Monday, December 28, 2009

GD: 1970 "Caravan of Love" tour

Found this fascinating little tidbit (1) that evokes a number of things worth mentioning:

The Grateful Dead are traveling eastward across the country on their Caravan of Love, en route to an Aug. 25th appearance at the Isle of Wight Music Festival. The Dead would like to liven up the Washington area with a free concert on Aug. 22, but are having a tough time finding a place to do it. The ideal place would be the Sylvan Theater, but it's being used for a production of "The Tempest."
Why is this worth mentioning?

First, there's the possibility of the 8/22 free concert. By my reckoning, Jerry was at Heider's in San Francisco on 8/21 (scheduled to work on "50 States of Freedom" and "Oh Mommy" in a 5-9 p.m. session for what would become Brewer & Shipley's Tarkio) and at the Matrix on 8/24 with Howard Wales.

Second, related but more broadly, there's the funny notion that the GD were "traveling eastward across the country." In the two months prior to the writing of this article the GD had been in the Bay Area; Hawaii; Bay Area; Memphis; Bay Area; Port Chester, then E-W from Toronto to Calgary on the Festival Express; Bay Area; Southern Illinois; Fillmore East; Bay Area. Through August they would mostly be in the Bay Area (with a quick jog down to San Diego). If caravans had worked like that on the Silk Road Queen Elizabeth would have been wearing cotton, I daresay.

Third, I had never heard of the Caravan of Love. On a quick Google I found the following from, the filename of which attaches it to the date of July 25, 1970:

The July 25th date (here's a direct link to the large size of the image) does suggest that the "Caravan of Love" was the way they were going to market things. Probably a groovy wrinkle on "Festival Express". Tom Zito of the Washington Post writing about this may just mean that he got the memo, so to speak.

Fourth, for the record I believe 8/22 would have been the GD's first appearance in Washington, DC. As it happened, that ended up taking place on October 23rd at Georgetown.

Fifth, I am fascinated by the assumption here that the GD were playing the Isle of Wight in 1970 (on 8/25). The festival seems to have been the last week of August. Does anyone know more about this? Were they scheduled to, but bailed out? (Perhaps they needed to finish the album?) Was this just wishful thinking? Just wrong?

Anyway, music business sure seemed like a pretty fluid proposition ca. 1970, all right.

(1) Tom Zito, "Rock Notes: Caravan of Love," Washington Post, August 3, 1970, p. B6.


  1. Hmm...this sounds suspiciously like the Medicine Ball Caravan!

    "In August 1970 the band were to go on a filmed cross-country concert trip sponsored by Warner Brothers (much like the Festival Express). At the last minute they decided not to go, but as McNally says, "Alembic, which had been hired to provide the sound system, remained involved, so mixers Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor and the sound crew went off with the Caravan." (The band went ahead and recorded American Beauty at Wally Heider's studio that month without them.)
    Betty Cantor said, "The Dead were supposed to go as well. So we signed up on that as the recording and PA company, but then the Dead backed out at the last second. We were already contracted to do it, so we had to go; we traveled cross-country, went to Europe and did all that stuff, so Steve Barncard came in and did American Beauty."

    As it turns out, after roaming around the US that August, the Medicine Ball Caravan did end up playing....not the Isle of Wight, but a Canterbury festival on August 31....

    This page notes, "The festival also boasted a stellar sound system for the time , provided by Alembic studios, who made equipment for the Grateful Dead (who were supposed to be the original house band for the tour, but who pulled out for unknown reasons). Their place was taken by Stoneground, a ten piece band from the Bay Area...."

    Anyway - I don't know what the US itinerary of the Medicine Ball Caravan was. But the idea that after just getting out of the Festival Express, and dropping out of the Medicine Ball, the Dead would be considering a Caravan of Love at the exact same time.....pretty hilarious.
    Did some reporter get their notes mixed up?

  2. Thanks for the insight, LIA!

    Just going through the list of canceled gigs in Deadbase IX, and it says the following:

    "The following six shows were on Tom Donohue's Medicine Ball Caravan, which the Dead backed out of at the last minute:"
    August 4, 1970: Virginia City, NV
    August 6, 1970: Albuquerque, NM
    August 9, 1970: Denver, CO
    August 11, 1970: Omaha, NB
    August 14, 1970: Bloomington, IN
    August 20, 1970: Wheeling, WV

    I have to assume that they needed to finish the album and that's why they bailed.

  3. What a strange itinerary for the Medicine does head eastward, though!

    You probably have more info on the Dead's studio dates than I do, but I'm doubtful that the Dead needed to finish the album in August....according to McNally, they were in the studio from August 6-September 16. (Jackson suggests they were even doing overdubs into October.) That doesn't seem too rushed.... Neither McNally nor Jackson suggest they they dropped the tour for recording reasons, but just because they were suspicious of the tour.
    But it's a good guess they might've been in a hurry to get INTO the studio, if they ditched their own sound engineers in the process!

  4. Rosie McGee reminisces at length about the Medicine Ball Caravan, initially conceived as "Woodstock on Wheels". See McGee 2013, pp. 200-237.

  5. 9/16/70 interview, about 39 minutes in, some sketchy notes about the Caravan:

    Traveling across the country making a film. No we didn’t do that film. Ripoff. Ripoff. WB was making a movie of a caravan going across the country. 3954 a whole bunch of other people and they were putting it together. It wasn’t our scene, we didn’t do it. Somewhere some money hungry lawyers. At the last moment they slapped us with some silly contract. 4028

    ! ref: Bennett, Alex, “Alex Bennett with the Grateful Dead. Interview broadcast on WMCA in New York City in 1970 [radio broadcast],” Grateful Dead Archive Online, accessed August 2, 2015,


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