Thursday, March 29, 2012

August 20, 1975 Great American Music Hall, San Francisco: Keith And Donna with Jerry Garcia ('Straight Life")

Listings for the Great American Music Hall for August 15-23, 1975, from the Fremont Argus of August 18, 1975. Note that Les Paul comes in for the following weekend
Recently, thanks to the miracle of accessibility that is the iPod, I listened again to the August 20, 1975 tape, where Jerry Garcia plays with the Keith And Donna band. The conventional wisdom over the decades has been that Garcia was between bands that month, couldn't stay away from playing, and sat in for a few dates with Keith And Donna because he could. While I still think that little narrative is essentially true, listening closely to the remarkable 25-minute version of Art Pepper's classic "Straight Life" made me consider the context of Garcia's August 1975 performances with Keith And Donna in an entirely new light. In particular, it made me realize how the 1976 Keith and Donna version of the Jerry Garcia Band was consciously constructed to contrast itself with the more freewheeling, jazzy ensembles with Merl Saunders that preceded it. I suggest this because I will argue that Garcia's performance with the Keith and Donna band, epitomized by the long, wonderful cover of "Straight Life," represent a snapshot of how Garcia, Keith and Donna would have sounded playing like the Garcia/Saunders ensemble, and how Garcia clearly chose not to travel that path he had already walked upon.

The Legion Of Mary and The Jerry Garcia Band, Summer 1975
The basic narrative is fairly well known, promulgated by the likes of me. Jerry Garcia had played with Merl Saunders since 1970, but by mid-1975, Garcia was looking for a change. At the time, The Legion Of Mary was an almost formal group, with Garcia, Saunders, John Kahn, Ron Tutt on drums and Martin Fierro on tenor sax and flute. If Tutt wasn't present, they played under the name 'Garcia-Saunders.' Occasionally Garcia also dropped in on Merl Saunders gigs, with Tony Saunders on bass and a variety of drummers, along with Fierro. All three ensembles played lengthy songs, with Garcia, Saunders and Fiero sharing solos, and a fair share of instrumentals and songs featuring Merl Saunders on vocals. Over the years, the Garcia/Saunders ensemble had been very comfortable about letting guests sit in on trumpet, guitar or other instruments. In that respect, the Garcia/Saunders groups were formulated like a jazz band, even though they played rock. Solos were shared, vocals were shared, and membership wasn't absolutely fixed.

Garcia played his last show with the Garcia/Saunders ensemble on July 6, 1975 at Keystone Berkeley. He would actually play a fair number of later shows with Merl Saunders a few years later in Reconstruction, but this phase of the partnership was over.  The ensemble that followed was The Jerry Garcia Band, who officially debuted on September 18, 1975 at Sophie's, in Palo Alto. Sophie's, at 260 S. California Avenue, would later become the Keystone Palo Alto, but at the time it was kind of out-of-the-way, a good place for a new band to get broken in. The new Garcia Band featured Garcia, Kahn, Tutt and pianist Nicky Hopkins. Hopkins was a major rock figure in 1975, having toured with Jeff Beck, Quicksilver and The Rolling Stones, among many others, and having recorded with the Stones, the Beatles and The Who, to name just a few. With the Stones' pianist and Elivs Presley's drummer, The Jerry Garcia Band wasn't just some pickup band.

Apparently, paperwork exists formally establishing Garcia, Kahn, Tutt and Hopkins as partners in the Jerry Garcia Band. I don't believe such a formal arrangement ever existed with Garcia and Saunders; I think they just split up the money evenly at the end of the night. However, in 1975 the Dead were not touring, and Garcia not only needed the cash, he was clearly looking at a solo career as a formal project. Thus in order to get musicians at the level of Tutt and Hopkins, he had to offer them something, and I believe what he had to offer was a partnership. Jerry had the big name, but by making a band out of it, all the participants would benefit. Neither Elvis nor Mick Jagger had offered such a thing to Tutt or Hopkins. From that point of view, the Jerry Garcia Band wasn't designed as a vehicle where players would drop in and out whenever they were otherwise booked. While accommodations would have had to be made for Elvis, history shows that Tutt was serious about the enterprise.

Although we know that Nicky Hopkins debuted with the Jerry Garcia Band on September 18, 1975, one thing I had not contemplated until very recently was their first rehearsal. Now, Garcia didn't like to rehearse, and Hopkins and Tutt didn't need to rehearse much--part of their appeal for Garcia. But Hopkins had never played with Garcia in a formal setting, so there had to have been at least one rehearsal. I'm not even certain where Hopkins lived in 1975, but in any case he normally flew between England, New York and Los Angeles, playing sessions or shows for rock legends of all stripes. Thus a rehearsal, however brief, had to be formally arranged, with plane tickets and someone to pick up Hopkins at the airport.

I am going to propose the following: Garcia had been thinking about the plan to play with Hopkins for some time, and there was a rehearsal of some kind for Garcia, Hopkins and Tutt in July 1975. The rehearsal went well and they agreed to form a band. However, Garcia had some pre-existing dates booked at the Keystone Berkeley for August of 1975, and in any case he needed the cash. Thus I think the Keystone simply had "Jerry Garcia" listed on the calendar and ads, and didn't know who would actually play the August 1975 dates. Garcia probably didn't know, either. Once Garcia rehearsed with Hopkins, he knew he had a band, but he still had some dates to fill, and no desire to cancel them. Thus I think he teamed up with the Keith And Donna band to play the scheduled Jerry Garcia Band dates at the Keystone Berkeley in August. Given that they were playing together, I think Garcia played the booked Keith and Donna dates, too, at the Orphanage and maybe elsewhere. I wouldn't be surprised if Garcia had informally told the Godchauxs that he might play dates with them in August, if he couldn't pull his band together quickly enough.

August 1975 Performances by Jerry Garcia and Keith And Donna
According to my logic, shows attributed to the Jerry Garcia Band would have actually been Keith And Donna with Jerry Garcia. I wouldn't be surprised if Garcia played at the dates booked as Keith And Donna shows, too, although we have no evidence one way or the other, save for the fact that Betty Cantor seems not to have taped them. Based on my previously published history of the Keith And Donna band's performing history, August 1975 looks like this:

Listing for Keith And Donna at The Odyssey Room, Campbell, for August 4, 1975, from the August 1, 1975 edition of the Hayward Daily Review. For the record, the Garcia Brothers were a South Bay club band, and did not feature Tiff and Jerry.
August 4, 1975  Odyssey Room, Sunnyvale Keith and Donna
The Odyssey Room, at 799 El Camino Real in Sunnyvale, was a South Bay saloon, a jumping place that featured local bands and probably sold a lot of drinks. I wonder if Garcia played with them anyway (see notes below)?

August 5, 1975  Keystone Berkeley Jerry Garcia Band
This listing for The Jerry Garcia Band comes from Deadbase, without attribution. Deadbase's source was me. Based on my long ago notes, it appears that this date was from a list compiled by Dennis McNally. For the reasons described below (see August 20-21), I think this was a Keith and Donna show, perhaps with Jerry Garcia playing lead guitar and singing a few songs. Of course, its equally possible that Garcia never played the show, or maybe Keith and Donna took the date by themselves. I'm most inclined towards the latter. If Garcia had promised Freddie Herrera of the Keystone a date, Herrera could have respected the cancellation, but he still had to have a headliner. My guess is that Keith and Donna played, but without Jerry.

A listing from the KG column of The Hayward Daily Review from August 17, 1975. The booking was listed as Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders, but it is highly unlikely that Merl actually played. Keith And Donna played the show, almost certainly, but the question is whether or not Jerry Garcia sat in.
August 18, 1975 Keystone Berkeley Keith and Donna
This show was listed in the Hayward Daily Review as a Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders show. I believe there is another listing where it is displayed as a Keith And Donna show, but I can't pin that down right now.  If this was the first Garcia show with Keith and Donna, a quiet appearance by Jerry might be a safe way for him to get his feet wet with the band, a public rehearsal if you will.

August 20-21, 1975 Great American Music Hall, San Francisco Jerry Garcia Band
The Fremont Argus (up top) lists these Wednesday and Thursday shows at the Great American Music Hall (859 O'Farrell, and still going strong) as The Jerry Garcia Band. In fact, we have a lovely tape of August 20 (I think it is a Betty Board), and Jerry Garcia joins Keith and Donna. He plays lead guitar on all their songs, as well as singing 'Tough Mama" and "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You." I have to assume the next night was the same configuration. Although the tape is incomplete, the entire group sounds great, and Jerry of course puts it over the top.

