play a brief set with John Kahn--his usual Benefit contribution in that period--in fact Garcia plugged in his electric and rocked the house with Carlos, Tower of Power, Wayne Shorter and many others. Garcia's energy level was never consistently great throughout the 1980s, but that Winter night he grinned from ear to ear and ruled the stage.

Looking around, however, I find very little about this show. It is written up briefly on TheJerrySite, and Blair Jackson's brief, if enthusiastically accurate, review from the late, great Golden Road magazine (posted at TheJerrySite) gives a brief flavor. I'm not aware of a circulating digital tape, however, but as I listen to my dusty old cassette I am reminded of what an exceptional event this was. Not only were there numerous fine acts who played excellent sets, but both the headliners and numerous guest players collaborated on stage to make it a one-of-a-kind evening usually only seen in the acoustic setting of Neil Young's Bridge Concerts. Garcia was in the center of it, and at the time at least it made me feel that there was a seemingly infinite set of musical possibilities for Garcia in the coming years.  With that in mind, I thought I would document the whole concert, because no one else seems to have done so in an accessible forum.

The Booking
The concert was advertised as "Blues For Salvador: Building A New El Salvador Today." Carlos Santana's current album was entitled Blues For Salvador, a mostly instrumental solo album. The title was both a tribute to the country of El Salvador, trying to recover from a difficult US-sponsored war, and Carlos's son (named Salvador). The advertised acts were (in this order):
  • Carlos Santana & Friends
  • Caribbean All-Stars
  • Jerry Garcia
  • NRBQ
  • Bonnie Raitt
  • Boz Scaggs
  • Tower Of Power
January 23, 1988 was a Saturday night, but most bands do not tour much in January, so the All-Star cast could be assembled more easily than at other times of the year. Based on the billing, I had assumed that Santana would play with a one-off version of his band--numerous people had been in and out of Santana, so it wouldn't be hard to to find a quorum. I also assumed that Garcia would play a set with John Kahn, his standard Benefit configuration in the 1980s. If I was really lucky, Garcia would plug in for a little blues jam at the end of the show. That was OK with me. I didn't have a great urgency to see Garcia and Kahn, but I enjoyed them, and I liked NRBQ, Bonnie, Boz and Tower, so it would be a good night no matter what.

The show was sold out, as you would expect. However, while I saw a few people I recognized, many of the people I knew skipped the show on the grounds that it wasn't Dead-centric enough. Seeing Garcia play a few numbers with Kahn wasn't that big a draw in the Bay Area. However, Santana was a huge star, and the other acts had their followings, so it wasn't like there weren't plenty of fans. Nonetheless, I would describe the crowd as having been "Dead-Friendly" but not at all a hardcore Deadhead crowd. Certainly there seemed to be few if any people from way out of town, since this wasn't part of any tour.

Caribbean All-Stars
I believe Carlos Santana began the show by playing a solo version of the song "Blues For Salvador" (with Chester Thompson on organ), but he introduced the Caribbean All-Stars himself. This was a telling sign of how seriously Carlos took this event. Even if it was named after his current album, it was clearly an important personal mission for him. The Caribbean All-Stars were a sort of reggae jazz-rock band, not bad, but I wasn't ready to push up to the front of the crowd for them. I retired to the bar. I watched them on the video feed--keep in mind, this suggests that there is video of this entire event--so I saw Carlos come out and jam with the band up in the bar. As a proud Oaklander, however, I had to go head back down for Oakland's finest export.

Tower Of Power
Tower Of Power, the pride of Oakland,  were next up. Tower had been through a variety of changes, as always, but their A-list horn section still ruled. I am not certain of the line-up in that era, but Emilio Castillo and Steve (The Funky Doctor) Kupka still led the band. Even those who do not have a particular affinity for funk music should see Tower if they ever get the chance. I don't know exactly who was in the band at the time, but they were all good players--guitar, bass, drums and the 5-piece horn section.

Carlos introduced Tower Of Power as well, with the surprisingly personal revelation that Tower meant a lot to him not just because of their great music, but because he had met his wife at a Tower concert. Tower launched into some jumping numbers, and they were as good as ever, even if we knew they were going to end by pulling out the stops on all their best numbers to end their set. A few songs into their set, however, after a nice version of "Way Down Low To The Ground," Tower stopped to announce some special guests, and the evening took a stunning left turn.

