Thursday, January 3, 2013

Grateful Dead Rehearsal Spaces, 1965-1995

A poster for an October 15, 1966 concert at the Sausalito Heliport on Bolinas St. Nothing is known of the concert, but the Dead ended up using the Heliport as a rehearsal hall for sevaral months in late '66-early '67.
The Grateful Dead were famous as a band who eschewed rehearsal, and yet in the early days at least their rehearsals were a critical source of discovery and innovation. I could find no comprehensive list of the band's rehearsal spaces over the years, so I made a list myself. There are some peculiar gaps, and the gaps may tell us a number of interesting things about the Grateful Dead's intentions and plans. The goal here is to create a list of spaces that were used primarily as the band's rehearsal space, where equipment was set up more or less permanently, at least if the band was not on the road.

This little project has been more slippery than it appears. No one writes the history of rehearsal halls, and there are no posters, ads or reviews to provide context or confirmation. There are the occasional tapes, of course, but even they offer almost nothing about the space itself. With no audience to talk to, any between song chatter says nothing about location, so any identifying details remain invisible. Thus this list is mostly sparse, lacking in color, and probably both incomplete and inaccurate. Anyone with further details, corrections, insights or useful speculation is encouraged to add them in the Comments or email me (note: thanks to some amazing Commenters, this post has been substantially updated since its original publication).

The back of what was Dana Morgan's music store on Ramona Street, as it appeared in 2009
Back Room, Dana Morgan's Music Shop, 536 Ramona St, Palo Alto, CA
According to McNally, members of Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Champions started fooling around on electric instruments as early as the Summer of 1964. Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Pigpen  all worked at Dana Morgan's music store on Ramona Street, and they would play instruments in the back room, facing the alley. Per McNally, one of Garcia's folkie banjo students was dismayed to see Garcia playing electric back there as early as December 1964. Once Kreutzmann came on board as drummer, and the store owner's son was added on bass, the Warlocks were born.

Various suburban houses, Palo Alto and Menlo Park, CA
After a month of unsatisfactory performances by bassist Dana Morgan Jr, he was replaced by Phil Lesh. Owner Dana Morgan, who didn't like the band's sound anyway, reclaimed the instruments and shooed all his instructors away. Garcia and Weir, at least, found new students and access to equipment at Guitars Unlimited in Menlo Park, but the fledgling group had nowhere to practice. According to McNally, they rehearsed anywhere they could: at Sue Swanson's parent's house in Menlo Park, at Phil's apartment in Palo Alto and presumably other places.

2504 San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, site of the Questing Beast, where the Dead almost rehearsed in 1966. Don't google the site at work.
The Questing Beast, 2504 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA
According to legend, the Warlocks new patron Owsley Stanley intended to move the band to Berkeley, where they were to rehearse at a place called The Questing Beast. The Questing Beast was a sort of psychedelic folk club, with suitably far out painting on the walls, and Owsley was reputed to have been at least a regular customer, if nothing else. 2504 San Pablo had formerly been the site of the Cabale, the folk club where Garcia and others had seen the influential Jim Kweskin Jug Band in March 1964, so it wasn't without history. And the history of The Questing Beast is indeed interesting, but whether or not Owsley truly intended to move the band there or that was just a fable, he led them to Los Angeles instead, and the Grateful Dead had no connection to the Questing Beast.

"Pink House" Los Angeles, CA
While in Los Angeles, the band presumably rehearsed in the large, pink house where they stayed. According to McNally, it was located just off Western Boulevard, in the North Adams District at 2511 3rd Avenue.

The Straight Theater, 1702 Haight St, San Francisco, CA
After several weeks in Los Angeles, the Grateful Dead and their friends moved to a crumbling mansion in Marin known as Rancho Olompali. McNally has them rehearsing at Olompali, and then moving rehearsals to the Straight Theater after that, but further research has revealed that to be out-of-sequence. Ace Commenter Yellow Shark sorts it out:
I think the proposed timeline for the Straight Theatre is a little out. I was always pretty certain that by the time of the May 19, 1966 Straight benefit the Grateful Dead were already using the Straight as a rehearsal hall and that the benefit (held at the Avalon Ballroom) featured those acts that were using the Straight to rehearse (The Grateful Dead, The Wildflower, Michael McClure (at that time working with the Wildflower as a lyricist) and The Outfit). So my view was always that The Straight rehearsals were much earlier than suggested here.

Anyway, after reading what is a great post I thought I would check with Reggie to see if he could help with the timeline, and if he could shed any light on way the Grateful Dead stopped using the facility to rehearse. This was his reply:

"When we got into the Straight in early April 66 the Dead began rehearsing almost immediately. They rehearsed as I ripped out the first 26 rows of seating. Soon due to a combination of things like building the floor during the day rehearsals were scheduled at night. Then the QMS, the Outfit, and others rehearsed at night. The Dead moved on due to other factors like scheduling freedom and certain members of the Dead moving out of the Haight to Marin." 

The Straight Theater, at 1702 Haight at Cole, was an old movie theater in the Haight Ashbury district that many of the local hippies wanted to turn into a Fillmore-style ballroom. The city was against it, for the usual variety of reasons. The Grateful Dead had played a benefit for the Straight at The Avalon on May 19, 1966--strange that the Avalon was putting on a benefit for a future competitor, but such was hippie paradise. 

I do not know why the Dead left the Straight, nor precisely how long they rehearsed there, but McNally just says the situation "fell apart" (p.152).  The locals considered the Straight a community resource, and probably were more than happy to hang out watching the Grateful Dead rehearse. That was probably not what the Dead wanted, however, and the security for their equipment was probably poor. Since Quicksilver and The Outfit were rehearsing there as well, it probably meant that equipment had to be moved around as well. Bands don't like to have to pack up their equipment each night at a rehearsal hall, as it cuts into time that could be spent rehearsing, which would have already been constrained by the shared rehearsal space. However, the fact that the Dead and Quicksilver shared rehearsal space so early in their career accounts for the extraordinary closeness of some of the members and crew over the years.

Rancho Olompali, CA
Yellow Shark: 
 I think it was the commute from Rancho Olompali that led the Grateful Dead to drop the Straight Theatre for rehearsals sometime in the summer. The well documented “party” on May 22 followed soon after the benefit and I suspect that by early June the rehearsals were shifted up to Rancho Olompali. The rental lease on Rancho Olompali ran out sometime over the summer and there was a move up to Camp Lagunitas – perhaps in July. I do not know how well it lent itself to rehearsals. Perhaps this is the time slot for 895 O'Farrell? 
In any case, by June 1966 the Grateful Dead were able to leave their equipment set up where they lived, on the grounds of the Rancho Olompali mansion. "Rehearsal" may have been an inaccurate description of the Summer's events, but the band could play without interruption, when they desired to do that.

895 O'Farrell St, San Francisco, CA
After the end of their idyllic stay in Olompali, the Dead migrated over to an unused Girl Scout camp on Arroyo Road in the town of Lagunitas. At the time, while towns in Eastern Marin, like San Rafael, were prosperous suburbs full of San Francisco commuters, Western Marin was still an empty, largely agricultural area, and there were plenty of underused spaces. However, while the camp could house the band and their friends, they were not allowed to rehearse there for noise reasons. McNally said that was the trigger for rehearsing in the Straight Theater, but they must have rehearsed somewhere else.

Over the years, a building at 895 O'Farrell Street (at Polk) has been identified as a former Grateful Dead rehearsal hall. The building was the former site of a Pontiac dealership, among other things. It is two doors down from the Great American Music Hall. I had never been able to figure out when the band would have used it, but Yellow Shark's unraveling of the timeline for the Straight Theater seems to sort it out. The Dead rehearsed at the Straight in April and May 1966, then Rancho Olompali in June, and sometime in July they had to find a new place. I think the bands rehearsal hall in July and August 1966 was at 895 O'Farrell.

Some time after the Dead rehearsed there, 895 O'Farrell had a brief and peculiar history as a competitor to the Fillmore. In July 1967, the original four members of the Family Dog re-established themselves as the Psychedelic Cattleman's Association. They put on a weekend of shows and ran into trouble with the police. The venue re-opened in September 1967, but it was only open for about six weeks. The venue is mostly only known to poster collectors (for a good look at the posters, see our write-up here).

The final promoters of rock shows at 895 O'Farrell were two brothers from Antioch, CA, Jim and Artie Mitchell. They discovered another, more profitable enterprise for the theater, however, and the venue has had a lucrative, sordid and sad history ever since. Don't google it at work.

Gale Garnett's second Columbia album Sausalito Heliport. The cover photo was probably not taken at the Heliport, however.
The Heliport, Bolinas St, Sausalito, CA
According to McNally, when the rehearsal space at the Straight Theater was no longer viable, roadie Laird Grant managed to get the Grateful Dead rehearsal space at the Sausalito Heliport. In the 1967-68 period, many San Francisco bands rehearsed at the Heliport. The noise caused by the helicopters insured no complaints from any neighbors about mere rock bands. Sausalito is right off the Golden Gate Bridge, so it wasn't inconvenient for San Francisco bands (or even Berkeley's County Joe And The Fish). Enough bands rehearsed at the Heliport that it was a sort of musicians hangout, with jam sessions occurring regularly. Singer Gale Garnett even entitled her second Columbia album Sausalito Heliport.

In late 1966, a very small number of concerts seemed to have been held at the Heliport, including one with the Grateful Dead on October 15, 1966 (the poster is up top). I think the Heliport was too hard to get to for 1966 hippies, as Marin was largely unpopulated in those days, and I don't think the Heliport was an appealing venue. My suspicion has always been that someone tried to put on a few concerts, which didn't succeed, but in so doing the bands figured out that they might have found a good rehearsal space instead, and the Heliport owners were happy to have paying clients. Based on what little information I have, the Grateful Dead seem to have been among the first bands to rehearse at the Heliport. Yellow Shark has some intriguing suggestions:
I believe that the band were already rehearsing at Sausalito Heliport by the time of the October 15, 1966 performance with the Transatlantic Railroad (I have never found out what the "TJ" stands for on the poster). The band had moved back to the City in early October and was living in 710 and the commute to the heliport was an easy one. Sausalito had by October 1966 a scene of its own growing with the Ark hosting regular performances, the No Name Bar which remains to this day and The Kingston Trio’s Trident – latter Horizons but now renamed to the Trident.
As far as I can tell, the Heliport is currently called The Commodore Center Heliport, and it is located on Bolinas Street, off Richardson Bay. about a mile Northwest of Gate 6, where the ferry boat Charles Van Damme was permanently docked (aka The Ark). Helicopters were supposed to be a big thing in the 60s--I firmly believed as a child that I would grow up to commute in a helicopter, and I'm still disappointed not to do so--so I think that when the Heliport was constructed in 1963 they anticipated considerably more traffic than they actually had, leaving numerous hangars free for other forms of aerial transport.

Reader Phil sent in this photo from the entrance to the Heliport, taken in June 2015
Another Commenter writes
The Heliport is just where you described it, clearly visible from 101 as you go north towards San Rafael. Although it no longer hosts band rehearsals to my knowledge, it seems to be much the same building as it was back when the Dead rehearsed there.
I believe the Dead rehearsed at the Heliport from the end of 1966 through about May 1967. There are a few famous Spring '67 Gene Anthony photos of Garcia, Mountain Girl and others at the Heliport. 

Warnecke Family Ranch, Healdsburg, CA
According to McNally, the Dead spent the month of May 1967 in Sonoma County: "Late in May, the band fled the city to John Warnecke's family ranch on the Russian River north of San Francisco near Healdsburg" (McNally p. 195). John Carl Warnecke Jr was a friend of the band, and he seems to be one of a number of people who worked with the band in trying to promote shows.  Canyon filmmaker Robert Nelson made a short film of the band in 1967, and parts of it were filmed at the Warnecke ranch.

