Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Grateful Dead in Oregon 1966-76 (Country Home)

Sunshine Daydream, the cd from the Grateful Dead's legendary performance on August 27, 1972 at the Renaissance Fairgrounds in Veneta, OR

The Grateful Dead began in San Francisco, and staked out their first beachhead in Manhattan. Over the decades, the band was popular in some places, like New Jersey and the Southeast, and weaker in others, like Texas or Los Angeles. I would suspect, however, that on a population-adjusted basis, the Dead's greatest success was in the state of Oregon. Until relatively recently, Oregon was thinly-populated and not a major economic engine. It was a pretty place between Northern California and Seattle, with laid back people and lousy weather.

Yet the Dead's connections to Oregon go far beyond a reliable concert booking no matter the day of the week, or the time of the year:
  • Ken Kesey, whose LSD evangelism was a big part of the initial Grateful Dead ethos, was from Springfield, OR. The Dead's only out-of-state Acid Test was in Portland, OR.
  • Thanks to Kesey, and fellow prankster Mike Hagen, the anchors for the Grateful Dead road crew came from modest cattle towns in Eastern Oregon. Ramrod (Larry Shurtliff), John Hagen (Mike's brother) and Rex Jackson were from Pendleton (Rex) and Hermiston (Ramrod and Hagen). The "Workingman's Dead" Marin County Ranchero look of boots, ponchos and big hats came directly from the Oregon crew.
  • Since Portland and Eugene were in between Seattle and San Francisco, the Dead played regular gigs there whenever the band played Seattle or Vancouver. These gigs both kept the band afloat while boosting the nascent rock scene in Oregon.
  • Not only did Oregon's location ensure some good bookings, something about Oregon lead to some truly epic performances there. The most legendary such show was the Springfield Creamery Benefit for the Kesey family dairy on August 27, 1972, but there were plenty of other great shows.
  • When the Grateful Dead undid their "hiatus" and returned to live touring in 1976, they needed a stealth warmup, and could have played anywhere. They chose Portland. The Dead played lucrative shows in Oregon ever since, and played great music, too.

This post will review the arc of the unique relationship between the Grateful Dead and the state of Oregon.

Oregon and San Francisco
In the early19th century, Oregon was vaguely and jointly administered by the English and American governments. It was mainly a source of furs and other resources. While Native Americans had lived in Oregon for centuries, the first permanent settlement by Europeans was Fort Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia River, established in 1811. There were a few other settlements, such as Fort Vancouver, established in 1825 on the border of what is now Washington State and Oregon (on the Washington side).

There was not even a government in Oregon until 1842, when meetings were held to form provisional government that began in that year. The Oregon territory was annexed by the United States in 1848. The Oregon Territory included all of the present-day states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, plus parts of Montana and Wyoming. The Southwestern part of the Oregon Territory became the state of Oregon in 1859.

Oregon has always been intimately connected to California, and particularly San Francisco. The Oregon Trail was initially the principal route for California-bound settlers, going  back to 1842. Legend has it that when gold was discovered in California in 1849, most of the Oregon population headed South, and the town of Portland was left with only three people. Generally speaking, Californians have been returning to Oregon ever since.

A map showing the state of Oregon ca. 1859 (lower left). The balance of the Oregon Territory became the Washington Territory, which included the modern-day states of Washington and Idaho, as well as parts of Montana and Wyoming. Washington became a state in 1889, and Idaho in 1890.

Seattle and Portland

Portland has always been the biggest city in Oregon, and though it is 120 miles inland, it is largely a seaport town. The Columbia River is navigable all the way to Portland, so lumber and other resources were easily shipped out to the Pacific and down the coast.  The Columbia divides the states of Oregon and Washington. Californians, and others, often treat Seattle and Portland as a single unit, but historically that has not really been true. Although both cities were principally seaports, they were economically linked to different regions.

Seattle, WA was the Western Terminus of James Hill's Great Northern Railroad line--Deadheads will recall the Hunter line from "Jack Straw," "Great Northern, out of Cheyenne, from sea to shining sea"-running from Seattle to St. Paul. Seattle was the link to Asia, and St. Paul was the link to the Midwest and the Great Lakes, so commodities and manufactured goods could indeed be shipped all over the world.

Oregon, however, was linked by rail to California, via the Southern Pacific. The Transcontinental Railroad, following the path of today's Interstate 80, went from Oakland to the Sierras via Sacramento. Right before Sacramento, there was a junction at Davisville (now Davis, CA), and trains could head North to Oregon. Thus, in the 19th and 20th centuries, Oregon's crops and commodities were shipped South to California and from there to the middle of the country via Southern Pacific.

The Columbia River kept Seattle and Portland in separate economies throughout the 20th century, initially because of railroads, which in turn created separate economies. Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington, beyond the reach of the Columbia, had a more integrated economy (the Great Northern reached California through Eastern Oregon, but the Grateful Dead story is more about Portland than the more rugged Eastern part of the state). Oregon, and particularly Portland, had been economically tied to California since the mid-19th century, in a way that Seattle would never be. So in that sense, some of the seemingly random synergy between the Grateful Dead and Oregon was not random at all.

An aerial view of the Vanport, OR flood in 1948. Young Robert Burns could be in the photo, maybe.


During World War 2, coastal cities all over the country became industrial boomtowns, building merchant ships. East Coast shipyards were working flat out building Navy warships, so other places were built up to build much simpler transport ships that were needed in greater numbers. On the East Coast, places like Mobile, AL and Wilmington, NC became big shipyards. On the West, transport ships were mainly built in the San Francisco Bay Area and in greater Portland, OR. Workers moved from the Midwest and Southeast to the West, many of them African Americans. The Bay Area shipyards (in Oakland, Richmond, Hunters Point, Vallejo and Marin City) caused a huge music explosion as a byproduct.

Less well-known, but nonetheless prominent were the shipyards just West of Portland. The Kaiser company, prominent shipbuilders in Oakland, set up a shipyard in the Columbia River. The workers, mostly newly-arrived, many of them African American, mostly lived in shoddy new housing at a place called Vanport. Vanport was so named because it was between Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA, which was just across the river. Vanport boomed with well paid workers during the war, and Portland did too.

After the war, however, when the shipbuilding went away, Vanport declined. The already weak housing stock was not improved. During the war, Vanport had a population of 40,000 (40% African-American), making it Oregon's second largest city. By 1947, the shipyards had closed but there were many returning WW2 veterans, so the population was still 18,500. Vanport had been used as emergency housing for the war effort, so everybody had ignored the fact that it was built on a flood plain. In May 1948, heavy rains caused the entire community to flood, and many already poor families lost pretty much everything. The family of young Robert Burns, for example, then just 7 years old, was abandoned by his father. Young Robert lived with foster families for a few years, but returned to live with his mother when he was 11. He took his mother's new husband's name as his own. 

Robert Hunter didn't forget the trauma of the Vanport flood. He wrote "Here Comes Sunshine" as an homage to the relief he felt when the floods finally subsided.

Many of the Grateful Dead road crew came from Eastern Oregon cattle towns like Hermiston (pictured above, from a vintage postcard). It wasn't Berkeley.

Ken Kesey and Pendleton

Oregon is a larger state than most people realize, but there aren't many people in most of it. Coastal Oregon is rugged and beautiful, but there isn't really any economy and few people live there. Eastern Oregon, by contrast, is flatter but not really that hospitable, either. Resource extraction, usually in the form of logging, has always been a big part of Oregon's economy. Even before the railroads, the various rivers allowed Oregon lumber to get to the Pacific Ocean for export. Cattle ranching came later to Eastern Oregon, when railroads allowed the otherwise inhospitable land to be used for profitable ranching.

The Oregon that everyone is familiar with is a comparatively thin strip in the middle of the state. Portland, the largest city, was at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. It wasn't huge, though, having a population of around 370,000 throughout the 1960s. Eugene, the site of the University of Oregon, is 100 miles South of Portland, and while not really the center of the state. it was accessible from all directions. In the 1960s, Eugene had a population of just about 60,000, hardly even a city. In between the two was the state Capital at Salem, with about the population of Eugene. Aside from these three cities, there weren't any other major population centers in Oregon.

Ken Kesey's family came from Springfield, just outside of Eugene. Kesey had graduated from the U. of O in 1957, followed by going to Stanford University on a writing fellowship. His debut novel, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, was published in 1962 and was an instant success. With Kesey already in Palo Alto, and participating in LSD experiments, the Merry Pranksters and Acid Tests weren't far behind.

Kesey was a University graduate and a writer, but his family were Dairy farmers, so Kesey was on the cusp of both the intellectual world and an agricultural one. While many of the Pranksters were wayward intellectuals, at least one of them, Mike Hagen, was from a ranching family in Hermiston, OR, near Pendleton (from where we get the checkered Pendleton work shirts). Through Hagen, one Larry Shurtliff came down from Oregon to join the Pranksters in Mexico in late 1966. In 1967, Kesey recommended Shurtliff, whom he had christened "Ramrod" (for Pranksterish reasons). Shurtliff (b.1945-2006) would anchor the Grateful Dead crew until the very end of the line. 

The Kesey/Ramrod connection extended the Eastern Oregon population to include John Hagen, Joe Winslow and Rex Jackson, along with several others. The Oregon crew members mostly came from either Pendleton (Rex Jackson and Joe Winslow) or the nearby cattle ranching town of Hermiston (Ramrod, Hagen and Sonny Heard). When the band members moved out of San Francisco to more rural addresses in Marin County, it was the crew members, that had grown up ranching, who knew how to fix fences and ride horses. Now, sure, not much ranching probably took place, but the crew members were comfortable out in the country, building fires and shooting off guns.

With the frame of Oregon's history in mind, let's review all the times the Grateful Dead and its members played Oregon in the band's first decade of existence.

Although this photo from August 1963 is from Camp Meeker, CA (near Yosemite), it was probably typical of the mass folk ensembles like The Bay City Minstrels (JG 2-r, David Nelson far right)

Prehistory: The Bay City Minstrels in Oregon, 1963

It is symbolic, if not really significant, that Jerry Garcia's first performances outside of California were in Oregon. At the time, folk music was popular among college students, although not the type of old-timey and bluegrass music favored by purists like Jerry Garcia. One compromise was to form fairly large ensembles to perform easy-to-digest folk songs, while allowing sub-groups to perform some more specialized numbers. Groups like The New Christy Minstrels and the AuGoGo Singers were popular acts, touring around, recording and appearing on TV.  

