Thursday, January 5, 2012

November 28-December 1, 1966: The Matrix: Grateful Dead/Jerry Pond

Tapes circulate from weeknight Grateful Dead performances at The Matrix in late 1966. The Dead were booked from Monday to Thursday, November 28-December 1. While the tape is a wonderfully clean document for the times, giving a pretty good representation of the band's sound in that era, much focus has been given over the years as to whether the tape is a compilation of the four nights, or from a single night. However, I am going to largely leave that discussion aside and consider why the Grateful Dead were even playing the Matrix on four weeknights, when they would be headlining the Fillmore just two weeks later. In the end, I will make the argument that rather than the tape providing a record of some or one of the shows, in fact the tape was the specific reason the Dead were playing the Matrix in the first place. Whether a compilation of four nights or a couple of hot sets, I will propose that the Grateful Dead played the Matrix in November of 1966 in order to make a demo tape of themselves.

The Matrix, 3138 Fillmore Street, San Francisco
The Matrix had been opened in August of 1965 in order to provide a place for the Jefferson Airplane to play. Marty Balin's father, Joe Buchwald, was one of the three backers. The Airplane rapidly graduated from the Matrix, of course, once they became famous, but in the mid-sixties the Matrix was the first club that encouraged hippie bands to play original music to hippie audiences. The Fillmore and the Avalon were the top of the scene, certainly, but both those venues were generally only open on weekends. Within the confines of the local scene, there weren't many other places to play. Hippies weren't welcome everywhere, and the North Beach clubs had mostly gone topless and preferred bands who simply played Top 40 music to accompany the dancers, and didn't pay well at that. For longhaired bands on the rise in 1966, The Matrix was one of the few available gigs, and all the new bands played there on the way up. The Grateful Dead, for example, had played the Matrix in January of 1966.

The Matrix seated about 100 people, tops, and served beer and pizza. Dancing was against the law, because of an archaic San Francisco ordnance involving "Dance Permits." As a result, fans went to the Matrix to sit and listen, so free-form blues jamming and other kinds of odd noodling was fine. The Matrix generally booked a band and a folksinger from Tuesday through Thursday, and two bands on Friday and Saturday. Sometimes, groups who were popular at the Fillmore or Avalon would play weeknights at the Matrix because it wouldn't conflict with paying weekend shows around Northern California. Whatever modest amount of money a band received for playing at the Matrix to 50 or 100 people, it was more than they would have gotten for rehearsing, as in 1966 there were pretty much no weeknight club dates for long-haired bands.

The Matrix Tapes
The operators of the Matrix, particularly manager/co-owner Peter Abrams, had the foresight to recognize early on that special music was happening in San Francisco, and he began to tape every show at the Matrix starting in mid-1966. Unfortunately, however, tapes of every show were not retained. Recording tape was expensive, as was storage space, so only the "best" tapes were kept, and the balance was taped over. This wasn't charity--the idea was that when the bands became famous, early live tapes of their performances would be very valuable. While the recordings at the Matrix weren't exactly state of the art, in many cases soundboard tapes from the Matrix are the earliest and most primal record of San Francisco rock music.

There are tapes from the Matrix circulating from numerous artists. A few have even been turned into legitimate releases over the years, by The Doors, The Velvet Underground, The Great Society, The Sparrow and Sandy Bull, among others. However, practice at the Matrix was to tape every set of a performer and then to keep either a compilation of best performances, or a tape of the "best" set. One frustrating result is that Matrix tape labels are only generally correct, not specifically. The 1966 Grateful Dead tapes, for example, probably originally said something like "Grateful Dead-November 66" without any specific explanation. I will leave the tape parsing to sharper ears than mine, but the surviving Grateful Dead Matrix tapes, usually dated November 29 and December 1, 1966, likely can not be dated more specifically than that. They are likely complete sets from some nights, with some other songs spliced in, but we can't know for certain without other evidence. This type of selection was true of all surviving Matrix tapes from every band, not just the Grateful Dead.

There are considerably fewer Matrix tapes in existence than is generally believed. Because of confusion over the Matrix's tendency to make compilations, the ravages of time and wishful thinking, many tapes have circulated under a variety of dates. Since it was known that the Matrix taped everything, it was plausible to hope that everything was preserved, but that was not the case. The Matrix had good relationships with the various bands, for the most part, so I doubt that there are Grateful Dead or Jerry Garcia tapes that were made at the Matrix that were not known to the Grateful Dead Vault, even if the Matrix owners held the originals. My interest is not in the dating of each November '66 Matrix tape, but in speculating on why the Grateful Dead even played the Matrix at all at that time.

