|Poster for the January 17, 1968 GD/QMS show at The Carousel|
- The Warlocks May-December 1965
- The Grateful Dead January-April 1967
- The Grateful Dead May-June 1967
- The Grateful Dead November-December 1967
- The Grateful Dead March-April 1968
- Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia July-August 1969
- Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia September-October 1969
- Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia November 1969
- Grateful Dead December 1969
- Grateful Dead January 1970
- Grateful Dead February 1970
- Grateful Dead November 1970
What follows is a list of known Grateful Dead performance dates for January, 1968. I am focused on which performances occurred when, rather than the performances themselves. For known performances, I have assumed that they are easy to assess on Deadlists, The Archive and elsewhere, and have made little comment. As a point of comparison, I am comparing my list to Deadlists, but I realize that different databases may include or exclude different dates (I am not considering recording dates, interviews or Television and radio broadcast dates in this context).
My working assumption is that the Grateful Dead, while already a legendary rock band by 1968, were living hand to mouth and scrambling to find paying gigs. Most paying performances were on Friday and Saturday nights, so I am particularly interested in Friday and Saturday nights where no Grateful Dead performances were scheduled or known.
Grateful Dead Tour Itinerary January 1968
The Grateful Dead had ended 1967 with a show at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Boston on December 30, 1967. They had flown home to San Francisco, expecting to jam with Quicksilver on New Year's. The story goes that after returning from a long flight, band members ate some special brownies, and--due no doubt to chocolately goodness--fell asleep. There are no known Grateful Dead performances for the first two weekends of January 1968, and there are a number of possible explanations for that: the Carousel Ballroom and the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper strike.
The principal source for concrete information about the Grateful Dead, the Fillmore and the whole psychedelic ballroom scene has been the San Francisco Chronicle, specifically the columns of Ralph Gleason. Gleason was one of the Chronicle's leading columnists, writing about music on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Gleason was one of the first writers to take "popular" music seriously as Art--Gleason had interviewed Hank Williams in Oakland in the 1950s, and he was a big fan of anything new and good: Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Elvis Presley or the Jefferson Airplane. Gleason was a big supporter of Bill Graham and the Fillmore, and indeed he was instrumental in getting Graham a Dance Permit, without which the Fillmore would not have survived.
Since the influential Gleason wrote extensively about the Fillmore bands, the Chronicle regularly filled out the Entertainment section with promotional photos and press releases of bands playing the local ballrooms and elsewhere. In the Chronicle Entertainment listings, little rock clubs like The Matrix got equal footing with art galleries and hotel ballrooms, an invaluable boon to researchers like me. The other major papers in the Bay Area had no Gleason, and were not so invested in covering the San Francisco scene in any detail.
All of the most thorough writers about the Dead and the San Francisco scene--Blair Jackson, Dennis McNally and Charles Perry, most prominently--leaned heavily on a thorough study of the San Francisco Chronicle microfilm archives. In particular, Gleason's insightful and detailed coverage has been essential in tying dates to various bits of folklore. A story retailed by Bill Graham or Jerry Garcia that might be hard to pin down to a specific time could be compared to Gleason's regular notes and observations, and it would be possible to triangulate when certain things were most likely to have occurred. Without the Chronicle, much of San Francisco's rock history would just be a smoky legend.
On January 6, 1968, the writers and staff of the San Francisco Chronicle went on strike. They remained on strike until about February 15. A brief "scab" version of the Chronicle was put out, but regular columnists like Gleason and Herb Caen went out with their fellows. As a result, there was no record of the doings of the San Francisco rock world for about a six-week period. The Berkeley Barb covered Berkeley and periodically mentioned goings on in the City, but the paucity of information for January 1968 stems from the Chronicle strike. Besides covering all the local events, Gleason usually remarked in passing when the major San Francisco bands were on tour, but no such information was forthcoming during the strike. This has left a critical gap in our knowledge of the Dead's activity during the months of January and February 1968.
The Carousel Ballroom, 1545 Market Street, San Francisco, CA
Throughout late 1967, the Grateful Dead and the other San Francisco bands had felt that the profitable ballroom operations of Bill Graham and Chet Helms were profiting on the back of the local bands. The groups began to look for a venue of their own, an early attempt to take control of their own destiny. Searching for a venue to rent for a Halloween concert in 1967, Dan Healy came across the former El Patio Ballroom at Market and Van Ness. The Dead and Quicksilver put on a concert there, and in conjunction with the other major Bay Area bands (Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and The Holding Company and Country Joe And The Fish) made plans to run their own ballroom.
