November 1, 2017

Lost Shows Come To Light

Not all Dead shows are known. There are the tapes, of course; and beyond those there are the listings in Deadbase and deadlists of the shows not taped; and then the more obscure shows discovered and listed on Lost Live Dead. But beyond that lies an even murkier realm, of ‘60s shows so forgotten no one remembers they were played. Not reported on any public lists, they’ve dropped out of sight, their existence barely suspected. 

Recently three “lost” Dead shows have been uncovered in trawls through online newspaper archives, and I’m posting them here so they can be added to future show lists.
We’ll start with a county fair…

10/19/68 – Las Vegas Convention Center

CLARK COUNTY FAIR ATTRACTS OVER 100,000

Clark County Jaycee 1968 Fair drew 124,000 people over five sunny days, "quite a contrast to the first fair in 1953 when the lone tent blew down," an official said.
John McBride, chairman of the Jaycee County Fair, said yesterday that attendance last week on one day, Saturday, was "almost what the whole fair did last year." He estimated the overall attendance was up 25 per cent over last year.
"We attribute the increase to a number of factors," McBride said. "First of all we gained from the increased size of the exhibit area at Convention Center. There were 216 exhibitors this year, compared with about 140 last year."
Other factors included "five days of excellent weather, the new car dealers showing which stimulated a lot of interest and the fact that we had the largest carnival ever," he continued. "The carnival alone covered four acres in front of Convention Center."
A teenagers show, "The Greatful Dead," drew "well in excess of 2,000 attendance," McBride said.
Sunday's Festival of Nations conducted by Maestro Leo Damiani of Los Angeles had an attendance of more than 3,000 persons.
He said special events including the Hughes Aircraft show, helicopter rides, several new carnival rides, and participation by each branch of the armed forces also contributed heavily.

(from the Las Vegas Sun, October 22, 1968)

Who would think to find a lost Dead show in a county fair, competing for the teens’ attention with carnival rides, car dealers, and helicopter rides? By a stroke of luck, we even have a photo of the Convention Center sign announcing the show:


Little else is known about the show – I didn’t see any other references in the barren Sun – although it is on a partial contract list in the Dead Archives. Lacking other info, one interesting thing about this show is the presence of one soon-to-be member of the Dead.

A Small TC Mystery

Tom Constanten’s own “TC-Base” lists a September? ’67 show with the Dead at the Convention Center, his first time playing with them. There has been much speculation over when this show occurred, but so far it hasn’t been found.

Constanten spoke a little more about this show in an interview a few years ago:

Q: Do you remember your first time onstage with the Grateful Dead?
TC: That would be in 1968, when they came to play at the Las Vegas Convention Center Rotunda. I was still in the Air Force, but they invited me onstage to join them, embarrassingly short hair and all. It was the same venue where I’d made my debut seven years earlier, backed by the Las Vegas “Pops” Orchestra. “Homey” might not be the best word to describe how it felt, but it’s the best I can come up with.

At first I thought he was simply a year off here, a casual date slip – of course the first time he played with them would have been before the Anthem of the Sun sessions, and he’d remember that.
But time plays tricks with memory. The Dead were definitely at the Convention Center in October ’68; Constanten was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, and almost certainly would have been at this show. (Note the air force participation in the county fair.) At that point he had only a month left to serve in the air force, and we can safely assume that both he and the Dead were already planning for him to join the group once he was released.
So it’s possible that it’s this October ’68 show he remembered where they invited him onstage, and the ’67 entry was a mistake.
Nonetheless, I’m not certain about this, they may well have played there in ’67 as well; so it remains a little mystery.

*

11/16/68 – EMU Ballroom, U of Oregon, Eugene

A month later, the Dead played in Corvallis on November 15, 1968 – the Daily Barometer (the Oregon State University student newspaper) had an upcoming blurb and brief report on the show, as one researcher recently uncovered:

“Was OSU ready for The Grateful Dead? I’m not sure, but at any rate, they came, saw, conquered, and ambled on down to Eugene for a Saturday concert. It was a pretty orderly evening; not exactly quiet, but orderly. No fights, no riots or great destruction. Hopefully it can be done again next term, only bigger and better.”

The Dead had previously scheduled a show in Vancouver BC on November 16, but it had already been called off. Per deadlists, “tickets had been sold, but the show was cancelled. Newspaper ads called this the "Soul Explosion". The line-up was to be: Grateful Dead, Loading Zone, Little Dion (7 year old wonder), Special added attraction: Chuck Berry.”

