Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Grateful Dead in Texas 1968-88 (Miles And Miles Of Texas)

The Sam Houston Coliseum, at 810 Bagby Street in Houston, built in 1937, with a capacity of 9,200. The Grateful Dead played here in 1969 and 1970.
The Grateful Dead were a rare bird of the 1960s, in that they not only continued to perform and record in succeeding decades, they actually expanded their audience. The Dead expanded their audience by relentlessly touring the same areas over and over, winning new converts each time while revitalizing those already on the bus. In an earlier post, I discussed how the Grateful Dead built an audience in North Carolina and Virginia in the 1970s and 80s, territory where the band initially had no real following. Hard touring made the Southeast prime concert booking territory for the Dead, and the strategy paid huge dividends for the band in the final decade of their formal existence. A close look at the Grateful Dead's touring history in Texas, however, tells a surprisingly different story.

The Grateful Dead first became popular in San Francisco and then Manhattan, expanding outwards from those two bases, to places like Oregon and Boston. As the band got some FM airplay in the early 1970s, they were able to tour beyond the West Coast and the Northeast. The band first played Texas at the end of 1968, and by the 1970s they seemed to stop in Texas every year, often in more than one city. As one would expect, as the band got more popular, they played larger venues in Texas. Certainly the band played well in Texas, as many fine tapes attest. Yet in the mid-1980s, as "Touch Of Grey" elevated the Dead into the very top tier of live rock attractions, the Grateful Dead stopped performing in Texas. After a 1985 show in Manor Downs, near Austin, the Grateful Dead only played two more shows in Texas, in 1988, and then never played the Lone Star State again.

Why? It wasn't Texas Deadheads, who remain enthusiastic and loyal to this day. It wasn't Texas, which has expanded in population in the intervening time. I can't imagine it was Texans in general, either, since Texas maintains a proud reputation as a state where people of all ages like to go out to listen and dance to live music any and every night of the week, so the Grateful Dead should have been one of the biggest draws in Texas from the late '80s onwards. A close look at their tour history, suggests a more mundane, if still significant, explanation that fits their history in other regions. For one thing, the Dead were a unique concert attraction, and the promoters they worked with in Texas had gone on to other ventures. For another, the vast size of Texas did not favor the Grateful Dead's concert economics. I don't doubt there are other threads to be unraveled, and I am interested in any eyewitness perceptions in the Comments. Nevertheless, it appears that the Grateful Dead stopped touring Texas to a large degree because of the miles and miles of Texas that make the state so unique.

December 28, 1968 The Catacombs, Houston, TX: Grateful Dead/Honeysuckle (Sat)
The Grateful Dead were an essential part of the psychedelic rock explosion coming out of San Francisco, and they were one of the first bands willing to play all the rickety variations on the Fillmore and Avalon that sprouted up throughout America. Texas, a state that loved music, not surprisingly had psychedelic clubs in many major cities. There were already tons of "garage rock" type bands in Texas anyway, so stepping up the fuzz tone was no problem for youngsters already playing Stones and Yardbirds numbers.

Since America is divided into 50 states, it is inevitable that everyone thinks of a state as a sort of equal unit, but of course the opposite is the case. Texas has a remarkable 60s rock history, too diverse and remarkable to go into here. Texas already had a great musical history by then, what with the "Texas Swing" of Bob Wills and the groundbreaking electric guitar playing of T-Bone Walker, just for starters. By the time a musical style got to Texas, it got friendly with any other music around--kinda like Texans--so country, blues, jazz, rock and any nearby music from Mexico all got cheerily merged. Psychedelic rock was an easy fit, and different "underground" clubs cropped up in all the big cities. Of course, smoking pot and growing long hair were a bit more radical in Texas than they were in California or New York City, but in turn Texas hippies were more committed and further out there then their coastal brethren.

After some rumblings with the 13th Floor Elevators in Austin, the first major underground hippie rock club in Texas is generally considered to be The Vulcan Gas Club in Austin, which opened in 1967, but the Dead never played there. There was a club in Houston called The Love Street Light Circus, that also opened in 1967, and a 1968 one in Dallas called End Of Cole (the club was located at 4926 Cole Avenue, at the end of the street). There were various other attempts around the state in places like San Antonio and even Waco (for a great overview of 60s Texas venues and posters, see Dennis Hickey's amazing site).

To non-Texans, it may seem like Texas was like California or the East Village, awash in hippie rebellion. Such ideas are easily displaced when you consider the actual geography of the state. Texas is huge, even by the standards of Western states. The four main cities, Dallas, Austin, Houston and San Antonio, are all clustered in the central part of the state. Even they are hundreds of miles apart from each other. Dallas, near the center of Texas, is 235 miles from Houston and 275 miles from San Antonio. Austin, in between them all, is still 195 miles from Dallas and 165 miles from Houston (and 80 from San Antonio). Distances like these are comparable to New York to Boston (215 miles). Yet New York to Philadelphia, by comparison, is less than 100 miles. So the distances between the major cities in Texas are farther apart than many big Eastern cities are from each other. Add to that the fact that in the 60s the space between major Texas cities was fairly unpopulated, and Texas seems very different than the heavily populated coasts. Sure, there were outposts in the big cities with long haired rock and rollers, but back in the 60s these were lonely colonists, not necessarily the harbingers of things to come.

West Coast rock bands started to make inroads into Texas around 1968, at the various psychedelic clubs around the state. Still, the Grateful Dead did not arrive in Texas until a December 28, 1968 show at The Catacombs, at 3003 South Post Oak in Houston. The Catacombs was originally a "Teen Club" started by High School students in Houston, who were unhappy with the lack of venues for the bands they wanted to see. At least in theory, attendance was limited to those age 15-20, and no liquor was for sale or allowed, although obviously plenty was on hand. Mostly local heroes played there (like Neil Ford And The Fanatics, and The Moving Sidewalks, who featured guitarist Billy Gibbons), but on occasion national bands played as well. Since most rock fans were in the 15-20 year old age range, the "restriction" (if it was even enforced),would not have affected attendance. Many famous touring bands played Houston's Catacombs, like Cream, The Mothers of Invention, Country Joe and The Fish and Jethro Tull.  Former house manager Stephen Hammond describes the layout:
Basically two large divided rooms with a stage at each end. The 1st room incorporated the main stage with the dressing room behind it, where performers could exit to the outside, mainstage, or to the 2nd stage. At the other end of the main room was the snack bar. Facing the stage, the box office and club office would be on the right. Low ceiling. Black walls with fluorescent designs. The main stage was "up close and personal" with red carpeting.
There may have been a show on December 27 as well, probably without the Dead. An early flyer lists shows on both nights, but for whatever reasons the Dead only appeared on Saturday, December 28. The opening act, Honeysuckle, was a local Houston band. The club moved by August 1969 to University and Kirby and later changed its name (becoming Of Our Own), and stayed open in some form until 1972. When the Dead returned to Houston, however, they would play a much larger venue.
A poster for The New Orleans Pop Festival, held at Baton Rouge International Speedway, a tiny racetrack in Prairieville, LA. The Grateful Dead played the festival on September 1, 1969
September 1, 1969 New Orleans Pop Festival, Baton Rouge International Speedway, Prairieville, LA: Janis Joplin/Canned Heat/Grateful Dead/Country Joe and The Fish/numerous others (Mon)
New Orleans and Louisiana are distinct from Texas, but relative to national touring schedules they are intimately related. New Orleans is 348 miles East of Houston, which isn't near, but it was still nearer to pretty much anywhere else on the rock circuit. Put another way, if a band was going to play New Orleans, it was pretty likely that they would play Texas just before or just after.

1969 was the Summer of rock festivals, and the Grateful Dead played many of them. One feature of 1969 was that there were a number of festivals at auto racing tracks, intriguing venues that lost their luster after the Altamont debacle. In the case of New Orleans, the festival was actually at a tiny oval track in Prairieville, LA, which was 60 miles West of New Orleans, and actually nearer to Baton Rouge. It was a two-day festival, and the Dead played the second day (Sep 1), as a prelude to making the trek to Texas (there is a reliable rumor, incidentally, that Jerry was seen playing in New Orleans the night before, but someone else is working on that).

A poster for the "Rock Festival" at the Sam Houston Coliseum, in the city that bore his name, on October 5, 1969. Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead were the headliners.
October 5, 1969 Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, TX: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/The Byrds/Poco (Sun)
Rock festivals were all the rage in 1969, and a Houston promoter attempted an indoor version. These had been common around the country since 1967, but it wasn't really a good format. In this case, there were four bands, who were supposed to play from 1-6pm on a Sunday afternoon. Headliners were the Jefferson Airplane, along with the Dead, the Byrds and Poco. The Airplane were the true headliners, The Dead were at least infamous and the Byrds were established, if seen as somewhat out-of-date. Poco, at the time, was thoroughly unknown. The Sons of Champlin were originally booked, but did not end up playing the show.

The Sam Houston Coliseum, at 810 Bagby Street, had been built in 1937 and had a capacity of 9,200. It was the prime venue for rock acts, but in 1969, the capacity was too large for all but the biggest bands to headline alone, so a multiple booking bill was a good idea. Still, the scheduling meant that each band would play no more than an hour, so fans of any one band would end up a bit frustrated. In the case of this show, lots of things went wrong. Apparently the performances were seriously delayed. According to Chris Hjort's excellent Byrds chronology, the Byrds only played 40 minutes, and the Airplane had the plug pulled on them at 10:00pm.

[update] Sally Mann Romano, then the girlfriend of Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden (whom she later married), has an eyewitness account of why the plug was pulled on the Jefferson Airplane. Added bonus: why she made it a rule never to go out to eat with the Grateful Dead more than 25 miles from San Francisco. Humor aside, the story is a good overview of why bands like the Grateful Dead were treading on dangerous territory in 1969 Houston.

A newspaper ad for the Grateful Dead and Zephyr at SMU, promoted by Concerts West (the ad is from the pride of Texas Deadhead-dom, Lone Star Dead Radio)
December 26, 1969 McFarlin Auditorium, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX: Grateful Dead/Zephyr (Fri)
The Grateful Dead were heading East to a three-day New Year's Eve stand in Boston. However, despite their fame, the band led a hand-to-mouth existence. Thus the Dead played a few shows on the way East, essentially to finance the trip. Live/Dead had just been released, so it was even more in the Dead's interests than usual to play a few high profile shows across the country.

McFarlin Auditorium is a 2386-seat theater built in 1926 on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. It is not often that the Dead played venues that had also hosted Winston Churchill. Playing a small theater in Dallas in 1969 when school was out of session seems like a financial risk, and I don't know how many people actually attended the show. However, since the Dead's equipment had to cross the country anyway, it was probably financially worth it, even if Dallas was not really Grateful Dead territory in those days. The promoter was Concerts West, who along with its counterpart Concerts East, were a major national operation. They promoted Jimi Hendrix, Vanilla Fudge and Led Zeppelin. Many stories about dubious "connected" concert promoters seem to swirl around Concerts West and East.

Thanks to a helpful Commenter, we know that the opening act was Zephyr, a great band from Boulder, CO. Zephyr was a great band that featured guitarist Tommy Bolin and singer Candy Givens. Besides being the pride of Boulder, they had opened for the Dead at least once before (July 3, 1969 in Colorado Springs).