A whole string of guests came out to join Tower Of Power. Conguero Armando Peraza and timbalero Orestes Vilato, long time anchors of the Santana Latin percussion section, were joined by Santana organist Chester Thompson, himself a Tower alumni from the previous decade. A thunderous roar greeted Jerry Garcia's arrival on stage, wearing a Hawaiian shirt over his mandatory black tee. Unexpectedly, he was followed out by Bob Weir, wearing not just a Hawaiian shirt but shorts (in January!), and then of course Carlos Santana himself.

What were they going to play now? There were 14 players on stage, with four guitars and five horns on top of a huge rhythm section, so my ability to speculate went right out the window. I assumed, per usual practice, that they would play some blues number that everyone knew, so that everyone could take their solo. Fair enough. Wrong.

Amazingly, Tower Of Power continued their set, and everyone on stage joined in. Why not? Everyone who had lived in the Bay Area in the 1970s knew the songs, and the guys on stage were no different. First up was a ten-minute version of "What Is Hip." This was followed by the classic "Soul Vaccination" (with a bit of "You've Got To Funkifize" thrown in). The highlight of the nine-minute version was just after the second verse, when it was time for the solo, and Castillo shouted "who wants it?" and Jerry let it fly, making it clear that for all the firepower on stage he was ready to bring it. If you've ever wondered what happens when you go all the way down Shakedown Street, I can say with certainty that it leads you straight to Bump City.

Remarkably, at the end of the song, there was another shift in personnel, and the Tower rhythm section was replaced by Santana drummer Graham Lear and bassist Randy Jackson (yes, the American Idol guy-really). Carlos stepped up to the mic and announced that it was an incredible evening, and introduced saxophonist Wayne Shorter, who would join in on soprano sax for the song "It Speaks For Itself." Shorter is a giant of twentieth century music, an amazing saxophonist and composer, and an anchor of some of the greatest lineups of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, the Miles Davis Quintet and Weather Report. This was the only public performance of Shorter and Jerry Garcia, and this moved the night from memorable to epic.

After a beautiful 8-minute performance, Shorter and most of the Santana players left the stage, except for Armando Peraza, and the Tower rhythm section returned. Weir lead the band through a smoking "Turn On Your Lovelight," and Peraza--at the time about 64 years old--absolutely rocked the house on congas. Garcia followed with a great version "Goodnight Irene, " and Garcia, Weir and Peraza left the stage. The stunned and enthusiastic crowd were calmed by an excellent version of Tower's classic "You're Still A Young Man,"  dedicated to Bill Graham.

It was amazing to think that this was only the first half of the concert, but as far as I and many others were concerned, it had already been a great night and we were into the bonus round. But there was still much more to come.

The Garcia portion of the first part analyzes as follows
Tower Of Power with guests (38:00)
  • Emilio Castillo-tenor sax, vocals
  • Steve Kupka-baritone sax
  • [T of P]-tenor sax
  • Greg Adams-trumpet
  • [T of P]-trumpet
  • [T of P]-guitar
  • [T of P]-bass
  • [T of P]-drums {note--not David Garibaldi}
  • Carlos Santana-guitar
  • Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
  • Bob Weir-guitar, vocals
  • Chester Thompson-organ
  • Armando Peraza-congas
  • Orestes Vilato-timbales
plus: Randy Jackson-bass
   Graham Lear-drums
Caribbean All Stars horns-tenor and alto sax
  • What Is Hip (10:00)
  • Soul Fascination (9:00) [plus Caribbean All-Stars horns]
  • It Speaks For Itself (8:00) [plus Shorter, Jackson, Lear, minus TofP bass and drums]
  • Turn On Your Lovelight (5:00) [Garcia, Weir, Peraza, TofP]
  • Goodnight Irene (6:00) [Garcia, Weir, Peraza, TofP]
Bonnie Raitt, NRBQ and Boz Scaggs
I will not dwell too much on this section of the concert except to say it was great.