That isn't even the interesting part. It seems that family patriarch John Carl Warnecke (1919-2010) became friends with John Kennedy at Stanford in the 1940s. Warnecke Senior trained as an architect, and did various commissions, including the 'Eternal Flame' at John F. Kennedy's gravesite. However, it also seems that Warnecke was the architect for the McHenry Library at UCSC, which was built in 1968. So that means while the Dead were at the Warnecke Ranch, the architect was working on the McHenry Library where the band's Archive ended up. Hey--Stanford, never head a chance, it was already implicit that UCSC would get the Archive.

In any case, as we know from the short film, the Dead built a platform on the Russian River where they could jam and rehearse, writing the song "Alligator" in the process. However, if the Dead had their equipment at the Warnecke ranch in May 1967, then it wasn't at the Sausalito Heliport. Thus I am fairly confident, though not absolutely certain, that the Dead gave up the Heliport as a rehearsal space in May 1967. Since they would spend much of the Summer of '67 on tour, this was probably a financial decision as much as anything else.

Members of the Dead hanging out at the New Ptrero, circa 1968 (via @Tripsntunes)

Potrero Theater, 312 Connecticut St, San Francisco, CA

In late 1967, the Grateful Dead got a  new rehearsal space, at the long-disused Potrero Theater, near 312 Connecticut St (at 18th St) in the Potrero Hill district. The theater had been constructed in 1913 as the Altair, but when it got sound equipment in the 1930s, it was renamed the New Potrero. It had closed in 1963, and had long fallen into disuse. The Potrero Hill neighborhood district was neither nor hip nor prosperous at the time, so it too was kind of forgotten (assuredly not the case today). Apparently, the theater was in terrible shape--according to Joel Selvin, Mountain Girl visited once, saw all the rats and never returned again. Nevertheless, the Grateful Dead rehearsed at the Potrero for about a year, and the rehearsals were in many ways the truest rehearsals that the band ever held.

Like all these things, it is difficult to parse out the timing, but it appears that the Dead moved into the Potrero shortly before Mickey Hart joined the band. Hart's arrival triggered an interest in actually working with difficult rhythms. Stories abound of the Dead rehearsing difficult numbers like "The Eleven" over and over, in order to get the feel for playing something that complex. In that sense, the work at the Potrero were true rehearsals, rather than just jamming or working on songs. The band was trying to get better as a band, and playing the same difficult parts over and over was a rare form of band discipline.

It was during the Potrero Theater period that the Grateful Dead went from Pretty Cool to Something Special. The psychedelic powerhouse shows of 1969 would not have been possible without endless rehearsal at the Potrero. After the Potrero, when they stretched out and jammed, the Grateful Dead were doing so from a foundation rather than a mere willingness to take a risk. Yet after the Dead left the Potrero, they never rehearsed that much again, and never in a disciplined fashion where they worked on developing as an ensemble. Once seems to have been enough.

warehouse, Novato, CA
The Grateful Dead officially moved out of 710 Ashbury in March 1968. Within a few months, every member of the band had moved to various locations in Marin County By the end of the Summer, rehearsing in San Francisco made little sense. Manager Bert Kagenson found them a warehouse near Hamilton Air Force Base in Novato, and that became the Grateful Dead's new base of operations. I do not know the exact location, and in any case it is probably a housing development now.

The principal function of the Novato warehouse was to store and work on the band's ever growing mountain of equipment. Owsley in particular liked to experiment. Fellow traveler Ron Wickersham was critical to these experiments, but Wickersham, unlike Owsley, was not on the Dead's payroll. Wickersham and his wife (then girlfriend) Susan started the Alembic Sound company. Alembic focused on live sound for rock and roll, modifying and creating instruments, amplifiers and other equipment for the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and ultimately many others. Alembic then moved out of the Dead's warehouse into their own facilities and studio.

I do not know how much the Dead rehearsed at the Novato warehouse. Honestly, I am not 100% certain that they rehearsed there at all. The one detailed description of a 1969 jam at their facility, by Fleetwood Mac road manager/soundman Dinky Dawson, actually desribes the location as Sausalito. Since Dawson had never been to California before, its entirely likely that he mistook Sausalito for Novato. However, it's also possible that the Dead had some other temporary facility in 1969--the Heliport?--in Sausalito.

My own feeling is that the Novato warehouse was used as a rehearsal facility at first, and ultimately got turned into a mad scientist workshop for Owsley. I think the Dead could rehearse there when they needed to, but for the most part they didn't. Around September 1968, approximately when they moved their equipment to Novato, the band also started recording at Pacific Recording in San Mateo. The Dead spent five months in the studio recording what was to become Aoxomoxoa. They spent over $100,000 recording in the studio, but the net result was that whatever 'rehearsing' they needed to do seems to have been done in the studio. Thus I believe the Novato warehouse was never really set up as a full-time rehearsal studio.

unknown building, Western Marin County, CA
Thanks to Commenters, it seems that Blair Jackson reported that the Dead abandoned Novato for an unknown place in Western Marin, near Pt. Reyes. Another Commenter makes the alert point that the band's office move to Fifth and Lincoln happens in April 1970, and it coincides with both the move to West Marin and the aftermath of the Lenny Hart debacle.

The Grateful Dead performed at the Santa Venetia Armory on December 29, 1966. By 1971, it appears they were rehearsing there.
warehouse off Francisco Boulevard, San Rafael or Santa Venetia Armory, 155 Madison Avenue, Santa Venetia, CA
When did the Grateful Dead abandon the Novato warehouse? It's unclear (update: see Comments). Where did they rehearse between 1971 and 1974? That too is unclear. Based solely on a Keith Godchaux rehearsal tape from September 1971, I am assuming that they rehearsed in the Santa Venetia Armory, at least at that time. According to Garcia's apocryphal story about meeting Keith and Donna Godchaux at the Keystone Berkeley, he invited Keith to the "rehearsal hall," and Keith was so good that Garcia phoned Bill Kreutzmann to come join them. According to McNally, the Dead's rehearsal studio was in a warehouse off Francisco Boulevard (p.411). This location would not have been far from the future site of Le Club Front on 20 Front Street.

What are we to make of the tape where Keith rehearses labeled "Santa Venetia Armory?" If the Dead rehearsed near Francisco Boulevard, why would they have worked with Keith at the Santa Venetia Armory? I see two possibilities:
  1. the tape reference to Santa Venetia Armory is just incorrect. There is almost no way to check corroborating evidence for a rehearsal tape
  2. The Dead rehearsed at the Warehouse, but they rented the Santa Venetia Armory to try out a new sound system. Touring with a grand piano was brand new for the Grateful Dead, and they had a substantial tour coming up. So perhaps they rented a genuine, if small, venue and tried out their stage setup
Santa Venetia is about 2 miles North of San Rafael (20 miles North of SF), but is almost a separate district of San Rafael.  The area is not incorporated, but it is a 'Census Designated Place,' a populated community without a government. It was conceived in 1914 of as a sort of luxury water-based community similar to Venice, Italy (hence the name--there is no "Saint Venetia"), but no serious development took place there until after WW2. The idea for canals was abandoned, but Santa Venetia had a seedy 60s bohemian history. Its most famous resident was the great author Philip K. Dick, who lived there from 1967-72.

The Santa Venetia Armory, at 155 Madison Avenue, was the National Guard Armory, and a regular site of “Teen” dances in the mid-60s.  It was used briefly for psychedelic rock concerts in 1966-67, before it was superseded by the Fillmore and the Avalon. The Armory itself may still be active, although it uses the address of 153 Madison.

NRPS Rehearsal Studio, San Rafael, CA
One of the intriguing gaps in this little history of Grateful Dead rehearsal spaces is the early 1970s. Other than the Godchaux tape, which may or may not be representative, I could only find one other reference to a rehearsal space.  It does raise the question as to how much the Grateful Dead actually rehearsed in the early 1970s. Perhaps they toured so much that they could just use soundchecks for rehearsal. In any case, any information about early 70s rehearsal spaces, however fragmented or vague, is of great interest.

The Grateful Dead were still writing a fair amount of material in the early 1970s--where did they learn to play each of those songs? I can imagine that some cover versions could be whipped up with some conversation and a quick run through at a soundcheck, but "Stella Blue" or "Eyes Of The World?" At the Maples Pavilion show on February 9, 1973, the Dead debuted seven new songs, and they must have practiced them somewhere.

Update: scholarly Commenter runonguinness made an important find, from an article by Charles Perry that was originally published in the Rolling Stone edition of November 22, 1973
Of course, any band needs a practice studio. Sometimes the Dead use the New Riders' studio, located in the San Rafael industrial neighborhood. The studio is rented, natch, from an old friend of the Dead's, Don Wrixman. He rents another part of the building to some woodcraftsmen, and yet another is the Dead's sound and lighting equipment warehouse. The original Dead warehouse, which the equipment has long since outgrown, is now a workshop for repairing electronic equipment and building speaker cabinets.

As for a practice hall for the Dead themselves, they might build one someday on a piece of land they own known as "Deadpatch". When Weir's home studio is complete,the band could fit there, though Weir built it - with some of the heaviest insulation ever put into a building - so he could practice by himself...

The pieces start to fall into place here. The New Riders were managed by the Dead, and they had a rehearsal studio, so the Dead could use it. However, they couldn't use it all the time, so the Dead periodically had to rent other spaces. At the time, the Dead's offices were on 5th and Lincoln in San Rafael, and Sam Cutler's Out Of Town Tours was at 1333 Lincoln, a few blocks North. I believe the NRPS staff offices were at about 2nd and Lincoln. (update: a Scholarly Correspondent [also the NRPS archivist] reports that the NRPS office was at 1212 Second St, between B and C. The band shared it [and management] with Commander Cody in the mid-70s, and finally gave up the building in 1981. It was an Old Edwardian house that got torn down in 2019).  I presume the rehearsal studio was across Highway 101, in the more industrial area where the Francisco Boulevard warehouse, and later Club Front, were located (update: our Commenter points out that the warehouse on Francisco Boulevard [above] may be the same as the NRPS studio. The Dead may have simply started sharing it with them) [update 2: the NRPS rehearsal space was on Irwin Street. It's not clear if it was the same one as referred to here].

[update 20230626: Jesse Jarnow figured out from interviewing Dead employees for the Deadcast that the "New Riders rehearsal studio and warehouse" was in fact 20 Front Street. Eventually the Jerry Garcia Band took it over and then the Grateful Dead.]

Stinson Beach Community Center, 32 Belvedere Ave, Stinson Beach, CA  
McNally alludes to the Dead having spent January of 1973 rehearsing, but he doesn't say where. He does mention a sad event in March, where Pigpen wants his picture taken with the band, and they refuse, as they are busy rehearsing for a tour. McNally identifies them as rehearsing at the Stinson Beach Community Center. 

Was this a temporary space, just for March? Had the band rented the Community Center earlier in the year, when they rehearsed the Wake Of The Flood material? Information about the Dead's rehearsals and rehearsal spaces in the early 1970s remains surprisingly scarce. I can imagine how the group might rent Stinson Beach Community Center for a few weeks at a time, but they can't have been using it as a permanent space, as it had too many other functions. Did the Dead still rehearse at the warehouse on Francisco Boulevard? The fact that they rented the Stinson Beach Community Center does hint that they did not have a permanent space suggests that the New Riders were busy at home, and that the Dead needed to use another space temporarily.

Stinson Beach is in isolated community in Western Marin. Jerry Garcia and Mountain Girl lived there, and the Rowan Brothers lived nearby, which was responsible for the genesis of Old And In The Way. The Community Center's main assembly hall can accommodate about 200 people. The building seems to have been built in the 1960s. Since Stinson Beach is so small, it had to be be near Garcia's house. Old And In The Way even played a show here, one of their very last (on September 30, 1973), as a kind of warm up gig for their last few dates.

