February 29, 2016

The Vox and the Hammond, 1967-1969

For a couple years in 1967-69, the Grateful Dead used both the Vox Continental and Hammond B-3 organs in their shows, alternating between the two. But why did they do this, and when did they switch? Up til now no one has really investigated which dates each organ was used, so it's been a small mystery of the early Dead. 
Photo collectors Volkmar Rupp and Uli Teute have examined the photos of the Dead's shows in these years and provided a list of the known times each organ was used (originally posted here), which shows some interesting patterns.
Volkmar writes, “The list contains only the dates where a Vox or a B3 can be seen; of course many dates are missing, even dates we have pics. And it is open to updates.” 
As a brief background -- Pigpen had started out playing a Farfisa organ in the Warlocks, but by March '66 had switched to a Vox Continental, which was the Dead's organ for the next year.

VOX CONTINENTAL versus HAMMOND B-3 – as seen in pictures

Vox always used up to 67-05-xx
67-05-29 Napa -- B-3
67-06-01 Tompkins Park -- VOX
67-06-08 Central Park -- VOX
67-06-08 Cafe Au Go Go -- B-3
67-06-18 Monterey -- B-3
67-06-21 Golden Gate Park -- VOX
67-07-02 El Camino Park -- VOX
67-07-16 Golden Gardens Park, Seattle -- VOX
67-08-01to05 Toronto -- B3
67-08-06b Expo '67, Montreal -- VOX
67-08-13 West Park, Ann Arbor -- VOX
67-08-28 Golden Gate Park -- VOX
67-09-15 Hollywood Bowl -- B-3
67-09-16 Elysian Park, Los Angeles -- KUSTOM?
67-09-24 City Park, Denver -- KUSTOM
67-09-29 Straight Theater -- B-3
67-10-01 Greek Theatre -- B-3
68-01-26or27 Seattle -- B-3
68-01or02 studio -- B-3
68-03-03 Haight Street -- VOX
68-05-03 Columbia University -- VOX
68-05-05 Central Park -- B-3
68-05-18a Santa Clara -- B-3
68-05-18b Shrine Hall -- B-3
68-06-01 Golden Gate Park -- B-3
68-06-22 Phoenix -- B-3
68-08-04 Newport Festival -- B-3
68-09-02 Sky River Festival -- B-3
68-10-20 Greek Theatre -- B-3
68-11-07to10 Fillmore West -- B-3

T.C. (on Vox Super Continental)
68-11-24 Cincinnati -- both Pigpen and TC played keyboards
68-12-07 Louisville -- VOX
68-12-31 Winterland -- VOX
69-01-18 Playboy TV show -- B-3 (plus harpsichord)
69-02-06 St. Louis -- VOX
69-02-11/12 Fillmore East -- VOX
69-02-14 Philadelphia -- VOX
69-04-21to23 Boston -- VOX
69-05-07 Golden Gate Park -- VOX

69-05-11 San Diego -- B-3
69-06-22 Central Park -- B-3
69-08-16 Woodstock -- B-3
69-09-27 Fillmore East -- B-3
70-01-02 Fillmore East -- B-3

70-02-02 St. Louis -- B-3
70-02-04 Family Dog -- B-3
70-02-11to14 Fillmore East -- B-3 

The B-3 stayed in use to 1972.

Additions are welcome!
In his book, Constanten also specifically mentions playing the B-3 at the 8/23/69 Bullfrog Festival: It being an outdoor concert, the power came from on-site generators. I was playing a Hammond B-3 at the time, and the fluctuations in the electric current affected its ‘sense’ of pitch. So on occasion it’d suddenly be in C-sharp, or B.”(Between Rock and Hard Places, p.75)

I'll be glad to hear from people who can distinguish between the sound of the two organs on tape, to help us pinpoint more dates -- for instance, at what point in May '69 the Dead got a new B-3. 
(I’d thought that Pigpen was playing a Vox in the August ’68 shows, since his playing style is more limited and staccato than in the winter/spring ’68 shows where he swirls around a lot more; but it seems I was mistaken.)