Bonnie Raitt (guitar, vocals) with Johnny Lee Schell (bass, vocals)
  • Love Me Like A Man
  • El Salvador
  • Angel From Montgomery
Al Anderson (guitar, vocals), Terry Adams (keyboards, vocals), Joey Spampinato (bass, vocals), Tom Ardolino (drums)
  • Feel Good Too
  • White Lightning
  • instrumental
  • Make Love, Not War
Bonnie Raitt with NRBQ
  • Green Light
  • The Last Time
  • The End Of The World
  • Me And The Boys
NRBQ with Boz Scaggs (guitar, vocals)
  • Feel So Good
  • Got A Mind To Give Up Living
  • Nadine
Scaggs dedicated "Got A Mind To Give Up Living" to the recently passed Paul Butterfield. Scaggs once performed this song once with the Dead in 1983.

After the NRBQ sequence, the stage was reconfigured for yet another jam extravaganza. By this time, the show had been going on for over three hours, but the musicians clearly had no intentions of stopping.

Carlos Santana And Friends
The initial configuration was
  • Carlos Santana-guitar
  • Jerry Garcia-guitar
  • Bob Weir-guitar
  • Chester Thompson-organ, DX7 synthesizer
  • Randy Jackson-bass
  • Graham Lear-drums
  • Armando Peraza-congas
  • Orestes Vilato-timbales
various players came and went throughout the final set, as I shall document.

The first two numbers seemed to be Santana numbers, although I can't pin them down exactly. Roughly speaking, the sound seemed to be like mid-80s Santana with Garcia and Weir as part of the band. Jerry was rolling, but in the context of the band, so it wasn't a cutting contest. I have always felt that Carlos needs some good players to challenge him, and Garcia and Weir made great foils for him, and to his credit Carlos answered the call like the major player that he is.  Some Tower horn players joined in for the second number, which gave the sound a nice funky overtone. Santana has played relatively little with horn players (Jules Broussard is the only real exception I can think of) but it made for an interesting contrast.

For the next two numbers, most of the Santana players stepped down, and NRBQ and Boz Scaggs stepped to the fore (I no longer recall if Carlos remained on stage). First, Terry Adams and NRBQ led Garcia, Weir and others through "Johnny B. Goode," with Terry singing the first verse and Bob Weir singing the last one. The version was actually quite ragged, but everybody seemed to be having fun.

As "Johnny B Goode" crashed to a halt,  Terry Adams led the ensemble into the old Bill Haley chestnut "Shake, Rattle and Roll." This 1954 classic is one of the first rock songs in their life that many people heard on the radio. NRBQ played it on a regular basis, and audiences recognize it immediately, on a visceral level, and would start singing along. When NRBQ came to the chorus, the entire crowd usually started singing along with it at the top of their lungs. Amazingly, in what I believe to be a practically unique event, Jerry Garcia did too.

Usually Garcia didn't sing backups at jam events, probably for practical reasons (eg guitar cords) as much as anything. But when the famous chorus to the song came up, Jerry joined Boz Scaggs and Big Al Anderson to belt out "shake, rattle and roll" along with everyone else in the building. In fact, Garcia stepped up so quickly that I recall someone else on stage (I think NRBQ bassist Joey Spampinato) being unable to get to the mic. I have since tried to look into it, and I'm not aware of The Warlocks every having played "Shake, Rattle and Roll," nor any other band Garcia was in, so in fact this may have been the first time he ever got to sing along. Garcia would have been about 14 when the song came out, and it seemed like he had been waiting the whole time to belt it out. You can see it in the photo above; since it was the only time Garcia shared a mic with Boz Scaggs the whole night, I can be certain of which song they were singing.

For all the great music played this evening--and there was a lot--this is the most powerful memory in my mind, 22-plus years later: in an evening of high-level jamming, getting to see a grinning Garcia sing along to an old that song he liked, a reminder of why he played music in the first place. There's a tendency to think about Jerry in terms of "Dark Star" and bluegrass, but this was a glowing reminder that he liked rock and roll just as much as anything.

Amazingly, the evening still wasn't over. Carlos Santana reappeared, as did Bonnie Raitt, and Carlos sang (!) a song in Spanish, with backup vocals from Bonnie. I no longer precisely recall the configuration on stage, but Garcia and Weir were still up there. For the final number, most of Tower Of Power had reappeared and Garcia, Weir, Santana, Chester Thompson, Peraza and Vilato joined them for a final funk fest, and the amazing evening finally ended.

