Monday, October 25, 2010

GSCBF8: Skunk Cabbage: Sunday, April 28, 1974, ca. 19:05

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:

Next up on Sunday evening is Skunk Cabbage, a local bluegrass band. On a cursory scan through Google Images I wasn't able to get a picture of this act, so I scanned one out of the concert program.

At some point I will have lots to say about this band, which is apparently not related to this Skunk Cabbage in Vancouver, BC. There's very little that I find online upon a quick glance, so it'll be nice to lay down that marker.
Let me for now just drop two things. First, Vassar used to play with them a bit. One of the SK players told me that Vassar first sat in with them the day after the last OAITW show. Except for the reunion at the GSCBF, the latest known OAITW show was November 4, 1973 at Sonoma State College, so the date in question would have been Nov. 5th. Anyway, it seems this was quite a regular thing and it is an interesting connection. Second, GSCBF co-organizer Judy Lammers was SK's manager at the time. This partly explains why SK got such a sweet, prime-time slot in the festival schedule. Again, I plan on trying to learn more and making a future post just on Skunk Cabbage.

OK, here's what I note about their set at the GSCBF. My own ignorance explains why I don't know the names/instruments and some of the song titles. I would be grateful for your help in illuminating in any way you can!
Golden State Country Bluegrass Festival
Marin County Veterans' Auditorium Building and Grounds
San Rafael, CA

<--Steve Martin and John McEuen precede-->

Sunday, April 28, 1974 ca. 19:05

Source: "Debbie reel 4/27/74" CD 2 (end) and 3 (start) of 4
Provenance: unknown sbd recording (?maybe MSC > C?) > reel
Transfer: AKAI GX 636 playback > Apogee mini ME @ 24/96 > Apogee Mini DAC (monitoring/mastering) > lynx one soundcard > wavelab 5.0 > CD, by Matt Smith.
Lossless encoding: EAC > CDWave > TLH (FLAC level 8).
Tagging: Foobar 2000.

(15 tracks, 33:43)

GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t01. Steve Martin intro, tuning [2:16]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t02. untitled Skunk Cabbage 19740428-1 [0:30] [0:10]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t03. Salty Dog Blues [2:40] [0:06]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t04. song introduction [0:27]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t05. Foolin' % Around (Buck Owens) [2:17] [0:05]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t06. song introduction [0:27]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t07. Leather Britches (traditional) [3:20] [0:07]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t08. talk [0:33]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t09. Once a Day [3:27] [0:37]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t10. I Wish You Knew (Loovin Brothers) [2:50] [0:44]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t11. Let Me Fall [1:56] [0:10]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t12. talk (1), band introductions [1:02]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t13. Salt Creek [3:07] [0:46]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t14. The Crawdad Song [2:48] [0:56]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t15. Hello City Limits [2:05] [0:14] %

Tom Rigney - fiddle, vocals;
Bob Bruen - mandolin, vocals;
Marc Brinitzer - lead guitar, vocals (on "Once a Day")
Don Laughland - rhythm guitar, vocals (on "Let Me Fall")
Steve Gallagher - banjo;
Dave Carpenter - bass, vocals.
[NB: sounds like Douglas Bird is introduced on bass?]

! % = tape discontinuity
! GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t02. The untitled song is presumably an easily identifiable standard
! GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t05. Foolin' Around gap @ 1:21-1:24
! GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t09. "Once a Day" a C&W song ?originally recorded by Connie Smith?' SK learned it from a band called Country Boy.
! GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t10. Bob and Mark sing "I Wish You Knew" as a duet
! GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t10. Joking reference to degeneracy of the crowd.
! GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t10. "We're gonna let Don sing one here" (Let Me Fall)
! GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t12. (1) "Boy, it's amazing to be up here in front of seven million people or whatever it is."
! GSCBF-1974-04-28-1905-Skunk_Cabbage-t14. says band comes from Walnut creek

<--Ramblin' Jack Elliott follows--> 

GSCBF7: Steve Martin and John McEuen: Sunday, April 28, 1974, ca. 1900

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:

After the sequence of three sets covered in posts 4, 5 and 6, we have a dinner break on the program. I am assuming that things came back from dinner time on schedule. I know this sounds like an unreasonable assumption given festival-giving in general and this group of folks in particular (a later set will hint that there is generalized degeneracy present!), but the sets seem to conform to a pretty strict festival scheduling and things don't feel too terribly rushed to my ears. I could be 100% wrong, but anyway.

