In the first installment of this series, I described the very earliest live FM broadcasts of rock shows. The first Grateful Dead live concert broadcast was on KMPX-fm, from the Carousel Ballroom on February 14, 1968, and the resulting copies were foundational for Grateful Dead tape collectors over the years. There were a few other early experiments,including a live broadcast on Berkeley's KPFA-fm from the Avalon Ballroom on April 6, 1969, and a set from San Diego on KPRI-fm (106.5) on May 11, 1969. For my second installment, I analyzed how many of the Grateful Dead tapes from the 1960s that circulated in the 1970s and 80s were broadcast on San Francisco's KSAN-fm in the 1970s, although they were not in fact actually broadcast during the 60s.
In my third post, I looked at all the live broadcasts by the Grateful Dead and various individual members from 1970. None of the circumstances of any of the 1970 broadcasts were ever duplicated, but it made a good case study on how the Grateful Dead determined the best way to promote their music for their own benefit. In my fourth post, I looked at the Fillmore West broadcast of July 2, 1971. The Fillmore West broadcast was the basic blueprint for just about all the Grateful Dead concerts that were broadcast throughout the 1970s. KSAN-fm was the best rated music station in what at the time was the hippest music city in the United States. When a band played live on the air for nearly three hours, with no commercials (except during the setbreak), it was an unprecedented event.
For this post, I will focus on the Grateful Dead's unprecedented Fall 1971 tour, where the band made 15 live broadcasts of complete concerts all across the country. Such an extravaganza was never duplicated again, neither by the Grateful Dead nor any other band. Yet it had far reaching implications for the Dead, as it ended up being essential to spreading their legend far and wide to young rock fans who would not otherwise have been able to see them.
|A cover for one of the many bootleg LPs that were created from the Grateful Dead's July 2, 1971 Fillmore West FM broadcast on KSAN and KMPX. I had this bootleg--it was kind of an underground hit album in the Bay Area back in the day.|
The Grateful Dead had delivered not just one, but two successful albums to Warner Brothers in 1970. While WB had initially considered the Dead a sort of prestige cult act in the 60s, the band had surprised the label by recording the very accessible Workingman's Dead. Workingman's was released in June 1970, just as FM radio was becoming a nationwide phenomenon. They followed it up with American Beauty in November 1970, which FM djs liked even better.
The bulk of the rock audience in 1970 was young people in suburbs and colleges. Many of them had probably heard of the Grateful Dead in a sort of legendary way, but the first music they heard by the Dead was most likely songs from Workingman's or American Beauty, played on the local FM station. Songs like "Uncle John's Band," "Casey Jones," "Friend Of The Devil" and "Truckin'" weren't exactly hits, but they were played often enough that rock fans recognized them.
When the Dead discovered that manager Lenny Hart had been stealing from them in early 1970, they made the decision that they were going to tour their way back to solvency. With new road manager Sam Cutler heading up the wagon train, the band toured relentlessly throughout 1970 and '71. They found a welcome reception at college campuses all over the country. The schools had entertainment budgets, and they had students anxious to get a taste of a real Fillmore East band. The fact that the Dead kept releasing albums that actually got FM airplay only made them more attractive for concert bookings.
The Dead seem to have considered the idea of a live album as early as October 1970. They finally took it seriously in the Spring of 1971, and recorded several shows on their Spring tour, with the idea of making a double live album. The band recorded shows at Manhattan Center and at Fillmore East in April 1971. They also recorded a show at Winterland on March 24, 1971. From the 9 shows, the band worked all summer to create a double live album.
The Dead had already released a double live album, of course, the immortal Live/Dead. Live/Dead, however, had been a pinnacle of sophisticated jamming that was modeled more on jazz albums than rock ones. The Dead's new album was structured more like a mini-concert. There would be one song from an old album ("The Other One") and a few new originals, but mostly there would be cover versions. The covers were both well-known and obscure, and all in all it represented a snapshot of the type of show the band was delivering across the country.
As a result, the Dead had a fair amount of leverage with Warners, for a change: two hit albums in a row, rising concert receipts and yet still retaining some underground cachet. So at the end of the Summer, they told Warners that they wanted to release a double live album, which was surely good with the label. Popular road bands like The Who, The Allman Brothers Band and Grand Funk Railroad had released such albums, so it would have made sense to Warners. The Dead had an album and a cover, a version of a Kelly/Mouse skeleton-and-roses poster from 1966. They also had a proposal for a title: "Skullfuck."
|Grateful Dead, better known to Deadheads as Skull And Roses, was released by Warner Brothers in Fall 1971, and the company financed FM broadcasts at many cities where the Dead played.|
Warners had a complete cow over the proposed title, yet the Dead insisted. Ultimately there was a famous meeting between Warners and the band. The Dead insisted that "everybody" had to come, including crew members and girlfriends, so Joe Smith and the Warners team hired the Continental Hyatt House conference room, since they couldn't fit into any room at the WB offices.
