September 4, 2012

How Keith Joined

On September 17, 1971, Pigpen went into the hospital, seriously ill and near death. The Dead were faced with a dilemma - just a month later, a midwest tour was to start in Minneapolis. Would they go on without a keyboard player? The decision was made quickly. From September 28, we have our first tape of their rehearsals with Keith Godchaux.
What happened in between?

From the Dead's perspective, Godchaux came out of nowhere. They had several other keyboard players they had been working with, who could have joined:
Ned Lagin had played on American Beauty, and guested with them at the Berkeley shows in August '71, along with several other '71 shows and backstage experiments. But as far as we know, he wasn't considered, or turned them down.
He mentions in his interview with Gans, "That fall I went back to Boston for graduate school. Brandeis gave me a fellowship that included all expenses, plus recording tape and all sorts of stuff to work with in their electronic music studio." Many college students wouldn't think twice between the option of another year at school or joining the Grateful Dead; but Lagin was on his own path. (Ironically, he became unhappy with Brandeis and soon dropped out, to resurface on a later Dead tour...)

Merl Saunders, of course, was playing with Garcia all the time, plus he had done studio overdubs on several songs for the Dead's 1971 live album that summer. But if they asked him, he was not interested. In later interviews, he sounds like he preferred the independence & freedom to work on his own projects.
When he was asked why he hadn't joined the band in 1990, he said, "I've always done my own thing. Before the Dead, I was working with Lionel Hampton, Muhammad Ali, Miles Davis. Why would I want to work in the Dead and just be the way they worked?" He was proud of doing music theater: "During the late '60s, I was doing a Broadway play in New York at the George Abbott Theatre. I was musical director for...Muhammad Ali. So those are the things that if I was with the Grateful Dead, I couldn't do. I played with Miles Davis for about a year. The Lionel Hampton Band. Did a lot of recording with Harry Belafonte and Lena Horne. I wanted to be myself and go the direction I wanted. Although I did record with the Dead. But when they asked me to come in and do their thing — to join them — I didn't really want to join the band. When it's Grateful Dead time you have to do a Grateful Dead thing."
His associations with these other people may have been very brief in real life, but it should be noted he was much prouder of his work with them than any work he could have done with the Dead.

Howard Wales had also played on several songs on American Beauty, and had jammed with the band back in '69, and had a close personal connection with Garcia - although he hadn't played the Matrix club dates with Garcia for a year. The Dead even planned to play a benefit with him at the Harding Theater on September 3-4, 1971:

It's not known whether this benefit actually happened (probably not). But McNally tells the story of Wales auditioning with the Dead around this time. Weir (no doubt rolling his eyes) recalled: "We spurred him towards new heights of weirdness and he spurred us towards new heights of weirdness...much too weird much too quick...everybody backed off, scratched their head and said, 'Well, maybe, uh, next incarnation.'"
Apparently Wales's free-flowing weirdness, which Garcia enjoyed fitting into, was a bit too strong for a band that was now more focused on shorter 'normal' songs. Garcia would soon get the chance to play some more with Wales in the January '72 east-coast tour supporting the Hooteroll release. (I would imagine Lesh might also have liked to play with Wales more - back in '69 he had complained to Constanten: "Phil pointedly remarked how much he preferred Howard Wales's playing when he sat in with the band.")
On the other hand, from Wales' perspective, the Dead might have been a little too big for him. He had apparently stopped playing at the Matrix when too many people started coming to see Garcia! John Kahn remembered, "One night there were a lot of people out there, and Howard realized that that's not what he wanted to do, and he stopped doing it." Garcia also said, "Howard went off...periodically he gets this thing of where he just can't deal with the music world any more, and he just disappears."

Of course there were plenty of other keyboard players around San Francisco who might have auditioned. It was Godchaux, though, who showed up at just the right moment and grabbed the baton.
Keith & Donna Godchaux, who'd married in November 1970 shortly after her first Dead show, were both already Dead fans. Donna had gone to the 10/4/70 Winterland show (drug-free), taken by some deadhead friends, and had quite an experience. As she said in a Relix interview, "The Grateful Dead came on, and it was more than music...I just could not even believe it. I had not taken anything, and I was just blown away." She told Blair Jackson, "I couldn't sleep that night because I was so excited. I kept thinking, 'What did they do? How did they do that?' They weave a spell. There's this whole mystical energy that happens when you see the Grateful Dead and you're ready to receive it. I was ready to receive it, and I got it. So every opportunity, every rumor that we heard that they might be playing, there we were... We'd all go see the Dead together, or at the very least get together and listen to Dead records."
One of these friends of friends turned out to be Keith, who was also in these Dead listening parties. As he said in the Book of the Dead in '72, "I first saw them play with a bunch of my old lady's friends who were real Grateful Dead freaks. I went to a concert with them and saw something I didn't know could be really happening... It was not like a mind-blowing far out, just beautiful far out. Not exactly a choir of angels, but some incredibly holy, pure and beautiful spiritual light. From then on I was super turned-on that such a thing existed. This was about a year and a half ago, when I first met Donna... I knew I was related to them."

