Friday, January 27, 2012

December 9-11, 1966, Fillmore Auditorium: Grateful Dead/Tim Rose (Morning Dew?)

The SF Chronicle from December 9, 1966, listing the opening of a three-date stand at the Fillmore featuring the Grateful Dead, Big Mama Thornton and Tim Rose

One paradox of bands that tour heavily is that they don't get out much to see other acts. The members of a group like the Grateful Dead, who toured relentlessly throughout almost their entire existence, would have had few opportunities or even an inclination to go out and check out other performers. When a group was playing music in a new style, as the Dead were in the 60s, seeing bands live can often be the only way to really check out what's happening, since records and radio were often well behind the times. Fortunately for the Dead, however, as a group whose members were very open-minded, the rock market at the time included the Grateful Dead on bills with many acts. We know for a fact that at least some of those opening acts caught the ears of Jerry Garcia and others, as we have specific testimony about how impressed band members were with acts as diverse as Miles Davis, Pentangle and The Great Speckled Bird (with Buddy Cage).

With that in mind, I am beginning an intermittent series looking at bands who opened for or shared the bill with the Grateful Dead in the 1960s. In the early days, not only were the Dead on bills with multiple acts, but the venues were smaller and the programming different, so the various members of the Dead were very likely to hear opening sets at least some of the time. I'm not going to try and make arguments for "secret influences," but rather I am suggesting that the Dead members, and particularly Jerry Garcia, were implicitly affected by what they heard. By looking at different bands that we can reasonably assume they actually saw and heard perform live, we can see how the Dead's own music may have been affected. In some cases, the 'influence' may have been about equipment, or song choices or stage presentation, rather than musical ideas. In others, the influence may have been negative, giving the Dead an indication of what wouldn't work. In any case, it's a reasonable proposition that acts who opened for the Dead in the 1960s, particularly for a multi-night stand, had to have been seen by most if not all of the band members, and they would have been among the few contemporary groups that the Dead would have gotten a close look at, since otherwise they were never home.

Tim Rose
Tim Rose opened for the Grateful Dead at the Fillmore Auditorium on December 9-11, 1966. This weekend was the first time the Dead headlined the Fillmore without another of their contemporaries, like Quicksilver Messenger Service, sharing the bill. However, as usual at the Fillmore there were three acts: The Grateful Dead, Big Mama Thornton and Tim Rose. Rose had a modest hit on AM radio at the time with a reworking of the Bonnie Dobson song "Morning Dew." The Grateful Dead had just been signed by Warner Brothers Records, and their own version of "Morning Dew" would appear on their forthcoming album. However, it is ambiguous when the Dead started to perform the song. It appears that it was after Tim Rose opened for the Dead at the Fillmore, so I am going to consider his performance in that light.

Tim Rose had been a folksinger in the early 60s. He was part of the East Coast crowd that included the future members of The Mamas And The Papas, among others. Rose's most famous folk group was called The Big Three, featuring himself, Cass Elliott and guitarist Jim Hendricks (no, not Jimi). The Big Three were a popular Greenwich Village folk act, and appeared on TV many times, releasing albums in 1963 and '64. When The Big 3 broke up, Rose went solo. By 1966, folk-rock was popular, and the gruff-voiced Rose was well suited for rock styled versions of folk songs, so his star had started to rise.

"Hey Joe"
Rose's first big hit was a slowed-down version of the song "Hey Joe," released in 1966. "Hey Joe" had been written by Los Angeles folk singer Billy Roberts in 1962, and many Los Angeles folk rock bands were performing it as part of their sets, including Love, The Leaves, The Standells and The Byrds. The Leaves had the first hit with it December 1965. Rose's innovation was that he changed the tempo of the song, slowing it down dramatically from the angry, up-tempo rocker that was typical of the Los Angeles groups. Rose's arrangement of "Hey Joe" was the inspiration for Jimi Hendrix's arrangement of the song, which ultimately became the best known version. Rose's version of "Hey Joe" got some airplay in various AM markets around the country, almost certainly including the Bay Area.

However, Rose's version of "Hey Joe" claimed himself as the songwriter, not Billy Roberts. Rose said that he had heard the song in Florida, and that it was treated as a traditional song. With that in mind, he had just re-written it and taken a songwriting credit, a common enough practice at the time. However, while "Hey Joe" has a particularly complicated song publishing history, the fact is that by 1966 it had already been a hit for The Leaves and released on a Byrds album, so even if Rose had initially heard the song at some coffee house, it appeared somewhat self-serving to assign publishing to himself. However, this was typical of the record business at the time. The Byrds had recorded an old blues number on an early album, for which songwriting credits were assigned to band members. That was how Jerry Garcia's version of "It's No Use" on the Live At Keystone album came to be 'written' by Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark.