McNally describes the meeting in some detail. Smith ultimately persuaded the band that so few stores would carry the album with that title that it would be a financial debacle. Later Garcia and others said that it was all a big put-on, and they didn't really intend to follow through with it. The episode is very Grateful Dead, but it's worth noting that it was just the San Francisco hippie version of typical rock star behavior. People make fun of various bands for their requirements or excesses (brown m&ms, caviar, tvs thrown into swimming pools, etc) that their labels had to tolerate, and the Dead did the same thing. Admittedly, their version was less focused on the comfort of the band members and had a sense of humor, but ultimately it was rock starrish behavior nonetheless.
Nonetheless, Joe Smith prevailed, and the album title was changed to the cautious Grateful Dead. Smith correctly observed that ultimately the Grateful Dead were professionally ambitious, whatever other aesthetic values they may have had. Nonetheless, something critically important came out of the Hyatt House meeting. McNally:
[Another] piece of fallout from the meeting at the Hyatt House was a hefty promotional budget for the album, including about $100,000 for radio broadcasts of fourteen shows that fall, which would help make Skullf**k the Dead's first gold album. Their broadcasts were direct and effective, which was fortunate, because their other efforts would be less useful. [McNally, p.410]The concept of free radio broadcasts in multiple cities was radical stuff, indeed. Up until this time, there had been relatively few live FM broadcasts of rock bands. The Grateful Dead, as usual, had been in the forefront. Their earliest live broadcast had been on February 14, 1968 (from The Carousel, via KPMX-fm), far before most other bands. Their most recent live broadcast had been intriguing, from the Fillmore West on July 2, 1971. Bill Graham had made an historic event out of the closing of the Fillmore, and record company support had allowed for the entire week of Fillmore shows to be broadcast in quadrophonic, on two radio stations at once. On July 2, entire sets were broadcast by The Rowan Brothers (with Garcia and Bill Kreutzmann as part of the band), the New Riders Of The Purple Sage (with Garcia) and both sets by the Dead.
Clearly, the Fillmore West shows were a model for the Dead. The substantial record company promotional budget was required because FM stations were not going to give up airtime for free. If a band played live on FM radio--this is still true, if bands still broadcast live on FM--somebody, usually the record company, had to pay for all the lost advertising time for the commercial free broadcast. Now, I suspect that record companies agreed in advance to a certain number of ads over the next month in return for free air time for their band, rather than a single cash payment, but it doesn't matter. It cost money to put a band on commercial FM radio, and Warner Brothers was willing to pay.
Using McNally's numbers, the Grateful Dead received a $100,000 budget to pay for broadcasts in 14 cities. This amounts to around $7000 per broadcast. Some of that money would have gone to compensate the radio stations, and some would have gone to expenses, such as hiring local equipment and staff for the event. Live fm broadcasts were still new, and for many stations this may have been their first stab at it.
Record companies were not charities. The $100,000 they assigned to the Dead for promotional purposes would have been taken out of the Dead's future royalties. Using Ron Rakow's figure that the Dead were getting 31 cents per album from Warners (prior to going independent), this would have meant that the Dead would have had to sell about 323,000 albums to justify the costs of the broadcasts. I believe the Dead met that goal, but in an unexpected way that may not have been anticipated.
In formal terms, the band would have had to sell an extra 23,000 albums in each city that they broadcast. Its impossible to say whether they did or didn't, but it's not impossible that they met that goal in some of the larger cities. The real question would be whether the fans who heard the broadcasts and then bought the albums would have bought them anyway. However, it doesn't matter. Rather unexpectedly, one of the most important things that the tour did was create seeds for future Grateful Dead tapers. In many cases, the tapes stayed dormant for many years, but once taping took off, there were lost treasures from the 1971 tour to be found, and it added considerably to the excitement of accumulating Dead tapes in the later '70s.
In any case, thousands of rock fans all over the country heard their first Grateful Dead concert from the comfort of their own rooms, whether in the suburbs or the dorms. Plenty of those people got on the bus that very same night. It's hard to quantify how many tickets and albums were sold to people who heard those shows, but it was a lot--the $100,000 that the Dead gave up in royalties ended up being paid back many times over. In many ways, it could be argued that it was the best investment the Dead could have made in their own future musical success.