The Dead opened the show with their second-ever acoustic set. Garcia and Weir played a half-dozen numbers on acoustic guitars, apparently waiting for Bill Kreutzmann to arrive. A few more members joined in for a semi-acoustic "Uncle John's Band," and then the electric show began in earnest. After various other attempts in the next few months, they seemed to have worked out the two-guitars-and-rhythm-section configuration that Garcia first saw with Pentangle in February 1969.

January 30-31, February 1, 1970: The Warehouse, New Orleans, LA: Grateful Dead/Fleetwood Mac/The Flock (Jan 30-31 only)(Fri-Sun)
The most infamous Grateful Dead event was in New Orleans in the early hours of February 1, 1970, when the Dead were busted down on Bourbon Street. The tale has been told so many times that I needn't retell it all here. Briefly, the Dead had two shows in New Orleans (Jan 30-31), but at a party after the second show, having failed to heed a warning from Jack Casady, the band got busted. They held another show to raise bail money on Sunday night (Feb 1).

The excitement of the bust obscures another piece of band history, namely that the touring schedule resulting from Lenny Hart's erratic management style was nuts. In the space of less than three weeks, the Dead played Hawaii, then New Orleans, then St. Louis, then San Francisco and Manhattan. When Hart was pushed out, with Sam Cutler taking over the wagon train, touring was organized along more rational geographical lines. Over time, the prudent geographical perspective (which was ultimately adopted by all 20th century major touring rock bands) had a significant impact on the Grateful Dead's performing history in Texas.

February 20, 1970 Panther Hall, Fort Worth, TX:  Quicksilver Messenger Service/Grateful Dead (Fri)
In 1970, Sam Cutler's more rational touring plans initiated a program where the Dead would do a couple of shows in a row in Texas, or sometimes nearby states. Of course, in Texas, as previously explained, those cities were not always that near. However, in the early 70s the Dead often flew from show to show, so the exact distance between venues wasn't that critical. In later years, while the band always flew, the equipment often went by truck, and the vast plains of Texas created some handicaps, as we will see. For this Winter 1970 tour, the Dead played four shows in four days. A look at a map suggests that it wasn't particularly logical sequence of cities, but that may have been a legacy of Lenny Hart's scheduling.

Fort Worth, TX has an epic musical history. Non-Texans casually lump Fort Worth in with Dallas, as in "Dallas-Ft. Worth." The city in-between them, Arlington, TX, has all the sports stadiums (the mayor supposedly says that Arlington is the dash between Dallas and Ft. Worth), so it all seems like one giant metropolis now. But that wasn't always the case. Fort Worth had its own history. Since the 19th century, the city was the railhead for cattle distribution, so the town was full of real, actual cowboys, and has colloquially been known as "Cowtown" ever since.

Fort Worth had its own musical story, too. Most importantly, Bob Wills, the King Of Texas Swing, got started in Fort Worth. There were cowboys from all over, with money to spend, not to mention ladies who liked to meet cowboys. Mixing country music and jazz was pretty radical, but Texas was the kind of place where people just heard that Bob Wills band was both good to listen to and fun to dance to, and so it caught on. During World War 2, Wills actually moved to California, because so many workers from the Southwest were working in the defense industry. This actually tells a lot about the history of American popular music, but that's for a different blog.

In any case, the Grateful Dead debuted in Fort Worth at a legendary place called Panther Hall. Panther Hall, known as the World's Largest Honky Tonk, at 600 S. Collard St, had hosted a famous country music show called "Cowtown Jamboree" every Saturday night from 1963 to 1978. The capacity was probably around 3,000. February 20 was a Friday, and this was probably the band members first experience at a real live honky tonk. Keep in mind that the hitherto psychedelic band was in the midst of recording Workingman's Dead when they played four shows in Texas. The first sessions for Workingman's had been earlier in February, but the bulk of the album was done between March 9-16. In between, the band must have heard a lot of country music on the radio in Fort Worth. You can decide for yourself if it infused Workingman's, but I'm thinking it did.

Gerard Daily's photo of the Grateful Dead at the HemisFair Arena in San Antonio on February 21, 1970 (photo courtesy of and copyright Gerard Daily)
February 21, 1970 HemisFair Arena, San Antonio, TX: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Grateful Dead (Sat)
[update] I was incorrect about the site of the Grateful Dead's San Antonio debut. It was the HemisFair Arena, also known as the San Antonio Convention Center. My source was--wait for it--my own blog. I even have a picture (thanks to correspondent Gerard)

The Grateful Dead debuted in San Antonio on a Saturday night. San Antonio was the southernmost of the major Texas cities, and reputedly has always had a more Southwestern flavor. The band played at the HemisFair Arena, also known as the San Antonio Convention Center. The venue had been built in 1966, as part of the 1968 HemisFair. It had a basketball capacity of around 10,000. It would become the home of the American Basketball Association San Antonio Spurs in 1973, when they moved from Dallas. The HemisFair was located at 601 HemisFair Way, in downtown San Antonio. The building was torn down in 1995, as the Spurs had moved to the Alamodome.

At the time of these shows, Quicksilver Messenger Service would have been getting more airplay than the Grateful Dead. Although the Quick had hardly played in 1969, their Happy Trails album received FM airplay all over the country. So while the Grateful Dead were more infamous, more Texas teenagers had probably heard "Mona" than had heard, say, "Morning Dew." The Winter 1970 Quicksilver featured pianist Nicky Hopkins and singer Dino Valenti, along with the famous quartet (Duncan/Cipollina/Freiberg/Elmore).

According to Gerard Daily:
San Antonio had quite a few concerts back in the late 60's. Bands would play there rather than Austin because San Antonio had bigger facilities and a bigger population. Austin didn't become the music center it is now until much later. I was a fan of all the San Francisco bands and to be able to see all of these acts on one bill was amazing…I had a seat in the back so I had to stroll up the aisle to take photos and hurry back to keep my seat. I went up to take the Dead shot and right when I got to the front they broke into Turn on Your Lovelight and all of a sudden I was surrounded by dancing hippies. I had to stand on a chair to keep from getting crushed so that is why that photo is taken from a higher perspective, no pun intended.
Gerard very kindly shared the photo (above). And yes, he brought a tape recorder, too, but the batteries wore out during the Quicksilver set.

The Quick and The Dead at Sam Houston Coliseum on February 22, 1970
February 22, 1970 Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, TX: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Grateful Dead/John Mayall/It's A Beautiful Day (Sun)
On Sunday night, the Dead returned to the Sam Houston Coliseum. Once again, the format was a kind of afternoon "rock festival" show, with John Mayall and It's A Beautiful Day joining in with the Dead and the Quick.

Quicksilver would return to San Francisco to play the famous Monday night (Feb 23 '70) Fillmore West benefit with the Airplane and Santana to raise bail money for the Dead's New Orleans bust, without the Dead, as they had yet another date in Texas.

Per the incomparable Pete Frame,  the John Mayall lineup was the classic "Room To Move" (Turning Point) crew with Jon Mark and Johnny Almond. Probably by this time the bassist was Alex Dmochowski ("Erroneous" for you FZ fans).

February 23, 1970 Austin Municipal Auditorium, Austin, TX: Grateful Dead/Country Joe And The Fish (Mon)
The Grateful Dead made landfall in Austin on a Monday night. Monday night rock shows were rare in those days, but Washington's Birthday, a Federal Holiday, was February 22, so in many places it was celebrated on Monday, February 23. Thus the Monday night Austin show was more like a Sunday night show, relative to schools. The Dead played yet another legendary Texas venue, the Austin Municipal Auditorium. The story is too much to go into here, but suffice to say Elvis played there, and so did everybody else. The Auditorium was built in 1959 near Town Lake and Riverside Drive. The capacity was  something like 3500. The venue was renamed the Palmer Auditorium in 1981. The building was torn down in 2002, and a new Palmer Auditorium was built nearby. The site of the original auditorium is now green space.

The 1970 Austin show was probably the occasion of an apocryphal tale told by Country Joe and The Fish road manager Bill Belmont. According to Belmont, the Fish were "somewhere in Texas" and found themselves double-billed with their old pals, the Grateful Dead. Rather unexpectedly, Ramrod asked Belmont before the show if the Dead could open and let Joe and the Fish close, as they had a plane to catch. Belmont, an old friend of the Dead's himself, was a bit surprised but of course agreed. The Dead apparently played a short set, hurriedly packed up their equipment, and Ramrod only gave the briefest of goodbyes.

After the Country Joe And The Fish set, the sheriff arrested the entire band. Once he found out that they weren't the Dead, he grudgingly let them go. A closer look at the touring history of Country Joe And The Fish suggests that only this Austin show fits the particulars. If anyone knows any more--whether or not it's even true--please include it in the Comments.

November 12, 1971 San Antonio Municipal Auditorium, San Antonio, TX: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage (Fri)
The Grateful Dead returned to San Antonio on a Saturday night, 18 months after the first time. Since then, however, the band had released Workingman's DeadAmerican Beauty and Grateful Dead [Skull And Roses], so they were a much bigger deal.This time, instead of HemisFair, the group played at the somewhat smaller San Antonio Municipal Auditorium. The building was at 100 Auditorium Circle, built in 1926. The building has a rich history. Much of it was destroyed in a fire in 1979. It has since been rebuilt as the Tobin Center For The Performing Arts.

The Dead's 1971 foray into Texas showed Sam Cutler's strategy. The band would hit a couple of Texas cities in a row, all ones that the band had previously visited. For this tour, the New Riders Of The Purple Sage were on board as the opening act. The Riders' honky tonk act may have hit a funny note with hippies in other parts of the country, but not in Texas--the rockin' country sound of the Riders was made for Texas. As it happened, while Jerry Garcia had played a few '71 Riders dates on pedal steel to promote the album, by November, Buddy Cage had taken over the chair (first date Nov 11 '71 in Atlanta), so Garcia never played with the New Riders in Texas. More's the pity.

November 14, 1971 {venue}, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, TX: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage (Sun)
The Dead returned to Fort Worth, this time at a University instead of an actual honky tonk. Attractive as it is to think of the Dead in a bar full of men and women in boots and cowboy hats, a University was probably the right place for them in 1971 Texas. Texas Christian University is a private school that was founded in 1873. Currently, it has about 8,800 students. The band probably played in the Danile-Meyer Coliseum (now the Schollmaier Arena), an 8,500-capacity arena at 2901 Stadium Drive. The school's mascot is The Horned Frogs. If the Dead had been making logo t-shirts in those days, the Steal Your Horned Frog Face seems like a promising line of inquiry.

The Grateful Dead and The New Riders Of The Purple Sage played Austin on Monday, November 15, 1971. Pacific Presentations promoted a lot of shows in the Los Angeles area.
November 15, 1971 Austin Municipal Auditorium, Austin, TX: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage (Mon) [fm broadcast, station unsure]
The Grateful Dead returned to the Austin Municipal Auditorium in the Fall of 1971. Monday night rock concerts were very rare in the early 1970s. The Dead were on the road, however, between Fort Worth (Sunday, Nov 14) and New Mexico (Wednesday Nov 17), so any booking was a good booking. Also, Texans in general and Austin residents in particular will go out to see music and dance any night of the week, so a Monday routing gig made sense in Austin if it made sense anywhere.