As it happened, they were introduced almost simultaneously to the Dead and to each other, and soon married. Getting connected with the Dead took a little longer, but surprisingly, in hindsight neither of them had any doubt it would happen.
Donna: "I had a dream that it was supposed to happen. It was the direction our lives had to go in. The only direction."
Keith: "It had to happen. I knew it had to happen because I had a vision... Flash: go talk to Garcia... I wasn't thinking about playing with them before the flash. I didn't even try to figure out what the flash was...I just followed it, not knowing what was going to happen. I wasn't playing with anyone else before that. Just playing cocktail lounges and clubs."

He played jazz piano & cocktail music in a Walnut Creek club, but was just starting to get into rock & roll. As Donna said, "Keith would practice his rock & roll piano at home, and I was basically supporting the two of us." He'd had no rock experience at all, and apparently listened to little rock music. Though he'd played with small jazz bands before, he was tired of bar gigs: "When other kids my age were going to dances and stuff, I was going to bars and playing... I was completely burned out on that. Then I floated for about six months, and then ended up playing with the Grateful Dead."
He'd played piano in club bands since he was 14: "I spent two years wearing dinner jackets and playing acoustic piano in country club bands and Dixieland groups... I also did piano bar gigs and put trios together to back singers in various places around the Bay Area...[playing] cocktail standards like Misty the way jazz musicians resentfully play a song that's popular - that frustrated space... I just wasn't into it... I was looking for something real to get involved with - which wouldn't necessarily be music." (Getting a job was out of the question: "I could never see working during the day, and nobody would hire me for anything, anyway.")
Considering what he would play later, it's surprising that when his jazz trio went "in the Chick Corea direction," Keith decided "I didn't really have any feeling for that type of music," and instead listened to big-band jazz, Bill Evans, and bebop: "the musicians the guys I was playing with were emulating... After gigs we'd go to somebody's house and listen to jazz until the sun came up. They dug turning me on to bebop and where it came from. So I understood those roots, but I never got taken on that kind of trip with rock and roll - and I never had the sense to take myself on it."
Until he met Donna, who turned him on to rock & roll. He sighed in '76, "I'm just now starting to learn about the type of music I'm playing now... I never played rock and roll before I started playing with the Grateful Dead." (Shades of Constanten!)
The interesting thing is that when he saw the Dead, he thought they needed more energy: "When I'd heard them play a couple of times, they really got me off; I was really high. But there were still a lot of ups and downs. Like [they] didn't quite have the strength to pull the load..."

As far as I know, all the accounts of Keith's joining the Dead come from Donna's story - as told to Blair Jackson for the Golden Road magazine in 1985. The turning point came during a visit to their friends Pete & Carol (who had introduced them and turned them on to the Dead, and so played a hidden part in Dead history).
"One day I came home from work and we went over to Pete's and he said, 'Let's listen to some Grateful Dead.' And Keith said, 'I don't want to listen to it. I want to play it.' And it was like, 'Yeahhh! That's it!' We were just so high and in love! We said to Pete & Carol, 'Hey guys, we're going to play with the Grateful Dead!' And we really believed it. We had no doubt.
We went home, looked in the paper and saw that Garcia's band was playing at the Keystone, so we went down, of course. At the break, Garcia walked by going backstage, so I grabbed him and said, 'Jerry, my husband and I have something very important to talk to you about.' And he said, 'Sure.'
...I didn't realize that everyone does that to him. So Garcia told us to come backstage, but we were both too scared, so we didn't. A few minutes later, Garcia came up and sat next to Keith, and I said, 'Honey, I think Garcia's hinting that he wants to talk to you. He's sitting right next to you.' He looked over at Jerry and looked back at me and dropped his head on the table and said, 'You're going to have to talk to my wife. I can't talk to you right now.' He was just too shy. He was very strong but he couldn't handle that sort of thing. So I said to Jerry, 'Well, Keith's your piano player, so I want your home telephone number so I can call you up and come to the next Grateful Dead practice.' And he believed me! He gave me his number.
The following Sunday the Dead were having a rehearsal and Jerry told us to come on down, so we did. But the band had forgotten to tell Jerry that the rehearsal had been called off, so Jerry was down there by himself. So Keith and Jerry played, and we played him some tapes of songs that I had written and was singing on. Then Jerry called Kreutzmann and got him to come down, and the three of them played some. Then the next day the Dead practiced, and by the end of that day Keith was on the payroll.
They asked me to sing right away, but somewhere in my ignorant wisdom I said I wanted to Keith to do it first, so he did two tours and I stayed home... So Keith and I went into it as green and innocent as we could be. I'd never sung before an audience before, really, and Keith had done only very small gigs."
She also pointed out to Relix that "Keith and I didn't know that Pigpen was sick or anything."

