August 25, 2009

The Dead's Acoustic Sets 1969-1970

"We're gonna take a break from all this sweat & steam & uproar & tumult and we're gonna break out our acoustic guitars and regale you with some wooden music."
- Bob Weir, 4/9/70

The Dead had their origins in acoustic music - back in '61 Phil Lesh was impressed enough by Garcia as a folk-singer to get him his own radio show - and Garcia, Weir, and Pigpen first started playing together in the Mother McCree's jug-band in '64, after Garcia had tired of the local bluegrass circuit. If it hadn't been for their love of the Beatles and the Stones, perhaps they would have become a merry band of old-time traditionalists like the New Lost City Ramblers. But once they dove into rock & roll, there was no looking back - within a couple years they had shed their R&B influences, turned into a big, hairy, noisy psychedelic band, and dedicated themselves to acid-soaked weirdness. Early fans would have been puzzled to hear that Garcia had once been a banjo-player and folk connoisseur whose biggest ambition was to join Bill Monroe's band....
But once Garcia's old friend Robert Hunter started writing songs for the band with his own brand of weirdness, acoustic guitars would soon turn up in the Dead's music.

The first acoustic song the Dead introduced was Mountains of the Moon, in December '68. It was soon followed in January by a slew of new Aoxomoxoa songs - Cosmic Charlie, Doin' That Rag - and, more central to our topic, Dupree's Diamond Blues. Dupree's is actually a spin-off from the old blues song Betty & Dupree, which the Dead had been doing in '66 - one version can be heard in their 12/1/66 show (which also has a number of other songs that would be revived in '69).
Dupree's Diamond Blues was first played on Jan 24 (with Pigpen on harmonica) in electric guise. But starting on Feb 11, it became paired with Mountains of the Moon as an acoustic song, and all of its appearances in the rest of '69 would be acoustic. (I've talked more about the Dupree's/Mountains pairing in my Mountains of the Moon post.)

Garcia soon became unhappy with this experimental batch of Aoxomoxoa songs, and Cosmic Charlie was the only one that would make it past the summer of 1969. As he said later, "All those Aoxomoxoa songs, a lot of them are cumbersome to perform, overwritten.... A lot of tunes on there are just packed with lyrics, or packed with musical changes that aren't worth it....there isn't a graceful way to perform them."
Although Garcia liked the album and was happy with the way it sounded (especially after he remixed it in '71), he admitted, "We spent too much money and too much time on that record; we were trying to accomplish too much and I was being really stupid about a lot of it, because it was some new tunes that I had written, that I hadn't really bothered to teach anyone in the band and I was trying to record them from the ground up and everybody was coming in and doing overdubs... We didn't go about it as a group at all.... It was when Hunter and I were being more or less terms of the lyrics being very far out. Too far out, really, for most people."
The Dead in general were also getting restless with the limited number of songs they had in their set - aside from the few new songs, their shows were much the same as they had been in summer '68. The band wanted to break out of the tight format of their shows over the past few months, and shake up the setlist a bit - but what they didn't have yet were more new songs - those wouldn't come til June - so in April they started digging up a lot of the old songs that they hadn't done, sometimes in years. I went into more details in my China>Rider post, but to summarize, these are the debut performance dates of the '69 revivals:
3/15/69 - Hard to Handle (they hadn't done this before)
4/5/69 - China Cat Sunflower, It's A Sin
4/6/69 - Viola Lee Blues, Beat It On Down the Line, It's All Over Now Baby Blue
4/12/69 - He Was A Friend Of Mine (last played 12/7/68)
4/15/69 - Sitting on Top of the World (and Hurts Me Too, last played 12/21/68)
4/23/69 - Not Fade Away (almost! - actually wouldn't be fully played until 12/21/69.)
4/26/69 - Silver Threads & Golden Needles, New Minglewood Blues
4/27/69 - Me & My Uncle
5/7/69 - Good Lovin', Smokestack Lightning
5/31/69 - Cold Rain & Snow, Green Grass of Home (a new one)
[And a couple more covers were added in June, Mama Tried on 6/21 and Big Boss Man on 6/27.]
So without having to write any new songs, the Dead went searching in their past repertoire and added about a dozen oldies to their setlists that spring, almost all of them 'traditional' tunes or covers. The shift to more country songs was just around the corner....

In early '69 Hunter and Garcia were living together, working on songs - as Hunter described it, "I'd be sitting upstairs banging on my typewriter, picking up my guitar, and singing something.... Jerry would be downstairs practicing guitar, working things out. You could hear fine through the floors there, and by the time I'd come down with a sheet and slap it down in front of him, Jerry already knew how it should go!" Garcia wanted a change in direction from his strange & complicated Aoxomoxoa efforts - so he and Hunter found themselves writing in a new vein of more straightforward, country-influenced songs.
In June '69 Garcia did a studio test, solo acoustic demos of three new songs - Dire Wolf, Casey Jones, and High Time. This only surfaced last year, and it's quite interesting:

At the Dead's shows, Dire Wolf was first played on June 7 - High Time on June 21 - and Casey Jones on June 22. Casey Jones was very different in its early form - since the arrangement was still unsettled, the early versions have the Dead jamming into the song. But Dire Wolf is more relevant to our topic, since the Dead played it acoustically in its first performances.

This was quite a burst of songwriting for Garcia - but though Hunter could pour out the words, Garcia was not a prolific composer. As he said in 1973, "Sometimes I can just crank 'em out and other times ....nothing. Like I could have a spurt in which I'd write four new songs in one week, and in the next six months I wouldn't be able to put two words together. It's that kind of thing."
A song written for Pigpen, Easy Wind, debuted on Aug 20 - but it was fall before more new Garcia songs emerged. Cumberland Blues (the Dead's closest approach to bluegrass) was first played Nov 8. A home demo from around this time shows them playing with the Uncle John's instrumental, as well as the first version of a song John Dawson co-wrote, Friend of the Devil:
Dec 4 saw two debuts - Black Peter, and the completed Uncle John's Band to end the show. Garcia apologized before they sang Uncle John: "Seems we blew most of the set just trying to remember how to play - and so we're going to blow this part of the set remembering how to sing a song we barely know."
Two more songs came out at the end of December - Mason's Children was first played on Dec 19, and New Speedway Boogie on Dec 20.
Friend of the Devil didn't show up in a Dead show until March 20, 1970, when it was played in the acoustic set. The April 3 acoustic set saw the debut of Candyman - and on May 24, they brought out a rough first version of Attics of My Life, another song that would alternate between acoustic & electric versions that year.
Garcia had another writing spurt that summer, and our first To Lay Me Down comes from the July 30 acoustic show. Then the Aug 18 acoustic set has a whole bounty of new songs - Truckin', Ripple, Brokedown Palace, and Pigpen's rare Operator.

In turning away from psychedelia and doing more country-influenced songs, the Dead were not being innovative - actually in 1968, country-rock was becoming quite the trend, with Dylan, the Band, and the Byrds just the most famous examples - even the Stones were flirting with country! But one specific influence on the Dead may have been the Flying Burrito Brothers with Gram Parsons - they played with the Dead at the Avalon from April 4-6, '69 (Bear's recordings of these shows have recently been released). Garcia would especially have taken note of their pedal-steel player, Sneaky Pete Kleinow.... "Pedal steel was an instrument that was on my mind since back in the days when I was a banjo player. I didn't think that I wanted to get that serious about it because I knew it was extremely difficult and that I'd have to spend a lot of time to actually get into it."
In fact, Garcia had owned a pedal steel back in the 710 Ashbury St. days in 1967. In a spring '67 interview, he announced that he was also getting an electric banjo: "My banjo is in the process of being electrified... I haven't used it yet cause it's not finished... I don't know how I'm going to use it, but I'm going to use it. I also have another instrument, pedal steel guitar. I've been working on it about a month, and I should be using it with the band within about six weeks. This is just an effort to broaden the scope a little, experiment a little. We're ready to experiment." 
But as it turned out, he changed his mind and soon sold the pedal steel - apparently he was never able to tune it. (And the electric banjo never appeared.) It would be another couple years before the Dead's scope broadened enough to experiment with pedal steel. Perhaps hearing Sneaky Pete Kleinow in April '69 reminded Garcia that the Dead could now include pedal-steel material...  
Garcia was a fan of the first Flying Burrito Brothers album - though years later when David Gans asked Weir if the Burritos influenced the Dead's embrace of country music, Weir recalled: "Not really; we'd been into that stuff since the beginning (Buck Owens, George Jones...) and it was just gonna come out sooner or later. Jerry and I had a bunch of country and gospel tunes we had worked up on days off on the road for fun, and when the Burritos came out, I think we were already doing these tunes..." 

On April 13, 1969, while the Dead were in Denver, Garcia bought his own pedal steel guitar. "I played with the pedals a little bit, I dug the tuning, and I said, 'Oh, I see!' Suddenly I finally started to understand a little of the sense of it... I said, 'I want to buy this fucking thing, but can you send it to me in tune? I'll never remember this tuning.'"
A recent article explores the link between the Flying Burrito Brothers and Garcia's immediate dive into the pedal steel:
"Jerry Garcia bought his Zane Beck Double 10 pedal steel guitar [at] Guitar City in Lakewood, CO. The proprietor was one Don Edwards... Edwards' store was famous as a pedal steel guitar emporium. According to Peter Grant, one of the steel guitar teachers in the store was no less than Rusty Young [of Poco]. Grant recalls that Young gave Garcia some advice about which steel guitar to buy."
Garcia spoke at length about his pedal-steel purchase in this interview from McNally's book Jerry on Jerry:

He may have practiced it over the next couple weeks of the tour, for on the April 26 show in Chicago, the pedal steel turned up onstage and Garcia played it in a revival of Silver Threads & Golden Needles (a country song the Dead hadn't played since 1966). He doesn't sound too shabby.

Once the Dead were back home, Garcia took the pedal steel back to the bands' rehearsal hall, and started teaching himself how to play. "I could understand enough about the pedal steel to play along with simple I went down there and set up my pedal steel in the corner and slowly proceeded to try and learn how to play it. I had a pretty good idea in my head of what I wanted it to sound like, but I didn't have any chops down. Pretty soon it started to sound pretty good, and a couple of other friends sort of fell into the scene."

