Thursday, October 2, 2014

February 6, 1972 Pacific High Recorders, San Francisco: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders live on KSAN-fm (FM V and 1/4)

San Francisco's KSAN-fm, 94.9 on the dial, was San Francisco's leading FM rock station and a pioneer of live rock broadcasting.
Even in retrospect, some events just seem to be part of a long chain and don't generate much reflection. Yet some events that seem routine turn out to be full of significance when any attempt is made to categorize them. One such event in Jerry Garcia's history is his live broadcast on KSAN-fm with Merl Saunders, John Kahn and Bill Kreutzmann from Pacific High Recorders in San Francisco on Sunday, February 6, 1972. The show has circulated widely over the years, often under different dates, and one song was even officially released.

The February 6, 1972 performance was the first official broadcast in the Bay Area of Jerry Garcia performing his own music, separate from the Grateful Dead. For many, it was the first chance that  non-club goers--including teenagers who made up much of the Grateful Dead's audience--had to hear the Garcia/Saunders ensemble. Since KSAN continued to play tracks from it on the air for years, it also served as de facto publicity for Garcia/Saunders, since they would not release the Live At Keystone album until January 1974, almost two years later. And finally, the set was recorded at the very same studio where the Dead had recorded Workingman's Dead just two years prior. This post will take a closer look at the Garcia/Saunders show from February 6, 1972, and consider it in its larger historical context.

KSAN Live Broadcasts
I have written at some length about KSAN-fm and its tradition of live broadcasts. KSAN was the most popular station in the Bay Area in the early 70s--bigger than News, AM Top 40, you-name-it--and it achieved that status by being the hippest rock station. One of the ways that KSAN did that was by pioneering fm broadcasts of of live rock bands. Now, KSAN was not the first radio station to do that. The first was probably KMPX-fm in 1967, who had broadcast live Grateful Dead as early as February 14, 1968. KMPX was unequivocally the first hip underground rock station. However, due to a dispute with management, the staff went on a legendary strike, and the KMPX staff went on to found KSAN.

One of KSAN's many innovations was having local rock bands perform "live in the studio," for a few invited guests. Given that remote broadcasting was a new craft, performing live in a recording studio solved certain technical problems. The record companies loved getting the airtime for their bands (and probably bought ads in return). There was a sponsor for  these shows, but the sets were not interrupted by ads. Bands generally played about an hour.

In September 1971, KSAN inaugurated the "KSAN Live Weekend," in which mostly local bands played live for much of the weekend. Each band would play about an hour, the station would go back to the djs for another hour while they changed over the set, and the next band would then play, and so on. This would go on for several hours on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon and evening. That is why there are so many fm broadcasts from San Francisco of local bands all dated September 1971--they were all from the same weekend. Some of the broadcasts are now obscure, but a few became quite legendary. The most famous was an amazing broadcast of Van Morrison, which included a show-stopping version of Bob Dylan's "Just Like A Woman," which KSAN played on the air for years, as if it were a record.

Workingman's Dead was recorded in February and March 1970 at Pacific High Recorders on 60 Brady Street in San Francisco, in an alley behind the Fillmore West.
Pacific High Recorders
The venue that KSAN chose was Pacific High Recorders, at 60 Brady Street, right behind the Fillmore West. The studio had only opened in 1968, and from its beginnings, it catered to the longhaired San Francisco rock bands. The day-to-day operations were handled  by Richard Olsen ("traffic manager" in studio parlance), formerly of those San Francisco originals, The Charlatans. Dan Healy brought Quicksilver Messenger Service in to record Shady Grove, and in early 1970 Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor used Pacific High to record Workingman's Dead. The main room didn't actually sound that great, but it was very large and there was a stage at one end. The 1970 Jefferson Airplane performance film Go Ride The Music was filmed at Pacific High as well.

