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Sunday, August 29, 2010

GSCBF3: Sunday, April 28, 1974 afternoon schedule

Updated 9/18/2010

Part of a series of back-of-the-napkin thoughts about the Golden State Country Bluegrass Festival (GSCBF), held in San Rafael, CA from Friday, April 26th through Sunday, April 28, 1974.

Previous installments:

I have mentioned that there are several flavors of soundboard tapes moving around in collectors' circles, and a few audience-recorded pieces as well. I will be working to build a narrative of the festival, using the following audio sources:

  1. 29-minute Tom Moran audience recording of GASB on 4/26/74 (shnid 99532)
  2. Tom Moran recordings of Maria Muldaur and Doc & Merle Watson sets from 4/26/74.
  3. 32-minute Tom Moran audience recording of "morning workshop session, 4/27/74"
  4. 4-CD set of "WB reels", with material dated 4/27 and 4/28/74; these are AKA the "soundman reels" in some circles.
  5. 6-CD set of "Debbie reels" with material dated 4/27 and 4/28/74
  6. 21-minute "OAITW 4/27/74 aud" recording (shnid 21525)
  7. 4-CD set with the lineage as follows: "SBD REEL > DAT > CDR (playback:  Sony TC 765 reel > SBM1 > Sony D8 > Tascam CD-RW4U > Soundforge)", circulated from Jeff Korona to Mike Lai and from there via a now defunct FTP server called
  8. 1-CD set "John Hartford and Friends, 4/28/74" set, with this lineage: "Source: SBD: MR > DAT > Echo Mia > Cool Edit > CDWave > Philips CDRW804. Recieved as CDA audio.  EAC > WAV > SHN (Gabriel Kuykendall)."
  9. 4-CD set circulated by Rob Berger from Jerry Moore's reel copies. Given lineage is as follows: "source: sbd reel, exact gen unknown (Jerry Moore's copy); lineage: reel playback on Sony TC-765 > sbm1 > dat > cdr > soundforge > cdr > eac > flac, transferred by Rob Berger '99". As of right now I believe (suspect, really, since I haven't had time to check) that the Korona/Lai set is derivative of this one. But we'll see.
I'll have more to say about the different tapes, as I learn more and as time permits. It is going to be a fun story to unravel.

As a set, these tapes embody an improbable amount of conflicting information about the dates of the various performances. I have no idea why this would be, but there you go. But I think I have figured a bunch of it out and will eventually have been able to piece together a maximally complete picture of which acts played when, what and with whom.

For now, just quick note on something I think I have figured out. I am about 99.9% sure that the 6CD set of "Debbie reels" is the last piece of the festival, from late afternoon to late night on Sunday, 4/28. In other words, even though the first four CDs are labeled as "4/27/74", I believe all six are from 4/28. This obviously means that the identical chunks from other sources will need to be relabeled.

There are lots of ways to arrive at this conclusion (or one really, really comprehensive way!). In general, the fit between the published schedule (not set in stone, I know!) and the Debbie reels is just way too high to be a coincidence. Here's the correspondence:

What's more, the recordings tie this all together as a piece. Here are a few data:
  • Debbie reels confirm that Greenbriar Boys set is followed by Jimmy Martin.
  • Jack Elliott was backstage for the GB set; his only scheduled appearance was on Sunday.
  • Jimmy Martin was also only scheduled for Sunday.
  • Jimmy Martin says he'll be back on later with the Dirt Band, also only scheduled for Sunday.
  • The soundman reels have OAITW's encore, "Hobo Song", continuous across the statement "it's been a great festival" and the end of a tape. That OAITW would have closed the show, rather than the "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" reunion, is consistent with the conjecture in GSCBF2, that things became rather Garcia-centric as the festival developed.

All of the foregoing leads inexorably to this conclusion: the Debbie reels are more or less continuous tape (of performances, anyway) from Sunday, April 28, 1974, about 3 p.m. - 11 or whenever the festival came to a close.