Both the August 20 and August 30 tapes feature an unnamed trumpeter. We do know that Hadi Al-Sadoon was listed as a Keith And Donna band member in July, so he seems the most likely suspect. Nonetheless, numerous Garcia tapes in the 1970s feature trumpet players, all unnamed--I wonder if they were the same one? One could postulate the usual Marin suspects--Luis Gasca, Bill Atwood, and so on, but I really don't know. Many of Garcia's band mates are no longer with us, either, so its hard to think who we could ask about that.

August 29-30, 1975 The Orphanage, San Francisco Keith and Donna with Jerry Garcia
The Orphanage, at 807 Montgomery, had been a happening North Beach club about 1973, and was by this time less so. Still, this was a comparatively high profile gig, compared to the likes of The Odyssey Room. The shows were on a Friday and Saturday, and fortunately, a tremendous tape survives of the latter night. Jerry sings some Dylan songs, and may have been trying out his Travis Bean guitar as well.

Keith And Donna Band with Jerry Garcia, Wednesday, August 20, 1975, Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA
Donna Godchaux-vocals
Jerry Garcia-lead guitar, vocals
Ray Scott-guitar
Steve Schuster-tenor sax, flute, congas
Hadi Al-Sadoon (?)-trumpet
Keith Godchaux-electric grand and Fender Rhodes piano, vocals
Mike Larscheid-bass
Bill Kreutzmann-drums
The tape I have lists six songs:
Tough Mama
My Love For You
Straight Life
Come See About Me
How Sweet It Is
I am not an expert on tape lineage and set lists, so I won't make a claim for the exact date of the tape. It appears to be the first set of a show. For my purposes, it's enough to assert that it unquestionably represents Jerry Garcia playing with the Keith And Donna Band in Summer 1975.  Amongst the six songs are two sung by Garcia, both 'standards' in the Garcia canon, three that were regularly heard in Keith and Donna's sets, and an epic 25-minute instrumental that appears to be a long version of legendary alto saxophonist Art Pepper's signature song, "Straight Life." Now, I assume "Straight Life" was a regular part of Keith And Donna sets, and in any case I'm not musical enough to insure you that the band was really playing the Pepper tune.

Nonetheless, there's 25 minutes of a rocked up version of some serious jazz, even if someone could make the case that it wasn't "Straight Life." The significance of the inclusion of "Straight Life" lies in the fact that the Jerry Garcia Band with Keith and Donna almost never played instrumentals and stayed far away from formal jazz performances, save for a remarkable rendition of Miles Davis' "So What" on during what may have been the band's final performance.

What does the setlist tell us? First of all, the fact that Garcia led the band through disciplined versions of "Tough Mama" and "How Sweet It Is" means there had to be at least one rehearsal, however brief. Garcia's presence with Keith and Donna was planned, not just a casual drop in, which is part of the basis for my assertion that Garcia was using Keith and Donna to fill in some previously booked dates. Given that Garcia helped make the Keith And Donna album, he might have recalled "My Love For You" and "Showboat." "Come See About Me" was another radio classic, and a player of Garcia's stature could have just comped along and taken his solos. Also, with guitarist Ray Scott in the band, a solid if unspectacular player, Garcia would not have had to remember every rhythmic change, since Scott could cover the basic arrangements, leaving Garcia free to just embellish the music. One rehearsal would clearly have taken care of business, at least for this set.

However, it is the epic jam on "Straight Life" that really sets apart Garcia's August 20, 1975 performance. The Jerry Garcia Band with Keith And Donna had a certain sound, and "Straight Life" has nothing to do with it. "Straight Life" is structured as a modern jazz instrumental, with heads and a body, and the ensemble returning to state the theme just before the next excursion by the soloists. Garcia dominates the soloing, but Steve Schuster's tenor sax, the trumpeter (Hadi Al-Sadoon?) and Keith Godchaux's electric piano all take off for remarkable solos. I had heard jazzy licks from Keith many times in songs like "Playing In The Band," but this is the only time I can think of where he goes into a jazz mode and stays there, and he's a spectacular jazz improviser.

Art Pepper and "Straight Life"
While Garcia and the Keith and Donna band were clearly feeling it that night, working out on a tune as classic as "Straight Life" means it was no accident. Art Pepper (1925-82) was an alto sax player who was a giant of West Coast jazz music in the 1950s, and among the best alto saxophonists of the era after Charlie Parker. Pepper was a true genius, and also a junkie and a hustler, by his own admission. The title of "Straight Life" implies an unalduterated take on life itself (as in 'straight whisky'), rather than any homage to the straight and narrow, since Pepper was anything but.

To my knowledge, the first recording of "Straight Life" was on Pepper's classic 1957 album Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section. A wonderful recording, it features Pepper backed by members of Miles Davis's group. According to Pepper, he was broke and strung out, only heard about the session that morning, had no rehearsal, hadn't played in weeks or months, and had to borrow a saxophone. While the actual history is probably more nuanced (Pepper apparently played sessions the preceding week), the basic fact remains that Pepper came into the studio unprepared and in terrible shape. Pepper plays beautifully, however, and the album is a jazz classic.

Pepper's terrible heroin addiction led to a number of stints in prison, ultimately in San Quentin. After getting out of jail in 1964, Pepper hit bottom, his jazz career seemingly over. He ultimately got involved with the recovery group Synanon, and not only got his life back but his career, too, making fine music throughout the 70s until his death in 1982. Memorably, he published an autobiography in 1982, entitled Straight Life. It is a harrowing and fascinating tale of genius, addiction and despair.

There are many books about addiction and redemption, many of them by musicians. However, in contrast to books by the likes of the publicist for The Doors (Wonderland Avenue by Danny Sugarman) or the keyboard player for Three Dog Night (One Is The Loneliest Number by Jimmy Greenspoon)--both

Thursday, March 22, 2012

David Nelson and The New Delhi River Band, Fall 1966 (Nelson II)

A poster by 'Machine Studio' for The New Delhi River Band performance at The Barn, in Scotts Valley, on Friday, October 14, 1966
The New Delhi River Band were founded in Palo Alto, CA in the Summer of 1966. They were one of the first psychedelic blues bands formed in the South Bay--though of course not the very first--, and they had a significant following in the South Bay underground. The group is usually remembered today, if at all, for being the first rock band for future New Riders of The Purple Sage David Nelson and Dave Torbert. Since the band never released any recordings, however, and the venues where they thrived are lost in the mists of time, the New Delhi River Band is just a ghost.

Despite substantial efforts by the group in 1967, The New Delhi River Band never succeeded outside of their South Bay turf, and the members moved on to other pursuits. My research seems to suggest, however, that they were an interesting and popular band in the little universe of the South Bay underground in 1966 and 1967, and their story makes a great case study on how regional bands help shape scenes while getting left behind themselves—the story of The New Delhi River Band stands for the tale of every cool local long haired band in 1966 and 1967 who never got big past the County Line, living on as a fond, hazy memory of their fans.

David Nelson was one of Jerry Garcia's best friends, and Nelson's career presents an interesting counterpoints to Garcia's. The Grateful Dead were the South Bay's first psychedelic blues band, of course, and the New Delhi River Band's ups and downs shed light on different ways in which the Dead were both fortunate and special. By the time Nelson and Garcia reconnected in 1969 with the New Riders of The Purple Sage, Nelson had had his own odyssey, far less legendary than Garcia's but fascinating nonetheless. This post will be part of a series on the hitherto lost history of the New Delhi River Band.

In a 21st century interview for RD Records, drummer Chris Herold recalled

NDRB was a really fine band. Some very fond memories of the formative time. We were one of the first white blues bands, probably THE first in the Bay Area. We were Butterfield Blues Band fans and it showed in our music. We also drew from all the old greats Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon, Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters . . . the list goes on. The band members were: Sweet John Tomasi (vocals and harmonica), Peter Sultzbach (lead guitar), David Nelson (rhythm guitar), Dave Torbert (bass) and me [Chris Herold] on drums.”
David Nelson played a critical role in Jerry Garcia's career, both before the Grateful Dead and during their existence. After the New Delhi River Band ended in early 1968, Nelson re-appeared in Garcia's universe at the end of 1968, participating in the Aoxomoxoa sessions (although probably not appearing on the record). More importantly, Nelson, along with Garcia and John Dawson, was a founding member of the New Riders Of The Purple Sage, Garcia's first extra-curricular band. In subsequent decades, Nelson made all sorts of great music, with and without Garcia, and continues to do so in both the revitalized New Riders and the David Nelson Band.

This chronology would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of Ross Hannan, Chris Recker, the late Russell Towle and David Nelson. Anyone with additional information, insights, corrections or recovered memories (real or imagined) is urged to Comment or email me.