Anyway ... assuming things are on schedule, then I assume that the dinner break ended promptly at 7, or at least the emcee (Steve Martin, yes, that Steve Martin) came on then. What we have next is Steven Martin's emcee act taking musical form (we all know he plays banjo), duet-style with John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (NGDB).
McEuen was a particularly big deal at this event and in this moment in time because, though I am no expert on all of this, I believe he was a key mover behind the late 1972 "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (WTCBU for my short) project. This brought together a bunch of old-time country and bluegrass leading lights with some of the younger crowd, with the explicit aim of building bridges across generations and genres. Many of the summer 1973 bluegrass festivals were advertised as culminating in a WTCBU reunion, and the GSCBF followed suit. Jimmy Martin had mentioned in his set that he was on later with the Dirt Band, and he was one of the WTCBU old-timers. I'll try to make a post about the overall overlap of these two projects.

Anyway, Martin and McEuen get together for a five-minute bit of hokey comedy and banjo playing.  Here's what note from their set.
Golden State Country Bluegrass Festival
Marin County Veterans' Auditorium Building and Grounds
San Rafael, CA

<--Doc & Merle Watson, then dinner break precede-->

Steve Martin and John McEuen
Sunday, April 28, 1974 ca. 19:00

Source: "Debbie reel 4/27/74, CD 2 of 4"
Provenance: unknown sbd recording (?maybe MSC > C?) > reel
Transfer: AKAI GX 636 playback > Apogee mini ME @ 24/96 > Apogee Mini DAC (monitoring/mastering) > lynx one soundcard > wavelab 5.0 > CD, by Matt Smith.
Lossless encoding: EAC > CDWave > TLH (FLAC level 8).
Tagging: Foobar 2000.

(6 tracks, 3:57)

GSCBF-1974-04-28-1845.Martin-McEuen-t01. % tuning [0:05]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1845.Martin-McEuen-t02. unknown Martin-McEuen 19740428-1 [0:52]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1845.Martin-McEuen-t03. Steve Martin talk [0:44]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1845.Martin-McEuen-t04. "Duelling Banjoes" [0:21]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1845.Martin-McEuen-t05. Devil's Dream [1:37]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1845.Martin-McEuen-t06. Steve Martin talk [0:15]

! % = tape discontinuity
! Both are playing banjo.
! GSCBF-1974-04-28-1845.Martin-McEuen-t02. unknown Martin-McEuen 19740428-1 should be easily identifiable to someone with more knowledge. Please help!

<--Skunk Cabbage follows-->

Saturday, October 23, 2010

JG interview: January 12, 1985, Nora Sage's House, by Jas Obrecht

It's been linked around, but this interview is amazing, and the context that page gives about this particular moment in Garcia's life is precious. Anyway, go check it out.

JGB: November-December 1977 East Coast Tour Rarities

1977 The Jerry Garcia Band (JGB) was formed in 1975 to be a professional recording and touring band, and in productive years the Band would do a late-year East Coast tour. I'd guess the germ of this tradition formed in 1973, when Garcia and Saunders played the Hell's Angels Forever gig on the S.S. Bay Belle in NYC Harbor (September 5th) and then a billed gig at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ on September 6th. The next year (1974) they did a full two-week tour and then (1975), JGB proper (Garcia, Kahn, Tutt, Hopkins) did a slightly shorter one of ca. twelve days.

The 1977 East Coast JGB tour is interesting for a bunch of reasons which I won't get into here. Let me just point out that it has a few very-rarely-played things that are worth hearing.

On 11/21/77 at the Hofstra Playhouse in West Hempstead, NY, the JGB did early and late shows at 7:30 and 10:30. The early show features a clear "Here Comes the Sun" melody about seven minutes into, of all songs, "Stir It Up". This would happen three more times: 11/29/77 (SUNY New Paltz) [JB | JGMF], 12/4/77 (Rutgers) and 12/10/77a (Warner Theater, Washington, DC).

