Sunday, April 17, 2011

NRPS-Matrix-1970 03 of 7: LN19700707: Tuesday, July 7, 1970

NRPS-Matrix-1970: a seven part series discussing New Riders of the Purple Sage (NRPS) gigs at the Matrix, 1970, including listening notes on the circulating tapes, speculation on dates, observations on playing, general pontificating.

  1. Introduction
  2. LN19700430: Thursday, April 30, 1970
  3. LN19700707: Tuesday, July 7, 1970
  4. LN19700729: Wednesday, July 29, 1970
  5. LN19700730: Thursday, July 30, 1970
  6. LN19700902: Wednesday, September 2, 1970
  7. Analysis and Conclusions
Here I discuss the two-set show on Tuesday, July 7, 1970. I will post my full listening notes below, but let me extract and post about what I hear on a few different dimensions.


Unlike "4/30/70", there's little doubt about this date, not least because of the poster reprinted as AOR 2.105. COAU's Matrix shows list raises no red flags. So it seems like the NRPS were indeed at the Matrix on Thursday, July 7, 1970.
I'd also say there's little doubt but that the recording circulating (lightly) as 7/7/70 is probably indeed from that date, or a date very close to it. For me the smoking gun is John "Marmaduke" Dawson's preface to their rendition of Merle Haggard's sad & sloshy "The Bottle Let Me Down" to close set I: "We just took a lovely train ride that this song was very popular on." This is a sweet little piece of context supporting the dating. They would have gotten back from the Festival Express trip maybe around July 4-5-6, and here Dawson is on "July 7" talking about the train ride they all just took. If it's not July 7th, it's mighty close to it, in my evaluation.


My copy of this show is a degraded but listenable 119 minute soundboard tape of uncertain provenance, though clearly a Matrix Tape. It runs pretty continuously. There is more reverb, especially on the vocals, than I hear on other NRPS-Matrix-1970 recordings.

I believe this recording is lacking the first 30 minutes of the show. We have a 43-minute piece, cutting in on Me And My Uncle, that runs pretty continuously to a set break. Then we have a seemingly complete second set clocking in at 76+ minutes. I conclude that we are missing the first 30 minutes based on two observations. First, where we have complete sets they seem to run about 70-75 minutes. So, a priori, I'd say it's missing thirty minutes. Second, about 27 minutes into the recording, after the fantastic John Dawson-penned ode to dope smugglers, "Henry", we hear some off-mic talk: "How long we been playing?", to which the answer is "about an hour." This would of course imply that there's a half-hour missing up front. A nice little convergent indication, only obtainable by painfully close listening (see note 5 in the listening notes, below).

Historical Interest

What an absolutely fascinating and important recording and performance this is. It really is an exceptionally loose-sounding thing, a night of country and western at the bar. Forward from this point, Garcia might never have such a low-key public gig again, and I mean that. I love hearing him respond to Marmaduke's question about what he wants to play at one point: "I'll try anything." Do y'thing, mang.

Most importantly for history, Garcia is playing a number of different instruments this night. At some points he is playing banjo, in what I believe to be his only public banjo playing between ca. 2/19/69 (w/ High Country) and ca. 2/27/71 (w/ James and the Good Brothers). Extending this range to the prior and subsequent public banjo performances beyond this range would take us back to ca. 1964 and probably forward to 1973 and the birth of Old And In The Way (OAITW). So this is an exceptionally rare instance that probably deserves closer musical analysis than I can give it. I'll just say that while I am often relatively lukewarm about Garcia's banjo playing, I find it outstanding here, possibly because it's behind such novel material as the aforementioned "Henry" and a possible singleton, an instrumental version of the fiddle traditional "Turkey in the Straw".