The Dead got their first B-3 in May '67, but as we see it was hardly used at every show. At the majority of the outdoor park shows (where the Dead were more likely to be photographed) in mid/late-'67 and early '68, Pigpen still used the Vox.  
Blair Jackson offers one reason, writing of the Hammond B-3: “At more than 300 pounds, it was a bitch to carry around from town to town (and perhaps for that reason it didn’t go out on every tour).” (Grateful Dead Gear, p.58) 
It appears when the band wanted to quickly set up their gear in a park or outdoor show in this period, they generally took the lighter Vox rather than the heavy Hammond. At the indoor shows (for instance, the shows taped for Anthem of the Sun), Pigpen played the B-3.  
(Jackson also says that the Dead used a Vox “when the band couldn’t afford to carry a B-3” [GD Gear, p.78]; but I think this only applied during Constanten's early months. Note that the Dead carried both organs on their eastern tours of June '67, August '67, May '68, and likely November '68, to use as needed.) 

There's a brief spot in September '67 when Pigpen is seen using a Kustom organ -- the Dead had gotten some Kustom amplifiers in summer '67, and briefly used a Kustom organ as well, but it rapidly disappeared (perhaps it was borrowed or rented).

By mid-'68, at least in the photo record, the Dead seem to have phased out the Vox for several months, using the B-3 at all shows. It's hard to say whether this is due to Pigpen's preference or some other reason. But Constanten's arrival marked an abrupt change.
TC recalled, “There was one exquisite gig in Cincinnati where both Pigpen and I played keyboard. He had the B-3 and I had the Continental. [But not long afterwards,] the B-3 got repossessed because they didn't pay the guitar bill or something, so I had to play a Vox Continental. Our credit was not the very best back then. But I really felt the unfairness of it all, because the B-3 sounded so good and the Continental was so limited... I wasn't too pleased about having to play the Continental night after night, because it really had a hard time cutting through all those guitars and drums.” (Grateful Dead Gear, p.77)

Pigpen had played a Vox Continental; but in the earliest photo we have of TC (on 12/7/68), he's playing a Vox Super Continental with two manuals, not Pigpen's old Vox. The Dead must have got it for him -- I presume the original plan was to have Pigpen stay on B-3 as needed while TC played a Vox. The plan didn't last long, though.
Constanten remarked in his book, “About the same time as I joined the band full time, the Hammond organ that Pigpen had been playing got repossessed.” (Constanten, p.80) This was unfortunate for him, since he found the Vox appalling in the context of the Dead's sound. 
“I didn't like the sound [the Continental] put out at all. There was something about the Continental in that particular band that grated. The Dead's guitars were these strands of gold and filaments of light, but the Vox was like a hunk of chrome. I had terribly mixed emotions about everything I was playing because the sound didn't please me. After a bit of moving, shaking, and agitating, I convinced them to let me play a Hammond B-3, which I was able to enjoy a bit more.” (Jackson, Garcia, p.157) 

Surprisingly, the Dead didn't seem to care much how the organ sounded, or how well it could be heard onstage -- perhaps they were just resigned to the sorry state of their finances, and reserved expenses for the guitars and amps. (TC couldn't even afford to get a piano: The whole time I was with the band, I had no instrument at home to practice on.) Owsley also dismissed TC's complaints with the motto, "A good worker never blames his tools," even while fanatically obsessing over improving the Dead's sound system, which Constanten found silly and hypocritical. I tried to explain that I couldn't get behind the sound of the Vox organ they had for me to play when I first joined the band full time... In the context of electric guitars it came off as thin and nasal sounding... If it had been either Phil or Jerry saying simply, 'I like this axe better,' not only would [Owsley] have raised no objection, no doubt he'd have fallen all over himself coming up with reasons to agree.” (Constanten, p.81-82)

One good place to hear what Constanten sounded like in early '69 is the 1/25/69 Avalon show, in which TC is up very high in the mix. The "hunk of chrome" comment is fitting - his sound is so tonally jarring with Garcia's beautiful guitar tone, it's no wonder he was unhappy. 

But after a few months, TC finally got his wish and the band bought another B-3 in spring '69. (5/11/69 is the first show we see a B-3 at, though it may have been borrowed.) The Vox was put away, never to be seen again. I don't know how Pigpen felt about the two organs, but I suspect he also liked the Hammond more, not least because of its use on R&B records. (Garcia said in '67, He listens to Jimmy Smith more on the organ than anybody else” [Grateful Dead Reader, p.24]; and later on I think Pigpen had a Hammond delivered to his home.)  