On 11/26/77 at the Cap Theatre in Passaic, they did 7:30 PM early show and 11 PM late show. The second song of the early show is "They Love Each Other", which has a fascinating "Close Encounters" theme  tucked into it about four minutes in. Funny combination. Anyway, the JGB had seen the movie in New York City within a few days of this show, and out comes the famous five-note sequence in an unlikely place. It would show up again on 12/11/77 (Recreation Hall, Pennsyvlania State University, State College, PA) during the last number, "Lonesome and a Long Way From Home" (LAALWFH), and it was also hinted at during "Don't Let Go" on 12/3/77 [JB | JGMF]

11/26/77b, I note "LAALWFH is very nice, with some "Fire on the Mountain" themes in the 7-min. mark." There are a few "FOTM" themes in Garciadom: 10/10/68 with the Hartbeats, during what I call the "New Potato Caboose-ish Jam" that starts the proceedings; 8/21/71, during the Mickey Hart Barn Jam; and the amazing 4/3/76 late show, also during LAALWFH.

There may be other things to uncover ... it wouldn't surprise me if there isn't another "Close Encounters" theme or two lurking around. Hell, maybe Corry already wrote this up in Golden Road! And, as I said above, there's much, much more to say about this whole tour, but I'll have to save that for another post.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The John Rich Question: Reply to Corry

Bravo, Corry! The John Rich Question is indeed a great mystery.See Corry's post for the details of the question. I am sure I'll have to update this post several times, but I wanted to take the second I have available to get started with a reply.

I love this mystery. I agree with Corry that it stands alongside the Tim Hensley Question as one of the most interesting puzzles of JGB-era (post-1975) GOTS. Update: It is Tim Henson, Nicky just mis-slurred his name on 10/11/75.

I also love this music. The steel really gives great depth and color to these shows, which is great since I find 1976-1977 JGB for the most part to be a bit of a snore. The shows have a wintry feel to me -- not sure why I'd describe them that way (beyond know the date, of course), but there you go. They are well worth very close listening.

I believe the source of the name is an Oakland Trib piece by Larry Kelp from 12/23/76 (1), which gives a loose, analytical review of the Wednesday, 12/22/76 show. Kelp lauds the JGB's "lower key music" (which he later artfully labels "sway music") and identifies John Rich as the "newest member" of the JGB, filling "in the sound with tasty rhythm and pedal steel guitars". It sounds like the atmosphere was joyful and intense. I haven't scrutinized this, but I assume a midweek, three-night run was quite unique and only feasible because it was right before Christmas.

There is a second guitarist on January 29, January 30, and April 9, 1977. I believe that he/she is sometimes playing rhythm and sometimes a steel guitar. Given what Kelp says, I'd bet it's "John Rich." He plays those two instruments and he seems to have been around for at least a few months, which in that world qualified for membership, I'd guess. Membership is a big deal to me, as an institutionalist. (Long back story to that ... there's an original thought there that I think is important, but it's years away from fruition.) As Corry notes, we have discussed JGB becoming a going concern around this time. I have other, really nice evidence about that that I haven't processed yet, but anyway the fact that this guy was around and characterized to the local music reporter as a "member" of the band is noteworthy.

Yet I have been able to find absolutely zilch about this guy. No-one I have spoken to (Donna, Linda Kahn, numerous others) seems to remember him. There are a few album credits that look likely, but they strike me as really obscure. (Sorry, don't have them noted yet.) He's tough to Google because of another country music-playing John Rich, of the group "Big & Rich".This can all be better researched, I know, and if no-else does it I'll get to it eventually and post an update.

Corry's guess that there's a Tutt connection seems plausible to me. Between Nashville and LA Tutt must have known an awful lot of steel players. I don't know how many would have come in and out of Elvis's orbit (I have never really listened to The King), but I assume it's a lot. If we can ever encourage Tutt to talk about this stuff, we might get to know for sure!

