Prior to December 1965, the Grateful Dead had been known as The Warlocks. Elsewhere, I have made some efforts to look into Warlocks performances in the Fall of 1965, when they were still mostly working on the El Camino Real in the South Bay. This post begins my listing of performances of the Grateful Dead. While in general these lists do not include rehearsals and casual jams, for these earliest events there wasn't much difference between a show and a party, so I have taken a broader view of the listings. If people attended the show, I am considering it a performance, regardless of whether the event was scheduled or advertised. However, this is not a list of tapes, nor an effort to unravel spurious listings on tape boxes.
November 27, 1965 'The Spread", Dover Drive at Soquel Drive, (Ken Babbs' House), Soquel, CA: Soquel Acid Test
After a long series of LSD-infused parties, the Merry Pranksters decided to start inviting the public to them. The first effort was actually at Ken Babbs' property in then-rural southern Santa Cruz County. The house was torn down in the early 80s, but it was located on Soquel Drive in the town of Soquel, about a mile west of Porter Avenue, at Dover Drive. It is now the site of the 71 Dover bus stop, where a plaque commemorates the first official Acid Test.
Contrary to decades of rumor, the Grateful Dead did not in fact perform at this very first Acid Test. However, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir were there, and the Pranksters--who were not musicians--had some instruments, and they picked them up and played them. While not a performance, if anyone had asked Jerry, Bob or Phil "what is the name of your band," they would have said "The Grateful Dead." They had found the name the week before, and they were no longer The Warlocks or The Emergency Crew or any other such thing.
December 4, 1965 43 S. Fifth Street, San Jose, CA: San Jose Acid Test
The second Acid Test was held the very next Saturday night, in San Jose. The Rolling Stones were playing the San Jose Civic Auditorium, and since that was where the hip young people would be going, it seemed that downtown San Jose would be the best place to go. There was no formula yet. A friend let the Pranksters use his house, and the Grateful Dead played in one of the rooms. Mysterious signs led people to the house, and they paid a dollar, and all was revealed, sort of. The event began after the late show by The Stones ended, and went on for about 50 years.
The Grateful Dead were not advertised or even announced, but anyone there who asked "who is the band" would have been told "The Grateful Dead." The house was at 43 S. Fifth Street, long since replaced by city hall. The actual house itself was moved, and can still be seen not far away, at 635 E. St. James St in San Jose
|An ad from the San Francisco Chronicle of December 5, 1965, for the forthcoming SF Mime Troupe Benefit upcoming on Friday, December 10. "9 P.M. Till Dawn". The Warlocks were one of the many, many others.|
Mime Troupe Financial Director Bill Graham had promoted a benefit concert at a loft on Howard Street to offset legal expenses from a recent bust by the local political theater troupe. It had been such a success, he held another benefit, this time renting a dance hall from African American promoter Charles Sullivan, who held the master lease on The Fillmore Auditorium on 1805 Geary Avenue, at Fillmore Street.
Ralph Gleason mentioned the Warlocks as having been present in his December 13, 1965 San Francisco Chronicle column. Whether they were announced as the Grateful Dead or The Warlocks is unclear. Since Gleason mentioned them as The Warlocks, presumably they were announced that way, even though they had changed their name. Apocryphally, Graham did not like the name Grateful Dead when he first heard it, although it's not even clear if Graham even met the band that night. The John Handy Quintet was booked, but did not play (apparently Handy was late, and Graham did not take kindly to it). The Vipers were a Palo Alto band. Ralph Gleason mistakenly listed the local San Francisco band The VIPs in his column, but that was incorrect.
|The Muir Beach Tavern and Lodge circa 1942|
The Pranksters put on two Acid Tests on consecutive Saturdays in Muir Beach and Palo Alto. There is some dispute as to what order the actual events occurred. Since neither of the events was publicized in any sort of periodical, and all the attendees were on LSD, it's hard to say with absolute certainty what order they occurred. I did look into it at one point, however, and a preponderance of evidence--enough for a civil jury, but not a criminal one--suggests that Muir Beach was right after the Fillmore (December 11) and Palo Alto the next weekend.
