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Saturday, April 23, 2011

NRPS-Matrix-1970 05 of 7: LN19700730: Thursday, July 30, 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
Tape Features

The tape identified as New Riders of the Purple Sage, Matrix, San Francisco, CA on Thursday, July 30, 1970 is a degraded bust listenable 98-minute soundboard recording. It came to me from an impeccable source, It is more tightly edited than either of the other July 1970 NRPS tapes, 7/7 and 7/29. To me this implies a different downstream lineage than those tapes. It is typically assumed that master reels would have been held by Peter Abrams, though I am not in a position to judge the accuracy of that assumption. But somewhere along the line this was edited down more tightly, and I doubt it was on the fly, at the show. So from the presumed common wellspring of Peter Abrams's tapes, this 7/30 and those other two seemed to have traveled different paths.

Overall Vibe of the Show

Sounds like just a good old time foolin' around at the bar. It seems to run quite late. Here's Cousin Ace regaling the sparse and shrinking crowd, sometime-late-a.m.: "Well the rats are desertin' the sinkin' ship. And, uhh, in the meanwhile we're gonna do a ... [interruption by Marmaduke: "Welcome to the campfire folks... "] ... hot lead and bloodshed ballad ... ["... this is story time ..."] ...sad story time ... ["... here on the plains"] and it goes like this." Gettin' late, boys.


Like 7/29 and 4/30, though, this tape is also inconsistent with other known streams of evidence. LIA has already gone over this pretty exhaustively, but I it helps me to organize myself from the ground up. So let's look at the July 30th dating.

A line ad in Good Times v3 n29 (July 24, 1970), p. 16 listed Harvey Mandel at the Matrix on 7/30.
Good Times v3 n29 (July 24, 1970), p. 16, courtesy of Ross Hannan.
A calendar in the Berkeley Tribe v3 n3 (issue 55) (July 24-31, 1970), p. 28) listed Smokestack Lightnin':

Berkeley Tribe v3 n3 (issue 55) (July 24-31, 1970), p. 28; courtesy of Ross Hannan.

Ross Hannan argues authoritatively that line ads such as the one in Good Times would have been submitted well in advance, while calendar items such as the one in the Tribe would have been called in much closer to the publishing date. In case of conflict, we should give precedence to calendar listings over coeval published ads. In the case at hand, Hannan's method would list Smokestack Lightnin' for this date.

The only "evidence" for Garcia being at the Matrix on 7/30/70 takes the form of tape labels. In terms of NRPS gig being noted here, there are still further reasons to be suspicious. The tape now known as 7/29/70 used to be mislabeled 7/30/70, and set I from the former still travels as "4/30/70, set I". (Aside: I believe the "4/30/70" dating is based entirely on this tape, which I believe I have conclusively determined is from after mid-June 1970. Is there any disagreement about this? I am hoping we can put that date into its proper category, a phantom gig based on a slip of the hand, '7'-->'4'.) This reduces our confidence even further that this is what it purports to be.

The GD acoustic set dated 7/30/70

There is also a Grateful Dead acoustic set known as "7/30/70 Matrix" [shnid 17077]. It is indeed plausible that these GD and NRPS sets belong together. The personnel is identical (at least in bits and pieces) except that Lesh is presumably playing bass in the GD set and that David Torbert is presumably playing bass in the NRPS set. I don't have ears to verify either of these claims. Given the fluid history of NRPS bassists at least through the first quarter of 1970, it could be Lesh for both, Torbert for both, or someone else entirely. I can't tell. Weir sits in with NRPS, and Nelson and Dawson sit in with the GD. I do not know if Bill Kreutzmann or Pigpen is around in the GD set; I just can't hear things to that level of precision. But I'll go ahead and say that I don't think they're there -- at least not onstage.

Note that the first NRPS piece (I'll call it set I) runs only 23 minutes. Normally, we would conclude that it's incomplete (and probably missing the material at the start of the set, since there's a set break announcement over continuous tape after Lodi). I do think it's probably incomplete. But it could also be that this night was different, and ended up including the mini GD acoustic set. That might have substituted for at least some part of the expected additional NRPS material.