Recap: The Formation Of The New Delhi River Band
Part I of the New Delhi River Band story reviews how David Nelson was a bluegrass musician in Palo Alto, just like his friend Jerry Garcia. The arrival of the Beatles and LSD electrified the tiny community of bohemian musicians, and the hitherto acoustic Nelson started to get interested in plugging in. By mid-1966, Nelson and his Channing Avenue housemate Carl Moore had joined forces with a Los Altos band called Bethlehem Exit, and hatched the idea of The Outfit. The Outfit was intended to be a sort of permanent Trips Festival in sleepy little Palo Alto, with a venue, a band and a light show all called The Outfit. According to Nelson, there was only one show, a memorable mini-Acid Test in June 1966 graced by Neal Cassady himself, but the enterprise never got any further.

The Outfit venue withered, but out of its ashes arose two light shows, one of them still called The Outfit, and also the New Delhi River Band. After some early gigs that even I have not been able to trace, the band rose to the surface in the South Bay in August of 1966. The New Delhi River Band opened for Roy Head, Van Morrison and Them and The Doors at a club called Losers South in San Jose. The New Delhi River Band also started to play at a mysterious, legendary venue in the Santa Cruz Mountains called The Barn. We pick up the story in October, 1966, as The Barn starts to rise to prominence in the still-tiny hippie scene of the South Bay.

A map of the location of The Barn (from the Oct 14' 66 poster above). The configuration of Highway 17 and Scotts Valley has completely changed, and no trace of The Barn remains. The site is now the parking lot of The Baymonte Christian School
Fall 1966: The Barn, Scotts Valley, CA
In the 20th Century, when a form of music was new, it generally needed a new venue to express itself. New music, by its nature, would not fit in with established commercial interests, so without a new place to play, new music would remain obscure. Whether it was be-bop in the 1940s or rock in the 60s, groundbreaking music was usually associated with a specific location. For the most famous bands, their musical birthplaces are famous as well: The Cavern Club in Liverpool was the foundation of The Beatles, and the Fillmore was the launching pad for the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and the other San Francisco bands.

Around the country, and even around the English speaking world, a thousand psychedelic flowers bloomed as the locally adventurous musicians became the featured attraction at the local ballroom. Thus the Boston Tea Party, the Trauma in Philadelphia, the UFO Club in London, the Grande Ballroom in Detroit and numerous others are enshrined in local or even national legend, thanks to the bands that played there. After the Filmore, but before all of those, however, there was The Barn in Scotts Valley, and that was where the New Delhi River Band found its home and cemented their fuzzy legend as the anchors of the South Bay underground.

The Barn, known as 'The Fillmore of The Mountains," was only open from mid-66 through mid-68, and indeed it was closed during much of that time as well. What little information is available on The Barn mostly comes from our site, and what is posted there is fairly outdated. By the Fall of 1966, the New Delhi River Band would become the "House Band" of The Barn, whatever exactly that meant. After The Barn closed, it disappeared without a trace. I can recall being at the Foothill College radio station in 1975 and reading Pete Frame's New Riders Family Tree (promulgated as part of a Columbia Records promo package), and finding out about both The New Delhi River Band and The Barn for the first time. The Barn was located in Scotts Valley, less than 8 years and 30 minutes from where I was standing when I first read about it (Moody Road in Los Altos), and it was as if it had never existed at all.

Eric Nord, proprietor of a string of coffee houses that included the famous Hungry I in San Francisco and the Sticky Wicket in Aptos (in Southern Santa Cruz County), had opened a coffee house and art gallery in a converted dairy barn in Fall, 1965. Scotts Valley was about 15 miles from the Santa Cruz coast, nestled in the the Santa Cruz Mountains, between Santa Cruz and San Jose. Scotts Valley was an isolated mountain town at the time, not even yet an incorporated community, and the residents did not take kindly to the sort of beatniks who visited the coffee shop. While the coffee house closed in early 1966, to the dismay of the locals, it was taken over by a Santa Cruz psychiatrist, Dr. Leon Tabory.  Tabory started presenting rock shows in the relatively cavernous upstairs part of the structure, which had hitherto been used for square dances and basketball games. The Barn rapidly coalesced from a “Performance Space” to the “Fillmore Of The Mountains.”  Some of the San Francisco bands played there, and it appears that guest appearances by famous musicians who were in the area were not unknown.  The Barn is remembered fondly by anyone who ever attended or played there, but memories are very fuzzy (why, do you think?).

Tabory (1925-2009) was a remarkable man whose story is too much to tell in this context. Tabory had been Neal Cassady's prison psychiatrist. After testifying to help defend a Prankster (Peter Demma) in an obscenity case, he focused on the idea that people needed a 'performance space' to express themselves.  The earliest known rock show at The Barn is May 22, 1966, with Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, but it may have begun before that. In any case, by Summer 1966 The Barn had become the hip place to hang out in the South Bay on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

I now know, however, that Tabory got his insight into how The Barn should operate from visiting The Outfit. Whether or not Tabory ever went to the Fillmore or Avalon is unclear, but in any case he would not likely have gone on his own, as he was considerably older than most of the bohemians. It appears he went to The Outfit through his connection with Neal Cassady. Tabory hired Gayle Curtis and Paul Mittig to do the light shows at The Barn, and they named themselves The Magic Theater. A local Santa Cruz artist, Joe Lyzowski, painted psychedelic murals on the walls of The Barn. Carl Moore and others at Channing Avenue continued to operate as a free lance light show called The Outfit after Curtis and Mittig left.

Its important to remember that in Summer and Fall 1966, long hair, weed and the blues were pretty Underground commodities. Outside of the Haight Ashbury and the vicinity of Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, such people weren’t welcome. One of the very few safe, fun places in the South Bay to go for adults who aspired to that was The Barn. The reach of The Barn extended well beyond its nearest residents, to Southern Alameda County and other parts of the Bay Area. Teenagers who couldn't get into bars and were a long way from Berkeley or San Francisco found a welcoming hangout in tiny Scotts Valley, even if the community itself was highly suspicious of the visitors. South Bay bohemians, Merry Pranksters, future South Bay hippies, Gypsy Joker bikers, members of the Family Dog and other fringe characters knew that they had a safe haven on weekends at the converted Dairy Barn off Granite Creek Road. The New Delhi River Band became regular performers at the hippest place outside of San Francisco, and they are fondly (if somewhat fuzzily) remembered by all who saw them there.

Future New Delhi River Band and Kingfish drummer Chris Herold playing in The Good News, along with guitarist Tim Abbott and keyboardist Bob Stephens, somewhere in the South Bay in 1966. Note the pop-art clothes, optimized for the strobe light. Photo clipped from a long forgotten newspaper, courtesy of Tim Abbott.
The New Delhi River Band and The Good News
The history of the New Delhi River Band has only been alluded to a few times over the years, and what little information there is about the group has mostly come from a single item on the 1974 Pete New Riders of The Purple Sage Family Tree, promulgated as promotional material for Columbia Records for Brujo. The Frame Tree lists the New Delhi River Band's lineup as follows:
Sweet John Tomasi-vocals, harmonica
Peter Sultzbach-lead guitar
David Nelson-guitar
Dave Torbert-bass
Chris Herold-drums
However, several years of determined research on my part has shown that Torbert and Herold did not join the NDRB until October of 1966 at the earliest, and probably not until November. I know that the initial bass player for The Outfit, at least in rehearsal, was one Austin Keith, and Nelson rather surprisingly told me that they had tried out John Dawson as the bass player, too, but he only lasted one gig, because (as Nelson put it) "he wasn't really a bass player." When I was fortunate enough to get a chance to speak to Nelson about this subject, I asked him how Dave Torbert came into the New Delhi River Band, and I got an equally surprising answer.

Nelson told me "Chris Herold, our drummer, was in a Redwood City blues band called The Good News, and he played with Torbert, and that's how he came into the group." This revelation caused me to look into the history of The Good News--I am nothing if not thorough--and when I unraveled that story, it became clear that The Good News were an active live band until the end of October 1966, so even if Herold and Torbert were temporarily in both bands, they could not have really joined NDRB on a permanent basis until October, so there must have been at least one other bassist and drummer, and possibly several, up until then. Given the importance of Torbert and Herold to the whole saga, however, a brief review of the history of The Good News is worthwhile.

White blues bands with a rock edge were forming all over the Bay Area, and indeed the United States and England. The Grateful Dead had been perhaps the first in the South Bay and Palo Alto, but a few more followed shortly after. Redwood City was two towns North of Palo Alto (nearer to San Francisco), and The Good News were the first white blues band to come out of Redwood City. Formed in late 1965, probably in the wake of the debut Butterfield Blues Band album, by 1966 they were gigging steadily up and down the El Camino Real and the South Bay. By mid-66, the Good News' lineup was
Chris Herold-drums,
Dan Hess- Bass,
Bob Stephens- Keyboards, Sax, Harmonica, Vocals
Tim Abbott- Lead Guitar and Vocals  
Dave Torbert-Lead Vocals and Guitar.

Although The Good News mostly played local teen clubs and dances (for the complete story as I know it, see my post about the history of The Good News), besides the emphasis on straight-up blues, they distinguished themselves by having pop-art stage clothes and a light show. It appears that the Good News light show was mainly a strobe light, but for South Bay teen clubs it was still a brave step into the brave new world.

The Good News had started to get a South Bay following, and there was enough buzz about them that they got to open a show at the Fillmore on the weekend of October 22 and 23, 1966. Although The Good News were not on the poster--the opening act usually wasn't--they played along with Captain Beefheart, the Chocolate Watch Band (San Jose's finest) and The Great Pumpkin (from Oregon). The Good News played well enough that they were asked back to the Fillmore, according to guitarist Tim Abbott, but by that time they had already broken up. That places the demise of The Good News to shortly after October 23, and from that we can reasonably assume that Herold and Torbert had moved over to the New Delhi River Band at that point.

My own theory has been that drummer Herold was sort of moonlighting in the New Delhi River Band, possibly without the awareness of other members of the group. The still mysterious bass player must have dropped out, so Torbert was brought over and converted from guitar, a common enough scenario in the 1960s. Even if Torbert and Herold were planning to defect, they wouldn't have missed out on a Fillmore gig, but if they thought their chances were better with the New Delhi River Band, it explains why the Good News broke up shortly after the Fillmore shows. For now, I am assuming that Herold and Torbert joined the New Delhi River Band in October 1966, but it's not impossible that Herold had at least played a few shows before that (update: I have since found out, from David Nelson himself, via David Gans, that originally the New Delhi River Band had no drummer at all. Chris Herold apparently played a few shows, and then joined full time. John Dawson played one show at The Barn, possibly October 14. Nelson played "Beaumont Rag" on his guitar to impress Torbert. It seems to have worked).

Guitarist Tim Abbott, my principal source for the history of The Good News, recalls that they played The Barn at one point, but he can no longer recall if they were booked or just sitting in. My own suspicion is that they played one of the Thursday night shows for locals, possibly with the New Delhi River Band, or at least with some of the members present. That would explain how Herold connected with the NDRB. In any case, after The Good News broke up, Abbott ended up in the Chocolate Watch Band, and ultimately reunited with Torbert and Herold a few years later in a group called Shango in 1968, but that is getting ahead of the story (Abbott currently owns a recording studio in Campbell, and he's still in the Chocolate Watch Band, and they are still San Jose's best group).

New Delhi River Band Performance History, Fall 1966
 October 1966
The New Delhi River Band's first notable shows seem to have been at a place called Losers South, at 1500 Almaden Road in San Jose, opening for Roy Head, Van Morrison and Them and The Doors. In between they played some considerably more obscure places, that even I have not yet been able to pin down. However, I do know that band members were hanging out at The Barn as early as August. I believe they must have played enough shows at The Barn, whether on Thursday night 'local night' or opening for relatively higher profile groups, that they became a sort of attraction at The Barn by October of 1966.

The other significant event in October took place on October 6. LSD was made illegal by the state of California on that day--it's quite incredible to realize that Acid Tests were a fully legal enterprise up until that time. Granted, publicity attracted the police, who would bust longhairs for weed, speed or expired car registration, but LSD itself was not illegal until October 6. A rally of sorts was held in the Panhandle in the Haight Ashbury, on the edge of Golden Gate Park (between Fell and Oak). The Grateful Dead, Big Brother and The Holding Company and Bobby Beausoleil's Orkustra peformed on the back of a flatbed truck, and much to everyone's amazement, thousands of people showed up. Although Chris Recker was unable to go (for a reason he no longer recalls), he remembers that the Channing Avenue crowd, including Nelson, went to the event and came home buzzing with--among other things--the realization that there were like-minded pockets of free thinkers all over the Bay Area. Suddenly it seemed like the new world was just around the corner, and I do not think it was a coincidence that the New Delhi River Band, along with many other local groups, started to look on their musical careers with a new seriousness.

October 14, 1966: The Barn, Scotts Valley: New Delhi River Band/Michael Finch/The Magic Theater
The first public trace of the New Delhi River Band was in issue #9 of the legendary Haight Ashbury fanzine Mojo Navigator (the publication date of the typed, mimeographed 'zine was October 17, 1966).  The actual wording was “a place called ‘The Barn’ in Scotts Valley near Santa’s Village which has been putting on some weekly happenings lately with the New Delhi River Band and a couple of others.”  Since we have a poster (up top) we are certain of Friday, October 14. The wording implies that the band had played there regularly, and I'm inclined to think that they might have played Friday, October 7 as well.

The New Delhi River Band appears to have played many of their 1966 gigs at The Barn.  They may have even acted as a sort of “house band” although that is difficult to determine from this distance.  In general, I think that meant that the New Delhi River Band played most Friday nights at The Barn, and sometimes other nights as well (I think the Thursday events were strictly a Summer of '66 phenomenon). The Barn was the kind of place where fans just showed up, since there were few other options, and a 'name' headliner wasn't actually required. According to people who went to The Barn regularly, it was a magical period, where the few longhairs in the South Bay got together to hang out, college students, bikers, artists and high school kids from Fremont all felt that brief flash of solidarity that a scene gives you.

Michael Finch appears to have been the opening act. Its possible that he played downstairs, in the coffee shop part of the venue, while the headliners played upstairs. The Magic Theater was the name of the light show company resident at The Barn. The principals of The Magic Theater were Paul Mittig and Gale Curtis, from the Channing Avenue house.  There was a third partner in The Magic Theater as well, whose name remains uncertain, but he was a sort of business manager and wasn't really part of the creative team. The Flowers, who headlined on Saturday, October 15, were another South Bay nascent psychedelic band. Chris Recker recalled them, but can't remember anything about where they were based.

October 28-29, 1966: The Barn, Scotts Valley: New Delhi River Band/The Magic Theater
November 6, 1966: The Barn, Scott Valley, CA: Sons Of Eternity

There is a surviving poster of these shows. Possibly this is one of the events referred to in Mojo Navigator #9. 

[update 20230513: the poster has been retrieved and added. The Sons Of Eternity, performing "The Sounds Of Eternity,' were apparently a commune that had a Don Buchla "Thunder Machine." Retired UCSC Professor Ralph Abraham has described such a show, although whether it was this one is unclear]

According to some eyewitnesses, people from the Family Dog and the Grateful Dead 'family' were regulars at The Barn as well, although they were careful to point out that these did not include Chet Helms nor any actual Dead band members. It does assure us, however, that The Barn was definitely a critical outpost for the still fledgling Bay Area psychedelic rock underground. Around this time, Ken Kesey and His Merry Pranksters had largely returned from Mexico, and the notorious bus Furthur was permanently parked outside The Barn, much to the chagrin of local Scotts Valley residents. A description of a Prankster 'performance' at The Barn from around November 11, 1966, can be found in Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, giving one of the few relatively contemporary accounts of The Barn.

November ?, 1966:  The Experimental Building, Stanford University New Delhi River Band/Medoy Forest Indians
This date is approximated from a poorly scanned handbill, and some details are very hard to determine. In Fall 1966, there were a number of interesting shows at Stanford University, but by 1967 such events were limited exclusively to Frost Amphitheatre on Saturday afternoons for the next few decades. For a brief period in the 1966-67 school year, the sprawling, then mostly empty Stanford campus was subject to some peculiar events that were probably pretty interesting, if anyone could retain a coherent memory.

One eyewitness (Greg Troll) does remember this gig fondly, if vaguely, though he thinks it was Spring ’67, and an April 8, 1967 event at the same place is known, so perhaps the band played there twice. I can't figure out where the 'Experimental Building' might have been. I do know there was a lot of construction on the Stanford campus at the time, and some underused buildings may have been ripe for unauthorized activities.

The Medoy Forest Indians were a long-gone Native American tribe from the region. I can't say for certain exactly what the reference might have been.

