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Sunday, March 13, 2011

The end of the November 1974 Jerry Garcia - Merl Saunders (JGMS) east coast tour

There is so much to say about the November 1974 east coast tour undertaken by the Jerry Garcia / Merl Saunders group (the quintet of Garcia [el-g, vocals], Saunders [keyboards, vocals], John Kahn [el-bass], Martin Fierro [horns], and future Lawrence Welk drummer Paul Humphrey).

Garcia had done two national "tours" outside the Grateful Dead prior to this one.
  • First, in January 1972, he went out with Howard Wales behind the Douglas Record Hooteroll? on something like a 10-date tour. I think we have barely scratched the surface with that tour.
  • Second, in June 1973 Old And In The Way booked a midwest/east coast bluegrass festival tour which seems to have fallen apart after a scant 3-4 gigs. Again, we know next to nothing about this.
  • Third, we have this tour. (The gigs at the Bottom Line, New York, NY, July 1-3, 1974 were one-offs, more like "scouting trips" for the tour, in my eyes. One helluva party, it seems like, and another barely documented episode.)

It began at the Bottom Line on Tuesday, November 5, 1974, and ended, I will argue, on Sunday, November 17, 1974 at the Auditorium Theatre in Rochester, NY. By my count the group played 22 shows in 12 days. I am not going to narrate the whole tour, just the end.

TJS currently has the tour running through a Monday night (November 18, 1974) show in The Dome at C.W. Post College in Greenvale, NY. Ryan's note says "All tapes I've seen with this date are really 11/08/74." Indeed. There was a show on Friday, November 8, 1974 in The Dome at C.W. Post College. There are several different tapes and lots of eyewitness accounts (though I'd love to gather more!). It seems pretty open and shut to me that the "11/18/74" dating is just a transcription error from "11/8/74". Not sure the point even needs belaboring, but I guess I'll go ahead and summarize all of the reasons this date is probably bogus:
  • there is lots of evidence for 11/8, no evidence for 11/18 except mislabeled tape;
  • easy to make "11/8" become "11/18".
  • Why would they come back to the same venue ten days later?
  • Why would they do so on a Monday night?

So this is what I think of as a "mere mislabel". The chances that it happened are tiny. How should these data be kept, and for example how should they be displayed at TJS?

In sum, I conclude that the current listing for Garcia and Saunder at C.W. Post College on November 18, 1974 is based on a mislabel of tapes from November 8th.

If "11/18/74" wasn't the last show of the tour, what was? For the night before (Sunday, November 17, 1974), TJS lists Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders at the Auditorium Theatre (*not* the Rochester War Memorial Auditorium) in Rochester, NY. It notes a 145 minute audience recording, which I do not believe I have heard. It also notes information from "Mark Wilkins", who presumably attended the show. There's a quite complete looking setlist as well. I would note, finally, that there is a listing in the (Canandaigua, NY) Daily Messenger, Thursday, November 14, 1974, section two, front page. So, lots of evidence that this show happened, and finishing on a Sunday makes a certain amount of sense.

So far I hope to have done the following:
  • established that "11/18/74" is a "phantom gig";
  • invite feedback on this is a type of phantom gig, and how TJS might represent such data;
  • established that 11/17/74 did occur and was the final show of the 12-day, 22-show marathon (or is it a sprint?) northeast tour.

One last point I'd like to make is that John Kahn seems to have finished up with Garcia and Saunders and picked right up with Maria Muldaur's road band. Nice scheduling!

  • The first Maria Muldaur gig from this tour that I have come across is, you guessed it, Monday, November 18, 1974 (Avery Fisher Hall in New York, NY). It was reviewed in Billboard (1). John Kahn is not mentioned.

  • The second one I came across was the same billing (Maria Muldaur, Livingston Taylor) at the Music Hall in Boston, MA on Friday, November 22, 1974. This was in an ad in the Boston Phoenix (November 12, 1974, p. 6, in the "Don Law Presents" space). 

Obviously I am not trying to narrate this Muldaur tour, though the Kahn story will eventually require all of that to be done. I am just noting the transition for John: finish with Jerry on the 17th, head back to the city for Maria on the 18th. Few more paying gigs (and maybe quite a few ... where were they until the 26th?), not too bad!

I suppose my point about this is that, in those days, Kahn was quite a busy musician. I don't think Garcia was carrying Kahn in 1974.

Stephen, Jim. Talent In Action: Maria Muldaur, Livingston Taylor, Avery Fisher Hall. Billboard, December 14, 1974, pp. 21, 31.


  1. I am getting way ahead of myself here, but are you confident that John Kahn was actually a member of Maria Muldaur's band at the time?

    I ask because standard practice at the time for solo artists with record company support (Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, etc) was to have a fluid lineup with a rotating cast of characters, usually anchored by a bandleader.

    Thus Jackson Browne always had David Lindley with him, but the keyboard player might vary from tour to tour (Mark Jordan, Jai Winding, etc). There were a variety of sound economic reasons for this practice, from the point of view of the record company, the artist and the backing musicians.

    As near as I can tell from very limited data, I think Maria Muldaur's musical director was either Jeff Gutcheon (piano) or David Nichtern (guitar), and more likely Gutcheon. There's no guarantee that John Kahn was always a member of the touring band.

    All that being said, I find your thesis very plausible that Kahn jumped off to Maria's tour right after Jerry's. However, having started to look into it, I'm discovering that the business of John Kahn being a "permanent" member of Maria Muldaur's band during this period is far less settled than I thought.

  2. Good point. I suppose I assumed he was in it. And when I saw the coincident dates of the end of the Garcia/Saunders tour and what I took to be the start of the Muldaur tour (though I don't know that, either), I figured where there was smoke there was fire.

    Truth is, we really have no idea where John was on the nights he wasn't playing with Jerry. At least, not until you lay it out for us! ;-)

  3. As your post aptly shows, there are many things that had been taken as settled fact (like the 11-18-74 JGMS show) that do not hold up to scrutiny.

    I knew that John Kahn had played with Maria Muldaur, but it turns out to be far from settled how much he actually played. Maybe it was a lot, maybe not (I can't believe I am heading down the road of doing a Maria Muldaur tour history just to solve this...).

  4. i attended the c w post college show. it was on november 8,1974, not the 18th. it followed the bottom line shows in new york that same week. i also saw one of the july 1974 bottom line shows. i still have a stub from that one.

  5. Thanks for confirming, dave.

    Got any recollections of the July '74 Bottom Line shows to share? Any chance you took pix?

  6. sorry, no pics. an interesting fact about the 7/74 bottom line shows was that they followed the regularly scheduled shows by steeleye span the same week. as a big steeleye fan we already had tickets for one of their shows. the day i went to garcia/saunders we got to the club very early having no idea if we'd get it. i remember one of the guys from steeleye being surprised as he arrived when i told him i'd be seeing him a couple of days later. i guess he didn't expect it from the dead heads hanging out. needless to say the club was packed and lots of hells angels were in attendance. since the show was a late late show we didn't get out of the place until about 4 am. i didn't see any of their bottom line shows in november opting to go to the c.w. post date that week. i did see them there the following spring though. i also caught their show at the capitol in passaic on 9/6/73 the night before the dead's nassau coliseum shows. i would think that the passaic show and the day before on the boat cruise were the first ny area shows with saunders. of course old and in the way had been there 3 months earlier and that was lots of fun.

  7. As Dave say's 11- 8- 1974 CW Post Dome - No question I was there and have the tickets and pictures to prove it. Also can say that the audience recording with some guy yelling sit the f down was made on a UHER RR recorder by Charlie ???

  8. Maybe Charlie DiSalvo? If he taped it, that hasn't come into the light of the digital world, I don't think.

    Would love to see some pictures. Feel free to email me at Thanks!

  9. I attended the Auditorium Theater show in Rochester and to the best of my recollection it was on a Sunday evening. The show was billed as Jerry Garcia & Friends. It wasn't well advertised or sold-out. Almost had the feeling of a private party. Can't recall the set list, but much of the Keystone record was covered. Thanks for this post...I was beginning to think I went to a show that didn't happen.


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