One friend was Peter Grant, who had played pedal steel on Doin' That Rag on the Aoxomoxoa album. Grant recalls: "Before the Grateful Dead or even the Warlocks, Jerry and I were driving in his Corvair up from Palo Alto to Berkeley to see the Kentucky Colonels play. 'Together Again' came on the radio (by Buck Owens), with that memorable solo by Tom Brumley. [First released in Feb '64.] We both listened in reverent awe, and said, 'Man, we gotta learn pedal steel.' Between the two of us, I was the first to get a steel and start playing, and that's how I ended up playing on Aoxomoxoa. When Jerry came back from a tour [in '69] with a brand-new ZB Custom double-10 pedal steel, he absolutely immersed himself in the instrument. I remember going over to his house to see it. He had me playing guitar as soon as I walked in the door, and singing every song I knew, so he could boink around and play backups and solos. Later that day, I showed him some things that I had discovered on the steel, including parts of 'Together Again'. He got good real fast and had a wonderfully unique style."

Another friend encouraging Garcia in this direction was John Dawson, who'd known Garcia since his early-'60s folkie days, but was more interested in straight country than rock music.
"When I heard that Jerry had bought a pedal steel, I boldly invited myself over to his house to hear what it sounded like. I brought my guitar along and I played him a couple of my songs and he literally sat there and dove into the pedal steel guitar.... We had a nice evening and that was really the beginning of the whole New Riders thing....
"At first, Jerry didn't have the slightest idea what the real steel players were up to. What he played was just his idea of what they were doing and what sounded good to him... He didn't read any books: he just sat down and played it. He was checking it out: 'Let's see, this goes here. If I do this, this happens. What if I do this?'...
"At that time I had a gig at this coffeehouse [May '69]....and I invited Jerry to come down and join me. It was just the two of us - me on guitar and Jerry on pedal steel. I would play my own songs and I was also doing covers - stuff like I Shall Be Released and Mama Tried.... [The Dead put the Haggard song in their own set the next month.] Once the word got out that it was me and Garcia there....we got some pretty big crowds that summer.... It got to be a nice little scene. After a while we decided to make a little band out of this."
On guitar, they recruited another of Garcia's old friends, David Nelson, who had played in bluegrass bands with Garcia in the early '60s. (In fact, Dawson, Nelson, and pedal-steel player Peter Grant had all appeared on Aoxomoxoa.) And with Phil Lesh on bass and Mickey Hart on drums, they started playing separate gigs as the New Riders of the Purple Sage in June & July '69.
One surviving example of a 1969 New Riders show comes from 9/18/69. It appears early NRPS was largely a showcase for Garcia's pedal-steel playing, as he goes into solo after solo. It's also unique for his harmony vocals (much sloppier than in the Dead), which he probably later stopped doing in NRPS sets because he usually has to pause on the pedal steel in order to sing.

At this point the New Riders were playing separately from the Dead, but there was one memorable show where the two bands combined - 6/11/69, at the California Hall in San Francisco. It was billed as "Bobby Ace and His Cards From the Bottom of the Deck" - Weir, Garcia, Lesh, Hart, and Constanten with John Dawson, David Nelson, and also Peter Grant (on pedal steel and/or banjo). As far as I know the show wasn't taped, but the setlist is tantalizing - lots of Everly Brothers!
Let It Be Me ; Silver Threads And Golden Needles ; Mama Tried ; Cathy's Clown ; Me And My Uncle ; Slewfoot: Dire Wolf ; Games People Play ; The Race Is On ; Green Green Grass Of Home ; Tiger By The Tail ; I've Just Seen A Face ; All I Have To Do Is Dream ; Wabash Cannonball ; Railroading The Great Divide
(A few comments on the songs' origins are here.)

Meanwhile, Garcia wasn't content to let his pedal-steel light shine under the New Riders bushel, but decided to freak out Dead audiences by opening Dead shows with some country songs!
The first example was on 5/31/69, when they introduced Green Grass of Home. Weir had a fatal attraction to maudlin country weepies (and would write one of his own, Looks Like Rain), and he was taken enough by this tune to play it again at the 6/6/69 show with Elvin Bishop, and far too many times thereafter.... Though Garcia's on electric guitar here, he does a remarkable simulation of a pedal steel.
On 6/7/69, they opened the show with an acoustic Garcia trio: the first Dire Wolf, Dupree's, and Mountains of the Moon.
6/20/69 is a lost show, but a newspaper review said that it opened with Dire Wolf (Weir on vocals and Garcia on pedal steel), and closed with an "acoustic spiritual" encore, probably Cold Jordan.
6/21/69 has many notable tunes - they open with Green Grass, after which Garcia says, "There will be a brief pause while we allow you to consider these new developments." Later on Garcia switches to pedal-steel in the first Slewfoot, a rowdy song they dive into straight out of the Cryptical reprise - an early example of a genre-bending Dead segue, and Garcia's first known pedal-steel playing in a Dead show. (Oddly, this was the first time Garcia had brought out the pedal steel in a Dead show since 4/26.)
Weir opens the second show with the thankfully rare Old House - later on he sings an acoustic Dire Wolf, having taken over the vocals from Garcia! The show also features one of the last acoustic Dupree's, and the first High Time and Mama Tried, making for a very country-soaked show. (Showing how far the Dead had come in a few months - Aoxomoxoa was released the previous day.) The show closes with an unusual Lovelight -16 minutes in, Garcia plays an acoustic guitar solo for about a minute!
The next day, 6/22/69, Garcia brushed up his pedal-steel skills again for Silver Threads & Golden Needles - the Dead had done this song in early '66, and it had surprisingly popped up again on 4/26 as a pedal-steel showpiece.
On 6/27/69, they opened with Slewfoot, and closed the main set by jumping into Green Grass of Home from a shortened Eleven, another mind-twisting medley. (Peter Grant is said to play banjo on Slewfoot as well, but he's barely audible.) Weir sings Dire Wolf again with Garcia on pedal-steel, an unusual way to hear the song - and the last acoustic Dupree's is played - and Mama Tried>High Time is quickly becoming a fixture in the set. (This Mama Tried is interesting since it's quieter than the Dead would later do it, with Weir still on acoustic. Casey Jones, which had debuted on 6/22, still has its opening jam, which it would keep through August - and Big Boss Man has its first, tentative performance since '66 at this show.)
The next Santa Rosa show, 6/28/69, features both John Dawson and Peter Grant as guests. Another pedal-steel Slewfoot and Silver Threads start the show; after the slow-paced Mama Tried, Weir announces that Peter Grant has been "playing banjo back there"; then John Dawson comes out and sings Me & My Uncle with Weir, something they'd do in later New Riders shows as well. Then, surprisingly, Peter Grant plays pedal steel on Doin' That Rag (as he did on the album), while Garcia stays on guitar.
7/3/69 starts with the pedal-steel Green Grass and Slewfoot. It's worth noting that what we have of this show has only a couple original songs, all the rest covers - and 6/28 also had only two originals! Quite a transformation since the Live/Dead days a few months earlier.
7/4/69 has another Slewfoot and Silver Threads - Weir indulges himself with the infrequently-played ballad Let Me In, and sings his last Dire Wolf.
7/11/69, aside from the usual Silver Threads, also has Garcia playing pedal-steel on Hard to Handle, an interesting experiment! The show starts with the last Dupree's (done electric), and Garcia returns to singing Dire Wolf - a song he was very fond of later in fall '69, often asking the audience to sing along, and sometimes singing it twice in a row! He never did that with Dupree's....
7/12/69 opens with Green Grass and Slewfoot, and then has the last Mountains of the Moon.
8/2/69 has Garcia's last pedal-steel appearance of this tour, on Slewfoot and another of the sentimental ballads Weir was so fond of, Seasons of My Heart.

After this, the pedal-steel & several of these country covers were dropped from their shows. I was at first puzzled as to why they'd all of a sudden stop - but then I noticed that at the end of August, the New Riders were opening for the Dead for the first time, at the Family Dog. So with Garcia already on pedal-steel through the New Riders set, there was no longer any need for him to surprise the audience with it in the Dead's set!
But at the end of 12/31/69, when the weird '70s beckoned and they didn't want to end the show, they did a surprising electric-style medley of Weir's country covers: Seasons, The Race Is On, Silver Threads, and Slewfoot. (And a rare Big Boy Pete, too.) This is the only Slewfoot Garcia plays on regular guitar....

Some of you who have been patiently reading all this while may be wondering, "all this and still no acoustic sets?" But worry no longer - on 12/19/69 the Dead's first acoustic set appeared by accident, when Phil didn't turn up in time for the show.
Garcia announces to the audience, "Phil's stuck somewhere - he's on his way, he's gonna be here in some short time and we'll be able to play loud and all that. Meantime me and Bobby Ace here are gonna regale you with some old favorites." Weir adds, "We have yet to figure out what we're gonna do."
They do Monkey & the Engineer, Little Sadie, Long Black Limousine, and I've Been All Around This World. (Limousine is a neat Everly Brothers-style song. They start doing Wake Up Little Susie after Limousine, but decide not to.) Finally Phil shows up and they blast the house with the first Mason's Children.

12/26/69 follows a similar course, when Garcia tells the audience, "Bill is somewhere over Omaha right now on a plane....they assure us he's gonna be here in a matter of moments.... Bobby and I are going to regale you with some old standards....while we're waiting around. (to Weir) Okay, what are we gonna do?"
They do the same songs: Monkey & the Engineer, Little Sadie, Long Black Limousine, Been All Around This World, Gathering Flowers for the Master's Bouquet, Black Peter, and Uncle John's Band. (Master's Bouquet is positively Victorian.)
The set starts off with just Garcia & Weir; Lesh starts quietly playing bass in Black Peter. Kreutzmann arrives on stage right before Uncle John's Band, and it sounds like Garcia & Weir ask him to play; Weir also asks Hart to play congas, so the last song is a full-band performance, though very ramshackle.

