Grateful Dead history is so full of events that most historians deal with it serially. Each stream of the band's history tends to be reviewed in isolation, in order to keep the myriad details from flooding the zone and eradicating any chance for coherence. This was particularly true in the 1960s, when much was happening in the world, and Grateful Dead World itself was a vortex of events that often threatened to drown the band members at the center of The Singularity.
Once in a while, however, it's a valuable effort to consider Time in its own terms, just to see how much was happening. One such sliver of time was the 18 days in 1967 from Saturday, August 19 through Monday, September 4. So many things happened in Grateful Dead history during this brief period, most of them fairly well documented, but usually only discussed in isolation. For today, let's consider them in order, as they happened.Summary
Between August 19 and September 4, 1967, quite a lot happened in the world of the Grateful Dead:
- The band played five shows, in four venues
- Jerry Garcia and Mountain Girl went camping [update: fellow scholar LIA sorted out some timeline details, so I updated the post accordingly]
- Cream played two weeks at the Fillmore, and reshaped the possibilities of electric music in ways that would greatly favor the Grateful Dead
- Jerry Garcia saw at least two and likely more of those Cream shows
- Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann met
- After hitchhiking throughout the Southwest, Robert Hunter returned to San Francisco at Jerry Garcia's request, and joined the Grateful Dead as house songwriter
- Hunter wrote the lyrics to "Dark Star."
The Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead had released their debut album back on Warner Brothers back in March. It hadn't done particularly well, but releasing an album made a local band into a "real" band. The group was gigging steadily, and actually making a living. The band lived together at 710 Ashbury (except for Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann, who lived on Belvedere street, nearby). The entire country was now aware of San Francisco bands, and 1967 was "The Summer Of Love." The Grateful Dead were San Francisco's official ambassadors of hippiedom, playing for free in Golden Gate Park and elsewhere. The five band members had been in the group together since June, 1965.
During our two-weeks-plus stretch, the Grateful Dead would play five shows
- August 19, 1967 American Legion Hall, South Lake Tahoe, CA: Grateful Dead
- August 25-26, 1967 Kings Beach Bowl, North Lake Tahoe, CA: Grateful Dead/The Creators
- August 28, 1967 Lindley Meadows, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA: Big Brother and The Holding Company/Grateful Dead "Party for Chocolate George"
- September 3, 1967 Dance Hall, Rio Nido, CA: Grateful Dead
In the mid-60s, Robert Hunter had been focused on making a living as a writer. He had played in a bluegrass trio with his best friends Jerry Garcia and David Nelson, but had been bumped aside for better musicians. In late 1966, Jerry Garcia had encouraged Hunter to come to Los Angeles to help the Grateful Dead record their album in a Hollywood studio. Hunter had declined. Although the details have always been a bit murky, At some point in the Spring, Hunter had sent Garcia a letter with some proposed song lyrics. Also, by Spring 1967, Hunter was concerned about his own excesses with methedrine, and had departed to New Mexico, probably around June.
In the Summer of 1967, Mickey Hart was mainly a drum instructor and instrument salesman at his father's drum shop, Hart Music in San Carlos. He lived with one of his students (probably in a suburban garage apartment). He played a little bit in bands, and also spent time riding horses and practicing martial arts. Hart had played about in a few groups, and he knew a lot of drummers, but he wasn't really part of the local rock music scene.