The Muir Beach Acid Test was originally scheduled for Stinson Beach, also in Marin County, but moved at the last minute to avoid the cops. LSD was not yet illegal, but the cops didn't like it, and plenty of the attendees would have weed, speed or outstanding warrants, so police avoidance was sound policy. Some theorize that it was a Prankster plan to schedule the event at Stinson Beach, probably at the Community Center, and then move it at the last minute, but Pranksters don't really plan.
Muir Beach is in West Marin, an area that was abandoned for agriculture back in the 1950s, due to problems with the groundwater. Existing buildings were left in place, but no new development was allowed. The Muir Beach Lodge was just a sort of big room in the middle of nowhere, next to a windy beach--perfect for what the Pranksters had in mind. The Grateful Dead definitely played.
|The building at 998 San Antonio Road that housed The Big Beat, where the Palo Alto Acid Test was held on December 18, 1965. The photo is from August 2009. The building was torn down in 2011.|
The Big Beat was Palo Alto's first rock and roll nightclub, not set to open until the New Year. Prankster Ken Babbs managed to rent it prior to opening, and Palo Alto had its own Acid Test. The Grateful Dead definitely played, too, along with a now-mysterious or possibly imagined all female band. The building that housed the Big Beat (above) was intact until 2011.
January 1, 1966 Beaver Hall, Portland, OR: Portland Acid Test
The Portland Acid Test definitely happened, but when it happened is another issue. Following Prankster logic, it would seem that it would have been on a Saturday night, but that would make it either Christmas 1965 or New Years Day 1966. It could even have been as late as January 7 or 14, but then you have to make sense of the Matrix dates below. Everyone seems to agree that there were snowy conditions in Portland, and that points towards New Year's Day. Keep in mind that all of the Grateful Dead/Pranksters crowd had no real family connections, so being out of town for the holidays was no big deal. The exception may have been Ken Kesey, but of course his family actually was in Oregon.
Beaver Hall was a small room at 425 NW Glisan Street that could be rented fairly easily. It was used occasionally for local Oregon rock shows in the later 60s and into the 70s. I did find a reference that said the Portland Acid Test was at a different Beaver Hall on the other side of town:
Many of you will fondly remember Beaver Hall on NW Glisan. But, did you know there was once another place named Beaver Hall near SE Hawthorne around 1510 SE 9th Ave? And, it was at this Beaver Hall that Ken Kesey's Portland acid test took place. City directory listings back up several memories of the event. I love research projects:
From George Walker: "Well, for starters, there was only one Portland Acid Test, in December '65. I don't know the exact date, but I don't believe it was on Christmas."
From Joe Uris: "I was at the famous Acid Test. In fact, I hold the original acid test poster. It was at an upstairs hall, I think off of Hawthorne in a place I’d never been before or since. In those days, in order to have a dance with underage people, you had to have a matron. And they had this black woman who was a very nice lady but she had absolutely no idea what the hell was going on. And they had spiked various things with LSD which I thought was not responsible. The Warlocks which later became the Grateful Dead were there and the movies were playing endlessly."
The entire subject of the Grateful Dead playing The Matrix in January 1966 is confusing and contradictory. Labels on tape boxes are likely wrong, and mistaken details from a long-ago Owsley interview only confuse matters further. I am going with the best research on the performance dates of everyone at the Matrix, not just the Dead, so I am going with five dates, of which Friday, January 7, is the first. I look forward to any light anyone can shed on the subject (keep in mind that almost every link you find on the Internet will be of no value).
January 8, 1966 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA; Fillmore Acid Test
Kesey and The Pranksters finally held an Acid Test in San Francisco, and with historic prescience it was held at the Fillmore Auditorium. Although Graham had put on a show there, the room was still under the control of African-American impresario Charles Sullivan, and the Pranksters must have just paid his fee and gotten the date. The show has gone down in legend and need not be recounted here.
January 13, 1966 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead
I am assuming that the Dead played the Matrix on January 13 (Thursday), skipped Friday for the Mime Troupe Benefit at the Fillmore, and returned for Saturday and Sunday. This just seems plausible rather than based on any special knowledge.
