Thursday, December 1, 2016

Jerry Garcia Live on KZSU-am and fm, Stanford University, 1963-64 (KZSU I and FM Part Zero)

The KZSU (880-am) listings from the Stanford Daily for Tuesday, March 5, 1963. At 9:00pm is "The Flinthill Special," hosted by Ted Claire, "authentic American folk music, including tapes recorded last weekend at the Top of the Tangent, Palo Alto's newest coffee house."

Jerry Garcia had a long and storied history as a performing artist, in numerous aggregations, the most famous of which was the Grateful Dead. One of the many innovations that the Dead popularized were live performance broadcasts. A few legendary radio stations, like KSAN-fm in San Francisco, KPFA-fm in Berkeley and WNEW-fm in New York, have a particularly legendary status amongst Deadheads for their historic and widely circulated  broadcasts of Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia concerts. Yet the first, seminal and arguably longest broadcaster of Garcia performances has gone largely unnoticed. KZSU, the Stanford University radio station, not only broadcast Jerry Garcia as far back as late 1962, they broadcast him regularly until 1989. There is no comparable station in Garcia or Dead history. Appropriately enough, Jerry Garcia's first studio recording was broadcast on KZSU in Fall 1962, and the Garcia Estate has released that long lost recording as Folk Time. In light of this release, this post will consider the history of Jerry Garcia broadcasts on Stanford's KZSU. The story of KZSU and Jerry Garcia is so multi-faceted that even this blog can not cover the story in one post, so for today I will just unravel the tale of Garcia's early 60s performances on KZSU.

The Hart Valley Drifters, KZSU Studio A, Stanford University, November or December 1962
As many Deadheads now know, Jerry Garcia's first studio recording was with his early Old Time music band, The Hart Valley Drifters. The lineup was
Jerry Garcia-guitar, banjo, lead vocals
Ken Frankel-banjo, fiddle, guitar
David Nelson-guitar, vocals
Norm Van Maastricht-dobro
Robert Hunter-bass, vocals
In November of 1962, friend and fellow musician Ted Claire, invited them to record at the KZSU radio studio. The tape was made so that Claire, a Stanford student, could play part of it on the college radio show that he hosted on the station The story, however, is far more quixotic than that simple explanation. The KZSU "studio" was pretty much just a room at the radio station facility on campus. The recording was done by Claire himself, with a single microphone (on an Ampex 350s at 7 1/2ips, for you tape lineage folks), and not much preparation. The musicians themselves were pretty new to their instruments, but no matter: it is a portal to another world, when everything was still possible. Photographer Jerald Melrose was there, and his photos turn the release into a true time machine.

In the Fall of 1962, Ted Claire hosted a Friday night show on KZSU called "Folk Time." At the time, there were two strains of folk music in America, "popular" folk music like The Kingston Trio and Joan Baez, and "authentic" folk music, which was bluegrass, "Old-Time" and blues, played by the original practitioners or in their styles. Jerry Garcia and his friends preferred the latter. I don't know if Claire hosted "Folk Time" every single Friday. Some trace evidence in the Stanford Daily campus newspaper suggests that one Phil DeGuerre may have been an occasional guest host. DeGuerre would resurface in the story in the next decade as one of the filmmakers behind Sunshine Daydream (Veneta, OR, August 27 1972) as well as the remake of The Twilight Zone (with Jerry on the soundtrack), but that was all still in the future.

The remarkable story of the actual recording has been well covered by David Browne and others, so I don't need to recap it all here. Scholar and researcher Brian Miksis found that Claire had kept the original tape, and with some negotiation and remastering, an amazing album followed. Miksis' liner notes tell the whole story, but the essence of it was that near the end of the Fall '62 semester, Claire broadcast part of the Hart Valley Drifters tape on his Friday night "Folk Time" show. The story that has remained under the surface has been the remarkable role that KZSU played in Jerry Garcia's career, and I will dig down deep into that soil.

Jerry Garcia's First Radio Broadcast: Berkeley or Stanford?
The intellectual dynamic of the Bay Area since the early 20th century has been an ongoing discourse between the University of California at Berkeley, opened in 1868--don't call it "Cal" unless you are mainly interested in sports--and Stanford University, opened in 1893. Rivals and partners in many endeavors, each a world class university, they compete for hegemony across the intellectual spectrum. In my day, at least, superiority was judged not by football (please), but by Nobel Prizes. As I recall, Stanford was ahead 17-16 when I was in graduate school. In Garciological studies, the same dynamic is in play: Berkeley and Stanford vie for supremacy.

In late 1962, UC Berkeley student Phil Lesh was an engineer (meaning: tape operator) at KPFA-fm (94.1), part of the publicly funded Pacifica network. KPFA was not affiliated with UC Berkeley but it was an intimate part of Berkeley political and cultural life (and remains so). Specifically, Phil was the engineer for a night time folk program called "The Midnight Special." At least some of the time, folk singers performed live on the show, from the KPFA studios. Appearing on KPFA's "Midnight Special" was a rite of passage for many local folk performers. Phil and Jerry made a tape, and Phil played it for host Gert Chiarito, who invited Jerry to perform on the show. Thus Garcia and Phil Lesh anticipated David Gans by a few decades, performing live from the KPFA studios in Fall of 1962. Garcia went on to perform other times on The Midnight Special, as did Pigpen, Peter Albin and others. Were Garcia's performances on KPFA taped? If they were, it wouldn't have mattered, since they very likely would have been taped over subsequently.

Yet did Garcia appear on Berkeley's KPFA before or after he appeared on Stanford's KZSU? We may never know, since no log of performers (or other evidence) on The Midnight Special has ever turned up. However, for partisans of both universities, we can offer some nice parity. KPFA in Berkeley hosted Garcia's first live radio performance, and his first broadcast on FM radio. KZSU at Stanford, meanwhile, hosted Garcia's first studio performance and his first broadcast on AM radio, as KZSU was solely an AM station at the time.

The Roots Of College Radio
One byproduct of the massive expansion of American higher education after World War 2 was the rise of radio stations associated with colleges and universities. In the Post WW2 universe, college was seen as more than just a degree factory where future employees were produced, and schools had a host of activities that were meant to broaden both the college community and the individual students themselves. In the case of Stanford University, radio station KZSU started in 1947 as part of the Department of Communication. Its facilities were used by the speech and drama department, although unlike some smaller schools, Stanford was not providing a professional program for future broadcasters. KZSU was only broadcast on 880 on the AM dial, and the station could only be heard in campus buildings, like dorms and fraternities (see the appendix below for some more details).

By the early 1960s, radio played a more important part in student life, but KZSU was still a campus-only station. As far as I know, all Stanford freshmen and all women were required to live on campus. There was not enough housing for all undergraduates, so some Stanford men lived off campus, but I do know that the majority of undergraduate students still lived on campus in any case. All women students and all Freshman males lived in campus dorms. Some men also lived in fraternities, but the sororities had been shut down some decades earlier. KZSU broadcast to the dorms and fraternities.

Although KZSU was only audible on campus, it had an outsized importance to Stanford students. FM radio was exotic, and little was broadcast on it, and regular AM stations in San Francisco and San Jose were the only other options. There were a few Top 40 stations (KYA-1260 and KFRC-610 in the City, and KLIV-1590 in San Jose), a country station (KEEN-1370) and various news-talk-music stations for adults (like KSFO-560, KNBR-680, KCBS-740 and KGO-810). So Stanford's student-run-for-student-listeners station was a good choice for a dorm resident.

KZSU producers, announcers and disc jockeys were all students. The programs were a mixture of Stanford sports, news updates, documentary-type specials and lots of music. A wide spectrum of music was covered, including jazz and classical. It being the early 60s, when folk music was popular with college students, there was folk music on KZSU as well. Certainly more folk was broadcast on KZSU than was heard on any commercial station, and that is how the connection to The Top Of The Tangent came about.

The Stanford Daily KZSU 880 listings for Tuesday, May 14, 1963. The Flinthill Special is hosted by Dave Schoenstedt, who had organized the folk shows at Top of the Tangent with Stu Goldstein, a fellow physician. The Top of the Tangent sponsored the Flinthill Special show, and Claire and Schoenstedt shared hosting duties
"The Flint Hill Special" and The Top Of The Tangent
It is a well-known piece of Garciaography that Garcia and his folk pals really made their bones at a tiny folk club called The Top Of The Tangent in Palo Alto. What has remained under the radar is how critical KZSU was to the modest success of The Tangent. Without KZSU, the Top Of The Tangent might not have thrived, and thus the whole story of Garcia, Weir, Pigpen and Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Band Champions would have taken some different, unknown course.

When Ted Claire recorded the Hart Valley Drafters in late 1962, he had been a junior at Stanford, and an aspiring folk musician himself. Claire, in fact, had been around Stanford as a freshman when Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter had played their first gig as Bob And Jerry in the Arroyo Hall lounge at Wilbur Hall. Claire does not recall it, even if he may have been there, but folk music was in the air in places like Stanford and Palo Alto in the early 60s. Thus it is not surprising that Claire found his way that Fall to parties at Suzy Wood's parent's house, where he met Garcia, Hunter, the Albins, Dave Nelson and the rest of the crew of bohemian folkies.

Even though the likes of Garcia and Peter Albin were not Stanford students, they weren't unknown around Stanford, because folk music was hip and popular at the time. Another Stanford student at the time recalled to me (in a private email)
when I was a freshman in 1962-1963 at Burbank House in Stern Hall...We had dorm parties where we were entertained by bluegrass duo Peter and Rodney Albin. I used to have a snapshot of the two of them but it is now lost.
Also in my freshman year, the guy across the hall from me, Ted Claire, was a bluegrass guitarist. I used to have a snapshot from the same roll, also unfortunately now missing, of Ron "Pigpen" McKernan sitting on the bed in Ted's room playing acoustic blues guitar. 
Others recall Garcia appearing at dorm parties as well. "Payment" was probably some food and something to smoke, but the local folk musicians were intimately connected to Stanford, so that made a Palo Alto folk club a logical enterprise.

I have discussed the history of The Top Of The Tangent at some length elsewhere, so I will only briefly recap it. Two restless young doctors, Dave Schoenstadt and Stu Goldstein, decided to start a folk club in eary 1963. Their only guide was a Pete Seeger book called How To Make A Hootenanny. There was a delicatessen at the end of University Avenue that was nearest Stanford, with an extra room above it. The two doctors arranged to have shows there on Friday and Saturday nights, as well as a "hoot night" on Wednesdays. The little room held about 75 people. Sometimes there were touring folk acts, but more often the performers were from the Bay Area folk scene. Locals who shined at hoot night got a chance to play on the weekends, and could build their own followings. The Tangent deli was at 117 University, and the folk club was above it--hence "The Top Of The Tangent." In reality, however, everyone just called the folk club "The Tangent," so I will do that hereafter.

The Wildwood Boys, with Garcia, David Nelson and Robert Hunter, played The Tangent on February 22 and 23, 1963, just a month after the club opened. I have to assume that the group had excelled on a Wednesday hoot night some time earlier, but that seems to be lost in the mists of time. We can be certain of the date, however, because we have a pretty good tape of at least some of the performance from Saturday, February 23. Garcia tapes are so omnipresent that is was only recently that I started to pursue the issue of why we were lucky enough to have a Garcia Tangent tape at all, much less several Garcia Tangent tapes from 1963 and '64.

Here's the reason we have those early Garcia tapes--throughout much of 1963, every weekend Tangent show was taped, and parts of all those shows were broadcast on KZSU. I'll repeat that, just so you don't think I mis-typed--almost every Tangent show through at least June 1963 was taped, and parts of most of them were broadcast. So there's no mystery why we have prehistoric Garcia tapes. Don't forget, by the way, that everyone else who played the Tangent in '63--Pigpen, Peter Albin, Jorma Kaukonen, Janis Joplin, Herb Petersen and many others--would have been broadcast on KZSU as well.  And yes, before we go on any further, I assure you that the Garciaological equivalent of SEAL Team 6 has been on the case for some time. If there's anything new to uncover, they'll get it.

The two good doctors who ran the Top Of The Tangent knew that Stanford students would be a key component of the audience of any folk club. Since KZSU featured weekly shows of many different types of music, The Tangent sponsored the Tuesday night folk show. The host was either (Stanford student) Ted Claire or (Dr. and Top Of The Tangent co-founder) Dave Schoenstadt. The hour long show was aired at 9:00pm Tuesday nights. A sample description, from the Tuesday May 14 edition of the Stanford Daily (clipped above), says
9:00: Flinthill Special- An hour of authentic American folk music, records, tapes, live talent (Dave Schoenstadt)
"Flint Hill Special" was the name of a famous Flatt & Scruggs bluegrass standard, and in the code of the time, "authentic American folk music" meant "serious" folk music, like bluegrass or old-time music, not "popular" sing-alongs like the Kingston Trio.

Ted Claire's deal with the doctors was that he would tape the weekend Tangent shows, and broadcast some highlights over the air on Tuesday nights. So the boys and girls in the Stanford dorm who liked folk music could listen to KZSU and hear what they missed at the Tangent that weekend. Little did they know that a few years later they'd be seeing Jerry, Janis and Jorma at the Fillmore, playing many of the same songs just a little bit louder.