McNally has but a few details to add:
He notes (from a different Donna interview) that after meeting Jerry, she tried calling the Dead's office a few times with no luck - "she called the office and left several messages, but was ignored. Finally she got him at home." So it may have been a more circuitous path between the first meeting and the rehearsal, but in Donna's memory it was about a week.
He identifies the Dead's rehearsal space as "a warehouse off Francisco Boulevard in San Rafael." (The tapes of Keith's rehearsals are labeled as being from an unknown location in Santa Venetia - but Santa Venetia is basically a neighborhood of San Rafael, so it is likely the same place. Possibly they could have moved to a studio to tape some of the sessions, though.)
And he says that "Keith and Donna played Garcia a song they'd written, Every Song I Sing."
Donna told Blair Jackson, "When Keith and I first got together, we wrote some music that we wanted to be meaningful and spiritual. We wanted to write music to the Lord, because it didn't seem like there was much out there that was spiritual. But when we heard the Grateful seemed to have such spiritual ties. It had a quality that was magical, ethereal, spiritual, and that's part of what was so attractive about it."
What's interesting here is that they're playing Garcia THEIR music, in order to convince him of their rightness for the band. And there does seem to have been a spiritual tie - this moment prefigures not just Keith's time with the Dead, but the later Keith & Donna band with Garcia sitting in, and the Garcia Band circa '76 with Keith & Donna, bringing gospel music into the shows. (I think she has mentioned how she, Keith & Jerry would listen to lots of gospel music at home circa '76.) So they hit Garcia with just the right note.

Blair Jackson observes that Keith had also played on a James & the Good Brothers record (a band the Dead were friends with) - Kreutzmann played drums on one track, and the album was recorded by Betty Cantor, so Keith may not have been a complete unknown to Garcia. (On the other hand, Keith is not mentioned in the album credits, so it's a mystery where Jackson got this info.)

In early 1972, the Dead had a little promotional flurry, releasing a few band biographies for the press & fans. These offer a less detailed, but slightly different course of events. The Dead's spring '72 newsletter recounted:
"Pigpen was extremely ill, and unable to travel. Jerry had about this same time met Keith Godchaux, a piano player he and Billy had jammed with at Keystone Korner, a small club in San Francisco. With Pigpen sick, three major United States tours facing them, and the desire to have another good musician to add to their music, Keith was asked to join."

Promo bios of each of the bandmembers released at the same time include this about Keith:
"After jamming with Jerry and Billy at a small club, and getting together with the Dead to work out some tunes, he joined the band in September of 1971."
Keith was also quoted in the Book of the Dead: "We went into this club in San Francisco where Garcia was playing, and just talked to him. A couple of days later I was playing with him and Bill, and it just sort of came together."

While these bios are brief and lacking in detail (Donna's role is not mentioned at all), they were written only a few months later, so they should be taken into account.
The first surprise is to read that Keith had jammed with Jerry & Bill at the Keystone. This seems to have entirely slipped Donna's memory! Is it possible there was a "lost" Jerry & Keith jam at the Keystone sometime in September '71?
(Perhaps someone mixed up the Keystone and the rehearsal space - either way, Jerry & Bill jammed with Keith before the rest of the band did.)
It's also a curious detail that Keith initially got with the Dead "to work out some tunes." This is frustratingly vague - it may mean nothing; or it may mean that the initial intention was not to actually join the Dead.
Keith confirms that no time passed between meeting and playing: "a couple of days later..." This is even briefer than in Donna's account!

This brings up the question of just which was the Keystone show where Keith & Donna met Garcia. He had a couple shows with Saunders in this month:
Tuesday, Aug 31
Thursday, Sept 16
The 16th has been considered the most likely date, since it's closest to Keith's first rehearsals. Note that Pigpen went into the hospital the next day. Donna remembered the Dead rehearsal being scheduled for "the following Sunday," but the Dead canceled and only Jerry came. I have to think that, if it was Sunday the 19th, due to the sudden turmoil of Pigpen's illness, it seems unlikely Jerry & Bill would have jammed with anyone that day. (It also may explain why Donna had a hard time reaching Jerry on the phone that week, though there doesn't seem enough time for multiple phone calls.)
But note: the jerrysite lists the New Riders playing the Friends & Relations Hall in San Francisco on Sept 17-19, which wouldn't preclude daytime rehearsals. And Keith did say he played with Garcia just a couple days after meeting him.
Or, if Donna's memory is right, possibly Sunday the 26th was the first day Keith played with Jerry. This seems superhuman, though - it means his first day with the full Dead would have been the 27th. Our first rehearsal tape comes from the 28th, and it by no means sounds like Keith's second day with the band. In fact, it sounds like he's already settled in. (Not only that, it would mean they lost no time in taping rehearsals with the new guy, in fact starting immediately. Pretty speedy, for the Dead!)