When looking backwards, it seems strange that other bands did not copy the Grateful Dead. FM airplay was the key to success in attracting attention in the early 70s, and it was hardly a secret. Here were the Dead getting 4 hours a night, and sucking people into their universe for good. Back in the 60s, the Dead had struck upon the idea of playing for free in a local park to attract attention for the evening's concert. Using better technology, they were now playing for free for the entire region. All the mostly young rock fans who couldn't get tickets were listening in their bedrooms. The Fall '71 Dead could really bring it, too, so every listener got the full dose.
There were lots of great bands touring in 1971--why weren't they all doing this? Traffic, J Geils Band, Ten Years After, The Byrds, Poco, The Faces--where were they? All of them had great live shows (check out sugarmegs if you don't believe me) and could have owned the audience in every town, and yet they didn't do it.
The resistance to live rock broadcasts in the early 70s seems to have been driven by fear of bootleg records. Since the late 60s, mysterious albums with white covers had shown up in record stores, featuring studio outtakes or live recordings. Some of them were less than stellar, but some of them opened fans up to an entire new universe. Record companies were in a complete panic over the idea that their monopoly over artists could be disintermediated, and they were generally against anything that encouraging bootlegging. Most bootlegs only sold in the thousands, at most, but when they got reviewed in Rolling Stone corporate boardrooms got very nervous indeed.
Now, some bootleggers may have had artistic motives, but they weren't compensating artists, either. Almost no rock bands, certainly not the Grateful Dead, were actually sympathetic to bootleg records being sold. Nonetheless, those bootlegs were tremendously influential in the early 70s record industry. The Dead played an inadvertent role in the first successful bootleg of an audience tape, a live recording of the Rolling Stones at the Oakland Coliseum on November 9, 1969. The "release" of Liver Than You'll Ever Be was supposedly responsible for the corresponding release of the Rolling Stones live album Get Your Ya-Ya's Out. Certainly, bootlegs indicated a public taste for live rock, and numerous live albums were released in the early 70s.
As a fellow scholar has documented, the Grateful Dead were heavily bootlegged in the early 70s, and the band went out of their way to interfere with them. It may even be that the release of Skull And Roses was intended as a counterweight to available bootlegs. Nonetheless, the Dead looked into the abyss and created potential bootleg material by broadcasting live. The gamble paid off in every way. If only Traffic had done the same when they toured in Fall 1971, behind Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys, music history could have had a different twist to it.
|The poster for the Grateful Dead/NRPS show at the Allen Theater in Cleveland, on October 29, 1971. Once again the promoter has used the WB-provided blank.|
The Fall 1971 Grateful Dead broadcasts were unique in so many ways, it is difficult to absorb them all. For one thing, in 1971 the Dead were still promoting their shows under the rubric of "An Evening With The Grateful Dead." Most rock shows back in the day had two or three acts, but the Dead brought their own opening act and then played two sets of their own. The New Riders Of The Purple Sage, who up until the Summer of '71 had largely been a mystery, had finally released their debut album on Columbia Records in September. Jerry Garcia's replacement on pedal steel guitar, Buddy Cage, was already around and rehearsing with the New Riders, but Garcia still played with the Riders initially in order to publicize their new album.
Think about this for a moment. The Grateful Dead, though peculiar outlaws of a sort, were bona fide rock stars by any accounting. Jerry Garcia was far and away the most famous member of the group. And yet here he was appearing with the opening act every night. Plenty of sixties rock stars made guest appearances on albums in the 70s, indeed record companies made a point of publicizing those appearances. Yet the stars did not appear with the bands, much less opening their own concerts. Neil Young, for example, worked with the band Crazy Horse, but they did not open for him with Neil on guitar.
For at least 8 of the 14 shows financed by Warner Brothers, the New Riders Of The Purple Sage performed on the radio as well. Now, I'm sure that the Riders were subsidized by Columbia rather than Warners, but once again here was another anomaly. The Grateful Dead would be on the FM airwaves for close to four hours, but the most famous member of the band was on the air for an additional hour as well with the opening act.
I have heard a tape of the initial broadcast of the tour, from Minneapolis, and the New Riders played 75 minutes. During the set break, there was an interview with Garcia and others, from earlier in the evening. On top of that there was a tape of a sort of prose poem from Robert Hunter, who at the time was quite a mysterious figure. Thus the Dead dominated KQRS-fm in Minneapolis for at least five hours, probably six. How many Deadheads got on the bus that night, do you think? In some form or another, the same thing must have happened in every city. The Grateful Dead reaped the benefits for many years.
