|The former Menlo Park Veterans Hospital, at 795 Willow Road. This old building is all that remained in 2018 from when Ken Kesey worked there as a night orderly.|
However, readers cannot contribute their information if they are not given a platform. I have tried not to create a post without some context, not just a piece of information but some other supporting evidence that at least suggests a show was a somewhat plausible occurrence. Nonetheless, over the years I have come across some information that is plausible but cannot be proved or disproved. My idea for this post is to list a few of these possible shows, in the hopes that someone has something to add. Since these events only have one data point, I have decided to combine them into one post, in the hopes that there may be some supporting information for at least one of these events.
|An ad for The Dragon A-Go-Go in San Francisco, albeit from the February 11, 1967 SF Chronicle. The Liverpool Five were an English band on RCA, though not actually from Liverpool.|
I was fortunate enough to meet one of the earliest fans of The Warlocks, and she was full of fascinating tales. Among other things, she told me that in the earliest days of The Warlocks, with no place to play in the Summer of 1965, they would simply show up at Wednesday night at The Top Of The Tangent, just like when Garcia had been a banjo player. Hitherto, no one had known about these shows, because no one had asked. She also sorted out some confusing details about a Warlocks' show at Menlo College, not far from Magoo's Pizza, where they had debuted.
I also asked her if she recalled any other places The Warlocks might have played, and she speculated that they may have played a place in Chinatown called The Dragon A-Go-Go. Now, she was very clear--one of the reasons I found her memories of The Tangent and Menlo College so believable--that she had been to Dragon A-Go-Go many times, and she wasn't certain if she had actually seen The Warlocks there. If she did, it was a sort of audition for the band, and they probably must have flunked, since groups typically played Dragon A-Go-Go for at least a week at a time.
Nonetheless, here's the scoop on the Dragon A-Go-Go. In the mid-60s, rock music was seen as a strictly teenage phenomenon. One response to this was clubs that allowed teenagers. In some cases, people over 20 were not even allowed (I don't know if they really checked IDs). In this case, based on the ads, it appeared that 18 year olds were welcome, so my suspicion was that high school students a bit younger could get in as well. Probably beer was available for adults, since the club was attached to a restaurant.
My eyewitness liked to dance, and she liked to go to the Dragon A-Go-Go. Her favorite band to go see there was called The Liverpool Five, a popular but somewhat forgotten English band who cashed in on the Beatles craze. The Liverpool Five were actually from England, though not from Liverpool, and had two albums on RCA in 1966 and 1967. They toured America pretty steadily and were apparently a pretty good live band.
The Dragon A' Go-Go was in San Francisco's Chinatown, at 49 Wentworth Alley near the intersection of Grant and Washington. Although Chinatown was a genuine and long-standing community of immigrant Chinese and Chinese-Americans, commercially Chinatown was geared towards tourists. In the 1960s, Chinese restaurants were not common in most places, and good ones were even less common, so Chinatown made San Francisco an exotic and attractive destination. Since Chinatown was in walking distance of both the Financial District and North Beach (if you don't mind a few hills), it was accessible to the majority of San Francisco visitors. Chinatown was an appealing destination for families from the suburbs looking to spend a fun evening in the City, because it was exotic and fun, but easy to get to.
The proprietor of Dragon A-Go-Go was Louis Chin. The club was in the basement of a restaurant called Kuo Wah, having replaced a nightclub called The Lion's Den. The club seems to have been open from 1965 until at least 1970. Among the groups that played there were The Beau Brummels, The Outfit, The Frantics (whose members went on to form Moby Grape) and The Whispers. Some time after the Dragon A-Go-Go closed, Chin went on the open a club in San Francisco called Soul Train, with partners Don Cornelius and Dick Griffey (Cornelius was host of the famous Soul Train TV show). The addresss of Soul Train was 412 Broadway, later well known to Deadheads as The Stone.
Did The Warlocks audition at Dragon A-Go-Go? They could have. My correspondent couldn't be sure, but I'm hoping someone out there has a shred of a rumor we can work with. The Dragon was professionally part of the North Beach circuit, so it would fit that The Warlocks would try to get a gig there, even if it didn't work out. I have seen many ads in the SF Chronicle for Dragon A Go Go, but they would never list audition bands, just the headliner, so unless The Warlocks played a full engagement, it's unlikely there would be an ad or listing with their name.
|The American Legion Hall, at 2758 South Lake Tahoe Blvd [US 50], in South Lake Tahoe, CA|
Many families in both the Bay Area and the Sacramento/Central Valley area would buy or rent second homes in Lake Tahoe, East of San Francisco, and they would spend much of the Summer and many Winter weekends at Tahoe. Part of Lake Tahoe's specialness was that it was a great resort for both Summer and Winter. After 1960, when the Winter Olympics were held at nearby Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe boomed again, particularly for Winter sports. Since the Lake was on the California/Nevada border, parents could go over to the Nevada side and gamble, leaving their teenage kids to fend for themselves.