So while it's possible that Keith only started playing with the Dead near the end of the month, I think it's also possible that he'd met Garcia on 8/31, and perhaps even jammed with him & Kreutzmann a time or two at Keystone Korner; and rehearsals may have started earlier than we think. The Dead may have been considering a new keyboard player even before Pigpen succumbed, and if Keith had already been playing with Garcia informally, their next candidate was right in front of them. (We don't know how poor Pigpen's health was in early September, but the Dead may have been aware before 9/17 that he was in decline.)
Or perhaps the Dead initially saw Keith as a temporary stand-in, a Hornsby-like figure until Pigpen could be eased back in. It would've become obvious pretty soon, though, that Keith was born to play with the Dead.
Or, the traditional story could be true: the Dead suddenly discovered after the 17th that they needed a new player; Garcia met one that very week, and they snatched him up immediately; and he learned all their songs in a week or less. Serendipity in action...

A closer listen may reveal more, but for now it sounds to me like there is not one attempt to teach Keith a single new song in these rehearsal tapes, only practiced run-throughs of already-learned songs. Very few songs even stumble or break down. At least when they rolled the tapes, Keith was ready to go on every song. This suggests that at the least, there were more than one or two days of rehearsal before these tapes were made.
Admittedly, Keith was quite familiar with the Dead's music before playing with them; also, some of these songs were as new to the Dead as they were to Keith!
Lesh was quite impressed with Keith: "He was so brilliant at the beginning. That guy had it all, he could play anything... It's like he came forth fully grown. He didn't have to work his way into it."
Lesh wrote in his book that in the first rehearsal, "all through the afternoon we played a whole raft of Grateful Dead tunes, old and new. That whole day, Keith never put a foot (or a finger) wrong. Even though he'd never played any Grateful Dead tunes before...[he] picked up the songs practically the first time through...everything he played fit perfectly in the spaces between [our] parts."
Kreutzmann later told Blair Jackson, "I loved his playing. I remember when we auditioned him. Jerry asked him to come down to our old studio and the two of us threw every curveball we could, but he was right on top of every improvised change. We just danced right along on top. That's when I knew he'd be great for the band. He was so inventive - he played some jazz stuff and free music that was just incredible. He had a heart of music."
Manager Jon McIntire remembered when he first heard about Keith: "I saw Garcia and asked him what it was about, and he shook his head, very amazed, and said, 'Well, this guy came along and said he was our piano player. And he was.'"

Surprisingly to anyone who ever saw him, Keith said in '72 that "what I've contributed to the band as a whole is an added amount of energy which they needed, for my taste... I have a super amount of energy. I'm just a wired-up person and I relate to music super-energetically... The part of their music which I played fit in perfectly, like a part of a puzzle."

It's notable that Keith plays both piano and organ equally during the rehearsals. (Possibly the first instrument he played with Garcia was the organ, though I don't think Keith had any experience with it; at any rate, organ was the Dead's first choice for many of the new songs.) Over the course of the tour, though, he gradually dropped the organ altogether, and played it only rarely thereafter. When he is on piano during these rehearsals, the honky-tonk sound from many fall '71 shows is very clear.

Our tapes come from several days - they're cassette copies with variable mixes and shifty sound quality. (Note that on some tracks Keith can hardly be heard, being too low in the mix.) - Keith mostly on organ - Keith mostly on piano - very little Keith can be heard - compilation; Keith mixed up on some tracks - bootleg comp; different mixes, sometimes very trebley, but Keith comes out more (for instance Brokedown #2, where he takes over)

The Keith highlight is the first few tracks of 9/30, with Keith in full barrelhouse mode. It's also interesting to hear him on organ on songs like Jack Straw, Tennessee Jed & Truckin' on 9/29. (There's also an oddly assertive moment before Cold Rain & Snow on the compilation, where Keith channels Keith Jarrett for a little solo riffing.)
There are almost no jams here, just straight songs (there is a short, interesting band jam on 10/1, and a rehearsal of the Uncle John's jam on 9/29). I would guess there must have been more rehearsals over the next couple weeks (they had to have tried out some of the 'deep' jams), but no more tapes have come forth. Perhaps the Dead did not bother recording more improvisational jams.