How JGAB Ended

Can't believe I have never posted about the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band (JGAB), a.k.a. the "Black Mountain Boys" (1987 model), a.k.a., in a weird little Bill Graham marketing campaign, "Jerry Garcia: The Band Acoustic". This is the wonderful band consisting of Jerry (ac-g, vocals), John Kahn (ac-bass), David Nelson (ac-g, vocals), Sandy Rothman (dobro, mandolin, vocals), David Kemper (drums), and sometimes Kenny Kosek (fiddle). I won't get into the details of the configuration's origins and playing history here, though it's a neat story from a neat time in Jerry's musical life.

Instead, I just want to say one thing about how the JGAB ended, based on a just-completed read of a great Sandy Rothman interview from ca. 1989 (1).

Sandy says that the JGAB was supposed to do a studio album, but ended up with the live album (Almost Acoustic) instead because the planned studio time never materialized. This was "partly because Jerry was in high gear on a couple of other projects and partly because a certain enthusiasm about playing with these old buddies had cooled off ...” (1, p. 18).

This last phrase really intrigues me. It's never been clear how the JGAB ended, though like so many other Jerry configurations it may just have withered for inattention. There were a few super-fun shows in the summer of 1988 (early and late shows at the tiny Cabaret Cotati on July 7th, and a sweet show at the Frost Ampitheatre on July 9th), and then nothing more. Ever, AFAIK.

The way Sandy phrases this interests me, too. The phrase "a certain enthusiasm" and the use of the passive voice are both constructions that seem intended to obscure whatever agency lay behind the sentiments. We are not told whose enthusiasm this was that had cooled off, less still why..

So my simple question, almost certainly strictly rhetorical, is this: Jerry's, or the GD's?

(1) Juanis, Jimbo. 1989. Old and Even More in the Way: An Exclusive Interview with Sandy Rothman. Relix 16, 2 (April): 15-18.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

GSCBF2: Golden State Country Bluegrass Festival: San Rafael, CA, April 26-28, 1974

I am going to probably do a series of posts on the Golden State Country Bluegrass Festival, which was held in San Rafael from April 26-28, 1974.

I have become rather obsessed with this festival. It barely gets mentioned in most Dead-/Jerry-ology, but I think it provides a fascinating glimpse into all kinds of things: 1974, bluegrass, rednecks-meet-hippies, hippie business practices, GD, Bay Area, Garcia, Northern California/SF in their relations to "America", etc. etc. Folks who have read Gans and Simon's still wonderful Playing in the Band [Amazon link, 1996 updated version] might recall the iconic picture by John Sievert of John McEuen, Steve Martin, and Garcia "pickin' and grinnin'" together at the festival (1):

I don't have a clear plan in mind for this series, which is probably really dangerous. It's been many years since I've written something of any length/continuity without a very tight outline, so this could meander. That's fine. I'll just kind of post things as they come, and since I have mentioned it once already I'll call this post GSCBF #2. I hope to at least make posts about the business side of things, the performers, and the recordings. This post is a quickie that mixes the first and third.

Let me just make five empirical observations.

1) The festival was to be recorded for an album release on a "major label" and there were plans for "a major motion picture company [to be] filming the Festival with the production of a theatrical feature being the objective" (2).

2) Judy Lammers, who organized the festival with her then-husband Paul, says that film was conferred on someone, unremembered, right after the festival, and has been lost to her since.

3) another person closely involved with the festival (3) says that things started to get organizationally crazy, especially surrounding recording and filming, when the GD organization took over these aspects. This person says that the tapes "walked away" after the festival.

4) I have been under the impression that a set of these tapes resides in Grisman's vault, and maybe that another resides in the GD (?Garcia?) vault.

5) There are various quite nice sbd recordings in circulation (i.e. among collectors) of many of the festival acts. At least one and maybe two very low gen sets of tapes, slightly different sbd tapes, are out and about a little bit. I will be analyzing the tapes and posting about them separately.

What's the point of this post?

Not quite sure, but let me spitball one or two speculations and other ideas.