We would never get to hear Tom Constanten in an acoustic show. His last show with the Dead was on 1/30/70 in New Orleans. They'd been growing dissatisfied with him (Weir complained, "he wasn't really a rock & roll musician, and the whole group when we were playing with him sounded more like an experimental group than a rock & roll band") - but his exit was probably hastened by their drug bust that night! Almost by cosmic coincidence, another accidental acoustic set followed the next day, 1/31, when Phil's bass amp blew.
Weir explains, "We got a busted amplifier here - so you guys can hang out and chatter amongst yourselves and feel free to wander around and make friends....while we try to work it out." As frantic repair efforts take place, Garcia & Weir decide it's time for some acoustic songs. Phil's amp keeps sputtering sporadically through the acoustic set as he tries to join in, but eventually he gives up. They only have one acoustic guitar, so Weir plays a few songs with Garcia accompanying on electric (a nice blend), then Garcia plays a few by himself. Pigpen comes out for one song, and they close with an unusual Cumberland Blues, played with one guitar and handclaps.
Long Black Limousine, Seasons Of My Heart, Saw Mill, Old Old House, The Race Is On, Black Peter, Little Sadie, All Around This World, Katie Mae, Cumberland Blues

The Fillmore West shows in February '70 saw the pedal-steel brought out again, for some reason - and two shows start with the usual country tunes:
Seasons of My Heart & The Race Is On on 2/5;
Green Grass, Saw Mill, & Seasons on 2/7 (Sawmill is a fun song, quite the contrast to Weir's other slow ballads.)
Garcia snickers to the audience on 2/7, "And you thought you were going to hear rock & roll..."

In the 2/13/70 late show, for the first time, they have a planned acoustic set in the middle of the show. The earlier impromptu acoustic sets apparently showed them the possibilities, since they were fans of contrast - so through the end of April, the new format for a Dead show was electric / acoustic / electric, without set breaks. So they would introduce the acoustic segments - as Garcia said on 2/28/70, "We're gonna take everybody back about sixty billion notches, man, and play some acoustic guitars for a little spell, if it's all the same to you." Or Weir on 4/3/70: "We're gonna take a brief pause here and set up the stage so we can sit down and play some acoustic guitars and play some nice quiet music for all you people."
In February & March, the acoustic sets are pretty much just Garcia & Weir (though Pigpen might come out for a song, or play a little organ). In April, light drums & bass are added to the sets. The early acoustic setlists are fairly short and repetitive (typically about six or seven songs), but songs were gradually added over the months until the Dead were ready for longer, separate full-fledged acoustic sets in May, with help from the New Riders and a more electric 'country-rock' feel.

One influence on the acoustic sets was the new album they were making - in February after the Fillmore run, they went into the studio and recorded Workingman's Dead in ten days. It was clearly a huge change from their earlier psychedelic albums, in song-style and studio-time - but the Dead already regarded Aoxomoxoa as ancient history. Garcia explained, "We were out of our pretentious thing. We weren't feeling so much like an experimental music group, but were feeling more like a good old band." (Hence, Constanten's departure before they made the album.)
Of course, it also helped that the band was also deeply in debt to Warner Brothers, so for the first time they were feeling motivated not only to spend less time recording, but to try to record something commercial. Garcia said, "I was thinking, when we go into the studio next time, let's try a real close-to-the-bone approach, like the way they record country & western records - a few instruments, relatively simple and easy-to-perform songs. It was quite conscious, an effort to say, 'Let's not spend a year. Let's do it all in three weeks and get it the hell out of the way. And that way, if the record does at all well, we will be able to pay off some of what we owe to the record company.' So that worked very well. And it was a chance to expose a side of us that we hadn't exposed very much."

The Dead's acoustic roots and fondness for country certainly hadn't been exposed before (and their Crosby Stills & Nash-influenced singing was a shock to all). Garcia and John Dawson both had an interest in the Bakersfield-country sound - as Dawson said, they were "getting off on how they used electric guitars to make this real sparse but beautiful sound. Their harmonies were crisp and clean and the songs made good sense. If you were a guitar player and you wanted to play country, you had to listen to Don Rich (Buck Owens' guitarist). Everybody did, including Jerry, of course. We'd all listen to that Carnegie Hall record that Buck Owens did and try to figure out how Rich made those sounds." (Garcia himself had also switched to a Stratocaster guitar: "It was that clarity that I was looking for - that crispness that you associate with country & western guitar players.")
Garcia added, "We're part of that California-Bakersfield school of country & western rock & roll - Buck Owens, Merle Haggard. We used to go see those bands and think, 'Gee, those guys are great.' Don Rich was one of my favorites. I learned a lot from him. So we took kind of the Buck Owens approach on Workingman's Dead. Some of the songs in there are direct tributes to that style of music, although they're not real obvious."

Another possible inspiration for the acoustic sets was the band Pentangle. Garcia praised them in later years: "The combination of drums, electric bass, and acoustic guitars is a really nice sound. In the ‘60s, there was a great-sounding band called Pentangle with those two good English fingerpickers, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. They had a tasty jazz drummer who played brushes, an excellent acoustic bass player, and a lady who sang in a sort of madrigal, English voice. It was a lovely band that sounded great onstage. We played a lot of shows with them, and I thought that combination of two acoustic guitars and a standard rhythm section had a lot of possibilities."
Pentangle had only opened for the Dead at one Fillmore West run in winter '69, but evidently left an impression on Garcia. (Musically the two bands have very little in common, though. Even the Everly Brothers had more of a direct influence on the Dead's acoustic sets.) 

In the middle of April, the Dead had a run of all-acoustic shows at the Family Dog along with the New Riders - they were billed as "Mickey Hart & His Heartbeats / Bobby Ace & His Cards From The Bottom Of The Deck". Setlists were kept, but unfortunately no tapes circulated. On the last two nights, Pigpen gets several solo songs in a row!
Recently, a tape of the 4/18 show surfaced, returned to the Vault by Mountain Girl. It's possible Garcia kept these shows for his own listening, to hear how they sounded. Most likely the purpose of these shows was as a test run for the expanded full-length acoustic sets starting in May - the show we have sounds rather low-key and tentative. Here for the first time, John Dawson joins on a couple songs, and Garcia plays electric for a few.
Don't Ease Me In ; Long Black Limousine ; Monkey And The Engineer ; Deep Elem Blues ; Candyman > Cumberland Blues ; Me And My Uncle ; Mama Tried ; Cathy's Clown ; Wake Up Little Susie ; New Speedway Boogie ; Friend Of The Devil ; Black Peter ; Uncle John's Band
I Know You Rider ; Don't Ease Me In ; Silver Threads And Golden Needles ; Friend Of The Devil ; Deep Elem Blues ; Wake Up Little Susie ; Candyman ; Cumberland Blues ; New Speedway Boogie ; Me And My Uncle ; Mama Tried ; Katie Mae ; The Rub ; Roberta ; Bring My My Shotgun ; The Mighty Flood ; Black Snake
I Know You Rider ; Friend Of The Devil ; Candyman ; Sawmill ; Deep Elem Blues ; The Rub ; Katie Mae ; Roberta ; Big Breasa ; She's Mine ; Cumberland Blues ; Wake Up Little Susie ; Mama Tried ; Me And My Uncle ; The Race Is On ; Uncle John's Band

On 5/1/70, the Dead started their first eastern tour with the New Riders. (Their shows earlier in the year had been with a varied bunch of opening acts.) The shows were called "An Evening With the Grateful Dead" and typically ran for quite a while, arranged as an acoustic set / NRPS set / electric set. Many people in the audience, not familiar with the New Riders and seeing most of the Dead onstage with them, probably figured it was more Grateful Dead music!
Jerry said in a May '70 interview: "We're going through some transitions. Our music is not what it was: it's continually changing. What we've been doing in the States lately is having like 'an evening with the Grateful Dead.' We start off with acoustic music with Bobby and I playing guitars, light drums and very quiet electric bass. Pigpen plays the organ. Then we have a band we've been travelling with, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, where I play pedal steel, not guitar, Mickey plays drums, and three of our friends from the coast, musicians that we've known for a long time, are fronting the band. So we start off with acoustic music and then the New Riders of the Purple Sage -- it's like very snappy electric country-rock; it's kinda hard to describe -- and then we come on with the electric Dead, so it keeps us all really interesting, and it's six hours of this whole development thing. By the end of the night it's very high."

So starting in May, the acoustic sets generally became longer, and David Nelson & John Dawson usually joined the Dead for a few songs. They also added some gospel numbers to end the sets. Nelson typically plays acoustic guitar in Cumberland or New Speedway (while Garcia plays electric), and in the gospel songs, Nelson plays mandolin and Dawson sings.
Some changes came in the summer - Nelson added mandolin to Rosalie McFall, and gradually other songs as well, until he was playing it in quite a few songs. The Dead were working on the American Beauty album from August to October - a lot of new songs (covers and originals) got added to the acoustic set in August, so these later sets have a much more varied feel, with multiple instruments and that American Beauty vibe. Pigpen plays piano in the Fillmore sets, which adds a nice texture - piano generally wasn't heard in Dead shows until the Keith days.
One thing to note is that each acoustic set apparently had just one drummer. Bill & Mickey would alternate drumming for the acoustic sets, seemingly at random. For instance, Mickey was the acoustic drummer on 4/10, 4/18, 5/15, 7/14/70 & possibly one of the July '70 Fillmore East dates - and Bill on 6/5, 7/4, 8/17 & 8/19/70. (Other dates have yet to be investigated.)
Guests in the acoustic sets were quite rare, compared to electric sets - David Crosby plays guitar in two songs on 7/14/70 (not that anyone can tell it's him), and David Grisman plays a second mandolin on 9/20/70.

Special mention should be made of 8/5/70, despite low vocals, since it was a rare all-acoustic show with Dawson & Nelson. I believe our tape of 8/5/70 is actually from a Bay Area club show, not from San Diego - there's no evidence that they even played in San Diego on that date. (There's also a short set of a few songs from 7/30/70 that's actually a Dead acoustic mini-set ending a New Riders show at the Matrix.)
In July & August, the Dead played several all-acoustic shows at various clubs, but our 8/5/70 tape is the only one that's survived. More details are here:

A couple songs in the September Fillmore East run are uniquely played. Deadlists suggests that the hard-to-hear 9/17/70 Box of Rain includes pedal steel & fiddle - it doesn't, but it does have David Nelson playing electric guitar, as on the album, while Garcia plays piano. Garcia also plays piano in the 9/20/70 To Lay Me Down.
Garcia talked about these shows later on: "We were in the Fillmore East for a stretch, and Dave Grisman and Dave Nelson were both there, so I had them both come out. See, Grisman does twin parts...on 'Ripple,' a double mandolin part. So, Grisman just taught Nelson the second part. We had the actual full thing, twin mandolins and everything, and we were able to do 'Ripple' with the original instrumentation on the record. And also 'Box of Rain.' We were able to do 'Box of Rain' with the original instrumentation on the record. Me playing piano, Dave Nelson playing guitar. That was really fun." 
Garcia also mentioned that they did "kind of a re-creation" of American Beauty: "We played the acoustic instruments, and I even used different guitars on different songs - something I never do onstage." This brings up the possibility that in earlier acoustic sets, when he brought out an electric guitar (for Cumberland or New Speedway) it might not have been the Gibson SG that he played in the electric sets. There's a picture of the 5/15/70 acoustic set in which Garcia has a Stratocaster propped up behind him - he may have preferred it in those songs for its country-twang sound; "the metallic clang...that crispness," as he put it.