Analysis of Last Set (approximately 45 minutes)
  • Carlos Santana-guitar
  • Jerry Garcia-guitar
  • Bob Weir-guitar
  • Chester Thompson-organ, DX7 synthesizer
  • Randy Jackson-bass
  • Graham Lear-drums
  • Armando Peraza-congas
  • Orestes Vilato-timbales
  • with NRBQ, Tower of Power , Bonnie Raitt, Boz Scaggs
  • [instrumental]-plus Tower of Power horns
  • [instrumental]-plus Tower of Power horns
  • Johnny B. Goode-NRBQ plus Garcia, Weir
  • Shake, Rattle and Roll-NRBQ plus Garcia, Weir, Scaggs, Raitt, Steve Kupka (bari sax)
  • [Spanish song]-Santana [vcls], Raitt [vcls], Garcia, Weir, others
  • [funk song]-Santana, Garcia, Weir, Thompson, Peraza, Vilato, Tower of Power
The concert received very little attention, given its size. Although Santana and the Grateful Dead were both popular in the Bay Area, they weren't newsworthy. The San Francisco Examiner ran a brief review by Phil Elwood, I think, and of course the picture (up top). I no longer recall if Joel Selvin reviewed the show for the SF Chronicle. Blair Jackson reviewed it in Golden Road some months later, and I believe it was mentioned in Relix, but otherwise it simply passed under the radar. Because it doesn't fit nicely into a category, like "Jerry Garcia solo shows," it tends to be ignored.

I have had a pretty good audience version of the tape for many years, but there didn't seem to be a lot of tapers at the show (certainly there was not a taping section, just a few mic stands peeking up). I'm not aware of a circulating upgrade of any of the audience tapes, but I'm basically lazy about that and may be ill informed. In any case, if you haven't given it a listen recently it's well worth it.

There must have been a board tape, however, and since there was a video feed running up in the bar, there may be (relatively) professional video as well. I don't know for a fact that the video ran the whole time, but I assume it did. What became of it? Bill Graham was Carlos Santana's manager at the time (I think), and Graham was always sharp about preserving historic material. Personally I doubt Wolfgang's Vault has it, or I think they would have released it, but of course if they do have it then it would be nice to get it out there. My own suspicion is that this in Carlos Santana's possession--or at least the possession of Carlos's management team--and that is why it has remained uncirculating.

A video of this event would be a pretty remarkable document. It was a one-of-a-kind event, and unlike a lot of recordings it would really help to see who is doing what, rather than just listening. Over the years, a lot of stuff that I had thought would never see the light of day have risen up to the surface, so I can only hope that the January 23, 1988 show joins them.

Update: The Final Word
JGMF thoughtfully sent various things, including the Selvin and Relix reviews. More importantly, he sent the notes for the extant digital tape. I will publish them in their entirety here, leaving the above post as an homage to my memory. Note that I missed the fact that Terry Haggerty was there, and I'm a huge Sons fan. More importantly, the lineage suggests access to the video source, so the tape is preserved...

Santana & Friends
Kaiser Auditorium
Oakland, CA

Primary source:  MAC(Nakamichi 700s FOB split 30' either side of center>Sony-D5)>D>D>WAV>SHN.
Taper:  unknown

shn to flac1644 conversion by jj 8/15/2009, TLH

Disc 1 - First Set
     Caribbean All-Stars (*w/ Santana and Armando Perassa)
01  Santana Intro  [00:46]
02  Caught In The Middle  [07:57]
03  Unity  [07:32]
04  Rub-A-Dub Tonight  [13:02]
05  Rasta*  [11:57]
06  Loosen Up*  [12:54]
07  Bill Graham intro/Alicia Mendoza speech  [02:27]
Total time:  56:38

