Thursday, October 13, 2011

Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia Tour Itinerary March 1969

I have been constructing tour itineraries for the Grateful Dead for brief periods of their history. There is so much information circulating on websites and blogs (including my own) that go beyond published lists on Deadlists and that these posts make useful forums for discussing what is known and missing during each period. So far I have reviewed
Rather than go in strictly chronological order, I am focusing on periods where recent research has been done by myself or others. Over time I hope to have the entire 1965-70 period. My principal focus here is on identifying which dates have Grateful Dead shows, which dates might have Grateful Dead shows, and which dates are in dispute or may be of interest. Where relevant, I am focusing on live appearances by other members--mostly Jerry Garcia, as a practical matter--in order to get an accurate timeline.

What follows is a list of known Grateful Dead performance dates for March, 1969. 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.

March 1969
In March 1969 the Grateful Dead were primarily focused on finishing the Aoxomoxoa album at Pacific Recording in San Mateo. As a result, their performances were confined to easy weekend trips, allowing them to make a little money while still staying around town to work on the record. At the same time, since the band was in town they made a few benefit appearances on the side, and I suspect that March '69 was a month where any rumored or reported Garcia sightings are more likely to be true than not. Given Garcia's predeliction for performing live, I suspect that he tried to drop in around town at the Matrix or somewhere, even if I can't yet prove it.

I have linked to existing posters where available.

Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia Tour Itinerary March 1969
February 27-March 2, 1969: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Pentangle/Sir Douglas Quintet/Frumious Bandersnatch
This weekend stand at Fillmore West was the basis of both Live/Dead and the Live At Fillmore West 10-cd box set. I myself have gone on at length about the importance of Pentangle to Jerry Garcia's concept of acoustic music performed live, so I won't repeat myself or others. Suffice to say, it was a concert weekend for the ages.

Sir Douglas Quintet opened the first two nights (Thursday 27 and Friday 28) and the last one (Sunday 2), but were replaced by Frumious Bandersnatch for Saturday (March 1), per an eyewitness. The reason given was "illness" but I think it may have been some obscure dispute between Doug Sahm and Bill Graham.

The Datebook listing for the San Francisco Chronicle, Monday, March 10, 1969

Given the Grateful Dead's always precarious financial position in the 1960s, I always start by assuming that a weekend where I don't know about a show simply means that I haven't looked hard enough for it. However, while the weekend of March 7-8 features no Grateful Dead or Jerry Garcia appearances to my knowledge, I think it's relatively unlikely the band played that weekend. The group had to stick around the Bay Area because they were working on Aoxomoxoa, so that means that any weekend adventures couldn't be too far away.

However, the Dead were booked in San Francisco (at the Black And White Ball) the following weekend, Southern California the weekend after that, and then the Central Valley and Las Vegas at the end of the month. Contract riders would have likely prevented them from playing an advertised show anywhere around those places on March 7-8, particularly in San Francisco. I suppose Sacramento is possible, but I have a pretty good idea of Sacramento rock history and I'm not aware of a Grateful Dead show there in March 1969. It's remotely possible they played The Sound Factory that weekend, or attempted to, as I don't know who played there on March 7-8, but I can comfortably eliminate UC Davis for various reasons I won't belabor here. I think March 7-8 was just one of those weekends where the Dead were unable to book a show.

Of course, with no Dead show since Sunday March 2, how long do you think Garcia could go without playing somewhere? With that in mind, I note that there was a jam session at the Matrix on March 10, a typical enough event at the club on Mondays. Of course, I am just grasping at straws here, but I don't think my suggestion is far-fetched, if admittedly unprovable.

An excerpt from Ralph Gleason's March 12, 1969 SF Chronicle "On The Town" column
March 12, 1969: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: It's A Beautiful Day/A.B. Skhy Blues Band/Cleveland Wrecking Company Benefit For The San Francisco State Legal Defense Committee
Both Dennis McNally and Deadbase have the Grateful Dead listed as performing at the SF State Legal Defense Committee benefit at Fillmore West. McNally was always carefully sourced, so I am confident that he would not have listed them without some indication that the band in fact played the event.

However, I still consider this show unconfirmed, because it has been my experience that every free concert, benefit or "Event" in San Francisco in the 1960s was always suggesting if not assuring that the Grateful Dead were invited or expected. An article that says they were "expected" didn't always translate into an actual appearance by the Dead, so I'm not taking it as a proven event yet.

