August 13, 2013

The Grateful Dead & Merl Saunders at the New Monk, June 1971

“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 love an opportunity to go out and play. 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, and a bar’s just like the perfect opportunity to get loose, and play all night…”
– Jerry Garcia (Signpost to New Space p.73)

In the introduction to the book Signpost to New Space, Charles Reich wrote, “One night [in 1971] I went to hear Jerry play a gig with Merle Saunders 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. As Jerry says, they just liked to hang out together.” (Signpost xv)

Reich & Jann Wenner interviewed Garcia for Rolling Stone over a couple sessions in July & August 1971.
(For the interview dates, see the comments here.)
But Reich seems to have spent some time with Garcia & the band aside from the actual interviews. He also visited the Dead in the studio as they mixed the live album:
“I spent a number of evenings down in the studio with the Grateful Dead, watching them work on the double album that was released in the fall of 1971. It was hard and exacting work. They got to the studio soon after 7 P.M., and stayed for five or six or seven hours, keeping going with coffee and sandwiches.” (Signpost xiv)

Merl Saunders had started playing with Garcia in Sept/Oct. 1970 at the weekly Matrix jams, after Howard Wales split. In the spring of 1971, when the Matrix closed, Garcia & Saunders moved their jam sessions to the Keystone Korner club. Garcia was thrilled by his new keyboard companion, and when the Dead needed organ overdubs for their live album in the summer of 1971, it was Saunders they called on.

Garcia & Saunders made the Keystone Korner their home base for live shows over the next year, but in June 1971 they played a few shows at the New Monk in Berkeley. They played there four times that month – June 4-5 & 26-27 – then not again til March 8-9, 1972. (Assuming we know all the dates, which I’m not sure about.)

(See for more info on this club. - Briefly, Keystone Korner owner Freddie Herrera bought the New Monk in summer 1971, and changed its name to the Keystone Berkeley in March 1972. After he sold the original Keystone in July 1972, Garcia & Saunders permanently relocated to the Keystone Berkeley. )

At the time, Tom Fogerty was regularly playing with Garcia & Saunders, having recently left Creedence Clearwater Revival, and he was with them during these June ’71 shows. The 6/27/71 show was billed as “Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders, Tom Fogerty and Friends,” and there was a brief review of the 6/26/71 Garcia/Saunders/Fogerty show in the Hayward Daily Review’s July 1st issue (which I haven’t seen). One of the commenters on the Lost Live Dead post mentions, “I was there for the June 1971 gig with Saunders and Tom Fogerty, the weekend the Fillmore West closed.” [The Fillmore West closed the following week.]
Fogerty & Saunders would sometimes play together without Garcia as well, when he wasn’t available. For instance on June 12-13, 1971, NRPS played at the Keystone Korner in San Francisco while Saunders & Fogerty played the New Monk in Berkeley:

And here is another possible instance:
Garcia was asked about Fogerty in the Rolling Stone interview, and seemed to regard the Fogerty/Saunders band as a unit: “The drummer in that band [Bill Vitt] now plays with the Sons of Champlin, and Merle Saunders now has a small recording team of his own as well as composes, and I’m going to gig with them. It’s that kind of thing – a loose hangout.” (Signpost p.73)

(See for more info. - Briefly, the Fogerty/Saunders/Kahn/Vitt team recorded two Saunders albums and two Fogerty albums over the next year, and Fogerty played with the band live up til December 1972, before departing for unknown reasons. Though we don’t have many Garcia live tapes from 1971, I think it can be assumed that Fogerty was present at most of the shows that year from the summer on. For instance, this show in October 1971: )

Fogerty was not the only guest at the New Monk shows, though.
On the Grateful Dead Archive site, one old-timer who’d seen the Dead since their free park shows in 1967 was asked, “What is your favorite Dead show?” He replied:
“The New Monk in Berkeley. The show had been advertised as a Jerry Garcia Band show but the Dead showed-up instead and they did all covers. This was the last time I saw Pigpen, he did not look good at all. This is my favorite show because 1) I can remember some of it and 2) it was totally unique for them. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Johnny B. Goode are the two great tunes I remember them doing.”

He added in a comment:
“I'd really appreciate getting a recording of that New Monk show, the only one I know of was made by Carlos and Jorge Santana, who my friend and I were sharing a joint with during the show. I realize taping was a little spotty back then.”

