Friday, February 25, 2011

Grateful Dead Live FM Broadcasts 1968-1969 (FM Broadcasts I)

(the poster for the Grateful Dead/Country Joe And The Fish concert at the Carousel Ballroom on February 14, 1968, the first live remote FM broadcast of a Grateful Dead show)

An intriguing tangent on a recent Comment thread brought up the subject of FM broadcasts of live Grateful Dead concerts. While Deadhead scholars have identified FM sources with their usual thoroughness, I realized that there has been little discussion anywhere about the practice of broadcasting rock concerts on FM radio, whether taped or live. Like many other aspects of Late 20th Century rock music, this practice started in San Francisco and the Grateful Dead were the leading practitioners. Nonetheless, even the most musically connected scholars take this practice for granted, and the Dead get no credit for having helped create and define the idea.

Another researcher has published an exceptional list of known Grateful Dead FM broadcasts. Rather than duplicate this excellent work, I am beginning a series of posts not on the actual FM tapes of live Grateful Dead, but of the history of live FM broadcasts as I know them, and the business background to each of the broadcasts as best as I can discern them.

KMPX-fm And The Rise Of Rock Radio
Former Autumn Records producer and KYA-am dj Tom Donahue took over programming for KMPX fm in San Francisco in February, 1967. DJ Larry Miller had the midnight-to-six am shift to start with, and by April 7, Donahue was playing rock music 24/7, featuring himself in the primetime evening shift. The FM dial up until then was hardly used, much less listened to, but the superior fidelity of the medium was ideal for stereo 60s rock music. Local rock fans had been stuck listening to the local Top 40 stations (KFRC-610 and KYA-1260 in San Francisco, and KLIV-1590 in San Jose).

AM  radio formats were more liberal than they would become later, and the local stations often played singles by the likes of The Grateful Dead or Country Joe and The Fish. KLIV in San Jose was particularly invested in making hits out of records by South Bay bands like The Syndicate Of Sound or The Chocolate Watch Band. However, occasionally playing "Cream Puff War" still gave rock fans little idea of what the Grateful Dead or a Fillmore concert was really like.

KMPX changed rock radio for the better, and it did it within two months. Suddenly a radio station was playing album cuts of whatever he happened to find cool or interesting, and there was a lot of cool and interesting music coming from America and England in 1967. If a band had a demo tape, KMPX djs would broadcast it, and if the band wanted to come by and hang out, even better. A tape circulates from late April 67, featuring Phil Lesh and Jerry Garcia sitting in the dj booth with Tom Donahue, playing records they liked. This was in the first month that KMPX was on the air all day, and having one of Haight Ashbury's hippest bands playing records was a clear indicator of what was to come.

Its easy now to make fun of the mellow, stoned sounding late night fm rock dj, but he talked like his listeners, and he was a welcome relief from the frantic patter of the typical AM dj. KMPX-fm was the soundtrack to the Summer Of Love for many people, because if you found yourself staring at the ceiling for several hours (for some reason or another) you could just turn on the radio and it would play all the cool stuff you would want to hear, some of which you didn't even know about yet. KMPX had suddenly made the FM radio dial a viable option.

Make no mistake: KMPX was a commercial proposition, and a very successful one at that. The station had ad salesmen, but they mostly had long hair and wore jeans. The market for KMPX ads wasn't car dealers and banks, but head shops, clothing stores and record companies. Lots of kids in and near San Francisco who weren't able or allowed to go the Fillmore could still listen to the station and absorb the coolness, and they all bought jeans, records and posters. KMPX rapidly became very profitable, and the rest of the industry took notice. The national spread of rock music can be directly correlated to the spread of FM rock radio. When you are looking for when a city "got hip" in the 1960s, it almost always conforms to when the first FM rock station started broadcasting.

May 30, 1967-HALO Concert
Tom Donahue and KMPX were making up the rules of FM rock radio as they went along, since no one had ever done it before. To my knowledge, the first major rock concert broadcast on FM radio was the HALO Concert at Winterland on May 30, 1967. It was a benefit for the Haight Ashbury Legal Organization, lawyers who focused on representing hippies who were busted by the cops for pot and other things. The show featured many of the biggest San Francisco bands, and the poster advertised Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Big Brother and The Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service and The Charlatans.

FM radio had been conceived of as a medium for audiophiles, and much of what was broadcast came from college campuses. Most of the music broadcast was classical or jazz. The technology of live remote FM broadcasts was known, but it was oriented towards providing a clear signal from microphones in an acoustically exceptional room. There was no history of FM broadcasts of electrically amplified instruments in an environment where "distortion," forbidden in other contexts, was an essential part of the musical soundscape. I believe that the HALO Concert at Winterland was planned as the first FM remote live rock concert broadcast, but I do not know if it was ever in fact put on the air.

A board tape of the Quicksilver Messenger Service performance circulates. Tom Donahue is the announcer and he emcees the show in a manner that suggests that the concert was being broadcast. He also talks as if the concert is being broadcast live, since he encourages listeners to "come on down." Was this the first live concert broadcast? Was it actually broadcast? No one seems to know. One issue that compounds these questions is the fact that home tape recorders were not widely available, and even fewer (if any) had the capacity to record "line in" like we all have done with a cassette or digital deck. Thus, even if the entire concert was broadcast in real time, no one may have recorded it. I don't know the lineage of the Quicksilver tape, but I suspect it is actually a preserved copy of the "pre-FM" tape.

I have discussed at length in another post my theory that the Grateful Dead may not have actually played at the HALO Concert, so I won't recap it all again. We may never know if the concert was actually broadcast, or if all of the concert was actually broadcast. However, Tom Donahue's introduction suggests that it was intended for a live remote broadcast, and may have been, so the idea of live remote FM broadcasts was at least under consideration in May 1967.

February 14, 1968 Carousel Ballroom
On Valentine's Day, 1968, the Grateful Dead and Country Joe and The Fish played the Carousel Ballroom. This was the second show at the Carousel after the various San Francisco bands had agreed to run the Carousel as a sort of collective (the first was January 17 with the Dead and Quicksilver). The late sets of Country Joe and The Fish and the Grateful Dead were broadcast on KMPX and have circulated widely over the years. Conventional practice at the time for San Francisco concerts was that the bill went around twice, so the order of sets would have been CJF/Dead/CJF/Dead, and only the last two sets were broadcast. The Feb 14 '68 broadcast is the first confirmed live broadcast of a major rock show (there may have been a few trivial experiments on college campuses), and may be the first one ever (depending on the HALO Concert and whatever may or may not have happened in obscurity).