January 14, 1966 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA: Great Society/Mystery Trend/Grateful Dead/Sam Thomas and The Gentleman's Band Mime Troupe Appeal 3
The Grateful Dead were billed as Grateful Dead (formerly The Warlocks) because promoter Bill Graham did not like the new name, since he was apparently hoping for the commercial appeal of the locally popular Warlocks. It appears that January 14, 1966 was the first date for which the name "Grateful Dead" was formally advertised.
January 15-16, 1966 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead
I am positing for now that the Dead played these two nights at the Matrix.
|A notice about The Trips Festival in the Theater Listings of the Oakland Tribune, Sunday, January 16, 1966|
The Trips Festival was the public, commercial version of the Acid Test. It was a three-day event held at a fairly large venue in San Francisco, and it featured music, lights, dancers, audience participation and a vision of a brave new world. It was not officially an Acid Test--no electric Kool-Aid--but it seems that everyone there was lit up. Not only did the Festival sell out, it invented the modern rock concert as we know it. Just two weeks later, Bill Graham and Chet Helms were promoting a weekend of shows at the Fillmore with the Jefferson Airplane, advertising "The Sights And Sounds Of The Trips Festival."
The Grateful Dead played Saturday and Sunday, January 22 and 23.
January 28, 1966 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead
This date is uncertain, but some other scholarship has made a pretty good case for dating a "mystery tape" as January 28, 1966, and the Matrix seems like a pretty likely venue.
On January 29, 1966 the Merry Pranksters had a recording session at Sound City Studios in San Francisco, CA. Jerry Garcia and maybe other Grateful Dead members participated, but this was neither a performance nor an Acid Test. The session makes a January 29 Matrix gig far more unlikely.
February 1, 1966 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA: Fillmore auditions
This Fillmore performance was not exactly a public appearance. Bill Graham took over the lease on the Fillmore Auditorium from the retiring Charles Sullivan, and he seems to have held an audition at the Fillmore for underground San Francisco rock bands starting on Tuesday, February 1, his first day of control. David Nelson was there, and he described it in Robert Greenfield's book. The band had auditioned as the Warlocks a few times, but I believe this to be the only time they auditioned as the Dead. Nelson:
I went up to their Tuesday night audition at the Fillmore. The other bands that were auditioning that same night were The Great Society and The Loading Zone. I remember I took acid that night, too. I walked in real early and nobody was even there. Bill Graham used to put a barrel of apples out. I saw the apples. I thought "Hmm. Probably for somebody private or something." I said "I'm hungry. I'll steal one anyway." So I took an apple and was just biting into it when Bill Graham walked in. I didn't know who he was. I thought "I hope he's just a janitor." I just started cooling it and then he walked by and I looked at him and nodded. He looked and nodded and then he did one of those Bill things. He stopped, did a slow double take and said "Who are you? Who are you with?" I said "Warlocks." I knew this would make him know I really was with them. Because this was the first night they were auditioning as The Grateful Dead (p.68-69).”This must have been a pretty remarkable event, all the hip bands in the Bay Area hanging out in their future home, trying to get a gig. Bill Graham inaugurated his Fillmore shows with the Jefferson Airplane on February 4 and 5. The Dead seemed to have earned a booking on Saturday, February 12, but they went to Los Angeles with Owsley instead. Bill Graham probably wasn't thrilled.
February 5, 1966 Northridge Unitarian Church, Los Angeles, CA: Northridge Acid Test
The Grateful Dead joined Owsley in a mad adventure, in which he moved them to Los Angeles in order for them to make it in the record industry. Owsley financed this venture with his retail income. Owsley was no millionaire. The band lived together in a big three story house in Watts, and rehearsed there also. Any rehearsal tapes from this period were recorded in the Watts house. According to an equipment receipt (from the Grateful Dead Gear book), the address was 2511 Third Avenue, which as runonguinness points out, was just south of the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) and not that near Watts (assuming the address is accurate--Owsley could have used an accommodation address--the 4bed/3bath 3,967 sqft house is currently valued at a mere $951K)
The first Acid Test in Southern California was at a Unitarian Church in Northridge. There is some confusion about this date. It almost certainly was on Saturday night, February 5, but the date on the tape box is February 6. However, Owsley was not there, so he didn't tape it. It is likely that the tape is from another date.