Rodney Albin had created the first Peninsula folk club in the Summer of 61. The Boar's Head was near El Camino Real in Belmont, about halfway between Stanford and San Francisco. Garcia and the crew had played the Boar's Head in the Summers of '61 and '62, but the action, including Rodney Albin, moved to the Tangent in 1963. There were two other folk clubs further South, the Offstage near San Jose State and the Brass Knocker in Saratoga, so along with some special events at the junior colleges, there was something like a little folk circuit. The realization, decades later, that live music from the Tangent was being broadcast out to the Stanford dorms helps explain how the Top Of The Tangent caught on so quickly in the Winter and Spring quarters of 1963  in sleepy downtown Palo Alto.

The SEAL Team has informed me that Ted Claire, and only Ted Claire, had permission to tape shows at the Tangent. This was so he could broadcast some of them on his Tuesday night show. This made Claire's show unique, and in turn provided publicity for The Top Of The Tangent. The famous and well-circulated tapes from The Tangent in 1963 (Wildwood Boys Feb 23 '63, Jerry and Sara May 4 '63 and Pigpen, Peter Albin and The Second Story Men) all derive from master tapes that were recorded for KZSU.

What happened to the rest of the tapes? The most likely answer is that they were recorded over. High quality reels were expensive in those days, particularly to penniless bohemian college students, so it is very likely that few people thought to preserve what had been recorded the weekend before. In particular, the idea of a huge stack of pristine reels, carefully labeled in a climate controlled vault, would have been unthinkable to both college kids in the dorm and scuffling banjo instructors with a wife and baby to feed. What money they had went to rent, food and cigarettes. We are lucky that any survived at all, and if we are even luckier a few more scraps may yet surface.

Given the history of the Grateful Dead and live broadcasts, however, it's remarkable to consider that in the first half of 1963, live performances by Jerry Garcia and many of his future-famous friends were broadcast into the Stanford dorms on KZSU (880am) on Tuesday nights at 9:00pm. Perhaps a few years later, some of those former Stanford undergraduates were at the Fillmore or Avalon, and thought that Jerry or Pigpen or Janis or Jorma sounded somewhat familiar, but probably figured "it's the drugs." Not in this case.

The Trail Goes Cold
Just about our only source of concrete information about shows at The Top Of The Tangent comes from ads in the Stanford Daily. The Tangent ran ad every Friday, and we can piece together much of the story of 1963 (see JGBP's excellent overview, which parallels my slightly different approach). However, in the summer, although the Stanford Daily published intermittently, there were no Tangent ads, since there were few students around to attend shows. Thus we don't have any idea whether the pace of shows continued throughout the summer of '63 or not.

In any case, both Dr. Schoenstadt and Dr. Goldstein were drafted into the Army in 1963. Yes, in those days, even doctors were not exempt from military service. So they were forced to hand over the management to a friend, a flamenco guitarist named Ron Zaplawa, who managed the Top Of The Tangent for the next few years. When Stanford returned to session in the Fall of '63, the taping deal with the Top Of The Tangent was not restarted, which is probably the reason we don't have any late 63 tapes from Garcia or anyone else.

KZSU-am listings from the Monday, October 28, 1963 Stanford Daily. Pete Wanger reads the news at  8:00, 9;00 and 10:30 and Ted Claire hosts "Folk Time" at 10:00
The Summer Of 1964
Even though Ted Claire was no longer taping at the Top Of The Tangent, he was still a disc jockey at KZSU. A Stanford Daily listing from Monday, October 28, 1963 (clipped above) says
10:00 FOLK TIME Bluegrass presented by Ted Claire
Sharp eyes will notice that the news programs at 8:00, 9:00 and 10:30, hosted by one Pete Wanger. Wanger was a "producer" at KZSU, whatever exactly that meant, and he would play an important role in the next adventure. Back in May of 1963, an article in the Stanford Daily had explained (in the May 1 issue, see below) the forthcoming plans for KZSU. Rather than just being an AM station heard only in the dorms, KZSU would broadcast in FM as well over the regular airwaves, on frequency 90.1. The transmitter was only 10 watts, so well into the 1970s KZSU-fm was only audible in the neighboring towns of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View and Los Altos, but the thinking at the time was probably that it was sufficient to cover the area where Stanford students might be expected to reside. KZSU expanded to FM in the Spring of 1964.

At the same time, music had stopped being presented at the Tangent in early 1964. It's possible that the entire deli was closed for remodeling. Although the two founding doctors were still in the military, music was presented again at the Top Of The Tangent starting on May 1, 1964. Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Band Champions were the featured act. This time, there was music both upstairs and down. Pizza was newly added to the menu, and The Tangent seemed to be appealing to both local families and college students at the same time. Because of Palo Alto liquor laws, there were no bars in downtown Palo Alto, but the Tangent served beer, so that counted for a lot more than it might in other towns. We know from Stanford Daily ads that Mother McRee's played The Tangent more than once in the Spring of 1964.

The most famous recording in Tangent history, however, was the tape of Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Band Champions, recorded by KZSU producer Pete Wanger and later released it's entirety by Grateful Dead Records. I now have a clearer idea of the history of KZSU, Garcia and The Tangent, but the Summer 1964 recording fits none of the prior iterations. Nonetheless, with a close look some of the differences can be explained, and the picture comes more clearly into view, if still not fully focused.

The most peculiar thing about the July '64 Jug Band appearance at the Tangent was that there seems to have been a flyer for the engagement. SEAL Team 6 assures me that the flyer is real, but we don't know of flyers for other Tangent engagements (although I'm aware of one that may have circulated for May 1 '64). 60s flyers and posters for Grateful Dead shows are so common that it did not occur to me until recently that the Tangent was somewhat of an outlier--why were there no flyers, even crude ones, for other shows there? What makes sense to me now is that Tangent shows were normally advertised in the Stanford Daily, but the Daily rarely published in the Summer. Thus if the Jug Band wanted to play Summer dates at the Tangent, they would need to drum up an audience themselves,

Mike Wanger and Bob Weir, about 1961 (from Mike Wanger's site)
We know that Pete Wanger was a producer at KZSU, and while we don't know exactly what that meant, it seems to suggest he had the leverage to broadcast what he wanted, within reason. Pete's younger brother Mike had been friends with Bob Weir since freshman year of high school (probably at the Menlo School) in Fall of 1961. Weir then changed schools several times, but still played folk music with Mike Wanger. Weir's first public performance, at the Tangent in 1963, was with a one-time-only group called The Uncalled Four, with Weir, Mike Wanger, Debbie Peckham and Rachel Garbett (blog readers will be delighted to know that Rachel Garbett's mother was my first grade teacher the next year). Although Bob Weir had graduated to the Jug Band by 1964, he was still friends with Mike.

It seems that Pete Wanger was producing a show called "Live From The Top Of The Tangent." Various long-forgotten acts were recorded (inlcuding The Enigmas, The Jaspers, Bolek and Dave, Buddy Bonn), and those tapes existed at least as of 1997. I assume the show was broadcast in the Summer of '64, but I am only making a plausible guess. Presumably, the material on the McRee's tape was broadcast on KZSU-fm shortly after it was recorded, possibly in its entirety. According to Mike Wanger, it appears that three sets were recorded, along with an interview, probably on the same night, and then the tapes were edited together for the radio. Producer Jeffrey Norman took the edited material and reconstructed it, so while the tape is spliced, it probably gave a good picture of what a night with the Jug Band was like.

By the Fall of 1964, Ted Claire had graduated (he would later surface in Robert Hunter's Roadhog), and by the Fall of '65, something else was happening. Interestingly, the fledgling Warlocks played "hoot night" at the Tangent a few times in 1965. Not only had the little club had expanded its booking to include occasional rock bands, but according to my eyewitness, since Jerry and the boys had always played the Tangent anyway, so who would stop them? The Warlocks probably played the same numbers that the Jug Band had played. Still, KZSU was not broadcasting from the Tangent, so there was no taping going on,

update: Scholar and Commenter LightIntoAshes reports that Live At The Tangent continued into 1965, although we doubt there was any Garcia material
Pete Wanger was one of the producers of "Live from the Top of the Tangent," which aired in ten half-hour programs. They didn't broadcast the McCree's set as a single show; instead, several songs were scattered throughout the programs. Presumably each episode had a variety of performers. 
Only a few of the songs on the McCree's CD were actually included in the programs. Fortunately Wanger kept a compilation reel of McCree's songs that hadn't been broadcast. It certainly isn't a complete show, just selections. Phil DeGuere was one of the hosts of the "Live from the Tangent" show on Friday nights from October '64 to early '65, so the show was still airing later than this post suggests. (April '65 was the last one I saw in the Daily.) 
What I don't know is whether the shows taped in summer '64 were still being broadcast over the next school year. The "From the Tangent" programs in '64-65 were in a pretty big time slot (typically 9:00-10:45), so I suspect they were still taping new material & performers at the Tangent. 

The May 1, 1963 article in the Stanford Daily that explains the forthcoming FM future of KZSU
Stanford, as always, was ahead of its time. When FM rock radio started to be a big thing in 1967, KZSU had already gone FM. KMPX-fm was broadcasting live rock shows as early as May 30 1967. KZSU was not far behind, as it started regular broadcasts from a Palo Alto club called The Poppycock in early 1968. The Poppycock was at 135 University Avenue, just a few doors down from The Tangent at 117 University. The earliest live FM broadcast I can confirm on KZSU was the hip comedy trio Congress Of Wonders, live from The Poppycock on February 15, 1968. There were intermittent live broadcasts up through the 1970s, depending to some extent on what venues were available within the tiny 10-watt range of KZSU-fm's transmitters. Garcia would return to the KZSU airwaves in 1973 and beyond. In various ensembles, Garcia was broadcast performing live six or seven more times, through 1989, but that tangled story will have to wait for the next installment.

Appendix 1:KZSU History
From the KZSU page on Stanford's website:
We exist to serve the Stanford community with quality radio broadcasts, including music, sports, news, and public affairs programming. 
The station is owned by the Board of Trustees of Stanford University and is governed by a Board of Directors appointed by the President. We got our FM license in 1964, and upgraded from 10 to 500 watts in 1978. Before 1964, KZSU broadcast as an AM carrier current station (through the University's power supply) on 880 kHz, starting in 1947 as a part of the Department of Communication. 
KZSU is a non-commercial station funded mainly by Stanford student fees, in addition to underwriting and listener donations. KZSU's staff is all volunteer, made up of Stanford students, staff, alumni, and community affiliates.

Appendix 2: KZSU In The 1950s
Longtime Bay Area radio executive Fred Krock has some recollection of KZSU in the 1950s. While Krock was a student about 10 years before the time discussed above, the circumstances in Palo Alto and Stanford were still not that different in 1963.
When I started college in 1950 KZSU at Stanford was a carrier current station broadcasting on 880 kHz, a frequency that was not used by any broadcast station in the area. The Stanford speech and drama department had good quality new RCA studio equipment used for radio classes and by the station. 
Still, broadcasting was not important at Stanford. It did not give a degree or have graduate studies in broadcasting. The speech and drama department’s classes mostly were taught by the same professor or one particular instructor. I talked with that professor about his broadcasting classes. He stated very clearly that, “Stanford was not a broadcasting trade school.” I asked him who would find his classes useful, and he replied, “Future public television program directors can get an idea about what was required to work in broadcasting.” 
Later [in the 1950s] I tried to interest Stanford in getting a FM license for KZSU. I had arranged for alumni working in electronics to install a donated FM transmitter at no cost to Stanford. The reply was that Stanford as a private university had no obligation to supply radio programs to the residents of Palo Alto. Years later KZSU did get the FM license that it uses today. 
At Stanford all undergraduate women and all male freshmen were required to live on campus. An exception was made for students with a family living nearby, who could live at home. Some men lived in fraternity houses, but the school had banished sororities and all the former sorority houses had been converted into dormitories. KZSU served all these locations. 
Stanford Research Institute (SRI) was located in Menlo Park, on part of a former military base. Some students even lived in the original army housing, so KZSU leased a program line from Pacific Bell and fed programs to a carrier current transmitter at SRI [for those who have read Jesse Jarnow's fine book Heads, the fact that Jerry Garcia was broadcast into SRI as early as 1963 has a certain Humbeadian synchronicity]. 
Stanford did not have enough dormitory space for all male sophomores, juniors, and seniors, therefore many lived off campus and could not hear KZSU. There also was housing for married graduate students near College Park. They also did not hear the station.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Fox Warfield and The Warfield Theater, 982 Market Street, San Francisco, CA (Jerry's House)

The 1981 Grateful Dead double-lp Reckoning, recorded at the Warfield Theater and Radio City Music Hall in September and October 1980
For fans and scholars of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, the Warfield Theater in San Francisco has to loom large. The 2300-capacity theater, built in 1922 at 982 Market Street, was first bought to Deadhead attention when the band played an historic 15-date engagement in September and October of 1980. About a decade later, when the Dead had finally outgrown the little theater, it became the home base of the Jerry Garcia Band. In the end, there were a couple of dozen Dead shows, and Garcia played there around 100 times himself, apart from the Dead. Throughout the entire period and right up through today, The Warfield has been a premier music venue in San Francisco, and the list of performers who have played there is like a rock history tutorial. Yet the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia were fundamental in establishing The Warfield as a rock Signpost in San Francisco.

