Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Grateful Dead Unplugged - 1968-1970

Although 1970 was fraught with financial and personal challenges for the Grateful Dead, it was a tremendous year for them artistically. One of the most notable aspects of a very busy touring year (133 nights of performances, 147 shows in total) was the introduction of acoustic sets into their performances at select shows. These performances were often showcases for the new songs the band was writing at the time, which resulted in what are arguably their two best studio recordings – Workingman’s Dead  and American Beauty– but they also provided the opportunity for Garcia, Weir, and Pig to revisit their folk roots with a variety of traditional, bluegrass, blues, and folk tunes. The purpose of this piece is to trace the band’s experimentation with acoustic instruments onstage from the first occurrences in late 1968 to November 1970, when the Dead abandoned acoustic shows until 1978. I should note that, deep in writing this piece, I discovered a 2009 Deadessays post  that covers much of the same ground. Since my take is somewhat different, I was an eyewitness to three of the shows with acoustic sets, and I had already penned nearly 8000 words, I decided to go ahead and put this out in honor of the 50thanniversary of the year of the Acoustic Dead.

 

Late 1968 and Early 1969

The band’s use of acoustic instruments began relatively late in 1968, when they played one-off acoustic versions of Aoxomoxoasongs. For the first half of 1969, they often introduced the suite that comprised the bulk of Live Dead with Dupree’s Diamond Blues followed by Mountains of the Moon with Garcia playing his acoustic Martin and Weir playing muted electric guitar. 

 

From known setlists, Mountains of the Moon was only performed live by the Dead using at least one acoustic guitar (Jerry’s). Its first known live airing was at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium on Dec. 20, 1968, where Garcia performed it solo on acoustic guitar. Its next airing was at. the infamous 1/18/69 Playboy After Dark taping, where the Dead dosed the cast and crew. Garcia played an acoustic six string, Weir an acoustic 12 string, and TC a harpsichord on what is one of the most beautiful and ethereal live versions of that song and can be seen here. Existing set lists show Mountains only having been played nine times live, and it was wedged in between Dupree’s and Dark Star in all but two of the shows. 

 

There were a couple of relatively raucous fully electric versions of Dupree’s played at the Avalon Ballroom on January 24 and 25. The version from the 24thalso notable in that Pig played some funky harmonica that the band obviously decided did not fit the song. It was also played electric a number of times after the semi acoustic couplet leading into Dark Star was dropped, and of course was resurrected in 1981 through the rest of the Dead’s performing history. 

 

The hybrid acoustic electric versions of Dupree’s and Mountains of the Moon were performed relatively often during the first half of 1969. The first known version of this acoustic couplet is from the Dead’s late show on 2/11/69 at the Fillmore East, a show that was released on CD in 1997. The medley recurred on that tour in Philadelphia (2/15/69) and at the second Dream Bowl show in Vallejo (2/22/69).  It was subsequently played at two of the winter 1969 Fillmore West shows recorded for Live Dead, again at the Avalon in on 4/5/69, on tour in Boston (4/22/69), Chicago (4/26/69) and back at the Fillmore West on 6/7/69, when the two songs were preceded by the debut version of Dire Wolf, performed nearly solo (with minimal percussion support) by Garcia. 

 

On July 12, the show at Flushing Meadows opened with the last Dead performance of Mountains of the Moon a stand-alone version again with Garcia on his Martin. Although the only known recording is a sketchy audience recording, Audio quality aside, it is another hypnotic version, with a long spacy outro. 

 

Starting in June, Garcia started playing his new ZB Pedal Steel on a few songs in many sets, a trend that continued at many shows during the last half of the year. As interesting as these performances are, they are tangential to the topic at hand here, although quite a few tunes later played during acoustic sets appeared either during these performances or at shows where Bob Weir sat in with the early versions of the New Riders of the Purple Sage in summer/fall 1969. 

 

Acoustic Sets in December 1969

As the year drew to a close, Garcia and Weir played short acoustic sets to open the 12/19/69 show at the newly re-opened Fillmore Auditorium, and again at the McFarlane Theatre in Dallas. Both sets were hastily assembled because of band member absences. For the Fillmore show, Phil Lesh was MIA somewhere, whereas Billy Kreutzmann was the latecomer for the Dallas show. These sets, which seem ad-hoc, presumably presented the model that the band decided to institute in limited shows during 1970. 

 

The Fillmore set consisted entirely of covers and traditional tunes that Garcia and Weir presumably knew by heart. Bob opened with “Monkey and the Engineer,” a whimsical song that has been in his repertoire, on and off, since 1964 when he was with Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions. The tune was composed by Jesse Fuller, an Oakland musician who performed as a one man band for years in the bay area and also composed “San Francisco Bay Blues,” which was covered by many artists including the Weavers, Hot Tuna, Eric Clapton, and Phoebe Snow. 

 

Next Garcia sang the traditional murder ballad Little Sadie, which was one of a large group of songs that Garcia and his contemporaries heard on recordings by the likes of Clarence Ashley, Woody Guthrie, and possibly Johnny Cash. This song remained a mainstay of Garcia’s acoustic performances throughout his career, with a studio jam version recorded by Garcia, Tony Rice,  and David Grisman on their Pizza Tapes release. 

 

Next, Bob Weir sang Long Black Limousine, a slow ballad that was written by Vern Stovall and Bobby George, and subsequently covered by a variety of country artists, including Bobby Bare, Glen Campbell, and Merle Haggard. The most famous version, however, was recorded by Elvis Presley in 1968 on From Elvis in Memphis.  Weir summoned the same mournful country voice he used to good effect on Green Green Grass of Home (played several times in 1969 electric with pedal steel).

 

Garcia chose another traditional tune I’ve Been All Around This World, for the last acoustic number. Widely covered in the folk and bluegrass traditions, this slow ballad describes the arrest and incipient hanging of the subject of the song. Like Little Sadie, this song stayed in Garcia’s acoustic repertoire for the duration, and was the title tune of a Garcia-Grisman album released in  2004.

 

At this point, Phil apparently showed up, so they switched modes and started the electric set with the first live rendition of the fine but short-lived Workingman’s Dead outtake Mason’s Children.

 

A week later, in Dallas, history repeated itself with Kreutzmann MIA, allegedly still in the air en route to Dallas. As a result, Garcia and Weir again did an acoustic duet to open the show.  The set started with the four tunes played at the Fillmore, played in the same order. 

 

Next Weir sang a gospel tune, Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet.  Written by Marvin Baumgartner, this song was recorded by a variety of country artists, first by California family band the Maddox Brothers and Rose in 1948. It was subsequently recorded by the likes of Hank Williams, Connie Smith, and the Stanley Brothers. This was the only performance of this song at a Dead concert, although Weir subsequently performed it with Lukas Nelson at a club gig in 2013. 

 

Still killing time, Garcia and Weir did the first acoustic version of Black Peter, which had been in their performing repertoire for the month of December and had in the set for 10 previous electric renditions. At the end of the song, Garcia announced that Kreutzmann had shown up, and the duo wrapped up the acoustic set with a performance of Uncle John’s Band, without keyboards or bass, but with muted percussion and Phil on harmonies.

 

Strumming Down in New Orleans

The next acoustic set within a Grateful Dead concert also occurred as a result of an accident – this time the failure of the speaker on Phil Lesh’s amplifier during the January 31, 1970 concert the Dead played with Fleetwood Mac at the Warehouse in New Orleans. The second of three shows the band played there, this show was followed by the infamous arrests of most of the band on drug charges so, on a personal front, it was not one of the group’s better evenings. 

 

The acoustic segment that closed their show opened with six songs featuring just Garcia on electric guitar and Weir on acoustic. They opened with another rendition of Long Black Limousine, on which the duo alternated lead vocals on the two verses. Jerry’s tastefully arpeggiated solo is a highlight, and the whole performance was punctuated by ominous electronic grunts from the ailing amplifier. 

 

Next Weir sang Seasons of My Heart, a slow George Jones ballad that he sang seven times with the Dead between November 1969 and February 1970. Most of those performances were electric with Garcia on either pedal steel or electric guitar. On this version, Garcia’s enthusiastic electric leads provide an interesting contrast to the song’s languid tempo.

 

Sawmill is a Mel Tillis-penned, uptempo country tune that Weir performed regularly with the New Riders during his “Bobby Ace” guest spots beginning in August 1969. It was also performed several times during electric Dead sets 

 

Old, Old House is another George Jones tearjerker that the Dead had performed once previously, at the Fillmore East on 6/21/69, with Garcia on pedal steel guitar. Weir also sang it at least once with the New Riders on 8/28/69, and probably on other occasions. 

 

The streak of George Jones hits continued with the catchy, Don Rollins-penned tune, The Race Is On, which Weir also performed a number of times with the Dead and the New Riders with Garcia on pedal steel guitar, and subsequently became a mainstay of the Dead’s 1973-74 repertoire, making a few return appearances in the 80s and 90s. 

 

Following a short break, Garcia returned to perform what I believe are solo acoustic versions of three songs performed acoustic in previous concerts already discussed – Black Peter, Little Sadie, and I’ve Been All Around this World. Following the Garcia tunes, Pigpen did the first of what would be many solo versions during the year of Ligntnin’ Hopkins’ Katie Mae, Although Mckernan primarily played keyboards, harmonica, and percussion during the Dead’s electric sets, his work in folk clubs prior to the Dead had shown him to be a very skilled country blues guitarist, a talent that he put to work many times during the 1970 acoustic sets. 

 

The part of the evening that was recorded ends with a ragged version of Cumberland Blues, the first in an acoustic set featuring two acoustic guitars and one and possibly two percussionists. Weir butchers the words in two places during a performance that seems like a very weird way to end a show. It is possible that more music was played after the tapes ran out.