Why Would The Grateful Dead Play The Matrix In November 1966?
The Grateful Dead played The Matrix in January 1966, when they were nobodies. They did not play there again until November 1966, and the Grateful Dead proper did not play there again. Jerry Garcia, on the other hand, seemed to use the Matrix as his private clubhouse from 1968 onwards, dropping by at jam sessions and playing with various casual ensembles like Jerry Garcia and Friends, Mickey Hart And The Hartbeats, a bluegrass band and David Crosby (aka "David And The Dorks"). Clearly the band was welcome at any time, as were most San Francisco groups. Why November of '66?

For once I am not going to make my usual argument and say that the Grateful Dead were scrambling for cash, and would take any paying gig. If that were true, then the Dead would likely have played the Matrix more than just one time, as there were no other weekday gigs to be had in the Bay Area during the 1966-68 period. For one thing, the Matrix was a tiny place, and I doubt that the Dead's relatively huge sound system even fit in the place, much less on the stage. I don't know how much bands got paid at The Matrix, but it wasn't much, and the Dead were starting to accumulate crew members, and they would need gas for the truck and so on, so a Matrix gig may have been barely break even, if that. It just seems to me that if the Dead could make money at the Matrix, they would have played there regularly in 1966-67.

There's another reason I find the November '66 booking odd, and that is the fact that the Grateful Dead were going to be headlining the Fillmore on the weekend of December 9-11, less than two weeks from the Matrix show. I do not know the exact structure of Bill Graham's contracts at the time, but I know in subsequent years his contracts prevented bands from advertising shows within two weeks or a certain number of miles from the Fillmore. I don't know Graham's 1966 protocol, but I can't imagine that he would want his headliners to play a nightclub show 10 days before headlining. The Grateful Dead were an underground sensation in San Francisco in 1966, but they weren't a sellout act. I know that the Dead were playing UC Berkeley on December 2 (at Pauley Ballroom), so Graham's contract couldn't be completely restrictive.

I know that some out-of-town bands who were opening at the Fillmore would play weeknight gigs at the Matrix, so Graham wasn't unsympathetic to the Matrix, but I can't find an instance of a 1966 headliner playing The Matrixso close to a Fillmore date. I have to think Graham formally or informally didn't allow his headline bands to advertise shows in San Francisco a few weeks before a Fillmore show, and that makes the Matrix show all the more mystifying. I would assert that if the Grateful Dead were playing four nights at The Matrix under their own name 10 days before headlining the Fillmore, it was with Graham's tacit or explicit permission, and the reason couldn't exclusively be a quick payday.

The Grateful Dead's Recording Contract
According to Dennis McNally, Joe Smith of Warner Brothers Records agreed to a contract with the Grateful Dead in October of 1966, although it was not completed and signed until some modifications in December 1966. The actual recording of the first album did not commence until January 1967. Thus, at the very least, we know the Grateful Dead had to be thinking about recording their debut album, since they knew it was imminent. The standard thing to do at the time was for new acts to record every single number in their live repertoire, in a straight run through without embellishment. The thinking was that not only could songs be considered for the album, but even songs that were not going to be used might have good ideas for arrangements, tempos, harmonies and other details that could be used on original material. Also, most bands had rarely or never heard themselves play, since "home recording" was not really possible for electric bands.

We know that the Grateful Dead had some live recordings and studio demos from mid-1966, but the band must have known that they had improved enormously since then. The Grateful Dead also had a relatively large repertoire for a new band, and no money, so spending days in the studio recording demos was not plausible. The obvious solution must have been to record one of their live shows, but that was not so easy in 1966. The Dead didn't have recording gear, or much anyway, and it would have cost money to hire an engineer and equipment. The Matrix might have seemed like a perfect compromise. The club was already set up to record everything, and all the Dead had to do was show up. If they got paid a little bit, it would defray expenses, which was better than paying out. Look at the list of songs that survive from the Matrix tape, regardless of what date or dates the tapes might be from [per Deadlists]:

"Nov 29 '66"
Me And My Uncle [3:47] ; Same Thing [11:35] ; Stealin' [2:51] ; Big Boy Pete [2:46] ; One Kind Favor [5:05] ; Early Morning Rain [2:15] ; Cold Rain And Snow [3:04] ; Viola Lee Blues [10:23]

Down So Long [3:29] ; Something On Your Mind [4:36] ; Lindy [2:48] ; Good Morning Little Schoolgirl [10:06] ; I Just Want To Make Love To You (1) [3:18]