Disc 2 - Second Set
     Santana & Chester "CT" Thompson
01  Blues for El Salvador  [03:44]
02  Santana Intro of Tower of Power  [01:16]
     Tower of Power
03  Real Soul Love  [04:36]
04  Down To The Night Club  [02:43]
05  She's a Pro (But She's a Con)  [04:29]
06  How Can This Happen To Me  [04:35]
07  Playin' For Keeps  [04:53]
08  Way Down Low To The Ground  [04:58]
     Tower of Power w/ Santana, CT, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Perassa (*w/ Wayne Shorter)
09  introductions  [00:59]
10  What Is Hip  [11:50]
11  Soul Vaccination  [09:26]
12  Mandela*  [09:36]
13  Lovelight  [05:04]
14  Goodnight Irene  [06:30]
     Tower of Power
15  You're Still A Young Man  [05:14]
Total time:  79:57

Disc 3 - Third Set
     Bonnie Raitt & Johnny Lee Schell
01  Love Me Like A Man  [05:54]
02  Viva El Salvador  [04:42]
03  Angel from Montgomery  [04:58]
04  Raitt introducing NRBQ  [00:34]
05  I Want You To Feel Good Too  [05:13]
06  White Lightnin'  [04:37]
07  Let's Make Love, Not War  [01:39]
08  My Baby Pulls My Strings  [02:56]
09  Rocket In My Pocket  [04:09]
10  Hey Baby Be My Girl  [03:04]
11  Hold On Tight  [04:22]
12  Get Rhythm  [04:45]
     NRBQ w/Bonnie Raitt & Terry Haggerty (*w/ Boz Scaggs)
13  Green Light  [04:25]
14  The Last Time  [03:56]
15  The End Of The World  [03:16]
16  Me And The Boys  [04:07]
17  Muddy Waters tune " "*  [05:36]
18  Got A Good Mind To Give Up Living (And Go Shopping Instead)*  [07:07]
19  Nadine*  [04:33]
Total time:  79:56

Disc 4 - All Star Jam
     Santana, CT, Garcia, Weir, Raitt, TOP, NRBQ, Haggerty, Perassa, Caribbeean All-Stars
01  Cloud Nine[07:37]
02  Jam [10:12]
03  Johnny B. Goode  [03:51]
04  Shake Ratte & Roll  [06:53]
05  Concierto de Aranjuez  [08:33]
06  Squib Cakes  [10:01]
07  Bill Graham closer  [00:34]
Total time:  47:41

Comments:  In addition to the primary source, additional sources were used for splices:
Source B:  AUD(unknown mic/taper)>?>C>C>DAT - d1t06-t08, d3t11-12.
Source C.  SBD Hi8 Video Master>C>C>DAT - first couple of seconds of d2t14 and d4t02.
Disparities in overall recording levels were resolved with SF6 gain/attenuation.

Multiple sources provided on DAT via Jim Powell.  DAT>WAV(Sony PCM-R500>M Audio Audiophile 2496>Soundforge 6.0), editing/splcing(Soundforge 6), and SHN encoding (mkwact) via Chris Ladner.

misSHN in the rain, 2/04.

Friday, October 15, 2010

December 21-22, 1976, Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Jerry Garcia Band (Who Is John Rich?)

The Jerry Garcia Band played regularly at the Keystone Berkeley from the group's inception in 1975 until the club closed in 1984. More than any other club, it seemed to be Garcia's home base, and as a result there are many shows at the Keystone Berkeley that are interesting for reasons beyond the music itself. In particular, while the Garcia Band did not regularly feature guest players, they were not uncommon at the Keystone Berkeley. However, given the casual nature of the shows and Garcia's reticence in talking to the audience, many of the guest remain somewhat mysterious.

Pedal steel guitarist John Rich is one of the two most intriguing and unknown guests in the history of the Jerry Garcia Band (the other being the mysterious Tim Hensley, who played electric piano alongside Nicky Hopkins on October 11 and 12, 1975). Rich played pedal steel for almost every song for two nights at the Keystone Berkeley, on December 21 and 22, 1976, possibly again on January 29, 1977, and then disappeared to wheresoever he came from. The limited picture we have of a pedal steel guitar providing some color between Garcia and Keith Godchaux popped open a fascinating door in to Garcia's musical mind, only to have it popped shut again. The instrumental thinking seemed to be for the steel guitar to play the part usually played by an organ, an angular yet perfect fit for the country-tinged Garcia Band.

Unfortunately, that is all we know. Who was John Rich? I'm not even sure how we know his name, but I assume Garcia introduced him at some point during the two nights. Google is no help. There is a very well known country singer named John Rich, part of the duo of Big And Rich, so search efforts are largely stifled. And the famous John Rich, besides being a bass player, was born in 1974, so it definitely wasn't him. Someone named John Rich played steel guitar on a 1993 album by a country singer named Billy Dean, but I have no idea if that was the same person. Otherwise I draw a blank.

I am mainly posting this in the hopes that someone has an answer to who John Rich was, and what his musical connection to the band might have been. He seems to have been a fine, tasteful player, so he must have been a professional musician somewhere. I have to think that playing 4 sets in two nights was a clear sign that this was a tryout of sorts for the Garcia Band, but for whatever reasons Jerry must have found him wanting. The band actually played three nights, but Rich did not play on December 23. Of course, Rich possibly had another booking. Various sources have noted some steel guitar sounds on the January 29, 1977 Keystone tape, and suggested that it was Rich again, and perhaps it is, but we really have no idea.

A couple of points come to mind:
  • Garcia rarely shared the stage with a pedal steel player. I can think of the closing Festival Express jam, when Buddy Cage and Garcia (and many others) backed Ian and Sylvia and others, but nothing else comes to mind. I believe Garcia sat in with the Riders once in 1972, playing six string, thus sharing with Cage again, but otherwise that's all I can think of. 
  • As JGMF has correctly observed, the very name of the Jerry Garcia Band was a sign that it was a serious undertaking for Garcia, so I think that is why he did not ask Cage to sit in. Given the strange touring schedule of JGB, working around the bookings of both the  Grateful Dead and Elvis Presley, Garcia could not afford to have another member committed to a full-time band. This leads me to think that Rich was some kind of pro in Los Angeles or Las Vegas, where steady money could be made while still finding time for fun playing with Garcia. Thus I think the John Rich connection was through Ronnie Tutt, who played Vegas with Elvis and did sessions in Southern California in between Garcia gigs. 
  • There were many fine Bay Area country players, particularly in the South Bay, most of them not well known, so that is a possibility too, but the rather insular Garcia tended to play with people recommended to him by his own circle of musicians, so I don't know who the South Bay connection might have been. Garcia was still friendly with Peter Grant and Norm Van Maastricht, both playing country music in the San Jose area--Grant was playing it on Garcia's old Zane Beck pedal steel guitar--so its at least in the realm of the possible.
Otherwise, that's it. All we really know is that a guy named John Rich played pedal steel guitar with the Jerry Garcia for most of four sets at the Keystone Berkeley on December 21 and 22, 1976 (and possibly again a few weeks later), and he retreated into the ionosphere. Here's to John Rich, wherever he is--anyone with knowledge or entertaining speculation should post them here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

March 26, 1967, Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead with Eric Burdon and The Animals

(A scan of FD54, the Family Dog poster by Rick Griffin advertising the Grateful Dead with various support acts on March 24-26, 1967 at the Avalon Ballroom)

The Grateful Dead played a weekend of shows at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco on March 24-26, 1967. Although the Dead had been a popular underground band for almost 18 months, they were now a "real" group with a debut album on Warner Brothers. Although release dates in the 1960s can only be approximated, their album had been officially available the week before, and the Dead had played Winterland and the Fillmore along with Chuck Berry. Now they were following those Bill Graham produced shows with a Friday-through-Sunday stand at the Avalon, promoted by Graham's chief rival, Chet Helms.

The Dead played with a variety of opening acts throughout the weekend. The support act for Sunday night (March 26) was Quicksilver Messenger Service, who had headlined the Avalon on Wednesday and Thursday (March 22-23) and then played Santa Cruz on the weekend. I am not aware of a tape or an eyewitness account of the Grateful Dead's performance on March 26 (I would note that the Dead's performances on March 24-26 are not noted at all on Deadlists, though they are on

However, I have been aware of and now can confirm one very interesting fact about that Sunday evening: Eric Burdon and The Animals had a rare night off from their first American tour, so they went to the Avalon and took the stage on the Dead's equipment, and played their own brief set. It was a rare event indeed for the Dead to allow another band to take over their stage entirely--I can only think of The Beach Boys on April 27, 1971 as a comparison--so it is worth looking at the intersection between the second, psychedelic Animals and the Grateful Dead.