Garcia also plays a bunch of electric guitar on this show. Etree's show listing and, by extension, TJS's entry include the following note, presumably creditable to Noah Weiner: "No pedal steel played at this show. Jerry played electric guitar (though it doesn't sound like his 1970 Grateful Dead gear) and banjo." I have to say that I am completely confounded as to what Jerry's playing when it's not banjo. Sometimes it sounds like his regular axe. Sometimes it sounds like a Stratocaster, which is of course so characteristic of Bakersfield electric guitar. And sometimes it sounds to my inexpert ears like pedal steel. WTF? No idea.

There are a few personnel notes to make, as well. First, etree and TJS have historically listed Spencer Dryden as drummer, but I think that's wrong. It doesn't fit the standard timelines (he comes in later in the year, ca. November), but more importantly I hear Mickey's voice off-mic a few times (see end of s2t13, for example). Second, and also contrary to etree/TJS notes, the female singer on Long Black Veil (s2t07) is "Bev", not "Kim", per note #12 below. I have no idea who "Bev" is, but she's got kind of a Joan Baez thing going and it's all good.

Performance Quality

Whatever he's got in or under his hands, Garcia's playing this night is fucking fantastic. Check out the sublimely sensitive work he does on the Dawson tearjerker "All I Ever Wanted" ... melodious, dripping, mournful fret work. It's unbelievable to hear Garcia awash in so much Americana, from "Turkey in the Straw" on banjo to the Don Rich-inspired Strat work on a bunch of the country-western numbers.

There are some technical difficulties that result in annoying static from time to time. But they aren't oppressive. Dawson sounds reasonably sober on this night, which is always a plus for the quality of the vocals.

Other Observations

The material played by the New Riders is so dang fascinating. I know everyone knows the repertoire, but listening through this stuff it really sank in just how deeply "country" the early New Riders were. Over half the songs are Dawson originals, and I am struck by how many good and nice songs he wrote. The grim shoot-em-up "Dirty Business" is always a highlight, though this version is a little short and it misses the steel guitar's filthy, grinding vibrato. "Glendale Train" is another great outlaw tune. For some reason I feel less sympathy for poor Amos White (who, along with his retirement watch and fob, gets blow to smithereens and ends up "in fifteen pieces fifteen miles apart") than a law-abiding listener should, but I guess there's no accounting for taste. Dawson's sensitive-cowboy fare ("Cecilia," "Fair Chance To Know," "Garden of Eden") lights me up a little less, but it's fine. I am head over heels crazy for "Last Lonely Eagle" despite what might be a cloying preachiness. It's just a great song, and knowing it was written during an acid trip at Pinnacles National Monument really gives it some transportational power.

Beyond the Dawson originals there's a cornucopia of country, making up maybe 40% of the songs. The Bakersfield influence comes through really, really strongly, and though the Riders have some pretty rough edges (not least Dawson's uneven singing), I am not surprised why, with this material and these players, they went on to a considerable measure of success.

Listening notes follow.

New Riders of the Purple Sage
The Matrix
San Francisco, CA
July 7, 1970 (Tuesday)
119 minutes, probably missing ca. 30 minutes from start of show

Disc One (7 tracks, 42:56)
--Set I--
s1t01. //Me And My Uncle* [#2:58] (1) [0:53]
s1t02. Dirty Business* [6:54] [0:40]
s1t03. Truck Drivin' Man+ [4:03] (2) [1:15]
s1t04. (3) Portland Woman* [5:01]  [1:08]
s1t05. (4) Henry+ [3:33] (5) [0:20]
s1t06. All I Ever Wanted* [9:20] (6) [1:11]
s1t07. (7) The Bottle Let Me Down* [5:15] (8) [0:25]