Austin, TX is in the "center" of the four major Texas cities, and not surprisingly it is the State Capitol. It is also the home of the University of Texas, and located in an area of relatively mild weather. Thus Austin has been the most forward-looking of Texas cities for many years, and it became the anchor for Grateful Dead activities for the decade. In the early 1970s, the Dead's audience mostly comprised of high school and college age students who were interested in new things that their parents didn't approve of, and the biggest concentration of such Texans was in Austin.

As part of their Fall '71 tour, Warner Brothers financed FM radio broadcasts in many cities that the Dead played. Austin won the sweepstakes for Texas, so the Austin show was the only FM broadcast from Texas. I do not know what station it was on, but I'm guessing that Austin must have had one of the hippest FM rock stations in Texas at the time, so it isn't surprising to see the broadcast in Texas' biggest college town. We can see from the poster that the promoters were Pacific Presentations, whom I generally associate with the Los Angeles concert market, and for whom the Dead had played many times. I do not know if Pacific promoted other Texas Dead shows at the time, but we will see that the lack of a long-standing Texas promoter ultimately contributed to the Dead's migration away from the otherwise profitable concert market there.

The Oklahoma City Music Hall and Civic Center, at 201 North Walker Avenue, ca. 1937
November 12-13, 1972 Soldiers And Sailors Memorial Hall, Kansas City, KS: Grateful Dead (Sun-Mon)
November 14-15, 1972 Oklahoma City Music Hall, Oklahoma City, OK: Grateful Dead (Tue-Wed)
November 17, 1972 Century II Convention Hall, Wichita, KS: Grateful Dead (Fri)
In the 60s, the Grateful Dead played wherever they could get a booking that paid. By the 1970s, with Sam Cutler at the tiller, they started to think a little more strategically. In the Northeast, they would play a series of gigs within easy driving distance--such as Philadelphia, New Jersey and then Boston--and it was a sound approach. If you look at the Dead's touring history in the 70s, you can see the band trying to re-enact this plan in other parts of the country. They started to play little runs of shows around the upper Midwest and the Southeastern seaboard. Their efforts in Virginia and North Carolina in the 1970s created a bridge between Deadhead strongholds in Washington DC and Atlanta, and that strategy paid huge dividends in the 80s and 90s.

Not all of Cutler's touring strategies worked out so cleanly, however. Here in November of 1972, the band played four shows in five nights in three different cities, going from Kansas City to Oklahoma City and back to Wichita, KS. As we will see, the plan seemed aimed at building an audience between Denver and Texas, so the band could get from one place to another without having to fly all the equipment. The idea was sound, the music was great, but the distances were awfully vast. In the 70s, the Dead's concern would have been how far the equipment crew's semi-truck had to drive. It would turn out, a decade later, that the same concern applied to fans. If it was too far to travel, not enough Heads made the run to every show. Sure, the 602-mile journey from Wichita to Houston took less time if you did it in a 1970 Dodge Challenger with a 426 Hemi, but most hippies were more likely to have an overloaded 1966 VW Microbus.

In Oklahoma City, the Dead played the Oklahoma City Music Hall. The Music Hall, at 201 N. Walker Avenue, capacity 2.477, had been constructed in 1937 as a New Deal project (funded in part by the Public Works Administration). It had been the leading venue in the city for many years. Everybody good had played there, including Elvis Presley. Elvis had opened there for Bill Haley on October 16, 1955, and returned as headliner on April 19, 1956 (all from the indispensable Scotty Moore Elvis site). I wonder how many people showed up for the Dead on those two nights in OKC?

November 18-19, 1972 Hofheinz Pavilion, Houston, TX: Grateful Dead (Sat-Sun)
The Grateful Dead returned to Houston in 1972 for the fourth year in a row. This time, rather surprisingly, the band headlined not one, but rather two nights in Houston's newest arena, the Hofheinz Pavilion, at 3875 Holman Street. The Pavilion, which had opened in December 1969, was the new home of the Houston Rockets-who featured the great Elvin Hayes, "The Big E"--and had a capacity of about 8.400. Hofheinz would be the primary home of the Rockets until The Summit opened late 1975.

The reason for this booking was a planned tour with The Allman Brothers. In the post-60s rock universe, the Allman Brothers were the heirs to the Dead's jamming ethos, riding high behind Live At Fillmore East (recorded live on March 11-13, 1971) and Eat A Peach (including live music from March and June '71 plus various studio recordings). The tragic death of Duane Allman had accelerated the band into the national consciousness, and a tour was planned that would bring together the best and most famous of the original "jam bands" (not that the term was used at the time). at a jam-fest for the ages. Somewhere I had a list of the planned Dead/Allmans '72 tour dates (please put it in the Comments if you've got it), but in any case, the two Houston dates were to be the first of a cross-country Dead-Allmans double billing in some of the largest indoor arenas of the time, culminating at Winterland.

The tragic death of Allmans bassist Berry Oakley (in a motorcycle accident on November 11, 1972) abruptly put an end to the tour. Nonetheless, although the Dead could not really headline two nights in Houston by themselves, they played the gigs anyway. I do not know how well attended the shows were, but I suspect the Pavilion was not sold out either night, which probably made for pretty relaxed events. Some pretty spacey shows seemed to have ensued.

November 22, 1972 Austin Municipal Auditorium, Austin, TX: Grateful Dead (Wed)
The Dead returned to the Austin Municipal Auditorium for a show on the night before Thanksgiving, which was effectively a weekend. Once again the Austin promoter seems to have been Pacific Presentations.

A whimsical calendar for 1977 from the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, TX
November 23, 1972 Armadillo World Headquarters, Austin, TX: Doug Sahm and Friends/Greezy Wheels (Thu)
By far the most legendary venue in 1970s Texas music was Austin's Armadillo World Headquarters. The story is too amazing to go into here, but the Armadillo historic site does a good job, and if that isn't enough, just google "Armadillo World Headquarters" and your favorite band, Suffice to say, in 1970, some hippies who liked rock and roll, country music, the blues, weed and Lone Star Beer, decided that their favorite bands needed a place to play when they came to town. So they found an old National Guard Armory, and from 1970 to 1980 the 'Dillo, with a capacity of about 1500, was one of the best stops on the circuit. The address was 525 and 1/2 Barton Springs Road, but I believe the building itself is long gone. If a band was coming to Austin in the 70s and had never played Armadillo World Headquarters, how good were they really?

Apparently, the Dead had needed a place to park after Houston (Nov 18-19) but before Austin (Nov 22) and Dallas (Nov 24). So legend has it they parked all their gear and themselves at the Dillo for a few days. If ever a band was meant for Texas, it was the 1972 Grateful Dead, mixing "Dark Star" with Merle Haggard and the blues, pretty much the blueprint for Austin music at the time. On Thanksgiving Thursday, what else were the Grateful Dead going to do? Why, have a party. So on November 23, Doug Sahm, a Texan musician who had lived in the Bay Area throughout the 1960s, and a regular at the Armadillo, led a pickup band through a host of country, rock and blues standards to while away the evening. Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh joined in with Leon Russell and some others. Fortunately, there is a great tape and plenty of photos (from Burton Wilson)

Among many other things, the Armadillo show was Jerry's only appearance in Texas on pedal steel guitar, and his last public appearance on the instrument until 1987. It was also the only time that I am aware of that Leon Russell played with members of the Dead. For the record, the lineup that night was
Doug Sahm-guitar, vocals
Jerry Garcia-guitar, pedal steel guitar
Leon Russell-piano, guitar, vocals
Mary Egan-fiddle
Benny Thurman-fiddle
Phil Lesh-bass
Jerry Barnett-drums
Some sources put Bill Kreutzmann on stage, but it appears he did not actually play. There also may have been some casual switching of instruments by various participants, as well as onstage guests, that aren't entirely documented. Mary Egan (now Mary Hatterlsey) was the fiddler for the Armadillo "house band," Greezy Wheels--they played the 'Dillo 123 times in the ten years that the venue was open. I believe Barnett and Thurman were also in Greezy Wheels at the time. Thurman had been the bass player of Austin's legendary 13th Floor Elevators back in about 1966. Listen to the tape--it's a bunch of honky tonk songs, played by some rock legends who were on the road and hangin' out somewhere on their night off. Rowdy, sloppy, liver than we'll ever be--if the Keystone Berkeley had been in Austin, this is what it would have been like (see some great memories in the Appendix below).
Deep Elem, spelled various ways, used to be the Red Light District in pre-war Dallas. Now it is a station on the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). Today, Jerry would have to sing "If you go down to Deep Ellum/ put your GoPass in your shoe..."
November 24, 1972 Dallas Municipal Auditorium, Dallas, TX: Grateful Dead (Fri)
There are a number of fine. large cities in Texas, but they don't call Dallas "Big D" for nothing. Prior to this show, the Dead had played a Dallas University (SMU) and twice in nearby Fort Worth, but the Friday night performance at the Dallas Municipal Auditorium meant they were planning to be a serious attraction in Texas. Dallas Municipal, originally the Dallas Memorial Auditorium when it opened in 1957, was at Canton and Akard Streets. The capacity is now around 10,000, although it's not quite clear what the capacity was in '72. The building was home to an ABA franchise, The Dallas Chaparrals (who would move to San Antonio the next year to become the Spurs), and hosted many other major events in this era. The building is currently the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center.

I do not know what attendance was like at this show. It would tell us a lot about how popular the Dead were in Texas at the time. This was Thanksgiving Friday, and I can't say for sure whether that makes it more or less likely to get a good turnout.

A poster for the Grateful Dead's final appearance in San Antonio, TX on November 26, 1972
November 26, 1972 San Antonio Civic Auditorium, San Antonio, TX: Grateful Dead (Sun)
The Grateful Dead played San Antonio Civic on Sunday night. The poster (above) says the show was put on by Great Western Productions, whoever they may have been. The booking is a bit odd, too--since the band played Friday and Sunday, instead of the more logical Friday and Saturday, it suggests there was no good Saturday booking to be had. As it happened, the Dead never played San Antonio again. I don't think there was anything specifically negative about San Antonio. However, over the years the Dead tended to return to the same promoters over and over, so without a strong connection to anyone in San Antonio, that was not a destination on the tour schedule.

The San Antonio show, like Dallas two nights earlier, is another show where we have a tape but apparently no eyewitness accounts. Once again, it would be interesting to know how many people actually showed up to see the Dead on a Holiday Sunday in San Antonio.

A listing from the October 1973 Texas Monthly, showing the Grateful Dead booked at Tarrant County Convention Center in Fort Worth, TX on October 17, 1973 (between John Denver and James Brown). The show would have kicked off the Fall '73 tour, but the date was canceled.
October 17, 1973 Tarrant County Convention Center, Fort Worth, TX: Grateful Dead (Wed-canceled)
A year after they appeared at the Dallas Municipal Auditorium, the Dead were booked to begin a tour in Fort Worth, at the Tarrant County Convention Center, between bookings by John Denver and James Brown. The center was at 12 Houston St, in Sundance Square, and had opened in 1968. Capacity probably around 11,000 at the time. The show would have been spacey, for sure, because the building was shaped like a flying saucer. But the show was canceled, and the tour leg opened two nights later in Oklahoma City. Whatever anyone may say, the show was almost certainly canceled due to poor ticket sales, so the Dead can't have done that well in Dallas the year before.