A few more scattershot thoughts.
  1. So, other dates when Garcia is playing with a steel player? Hmm ... an interesting challenge.
    • The Canadian Festival. I have a sit-in with Ian & Sylvia (and thus Buddy Cage playing steel) on July 3, 1970, based on Walter Keenan's analysis of the Festival Express footage.
    • Did James and the Good Brothers have a steel player? If so, the "2/27/71" sit-in should count.
    • The Scotty's Music Store Jam, date uncertain. I used to call it 5/14/70, but of course Buddy Cage wasn't around yet (they wouldn't meet until the Canadian Festival train trip). This has just come up for some discussion at the Archive. Let's say it's December 9, 1971. Totally deserving of its own post, BTW.
    • November 3, 1972, JG plays steel with NRPS @ Winterland. Not sure if Buddy is there too, or if Jerry is subbing for him.
    • 11/23/72, Doug Sahm & Friends at Armadillo World, Austin. Gotta be a steel player here, no? I can't listen to that tape because of the horrible vocal distortion and the drunkenness of the players. Does that make me a lesser person?
    • 3/18/73, I think he's there (on steel, w/ NRPS at Felt Forum) instead of Buddy, right?
    • 12/15/73 NRPS at Winterland. Also with Sandy Rothman on banjo. Why, oh why, is there no tape of this?
    • February 2, 1974 w/ NRPS at Keystone, Berkeley.
    • I'll be listening to this soon enough for my Golden State Country Bluegrass Festival (GSCBF) series, but would the Dirt Band have had a steel player on 4/28/74?
    • I'll stop there for now, maybe make a full post of it at some point.
  2. Kelp notes that the JGB's version of "Stir It Up" recalls the Wailers' version from their 1973 gigs at the Matrix in SF; anyone doubt that Jerry attended one or more of those '73 shows? He was already dabbling in reggae ("Harder They Come" was being played before October 19-20, 1973), but this would of course become a huge influence, partly defining the sound of the Melvin Seals-era JGB.
  3. The opening act on Tuesday and Wednesday was Steve Seskin, who "opened the evening with a bright set of acoustic folk and blues songs. He was aided by singer Landy Pareira and bassist-harmonica player Steve Gurr." This is confirmed by a 12/19/76 calendar listing in the Trib (2), which lists opening act for the Tuesday 12/21 show as "Stacy Raven".
  4. NB you Phil people that Tooloos played over the weekend through 12/19 (2)
  5. At the 12/21 setbreak announcement, Garcia says "We're gonna try to get ourselves together," which is probably about equipment but could be read lots of ways (e.g., in terms of quickly working up some arrangements). 
  6. My notes (which have been fragmented and disorganized for two years, after my Tapetracker stopped working) say that Rich plays steel on all but Let it Rock and Ride Mighty High on 12/22/76. He's definitely playing on Mighty High on 12/21, so I'd want to verify that he wasn't there the second night - I'd bet on close listening, he is there.
  7. An unlineaged sbd tape of 12/23/76 just surfaced. We should put an ear to it to see if there's a steel player. Update: yes, it does.
  8. This is an instance of what I tag as "JG-Host" during a period in which there would be very, very few. My thought is that Jerry's drug use clearly correlated negatively with three clearly measurable aspects (inter alia, natch) of his non-GD musical career: album credits, guest shots (sit-ins, i.e., JG-guest) and these. Assuming that "sit-in" is the correct characterization of "John Rich" being on these tapes --and if he were really understood as a member, it wouldn't be within my own, working taxonomy of these things-- these were the only ones of 1976. They mystery guitar player from early '77 is the only guest in that year. Lee Oskar (10/24/78) is the only JGB guest of 1978 that I know of. A few ladies sing-along with Reconstruction in '79. You get the point. Did you know that during the nadir of Garcia's drug use, by my reckoning, there were no JGB sit-ins between Mickey Hart at the Phoenix Theater, Petaluma, on 1/22/83 and Bonnie Raitt at the Greek Theater, Berkeley, on 8/30/87? Well ... now you do.
    Anyway, I am grateful to LLD for prompting this! Thanks, Corry!

    (1) Kelp, Larry. 1976. A Showcase for Garcia’s Styles. Oakland Tribune, December 23, 1976, p. 22.
    (2) "Bay Area Calendar," Oakland Tribune, December 19, 1976, p. E-14.