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Thursday, December 18, 2014

May 5, 1982 should be June 5, 1982

Perhaps the most bootlegged Garcia-on-the-side gig is acoustic Garcia and Kahn, attributed as the Oregon State Penitentiary, 2575 Center St. NE, Salem, OR 97301, May 5, 1982 [JGC | JGBP | map | etree showid-48429] Lots of these have been liberated into freely-circulating lossless formats (shnid-4423, shnid-11463, shnid-17900), which are all pretty much the same source tape, as far as I can tell. It's a clean if overloaded soundboard recording, probably straight from a cassette master.

I will try as much as possible to leave aside all of the other interesting questions around this show, most important of which is how, for whom, by what artifice is it that Garcia came to be playing Oregon's maximum security prison in 1982? Now that is a story I'd like to hear told.

update: the story can now be told, and while it's interesting, it's not as interesting as Garcia coming in to help his dealer. A guy named Steve Stilling had been serving time in the OSP since 1974 for armed robbery, among other things (Cowan 19820725). A career criminal (he was arrested for armed robbery again less than six months after a December '83 parole, and I gather that he has recently been an unwilling guest of the great state of Colorado), he spent the early 1980s as a prison impresario, booking dozens of acts, including Garcia. /update

Because I obsess about dates, it's important to me to establish that the bootleggers, whomever they were --an interesting question in its own right-- misdated the gig. The Garcia-Kahn prison gig was not held on May 5, 1982, but on June 5, 1982. I first discovered this in an out-of-place folder in the amazing Grateful Dead Archive in the Special Collections and Archives at the McHenry Library at the University of California, Santa Cruz. I have since found independent confirmation, an expost report  noting the Garcia-Kahn prison show "last week", published on June 11th, 1982 (Cowan 19820611). So this is 100% confirmed at this point.

As far as I know, the only data in support of the current listing derive from the bootleg. There are no known pictures or audience recordings. Naturally enough there are no tickets, handbills, bright posters or happy memories of hippies and hard-timers twirling together under strobified fluorescents. The Oregon State Penitentiary is the kind of place into but not out of which one checks, like the Hotel California or a Glade Roach Motel. Its colorful history as a maximum security lockup reaches back to territorial days, includes a long rogues' gallery of freaky frontier criminals, and gave birth to Warden J.C. Gardner's 1866 patented Gardner Shackle, a.k.a. the "Oregon Boot", consisting "of a heavy iron band that locked around one ankle [which] kept the inmate off balance and deprived him of agility," thwarting escapes into the Oregon wilderness. There have been and probably are some hardcore, toothless, violent motherfuckers in there.

Yet somehow, bootleggers would like us to believe, Garcia played a gig there on May 5, 1982. It has some verisimilitude, of course: Garcia is the kind of guy who might know the kind of guy doing time in the Oregon State Pen, maybe owe or just like to do him a favor. The Oregon node of Garcia's social network is old, deep and strong, dripping in the ancient acid of La Honda and the Kesey crew, the Dead's Oregon roadies (lots of folks from rough and ready Pendleton), Mountain Girl (who lived there after she and Jerry broke up big in 1976-1977) and so forth. Maybe it's overdetermined that Garcia would play there! Anyway, it's too crazy to make up, but, what can I say, I am a skeptic and it never felt quite right.

Turns out that, as they are wont to be, the bootleggers were half-right. Garcia and Kahn did play this gig, but not on May 5th. It happened on June 5th.

June 5th makes logistical sense, insofar as sense has anything to do with it -- Jerry and John were undertaking an odd little road trip which someone in the Garcia office had the cheek to call, with daring high modern hubris, the "Northwest Acoustic Tour". The trip is known to have included a pair of Friday night shows in Portland (at the evocatively-named Neighbors of Woodcraft [wiki]) and Saturday and Sunday gigs in the South Eugene High School Auditorium, as far as I know Garcia’s final high school gigs. (JGC commenter Eric Blond says there were two Eugene shows on 6/5, which would make this a very rare three-show day for Our Hero.) All of this already feels rather improbable, but strange things happen when Keseys are involved, as I seem to recall they were with the Eugene shows, something about one of the family youngsters if I recall correctly. (A preview notes that tickets will be available not only at local record stores and at the U of O student union, but also at Springfield Creamery.)

For example, one “Reverend Chumleigh” opened the Friday night shows in Portland and recalls the following (from a source that I can’t seem to put my finger on):
My opening performance for the Garcia solo tour … was at the Woodsmans hall in Portland, on the third floor. There was a Mormon wedding one floor below us. Kesey was NOT there. There were two shows both two hours late, but luckily for the crowd waiting outside there was a liquor store on the corner. Roberto Morganti, an incredible unibrow juggler, was to do five minutes, Moz Wright, sword swallower/fire breather was to do five minutes, and I was to do 45 minutes. It all went horribly wrong because no one producing the show cared about anything but Garcia, who remained in hiding ... We didn't actually see him except on stage for the whole tour. Opening night, a very scary guy jumped up on stage and acted in a threatening manner despite Garcia's large Gorilla Biker bodyguard who just let him do it. My first words to him (the guy who jumped on stage) was "Full moon tonight, isn't it?" (and it was). He grew angry, and I said "You're lucky I'm not Jerry Garcia because you'd be dead by now, and not grateful". He advanced on me and I kept beseeching the bodyguard who was standing at the foot of the stage to do something, and he didn't, so I picked up my brass goose head walking stick and began to do my Kindo exercises with it and the guy backed off and left the stage. I was to put it mildly, fucking furious.
Anyway, there in the Archives, in a folder in a box in the Grateful Dead Archives, is a little set of documents around the “Northwest Acoustic Tour”, and there it shows the Oregon State Pen gig, 12-2 on Saturday the 5th, then an hour drive south to Eugene for the evening show or shows. If there were still a Jerry Site, I’d update it, but, alas – instead, I have made the change in my spreadsheet, and suggest you do the same.


! ref: Cowan, Ron. 19820611. Elsinore 'sequel' casts Moyer in catbird's seat. Statesman-Journal (Salem, OR), June 11, 1982, p. 10D.

! ref: Cowan, Ron. 19820725. Inmate brings showbiz to prison. Statesman-Journal (Salem, OR), July 25, 1982, p. 3E.

! ref: "OSP Parolee Arrested," Statesman-Journal (Salem, OR), April 26, 1984, p. 3B.

! ref: "Grateful Dead leader to play this weekend," Eugene Register-Guard, June 3, 1982, p. 5D.

! ref: Grateful Dead Archive, MS332, Business Papers, Second Accrual (preliminary), Box 1008.

! ref: images of the 6/5/82 concert program can be found via URL


  1. That Reverend Chumleigh quote was from an email he sent me on 2/28/14.

  2. I was at a Woodman's Hall show and a South Hi show (still have the program). After finding our seats at the high school show a guy announced that you could sit anywhere. Some people moved to better seats. It was a prank. Pretty sure Kesey was there.

  3. I believe you, I will correct my blog and create you once again. Sigh. Sign

  4. Is this show available in lossless format?

  5. I know there are shn and flac sets in circulation. Lossless Legs is always the place to go for Jerry.

    1. ya you can dl it here brother

  6. I have this on vinyl and it's listed as May 5th, 1982.


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