Disc Two (14 tracks, 76:28)
--Set II--
s2t01. tuning [1:28]
s2t02. Workin' Man Blues* [5:15] (9) [0:22]
s2t03. Glendale Train* [4:09] [0:29]
s2t04. Cecilia* [4:42] % [0:06]
s2t05. (10) [0:17] The Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line* [3:48] [0:56]
s2t06. Last Lonely Eagle* [6:43] (11) [1:13]
s2t07. Long Black Veil*# [4:19] (12, 13, 14) [1:43]
s2t08. Delilah+ [4:11] (15) [0:35]
s2t09. Brown Eyed Handsome Man* [5:10] [0:24]
s2t10. Fair Chance To Know* [4:34] [0:08]
s2t11. noodling and tuning (16, 17, 18) [8:00]
s2t12. Turkey In The Straw+ [2:35] (19) [3:07]
s2t13. Garden Of Eden* [8:10] [0:28]
s2t14. Louisiana Lady* ... [#3:30]

Lineup (per etree):
John Dawson - rhythm guitar, vocals;
David Nelson - lead guitar, vocals;
David Torbert - bass, vocals;
Jerry Garcia - (*)electric guitar, (+)banjo;
Mickey Hart - drums.

Recording specs:
unknown sbd > CD > EAC (extraction) > CD Wave (tracking) > Traders Little Helper (flac8 encoding) > foobar2000 (tagging).

JGMF notes:

! Recording: symbols: % = recording discontinuity; / = clipped song; // = cut song; ... = fade in/out; # = truncated timing; [ ] = recorded event time. The recorded event time immediately after the song or item name is an attempt at getting the "real" time of the event. So, a timing of [x:xx] right after a song title is an attempt to say how long the song really was, as represented on this recording.

! TJS:

! db: no lossless filesets as of 4/16/2011. See for the show listing at etree.

! P: What a fascinating show! It's just wonderful to hear Garcia being able to play so loosely.

! R: This is a pretty degraded sbd, but it's totally listenable. There is lots of reverb, on the vocals especially. It's distinctive about this recording relative to the other 1970 NRPS Matrix sets. There are lots of equipment issues which come through on the recording as static.

! Garcia: etree (Noah Weiner) says "No pedal steel played at this show. Jerry played electric guitar (though it doesn't sound like his 1970 Grateful Dead gear) and banjo." This would be consistent with the gear not having gotten home from Canada yet, but I am having a terrible time what all he's playing. The banjo tunes (noted with the '+') are clear enough. But the guitars puzzle me. Sometimes it sounds like he's playing a Stratocaster. Other times it sounds like his regular electric guitar. Occasionally if not often it sounds like pedal steel. For now I am keeping Noah's notations.

! Personnel: Etree and TJS have historically listed Spencer Dryden as drummer, but I think that's wrong. It doesn't fit the standard timelines (he comes in later in the year, ca. November), but more importantly I hear Mickey's voice off-mic a few times (see end of s2t13, for example). Also, contrary to etree/TJS notes, the female singer on Long Black Veil (s2t07) is "Bev", not "Kim", per note #12 below.

! R: s1t01 MAMU cuts in "I went to the barroom and ordered drinks for all"

! s1t01 @ 3:41 (1): off-mic, unidentified speaker, probably Dawson: "a little Lost Lonely Eagle?" JG: "Sure." Yet they're tuning up Dirty Business, that's what Dawson announces ("Here's another little destruction song"), that's what they play, and the tape runs continuously into the start of "Dirty Business". Confusing. Guess they changed their minds.

! Does it sound like Garcia is playing a Stratocaster? Bakersfield smiles. s1t02 sounds like steel to me.

! R: There is a lot more reverb on the vocals than I recall hearing on the other 1970 Matrix tapes.

! s1t03 (2) JG: "Microphone, microphone. Leave this one on all the time." Dawson: "It wasn't loud enough, whatever it was. Now's it better? The poor boy's in there tryin' to figure out which knob it is."

! s1t04 (3) Dawson: "This one's for all the Portland women in the audience."

! P: s1t04 Portland Woman is a trainwreck.

! s1t05 (4) Dawson: "This is dedicated to all the dope smugglers."