The Warfield was a premier rock concert venue in San Francisco from late 1979 onwards. It was a beautiful old theater, with wonderful acoustics, and over time more and more rock fans were willing to pay premium prices at the Warfield instead of a lesser price at a giant arena. You could probably write a book about the rock history of the Warfield, and it would be a good overview of late 20th century rock music. Merely from the perspective of the Grateful Dead, after Jerry Garcia moved forward in 1995, the Warfield became the home base of Phil Lesh And Friends, and there were numerous intimate, fantastic performances for those ensembles as well, making the Warfield a Deadhead nexus for 25 years.

In many ways, the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia were instrumental in making the Warfield a viable venue at the end of the century. In that respect, it was a modern replay of an old 60s story, where the Dead were among the first to try out new venues. The Warfield story is different because the Dead were already established when they first played the Warfield, but it is no less interesting for that. This post will look at the history of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead at the Warfield Theater.

The Fox-Warfield Theater around 1964. "Black Sabbath" was a Boris Karloff movie (Ozzy Osbourne was a child living in Birmingham). The Fox-Warfield sign was on the marquee into the early 1980s, long after Fox had sold their interest,

Loew's Warfield
The Warfield was one of the great Market Street movie palaces in San Francisco. It first opened on May 13, 1922. The theater was built by Vaudeville promoter Marcus Loew (1866-1938), and the theater was named after David Warfield, one of his best friends, and an original investor in what would become the MGM-Loews empire (of course, for the complete story, as always, you have to go to JerryGarciasBrokendownPalaces). The Loew's Warfield originally presented Vaudeville along with movies and theatrical productions. There may also have been a speakeasy associated with the theater in the 1930s. When Vaudeville died out, the Warfield mostly showed movies, but live performances returned in the 1940s.

Since there were live performances at the Warfield in the 1940s, they must have hired plenty of musicians. It is at least plausible that saxophonist Jose Garcia, Jerry's father, may have performed at the Warfield. He gave up music after his kids were born--exactly when isn't clear--but he could still have played the Warfield before he gave it up. Nonetheless. at the very least Jose Garcia would have known that the Warfield was one of the principal entertainment venues in San Francisco, and in some alternate Philip K. Dick universe it would have made him proud to know that his son ended up the king of the venue.

The Warfield, under various names, continued as a movie palace. By the 1960s, the theater was known as the Fox-Warfield, a name it would keep for some time. The theater went through various owners, and the theater chain National General refurbished the theater in 1969. The theater re-opened in 1970 with a guest appearance by Mae West, promoting her film Sextette. Throughout the 70s, the film mostly showed second-run fare. National General seems to have sold the Warfield to Mann Theaters, and by the end of the 70s it was owned by one Mike Thomas, who ultimately sold it to Bill Graham. In 1979, the theater was still known as the Fox-Warfield, and that was what was on the marquee, even though I think there was no longer any connection to a Fox Pictures entity. If you bought a ticket at BASS (a Ticketmaster forerunner), it said "Warfield Theater," but informally the place was called the Fox-Warfield or The Warfield, If you lived in San Francisco or had been to the theater, you called it "Fox-Warfield" to casually indicate that you knew what was on the marquee (a very San Francisco thing).

Bob Dylan's controversial 1979 album Slow Train Coming
Warfield Theater Rock and Roll Highlights 1979-95
November 1-16, 1979: Bob Dylan (14 shows)
The first rock shows at the Fox-Warfield were very dramatic: 14 concerts by Bob Dylan over a period of 16 days. Dylan was still a legendary figure in rock at the time, and although he had toured somewhat during the 1970s, he was not the perpetual road dog that he would become a decade later. When Dylan played live, he either played in huge arenas or made some sort of quasi-stealth appearance. The Fox-Warfield shows were a complete break not only for Bob Dylan, but for major rock acts in general. Here was a major headline act playing for two weeks at a small theater, when two nights at a basketball arena would have sold more tickets. The shows were a major event, and a major coup for Bill Graham, and they sold out instantly. Of course, no one knew what Dylan would play--he was Dylan, after all.

On August 20, 1979, Dylan had released his most controversial album, Slow Train Coming. All of the songs emphasized his new-found Christian faith, a startling development for a nice Jewish boy from Hibbing, Minnesota. On October 18, 1979, Dylan had performed three songs from the album on Saturday Night Live with his new band. Still, performing songs off your new album was what people did on SNL, and anyway, he was Dylan. His new band was small, but they were disciplined session pros (Fred Tackett-guitar, Bill Smith-keyboards, Tim Drummond-bass and Jim Keltner-drums) supported by three gospel-style backup singers.

Opinions varied about Slow Train Coming, although few Dylan followers were unreserved fans of it. However, what no one expected at the Fox-Warfield shows was that Dylan would do nothing but his new "Christian" songs, with nary an old tune to be found. Dylan's choice of material in concert was always a fraught subject, not least because he has so much great material, but the idea of him performing no old material whatsoever was not appealing. All of the songs were either from Slow Train Coming or new, unreleased material, much of which would turn up on Dylan's next album, Saved. No one was happy, except, apparently for Bob Dylan, who found himself once again in the center of a musical controversy.

Reviews were scathing. Even despite their being no Stubhub equivalent, people who had bought tickets for multiple nights could not dump their tickets fast enough. I saw one of the later shows, and while there were some enthusiastic fans, for the most part the crowd was grim and silent, with a lot of frustrated hostility directed towards Dylan. Bob, of course, fed off that hostility and played his new songs with great intensity. All in all, it was a very strange concert experience.

The one unequivocal winner in the strange equation was the Fox-Warfield. There were comfortable seats both upstairs and down, the sight lines were great from everywhere and the sound was tremendous. Although the Tenderloin neighborhood was unpleasantly seedy, the Fox-Warfield was accessible by both BART (at the Powell Street station) and numerous city buses. Bill Graham Presents immediately started booking shows at the Fox-Warfield, and it was an instantly popular venue. For acts on the rise, it was far better to see them headline a full show at the Warfield than second on the bill at the Oakland Coliseum. I saw The Clash at the Fox-Warfield, for example (March 2, 1980), on the London Calling tour, and it was an all-time show, even for an old hippie like me (for a complete list of Warfield bookings between 1979 and 1980 see the Appendix below).

March 25, 1980: Bay Area Music Awards ("Bammies")
Bay Area Music Magazine, or "BAM," was a free bi-weekly music publication in the Bay Area, which started in 1976. It played a huge role in publicizing Bay Area music, both for national bands from the region, like the Grateful Dead, and for more local acts. BAM also played a formative role in the career of many journalists, notably Blair Jackson and David Gans.

In 1978, Dennis Erokan, the publisher of BAM, decided to have a Grammy-like "Bay Area Music Awards," which was dubbed The Bammies, to publicize both the paper and the music. The "award" was a straight-up popularity contest, and the event was just a big party, but everyone had a good time. In 1980, one of the first years, the party was held at The Fox-Warfield. Although no members of the Dead performed (Garcia and others would play in later years), Garcia was definitely present in 1980. He probably won "best guitarist" that year, as he did most years.

The significance of this event was that Garcia had definitely been to the Fox-Warfield prior to the Dead's lengthy residency later in the year. I don't think it was that big a deal, but if Richard Loren had been running the idea by Garcia, he could have said "you know, the place where that awards show was held." Garcia would have at least had an idea of what he was agreeing to.

The 1981 Grateful Dead double-lp Dead Set, recorded at the Warfield Theater and Radio City Music Hall in September and October 1980
September 25-October 14, 1980: Grateful Dead (15 shows)
For any Deadheads who hadn't attended the Dylan shows at the Fox-Warfield, or hadn't even been aware of it, the Fox-Warfield Theater suddenly loomed large. Bill Graham Presents announced a 15-show run by the Grateful Dead, from September 25 through October 14 of 1980. The 15 shows were significant, too, since it was one more than Dylan, a fact pointed out in the local press.

For the previous few years, the Dead had only played larger, general admission venues, namely Winterland, the Oakland Auditorium and Oakland Coliseum Arena. Those Deadheads from elsewhere, who had moved to the Bay Area--and there were more and more of them--were generally used to seeing the Grateful Dead in larger arenas or small stadiums. The only time in the prior decade that the Dead had regularly played small theaters had been the Summer '76 tour where they re-introduced themselves to touring.  The Dead had played the 2200-seat Orpheum in San Francisco for six nights, but fifteen nights was another order of magnitude.

As if this wasn't enough, the idea of playing almost every night for three weeks made the idea of traveling to see the Dead in San Francisco very appealing. I don't know how many people actually got to to do that, but the Fox-Warfield shows were definitely something that got Deadheads all over the country thinking about it.  Shortly afterwards, the 9 shows at Radio City Music Hall at the end of October were announced, and it was a Brave New World indeed for the Grateful Dead.

Tickets for the 15-night Fox-Warfield run were only available by mail order. We all requested everything we could afford. I no longer remember the parameters. I think we ended up with tickets for nine shows. It was a completely different experience to not only know I would be attending numerous nights, but to have an actual reserved seat. I realize now that there had been occasional shows around the country at smaller, reserved seat theaters (like at the Richmond Mosque on May 25, 1977), but those had seemed be one-off events.

I was fortunate enough to attend the first Dead show at the Fox-Warfield on September 25, 1980. and it was magical indeed. We had heard faint rumors that the Dead might play acoustic, but I had written that off as wishful thinking. Yet lo and behold--when we walked into the gleaming Fox-Warfield and got to our seats on the lower balcony, there was the now-familiar stools for Bob and Jerry, grand piano for Brent and limited drum kits for Bill and Mickey. It was really going to happen. Of course, my friend and I spent our time guessing what song would come first (I went for "Dark Hollow," my friend for "Uncle John's Band"), but it was a burst of undiluted magic when "Bird Song" lit up the theater.

The 15 Dead shows at the Fox-Warfield were indeed magical, even for veteran Bay Area fans who had seen numerous Dead shows. Each show was three full sets, starting shortly after 8:00pm and going until well after 1:00 AM. The sound was perfect, and the relaxed vibe of sitting in an assigned seat, pretty much a new experience for Bay Area fans, meant that we could really focus on the details of the music instead of hassling with knuckleheads. The Dead played an astonishing wide variety of electric and acoustic songs throughout the run, and special moments were too plentiful to even count. Even if the Dead and Garcia had never played the Fox-Warfield again, the 1980 run alone permanently inscribed the venue as a legendary stop in the Dead's touring history. The albums Reckoning and Dead Set made sure that the rest of Deadhead nation knew about the Warfield as well.

Bob Dylan's unloved 1980 album Saved

November 9-22, 1980: Bob Dylan (12 shows)
The Fox-Warfield had had numerous great shows throughout 1980, culminating with the Dead's long run (see the Appendix below). Bill Graham surprised everyone with Bob Dylan's return for a 12-show engagement, seemingly to "make up" for the Gospel Debacle of the year before. Tickets did not move quickly. Remarkably, there were ads on the leading rock station, KSAN-fm, with Bill Graham himself talking over a rehearsal tape of Bob Dylan and his band performing (as I recall) "Blowin' In The Wind'." Bill assured listeners that Bob had assured him that he was rehearsing his old material. The implicit pitch was that it wasn't going to be an "all-gospel" Dylan show, all in all a very strange pitch for a radio ad. Still, the shows did not sell out.

Come the first few Dylan shows, and the reviews were not positive. Dylan, using the same band, did indeed perform about five old numbers out of 17 or so songs (on the first show, they were "Like A Rolling Stone," 'Girl From The North Country," "Just Like A Woman," "Senor" and "Blowin' In The Wind") but the balance was all of his new "Christian" material. Even the older songs were oddly re-arranged, in typical Dylan fashion, and didn't evoke classic Bob. No one was really pleased. There wasn't a rush to buy the remaining tickets for the other Dylan shows at the Fox-Warfield.

November 16, 1980: Bob Dylan plus Jerry Garcia
Bill Graham had his own remedy for Dylan shows that weren't selling out: invent some drama. Graham used his clout to get musicians to make guest appearances at the shows. Carlos Santana made a guest appearance on November 13, followed by Mike Bloomfield on November 15. For the seventh concert, the surprise guest was Jerry Garcia, who played electric guitar on 12 of the 22 songs, including "Simple Twist Of Fate." Garcia and Dylan had met previiously, but this was the first time they had played together on stage.

May 22 1981: No Nukes Benefit--Garcia, Weir, Hart and Kreutzmann/others
On April 25, 1981, 4 members of the Grateful Dead and John Kahn had played acoustically at a SEVA Benefit at Berkeley Community Theater. The significance of this event was that it triggered the pattern of Garcia playing benefits as an acoustic act, a far simpler process than arranging an entire electric performance with mountains of gear. The SEVA Benefit was followed by a similar anti-nuclear power benefit at the Fox-Warfield a month later. The headline act--introduced by Wavy Gravy as "Captain Jerry Bob KreutzHart"--was an acoustic performance by Garcia, Weir, Hart, Kreutzmann,Brent Mydland and John Kahn. Phil Lesh did not play either benefit, because apparently no one asked him.

Most of the people in the Fox-Warfield crowd in 1981 had probably seen at least one show from the Dead's long stand in the Fall, and it was great to hear some of the same material again in the same venue. Little did we know that this would be essentially the last performance of the "Acoustic Grateful Dead," save for a single benefit in 1994.

