Thursday, June 22, 2017

First Free Grateful Dead Concert In Every City (Business Innovations)

The Panhandle abuts Golden Gate Park, but actually it is part of the Haight Ashbury neighborhood rather than the park itself.
Music in Late Capitalism, and performance in general, was designed to be a scarce resource, withheld until payment was offered. If music was performed too freely, than people would stop paying for it. As a practical matter, this led to some mid-century nightclub economics that Jerry Garcia derided as "Cabaret": playing a short set to sell drinks, and then taking a break, and either turning over the house or forcing everyone to buy more drinks for the next set. Radio disrupted this model, but not by much, since a listener didn't know when their favorite song would be played, and thus kept listening to ads while they were turned in.

The Grateful Dead had a contrary assumption about music. To the Dead, if you gave people music for free, they would just want more of it, and pay for that privilege. Prior to the Grateful Dead, free concerts in the music business were the actions of the desperate. Free concerts in 1966 and '67 San Francisco upended the notion that music was a finite commodity, and the Grateful Dead were fundamental to that equation. When free concerts became an untenable promotional scheme, the Dead moved to live FM broadcasts, another area in which they were pioneers. Ultimately, the Dead formally encouraged their fans to tape concerts in the mid-1980s, again undermining decades of music business orthodoxy. Thus the Dead are credited with "inventing" internet marketing, since giving it away in the hopes that people will pay later is the go-to business model for the internet.

I am hardly alone in the formulation that the Grateful Dead were foundational in enticing fans by simply playing music for free. Of course, Bob Weir and others have said that the Grateful Dead often did what was easiest, with little forethought, and so assigning them as incipient marketing geniuses may not be entirely warranted. While I think the Dead's influence in the music business has been overstated, however, it isn't irrelevant. Whether the Dead gave away music for free by accident or design, it has had a profound effect on the 21st century live music market. Today, free concerts abound all over cities and college campuses in America, and many performers accept that at least some free performances help get your music across to people who otherwise might never hear it. This post will look at the Dead's free concerts as a commercial endeavor, primarily by examining the first free concert in any city where the Dead played. Since the 20th century is now complete, this analysis probably has no current commercial value, but it should make for an interesting catalog.

The Grateful Dead played a few locations in Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC, from the back of a flatbed truck, on August 3, 1966
August 3, 1966 Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC: Grateful Dead/United Empire Loyalists
The first free concert by the Grateful Dead can very definitely be identified. Remarkably, it was on their first international trip, to Vancouver, British Columbia. The story was recounted in detail in Rock Scully's biography, and confirmed by the teenage members of the opening act. I wrote about the band's trip to Vancouver at my usual length, but I will focus on just a few key points here.

Briefly, the Grateful Dead had been invited to play the Vancouver "Trips Festival," a three-day Acid Test under a more polite name, from July 29-31. As the Vancouver event was modeled on the San Francisco Trips Festival from January, the two brightest lights from that event were invited to Vancouver. Although the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and The Holding Company would be legendary within 18 months, at the time they were just penniless musicians. Big Brother took the train to Vancouver and hitchhiked to the venue (with Dave Getz's drums), and I don't think the Dead had any more glamorous of a trip. The Vancouver Trips Festival was not particularly well attended, although the Dead in fact played well (and their performance has recently been released).

The Dead were an underground sensation, though, so a local promoter had booked a show with them for the next Friday night (August 5). However, the Dead had no record, and no one in Vancouver who hadn't been to the Trips Festival had heard them, so they had to be concerned about ticket sales. The Dead hung out and rehearsed at the suburban homes of the teenage members of the opening act, and while driving around they spotted a bandstand at a public park in Vancouver.

So it came to pass that on August 3, the Wednesday before their show, the Grateful Dead and the United Empire Loyalists drove around Stanley Park in Vancouver, rapidly setting up their gear on bandstands, performing a few numbers and then being chased away by the cops. They played at least two places. Their teenage hosts were enthralled, and dedicated themselves to a life of rock and roll (until they went to college, but that's another story). How much the Vancouver free shows helped ticket sales wasn't clear, but the paying Vancouver show went ok, and it sparked an idea. The band's initial success in Vancouver was due to underground buzz, since that was all the Dead had to offer. Free concerts were a way for the band to generate that buzz themselves, and let the underground do their advance work.

The West Coast was sort of a separate touring market from the rest of North America up through the early 70s, and Vancouver was part of that. The Dead drew well in Vancouver, but I don't know if many in Vancouver were even aware of the free concerts. The Dead did not play Vancouver after 1974, but I think that was because touring the Northeast was more desirable. The important thing about the first trip to Vancouver, however, was the idea of publicizing shows by playing free concerts.

September 1966 Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco: Grateful Dead
The most mysterious and chimerical free shows in Grateful Dead history are the least documented. Various old-timers assert, with the casual confusion so classic of 60s memories, that in the Fall of 1966 the Grateful Dead played some free concerts in Speedway Meadows at Golden Gate Park. There were no permits, no cops, no suburban wannabes, no hassles, nothing but fun. Of course, there were no tapes, no photos, no posters nor any other evidence that they really happened. Did they happen? We may never know.

The timing makes sense. Rock Scully and Danny Rifkin managed to take control of 710 Ashbury in September of 1966, and with the band rehearsing on Haight Street (at the Straight Theater), quick free concerts in the Park would have been easy. Everyone says that 1966 was the real summer of love, when a relatively small group of long hairs had the time of their lives, so any free show would only be known by word of mouth and attended by a few hundred people at most, most of whom probably knew each other. So, realistically, these concerts were more like parties than concerts, even though they were held in public spaces. The commercial value of the free Speedway Meadows concert was probably close to nil, since the only people attending were insiders who probably came to Dead concerts anyway.

October 6, 1966 The Panhandle, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Big Brother And The Holding Company/Elektric Chamber Orkustra Love Pageant Rally
LSD was made illegal in the State of California on this Thursday, and the Grateful Dead and Big Brother held an unsanctioned free concert in the Panhandle. There had already been at least one free concert in the Panhandle, with Country Joe and The Fish on August 13, and the Dead had played some free shows at Speedway Meadows in Golden Gate Park.  Still, the October show was the first free Grateful Dead show in the Panhandle. This was a seminal event, because it was publicized, at least on the underground jungle telegraph. A few thousand freaks from everywhere in Northern California converged at the Panhandle, and discovered that there were a lot more of them in the Bay Area than anyone thought.

The "Love Pageant Rally," as it was known, was also an important milestone in the history of free Grateful Dead concerts, and indeed free concerts in general. It was a free concert, yes, but it was widely publicized and so drew a large crowd. This was in distinct contrast to any performances in Speedway Meadows, which seem to have been somewhat secret. Above and beyond the fact that the event was publicized, the location insured that numerous residents and commuters would see it or hear it, whether they wanted to or not.

The Panhandle is not actually in Golden Gate Park, but adjacent to it, in residential Haight-Ashbury. The Panhandle is so-named because it is a grassy extension of Golden Gate Park (it is the "handle" if the park is the "pan"). It runs eight blocks East of the park, from Stanyan to Baker, bordered on both sides by Fell and Oak streets. Fell and Oak are important one-way throughways for San Francisco drivers ("Oak to Oakland, Fell to the fog" is the directional mnemonic). A weekday event in Speedway Meadows could pass by unnoticed, but thousands of people, young and old, were going to see or hear any Panhandle event.

Not coincidentally, the Grateful Dead were on the bill that weekend (Oct 7-8-9) at the Fillmore, booked below Jefferson Airplane and Butterfield Blues Band. Airplane and Butterfield were headlining three weekends, mostly at Winterland, with various opening acts. However, during the first weekend, police had shot a black man in the Fillmore district--nothing ever changes, does it?--and there were violent disturbances in the neighborhood. All the suburbanites who normally drove into the city were afraid to park in the Fillmore district. The Airplane/Butterfield shows for the first weekend (Sep 30-Oct 1)were moved from Winterland to the smaller Fillmore Auditorium, but even then, only a few hundred people showed up. Thus the next weekend's shows were moved to the Fillmore as well, and Bill Graham had to be nervous about ticket sales.

Thus a few ideas came together at once. The Grateful Dead played for free, as they apparently had been doing on occasion already. They publicized the event, and did it in a relatively public place, to insure that a crowd showed up, making them local heroes. And they did it the day before a show when they really needed the ticket sales, when they didn't have a record or any other way for potential fans to hear them. I don't know for a fact about attendance at the weekend Fillmore shows, but presumably things went well enough.

What may have started as a lark soon became a method. Initially, the Grateful Dead did not have a record, and when they did they weren't getting any airplay, and even when FM radio finally arrived the band still didn't get as much airplay as other bands. The band's willingness to play for free, however, set them apart, and they became underground legends, more widely known than heard, so when they played a new city for free, there were a lot of curious people who would check them out. To be fair, other San Francisco bands liked playing for free, too, for the same reasons, but the Dead made a project of playing for free outside of San Francisco.

January 14, 1967 Polo Grounds, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/The New Age/Loading Zone/Sir Douglas Quintet Human Be-In
On a Saturday afternoon in January, some leading San Francisco bands played for free at the Polo Grounds in Golden Gate Park. There were 20,000 or so hippies dancing around in their psychedelic finery. The event was picked up by TV network news, back when that was universally watched. Not only was the idea of professional bands playing for free unthinkable, it was winter in the rest of America. If you were a teenager, shivering in Peoria or Pittsburgh, watching rock bands playing for free in the California sunshine while young women danced in the park, San Francisco was the promised land. And the networks didn't even say anything about Owsley.

