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Sunday, August 22, 2010

GSCBF2: Golden State Country Bluegrass Festival: San Rafael, CA, April 26-28, 1974

I am going to probably do a series of posts on the Golden State Country Bluegrass Festival, which was held in San Rafael from April 26-28, 1974.

I have become rather obsessed with this festival. It barely gets mentioned in most Dead-/Jerry-ology, but I think it provides a fascinating glimpse into all kinds of things: 1974, bluegrass, rednecks-meet-hippies, hippie business practices, GD, Bay Area, Garcia, Northern California/SF in their relations to "America", etc. etc. Folks who have read Gans and Simon's still wonderful Playing in the Band [Amazon link, 1996 updated version] might recall the iconic picture by John Sievert of John McEuen, Steve Martin, and Garcia "pickin' and grinnin'" together at the festival (1):

I don't have a clear plan in mind for this series, which is probably really dangerous. It's been many years since I've written something of any length/continuity without a very tight outline, so this could meander. That's fine. I'll just kind of post things as they come, and since I have mentioned it once already I'll call this post GSCBF #2. I hope to at least make posts about the business side of things, the performers, and the recordings. This post is a quickie that mixes the first and third.

Let me just make five empirical observations.

1) The festival was to be recorded for an album release on a "major label" and there were plans for "a major motion picture company [to be] filming the Festival with the production of a theatrical feature being the objective" (2).

2) Judy Lammers, who organized the festival with her then-husband Paul, says that film was conferred on someone, unremembered, right after the festival, and has been lost to her since.

3) another person closely involved with the festival (3) says that things started to get organizationally crazy, especially surrounding recording and filming, when the GD organization took over these aspects. This person says that the tapes "walked away" after the festival.

4) I have been under the impression that a set of these tapes resides in Grisman's vault, and maybe that another resides in the GD (?Garcia?) vault.

5) There are various quite nice sbd recordings in circulation (i.e. among collectors) of many of the festival acts. At least one and maybe two very low gen sets of tapes, slightly different sbd tapes, are out and about a little bit. I will be analyzing the tapes and posting about them separately.

What's the point of this post?

Not quite sure, but let me spitball one or two speculations and other ideas.

1) I have already posted about how Garcia was half-owner --with Ron Rakow his equal partner ... yikes!-- of Round Records. It makes sense to imagine that a festival recording might be a Round release. Hardly a "major label", but I wouldn't put it past the promotional materials to be willing to gild the lily just a tiny bit.

2) Re the filming, we know Jerry would eventually do the GD movie. He might have liked the idea of doing the festival film. What's more, this is music he loved in the area he loved, bluegrass in Marin County. I can see how portraying that combination would have been especially rewarding for Jerry.

3) If #1 and #2 are true, this might explain why the "GD organization" horned in on the festival action. It became something of a Garcia/GD production, despite the facts that 1) every living bluegrass icon (less Bill Monroe) and many of the hottest folk and country acts were present (and, coincidentally, playing their asses off); and b) others had worked long and hard on planning this thing. If Round was involved, Garcia had a tremendous personal stake in making any release a commercial success. What would suck is if the GD --imagine!-- shanghai'd the tapes while letting the festival organizers take a bath on the gate receipts and such.

4) Putting all of this together, I would suppose that the tape and film is all in GD-family hands, and that an eventual release could be foreseen. I rarely get normative, but he's a hope: How's about a festival film and soundtrack, David Lemieux! And while they are at it, I am sure the Lammers would love to see some fruits of their labor of love in putting this thing together, after dealing with financial ruin at the time. Win-win-win: fans and historians get to see some presumably great footage of some incredible music and musicians, we all get to hear great music in the best possible sound, and the people who deserve to might see some much-deserved reward.


(1) Gans, David, and Peter Simon. 1985. Playing in the Band: An Oral and Visual Portrait of the Grateful Dead. New York: St. Martin's Press, p. 147. Updated memorial version, with new last chapter, published 1996.

(2) "The Hills Around the Bay to Resound With Music: Country Music, Bluegrass Music, Old-Time Music, and Much More American Folk Music; The Bay Area's First Bluegrass Festival -- Last Weekend in April." Jewell Productions and Communications Assistants, April 11, 1974. Southern Folklife Collection Festival Files, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, folder 54; 8 pp., information from p. 4.

(3) Lest anyone draw the wrong inference, this is not Paul Lammers. I haven't spoken to him, though I would very much like to.