The band's perilous finances didn't improve for some time, and the B-3 may have remained at risk in late '69. McNally says that in the fall of 1969, at a show in San Francisco, “sheriffs repossessed Pigpen’s organ from the stage as the show was about to begin, settling a $1,200 unpaid bill from the previous year.” (McNally p.338) But it's unknown which show this was, so it’s possible he has the year wrong and this happened in ’68 as TC recalled, not in ’69.

TC left in January '70, but the B-3 stayed. Pigpen hadn't played organ with the Dead for a year (except for his spot in 'Death Don't Have No Mercy,' where he'd replace TC), and he only played it in a few select songs for the next couple years. (Another possible topic of investigation is which songs he regularly played on in '70-71 -- just as with many of Constanten's shows, the organ is often mixed low or inaudible on tapes of this period, suggesting that the Dead may have been indifferent to its presence.) 
When Keith Godchaux arrived in September '71, he tried an organ on some songs during rehearsals; but he was a piano man at heart, and when they went on tour he stuck almost entirely to the piano, switching to an organ only rarely in the next few years. For a short period in early '72, both Pigpen and Keith played keyboards, and the band returned to the double-keyboard sound they'd so briefly tried in November '68.

There are a few known shows where the Dead would borrow an organ from another band. 
Constanten recalled February 5-6, 1969: “I had to borrow Iron Butterfly’s Vox organ for the shows in St Louis and Kansas City. Similar to the one I’d used earlier with the band (I much preferred the Hammond B-3, when it was sufficiently amplified), except this one was set up high, so you had to play it standing up.” (Constanten, p.74) 
One wonders what happened to the Dead’s organ? Volkmar Rupp's research casts some doubt on TC's memory, though -- Volkmar says, “Concerning 69-02-06 St.Louis: Now that we have seen pics from that gig, TC is playing a "Vox Super Continental", sitting down. In fact he plays the exact same one at the February Fillmore East gigs. 

At the 3/21/71 Milwaukee show, Pigpen played an organ belonging to Michael Morgan and the Messengers (a local Motown band) -- this looks like a B-3 too. It's possible that Pigpen borrowed organs at other shows as well. 

There was one famous occasion, though, where Pigpen refused to let another band do the same. The Dead played with the Doors in Santa Barbara on April 29, 1967 - Ray Manzarek has a detailed description of his run-in with the Dead in his book Light My Fire. [McNally's book also covers it, p.191.] Manzarek's account is considerably embellished and not entirely believable (hostile to the Dead, he exaggerates their "wall of amplifiers" and army of roadies and describes two drummers, none of which was the case at the time, and he may misrepresent Pigpen as well). 
But in short, Manzarek used the same Vox Continental organ that Pigpen had, which was already on stage; so rather than set up his own organ in front of it, he asked Pigpen if he could play Pigpen's organ. Pigpen refused: Nobody uses the Grateful Dead’s equipment.” 

Robby Krieger also remembered that day
“We didn’t get too close with the San Francisco groups—especially the Grateful Dead, who wouldn’t let us use their amps one night. We had a gig at Beverly Hills High School in the afternoon and then one about an hour up the coast in Santa Barbara, so we left our gear, figuring the Dead would let us use their stuff. You’d always let people use your amps in those days, but they just refused. I ended up playing through a Pignose [amp] or something equally ridiculous. Ray was aghast at the fact that Pigpen wouldn’t let him use his organ. He kept saying, ‘Pigpen? Someone named Pigpen won’t let me use his instrument? I could catch cooties from his organ.’ He couldn’t believe it.” 

The Dead had also played with the Doors at the Fillmore in January '67, and apparently formed an instant dislike of them, so perhaps Pigpen shared that view. In any case, he was willing to share his organ with other players at times -- Ned Lagin on a few occasions, Gregg Allman on 2/11/70, Steve Winwood on 11/16/70, maybe Vince Guaraldi at some point, and perhaps an unknown player in the 4/15/70 Other One jam. (Constanten may have stepped aside sometimes for guest players as well, in the Lovelights on 4/4/69 and 6/8/69.)