 

After these three impromptu acoustic sessions, the Dead decided to start incorporating acoustic segments into selected shows. There were at least a couple of reasons for the implementation of these acoustic interludes. First, much of the material that the band was composing during 1969 and early 1970 readily lent itself to performance with acoustic instruments. Secondly, this format allowed for the performance of a variety of traditional, folk, and country covers that either were not part of the Dead’s electric performance repertoire or would not be presented in what the band members viewed as an optimal format in that context. Third, and possibly most importantly, Garcia and Weir had evidently enjoyed these returns to their folk roots, and wanted to do more of them.

 

It is important to note that these acoustic performances, like the partially acoustic interludes leading into Dark Star in 1969, did not occur at every show. In most cases, they occurred in theatres during multi-night runs, where the equipment and staffing were available for what were often time-consuming and technically complex changes of equipment necessitated by setting up microphones for the guitars, setting up seats for Garcia and Weir, and rebalancing the PA for the different mode of delivery. The decision to include or exclude these sets may have also been dictated by how much time the band had for their sets and whether the venue had a curfew or not. 

 

Fillmore East February

The first premeditated acoustic sets occurred during the late shows of the last two nights of the Dead’s legendary February run at the Fillmore East. Portions of these sets were officially released in 1973 as part ofBear’s Choice. During the Fillmore East run, acoustic music was not performed during the shorter early shows, and there was no acoustic set during the late show on February 11, which instead included an extended jam with members of the Allman Brothers and Fleetwood Mac. However, the late show encore that night was an acoustic version of Uncle John’s Band featuring a single guitar and spare hand percussion. The acoustic sets themselves were just Weir and Garcia (and later Pig) on acoustic guitars – no bass or percussion. 

 

For the February 13 late show, the Dead opened with five electric tunes, taking a break after a lengthy Smokestack Lightning to reconfigure the stage for the acoustic numbers. What followed was a six-song acoustic set, starting again with Monkey and the Engineer and Little Sadie.” Next up was the first Dead rendition of the Everly Brothers tune Wake Up Little Suzie sung with verve by Weir with energetic harmonies from Garcia, leading directly into “Black Peter.” Following “Uncle John’s’ Band, Pigpen again closed the set with Katie Mae.

 

The next night, the acoustic set in the late show occurred after three electric tunes, and was a repeat of the previous night’s setlist, with the exception that “Little Sadie” was replaced by the first Dead version of Dark Hollow, a song initially recorded by folk singer Bill Browning in 1958 that subsequently became a standard for bluegrass performers like Mac Wiseman and Ralph Stanley. The Dead did a killer version of this tune, with great harmonies from Garcia behind Weir’s vocal lead. 

 

Texas Tour

After the Fillmore East shows, the Dead, still smarting from the arrests in New Orleans, did a five date tour of Texas. All of the audio that is known from that tour is a fragment of the show on February 23 in Austin, which again included a six-song acoustic set, notable in the inclusion of an acoustic version of Me and My Uncle as well as the last Dead performance of George Jones’ Seasons of My Heart. The entire acoustic set is known.

2/23/70 Acoustic:  Monkey and the Engineer, Little Sadie, Me and My Uncle, Black Peter, Seasons of My Heart and Uncle John’s Band. It is unknown whether acoustic sets occurred in the other Texas shows. 

 

Family Dog and Southwest

For a three-night run at the Family Dog, the Dead played entirely electric shows on 2/27 and 3/1, but inserted a brief three-song acoustic set in the middle of the 2/28 show: Monkey and the Engineer, Little Sadie and Black Peter.

 

The Dead did not do any acoustic songs at their 3/7/70 Santa Monica show, but broke out a five and a half song acoustic set well into the show the next night in Phoenix. After six electric songs, the acoustic set comprised Monkey and the Engineer, I’ve Been All Around this World, Me and My uncle, Black Peter, and Katie Mae, the outro of which morphed into a bizarre blues improvisation by an audience member that endured for nine minutes, during which Pig dispensed with his acoustic guitar and the band took up their electric instruments to finish out the piece. The same audience member inserted his strange vocal and harmonica contributions into the last two electric songs, Not Fade Away and Lovelight. If this had happened a few years later, roadies would have had him offstage before he sang a note.

 

Capitol Theatre/March Shows

After a week or so of rest, the Dead were back on the east coast, starting with the mysterious and unrecorded performance with the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra on 3/17, followed by a two night stand opening the Capitol Theatre in Portchester. This venue became the site of some of the most iconic Dead shows of the next year, and again both late shows featured acoustic sets in the middle of the performance. 

 

On March 20, the six-song acoustic set included three tunes new to the repertoire. Deep Elem Blues was in the Jerry Garcia’s repertoire since at least 1963, when It was performed by Jerry and Sarah Garcia at the Tangent in Palo Alto. It was also in the Dead’s early setlists, as evidenced by their performance at the Matrix on 12/1/66. Don’t Ease Me In was the Dead’s first single, and was also part of their performing repertoire in 1966. Friend of the Devil came out of some songwriting sessions between Robert Hunter, NRPS songwriter John Dawson, and Garcia near the end of 1969. Originally intended as a New Riders tune, Garcia ultimately commandeered Friend of the Devil for the Dead. The Capitol performances, featuring many minor lyrical differences relative to the version ultimately recorded on American Beauty, appear to have been the first versions performed live by the Dead. The remainder of the set featured two Workingman’s Deadtunes, Black Peter and Uncle John’s Band, and another version of “Katie Mae.”

 

The next night’s late show featured a shuffled version the previous night’s setlist plus one additional tune: Friend of the Devil, Deep Elum Blues, Don’t Ease Me In, Black Peter, Wake Up Little Suzie, Uncle John’s Band, and Katie Mae. 

 

The next show the Dead played, on 3/24, was an all-electric performance at an amusement park, Pirate’s World in Dania Florida. Maybe because of the venue, they played a relatively short set (90 minutes), but it was notable for a rare-for-1970 electric version of Don’t Ease Me In, which was doomed to become a tiresome set closer/encore in the last two decades of the band’s tenure. 

 

The next verified date in the Dead’s weird 1970 touring schedule was the April 3 show at the Field House of the University of Cincinnati. Again, the band stuck in an acoustic set mid-show after playing six electric songs. This seven-song set was notable for the first known live performance of Candyman, but otherwise consisted of material performed in earlier sets: Friend of the Devil (still with some alternate lyrics), Deep Elem Blues, Candyman, Wake Up Little Suzie, Black Peter, Uncle John’s Band, and Katie Mae. For the first time, the entire acoustic set featured restrained drums (both Hart and Kreutzmann this time) and Lesh on harmonies and electric bass. Katie Mae continued to be performed by Pig solo. 

 

Fillmore West with Miles Davis

One of the Dead’s most famous hometown runs was this co-bill with Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew band which had the legendary trumpeter appearing before the Dead’s single long set. As was the case at the Capitol shows, the Dead played short acoustic segments in the middle of their set on the first three of the four nights. On the fourth night, the band played the entire show in electric mode, although they performed a few songs (Candyman, Deep Elem Blues, Black Peter) that were normally performed during acoustic sets during that era. The 4/11/70 show was notable in that it included the first acoustic version of New Speedway Boogie. As shown below, the setlists were relatively similar the first three nights.

 

4/9/70: Friend of the Devil, Deep Elem Blues, Candyman, Black Peter, Uncle John’s Band, Katie Mae

4/10/70: Friend of the Devil, Deep Elem Blues, Candyman, Wake Up Little Susie > Black Peter, Uncle John’s Band

4/11/70: Don’t Ease Me In, New Speedway Boogie, Friend of the Devil, Me and My Uncle, Candyman, Black Peter, Uncle John’s Band. 

 

I went to the Friday show as described here.

Photo: Michael Parrish
Photo: Michael Parrish

As in Cincinnati, the acoustic set that night included electric bass and drums for the whole set. 

 

Family Dog – Hartbeats/Cards Off the Bottom shows

After playing a short electric set at a benefit on April 15, the Dead took part in a unique weekend of shows at the Family Dog. The shows were billed as Mickey Hart and the Hartbeats and Bobby Ace and the Cards off the Bottom of the Deck, with the rest of the bill being the New Riders of the Purple Sage and Charlie Musselwhite. 

 

The Hartbeats/Bobby Ace segments each night were extended Grateful Dead acoustic sets, incorporating some of the New Riders into the sets for the first time. Since they were set to begin the first tour of “Evening with the Grateful Dead” shows in a couple of weeks, these could probably be considered as dress rehearsals for those shows. However, they are even more interesting because there is so much material performed that was never played on any other occasions. We are very fortunate that the master soundboard reel of the second of the weekend shows turned up in 2013, having been in Mountain Girl’s possession from a stash of tapes that had been in Jerry Garcia’s possession. Otherwise, these shows, for which audience tapes do not appear to exist, would be basically lost to musical history. Fortunately long time fan Judy Dawson did keep setlists of the other shows, so we have a reasonable picture of the entire weekend, with a single acoustic set each night.