The size of Pacific High's main room made it perfect for KSAN's first live weekend.  The crowds were probably 100 or so, mostly invited friends of each band, but enough to give the performances a live feel. There was no bar, but it being KSAN I'm pretty sure everyone found a way to relax anyway. Still, by the end of 1971, the economics of the studio weren't really working out, and Pacific High was sold to Alembic Engineering, and 60 Brady Street became Alembic Studios. At the time, Alembic also provided the sound system for the Grateful Dead and customized instruments for Phil Lesh, Jerry Garcia, Jack Casady and others. Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor immediately set to resolving various sonic issues in the studio's main room.

One peculiarity of Alembic Studios was that they did not publicize the name Alembic Studios very much. Well after Alembic took over the studio, the name Pacific High Recorders was regularly used. Some of this may have been casual--the musical community called it Pacific High, and there was no reason to argue about it. Alembic may have also wanted to discourage the curious. In any case, when you see a credit like "mixed at Alembic Studios by Bob and Betty and The Grateful Dead" (such as on Europe '72), keep in mind that it was the same 60 Brady Street where Workingman's Dead had been recorded. So when KSAN supremo Tom Donahue introduces Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders as playing live from Pacific High Recorders, it's an anachronism, if an approved one. Jerry and Merl were actually playing at the site of Pacific High Recorders, in the Alembic Studio.

Some Logistics
On Saturday, February 5, Garcia and Saunders had played at Keystone Korner in San Francisco. They may have played there on February 3 and 4, too, or maybe the Lion's Share in San Anselmo, but on Saturday night they had played Keystone Korner. The Keystone Korner was at 750 Vallejo Street. 60 Brady was just over at Market and Van Ness. So whoever was loading out Jerry and Merl that night, probably Ramrod and Steve Parish, only had to truck the equipment 2.6 miles on Broadway and Franklin, and juke at Van Ness onto Brady, which was actually a little alley. After loading the equipment into Alembic for the night, they could just scamper on home. Thus for the next day's gig, all the crew had to do was turn up, as the equipment was already in place.

Few people remark that the first live FM broadcast of Garcia and Saunders actually featured Bill Kreutzmann on drums. The truth is that no one knows how often Kreutzmann subbed for Bill Vitt. Vitt did not like to travel out of town, as he had toured plenty with a band called Jack Bedient And The Chessmen back in the 60s, and no longer found it interesting. However, based on existing tapes, it seems that Kreutzmann played a fair amount of local shows as well. It may be that Betty Cantor taped more shows with Kreutzmann, but truthfully we just don't know. In any case, Kreutzmann played regularly with Garcia and Saunders and knew the material well.

I have to assume that Bill Vitt had the option of playing the show and chose not to. One possibility is that Vitt had another engagement. Vitt was in The Sons Of Champlin, then going under the name Yogi Phlegm, so perhaps they had a gig. Certainly Vitt was a regular at the Sunday night jam at the Lion's Share, but its not likely that he would skip that for a radio broadcast. Its also possible that the KSAN broadcast was effectively unpaid. Vitt may not have wanted to come into the city for nothing.

Most live FM rock broadcasts were subsidized by the band's record company. In return for allowing a band to play uninterrupted. the record company would pay for the lost commercial time. My assumption has always been that the company bought additional future ads rather than paying cash, but I don't know for sure. However, in early '72, Merl Saunders did not have a record out, and Warner Brothers were not likely to subsidize Garcia playing material that wasn't from his album. The hipness quotient was high, however, and there was probably a sponsor for the hour (usually Pacific Stereo, a local electronics chain), so it was worth it for KSAN. If that was the case, however, I don't think the musicians or crew got paid, except perhaps in party favors.

Hooteroll?, by Howard Wales and Jerry Garcia was recorded from October 1970 through mid-1971 and released in late '71.
An East Coast Precursor
Right before the KSAN broadcast, Jerry Garcia made his first tour outside of California under his own name. He played 7 dates on the East Coast with Howard Wales' band, playing some pretty jammed out music with Wales' quartet. The tour was generally overshadowed, however, by the stunning performances of the opening act. The newly minted Mahavishnu Orchestra featured a new guitar hero in John McLaughlin, and a new look for fusion jazz. Wales and Garcia seemed rather noodly by comparison.