We know Garcia gave Keith a batch of live tapes that had been recorded at the August shows, so Keith would also have been able to listen & practice the songs at home before his 10/19/71 live debut. Not that he did!
From a note on the Dick's Picks 35 "Houseboat Tapes": "In the late summer of 1971, just before Keith Godchaux began rehearsals with the Dead, Garcia handed him a big box of tapes and said, "Here, this is our most recent tour. Learn our music." The irony was that Donna Jean doubts mightily Keith ever bothered to listen to them - he'd never listened to the Dead all that much before he auditioned... In any case, he left the tapes on his parents' houseboat in Alameda, and there they stayed."
In fact, in one interview with Lemieux it was speculated that Keith never even took the reels out of their box. But it makes sense - when you can rehearse with the band each day, there's little need to check out their tapes.

So Pigpen stayed at home until December, while Keith went out and surprised Dead audiences. (Some were thrilled, others dismayed.) This was the second time Pigpen had been replaced by another player; but he probably took it in stride, as he had more serious things to worry about. He was still eager to rejoin the Dead, though, and went back on tour perhaps sooner than was wise. Lesh later felt guilty about this: "It would have been better for him if we'd just canceled the tour and let him recover all his strength at his own pace... It was agreed that Pig would rejoin the band when he felt up to it. Without realizing it, we put a lot of pressure on him to hurry up and get better."
That was the band's pattern, though, as the future would reveal - they wouldn't cancel a tour no matter who was dead or dying. (And though no one knew it, Pigpen was likely beyond recovery by that point anyway.) Though he didn't necessarily live for the road, Pigpen's identity was bound up with the band, and he lashed himself to their mast as long as he could, whatever the cost to himself.
He would not be alone. The years on tour wouldn't be kind to Keith either - indeed, the damage Dead keyboardists inflicted on themselves would become well-known - but Keith started out feeling cosmically optimistic. "The Dead's music is absolutely 100% positive influence. When I met them, I knew these were people I could trust with my head. They would never do anything which would affect me negatively... They are righteous people."


  1. Quote Sources:
    Lagin, "That fall" - Conversations with the Dead p.357
    Weir, "We spurred him" - McNally p.410
    TC, "Phil pointedly remarked" - Between Rock & Hard Places p.81
    Kahn/Garcia on Wales - from Hooteroll entry
    Donna - Relix interview on Toni Brown site; Jackson interview reprinted in Goin' Down the Road p.35-38
    Keith & Donna, "It had to happen" - Book of the Dead
    Keith's story - from Playing in the Band p.136-7, which was taken from a Jon Sievert 1976 interview
    McNally's details - p.411
    Keith, "When I'd heard them play," "what I've contributed," "the Dead's music," - Book of the Dead
    Lesh, "He was so brilliant" - Playing in the Band p.137; "All through the afternoon" - Searching for the Sound p.199; "It would have been better" - Searching p.199

  2. Added a couple quotes -
    Kreutzmann, "I loved his playing" - Goin' Down the Road p.153, from a 1989 Golden Road
    McIntire, "I saw Garcia" - I don't remember where I saw this! But I used it in an older post:

    The band would sometimes give Keith a complimentary introduction on the upcoming tours. My own favorite is from Lesh, on 3/26/72: "That’s Keith, and he’s our new piano player... Actually, he’s our old piano player – we just didn’t know it for a long time."

  3. LIA, this is a terrific post, pulling together a lot of disparate information. The detail about Keith playing on the James And The Good Brothers album comes from Betty Cantor (via David Gans). I have no idea how he got on the session, but Betty recalls him playing. My own theory is that after Donna ptiched Keith to Garcia, Jerry asked around a little bit, and once Betty namechecked him, Garcia gave him a shot. All sorts of pretty girls must have come up Garcia and said "my boyfriend/brother/spiritual guru wants to do such-and-such with the Grateful Dead," but few of them would have been able to get a confirmation from Betty Cantor.

  4. That is a very interesting theory - partly because it shows Garcia being proactive in getting the band a new keyboard player, which was his traditional role through the Dead's history, as we discussed here -

    I wonder when the James & the Good Brothers album was recorded. Your Bob & Betty post just says "early 1971" -

    But Keith's presence raises a lot of questions. One, no matter what reputation Keith had in little Concord-area nightclub jazz-trios, how would he get a studio session for this non-jazz Canadian band? This seems most unlikely. Was he ever in the studio for other sessions?
    Two, your notes mention the album was recorded both at Alembic & in Toronto. Keith's apparent absence from the released album suggests that he may have been in an Alembic session that wasn't used.
    Three, the album cover specifically thanks members of the Grateful Dead - professionally speaking, James & the Good Brothers seem to have been on close terms with the Dead, to the extent of Garcia guesting at their shows in early '71 -
    I don't know who the other studio musicians were on the album (besides Kreutzmann), but if Keith was around this group, it puts him a step closer to the Dead's circle. But there's no indication there was any contact before that fateful night at the Keystone.
    This makes me wonder whether maybe Keith had a non-album session with the Brothers AFTER being hired by the Dead. It would make more sense.
    It would be nice to hear more details from Betty, though she might not remember much.