With my hesitation aside, I would note that the Dead's contract with the Black And White Ball would probably have prevented them from advertising a show in San Francisco. The three bands on the bill could hardly have filled Fillmore West on a Wednesday night, so a "stealth" headliner makes a lot of sense. The San Francisco State College student body was on strike, and it was a highly charged political event in San Francisco. Rock Scully, among many others in the Haight-Ashbury, had been a graduate student (in English) at SF State, so there were plenty of social connections between the Dead and SF State, which was the primary precondition for the band to perform at a benefit.

Also, if the Dead did actually headline the benefit, I would note that A.B. Skhy was second on the bill.  This may be the first time that A.B. Skhy was booked with the Dead, and if so it might have been the first time Garcia had gotten to hear Howard Wales.

March 15, 1969: Hilton Hotel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: The Black And White Ball
The Black And White Ball had been the San Francisco Symphony's principal fundraiser for many years, but it had not been held in some time.  The event was re-instituted for 1969, and the head of the entertainment committee was Bob Weir's mother. A careful reading of the Society Pages during the late 1960s showed me that the common entertainment for Debutante Parties and the like was a pair of alternating acts: a big band for the grown-ups to dance to, and a rock band for the younger folks. These were relatively well-paying gigs, so danceable Fillmore bands like The Sons of Champlin or The Loading Zone regularly played debutante parties and other such events, paired with a big band and playing alternating sets.

Thus Mrs. Weir's decision to hire her son's band was not mere nepotism. For a major event that had a ticket price of $17.50, a Fillmore West headliner was appropriate, not a Fillmore West opener. Young people, even well-to-do ones, were not going to pay 5 times the going concert price without some main attraction. Of course, the Grateful Dead completely botched the entire event. McNally (p.304) has a detailed discussion of the entire debacle. Owsley's endless fiddling caused the band to come onstage late, and it was all downhill from there. The Dead were not warmly written up in the society pages to follow, although Chronicle columnist Herb Caen gallantly said that Mountain Girl was the prettiest girl there.

The revival of the Black And White Ball did not go well, and the event was once again mothballed for nearly 20 years. If I remember correctly, when the event returned in 1988, Bob Weir made a guest appearance. The event finally hit its mark, and was a major City event for many years to follow.

Barb Mar 14 '69
March 17, 1969: Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Benefit Jam For Olompali with Garden Of Delights/Red Mountain/others

Rancho Olompali, and the mansion on the grounds, had a long and complicated history dating back to 1843. In the Spring of 1966, the Grateful Dead had even lived in the crumbling old house, hosting a series of unforgettable parties (Girl From Mill Valley, anyone?) before they moved on. By 1969, the mansion was owned by Don McCoy, a wealthy hippie friend of the Dead's who had formerly lived at 715 Ashbury, and it housed a commune known as the Chosen Few. Early in March, there was a massive drug bust and then a mysterious electrical fire that burned down the mansion.

According to both the Chronicle and the Berkeley Barb, members of The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and the Sons Of Champlin were expected to jam at this hastily assembled benefit for the busted Commune members. Without an eyewitness or tape, it's impossible to say for sure what happened. Considering that Glenn McKay's Headlights was on the bill, that definitely points to Airplane involvement along with the Dead. Given Garcia's penchant for jamming, the Winterland show sounds like an opportunity for some kind of Mickey And The Hartbeats or Hot Tuna action. A Garcia/Bill Champlin/Jack Casady/Hart jam sounds mighty tasty to me, but there I am, just grasping at straws...

I have written about the event here and here. The Sacramento band Sanpaku believe they played at this event, but their recollections are rather vague.

A newspaper ad for the March 21-22, 1969 show at the Rose Palace in Pasadena
March 21-22, 1969: Rose Palace, Pasadena, CA: Paul Butterfield Blues Band/Grateful Dead/Jethro Tull
The Rose Palace, at 835 South Raymond Avenue in Pasadena, was built in 1964 to accommodate the construction of floats for the Rose Parade held every New Year's Day. The rest of the year, it was occasionally used for other functions. In 1969 and 1970 it was used for rock concerts. The first event seems to have been the weekend before (Iron Butterfly/Steve Miller Band/Blues Image). Recollections on The Archive for the Saturday, March 22 show suggest that it was a large, cavernous building, probably Winterland sized. A commenter on the Archive for March 22 recalls Owsley using the show for some interesting sonic experiments with stereo.