I feel confident in saying that Warner Brothers and Vanguard (the bands' labels) had never considered the idea that their groups could be broadcast live on the radio in real time, so they wouldn't have had a "policy" about it. On the other hand, from the point of view of a record label, if their band could receive airplay for 45 minutes straight on the top-rated station in the demographic, they would be very much in favor of it. I also don't know if The Fish and The Dead asked "permission" from their labels--probably not. Nonetheless, while the labels would have been in favor of it, they would have liked to have known in advance so that they could try and make a promotional splash about it. No one has ever asked Joe Smith about this topic, however, nor anything else about Warners attitude towards Dead FM broadcasts, so we will have to wait on that for now, but subsequent events suggest that Smith and Warners were very much in favor of live remote broadcasts.

What remains lost in history is the relationship of KMPX to the broadcast. Although both the Dead and CJF tapes have widely circulated, I have only of the dj comments after the performances, but nothing from before or between sets. Was there a sponsor for the broadcasts? It's important to remember that radio stations sell ads by the minute, and giving up a couple of hours (total) broadcast time equals a significant amount of lost ad revenue. In the 1960s, it was uncool for events to be "sponsored" (even NASCAR was cautious about it), but the subsidizing entity would have been thanked on air. The most likely candidate for a subsidy would have been the record companies, but that remains a mystery as of this writing.

Its also possible that KMPX simply broadcast the bands in order to be cool, foregoing the ad revenue. For one thing, the late sets by CJF and The Dead would have been 11:00 o'clock or later, and late night revenue would have been lighter. For another, in 1968 San Francisco being cool was coin of the realm. If Donahaue agreed to broadcast the show for nothing, however, that would explain why the experiment was rarely repeated for some years. Commercial stations will rarely give up commercial revenue just to be "cool," and they weren't inclined to let hours and hours of music play while there were no ads. Also, whatever technical issues may have been involved, I suspect the electronics of it were still fairly new, and there may not have been a lot of available expertise for other live broadcasts, which is why I do not know of another live remote FM concert broadcast until 1969.

April 6, 1969-Avalon Ballroom
The next live remote FM broadcast of a rock concert that I am aware of was at the Avalon Ballroom on April 6, 1969. All three bands on the bill, The Grateful Dead, The Flying Burrito Brothers and AUM, were broadcast over KPFA-fm radio in Berkeley. KPFA was part of the Pacifica Network, and was a publicly funded station (mostly by donations-it is also the home of the annual KFPA Grateful Dead Marathon). Tapes of all three bands circulate, and from the dj cut-ins, it is clear that the bands are being broadcast live.

I do not know the circumstances of the KPFA broadcast, so I don't know why it wasn't repeated. While KPFA would not have been foregoing ad revenue in order to broadcast the show--it didn't have ads--since the station was run on a shoestring, even the minimal financing required for the broadcast would have been beyond the means of the station. I have always assumed that the Grateful Dead provided a lot of the technical know how for the broadcast (with one Owsley Stanley acting as chief engineer), but I do not know how remote equipment was financed. Its worth noting that if this were solely a Grateful Dead project, neither the Flying Burrito Brothers nor AUM would have been broadcast, so there must have been an organized effort by somebody. Although the tapes circulate widely, I have never heard any pre-, post- or between-set commentary by KPFA djs on any copy, so I don't know if there was anything to be learned.

At various times in 1968 and '68, KPFA had a Sunday night broadcast of rock concerts recorded live at the Fillmore and Avalon. These were usually broadcast within days or weeks of recordings, and were often listed in various underground papers (like Scenedrome in the Berkeley Barb). These mono board tapes were the basis of a lot of San Francisco rock that has circulated over the years, particularly for groups like The Sons Of Champlin or AB Skhy, who didn't have the popularity of the Dead or the Airplane. I know nothing about how the tapes were recorded and/or obtained, and who was responsible for the broadcast. I do not think any of the tapes are "lost," but I don't have any more than random bits of information about these broadcasts. While the KPFA broadcasts were not commercial per se, I think they played an important role in getting Bay Area rock fans acclimated to the idea live rock music was worthy of listening to as it was made, separate from studio recordings.

The Avalon closed after April 6, 1969, so whatever arrangements may have been under consideration for the KPFA broadcast would likely have been voided anyway. In March, 1968, the KMPX staff had gone on strike, a seminal event in rock history (I have discussed Jerry Garcia's historic appearance with Traffic at the strike here and here), and they all moved to KSAN-fm, "The Jive 95," which would dominate San Francisco rock music until the mid-1970s. Tom Donahue and KSAN were pivotal in developing the art form of the live rock concert broadcast, but in 1969 the station was still putting its house in order, even though it was almost instantly the most popular rock station as soon as it began broadcasting in April 1968.

June 13, 1969-Family Dog On The Great Highway
When Chet Helms re-opened his Family Dog out on the Great Highway, at Playland-At-The-Beach, he debuted the room with the Jefferson Airplane on June 13, 1969. It is my understanding that this concert was broadcast on FM radio. I have always assumed that this was a KSAN broadcast. I don't know that for a fact, and I have never actually heard the tape, but KSAN seems the most likely candidate. Jefferson Airplane broadcasts were considerably rarer than Grateful Dead broadcasts, and this may be the first one (notwithstanding HALO).

I would love more information on the FDGH Airplane broadcast, but I don't have any. As to who financed the broadcast--the question of most interest to me--it very well may have been Chet Helms and his backers (whoever they may have been). It is worth noting that other San Francisco bands seem to have had a similar nascent involvement to live concert broadcasts, but only the Dead took it up in a serious way.

