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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Where Were the GD on December 24, 1970?

My list of canceled Grateful Dead gigs shows Thursday, December 24, 1970 at City Center, New York, NY. Deadbase listed as canceled, with note "Not possible with Winterland the night before".

Two things.

First, I think we are learning that they'd fly for a gig, so I am not 100% sure this is a safe assumption that they would not have played NYC on 12/24 having played SF on 12/23 - especially for a special occasion.

Second, I just came across a piece from Hit Parader, attributed to June 1971, which includes the following: The Dead are anti "new politics", but "do help when they find an individual whose ideas impress them. For instance, on a recent plane trip across the country, the band met Huey Newton, leader of the Black Panthers. He told them his philosophy. They were impressed by what he said, as well as his personality. As a result, they agreed to do a benefit for the Panthers that was held in New York on Christmas Eve".[i]
Hmmm, she uses the past tense. Now, normally I'd poo-poo Hit Parader, but these things can surprise us. Any thoughts as to whether the GD actually played a Panthers benefit in NYC on Christmas Eve. 1970?
! ref: Ross, Penelope. 1971. Grateful Dead. Hit Parader, June: 10-12, 59, 64. 
p.s. "Where Were the Grateful Dead" does better than "Where Was The Grateful Dead", grammar be damned.

[i] Ross 1971, 12.


  1. In the Action World interview with Garcia in October '70, Garcia said, "We're doing a thing here at Madison Square Garden with Huey Newton... It would be like a fund raising trip for the Panthers... We have a date. It's already together."
    An interview with the Dead done in NYC and printed in Circus in March '71 says that the Dead "did a benefit for the Panthers in December."
    Now the Hit Parader in June '71 says the Dead played a Panther benefit in New York on 12/24/70.

    So something was scheduled and printed, for sure. But there's no evidence that it was played outside of these couple brief mentions. I suspect it was cancelled (unknown to these reporters) and the Dead played the Oakland benefit in March '71 instead. Otherwise we have the Dead being persuaded to fly to NYC on Christmas Eve for one benefit - a show which has been utterly forgotten by New Yorkers - at the City Center, which I don't think held rock shows (it was a nice theater which usually had classical music, plays, and dance; very hard to imagine a Dead show/Black Panther event there) - and then doing a second Panther benefit in March! This all seems unlikely.

    1. A small update: the Hit Parader article from June '71 has so much in common with the Circus interview printed in March '71 (many band quotes not phrased the same way, or attributed to different people), I believe the two authors were at the same band interview in November 1970.
      Which means that the two articles are not reporting *separately* that there was a Panther benefit in December. In fact, because the printing of both articles took place months after the actual interview, in each of them the reference to the supposed December benefit is shoehorned into the interview material (which, of course, was in November). I believe Garcia talked about a benefit that was *going* to happen then but cancelled, and the two reporters didn't realize it was later called off.

  2. Selvin (1971a) reports Bob Weir hanging out at the Matrix watching Jerry and Merl.

    Selvin, Joel. 1971a. San Francisco. Earth, January, pp. 67-68.

  3. Excellent, I completely agree with your reasoning. Thanks!

  4. McNally on the flight with Huey: "On September 16, the Dead flew to New York for gigs at the Fillmore East, and it turned out to be a thoroughly wonderful plane flight. Their fellow passengers included Ray Charles, who played chess with Sam Cutler and beat him, and a gaggle of Greek people on their way to visit their homeland. As the Greeks began dancing up and down the aisle, the Dead focused on yet another passenger, Huey Newton, the charismatic head of the Black Panther Party. Natural-born skeptics, the Dead knew that the media image of the Panthers was not to be trusted, and they were delighted to sit and rave with an intelligent and personable man. Six miles in the air, the conversation was good and the vibes even better. Interestingly, their encounter was documented in their FBI file just twelve days later" (McNally 2002, 379).


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