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Sunday, January 01, 2012

Arnold, Corry. 2012. The Janet Soto List Manuscript Tradition


The Janet Soto List Manuscript Tradition
By Corry Arnold

For some reason that is unknown to me, GDP employee Janet Soto made a typewritten list of every Grateful Dead performance from January 1, 1970 to December 31, 1980. I have no idea why this list was created, but I'm glad it was. I received my copy in early 1981 (thank you Mike N), as it was being Xeroxed and circulated amongst the taper types who had suddenly found a Rosetta Stone. The source of the list appeared to be band contracts. The list seems to have been largely complete, with a few exceptions:
  • last minute cancellations and additions were sometimes missing (or added)
  • Bay Area shows from the early 1970s, BGP included, were missing
I assumed that the missing Bay Area shows were because the Dead had a different contractual arrangement with Bill Graham, at least up through the early 70s. This was generally confirmed by Dennis McNally in the mid-80s. He said that for a long time, while the Dead always had some sort of agreement with Graham (both entities were professionals after all), the specific contracts were a lot simpler, as both sides knew what was expected in terms of contract riders, etc. This might explain why the BGP agreements were presumably not in the same file drawer as the other band performance contracts. I assume that one reason for the absence of pre-1970 shows was a paucity of contracts, but I also suspect there was some reason for the list that had a specific timeframe, like tax records or something like that.

I immediately set about updating and correcting the Soto list. So did everyone else who actually cared about what they wrote on the index cards to their cassette tapes. The Soto list was the starting point to all the Grateful Dead performance lists that were subsequently promulgated: the list in Paul Grushkin's Book Of The Deadheads (ca. '83, which I think was actually McNally's list) a list produced by John Dwork that circulated for a while and finally the list that became Deadbase I in 1987. Information about Grateful Dead shows prior to 1970 was initially sketchy and often wrong because there was no Soto list to begin from; the community had to piece together the entire sixties list one show at a time. For my own part, as I added, subtracted and corrected information to and from the Soto list, I eventually started re-typing the list (yes, on a typewriter). Since typing was time consuming, I would handwrite other changes in pencil, since I might erase them, until I felt it was worth the effort to retype the pages. As a result of my re-typing, I no longer have the first several pages of the original Soto list, as I replaced them with my own list.

Once I had the Soto list in my possession, I immediately decided to keep it up. As a result, every time I called the Grateful Dead Hot Line (415-457-6388) to see if any new Grateful Dead shows were advertised, I would write down whatever was being announced, whether the show was in Syracuse or San Rafael. More or less on a whim, I started writing down all the other shows being announced, whether for the Jerry Garcia Band, Robert Hunter, Mickey Hart, Bob Weir or anyone else. At the same time, I noticed that many Bay Area shows by Grateful Dead spinoffs were not listed on the Hot Line, so any time I saw a Grateful Dead related show advertised in the Bay Area, usually in the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook (the "Pink Section") or BAM, I wrote that down too. As a result, I had an extensive if not quite complete list of Jerry Garcia shows as well as all the other members' spinoff bands from January 1981 onwards. Soon I started calling the Hot Line every week or so, just to keep up my lists.

Within a year or so, despite the absence of an internet thingy, it was clear to me that I wasn't the only person trying to update the Soto list. I was very scrupulous about my own copy, but I considered it essentially for my own use. Since I hadn't met anyone making any kind of effort to track Garcia dates (much less Weir or anyone else in the band), I had an inkling that I had better do a good job of it, since it appeared that maybe no one else was doing it. As a result, as I accumulated information about Jerry Garcia Band performances, I typed them up in a facsimile of the Soto list. My one significant departure from the Soto list was that I would put the list of band members in the group as a header--they were usually announced on the Hot Line list--and insert a new header when the band members changed. Obviously, this wasn't necessary for the Grateful Dead since their membership was considerably more stable. At the end of each year, I would type up my list of Garcia Band shows for the year. I then did the same for Bob Weir, Robert Hunter, Mickey Hart and so on. If I learned about another date, or an opening act, or a different drummer, I would write it in pencil (because it might change), but the lists were basically fixed at the end of the year. I think that I typed them up when I had at least a page's worth of material, but it was more or less annual, although not exactly.

As part of my recognition that no one seemed to be collecting dates for Garcia or any of the spinoffs, I started to write down dates prior to 1981 for any Garcia Band, Garcia-Saunders, Kingfish or any other tape, or any time I found a poster or old advertisement. This was rather scattered, but it was better than nothing. I did fairly well with late 1980, since there will still hard copy sources laying around (literally--probably in my room) but before that it was kind of random.

Cut to about 1984. By a chain of events I no longer recall, I was in touch with Blair Jackson (I had probably sent a letter to the Golden Road). Through Blair, I met Dick Latvala and Dennis McNally. McNally at the time was the official Grateful Dead Historian, but he was working for Bill Graham Presents on cataloging the BGP Archive. Dennis was great, as I was just some nobody, but he was incredibly nice to me. About the second time we met--possibly the last, I don't recall--Dennis gave me his own extensive Jerry Garcia list. This was a byproduct of his research into the Grateful Dead, but I think he was discovering that chronicling the Grateful Dead was an impossible task, so he was simply passing on trying to do Garcia as well. As a result of Dennis's research--which was a great list, but did not have specific sources--I interpolated his information into my sketchy pre-1981 data, and then I had a kind of working Jerry Garcia list.

Cut to the early 1990s. In late 1985, I had started a job that would consume me for the next 15 years, and my life changed in many ways. I was as big a music fan as ever, but work was so self-enveloping that I generally only talked about music with people I worked with. Although I continued calling the Hot Line and writing down dates from the Pink Section, it was a kind of solitary activity. I had let all my nascent Grateful Dead contacts, like Blair Jackson, Dennis McNally and Dick Latvala, slide away. Nonetheless, when Deadbase had come out in 1987, I was as thrilled as anyone. The Soto list was one thing, but here was a performance list complete with songlists to boot--wow! At some point, I wrote Deadbase a letter with some bits and pieces about dates and venues, which was my area of expertise. I was in some kind of correspondence with Stu Nixon in New England, but remember this wasn't email--we probably exchanged a letter a year or something. At some point, probably around 1992, Stu Nixon called me. I think I had said in some letter that I had a list of Garcia shows, and I think Stu was in touch with Blair, who had presumably confirmed that I was linear (in late 80s Deadhead world, this was a more crucial question than it might appear today).

Anyway, Stu Nixon called me and said they were planning to introduce a "GarciaBase" and maybe a "WeirBase" into the next edition of Deadbase, and asked me what I had to offer. I don't know what he was expecting, but I suspect he was pretty surprised when I told him I had a list of every Garcia show from 1981 onwards, a lot of them before that, and every Weir show from 1981 as well. Plus they were typed and mostly legible. Now, Stu's thing was Setlists, and I don't do setlists, so I couldn't help him there, but I gave him a baseline for Garcia and Weir from 1981 onwards, and thanks to McNally and some of my own work I had a pretty good taste of the Garcia 70s as well. Stu and his co-editors did a great job editing in all the setlists that were floating around from tapes and reviews and other sources, but the core list of Garcia dates was mine, including the format where the band iterations have their own paragraphs. All the mistakes were mine, too.

The Jerry Site built its original core list on the GarciaBase list from Deadbase IX, and replicated the process. This is why I'm so confident in rejecting or correcting TJS info when it says "Deadbase lists such and such" as the only source--that's me, and I can see through many of my own blind spots as more information comes to light. Conversely, if there's some information about bandmembers, like Gaylord Birch playing drums, its because I wrote it down when it was on the taped message of the Grateful Dead Hot Line, so I don't wonder about the provenance of the information.

8 comments:

  1. Sorry for the infelicitous title, Corry. Let me know if you'd like it changed.

    So, I posted the foregoing without comment. I will write up a "Response to Corry" post involving my commentary and analysis around Corry's narrative.

    Thank you, Corry, for sharing this history with me. I'll try to do some kind of historiography of it.

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  2. The title is fine, if slightly disconcerting. I read the post raptly. I'm looking forward to your analysis.

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  3. I didn't expect this little historiographical essay! Interesting to see the seeds from which our current databases grew.

    I've always wished something like this could be written about tape sources, as well as our growing date/venue knowledge. There are many old Dead tapes we don't know where they came from, and it would be useful to know how they emerged.

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  4. I finally read Sam Cutler's book. He officially took over as Grateful Dead tour manager on February 4, 1970. However, he was "along for the ride" on the January trips to Oregon and Hawaii, though not New Orleans. The point I take, however, is that for all his cool bravado Cutler was a pretty organized guy. As a result, I think he was the one who started keeping accurate records of Grateful Dead contracts. While we still don't known why Janet Soto made the list, I think its a safe bet that she could only start with January '70 because it represented the beginning of the Cutler era.

    Prior to Cutler's tenure, Lenny Hart would have had every reason to hide, destroy or obscure any existing contracts. I think Cutler was the guy who made a neat pile of them and put them in the same drawer in time order--and as an historian, Mr. Cutler, I thank you for that.

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  5. I don't suppose Cutler's book helps us nail the Rolling Stones' Mandrake's date as either November 9 (my favourite and post Oakland shows) or between December 1 and Altamont on December 6?

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  6. I believe that both the ur-List of Grateful Dead shows (the Soto-Arnold GD List) and the ur-List of Garcia shows (the McNally-Arnold JG List) originated with Ms. Soto, who compiled them on the basis of gig contracts filed with the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Local No. 6, in San Francisco.

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  7. Do you have any idea why the list only began in 1970? Were Garcia or the Dead not members of the union until then?

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  8. I think they were union members. I think your conjecture about Cutler makes sense, but I don't know.

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