By the end of 1969, the Grateful Dead had participated in the first confirmed live remote FM broadcast of a rock concert, and probably the second one as well. KSAN was one of, if not the, most important outlets for rock radio in the country, and they would shortly expand the tool of live FM rock concert broadcasts beyond what had ever been seen before (or, I'm sad to say, what would be seen again). The Grateful Dead were far and away the principal exponents and beneficiaries of KSAN's pioneering efforts. In 1970, live FM broadcasts with the Grateful Dead started to happen with regularity, but not in the form we subsequently came to know them, which is the subject of my next post.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Grateful Dead Pac-10 Home Court Analysis

(a poster for the Grateful Dead's May 7, 1966 concert at UC Berkeley's Harmon Gym, home court of UC's California Bears)

Some methodological tracks lead down a distant spur to an isolated railhead, but that doesn't mean the view still isn't nice from there. I looked into the history of the Grateful Dead playing the home arenas of various college basketball home courts. This revolutionary and sophisticated interdisciplinary methodological research approach revealed nothing. Oh well. This post features a list of the times that the Grateful Dead played the home basketball courts of the Pac-10 Conference schools. I don't know what purpose this serves, but here it is--maybe if you are stuck on your NCAA brackets in March, this will help you make random selections.

Some Ground Rules
I looked at Grateful Dead appearances at the home basketball courts of schools in the Pacific 10 Conference. Up until 1978, the conference only had 8 teams, and the conference was known as the Pac-8. I am only looking at primary home courts. I realize that many college basketball teams play occasional "home" games at the arenas of nearby big cities (e.g. University of Washington playing a game at Seattle Center), but I was not pursuing that line of research. There are some unique aspects with respect to the University of California, but I address those below.

This line of research, unproductive though it was, was about basketball conferences and not universities per se. I am aware that the Grateful Dead played these campuses many times in non-basketball facilities, but I was not attempting to analyze that information.

(an alternative flyer for the May 7, 1966 Harmon Gym show (h/t Yellow Shark). Note that the Grateful Dead's appearance says "Less Ken," presumably indicating that Ken Kesey would not appear)

University of California at Berkeley-Cal Bears
Harmon Gym (14 Frank Schlessinger Way, Berkeley, CA)
May 7, 1966
UC Berkeley's Harmon Gym was built in 1933, and it felt like it. The facility had a basketball capacity of about 6,000. For the benefit of foreign readers, when rock concerts are held in basketball arenas, the stage is generally at one end of the court. Fans are allowed on the court in front of the stage, but the seats behind the stage are usually blocked off to create a backstage area. Thus the basketball capacity of a facility generally roughly equals the concert capacity, even though the configurations are different.

Harmon Gym was used for concert events up until about mid-1967. Bill Graham used it a few times, when he was blocked out of the Fillmore out of consideration of the synagogue next door. The Dead played Harmon on May 7, 1966, along with The Charlatans, The Great Society (with Grace Slick) and The Billy Moses Blues Band. The show was a campus event entitled "Peace Rock 3." After 1967, the campus stopped using Harmon Gym for rock concerts. I actually think that the principal reason for this had to do with the lack of on-campus parking (at UC Berkeley, only Nobel Prize Winners are guaranteed parking--true fact). The campus itself, along with the surrounding neighborhood, was pretty rock and roll friendly, but a large event would create a serious parking issue South and West of campus. The campus community accepted that a certain number of home basketball games would create a parking problem, but I doubt they were anxious to compound the issue with additional events.

Over the years, the Cal Bears periodically played games at Oakland Coliseum Arena, about 5 miles South, as it had over twice the capacity and better parking. In fact, when Harmon Gym was renovated from 1997 to 1999 (it is now called Haas Pavilion), the Bears played their home games at the Coliseum and Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland, both long-time Grateful Dead strongholds. However, since the Grateful Dead were emeritus by 1997, I don't consider the band as having played Cal's "home" arenas when they played those venues. Of course, since this post has no point, it wouldn't be hard to assert the opposite.

University of Oregon-Oregon Ducks 
McArthur Court (1801 University St, Eugene, OR)
May 31, 1969
January 22, 1978
August 16, 1981
McArthur Court, built in 1926 with a capacity of nearly 10,000, remained the home of the Oregon Ducks until it was replaced this year by the Matthew Knight Arena.

The Grateful Dead were always immensely popular in Oregon, whether due to mystical connections through Ken Kesey and their road crew (three of whom were from the tiny town of Hermiston, OR) or just because Oregon liked the Dead. In any case, when the Dead headlined McArthur Court on May 31, 1969, it was one of the biggest rooms that they had headlined up until that time. The show appears to have been scheduled for the track stadium (Hayward Field) and moved indoors, but in any case it was a sign of the Dead's status in Oregon.

The January 22, 1978 show at McArthur achieved legendary status due to the "Close Encounters" jam, another in a long line of sensational shows in Oregon. After the 1981 show, the Dead were so big in Eugene that they started playing the football stadium. Given the relative lack of population in Oregon compared to, say, New Jersey, the fact that the Dead were playing the football stadium was a remarkable indicator of Oregon's enthusiasm for the band.

Oregon State University-Oregon State Beavers
Gill Coliseum (660 SW 26th St, Corvallis, OR)

November 15, 1968
January 17, 1970
Gill Coliseum, built in 1949 with a capacity of 10,400, remains the home court for the Oregon State Beavers.

The Dead regularly played in Portland and Eugene, and as a result they only played once in Corvallis. Corvallis was not so far from Eugene or Portland, so Beaver fans were not excluded, but Corvallis was the Engineering and Ag school, and had less of a hippie vibe than Eugene. Both times that the Dead played Gill Coliseum, it was probably too big a room for them to fill, but the fact that they were booked there at all was yet another indicator of their popularity in Oregon.

University of California at Los Angeles-UCLA Bruins
Pauley Pavilion (301 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA)
November 20, 1971
November 17, 1973
December 30, 1978
November 25, 1979
June 29, 1980
February 21, 1982
Pauley Pavilion was completed in Fall 1965, in time for Lew Alcindor's freshman season at UCLA (he played on the JV that year). The building has a basketball capacity of about 12,500, and it was the site of NCAA Basketball's greatest championship run. John Wooden's UCLA team won 7 consecutive titles from 1967-1973, as well as the 1975 title. From 1971-74, the team won an amazing 88 consecutive games (still a record for a men's team, though not for women). Numerous basketball greats played at Pauley for UCLA during this period.

