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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

GD: May 16, 1969, Campolindo High School, Moraga, CA

(From the 1969 Campolindo yearbook -- thanks to Marcus Buick for the scan!)

--Caveat Lector: the really colorful account that follows seems to be somewhere between partly and wholly fictionalized. It's still a good read. Please read it as a story of what might have been.--

Campolindo High School (Moraga, CA) is my alma mater. Below are the recollections of the gentlemen --Evan Hunt-- who [claims to have] organized the Grateful Dead concert there on May 16, 1969. If you have ever been to Moraga, CA, and can imagine what it must have been like in 1969, this scene is absolutely hilarious (but for some mildly offensive language -- not mine!). In any case, if you love this kind of history and the English language, I have to think that this bit will knock you out (so good I'll reproduce it twice)!

-->There were hundreds of longhaired, dope-smoking zonked-out young kids writhing around in the dirt between parking strips. The cops consisting of four off duty sheriffs reserves were hopelessly beleaguered by  banshee-cheering maniacal Deadheads, and flanked by frantic bouffant coiffured housewives pleading with anyone who could still stand for decorum and decency. Marijuana smoke rollicked out of the ceiling fans. Cans of dayglo paint were slathered against school walls. Terror ruled the hearts of most. There was virtual pandemonium. People of all sorts of dress and persuasion were staggering about mumbling into the vinegar sky. They'd all been dosed with Owsley LSD unsuspectingly lying wait in ladles of pink lemonade punch.
Anyway, the whole account follows. Happy reading.
-->
Here's the story of the Grateful Dead at Campolindo—hope you’re not easily bored.

It was early 1969, maybe January, I was attending Diablo Valley College and involved in student activities such as concerts and dances. Some of my friends were in rock bands and asked me to get them gigs at DVC. I became more and more involved in booking and auditioning local talent and often went around to the high schools and frats to drum up business. As a result, I got to meet lots of people and listen to a lot of music.  Since early 1966 I went to the city and/or Berkeley at least once a week to hear the latest acts that came to the bay area and that played the most popular venues at the time-- Fillmore (& Fillmore west), Avalon Ballroom, The Family Dog, and The Matrix.

Some friends of friends (I don't recall their names) were students at Campolindo High in Moraga. They wanted to hire the Grateful Dead to play at their spring concert, but all of their efforts fell flat because the Dead’s management didn't want to play at some suburban, teenybop high school. The Campo crowd had planned the date for May 16th and it was locked into the school's calendar. Here they'd spent all this time telling everybody in school that they were going to get the Dead, and they had no Dead. In the meantime, they signed Frumious Bandersnatch--a local band from Lafayette that had a considerable following, and they also signed school faves The Velvet Hammer to be on the concert bill.

One of the students on the concert committee found my name and number in the "Band Folder" and called me at DVC to ask me if I knew anyway to get in contact with the Dead. So, I went early to where the Dead were playing in S.F. and hung around outside until I spotted the Dead’s manager. I had seen him before at Dead shows and I knew his name--Danny Rifkin--and I walked up to him and explained the situation. He gave me his phone number and a week later I went to the Dead’s office in the Haight. Rifkin was very nice to me, but told me that the Dead were already booked May 16. I asked if there was any possibility that they had a cancellation for that date to call me. I also asked him how much the dead would charge to play a high school dance--the figure was a whopping $3,000.00, which was an extremely high price for those days--but Campolindo had to make it worth the Dead’s while, and, to their credit, they did.

A month went by. February became March. Out of the blue, Rifkin called and told me that the Dead’s tour itinerary had changed and they were free for May 16. I contacted the concert committee, arranged the contracts, and did the legwork.

The committee was supposed to give me $60.00 as a finder's fee, four free tickets, and a backstage pass for me and my girlfriend (who was a senior at Acalanes--my alma mater, too!). I never did get the 60 bucks, and when I tried to use the backstage pass the Dead’s roadies wouldn't let me in. so, we went out front to join the masses. The bleachers were pulled out, but it was festival seating on the floor.

