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Sunday, July 25, 2010

JGMS: "July 21-22," 1974, Keystone, Berkeley, CA

**updated 20111216 2057 GMT**
Tony Saunders is the bassist on these two tapes.

The Jerry Site has listings for Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders at Keystone, Berkeley, on July 21 and July 22, 1974. I doubt both date/venue combinations, for reasons I'll lay out below.

A) "JGMS 7/21/74, Keystone, Berkeley"

This first date is so obviously spurious that it barely bears laying out, but in the interests of completeness I'll do it anyway.

1) The GD played the Hollywood Bowl this date. Depending on show times both would be possible, but this seems extremely unlikely on its face.
2) Keystone billed Moby Grape and Earthquake on Sunday, 7/21, as evidenced by a Scenedrome listing in the Berkeley Barb:

 3) The recording, which is high (Betty-Board) quality but only in light circulation, contains two versions of "When I Die".

Regarding "7/21/74", I therefore conclude that this date was attached to some Betty Board snippets merely as an anchor (i.e., for ease of identification). When/where the material is actually from is anybody's guess (and I'll take a flyer below).

B) "JGMS 7/22/74, Keystone, Berkeley"

This may be the tougher case, since there is a quite delicious Betty Board (e.g., shnid 86198) in long circulation. (If you don't have it, get thee to the to your favorite Bit Torrent site forthwith!) The tape is notable for an as-yet untitled standard that starts things off, as well as the only-known (to me) JGMS version of Cucumber Slumber.

However, there is some reason to doubt this date/venue combination.

1) Saunders and Fierro appear to have been billed at the Sand Dunes bar on this Monday night:

I have posted about the Sand Dunes and the fact that Merl and Martin were playing there on Monday nights, with Jerry's at-least occasional participation. It seems likely that all three of them were at the edge of the Western World (i.e., the far western Sunset District of SF) on 7/22.

2) The bassist on these tapes is confirmed to be Tony Saunders. Tony Saunders played in his father Merl's bands at the Sand Dunes and The Generosity.

3) Keystone Berkeley's listing in the Hayward Daily Review, July 19, 1974, p. 36, bills Nite Shift and audition bands. Now, this could easily be moved for a Garcia appearance, I am sure, but it's just another strike against a JGMS show at Keystone Berkeley on this night.

4) As the Jerry Site notes, in remarks added by slip and seemingly attributed to 'strumminsix,' the recording features "Boogie On Reggae Woman" from Stevie Wonder's Fullfillingness' First Finale, which was apparently released on July 22, 1974. Now, it wouldn't shock me that Merl and/or John might run down to the record store first thing and get the new Stevie Wonder album. But I'd be slightly more surprised if the band could have absorbed it enough to play it that night. This leads me to question whether the circulating material dated as 7/22 is actually from that date.

5) Finally, reinforcing these doubts just expressed, the newest iteration of this "7/22/74" material (again, shnid 86198), may not be all from one performance. This would have to be checked more carefully than I am able to do, i.e., in listening for source changes in the recording, but it's a possibility that joins with all the others to raise some doubts.

Based on all of this, I conclude that Garcia and Saunders were not at the Keystone, Berkeley on July 22, 1974. The material circulating as "JGMS 7/22/74, Keystone, Berkeley" is either from another date, or from another venue, or is a hodge podge of material from other dates/venues.

C) A Final Thought

Putting things together this way reveals a tantalizing possibility: maybe all of this material is actually from the Sand Dunes from around this time (e.g., 7/21/74)? Everything we have, including a tape label the dating of which coincides with a brief flurry of Martin-related items in the Oakland Tribune, and includes Tony Saunders, who played in the band at the Sand Dunes.

Alternatively, maybe it's from The Generosity. The newly polished/circulated Castelli tapes from 2/14/75 (shnid 108896) and 5/9/75 (May 9th) (shnid 107829) reveal some things in common with these "1974" tapes, the appearances of "When I Die" and other seemingly-very-rare instrumentals (Cucumber Slumber, What's Going On, and the unidentified tunes) being most prominent. [Note added 20111216:  These song selections are only unusual if this is actually JGMS, which it almost certainly isn't. This may have been the standard Monday night set for the Merl Saunders/Martin Fierro outfit at the Sand Dunes, or Aunt Monk at The Generosity! Tony Saunders played bass in both outfits, and he is present here.] The possibility identified in point B4 above, that BORW might need to be from later than 7/22/74, could be seen as reinforcing this possibility.

If forced to bet I'd say that both of these tapes are approximately-correctly-dated performances of the Merl Saunders-Martin Fierro group --Saunders, Fierro, Garcia, Tony Saunders, and an undetermined drummer-- at the Sand Dunes, 3599 Taraval Street in the Sunset District of San Francisco, CA, 94116.

And, regardless of all of this, I highly recommend all of these recordings to you. They're awesome and show Jerry playing amazing, unfamiliar material when he is truly at the top of his game. Two snaps up.


  1. HI,
    my boyfriend used to tell me stories of him playing in a bluegrass band in Denver when he was a kid and having the experience of a lifetime. I think he was about 16 and the band he was in played at the Denver Bluegrass festival (i think it was 1971 maybe).
    He said that they met Jerry Garcia and he decided to play with this young band along with someone else-- maybe a Tex Watson- for a couple of songs, but not sure abut the second guy.
    He had a tape of it- and it was AWESOME! I was wondering if anyone knows/remembers this. I cant remember the name of his band, but might be able to find it in some files.
    I would ask my BF about it but he died 2 weeks ago. His family has the recording, but wont talk to me (because they are mean people) so this treasure might be lost forever with the passing of Tom.
    Any information is appreciated. Sorry if this isnt the place to post this question-- but thought i'd try....

  2. Thanks for checking in and posting, J.

    The tape you mention does not ring a bell at all.

    I would be more than willing to contact your BF's family to ask about this tape. It sounds like a wonderful document. Post here if that sounds like a possibility, and we'll coordinate some 1-on-1 contact.

    Thank you again!

  3. I find your reasoning pretty convincing. Do any of the tracks have bass playing that sounds "un-Kahn like?" I am fixated on the idea of Merl playing the Sand Dunes and The Generosity as a traditional organ trio--Hammond, sax, drums--while managing the bass pedals himself. If Jerry dropped by, who said that Kahn did? If your hypothesis is correct and this is a cut and paste job, maybe Kahn is on some tracks and not others.

    Merl played in organ trios for years, touring Southeast Asia (mostly playing for US Serviceman) in a guitar/organ/drums trio, so he knew how to do it. And I saw him once (in 1976 with Aunt Monk) with no bass player, and he sounded great. Garcia and Saunders would have a different sound with a simple, funky organ pedal bass.

  4. Another way of looking at the theory that 'July 21-22, 1974" was a collection of odds and ends would be to consider who made the edits in the first place. Perhaps Betty or someone--Merl?--wanted copies of songs that weren't typically done by the GS band.

  5. how can i write you directly? will tell you more about the tape.


  6. Hi, Nice blog. Well done. These shows are definetly mislabled. Some of the songs you mention scream'75. The recordings I have of jgms in summer of '74 have vastly different setlists than just a year later. I havent done any research yet or looked for the sources and this is probably a really dumb question but I was wondering if you checked these recordings against the 6/21,6/22/75 Keystone shows? Anyway I feel there is a limited amount of material the songs could be from if it is a hodgepodge as you say and most likely its '75. I'm gonna try to track down the source. Thanks for workin on this.

  7. Thanks, anon. You're right that it sounds more like '75. Checking against the June shows is a good idea, though I am pretty sure I would have recognized that, having heard those shows a fair amount. But it's worth looking into.

  8. Another very small morsel pointing to this music being from much later -- like BORW, it seems unlikely that they could have performed Cucumber Slumber on 7/22/74. The tune is from Weather Report's album Mysterious Traveler. According to the wikipedia page for the album, WR recorded the tune sometime between Feb and May 74. When was it released? 10 minutes of googling couldn't tell me that, but it did turn up this WR discography page with two reviews of the album. One is from Rolling Stone #166, which had a cover date of Aug 1 1974.

    While that certainly doesn't prove anything about the album's release date, it would seem to put it sometime around Aug 1 1974. Like BORW, it seems pretty unlikely that the band would have learned a tune that they couldn't have heard more than a week or so beforehand, right?

  9. I agree with you. It's no smoking gun, but it just makes it seem less likely. Now, maybe they all brought in their favorite new releases and picked a few new tunes to work up, who knows. But it does seem less probable than that this material comes from a later date.

  10. Did you ever get anymore info from the commenter J in regards to Jerry sitting in at the Denver Bluegrass Festival? Date?


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