"Dec 1 '66"
Minglewood Blues [3:36] ; Betty And Dupree [5:01] ; Next Time You See Me [3:39] ; I Know You Rider [3:58] ; Big Boss Man [3:51] ; One Kind Favor [5:23] ; Alice D. Millionaire [2:48] ; Cream Puff War [9:11]

You Don't Love Me [4:15] ; Beat It On Down The Line [2:29] ; It Hurts Me Too [4:34] ; On The Road Again [2:26] ; Yonder's Wall (1) [#4:01] ; My Own Fault [6:59] ; Down So Long [3:30] ; Cold Rain And Snow [2:56] ; Viola Lee Blues [15:02]

Deep Elem Blues [#4:49] ; Something On Your Mind [5:04] ; Big Boy Pete [3:04] ; Death Don't Have No Mercy [9:41] ; Lindy [2:59] ; Dancin' In The Street [11:14] ; Me And My Uncle (2) [4:11]

Let me apologize in advance if I have not kept up with the latest tape analysis, and included some material that may belong to another date. However, my general point is that the November Matrix tapes seem to include a run-through of everything in the Grateful Dead's live set at the time. Whether they are from two, three or four nights is beside the point. The Dead wanted a recording of every song they did. Whether they specifically wanted to listen to it themselves or wanted it for their future producer wouldn't matter. The key was they were looking for a timestamped recording of their current live act so they could figure out what might work and what might not.

I can't prove any of this, but all the pieces seem to be in place.
  • The Matrix tape is a compilation, as are all Matrix tapes, but the compilation seems designed to include every working number in their repertoire
  • The Matrix is one of the few places that could plausibly be used to record four nights of performance designed not to entertain the crowd but to go across their entire songbook
  • Bill Graham would have been supportive of the Dead getting signed, and might have been amenable to letting them use the Matrix as a recording venue, even at some slight risk to their headline shows in December
  • And rather more trivially, it might explain the weird false start on "Me And My Uncle," where the band stops and starts over. It would make more sense if the group was treating the shows like a demo session
At this point, probably, nobody remembers why the Grateful Dead played the Matrix. Owsley denied that they even played the Matrix in late 1966, of course, but that was just Owsley, as it seems pretty plain that they played there. Whatever the band's motives, I'm certainly glad they went to the one venue that taped everything and played seemingly every song they knew. In itself, however, that seems like an unlikely thing to do, and that's all the more reason that I think the band had more practical motives for playing the Matrix in November of 1966.

I have always wondered why the Dead never recorded any studio demos in late 1966 that showed the breadth of their material, as was standard practice at the time. It may have been, however, that they had already done the recording at The Matrix prior to the final signing of the Warners contract in December, and they may have already had a tape for producer Dave Hassinger to listen to. If I'm correct, than we may have a rare snapshot of the Grateful Dead's entire repertoire at a single moment in time, itself an all but unseen commodity.


  1. An interesting speculation!

    I can add neither proof nor disproof, but will throw in a couple additional comments about these shows -

    For one, I have little doubt that these tapes, date-wise, are what they claim to be. (There is that unlikely extra Uncle on 12/1, so that tape may be partly a compilation.)
    We know there were three sets at the Matrix. On 11/29, Jerry starts off our tape saying, "We'd like to start off the second set with a cowboy song." And after Viola Lee he says, "That's the end of the second set, we'll be back a little later with the third and final set." (Which means the first set is apparently missing.)
    And at the end of the show, he announces, "We'll be back tomorrow night," so this show is at least from one of the first 3 nights.
    And on 12/1, before Deep Elem, Garcia says something like, "This is the last Thursday night at the last Matrix, our last set." Which proves that at least part of this tape is indeed from Thursday 12/1.

    As far as the Fillmore, the Dead not only played there December 9-11, they had also played there November 18-20, on top of appearing at a "private Thanksgiving party" there on the 27th.

    I have to wonder whether the Dead really needed to play at the Matrix to get some shows taped. It seems unlikely to me.
    Granted that Bear, the inveterate show-taper, had been dismissed in July (and may not have been available if asked); even granted that perhaps Healy could not have gotten taping equipment set up (which I doubt, considering his connections & expertise); we know Bill Graham was taping shows at the Fillmore! So why on earth would Bill Graham give his blessings to a Matrix run simply for the sake of making live tapes when he was taping all the time?
    (In fact, a couple Jefferson Airplane shows recently released were recorded at the Fillmore that same week!)