update: fellow scholar runonguinness informs us that
The "Northridge Unitarian Church" (more properly the Sepulveda Unitarian Universalist Society) is still at 9550 Haskell Ave, North Hills. It is well worth a look at the "Onion" on their website
Some mislabeled tapes have circulated with a date of February 11, with a venue of The Questing Beast. This cannot be correct. We have looked into the history of the Questing Beast, and the Dead did not play there, notwithstanding they were in Los Angeles on February 11. The Questing Beast was a folk club in Berkeley with a psychedelic mural on the wall, not far from Owsley's cottage. Owsley probably had some affiliation with the place, and if the Dead had not gone to LA they might have rehearsed there, but they never actually did.
February 12, 1966 Youth Opportunity Center, Compton, CA: Watts Acid Test
An Acid Test was held in Watts on Saturday, February 12.
February 25, 1966 Cinema Theater, Los Angeles, CA: Sunset Acid Test
Another acid test was held two weeks later at an old theater in Los Angeles, at 1122 No. Western Avenue. The Cinema Theater was only a block off Sunset Boulevard, and this is sometimes called The Sunset Acid Test.
March 3, 1966 AIAA Hall, Los Angeles, CA: The Grateful Dead/"Psychedelic Experience" (film)
This was probably not an Acid Test. The AIAA Hall was at 7660 Beverly Boulevard and was used for various underground events through 1966. The most infamous was a hugely successful event with The Mothers on July 23, 1966, with a poster inviting everyone to "Freak Out." The address is now the site of The Broadcast Center Apartments.
March 12, 1966 Danish Center, Los Angeles, CA: Grateful Dead
There is some mystery about the show, although there is a tape. Of course, dating the tape has been confusing, too, but it seems to me that David Lemieux has confirmed that there are different March 12 and March 19 tapes. It is unclear where the Danish Center was. Most likely it was a social hall associated with the local Danish church, but I can't find any good information about a likely location for the venue (update: apparently 607 S. Western Blvd, Los Angeles, CA)
March 19, 1966 Carthay Studios, Los Angeles, CA: Pico Acid Test
Amazingly, Hugh Romney had managed to book UCLA's brand new Pauley Pavilion for an Acid Test, but at the last minute UCLA caught on and canceled it. The event was moved to the Carthay Studios. I don't actually know what the Cathay Studio was--perhaps a film studio--or where it was located (update: apparently 5907 W. Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA. A purported handbill is here)
March 25, 1966 Troupers Club, Los Angeles, CA: Grateful Dead/Del Close/Tiny Tim
All Night Harmonica Store Presents
The final show in Los Angeles was not actually an acid test, but a regular concert. Hugh "Wavy Gravy" Romney, one of Owsley's distributors, seems to have put on the show. Legendary improvisational comic Del Close was on the bill, but he seems to have provided a light show rather than comedy. Tiny Tim, an associate of all of them, and not yet famous from Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, may only have appeared in some kind of video or recorded accompaniment to the light show. The Trouper's Club was at 1625 North La Brea.
On the March 25 tape, Phil Lesh encourages the crowd to come out to the band's shows on April 6 through 9th (Wednesday through Saturday). Due to a cut in the tape, we do not where these shows were booked, and in any case they were canceled. Once Rock Scully had gotten a booking at Longshoreman's Hall, Owsley and the band abandoned the Pink House in Watts and returned to the Bay Area.
April 22-24, 1966 Longshoreman's Hall, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Loading Zone/The Answer
With the Bay Area rock underground booming, the Dead were offered $375 for three nights (per Rock Scully). This was enough money to get the band back from Los Angeles. Still, the group had no money, and band members couch-surfed until they could afford to move to Rancho Olompali on May 1.
<iframe width="420" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ufls8DNTxPI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
A radio spot has recently surfaced that may be for this show, with a dj apparently reading a press release. It is hard to verify "authenticity" with old radio spots, but this sounds right. The slight mistakes (like referring to Stewart Brand's presentation as "Columbus Needs Indians" rather than "America Needs Indians") point towards the real thing, as after-the-fact re-creations tend to be too perfect. The spot lists The Answer as a band, along with the Dead and The Zone. The Answer were a Berkeley band, and future Ace Of Cups singer Denise Kaufmann (aka Mary Microgram) sometimes sang with them.
