Tuesday, June 29, 2010

December 27-28, 1975 La Paloma Theater, Encinitas, CA: Jerry Garcia Band--Did They Happen?

I have previously alluded to the historical reality that in the pre-Internet era one of the few useful sources of new information about Dead shows in other cities was chatting with strangers between sets at Dead shows. I learned many interesting things over the years, and many of them turned out to be true. Yet after all these years, some of those conversations remain unresolved in my mind. One of the many benefits of the Internet is that I can put these questions out there for review--who knows? The person I spoke with may read it and weigh in.

One night in Winterland in 1977--sorry, even I don't recall when--I was talking to some guy about the Jerry Garcia Band. I mentioned how much I liked seeing Garcia with Nicky Hopkins, even though at times Hopkins seemed a bit out of it. He told me about seeing Garcia and Hopkins in San Diego at a theater in San Diego which he called "Paloma Blanca." He said that after a few numbers, Hopkins just collapsed, seeming to burst into tears. Garcia went over and talked to Nicky, and then after a while Jerry came to the microphone and told everyone that the show was canceled and they could get their money back.

Over the years, as Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia scholarship has improved, little pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place. The Jerry Site lists Jerry Garcia Band shows on December 27-28, 1975 at La Paloma Theater in Encinitas (at 471 1st Street), a few miles North of San Diego. La Paloma Theater in Encinitas is close enough to "Paloma Blanca" that I reasonably assumed it was the event in question, but I have waited in vain for any more information.

I do notice that there were no tapes, set lists or reviews for either night in 1975 at La Paloma, however. Maybe my acquaintance' story was true, and there are no set lists or tapes because the shows weren't played, beyond a few numbers the first night. Garcia only played one more show with Hopkins, on New Year's Eve, and perhaps Hopkins's breakdown was the last straw. Garcia epitomizes the sort of player who will go on stage with a myriad of personal, financial or health problems and still focus on his playing, so as a musician Jerry can't have been willing to keep working with someone who couldn't get through a show.

The Garcia Band returned to La Paloma Theater in Encinitas just two months later, on February 21 and 22, 1976. The band played double shows (early and late) on two nights, and tapes confirm that the shows did indeed happen. La Paloma Theater had not been part of any regular rotation of Garcia shows. Could the return engagement in February with Keith and Donna Godchaux have been a makeup show for the abortive December shows with Hopkins? It's possible.

This exhausts my knowledge of the December 27-28, 1975 Jerry Garcia Band shows with Nicky Hopkins at the La Paloma Theater in Encinitas--a casual conversation on the floor at Winterland, some time in 1977. But I have lots of other memories, too, like a guy who told me in December 1977 that the Dead had played an unforgettable show in Binghampton the month before, and he turned out to be right, even if it took me many years to finally hear the tape, so I'm not dismissing it yet. I would be delighted to find out that Garcia and Hopkins played a few shows between Winterland (Dec 19-20, 1975) and Keystone Berkeley (Dec 31, 1975), but I need to hear from some Southern Californians whether the La Paloma Theater shows happened or not.
  • Did the Jerry Garcia Band interrupt themselves and cancel a show because Nicky Hopkins couldn't play?
  • How many shows were canceled? If the first show on the first night was canceled, as many as four shows could have been canceled?
If it went down anything like it was described to me, it would have been a unique if unfortunate event in Garcia history, when a show started and was not completed. I can't think of another instance where Garcia made it onto the stage and did not complete the show of his own volition.

Sunday morning cycle ride

One way to avoid the crowds and the heat is to get up early on a Sunday morning and bike down the river to Surrey Docks for a couple of hours.

Join the cygnets in admiring how (relatively) delightful Surrey Quays is without any shoppers;

...bask in the early morning heat along with the ducklings and assorted waterfowl;

...explore the unexpected beauty of the Surrey Quays hinterland and wallow in the cool shade of Russia Docks Woodland along with the other early risers.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Convoy's wharf public exhibition

A date for your diaries:


Deptford Methodist Church & Mission, 1 Creek Road, SE8 3BT
Friday 9th July, 12pm – 8pm
Saturday 10th July, 10.30am – 2pm

Hutchison Whampoa and the development team for Convoys Wharf would like to invite you to a public exhibition of the proposals to regenerate this key Deptford site.

The proposed development is set to bring massive investment to the area, opening up this key area of riverside to the local community and providing new homes, jobs and public open space.

Since the beginning of the public consultation in November 2009, we have received a number of views on our initial proposals from residents, local groups and organisations, Lewisham Council and the Greater London Authority.

Those views have influenced the development of our plans for the site, which we hope to submit as a planning application to the Council in the near future.

Members of the development team will be available at the public exhibition to address any queries and listen to your views on the proposals. If you are unable to visit us on either of those days, please visit our website, www.convoyswharf.com for more details. The website is due to be updated with details on the latest proposals by the end of this week and you can also leave comments.

If you have any queries in the meantime, please phone 0845 460 6011 or email your comments to info@convoyswharf.com

East Meet Supperclub review

..not mine, I'm saddened to say, as the food looks absolutely scrumptious!

Pop on over to Hollow Legs to find out what Lizzie thought of Brockley's new supper club.

If you are feeling hungry, the next event takes place on 17 July and is for single diners! More info here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

September 11, 1969 Family Dog On The Great Highway: Grateful Dead

An audience tape with a single song, "Easy Wind," ostensibly from an unknown venue on September 11, 1969 has circulated for many years. The Family Dog on The Great Highway has usually been suggested as the most likely venue. Over the years I have relentlessly insisted that this must have been a spurious date, but in recent months, my opinion has reversed 180 degrees. While I cannot prove anything, I am now confident that I can assert plausible justifications not only for the performance date but for the peculiar persistence of such a brief audience tape. Although I have alluded to my views in various places, I thought it would make sense to collect them here.

In the past, I had objected to the September 11, 1969 date for the following reasons:
  • I could find no evidence of an advertisement or publicity for a September 11, 1969 Family Dog show, and I have done considerable research in that area
  • September 11 was a Thursday, and the Family Dog almost never had Thursday shows, making it seem more unlikely that they would do so without publicity
  • The audience tape sounded surprisingly well-recorded for a 1969 tape
  • Any hard-core Head who recorded a 1969 tape would be highly unlikely to leave the balance of the tape uncirculated
  • An unknown guest slide guitarist plays along, and he seems to know the song, legislating against a performance of a song that had probably been written only a few weeks earlier
Over the years, I kept expecting some sharp-eared tape expert to find this version of "Easy Wind" as part of some other, longer tape, allowing us to put aside the September 11 Family Dog date, but it never happened. In the last few months, I have come around to thinking the date and the tape are valid. Let me enumerate the various reasons here.

I could find no evidence of an advertisement or publicity for a September 11, 1969 Family Dog show, and I have done considerable research in that area
Some detailed research by Ross revealed that for a brief period in Late Summer 1969 (at least), the Family Dog had afternoon jams for working musicians. The August 28, 1969 tape with Howard Wales and some members of the Grateful Dead, labeled as "Hartbeats," falls into this category. Afternoon jams obviate the question of who was working: it didn't matter if anyone had a show Thursday night, as the jamming was taking place in the afternoon. Of course there was no advertising--it wasn't a "show," in that sense of the word.

September 11 was a Thursday, and the Family Dog almost never had Thursday shows, making it seem more unlikely that they would do so without publicity
There would have been no audience for these afternoon jams, save for a few lucky hippies who wandered by (and there wouldn't have been that much foot traffic out there, either). These afternoon jams would explain not only August 28 and September 11, but the peculiar September 7, 1969 tape with members of the Airplane and the Dead playing rock and roll oldies.

The audience tape sounded surprisingly well-recorded for a 1969 tape
Any hard-core Head who recorded a 1969 tape would be highly unlikely to leave the balance of the tape uncirculated

What put me over the top on the Sep 11 tape was an interesting observation on the blog Grateful Dead Guide about Garcia and the Dead's penchant to experiment with audience tapes even when they had a soundboard
Those who might scoff at the idea that the Dead, with all their piles of tapes, would set up audience mikes at the same time they were taping the SBDs, should recall that even years later in summer '73, Garcia was still having Kidd Candelario make "AUD" recordings of some shows alongside the SBD reels! These are a couple examples that have surfaced:
From the notes: "Reels dubbed in 1979 by Will Boswell from Jerry Garcia's personal collection. Original recording made by the sound crew at the soundboard."
My new theory about the September 11, 1969 audience tape was that it was made by some member of the Grateful Dead sound crew, most likely Owsley himself. Naturally it sounds better than typical audience tapes of the era: it was recorded by a professional on a real microphone and a good reel-to-reel deck,  not some handheld cassette job from the pre-D5 era.