 

4/17/70: Don't Ease Me In, Long Black Limousine, Monkey And The Engineer, Deep elem Blues, Candyman > Cumberland Blues*, Me And My Uncle*@, Mama Tried*@, Cathy's Clown*@, Wake Up Little Susie*@, New Speedway Boogie*@,Friend of the Devil, Black Peter, Uncle John's Band

4/18/70: I Know You Rider, Don’t Ease Me In, Silver Threads and Golden Needles, Friend of the Devil, Deep Elem Blues, Wake Up Little Suzie > Candyman, Cumberland Blues*, New Speedway Boogie*, Me and My Uncle*@, Mama Tried*@, Katie Mae, Ain’t It Crazy, Roberta, Bring Me My Shotgun, The Mighty Flood > Black Snake

 

4/19/70: I Know You Rider ; Friend Of The Devil ; Candyman ; Sawmill ; Deep Elem Blues ; The Rub ; Katie Mae ; Roberta ; Big Breasa ; She's Mine ; Cumberland Blues* ; Wake Up Little Susie*@ ; Mama Tried*@ ; Me And My Uncle*@ ; The Race Is On*@ ; Uncle John's Band

 

The first night, Pigpen apparently did not do any songs, and the set consisted entirely of material performed in earlier acoustic sets with the exception of the Everly Brothers tune Cathy’s Clown, which Weir had done with the New Riders. Although it can’t be verified with recordings, it seems likely that this and the preceding two tunes, Me and My Uncle and Mama Tried, were sung by Weir with harmonies added by Marmaduke from the New Riders, as was the case in Weir’s guest slots with NRPS during 1969 and 1970. If the format followed that of Saturday’s show, Garcia would have played electric guitar on the segment starting with Cumberland Blues and ending with New Speedway Boogie, with David Nelson adding an additional acoustic guitar for those tunes.   

 

On the 18th, the set opened with the first of the lovely acoustic versions of I Know You Rider that became common during the acoustic sets of the next few months. Delivered at a much slower pace than the electric versions paired with “China Cat Sunflower,” the tune takes on a mournful quality very different than the generally exuberant and uptempo electric versions. It also included an additional verse that was not included in the electric versions “I’d rather drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log, than stay here in Frisco, be treated like a dog.” 

 

This show also featured the first acoustic version of Silver Threads and Golden Needles, although the band did a sizzling electric version of the tune back in 1966 and did several versions with Garcia on pedal steel in 1969. As noted above, Garcia played electric guitar on Cumberland Blues through Mama Tried, with Nelson and Dawson from the New Riders sitting in. However, the real jewel of this show is the six-song set of tunes played solo by pigpen at the end of the tape. Starting with Katie Mae, he continued with another Lightning Hopkins tune, Ain’t It Crazy (the Rub), which he had performed back with Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions and that later made its way into Dead electric sets in 1971. The next four songs, were only performed at these shows, and three of them only this night. Roberta is a traditional blues tune that Pig made his own with different lyrics. Bring Me My Shotgun and Black Snake are Lightning Hopkins tunes whereas The Mighty Flood (which John Lee Hooker recorded as Tupelo Blues) is probably traditional but credited to Hooker.

.Pig’s versions of all of these are so well executed and soulful that you would imagine he played them all the time. He may have at home or backstage, but these were the only performances in the context of “Dead” shows, and really show their bluesman in his best light.

 

The final night allegedly featured the pig mini-set in the middle of other familiar acoustic Dead tunes, and featured two additional blues songs, the mysterious Big Bresa and She’s Mine, yet another Hopkins tune. 

 

Late March Shows

The week after the Family Dog shows, the Dead played two nights at Mammoth Gardens in Denver. There is a poor audience recording of the first night, which documents a fairly typical six-song acoustic set: I Know You Rider, Monkey and the Engineer, Friend of the Devil, Me and My Uncle, Candyman, and Uncle John’s Band. From a format standpoint, though, this is significant as the first show where the acoustic set preceded the electric set, rather than being stuck in the middle. This format would get further massaged during the May east coast college tour. There is an extensive discussion about the two Denver shows here. It appears likely that the New Riders did not appear, and that the acoustic set preceded the electric set. An interesting annotation is that it appears that opening act John Hammond and Pigpen did an acoustic blues set together after the Dead’s set one of the evenings. Since Pig had been flexing his chops on acoustic blues at the Family Dog shows, this seems entirely plausible.  Before heading back to California to regroup for that tour, the Dead played one long electric set at an outdoor concert in Poynette, Wisconsin. Two attendees confirm that there was no acoustic set at this show.

 

May East Coast Tour

The Family Dog shows were clearly preparation for a new touring format for the Grateful Dead – an Evening with the Grateful Dead. As noted in Lost Live Dead here, the Dead devised a relatively economical, if physically taxing, method of touring and performing without opening acts. In the new format, the Dead would open the show with acoustic numbers, folk songs first, moving into more country/bluegrass territory in the middle of the opening set, having a few hybrid acoustic electric tunes with Garcia on electric guitar and David Nelson on acoustic, and wrapping up with one or more gospel numbers featuring a vocal quartet of Garcia, Weir, Marmaduke and David Nelson. Next would be the New Riders set, with Garcia on pedal steel and Hart on drums. Weir was frequently introduced in the NRPS set doing some of the country tunes he had been singing with the Dead and the New Riders for the last year or so. Generally the NRPS set would finish with some familiar rock song – either Honky Tonk Women or the Weight, leading into the main dish – an hour plus electric set by the Dead. Regarding the Alfred show, JMF goes to great length here to postulate that this show had a slightly different format, with the New Riders going first, followed by the acoustic, then electric Grateful Dead.

  

This tour was somewhat of an endurance event for the Dead -17 shows in 19 days, mostly at colleges and a few ballrooms. The tour opener was at Alfred College, one of the State University of New York campuses located in far upstate NY. A complete SB tape of this show circulates, so the format of the show is very clear, and the entire show is relatively concise at just about two hours. 

5/1/70 Acoustic Set: : Deep Elem Blues, I Know You Rider, Monkey and the Engineer, Candyman, Me and My Uncle*@, Mama Tried*@, Cumberland Blues*, The Race Is On*@, Wake Up Little Suzie*@, New Speedway Boogie*@, Cold Jordan*@, Uncle John’s Band.

 

From Me and My Uncle through Cold Jordan, the Dead were augmented by Nelson on guitar and Dawson, who provided harmonies for all of these tunes. This was the first of many live versions of Cold Jordan, which featured Nelson on mandolin and some really gorgeous four part gospel harmonies from Garcia, Weir. Nelson, and Dawson. 

 

The best known (and arguably the best) of the May College Tour shows occurred the next night, at Harpur College, the Liberal Arts and Sciences campus within SUNY Binghampton. This show was widely distributed among tapers after a pristine version of the entire show was broadcast on public radio in California and New York, just a few weeks after the performance date. In 1997, it was the first acoustic set commercially released, on Dick’s Picks Volume 8. Clearly the band was having a lot of fun that evening, and the banter between songs during the acoustic set is priceless. It was notable in including the acoustic set debut of two Grateful Dead classics: Dire Wolf and Beat It On Down the Line. Also, contrary to the listing on the commercial release and countless tape lists, Candyman was not a partial version leading directly into Cumberland Blues. Instead, the version of Candyman was cut on the master real, and the remaining portion was ingeniously grafted onto Cumberland. Jerry played electric on Cumberland, Although he had done so on numerous occasions in the bay area, this was also the first night on the tour that Weir guested during the NRPS set, playing on Sawmill, the Race Is On, Me and My Uncle, and Mama Tried. 

 

5/2/70 Acoustic Set: Don’t Ease Me In, I Know You Rider, Friend of the Devil, Dire Wolf, BIODTL>Black Peter, Candyman, Cumberland Blues*, Deep Elem Blues*, Cold Jordan*@, Uncle John’s Band. 

 

The next day, the Dead played a free outdoor concert at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Despite the absence of an adequate soundboard or audience tape, this is one of the best documented of the May 1970 shows, and you can find an extensive discussion of it here.  It is notable in being the first time the Dead tried to play acoustic music outdoors (apparently with mixed results), and in being one of only two free concerts during the tour. It also coincided with a massive protest over the murder of black panthers and the continued incarceration of Bobby Seale, and followed a series of fire bombings on the campus on May 1. The brief acoustic set featured just Bob and Jerry, as much of the rest of the band was still in transit. A film of the event (viewable only in person at the Wesleyan library) shows a guest harmonica player on two of the acoustic songs, and is also audible on a brief audience tape of the start of this set. 

5/3/70 Acoustic Set (partial list):  Deep Elem Blues+, Friend of the Devil+, Silver Threads and Golden Needles, Black Peter

+With guest harmonica player

 

Following a couple of rare days off, the Dead played their second free outdoor show of the tour on a chilly night at Kresge Plaza at MIT. This really fine show was one 90 minute electric set, and set the stage for the group’s scheduled show at MIT’s Dupont Gym the next night. 

The 5/7/70 performance was the longest shows of the known shows on the tour, nearly five hours as compared to the total time of two hours at the Alfred College performance at the start of the tour. The acoustic set was unusual in that there was no guest slot with Dawson during the acoustic set, although Nelson played second acoustic guitar when Garcia switched to electric for Cumberland Blues and New Speedway Boogie, which was rendered in a long, pensive version perhaps reflecting the weird political events of the previous several days. Weir guested during the Riders set, doing four tunes: The Race is On, Seasons of My Heart, Mama Tried and Sawmill. 

 5/7/70 Acoustic Set: Don’t Ease Me In, I Know You Rider, Friend of the Devil, Me and My Uncle, Deep Elem Blues, Candyman, Cumberland Blues*, New Speedway Boogie*, Black Peter, Uncle John’s Band.

 

The next night the band hit yet another State University of New York Campus, this time in upstate Delhi. All that is known of the sets from this show are derived from a partial audience tape of the electric set. Chances are there was an acoustic set, but we don’t have any information about it. This show is discussed at length here. 

http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2020/05/the-grateful-dead-in-upstate-and.html

 

The next night, 5/9/70 the Dead were over in Worchester Mass at Worchester Polytechnic University. A tape of a partial acoustic set purporting to be this show was proved to actually be the start of the 5/3/70 Acoustic set when matched with the video from that show. Memories of attendees indicate that an acoustic set was played, including Black Peter, Monkey and the Engineer, and Cold Jordan.

http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2009/08/missing-1970-shows.html

 

Another consecutive gig in the schedule found the Dead down in Atlanta, where the band presumably flew but their equipment did not, leaving them without . Some audience memories indicate that the Dead played with the Allman Brothers, using that band’s equipment because theirs was MIA. Apparently there was no acoustic set, but there was a jam with the Allmans. No recordings are known from this gig either.

