“There’s a lot of stuff that I feel like doing, and the Grateful Dead, just by fact that it’s now a production for us to go out and play, we can’t get as loose as we had been able to, so I’m not able to stay as busy as I was… I love an opportunity to go out and play. I’m a total junkie when it comes to playing. I just have to play. And when we’re off the road I get itchy, and a bar’s just like the perfect opportunity to get loose, and play all night…”
– Jerry Garcia (Signpost to New Space p.73)
In the introduction to the book Signpost to New Space, Charles Reich wrote, “One night [in 1971] I went to hear Jerry play a gig with Merle Saunders at a small place in Berkeley and one by one, for ‘no reason,’ the rest of the Dead showed up too, and eventually they got up on the stage and started playing. As Jerry says, they just liked to hang out together.” (Signpost xv)
Reich & Jann Wenner interviewed Garcia for Rolling Stone over a couple sessions in July & August 1971.
(For the interview dates, see the comments here.)
But Reich seems to have spent some time with Garcia & the band aside from the actual interviews. He also visited the Dead in the studio as they mixed the live album:
“I spent a number of evenings down in the studio with the Grateful Dead, watching them work on the double album that was released in the fall of 1971. It was hard and exacting work. They got to the studio soon after 7 P.M., and stayed for five or six or seven hours, keeping going with coffee and sandwiches.” (Signpost xiv)
Merl Saunders had started playing with Garcia in Sept/Oct. 1970 at the weekly Matrix jams, after Howard Wales split. In the spring of 1971, when the Matrix closed, Garcia & Saunders moved their jam sessions to the Keystone Korner club. Garcia was thrilled by his new keyboard companion, and when the Dead needed organ overdubs for their live album in the summer of 1971, it was Saunders they called on.
Garcia & Saunders made the Keystone Korner their home base for live shows over the next year, but in June 1971 they played a few shows at the New Monk in Berkeley. They played there four times that month – June 4-5 & 26-27 – then not again til March 8-9, 1972. (Assuming we know all the dates, which I’m not sure about.)
(See http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2010/12/2119-university-avenue-berkeley-ca.html for more info on this club. - Briefly, Keystone Korner owner Freddie Herrera bought the New Monk in summer 1971, and changed its name to the Keystone Berkeley in March 1972. After he sold the original Keystone in July 1972, Garcia & Saunders permanently relocated to the Keystone Berkeley. )
At the time, Tom Fogerty was regularly playing with Garcia & Saunders, having recently left Creedence Clearwater Revival, and he was with them during these June ’71 shows. The 6/27/71 show was billed as “Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders, Tom Fogerty and Friends,” and there was a brief review of the 6/26/71 Garcia/Saunders/Fogerty show in the Hayward Daily Review’s July 1st issue (which I haven’t seen). One of the commenters on the Lost Live Dead post mentions, “I was there for the June 1971 gig with Saunders and Tom Fogerty, the weekend the Fillmore West closed.” [The Fillmore West closed the following week.]
Fogerty & Saunders would sometimes play together without Garcia as well, when he wasn’t available. For instance on June 12-13, 1971, NRPS played at the Keystone Korner in San Francisco while Saunders & Fogerty played the New Monk in Berkeley:
And here is another possible instance: http://jgmf.blogspot.com/2010/01/so-heres-one-that-caught-my-eye.html
Garcia was asked about Fogerty in the Rolling Stone interview, and seemed to regard the Fogerty/Saunders band as a unit: “The drummer in that band [Bill Vitt] now plays with the Sons of Champlin, and Merle Saunders now has a small recording team of his own as well as composes, and I’m going to gig with them. It’s that kind of thing – a loose hangout.” (Signpost p.73)
(See http://hooterollin.blogspot.com/2012/03/excalibur-tom-fogerty-jerry-garcia.html for more info. - Briefly, the Fogerty/Saunders/Kahn/Vitt team recorded two Saunders albums and two Fogerty albums over the next year, and Fogerty played with the band live up til December 1972, before departing for unknown reasons. Though we don’t have many Garcia live tapes from 1971, I think it can be assumed that Fogerty was present at most of the shows that year from the summer on. For instance, this show in October 1971: http://jgmf.blogspot.com/2010/06/jgms-october-3-1971-frost-ampitheater.html )
Fogerty was not the only guest at the New Monk shows, though.
On the Grateful Dead Archive site, one old-timer who’d seen the Dead since their free park shows in 1967 was asked, “What is your favorite Dead show?” He replied:
“The New Monk in Berkeley. The show had been advertised as a Jerry Garcia Band show but the Dead showed-up instead and they did all covers. This was the last time I saw Pigpen, he did not look good at all. This is my favorite show because 1) I can remember some of it and 2) it was totally unique for them. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Johnny B. Goode are the two great tunes I remember them doing.”
He added in a comment:
“I'd really appreciate getting a recording of that New Monk show, the only one I know of was made by Carlos and Jorge Santana, who my friend and I were sharing a joint with during the show. I realize taping was a little spotty back then.”
This seems to be the same show that Charles Reich had witnessed.
It may look implausible that Carlos Santana & his brother would be taping Garcia/Saunders at the New Monk – but quite by chance, I found another reference to Jorge Santana taping a different band, Fritz:
“I had to shoo Carlos’ brother from a rehearsal once (1977). He strolled onto the stage where we were playing brandishing a recording cassette player while we were going over new original material. ‘Uh-uh,’ I said!” (Javier Pacheco)
Carlos Santana had more than a casual connection with Merl Saunders, too – back on February 22, 1971, when Garcia was out on a brief west-coast tour with the Dead, Santana had played with Saunders at the Matrix:
One scholar has pointed out that Joel Selvin wrote an article about the Keystone Berkeley in his SF Chronicle column sometime in 1973, mentioning that both the Dead and Santana had played there unannounced in the previous year. It turned out that Santana really did play an unannounced gig there (September 12, 1972, I think), so it seems Selvin had heard about the surprise Dead show as well, though he was loose about the dating.
It can’t be ruled out that the Dead might have turned up at the March ’72 Keystone Berkeley shows as well. (At the time, they had played only two shows in two months, and were soon to embark on the long run at the NYC Academy of Music – which happened to feature two covers from the Garcia/Saunders repertoire in the 3/25 show.)
Armando Peraza played congas with the Garcia/Saunders group in the winter of 1972, including these Keystone shows. (A newspaper review of the 2/11/72 show mentioned him, and he is billed on all the March shows – unfortunately, there are no tapes with him.) Merl Saunders later said of him, "He fit right in. Our music didn't change. It was just like adding a little pepper to it." (Jackson, Garcia p.227)
The interesting thing is: Peraza had just joined Santana’s band in January ‘72. Santana’s band rarely played live in early ’72, though, leaving him free.
Another commenter on the Lost Live Dead post wrote: “My name was Duke, I was a big biker… I was security when they changed from the New Monk to Keystone. I used to park my Purple Chopper in the back room so it was safe. I remember Jerry and the Dead with Tom Fogerty from Creedence popping in and having an impromptu concerts. We would close the doors and everyone who was already there viewed a Grateful Dead concert.”
By itself, this seems bogus; but combined with the other references, it makes me wonder. The “back room” seems to refer to the big room that was behind the bar, opposite from the stage. The club’s name change was in March ’72 – in fact a newspaper listing for Garcia/Saunders’ March shows reads “Keystone Berkeley (formerly New Monk’s).” The way this account is written, it implies that the Dead showed up on a night Garcia wasn’t billed – I wouldn’t read too much into it, though.
There is also another stray reference online to Dead members showing up at one of Garcia’s New Monk shows. One person wrote on the rukind forum back in 2007:
“In 1971 at the New Monk in Berkeley, the venue was headed as Jerry Garcia and Friends. I remember about 10 of us including Jerry, Bob and Phil waiting for the doors to open… The concert was great, it included guys from NRPS and Asleep at the Wheel.”
The thing is, from what I can find, Asleep At The Wheel didn’t arrive in San Francisco until late 1971, so if this is accurate it would point to a ’72 show. The expanded lineup also seems like a different group of “Friends” than just Fogerty & the Dead, so this may be a memory of another show altogether. It’s odd to see “Jerry, Bob and Phil waiting for the doors to open” – while it was Garcia’s custom to arrive hours ahead of time to practice & chat at the club before the show, it’s hard to imagine them all waiting out in the street.
At any rate, all these accounts are somewhat vague and hazy – even the eyewitness description on the GDAO site gives no date, and may well be from a March ’72 show, with an ailing Pigpen and possibly (unmentioned) Santana’s conga player. I think it’s safest to say that the Dead definitely turned up at the New Monk on a lark for at least one show in June 1971, since we know that’s when Charles Reich would have seen them. Possibly they made later visits the next year as well. (Why there, and not the Keystone Korner in San Francisco, who can say…but all of these accounts specify the Berkeley club.)
What were the Dead doing there? The timing in June ‘71 is interesting – they were between tours, working on their live album in the studio, and bringing in Saunders for overdubs. Pigpen was not contributing much on the organ at the time, and they may have had the idea of playing a set with Saunders to see how it sounded. Whether it was an unspoken audition, or just for fun, on at least one night some surprised club patrons got to see the Grateful Dead play an unannounced show to the clinking of beer glasses…
Reich: You don’t do many free concerts now.
Garcia: We haven’t had the opportunity to do one that would be a good trip… The thing that was groovy about the Haight-Ashbury was that we could get up on a Sunday morning and say, “Let’s play today down in the park,” and we’d call a few people…and we’d be down there playing in an hour… That’s another form that we haven’t been able to get back to really comfortably, although we’re always on the lookout to do something free. Spontaneous, open, or fun, is what free means. (Signpost p.41-42)