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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Welcome to your new home, Vassar Clements: OAITW at the Keystone, 7/21/73

LN jg1973-07-21.oaitw.b-live-all.sbd-PNW.113845.flac1644
 
substantially updated 20110629-1438 EST

We have here a 94 minute soundboard of Old And In The Way, identified as at the Keystone, 2119 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA, 94704 on the evening of Saturday, July 21, 1973. The tape was in the collection of Will Boswell via Jerry Garcia’s own copy, held and apparently shared by his once and future main squeeze, Debbie. Matt Smith is doing the transfers, and I tend to shorthand these as ‘PNW’ because they emanate from the Great Pacific Northwest. This same source also supplies a rehearsal tape, said to be from earlier this same afternoon at the Lion’s Share, a club which would have been local to the Marin- (and, for a number of them, specifically, Stinson-) based freaks in the band, at 60 Red Hill Avenue in San Anselmo. As Matt pointed out in his notes, it’s neat to have a rehearsal tape and a gig tape from the same day, provides a nice “day in the life” feeling, back when Garcia could still mostly live like a human being.

It’s terrific material, and we are all incredibly fortunate to be able to listen to it. We have to remember what lucky music fans we are. Here we have rehearsal and gig tapes, nice tapes, of the great Vassar Clements. (And all the rest of these guys, natch.) We can study this stuff intensively and extensively. It’s great stuff.

Little outline for what has become a longish (for me) note.

  • I. Dating: Might as well call it 7/21/73b.
  • II. Aside: Was there a Boarding House show on 7/23/73?
  • II. Personnel Comments
    • A. John Kahn
    • B. Vassar Clements
      • 1. Welcome to the Bay Area as Member of OAITW, Vassar!
      • 2. The Arc (or Three Bursts) of Vassar with/and OAITW
      • 3. Was Vassar Clements a "Member" of OAITW?
      • 4. The Improbable Junction of Vassar and the Rest of These Guys?
      • 5. Clarence White and Muleskinner, RIP
      • 6. Was it Mostly About Making (a) Record(s)?
  • III. Setlist and Repertoire
  • IV. Listening Notes
I. Dating
The gig tape under analysis comes with impeccable provenance, as described in the 1st graf. It says 7/21/73, and that should be our operating assumption, our baseline.

Yet, some questions arise around this dating.

First, this is the same material that has historically circulated as "7/23/73 Boarding House" (e.g., shnid 4490, shnid 4491, shnid 11888). A priori, a Monday night gig at the Boarding House sounds a little unlikely. Furthermore, I have not seen any evidence for the 7/23 dating other than recordings, though it’s possible I have not looked. The McNally-Arnold JG List lists neither date. There are ads in support of a 7/21 listing. If this were all, I’d say it’s an overdetermined, closed case of a more credible tape label and other evidence defeating a less credible tape label. Full stop.

But that’s not all because, second, this recording raises a few questions.

(1)  why is John Kahn not present here (I don't think -- see personnel note below), when he was at the afternoon rehearsal (he does play on the 7/21/73a rehearsal)?
(2)  Why does audience member ask for "Wild Horses" toward the end of this fileset (see d2t10 note 4 below) when they had already played it as the performance is represented here (d1t09 as released; d1t10 on my retracked copy)?
(3)  The placement of certain cuts and chatter doesn't make sense. For example, they say they are on their last number before Hobo Song, but then there's a setbreak announcement after High Lonesome Song, which is presented as the long song of the night. It's just not consistent with this being in the same order in which it was played, which opens up more general questions and joins with the questions above to raise some doubts.
(4)  Not a question and certainly not a criticism, but the nature of the recording--lots of tape discontinuities-- makes it impossible to know where things should go.

Overall, there's no smoking gun, nothing that unambiguously supports or contradicts either dating for this material. Maybe it’s a little of both. Maybe it’s other dates. Maybe it’s a hodgepodge. We just can’t know, and so I conclude that we should just keep calling it "7/21/73b", the live gig at the Keystone on the Saturday night, after the earlier rehearsal that same day, the 2nd night of weekend in Berkeley, etc.