The Carousel was owned by Bill Fuller, an Englishman who owned a string of ballrooms in America and England. In the 1960s, they mostly catered to an Irish clientele. The Carousel featured a dance band (jazz orchestra) most weekends, but various special acts played concerts, particularly Irish performers. At some point in early 1968, the San Francisco bands made an agreement with Fuller to lease the hall. Without Gleason and the Chronicle, its hard to determine the exact chronology of events. In March, Gleason reported that the bands had taken over the hall and would put on regular performances. Since there was no Chronicle during the previous several weeks, it's hard to be certain whether the first two shows at the Carousel were "contract" shows where the bands rented the hall or whether the collective of groups had taken hold of the operations. I know there was at least one show at the Carousel that was a contracted show (Buck Owens played the Carousel on March 9, 1968), but I cannot tell if that was the only one.
January 17, 1968: Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service
Ron Rakow has commented that the bands were absolutely clueless about promotion when they first took over the Carousel. The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver were planning a big tour of the Pacific Northwest, so they kicked it off with a Wednesday night show at the Carousel. No San Francisco bands played the Carousel for another month, thus diluting the value of the inaugural performance. Of course, I have no idea if anyone else played the Carousel in the intervening time, either. A fine tape of this show endures, but we know nothing else about the performances. On the tape, Jerry does say (approximately) "it's nice to be back in San Francisco after a long while playing in other places."
What were the Dead doing from January 1-16? Did they not perform at all on the weekends of January 5-6 and 12-13? Keep in mind that without Gleason we have no good source. Since the band was planning on competing with Chet Helms and Bill Graham, it's no surprise that they didn't play the Avalon or the Fillmore (those bookings are known from posters). I wouldn't rule out a performance out of town, however, in a place like Sacramento, San Jose or Stockton. I'm sure the Dead were rehearsing during this time, but that wouldn't have taken up all 15 days. The Dead had no money at the time, and could not have turned down a paying gig. In my mind, January 12-13, 1968 is a likely candidate for an as-yet unfound show.
|handbill for the January 20, 1968 GD/QMS show in Eureka, CA|
The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service began their Pacific Northwest tour with a Saturday night concert in the coastal city of Eureka, CA, 272 miles North of San Francisco, and the County Seat of Humboldt County. The Eureka Municipal Auditorium, located on 1120 F Street and completed in 1936, was a delightful little hall with a capacity of 2,300. Because the Dead were working on what would become Anthem Of The Sun, tapes of the concert endure.
Although far Northern California is a hippie paradise now, it was probably not such a place then, and I don't think the town of Eureka was too happy with the concert, as the Dead never played there again. At the time, the area's economy was driven by logging and fishing at the time, rather than growing certain crops (ahem). There was a thriving 60s rock scene in the Northern California/Southern Oregon scene, with some pretty good groups (such as The Neighborhood Childr'n, from Ashland, and The Living Children, from Fort Bragg), but the far Northern circuit stayed pretty isolated from the Portland and San Francisco scenes.
In 1998, Bob Weir and Mickey Hart wanted to play a Benefit concert at the Eureka Municipal Auditorium, but the permit was denied. The Eureka police chief had been a patrolman working security at the 1968 concert. He explained
Look back in the archives of the Eureka paper and you'll see there was a big bust at the Grateful Dead dance. I was an officer at the time...We had people all over the outside and so many inside the fire marshal was getting the hiccups," the chief recalled. "We had people selling and using marijuana that night. I caught one guy selling LSD tabs. After that we wouldn't allow the Grateful Dead to come back to Eureka."The ironies of the Grateful Dead being banned from Eureka after 1968 are too immense to list here, so I will leave you to contemplate them for yourself.
January 22-23, 1968; Eagles Auditorium, Seattle, WA--spurious
Some fine tapes have circulated for many years, ostensibly from Eagles Auditorium with the dates January 22 and 23. Without recapping research already done excellently, there is no sign of concerts at Eagles Auditorium in Seattle on these days, and every sign of shows on the weekend (January 26 and 27). The 22nd and 23rd were a Monday and a Tuesday, nights when it was very unlikely to have a concert.
