Friday, October 7, 2011

April 10, 1974 Record Plant, Sausalito, CA: Peter Rowan demo with Jerry Garcia (Texican Badman)

Texican Badman by Peter Rowan, a 1980 Italian release on Appaloosa Records. 4 tracks were recorded with Jerry Garcia, John Kahn, David Grisman and Bill Kreutzmann in 1974, and six were recorded live in San Antonio in March 1979
An obscure Peter Rowan album called Texican Badman, released only in Italy on Appaloosa in 1980, features four tracks recorded at the Record Plant in Sausalito on April 10, 1974. Backing Rowan on these four tracks are Jerry Garcia on lead guitar, David Grisman on mandolin, John Kahn on bass and Bill Kreutzmann on drums. The balance of the album features six Peter Rowan tracks recorded live in Texas in 1979, with none of the participants on the Record Plant tracks. Since the Record Plant sessions feature four songs recorded in a day, it must have been for a record-company sponsored demo session, never intended for release. I myself have never heard the tracks, but since I generally like Peter Rowan I'm sure they are at least worth hearing.

However, the aspect of the date that interests me is that the April 10, 1974 session features 4 out of 5 members of Old And In The Way, and indeed all the "permanent" members. Other than a reunion show a few weeks later at the Golden State Bluegrass Festival a few weeks later (on April 28, 1974), this would be the last time a quorum of the band played together until after Garcia's death in 1996. Although I am reduced to speculation about this event, that is after all one of the purposes of this blog, and my analysis is that the timing of this demo session says a lot about the demise of Old And In The Way and Garcia and Grisman's formation of The Great American String Band.

The Record Plant Demos, April 10, 1974
The Record Plant in Sausalito was perhaps the Bay Area's premier recording studio at the time. It was expensive to record there, and sessions would have had to be booked in advance, possibly long in advance. If Peter Rowan had recorded a demo at, say, Mickey Hart's barn, then perhaps it could have been a lark or done as a favor. Since the recording was made at the Record Plant, it had to be financed by a record company and scheduled in advance. Everybody playing or working the session would have gotten paid, albeit probably just union scale (probably $100-200 per man, depending on the length of the session).

In the days before workable home studios, record companies would pay artists to go into the studios for a session or two to lay down a sort of rough draft of their songs, so that the record company could consider whether an album might be worth making. Demo sessions were generally quick and dirty, with few overdubs. Since Rowan recorded four songs in one day, this had to be a demo session. Peter's brothers Chris and Lorin sang harmonies on some songs, so perhaps the vocal parts were dubbed, but generally speaking at a demo session the musicians ran through takes until they got a good one, and then moved on to the next song. Ideally, at least some of the musicians on the demo session would know the songs, since otherwise you have to work out arrangements and rehearse while paying for studio time, and that greatly decreases the chances for a promising demo.

The four Peter Rowan songs that featured Garcia, Grisman, Kahn and Kreutzmann were "Sweet Melinda,"  "While the Ocean Roars", "Awake My Love" and "On the Blue Horizon." Rowan has many albums, and I have no idea if these songs turned up on some of them. I have no idea what record company might have paid for the demo, but it was common practice at the time, seen as a way to get a look at what a songwriter's material might sound like with a full band. If you were a songwriter trying to get a contract and you got a chance to do a demo, you immediately rounded up the very best musicians amongst your friends, in order to make a killer demo and get signed. Rowan certainly bought an A-team to the session.

Other than the Old And In The Way event at the Golden State Bluegrass Festival three weeks later (well covered in detail over at JGMF), Rowan would not play with Garcia again, and I don't believe he played with Grisman again until after Garcia's death. Although I don't believe it was consciously planned by the participants, I think the Record Plant demo was a sort of "thank you and farewell" to Rowan, as Garcia and Grisman were forming a new acoustic band that explicitly cut Rowan out. Kahn was well taken care of with various Garcia projects, so Garcia and Grisman seem to have been trying to help Rowan get a record contract out of some combination of friendship and guilt.