Another scholar has considered the '72 Wales/Garcia tour in some detail, so I will not dwell on it. However, the important point in this context was that the Garcia-Wales set on the first night in Boston was broadcast on WBCN-fm. The January 26 '72 tape has been widely circulated amongst Deadheads for many years. The Mahavishnu Orchestra were also part of the broadcast. Both Mahavishnu and Howard Wales Hooteroll? album were on Columbia (Hooteroll? had been on Douglas, a Columbia subsidiary).

When the Grateful Dead had supported their double live album ("Skullf**k") with over a dozen live broadcasts in every city that the band played, the New Riders of The Purple Sage had been broadcast in a number of those cities as well (this is covered in the preceding part of this series, Part V, which I concede I have not actually posted yet). The Dead's album had gone gold, and the NRPS debut album was selling briskly as well. Columbia appears to have figured out that Jerry Garcia would get people to tune into the radio, so they used it to promote two of their albums. Thus Jerry Garcia's first broadcast under his own name actually took place in Boston.

Given that touring plans have to be settled at least 30-60 days in advance, and any Garcia gigs had to be worked out around the Grateful Dead, it seems certain that the WBCN and KSAN broadcasts were conceived and agreed to at roughly the same time. It would be interesting to know if one inspired the other, or if they both arose of their own accord.
Howard Wales with special guest Jerry Garcia/Mahavishnu Orchestra
January 21, 1972 Academy Of Music, New York, NY
January 23, 1972 Field House, Villanova U., Merion, PA
January 26, 1972 Symphony Hall, Boston, MA
January 27, 1972 Symphony Hall, Boston, MA--WBCN-fm broadcast both bands
January 28, 1972 Palace Theater, Providence, RI
January 29, 1972 [unknown venue], SUNY, Buffalo, NY
Garcia/Saunders, Early '72
The Feb 6' 72 show was the first Garcia/Saunders music that I heard, and given the wide circulation of the tape, it seems to have been one of the first Garcia/Saunders tapes that most people heard. For many fans, probably most of us, for a very long time the Feb 6 '72 tape was also the earliest Garcia/Saunders tape. Thus, although the performance is a little simplified, it seems to set out the template for what was to come for Jerry Garcia in both Garcia/Saunders and the Jerry Garcia Band in the next 23 years: some Dylan, some R&B, all jammed out within their song structures. Indeed, in many way, the tape does set the table. But it may very well have been something new for Garcia.

Garcia and Saunders had played exclusively at the Matrix from their first appearance together on September 7. 1970, through the demise of the Matrix in May of '71. After that, their home base shifted to the Keystone Korner, and the played a few other local places, like The Lion's Share in San Anselmo. However, the earliest confirmed tape we have of them is May 20, 1971, and the quartet--Garcia, Saunders, Kahn and Vitt--play nothing but jammed out instrumentals. It seems that Garcia did not begin singing with the group until Tom Fogerty joined the group in June 1971. Garcia may not have felt comfortable singing without a rhythm guitarist. In any case, although Fogerty was a regular member of the group through the end of 1972, he did not make every gig. Garcia was a quick learner, too, so by February he already felt comfortable singing with another guitarist. I have engaged in an extensive dialogue about this elsewhere, so I won't repeat it, but suffice to say that the musical approach of the February 1972 Garcia/Saunders group appears to have been a recent development in Garcia's history.

The Show
I do not believe the February 6 show was part of a "Live Weekend." In later years, the "Live Weekend" had a Spring and Fall edition (I know there was one in April 1973), but I don't think there was one in early '72. However, KSAN was already regularly playing the material from the first live weekend, particularly Van Morrison's "Just Like A Woman," so they would have been eager to give Garcia a forum to play, and would have liked the idea that they would be able to re-broadcast unreleased material.
  1. It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry
  2. Expressway (To Your Heart)
  3. That's The Touch I Like
  4. Save Mother Earth
  5. When I Paint My Masterpiece
  6. I Was Made To Love Her
  7. Lonely Avenue
  8. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
I assume the show was late Sunday afternoon or early in the evening. KSAN did not like to relegate special events to late Sunday night, so Garcia/Saunders probably played at 7:00pm or so (if anyone recalls, please mention it in the comments). The set was a good spectrum of '72 Garcia/Saunders: two Dylan covers, 2 Motown hits, 2 R&B standards, an obscure contemporary cover (Jesse Winchester's "That's A Touch I Like") and a Merl Saunders original ("Save Mother Earth").