Update: Chip Wright, former guitarist for The Answer (and now novelist), recalls that The Answer did indeed play The Longshoreman's Hall shows.
In 1966, a series of rock concerts were put on at Berkeley's basketball arena, Harmon Gym. The Gym was right off Bancroft Avenue, near Pauley Ballroom and the student union. Harmon Gym was built in 1931, and had a capacity of 6,500 (it replaced an older Harmon Gym, built in 1879, and expanded in 1900 to make the capacity 1,300, large for the time. The old site is now Dwinelle Hall). The middle Harmon Gym was replaced by a newer, larger facility (capacity 12,000) in 1999, and is now called The Haas Pavilion.
The band was billed as The Greatful Dead on the poster. As a sign that underground rock was not fully integrated into college campuses, even Berkeley, the show advertised an emcee, popular KYA-am dj Russ "The Moose" Syracuse. This was a typical teen show arrangement that had no part in the Fillmore/Avalon scene. Syracuse probably got a fee in return for hyping the show on his program. There was no FM rock radio at the time, so plenty of college students would have been listening to AM rock radio.
|The Veteran's Memorial Building at 1931 Center Street in Berkeley (at Grove, now MLK Blvd), ca. 1940s. Provo Park and Berkeley Community Theater are just across the street. The Grateful Dead played the tiny auditorium on May 14, 166.|
One of the dynamics of the 1966 rock concert market in the Bay Area was that there was a huge audience for hip rock shows around the UC Berkeley campus. Numerous local promoters attempted to use various venues, Campus locations were usually limited to Friday and Saturday nights, and had all sorts of schedule conflicts and time restrictions. Various impresarios attempted to use in-town venues.
The Berkeley Veterans Memorial Auditorium was at 1931 Center (between Milvia and Grove, now MLK), right downtown and within walking distance of campus. I don't know who promoted the show. The building was only used a few times for 60s rock concerts. In 1994, I saw a concert there for a reunion of some old-time Berkeley bands (Country Joe Band with David Cohen, Bruce Barthol and Chicken Hirsh, Joy of Cooking and Lazarus) and I understood why. The room only hold a few hundred patrons, and was rapidly outgrown by the booming rock market in the area. Since a suitable Berkeley venue was never found, all of the students had to go over to the Fillmore and Avalon, and this was one factor in the success of the 1966-67 scene, before most of the bands had become famous.
The Final Solution was a hip band featuring some scenemakers like Ernie Fosselius, who played a big role in the TV show Sesame Street, providing animated films. He also made the movies Porklips Now and Hardware Wars. But back in 1966, Fosselius and his friends, all San Francisco State students, had an underground band that only played weird minor-key songs. On a whim, they named the group Final Solution while having no idea what it meant. They are rightly ashamed of that, and Fosselius and the others have refused any efforts to have an archival release.
May 19, 1966 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Wildflower/The Outfit Benefit for The Straight Theater
The Dead, the Wildflower and The Outfit all rehearsed at the old Haight Theater at 1702 Haight. The plan was to turn it into a rock concert venue, so the Haight hippies would have a place to see bands in their own neighborhood. Only in 1966 San Francisco would a benefit be held at one venue, the Avalon, for another venue that would compete with it, but such were the times.
Wildflower were a pretty good band who had formed at the California College of Arts And Crafts in Oakland. The Outfit were an interesting band, who at the time featured lead guitarist Bobby Beausoleil, now doing life in prison as a result of murders committed at the behest of Charles Manson, another Haight Street resident.
May 22, 1966 Rancho Olompali, Novato, CA: Grateful Dead/Loading Zone
The Dead had moved into the crumbling Rancho Olompali mansion on May 1, and there was an almost continuous party there through the end of June. Equipment was probably more or less permanently set up next to the pool, and jam sessions with whoever was present seemed to have been frequent. Nonetheless, the official party, with invitations and all, was held on May 22, and there was some kind of regular (ish) performance by the Dead. This was the event where the BBC camera crew was present. and the famous (and now probably illegal) photos of Julia Bridgen (aka "Girl Freiberg") casually lounging around naked circulated far and wide, even without an internet.