This seems to be the same show that Charles Reich had witnessed.
It may look implausible that Carlos Santana & his brother would be taping Garcia/Saunders at the New Monk – but quite by chance, I found another reference to Jorge Santana taping a different band, Fritz:
“I had to shoo Carlos’ brother from a rehearsal once (1977). He strolled onto the stage where we were playing brandishing a recording cassette player while we were going over new original material. ‘Uh-uh,’ I said!” (Javier Pacheco)

Carlos Santana had more than a casual connection with Merl Saunders, too – back on February 22, 1971, when Garcia was out on a brief west-coast tour with the Dead, Santana had played with Saunders at the Matrix:

One scholar has pointed out that Joel Selvin wrote an article about the Keystone Berkeley in his SF Chronicle column sometime in 1973, mentioning that both the Dead and Santana had played there unannounced in the previous year. It turned out that Santana really did play an unannounced gig there (September 12, 1972, I think), so it seems Selvin had heard about the surprise Dead show as well, though he was loose about the dating.

It can’t be ruled out that the Dead might have turned up at the March ’72 Keystone Berkeley shows as well. (At the time, they had played only two shows in two months, and were soon to embark on the long run at the NYC Academy of Music – which happened to feature two covers from the Garcia/Saunders repertoire in the 3/25 show.)

Armando Peraza played congas with the Garcia/Saunders group in the winter of 1972, including these Keystone shows. (A newspaper review of the 2/11/72 show mentioned him, and he is billed on all the March shows – unfortunately, there are no tapes with him.) Merl Saunders later said of him, "He fit right in. Our music didn't change. It was just like adding a little pepper to it." (Jackson, Garcia p.227)
The interesting thing is: Peraza had just joined Santana’s band in January ‘72. Santana’s band rarely played live in early ’72, though, leaving him free.

Another commenter on the Lost Live Dead post wrote: “My name was Duke, I was a big biker… I was security when they changed from the New Monk to Keystone. I used to park my Purple Chopper in the back room so it was safe. I remember Jerry and the Dead with Tom Fogerty from Creedence popping in and having an impromptu concerts. We would close the doors and everyone who was already there viewed a Grateful Dead concert.”
By itself, this seems bogus; but combined with the other references, it makes me wonder. The “back room” seems to refer to the big room that was behind the bar, opposite from the stage. The club’s name change was in March ’72 – in fact a newspaper listing for Garcia/Saunders’ March shows reads “Keystone Berkeley (formerly New Monk’s).” The way this account is written, it implies that the Dead showed up on a night Garcia wasn’t billed – I wouldn’t read too much into it, though.

There is also another stray reference online to Dead members showing up at one of Garcia’s New Monk shows. One person wrote on the rukind forum back in 2007:
“In 1971 at the New Monk in Berkeley, the venue was headed as Jerry Garcia and Friends. I remember about 10 of us including Jerry, Bob and Phil waiting for the doors to open… The concert was great, it included guys from NRPS and Asleep at the Wheel.”

The thing is, from what I can find, Asleep At The Wheel didn’t arrive in San Francisco until late 1971, so if this is accurate it would point to a ’72 show. The expanded lineup also seems like a different group of “Friends” than just Fogerty & the Dead, so this may be a memory of another show altogether. It’s odd to see “Jerry, Bob and Phil waiting for the doors to open” – while it was Garcia’s custom to arrive hours ahead of time to practice & chat at the club before the show, it’s hard to imagine them all waiting out in the street.

At any rate, all these accounts are somewhat vague and hazy – even the eyewitness description on the GDAO site gives no date, and may well be from a March ’72 show, with an ailing Pigpen and possibly (unmentioned) Santana’s conga player. I think it’s safest to say that the Dead definitely turned up at the New Monk on a lark for at least one show in June 1971, since we know that’s when Charles Reich would have seen them. Possibly they made later visits the next year as well. (Why there, and not the Keystone Korner in San Francisco, who can say…but all of these accounts specify the Berkeley club.)

What were the Dead doing there? The timing in June ‘71 is interesting – they were between tours, working on their live album in the studio, and bringing in Saunders for overdubs. Pigpen was not contributing much on the organ at the time, and they may have had the idea of playing a set with Saunders to see how it sounded. Whether it was an unspoken audition, or just for fun, on at least one night some surprised club patrons got to see the Grateful Dead play an unannounced show to the clinking of beer glasses…

Reich: You don’t do many free concerts now.
Garcia: We haven’t had the opportunity to do one that would be a good trip… The thing that was groovy about the Haight-Ashbury was that we could get up on a Sunday morning and say, “Let’s play today down in the park,” and we’d call a few people…and we’d be down there playing in an hour… That’s another form that we haven’t been able to get back to really comfortably, although we’re always on the lookout to do something free. Spontaneous, open, or fun, is what free means. (Signpost p.41-42)


  1. Lots to say, but I was under the impression that the Stoned Sunday rap was a later date, maybe early 1972? I could very well be wrong.

    Amazing sleuthing. Thanks!

    1. The Stoned Sunday Rap was done in March 1972. Reich wrote in the intro, "Long after the interview, when we were preparing to [print] it in book form, I went out to visit Jerry to see if he had anything to add or change... Neither of us felt much like adding anything to the interview, but we did feel like talking."