While the purposes of the audience recording may have been multi-faceted, if Dead staff recorded the show, it explains why the balance of the tape never circulated. The recording was made for the Dead's purposes, not as a souvenir of a concert for future listening. The recording may not have been of the entire performance, and even if it was, recording tape was expensive (and the Dead were always broke) so only part of it may have been preserved. This would explain why a single song from a nice sounding tape was preserved in isolation from any other recording.

Given that this was a jam session, while of course I would be fascinated to hear the whole thing, regardless of the presence of many or all of the Dead members, the balance of the tape may not have been of much interest to the Dead themselves.

An unknown guest slide guitarist plays along, and he seems to know the song, legislating against a performance of a song that had probably been written only a few weeks earlier
 I have theorized in the past that the most plausible guess for the slide guitarist on September 11 was Robbie Stokes. Stokes was the guitarist for Devil's Kitchen, the "house band" at the Family Dog at the time. Stokes was a good slide player, and he would later move to Marin when the rest of Devil's Kitchen returned to Carbondale, IL. Stokes played on Mickey Hart's Rolling Thunder album and Robert Hunter's Tales Of The Great Rum Runners, and was part of the Novato "crowd" until he too returned to Carbondale in 1985, so he was definitely welcome on the scene.

In 1969, slide guitar was a known technique, but largely confined to acoustic or pedal steel guitars. Electric guitarists (like Garcia) occasionally fooled with it, but very few players used a slide regularly on electric guitar. Duane Allman was the one who gave the technique credibility, but although the Allman Brothers had formed by mid-1969, very few outside of the Southeast had heard him play. Allman himself had actually learned the technique in Los Angeles the year before (in the South, in a manner of speaking) from Ry Cooder (listen to Ry in 1968 on Taj Mahal's "Statesboro Blues"). Thus the universe of slide players comfortable enough to jam with the Grateful Dead was considerably smaller in 1969 than it would be a year or two later, and Stokes is a very likely choice.

The other fact to consider is that if my supposition was correct, September 11, 1969 was an afternoon jam, and they could have played "Easy Wind" more than once, so Stokes would not have been flying blind. In fact, my theory of the September 11, 1969 tape is that the sole purpose of the recording was to preserve "Easy Wind." The Dead had just started performing the song, and there had been 5 (known) performances starting August 21, 1969 in Seattle. Why exactly they needed a tape of "Easy Wind" can't be certain, but I do know that in order to publish and establish copyright to a song a recording of the song had to be submitted, so perhaps the band taped a performance in order to submit a publisher's demo. Its true that the band had other recordings, but there may have been mundane practical reasons that a competent audience tape would have been easier to record and duplicate than some tapes buried in the vaults.

My current working hypothesis is that the September 11, 1969 audience tape of "Easy Wind" was recorded by Owsley or another crew member at an afternoon jam at The Family Dog on The Great Highway. Although it was an "audience" tape, there was hardly an audience, and the recording was made with better equipment than was available to civilians at the time. The main purpose of the recording was to preserve a copy of "Easy Wind," for a publisher's demo or some other practical reason. A slide guitarist sat in (whether Weir is on the tape isn't clear to me), but he probably had a chance to hear a run through or possibly try out the song before the recording. There is no "missing" part of the tape, since the recording was only made to preserve that song.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Meditation in the Park - Russia Dock Woodland

Just a short walk from Deptford is what I regard as one of south east London's best kept secrets - Russia Dock Woodland.

If you're a cyclist you might well have already explored its many winding pathways while straying off the Thames Path - on foot you are more likely to have stumbled upon it on the fringes of Surrey Docks shopping centre, or perhaps you enjoy the longer walking route from London Bridge to Deptford, taking in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. I also love it for its wildlife - last visit was particularly memorable for a brief sighting of a kingfisher!

But if you've never been there, now is the time to explore and what better excuse this weekend than to join Meditation in the Park on Sunday from 12-4, especially if, like me, your tolerance of the World Cup has already been exhausted.

As well as learning a range of different meditation techniques, there are guided walks of the ecology park, smoothie-making for kids, and a sleep masterclass, which I'm particularly attracted to.

And if you want to make a day of it, don't forget that Surrey Docks City Farm is only a step away and has a great new cafe as well as plenty of animals to pet.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Beginner's Chicken Ark

by Stacia Equi

When my parents moved to a more rural area about five years ago, I talked my mom into getting chickens. It wasn't difficult; all I said was, "You should get chickens, you could have fresh eggs." Because I proposed the idea, I was roped into building the coop.

I lived 3,000 miles away at that time and had come home for a visit (which I did only every two years or so). My mom had the chicks, six Buff Orpingtons, in the garage in a brooder. She handed me a plan she had found in Organic Gardening, and I said, "Yeah, of course we can build this in a day." I was being foolishly optimistic because I was leaving two days later.

The plan cleverly uses the wood called for, and the resulting coop is portable. A gangplank inside can be lowered to give the poultry access to a chicken wire-enclosed area below. (For a somewhat similar portable miniature chicken coop design, check out this Mother Earth News mini-coop design.) I made a few changes to the original plans, but the basic shell was built in one day. Mom has made some changes to it through the years, customizing it for her situation, and it rarely moves from the shady corner of the yard. It's still in one piece, and currently has two occupants, but it can house more than a dozen chickens. That's good, because Mom's getting 12 more in a few weeks.

The first picture of the chicken ark shows the side with the nesting box access door down. I used a piece of scrap greenhouse plastic for the top end, so there would be some natural light. Mom eventually replaced one entire long side with the insulated greenhouse plastic. (When originally built, the sides were plywood.)

I don't remember the dimensions of the coop floor, but the sides are each a 4-by-8-foot sheet of plywood. A green rope controls the gangplank. The picture of the side of the coop shows the gangplank with the nesting boxes to the right. The plywood side is hinged up for full access to the coop floor, so it can be easily cleaned.

Eventually, the legs were wrapped in chicken wire to provide a secure area for the chickens to have access to the ground unsupervised. The two handles are 12-foot-long two-by-fours, which make it easy for two people to lift and move the entire coop (in essence having it do double duty as a chicken tractor). It's heavy though, with the three sheets of plywood and all the two-by-fours, but it is portable.

There was still some work to be done to the coop, but what you see in the pictures was built in one day. (We purchased the supplies in the morning and started working after lunch.) A roosting bar runs the length of the interior, and a lamp in the roof peak provides warmth and light during winter so they keep laying.

This was the beginning of my mother's chicken adventure, which has now led to my own. I'm currently rehabbing a scary coop that came with our new house, and raising 26 chicks in the garden shed, in an ever expanding brooder. Ah, the adventure!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How I Finally Ended Up With Chickens

by Stacia Equi

I am a Chicken Newbie. This is my first flock of chickens, but I've always wanted chickens – ever since I discovered one of my neighbors in Los Angeles owned them. They also had a dyslexic rooster who would crow like wild at 3 p.m. and 3 a.m. The 3 p.m. unleashing was funny but at 3 a.m.? Not so much.

I wondered how they were kept and how many were in the flock, but I could never discover which house kept them and no one would cop to the chickens. I now think they were illegal (the chickens, not the neighbors) and the owners didn't want to get busted.

When my parents moved to a more rural area, my mom decided to get chickens, so I've had a little exposure to them – most of it being me running from them and getting pecked about the ankles and calves for not giving up the sunflower seeds quickly enough.

But the eggs. Those were the first really, truly free-range eggs I had ever had and I was hooked. I remember looking at the color of the yolk in the pan and thinking what a great color for a room! I have since not been able to bring myself to buy cheap, mass-farmed eggs, but even the "free-range" or "cage-free" ones often don't compare to the eggs from my mom's chickens.

My husband and I have moved a good deal, and each time I threatened to get chickens – but I knew we wouldn't really put roots down. How do you move cross-country with three big dogs, two cats, a water dragon (who has since passed) plus a half-dozen chickens?

With this last move we've made a commitment to the area for at least five years, so I felt I was owed poultry. We were in escrow on a house and discovered that to have any chickens, we would need a minimum of five acres, even though it was zoned "rural." I couldn't believe it. The town also limited the number of pets per household and we already exceeded it by one. The house was on 1.25 acres, so I couldn't understand the logic of not letting people have chickens. Thankfully, that house fell through for a multitude of other reasons, but I learned a valuable lesson: Check the zoning restrictions before buying!