None of this tells us anything about the correct date of the material (NRPS, GD or both). LIA speculates that some of this stuff might be from the presently-open night of 7/27/70 at the Matrix. That makes sense to me. Maybe it's from the newly-discovered July 31 - August 1, 1970 NRPS/GD shows at the Lion's Share, though that would raise the question of how we have tapes (another point that LIA has made). I am intrigued by the possibility that the order in which the acts are listed for those shows might reflect that NRPS was "first billed" over the GD, which might be consistent with NRPS doing two sets and GD just a little acoustic one. These might be from some other time altogether. I was hoping that the listens might shed some light, but unfortunately I don't think they do.

Noteworthy Material

"Kaw-Liga," Hank Williams's posthumous #1 hit about a star-crossed cigar store Indian and his beloved squaw, just dripping with insane rodeo-clown pathos, is only known from the earliest NRPS recording, August 7, 1969 at the Matrix. So it sort of surprised me to see it here, on a tape I think is approximately correctly dated to late July 1970. But there's just so little tape, we just don't know ... they might have always played it, or anyway always had it available in common and liked to play it on a lark. It is nothing short of fantastic, much slower than the '69 version and really wonderfully haunting.

The Everly Brothers' "Cathy's Clown" is absolutely the best song of this recording and one of the fantastic little rarities out there. Typically, this song has only been associated with the "Bobby Ace and the Cards From the Bottom of the Deck" shows at California Hall (SF, CA) on June 11, 1969 and at the Matrix on April 17, 1970. (Given that Judy Dawson is the source for both of these lists, it sure seems odd that she caught both of these shows, and that there were two such similar shows 10 months apart ...) From a contemporary review I have also determined that the NRPS played it, with Bob Weir accompanying, at the Hell's Angels benefit at the Anderson Theatre, NYC, on November 23, 1970. Because 7/30/70 falls within the range of time during which they were occasionally breaking out this song --seemingly only on special occasions, really loose nights-- "Cathy's Clown" seems at least straightforwardly consistent with the present 7/30/70 dating of this material. Like the other Everly Brothers tunes they occasionally busted out ("Wake Up Little Suzie", "Oh Boy!", "So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)") this one was probably just part of the common stock of songs that these guys all knew. This is the only NRPS recording of it of which I am aware.

"Lady Came From Baltimore" is written by one tragic-sounding fella, Tim Hardin, and features some beautifully mournful pedal steel work around maudlin lyrics. There are only two other versions known to me, in recordings identified as September 18, 1969 at the Inn of the Beginning in Cotati and September 2, 1970 at the Matrix. 

Weir sitting in with NRPS

I started by thinking that Weir sitting in with NRPS was pretty rare, but it's not that rare. Here are the instances I can see from 1970 of Weir sitting in with the Riders:
  1. May 2, 1970: Harpur College, Binghamton, NY
  2. May 7, 1970: Dupont Gym, MIT, Cambridge, MA
  3. May 15, 1970: Fillmore East, New York, NY
  4. July 3, 1970: McMahon Stadium, Calgary, AB, Canada [source: Deadlists]
  5. July 30, 1970: Matrix, SF, CA [this tape]
  6. September 18, 1970: Fillmore East, New York, NY
  7. November 23, 1970: Anderson Theatre, New York, NY
There may well be others, and I haven't even thought about 1971.

Typically, Weir would be  called on in his "Cousin Ace" persona to sing a bunch of hit country covers: "The Race Is On", Marty Robbins's "El Paso", Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried", Kris Kristofferson's "Me And Bobby McGee", the Mel Tillis hit "Sawmill" (not to be confused with the George Jones's "Seasons Of My Heart", what they drug out a time or two), and so forth. I don't usually have much to say about Weir, but this is a period of massive development for him as he evolved toward a much more front-and-forward role in the GD. With Pigpen withdrawing, and with the marked development of Weir's guitar-playing and singing relative to, say, 18 months earlier (late 1968, ca. "The Firing"!), it was crucial in establishing the balance that Garcia seemed to need with that band.

NRPS -> GD Cross-Fertilization

The foregoing speaks to reverberations out to the GD, another topic that I rarely broach. But there are a couple examples that I see here of the NRPS doing just that.

First is the harmony vocals. Now I don't think Dawson is a great singer, but I think he's a very good songwriter and arranger. He sings some mighty nice harmony vocals on some of these Bobby-led tunes that sound a lot like what Garcia would do later. Now I suppose that whichever record they copped it from may well have had these arrangements, in which case Dawson would be epiphenomenal to the story. But I wonder if this isn't an example --a rare one, I'd say-- of how Dawson might have influenced Jerry.

Second, we can see some echoes into future Grateful Dead songs and setlists, many of which would endure a good long while. The final three numbers with Weir --"El Paso", "Mama Tried", and "Me And Bobby McGee" -- were or would become staples of the Bob Weir cowboy song slot in Grateful Dead setlists. "Mama Tried" was already established by 1970. "El Paso" is interesting in the context of the given date of July 30. Besides an eyewitness account from a GD show at the Rock Pile in Toronto on July 8, 1969, there are no known GD versions until July 11, 1970 (Fillmore East, New York, NY) and July 14, 1970 (Euphoria Ballroom, San Rafael, CA). The next is the Golden Hall (San Diego, CA) listing dated August 5, 1970. This seems to make a July 30 dating for this very plausible, indeed. "Me And Bobby McGee", finally, entered the GD repertoire in November 1970 and stayed there through 1974.

Oh yeah, third, one more thing: I swear I hear the "Here Comes Sunshine" melody in Garcia's pedal steel line to start d2t01, Dawson's "Superman."

All right, how's that for anticlimax? Listening Notes follow below the jump.

New Riders of the Purple Sage
The Matrix
San Francisco, CA
July 30, 1970 (Thursday)

MSR > ? > DAT > CD [via redacted] > EAC > CDWave > Sony SoundForge Studio 7.0 > shntool > TLH (FLAC8).

Disc One (5 tracks, 23:13)
--Set I--
d1t01. Hello Trouble [3:12] [0:15] %
d1t02. Glendale Train [5:22] [0:07] %
d1t03. Kaw-Liga [5:20] [0:10] %
d1t04. Sailin' [4:22] [0:05]
d1t05. (1) [0:12] Lodi [4:07] (2) [0:01] %

Disc Two (17 tracks, 75:15)
--Set II--
d2t01. Superman [3:43] [0:08]
d2t02. % (3) Down In The Boondocks [4:23] [0:03]
d2t03. % Cecilia [4:50] [0:12]
d2t04. % The// Bottle Let Me Down [3:#14] [0:07]
d2t05. % Runnin' Back To You [5:11] [0:14]
d2t06. % Connection [5:03] [0:08]
d2t07. The Lady Came From Baltimore [5:17] [0:07]
d2t08. % Live And Let Live [3:44] [0:09]
d2t09. Garden Of Eden [6:00] [0:05]
d2t10. request for Cousin Ace (4) [0:12] % tuning [0:11]
d2t11. The Race Is On* [3:02] [0:02] % (5) [0:25]
d2t12. Cathy's Clown* [3:06] (6) [0:37]
d2t13. El Paso* ... [5:15#] % (7) [0:06]
d2t14. Mama Tried* [3:23] [0:08]
d2t15. % Louisiana Lady [4:17] [0:07] % (8) [0:28]
d2t16. Me And Bobby McGee* [5:11] [0:26]
d2t17. Honky Tonk Women [5:26] [0:15]

John Dawson - rhythm guitar, vocals;
David Nelson - lead guitar, vocals;
David Torbert - bass, vocals;
Jerry Garcia - pedal steel guitar;
Mickey Hart - drums;
* w/Bob Weir - acoustic guitar and vocals.

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: NB that TJS shows a completely different setlist than what is represented on this tape. Given the provenance, I am inclined to think this tape is more likely to be correct, insofar as any of it is.

! db: none as of 4/21/2011.

! R: Lots of hiss, overwhelming distortion on the bass. It is very uneven, relatively tightly edited, etc. I didn't mess around with levels or much of anything else, except to delete a fair number of repeated patches, some old SBE-legacy gaps, smooth a few tape transitions, etc. It's still far from perfect, but IMO it's worth a listen.