      One thing that troubled me was that the other brief references to the GD at the New Monk all seem to point to a 1972 appearance (given what scanty dating clues we have); but Reich is clear that he saw them in 1971, not just a month or two before writing his intro. So I settled on June '71 as the most certain date, but they may well have returned to the New Monk/Keystone in '72 - if a few foggy, distant memories are anything to go by. I still wonder, why that club in particular?

  2. I am somewhat confused as to the billing,personnel and mechanics of the supposed New Monk GD show.Charles Reich say's "for no reason the rest of the Dead showed up too,and eventually got up on stage and started playing."Does that imply Garcia and the Saunders outfit were playing as the Dead members arrived,did they join in with that grouping or play a later Grateful Dead set or was it a straight up Dead show just billed as Garcia/Saunders or whatever?

    The attendee's version that it was billed as a " JGB show" and they did all covers seems implausible.I can't see them doing a set in '71 without at least one original song and Dixie Down seems a serious stretch for the Dead to do as a one off.Also Pigpen didn't look like the picture of health at the 6/21/71 Herouville,France show,but in comparison to his future decline he seemed okay and that was the same month.

    1. There's no way to know just how it happened. All the accounts we have are really lacking in details - it's like trying to reconstruct ancient history from the few meager fragments left to us. It would be great if we could ask for more details, but we can't.
      Reich's one-line account is the only certain description we have. The witnesses online were writing decades later, from whatever tattered mixed-up remnants of memory they had. Each, on his own, sounds like he's making it up; but when several people independently say that the Dead showed up at a Garcia show at the New Monk, I think it must have happened. One unresolved question is whether it happened in '72 as well. (Pigpen was looking pretty scrawny by March '72.)

      There's no proof Saunders actually played with them, no one actually says he did - in June '71 I'd consider it quite likely; but in March '72, IF Keith showed up, it seems less likely. But then, did Tom Fogerty play with them as well, alongside Weir? He was no Crosby.

      The attendee's claim that they played "all covers" when he saw them needn't be taken too literally - he could only remember two songs. And one of them was Johnny B Goode, which wasn't in the Garcia/Saunders repertoire; the Dead did it regularly. (And, looking at other audience recollections of early-'70s Dead shows, it was frequently the short rockers like Johnny B Goode that impressed people the most & stayed in the memory, so this fits right into that trend.)
      I don't think it's too much of a stretch for them to do a Band song. On 3/25/72 they did a couple other Garcia covers, for one time only - or think of 11/8/70, when they did a couple other one-off covers out of nowhere. The Dead may have tried out all kinds of covers in rehearsals that never got heard onstage.
      Dixie Down in particular is an interesting choice since Hunter named it as a specific influence on the songs he was writing for the Dead at that time; the influence of the Band is heavy in things like Brown-Eyed Women, TN Jed or Jack Straw. Which doesn't prove that the Dead ever played Dixie Down, of course, but it's not so much of a jump as them playing, oh, In a Silent Way or something.

  3. Wow, you’ve done some serious excavating here!

    I don’t think everyone is necessarily refering to the one show. Merl said "Jerry and I started playing The Keystone in Berkeley and Ron and the rest of the guys would come down. Ron would sit in with us." Merl specifically mentions Pig because that’s who he was being asked about, I don’t take him to mean only Pig ever sat in. I assume when he says The Keystone he is including its previous existence as the New Monk. It sounds like it was not a particularly rare occurrence let alone a one-off. Here's the full interview from Relix Vol 20 No 3 p 42.

    Relix: Tell me about your first meeting with Ron?

    Merl: I had just come back from New York in 1970 to the Haight-Ashbury where I used to live. I started to do some sessions with this guitar player named Jerry [Garcia]. I started hanging out at this club with Jerry and that is where I first met Pigpen. We only lived four blocks from each other. I had heard about Pigpen but I had never met him. My father [laughter] knew more about the Grateful Dead then(sic) I did. I was into Jimmy Smith and the Hammond Organ sound. Jerry and I started playing The Keystone in Berkeley and Ron and the rest of the guys would come down. Ron would sit in with us and I was always trying to get him to play keyboards. He would say “No, I just want to play my harmonica behind your organ playing.” That is how we got it going. We had actually discussed doing a thing together with piano, organ and harmonica. There was a little club off of Broadway in North Beach that was going to hire us, but unfortunately it never happened.

    We liked playing together. Ron was responsible for me playing the organ on “Bertha.” He was truly a dear, soulful musician. He was the root of the band, playing the blues the right way. He was a very sweet guy. Very earthy and bluesy.

    Relix: In the very early days, most people agree the Grateful Dead was Ron’s band. As time progressed, Garcia stepped into the spotlight. Do you think Ron was pushed into the background, or that the band was heading in a musically different (non-blues) direction?

