The whole event has a great Sonoma County vibe to it. A pretty poster reveals a billing as “Maria Muldaur and Special Guest” in a "Benefit Concert for the Survival of the Forest Community of Camp Meeker”:
The invaluable Paul Liberatore published a piece on Maria a week before the show, finding her leaning in, preparing for a tour, raising two kids in Mill Valley, and taking time to help a friend and a cause.
A very old friend of mine, Louise Patterson, lives in Camp Meeker, a little redwood community of about 1,500 people near Occidental. It's a beautiful, inspirational pocket in the woods. I've gone there now and then to lay out for a day or two. One day she called me in tears, sobbing about these two brothers who want to log it, cut down the redwoods.About ten miles west of Guerneville, this is a breathtaking –no, breathgiving—little patch of earth that Garcia, who went to high school not too far away in Cazadero, would have known well.
The show was announced again in the I-J on June 17th: "Maria Muldaur, accompanied by Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, will sing at 7.30 p m. Thursday in the auditorium of Santa Rosa High School. The show is a benefit for the Camp Meeker Improvement Club, a group opposed to logging redwoods in the Southern Sonoma community of Camp Meeker." With brisk ticket sales, a second (11 PM) show was added a few days later. I take note, because it's what I do, of the phrase "Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead": it's strongly out-of-pattern. For his own paying gigs, the contracts always, from the beginning he started touring under his own shingle in 1974, forbade any mention of the Dead or his affiliation with the band in event publicity. That he'd allow that rule to be bent almost certainly reflects some combination of it being John's old lady Maria who recruited him (most likely most important) and it being a cause he really believed in.
I think the nature of the event also drives the primary historical interest here, which is that Ronnie Tutt experienced a direct conflict between his Elvis Presley employment and his Garcia involvement. Mr. Tutt had donned his “Blue Light” band suit and was drumming in Des Moines behind Elvis this night -- the last time he'd ever do so. I suspect that this benefit came up after he had committed to the Elvis tour. Greg Errico appears to have gotten the call to sub for him with JGB. As a side note, after Des Moines Tutt would miss the last three shows of the Elvis tour for the birth of twins. Probably within two months, he’d stop playing live with Jerry (until a brief reunion for the late 1981 JGB tour, October 31-November 19). We don’t know much about Tutt’s departure from JGB other than that it happened, and right around the time that Elvis died (on August 16, 1977).
I go into all of that because, at one point, I was thinking that Tutt’s absence foreshadowed his departure from the JGB, as if there was some friction or things just weren’t clicking. But I no longer believe that. It’s more mundane, I think: Tutt just had a scheduling conflict.
One other personnel note. I assume and think I hear this as Donna Jean Godchaux. But it could be Maria. The truth is, there’s probably more variability around all of this than we have ever appreciated.
I post some listening notes below. Just to put a bow around my overall impression, I should say that, to me, this version of the JGB (Garcia-Kahn-K. Godchaux-Tutt, plus Donna Jean and/or Maria Muldaur singing) got pretty steadily better from its start in 1976 through its end in ca. late summer 1977. It’s not monotonic, of course – 4/3/76b may be the best show of the period—but it’s an overall trend. Contrary to many listeners, I find the 1976 flavor of the band to be way too cough syrupy. There are lots of reasons to “Just Say No” to heroin, and not the least of them (though certainly not the greatest) is that music seems to record at 45 RPM and playback at 33 1/3. Things … just … get … really … slowwwwwww. 1977 shows still sometimes drag, but I find more sway and bounce that gets my toe tapping.
The real highlight here is the 26-minute “Don’t Let Go” [Allan | Scofield | TJS]. I like it very much. I’ll write up some song notes about it at some point.
Listening notes follow.
Jerry Garcia Band
Santa Rosa High School
1235 Mendocino Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
June 23, 1977 (Thursday)
74 minute Charlie Connor [Bob Menke gear] audience recording, set II only
--Set II (5 tracks, 73:53)--
s2t01. They Love Each Other [7:25] [0:10] %
s2t02. Knockin' On Heaven's Door [14:55] [0:21] % [0:54]
s2t03. Tore Up Over You [11:55] [0:23] % (1) [1:12]
s2t04. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down [9:52] [0:19] %
s2t05. /Don't Let Go [26:05] (2) [0:22] %
! Band: Jerry Garcia Band
! Lineup: Jerry Garcia, el-g, vocals;
! Lineup: John Kahn, el-bass;
! Lineup: Keith Godchaux, piano
! Lineup: Greg Errico, drums;
! Lineup: Donna Jean Godchaux - vocals.
! 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.
! JGC: http://jerrygarcia.com/show/1977-06-23-santa-rosa-high-school-santa-rosa-ca/
! db: shnid 16714 (this fileset).
! Historical: The show, a "Benefit Concert for the Survival of the Forest Community of Camp Meeker" was billed as Maria Muldaur and Special Guest, but it is the Jerry Garcia Band.
! personnel: Ron Tutt was playing in Des Moines with Elvis's band. I suspect that this benefit gig came up after Tutt had committed to the Elvis tour. Greg Errico got the call.
! personnel: I assume and think I hear this as Donna Jean Godchaux. But it could be Maria. The truth is, there’s probably more variability around all of this than we have ever appreciated.
! venue: JBP: http://jerrygarciasbrokendownpalaces.blogspot.com/2012/07/santa-rosa-high-school-1235-mendocino.html.
! map: https://maps.google.com/maps?q=1235+Mendocino+Avenue,+Santa+Rosa,+CA&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&hnear=1235+Mendocino+Ave,+Santa+Rosa,+California+95401&gl=us&t=h&z=16
! R: "Sony ECM -> Sony TC-152 MAC -> D -> CD (Ryan at thejerrysite.com indicates the taper was Bob Menke). Thanks to Chuck Gannon for the great sounding discs! EAC/SHN by email@example.com 4/03".
! R: Actually taped by Charlie Connor, formerly of SoCal, using Bob's gear.
! seeder note: "Quite excellent, both sound and performance. Rich bass."
! P: s2t02 KOHD Donna Jean comes in on harmony vocals. Jerry pulls some very, very long phrases in the 9-minute mark, and Keith is tinking very nicely behind him. Jerry wailing, but slow and careful. I know they don't go together, but he's way up the neck pulling glass strings, and then swings down to lower register. Errico making himself heard @ 10:45.
! R: s2t03 (1) what a wonderful piece of audience taping, to capture the in-between stuff. It sounds like Garcia is running through the changes for Dixie Down, e.g., with a drummer that they don't work much with.
! P: s2t04 TNTDODD, you can really hear the scratch in Garcia's voice. I'd bet his hair was frizzy and graying. The start of this song feels like a little bit of a struggle, tempo-wise. Around 4 minutes in, Garcia is taking a beautiful, delicate chinese flower solo. Lots of sustain. The recording picks up the depth of this interpretation very nicely. Jerry and Donna singing. Nice.
! R: s2t05 "First couple notes of Don't Let Go missing, but the edit (prior to [seeder] copy) is seamless."
! P: s2t05 DLG @ 4:45 ff JG is doing a really nice, long testamentary solo. Speak, brother! He's playing a poppy line that puts me in mind of Peanuts or cartoons or Vince Guaraldi or something right in this moment. (Probably subconscious: Santa Rosa also houses the Charles M. Schulz stuff [and I think, in his time, housed Charles M. Schulz] and Mr. Guaraldi.) Anyway, this is a really nice example of what the 1977 JGB was capable of, but only really fleetingly. Things were still too slow, a la 1976, for my taste. But when they picked up, like with this, they picked up very, very nicely. Garcia in the 7-minute mark is crafting long Cassadyesque run-ons, with the advantage, in principle, of being able to breath (which thefastestmanalive seemed not to need). In the 15-minute mark Kahn is doing some bit fat pulls for a few measures, and then he solos about 15:45-17:30. I need to think of when was his last big Bay Area bass solo like this? At 17:30 he starts blowing trail back toward Don't Let Go and everyone wisely gets behind and with the bass. Garcia is still keeping a lot of fuzz around things though, not quite ready to pass up his play time. So things are gonna get weird, and around 18:45 we're out and about. The sky and stars can be mighty big in Sonoma County and he pulls some riverine echo from 19:45 forward. Man oh man is this tape just wonderful, so airy and roomy. They really draw this thing through and through here. Lots of singing and hollering and tearing it up. Jerry strums 'em to a reasonably clean close. Errico's a freaking pro, right there.
! s2t05 (2) No stage announcement, no thank you, no nothin'. Harumph.
Liberatore, Paul. 1977. Maria Muldaur: ‘Playin’ Real Good – For Free’. Independent Journal (San Rafael, CA), June 16, 1977, p. 29. Re 6/23/77
“Rock Billboard: Maria Muldaur slates benefit,” Independent Journal, June 17, 1977, p. 27.
“Overlook,” Independent Journal (San Rafael, CA), June 21, 1977, p. 17.