If I had been able to draw a plausible connection to the Grateful Dead's touring history and Pac-8 Basketball, it would have centered around Pauley Pavilion. Both the Dead and Pauley got their starts in the Fall of 1965, and an Acid Test was even scheduled for the Pavilion in March 1966, although it was moved elsewhere at the last minute [update: scholar Douglas reports that the Acid Test was not actually scheduled for Pauley, but rather the Grand Ballroom of the Student Union, across the street. In any case, it was canceled and moved]. Both the Dead and UCLA went from strength to strength in the late 1960s, and in my opinion at least the Dead peaked from 1972 to '74, just like UCLA. The Dead's first show there in November 1971 was still a bit large for the band, but the November 17, 1973 show was one for the ages. I have been told that the band soundchecked "Dark Star" at Pauley on December 30, 1978, as a prelude to the closing of Winterland, but I have never heard the tape.

Bill Walton, one of the biggest Deadheads ever, and certainly the best defensive Deadhead ever, was the anchor of the 1972-74 UCLA team. When I was a freshman at Berkeley in 1975, Southern California Deadheads explained to me that the first thing they did at a general admission show was spot Walton. This wasn't hard, as he was a 7-foot plus redhead (you would never mistake him for Swen Nater). Then, like every player in the Pac-8 or the NBA, they had to decide where they wanted to be in relation to Walton. Believe it or not, a school of thought held that being close to Walton was prudent because you could get behind him for some clear air to breathe (no one could see over him, so there was always empty space behind him).  However, by the time the Dead returned to performing in 1976, Walton was a regular backstage and such strategies were moot.

The anchors of the 72-74 UCLA teams were Bill Walton and Keith (Jamaal) Wilkes. Walton went from Pauley to Portland Memorial Coliseum, another Grateful Dead stronghold, and would lead the Trailblazers to a 1977 title. If I were Thomas Pynchon, I could draw a V from Pauley to Portland to the Oakland Coliseum, where Jamaal Wilkes helped lead the Warriors to their only title in 1975 at the Oakland Coliseum. The Walton connection to the Dead circled back to the Coliseum like a V2 rocket, as Chris Mullin, Sarunas Marciolunis and the Dead supported the Lithuanian Olympic Basketball Team, but I simply lack the analytical or literary skills to do more than allude to the connections.

Stanford University-Stanford Indians
Roscoe Maples Pavilion (655 Campus Drive, Stanford, CA)
February 9, 1973
Roscoe Maples Pavilion was opened in 1968 with a capacity of 7.400. The basketball floor was designed to prevent injury, and had an extremely springy floor, intended to cushion impact.

The Grateful Dead only played one show at Maples Pavilion, but what a show it was. It was the debut of certain parts of the future "Wall Of Sound," and while the band complained from the stage about their various sound problems, I was there and it sure sounded good to me. Since it was my second Dead show, I took it for granted that I did not recognize most of the songs. Only much later did I discover that this was the ne'er to be repeated "Night Of Seven Breakouts," when the band debuted 7 new songs on the same night.

With no seats on the basketball court, when the band got to rocking the entire floor would bounce because everyone was jumping up and down. The extra springiness had the surprise effect of bouncing Keith's grand piano up and down. If his playing on "I Know You Rider" sounds a bit basic to you, I can assure you that it was because the entire instrument was moving in front of him, as was his piano bench, and he was just trying to keep his hands on it.

As a footnote, Stanford's mascot was the rather embarrassing "Indians." In the early '70s, the administration took steps to change the name. Rather than take the preferred student choice of "Robber Barons," recalling founder Leland Stanford's history as a railroad magnate--can you imagine how much merch the Stanford Robber Barons would have sold behind Andrew Luck?--the school chose the bland "Cardinal" as a nod to the team colors of red and white.

University of Washington-Washington Huskies
Hec Edmundson Pavilion (3870 Montlake Blvd NE, Seattle, WA)
May 21, 1974
The Hec Edmundson Pavilion was built in 1927, and had a capacity of about 7,900 for basketball. The renovated facility is currently known as the Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

The Grateful Dead were extremely popular in Seattle from the very beginning, but not that many concerts have been held in Edmundson Pavilion over the years. The Dead's 1974 appearance seems to have been one of the few shows at the venue.

University of Southern California-USC Trojans
Sports Arena (3939 S. Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA)
December 8-10, 1993
December 15,16, 18,19, 1994
Built in 1959, with a capacity of around 16,000 for basketball, the Los Angeles Sports Arena was the home of the USC Trojans from 1959-2006. It was also the home of the UCLA Bruins from 1959-65 (before Pauley) and numerous other sports teams.

The Los Angeles Sports Arena was simply too large for the Grateful Dead for most of their career. Also, its location near the USC campus was not hippie central, and was not a likely candidate for the traveling circus of Deadheads. It is thus ironic that of all the Pac-10 arenas, the Grateful Dead ended up playing the Sports Arena more than any other. This realization undermined any vast metaphor I was going to draw about the supposed interaction between the Grateful Dead and college sports. 

Arizona State University-Arizona State Sun Devils
Activity Center (634 E. Veterans Way, Tempe, AZ)
October 6, 1977
It may seem that the Grateful Dead played the home court of a Pac-10 team when they played the Activity Center on October 6, 1977. I was surprised to find out, however, that according to my own criteria, that was not the case. The ASU Sun Devils were in the Western Athletic Conference at this time. ASU and U. of Arizona joined the Pac-8 in 1978, making it the Pac-10.

The Activity Center was constructed in 1974, and has a basketball capacity of 10,700. It is now called the Wells Fargo Arena.

Courts Never Played
University Of Arizona-Arizona Wildcats (McKale Center, Tucson, AZ)
Washington State University-Washington State Cougars (Beasley Coliseum, Pullman, WA)
The Grateful Dead played the Phoenix area many times, but never the basketball arena. Washington State, meanwhile, is the most rural of Pac-10 campuses, so it is the one region where the Dead never played at all (the nearest they got was Spokane, WA, 75 miles to the North).

Special Pac-12 Bonus Data
The University of Colorado and the University of Utah will be joining the Pac-10 for the 2011-12 basketball season.

University of Colorado-Colorado Buffaloes
Events Center (Kittredge Road Loop, Boulder, CO)
December 9, 1981
Since CU will not join the newly-named Pac-12 until next year, the Dead's performance at the Activity Center on December 9, 1981 falls into the same category as the Oct 6 '77 show at ASU. Fortunately, however, this post doesn't really have a point, so I can include the information I found anyway.