October 19, 1973 Oklahoma City Fairgrounds Arena, Oklahoma City, OK: Grateful Dead (Fri)
After debuting in OKC at the 2400-seat Oklahoma Music Hall the year before, the Dead returned to the city at the larger Fairgrounds Arena. The Fairgrounds Arena was at 333 Gordon Cooper Avenue, and had opened in 1965, with a capacity of about 8500. We know the music was awesome (there's a Dick Picks), but I have no idea of how well the show sold. Keep in mind that from a touring perspective, this booking made more sense if the band had played Ft. Worth two nights earlier.

November 23, 1973 County Coliseum, El Paso, TX: Grateful Dead (Fri)
If we look at the Dead's '73 touring from Sam Cutler's perspective, you can see the strategy of trying to traverse the region, as they had already done in the Northeast and would eventually do in the Southeast. In this case, the band opened at UCLA (Sat Nov 17), had two big nights in Denver (Tue-Wed Nov 20-21), and then a Friday night (Nov 23) in El Paso to fill in the weekend before a Sunday night show at "Feyline Field" (aka Tempe Diablo Stadium) in Tempe, AZ. El Paso is more West Texas than the cities that the Dead had already played, and not the same market at all, but it made a much more logical stop off between Denver and Tempe than some place like Austin, which was further East. I would be very interested to know how well the show sold.

The El Paso Coliseum was at 4100 East Paisano Street, and had been built in 1942 with a concert capacity of about 7,000. This was the band's only performance in El Paso.  And yes, they played "El Paso."

December 21-22, 1974 Armadillo World Headquarters, Austin, TX: Legion Of Mary (Sat-Sun)
When the Grateful Dead stopped touring in 1974, Jerry Garcia immediately set out on the road. In general, his touring schedule featured smaller venues that the Dead or Garcia had played in earlier iterations. In this case, it was the Armadillo. The Dead had played Austin three times (70,71 and 72) and Garcia had played the 'Dillo on Thanksgiving '72, so Garcia's new band Legion Of Mary was a sure thing.

May 17-18, 1975 Armadillo World Headquarters, Austin, TX: Legion Of Mary (Sat-Sun)
Garcia returned again to the Armadillo for his Spring '75 tour.

March 18-19, 1976 Liberty Hall, Houston, TX: Jerry Garcia Band (Wed-Thu)
Over in Houston, the hip equivalent to Austin's Armadillo World Headquarters was a place called Liberty Hall. The venue was open from 1971-78, and everyone cool played there. It seems to have been the proverbial mid-sized hall, with room for a few thousand customers, but details are sparse. The address was 1610 Chenevert, but the room closed in 1978 and the building has since been torn down.

March 20-21, 1976 Armadillo World Headquarters, Austin, TX: Jerry Garcia Band (Sat-Sun)
Note that Garcia could play Austin profitably even on a school night like Sunday.

November 20-21, 1976 Armadillo World Headquarters, Austin, TX: Jerry Garcia Band (Sat-Sun)
Garcia was always welcome at the 'Dillo in any ensemble. If any Austinites recall opening acts at the Armadillo, please Comment.

October 11, 1977 Lloyd Noble Center, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK: Grateful Dead (Tue)
In 1977, the Grateful Dead returned to the business of conquering America's impressionable minds, one concert at the time. They returned to the Oklahoma City area, too, after a four year absence. This time, they played the newly opened (in 1975) Lloyd Noble Center, an 11,500 capacity arena at 2900 Jenkins Avenue, on the campus of the University of Oklahoma. The University was in Norman, but Norman was just 20 miles South of OKC on I-35, so they were drawing on the same fan base who had seen them in 1972 and '73, along with some no doubt impressionable college students.

A poster for the Grateful Dead's first appearance at Manor Downs, just outside of Austin, TX, on October 12, 1977
October 12, 1977 Manor Downs, Austin, TX: Grateful Dead (Wed)
Thanks to some early 70s Grateful Dead shows and the regular appearances of Jerry Garcia at the Armadillo World Headquarters, Austin seemed to be taking the role as the Grateful Dead epicenter in Texas. This became all the more true when the Dead started to play Manor Downs Racetrack, in Manor, TX, just 12 miles from Austin. As near as I can tell, however, the peculiar history of Manor Downs was also one of the key reasons that the Dead eventually stopped playing Texas and the Southwest, and turned their touring efforts to the Southeast.

Manor Downs had been a quarterhourse racing track in Austin, when it was taken over by Sam Cutler and Frances Carr in about 1975. Cutler, of course, was not only the former road manager of the Rolling Stones for their 1969 US Tour but he had graduated to becoming the Grateful Dead's booking agent and road manager from 1970 through 1973. Cutler's amazing tale of this period is contained in his fantastic book You Can't Always Get What You Want (ECW Press 2010), which is mandatory reading for any serious rock music fan. The entire saga of Manor Downs would probably take another book to explain, and rumor has it that Cutler is indeed working on it. I for one have been eagerly looking forward to the next adventure in the Cutler Odyssey.

Without Cutler's next book, however, I am forced to piece together the details as best I can. Anyone with further information about the history and management of Manor Downs, and the specific relationships of the Grateful Dead and other Texas rock promoters is encouraged to Comment or contact me. I apologize in advance for any omissions or incorrect speculation, as I can only work with what's on the record.  For all that, it appears that Manor Downs was the venue that the Grateful Dead felt most comfortable with from 1977-85, and once Manor Downs slipped off the roster, the Dead pretty much gave up touring in Texas and the Southwest.

Manor Downs was a horse racing track in Manor, TX, 12 miles Northeast of Austin. Quarterhorses are bred to be leaner and faster than "thoroughbred" (eg Kentucky Derby) horses, and have been used for racing for many decades. Sam Cutler and Frances Carr began to develop the Manor Downs facility in 1975, but it's not certain to me whether they took over an existing facility or developed one from scratch. Regardless of the exact backstory of Manor Downs, the innovative Cutler had hit on a concept that was decades ahead of its time.

The basic idea was that the Manor Downs racetrack would be open regularly for patrons to watch the horses race and bet on them, like any horse racing track. Cutler's innovation, however, was that periodically the outdoor facility would be used for outdoor rock and roll concerts. The weather in Austin, while warm, was not as scorching as other parts of Texas, so it was a viable plan. The idea of a regular gambling establishment with periodic outdoor concert events was pretty much the model of every Indian Bingo Casino West of the Mississippi River throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Cutler, not for the first time, was years ahead of his time, and he didn't even have the advantages of a Native American Tribe as a backer.

The money for the Manor Downs venture probably came from Frances Carr. Carr had been Cutler's girlfriend back in Marin, when he was working for the Dead. Carr was also, reputedly, part of a loose group of well-to-do party animals who followed the Dead around in 1969-70, known as "The Pleasure Crew." The now-most-infamous member of the Pleasure Crew was Carr's brother, "Loose Bruce" Baxter (I have no idea why they had different last names). Another legend has it that the "whatever became of Sweet Jane" verse in "Truckin'" was a general reference to the sort of person who was part of the Pleasure Crew.  In any case, what few google references there are to Carr in 1970s Austin and Manor Downs always refer to her as a "leggy heiress," so I am assuming she helped Cutler fund Manor Downs.

In any case, by 1977, Manor Downs was up and running both for gambling on quarterhorses and holding rock concerts. By all accounts, Manor Downs was some kind of redneck hippie paradise, and all the shows at Manor Downs are fondly remembered by Austinites. With Cutler and Carr running the ship, the implication was that the Dead would have a permanent relationship with Austin, just as they did with promoters in San Francisco, New York, New Jersey, Denver, Philadelphia, Boston and elsewhere.

The Dead's first performance at Manor Downs was apparently a roaring success. One odd detail, however, that Sam Cutler said at the end of his first book that after leaving the Dead's employ in 1974, he never spoke to Garcia again. This means the band's old road manager never actually spoke to Garcia when he played Manor Downs. For all the apparent success of the show, the Dead did not play Manor Downs, nor anywhere else in Austin, for nearly four years. By that time, as near as I can tell, Sam Cutler was out of the picture, so I eagerly await Sam's next book to hear whatever actually may have transpired.

October 14, 1977 Hofheinz Pavilion, Houston, TX: Grateful Dead (Fri)
Following Manor Downs, the Dead returned to Houston and 8800-capacity Hofheinz Pavilion after a 5 year absence. Granted, Garcia had played Liberty Hall in '76, but it had been a long time. I do not know who the promoter was, nor how well the concert sold.

October 15, 1977 Moody Coliseum, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX; Grateful Dead (Sat)
The Dead also returned to the Dallas/Fort Worth area for the first time in 5 years, and in this case Garcia had not even played there. This time the band played the SMU basketball area, Moody Coliseum, capacity 8900. Moody Coliseum, at 6024 Airline Road, had opened in 1956. It was far larger than McFarlin Auditorium, where the Dead had played on the SMU Campus back in '69, but it wasn't the Dallas Convention Center. It seems like the Dead could sell tickets in Texas, but not like they could elsewhere. The usual Dead strategy was to just keep playing a region until the bus got full, and that seemed to be what they were trying to start in Texas and the Southwest.

October 16, 1977 Assembly Center, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA: Grateful Dead (Sun)
The Grateful Dead finished off the Southwestern leg of the '77 tour by playing a Sunday night in the basketball arena on the Louisiana State University campus. The Assembly Center had a capacity of 14,300 and just been opened in 1972. LSU has a huge student body and is an infamous party school, so while I doubt the show was sold out, I'll bet there was a fair-sized, rocking crowd. I doubt there were that many Deadheads.

Baton Rouge is about an hour North of New Orleans, but the Louisiana Gulf Coast is broadly linked to the major cities in Texas. To Texans, LSU and New Orleans would have been considered well within striking distance if they were looking to to road trip for a party or a rock concert. So from that point of view, Baton Rouge would have been conceived as part of a regional Texas touring strategy for building an audience.

As a footnote, the Assembly Center is now the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Pistol Pete Maravich was decades ahead of his time and the world was not ready for him, but he was LSU's greatest player.

A poster for The Bob Weir Band (with Brent Mydland) at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, TX on April 27, 1978
April 27, 1978 Armadillo World Headquarters, Austin, TX: Bob Weir Band (Thu)
The Bob Weir Band had completed their Arista Records' sponsored tour to support Heaven Help The Fool in February and March of 1978. Still, they played a few other gigs, in places where it was worth their while. The fact that the Bob Weir Band headlined Armadillo as a one-off on a Thursday night suggests that it was a worthwhile booking for all concerned, a marker of how popular the Dead were in Austin at the time.

For those keeping score at home, this was not Brent Mydland's first Texas performance. Thanks to the  excellent Brent Mydland Setlists page, we know that Brent had played with the band Silver in Abilene (Feb 26 '77) and Amarillo (Mar 1 '77), opening for America. He may also have played Texas with Batdorf and Rodney a few years earlier. Nonetheless, this Austin show was Brent's first with a member of the Grateful Dead.