1) I have already posted about how Garcia was half-owner --with Ron Rakow his equal partner ... yikes!-- of Round Records. It makes sense to imagine that a festival recording might be a Round release. Hardly a "major label", but I wouldn't put it past the promotional materials to be willing to gild the lily just a tiny bit.

2) Re the filming, we know Jerry would eventually do the GD movie. He might have liked the idea of doing the festival film. What's more, this is music he loved in the area he loved, bluegrass in Marin County. I can see how portraying that combination would have been especially rewarding for Jerry.

3) If #1 and #2 are true, this might explain why the "GD organization" horned in on the festival action. It became something of a Garcia/GD production, despite the facts that 1) every living bluegrass icon (less Bill Monroe) and many of the hottest folk and country acts were present (and, coincidentally, playing their asses off); and b) others had worked long and hard on planning this thing. If Round was involved, Garcia had a tremendous personal stake in making any release a commercial success. What would suck is if the GD --imagine!-- shanghai'd the tapes while letting the festival organizers take a bath on the gate receipts and such.

4) Putting all of this together, I would suppose that the tape and film is all in GD-family hands, and that an eventual release could be foreseen. I rarely get normative, but he's a hope: How's about a festival film and soundtrack, David Lemieux! And while they are at it, I am sure the Lammers would love to see some fruits of their labor of love in putting this thing together, after dealing with financial ruin at the time. Win-win-win: fans and historians get to see some presumably great footage of some incredible music and musicians, we all get to hear great music in the best possible sound, and the people who deserve to might see some much-deserved reward.


(1) Gans, David, and Peter Simon. 1985. Playing in the Band: An Oral and Visual Portrait of the Grateful Dead. New York: St. Martin's Press, p. 147. Updated memorial version, with new last chapter, published 1996.

(2) "The Hills Around the Bay to Resound With Music: Country Music, Bluegrass Music, Old-Time Music, and Much More American Folk Music; The Bay Area's First Bluegrass Festival -- Last Weekend in April." Jewell Productions and Communications Assistants, April 11, 1974. Southern Folklife Collection Festival Files, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, folder 54; 8 pp., information from p. 4.

(3) Lest anyone draw the wrong inference, this is not Paul Lammers. I haven't spoken to him, though I would very much like to.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Where was Garcia on July 26 or 29, 1973?

My previous post contemplated where Garcia was on July 4, 1973, based on ads published in a bluegrass magazine. This post does precisely the same thing for July 26 or 29, 1973.

As you can see, Jerry Garcia is listed among the acts appearing at the First Annual West Virginia Peace, Love, Blues and Bluesgrass [sic] Folk Music Festival (hereafter FAWVPLVVFMF), to be held at Aunt Minnie's Farm and Country Road Park, Rt. No. 33 and 119 (Stumptown) in Glenville, WV on July 26-29, 1973.

Note the pitch to the young/"freak" crowd with the framing, and presumably also through the booking of such acts as the New Riders of the Purple Sage (who would appeal to that sort). There's a lot to say about that, but this is not the place.

Garcia is also billed (as is Vassar Clements) on a handbill held in the Southern Folklife Collection Festival Files (#645) at UNC Chapel Hill.

Did Garcia play this festival, presumably with Old and in the Way?

The 26th and 29th are possible dates, on either end of the GD's performances at Watkins Glen on the 27th and 28th. I'll address them in reverse order.

Re the 29th, Blair Jackson's Garcia ((1), p. 244) says that Jerry appeared in the Burlington County Court (Mount Holly, NJ) on the 29th, in connection with his March 17, 1973 drug bust on the NJ Turnpike (2). But the 29th was a Sunday, and a contemporary article (3) published on the 31st says that he was in court on the 30th. It also says that "Garcia was brought to the hearing … in a helicopter from the Watkins Glen site", which confuses me a little bit unless the GD stayed over at Watkins Glen on the 29th. I doubt they did that, so the record seems a little conflicted. My hunch is that Sunday the 29th would have been an open day for Garcia to play a bluegrass festival, still on the east coast, and indeed that if he had a court date on the 30th it might be a perfect opportunity for him to do so. So I consider the 29th possible.