II. Aside: was there an OAITW show at the Boarding House on Monday, July 23, 1973?

The only evidence known to me is a tape label which, as I have just elaborated, probably loses a provenance test to the PNW source. It is interesting that it did not figure on the McNally-Arnold JG List. More often than not, a tape with these features –not on that list, and duplicating material dated differently—will turn out to have been a mislabel. That said, the Jerry Site's 7/23/73 entry notes contribution from Ed Perlstein, who is pretty good provenance himself. If TJS contributor Kurt Asplundh can shed any light, or anyone else for that matter, that'd be great!

On the other hand, this little period is clearly unique (as they all are, I know!), but might  involve otherwise-implausible gigs because of the details of Vassar’s involvement.  Let me elaborate.

Vassar joins up with OAITW on the East Coast on June 4, 1973, warms up with ‘em in the hotel room, and plays gigs in Boston (Orpheum Theatre, June 5), Passaic (Capitol Theatre, June 6th, ?Garcia’s first John-Scher booked non-GD gig?) and the Palace Theatre in Waterbury, CT (June 7th – not 100% sure about this listing). Then they do the Whippoorwill Festival in Warrenton, VA on June 8, 1973 –about which I plan on saying a considerable amount at some point, Garcia burns for two days with the GD and the Allmans and others at RFK in DC, and then another little bluegrass festival (?) at Temple University-Ambler in Ambler, PA (someone please get to the bottom of that one!) on the 11th.

After that, Garcia does a tour with the GD after apparently taking a weekend off (Friday 6/15/73 and Saturday 6/16/73 … anyone wanna bet he had his guitar handy, wherever he was?). Then he and Merl warmup on a Thursday at the Lion’s Share (July 5, 1973) before recording a series of shows for commercial release. The 7/7 show is a mystery, but the great July 8th Record Plant session is a great way to get ready to record. Then come the July 10 and July 11 JGMS shows which gave us a whole mess of officially released material. Live at the Keystone (Fantasy F-79002, 1973), Keystone Encores Volume 1 (Fantasy FCD 7701-2, 1988), Keystone Encores Volume 2 (Fantasy MPF 4534, 1988) were on vinyl. As Scofield notes, “the tracks from the original double LP and the two 1988 releases were reconfigured and released as” the CDs Live At The Keystone Volume 1 (Fantasy FCD 7701-2, 1988) [JGMF], Live At The Keystone Volume 2 (Fantasy FCD 7702-2, 1988) [JGMF], and Keystone Encores (Fantasy FCD 7703-2, 1988)[JGMF]. As far as can be determined from existing setlists, all but three or four of the songs played at this pair of dates were released.

On July 15, 1973, guitar legend, apparent übermensch and Muleskinner compadre Clarence White is killed in a car accident. A piece of the Muleskinner-OAITW jigsaw puzzle that Corry has started to unravel in his "1972-73 Muleskinner/Old And In The Way Timeline" at LLD. At the very least, there's a weird emotional register to the 7/21/73b material that might be partly accounted for by the melancholy of such a moment. Not a lot of cutting up, laughing. Vassar as the only one really yee-hawing it up. (I am not accusing him of being insensitive, BTW. Just pointing it out. We all deal with this stuff as we do. And I think Vassar knew Clarence. Hadn't Vassar been in So Cal for a bit, sort in his Earl Scruggs Revue and Will the Circle Be Unbroken period?)

A few days later, we have a show listed as OAITW, a Wednesday (7/18/73) in Cotati, which I find perfectly plausible. [edit: indeed!] This would be Vassar Clements's first Bay Area OAITW show. Gotta get warmed up together, run through some numbers? Do it midweek in Cotati. I bet it was an absolute blast ... oh to have been a fly on the wall. There are some canceled GD gigs in this window (Duke University, Friday 7/20/73, per Deadbase IX), the weekend in Berkeley, a gig at Crabshaw Corner in far-flung Sacramento –perhaps Garcia’s first GOTS gig in Sacto (2/12/72 is spurious here)--, then down to Homers Warehouse in Palo Alto on the 24th before Garcia leaves for Watkins Glen. My friends, that’s six out of seven nights with OAITW. (Jerry spent his “off” night from OAITW with JGMS on 7/19/73, jamming for the first documented time with horn player Martin Fierro, as well as an unidentified harmonica player and trying to roll with Sara Fulcher's impromptu scatting. Slacker.)