However, the dates beg an important question: what were the Grateful Dead doing from Saturday January 20, when they played Eureka, until Friday January 26, when they played Seattle? Where did they go? [update: this is a fine hypothesis I have here, but it turns out to be completely without merit. Thanks to some Commenters, we know that the Dead flew to Eureka, and in fact there was commercial air service from SFO to McKinleyville, near Arcata. This means that the band flew to the Eureka show and returned, and then flew to Seattle, so they never spent any time at large in the Northwest between Jan 21 and Jan 25]: Some things to consider:
- Driving the equipment back to San Francisco (272 miles) and then North again to Seattle (800 miles) makes little sense
There was no meaningful commercial air service out of Eureka at the time, and
- The band was dead broke, so they hardly could have afforded to put up 10 or so people in hotels, and closer to 20 if you include the Quicksilver boys
|handbill for the GD/QMS show on Jan 26-27, 1968 in Seattle, WA|
The Quick and The Dead played Eagles Auditorium on the weekend. Eagles was Seattle's own version of the Fillmore, and all the touring bands played there. Built in 1924 by the Fraternal Order of Eagles as “Aerie #1.” The order was popular in the early 20th century. The building is now known as Kreielsheimer Place and mostly hosts Theater performances of the Seattle ACT.
I have always assumed that the tapes from January 22-23 have always properly belonged to January 26-27, unless you want to take the hypothesis that the Dead were camped out at Eagles and played for themselves on Monday and Tuesday. The Tour Of The Great Pacific Northwest was, to my knowledge, the first and last time that the Dead followed the conventional promotional practice of printing a blank posters and handbills and filling in the date and venue for each stop.
January 29, 1968: College Center Ballroom, Portland State College, Portland, OR Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/PH Phactor Jug Band
Portland was a major hippie outpost, and had a thriving concert scene, even if it mostly featured out of town bands working their way up and down the coast. The main venue was Portland's Crystal Ballroom, where the Dead would play a legendary weekend on February 2-3, but prior to that they played some weekday college shows. I concede that the confirmed Portland shows on a Monday (29) and a Tuesday (30) put the "mystery" tapes of Jan 22-23 in a different light. Perhaps the band played college dates in Seattle on January 22-23, and the tapes were mislabeled as Eagles? It's an interesting hypothesis, but no research supports that.
The College Center Ballroom, at 1825 SW Broadway, was built in 1957. It has been remodeled various times, but it is still in use, currently called the Smith Memorial Student Union (SMSU) Ballroom. The capacity must have been under 1,000. PH Phactor Jug Band were a hippie jug band.
|Handbill for the January 30, 1968 U of O. Dead/QMS show|
The tour continued on at the University of Oregon the next night. The bands played the Erb Memorial Union Ballroom, at 1222 E. 13th St in Eugene. Depending on the configuration, the official capacity was either 765 or 965, although more may have been packed in there. The show was presented by SDS, but that means less than it may seem. Any campus event would have required a sponsor, and Students For A Democratic Society was probably the best-organized group on campus. I doubt there were any political implications to the event, beyond the usual hippie solidarity. The casual handbill suggests that this event was organized at the last minute.
The next Dead/Quicksilver show was Friday, February 2, at Portland's Crystal Ballroom. What did the Dead do? Where did 15-20 hippies and a truckload of equipment go for three days? This is not so casual a question as it might seem. Cops liked to bust hippies, and Portland cops were no exception, and the notorious Grateful Dead were a tempting target. Portland in the Winter isn't New Jersey, but it isn't Malibu either. Somebody had to be willing to put the bands up, and most hippies were poor and could not absorb such a crew. Once again, many of the signs point to Kesey's farm, but that is only a hypothesis on my part.
The Tour Of The Great Pacific Northwest is fondly thought of by Deadheads, since it formed the basis of side 2 of Anthem Of The Sun, and so many great tapes survive. Those tapes form the clearest picture of the power of the early Dead on a nightly basis, showing how they must have gone from town to town and truly acted as a signpost to new space, as Garcia aptly put it some years later. Yet numerous questions remain, mainly about their itinerary. The Dead had as many nights off as booked shows on this tour, and their activities remain a mystery. I find it odd that given the amount of time and the expirations of various statutes of limitations no one has surfaced with a tale of some weeklong parties with in Oregon or Seattle with the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver, in their prime and ready for adventure.