The CU Events Center was built in 1979 with a basketball capacity of 11,000. In 1990 it was renamed the Coors Event Center. 

University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT-Utah Runnin' Utes
The Grateful Dead did play the student union at the University of Utah in 1969, but they never played the Runnin' Utes home court (which is currently the Jon M. Huntsman Center).

Saturday, February 12, 2011

April 4, 1976 Page Auditorium, Duke University, Durham, NC: Jerry Garcia Band

( the entrance of Page Auditorium at Duke University by night--photo February 11, 2011)

The Grateful Dead were one of the first bands to define the modern rock touring circuit beyond the confines of California. Groups like the Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Canned Heat and Iron Butterfly crisscrossed America with their amplifiers and light shows, carving out a path for future rock and rollers in old dance halls, Municipal Auditoriums and College gymnasiums. Although many of the venues they played became bigger and newer as time marched forward, groups like the Dead helped create those rock markets one concert at a time.

As the Dead got larger in the 1970s and expanded their reach, a peculiar pattern emerged. Jerry Garcia started to tour with his own aggregations, and to a large extent Garcia climbed the same ladder the Dead had built, playing smaller places in familiar territory. As Garcia became an attraction in his own right, the venues got larger and the territory got wider. However, Jerry Garcia's early National tours are surprisingly thinly documented, just as the early days of the Dead were. Often tapes circulate, but little is known about the actual concerts and the circumstances surrounding them. One such "lost" show was the Jerry Garcia Band appearance at tiny Page Auditorium at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina on April 4, 1976. Although tapes of both the early and late shows have endured, almost nothing else seems to be known about this evening. This post will look at the Page Auditorium show as an indicator of how the Garcia Band was replicating the Grateful Dead's touring strategy of the early 70s, and will speculate on just how much the Duke show was at the outer frontiers in long ago 1976 (update: amazingly, a Commenter has discovered that this show was videotaped by the student-run TV station, and remains archived in the Duke library. I wonder if the video has been seen since it was shot?)

Duke University and Durham, North Carolina
Washington Duke and his family became staggeringly wealthy through the ownership of American Tobacco. The operation was centered in Durham, NC, a city invented in the 1850s as an intersection point for several railroads. With American Tobacco as the centerpiece, Durham was an important financial and industrial city in the late 19th and early 20th century. The Duke family invested heavily in textiles to make cotton bags for their tobacco, and in turn invested in electric power to drive the mills (Duke Energy is a direct corporate descendant), and they had a wide corporate reach in other industries as well.

Washington Duke had encouraged Trinity University to relocate from rural Randolph County to Durham in 1892. In 1924, his son endowed a substantial amount of money to the school, and the institution changed its name to Duke University. Thus Durham, American Tobacco and Duke University were always intimately connected. However, various factors, including anti-trust laws and the Depression caused American Tobacco and Durham to decline in importance from the 1930s onward. Durham entered a long, slow decline. While Duke University still had considerable resources, the school was far out of the mainstream for many years.

In the 21st century, Durham is one corner of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill "Triangle," and a linchpin of Research Triangle Park, the Silicon Valley of the New South. Durham promotes itself as "The City Of Medicine," downtown Durham is new and exciting and the region is a desirable destination for relocating Northerners who like organic food. Duke University is a high profile school, with so many students from the Northeast that t-shirts around town say "Duke: The University of Southern New Jersey at Durham" and everyone gets the joke. Duke's aged basketball pavilion, Cameron Indoor Stadium, is a national shrine to the fabled Duke-UNC basketball rivalry, which in itself is a National event.

On October 15, 2010, Duke University hosted a performance of The American Beauty Project tour at Page Auditorium, where various musicians performed songs from Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. None of the pre-show publicity--and there was plenty--mentioned that Jerry Garcia had played the same auditorium 34 years earlier. For a region obsessed with it's own history, such an oversight was surprising. I believe the failure by Duke Performances to refer to the Garcia show at Duke was more simple--no one recalled it, because everyone who went to it has since moved on, and no one else even noticed. In one way, it's almost as if the show happened in an alternate universe, and perhaps in a way it did.

Grateful Dead Touring History 1968-74
The Grateful Dead were a commercial entity as well as an artistic one, even if their initial business model was closer to an 18th century pirate ship than a 20th century entertainer. Nonetheless, since the band made more money touring than recording in the early days, they had to find ways to tour profitably. The group's basic strategy was to perform in places where they were already popular while also taking the time to play smaller and financially riskier shows in places where they were less known, in order to create an audience.The Dead's initial strongholds were the West Coast and major Northeastern cities. Since their equipment mostly traveled by truck, however, the band tended to expand their territory across the county in order to effectively pay for their travel. This in turn created new markets for the band.

The Dead connected the two coasts by traveling along Highway 80, from Utah to Chicago and from Chicago to New York. While they played a fair share of cities not on Highway 80 itself, such as Denver, those cities were located in such a place that they could still follow the path to and from Chicago and New York fairly easily. In so doing, the Dead were replicating the route of the Transcontinental Railroad, whose principal arteries were the Southern Pacific route (from San Francisco to Utah), the Union Pacific (Utah to Chicago) and the New York Central (from Chicago to New York). The pattern of following the railroad is not at all a coincidence, but this Braudelian analysis is the subject of a different line of research. The Dead's only other transcontinental route was in the Southwest, from Los Angeles to Arizona and Texas, and then to New Orleans and Florida. However, this route (mostly following a different Southern Pacific route from Menlo Park to New Orleans) terminated in the Gulf of Mexico, forcing the band to fly North or return home.

As the Dead expanded their footholds in the early 1970s, they got farther and farther from Highway 80, but they were still financially tied to their most profitable touring destinations in major Northeastern cities. By the early 1970s, the Dead had started to work their way down I-95 and I-64, playing shows in Washington, DC, Williamsburg, VA and even once in Roanoke, VA (July 27 '74). By the 1980s, the state of Virginia was usually an essential tour stop for the Dead, but the band was still carving out the territory by playing small places in the early 1970s.