In October they stopped playing the acoustic sets - for the rest of the year they seem to have played just electric sets, though the New Riders were still touring with them. The exception is the Capitol Theater run in November - perhaps the Dead felt that was a special audience. It may also have been due to the venue - Garcia said at the time that the Fillmore and the Capitol were the only "groovy" theaters in the country, partly due to their excellent PA systems.
It's hard to say why the Dead stopped doing acoustic sets; I haven't seen a good reason - perhaps they felt it was getting old & time for a change. I don't think bigger venues have to do with it - '72 is when they started getting into really big places - but aside from some bigger shows, they were still playing the Capitol Theater & Fillmores & college theaters in 1971, with the New Riders still opening; so in theory the acoustic sets could have continued into '71. Possibly they just decided the acoustic sets didn't sound right, and wanted to simplify the shows.
They seem to have streamlined their sets in general heading into 1971, Garcia's "regular shoot-em-up saloon band" phase. In late '70 sometimes they did two electric sets, sometimes one long set (maybe it depended on the venue). 1971, though it still has some one-set shows early in the year, is when they really settled on the first-set/second-set format that would become invariable (it's the last year for a long time you'd get Dark Stars in the first set!).
Garcia later suggested that the technology in 1970 wasn't ready for acoustic sets: "That was one of the reasons we didn’t do it for so long - we used to try it with microphones, and it really didn’t work. It’s much easier now that they have made vast improvements in amplified acoustic instruments. The audience liked it a lot." (In 1980 Garcia & Weir would use acoustic-electric guitars, which sounded quite different.)

There are a few remaining acoustic tapes from late 1970; I don't think any of them are on the Archive.
There's Weir's "Garage Tape 1970", a 15-minute tape of a KSAN session from an unknown date:
The Race Is On, Silver Threads & Golden Needles, Let Me In, Dark Hollow - Weir, vocals & acoustic guitar; Garcia, pedal steel guitar; John Cipollina, slide guitar; Pete Sears, piano
11/21/70 Boston radio - a short acoustic set:
El Paso, Big River, I Know You Rider, instrumental, Dark Hollow, Anji, Let Me In - Garcia & Weir; Duane Allman on Anji
12/27/70 Pasadena radio - a short acoustic/gospel set:
Silver Threads & Golden Needles, Cold Jordan, I Hear A Voice Callin', Swing Low Sweet Chariot - Garcia, Weir, Dawson, Nelson

From 1969 to 1972, Garcia went into studios frequently with the pedal-steel, adding tracks to other people's albums (as well as the New Riders debut, and his own first solo album) - the song Teach Your Children being the most famous example. Some of his most significant work is on David Crosby's If I Could Only Remember My Name, and Paul Kantner's Blows Against the Empire. Garcia felt, "I really think the nicest thing I did during that period was on Crosby’s solo album… I particularly like the pedal steel on ‘Laughing.’ That was some of the prettiest and most successful of what I was trying to get at at that time."
Kantner recalled, "Jerry was doing a lot of pedal steel for people around that time, experimenting, and so we let him be on it; he was overjoyed. So he went in and just experimented with sounds, seeing what kind of sounds he could get out of it, running it through various pedals and echoes and delays. We gave him a free hand, which made him happy. Before that he'd pretty much just been doing country licks on the steel, and this gave him the opportunity to get a little weirder, which he always appreciated."
But Garcia still felt unhappy with his playing: "It's so difficult, man, and my playing is so mediocre I can't begin to tell you how embarrassed I am about my playing on the damn thing, really it's lamentable."
He explained, "I haven't got it down... I'm going after a sound I hear in my head that the steel has come closest to. But I have no technique on the steel. I've got a little right-hand technique from playing the banjo, and I've listened to records. But my intonation with the bar is still really screwed up. I have to do it by ear....I'm really a novice at it, but I'm not really trying to become a steel player. I'm trying to duplicate something that's in my head."

In fall '71 Garcia stopped playing with the New Riders, who replaced him with Buddy Cage, a steel player they'd found on the Festival Express tour. Garcia said, "The New Riders are actually too good for me to be playing steel with. What they need is a regular, good guy who's been playing since he was three." His last show with them was 10/30/71, partway through the tour. 
(There are a couple later recordings where Weir and Garcia appear with the New Riders, though - the 12/9/71 Scotty's Music Store jam, and 3/18/73 Felt Forum.)
John Dawson added, "Basically, Jerry got to be too busy. But also, it was sort of understood that he was helping get what I wanted going. He dug what I was doing and he dug the fact that my trip let him do something different, because he was always looking to do different things. It gave him a chance to warm up and also to relax a little bit before he had to concentrate on the Grateful Dead's set. At some point he said, 'I don't think I can do this too much longer; I think you guys should get someone else.' But he knew at that point that we'd already met Cage.... When we changed from Garcia to Cage, the pedal steel playing got better. Garcia wasn't a steel player... We were after a more traditional kind of thing."
Garcia also later mentioned difficulties in playing shows with two instruments. Rock Scully recalled, "Jerry realized that playing pedal steel was screwing with his electric guitar playing. The instruments were so different from each other that his guitar playing was suffering." Garcia said, "It kind of became an either/or situation: I found it very hard to play half the night with a pedal steel and a bar in my left hand and then switch to straight overhand guitar. The difference between a solid finger configuration and a moving arm, wrist, and fingers was too great. It was painful to the muscles. It got to where I couldn't play either of them very well, and I realized it just wouldn't work. I don't consider myself a pedal steel player."

That wasn't the last chapter in Garcia's pedal-steel story. In early '72, he played it in Weir's new song Looks Like Rain for its first performances in the Academy of Music run & a couple shows in Europe - it's odd that they brought it to Europe just to be used in one song! In fact they dropped Looks Like Rain after only three performances - 4/14/72 was the last pedal-steel version. (Perhaps someone in the band thought the song wasn't working too well.)
Garcia also played pedal steel in the 11/23/72 show with Doug Sahm & Friends. After that, though, he gave it up (aside from briefly pulling it out in the 1987 tour with Bob Dylan, for a few performances of I'll Be Your Baby Tonight and Tomorrow Is A Long Time). "It's a hard instrument to play. I would love to play the pedal steel if I had another lifetime in which to play it."
But in this lifetime, he was busy enough playing with Howard Wales and Merl Saunders on top of the Dead's shows - as he said, "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... If I had another life to live...I could dig playing with Howard for a long time, or Merl.... If I had more of me to go out and play those gigs, I'd do it immediately."
And in early '73, he started yet another musical trip, rediscovering his bluegrass roots by playing banjo in Old & In The Way. "It was like playing in the bluegrass band I'd always wanted to play in. It was such a great band and I was flattered to be in such fast company. I was only sorry my banjo chops were never what they had been when I was playing continually, though they were smoothing out near the end."

Also in 1973, songs from the Dead's acoustic sets were released for the first time. Bear went back to the Fillmore East Feb '70 tapes to pick some Pigpen and acoustic pieces for History of the Grateful Dead - they needed a final album in a hurry to finish their Warner Brothers contract, and decided to find some old material that hadn't been represented on record before. It was basically a typical early acoustic set; however, the Dead disliked the record. By 1973, it probably sounded prehistoric to them (though not quite as ancient as the '66 shows that were illicitly released in '71 as Historic Dead & Vintage Dead, much to the band's disgust).

Many years later, one more surprise acoustic set came out of the blue on 11/17/78, before their regular Chicago show. This short set was a last-minute billing as Bob Weir & Friends at Loyola University (without the Godchauxs), and saw them playing to a very small crowd - it's more spontaneous than the later 1980 acoustic shows, and has a number of unusual song choices that come out of nowhere. As Weir says, "We're gonna do yet another old country blues, seeing as that's all we can remember...."

In 1980, of course, they played a number of acoustic sets in smaller theaters ("the result of about three afternoons of rehearsal," Garcia said), and recorded them for Reckoning. I'll leave it to someone else to write about these (and later) acoustic shows, though.