In the gym the acoustics were dreadful. Velvet Hammer opened and were okay (more on them later). Frumious Bandersnatch was next and they were as good as any band could sound under those circumstances. The bass player was another Acalanes class of '67 grad you've probably heard of--Ross Valory--of Journey fame. Later that year, they released a record in the bay area that actually sold a few thousand copies, but they never went anywhere with their act.

Sadly I cannot supply much info about the Dead’s performance other than it was pretty awful. I think they were enroute to Seattle on their tour and really mucked-up on acid. I don't even remember one song except "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" off their first album. Me and my girlfriend left before the show ended. What we observed outside before the last Garcia solo will forever be etched in the grainy netherlands of my cerebral cortex. But there were the Dead’s people grabbing little teenaged girls who were barely in bleeding stage, and throwing them into the back of the 'quipment van and were helping themselves carnally. The girls did not seem afraid so we moved on about our business.

Though Campolindo made a lot of money from ticket sales the gym floor was thrashed by cigarette butts and Thunderbird wine bottles. There were hundreds of longhaired, dope-smoking zonked-out young kids writhing around in the dirt between parking strips. The cops consisting of four off duty sheriffs reserves were hopelessly beleaguered by  banshee-cheering maniacal Deadheads, and flanked by frantic bouffant coiffured housewives pleading with anyone who could still stand for decorum and decency. Marijuana smoke rollicked out of the ceiling fans. Cans of dayglo paint were slathered against school walls. Terror ruled the hearts of most. There was virtual pandemonium. People of all sorts of dress and persuasion were staggering about mumbling into the vinegar sky. They'd all been dosed with Owsley LSD unsuspectingly lying wait in ladles of pink lemonade punch.

What did I get out of it? Funny. The lead guitarist for Velvet Hammer caught my eye that night--he a skinny little 15 year old punk laying down these bodacious jazz licks. Nine years later I auditioned him in a group called "Climate" whom I managed into obscurity. Nonetheless the skinny lead guitarist from Velvet Hammer became a close friend and to this very day we write music together. My girlfriend married an Arab oil sheik. 

28 comments:

  1. Man, what a completely awesome story, in every respect. I had always wondered how the Dead came to play a High School in 1969, and now I know.

    This does fit my theme that the Dead were living hand to mouth in those days, and any paying gig was a necessity.I wonder if we can figure out what was canceled.

    Have you ever asked Frumious Bandersnatch about this?

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  2. I thought you'd like that.

    Nope re: Frumious Bandersnatch, but if you want to, or want to put me in touch with them, that'd be great!

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  3. Frumious Bandersnatch were the only psychedelic band from Lafayette, and frankly they are about the only hip thing I know of to come out of Lafayette ever.

    Frumious Bandersnatch used to be very accessible on the Web, with their own website and then a MySpace page. Both seem to be defunct however. Lead singer/guitarist Bobby Winkelmann was always extremely responsive. I can't seem to trace him for the moment--I hope he's out there.

    However, guitarist David Denny is out there (long time member of The Steve Miller Band, among other things) at http://www.daviddenny.com/music/biography.html.

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  4. This appears to be the last-ever show by the Grateful Dead at a High School Gym as such. Granted, Berkeley Community Theater was on the Berkeley High campus, but it was also the local Civic Center Auditorium, and wasn't used for High School dances.

    What a way to end it all.

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    1. Although not a HS "gym"....

      6/19/80, 6/20/80 & 6/21/80 West High Auditorium, Anchorage AK.

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  5. I was there that night. Some drunk kid puked all over my girlfriend, so that put a damper on my plans for passion later in the night. That particular performance was abysmal, BUT... My buddies and I all went around the back of the auditorium yo try to meet Garcia, and we caught up with him just as he was getting in his car (an old green Ford Cortina). He asked if we'd like to get high, so naturally, we said hell yes... And we climbed in his car and got loaded on his pot! Coolest concert aftermath EVER!!!

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  6. I was there. Selling soda pop to raise funds for the Campolindo High School Girl's Athletic Association. Miss Penn and Miss Howell (our resident lesbian P.E. teachers) were concerned about acid getting in the pops.

    I recall more members of the dead family walking into the gym than high school kids. Women in tie died skirts with babies on their hips, etc. I sure didn't see any kids writhing around in the parking lot or hysterical suburban housewives pleading with law enforcement. It was very tame as concerts of that era went, as I recall.

    P.S. Jackson (John) King was also in Frumious Bandersnatch and also went on to play with Steve Miller.

    http://www.discogs.com/artist/475203/get_releases/Credits/All

    I found this myspace link for Frumious Bandersnatch:

    http://m.myspace.com/home.wap?bfd=webnext&isredirected=true#friends.list/artistinfo/305746299

    I graduated from Campolindo in '71. My first concert was Jefferson Airplane in 1966 at St. Mary's College.

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  7. Thank you for sharing your recollections, anon!

    Do you know of any photographs of the event besides the one from the 1969 Campolindo yearbook?

    Also, I would love the chance to learn more about the Lamorinda and east bay scene in '66-'67, hoping you might know some things given your attendance of Airplane show at SMC. Do you know anything about the Grateful Dead show at Los Lomas High School on 10/23/66? Or why the GD show at SMC scheduled for 10/28/66 was canceled? Or the venue called "The Looking Glass" in Walnut Creek, where the GD played in early March of 1968?

    Thanks so much!

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  8. I graduated form Campolindo High in 1969 and I went to that concert. I was a hard core Rolling Stones fan and went to Altamont later that year. My 1st stones concert was Cow Palace in 1966. The music scene for Moraga was Canyon where bands from SF and Berkeley would play, such as Country Joe. And then Herbie Herbert from Lafayette put together Journey, and Ross Valory went to Sunday School with us at Lafayette Orinda Presbyterian Church. Former Campo student, Rich Lewis, (trombone player) has reunited with Little John to make a new CD and Ross is helping them. Great update.

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  9. Nice, thanks!

    I see a bunch of folks reading ... I'd love to gather more eyewitness accounts. I am also trying to learn more about what psychedelic scene there might have been in Lamorinda or further east (Walnut Creek, etc.) in that timeframe. So you can share stories anonymously or pseudonymously or under your own name, or email me at jgmfblog@gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you!

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  10. I am the person who was actually the student body officer in charge of fund-raising at Campo in 68-69, and there's a ton of bullshit is this version of the event. I do not remember dealing with someone named Evan Hunt to book the band. This was actually the SECOND rock concert we did during my senior year at Campo- the first was with Santana, Country Weather and Velvet Hammer earlier in the year. More details later, but the account of the Dead concert as stated here, especially this "hundreds of longhaired, dope-smoking zonked-out young kids writhing around in the dirt between parking strips" is total bullshit.

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    1. Thank you. I graduated from Campolindo in 1970 and went to the Dead concert, as well as the Santana concert. Also remember seeing B.B. King there. I absolutely don't remember the crazy parking lot scene or the gym being full of cigarette butts and empty wine bottles. Maybe the author is confusing Campolindo with another school.

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  11. Well I, for one, will look forward to hearing other accounts. Thank you in advance!

    I tried to find any account of it in the Contra Costa Sun or Contra Costa Times at the Pleasant Hill Library a few years ago, without much luck. Would love to learn more.

    Thanks for any recollections or insights you can share. Also, what was the date of the Santana show? Thanks!

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  12. I am looking forward to hearing about it too!

    The Santana/Country Weather event was November 22, 1968. A scan of the flyer can be seen here
    http://santanamigos.pagesperso-orange.fr/1968.htm
    (scroll down)

    One thing to keep in mind is that ALL versions of the Dead's booking may be true. Danny Rifkin (or Rock Scully or anyone else) may have dealt with any number of people and said all manner of things.

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  13. I went to Campolindo, graduated that Spring, helped to put on the show and don't remember anyone named Evan Hunt. Nor, since I helped do the cleanup afterwards, remember a single Thunderbird bottle on the gym floor or more than a few cigarette butts. The writer has a vivid imagination for the lurid, but hey, I suppose it makes it more interesting.
    Jerry walked offstage that night after Joseph Anthony, our dean of boys, wouldn't let him smoke onstage. The Dead did "Doin' That Rag, 'Schoolgirl, a half-hearted Lovelight and not much else. Bobby played a little lead and PIg did most of the singing.

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  14. David is right, he worked on producing that show with me. We never had any contact with this "Evan Hunt" person, working directly to book the Dead thru their management myself. As to his other claims- reefer smoke in the gym (never happened), free tix promised to him and a finders fee- total lie. Our Santana show was so hugely successful that we didn't need to give out free tix to ANYBODY for the second show we put on, which was the Dead show.

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  15. I'm very intrigued by the report that Jerry walked off the stage. has anyone other than Vaultmeisters actually heard the tape? I saw Garcia leave the stage "early" and return "late" for the drum solo once in Stockton (1/18/78) when he was clearly ill, and there are the notorious June 69 Fillmore West shows, when there were other hindrances. Very interesting indeed.

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  16. On a slightly different note, would any of the Campolindans know if the all-female band Ace Of Cups ever played Campolindo? Supposedly they played the "multi-purpose room" sometime in 68-69, but I don't know if that is the gym, a different room, whether it was a lunch time show, or what. Any recollections on this obscure topic would be appreciated.

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  17. This is indeed an interesting discrepancy.

    If this show report was from the same Evan Hunt who's posted lots of SF show reviews from the early years on the Archive, I'll just add that I'm extremely skeptical of any of his "memories." (That Evan Hunt now has a review up here - http://www.archive.org/details/gd69-05-16.sbd.clugston.6316.sbeok.shnf - which has not a word of this story.)

    As far as the Dead's schedule, while they had been busy the week before, it's notable that they had not a single other show the weekend of May 16, so they may have been glad enough to get this one...though they certainly betrayed little interest onstage! It's actually notorious for being one of the worst Dead shows ever played.

    Other Archive comments:
    "alan macomber and scott bauhofer (this is scott) came up with this idea for making money for the school, and put on both Santana in the fall and the Dead in the spring. We paid Santana $1250 for the night, based on the sellout of this one, we went searching for the spring show, came up with the Dead, and that one cost us $2000 for the night. And in addition to Jerry not being allowed to smoke, I think when the principal turned the gym lights on at 11 in the middle of a song, they probably were not all that happy with the experience."

    (from David Mahler) "I was not only at this show, but as a member of the Class of '69 at Campolindo, I was part of the student committee that put this on.
    We did two concerts my senior year as part of a senior class fundraiser. The "Santana Blues Band" had played in the Fall. Other senior classes did car washes and bake sales. We did rock concerts.
    I had been going to see the Dead for over a year at this point and was amazingly disappointed by this show. The dean of boys (Joseph Anthony) wouldn't let Jerry smoke in the gym and he slammed his guitar into his case and stormed off stage. Most of the set is performed without him. This was easily the shortest Dead set ever performed with the exception of a show they did in Oakland as a benefit for a Black Power group and Bobby got in a fight with one of them onstage."
    [That would've been 3/5/71 - I hadn't seen that story elsewhere, though Weir did mention in an interview that it was a "fiasco" where he was unhappy because he felt the Dead were getting ripped off, and there was another reference somewhere about how the Dead got offstage in a hurry due to an uptight crowd...]

    In short, I think Evan Hunt's story, fun as it is to read, is bogus.

    But I am also skeptical that Jerry left the stage during the show after being told not to smoke. While he only sings one song (Pigpen handles most of the show), he's playing throughout.
    But there is one point in Lovelight (their usual closing number), where the band just stops playing for a 6-minute drum solo. Jerry (and others) may well have left the stage at that point, either for an early smoke break, or in dismay at the lights being turned on... They came back to finish Lovelight, though.

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  18. Seems like this post is going to need a revamp. Thanks to all of you for sharing!

    The only other tidbit I have found (besides some old fogey columnist snickering about the crazy kids' band names in the Oakland Tribune) is a ticket announcement in the Contra Costa Sun (or was it Lamorinda Sun at that time?), May 9, 1969, p. 10:

    Rock Concert at Campolindo

    "Moraga's Campolindo High Student Body Association is holding its second big-name band rock concert, this time with The Grateful Dead, pioneers of the "San Francisco Sound," along with Frumious Bandersnatch, The Velvet Hammer, and lights by Prismatic Revenge.

    Advance sale tickets can be purchased at Campolindo High School at 300 Moraga Road between Rheem and Lafayette, The Papier Doll in Moraga Center, Discount Records in Berkeley, and Music Town in Walnut Creek.

    Advance tickets are $2.50 and tickets at the door will be $3. The concert will be held Friday, May 16, from 8 to midnight in the Campolindo gym."

    The microfilm of the Contra Costa/Lamorinda Sun at the Contra Costa County Library main branch in Pleasant Hill is missing May 23, so if there was any coverage of the concert it's missing (the paper having appeared twice monthly). For all I know this is the only extant copy of that paper.

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  19. Hmm... It's interesting that according to the ticket announcement, the show was to run from 8 to midnight.
    With three bands, barring the usual delays, you'd think that would provide plenty of time for the Dead! But our tape is less than an hour long. So if the show did end around 11, that would seem to indicate not that the Dead were out of time, but that they'd had enough...

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  20. Many or most standard contracts for concerts in those days were for a 50 minute set, or something similar. The Dead, of course, often played longer, but if they played about an hour, they would have fulfilled their contract.

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  21. I was there that night, too. I didn't see Jerry get admonished by Boy's Dean, Joe Anthony, however I did witness Dean Anthony hassling PigPen for smoking a coffin nail. I remember thinking at the time: "a little earlier, and Anthony could have hassled him for fixing in the boy's gym bathroom!

    Sound was awful for the Dead...worse even than the original Arco Arena "reverb"

    I remember the name "Ace of Cups", but I don't think I ever saw their show...I would have seen them if they'd played Campoplindo unless I was at a Labyrinth show instead.

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  22. Thanks, TruckeeDave, and all of the commenters.

    I does seem that my interlocutor likes to embellish the stories, as an opportunity to flex those fiction-writing muscles. I leave it here because the writing is still great!

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  23. * 1960 Azalea High School Yearbook - Junior photo of Jerry Garcia - One of the only known examples of this yearbook to ever be on the auction block-possiblie hand signed by Jerry himself - inscribed "Karen (Anything) Always, Jerry." The providence is outstanding and we believe this priceless piece of Grateful Dead memorabilia to continues the earliest known examples of Jerry Garcia's autograph.

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    1. www.jaysugarman.com for more information Office: 954-965-7950


      Click here: J Sugarman Auction Corp Auction Catalog - Rock N Roll, Entertainment, & Collectibles | Proxibid Auctions

      Delete
  24. Alan Macomber organized the concert for the student government. I was student body president that year. I've not heard of Evan Hunt before this. He wasn't a member of the Class of 1969 in any case.

    Jack de Golia

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  25. Thank you so much for your contribution, Jack. I will put a header on the post indicating that it seems to be a fictionalized account of what happened.

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!Thank you for joining the conversation!