Rather remarkably, we know a fair bit of very interesting stuff about this gig, despite the fact that there is no tape in circulation.
First, the band was billed as Great American String Band (GASB), which wasn't always the case - it sometimes traveled as Great American Music Band (GAMB), and it doesn't appear that things were particularly consistent in that regard. This testifies to the rather fluid nature of the enterprise, always of interest in the Garciaverse, which would become increasingly institutionalized as time went on. Garcia is listed first, natch - capitalists gotta capitalize - but that's pretty standard.
Second, an anonymous commenter at Hooterollin' reports special guest appearances, including, a week after Old And In The Way's abortive swan song --"no sweeping exits"-- at the Golden State Country Bluegrass Festival, the last known stage shared by Garcia and the great Peter Rowan:
I saw Great American String Band show at the Keystone on May 5, 1974 and can attest to the fact that Peter Rowan and Jack Bonus were brought out for two songs - Midnight Moonlight and Hobo Song and the show was recorded professionally for what folks at the gig were hearing would be a future album.Third, as the commenter said, the gig was being recorded for release, one presumes on Round Records, the "side band" companion company to Grateful Dead Records. While the Dead outfit had been up and running since the previous autumn, Round appears to have been born later, perhaps even in this very spring 1974 timeframe. A review that I have just discovered (Silver 1974) confirms that Bear (Owsley Stanley III) was recording the show with a female assistant, I presume the same Vickie Babcock who helped him record Old And In The Way the previous October.
Fourth, between the Hooterollin' commenter and Sam Silver's review, we can also reconstruct some of the setlist. The show started around 11 pm with what the reviewer called "Dog's Bone", which I assume was "Dawg's Bull", a Grisman original. They played "Bud's Bounce" ("mistakenly credited to Buddy Emmonds, really belongs to Buddy Spiker"), "Midnight at the Oasis", at least one Carter Family tune, and Django Reinhardt's "Swing '42" (about which Silver raves). Anonymous commenter adds "Midnight Moonlight" and "Hobo Song" to the mix.
Fifth, Silver took and the Barb published a picture of the GASB in action, one of only two of which I am aware (the other from 5/25/74 in Santa Barbara - h/t Bob Murphy).
|Sam Silver's photo of the Great American String Band, live at Keystone Berkeley, May 5, 1974. Published in the Berkeley Barb, May 10-16, 1974, p. 17.|
Silver is over the moon about the band, with "the best of all possible pickers for the unique job of creating a new music". The review is well worth a read, really capturing the vibe of a show where Garcia is the draw but the other players are the virtuosi, and the audience seemed ready to rock but proved able to appreciate acoustic brilliance.
All of this raises a few essential questions. Are these tapes in possession of the Owsley Stanley Foundation? If so, who can spare whatever it would take to sponsor their preservation? Why didn't the GASB record ever materialize? Most importantly, given the amazing musical direction the band was taking - it was an early germ of Dawg Music, Grisman's brilliantly distinctive alchemical blend of dozens of traditional musical forms - why didn't the String Band last?
! listing: Oakland Tribune, May 3, 1974, p. 30;
! listing: Hayward Daily Review, May 3, 1974, p. 44;
! listing: Oakland Tribune, May 5, 1974, p. 2-R;
! ad: Oakland Tribune, May 5, 1974, p. 2-R;
! Ref: http://hooterollin.blogspot.com/2011/10/april-10-1974-record-plant-sausalito-ca.html?showComment=1329237485261#c7438213843279921015;
! review: Silver, Sam. 1974. Waiting for Jerry Garcia. Berkeley Barb, May 10-16, 17.