April 30, 1978 Panther Hall, Ft. Worth, TX: Bob Weir Band/Rusty Wier
The Bob Weir Band played another date in Texas, this time at Panther Hall, where the Dead had played back in 1970. The clever poster plays on opening act Rusty Wier (author of "I've Heard You've Been Laying My Old Lady"). I wonder if the band played Friday or Saturday night, somewhere in Texas?

December 19, 1978 Mississipi Coliseum, Jackson, MS: Grateful Dead  (Tue)
Jackson, Mississippi, in the middle of the state at the junction of I-20 and I-55, was a pretty unlikely place for a Grateful Dead concert in 1978. Frankly, it was a pretty unlikely place for a Dead concert any year. However, a very odd touring schedule found the band in Atlanta on Sunday, December 17, with two big gigs to come in Texas on Thursday (Dec 21 in Houston) and Friday (Dec 22 in Dallas). Jackson, even on a Tuesday night, made the most sense, as it was just 405 miles East of Dallas. The band played the Mississippi Coliseum, capacity 6500. We have a tape, but the Grateful Dead in Mississippi on a Tuesday night must have been pretty odd.

The whole week was peculiar, and typical of some never-to-be-repeated touring strategies in 1978, The Dead had done a January California tour which was not done again, and the run from Birmingham>Nashville>Atlanta>Jackson had no precedent nor successor either. Still, we can see the Dead experimenting with how to build an audience in different regions.

December 21, 1978 The Summit, Houston, TX: Grateful Dead (Thu)
The Grateful Dead returned to Houston in 1978, presumably planning to build on their appearance at Hofheinz Pavilion the previous October. This time, the Dead played The Summit, a 16,000-capacity arena (at 3700 Southwest Freeway) that had been built in 1975 as the home to the NBA Houston Rockets. The Summit was the largest indoor venue that the Dead had ever played in Texas (I'm not sure of Manor Downs capacity). On a Thursday night, I don't think the Dead expected to sell it out, but I wonder how well the concert sold?

The Dead did not return to Houston and The Summit for nearly three years, so it probably wasn't an impressive night. There appears to have been no encore that night (based on the existing audience tape), which was sometimes the sign of a flat night with a thin crowd. Any Texans who can weigh in with eyewitness accounts (or plausible tales they heard in a burrito joint one night) are encouraged to Comment.

December 22, 1978 Dallas Convention Center Arena, Dallas, TX: Grateful Dead (Fri)
The Grateful Dead followed their performance at The Summit with a return to the Dallas Convention Center. A Friday night show at the 10,000-capacity Convention Center after the show at SMU the previous year fit the Dead's time-tested approach to touring--play University shows to build an audience, and then return to the local basketball arena. Did it work? Well, the Dead would not return to Texas for nearly three years, nor to Dallas itself for nearly a decade.

Plenty of popular bands played Dallas, as it was the biggest, richest city in Texas. If the Dead didn't play there, it meant there was no promoter with whom they had a relationship, nor one who had the confidence to take a chance. It's hard not to conclude that the 1978 Dallas show didn't sell that well. I only know of one eyewitness account. I believe every word of it, but it doesn't tell us much about the show, save for a rumor that it was a lousy show.

February 6, 1979 Tulsa Pavilion, Tulsa, OK: Grateful Dead (Tue)
After December 1978, it's hard not to draw the conclusion that the Grateful Dead somewhat gave up on Texas and the Southwest. They only played the region intermittently throughout the 80s. As the 80s rolled on, when the Dead played their strongholds in Florida and Atlanta, they took the North/South route through Virginia and North Carolina rather than East/West through New Orleans and Texas. This was not necessarily a planned decision, but it was a rational one. As the Dead's ticket sales became more focused on fans who saw the band over and over again, the booking policy led to a touring schedule that featured relatively short drives on a nightly basis. The vast distances of the Southwest were far less attractive for any fans who were thinking of catching three or four shows in six nights.

Another factor in the Dead's declining presence in the Southwest was the absence of any longstanding relationships with local promoters. Sam Cutler was an old comrade, and he ran Manor Downs in Austin, but for mysterious reasons he dropped out of running the facility in the late 1970s. The Dead would indeed return to Manor Downs--more on that below--but Cutler's departure meant that the band focused on established beachheads elsewhere. We will have to wait for Cutler's new book (hurry up, Sam!) to unravel the details, but it seems that his departure combined with the vast plains of Texas to keep the Dead touring in the more humid climes of the Southeast, rather than the Southwest.

The Grateful Dead's only appearance in Tulsa on February 6, 1979 indicates how small a part the Southwest played in the band's plans. Everything about the Tulsa show is an outlier, and indeed the entire section of the tour is an outlier. The Dead had never played Tulsa before, which is 107 miles Northeast of Oklahoma City, and the second largest city in the State (behind OKC). It was also a Tuesday night. Even weirder, it was in between a Sunday night show (Feb 4) in Madison, WI and a Wednesday show (Feb 7) in Carbondale, IL. Both of those shows were effectively university gigs.

Any band that would go 750 miles for a Tuesday night gig in a city they had never played, just to go 500 more miles for a Wednesday night show in another city they had never played was hurting for money. The Dead had two weekend nights in Kansas City, KS (Feb 9-10), so they had to fill the week with any paying booking. If Texas had been a good gig, they might have gone there, but Tulsa and Carbondale seem to have been better choices. Draw your own conclusion.

As far as I know, the February 6 Tulsa show is the last, latest Grateful Dead show for which we have no audience tape whatsoever. That tells me that for whatever little community there may have been of "tourheads," none of them were going to Tulsa on a Tuesday night in February. As for the board tape, it reputedly was given to Brent, who never returned it. Thus February 6, 1979 in Tulsa, OK, is the latest Dead show for which we have not a single recorded note from any source, listenable or not.

The Grateful Dead played The Saenger Theater in New Orleans in 1980 and 1982. The theater was built in 1927, and located at 143 N Rampart Street, near Canal Street
October 18-19, 1980 Saenger Theater, New Orleans, LA: Grateful Dead (Sat-Sun)
Another anomalous Southwest show was the Dead's two-night stand in New Orleans between the legendary Warfield and Radio City shows. The Dead re-introduced acoustic sets and arranged to record all their shows in San Francisco and New York, but they had a few weekends in-between. As a practical matter, the band seems to have taken their "small theater" rig to the 2700-capacity Saenger Theater in New Orleans to bridge the gap between San Francisco and Manhattan. The shows were not part of the official recordings (that led to Dead Reckoning and Dead Set), but there were acoustic sets in New Orleans, a remarkable and unique anomaly.

The Saenger Theater in New Orleans, at 143 N Rampart Street, had initially been opened in 1927, with a capacity of around 4000. It was renovated in 1978, reducing the audience to about 2700. Although Arista Records must have been supporting the operational expenses of recording the band's live albums, the Dead were inevitably strapped for cash, and a few shows in New Orleans covered their nut. Whatever: NOLA Deadheads that remained in town were the beneficiaries, and even got some acoustic sets.

July 2, 1981 The Summit, Houston, TX: Grateful Dead (Thu)
In 1981, touring between the Arista releases of Dead Reckoning (Apr '81) and Dead Set (Aug '81), the Grateful Dead seem to have taken another stab at Texas. Looking forward to a weekend show at Manor Downs, the band played a Thursday night show at The Summit. I don't know why the Dead didn't book a Friday night show. Although the Rockets had first dibs on the arena, and the Rockets had even made the NBA Finals (in a not-to-be-forgotten showdown between Larry Bird's Celtics and Moses Malone's Rockets), the series was over by mid-May. Since the Dead would not play The Summit again for seven years, I can't imagine that this was a lucrative show.

A poster for the Grateful Dead show at Manor Downs, near Austin, TX, on July 4, 1981
July 4, 1981 Manor Downs, Austin, TX: Grateful Dead (Sat)
The Grateful Dead returned to Manor Downs on the July 4 holiday weekend of 1981. By this time, Sam Cutler had departed for reasons yet unexplained. Manor Downs had been operating continuously, however, since the band's 1977 appearance. In the interregnum, management of the Downs now included Chesley Millikin, an old partner of Cutler's, and one who also went way back with the Grateful Dead.

Jim Paxton, a former client of Cutler and Millikin's booking agency (as part of the Paxton Brothers), recalls:
[Chesley] was a one-of-a-kind Irishman who moved to Canada and then to the United States in the late 50’s after competing as a member of the Royal Irish Jumping Team. He was a man of many talents who started his career in the music business around 1966. The first band of prominence he managed was “Kaleidoscope”, which featured a young David Lindley. I’m not sure of the exact dates, but I believe he was offered and accepted a job in 1967 as executive vice-president for Epic Records in London. This was most likely when he became associated socially with the Rolling Stones. He became friends with Mick Jagger and became particularly close with Charlie Watts and Sam Cutler. 
In 1968, Chesley became personal manager for British rocker, Terry Reid. Terry is somewhat infamous for turning Jimmy Page down when asked to be lead singer for Led Zeppelin. Terry suggested Page contact Robert Plant instead. Through his connections with Mick and Charlie, Chesley was able to get Terry on the ’69 American Tour with the Stones. It was a triple bill as I recall with the Stones, Terry Reid, and I believe B.B. King... 
Chesley left to road manage the New Riders of the Purple Sage. I believe this is when he started working with Sam Cutler as a member of the Out of Town Tours management team in San Rafael, California. Although Out of Town booked many acts (myself included, Paxton Brothers) they primarily worked for the Grateful Dead whose office was just up the street...At some point in the late 70’s, he moved on to Austin, Texas to manage Manor Downs Racetrack with Frances Carr. Frances was a wealthy heiress who had previously worked with Chesley and Sam and the Grateful Dead.
After the July 4 '81 show, the Dead would return to Manor Downs in 1982, '83 and '85. It was the only place in Texas they consistently returned to, and in all but one of these years (the special case of 1983, see below), the Manor Downs show was paired with an Oklahoma City show. This seems to have been the last vestige of a Southwestern strategy. 

July 5, 1981 Zoo Amphitheatre, Oklahoma City, OK: Grateful Dead (Sun)
The Zoo Amphitheater, at 2101 NE 50th Street, was a CCC works project, completed around 1936. It was adjacent to the City Zoo, and had a capacity of about 6000. Thus it was not a major venue, but for the Dead's touring strategy to work the band had to play venues within reasonable driving distance. Initially this was to accommodate the road crew, but over time it became equally important to the traveling circus of touring Deadheads. OKC was 400 miles North of Austin. Six hours of driving (on I-35) would be another day at the office for road crew, but it's at the outer limits for fans. I'd be very interested to know who the promoters were in Oklahoma City.

May 31, 1982 Manor Downs, Austin, TX: Bobby And The Midnites/Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (Mon)
Bobby And The Midnites had started to tour heavily, and they made some Texas appearances. While hardly major events, appearances by Weir or Garcia kept the flag flying in Deadhead territory.
[update] thanks to a Commenter, we know that Stevie Ray Vaughan opened the show. At the time, Vaughan had been regularly playing Dallas bars since the early 70s. Chesley Millikin and Frances Carr had probably just taken over managing him (see below). 

June 2-3, 1982 Cardi's, Houston, TX: Bobby And The Midnites (Wed-Thu)
I don't really know anything about the club Cardi's, other than that it was at Westheimer and Fountainview. I assume (based on some pictures) that it was your typical mid-level rock club.

A poster for the Grateful Dead concert at Manor Downs, near Austin, TX, on July 31, 1982
July 31, 1982 Manor Downs, Austin, TX: Grateful Dead (Sat)
August 1, 1982 Zoo Amphitheater, Oklahoma City, OK: Grateful Dead (Sun)
The Dead followed their previous year's model, playing Saturday in Manor Downs and Sunday at The Zoo. This strategy had worked very well for them in the Northeast and Southeast. However, something very important had happened in Chesley Millikin's career, although it probably didn't seem like something at the time that would affect the Grateful Dead's history in Texas.

Besides running Manor Downs as a concert and horseracing establishment, Chesley Millikin and Frances Carr also worked in band management. Millikin had plenty of experience with record companies and as a manager, and Carr presumably helped provide the finance. Somewhere around 1981, Millikin discovered guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn, then about 27 years old, who had been working Dallas bars since he was 13. In 1982, Millikin told Mick Jagger about Vaughan, and after hearing him play, Jagger would help Vaughan got a showcase at the prestigious Montreaux Jazz Festival. Despite being an unknown with no recording contract, on July 17, 1982, Vaughan was the sensation of the Festival, and his career was launched. Within a few years, Millikin and Carr would stop presenting concerts at Manor Downs in order to focus on Vaughan's career, removing the last concert promoters in Texas with an old connection to the Dead.

September 9, 1982 Saenger Theater, New Orleans, LA: Grateful Dead (Thu)
The Dead had a big gig, and some time off in between the next one. Once again, New Orleans was the beneficiary. The Dead had a very well-paying booking at the US Festival in Southern California on Sunday, September 5 (a story in itself) and then a tour that began in Lakeland, FL on Sunday, September 11. The US Festival had been added at the last minute, so the band seems to have stuck in a night in at the Saenger Theater just to pay their travel bills.

November 1, 1982 Opry House, Austin, TX: Jerry Garcia Band (Mon)
November 2, 1982 Cardi's, Houston, TX: Jerry Garcia Band (Tue)
November 3, 1982 Riverboat President, New Orleans, LA: Jerry Garcia Band (Wed)
The Jerry Garcia Band toured heavily in the early 1980s. Garcia loved to play, of course, but cash flow was always a critical concern. The beneficiaries, of course, were those fans who got to see Garcia in much smaller or more out of the way venues than he would play with the Dead.  The JGB had a three-night Southwestern swing in 1982.

Garcia was no stranger to Austin, although this time he played at the Austin Opry House, at 200 Academy Drive. The old theater had been built as part of a motel complex in the 1950s. It had closed in 1974, but the refurbished venue re-opened in late 1975. Willie Nelson held some legendary concerts there. I'm not sure of the capacity of the Austin Opry House, but it seems to have been a typical large old theater, which made for a small rock venue (Jerry Garcia's Brokendown Palaces has more, of course, including pictures).

Garcia also played Cardi's, just as Bob Weir had a few months earlier. This was Garcia's only Houston appearance between 1981 and '85. Note that the band would only play Dallas once in the 80s. Except for Austin, the Dead's footprint was getting a lot more faint in Texas. Garcia also played The Riverboat President, a stationary but floating casino in New Orleans. The Dead had just been through town, but they would return to New Orleans only one more time, six years later.

September 13, 1983 Manor Downs, Austin, TX: Grateful Dead (Tues)
For their 1983 Manor Down appearance, the Dead played on a Thursday. It was the final date after an extensive tour in the Mountain West. The Dead had played three nights at Red Rocks (Sep 6-8) and then a weekend at a horse racing track in Santa Fe, NM (Downs Of Santa Fe, Sep 10-11). For the final date, the band headed 700 miles to the Southeast to play a weeknight in Austin. Come the weekend, the band would return to California to play weekend afternoons in Grass Valley (Sep 18) and Santa Cruz County (Watsonville, Sep 24).

1983 was the first year of selling advance tickets to the entire tour by mail. Deadheads could decide in advance how many shows they wanted to attend. It was a revolution, since fans no longer had to depend on a network of tenuous connections in different cities. If you get a money order together, you could go on the whole tour. Yet how many Deadheads were going to Red Rocks, then Santa Fe and then 700 more miles to Austin, plus four days downtime? The distance of Texas cities from anything else--even other Texas cities--legislated against the appeal of following the band from city to city.

Astroworld Amusement Park, opened in 1968, and purchased by Six Flags in 1975. The Grateful Dead played here at the Southern States Amphitheater on August 30, 1985. It just shouts "psychedelic good times!" doesn't it?
August 30, 1985 Southern States Amphitheater, Houston, TX: Grateful Dead (Fri)
With no Texas appearances in 1984, the Grateful Dead took one final stab at the Southwest in 1985. The weak bookings suggest that they were not that big of a draw. Remember, in 1985, the Dead had not had a studio album in five years, and had not had anything resembling a hit in forever. They seemed to be just another old act on the road, whatever their loyal fans claimed to the contrary.  The Southwestern tour leg seems to have been structured around a Saturday night show at Manor Downs. Logically, then, the band played Houston on the preceding Friday night.

And where did the Grateful Dead get booked in Houston in 1985, for the band's first appearance in the city in four years? A Six Flags amusement park. The Southern Star Amphitheater was part of AstroWorld, which had opened near the AstroDome in 1968. The Six Flags chain purchased the park in 1975. I think the capacity was about 6000, but I'm not sure. If anyone recalls if a Dead ticket got you free rides, please Comment.

The Dead had not played an amusement park since Pirate's World in Dania, Florida, back in 1970. [update: the Dead had not played an Amusement park in The States. A Commenter observed they played Wonderland Amusement Park in Ontario, Canada in 1984]  A gig's a gig, and all that, but no band likes to perform with the roller coaster in the background. The scene was touchingly portrayed in the movie This Is Spinal Tap, when guitarist David St. Hubbins' girlfriend fumes "they said we'd come on AFTER the puppet show!"

August 31, 1985 Manor Downs, Austin, TX: Grateful Dead (Sat)
The Dead returned to Manor Downs and Austin for the last time on Labor Day weekend in 1985. I'm sure the show was well-attended and well received, but it didn't matter. The Dead had been loyal to the operators of Manor Downs, first Sam Cutler and Frances Carr, and then Carr and Chesley Millikin. But Manor Downs would close soon after this. First of all, quarterhorse racing was fading, and Manor Downs would be converted to a more profitable and conventional (pari-mutuel) thoroughbred horse racing facility.

More importantly, by this time, Stevie Ray Vaughan had become a rising star, recording with David Bowie and tearing up concert halls all over the country. As it turned out, Millikin would ultimately end up being moved aside as Vaughan's manager, just as the guitarist was becoming America's next great rock guitar hero, before his unfortunate death in 1990. However, in 1985, since Carr and Milliken were Vaughan's managers, they had a more lucrative opportunity than running a struggling gambling and concert operation. With the closing of Manor Downs as a concert facility, the Dead lost any long term professional connection to Austin or even Texas.

September 2, 1985 Zoo Amphitheatre, Oklahoma City, OK: Grateful Dead (Mon)
The Dead played Labor Day afternoon at The Zoo, but the band's performances in OKC had been tied to Manor Downs shows, and these, too, went by the wayside. When the Dead exploded behind "Touch Of Grey" two years later, the Dead were not focused on making Texas part of the trip. The shorter distances between cities in the Southeast made that region a better link to Florida and Atlanta, and for all the affinity between Texas music and the music of the Grateful Dead, Texas and the Southwest was pretty much out of the Grateful Dead's touring universe.

March 11, 1987 The Back Room, Austin, TX: Go Ahead with Bob Weir (Wed)
March 12, 1987 Rockefeller's Houston, TX: Go Ahead with Bob Weir (Fri)
March 14, 1987: Tipitina's, New Orleans, LA: Go Ahead with Bob Weir (Sat)
When Jerry Garcia had collapsed in the Summer of 1986, Brent Mydland and Bill Kreutzmann had scrambled to put together a band to keep up the cash flow. By 1987, Jerry was back on board, but Go Ahead had been enough fun and enough of a success that they kept it going. Bob Weir joined in for many of the 1987 shows. Weir and Go Ahead did a little mini-tour of Austin, Houston and New Orleans in March. Texas Deadheads had every reason to assume that the Grateful Dead would be back soon, and they would, but only for the last time.

Jerry Garcia's coma and near-death experience in 1986 had put him back in the public eye, so when "Touch Of Grey" rode MTV to success, it was like a tidal wave. The Dead, unlike many MTV one-hit wonders, had a readymade touring operation and were well used to the road, so all of a sudden the band was playing to sold out crowds in big venues all over the country. It also meant that, more or less, the Dead could choose where they wanted to go, since they were now a headline act everywhere.

October 18, 1988 Lakefront Arena, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA: Grateful Dead (Tue)
The Grateful Dead took one final shot at Texas and the Southwest. It was their only Texas tour after "Touch Of Grey." The tour had begun in Florida, with a Friday night show at Miami Arena (Oct 14) and two more on the weekend in St. Petersburg (Bayfront Center Oct 15-16). However, instead of following Florida dates with the usual trips to Atlanta and Charlotte, the Dead headed West. The band played a Tuesday night show at Lakefront Arena at the University of New Orleans. The Lakefront, built in 1983 with a capacity of just 8,900, would have just been a routing gig, something to pay the bills on a Tuesday night. 

October 20, 1988 The Summit, Houston, TX: Grateful Dead (Thu)
The real destination for the tour leg was Texas. After a weekend in Florida, and a stopover in NOLA, the Dead played Thursday in Houston and Friday in Dallas. The Dead played The Summit for the first time since 1981. The Rockets were still there (they would not move to the Toyota Center until 2003). All the shows at Cardi's and Six Flags were finally paying off, as the band was playing Texas' two biggest cities on consecutive nights. No doubt a large number of Texas heads happily made the journey from Louisiana to Texas, along with the Dead's crew.

October 21, 1988 Reunion Arena, Dallas, TX; Grateful Dead (Fri)
The Grateful Dead had never played Dallas that much, compared to other cities, and indeed they had not played the city at all in nearly 10 years. Now the band was headlining at Reunion Arena, the new home of the Dallas Mavericks. Almost twenty years earlier the band had played an old Auditorium at SMU where Winston Churchill once spoke, and now they were the headline attraction at the biggest venue in the biggest city in the state where Big really counted. The Grateful Dead ended that leg of the tour on that Friday night in Dallas. The band would never return to the state again.

As far as I know, the shows in Dallas and Houston sold well, and everyone had a good time. Sure, there are whiffs that there were hassles with the cops, but that was true at Dead shows all over the country during that period. Yet neither Garcia nor the band ever made landfall in Texas again. The vast distances to and within Texas didn't suit the short hops that suited both the crew and the traveling Deadheads. With Manor Downs out of the picture, there were no promoters in Texas who had the kind of ties to the band that kept them there, so the Dead were just a big, fond memory from days gone by, The Dead could play wherever they wanted in the 1990s, and that place was never Texas.

The Grateful Dead and Texas were natural partners, musically, culturally and in many other ways. Texas and its music is wide open, serious but always open for a good time, and all the Texans I have met are friendly and ready for some fun. And while the long haired hippie thing may have been an issue in the 1960s, by the 70s Willie Nelson had shown that there was plenty of room for some other kinds of fun. Yet geography worked against the band's plans, and the unexpected though thoroughly deserved ascension of Stevie Ray Vaughan--of all things--removed the band's last important financial tie with the state.

There are tons of Deadheads in Texas, not only long standing residents but many who have relocated from elsewhere. It is appropriate that Dallas, being Dallas and all, houses the main fulcrum for Grateful Dead music, LoneStarDead Radio on KNON-fm every Friday night (you should tune in!). Even the most casual of googling calls up any number of fond reminiscences of when the Dead rolled through the various cities in the state (many of them linked in the post), so the Dead and their music is not forgotten. Yet Texas stands as a sort of outlier in the Grateful Dead saga, a state that the band worked hard to conquer, and then gave up just when they were at the gates.

Bob Weir did make three appearances in Texas with Rob Wasserman while the Dead were still active. No doubt Texas heads just figured the shows would tide them over until the band returned, just as they had before.
May 19, 1991 Bronco Bowl, Dallas, TX: Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman
May 20, 1991 Union Ballroom, Houston, TX: Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman
May 21, 1991 Opry House, Austin, TX: Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman

Eddie Wilson's account of Jerry and Leon at the Armadillo
"During dinner, Garcia looked up at the place and said, 'I'd like to play [the Armadillo],'" recalls Wilson. "I said, 'Okay, I can arrange that. When?' He said, 'We're not doing anything tomorrow.' So I asked, 'What time?' and he kind of got short. He didn't like promising details."

The Dead were on fire in 1972, having logged a monumental European tour. Although vocalist and organist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan had recently bowed out with fatal health problems, the band played an energetic set that included an 18-minute version of Bob Weir masterpiece "The Other One."

"After the show, I was standing there with Leon Russell when Jerry walked in," continues Wilson. "He goes, 'We're gonna jam tomorrow at the Armadillo; why don't you come over?' Leon says, 'Fine, what time?' And Garcia looks over at me and I say, 'How about 3 o'clock?'"

The club owner placed one call to a local radio station, announcing that the 'Dillo would be open on Thanksgiving and some friends would be playing.

"The next day, the doors open and people are filtering in, wondering what's going on," says Wilson. "Garcia wouldn't go on. He said, 'Lets just wait till Doug [Sahm] gets here. He's the bandleader; he knows a thousand songs.' And he did exactly that."

The impromptu band, featuring Garcia again on pedal steel, Sahm, Russell, Dead bassist Phil Lesh, and several backing musicians, rallied through 29 covers by artists including Charley Pride, Roger Miller, Hank Williams, and Bob Dylan.

"It swelled into a real nice crowd, probably about 1,000 people," smiles Wilson. "Leon Russell later told me, 'It may have been my worst performance ever.' He's not a jam musician. He's an arranged guy."

After their trio of Downtown shows in the early Seventies, the GD found a new home base in Travis County at Manor Downs, a world-class quarter horse training facility just northeast of Austin that was owned by a friend of the group, Frances Carr. Its unofficial slogan was "Horse racing and rock & roll."

Woody Roberts: The group at Manor Downs were part of the Marin Spin. Frances and Sam Cutler, Libby Jones, and Bill Seal all worked together at a company called Out of Town Tours after Sam quit managing the Dead. They were in charge of road tours and had booked the Dead shows at the Municipal Auditorium. So when Sam and Frances opened the Downs, they brought in Gary Hart, road manager for New Riders. They were all part of the Dead extended family. Chesley [Millikin, Stevie Ray Vaughan's manager] was part of the whole Marin scene. Ray Slade would hang too. He was one of [Ken Kesey's] Merry Pranksters. Frances' brother Loose Bruce Baxter was out there too. They all moved back to Texas from California and that was the connection. They were all at Manor Downs.

Eddie Johnson: Frances was a friend of the Grateful Dead. They did hang out there because we had houses at Manor Downs they could stay in. Most groups would come play and stay at a hotel, but they actually stayed in one of the houses. It wasn't so much like, "This is the band and we know them." They were friends! The fact that they were friends with Frances was probably the reason they booked shows at Manor Downs

A steady, focused performance at Manor Downs in August 1985, in which the band encored with a stunning Garcia-sung version of Dylan's "She Belongs to Me" swelling into a rave-up of "One More Saturday Night" (it was actually a Saturday), turned out to be the Dead's final local jam.

Woody Roberts: The Dead didn't really like to play Texas. It was so spread out here. They made their money up and down the East and West Coasts. They stopped coming to Austin because the Downs stopped having music in 1986. It shut down and reopened as a pari-mutuel [off-track gambling].

The complete text of Jim Paxton's quote about Chesley Milikin:
Delighted to see you’re looking for information on Chesley Millikin. Chesley was one of my dearest friends. He was a one-of-a-kind Irishman who moved to Canada and then to the United States in the late 50’s after competing as a member of the Royal Irish Jumping Team. He was a man of many talents who started his career in the music business around 1966. The first band of prominence he managed was “Kaleidoscope”, which featured a young David Lindley. I’m not sure of the exact dates, but I believe he was offered and accepted a job in 1967 as executive vice-president for Epic Records in London. This was most likely when he became associated socially with the Rolling Stones. He became friends with Mick Jagger and became particularly close with Charlie Watts and Sam Cutler.
In 1968, Chesley became personal manager for British rocker, Terry Reid. Terry is somewhat infamous for turning Jimmy Page down when asked to be lead singer for Led Zeppelin. Terry suggested Page contact Robert Plant instead. Through his connections with Mick and Charlie, Chesley was able to get Terry on the ’69 American Tour with the Stones. It was a triple bill as I recall with the Stones, Terry Reid, and I believe B.B. King. You would need to check that though.
When Terry’s career started falling apart in the early 70’s due to a drug problem Chesley left to road manage the New Riders of the Purple Sage. I believe this is when he started working with Sam Cutler as a member of the Out of Town Tours management team in San Raphael, California. Although Out of Town booked many acts (myself included, Paxton Brothers) they primarily worked for the Grateful Dead whose office was just up the street. I remember in ’76, Chesley moved over to the Dead’s offices. At some point in the late 70’s, he moved on to Austin, Texas to manage Manor Downs Racetrack with Frances Carr. Frances was a wealthy heiress who had previously worked with Chesley and Sam and the Grateful Dead. It was during the Austin years (early 80’s) he and Frances became aware of Stevie Ray Vaughan and took on his career under Classic Management.
Jim Paxton and the Paxton Brothers


  1. A correspondent reports on the 1985 Houston and Austin shows:

    I don't recall whether the Houston show tix included the amusement park attractions (we didn't partake so I have a feeling they were separate admissions)... God that was a hot day stuck out on the endless Astrodome parking lot. I remember it as a nice venue though inside - grass
    to dance on and no distractions from the surrounding park.

    Austin I vaguely recall was a pretty cowboy heavy show (song wise) and I remember that they sold beer in cans by the case and huge BBQ turkey legs! They also had a pre-gig parachute show that included tossing out a dummy and pretending his chute didn't open. I was in an altered state and fell for that one in a most unpleasant manner. I came away thinking that was no way to treat a deadhead!

    1. Well I was testing to see if my comment got posted, or like the last really long one I just finished writing, I was taken away from the page to choose a username for my Google account which I did and then the comment I took so long to write was gone. Luckily I copied it before I was taken off the page 😁
      I grew up in Houston and had season passes to Astroworld when I was younger, like in the late 1970s (they had a dance stage that was a popular gathering spot for people I knew, Boogie Nights I think it was called). As I recall, the Southern Star Amphitheater (it was Southern Star not Southern States) wasn’t built until a little later, in the early 1980s, but I remember that you had to walk pretty deep into the amusement park to get to it - through Alpine Village - lol I think that was the name of the section, it was 35 years ago so it’s a little foggy oh 💡 the dance stage was called the Boogie Fog, I think. Anyway, once you were inside of AstroWorld they couldn’t stop you from going on rides, there were no wristbands or other indicators of being allowed to ride, you just had to be inside the front gate and having a ticket to the show got you in the gate so yes you could ride rides. I saw the 1985 Dead show and around that time I also saw Dire Straits, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, and I believe there were a couple of others, Santana and Neil Young I want to say. AstroWorld closed in 2005 - I took my young son there when they announced it was shutting down, even though at 3 years old he was really too young - but they stopped having shows at the Southern Star years before that.

    2. It did include amusement rides

  2. Another great post. For the record, the Dead played Kingswood Theatre at Canada's Wonderland Amusement Park in Toronto on the first day of Summer in 1984, so Pirate World was not the last theme park show before the one mentioned here. The Band opened, and members of the Band joined the Dead for the encore of New Orleans, Big Boss Man, and Iko Iko. It was a SEVA Benefit, and there was a reception after the show for donors with band members at which Ian and Sylvia might have played. I was there, but the details are fuzzy after all these years. The show was also a FM broadcast.

    1. Thanks for this. I remember the FM broadcast (I'm pretty sure I taped it). I modified the post accordingly. I think we have to concede that the Dead were just a "Touch Of Grey" away from an Amusement Park tour.

  3. I did attend 12/19/78, Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson, and in fact made the audience tape. It was off the beaten path, and in the wrong direction
    for someone like me who needed to get back to NY for the holidays. Logic was never one of my strong suits! It was one of the most underattended shows. Just before showtime i could walk some the soundboard to the stage easily without bumping into anyone. Locals did arrive fashionably late so it wasn't a totally empty building. Sometimes the Dead were flat in such situations and sometimes they cut loose and played great. On this night, it was the latter!

  4. Blair Jackson interviewed Garcia shortly after the 1988 Dallas and Houston concerts, and published it in the Golden Road:

    "Dallas and Houston both had that thing where the audience sort of doesn't know what to do. Or the audience is not necessarily that involved. Usually there are enough Deadheads that they can swing it their way. But the vibes in Dallas and Houston were both a little strange. New Orleans was neat. That wasn't bad.

    BJ: Well, that's a city that knows how to party.

    JG: In a certain kind of way, yeah. It didn't wear as well for me this time as other times I've been there. But I'm not that much a party person. In New
    Orleans what that really means is go out and drink a lot. And if that isn't your idea of a party you're pretty much fucked. [Laughs] There's a lot of
    music there, but not that much GOOD music. The whole zydeco/cajun thing is so marginal, and it leans up against so many other styles that allow greater proficiency, that while there are a lot of great players, it seems to me sort of like a one-note thing. It's a one-gesture kind of music, so it's a little flat. Players like the Neville Brothers are rare-they have a definite thing they're going after, a definite sound that's original.

  5. Another correspondent recalls that

    "At the Manor Downs '83 show, there was a naked guy crawling through the audience up by the stage where we were standing. It was kinda gross."

    1. Yes. I was there and that naked guy was right next to us. He was tripping hard. I remember some guys sort of threw him over the security wall right in front of the stage and he was super annoying to everyone e there. Crazy

  6. I was told (by one of the guys whose job it was to hang posters) that there was a massive snow storm right before the Tulsa show, so the turnout was pretty sparse.