The first Earth Opera album, released on Elektra in 1968
Peter Rowan and David Grisman
Rowan and Grisman were both East Coast teenagers who discovered bluegrass music, and both had played with established giants as young professionals. The Cape Cod born Rowan had played with Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys, and Hackensack, NJ's Grisman had toured with Red Allen and The Kentuckians. In 1967, Grisman and Rowan left bluegrass and formed a psychedelic rock band, of sorts, in Cambridge, MA called Earth Opera. Earth Opera was a quintet, and they played sort of baroque semi-acoustic psychedelic folk-rock. Rowan was the main singer and writer, and Grisman was the principal soloist, often on odd instruments like the electric mandola (the other members were Bill Stevenson-keyboards, John Nagy-bass and Paul Dillon-drums). The band released two albums on Elektra. The albums weren't that great, but they were certainly interesting.

Grisman left Earth Opera sometime in 1969, when the equipment truck blew up in Los Angeles. Rowan continued touring with the group later on in the year, with Bill Keith probably taking over the role of principal soloist on pedal steel guitar, but Rowan finally gave it up and ended up joining the group Seatrain and moving to the Bay Area by the end of '69. However, whatever caused Grisman to leave Earth Opera, it doesn't seem to have ruptured his friendship with Peter Rowan. By the middle of 1970, Grisman and his partner Richard Loren were managing Peter's younger brother Chris and Lorin, and at the suggestion of Jerry Garcia they moved to the West Coast.

As I have discussed at length elsewhere, Grisman's presence in Stinson Beach led to informal  bluegrass jam sessions between Rowan, Grisman and Garcia. This in turn led to not one but two bluegrass groups: Old And In The Way and Muleskinner. There were album projects for both groups, on Reprise Records for Muleskinner and on Round for Old And In The Way, but neither came out the way they were expected. The death of Clarence White finished off any chance of a serious Muleskinner effort, and despite some fantastic live shows Old And In The Way never quite came to an agreement about how they wanted to proceed.

As JGMF has pointed out, according to McNally, the biggest barrier to continuing on with Old And In The Way after the end of 1973 was some sort of inability of Rowan and Grisman to collaborate. Clearly they were still friends, but given the complexity of building a band around Jerry Garcia's schedule, conflict between the other chief participants put an end to the group.

The Great American String Band
Garcia had expressed disappointment with how his rock star status had overwhelmed the relaxed, back porch nature of bluegrass music itself. Grisman seems to have been the instigator of a new group, The Great American String Band (aka The Great American Music Band), which seemed to be able to function with and without Garcia. The GASB took an improvised acoustic approach all styles of American music. Garcia joined in on banjo when he was available, singing an occasional tune as well. In one way, the GASB was the natural counterpart to Jerry Garcia's various electric ensembles, who took an improvised electric approach to all styles of American music.

However, there seemed to be no place for Peter Rowan in the Great American String Band. Grisman's guitar partner was David Nichtern, who among many other things had written "Midnight At The Oasis" for Maria Muldaur. Richard Greene, Rowan's old partner from the Monroe days and Seatrain, and a sometime member of OAITW, joined in on violin, and there were various bassists. Rowan himself was nowhere to be seen. The finest of scholars has determined that the Great American String Band debuted at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on March 10, 1974.

Jerry Garcia, Peter Rowan and David Grisman
Jerry Garcia was famously non-confrontational, so I can't imagine he told Rowan "me and Grisman are forming a group and you're not in it." Grisman and Rowan were long-time friends, so I doubt he put it that way to Rowan, either. Still, by April of 1974 it must have been pretty clear that something was happening and Rowan wasn't part of it. Rowan must have been working for a rock record contract all along, so when a demo session came up, of course he wanted the best available players. On top of that, he would have wanted to impress his record company by showing that two members of the Grateful Dead were playing on his demo.

For Garcia and Grisman, playing on Rowan's demo would have been a way to help him professionally, in a way that might assuage any guilt or tension they might have felt about cutting him out of their next project. I doubt anyone spoke specifically about any of this, but it must have been hanging around in the background. Old And In The Way did have a final reunion, at the Golden State Bluegrass Festival in Marin, on April 28, 1974. The event was recorded, and there was supposed to be an album, but it never saw the light of day.