Eric Burdon's late 60s work tends to be lumped into the category of dated psychedelia, but the second iteration of the Animals, known officially as Eric Burdon and The Animals were a formidable live band. They also were not only one of the first popular British bands to embrace California psychedelia, they toured America relentlessly in a period when very few English bands did so, and as such were the very first avowedly "psychedelic" bands that many Americans heard live. Thus the Animals' surprise appearance at the Avalon on March 26 was not just a fun get-together for new musical friends, but an important moment that indicated that San Francisco music was about to go International. 

The Animals
The "British Invasion" of the mid 1960s, led by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, had--not to put too fine a point on it--shown that white kids could play the rhythm and blues they had already heard on black radio stations. The Invasion spawned thousands of bands, and one of them was The Warlocks. While the principal inspiration of the Warlocks was The Rolling Stones, in general Jerry Garcia and the others seemed interested in the harder edge of the British Invasion, not just the Stones, but groups like The Yardibirds, Them and The Animals.

The Animals were from the rough and tough industrial city of Newcastle, and they strove to play rhythm and blues in as uninhibited a fashion as possible--hence the name. Lead singer Eric Burdon had tremendous pipes, and The Animals hit it big in 1964 with an electric reworking of an old folk blues, "House Of The Rising Sun." Many folk musicians--Bob Dylan included--knew the song well, but were knocked out by Alan Price's swirling organ and Burdon's emotional singing. The Animals also had a big hit in '64 with John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom." It was remarkable indeed that anyone could have an American pop hit in 1964 with a John Lee Hooker song, much less one as sexually provocative as "Boom Boom." The Animals played songs in under 3 minutes, so they were radio friendly, but they owed a lot to American music and they seemed consciously designed to scare parents, so it's no surprise that long haired outlaws like the future Grateful Dead felt an affinity to them.

Eric Burdon And The Animals
The Animals were one of the most popular British Invasion bands, and after they hit the charts in early 1964, they followed up with many hit singles over the next two years. Their oft-covered songs include "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," "We Gotta Get Outta This Place" and "Don't Bring Me Down." The band toured relentlessly, including several trips to the United States. By mid-1966, however, the Animals were burned out, feeling like pop star puppets when they wanted to play serious music. The Animals decided to break up on the eve of a May 1966 American tour, but agreed to meet their obligations to their management and make the massive tour. 

The Animals Summer 1966 tour was a long and tiring slog across America, but some remarkable things happened near the end. During a brief break in August 1966, Eric Burdon took a few days off to visit San Francisco. He spent a remarkable weekend at the Fillmore and the Avalon, probably attending some of the shows there on August 12 and 13. The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane were playing the Fillmore and Big Brother and Bo Diddley were playing the Avalon, and Burdon suggests (somewhat indirectly) that he saw parts of both events. Eric Burdon was the lead singer for one of the coolest British bands, and he would have been treated as genuine royalty by all the San Francisco musicians.

Burdon for his part was completely transformed. 60s rock in the UK was still very much part of the "entertainment industry" and the wide open feel of the San Francisco ballrooms made Burdon certain that his future lay in California. Many English rock musicians would move to California once they were famous, but Eric Burdon seems to have been the first (he would move to Los Angeles at the end of 1967). Burdon was always a man who wore his emotions on his sleeve, so he would capture his experience in the now-dated but then quite sincere "San Franciscan Nights" (which was not released until August 1967).

Eric Burdon and The Animals and America
After The Animals played their last show in September 5, 1966, they returned to the UK. Most narratives focus on how bassist Chas Chandler had found Jimi Hendrix playing in Greenwich Village, and how he brought him back to England, and that is a remarkable if oft-told story. Eric Burdon, meanwhile, formed a completely new band, originally called The New Animals, which ultimately, bowing to promotional reality, became Eric Burdon and The Animals. These were the "psychedelic" Animals, who had big hits with "When I Was Young," "San Francisco Nights," "Monterey" and "Sky Pilot," who toured relentlessly across the States and around the world in 1967 and 68, investing their British Invasion credibility in the new currency of psychedelia.

