February 29, 2016

The Vox and the Hammond, 1967-1969

For a couple years in 1967-69, the Grateful Dead used both the Vox Continental and Hammond B-3 organs in their shows, alternating between the two. But why did they do this, and when did they switch? Up til now no one has really investigated which dates each organ was used, so it's been a small mystery of the early Dead. 
Photo collectors Volkmar Rupp and Uli Teute have examined the photos of the Dead's shows in these years and provided a list of the known times each organ was used (originally posted here), which shows some interesting patterns.
Volkmar writes, “The list contains only the dates where a Vox or a B3 can be seen; of course many dates are missing, even dates we have pics. And it is open to updates.” 
As a brief background -- Pigpen had started out playing a Farfisa organ in the Warlocks, but by March '66 had switched to a Vox Continental, which was the Dead's organ for the next year.

VOX CONTINENTAL versus HAMMOND B-3 – as seen in pictures

PIGPEN
Vox always used up to 67-05-xx
67-05-29 Napa -- B-3
67-06-01 Tompkins Park -- VOX
67-06-08 Central Park -- VOX
67-06-08 Cafe Au Go Go -- B-3
67-06-18 Monterey -- B-3
67-06-21 Golden Gate Park -- VOX
67-07-02 El Camino Park -- VOX
67-07-16 Golden Gardens Park, Seattle -- VOX
67-08-01to05 Toronto -- B3
67-08-06b Expo '67, Montreal -- VOX
67-08-13 West Park, Ann Arbor -- VOX
67-08-28 Golden Gate Park -- VOX
67-09-15 Hollywood Bowl -- B-3
67-09-16 Elysian Park, Los Angeles -- KUSTOM?
67-09-24 City Park, Denver -- KUSTOM
67-09-29 Straight Theater -- B-3
67-10-01 Greek Theatre -- B-3
68-01-26or27 Seattle -- B-3
68-01or02 studio -- B-3
68-03-03 Haight Street -- VOX
68-05-03 Columbia University -- VOX
68-05-05 Central Park -- B-3
68-05-18a Santa Clara -- B-3
68-05-18b Shrine Hall -- B-3
68-06-01 Golden Gate Park -- B-3
68-06-22 Phoenix -- B-3
68-08-04 Newport Festival -- B-3
68-09-02 Sky River Festival -- B-3
68-10-20 Greek Theatre -- B-3
68-11-07to10 Fillmore West -- B-3


T.C. (on Vox Super Continental)
68-11-24 Cincinnati -- both Pigpen and TC played keyboards
68-12-07 Louisville -- VOX
68-12-31 Winterland -- VOX
69-01-18 Playboy TV show -- B-3 (plus harpsichord)
69-02-06 St. Louis -- VOX
69-02-11/12 Fillmore East -- VOX
69-02-14 Philadelphia -- VOX
69-04-21to23 Boston -- VOX
69-05-07 Golden Gate Park -- VOX

69-05-11 San Diego -- B-3
69-06-22 Central Park -- B-3
69-08-16 Woodstock -- B-3
69-09-27 Fillmore East -- B-3
70-01-02 Fillmore East -- B-3
 

PIGPEN
70-02-02 St. Louis -- B-3
70-02-04 Family Dog -- B-3
70-02-11to14 Fillmore East -- B-3 

The B-3 stayed in use to 1972.

Additions are welcome!
In his book, Constanten also specifically mentions playing the B-3 at the 8/23/69 Bullfrog Festival: It being an outdoor concert, the power came from on-site generators. I was playing a Hammond B-3 at the time, and the fluctuations in the electric current affected its ‘sense’ of pitch. So on occasion it’d suddenly be in C-sharp, or B.”(Between Rock and Hard Places, p.75)

I'll be glad to hear from people who can distinguish between the sound of the two organs on tape, to help us pinpoint more dates -- for instance, at what point in May '69 the Dead got a new B-3. 
(I’d thought that Pigpen was playing a Vox in the August ’68 shows, since his playing style is more limited and staccato than in the winter/spring ’68 shows where he swirls around a lot more; but it seems I was mistaken.)

