Sunday, March 15, 2015

2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Grateful Dead Bracket Analysis

When the Grateful Dead came to campus, as they did at the University of Cincinnati on April 3, 1970, you never knew if unsavory characters like Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters might just show up as well.
The 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament will get underway on Tuesday, March 17, 2015 in Dayton, OH. Most of America will have submitted their brackets by then, and the rest will have submitted them by Thursday, March 19, when the real round of 64 begins. While most of us have an easy time picking our favorites and downgrading those we think are overrated, it can be hard to make a judgement on every match up. Of course, defense and rebounding are critical in any tournament, and with the new hand-checking rules, 3-point shooting is more important than ever. Nonetheless, with dozens of variables, at a certain point, everybody has to decide how to weight various factors. Some people prefer to do detailed research on the strengths and weaknesses of the Sun Belt Conference, while others focus on more subjective factors.

Thus, as a public service, this blog is presenting a list of 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament participants ranked with reference to how many times the Grateful Dead performed on campus. I am including off-campus sites if they were the regular home arena or stadium for the basketball or football team, and you are free to discount those appearances if you feel that is not relevant. However, I am not considering exceptional events where a local college team plays the big arena as a "home" team (for example, St. Johns University in Queens plays occasional home games at Madison Square Garden, and Pitt used to play at the Civic Center once in a while).

You can decide for yourselves whether or not you need to listen to the tapes to assess the appropriate Mojo of each participant. Should the 8/9 Midwest Region matchup between Cincinnati and Purdue be determined because the Dead played Purdue first, or because Ken Kesey showed up at Cincinnati? When North Carolina State (8) plays LSU (9) in the Eastern regional, should you listen to the July 6 '90 (NC St) and October 16 '77 (LSU) tapes to make your choice? Picking your bracket isn't all science, and this post will help you consider the Jerrymetrical factors in play in the 2015 Tournament.

  • Gambling is bad
  • All NCAA student-athletes play for the love of the game and to get an education, and the $6Billion that the Universities divvy up are kept from the players for their own good
  • Coaches only want what's best for the students and the institution, and only jump ship for higher pay if they've really, really thought about it and think it's for the good of the game

The Grateful Dead's first show at Providence Civic Center, home of the Providence Friars, was on September 15, 1973 (the prior night was canceled)
Providence College, Providence, RI (6th Seed, East Regional)
The home arena of the Providence Friars has always been the Providence Civic Center, which the Grateful Dead played on 19 occasions, from September 15, 1973 through September 9, 1987 . This is probably not who you expected at the top of the list, but that's why this post is such a service. The arena is currently The Dunkin Donuts Arena. Imagine the t-shirts--Dunkin With The Dead, America Runs On Jerry, Phriars for Phil, and on and on.

University Of Oregon, Eugene, OR (8th seed, West)
Not surprisingly, the Grateful Dead have played the University of Oregon 14 times. The very first time was at the tiny EMU Ballroom on January 30, 1968. Subsequently, they played three times at MacArthur Court, the basketball arena, and 10 times at the football stadium, Autzen Stadium. Oregon seems to have had the highest Deadheads-to-population ratio of any state.

UCLA, Los Angeles, CA (11th seed, South)
UCLA is the only participant with a canceled Acid Test. Nonetheless, there were still six Dead shows at Pauley Pavilion, the basketball facility: Nov 21 1971, Nov 17 1973, Dec 30 1978, Nov 25 1979, June 29 1980 and Feb 21 1982. The 1973 event was one for the ages, and released as Dave's Pick Vol. 5.

The poster for the Grateful Dead's first concert at Cameron Indoor Stadium basketball arena at Duke University, on December 8, 1973. Coach K was in the United States Army at the time. 
Duke University, Durham, NC (1st seed, South)
Duke hosted a variety of fine Grateful Dead shows in the day. The band's first Duke show was a thinly attended show at Wallace Wade Stadium, the aged 40,000-capacity football facility. More legendary were 4 shows at the Cameron Indoor Stadium basketball arena, on Dec 8 1973, Sep 23 1976, Apr 12 1978 and Apr 2 1982. I believe the last show at Cameron was when Jerry and Bob switched their on-stage positions for good.

University of Louisville, Louisville, KY (4th seed, East)
The University of Louisville used to play their home games at Freedom Hall. The Dead played an epic show there on June 18, 1974, supposedly to a largely empty hall (parts appeared on Road Trips Vol. 2 #3). They also played Freedom on Apr 9 1989 and June 15-16 93. In between they played at Cardinal Stadium, the football stadium on July 6 1990. Cardinal Stadium was torn down, as Louisville is now a football power that can't be playing in a crumbling old minor league stadium, and the basketball team now plays in the larger KFC Yum! Center.

Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA (7th seed, West)
Virginia Commonwealth was originally formed as a merger of medical and professional schools. While the school was officially created in 1968, the roots of its predecessor schools go back as far as 1838. VCU is part of the Virginia state university system, and has around 31,000 students. The school has been competing in Division 1 Men's Basketball since the early 80s. From 1971 to 1999, the home court of the VCU Rams was the Richmond Coliseum. The Grateful Dead played Richmond Coliseum four times in the early 80s (Oct 8 '83, Oct 6 '84, and Nov 1 and 2 '85), The November 1 '85 seems to have been a great one, and it was released as Dick's Picks Vol. 21.
update: commenter Steve H makes the point that "The Mosque", in Richmond, VA, is actually on the VCU campus. The Dead played a show there on May 25, 1977. The Mosque, now known as The Altria Theater (and previously as The Landmark Theater) was built in 1927 as a Shriners Hall. 

Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX (6th seed, South)
The Grateful Dead have played Southern Methodist University twice. The first time, they played a show at McFarlin Auditorium, on the SMU campus, on December 26, 1969. McFarlin Auditorium, capacity 2,386, was built in 1926 so that there would be a Chapel big enough for the entire student body. It was the third permanent building on the SMU campus, and it is still in regular use.

Among other things, it was the public debut of acoustic sets within the framework of a full Grateful Dead concert. The booking of this show has always struck me as odd, flying to Texas the day after Christmas to play a concert at a school that was closed for the holidays. Granted, they were on their way to a rock festival in Florida, and then to Boston for New Year's, but it still seems odd.

The Dead's second appearance at SMU was on October 15, 1977 at the Moody Coliseum. The Moody Coliseum is still the home arena of the Mustangs. It was built in 1956 and has a capacity of about 7000.

In December 1969, current SMU Mustang coach Larry Brown was a point guard for the Washington Caps, an ABA team that had moved from Oakland the year before (and would become the Virginia Squires the next year). In Fall '77, Brown was coaching the NBA's Denver Nuggets, starring David "Skywalker" Thompson and Dan Issel.

University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA (7th seed, South)
The Iowa Field House was built in 1927. The Grateful Dead played there twice, on Mar 20 1971 and Feb 24 1973. The Iowa Hawkeyes basketball team moved out of the arena in 1983, into the Carver Hawkeye arena, but the Field House is still used for some events.
[update: I am informed that the Feb 24 '73 was probably at Iowa State, in Ames, IA. But--the band played August 10 '82 at the Iowa Fieldhouse, so it's still a double]

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC (4th seed, West)
Chapel Hill fans had easy access to Dead shows in Durham, Greensboro and Charlotte, so there wasn't really any need for UNC-CH shows. Nonetheless, when the Dean Smith Center was built in 1986, there were occasional concerts in the 20,000+ capacity venue. The Dead played a pair of shows on Mar 24-25 1993. UNC won the NCAA tournament shortly after, yet the Grateful Dead were not invited back. UNC would not win another title for 12 years, which is a long time in the minds of Tar Heel fans.

No eyewitnesses have reported whether Jerry, Phil, Bob and Vince got into all four corners of the stage and stalled during the jam.

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Birmingham, Alabama (14th seed, South)
Although the University of Alabama at Birmingham is generally overshadowed by the massive football program at the flagship state university in Tuscaloosa. However, UAB is a large (18,000+) public institution in its own right, and it probably has more academic status than its larger and older sister. While UAB recently attracted attention for shutting down its football program, it has always had a surprisingly vibrant men's basketball program. From 1976 through 2008 the UAB Blazers played at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex, capacity 17,000;

The Dead played two shows on April 4 and 5, 1995 at the BJCC, which is usually colloquially listed as the Birmingham Coliseum. The venue is now known as the Legacy Arena. The UAB Blazers currently play at the Bartow Arena, on campus.

University of Arizona, Phoenix, AZ (2nd seed, West)
The Grateful Dead played at the University Auditorium at the University of Arizona on Apr 11 1969, but I have been unable to determine what building that is or might have been. Like many schools, there has been so much construction in the last several decades that old facilities have either been completely re-purposed or simply demolished.

University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT (5th seed, South)
The Grateful Dead played double shows at the tiny Student Union Ballroom at the University of Utah on Apr 12 1969. Utah got a lot of good rock shows in the 60s, because touring rock bands could add an extra night there on the way to or from Denver, Kansas City or Phoenix. Universities also had entertainment budgets, so there was additional money to pay bands to play relatively small places.

No doubt the Purdue University Administration eagerly looked forward to the Grateful Dead concert at Memorial Union Ballroom on April 18, 1969.
Purdue University, Lafayette, IN (9th seed, Midwest)
The Grateful Dead began their heavy run of college bookings in Spring 1969. One of the first was at Purdue, on Apr 18 1969. The band played at the Memorial Union Ballroom, rather than the basketball arena. The Purdue Memorial Union was built in 1924, but I don't know how big the ballroom was, probably not that large. Rick Mount was a junior at Purdue at the time, for those of you who care about such things.

San Diego State University, San Diego, CA (8th seed, South)
The Aztec Bowl was a municipal stadium that also served as the home field for the San Diego State Aztecs football team. It was built in 1936, with a capacity of 12,500. Also on the bill were Canned Heat, Lee Michaels and then-unknown Santana. Part or all of the Dead's set was broadcast on a San Diego radio station.

University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH (8th seed, Midwest)
The Grateful Dead played a show at the Armory Field House at the University of Cincinnati on Apr 3 1970. The Armory Field House was built in 1954, and the basketball team moved to a bigger facility after the 1976 season. Oscar Robertson, The Big O himself, set his NCAA career scoring records at Armory. The facility is now a rec center.

Michigan State University, E. Lansing, MI
A commenter notes that I missed the Dead's show at the home court of the Michigan State Spartans. From 1940 to 1989, Michigan State played at Jenison Field House (they moved to the Breslin Center in 1989). The Dead played Jenison (capacity 10,004) on March 13, 1971. At the time, Earvin Johnson was in nearby Lansing, aged 11. I am not aware that he attended the Dead show, or wanted to (nor that his mother would have let him if he did).