Live broadcasts around a Dead tour should have celebrated the release of each Grateful Dead album, but it was not to be. By the time of the next album, Europe '72, the Dead were leaving Warner Brothers, so it wasn't like the company was going to strive to make it a big hit. Subsequent albums were released by the cash-poor Grateful Dead label, so they could not afford the strategy that would have worked. The only other time it was attempted was for the miserable Steal Your Face album, when United Artists supported a series of broadcasts on the East Coast in 1976, but that is a story for another post.
The Grateful Dead released their Grateful Dead album ("Skull And Roses") in Fall 1971, and the cross-country radio broadcasts helped propel the album into gold record status. Once a hipster cult band, the Grateful Dead were now big business. However, just as few acts bought into the Dead's scheme of playing free concerts to publicize local concerts, even fewer--as in none--would broadcast live shows across the country. Whether this was out of fear that they would be implicitly conceding that every show was the same, or just fear of bootleg records, it didn't happen. The broadcasts of the Fall '71 Grateful Dead tour were a signpost to new space, but it was a freeway exit that was never taken by other bands. And more's the pity for that.
However, there was a sort of successor to the Grateful Dead broadcasts, namely the syndicated FM radio show The King Biscuit Flower Hour. The Biscuit, as it was known, taped live concerts in mobile recording trucks and put portions of the shows on the air. Each show was about an hour, and often the broadcasts took place within several weeks of the original concert. LPs (and later cds) were circulated to the subscribing FM stations, and they would broadcast them on a fixed schedule. KSAN used to have The Biscuit on Sunday nights, as I recall.
The King Biscuit Flower Hour began in February, 1973. There's no way the founders weren't aware of the Dead's experiment. The Biscuit was far more controlled: once ads were included, the actual music portion was about 50 minutes or so. Sometimes there would be two or three bands, so some of the "sets" were shorter. Bands or their management would choose what they considered to be a good overview, usually a couple of classic hits and some songs from the newest album. If there were some bad takes the night of the recording, they weren't used for the broadcast.
For fans like me, The King Biscuit Flower Hour was a glimpse into what was happening at concerts I couldn't go to, a taste of what bands actually sounded like live. For the bands, it was a chance to get heard in my bedroom or dorm room, a time when I would give a band a full hour of my attention. For tapers, of course, King Biscuit shows often provided the earliest circulating FM tapes of many bands. King Biscuit continued to broadcast until 1993. The Grateful Dead appeared on the show a number of times, and that too provided some widely circulating tapes. Although a 1982 fire destroyed many original tapes, the surviving Biscuit tapes can be heard at Wolfgang's Vault.
|The poster for the GD/NRPS November 20, 1971 show at Pauley Pavilion was the only unique poster of the tour.|
July 2, 1971 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/New Riders Of The Purple Sage (KSAN-fm, KSFX-fm)
As part of the closing of the Fillmore West, the entire week of shows was broadcast in Quadrophonic on KSAN-fm and KSFX-fm. The New Riders and Rowan Brothers were broadcast as well, though both were without records at the time. I have written about this show at length. It appears to be the template for all future Grateful Dead broadcasts, a complete show sent over the airwaves in its entirety, warts and all.
August 21, 1971 Mickey Hart's Ranch, Novato, CA: Shanti/(New Riders Of The Purple Sage)
Shanti was an Indian/American fusion rock band on Atlantic. There was an event at Mickey Hart's ranch that was either an FM broadcast or a TV/FM special. The New Riders also played, but it doesn't appear that they were broadcast. We remain in hope that audio or video survived, however.
October 19, 1971 Northrup Auditorium, U. of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN: Grateful Dead/New Riders Of The Purple Sage (KQRS-fm)
The Grateful Dead's fall tour, and Keith Godchaux's debut, began in Minneapolis. The New Riders album had just been released the month before, so the broadcast opened with a 75-minute New Riders set, featuring Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar. The set break included a taped interview with Garcia from earlier in the day, with weird crew noises in the background, and some sort of Robert Hunter "tone poem." The Dead played two massive electric sets. All told, they must have been on the radio for at least five hours, and probably more. I do not know how often this exact format was repeated on the fall tour.
|Note all the touring bands playing the Auditorium Theater in Chicago, besides the Dead: Traffic, Jeff Beck Group, Jethro Tull and Ten Years After most prominently. Why don't we have FM broadcasts of all of them?|
The Grateful Dead went on to play two nights at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago. The touring strategy seemed to be to advertise a show at a venue, and when it sold out they would add a second night. The first night in Chicago was broadcast on WGLD-fm, based in suburban Oak Park. Once again the New Riders were broadcast as well.