    1. FYI - From Betty Cantor-Jackon's Reddit Ask Me Anything session from May 2020 writing about the July 1971 sessions for Jerry's solo album: "That was fun. We did that at Wally Hiders (sic) in San Francisco....That's when I told Jerry about Keith. I'd used him on an album with a Canadian group I'd done, James and the Good Brothers..."

      So maybe Jerry already knew of Keith and this might help explain why he responded so positively to Donna and Keith at the Keystone gig later in 1971. Naturally, Donna wouldn't have known that Betty had mentioned Keith to Jerry (and perhaps doesn't to this day?). But Betty dropped that detail pretty casually two years ago as a memory from those Garcia sessions.

    2. This remains a small Keith was used on the James & the Good Brother album, and whether Jerry remembered that connection when Donna approached him.

  5. There are a couple other mysteries here too - showing that no matter how many details we "know" about an event, there's still much left unknown!

    One - how early did the Dead think of getting a new keyboardist? The assumption is that after 9/17, they were suddenly struck with an emergency. But Pigpen had been on the decline for a while; and they'd hired TC in '68 when Pigpen was still going strong.
    So it's possible Garcia was thinking of a 2-keyboard arrangement (as in '90/91, or briefly in late '68 & early '72) even before late September '71, where a new guy could fill in & Pigpen could add something when he was up to it.
    As I suggested, for Keith to not have played with Garcia until after the 19th or so leaves an incredibly slim timetable before the taped rehearsals, so I think there's a strong possibility Keith played with Garcia in early September.
    Which brings us to:
    Two - We have a near-contemporary, 'official' statement that Keith had jammed with Jerry at the Keystone Korner. If it happened, when could it have happened?
    Everyone's accounts seem to agree that the first time they played together was at the rehearsal space. It is possible that Jerry invited Keith to jam at the Keystone AFTER the audition.
    I assume the Keystone wasn't as loose as the Matrix & people couldn't just show up whenever to jam, and that would leave one known date - the Sep 16 show with Saunders. But maybe there are other open nights, too.
    Anyway, that's drifting far into unprovable speculation - just something to ponder!

  6. A couple final comments for now:

    Unfortunately, I don't think Garcia ever mentioned Keith in his long Rolling Stone interview from '71. They ask how Pigpen's doing, but never ask about the new member...a real missed opportunity to hear a first-hand account of how it went.

    Also, I noted that Keith's rehearsal piano sound is often very tinny, similar to some of the fall '71 shows. It makes me think that maybe at this time he was playing an upright piano rather than a grand. (Or at least, could only play a grand when one was available.)
    The organ he plays, I assume was Pigpen's.

  7. For what it's worth, I think the Rolling Stone interview was mostly conducted pre-Keith. I read it faithfully looking for clues as to when it was done (and it doesn't help that it was conducted over at least two sessions), but I do think that it was mostly done in June and/or July (certainly not before the return from France, since Garcia discusses that show). I'd have to read it again, but I would think that asking about Pig's poor health wouldn't have been a stretch in the summer of 1971...which might then lend credence to the theory that the Dead were exploring the idea of a new keyboardist long before September.

  8. Wenner writes in the Signpost to New Space foreword that Garcia was interviewed in July and "a few months later," and questions from the two periods were mixed together in the final edit.
    This causes some strange results - for instance in one place they discuss the released live album & Hooteroll (which came out in Sept '71), and in-between Garcia talks about how he's recording his solo album (as of July '71).
    Some of the interview can only come from late in the year, for instance Garcia's specifically asked about Pigpen's illness & talks about his hospitalization. (He also mentions the August visit to Terminal Island.)
    I would guess the second interview was in early October. It's quite possible Wenner did not even know the Dead had picked up a new piano player (they hadn't played a show yet), and Garcia just forgot to bring it up.

    1. I've been meaning to date those Reich/Wenner interviews for ages but never got round to finalising them. This is as far as I got.

      Wenner's foreword p 12 contains
      "In July, Reich was at our offices raring to go...
      The next Saturday, I met Charles...
      Jerry had to be in Berkeley at 7:00 for a gig."

      So, according to Wenner the first interview took place on a Saturday afternoon in July or early August 1971 before Jerry played in Berkeley that night.

      Unfortunately that didn't happen according to what we know of Jerry's gigs. Possibly it wasn't the next Saturday but 2 or 3 Saturdays later and he means the GD BCT 71-08-14 show.
      However, I think it more likely that Jerry said he was going to the Keystone and Wenner (writing his foreword to the book months later in May 72 after the Berkeley New Monk was renamed Berkeley Keystone) remembered this as meaning Berkeley whereas Jerry meant SF. That would fit in with Jerry/Merl/Fogerty(?) Keystone Korner Saturday 71-7-10.