I am reliably informed that the Dead rehearsed the material for Mars Hotel in the studio, presumably as part of the recording process. I guess the unfinished feel to Mars Hotel songs comes from the fact that they learned and recorded the songs in a brief three-week stretch (March 30-April 19, 1974) at CBS Studios in San Francisco. This was a far cry from the ten days it took to record the mostly road-tested material for Wake Of The Flood (August 6-15, 1973 at The Record Plant in Sausalito). 

Ace's Studio, Bob Weir's house, Mill Valley, CA
Once the Grateful Dead gave up touring, any chance to sneak in rehearsals at soundchecks went away. It makes sense that the Dead needed their own space, and the studio above Bob Weir's garage seem to fit the bill. Nick Meriwether has suggested that the band encouraged the studio at Weir's for just this reason--without it they would have had nowhere to play. When the band moved into Ace's, it was as close a situation as they had had to the Potrero Theater. They weren't rehearsing to become a better band, as they had in 1968, but they weren't trying to record an album as quickly as possible, either. The many tapes that survive show a relaxed band exploring in a leisurely manner, another episode in the Grateful Dead's musical history that would not be repeated.

As everyone knows, the Grateful Dead worked up the material on Blues For Allah throughout the first several months of 1975, even if the final versions were recorded rather quickly. The Grateful Dead recorded four songs for the Reflections lp in August 1975 (I have a lot to say about that, but you'll have to wait), and the debut Kingfish album was recorded at Ace's as well, in late 1975. However, by 1976, Ace's studio seemed to retreat back to a personal studio for Weir, with few outside projects, even from within the Grateful Dead family. 

Keith and Donna Godchaux's house, Paradise Dr, Corte Madera, CA
A parallel story to the secret history of Grateful Dead rehearsal spaces is the even more murky history of Jerry Garcia's rehearsal spaces, such as they were. For one thing, I do not believe that the Jerry Garcia-Merl Saunders band, to the extent it was even a "band," ever had a fixed place to rehearse. It is interesting to think that Jerry Garcia's infamous preference to simply working things out at the Keystone Berkeley rather than in rehearsal may have been an economic decision as much as anything else. Since, as near as I can tell, the Grateful Dead had no fixed place to rehearse in the early 70s, Garcia and Saunders didn't either. Has anyone ever heard a Garcia/Saunders rehearsal tape? I don't think there was ever a rehearsal. It was cheaper to just work out the arrangements as they went along, and that fit Jerry's approach to his own band anyway.

There are a very few early Jerry Garcia Band rehearsal tapes in circulation. There is a rehearsal with Nicky Hopkins, dated to September 1975, a rehearsal with James Booker dated January 7, 1976 and then one with Keith and Donna Godchaux dated January 25, 1976. The last two are usually attributed to Club Front, but for reasons that will become clear over the next few paragraphs, that attribution seems unlikely. Rather, I think they were rehearsal tapes that were retroactively assigned to Club Front, since I think the Front Street Warehouse did not become the JGB rehearsal space until the end of 1976.

I think when the Jerry Garcia Band absolutely had to have some kind of rehearsal, they rented a studio. It might have been expensive, but renting a studio for a few hours a year was still probably cheaper than having a permanent rehearsal hall. For example, an otherwise inexplicable recording session at The Record Plant on May 31, 1974, with Michael Omartian and Ron Tutt (and Garcia, Saunders and John Kahn), includes a jam (released as "Cardiac Arrest") and the old standard "Some Enchanted Evening." The mystery of the recording session is partially explained if we look at it as a kind of getting-to-know-you jam for Tutt. It couldn't take place in a rehearsal hall, because neither the Dead nor Garcia/Saunders had such a place.

However, in a Blair Jackson interview in the Winter 1987 Golden Road, John Kahn had some interesting comments about how much the Keith and Donna Garcia Band liked to play together:

Keith used to live over on Paradise Drive [in the Marin town of Corte Madera], so we used to play over there all the time. He had a room set up so we could just go in and play. Tutt was out of town a lot, but that was OK. You could practice without a drummer. Plus, Tutt was so good that there was nothing that we could come up with that he couldn't figure out right away. I lived in Mill Valley, and Jerry lived in Stinson Beach, so it was real easy for us to get together. Anyway, we had this scene where we would get together just about every night and play. We'd do just about everything. We had Dylan songbooks and we'd do stuff like play everything from Blonde On Blonde. Then we'd do all sorts of Beatles songs. It was great. Most of it never got past that room.
Wherever the few recorded rehearsals of the Jerry Garcia Band had been held, most of the rehearsing seems to have been done at the Godchauxs' home. Keep in mind that until the middle of 1976, the Dead had no money from touring, and were hemorrhaging money on the record company and the Grateful Dead movie, so rehearsing at home was their only real option. The only band clubhouse was Ace's studio, but Weir wasn't in this band, so it's not surprising that the rehearsing didn't take place there.

Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market St, San Francisco, CA
The Grateful Dead officially returned to touring on June 3, 1976 in Portland, OR. Some rehearsal tapes exist from the previous week at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco. On May 21, 1976, the Jerry Garcia Band had played a concert at the Orpheum (it was a great show, immortalized on the archival cd Don't Let Go). While the band could play together at Ace's studio, that wasn't a formal stage configuration. The band had also been off the road for so long they had no road set-up either.

It's my supposition that the Grateful Dead rented the Orpheum for a week not only to rehearse, which they certainly needed, but to try out their equipment and sort out any problems in advance of the road. They purposely rented a theater that was approximately like most of the refurbished old theaters that they would be playing on the forthcoming tour. In order to pay for the rental of the Orpheum, I think the JGB played the concert to foot the bill. It's important to remember that the Dead had no touring income, were working on an expensive movie and were about to lose their record company, so a Garcia concert was about their only choice.

I assume that the Garcia Band played the show on the Dead's prospective sound system, and they simply didn't load out the equipment. Rather, they just left it there for technical tweaking and band rehearsal until they left for Portland. From what I can tell, the show was not promoted by Bill Graham, but the Bill Graham Presents staff were hired to run the show. This would have meant that the Dead (or whoever financed the concert) took any financial risk or reward, but did not have to put together a staff to run the theater.

The Orpheum Theater was 1192 Market Street, near 8th, was built in 1926. It was in a seedy area, but not nearly so seedy and rundown as the Fox-Warfield a few blocks away (at Market and 6th). The Orpheum was typically used for 'legitimate' theater of various kinds, although it had originally been built as a movie theater. It was only rarely used for rock shows, although the Grateful Dead played six famous concerts there in July of 1976.

Sound City Studios, Van Nuys, CA
The Grateful Dead recorded Terrapin Station at Sound City Studios, Keith Olsen's facility in Van Nuys in the early part of 1977. Olsen made the Grateful Dead rehearse the material extensively, including 'section rehearsals.' meaning the vocals were rehearsed separately, the rhythm section was rehearsed separately and so on. Whatever the cost of this, it seems to have obviated any need for the Dead to acquire any kind of rehearsal facility.

With the enforced rehearsal, it was likely no accident that the Spring 1977 tour featured some of the tightest and most pristine Dead performances in many years, and arguably ever. This, too, was not a phenomenon that was repeated.

Le Club Front, 20 Front St, San Rafael, CA
By the end of 1976, with the Grateful Dead back on the road, headlining stadiums, and a new Arista contract, the cash flow situation would improve. In either late 1976 or early 1977, the Garcia Band rented an unused warehouse on Front Street in San Rafael as a rehearsal space. Initially, 'Club Front' was strictly the property of the Garcia Band. The Jerry Garcia Band didn't rehearse there, exactly--it appears they just played. Kahn described in Golden Road (Winter '87) what the band liked to do:
We had this trip where we'd call ourselves the Front Street Sheiks and we'd play dumb piano jazz and stuff like that. We did some recording down at the rehearsal place [what evolved into the Dead's studio] right after they got their 24-track. We'd be down there every night of the week playing these old songs like "All The Things You Are," and "Night In Tunisia, " things like that. Keith and Donna were always together, so Donna sang with us too.
It seems that the musical pallette of the mid-70s JGB was much broader than that which we saw on stage. Yet the Garcia Band used Front Street to explore, rather than to explicitly rehearse difficult music, since it appears that many or most of the songs they played at Front Street never appeared in concert.

In mid-1977, the Jerry Garcia Band were planning to record for Arista. They made some preliminary demos at Front Street, and Ron Tutt liked the drum sound so much, he persuaded Garcia to let Betty Cantor turn Front Street into a recording studio, and Cats Under The Stars was recorded there (as was the unreleased Robert Hunter album Alligator Moon, apparently). However, at some point later in 1978, the Front Street studio was transferred over to the Grateful Dead. Money changed hands on an accounting basis, but I do not believe the Garcia Band received any actual cash.

From late 1978 onwards "Le Club Front" was the Grateful Dead's recording studio, rehearsal hall and hangout. Although the band did a fair amount of recording there over the years, they did not do much rehearsing. Even when Brent Mydland, Vince Welnick and Bruce Hornsby joined the band, they learned far more songs by playing along on stage, rather than formally being rehearsed. The Jerry Garcia Band had even fewer rehearsals. Apparently, band members would receive the music for new songs at sound checks--the likes of Melvin Seals and David Kemper were experienced studio hands--and a quick run through at a soundcheck counted as "rehearsing" a new song.

It was a telling irony that when the Grateful Dead finally had full possession of their own rehearsal and recording facility, they used it only for occasional recording and very rare rehearsals. The development processes that took place at the Potrero Theater, or Ace's, or even at the undisclosed location where the Wake Of The Flood material was first practiced were mostly ghosts by the time Front Street was firmly in the band's hands.


  1. Amazing article, so well researched. Thank you.

  2. Yep, another great article. I love your research into the early days. You're right about the location of the Heliport. If you type in Bolinas St., Sausalito in Google Earth it takes you right there. Turn on the 3D Buildings layer and you can see my model of the heliport :)

  3. The Heliport is just where you described it, clearly visible from 101 as you go north towards San Rafael. Although it no longer hosts band rehearsals to my knowledge, it seems to be much the same building as it was back when the Dead rehearsed there. Some nice images at

  4. A fascinating subject!

    Do you think they never rehearsed at Mickey's Novato ranch? I've always assumed they did in 69/70. I have no evidence for formal rehearsals, but I'd be surprised if it didn't happen, they had new material to practice. They spent plenty of time there and didn't seem to have any worries about noise what with all that gun play.

    As regards the Novato warehouse, according to Jackson's "GD Gear" p 101 "By the winter of 1970, the band had moved out of their Novato practice facility and had set up a space out near Pt. Reyes in rural West Marin. In February '70 Ron and Susan Wickersham found a new spot for their expanding and increasingly autonomous business, at 320 Judah St..." I don't think I've seen Pt Reyes mentioned anywhere else and have no idea how long that lasted but it looks like that's where they went early in 1970.

    In September 71 but before the Keith rehearsals there are those Harding Theatre dates: 3&4th GD (benefit shows were advertised but we don't know for sure if they actually happened or not), 10th Jerry & Merl and 23rd NRPS. They are so close together, it looks to me like they hired the theatre for 3 weeks, played some shows to cover some of the rent and did some rehearsing and/or auditioning. Then they moved out to San Rafael or Santa Venetia for whatever reason.