May 28, 1966 Avalon Ballrom, San Francisco, CA: The Leaves/Grass Roots/Grateful Dead
The Dead's return to the Avalon on Saturday May 28 was also their debut at an official Family Dog show for Chet Helms. Over the years, people have assumed that the Dead also played on Friday (May 27), but a closer look at the poster shows a text box that says "Sat. only" next to the Grateful Dead.
The Leaves were a popular Sunset Strip band, and they had a popular hit single with "Hey Joe." The Grass Roots were produced out of Los Angeles by Phil Sloan and Steve Barri, who had written a hit song called "Where Were You When I Needed You." Sloan and Barri recorded the song, but then needed a band to become The Grass Roots and tour behind the single. A Bay Area band called The Bedouins got the call. The Bedouins winners of the 1965 San Mateo County Fair Battle Of The Bands, and mostly played R&B and Rolling Stones' type music. They added a few Sloan/Barri singles to their sets, and got much better bookings as The Grass Roots. The former Bedouins had a falling out with their producers later in 1966, and they were "replaced" by an entirely different band from Los Angeles, who went on to become the better-known version of the Grass Roots.
The Grateful Dead headlined this benefit for LEMAR, a foundation for Legalizing Marijuana. Ahead of their time as always, perhaps the evil weed will become legal while members of the band who played the benefit are still around.
After the show, the Dead dragged their equipment to Gene Estibou's Buena Vista Studios, on the top floor of a mansion in the Haight. There they recorded the tracks that would be released as their debut single on Scorpio Records, "Don't Ease Me In"/"Stealin'".
June 3-4, 1966 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Grateful Dead/Mothers
The Dead had skipped out on their initial BGP booking (February 12) to go to Owsley in Los Angeles. It can't have sat well with Graham. However, once his competitor Chet Helms booked them, Graham couldn't let it lie, because Helms new better than Graham who was cool. One of these shows with Quicksilver Messenger Service was probably the one where Phil Lesh's amp broke, and John Cippolina invited their friend Dan Healy out of the crowd to fix it. When Garcia thanked him later, Healy criticized the sound system, and Garcia supposedly said "do you think you can do better?"
Frank Zappa's band was called The Mothers at this time. It was MGM who anxiously added "Of Invention" to their name. Besides playing one of the original Family Dog dances back in 1965, and the previous weekend at the Fillmore, the Mothers had just finished a lengthy engagement at a rock club in Fremont called Frenchy's (where the Warlocks had been fired the year before).
June 10-11, 1966 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/New Tweedy Brothers
The New Tweedy Brothers were from Oregon, but they had moved to the Bay Area for the summer. This was probably the show where the Dead's relatively massive--by 1966 standards--PA not only blocked the light show but made it impossible for Avalon soundman Bob Cohen to hear his team on the in-house intercom. Next time around (in August), the Dead had hung white sheets on the sound system to facilitate the lights, and Cohen had invented noise-canceling headphones.
June 12, 1966 [private residence], [Marin County], LSD Conference Party
Weed was illegal, but not LSD. The University of California at San Francisco, primarily a medical school located very near the Haight-Ashbury, seems to have hosted a conference on the medical benefits of LSD research from June 13-18. Apparently, there was a party at a Marin mansion with a swimming pool, and the Grateful Dead performed. Memories seem foggy.
June 17-18, 1966 Veterans Hall, Santa Rosa, CA; Grateful Dead/Jaywalkers
There is a poster for this show, but nothing else is really known about it. Thunder Machine Productions implicitly suggests the Pranksters, but Kesey was on the lam in Mexico, so it's not clear exactly who the promoters might have been. Santa Rosa was mostly a rural agricultural community at this time. However, there was an extension of San Francisco State College in Santa Rosa, and it was a tiny oasis of long-haired stoners. SF State Extension became Humboldt State within a few years, but the seeds--appropriately enough--had been sown by the SF State extension.
The weekend of June 24-25 seems a likely candidate for a "lost" date or two, but none have yet turned up.