This is not a "news" blog, since I usually focus on the early history of the Dead; but there's a recent development that I thought was worth a brief post.
After Bear's death, his family started the Owsley Stanley Foundation, which is now raising funds to restore and release Bear's tapes - over 1300 live recordings:
Most of these are probably either bands that opened for the Dead from '68-70, or bands that played at the Carousel in early 1968, where Bear was the soundman. More details on Bear's tapes are here:
This is a listing of shows at the Carousel - Bear would have taped shows from March to June, 1968:
The first release from "Bear's Sonic Journals" is Big Brother at the Carousel, 6/23/68.
This album was actually prepared long ago, and Bear wrote about it here (at the bottom of the page) -
(Notice that the cover has been changed!)
Back in 2000, Bear wrote, "I have word that Sony Music is at last ready to offer a contract agreeable to (most of) my terms, which means the album may actually get into production sometime soon."
Of course, this didn't happen. It seems apparent that, unfortunately, it took Bear's death to make any kind of archival release series from his tapes possible.
It remains to be seen what the future volumes will be, or even how many different bands were taped. A wide variety of groups opened for the Dead in the late sixties, some of them forgotten today, some renowned. (There's a partial list on the Foundation site, but it would be good to have a complete listing.)
Of the bands listed, we know Johnny Cash, Dan Hicks, Chuck Berry, Thelonious Monk, Dr. John, Steve Miller, Santana, the Youngbloods, and Electric Flag played at the Carousel. Taj Mahal, Quicksilver, Country Joe, and the Airplane frequently played with the Dead, and there could be any number of tapes from them. Blue Cheer opened for the Dead at the LA Shrine on 7/11/68.
Bear likely taped Fleetwood Mac both at the Carousel in June '68, and in New Orleans in January '70. He also taped Miles Davis' sets at the Fillmore West in April '70 - though ironically, those sets were also taped by Columbia for a live album. The Allmans, of course, were taped at the Fillmore East in February '70, and a CD was already released from those tapes. David Grisman and Old & in the Way were taped in '73, when Bear was no longer recording the Dead's shows, but focused on Garcia's bluegrass sideproject.
There are many other bands that opened for the Dead in those days, both obscure & famous - it would be great to know what tapes might survive of them.
I don't know how many Dead shows are included in this collection. It's my understanding that all of Bear's Dead tapes were donated to the Vault already; so it seems unlikely that new & unheard Dead shows will now emerge. Dan Healy mixed the Dead's sound when they played at the Carousel, so it's possible Bear did not tape any of those shows, only the other bands - but who knows?
Any releases, of course, will have to be negotiated with the bands and licensed through their record labels - for instance, the Big Brother release is coming out on Columbia/Legacy. Other releases may be worked out through other labels, or may be blocked, depending on the individual bands & companies.
There are no details yet on the tapes - Bear taped on both reels and cassettes, depending on what was available; some may still sound pristine today, but others may sound quite degraded. Most of them perhaps haven't even been played in decades.
I'm not sure what measures Bear took to preserve his tapes in the last 40 years (other than just storing them) - he wrote, "Not all the tapes managed to make it through to the present, and I didn't have enough blank tape at the time to record all the shows... These tapes have not always been stored under ideal conditions."
The Foundation writes that the surviving tapes are rapidly deteriorating:
"The tapes are approaching the end of their known shelf-life, and if the recordings are not digitally preserved, they will be lost forever. Experts believe that the typical lifespan of this media is approximately fifty years if maintained in ideal conditions and have advised the Foundation that the digitization of the earliest of these recordings should occur within the next five years or they will not be salvageable; all of them will continue to degrade and will become unsalvageable unless eventually digitized. The cost of digitally preserving these recordings is estimated to be US $200,000 to US $300,000 and will require two to four years of studio time by sound engineering professionals to complete."
They are taking donations, but the restoration project will no doubt also be funded by sales of the Sonic Journal releases.