Hayward Daily Review, April 5, 1974
David Grisman and David Nichtern, Freight and Salvage, April 10, 1974
One thing that has always interested me about April 10, 1974, was that David Grisman and David Nichtern had a singular booking as a duo at Berkeley's unique Freight and Salvage club. I have always hoped, however wishfully, that Garcia made an appearance that night. I still don't think he did, but it's interesting to notice that Garcia and Grisman must have been hanging out that afternoon at The Record Plant. In any case, the fact that Grisman had a gig with David Nichtern on the same day he recorded a demo with Peter Rowan was a clear sign that he was on to the next thing. And what a thing it was, since the Great American String Band would rapidly evolve into the David Grisman Quintet, which is still breaking new ground today.

Texican Badman-Peter Rowan  (Appaloosa Records, 1980)
All in all, it's hard not to get around the fact that the Texican Badman album by Peter Rowan is a strange release. 4 songs recorded on a single day in Sausalito with Garcia, Grisman, Kahn and Kreutzmann, and the six songs recorded live in San Antonio, TX in March, 1979. Even stranger, the six songs recorded in San Antonio include four by Lubbock, TX songwriter Terry Allen, and none by Rowan. One member of Rowan's band is saxophonist "Jack Bonus," known to Rowan fans as the author of "Land Of The Navajo," and known elsewise as Stephen Schuster, formerly a member of the Keith and Donna Band.

What little I do know about the Italian record industry back in the day is that copyright laws were very different. I couldn't say what they were in 1980, but n general albums could be released in Italy that were insulated from legal action from United States, UK or European entities. Thus many Italian releases were perceived as bootlegs by the rest of the Western world. It's entirely possible that the Texican Badman album was a straight up bootleg, released without the permission of anyone involved. It's also possible that the release was an early version of "self-bootlegging,' where artists provide the tapes and get some cash, leaving the record companies and publishing companies--with whom they often have no sympathy--to use the courts to get satisfaction. Generally speaking, American and UK entities were not going to sue in Italy over royalties, not for anything less than a Beatles album.

Prospective Conclusions
Given the obscure history of Italian albums, where details are often obscured to protect the guilty, it's not totally impossible that the April 10, 1974 date is fictitious in someway, as might be some or all of the personnel. Nonetheless, I am taking the stance that it was a real date, and the members of Old And In The Way felt they owed something to their compadre and made a demo with him at the Record Plant. Certainly, Peter Rowan went on to join his brothers as a trio and record for Asylum and has continued to have a flourishing career, so he wasn't left entirely stranded, but it's strange to think that the next-to-last stand of Old And In The Way was a rock demo at the Record Plant.

update: thanks to intrepid Commenter and scholar runonguinness, we find out the whole story from Peter Rowan himself. Almost everything we thought about the sessions was incorrect, but fascinating nonetheless:

Peter Rowan interviewed about this session by Ken Hunt in "Swing 51" No 6 from 1982 p 27-28
KH: Presumably some of those tracks on "Texican Badman" are from those demo sessions for Warners. Was it a whole album that you recorded?

PR: No, just four songs. It was during the time the GD were recording "Wake Of The Flood." Billy Wolf was the engineer. He had been engineer, kinda co-producer with David Grisman when they did "The Rowan Brothers" for Columbia Records. OITW was playing a lot around this time that Jerry was recording with the Dead. They had, like, reserved the studio for days on end, but weren't in there at certain times of the day, so I think we got a next to nothing rate for, like, three hours, and Warners put up $1000 or something like that. It was enough so everybody could get paid something - the players, that is. I didn't get anything. We cut those four tunes, had my brothers sing, had John Kahn play bass, Garcia lead guitar, David Grisman mandolin, Bill Kreutzmann drums. We did some tunes that I'd written around the time as demos. Warner Brothers thought it was too funky, too country, so they just passed on it. The tapes just sat around. Billy Wolf has the master tapes but they're impossible to find. They're lost in the great vaults of the GD you know, the Grisman/Rowan archives. I don't know where they are, but they could've ended up anywhere! I know that Vassar Clements has a lot of the master tapes of OITW at his house. So, I had a mix, a rough mix, and I thought it would be good to put out in Europe as a collection with the live stuff that I did at the Armadillo with Flaco. David was pretty upset about it, because he felt he wasn't in control of it. Sort of behind his back. They feel it was a demo, not a master session, as if that would make some difference as to how they would approach it. It's like a record of the times really. The sound isn't that great. I guess that everyone likes to think that their latest work is representative.
Earlier in the interview (p 25), regarding the Rowan Brothers demos "Livin' The Life" Appaloosa release, Peter said this among much else (basically, he was not happy the way his younger brothers had been treated)
PR: I think this album may set the record straight. I organised the deal with Appaloosa for them, because I think it's important that those guys get out the music that people were excited about before they were overproduced and turned into hot-house roses.
So Peter Rowan was definitely behind the Appaloosa Rowan releases and it looks like his demos come from the Record Plant in August 1973, shoe-horned into a gap in the Dead's WOTF sessions.