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band had been the best American rock band in 1966, and their early performances at the Fillmore had been hugely influential for the Dead, Carlos Santana, Country Joe and The Fish and many others. By 1969, however, Butterfield's original front line (guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop and organist Mark Naftalin) had moved to the Bay Area, and his band was an entirely different set of Chicago musicians, probably featuring guitarist Buzzy Feiten. They were still an excellent group, and Butterfield was a bigger name than the Dead (outside of San Francisco, anyway), so he closed the shows. Opening was Jethro Tull, on their first American tour.  They were a tremendous live band and must have given the crowd a nice jolt.

March 27, 1969: Merced County Fairgrounds, Merced, CA: Grateful Dead
This date appeared on Grateful Dead lists for many years because of a tape labeled "3/27/69 Merced." Further research revealed that the tape was the same performance as the next night in Modesto, and was just a mislabeling of a different master tape. As a result, the Merced show has been considered a spurious date. However, I have some new information, and I am going to make a case that the Grateful Dead played the Merced County Fairgrounds on Thursday, March 27,1969.

It was generally well known that Bob Weir was adopted, and in 2004 Joel Selvin revealed the remarkable story of the family of John Parber, Weir's birth father, whom Weir finally met in 1996. Weir's half-brother Jim Parber was a fine musician, but he had died in 1991 after an extended battle with cancer. Jim Parber had been an aspiring guitarist and poster artist as a Merced teenager, so I wrote a post speculating on the likelihood of Jim Parber having seen the Dead in the Central Valley in the 1960s.

It was pure speculation on my part, as usual, but this time it turns out I came pretty close to the mark. One commenter was a Parber family friend, and he recalled Jim Parber attending Dead shows in the 1960s, itself a pretty remarkable thing to think about. The Commenter specifically recalled seeing the Dead with Jim Parber when they played Merced County Fairgrounds. Merced County Fairgrounds was the principal venue in the county, and it's not likely a Merced teenager would confuse the event with some other event. I take this as pretty solid evidence that the Dead really did play Merced on March 27.

Here's my thinking: the Grateful Dead had booked a Saturday night show in Las Vegas (March 29, below), and looked for Central Valley shows that would fit in with the schedule. They booked a Merced show on Thursday March 27. It may not have been a great payday, but if the band was on its way to Las Vegas anyway, it made business sense. Thus, while the "other" March 28 Modesto tape was mislabeled, it was mislabeled because the band really had played Merced on that date.

March 28, 1969: Student Center, Modesto Junior College, Modesto, CA: Grateful Dead
There is a tape of this event--two in fact--so we have good reason to think the event occurred. Nonetheless, I am not aware of any documentation of this event--a poster, an article, a review, even an eyewitness account. Modesto isn't large city, and Modesto Junior College was probably not a big school at the time.  My current theory is that this was a student event, some sort of Spring Dance.

If the Student Association was having an event, it would have been partially funded by the school as well as tickets, so they could have afforded a little better band than a small gym might otherwise be able to accommodate. If it was a "Spring Dance" or something, it probably wasn't advertised much beyond the school itself, and it's even possible that the Grateful Dead's name wasn't attached to the event at all. If the Dead had booked a Merced show on a Thursday (27) and Las Vegas on a Saturday (29) they would have wanted to play anywhere on Friday night. They may have taken a Junior College dance for less than the going rate, possibly not advertised, just to cover road expenses. I have no idea whether the "Student Center" was the gym or some kind of student union building, but it sounds more like the latter.

A poster for the Grateful Dead/Santana show at the Ice Palace in Las Vegas, March 29, 1969
March 29, 1969: Ice Palace, Las Vegas, NV: Grateful Dead/Santana/The Free Circus
The Grateful Dead and Santana played an ice skating rink in Las Vegas on Saturday night. I believe this event drove the bookings in Merced and Modesto the previous nights. At this time, Santana was a popular San Francisco band, and they had played around California a bit, but their first album had not even been recorded (it would not come out until August). Both Santana and the Dead were booked by Bill Graham's Millard Agency, so the bands shared a lot of bills. The Millard Agency specialized in finding new concert opportunities around California and the West Coast for its San Francisco-based clients. This show seems to be a good example.