    As far as song selection, it's debatable whether they deliberately played everything in their set at the Matrix. Since we don't have all the Matrix shows, it's quite possible; but these tapes are conspicuously missing things like Friend of Mine, Top of the World, Baby Blue, or a number of Pigpen songs like King Bee, Tastebud, Pain in My Heart, Midnight Hour, or Smokestack Lightning...

    It's also notable that when they arrived for the album recording in January, the song selection was still unsettled, as even in their limited studio time they recorded tracks for six extra songs that didn't get included. No telling whether the Dead or producer Hassinger picked out which songs would make the album, or wrangled it out between them...

  2. This is the month the Dead first started to get national attention, as well - first in a Crawdaddy article that singled them out for praise as one of the best live bands in SF; and a Newsweek article on the "SF sound" was soon to come in December that also remarked on the Dead's "hard, coarse, screeching sound." (Which may be a fair characterization of these Matrix tapes!)
    Ironically, Garcia said in that article, "I don't believe the live sound, the live excitement, can be recorded."

    And finally - Garcia makes a rare introduction to the 12/1 show, setting the scene inside the Matrix: "Welcome to another evening of confusion and high-frequency stimulation, and Sucrets, cold beer on tap, lurid nightclub atmosphere, and more beatniks than you can count on the fingers of two hands."
    (The Sucrets must have been for Jerry, since he mentions being sick on 11/29!)
    Around Early Morning Rain on 11/29 the band calls for a "Marty" in the audience (Phil says, "Doesn't sound at all like you remember it, does it Marty?") - this is speculated to be Marty Balin, who indeed didn't have an Airplane show that night.
    And of course on 12/1 the band is joined for a couple songs by a blues singer/harmonica player. Jerry just announces, "We'd like to have a friend of ours come up" with no name; it's been wondered whether this is folksinger Jerry Pond (also on the bill), but I doubt it.

  3. And one final note - though we don't know whether Dave Hassinger asked for (or got) live tapes of the band, we know he had seen them live. As he told Blair Jackson:
    "My understanding was that these were songs they’d played a lot, and they essentially wanted to get them down like they played them live. I’d made two or three trips up to the Bay Area and seen them at the Fillmore, and I thought they were dynamite. What I was after on the album was to capture as much of the energy as I could."

    As far as the live sound, one notable thing about these Matrix tapes is their inferior quality compared to the Dead's '66 Fillmore recordings (partly due to the small space, partly due to Peter Abram's worn-out tapeheads). But that may not have been a known quantity at the time.

  4. Fascinating points as always, LIA, thanks. A couple of counter speculations:

    >The Dead had agreed to a contract with Warners in October, but they did not sign it until December, so they were in some kind of contractual limbo, They may have wanted a "demo tape" as a kind of hedge if they had to shop elsewhere.

    >I don't doubt that Dan Healy could have managed a recording scenario, but the Dead would have had no money. At the Matrix, all they had to do was turn up and play.

    >If my supposition is correct--and it's just a supposition--that the Dead played the Matrix to get demos of certain material, then that would legislate against playing the Fillmore. At the Fillmore, the Dead would have been the headliner, and they would have had to please the crowd and Bill Graham, and so on. Working their way through a bunch of odd (for the time) country covers may not have worked at the Fillmore. But at the Matrix, everybody was seated, there was no other band (Jerry Pond was a folksinger), and they could work through their material.

    >Finally, if the Dead were in the midst of negotiating a contract, letting Graham record them at the Fillmore put him in the middle of their negotiations, which may not have been the band's goal.

  5. This is all beyond my ken, but absolutely fascinating. I do find your conjecture totally plausible.

  6. I am dubious that the Dead ever put the needs of a tape over the needs of a live show. (Actually, if a cover was rarely played, it would seem to be a less likely choice for a demo, much less intentionally doing several such covers.)
    But you bring up an interesting point, that the Dead's setlists at the Matrix may have been more adventurous or varied than their setlists at the Fillmore shows in the surrounding weeks. We just don't know. The small audience must have included many of the same people as at the Fillmore, but the setting & expectations were different.
    Without a knowledge of what their average sets looked like in late '66, it's hard to say whether some of these Matrix covers were rarities or regulars.

    We are also making the assumption that Graham WASN'T recording them at the Fillmore, but that's also shaky.
    One Fillmore tape survives dated 11/19/66, which was at least taped within that general time period, and another one from 3/18/67. There may easily have been other lost Fillmore tapes from those months.