In fact, by the time of the Human Be-In, the Dead had played free concerts in the Panhandle three times: The Love Pageant Rally (Oct 6), the Artists Liberation Rally (Oct 16) and the "New Year's Wail" (Jan 1). However, notwithstanding the stealth gigs in Speedway Meadows, the Be-In was the Dead's first performance in the actual Golden Gate Park. The Be-In also made free concerts a "thing" in San Francisco, and it immediately spread. There were Be-Ins all over, though mainly on the West Coast: Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Vancouver, San Jose and so on. Colleges and other hip places had their own attempts at Be-Ins, even if they were lacking psychedelic bands and indeed, psychedelic transportation. Raleigh, NC, for example,  had a Be-In on May 7 (at Umstead State Park), with a bluegrass band, since the only psychedelic blues band had already moved to San Francisco.

After the Human Be-In, the "Free Concert In The Park" was an established thing, not just in the Bay Area but all over the country, extending all the way to England. The Grateful Dead, however, were the most devoted practitioners of it as a promotional device, long after other bands had stopped doing it. The fact that the Dead were from San Francisco, and had played at the original Be-In. made their willingness to play free concerts all the more iconic. It may have been that the Dead were simply doing what was easy for them, but to fans in various cities it made them seem like alluring outlaws.

A photo of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead playing live, for free, at Tompkins Square Park in Greenwich Village on June 1, 1967. The photo is probably from the next day's New York Times.
June 1, 1967 Tompkins Square Park, New York, NY: Grateful Dead/Group Image
The first real test of the Grateful Dead's unique promotional approach was no less of a place than Manhattan, the media capital of the United States. The Dead were booked for a two-week run at the Cafe Au-Go-Go in Greenwich Village. All the hip bands played the Au-Go-Go, but the Dead had a new album that wasn't getting any airplay on AM radio. New York wasn't Dayton or Modesto--people young and old had a million choices of things to do, and needed a good reason to choose one thing over another.

So the Grateful Dead did the San Francisco thing, hooking up with a local collective and rock band called the Group Image, and playing a free concert in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village (bounded by East 10th Street, Avenue A, East 7th Street and Avenue B).  The Group Image (and perhaps other bands) had already played for free at Tompkins Square Park, but they were locals who could easily be seen around the way. As far as I know, no visiting rock band had played for free in a Manhattan park.And even if one had, it would have been some carefully scripted appearance sponsored by a radio station or something. Yet here was a band headlining a hip East Village club playing live, for free, a few blocks from their gig. Unorthodox? You bet. But Scully commented how amazed the Cafe Au-Go-Go was at how much buzz there was around the neighborhood after the free shows.

The Dead's residency at the Au-Go-Go was a success, and the free concert at Tompkins Square played its part. Manhattan is a world unto itself, but Jesse Jarnow did an excellent job of placing the Dead's free concert in Greenwich Village in its cultural context, in his indispensable book Heads. Taking no chances, the Dead played a free concert in Central Park the next Sunday (June 8).  Central Park was a long way from Greenwich Village, but it was still in subway range. There are free rock concerts in Manhattan all the time now, but it started with the Grateful Dead.

A San Jose Mercury News photo of campers at the football field at Monterey Pop Festival. The Grateful Dead and other bands played for free for the campers, as the festival went on nearby.
June 17, 1967 athletic field, Monterey Peninsula College, Monterey, CA: Grateful Dead/others
The Monterey Pop Festival broke the San Francisco scene worldwide. The Summer Of Love in San Francisco was memorialized by a hugely successful rock concert 120 miles South of the city. The event received worldwide press coverage, and the entire music industry knew that something big was happening under their noses. Unfortunately, pretty much no one noticed the Grateful Dead's musical performance on Sunday night (June 18), particularly after the Jimi Hendrix Experience followed them.

However, the entire press contingent noticed that the Grateful Dead set up a stage at the athletic field of the junior college across the way. The Dead and Quicksilver played sets, and apparently various musicians wandered over periodically to jam or sit in. Other performers may have included Eric Burdon and The Animals, Country Joe and The Fish, the Steve Miller Band, and members of The Byrds and The Paupers, although the precise details have never been confirmed. From a marketing point of view, the Dead got far more attention for playing for free than they did for their "official" performance, even though very few of those writers actually heard the band's performances at the athletic field. The Monterey free concert, however, for which there are no first-hand accounts, nonetheless may still be one of the most important free concert the Dead ever played. The Human Be-In would have happened with or without the Grateful Dead. At Monterey Pop, however, it was the Dead who organized the free concert, and the entire music industry took note. The industry was against it, of course, but they saw it. 

The July 4, 1967 Stanford Daily described the Palo Alto Be-In, where the Grateful Dead played for free
July 2, 1967 El Camino Park, Palo Alto, CA: Grateful Dead/Anonymous Artists of America/New Delhi River Band/Solid State/The Good Word Mary Poppins Umbrella Festival and Be-In [free concert]
Using equipment that they "borrowed" from the Monterey Pop Festival, the Dead played a few free concerts, including another one in Golden Gate Park (June 21). They also played for free in Palo Alto (I had originally thought that this concert was on Saturday, June 24, but an article in the Stanford Daily confirmed the date of Sunday, July 2). Among the other bands, the Anonymous Artists Of America included Jerry Garcia's wife Sara (they were now separated), and future New Riders David Nelson and Dave Torbert were in the New Delhi River Band. The Palo Alto Be-In was not widely covered in the local press, so it did not have a huge impact on the Dead's prospects. It added to their legendary status in Palo Alto, but the event was largely forgotten until I resurrected it (I actually attended this show, but I was 9 years old, so I don't remember much). Returning to Palo Alto added to the Dead's legend, but they would always be legends in Palo Alto, so commercially their appearance didn't matter much.

July 16, 1967 Golden Gardens Beach, Seattle, WA; Grateful Dead/Papa Bear's Medicine Show/Time Machine/Daily Flash/Karma/Brick (afternoon free concert)
By 1967, various cities on the West Coast were booking underground psychedelic rock shows. All of them were on the Fillmore model, with a light show and no seats. When a band from San Francisco or Los Angeles could be enticed North, a few local hippie bands would be added to the bill, and it made for nice little shows. California bands got to spread their wings, and Pacific Northwest promoters got to have some more profitable bookings. The Seattle area had a particularly active scene, promoted mainly by Boyd Grafmyre. Country Joe And The Fish initiated free concerts in Seattle, playing downtown in Volunteer Park on June 10, 1967, before a local booking.

Once again, however, when the Grateful Dead made their first trip to Seattle, they were legendary, but they had never played Seattle, nor did they have a hit record. The band had booked three shows in Vancouver (July 13-15) where they had already played, so rather logically they added a Sunday night show (July 16) in Seattle. They were booked at the Eagles Auditorium, which was the local psychedelic ballroom at the time. Following their pattern, they played a free concert in a Seattle park right before their Eagles show.

Golden Gardens Park is in Ballard, a neighborhood of Seattle. I do not know if the Dead actually played on a beach at the park (the park is on Puget Sound). I would expect they played on a grassy field rather than a beach.  Golden Gardens is not far from El Roach, where the Dead played on August 20, 1969, when they were rained out of the Aqua Theater. I don't know how many people attended the free concert, nor how well the Sunday night concert went at Eagles.

Since the Grateful Dead were invited back to Eagles Auditorium, however, for two more shows (September 8-9, Friday and Saturday), the initial Seattle concert at Eagles must have gone alright. The free concert magic seems to have worked. On Saturday, September 9, between the two gigs, the Dead played another free concert in Volunteer Park in downtown Seattle. Volunteer Park was just a few miles from the University of Washington, so the Dead's primary audience was nearby. I think the weekend at Eagles went well, but I don't know of any eyewitness accounts of the Volunteer Park show. Still,  the strategy must have worked. Certainly, the Dead owned Seattle after 1967, so they must have got something right.

JGMF sends along a link to a summary of an article about the Golden Gardens show, from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer of July 17, 1967
Located in Ballard, Golden Gardens was typically a place where the “straights” hung out, far away from the usual hippie hangouts near the University District and Capitol Hill. The crowd of 2,000 people who gathered at the park for the Be-In was a mix of all folks who just wanted to enjoy some rock music in the hot summer sun.  
The bands performed on a flatbed truck with electricity provided by a small portable generator. Brick went on first, followed by Karma, The Daily Flash, The Time Machine, and Pappa Bear's Medicine Show. The Grateful Dead came on last.  
The Dead were in Seattle for a show that evening at the Eagles Hall, and since they were veterans of many Be-Ins in San Francisco, the band and their manager, Rock Scully, decided to take part in the gathering at Ballard. The Be-In was arranged by Tim Harvey of Overall Cooperative Structure and Jerry Mathews of United Front Productions. 
By this time, "Be-In" type events were common on the West Coast, but the Dead were tuned in to the advantages of playing at them. Papa Bear's Medicine Show were a popular Vancouver band, and Daily Flash were Seattle's finest psychedelic export.

A 2010 photo (from CN Tower) of the O'Keefe Center in Toronto
July 31-August 5, 1967 O'Keefe Center, Toronto, ON: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Luke And The Apostles
The Grateful Dead did not play that much in Canada, but in the 1980s they drew fairly well in Toronto. They probably could have played Canada as much as they wanted, but supposedly their was some hesitance to cross the border. Although Toronto was smaller than Montreal in the 60s, Toronto became Canada's largest city, and the 5th largest city in North America, so success is Toronto was critical for Canadian success. Once again, free concerts were integral in introducing Toronto to the Grateful Dead, but uniquely, it was not the Grateful Dead who played for free.