His interview certainly shows some prickliness towards Grisman although he does not come straight out and badmouth him.

And Vassar had (his estate still has, hopefully) some OITW master tapes. I wonder how that happened.

16 comments:

  1. Man am I glad you have this blog (too!). I have Texican Badman around here somewhere. I'll try to check it out, poke around and report back.

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  2. I somehow managed to write 2200 words about an album I have never heard. Blogging is fun!

    Looking forward to whatever you have to report.

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  3. A few responses, based on the 1990 re-release on CD, catalog Appaloosa 010-2.

    First, how do we know the date? The CD release says on that the relevant tracks are from April, 1974. Does the vinyl give the date as the 10th? FWIW (not much), the archives of San Francisco musicians’ union (American Federation of Musicians Local no. 6) didn’t contain a record of this session that I found. There was a Garcia-relevant session in the Bay Area that precise date, though. There’s a contract from Wally Heider’s in SF for Martin Fierro to work on “Turn on the Bright Lights” for Jerry Garcia. This would of course appear on what would become Garcia ( colloquially, Compliments of Garcia) (Round RX 102). There’s no proof that Jerry was there, and even if he had been there’s no reason he couldn’t have bounced between studios. But, again, I’d like to hear more about how you come by the precise 4/10 date.

    Second, while I want to allow for other possibilities, but I think your logic of what these sessions represented (a fare-thee-well to Peter Rowan) makes really good sense. If OAITW could not be made to reconcile the aspirations of Pete Rowan to get famous with his songs, of David Grisman to get famous with Dawg Music, and of Garcia to fuck around without too much hassle, and if in some sense it was a tug-of-war over who would get Jerry, then the d√©nouement (kill OAITW, try out GASB) clearly shows that Grisman wins. His victory is short-lived –things would go sour within a year, if not within a few months of this—but when Jerry had to lay his chips down, he laid them down with Grisman. (As an aside, it’s very cool to see how respected and successful Rowan and Grisman have been/become.)

    Third, I have just listened to the tracks, and though they aren’t Rowan’s best compositions (I think the ones that OAITW had been playing were pretty much all better), they are pretty interesting, I think. A few song comments:

    --t01 Sweet Melinda a Rowan composition, nice Grisman mando work, with a nice hook, JG on electric guitar (or, as the liner notes have it, “eletric”). JG nice little solo @ 2:26. Sweet Melinda is supposed to have a pop hook.
    --t08 While The Ocean Roars (Peter Rowan). This also has a pedal steel. Jerry? A maudlin love song, a little too Stinson to be a honky tonker, though blending those things is a nice concept.
    --t09 Awake My Love opens as a sunny Marin County pop song, but takes on a little darkness (“come see the dragon chase the autumn moon” and all that). Not bad.
    --t10 out on the Blue Horizon, black folks and white folks holding hands and singing kumbaya, but it gets better. Possibly an interesting composition with which I need to spend more time.

    Fourth, this is not a low-production value CD release. I think it's a "legitimate" grey-area product probably released with Rowan's blessing/involvement (though I'd certainly be interested to learn about the royalties situation for the other credited players).

    Great post. Thanks, Corry.

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  4. Fascinating details. I got the April 10 date from Deaddisc.com. I'm not sure of the root of that. Nonetheless, even if not exactly the 10th, the general thread remains the same.

    My dim understanding of Italian copyright law from Back In The Day was that the performer and songwriter were owed money, which had to be placed in a separate account. That means Peter Rowan as performer and Peter Rowan and Terry Allen might have been owed money. If Rowan got paid through the record company, and took care of Allen on his own (ie wrote him a check), then per Italian law I think they were covered.

    My understanding has more to do with bootlegs than "legitimate" releases, but the same general rules probably applied.

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  5. Going through old BAMs, I noticed Chris Rowan opened for JGB at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz on February 7, 1980. This reminded me that Peter Rowan opened for JGB on at least 10/31/81 and 11/6/81 at least (possibly that whole tour?). So while they never shared a stage, things were cordial enough that they were co-billed. I don't know much about what Mr. Rowan was up to in '81, but I assume these were pretty good paydays for him, relatively speaking.

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  6. I don't think there was any problem between anyone but Rowan and Grisman, and I think that was artistic, not personal. I saw Rowan and Grisman as a duo in 1997, and they seemed fine. I do note, however, that while Rowan and Grisman perform together regularly, they do the same old songs. I think Rowan is principally interested in being a songwriter--ultimately that's where the money is, anyway--and acting as sidemen was neither Garcia nor Grisman's bag.

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  7. Great blog - I saw Great American String Band show at the Keystone on May 5, 1974 and can attest to the fact that Peter Rowan and Jack Bonus were brought out for two songs - Midnight Moonlight and Hobo Song and the show was recorded professionally for what folks at the gig were hearing would be a future album. Gee, didn't get it until now that I might have actually seen Peter play with Jerry for the last time together (and it was my ONLY time with that privilege). Interestingly, considering it was recorded with studio mikes onstage, I am surprised that a recording of this concert with these two songs with Rowan and Bonus has not surfaced (and have not heard of anyone else acknowledging that they showed up at this gig).

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  8. Holy smokes, that is amazing, Anon. I have written about the last Old And In The Way performance from a week prior, at the Golden State Country Bluegrass Festival:

    http://jgmf.blogspot.com/2011/01/gscbf14-old-and-in-way-sunday-april-28.html

    You have just pushed the last known (to me) live Garcia and Rowan performance just a little bit further out. Absolutely fascinating.

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  10. A journalist I am in contact with interviewed Peter Rowan, and he was kind enough to ask Rowan about the Record Plant sessions. According to Rowan, who remembered the sessions quite well, the sessions were paid for by Warner Brothers. Warners wanted a demo of songs in consideration of financing a Rowan solo album. Rowan called Garcia, Grisman and others, and the session was recorded live in the studio with no rehearsal. However, Warners passed on producing the album.

    Interestingly, Rowan recalls the session as near the beginning of Old And In The Way, rather than after it was over. There are a number of reasons to subscribe to this view:
    1) Rowan was actually there
    2) recording dates on Italian releases were notoriously incorrect (probably to cloud the trail involving any record company lawsuits)
    Thus an April 1973 date for the sessions with Rowan and Garcia is very plausible.

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  11. Whoa there. If we accept Rowan's memory that these demos were recorded at the beginning of the OAITW project, not only would that scratch much of your post, it shows OAITW getting started in a burst of studio activity.
    We know that Muleskinner recorded their studio album in March/April 1973.
    JGMF has found that OAITW had also recorded a studio album by mid-March 1973.
    http://jgmf.blogspot.com/2011/09/reading-notes-tolces-todd-1973-jerrys_04.html
    And now we (possibly) have Rowan recording demos for a solo album in the same timeframe.

    So, at least for Rowan & Grisman, we have them committing to 3 simultaneous but different projects in early '73! Garcia was in good company.
    But as it turned out, nothing lasted. Muleskinner met an untimely end after their album was finished. Rowan's demos went nowhere. OAITW made it through the year before the Rowan/Grisman schism (perhaps) split it up, and their album didn't get released either.

    Anyway, that brings up a (probably minor) question about 1974, which is....why the OAITW live album didn't come out that year.
    It had been recorded in Oct '73, but was released in Feb '75. Round Records was, I think, in existence at least since spring '74. There doesn't seem to be any reason to delay a release.
    So I wonder if there were, in fact, no plans to release OAITW at all, until in late '74 someone said "hey, remember those tapes?"...

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  12. That's a fascinating question, one that has crossed my mind but that I have never grabbed ahold of. Round Records first releases were mid-1974 (Garcia and Rum Runners), ca. May-June.

    I wonder if the OAITW release coming so late indicates that it was some part of the package deal with United Artists, as Grateful Dead Records and Round Records were biting the dust. But I have no idea.

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  13. LIA, you are correct that if Rowan's recollection about the date is correct, and it was really 1973, then my whole post is null. That's why it's a blog. Still, if the demo was from 1973, why wouldn't Panama Red have been included? I'm inclined to lean more towards 1974.

    You have raised a fascinating question about the timing of the Old And In The Way album, that I am now looking into. I feel a post coming on.

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  14. I was bumbling thru' some old mags looking for something else and came across this. Peter Rowan interviewed about this session by Ken Hunt in "Swing 51" No 6 from 1982 p 27-28

    KH: Presumably some of those tracks on "Texican Badman" are from those demo sessions for Warners. Was it a whole album that you recorded?

    PR: No, just four songs. It was during the time the GD were recording "Wake Of The Flood." Billy Wolf was the engineer. He had been engineer, kinda co-producer with David Grisman when they did "The Rowan Brothers" for Columbia Records. OITW was playing a lot around this time that Jerry was recording with the Dead. They had, like, reserved the studio for days on end, but weren't in there at certain times of the day, so I think we got a next to nothing rate for, like, three hours, and Warners put up $1000 or something like that. It was enough so everybody could get paid something - the players, that is. I didn't get anything. We cut those four tunes, had my brothers sing, had John Kahn play bass, Garcia lead guitar, David Grisman mandolin, Bill Kreutzmann drums. We did some tunes that I'd written around the time as demos. Warner Brothers thought it was too funky, too country, so they just passed on it. The tapes just sat around. Billy Wolf has the master tapes but they're impossible to find. They're lost in the great vaults of the GD you know, the Grisman/Rowan archives. I don't know where they are, but they could've ended up anywhere! I know that Vassar Clements has a lot of the master tapes of OITW at his house. So, I had a mix, a rough mix, and I thought it would be good to put out in Europe as a collection with the live stuff that I did at the Armadillo with Flaco. David was pretty upset about it, because he felt he wasn't in control of it. Sort of behind his back. They feel it was a demo, not a master session, as if that would make some difference as to how they would approach it. It's like a record of the times really. The sound isn't that great. I guess that everyone likes to think that their latest work is representative.

    Earlier in the interview (p 25), regarding the Rowan Brothers demos "Livin' The Life" Appaloosa release, Peter said this among much else (basically, he was not happy the way his younger brothers had been treated)

    PR: I think this album may set the record straight. I organised the deal with Appaloosa for them, because I think it's important that those guys get out the music that people were excited about before they were overproduced and turned into hot-house roses.

    So Peter Rowan was definitely behind the Appaloosa Rowan releases and it looks like his demos come from the Record Plant in August 1973, shoe-horned into a gap in the Dead's WOTF sessions.

    His interview certainly shows some prickliness towards Grisman although he does not come straight out and badmouth him.

    And Vassar had (his estate still has, hopefully) some OITW master tapes. I wonder how that happened.

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    1. guinness, amazing research as always. It turns out that, as the old Firesign Theater record suggested, Everything You Know Is Wrong. I updated the post with the quotes and your comments.

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  15. I'm happy with August 1973 but April 1974 is still just about possible.

    Rowan said the session happened while "the GD were recording Wake Of The Flood" and "they had reserved the studio." He doesn't specify which studio. The Record Plant info presumably comes from the Appaloosa notes (which I haven't seen) along with the April 1974 date.

    In April 1974 the Dead were recording Mars Hotel at CBS in San Francisco.

    I see no reason to doubt Rowan's tale of the Dead recording at the time of the demo so there are two ways of reconciling these accounts.

    Either Rowan is correct about WOTF and Appaloosa are right about the Record Plant but wrong about April 1974, it should be August 1973; or Rowan is wrong about which album it was and Appaloosa are right about April 1974 but wrong about the Record Plant, it should be Mars Hotel at CBS.

    Either way Appaloosa are right about one datum and wrong about the other. I reckon Rowan is much more likely to remember correctly which studio he was in than which album the Dead were recording at the time but we don't have a quote from him saying which studio it was.

    OITW being busy at the time strongly supports August 1973 at the Record Plant but April 1974 at CBS cannot be totally discounted. It's '73 for me on the balance of probabilities but not proven beyond all reasonable doubt. If Rowan mentioned the Record Plant to your journalist friend that would nail it.

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