The house we did buy had a sadly dilapidated chicken coop in the back, so I was pretty sure chickens were allowed. In the spring, I was at the local farm store and they had a sign for chicks. Yes! I ordered six Aracauna, three Barred Rock and five Sal-link. Our property is zoned for 12 fowl, so I hedged my bets and committed to 14. Then my mom wanted in. She's only allowed to purchase chicks in groups of 6 where she lives but she wanted some different kinds, not exceeding 12.

So that's how I ended up with 26 chicks – plus three ducklings. Mom wanted ducks, and I'm a sucker for baby ducks, but the ducks were little water hellions! They soaked the brooder every night, so I was glad when they went off to the lake. The chicks were pretty low-key, except when they discovered they could jump/fly out of the brooder and roost on the shelves with the gardening supplies. Everyone is at home in the rehabilitated coop, and now I'm just waiting for eggs!

Culture snap

A new start-up business in Deptford is aimed at providing guided cultural tours of Deptford and Greenwich for visitors and locals.

Culture Snap
, which is based at the Albany, is a tour guide company consisting of nine young adults between the ages 18-27. They were brought together by Head for Business CIC under the Future Jobs Fund programme – a government initiative to get young people back into employment.

The name is intended to suggest 'snappy' tours run by young people to promote the neglected area of Deptford, South East London. "We aim to show residents, tourists and people new to the area of all ages, Deptford as we have discovered," the website explains. "We spent many hours researching the history and culture of Deptford and its surrounding areas to compile a 2 hour tour of the best spots of Deptford."

Find out more about the team members here; you can also read about the two tours they currently offer here.

The website is missing information about tour prices, but I'm informed these are as follows:

Adults : £8.20
Children : £4.70
Concessions : £5.50

Culture Snap is currently putting together more information in the form of a zine which should be available shortly.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mayor Steve on YouTube

If you are interested in hearing Mayor Steve's vision for his new term of office, you can view his speech to the council on YouTube here.

Parts one and three are obviously the most interesting, having been viewed about 24 times each, but Steve clearly suffers a bit of a lull in the middle with only 12 people having viewed part two. Early days, early days!

Deptford job centre to close

Bad news for everyone who uses the Jobcentre Plus on Deptford High Street - attempts to find a solution to its proposed closure have failed and it is due to close its doors in November.

The lease for the premises has expired - the building is set to be demolished and redeveloped in due course - but attempts to find a solution to the lack of premises have failed according to reports on This is Local London.

Once the Deptford office closes, those seeking work will have to go to Catford to sign on - £2 each way on the bus for cash fares. The DWP justifies its decision to close the job centre by suggesting it is committed to reducing the burden on taxpayers - a very naive and actually quite insulting simplification of the situation. I personally think it would be more sensible to give job seekers as much as help as possible to get into work - not create extra hurdles and increase financial hardship for them.

PCSU campaigners are having a meeting with Joan Ruddock about it, so perhaps not best to hold your breath.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

June 21, 1970 Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA Grateful Dead/New Riders/others

Ross unearthed a clip from the Berkeley Barb that sheds some light on a hitherto very obscure event. A tape endures of the Grateful Dead at UC Berkeley's Pauley Ballroom from June 21, 1970, but other than the vague assertion that it was an "American Indian Benefit," I knew nothing about it. The tape is quite short, about an hour, and Deadlists speculates that the show may be longer. However, given the reality of the concert, it now seems that the tape is probably complete save for a song or two. The listing for the show would be

June 21, 1970 Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Osceola/Sandy Bull/The Hog Farm/Indian Puddin and Pipe/Fananang
Benefit for The Pit River Indian Legal Defense Fund

The Barb clipping has a picture of a guitar player, and the caption suggests that it is Jerry Garcia. Although the photo is grainy, it doesn't look like Jerry to me. Any ideas on who it might be? Harvey Mandel, maybe? The photo caption says
JERRY GARCIA and The Grateful Dead will join half a dozen other bands and performing groups in a benefit this Sunday (June 21) at 8:30 pm for the Legal Defense Fund of the Pit River Indians who are fighting to regain their lands in the Shasta area and have been arrested trying to reclaim camp grounds now being trespassed upon by P, G & E. The contribute-what-you-can benefit sponsored by The Hog Farm and Native American Studies will be held at UC Berkeley's Pauley Ballroom. Groups lined up each day (and more are coming in each day) include The Dead, the New Riders of The Purple Sage, Osceola, The Hog Farm, Sandy Bull, Indian Pudding And Pipe and Fananang.
An intriguing remark on the Review thread for the audience tape on the Archive says
I'm trying to find out, if this show was opened by Sandy Bull, and The New Riders of the Purple Sage. someone was handing out lsd and doobies at the door. Wavy Gravy was the m.c. If it was, I was there, and sat and rapped with Jerry, outside, on the veranda. Please, help me here, as my memory is a little jaded, and dates are vague to me! Doctor R.O'C.
Doctor R.O'C surely attended this show, and its not surprising that Wavy Gravy was the MC, if "The Hog Farm" were listed as "performers." Wavy was probably the connection to the Grateful Dead, also. At this time, I don't think Wavy and the Dead were particularly connected, and this may have been one of their first of many collaborations. I'm sure that Hugh Romney (Wavy) and the band had met, but Garcia had said in the past that most of the benefits they did were because they met someone with whom they got along, rather than a devotion to specific causes. 

Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley

This photo from March 12, 2009 shows the ASUC Building at the back of Lower Sproul Plaza. Pauley Ballroom fills the rear (nearest to the camera) half of the second floor, with the 30-foot windows. The Bear's Lair coffee shop is in the basement. The ASUC Building was built in the mid-1960s, and its basic layout remains the same today as it was then. Pauley Ballroom is a 9000 square foot ballroom, used by the University of California for a variety of events (for internal pictures, see here; in a concert configuration, the shades would be drawn, and I'm not certain where the stage had been located). The university rates it as a capacity of 999, so probably a few more than that could be squeezed in.

The Grateful Dead had played Pauley Ballroom once before, on December 2, 1966, sharing the stage with Country Joe and The Fish. However, both such groups had long since outgrown this relatively modest venue. I have not tried to do an exact analysis, but other than unadvertised "stealth' shows, such as at The Matrix or Great American Music Hall, the Pauley Ballroom was not only the smallest venue they had played in some time, but the Dead never played an advertised show at a venue this small ever again. Even if we can find an exception, the band was long past such modest venues. Wavy Gravy must have given a heck of a pitch for the band to go for it.

I'm intrigued also by the phrase "contribute-what-you-can benefit." Did this mean people could get in for free if they wanted to? Wavy snuck a fastball past the University of California if that was the case. The co-sponsors of the event along with the Hog Farm was the Native American Studies department. A University organization would have been required to get access to the building, but the University would not want to sanction an almost-free concert by a Fillmore West headliner. My suspicion is that the concert was booked in advance, but the Dead were added relatively late, which would account for the tone of the caption in the ad.

The Concert
Whatever the caption may say, I'm inclined to believe Doctor R. O'C. and think that only the Grateful Dead, The New Riders of The Purple Sage and Sandy Bull performed. Its possible that Doctor R.O'C. arrived late and other acts had already played, but I don't think so. According to the caption, the benefit began at 8:30 pm, and a Sunday night Campus event had to end at 11:00 pm (I'm sure that's still true today). An opening set by Sandy Bull, followed by the New Riders and then an hour or so by the Dead would put the concert at around 2 1/2 hours.

There's an equipment issue as well. I can't even figure out how the Dead got their 1970 rig into Pauley Ballroom in the first place. However, Sandy Bull was a solo performer (albeit with multiple guitars and electronic effects) and the New Riders and the Dead would have used the same rig. Thus however difficult it was to muscle the Dead's equipment into Pauley, Sandy Bull could set up in front of it, play his set and then the Riders could step up, followed by the Dead. If there were a couple of other bands, I don't see how their equipment could have fit in, even if there was time.

For what its worth, Osceola was a familiar band at the Family Dog, although I know nothing else abut them,  and Indian Puddin and Pipe and Fanangang (usually spelled Phanangang) were from Seattle and Boston respectively, and were associated with former Moby Grape manager Matthew Katz.

March 1970 New Riders Shows--Did They Happen?

In a prior post, I was very pleased to find the earliest known 1970 show by the New Riders of The Purple Sage, on March 12, at the tiny Inn Of The Beginning in Cotati. Since that was the day before  a pair of weekend shows at Berkeley's New Orleans House (March 13 and 14, 1970), I drew an elaborate conclusion that the New Riders were testing Dave Torbert as a bassist. I posited that he presumably passed, and that would have set the stage for the New Riders surfacing in late April.

That was yesterday. I am now rethinking the whole concept. Maybe the shows never took place at all, so my logical deductions about the New Riders bass player had a foundation in empty air. First, the new evidence, via Ross:

The weekly Berkeley Barb display ad for the New Orleans House (for the week of March 6-12, 1970) shows the New Riders as appearing on Friday and Saturday, as has been advertised for some time.

However, Ross also sent a clip from the Barb entertainment listings of the same week, and it shows Big Brother as appearing at the New Orleans House. Now, the display ads were often prepared some time in advance, not surprisingly, but the Scenedrome entertainment listings were much more current, often updated by phone. Its hard not to draw the conclusion that Big Brother seems to have replaced the New Riders at the Boarding House.

Whatever the story--and I'll speculate on that in a minute--Big Brother and The Grateful Dead had been good friends for many years, and David Nelson and Peter Albin were even better friends, so the substitution seems likely. During this period, Big Brother was getting back into performing without Janis Joplin, so headlining a small venue (or a large club, depending on your point of view) like The New Orleans House made business sense. Ross reminded me of another New Riders booking:
The next week's Barb (March 13-19, 1970) advertised a benefit at San Francisco's Family Dog On The Great Highway, featuring the New Riders of The Purple Sage and Hot Tuna. I had long dismissed this as a valid New Riders date, since the Grateful Dead were in Buffalo the night before (March 17), and it seemed unlikely that Garcia and Hart would fly back for a benefit. I have always presumed that Hot Tuna played the show, but that the New Riders did not.

However, the new evidence from Ross and the Comment thread on the March 12, 1970 post has led me to re-think my entire view of the evolution of the New Riders in Spring 1970. In contravention of everything I wrote yesterday, I am going to suggest that
  • The New Riders never played March 12 in Cotati, March 13-14 in Berkeley or March 18 in San Francisco
  • Dave Torbert was not a member of the New Riders until April of 1970, begging the question of who the March 1970 was supposed to be
I tend to be narrowly focused on live performance dates, but one of the themes of the Comment thread was the amount of stressful activity going on in the Grateful Dead universe in February and March 1970. To note some important highlights, for which my primary source is Dennis McNally (p. 360-363)
  • Tom Constanten was fired after the January 23 show in Hawaii, not to be replaced.
  • The Dead were busted down on Bourbon Street on January 31, 1970. While it was the usual setup, pot busts were never a casual matter back then.
  • At the same time the Dead were getting busted on tour, Dead manager Lenny Hart was trying to move the Dead offices from Novato to the Family Dog in San Francisco, where he would become the manager of the concert venue as well as the Dead.
  • In early February, however, Lenny Hart refused to show Family Dog impresario Chet Helms his account books, and Chet refused to go through with the merger. Helms kept back-of-the-envelope type accounts himself, so he might not have been bothered by a bit of sloppiness, but he had to have pretty serious suspicions to cancel on what could have been a venue-saving merger. Lenny Hart scuttled back to Novato before the Dead returned from tour after February 23.
  • Jerry Garcia and Mountain Girl were on the verge of losing their house and were desperate for cash to buy the house they lived in (it was for sale). Garcia was owed a check from MGM for working on the Zabriskie Point soundtrack, and Lenny appeared to have absconded with it. Garcia and MG had to move, and this precipitated a crisis. Ramrod ultimately told the band "it's him or me," and Garcia told Lenny "we know we can't do without him."
  • When Lenny was pushed aside, investigation showed that he had stolen at least $155,000 from the band, effectively bankrupting them.
  • The Dead installed a new management troika, with John McIntire handling the record company, Sam Cutler handling the road and Rock Scully handling promotion.
  • Between January 30 (New Orleans) and March 8 (Phoenix), the Grateful Dead played 22 nights in concert, in an insane schedule (New Orleans>St. Louis>SF>NYC>Texas>SF>Santa Monica>Phoenix). 
  • With non-stop madness swirling around the Grateful Dead throughout February and March, somehow the band found the light to rehearse and record Workingman's Dead at Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco. Deeply in debt, the band focused on rehearsing and recording a simple album of songs that could be made cheaply. They succeeded and found a huge new audience as well.
I believe the New Riders of The Purple Sage shows scheduled for March were booked in February, but they were never actually played. The Inn Of The Beginning did not have "headline" acts on weeknights, so the New Riders did not have to be "replaced." The New Orleans House would have needed a headliner, but Big Brother must have done the Dead a favor, and in any case they were re-establishing themselves. I wouldn't be surprised if Big Brother replaced the Riders at the Family Dog on March 18 as well.

My old reason for rejecting the New Riders date on March 18 was thinking that since the Dead were in Buffalo the night before, it seemed unlikely that Garcia and Hart would fly back for a benefit. Ironically, I actually think Garcia may have flown back anyway, in order to mix Workingman's Dead. However, McNally dates the Dead's discovery of Lenny Hart's perfidy to early March, and I think a big barrier to any New Riders shows was asking Mickey Hart to play. Mickey couldn't not play Dead dates, as the band needed the money too desperately, but the New Riders shows were a different proposition. A few New Riders dates had been booked, but the turmoil surrounding the Dead meant that the shows were never played.

The Dave Torbert Question
Despite my clever line of reasoning in my prior post about the March shows, I had wondered how the Riders had found time to rehearse Dave Torbert enough to get through three nights as a headliner. Looking at Garcia and the Dead's activity level and problems for February and March, I don't think it would have been possible. I think Phil Lesh was still on board as the New Riders bass player, as the band would have had no time to rehearse. The only alternative was that Robert Hunter was going to make his live debut as the Riders bassist, and since these shows were never played, it never occurred.

Whatever Garcia, Nelson and Marmaduke's plans for the New Riders in March 1970--an interesting if only hypothetical question--they were thrown over by chaos in the Dead organization. Thus Dave Torbert's hiring probably did not take place until April of 1970. That would suggest that the first Torbert show as April 17, 1970 at The Family Dog on The Great Highway, presumably after some intensive rehearsal.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pets or Livestock?

by Barbara Palermo

Chickens: Are they pets or livestock? This is a question that municipalities struggle with and is often a major obstacle to legalizing backyard chickens. Throughout our long battle here in Salem, Ore., to join the Urban Chicken Movement, vigorous debates ensued more than once over the definition of livestock. Our city code, like many others, states “livestock” are not permitted in residential zones. In my mind, a few pet hens are not livestock any more than a couple of fruit trees is an orchard, a vegetable garden is a farm, a litter of pups is a dog kennel, or the two cars in my driveway is a dealership, or . . . well, you get the idea.

Unfortunately, city officials are only concerned with the city’s definition of livestock, not mine – or anyone else’s for that matter. For example, it makes no difference that the Oregon Department of Agriculture doesn't include chickens in its definition of livestock. It doesn’t matter, because Salem’s definition of this word currently includes poultry – and therein lies the problem. Semantics, that’s what all this fuss boils down to.

Most logical people would agree that the definition of livestock should be based on the intended purpose of the animal and the number of animals in question, rather than strictly the type of animal. Local politicians must understand this on some level because in Salem, residents can keep bees in their backyards as long as the insects are not raised with the intention of making a profit. The city considers a small number of hives a food-producing hobby, like gardening, rather than a commercial venture. This makes sense. But it helps that insects and tomato plants are not considered livestock.

You may be surprised to learn that Salem residents can also raise potbellied pigs, which (like chickens) are considered livestock according to the city’s definition. An exception written in the city code, written for reasons nobody can remember or explain, allows city residents to keep a pig weighing up to 100 pounds (although I doubt anyone has ever bothered to enforce this portion of the ordinance, rounding up overweight pigs). I have nothing against pigs, but it strikes me as not even remotely logical that I could have a 100-pound pig, but not a 3-pound bird that provides food.

You might think, “If they can make an exception for potbellied pigs, then why not just make an exception for hens and avoid the definition problem altogether?” Good question, but apparently there is no answer. For reasons I cannot explain, our elected officials prefer to go a different route. If I spend too much time anguishing over this I will get upset and start biting my fingernails again. So let’s move on.

What makes a chicken a pet? Most people would say the fact that we only have a few, all with names and unique personalities. Some would say they are pets because we play with them, care for them, and teach them tricks. If raised as chicks and handled frequently, adult chickens will eat out of our hands, let us hold them, and come running when called, even jump into our laps (as mine do). In other words, they behave like pets. All these things are true, but I can do better than that. I can prove chickens are, in fact, pets. Read the true story below and you’ll understand.

