August 15, 2009
The Allmans & The Dead
This post has been updated, revised, and considerably expanded:
"I love the Dead. As far as Jerry Garcia, Jerry Garcia could walk on water. He could do anything any man could ever do. He's a prince."
The two bands first met at the 7/7/69 Atlanta show, a free concert after the first Atlanta Pop festival - the Dead wouldn't have heard the Allmans, who'd just formed a few months before, but the Allmans were becoming popular as a local Atlanta band, and they had been fans of the Dead at least since seeing the 12/29/68 Miami Pop Festival show - whether by coincidence, their lineup (two drummers, two guitarists, organ & bass) was the same as the Dead's, but their music went in a different direction (I think Dickey Betts said their biggest influences were Cream and Hendrix). After the Dead's show, Garcia jammed with Duane Allman and many other musicians.
Their paths didn't cross again til the Fillmore East Feb '70 shows, where the Allmans (still relatively unknown) played on 2/11 and 2/14. (The other band on the bill was Love - Bear wasn't impressed with Love, but it's said that Arthur Lee added percussion to the 2/11 Dark Star. Bear also taped the other bands, so the Allmans were able to use his tape to release their "Fillmore East Feb '70" CD in 1997.)
Bear has this to say about encountering the Allmans: "In the summer of 1969 we played at a pop festival in a park in Atlanta. We had been hearing about a local band from Macon called the Allman Brothers Band, and someone brought members of the band over to meet us. As I recall they didn't play at that time [or the Dead just missed their show], so we didn't hear their music until their first record came out that fall. So when we were booked into the Fillmore East on a triple bill with the Allman Brothers, I was very pleased and looked forward to the shows with anticipation, as I had heard their record and liked the band.... There was a wonderful feeling at these concerts that made the shows a lot of fun for us all."
The jam on 2/11 is, of course, legendary. Members of Fleetwood Mac also joined in (even though they were not on the bill, and weren't even playing in New York!) - Peter Green had been a fan of the Dead since playing a run at the Carousel with them in June 1968; in fact he had just played some shows with them in New Orleans. Fleetwood Mac had started out as a strictly-blues band, but under the corrupting influence of the Dead, by early '70 they were doing long rock jams (as we can hear on their Boston Tea Party CDs, which were recorded just the week before, on Feb 5-7).
The Allmans & Dead next met at the 5/10/70 Atlanta show, where they each played and then joined in a jam of Mountain Jam>Will the Circle Be Unbroken. No tape survives. (Deadlists notes that the Dead had to borrow the Allmans' gear as theirs hadn't arrived, so possibly the show couldn't have been taped anyway.)
The Mountain Jam theme, of course, is based on Donovan's 1967 single "There is a Mountain". There has been some confusion over how both bands came to play this theme - it's even been printed that Duane first jammed it with the Dead at the Fillmore East! This is nonsense. It was one of the Allmans' earliest tunes, and shows up in a May '69 concert. I haven't seen an interview stating whether they took the idea from the Dead, or independently based the jam on Donovan's song, which is a heck of a catchy tune. The melody shows up on Anthem of the Sun, at the 9:00 point in Alligator....but it's over within 20 seconds. I don't think it's likely Duane would have taken this one little part to build a jam theme, unless he recognized "hey, that's the Donovan song - we can do something with that...."
Duane met the band again on the evening of 11/21/70, after each band had played a show. Garcia and Weir were playing a short acoustic set at a Boston radio show (Pigpen was also there, but didn't play anything). Duane showed up, but hadn't brought a guitar - so he borrowed an acoustic. Some of it is on youtube - here Duane plays a short bit of the instrumental Anji. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xr_qVfRkcw
Duane also appeared at the 4/26/71 Fillmore East show, but only played on three songs.
By summer '72 both bands had become huge and were filling stadiums. After some of the Allmans had played at the Dead's 7/16/72 show, the Dead returned the favor by showing up at the Allmans' 7/17/72 Gaelic Park show, and Garcia and Weir joined the band in Mountain Jam. A poor audience tape apparently exists - I'd love to hear it.
