Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Strung Between Dreams and Reality": June 4, 1968, Carousel Ballroom

Handbill for Jam at Carousel Ballroom, Tuesday, June 4, 1968.

The "Tuesday Night Jam" on May 21, 1968 [JB ] shnid-22727] is the uhr moment for Garcia On The Side (GOTS), representing the first time that Garcia was billed under his own name since the birth of the Dead in 1965. The 1968 Side Trips have a feeling all their own, for sure. Much, much more to say about all of it. (For a taste, see my post on 10/30/68 and Hartbeats as Tempo Études.)

Here, because I am going through some San Francisco Chronicle scans I gathered, I wanted to provide some lengthy quotes from Ralph Gleason to provide some context around the seemingly-similar Tuesday Night Jam from June 4, 1968. The handbill identifies Jerry Garcia, Elvin Bishop, Barry Melton, Tim Davis, Lonnie Turner, Steve Miller, Fred Walk, Dino, Marcus Magnificent Malone, plus others.

This was the night that Robert Kennedy was shot, of course. Ralph Gleason (1) offers a pretty good snapshot of the yin and yang of the night, which can of course be taken as capturing some essential things about the hippie dream and, darkly, life itself.
At midnight Tuesday night it was a beautiful scene at the Carousel Ballroom. People came in off the street with late election news and inside there was a long jam session going on with all kinds of guitar players and saxophones and rhythm men and on the floor there was more dancing than I've seen anywhere in months. Throughout the ballroom an outstanding feature was the peacefulness and the joy as a wondrous assortment of people relaxed. There were Hells Angels and hippies, many black people and many men long-hair youth [sic]. It seemed for a moment like the hope of the future.
And then I went outside, got into the car and punched the radio button only to hear a voice saying 'When Senator Kennedy was shot tonight ...' and the terrible real world came crashing in on me again.
And, late the next night:
[a] man slowly died ... this terrible feeling came on again, the feeling of doom I had lost in the Carousel the night before, and the country seemed fated to keep spinning out of control down some grim spiral to madness.
(1) Gleason, Ralph J. 1968. Strung Between Dreams and Reality. San Francisco Chronicle, June 7, 1968, p. 49.

Gleason, Ralph J. 1968. Strung Between Dreams and Reality. San Francisco Chronicle, June 7, 1968, p. 49.


  1. Here's another truly dark description of post-RFK-assassination San Francisco, a Tenderloin cocktail waitress describing coming off her shift that started 6/4/68.

    "It was a terrible night. The fog was grey and it was creeping over everything. I went inside to find the bartender huddled over the bar. All the girls were quiet. Everything was quieter than usual. The doorman came in. He told us he didn't want any girls on the street tonight. We usually would go up and try to hustle the customers inside.

    It was a dead night. All the worms had come out from underneath the ground. The junkies, the streetwalkers. They were all looking.

    There was a drunk across the street. He was dead, lying face down. The fog was cold and wet. It was an angry night. It was like Christ when the ground opened up and all the evil spirits came out. Roaming through the world."

    ! ref: Anderson 1968.

  2. More dead dreams on this dark night: Rakow and Graham were pow-wowwing at Zim's negotiating Wolfgang's takeover of the Carousel on this very night (Greenfield 1996, 111).

    1. Wait, what?

      Sandy Darlington's article in the June 6 SF Express Times said that "last Friday Ron Rakow got together with Bill Graham for a three-hour talk over breakfast about ways in which the ballrooms could cooperate."
      But in the Greenfield interview, Rakow said he was "making the deal for [Graham] to take over the Carousel."

      Makes me wonder if Rakow was doing one thing and saying another....or if, as with the ads he was running on KMPX with the Dead's supposed permission, he was actually stabbing them in the back. It's hard to believe they'd support the idea of turning the Carousel over to Graham. But Rakow clearly knew the place was doomed, and may have decided to act covertly with Graham.

    2. Yeah, it seems the Carousel was doomed. In Dark Star, Rakow blames his lawyer - Rack had negotiated $7k/month against 15% of the gross, but the lawyer wrote a contract for $7k/month *plus* 15%. Says he had to sign it (for reasons that aren't clear to me). Hard to imagine that he thought, as late as early June, that it could be made to work through greater cooperation.

      Re KMPX, there was another piece I looked at relatively recently where Rack says he had the band's backing to run the ads, but one of the writers was in NY with the Dead, talked to Garcia about it, and Garcia didn't know anything about it. I don't always trust counterculture journos, but that one sounded more credible to me than RR.

  3. Tuesday, 6/4/68 was the day of the California primaries, in which RFK was competing against Hubert Humphrey in the Democratic presidential primary. On June 1st, he had been in the Bay Area for rallies in Oakland at Elmhurst Park and Defremery Park before heading to Hunters Point in San Francisco.

  4. And then a gala fundraiser at the SF Civic Auditorium.

  5. Actually, these events seem to have been pushed back to Friday 5/31/68. I guess he debated Eugene McCarthy on Friday 6/1/68. I may have to further refine and correct this.

    Dave Hope, "Bobby Fires Potshots at All Rivals," Oakland Tribune, May 31, 1968, p. 1.

    Arrived Oakland 5/30 at 10:30 PM from Sacto, spoke at Scottish Rite Temple. Planned to litz Oakland 5/31, with Elmhurt and Defremery Park rallies moved up to 5/31 from planned 6/1.

    RFK agreed to debate McCarthy after losing Oregon primary. Per this report, debate was scheduled to go off 6:30 PM in the ABC Channel 7 studios at 277 Golden Gate Avenue in SF for live broadcast to the East Coast. It would be replayed at 9:30 PDT for West Coast audiences.

    SFE 6/4/68 says he was still (or again)campaigning in NorCal, could have been 6/3 or 6/4. At DiMaggio's restaurant speaking to the Italian-American Kennedy Committee.


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