The Dead got their first B-3 in May '67, but as we see it was hardly used at every show. At the majority of the outdoor park shows (where the Dead were more likely to be photographed) in mid/late-'67 and early '68, Pigpen still used the Vox.  
Blair Jackson offers one reason, writing of the Hammond B-3: “At more than 300 pounds, it was a bitch to carry around from town to town (and perhaps for that reason it didn’t go out on every tour).” (Grateful Dead Gear, p.58) 
It appears when the band wanted to quickly set up their gear in a park or outdoor show in this period, they generally took the lighter Vox rather than the heavy Hammond. At the indoor shows (for instance, the shows taped for Anthem of the Sun), Pigpen played the B-3.  
(Jackson also says that the Dead used a Vox “when the band couldn’t afford to carry a B-3” [GD Gear, p.78]; but I think this only applied during Constanten's early months. Note that the Dead carried both organs on their eastern tours of June '67, August '67, May '68, and likely November '68, to use as needed.) 

There's a brief spot in September '67 when Pigpen is seen using a Kustom organ -- the Dead had gotten some Kustom amplifiers in summer '67, and briefly used a Kustom organ as well, but it rapidly disappeared (perhaps it was borrowed or rented).

By mid-'68, at least in the photo record, the Dead seem to have phased out the Vox for several months, using the B-3 at all shows. It's hard to say whether this is due to Pigpen's preference or some other reason. But Constanten's arrival marked an abrupt change.
TC recalled, “There was one exquisite gig in Cincinnati where both Pigpen and I played keyboard. He had the B-3 and I had the Continental. [But not long afterwards,] the B-3 got repossessed because they didn't pay the guitar bill or something, so I had to play a Vox Continental. Our credit was not the very best back then. But I really felt the unfairness of it all, because the B-3 sounded so good and the Continental was so limited... I wasn't too pleased about having to play the Continental night after night, because it really had a hard time cutting through all those guitars and drums.” (Grateful Dead Gear, p.77)

Pigpen had played a Vox Continental; but in the earliest photo we have of TC (on 12/7/68), he's playing a Vox Super Continental with two manuals, not Pigpen's old Vox. The Dead must have got it for him -- I presume the original plan was to have Pigpen stay on B-3 as needed while TC played a Vox. The plan didn't last long, though.
Constanten remarked in his book, “About the same time as I joined the band full time, the Hammond organ that Pigpen had been playing got repossessed.” (Constanten, p.80) This was unfortunate for him, since he found the Vox appalling in the context of the Dead's sound. 
“I didn't like the sound [the Continental] put out at all. There was something about the Continental in that particular band that grated. The Dead's guitars were these strands of gold and filaments of light, but the Vox was like a hunk of chrome. I had terribly mixed emotions about everything I was playing because the sound didn't please me. After a bit of moving, shaking, and agitating, I convinced them to let me play a Hammond B-3, which I was able to enjoy a bit more.” (Jackson, Garcia, p.157) 

Surprisingly, the Dead didn't seem to care much how the organ sounded, or how well it could be heard onstage -- perhaps they were just resigned to the sorry state of their finances, and reserved expenses for the guitars and amps. (TC couldn't even afford to get a piano: The whole time I was with the band, I had no instrument at home to practice on.) Owsley also dismissed TC's complaints with the motto, "A good worker never blames his tools," even while fanatically obsessing over improving the Dead's sound system, which Constanten found silly and hypocritical. I tried to explain that I couldn't get behind the sound of the Vox organ they had for me to play when I first joined the band full time... In the context of electric guitars it came off as thin and nasal sounding... If it had been either Phil or Jerry saying simply, 'I like this axe better,' not only would [Owsley] have raised no objection, no doubt he'd have fallen all over himself coming up with reasons to agree.” (Constanten, p.81-82)

One good place to hear what Constanten sounded like in early '69 is the 1/25/69 Avalon show, in which TC is up very high in the mix. The "hunk of chrome" comment is fitting - his sound is so tonally jarring with Garcia's beautiful guitar tone, it's no wonder he was unhappy. 
https://archive.org/details/gd1969-01-25.sbd.miller.109641.flac16 

But after a few months, TC finally got his wish and the band bought another B-3 in spring '69. (5/11/69 is the first show we see a B-3 at, though it may have been borrowed.) The Vox was put away, never to be seen again. I don't know how Pigpen felt about the two organs, but I suspect he also liked the Hammond more, not least because of its use on R&B records. (Garcia said in '67, He listens to Jimmy Smith more on the organ than anybody else” [Grateful Dead Reader, p.24]; and later on I think Pigpen had a Hammond delivered to his home.)  

The band's perilous finances didn't improve for some time, and the B-3 may have remained at risk in late '69. McNally says that in the fall of 1969, at a show in San Francisco, “sheriffs repossessed Pigpen’s organ from the stage as the show was about to begin, settling a $1,200 unpaid bill from the previous year.” (McNally p.338) But it's unknown which show this was, so it’s possible he has the year wrong and this happened in ’68 as TC recalled, not in ’69.


TC left in January '70, but the B-3 stayed. Pigpen hadn't played organ with the Dead for a year (except for his spot in 'Death Don't Have No Mercy,' where he'd replace TC), and he only played it in a few select songs for the next couple years. (Another possible topic of investigation is which songs he regularly played on in '70-71 -- just as with many of Constanten's shows, the organ is often mixed low or inaudible on tapes of this period, suggesting that the Dead may have been indifferent to its presence.) 
When Keith Godchaux arrived in September '71, he tried an organ on some songs during rehearsals; but he was a piano man at heart, and when they went on tour he stuck almost entirely to the piano, switching to an organ only rarely in the next few years. For a short period in early '72, both Pigpen and Keith played keyboards, and the band returned to the double-keyboard sound they'd so briefly tried in November '68.

APPENDIX
There are a few known shows where the Dead would borrow an organ from another band. 
Constanten recalled February 5-6, 1969: “I had to borrow Iron Butterfly’s Vox organ for the shows in St Louis and Kansas City. Similar to the one I’d used earlier with the band (I much preferred the Hammond B-3, when it was sufficiently amplified), except this one was set up high, so you had to play it standing up.” (Constanten, p.74) 
One wonders what happened to the Dead’s organ? Volkmar Rupp's research casts some doubt on TC's memory, though -- Volkmar says, “Concerning 69-02-06 St.Louis: Now that we have seen pics from that gig, TC is playing a "Vox Super Continental", sitting down. In fact he plays the exact same one at the February Fillmore East gigs. 

At the 3/21/71 Milwaukee show, Pigpen played an organ belonging to Michael Morgan and the Messengers (a local Motown band) -- this looks like a B-3 too. It's possible that Pigpen borrowed organs at other shows as well. 

There was one famous occasion, though, where Pigpen refused to let another band do the same. The Dead played with the Doors in Santa Barbara on April 29, 1967 - Ray Manzarek has a detailed description of his run-in with the Dead in his book Light My Fire. [McNally's book also covers it, p.191.] Manzarek's account is considerably embellished and not entirely believable (hostile to the Dead, he exaggerates their "wall of amplifiers" and army of roadies and describes two drummers, none of which was the case at the time, and he may misrepresent Pigpen as well). 
But in short, Manzarek used the same Vox Continental organ that Pigpen had, which was already on stage; so rather than set up his own organ in front of it, he asked Pigpen if he could play Pigpen's organ. Pigpen refused: Nobody uses the Grateful Dead’s equipment.” 

Robby Krieger also remembered that day
“We didn’t get too close with the San Francisco groups—especially the Grateful Dead, who wouldn’t let us use their amps one night. We had a gig at Beverly Hills High School in the afternoon and then one about an hour up the coast in Santa Barbara, so we left our gear, figuring the Dead would let us use their stuff. You’d always let people use your amps in those days, but they just refused. I ended up playing through a Pignose [amp] or something equally ridiculous. Ray was aghast at the fact that Pigpen wouldn’t let him use his organ. He kept saying, ‘Pigpen? Someone named Pigpen won’t let me use his instrument? I could catch cooties from his organ.’ He couldn’t believe it.” 

The Dead had also played with the Doors at the Fillmore in January '67, and apparently formed an instant dislike of them, so perhaps Pigpen shared that view. In any case, he was willing to share his organ with other players at times -- Ned Lagin on a few occasions, Gregg Allman on 2/11/70, Steve Winwood on 11/16/70, maybe Vince Guaraldi at some point, and perhaps an unknown player in the 4/15/70 Other One jam. (Constanten may have stepped aside sometimes for guest players as well, in the Lovelights on 4/4/69 and 6/8/69.)

27 comments:

  1. LIA --

    Another killer article. Thanks.

    I'll try to remember to have a go at ID too. Used to listen to a lot of Jimmy Smith and some Jimmy McGriff.

    I personally like TC on the B-3 best of all the keyboards. Not real wild about most of the other keyboard stuff, partially because it is always mixed too dammed high it seems like to me.

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    1. Well, by Brent's day the keyboard is mixed very high; and Keith is generally prominent in the mix too (except for some '71 tapes, I think) - but in the Constanten period, and then '70-71, we quite often find the opposite, that the organ is not very high in the mix, so it often blends into the guitars. There are exceptions for sure (I should have pointed out a few, this is another area for investigation), but it led me to wonder whether the Dead at that point didn't really care whether it could be heard on their tapes. TC often complained that he couldn't hear himself onstage, though in the few audience tapes of '69, he seems turned up just fine. (Part of that could be that the sound system was less developed at that point, or also that Bear didn't want to turn him up or give him more speakers).

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  2. Great topic. Similarly I'm fascinated by Keith's use of an electric piano. Never enough to track it's usage, but it seems he plays acoustic piano on some shows and electric on others. I love the sound of the electric when he starts using effects.

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    1. Keith got a Fender Rhodes electric piano in May 1973 (which became a big part of his '73-75 sound).
      (He also had a B-3 available to play, but rarely used it - someone should come up with a list of the times he played organ.)
      1976: Keith continued to use the Steinway baby grand & Fender Rhodes.
      Spring '77: The Rhodes disappears, I think; Keith uses the Steinway and a Polymoog synth.
      9/3/77: Keith switches to a Yamaha electric piano rather than the Steinway - I think he plays nothing but electric keyboards from then on. (Some see this as part of his general decline.)

      Also, in summer/fall '72 Keith had a wah pedal attached to his piano, which made for a really cool sound in the jams. He used it up to March '73, I think.

      For the investigation into his various keyboards, you can check these links:
      https://archive.org/post/1031212/keiths-piano-change-to-the-electric
      https://archive.org/post/1031414/keith-switch-from-acoustic-baby-grand
      https://archive.org/post/436573/wah-pedal-on-keiths-acoustic-piano

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    2. I have no visual evidence to back this up, but I think Keith was also playing an Ondes Martenot (or another synth) very occasionally during fall 1973, specifically during part of the 9/17/73 "Weather Report Suite (Prelude)" & "Looks Like Rain" and some other places. But in those spots, he's playing a keyboard that includes some kind of primitive pitch-bending, unavailable on the Rhodes (as far as I know). Listen to 2:10 in "Looks Like Rain" here, and around 1:05 (behind the horns) during "Prelude": https://archive.org/details/gd1973-09-17.sbd.sirmick.107542.flac16

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    3. The photo evidence might help here. I've seen a '76 pic of Keith with a smaller keyboard (49 keys, with a few red knobs above them) set up on top of the Rhodes, which might be a synth (I can't tell). But it looks like there were times when he'd try out a new instrument for just one tour, then drop it.

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    4. It sounds like an Arp ProSoloist to me, Tony Banks used one in Genesis, it had touch sensitive pitch bending which was pretty darn cool for the time. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARP_Pro_Soloist

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    5. I was in a band in HS with a guy who played a Fender Rhodes (his dad did all the music for the price is right, the kid had 2 Rhodes, a Hammond M-3 and a minimoog; if I'd known then what I know now...)

      anyhoo, I played him the tape of 6-18-74, set 2, wherein Keith is getting all sorts of crazy sounds out of what seems to me a Rhodes with wah-wah and other effects.

      My keys player swore up and down it was Hammond Organ, but I still think to this day it had to be Rhodes.

      D

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    6. The debate continues!
      To me, just as interesting as what instrument or effect Keith was using in June '74 is the fact that he used it so little. Making alien spaceship sounds apparently wasn't something he wanted to do very much...

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  3. Great article. The Dead's keyboardists have great and tragic stories like an ancient saga.

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  4. Nice read! Kudos!
    I'll do some researches about the difference between the Vox used by Pigpen in the Early Dead era and the Vox TC used when he was the keyboardist. From the list you posted, I assume TC was playing a Vox during the February/March Fillmore West run in 1969, and if this assumption is true - well, I'd be surprised: these two Vox organs sound very different, so much so that I've always thought that TC always played a B3.

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    1. Unfortunately none of the photos of the February/March Fillmore West 1969 gigs shows TC. So we can only assume he was playing a Vox, as in all the other gigs in this period. A Vox Super Continental, that is -- which had two manuals and more sound possibilities than Pigpen's one manual Vox Continental.

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  5. TC said that he enjoyed the times when Jerry would break a string so that he could be heard. Speaking of which, what is TC playing when he returned as a guest on 4/28/71?

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    1. I presume he's on Pigpen's B-3. I think Ned Lagin was the only Dead keyboard guest who brought his own instruments.

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  6. when bands are booked at a venue, they specify the equipment that will be provided - like keybooards - so they don't have to lug their own. could that have been the case with pigpen? he got whatever was the whim of the venue? or did the band own their keyboards?

    I-) ihor

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    1. When Keith was in the band, they would rent Steinway pianos at each venue they played at. Donna said, "We had it on our rider that Keith had to have a nine-foot Steinway; he usually got it, but not always."
      But in the early Pigpen/TC days, I don't think that situation existed - at least, Constanten & Blair Jackson make it sound like the band were lugging their own keyboards around. Come to think of it, the piano might be the only instrument the Dead regularly rented - since it's pretty hard to transport. And we still don't know at how many shows in '71-74 the Dead brought a B-3 for Keith, in case he felt like playing one. (Sometimes there would be one onstage that he didn't touch.)

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  7. FWIW, in the 1981 Ban interview Garcia also described sharing the bill with the Doors in Santa Barbara when the Dead had two drummers: " then we played with them after the light my fire thing, when they were headliners. we opened for them in santa barbara some years later, when they were a little more powerful. their sound had gotten better- they'd gotten more effectively amplified, so manzarek's bass lines and stuff like that had a little more throb, but their sound was still thin. it wasn't a succesful version of a three piece band, like the who or jimi hendrix, or cream, or any other guitar power trio type three piece bands. it's an interesting concept, a three piece band that's keyboard, guitar, drums, but it was missing some element i thought was vital. i couldn't say exactly what it was, but it was not satisfying for me to listen to them. when they were the headliners, it was sort of embarrasing for us to open for them, cause we sort of blew them off the stand with just sheer power. what we had with double drums and phil's bass playing-it got somewhere, and when they played there was an anticlimax feeling to it, even with their hits." (source: https://www.reddit.com/r/gratefuldead/comments/1ymzmm/jerry_garcia_on_jim_morrison_the_doors/)

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  8. On some tracks on Road Trips 2/3, 16 and 18 June 1974, Keith seems to be playing a synthesiser rather than the usual grand piano or Fender Rhodes. I wondered if he had played Ned Lagin's keyboard, but there wasn't any 'Seastones' at either of those gigs. Also on one of the Dick's Picks -- I can't recall which one -- Keith is playing a rather weedy-sounding synthesiser on 'Estimated Prophet', and he plays a similar instrument on some of To Tarrapin, 28 May 1977.

    As for the Doors, mentioned in the last post, I wonder if the Dead were rather put off by Jim Morrison's melodramatic theatricals. I must admit that I never really took to that band. And insisting on having a keyboard bass rather than a proper bass didn't help their sound.

    Dr Paul

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    1. I believe Keith was using the Polymoog synthesizer in spring '77, not to great effect. It's more of a mystery what synthesizer he had on 6/16/74 - he didn't use that much either. The guy just wasn't comfortable on anything but piano. (For that matter, neither was Constanten, but TC didn't have the range of equipment choices Keith did.)

      Garcia went off at length in that interview about all that bugged him about the Doors, and Jim Morrison was a big part of it, as well as their sound.
      "I never liked the Doors. I found them terribly offensive... He was a Mick Jagger imitation... Fuckin' Jim Morrison wasn't great, I'm sorry. I could never see what it was about the Doors. They had a very brittle sound live...and that kinda raga-rock guitar style was strange. It sounded very brittle and sharp-edged to me, not something I enjoyed listening to... I was never attracted to their music at all, so I couldn't really find anything to like about them... There was nothing there that I wanted to know about. He was so patently an imitation of Mick Jagger that it was offensive. To me, when the Doors played in San Francisco they typified Los Angeles coming to San Francisco, which I equated with having the look right, but zero substance... They didn't have anything of blues, for example, in their sound or feel... All I sensed was sham."
      Garcia must have been pretty irritated, since he never complained about another band this much!

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  9. Yes, Keith used a Polymoog in spring 77. In this video ("Estimated" from 4/27/77) you can see a closeup of the instrument starting around 5:55.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WAK2vihBdw

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  10. The Vox Organ TC 02262 was bought at Swain's on 10/30/65 for $895.00.
    A bill was generated on 2/2/66 for Organ repairs that were made at Swain's on 10/25/65 and 11/5/65. On 2/12/66, this was all transferred to Garcia's account.[1]

    On 9/11/65, Swain's made a service call at 89 Tuscaloosa Avenue, Atherton, CA (Bob Weir's parent's address) to repair an organ,.[1]

    Vox began life as "The Jennings Organ Company", producing home and church organs. So despite their huge notoriety as a major amp manufacturer, their roots were actually in organs.  They were incorporated as "Jennings Musical Industries", or JMI in 1957.  The "Vox" name was being used on amps at least as early as 1958.
    The Continental was introduced in 1962.


    1.)^Shahinda, Lorna Joy, daughter of the Swian’s, Swain's Record of Purchase and Repair, 2014-07-08, email to author.

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    1. Wow, that's some great sleuthing! That's a curious time for the Dead to buy a new organ...I believe by the end of Oct '65, their stint at the In Room had just ended and they were looking for places to play in San Francisco, and we know of hardly any shows, so you'd think it would have been a financially insecure time for them.

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    2. Especially when an inflation calculator shows that $895 in 1965 = $6,765 in today's money. A tremendous amount of money for the band at that time.

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  11. McNally tells the same in his book (page 148): "They bought a new, just-like-the Beatles Vox organ at Swain's in Palo Alto, and eventually managed to pay for it. Since Mr. Swain had once been a professional children's social worker and made a practice of employing juvenile delinquents as clerks, there was a measure of tolerance that they could count on." And McNally dates this as early November 1965.
    So, I wonder: When and where are the well known pics by Paul Ryan of the Warlocks, these „juvenile delinquents“, with Pigpen still at that Farfisa organ?

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    1. Good find. Although I've seen those pics labeled as the In Room, I have my doubts since the corner they're playing in has kind of a cafeteria or soda shop-like appearance.

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  12. I think the B-3 repossession may have actually taken place on 10/4/70 at Winterland. In his radio interview with Dusty Street after the set, Pig talked about cutting his hand playing a tambourine because they did not have an organ onstage. If it was settling an outstanding debt from the previous year, this would jibe with the period of Lenny Hart's management.

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    1. Deadlists also mentions, "There is also about 2:30 of 'interview' between a KSAN DJ and Pigpen, who injured his fingers playing tambourine because the crew didn't manage to bring his organ along to the gig."
      The Dancing in the Street from the next night has organ, though.

      Unfortunately, the DJ interviews from 10/4/70 are not available online - apparently people were only interested in copying the music (even DJ chatter is usually omitted on the Archive copies). It would be great if someone who still had them could upload them.

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