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Friday, August 05, 2011

JGMS: July 19, 1973, Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA

Heitman, Dianne. 1973. Merle [sic] & Jerry soar at Music Hall – so does audience. San Francisco Phoenix v.1 n.24 (August 10), p. 8. Positive review of Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders, July 19, 1973, Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA.

The Great American Music Hall, at 859 O'Farrell Street in San Francisco, CA, 94109, looks to be a gilded freaking palace. I didn't see a post on it at any of Corry's blogs. If there is one, please point it out!

As far as I can tell the first time Garcia played it was Thursday, July 19, 1973. Somewhere there's an interview from Merl where he talks about how special this room was to them. By my back of the napkin count, they played this venue at least 30 times. I have touched on several, and with at least some focus in at least three:

·       7/14/74
·       8/24/74

The band on 7/19/73 was Jerry Garcia (electric guitar, vocals), Merl Saunders (keyboards, synthesizers), John Kahn (electric bass) and Bill Vitt (drums). Three "guests"/sort-of-members/eventual members appear as well: unknown harmonica player in the "guest", slot, Sarah Fulcher (vocals) in the "sort-of-members" category, and Martin Fierro (saxophone flute) as the "eventual" member. While Sarah would join the group (or, as it was known at the time, inter alia, The Group) a little off and on through most of 1973, Martin would keep appearing pretty steadily from this point forward, forming the third key instrumental voice in what would become, by 1975, Legion of Mary. His basically two-year stint is pretty good by GOTS first-half-of-1970s standards. He was practically a mainstay for those fluid days.

Anyway, this show has come up in the Workingman's Tracker's Garcia / Saunders and Legion of Mary Project, which I think will have nice curatorial value at least for SteveSw's reviews (what I would call "listening notes"). I wish more people would join in the conversation Here, There and Everywhere … we need to crowd-source more data and analysis! The WT forums are now publicly visible – thanks to the admins there. I am posting here because what I really wanted to do was post an image of the show review above, but I couldn’t figure out how. So I’ll post it here and invite you all to read it. It’s fantastic!

Here is the reference and a few select quotes and themes.

Heitman, Dianne. 1973. Merle [sic] & Jerry soar at Music Hall – so does audience. San Francisco Phoenix v.1 n.24 (August 10), p. 8.

Here’s the opening:

The good-time, low-down, high-energy sounds of Merl Saunders, Jerry Garcia and their group took off and soared under the high, gilded, electric-chandeliered ceiling of the Great American Music Hall one night called July 19.

The Music Hall was packed.

After identifying the personnel, Heitman mentions that “Sarah, during the second set, came out and sang a few numbers with the band, as she is wont to do from time to time.” Yet another example of “Sarah” only being referred to by her first name, as I have observed once before. Indeed, I wonder if the only way we know her name is by the information written onto Betty’s tape boxes and transcribed by Rob Eaton. Maybe not, but if someone can find me any pre-1995 information that mentions Sarah’s last name, I’d love to see it. And I wonder if this is intentional on Sarah’s part, or just reflects oversights?

As the quote below suggests, Sarah’s patronymic anonymity is not due to journalistic sloth. Continuing in the guests-who-shall-not-be named category, Ms. Heitman mentions “some fellow playing sax and flute. (Someone of unascertained reliability said he thought this musician’s name was Elspeth, but no-one else seemed to know him. Nor, unfortunately, could I discover Sarah’s last name – but they know who they are." Now this really cracks me up. Elspeth? Heh heh

“Elspeth” comes up again at the end of the review, when fan and reviewer interpret how Jerry relates to him based on the show-ending “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)”:

“Hear that! Wow, did you hear that? The way Garcia just shot that flute player down? Man, he just told him to shut up. You could just hear how Garcia was telling him with his music: ‘Shut up now. You had your turn already.’” (That may have been so, though the way I heard it, Garcia was just telling the flute player to wait for him backstage afterwards.)

I have always found that Martin was divisive among those who pay attention to these things, just as Sarah has always been. Some love them, some really dislike them. Seems like the “Wow!” guy wasn’t a big Martin … err … Elspeth fan. S’all good.

Heitman also picks up a nice piece of color that reflects the Dilemma (maybe not yet The Burden that it would be come) Of Being Jerry:

A fellow at the next table observed that the audience at this concert was made up largely of the same people who go to all the Grateful Dead concerts, ‘Their enthusiasm for the Dead and all things connected with the Dead borders on idolatry’, he remarked, and the others at his table nodded.

Guy sounds like a stick-in-the-mud, but he probably has a point. I would love to gather more systematic evidence as to when this sentiment first started popping up around GOTS. It was clearly happening by 1973. I suspect that fan idolatry, and/or complaints of it, are as old as Garcia On The Side itself.

Anyway, there’s also a real positive review of the show, and some nice, if small, bookended photos of Jerry and Merl. They don’t look like stock photos I have seen, so maybe they show them from the actual day of the show. I dunno. Anyway, happy reading. It’s good stuff.

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