  7. I wonder how much Red Rocks played a part in the equation as well. The 82, 83, and 85 Texas visits were all either right before or usually after a stand at Red Rocks. Perhaps they played Texas to make Red Rocks pay.

  8. A Santa Cruz correspondent writes:

    I'm from that part of Texas and saw all GD Manor Downs shows, including the '82 Bobby And The Midnites show. I mention this for the Stevie Ray connection, as Double Trouble was the opener that night. Also saw the '82 JGB show at the Opry House. And since 7/31/82 was the reason I moved to the Bay Area, very fond Dead memories of that year in Austin.

    Was at the Houston '85 show and yes, your ticket definitely got you admission to the amusement park.

    A couple of things about the '88 shows; in Houston, Brent came out from behind his keyboard setup to physically adjust his stage monitor (can't recall the song), with the next night in Dallas being his birthday.

    Many other memories about all of these shows (I also remember the fake skydiver in Austin, but I thought it was at the July 4th, '81 show). The Dallas '78 show I was scheduled to go to but missed the ride. According to my friend who made it, I believe that only the floor was used for the audience and that wasn't even full. Lots of good stories on the Archive, but this topic is personally appreciated. Manor Downs was a great place to see shows. Have to give an honorable mention to an Allman Bros/Johnny Winter/Jerry Jeff Walker show there in '79. Thanks for this!

  9. I was at Houston 1985. Yes, the concert ticket got you into the amusement park and on all the rides for free. We rode the roller coaster a few times until they shut it down because of rain. It was a blast of a day, and we didn't have to pay for any rides.

    The funniest part of the whole thing was that the amusement park was filled with Heads and the regular family-type typical visitors were not amused at their children being exposed to all these hippies. We laughed about that all day.

    Lastly, during Birdsong, you can hear Brent making a lot of bird noises, and this went on way too long. Jerry gave him this eat-shit look like I've never seen (I was in 8th row, so it was clear as day). Brent stopped immediately after that.

  10. Funny or not so funny story about Manor Downs from 9-13-83. There were pre-show sky divers to entertain the crowd and there was an announcer on stage talking the crowd through the jumps and chute openings, landings etc. He was basically getting the crowd thrilled about the jumpers. But then the last jumper was not pulling his chute and the announcer was seeming to get anxious, and kept saying he was going to pull it any second. The crowd was really on edge. He never pulled the chute and we saw the body fall to the ground and it hit out of view from the crowd area.

    So, did a sky diver just die? Or were the Dead messing with our heads? We wanted to laugh as if it were a practical joke, but no one knew for sure, so the whole crowd is standing around dumb-founded. Never found out the truth on that one.

    Another thing I remember about this show were the ticket takers were bikers and it was pretty much anything goes in. They were even letting people roll in nitrous tanks. And they were jokingly telling all the heads that they had to surrender their drugs at the gates, to be consumed later no doubt by the bikers. All in all a great vibe. No hassles.

    I always wondered why the hell they came all the way from Santa Fe to do one show in Austin. Never made any sense to me. But i remember seeing lots of California tags and buses, so lots of heads made the trek across Texas for 1 show.

    1. OK, so I just saw that Corry342 reported on this dummy gag as the 1985 Austin show. I could have sworn it was 1983, but it was a long time ago. Glad to know it was a dummy. Really messed with our heads also. Also remember in 1983 Manor Downs everyone got chiggers. Really sucked. Red bumps all over our legs for a couple of weeks. But apparently in 1985 they took care of the problem and we didn't have the same experience.

    2. Karl, thanks for all your great comments. I will say, though, that someone emailed me about the parachute stunt and swore that it was Manor Downs '81. I'm starting to wonder if they did it every year.

  11. It turns out that the Grateful Dead played Amusement Parks more than I thought in the mid-80s. Finances must have been pretty strained.

    The usual unique overview can be seen here:
    Don't forget to check out the comment thread.

  12. I figured out that I had the venue wrong for the 1970 and '71 San Antonio shows. It was the HemisFair Arena (aka San Antonio Convention Center), not the Civic Auditorium. The source for this was my own blog (!). I even had a photo and an eyewitness account.

    I interpolated the new information into the post.

    1. Are you sure about 1971? The hand bill says San Antonio Municipal Auditorium

      It was sponsored by KEXL so Austin was probably not the only broadcast.

    2. You're right. I think I identified the venue from the 71 concert poster, and assumed the 1970 venue was the same. I then repeated the mistake going to the other direction.

      So now I have fixed it so that 1970 was at HemisFair and 71 was at the San Antonio Civic.

      I wonder if KEXL-Austin was audible in San Antonio?

  13. There is some confusion between the Austin Municipal Auditorium and the Austin Coliseum. They were both located within the same larger park grounds, but very different buildings. The Municipal Auditorium became the Palmer Auditorium and the guts of the Palmer Auditorium still stand and are the guts of the Long Center. Based on this article, I'm not sure whether the shows in 70, 71, 72 were in the Auditorium or the Coliseum. I've always understood the Auditorium.

  14. Sally Mann Romano has a great story on the October 5 '69 show in Houston, with the Dead and the Airplane.

    At the time she was on tour with the Airplane, because she was Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden's girlfriend (and just Sally Mann, later to become Sally Dryden). In the 1970s, she worked with Sam Cutler in his tour management office.

  15. I was at the Austin 85 show and the Houston 88 show; I'm just going to comment about the Houston 88 show; my memory is that the 'no dancing in the aisles' rule was strictly enforced at the 88 Houston show, to the point that it was totally bumming everybody out and all kinds of negative epithets were being slung at the ushers. I remember talking with one of the ushers and she was completely confused why the ushers were getting such flack for just trying to do their jobs because that's how it was at every show at The Summit (fire code), but the Deadhead crowd wasn't a Houston crowd and didn't know that Houston strictly enforces 'the no one in the aisles' rule (I also saw the same strict no dancing in the aisles enforcement at smaller Houston venues of that time). I was moving around the entire show and I remember there were large circles of people in the outer foyer (which at The Summit is a giant ring outside of the performance area but still inside the building where all the merchandise is sold), groups of people that seemed to be comforting each other; at the time it seemed to me it was a result of the show becoming such a bummer due to the militant venue staff. After reading Jerry's comment in this article that the vibe in Houston was different, this very well could be a big reason why. (I'll also just mention here that the Houston show was the first performance of Built to Last)

  16. in regards to the Dead playing in Austin in 1970, you referred to where they played as what became the Palmer Auditorium, this is more than likely not true; as someone else mentioned in the comments, there were two early venues in Austin and they were basically on the same property, and the smaller venue, the City Coliseum (not the Austin Coliseum, although it was probably called that quite frequently) was the first venue that was opened, and where most of the early Austin music concerts were held, even after the Municipal Auditorium was opened. The City Coliseum never really changed over the years and was eventually torn down; it was always completely separate from what became the Palmer Auditorium (originally known as the Municipal Auditorium). The City Coliseum continued to be the primary music venue for smaller music shows even after the Frank Erwin Center opened in 1978; I saw many music concerts at the Erwin Center and at the City Coliseum, but I never once saw a music concert at the Municipal Auditorium/Palmer Auditorium. Nowadays, the Municipal Auditorium is the Long Center and lots of music acts perform there.

    1. also, the former site of the City Coliseum is now green space, the former site of the Municipal/Palmer Auditorium is now the Long Center; someone like Elvis would've played the Municipal Auditorium because the Erwin Center hadn't opened yet, and the Municipal Auditorium was the biggest venue in town; the Dead would not have had as big a draw in 1970 and would've most likely played the City Coliseum.

    2. read my Austin clipping I linked below for the answer to the answer man

  17. Found these reviews of the 2/22 and 2/23 in college newspapers. T for Texas

    1. Nice finds! This confirms that the Dead opened for Country Joe in Austin 2/23/70.
      Both reviews complain of weak and unimpressive Dead sets - apparently the band didn't work its magic on Texas in this Feb '70 tour!

      One small correction to the post: the San Antonio Feb 21 show had the same advertised lineup (QMS, Dead, Mayall, Beautiful Day) as Houston Feb 22.

  18. Also some numbers info. According to Billboard 10-29-1977, page 54. 10-14-77 Houston sold 6,848 tickets for a $49,834 gross and 10-15-77 Dallas sold 5,248 tickets for a $35,362 gross.

  19. The first Armadillo show was not billed as Legion of Mary,it was Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia.

    The two largest Manor Downs performances were the Fourth of July and Labor Day Weekend, both about 14,000+.

  20. My oldest brother took us to the 1985 show at Astroworld in Houston and the ticket allowed us entry to the park. I was 13. When we got out the car a couple asked if there for the dead and I confirmed. The woman said, you want some acid and I hollered to my brother, hey Mark do we want some acid?! We didn't.

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  26. Thanks to fellow scholar @mhfoto, I added another date: Bob Weir Band at Panther Hall, Ft Worth, TX April 30 '78. Complete with poster!

  27. Found this entertaining comment on the archive:

    "For me this show was one of the most fun shows ever. The amphitheater is in the Astroworld Amusement park, meaning that the ticket got you in the park. It was quite an experience seein Deadheads lined up for the roller coasters and the other rides. ( I'll never forget my friend Howie, handing out doses on the way up to the first drop of the roller coaster sayin "Going Up??") This Show had a carnival atmosphere. Unlike Compton Terrace where the amphitheater sloped down from the amusement park, This amphitheater had its stage set up with the park and roller coaster behind it. So you got all the flashing lights behind the stage, and in between songs you could hear the screams of people on the roller coasters and the carnival, calliope music.
    It had rained all day and was at least 100 degrees that night, so the humidity was close to 100%. Everyone and everything was dripping, which made it all the more surreal. the Full moon was rising as the Dead opened with an inspired Jack Straw>Row Jimmy, the Bird song is unique as well with bird chirping throughout. The second set, while well played was a tad short, due to the humidity and heat I think, and it was disappointing to see the band go into drums after Samson& delilah."

    There's a bunch more.

  28. Willie Nelson built an impressive outdoor venue in South Austin to be the home of his 4th of July Picnic Music Festival. It was called South Park Meadows. Willie leased the land from cattle rancher Abel Theriot. In the 80's, Willie lost the venue in his famous tax debacle. Theriot then leased the venue to Pace Concerts out of Houston, who booked touring bands like The Police, The Cars, etc. Theriot accused Pace Productions of embezzling thousands of dollars from him. The venue sat dormant for a number of years. Theriot became cash poor and decided to open the venue himself, and hired me to oversee the renovations in '94. The place was a dump, and the facilities needed to be upgraded to meet city codes. As work proceeded, my first phone call was to the Grateful Dead. I believe the person I spoke with was named Cameron. I told him we had a perfect venue with huge tracks of surrounding grazing land for campers, and suggested a 3 day run, drawing fans from Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. An advance team came and looked around. They were impressed, but suggested that we get a few concerts under our belt first, and booked Tampa in April of '95 instead. Abel Theriot was a miserable old man to work for, and I walked away before Jerry passed away. But we were close enough to bringing the band back to Texas that, even with mixed emotions, I can say I tried.