    Cheers, Paul

  5. This is one of those important topics which has never really been explored. I've also wondered just where the Dead were rehearsing in January 1973, or for that matter before Europe '72... The shows themselves are the proofs of extensive rehearsals.
    Soundchecks explain it to some extent - the E72 book, for instance, says that the band rehearsed at the Empire Pool for four hours on 4/6/72, and then rehearsed all afternoon at the Newcastle City Hall on 4/11/72.
    Ned Lagin has also mentioned long afternoon soundchecks before the '74 shows. (He referred to a full-band soundcheck at Dijon 9/18/74 which was "one of the better afternoon sets.") Our soundcheck fragments from that year are scrappy, but do sometimes show the band working on new material - for instance, Peggy-O on 12/12/73, or the proto-Estimated Prophet jam on 2/22/74.

    Rehearsal spaces in late 1965 seem to have been very dodgy.
    David Nelson said, "I remember the Warlocks rehearsing at Hamilton Street a little bit." (Where he lived at the time, I think.)
    Sue Swanson watched them rehearse at Dana Morgan's store: "They would listen to a lot of 45s to learn songs. My job was to change the 45s. 'Play that part again!' It was a crummy little phonograph that would sit on the counter at Dana Morgan's... After Dana was out of the band they rehearsed wherever they could. They rehearsed at Bob Matthews' house, they rehearsed at Connie Bonner's house, they rehearsed in my back yard a few times, they rehearsed at Phil's house a little bit - he and his girlfriend Ruth had a house on High Street that became a big hangout... They played anywhere they could find a place."
    Bob Matthews: "It seemed like they never had a place to practice. Sue's parents would be out of town for a weekend and we'd practice over there. There was a night when my parents were out and they practiced in the living room. My parents found out, and to this day my mother reminds me about the bottles in the garden..."
    For a few weeks in fall '65, when they had the residency at the In Room, I believe those shows served as their de facto "rehearsals," since they were playing three sets each night.

    Where they rehearsed during the early '66 transition to San Francisco is a complete mystery. Bear recorded some studio-quality rehearsals at that time (for instance, the Viola Lee tape from January '66), but the location is unknown.

    1. To augment what you wrote above, Blair Jackson has the following outtake on his website: "The Warlocks rehearsed wherever they could, including in the homes of various friends' parents, Sue Swanson, Bob Matthews, Connie Bonner and Bob Weir, to name the core group. What kind of parents would put up with this unsightly rabble and amplified cacophony? Parents who aren't home during the day or have left town altogether for vacation. As Bob Matthews said, "Sue's parents would be out of town for the weekend and they'd practice over there. There was a night when my parents were out and they practiced in my living room. My parents found out, and to this day my mother still reminds me about the Thunderbird bottles in the garden" (courtesy of Mr. Pigpen). The band also enlisted friends like Laird Grant and Bob Matthews to help haul and set up the gear for The Warlocks' infrequent shows that summer."

  6. All of Santa Venetia was once part of a 22,000-acre land grant to Timothy Murphy in 1844, by the Mexican government. Edward Stetson bought 360 acres from the Murphy's in 1889. Later, the Stetsons rented the land to Robert's Dairy Ranch until 1955, when they sold part of the ranch to the developers of Northbridge. The main street into the Northbridge tract, Meriam, was named after the Stetsons' son. The Stetson family home stood on the knoll where the current Northview subdivision is located, until 1986, when it burned down under mysterious circumstances.(7)
    Santa Venetia is built on marshland that was filled in 1914. At that time, real estate developer Mabry McMahan envisioned a bayside luxury development modeled after Venice, Italy (hence the name "Santa Venetia" - there is no actual Christian saint named Venice or Venetia), complete with canals and gondolas. The economic decline following the First World War put an end to this development.
    It was only after the Second World War that significant development took place in Santa Venetia, with suburban developments such as Gallinas Village being built on the land originally filled in 1914.[6]

    Santa Venetia was envisioned in the early 1900's as a little Venice so canals were built and houses and structures built along them. It was a vacation spot for the wealthy for a brief period of time in the 1920s. The plan of building a little Venice was abandoned. In the 1960's, houses were built along North San Pedro Road.
    The main road of this unincorporated neighborhood is North San Pedro Road, which passes by the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Marin County Civic Center. The road goes through China Camp State Park, along the bay through Peacock Gap and ends in San Rafael. Santa Venetia has an open space preserve for its marsh as it borders San Pablo Bay, the northern part of the San Francisco Bay estuary.

    Although a separate town about 2 miles North of San Rafael (20 miles North of SF), Santa Venetia is almost a separate district of San Rafael. 

    The Santa Venetia Armory, was the National Guard Armory, and a regular site of “Teen” dances in the mid-60s. It was used briefly for psychedelic rock concerts in 1966-67, before the Fillmore and the Avalon became famous.(1)

    Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, 13th Floor Elevator, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Styx, Carol Doda, Bib Brother and the Holding Company, Sons of Champlain, and Quicksilver Messenger Service all played here.(3)

    The posters for the dances were straight from the fifties for all practible purposes with cardboard boxing style formats, all produced by Tilghman Press.(2)

    The shows featured a big name band such as the ones mentioned, along with a "band bash", in which about 6-8 Marin high school and college bands would see which one drew the most applause. That band would then be featured at the next show. Some of these bands included The Axons, The Morlocks, The Knaves, Emergency Broadcasting System, Michael's Way, The Friendly Stranger, Morning Glory, The Styx, The Golden Fleece, and many others.
    The shows ran from about October of 1966 to the spring of 1967, when the top bands started getting the big bucks at the Avalon and the Fillmore and the Pepe Brothers, who ran the Armory, couldn't compete.(4)

    Jerry performed here on
    7/8/66 Grateful Dead
    7/9/66 Grateful Dead
    12/29/66 Grateful Dead
    2/10/67 Grateful Dead
    9/71 Grateful Dead (Keith Godchaux rehearsals)(5)

    4.)^mikezee, 2007-05-11,
    5.)^Gans, David, 2010-09-04,

  7. New Potrero Theater
    312 Connecticut Street at 18th
    San Francisco, CA

    The New Potrero opened as the Alta Theatre in 1913-1929. The installation of sound equipment in 1930 also brought a new name: the New Potrero Theatre.
    Page 146, middle; artist Bill Walker on his cover painting for Anthem of the Sun:
    "The way the faces came about was by going to a concert and getting psychedelicized and focusing on a band member and relating to the imagery like an energy field. It was at a time when I could listen to music and actually see the music sort of roll through the room, to the point where I'd actually step over it, or grab it, or get knocked over by it." The painting took several months to complete, and at one point it looked as though Walker's work might be for naught:
"I remember going to a band rehearsal at an old theater near Potrero Hill right when I was ready to start painting on [my pencil outline]," he said. "In the middle of rehearsal they got into a big hassle over something to do with management or money problems. Everyone was really pissed off, and Phil came over to me and said, 'Well, I guess that's it.' They'd decided to break up! Eventually, of course, it all cooled out and they started playing again, so I kept going."
Phil said of Walker's trippy mandala, "It was so perfect for that album and so perfect for what we were doing then and who we were then."

    I recently emailed Bill Walker and this was his reply:
    Hello Harry,
    Ah Yes, I remember it well. The New/Old Potrero Hill Theatre in the 300 block on Connecticut Street. It closed as a theatre in the early 60s. 
    The Dead rented it for a rehearsal studio in the first half of 1968. I have a son that lives in Bernal Heights. When a few years ago while visiting him I drove up Connecticut St. and recognized the building,  but it looks like it is being used for office space. I seem to recall it was originally called the Alta Theatre; although, not sure of that ...its been a long time.
    Hope this is of some help to you, and keep up the good work. All the best, Bill

  8. For over 30 years, it served the Potrero Hill neighborhood as a strictly mom-and-pop operation unique to a city as large as San Francisco. Mom sold the tickets, Pop ran the projectors. There was no snack bar, only vending machines in the lobby. One can only guess, but the two of them probably cleaned up each evening after the show as well. They ran no ad in the daily newspaper; a monthly calendar kept neighborhood patrons abreast of what was playing. Amazingly this operation lasted until 1963, at which time the New Potrero Theatre finally shut down for the last time.
    Whatever became of Mom & Pop? Perhaps a reader can enlighten us.
    The building still stands, having been converted into offices, a neighborhood artifact of the long distant past when such a humble operation was not only feasible but profitable.
    In a 1973 episode of “The Streets of San Francisco,” called “Trail of the Serpent,” thugs come
    out of a theatre called “New Potrero Theatre.” Does anyone know what theatre they actually used for this? Assuming the theatre closed in 1963, I guess the producers decided to make the scene extra nostalgic for those in the know.

    In 1992, the building was renovated.(4)
    While layers of paint were cleaned off the facade, exposing a very nice red and tan brick surface, the wonderful little marquee which had been on the theatre since at least the 1930's was removed, as were the slabs of white and grey veined marble which were still in place in the ticket lobby.

    In 2000-2001, it was known as Gurdjieff Hall, a small converted movie theater a few doors off Potrero Hill's charming 18th Street neighborhood commercial strip.(1)(2)
    G.I. Gurdjieff' was a noted early 20th-century mystic type, known for his teachings in a self-proclaimed "Fourth Way" of balanced personal/spiritual development. He is also known for having established the modern use of the enneagram as method for self-understanding. Regardless of whether or not Gurdjieff was in fact a genius or just a very clever charlatan, there's no question he was responsible for a great deal of interesting music. Says Wikipedia: "The last musical period is the improvised harmonium music which often followed the dinners Gurdjieff held in his Paris apartment during the Occupation and immediate post-war years, to his death in 1949.
    In 2011, the owner requested rezoning to Small Scale Neighborhood Commercial Use District status. No new development is proposed. The rezoning is to conform to it's longstanding existing use. Approved in November, 2011.(3)

    Jerry rehearsed here in
    1968 The Grateful Dead

    1.)^Grant, John Angell, Berkeley Daily Planet Theater Critic, 2000-09-12
    2.)^Moore, Michael Scott, The Illusion, Short Stage reviews, 2000-09-27
    3.)^Notice of Public Hearing, 2011-12-05
    4.)^Selvin, Joel, The San Francisco Musical History Tour

  9. Rehearsal Space/Office/Alembic ("The Pink behind Pinky's")
    Novato, CA

    "The pink Novato warehouse, which was surrounded on all four sides by the Air Force base (with just a driveway cutting through) and behind Pinky's Pizza Parlour, housed the Dead's rehearsal space, their business office, and a workshop for Owsley, the inveterate tinkerer."(3)

    "The Dead had their office and rehearsal space in what was affectionately known as "The Pink behind Pinky's". The building was the color of Pepto-Bismol and was located down a long driveway behind Pinky's Pizza Parlor. We shared a fence with Hamilton Air Force Base.
    Alembic had its offices in the building with the Dead and separate workshop and living space behind the warehouse."(1)

    Jerry rehearsed here in
    "We were stationed at Hamilton from 1969-1971.
    When my dad was sent to Vietnam, we moved off base
    into an apartment. I still attended the elementary school on Hamilton. However, behind our apt. complex, there was a pink stucco warehouse. My mom always warned me not to play back there. Come to find out, the group of people living in the warehouse was The Grateful Dead! How cool was that!!
    One evening we were at Pinky's Pizza and a helicopter landed in the parking lot. My mom thought we were being raided, but it was The Rolling Stones picking up The Grateful Dead for a concert in San Francisco. At the time I was too young to appreciate that fact, but looking back now, I'm like" The Grateful Dead were my neighbors!"(2)

    3.)^Jackson, Blair, Grateful Dead Gear, pg. 87,

  10. You mention security concerns at the Potrero... In the Feb/March '67 interview of Garcia at 710, he talks about the band's equipment being stolen - fortunately it's recovered during the course of the interview.
    Unfortunately, I didn't catch a reference to where the equipment was - they say the equipment was found "down the street": "Owsley and Blair went down the back alley to listen to the kids, and the kids took them right to where it was, some street gang, and now they got the kids guarding the place." (Garcia suggests, "We can give them a little bread for it.")
    Weir says, "We still gotta get somebody living down there now."
    This may not be a rehearsal place - just an equipment storage spot where no one's living - but it doesn't seem to be the heliport. Could it still have been the Straight Theater?

    McNally describes the Potrero Theater as "a rat-infested dump, and the neighbors complained about the sound volume."
    They were evidently there before Mickey Hart joined (since Kreutzmann invited him to rehearse there).
    But by mid-'68, "their rehearsal time at the Potrero Theater was severely limited due to noise complaints... The Potrero was not only a dump, it was a silly location for a band that now lived mostly in Marin County."

    Summer '68 seems to have been a rough time for the band - the Carousel had just closed; they were getting few show bookings; and their rehearsal time was limited as well. So I think it's no accident that dissensions started rising in the band at that point.
    I wonder if they also used Pacific Recording Studio in San Mateo as an occasional space - the 8/13/68 studio jams included on the Aoxomoxoa reissue CD do not sound like an album-recording session. As you mention, by the time they got into Aoxomoxoa sessions, the studio may well have been their main rehearsal place.

    But in early September '68, Bert Kanegson found the building at the Hamilton Air Force Base for them, "renting for $600 a month."
    Bear said that at the time the Carousel closed in summer '68, "They were rehearsing in this gutted theater up in the Potrero, and everything was primitive, so I went to work for them again... Shortly after I joined back up with the Dead, they found a warehouse out near Hamilton Air Force Base in Novato, and moved out there."
    Jackson describes it: "The pink Novato warehouse, which was surrounded on all four sides by the Air Force base (with just a driveway cutting through) and behind Pinky's pizza parlor, housed the Dead's rehearsal space, their business office, and a workshop for Owsley." (GD Gear p.87)

    While we know a lot about what was going on in Owsley's lab (the genesis of Alembic), we don't know much about what was going on in the rehearsal space. They were still there in spring '69 definitely, because that was where Garcia started practicing his new pedal steel. Possibly it's where the rehearsal-jam tape from fall '69 was made (on Robert Hunter's tape-recorder, apparently, so this was by no means a studio setup).

    McNally reports that the Dead's business office moved from the Novato warehouse to a San Rafael house in April 1970, which is shortly after the time that Alembic moved out.
    I don't know any more about the mysterious Pt. Reyes space that Jackson mentions.

    There is also a studio rehearsal from February 1971, location unknown, where the band runs over their new material.
    I wonder whether - as in the "Santa Venetia Armory" tape from Sept '71 - the Dead may have rented a place just for the purpose of recording some rehearsals before starting a tour.

  11. There does seem to be a black hole from 1970-74, where the references ("warehouse on Francisco Blvd in San Rafael," "space in Point Reyes") are too vague to follow up, and some known places (the Stinson Beach Community Center, the Santa Venetia Armory) do not seem like they'd be permanent rehearsal places.

    It does seem bizarre, actually, that this band could not find a permanent place for over 10 years! There are some spots (the Heliport, the Novato warehouse) it's hard to say why they left, though perhaps there were financial reasons. (The Potrero must've been cheaper than the Heliport space, and the Novato building was abandoned right after Lenny Hart's escape.)

    I'm not sure the band's rehearsals during their short stay at the Warnecke ranch indicates they'd left the Heliport by then. Phil talks a bit about the Heliport rehearsals in his book (p. 99), then mentions their decision to bring their gear to Warnecke's place.

    Actually, I'm not sure the Dead were at the Potrero by Sept '67 - though Jackson says so, the most direct Mickey Hart reference I can find is that when Kreutzmann invited him to the Dead's rehearsals, "I could never find the right warehouse where they were rehearsing."
    McNally muddies the matter further on p.228: "That fall [of '67] the synagogue next door to the Fillmore closed, and the Dead rented it as a rehearsal hall." He implies that that's where Hart first rehearsed with the Dead, and leaves it unclear as to when they moved into the Potrero. At any rate, it's another rehearsal space in that same timeframe.
    Hart mentioned (in an interview with Gans), "When we were at the Potrero Theater, we used to go in every day and play. Hunter lived there, I think. That's when he was drinking - we'd push the door open and he'd be there on the floor with wine bottles."

    By the way, when the early '67 interview was printed in Golden Road, the writers said it was the equipment truck that was stolen. Don't know if a truck's specifically mentioned in the interview - Weir says, "We'll have a story to tell Bill when he gets back: your drums took a trip down the alley..."

  12. LIA, JGBP, Guinness, Crypt and everyone, thanks so much for the amazing comments. I will integrate some of these points into the main post, but this is all remarkable stuff.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Straight Theatre

    I think the proposed timeline for the Straight Theatre is a little out. I was always pretty certain that by the time of the May 19, 1966 Straight benefit the Grateful Dead were already using the Straight as a rehearsal hall and that the benefit (held at the Avalon Ballroom) featured those acts that were using the Straight to rehearse (The Grateful Dead, The Wildflower, Michael McClure (at that time working with the Wildflower as a lyricist) and The Outfit). So my view was always that The Straight rehearsals were much earlier than suggested here.

    Anyway, after reading what is a great post I thought I would check with Reggie to see if he could help with the timeline, and if he could shed any light on way the Grateful Dead stopped using the facility to rehearse. This was his reply:

    "When we got into the Straight in early April 66 the Dead began rehearsing almost immediately. They rehearsed as I ripped out the first 26 rows of seating. Soon due to a combination of things like building the floor during the day rehearsals were scheduled at night. Then the QMS, the Outfit, and others rehearsed at night. The Dead moved on due to other factors like scheduling freedom and certain members of the Dead moving out of the Haight to Marin."

    Rancho Olompali & Camp Lagunitas

    I think it was the commute from Rancho Olompali that led the Grateful Dead to drop the Straight Theatre for rehearsals sometime in the summer. The well documented “party” on May 22 followed soon after the benefit and I suspect that by early June the rehearsals were shifted up to Rancho Olompali. The rental lease on Rancho Olompali ran out sometime over the summer and there was a move up to Camp Lagunitas – perhaps in July. I do not know how well it lent itself to rehearsals. Perhaps this is the time slot for 895 O'Farrell?

    Sausalito Heliport

    I believe that the band were already rehearsing at Sausalito Heliport by the time of the October 15, 1966 performance with the Transatlantic Railroad (I have never found out what the "TJ" stands for on the poster). The band had moved back to the City in early October and was living in 710 and the commute to the heliport was an easy one. Sausalito had by October 1966 a scene of its own growing with the Ark hosting regular performances, the No Name Bar which remains to this day and The Kingston Trio’s Trident – latter Horizons but now renamed to the Trident.

  16. YS - those are some interesting notes on the timing. It looks like the Dead would have started rehearsing in the Straight Theater almost immediately after their return from Los Angeles.

    The Dead moved to Camp Lagunitas in late June, and it did not lend itself to rehearsals - McNally notes that the county sheriff lived "next door" (so the festivities must have been a bit more restricted than at Olompali!) and that they were "unable to rehearse in Lagunitas for noise reasons." (p.153)
    McNally implies that the Dead started rehearsing at the Heliport while still at Lagunitas, though he's vague on exact times.

    (It is, by the way, a pity that the index in McNally's book is so worthless. Most of the sites mentioned in this post are not in the index, and it's only by random chance one can find a reference to, say, the synagogue the Dead used for rehearsals in fall '67.)

    The Dead had a little radio interview in November '66 where the subject came up:
    DJ: How often do you have to rehearse? Or do you rehearse?
    GARCIA: We try to rehearse every day, and we put in about six hours a's the only thing we do, really... We try and do it as good as we can, and put as much time as we can on it, but because we’re all human beings and we’re all friends, we can’t make it 'work,' you know...we can’t say 'okay this is punch in and let’s play and then punch out.' It’s like we get together and sometimes we might not play at all, we might just sit around talking for an hour or so, telling jokes or something, and then play a little and get some ideas and it kinda works like that.

    [From Dave Kemper's interview about Garcia, it sounds like JGB rehearsals in the '80s still went like that! "I would fly up for rehearsals, get there, we'd talk for an hour, then we'd plug in and play for ten minutes and Jerry would say, 'Oh, man, what a workout! Let's take a break.' Then we would talk for another hour!"]

    The way Lesh describes it in his book, they'd drive to the Heliport every day around noon (the whole band in Billy's car). "Our rehearsal room had a homey kind of atmosphere, even though the place was a concrete blockhouse. We would play for a while, and then send out for burgers and Coke. MG would visit & hang out; Danny and Rock would fall by to see how we were doing, or to tell us about upcoming gigs. At this point, we were mostly working on new covers and jamming."

    It's interesting that Phil remembers the Russian River rehearsals as being the spot where the band's "collective creation" really took off, though their stays in that area (in May and September '67) were brief.

  17. "a pity that the index in McNally's book is so worthless."

    Agreed, but we need to do a better job of indexing our own posts, too! There's a huge volume of material. The terrain that McNally and Jackson cover is unbelievable.

    Not sure when I'll be able to join the conversation, maybe not until June.

  18. You're sorely missed.

    Unfortunately there's no effective way to index posts like these - no matter how many tags you put on, someone's going to be looking for something you haven't tagged! (And comments are unindexable.) Fortunately there's a search function.

    McNally & Jackson did have a challenging job in indexing their large books... The Grateful Dead Illustrated Trip book, though, seems to have an good (if selective) index from what I've seen, and that's even more dense. Depends who you get to do the indexing, I guess!

  19. An entry from

    One thing Bear and the Dead shared was a perfectionist streak. He's written that even into 1970, not only did the band frequently rehearse, they did sound checks at all the shows. ("Later they became lazier about both things.") We have hardly any taped soundchecks (mainly a few from the Wall of Sound days), but Bear says he still has the soundchecks for the Fillmore East shows in February '70....
    "In those days, we rehearsed - we had sound checks. I insisted on it. I didn't like to go cold into a show. I wanted to make sure if the stuff worked - there had been a lot of times when it didn't work, and it was really embarrassing... We rehearsed not only to get the music together, but also to check on the band's gear - to check the guitars and the wires and to do maintenance, and to get together and throw ideas at each other. After every show, we'd gather in the hotel and play back the night's gigs. That's why I was recording all the time... There was always a tape being made. If it wasn't a reel-to-reel, it was a cassette. Something that could be played back. That's how I was learning.... They were critiquing their own performances. We would find a weakness and try to correct it."

  20. Great post, great thread.

    Five years after the band used the synagogue next to the Fillmore for their practice space, it was taken over by Jim Jones & the Peoples Temple. (Unless there was another synagogue next to the Fillmore.)

    1. Thanks for the kind words. I have read that the Dead rehearsed at the synagogue next to the Fillmore (@1839 Geary), but I don't buy it. The synagogue didn't close until 1969 when it merged with another one.

      People's Temple was the next building down, at 1859 Geary. The Airplane actually rehearsed there, one of the reasons I think the Dead get assigned erroneously to the synagogue. There were actually two temples: a Jewish one (ie a synagogue)at 1839 and a Masonic one (later "People's) at 1859. I have posts about both:

      1839 (the synagogue)

      1859 (People's Temple)

  21. Once again the depth of your research/knowledge leaves my brain happily agog.

  22. Ah, so no rehearsals at 1839 Geary... If the synagogue was open til 1969, it does seem quite unlikely! So this looks like McNally's error. (Though I see some sites online where the two temples also get merged.)

    But, that does raise the question of why the Dead might not have rehearsed at the Geary Temple one door down. Per your post, Bill Graham owned the building during that time period, and the Airplane rehearsed there.
    Perhaps the Airplane had it booked all the time when not on tour, or there were other reasons the Dead used the Potrero, but I wonder if the Dead might not have been in the Temple at least for a limited time. (I notice the Airplane played some shows out east in fall '67, hence the Temple may have been empty while they toured.) Pure speculation, though!