As 1967's "Summer Of Love" was ending, Bill Graham took the Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead to Toronto and the East Coast. Graham booked a week at the O'Keefe Center, the city's most prominent auditorium, in downtown Toronto. The shows were billed as "The San Francisco Scene Comes To Toronto." By this time, the San Francisco Scene implied free concerts, and Graham did not disappoint. He had learned from the bands that playing for free was a great substitute when radio airplay was not forthcoming.

Graham had primed the pump by having the Jefferson Airplane play a free concert the week before the O'Keefe shows, at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto on July 23. Luke And The Apostles and a group called Spring Garden Road were also on hand. At the time, the  Dead were still back in San Francisco. By the time the week's shows began, however,  the Airplane had already given Torontans a taste of what to expect. The Toronto shows apparently did very well, no doubt helped by a follow-up free concert by the Airplane in Phillips Square, on Saturday, August 4.

August 6, 1967 Place Ville Marie, Montreal, QC: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead (afternoon free concert)
Montreal in the 1960s had a booming rock scene. Bill Graham came through the city with two of the hottest bands from what was the coolest city in rock at the time, and had them play a free concert downtown at lunchtime. This was unprecedented in Montreal, as it was everywhere else, giving it away for free with the implicit assumption that you couldn't resist paying for it. The Dead and the Airplane were playing at the "Youth Pavilion" at the World's Fair later that same day.

August 6, 1967 Youth Pavilion, Expo '67, Montreal, QC Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead (free concert)
The International World's Fair, known as Expo 67, was held in Montreal from April 27-October 29, 1967. By any standard, the fair was hugely successful. The Dead and The Airplane played for free outdoors at the "Youth Pavilion." The bands probably actually got paid, but as far as I know it was free for the fans, except insofar as they had had to pay for admission to the fair itself. Montreal seems to stand alone in Grateful Dead history as a city where the Dead played for free twice in the same day, but never had a gig where people had to pay to see them. Montreal seems to be an instance where we can see the non-genius side of the Dead's "marketing," Montreal had an exciting scene, and the band even had Rosie McGee for parlez-vous duties, but after playing twice for free at the biggest event in Montreal history, the Grateful Dead never returned (the Airplane didn't either).
JGMF reports that the Dead did attempt to play Montreal, on November 18, 1970, but the show was canceled due to "political unrest."

A current photo of the Ann Arbor West Park bandshell, where the Grateful Dead played a free concert on August 13, 1967. The sculpture was probably not there at the time.
August 13, 1967 West Park, Ann Arbor, MI: Grateful Dead (afternoon free concert)
Ann Arbor, MI, home of the University of Michigan, was about 40 miles from Detroit. University of Michigan is always paired with UC Berkeley as the best of public universities, and in the 60s they were also amongst the most forward looking and radical as well. There was always a lot of connections between Berkeley and Ann Arbor, in politics, music and other ways. In that respect, Ann Arbor was a far more fruitful pasture for the Dead than Detroit city.

On the Sunday following the Grande Ballroom shows, the Dead played a free concert in West Park in Ann Arbor, at 215 Chapin Street, under the bandshell. This was apparently the first outdoor free concert in Ann Arbor. McNally (p.211) reports that the free show was financed by Warner Brothers, to promote the album, so clearly Warner Brothers was slowly catching on to the Dead's unique method to promotion. Notorious Michigan radical John Sinclair was involved, so the Dead were right in the thick of the local political ferment, and there are color photos of the shows.

However, while Ann Arbor may have seemed like a perfect place for the Dead to build an audience with a free concert, a few things got in the way. The first was that the Midwestern weather in Ann Arbor is never very favorable to outdoor shows, and the August show was when school was out. Furthermore, most Ann Arbor students caught their rock shows in Detroit, so there was a lot of overlap. Thus, while I'm sure the Dead had many early adherents in Ann Arbor, those fans were more likely to move to Berkeley than build up the audience in Michigan. The Grateful Dead did alright in Michigan over the next few years, but it didn't really become a stronghold of Deadhead culture. [update] LightIntoAshes reports that Warner Brothers probably had little do with the Dead's performance. He also noted that there had been free rock concerts in Ann Arbor by various Detroit bands, so the Dead were not the ones who initiated the concept in Ann Arbor.

September 16, 1967 Elysian Park, Los Angeles, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead (afternoon free concert)
San Francisco and Los Angeles had been locked in a partially imaginary battle for California supremacy since the 1950s. Rather hilariously, from our vantage point, San Francisco had been the stodgy home of old California money, and Hollywood was the land of free thinkers. The LSD-and-Fillmore revolution upended this equation somewhat, but not enough to tip the balance. As a result, bands like the Dead and the Airplane were looked on dismissively by Southern California. This was because only Los Angeles had the cultural self-confidence to look askance at other California innovations.

Bill Graham had promoted a giant show at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday, September 15, headlined by Jefferson Airplane and supported by the Dead and Big Brother (Big Brother actually canceled). The day after the Hollywood Bowl show, the Dead and the Airplane played a free concert at Elysian Park in Los Angeles. Elysian Park is in Central Los Angeles, near the foot of Sunset Boulevard, and not far from Chavez Ravine and Dodger Stadium. Elysian Park was established in 1886.

However, Los Angeles, being LA, had picked up on the free concert trend soon after the Human Be-In in San Francisco in January (Jan 14 '67), and had held a series of "Love-Ins," starting on March 26. These shows featured all sorts of hip bands. Thus, when the Dead and the Airplane played Elysian Park, it was cool for their fans, but already a regular thing. Unlike other cities, the Dead didn't initiate free concerts in Los Angeles. The Dead always drew well in Southern California, but that was only because it was perhaps the biggest rock concert market in the country, not because the band was an exceptional draw.

September 24, 1967 City Park, Denver, CO: Grateful Dead/Captain Beefheart/Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth/Lothar and The Hand People/Crystal Palace Guard
Denver, however, just a week after Los Angeles, was a different story. Denver is unequivocally part of the West, but back in the 1960s it wasn't much like California. Chet Helms had the bright idea of opening an outlet of his Family Dog in Denver, so bands could play both Denver and then the Avalon in San Francisco. It was a very sound idea. It made sense of the new touring economics of rock bands, and he correctly read that there was a growing population of hippies in the Denver area.

The Denver Dog opened on the weekend of September 8-9 with Big Brother, then the next weekend with Quicksilver Messenger Service, and on the weekend of September 22-23 the Dead headlined. True to their pattern, the Grateful Dead played a free concert at City Park in Denver on Sunday, September 24. City Park is a large, central park that includes the Denver Zoo. I do not know exactly where the Dead played. The photos show a very small and casual event, with not even a raised stage. In this case, the concert wasn't to promote ticket sales, as the band had already played, but to promote the Denver Dog and set the table for a return visit. A local flyer (above) indicated that it was a "Be-In," but the Dead were not specifically named.

Once again, it's pretty clear that the Dead's Denver free concert was the first free concert by a visiting act that actually had a record. The Denver Dog itself ended badly. The Sheriff wanted to chase the hippies out of town, and his constant busts and hassling bands ended the venue as a paying proposition (Bob Seger's song "Get Out Of Denver" wasn't just his imagination). But the Dead owned Denver ever since that first concert. It took a while, sure. But it's hard not to draw the conclusion that the Dead created some pretty positive mojo by being the first to play for free. Now, of course, the remaining band members can play Folsom Field, but it seems to have started with a little fun in the park on a Saturday afternoon.

A wire service story from April 16, 1968 (published in the Colorado Springs Gazette) about the Grateful Dead's free concert in Graynolds Park in Miami, described as a "Love-In."
April 14, 1968 Graynolds Park, Miami, FL: Grateful Dead/Blues Image
The Grateful Dead debuted in Florida with two weekends at Miami's Thee Image. They also attempted to remix Anthem Of The Sun at Miami's famed Criteria Studios. It's unclear to me if the Dead played the shows because they working at Criteria, or that the band was working at Criteria because they were booked in Miami. In any case, nothing much seems to have come from working at Criteria.

The South was slow to grab on to psychedelia, for any number of reasons, but Miami was and is both part of the South and yet somewhat independent of it. Thee Image was the first real psychedelic rock venue in the South that featured the same touring bands who played the Fillmores, and I have tried to tell the story elsewhereProprietor Marshall Brevetz became good friends with the Dead, and they played for him a number of other times, in Florida and later in Los Angeles.

For the very first weekend in Florida, however, the Dead did not apparently draw very well at Thee Image. They had their own solution, however. On Sunday, April 14, they played for free in Greynolds Park in Miami, an unprecedented event in Florida rock history. The Dead knew a thing or two about free concerts, and not only were the next weekend's Dead shows well attended, but Thee Image took to regularly presenting acts for free in the park. The Dead have been popular in Miami and South Florida ever since.

May 3, 1968 Low Library Plaza, Columbia University, New York, NY: Grateful Dead
May 5, 1968 Central Park, New York, NY Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Butterfield Blues Band
From the point of view of anyone who has not lived or worked in New York City, the Dead had already played a free concert in New York, when they arrived in the city on June 1, 1967 (see above), and another a week later in Central Park (June 8). New York, however, is a universe unto itself, and each Borough is like a separate country. So from a New Yorker's point of view, the '67 concert in Tompkins Square Park was in Lower Manhattan, in the East Village at E. 7th Street and Avenue A. Many uptown Manhattanites would be more likely to go to Connecticut or Woodstock than the Lower East Side, so from that perspective the '67 concert would not be seen as a free concert "in their own city."