      Wenner then continues on p13
      "A few weeks later, Reich went back to do another two hours on tape. A few months later I also returned to talk with Jerry for another four hours."
      Reich writes on p 17
      "I spent a number of evenings down at the studio with the GD watching them work on the double album that was released in the fall of 1971."
      So there are definitely two later interviews and possibly some quotes thrown in from Reich hanging around.

      I think one of these can be identified.

      On p74 in response to a question about Mickey Jerry replies "I saw him last night, he was at the Crosby and Nash concert." This looks like BCT 71-10-14 or 15.

      What really intrigues me from that book is Reich on p 18
      "One night I went to hear Jerry play a gig with MS at a small place in Berkeley and one by one, for "no reason," the rest of the Dead showed up too, and eventually they got up on the stage and started playing." Hmmm?

    2. Good sleuthing...
      At one point Garcia says the New Riders are looking for a new pedal steel player, so I assume the last interview was October at the latest, before the fall tour. (Cage started playing for them in November.) That would match up with mentioning an October C&N concert, and talking about the new records. So these are some pretty specific interview dates we've found!

      Unfortunately we don't know any specific studio dates for the live album...anytime between May & August. Presumably Reich was at the studio in July - more or less simultaneously with Garcia starting his solo album, which was still in the planning stage in the first interview.
      Garcia is asked about playing with Tom Fogerty, too.

      Your last quote is especially germane to this post, because it shows that Keith or anyone in the Dead could've shown up at a Garcia & Saunders show and jammed, and we'd never know.

  9. Another great blog post and more great info in the comments...which segues perfectly into a small request that I have. I'd like it if this blog would have previews of the last six (or however many) comments on the blog, like on the Lost Live Dead blog. Some of the best reading on LLD comes from people who found the place on accident and left comments about a show or venue that they attended years ago. I can only imagine that the same happens here, but there's no way for readers to know.

    1. I'll give it a try. I'm afraid good comment action is usually limited to the newest post, though. Comments on older posts tend to be pretty inane. I almost never get informative LLD-type comments! (In fact, most of the comments are from me. It's a very self-reflective blog that way...)

    2. Nevertheless, I vote for recent comments in the right margin. I miss too many comments in the current setup sine the posts are generally long and it means I have to scroll down to the end to see if anyone has added to the discussion. A small beef for a fine blog.

    3. ...the people have spoken! & the comments are up.

  10. I finally got around to listen to the Sept 29 session. It made me appreciate your post even more. When Keith is on organ, it's obvious that he's familiar with the songs, but it's hard to tell just how familiar because of how foreign the sound is (i.e., Keith playing organ on these songs). When Keith finally plays piano (on Brokedown Palace), the results are spectacular! Wow! It would be difficult to believe that he had only played with Jerry and Bill up to that point or Phil's claim that "he'd never played any Grateful Dead tunes before". I wouldn't say that it's his best performance of the song over 6 years but he absolutely nails it. There must be more to the story.

    A side note to the rehearsal sessions is the lyrics to Jack Straw. I'd love to know how they changed so much in the 3 weeks between the rehearsals and the first live performance.

    Thanks again, LIA!

    1. Yes, he nails Brokedown. There may be more clues on the tapes, but my feeling was that these tapes were made after some extensive rehearsals, not just a few days.

      Another sidenote: the live album was released on 9/24/71. So some of the Dead's time that week may have been taken up with Warners promo discussions.

      It is rare that we get a peek at a Dead song in lyrical embryo, like Jack Straw. (There are a few other cases in '71 - like the extra verse of Comes a Time; or the early version of Brown Eyed Women on 8/24/71.)

  11. In listening to Paris 72 right now and all I can think is, that pigpen solo album was gonna be real nice.

  12. I am listening to the Houseboat Tapes, and I agree with the thought that Keith actually never opened the box and played them. He would of course not Refuse them from Garcia, he would be too shy and that also would not look too good if you are auditioning to perform, However, Keith would also be too proud and stubborn to actually even to need to listen to them. He was a consummate musician and would have easily learned these tunes on the spot. Bertha, Sugaree, Deal, these new songs are pretty straight forward. Great article, Capt. Cook.

  13. I missed an important detail!

    In a newspaper review of the 11/7/71 show, Keith is mentioned as "formerly with Dave Mason." This bit of info appears on various reference sites, but it's the first contemporary proof I've seen. I don't know any other details, but apparently sometime in 1971, Keith was playing with Dave Mason's group.
    What's odd about this is that Keith (in the interviews I've seen) totally omits this. He said that "I wasn't playing with anyone else before [the Dead], just playing cocktail lounges and clubs;" and elsewhere, after he stopped playing jazz-trio bar gigs in early 1971, "I floated for about six months, and then I ended up playing with the Grateful Dead." Not a mention of playing with a well-known rock musician! (Donna is also utterly silent on this, from what I've seen.)

