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Thursday, February 13, 2014

JGB 9/15/76 S.S. Duchess, New York City Harbor, New York, NY

The relationship between the Grateful Dead and the Hells Angels has been pretty well discussed, though I am sure there's tons more to say. That's for others to do.

Here I'll just note that Garcia also worked with the Angels outside the GD framework. I have made a few posts with Hells Angels content. I don't have time to work it all out, but I am not going to let that stop me saying something, anyway.

In 2009 I briefly discussed the Hells Angels benefit at the Anderson Theatre in NYC on 11/23/70, NRPS-GD, mostly to update the setlists.  In 2011 I mentioned 3/25/72 at the Academy of Music in NYC, including this great picture of Bo Diddley and the Dead (billed as Jerry Garcia and Friends), at least parts of which were released as Dick's Pick's 30 (2003).

Jerry Garcia and Friends, 3/25/72, Academy of Music, NYC; photo by Chuck Pulin, published in Carr, Patrick. 1972b. One Full Week Running With: Grateful Dead. Grapevine (Toronto) no. 14, May 17, 1972, p. 15.

At some point I'll write up 9/5/73, on the S.S. Bay Belle, Jerry and Merl's first east coast performance.

Right now, I just want to pick my jaw up off the floor at the video that has just hit the streets: The Jerry Garcia Band aboard the S.S. Duchess, New York City Harbor, 9/15/76 [TJS] in high quality color video:

Amazing. Thanks to all involved in getting this to where a schmoe like me can see it, from pretty much anywhere pretty much at any time. Like so much other great stuff, this was seeded by "Voodoonola". A tip o' the cap to you, sir or madam.

(Also of note: video of JGB playing "Not Fade Away" on the Jersey Shore, 7/9/77, also shared to Youtube. I have noted an audio listen to that, as well as the night before at the Calderone Concert Hall. I can't wait to watch it.)

This show offers awesome triangulation possibilities.

There are posters (IM's amazing poster site had one, but is no longer updated past 1976).

There are live action stills and other eye candy:

Pirates' Ball 9/15/76 photo spread, photogs Craig Silverman, Patricia, Ron Gaiella, Yipster Times, October 1976, p. 24.

Naturally enough, this being the Garciaverse, there's also tape. The legendary Ohr Weinberg had a cassette copy of unknown provenance, which Anne Cohen digitized and shared (shnid-86326).

Finally, there's also a great review:

! review: Moore, Jerry. 1976c. 6 Hours Before the Mast. Relix 3, 6 (October): 14-16. [pdf].

Moore tells us all kinds of neat stuff. This was a Hells Angels party, but adventurous public could join in at $15 a head. That would explain the posters. 2,000, including a couple hundred Angels, took part. By the way, this is the same vessel they cruised in 1973, just rechristened, and it reflects a second triple-crossing of the Garciaverse, Bo Diddley and the Angels (after the aforementioned 3/25/72, and penultimate to the Sandy Alexander Benefit crossing of 6/25/82).

More Jerry color (Sard Thee Well!):
In all that freaky crowd, the Angels were the freakiest. The first thing that hit you was that most of them were pretty big, inspiring awe by size alone. Their garb ran mostly to oily denim and leather, the kind of clothing that makes your nose wish it were in some other state. Naturally, they all wore their colors. Tattoos seem to be almost as popular among the Angels as motorcycles. Scars, missing limbs, and prosthetic devices (hooks and such) were very much in evidence, as were weapons ranging from knives to brass knuckles and chains. One Angel in particular, I wish I had a picture of. He was well over 6 feet tall, and must have weighed over 300 pounds. He was wearing only a·vest over his oily denims, and, wherever he went, his stomach preceded him by feet. He was so festooned with chains that he clanked with every step he took. He was so greasy and ugly that he was beautiful, a veritable human tank.
Moore describes four decks set up with nitrous tanks (free if you could fight your way in), packed bars and food services, speakers everywhere, and TV monitors "with a phenomenal color picture of the performance" (video - check!).

Moore narrates a few things which are confirmed by the video. (Indeed, one wonders if ol' JM didn't have a copy of the video? He always did have a remarkably good memory for stuff, though.) He notes "a rather stoned Angel stumbled onto the stage during the Garcia Band set, seizing control of a microphone long enough to drawl out 'Hey folks some cookin' music. Get it on with that boogie beat there,'" which we do get on the video. He also says, cheekily, "Jerry has a funny little trick of rotating his ass in circles to cue" the amazing, upbeat gospel "Mighty High" [Allan | deaddisc | TJS], and there Garcia is on video, shaking his tail.

The order was an apparently forgettable Bay Area band called Cheyenne, Elephant's Memory, then Bo Diddley backed by EM, then, from 11:55-2:05 or so (actually 2:07 am), the Garcia Band. Jerry mentions a hot "Midnight Moonlight", which is not on the video. I need to revisit that.

I'll just finish with a few quick thoughts on what I got out of watching this incredible video, bullet-style.

  • John Kahn mostly can't be heard, which would be familiar from later years. This is basically intended as a criticism.
  • Nice to see Ronnie Tutt banging the start of "Mighty High"
  • Nice to see Donna Jean singing the beautiful stuff she was doing this period behind "Stir It Up", her groove on "After Midnight", and her power on "Mighty High".
  • "Mighty High" (Crawford, Downing) was, per Allan, "originally recorded by The Mighty Clouds of Joy and later covered by Gloria Gaynor". JGB only played it in 1976, it is my favorite song of 1976, and this video is breathtaking. It cuts out only a minute or two in, and as much as I want to lament the Cut Of Death, I must celebrate the couple of minutes that we do get. It's not present on Ohr's old tape, and here we get to listen and watch. Wonderful, amazing, glorious stuff. Thank you, Jay-zuss!


  1. Interesting (to me, at least) that the Yipster Times photo spread includes a pic of Keith singing. I don't think I've ever seen a photo of Keith singing before...

  2. agh, the video is now private! I got to watch a little bit, but was going to back to watch some more.

  3. Here it is!

  4. An upgrade is here

  5. video updated (more than a year later) - thanks!

  6. Ah New York in 1976. Basically nothing left of it, culture most of all.

  7. I remember. And I've put to print parts of this rememberance prior to seeing this account in this blog. Picked up a good friend from Newark Airport as he flew in from New Mexico where he was framing a retirement home for a friend's parents. Don't recall the ducat being $15 which was extremely steep for the time - but it was for Jerry, and a boat ride, Manhattan, and the Angels. It was going to be a party. We parked my Orange Pumpkin (a 74' Orange Volvo) in St. George S.I. and took the ferry over. Fortuitous serendipity that I found a script bottle (dropped by another show goer??) that had nice chunks of black hash in it. As the ferry begins it's approach to Manhattan Island, that September sun is illuminating what are probably 50? or was it 75 chromed Harleys parked in a row along the Battery.

    Fast forward to show...the set up, just as Jerry Moore described, though I only remember the nitrous tanks being up on the top deck - and while I wasn't champing at the bit for a balloon, when I was up there, it was impossible to get anywhere near there with all the chicks clamoring for it. Loved the video screens (probably the first time we're seeing them on the other floors). What a party. Couples fucking in the life boats (that were davited away from the deck). The occasional empty tank being 'winged' off the top deck to the cries of 'Man Overboard!!!!'. An Angel falling on his ass from the wet floor (right in front of us) only to get up, dust himself off, with a hearty laugh (no menace as some have reported elsewhere). An ease of just walking up to the front of that impromptu stage (what stage????), Angels notwithstanding.

    The best part??? Having the Dutchess turn around (somewhere far up the Hudson - I'm really curious where we did this turnabout - Croton? Haverstraw? a small bridge I recall was nearby prior to this turn), but the band was in the middle of 'After Midnight' (technically it was, yuppers, well beyond midnight), that the boat turned into it's own wake. That's when the fun began. It seemed like the crowd was able to attenuate that 'rocking' by shaking, jumping or cosmically 'willing' the Dutchess into rocking port to starboard and vice versa for what seemed like the longest time (straight out of a Popeye movie). All the while Jerry singing, 'After Midnite, We're going to let if all hang out' (check out the audio of this recently released video - listen to the crowd giddly getting off).

    There are other things that I'd love to bring here. I've been long winded enough. Just love that I was here that night. Such a night.

    1. Oh man, that is fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing your recollections! Sounds like a great party.


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