    As an aside, Phil talks a bit about the Potrero in his book (p.130) -
    "[While recording Anthem] we were working on new material in our rehearsal hall at the old Potrero Theater. A windy, cavernous, funky old place (we more than once blew insulating material off the ceiling with low-frequency feedback), its only virtue was that we could play loud and long there during the day."
    He associates the place particularly with Mickey's rhythm patterns, the various odd-metered jams they came up with, and constant intense rehearsals that welded the band together. (And also the band telling him to back off after he kept yelling at them to "do it right!")

    1. 1859 Geary was, at least for a while, available to bands for rehearsal prior to runs at the Fillmore Auditorium on, what I assume to be, an ad hoc basis. Bruce Barthol recalls being harassed and generally bullied by local kids once when walking up from a rehearsal at the Geary Street Temple to use the phone at the Fillmore. Given he was one of those beatniks from Berkeley he probably deserved everything he got. I would contend this was on the afternoon of August 27, 1966 prior to the first Country Joe and The Fish performance at the Fillmore (with the Great Society and Sopwith Camel, and filling in for the 13th Floor Elevators who were contractually blocked from performing). Looking through the list of performances that the Geary Street Temple hosted, it is interesting that many of the bookings and acts were Berkeley based - Country Joe and The Fish,(Ian Underwood’s) Jazz Mice Septet, Perry Lederman, Robbie Basho, Ken Spiker, the Scheer Campaign, Open Theatre, Berkeley Cinematheque and Glen McKay’s light show. “Mira Dasein” appears as the presenter of several shows but I suspect it was not an individual but a group associated with the VDC and/or Scheer campaign. Berkeley politicos.

    2. This explains a lot. I had never been able to pin down the Airplane's use of 1859 Geary. Now I can see that they used it for pre-Fillmore rehearsals. So it's not impossible that the Dead used it once in a while as well, although I wouldn't put it into the category of one of their rehearsal spaces.

      I haven't been able to determine exactly when Graham took over 1859 Geary, but I think it was late 66/early 67. The last thing he wanted was a competing venue on the same block. By the time he sold it, in 1969, he had moved over to Fillmore West.

    3. Well, I finally got around to reading Bill Kreutzmann's book--I know, I know--and he specifically mentions rehearsing at 1839 Geary. He also specifically refers to the fact that Garcia played there later, and that it was next to the People's Temple.

      My only comment is that BK's book is otherwise lacking in details like that, and I am wondering if a foggy memory is being imposed. I'm sure the Dead got some licks in on Geary Street in late '67, the question is where.

  23. There is an old "Rolling Stone" article that sheds a bit more light and/or muddies the waters further. "A New Life For The Dead" by Charles Perry was originally published in "Rolling Stone" 1973-11-22. It was reprinted in "Garcia" by "the Editors of Rolling Stone," p 111 has the following:

    "Of course, any band needs a practice studio. Sometimes the Dead use the New Riders' studio, located in the San Rafael industrial neighborhood. The studio is rented, natch, from an old friend of the Dead's, Don Wrixman. He rents another part of the building to some woodcraftsmen, and yet another is the Dead's sound and lighting equipment warehouse. The original Dead warehouse, which the equipment has long since outgrown, is now a workshop for repairing electronic equipment and building speaker cabinets.

    "As for a practice hall for the Dead themselves, they might build one someday on a piece of land they own known as "Deadpatch". When Weir's home studio is complete,the band could fit there, though Weir built it - with some of the heaviest insulation ever put into a building - so he could practice by himself...

    "And then there's Hart's studio out in the woods near Novato... These days his studio, or "experimental situation," as he calls it, serves for practice and also for recording. Both Bob Hunter and Barry Melton of Country Joe and the Fish have recorded and mixed albums in the studio, and Hart did his own album Rolling Thunder there.

    "As would be expected, Dead spinoff bands such as Old and In the Way have messed around in Hart's studio as well. A new spinoff group is soon to be launched from this mysterious hideout: an electronic-music outfit consisting of Phil Lesh, an MIT music student named Ned Lagin and Hart himself..."

    So, in 1973 the GD and NRPS both rented space in a building "in the San Rafael industrial neighborhood" and GD "sometimes" rehearsed in the NRPS "studio." I suspect studio is rather a grand word for this room.

    Also in the building were "woodcraftsmen." Could these have included Rick Turner of Alembic? Probably not or Perry would have explicitly said so.

    The airforce base warehouse was still not totally vacated in 1973.

    I web-searched for the San Rafael landlord Don Wrixman, a totally new name to me, and came up with nothing. However, and both have entries for a Don J Rixman in Novato aged either 65 or 69 who could be the man. I have no idea how accurate or current these sites are and have taken this no further.

    We have a reference to the fabled "Deadpatch." According to McNally, p 469-470, the idea of building on this was abandoned in January 1974.

    As an aside, the GD sharing a building with NRPS possibly puts Nelson and Hunter in close proximity in 1973.

  24. runon, what an amazingly great find. It sorts out so much. I incorporated the key parts into the main post.

    Not to mention, you discovered the first mentions of Hunter's album, Seastones and the unreleased Barry Melton album as well.

  25. "At the time, the Dead's offices were on 5th and Lincoln in San Rafael, and Sam Cutler's Out Of Town Tours was at 1333 Lincoln, a few blocks North. I believe the NRPS staff offices were at about 2nd and Lincoln. I presume the rehearsal studio was across Highway 101, in the more industrial area where the Francisco Boulevard warehouse, and later Club Front, were located".

    Maybe the NRPS studio/Dead storage space/woodcraftsmen’s building and the Francisco Blvd warehouse were one and the same. Perhaps the Dead moved there, became dissatisified with it as rehearsal space and passed it on to NRPS. They had nowhere else so kept the storage space and still used the studio when necessary if it was available. Pure conjecture I know but what the hell.

    Anyway, more concrete matters. The same Perry article locates far more than just Cutler at 1333 Lincoln. It looks like GD Records pretty much took over 5th and Lincoln and most everybody else had to overspill down the road to 1333. I don’t know if they sublet from Sam, rented separate offices or just moved in on him.

    Perry locates “the New Riders office” there. This could well be just the touring part run by Out of Town Tours but perhaps it was more. Perry has it on the Dead side of the hall not the Cutler side for whatever that’s worth. Sam Cutler in "You Can't Always Get What You Want" p 314-315 writes "Frances (Carr) coordinated the money spent on Grateful Dead tours and Libby (Jones) took care of similar matters for the New Riders of the Purple Sage.”

    1333 Lincoln sounds like a zoo, I wonder how long the other tenants lasted. Here's a taste of how Perry describes the offices.

    “The offices of Grateful Dead Records, Inc., are in a classically funky Victorian house in San Rafael” (5th and Lincoln)...

    “Located in the same building that now houses the Dead offices “(1333 Lincoln top floor)”, three blocks from Grateful Dead Records, Fly by Night “(on the ground floor, there was a “quiet insurance office” on the middle floor according to Rosie McGee)” shares the same hideous sort of office carpeting and stuccoed ceilings as the rest of the new building. As in the others there is an attempt to make it more livable with tie-dyes by family artisan Courtney Pollack and visionary fairytale illustrations by Maxfield Parrish.

    “The Dead Fan Club... Eileen Law in the Deadhead office, an office once again like all the others in the building...

    “The office is shared by some other Dead operations: One door leads to a bookkeepers' office, another to the "boys' room," the office of the Dead's equipment crew...

    “The back office... From time to time you might see a cadaverous bearded fellow whisk into an office... that's Scully (previously identified as “Since the band's termination with Warners, he has become road manager”). The cultivated-looking gentleman with longish blond hair will be McIntire (previously identified as “manager of the Dead and the New Riders of the Purple Sage”)...

    “Next door is the office of David Parker, business manager... Next to his office is the New Riders office. Around a corner in the Grateful Dead office is the cubbyhole presided over by Alan Trist. This is Ice Nine, which publishes all Dead songs and at one time, confesses Trist, was "a sink to keep people on the payroll."

    “Across the hall are the offices of the Dead's agency, Out of Town Tours... “We like it better in this building than the Dead do,” said Sam Cutler... Now he is mutating from being the Dead's agent to being an independent agent, specializing in Marin County bands..."

  26. Good find!

    I agree that the NRPS studio/Dead rehearsal space is probably the same "warehouse on Francisco Blvd" that McNally mentions.

    I wonder if the "original Dead warehouse" that Perry says the Dead outgrew was the place in Hamilton AFB in Novato?

    The timeline gets tricky here - in early 1970, the time when the Dead moved out of Novato, it's hard to believe that NRPS would have been renting their own studio. That would be a later development; and I suspect they shared facilities with the Dead from the start, and over time as the Dead were able to rent more building space, they were gradually able to separate different areas for NRPS/Dead/equipment, etc.

    The mysterious space near Point Reyes that Jackson mentions may have been an intermediate spot for the Dead in between Novato & San Rafael, though it does seem like a bit of an extra drive, farther away from anything... I wonder if he was being accurate.

  27. Guinness and LIA, these are all excellent points. I think with respect to the mysterious Point Reyes building, the date might give us a clue. If it was actually Winter 1970, then the Lenny Hart debacle was happening, and the "attraction" of the location may have been the price. In early 1970, Western Marin was deserted, so some sort of unused building in Point Reyes might have been had for free.

    A free building to rehearse in may have been all that the band could afford at the time.

  28. They were rehearsing in Point Reyes in early 1973.

    Cameron Crowe's GD article in "Circus" October 1973 contains the following:

    "Jerry is the first to admit that he is a somewhat less than prolific songwriter, but it was last January that he underwent a creative “spasm” that left him with seven new songs. The band was about to begin rehearsals the next week in their deserted and dilapidated Point Reyes rehearsal hall and Jerry, who undoubtedly felt the crush for new material, came up with the goods."

    Here's the link to the article

    So the Dead moved into Pt Reyes in early 1970 (Jackson) and either were still there or were back in early 1973 (Crowe). They were no longer using it by November 1973 when Perry writes that they had no practice hall of their own.

    It is very strange that references to this location are so rare, particularly in comparison to Novato.

    Cameron's description of a "deserted and dilapidated" hall does not sound like something they would rent continuously for three years. And we know that they rehearsed elsewhere in 1971. Perhaps it was lent to them by a friend whenever they needed it. As Corry says, they started using it when they were broke and it now looks like they stopped using it around about the time they got the start-up money for the record company.

    Alternatively, could Point Reyes be the "deadpatch" plot they considered developing? Another location that only ever seems to be mentioned in very vague terms.

  29. Found another tidbit -

    In the Signpost to New Space interview (summer/fall 1971), Garcia says, "As a band, for the last two years, our music has been evolving as we play it. We haven't been rehearsing because we haven't had a place to rehearse - that's a whole other school of problems, rock & roll rehearsal spots."

    The interviewer doesn't follow up on that unfortunately - nor do I know whether this part of the interview is pre-Keith or post-Keith.
    My guess is it's from the summer, before they started using the San Rafael warehouse. Although Garcia says "we haven't had a place to rehearse," it's historically certain they had someplace in Sept/Oct '71, even if it was just temporary.
    The "deserted and dilapidated" Point Reyes rehearsal hall may have been used only intermittently.

  30. There's an interview from late August 1966 posted at Dead Sources, in which the band mentions they're looking for a place to practice.

    Weir: We’re looking for a place...with plenty of land around it so we can practice there, because otherwise the neighbors always complain...
    Garcia: Yeah, we have to get an isolated house somewhere...Marin county preferably; maybe out by the coast... We’re in Lagunitas, they won’t let us practice there.