 

5/14/70 found the Dead in Kirkwood, Missouri of all places, playing at Meramac Community College. A complete soundboard recording of this show circulates, and it includes a fairly standard, six song acoustic set: Don’t Ease Me In, Friend of the Devil, Deep Elem Blues, Silver Threads and Golden Needles, and Candyman. The acoustic set was plagued by sound problems, which seems to have led to its early termination.  The band made up for the abbreviated acoustic set with a nearly two hour electric performance, after which they must have caught a flight for New York.

 

The norm during this era was for the Dead to play multiple night runs at the Fillmore East – a guaranteed money maker for both Bill Graham and the Band. For whatever reason, most likely the scheduled multi-band festival the next day at Temple University, the band only played a single night, with early and late shows, at the Fillmore East. On previous runs at both the Fillmore East and the Capitol, the early shows were short electric shows, with acoustic segments only in the late shows. However, this time the new three-set format was employed at both the early and late shows, resulting in the bands playing a total of nearly six hours in one very long evening. The bulk of the late show was released as Road Trips Vol. 3 Number 3 in 2010. 

 

Throughout the tour, the configuration of the acoustic sets had been fairly constant, at least based on extant recordings and setlists. The band apparently held back a few surprises for New York, at least in part necessitated by a desire not to repeat material from the early and late shows.  These shows marked the first time on tour that Pigpen participated in the acoustic sets. In the early show, he sang and played harmonica on Ain’t It Crazy (the Rub), performed with the rest of the band, and the last show included his solo versions of She’s Mine and Katie Mae. The late show included two covers not previously played. The set opened with Garcia singing The Ballad of Casey Jones, the folk song that originally introduced the legend of engineer Jones into the folk tradition. This tune was performed a few other times by the Dead, and was common in sets by the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band in the 1980s. The late show acoustic set closed with another debut, another bluegrass quintet rendition of “A Voice From On High,” one of Bill Monroe’s most moving gospel numbers. Following the electric set, the late show concluded with an encore of Cold Jordan.

 

Meanwhile, in the New Riders sets, Weir guested on Mama Tried, Me and My Uncle and Sawmill in both the early and late shows.  

 

5/15/70 Early Show Acoustic Set:  Don't Ease Me In, I Know You Rider, Ain’t It Crazy (The Rub), Friend Of The Devil, Long Black Limousine, Candyman, Cumberland Blues*, New Speedway Boogie*, Cold Jordan*@

 

5/15/70 Late Show Acoustic Set: The Ballad Of Casey Jones, Silver Threads, Black Peter, Friend Of The Devil, Uncle John's Band, Candyman, She's Mine, Katie Mae, I Hear A Voice Callin'*@

 

 The next day 5/16/70, the Dead participated in a multi-band outdoor festival at the stadium of Philadelphia’s Temple University, sharing the bill with Jimi Hendrix, the Steve Miller Band, and Cactus. A partial audience recording exists of their brief show, which was a single electric set.

 

It appears that the band had been contracted to play the final show of the tour at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, but the show appears to have been cancelled. This is discussed at great length here

 

 In any event, the Dead’s marathon spring tour had come to a close. putting them back in the Bay area for nearly a week before leaving for the UK for their first European show, a single shot at the Hollywood Festival in Newcastle-Under-Lyme. Recently uncovered film that was added as bonus footage for the documentary Long Strange Trip does show Garcia, Weir, and Lesh rehearsing the harmonies for Candyman with acoustic guitars at some indoor venue in the UK.

 

June in San Francisco and New York

After returning from England, the Dead had a week without gigs before returning for another four night hometown stand at the Fillmore West. For these shows, the Evening with the Grateful Dead format was followed, with the exception that home towm blues-rock band Southern Comfort played between the Acoustic Dead sets, which opened the night, and the performances by the New Riders and the electric Grateful Dead.  As had become typical for these acoustic sets, Nelson and Dawson joined for one or more songs near the end of the acoustic set. The first night featured the first version of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” which featured Nelson prominently on mandolin. Weir guested with the New Riders on 6/4, but not on 6/5, which I attended.

 

6/4/70 Acoustic Set: Deep Elem Blues, Candyman, Silver Threads & Golden Needles, Friend Of The Devil, Cumberland Blues*, Wake Up Little Susie*, Swing Low Sweet Chariot*, Uncle John's Band

 

6/5/70 Acoustic Set: Dire Wolf, I Know You Rider, Silver Threads & Golden Needles, Friend Of The Devil, Me & My Uncle, Black Peter, New Speedway Boogie* 

 

6/6/70 Acoustic Set: Don't Ease Me In, The Frozen Logger, Friend Of The Devil, Candyman, Deep Elem Blues, Cumberland Blues*, Wake Up Little Susie*@, New Speedway Boogie*

 

6/7/70: Don't Ease Me In, Silver Threads & Golden Needles, Friend Of The Devil, Candyman, *@Cold Jordan,*@ Swing Low Sweet Chariot,*@ Cumberland Blues, Me & My Uncle*@, New Speedway Boogie*

 

The middle of June was busy for the band. The Dead played two dates in Hawaii, both apparently entirely electric shows with buddies Quicksilver Messenger Service. Workingman’s Dead was released on June 14, and the band went to Memphis for a one-off electric gig on June 19, returning to the Bay Area where they participated in a 6/21 benefit at Pauley Ballroom at UC Berkeley where they performed with numerous other acts, playing a short electric set. 

 

On June 24, the Dead did another one night-two show stand at the Capitol Theatre in Portchester, NY. Like the two-show 5/15 date at the Fillmore East, the early and late shows both featured the acoustic/NRPS/electric format, making for a very long evening, and two of the more interesting electric sets of the year. The early show acoustic set included a relative rarity, the Gene Chrysler country weeper Let Me In, which was a hit for Porter Wagoner in 1966. That tune shows up a few times in Dead related sets, including the KSAN studios jam featuring Garcia/Weir/John and Mario Cipollina/Pete Sears that occurred in July and another studio jam in Boston in November that featured Garcia, Weir, and Duane Allman. It also included the first acoustic set version of Attics of My Life, which had been played in the electric set a few times in previous weeks. Dawson and Nelson do not appear to have contributed to the early set.  The Late set was notable for the first appearance of Big Railroad Blues, which opened the acoustic set, and for the presence of an acoustic encore of Swing Low Sweet Chariot. 


6/24/70 Early Show Acoustic set: Dire Wolf, Don't Ease Me In, Attics of My Life, FOTD, Let Me In, Candyman, Uncle John's Band. 

6/24/70 Late Show Acoustic Set: Big Railroad Blues, Deep Elem Blues, Monkey & The Engineer, The Rub, Silver Threads & Golden Needles, Friend Of The Devil, Candyman> Cumberland Blues*

Electric set encore: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot*@

 

Festival Express and Mississippi River Festival

From 6/27 to 7/5, the Dead were part of the Festival Express train tour through Canada. A good deal of footage from the festival tour was shot and much of it ended up in the Festival Express film that was released in 2003. A number of additional filmed performances are viewable on youtube, and an exhaustive exposition of the shows, available film and music can be found here

 

What we know for sure is that the Dead played a free acoustic set in Toronto’s Coronation Park to placate protesters who thought the shows on the tour should all be free. There was also an acoustic set at the 7/4/70 Calgary show, from which the opening version of Don’t Ease Me In (with Pig sitting in on harmonica) was included in the film. We know from tapes that Candyman, Dire Wolf and Uncle John’s Band were also performed in that afternoon’s acoustic set. 

 

One notable change that apparently started on the Festival Express tour has to do with the configuration of the acoustic sets. Up until these shows, Garcia, Weir, and Pig (when present), performed sitting on folding chairs whereas Phil Lesh stood up to play electric bass. From the Festival Express shows through the end of the acoustic set experiment, the band all performed standing, with the obvious exception of the drummers and keyboard player, when one was present.

 

Right after the festival express wrapped up, the Dead played a one nightery at the Mississippi River Festival, an outdoor, multi-day event in Edwardsville, Illinois. Newspaper accounts of the event indicate that an acoustic set was played before the electric set, also verified by this photo by Jeff Ward. 

 

The Dead at Midnight – Fillmore East

Without missing a beat, the Dead were back at the Fillmore East the next night for the first of four shows. These followed a unique format, starting at midnight and running until the wee hours of the morning. Complete audience tapes exist of the last two nights, but documentation from the first two shows is more problematical. There may not have been an acoustic set on 

7/10/70 – in any event, no setlist or recording exists. These shows featured the debuts of several covers. The 1960 Everly Brothers Hit So Sad (to Watch Good Love Go Bad) was sung as a unison trio by Garcia, Weir, and Dawson, with Garcia still on electric guitar following New Speedway Boogie. Rosalie McFall is a familiar bluegrass tune penned by Charlie Monroe that later became an important part of Garcia’s acoustic repertoire in the 80s and 90s. How Long Blues, sung by Garcia with Pigpen on Harmonica, was a country blues standard written by Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell and first recorded by the duo in 1928. Tell It To Me (often called Cocaine Blues) is an uptempo cautionary tale about the dreaded powder written and recorded by country artist Billy Hughes in 1947. 

 

7/9/70: Silver Threads & Golden Needles, Cumberland Blues*, Dire Wolf, Swing Low Sweet Chariot*@ 

7/10/70: No setlist known for acoustic Set, although it presumably took place.