November 18-19, 1966: The Barn, Scotts Valley Big Brother and The Holding Company/New Delhi River Band/Mercy Street Blues Machine
Peter Albin of Big Brother distinctly recalled these shows. Nelson and Peter Albin had been friends as South Bay teenagers, and indeed Albin had been with Nelson when he first met Jerry Garcia in Kepler's Book's in Menlo Park. I asked Albin if he recalled Big Brother playing The Barn, and he was kind enough to recollect:

For sure in November of 66 because we borrowed a VW double-cab pick-up from our landlady of the Argentina House in Lagunitas (we lived there between July 66 & January 67). We had problems with the truck.  It was a rainy weekend and all the truck had to protect our equipment in the back was a sort of covered-wagon sort of affair which allowed water to collect in the bed of the truck.  On the way back, we either blew the engine or transmission (I can't remember which) that we had to get repaired. So we didn't make much money that weekend. One of the times we played the Barn was with the New Delhi River Band, and another time was with the Congress of Wonders. 
Since the other Big Brother date at The Barn was February 25, 1967, and the NDRB were playing elsewhere, this seems to be the weekend they played together. Nelson and Albin had played folk festivals around the South Bay in the previous two years; now they were both playing loud, electric blues.

The Barn was a two-story structure, with the main performance space (which was also a basketball court) upstairs. The downstairs was a sort of coffee shop, but sometimes there were performers there as well. The Mercy Street Blues Machine, also known as The Hershey Gumbo Band, was a sort of free jazz/performance art ensemble put together by Chris Recker and a partner (Ralph Sanders). Due to their association with the New Delhi River Band, they performed at various shows with the NDRB at The Barn, including for certain one of the nights Big Brother played, since Recker recalls an encounter with a friendly but mystified Janis Joplin. Chris Recker has told me the whole, unvarnished story of The Mercy Street Blues Machine, but it is too 60s and too unbelievable to tell in part, so I will save the entire story for a blog post on another occasion.

November 25, December 2, December 9, 1966: The Barn, Scotts Valley New Delhi River Band
JGMF found a note in the November 21, 1966 SF Chronicle where Ralph Gleason proclaims that the NDRB will play every Friday Night at The Barn. This confirms what we had previously inferred.
A Joe Lyzowski poster for The Barn in Scotts Valley, featuring The New Delhi River Band (Fri Dec 16) and The Anonymous Artists Of America (Sat Dec 17)

December 16, 1966: The Barn, Scotts Valley New Delhi River Band
From what evidence we have, the New Delhi River Band seems to have had a regular Friday night booking at The Barn throughout the Fall of 1966. Without evidence to the contrary, I have to guess they played just about every Friday night, and some of the Saturday nights too. I'm not yet aware of non-Barn gigs in the Fall of '66, save for the Stanford show, the date of which is uncertain. However, while I expect there must have been some non-Barn shows, the truth was that there were few 'underground' places in the South Bay for electric bands to play in 1966. That would change dramatically within the next few months, however.

December 31, 1966: The Barn, Scotts Valley, CA New Delhi River Band/Anonymous Artists of America
From the evidence I have, it seems that the regular Friday night booking at The Barn at the end of 66 and the beginning of 1967 was held by the New Delhi River Band, and Saturday nights were covered by The Anonymous Artists Of America. The Anonymous Artists of America lived in a commune in La Honda called Rancho Diablo. When the Merry Pranksters abandoned the Santa Cruz Mountains, they gave much of their equipment to the AAA. One of the members of the group was Sara Ruppenthal Garcia, Jerry Garcia’s soon-to-be ex-wife.

The AAA was a very strange sounding group, by their own admission not very good at the time, but they were definitely way out there. Their story, too, is a strange and complicated '60s story that defies reality, so I will refrain from telling it all. Nonetheless, the Anonymous Artists had a Palo Alto genesis as well, and Sara had been Nelson's roommate in Waverley Street just a year earlier. With Kesey's bus parked outside The Barn, and two bands with folkie Palo Alto roots holding down the fort each weekend, the Santa Cruz Mountains were becoming a significant outpost for bohemian psychedelia, a title the area retains to this day.

On New Year's Eve 1966, the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service had headlined an all-night extravaganza at the Fillmore Auditorium, about which only the foggiest of memories survive. However, although San Francisco was the center of the psychedelic rock explosion, things were breaking out all over. 16 months earlier, Jerry Garcia had been living in Waverley Street in Palo Alto and playing South Bay dives with the Warlocks, and now the Grateful Dead were headlining a sort of concert that literally hadn't existed then. That very same night, two of his former Waverley Street roommates (one of them his ex-wife), were headlining a similar, if smaller event just 75 miles to the South. No doubt the event at The Barn went on very late as well, but there are not even fragmentary records of the event.

By the end of 1966, the New Delhi River Band seemed to be following a path carved out by the Grateful Dead. The band was playing it's own brand of blues, it was the anchor attraction at it's own venue, and the group members were becoming professional musicians while seeming to conform to no previous model for the music industry. Those few who recall The Barn from this period recall it intensely and fondly, and the New Delhi River Band's driving blues were the soundtrack to a magical time in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

the next installment of the history of the New Delhi River Band can be seen here

Thursday, March 15, 2012

November 22, 1970: Middlesex County Community College, Edison, NJ

The Gym at Middlesex County College in Edison, NJ as it looked in February 2012 (photo-Corry)

The foundational text for the performance history of the Grateful Dead is known as the Janet Soto list. Sometime in early 1981, Grateful Dead office employee Janet Soto made a list of Grateful Dead concerts from January 1970 through December 1980. The purpose of the list remains unknown, but the implication seems to have been a financial one: a tax audit, financial planning or a similar analysis. The information source for the list seems to have been band contracts. The shows that were missing from the original Soto list were either added at the last second or arranged casually, such as free concerts or some Bill Graham shows in San Francisco. The Soto list was the foundation for all subsequent Grateful Dead concert scholarship, leading directly to Deadbase, Deadlists and other such projects.

I do not know why the Soto list began in January 1970, rather than earlier, but I can make a pretty good guess. Prior to 1970, the Grateful Dead's touring schedule was chaotic, and manager Lenny Hart had a vested interest in making sure that as few people as possible had any access to any paperwork that might say what the Grateful Dead were actually being paid. However, in February 1970, former Rolling Stones tour manager Sam Cutler took over the same duties for the Grateful Dead, and beneath his cool English bravado he was both organized and honest. I believe that the Soto list dates only from 1970 because it was only then that Cutler started keeping accurate records of Grateful Dead contracts, particularly for live performances.

Over the years, the Soto list has shown itself to be a remarkably accurate document. Shows that were not on the list turn out to have been added at the last second, probably without a contract (such as the Monday, November 16, 1970 show at Fillmore East), and shows on the list that did not occur turn out to have been canceled, which means there must have initially been a contract. Over the years, I have looked into some obscure events on the list, only to discover that they do indeed appear to have happened.

For example, the Soto list had an entry for May 17, 1970 in Fairfield, CT. For years, I wondered about this show. May 17 was a Sunday that year, and there were no major rock venues in Fairfield. Due to the miracle of the Internet, I was able to find out from alumni of Fairfield College that the Grateful Dead appear to have played a legendary Fairfield college event on the beach called "The Clam Jam." The Dead would have been contracted for the show, but the show would not have been needed to be advertised, which would have honored the Dead's obligations to Bill Graham at the Fillmore East (on Friday May 15). An unadvertised Sunday college date, while paying less than the Fillmore East and a stadium in Philadelphia (on Saturday May 16), would have been an extra payday for the band that they would have sorely needed in their financial state.

With that in mind, I am looking at a hitherto unnoticed event from the original Soto list, in the hopes that we will unearth some eyewitnesses or at least plausible rumors. According to the Soto list, on Sunday, November 22, 1970, the Grateful Dead performed at Middlesex County Community College in Edison, NJ. While this show appears on every Grateful Dead performance list, to my knowledge nothing is known about this event. I have done enough research to make a plausible case for the concert, which I will present here, in the hopes that others will have more to contribute.

The November 18 ad for the Grateful Dead show at Middlesex County College on November 22, 1970

[Update February 2021]: As regular readers know, the Comments Thread has revealed plenty of fascinating information about this concert. Thanks to Commenter bookreader9999, we have struck gold: an advertisement for the concert in the student paper [above]--note that "outsiders" are charged $5.00--, and a picture [below] of the New Riders in the Middlesex County College gym, from when the concert was reviewed on December 2. Is the internet great, or what?

The New Riders of The Purple Sage on stage in the Middlesex County College gym, November 22, 1970 (from the December 2, 1970 Quo Vadis student newspaper)

Middlesex County College, Edison, NJ

After 1946, the GI Bill allowed the many military veterans of World War 2 to attend college. The subsequent Baby Boom and the vast numbers of drafted soldiers meant that more and more institutions of higher education were needed in every area of the country. Besides a vast expansion in state university systems, most states also rapidly expanded community colleges (often called junior colleges), allowing local residents to attend the first two years of college effectively for free. The most successful of those students could move on to a four-year college. Most of the junior colleges were planned in the 1950, and they in turn opened for instruction in the late 1950s and early '60s.