It's difficult to say if the Garcia/Saunders live broadcast had its intended result, since I think the participants were pretty casual in their intentions. I think KSAN's Tom Donahue invited them to play, Garcia and Saunders agreed, a convenient date was chosen, and the deed was done. Nonetheless, in retrospect the effect of the show was persistent.

For one thing, KSAN re-broadcast the Feb 6 '72 show with great regularity. Once "Live Weekend" became a regular event every Spring and Fall, KSAN's standard format was to have a band every other hour live in the studio. In the in-between hour, while the bands changed over their equipment, KSAN typically broadcast a live tape from a prior KSAN event. Thus the very first Garcia/Saunders live broadcast was replayed over and over. The rebroadcasts must have been partially responsible for the tendency of the show to circulate under various dates--the show was broadcast many times, and so a tape label that said, for example, "Garcia-Saunders September 1972" wasn't necessarily incorrect, even if that wasn't the original performance date. The tape spread far and wide, and for old-timers it was very likely the first live Garcia/Saunders that they had heard, or at least the first tape (Howard Weiner devotes a whole chapter to the tape in his book Positively Garcia).

Also, for at least the next 18 months, KSAN would play songs from the Feb 6 '72 broadcast as a regular part of their shows. This was a KSAN thing, playing music that wasn't available to other stations. They did this with Van Morrison's "Just Like A Woman" (from Sep 5 '71 at Pacific High)., The song I recall being played was "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry." Of course this was the first song on the tape, but I suspect it had been converted into an easy-to-play 8-track copy for djs (a "cart" in old-time radio talk).

If you were a rock music fan in the Bay Area, it was hard not to notice that Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders were regularly playing around the Bay Area. But it was a mystery as to what they sounded like. However, with not only the regular rebroadcast on KSAN of the entire show, but the periodic playing of "It Takes A Lot To Laugh" or other songs over the air, even suburban teenagers like me had an idea of what Garcia/Saunders sounded like. I think this effect was a clue to Garcia that Old And In The Way could be promoted in the same way.

As I have discussed elsewhere, just like an old-time bluegrass bands, Old And In The Way used a series of radio broadcasts to promote their music around the Bay Area. The first official Old And In The Way appearance was on a KSAN broadcast from the Record Plant in Sausalito on March 2, 1973. Several weeks later, on April 21, 1973, Old And In The Way played the Spring '73 "Live Weekend." I'm sure that the Pacific High tape was broadcast in April as well. On July 8 '73, Garcia/Saunders broadcast on KSAN again, once more from the Record Plant. Clearly, by this time Garcia had figured out that KSAN live broadcasts had their own currency as publicity. Saunders had his Fire Up album, the pair were playing the Keystone regularly, and they were about to record a live album, so the broadcast helped all those ends.

Merl Saunders' album Fire Up was released on Fantasy Records in early 1973, and it featured the track "Lonely Avenue," recorded at the PHR KSAN broadcast on February 6, 1972.
Fire Up Album
I do not know how much national promotion there was for Merl Saunders' mid-72 album Heavy Turbulence. I suspect there was not very much. However, Merl's early '73 album Fire Up was a different story. I recall specifically that Fantasy Records took out a full page ad in Rolling Stone, with an inset picture of Jerry, showing Merl and an Austin Healey at the Golden Gate Bridge, and the tag line was "Not Everyone Can Be In San Francisco" (my cousin, who had just moved to the Bay Area, cut out the ad and mailed it to his best friend in Piscataway, NJ).