"Morning Dew"
"Morning Dew" had been written by Canadian folksinger Bonnie Dobson in 1962, based on the nuclear disaster film On The Beach. Fred Neil recorded a popular version of "Morning Dew" in 1964, and it became a popular song in the way that folk songs do, passed around from player to player and sung at coffee houses and hootenannies and the like. It is important to remember that in 1965, even the most politically detached people, including beatnik bluegrass musicians, took the threat of nuclear annihilation seriously. Thus "Morning Dew" was a well known song in folk circles, even if Bonnie Dobson's actual recording itself wasn't so widely heard.

In late 1966, Rose released his own version of "Morning Dew." It was a churning, soulful version, "heavy" folk-rock in the parlance of the time. Rose made a few changes in the song, common enough when converting a folk song to rock, but his single of "Morning Dew" gave him a co-writing credit with Bonnie Dobson. Dobson knew nothing about this, would not have approved, and in any case his changes weren't that significant (Blair Jackson did some great work on the history of the song "Morning Dew" in his Golden Road magazine, but unfortunately the article is no longer accessible to me. However, if anyone can find it, it is well worth reading). Due to an anomaly in U.S. Copyright law, since Dobson had published the song in Canada, Rose received half the songwriting royalties from all versions of the song, including the Grateful Dead's, much to Dobson's dismay.

Rose's co-writing credit was a mark of the "old" record business, where the same songs got "published" over and over (like "It's No Use") for a few quick bucks, with no concern for the original songwriter's intellectual property. Whether Rose thought his changes deserved co-credit, whether he too was suckered by a shifty manager or it was just some sort of hustle remains unknown. However, over the years Rose has had a bit of a taint about him, as a guy who profited from other people's work. As it happens, Rose ended up being considerably more popular in England than America, and he ultimately moved there. He had a reasonably successful career, and passed away in 2002. I'm not aware of his ever having commented on opening for the Grateful Dead.

The Grateful Dead and "Morning Dew"
 "Morning Dew" was recorded for the Grateful Dead's debut album. According to the most reliable accounts, the Dead commenced recording the album the week of January 30, 1967. Since they recorded the album in about 4 days, they could not have been experimenting much in the studio. The earliest sign of "Morning Dew" seems to be at the Human Be-In on January 14, 1967. Certainly the song had to already have been in the Dead's live repertoire prior to recording. The question is whether the Dead were performing it prior to seeing Tim Rose open for them in December at the Fillmore.

We have very few complete Grateful Dead setlists from 1966 and early 1967. Thus, while we have some information about some songs, it's misleading to say we "know" when certain songs entered the Grateful Dead's live repertoire. However, the Grateful Dead's arrangement of "Morning Dew" seems to owe nothing to Rose's arrangement. Rose's arrangement churns more, with an expressly soul-styled vocal. The Jeff Beck Group's recording of "Morning Dew," from 1968, with Rod Stewart on vocals, borrows heavily from Rose's arrangement (or you can click the Amazon preview for a 30-second snippet of Rose's version). This seems to legislate away from Rose being too much of a direct influence.

"Morning Dew" was a well known song in folk circles, and I have to think Garcia had known the song for a while. Whatever his plans for the song might have been, I think the genesis for the Dead's treatment of the song was Garcia's arrangement of the Jefferson Airplane song "Today" on Surrealistic Pillow. If you listen to it, Garcia plays a high guitar part (contrasting Jorma's lead) that is very reminiscent of the arrangement of "Morning Dew." Since Garcia worked with the Airplane in November of 1966, and "Morning Dew" had appeared a few months later the timeline seems to fit.

However, if you accept my hypothesis that the late November '66 Matrix shows represent a sort of demo tape of the Dead's material, you'll note that "Morning Dew" isn't present. This too fits the timeline--Garcia gets the idea in November, teaches it to the band in December, and it turns up in live sets by January. However, that puts the live performances by Rose right in the middle of it. Rose would have played six sets at the Fillmore, and "Morning Dew" would have been in at least three of them. Given that it was his hit at the time, he may have played it in all six. It's hard to think Garcia and the Dead wouldn't have noticed.

AM radio was ubiquitous in 1966, in a way that was not true even a few years later. With no FM radio, any time you drove a car, the radio was on, and there were only two rock stations in San Francisco (KFRC-610 and KYA-1260), so anything played on those stations was heard by every rock fan in the Bay Area, of whatever age. Thus, there's no way that Garcia and the Dead wouldn't have heard Tim Rose's version of "Morning Dew" on the radio. Since Garcia surely knew the song already, as the band's resident folkie, he would have noticed it being played on the air, and would have had some inkling of who Tim Rose was by the time he opened for the Dead at the Fillmore.