One such little known ensemble was "The Bay City Minstrels." It appeared to be about 10 performers who did a few numbers together, probably at the beginning and end of shows. In between, it seems that the performers did numbers in smaller groups, and possibly solo as well. One such sub-group was The Black Mountain Boys, with Jerry Garcia, David Nelson and Eric Thompson. Presumably, the trio provided the musical backing for the ensemble numbers, and did their own bluegrass set (or sets) somewhere in the middle.

The ensemble toured the Pacific Northwest in Fall 1963. Fellow scholar Brian Miksis has tracked down two of the dates.

November 2, 1963  Eugene Hotel, Eugene, OR: Black Mountain Boys (Saturday)
(Garcia, Nelson, Thompson; Bay City Minstrels evening hootenanny performance following SJSU vs. U. of Orgeon football game; also Sherry Snow and Songdivers)

November 3, 1963 Auditorium, Medford High School, Medford, OR: Black Mountain Boys (Sunday)
(Garcia, Nelson, Thompson; Bay City Minstrels afternoon hootenanny performance; also Sherry Snow and Songdivers; Medford Times article) 

January 1 (?), 1966 Beaver Hall, Portland, OR: Portland Acid Test
The Portland Acid Test definitely happened, but when it happened is another issue. Following Prankster logic, it would seem that it would have been on a Saturday night, but that would make it either Christmas 1965 or New Years Day 1966. It could even have been as late as January 7 or 14, but then you have to make sense of the Matrix dates around that time. Everyone seems to agree that there were snowy conditions in Portland, and that points towards New Year's Day. Keep in mind that all of the Grateful Dead/Pranksters crowd had no real family connections, so being out of town for the holidays was no big deal. The exception may have been Ken Kesey, but of course his family actually was in Oregon.

Beaver Hall was a small room at 425 NW Glisan Street that could be rented fairly easily. It was used occasionally for local Oregon rock shows in the later 60s and into the 70s. I did find a reference, however, that said the Portland Acid Test was at a different Beaver Hall on the other side of town

Many of you will fondly remember Beaver Hall on NW Glisan. But, did you know there was once another place named Beaver Hall near SE Hawthorne around 1510 SE 9th Ave? And, it was at this Beaver Hall that Ken Kesey's Portland acid test took place. City directory listings back up several memories of the event. I love research projects:  
From George Walker: "Well, for starters, there was only one Portland Acid Test, in December '65. I don't know the exact date, but I don't believe it was on Christmas."  
From Joe Uris: "I was at the famous Acid Test. In fact, I hold the original acid test poster. It was at an upstairs hall, I think off of Hawthorne in a place I’d never been before or since. In those days, in order to have a dance with underage people, you had to have a matron. And they had this black woman who was a very nice lady but she had absolutely no idea what the hell was going on. And they had spiked various things with LSD which I thought was not responsible. The Warlocks which later became the Grateful Dead were there and the movies were playing endlessly."

Once 1965 turned into 1966, the Warlocks turned into the Grateful Dead, and Acid Tests aside, they started looking for paying bookings. Initially, like any band they started out locally. The group moved their headquarters to Los Angeles in February and March of 1966, but they did not take a true road trip until July, 1966. The Grateful Dead went to Vancouver, British Columbia and played a three-day weekend Trips Festival (July 29-31), followed by a Friday night concert (August 5). In between, they played their first free show in the park (in Stanley Park on August 3), inaugurating an important Grateful Dead tradition. The band flew to Vancouver, however, so they did not stop anywhere on the way home.

July 13, 1967 Pacific National Exhibition Agrodome, Vancouver, BC: Grateful Dead/Daily Flash
July 14-15, 1967 Dante's Inferno, Vancouver, BC: Grateful Dead/Collectors/Painted Ship
July 16, 1967 Golden Gardens Beach, Seattle, WA: Grateful Dead
(afternoon free show)
July 16, 1967 Eagle's Auditorium, Seattle, WA: Grateful Dead/Daily Flash/Magic Fern

By mid-1967, the Dead had released their debut album on Warner Brothers, and were nationally infamous. Relatively few people outside of San Francisco had heard the band's music, but they were known. The band had already played Manhattan, and now they had a chance to play the Pacific Northwest. The group has Thursday, Friday and Saturday night bookings in Vancouver, and a Sunday night show in Seattle. The band shared some dates with the Daily Flash, Seattle's leading psychedelic guitar band. Being the Dead, they also played a Sunday. afternoon free concert on Puget Sound. I'll just say--the Dead have ruled Seattle ever since.

A word about the structure of this post--in order to understand the dynamics of Grateful Dead shows in Oregon, I have to list many other Pacific Northwest shows for context. To keep this post manageable, however, I won't talk much about the economics of shows in Seattle and Vancouver.

July 18, 1967 Masonic Temple, Portland, OR: Grateful Dead/Poverty's People/US Cadenza/Nigells (Tuesday)
Portland had a thriving music scene in the 1960s, of a sort, but the economics were very much at odds with anywhere else on the West Coast. For one thing, music was not allowed anywhere that alcohol was served. So--no bar bands in Portland (apparently this was a legacy of the rather wild years of WW2). This also meant, however, that it was tough for bands to make a living in Oregon.  Throughout the Pacific Northwest in the 60s, there had been a teenage rock and roll dance scene, generally centered around Tacoma, WA. Groups like Paul Revere and The Raiders and The Wailers were very popular nationwide. But Portland was just a satellite of the Tacoma scene.

Original music in 60s Portland mostly folk music, played in coffee shops. When bands started to form, they played in coffee shops, because they were not allowed to play in bars. Thus, on one hand the Portland scene wasn't driven by the need to play Top 40 hits for drinkers, but on the other hand there was no upside to being an electric band in Portland with no steady paying gigs. 

Paradoxically, by 1967 Portland had a thriving, if tiny, psychedelic ballroom scene. If you wanted to play or hear live, electric rock and roll, you couldn't go to a bar. In one way, that was fine since most rock fans back then weren't even of drinking age. But coffee shops were simply too small to sustain the economics of a rock band requiring even minimal equipment and transport. A folk singer can hitchhike with his guitar, but a four piece band needs at least a station wagon to transport some amplifiers, trap drums and electric guitars.

Back in '67, numerous tiny venues in Portland put on rock shows, with weird posters and bands playing "folk-rock." Once in a while, a traveling band from California or Washington would play one of these gigs, since CA-to-WA was a multiple day drive, and they would spend a night in Portland anyway. Why not try and pick up a meal, some weed and a few bucks when there was a chance? Thus Oregon's rock history in 1967 is largely insular, with the unexpected insertion of some well known rock bands. Almost always, the Portland shows were in conjunction with another booking in Seattle or Vancouver.

The Masonic Temple was built in 1925, at 1119 SW Park Avenue at SW Jefferson Street. The Masonic Temple building is now part of the Portland Art Museum (the address is 1219 SW Park).  The 4-story building still includes the Grand Ballroom, which is probably a remodeled version of the Ballroom used for rock concerts in the 1960s. The current capacity is about 1000 (per the site), so perhaps up to twice that many could have been squeezed in.The Masonic Temple was a regular, if intermittent venue for Portland rock concerts in the 60s. I do not know if a specific promoter controlled the lease; more likely, the hall was simply for rent. 

In particular, the Masonic Temple had a number of high profile Fillmore-type bands in the Summer of 1967, exactly when the Crystal Ballroom was at a low ebb since its founding partners (Mike Magaurn and Whitey Davis) were in absentia that Summer. There seems to have been intermittent concerts throughout the end of the 1960s, but our information is spotty. In this case, the Grateful Dead made their formal Portland debut on a Tuesday night, partway back from the Vancouver and Seattle shows.

January 26-27, 1968 Eagles Auditorium, Seattle, WA: Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service
The Grateful Dead's true invasion of Oregon began in early 1968. The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service were booked for 7 dates in the Northwest, two in Seattle and five in Oregon. The weekend of shows at Seattle's Eagles Auditorium was in fact the big booking. Eagles Auditorium, at 1416 7th Avenue (at Union St) in downtown Seattle, had been built in 1925. Remarkably, apartments surrounded the ballroom. Eagles was Seattle's Fillmore-equivalent, and the Dead had played there the previous summer (see July 16 above). Now they were back, with Quicksilver in tow. This would have been a lucrative gig, but they needed to get home, so paying shows in Oregon made good sense.

January 29, 1968 College Center Ballroom, Portland State College, Portland, OR: Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/PH Phactor Jug Band 
With a week between relatively big weekend bookings in Seattle and Portland, the Quick and the Dead played some smaller college venues in Oregon. However small some of those college gigs may have been, the bands would have had the same expenses in any case. The Crystal Ballroom in Portland was the major venue, but it was too casually run to have (or to enforce) non-compete clauses at nearby places. The PH Phactor Jug Band, though not a major musical group, was a crucial fulcrum in the social network of

January 30, 1968 EMU Ballroom, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR: Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/PH Phactor Jug Band/Palace Meat Market 
Eugene was about 112 miles South of Portland, a quick two hours by freeway. Now, of course, we all think nothing of driving two hours to see rock bands we like, but that wasn't a likely scenario back then. Thus Eugene was a separate concert market than Portland. This show was the band's Eugene debut, a city where the band would go on to play many legendary shows. Palace Meat Market was a Portland folk-rock band. There were rock shows at the University of Oregon, of course, but by and large there wasn't really a "rock scene" in Eugene, just in Portland.

The various breaks in the schedule (after Seattle, and then after Eugene) mean that the bands had to stay somewhere. By this time, Ramrod and John Hagen were part of the crew, so they had plenty of Oregon connections. Did any of the band stay with Ken Kesey? Did they all go to Pendleton? Some remarks by John Cipollina in an old Golden Road suggest that they did. That would have been pretty severe culture shock for suburban beatniks like Garcia, Lesh and Weir. Few people inquire what the Dead members did between shows, but in those days they would have had no money for hotels.

February 2-3, 1968 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR: Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/PH Phactor Jug Band
The Crystal Ballroom, at 1332 W. Burnside (at NW 14th), played a peculiar role in Portland rock history, as it was the highest profile venue in the city, but it was run on a shoestring basis. When the Crystal was functioning well, however, it provided some of the great memories of 60s Portland rock. When the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver tour hit the Crystal on a Friday and Saturday night, all the stars were aligned. After a few smaller shows at Portland State and U of O, hip Portland was primed for the shows at the Crystal.