Information was far less fungible in days of yore, but an ad in Rolling Stone was like a top-rated video on YouTube.  Since Fire Up included a cut from the Feb 6 tape, Jerry's take on "Lonely Avenue," it was a brief taste for the rest of the country about what might be going on at the Keystone Berkeley. We take vast amounts of music for granted now, but "Lonely Avenue" was the only whiff of the Keystone Berkeley that many Deadheads had until the release of Live At Keystone in January 1974.

Of course, the most long range affect of the Feb 6 '72 tape was the one that could have been least anticipated. Since the Pacific High tape was re-broadcast many times, well into the late 70s, it circulated widely, even if the date was sometimes wrong. As we all know, the circulation of tapes is what cemented Garcia's music to the psyche of his fans, and as one of the very few circulating FM broadcasts of solo Garcia, the tape spread far and wide.

This does beg the question of what became of the original tape, not least because it would make a great single cd release for the Garcia Live series. Since it was an original KSAN broadcast, at least theoretically it should have been in the KSAN Archives, which would have meant that it was briefly in the "Bay Area Music Archives" (too long a story to recount here) and thence to the Bill Graham Archives. If that was the case, then it should have ended up in Wolfgangs Vault. However, there is no sign of it there. This means that either the original tape was burned up in the 1985 BGP warehouse fire, which would be sad, or, perhaps, that a tape of Jerry Garcia recorded by their house sound crew in Alembic made its way into their own hands, leaving KSAN with just a copy. Here's to hoping the latter was the case. Maybe once more we can all Fire Up and hear it again, not a copy but the real thing, just as it was on a Sunday night in San Francisco long ago.


  1. I do recall Tom mentioning Pacific Stereo during his comments on this tape. Thanks for this posting, this has always been one of my favorite Jerry shows

  2. For such a well-known broadcast, it's odd that neither Fogerty nor Vitt appear, both being regular members of the band at the time. (They're both on our January '72 Garcia/Saunders tapes, I believe?)
    But this raises the question of just how "regular" they were, which can't really be answered due to the scarcity of Garcia tapes from '72.

    1. But I think it was only a well-known broadcast after the fact, hindsight and all that.

    2. As a tape, yes - but even before the show, Garcia & co. presumably knew that a) the show would be re-broadcast on KSAN, and would have more listeners than whoever was tuning in on Feb 6; and b) as such, even if there was no payment, it was basically a promo for the band that might draw more local listeners to the shows.
      They'd have to be even less commercially minded than I thought for that not to have crossed their minds... Garcia, at the least, would've been highly aware of the promotional effect of a broadcast.
      So yeah, it's odd that two members of the band would bow out of it, especially if (as Corry suggests) the date was scheduled well in advance.

  3. I am not trying to be combative, I am just trying to shift my own view away from what I know to have happened ex post. I think they were already selling out local shows, so the big benefit would have been with respect to selling some Fantasy vinyl, such that the benefits would accrue to Fogerty and Vitt (et al.) regardless of who played the radio show.

  4. I think Garcia and Saunders were packing the Matrix and Lion's Share, but those were tiny places. They each held perhaps 100 people. Thus a radio show was a step in broadening the band's horizon. Another way to look at the promotional angle of this KSAN broadcast was to consider Garcia's fame, and that the broadcast was a way to insure that the broader rock audience didn't make a wrong assumption about a Garcia show.

    Lots of San Francisco rock stars, like David Crosby and Graham Nash, played gigs aside from their main group. Garcia had an implicit need to show what his band was like, and in particular that it wasn't just "Dead-lite," doing his own version of "Uncle John's Band."

  5. While no longer 'officially' in Ccr, I would imagine it's possible Tom fogerty went with ccr on their one month February 1972 tour of New Zealand,Australia and Japan which started on feb 8 1972 in New Zealand, which would account for his absence.

  6. Boy, I really doubt that. That breakup seemed quite rancorous.

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  8. Thank you for this amazing bit of history. I thought I'd add that the I Was Made To Love Her recording was used on Merl Saunders' 1997 Keepers album. The track is edited down from almost 10 minutes to around 5 minutes and has overdubbed congas and rhythm guitar (a bit heavy in the mix, in my opinion), I'm assuming from around the same period.