This time around, however, the Dead played a free concert at Columbia University, at 116th Street and Broadway, way up on the Upper West Side in what would become Seinfeld country. Two days later, the Dead (along with Jefferson Airplane) played another free concert at the Central Park Bandshell, near E. 72nd Street. Thus the Dead had covered Lower, Central and Upper Manhattan, and both the East and West side. Granted, they had not played the Outer Boroughs, but by playing free concerts in multiple locations, more residents of the whole city had an easier chance to see them. In any case, after four free concerts in the city, by 1968 the Dead established themselves as a popular act in New York Metro, and they remain so to this day.

November 23, 1968 Memorial Auditorium, University of Ohio, Athens, OH: Grateful Dead
After a poorly attended concert in Columbus, OH (where Ohio State University is located), the band was persuaded to use an off-day to play for free at Ohio University, in Athens. about 75 miles to the Southeast. Eyewitness accounts suggest that the place was packed, and the Dead played two sets. It's hard to say exactly how much impact this unpublicized event had, but the fact is that the Dead drew very well in Cleveland and Cincinnati for the next few decades, so maybe all those Ohio U students returned to the big city with legendary tales. In any case, this unique indoor free concert fit with the Dead's "strategy" of playing for free when their might be an audience, in the hopes of future returns.

Thanks to fellow scholar runonguinness for pointing out this show. He also includes some great links, from the indispensable Deadsources.

July 7, 1969 Piedmont Park, Atlanta, GA: Grateful Dead/Delaney and Bonnie and Friends/Chicago Transit Authority/Spirit
By mid-1969, the Grateful Dead were legendary for their free concerts. Readers of Rolling Stone and other magazines who lived outside the Bay Area seemed to believe that the Dead played for free in Golden Gate Park every month, if not every week. Thus, although many rock fans had barely heard the Grateful Dead's music, the band was synonymous with the 60s rock axiom that music was "for the people," and was best provided free.

In the May of '69, a newly formed band of musicians from Florida lived in Macon, GA. They took to playing free concerts at Piedmont Park in Atlanta. These concerts were the first whiff of San Francisco for the city. The band played heavy, jamming rock, and there was at least one black musician amongst the long-haired white hippies. The regular Sunday afternoon concerts became a social event of sorts in Atlanta for the local long-hairs, and the city of Atlanta discovered that the world did not end. Atlanta in general had always been a good music town, but the band from Macon made hippie guitar-rock part of the Southern soul and blues mixture. By mid-summer, the Macon band had stabilized their lineup and had been signed by Atco Records (via their Capricorn imprint) and was known as the Allman Brothers Band.

As young people in the New South were drawn to rock music, as they were everywhere else, a giant rock festival inevitably followed. Unlike many regions, the first Atlanta International Pop Festival, on July 4-5, 1969. It was actually held at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, in Hampton, GA, 30 miles South of the city. It was one of a flurry of rock festivals held at Motor Racing facilities in 1969, and one of the most successful. Over 150,000 fans saw more than twenty acts at Atlanta Pop. Promoter Alex Cooley actually had a certain amount of guilt at having made money at a rock festival. So on the Monday after the festival, Cooley staged a free concert at Piedmont Park, including four bands who had played at the Festival. On top of that, he paid to fly the Grateful Dead in from Chicago, where the band had just finished playing the Kinetic Playground.

Thus there was an all-day free concert in Piedmont Park on the Monday after the Pop Festival, featuring a few of the bands from the festival, with the Dead as the concert closers. After the Dead's set, there was some sort of jam. It's a little murky who played with who. The Allman Brothers certainly played earlier in the day, but may not have been present at the end of the event. In any case, the Piedmont Park show was the first point of contact between the Allmans and the Dead.

The Grateful Dead were the mark of cool in 1969, and when the Dead played a free concert in Atlanta, their coolness was transferred to the city. Atlanta reciprocated, too: Piedmont Park was the Dead's first show in Atlanta, and the city was a great market and guaranteed tour stop throughout the life of the band. Nothing more clearly illustrates the power of a hip band playing a free concert in order to generate paying customers in the future. The Grateful Dead returned to Atlanta the next year, and the city was a regular tour stop for the band long before any other places in the South.

May 6, 1970 Kresge Plaza, MIT, Cambridge, MA: Grateful Dead
Boston and its sister city, Cambridge, just across the Charles River, have always been filled with college students and young people. The schools in Boston are large, varied and important, too: Harvard, MIT, Boston University, Boston College, Tufts, Brandeis, Northeastern and more. The city of Boston has always been not just a great music town, but a town that makes taste, too.

By 1970, the Dead had already played the Boston area a number of times and had a solid following. Indeed, the band's only New Year's Eve concert outside of the Bay Area had ended a three night stand at the Boston Tea Party the previous December. On May 6, 1970, however, the Dead played a free concert at a rally protesting the National Guard killing of 4 students at an antiwar protest at Kent State University in Ohio.

The Dead considered themselves "not political," but the Kent State killings were seen as trans-political, an issue of what we would now call "Social Justice." Of course, the Dead were always willing to play for free, and saw it as good business, but I have no doubt that the individual band members were as appalled as other Americans that the Ohio Guard had fired on protesting college students.  Playing a free concert at a protest rally at an elite University in Boston assured that the Dead were always seen as being "on the right side of history."

In the ensuing years, the Dead's ongoing credibility stemmed from events like the MIT rally. As it happens, the band had a paying show at MIT's DuPont Gym the next night (May 7), so you can just as well see it as the Dead drumming up business. Whether you see the concert as calculating or sincere, however, keep in mind that plenty of other bands were on tour that week, and there were protests at Universities all over the country. How many bands with record contracts played those protest rallys? Few, if any. The Grateful Dead did play a Kent State protest, for free, and their underground status continued to set them apart from their peers.

From the MIT student paper, The Tcch, May 6, 1970. The final item in the schedule for the day's protest observes that there will not be a free concert by the Grateful Dead at 2 pm (h/t GratefulSeconds)
Fellow scholar David (of Grateful Seconds) sends along this clipping from the MIT student paper The Tech, from May 6, 1970. It shows the underground at work. The schedule of events explicitly states that there will NOT be a free Grateful Dead concert in Kresge Plaza at 2 pm.

An ad for the Festival Express concerts at CNE Grandstand in Toronto on June 27-28, 1970 (the ad is from the Toronto Daily Star of June 26, 1970) The Grateful Dead played the first day, billed under The Band and Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
June 27, 1970 Coronation Park, Toronto, ON: Grateful Dead
There was a dark side, however, to the Dead's reputation for playing free concerts. By 1970, there were a lot of hippies who felt "music should be free," and resented paying anything at all for concerts. There had been a lot of outdoor rock festivals in 1969 and '70, and most of them had deteriorated to the point where large numbers of fans were let in for free. In most cases, the promoters took a bath, and very few rock festivals ever repeated in the same venue, if they repeated at all. Needless to say, bands and promoters wanted to get paid, but as rock crowds got bigger that was turning into a tricky proposition.

The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band and others participated in the infamous Festival Express tour (memorialized in a wonderful movie). The idea was that a traveling circus of bands would cross Canada by train, playing at stadiums across the continent. While the music performed at the Festival Express concerts was great, the events themselves were financial debacles. One of the reasons was that many Canadian fans, like young rock fans everywhere, felt that the bands should just play for free. In Toronto, this turned into a serious problem. The threat of riots was eased significantly when the Grateful Dead played a free concert in a Toronto park.

The Festival Express tour was to begin with a two-day concert at Toronto's Canadian National Exhibition Hall. There were numerous acts on the bill, with The Band headlining. Also on the bill were Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Ten Years After, Delaney and Bonnie, Traffic, the James Gang and others. The Dead were booked to play on Saturday, the first day. The Grateful Dead had played Toronto once since the week at the O'Keefe, playing two shows at The Rock Pile on July 8, 1969. The Rock Pile, at Yonge and Davenport, near the University, was Toronto's equivalent of the Fillmore, and every great 60s touring band had played there. So the Dead would not have been entirely forgotten in Toronto. The scene on the ground in 1970 was tense, however. Thanks to Deadsources, we can get the story directly from the Toronto Daily Star of July 29, 1970:
Jerry Garcia, the guitarist of San Francisco's Grateful Dead, came onstage [at the stadium] asking the youngsters to cool it. 
Then Police Inspector Walter Magahay talked the promoters into staging a free 24-hour "rehearsal" at Coronation Park on the lakefront opposite the CNE where bands could donate their time to play for the would-be crashers who didn't have the $10-a-day, $16-a-weekend price of admission. 
More than 6,000 swarmed to the park by 7 p.m. when the equipment was set up and Ian and Sylvia, James and the Good Brothers, and the Grateful Dead started the rehearsal off.
Another 6,000 swarmed over after Saturday night's official concert end and camped out on the grass listening to the jamming that went on under the stars until 4 a.m. 
"It saved the day," said Constable John Sagar, one of Metro's new "mod squad" community relations officers in charge of Coronation Park, who wore a yellow T-shirt with a peace symbol on it. "It took one heck of a lot of pressure off."
Eyewitness reports suggest there was an acoustic set and an electric set, although they may not have been one after the other. Incidentally, the Canadian duo of Ian and Sylvia had a fine backing group featuring Buddy Cage on pedal steel guitar. Garcia and all the New Riders were intrigued. Cage became friends with them on the tour, and he is still in the New Riders today.

The Toronto episode pointed up how the Grateful Dead's original strategy of playing for free was starting to work against them. When the band had been an underground cult act, they could perform stealthy gigs without much trouble. Since no Top-40 radio stations were really playing their records, it was a way to get their music out. By the middle of 1970, however, the landscape was quite different. FM rock radio played lots of album tracks, including Grateful Dead ones. On top of that, Workingman's Dead had been released in June, 1970 and it was very radio friendly. The Dead, unexpectedly, got lots of FM airplay, but it meant that some free outdoor concerts were going to attract too many fans and too much trouble, for no financial return. Toronto was a perfect example.