October 23, 1971 Easttown Theater, Detroit, MI: Grateful Dead (WABX-fm)
The Dead played two nights at the Easttown in Detroit, and once again the first night was broadcast. I am not aware that there was a New Riders broadcast that night.
|The poster for the GD/NRPS shows at Rochester (Oct 26) and Syracuse (Oct 27). Since this design turned up again in New Mexico, it was most likely a WB-provided blank.|
The Dead also played the Palestra in Rochester, and broadcast from there. Once again, the New Riders were not broadcast to my knowledge. I have to suspect that Columbia didn't want to pay up to promote the New Riders in smaller cities. I guess it didn't matter--the New Riders are unbelievably popular in Central New York unto this very day.
October 27, 1971 Onandaga County War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, NY: Grateful Dead (WAER-fm)
In the smaller cities, I don't think there ever was an expectation of adding a second night, so the Dead just played Rochester and relatively nearby Syracuse.
October 29. 1971 Allen Theater, Cleveland, OH: Grateful Dead (WMCR-fm)
Following the schedule, the Dead played one night in Cleveland and the next night in Cincinnati.
|Once again, the Skull & Roses blank was used for the Cincinnati shows. Many of these were probably hung up in record stores, and only preserved because employee fans took them home instead of letting them be thrown out.|
The Dead played two nights in Cincinnati, and broadcast the first one. The New Riders were also on the broadcast again. I don't know the name of the Cincinnati station.
November 7, 1971 Harding Theater, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead (KSFX-fm)
The Dead played two nights at the very tiny Harding Theater in San Francisco. You can't believe how small that place must have been. A second show was added the night before (November 6). The show on November 7 was broadcast on KSFX-fm, a sort of corporate sister station to KSAN, as far as I know.
I believe the New Riders opened these shows, although I am not certain. If that is so, then November 7, 1971 was Jerry's last appearance as a regular member of the New Riders. He would make a few guest appearances in later year, but he turned the pedal steel chair over to Buddy Cage after this.
WREK is the Georgia Tech University student station, although it was far more powerful than typical college stations. In the early '70s, WREK appeared to have 3400 watts (KZSU-fm at Stanford, by contrast, had 10 watts).
The New Riders were broadcast as well, and Buddy Cage made his live debut with the band. That's pretty rare, when you think about it--a band member (of any band) makes his live debut on an FM broadcast.
November 15, 1971 Austin Municipal Auditorium, Austin, TX: Grateful Dead (????-fm)
[update] I missed this broadcast, thanks to LIA for pointing it out. I don't know the station.
|The other blank turns up in New Mexico.|
After three dates in Texas, the Dead had another broadcast in Albuquerque. Why the Dead broadcast in Albuquerque but not
November 20, 1971 Pauley Pavilion, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA: Grateful Dead (KMET-fm)
The Dead played their first concert at Pauley Pavilion. A lot of concerts in Pauley in those days were with restricted seating, so the band would have been playing to a smaller crowd than they would in later years. I don't believe the New Riders were broadcast. KMET was owned by the same corporation as KSAN (Metromedia).
December 2, 1971 Boston Music Hall, Boston, MA: Grateful Dead/New Riders Of The Purple Sage (WBCN-fm)
The Grateful Dead and the New Riders were both broadcast on WBCN on December 2. The bands had added another show the night before (December 1).
December 5, 1971 Felt Forum, New York, NY: Grateful Dead/New Riders Of The Purple Sage (WNEW-fm)
The Dead and the Riders also broadcast from the Felt Forum. The Dead's potential audience was still young in those days, and this broadcast had to have gotten tons of teenagers in Long Island, Westchester and Northern New Jersey on to the bus with an express ticket. I think the show was widely bootlegged however (I had one--it was great) and that was the sort of thing the New York-based record industry would notice. The band also played newly-written material that had not been released, and that must have seemed suicidal to New York record companies, even thought the opposite turned out to be the case.
December 10, 1971 Fox Theater, St. Louis, MO: Grateful Dead/New Riders Of The Purple Sage (KADI-fm)
The Dead and the New Riders also broadcast from St. Louis. If you map the Dead's broadcasts, you can see that much of the country was covered. How many albums were sold by these broadcasts? I feel confident that it was ultimately far more than 323,000.
December 31, 1971 Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/New Riders Of The Purple Sage (KSAN-fm)
The final broadcast of the year was the New Year's blowout at Winterland. This was probably not part of the original Warner Brothers budget, but it was broadcasts like this that popularized the idea that the Dead playing San Francisco New Year's was a thing.