The Ice Palace was in downtown Las Vegas somewhere, but I'm not sure where. It appears to have been long since torn down. One interesting thing about the event is the notice on the poster that the show will be from 8:00-11:30 pm. It does seem surprising that 24/7 Las Vegas was putting a curfew on a downtown rock show. The time limit may have been because the show (or the permit anyway) was directed at teenagers, or it may have been Vegas distrust of hippies who didn't gamble or buy drinks, but it does mean that the show would not have run late. I do not know who The Free Circus were, or if they were a band or some sort of "act" (it being Las Vegas and all).


  1. Are you sure the contract with the Black & White Ball would have prevented another advertised show in the area? Their Fillmore shows had been just 2 weeks earlier, and I'm not sure a $17.50 ball would have the usual kind of concert contract. (But for how long would the Fillmore contract have prohibited a GD billing in the city after that run?)

    Tom Constanten mentions of the Black & White Ball, "It would have been a smashing success, if only the PA system could have been ready a few hours earlier. Like, by curtain time. In the preparatory meetings with the Symphony people, Phil and I suggested a musical collaboration between the band and the orchestra... They all but laughed in our faces."

    Ironically, the Dead decided to open their show with their first-ever Hard to Handle - apparently without much rehearsal...

    As for the Ice Palace in Las Vegas - there was a debate on about just where it was! It turns out "the Ice Palace was an old ice skating rink in the Commercial Shopping Center on E Sahara and Maryland Pkwy."
    Led Zeppelin also played there on Aug 11 '69.

    Someone in the Dead introduces Dark Star: "Next tune we're gonna do is something we wrote especially for the Ice Palace here in Las Vegas. We wrote it this morning."
    The Dead seem not to have been too enamored with Las Vegas (or vice versa), as they did not play there again until 1981!

    1. Sounds like Mickey to me introducing Dark Star. His voice is pretty distinct, although he rarely ever spoke on stage.

  2. Well, I'm just guessing about the Black And White Ball contract. Still, it would have been handled by a professional agency. The way the Fillmore West contract would have worked is that the Dead could not have played an advertised concert within, say fifty miles for two weeks prior to the concert (or something like that). Free concerts or unadvertised appearances at benefits would have been fine.

    After March 2, BGP would have had no hold over (nor objection to) an advertised concert by the Dead. That would have meant that prior to March 2, the Black And White Ball could only have advertised something vague like "Major Fillmore West Attraction," which then could be named as the Grateful Dead once they had fulfilled the Fillmore West gig.

    However, I have assumed that the B&WB contract would take force at that point, and the Dead could not advertise a show within range of San Francisco until after March 15. That is my explanation for the fact that they were not named by Gleason for the SF State benefit.

    Very interesting details about the Las Vegas Ice Palace.

  3. I know that Frumious Bandersnatch had played on the first, confirmed by Michael, but my list of Grateful Dead shows identifies "Sir Douglas Quintet (with Shades of Joy horns)" as returning on the Sunday.

  4. yeah, I confirmed too, Frumious Bandersnatch had played only on Saturday, March 1, 1969

  5. Bruno, do your Frumious contacts recall opening for Mickey and The Hartbeats at the Matrix on February 24 and 26, the weekend before the Fillmore West shows? Would they happen to recall who performed as Mickey and The Hartbeats (eg all of the Dead, Garcia/Lesh/Hart, etc)?

  6. I just found an interesting article on the Vegas Ice Palace with precise location - corner of Karen and State. It's still there! As the author states, "After 50 years the Ice Place still exists as a hockey rink at the south-west corner of Commercial Center - right next to the Tranny Bar called the Las Vegas Lounge, and near the Green Door Swingers Club, the Hawk Gym, the Fantasy Social Club, and several other assorted, odd-ball sex shops."

    Article at

    Now to try and find a pic of the Ice Palace in its heyday.

  7. IM, the link is completely awesome. Great research.

    Incidentally,the Grateful Dead played the Las Vegas Convention Center, too, on September 16, 1967, although it doesn't appear on most lists. It was the first night that TC sat in with the group, which is how we know about it (I have a post about it somewhere).

  8. A couple of points. I am by no means sure that I agree that Frumious Bandersnatch played both the 24th and 26th. I believe it was the 24th only. Strangely, I for some reason that I can't recall, have the Hartbeats identified for these shows as including Garcia, Lesh and (most oddly) Kreutzmann.

    The Las Vegas September 16 date has always sat rather uncomfortably with me. They had played with the Jefferson Airplane at the Hollywood Bowl the previous night (Big Brother having dropped out) and then I have a Griffith Park performance the following afternoon. I am wondering if the assumption that the LV show was on a Saturday has clouded our thinking. The following week the band were in Denver - do we know how they got there? Is it possible that LV was a break en route to Denver? I have always wondered if there are a couple of lost shows in September 67 given that much of the month was on the road (a three day midweek run in Moab, UT perhaps?).

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  10. Corry,

    I will ask if they remember something and I let you know!

    And, by the way, I think Ross' right, because in his "The Matrix Shows List", Frumious Bandersnatch were listed only on February 24 not 26 too.

  11. Yellow Shark, I'd love to learn how you came to list Kreutzmann on that Hartbeats date.

    Vegas is pretty much smack-dab between LA and Denver. Not sure how the interstates stood in 1967, but today it's I-15 out of LA, through Vegas, all the way into eastern Utah, whence I-70 eastbound gets you to Denver.

  12. I know that McNally list BK as a member of the Hartbeats for he October 68 performances but I need to dig back in time to try and figure this out.

  13. Corry, I ask to Frumious Bandersnatch then members and also at their then road manager, but nothing, they do not remember nothing about that show and about Mickey and The Hartbeats line-up. Sorry but, you know, "who lived in the 60s do not remember the 60s"!!.

  14. a photo i took at the sf main library at civic center- an ad for and Herb Cain column about the Black and White Ball show....cheers, matt

  15. matt, these are great photos. I had never seen the poster.

  16. The poster says "Hilton Hotel". Both Hilton Hotels (Union Square and Financial District) in San Francisco were built in 1971, according to Wikipedia. I have my doubts on the opening in 1971. Any ideas on what address this event took place? Was there a third Hilton in SF? I can't find one.

  17. Ok, a bit more searching has found that the Hilton Union Square, 333 O'Farrell is the correct hotel, opening on April 1964. There were two ballrooms so it's unclear which one they performed in. Never trust a Wikipedia. The other Hilton at 750 Kearny Street has a history some may find interesting.
    Tom Maguire ran San Francisco’s first legitimate house for serious actors, the Jenny Lind. This theater, located on Portsmouth Square above the Parker House Saloon, was a first class playhouse. Its boxes and ceiling were gilded, and its drop-curtain was colorfully painted. Though the playhouse lasted only a year, it clearly established that both the public and the theater community were interested in elegant theatrical spaces.
    Maguire was an Irish immigrant from New York City who arrived in San Francisco in September of 1849. He got a job as the manager of the Parker House gambling saloon and soon after turned its second floor into the Jenny Lind. In its first year, productions of Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, and The Rivals were all staged at the Jenny Lind. Even patrons of the gambling saloon enjoyed watching these plays from the plush boxes of the theater. As did many buildings in the 1850s, the Jenny Lind burned down on May 4, 1851.
    Maguire built the Jenny Lind II, but a week after the opening, the city’s sixth fire blazed through the building. When Maguire planned the Jenny Lind III, he built with sandstone instead of wood. The Jenny Lind III shows how important grandeur was to Maguire. The walls of the playhouse were painted light pink and tastefully gilded. The theater seated 2000, with the boxes richly carved and decorated. The stage backdrop was painted to depict a classical ruin. This third theater opened on October 4, 1851, to great success.
    Building the Jenny Lind III had put Maguire in serious debt, and to extricate himself, he managed to convince the city of San Francisco to purchase the theater for $200,000 and to turn it into city hall.
    On June 4, 1852, the City of San Francisco purchased the building for use as City Hall.
    In 1900 the San Francisco Hall of Justice was built on this site but it burned in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. The Hall of Justice was rebuilt and re-opened in 1912. That building was on the site until it was demolished in April 1968.
    The Hilton hotel was built on the site in 1971. John Carl Warnecke was the architect. It was originally built as the Holiday Inn Chinatown in 1971. The new hotel had an unusual rooftop swimming pool that is featured in the opening scenes of the first Dirty Harry film (1971).[8]
    The hotel was completely renovated then reopened in January 2006 as the Hilton San Francisco Financial District.

    There’s a plaque on the front of the Hilton dated November 15, 1949.