I noticed that one of my hens, Siena, acted strange whenever I picked her up. She would stretch her neck, shake her head and open her mouth wide as if she was gasping. As soon as I put her down, she would return to normal, though, so I wasn’t concerned.

One day Siena prolapsed slightly when laying an egg, so I took her to the kitchen sink to wash off her behind. When I tilted her nearly upside down to rinse her off, she began gasping for air and then went completely limp in my hands. I laid her down on her side and watched as she lied there, motionless, unable to breathe – dying right in front of me. Her bright red comb turned dark blue, almost black. She closed her eyes, took one last breath, and froze with her beak still open wide. My husband said “She can’t breathe, blow into her mouth!” I began blowing hard puffs of air into her mouth while he held her limp head. “This isn’t going to work,” I thought, tears rolling down my face. My heart was breaking. I was about to give up when my husband shouted “Don’t stop, its working! Her comb is starting to turn red again!” I kept blowing and blowing. Finally, Siena opened her eyes, regained color, and sat up looking a little dazed. We were so happy.

After researching her symptoms online, I surmised it was probably gapeworm. I treated her, and my other hens, with pour-on Ivermectin and now she is a happy, healthy, egg-laying hen again.

I doubt any farmer or commercial poultry operator would have bothered to resuscitate a chicken that cost $1.50. This is what people do for pets that they love.

For more information about how to convince elected officials that chickens are pets, not livestock, and to learn how to adopt a chicken-keeping ordinance, go to http://www.chicken-revolution.com/.

Monday, June 14, 2010

December 2, 1966 Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley, CA: Country Joe and The Fish/Grateful Dead

This clipping from the December 1, 1966 San Francisco Chronicle reveals no new information about the Grateful Dead or their history, so strictly speaking it doesn't belong on my blog, but it cracks me up and its my blog.

The Chronicle, like most papers, used press clippings and photos sent in by promoters, agents or artists to fill space when they needed it. The blurb for this photo of Jerry Garcia and Pigpen was for the December 2, 1966 show at UC Berkeley's Pauley Ballroom in Sproul Plaza, and has the following text
Jerry Garcia, left, and Pig Pen are a special two fifths of the Grateful Dead, a blues rock band that will play a dance concert tomorrow night at the Pauley Ballroom, University of California. Garcia is the lead guitarist, Pen is lead singer and plays harmonica and organ. The group, which has been in existence for about 16 months, is one of the two most popular such organizations in the Bay Area. It evolved out of a jug band which included Garcia, Pen and Bob Weir, the Dead's rhythm guitarist. Phil Lest is the bassist and Bill Sommers is the drummer.

I wonder who wrote this? If the Dead are one of the two most popular such organizations in the Bay Area, who were the other? What falls under the category of "such organizations?"

Supposedly Bill Kreutzmann had a fake ID with the name "Bill Sommers," which is why his name sometimes appeared that way in early publicity. It may also be the reason that he is listed as "Bill The Drummer" on the back of the Dead's first album.

March 12, 1970 Inn Of The Beginning, Cotati, CA New Riders of The Purple Sage

[For all my clever theorizing in this post, I have now rejected it. For the reasons I think the March 12, 13 and 14 New Riders shows were never played, see my post here. I am leaving this post intact in the interests of Historiography, and anyway the Comment thread is great]

JGMF had an interesting query about the lack of activity of The New Riders of The Purple Sage between November 28-29, 1969 and early 1970. I am going to recap some of my comments there, with the added information that I seem to have found the earliest New Riders show for 1970. The clip above, from Ralph Gleason's Chronicle column on March 11, 1970, mentions the New Riders of The Purple Sage playing the Inn Of The Beginning in Cotati on Wednesday, March 12, 1970. The Inn Of The Beginning was the site of the previous known New Riders show, on either November 28 or 29 (I'm inclined to believe they only played Friday the 28th, not both nights).

We used to think that the New Riders only played occasionally from Summer 1969 until April 1970. We have now discovered, however, that the New Riders were working pretty steadily from August through November of 1969. Why did the New Riders stop playing for some months, and then return as regular performers by April? The short answer is that I think its about finding a replacement for Phil Lesh. I think Phil agreed to play bass for a while, and then lost interest or reached the limits of his commitment (eg he told Jerry he would do it for six months, or something like that). The steady 5-month run is why I think the band was actually called to a halt, temporarily, and since Phil Lesh was the only member who didn't continue, his replacement seems like the biggest issue.

All the stories about finding a bass player for the New Riders make considerably more sense if you think about them as taking place in Winter 1970 instead of Summer 69. I think Phil agreed to get the show on the road--an unrehearsed Phil is better than most bassists, period--but it wasn't his thing. Have you ever heard a word of nostalgia or regret from Phil for passing off the Riders? Subsequent history has shown that Phil was never a guy who liked to play bars, nor did he have any interest in playing simple bass parts--even when Leshidelically embellished--for much longer than a benefit concert.

The whole saga about Hunter writing "Friend Of The Devil" with Dawson took place in Winter 1970. Hunter even said somewhere that he rehearsed with them but never played a gig, and he suspected Nelson was planning to get Torbert in anyway. The whole Hunter-as-bassist scenario fits into a time period when Garcia and the Riders were working on new material in anticipation of performing, but had no bookings at the time. Thus the New Riders of The Purple Sage existed, but only in the Greater Kentfield Metropolitan Area.

Here's my ratiocinatio about the New Riders circa Winter 1970:
  • Garcia, Nelson and Dawson took their concept out in the clubs in late 1969, to see if it was viable. Mickey Hart and Phil Lesh came along for the ride, essentially as a favor to Jerry and for general fun.
  • In early 1970, Garcia decided he was serious about the Riders concept. Lesh played out his option--he was never a nightclub guy anyway. Hart stuck around. That meant they had to find a real bass player. Do you think Garcia and Nelson didn't talk about it?
  • The Riders started writing and rehearsing new songs. Hunter was their ghost bass player. Garcia and Nelson must have strung him along in some ways, without quite lying to him. Hunter is an adequate bass player, but I suspect Nelson had a bit more of a bluesy feel in mind.
  • Dave Torbert and David Nelson had played together for two years in the blues-oriented New Delhi River Band, but the band broke up in early 1968. Torbert went on to play in some groups that didn't go far (Shango and Horses) while Nelson didn't perform much at all until the New Riders started in mid-1969. By late 1969, Torbert's ventures had folded, and he had gone to Hawaii to surf.
  • Torbert was actually on his way to England to join Matthew Kelly in his band (Gospel Oak), and stopped at his parents to pick up clothes, when Nelson called him about the New Riders. I find it a stretch that Nelson just "happened" to call when Torbert was in California and about to leave the country. I think Dave Torbert was the first round draft pick all along--in fact that may have been Nelson's plan for quite a while--but he simply wasn't available until Spring 1970. First Lesh and then Hunter were placeholders until Torbert was in town and willing. 

The only New Riders shows I know of in March 1970 are this one at the Inn Of The Beginning on Thursday, March 12, and then Friday and Saturday, March 13 and 14 at the New Orleans House in Berkeley. I think these three shows were Dave Torbert's debut with the New Riders, and a test to see if Torbert fit in live and got along with the rest of the band. Obviously he passed with flying colors, and the New Riders could be booked as part of the May 1970 Grateful Dead college tour.

The burst of late April 1970 New Riders shows (7 shows between April 17-30) was needed to get the band ready for the road. However, these few shows in March needed to be early enough to see if the band wanted to continue down the Torbert Highway, but clearly and fortunately they did. Since we have no tapes or setlists for New Riders shows after September 18, 1969, nor any before May 1970, we have no idea how the March 1970 and Fall 1969 shows compared, but at least we can see the outlines of how the group was thinking.

Some Considerations
It is a commonplace of the New Riders saga that the Dead realized that by using Nelson, Dawson and three Dead members, they could be their own opening act. Thus they would receive the opening act's fee at a considerably lower expense. This was tried once in August 1969, when the early New Riders went to Seattle, and then the idea was shelved until Spring of 1970. By Spring 1970, the Riders were down to only two Dead members (Garcia and Hart), rather than three. No one ever discusses the "time-to-market" of the New Riders concept (not that such a concept was identified at the time).

I think the principal factor was the release of Live/Dead in November 1969. Prior to that time, although the Grateful Dead were a wonderful live band, only those who had already seen them knew that, and touring became a Catch-22. The Dead couldn't receive good fees except where they had already played, and it limited their touring options to a small number of cities. In particular they couldn't put together a profitable string of one-nighters in the smaller cities between Dead strongholds like San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New York or Boston.