The Grateful Dead, however, were ever-inventive. As the free concert, and its cousin, the outdoor rock festival, declined as a means of getting fans to hear the Dead's music, the band found another way. Since 1968, the Dead had been experimenting with live broadcasts of complete concerts. It took them a few tries, but by the middle of 1971 they had finally gotten it right. When the Fillmore West closed in 1971, the Dead broadcast their entire July 2 show on San Francisco's biggest FM rock stations.

The Fillmore West broadcast was the Dead's promotional model for their fall tour. The Dead had released a new double live album (Grateful Dead, aka "Skull & Roses"), and with $100,000 of promotional support from Warner Brothers, there were live FM broadcasts in 14 cities. I have discussed the FM broadcasts at great length elsewhere, so it needn't be recapped. Some comments from Jerry Garcia in the Village Voice in December of 1971 make it clear that the FM broadcasts were seen as an extension of the free concert concept (from Al Aronowitz's Pop Scene column in the Village Voice, reprinted in the cd booklet for Dave's Picks Volume 22, Felt Forum, New York, NY 12/7/71):
"Well, you know," says Jerry Garcia, "we've always been into free concerts and the broadcast was kind of a free concert without any hassles. Ever since Altamont everything has been so sticky when you try to do a free show. With us the whole trip is to make music available."

The Grateful Dead adventure is a business model, like it or not
It's no coincidence at all that when the Dead started broadcasting live on FM radio, the commercial value of playing free concerts no longer made much sense. There were only six more free Grateful Dead concerts, one free Jerry Garcia concert, and one free Mickey Hart show where Garcia showed up anyway (May 30 '75). The Hart show, the Garcia show (Sep 2 '74) and two of the Dead shows were in San Francisco (Sep 28 '75 and Nov 3 '91). The other free concerts were in different cities, and were the final gasps of the original strategy, from which the Dead probably received little commercial benefit.

June 21, 1971 Chateau d'Herouville, F: Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead were invited to France, I believe by a rich person, to hang out at a Chateau that had been converted to a recording studio. The Grateful Dead, probably unlike other bands who went to the Chateau, decided to play a free outdoor show for the locals (query: how do you say "townie" in French?). There is video and audio of this relaxed event, but it was just the band having fun on someone else's dime.

May 13, 1972 Fairgounds, Lille, F: Grateful Dead
As I understand it, a French promoter had booked some shows that sold very few tickets, and they had to be canceled. After some negotiations, the Grateful Dead ended up playing for free at the Fairgrounds in Lille, France. One important point to take away from this was that even by 1972 the Grateful Dead were the only remaining band who would be asked to play for free when a concert fell through. This was another unintended byproduct of the Dead's musical generosity, namely that--just like the internet--the clients always wondered if they could get it for nothing. The band did not play Lille again.

September 30, 1972 athletic field, American University, Washington, DC: Grateful Dead
Sam Cutler made one last try to use free concerts to promote the band. The key to his strategy seems to have been the fact that many schools had entertainment budgets for students that were large enough that the band could actually get paid even when the students got in for free. The first attempt at this was on an athletic field at American University in Washington, DC. American U. is a large (currently 13,000+ students) private research institution, founded in the nation's capital in 1893.

The Grateful Dead would end up being a huge draw in Washington, DC. However, I don't think the American U. show had much to do with it. It rained the day of the show, and apparently only a few hundred students showed up. While the Dead played a pretty good show--it was 1972, after all--I don't know if much buzz came from such a thinly attended event. No matter--thanks to relentless touring throughout the South, DC ended up being a convenient midpoint for fans from the Northeast and Southeast, packing both indoor basketball arenas and outdoor stadium shows.

The crowd at the Grateful Dead concert at Alumni Lawn, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, October 21, 1972 (from the VU Hustler newspaper)
October 21, 1972 Alumni Lawn, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN: Grateful Dead
The last stand of the Grateful Dead's strategy was at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Nashville was new territory for the Dead, and Cutler managed to persuade the school to pay the Dead to put on a free concert instead of playing the acoustically awful gym. It was a beautiful fall day in the South, and 15,000 fans saw an amazing concert, fondly remembered by Vanderbilt students of that era. The band rolled into town, they played, they conquered, and they left behind Deadheads for life.

The band never did it again. The played two 1978 shows in Nashville, but many of the Vanderbilt students would have been long gone. After Watkins Glen, big outdoor concerts made every city and school nervous. In any case, once the "Oil Shock" of 1973 hit the economy, colleges and universities started chopping their entertainment budgets, so there wouldn't have been any way to finance a repeat of the Vanderbilt experience.

As an economic strategy, however, the Grateful Dead no longer needed free outdoor concerts. FM broadcasts spread the Grateful Dead's music far and wide throughout the 1970s. While changes in the FM radio market made the live broadcasts rarer, those same broadcasts provided the seeds for bootleg records and then tape trading. So in that respect, despite their lack of planning and rookie mistakes, the Dead found a way to circumvent the music industry's distribution system at least three times, and all of them are now part of the menu of possible music promotion strategies. Up and coming bands all over the country hope to play for free at parks and public spaces, usually officially sponsored as a regular part of civic or school entertainment. Whether the Grateful Dead were shrewd visionaries or accidental heroes, they laid the cornerstones for the marketing of 21st century music.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Jerry Garcia, Sneaky Pete Kleinow and The Avalon Ballroom (Pedal Steel Guitar)

A poster for the Grateful Dead and The Flying Burrito Brothers (and AUM) at the Avalon Ballroom on April 4-6, 1969. Jerry Garcia took an extraordinary interest in Burrito pedal steel guitarist Sneaky Pete Kleinow.
This blog has been largely devoted to analyzing available evidence to find new insights about the Grateful Dead, in particular for events that are poorly documented. Seven years ago I wrote a post arguing that Jerry Garcia's purchase of a pedal steel guitar in Colorado on or about April 14, 1969 was very likely to have been influenced by having seen "Sneaky" Pete Kleinow play one with the Flying Burrito Brothers the weekend before. My reasoning was pretty good, but it was inductive. My speculation was that Garcia had heard the Sneaky Pete's groundbreaking pedal steel sound on Owsley's sound system, and it had intrigued his ears. I am patient, however. Now, finally reading Volume 7 of the memoirs of the road manager of The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, I have some concrete proof that this was true, and it isn't speculation, but rather an eyewitness account.

James "Jimmi" Seiter was the road manager of The Byrds from July 1966 onwards, except for most of 1969, when he was the road manager of The Flying Burrito Brothers. The Burritos released their groundbreaking debut album, The Gilded Palace Of Sin, in February of 1969. The two principal singer-songwriters of the Burritos, Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons, had been in the prior year's "country-rock" version of The Byrds, in the lineup that had produced 1968's Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. The Burritos, however, not only featured the songs of Hillman and Parsons, but also the unique and astonishing pedal steel guitar of Sneaky Pete. While Sneaky played in country and western bars throughout Southern California, he was the first major steel player to emphasize special effects and sonic nuances in the steel guitar that could be heard with loud rock amplification. Although The Gilded Palace Of Sin was not a hit album, it caught the ears of musicians.

Jimmi Seiter has been in the process of releasing his memoirs, called The Byrds: My Way. After six volumes of documenting his time with the Byrds, Volume 7 discusses Seiter's time as road manager of the Flying Burrito Brothers for most of 1969. Seiter's memoir rambles, and he is thorough rather than direct, but from the standpoint of rock prosopography his work is a motherlode of fantastic information. We have been all but devoid of eyewitness accounts of the April '69 stand with the Burritos and the Dead, but Seiter was intimately involved and backstage the entire time. He notes in great detail not only Jerry Garcia's intense focus on Sneaky Pete's pedal steel playing, but the remarkable fact that on at least one night, Garcia played a pedal steel behind the stage in an attempt to see if he could keep up with Sneaky Pete. In this context, the fact that Garcia bought a pedal steel guitar the next week hardly seems like a surprise.

A 1969 Zane Beck Custom D10, probably similar to the one Jerry Garcia bought in 1969. Per The Steel Guitar Forum, Tom Brumley seems to have played one, and that may have influenced Garcia's choice.

Jerry Garcia and The Pedal Steel Guitar
Grateful Dead fans know that Jerry Garcia had diverse musical interests, some of which took many years to rise to the surface. His old friend Peter Grant recalls them hearing the Buck Owens song "Together Again" on the car radio in 1964, with a pedal steel guitar solo by the great Tom Brumley, and Garcia declaring "we gotta learn pedal steel!" Garcia had actually obtained a Fender pedal steel around 1966, and there a few photos (although no recordings) of him playing that instrument. However, Garcia apparently found it difficult to keep it tune, and had Ramrod trade the instrument away (a story for another time). Grant, however,  had learned pedal steel, and had played it during the Aoxomoxoa sessions on the song "Rosemary." By early '69, Garcia's country roots were starting to re-assert themselves, with songs like "Diamond Dupree's Blues," so pedal steel must have been on his mind. Gilded Palace Of Sin had come out in February, just as Aoxomoxoa was being completed.

We know the story. Garcia bought a Zane Beck Custom Double-10 pedal steel guitar in a Colorado music store after a show in Boulder on April 13, 1969. I have assumed that Garcia went to a music store in either Boulder or Denver on April 14 (a Monday), although I guess it could have been the day before. He took it back to Novato and started to practice. John Dawson turned up at a rehearsal--what was Dawson doing there?--and wanted to hear Garcia play it. Dawson dropped by Garcia's house later and played his own songs, so that Garcia could have something to play along with, and when Garcia found out that Dawson was playing those tunes on Wednesday nights at a hofbrau in Menlo Park, he offered to accompany him. Mutual friend David Nelson was roped in, and the New Riders Of The Purple Sage arose from that trio. 

