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Friday, January 07, 2011

Response to LLD's Hooteroll--When Was It Recorded?

Corry has an important and rich post over at LLD on the mystery that shrouds the recording of Howard Wales / Jerry Garcia, Hooteroll [deaddisc entry]. I started to reply in comments over there, but began to write more than I thought suitable for that little sub-medium (a minimum?), so I thought I'd just let myself go a little over here. Not sure what blogger etiquette dictates in such a situation, but anyway. This will be a little bit of a sloppy mess, so brace yourselves.

Hooteroll? is obviously very important for Garcia scholars as Garcia's first real "side trip" (insofar as "trip" implies travel [excluding the Hartbeats], and "side" implies separate from the Grateful Dead [excluding the JG-era NRPS]). (Whoever named the one live Wales/Garcia release was freaking smart ... I mean, Side Trips really is a genius title ... but I digress.) And Corry is absolutely right that there's a lot of seemingly-deliberate obscurity surrounding this album. Howard Wales is a generally obscure guy, and seems to prefer things that way, but there is a lot of weirdness even in the contemporary record about this album. Corry has laid out a number of elements that strike me as important, but I still can't quite see how they fit together.

Let me throw out a bunch more, and conclude that the album was recorded in late 1970, with its release delayed a year due to record company squabbles. This won't be well organized, but I'll do my best.

I was initially prepared to pin down at least the end date of the sessions, based on an item in Billboard from Nov. 7, 1970 (1), including this: "Recording of the Garcia-Wales LP was completed last week in San Francisco at Wally Heider Studios". That pins the location and would pin the date pretty clearly. Remember the discussion about a possible Garcia return to the Bay Area for a ca. Nov. 1, 1970 NRPS gig? And Janis's wake at the Lion's Share ca. Nov. 1-2, 1970? I have found that some or many of Garcia's odder movements (such as traveling back to the Bay Area from Stony Brook after 10/31 only to return to Port Chester for an 11/5 show -- why not hang in NYC??) had to do with recording obligations. Oh yeah, and let's not forget that there are PERRO tapes (Heider's!) dated 11/3/70. All of this fits together so perfectly, dating at least the completion of Hooteroll? to ca. November 1-4, 1970, and providing another piece of evidence that Garcia was in the Bay Area on those dates.

One more tidbit: Billboard had a little item on Douglas the day before this (2), as well, suggesting that there was a record-company promotional effort underway, also suggesting that word of the sessions' status would have been coming from the horse (Douglas)'s mouth. This is also a good read, totally confirming what Corry says about Douglas's uncompromising approach.

And yet ... and yet ... here are a few spanners for the works.

November 7, 1970: presumed wire report (2): "Former Grateful Dead members Jerry Garcia and Howard Wales have signed a contract with Douglas Records and are expected to start work on their own material in the near future." Given the number of mistakes (the error-to-word ratio is pretty striking), I would discount this, maybe as a bastardization of the contemporary Billboard material. Until I see a ...

... December 19, 1970, report from San Francisco in Billboard (3), with these consecutive items: "Howard Wales has begun working for a new album on Douglas ... The New Riders of the Purple Sage are recording at Wally Heider's ... David Crosby has booked time there through the end of January ... Jefferson Airplane is at work on a new LP ..." This is obviously PERRO incarnate, with what would become Crosby's If I Could Only Remember My Name and Kantner/Slick's Blows Against the Empire, though I had never, ever realized there might be a Wales connection to PERRO. It doesn't explicitly say that Wales was working at Heider's, but the context (looks like they got a call from Barncard or someone!) is suggestive. So is the fact, pointed out by LIA, that Wales came into the studio to lay down some stuff for the GD's American Beauty, which would have been around August 1970 at Heider's.

So the last two items suggest that recording might have started around November-December 1970, rather than finishing then. The November 7 report that things were done by early November seems like the anomaly here ... maybe there was just a miscommunication?

There's also this little tidbit in support of more of a December timeframe. I had forgotten about it, and it is odd, defying otherwise clean break between Howard and Merl as GOTS keyboardists ca. September 7, 1970:

Can't recall if I owe h/t to Ross. Probably, so, thanks, Ross!
Grateful Dead, the Brotherhood, and "Howard Wales and Friends" billed at Pepperland in San Rafael on December 21, 1970. Interesting. We also know that David Crosby was around Pepperland right in this moment because of the David and the Dorks gigs, which would tie back into Heider's in November. We don't know whether Howard and Jerry played together at all, but I do think the billing is instructive. I don't know that Garcia and Wales would ever share a billing again, but for the January 1972 Hooteroll? promotional tour.

One final reflection on late 1970 recording timeframe. Corry mentioned The Music of El Topo. According to deaddisc, this is Douglas Records #6, released in 1970. Hooteroll? is Douglas Records #5, released in December 1971. Not sure this odd sequencing says anything about recording dates (it may reflect contract dates, or expected release order, or whatever), but it might. It might imply that Hooteroll? was in the can by the time El Topo was released ... let's say ca. Christmas 1970? This strikes me as an independent piece of evidence, tenuous on its own but suggestive in the context of everything else, for recording in November-December 1970, probably not much thereafter.


Anyway, I am pretty persuaded that the album was recorded in late 1970. I am hoping to learn more about whether this took place at Heider's -- I have records for other sessions around this time, but nothing for Wales -- but that's my operating assumption for now.

So, why doesn't the album come out until December 1971, with a brief promotional tour in January 1972? I agree with Corry that this had to do with record industry stuff.

Consider this tidbit, from the Nov. 7th Billboard item (1), which I remind you was headlined "Douglas To Record 2 LP's By Grateful Dead Artists":
Joe Smith, Warner Bros. executive, said that the Douglas recordings will be beneficial to Warners in terms of artist exposure as well as enhancing the climate of artistic freedom which is so necessary among serious musicians who want to work with artists from other labels.

As Corry points out, the record was eventually manufactured and distributed by Columbia Records. And the above quote sounds like a bunch of CYA from Joe Smith, who was confronted with a story that leads with the GD working with another label and probably wanted to put a positive gloss on what was actually a turf battle. The fact that it is mentioned also supports the idea of some "industry" tension surrounding the whole thing.



Wild conjecture time. The Nov. 7th Billboard piece (1) informs us that, in addition to Wales and Garcia, there are plans for a Kreutzmann-Hart percussion album
.
The Kreitzmann[sic]-Hart LP will be recorded at a fully-equipped 16-track studio Douglas has installed in Hart's barn in Navato [sic], Calif. The studio, designed by Kreitzmann [sic], Hart and Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead under the supervision of engineer Dan Healy, will be completed within the month.

I would need to go back to look at the history of Mickey's Barn studio, but I do not recall having known that Alan Douglas had paid for it. That would not have been a cheap item in 1970-1971. The Grateful Dead cancel their Port Chester shows in December 1970 with an abject public apology, get back there in February 1971, and Hart abruptly leaves the band after the first of six nights, in connection with his father Lennie's perfidy. Rolling Thunder ends up being released ... on Warner Brothers ... in September of 1972. I note that Kreutzmann is not credited.

What a freaking mess. The bustup with Hart involves a divorce with Kreutzmann and, to a lesser extent, with the rest of the GD. Joe Smith and Warners are pissed that the GD are seeing other people, and lean on them to extract some kind of concession. Douglas has paid for a home studio for one of his artists. Dénoument: the GD/Hart and Warners/Douglas seem to engage in some odd, multifaceted exchange whereby Douglas gets the Wales/Garcia album (a score!), maybe with some weird sweetening by/for Columbia (how the hell did they get involved, anyway?). Hart gets a 16-track studio (score!) and his album. Warners/Joe Smith get Rolling Thunder (d'oh!), maybe save some face? Working all that out delays the release of Hooteroll? by about a year. That's my story.

So I conclude my saga with an answer to Corry's question: Hooteroll? was recorded in November-December 1970, probably at Heider's, and its release was delayed by disputes that ultimately have to do with the recording/music industry.

I have a few broader points, but I am out of gas. Let me just bullet them for now:

  • Wales/Garcia timeline
  • centrality of Heider's
  • Recording industry angle

REFERENCES:
  1. "Douglas To Record 2 LP's By Grateful Dead Artists," Billboard, November 7, 1970, p. 4. Accessible via Google Books.
  2. "Alan Douglas's Market: People in a State of Consciousness," Billboard, November 6, 1970, p. 40. Accessible via Google Books.
  3. Corpus-Christi Caller-Times, November 7, 1970, p. 3D.
  4. Billboard, December 19, 1970, p. 37. Accessible via Google Books.

11 comments:

  1. This is amazing research, and I find the late 1970 recording date pretty convincing. I had no idea that Alan Douglas had a connection to Hart and his studio. It also seems that the Wales/Garcia lp was not a casual byproduct, as I had speculated.

    Given Douglas's association with Columbia, the sequence of events really looks like Columbia making a full court press for the Dead while Warners tries to close the barn door. Look at the events of 1970 (in no particular order)
    >The Dead release the commercially viable Workingman's Dead
    >Alan Douglas builds Mickey Hart a studio and commissions an album
    >Alan Douglas signs Howard Wales and Jerry Garcia
    >Columbia signs the New Riders

    In response, Warners pays for solo albums from Garcia, Weir and Hart. Once the Dead leave for their own label, Hart's second album is left in the can.

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  2. Wondeful job! I do want to point out, however, that I discovered while working on my own book that issues of Billboard were dated on Saturdays, but were "on the street" usually by Thursday or so. So, when the November 7 issue refers to "last week," they're referring to the week of October 26. That seems a bit odd, but there is a gap of a few days for Jerry in late October (and evidence of a 10/26 gig at the Matrix), so it's possible.

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  3. I've put some more comments over at the LLD post, some valuable stuff. In short:
    - the "Music for El Topo" album is most likely NOT from 1970.
    - the engineer for Hooteroll confirms it was recorded at Wally Heider's.
    - a couple different sources suggest recording was finished before summer '71 (agreeing with what you've established).
    - and the guitarist for Howard Wales' '71/72 band has some interesting memoirs of the period.

    One interesting strand is that apparently Alan Douglas, catching Wales & Garcia live at the Matrix, persuaded them to record the album. (If true, it indicates Douglas was in contact with them prior to Sept '70.)
    I'm not sure what 'contract' was involved (especially on Garcia's part), but Wales continued to record for Douglas through 1971. (As James Vincent said, "He felt his time had come to carve out his own niche in the music biz.") And then, after the Jan '72 tour, he seems to have stopped & quit. (Maybe the band broke up, maybe other reasons - more research on Wales needed.)

    This would kind of confirm what Kahn and Garcia noted about Wales and the Matrix shows, that he just dropped out one day - "periodically he gets this thing of where he just can't deal with the music world any more, and he just disappears."

    I don't know if any of Wales' '71 "solo" studio work was ever released or finished - Vincent's vague memories seem to indicate that the studio sessions were a constant cocaine party where little got done... "Looking back on the early sessions, it's a miracle that we ever accomplished anything at all...we were just too stoned to function properly."

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  4. Very good stuff, LIA, thank you! I think I'll just do a quick update post.

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  5. ha ha "quick update post"--famous last words. All of this research has been great--I eagerly look forward to the inevitable 3000 word "quick update"

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  6. I felt bad about not chipping in on the demystification of the Hooteroll chronolgy so I went back over some old notes and I just want to through a couple of things in to the melting pot:
    - I agree with Anonymous about the date that the recordings essions were completed. My notes show that the Jerry Garcia and Friends performance at the Matrix on October 26 was in all probability with Howard Wales, John Kahn and Bill Vitt as they record or finish up Hooteroll! this week.
    - October 26 would likely be the first working day of the week and by October 30 Jerry Garcia would be back on the East Coast for a couple of days.
    - I am willing to concede that my notes suggesting that the album was recorded in the last week of October mayt have been incorrect, and it was likely that it was "finished off" that week as alluded to by Billboard.
    - November 1 sees Jerry Garcia back from the East coast and in San Anselmo for Janis' "wake".
    - November 3 sees "Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders and Friends" at the Matrix - so I assume no Howard Wales.
    - Key to nailing this down has to be Russ Gary (rather than Russ Geary as noted on the album cover). He is still around (Thousand Oaks).
    - Finally, a slightly odd El Torro et al link that is probably a red herring, but March 3, 1971 saw a benefit for “Airwaves” at the Fillmore West (albeit advertised as The Carousel). Performances were provided by the Grateful Dead and Shades Of Joy with Martin Fierro (who produced the El Torro soundtrack). The Gestalt Fool Theatre Family – New Generation Singers and American Indian Dancers also strutted their stuff that night (for completeness). I doubt if this is meaningful at all.

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  7. Those last two are particularly interesting to me. Thank you for sharing!

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  8. For what it's worth, Howard Wales did not appear at the 12/21/70 Pepperland show, which I attended. I have never seen this poster, which listed the regular Grateful Dead as the headliners for the show. The poster which got me to the gig, which was a 'week of the show' version, listed the "Acoustic Dead" as headliners.

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  9. I haven't looked very hard, but I'd love to find the image of any other ad, poster, anything at all.

    Thanks for confirming that Howard was not there!

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!Thank you for joining the conversation!