  1. I concur completely with your hypothesis that Garcia was the driver in the "takeover" of the festival. Garcia was the only member of GDP who liked bluegrass (not to say Weir or anyone disliked it, but bluegrass is a pretty specialized genre). Certainly there wasn't a dime in recording it, so any rational business adviser (if the Dead even had any) would have been against it.

    I had always found it peculiar that Old And In The Way reconstituted itself for one gig several months after they had effectively broken up. It would make a lot of sense, however, if Garcia was metaphorically and financially invested in the event.

  2. The festival was about Bluegrass not the GD. Vassar Clemmons, Clarence Wakefield and many many others. The GD were not central to the theme... The OAINTW album recorded on the heels of the festival did well. Judy and Paul were naive and trusting and basically were screwed by the performers.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Anon. Of course I recognize that Vassar Clements and Frank Wakefield and bluegrass were what it was all about, and that it was not about the GD. I am interested, among other things, in how the intersection of these worlds, GD and bluegrass, played out.

    The OAITW album was recorded at the Boarding House on October 8, 1973, about six months before the Festival, and was released ca. 1975, quite a bit after it.

    Also, for clarification: how did the performers screw the promoters?

  4. An album was planned but everyone ran off and did their own deal. Judy and Paul poured their heart and soul into it, and everything they owned. They treated the performers like royalty and in turn they rec'd nothing. Tickets were counterfeited...and performers took advantage of the producers largesse. Garcia and Grisman were mere walk ons at this event. Not taking anything away from great performers, but the all-time greats of bluegrass were there and it was those men and women who held center stage, not the GD. Just wish it could have worked out for all involved.

  5. im assuming that even tho i found quite by accident this blog and this article that u are not offering recordings of this festival here. i found the recordings offered on another site but the links were dead because they were on megaupload and well.. u know. guess im still looking eh? if u do have the recordings please advise - thank u

  6. GSCBF2: Golden State Country Bluegrass Festival: San Rafael, CA, April 26-28, 1974 - 320 kbps mp3

    part 1
    part 2
    part 3
    part 4

  7. Golden State Country Bluegrass Festival
    Golden State College, San Rafael, CA
    1974-04-27 and 28
    Golden State College
    San Rafael, CA

    01: Old Joe Clark (Cornbread)
    02: I Don't Believe You Met My Baby (Cornbread)
    03: Fire On The Mountain (Cornbread)
    04: I've Been Everywhere (Homestead Act)
    05: Take Five (Homestead Act)
    06: Way Down In Georgia (Homestead Act)
    07: Chime Bells (Homestead Act)
    08: Diggy Liggy Lo (Homestead Act)
    09: The Foggy Mountain Breakdown (Homestead Act)
    10: Jambalaya (Emmylou Harris with Angel Band)
    11: Instrumental (Tut Taylor And Norman Blake)
    12: Southern Railroad Blues (Tut Taylor and Norman Blake)
    13: Footprints Through The Snow (Doc and Merle Watson)
    14: Man Walking On The Water > Keep on the Sunny Side (Doc and Merle Watson)
    15: Wabash Cannonball (Doc and Merle Watson)
    16: Mule's Done Gone Away (Jim And Jesse McReynolds)
    17: Are You Missing Me (Jim And Jesse McReynolds)
    18: Poor Boy Blues (Doc and Merle Watson)
    19: Wabash Cannonball (Doc and Merle Watson)
    20: Salt Creek (Doc and Merle Watson)
    21: Tennessee Stud (Doc and Merle Watson)
    22: My Plastic Banana is Not Stupid (Great American String Band: Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Richard Green, Taj Mahal, David Nichtern)
    23: Dawg's Rag (Great American String Band: Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Richard Green, Taj Mahal, David Nichtern)
    24: I'll Be The Gambler If You'll Deal The Cards (Great American String Band: Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Richard Green, Taj Mahal, David Nichtern)

    01: Sweet Georgia Brown (Great American String Band: Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Richard Green, Taj Mahal, David Nichtern)
    02: Bear Tracks (The Hired Hands)
    03: Standin' On The Mountain (Buck White And The Down Homers)
    04: Pick Away (Jim And Jesse McReynolds And The Virginia Boys)
    05: Cotton Mill Man (Jim And Jesse McReynolds And The Virginia Boys)
    06: The River Of Jordan (Jim And Jesse McReynolds And The Virginia Boys)
    07: Mabeline (Great American String Band: Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Richard Green, Taj Mahal, David Nichtern)
    08: Johnny B. Goode (Great American String Band: Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Richard Green, Taj Mahal, David Nichtern)
    09: Dueling Banjo's (Jim and Jesse McReynolds and The Virginia Boys)
    10: Instrumental (Norman Blake)
    11: Intrumental (Norman Blake)
    12: The Wreck Of The Old 97 (Tut Taylor,Norman Blake, and Mac Wiseman)
    13: Catfish John (Tut Taylor,Norman Blake, and Mac Wiseman)
    14: Love Letters In The Sand (Tut Taylor,Norman Blake, and Mac Wiseman)
    15: Shackles And Chains (Tut Taylor,Norman Blake, and Mac Wiseman)
    16: Prisoner Song (Tut Taylor,Norman Blake, and Mac Wiseman)
    17: Jimmy Brown (Tut Taylor,Norman Blake, and Mac Wiseman)
    18: I Wonder How the Old Folks Are At Home (Tut Taylor,Norman Blake, and Mac Wiseman)
    19: Man Walkin' On The Water (Tut Taylor,Norman Blake, and Mac Wiseman)
    20: Keep On The Sunny Side (Tut Taylor,Norman Blake, and Mac Wiseman)
    21: Jesus Loves His Mandolin Player #1 (Frank Wakefield with Jerry Garcia)
    22: Heartbreak Hotel (Frank Wakefield with Jerry Garcia)
    23: Orange Blossom Special (Frank Wakefield with Jerry Garcia)
    24: Doc Bog's Country Blues (Doc and Merle Watson)
    25: Movin' On (Doc and Merle Watson)
    26: Wabash Cannonball (Doc and Merle Watson)
    27: Tennessee Stud (Doc and Merle Watson)

  8. Disc 3
    01: Talking Fishing Blues (Ramblin' Jack Elliot)
    02: Don't Think Twice, It's Alright (Ramblin' Jack Elliot)
    03: Down The Line (Ramblin' Jack Elliot)
    04: Pretty Boy Floyd (Ramblin' Jack Elliot)
    05: Dixie Breakdown (Doug Dillard and Frank Wakefield)
    06: Tulane And Johnny (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Jerry Garcia)
    07: Cosmic Cowboy (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Jerry Garcia)
    08: Jambalaya (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Jerry Garcia)
    09: Sally Goodin (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Jerry Garcia)
    10: Battle Of New Orleans (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Jerry Garcia)
    11: Teardrops In My Eyes (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Jerry Garcia)
    12: Bonie Maronie (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Jerry Garcia)
    13: Randy Lynn Rag (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Jerry Garcia)
    14: Flint Hill Special (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Jerry Garcia)
    15: Mr. Bojangles (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Jerry Garcia)
    16: Honky Tonkin' (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Jerry Garcia)
    17: Diggy Liggy Lo (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Jerry Garcia)
    18: Will The Circle Be Unbroken (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Jerry Garcia)
    19: Way Downtown Fooling Around (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Jerry Garcia)
    20: Down Yonder (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Jerry Garcia)

    Disc 4
    01: High Lonesome Sound (Old And In The Way)
    02: Pig In A Pen (Old And In The Way)
    03: Panama Red (Old And In The Way)
    04: Wild Horses (Old And In The Way)
    05: The Hobo Song (Old And In The Way)
    06: Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie (John Hartford and Friends)
    07: Turn Your Radio On (John Hartford and Friends)
    08: Electric Washing Machine (John Hartford and Friends)
    09: Skippin' In The Mississippi Dew (John Hartford and Friends)
    10: Boogie > Jelly Bean Psychedelic Song (John Hartford and Friends)
    11: Steam Powered Aereo Plane (John Hartford and Friends)
    12: Wheel Hoss (John Hartford and Friends)
    13: Peacock Rag (John Hartford and Friends)
    14: Foggy Mountain Breakdown (John Hartford and Friends)

  9. Thanks for the info and links, anon. Since my information is much more extensive and accurate than that info that circulates with one existing versions of these recordings, I have actually developed a spreadsheet that will allow me to cross-reference everything, including what I know against what you list above. That'll be helpful, since many, many informational variations travel with the material that's covered in what you have posted.

    Clear as mud, I know. Anyway, the files are out and about. I am happy to discuss with you as you listen, or see if I can answer any of your questions about the festival (or you mine). Thanks!


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