The Grateful Dead played the University of Wisconsin Field House on March 14, 1971
University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (1st seed, West)
The Grateful Dead were always popular in Wisconsin, but they only played one show on the U of WI campus, at the Fieldhouse on Mar 14 1971. The 10,600 capacity arena opened in 1930. It abuts the football stadium, Camp Randall Field, and is sometimes called Camp Randall Field House, though that isn't actually accurate.

{venue?}, Iowa State University, Ames, IA (3rd seed, West)
The Iowa State University was founded in 1858, and was made a Morrill Land Grant institution in 1862. Although details are murky, it appears that the February 24, 1973 show was at Iowa State, not the University of Iowa (Deadlists is apparently wrong, listing it as U. of Iowa). I'm not sure of the venue. If anyone can shed light on this critical matter, please Comment or email me before Thursday. Or whenever.

Ohio State University, Columbus, OH (10th seed, West)
The Grateful Dead played the surprisingly small Mershon Auditorium (2500 seats) at Ohio State University in Columbus, OH on Sep 30 1976. Ohio State's team was awful both the previous year (75-76) and the ensuing one (76-77).

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA (9th seed, East_
The Grateful Dead played the LSU Assembly Center, capacity 13,250, on Oct 16 1977. You would think that Baton Rouge, Louisiana would have been a great market for the Grateful Dead, but, well,  "too close to New Orleans," as the song goes. The venue is now known as The Pete Maravich Assembly Center, after "Pistol Pete" Maravich (b.1947-d.1988), LSU's most legendary player.

University of Indiana, Bloomington, IN (10th seed, Midwest)
The Grateful Dead played the University of Indiana's basketball arena, Assembly Hall, on Oct 30 1977. The 17,000 capacity arena had been built in 1971. Knicks fans will note that both Mike Woodson and Glen Grunwald were both members of the 1977-78 Hoosiers. Isiah Thomas would not arrive until Fall 1979.

University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK (3rd seed, East)
The Grateful Dead played the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, OK on Nov 11 1977. The arena is downtown, but Norman is a classic college town, so it may as well be on campus. The arena was built in 1975. It has a basketball capacity of 11,000, but the Dead probably used the 6500 seat concert setup.

University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA (5th seed, East)
If you're looking for a sleeper, look for the University of Northern Iowa. I don't know anything about the current UNI basketball team, but the Dead played a great show there on February 5, 1978. Iowa is cold, and Northern Iowa is really cold, so cold that the football facility is indoors. The UniDome, capacity about 15,00 houses both the basketball and football teams. It must have been something, stuck in a Cedar Falls winter, to have the Dead come and light the place up.

University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY (1st seed, Midwest)
It's hard to bet against John Calipari and the undefeated University of Kentucky Wildcats in the 2015 NCAA tournament. The Dead played Rupp Arena on Apr 21 1978. The band played Rupp shortly after UK had won their 5th NCAA championship in St. Louis.

The Dead played the University of Virginia basketball arena on September 14, 1982.

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA (2nd seed, East)
The Grateful Dead played the University Hall arena at the University of Virginia on Sep 14 1982. The 82-83 Cavaliers featured the 7'4" center Ralph Sampson, a truly great player before his knees went, and future NBA coach Rick Carlisle. The 8500 capacity arena had been built in 1965. It was used by the Cavaliers until 2006 when they moved into the John Paul Jones arena (named after a billionaire contributor, not the bass player).

University of West Virginia, Morgantown, WV (5th seed, Midwest)
The Grateful Dead played the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown on April 10, 1983. The 14,000 capacity building opened in 1970, and is still the home court for the Mountaineers. The 1982-83 team was pretty good, going 23-8, but without any memorable NBA players. It doesn't matter, though, since WVU Mountaineer Jerry West's silhouette is on every NBA players uniform anyway.

North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC (8th seed, East)
57,000 seat Carter-Finley stadium was built in 1966. The Grateful Dead played there on July 10 1990. Although constructed on university land, it is actually a few miles west of the North Carolina State University campus. NC State is just one county over from both Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill, and it accounts for just as much local basketball madness as the other two. It has an equally long tradition as either of those schools, too, although it does not have their national profiles. NC State has a better football history than its rivals, but that's not saying much.

Jerry Garcia Bonus Picks
Villanova University, Villanova, PA (1st seed, East)
On his first Eastern tour without the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia played with Howard Wales at the Villanova University Field House on January 23, 1972. A tape is rumored to exist, but has never surfaced. By all accounts, Mahavishnu Orchestra's opening set blew away Garcia and Wales' noodling.

Georgetown University, Washington, DC (4th seed, South)
The Jerry Garcia Band played McDonough Gym on Nov 7 1981. The Hoyas that year were lead by future Knicks center Patrick Ewing and future Warriors guard Sleepy Floyd. Science has still not determined what a "Hoya" might be.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Hoffman's Bicycle>Bycycle 1968-69 (The Secret Life Of Dan Healy)

A Berkeley Barb ad for the New Orleans House, a club at 1505 San Pablo. Howard Wales and A.B. Skhy headlined the weekend shows on October 18 and 19, 1968, and Hoffman's Bicycle opened for them. 
A co-conspirator and I have a long-running project tracking the history of rock music in Berkeley, CA in the late 1960s. As part of our research, we have created performance lists for a number of key venues in the city. Many of the performers at these long-ago places are quite obscure. Over the years, a key part of our research has been identifying the performers in these bands, some of which only played a few times. Patience is rewarded, however, with occasional surprises, like the time that the band Deacon And The Suprelles emptied the house at their Mandrake's debut, until only one patron was left at the bar. The a departing friend told the band that an armed robber was in the house, and the police were clearing out the club in order to arrest him.

Nonetheless, certain intriguing mysteries remain. One nagging curiosity had always been the band Hoffman's Bicycle, who had opened for A.B. Skhy for one weekend at the New Orleans House on October 18 and 19, 1968. This cleverly named group, with a whiff of psychedelia and intrigue, could be found in no other bookings that I was aware of. However, a recent interview with the long-time chief engineer of Fantasy Studios, Jim Stern, revealed some tantalizing details about Hoffman's Bicycle. For one thing, they subsequently changed their named to "Bycycle," with a "y," a group whose name has been spotted on a variety of Bay Area adds and handbills in the 1968-69 period. More importantly, Stern revealed another long-lost fact: the bass player for Hoffman's Bicycle was none other than future Grateful Dead soundman Dan Healy. Suddenly the history of Hoffman's Bicycle and its successor Bicycle look very intriguing indeed.

Van Morrison's 1973 album, Hard Nose The Highway, engineered by Jim Stern at Fantasy Studios in Berkely
Jim Stern and Dan Healy
Scholar and journalist Jake Feinberg recently interviewed engineer Jim Stern on his show. Usually, Feinberg interviews exceptional musicians, not always best sellers but of the sort revered by their peers and serious fans. Stern was just one of those back-of-the-album names, someone you faintly recall without precisely remembering his specific contribution. Over the course of the amazing 3-hour interview, however, Stern turns out to have played a critical role in the history of Bay Area music. Stern was a professional drummer with an engineering degree, so he ended up working at Fantasy Studios in Oakland in the 60s. When Fantasy opened its new studios at 10th and Parker in Berkeley, Stern was asked to become chief engineer, and his career switched over permanently to the other side of the glass. Stern, now retired, produced many jazz and rock albums over the decades, including work for Van Morrison, McCoy Tyner and too many others to count.

Stern's own history is pretty interesting, and Feinberg gets Stern talking about his long gone past. Feinberg asked Stern how he had gotten to know Dan Healy, and the story was revealing indeed. Stern grew up in the Haight-Ashbury in the 1950s, and he went to San Francisco State in the mid-60s to get his engineering degree. On weekends, Stern played drums in "Top 40" cover bands around San Francisco. He knew the Grateful Dead from around the Haight, and even jammed with them on occasion at 710 Ashbury, apparently under the most casual of circumstances, so he was socially connected to the band and they knew of his drumming skills.

When the Grateful Dead opened The Carousel Ballroom, one of their ideas was to have regular "Tuesday Night Jams." While we have a few partial tapes, our knowledge of these events is a little sketchy. There seems to have only been three such events, on May 21 and 22 and June 4, 1968 (the Carousel closed shortly after). For one of them, Bob Weir called up Stern and asked him to be the "house drummer" for the jam. Although the syntax is a bit obscure, it appears that Healy was at this Tuesday jam, with his group Hoffman's Bicycle. In any case, although Stern may have already known Healy as a fellow engineer, he was the one who revealed in the interview that Healy was the bassist for Hoffman's Bicycle, and that they later changed their name to Bycycle.

The diagram of the Grateful Dead's 1974 sound system, "The Wall Of Sound." Dan Healy was a principal architect of this remarkable system, which was light years ahead of its contemporaries.
The Dan Healy Story, As Told By Dan Healy
Dan Healy is rightly famous as one of the principal audio engineers of the Grateful Dead, recording and producing many of their albums, and a crucial architect of their amazing live sound. As such, Healy has been interviewed numerous times, so the narrative of his 60s career is generally well-known. However, while I think everything we generally know about Healy is true, it appears that he left Hoffman's Bicycle out entirely. At various times in the 80s, Healy played live with a group called The Healy-Treece Band, so he had another life as a musician, going back to the 1960s. He simply seems to have left his 60s band out of any narrative, and no one has ever asked him about it.

Very briefly, the Healy story was that he was an engineer for Commercial Recorders in San Francisco in the mid-60s. After recording commercial jingles and the like during the daytime, he would sometimes sneak in his musician friends after hours to record demos (possibly including the Grateful Dead). Healy also was part of the tiny underground of FM radio enthusiasts, providing technical support to the various hipsters broadcasting interesting stuff on the FM band during odd hours of the night.

Marin real estate agent Gino Cippolina had gotten Healy a cheap rental on a Sausalito houseboat in late 1965. On the next boat over were some long hairs who included Cippolina's son, and they soon formed a band called Quicksilver Messenger Service. When the Quick's equipment broke during rehearsal, they discovered that the friendly engineer next door could fix everything. Several months later, at a Fillmore concert, soon after soundman Owsley Stanley had stopped working with the Dead because he had to focus on other business interests, Phil Lesh's bass broke. Healy came up from the crowd (probably invited by John Cippolina) and fixed it, impressing the band. Afterwards, Healy told Garcia that he didn't like the sound, and Garcia challenged him: "do you think you can do better?" As it happened, Healy did think he could do better, so he became the Dead's audio engineer, and proved that he was right.

After recording and producing Anthem Of The Sun with the Grateful Dead, Healy left the group to become a producer and engineer for Mercury Records. I'm not certain what his status was with Mercury--whether he was on salary or some sort of free agent--but the record business was coming to San Francisco in a big way. Starting in mid-1968, Healy engineered and/or produced a variety of records for Mercury and others, including albums by Doug Sahm, Harvey Mandel and other acts. He eventually went on to work with Quicksilver in 1969 and '70, working on three of their Capitol albums (Shady Grove, Just For Love and What About Me). Owsley had returned to his seat at the Dead's soundboard in mid-1968, but after a variety of legal problems Owsley had ended up in jail in July 1970. Once again, with Owsley gone, the Grateful Dead's live sound deteriorated, Healy criticized it, and he was invited back to fix it.