Once Live/Dead started to blast out of stereos in college dorm rooms across the country, all sorts of people suddenly wanted to see the Dead in person. Prior to the album, I think the Dead had a hard enough time getting paying shows, so asking that their completely unknown opening act receive a fee also (probably $500-1500) was not on the table. By the time the May college tour was booked, however, probably in February or so, every booking agent knew that the Dead would pack college gymnasiums from Alfred, NY to Kirkwood, MO, and so they did. Since promoters expected long shows, the better to sell more popcorn, the fact that the Dead brought their own opening act made a nice compromise, a little fatter fee for the band in return for simpler logistics for the promoter.

The Grateful Dead's finances had been destroyed by Lenny Hart, so they had to tour hard and maximize every dollar they could, but the New Riders of The Purple Sage assisted in that concept. If the Dead were headlining in an out of the way spot like Binghamton, NY, there wasn't touring rock bands around to open the show anyway, so the New Riders made a nice fit. Once Workingman's Dead was released in June, 1970, the audience grasped where they fit into the Dead's cosmology, but prior to that time it was a very new concept that would have had to be explained to promoters nationwide.

The truth is that I doubt the New Riders were actually billed anywhere on the Spring 1970 tour other than the Fillmore East. I think the shows were promoted as "An Evening With The Grateful Dead"--yet another now-conventional innovation--and the audiences had no idea who the New Riders were. If anyone actually saw those shows, it would be interesting to know what the perception of the New Riders was at the time.

The Inn Of The Beginning, 8201 Old Redwood Highway, Cotati, CA
Iconoclastic Cotati, CA was the "college town" associated with the then newly-opened (1966) Sonoma State College. Before wineries priced Cotati out of the range of regular people, the town was a bucolic hippie dream, a relaxed agricultural area, next to a college and still an easy drive to San Francisco. The Inn Of The Beginning, a sort of coffee house with music at 8201 Old Redwood Highway, opened on September 28, 1968 with the band Bronze Hog. The Bronze Hog still live in Cotati, as far as I know, and still periodically played The Inn Of The Beginning until it closed a few years ago, which nicely sums up the many charms of Cotati (and I'll bet they're not unknown at the Irish Bar which replaced it).

Jerry Garcia and The New Riders of The Purple Sage played a number of low-key shows at the Inn in 1969, often on weeknights. Its not surprising to find that when debuting a new bass player the next year, and possibly new material, they would choose to do so on a Wednesday night at a tiny, comfortable joint amongst friends.

[As I said at the top, I am now rejecting all my own reasoning, as upon reflection I think the March 12, 13 and 14 shows were never played. See my later post here]

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Deptford birds: Black Redstart

Regular readers will know I am a bit of a twitcher, although not enough to go romping round the country in pursuit of rare birds. But I do enjoy spotting and identifying birds as I go about my daily business.

So I was particularly thrilled to get the opportunity to watch a Black Redstart singing its delightful song, perched on top of an aerial above Tomi's Kitchen as I waited for the London Bridge-bound train last night.

According to the RSPB site:
The black redstart is a small robin-sized bird that has adapted to live at the heart of industrial and urban centres. Its name comes from the plumage of the male, which is grey-black in colour with a red tail. With fewer than 100 breeding pairs in the UK, the black redstart is on the amber list of Birds of Conservation Concern.

If you go to the website you can listen to a recording of its song if you need help identifying it from a distance, as I did. I didn't have a good enough camera to photograph it, but managed to take a short video of it singing, which helped me to confirm its identity. I won't inflict the video on you, it's really not worth it!

My ID process was as follows: dark brown/black head, pale pinky/tan chest, longish tail, slightly bigger than a robin, small sharp beak. The song was the final giveaway, and apparently it is most often spotted when it is perched and singing. Deptford Creek has been known to be home to two or three breeding pairs since 1998, and I'm chuffed to have finally seen one!

For more information, you can see the Creekside Centre page or find out more info about its habitats and distribution at this page.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

June 15, 1967 Straight Theater, 1702 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA Christening with The Grateful Dead/Wildflower

(a scan of the Straight Theater Benefit held at The Avalon Ballroom on May 19, 1966, featuring the Grateful Dead, The Wildflower and The Outfit. h/t Ross for the scan)

The Grateful Dead's performance at the Straight Theater pre-opening party appears on some lists and not others, as it is a generally known event about which very little was known. I myself had always considered it an unconfirmed Grateful Dead performance, for various reasons I will explain. However, Ross confirmed the Grateful Dead's performance with Stephen Ehret of The Wildflower, who also performed. Now that we can move the performance into the confirmed category, its worth briefly documenting a little bit about the event.

The Straight Theater, 1702 Haight Street, San Francisco
The Straight Theater was an old movie theater in the heart of the Haight Ashbury, at 1702 Haight on the corner of Haight and Cole (another entrance seems to have had the address of 1748 Haight). In early 1966, some local hippies decided to convert the old theater into a hippie arts center that would present musical and other performances as well as act as a sort of Hip Community Center. The complete story of The Straight on The Haight is quite interesting and detailed, and is best told on founder Reggie Wiliams's site, but for narrative purposes I will provide a brief summary here.

The old theater required a lot of work inside, and also required a lot of work to achieve the necessary Permits to present live shows. However, the theater immediately became a clubhouse of sorts, and was initially the rehearsal hall for a group called The Outfit. At some point in 1967, the theater also became a rehearsal hall for the Grateful Dead. It is very hard to pin down Dead rehearsal hall dates (there being few obvious anchors like posters or reviews), but I believe it was in between the band's time at the Sausalito Heliport but before the Potrero Theater.

The Straight was an important Community cause in the Haight. A benefit featuring the Grateful Dead and The Wildflower was held at the Avalon on May 19, 1966 (the poster is up top) to raise funds, and another was held there on March 5, 1967 (featuring Country Joe and The Fish, Big Brother, Moby Grape and The Sparrow). Its interesting to see that Chet Helms allowed the Avalon to be used to raise funds for a potential competitor, but such was San Francisco at the time. Most people forget that the Fillmore and Avalon were about 3 miles from the Haight, and many if not most hippies did not have direct access to cars. Thus many hippies saw the two main ballrooms as venues largely directed at the suburbs (rightly or wrongly), and the Straight seemed to seemed to solve that problem.

By June 1967, the physical work on the Straight Theater was complete, and only a Dance Permit was required to pave the way for the opening of the new venue. Dance Permits were a strange holdover from the Prohibition Era, in which the San Francisco got to determine which establishments could allow dancing. This made mid-60s San Francisco a sort of alternative universe Footloose-By-The-Bay, where dancing was mostly illegal but LSD was not. The struggles over a Dance Permit were a significant problem for the Straight, but that is a lengthy (if fascinating) story for another time.

The Straight Theater Christening, Thursday, June 15, 1967
The "Straight Theater Christening" was a private event--thus not requiring a Permit--to celebrate the opening of the Straight. In fact, the Straight would not open for over a month (July 22, 1967) and various Permit related problems continued to interfere, but that would have lain in the future. The two acts performing at the event were Oakland's Wildflower and a neighborhood band, the Grateful Dead (it was that kind of neighborhood).

The night of June 15, 1967 was particularly momentous. The hugely anticipated Monterey Pop Festival would begin on the next evening (Friday June 16), in which numerous local San Francisco underground bands, most without even records, would share the stage with major acts from Los Angeles, New York and London. The Who were playing the Fillmore of June 16 and 17, and heading down to Monterey for their Sunday (June 18) show. Most of the famous Haight Ashbury bands still lived in the Haight, for the most part, so the Straight Theater Christening was apparently the coolest of the cool parties, and in some ways the last night before Monterey Pop irrevocably expanded the San Francisco scene beyond the City's borders.

I have never doubted that the Grateful Dead were expected to be the featured attraction at the Straight Theater Christening, nor have I doubted that the band members were in attendance. However, most of the references to the party have usually been second or third hand, and the few who have recalled attending it seem somewhat foggy (ahem). The Dead were just getting back from their first Eastern tour, and had a Southern California show on Friday night (June 16), so there were some logistics involved. There could have been--may have been--a rolling jam session in which Dead members participated, but that was no guarantee of a Dead concert.

In this unique instance, the Grateful Dead lived in the neighborhood, and many if not most of the party guests knew the band members personally. Thus someone who may have recalled chatting with Phil Lesh and vaguely recall Jerry Garcia on stage would not have been focused on whether the Dead per se actually performed, as the Straight Theater Christening was more like a block party than a concert.