Here is a listing of the 1970 acoustic sets, which I've made as complete as possible -

2/13/70 late:
Monkey & The Engineer, Little Sadie, Wake Up Little Susie, Black Peter, Uncle John's Band, Katie Mae

2/14/70 late:
Monkey And The Engineer; Dark Hollow; I've Been All Around This World; Wake Up Little Susie; Black Peter; Uncle John's Band; Katie Mae

Monkey And The Engineer, Little Sadie, Me And My Uncle, Black Peter, Seasons Of My Heart, Uncle John's Band

Monkey And The Engineer, Little Sadie, Black Peter
(monitor problems cut the set short)

Monkey And The Engineer, I've Been All Around This World, Me And My Uncle, Black Peter, Katie Mae > Impromptu Blues

Deep Elem Blues, Friend Of The Devil (first), Don't Ease Me In, Black Peter, Uncle John's Band, Katie Mae

Friend Of The Devil, Deep Elem Blues, Don't Ease Me In, Black Peter, Wake Up Little Susie, Uncle John's Band, Katie Mae

Friend Of The Devil, Deep Elem Blues, Candyman (first), Wake Up Little Susie, Black Peter, Uncle John's Band, Katie Mae

Friend of the Devil, Deep Elem Blues, Candyman, Black Peter, Uncle John's Band, Katie Mae

4/10/70 (no tape):
Friend Of The Devil; Deep Elem Blues; Candyman; Wake Up Little Susie; Black Peter; Uncle John's Band

4/11/70 (no tape):
Don't Ease Me In; New Speedway Boogie; Friend Of The Devil; Me And My Uncle; Deep Elem Blues; Candyman; Black Peter; Uncle John's Band

I Know You Rider, Monkey & The Engineer, Friend Of The Devil, Me & My Uncle, Candyman, Uncle John's Band

5/1/70 (first separate acoustic set):
Deep Elem Blues, I Know You Rider, Monkey and the Engineer, Candyman, Me And My Uncle, Mama Tried, Cumberland Blues, The Race Is On, Wake Up Little Susie, New Speedway Boogie, Cold Jordan, Uncle John's Band

Don't Ease Me In; I Know You Rider; Friend Of The Devil; Dire Wolf; Beat It On Down The Line; Black Peter, Candyman, Cumberland Blues; Deep Elem Blues; Cold Jordan; Uncle John's Band
(Dick's Picks)

Don't Ease Me In, I Know You Rider, Friend Of The Devil, Me & My Uncle, Deep Elem Blues, Candyman, Cumberland Blues, New Speedway Boogie, Black Peter, Uncle John's Band

5/3/70 (partial set w/ guest harmonica player):
Deep Elem Blues, Friend Of The Devil, Silver Threads, Black Peter

Don't Ease Me In, Friend Of The Devil, Deep Elem, Silver Threads, Candyman
(monitor problems & broken string, so the set's cut short)

5/15/70 early:
Don't Ease Me In; I Know You Rider; The Rub; Friend Of The Devil; Long Black Limousine; Candyman; Cumberland Blues; New Speedway Boogie; Cold Jordan
+ late:
The Ballad Of Casey Jones, Silver Threads, Black Peter, Friend Of The Devil, Uncle John's Band, Candyman, She's Mine, Katie Mae, I Hear A Voice Callin' (+ show encore: Cold Jordan)

Deep Elem Blues, Candyman, Silver Threads And Golden Needle, Friend Of The Devil, Black Peter, Cumberland Blues, Wake Up Little Susie, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Uncle John's Band

Dire Wolf, I Know You Rider, Silver Threads, Friend Of The Devil, Me & My Uncle, Black Peter, New Speedway Boogie

Don't Ease Me In, The Frozen Logger (a couple verses), Friend Of The Devil, Candyman, Deep Elem Blues, Cumberland Blues, Wake Up Little Susie, New Speedway Boogie (just the first four songs)

Don't Ease Me In, Silver Threads, Friend Of The Devil, Candyman, Cold Jordan, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Cumberland Blues, Me & My Uncle, New Speedway Boogie

6/24/70 early:
Dire Wolf; Don't Ease Me In; Attics of My Life; Friend Of The Devil; Let Me In; Candyman; Uncle John's Band

6/24/70 late:
Big Railroad Blues; Deep Elem Blues; Monkey And The Engineer; The Rub; Silver Threads And Golden Needle; Friend Of The Devil; Candyman; Cumberland Blues; Cold Jordan (+ show encore Swing Low Sweet Chariot) (incomplete - only 6 songs)

Don't Ease Me In is in the Festival Express film - along with an electric New Speedway Boogie (and good shots of Pigpen on harmonica).
Also played in the acoustic set: Candyman, Dire Wolf, Uncle John's Band 
There is also some interesting train footage: Garcia plays Cold Jordan along with Sylvia Tyson - the scene with Danko/Joplin/Garcia/Weir playing Ain't No More Cane is remarkable - and there's a bit of Delaney Bramlett singing Goin' Down the Road, which Garcia would adopt for the Dead a few months later.

7/9/70 (no tape):
possibly Friend of the Devil; Silver Threads And Golden Needle; Cumberland Blues; Dire Wolf; Swing Low Sweet Chariot
(We also don't have an acoustic set from 7/10/70, which is odd since Marty Weinberg taped that show, but that reel seems to have gone missing.)

Dire Wolf, The Rub, How Long Blues, Dark Hollow, Friend Of The Devil, Candyman, Katie Mae, Bring Me My Shotgun > She's Mine, Rosalie McFall, Tell It To Me, Wake Up Little Susie, Cumberland Blues (date switched from 7/12 - "Cumberland Blues" is missing from online copies.)

The Monkey & The Engineer, Don't Ease Me In, I've Been All Around This World, Dark Hollow, Black Peter, El Paso, New Speedway Boogie, So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad), Rosalie McFall, A Voice From On High, Cold Jordan, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (date switched from 7/11)

Don't Ease Me In, Friend Of The Devil, Dire Wolf, Dark Hollow, Candyman, Black Peter, How Long Blues, Deep Elem Blues, Cumberland Blues, New Speedway Boogie
(David Crosby guest on last two songs)

7/30/70 (short Dead acoustic set in NRPS show):
To Lay Me Down (first), Dire Wolf, Candyman, Rosalie McFall, I Hear A Voice Callin', Swing Low Sweet Chariot

8/5/70 (all-acoustic show):
Candyman, El Paso, Rosalie McFall, Cocaine Blues, Drink Up And Go Home, I Hear A Voice Callin', Cold Jordan, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Deep Elem Blues, Dark Hollow, Friend Of The Devil, Mama Tried, To Lay Me Down, Dire Wolf, The Ballad Of Casey Jones

Truckin', Cumberland Blues, New Speedway Boogie, Dire Wolf, Candyman, Swing Low Sweet Chariot (These songs were mentioned in reviews; no tape survives.)
(partial tape): Let Me In; Attics Of My Life; Friend Of The Devil
This tape is a fake - it actually comes from 6/24/70.

Truckin'*, Dire Wolf, Friend Of The Devil, Dark Hollow, Ripple*, Brokedown Palace*, Operator*, Rosalie McFall, New Speedway Boogie, Cold Jordan, Swing Low Sweet Chariot
* - first available recordings. (Also note that Pigpen plays piano on several songs in these two Fillmore West shows, and also in the September Fillmore East shows.)

Monkey & The Engineer, How Long Blues, Friend Of The Devil, Dark Hollow, Candyman, Ripple, Brokedown Palace, Truckin', Cocaine Blues, Rosalie McFall, Wake Up Little Susie, New Speedway Boogie, Cold Jordan, Swing Low Sweet Chariot

Truckin', Monkey And The Engineer, Dark Hollow, Friend Of The Devil, Ripple, Brokedown Palace, Box Of Rain (first), Rosalie McFall, Cold Jordan, Swing Low Sweet Chariot

Truckin', Black Peter (set aborted)

Don't Ease Me In; Candyman; Silver Threads And Golden Needle; Friend Of The Devil; Deep Elem Blues; The Rub; Rosalie McFall; Cumberland Blues; New Speedway Boogie; To Lay Me Down; Cold Jordan; Swing Low Sweet Chariot
(Only the last two songs are available on the Archive - the rest circulated on tape, but is missing online.)

Uncle John's Band, Deep Elem Blues, Friend Of The Devil, Big Railroad Blues, Dark Hollow, Ripple, To Lay Me Down, Truckin', Rosalie McFall, Cumberland Blues, New Speedway Boogie, Brokedown Palace
(David Grisman adds an extra mandolin to several songs)

Candyman, Uncle John's Band, Attics of My Life, Drums and Phil (soundcheck).
Don't Ease Me In, Deep Elem Blues, Dark Hollow, Friend Of The Devil, The Rub, Black Peter, El Paso, Brokedown Palace, Uncle John's Band

Deep Elem Blues, Monkey and the Engineer, Big Railroad Blues, Operator, El Paso, How Long Blues, Ripple, Brokedown Palace, Uncle John's Band

Dire Wolf, I Know You Rider, Dark Hollow, Rosalie McFall, El Paso, Operator, Ripple, Friend Of The Devil, Wake Up Little Susie, Uncle John's Band


  1. An additional note -
    The pedal steel Garcia bought in '69 wasn't his first. He actually had one at 710 Ashbury St. in 1967, when he first thought of trying to play one, but sold it within months.
    Blair Jackson notes - "In a 1967 interview, Garcia talked about bringing both electrified banjo and pedal steel guitar into the Dead within a few months, but neither occurred."
    I think I even saw a photo of Garcia with his pedal steel in '67, but can't find it....

    1. The start of the winter '67 interview at 710 Ashbury -

      Q: So you've left the bluegrass world completely?
      GARCIA: No, I'm re-entering it by way of the electric banjo. My banjo is in the process of being electrified.

      Q: Oh no, I never thought Garcia would go electric banjo!...
      GARCIA: I haven't used it yet cause it's not finished... I don't know how I'm going to use it, but I'm going to use it. I also have another instrument, pedal steel guitar. I've been working on it about a month, and I should be using it with the band within about six weeks. This is just an effort to broaden the scope a little, experiment a little. We're ready to experiment.

      [A random snatch of banjo would be used at the end of the Dark Star single - from an early '60s practice tape - but otherwise, the banjo barely entered the Dead musical universe. Pedal steel, of course, would have to wait three more years!]

  2. Thanks for this fantastic post!

  3. I failed to note in this article -
    The actual pedal-steel debut in the Dead's shows seems to have been 4-26-69.
    The Dead tried to stretch this show out as long as possible, which meant including a couple forgotten oldies -
    First they bring out Minglewood Blues (very rusty, unplayed since 1967!) - there'd be only one more known version of this from 1969.
    Then Garcia switches to pedal steel for Silver Threads - another song unheard since 1966.
    It's interesting that the pedal-steel was even onstage, since I don't think it was used a single other time on that tour! Presumably Garcia was carrying it around for practice....

    1. Not so, he's still on electric guitar in Silver Threads - see the 6/25/19 comment below. He does a great pedal-steel impression on guitar - something he did on a few songs in spring '69, including Green Grass & Friend of Mine. Clearly he had pedal-steel on the brain even before he brought it onstage with the Dead.

    2. 4/26 Threads and also 5/31 Green Grass are definitely pedal steel (and obviously Garcia playing it). On 4/26 the concentration of playing PSG evidently forces him to bail on singing his tenor part on Threads, and Phil steps in. There are some steel licks you can imitate on guitar (especially a B-bender equipped Tele) but you just can't make some of those sounds on a standard-tuned electric guitar.

    3. Thanks for the observation. I wasn't sure myself....his playing in the June '69 pedal-steel numbers is a lot more bendy & pedal-steely. And I had doubts about him pulling out a pedal-steel solo for one single song in the April '69 tour, just two weeks after getting the pedal steel in the first place.