7/11/70: Monkey & The Engineer, Don't Ease Me In, I've Been All Around This World, Dark Hollow, Black Peter, El Paso, New Speedway Boogie*, So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)*@, Rosalie McFall*@, A Voice From On High*@, Cold Jordan*@, Swing Low Sweet Chariot*@ 

7/12/70: Dire Wolf, The Rub, How Long Blues, Dark Hollow, Friend Of The Devil, Candyman, Katie Mae, She's Mine, Rosalie McFall, Tell It To Me, Wake Up Little Susie, Cumberland Blues* 

 

Bay Area and California July and August

After the Fillmore East shows, the Dead stayed in their home state for the rest of July, August, and the first half of September working on American Beauty. In between studio sessions, they managed a number of gigs, many in very small venues, as they introduced much of the new material, and some additional covers, into their repertoire. They also experimented with a format incorporating just the acoustic Dead set and the New Riders at some of these shows. Unfortunately, the dates of several existing recordings are disputed. Let’s start with some shows that are documented by reliable dates. As Owsley Stanley was prepared to be incarcerated in Terminal Island, the Dead sent him off with a couple of shows at San Rafael’s Euphoria Ballroom (soon to be reinvented as Pepperland). The 7/14/70 show featured an acoustic set, with David Crosby rather than David Nelson playing second acoustic guitar (12 string in his case) when Garcia switched to electric for Cumberland Blues and New Speedway Boogie. The second show, on the 16th, featured one electric set. 

 

7/14/70 Acoustic Set: Don't Ease Me In, Friend Of The Devil, Dire Wolf, Dark Hollow, Candyman, Black Peter, How Long Blues, Deep Elem Blues, Cumberland Blues%, New Speedway Boogie%

%David Crosby on 12-string guitar. 

 

Going in chronological order of assigned dates, the next shows for which setlists are known are what is identified as a July 30 Matrix show featuring the New Riders, with Dead members opening with a brief six song acoustic set. The novelty in this set was the debut of a new Garcia-Hunter ballad, To Lay Me Down, which opened the set. Although To Lay Me Down did not appear on record until 1972, on the first Garcia solo album, its lyrics were penned by Robert Hunter in an amazing literary epiphany one afternoon in Late May when Hunter was part of the Dead’s entourage to the UK for the Hollywood Festival. That afternoon, as he consumed a fine bottle of Retsina, he penned the lyrics to Brokedown Palace, To Lay Me Down, and Ripple, three of the Dead’s most tender and enduring ballads. The version performed at this show is fully formed, the same sans some instrumental differences with the one that appears on Garcia. 


There are at least two problems with the assigned date for this show. Newspaper research by some other Dead bloggers turned up both calendar listings and eyewitness accounts of the Dead and New Riders performing not at the Matrix in San Francisco, but at the Lion’s Share in San Anselmo on July 30 and the next two nights in the same acoustic Dead/NRPS combo found on the purported Matrix tape. 

 

Interesting scholarship on the summer 1970 shows can be found here, here, and here

 

I would like to offer an additional theory that this performance is not from late July but more likely late August/Early September, simply because of the presence of To Lay Me Down. That new tune is not performed on the well-dated mid-August Fillmore West shows, but does appear on two of the mid-September Fillmore East, so it is entirely possible that To Lay Me Down was put in performance shape after the Fillmore West shows. On the other hand, if this show was from late summer, it might well have included some of the other American Beauty tunes like Ripple, Brokedown Palace, or Truckin’, so the date may not be that far off. 

 

7/30/70 acoustic set: To Lay Me Down, Dire Wolf, Candyman, Rosalie McFall, A Voice From On High, Swing Low Sweet Chariot 

 

At any rate, we do not have setlists for the three Lion’s Share gigs. If only one could be a fly on the wall at those shows…

 

The next Acoustic curiosity from this period is a tape that has always been identified as Golden Hall, San Diego 8/5/70. This soundboard tape was in trading circles very early. I remember it being listed on a very early tape trader ad I found on a bulletin board at Palo Alto’s World’s Indoor Records in the summer of 1971, although I probably did not get it until 1974 or so.

 

This is an entirely acoustic performance again prominently featuring Nelson and Dawson. A Lost Live Dead post regarding the otherwise undocumented Los Angeles shows in late August suggests that this tape might be from one of the 8/27-28 gigs featuring the Acoustic Dead and the New Riders at the short-lived Thee Club. However, I would again offer the set list as evidence that the date for this show is probably close to being correct, even if the venue is suspect. It included a unique selection of songs that were parts of acoustic sets earlier in July, along with the Dead debut of the Marty Robbins classic El Paso along with the only known Dead performance of Jimmy Martin’s Drink Up and Go Home, which later found a home in Garcia Acoustic Band sets in the 1980s. What are missing, though, are the four new  American Beautytunes performed at the Fillmore West shows – the lone tune from that album being Candyman, which had been in the repertoire since April. Still, it’s a nifty show, featuring a long run of bluegrass tunes and another version of To Lay Me Down. 

 

“8/5/70” Setlist: Candyman, El Paso, Rosalie McFall, Tell It To Me, Drink Up & Go Home, I Hear A Voice Calling, Cold Jordan, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Deep Elem Blues, Dark Hollow, Friend Of The Devil, Mama Tried, To Lay Me Down, Dire Wolf, The Ballad Of Casey Jones.

 

The Fillmore West run was probably both a convenient infusion of cash as the Band was working in the studio on the new album, and a way to do a trial run for several of the songs they were recording. No reliable audience tape exists for the first night, so I would approach the partial setlist below with some caution. I went the third night, and the tape and setlist concur with what I remember from the show. The second night included four tunes not previously performed, all from the American Beauty Sessions. Truckin’, later to emerge as a charging electric rocker, started its performance life as a whimsical, choogling jug band tune. The other two songs from Hunter’s May London Trifecta, Ripple and Brokedown Palace, were performed as a medley. Finally, the album’s Pigpen contribution, the country blues shuffle Operator, was performed by the whole group. There was a piano player on Truckin’, Ripple and Brokedown Palace. The style of keyboard playing is sufficiently different from Pigpen’s work that I believe these parts may have played by Ned Lagin, who was in town during the summer helping to record American Beauty. As usual, Garcia switched to electric guitar for New Speedway Boogie with Nelson joining on acoustic, and the set concluded with Nelson and Dawson contributing to the two gospel bluegrass tunes. 8/19/70’s acoustic set was in much the same vein as that the previous night, including the three new Garcia-Hunter songs along with a couple of the obscure covers played earlier in the summer, How Long Blues and Cocaine Blues. 

 

8/17/70 Acoustic Set (?):  Cumberland Blues, New Speedway Boogie, Dire Wolf, Candyman, Swing Low Sweet Chariot 

8/18/70 Acoustic Set: Truckin', Dire Wolf, Friend Of The Devil, Dark Hollow, Ripple> Brokedown Palace, Operator, Rosalie McFall, New Speedway Boogie*, Cold Jordan*@, Swing Low Sweet Chariot*@ 

8/19/70 Acoustic Set: Monkey & The Engineer, How Long Blues, Friend of The Devil, Dark Hollow, Candyman, Ripple> Brokedown Palace, Truckin', Tell It To Me, Rosalie McFall, Cumberland Blues*, Wake Up Little Susie*, New Speedway Boogie*, Cold Jordan*@, Swing Low Sweet Chariot*@ 

Acoustic Dead 8.19.70 Photo: M. Parrish

 






Near the end of the month, the Dead and New Riders played two dates at a new club in Los Angeles, Thee Club. These were again billed as acoustic performances by the Dead with the New Riders playing a regular electrified set. There has been speculation that the “8/5/70” set might in fact be from one of these shows. A thorough discussion of this weekend can be found here

 8/27,28/70 Thee Club, Los Angeles California (Setlists unknown)


 

Fillmore East September

September was a quiet touring month as the Dead finished up American Beauty,but they did travel to New York for another four-night run at the Fillmore East, continuing the acoustic/NRPS/electric format that they used in previous engagements. Soundboard recordings exist of part of the electric set from 9/19 and of the entire shows from 9/18 and 9/20. Poor audience recordings also exist of the entire shows from 9/17 and 9/18, plus the recently discovered acoustic set from 9/19, so we have a good idea of what was performed during these shows. With the exception of 9/18, when the acoustic set was aborted after two songs because of sound issues, each night concluded with the bluegrass gospel medley of Cold Jordan into Swing Low Sweet Chariot. The first two acoustic sets opened again with Truckin’, after which it disappeared from the acoustic sets for the rest of the year, and started appearing in the electric set on 10/4/70, where it has remained ever since. 

 

The real oddity of these shows took place on 9/17/70, with the only version of Box of Rain performed by a never-to-be-repeated lineup that very nearly recreated the album version. Phil Lesh was on acoustic guitar rather than bass, David Nelson played electric b-bender lead guitar, David Torbert played bass, and Jerry Garcia played piano, with Bob and the drummers in their usual roles. A truly awful recording can be heard here on Jack Toner’s audience tape. 

 

The last two nights heralded the brief return of To Lay Me Down, this time with kind of a lead piano part which may have also been played by Garcia. As far as I can tell, this run and the August Fillmore West engagement were the only shows where the band had a piano onstage. It is also prominent in the two versions of Truckin’ so perhaps that was either Pigpen or some uncredited guest.

 

9/20/70 is justifiably regarded by many as among the best of the 1970 acoustic sets. High energy, and bolstered by the twin mandolins of David Grisman and David Nelson. 