The 26th also seems possible, though my instinct tells me that it would have been less likely for him to have played a Thursday just prior to Watkins Glen than a Sunday just after it. Not sure why, but there it is.

All of that said, I just don't think this happened, for roughly the same reasons as were adduced against a July 4th festival appearance.First, ads from the next month in Bluegrass Unlimited no longer list Garcia - they show, as did later ads for the 4th, Don Reno and Bill Harrell in that spot. So it seems awfully likely that the Reno-Harrell billing was lined up when Garcia/OAITW dropped out, and this for both July events.

Second, the same eyewitness, who was involved with organizing festivals, doesn't recall Garcia or OAITW at the late July Festival, either. He suggests that these festivals organized by Jim Clark in the summer of 1973 were chaotic and that OAITW may have felt burned after the June 8, 1973 Culpeper-Warrenton Festival. (Yes, I want to know more about that, too. I hope to learn what I can and post.)

As far as I know, there's just no evidence other than some advertisements that this ever happened. And I suspect that the ads promised something that didn't materialize. Getting to the titular question, then: I highly doubt that Garcia was playing a peace, love, blues and bluegrass festival in West Virginia in late July of 1973.

Let me make a macro point about this. The standard histories of OAITW say that they played a couple of east coast dates, and that's it. Like so many of the historical "truths" that surround Garcia, there seems to be more (or even different) to say, at least potentially. Even if they didn't play on July 4th, July 26/29, Labor Day in Camp Springs, or Harpers Ferry on September 7, 1973, that possibility was at least under discussion - so much so that ads were printed in the leading bluegrass magazines. It may not ultimately matter - the most relevant truth may just be that they only played a few of these gigs. But it's also possible that why these gigs were never played --if indeed they weren't-- might be worth knowing as we ponder the too-short history of Old and in the Way.

(1) Jackson, Blair. 1999. Garcia: An American Life. New York: Penguin Books.
(2) Rolling Stone, 4/26/73, p. 14.
(3) "Bye-Bye, Don’t Come Back," Washington Post, July 31, 1973, p. B2.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Where was Garcia on July 4, 1973?

I don't really know. I have him with the GD at the Universal Ampitheatre in Universal City, CA on June 29 - July 1, and then at the Lion's Share on July 5 with Merl.

July 4 was a Wednesday, but Garcia seemed like a vaguely patriotic guy (in a U.S. Blues sort of way!) who might want to gig on the 4th.

Now consider the following two scans:

According to a May 1973 ad in Bluegrass Unlimited, Old and in the Way and "Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead)" were listed as scheduled to appear at the 1st Annual Pennsylvania Old Time Mountain-Country Gospel-Bluegrass & Blues Folk Music Arts Festival. I'll call that the 1APOTMCGBBFMAF for short. Based on fliers held in the archives of the Southern Folklife Collection Festival Files at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (Folder #506), this seems to have been held in Valley View Park, York, PA ("off I-83").

Now, this scan is from the next month's issue of the same magazine. It no longer lists Garcia (Don Reno and Bill Harrell have been subbed in), but it does list Old and in the Way for the 4th. Vassar Clements is also billed for that day (with Doug Dillard), as he had been the month previous.

There are two fliers in the SFC collection, both undated. One lists "Jerry Garcia from Grateful Dead" (underneath "Peter Rowan from Seatrain" -- think they were trying to appeal to the youth/rock audience?). The other does not, and makes no mention of OAITW, either.

Someone who was involved in the bluegrass festival scene at this time says that he doesn't remember seeing Garcia at this 4th of July festival. Combined with the printed materials, this seems to suggest that OAITW/Jerry were originally scheduled to play, or at least discussions were happening, but it didn't come to fruition.

This still leaves open the question of what Jerry was doing on Independence Day 1973, but I do doubt that he attended the 1APOTMCGBBFMAF.

The summer of 1973 bluegrass festival scene certainly warrants a post on its own.

Fall is Going to be Busy

I have a strong feeling that this fall is going to be very, very busy from next week through, well, fall. Probably won't have much time to post, but will try to do so. Here's hoping!