  4. Another addition to the pedal-steel story -
    I forgot to mention that one of Garcia's friends, Peter Grant, was also a pedal steel player, and actually played one on Doin' That Rag in Aoxomoxoa.
    So it's pretty likely he helped Garcia with his playing....
    (Grant can also be heard as a banjo guest in the 6/28/69 show, as mentioned above.)

    1. I failed to notice it before, but Peter Grant actually plays pedal steel on Doin' That Rag in the 6/28/69 show as well!

  5. loved reading your excellent essay while listening to 9/20/70 acoustic, possibly my favorite one.

  6. This is pretty amazing ... a lot to digest!

    Do you have references for the quotes? I am particularly looking for a reference to the quote in which Jerry refers to himself as a music junkie.


  7. I would have put more work into this essay if I'd known it would be so popular.... I mean, it's OK as it is, but there's always more details that could be added.

    Most of my quotes come from Blair Jackson's Garcia book - since it's lamentably not footnoted, I don't know where most of them originated.
    The quote you refer to, though, comes from page 73 of Signpost to New Space... (The essential Garcia interview, really; I draw from it all the time.)
    They're talking about Garcia making a solo album, and he says: "I'm not trying to have my own career or anything like that. 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 have to keep my end up in order to take care of my part of the Grateful Dead. So rather than sit home and practice scales and stuff - which I do when I'm together enough to do it - I go out and play, because playing music is more enjoyable to me than sitting home and playing scales.... I hope to do a few gigs with Howard [Wales - the interview was in summer '71.] I love an opportunity to go out and play... A bar's just like the perfect opportunity to get loose and play all night, or whatever's comfortable. With guys that are good players, Merle or Howard or anything, it's always a complete open jam scene."

  8. A few additional comments -

    First, I'd like to recommend an article from Acoustic Guitar magazine on the Dead's acoustic side - well-told, lots of quotes:

    Pete Grant also tells a story on his website about Garcia's pedal-steel infatuation:
    "Before the Grateful Dead or even the Warlocks, Jerry and I were driving in his Corvair up from Palo Alto to Berkeley to see the Kentucky Colonels play. 'Together Again' came on the radio (by Buck Owens), with that memorable solo by Tom Brumley. [First released in Feb '64.] We both listened in reverent awe, and said, 'Man, we gotta learn pedal steel.' Between the two of us, I was the first to get a steel and start playing, and that's how I ended up playing on Aoxomoxoa. When Jerry came back from a tour [in '69] with a brand-new ZB Custom double-10 pedal steel, he absolutely immersed himself in the instrument. I remember going over to his house to see it. He had me playing guitar as soon as I walked in the door, and singing every song I knew, so he could boink around and play backups and solos. Later that day, I showed him some things that I had discovered on the steel, including parts of 'Together Again'. He got good real fast and had a wonderfully unique style."

    In '85, Guitar Player magazine had an interview with Garcia about playing acoustic -

    Q: Why has the Grateful dead limited its acoustic sets?
    Garcia: I don’t know. I think Weir doesn’t feel comfortable playing acoustic music. I personally would like to do it more often. Bob doesn’t seem to like to do it very much, so we don’t press it. If anybody feels even a little negative about something, we don’t do it.

    Q: How did the Grateful Dead’s 1980 acoustic sets come about?
    Garcia: I just thought it would be a good idea. We tried it, and it was fun. The technology came into place too. That was one of the reasons we didn’t do it for so long — we used to try it with microphones, and it really didn’t work. It’s much easier now that they have made vast improvements in amplified acoustic instruments. The audience liked it a lot. The combination of drums, electric bass, and acoustic guitars is a really nice sound. In the ‘60s, there was a great-sounding band called Pentangle with those two good English fingerpickers, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. They had a tasty jazz drummer who played brushes, an excellent acoustic bass player, and a lady who sang in a sort of madrigal, English voice. It was a lovely band that sounded great onstage. We played a lot of shows with them, and I thought that combination of two acoustic guitars and a standard rhythm section had a lot of possibilities. (the second interview)

    And more on Pentangle here -

  9. I've wanted to go into more detail about the mysterious 6/11/69 show, their first (and only) full-blown "country show", and the first combined Dead/New Riders show.

    McNally notes that it was a Scientology benefit. (Constanten was part of that crowd, and had been trying to convert Weir, but Weir decided not to lean that way, and this show was his "goodbye to scientology".) Constanten played piano and apparently Peter Grant joined on banjo as well.

    Here's a brief look at the other songs they did that night, in no particular order:
    A couple songs were from Buck Owens, a huge influence on the Dead's country sound -
    Tiger By The Tail they only played once (presumably Weir sang, as it's in his style, but this is one of the Buckaroos songs the New Riders played as well).
    Sawmill they probably got from the Buckaroos version; they did it a few more times in 1970 (also with the New Riders).
    Slewfoot - a common traditional; Buck Owens recorded it later, so likely played it live in the '60s. It was also covered by Porter Wagoner, another important influence - the Dead also did Porter's song Let Me In a few times in '69/70, and later on, Tomorrow Is Forever (which he did with Dolly Parton).
    Let It Be Me, All I Have To Do Is Dream, Cathy's Clown - from the Everly Brothers. (The Dead would later do Wake Up Little Susie lots of times, Cathy's Clown once more - also untaped! - and So Sad To Watch Good Love Go Bad once - barely taped.)
    Silver Threads & Golden Needles - a country traditional, most familiar from Wanda Jackson or the Springfields (though the Everlys also did it).
    The Race Is On - George Jones. Weir was especially fond of George, also singing his songs Old Old House and Seasons of My Heart in a few other shows in '69.
    Mama Tried - Merle Haggard.
    Games People Play - Joe South.
    Green Grass of Home - another common country song; Merle Haggard and Porter Wagoner were among the ones who'd covered it.
    Me & My Uncle - a bunch of people were doing this; Weir got this one from the folk circuit.
    Wabash Cannonball - an old song, done by the Carter Family in the '20s, though Roy Acuff's version was the famous one.
    Railroading On the Great Divide - another old Carter Family tune, though the Dead likely got it from the New Lost City Ramblers.
    I've Just Seen A Face - the Beatles. (A totally left-field choice!)
    Dire Wolf - the only original the Dead played in that show, it was actually brand-new, the first of the Dead's own "country songs".

    1. I don't think I really noticed before, but it's quite likely that Weir sang all the songs on 6/11/69 (including Dire Wolf) - after all, it was billed as a "Bobby Ace" show. John Dawson would probably have done most the harmony singing, as in later New Riders shows. Garcia was most likely on pedal steel throughout.

      Dave Nelson is always said to have been among the players, but he didn't remember it later on. From his interview with Dead Relix (3:1, Jan/Feb '76) -
      "I was never in Bobby Ace and the Cards off the Bottom. And in fact, I don't even know what that was, actually. I think it was just before the Riders were formed... Around 1969, Jerry was into learning how to play pedal steel, and people were into coming down to Grateful Dead gigs, like Pete Grant, he was there too. And they used to put these impromptu bands on, and one of them was Mickey Hart and the Hartbeats, and another was Bobby Ace and the Cards, they were whoever arrived... I never did any of those. Some New Riders gigs they called 'Bobby Ace and the Cards off the Bottom,' when Weir would come and play with us... Bobby would come out and do Sawmill, Mama Tried, The Race Is On, Seasons of My Heart, Green Green Grass of Home, and Cathy's Clown."

      Most of those songs were done on 6/11/69 (Seasons & Sawmill weren't in the repertoire yet). It's possible there was a New Riders set as well, so Nelson saw the "Bobby Ace" show as just an extension of the Riders.

  10. In mentioning Garcia on pedal steel, what about Garcia dragging it out during I'll Be Your Baby Tonight at the Dylan/Dead shows?
    I remember at a show in 1993 (or 1994) where I convinced myself that pedal steel should have been used in Corinna.

  11. Just remembered to mention here - the "8/17/70" fragment linked in this list is a fake - it's actually from our tape of 6/24/70. Nothing from 8/17/70 exists.

  12. In my March '11 post on the Hartbeats, July 1970, I showed that our tape of "8/5/70 San Diego" can't be from San Diego, but is likely from a San Francisco club show.

    It's unknown whether 8/5/70 was actually an acoustic show.

  13. I'm sure there was an acoustic set on 8/17/70. I'd say that most likely, several of the new songs that "debuted" on the 18th (Truckin; Ripple; Brokedown; Operator) were probably played on the 17th.

  14. There definitely was an acoustic set on 8/17/70. I have a partial setlist in one of the comments of the "Missing 1970 Shows" post.
    (I don't always remember to revise a show correction that appears in multiple posts!)

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  16. Since we are talking pedal steel here, can someone please check out the first track of GD 7/3/69 in Colorado Springs (Green Green Grass of Home) and let me know if there are *two* steel players here?

  17. Now that you mention it, I think there's just one pedal steel in the 7/3/69 Green Grass>Slewfoot. If there was a second guy, Garcia doesn't leave any room for him! The keyboards, though (a different tone than usual for Constanten), mingle with the pedal steel in Green Grass.

  18. That 5/31/69 Green Grass of Home does not feature the pedal steel. Jerry's doing some badass country licks, but he's playing the straight up electric guitar. I'm almost sure of it.
    I've always loved this version of this song. The weird baby sound, and the cowboy poetry.... Just terrific.

    1. I think you're right! Remarkable how he's making it sound like a pedal steel. It's also similar to his "Friend of Mine" style.

    2. Yes, the Friend of Mine is wonderful too. I LOVE THIS SHOW! Even the Dark Star kind of has a country pace to it.

      By the way, thank you so much for this exhaustive and incredible body of work. These essays are very, very much appreciated. I play the pedal steel and found this site because it was exactly what I was looking for--specific documentation of Jerry's pedal steel exploits w/ the Dead. what a treasure!

    3. I really like this N.R.P.S. show from 9/18/69 as an example of where Jerry was at with the pedal steel in 69'.They do excellent (while a little sloppy) versions of The Weight,Mighty Quinn and Games People Play,with some heartfelt back-up vocals from Jerry.His playing has a very nice sort of loopy flow to it.