Day-By-Day: August 19-September 4, 1967
To illustrate these remarkable weeks, I have constructed a day-by-day timeline. With the exception of the known concerts, most of the events could have taken place on more than one day in a given week, so I have simply made plausible guesses. Still, these events happened pretty much in the order in which I list them, even if individual actions may be off by a night or two.
|The American Legion Hall in South Lake Tahoe, CA, at 2748 Lake Tahoe Blvd [US-50]|
Saturday, August 19, 1967 American Legion Hall, South Lake Tahoe, CA: Grateful Dead
On Saturday, August 19, 1967, the Grateful Dead were booked at the American Legion Hall in South Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe was a deep lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Just 200 miles Northeast of San Francisco, it had been the City's playground since the end of the 19th century. A significant feature of Lake Tahoe, however, was that there was gambling on the Nevada side of the lake (usually referred to as 'North Lake Tahoe'), so the casinos focused on the high-end trade there. The California side (usually referred to as 'South Lake Tahoe,' although the geography doesn't quite fit that) was more of the family side. After Lake Tahoe boomed following the 1960 Winter Olympics, the California side of the lake was left for "the kids," because the adults wanted to go to Nevada and gamble. As a result, for a resort area, the California side of Lake Tahoe in the 1960s had a peculiar focus on rock and roll that is largely undocumented, except by me.
we do know the Dead were back in San Francisco by the evening of August 20. McNally writes, "The Dead were to play on August 20 at a gathering on Mount Tamalpais, but when they got to the mountaintop, they discovered that there was no power, and the event turned into what Rifkin called 'a bongofest.'" (p.212)
An article from the Berkeley Barb confirms this event:
"The Festival of Om on Mount Tamalpais Sunday began with beautiful vibrations and ended in a mess of mishaps and non-communication. Although the fire marshall was notified of the would-be gathering, no official permit was obtained. The fire marshall, probably expecting a nice group, was confronted with about 2,500 happy hippies.
The Grateful Dead was to play for the gathering, but ended up with a burnt-out generator. At which point some people took up the entertainment by banging on garbage cans. Richard Webster of The Flame arrived on the scene about 9:30 p.m. He said, "By 10:30 there were some 250 people on the side of the hill and about two or three people with candles."
Forest rangers, alarmed by the flickering lights, heard the garbage can din and thought the hippies were throwing firecrackers. They called in re-enforcements. (The area has been very dry and dangerous fires are easily set.)
Word was given to Webster that the cops were on the way to bust for being in the park illegally. After some waiting, the crowd dispersed quietly.There had been a few rock shows at the mountain theater on Mt. Tamalpais. Rock shows had gotten too popular for the venue, however, particularly with respect to the parking at the foot of the mountain and the difficult, windy access road. After the widely attended two-day Magic Mountain Festival on June 10-11, 1967 (the week before Monterey Pop), the County had declared that there would be no more rock concerts at the theater. One more weekend show went off as scheduled, the Festival Of Growing Things on June 30-July 1, but there were no more rock concerts on Mt Tamalpais until the 21st century, as far as I know. The August event was an attempt to bypass the ban, but clearly it didn't work.
There were no busts reported." ("Hip-Hash" column, Berkeley Barb 8/25/67, p.6)
|A BGP poster for Fillmore shows during August 15-21, 1967. Count Basie, Chuck Berry, Charles Lloyd and the Young Rascals are highlighted|
Sunday and Monday, August 20-21, 1967 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA: Count Basie Orchestra/Charles Lloyd Quartet
|Drummer Sonny Payne in action|
Sonny Payne and Mickey Hart had become friends when Hart had been in the US Air Force, back in 1965, per Dennis McNally. Hart, other than being a judo instructor, mainly played music in the very high-class Air Force big band. The band had played some gigs in Germany, where there were plenty of US Servicemen, and groups like the Count Basie Orchestra had been booked as well. Hart jammed with all sorts of musicians, and Payne and he became friends. At the time, Payne was Count Basie's drummer, and had been so for many years. Payne left Count Basie's Orchestra at the end of 1965, and mostly played with Harry James' band. Payne continued to play with the Count Basie Orchestra, however, whenever Frank Sinatra was singing with them. According to Elwood's review (below), Sonny Payne was temporarily filling in for regular drummer Rufus Jones. Big bands didn't run like rock groups, and substitutes were common.
- I think Mike Hinton was the unnamed drummer who sat in with the Grateful Dead, Etta James, Matt Kelly and the Tower of Power horn section on New Year's Eve 1982.