June 26 1981: Jerry Garcia Band/High Noon/(Mike Henderson)
The Jerry Garcia Band played a very surprising show at the Fox-Warfield the next month. I happen to think this was a critical show in Jerry Garcia Band history, and it would take me several thousand words to explain, so I won't do it here (but I have done it elsewhere--warning: this ain't short). A few key points to ponder:
  • Phil Lesh appeared as the bass player, and was even advertised as such. He also played the night before, in Santa Cruz. No explanation was given, prior to, during or after the show. For all we knew, he was permanently replacing John Kahn, although that turned out not to be the case
  • This weekend of shows at Santa Cruz and the Fox-Warfield (and a stealth warmup in Salinas) were the debut of background vocalists in the Jerry Garcia Band, which would be a continuous feature of the JGB thereafter (save for a few transitional dates in 1982). The singers were not introduced from the stage.
  • The Jerry Garcia Band had consistently played for Bobby Corona at The Stone in San Francisco, and only played for Bill Graham Presents outside of cities where the Keystone Family operated (Berkeley, Palo Alto and San Francisco). The June 1981 show was about the only exception to this rule.
Much to the dismay of the crowd, the Jerry Garcia Band did not come on stage until midnight. Apparently someone in High Noon was late, so regular Keystone opener Mike Henderson, not advertised, played a solo blues set from about 8;00-9:00. High Noon played from about 9:30-11:00, but the crowd was very restless by the time the curtain was raised on the Garcia Band. Yet with the unexpected tableaux of the full band with Liz Stires and Essra Mohawk singing, and Phil Lesh on bass, performing a slow, stunning version "I'll Take A Melody," Garcia won over the crowd within minutes, and all complaints about lateness evaporated. The show did not end until after 2:30 am, very rare for the Fox-Warfield.

February 16-17, 1982: Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead returned to the Fox-Warfield in February of 1982. These were the first two shows of 1982, warm-up shows on a Tuesday and Wednesday before two weekend nights at Golden Hall in San Diego (Feb 19-20) and a big Sunday night show (Feb 20) at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion. At this time, the Dead's home base was Oakland Auditorium, but the Fox-Warfield offered a complete contrast. The delicate clarity of the Fox-Warfield was a wonderful counterpoint to the rocking intensity of The Aud.

March 29-31 1983: Grateful Dead Rex Benefits
The Grateful Dead returned to the Fox-Warfield for three shows in March of 1983. These shows were significant for any number of reasons. The most prominent reason was that these three shows were the first benefits for the newly-formed Rex Foundation. The Grateful Dead had always done plenty of benefits, but as concert receipts became bigger and they had more and more friends, it had become an issue as to who they would play for and how money would be distributed. Garcia partially dealt with that by playing acoustically at benefits of his own choosing, but it still left a problem with Grateful Dead Benefit shows.

After 1983, the Rex Foundation solved that problem. The Grateful Dead raised money for their own Rex Foundation, named after late roadie Rex Jackson, and the Foundation board decided how to donate that money. Gifts of $10,000 or so could be given to numerous organizations and projects, without a benefit having to be assigned to a specific cause (McNally p. 547)

The other significant development of the March shows was the debut of the Grateful Dead's new mail order ticket service. It had been done before, of course, particularly at the 1980 Warfield shows. Starting in 1983, however, Deadheads could get tickets by mail for almost all Dead shows. This innovation remained in place for the balance of the Grateful Dead's touring history. The relatively small scale Warfield shows, with only about 6900 tickets available, was a good dry run for the ticket service.

If I recall correctly, all of the tickets for the Fox-Warfield were only available by mail order. When the Dead went on tour, the more typical arrangement was that a percentage of tickets were sold by mail order--I think about half--and the rest were sold locally. This arrangement served a couple of critical functions. First of all, it made it possible for Deadheads all over to get tickets for almost any Dead show anywhere in the country. At the same time, tickets were available locally, to insure that the band could draw on fans in any given region. This was important for building an audience. Also, the money that the Dead got from ticket sales, months in advance of the actual shows, served as the financing for the tours themselves, rather than depending on promoter's advances. In effect, Deadheads were "Crowdfunding" Dead tours prior to the invention of the internet.

A 21st century photo of The Warfield's interior

The Fox-Warfield Theater Becomes "The Warfield"
After the 1983 Rex Benefit shows, the Grateful Dead never played the Warfield again. Jerry Garcia only played there a few more times in the 1980s, although eventually it replaced the Keystones as the permanent home base of the Jerry Garcia Band. Yet everyone forgets these facts, lost in a dreamy reverie of the truly historic connection between the Dead, Bill Graham, Jerry Garcia and 982 Market Street. In fact, the Warfield had a peculiar history in the 1980s, including two remodels, and they have been crucial to the story, and all but written out of the history.

In the Spring of 1983, the rock concert business in San Francisco was booming, as it was nationwide. Bill Graham Presents dominated the Bay Area scene, booking not only major arenas like the Oakland Coliseum Arena and the Cow Palace, but also controlling smaller venues like the Fox-Warfield and clubs like The Old Waldorf and Wolfgang's. The rock audience now ranged from teenagers to middle-aged adults, and many people with good jobs and kids were more than willing to pay a premium for a seated show that started at 8:00 and was over before midnight, so the Fox-Warfield fit that cohort perfectly.

Thus it was a complete surprise when Bill Graham leased out the Fox-Warfield to an apparently wealthy Polish brother-and-sister duo, who planned to remake the Warfield into a "high-end" disco. Their reasoning, apparently, was that San Francisco had no such place, and thus the market was ripe. Anyone who knew the Bay Area knew this was a fool's errand. Consider a few facts that separated San Francisco (then and now) from other entertainment capitals like New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere:
  • 982 Market Street was in a dangerously seedy, crack-infested area. Rich people did not want to be wandering Market Street well after midnight. I'd been out on that street, and it wasn't pleasant
  • Bars in SF close at 2:00am, not 4:00am like in New York. That meant said rich people were going to be out on those streets a lot earlier than in New York
  • San Francisco, even in the Summer, is windy and really cold at night. If you were out on Market Street at 2:01 am in high heels and a crop top, you would freeze to death
  • There are no cabs at night in San Francisco. It's not New York or Chicago. BART stopped at midnight. If you were too high to drive, you'd never get home, which is why you would freeze
  • There has always been money in San Francisco, since 1849. However, San Franciscans style themselves as quasi-European (laugh at us if you want), and flashing it was never in vogue. Lots of wealthy San Franciscans liked going out, but if you wanted to admit that you only wanted to consort with the Special People instead of just going to a dive bar, you had to move to LA. The current Google-types who wear their jeans despite their million dollar stock options are just part of a hundred-plus years of SF tradition
The idea of dropping a million dollars in renovation to make the old Fox-Warfield into an exclusive high end disco that was only open on Saturday nights was madness. Bill Graham didn't need my help to figure this out. So he let the Warfield be turned into a disco, while keeping the master lease for himself.

The new Polish operators of the theater changed the name from the Warfield Theater to "The Warfield." Of course, only trainspotters like me had ever called it the Fox-Warfield, and even I referred to it in conversation as The Warfield, so it wasn't much of a change. But the official name change wasn't until the disco was in place in mid-1983. The big renovation was to tear all the seats out of the main floor, to provide room for dance floor instead. That had to have been expensive, and Graham didn't pay for it, his tenants did.

The Warfield re-opened as a disco in mid-1983, I don't know exactly when. It bombed almost immediately. Among the many things operating against it, besides the practical ones I mentioned above, was the fact that the idea was striving to make San Francisco "like other cities." People who live the Bay Area, even if they moved there last Tuesday, find that distasteful. All sorts of crazy ideas can be viable in the Bay Area--Acid Tests and home computers come to mind--as long as the locals are convinced that no one else is doing it. Once SF is supposed to emulate other cities, the door slams shut. The Warfield only lasted a few months in its disco incarnation. The Polish siblings gave up their lease, and Graham had his building back.

The timeline is a bit obscure here, although it has little do with the Grateful Dead. Continuous rock shows at the Fox-Warfield seem to end around June 1983 (June 7 Stray Cats/Mojo). There are no BGP shows until later in the year, and then save for one disco-oriented summer show (Peter Allen Aug 27), BGP seemed to return in force in the Fall (Little River Band October 14 '83). I think that Graham had rented the venue back from his bankrupt tenants, and was still working on revising the venue. Shows were intermittent until the Spring of 1984. The Warfield's peculiar status, by the way, helps explain why the Grateful Dead had played Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium in October 1983 and April 1984, as The Warfield (as it was now known) wasn't really available.

By mid-1984, The Warfield had returned to the regular mix of BGP venues, and artists both popular and important continued to play there regularly. The tone of the venue had changed a little bit, however. When the Dead had first played there, the fully seated Warfield encouraged a reverential audience. By 1984, however, with no seats on the ground floor, the feel of the place was far rowdier. This wasn't all bad, by any means, but it was different. Certainly, for people like me, who still generally preferred a reserved seat, that option still existed in The Warfield balcony, and that set the venue apart from other clubs, where if you weren't willing to stand all night, you weren't going to see and hear the band very well. The Warfield could appeal to two audiences for the same act: the one that wanted to drink and dance close to the stage, as well as the one that wanted a reserved seat to contemplate the show undisturbed.

A Commenter says I have the timeline incorrect, and the Warfield was remodeled in 1988, not 1983. He very well may be right. The story is the same even if the date is wrong, however

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: The conversion of the Warfield, from full theater seating to open-floor GA downstairs and fixed seats upstairs, was much later than the 1983 date cited here. The takeover and conversion of the building by the wealthy brother-sister team for that ill-fated disco project was one and the same as the 1988 renovation mentioned later. I attended and/or worked many fully reserved-seat shows in the old theater configuration up to the time the venue was closed for the overhaul in September of '88. Also, Joe Satriani on 12/28/88 was not the first show back in the converted space. The reopening was a 10th Anniversary celebration for the Punch Line comedy club on November 9th. The first show I saw in that configuration was an amazing performance by Prince, at two o'clock in the morning of 11/11, after his regularly scheduled gig at the Oakland Coliseum

Jane Dornacker as the leader of Leila and The Snakes (Pearl Harbor is center)
November 22 1986  Kantner Balin Casady Band/Todd Rundgren/The Tubes/Garcia, Weir and Hart Jane Dornacker Benefit
Up until the early 1980s, although the Dead were huge on the East Coast, they could still play relatively small places in the Bay Area like the Fox-Warfield or Marin Vets with a minimum of fuss. By the mid-1980s, this wasn't really possible. Although explicit Deadhead census data isn't available, I am convinced that the massive influx of Deadheads from the East into the Bay Area in the mid-80s meant that local Dead shows were no longer treated casually. After Garcia's coma, there was no chance for a Grateful Dead show in a small venue, even in the Bay Area.

Jerry Garcia did return to the Warfield in 1986, however, albeit under sad circumstances. Jane Dornacker had become a popular radio personality on KFRC-am, reporting traffic from a helicopter. She had moved on to big success with WNBC in New York (660-am, now WFAN), reporting traffic. Sadly, she had died in a helicopter accident on October 22. 1986. Even more tragically, her husband had recently died, orphaning their 16-year old daughter.

However, not only was Jane Dornacker a popular and beloved media figure in the Bay Area, she had deep roots both in the 60s underground and the 70s New Wave scene. Way back when she was a San Francisco State student in 1966, she had appeared with the excellent but unfortunately named Final Solution, as Earth Mother and The Final Solution.Ultimately she married the band's bass player, Bob Knickerbocker. So all of the San Francisco underground had known her from way back in the 60s.

As if that wasn't enough, Dornacker was a comedienne, songwriter, actress and singer in the 1970s. She fronted a band called Leila And The Snakes (Jane was Leila, Pearl Harbor was one of The Snakes), she co-wrote a classic Tubes song ("Don't Touch Me There") and she even appeared in the movie The Right Stuff. So when Dornacker died, she wasn't just a Bay Area media figure, she was an old friend of many from way back. So the hastily-organized benefit had a stellar cast indeed.

Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir played an acoustic set, helped out by Mickey Hart. The prevailing version of the Airplane crew (with Paul Kantner, Marty Balin and Jack Casady) also played along with Todd Rundgren and The Tubes. All of them had social and professional connections to Dornacker. Vince Welnick was not only in The Tubes, he was probably in Todd Rundgren's backing band for the show, as well.

The Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band's album Almost Acoustic was recorded at The Warfield and Los Angeles Wiltern Theater in Fall 1987
November 27-29, 1987: Jerry Garcia Band/Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band
The Jerry Garcia Band finally returned to The Warfield at the end of November 1987. In October, Bill Graham had put on a remarkable two weeks of shows with Jerry Garcia at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater on Broadway in New York. The shows featured an opening set by the newly-congregated Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, followed by a lengthy set by the full electric band. The billing was duplicated with three shows at The Warfield, followed by three shows at the similar Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles. Part of the reason for these bookings was to record the shows for albums, since for various reasons that was prohibitively expensive to do on Broadway.

I saw one of the November Warfield shows, and it was a wonderful setting. The Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band would have been somewhat overwhelmed at a rowdier place like the Kaiser Convention Center, but The Warfield was perfect for them. The open floor of The Warfield still lent a lively air to the electric set.

December 17, 1987: Joan Baez Christmas Concert/Garcia, Weir and Kahn
The Warfield was the site of another benefit, hosted by Joan Baez. Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and John Kahn were the configuration for this outing, joined by Baez for the last three numbers. Since Garcia never actually rehearsed for these events, it didn't matter precisely who was on stage, as long as they were willing to wing it with Jerry.

Feb 6 1988: Jerry Garcia Band
Mar 4-5 1988: Jerry Garcia Band
The modern era of the Jerry Garcia Band at The Warfield began in 1988. By this time, all of the Keystone clubs had closed, and in any case Garcia had become too big for them. The Jerry Garcia Band played a Warfield show in February and two in March. These weren't special events, tied to recording or anything else--just JGB gigs for his regular patrons. The March 5 show featured the truly unanticipated appearance of Howard Wales, for the first time in 17 years, letting it rip for a long version of "Don't Let Go."

The new configuration of The Warfield fit the latterday Garcia Band audience pretty well. Downstairs was an open floor and an accessible bar, more expansive than the Keystone Berkeley, but not too far from it. Upstairs was reserved seats, for the more restfully minded. Thus the basic spectrum of Garcia Band fans was covered by a single venue.

Orpheum Redux
Once again, however, Bill Graham Presents took time out to remodel The Warfield. BGP held no rock shows at the Warfield between March 31, 1988 and December 28, 1988. In the intervening time, Graham used the Orpheum Theater for a few shows, and the Jerry Garcia Band played there seven times (May 7 and Dec 2-3 '88, and Jan 27-28, Mar 3-4 '89). More intriguingly, however, Graham booked a show for the Jerry Garcia Band at the old Fillmore on May 6 '88, which he had recently taken control of. It might seem that the Fillmore Auditorium ought to have become the home of the Jerry Garcia Band, but that was not the case. Subsequent shows were booked at the Orpheum, and the JGB returned permanently to The Warfield at the end of 1989.

The key issue for the home base of the Jerry Garcia Band was not the history, nor the sightlines, nor the sound, but the bar. Garcia's successful tenure at Keystone Berkeley was based on the endless amounts of beer that were sold there. Garcia fans showed up early and hung out, and Garcia came on late, took a long break and played even later. All that equaled massive beer sales. The Fillmore, lovely and acoustically excellent as it was, wasn't conducive to beer sales. The main Fillmore bar was at the back of the house, upstairs and away from the floor. There was even a stage in the bar, for bands to play while the other bands were playing on the main stage. The Fillmore bar mainly sold drinks to people who didn't want to hear the band that was currently on the stage, completely the opposite of the Garcia fans interests. The physical setup of the downstairs at The Warfield was all about selling drinks, and the remodel improved that facility, although I don't know the specifics. After 1989, The Warfield had completely moved from a "concert venue" to a "nightclub," even though there were still reserved seats upstairs. [update: as mentioned above, a Commenter suggests that The Warfield became a disco in 1988, not 1983 and there was only one remodel)

1991's long-awaited live Jerry Garcia Band double cd was recorded at The Warfield in 1990
Jerry Garcia At The Warfield, 892 Market Street, San Francisco, CA
BIll Graham Presents returned to The Warfield, newly remodeled, on December 28, 1988, with a show featuring guitarist Joe Satriani. There were intermittent shows throughout the year, but BGP didn't use the venue that much. After a few more shows at the Orpheum, the Jerry Garcia Band returned to The Warfield with two shows in December 1989. By this time, the downstairs was scientifically designed to sell the maximum amount of drinks to patrons. This wasn't a negative--if you were downstairs hanging out with your friends or watching the band, you didn't want to navigate to the back of the house and stand in a line to get a drink. The new configuration had a lower level dance floor near the stage, but most of the main floor had long tables and attentive waitresses. It wasn't hard to catch their eye and get a drink, so it made the Warfield a very pleasant place to hang out. The upstairs reserved seats had their own separate bar on the mezzanine. A Garcia show, including all the set breaks, went on for many hours, and The Warfield was now even better equipped than the Keystone Berkeley to sell as many drinks as the patrons wanted to buy.

Jerry Garcia played the Warfield in its various incarnations, by my count, a total of 100 times, and 123 if you include Grateful Dead shows (21) and Dylan guest appearances (see JGBP for a complete list). 91 of those shows were in the remodeled Warfield, from December 1, 1989 through the final JGB booking on April 21-23, 1995. Highlights were too many to count. Almost all of the acoustic shows with David Grisman and Jerry Garcia were at The Warfield (13 shows). I was lucky enough to see a few, and I can assure you that if Graham bought them to Broadway, it would have been like Cats or Wicked, and would never have closed. Garcia made another guest appearance at The Warfield with Bob Dylan, as well, in May 5, 1992 ("Cat's In The Well" and "Idiot Wind")

The Warfield was a great concert venue in its 90s incarnation, and no doubt remains so. The neighborhood was still seedy, but it didn't get worse, and there was a BART stop (New Yorkers or Londoners take subway stops for granted, but San Francisco isn't like that). It was nice to have a waitress bring you your drink of choice instead of having to fight your way to the bar, just for a Miller Lite. I have to think that the Garcia shows were the most profitable at The Warfield. As Deadheads got older, and had relatively more money, a night with Jerry was a night to hang out for hours with friends and buy some cold drinks. With the Keystone family gone and Garcia's health in decline, pretty much the only way to see the Garcia Band the last few years was at the Warfield. In that respect, it was almost like seeing The Preservation Hall Jazz Band in New Orleans--the real thing on a hometown turf that was deeply rooted in its own history.

And, following the theme of a building whose performers were part of the history itself, after Jerry Garcia moved forward in 1995, the Warfield became the home base of Phil Lesh And Friends, and there were dozens more great performances. Many of the Phil Lesh shows at The Warfield were one-time only bookings, such as with Trey Anastasio and Paige McConnell of Phish, so current fans have an equally rich memory of great shows there. Finally, in 2006, the venue was sold to a non-BGP entity, but Phil And Friends played the final show, appropriately enough. Guitarist Larry Campbell wrote the beautiful "Waltz For The Warfield," and it is a fitting tribute to the old girl--which, I should add, remains a popular venue to this day.

London called, The Clash answered. You shoulda been there

Appendix: Warfield Rock Shows Nov 79-Sept 80 (Between Dylan and the Dead)
November 1-16 Bob Dylan (14 shows)

November 28, 1979 The Police/Pearl Harbor and The Explosions (Wednesday)
This show was moved from the Berkeley Community Theater, which is surprising, considering that BCT was much larger than the Warfield (3500 vs 2300). That means The Police would not have sold as many tickets as expected, and that their world domination was yet to come.

November 29-30, 1979 Bonnie Raitt/Norton Buffalo (Thursday-Friday)
Norton Buffalo was probably a member of Bonnie Raitt's band at the time, and his own band opened the show.

December 15 Karla Bonoff/Steve Forbert (Saturday)
Karla Bonoff was better known as a songwriter (with songs like "Someone To Lay Down Beside Me," made popular by Linda Rondstadt) at the time than as a performer.

January 11, 1980 Linda Ronstadt/Joan Baez/Hoyt Axton Benefit for Cambodian Boat People (Friday)
This benefit was tied to a similar, larger event at the Oakland Coliseum Arena two days later, headlined by the Grateful Dead and The Beach Boys. I think Bill Graham and Joan Baez were hoping to put together a charity album.

January 19, 1980 James Taylor/Karla Bonoff  (Saturday early and late shows) 
James Taylor was huge, and could have played the Oakland Coliseum Arena, but here he was (playing double shows) at the Fox-Warfield. In many ways, this was parallel to what Bob Dylan was doing, providing a special event for serious fans.

January 25, 1980 Van Morrison (Friday)
Van Morrison was a most-of-the-year Bay Area resident who commonly appeared in Bay Area nightclubs, but his fans were far more likely to pay up to see him in a theater than to pay less to see him in big arena.

January 26, 1980 Lee Ritenour/Tower Of Power (Saturday)

February 17, 1980 The Specials (Sunday)
The Specials (aka Specials UK) were a popular Ska revival band, an offshoot of the "New Wave" music coming out of England. They were very popular in England, far less so in the States. No one remembers them now.

February 22, 1980 Jefferson Starship/Stoneground (Friday)
Jefferson Starship sold far more records than the Grateful Dead, but by now they were only a modest concert attraction in the Bay Area.

February 24, 1980 Weather Report (Sunday)
Weather Report had played Berkeley Community Theater the previous night (Saturday Feb 23).

March 1-2, 1980 Clash/Lee Dorsey/Mikey Dread (Saturday-Sunday)
I saw the March 2 show. The Clash in their London Calling prime, with Mickey Gallagher on keyboards along with the core four. I'm glad to have been there.

March 8, 1980 Gary Numan and Tubeway Army/Nash The Slash (Saturday)
Gary Numan was another New Wave act, with sort of an early electronica type of sound.

March 15, 1980 The Jam/The Beat (Saturday)
I'm pretty sure that "The Beat" was not the group later known as The English Beat. Raise your hand if you recall San Francisco's The Paul Collins Beat (as they were called in England, since there was both a UK and US band named The Beat).

March 23, 1980 J Geils Band/3-D (Sunday)
The J. Geils Band were like the Dead in many ways, a veteran touring act with a loyal live following, but an indifferent recording history at the time. Their new EMI album Love Stinks was the beginning of the group's rise to 80s arena and MTV stardom. The Fox-Warfield show was a Sunday night, but the night before J Geils had headlined the Oakland Coliseum Arena. And on the Friday night (March 21), Geils had headlined Pauley Pavilion at UCLA, so a show at the Fox-Warfield was a definite treat for their fans.

March 25, 1980 Bammies (Tuesday)

March 26, 1980 Graham Nash/Leah Kunkel (Wednesday)
Graham Nash, though a legend, was not a big draw on his own. Leah Kunkel was a pretty good singer. Her father (Russ Kunkel) was one of LA's great session drummers.

March 28-30, 1980 Jane Olivor (Friday-Sunday)

April 5, 1980 Iggy Pop/Mi-Sex (Saturday)
There's only one Iggy. From this entire year, only Iggy and Bonnie Raitt are still standing tall, still touring and pretty much doing what they always have done. Think about it, but not too hard.

April 12, 1980 Ramones/No Sisters (Saturday)
America wasn't ready for The Ramones when they surfaced in the mid-70s, but they were ready now. Sing it with me: "Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock, rock, rock and roll high school."

April 16, 1980 Boomtown Rats/The Pretenders (Wednesday)
Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats had released their fourth album on Columbia. "I Don't Like Mondays" was their big hit, from July '79. The Pretenders debut album had been released on Sire in January, although some singles had been released earlier. "Brass In Pocket" was released in November '79. An eyewitness reported that The Pretenders, though oozing talent and charisma, were still new to performing and had a very shaky presentation.

April 26, 1980 Triumph/Van Wilks (Saturday)

May 25, 1980 Pat Travers/Def Leppard (Sunday)
Hard rocking guitarist Pat Travers big song on radio was "Snortin' Whisky (and Drinking Cocaine)." Hard to make this stuff up. Def Leppard, part of The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, had just released their first album on Mercury Records, On Through The Night.

May 27, 1980 Ian Hunter/Motion Pictures (Tuesday)
Ian Hunter had left Mott The Hoople some years earlier, and was now touring with Mick Ronson. His previous studio album, 1979's You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic, had been recorded with Ronson and the E Street Band, and featured the great song "Cleveland Rocks." His live album, Welcome To The Club, had just been released in March of 1980.

June 19, 1980 Judas Priest/Ray Gomez (Thursday)
Judas Priest was another British heavy metal band. They had been around for some years, but they finally broke through in America with their 1980 Columbia album British Steel.

June 22-23, 1980 Peter Gabriel/Random Hold (Sunday-Monday)
Peter Gabriel had just released his third solo album entitled Peter Gabriel. Throughout this year. the Warfield featured a lot of acts in the prime of their career, across a wide spectrum of tastes.

July 16-17, 1980 Rossington-Collins Band/Ronin (Wednesday-Thursday)
Rossington-Collins Band was formed from the survivors of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Ronin featured Waddy Wachtel and other LA session heavyweights.

July 24, 1980 Flash Cadillac/Benny And The Jets (Thursday)
Both of these groups were local cover bands. I don't know if this was some sort of special event, as it's very atypical. Bookings in this stretch included the Cuevas/Hearns fight and a touring production of "Aint Misbehavin"

August 15, 1980 Magazine/Pere Ubu (Friday)
Magazine and Pere Ubu were the hippest of the hip underground record collector alternative New Wave bands imaginable. I would have spent the show at the bar, but that's just me.

August 16, 1980 Devo (Saturday)
Devo was hip at the time.

August 23, 1980 Eddie Money/Tommy Tutone (Saturday)
Eddie Money, a former Bay Area club act, was on his third album (Playing For Keeps), but he had already peaked. Tommy Tutone was a local band on the rise, but they had not yet released their one big hit (1981's "867-5309/Jenny").

September 3, 1980 Christopher Cross/Toons (Wednesday)
Christopher Cross was a hugely successful pop singer, with singles like "Ride Like The Wind," and "Sailing."

September 25-October 14, 1980 Grateful Dead (15 shows)

October 16-17, 1980 B-52s/Ricky Jay (Thursday-Friday)
The B-52s were always riotous fun in concert. Ricky Jay was a magician.

October 23-24, 1980 Talking Heads/English Beat (Thursday-Friday)
The Talking Heads were still touring as a 4-piece at this time.

November 6, 1980 Gary Numan/Gary Myrick (Thursday)

November 7, 1980 Randy Hansen/Head East (Friday)
Randy Hansen was basically a Hendrix imitator, despite being white and right-handed.

November 9-22, 1980 Bob Dylan (12 shows)
There were guest appearances by Carlos Santana (Nov 13), Mike Bloomfield (Nov 15), Jerry Garcia (Nov 16) and Maria Muldaur (Nov 22).

Thursday, August 4, 2016

June 26, 1981 Fox-Warfield Theatre, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia Band with Phil Lesh/High Noon/Mike Henderson (The Truth Is Out There)

Jerry Garcia has a remarkably well-documented musical history, both as part of and separate from the Grateful Dead. Yet there is so much available information to process about Garcia that some well-known facts remain unexamined. A closer look at such events opens the door to many interesting interpretations, but the paucity of explanations by any of the principals makes that door very difficult to walk through. One such event was the Jerry Garcia Band performance at the Fox-Warfield Theatre in San Francisco on Saturday, June 26, 1981, which included the advertised appearance of Phil Lesh on bass in place of John Kahn. The show was well attended, if not quite sold out, audience tapes circulate and a portion of it was officially released as an official "download-only" Pure Jerry selection--if only for a week--, so the event was well-documented.

The event was clearly important for the Garcia Band. The group almost never played concerts in San Francisco, yet made an exception for this one night. There had been a show the night before in Santa Cruz, also with Phil Lesh, and as it turned out, a stealth warm-up show in Salinas the night before that (Sherwood Hall, Thursday, June 24). To the surprise of fans, the JGB introduced two female backup singers, hearkening back to the Maria Muldaur and Donna Godchaux era of the band. While they made this debut with the planned participation of Phil Lesh, for subsequent shows John Kahn returned to his familiar role as bassist and straw boss. No explanation has ever been given for why the biggest Garcia show in San Francisco in the first half of the 80s was without Kahn. This post will attempt to determine some possible explanations for this turn of events.

The Jerry Garcia Band had released Cats Under The Stars in 1978, on Arista Records, but it had not been successful

The Jerry Garcia Band, 1981
By 1981, the Grateful Dead were a venerable Bay Area institution. In rock and roll, that wasn't necessarily seen as a positive. To many rock fans, the Dead were decades old, with some of the members nearing forty years old. Even grownup rock fans would shrug and say, well, I saw them a while ago and it was fun, but it's just old hippie stuff. The Dead still regularly sold out multi-night runs at the Oakland Auditorium, and they had sold out a remarkable 15-night run at the Fox-Warfield in the Fall of 1980, but they didn't seem to be getting any bigger. Given their vintage, it was mainly remarkable that they weren't getting any smaller.

Jerry Garcia had a sort of special status. He had been an iconic rock star and public figure in the Bay Area since 1966, and he stood for a lot of hippie values, which, as previously noted, was not at all any kind of universal positive. However, a lot of rock stars lived in the Bay Area, not just home-grown products like the Dead and the Airplane, but transplants like Van Morrison or David Crosby. In general, San Franciscans take great pride in their casual attitude towards legends in their midst, because San Franciscans see that as the proper attitude for a world-class city, and that is how they see their home. Thus while Jerry Garcia, the individual, was likely to get bugged by Deadheads, the general population was not so impressed that a rock star regularly played local joints, as for that matter, so did Van Morrison and Robin Williams. San Francisco fans were proud of that, but it wasn't a big deal. Thus, in comparison to the East Coast, the Jerry Garcia Band was a relatively modest attraction in the Bay Area, performing profitably but without fanfare.

In the early 1980s, Bay Area Jerry Garcia Band shows were never reviewed in local papers. There was no news about the band. Since the Grateful Dead Hotline or the Sunday display ads for the Keystones told Garcia fans what they needed to know about upcoming shows, there were never radio ads or other promotional strategies that attracted attention to the band. The normal cycle of the record company publicizing artist performances to attract attention in order to increase record sales had no bearing on the Jerry Garcia Band universe. The JGB had made one poorly received album (Cats Under The Stars) and had seemed to drop out of the record industry. Only Deadheads, and not all of them, knew what the Garcia Band was up to. Even that sort of information was pretty thin. Garcia and Kahn had added two new keyboard players and changed drummers in early 1981, and it was months before I could even find out the names of the new guys.

For most Bay Area rock fans, the principal source of rock concert information was the Sunday Chronicle Datebook insert, known as "The Pink Section," since it was published on pink newsprint. The first edition of the Sunday paper was available around Friday at midnight, and you could read all the ads that said "on sale Today!," which meant Sunday (36 hours hence), since The Pink Section had a print deadline of Tuesday. As I recall, BASS tickets had a regular ad, separate from the Bill Graham Presents ad, and it listed forthcoming shows. One Sunday, probably in late May, amongst listings for numerous shows that were "on sale today [i.e Sunday]" were two shows featuring The Jerry Garcia Band with Phil Lesh. The Thursday night show was June 25 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, and the Friday night show was June 26 at the Fox-Warfield. For the likes of me, there was no hesitation, but it left open the question of what this ad might imply.
Although the Grateful Dead were bigger than ever by 1981, the Jerry Garcia Band continued to play club shows at Keystone Berkeley, Keystone Palo Alto and The Stone in San Francisco (the calendar is from February 1980)

State Of Play: Bill Graham, The Keystones and Jerry Garcia
I have discussed at length Jerry Garcia's long history with the Keystone Berkeley and its two sister clubs, Keystone Palo Alto and The Stone, so I will only emphasize a few highlights here. Jerry Garcia had started playing for Freddie Herrera at the Keystone Korner in San Francisco back in 1971. Herrera fully moved over to the Keystone Berkeley by 1972, and all of Garcia's side aggregations had played there regularly. Herrera's partner Bobby Corona opened the Keystone Palo Alto in 1977, and The Stone, on Broadway in San Francisco, in 1979. Garcia played all three clubs regularly. By the time all three clubs had closed by the end of the 1980s, Garcia had played over 400 shows for the Keystones.

Garcia's commitment to the Keystones was not some casual choice. Bill Graham was the dominant promoter in the Bay Area, and critical to the Grateful Dead's financial well-being, yet Garcia chose to work regularly with Graham's competitor. More importantly, Garcia did not play other venues in Berkeley, Palo Alto or San Francisco, since there were Keystones in those cities. Where there were no Keystones, in places like Santa Cruz or Marin, the Jerry Garcia Band would play for other promoters, including Bill Graham. There were very occasional exceptions to this pattern, but they all but exclusively were benefit concerts. Bill Graham clearly would have wanted to produce Jerry Garcia Band concerts in Berkeley, San Francisco or the Palo Alto area, but Garcia stuck to Herrera and Corona.

Thus it was surprising indeed to see the Jerry Garcia Band booked for a weekend of concerts by Bill Graham Presents. In particular, it was unprecedented for Garcia to play the Fox-Warfield, rather than a couple of nights at the various Keystones. The Santa Cruz booking was less surprising, as the JGB had played for Graham at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium back in 1978 (on Feb 19 '78, along with Robert Hunter and Comfort). However, since that time Garcia had started to play shows at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz. The Catalyst story is a sub-plot I have not yet addressed, but suffice to say here was BGP booking the Garcia Band for two shows in cities where Garcia had an existing booking relationship with local clubs. To top it off, there was the unprecedented detail that Phil Lesh would be in the band.
Reputedly, John Kahn drove a black BMW in the 1980s (this is a 1981 BMW 320i)
Where Was John Kahn?
Over the next few weeks, there was no other announcement or press coverage of the Garcia Band shows, nor any explanation of the presence of Phil Lesh. You have to understand, there wasn't ever any coverage, but it added to the air of mystery. Of course my friends and I got tickets for the Fox-Warfield show. It was going to be on a Saturday night, with reserved seats, and Warfield shows never ran as late as Keystone Berkeley, so it was very appealing, and the few extra dollars for the tickets seemed well worth it. Yet we couldn't help but speculate about Kahn and Phil. There seemed to be a couple of possibilities:

John Kahn was on tour with someone else
Deadheads, nor anyone else, knew almost nothing about John Kahn. He was never interviewed, and we knew nothing of his musical background, save that he had recorded on a lot of albums made in the Bay Area. On the other other hand, we did know that Maria Muldaur was Kahn's girlfriend, or at least had been in the 1970s. So it wasn't impossible to imagine that Kahn was on tour with Maria or someone else, and that Lesh would be standing in. However, if Kahn had another tour, or had joined a new band, that was sort of news, and I would have expected to read about it in (Blair Jackson-edited) BAM or Joel Selvin's column in the Pink Section. There was no news about Kahn, so it didn't seem likely that he had another gig.
John Kahn was out of the band
Maybe John Kahn had just left the Garcia Band? Knowing what we know now, of course, we realize how unlikely that would have been. But we knew none of that at the time. From a Deadhead perspective, drummers came and went, Merl Saunders had left, returned (in Reconstruction) and had left again (from our point of view), so Kahn leaving wasn't unthinkable.
Phil Lesh wanted to get out and play
By now, we've read Phil's autobiography and know that he was never that into playing with more than one band, but we knew no such thing then. Garcia had been a regular performer in the Bay Area since 1970, Bob Weir since 1974, and appearances by Hart and Kreutzmann were not unknown. Phil had made a very few, unheralded appearances with a Marin pick-up band called Too Loose To Truck in 1975 and '76, but had largely remained at home. Still, in February of 1981, he had played with Hart and Kretuzmann as part of The Rhythm Devils, promoting the Apocalypse Now soundtrack sessions. So maybe Phil wanted to play out a little bit. 
On top of that, the opening act for both shows was Mickey Hart's band High Noon, featuring Norton Buffalo and Merl Saunders. The group had debuted at the Fox-Warfield on May 22 '81, opening for an acoustic Grateful Dead benefit performance (where John Kahn had played bass instead of Phil Lesh), and was starting to be booked around Bay Area clubs. Thus a booking with not just Garcia and Hart's bands, but Phil Lesh as well, made some commercial sense.
None of these things turned out to be true. Kahn wasn't on tour with anyone else, he would never leave the Garcia Band and Lesh was no more than an emergency fill-in. So what was the emergency? Where was Kahn? How did Jerry Garcia and Bill Graham know that John Kahn would not be available 30 to 60 days before the show was booked, and yet that he would return from his unexplained absence? Kahn would play bass for every Garcia Band date save two until Jerry's death in 1995. Where was he?

Since no one has answered this question in 35 years--I admit no one has asked it, either--I will present my theory. I should point out in advance that I have no special information, and this is just inductive reasoning on my part. Anyone with additional information, or even just a choogly feeling, should address my hypothesis in the Comments.

I think John Kahn had a 30-day jail term for a probation violation, probably related to a DUI. I think the shows had been booked within the usual 60 to 90 day window, and that Kahn figured any penalties for an existing violation would be continued or delayed, but he or his attorneys had miscalculated. Unlike Keystone Berkeley shows, actual BGP concerts could not be canceled so easily. Thus Phil Lesh was drafted as a substitute, which probably suited Bill Graham just fine, and in enough time to even advertise it. Yet after the shows, Kahn simply returned to the Garcia Band.

If Kahn had had a medical issue, a pending operation for example, there would not likely have been a two-month wait for any procedure. While any legal issue could have prevented his appearance, the odd scheduling suggests some series of pending appeals that would have caused the shows to be booked with the reasonable hope that Kahn would be available. One odd characteristic of the Keystone-era Garcia Band was that all the band members drove themselves to the shows, Kahn and Garcia included. This is far less of a big deal than it sounds--both the Keystone Berkeley and The Stone were no more than an hour from San Rafael or other typical Marin points, and easy freeway driving at that. Neither Garcia nor Kahn (to my knowledge) had a significant history of dangerous driving or accidents (looking at you, Jeff Beck). However, if Kahn had been stopped for some reason, it's not hard to suspect that a policeman might not find reason to think JK had been "under the influence." Since the Jerry Garcia Band never received any press coverage, it would have been easy to keep it out of the papers.

[update] John Kahn was in Europe with his Mom
Well, my theory was clever and sleazily intriguing. But it was wrong. According to no less an authority than John Kahn's wife, Kahn was in Europe with his Mom. This makes a lot of sense: Kahn was very close to his mother and the trip would have been planned way in advance. 

Linda Kahn was kind enough to do a Reddit AMA, and some scholars queried her and we got the answer.

When the Jerry Garcia Band first formed in Fall 1975, drummer Ron Tutt was an equal member, along with Garcia, John Kahn and pianist Nicky Hopkins

The Return Of Ronnie Tutt
As I recall, while I was contemplating the mysteries of Phil Lesh's substitution for John Kahn, additional JGB shows were advertised for the Keystones, with no mention of Phil (July 23 at The Stone, July 24 at Keystone Palo Alto and July 26 at Keystone Berkeley). This eliminated some of the hypothetical possibilities, but it provided no real answers. In retrospect, three facts stand out:
  • The Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia were not in good financial circumstances, and the idea of canceling or delaying two profitable Garcia Band shows was not a good option
  • It turned out that the weekend of Garcia Band concerts was debuting Garcia's vision of the next Garcia Band. That vision would be enacted for the remaining 14 years of the Garcia Band's existence, but the peculiar circumstances of the JGB concerts meant that the subject was never mentioned again
  • The key to the planned future of the Jerry Garcia Band was the impending return of the great Ron Tutt on drums
My hypothesis about the 1981 Jerry Garcia Band was that the entire year was organized around the planned return of Ron Tutt to the band. This included recording a new album and a National tour. Starting around September of 1981, Ron Tutt returned to the drum chair of the Jerry Garcia Band, rehearsing and recording with the band at Club Front. The national tour was announced on the Grateful Dead Hotline in October, where GDTS manager Steve Marcus announced "the return of Ronnie Tutt" for the upcoming Garcia Band tour. Comments about Garcia Band members were all but unheard of on the Hotline, so there was no doubt that this was no small thing.

Most Garcia fans know that Ron Tutt was the original drummer for the Jerry Garcia Band when it was founded in the Fall of 1975. However, unlike some previous iterations of Garcia's bar band, the 1975 Jerry Garcia Band was a partnership between Garcia, John Kahn, Nicky Hopkins and Tutt. Obviously, Hopkins was no longer a partner after 1975, and I don't know Tutt's exact status afterwards, but he was not just some hired hand. Certainly, with not only a tour but a planned album--which would become Run For The Roses--something serious was afoot.

The Jerry Garcia Band's drummer for most of 1981 was Daoud (nee David) Shaw. Shaw was an experienced session drummer with a lengthy pedigree. Among many other things, he was in Van Morrison's backing group for the 1970 album His Band And Street Choir, and thus Shaw was the drummer for classic tracks like "Domino" and "Blue Money."  Shaw, once in the 60s MGM group Chrysalis, had also been the original drummer for the Saturday Night Live house band, back in 1975. However, in an interview with scholar and journalist Jake Feinberg, Shaw said that he knew at the beginning that drumming for the Garcia Band was a "six-month gig," so clearly the plans were afoot with Garcia, Kahn and Tutt were all along. A busy drummer like Tutt would have had many commitments, so any tours would have had to have been planned months in advance.

Once Garcia and Kahn figured out how they wanted to construct the Garcia Band, it remained that way until 1995 (this is the playbill for the JGB Lunt-Fontanne shows in 1987. If you have trouble with the trivia questions inside, I helped write them)

The Jerry Garcia Band Blueprint, 1981
It is my proposition that the 1981 Jerry Garcia Band was constructed as the idealized summation of the previous iterations of Jerry Garcia's previous Keystone bands. The different configurations, from Garcia/Saunders, thru Legion Of Mary and then the Keith and Donna lineup, followed by Reconstruction and then the Ozzie Ahlers lineup of 1979-80 had given Garcia a chance to try out various combinations of musicians and sounds. When considering the lengthy, if obscure, history of occasional guests is considered, from Sarah Fulcher and George Tickner, through "Tim Hensley" and John Rich and many lesser known participants, it is fair to say that Garcia and Kahn had tried most typical bar band combinations across a variety of genres. Thus the 1981 JGB could fairly be pegged as the optimal Garcia Band sound, notwithstanding that Jerry and John never said things like "optimal."

In January of 1981, Garcia had debuted his new organ player, Melvin Seals, whom he had first seen playing as part of the Elvin Bishop Group. After just a few dates, Garcia peremptorily added Jimmy Warren on electric piano. Along with Daoud Shaw on drums, this lineup played steadily throughout the first half of 1981. The big surprise of the June concert was that the Garcia Band now included two female harmony vocalists. It being the Garcia Band and all, they were not introduced or alluded to on stage, and indeed it was some weeks before I even figured out their names. It was quite a shock at the Fox-Warfield when the stage curtain was raised and their were two singers joining in on "I'll Take A Melody." Sure, the band had played the night before in Santa Cruz, so some people surely knew, but nobody had even conceived of AOL, much less Twitter, so most of us had no idea.
Jerry Garcia Band, June 26, 1981   
Jerry Garcia-guitar, vocals
Melvin Seals-Hammond organ
Jimmy Warren-electric piano
Phil Lesh-bass
Daoud Shaw-drums
Liz Stires-vocals
Essra Mohawk-vocals
Leave aside, for a second, the curriculum vitae of the members of the Jerry Garcia Band at the time. Consider, instead, how the band's lineup was a distillation of earlier Garcia aggregations.

The Garcia drum chair had mainly been the province of Bill Vitt, Bill Kreutzmann and Ron Tutt, although Paul Humphrey had been the most prominent of many part-timers. The drum chair was characterized by firm time keeping and a light R&B touch. The archetype was Tutt. Even when Kreutzmann was in the chair, he had kept a lighter, firmer touch than was required for the Dead, which Billy handled admirably. Today, we know that Daoud Shaw was an interim guy as well, but he definitely fit the mold of Vitt and Tutt. Since I am proposing that the band was being built for Tutt, it was crucial that the interim drummer had the tasteful, understated feel that Tutt would bring.

It is my assertion here that after trying numerous configurations, Kahn and Garcia had decided to construct the Garcia Band along the lines of 1960s R&B bands, who in turn had built their sound around gospel music of the same era. John Kahn was a huge gospel fan, and so was Donna Godchaux, and Garcia had learned plenty about that music. The essence of that sound was a pounding, rhythmic piano, juxtaposed against a warm, swirling Hammond organ sound. For most pop music fans, even today, Ray Charles was the best known exponent of this sound, but numerous other soul hits followed this format. Amongst rock bands, the best known exponents were Procol Harum and The Band, both of them influenced by classic R&B and influential to Garcia over the years.

In the preceding decade, Garcia had moved between the organ and piano sounds. Merl Saunders' soulful Hammond sound had been the initial template for Garcia's bar band, from 1971 to 1975. When Saunders was pushed out, Garcia moved to a grand piano sound that was anchored in American roots music, first with Nicky Hopkins (Fall '75), then with James Booker (a few dates in January '76) and finally with Keith Godchaux (1976-78). Merl's organ returned for the jazzy Reconstruction ('79), and then Ozzie Ahlers played electric piano and Oberheim synth for the '79-80 tours. Ahlers was an odd hybrid, playing rhythmic piano behind Jerry, while soloing--at Garcia's insistence--on the synthesizer.

Although the formal structure of Garcia's bar bands was a quartet (Garcia/keyboard/Kahn/drummer), there were numerous efforts to add a fifth instrument over the years. Only tenor saxophonist Martin Fiero was a regular performer over an extended period (1974-75). Yet numerous other players were tried out. Among those identified from tapes were guitarists Tom Fogerty (1971-72) and then George Tickner (Spring '73), and then the electric piano player introduced by Nicky Hopkins in October 1975 as "Tim Hensley" (not apparently his actual name), pedal steel guitarist John Rich (December 1976) and a few unknown participants circa 1977. So a five-piece Garcia Band actually fit the history of the Garcia Band, but there had not yet been a regular dual keyboard lineup.

Jimmy Warren's piano playing is generally much maligned by Garcia fans. a criticism which is largely justified. Warren, a local player who was friendly with Kahn and Garcia, was overmatched by the fluid demands of the Garcia Band. Still, my concern here is with what Garcia and Kahn were trying to do, not what actually happened. Once the two singers were added to the JGB, the sonic concept of twin keyboards made sense. The "rhythm piano" was supposed to be an anchor for the vocals, freeing the organist to provide the color. Many listeners were (and are) unhappy with Keith Godchaux's mostly simplistic piano playing in the 1978 Garcia Band, but it makes more sense if we think that it should have been better paired with a rippling Hammond organ as a counterpoint.

Harmony Vocalists
The big surprise of the June Garcia Band shows was the reappearance of two harmony singers in the band. Female vocalists had been an ongoing theme for Garcia's electric bar band for most of the previous decade. The first nominee, Sarah Fulcher, who sang at some but not all Garcia/Saunders shows in 1972-73, has also been widely criticized over the years. However, she appears to have simply been a Beta test for vocalists to come. When Keith and Donna Godchaux joined the Jerry Garcia Band in January of 1976, the focus was usually on Keith, but I am of the belief that ultimately Garcia was more interested in having Donna in the band.

Starting in late 1977, Donna was joined on stage by Maria Muldaur. Maria was of course already a well-known singer, but since she was John Kahn's girlfriend, she informally but nonetheless officially joined the group. The sound of the 1978 Garcia Band was greatly enriched by the powerful harmonies of Donna and Maria. When two vocalists were added to the 1981 band, it was pretty clear that this was the sound being evoked. Since almost every Garcia Band lineup after June 1981 had two female vocalists (save for the occasional transitional dates), it's fair to say that the two female vocalists were decreed as an essential component of the Jerry Garcia Band for its remaining duration.

It is worth a note that the two female vocalists of the 1981 JGB fit the blueprint beyond their vocal skills. Donna Godchaux and Maria Muldaur were the wife and girlfriend, respectively, of two JGB members. In turn, Essra Mohawk and Liz Stires were also the wife and girlfriend of band members. Essra Mohawk, already an accomplished singer and recording artist for well over a decade, was the wife of drummer Daoud Shaw. Liz Stires, a musician who had played around Marin, was Jimmy Warren's girlfriend.

I don't think that Mohawk and Stires hiring was an accident. All bands have a personality, and it extends to the backstage scene. Maria Muldaur had initially hung out at Garcia Band shows, and had casually worked her way on stage, with the confidence that came from being a star and having already performed with Garcia on occasion. But it also meant that when Maria joined, the new person on stage was not a new person backstage. A similar dynamic must have been in play with the '81 Garcia Band. Jerry Garcia had been a legendary rock star for well over a decade by 1981, and he could nor have looked forward to any backstage drama from new members of his side band. Yet since both new harmony singers had probably been familiar backstage figures for months already, the mellow JGB vibe could stay in place.

The June 1981 Jerry Garcia Band shows were the dry runs for the forthcoming Jerry Garcia Band. The band wasn't fully operational, because Ron Tutt wasn't on board. And once Shaw was replaced by Tutt, Essra Mohawk would leave, too, which Kahn surely knew, so the lineup was just a shakedown for what was to come. That was why, paradoxically, it was acceptable when Phil Lesh was forced to substitute for John Kahn, since the lineup wasn't final anyway. But it was still strange. Here Garcia and Kahn had been working all year towards the new model Garcia Band, and Kahn's absence insured that there would be no public explanation of any plans, had any explanation ever even been contemplated.

So here was Garcia's concept of the ideal Jerry Garcia Band
  • Jerry Garcia-lead guitar and lead vocals
  • Hammond organ, for color and counterpoint soloing
  • Rhythm piano
  • Two female harmony vocalists, with an R&B flavor
  • John Kahn-electric bass
  • Ron Tutt-drums
And here's what happened throughout the life of the band
Jerry Garcia-lead guitar and lead vocals
--this may seem self-evident, but actually it's not. For example, Garcia could have had another singer sharing the lead vocals, as he sometimes did with Donna Godchaux and Sarah Fulcher, or a rhythm guitarist.
Hammond organ, for color and counterpoint soloing
--Melvin Seals provided both for Jerry for the balance of JGB history
Rhythm piano
--Jimmy Warren was a huge letdown, but Seals rhythmic touch was so great that the piano role could be dispensed with
Two female harmony vocalists, with an R&B flavor
--although the female vocalists changed over time, they were an essential part of the JGB for the rest of its history as well. Through the years, their sound moved towards a more gospel feel, but that was the roots of R&B music anyway
John Kahn-electric bass
--Kahn only missed one-and-a-half further shows with the Garcia Band. One of them was a few months later, when Phil Lesh played at a benefit for the Fairfax schools (see below), and one time Dave Torbert stepped up in Chico (Mar 17 '82) for the first set when Kahn's arrival was delayed by heavy fog.
Ron Tutt-drums
--Tutt, unfortunately, only played the Fall 1981 tour. However, the versatile and understated style established by Tutt was the hallmark of the Jerry Garcia Band drum chair. For most of a decade, the seat was filled by the great David Kemper, a studio pro with almost as stellar a studio resume as Tutt. At other times, the chair was held by Greg Errico, Gaylord Birch and Don Baldwin, all of whom fit the Tutt mold in the best of senses.

The Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, at 397 Church Street, as it appeared in July 2010. The Jerry Garcia Band played here several times, including June 25, 1981 with Phil Lesh.

Salinas and Santa Cruz
Thus the Jerry Garcia Band that was playing at the Fox-Warfield on June 26, 1981 had been designed as the blueprint for the Garcia Band, and Garcia was true to the model for the next 14 years. The irony, however, was that Kahn wasn't there. Here there was a big plan for the future, and one of the principal architects was not present for the unveiling. Although there were relatively few interviews with Kahn (Blair Jackson had the first big one in Golden Road Winter 87), neither Kahn nor Garcia ever brought this up. Granted, no one asked, but whatever the reason that Kahn wasn't available--I have no evidence for the DUI theory, it just fits the known facts--I don't think he wanted to remind anyone of it. So rather than being remembered as a seminal weekend in the history of the Jerry Garcia Band, which it was, the June shows were buried and treated as a casual one-off, which they surely were not.

Although it is my hypothesis that the Fox-Warfield shows was planned as a sort of debut for the new model Garcia Band, it wasn't their actual debut. The same lineup, with Phil Lesh on board, had played the night before (Friday June 25) at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. This, too, was a Bill Graham Presents booking. It fit the Garcia Band pattern to "open out of town," rather than in San Francisco or Berkeley, and Santa Cruz seemed to fit the bill. Intriguingly, JGMF found very solid evidence that there was an even stealthier opening, the night before Santa Cruz.