Middlesex County College was founded in 1964. Middlesex County is about 30 miles Southwest of Manhattan. The principal city in the county is New Brunswick, home of Rutgers University. There are a large number of towns in the County, from Perth Amboy at the northern end, all the way down to Plainsboro in the south, next to Princeton (which is in Mercer County). Edison is in the center of the county, around towns like Metuchen, Woodbridge and Piscataway. My cousins actually grew up in Piscataway, so I know a little about the history of the area. Up until the 1970s, that part of central New Jersey was a somewhat decaying industrial area--the big employer in Piscataway was the Trojan factory (yes, that Trojan). However, since Edison is on the Northeast Corridor rail mainline, all the towns like Edison have largely become New York City bedroom communities, and there are also extensive offices near places like the Metropark Train Station in Iselin. Thus Edison and surrounding communities are much better off today than they were in the early 1970s.

Today, with public education under tremendous financial pressure, and presidential candidates suggesting that school janitors should be replaced by 9 year old students, it seems otherworldly to think that America used to value and fund public education, but such was the case. Middlesex County College must have been planned in the 1950s, and by the time it opened in '64 it would have provided an opportunity for Middlesex County students to go to college for free. The only criteria for admission would have been residency, and there would have been practically no fees. My New Jersey cousins had moved to California by the time they were of college age in the 1970s, but they all would have gone to Middlesex County College had they stayed. They were all smart and hard working, and junior college allowed them to attend the first two years of college essentially for free (in their case, Foothill College in Los Altos, birthplace of the Chocolate Watch Band). Having succeeded, my cousins could get financial aid to go to an established four year school. Without places like Middlesex County College, many of the less well-off students in the County would have had no opportunity to progress.

College Entertainment Budgets
Up until the mid 1970s, the assumption of almost all colleges was that there was more to student life than merely attending class. Most colleges had some kind of budget for student entertainment. Many performers of all types made good money playing the college circuit, and certain booking agents specialized in these sorts of engagements. Outside entertainment was considered especially important for colleges that were somewhat isolated from big cities, particularly in places where cold weather made travel ill-advised. It was taken for granted that colleges would bring in "name" entertainment for student enjoyment. This included drama, jazz, folk and other kinds of events, and from the mid-60s onwards it often included rock music as well.

The Grateful Dead were always looking for paying bookings, and they rapidly caught on to the benefits of playing colleges. In the 1960s, a common dynamic was that a few longhaired hippies would get themselves put on the college "entertainment committee" and get their favorite band booked. This often lead to the Grateful Dead (and other groups) playing small places for a modest number of students, such as at Alfred State College (May 1, 1970), because the show was paid for from university funds, not ticket sales per se. By 1970, with Cutler managing the Dead's touring schedule, colleges were a regular part of any Dead tour.
The college bookings for the Dead in 1970 were

May 1, 1970: Alfred State College, Alfred, NY (Friday)
May 2, 1970: Harpur College, Binghamton, NY (Saturday)
May 3, 1970: Field House, Wesleyan College, Middletown, CT (Sunday)
May 7, 1970: Dupont Gym, MIT, Cambridge, MA (Thursday)
May 8, 1970: Farrell Hall, SUNY, Delhi, NY (Friday)
May 9, 1970: Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA (Saturday)
May 14, 1970: Merramec Community College, Kirkwood, MO (Thursday)
May 16, 1970: Stadium, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA (Saturday)
May 17, 1970: 'Clam Jam', Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT (Sunday)
June 21, 1970: Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA (Sunday)
October 10, 1970: Colden Auditorium, Queens College, New York, NY (Sat)
October 11, 1970: Marion Shea Auditorium, Paterson State College, Wayne, NJ (Sun)
October 16, 1970: Irvine Auditorium, Penn University, Philadelphia, PA (Friday)
October 23, 1970: McDonough University, Georgetown University, Washington, DC (Friday)
October 30-31, 1970: Gym, SUNY Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY (Fri-Sat)
November 20, 1970: Palestra, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY (Friday)
November 21, 1970: Sargent's Gym, Boston U, Boston, MA (Saturday)
November 22, 1970: Middlesex County College, Edison, NJ (Sunday)
(I have not counted free or unscheduled concerts at MIT (May 6) and possibly at Paterson (Oct 12), as this post is about bookings)

While some of these college events were on weekends at schools in major metropolitan areas, and no doubt included many non-students in the audience, some of the events are considerably more out of the way. JGMF discovered, for example,  that the Alfred State show was a term-ending event attended by a few hundred people. Junior college shows at Kirkwood, MO (May 14) and Wayne, NJ (October 12) show that the Dead were willing to take paying gigs any time it fit their schedule. Some of the events were unique to the schools, as well: the Fairfield "Clam Jam" was a giant beach party, and the Penn show (October 16) was actually the homecoming dance for nearby Drexel University (alternate rows were reserved for Drexel students and their apparently stunned dates, while regular Philly Deadheads filled the rest of the seats).

Thus, however, unlikely a show at tiny Middlesex College in sleepy Edison, NJ, may seem from this distant remove, it fits in very snugly with the Grateful Dead's college heavy touring schedule at the time. What might the event have been?

Middlesex College had only been opened in 1964. Although the school serves 11, 800 students today, it probably served considerably fewer in those days. The current configuration of Community Colleges tends to orient towards a lot of part-time and returning students, often taking classes in a variety of professional skills that are not always directly related to degree programs. In their initial formulation, however, junior colleges were still more focused on the full time student body that was making academic plans to continue onwards with their education. Many, if not most, junior college in the 1960s would have had budgets for student entertainment. Thus a Sunday night show at Middlesex, probably in a relatively tiny gym, was probably an end-of-term dance. I doubt there was any advertising except in the school paper, and the event was probably not reviewed except perhaps there as well.The event probably started at 7pm--it was Sunday--and the Dead probably played a couple of sets, with no opening acts, and the event was probably over by 11:00pm. While I can only speculate, I doubt that the New Riders of The Purple Sage were booked for a set. My own guess is that the Dead got $5000 or less. If my supposition is correct, why would the Dead plan an unpublicized event for well below their usual fee? The answer seems to lie in their touring schedule for November 1970.

The Grateful Dead Touring Schedule, November 1970
Sam Cutler's reorganization of the Grateful Dead's touring (described in his 2008 book You Can't Always Get What You Want) was helping the Dead climb out of the financial hole that Lenny Hart had put them in, but the band was far from out of the woods. The group had released the successful Workingman's Dead album in June, and that, along with the newly released American Beauty, would help to introduce the band to a new and broader audience. However, those records had not yet reaped the financial rewards that they would later, so the band was still struggling. A mark of that struggle was the fact that the November 1970 Eastern tour was, to my knowledge, one of the last tours where the Dead would go out without their own sound system. Most rock bands saved on expenses by not touring with a sound system, but most bands were far more willing to be at the mercy of whatever sound reinforcement the promoter provided.

The Dead were apparently very unhappy about touring without their own PA (they would have had their own amps and guitars, of course), but it meant that the band was touring with considerably fewer crew members and the related expenses. The key booking on this tour was a four-night stand at the newly-opened 46th Street Rock Palace in Brooklyn, a new competitor to Bill Graham's Fillmore East. The band was playing there from November 11-14, Wednesday thru Saturday. The terms of the contract would have prevented them from playing an advertised show within a certain radius of New York City, a radius that certainly would have included northern New Jersey. The next weekend the Dead were playing Rochester (Friday Nov 20) and Boston (Saturday Nov 21), well outside of the restricted area. However, the Dead's last date on the tour was on Monday, November 23, playing at New York's old Anderson Theater at a party for the Hell's Angels. While the Angels party would have been nominally open to the public--although many cautious civilians would have been unwilling to attend such an event--it would not have been advertised as a Grateful Dead show, just as a Hells Angels party.

More importantly, the Hells Angels would have paid cash to the Grateful Dead, cash that the Grateful Dead would have very much needed at the time. Given that the band was playing a show in Boston on Saturday night (Nov 21) and Manhattan on Monday (Nov 23), they would have had to spend Sunday night somewhere. Any money they earned Sunday night would have covered travel expenses that would have had to be paid anyway. Even if the Dead played a junior college dance at well below their usual fee, earning a few thousand dollars was a few thousand more than they would have earned hanging around Manhattan.