    And yet, at least one newspaper reviewer in 1971 knew about it, so it must have been reported. Maybe it was just briefly filling in at a local appearance by Dave Mason, or a studio session, or maybe it was Keith's first flirtation with joining a rock band...does anyone know?
    The other thing is, I have to think this connection may be one reason Garcia gave Keith a shot. Hearing that this guy had played with a member of Traffic would surely have perked Garcia's interest!

    1. From "Random Notes" in the 12/23/71 Rolling Stone:

      "The Grateful Dead have a new member. He's Keith Godchaux, who has played with Dave Mason in the past. Keith will play organ and piano. When Pigpen returns to the group, he will concentrate more on vocals than he had in the past.
      The New Riders of the Purple Sage have also replaced a member, this one being Jerry Garcia. Garcia will no longer play with the NRPS. He is replaced by Buddy Cage, formerly of Great Speckled Bird."

      And from an earlier "Random Notes" in the 11/11/71 Rolling Stone:

      "The Grateful Dead's Ron McKernan, a/k/a Pigpen, just out of the hospital after a long stay, has been instructed by his doctor to sit out the Dead's upcoming tour which will take them through the Midwest and Southwest. Rock Scully described Pig's problems as 'various liver and ulcer conditions.' He stressed that the organist had not left the band, but that he was quite ill and had to rest and recuperate at least two or three months. Stepping in on the tour will be Keith Godcheaux, formerly with Dave Mason, who will handle both keyboard and vocals."

      The Stanford Daily's review of the 11/7/71 show definitely got its info from this Rolling Stone piece (since some of the wording & spelling is identical). That still leaves me wondering where Rolling Stone heard the Keith/Dave Mason connection...from a press report? word from Scully? a sighting with Mason?

  14. "This suggests that at the least, there were more than one or two days of rehearsal before these tapes were made."

    Perhaps, but I don't think so. Keith was one of those rare musicians who just got it. He also seemed to have some predestined mentality that, combined with his experience in jazz, led him to be able to fall into place seamlessly. My personal belief is that Keith sat in once or twice, made it happen, and they went out on the road. It's as simple as that. His contributions to the '72 material, where he and the band really came into focus, supports this position. Roll the tunes, boys, I've got it on this end. He laid down parts that fit so well because he was a natural improviser and because, while the Dead's output was complicated, their tunes were, by and large, quite simple in terms of chord changes. For an innovative jazz musician with just the right mentality, sliding into the Dead wouldn't have been difficult - and it wasn't for one of perhaps only a few people on Earth at the time. Glad it was Keith. He made '72 a true time of energy and rebirth.

    1. I agree, a really good musician with a really good ear can jump in on pretty much any song and catch the changes pretty easily. Especially if they're schooled in jazz and have good sense of groove like Keith.

  15. I think the Dave Mason line might have come from Keith playing with a local guy that had the same name, perhaps? I have never seen anything in any of Dave Mason (the Traffic player)'s liner notes mentioning Keith, anywhere. It sure seems like something that needs to be cleared up. Maybe the same-name thing was something that hooked the people in the GD office and it leaked into the publicity? Maybe...

    1. As the 11/19/13 comment notes above, Rolling Stone was the first to report that Keith had played with Dave Mason, and apparently everybody else has picked it up from that.

      But it is a little hard to believe - not only is it not mentioned in any other contemporary source that I've seen, it seems to be contradicted by Keith himself when he said things like, "I wasn't playing with anyone else before [the Dead], just playing cocktail lounges and clubs," and "I never played rock and roll before I started playing with the Grateful Dead." Donna also said, "Keith had done only very small gigs," and one 1972 article introducing him confirmed, "Keith's background is strictly West Coast club work."

      If he'd ever played with Dave Mason, you'd think someone else would have mentioned it somewhere, but there's no other confirmation at all. I can only presume someone gave Rolling Stone false info, perhaps to bolster Keith's credibility. ('Why no, the Dead didn't just grab a random guy out of a club who'd never played rock music before...')

      There is also the slight mystery of how (and whether) he'd actually played a studio session with James & the Good Brothers BEFORE meeting Garcia, which I doubt.

      Anyway, Keith's brother Brian is said to be writing a biography of him, and I hope more information comes to light!

    2. ...and the story is finally out. Keith did play with Dave Mason, briefly, in a 1971 audition trying out to join Mason's band. It did not go well, and Keith was rejected.
      More details in the Deadcast: (about 39 minutes in)

    3. Ahhhhh. He auditioned for Dave masons band. Hey technically he did play with Dave mason tho

  16. Where can I find a copy of the 7/10/80 show?

    1. Relix Records released part of the show on a couple of CDs, "The Heart of Gold Band" and "Double Dose." Otherwise I couldn't find it online except for one track, Lonesome & a Long Way From Home:
      See also: