Sunday, September 02, 2018

Jerry Garcia and Friends, Sanpaku at the Matrix: May 20-21, 1969


I told you all that the Examiner would yield many interesting things. Well, this is one of the most interesting. Sometimes skimming cream is worth the price of later anticlimax.

Jerry Garcia and Friends and Sam Paku [sic: Sanpaku] at the Matrix, Tuesday, May 20 and Wednesday, May 21, 1969.

Garcia's first understood public pedal steel playing happened 5/14/69 at the Underground, supposedly a Hofbrau house in Menlo Park, understood just to be him and Marmaduke. The second instance was the second day of this listing, 5/21/69.

So, do we imagine this is Jerry and his pedal steel, and maybe Marmaduke and his songs?

If not, then what?


  1. This is such an amazing find, for so many reasons. Let me start by saying that while we can sort of triangulate the May 14 date as the debut of Jerry and Marmaduke at the Underground in Menlo Park, the date of May 21 was just assumed by me, since Marmaduke had regular Wednesday gig. We have no exterior confirmation of any sort for a May 21 Garcia sighting at the Underground. The Dead were booked on May 28, and we have kind of a confirmation for June 4 at the Underground.

    Keep in mind also that the Matrix would have had to book this a few weeks in advance. Very possibly, prior to Garcia even knowing about Marmaduke's booking. So I think for Wednesday, May 21, Garcia and Marmaduke played their own gigs. It doesn't rule out a surprise Marmaduke appearance on Tuesday May 20.

    All of this elides the question of who Jerry was playing with, or even planning to play with. My own guess--until I change my mind, of course--is that this was a Mickey and The Hartbeats booking. We know that the Hartbeats played the week before Live Dead (late Feb 69), so there's no reason to think they wouldn't play in May as well. We have no tapes of the February 69 Hartbeats shows, so everyone forgets they ever happened.

    My assessment of the Airplane's touring schedule ( suggests that Jack Casady was in town, so maybe it was Casady and Garcia along with some drummers. Of course we would love it if it was a lost jam with Quicksilver or something, but Occam's Razor suggest that the most likely Garcia ensemble at the Matrix was the one he had played with the most there up until this time.

    Still, a remarkable find. For me, the chronology goes:

    May 14 The Underground, Dawson with Garcia
    May 20-21 The Matrix Garcia and Hartbeats
    May 21 The Underground, Dawson
    May 28 Winterland GD (People's Park Benefit)
    May 28 The Underground Dawson
    June 4 The Underground Dawson with Garcia and Nelson (quasi-confirmed)
    June 11 California Hall Bobby Ace with Garcia, Nelson, Dawson
    June 18 The Underground Dawson with Garcia and Nelson (assumed)
    June 25 The Underground Dawson with Garcia and Nelson (confirmed)
    June ?? Peninsula School with proto-NRPS (likely earlier in June)

  2. I imagine this was Jerry on pedal steel with an organ, flute, and accordion combo... Can't we dream?

  3. I have been reviewing my own mind and I realized that Sanpaku's road manager and organ player told me a story about playing the Matrix when Jerry was there. The way the story went, "everybody" was there, meaning Jerry, Owsley and members of the Dead. So Sanpaku was looking to impress, but forget to calculate for Owsley's presence, and melted down on stage.

    There was no point in asking for further details--they had none--but it did occur to me, why was Jerry at the Matrix? He never "hung out." It would make perfect sense that Sanpaku had a gig opening for Mickey And The Hartbeats, and were determined to impress Jerry. It makes perfect sense that Owsley would be there too. If I recall correctly, Owsley offered them something, and they took it, not realizing the rather high quality (yes, they knew who Owsley was and they were rather experienced with psychedelics, but still...)

    Both Sanpaku and the Dead were booked by Bill Graham's Millard Agency, and Sanpaku would go on to open for the Dead a number of times. Flautist Gary Larkey was even invited on stage a few times. This may have been their first meeting. So we may have a sort of eyewitness account.

    1. An interesting story!
      I'd just note that Sanpaku would have run into Garcia a number of times before - back in Lake Tahoe in July '68 when they were named the Working Class; possibly at the 3/17/69 Winterland benefit; and definitely at the April '69 Avalon shows. So you'd think by this Matrix show, they no longer needed to impress.

      And I'm not so sure Jerry never "hung out" at the Matrix. For instance, when Johnny Winter played there in December '68, a bandmember recalled, "Jerry Garcia was there; he was part owner."
      Of course he wasn't the owner, but the impression must have been that Garcia was *always* there - which, in late 1968, was almost the case, and that might have extended into early 1969 as well. (1/20/69 with Al Kooper and "2/19/69" with High Country are just two random nights we happen to know about.)
      As I think I've written elsewhere, the Hartbeats shows opened up a new door for Jerry, the possibility of jams with a rotating cast of musicians EVERY WEEK at a stable location - basically his dream. So I suspect he "hung out" there frequently, even if jams were the main excuse.

      All that said, the Sanpaku memory does seem likely to be from this May date, since there's no sign of their appearing at the Matrix earlier.

  4. Fun. And, if Owsley was there, was he rolling tape? What a world.

  5. Light Into Ashes is quite right in that by May, we (Sanpaku) had played with the Dead several times including the "lost long weekend" at Kings Beach in July, 68. The infamous Matrix meltdown was much earlier in 69, possibly in March right after the CCR, Jethro Tull show at Fillmore West. Graham had arranged a mostly private showcase for the BGP staff, the lawyers, and some record company types to hear his latest addition to the management stable. We often got calls from the BGP office telling us to go here
    or there and play, i.e. The Blind Fath show in August. Some times it was the same day,
    as in "you're playing 1 set at the Matrix tonight at 8, don't be late!" So it was at that "showcase" gig where things went south. A perennial fan/friend, who was a cohort of Bear's, and close friend of one of the band members showed up before the first set with a vial full of Bear's best. Most of us were experienced voyagers, but by the second set, we were too wrecked to pay attention. Fortunately, Bill and all of the VIPs had left. so we managed to avoid yet another screaming lecture from Our new manager about our excessive psychedelic consumption.


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