So my notion is that they played like hell when Vassar arrived to make him some gittin’ started money, and that this makes a 7/23/73 Boarding House gig totally plausible. Maybe it’s not on the old lists because they got a last-minute, Monday night booking? If you owned the Boarding House, wouldn’t you do it? Hell, yeah. Gotta be better than however many dime beers he’d sell otherwise.

Wow, that got long, sorry. Anyway, bottom line: 7/23/73 Boarding House seems plausible. There’s no evidence beyond unknown-provenance tape label, possibly derived from Ed Perlstein, in support of it, but there's none that I know of that contradicts it, either.


III. Personnel

A. John Kahn (June 13, 1947 - May 30, 1996)

Is he here? For the life of me, I do not hear a bass player. I think, instead, the bottom I hear is mostly from Peter Rowan’s guitar. It’s possible that Kahn wasn’t mic’d for some reason. But it’s also possible he’s not there. As I note above, this would raise some question as to the dating, since he is present on the 7/21/73a afternoon rehearsal tape. Maybe there was an emergency or he got a flat tire, no idea. And not a big deal in the scheme of things. But the number of shows that Garcia played without either Phil Lesh, John Kahn or David Torbert on bass is strikingly small, and any deviation is probably worth noting.

B. Vassar Clements (April 25, 1928 – August 16, 2005)

1. Welcome to the Bay Area as Member of OAITW, Vassar!

As I noted in discussing the rehearsal tape, this was a pretty big night for OAITW. Insofar as anyone invested any hopes and dreams in this agglomeration, Saturday 7/21/73 in Berkeley was important. I hypothesize that it was conceived as the introduction of fiddle legend Vassar Clements as a member of OAITW to the home crowd (after the smaller "hello" in Cotati on 7/18). I admit that I am mostly basing this on the ad, with its “Special Guest Fiddler From Nashville Vassar Clements” addendum, but it also makes sense. We know that these guys, and it seems to me most notably Grisman, were pleased as punch to have Vassar on board. And why not? The man was a deserved legend.

2. The Arc (or Three Bursts) of Vassar with/and OAITW

I have already chronologized a little above, but let me summarize it in a table, with data derived from the Jerry Site (but excluding the mid- and late-summer 1973 bluegrass festivals, at which OAITW almost certainly did not play).

Old And In The Way w/ Vassar Clements. Data source: The Jerry Site.
OAITW with Vassar Clements amounts to something like twenty shows, total. And, when you look at the pattern I have set out above, you see that it was actually approximately three one-week spurts of gigging, with a single one-off in the middle. (I’ll add that I’d like to see evidence that OAITW played that 8/22/73 gig. Color me skeptical until I do.) You get a spurt in June, one in July, and one in October. The November gig was a reschedule from an earlier cancellation, and then OAITW played one more time, a special reunion to close out the Golden State Country Bluegrass Festival on Sunday, April 28, 1974. That’s it!

3. Was Vassar Clements a "Member" of OAITW in the formalistic way I understand that term (as distinct from "invited guest", as distinct from "sitting in")?

All of this, and some conversations I have been having about the meaning of such concepts as "band", "group", "membership" and others, leads me to revisit something. Here's a tighter view on the Keystone Berkeley ad from the Berkeley Barb, July 19, 1973 - August 1, 1973, p. 21:


Vassar is listed as a "Special Guest". Without taking that word as if it were consciously deployed in the same sense in which I mean it, I wonder if "guest" isn't closer to the truth of Vassar's connection than "member". I don't know. It's heretical and contradicted by the language used by everyone else, as far as I know. But these three one-week spurts ... I wonder when the plan to record live (which is represented by all of the releases featuring material from the October 1 and October 8 shows, recorded by Bear) was hatched, by whom, and if this thought wasn't hand-in-glove with bringing Vassar in? In this sense, I wonder if Vassar wasn't more than a hired gun -- an amazing one, but a hired gun nonetheless?

All we ever hear about Vassar coming in are vague platitudes of the "he was great, he was available, we jumped at the chance" variety. "[fill-in name here, Grisman or Rowan] just called him up." Those things are probably mostly true/accurate. But I certainly think there were good, clean professional and pecuniary motivations at work, too.