All of the above is relatively well-known in Deadhead circles, and Healy has commented on various bits and pieces of it over the years. Certainly the timeline and the backs of numerous albums document Healy's career as an engineer and producer in San Francisco in the late 60s. Yet Healy has never, to my knowledge, mentioned that he was in a band back then, much less their name.

The Leaves single "Hey Joe," on Mira Records, Pat Boone's label. The leaves on the cover were reputedly stylized marijuana leaves. Draw your own conclusions. 
Albert Hofmann's Bicycle
In the 60s, drugs and drug culture were a mystery to the mainstream, and all sorts of in-jokes were promulgated on the music industry. A rockin' Hollywood band called The Leaves, who had had a 1966 hit with "Hey Joe," had a stylized marijuana leaf on the cover of their first record, on Pat Boone's label, no less. A Colorado band called The Rainy Daze had a big hit in 1967 with a song whose chorus went "Old dogs can learn new tricks/When the streets are lined with bricks/Of Acapulco Gold." No one figured it out until after the single had sold 150,000 copies, when it was abruptly banned. 

Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann--with one "f" and two "n", unlike Abbie--had discovered LSD-25 as early as 1938. However, on April 19, 1943---the day before 4/20!--Hofmann experimented with the drug, and as he felt the effects of it, he rode home on his bicycle (wartime restrictions prevented the use of his car, and a good thing, too--what would Hofmann have done at a blue light?). Thus his bicycle ride was the first intentional acid trip. There was no Wikipedia in the 60s, but Albert Hofmann and his bicycle ride were known in an underground way, so the implications of a band called Hoffman's Bicycle--even mispelled--would have been instantly recognizable in places like Berkeley or San Francisco. Any band with a name like that would be pretty consciously wearing a psychedelic nametag, even if it wasn't overt in a newspaper listing.
Dan Healy was the "Executive Engineer" for the Grateful Dead's album Anthem Of The Sun, released in July 1968

Dan Healy As Grateful Dead Soundman, 1967-68
It is a truism of Grateful Dead history that Healy took over as the Dead's soundman after Owsley left. Yet what did he really do? I don't think Healy went on the road with them. Now, Healy probably attended the local concerts, and he may have gone along for the occasional out-of-town event, but he doesn't seem to have been part of the 1967 tours. Healy didn't go to New York in either the Summer of 1967 or at the end that year, for example, as far as I know. I think Healy acted as a sort of consultant, hotwiring gear and solving technical problems. 

Yet was Healy on the payroll? It's not really clear. Certainly the Dead had little money, and even if Healy was getting a few bucks from the band, he probably still had to freelance as an engineer on the side. Healy's great contribution to the early Grateful Dead was acting as engineer on the Anthem Of The Sun sessions. On the album, Healy is listed as "Executive Engineer." Healy's legend was cemented when he helped manage the multiple tape recordings that were merged together for side two. 

Healy had effectively taken over as Chief Engineer of the Grateful Dead when Owsley had departed in about August 1966. Bob Matthews seemed to be the band's house sound man, until he was fired in December 1967. By early 1968, Owsley's other business interests had put him in serious legal trouble, and he returned to the Grateful Dead fold. In particular, Owsley seems to have played a big role in setting up the sound system of the Carousel, while Healy was working on Anthem over at Columbus Recorders. By the Summer of '68, Owsley was back on board as the Grateful Dead's soundman on the road. Owsley had also effectively become the chief engineer for the Dead, whatever exactly that meant. Healy seems to have separated from the Dead right after Anthem was completed.

Both Owsley and Dan Healy are legendary figures in the Grateful Dead firmament, yet it is never remarked upon that they never really worked together. Neither ever bad-mouthed the other for the record, to my knowledge, but there seems to have only been room for one King on the throne. Healy started working with the Dead when Owsley was otherwise engaged. When Owsley returned, Healy finished the Anthem project and departed (McNally merely says [p.276] "Healy had left the band to work with Quicksilver in Hawaii," which misstates Healy's work with the Quick by a year). When Healy reappeared at the end of 1970, Owsley was in jail. Healy returned in 1971, and Owsley did not get out of jail until mid-72. Upon Owsley's release, it is generally told that "Owsley could not find a role" on the Dead's crew, but it is hard not to draw the conclusion that Healy had the scepter, and Owsley was no one's assistant. 

In mid-1968, however, the circumstances were different. The returning Owsley was the pre-eminent electronic genius, and Healy must have seen himself pushed aside. It's known that he became a full time engineer and producer for the newly burgeoning record industry in San Francisco, as his name can be seen on the backs of many albums. It's also logical that if Healy ever had thoughts of making it as a musician, 1968 was the perfect time: record companies were signing everyone with long hair, and he wasn't doing anything else. In any case, although studio engineering could be intense, it was still intermittent even when business was good. Rehearsing and gigging were always possible at all but the busiest times. So Healy must formed or joined Hoffman's Bicycle just as he separated from the Grateful Dead in the early Summer of 1968.
This Tuesday Night Jam art seems to have been used a couple of different times in various formats at the Carousel Ballroom in 1968. 

Hoffman's Bicycle>Bycycle Performance History
With all of this in mind, I am going to present what little is known about the band Hoffman's Bicycle and its successor Bycycle. Of course, all I know for an absolute fact is that Dan Healy was the bass player for Hoffman's Bicycle, and the band later changed its name to Bycycle. I do not know how long Healy was in the group. I also have to assume that various late 60s Bay Area listings for the band "Bicycle" were really Bycycle, which seems likely. Anyone who knows anything about any other members of Bycycle, or of Healy's non-engineering activities in 1968-69, is encouraged to include them in the Comments or email me directly.

June 4, 1968 Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA "Tuesday Night Jam"
Various San Francisco rock bands controlled The Carousel Ballroom from January through June 1968, but the Grateful Dead and their associates were in charge of the day-to-day operation. Near the end of their tenure, the Dead inaugurated Tuesday night jam sessions, with Jerry Garcia and others playing with various San Francisco musicians. Based on Stern's description of being invited by Bob Weir, and some other sketchy information, I am assuming that June 4 was the night that Stern was the "house drummer" and Dan Healy was present as the bass player for Hoffman's Bycycle. This would have been exactly when Owsley was reasserting himself as the Dead's soundman, and Healy may have seen greener pastures in the growing San Francisco record industry. 

October 18-19, 1968 New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: AB Skhy/Hoffman's Bicycle
The only confirmed sighting of Hoffman's Bicycle was at Berkeley's New Orleans House on the weekend of October 18 and 19, 1968. During this time, the New Orleans House was a prime stop for Bay Area rock bands playing original music, along with The Matrix in San Francisco and The Poppycock in Palo Alto. AB Skhy was relatively newly arrived in the Bay Area, and they featured three guys from Wisconsin, along with expartriate-Cincinnati organ player Howard Wales. Wales would  of course go on to play with Garcia and the Dead, and its interesting to see a possible Wales/Healy connection prior to that. 

February 14, 1969 Londonside Tavern, Glen Ellen, CA: Bycycle
The next sighting of the band was several months later. If there was a window where Healy might have left the group, the October through February gap would seem to be the most likely. However, we have no evidence one way or the other. I would note that the performing career of Bycycle appears light enough that Healy could easily have continued his career as a recording engineer while still playing some gigs on the side. As to the name change, I have to think it was a concession to possible commercialism. Every band in San Francisco was getting signed back then--Mercury Records had signed a dozen acts alone in 1968--but being overtly named after the first acid trip was a poor strategy for success. By '69, media outlets were speculating whether the Beatles "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" was a code for LSD, so a band whose name really was in that code would have been ill-advised to keep it. Hence the switch to an archaic spelling of Bicycle seems prudent, while retaining the link for insiders.

Glen Ellen is a small town in Sonoma County, 50 miles North of San Francisco. At the time, Glen Ellen was only known because writer Jack London had an estate there from 1905 until his death in 1916. The tavern at the Londonside Inn in downtown Glen Ellen was a little hippie enclave, and all sorts of cool bands played there in 1969, including the nascent Hot Tuna (then just "Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady") and the Cleanliness And Godliness Skiffle Band. The fact that Bycycle was booked there puts them right in the underground mainstream, if such a term makes sense.

On April 19, 1969, the Sir Douglas Quintet, Bycycle, Gentle Dance and Devil's Kitchen played the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa. 
April 19, 1969 Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa, CA: Sir Douglas Quintet/Bycycle/Gentle Dance/Devil's Kitchen
Sonoma County was small and rural in the 60s. The Sir Douglas Quintet had some popularity in San Francisco, but they weren't Fillmore West headliners. Out in the countryside, however, they could headline. There were numerous buildings on the Fairgrounds site, but I don't know which one they would have used for the concert. Devil's Kitchen were newly arrived in San Francisco from Carbondale, IL. They would soon become the house band at the new Family Dog On The Great Highway.

May 21-22, 1969 New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Bicycle
Although we have to assume that the "misspelling" of Bicycle still represents the same group, it seems logical. Bicycle (sic) returned to the New Orleans House to headline a Wednesday and Thursday night. Generally speaking, weeknights at the NOH were for local bands to have their own chance to build an audience.

The performance listings from the June 3, 1969, San Francisco Chronicle. Bicycle was advertised as playing at the Fillmore auditions that night. 
June 3, 1969 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA :Transatlantic Railroads/Billy Roberts/Bicycle
Histories of the Fillmore West generally elide the Tuesday night series where three or four local bands played. These shows went on for most of the history of the Fillmore West, save for the Summers when the hall was booked full time. To my knowledge, I am the only one who has attempted to document the Tuesday night Fillmore West "audition" shows.

On Tuesday, June 3, the Fillmore West bill (per that day's SF Chronicle, above) was Transatlantic Railroad, probably a Marin band, Billy Roberts, who had actually written the song "Hey Joe" somewhat earlier, and Bicycle. Every Tuesday night Fillmore West show was recorded, although the tapes may not have survived. Bill Graham used the shows to check out new groups to open at Fillmore West, and the recording could act as a demo if he wanted to sign them. Alternately, BGP would sell the tape to the groups. So it's not impossible that there is an extant tape of Bycycle performing live at Fillmore West.

June 8, 1969 Unitarian Center, San Francisco, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups/Freedom Highway/Bycycle/others
To the extent that the band name Bycycle is recognized at all, it is recognized from some 1969 rock posters. Any posters in Paul Grushkin's book Art Of Rock are widely known, even if the events themselves were obscure. This benefit concert for the Unitarian Fellowship was held on a Sunday afternoon with a variety of second tier Bay Area bands, along with various light shows and other artists. Sons Of Champlin, Ace Of Cups and Freedom Highway were all booked by the WestPole Agency, run by Quicksilver manager Ron Polte, so the Quicksilver connection remained intact.

The Grateful Dead were playing at Fillmore West this weekend (from Friday June 6 through June 8). There was also a free concert in Golden Gate Park, so it was a big weekend for hip bands in San Francisco. This event was (per the poster) from 2pm to midnight. I'm not sure where the Unitarian Church was at the time, and true to the tradition, the poster is hard to read. In any case, San Francisco rock fans had a variety of choices throughout the day.

July 16-17, 1969 George's Log Cabin, San Francisco, CA: Bycycle
George's Log Cabin was on the farthest Western edge of San Francisco, right on the San Mateo County line, at 2629 Bayshore Boulevard, high above the now-departed Candlestick Park. It had gone through various guises since it had been a prohibition hangout back in the day. By 1969 George's Log Cabin was hosting rock shows, but the bands that played there were not so high on the rock food chain.

A flyer for the July 18-20, 1969 booking at the Family Dog, including the Sir Douglas Quintet and Bicycle. 
July 18-20, 1969 Family Dog On The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Sir Douglas Quintet/Bicycle/Kwan Ditos/Shades Of Joy
Chet Helms had closed the Avalon Ballroom in December 1968, although other promoters had since used it. In June of 1969, he moved his Family Dog operation to Ocean Beach, using a modest ballroom at a decaying Amusement Park. The posters called it The Family Dog On The Great Highway, but most of the locals called it Playland, as they always had. While the FDGH was definitely a rung below the Fillmore West, there was still plenty of optimism in July of 1969, and various hip acts played the room.

Once again the Sir Douglas Quintet was headlining a show where Bycycle opened, suggesting some other kind of connection between the bands. Its worth noting that Healy and Sahm had recorded together for Mercury, and Healy had mixed Sahm's hit "Mendocino," as well as working on his other albums. (For the record, the Kwan Ditos were a Latin rock band that featured pianist Todd Barkan, who was the proprietor of the Keystone Korner from mid-72 onwards, when it was a jazz club. The Shades Of Joy were a sort of jam band that featured saxophonist Martin Fierro, among others.)

August 22, 1969 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Womb/4th Way/Ace Of Cups/The Committee Benefit for The Wild West Organizers
Our most tantalizing clue about Dan Healy's career as a musician comes from his time working on the Shady Grove album for Quicksilver Messenger Service, which he engineered. At the end of 1968, guitarist Gary Duncan had left Quicksilver to form a band with singer Dino Valenti. Ironically enough, Duncan left just as Quicksilver was starting to get played regularly on the new FM radios throughout the country. The band's second album, the classic Happy Trails, was released in February 1969 and was an instant classic. Quicksilver was hardly a band, but Capitol really wanted an album.

Throughout the first half of 1969, Quicksilver had only existed in name only. The three remaining members (lead guitarist Cipollina, bassist/vocalist David Freiberg and drummer Greg Elmore) played a little with producer Nick Gravenites, but really they were doing nothing. Eventually, the band hooked up with pianist Nicky Hopkins, who had enjoyed his visits to the Bay Area with the Jeff Beck Group so much that he had decided to move to Mill Valley. The quartet began recording Quicksilver's third album with Dan Healy at the board. They recorded at Wally Heider's Studio in July and August of 1969, and switched over to Pacific High Recorders for August and September. The Shady Grove album would finally come out in December. It has some interesting moments, but it generally has the disorganized feel of a band that was struggling to find something to record.

I have only been able to confirm four Quicksilver Messenger Service shows from the Summer of '69, all during the recording of Shady Grove. The first two were July 18 and 19, in the tiny town of Seaside, near Monterey. The band played an old movie theater that had been turned into a burlesque house. Since Seaside was near Fort Ord, there had presumably been a steady supply of soldiers interested in womanly charms, but it appeared that Quicksilver's management was trying out different venues in order to start their own ballroom. In any case, Seaside was well outside of San Francisco, so it made sense for a popular band trying to work on new material in a live setting to play at an out-of-the-way venue.

However, Quicksilver Messenger Service also headlined a shows at the Fillmore West and the Family Dog On The Great Highway on Friday and Saturday, August 22 and 23. The biggest event of the San Francisco summer was supposed to be a giant rock festival in Golden Gate Park called The Wild West Festival. The event was scheduled for the weekend of August 22-24, and the entire event fell apart in amidst ill will and bitter arguments over money. The organizers had taken a bath, and as the bands had kept the weekend free, benefit concerts were held at the two venues to try and defray some of the costs.

Fortunately, we have a remarkably detailed account of the Friday night Quicksilver show at Fillmore West. Faren Miller was a Berkeley teenager whose parents also liked rock music, so they regularly took her to rock shows, particularly to see Quicksilver, her favorite band. Miller, to the delight of future rock prosopographers, would write a detailed description of each show she attended in her diary. About twenty-five years later, once the internet was invented, Miller excerpted all the rock concert parts. Thus she has provided exceptional details about the specific bands and venues for the shows she attended (and Faren, wherever you are, thank you so, so much).

In Miller's detailed description of Quicksilver's August '69 Fillmore band, she describes a loose band just getting used to having Hopkins as a member. Most intriguingly, however, she says that for several numbers they were joined by their friend Dan Healy, who played bass and guitar. Miller had no idea who Healy was at the time (nor did anyone else), so he must have been introduced from the stage. Although David Freiberg was a fine bass player, he had not always played bass on every number with Quicksilver, letting Gary Duncan take it over on occasion. So for this show, at least, Healy seems to have acted as a utility infielder, presumably playing bass and rhythm guitar on various numbers. Healy was mixing the Shady Grove album at Pacific High by this time, and he probably knew their new material as well or better than the band.

However, one thing that this unexpected sighting of Healy with Quicksilver tells me was that Healy was a pretty active musician at the time. The Quicksilver boys were loose hippies, sure, but they could all really play, and Hopkins was a certified session legend even by 1969. So Healy wouldn't have been on the stage, even in a modest role, unless he could play with the big boys. That leads me to think that Healy must still have been playing regularly. From that, I am inferring that most likely he had continued to play with Bycycle.

Incidentally, I got a detailed email about one of the Seaside shows from someone who attended, and he definitely does not recall Healy playing with Quicksilver at that show. He doesn't rule it out, but his memories were pretty clear, and he doesn't recall it. Noting that Quicksilver appears to have introduced Healy to the crowd at Fillmore West, that suggests he did not play at Seaside. I would note that Bycycle had a gig that weekend at the Family Dog, so sketchy as the evidence might be, the dates line up.

"Moby Grape" (actually The Rhythm Dukes) and Bycycle were booked at the Monterey County Fairgrounds on September 5, 1969. 

September 5, 1969 Monterey County Fairgrounds, Monterey, CA: "Moby Grape"/Fields/Bycycle
The Monterey County Fairgrounds were actually regularly used for rock shows, but of course they were far smaller than the legendary 1967 Festival at the main Horse Show arena. Although this concert was billed as "Moby Grape," it was really a band called The Rhythm Dukes, who lived in Felton and featured two former members of the Grape (Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson). Their difficulty in preventing promoters from using the name Moby Grape was just one of a long line of frustrations for the band. Based on the poster, and some things I know about the nascent Monterey rock scene, this seems to have been yet another very hippie promotion, which seems characteristic of the gigs that Bycycle played.

December 5, 1969 Cal Expo Auditorium, Sacramento, CA: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young/Taj Mahal/Bycycle
The final whiff of Bycycle was their biggest gig, by far. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were the hottest band in the country in 1969. The morning after this show, CSNY would be helicoptered over to Altamont Raceway (about 80 miles North) to open the soon-to-be-infamous festival featuring the Rolling Stones. Immediately after their performance, CSNY was helicoptered to the airport, where they went to Los Angeles and played UCLA that night. Only the next morning did they read the papers to find out what a mess they had missed by being choppered in and out of the festival.

How did Bycycle, not even a Sacramento band, end up opening the biggest show in Sacramento? Taj Mahal was on Columbia, well connected in Los Angeles and fine performer, so his presence was not surprising. But since every aspiring rock band for hundreds of miles around would have wanted the opening slot, how did Bycycle get the call? Who did they know, and when did they know it?

How long Dan Healy was in Bycycle remains a mystery--we of course don't know for sure whether he was in the band at all after the name change in 1969. However, their performance schedule seems light enough that he could have been. Healy went on to fame as the Grateful Dead's soundman and engineer, and in the 1980s he led his own group, the Healy-Treece Band. Yet he seems never to have mentioned that he had a sixties group. Somewhere out there are the other members of Hoffman's Bicycle, and here's to hoping they can tell us the other pieces of the puzzle.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Grateful Dead Contribution To The Space Program (Avalon Ballroom 1966)

The iconic Kelly/Mouse poster for the Avalon Ballroom concerts of September 16-17, 1966, featuring the Grateful Dead and the Oxford Circle
We tend to assume that the Internet is a sort of permanent repository, with the Cloud somehow synonymous with the Firmament itself, so that things once there will be there forever. In reality, that is not the case. When the broadband Internet became easily accessible at the end of the 20th Century, all sorts of fascinating material appeared there, but all of it is not necessarily there today. As a result, some pieces of history that were easily accessible are far less so now. In the spirit of preservation, this post will recognize the Grateful Dead's unexpected contribution to NASA and the Space Program--no, not the search for a Dark Star--but it will depend mostly on my memory. There are sure to be omissions and errors, so anyone with corrections, insights or links should be sure to include them in the Comments.

Modern rock concert history began in early 1966. After the success of the Family Dog dances in late 1965, and Trips Festival at Longshoreman's Hall in January 1966, Bill Graham and Chet Helms partnered up to provide the "Sights and Sounds Of The Trip Festival", as a February 1966 poster for a Bill Graham produced Jefferson Airplane concert put it. Thus the modern rock concert industry was born. All we see today at the local arena stems from this genesis.

Yet Bill Graham and Chet Helms, though perfectly matched, were an inherently uneasy partnership. Within six weeks, they had parted company. On April 22, 1966, Helms opened up a competitor to the Fillmore, the legendary Avalon Ballroom at 1268 Sutter Street. Although the Fillmore remained hugely popular, the Avalon instantly grabbed the attention of the hippest of the underground, and the bands preferred to play the Avalon, even if Graham's Fillmore operation actually paid better. The tension between the popular, profitable Fillmore and the hip, artistic Avalon was what gave San Francisco its dynamic cachet. While the Fillmore may have capitalized on various innovations at the Avalon, the twin success meant that playing San Francisco was a viable proposition for the newly-formed psychedelic San Francisco programs.

Still---everyone knows the story of the Beats, LSD, the Fillmore, the Avalon, the Dead and the Airplane, and all that came after. Where does NASA fit into this?

The first Family Dog concerts at the Avalon Ballroom were April 22-23, 1966, featuring The Blues Project and The Great Society. Grace Slick was a member of The Great Society at the time.

Bob Cohen and The Avalon
Chet Helms' original deal with Bill Graham was that they would alternate weekend promotions at the Fillmore Auditorium, while sharing what would now be called "creative capital." Graham ran his shows professionally and knew how to make them pay, but he knew nothing about rock music nor the community coming to the shows. Helms was a visionary, who recognized that rock music would thrive in what would now be called a "performing environment." Each Helms show had a theme, with staging and lights to match, and the poster promoted the theme of the show. Since no one had actually heard of the bands--they mostly hadn't recorded anything--such innovations were critical.

According to legend, it was Chet Helms who knew to book the mighty Paul Butterfield Blues Band in February 1966--Graham had no idea. Yet when Graham saw how the band went over, he woke up early and called Butterfield's manager (Albert Grossman) and made an exclusive deal for the next several months, thus cutting Helms out of potentially lucrative bookings. Helms promptly took steps to leave the Fillmore to Graham, and found his own unused big band ballroom. The Avalon Ballroom on Sutter and Van Ness had been relatively dormant for many years, but it wasn't far from either downtown or the Haight-Ashbury, so Helms opened his own psychedelic palace.

Helms had the insight and connections to the rock bands, and he was good at finding themes and artists to render them. He couldn't do everything, though. Helms' key partner at the Avalon Ballroom was one Bob Cohen. Cohen had somehow learned something about audio technology, I believe in the Air Force. In the late 50s and early 60s, with the draft omnipresent yet no wars looming, many young men chose to enlist in the service of their choice rather than suffer through the grunt duty of infantry as an Army GI. The Air Force had a reputation as a place where there were a lot of interesting electronics happening, and many famous and infamous 60s sound technicians had Air Force backgrounds (Augustus Owsley Stanley III, just to name one, was in the Air Force in the '50s, as were Mickey Hart and Tom Constanten somewhat later).

Bob Cohen put together the sound system at the Avalon, and I believe that the Avalon was the first Bay Area venue with a house system truly equipped for loud, psychedelic rock. Among Cohen's many innovations were putting a sound man out in the crowd with a mixing board. We take this for granted today--a high school play has a house sound man now--but it was basically unknown prior to the Avalon.

Cohen was also an innovator in providing monitor systems for bands. In the early days of rock, guitarists played through their amplifiers, and singers sang through microphones connected to some sort of 'house' PA system, and it often sounded terrible. Cohen improved the situation by providing a house system of amplifiers that both reinforced the guitars and provided sound for the singers. By mixing the vocals from the center of the floor, the sound was probably pretty good by modern standards. By ancient standards, it was probably incredible, which may account for the ecstatic responses of people who went to see bands at the Avalon in the early days, as they could actually hear the musicians play and sing.

However, though Cohen may have been the first to insure that rock crowds could always hear the bands, the bands themselves could hardly hear themselves. Cohen typically mixed the sound from out in the crowd, but he also had the idea to put amplifiers on stage for the band so that they could hear themselves. He then added a soundman on stage, to mix the monitor sound for the band, so they could more or less hear what they were putting out. Cohen even had an in-house intercom system, so he could talk to his monitor guy on stage and the lighting director overhead, to keep everything coordinated. I expect the intercom technology was standard for the Air Force, but it was new stuff in the entertainment industry.

No doubt there were other, similar experiments in different parts of the country, but the Avalon was the first major venue where the hall sound was designed for loud rock, and suitable equipment was in place so that the audience and bands could really hear what was being laid down. No wonder everyone from 1966 remembers the Avalon.

The Grateful Dead played their first Family Dog show at the Avalon on May 28, 1966, along with The Leaves and The Grassroots (they did not play on Friday May 27--in between "Graeful" and "Dead" on the poster, it says "SAT ONLY")

Enter The Grateful Dead
Bob Cohen's sound system at the Avalon Ballroom was ahead of its time. The audience could hear the band clearly, the band could hear themselves, and that only made it better. Combined with the light show and Chet Helms' artistic concept of a complete environment, the Avalon pretty much defined the rock concert experience that we know today. All the local bands, most of them unknown outside of San Francisco, were hot to play the Avalon. The Grateful Dead were no exception.

The Grateful Dead's first show at the Avalon was on May 19, 1966. This show was not actually a Family Dog show, but rather a benefit for the Straight Theater. It is strange to think that the Avalon was hosting a benefit for the Straight, which was trying to open as a competitor, but such was 1966 San Francisco. The Dead's first proper Family Dog show was on May 28, 1966, paired with The Leaves and The Grass Roots. The Dead came back two weeks later, to play Friday and Saturday, June 10 and 11, 1966, with the Quicksilver Messenger Service and Oregon's New Tweedy Brothers.

According to a web post on Bob Cohen's own site, which appears to have since been deleted, Cohen's new system of having a soundman on stage to mix the band while he mixed the sound in the house ran into a problem. Unlike every other band at the time, the Dead had their own sound reinforcement system, financed and built by Owsley and his assistant Tim Scully. By modern standards, the stacks of amplifiers used by the Dead were probably not that big, but in 1966 they were new beasts entirely.

The 1966 Grateful Dead were loud, louder than anyone had ever heard. Now, I don't think the Dead were louder than Blue Cheer, Lee Michaels, Grand Funk, Deep Purple and all that would come after them, but for '66 they blew people's ears out. No one had ever heard anything like it. That included Bob Cohen.

There were two big problems with the Dead at the Avalon. The first was that their stack of amplifiers was so high, it blocked the screens where the light show was displayed. This problem was solved rather easily by putting white sheets over the amp stack, so the light show could simply project onto that. If anything, this looked even better, so everybody was satisfied. Somewhat informally, this also started a tradition for the Dead of decorating their sound system as part of the stage set, although ultimately that would have happened anyway. I have always assumed that the Dead played the Avalon in May with their big stacks, and came back in June with the white sheets.

The Grateful Dead returned to the Avalon on the weekend of August 19-20, 1966, after playing on May 28 and June 10-11. My estimate is that Bob Cohen solved his biggest problem with the Dead by the time of these shows.
The Other Problem
However, the other problem was harder to solve. The Dead were shockingly loud by 1966 standards, because no other band had their own sound system. The guitarists in other bands played through their own amps, but they didn't have electronic geniuses (and troublemakers) like Owsley and Scully providing a tower of top-of-the-line audio equipment to pump out the sound even further. This caused a different problem for Bob Cohen.

At the Avalon, Cohen had worked out the basics of what we now take for granted about rock and roll presentation--stage monitor, house mixer and light show, all electronically linked by an intercom. We take this for granted now without thinking about it, but it all came from Cohen. However, the Dead upended the equation--they were so loud that Cohen could not communicate with his monitor man nor his lighting director. All communication was drowned out by the Grateful Dead's electric thunder.

Cohen must have seen the future, however. Rock and roll was getting louder, not quieter, and the Dead's noisy amp stack was just the shape of things to come. You know how when you're at the Airport news stand and you see the big headphone set that says "Noise Canceling Headphones"? And you buy them, and put them on, and you can listen to your iPod in peace on the plane without being drowned out by jet engines or the chatty jerk in the seat in front of you? Aren't they great? Bob Cohen invented those, too, so he could talk on the intercom to his crew while the Dead were playing "Caution" or something, with Owsley's sound system turned up to 11.

I don't know the exact timing of Cohen's invention. I have always assumed that when the Dead played the Avalon in May and June of 1966, it must have taken Cohen a little while to figure out the solution. I assume that, if Cohen had the Air Force background that I recall, there may have been some existing technology to piggy-back on top of, but even so it must have taken a little while to figure out, and then rig up the crew. However, the Grateful Dead were back at the Avalon on August 19-20, 1966, and I'll bet Cohen had his newly-invented noise canceling headphones up and running by then.

Space-The Final Frontier
Bob Cohen founded a company called Clear-Com, which seems to have provided intercom systems that were geared to loud rock concert environments. As rock concerts got bigger and louder, with more and more crew distributed over larger arenas, Cohen's innovations were particularly critical. According to my memory of Cohen's now deleted web pages, however, that Cohen sold his patent for Noise Canceling Headphones to NASA. Regardless of whether the sale was directly to NASA, or whether it was some indirect relationship, NASA was one of the few businesses for whom a noisy version of "Caution" was not that loud. They had a critical need for noise cancelling headphones, and per the legend Cohen was the provider of the patent. And all because the Grateful Dead were too loud for Cohen to hear his crew on the house intercom.

The album cover for Vintage Dead, released in 1970 on Sunflower Records, an MGM subsidiary. The album featured tracks from an uncertain 1966 Avalon show. For fans in the 70s who had never seen the band back in the day, it was the first whiff of what the early Dead had sounded like.

The Avalon closed in December 1968. Chet Helms went on to numerous other concert ventures, but Cohen seems to have focused on Clear-Com and the technology side of the business. Although he did little studio work that I'm aware of, Cohen did produce the first, fantastic album for Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen for ABC/Paramount in 1971 (Lost In The Ozone). Wonderful as that record was, however, it was all the more remarkable given that, according to the Airmen, Cohen didn't like country music that much.

Cohen fortunately had shown the foresight to tape the performers at the Avalon. Around about 1970, he approached various record companies about doing a series of albums made up of recordings from the early days of the Avalon. Since Cohen had recorded these bands before they had contracts, the rights to these recordings would be open to negotiation. Cohen made some sort of deal with MGM Records for some Grateful Dead recordings, but somehow the entire deal went south. Cohen angrily withdrew his tapes. However, MGM used a dub of Cohen's tape and released the albums Vintage Dead and Historic Dead anyway, in 1970 and '71, on the MGM subsidiary label Sunflower.

Although Vintage Dead and Historic Dead were the first 1966 Grateful Dead that was heard by anyone who wasn't there, and revelatory when they were released, they were still frustrating albums. I don't quite know if the Dead were originally on board with the project or not. I do know that Rock Scully apparently went to a meeting with MGM execs with a huge electromagnet in his pocket, in the hopes of ruining the dubbed tape, but it didn't work. Cohen was so disgusted by the whole experience that he actually destroyed the original tapes, presumably to prevent MGM from getting possession through a lawsuit. This would explain why the complete tapes of the Vintage/Historic Dead lps have never surfaced--they're gone. We don't even really know if the tapes were from September 16-17, 1966-that was just the poster used on the Vintage Dead lp, and given MGM's history that's hardly a confirmation (the best guess seems to be Avalon shows on December 23-24, 1966).

The cover to the 1996 Sundazed cd Oxford Circle Live At The Avalon 1966, a wonderful album made from Bob Cohen's tapes
Cohen seems to have focused on Clear-Com, and finally retired in 1998, leaving Clear-Com to thrive without him. Last I heard, Bob Cohen lives in the hills of Oakland, perhaps near the house on Ascot Drive where Owsley and his cohorts used to plan to reorganize the world. Supposedly he has a basement full of tapes from the Avalon, clean and epic and one of a kind. Before you get too excited, remember that Cohen has said that at various times the members of the Dead crew interfered with his efforts to tape the Dead, so I don't necessarily think he has any long-lost Dead tapes.

But if you're interested in the Avalon itself, well--that's a different matter. In 1996, there was an amazing cd release of an Avalon show by a band called The Oxford Circle, and they absolutely rocked. Blasting through a first of its kind sound system, with the light show blazing, and the 60s in full flower, it wouldn't have mattered that they were a relatively unknown band from Davis, CA. In that sense, Bob Cohen is what we all hope to find, not just an innovator, but one who documents his best work. If you're up on Skyline Boulevard, and you can hear a fuzzy guitar emanating from somewhere, maybe it's not some imitation, but an actual window into the past as it once was.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Stanford Landmark Guide (So Many Roads II)

998 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto, in August 2009. This is the building that housed The Big Beat, site of the December 1965 Acid Test.
So Many Roads
Grateful Dead Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Stanford Landmark Guide
The So Many Roads Grateful Dead Conference on November 5-8, 2014 will be a celebration of the history and legacy of the Grateful Dead. The Conference is jointly hosted by San Jose State University and the University of California at Santa Cruz. Although the two universities are separated by the Santa Cruz Mountains, they are less than 25 miles apart. While the Grateful Dead are rightly recognized worldwide as a San Francisco band, the counties south of San Francisco played a huge part in Dead history as well.

Grateful Dead fans who visit the Bay Area don't always realize how near they often are to various sites where the Grateful Dead or its members performed, or at least plotted world domination. In honor of the So Many Roads conference, I am going to rectify this by writing posts that identify important sites in Grateful Dead history in geographic areas. I began this series with a post about the Grateful Dead's history in Santa Cruz County. I have recently completed a similar post about San Jose and the South Bay, and this post will be about landmarks in Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Stanford University.

The "South Bay" Versus "The Peninsula"
The county just south of San Francisco is San Mateo County, running along San Francisco Bay from South San Francisco to Menlo Park. Just South of the Menlo Park line, Santa Clara County runs from Palo Alto to San Jose to Gilroy and beyond. Back in the 60s and 70s, and perhaps still, residents of most of the towns in San Mateo County along the Bay refer to their region as "The Peninsula." San Jose and some of its nearby suburban towns, like Santa Clara and Cupertino, were referred to as "The South Bay." Palo Alto residents, however, despite being part of Santa Clara County, generally thought of themselves as part of "The Peninsula." Palo Alto does have an outlet on San Francisco Bay, but the primary reason that Palo Alto assigned itself to the Peninsula and not the South Bay was snobbery towards San Jose.

Palo Alto was invented out of thin air by railroad magnate Leland Stanford in 1875, who needed a town to host his planned University. He offered to let the town of Mayfield be the host, on the condition that they close their saloons (Mayfield was situated on what is now California Avenue in Palo Alto). Mayfield refused. So Stanford and his partner Timothy Hopkins bought up all the land between Menlo Park and Mayfield, and built up the town of Palo Alto. The no-saloons rule was written into the Palo Alto city charter.

Downtown Palo Alto generally thrived until the 1950s. By 1950, Stanford University, land-rich but cash poor, needed to do something to generate income, and developed the Stanford Shopping Center just across El Camino Real. The stores in Downtown Palo Alto steadily declined for the next 40 years. In the 1960s, the area was the province of funky bohemians like Jerry Garcia and his friends, since rents were cheap. There were some restaurants that served beer, but still no bars. At the same time, Menlo Park provided an equally cheap, if unheralded, alternative, while Stanford University provided at least the faint whiff of bohemian life as well.

An ad for The Big Beat from the San Mateo Times, June 24, 1966.
The Big Beat, 998 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303
One of the principal events in the founding of the Grateful Dead was Ken Kesey's Acid Test at the Big Beat Club in Palo Alto on December 18, 1965 (I do not subscribe to the timeline that locates the Big Beat event on December 11). Tom Wolfe wrote about it in Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and among many other remarkable events it was where Owsley Stanley introduced manager Rock Scully to the Grateful Dead, and where Hugh Romney--known today as Wavy Gravy--first got on the bus, too. However, the location or even the nature of The Big Beat club remained shrouded in mystery. As a Palo Alto native, I found it odd that such a seminal location had gotten lost in the mists of time. A search of the regular sources (Dennis McNally, Rock Scully, etc) did not reveal the location, and indeed there were many contradictions. I have been in email contact with people who attended the event, and they themselves could not recall the exact location of The Big Beat.

Determined newspaper research finally revealed the location of The Big Beat (the article and ad above are from the June 24, 1966 edition of the San Mateo Times). I was even more startled to go to the actual site and discover that the building at 998 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto, pictured above in my photo (from August 7, 2009), apparently remained intact. While the well-kept building was vacant, it still looked  very much like the 1960s pizza parlor and dance club where the Dead played an acid test.

San Antonio Road was in the far Southeast corner of Palo Alto, quite far from Stanford University and the bohemian downtown scene that had spawned Jerry Garcia, Joan Baez and others. In fact the location of the club, in a then-deserted industrial district near Highway 101, insured that most of the customers probably came from Mountain View, Los Altos and Sunnyvale as much as Palo Alto. The groups featured were local combos who played dance music, probably with a mixture of British Invasion, Surf and R&B (i.e. Motown) covers. The focus would have been on dancing and meeting members of the opposite sex, with beer and music for lubrication [Palo Alto geographical note: San Antonio Road is actually the frontage road off the larger San Antonio Avenue, and you have to access San Antonio Road from East Charleston].

Ironically enough, The Big Beat's lasting fame came the weekend before it opened, when Ken Kesey's crew rented the place for a party, and The Grateful Dead played at The Acid Test. Hard as it may seem to grasp today, LSD was perfectly legal, and people drank electrified kool-aid and raved the night away. The cops did not like Kesey's Pranksters, and when they found out about an event they hovered around, hoping to bust people for pot (then a serious felony), but LSD use itself was legal and open.

While it was startling to find The Big Beat intact after 46 years, I was fortunate to get there when I did: by the end of the Summer of 2011, the building had been torn down. Sic transit gloria psychedelia.

Downtown Palo Alto
This section of the post is organized as an East-to-West walking tour. The sites are close together since, rather unlike Jerry's day, it's difficult to drive and impossible to park in Downtown P.A. What is striking is to note how close together all these places were, an indication of how tightly knit the little scene really was.

Hamilton Street House, 436 Hamilton Ave near Waverley St, Palo Alto, CA 94301
After the Chateau's landlord stopped taking on new boarders in 1963, much of the crew moved to "The Hamilton Street House." It was a crumbling old Victorian at 436 Hamilton Avenue (not Street), near Waverley Street. Hunter, Nelson and many others in the crew lived there, and it became a regular hangout for Garcia and others (Garcia knew the house because former girlfriend Phoebe Grabuard had lived there). The house has long since been torn down. The Wells Fargo Bank at that location surely replaced it and many other buildings.

The site of the house on Gilman Street and Hamilton Avenue, behind the old Post Office, where Jerry Garcia, David Nelson and others first dropped acid in 1965, is now a parking lot. The Palo Alto Farmers Market is held there, with no apparent ill effects.
Gilman Street House, Gilman St between Hamilton Ave and Forest Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301
In early 1965, Jerry, Sara and Heather Garcia lived on Bryant Court, next to Johnson Park and near downtown. But Nelson, Rick Shubb and others moved to another old house, which they refer to as "The Gilman Street House." This was where Garcia and others first took LSD. The house was behind the old Post Office, and it too has long since been torn down. It is now a parking lot, and the site of the Palo Alto Farmer's Market. The Warlocks were formed when Nelson and Shubb lived in the Gilman Street House.

The site of the "Waverley Street House" (probably 661 Waverley), where Jerry and Sara Garcia, Rick Shubb and others moved in late 1965, after the Gilman Street House, has long since been replaced by a condo development.
Waverley Street House, 661 Waverley Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301
When the Gilman Street House was no longer viable, Rick Shubb took a lease on a house on Waverley Street, near Forest Avenue. The address was probably 661 Waverley Street. I recall this house from 1969. It was massive and painted purple and it had at least two turrets rising on either side of the house (I asked my architect father if we could have turrets in our house, but he said "no"). It was quite a striking structure amidst the tiny downtown houses and modest commercial establishments.

Jerry and Sara Garcia were tenants in the Waverley Street House when the Warlocks started to play El Camino Real, and when the Grateful Dead were formed. Members of The New Delhi River Band, including David Nelson, lived a few blocks away on Channing Avenue. How much time the perpetually wandering Jerry actually spent at Waverley Street remains obscure, but the Waverley Street house was his residence in late '65/early '66, until the Dead moved to Los Angeles with Owsley.

You should always go to Peet's when you need coffee. If you go to the one on 436 University Avenue in Palo Alto, you'll be at the site of St. Michael's Alley, where Garcia and Hunter first cemented their friendship in 1961.
St. Micheal's Alley, 436 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Downtown Palo Alto's first true bohemian establishment was a coffee shop that served espresso, called St. Michael's Alley. Besides espresso, it also had folk music. It appealed to Lockheed engineers living in Palo Alto who wanted a bit of culture. All the bohemians hung out there, too, because you could nurse a 50-cent cup of coffee all night. When Jerry Garcia met Robert Hunter at the theater where Garcia did the lights (The Commedia Del'Arte, probably at Emerson and Hamilton), they went out the next night to St. Michael's Alley. Garcia, Hunter and Alan Trist raved until closing time, although they probably bought nothing.

Robert Hunter was a dishwasher at St. Michael's Alley at one point. The Warlocks actually auditioned for a gig there, but owner Vernon Gates thought they were terrible. There had been a pot bust in 1964, obviously a kind of police sting, and many of the Lockheed engineers could no longer go to St. Michael's Alley because they were afraid of losing their security clearances. The remaining patrons like Garcia and Hunter, obviously not afraid of losing their clearances, never actually bought much, and the coffee shop had to close in 1966. Gates re-opened St. Michael's Alley a few blocks away, at 800 Emerson Street (near Homer Avenue), in 1973, as one of downtown's first "nice" restaurants. He said that the patrons were the same people as before, but by this time, they had money. The new St. Michael's Alley occasionally had music, and Robert Hunter even played there once in 1980.

Today, the site of the original St. Michael's Alley at 436 University Avenue (at Kipling) is a Peet's Coffee. Peet's, of course, is the destination of all discerning coffee drinkers anyway, so stop off for a Triple Espresso and hang out, remembering that one night long ago when two bearded young guys spent the whole night there thinking about what the world might bring.