The first person to catch on to the vast quantity of teenagers in Lake Tahoe was a guitarist named Jim Burgett. He started putting on dances at the South Lake Tahoe American Legion Hall (at 2748 Lake Tahoe Blvd [US 50], South Lake Tahoe, CA) in 1958. The story is complicated, but by the mid-60s Burgett was holding dances at the Legion Hall seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. For any teenagers spending a week, a month or a Summer in Lake Tahoe, every night was Friday night, and with the parents often away in Nevada anyway, the Legion Hall dances were the only show in town. Burgett's own band played most nights, but on occasion he hired out of town acts as well. When the Fillmore bands became popular, he would often hire them to give his own band a night off (Burgett also played six days a week at Harrah's Tahoe, believe it or not). The Jim Burgett saga is amazing, and well worthy of a book, which fortunately he is planning to write.
The Grateful Dead played an epically memorable show for Burgett at the American Legion Hall in South Lake Tahoe on August 19, 1967, followed by a weekend on the opposite side of the lake. I have written about both the Legion Hall show and the shows at Kings Beach Bowl on North Shore on the weekend of August 25-26, 1967, at some length. However, there was another little piece to the Lake Tahoe puzzle that got somewhat lost in the shuffle.
Poking around the web on various message boards and comment threads, one finds that numerous people have fond memories of the Lake Tahoe scene, particularly Jim Burgett's dances at the American Legion Hall. However, one commentator piqued my interest, and although like all internet comments they have to be considered with some reservations, it's a fascinating tidbit. Specifically, an old Tahoe hippie recalls seeing the Grateful Dead at the American Legion Hall in the Fall of 1966, well after Labor Day. There were less than 50 people present, and it was so laid back that Pigpen actually wore guns on stage, in an old West styled holster.
This crazy story is not as far fetched as it sounds. Jim Burgett was kind enough to respond to a few questions, and he told me that while he held the master lease to the American Legion Hall, outside of the Memorial Day to Labor Day window he often leased it to outside promoters. In many cases, Burgett and his band were on tour, so Burgett only had a general idea of what was being presented at at the Legion Hall (he knew a concert promoter would be using it, for example, but he might not know who the bands were). Thus some San Francisco entity could have leased the Legion Hall to put on a Dead show, and found out that the audience wasn't there in the Fall.
Who would have put on such a concert, thinking that the outlaw Grateful Dead would draw a crowd in an empty Lake Tahoe? Likely suspects would be the crowd who originally started psychedelia at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, NV, just about an hour Northeast of Lake Tahoe. The Red Dog Saloon crowd evolved into the Family Dog, and when Chet Helms took it over they became the Psychedelic Cattleman's Association. The Red Dog Salooon, for all its original hippie trappings, was very gun-positive, so if someone like Red Dog founder Mark Unobsky was involved, Pigpen may have felt very comfortable indeed wearing his holster on stage.
Fall 1966 Village Square, San Lorenzo, CA: Grateful Dead (afternoon free concert)
In a post about free Grateful Dead concerts, a Commenter writes
One show was played in 1966 at the San Lorenzo Ca, Village SQUARE, FOR FREE!!! and help make the Grateful Dead legendary. Early on. in thee east bay area.not sure of any documentation but it did change some lives foreverSan Lorenzo is a tiny East Bay town, just between San Leandro and Hayward, and between the Nimitz Freeway (I880/17) and the Bay. Most Northern Californians have driven by it numerous times (just South of the 238/580 split), but never turned off there. In the Fall of 1966, it was pretty common for malls or downtowns to have free rock concerts to encourage teens to hang out and/or shop. So it makes perfect, absurd 1966 sense that someone in San Lorenzo heard about the Dead playing free concerts and called them.
|The Cheetah (formerly The Aragon Ballroom), at 1 Navy Pier on Venice Beach, near Santa Monica, as it appeared in June 1968. Did the Grateful Dead and the Doors play here on January 22, 1968?|
This remarkable date is based on someone else's research, but since I have lost contact with him, I want to get it out there (Len, if you're around, check in!). Some years ago, a fellow scholar was working on a truly remarkable and absolutely thorough chronology of The Doors live performances. It was online for a while, but has since disappeared, and no book came out that I am aware of.
One of the mysteries the Doors researchers was working on was a joint Grateful Dead/Doors show at the Cheetah in Venice Beach, on Sunday, January 22, 1967. According to his correspondent, this was kind of an "underground" show. The Cheetah--which may have still been The Aragon Ballroom--was just an underused dance hall for rent at the time. Venice Beach was Hippie Central, however, so even if only locals knew about the show, it could have done alright. The correspondent even recalled the weather, which research checked out.
The Grateful Dead were in Los Angeles to play a bill with Timothy Leary on Friday, January 20. The Dead were underground legends, even though they had no album. The Doors had been an underground legend, but their album had been officially released on January 4, so they would have been the hot new thing in Los Angeles. Of course, the Doors and the Dead had played a double bill at the Fillmore the weekend before, and the Doors had attended (though not performed at( The Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park on Saturday, January 14.
The Doors and the Grateful Dead were not fans of each other, to my knowledge, so they may not have hung out, and may have had no fond memories to recall. Or maybe it didn't happen? But--maybe it did...
|An ad for the Teenage Fair in at the Oakland Exposition Hall from the Oakland Tribune on March 26, 1967|
Up through the first half of 1967, the Grateful Dead rarely left the Bay Area, and thus took any paying gig they could find. While many of those shows are immortalized by Fillmore posters and the like, some of them were just junior college dances or other casual engagements. If the band was free one night, then making several hundred dollars was better than not making it. While there are inevitably numerous vague stories from back in the day, many of them half-remembered wishful thinking, I find any story that involves a payday far more believable than the usual "free in the park" tale. Thus I find it very plausible that the Grateful Dead played the Bay Area Teen Fair at the long-forgotten Oakland Exposition Center in February or March of 1967.
America's premier journal of Wild Sounds From Past Dimensions is Ugly Things. Readers who are not familiar with Ugly Things should subscribe immediately, as the quality and breadth of their research transcends all other 60s research efforts. Back in issue #29, Ugly Things had the complete story of The Wildflower, a band whom many Deadheads will recognize from old Avalon posters, but about which little was known. After reading Erik Bluhm's exhaustive article, however, complete with pictures, with the whole Wildflower story laid out in fascinating detail, their tale becomes fully fleshed out.
One interesting saga was the Wildflower's appearance at the Teenage Fair in Oakland in 1967, which Bluhm identifies as having been in February.
Though the idea of a Teenage Fair had originated in Los Angeles in the early '60s, the phenomena of the Teenage Fair quickly spread to the rest of the country. Booths were set up to display all sorts of things teenagers drooled over, from custom cars and surfboards and musical instruments. To a constant barrage of the latest sounds blaring from multiple stages, teens were encouraged to squander as much of their allowances as possible before curfew.The earliest Teen Fair I know of in the Bay Area was in 1965 in San Mateo, and the last one I am aware of was in Santa Clara in 1969.
Bluhm spoke with then 14-year old Hayward music fan Paul Honeycutt, who attended the show to see a Hayward group who had won a local "Battle Of The Bands," and ended up seeing The Wildflower. For our purposes, however, the most tantalizing comment is Honeycutt's final remark, after describing the Wildflower's fine set:
We had to be back to get a ride home with my Dad, so we didn't get to stay to hear the San Francisco bands scheduled to play later. I think both the Dead and and Airplane and maybe Moby Grape played over the course of the weekend, but we missed 'em.The Teenage Fair would have been a paid booking at a time when the Dead desperately needed ready cash. It probably wasn't that great a show, but it's very possible that the Dead played the afternoon or some other time when they wouldn't have been playing, so it would have been an extra payday. The Teenage Fairs generally promoted the event rather than the bands, so it's not surprising that we haven't found any posters, ads or publicity promoting the Grateful Dead at the Oakland Teenage Fair.
The Grateful Dead had a pretty clear February, too, so they would have needed the money.
January 30-February 5 Recording in Los AngelesTriangulating from the known schedules of both the Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape, the most likely date seems to be the weekend of February 10-11. All three bands were available. The Airplane were on the East Coast from at least February 18 onwards, and Moby Grape was playing The Ark (although that wouldn't rule out an early-in-the-evening set in Oakland). The Dead could have played an early set on Friday at the Teenage Fair and zipped over to Santa Venetia, or simply played Saturday February 11, when they seemingly had nothing else going on.
Friday, February 10-Santa Venetia Armory
Saturday, February 11-open
Sunday, February 12-The Fillmore (Benefit concert)
Friday-Sunday February 17-19 open
Friday-Sunday February 24-26-The Fillmore
Some years ago I did some research into the 1967 Teenage Fair in Oakland, which is how I learned about the Exposition Center. At the time, I only knew that the Wildflower had played, not the Dead or the Airplane. I came up with the dates March 17-26, but I only know the Fair ended on March 26, based on an ad in the Oakland Tribune (above) I find it unlikely, however, that the Fair ran for two months. It's possible the Fair had two runs, in both February and March, or something like that. It is typical of this sort of mystery that the only two solid data points (the eyewitness and the Oakland Tribune ad) conflict.
For various wonky reasons, I do not rule out these dates. However, those dates do inherently cause a conflict with the Grateful Dead's touring schedule, as the band played for Bill Graham on the weekend of March 17-19 (Winterland and the Fillmore) and for Chet Helms at the Avalon the next weekend (March 24-26). If the March 17-26 date turns out to be correct for the Oakland Teenage Fair, there are three likely possibilities:
- The Grateful Dead didn't play the 1967 Oakland Teenage Fair
- The Dead played a weeknight (note that Paul Honeycutt doesn't say what night he went), or
- The Dead played an early set and went over to the Fillmore or Avalon, as the case may have been (keep in mind they had just released an album that week, and Warners would have wanted them to promote it)
|A 1967 Midget Auto Racing poster from the Oakland Exposition Center. The Exposition Center was on 10th and Oak, now the Oakland Museum of California. It is very hard to find any traces whatsoever of the Oakland Exposition Center|
The Oakland Exposition Center was an important building in post-WW2 Oakland, but it is nearly entirely forgotten now. It is all but impossible to Google, and there seem to be few references to it. It seems to have served as both a sort of convention center and indoor sports arena. I think it was somewhat smaller than the Oakland Auditorium (now the Kaiser Convention Center), which is nearby. I do know that the Exposition Center had indoor motorcycle and auto races from the 1940s through the '60s, which was how I first found out about it. I also know it was sometimes used for Roller Derby, which has a very Oakland-centric history. I believe it also was used for various kinds of "Expositions," a now-archaic term for a sort of celebration of industrial innovation.
The Oakland Exposition Center was torn down around 1968, to make room for the Oakland Museum of California, on the very same site. The Oakland Museum of California, around the block at 1000 Oak Street (at 10th) opened in 1969, and it is a worthy institution well worth visiting, but the Exposition Center has all but disappeared into the mists of time.
|A news item from the front page of the April 22, 1965 San Mateo Times, about the recent teenage fair. Future Cold Blood singer Lydia Pense won a prize. Attendance was 196,000 over nine days.|
My earliest sighting of a Teenage Fair in the Bay Area was in Redwood City in 1965. Redwood City teenager Lydia Pense, the future lead singer of Cold Blood, won a prize. The last one I know about is in Santa Clara in 1969. By 1969, some of the top bands at the Fair were advertised, since they were draws in and of themselves. Santana actually played the 1969 Teenage Fair in Santa Clara. I'm not aware of Teenage Fairs after '69. By 1970, youth culture was synonymous with the rock market, and hippies were too cool to ever to go to something as commercial as a Fair. Unless it was, y'know, like a Renaissance Faire, where people had bare feet and there were maidens, and jousting, and flagons of mead, and, like, man, it wasn't commercial at all.
|A flyer for the "Vernal Equinox" at Lime Kiln, near Big Sur. The multi-day festival overwhelmed the little town with hippies. Everyone had a great time, and it never happened again.|
There was a Vernal Equinox event on March 22, 1968, attended by perhaps 3,000 hippies, which was far too many for Big Sur. The weekend had turned into a sort of wake for Neal Cassidy, who had died the month before. There were, however, low-key events leading up to the Equinox. Producer Jim Stern, then a local drummer, said in a Jake Feinberg interview that his band sort of freaked out and bailed on playing, and said that Garcia and Weir showed up in Big Sur to bail him out. This would have been a sort of jam, presumably with other players, and a sparsely attended thing. The exact date is unclear, but it would have been daytime (March 20 definitely a possibility, and March 21 not out of the question).
September 25, 1969 Ungano's, New York, NY: Grateful Dead
Ungano's was nightclub on West 70th Street in Manhattan (mid-town), much favored by record companies for up-and-coming or newly-signed bands. Explaining why I think the the Grateful Dead played Ungano's on September 25, 1969 would take an entire post in itself.
Conveniently, I have written that post. The Grateful Dead were advertised in the Village Voice as playing Ungano's on Thursday, February 12, 1970. This was the night between legendary shows at the Fillmore East on Wednesday February 11 (when the Allmans and Fleetwood Mac showed up to jam) and Friday February 13 (with a 90+ minute "Dark Star">"Other One">"Lovelight"). In those days, Lincoln's birthday was February 12, so February 11 was like an extra Friday night.
Did it happen? Did the Dead play Ungano's? I wrote out the evidence, and it generated a Comment Thread for the ages. To explain why I think the Dead played Ungano's on September 25, you have to read the whole post and then the whole Comment Thread.
May 4, 1970 Central Park Bandshell, New York, NY: New Riders Of The Purple Sage
Several years ago I had a lengthy exchange on AOL with someone from New York who described in great, plausible detail seeing the New Riders play for free in Central Park Bandshell at lunchtime in Spring 1970. Among the detailed parts of his memory was that he had to cut class to do it (meaning weekday), he was in the 7th grade (locks in the year), and it was announced on the radio by WNEW-fm dj 'Real Alison Steele' (the teenage crush of every adolescent New York boy). She apparently announced that "Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead" would be playing. He didn't know who the New Riders were (obviously), nor did he know what a pedal steel guitar was. He figured it out the next year. If you do the sums, it comes out that the schedule had to be
- Sunday 3 May--Middletown
- Monday 4 May--possible Central Park Bandshell
- Tuesday 5 May--possible Central Park Bandshell
- Wednesday 6 May--Kresge Plaza, MIT
Fellow scholar Jesse Jarnow points out the surrounding evidence suggests that the Dead were already in Massachusetts by May 5, so it makes Monday, May 4 more plausible. Remember, also that the Dead had a Fillmore East show coming up, and Bill Graham would not have wanted any publicity about a free Jerry Garcia show undermining ticket sales. On the other hand, no one knew better than Bill about how free concerts created buzz, so he would have supported a free show sans official advertising.
It is plausible that the free Central Park show was the next week, where the schedule was
- Sunday May 10-Atlanta, GA
- Thursday May 14-Merramec JC, Kirkwood, MO
- Friday May 15-Fillmore East (two shows)
- Saturday May 16-Temple Stadium, Philadelphia, PA
There is a perpetual rumor of the band playing at a Tim Leary benefit at the Village Gate in Greenwich Village on Monday, May 11, but by Manhattan standards that would be high-profile. I don't believe the Dead would have played a Tim Leary Benefit by 1970, either.
May 9, 1970 (downtown), Boston, MA: New Riders of The Purple Sage
Fellow scholar Jesse identifies another rumored free New Riders show, this time in Boston. From the Archive review of the free MIT show on May 6, 1970:
Reviewer: Peter Sramek - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 21, 2017I am more inclined to believe that there were two free New Riders concerts in Manhattan and Boston, or none, than that there was just one. The Dead were in upstate New York (SUNY Delhi) on Friday May 8, and played Worcester, MA on Saturday night May 9. Worcester is just an hour from Boston, so the transit is very viable.
Subject: An Amazing Day
What I remember of this outdoor concert was standing 5 feet from Jerry Garcia just mesmerized by his guitar work. I'm sure he was stoned out of his head, but it just flowed without any signs of trying. And from what I remember this performance was pretty impromptu. They were playing officially the next day, but set-up outside for the afternoon.
A group of us went into downtown Boston later that weekend to see New Riders do a public concert and that was also amazing.
August 5, 1970 [unknown venue], San Diego, CA: Acoustic Grateful Dead
The August 5 1970 show is different than most shows on this list, in that there is not only a tape, but a board tape that has circulated for decades. 15 songs, two sets (or two pieces of tape, anyway) of acoustic Grateful Dead, with John Dawson and David Nelson helping out here and there. The show has appeared in every list for many moons.
But here's the thing. There's no evidence of any show in San Diego around then. The recording suggests a small place, but why would the Dead fly to San Diego to play some tiny place? You can suggest that it's really the Matrix or the Lion's Share, and that's fine, but why was it dated August 5 in San Diego?
Now, it's true that during July and August 1970, the Dead's road crew was supported by Alembic, and the Alembic team had gone on tour with the Medicine Ball Caravan. The Dead had been supposed to be on the tour, too, but they pulled out at the last second. But Bob Matthews, Betty Cantor and many other Alembic regulars were out of town. So the Dead could play acoustic gigs, but not really electric ones. The band did play some acoustic shows at the Lion's Share in San Anselmo, discussed at length by JGMF, so maybe the "Aug 5" tape is from the Lion's Share. I myself have speculated that the tape is from a place called Thee Club in Los Angeles, where the acoustic Dead (and the New Riders) played on August 28-29, but that doesn't explain the dating and "San Diego."
The truth is out there.
Coda: Leave No Tern Unstoned
If anyone has information, concerns, speculation or flashbacks about any of the above events please put them in the Comments.