However, Ross spoke to Stephen Ehret of the Wildflower, and Ehret recalls the Dead's performance, so that puts the show into the confirmed cateogory. As to what they may have played, or how long, or any other details, no one may ever know, but at least we know for sure about the best neighborhood block party we wish we attended.

Thamesworld - promenade performance

Apologies for the long absence - June is proving a busy month for me in terms of business travel but I'm delighted to see that my fellow Deptford bloggers are keeping up with everything that's happening in SE8 in my absence. Some interesting stories and events listed on Crosswhatfields (as well as a fascinating post about Deptford D Decker), Caroline's Miscellany and Deptford Misc which I missed.

However, thanks to Luke (soon-to-be Deptford resident!) I've been alerted to next weekend's series of walks by the Deptford Stories Company.

A unique, live, promenade performance along the banks of the Thames,
through the Thames Path, Greenwich and the Ahoy Sailing Centre, Deptford,
which has the best river views and the best Thames beach.

Thamesworld: liquid history
By John Turner

Design Nadia Lakhani
Costume Kinga Hajnal

Promenade performance along the banks of the Thames
For just three days in June, closing with a celebration on June 22 –
the day the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury.

Stories of the river over hundreds of years woven into drama laced with humour. Stories of Irish, Eastern European and West Indian communities interweave with Dockers, Lascars and ship yard workers who crammed into the bustling neighbourhoods. Songs play their part: Waterloo Sunset, Lord Kitchener’s Empire Windrush Calypso, The Israelites and more.

Saturday June 19 2.30pm
Sunday June 20 3.00pm
Tuesday June 22 6.00pm prompt (or we’ll get swamped by high tide)

Wear flat shoes!
Meeting point for the Promenade Production
The Hoy, 193 Creek Road, London, SE8 3BU
8 minutes walk from DLR Cutty Sark,
or from Deptford High Street/Creek Road

Tickets £5, numbers limited, 10 years +
reserve tickets: TonyOleary2@sky.com jenny@jennyharris.org

Thursday, June 10, 2010

October 12, 1968 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: The Grateful Dead--plus Jimi?

(a scan of the Wes Wilson poster [FD141] for the October 11-12-13, 1968 Avalon Ballroom show, with the Grateful Dead, Lee Michaels, Linn County and Mance Lipscomb)

In the early days of tape trading, one of the first and finest pieces of listenable early Grateful Dead was a scalding performance from the Avalon Ballroom. It initially circulated as October 13, 1968, the third night of a three night run, but subsequent research revealed it to be from Saturday, October 12, 1968. No matter. It was a classic performance of the Dead's finest early material, with the band burning rubber and Jerry Garcia playing like he was possessed.

Stories subsequently circulated over the years that Jimi Hendrix was supposed to jam with the Dead that night. Jimi Hendrix was headlining at Winterland for three nights (Thursday thru Saturday, October 10-12), so he was unquestionably in San Francisco. The most common version of the story, and the one I find most plausible, was that Hendrix was supposed to jam with the Dead in their Novato rehearsal hall on Saturday afternoon. Hendrix blew the Dead off, but then showed up at the end of the Avalon show, guitar in hand. The story says that he stood at the side of the stage, waiting to be waved on, but a dismissive Garcia refused to look at him. I find the Avalon tape all the more thrilling to imagine a disrespected Jerry blazing away in front of Hendrix, trying to show him how little need he had for him.

For various reasons, I find this story quite plausible, and this post will explore some of the interesting crosscurrents that underlie both Hendrix's presumed actions as well as Garcia's.

Ships In The Night
As time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future Jerry Garcia and Jimi Hendrix have become increasingly iconic figures. Invoking either of their names conjures up a host of signs and signifiers that stand for much of the 60s: Jimi or Jerry are metonymies for the music, guitars, drugs, freedom, excesses and even hairstyles of the 1960s. Yet given the penchant of both musicians to jam with any and all players, it seems remarkable that they never played together, and possibly never spoke. Thus the apparent missed opportunity of October 12, 1968 looms as a particularly poignant event. It wasn't the first time that Hendrix and Garcia were in the same place, by any means.

June 15, 1967 Opening Night Party, Straight Theater, San Francisco, CA
The newly-renovated Straight Theater (at 1702 Haight) had a private party to celebrate its forthcoming Grand Opening (which did not in fact occur for several more months). The Grateful Dead were reputed to have played at the party, and Hendrix was reputed to have dropped by. Hendrix was in town in anticipation of attending the Monterey Pop Festival on the coming weekend (Friday-Sunday June 16-18).

I have been unable to confirm the Dead's presence, although it seems likely; Hendrix's presence seems decidedly more wishful. Keep in mind that prior to Monterey Pop, almost no one would have known what he looked like or even heard him. Given his then-obscurity in the United States, its unlikely that Garcia and Hendrix met, if Jimi was even there.

June 16-18, 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, Monterey County Fairgrounds, Monterey, CA
Jimi Hendrix was definitely around the Fairgrounds all weekend, and the Grateful Dead arrived Saturday morning from Los Angeles (June 17). Hendrix hung out and jammed in various places, while the Dead played for free at the Football field of the Junior College across the way. Ironically enough, Bob Weir found himself jamming with Hendrix in a tent sponsored by an equipment company, although Weir was playing acoustic guitar at the time. However, for all the jamming going on, Hendrix seems never to have gotten over to Football field, at least when Garcia and the Dead were there.

The Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix Experience both performed on Sunday night, June 18, but the 30-minute sets at the Festival and the strict running order made no provision for sitting in. However, after Hendrix's set, everyone present--certainly including Garcia--knew who Hendrix was.

June 20-25, 1967 Fillmore Auditorium and Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA
The Jimi Hendrix Experience followed the Monterey Pop Festival with a six night booking at the Fillmore Auditorium, opening for the Jefferson Airplane. The Dead and every other San Francisco band were playing a variety of free concerts around Golden Gate Park and the Bay Area. The Jimi Hendrix Experience even played a free concert in the park, on June 25, 1967, but Hendrix and Garcia never played together during this week.

August 16 & 18 Max Yasgur's Farm, Bethel, NY
The Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix both played Woodstock, but I doubt they crossed paths. Leaving aside the enormous size of the backstage area, the Dead were scheduled for Saturday (August 16), although they did not play until very late that night. They were probably helicoptered out on Sunday (August 17). Hendrix was the last act of the concert, originally scheduled for Sunday night, but in fact he did not play until Monday morning, August 18.

May 16, 1970 Temple University Stadium, Philadelphia, PA
The Grateful Dead were second-billed to Jimi Hendrix for this outdoor show in the relatively modest Temple University football stadium (Steve Miller Band and Cactus filled out the bill). While Hendrix was recording in New York City and would have had a relatively easy journey to Philadelphia, the Dead were on a frantic leg where they played Kirkwood, MO Thursday night (May 14), then flew to New York for two shows at the Fillmore East on Friday night (May 15) for two shows using the Fillmore East sound system and then presumably met their equipment in Philadelphia on Saturday. Given that the Dead had a concert on the beach in Fairfield, CT on Sunday night (May 17), there wouldn't have been time for any jamming, and maybe not much for hanging out.

Nonetheless, if Jerry Garcia and Jimi Hendrix ever exchanged more than pleasantries it would have been here in Philadelphia. By 1970, however, Jimi Hendrix was perhaps the biggest rock star in the world, and Jerry Garcia was an important guy in his own right, and the backstage scene would not have been the low-key musician's hangout that it had been in Monterey. Thus I find it pretty unlikely Jimi and Jerry did more than acknowledge each other amongst a crush of people, even if their schedules converged.

Jerry Garcia, Gunslinger
Among Jerry Garcia's most admirable non-musical qualities were both his continual willingness to choose Art over Commerce and his good natured graciousness to fans and others who were babbling and tongue tied in his presence. While the Dead were an avowedly commercial enterprise, Garcia made sure that Music came first, so the Dead continued to travel a challenging musical road long after their contemporaries had cheerily lapsed into easy listening music. There were plenty of compromises of course, but at a variety of critical junctures Garcia and the Dead always chose Music: not repeating songs every night, jamming with side groups, letting people tape shows, releasing their old performances. Garcia ranks very highly amongst sixties artists for succeeding on his terms more than those of others, and Deadheads are rightly proud of him for that.