Geography: Newark Airport
Edison, NJ is less than half an hour down the New Jersey Turnpike from Newark Airport (Edison is Exit 10, the airport is Exit 13). Since the Grateful Dead were touring without a PA, the band would merely have had to fly from Boston to Newark, and get themselves on down to Middlesex College. There would have been no concern about the equipment truck and possibly daunting winter weather, just a short plane ride with the guitars and amps as luggage. The band was going to have to fly to New York anyway for the Monday night show, so by flying into Newark and playing the gig in Edison, the evening's work was close to free money, even if it didn't pay that much. Thus it seems the shrewd Cutler found a gig for the band on an open Sunday night that minimized travel and travel expenses, and turned even a layover into a winning financial proposition by playing some sort of Junior College dance.

I feel confident that there was little or no publicity for the Grateful Dead's appearance at Middlesex County College on Sunday, November 22. It is likely that only Middlesex College students and their guests were allowed in, and tickets were not sold to the general public. My cousin, then a High School junior in Piscataway, NJ, was certainly not aware of the event. He would not become a Dead fan until he moved to California 18 months later (I took care of that, with a little help from the show at Maples Pavilion on February 9, 1973). Nonetheless, if he and his friends had been aware of a major Fillmore East rock band playing one town over, they would have been there, because no one played New Jersey save for Asbury Park, and they would have found a way to sneak in. I realize that this doesn't constitute definitive proof of anything, but its at least an indicator that the teenage population of Middlesex County was unaware of a Grateful Dead show.

A shot of the interior of the Middlesex County College gym in February 2012. I think the scale and footprint of the gym are probably the same as they were in 1970, but I think the gym has long since been remodeled
What Really Happened?
Did the Grateful Dead play a show at Middlesex County College, in Edison, NJ on Sunday, November 22, 1970? At this time, I cannot definitively say whether they did or not. However, the primary purpose of this blog is to assess the uncertain, and to try and analyze what was more or less likely to have actually occurred, so with that in mind, let us consider the context of the presumed Edison show, since context is all we have:
  • The November 22, 1970 Edison show appeared on the original Janet Soto list, and shows on that list appear to have been based on contracts. Thus it is very likely that the Edison show was scheduled, and fairly likely that it actually occurred
  • It is likely that the Edison show was an unpublicized school event at a junior college, but those sorts of shows were still common for the Grateful Dead during 1970
  • The Grateful Dead's touring schedule in November 1970 left them with an open Sunday night on the 22nd, where even a low-paying gig would have made financial sense
  • Since the Dead were not touring with their own sound system, probably for the last time, a quick trip from Newark Airport to Edison was a viable proposition even in the winter
I think the Grateful Dead played a student event at Middlesex County College on Sunday, November 22, 1970. I think the event started at about 7pm or so, and the Dead played a couple of hours. I doubt the New Riders of The Purple Sage played, although I wouldn't be surprised if Dawson or Nelson contributed some vocals at some point. Here's to hoping that long-ago residents of Middlesex County, from Edison or Plainsboro or Piscataway, perhaps former employees at the Trojan factory, have a flashback or two about a time when the Grateful Dead dropped in on a Sunday night.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

August 21, 1971: Mickey Hart's Ranch, Novato, CA: New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Shanti (TV Show)

The cover image from the New Riders of The Purple Sage 1971 debut album on Columbia
The original purpose of this blog was to investigate and illuminate Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia and other Dead member performances that were hitherto unknown or rarely analyzed. For the most part, my emphasis has been on using various historical approaches to consider shows about which little more is known than a date and a venue. Once in a while, however, my research turns up something not only hitherto unknown, but genuinely tantalizing. It seems that on the afternoon of August 21, 1971, the New Riders of The Purple Sage performed outdoors at Mickey Hart's ranch in Novato. More importantly, the performance was recorded for a KQED-tv public television program, so there might even be not only audio but professionally shot video of this event. Of course, there has been no trace of any such recordings since then, but we can't know to look for something unless we know it was missing in the first place. This post will consider this long (and still) lost New Riders show, and speculate on whether it was ever broadcast, and where any copies of the video or audio might be hiding.

[update!: the lead guitarist of Shanti says that the performance was broadcast live. For a picture from his website, see below]

[update2!: Sam Cutler posted some video from this show on his Facebook page. There's no doubt about it--he dates it as August 1971, the audio is clean, and David Crosby is there and everything. It's just a snippet, but it's confirmation. Patience counts. Thanks to fellow scholar Jesse (@bourgwick) for finding this]

August 21, 1971 Mickey Hart's Barn, Novato, CA
The Jerry Site references a circulating tape of a jam at Mickey Hart's barn in Novato on August 21, 1971, featuring Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, David Crosby, Bob Weir and John Cipollina. Yet what were all those fine players doing there? Although the great guitarist John Cipollina died far too early in 1989, his personal and musical impact was so widespread that his musical career has been very well documented. When looking up the history of the August 21 jam on the Cipollina site, a comment from correspondent "Rick" explains the history of how the barn jam tape was made. My focus here is not on the barn jam, but on what the players were doing there in the first place. Note my bolded text in the following quote from 'Rick.'
The New Riders of the Purple Sage were going to be taped by KQED (PBS) at Mickey Hart's Ranch in Novato and a friend asked me if I wanted to go (thanks Michael!). When we arrived, a stage was setup outside and there were lots of familiar San Francisco music scene people and their families present. The vibes were hip, and good, to say the least. The opening group was Shanti, followed by the New Riders. When the taping was finished some musicians meandered into Mickey's barn where he had a modest recording studio set up. When I walked in Jerry Garcia and David Crosby were trying some things out (Fresh Green Grass). I turned on my cassette recorder, lashed my mic to an open mic stand, and sat down to enjoy a remarkable early evening of music. Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bob Weir, John Cipollina and others floated in and out of the lineup. At some point Crosby left, then Garcia. John had come in and had picked up a Rickenbacker slide guitar* that he detailed with his characteristic Quicksilver sound. He went to his car for his ax and came back to do his part in this recipe for jam. I taped until they all stopped, we all said good-bye and left.. Enjoy this recording of a spontaneous day. Recorded on a Sony TC-24 with supplied Sony stereo mic**. Not a bad unit for the day.
Thus it seems that KQED-tv, the Public Television station for San Francisco (Channel 9) was recording a performance of the New Riders. Hart's Novato ranch was not a concert venue, so the public would not have been invited. The implication seems to have been that Grateful Dead families and friends acted as the audience. This would not have happened by accident. TV equipment in the seventies was quite bulky, so any pro-shot video would have been a major production. I know of no trace of an audio or video recording of this event, and I have never seen the date listed on any NRPS concert or performance list. What might be the context of this event, and where might there be a trace of it?

View Larger Map
 New Riders of The Purple Sage, August, 1971
The New Riders of The Purple Sage were booked at The Inn Of The Beginning in Cotati on the weekend of August 20 and 21, 1971. These dates were only recently discovered. More intriguingly, it appears that NRPS would have played Friday night (Aug 20), lugged their equipment back to Novato, played in the afternoon for the cameras, and then Jerry jammed the afternoon away in the barn until returning to Cotati. At the time, the Riders did not have a lot of equipment, and Cotati and Novato are not too far from each other (around 20 miles, per the map above), so while it would have been hard work for the crew, it would not have been insurmountable.

More importantly, however, the discovery of the Cotati dates locks in the events nicely. Since the Riders were booked at Cotati, we know they were in town, and the date for the Barn jam is confirmed by the context as well. It remains remarkable to me how compulsive Jerry Garcia was about performing. With a TV special on tap, Garcia not only bracketed the show with performances both nights, he spent the balance of the day in the studio. Yet none of these activities were for his main band, for whom Garcia kept up a truly full-time schedule.

In August of 1971, the New Riders would have completed the recording of their debut album NRPS for Columbia Records. They may have still been working on final mixes as well as other peripheral matters, but the release of the album was imminent. It makes sense that an opportunity to appear on a Public Television program would be very attractive to a band about to release their first record. I have to assume that the Novato event was not any kind of remote broadcast, as the technology for live TV remote concerts was in its infancy, but rather it was a taping for something that would have been shown later. Given that it would have taken a couple of months, at least, to edit and produce something for broadcast, the timing would have been very appealing. Since the NRPS album was released in the September timeframe, and the big tour behind the album began in October, whatever was planned for the broadcast would have presumably been available in the Fall of 1971, just when the Columbia's promotional push would have been at its peak.

What Was The Broadcast?
I am not aware of a 1971-era Public Television show featuring Jerry Garcia playing outdoors with the New Riders of The Purple Sage. It is possible, even likely, that the show was never broadcast. However, because I'm me, I am going to make a case that it's still not impossible that the show was broadcast, and somewhat more likely, if hardly certain, that the video and audio footage was at least edited into a rough cut that might still exist somewhere. I will consider various possibilities below. Neither of these speculations are exclusive of each other.