Then they co-headlined two nights in June '73 at the RFK Stadium - I think it was Dead / Allmans on June 9 and Allmans / Dead on June 10. Everyone knows the 6/10 jam; but in the Allmans' 6/9 show, Bob Weir and Ronnie Montrose joined the band for the Mountain Jam. There is a SBD of the show, which I haven't heard.
The two bands played again at the Watkins Glen festival, July 27-28 '73, along with the Band. The Allmans' "soundcheck" on 7/27 was apparently just a few songs, but the Dead gave a set that's become more popular than the actual show the next day! As at Monterey & Woodstock, the Dead wouldn't allow any of their music to be released (though Latvala has said that the 7/28 master reels are so full of glitches they're unusable, and he wasn't too thrilled with the show quality either). The Band's 7/28 show was theoretically released on their "Live at Watkins Glen" CD - but it turns out the music on the CD has almost no relation to the show they actually played! The Allmans closed out the festival, and the Not Fade Away/Mountain jam encore is actually the end of their set, hours after the Dead played.
Here's a page with the story behind the festival - pointing out that the idea for the show had started with the 7/16/72 jam: http://www.superseventies.com/watkinsglen.html
The biggest jam of all took place at the Allmans' 12/31/73 San Francisco show - it was one of the rare New Years where the Dead didn't play, so the Allmans filled in. Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann, and Boz Scaggs came on mid-show to jam on Whipping Post>Linda Lou>Hideaway>Bo Diddley, then ended the show with a giant You Don't Love Me>Will the Circle Be Unbroken>Mountain Jam. The show is up in three parts at Wolfgang's Vault: http://concerts.wolfgangsvault.com/pf/the-allman-brothers-band/7096.html
Duane and Berry Oakley both died while the Dead were on the road - Duane on 10/29/71 (the Dead were in Cleveland), and Berry on 11/11/72 (the Dead started the tour in Kansas City the next day). But the Allmans rolled on.... As Gregg said in '73, "I've had guys come up to me and say, 'Man, it just doesn't seem like losing those two fine cats affected you people at all.' Why? Because I still have my wits about me? Because I can still play? Well that's the key right there. We'd all have turned into fucking vegetables if you hadn't been able to get out there and play."
Garcia had a few words to say about the Allmans in a 1973 article:
'In the case of the amazing Watkins Glen Festival in New York this past July, the Dead and the Allmans were joined by the Band. The original idea for these supershows started over a year ago when a full length, cross-country tour with the Allman Brothers was booked into some of America's largest stadiums. The two bands have been long time friends, going back to the days the members of the groups first met each other backstage at the Fillmore East. Both bands were set to hop on planes to begin the tour last fall when Allman bassist Berry Oakley was killed in a motorcycle accident just a few days before their opening show in Houston, Texas. The joint tour was cancelled until this past summer, when the Allmans and the Dead made an appearance at the RFK Stadium in Washington. The RFK Stadium appearance made concert history. Ticketron, the computer network covering the eastern coast, reported that tickets to the Dead-Allmans concert were snapped up as far away as Montreal, Canada. More than 80,000 seats were sold for the two consecutive concerts.
Garcia waxed ecstatic about the experience, saying he couldn't have been more at home with The Allmans.
"It's kind of like playing with us the way we were five years ago," Jerry laughs. "Musically and set-up wise, they're kind of similar to the way we used to be. They especially sounded like us when they were the original Allman Brothers. They had two drummers, two guitars, organ and bass . . . exactly the instrumentation we had (when drummer Mickey Hart and organist-vocalist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan were in the band).
"In fact, Dickey and the guys had flashed on our music when we played at a festival in Florida about five or six years ago. We really inspired them and they've patterned a lot of their trip after us. They're like a younger, Southern version of us in some ways musically. I really enjoy playing with those guys, they're fun to play with. They're good."
Although there are definite plans afoot to release an album of a monumental Dead-Allmans jam-session early next year, the first release of the Grateful Dead Records label will be the long-awaited Grateful Dead studio album....'
It's interesting to read that they were already thinking of releasing the Dead/Allmans jams - even in recent years, a box set of their June '73 shows reported to be in the works is still in limbo. I don't think Garcia played with the Allmans again after '73.