- The drummer Mike Hinton is different than the guitarist Michael D. Hinton, a fine player who passed away a few years ago. Micheal D. Hinton was in High Noon, apparently ghosted for Jerry Garcia on some "Twilight Zone" soundtracks (with Jer's cheerful assent) and was part of Merl Saunders' Rainforest Band for many years. Plus he commented once on one of my blog posts (!). Rest In Power, Michael D. Hinton.
- The drummer Michael Hinton is still out there keeping the beat on The One (unless you are skipping the one, of course).
|The BGP poster for the Butterfield Blues Band, Cream and Southside Sound System at the Fillmore during the week of August 22-27, 1967|
Tuesday, August 22
I can't be certain of the exact day, but Garcia must have heard I think he heard that Cream was killing it at the Fillmore. I think he went both Wednesday and Thursday, but he definitely went one of these nights. He also went the next week. Here's what he said later that month:
"I would say the Cream are damn near the best group there is... Their music is really strong. I mean, really strong... They're much better musicians than Jimi Hendrix... You should have seen them at the Fillmore...cause they played with a lot of very heavy bands. They played with Gary Burton's band. They played with the Electric Flag. They played with Paul Butterfield's band and with Charlie Musselwhite's band. And they made them all sound pretty old-fashioned..."
|The only known photo from inside the Kings Beach Bowl in North Lake Tahoe. Neil Young, Richie Furay and Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield, on either August 18 or 19, 1967 (photo: Michelle McFee)|
Friday and Saturday, August 25-26, 1967 Kings Beach Bowl, North Lake Tahoe, CA: Grateful Dead/The Creators
|The BGP poster for Cream, Electric Flag and Gary Burton at the Fillmore, August 29-September 3, 1967|
Tuesday August 29
|Duster, the 1967 debut album on RCA for the Gary Burton Quartet, including Larry Coryell and Steve Swallow (Bob Moses would replace Roy Haynes on drums for touring)|
Also on the bill was the Gary Burton Quartet. Burton's band played jazz, but they did it on electric instruments, so it was called "jazz-rock." Burton played vibes, and the band didn't have a piano player. The amazing Larry Coryell was the guitarist, while the rhythm section had Steve Swallow on bass and Bob Moses on drums. The Quartet played quiet music, although they were amplified, so while they anticipated the Fusion music genre, they didn't sound like Bitches Brew. The band's current album was Duster, the first by the Quartet (although it was the 8th album for Burton himself). Playing places like the Fillmore was part of RCA's plan to expose the Burton Quartet to a younger, wider audience than just regular jazz listeners.
|The poster for the canceled rock festival at the Cabrillo College JC football field in Santa Cruz County, scheduled for September 2-3, 1967|
Saturday September 2
- Cream played three weeknights at West Hollywood's Whisky-A-Go-Go (September 4-6).
- Cream had been booked at the Crosstown Bus in a Boston suburb, but it had been shut down due to non-payment of bills (the J. Geils Band got their amps out just in time). A local coffee house proprietor converted a parking garage to open a venue he called the Psychedelic Supermarket just to book Cream for nine night (September 8-16). The supermarket was a notoriously unappealing joint, but it had great bands. The Dead would play there a few months later
- Cream played two weeks at the Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village (September 22-October 8), packing the place out, and everyone knew them by then. I don't think Cream learned new songs, but rather just jammed like they had at the Fillmore.
- The American tour ended with five nights in Michigan (October 11-12 at the Fifth Dimension in Ann Arbor, and then October 13-15 at the Grande in Detroit). Disraeli Gears would come out in November, and when Cream returned to America in February 1968, they were huge.
SpoonfulTales of Brave Ulysses
Sunshine of Your Love
Sleepy Time Time
Appendix 2: Phil Elwood's San Francisco Examiner Review of the Count Basie Orchestra at the Fillmore Auditorium, August 21, 1967