By and large, however, the Dead's 70s fanbase was in not in the South. Whether or not the South of the 60s would have been friendly to the Dead--probably not--is a moot point, since the Dead rarely got near enough to make an attempt. The Dead did play a rock festival at the Duke University football stadium (Wallace Wade) with the Beach Boys on April 24, 1971, but they were clearly flown in for that, without their sound system in tow, so it was not part of any plan.

The one real Grateful Dead outpost in the South was the city of Atlanta. The Dead had flown there to play a free concert in Atlanta on July 6, 1969, and this gesture seems not to have been forgotten in Atlanta. Atlanta was probably one of the most productive instances of the Dead's willingness to play for free creating a paying audience. The Dead regularly played Atlanta throughout their entire career, in relatively large places. However, as I have pointed out numerous times, playing a show in a distant place often requires a show in between. As a result, a major show in Atlanta at the Omni, on December 12, 1973, presaged two shows in North Carolina, at Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke on December 8 and at Charlotte Coliseum on December 10. Since the prior show was in Cleveland in December 6, a brief glance at a map shows that North Carolina shows were prudent stops even if they didn't make financial sense. The Dead would return to North Carolina in 1976 (Sep 23 at Cameron Indoor) and steadily built the territory thereafter, expanding their Southeastern audience to the state.

Jerry Garcia National Tours
Although Jerry Garcia's first East Coast shows without the Dead were as a guest with Howard Wales, surprisingly enough his first real National tour was with Old And In The Way in the Summer of 1973. As JGMF has shown, Old And In The Way were actually booked at a bluegrass festival at Camp Springs, NC on September 1 or 2, 1973, 50 miles Northwest of Durham. However, fascinating as this must have been, while Garcia's name was advertised, the Bluegrass Festival would not have had the impact of a Garcia/Saunders performance. Exactly what kind of impact it did have remains unknown, but there is some hints that noisy hippies coming to see Garcia did not fit at bluegrass festivals (update: in any case, JGMF comments that Old And In The Way were advertised, but did not appear to have played).

When Garcia started to tour outside of California with his own bands, he followed the pattern established by the Dead. Most of the earliest shows in 1973 and 1974 were in the Northeast, in places like New York City. When the Dead went on hiatus and the touring got more serious, Garcia and Saunders generally stuck near to Highway 80. The one really striking exception to this was a three night stand at the Great Southeast Music Hall in Atlanta, where the Legion Of Mary played three nights (two shows each) from April 15-17, 1975. Given that the group clearly flew to the shows, they must have been profitable indeed.

By early 1976, Garcia had consciously commercialized his touring, as he needed the cash flow. His group was now named after himself, and he had a new album to promote (Reflections). While his Spring 1976 tour bounced around the Country, Garcia generally seemed to be sticking to places where a big following had been established. Garcia himself was a true rock star, but he had no real following as a solo performer, and he was hardly assured of sellouts in all but the most familiar places. Thus it is not surprising that the last show on the April '76 leg of the tour was April 5 at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. There's every reason to think the Atlanta show was a relatively lucrative booking.

Since the JGB were playing Saturday, April 3 in Washington, DC, touring economics would recommend a show, any show, on Sunday April 4, at a place between DC and Atlanta. Durham is the approximate midway point between the two cities, conveniently located on I-85, just three hours South of Richmond. Which is how, I am fairly certain, the Jerry Garcia Band came to be playing two shows in sleepy Durham, NC on a Sunday night, in a tiny college auditorium. Not because there was a big audience, or any distinct desire to play there, but the band needed a gig and Duke University was conveniently located. Durham was nowhere then, with tobacco long declined, no minor league baseball team (the new Durham Bulls would not move there until 1980) and--whatever anyone tells you--no meaningful rivalry with the University of North Carolina basketball team (don't get me started--Dick Vitale and ESPN largely invented the rivalry in the early '80s).

 ( a view of the Page Auditorium stage from the lower balcony, stage right, February 11, 2011. The equipment was set up for the Wayne Shorter Quartet [who were epic, by the way, but that is for a different blog])

April 4, 1976 Page Auditorium, Duke University, Durham, NC: Jerry Garcia Band
All Page Auditorium shows are campus sponsored, so students would have gotten in very cheaply. In fact, the show may have been tied to some campus event. Duke University has never lacked for funds, so whatever the math of the attendance (1232 seats turned over twice), Garcia's fee may have been supplemented by University funds. Most of the people in attendance were probably Duke students, happy enough to see a rock star, but probably happy enough to have something to do on a Sunday night, and I doubt most of them were any kind of Deadhead (at least beforehand). Probably a few outsiders got in, since we do have a tape, but I suspect the fact that there are no known press reports or advertisements suggests that the Garcia Band show was a Duke event, not really directed at the community.

Page Auditorium is a very narrow, deep building, with a steep balcony covering most of the main floor seats. The rows are only 30 seats wide, however, and with the very high ceiling the building has a very intimate feel. The building seems to have been built in the 1930s or so, and is more reminiscent of a church than a dry modern auditorium or a converted music theater. It's a great place to see anyone, with a great sound to the room, and the Jerry Garcia Band must have lifted that place into orbit

A bunch of Duke students probably had a great time on April 4, 1976, and a bunch of other ones probably had at least a memorable one (not counting those with no memories at all). However, they all graduated (I hope), and Duke students rarely stick around Durham, certainly not in those days. Thus somewhere out there in America are some Duke students with warm, if fuzzy memories of seeing the Jerry Garcia Band in a tiny campus auditorium. However, they aren't around Durham anymore, so there is no local memory of the show, and indeed no National memory either. Durham is a different place now, more than willing to celebrate the music of Jerry Garcia, not realizing he already passed through, one Sunday night long ago.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

October 26, 1978 Paramount Theater, Portland, OR: Jerry Garcia Band/Bob Weir Band

In late October of 1978, the Jerry Garcia Band did a brief Northwestern tour, playing three dates in Portland, Eastern Washington State and Seattle. Although the circulating tapes of the shows are apparently quite good, these largely ignored shows are significant in that this is where Jerry Garcia first heard Brent Mydland, and suggested to Bob Weir that Mydland might work as the Dead's keyboardist. At the time, Mydland was a member of The Bob Weir Band, who were opening all three dates. However, for various reasons, the Bob Weir Band had never played with Jerry Garcia before then, so the Portland show would have been Garcia's first real chance to hear Brent perform. Although the exact date of the conversation between Garcia and Weir is unknown, it apparently occurred during this weekend, so the October 26, 1978 show in Portland takes on an unexpected significance.