4. The Improbable Junction of Vassar and the Rest of These Guys?

Now, to start, it's not improbable in the sense that they were all pretty hot musicians wanting to play hot music with other hot musicians. We don't need to be musicologists to understand that this drives a lot of things! And the fabric of bluegrass was woven pretty densely, so there are almost certainly a large number of 1-degree-of-separation linkages between these five guys. So I don't want to overstate the case.

But, yet, here's a Southerner (born in North Florida, i.e., the Deep South), 15-20 years older than these other guys, pomade-slicked-it-was-a-crewcut-once 'do, apparently coming off a drinking problem which put his career on hold for some number of years ca. late 1960s-start of 1970s, been gigging around with the cutting-edge Earl Scruggs Revue and and meeting-of-the-generations Will the Circle Be Unbroken project around that same time, who can tear the fucking fiddle to shreds and make you weep while he does it.

Here's fellow former Blue Grass Boy Pete "Panama Red" Rowan, now chasing the next line, Marin on top of LA on top of Bahston. Here's the very scruffy and very far-out spacy, but exacting and smokin'-hot-pickin' David Grisman, just out of his "David Diadem" phase and on the verge of creating a new musical style of his own. Big tall feller on the big fiddle, quiet, smart, funny, good player. Last but not least, you learn when you meet him, here's a 'lectric guitar rock star who was once a banjo star. Jerry Garcia is a hairy, hairy freak of a man, but he's a force of nature on every dimension that might matter.

I guess I think the shared interests and the shared networks and the setting and possibilities combine to make the Vassar-OAITW connection. They are in Marin County, CA, it's summertime, they've got a built-in ticket-buying audience (thank you, JERRY ... Jerry ... jerry ... GARCIA ... Garcia ... garcia !!! ... !! ... !), record company lined up ... why the hell not? Line up a bunch of gigs, get warmed up, roll some tape, and then see what happens.

5. Clarence White and Muleskinner, RIP

One other thing. Having just revisited Corry's post on the Muleskinner-OAITW connections. To recap, the members of Muleskinner were as follows:
  • Peter Rowan-guitar, vocals
  • Clarence White-lead guitar, vocals
  • David Grisman-mandolin, vocals
  • Richard Greene-violin, vocals
  • Bill Keith-banjo
John Kahn also played some bass with Muleskinner, and recall that Richard Greene played fiddle with OAITW for a month or two ca. April-May 1973. So there's massive overlap between the two groups. Corry describes Clarence White's passing thusly:

July 15, 1973: Clarence White died after being hit by a drunk driver at 2am in Palmdale, CA, while White was loading equipment into his car. It would take me 10,000 words to explain how great a player Clarence was, and I'm not even a guitar player (apparently it takes even more if you can play). Suffice to say, any plans that Grisman, Rowan and others may have had for "Muleskinner" would have been put permanently in abeyance with Clarence's untimely death.
At the risk of being crass, I wonder if Clarence's passing, and, as Corry notes, the demise of any professional plans organized around Muleskinner, didn't act as an accelerant for OAITW, or for professional (i.e., money-making) aspirations surrounding it, including Vassar's "membership". I am not saying they called Vassar up on the 16th and asked him to do some gigging and cut some records over Clarence's still-warm body. Hell, they had already played with Vassar the prior month, and it seems pretty clear that they (felt they) needed a fiddle player. And Vassar is one hell of a player. But I do wonder if the short-cutting of Muleskinner engendered the jump-starting of OAITW, both with some gaggles of gigs and through cutting some studio tracks.

6. Was it Mostly About Making (a) Record(s)?

Thought experiment: perhaps it's not coincidence that OAITW ended once the recordings were in the can? After the October Boarding House gigs, did any of these guys play again with Vassar (at least in the 70s) except for the 11/4/73 makeup, the GAMB 4/26/74 sit-in by Vassar, Garcia and Vassar in together with the Greenbriar Boys on 4/28/74, and the OAITW "reunion" performance later that night? It seems like they broke up right after they recorded the live tracks for possible release.Can anyone shed any light on the reported studio recordings of OAITW? Now *those* I would love to hear.