According to Toody Conner, who was one of the volunteers who helped run the Crystal (per Tim Hills' book), there were lines around the block, and there was so much money in gate receipts that they had to borrow an equipment case to stuff it into, which she sat on during most of the show. The Crystal had had financial struggles throughout its entire existence as a psychedelic venue, but for this weekend, with the audience ready and the Dead firing on all cylinders--not to mention the formidable Quicksilver Messenger Service--everything happened the way it was supposed to, if only for a weekend.

We know how well the Grateful Dead played, too, because they taped it. Partial tapes of Dead sets from both nights circulate —the only live tapes I know of from The Crystal—and one track was released on a Grateful Dead vault cd in 2009  (“Dark Star” from 2/2/68, as a bonus track on Road Trips Vol. 2 No. 2: Carousel 2/14/68)

February 4, 1968 Gym, South Oregon College, Ashland, OR: Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service 
The "Quick and The Dead" Northwest tour concluded with a Sunday night show in Ashland, OR at the Gymnasium of South Oregon College, 290 miles South of Portland. South Oregon College (today Southern Oregon University) had been founded in 1926. This was the Dead's only appearance in Southern Oregon, as their increasingly popularity in Oregon ensured that they played the larger population centers around Portland the two largest State Universities for the rest of their career.

I assume the Dead and Quicksilver played McNeal Pavilion at 1250 Siskiyou Boulevard, since it was opened in 1957. The Pavilion was renovated in 1990, doubling its capacity to 1,400. Thus the Dead and Quicksilver played a tiny gym with 700 seats--and no doubt some people on the floor. Did they get to dance? No information or tape has ever surfaced about this interesting event, to my knowledge. 

[update] Commenter IM tells us that the concert was actually in Britt Hall, not McNeal Pavilion. There are some further details about the show 

As the Grateful Dead got bigger and bigger in Oregon, they had less need to play outlying areas. This Sunday night show was the only time the band played Ashland. Ashland is very far South, not too far from the California border. Once the Dead became big in Eugene, which would happen in about 18 months, there was no thought of playing a small place South of it.

The first Sky River Rock Festival, on a farm in Sultan, WA (August 31-September 2 1968) created the blueprint for all the huge outdoor rock festivals in 1969

August 31-September 2, 1968 Sky River Rock Festival and Lighter Than Air Fare, Betty Nelson's Organic Raspberry Farm, Sultan, WA: Country Joe and The Fish/Pink Floyd/Muddy Waters/Peanut Butter Conspiracy/Santana/  Kaleidoscope/ John Fahey/ HP Lovecraft/ Steppenwolf/ Youngbloods/ (Grateful Dead
The 1968 Sky River Rock Festival was held at a farm East of Seattle. From this distance, while Sky River seems like the typical story of hippies in the mud listening to noisy rock with few clothes on--which is accurate--the Festival was still a profoundly important event in rock history. I don't know how many hippies from Oregon went to Sky River, probably a fair number, but the important thing was that every Oregon hippie must have heard about it, from friends or the news or the grapevine. 

The Grateful Dead played at Sky River, but burnishing their legend, they were not billed, and simply flew in and played on the last day. To the people there, the appearance probably seemed like a magical benediction, as at the time the Dead were bigger than almost all the bands booked at the festival. That, too, would have gotten down to Oregon and the underground telegraph.

In 1967 and '68, there were numerous multi-act "Rock Festivals" all over the country, modeled on the June 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, at the Monterey County Fairgrounds. The Monterey Pop Festival had been modeled on the Monterey Jazz Festival, held annually at the same venue since 1959. 60s County Fairground Pope Festivals are largely fondly remembered by fans, and lots of great music was played.

Unfortunately, it was an unprofitable business model. Usually these shows took a big arena (like the Philadelphia Spectrum) or an outdoor pavilion (like any County Fairgrounds) and booked numerous bands. The idea was to spread out the risk of who was hot and who was not. The problem was that if a lot of people came, the venue would be overrun and the municipality--and the cops--would be very upset. If the crowd was manageable, that often meant that there weren't enough paid admission. In any case, long-haired rock fans wanted to smoke weed, carry on and dance to loud music, and County Fairgrounds weren't really the place for that.

Sky River was different. It was held on private property--the organic raspberry farm of one Betty Nelson--so the music could be loud and long, and the cops really had no jurisdiction. A smaller, predecessor event had been held on April 28, 1968 at Duvall, WA (just East of Seattle), featuring Country Joe and The Fish (it was known as "The Piano Drop," since the featured highlight had been dropping a piano from a helicopter). A few thousand attended, and the decision was to go all-in for Labor Day weekend. The chosen site was the farm in Sultan, WA, an hour Northeast of Duvall. 

The Sky River Rock Festival was an epic event, well-covered on the Internet if you Google. The festival was booked by the former organizer of the Berkeley Folk Festival (John Chambless), so the event was heavy on Berkeley and San Francisco performers. But there were some touring acts, too, including then-unknown Pink Floyd, a rising band from LA called Steppenwolf, a hip comedian named Richard Pryor, legendary bluesman Muddy Waters and numerous others. On the same weekend, there was a "typical" three-day rock festival at the Palace Of Fine Arts in San Francisco. The event was held, and the Grateful Dead were supposed to headline the last day (Monday, September 2).

Even without modern technology, word had come down from the Northwest--it was happening at a farm a few hours East of Seattle. The Dead abandoned the Palace of Fine Arts gig and flew to Seattle, then headed East. At the show, Fender had a tent full of equipment, and each band could choose what they wanted to use. The band was asked "which amps do you want to use?" Famously, the Dead--I suspect soundman Owsley Stanley here-- said "all of them." They were the last act, so why not?

Something like 20,000 people had showed up at the raspberry farm. It had rained, and there was mud everywhere. Also lots of hippies, many of them girls, not wearing clothes. Somehow, however, everyone got fed, there was no significant violence and everyone had a great time. The last set on Labor Day, apparently, was the unexpected Grateful Dead, playing through every available Fender amplifier. 

The rock world took notice. Rock festivals at the County Fairgrounds were passe from then on. For the Summer of '69, there was a new model: private property, unlimited attendance and a massive tower of amplifiers that could be heard for miles. No cops. Let it rock. This was the model for the Seminole Pop Festival in Florida in May, the Atlanta Pop Festival in July and finally Woodstock in August. Regardless of how many Oregonians went to '68 Sky River--it was probably a fair number--the word was out. This was how it was done, and it wasn't a real festival without the Grateful Dead.

November 15, 1968 Gill Coliseum, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR: Grateful Dead/Mint Tattoo/City Blue
In November of 1968, the Grateful Dead had booked a Saturday night show in Vancouver (November 16) and two shows at Eagles in Seattle on Sunday (Nov 17). It made perfect sense to book a show in Oregon, on the way North. Oregon State University, the Agricultural School counterpart to the University of Oregon in Eugene, was in Corvallis. Corvallis was midway between Eugene and Portland, both of which were about an hour away.

Gill Coliseum was the basketball arena. The Grateful Dead were not nearly a big enough draw to come close to filling the arena (capacity 9,600), but that wouldn't have been the economic driver. Universities in those days had entertainment budgets, so some hippies probably got on the appropriate committee and got the booking agent to sign up the Grateful Dead. The basketball arena was the venue that would be used, and I assume only the floor was open, not the upper decks. It also meant that even with a good crowd, there would have been room to dance and hang out. Also, I think Corvallis on a Friday night back in '68 wasn't that exciting, so a lot of undergraduates probably just showed up for the hell of it. Think about it, seeing a band you'd  barely or never heard of in your college gym--many of us did that, right?--and stumbling on to the 1968 Grateful Dead, burning it up with "The Eleven" or something.

Opening Mint Tattoo was a Bay Area based band featuring Sacramento musicians, guitarist Bruce Stephens and organist/bassist Burns Kellogg (plus drummer Gregg Thomas). Mint Tattoo released an album on Dot in 1968, and then Stephens and Kellogg joined Blue Cheer in 1969. As for City Blue, they were a local band, and guitar player Marshall Adams recalls the event:

This definitely took place. Marshall Adams, guitar player for Big City Blue had this to say:
"Big City Blue came together for the Grateful Dead Concert at OSU Gill Coliseum in Fall Term 1968. We were to open and Mint Tattoo was to also be featured. We had one set of material with Jimmy Hibbs doing most of the vocals and rhythm guitar, Jim Knight on Bass, Ron Leach on drums, and Marshall Adams on lead guitar and folk flute. Well we opened and it went quite well.........35 minutes later we went back on and did our set again. Seems that Mint Tattoo was busy out in the parking lot doing whatever bands would do in a parking lot."

November 16, 1968 Erb Memorial Union Ballroom, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR: Grateful Dead (Saturday)
I wrote about the Friday night Corvallis show over a decade ago. At the time, the poster circulated, but the Corvallis date didn't appear on most databases of Grateful Dead performances (Deadlists, Deadbase, etc). My post helped rectify that oversight. In the post, and in the Comment Thread, I speculated about the open date on Saturday night (November 16). If the Dead were playing Friday night in Corvallis, Sunday night in Seattle and Vancouver Saturday night had been canceled, where were they. I speculated about the idea that maybe there was a stealth show we didn't know about, and the most likely location was Eugene.

It took a few years ago, but Internet did its thing. You can follow the discussion on the Comment Thread, but the best summary is by the stellar scholar LightIntoAshes, who cracked the egg. His summary of the "lost" show in Eugene can be found in his blog post here. The show appears to have been pitched to the University as a "student dance" without naming the band.  So the word "Grateful Dead" didn't appear in advance. Thanks to LIA's great research, and a search of the Eugene Register-Guard on the Monday after, we get a whiff of the event:
A fake bomb planted near some amplifiers brought an early end Saturday night to a University of Oregon concert and dance by a rock group known as the Grateful Dead.
Eugene police said someone attending the dance noticed the "bomb" - consisting of seven wooden sticks, painted red to resemble dynamite, an alarm clock, battery, and wires - and reported it to Anthony Evans, night manager at the Erb Memorial Union, where the concert and dance were being held.
Even though one of the band member[s] held up the "bomb" and indicated it was a fake, Evans decided to clear the Erb ballroom at about 11:40 p.m., police said. Police were called, took possession of the "bomb," and were still investigating Monday.

November 17, 1968 Eagles Auditorium, Seattle, WA: Grateful Dead/Byron Pope/Easy Chair (two shows 3pm and 9pm)

May 30, 1969 Springer's Hall, Portland, OR: Grateful Dead/Palace Meat Market
May 31, 1969 McArthur Court, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR: Grateful Dead/Palace Meat Market
The band returned to Oregon in the early Summer of 1969. This trip was the only one for many years that did not include a swing to other parts of the Pacific Northwest. The Dead also began a pattern of alternating between Portland and Eugene. In this case, they played Friday in Portland and Saturday in Eugene, which in fact was a very rare combination. Palace Meat Market was a Eugene band with a horn section, and they opened both shows.

Springer's Hall, usually called Springer's Ballroom on posters, had an interesting history. It is in what is now Gresham, OR, a suburb about 12 miles East of downtown Portland. In the early 20th century, Springer's seems to have been the terminus of the Portland Traction Company (Springwater Division Line Railroad). It appears the Inn, with the associated ballroom, was a destination for Portland residents. The line closed in 1958, but the old Inn and ballroom seems to have been run-down but intact. For many years Springer's Ballroom was apparently a popular venue for big band swing and country music, so opening it up for rock groups made good sense.

Although Gresham is part of the suburbs now, at the time it was just countryside. The various posters don't even have an address: they just say "take Powell Street to 190th, turn right," and that was apparently sufficient (scholarly commenters have determined that the actual address is now 18300 SE Richey, Gresham, OR 97080). The Dead had been playing at the Crystal Ballroom, but the Crystal had closed in mid-68. In Portland, like most places, live rock music first became popular in bohemian underground neighborhood, but the audiences were out in the suburbs. So an old ballroom in the quiet countryside had fewer neighbors to bother. Apparently Springer's was a pretty fun joint.

In Eugene, the Grateful Dead were playing at MacArthur Court, the basketball arena. McArthur Court, built in 1926 with a capacity of nearly 10,000, remained the home of the Oregon Ducks until it was replaced in 2011 by the Matthew Knight Arena. In any case, when the Dead headlined McArthur Court on May 31, it was one of the biggest rooms that they had headlined up until that time. The show appears to have been scheduled for the track stadium (Hayward Field) and moved indoors, but in any case it was a sign of the Dead's status in Oregon. I don't know how many tickets were sold--it probably wasn't nearly sold out--but it was still a big booking for Oregon.

Ken Kesey and his Prankster pals were having some sort of Prankster reunion this weekend, and Kesey, Ken Babbs and others were in attendance at these shows, and may have appeared on stage in some capacity or other. Apparently it was a wild time, just another in a long list of memorable Oregon shows for the Grateful Dead.

Aqua Theater in Seattle, at Green Lake, 1961. Does this seem like a good idea?

August 20, 1969 El Roach Tavern, Ballard, WA: Grateful Dead
August 21, 1969 Aqua Theatre, Seattle, WA: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Sanpaku
The Grateful Dead's next trip to the Pacific Northwest had a bizarre schedule, made even stranger by what ended up occurring. There were huge rock festivals in every part of the country--Woodstock was the weekend of August 15-17--and the West was no exception. The big event planned for San Francisco was The Wild West Festival. All the San Francisco bands were going to play a three day festival at Golden Gate Park. There were three big nights scheduled at Kezar Stadium, in the Park, the football home of the San Francisco 49ers, on the weekend of August 22-24. At the same time, there would be free concerts in the park throughout the whole weekend. The Grateful Dead were booked at Kezar for Friday, August 22, along with Janis Joplin and Quicksilver.

The Wild West Festival did not happen. Indeed, it was a famous debacle, and its cancellation ended up leading to the ill-fated Altamont concert, which was even worse (for a great evaluation of the Wild West saga, see Michael J Kramer's fine 2017 Oxford Press book The Republic Of Rock) . But the Dead's strange, tortured travel plans only make sense if we consider that they were planning to fly into and out of San Francisco for a big Friday night show at the 49ers football stadium. As a result, the Dead were booked to headline a show in Seattle on Wednesday (August 20), would then return for a Friday night show at Kezar (August 22), followed by headlining festivals on Saturday (August 23 outside of Portland) and Sunday (August 24, in British Columbia).

An ad for El Roach, at 5419 Ballard Avenue, from a 1969 edition of the Seattle underground paper The Helix. The New Loiter Blues Band is playing during the week, and on the weekend is Peece. It says "come boogie with the freaks."

The week began with a Wednesday night booking at an outdoor theater on a lake, outside of Seattle. It got rained out. I mean, never mind the lake--what's the idea of having an outdoor theater in the Pacific Northwest? Incredibly, the Dead addressed the rain-out by going to a biker bar called the El Roach Tavern a few miles away and jamming the night away. The Dead, with the New Riders and Sanpaku in tow, returned to the Aqua Theater the next night (Thursday August 21), playing the last ever show at the venue. It would take numerous posts to explain the strangeness of the Aqua Theater and the quixotic trip to the El Roach. Fortunately, I have written the posts, with pictures and links. Either of the gigs would count as among the strangest ever in Dead history.

August 21-23, 1969 Bullfrog 2 Festival, Pelletier Farm, St. Helens, OR: Grateful Dead/Portland Zoo/Notary Sojac/Chapter Five/Sabbatic Goat/Searchin Soul/Trilogy/River/The Weeds/Bill Feldman/Sand/New Colony/Don Rose/Mixed Blood/Ron Bruce

August 22, 1969 Pelletier Farm, St. Helens, OR: New Riders of The Purple Sage/others Bullfrog 2 Festival (Friday)
August 23, 1969 Pelletier Farm, St. Helens, OR poster: Grateful Dead/others Bullfrog 2 Festival
Because the Friday night Wild West Festival booking was canceled, the Dead could go straight to the Portland area for the "Bullfrog 2" Festival. One sub-plot of the weekend was that the Festival booked for a "regular" venue, the Wild West event at a football stadium, got canceled. Meanwhile, the two Festivals booked for empty fields on private property (Bullfrog and Vancouver Pop) actually happened. This was the result from the success of the Sky River festival. Events on private properties didn't really need permits, and if they were in unincorporated areas, as most farms are, then there weren't likely ordnances that could be invoked to stop them. This didn't always mean that events were safe, or well-run, or that the sound was good. But they happened, and the cops couldn't interfere, which was a far bigger issue with a rock festival in the 1960s.

The Bullfrog 2 Festival--even I don't know anything about the first Bullfrog Festival--was a three day event on a farm outside of Portland, headlined by the Grateful Dead but otherwise exclusively featuring Oregon bands (you can look any of them up on the great Pacific Northwest bands site). The Dead showed up Friday night, however, so the New Riders actually played that evening. Apparently the Riders played on the back of a flatbed truck, illuminated by a few spotlights. The Dead played their scheduled show on Saturday. I don't know what the crowd was like. There wasn't a Bullfrog 3, but by 1970 the "Rock Festival In A Muddy Field" model was no longer viable, anyway, since fans rarely wanted to go to more than one of these events in their life.

August 24, 1969 Vancouver Pop Festival, Paradise Valley Resort, Squamish, BC: Grateful Dead canceled

The Vancouver Pop Festival saga is too long to tell here. The Festival was actually at the Paradise Valley Resort, near Squamish, about 60 miles (90 minutes) north of Vancouver. I believe the land was somewhat under the control of the Squamish First Nation, so it was insulated from police pressure. The multi-day festival actually happened, but the Grateful Dead did not appear. Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers manager Jimmi Seiter has an extensive description of the festival (the Burritos played there), and he mentions how the crowd kept expecting the Dead to show up, but they never did. I assume the band's non-appearance had to do with money, but in fact it was a chaotic weekend, and the exact details are unknown to me.

January 16, 1970 Springer's, Portland, OR: Grateful Dead/River (Friday)
January 17, 1970 Gill Coliseum, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR: Grateful Dead
January 18, 1970 Springer's, Portland, OR: Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead returned to Springer's. The flyer just says "Springers," while other lists say "Springer's Inn" or "Springer's Ballroom." All are true names, more or less. The tape circulated widely many years ago, so--as obscure venues go--the place is now kind of known to Deadheads. The band returned to Springers on Sunday night, after a trip to Corvallis. Based on stage announcements from Sunday (parts of January 18 were released on the Download Series Vol.2), the crowd was very thin. Ticket sales for Friday must have been good enough to justify trying again on Sunday night, but it may have been a poor choice. As rock moved to the suburbs, one byproduct was that the younger, often teenage, audience was simply not able to attend rock shows on school nights. So weekend shows would draw well, but any other night was often unviable.

The Dead continued their two-part strategy for Oregon with a show in Portland and a show further South. In this case--and for the last time--the Dead played Corvallis (Oregon State) instead of Eugene (U. of O), but the concept was the same. I don't know if the Corvallis show was well attended. The Dead never played Corvallis again, so that might be a hint.

January 22, 1971 Main Gym, Lane Community College, Eugene, OR: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Notary Sojac
January 24, 1971 Seattle Center Arena, Seattle, WA: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Ian and Sylvia

The Dead had a big show at Seattle Center Arena, so it made sense to book a show at Oregon. This time they played a junior college in the same county as the University of Oregon. I assume there must have been a conflict with an athletic event at U. of O. Whatever the reason, I think this show was significant for the Grateful Dead's history in Oregon.

The Dead were playing Sunday night in Seattle, so they booked a Friday night show at a junior college in Oregon. Some interesting articles tell a surprising tale: not only did the show sell out, it ended up being oversold. Whether this was by accident, incompetence or crafty plan, the band got an idea of how many tickets they could sell. Apparently, there were 7000 people packed into the junior college gym.

July 21-22, 1972 Paramount Northwest Theatre, Seattle, WA: Grateful Dead
July 25-26, 1972 Paramount Theatre, Portland, OR: Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead returned to the Pacific Northwest in the Summer of '72. Pacific Presentations, old friends from the Los Angeles days at the Shrine, promoted the shows. I have no doubt that Sam Cutler had told Pacific about all the ticket sales in Eugene. A group in the Northwest had started putting on shows in old movie theaters in both Seattle (Paramount Northwest) and Portland (Paramount). Seattle, the big market had the weekends, and Portland had the weekday shows.

The Paramount Portland Theater (now the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall) had been built as a movie theater in 1928. Located at 1037 SW Broadway, tt seated about 3,000. It had shown its last movie in 1972, when it was converted to a concert hall. I don't know exactly how many tickets the Portland Paramount shows sold. But guess what--I don't have to. The Grateful Dead returned the next year with the same promoters for the biggest venue in Portland (the Coliseum), so they must have done great on those school nights.