I take the position that the second, psychedelic Eric Burdon and The Animals were considerably more important in the late 1960s than they are given credit for today. Admittedly, their four albums were spotty, and it is easy to look at the dated nature of some of Burdon's lyrics and the production techniques and chuckle about the times, but I maintain that the importance of Eric Burdon and The Animals lay in their relentless touring. For many people outside of a few underground meccas like San Francisco or New York, Eric Burdon and The Animals were the first "name" band they heard who stretched out their songs live, and made little effort to play songs "just like the record." The Animals stature was such that they could play anywhere in the United States, and throughout 1967 and '68 they refused to play a popular set of classic Animals hits, a very daring move for the time.

In March 1967, the Grateful Dead had just released an album, but they had never played beyond the West Coast. They had plans to tour America and inflict their mutant psychedelic blues on a waiting world. The Dead's plans were just a Dream, or perhaps a goal; Eric Burdon and The Animals were already doing it. After a visit to San Francisco, Burdon had given up a successful pop formula to embrace a considerably riskier underground proposition. The Dead had liked the Animals enough before--how could they not love them now?

Eric Burdon and The Animals in California
Our lengthy research into the murky touring history of Eric Burdon and The Animals was profoundly transformed when Antion Meredith got in touch with us. Meredith, then known as Vic Briggs, was one of the guitarists for the Animals, and still possesses a remarkable memory (as well as some useful notes for his forthcoming autobiography), so he was able to transform our spotty list into a detailed roadmap of how Eric Burdon and The Animals introduced freewheeling danger to unsuspecting American youth (as well as unsuspecting Australian, New Zealand, British, Italian and Swiss youth) long before and initially in greater numbers than the stalwarts of the San Francisco scene.

The few preserved live performances of Eric Burdon and The Animals display a smoking hot band with a twin guitar lineup and Burdon's always lively singing. Guitarists Vic Briggs and John Weider offered nice contrasts, with the bluesier Weider set off against the jazzier Briggs. An early performance on German TV (January 21, 1967) shows the Animals freewheeling off songs like "Roadrunner" in a style that may remind you of Quicksilver Messenger Service, until you realize that no one in the band had ever heard Quicksilver.

Although Eric Burdon and The Animals had been touring America since February 3, they did not get to the West Coast until March 18, 1967. The band then played 8 nights in a row in California, finishing by headlining at the Oakland Coliseum on Saturday, March 25. I asked Vic Briggs about the March 26 appearance at the Avalon, and he clearly recalled it, since it was the first time he (and everyone else in the band save Burdon) met the Grateful Dead. Briggs in particular became good friends with Jerry Garcia, and Garcia has cited Briggs in the past as one of his favorite guitar players.

March 26, 1967
Its not certain how many acts there were that night at the Avalon. The poster, never a reliable source in any case, suggests that Quicksilver was supporting the Dead in place of The Charlatans and Johnny Hammond, but perhaps they played too. Briggs, in fact, does not recall Quicksilver there that night, but he admits he was not there for the whole show. In any case, the band's guest slot was pre-arranged, since one of the Animals crew had brought their guitars. Thus Burdon must have called on his pre-existing connections with the Dead and gotten invited to the show.

The Grateful Dead were a big deal in San Francisco in 1967, but Eric Burdon and The Animals were a much bigger deal. It must have been surprising indeed on a Sunday night at the Avalon to have the Dead invite another band on stage. When it turned out to be a band that had headlined the Bay Area's biggest venue the night before, that too must have been something. Remember that in March 1967, while the currently released Animals single was "When I Was Young," a powerful bluesy song (and the first recording of the new lineup), no one would have known yet that the New Animals were more San Francisco than London, and it must have been quite a jolt. Briggs does not recall jamming with the Dead onstage that night, although in fact I think he played with Garcia many times in private.

I can think of only one other instance where the Grateful Dead invited an entire band onstage, and that was the Beach Boys performance at the Fillmore East on April 27, 1971. While that event has never been adequately explained to me (I assume Bill Graham facilitated it), the surprise appearance of Eric Burdon and The Animals at the Avalon stands out as a clear signal that San Francisco musicians felt themselves to be leading the coming wave. Even Briggs does not recall what songs they played, but it must have lent a strange feel to the set to have it bracketed by a few songs from Eric Burdon and The Animals. At this distant remove, its unlikely that there's a tape, but perhaps deep in a basement in Oakland somewhere someone has a trace of this.