On Thursday, June 24, 1981, it seems that the Jerry Garcia Band with Phil Lesh played the tiny Sherwood Hall in Salinas. Salinas was a nondescript seaside town that had primarily been the host to the nearby Fort Ord. Salinas was in between Monterey and Santa Cruz, on CA Route 1, and a good place to try out a band with two new singers and a guest bass player. I know High Noon had opened the Santa Cruz show, but they weren't present in Salinas. The Garcia Band would return to Sherwood Hall a few months later (Aug 6 '81), but at this time Garcia was never known to have played there. I do not know how the show was publicized or announced.

Most tape lists show Merl Saunders as having guested with the Jerry Garcia Band at Santa Cruz Civic. Merl was present, as he opened the show as a member of High Noon. I have only heard a faded audience tape of the show, and I don't really hear Merl, but I guess it's possible. The current thinking seems to be that Merl just sat in for the opening two numbers ("How Sweet It Is" and "Catfish John"). However, unless a reliable eyewitness can persuade me otherwise, I don't think Merl sat in. For one thing, with two new singers and a guest bass player, why would Garcia invite a third keyboard player on stage? My own opinion is that since people knew very little about the Garcia Band and there were no stage announcements, after seeing Merl on stage with High Noon and seeing a big black guy on the organ, stoned Deadheads just made the usual assumptions and the information got passed on as gospel.

June 26, 1981 Fox-Warfield Theater, 982 Market Street, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia Band/High Noon/Mike Henderson
Most of this post has been written from the knowing perspective of hindsight, to emphasize what a peculiar event the Fox-Warfield show had been. However, it is time to briefly return to the event itself, and an eyewitness account of how the show appeared at the time. My experience may not have been identical to everyone else's, so anyone with a different perspective is encouraged to add them in the Comments.

For a reason I no longer recall, my friends and I were slow on the draw and got tickets at the back of the balcony. However, Fox-Warfield sound and sightlines were so good that we were quite satisfied. We had seen numerous Dead shows at the Warfield in 1980, and other acts besides, so we knew we were getting good enough seats. The show was not sold out, but the place was pretty full. There were empty seats near us at the back of the theater, so I assume there were empty seats at the back of the floor. The only significance of sitting in the back was that we were not around the sort of hardcore fans who would have seen the Santa Cruz show, so we had no real inkling of what was coming. In those days, your information about recent shows was pretty much dependent on the conversations of people sitting around you.

One reason that the Fox-Warfield event had been so appealing was that it was a concert rather than a Keystone Berkeley show. Keystone Berkeley's charm was that time had no meaning, and Garcia never came on stage at the Keystone in those days before 11:00pm, sometimes way, way after. At that juncture in our lives, the time required to stand around all night at Keystone was not really welcome, and a seated concert on a more conventional schedule was very attractive. We could see Garcia at Keystone Berkeley any time, and sometimes did, but often as not we found excuses not to go.

The band High Noon, featuring Mickey Hart, Merl Saunders and Norton Buffalo, was opening the show. I had seen High Noon's debut the month before at the Fox-Warfield (May 22 '81), backing Country Joe McDonald and playing their own set in a mostly acoustic format at an anti-nuclear benefit that was headlined by an acoustic lineup of the Grateful Dead. The band was very good (I have written about High Noon at length elsewhere), and I was looking forward to seeing them again. While the High Noon members had mostly been listed in the concert ad, we didn't really know what they would sound like. Other than the May benefit, the Santa Cruz show had been High Noon's second show, so there was little to go on, which made it intriguing.

However, I for one was not pleased when 8:00pm rolled around and an emcee announced "will you please welcome Mike Henderson!" Henderson was a blues guitarist and singer who sometimes opened for Garcia at the Keystone Berkeley. He wasn't on the bill, and while he wasn't terrible, his acoustic guitar-plus-singing thing worked better in a crowded beer joint like Keystone then it did at a seated concert hall. To me, it was just delaying the show, and it wasn't what we wanted. I'm seem to recall Henderson playing for a very long time, which probably was an exaggeration, but the crowd was hardly impressed. This was followed by another long wait.

Finally, around 9:30pm, the curtain came up and High Noon played. They had an electric configuration that turned out to be more conventional than the acoustic lineup that had played before, but at this point I was just happy to hear them. They played similar material to their prior show, but with longer solos. Some remarks from Norton Buffalo suggested that someone in the band had been delayed. Presumably, that was why Mike Henderson had been added to the bill. This lineup of HIgh Noon had Hart on drums, Bobby Vega on bass, Merl on keyboards and vocals, Jim McPherson on organ, guitar and vocals, Mike Hinton on lead guitar, Vicki Bailey on congas and vocals and Norton Buffalo on harmonica and vocals. High Noon played for about an hour, and left the stage around 10:30.

Those of us who were expecting a quick set change were disappointed. In usual Garcia fashion, he was in no hurry to get on stage, and there was no attempt at explanation from the emcee or anyone else. Up in the back of the balcony, you could feel the natives get restless, particularly as the clock struck midnight. What was the point of avoiding the Keystone Berkeley for a concert, if the concert was going to start even later than any Keystone show? Finally, shortly after midnight, the lights went out and the curtain came up. With no announcement, the new model Garcia Band opened with a slow "I'll Take A Melody."

Let's set the scene: Garcia has made his jittery Friday night audience wait a few extra hours, and opened with a slow ballad, seemingly a recipe for frustrating the crowd. Yet Jerry was Jerry. The curtain came up, and there were two unexpected--to me--female vocalists covering the harmonies, and the anticipated yet still unexpectedly dramatic sight of Phil Lesh tucked back in John Kahn's space near the drums. When Jerry got into the first solo, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand, and all the waiting and frustration was immediately washed away. I saw my share of Garcia shows, but I'll never forget that moment. The full two-set show ended after 2:30am, very late for a BGP concert, but I didn't care, and neither did Bill, apparently. Sic Transit Gloria Jerome.

Sandy Hurvitz's debut album, Sandy's Album Is Here At Last, released on Verve Records in 1969. It was produced by chief Zappa henchman Ian Underwood, and featured many Mothers Of Invention. Hurvitz, now better known as Essra Mohawk, was a part-time member of the Mothers Of Invention in the summer of '67
Notes from Essra Mohawk
Although the June Warfield JGB was the shape of things to come, in fact there were many changes to follow. Tutt would replace Daoud Shaw on drums, which had always been planned, so when Shaw left, his wife departed too, which must also have been anticipated. She was replaced by Julie Stafford, another thread to be unraveled. When last sighted, Ms Stafford was a real estate agent in Georgia, and little is known about how she was recruited into the Garcia Band or her tenure there. However, very recently, Essra Mohawk was interviewed by Jake Feinberg, and she had some interesting tidbits about playing with the Garcia Band in 1981.

Essra Mohawk only sang with the Garcia Band for twelve dates in the Summer of 1981, all in the Bay Area. Although she got the gig because her husband was the drummer, in fact she is a very interesting musician and songwriter, with a pedigree that extends long before and after her brief Garcia Band stint in 1981. Essra Mohawk, originally Sandy Hurvitz of Philadelphia, had made an album on Verve Records in 1969 that was supervised by Frank Zappa. Hurvitz had hung out with the Mothers Of Invention in the Summer of 1967 when they had played the Garrick Theater, where she sometimes sat in, and was given the stage name of "Uncle Meat." The Mothers had started playing the Garrick right when the Dead began their two-week run in June of 1967 at the Cafe AuGoGo, in the same Greenwich Village building as the Garrick. John Perry Barlow reunited with Weir then, and he has cryptically mentioned a trip to Millbrook with Weir, Lesh and Hurvitz. Feinberg unraveled a few other interesting details (my transcriptions are paraphrased):
--Lived up in Mendocino for a while, Went out [to San Francisco] in '67. Became friends with the Grateful Dead, they said come to Monterey Pop Festival, went to Monterey Pop with Linda Ronstadt. Went to San Francisco with a high school friend, missed the Monterey Pop festival [sic-self contradiction], ended up at some free hippie fest. Hung out in Haight Ashbury
--Buddies with Bob Weir, and Phil Lesh and I were an item for a minute
--John Kahn knew my husband, Dauod Shaw, the original SNL drummer and played with Van for 10 years, and Jerry's drummer was on tour or out of town and Daoud went to fill in
--Liz [Stires] wouldn't take any of the high notes I had the range and she didn't
--I'm from Philly, if you're on stage and you're a woman, you dance and you do steps
--you don't stand there like a stick, like she did
--she complained about me dancing. I thought women that looked good on stage should dance. How can you inspire the audience if you're not grooving?
--she actually complained and I was told to stop dancing
I do recall that in the 1981-82 version of the JGB, with Liz Stires and Julie Stafford, both women would leave the stage when the band started to solo. The most interesting detail that arises from the Essra Mohawk interview, however, was that for the few shows that Phil Lesh ever played with the Jerry Garcia Band, his ex-girlfriend and her husband were in the band. To be fair, it was 14 years later, and I don't think it was a deep and lasting relationship or anything, but it's still a funny rock and roll story.
Although initially begun as a Jerry Garcia Band project in Fall 1981, Run For The Roses was ultimately released as a Jerry Garcia solo album on Arista Records in November 1982

The Jerry Garcia Band continued on until 1995, very much along the path that had been laid out in June of 1981, save for the rhythm piano. Melvin Seals swirling organ, the soulful female harmonies and the spare, flexible drumming were integral to the sound up until the very end. Ron Tutt returned to the Garcia Band in October 1981, but things weren't the same. Not with the music--Tutt was still the gold standard for drummers. Yet when Tutt found out that Melvin Seals was a Christian, he pulled him aside and told him that they had to do something to rescue Jerry from the perils of his drug use. Now, this was a sincere, Christian thing to do, but even the mighty Ron Tutt could not pull that off. After the 1981 tour, Tutt mostly worked with Neil Diamond, and never returned to the Jerry Garcia Band. Bill Kreutzmann took over the chair until mid-82.

Run For The Roses was finally released in late 1982, the second and last studio album credited to the Jerry Garcia Band. There were only seven tracks on the album, two of them outtakes from the 1974 sessions that produced Compliments Of Garcia, and another track was a needless cover of "Knocking On Heaven's Door." Phil Lesh played one more date with the Garcia Band, apparently a last second booking of a benefit for the Fairfax schools, and never played with them again. No one ever inquired why he had filled in for Kahn in the first place, about dreams that were trying to become real and plans that didn't exactly worked out the way they were intended in the first place.

Appendix 1: June 26, 1981 Fox-Warfield Theatre, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia Band
I: I'll Take A Melody, How Sweet It Is, They Love Each Other, Mississippi Moon, Tangled Up In Blue
II: Mission In The Rain, The Harder They Come, Knockin' On Heaven's Door, Dear Prudence, Midnight Moonlight
(Phil Lesh substitutes for John Kahn)

Appendix 2: August 22, 1981 Fairfax Pavilion, Fairfax, CA: Jerry Garcia Band
I: How Sweet It Is, Mission In The Rain, Sugaree, Tangled Up In Blue
II: I'll Take A Melody, The Harder They Come, Knockin' On Heaven's Door, Midnight Moonlight
(Phil Lesh substitutes for John Kahn)
The Jerry Garcia Band played this last-second benefit for the Fairfax Schools, and Phil Lesh stood in on bass. I don't recall how it was advertised, and it may not have been publicized much at all. I don't know what Garcia's connection to the Fairfax schools might have been. The JGB had played the two previous nights at the Keystone Berkeley, with Kahn on board, so Phil's presence didn't seem like such a big deal. Of course, no explanation has ever been forthcoming as to why Phil was there instead. At the time, I recall thinking that maybe JGB guest appearances by Phil would be like Bill Kreutzmann sitting in, occasional but regular. I was quite wrong.

I should point out that people underestimated Jerry as a bandleader. At the Fairfax show, all but one of the songs he called were ones that Phil had already played with the Garcia Band in June. The other song? "Sugaree." Phil knew that one.

Appendix 3: Run For The Roses-Jerry Garcia
Initial release : November 1982
Arista AL 9603
The second and last studio album credited to the Jerry Garcia Band. Includes two Garcia/Hunter songs and one by Garcia, Hunter and John Kahn.

  • Run For The Roses (Jerry Garcia / Robert Hunter)
  • I Saw Her Standing There (John Lennon / Paul McCartney)
  • Without Love (Clyde McPhatter)
  • Midnight Getaway (Jerry Garcia / John Kahn / Robert Hunter)
  • Leave The Little Girl Alone (John Kahn / Robert Hunter)
  • Valerie (Jerry Garcia / Robert Hunter)
  • Knockin' On Heaven's Door (Bob Dylan)
  • Producer - Jerry Garcia, John Kahn
  • Basic recording - Betty Cantor-Jackson, Ron Malo
  • Overdubs, mixing - Bob Matthews
  • Art - Victor Moscoso
  • Crew - Steve Parish, Harry Popick, George Varra
  • Arrangement - Jerry Garcia, John Kahn, Roger Neuman (horn arrangements on Without Love)
  • Management - Rock Scully, Sue Stephens, Alan Trist
  • Thanks to - Grateful Dead Productions, John Cutler, Willy Legate, Dan Steadman
  • Mastering - George Horn
  • Tracks 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 recorded at Club Front, San Rafael, September to December 1981
  • Tracks 2 and 3 recorded at Devonshire Studios, Los Angeles, February 1974