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Thursday, March 17, 2011

JGB "1st Northern California Tour": August 6-8, 1981

One of the oddest little jaunts you'll find the in Garcia On The Side histories is one billed as the "1st Northern California Tour", comprising the following three off-the-beaten-path gigs:

I have just posted listening notes for the only recordings known to me of the August 6-7 shows (follow the links above), though the latter might well be from the 8th. If there are other recordings out there, even really nasty old cassettes, I'd love to be able to give them a listen.

Here I just want to reflect a little bit on this mini tour. Let me start with the ad that ran in BAM magazine. I first reproduce the full page in bad quality (including the TOC for the 7/31/81 issue of BAM, which is still an unindexed goldmine of late 70s-1980s Bay Area music information), and then a clearer but less complete scan focusing on the Garcia ad.

The tour is interesting for a few reasons. First, it occurs during a particularly fluid time in terms of membership of the Jerry Garcia Band. So I'll cover personnel issues first. Second, it's just a weird little tour. So I'll say maybe a thing or two about the tour overall, maybe a sort of business/economic aspect. Third, I'll just open up a slightly broader context to the rest of 1981.

First, personnel was extremely fluid around this time.

a. Keyboards. At the start of the year, Melvin Seals had come in on the Hammond B-3 organ, and Jimmy Warren was also brought on as keyboardist on his electric piano (I think it was a Fender Rhodes, but I am not sure). So, here we have Melvin and Jimmy Warren on keys, which is confirmed by the two tapes.

b. Drums. Historically, TJS did not show a drummer between 6/1 and 12/17, when Kreutzmann is said to come in. We know from our various discussions here and elsewhere, ultimately reflected in and derived from Corry Arnold's contemporaneous lists, that Bill Kreutzmann came in on drums for the Concord Pavilion show on September 7, 1981. I think he was also drumming in the Bay Area on December 17-18-19, while Ron Tutt had apparently taken the October-November 1981 national tour, as well as the other September '81 Bay Area shows. Anyway, Corry reckons that Daoud Shaw was around until Concord, i.e., through 8/23. That makes a lot of sense. Shaw and Essra Mohawk were an item, and both disappear from September 7 forward. So, here we presumably have Daoud Shaw drumming (though there are no guarantees of this).

c. Backing vocals. This is understood to be the short-lived Liz Stires-Essra Mohawk tandem on backing vocals. They debuted June 25, 1981 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, their first, the first Garcia Band show with backing vocalists since the Donna Jean Godchaux-Maria Muldaur arrangement vanished in late 1978. Essra appears to be gone by 9/7/81, replaced by Julie Stafford, so apparently our "School House Rock" heroine only sang a dozen or so times with the JGB.) (For more on backing vocalists, see here for early 80s, here for mid-1982 and here for late 1983.)

(One further note here, on Concord 9/7/81, JGBP says "Actually GD Archives source mentions Liz's sister. It's handwritten. [MS 332 Ser. 3, Box 1:2, GDR: Show Files: GD Concert Dates-Tour Schedule, Grateful Dead Archives, Special Collections, McHenry Library, UC Santa Cruz, CA].)

d. Bass. This is usually a non-issue: it was John Kahn. But recall that on 6/25/81 (Santa Cruz), 6/26/81 (Fox Warfield Theatre, San Francisco) and 8/22/81 (Fairfax Pavilion!) Phil Lesh played bass with the JGB, and Kahn was not present. I don't know anything about why this was the case, nor why John would miss a few more shows in March 1982, when David Torbert filled in. No point in me speculating about it, I just don't know. Anyway, based on a review of the two tapes of this mini-tour that I have heard, The Mule is in the house.

e. Summarizing, here's my best guess as to the personnel of the Jerry Garcia Band for the August 6-8, 1981 "1st Northern California Tour":

  • Jerry Garcia - el-g, vocals;
  • John Kahn - el-bass;
  • Melvin Seals - keyboards (Hammond B3 organ);
  • Jimmy Warren - keyboards (Fender Rhodes electric piano);
  • Daoud Shaw - drums;
  • Essra Mohawk - backing vocals;
  • Liz Stires - backing vocals.
Second point for this post, what an odd little tour.

