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Thursday, March 31, 2011

James and the Good Brothers (Courtesy of the Grateful Dead)

Found this interesting. The New Orleans House ad from the Berkeley Tribe v.3 n.15 (issue 67) (October 16-23, 1970), p. 21 lists "James & The Good Brothers (Courtesy of the Grateful Dead)" for Friday-Saturday, October 13-14, 1970.

Corry has said this about the connection between the bands:

James and The Good Brothers were a Canadian trio (James Ackroyd and twins Bruce and Brian Good). They made contact with the Dead on the infamous “Festival Express” train trip, and were invited to San Francisco. They recorded an album for Columbia (NRPS’s label), produced by Betty Cantor-Jackson, with Bill Kreutzmann on drums, and possibly an uncredited Jerry Garcia.

He has mentioned them again in the context of a post on the Festival Express, while the post quoted above is primarily about a Garcia guest shot with them in February 1971 at the Fillmore West.

This ad interests me for a few reasons. First, I don't recall seeing much stuff like this in pawing through old ads and the like. How common was this, and what did the "courtesy of" really mean? Was this just advertising, or would the GD somehow have contributed financially?

Second, Matt Scofield's deaddisc entry for the JATGB album contains contradictory information, with the story quoted from Corry above alongside the claim that "After moving to California to play some gigs they were 'spotted' by Jack Casady and Bill Kreutzmann - attention that eventually led to a recording deal. This LP was the result." So the one version has them hooking up with the GD on the train and then coming to CA, while the other says they were already in CA when Jack and Billy "spotted" them. Not a big deal, but I do wonder which one is closer to the truth.

Third, maybe most importantly to me, I wonder how the various record deals floating around relate to this, if at all. In our various Hooteroll? discussions (I guess this one was the last post that I did), there was lots of talk of how the pieces of the puzzle --Garcia, Hooteroll?, NRPS, Rolling Thunder, the GD's contracts, etc. etc.-- all fit together (and not). I wonder when JATGB signed with Columbia (and precisely when NRPS) did, and how it is that the GD were "promoting" them, as it were.

Anyway, really just a "hmmmm...", from my perspective.


  1. Much as I'd love to hope there was more than just "branding" going on here, I think "courtesy of the Grateful Dead" was a way to get people to pay attention to an otherwise unknown band. During this period, Alice Cooper was always billed as "new, from Frank Zappa", as he was their producer.

    Record companies paid a lot of attention to what other hip musicians thought, and for good reason. Warners, for example, signed all sorts of bizarre acts for Zappa's Bizarre Records, but they made millions on Alice Cooper.

    A good word from Jerry Garcia was enough to get Clive Davis to sign a band to Columbia--The Rowan Brothers, JATGB, etc--because that was common practice at the time.

    As to the differing stories about JATGB, they may all be true; they could have made contact with some band members and been invited to SF, and Casady and Kreutzmann "discovered them" as a result. The Good Brothers are still popular in Canada--we could probably just email them.

  2. HI
    I knew James in Toronto back in 68/70 thru a mutual friend, John Lyons. I know James had met up with the Dead and gone out to California to hang out on their farm and after that a record deal took place. This James told me so I guess it is the true version of events. I would love to know what happened to James - anyone know? Also love to get a copy of the album James and The Good Brothers if anyone has one? pls reply to if you have any info. thanks...

  3. According to the Good Brothers site ( James Ackroyd is no longer with us. He appears to have stayed in California when the group returned to Canada in the early 70s, and he seems fondly remembered by his former bandmates.

  4. In late 1974-early 1975, James Acrkroyd briefly fronted another band in the bay area, called James and the Mercedes, which featured two female singers, one of whom was Bob Weir's then-wife Frankie. I saw them open for Kingfish a few times, but that came to an end when Frankie had a personal crisis early in 1975. I didn't hear much of him subsequently.

  5. I found another James and the Good Brothers listing "courtesy of the Grateful Dead" for the Matrix on Thursday, 10/15/70. Unless I am mistaken, this is also new to the Matrix list.

  6. Per the Santa Rosa Junior College paper the Oak Leaf, 12/17/70:

    The Christmas seasons festivities will begin tomorrow in Burbank Auditorium at 4 p.m. when the student body of this campus will have the opportunity to hear three farout Canadians who call themselves JAMES AND THE GOOD BROTHERS.
    Their manager, Gail, met them on the Festival Express while on a tour of Canada last summer with the Grateful Dead and persuaded them to give California a go.
    The first performance of James and the Good Brothers in the U.S. was two months ago at the Inn of the Beginning. The audience response was so enthusiastically overwhelming that they are currently in the process of recording their first album.
    According to one of the college sponsors of the group, the Grateful Dead...and countless others who have heard James and the Good Brothers really freak out when they hear them."

    Also, from the San Rafael Independent-Journal, 12/4/70:
    "The Lion's Share on the San Anselmo Miracle Mile is featuring James and Good Brothers tonight and tomorrow night. This is a group of three guitarists doing three-part vocal harmony, discovered in Canada by the Grateful Dead."

    Also of note, newspaper listings for the 4-hour KQED TV broadcast of the 12/31/70 Winterland concert included James & the Good Brothers among the performers. As far as I know they didn't perform (I didn't find any report of them playing), but they were listed in advance. Possibly they did play, on the TV broadcast no less, and have been completely forgotten!


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