    Pigpen does not want to go out by the coast. He suggests practicing at Gene Estribou's home studio, but the others say it's unavailable as Gene's still building it.
    The default position is to stay in their current spot (unidentified), which is "cheaper than renting a studio."

  31. ...Mojo Navigator R&R News issue #3 (8/23/66) even ran an ad from the Dead:
    “The Grateful Dead are looking for a place to live where they can practice without bugging anyone; some secluded spot, preferably in Marin.”

  32. So the Dead were hunting for a Marin hideaway that early...fascinating.

  33. LIA, you and JGBP should be getting into the property records. They are a gold mine.

  34. Another small detail to add -

    Sam Cutler mentions his first visit to the Dead's Novato location in his book:
    "At San Francisco airport, I boarded a helicopter, which landed in Novato...over on the northern side of the bay. In a small building next to the heliport the Dead maintained their rehearsal space and their offices... On the [office] walls there were psychedelic posters, and helicopters could be heard outside. The place struck me as very noisy for either an office or a rehearsal facility. I asked to see where the band practiced... Lenny marched me into a part of the building adjacent to the office where some space had been converted to use as a rehearsal studio." (p. 123-24)

    The helicopter noise must have been a downside of being next to an air force base...and quite similar to the Sausalito Heliport!
    Sadly, Cutler never mentions the Dead's rehearsal spaces again.

    1. LIA, this is a good find. It both confirms that the Novato space was used for rehearsal, and also why it wasn't a desirable space.

    2. I remember a building I think was in Novato, although I don't remember it being pink. Squat and ugly sitting on a back street, the front door opened to a large office area with doors on three sides. The door straight ahead went into what looked to me at age 9 as a large room with equipment set up as for a practice session. Then around to the left was a locked room or vault with floor to ceiling shelves holding copies of all the vinyl releases. The most recent release was Bear's Choice to give you a time period. Thanks for all the hard work guys, really appreciate it! Cheers, MK

  35. Another find -

    The 10/5/66 SF Chronicle article on Owsley (up on Dead Sources) reports:
    "For a while he took a rock 'n' roll group under his wing and allowed them to practice at his cottage behind a dilipidated apartment house on Berkeley way in Berkeley. But the neighbors complained and he stopped."

    This reporter was barely aware of the Acid Tests, let alone the Grateful Dead (in fact he didn't talk to anyone who even knew where Owsley was) - but it's pretty obvious what band this is. And I think the only time period it can refer to is January 1966, before the trip to LA.

    So the story that they rehearsed in a Berkeley location after meeting Owsley is indeed true.

    1. Fascinating detective work, LIA. Legend has always placed Owsley's apartment on McGee Street, and McGee street crosses Berkeley Way, so we have a pretty good GPS on it by 60s standards.

  36. Heck, the newspaper article even gives the address of Owsley's Los Angeles house where he supposedly made 10 million hits of acid - 2205 Lafler Road, for the acid geographers among you...

    We have a couple descriptions of Owsley's Berkeley apartment too - one from Rock Scully's book:
    "Owsley lives in a small house behind an apartment building that he has semi-soundproofed... It is a hideout and a sound lab filled with the most fantastic gear."
    And from Owsley's interview w/ Gans -
    "I had a pretty good-sized place - must've been a 55-foot-long room, about maybe 35 feet wide, just a big single room." He had a hi-fi Voice of the Theater stereo system there which became the Dead's PA.

    McNally's book does have the story that the Dead rehearsed at the Questing Beast with Bear in Jan '66 (p.128), though it could be just a false rumor he picked up from deadbase.

  37. Based on the information we have uncovered, it seems that the Dead were indeed rehearsing at Owsley's, and that seems to have been stopped by complaints. Owsley was connected to the Questing Beast, so it seems logical that he had a "Plan B" if the Dead didn't go to LA, and that the Dead would have moved to the Questing Beast. The Beast was not far from Berkeley Way and McGee street (it was at 2504 San Pablo), so it all fits.

    McNally had to make sense of the historical record as it stood at the time, and the rumors that the Dead had rehearsed at the Questing Beast were not farfetched, though in fact not true.

    It does raise an interesting question though--aren't there some tracks from the "Oddities" cd that have no provenance at all? Maybe Owsley had the band rehearsing in his little cottage with the tape deck running...

  38. Owsley was not in favor of the band going to LA, but since that's where the Acid Tests were going, they all had to go...

    I've often wondered about those mysterious Oddities tracks as well, but I suspect many of those must be from later than January '66. But then there's the Viola Lee rehearsal that's definitely from January/early February. I don't really see them renting a studio at that time, so there's really only one plausible location for it to be taped at. No reason Bear couldn't have taped their rehearsals at his home; it all fits together.

  39. This comment has been removed by the author.

  40. The comments thread that wouldn't die!

    Just stumbled on Stephen Barncard's photos of Ace's, including a bunch of the band in action:

    Given Phil's beard & the absence of Mickey, probably sometime in '74 or early '75?

    There's also a bunch of great pictures of the construction of Ace's & related stuff, including a picture of Otis the Dog that notes that he used to belong to John Kahn:

    1. Jesse, these are pretty neat. These are among the very few photos of the Dead actually rehearsing. I don't know of any from Club Front.

  41. "the newspaper article even gives the address of Owsley's Los Angeles house where he supposedly made 10 million hits of acid - 2205 Lafler Road, for the acid geographers among you..."

    2205 Lafler Road is a two bedroom, one bath, one floor house, 670 sq. ft. house. This is not the correct address.

    "We got a big pink three-story house on the edge of Watts in January of 1966. ...By the time we moved into San Francisco in September, he (Owsley) had spent around $50,000-in 1966 dollars.(1)
    1.)^Gans, David, Playing In The Band, pg.45.

    1. In Blair Jackson's book Grateful Dead Gear, on p. 33 is a photograph of Bear's sales receipt showing an address of 2511 3rd Avenue, Los Angeles.

    2. Good to pin that down!
      There's a receipt for a lot of equipment (paid 2/19/66) - the house must have been stuffed with amps!

      It was a stroke of luck for the Dead that they found an obsessive who decided to support them, buy them new sound equipment, and record everything they did, just a month after meeting them.

  42. Just to be clear, the Lafler Road address is not the Watts residence where the band resided in early 1966, but where Owsley stayed from March to May 1965; the article specified that it "overlooks the campus of California State College at Los Angeles."

  43. Here’s Constanten on rehearsing at the Novato warehouse from page 4 of the booklet for the new DP6.

    “Alembic, a warehouse adjacent to the old Hamilton Air Force Base, housed not only the band’s office but also a rehearsal studio. We rehearsed a lot back then, instrumentally and otherwise. The drummers would work out breaks and patterns by themselves. Fireworks shows for percussion. Inspired by the achievements of Phil’s friend David Crosby, the band got into part singing with fresh enthusiasm. And achieved something special themselves.

    “It’s where we worked out new material, like “Mason’s Children,” “High Time,” and “New Speedway Boogie,” Jerry’s response to the Altamont debacle. We tried out patterns that weren’t even pieces yet. I recall one in 10/8 that much later became part of “Playing In The Band.” Next day, Phil brought in a song, chords charted on yellow legal paper, called “Clementine.” We tried it all out. Sometimes new material flew, sometimes it didn’t. And we never knew for sure until we played it onstage. Sometimes not even then.”

  44. Here's another 1973 reference to Point Reyes.

    "The Golden Road" No 27 1993 Annual quotes Robert Hunter on p 71:

    "While we were up in Point Reyes rehearsing for the Wake Of The Flood album, somebody left a Ouija board lying around. So Donna and I, having nothing much to do, and neither of us having ever had any luck with a Ouija board, put the Ouija board on the table, put our fingers on the glass and decided to call up Pigpen. Well - that glass started moving like greased lightning..."

    An unusually explicit timing for Hunter, it's a shame he's not more explicit about the location.

    Also, in 1991 the Rex Foundation gave $1000 to the Dance Palace Community Center in Point Reyes. This was founded in 1971 so there may be a connection to when the Dead were rehearsing there but I can't find one looking thru' their history. Their current property was only built in 1989.

    In case you wondered, Pigpen was up in Heaven, watching TV, driving a VW and had a message for V.

  45. Here’s Jerry on the Mars Hotel rehearsals at Studio Instruments Rentals from “The Golden Road” No 25 reprinted in Jackson “Goin’ Down The Road” p 227-229

    "That record (Mars Hotel) we rehearsed a lot before we went into the studio. That was done at Columbia's old place, when Roy Hallee (Paul Simon's engineer) used to have a West Coast place. We'd rehearse across the street at SIR (Studio Instruments Rentals) before we'd go into the studio every day. We rehearsed all the tunes for about a month before we recorded them, so we had them pretty fully arranged."

    I’d guess “we had them pretty fully arranged” did not strictly apply to Unbroken Chain. They did have two 16-track machines synced together to fill up so that must have taken some time too!

  46. Hunter's comment confirms that they were using the Point Reyes space in mid-'73 (presumably up to the Wake studio sessions).

    It's good to find an actual confirmation of where they rehearsed Mars Hotel - maybe they were using another place in '74 for tour rehearsals, but chose SIR because it was conveniently located by the studio.
    Though it's still a mystery where else they were in '74 - maybe still borrowing the NRPS "studio"?

  47. From a Bob Weir interview in February 1971 (by the Harvard Independent) -

    "How much they rehearse:
    That depends from time to time on whether or not we have a rehearsal studio. We just got a new rehearsal studio, but up to now we haven't rehearsed a whole hell of a lot, in fact, very little."

    1. From the Creem November 1970 interview:

      PHIL: We haven't had time to practice much of anything.
      JERRY: We don’t practice too much because we don’t have a place to practice…we play instead of practicing.

      So Weir's comment that they "just got a new rehearsal studio" in Feb '71 was apparently accurate.

  48. For the second issue of the Olompali Sunday Times in May 1967, the band composed some fake biographies. According to Connie Bonner: "During the period of the GD Fan Club, when the band was rehearsing at a small warehouse on Mission St., Connie and Sue set up a small tape recorder and this is how the band members described themselves."

    A small warehouse on Mission Street, in spring '67... I wonder if there are any other leads on what this was. I suppose the Dead were only there a brief time.

  49. What rehearsal space do these three events belong to?
    3/70 Steve Miller (Front Street Studios)
    Late 1971 Howard Wales, James Vincent
    "We hooked up with Jerry Garcia to prepare for an East Coast tour for the promotion of the "Hooteroll" album. We both expressed sincere enjoyment in playing together. It was the close of 1971."(1)
    9/13/72 Phil Lesh, Ned Lagin (Seastones)

    1.)^Vincent, James and Robert J. Macoy,  Space Traveler: A Musician's Odyssey, pg.59-61, Joseph Jupille Archives.

    1. The first and last are a mystery. The middle one is intriguing, however. Given the date, I wouldn't be surprised if it was The Harding Theater, which the Dead seemed to have control of in late 1971

      What's the source for the Steve Miller (Front Street) 3/70 date, and for the 9/13/72 Phil and Ned?

  50. There are business cards with this address.
    Grateful Dead Office
    2196 Union Street
    San Francisco, California

    1. Rock and Danny opened a business office in mid-68, nice to see the exact address. This was around the time the Dead moved to Hamilton AFB, the band wouldn't have rehearsed at Union St. I think it was just an office with some desks and phones.

  51. I found a surprising connection to the Sausalito Heliport:
    According to the Olompali Movie facebook page, "The Dead rehearsed at Don McCoy's Gate 6 warehouse at the heliport in Sausalito. Other bands that rented the space from McCoy were Country Joe and the Fish, Sons of Champlin, Quicksilver, and even Chicago... McCoy also owned a small houseboat complex at Gate 6, where entertainers like Otis Redding and Bill Cosby stayed."