A "Magazine" Show
PBS in general, and certainly KQED, had a lot of shows that had a general theme, with the content varied each week. Thus there may have been a series with a relatively innocuous title, like "World Scape" or something, and the New Riders/Shanti concert was just part of it. Thus the show may have been broadcast, but unless the TV listings were complete, and you read them very carefully, you would miss the fact that the New Riders were on the show. This might be how the general Deadhead populace missed out on it the first time.

If the New Riders and Shanti did perform on a magazine show, they might have been only one half or one third of the TV show. Thus the show may have only broadcast a song or two of the New Riders, possibly not even complete. From my point of view, I would be more fascinated by the background footage and seeing the Riders equipment, and so on, so it would be fine with me, but we have to remember that for a magazine show, we would get a snapshot of the New Riders, nothing like a whole concert.

A PBS Special
Public Television stations in each area often acted as producers of shows which were in turn broadcast nationwide on the various PBS affiliates. A good example of this would be A Night At The Family Dog, recorded on February 4, 1970, and broadcast in late April of the same year. That show, produced by journalist Ralph Gleason and KQED's Bob Zagone, made an hour-long special out of sets by Santana, the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane sets at the Dog that night. From the tiny amount we know about the Novato concert, a specially staged outdoor event with two rock bands in the afternoon looks more like a planned television special rather than a magazine show. The afternoon would be particularly conducive to television, since the lighting would be superior to an indoor venue.

On one hand, an hour long TV special is more intriguing than a magazine, since it suggests that we might be looking at a half hour or more of vintage New Riders with Garcia. On the other hand, the show would have been promoted as such, and the fact that we so far know of no trace of it points towards the fact that the special was likely never broadcast. However, if the show was indeed a special, then some producer may have at least edited a rough cut of the video, so it may yet exist. I know that Gleason and Zagone hired Bob Matthews and Alembic to record the Family Dog special, so good audio may have been available to go with it. While it is possible that no trace remains of the probably unseen show, I can make an argument that the video may still yet exist.

Record Company Involvement
Columbia Records was planning to push the New Riders debut album fairly hard when it was released, which in they did. Thus the possibility of a PBS special featuring the New Riders that might have been broadcast in the Fall would have been very attractive to the company. Shanti, a peculiar fusion of Indian music and electric rock, had also released a 1971 album on Atlantic, although exactly when is unclear. Atlantic Records would also have been interested in promoting their own band. Since Shanti included a few friends of Mickey Hart (see the Appendix below), its not so far fetched that the musicians encouraged the record companies to support this event.

KQED was Public Television, and not necessarily particularly well-funded. An outdoor event at Mickey Hart's ranch would have incurred a certain amount of expense: building a stage, renting generators, providing refreshments and water, renting a truck or two, and so on. If Columbia and Atlantic would have been willing to finance some of these peripheral expenses, it would have made the TV special a lot more viable economically. I suspect that the KQED producer, whomever he might have been, tried to finance this event on a shoestring, and the record companies probably helped. A few thousand bucks for a stage, some generators and some supplies was an easily recouped or written off expense from the point of view of Columbia or Atlantic.

I would be very surprised if a KQED special featuring the 1971 New Riders and Ashanti was actually broadcast. My suspicion would be that a producer tried to put something together and got a little record company support through the bands, but couldn't get his project onto the screen, so it was never shown. I do know that in the early 1970s, the expense of videotape was so great--bizarre, isn't it?--that any unused footage was bulk-erased. However, a producer with a nascent project would have least edited the initial footage into a rough-cut "draft" version. The rough-cut would have been used to try and persuade KQED to move forward on the project, and fund final editing and syncing with the audio.

However, if Columbia, and maybe Atlantic, put some money into the production, I would bet one or both of the companies have copies of their audio and video. Columbia, according to my theory, would have the original audio and the rough cut video of 1971 New Riders outdoors at Mickey Hart's ranch. Thus both video and audio of the August 21, 1971 event may be resting quietly in a climate controlled Columbia Records vault.

I am sorry to report that major record companies are divisions of multinational corporations--Columbia belongs to Sony--and historically they have shown no interest in granting vault access to independent record labels, scholars or journalists. Major record company have only been interested in projects that might make substantial amounts of money. The few thousand copies of a download of an old New Riders video that might be sold would just be a rounding error for Columbia. A major label like Warners, who owns Rhino, might gain access to Columbia's vaults on a quid pro quo basis, since Columbia projects (such as boxed sets) might need Warners access. However, Jerry Garcia and the New Riders are not under the Warners/Rhino umbrella.

As of right now, it appears to me that the New Riders archive is a very low-key operation, and the Jerry Garcia estate seems to be taking a very casual approach to releasing old Garcia material. I know there is a Garcia vault, and I assume there is a New Riders one, but neither of them seem to have the motives or resources to persuade Columbia to let them poke around. On the other hand, the music industry is changing daily, and sooner than we think record companies may see ways to monetize resources they had kept hidden for many decades. Here's to hoping there's some pro video and Bob Matthews audio of Jerry Garcia and the New Riders of The Purple Sage, playing outdoors on the sunny Saturday of August 21, 1971, waiting quietly in tape boxes for us.

According to Shanti lead guitarist Neal Seidel (rear), this photo was taken at Hart's ranch on the day of the concert, which he says was broadcast. The photo is from his website.
Shanti lead guitarist Neil Seidel, interviewed in depth on the Jake Feinberg Show, said that the concert was broadcast. He doesn't say precisely on what channel, but I have to assume that it was on KQED-tv and KQED-fm, because there weren't many other choices. According to Seidel (via Jake Feinberg), it was a KSAN broadcast, and he doesn't recall video. However, why would they set up a stage during the day if they weren't going to film? In any case, if there was a broadcast, even just of Shanti, there could be a tape, and maybe a video tape, too of the Riders--go to it.

Indian-rock fusion band Shanti released their only album on Atlantic Records in 1917
Appendix: Shanti
Shanti appears to have been an Indian/rock 'fusion' band, who released an album on Atlantic Records in 1971. Zakir Hussain, one of India's finest tabla players, had moved to Marin County in the late 1960s, and he began working with Mickey Hart. Hart and Hussain would later go on to work together in Diga Rhythm Band and many other projects. I had no idea that Hussain had tried his hand at a fusion-type rock band.

Although I know very little about Indian music, I know that Aashish Khan is a widely esteemed master of the Sarod. Thus the discovery that on the Shanti record he is "featured playing the acoustic Sarode sometimes through a fender guitar amplifier with vibrato effect" is pretty surprising. I suspect this is a little like finding out that Yehudi Menuhin played electric violin on a Hot Tuna album.

Drummer Frank Lupica seems to be an interesting character, based on what I could find out about him. In the 60s, using the name Frank Davis, he had drummed with a variety of rock bands. Around 1966, he had played with Los Angeles groups like Lee Michaels and The Travel Agency, and then he seems to have relocated to San Francisco by early 1968, playing with groups like Loading Zone and Cold Blood. At some point in the early 70s, he starts using the name Frank (or Francesco) Lupica and getting involved  in some advanced percussion experiments. Lupica, and two other members of Shanti (I'm not sure which ones) had apparently all been in the group The Travel Agency.

Lupica may have been one of the original inventors of "The Beam," the giant percussion platform that Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann used for many years. I'm not quite versed enough to say exactly what his role might have been, or whether his "Beam" was the same as the Dead's, but it appears to be the case. According to the eyewitness ('Rick,' above), Lupica was also one of the drummers in the afternoon jam in the barn that currently circulates.

I did find a description of the Shanti album:
From San Francisco, this Californian-meets-India group played a very relaxed mystic blend of music, alternating instrumental cuts with vocal songs. Adding instruments such as sarod, dholak and tablas to their regular guitar/bass/drums line-up Shanti created an exotic, rootsy aura, never mind the spiritual lyrics. Ustad Zakir Hussein in one of his earliest recordings.

Shanti Lineup
Steve Haehl / guitars, lead vocals

Neil Seidel / guitar

Aashish Khan / Sarod

Pranesh Khan / tabla
Zakir Hussain / tabla

Steve Leach / vocals, bass guitar
Frank Lupica / drums

Shanti (Atlantic Records 1971)
Side A:

1. We Want To Be Free (3:13)
2. Innocence (10:45)

3. Out Of Nowhere (3:27)
4. Lord I'm Comin' Round (3:02)
Side B: 

1. Good Inside (3:13)

2. Shanti (14:46)

3. I Do Believe (1:29)