At this juncture, it's all but impossible to know for sure, but here's my theory:
  • Garcia, a veteran of folk clubs, had known and liked the song "Morning Dew" for years
  • Garcia's guitar part and arrangement on the Jefferson Airplane's "Today" was fresh in his mind
  • The Tim Rose single of "Morning Dew" was being played on KFRC and KYA
  • Tim Rose's live version of the song must have gone over pretty well at The Fillmore
The Grateful Dead's actual arrangement of "Morning Dew" owes nothing to Rose's. However, there doesn't seem to be any sign of the song prior to Rose playing the Fillmore. I think Rose's single and live appearance reminded Garcia of the song, and perhaps spurred him to pursue a musical idea that had already been percolating. I also think that in 1966, when the Dead were still unknown, a re-arrangement of a hip song that was popular on the radio made the band a lot more accessible to audiences who had never seen them.

Over the years, just about all the recorded versions of "Morning Dew" were credited to Bonnie Dobson and Tim Rose. In Blair Jackson's article on the song, he had some quotes from Dobson, who understandably was quite bothered by it. With an unpleasant whiff associated with Rose's version of "Morning Dew," nobody seemed to have pursued the angle of whether the Dead had heard him. Still, it's hard to get past the timing of Rose's appearance with the Grateful Dead and the first signs of "Morning Dew" in their set, so for now I am thinking that Rose's music inspired Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead to start playing the song, even though their version was entirely different.

12 comments:

  1. It's a neat idea to look at various opening acts for the Dead to see what they might have picked up from other bands...
    (For sure Pigpen would've been keen on Big Mama Thornton's set, though I don't think he did any of the same songs as her - we know he even got to play organ with her at the 9/2/68 festival show a couple years later.)

    I agree that the Dead probably picked up Morning Dew in Dec 66, since it's strikingly missing from those Matrix tapes. It would have been one of the newer songs they recorded for the album.
    I wonder if there is confirmation from the time that the Dead actually played Morning Dew at the Human Be-In. Strangely enough, the Dew on our 1/14/67 tape is NOT from that date, but is apparently from late '68, and was attached to the circulating 1/14/67 tape for some reason.

    Whether Rose directly inspired the Dead to start doing the song, we know they were often fans of particular songs (like It's a Man's World or Hard to Handle) for years before they started doing them.

    I may be able to find that Blair Jackson article.

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  2. Everywhere I can find that has a release date for Tim Rose's version of "Morning Dew" says 1967. Here's a chart for KLIV in San Jose from 3-24-67 where it rose (pun not intended) from 29 to 24. Of course, Rose was likely performing it before his version was released.
    http://las-solanas.com/arsa/surveys_item.php?svid=6154

    The "Morning Dew" entry in the Roots column in The Golden Road was the most interesting thing I ever read in that magazine. I obtained the first twelve issues over two trips to the Psychedelic Shop and still have them. Apparently Blair Jackson also printed Bonnie's quotes on the subject in his Goin' Down the Road Traveling Companion book. I found them online here
    http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/archive/index.php/t-248266.html

    Dobson says that Fred Neil was the one that actually made the slight lyrical change that he, then Tim Rose, used. She did give consent to sharing the credit, under the false pretense that Rose had changed the song substantially.

    I'd love to hear the CBC radio special about the song but I guess we're too late to listen to it at that link on the Hoffman forum.

    Thanks again Corry for your informative blogs!

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  3. Chico, I take your point about the KLIV chart. Based on that, I think taht the single was released in late 1966, but did not really get played on the radio until early '67. Nonetheless, I am confident that Tim Rose performed it in concert, and so it may have triggered Garcia's interest in re-arranging the song.

    Thanks for the link to the Blair Jackson material.

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  4. I can certainly find Blair's article on Morning Dew. The "Roots" column that he did (and some or all of which appeared in the Goin Down the Road book), represented some outstanding scholarship. Some really important stuff in there. I am trying systematically to scan and pdf the Roots columns that have Garcia On The Side content, but just don't have time to think about the GD-only columns.

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  5. I think the "Roots" column that had Morning Dew was in the very first issue of Golden Road; it looked like the whole thing was quoted in that forum link.

    This may be a stretch, but.... This post mentioned the similarity between the arrangement of JA's Today and Morning Dew. Garcia recorded Today at the beginning of Nov 66, and his guitar line was something he added to the Airplane song.
    Possibly, it wasn't Today that influenced the Dead's version of Dew, but Garcia already had a nascent arrangement of Dew in mind that he borrowed for Today. It's just possible that hearing the JA do Today reminded him of the song Morning Dew, rather than the other way around...
    One wonders whether Garcia originally might've had a lighter, Today-esque version of Morning Dew in mind, but when the Dead got hold of it, they rocked it up!

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  6. The band was already playing another song with a similar chord structure (D/C/G/F) and in the same key ("I Know You Rider"), so I'm guessing it would have been pretty easy for them to learn "Morning Dew" in fairly short order.

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  7. Thank you for offering a musical perspective. Being utterly non-musical, it's a massive blind spot for me.

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  8. A propos of Hey Joe, just stumbled across this in Mojo Navigator R&R News 1, 8 (October 5, 1966), in the News & Gossip column:

    QUOTE
    There's a new version of 'Hey Joe' out which is by far the best yet recorded. It's by a cat named Tim Rose, on the Columbia label (who sounds suspiciously like Dino Valenti, who wrote 'Hey Joe') and was released about six months ago. The record got played by some station out in the boonies (probably KKIS in Pittsburgh-Antioch, the only station around here with halfway groovy programming), immediately jumped onto the Nor-Cal Top 50 chart and has been picking up airplay steadily. This is quite similar to the pattern initiated by the first popular version of 'Hey Joe' which The Leaves released in December of '65 (incidentally their version was an imitation of The Byrds' club performance of the song). The Leaves' version didn't take off until April, about five months after it was released. If Rose's version takes off around here and gets any kind of airplay elsewhere it should be much bigger than the Leaves' record as it is much better.
    ENDQUOTE

    Just found it interesting that Rose was getting hyped in a mag that Garcia probably read. And, since I had my eyes on it, I figured I'd just copy the whole passage for posterity, since these Mojos seem likely to prove impossible to use OCR on.

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  9. Posted this comment on my site, but it also belongs here.

    Robert Hunter once made an interesting comment on Garcia's preference for ambiguity in a song:

    "Bonnie Dobson's song "Morning Dew" (made famous by Garcia's singing of it) is set in the aftermath of nuclear war. Reason he can't "walk you out in the morning dew, my honey" is because of fallout, though Garcia has wisely dropped the verse containing this denouement, allowing the song a heightened romantic mystery, achieved through open-ended ambiguity."
    http://artsites.ucsc.edu/GDead/agdl/fauthrep.html

    Though there isn't such a verse in Bonnie Dobson's song, Hunter seems to be referring to the last verse of the Tim Rose version:

    Now there's no more morning dew
    What they were saying all these years was true
    Cause there's no more morning dew.

    Tim Rose's version was the influential one that later rock versions of Morning Dew were based on - most of the famous rock covers use his arrangement & lyrics.
    But the Dead took their own creative path. Garcia ignored that verse and added a new last line to the song - as every Dead fan knows:

    Can't walk you out in the morning dew, my honey
    I guess it doesn't matter anyway.

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  10. LIA, a very interesting twist. Hunter (who admittedly wasn't there) is referring Tim Rose's version of the song, yet Garcia himself had re-arranged his own version (without taking a songwriting credit, I might add). While I still think Garcia was reminded by Tim Rose that "Morning Dew" was a powerful song, so it galvanized an idea that he seems to already have had in mind. I also like your idea that Garcia may have had a more wistful version in mind, per "Today" and the band supercharged it. That would explain why he had to add the last line.

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  11. The more I think about it, the less I think it likely that Garcia originally had a more wistful or Dobson-esque version of Dew in mind. Considering the way the Dead hammered out just about every folk song they got hold of in 66, from I Know You Rider to Cold Rain & Snow to the jugband songs, it seems more likely that Garcia intended to rock out Dew from the start...

    Comparing the 1967 album version of Dew to other (later) rock bands' versions, it's apparent that the Dead owed nothing to Rose's arrangement. Though a bit crude next to their own later performances (they hadn't lived with the song for very long), the Dead are similar to other bands in the way they play up the contrast between quieter & louder verses, getting "heavier" through the song, and in the way Garcia belts out a final repeated line.

    I was able to find another obscure band of the time, Euphoria's Id, that did a folk-rock version of Bonnie Dobson's song, with her original lyrics:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUJvpmBXnCQ
    I believe this was recorded in 1965, or mid-66 at latest, and so considerably predates both the Dead and Tim Rose's versions - though neither would have heard this very obscure regional New England single.

    One thing that's nagging me is, did Garcia write the "guess it doesn't matter anyway" line? Or did anyone else do it before him? I'm not familiar with earlier folk versions, if any were recorded. But if it was his idea, it was quite a contribution.

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  12. According to Dennis McNally, "Laird Grant had come across the song on a Fred Neil album late in 1966 and brought it to Garcia." (McNally 539)

    A very simple version, and I'm sure Garcia would have heard the song plenty of other places:
    http://keepthecoffeecoming.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/the-morning-dew-fred-neil-and-vince-martin/

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