    Per Timothy Miller's book on '60s Communes, "McCoy and his brother had done well operating a heliport and owning and renting out houseboats in Sausalito."
    McCoy rented the land at Olompali at the end of 1967 and started a commune there; over the next year, "the Grateful Dead continued to visit, playing there several times."
    (The Dead would, in fact, take their Aoxomoxoa cover photo there in '69 with a number of commune members.)

    So the Dead's connection with Don McCoy actually went back to '66 - and they may have well suggested Olompali to McCoy as a place to reside. (McCoy also showed up onstage at their 2/19/69 show.) After the Feb '69 fire at Olompali, some commune members went to live on Mickey's ranch.

    By the way, the facebook site also features a few remarkable photos of the Dead stage setup at Olompali sometime in '68, and Garcia jamming with Jack Casady there, during a pool party held by the commune.
    "Also joining in on these sessions would be members of the Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Charlatans, among others. It was a magical setting, with grassy lawns to dance on and a beautiful pool to cool off in, surrounded by the open country and rolling hills."
    While it would be nice to have specific dates, it's still remarkable to learn that the Dead continued to go to Olompali to jam sometimes in '68.

    1. LIA, this is a completely fascinating connection and it makes total sense. I had wondered how such a seemingly staid business as a Heliport had taken to renting out unused space to rock bands, and now we know.

      I believe that back in 65=66 the houseboats housed the members of Quicksilver Messenger Service, and their next boat neighbor, Dan Healy. Healy's real estate agent had been Gino Cippolina, John's dad.

      I know that Don McCoy's wife (or ex-wife, not entirely sure), Paula McCoy, lived across the street from the band, at 715 Ashbury.

  52. This comment has been removed by the author.

  53. Sausalito Heliport: The LP cover photo for Gale Garnett & The Gentle Reign 'Sausalito Heliport' is at the heliport. It was taken at the end of Bolinas St. where it turns towards the water; there is where the boat launch was/is. It still looks much the same today except the background hills are now dotted with houses. The helicopters landed to the right. A fellow has posted some 1960's then & now motion pictures of Fairfax which includes a brief shot of the heliport with a helicopter landing -- the scenery is the same as the LP cover photo. The film is on a Marin Nostalgia website.

  54. Actually the Heliport Studios was at 240 Redwood highway in Mill Valley. I know because I lived there and worked there and got my mail there during 1974 to 1976 when it closed. Was great to see that door again. Was the best time of my life. I was a musician and engineer there. Later i played on 2 Robert Hunter albums. Rock Columbia and Liberty.

  55. There is some investigation into the Point Reyes studio and the proposed Deadpatch site in the comments here:

    Deadpatch never got off the ground and no known Dead rehearsals happened there; but the Pt Reyes site is quite a mystery. They rehearsed there in February 1970 (having left the Novato warehouse), and again in February 1973 (when it was described as "deserted and dilapidated") - so what happened in between?
    JGBP suggests it was only used intermittently, and they may not have been happy with that place.

  56. My husband's dad lived in a house in Novato in the 70's and one day Mickey Hart showed up and asked to see the place. He said he used to live there with other members of the band.

  57. My husband's dad lived in a house in Novato in the 70's and one day Mickey Hart showed up and asked to see the place. He said he used to live there with other members of the band.

  58. This comment has been removed by the author.

  59. This comment has been removed by the author.

  60. i am not sure if this article about pacific high studios is mentioned here: The Great Pacific High - Phill Sawyer

    at the end, about being at wally heider: Gower Gulch - Phill Sawyer Phill Sawyer

    I-) ihor

  61. Dave Davis uncovered an interesting newspaper tidbit from the Marin Independent-Journal, November 15, 1973:

    The Bolinas-Stinson School District board has agreed to rent the Stinson Beach Recreation Center for six weeks as a practice hall for the Grateful Dead Rock music group, said Supt. Bernard Barrish.
    Trustee Susan E. Washington said that the board agreed at a meeting Tuesday to negotiate on a contract with the group which would pay $1,500 rent for the building, which once was Stinson School."

    (This leaves some questions unanswered... If the Dead had also rented this place back in winter '73, were they renting it off & on over the year? And, which six weeks are they renting here? They'd be out on tour for another month, which suggests that they were holding it for Jan/Feb '74.)

    1. It seems the Dead pulled out.

      "The superintendent (Bernard Barrish) reported that the Grateful Dead rock group has cancelled an agreement to rent the old Stinson School for $1500 as a practice hall. Barrish blamed newspaper publicity for the group's cancellation."

    2. Interesting! It's funny that the Dead were alarmed by the newspaper article alerting people where they were. I guess they didn't want fans wandering into rehearsals...

      This brings up a related point, which is that one reason the Dead's rehearsal spaces in the early '70s remain obscure or unknown is that the Dead intentionally tried to keep them hidden from the public.

  62. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


  64. One little-known aspect of the Dead's rehearsals is that when they had the time and opportunity, they would use the venues they were playing in to rehearse, during the afternoon (or sometimes the day) before the show. These were actual rehearsals, not just soundchecks.

    One recent example I found was the Kings Beach Bowl in August '67 - a light-show member recalled, "We were there during the day and changing all of our equipment and stuff...and they were in there rehearsing. And Bob Weir had made a couple mistakes during rehearsal and they were chewing him out — and he was literally crying. They were going 'Bobby, Bobby, you gotta pay attention.' And he was going, 'I'm trying, I'm trying.'"

    (The band was very frustrated with Weir at the time. Earlier that month, the Dead had been upset by their "terrible" shows in Toronto - Garcia said, "We were ready to fire Weir." Sue Swanson also remembered, "They played up in Toronto for Expo ’67, and I remember during that week Bobby was supposed to be fired, but obviously it didn’t happen." And Lesh later wrote, "Jerry and I started grumbling to each other about the music... With not enough rehearsal, the music wasn’t moving forward to our satisfaction. Bobby...became our target. We confronted him after the show about working harder to keep up." Sounds like August '67 was a rough month for Weir!)

    Anyway, a number of other examples of venue rehearsals come to mind - the most famous being the Rio Nido Dance Hall, September '67, where they worked up Dark Star.
    Also the Hyde Park Teen Center in November '68 - a light-show member recalled, "On Saturday, we gathered mid-morning at the Center to tweak equipment. The Dead showed up and proceeded to practice and jam until late afternoon. I remember Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman working out dual drum solos, as other members came and went. Bob Weir, at one point, did a rendition of Silver Threads and Golden Needles."

    On the Europe '72 tour the practice remained the same: "On Thursday evening [4/6/72] the band rehearsed for four hours in the freezing cold... On Tuesday [4/11/72] they rehearsed all afternoon at City Hall." They probably did this throughout the tour, since they had no other place to rehearse for two months!

    Sometimes the band would tape rehearsals the previous day of a show - for instance 1/23/69 Avalon Ballroom, or 2/3/70 Family Dog - probably when they wanted to make sure the sound was right.

    These kinds of venue rehearsals would be out of the public eye, so only a few instances are known.
    Some lengthy soundchecks from '73-74 were taped, but by then these seem to be as much noodling around as devoted practice.

  65. All of that really makes me admire young Robert Weir, for persisting and working hard and becoming a truly excellent player and key partner for Jerry and the rest as the band got great, and big.

  66. For a few days in December 1967, Dec. 9-14, the Dead ran a want ad in the San Francisco Examiner, rentals-wanted column:

    "PRACTICE STUDIO "The Grateful Dead" need a place to practice. Call 661-4040."

    If this was for real, then perhaps the Dead were having problems with the Potrero Theater.
    The timing is also curious, since the Dead were out East in December 1967. I don't know if they returned to San Francisco for a week or so, but they were in Boston on Dec. 9 and in New York by Dec. 17 at the latest.
    Is it coincidence that these ads ran right in the week in between? It's also possible that a manager (Rifkin?) had stayed back in San Francisco to handle things like this.

  67. The book in the new PNW '73-74 box set includes minutes for a band meeting on Jan 2, 1974. One item of discussion was a new practice hall:
    "Rental agreement with Front St. is to rent for 4 months, and if satisfactory, will rent for another year."
    Nicholas Meriwether adds, "The band quit one rehearsal hall and moved forward with leasing Front Street, where they would consolidate off-road storage and rehearsal for the rest of their career."
    (The band found it a chilly place in Jan '74, though, requesting "good heating.")

    So it appears they were rehearsing at Front Street much earlier than we thought.

    1. Great research, LIA. This really sorts out the timeline.

  68. There are some tapes of rehearsals at a place called "The Stone House." This is probably a place in Fairfax called Camp Bothin:

    The tapes were from January and February 1983. For a link to a rehearsal tape, see here:

  69. Sandra214. The Grateful Dead rehearsed at the Big Red Barn in Point Reyes Station from 1972-1974. I know because I lived across the street on Mesa Road and Jerry Garcia walked up my driveway and offered to buy my house. I listened to their music every day for free. They were staying in Inverness at the time.

    1. Thanks for all the awesome information! Right now there’s a brick and wood house listed for sale that claims to be the Grateful Dead Retreat located at 612 Canyon Road Novato, CA 94947. We went and toured it with our agent yesterday and it’s in rough condition but has gorgeous views. 😄

  70. In the recent article on the Dead auction, Steve Parish remarks on the Dead's rehearsal spots during his early time with the band (post-Novato?).
    “We just used garages,” Parish says of those early years. “We were working in this place in Terra Linda, and when I closed the roll-up door, the band would be in there rehearsing, and they were right up against it with their microphones, that’s pretty much what they were looking at.”

    Literally a garage band!

  71. I remember going by the heliport in the back of my parents car as far as I knew the bands practicing there were quicksilver messenger service and the sons of Champlin

  72. 1/2/74 GD band mtg minutes, under heading "Practice Hall": "Delucca St. should be cancelled and move out". This just after mention that they have a 4 month rental on Front Street and will renew for a year if they like it. ref: "Business: Meeting Minutes, 1974," Grateful Dead Archive, Special Collections, UC Santa Cruz, MS.332.ser. 2, box 137, folder 13.

    1. Aha, this seconds the comment on the meeting from 9/13/18 above.
      Do we know where "Delucca St." is? There's a De Luca Place in San Rafael (sometimes spelled Delucca), a business area with big industrial buildings.

    2. That does sound like their kind of place. I am still trying to find the exact location of the space in which they rehearsed with Keith, as described below by Big Steve on his show:

      Atthis time, we had a studio in San Rafael, and that studio was on what was thencalled Jacoby street under the freeway. And it became Anderson street laterafter we left. But it was a real great place to record at and to also try andrehearse. And we were there all the time. And we loaded out there we stored ourgear there. I've talked about this place before because it had interestingstuff. We had Neil Young's guitar –excuse me, Neil Young's car, which was a V12.Cadillac was next door at Red Tillman's auto place there, which is right nextto us. And he also had a V 16 Cadillac that was almost a duplicate of a V 12.And these old cars, they were guys that had come out from Indianapolis from thespeedway there and Red Tilman had an office up there. And when we practice on the bass, we just drive his secretary crazy

  73. The "Pink House" was actually around 13 miles from Watts in the West Adams district of Los Angeles at 2511 Third Avenue. I lived with the band for a while at that time, driving the equipment truck, so am familiar with the location. The house is still there, still pink.

  74. My childhood friend, Jimmy Monroe, became vocalist and guitarist for the TJ Transatlantic Railroad. "TJ" stood for Tijuana. Jim now lives in Oregon. I used to deliver furniture for Bellach's in San Rafael. Their warehouse was across the street from Club Le Front. My high school friend, Robbie Taylor, also worked for Bellach's and later became roadie and then production/stage manager for the Dead.

  75. Hi! There is a mistake where you say the band was in West Marin near "Pt. Lobos". That should be "Pt. Reyes".

  76. Great article, by the way!