So instead of heading north to Vancouver, the Dead made a short drive (under an hour) south to Eugene, where a new show had been scheduled. And luckily for us, it made the paper:

FAKE BOMB ENDS UO ROCK DANCE

A fake bomb planted near some amplifiers brought an early end Saturday night to a University of Oregon concert and dance by a rock group known as the Grateful Dead.
Eugene police said someone attending the dance noticed the "bomb" - consisting of seven wooden sticks, painted red to resemble dynamite, an alarm clock, battery, and wires - and reported it to Anthony Evans, night manager at the Erb Memorial Union, where the concert and dance were being held.
Even though one of the band member[s] held up the "bomb" and indicated it was a fake, Evans decided to clear the Erb ballroom at about 11:40 p.m., police said. Police were called, took possession of the "bomb," and were still investigating Monday.

(from the Eugene Register-Guard, Monday November 18, 1968, p.1B)

The Register-Guard had nothing in the way of rock listings, and no music ads, though it faithfully listed classical concerts, square dances, high-school recitals, glee clubs, and so on. (The one exception that week was in the Nov. 14 issue, which noted that the Gentlemen Wild, a Portland rock group, would play a dance at the Eugene Armory on Friday night.)
The "This Week At UO" column on Nov. 10 didn't show anything at the Erb Ballroom for the next weekend, and there was no advance notice of the Dead's show all week. Possibly this was because the Dead’s show was scheduled late after the Vancouver cancellation, or possibly it was just beneath this newspaper’s notice. At any rate, the only reason the Dead were reported was because the police were called.

The University of Oregon had its own student paper, the Daily Emerald. Issues from 1968 aren't available online, but if someone can search the microfilm, there’s a good chance the Emerald had some extra notice of the show. (Back in January it had run several articles on the Dead’s previous visit to the ballroom.)

*

And for the third show, we head to the midwest…

7/6/69 – Grande Ballroom, Detroit

The Dead were scheduled to play with Pentangle at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit on July 6, 1969.
The music listings in the Detroit Free Press on 7/4/69 had "Sunday: The Grande – Grateful Dead, Pentangle."
Russ Gibb (the owner of the Grande Ballroom) also posted an advertisement for upcoming shows in the 7/3/69 Michigan Daily:
“Saturday, we're putting Savoy Brown back in the ballroom with Pentangle and the Sun for $3.50. And Sunday we just put in the Greatful Dead at the last minute with Pentangle. That should be quite a crowd too, because the Pentangle have separate followings for Bert Jansch and John Renbourn plus those fans of the group as a whole. We found that we can do this for only $3.00 even though both bands have top selling albums.”

Pentangle were also part of the Detroit Rock & Roll Revival at the Mt. Clemens Speedway on the 4th, with Savoy Brown, the MC5, and other local rock bands – impossible as it is to imagine them in such a setting! Pentangle frequently found themselves playing with hard rock bands when they came to the US in ’69, to audiences unprepared for quiet English folk music.

I found one online memory of Pentangle at the Grande:
“I went to the Grande once but the MC5 were not playing that night. I saw Pentangle and someone else… I bought the Pentangle [album] after seeing them at the Grande Ballroom... I really liked them but the crowd started to boo. Russ Gibb, the owner, stormed out onstage and told everybody to shut up and to show some respect, that these guys came all the way from England to play for us and anyone who didn't like it could leave right now and get their money back but anyone who doesn't leave needs to shut up. Some did leave but most stayed and acted a little more civilized after that.”
(Gibb has also stated in an interview that he loved Pentangle “and was pissed at the audience for booing them.”)

Most likely that was the show with Savoy Brown. The show with the Dead is unconfirmed - there's no memory of it online, no trace of it actually being played that I could find.
But it makes sense in the Dead’s itinerary - they had played in Chicago on July 4-5; the show was being listed in the papers just a couple days earlier (a “last minute” addition, Gibb wrote), and no cancellation is known; and it’s also on a partial list of contracts in the Dead’s Archive. None of which absolutely proves it was played, but barring further evidence I think we can assume it went ahead as planned. Hopefully someone will appear with a memory of this show!

The Dead themselves were probably thrilled to be playing with Pentangle again – Garcia’s admiration for them is well-known. Ralph Gleason saw Pentangle open for the Dead on 2/27/69, and wrote in a later article, “The night I heard them they were paid the ultimate compliment by both The Grateful Dead and the Sir Douglas Quintet who were on the same bill. The musicians came out from backstage and stood there listening to Pentangle.”

The Dead had appeared at the Grande Ballroom before in ’67 and ’68, though I didn’t find any coverage of these shows other than the bare listings (and hardly any memories of them today). In one small exception, the 8/18/67 Detroit Free Press had briefly stated, “The Rationals, last Saturday at the Grande, made the much publicized Grateful Dead sound and look dead.” Take that, San Francisco!


Newspaper Searches

I have no doubt there are more forgotten Dead shows to be found in the ‘60s. There are many weekend dates with no known Dead shows, and from early on they were a popular, in-demand group not likely to be staying at home on a Saturday night. With more newspaper archives steadily becoming available online, more discoveries are frequently turning up – all that’s needed are people to look for them.
That said, actually finding a lost Dead show often happens by accident. I came across the Las Vegas show searching for a possible 1967 appearance there (which still hasn’t been found, and might only be listed as an unnamed “teenage rock dance” or something, if at all). The Eugene show was speculated based on the Dead’s schedule, and fortunately was right where it was supposed to be. The July ’69 Detroit listings were found in a fruitless search for any kind of local reviews of the Dead’s ‘60s appearances there.
It helps to know that the Dead were in a certain area with an empty weekend date, though that doesn’t always narrow down the city, and sometimes casual references or hazy recollections will open up a trail. It also helps if the right newspapers are available to search – some papers are much more helpful in rock-music coverage than others. College or underground papers sometimes have a lot to say about a visit from the Dead, while the local mainstream paper stays silent. And of course, papers that are not available online with text searches are much harder to access and browse.
Contemporary coverage has its shortcomings. As a rule, sixties newspapers had little interest in the Dead’s shows, and the earlier the year, the less they’ll say. They were interested in drugs, violence, and arrests at Dead shows – so if there’s police activity there, it’ll be reported (as in Eugene) – though that became more common in the seventies. Or the Dead might briefly pop up in a schedule of upcoming shows, only to disappear without a trace thereafter (as in Detroit). Or the “Greatful Dead” might get a glancing mention as part of a larger event the show took place in (as in Las Vegas, where they’re only noted in passing to illustrate the attendance draw of the county fair). Crowds of hippies in the open also drew the stern eyes of reporters, which is one reason the Dead’s free park shows tend to be unusually well-reported (often even filmed), while countless regular concerts passed without a peep from the press. 

None of these newly found shows were reviewed, no setlists are likely to emerge, but at least knowing they were played fills in some blank spots in the Dead’s history.

5 comments:

  1. Welcome back, LIA. Amazing that new shows come to light after 50 years. I'm a little surprised that local Deadheads have never mentioned seeing them.

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  2. On 7/4+5/69 they played Kinetic Playground in Chicago, owned by Aaron Russo.

    I came across this:
    7/6/69-River House, Atlanta, GA
    Jerry played an acoustic guitar.
    "The performers who stayed after the last night of the Pop Festival were all invited to "The River House" a rather infamous hippie house on Riverside Drive. Quite a few made the trip, including the Dead. Those memories are a bit fuzzy, so I'm not sure who all was there. I vaguely remember sitting outside on the ground watching the sun come up and singing folk songs with Jerry Garcia playing acoustic guitar.” [1]
    The next day, the 7th, they played for free at Piedmont Park, Atlanta.

    1.) Schroeder, http://www.thestripproject.com/Hippies_Stories/Entries/2007/5/19_Dead_in_Piedmont_Park.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That link is now:
      http://www.thestripproject.com/memories-of-the-dead-in-piedmont-park-7769/

      Hmm... So currently there's no memory of the Dead in Detroit, and one fuzzy memory of the Dead maybe being in Atlanta on July 6. Well, that's the sixties!
      While I'll be sorry to see the Detroit show disproved, I hope more info comes out one way or the other.

      Delete
    2. No, I think the Dead played Piedmont Park in Atlanta on Monday, July 7. It leaves an open question as to whether they played Detroit, but it's definitely possible.

      Delete
  3. This is such a great post, representing such fantastic research. I added it to my list of Lost Live Dead shows, because they are lost, live and Dead
    http://hooterollin.blogspot.com/2013/03/lost-live-dead-individual-show-list.html

    ReplyDelete