a) It was organized as a set, it was advertised in BAM, there were posters made, etc. There's a promoter behind this. Yet I don't see that kind of information in the materials. Doesn't seem like Graham, both because his name isn't on the materials and because it's just too obscure. He seemed to let littler, further downmarket, and/or farther flung places be by this time. Since most of them seemed to pose little meaningful competition (and many seemed to come and go, change names, and generally struggle), he didn't really need to compete on that margin.

b) The itinerary is pretty unlikely. San Rafael to Salinas to Davis to Stockton to San Rafael? Now Salinas has the whiff of Steinbeck (less now than in '81) and is close to Monterey. Davis is a really nice college town. Even Stockton, not generally considered a desirable place to be, brings some California Delta charm, where the Gold Rush meets the Central Valley, all of which one can appreciate in an anthropological sort of way. But not in August. We're talking easy triple digits in all three of these places, but especially Stockton. August 8th in Stockton ... oof. I start sweating just thinking of it.  I'll reserve judgment on the halls; a Fox Theatre can, of course, be a magnificent thing. So I am not knocking any of this, just suggesting that it's a bit odd.

c) Putting these together, it's the juxtaposition of utterly implausible levels of organization with utterly implausible itinerary that really strikes me. There are few other tours that look quite like this that I can think of. There were lots of obscure gigs in lots of obscure places beyond the core Bay Area over the years, of course. But most didn't have the faintest whiff of business professionalism about them, with the exception of the Freddie Herrera clubs (in which Ol' Jer played a ton, 'a'course). The only other tours were typically larger scale (N > 3 shows), usually further away (e.g., midwest <--> east coast). The SoCal tours bear the closest resemblance, such as the couple-day jaunts by Legion of Mary in March (7-9) 1975, Reconstruction in July 1979 and JGB in May (17-20) 1984. But SoCal is a plane ride, and anyway with all of John's people and places down there it's probably very comfortable. These places 100 miles from SF are actually less convenient in lots of ways.

Third, just a note about the rest of the year, especially re recordings. The Garcia shows that follow this one are pretty well represented. August 20-21-22-23 are ca. 70% in circulation (missing most of two of eight sets, less a little) and represent the last Phil Lesh guest slot (8/22) and the apparent end of Daoud Shaw and Essra Mohawk's time with the JGB. There are a number of dates from after that not in circulation that I know of (scanning TJS 1981, 9/20/81, 10/25/81, 10/27/81, etc.), but there's enough sprinkled through that we can interpolate across most of them.

Before this minitour is a different deal. Going back three months (to May), I see these dates unrepresented (back of the napkin only!): 5/20/81, 5/23/81, 5/24/81, 5/27/81, most of 5/28/81, 5/30/81s1 [now see shnid-116252], 5/31/81, 6/1/81, and 7/23/81 and 7/24/81 [now see shnid-132091]. Only 5.5 of the 18 JGB shows in this period currently circulate in the digital realm, to my knowledge. And the May shows might be interesting. Melvin and Jimmy and Daoud had been around since January so they were broken in, yet the evidence of what would come -- the recruitment of the backing vocalists from 6/25/81-- suggests that Garcia (and/or Kahn) was/were not satisfied with what the band was doing. As Kahn would tell Blair Jackson, "it wasn't one of our better bands" (Jackson 1999, p. 321), though it's not clear if he meant before the vocalists came, after they arrived, or both. We get the strong sense from this same material that Garcia's heroin use is escalated at this time. In any case, having almost an entire month of gigs missing here is a drag. If anyone knows of any of these tapes, please contact me, as I'd like to study them!

Anyway, mostly I just liked the artwork and wanted to shout out for BAM, and the rest of this is just an excuse to post those scans. ;-)

Jackson, Blair. 1999. Garcia: An American Life. New York: Penguin Books.

! see also: JGMF, "JG19810624: Wednesday, June 24, 1981, Sherwood Hall, Salinas, CA (UNCERTAIN),"


  1. The word "Garcia" on the poster/handbill for 8/6-8/81 may have been drawn by Jerry. I recall a conversation I had with the guy who has the postertrip site and he mentioned it.

    I'm looking at the image from TJS and there is something written below the guitar, can't make it out, but looks like an artist's name?
    Need a better scan. Anyone have an original?

    A bit more on Jerry as a poster artist

    Perhaps this mini tour was produced/promoted by Jerry, John and Steve Parish alone. The Stockton show was produced by Rocking Chair Productions. Can't find any info online about the company. I just called the theater, waiting for a return call...Was that the name they used to promote their own shows? Likely not as Rocking Chair Productions did shows there until 1985.

    1. No, they didn't promote their own shows.

  2. Fox Theater
    East Main Street
    Stockton, CA
    Capacity 2170

    1916: The first theater, the T&D Photoplay, is built on East Main Street in Stockton, California by the Wilhoit family and used for a variety of entertainment acts. The same site will later be occupied by the Bob Hope Theater.

    1921: Fox West Coast Theaters Inc. leases the T&D, remodels it and renames it the California.

    1929: After several years of successful operation, the California is leveled and plans are drafted for a new theater to serve the thriving city of Stockton. Fox West Coast Theaters reaches an agreement to lease the property for a period of 50 years and invests nearly half a million dollars to build a luxurious, safe and comfortable theater - the Fox California, or the Fox. It is a large theater equipped with a complete stage, fly area, and orchestra pit, dressing rooms

    1930: The opening of the Fox on October 14 is one of the most grandiose events in the region. Approximately 20,000 people attend the celebration, including some of the most famous stars of the time. Opening acts include the latest “talkie” movies and comedy skits. The Fox is the largest vaudeville house in California, with 2,170 seats. The theater is also one of the safest buildings of the time, built entirely with cement and steel, with the ability to evacuate guests within two minutes. One of the jewels of the theater is the $40,000 (in 1930) three manual Wurlitzer pipe organ with twin pipe lofts. Ticket prices are 50 cents for general admission and 65 cents for box seats.

    1931: The Fox California celebrates the success of its first year in operation with a week long celebration. It is speculated that nearly a million people were entertained during the theater’s first year in business.

    1930s: The Fox California predominantly shows movies due to the owner’s close association with the large motion picture studios. However, stage acts and other variety acts are also presented at the Fox, including Al Jolson, one of the greatest entertainers of the time; the Marx Brothers; Ted Lewis, a clarinetist and member of one of the most popular jazz bands of the period; and Henry Lauder, a famous Scottish comedian.

    1940s: Big bands of the 1940s perform at the theater.

    1960s: Famous bands such as Duke Ellington, Paul Whiteman and the Dorseys play on the Fox stage.

    1971: A local company, Westland Theaters, buys the rights to the Fox California. A declining business climate and the growing competition from drive-ins and television impact the profitability of the theater. Despite efforts to keep the theater in business, attendance declines.

    1973: The Fox California closes its doors to the public due to lack of business. The last shows are “Sweet Jesus,” “Preacher Man” and “Marlowe.”

    1974: A special showing of the movie “Billy Jack” plays at the Fox. Concern rises among citizens that the Fox will be demolished to make room for a civic parking lot or other development.

    1979: The building is purchased by Edward C. Merlo and Madeleine Lawton who seek to save the building from destruction. They are ultimately successful in their efforts to save the historic structure and the Fox Theater is placed on the National Register of Historical Places. Today it is one of only two movie palaces left in the Central Valley.

  3. 1981-1985: Rocking Chair Productions produces a few rock concerts at the Fox.

    1985-1988: Offshore Productions offers jazz and country music entertainment that doesn’t draw significant audiences.

    1991: The Redevelopment Agency of the city of Stockton includes the Fox California as part of an effort to revitalize the downtown area and other parts of the city.

    1995: The Redevelopment Agency leases the theater and hires a promoter and booking agent in an attempt to develop a viable, on-going program at the theater, and begins small renovations of the building. Several events and concerts are held at the Fox.

    Late 1990s: The mayor and city council begin a large scale renovation of the Fox. The Redevelopment Agency is the primary financial sponsor of the project.

    2000: Anita J. Merlo and the Merlo Fox Building Trust donate the theater building to the city of Stockton in honor of Edward Charles Merlo, architect. Bob Hartzell, president of Friends of the Fox, a nonprofit organization that supports the Fox Theater, orchestrates the refurbishment of a 1928 Robert Morton pipe organ that will be placed in the renovated Bob Hope Theater. Once restored, the organ will be worth between $160,000 and $200,000.

    2001 – 2002: Funding is given to the city of Stockton, with Congress awarding $290,000 in 2001, and $225,000 in 2002 to help renovate the Fox Theater. The state of California also awards a $300,000 California Heritage Fund Grant.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Here's a larger image but still not enough to make out the artist
    Sorry, can't seem to hyperlink.

  6. Restoration photos for The Fox Theater, Stockton, CA,%20CA/4

  7. There's so much to talk about in this post. The google map of the bookings shows what an odd hodgepodge of a little tour this was. What was the motive? Wouldn't they have made as much money playing The Stone for three nights?

    Who was the promoter? Why isn't the promoter's name on the poster? Jerry was famously loyal, but who was he being loyal to?

  8. The question of who the bass player might have been is not casual at all. I'm not aware of any acknowledgment from anyone near the situation as to why Phil Lesh played two (or three!) dates in June of 1981. Its one thing to explain away Fairfax (Aug 22) as a last second benefit, but the June shows were advertised as featuring Phil Lesh on bass, so any conflict Kahn might have had was pre-arranged.

    This begs another question--who played bass when the band rehearsed the backing vocalists? The whole subject is very strange, and the cone of silence that has historically surrounded the Garcia Band has allowed the weirdness of it all to slide by unnoticed.

    I'm not aware of Dave Torbert filling in for Garcia other than the Mar 17 '82 show in Chico State, when Kahn apparently (per TJS) missed the first set due to foggy highways.

  9. I thought it was Torbert sitting in (my notes say set II) at the Saddlerack on 3/7/82, as well (confusingly) as Chico 3/17/82, for reason of the aforementioned fog.

    Glad you find this tour to lay bare some questions worth asking. I found it weird and fascinating.

    I may make a listening notes post on 6/25/81, after I write up this Salinas possibility.

  10. Oh yeah, another similar little jaunt was 3/17-20/82 ... Chico, Arcata (2 shows) and Garberville. Talk about off the beaten path. And this in the same month that Garcia played SF State and the Saddlerack in San Jose and the GD played Reno and Davis.

  11. Dan Healy was raised in Garberville. He started the community radio station now at Jerry used to come up here to play poker with the guys, that's what I was told by a local who's known Healy for years.

  12. ...or maybe he was in disagreement with Bill Graham about something and this was his way of saying, "I'll show you!"

  13. Don't forget that from September through December 1981, Jerry was recording Run For The Roses. That suggests that in the 1981-82 period, Garcia was really serious about the Garcia Band. Although RFTR did not come out until November '82, the touring around suggests that there was a conscious effort to expand the JGB footprint beyond the three Keystones.

    There was a lot going on in this period, but no one seems to talk about it.

  14. Rock 'n Chair Productions (not Rocking Chair) promoted a lot of shows in the valley in the early 80s (and probably late 70s too). As I teen-ager listening to KZAP, I often heard commercials for their shows. Probably most notably, they did the Mountain Aire festivals in Angels Camp, except for that last one with the Dead, Santana and David Lindley. I saw the Asia show at the Fox in Stockton they put on May 24, 82.

    About a decade ago, I was at a friend's house in Pacifica, and this guy came over who was a main Rock 'n Chair guy. He wanted to sell some memorabilia from that company. I just called my friend to ask him about it, and he doesn't remember anything about it, but I distinctly remember this box he had full of stuff like flyers and cassettes of radio commercials.

    Yesterday was the anniversary of the JGB Chico show. It never dawned on me till now that Jerry played here on St. Patrick's Day. St. Pat's was a really crazy party day here from the time I moved here in 1986 until a few years ago when they started making Spring Break correspond with the holiday so the students wouldn't be here. I'm happy to report though there was still a lot of revelry happening yesterday. I wonder if the Jerry show was extra fun for that reason? I know a guy who was there and recorded it from the audience. He says it's a crappy sounding Walkman tape, but I still should ask him if I can digitize it because the circulating SB has some chunks missing.

  15. It would be great to hear that audience tape of the Chico 3/17/82 show, for sure.

    Thanks for checking in about the memorabilia, too. Please keep us posted if anything turns up.

  16. McDonough, Jack. 1979. New Venues Blossoming Throughout Bay Area. Billboard v91 n15 (April 14, 1979), pp. 41-42. Accessed via Google Books, 4/21/2011.

    This piece reveals that as of April 1979, Sherwood Hall was being booked by none other than ol' Wolfgang himself.

  17. On the flip side, an ad in the California Aggie (August 5, 1981, p. 9) for the August 7th show at Freeborn Hall, UC Davis is presented by the Entertainment Council and The Keystone Family.

    Curioser and curioser. I still don't know if this tour was for Herrera, Graham, both, neither ...


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