The Great American String/Music Band is one of my favorite Garcia-involved aggregations. It was short-lived by almost any measure, but especially insofar as Garcia’s involvement was concerned. By the latter yardstick, it lasted barely three months. It is still shrouded in some degree of mystery, even regarding fundamentals such as the precise name at various points in time. I have read and thought a lot about that issue, but it’s too convoluted (and still too unclear) for me to post about here – that’ll be a future post. It was a watershed group (along with closely-related Muleskinner) in terms of David Grisman’s musical development, representing, gross modo, the pivot that would turn him decisively toward “Dawg Music” over the next several years. In that sense, I think it’s important more generally in any account of the development of various American musical forms, especially bluegrass.
So, I’ll have a lot to say about GASB/GAMB at some point. For now, putting the cart before the horse, I just want to comment on the dating of two of the shows that circulate, going under the dates of June 12-13, 1974, from the Keystone in Berkeley.
We have three tapes that circulate with these two dates:
- a Louis Falanga audience tape (shnid 83232) dated 6/12/74.
- a sbd tape (shnid 7331) dated 6/12/74.
- a sbd tape (shnid 13768) dated 6/13/74.
I believe that there were three shows in this time period: June 12th at the Lion’s Share in San Anselmo and June 13-14 at Keystone, Berkeley [ed: correct!]. I have no idea what the tapes actually portray. In an optimistic vein, I might conjecture that all three of these dates are represented on the tapes we have, but there's no evidence to that effect.
Let me start with the question of the tapes first.
The key to thinking we have three dates represented here, and not just two, resides in tape #2. I think this is actually two separate shows, based on the following:
- "Swing ’42" appears twice, once in each “set” that is identified.
- There is an emcee introduction before “set II” saying “Welcome back to the Great American String Band.” This sounds more like a separate show than a return from an intermission, but of course this is not entirely clear. (As an aside, Greene introduces the band as Great American *Music* Band before “set I” on this tape, while the emcee says *String*. But, again, the naming issue is too opaque to get into here.)
These could, of course, be early and late shows from the same date. However, I am not aware of any other early/late billings at either the Lion’s Share or the Keystone Berkeley around this time, so I am inclined to think these are two separate dates. Tapes #s 1 and 3 are the same show, but whatever its date this show is distinct from the two shows I think are present on tape #2. In brief, I think we have three distinct shows represented on these tapes: the one identified as set I of 6/12/74 on the sbd tape; the one identified as set II of 6/12/74 on the sbd tape; and the one that is available to us through both an aud copy and a sbd copy, respectively dated 6/12 and 6/13/74.
In my current state of thinking, I imagine that one of these sets is from the Lion’s Share on June 12, and one each is from the Keystone on June 13 and 14, respectively. I wouldn’t hazard which might be which, and this particular attribute goes way beyond what the evidence rightfully allows.
Why do I say that there was a Lion’s Share (not Keystone) show on 6/12, and a Keystone show on 6/14?
1) 6/12/74: Lion’s Share, San Anselmo
- I don’t know what the Keystone Berkeley’s Wednesday night booking policy was around this time, but I note that there is no KB item in the Berkeley Barb’s Scenedrome section (June 7-13, 1974, p. 24) for this date. Similarly, the Hayward Daily Review’s calendar from June 7th shows nothing, though I should note that it only seems to cover through June 9th. Insofar as these illuminate, they cut against a Keystone Berkeley gig for GASB on this date.
- The Hayward Daily Review calendar from June 7th covers the Share’s bookings from the 7th through the 16th, but the 12th and the 13th show no listing. This cuts against GASB being at the Lion’s Share on this date.
- However, Richard Greene’s 1974 datebook shows him at the Lion’s Share in San Anselmo on this night. While it’s not 100% clear that this was GASB, it seems very likely. Since most of the other evidence is of the dog that doesn’t bark variety, and since Greene’s datebooks strike me as very reliable, I am willing to go with this as the sovereign datum at this point in time.
- update: Elwood 1974 confirms 6/12/74 at the Share.
2) 6/13/74: Keystone, Berkeley
- There is an ad in the June 9th Oakland Tribune for Great American String Band shows on 6/13-14 (see right). Note that Garcia is featured and that Kahn is listed, though as far as I know Kahn didn’t play bass with the GASB. (That, in itself, is interesting, given the GASB’s genetic connection to Muleskinner and Maria Muldaur’s band, both of which would have cut toward Kahn being involved.)
- There is also an ad in the same Barb cited above, which showed nothing for 6/12, providing a listing for 6/13.
- Elwood 1974 confirms. He was in attendance. He also confirms the Good Old Boys and gives personnel.
- point 2, first bullet, also supports this date.
- There is a calendar item in the Fremont Argus (June 14, 1974, p. 9) for this date.
In sum, regarding the mid-June 1974 GASB/GAMB gigs:
- despite what appears to be lots of confused and conflicting information on the tapes, I think we have evidence for three separate shows’ worth of music;
- despite what’s on the tape labels, I think there were shows at the Lion’s Share on 6/12 and at Keystone Berkeley on 6/13-14.