The Grateful Dead on stage at the Renaissance Fair Grounds in Veneta, OR, on August 27, 1972

August 27, 1972 Old Renaissance Faire Grounds, Veneta, OR: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage
Ken Kesey had returned to Oregon after his 1960s adventures. His family still had their Dairy. By 1972, there were some financial difficulties. The Grateful Dead agreed to do what was in effect a benefit for the dairy (the Springfield Creamery). For unrelated reasons, an old friend of Garcia's pitched a plan to make a movie about the Grateful Dead in concert, so the event was professionally filmed and recorded. The Dead, being the Dead, were comfortable in Oregon and played an epic show for the ages, captured on video and on tape. 

The Kesey family dairy was in Springfield, several miles East of Eugene. The concert was held in Veneta, about 10 miles West of Eugene, on the opposite side of the city and University, but still in the same county,  The venue was the site of the Oregon Renaissance Fair. Renaissance Fairs were a sixties artifact, somewhat outside of the scope of this blog (for a discussion of Renaissance Fairs, see Rachel Rubin's excellent book Well Met: Renaissance Faires and The American Counterculture).   

The first Oregon Renaissance fair was held in Eugene over the weekend of November 1–2, 1969. It was promoted with the tagline, "come in costume." The fair began as a craft fair to raise funds for an alternative school, the Children's Community School. The event moved to its current location in Veneta, about 13 miles west of Eugene, for the fall fair in October, 1970, after having had a May Fair the same year on Crow Road about halfway between Eugene and Veneta. Renaissance Fairs, to put them in a modern context, were a chance for hippies to "cosplay," jousting (literally) over the favors of fair maidens or flagons of mead.

August 27 was a rare, 100-degree hot day in Eugene. The Grateful Dead drew a huge crowd, over 10,000 and maybe 20,000, to the Fair site. The show had to be the band's biggest attendance in Oregon at the time, and the University of Oregon wasn't even in session. The band had played two nights in a 3,000 seat theater in Portland the month before, but it didn't affect attendance in Eugene. Now, of course, we take that metric for granted, that fans went to as many Grateful Dead shows as they could manage. Back in '72, however, particularly outside San Francisco and New York City, that was a new concept. Oregon was not a rich, populous state in 1972, and here were the Dead putting on a huge concert just after playing twice in a nearby city.

In certain ways, the Renaissance Fair show was a hybrid of previous models. On one hand, the Fair Grounds were an existing facility, so there was water, power, restrooms, food and parking. On the other hand, it was private property in a rural area, so the police had little influence and no ordnances could block the concert. So the band had the benefit of a relaxed event with no threat of fans getting busted, yet with all the functions of a working facility.

The music was for the ages, and was captured on tape, cd and video, so I needn't discuss it. Even the New Riders fine set was released. Yet the Springfield Creamery Benefit had a much larger part in Grateful Dead legend than just being a successful concert. It was also a reunion of the Dead and the Pranksters, and it made Oregon seem like the perfect place to see a Dead concert. Word filtered out to both California and points East that there was something special about the Grateful Dead in Oregon.

May 3, 1973 Portland Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR: Grateful Dead
(Thursday) (rescheduled to June 24)
May 5, 1973 Pacific National Exhibition Coliseum, Vancouver, BC: Grateful Dead
(rescheduled to June 22)
May 7, 1973 Seattle Center Arena, Seattle, WA: Grateful Dead
(rescheduled to June 26)
May 8, 1973 Churchill High School, Eugene, OR: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Old And In The Way
May 9, 1973 Paramount Theatre, Portland, OR: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Old and In The Way
Pacific Presentations booked the Grateful Dead for three shows in the Pacific Northwest in May of 1973, in the biggest arenas available. For some reason, the shows were rescheduled for June. The interesting detail was that the New Riders were booked for two shows in Oregon, with Old And In The Way as the opening act, right after the scheduled May shows. Since Sam Cutler booked the Dead, the New Riders and Jerry Garcia, this was no coincidence.

The Grateful Dead shows were rescheduled, but Garcia kept the Old And In The Way dates. Cutler replicated the Dead's strategy from before, booking one show in Eugene and one in Portland. He also booked the Riders into the Paramount in Portland, where the Dead had played the Summer before. Cutler regularly booked the New Riders into smaller theaters around the country where the Dead had played previously, taking advantage of relationships with promoters and fans that had already been established. 

The Oregon Riders/OAITW sounded like a lot of fun. There are tapes of the Riders' sets, and they were joined by OAITW fiddler Richard Greene, an old friend of David Nelson's (as well as singer Darlene DiDomenico, another old pal). Old And In The Way played very few dates outside of Northern California, and it's yet another marker for Garcia and the Dead's affinity for Oregon that it was one of those places.

June 22, 1973 Pacific National Exhibition Coliseum, Vancouver, BC: Grateful Dead
June 24, 1973 Portland Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR: Grateful Dead
(Sunday)(rescheduled from May 3)
June 26, 1973 Seattle Center Arena, Seattle, WA: Grateful Dead

Pacific Presentations had booked the Grateful Dead for two Summer weeknights in 1972, and for the return engagement to Oregon the band played the Portland Memorial Coliseum, the biggest indoor arena in the state. Portland Coliseum (at 300 N. Ramsay Way) had been built in 1960, and was a typical multi-purpose concrete block of an arena. The Coliseum was the home arena for the NBA expansion Portland Trailblazers. The Coliseum had a capacity of 12,666 for sports, but it apparently could hold slightly more in a concert configuration. Elvis Presley had apparently drawn 13,000. Now the Grateful Dead were playing there.

The Portland Coliseum booking was a big step up for the Dead, but Pacific Presentations could read all the signs. By mid-'73, the Grateful Dead had released four gold albums in a row, and the band's songs regularly got played on FM radio. The Dead had done well in a smaller Portland venue, and then packed the Renaissance Fair Grounds in Eugene. Despite the modest population of Oregon, it was clear that Portland could draw Grateful Dead fans just as well as the larger cities of Seattle and Vancouver. I don't know if the '73 Coliseum show was sold out, but it obviously met the promoter's expectations, since the Dead were booked in the same venue the very next Summer.

May 17, 1974 Pacific National Exhibition Coliseum, Vancouver, BC: Grateful Dead/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
May 19, 1974 Portland Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR: Grateful Dead
May 21, 1974 Hec Edmundson Pavilion, University of Washington, Seattle, WA: Grateful Dead

Pacific Presentations bought the Grateful Dead back for the Vancouver>Portland>Seattle trifecta in the Summer of 74. By this time, the Dead's "Wall Of Sound" required concrete floors, so only sufficiently large venues could be booked. Also, the load-in/load-out took two days, so they could not play both weekend nights in separate arenas. Vancouver seems to have been the softest market, getting the weekend date and adding an opening act. The band then went to Portland, counter-intuitively, followed by Seattle. In Seattle, the Dead played the University of Washington basketball arena instead of Seattle Center, presumably because of a sports conflict (Seattle Center was the home of the NBA Seattle Supersonics). 

The music in Portland for both the 1973 and '74 was, of course, massive. So much so that the Grateful Dead released a 19-cd set of all six Pacific Northwest shows from 1973 and '74, a must-have. Thus, I don't any need to recap any of the music. It was clear that the Grateful Dead could play a weeknight in Portland's biggest arena any time they liked, with or without a new album.

The Grateful Dead went on hiatus in October, 1974, much to the dismay of their fans, so they didn't play Portland Memorial Coliseum any time soon after. Symbolically, however, on May 28, 1974, 9 days after the Dead show, the Portland Trailblazers drafted Bill Walton out of UCLA. Walton was the chief attraction at the Blazers home arena, leading the team to a title in 1976-77, so the Deadhead flag flew high in Portland, even if Bill was carrying it temporarily for Jerry.

December 13, 1974 Paramount Northwest Theatre, Seattle, WA: Legion Of Mary
December 14, 1974 Paramount Theater, Portland, OR: Legion Of Mary
December 15, 1974 EMU Ballroom, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR: Legion Of Mary
When the Dead went on hiatus, Jerry Garcia stepped up touring with his own band. His touring schedule was generally directed by John Scher, and Scher usually focused on lucrative markets in the Midwest and Northeast. This was no accident--Garcia and the Grateful Dead organization were hemorrhaging cash, so they had to maximize returns. Still, when Garcia played Oregon, you could see the proven patterns playing out again. For the late '74 Legion Of Mary tour, Garcia played a weekend in Seattle and Portland in the same theaters that the Dead had played a few years earlier. Scher slipped in a Sunday night in Eugene, too, also at a ballroom the Dead had played many years before.

Oct ?, 1975 Klamath Basin Potato Festival, Merrill, OR: Barry Melton with Peter Albin and David LaFlamme/Roadhog
Another minor but fascinating curiosity about the Grateful Dead in Oregon was that Robert Hunter seems to have revealed himself as a performer in rural Oregon before he ever did so in San Francisco. Starting around 1974, Hunter appeared with the band Roadhog, using the stage name "Lefty Banks." He was not billed as Robert Hunter until early 1976.

Nonetheless, a Commenter looked at the English magazine Dark Star, written in the October/November 1975 period (h/t JGMF):

The "Weather Report" column, p. 5, has this: "Barry [Melton]'s most recent appearance was at the Klamath potato festival ... also at the destival [sic] was the bluegrass unit Road Hog, featuring Bob Hunter on mandolin."

I am guessing this is the Klamath Basin Potato Festival around Merrill, OR. This is a harvest season event, it seems, usually mid-October by what I have seen.

So, if this is right, for now it might be a 10/??/75 Klamath Basin Potato Festival entry.
At the top of the bill was Barry Melton's band featuring Peter Albin and David LaFlamme.

Merrill, OR is a tiny town in the Klamath Basin in deepest Eastern Oregon. Even now, news wouldn't get out from there very quickly. Hunter and the band obviously had little concern about letting the mask slip.

May 14, 1975 Lane County Fairgrounds, Eugene, OR Kingfish
Kingfish began a tour of the Pacific Northwest, playing some familiar places (thanks to scholar David for figuring out the OR/WA dates). The tour commenced on a Wednesday

May 15, 1975 [unknown venue], Seattle, WA Kingfish
Possibly Friday, May 16 (which would change the Portland date at Reed, below)

May 16, 1975 [venue], Reed College, Portland, OR Kingfish

May 17, 1975 Quad, U. of Oregon, Eugene, OR Kingfish daytime free concert
The band played a free concert to "make up for the bad sound at the Fairgounds" [on the 14th]. Date confirmed by eyewitness.

May 17, 1975 Gill Coliseum, Oregon State U., Corvallis, OR: Kingfish
Intrepid scholar David found this one. He can't pin down the date precisely, but this one seems the most likely. The remarkable thing was that he found a picture in the OSU Yearbook, which complained about excessive smoking. 

May 18, 1975 [venue], Pendleton, OR Kingfish
Kingfish road manager Rex Jackson was from Pendleton. 

[A Commenter on a Kingfish thread mentioned Bob Weir and Kingfish playing a few dates in Oregon colleges around 1975. He specifically recalls Reed College in Portland, but no other details have surfaced yet [they have now--see above]]

March 3, 1976 Auditorium Building, Lane County Fairgrounds, Eugene, OR: Jerry Garcia Band
March 5, 1976 Paramount Theatre, Portland, OR: Jerry Garcia Band
March 6, 1976 Moore's Egyptian Theatre, Seattle, WA: Jerry Garcia Band

The Jerry Garcia Band returned to the Pacific Northwest in Spring 1976. John Scher once again followed the proven path for Oregon, one show in Eugene and one in Portland. The Wednesday night show at Lane County Fairgrounds was (per the poster) co-produced by Springfield Creamery, so effectively the show was another sort of benefit for the Kesey family dairy. In Portland, the Garcia Band returned once again to the Paramount Theater.

June 3-4, 1976 Paramount Theater, Portland, OR: Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead returned to the road in 1976, never to leave it voluntarily again. The chose to return by only playing small theaters, and only selling tickets by mail to those on the Deadheads mailing list. This may have been out of concern that there wouldn't otherwise be interest in the band, but quite the opposite occurred. The Dead booked 17 shows in four metro areas (later booking six shows in San Francisco), with radio broadcasts in each region. The shows were instant sellouts, and created a huge buzz, as if the band had carefully planned it instead of just being lucky.

The Grateful Dead, being the Dead, of course had barely rehearsed, plus they had to rent a brand new sound system. The mini-tour would open June 9 in the Boston Music Hall, but after 17 months off the road, the band needed some warmup shows. After the mass response to the mail order, the Dead knew they could play anywhere there was a 3000 seat theater, and there were plenty of those. Of course, they wanted it to be where they were comfortable, and where the fans would like it no matter what. They could have played anywhere, and they chose Portland's Paramount Theater for a Thursday and a Friday night. Nothing more clearly marked the Grateful Dead's intimate connection to Oregon than choosing Portland as a re-entry site.

The Grateful Dead played Oregon many times after 1976, and in larger and larger places. Jerry Garcia played many shows in the state as well. Oregon was a guaranteed financial winner for the band, and a guaranteed good time for anyone who went to the shows. By the 1990s, Oregon was no longer some rural backwater, but a thriving economic and cultural center. But the Dead had gotten to Oregon before the rise of Portland, and maintained their unique connection to the state throughout the life of the band.

Appendix: Pacific Northwest Demographic Comparison

OREGON Population        WASHINGTON Population
1960    1,768,687            1960    2,853,214
1970    2,091,533            1970    3,409,169
1980    2,633,156            1980    4,132,156
Est. 2019: 4,217,737       Est 2019: 7,694,813    

PORTLAND Population        SEATTLE Population
1960    372,676                1960    557,087
1970    382,619                1970    530,831
1980    366,383                1980    493,846
Est. 2019:  654,741           Est. 2019: 753,675

Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Grateful Dead At The Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA 1967-68 (Vintage LA)

The color poster for the first Pinnacle concerts at the Shrine Exposition Hall, on November 10-11, 1967. Buffalo Springfield, the Grateful Dead and Blue Cheer played both nights.

The Shrine Exposition Hall: The Grateful Dead in Los Angeles 1967-68
The rise of the Grateful Dead is a tale of two cities. The first is San Francisco, where the Dead rose to underground infamy, and the second is New York, where the Dead became economically viable. Dead fans in Manhattan and Brooklyn made playing the city perenially profitable for the band, and that was the platform for expanding their audience to New Jersey, Philadelphia, Long Island, Boston and the rest of the East Coast.

Los Angeles is America's other great entertainment capital, however, and the Dead had an opposite experience when they played Los Angeles. Sure, they sold a few concert tickets, but so did every other band, ever. On the whole, Los Angeles was pretty indifferent to the Grateful Dead in the 60s, and so the story of the Dead in LA is never even addressed.

Los Angeles, more than any other American city, traffics in the glorification of its own history, particularly when it comes to entertainment. LA always celebrates old theaters or nightclubs from brighter days, so often historical sites are better known now than they were back in the day. Looking at the best retro-LA sites, like VintageLA, is like reading about American popular culture history from the inside, and 60s rock history has its place in that world. VintageLA, for example--which I can't recommend enough--has features on the Aquarius Theater and The Whisky-A-Go-Go. Yet it has nothing about the Shrine Exposition Hall, which tried to be the Fillmore scene for Los Angeles. The Grateful Dead were essential to the rock history of the Shrine, as they were for many 60s rock venues, yet the tale of the Dead at the Shrine Expo Hall remains obscured. This post will illuminate the essential role of the Shrine, and the Dead's part in that, and point to why both the Shrine Expo and the Grateful Dead never lived up to Los Angeles expectations (see here for a broader, less Dead-centric rock history of the Shrine Exposition Hall in the late 60s).

The Shrine Auditorium and Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, at 665 West Jefferson Street

The Grateful Dead in Los Angeles, 1966-67
The music industry played a huge role in Los Angeles, since so many record companies were based there. However, live performances by rock bands in the mid-60s were focused more on "personal appearances," to keep bands' names and faces in front of current and prospective fans, rather than aimed at persuading listeners to buy records based on the music heard at the show. There were a lot of nightclubs for teenagers, and shows at high schools, that featured brief sets on minimal sound systems. There was a substantial nightclub industry, too, but that was oriented towards selling drinks. Danceable music, like at the Whisky-A-Go-Go, was designed to get patrons hot and sweaty so that they would purchase plenty of liquor to cool themselves down.

None of the existing performance models had any room for the early Grateful Dead. They were a dance band, of sorts, but their audience didn't drink, and in any case was mostly too young. Playing short sets missed the point of the Grateful Dead, and without a good (for the time) sound system, their music didn't make much sense, either. In any case, the long-haired Dead were scary barbarians back in the day, and not necessarily welcomed with open arms at a High School. What the Dead needed were underground gigs, but there weren't initially many of those in an industry town like LA.

When the Grateful Dead made their first assault on Los Angeles, in February of 1966, they attempted to create their own underground scene. The buzz of the Acid Tests had worked its magic in San Francisco, and Bill Graham and Chet Helms had teamed up at the Fillmore to start presenting similar events weekly. This formula failed in Los Angeles, however. The Dead had found some friends and put on some Acid Tests and "regular" shows in February and March 1966. The events, while fun, were thinly attended and made no money. The Dead's trip to LA had been intended to make the band more successful. It failed. Like many out-of-towners before them, the Dead returned home to where they were popular, and re-invested themselves in their previous incarnation. They would not return until the next year, when the band had been signed by an LA record company.

January 20, 1967 Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA Timothy Leary/Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead were booked by Warner Brothers Records to record their debut album the week of January 30. 10 days earlier, the band had a relatively high profile Friday night show appearing with LSD promoter Timothy Leary. The Dead (and certainly not Owsley) weren't that sympathetic to Leary, but they were linked in the public mind. Santa Monica, while not technically LA, was right next to it and was generally seen by everyone as part of Greater Los Angeles, so this show would have counted as a return to the city. The show was well-attended, Leary gave a speech, and the Dead played a set. A good time generally seems to have been had, and the band got paid and got some attention. Warner Brothers can not have been sorry that their underground band was doing something "hip" like this.

There is a plausible rumor that the Dead played a show at the Aragon Ballroom in Venice Beach on Sunday night, January 22 (later The Cheetah, see April 30 below). That is someone else's research, however, so I won't elaborate. The only point to make here is that if they did indeed play it--and they might have--it remains awfully obscure, so it may not have done too much to increase underground buzz.

A poster for the first shows at the Kaleidoscope (1228 Vine St), which were blocked by an injunction. The shows may have moved to the Ambassador Hotel in LA for the weekend of April 14-15, 1967
April 14-15, 17, 1967 The Banana Grove (Embassy Ballroom), Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Canned Heat
After the Grateful Dead's first album was released on Warner Brothers in March, 1967, the Dead made some effort to "make it" in Los Angeles. Their first booking was at a nascent underground venue called The Kaleidoscope. The obscure venue is known today mainly for its unique, round posters (well, and my detailed history, too).

The Kaleidoscope was a venture by Canned Heat's managers (Skip Taylor and John Hartmann) to open a Fillmore-style venue in Los Angeles. For 1967, this was quite an inspired booking. Jefferson Airplane had just released Surrealistic Pillow and "Somebody To Love" was climbing the charts, while the Grateful Dead were underground legends who had just released their first album. Canned Heat were unknown to all but a few Los Angeles club goers, but they were an excellent live band. Taylor and Hartmann continued to work on the Kaleidoscope concept, eventually taking over the Earl Carroll Theater at 6230 Sunset (I have written about that venue at length, and VintageLA has the history of the theater itself).

This original weekend was supposed to be at a building on 1228 Vine Street (at La Mirada near Fountain), but a last second injunction stopped the event. For the weekend, the show was moved to the Embassy Ballroom in the Ambassador Hotel, at 3400 Wilshire, which also housed the legendary Coconut Grove Ballroom (I am planning to write about the weekend at the Ambassador in some detail). The ballroom was nicknamed "The Banana Grove" for the weekend.  All three bands played Friday and Saturday, but the Monday night event (April 17) appears to have been a sort of LA event for the release of the first Dead album, Taylor and Hartmann at least briefly considered keeping the Kaleidoscope at the Ambassador, but that's not what happened.

April 30, 1967 The Cheetah, Venice, CA: Grateful Dead/Yellow Balloon/New Generation (early and late shows)
With no real underground venue in Los Angeles like the Kaleidoscope, the Dead took conventional rock bookings instead. The Cheetah was at 1 Navy Pier on Venice Beach, right next to Santa Monica. It too was part of Greater Los Angeles, and not a suburb. However, the Cheetah was mostly a teen club at the time. Teenagers would come to meet people, dance, and return to the suburbs. A 45-minute set from the strange looking San Francisco band with no hit single, nor potential hit single, wasn't going to win over the type of kids who were going to the Cheetah at the time.

June 16, 1967 The Hullabaloo, Los Angeles, CA: Grateful Dead/Yellow Payges/The Power (early and late shows)
The Friday night before their appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival, the Dead were booked at the Hullabaloo. The Hullabaloo was promoted by a popular Los Angeles top 40 dj (Dave Hull), and was designed as another teen hotspot. It had a rotating stage, so as one band played, the next band set up. It was LA, and all, and sometimes good bands played the Hullabaloo, but that wasn't why people went. Once again, the sort of stylish teen scene represented by the Hullabaloo was the complete opposite of anything that made the Grateful Dead tick.

In a September '67 interview, Frank Kofsky asked Garcia if he had played in LA.
GARCIA: Yeah, but we've never *really* played LA. We've played in the Cheetah down there.
KOFSKY: Yeah, which is a drag.
GARCIA: We played at all the shit places. And we can never get it on because it always brought us down so much. I mean, the people and promoters down there are all horrible, graspy... The whole LA snap, the whole hype, you know: bread, dollars and cents, and that's it. We've never gotten it on in LA. We've played there but we've never *done* it. 
Kofsky mentions the upcoming 9/15 Hollywood Bowl show & Garcia says, "We want to do that just for the flash of playing in the Hollywood Bowl...[but] nothing's gonna happen."

September 15, 1967 Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead [Big Brother canceled] Bill Graham Presents The San Francisco Scene
September 16, 1967 Elysian Park, Los Angeles, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead (free concert)
The Hollywood Bowl, at 2301 North Highland Avenue, is one of Los Angeles' most famous performing venues. The amphitheater is carved into the hillside, and a distinctive bandshell covers the stage. Hollywood Bowl is owned by Los Angeles County (the town of Hollywood was merged into LA in the 1930s), and even in a town of fabled entertainment venues, Hollywood Bowl stands out. Capacity is around 17,000, so events at Hollywood Bowl are major indeed.

In the Fall of 1967, since San Francisco was the hottest city in the rock business, Bill Graham took to booking Fillmore bands elsewhere. Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and The Holding Company and the Dead had very few albums, and almost no hits, but they were legendarily infamous even by this early date. So you might expect that the confluence of them in an outdoor Hollywood venue would make for a major 1967 event. But it didn't. No one seems to recall the show. The only fact I know for sure is that Big Brother canceled and did not play. I have seen a picture of Bob Weir on the empty stage, so I know the Dead made it to the venue.

A useful source explains the shortcomings of the Hollywood Bowl as a rock venue, though not specifically for the Dead. Jimmi Seiter, the road manager for The Byrds, discussed the Bowl in Volume 3 of his voluminous memoirs (The Byrds My Way). Sieter explains why there weren't very many good rock concerts at Hollywood Bowl:
The union in those days hat the long haired hippies so of course the Byrds were put into that category...Another bad thing about the Bowl was that there was a very strict curfew since there were many homes that were affected by the sound of the shows so they had a strict 10:30pm curfew and if there was a problem they would turn off the power to the stage. This made for some very short performances when a band would play too long, but this was one of the drawbacks to a show at the Bowl.
So it's no surprise Big Brother dropped out, as there probably wasn't even time for three sets, and if the Dead and the Airplane couldn't play loud, what was the point? So it's no surprise that we have no fond psychedelic eyewitness reports from Hollywood Bowl.

The next day, the Dead and the Airplane played a free concert in nearby Elysian Park. I gather this was fairly well attended, though not a huge event. In many cities, however, any free concert by the Grateful Dead was the first time a major rock band (with a record) had ever played for free, and was also a local hippie clarion call. Ever-hip Los Angeles was different. The Human Be-In set off a wave of similar events around the country, and Los Angeles had had it's first "Love-In" at Griffith Park in March of 1967. So there had already been a fair number of free rock concerts in LA before the Dead and the Airplane played Elysian Park. So the Dead didn't make a big splash with what in most towns would be the stuff of legends.

The April 7, 1967 LA Times advertised a week-long Sport Cycle (bicycle) show at the Shrine Expo Hall

Meanwhile, Back At The Shrine
The Shrine Auditorium and Exposition Hall was built in 1925 by the Al Malikah Temple of the Masonic Order.  The building is in a Spanish Colonial Style with a Moorish flair.  The main entrance to the Auditorium was at 665 West Jefferson Street.  The stage is huge (186 by 72 feet) and it is a popular home for the Academy Awards.  The Auditorium has 6,489 seats on three levels.  The Exposition Hall, part of the same complex but around the corner at 700 West 32nd (at Figueroa) is a 56,000 square foot open area that was (and is) used for trade shows and conventions as well as rock concerts.  The Expo Hall had a capacity of about 5,000. In the late 1960s, most rock concert listings that say “Shrine” are typically at the Exposition Hall rather than the Auditorium. From the 1970s onward, however, almost all rock concerts listed as "The Shrine" were at the Auditorium (including the Dead's return in the latter 70s).

FREAK OUT Hot Spots! Insert to the first Mothers of Invention album, with a map of underground sites in 1966 Los Angeles (Freak Out album released June 1966)
August 13, 1966 Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA:  Mothers of Invention/others
Los Angeles is an Entertainment industry town, and proud of it. Thus any cultural progression--new contrarian, regressive, progressive, even revolutionary--gets assimilated into modern entertainment. Any performer who can be accused of "selling out" is also buying in, because it's the nature of the beast. In the Summer of '66, with the Vietnam War expanding, the Watts Riots still haunting the city and hair getting longer everywhere, Los Angeles had an underground rock scene, just like the Fillmore and Avalon. We like to think of Frank Zappa as an iconcoclast, or should I say, Frank wanted us to think that, but the very first Mothers Of Invention album included a map to LA's nascent 1966 underground.

One of the founding events of the Los Angeles underground was a show at the Shrine Exposition Hall on August 13, 1966, featuring the Mothers of Invention and several other (then unknown) acts. Just like the Family Dog events in San Francisco, Southern California "Freaks" suddenly realized there were a lot more people like them than they realized. The Shrine was apparently simply rented, probably because it was centrally located and available.

September 17, 1966 Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA: Mothers of Invention/Little Gary Ferguson/Factory/Count 5/West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
October 15, 1966 Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA: Little Gary Ferguson/Davie Allan & The Arrows/Kenny Dino/The Mugwumps/Dolores Johnson/The Way Out/The Fabs/Vito “Freak-In” Presented By Pat Morgan

In September and October there were sequels at The Shrine Expo Hall. The Mothers headlined in September, with some other undergroundish bands, and there was a light show as well. The October event didn't advertise the Mothers, and there were none after that. I have no idea what happened at the third one--was it a financial debacle, or did the cops hassle everyone? In any case, there were no more Freak Outs, but the Shrine Expo Hall had been proven as a possible venue for Fillmore style "Dance Concerts."

December 18, 1966  Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA: Big Brother and The Holding Company/Quicksilver  Messenger Service/Loving Impulse
(possibly canceled)
Big Brother and Quicksilver booked a show at Shrine Expo Hall, and a poster circulates. I'm not convinced the concert actually took place. The importance of the poster, however, is it means that word had gotten around that the Shrine Expo Hall might make a Southern California Fillmore stand in.

An alternate poster for the Dead's November 10-11 '67 debut at Shrine Expo

November 10-11, 1967 Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA: Buffalo Springfield/Grateful Dead/Blue Cheer Pinnacle Concerts Presents
By the fall of 1967, almost every psychedelic rock band had played Los Angeles, at a wide variety of venues, but there was no venue that played the role of the Fillmore. At the Fillmore, the mere fact of playing there meant you were a hip band, and fans came just to see what was hip. All over the West Coast, there were comparable places--the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Eagles Auditorium in Seattle and The Retinal Circus in Vancouver, for example--but none in Southern California. The Kaleidoscope had been conceived to fill the void, but the City Council (and perhaps the cops) had throttled it pre-birth. There may have been a few hip little nightclubs, like the Magic Mushroom, but no venue where the rising underground bands played on a regular basis.

To tell this story properly, I should tell the entire story of the Shrine Exposition Hall as a Southern California Fillmore. That story is too long to tell here, even for me, so I will limit the narrative to the general outlines of concert promotion at the Shrine Expo Hall, and the critical role played by the Grateful Dead as part of the story.

The first regular promoter of rock shows at the Shrine was Pinnacle Dance Concerts, the partnership of Sepp Donahower, Marc Chase and John Van Hamersveld. Supposedly some of the money was supplied by the heir to a cereal fortune, but that may be apocryphal. Pinnacle promoted concerts at the Shrine, both the Expo Hall and the Auditorium, on many weekends between November 1967 and August 1968. As far as I know, during the week the Shrine presented the usual run of corporate or civic events, but I don't know that for certain.

Van Hamersveld was a poster artist, at the time most famous for the promotional poster for the legendary surf film Endless Summer. By 1967, he was the the head of design for Capitol Records. Over the course of his career, Van Hamersheld did the covers for over 300 albums. Among his many, many classic album covers were the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour, the Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street and the Grateful Dead's Skeletons From The Closet. Van Hamesveld did the posters for Pinnacle Productions, and many of the posters were so good that we remain familiar with them today.

After Pinnacle's debut with Buffalo Springfield and The Dead, they put on a series of shows at Shrine Exposition Hall. Pinnacle only used the Shrine on weekends, and not even all of them, and the Exposition Hall seems to have had the usual trade events and the like throughout the whole period. There weren't as many rock concerts at the Shrine as at the Fillmore, but Van Hammersveld's posters are fairly recognizable today. Pinnacle must have made at least some money, since they kept putting on shows.

When I started researching the rock history of the Shrine Exposition Hall, I was very surprised to find that there was no accessible on-line list of the Pinnacle rock shows. As a result--and being me--I made my own list, and posted it elsewhere (I will add, as a Grateful Dead footnote, that the band did not play the Shrine on December 13, 1967, nor did anyone else--it was a Wednesday, so they didn't debut "Dark Star" there).

March 9, 1968 Melodyland Theater, Anaheim, CA: Jefferson Airplane and Friends (early and late show)
By early 1968, Jefferson Airplane were selling a lot of records, and they were genuine rock stars. Los Angeles, however, was still about "entertainment." The Airplane played a weekend, with two shows each night, at the Melodyland Theater, just across the road from Disneyland. On Saturday night, the Grateful Dead were billed as "Friends," for whatever reason. It seems both bands played two short sets twice a night. The Airplane had Grace Slick, a genuine star, but the Dead were never going to win over a crowd in that kind of format.

May 17, 1968 Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA: Grateful Dead/Steve Miller Band/Taj Mahal
May 18, 1968 Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA: Grateful Dead/Steve Miller Band/Taj Mahal/
[with Jefferson Airplane as unbilled guests] Pinnacle Presents
By May of '68, Pinnacle had put on a steady run of hip shows at the Shrine Expo Hall. For the weekend of May 18-19, the Grateful Dead returned, along with another rising San Francisco group, the Steve Miller Band. The Miller Band had just released their debut album on Capitol, the great Children Of The Future. Taj Mahal was a well-known local act, whose debut album had just been (or was about to be) released on Columbia. 

In line with being cool, the Airplane "showed up" at the Grateful Dead concert on Saturday night. This was probably announced on FM radio. Pinnacle would not have had the Airplane drop in if ticket sales had been more robust. It's worth noting that the Dead, Airplane and Steve Miller were all playing the Northern California Folk-Rock Festival in Santa Clara this weekend. The Dead would have played the Shrine on Friday night, flown up to San Jose, played the Fairgrounds on Saturday afternoon, and then returned to the Shrine for the Saturday night show.

llumaniti Alert: in an interview, poster artist and Pinnacle partner John Van Hammerseld, interviewed in Paul Grushkin's Art Of Rock book (p.255), says that George Lucas was part of the light show crew at some point in 67-68. So for those of you who feel that there was a secret connection between the Grateful Dead and Star Wars...

July 11, 1968 Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA: Grateful Dead/Blue Cheer
The Grateful Dead returned in 1968 to headline a rare Thursday show at Shrine Expo Hall. It's hare to read the poster, but I'm not sure if it was a Pinnacle show. Certainly Pinnacle produced the weekend show, with a triple bill of Butterfield Blues Band, Sly and The Family Stone and the Velvet Underground. Presumably, the fact the Dead could play on a Thursday suggested they had an audience, but they weren't a big enough draw for a weekend show. The Dead's weekend booking was at a tiny place on Lake Tahoe's North Shore, so it wasn't like Shrine promoters were being outbid by a high-powered gunslinger from another city.

There is one interesting detail about the July Shrine Expo show: future Jerry Garcia Band drummer David Kemper, then a teenage high school graduate, had just moved to Los Angeles. In a great Jake Feinberg interview, Kemper described seeing the Dead at the Shrine, but not remembering much, "thanks to Mr. Owsley." The timeline strongly suggests that it was this show.

[update: Commenter Brad makes a good case for July 11 as a spurious date. The poster was apparently completed in 1972, and Brad and LIA report that there is no supporting publicity. So we still don't know which show Kemper saw...maybe in May?]

Headliners for the Newport Pop Festival in Orange County were Tiny Tim (Sat Aug 3) and Jefferson Airplane (Sun Aug 4). The Dead played Sunday.
August 4, 1968 Orange County Fairgrounds, Costa Mesa, CA: Newport Pop Festival, with Jefferson Airplane/Eric Burdon and The Animals/The Byrds/Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Iron Butterfly/Things To Come/Illinois Speed Press/Blue Cheer
The Newport Pop Festival, a two-day outdoor event at the Orange County Fairgrounds, was just one of many events trying to capitalize on the Monterey Pop vibe. When these kinds of concerts were a success, they generally overwhelmed the venue or the community, but if they weren't as crowded, they lost money. Still, the Newport Pop Festival is somewhat fondly remembered. The Dead played with their San Francisco friends, and got to check in with some other pals. Garcia's old bluegrass compadre Clarence White was playing one of his first shows as the lead guitarist for the Byrds, and the Dead went back a ways with Eric Burdon and The Animals as well.

Still, putting on a good show at a big outdoor event probably didn't do that much for the band. There were a lot of groups, and the Dead probably played about an hour, like everyone else. Some fans probaly liked them, but I doubt that all the high school and college students were still raving about them when school started the next month.

August 23-24, 1968 Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA: Grateful Dea/Taj Mahal/others Pinnacle Dance
Everyone seems to have had fond memories of psychedelic rock concerts at Shrine Expo in 1967 and '68, but they don't seem to have been that profitable. Pinnacle's next-to-last stand was on the weekend of August 23-24, with a weekend of concerts by the Grateful Dead. There was one more weekend of Pinnacle concerts, two weeks later (Sep 6-7, with John Mayall/Junior Wells/Taj Mahal), and Pinnacle stood down.

The Shrine concerts were recorded by the Dead, and released by the band on the 1992 album Two From The Vault. The release, although brilliantly restored, has some very misleading liner notes. All of the pictures on the archival cd are from the Auditorium rather than the Exposition Hall. The liner notes, full of details about frequency response, seem oblivious to the fact that there were different venues in the same building.

An ad for a canceled concert at the Shrine Expo Hall on September 27-28, 1968, presented by "Zenith Sunrise," and featuring the Grateful Dead and Buddy Miles Express
September 27-28, 1968 Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA: Grateful Dead/Buddy Miles Express/Black Pearl/Little John Farm  [canceled] Zenith Sunrise presents
The Pinnacle company fell apart after August. An intriguing artifact is this poster for scheduled Grateful Dead concerts at Shrine Expo on the weekend of September 27-28. The poster says the shows will be presented by Zenith Sunrise. The concerts never happened. Presumably, Zenith Sunrise was a reformed version of Pinnacle, but it didn't happen. Much of the Pinnacle team reconvened as Scenic Sounds, and started putting on shows around Southern California. The Dead were very loyal to promoters, so I assume that if they took the September booking, it would have been with the same principals as Pinnacle.

October 18, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Grateful Dead/Cleveland Wrecking Company
December 13-14, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Grateful Dead/Magic Sam/Turnquist Remedy

Over in suburban Torrance, what was formerly the Blue Law had been reconfigured as The Bank. A group of hippies, one of whom had inherited some money, put together the Fillmore-like operation. On one hand, Torrance was more or less the suburbs, which was where young rock fans lived. Places like Torrance were also where the local police absolutely, positively did not want some hippie establishment.

The Bank had opened in July. A lot of cool rock bands played there in the Summer and Fall, even more so once the Shrine was no longer booking shows. Pink Floyd and Ten Years After both played there, as did a number of San Francisco bands. The Grateful Dead played The Bank in October, and then again at the very end of the line, in December. By the end of '68, so many people were getting busted at The Bank that crowds had dramatically thinned out. This was exactly what the cops wanted, and spelled the end of the venue. The window for a Fillmore-style ballroom in Southern California was closing.

Scenic Sounds presented Country Joe and The Fish and the Grateful Dead at the Shrine Exposition Hall on December 20-21, 1968. The Dead never played Shrine Expo Hall again.
December 20-21, 1968 Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA:  Grateful Dead/Country Joe and The Fish/Spirit/Pulse/Sir Douglas Quintet/Mint Tattoo Scenic Sounds Presents
The Pinnacle group reconstituted itself as Scenic Sounds. I know that John Van Hammersveld was the Art Director for Capitol Records by this time, and the cereal heir was gone (if he was ever really there). Scenic Sounds rented Shrine Expo Hall again for a few more shows in the Fall. Near Christmas, Scenic booked the Dead again, this time with Country Joe and The Fish as headliners. It is largely forgotten that outside of San Francisco, Country Joe and The Fish had a higher profile than the Grateful Dead.

Apparently there were two stages, so there could be more bands. Pulse was.a peculiar act, a conga player with a light show, and the drums apparently triggered the lights. Sir Douglas Quintet and Mint Tattoo were Bay Area bands, so it must have been a long evening. Country Joe and The Fish didn't really have a bass player at this point, so Spirit's Mark Andes filled in for the weekend, according to witnesses.

Yet with that, the Grateful Dead never played the Shrine Exposition Hall again. Pretty much, that was the end of Shrine Expo as a meaningful rock venue. Sure, promoters rented it once in a while, and there were occasional rock shows. In fact, there still are. Not often, but sometimes. The Shrine Exposition Hall is still a going concern, and now and again there is a concert there.

Still, the narrative for the Grateful Dead in the 60s in Los Angeles is the opposite of practically everywhere else. In New York, in Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest, in Miami, in Philadelphia--the Dead rolled into town and stuck a flag in the ground. Buoying every new psychedelic ballroom, playing the first free concert in town, playing longer and louder than anyone else. It was the stuff dreams were made of. Los Angeles isn't like other towns, however, and is proud of it. The Shrine Exposition Hall was just another venue. Sure, there were some great shows, because great bands were on tour, but Shrine Expo didn't have a big impact on Los Angeles culture or music, even though it's bona fides were as great as any other contemporary venue. 

Aftermath: Pacific Presentations
The significant impact of Pinnacle concerts at Shrine Expo was the genesis of subsequent concert promotion companies. The Pinnacle team became Scenic Sounds. In early '69, Scenic Sounds started booking regular concerts on weekends at the Rose Palace in Pasadena. The ever-loyal Grateful Dead played for Scenic twice more at the Rose Palace, on March 21-22, 1969 and then again on May 10.
Scenic Sounds in turn became Pacific Presentations. Pacific put on concerts all over the country, particularly in secondary markets like San Antonio or Rochester, where there weren't major promoters. A band like the Dead was willing to play the hinterlands, but they wanted to work with promoters they already knew, so Pacific Presentations promoted a lot of Dead shows all over the country.

Pacific grew into one of the largest concert companies in the United States, promoting thousands of concerts all over the US and Canada. The company established and popularized venues such as the Hollywood Palladium, and the Santa Barbara County Bowl. Pacific put together California Jam in 1974, which set the record for paid attendance. The company also promoted entire tours of Rod Stewart & The Faces all through the 1970s, helping make the artist one of the biggest attractions in the world. In the late 1970s, Gary Perkins, Brian Murphy, and Bob Bogdanovich split from Pacific and formed Avalon Attractions. Danny Kresky was also with Pacific. After around four years, Danny left to start his own company, DKE in Pittsburgh. Donahower stayed with Pacific and promoted tours with Bob Marley & The Wailers and other attractions. 
Sepp Donahower is currently the sole owner of Pacific Presentations. After Perkins left Avalon a few years later, Irving Azoff and Bob Getties bought into Avalon and it was sold to SFX a few years later. SFX was then sold to Clear Channel, and Clear Channel spun off their concert company into Live Nation, which now has merged with Ticketmaster.