    Indeed, it bothers me that from late '66 through '67, there are numerous surviving Fillmore tapes of Jefferson Airplane, and even a heap of Quicksilver, compared with less than a handful of the Dead. This disparity begs explanation.
    (I haven't checked all the tapes of SF bands playing at Graham's venues to see if there are any survival patterns, but someone should.)

    These are the songs that, on surviving live tapes, were only played at these Matrix shows (not including the guest-singer songs) -
    1. Alice D Millionaire (since the band also recorded this for their first album, this must have been a fairly common or popular tune in their sets)
    2. Betty & Dupree (the band also recorded a demo of this earlier in '66, so it wasn't such a total rarity)
    3. Big Boy Pete (played twice; and of course, occasionally played in later years, so it was likely in other '66 sets as well)
    4. Deep Elem Blues (only taped performance until 1970)
    5. Down So Long (played twice - deadlists also says an instrumental track was recorded for the album in '67)
    6. Early Morning Rain (had, of course, been in the set since 1965, just not on tapes)
    7. I Just Want To Make Love To You
    8. Something On Your Mind (played twice)

    Since these Matrix tapes fall within the post-July '66 "dead zone" of few surviving Dead shows, it's impossible to say if any of these were rare or even infrequent tunes, but I would guess most of these were regulars. (Even on the 11/19/66 Fillmore tape, they trot out Hi-Heel Sneakers for the only known time that year.)

    One interesting thing I notice about these Matrix sets is the care with which they were taped - not sonically, but in terms of cuts. There are only a couple brief cuts, at the start of a couple songs on 12/1, which indicates that Abrams (the taper) was either doing a deft job of flipping reels between sets & not missing material (compared to the typical giant mid-song cuts we get at Fillmore shows), or erased such song glitches from these copies.

  7. LIA, your points are very interesting. I am making a conscious effort to treat what little evidence we have from the approach of Ancient Archaeology or Medieval History, and accept that we will never have complete information. The question I keep wrestling with was why did the Dead play the Matrix at all? If it was a good idea financially, why didn't they do it more often?

    I would suspect that bad takes or "tape flip" cuts were mostly erased or spliced out. I would also assume that sets that were not preserved were considered "inferior" (by whatever standards) to what we have. That seems to be the pattern for Matrix tapes by other groups.

  8. My two cents. The whole issue of the November 1966 Grateful Dead tapes is full of confusion. I can say that there is a total of six 90 minute tapes attributed to the Grateful Dead at the Matrix, but some dates are clearly a problem. I should also say that a further 90 minute Jerry Pond recording also survives. I think part of the problem is that not all of these tapes are from the Matrix and I am comfortable saying that, as we have found elsewhere, some are from shows at the Fillmore.

    The notes I have:
    17-Nov-66 Matrix Grateful Dead (1 reel)
    17-Nov-66 Matrix Jerry Pond (1 reel)
    Jerry Pond supported the Grateful Dead run (Nov 28 on) at the Matrix ("Live Music 9-2") and I am confident that these tapes are mis-dated and actually date from that window (noting neither the GD nor Pond were known to be engaged on November 17 and it remains a blank Matrix date.}
    19-Nov-66 Matrix Grateful Dead (2 reels) this is almost certainly the November 19 Fillmore show LIA mentions above. The Dead were playing the Fillmore as noted but I remain interested as we have a two 90 minute tapes with this date - and the Fillmore shows ran from 9 to 2 with two other acts.
    29-Nov-66 Matrix Grateful Dead (1 reel)
    01-Dec-66 Matrix Grateful Dead (2 reels)
    I would note only of these shows that there are a total of three reels and potentially 270 minutes here. In any case this is way beyond was shown in the track listings so one wonders if the mis-dated 17-November and the additional December 1 tape account for there being no recordings for November 28 or 30?

    As time allows I will get back to trawling the Matrix tape lists after some distractions.

  9. And another thought; I am still certain the Grateful Dead played a midweek show at the Matrix in December 1965 - Owsley agreed with me over this. And finally, there is almost certainly some really interesting listening down in the depths of the tapes with Recurring Love Habit, Moon Rose Forest, Marvin Gardens, Linn County, Lamb, Sanpaku etc. all listed on the tapes. It would be neat to liberate them all.

  10. Have you seen a Sanpaku show on a tape list, or is that just a hopeful inference? I agree that there are many fascinating bands who played the Matrix, in many cases in their only San Francisco appearance, and I would be fascinated to hear them.