The implied narrative has always been that Garcia somewhat spontaneously decided to buy a new instrument out on the road, and from a chance meeting with Dawson the New Riders were created out of nothing. I always found that curious and unlikely, which is why I wrote my post some years ago. Jimmi Seiter's eyewitness account has confirmed my notion. Garcia was thinking about buying another pedal steel guitar, and hearing Sneaky Pete persuaded him. Garcia seems to have bought a pedal steel on the last day of the the April tour so that he could begin practicing immediately. It wasn't spontaneous. Garcia had plans.

The Gilded Palace Of Sin, by The Flying Burrito Brothers, released on A&M Records in February 1969.

Jimmi Seiter, The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers
Jimmi Seiter is a pretty interesting character with a pretty interesting history, but he has told it himself in his (so far) seven volume autobiography. Thus, I will only recap it briefly. Seiter (b.1945) had been a teenage drummer in St. Louis, but after a stint in the US Navy he came to Los Angeles to study architecture. He became friendly with singer Dobie Gray ("The In Crowd"), and through Gray became the road manager of The Byrds starting in July, 1966. Unlike later bands, like the Grateful Dead, Seiter was the band's entire traveling crew. Seiter acted as road manager, booking agent and road crew. He booked the shows, made the arrangements, dealt with the promoters and set up the gear for the stage and the recording studio. From a Grateful Dead perspective, it's as if he were Rock, Danny, Ramrod and Bob Matthews, all in one.

Granted, the Byrds mostly had just four members, five at most, did not carry their own sound system and had no keyboard player. Seiter and the band flew by plane, with just guitars, drums and amplifiers. In some cases, they just rented backline amps, so Seiter never really had any need for a truck and a  crew. It meant, however, that Seiter was intimately involved in all the Byrds' activities on a day to day basis. Appealingly, he seems to have kept detailed notes of his tours. His memoirs are based on his tour notes, and while conversations are obviously reconstructed from the past, Seiter does not have to depend on his memory for the details of dates and bookings.

The Byrds were one of the best-selling and most beloved American rock bands of the sixties. The Flying Burrito Brothers, though never a hit act, were a profoundly influential country rock band, regularly cited by musicians into this century as a cornerstone of American music. As such, it is not surprising that their have been numerous books about both the Byrds and the Burritos. In particular, Burritos' co-founder Gram Parsons (1945-1973) has been idolized and eulogized since his untimely death as a lost genius of roots music. This characterization of Parsons may not be wrong, since he was influentially close to Keith Richards, Emmylou Harris and many other important figures, but Parsons has been given credit for all sorts of innovations that may not have been exclusively his own. An Amazon Book search of "Gram Parsons" will turn up a surprisingly large number of entries for a singer who never had a single hit record.

Jimmi Seiter, having had a long career in the music and entertainment industry, seems to have had a desire to set the record straight with respect to the Byrds and the Burritos. Seiter claims, with some justification, that many of the details about the Byrds and Burritos in numerous books are not correct, and he appears to have the documentation to back much of that up. On the other hand, the style of his memoirs assumes an encyclopedic knowledge of the bands, and can be confusing to follow. Seiter resolutely insists on telling the story as he knew it, without claiming to know what others claim to be fact, but it means that at times the reader has to follow the story in the dark if Seiter himself did not know it at the time. It may not matter, however--who is reading books about the Byrds in the 21st century? People like me, who know the contours of the story already.

For those like me who are interested in accurate 60s rock music history, Jimmi Seiter is like found gold. Sure, the prose is probably transcribed directly from an audio reminiscence, with all sorts of grammatical oddities, but so what? It's like the road manager of The Byrds is on your back porch, knocking back beers and telling you exactly how it was back in the day. Every book is like an entire twelve-pack, wandering from topic to topic and then repeating the same story from two or three different points of view, but it you're me, usually just hoping for the odd remark from some old hippie on a comment thread, the idea that a road manager will be telling the entire story of the Dead's stand at the Avalon in April 1969 is nothing short of incredible.

The Grateful Dead and The Flying Burrito Brothers at The Avalon Ballroom, April 4-6, 1969
When the Grateful Dead were booked at the Avalon in April of 1969, a number of transitions were underway. For one thing, Chet Helms' Family Dog had given up promoting shows at the Avalon, and shows were now booked by a different company. Helms was still welcome at the Avalon--Seiter mentions meeting him at the shows--but it wasn't his gig anymore. As for the Dead, they were currently booked by the Millard Agency, which was run by Bill Graham. Graham had loaned the Dead some money, and he got it back by requiring the Dead to work through his agency. Still, this was probably a benefit to the Dead as well, as the Fillmore mojo was starting to spread elsewhere, and Graham's agency was well placed to benefit from that. The band AUM, opening the Avalon bill, was another Millard client. AUM lead guitarist Wayne Ceballos, an old pal of the Dead's since the Warlocks days, would jam with the group a number of times when their groups shared a booking.

As for the Burritos, according to Seiter, they were actually in a precarious position. The Burritos were brilliant, but also unprofessional, and they had managed to irk their record company by running up numerous tour expenses without much to show for it. The band's initial tour consisted of taking a train to Chicago, for no good reason, to play a few shows. Some lucky patrons got to hear Gram Parsons in the bar car, but otherwise the band hadn't done much. The Burritos had played a week in New York at The Scene and then a few shows at Philadelphia's Electric Factory, mostly booked with Three Dog Night. Seiter had joined the band in New York. He had a promise from the band that he would have a management position, but Gram Parsons wanted Seiter to share the role with his pal Phil Kaufmann, an infamous character, and Seiter was not comfortable with that. Thus at the time, Seiter was effectively an uncompensated employee of the Burritos.

For various complicated reasons, the Burritos had poor relationships with their booking agents. Thus the early Burritos mostly played one nighters at Los Angeles nightclubs, rather than touring, The shows at the Avalon were a rare out-of-town booking for the band, and presented a huge opportunity for the group. Seiter, well connected to everyone in the fledgling rock industry, had every intention of turning the Avalon show into something much bigger. In particular, the Grateful Dead, through Bill Graham's Millard Agency, had a proposal on the table for the Flying Burrito Brothers to accompany them on a national tour as their opening act. Remember--this was before the New Riders had formed, or Garcia had a pedal steel, and a plan was afoot for the very first California country rock band to perform on a bill with the Dead throughout the Summer of 1969.
Jimmi Seiter was the road manager of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers in the 1960s. Volume 7 of his memoir The Byrds: My Way details his time with the Burritos in 1969.

Jimmi Seiter, The Byrds My Way, Vol. 7-Burritos
Seiter picks up the story in Chapter 28