Summary of all of this: To me, Vassar’s playing is the real highlight of this music. He provided such depth to this band of young hotshots. Too bad it didn't last, for whatever reason.

IV. Setlist/Repertoire

I am not sure how noteworthy the setlist is relative to other OAITW shows, but since I have never gone through OAITW setlists very carefully I thought I’d do it here, get a since of the distribution of musical sources and styles. Here’s a table of the credits for the songs they played on this night, from data hosted by Alex Allan.


OAITW’s repertoire presents a fascinating slice of the many American (or pseudo-so, as in "Wild Horses") musics from which the band and its members drew.

First are the traditional, old-timey and bluegrass numbers. There are lots of grey areas here, of course, lots of speciation happening between those niches. Carter Stanley and Bill Monroe credits and that sort of thing. I have no idea if the distribution of songs springing from this well is different here on July 21 than it typically would be around this time, or would have been with Richard Greene in April, or not. I have a tiny hunch that there's more Carter Stanley here than I am used to seeing, stuff shading a little more toward the old-timey and traditional vein, but I can't be sure. Either way, all of that would represent the lingua franca between the hairy freaks and Vassar. If you look through Allan and Scofield's notes on these songs, you'll see a bunch for which tape from Garcia's pre-GD days also exists. This is further confirmation, I'd say, of the lingua franca appeals of the old favorites.

Regarding the specific versions of these songs, I am just not expert enough in listening to this sort of music to give much evaluation. I would love if some bluegrass freak looking for good conversation would join our little community here (but everyone should blog, and blog more! Join us! You have nothing to lose but your time!). Anyway, I'll just mention two specific numbers very informally. Number one: this is the only OAITW version known to me of the great Monroe haunter "Cheyenne". Not sure how the Big Mon could pick up the feel of those particular high plains, but he does it brilliantly here. Great song. (I think Rowan would agree, since "Cheyenne"'s feel becomes "Land of the Navajo"'s hook.) Number two: "Orange Blossom Special" is just a brilliant piece of songwriting. Greatest. Train. Song. Ever.

Second, we find six Peter Rowan originals in the setlist. One function/aspect of the band was indeed as a Rowan "song" vehicle. If forced to choose I would mostly classify these as country-bluegrass, while some ("Lonesome L.A. Cowboy") are closer to soft country rock (early "Eagles", for example). I have to say that these songs are generally pretty awesome, though no versions from this fileset jump out as me as exceptional.

Third, this set features only one instrumental contribution each from David Grisman and the great Vassar Clements, whose "Lonesome Fiddle Blues" is a freaking masterpiece. Haunting and fantastic, right up there with the great fiddle tunes that I know (though I confess to not knowing many.) The Grisman datum is interesting because in listening to the tapes I sometimes get the sense that David is treated a little like a beta dog. "Fanny Hill" also seems not to have been a favorite of his, insofar as it wasn't released until sometime later. It feels kind of like a transitional piece for Grisman, more toward bluegrass than Dawg Music. Grisman was clearly growing very quickly at this stage, and I suspect that the misfit between his own ambitions and musical trajectory and the space allowed for him to enact them in this particular band may have been one of the frictions that led to its too-quick demise.

Fourth, there’s a smattering of other country-bluegrass stuff, on none of which I am particularly qualified to speak.

Summing up, and as Corry has discussed with me, one aspect of the relatively short tenure of OAITW may be the different pulls of, say, Peter Rowan's songs vs. traditional/bluegrass/oldtimey/etc. vs. Dawg Music. I am not making it too conflictual, but we don't know much about how OAITW ended and it's pretty straightforward to suggest that there were just too many tradeoffs to be made, too many songs (and musical styles) chasing too few gigs and album tracks. The fact that certain members had tightly constraining "other obligations" *cough* GD! *cough* certainly wouldn't have helped, but it could be that there other design flaws in the band's DNA that doomed it to be short-lived.

V. Listening Notes follow after the jump.

Old And In The Way
Keystone
2119 University Avenue
Berkeley, CA, 94704
July 21, 1973 (Saturday)
PNW 94 minute sbd

Disc One (13 tracks, 49:19)
d1t01. dead air [0:22], Cheyenne [2:29] (1) [0:08] %
d1t02. Down Where the River Bends [4:25] [0:10]
d1t03. Love Please Come Home [2:52] [0:09]
d1t04. [0:24] % /Midnight Moonlight [4:46] [0:10]
d1t05. % Fanny Hill [3:36] % [0:03]
d1t06. [0:02] % Hard Hearted [2:49] [0:05]
d1t07. % /Lonesome L.A. Cowboy [#4:20] [0:10]
d1t08. % /Pig In A Pen [#2:42] [0:06]
d1t09. % Panama Red [2:40] [0:06]
d1t10. % (2) [0:13] Wild Horses [4:17] [0:12]
d1t11. % White Dove [4:08] [0:09] % [0:02]
d1t12. dead air [0:21] % tuning [0:07], Wicked Path Of Sin [2:28] % [0:04]
d1t13. % [0:02] /Blue Mule [3:33] [1:07] %

Disc Two (11 tracks, 44:34)
d2t01. crowd and tuning [0:49]
d2t02. % Orange Blossom Special [4:05] [0:25] %
d2t03. (3) [0:07] Old And In The Way Breakdown [3:32] [0:03]
d2t04. % [0:03] On And On [3:29] [0:11]
d2t05. [0:06] % /Lonesome Fiddle Blues [2:58] [0:04]
d2t06. % [0:04] The Fields Have Turned Brown [4:31] [0:04]
d2t07. % /Muleskinner Blues [2:43]
d2t08. % //Catfish John [#3:02] [0:02]
d2t09. % Land Of The Navajo [8:02] [0:15]
d2t10. (4) [0:37] Hobo Song [5:15] [0:11]
d2t11. % /That High Lonesome Sound [3:28] (5) [0:17] % dead air [0:21]

Lineup:
Peter Rowan - ac-g, vocals;
David Grisman - mandolin, vocals;
Jerry Garcia - banjo, vocals;
Vassar Clements - fiddle.

JGMF:
! Recording: symbols: % = recording discontinuity; / = clipped song; // = cut song; ... = fade in/out; # = truncated timing; [ ] = recorded event time. The recorded event time immediately after the song or item name is an attempt at getting the "real" time of the event. So, a timing of [x:xx] right after a song title is an attempt to say how long the song really was, as represented on this recording.
! TJS: http://www.thejerrysite.com/shows/show/964 (as 7/21/73b, "Clover opened") and http://www.thejerrysite.com/shows/show/966 (as 7/23/73, Boarding House, "Rowan Brothers opened."). Clover opened.
! db: shnid 113845 (this fileset). Several filesets contain the same material but identified as 7/23/73:  shnid 4490, shnid 4491, shnid 11888. I assume these are deprecated by the present source, but things should be listened to.

! NB I have split the d1t08 into the two songs ("Pig In A Pen" and "Panama Red"), so my d1 filenames/checksums/disc structure are different from the standard db-compliant files.
! Lineage: master reel @ 7.5 ips (Recorded by Betty Cantor on her Nagra) > 1st reel copy @ 3.75 ips (Jerry Garcia's copy) > 2nd reel copy @ 3.75 ips (Will Boswell). Transfered and mastered by Matt Smith 5/11. [gear?] Cd > flac using dbpoweramp, Checksums created with TLH gballen 05-29-2011. JGMF split d1t08 (CD Wave), re-flac (TLH) and tagging (foobar2000).
! Matt Smith's notes: This (7-21-73) is from the famed "Debbie Stash" that Will copied back in early 1979. The rehearsal has circulated but the late show from the Keystone has never surfaced until now. [ed: but see below]. The real cool thing about this is that it gives the listener the whole scope of a typical day for Jerry back then. You know, get up, go to the GD office maybe, then rehearse with your bluegrass buddies then decide you are going to do a gig at the Keystone that night!! This time period was probably a very happy time in his life and it comes through in his playing here.
! Dating: this material is the same as what has historically circulated as "7/23/73 Boarding House". A priori, a Monday night gig at the Boarding House sounds a little unlikely (though it's certainly possible), and I have not seen any evidence for the 7/23 dating other than recordings. This recording does raise several questions, though. Among them are the following. (1) why is John Kahn not present here (I don't think -- see personnel note below), when he was at the afternoon rehearsal (he does play on the 7/21/73a rehearsal)? (2) Why does audience member ask for "Wild Horses" toward the end of this fileset when they had already played it (see d2t10 note 4 below)? (3) The placement of certain cuts and chatter doesn't make sense. For example, they say they are on their last number before Hobo Song, but then there's a setbreak announcement after High Lonesome Song, which is presented as the long song of the night. It's just not consistent with this being in the same order in which it was played, which opens up more general questions and joins with the questions above to raise some doubts. (5) Not a question and certainly not a criticism, but the nature of the recording--lots of tape discontinuities-- makes it impossible to know where things should go. Overall, there's no smoking gun here. We might as well trust Boswell's tape labels, because there are only less-well-sourced counter-labels (7/23/73) on the other side of the ledger. Maybe this is a little of both, or some completely different dates. No idea. I guess I conclude that we should just keep calling it "7/21/73b", the live gig at the Keystone on a Saturday night, after the earlier rehearsal that same day, the 2nd night of weekend in Berkeley, etc.
! Personnel: This weekend of shows was billed with special mention of "Nashville fiddler Vassar Clements", who appeared to be making his Bay Area debut with OAITW in this moment. I list a show in Cotati (Inn of the Beginning) on Wednesday night (7/18/73), which would have been in keeping with the standard pattern of breaking in new band members off the beaten path a little bit. A Wednesday night in Cotati would fit that bill. Anyway, this is clearly Vassar fiddling and he sounds great. The second unusual personnel issue is that I cannot hear a bass. Unless I am just not hearing it, then, I am working under the belief that John Kahn was not present. And that is weird because he is present on the Lion's Share rehearsal, said to be from earlier this same day.
! Setlist: a fascinating slice of OAITW and the many America (or pseudo-so, as in "Wild Horses") musics from which the band drew. One, lots of traditional bluegrass, Carter Stanley and Bill Monroe numbers and that sort of thing. I haven't analyzed setlists that closely, but there seem to be more of these old standards here than, say, in April. I suspect that Monroe and Stanley Brothers stuff was the lingua franca between the hairy freaks and Vassar. If you look through Allan and Scofield's notes on these songs, you'll see a bunch for which tape from Garcia's pre-GD days also exists. This is further confirmation, I'd say, of the lingua franca appeals of the old favorites. Two, six Rowan originals in the setlist. One function/aspect of the band was indeed as a Rowan "song" vehicle. I mostly call those country-bluegrass, while some ("Lonesome L.A. Cowboy") are closer to soft country rock (early "Eagles", for example). Three, one instrumental contribution each from David Grisman and the great Vassar Clements, whose "Lonesome Fiddle Blues" is a freaking masterpiece. Haunting and fantastic, right up there with the great fiddle tunes that I know (though I confess to not knowing many.) The Grisman datum is interesting because in listening to the tapes I sometimes get the sense that David is treated a little like a beta dog. "Fanny Hill" also seems not to have been a favorite of his, insofar as it wasn't released until sometime later. It feels kind of like a transitional piece for Grisman, more toward bluegrass than Dawg Music. Summing up, and as Corry has discussed with me, one aspect of the relatively short tenure of OAITW may be the different pulls of, say, Peter Rowan's songs vs. traditional bluegrass vs. dawg music. I am not making it too conflictual, but we don't know much about how OAITW ended and it's pretty trivial to suggest that there were just too many tradeoffs to be made, too many songs (and musical styles) chasing too few gigs and album tracks.
! d1t01 Cheyenne is pretty fantastic. Definitely the same space as "Land Of The Navajo", great evocative tune, penned by the Big Mon. This is the only version known to me as of this writing.
! d1t01 (1) Vassar Clements: "That's good!"
! d1t08 PIAP @ 2:08, Garcia calls out to Vassar to take the solo, Vassar jumps on it and we get a "yeah" from Jerry.
! d1t10 (2) DG: "Here's a little Mick Jagger tune."
! P: d1t11 White Dove JG takes a nice solo late in the 2-minute mark of the track. He is playing well here.
! R: many harsh tape transitions mar the start of many tracks. Caveat auditor, e.g. d1t11
! R: d1t12 WPOS real-time gap @ track 2:45-2:47.
! R: d1t13 Blue Mule real-time gap @ track 2:07-2:10
! setlist: the order of "Orange Blossom Special" and "OAITW Breakdown" was reversed on the original info file.
! d2t03 (3) JG: "You guys ready?" DG: "Yeah, we're ready."
! R: d2t08 CJ cuts in on "cotton fields as white as snow"
! d2t10 (4) sound booth guy, I think: "How about one more?" PR: "OK we've got time to do one more. Anyone got any ideas?" There's a young woman who is very eager to hear "Wild Horses", which casts a little doubt on whether this is all the same show (since "Wild Horses" appears earlier in this same fileset). It's also possible the young lady just wasn't paying attention, or just wants to hear it again. But it does cast a little doubt.
! R: d2t10 Hobo Song real-time gap @ 4:29-4:31
! d2t11 (5) PR: "We'll be back in a little while, thank you." Naturally, this raises significant questions about what this is. Before "Hobo Song" we are told there's time for one more, but after HLS we are given a setbreak announcement. Because the tape is not continuous, it's basically impossible to say what's what.

12 comments:

  1. I love, love, LOVE your posts. That is all I have to say.

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  2. I very much buy your hypothesis that the structure of OAITW's gigs and recording schedule, such as it may have been, was organized around an album project. It would make sense, then, the group "members" moved on to other project when OAITW ended the Summer. However, it's worth noting that most long-standing bluegrass groups operate on the same principle--organize for a tour and some recording, play for a few weeks or months, and move on.

    While a few "star" bluegrass performers (Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss) have ongoing ensembles, most bluegrass groups are part time aggregations by high quality players who could make more money doing something else. "Ongoing" bluegrass groups like the Nashville Bluegrass Group or the Laurel Canyon Ramblers form once in a while and do a few festivals and nightclubs, perhaps with a little recording on the side, and then return to other pursuits. Some of these groups have been performing every summer or two for decades--look at "Old And In The Gray" for a current example.

    Nobody playing bluegrass ever expects to make any real money, which is why there are so many jokes about banjo players ("What's the most common phrase used by a professional banjo player? 'Do you want fries with that?'"). Bluegrass is seen as "musician's music," where the players try and make just enough to justify playing it. Jerry Garcia's presence in OAITW changed that equation, much to the band's surprise, but that caused a problem, as well, since they couldn't play in the quiet bluegrass circles they were expecting to play, with a bunch of hippies yelling "Jerrrrry."

    Thus the revealing thing about OAITW from this perspective is not that they "disbanded," but that they didn't "reform." Many of the same players worked together again in GASB, so it wasn't for lack of friendship, but the expected configuration had an unexpected impact due to Garcia's presence. I believe that some of Grisman's anger at Garcia stemmed from the fact that the album actually sold in substantial quantities for a bluegrass album (supposedly the best-selling bluegrass album ever up until that time), but with all the problems caused by the Round/UA mess, the other members of the band didn't see any money.

    Supposedly Owsley produced the OAITW studio album, and was working on a definitive boxed set, but I don't know if will ever see the light of day.

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  3. Don't overlook Vassar's participation in John Hartford's "Steam Powered Aeroplane" sessions, certainly one of the first to put the freak in bluegrass. While a bluegrass monster he was not dogmatic; he was definitely "badly bent."

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  4. Yep, good point. I certainly didn't want to portray him as a straight arrow or a traditionalist. He was clearly neither.

    There oughta be a Vassar biography, gol darnit.

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  5. Just came across this, from Jackson's Garcia (p. 242): OAITW was "a victim of squabbling between Rowan and Grisman and the difficulty of trying to work around Garcia's always hectic schedule."

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  6. GDH# 389 included "high lonesome sound" from old and in the way STUDIO session

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    1. Hmmm ... I will try to track that down!

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    2. arzjr, are you sure about that? GDH 389 program log says that the song came from the live CD release of the same name.

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    3. I just downloaded the one track in question from a torrent of the preFM discs. It is indeed the live version, although the accompanying text file says it's the studio version.

      if only ....

      hanno

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  7. Replies
    1. No worries. And thank you faithful readers for helping document things!

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