! s1t05 (5) off mic talk: "How long we been playing?" "About an hour." This comes about 27 minutes into the recording, implying that we are missing the first 30 minutes of the show. That seems very plausible to me, especially since this set only clocks in at 42:56, while most of these July 1970 Matrix NRPS sets run 70-75 minutes.

! P: Hearing Garcia play banjo on Henry is unbelievable. What a fantastic effect!

! s1t06 @ 10:10 (6) Nelson: "Anybody got a flat pick?" Dawson: "Ah ha ha, a couple of hands going into pockets ... It's gotta be a hard one." Nelson: "Got it." Dawson: "Got it, all right."

! P: s1t06 AIEW Garcia's guitar work is sublime. Listen to the stuff he is doing in the 7-minute mark ... breathtaking. I can't tell what guitar this is, though I am sure someone with good gear ears could do so easily.

! R: s1t06 AIEW some static at various times throughout the song. You can hear some talk around 4:00ff suggesting that these are sound problems from the stage/house (and are not an artifact of the recording).

! s1t07 (7) Dawson: "We just took a lovely train ride that this song was very popular on." This is a sweet little piece of context supporting the dating. They would have gotten back from the Festival Express trip maybe around July 4-5-6, and here Dawson is on "July 7" talking about the train ride they all just took.

! P: s1t07 TBLMD @ 1:27 listen to Jerry's really tasty solo there. Does that sound like a Strat?

! R: s1t07 more static ... there's a loose chord somewhere.

! s1t07 @ 5:23 (8) Dawson: "We're gonna take a few minutes to sit down -- to sit down and drink some beer. So we'll come back and play some more in a minute."

! s2t02 (9) Off-mic talk about what to play next, and I think I hear Garcia say "I'll try anything." Right on, Jer.

! R: s2t03 GT more cable static

! s2t05 (10) Dawson:  "This is for all you Waylon Jennings fans. [laughs] How many Waylon Jennings fans have we got here? OK, all right. Well at least there's somebody."

! d2t06 @ 7:00 (11) Dawson: "We had a request to do Long Black Veil, and we can do it with a duet, so we're gonna do it that way."

! R: s2t07 @ 4:21, after Long Black Veil, an instance of very up-close clapping. Weird for a sbd.

! s2t07 (12) Dawson: "That's Bev."

! s2t07 @ 5:28 (13) JG: "Is Phil here?"

! s2t07 @ 5:44 (14) JG: "A little ban-jar here."

! s2t08 (15) Dawson: "Well, we can try it. I can't guarantee a performance on this one. This is one that's been shaky with us recently ..."

! s2t11 @ start (16) Nelson, off mic: "Nahh, the Grateful Dead do [inaudible]"

! s2t11 @ 0:43 (17) Marmaduke: "We gotta couple of fiddle tunes we can play on acoustic guitars and stuff here. So we'll see what we can // send David into the other room to get his guitar."

! s2t11 @ 5:53 (18) Nelson, mic check: "Hello, hello, hello in there. Eat my shorts. Are you getting this?"

! P: s2t12 Turkey In The Straw is fantastic!

! s2t12 (19): Dawson: "We're at a loss for something to do with ending, so we'll go back the other way."

! s2t13 near end of track I think I hear Hart asking "What is it, Marmaduke," asking him to call the tune.

! R: s2t14 Louisiana Lady fades out


  1. This is the only time I know of when Jerry played banjo on stage with NRPS, excepting the 3-18-73 show at Felt Forum.

    As to Jer's electric guitar, if its ambiguous as to whether its electric or steel, it could be a six-string with a "B-Bender." The B-Bender was invented by Byrds drummer Gene Parsons for his friend Clarence White (the Byrds lead guitarist), so he could play steel licks on the six-string. I had always been surprised that Jerry never used one--maybe he did on this show. Even if there were only a few at this time, Jerry knew Clarence, so he would have had access.

    The B-Bender was attached to the shoulder strap, and it bent the the B-String of the guitar when the player moved his shoulder (or something along those lines). A good example of the B-Bender sound, I'm fairly sure, is Fred Burton's guitar on Brewer And Shipley's "One Toke Over The Line." A B-Bender sounds like a pedal steel because its doing the same thing to the string, but its much less pronounced and its often only for a few licks.

  2. The B-Bender theory really makes a lot of sense. I strained to differentiate the various guitar sounds I was hearing, but really couldn't come up with anything.

    Thanks for the reminder of the rarity of Jerry on banjo with NRPS. I know we discussed that at some point.

    1. Having been fortunate enough to hear this, I just wanted to add: I think the "pedal steel" effect Jerry gets in this show is a combination of his wahwah pedal and either a volume pedal or his physically adjusting the volume knob with his little finger while he's picking (like Roy Buchanan did). Adjusting the volume is probably how he creates that "swelling" kind of effect on each note (he did this in many Dark Stars, too: 2/13/70 for example). Volume pedals were pretty standard tools for pedal steel players, and according to the dozin guitar site Jerry used a combo volume/wah pedal around 1972-74ish. "All I Ever Wanted" has both effects: at the very beginning, Jerry is doing something with the volume, but during his other solos in the song, he's using his wahwah. On other songs, I also hear him using some kind of fuzz pedal in small doses.

      I'm not sure what guitar he is using, but another thing that might account for the difference from his usual guitar sound is the amp he was using (if his main rig was still in transit back from the Canada trip).

  3. I have been thinking about the guest vocalist on "Long Black Veil." My initial nominee would be Beverly Bivens, former lead singer of the group We Five (who hit it big in '65 with Sylvia Tyson's "You Were On My Mind"). The We Five are generally lumped with The Mamas And The Papas and those sorts of groups, but the band members were well connected to the Fillmore/Avalon bands.

    Bivens had left the We Five in 1967, despite their success, due to management issues. She had married bassist Fred Marshall in 1966, and she largely stepped away from professional music after 1967. Marshall had played with Vince Guaraldi (he helped record the "Peanuts" theme), and he was also part of the jazz-and-light-show "Light Sound Dimension" with Bill Ham and others.

  4. That would be very, very interesting. A Sylvia Tyson connection (hence Great Speckled Bird, and hence Festival Express, hence Buddy Cage) and a Guaraldi connection. Worlds fold in on themselves!

  5. Hi all,
    This is confusing to me because as far as I knew Jerry was still aboard the Festival Express train on July 7 1970.

  6. The last day of the Festival Express was July 3, 1970. Although the GD played July 8th at Southern Illinois University, it's perfectly conceivable that this gig happened, with Jerry, on this date. As a general matter, he seems to have spent as much time as possible in the Bay Area.

  7. Note to self: JG talks about Festival Express Trip in David Bromberg interview:

    1. A pretty fascinating interview, not least since Mr Bromberg is the interviewer. For those of you who like foreshadowing, note Jerry's explanation of how Janis Joplin inadvertently od'd in some dive

      The situation is you're making a record, and you're putting out a lot of effort, long hours in the studio. You get pretty weird. You come out afterwards, go to a bar, get a few drinks to level out. Everything's going pretty good, but you have to relax `cause tomorrow you have to go back to the studio. So it's back to the hotel, you have a little smack, you know, it's like a tranquilizer, or a downer when you're not strung out.

    2. That's not THE David Bromberg, I don't think.

  8. Hunter in Browne 2015a: "That was one of the happy times, going on that train trip."

  9. "Run out of track and I caught the plane / Back in the county with the blues again"

  10. where can I find this recording? I can't seem to find it on bt or shnflac...

  11. Someone asked this on one of the other posts in the series. It turns out that, while these tapes circulated very lightly in the early CD era, the NRPS powers-that-be have asked that they not be further circulated. I think there is some hope that some day they might be subject to a release. I know it's maddening, and I certainly don't intend to have this out there flaunting. It's a weird circumstance.


!Thank you for joining the conversation!