  11. February 13, 1969 (1 reel), May 21, 1969 (2 reels) and May 22, 1969 (1 reel).

  12. Yellow Shark's notes astonish me... I didn't know there were so many tapes attributed to the Dead from Nov '66. Is each reel assumed to be 90 full minutes?
    And, perhaps stating the obvious, I assume these are taken from a list of Matrix tapes with no further tracklist information?
    Is it possible one reel might duplicate another with a different date? (Happened all the time with old misdated Dead tapes in circulation.)

    The clear misdating of some of the reels is troubling, and makes me wonder about the list's reliability, especially if a Fillmore tape got attributed to the Matrix.
    (We aren't even sure if the 11/19/66 Fillmore tape has the right date either, as some have claimed it to be from 3/17/67 - and it's only 75 minutes in any case.)

  13. I don't know if the general pattern of early Dead shows at the Matrix has been discussed elsewhere.
    But with a Dec 65 show and several Jan 66 shows there, it seems the Dead were regulars at the Matrix until their trip to LA in Feb 66. (Which would make sense.)
    But when they come back in April, there are no further shows at the Matrix. Indeed, there seems to be a sparse record of shows until late spring, when they start playing regularly at the Fillmore and Avalon - indicating perhaps that their popularity had gone up.

    So it is puzzling that they had this one fall 66 run there. By then they were popular enough to have a Fillmore run every few weeks, so I would imagine there were more fans at the Matrix doors than could get in!
    Even if we don't agree with the demo-tape theory, clearly there was a one-time deal....but what was the deal?
    As far as we know, members of the Dead didn't darken the Matrix doors again for nearly two more years.

    (By the way - as far as Bill Graham's contracts preventing other advertised shows in the area, there are numerous occasions in '66 of the Dead playing the Avalon immediately following a Fillmore run. So I would guess, either Graham did not see Helms as 'competition' at the time, or his contracts were not so strict. So it's possible his 'permission' for these Matrix shows was not an issue.)

  14. Something else struck me, which may be absurd.
    The Dead's first Fillmore show had been 12/10/65. (And, by coincidence, they were also in a Fillmore run on 12/10/66.) We don't know the date in Dec 65 when they may have played the Matrix. (The Matrix list at COAU suggests it was the 8th - but may well have been the 1st.)
    I have to wonder (whether anyone in the Dead would've noticed) if this Matrix run marks the one-year anniversary of their "arrival" in San Francisco. Or even if (after the stint at Pierre's) the Matrix had been the first "real" music club they had played in San Francisco.

    This may be a foolish idea, but I thought I'd throw it out there.

  15. After some more digging, I think my last post was in error.

    I don't know how much evidence there is for the Dead's playing the Matrix in Dec 65, but if it's from Owsley, it's very questionable. There seems to be a mixup between Dec 65 and Jan 66. (The COAU Matrix list refers to the Dead playing the Fillmore on 12/8, evidently meaning 1/8...)

    Bear did not see the band until the Muir Beach Acid Test (12/11) - missed the next two Acid Test appearances (Palo Alto 12/18 & Portland in January) - and by his account, did not speak to the band until the Fillmore Acid Test (1/8).
    So his knowledge of their December schedule would be sketchy, at best.

    From Bear's comments quoted in deadlists:
    "I met the Dead formally at the Fillmore show on 11 Feb '66... There were only two Matrix shows, one in Dec '65, and the one before the Fillmore AT. The Matrix was a crummy little closet of a venue with barely enough room for 50 to 60 people to stand in, the big name bands didn't play there after they got up and known. The hall couldn't pay more than $100 for the act. They seldom had two acts/night and so far as I know never three. The Dead played there twice when they were unknown."

    Not only is he off on the date of the Fillmore AT, he says the Dead played only two Matrix shows, both before then (that is, before he met them). In spite of their playing several Matrix shows in late January, when he was definitely with them! (He seems to be right referring to the Jan 7 Matrix show, though.)

    McNally's book does not mention Matrix shows in Dec 65, but says in January: "On returning to the Bay Area [from the Portland Acid Test], they had a couple of gigs at the Matrix... It was a tiny bar with a capacity of perhaps 100, so small that the lighting booth was built over the toilet fixtures. There were noise complaints even without performers... Lacking a dance permit, the Matrix could not allow dancing, so it was not a particularly comfortable show. Nonetheless, Garcia loved it, because they were only a few blocks from the bay, and it was possible to hear the foghorns."

    (The Garcia memory is telling. The small size aside, the fact that the audience stayed seated would in itself make it a rather uncomfortable place for the Dead to play...)