Keith And Donna Godchaux
Although the exact details are hard to uncover from this distance, the Dead were unhappy with Keith Godchaux's playing in 1978, and Keith and Donna Godchaux themselves were unhappy with what the Dead's endless touring was doing to their personal and family life. At some point in the late fall--I have never been able to determine exactly when--Keith and Donna announced at a band meeting that they were quitting the band. It was clear that they would have been pushed out if they hadn't left of their own accord, but they seem to have left under relatively graceful circumstances. Keith's tragic death in an automobile accident on July 23, 1980 put a pall over his departure. By all accounts, he was a shy, nice person and no Dead members were much interested in publicly discussing in detail their musical frustrations with him, not wanting to speak ill of the dead.

Nonetheless, in 1978 the Dead's frustration with Keith's playing seems to have centered around his unwillingness to play any keyboard with some sustain. His rare forays on electric piano and Hammond organ in the early 1970s were always provocative, but Keith seemed to have little interest in pursuing those keyboards. Weir admitted that his penchant for playing slide guitar in 1978 stemmed from frustration at Keith's unwillingness to play organ, and Weir tried to make up for it with the slide. My own opinion is that the return of Mickey Hart changed the rhythmic emphasis of the band, and it implicitly required the keyboard to fulfill a different role than when there was only one drummer. With only Bill Kreutzmann at the traps, the grand piano had room to be a secondary percussion instrument, but Mickey Hart took up all that room. Garcia and Weir must have assumed that Keith would emphasize more melody and sustain on a different keyboard, but he seems to have simply refused.

Keith's unwillingness to play organ or synthesizer seems to have built up a lot of musical frustration for the rest of the band, particularly Garcia and Weir. If Garcia was considering Brent Mydland as a possible Keith substitute, then it means Garcia and Weir had at least implicitly been discussing the subject for some time (does anyone know when Weir "debuted" as a slide player with the Dead?).

Bob Weir and Heaven Help The Fool
Soon after the Grateful Dead signed to Arista Records in late 1976, both Garcia and Weir agreed to make solo albums for the label. I assume the solo deals were part of the Dead's Arista contract. Weir's solo album Heaven Help The Fool was released by Arista in January 1978. The album was produced by Keith Olsen, producer of both Terrapin Station and the hugely popular Rumors, by Fleetwood Mac. The album was consciously conceived as a radio friendly, non-Grateful Dead album. Weir was the most photogenic of the Dead, and the professional cover photo (above) is typical of 70s rock albums, not at all the implied psychedelia of an elaborate Kelly/Mouse album cover.

Weir was trying to mine the sort of vein of players like Boz Scaggs and Steve Miller, who had been hip San Francisco rockers in the day, but had achieved great success by producing streamlined versions of the bluesy music that they had first played at the Fillmore. There were no "jams" on Heaven Help The Fool, and all of the 8 songs had pretty conventional structures. All of the musicians on the album were established Los Angeles session men with substantial credits, such as members of Toto. The only familiar name to Dead fans was singer Bill Champlin, but at that time he too was a Los Angeles session man, providing backing vocals for many hit albums.

To promote the album, Weir formed a band and did modest tour in February and March 1978. It was called The Bob Weir Band and received direct support from Arista, in distinct contrast to the casual gigs of bands like Kingfish or the Legion Of Mary. Also, rather than simply play out of the way Bay Area dives like the Keystone Berkeley, the Bob Weir Band debuted in Los Angeles at The Roxy, playing a three night stand from February 17-19. The Roxy was primarily used to showcase bands to the rest of the record industry. The balance of the tour was mostly in major cities like Boston, New York and Philadelphia. While there were a few out of the way colleges thrown in for good measure, the general purpose of the tour was to create a buzz that would inspire radio airplay, rather than just encouraging the Grateful Dead faithful.

The five week tour of The Bob Weir Band ended with a show at The Old Waldorf in San Francisco on March 25, 1978. The Old Waldorf was the premier rock club in the Bay Area, and the prime showcase for record companies promoting new rock bands. Neither Jerry Garcia nor any other member of the Dead had ever played there, and it was very much outside of the Deadhead orbit. The fact that the Bob Weir Band played the Old Waldorf instead of the Keystone Berkeley was a clear sign that Arista was supporting Weir's album in an attempt to break it outside the Deadhead universe. It also meant that since Weir was not playing regular Deadhead stops, there had been no shows with the Jerry Garcia Band.

The Bob Weir Band
The initial lineup of The Bob Weir Band was
  • Bob Weir-guitar, vocals
  • Bobby Cochran-lead guitar, vocals
  • Brent Mydland-Hammond organ, electric piano, harmony vocals
  • Rick Carlos-bass
  • John Mauceri-drums
None of the band members had performed on Heaven Help The Fool. The musicians who had played on the record would have been much too expensive to take on the road, as they made huge money playing sessions in Los Angeles. Lead guitarist Bobby Cochran had been in a mid 70s version of Steppenwolf, and in 1977 he had joined The Flying Burrito Brothers. The Burritos evolved into a group called Sierra, who released their eponymous album on Mercury Records in October 1977. Cochran's version of the song "I Found Love," which he performed with both the Bob Weir Band and Bobby And The Midnites, can be found on the Sierra album.

Weir apparently had called multi-instumentalist David Lindley about playing on tour with him (wouldn't that have been something!), but while Lindley was unavailable, he recommended drummer John Mauceri. Mauceri had regularly played with bassist Rick Carlos, so I assume they came as a pair. I actually saw Mauceri and Carlos playing as part of David Blue's band in August 1973 (along with guitarist Don Felder, pre-Eagles). Mauceri and Carlos seem to have gotten together as the rhythm section for the touring band of a duo called Batdorf and Rodney, who released three albums in the early 1970s.

John Batdorf and Mark Rodney were singing guitarists who toured with Carlos and Mauceri as part of their band. At some point around 1974 or '75, near the end of the duo's tenure, Brent Mydland joined them as keyboard player. I'm not certain whether or if Carlos or Mauceri were still in the band at the time Mydland joined, but that seems to have been the connection between them and Brent Mydland. When Batdorf and Rodney split up, John Batdorf, Brent Mydland and some others formed a group called Silver, who released an album on Arista in 1976, but Silver also split up.