! R: Matrix Tapes note: What's interesting is the lack of between-song tuning. Recall that 7/29/70 has most of that intact, as does 7/7/70. This one has very little continuity. This pattern of facts (lower SQ, less continuity, than other Matrix tapes from the same month) suggests a different downstream lineage.

! This would of course be an exceptionally short set I, and we presume that it is incomplete. It probably is. If it clocked in the way these sets seemed to "in general" (not that there are enough data from which to extrapolate, but anyway), it'd run closer to 75 minutes. So, "in general", I'd conjecture that we are missing 45 minutes here. And yet there remains the little issue of the Grateful Dead acoustic set that bears the "7/30/70 Matrix" designation. That one runs to just over a half-hour, with several tape discontinuities making it hard to say how complete it is. It's possible that these are indeed from the same night, though someone with better analytical tools should compare the tapes to see if they have the same soundfield and so on.

! P: The performance is quite sloppy. Just a night of goofin' around, by the sound of things. Dawson is slurring pretty heavily.

! R: d1t01 Hello Trouble R channel static/flutter @ 0:38.

! R: d1t02 pretty bad distortion still here, especially on the bass. There are pretty substantial mix and level fluctuations, considerable episodic static, etc.

! R: levels down after first three songs.

! setlist: d1t03 Kaw-Liga was an awesome song for these guys. It's a Hank Williams tune just dripping with country-western paranoia and pathos. @@ WOW. The only other known version of Kaw-Liga was almost a year earlier, on August 7, 1969, also at the Matrix. I have verified that the two versions are indeed different. My main observation about the difference is that one is performed at a much faster tempo than this one.

! d1t05 (1) "Somebody said rock 'n roll, so uhhh ..."

! d1t05 (2) Dawson: "We're gonna take a few minutes and uhh//"

! d2t01 Superman you can hear where Garcia got the starting melody of "Here Comes Sunshine!"

! d2t02 (3) "We've never done this here before, so we'll just try it right here. Excuse us for tryin'." So setlist note that this represents the NRPS public debut of Down In The Boondocks.

! P: d2t07 "Lady Came From Baltimore" is a pretty great song (though not great lyrics). It's perfect for the pedal steel and has an agonizing, haunting melody (including some of the vibe of the Stones' "Play With Fire", slowed down and dripping and countrified). I love it.

! d2t12 Cecilia @ 3:15-3:29 is a good example of Dawson's country yodeling. It's not terrible to my ears, but what do I know? But that pretty well confirms for me that the GD 4/6/71 Manhattan Center yodeler is also Dawson.

! R: d2t04 Bottle splice @ 2:34

! (4) "Hey, where's Cousin Ace? Is he available? Can we get Cousin Ace up here? If anybody can hear us in the back room there ... there he is, there he is."

! d2t11 (5) @ 3:21 BW: "Close enough for perfect music."

! d2t12 Cathy's Clown is absolutely fantastic. An Everly Brothers tune real late at night at the bar. This may be the only version in circulation. Sounds really great.

! d2t12 @ 3:10-3:13 real-time gap, comes back in on Weir off-mic "How about 'El Paso'?" Then (6) BW: "Well the rats are desertin' the sinkin' ship. And, uhh, in the meanwhile we're gonna do a ... [interruption by Marmaduke: "Welcome to the campfire folks... "] ... hot lead and bloodshed ballad ... ["... this is story time ..."] ...sad story time ... ["... here on the plains"] and it goes like this." Sounds like it's getting late.

! d2t13 El Paso has interesting harmony vocals. I know it's mostly Dawson, but  there are a few times where it sounds like Garcia. I can't quite declare if there's any Garcia. I thought early on I heard JG's high harmonies (a la what he would do in the GD for this song), and also observed that it correlated negatively with the audibility of the steel guitar. But I just can't be sure.

! R: d2t13 El Paso fades out not long before end, on "cradled by two loving arms".

! d2t13 (7) cuts in on Weir "//beg your indulgence".

! d2t14 Mama Tried clearly has Dawson's harmony vocals, and it strikes me that Garcia modeled his harmony vocals on these songs (El Paso, Mama Tried, Bobby McGee) that would enter the GD repertoire on Dawson's treatment. It would be interesting to find a clear example where Dawson might have influenced Garcia musically, and this might be one.

! d2t13 El Paso fades out, maybe missing 20-25 seconds.

! Show note: the material with Weir is absolutely fascinating. "The Race Is On" had been in the GD's acoustic repertoire prior to this point (assuming here that this is July 30, 1970). "Cathy's Clown" appears on lists for the "Bobby Ace And The Cards From The Bottom Of The Deck" shows at California Hall, San Francisco, CA  on June 11, 1969 and at the Family Dog on April 17, 1970, with Deadlists noting that both entries come from attendees' notes/recollections and that no recording circulates. So this recorded version appears to be a singleton as of this writing. The final three numbers with Weir --"El Paso", "Mama Tried", and "Me And Bobby McGee" -- were or would become staples of the Bob Weir cowboy song slot in Grateful Dead setlists. "Mama Tried" was already established by 1970. "El Paso" is interesting in the context of the given date of July 30. Besides an eyewitness account from a GD show at the Rock Pile in Toronto on July 8, 1969, there are no known GD versions until July 11, 1970 (Fillmore East, New York, NY) and July 14, 1970 (Euphoria Ballroom, San Rafael, CA). The next is the Golden Hall (San Diego, CA) listing dated August 5, 1970. This seems to make a July 30 dating for this very plausible, indeed. "Me And Bobby McGee", finally, entered the GD repertoire in November 1970 and stayed there through 1974.

! personnel d2t15 I follow the conventional listings and exclude Weir from this song. He could well be here on acoustic guitar, but I cannot discern him.

! d2t15 (8) Weir: "Somebody's been stomping their feet, and lowering my microphone."

! R: d2t16 Bobby McGee levels rise @ 0:34

! d2t17 Honky Tonk Women L channel out


  1. I also suspect that the little GD set with this date is incomplete, that there may have been more songs before TLMD. So that may be consistent with the NRPS set being incomplete as well.
    And the crowd did seem kind of small in the GD set. Would you say the audience noise/size seems the same on both tapes? I noticed you didn't want to address how sonically similar the two tapes are! But I would guess few people reading your blog have even heard these NRPS sets, so who else can compare?

    It also struck me that your NRPS setlist is totally different than what deadlists lists. This issue of 'floating NRPS sets' is a little confusing, hopefully you can clear some of that up!

  2. The comments about Weir's performances prefiguring the Grateful Dead's Bakersfield sound in 1971 or so are very interesting. One way to look at it is that Garcia is sitting and listening while playing the pedal steel, rather than concentrating on singing and playing simultaneously. So he heard the harmonies he liked and copped them.

    Another way to look at songs like "El Paso" and "The Race Is On" would be that Garcia copped Dawson's harmonies AND Nelson's Fender guitar sound. Garcia could have chosen to play pedal steel behind Weir, but instead chose to play six-string. I think Garcia was more influenced by sounds than licks--he could make up his own parts (on any instrument) easily enough, but he liked listening to how specific combinations sounded on a rock sound system.

  3. "Garcia was more influenced by sounds than licks"

    That's a great phrase, and I agree. Whenever I have gone listening for the Freddie King influence on Garcia --to which Jerry frequently attested-- I could never really hear it so long as I was listening for King's licks. But it wasn't that, it was his sound. Perfect.

  4. LIA, I am going to try to provide some deeper analysis of the recordings, room sound, audience characteristics, etc. It might take awhile, but it's important.

    The only reason I don't torrent the filesets is that I think it's verboten to do so with NRPS soundboards that aren't already circulating. I'll try to find out more.

  5. Any chance this will ever circulate? I’ve been dying to hear (and searching) since I read this years ago.

  6. Unfortunately, this stuff still seems to be embargoed. It was in light circulation in the late 1990s and never even made it to the FTP servers of that era. I try not to post too much about stuff that can't be shared, but that seems to be the case here. If / when I can, I will.


!Thank you for joining the conversation!