    Merl: Jerry would never push Ron into the background. He has great charisma and the people put him in the role of a leader or a takeover person. I think anything those guys did they would succeed in. Yes, I think the band was looking into new musical directions.


    1. I had not seen that interview, that is a great confirmation.
      It also looks to me like the Dead sit-ins probably happened several times in '71-72, perhaps in different variations.

      By the way - the "little club off Broadway in North Beach that was going to hire us" is almost certainly this one, in September 1971:

  4. Re Carlos Santana, although this is the first I've heard of him taping a show himself, there are several stories mentioning that he is an avid collector of live tapes.

    This page mentions that Santana was recording in San Francisco on June 4 and 5, 1971, but nothing on the 26th and 27th.

  5. LIA, somehow I have missed this post until now. What a fantastic excavation.

    I agree with you that while almost everyone's individual stories are murky and filled with hazy memories that must be inaccurate, there are too many points of convergence. Great work to figure out that the June '71 show is more or less confirmed and that a March '72 seems to have a greater than 50% probability.

    It's a great analogy to compare this to Ancient History. The details of, say, the Greek invasion of Sicily in 415 BCE remain uncertain, but there's no question that it happened.

  6. While I didn't move to Berkeley until 1978 as an 18-year old, I had great times at the Keystone. It was a long, narrow "club" (bar), with the "backstage" room being behind the bar area as one poster mentioned. Going back to use the bathrooms before a show I remember seeing Keith Godchaux playing pinball, and Jerry and the JGB inside the back room with the door open. When the band was ready, a bouncer would lead the way from the back room with a flashlight, past the bar and through the waiting crowd and cocktail tables, to the stage up front. I could sit on the long shelf along the right wall about six feet from Jerry as he played.

    Over some years I saw the JGB, Jerry and Merle, and their band Reconstruction with heavy horn sections, as well as lots of other great bands in an intimate setting. I only wish I had been there years earlier! I'm not sure why, but Jerry played there all the time; much more often than the Stone or other clubs in SF (Old Waldorf, Kabuki, etc).

    1. Yes, Garcia played at the Keystone a huge number of times, as described in the Lost Live Dead article linked in this post, and here:
      His close connection with club owner Freddie Herrera was doubtless one of the reasons.

      I suppose it's just possible that a Dead show at the New Monk might survive in the Garcia tape vault... Not many Garcia/Saunders shows from 1971-72 got into circulation (we seem to have a few shows at random) and I suspect there's a lot of unheard stuff from these years - for instance I don't think we have a single one of the shows with conga player Armando Peraza. But evidently more shows were recorded than we have.

    2. I don't think so re '71 JGMS, alas.

      I believe there is an early '72 tape, or maybe two, with Peraza. These were in the Third Betty Batch, though whether they ever see the light of day remains an open question.

    3. That there are more Betty-recorded shows from 1972-73, I'm certain. 1971 is more of a grey area.
      But the recent surfacing of that May '71 show - along with that Side Trips recording from May 1970 - and the apparent existence of a Boston 8/1/71 show in the Garcia vault - I think indicates that there are a lot more early Garcia tapes being held than we know about. For instance, Matt Smith reports that there is also a recording of the 5/21/71 Keystone Korner show. It's a shame we don't even have a list of the recorded dates from these early years, let alone the music on them.

  7. "the weekend the Fillmore West closed" -- I wonder if the person was referring to the July 3-4 shows, for which I recently found listings.

  8. I saw shows at the Keystone Berkeley from '71 on and remember a chopper (maybe two) parked in the back room on more than one occasion (whether Duke's or somebody else's). In the early 80s I was waiting outside The Stone in SF for a JGB show and Jerry's limo dropped him off on the sidewalk out front and he was banging on the expanded-metal gate to the left of the building, leading to the back-stage door, to get somebody to let him in -- which took them a while -- and we were kidding him about how he needed a ticket or they wouldn't open up. This was about 2 hours before showtime.

  9. Was living in Port Costa in about '71; My roommate said that Garcia and Fogerty were playing in a dive "coffeehouse" in Berkeley. I blew him off (didn't blow him) the first night. I had some pussy to pursue). Went the second night and I'll be DAMNED, they were there together in a room that could not have seated 60. We sat two rows back and these LEGENDS were there in front of us. Freaking amazing and I had no clue that I was witnessing HISTORY!!.

  10. Hello, are there any recordings that may have turned up since this original post with Jerry and Armando Peraza? Armando always used to say how much he enjoyed playing with Jerry.

  11. One commenter declared, "On 6/4/1971 the Dead played a surprise show at the New Monk instead of the Jerry Garcia band," but failed to mention how he knew the date.

    I wonder if it's the same person who posted here: