|John Kahn played bass for Brewer & Shipley's appearance at Carnegie Hall
Most Deadheads are at least generally aware of Kahn's importance to Garcia's non-Dead music. However, Kahn is usually viewed through the filter of Jerry Garcia and his music. For this series of posts, I am looking at Jerry Garcia through the filter of John Kahn. In particular, I am looking at John Kahn's performance history without Garcia. Kahn's extensive studio career has been largely documented on the Deaddisc's site, so I don't need to recap it beyond some specific references. The posts so far have been:
- John Kahn I: Performance History 1967-68: A review of John Kahn's migration to San Francisco, his transformation from an acoustic jazz bassist to an electric R&B bass player and some history of his early live work.
- John Kahn II: Performance History 1967-68-T&A R&B Band and Memory Pain: A closer look at the history of Kahn's two original bands during this period
- John Kahn III: Performance History 1969: An analysis of John Kahn's participation in the somewhat casual Mike Bloomfield Band, with Nick Gravenites and others, who played regularly at Keystone Korner.
- John Kahn IV: Performance History 1970: while continuing with Mike Bloomfield, John Kahn starts to jam with Howard Wales at the Matrix, and then with Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
- John Kahn IX: Bottom Line, NYC July 1974: For various reasons, I skipped ahead and wrote about an East Coast by Garcia-Saunders at the Bottom Line in July 1974, in conjunction with some Maria Muldaur dates. Kahn was in both groups
John Kahn, Early 1971
In early 1971, John Kahn had the unique status of being the bass player for the part-time nightclub bands of not one, but two legendary guitarists, Mike Bloomfield and Jerry Garcia. One of many special features of the Bay Area rock scene at the time was how the City's resident rock stars regularly played around Bay Area nightclubs in different configurations. Bloomfield, Garcia and Jorma Kaukonen were among the best known guitarists in San Francisco, and yet they could be found on weeknights in local clubs, jamming away with their own little ensembles. No other city had such a scene at the time.
However, by early 1971, Mike Bloomfield had lost some of his taste for playing nightclubs. The always mercurial Bloomfield never wanted to be predictable, and once he became an expected commodity at the Keystone Korner, he started to play fewer gigs. Also, the extremely casual Bloomfield band also used a lot of substitutes, like a jazz group, and on occasion Doug Kilmer played bass instead of Kahn. The San Francisco studio scene was still booming in early 1971, so Kahn worked on a fair number of sessions, and he played in Los Angeles studios as well. Kahn was still close to his family, who lived in Los Angeles.
Kahn's friends recall that he would go to Los Angeles for weeks at a time, playing a few sessions but mostly just hanging out at home. While Kahn lived like a hand-to-mouth hippie like all his other musician friends in Forest Knolls, it was clear that his mother (an extremely successful Hollywood talent agent, like Kahn's late father) must have helped him out with money from time to time. This allowed Kahn to focus on making the music he wanted to, whether in the studio or on stage, rather than having to take some lucrative but dull Top-40 gig.
Up through 1969, Garcia had been a regular attendee at jam sessions around San Francisco. Starting with the New Riders of The Purple Sage, however, Garcia seems to have become more interested in developing his music with regular ensembles. His appearances at Howard Wales's Monday night jam sessions in March 1970 had led to his introduction to Kahn and Bill Vitt, and when Wales was replaced by Merl Saunders, Garcia had himself a little band, even if they initially only played the Matrix.
In early 1971, the unnamed Garcia/Saunders aggregation had a little crisis, in that The Matrix closed. As a result, they began to play regularly at the Keystone Korner in San Francisco. I have to think that Kahn's regular appearances with the Bloomfield band at the club made him suggest it to Garcia. It was a fruitful partnership, since Garcia and Kahn would go on to play for Keystone owner Freddie Herrera an incredible 400 times over the next 16 years.
The Garcia/Saunders group still didn't play that many shows, as much of Garcia's excess time was taken up with his pedal steel guitar duties for the New Riders. However, knowing what we now know, there is good evidence that Garcia was thinking about making the Garcia/Saunders band his primary side project. We know that when Garcia met Buddy Cage in Canada in the Summer of 1970, he proposed Cage as his replacement. Garcia had recorded the NRPS debut album, which was released in October 1971. Garcia continued to play with the New Riders for most of the Grateful Dead's fall tour. The Riders (and the Dead) were broadcast live in every city that the band played, and Garcia's presence helped publicize the group.
However, we know that Buddy Cage had been rehearsing with the New Riders since September 1971, and although it may have been a surprise to the audience when Cage took over the chair (on October 31, 1971), it had been planned all along. Looking at the arc of Garcia's career, however, it seems that as he stepped aside from the New Riders he already had his next project up and running, even if the band did not begin to step out until 1972.
Although it can be difficult to track exactly when Tom Fogerty played with the Garcia/Saunders group, his first appearance as rhythm guitarist seems to have been August 11, 1971. While I am not certain that Fogerty played every subsequent Garcia/Saunders show, he does seem to have become a regular member of the group. Fogerty, of course, had been a member of the hugely successful Creedence Clearwater Revival. However, various conflicts between his older brother John and the other band members caused him to leave the group, which broke up by the end of 1970 anyway. Tom Fogerty was a solo artist on Fantasy Records, and as a result he was friendly with his label-mate Merl Saunders. Fogerty played Stax-style rhythm guitar and sang the occasional lead vocal, and as a result the group was less focused on Garcia.
Brewer and Shipley
Brewer and Shipley were a folk rock duo out of Kansas City, via Los Angeles. They were on Kama Sutra Records, and Nick Gravenites had produced two successful albums for them at Wally Heider's Studio in San Francisco. Gravenites used his stock studio players, who included Kahn on bass and Bill Vitt and Bob Jones on drums. "One Toke Over The Line," one of the tracks from the duo's Tarkio Road album, had become a substantial Top 40 hit. The song spent 10 weeks on the Billboard charts Peaking at #10 on March 13, 1971. A top 10 single in those days represented substantial sales, and the terrific Tarkio Road probably got significant FM airplay in many cities. Kahn had played bass on every track of the album, so he must have heard his own work on the radio many times.
While Brewer and Shipley usually toured as an acoustic duo, for at least a few dates on their December 1971 East Coast tour, they had a band with them. In his Golden Road interview, Kahn alluded to having played Carnegie Hall with Brewer and Shipley in 1971, and I have been able to track the date to December 3, 1971. I assume there were a few other dates, but I don't know what they were.
I would presume that Brewer and Shipley still would have done some of their songs as a duo, as they usually did, and then brought out a band for some numbers. I assume that Bill Vitt was the drummer, because I know Bob Jones didn't go on the tour, but it may also have been Billy Mundi, a Los Angeles drummer with old connections to Mike Brewer (see below). I have to assume that there was a pianist and a guitarist as well, most likely Mark Naftalin and Fred Burton, although I don't actually know. It is interesting to contemplate the idea that while The Grateful Dead were playing Boston (Dec 1&2) and New York (Dec 4&5), Jerry Garcia's rhythm section was touring around the East Coast as well. Indeed, Garcia was free the night that Kahn played Carnegie Hall, and on his way to New York--too bad he didn't show up and sit in, but Carnegie Hall wasn't the Keystone Korner.
[Update: correspondent Randal G found this remarkable information on the Brewer and Shipley website, about Kahn's appearance with the duo on The Tonight Show, April 21, 1971]
Joey Bishop guest hosted the night we appeared. John Kahn flew out to New York from the West coast and joined on bass but the show didn't want to pay to show John. Also, they neglected to turn on his microphone, so he was there and he played, but couldn’t be seen or heard. To add insult to injury Tom's wallet was stolen out of his hotel room that was furnished by The Tonight Show. Ah, showbiz!
Other guests: Shelly Berman, Abe Drazed, Ashley Montagu, Romina Power
Richard "Zippy" Loren
Richard Loren, a former talent agent, was David Grisman's production partner. On September 20, 1970, they visited the Fillmore East to talk to Garcia about what city they should use to break their act, the Rowan Brothers (Chris and Lorin, not Peter). Garcia encouraged them to move to San Francisco, and by 1971 Grisman, Loren and the two younger Rowans had moved to San Francisco. By Fall 1971, Richard Loren had also become Jerry Garcia's manager for his non-Grateful Dead projects.
Up until this time, if Garcia had had a plan for his other musical endeavors, he hadn't told anyone and would barely have had time to execute it. With his own manager, however, Garcia had someone to book shows, negotiate contracts and make plans for him. Garcia's non-Dead career rested on the triangular pillars of Jerry, John Kahn and Richard Loren, who was known (on album liner notes at least) as "Zippy."
Garcia had a lot of obligations at the end of 1971, but he also seemed to be in a position where he was getting to do some things that he wanted to do. He recorded a solo album in July of 1971, he finished the New Riders album and toured with them, even though his hand picked substitute (Buddy Cage) was waiting on deck, all amidst the usual furious schedule of Grateful Dead concerts. Garcia's decision to have his own manager was a commitment to engage in real projects on his own, rather than just tagging along in jams or as a sideman. Although the relationship between John Kahn and Richard Loren is rarely discussed directly, without both of them all the various Jerry Garcia enterprises that followed after 1971 w0uld likely have never happened to the extent that they did.
Annotated John Kahn 1971 Performance List
Garcia had a busy Winter, recording with Paul Kantner and probably the New Riders as well. Between the recording projects and occasional Dead gigs, there weren't a lot of free nights for Garcia/Saunders gigs. At this juncture, Kahn probably mainly saw playing with Garcia as a fun part-time thing, rather than a career.
February 12-13, 1971: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
February 19, 1971: Swing Auditorium, San Bernardino, CA: Mike Bloomfield & Friends
The activities of Bloomfield were always murky, and a number of gigs may have featured Doug Kilmer on bass rather than Kahn. During this period, however, Bloomfield did play a few larger gigs. This show featured Kahn on bass along with future Reconstruction member Ron Stallings on tenor sax. A tape circulates, and it's quite a good show.
|A listing from the Oakland Tribune Teen Age section from February 27, 1971
Originally Garcia and Saunders were booked for March 2 and 3, but the Grateful Dead played the Airwaves Benefit at Fillmore West on March 3. This doesn't rule out the possibility that Saunders, Kahn and Vitt played the Matrix anyway on the second night, possibly with another guitarist, such as Nick Gravenites or Tom Fogerty.
April 1, 1971: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
This show would have marked the first performance by Garcia and Kahn at the Keystone Korner. Keystone Korner, at 750 Vallejo, was owned by Freddie Herrera. Herrera (with various partners) would go on to own the Keystone Berkeley, Keystone Palo Alto and The Stone, and Garcia would play for him over 400 times.
April 8, 1971: Civic Center, Long Beach, CA: John Mayall/Mike Bloomfield & Friends-Chicago Slim
With the Grateful Dead on tour, John Kahn was free to tour with Bloomfield. Chicago Slim was a friend of Bloomfield's named Noel Schiff. John Mayall's band at the time featured Harvey Mandel 9guitar), Sugarcane Harris (electric violin), Larry Taylor (bass) and Paul Lagos (drums).
April 16, 18, 19: The Ash Grove, Los Angeles, CA: Mike Bloomfield
The Bloomfield history site knows about the booking, but there is no certainty as to who played. Of course, with Garcia on tour with the Dead and his family in Los Angeles, a few stray SoCal gigs for Kahn make plenty of sense.
April 21, 1971: NBC Studios, New York, NY: The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson: Brewer And Shipley
Brewer And Shipley were booked for The Tonight Show, and John Kahn was flown out to accompany them. As described above, Kahn was neither shown nor miked.
April 29-May 2, 1971: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Mike Bloomfield-Chicago Slim/Bola Sete/Mike Finnegan
Bloomfield was still a big enough name to headline at Fillmore West, but he was uncomfortable with his stature. From this point onwards, Kahn plays fewer and fewer gigs with Bloomfield, with Doug Kilmer taking over the primary bass duties. The strange nature of working with Bloomfield, however, meant that Kahn probably still subbed occasionally for Kilmer, just as Kilmer originally subbed for him. The Bloomfield history site has done an exceptional job of documenting his career, but it's impossible to say which band members played a Bloomfield gig during this period without a photograph, tape or review, since substitutions were common.
May 11, 1971: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
I'm not certain of this date. The Matrix was on its last legs and the club may have closed before the show was played. A brief tape does circulate with this date (a 19 minute version of "Save Mother Earth"), but I have no reason to believe either that the date or the venue are correct.
May 14-16, 1971; Golden Bear, Huntington Beach, CA: Mike Bloomfield & Mark Naftalin
The Bloomfield history site lists Kahn as the bass player for these shows.
May 20-22, 1971: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
From this point onwards, the Keystone Korner becomes the principal venue for the Garcia/Saunders group, as the Matrix has closed.
May 26, 1971: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
June 4-5, 1971: New Monk, Berkeley, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
These shows were Jerry Garcia's first at 2119 University Avenue (at Shattuck), the site of the future Keystone Berkeley. During this period, it appeared that Freddie Herrera was helping with booking the New Monk, and he would buy the club later in the year and change its name. Thus, while Jerry Garcia played 2119 University over 200 times (206 by my count), John Kahn had played there even more than that.
June 15-16, 1971: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
June 26-27, 1971: New Monk, Berkeley, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
July 10-11, 1971: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
Jerry Garcia recorded his solo album at Wally Heider's in July of 1971, playing all the instruments himself, except for drums. Afterwards, I don't believe he used anyone other than John Kahn as a bassist in the studio for his solo work, save for some 90s recordings with David Grisman.
July 18, 1971: Marx Meadow, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA: Mike Bloomfield & Friends
July 23-25, 1971; Golden Bear, Huntington Beach, CA: Mike Bloomfield & Mark Naftalin
August 11-12, 1971: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
Tom Fogerty was advertised at these shows, so I am marking his presence as having started here. There's no reason not to think he had already jammed with them on stage somewhere, as there would have been no comment or documentation of it in the press. I'm not certain Fogerty played every show in 1971, but I think he was a regular presence from this point until December 1972.
August 17-18, 1971: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
August 29-30, 1971: New Monk, Berkeley, CA: Van Morrison/Mike Bloomfield & Friends/John Lee Hooker
Van Morrison was working with John Lee Hooker during this period, so if Kahn really played these nights it would have been a pretty memorable evening of the blues.
August 31-September 1, 1971: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
September 10, 1971: Harding Theater, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
The Dead seemed to be experimenting with the Harding Theater, on 616 Divisadero. There was an apparent September Dead date--maybe--and a poorly attended New Riders show (September 23) as well as this performance, about which nothing is known save a newspaper listing. If the show really happened, it would have been the first "concert" performance of the Garcia/Saunders band, outside of the few hip clubs they had played up until this time. If the show happened, it was well below the radar.
September 16, 1971: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
September 17-19, 1971; Golden Bear, Huntington Beach, CA: Mike Bloomfield & Mark Naftalin
If Kahn in fact played all the shows at The Golden Bear, it fits in with his friends' assertion that he liked going to Los Angeles to visit his family and play the odd session.
September 24-25, 1971: Lion's Share, San Anselmo, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders/Jerry Corbitt, Billy Cox and Charlie Daniels
The Lion's Share was a well-known musicians watering hole in Marin County. It was a tiny place, too, and it appears that there were early and late shows both nights, in order to turn over the house. For these shows, Bill Kreutzmann replaced Bill Vitt on drums. The truth is that we have very little idea how regularly Vitt and Kahn played with Garcia. Perhaps there were substitutes all the time, or perhaps this was the first time. We actually have almost nothing to go on besides newspaper ads that would have been prepared some time in advance. Ironically, tapes survive of both the early and late shows, so the earliest tape of the Garcia/Saunders ensemble features a substitute drummer (I'm not counting the uncertainly-dated May 11 tape).
The billing gives me good reason to think that the Garcia/Saunders booking was added at the last minute. Since Garcia could easily pack the Lion's Share, there would have been no need for an opening act, beyond perhaps a folk singer to keep people amused between sets. However, there was another act booked, featuring artists with actual albums in the stores. That band would not have booked if Garcia had already been signed on. I think the other act was scheduled, and when Garcia asked to be put on, the owner agreed and simply left the original act on the bill.
The other band was actually the original version of what became the Charlie Daniels Band. At the time, Daniels was a Nashville session man and producer who had released a solo album on Capitol in 1971. Daniels also produced Jerry Corbitt, who had been the guitarist in the Youngbloods, whom Daniels had also produced (Daniels played violin on "Darkness, Darkness" by the way). Corbitt and Daniels decided to team up, and added Billy Cox on bass (from Jimi Hendrix and Band of Gypsies), Jeff Myers on drums and Taz De Gregorio on drums. The story is very complicated, but in the end Daniels and De Gregorio went on to form the Charlie Daniels Band and they are still playing together today.
>September 24-25, 1971: Pepperland, San Rafael, CA: Mike Bloomfield & Friends/Stoneground/Clover
The Bloomfield history site lists John Kahn as Bloomfield's bassist for these Pepperland shows, along with Buddy Miles on drums, but in this instance we happen to know that Kahn was playing with Garcia and Saunders at the Lion's Share. Or do we? Do we know for a fact that Kahn played bass at the Lion's Share? Was he announced from the stage?
The opposite scenario is also possible: Kahn may have been booked to play with Bloomfield for some weekend shows with Bloomfield and Buddy Miles at Pepperland, and Bloomfield backed out of the booking (a common enough event). Garcia and Kahn might have put together a gig quickly, which was how they ended up at the Lion's Share on a weekend when another band was booked.
October 3, 1971: Frost Amphitheater, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders/Bobby Hutcherson-Harold Land Quintet/Big Black
This show was in some ways the public debut of the Garcia/Saunders band, as hitherto they had only played nightclubs in San Francisco and Berkeley. Stanford had banned rock concerts from Frost Amphitheater at this point, but the show was billed as a jazz concert, and Garcia/Saunders seems to have qualified. JGMF wrote an interesting post about this show.
October 8-9, 1971: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
October 15-16, 1971: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Nick Gravenites, Merl Saunders, Tom Fogerty, John Kahn, Dave Getz
JGMF first noticed this show, and pointed out that Garcia was otherwise unnocupied this weekend, so may have shown up anyway. Regardless, I think the most revealing thing about this booking is how it reveals the working lives of the musicians. Nick Gravenites, Merl Saunders and Tom Fogerty all had solo careers of some kind, but no real working band. So they teamed up for the weekend with some players they knew: Kahn had worked with Gravenites in the Bloomfield band, and drummer Dave Getz had played with Gravenites in Big Brother in the previous year as well. In this context, to Merl and Kahn the weekend's gig would have been no different a booking than playing with Jerry Garcia, making a few bucks playing good music with your friends when you had nothing else going on.
December 3, 1971: Carnegie Hall, New York, NY: Brewer & Shipley/Steve Goodman
As discussed above, Brewer and Shipley were playing more substantial dates on the East Coast due to the success of "One Toke Over Line," and Kahn recalls playing with them at Carnegie Hall. It's possible that Bill Vitt was in the band, but it may have been Billy Mundi on drums, and probably a pianist and guitarist as well. I have to assume there were a few more East Coast dates for Kahn, but I haven't been able to track any down.
Opening act Steve Goodman would go on to write many great songs ("City Of New Orleans," "You Never Even Called Me By My Name") before his untimely death in 1984 (the ad at the top of the post is from the Village Voice, November 18, 1974, h/t All The Streets You Crossed).
December 10-11, 1971: Fenway Theater, Boston, MA: Mike Bloomfield-Paul Butterfield
Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield had a weekend reunion show of sorts in Boston. The Bloomfield history site lists Kahn as the bassist, along with Mark Naftalin on piano and Billy Mundi on drums. This is why I think Naftalin was also playing with Brewer and Shipley, and it's not impossible that Mundi (an old B&S friend from Los Angeles, formerly in the group Lamp Of Childhood as well as the Mothers of Invention) played with them too, rather than Vitt . However, knowing that Kahn was in New York City the weekend before makes it plausible that Bloomfield would use him in Boston the next weekend. Bloomfield stopped playing Bay Area clubs for some time after this, and save for a concert at Winterland in 1973, I don't believe Kahn and Bloomfield played together again on stage.
Geoff Muldaur also sang a song with the band on December 11, a minor point but one that would have significant implications for John Kahn's future career (but not in the way you think). Update: I now think John Kahn recorded with Geoff and Maria Muldaur in Woodstock in December, 1971 during the time surrounding the brief Brewer and Shipley tour and the Butterfield weekend in Boston. Bloomfield was well-connected to the Muldaurs, and must have recommended Kahn as the bass player, probably part of a package to get Kahn to come East for a little while. The full importance of this session will be explained in the 1972 entry, and it has almost nothing to do with Maria.
Update II: an incredible video of one of the Butter/Bloomfield shows at Fenway can be seen here on YouTube
December 23, 1971: Little Theater, Berkeley, CA: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
The Little Theater was a small auditorium associated with Berkeley High School, a sort of adjunct to the Berkeley Community Theater.