On a more immediate level, Garcia had rock star status very early, and yet he was continually generous and witty with all sorts of journalists, fans and rubes, long after he had any reason to be. While Garcia tried to keep a low profile after 1969 and was rarely seen in public, we have all heard him give interesting answers to an unprepared doofus interviewer, and everyone knows a few stories of friends who somehow got backstage (or somewhere) and met Garcia, who indulged them, however briefly, by treating them like a human being. Really, who could be a better rock star than Jerry Garcia? A fantastic musician, performing endlessly, always taking the artistic High Road while friendly to his loyal fans. Brilliant, serious and decent: what more do you need?

About 1971, Keith Richard said in a Rolling Stone interview "nobody gets to be John Lennon by accident." He meant that for all of John's gifts as a musician, thinker and talker, his formidable status as the focal point of the world's most famous rock band was not just serendipity. One thing that gets lost in inevitable (and rightful) praise of Jerry Garcia was his burning ambition and ferocious competitiveness. Personally, I see those as virtues, but they are usually left out of the Garcia picture.

Garcia practiced nonstop, played live constantly and worked with a huge variety of musicians, always playing to the best of his abilities at any given moment. Most successful musicians learn a set of hits by rote to get them through shows night after night--Garcia's whole method involved constant improvisation. Garcia was diving off the 10-meter board every night instead of just jumping off the side of the pool. Jerry not only wanted to be a great musician, he wanted to be known as a great musician and succeed as one, and he devoted his whole life to that in a profoundly single-minded way.

From 1967 to 1970, San Francisco was one of the focal points of the rock music world. The Fillmore, Fillmore West and the Avalon were the coolest places to play, San Francisco bands were hugely successful on their own terms, and the whole scene more or less created the modern rock concert as we know it today. San Francisco also stood for Art over Commerce, supposedly a place where Music reigned, in direct opposition to "Plastic LA" and business-like New York City. While that characterization of all three cities is absurdly simplistic, such notions were in the air.

One of the rituals for touring bands playing San Francisco for the first time, particularly from England, was an invitation to spend an afternoon jamming with the Grateful Dead or the Jefferson Airplane, depending on who was in town. Part of the ritual involved getting high--really high--to prove you were cool, but another part of the ritual involved jamming. Real musicians will jam at the drop of a hat, and they like nothing better than playing something difficult and proving that they can lay it down with anybody. In jazz it was called a "cutting contest," usually a couple of saxophonists trading chorus after chorus to show who was better, but the essence was that true musicians relished the challenge. Bluegrass musicians enjoyed flaunting their chops as much as their jazz compatriots, so Garcia was no stranger to implicitly competitive music making.

Paul McCartney attended an Airplane rehearsal (probably at the Geary Temple) in 1967. Eric Burdon and The Animals hung out with the Dead soon after the Monterey Pop Festival. When Jimi Hendrix played Fillmore West in February 1968, and Hendrix and Mick Taylor (from John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, who were opening the show) went off to jam with the Airplane. When Traffic came to San Francisco in March of 1968, they were met and dosed by representatives of the Dead at SFO Airport and spent the weekend jamming with the Dead. In January 1969, Fleetwood Mac spent an afternoon trading licks with the Dead.

Although these meetings took place offstage, they loomed large to musicians, and those initial contacts were made manifest in later years. Jack Casady was invited onstage to jam with Jimi Hendrix on occasion, and was even apparently offered a role in the Experience (presumably Noel Redding would have switched to guitar); Fleetwood Mac spent a memorable off-night in New York City at the Fillmore East jamming with the Dead (on February 11, 1970); Jerry Garcia sat in with Traffic at Giants Stadium in 1994. Garcia was a largely friendly guy, but he was as much of a gunslinger as any New York jazz saxophonist. If he invited you to jam, you were supposed to bring your guitar and your best licks if you were a Serious Guy and not just a Pop Star.

What's The Story?
I had heard the Hendrix/Avalon story in the past, but I had been unable to discover the source. No matter. Numerous people on the message boards of the Archive for October 12 recall different variations of the story, so it wasn't just me. The most dramatic version has it that Chet Helms had chartered a ferry to bring Hendrix to Marin, but Hendrix had been carrying on with some groupie and lost track of time. When he showed up at the Avalon, after his Winterland show ended, he was apologetic but Garcia was unmoved.

Tracking the personal life of Jimi Hendrix is even more difficult than most rock stars, since so many people had vested interests in his actions, and his death and subsequent litigation made everything more contentious. Still, a number of general observations can be made about Hendrix's life on the road. First of all, Hendrix, like all rock stars in the pre-cell phone era, wouldn't have gone to a town for concerts without his own crew and some local "handlers" who would get him to and from the hotel and the venue, and wherever else he wanted to go to. Although Jimi could be reckless with certain substances, and did not lack for female company, all sources without exception seem to suggest that his number one priority was always music, and with fellow musicians he was always a friendly, cooperative guy.

Based on what is known about Hendrix on the road (hardly exhaustive, I concede), it seems out of character for him to blow off a jam session with the Grateful Dead. Hendrix rarely or never missed shows, and he jammed with numerous artists all over the country, so he was certainly responsible enough and motivated enough to make sure he made his dates. The road has long periods of boredom, so for a guy like Hendrix, a chance to jam in the afternoon would be welcome. The week before October 12, Hendrix jammed with Buddy Miles at The Whisky in West Hollywood, and the week after he jammed with Lee Michaels (probably in a non-concert setting). Do we believe Jimi had time for Buddy Miles and Lee Michaels, but was so carried away with some groupie he "forgot" a jam with the Dead?

My hypothesis--completely unsupported by any additional facts or evidence, I should emphasize--is that some people weren't anxious for the Hendrix/Dead jam to take place. I'm not suggesting anything ultra sinister here; just that perhaps someone made sure that Hendrix's crew got the wrong departure time for the Ferry, or no one made a wake up call to the Hotel. Whether a groupie was involved or not that night, Hendrix was always popular with the ladies, and that hadn't prevented him from jamming with numerous musicians before or after. I am confident that Hendrix recognized Garcia's gunslinger challenge, and was anxious to answer it--it might really have been something, but it wasn't to be.

Who might be among the culprits? Well, Bill Graham might not have made it easy for Chet Helms to get access to his headline attraction. And Hendrix's notorious management (led by the late Mike Jeffery) may have found the Dead to be a subversive force that he didn't want to encourage. Jeffery couldn't have been worried about the Dead's penchant for drugs and outlaw behavior, since Jeffery favored both. However, the Dead had a tendency to think music should be free and that was a potentially dangerous proposition indeed.

An Eyewitness Account
If you read the reviews on the Archive board, some old memories are a lot more precise than others, because some people's memories are quite a bit sharper. Among the most consistently accurate memories are from Evan S Hunt. Consider his own comments on the Archive for October 12, 1968, and consider them in light of the history of rumors and what I have proposed
Some of my Diablo Valley College football team buddies went along to see Linn County, a popular underground blues band at the time. We were celebrating our earlier in the day victory over San Mateo Junior College.

That the Grateful Dead was the headliner was totally an afterthought, but most of us stayed to gather in their entire set which lasted until well past the 2 a.m. curfew.

There is a note attached to this show that there was no performance emanated from Blue Ron, but of little note there should be amended that towards the end of the Dead's venture into their nightly featured mania called Feedback, Jimi Hendrix came up on stage and added his howl to the ongoing din.

This is no lie. I saw it with my own eyes. Jimi came up on stage and played with the Dead. Nobody noticed and nobody said anything. There was no announcement.

After countless years of research consisting of reading every record ever written about the Grateful Dead, asking people in the know like Rock Scully, Danny Riskin, Chet Helms, David Gans and David Lemieux, and asking hundreds of various Dead Heads, past and present, apparently, I am the only one who ever saw Jimi actually get up there and play.

I'm not asking you to take my word for it and I surely would like it if someone could corroborate my claim, but it doesn't really matter in the long run. I saw what I saw and I was not stoned or altered, mentally or physically, in any way.

It happened just as I say it happened...on this night...forty unforgettable years ago.
To my knowledge, Jerry Garcia never said a bad word about Hendrix after he died, but did he ever say a good word? Part of Garcia's peculiar magic for interviews was that he told such great, quotable stories that no one usually asked anything resembling a difficult question.

If there were more evidence for this, it would probably have surfaced by now. Ultimately we are left with an imagined scene from Sergio Leone's psychedelic Spaghetti Western, The Good, The Bad and The Avalon, as Jerry Garcia and Jimi Hendrix warily eye each other with weapons at the ready, yet the cataclysmic spark is never struck. Jerry and Jimi, two of the icons of 60s rock guitar, armed and ready to jam, stymied by some breach of the gunslinger's code. They both probably thought it would come around next year or the year after, but it was not to be.