The rear of 534 Bryant Street in Palo Alto (in a parking lot facing Ramona Street). On New Year's Eve 1963, Bob Weir and Bob Matthews heard banjo music from the back of Dana Morgan Music, as Jerry Garcia idly picked away, wondering why his students weren't showing up.
Dana Morgan Music, 534 Bryant, Palo Alto, CA 94301
There were several music stores in downtown Palo Alto, serving student, amateur and professional musicians. Jerry Garcia gave guitar and banjo lessons at Dana Morgan Music, and Bob Weir gave lessons too, at 534 Bryant Street,  between University and Hamilton Avenues. Dana Morgan's son was the first bassist of The Warlocks, and his presence insured that the band could borrow instruments and amplifiers from the store without actually paying for them. However, Dana Morgan Jr was not a particularly good bass player, so the Warlocks replaced him with another guy. 

There was a back entrance to the Dana Morgan store, in an alley backed onto Ramona Street. Long after Dana Morgan Music had closed, the parking lot behind it had a painted sign for the back entrance that said "Dana Morgan Music," stenciled like a "No Parking Sign." This marked the spot on New Year's Eve 1963 when Bob Weir and Bob Matthews heard banjo music coming from the back of the store, and wondered who was playing. It was Jerry Garcia of course, wondering why his banjo students weren't showing up. Weir and Garcia's meeting, among many other things, led directly to this blog.

Dana Morgan himself was never that comfortable with his role in Grateful Dead history. Dana Morgan Jr seems to have died young, and that may have played a part. At some point, I forget when, Dana Morgan retired and the store closed. The site is now a Duxiana Luxury Bed Store.

The restored Stanford Theater in 2011, in far better shape than when Bob Weir and Kingfish played there on New Year's Eve 1974 (and again on September 13, 1975)
Stanford Music Hall, 221 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301
The Stanford Theater was a downtown movie theater, opened in 1925. It was near Ramona Street, and not far from Dana Morgan Music. By 1974, the rundown old hall had a brief run as a concert venue. Bob Weir and Kingfish played there on New Year's Eve, 1974, and again on September 13, 1975. The theater has since been restored and converted back to its old use as The Stanford Theater

The New Riders of The Purple Sage are advertised for a Thursday night at The Poppycock in Palo Alto, at 135 University Avenue, in November 1969
The Poppycock, 135 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301
The Poppycock had a critical role in Palo Alto rock history, though only a trivial one in Jerry Garcia history. A few doors East of the Tangent, on the corner of University and High Street, The Poppycock opened as a Fish and Chips joint in 1967 (this counted as exotic cuisine at the time). Since it could serve beer, and there were no bars, it was sort of a hippie hangout. The Poppycock soon became a miniature concert venue, and the groups that played The Matrix or The New Orleans House played The Poppycock as well. The New Riders Of The Purple Sage were booked there at least twice in November 1969 (although they may have canceled one those gigs).

The Poppycock became a jazz club called In Your Ear in 1971, and it burned down in 1972. The rebuilt structure has served a variety of commercial purposes since then.

The considerably remodeled site of The Tangent, on 117 University Avenue (at Alma Circle), as it appeared in 2011. At the time, it was s still a pleasant dive sports bar called Rudy's.
The Top Of The Tangent, 117 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301
The Tangent was a deli and pizza joint at the end of University Avenue, almost at Alma Street, and very near the train station. In January 1963, two bored doctors financed a "folk club" in a room above the deli. It was known as The Top Of The Tangent. The little room, seating perhaps 75, presented performers on Friday and Saturday nights. Wednesday was hoot night, and some of the better hoot participants got to open for the visiting acts on weekends. Bob Weir and some friends debuted on a hoot night (as The Uncalled Four). Remarkably, in the Summer of '65, The Warlocks played hoot night a few times, as they had nowhere else to play, and there was no actual prohibition to playing electric.

For many years, 117 University was a pleasant sort of dive sports bar called Rudy's, but it closed around 2013. Access to the actual Top Of The Tangent now appears to be through the doorway to 119 University Avenue, right next to 117, but clearly part of the same building. For some time, 119 University was headquarters of a company called MindTribe, which seems appropriate for the location. Continuing the theme, MindTribe seems to have moved to San Francisco after a few years.

No trace whatsoever remains of the dilapidated warehouses behind the Town And Country Village Shopping Center, where Homer's Warehouse was housed in a Quonset hut (it is now a hospital parking structure)
Homer's Warehouse, 79 Homer Lane, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Homer's Warehouse was an actual warehouse that had been turn into a sort of burgers-n-beer biker joint. Initially, in 1971, it was run almost illicitly, with the aged owner having no clue that bikers were hanging out in his warehouse (nor why the entertainment would be provided by some mysterious "Doobie Brothers"). By late 1972, the place had been taken over by local impresario Andrew Bernstein, once a banjo student of Jerry Garcia's, and the club was run on an almost business-like basis. With no other rock clubs in the South Bay, Homer's Warehouse booked all the bands that played at clubs like the Keystone Berkeley.

Both the Garcia-Saunders group and Old And In The Way played a number of shows at Homer's Warehouse in 1973. Old And In The Way played one of their very first shows at there, on March 8, 1973. On July 24, 1973, they also played a show that was broadcast on KZSU-fm, the 10-watt Stanford radio station, which has since circulated widely. Although KZSU only had a range of about 10 miles, the broadcast still served to give at least one local teenager--me--his first taste of actual bluegrass music. Eventually reality and regulation caught up with Homer's Warehouse, and the fondly remembered club was shut down by 1974 (for the whole story, and more, see Bernstein's book California Slim: The Music, The Magic and The Madness).

Bob Weir, Dave Torbert and Kingfish, sharing the bill with Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders, and performing at El Camino Park in Palo Alto on June 8, 1975. The Grateful Dead had played a Be-In at the park on June 24, 1967 (photo (c) David Gans)
El Camino Park, 100 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301
El Camino Park is Palo Alto's oldest park, first opened in 1914. It is between Alma Street and El Camino Real, on the Menlo Park/Palo Alto border. It is an easy walk from downtown, and just across the street from the Stanford Shopping Center. The park looks toward El Palo Alto, the tall tree that gives the city its name.

The Grateful Dead played a Be-In at El Camino Park, on June 24, 1967, soon after the Monterey Pop Festival. Also on the bill were The Anonymous Artists of America and the Sons Of Champlin. Some eyewitnesses recall different things, but that is par for the course for a Be-In (for some pictures of the event, see here).  Palo Alto was pretty relaxed, and had several more free concerts in El Camino Park in 1967 and 1968 (you can read about the last one, on September 29, 1968, here--check out the pictures), but the Dead did not perform. On June 8, 1975, Jerry Garcia/Merl Saunders and also Kingfish (with Bob Weir) performed at El Camino Park, albeit not for free, but there has not been a rock concert at the park since.

Due to underground construction related to the emergency water supply, El Camino Park will be closed until 2015.

Alta Mesa Cemetary, 695 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306
Pigpen's grave is at Alta Mesa Cemetary, just above Foothill Expressway. The location is Plot: Hillview Sec.Bb16 Lot 374.

David Nelson and Jerry Garcia performing with the New Riders of The Purple Sage at Peninsula School in Menlo Park, CA on April 28, 1970 (photo courtesy of and (c) Michael Parrish)
Menlo Park
Palo Alto residents and natives always make sure that as much of World History as possible revolves around Palo Alto. At various times, we have had to invent things like Google, Mapquest and the iPhone to insure that Palo Alto remains the gravitational center of the universe. However, it is typical Palo-centricity to give short shrift to any of the towns that surround it. The Grateful Dead are rightly pegged as a Palo Alto band, but much of their critical early history took place in Menlo Park, the town next door. Downtown Menlo Park is not far at all from Palo Alto, but Palo Altans like to re-write history so that all the historical locations in Menlo Park appear to have been in Palo Alto.

Veterans Administration Hospital, 795 Willow Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025
Menlo Park got its start as an actual town when the United States joined World War 1. Since pastoral Menlo Park was similar to rural France, a huge American training facility was created in Menlo Park. As a byproduct, a hospital was created nearby. Over time, though the military outpost left soon after the war, the hospital was turned over to the Veterans Administration. It was at the Menlo Park VA where some of the earliest experiments on LSD were done, and where Ken Kesey and Robert Hunter were part of those experiments. The Menlo Park VA was also where Kesey was an intern, inspiring One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest.

The building is still a medical facility. I'm not aware of any ongoing experiments.

Peninsula School925 Peninsula Way, Menlo Park, CA 94025
Peninsula School was a K-8 school founded in 1925 and by all indications is still going strong. It was always a place for forward looking, free-thinking people, and by the 1950s it was the private school of choice for the progressive, ban-the-bomb, anti-McCarthy type parents who were common in the South Bay and the Peninsula (if few other places). This isn't speculation on my part--my Mother was offered a teaching job at Peninsula School in the early 1950s, thus escaping Long Island and allowing her to marry my Father, leading directly to (among other things) this blog.

In the 1960s, while Peninsula parents were somewhat older than the Beatniks and proto-hippies who would make up the Grateful Dead, they weren't scared of them. Students who attended the school included John "Marmaduke" Dawson, writer Greil Marcus and me (albeit not at the same time). When the New Riders played Peninsula, Dawson alluded to the fact that Bob Weir had briefly attended the school as well (Weir apparently attended many schools briefly). Dawson would have completed 8th grade around 1961, and Weir's timing would have had to have been similar.

Given the tiny world of those of an open mind in the South Bay, its not surprising that there were many connections between the Grateful Dead and Peninsula school. Among the notable events:
  • Sometime in 1961, Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter do their first paid performance, billed as "Jerry And Bob." They are paid $5. 
  • In June 1969, members of the Grateful Dead try out a version of what will become the New Riders of The Purple Sage. Exactly who performed remains a mystery
  • In the Fall of 1969, the New Riders Of The Purple Sage do an afternoon gig at Peninsula, with Phil Lesh on bass (recalled by then-Peninsula student Steve Marcus). They played outside the main campus building.
  • On April 28, 1970, the New Riders played another afternoon show at Peninsula. There are tremendous photographs of this show, by Michael Parrish. 
  • On May 28, 1971, the New Riders were booked for yet another outdoor show, on the afternoon before a Grateful Dead Winterland show. However, Garcia was very sick that night. The Winterland show was rescheduled, and the New Riders played Peninsula as quartet, without Garcia, on the porch of the main building. 
The story goes that Jerry Garcia's daughter Heather was a student at Peninsula, and the concerts were for her tuition. By the next year, even assuming Heather was still in Peninsula, Garcia was no longer in the Riders, and in any case could finally afford it.  I have written about the various Grateful Dead/Peninsula connections at length elsewhere.

Kesey's house, 9 Perry Avenue [Lane], Menlo Park, CA 94025
Tom Wolfe immortalized Ken Kesey's house on Perry Lane in his book The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. According to no less of an authority than the Archivist at the Palo Alto Historical Association, Kesey's "Perry Lane" house was on the site of today's current Perry Avenue, at Vine Street and near Sand Hill Avenue. The actual address was 9 Perry Avenue, but the Pranksters called it "Perry Lane" because it sounded better to them. At the time, the area was in unincorporated San Mateo County, with a mailing address of Menlo Park (although it may have since been incorporated into Menlo Park proper).  The houses that were associated with Kesey's activities have long since been torn down and replaced by newer structures, but the current Perry Avenue is the site of Perry Lane in Kesey mythology. For the complete story of what it was like to live next to Kesey, see the blog post here.

The backyard of "The Chataeu", 2100 Santa Cruz Avenue, sometime in the mid-70s
The Chateau, 2100 Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park, CA 94025
In the early 60s, Jerry Garcia, David Nelson, Bob Hunter and many others lived in a rambling house near the Southern end of Santa Cruz Avenue called "The Chateau." The Chateau was located at the end of Santa Cruz Avenue (2100 Santa Cruz at Campo Bello Lane). It was a true hangout, with a dozen rooms and a party in all of them. Most stories about hanging out with Jerry in the old days generally refer to The Chateau. The Chateau was within easy walking distance of Kesey's pad, so the Chateua crowd regularly crashed their parties.

For various reasons, some people think that The Chateau was in Palo Alto, but it was definitely in Menlo Park. The Chateau house was purchased in 1964 and mostly used as a rental property. In 2002 it was sold again, torn down and an entirely new house was built on the site.

Kepler's Books, 935 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025
Roy Kepler founded his famous bookstore at 935 El Camino Real in 1955, and it was the first bookstore  in the South Bay that allowed patrons to sit and read, drink coffee, hang out or play music, perfect for the budding bohemians who would become San Francisco's psychedelic rockers. All sorts of key events took place at Kepler's, such as David Nelson and Peter Albin (later in Big Brother) meeting Jerry Garcia for the first time, when Jerry was holding court in the back of Kepler's with a guitar. Jerry Garcia probably met his first wife (Sara Ruppenthal) here as well, though she was also from Palo Alto. Everybody in Palo Alto hung out at Kepler's, and did so well into the 70s.

Kepler's Books has since moved across the street (to 1010 El Camino Real). The site of the original store is currently a Leather Furniture Store.

Menlo Park, CA Girl Scout Troop 19 in 1970 or '71, no doubt commemorating the Warlocks' debut at Magoo's Pizza, at 641 Santa Cruz Avenue (I believe this was actually a Christmas Parade)
Magoos Pizza, 639 Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park, CA 94025
In 1965, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Pigpen and many others had a jug band, but the band had almost no gigs other than poorly paying ones at Palo Alto's only folk club, The Tangent. Pigpen urged Garcia to form an electric blues band, and the Warlocks were born. However, there were no gigs to be had in Palo Alto. Thus the first Warlocks gig was in Menlo Park, at a pizza parlor in Menlo Park. After a lot of research, I have determined that Magoo's Pizza was at 639 Santa Cruz (at Doyle). It is currently a furniture store called Harvest.

The Warlocks first played Magoo's on Wednesday May 5, 1965, and they played every Wednesday in May. The club was packed with students from Menlo Atherton High School, along with some boys from the nearby Menlo School, thanks to shrewd campaigning by the group's first fans. However, despite the promising start to the young band, bassist Dana Morgan was not cutting it. Garcia's friend Phil Lesh saw the last Wednesday night gig (on May 26), and Garcia invited him to replace Morgan. (Various residents of The Gilman Street House helped teach Phil Lesh to play electric bass).

Menlo School, 50 Valparaiso Avenue, Atherton, CA 94027
In the Fall of 1965, The Warlocks played a dance at the Menlo School. The Menlo School was an all-boy prep school (running from 9th grade to the first two years of college) that was designed as a feeder school for Stanford. I have recently learned that Bob Weir briefly attended Menlo School. Many of the kids who went to Magoo's would have been Menlo Students, and the Menlo dance was probably a "Mixer" held in the Student Union building. The Mixer was primarily a chance for Menlo boys to meet actual girls, so memories of the bands that played may be sparse. I wrote about what we do know about this show elsewhere.

The Menlo Hub Restaurant, at 1029 El Camino Real (near Santa Cruz Avenue) in Menlo Park, CA, is the probable site of The Underground, where Jerry Garcia first performed with John Dawson in 1969. Next door, at 1035 El Camino Real, was Guitars Unlimited (now the Su Hong restaurant).
Guitars Unlimited, 1035 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025
Since Dana Morgan Jr had been fired from the Warlocks, the band was not welcome to use equipment from the store, nor were Garcia and Weir wanted as guitar instructors. Both Garcia and Weir got jobs at a music store called Guitars Unlimited on 1035 El Camino Real, right near Santa Cruz Avenue. Both of them brought their own guitar students with them, an attactive proposition even though Garcia in particular had what was perceived as a "menacing" demeanor. Of course, the band promptly borrowed equipment from Guitars Unlimited.

Throughout the balance of 1965, The Warlocks struggled with trying to make it like a normal South Bay band, mostly playing up and down the El Camino Real. Things started to change at the end of the year, however, as they began to play Kesey's Acid Tests. While the band played at the infamous Big Beat Acid Test in South Palo Alto, they still had not yet had a paying gig in Palo Alto. By 1966, things were developing at a rapid pace, and in February the newly-named Grateful Dead took off to Los Angeles with their patron Owsley Stanley, to help put on Acid Tests in Southern California. Of course, the band took all their equipment from Guitars Unlimited. Whether the band eventually paid for them is not clear. Still, it appears that Garcia had work on his equipment done at Guitars Unlimited as least as late as 1969. The site of Guitars Unlimited is currently the Su Hong restaurant.

The Underground, 1029 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025
The story of Jerry Garcia and Menlo Park was not quite over, however. In April 1969, while on tour in Colorado, Garcia bought a pedal steel guitar. Looking for an opportunity to play the instrument, he discovered that old Los Altos pal John Dawson was performing his own songs at a Hofbrau in Menlo Park called The Underground, somewhere on El Camino Real in Menlo Park. Another old South Bay friend, David Nelson, without a band at the time, joined in playing electric guitar.

Dawson, Nelson and Garcia would go on to found the New Riders of The Purple Sage, although they would not be known by that name until August. The trio played most Wednesday nights at The Underground, however starting May 7 (probably May 14, May 21 and June 4 also, and possibly June 18). Their last gig at The Underground was probably June 25. It is a little-remarked fact that the first gigs of both the future Grateful Dead and the future New Riders took place within walking distance of each other in downtown Menlo Park.

Thanks to a Commenter, I know the approximate location of The Underground, but not precisely. It appears that 1029 El Camino Real would be the approximate location of The Underground. That is currently The Menlo Hub restaurant, but I do not know for a fact whether the buildings have been remodeled or if The Underground was at the same place.

An ad in the Stanford Daily for the Grateful Dead's performance at the Student Union on October 14, 1966. There were no concerts at the Student Union after this (the ad is from the Cryptical Developments blog)
Stanford University
Back in the 1960s, although somewhat respectable, Stanford did not have nearly the intellectual cachet that it does today. The sprawling, sleepy campus was largely empty. Many of the wealthier students had cars, and so went to San Francisco to enjoy themselves. Still, campus institutions provided entertainment and distraction for the local residents who lived nearby.

Stanford Coffee House, 459 Lagunita Dr, Stanford, CA 94305
In the early 60s, there were few coffee houses in the Peninsula or South Bay, but one of them was at Stanford. It being a coffee shop and all, folk musicians played there. There is a famous photo of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter (on bass) earnestly playing at the Stanford Coffee House. I don't think musicians were really "booked" at the Coffee House, I think they just sort of got up and played, but this is a rare instance where we have photographic evidence that Dead members were there. The Coffee House has been part of numerous remodels over the years, and surely bears no resemblance to where Garcia and Hunter played in days gone by.

Tressider Memorial Union Deck, 459 Lagunita Dr, Stanford, CA 94305
The Tressider Memorial Union is the locus of the Stanford campus, and has always provided numerous student services as well as a cafeteria and coffee house. Around 1966, before Stanford University became very uneasy about rock music on campus, there were numerous rock concerts at Tressider. They were billed as "Tressider Memorial Deck" but whether this was at the front of the building or the rear is unclear. Some remarkable research posted in the Cryptical Developments blog (from whence I got the Stanford Daily ad above) included a fascinating anonymous Comment:
The TMU deck was a second story deck above the bowling alley that was originally in the lower space (now an exercise center and restaurants). Decades later they built a second story up there, at first a student computer center (pre-laptop days) and now offices and meeting rooms.
However, the Dead definitely played there on October 14, 1966. This seems to have been the last concert at Tressider--hmm, could things have gotten out of hand?

Roscoe Maples Pavilion, 655 Campus Dr, Stanford, CA 94305
Maples Pavilion was completed in 1969, replacing the tiny arena nearby (now known as Old Pavilion). Maples had a capacity of 7,392, and it is still the school's primary basketball facility. Stanford has always had a very uneasy history of allowing its venues to be used for rock concerts. As a result, Maples has only been used occasionally for concerts, Ray Charles having been first in 1969. Nonetheless, the few shows at Maples have generally been pretty memorable. The Dead's sole appearance at Maples, on February 9, 1973, was memorable indeed, since they broke out 7 new songs that night. The floor was so springy that Keith Godchaux had difficulty playing his grand piano as it bounced up and down.

Frost Amphitheater, Galvez St at Campus Dr, Stanford, CA 94305
Frost Amphitheater was built in 1937. The terraced, grassy bowl, capacity 6900, remains one of the nicest venues in the Bay Area, or frankly anywhere. Although it was really too large for 60s rock, it was still used a few times up until 1967, when Stanford seems to have put a moratorium on rock concerts. In 1970, Stanford lifted the ban, and there were a series of rock concerts that escalated into some very ill-handled events in 1971, causing Stanford to ban rock groups again from Frost.

With some Stanford-only logic, jazz groups were ok at Frost, so Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders played Frost in 1971 (and the New Riders opened for Miles Davis in '72). Various promoters occasionally used Frost, and Bob Weir and Kingfish opened for Eric Clapton in 1975. After some fits and starts, Bill Graham managed to get access to Frost again in the 1980s, and that began a very memorable run of summer concerts at Frost from 1982 to 1989. However, by the end of the decade the Dead were simply too large for Frost, and Stanford itself  did not need the concert revenue. To my knowledge, Frost is only used for campus events now.

Robert Hunter fronting Roadhog (Jim McPherson in the background) in Spring 1976, at a "Nooner" part at the Beta Pi Fraternity at Stanford University (photo courtesy of and (c) Bill Kn)
Beta Pi Fraternity, Stanford Campus, exact location unknown
The Beta Pi Fraternity established a tradition of afternoon parties known as "Nooners." Since the Beta Pi Fraternity is no longer active on the Stanford Campus, I can' say exactly where the house was. Robert Hunter seems to have played a Nooner twice, first with Roadhog in Spring 1976 and then with Comfort in Spring 1978. The person who sent me the picture from the 1976 event told me that when they requested permission to book Robert Hunter's band, they were told that the Grateful Dead were banned from the Stanford campus. That 1966 Tressider show is sounding more and more interesting.