  19. Thanks for pointing out the NRPS 9/18/69 show; it's the only NRPS tape from 1969 available on the Archive, so it illustrates the earliest sound of the band.
    For me, NRPS is hard to take at the best of times, and this show I found hideously bad - the band was much tighter by the next available tape in May 1970. (By then, they had a new bass player, more practiced drumming, & more prominent electric-guitar playing from Nelson. I'm not sure Nelson's even in the Sep '69 show, and my guess is the bassist is a very rudimentary Bob Matthews.)
    It appears early NRPS was more of a showcase for Garcia's pedal-steel playing, as he goes into solo after solo. It's also unique for his harmony vocals - much sloppier than in the Dead. Probably he stopped doing those because he usually has to pause on the pedal steel in order to sing.

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  21. Just a small correction: As to the 1969 acoustic sets being Garcia-Weir only, I for one hear drums on the 12/26/69 "Uncle John's Band." I will listen some more and see whether I notice any other Grateful Dead members rearing their heads during 1969 acoustic sets.

    1. Thanks for the correction; on 12/26/69, Bill Kreutzmann arrives on stage right before Uncle John's Band, and it sounds like Garcia & Weir ask him to play; Weir also asks Mickey to play congas. I think there is faint bass through the song too, so this would be pretty much a full-band performance, though very ramshackle.
      I believe April 1970 is when we start getting consistent bass & drum accompaniment in the acoustic sets.

      Also - remarkably, 4/18/70 is going to be released on vinyl next month. It was recently discovered among Garcia's tapes, it seems; so we'll finally get to hear one of those Family Dog acoustic sets (and a Pigpen solo mini-set)!

    2. That is a dream come true. Will there be a CD or download release as well?

      P.S. I also hear drums on the 12/26/69 "Black Peter."

    3. Yes! Per Rolling Stone, it will be released on CD as well, via I hope they don't make it limited edition.

  22. Definitely three voices on the 12/26/69 "Uncle John's Band," so Phil must be involved if only as vocalist (though I can't imagine he wouldn't be playing bass as well).

  23. Per, the 6/11/69 show included one musician not mentioned above in connection with that particular show -- Peter Grant on pedal steel:

  24. To my ear, on the 9/17/70 "BoxOf Rain," that's not Jerry on pedal steel but David Nelson on pull string electric guitar (such as the kind Clarence White played: For one thing, the solo sounds like Nelson's solo on the American Beauty recording of the song. For another, it does not sound like Jerry's pedal steel sound. My hunch is Jerry's on piano, as on the studio version.

    1. I think you are right, Nelson is duplicating the studio solo. (Though, given the tape quality, it's almost inaudible!) Deadlists suggested that there was pedal steel & fiddle in this song, but listening now, I don't hear either. Pigpen was capable of playing the piano for this song (as in other acoustic songs)...however that would leave the question, what was Garcia doing?

    2. Remarkably, I found a Garcia interview where he talks about this very performance of Box of Rain.
      The interviewer asks about Dave Grisman playing mandolin on 'Ripple.'
      Garcia: "The way it happened the first time was we did live versions, while we were working on American Beauty, when we first started to perform that material before the record came out. We were in the Fillmore East for a stretch, and Dave Grisman and Dave Nelson were both there, so I had them both come out. See, Grisman does twin parts...on 'Ripple,' a double mandolin part. So, Grisman just taught Nelson the second part. We had the actual full thing, twin mandolins and everything, and we were able to do 'Ripple' with the original instrumentation on the record. And also 'Box of Rain.' We were able to do 'Box of Rain' with the original instrumentation on the record. Me playing piano, Dave Nelson playing guitar. That was really fun."
      (from Swing 51, # 7, 1983)

    3. I found another interview where Garcia & Grisman talk about this Fillmore East run!

      Q: You played at some Dead shows too, at the time?
      Garcia: Yeah, back at the Fillmore East.
      Grisman: I sat in with them once or twice.
      Garcia: We even did a kind of re-creation of that album [American Beauty]. We played the acoustic instruments, and I even used different guitars on different songs - something I never do onstage.
      (Jeffrey Rodgers, Rock Troubadours; Garcia/Grisman interview from fall '93 for Acoustic Guitar magazine)

      They're talking about the 9/20/70 acoustic show, where Grisman plays mandolin with David Nelson on several songs.
      It's particularly intriguing to hear Garcia mention that he used different guitars on different songs - I don't think he's just referring to switching between acoustic & electric. Along with playing piano for a couple songs (Box of Rain on 9/17, To Lay Me Down on 9/19-20), Garcia may have been adventurous enough in this run to try different guitars as he'd done in the studio.

      Though I hadn't mentioned it in these comments before, the 5/15/70 CD release has a picture of the acoustic set where you can see a Stratocaster propped up behind Garcia. Garcia was playing a Gibson SG in the electric sets that month - and I don't think it's Dave Nelson's guitar either - so it's possible that Garcia may have continued using the Strat in the acoustic sets for its country-twang sound.

    4. One audience member on 9/17/70 (Gary Lambert, I think) recalled: "During the acoustic set that night, they performed "Box of Rain." First time I ever heard it...I know it was the only time I ever saw them perform it THIS way - in the same configuration as on "American Beauty," which they'd started recording just weeks before: Phil on acoustic guitar and lead vocal; David Nelson on lead guitar; Dave Torbert on bass; Jerry on piano; and Weir not playing an instrument, just standing at a mic and singing harmony (the drummers were in their customary places). You can hear on the not-very-good recording of that set that the solo is Nelson, pretty much as he played it on the record, and the piano sounds exactly like what Jerry did on the studio track as well."

    5. The Rolling Stone article on 8/17/70 reports that midway through the acoustic set, "Jerry switched to his Fender." So I think it's likely that Garcia did bring a Strat onstage just for the acoustic sets that year, rather than using his Gibson.

  25. I should mention that Hart & Kreutzmann seem to have alternated drumming for the acoustic sets - sometimes it's just Mickey, sometimes just Bill. There was a partial list in some blog comments somewhere of who was the drummer in various dates, but I can't remember where that was...

  26. A small correction:

    I wrote in this article, "Garcia brings out the acoustic again on 6/20/69, which has an unusual Lovelight in which Garcia takes an acoustic guitar solo in the middle of the song! (It also features a rare Pigpen organ solo.)"
    This Lovelight was identified as 6/20/69 on the Taper's Section, but it turns out it's the same as the 6/21/69 Fillmore East Lovelight we have on the Archive -
    (Not sure why the Vault copy would be misdated, since the Archive tape is said to come straight from Latvala's copy of Bear's cassette.)
    16 minutes in, during the middle of Pigpen's rap, Garcia solos on acoustic guitar for about a minute - a very distinctive & unique moment. (A little later, Weir is playing electric by himself for a while, til Garcia returns to electric.)
    Near the beginning of Lovelight, where there would usually be a Garcia-led jam, Garcia drops out for a while and there's an unusually long organ solo. Don't know why I thought it was Pigpen, but it's almost certainly Constanten.

    1. Another great article. I cracked up over this:

      "6/21/69 has many notable tunes - they open with Green Grass, after which Garcia says, "There will be a brief pause while we allow you to consider these new developments." "

      Hilarious! Garcia having a little fun with the people that came to see the primal fire-breathing monster that they were just a month or so ago.

  27. More details on the newly-released 4/18/70 acoustic set are here:

    To summarize what I've found about the drummers:
    "Through the year, Bill & Mickey would alternate drumming for the acoustic sets, seemingly at random. For instance, Mickey was the acoustic drummer on 4/10, 4/18, 5/15, 7/14/70 & possibly one of the July '70 Fillmore East dates - and Bill on 6/5, 7/4, 8/17 & 8/19/70...other dates have yet to be investigated."

  28. Part of the 6/6/60 Fillmore West acoustic set has come into circulation, from Charlie Miller's collection. Unfortunately his tape is incomplete, only the first four songs: Don't Ease Me In, Frozen Logger (a couple verses), Friend of the Devil, & Candyman - the last four songs are still missing.
    (Frozen Logger actually got played a few times in summer '70, though usually it was just a short tease.)

    The 6/4/70 Fillmore West acoustic set has also been made available in a couple versions on the Archive since this post was written - an SBD (from the Taper's Section), and a complete AUD...and even a matrix.

  29. Any idea why the 2/28 acoustic set was so short?

    ps - I love your posts man, I read this one almost everyday

    1. Thanks - I wish I'd done this one better! It was one of my earlier essays, and could use some updating...

      Anyway, on 2/28 after Black Peter, Garcia makes some complaint about his guitar, and Weir says, "I can't get this in tune either...can't hear what I'm playing." Then Garcia announces they're going back to electric. So I think perhaps monitor problems cut the acoustic set short that night (and they didn't do an acoustic set the next night).

  30. I finally updated this post with many corrections & additions from the comments.

  31. I first saw the Dead in November '69 at the Family Dog with the New Riders. I would swear that the Dead did an acoustic set before the NRPS set, but it was a long time ago and I was tripping my brains out. I might be just morphing different shows I saw at that time together in my memories.

    1. Probably it was different shows, but hard to say...
      The Dead played a few sets of shows at the Family Dog in that period - the most relevant being:
      August 28-30, '69 - New Riders opened, but no acoustic sets.
      November 1-2, '69 - Danny Cox & Golden Toad opened, but no New Riders - they could easily have showed up unbilled, so that's a small possibility; but they aren't known to have opened for the Dead in fall '69 - and no acoustic sets.
      Feb 27-March 1, '70 - Commander Cody opened; one show had an acoustic set.
      April 17-19, '70 - The Dead definitely played acoustic shows with NRPS; in fact there were apparently no 'electric' sets at these shows.