The Burritos had a show to do in San Francisco at 'The Family Dog' [sic-Avalon Ballroom] and we were playing second to 'The Grateful Dead' this was thanks to Bill Graham and was to be the first of many as planned by management of the 'Dead' they were waiting for me to tell them the Burritos decision on the other shows. There was an opening act on the shows also called AUM that were a Blues/Rock Trio. Their setup was easy to work around once we figured out what to do with their keyboards. 
The unspoken part of this was that never had the 'Dead' had a band not respond to their request to open their shows before as we had done to touring with the 'Dead.' It was not something that was even considered by by some agents or managers. The Burritos agents had already penciled in dates and monies that were promised and they too could not believe the bands reluctance to respond to this offer... 
I had several discussions with Gram [Parsons] & Chris [Hillman] about this show in San Francisco and the potential tour. Gram was not at all interested because some of the future dates would take away from the west coast during the 'Stones' visit to LA. Gram was convinced that the Burritos would be able to work with the 'Stones' on their tour so he wanted to remain in town to solidify that deal.... 
The [Stones] tour might be a problem but the weekend at the Family Dog was a go for now. April 4,5 &6 were the dates a Friday, Saturday & Sunday...2 shows a night and we were politely asked to do just our 45 minute shows so that the 'Dead' could play a bit longer as their audiences preferred... 
The trip to San Francisco was pretty much as always just a short flight from Burbank airport then to the hotel and for me over to the 'Dog' to setup for the show. The stage was not as big as I might have liked but we fit fine along with the 'Dead's' own gear. They had some of their own sound system there added to the sound system 
The KPFA-fm radio remote crew were there setting up and would do a test tonight during the shows for the live show which was set for the Saturday night shows. There was a stage crew from the 'Dead' that were all familiar faces to me. They were doing a sound check in just a bit and wanted to get all ready and out of the way once had a radio sound check. 
I had only heard the 'Dead' play once before live and their sound check was pretty good I had to admit. The show was being recorded by the 'Dead' through the console and then they were feeding a stereo mix to the radio station. It all sounded pretty good and the mixer promised that he would not be recording the Burritos' sets [note: the mixer lied]. 
After the sound check was over I was setting up the Sneaky Pete steel guitar and Jerry Garcia wanted to check out our setup. He really liked the way Pete played and asked me a few questions about the effects that he used while I was setting up . The key element was the the fuzz device that Pete kept with him in his small bag of tricks. Jerry asked if the Burritos were doing a check and just then they were. He stayed on the stage and chatted to Sneaky a bit as he sat down and got himself prepared for the sound check. We got a drum sound then the bass then the acoustic guitar then the steel I wanted to get the best stereo that I could on the steel sound. 
Jerry Garcia just stood by and watched as Sneaky did his thing. The band played "Close Up The Honky Tonks" and sang to get a good mix in the monitors and then we were done pretty much with the sound check. The 'Dead' band were talking with the Burritos on stage and sharing some show comments... 
I had the Burritos on stage and plugged in while they were being announced. Gram said a brief hello and they were off and running. I made a short visit to the mixing position to see how it sounded to the radio feed then back to the stage. When I got back to the stage I saw Jerry Garcia there watching Sneaky intently from the side of the stage he was watching his every move and sort of mimicking his hand movements and his pedals as well. He seemed to get a real pleasure out of Pete and the way he played his steel... 
It was a really good show and got a nod from Mr. Garcia as he went backstage himself. I got the band to the dressing room and then reset the stage for the 'Dead' and it seemed that the radio station was recording all the shows just in case they had a failure during the live show which was changed to Sunday night due to a local sporting event or so I was told. 
The band was just relaxing backstage and Mr. Garcia came in to voice his approval of a great show. The band was a bit surprised and yet embarrassed by the the compliments he was giving them...[after the Dead completed their first set] Jerry admonished this audience to show the Burritos how much they liked their music when they came back for their show [the second set]... 
I reset the steel guitar and Sneaky came out to finish the tuning and he got a huge ovation as he did that which shocked him. Then with a towel on his head was Jerry Garcia to watch what Sneaky was doing. I reset the rest of the stage and had the drums ready as Sneaky went off to talk to Mr. Garcia at the side of the stage he seemed very interested in Pete's setup and how he played. 
Jerry Garcia was right there watching Pete through about 5 or 6 songs [of the second set] and then he went back to take some rest...but then he was back watching Pete again like a student watches a really good teacher. 
It was obvious that the steel guitar fascinated him and he was a bit amazed at the way Pete played the instrument. Sneaky Pete was not your typical steel guitar he had a very unique style of playing and Jerry Garcia was soaking that in like a sponge... 
[Upon returning Saturday afternoon] Inside I kept the steel guitar in the dressing room for Pete to tune and to keep it a bit out of site until show time. On the stage I noticed that there was a steel guitar setup for the 'Dead' as well. I was guessing that maybe Jerry Garcia wanted to try his hand at this instrument with Pete here to mentor him... 
When the opening act came off I went to the stage to set the Burritos with the steel guitar and there was Jerry Garcia setup back in the back of the stage with his own steel guitar tuning it with headphones. I setup Sneaky and then he joined me to finish and he looked over at Jerry who was behind the amps and they gave each other a knowing wave of approval... 
By the time they kicked off "Close Up The Honky Tonks" [the Burritos' perennial opener] Jerry was playing along into the headphones. He was totally out of view of the audience and the stage crew told me that was what he wanted to play along but not to be seen anyone at all. A picture of that would have been priceless.... 
[Later in the set] I went back to the stage now and Jerry had vacated his steel to go and watch Pete from the side of the stage again. He was intently watching his feet and hands as Pete made it look easy. The show was into its final song and at the end Jerry was like a cheer leader leading the audience from the side of the stage. It was a rousing send off for the Burritos and Jerry left the stage just ahead of the band... 
[Backstage] Jerry again stopped by to sing his own special praises as he was on his way to the stage. He really liked the band and liked their arrangements a lot as well. I am sure that 'Bear' had a special tape that was made for Jerry which had the steel guitar highlighted... [The Saturday night show] went on and on and soon [the Burritos] were into their final song [of the second set]. Jerry was back on the side of the stage but not for the entire show this time [at this juncture, Seiter, Sneaky Pete and Hillman get dosed, but that is another story. Jerry apologizes to them the next night].... 
[On Sunday night, April 6] About mid-show there was Jerry watching Pete play just off his side of the stage and when he saw him Pete just smiled at me. Mr Garcia had his steel guitar on stage for the 'Dead' show but I am not sure if he played it or not...

Sneaky Pete Kleinow (1934-2007). Accept no substitute. 
Sneaky Pete Kleinow (1934-2007)
"Sneaky" Pete Kleinow is remembered now as a pedal steel guitar pioneer, but in fact he mostly made his living as a stop-motion animator in Hollywood. He had a particularly important role as the primary animator for the Gumby series. In the 1980s, he worked on many movies and TV shows, including The Terminator. Sneaky's pedal steel innovations were honed at night, playing in Hollywood country bars when his day job was complete. Kleinow was older than his hippie contemporaries, and he had teenage children during the time he was in the Flying Burrito Brothers (and his children were kept at arm's length from the 60s indiscretions of the band).

I was lucky enough to see Sneaky Pete live on two occasions. The first time, he played with a reformed version of the Flying Burrito Brothers in June, 1976 at Stanford University's Frost Amphitheater, opening for The Band. Although this version of the Burritos was no match for the original Parsons/Hillman lineup, I can assure you that when Sneaky let it rip on "Devil In Disguise" there was no doubt that a master was at work, with his unique sound soaring over the grassy bowl. The second time, about a decade later, was in a dumpy nightclub where a part time band was backing the Cajun artist Jo-El Sonnier, but with an all-star lineup that included Garth Hudson, Sneaky and Albert Lee. Kleinow's style was much more disciplined, with so many players on stage, but it showed the breadth of his talent.

Sneaky Pete stood out as a pedal steel player, as he seems to have been the first to incorporate echoplexes, fuzzboxes and Leslie speakers into his rig. By the mid-60s, such gear was common for six-string electric guitarists, but Sneaky used those effects with his pedal steel. As rock sound systems improved and got louder, Sneaky's approach to his instrument had even more impact. Guitarist Bernie Leadon, a member of the Flying Burrito Brothers in 1970 and '71, and later a member of the Eagles, attempted to explain to writer John Einarson how different Sneaky's sound really was [included for any guitar players in the audience, since I don't really know what this means]
"Sneaky uniquely played an eight-string Fender cable pull steel tuned to B6 instead of the more common C6. He played an usually more jazz or swing tuning in a style that most other players use an E9 tuning for. His rationale was [that] B is the 'five chord,' or dominant chord, to the key of E. This resulted in absolutely-to-Pete steel licks. And no one else thinks like him anyway."
Sneaky Pete's unique tuning and rock accoutrements made him a pedal steel player like no one else in 1969. Completely steeped in country music from years of playing in honky tonk bars, yet with an imagination defined by his animation career, and using the newest available technology to bring out the sounds he heard in his head. Once that sound manifested itself on an Owsley-designed sound system, who couldn't be mesmerized? We have very little eyewitness evidence from the Avalon, with only the deliciously infamous Pamela Des Barres (I'm With The Band), the Burritos' biggest fan, describing the shows in the liner notes to an historic re-release of the Burrito sets at the Avalon. But now, thanks to Jimmi Seiter, we know one person who was mesmerized by Sneaky Pete.

I now feel confident that Jerry Garcia bought a pedal steel guitar in Colorado because he heard Sneaky Pete Kleinow playing one on Owsley's sound system at the Avalon. We know Garcia had liked the Burrito album, because he even played "Devil In Disguise" once, and mentioned the record between songs. And we know he had an interest in the pedal steel, and had even owned one a few years earlier. But after he heard Sneaky Pete, Garcia went to the trouble of apparently renting a pedal steel so he could play along with the band, and bought his own a week later. New Riders' producer Steven Barncard described Garcia's subsequent pedal steel setup (in a fine Blair Jackson article for Mix Magazine)
“He had a [Dunlop] Fuzz Face, a real cheap diode square-waver—that’s what sufficed for fuzz in those days,” Barncard says. “The pedal industry hadn’t matured, so they were hand-built and noisy, but they did what was advertised, which was distort the signal.” On [the New Riders' "Dirty Business"], Garcia combined the Fuzz Face with a wah-wah pedal, allowing him to bend both notes and raw fuzzed sound in unearthly directions beyond the steel’s conventional capabilities.
Garcia heard Sneaky through an Owsley filter, and as soon as he could he was on the same train. All that was missing, really, was the animation career, and given Garcia's interrupted talent for drawing, maybe he could have had that, too.

Could it have been the Flying Burrito Brothers instead of the Buddy Miles Express, opening for the Grateful Dead at the Kinetic Playground in Chicago on July 4-5, 1969?
The site of Don Edwards' Guitar City in Lakewood, CO (9895 W. Colfax Ave, Lakewood, CO), where Jerry Garcia bought a ZB Double 10 on April 13 or 14, 1969
Update: Thanks to Correspondent @QueenCityJamz, we know where Jerry Garcia bought his Zand Beck Double 10 pedal steel guitar, namely the Guitar City in Lakewood, CO. The proprietor was one Don Edwards, and he even found the address (9895 W. Colfax Avenue, Lakewood, CO). Edwards' store was famous as a pedal steel guitar emporium. Our Correspondent confirmed this with Peter Grant, who still owns the ZB Double 10 that Garcia gave him in 1970 when he got a new one.

According to Grant, one of the steel guitar teachers in the store was no less than Rusty Young, who would soon afterwards join Poco for the next 50 or so years. Grant recalls that Young gave Garcia some advice about which steel guitar to buy.

Appendix 1: The Flying Burrito Brothers Touring With The Grateful Dead?
Seiter's fascinating story of the proposal that the Flying Burrito Brothers tour with the Dead was woven into his story of the trip to the Avalon. I have separated out the key paragraphs here. Keep in mind that while this was a serious proposition, agents and managers often went back and forth with various ideas, and even had the Burritos consented, there's no guarantee that it would have occurred in the way that it was originally suggested. It's still pretty intriguing, though.
The Burritos had a show to do in San Francisco at 'The Family Dog' [sic-Avalon Ballroom] and we were playing second to 'The Grateful Dead' this was thanks to Bill Graham and was to be the first of many as planned by management of the 'Dead' they were waiting for me to tell them the Burritos decision on the other shows. There was an opening act on the shows also called AUM that were a Blues/Rock Trio. Their setup was easy to work around once we figured out what to do with their keyboards. 
The unspoken part of this was that never had the 'Dead' had a band not respond to their request to open their shows before as we had done to touring with the 'Dead.' It was not something that was even considered by by some agents or managers. The Burritos agents had already penciled in dates and monies that were promised and they too could not believe the bands reluctance to respond to this offer. 
The shows in San Francisco were important to see what a 'Dead' based audience would be like for the Burritos to play too. The 'Dead' had already put a band together called 'The New Riders of the Purple Sage' [sic--it was two months later] that band was country sounding but the Burritos were closer to what the 'Dead' wanted to have open their shows so I was told when we met in San Francisco. 
I had several discussions with Gram [Parsons] & Chris [Hillman] about this show in San Francisco and the potential tour. Gram was not at all interested because some of the future dates would take away from the west coast during the 'Stones' visit to LA. Gram was convinced that the Burritos would be able to work with the 'Stones' on their tour so he wanted to remain in town to solidify that deal. 
Mr. Hillman was on the fence because he was having his own musical/artists issues with Gram already who seemed to be getting further and further into drugs and as that continued he was further and further from reality. It was almost like Gram was building himself for the 'Stone' and that was all he seemed concerned about. The bad news was that had [his associate] Phil [Kaufmann]right there with him and pushing him towards those shows with the Rolling Stones...The [Stones] tour might be a problem but the weekend at the Family Dog was a go for now. April 4,5 &6 were the dates a Friday, Saturday & Sunday. 
After the sound check and the bands were gone I was approached by the 'Dead' manager who was working in conjunction with Bill Graham Presents to put together their tour which we were being offered via the agents. We discussed all of this and it was actually to be an easy tour to do with a bus offered for the Burritos to travel in from city to city and the equipment would ride within the the tour equipment trucks from city to city.
At this time they were planning 20 dates that was what our agent had told me but there was a chance that some cities might play more than one day. It all seemed like a perfect fit and according to what I was hearing they really wanted the Burritos on these shows...The main tour was starring in August and into September and beyond which was exactly when the 'Stones' would be in LA. 
My guess was that any band would have jumped at the chance to tour with the 'Dead' but I could not make that decision without a signed management agreement [note: Seiter had been asked to be the Burritos manager, but no agreement had been signed due to various disputes] and the band had to convince Gram but he seemed determined to stay in L.A...there were scattered 'Dead' dates between now and the tour that they also wanted us to do but those details had to be worked out. Bear asked if we were going to be touring with them and I said that I hoped so...
In a previous volume of his memoirs (Vol 4), Seiter had described the initial meeting of Gram Parsons and Keith Richards, when the Byrds were touring England in 1968. The strange bromance had continued throughout the next year. The Rolling Stones were indeed planning to come to Los Angeles in 1969, and Gram obviously thought that they would show up in the Summer. I have no idea if that was really the Stones' plan, but of course bands changed their schedules all the time. In any case, the Stones did not turn up in Los Angeles until October of 1969, and it would not have interfered with the proposed plans to tour with the Dead, but that boat had already sailed well away from the harbor. At Parsons' insistence, the Flying Burrito Brothers opened the Altamont concert (on December 6, 1969), but that was the final straw for Seiter, who recognized a bad scene from miles away, and returned instead to the Byrds.

Appendix 2: Jerry Garcia and The Flying Burrito Brothers
Several years ago, I wrote a post speculating that Garcia hearing Sneaky Pete Kleinow had influenced his purchase of a pedal steel guitar in Colorado the next week. Here's what I said.

The Flying Burrito Brothers, led by co-singer/writers Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman, along with pedal steel guitarist Sneaky Pete Kleinow, bassist Chris Etheridge and drummer Michael Clarke, only released two albums in their original incarnation (1969's The Gilded Palace Of Sin and 1970's Burrito Deluxe), yet these fine but poorly sellling albums have had a huge mythology built upon them. The early death (on September 19, 1973) of the hard-living Gram Parsons has helped ingrain the myth that Parsons was at the center of everything: the myth says that he introduced the Rolling Stones to country music, transformed the Byrds (on Sweetheart Of The Rodeo), invented country rock with The Flying Burrito Brothers (who spawned the Eagles and ultimately Garth Brooks) and "discovered" Emmylou Harris. Even Parsons' death was the subject of a movie (Gram Theft Auto), and he remains a fascinating figure.

All this is true, up to a point, although John Einarson's 2008 book Hot Burritos (Jawbone Press) shows that the less flashy Chris Hillman had a considerably larger role in the Byrds and Burritos migration towards soulful country-rock than has usually been assumed. In any case, thanks to the KPFA broadcasts and the 2007 release of the double cd Gram Parsons with The Flying Burrito Brothers Live At The Avalon Ballroom 1969, we have a very good idea what the Burritos sounded like when they opened for the Dead (note, incidentally, how Gram Parsons name figures more prominently in the re-release). The cd features the Burritos complete sets, recorded by Bear himself, from April 4 and 6, 1969. Besides great songwriting, Everly Brothers-style harmonies from Hillman and Parsons and a soulful rhythm section anchored by Chris Etheridge, the revelation in the performance is the unique pedal steel playing of Sneaky Pete Kleinow.

Sneaky Pete (1934-2007) was already 34 years old by 1969, quite aged by Avalon standards. He had spent most of the 1960s working as a stop-motion animator (he was a key animator for Gumby) while playing pedal steel in bars and studios with the "Bakersfield" country music crowd. The Bakersfield sound, led by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, rocked harder and owed considerably more to Chuck Berry and the blues than Nashville country, which was why Jerry Garcia and other rockers liked it so much. Einarson's book includes an interesting interview with guitarist Bernie Leadon (ex-Burritos and ex-Eagles) who describes the complexity of Kleinow's approach to the steel guitar.

Sneaky Pete Kleinow was one of the first genuine practitioners of "rock" pedal steel guitar--I think Poco's Rusty Young was the only other one at this time. Although Kleinow could play all the country licks as well as anyone, the Avalon tapes show that his pedal steel was the Burritos lead instrumental voice, and Kleinow took full advantage of feedback and the dynamic range of amplified music. The Burritos were singing in what could be described as a "hippie Bakersfield" style, with Kleinow's unique steel guitar riding high. It sounds great on the cd, and it must have sounded pretty awesome on the Dead's sound system. I think Jerry liked what he heard--he bought a Zane Beck pedal steel guitar in Colorado the next week.

I'm not suggesting that Garcia's interest in pedal steel guitar and Bakersfield happened in a blinding flash after hearing the opening solo on "Close Up The Honky Tonks." Garcia had owned a Fender pedal steel in 1966, but had found it difficult to set up and tune, and sold it (to Banana Levenger of The Youngbloods). Certainly the Dead had dabbled with some hard driving country music since 1966, with songs like "Silver Threads And Golden Needles," and "Beat It On Down The Line" has a kind of Buck Owens/Don Rich feel to it (I know its a rocked-up bluegrass song; that's the essence of the Bakersfield sound). In an earlier post, I pointed out how the set up of rock concerts in the day encouraged bands to hear their opening acts (they didn't have much choice), and as a result Garcia was drawn to the sounds of Pentangle, who opened for the Dead at Fillmore West the month before.

Nevertheless, I'm convinced that Garcia's ears opened wide to the possibility of rock and roll pedal steel after he heard Sneaky Pete live, and when a chance to buy a pedal steel presented itself in Colorado, he jumped at it. I think Garcia's experiments with playing pedal steel live with the Dead in June 1969, particularly on seemingly inappropriate songs like "Hard To Handle" was an attempt to try on Sneaky's approach. Kleinow could have soloed on "Hard To Handle," but Garcia lacked the technique, having only played for a few months. The presence of John Dawson and his batch of newly-written songs in turn gave Garcia an outlet to work in a Burritos-like setting.

I think what Garcia got from Sneaky Pete and The Flying Burrito Brothers was a sound, and he heard the possibilities of the sound. He could have played electric guitar or banjo with Dawson, and that would have sounded great, too, but I think the sound of an amplified pedal steel on a huge  system flipped a switch in Garcia's ear, and made a passive curiosity about the instrument an urgent need. I'm sure if the Grateful Dead had been booked with Poco, and Garcia had heard Rusty Young, the same thing might have happened, but I'm convinced it was the Burrito show this weekend that re-activated Garcia's interest.

The long history of 20th century competition between San Francisco and Los Angeles was at its worst in the sixties, and while I don't think it affected the musicians themselves, many writers and partisans for the next twenty years or so rarely considered the history of Los Angeles and San Francisco bands relative to each other, so no one ever seems to have asked Garcia about the Burritos. While matters have improved (once Los Angeles gave back the Oakland Raiders, it was clear LA was ascendant), and West Coast music is now seen more correctly as part of a whole, the habit of dividing the state has left the Burritos/Garcia connection unexplored.

Hot Burritos, by John Einarson, the most complete of the many accounts of the history of the Flying Burrito Brothers (Jawbone Books 2008)
Appendix 3: Further Reading
I have only touched on the dense history of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers. There are more books than you can possibly imagine. With respect to the Burritos, I would recommend John Einarson's Hot Burritos: The True Story Of The Flying Burrito Brothers. It is the most coherent version that I know of, and has enough distance from the original event that all the participants are realistic about what went down at the time. Of course, Seiter's work post-dates Einarson's, and corrects some factual details with respect to himself, but Einarson's book is a great overview.