 

9/17/70 Truckin’, Monkey & The Engineer, Dark Hollow, Friend of The Devil, Ripple, Brokedown Palace, Box Of Rain&, Rosalie McFall, Cold Jordan> Swing Low Sweet Chariot 

9/18/70 Truckin’, Black Peter (aborted)

9/19/70: Don't Ease Me In, Candyman, Silver Thread and Golden Needles, Friend of the Devil, Deep Elem Blues, The Rub, Rosalie McFall, Cumberland Blues, New Speedway Boogie, To Lay Me Down, Cold Jordan> Swing Low Sweet Chariot 

9/20/70: Uncle John's Band, Deep Elem Blues*#, Friend Of The Devil*#, Big Railroad Blues*# Dark Hollow*#, Ripple*#, To Lay Me Down, Truckin', Rosalie McFall*#, Cumberland Blues*#, New Speedway Boogie*#, Brokedown Palace*#

 

 

After the New York shows, the Dead did a weird little two-date tour, hitting Pasadena on 9/25 and the Summit in Salt Lake City the next night. Apparently the Pasadena show was the New Riders and one Dead Electric set. On the other hand, the Salt Lake City show (verified by a newspaper review and several eyewitness reports on dead.net) included a long acoustic set followed by a relatively short electric set. Here’s a partial setlist for the acoustic part. 


9/26/70 Acoustic (partial, from concert review) I Know You Rider, Ripple, Candyman, Friend of the Devil, Uncle John's Band


I have no idea why the two consecutive dates would have had such different configurations. In any event, the Salt Lake show was the last acoustic set played at a one-nighter.

 

 

The Last Hurrah – Capitol Theatre November Shows

In October there were the two “Three Bands for Three Dollars” shows at Winterland on 10/4,5 both entirely electric as far as we know (the 10/4 radio broadcast began with the Dead’s electric set, but it is possible the New Riders and/or Hot Tuna played beforehand. 

 

Starting on 10/10, the Dead spent pretty much the rest of October and all of November on the East Coast and Midwest. 30 dates in about six weeks – a stretch even for a hard-touring band like the Dead. These shows were all electric, and the first leg (10/10 to 10/18) was just the Dead without the New Riders. 

 

However, when the Dead returned to the Capitol Theater in early November, they played what turned out to be the last three acoustic sets of 1970 on 11/6,7,8 at one of the band’s most legendary runs, sadly known only from some very good audience tapes. The main events at these shows were the wild electric sets, but some interesting tunes turned up during the acoustic sets, notably the second known acoustic version of Attics of My Life and three versions of El Paso and Operator. Either there was no acoustic set on 11/5 or recordings of it were not made or have not survived. 

 

11/5/70: No acoustic set?

11/6/70: Candyman, Uncle John's Band, Attics of My Life, Drums & Phil, Don't Ease Me In, Deep Elem Blues, Dark Hollow, Friend of The Devil, The Rub, Black Peter, El Paso, Brokedown Palace, Uncle John's Band

11/7/70 Deep Elem Blues, Monkey & The Engineer, Big Railroad Blues, Operator, Ripple, El Paso, Cumberland Blues* 

11/8/70: Dire Wolf, I Know You Rider, Dark Hollow, Rosalie McFall, El Paso, Operator, Ripple, Friend of The Devil, Wake Up Little Susie, Uncle John's Band 

 

After the Capitol shows, the Dead were back to all electric shows for the duration of their career, save for a few small benefits and the long run of 1980 shows in San Francisco, New Orleans, and New York. There were probably several contributing factors to dispensing with the acoustic sets. First, they were plagued by sound problems stemming from the difficulty of properly placing and balancing the microphones for the guitars. Secondly, in many cases, the extended acoustic sets, plus a healthy set by the New Riders, often resulted in a surprisingly short electric set. And as interesting and fun as the acoustic sets were, the electric sets are where the improvisational and energetic magic happens. Finally, with the advent of two albums worth of strong new material released during 1970 and many more new compositions emerging in late 1970-early 1971, the band simply had more material to play during their electric sets. 

 

In December, concert billings indicate that the band at least pondered doing a few additional acoustic sets. The 12/21/70 Show at Pepperland was billed as the Acoustic Dead, but it turned out to feature Garcia/Lesh/Kreutzmann/David Crosby (David and the Ding-A-Lings) instead. A Winterland benefit on 12/23/70 was also advertised as featuring acoustic Grateful Dead, but they ended up playing a single electric set instead. Radio ads for New Years eve also promoted both acoustic and electric sets, but no acoustic set was forthcoming. Given Winterland’s cavernous acoustics, an acoustic set probably would not have been very feasible for either of these shows anyway. I remember that the acoustic set for the 12/31/80 NYE show at the Kaiser didn’t really work that well for the same reason.

 

After generally playing one longish electric set in the late 1970 electric shows, the Dead mostly transitioned to the now-familiar two-set formula at the El Monte Legion Stadium shows at the end of December 1970. The end of 1970 also saw one last appearance of the acoustic gospel quartet, as Garcia, Weir, Nelson and Dawson did a short radio broadcast/interview to hype the three El Monte shows.

 

KPPC Studios 12/27/70: Silver Threads and Golden Needles, Cold Jordan, a Voice From On High, Swing Low Sweet Chariot.  

 

The Grateful Dead's experimentation with playing acoustic instruments onstage during 1968 to 1970 was another aspect of their experimenting with different genres of music and different ways of performing. Even though it didn't end up being a permanent part of their onstage persona, it stands as a high water mark of the Dead's creative expression during one of their most interesting and productive years. It's hard to believe this was 50 years ago. 


*With David Nelson

@With John Dawson

# With David Grisman

& Garcia on piano, Nelson on guitar, Torbert on bass

Friday, July 24, 2020

Live Music in Palo Alto1971-73 - Across the Tracks at Homer's Warehouse



Literally across the tracks from In Your Ear, Homer’s Warehouse was the other main venue for regular live music performance in Palo Alto during the early 1970s. An actual warehouse located where the western extension of Homer Street intersected the main Southern Pacific train line from San Francisco to points south, Homer’s period as a rock venue is portrayed in colorful fashion in Andrew Bernstein’s California Slim, the Music, the Magic, and the Madness, which I heartily recommend as essential reading on the Palo Alto music scene in the 1970s. It provides the full, colorful story of the club whereas this piece is intended to provide all of the information I could find on who was booked at Homer’s Warehouse during its brief two year tenure. Homer’s was more of a gritty rock-based roadhouse than the more genteel, blues-and-jazz focused In Your Ear. Because it was a bar and closed its doors before I turned 21, I never made it to Homer’s Warehouse. The purpose of this appendix is to spotlight some of the musical luminaries that played other main club the Palo Alto area in the early 1970s. There are a number of these bands for which I couldn’t find any information, so I just list the date and the band name in those instances. 

For the first year of its existence, Homer’s Warehouse was run and booked by Bob Giussi, and its booking policy seems to have mostly attracted a lot of bikers, an otherwise relatively rare commodity in primarily white collar Palo Alto. 

12/4/71 Gold
Gold was a Latin-inflected blues band from San Francisco’s Mission District. Their manager and sometime percussionist Ron Cabral was a school teacher by day and a good friend of Country Joe McDonald, who he met when they were both in the army. Although they did not release recordings during their tenure as a band (1968-1973), there are two posthumous releases by the band that show them to be a tight and dynamic ensemble. Their most infamous gig was supporting Big Brother and the Holding Company and Janis Joplin’s final band, Full Tilt Boogie, at the Palms Ballroom (later Pepperland)  in San Rafael on 5/16/70. Gold was apparently a hit at Homer’s as they were booked for two subsequent dates. Cabral also wrote a very entertaining book, Country Joe and Me, 

12/9/71 The Dogs
After lead singer Roy Loney left San Francisco rock band the Flamin’ Groovies, the band briefly took the name the Dogs before wisely returning to their original name. Although they were part of the original San Francisco rock renaissance of the mid to late 1960s, and performed during the closing of the Fillmore West in July 1971, the Flamin Groovies’ short old time rock tunes cut against the grain of what most Bay Area bands were doing at the time. The Groovies had their greatest success in the late 1970s/early 1980s when the musical fashions of the day caught up with their style and they moved temporarily to the UK. 

12/10/71 Around and Around

12/23/71 The Doobie Brothers
I believe the Doobies actually played a number of times at Homer's during the Guissi era, but this was the one hard date I could find. Being based in San Jose, Homer's was an easy gig for the Doobie Brothers, presumably still living hand to mouth at this point a few years away from the beginning of their glory years.

12/31/71 Truckin'

1/8,9/72 The Beans
As detailed here, the Beans were initially a jam-band focused group from Phoenix Arizona including the core of future band the Tubes. The Beans was one of a very few bands that I could determine played at both Homer’s Warehouse and In Your Ear.







1/15/72  Black Kangaroo and Lollapalooza. 
Black Kangaroo was the power trio rock band that was principally a vehicle for guitarist Peter Kaukonen’s Hendrix-style instrumental acrobatics. They released their sole album in 1972 on Grunt Records, the label run by Kaukonen’s brother Jorma’s band the Jefferson Airplane. The younger Kaukonen went on to play on a number of other Grunt recordings, toured with the Jefferson Starship, has played occasionally with Hot Tuna, participated in the 1989 Jefferson Airplane reunion, and has released a number of solo albums on his own Veldt records. 


1/21-22/72 Fluid Drive and You

1/26/72 King Kong

2/2/72 Funeral Wells

2/17/72  You Thursday

3/3/72  Pomps

3/10,11/72 Rockets

3/17/72  Hades

3/24-26/72 The Doobie Brothers

5/4,5/72 Touchstone
This is an intriguing booking because the timing is right for this to have been an appearance by the band Touchstone that included former Grateful Dead keyboard player Tom Constanten, former Country Joe and the Fish Drummer Chicken Hirsch, and avant-garde composer/guitarist Paul Dresher. They released a single album, Tarot, which was the soundtrack to a mime production. 

5/18/72  Gold

6/6/72 Blues Bash

6/7/72 Mike Shapiro Band. 
Mike Shapiro was lead guitarist for Palo Alto band William Penn and his Pals, which included keyboardist-lead vocalist Greg Rolie who would shortly go on to fame and fortune as a key member of Santana. 

6/15-16/72 Country Weather
Country Weather was one of the better unsigned second or third wave San Francisco rock bands, with a twin guitar lineup of Greg Douglass and Steve Derr, they were probably closest in style to early Quicksilver. This gig was near the end of the band’s tenure, with Douglass slated shortly to work with Van Morrison, Hot Tuna, and Terry and the Pirates before becoming a member of the Steve Miller Band in 1976.





6/17/72 Frank Biner Band.
Oakland’s Frank Biner was a blues vocalist-guitarist that played Chicago clubs before migrating to the Bay area in the 1960s. He sang backing vocals on several Tower of Power cuts and later worked with Michael Bloomfield, who he had known from his Chicago days. Other than a 1982 single,  Biner didn’t have recordings of his own released until he was signed by German label Acoustic Music, which released four albums by Biner during the 1990s. 

7/6/72 Titus’ Mother with Linda Laflamme. 
Linda Laflamme was the original keyboard player in It’s a Beautiful Day and the first wife of that group’s violin player/songwriter David LaFlamme (not to be confused with his current wife Linda). After leaving IABD, Laflamme formed Titus’ Mother, a band that never recorded and seems to have mostly vanished from Bay Area musical history. Here is a brief insight into Titus’ Mother from a 2003 interview of David LaFlamme by Peter Thielen: “Yeah, she started her own band Titus’ Mother, did “Food Stamp Blues” and a lot of other — what I call protest music. Very political. I remember once, Freddy over at Keystone [a club in Berkeley] he had spoken with Titus’ Mother and they wanted to play there, and he said, “Do you think you could get that ex-husband of yours to play?” So I talked to Freddy and he said, “I want you to play here at the Keystone, but I want your ex-wife to be on the bill as the opening act.” I said “Freddy, this is going to be the biggest mistake that you ever made in your life, you’re going to be so sorry you did this.” He said, “No, I’m not, no I’m not, I think it’s going to be fantastic. The place will be packed.” I said “Oh, there will be people there, but you’ll be sorry.” Guess what? She got her friends, they made some signs, and they paraded up and down in front of the club all week before we were supposed to play there because of the high ticket prices. (laughs) He called me and said “What is she doing? David, please, I don’t understand.” (laughs) “I told you Freddy, she’s very political and she doesn’t like these fifteen dollar ticket prices, she’s really upset about it.”

7/8/72 Gold

8/18-19/72 Ribbet

9/29/72 A Natural Act

11/2-3/72 Bluesberry

11/4/72 Madness

Following a biker skirmish that resulted in one person being stabbed with an ice pick, Homer’s Warehouse closed its doors after the incident was reported on the front page of the Palo Alto Times. After being closed for a few weeks, Andrew Bernstein and Rollie Grogan took a sublease from Bill Giussi, who had originally leased the warehouse from 82 year old landlady Katherine Urban, whose husband had built a group of warehouses in the former industrial center. 

2/2/73 Stoneground and Blue Mountain
Stoneground started out as a trio from Concord that morphed into a 10 piece band with five lead singers. They were the central band for Warner Brothers Records’ Medicine Ball Caravan and appeared in both the movie from that tour and a Hammer Horror film called Dracula A.D. 1972. By 1973, they had undergone a number of personnel changes, most recently the departure of former Beau Brummels singer-songwriter Sal Valentino, but were still a powerful live act with lead singer Annie Sampson, guitarist Tim Barnes, keyboardist Cory Lerios, and drummer Steve Price. Blue Mountain was a great Palo Alto based rock/R&B band. 

2/9/73 Nick Gravenites and Luther Tucker
Nick Gravenites was an essential part of the group of Chicago blues musicians who migrated to the bay area in the 1960s. Gravenites wrote songs for the Butterfield Blues Band, was a principal songwriter and vocalist for the Electric Flag, and then performed regularly with Michael Bloomfield in his club gigs around the bay. He also performed without the guitarist, particularly when Bloomfield’s tendency to miss gigs became more commonplace. For this performance, Gravenites performed with pianist Mark Naftalin and a rhythm section. 

2/13/73 Asleep at the Wheel
Asleep at the Wheel had played a number of gigs at In Your Ear before it closed, but became close to a house band at Homer’s during the remainder of the club’s existence. The original lineup of Asleep at the Wheel easily succeeded in bringing western swing to Bay Area clubs and released a series of strong albums on United Artists, Epic, and Capitol. Andrew Bernstein’s book chronicles many exploits of the band during their affiliation with Homer’s. 


2/15/73 Sons of Champlin
The Sons of Champlin predated many of the better known San Francisco bands, but never obtained the commercial success of the Jefferson Airplane or the Grateful Dead. After briefly changing their name to Yogi Phlegm in 1971, the band returned to their earlier name and recorded possibly their strongest album, Welcome to the Dance in 1973. At this point, the Sons comprised Bill Champlin, Terry Haggerty, Geoff Palmer, David Schallock, and James Preston. A formidable live act, the Sons of Champlin were regulars on the Bay Area circuit and also toured nationally during this period. 

2/22-24/73 Nick Gravenites and Blue Gravy

3/4/73 Old and In the Way. 
Old and in the Way’s second live performance was the first appearance by Jerry Garcia in a Palo Alto club since his appearances with the New Riders at the Poppycock in late 1969 (He did play twice at Stanford in the meantime, once with Merl Saunders at Frost Amphitheatre and once with the Dead, on 2/9/73, at Maples Pavilion). According to Bernstein’s book, Sam Cutler contacted the club to offer the club a gig by this then unknown but soon to become legendary ensemble, comprising Garcia, Peter Rowan, David Grisman, and John Kahn, so they got this gig on a Tuesday night, two days after OIITW did their first radio broadcast for KSAN from the Record Plant. For the radio gig, the band included fiddler Richard Greene but, According to Bernstein book, the group performed the first time at Homer’s as a quartet without a fiddler. Garcia clearly liked playing at Homer’s as he returned two more times with Old and In the Way, and also did a weekend in May with Merl Saunders. 

3/23/73 Rowan Brothers and Frank Biner Band
At this time, the Rowan Brothers consisted of Chris and Lorin, the two younger siblings of Earth Opera/Bill Monroe/Seatrain guitarist Peter Rowan. The duo had met Jerry Garcia, then a neighbor of theirs in Stinson Beach, through Peter, and he was instrumental in getting the younger Rowans signed to Columbia records, who released their first eponymous LP in 1972. At this point, the Rowans were working with a small electric group, performing a wide variety of original tunes by the two brothers. 




4/10 Bob Banks and the Gas Tanks
Banks and the Tanks were apparently a country band made up of Stanford students who had enough cronies to fill the club from the nearby university.

4/12/73 Copperhead and Luther Tucker Band.
After he left Quicksilver Messenger Service in 1970, Guitarist John Cipollina migrated to Copperhead, a harder-rocking band that included bassist Hutch Hutchinson, drummer David Weber, keyboard player/vocalist Jim McPherson and guitarist/vocalist Gary Phillippet. They recorded a single eponymous album for Columbia in 1972 that consisted of original material written by Phillippett, McPherson and Cipollina in various combinations. The band broke up Phillippet, who also went by Gary Phillips, had a long career in bay area bands including Freedom Highway, Earthquake, and the Greg Kihn Band. McPherson did recording with a variety of Marin County musicians in the mid to late 1970s, and was a member of High Noon, an eclectic band put together by Mickey Hart in 1980 that included Merl Saunders and Norton Buffalo. Around the time Copperhead folded, Cipollina started working with Terry and the Pirates, a great rock and roll ensemble that was fronted by Terry Dolan and featured twin lead guitar courtesy of Cipollina and Country Weather’s Greg Douglass. Cipollina subsequently worked regularly with Nick Gravenites and was a member of the Dinosaurs as well as numerous other Marin County based groups.

Blues guitarist Luther Tucker had impressive credentials before fronting his own band, having served in Muddy Waters and later James Cotton’s bands in the late 1960s before going out on his own in the early 1970s. He was a regular at In Your Ear during its last months of operation. During this era, Tucker also worked with John Lee Hooker, and did not record under his own name until the 1990s, when he also did an album with the temporarily reunited Ford Blues Band.

4/18-19/73 Stoneground

4/20-21/73 Rowan Brothers Chaos Chorus and Stagger Band
The Chaos Chorus were an electric trio from Sonoma County that were led by a teenaged Norton Buffalo. Buffalo, an amazing harmonica player, songwriter and vocalist, later played with Commander Cody, led his own band, the Norton Buffalo Stampede, that recorded a couple of albums in the mid-1970s for Capitol. For many years, he was Steve Miller’s sidekick in the Steve Miller Band, and also recorded a series of fine albums with guitarist Roy Rogers. 

4/27/73  Sons of Champlin

5/2/73 Dirty Butter Jug Band
Santa Cruz ensemble Dirty Butter Jug Band has been playing since the early 1970s. The group originated when New Jersey music fanatics Tim Greenwood, Bob Young and Rita Black decided to start a jug band. Moving to California in 1971, they assembled a sprawling cast of collaborators that began performing in bay area clubs, most notably the legendary Club Zayante in the Santa Cruz mountains. 

5/3/73 Appaloosa and the Mad Brothers
There was a New England Quartet called Appaloosa that recorded a single album for Columbia in 1969, produced by Al Kooper. Given the time gap and the lack of any follow up recordings by this group, and the fact that they had a return gig in July, it is more likely that this was an unrecorded bay area band.


5/4,5/73 Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders. 
As noted in California Slim, Andrew Bernstein knew Jerry Garcia from the folk days, and took guitar lessons from him. Since the Grateful Dead moved out of Palo Alto, Garcia had been a rare presence in Palo Alto, other than some excursions with the New Riders in 1969-70 and a Dead performance at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion on 2/19/73. However, once Garcia played a local place that he liked, he would often return there frequently. Jerry clearly liked playing Homer’s Warehouse, starting with his March date with Old and In the Way, but this was the only time he performed there with Merl Saunders. Soundboard recordings exist of both nights of this May engagement.

5/6/73  Mad Deal Ely

5/18/73 Old and In the Way
Two weeks later, Garcia was back again playing bluegrass with with Old and In the Way.

5/19/73 Stoneground

5/24/73 Cat Mother and Eyes
Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys had a long history, starting as a quintet playing rock and roll in New York, where they met Jimi Hendrix, who produced both their first album The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away and the hit single from that album “Good Old Rock n Roll” which reached #21 on the Billboard singles chart in 1969. The group subsequently moved to California, went through a number of personnel changes, and released two more albums. By 1973, they were mostly playing bay area clubs, including this one date at Homer’s.

5/25,26/73 Crabshaw’s Outlaws (Elvin Bishop) and Elvis Duck
In 1973, Elvin Bishop was juggling two bands. The Elvin Bishop Group was a popular club and ballroom act that he had maintained since at least 1969, featuring keyboard player Stephen Miller and vocalist Jo Baker. In 1973 he began playing club gigs with a different group including second guitarist Johnny Vernazza, who had played in soul/R&B band Gideon and Power. Gideon and Power also included vocalist Mickey Thomas, who had been mentored by that band’s lead singer Gideon Daniels. Thomas was recruited into Crabshaw’s Outlaws as a backing vocalist. The novelty of the sound of Bishop’s new group was the twin lead guitars of Bishop and Vernazza, which created a sound more reminiscent of the Allman Brothers than the classic Butterfield Blues Band. Eventually Bishop transitioned the Outlaws into a new version of the Elvin Bishop Band in 1974 that recorded a number of best-selling albums for southern rock label Capricorn and generated the huge AM hit “Fooled Around and Fell In Love,” which launched Thomas’ career as a lead vocalist, initially in the Bishop band and later in the Jefferson Starship and Starship. 

5/30/73 Asleep at the Wheel

6/8/73 Paul Pena
Boston area guitarist-vocalist Paul Pena had moved to the Bay Area in 1971. He had opened for the Grateful Dead in Philadelphia in 1969, so he visited the Dead’s office to get help getting local gigs. Pena opened for Garcia and Saunders numerous times, and they also appeared on his album New Train, which was recorded in 1973 but remained unreleased until 2000 because of contract disputes. That album, which was produced by Ben Sidran and featured a core band of Sidran, bassist Harvey Brooks, and drummer Gary Malabar, included the song “Jet Airliner, which Sidran passed to his sometime collaborator Steve Miller whose version of the song was a huge AM hit a few years later.  In 1999, Pena was the subject of a documentary film, Genghis Blues, which documented his journey to Tuva to compete in their annual throat singing competition. Back in 1973, Pena most often performed solo, but it is possible he had a band for this headlining gig. 

6/9/73 Butch Whacks and the Glass Packs
Butch Whacks and the Glass Packs were (an amazing 15 piece rock and roll band dedicated to performing old style rock and roll hits from the 50s-early 60s. The band got their start as students at St. Mary’s College in Moraga playing frat parties, and eventually morphed into a very popular bay area club and theatre act. I saw Whacks and company one time, my first visit to the San Jose State Student Union Ballroom in 1973. Their schtick was greaser rock and roll – think Sha Na Na but with more energy and musical talent. It would have been great to see them at an intimate space like Homer’s. After disbanding in 1976, the group came back together in 1983 for the first of 22 annual reunion performances before finally calling it quits for good in 2014. 

6/13/73 Asleep at the Wheel

6/15/73 Sons of Champlin and Funeral Wells

6/22/73 Luther Tucker

6/23/73 Staton Brothers
The Staton Brothers Band was a Los Angeles Based quartet that produced one CSNY-influenced album on Epic in 1972. They did not record a follow-up, but clearly were still performing in 1973. 








6/29/73 Country Joe McDonald and His All-Star Band and Funeral Wells
Country Joe McDonald’s All-Star Band included two members of Big Brother and the Holding Company, bassist Peter Albin and drummer David Getz, along with vocalist Dorothy Moskowitz, late of pioneering Los Angeles electronic ensemble United States of America. During this era, apparently membership in the All-Star Band was fluid, so this gig may have featured a slightly different lineup

7/3/73 Pegasus
Pegasus was a five piece Sons of Champlin-like  band from Maine that recorded a single in 1973, and undertook at least one brief west coast tour that apparently included this bay area gig. 

7/4/73 Asleep at the Wheel and Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
With simpatico musical styles and similar party energies, Asleep at the Wheel and Commander Cody were a natural co-bill, and I saw the bands together many times, primarily at the Keystones, during 1975-77. 

7/5/73 Appaloosa

7/6,7/73 Elvin Bishop Band and El Roacho
This gig was apparently played the ‘classic’ Bishop band with Stephen Miller and Jo Baker, approaching its last legs. El Roacho was a six piece Texas-by-way-of-Los-Angeles rock band that released a single album The Best of El Roacho’s Biggest Hits on Columbia in 1973, allegedly produced by a young T-Bone Burnett. Not to be confused with punk trio Sons of El Roacho. 

7/11/73 Appaloosa

7/12/73 Stoneground and Elvis Duck

7/13/73 Stoneground and New Shreveport Homewreckers
All I know of the New Shreveport Homewreckers was that they used to gig around Santa Cruz when I was a student at UCSC and featured Moby Grape’s Jerry Miller as guitarist for at least part of their existence.

7/14/73 New Shreveport Homewreckers

7/18/73 Asleep at the Wheel

7/20/73 Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee
Acoustic Blues duo Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee had played several times at In Your Ear and apparently chose a booking at Homer’s when they had a more high profile gig at the Paul Masson Winery in Los Gatos a few days later. Bernstein’s description of his several days driving Terry around is priceless.

7/21/73 Butch Whacks and the Glass Packs

7/24/73 Old and In the Way and Asleep at the Wheel
Because I did not turn 21 until 1974, I never made it to Homer’s Warehouse myself. However, I was told by a friend who worked at Stanford radio station that their set would be broadcast on the radio station, so I had my tape recorder set up and recorded the first sets of both bands, which were indeed broadcast on KZSU. By this point, Old and In the Way had quite a few gigs under their belt and, after brief tenures with Richard Greene and John Hartford in the fiddle slot, had settled on virtuoso Vassar Clements, whose graceful, swooping fiddle runs were the icing on the bluegrass cake that was Old and In the Way. The broadcast was the first time I had heard Asleep at the Wheel, and I was immediately smitten with their extroverted western swing groove and the seductive vocals of Chris O’ Connell. 

8/4/73 Asleep at the Wheel, Elvis Duck, Phantoms of the Opry

8/10,11/73 Elvis Duck

8/15/73 Kinky Friedman and his Texas Jewboys and Asleep at the Wheel
This was the first meeting between Texas legend Friedman and Asleep at the Wheel, who were soon to join Friedman as Austin residents. I'm sure a good time was had by all at this show, and that many libations were consumed. 









8/17,18 Truckin’

8/24/73 Jesse Colin Young and Jerry Corbitt
Former Youngbloods bandmates Young and Corbitt reunited for a few duo performances around this time, including this show and one a week later at Homer’s. 









8/25/73 Orphan
Orphan was a Boston based light rock band built around guitarist Eric Lillhequest and
vocalist-guitarist Dan Adrien that recorded two albums for London Records. I saw them around this time at the Boarding House in San Francisco, where they opened for musical comic Martin Mull.  




8/28 Kanger Kakko Band

8/30/73 Cat Mother, Orphan and Fever

8/31/73 Jesse Colin Young and Jerry Corbitt

9/14/73 Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and Phantoms of the Opry
In the early 1970s, folk legend Ramblin’ Jack Elliot had connected with the Grateful Dead/New Riders family, most notably joining them at the Felt Forum on 3/18/73 for a fine Riders/Dead mashup. Elliot subsequently moving to the Bay area for a few years and doing club dates such as this event at Homer’s. Support act Phantoms of the Opry was a bay area bluegrass quintet featuring Pat Enright, later leader of the Nashville Bluegrass Band, and bassist/vocalist Laurie Lewis, early in her career.  

9/20/73 Fever

9/21 Truckin’

10/3/73 Old and In the Way (cancelled)

12/15/73 Steelwind

A band fronted by Jefferson Airplane/Starship songwriter Jack Traylor, Steelwind released one album on the Airplane’s Grunt label in 1973. The group also featured a 19 year old Craig Chaquico as lead guitarist, soon to go on to stardom with the Starship and later as an acoustic guitarist playing mellow new age music. 






As described in California Slim, the club reached the end of its tenure following an incident where Asleep at the Wheel’s bus being parked on the Homer’s property drew the ire of landlady Katherine Urban, who had her employees dig a ditch around the vehicle to prevent it being moved. At that time, she also learned to her great displeasure that Homer’s had not only been operating as a rock club, but had been sublet without her knowledge to Bernstein and Grogan. The bus was removed from its imprisonment in the moat, but Bernstein and Grogan decided it was time to abandon ship. The last booking I could find for Homer’s was the Steelwind show, but the two entrepreneurs moved on to briefly book shows at Zinzanatti Umpapa, a defunct polka club on nearby California Avenue that had previously been a Purity Market and would later be house rock clubs Sophie’s and the Keystone Palo Alto. But that’s another story, again covered colorfully in Bernstein’s book. 

Updated 8/1/20 with some new calendar listings courtesy of JGMF.