  32. In the new interview book Jerry on Jerry, Garcia talks at length about getting a pedal steel in '69:
    "It was something I had wanted to do for years, really. Because I wanted to get into pedal steel back when I was playing the banjo. I was attracted to the sound of it on records. 'Now there is a snappy sounding instrument; that fucker really sings.' ...I always loved the sound of it, and I wanted for years to get one and play one right. I had one, actually, in Ashbury for the longest time. An old cable one. But I didn't have the slightest idea of how to set it up or tune it or anything. So it just sat around and I fucked with it a little bit. I couldn't make any sense of it; it was just totally senseless... And then [in 1969] we went to a music store in Denver, and there was a completely strung-up, tuned-up, nicely put together, set-up and everything, pedal steel - you know, state-of-the-art ten-stringer, with two necks and everything. And I sat down at it, and I played with the pedals a little bit, and I fooled with the tuning... And I said, 'Oh, I see!' - suddenly I finally started to understand a little of the sense of it, the tuning and the way it worked... So I said, 'I want to buy this fuckin' thing, but can you send it to me with it in tune - cause I'll never remember this tuning.' So they packed it up and sent it to me in tune. I took it out and unpacked it, and sure enough - it was really the thing of discovering that I could relate to it." (p.203-205)

  33. I know nothing much about Grateful Dead (everybody swoon in to a dead faint) however, my son is a big fan. I found today at a yard sale for a $1 and album Grateful Dead, acoustic dead.
    GRATEFUL DEAD -Acoustic Dead
    Side one: Don’t ease me in, Direwolf, Friends of the Devil, I know you Rider, Deep Water
    Side two: Lodi, Poor Boy, Race is on, Mama Tried, Me and my Uncle.

    There's very little ID on the album cover, white and a 'red' image of the band, similar on the back with the listing side one and side two. On the record itself, it doesn't list the titles but rather, a plain white, with 'side one' and 'side two' - can't find a thing on Google. Any insights?

    1. That's this bootleg album from 1970:

      The music is from the acoustic & New Riders sets at Harpur College 5/2/70.

    2. For an in-depth look at the Grateful Dead bootleg LP world of the early '70s, check out this post (it has another picture of your bootleg) -

  34. Thank you so much. I figured it must have been something like a bootleg. What a random thing to find at a yard sale! Is it worth hanging on to or trash?

    1. Well, the Dead show has been released (Dick's Picks 8), and the New Riders set is also available online, so the record is just a curio now. Possibly some old vinyl bootleg collector might want it...or future yard-sale browsers!

  35. Thanks again. My cover isn't nearly as 'fancy' as the one shown. It's literally that red picture, Grateful Dead, lower case acoustic dead - that's it!

  36. I did find my one on that first link you sent me, a buyer has it listed as wanted to buy. I don't see anywhere on here that I can send you the pictures of the cover.

  37. I originally wrote that Garcia played pedal steel on the 4/26/69 Silver Threads & Golden Needles.
    I've changed my mind - now I think he's on electric guitar, but doing a remarkable imitation of the pedal steel. (A trick he'd do again on the 5/31/69 Green Grass of Home.)

    I added a note to the post from Lost Live Dead, adding details about Garcia's 1969 pedal-steel purchase at Guitar City in Lakewood, Colorado. It's said that Rusty Young was "one of the steel guitar teachers in the store [and] gave Garcia some advice about which steel guitar to buy."

    Rusty Young was indeed a teacher in the store - he recalled, "In Denver, Colorado, there was a place called Don Edwards’ Guitar City and that was the hub in the Midwest for steel guitar players. I actually signed on as a guitar teacher when the store was in the basement of Don Edwards’ house, but eventually he got an actual store and I gave guitar lessons and sold guitars there. And it was a great environment, because steel players from all over would come there... Everybody who came through [Denver] looked forward to coming to Don Edwards’ shop because he had the pedal steel stuff, and he even made his own pedal steel guitars."

    However, I'm not sure he was actually there when Garcia visited. Poco had formed in Los Angeles in late 1968 and were already touring and recording their first album:
    It's possible Young might have popped back into his old workplace in April '69 between California tour dates, but it would be quite a coincidence.

    1. Disagree: that is unmistakably pedal steel on the 4/26/69 Silver Threads.

    2. 4/26 Threads and also 5/31 Green Grass are definitely pedal steel. You just can't make some of those sounds on a standard-tuned electric guitar. Hard To Handle and Hurts Me Too are contemporaneous examples of his bottleneck electric guitar, but on 7/11 he actually plays Hard To Handle on the pedal steel.

    3. Interesting observations. I went back & forth on that myself, but his playing in the 4/26 Silver Threads & the 5/31 Green Grass doesn't sound quite like his actual pedal-steel playing from June '69 either. They're a lot closer to his style in He Was A Friend of Mine at the time, which no one has suggested was done on pedal steel.

  38. As mentioned above, in 1970 Mickey and Bill alternated as the solo drummer in the acoustic sets. The dates I've figured out so far:

    4/3/70 - Mickey
    4/10/70 - Mickey
    4/18/70 - Mickey
    5/2/70 - Bill
    5/15/70 - Mickey
    6/5/70 - Bill
    7/4/70 - Bill
    7/9?/70 - Mickey
    7/14/70 - Mickey
    8/17/70 - Bill
    8/19/70 - Bill
    11/6/70 - Bill

    Not sure if it was settled by coin toss, switching every other show, or what. Offhand I don't know if any of the 1970 acoustic sets feature both drummers; but outside of these sets the Dead almost never used just one drummer when they had two.

    1. I've gathered some more info on the acoustic drummers in early 1970:

      3/21/70 - Mickey (mentioned as percussionist on UJB)
      4/3/70 - Mickey
      4/10/70 - Mickey (rest of run unknown)
      4/18/70 - Mickey
      4/24/70 - ?
      5/1/70 - Mickey
      5/2/70 - Bill
      5/7/70 - Bill
      5/14/70 - Bill
      5/15/70 (early) - Mickey
      6/4/70 - Mickey
      6/5/70 - Bill
      6/6/70 - Mickey
      6/7/70 - Bill
      6/24/70 - ? (possibly Mickey in early show)
      7/4/70 - Bill
      7/9?/70 - Mickey (mentioned in review; rest of run unknown, but one undated photo shows Bill)
      7/14/70 - Mickey
      8/17/70 - Bill
      8/18/70 - ?
      8/19/70 - Bill

      Offhand, I don't recall drums being used in the earlier Feb/March '70 acoustic sets except for percussion in Uncle John's Band.
      I don't have extra info for the fall acoustic sets yet, but I'm pretty sure the drummers simply alternated shows through the year.

    2. A bit more on the July '70 acoustic-set drummers:
      7/4/70 - Bill, confirmed by video
      7/8/70 - unknown
      The first two Fillmore East sets unknown.
      7/11/70 (the "So Sad" set) - one listener reports that Mickey is called by name (this may also be the set with Mickey mentioned in a newspaper review)
      7/12/70 (the Pigpen-medley set) - presumably Bill
      7/14/70 - Mickey (the Dec '70 Pasadena radio DJ remembers him in the acoustic set)
      No acoustic set known for 7/16.
      7/30/70 - Mickey is addressed by name
      "8/5/70" - the drumming is so different from the same songs on 7/30, I think it's Bill.

    3. A couple corrections!
      - although someone talks to Mickey in the 7/30/70 set, it appears he was offstage and not playing - Bill's on drums. Mickey's playing drums in the "8/5/70" set.
      - I thought Mickey was the sole drummer in the 4/3/70 acoustic set since there's a photo of him that date, but Garcia says after Friend of the Devil, "The drummers are having a hard time hearing up here." I think this is the first acoustic set with more than occasional percussion, so it seems they started out with having two drummers as usual, but by the next week decided to drop to one drummer for the acoustic songs.

    4. - and, whoops, a Fillmore east labeling mistake - 7/11/70 was the acoustic set with the Pigpen songs, 7/12 had So Sad.
      On 7/11 they tell the audience, "Mickey's tom-tom broke."

    5. September '70: It appears to be Bill on drums on the 9/18 & 9/20 Fillmore East acoustic sets, which suggests that it's Mickey on the (less audible) 9/17 & 9/19 audience tapes.
      In the Nov '70 Capitol run, Jesse Jarnow's show notes suggest possibly Mickey on 11/6 & Bill on 11/7, but not certain. Bill is the acoustic drummer in a photo dated 11/6/70, so if they alternated each night that suggests Mickey on 11/7 & Bill on 11/8. Not positive yet, but as Garcia said in the 11/6 acoustic set, "Listen more carefully!"

  39. I am jealous and sad they never played High Time live acoustic...unless someone can point me..I think that would have been marvelous.

  40. Thank you so much for this blog! Just wanted to say, Garcia was definitely playing his strat during the last few tunes of the 5/2 Harpur College acoustic set. The tone of the guitar is very clearly a single coil guitar and distinctly different from his tone in the electric set.

    1. Yes, I suspect he used the Strat for the acoustic sets through the year.

  41. Re-posting this comment from elsewhere so it'll be easier to find:

    The instrumentation of the two unique To Lay Me Downs on 9/19 and 9/20/70 is intriguing and mysterious - it sounds to me like the Dead with an extremely rare three-keyboard setup.
    There's Garcia on piano, Weir on tremolo'd guitar, Pigpen on organ (he's actually more audible on the 9/19 AUD), and somebody on what sounds like electric piano playing mostly high notes (or it could be a guitar with some effect on it?). I'm baffled by who the extra player is...there are few candidates. On keyboard, it could even be David Grisman (who played organ for the Rowan Brothers), otherwise another electric guitarist would probably be Nelson.

    From these versions, I believe they may have tried this arrangement in the studio as well, on outtakes we haven't heard. A singular setup like this is a lot of trouble to go to for just one song, and it's obviously well-rehearsed with everyone playing very minimally, so I suspect they were repeating a lost studio version.
    (See Garcia's quotes in the 10/28/13 comment above, that in this run they were able to recreate the original studio instrumentation on the American Beauty songs such as Ripple & Box of Rain.)
    But other theories are welcome!

  42. I don't think I mentioned it earlier, but there are a couple other bands that probably influenced the Dead in doing acoustic sets.
    One, of course, would be their friends Crosby Stills Nash & Young, who were regularly dividing their shows between acoustic & electric sets from summer '69 onwards.
    But also, the Rolling Stones in their '69 tour had a little acoustic interlude of a couple blues songs in the middle of their rock & roll show. The Dead would have seen this at Oakland in Nov '69, and while I don't think it lit any bells for them, it's interesting that when they started doing regular acoustic mini-sets in Feb '70, it was in the same format of electric/acoustic/electric shows. So at the time, they must have thought that arrangement worked; it took them a couple more months to separate the acoustic portion into its own opening set like CSNY.

  43. Attics debuted on 5/14, not 5/24. Sometimes I think they shouldn't put numbers in a row on keyboards.