    Anyway, in short, I feel like I've gone down a false trail here...well....all for the furthering of Dead knowledge!

  16. There was nothing preventing bands like the Dead from playing The Avalon after they had played the Fillmore, just a contractual requirement that they couldn't be advertised. Graham definitely considered Chet Helms a significant rival. The key issue with an Avalon booking that followed a Fillmore one would be how early the Dead (or any other Fillmore band) were advertised by the Avalon.

    It's very hard to know at this remove when posters were actually "on the street," but if the Dead were playing at the Fillmore through the 10th of a month and opening at the Avalon on the 24th, at least hypothetically they couldn't be on an Avalon poster before the 11th.

  17. Thanks for the clarification.
    Through several months of '66, the Dead usually played the Avalon the weekend after an appearance at the Fillmore, so leaving about 5 days for the Avalon to put up posters or advertise.
    By the fall, the Dead were quite in demand and were playing one place or another in SF just about every weekend. Advance advertising was probably unnecessary!

  18. The COAU Matrix list erroneously refers to the Dead playing the Fillmore on Dec-8 rather than Dec-10. The date of Dec-8 for the Matrix show is speculation (as stated) going way back but it is not based on Owsley's statement. I do have a much updated Matrix list and will try and get it posted in the next few days.

    The tape list with the November 1966 Grateful Dead shows was compiled from what was written on the tapes themselves (one of the three separate batches of tape known to exist) and there is no track listing.

    We do know, and have known for many years, that some of the tapes are mislabelled but that the list remains an accurate recording of what the tape labels state. So it is not the list that is inaccurate, it is the labelling of the tapes. This has led most obviously to the erroneously dated Sparrow (Steppenwolf) Matrix recordings that were given a public release a while back. As an example, the complete Bilbo's Birthday recordings (Big Brother and The Holding Company, Great Society, Charlatans) from January 28, 1966 are contained in the stash of tapes and are marked as from the Matrix rather than California Hall. Also, we know that the recordings of Big Brother and the Holding Company, Steve Miller, Santana, Sandy Bull and Dan Hicks from June 16, 1968) were from the Fillmore rather than the Matrix (albeit a Matrix Benefit). There are a few other items that are clearly Fillmore or even Winterland recordings on list and these can generally be accounted for.

    There is clearly much work still to do to unravel some of these dates.

  19. That's an excellent description, YS, thank you. I look forward to learning more!

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  21. Thanks for the extra note, YS.

    For readers at large, there is a (partial) list of surviving & mostly non-circulating Matrix tapes in the comments here:

    How so many non-Matrix shows ended up in the stash of "Matrix" tapes is in itself a spur to speculation!
    But obviously, there's only so much we can conclude without access to the tapes themselves.

    For me, the most intriguing date is the Dead 1/7/66 - not only does it precede our earliest taped Dead show by one day, Deadbase has long had an interesting-looking (and plausible) setlist for that date, leading one to hope that this tape is authentic, was once heard, and may come to light someday.

    I would also like to hear more about the speculations behind the Dead's Dec 65 show at the Matrix. This is, after all, the very site for speculating about such lost & little-known shows!

  22. I went back and took another look at the list - digging out the original, scanning it and blowing it up. I now think that the 11/17/66 for the Grateful Dead date is actually 1/7/66 and is out of order. Just poor handwriting. However, the Jerry Pond listing is very clearly written as 11/17/66 and it seems to be overly co-incidental in that supporting the Grateful Dead at then end of November no recordings of Pond exist, but the rogue 17-Nov-66 date has not only a recording but Pond playing as well. I really need to do some work on the tape list and fire up the old time machine to get the validation done.

  23. November 17, 1966 was billed as Quicksilver Messenger Service (they played 15-16-17). It would have been typical for the Matrix to book a folksinger as the opener for a weeknight rock band, so Jerry Pond playing on Nov 17 seems very plausible.

    Any idea who Jerry Pond might be?

  24. Well, here's a little bit about Jerry Pond:

    "Jerry Pond lived in Jules's antique shop. A tall, charming and likable guitarist and song-writer, he had shared concert billings with the Grateful Dead in San Francisco in 1966. When the FBI opened a file on him in their aggressive campaign to intimidate, jail, even kill leaders of the youthful movement for peace and social renewal, he left America and studied in the Mexican wilderness with a shaman. That shaman had sent him to find and study with a "Great One". Now, having searched, Jerry felt he had indeed found and was learning from such a one."

    The source is here:

    I am not really interested in wading through all of it (Mr. Pond seems to be somewhat peripheral to the story of Yogi Bhajan), but it would explain why we didn't hear about Jerry Pond subsequently.

  25. That's a good find. I'd wondered why this post didn't have the usual appendix on who the opening act was! And it does explain Jerry Pond's obscurity....

  26. Happy Holidays to All,
    Yellow Shark, in response to Corry's inquiry on Sanpaku, you mentioned Matrix reels dated 2/21/69 and 5/21-22/69. As you might imagine, I am very interested in knowing more. Corry knows my direct email if you want to converse off blog. Nice detecting everyone!

  27. Hewitt, I emailed you on your Yahoo account.

  28. Has the 11/17 reel ever been released/does anyone have it? Is it labeled under something else? I've never seen a reference to it.

    For note, I'm pretty sure the 11/29 concert is actually from 12/23. Bob sings "Winter" in Dancin' on the 9/16 concert - which I think is from 12/24 - making these that two-day run at the Avalon (resolving the Sunflower legal issues - i.e. the 11/29 probably has to be from the Avalon). Then we have the 12/1 concert (Bob sings "autumn" in Dancin') and that 11/19 concert (the last two sets of which exist properly situated). So someone taped at the Fillmore and The Matrix?

    Could the Matrix concert (12-1) be mislabeled? All we can be absolutely sure of is that it was in the Fall and after the Stanley newspaper article (so really 10/5-12/20). I don't know how firm the 11/19 date is either, but could they both, for instance, be from either the November or December Fillmore runs?

    That would potentially account for the taping if Graham was regularly taping as someone mentioned.

    Possibly also worth noting that tracks 1-3 from the unlabeled 1966 archive reel are the July 31, 1966 set completing the Vancouver 66 tapes (29th starts with Standing and 30th with Dancin'). The 31st set were apparently mislabeled Pauley #2 ((~?) December 2, 1966) - I think that concert probably does exist somewhere (and the other Vancouver tapes were properly labeled). But again the point being that Bear recorded 5 straight dates and maybe seemed to prefer consecutive recordings - and may have recorded on December 2nd.

    Does anyone know when Bear rejoined in that capacity?

    1. Farther down in the comments, Yellow Shark noted that "the 11/17/66 for the Grateful Dead date is actually 1/7/66" - it was just a misreading of the label. In any case the 1/7/66 reel has never circulated, unfortunately.

      You have a good point that the "9/16/66" tape was actually from an unknown date at the Avalon - 9/16 was a conjecture, but it could well be from the Dec '66 run there, too, as Weir's "winter" vocal suggests.

      A couple other points seem mistaken, though.
      On the Historic Dead record, Stealin' & Same Thing were credited to Peter Abram, meaning they were certainly taped at the Matrix. As well, you can hear that the recording sound is entirely different between the Avalon "9/16" tape, and either of the Matrix 11/29-12/1 tapes. (For instance, the Avalon tapes have louder organ & vocals.) Abram's Matrix tapes have a distinct sound and are not likely to be from another venue.
      So I have no doubt that these Matrix tapes are accurately labeled, give or take a night.

      (The 11/19/66 Fillmore show date is not definite, but note that Weir does sing "autumn" in Dancin'.)

      I can't confirm the July '66 conjecture; but while we're on the topic of the Matrix, I should mention that the final reel in the 1966 mystery-reels set (tracks 15-18, labeled "Pauley Ballroom #2") is now thought to be from a Matrix show at the end of January '66 - the Dead mention that they're moving to LA "next week" and something's happening there "next Saturday," and announce the Loading Zone's set. The Matrix dates of Jan. 28-29, if genuine, seem to be the most obvious candidate.
      (I don't know if anyone recognizes the voice of the announcer at the end of the set, after Midnight Hour gets the plug pulled?)

      Bear didn't record any known shows in 1966 after July, since the band dismissed him after the Vancouver run, and he didn't become the band's soundman again til around June 1968.

  29. The just published photos of Bear's reels of 66-12-01 on the Owsley Stanley Foundation FB page confirm the guest artist is Marvin. He is identified on the tape box for reel 3 on "Walking Cane" (Look Over Yonder Wall) and "The Way You Want Me To Do" (My Own Fault), presumably the same Marvin as on 66-10-10.

    1. Great connection--I assume you mean Hartbeats in 68 (1968-10-10)

    2. oops, yeah 68

    3. You were right! It's a guy named Marvin Boxley, who was in the band Petrus. He surely knew Garcia from CSM back in the folkie days. See here: