Sunday, May 30, 2010

GD at Mammoth Gardens, Denver CO, April 24-25, 1970

It seems that these shows have been shrouded in mystery and legend for a very long time. Maybe it's because April 1970 was such a hot month, because the tape circulating from this weekend reveals a characteristically hot show, because the next gig (4/26/70 at Poynette Wisconsin) is similarly enshrouded, because "Mammoth Gardens" just sounds so damn primal, and/or because Colorado is a special place. Maybe all of the above. At first there seemed to be some question as to whether two shows took place at all, or only one on Friday, April 24th. This has been pretty well resolved (there was a show on Saturday 25th), and I will bring additional evidence to bear on this question. Next, there has apparently been lots of confusion over the correct date of the circulating material. I believe I can resolve this question, as well. My primary aim in this post is to argue that the circulating tape belongs to Saturday, April 25th. I have a few other points to make as well, but that's the main one.

The value-added here is based on a second show review that I unearthed in the Chinook (1), which appears to have been a Denver/Boulder "underground" newspaper. A previously-known review from the Colorado Springs Sun (2) (supplied by Uli Teute and Hanno Bunjes and reproduced in the Deadlists forum), plus all of the other information wonderfully compiled at Deadlists, plus eyewitness information from Ken Condon, plus this new review can all be combined to generate a fuller picture than has heretofore been available of what seems to have been a pretty freaking remarkable pair of shows.


Let me preface this with a word on methodology. Ross Hannan sent me something to this effect, so I should tip my hat to him and apologize if I haven't rendered this accurately or as he would. But, in short, contemporary accounts (I would give special priority to published, ex post reviews) are the evidentiary gold standard when it comes to documenting events such as rock concerts. After this come other presumably "vetted" contemporary information by those with a business stake in the issue, such as posters, tickets and other ephemera, contracts, etc. I'd put ex ante calendar listings next. The informational quality of things such as tape labels and long-distant memories shows tremendous variance, in my experience. Some sources are good as gold, others ... not so much. Anyway, contemporary show reviews are my favorite sources, the ones in which I have greatest confidence. That's why I was so happy to find a second one for the GD at Mammoth Gardens.

The State of Our Knowledge:

Here is what Deadlists currently shows for 4/24/70. It mentions some confusion over the dating, but says that eyewitnesses place this set on the 24th and not the 25th.

One [33:11 +]] [0:10] ; I Know You Rider [7:57] ; [1:22 Intro] ; Monkey And The Engineer [1:44] ; [0:56] ; Friend Of The Devil [3:42] ; [0:13] ; Me And My Uncle [3:26] ; [0:25] ; Candyman [5:40] ; [0:29] ; Uncle John's Band [6:34] ; [0:25]
Two [1:07:09 +] [0:41] ; Easy Wind [8:55] ; [0:44] ; Cumberland Blues [4:44] ; [0:08] % Dire Wolf [3:56] ; [0:11 "broken string"] % Dark Star [24:39] > Saint Stephen [5:54] > The Eleven [13:55] > Drums [1:23] > Jam [2:02] % It's A Man's Man's Man's World [#5:22]

All we know about 4/25 is that the show happened. This is based on the scans below and on eyewitness accounts.

Why we should consider the circulating tape to be from 4/25/70 and not 4/24:

  1. The DeLong article purports to review the Saturday show (4/25), and the setlist given for the electric set matches the tape.
  2. We can infer that the Milt T. review covers the Friday show; he mentions seeing QMS in Boulder "two days later", which happened on Sunday, 4/26. (QMS historians, take note!) He only mentions three songs by name, and none of them is on the circulating tape: Wake Up Little Suzie (acoustic) and Not Fade Away -> Lovelight (2nd electric set, to end the show).When we couple this with DeLong's statement that the GD didn't play anything after the long St. Stephen medley, we have accounts for two distinct endings to two different shows which, indeed, claim to be from two distinct nights.
  3. DeLong mentions "Good Lovin'" being played before "It's a Man's World," and Deadlists notes that though Good Lovin' is not present on the tape, it sounds like it's coming in the jam that cuts out before Man's World. Furthermore, attendee Ken Condon knew only this song, and he is 100% certain he attended the Saturday show. They could well have played it both nights, of course, but in conjunction with everything else I'll consider this another point in support of the view that the tape is from 4/25.
Open Issues
  1. Did these shows follow the electric-acoustic-electric format? Milt T. is very clear that the 4/24 show did indeed follow this format. Attendee Ken Condon states that this is how the show he saw, which was the 25th, was structured. DeLong's review says that "the first part of [the GD's] set" was acoustic. Hopefully new eyewitness accounts can be gathered that might shed more light on this.
  2. Were the NRPS present? There is no mention of them in either review, both of which are pretty clear that the acoustic set was guitars, bass, drums; no mention of pedal steel at all, or of different personnel. Deadlists cites audience member Spencer Wren as remembering a NRPS set, but I sure would like some other evidence before coming to any judgment about that. Update: attendee/commenter ehukai clearly recalls there was no steel guitar, which he would certainly have remembered.
  3. The encore(s): Milt T. mentions that the encore involved John Hammond backed by Pigpen on harp and guitar. Deadlists cites Wren to precisely this effect as well. DeLong says that, having blown everyone's minds, the GD sagely decided not to come back for an encore: "after that devastating medley, anything else would have been painfully anticlimactic." So I propose that this encore happened on 4/24/70, and that there was no encore on 4/25. Aside: I can't think of any other known Pigpen live performances without the GD this late in the game.

  1. There were two GD shows at Mammoth Gardens in Denver, CO on Friday April 24 and Saturday April 25, 1970. This much has already been well established.
  2. The circulating tape is from 4/25 and not, as it currently circulates, from 4/24.
  3. We can add Good Lovin' to the setlist of 4/25 (along with what circulates on the tape), and it should precede It's a Man's World, which is from the same show.
  4. For 4/24/70 we can list a drum duet in electric 1, Wake Up Little Suzie in acoustic (set II), and Not Fade Away -> Lovelight to close electric 2 (Set III overall). We can also note that Pigpen's backing of Hammond took place on this date and not on 4/25/70.

  1. Milt T., “San Francisco Sounds,” Chinook, April 30, 1970, pp. 4-5. Text available via URL
  2. Mike DeLong, "Magic Exists ... Grateful Dead Stuns Crowd," Colorado Springs Sun, April 30, 1970, unknown page. Retrieved from Deadlists May 30, 2010. Text available via URL
! ref: Arnold, Corry. 2009. Mammoth Gardens, Denver, CO Performance List April-October 1970. Rock Archaeology 101, November 8, URL, consulted 11/26/2014.


  1. Nice post - and good timing, since I just wrote about this show in my blog! I think this pretty much settles that our tape is from the 25th.
    It's nice to have at least a little description of the real 4/24 show. Could you provide an image or full quote of Milt T's review?

    The witnesses quoted on deadlists don't mention an opening electric set, just that there was an intermission after the acoustic set... It's an issue that has to be left in the air, I guess - perhaps they had a different arrangement each night.

    I was also puzzled by Wren's comment that NRPS was there - especially since other audience members, and the 4/25 newspaper review, don't mention them.
    And yet...the 4/25 review says that the acoustic set was a full hour, which is more than we have. If NRPS was there, it could be possible audience members had a hard time distinguishing the NRPS set from the Dead's acoustic set? (It would all be "new, folky" stuff...) But it would take more than one witness to convince me of this.

    I also didn't believe Wren's comment that Pigpen played with John Hammond as the encore, so it's a surprise to see that a contemporary reviewer confirms this! (Evidently Wren was there on the 24th, not the 25th.)
    It's a surprise to have Pigpen playing an acoustic encore at all, for that matter, but he & John Hammond shared a love of acoustic blues, and probably knew many of the same songs.

  2. NRPS was not there, only members of the Dead and John Hammond. There was an acoustic set played (second set) that was lengthy but no steel present. John Hammond opened and didn’t play very well, had a strange look on his face, and just could not get a groove going.

    I am originally from Hawaii where the steel guitar was invented so I would have remembered that if it were played. No encore as the electricity was shut off twice—to get the band to quit (which they did) as it was then around 2AM Sunday.

  3. Thank you for posting!

    Did you see the Friday (24th) show, too?

    Given your background and the fact that steel guitar would have really jumped out for you, I consider this really important evidence. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Here's the poster:

  5. The 24th did start with acoustical..... I was there and will never forget it or albeit for what's that's worth. I did have my mind blown as a junior high student at the time. The venue, Mammoth Gardens, in and of itself set the event. I can never describe what happened that night to other people but I feel I am a true deadhead.

  6. thanks for all you do. your research helps to add more layers to the music !


!Thank you for joining the conversation!