Bob Weir Band, Fall 1978
After the tour in early 1978 (February 17-March 25), I only know of one other date, where the Bob Weir Band opened two shows for the Jefferson Starship on June 9 and 10, 1978 at Nassau Coliseum. Although Heaven Help The Fool was not a success, Weir must have enjoyed the group since he reconstituted them for the Fall of '78. However, the limited performances of the group indicate that they were not getting the full support of Arista this time around. The band played a show at Rancho Nicasio in Marin on October 16, and also shows at Keystone Berkeley and Keystone Palo Alto right around then, although I have not been able to identify the exact dates.

The local Bay Area dates seem to have been warmups for the higher profile "tour" where the Jerry Garcia Band and The Bob Weir Band played medium sized halls in the Pacific Northwest. There was one change to the group, as Dee Murray replaced Rick Carlos on bass. Dee Murray was an established session man, who had played on Heaven Help The Fool. Murray (1945-92) had been an original part of Elton John's band, and had played on every Elton John album up through Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy. When John replaced Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson, they had remained in LA playing sessions. The Pacific Northwest dates for The Jerry Garcia Band/Bob Weir Band were:
  • October 26, 1978: Paramount Theater, Portland, OR
  • October 27, 1978: Special Events Pavilion, Eastern Washington University, Cheney, WA
  • October 28, 1978: Paramount Theater NW, Seattle, WA (early and late show)
Because Arista had been using the Bob Weir Band to push Heaven Help The Fool, Weir had played almost no Bay Area dates, nor had their been any co-billings with Jerry Garcia. Thus Garcia had never heard Brent Mydland play, or at least not any more than a brief snippet of a rehearsal or performance tape. According to Garcia, after hearing Brent play organ, somewhere in the Northwest he suggested to Weir something along the lines of "this guy could work." One critical point was that if Keith Godchaux left the band, Donna would as well, and a third voice would be needed. Garcia must have heard Brent sing enough in the Bob Weir Band to be confident on that score, and Brent was in, even if he didn't know it at the time.

Brent Mydland And The Grateful Dead
I do not know the exact timing of the band meeting where Keith and Donna Godchaux quit the Grateful Dead, but I think it was in December of 1978 or January of 1979. Their final tours with the Dead were excellent, and Keith played wonderfully. I saw Keith and Donna's last show with the Dead, at the Oakland Coliseum on February 17, 1979, and the band played fantastically well, pulling many old songs out of the hat (I had been waiting for years to hear "Big Railroad Blues," for example). Although there were odd rumors out in the crowd, without an Internet no one knew that it was Keith and Donna's last show, and nothing was said about it from the stage.

Keith and Donna's departure was leaked out somewhat casually, I think in an announcement in Joel Selvin's Chronicle column. There were no articles or information about who might replace him. The Dead booked a show for April 22, 1979 at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, but there was no public discussion of who would play keyboards. All of my friends and I made up fantastic rumors about Bill Champlin, Merl Saunders or the return of Tom Constanten, but it turns out that the Grateful Dead knew all along that Brent would replace Keith and Donna. To my knowledge, no other player was rehearsed or even discussed. Until Brent walked on stage at San Jose, the crowd had no idea who was going to be in the Dead. My friend said "hey, it's the guy who played with Weir at The Roxy" and that was that. But it all seems to have been decided in Portland and Washington the previous October, when Garcia heard Brent Mydland playing live.

Some Jerry Garcia Band Notes
Over the years, Dennis McNally, Blair Jackson and others have discussed Brent Mydland replacing Keith and Donna in the Grateful Dead, but no one really talks about their departure from the Jerry Garcia Band. Keith and Donna's final appearance with the JGB was November 4, 1978 at the Keystone Palo Alto. It seems obvious that John Kahn and Garcia had been plotting to form Reconstruction, a big change in musical direction. Keith and Donna's departure made the timing of the transition simple. While Garcia's illness in late November may have delayed Reconstruction's debut slightly, in that the Dead didn't normally tour much in January, Garcia and Kahn must have been thinking about it for some time.

However, the manner in which Garcia and Weir decided on replacing Keith Godchaux suggests something about Garcia's isolation. By 1978, Garcia toured relentlessly with both the Dead and his own group, and by that time he seems to have almost never to have gone outside his home, hotel or studio otherwise, as he was increasingly recognizable. When it came to replacing Keith Godchaux, Garcia must have been correctly concerned with finding a keyboard player who could play organ and sing in a live format, but the fact is Garcia probably had few opportunities to hear other players. The Dead no longer played rock festivals and were very rarely billed with any other acts whatsoever, so he simply may not have heard anyone.

My reasoning here actually has to do with the Jerry Garcia Band after the Keith and Donna era. When Garcia and Kahn reactivated the JGB in October, 1979 the keyboard player was electric pianist Ozzie Ahlers. Ahlers had played in Robert Hunter's band Comfort throughout early 1978, and the band had opened for the JGB in a number of shows. Garcia had heard Ahlers play live, and must have liked what he heard. When Ahlers left after mid-1980, he was replaced by Melvin Seals. According to Garcia, he first heard Melvin Seals playing Fender Rhodes electric piano with Elvin Bishop, when Bishop was opening for the Dead, and he kept Seals in mind.

Elvin Bishop opened for the Grateful Dead in Santa Barbara on June 4, 1978, and that must have been when Garcia noticed Seals. We know that Garcia was listening, since he came out to jam with Bishop, a very rare occurrence for Garcia in that decade. One way of looking at this information is to say that Garcia's primary keyboard players from 1979 to 1990 were all in bands that opened for him in 1978. Ahlers had played in Comfort in February and March 1978 when they opened for JGB, Seals with Elvin Bishop opening for the Dead on June 4, and Brent Mydland in the Bob Weir Band on October 26-28, 1978, and Ahlers, Mydland and Sears anchored the Dead and the JGB keyboard chairs for the next twelve years (this doesn't account for Jimmy Warren, but he wasn't the primary keyboard player, and in any case he is a mystery in his own right). Thus if the Bob Weir Band had not opened for the Garcia Band in Portland and Washington, Garcia may never have heard Brent, and the history of the Grateful Dead would have taken some other course.