Friday, April 13, 2012

September 26-27, 1969, The Pavilion, Flushing Meadows Park, Queens, NY (canceled)

An ad from the September 11, 1969 Village Voice (it's in two parts, but it's for the same venue)
I recently came across an ad for a Grateful Dead show that was canceled. In itself, the canceled show is not that big a deal. However, besides my natural desire for completism, the cancellation hints at a whiff of competition between Tri-State Area promoters, and the Grateful Dead's willingness to play them off against each other.

The ad above (in two parts, but it's the same ad) is for forthcoming concerts at The Pavilion at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. I found the ad at the indispensable blog All The Streets You Crossed, which all 60s and 70s rock historians should be reading religiously. A recent post was on Summer '69 ads for concerts at The Singer Bowl and Flushing Meadows Pavilion in Queens, on the grounds where the 1964 World's Fair had been held. I noticed the ad for the Grateful Dead on September 26 and 27, which was a Friday and Saturday. However, we know that on that weekend, the Grateful Dead co-headlined the Fillmore East with Country Joe And The Fish.

A re-scheduled show, from one Borough to another? Yes, certainly. But I think there's a hint of a lot more of a story here.

Howard Stein And Flushing Meadows
Howard Stein was an important promoter in New York in the 60s and 70s, and he booked the Grateful Dead many times. Among the many venues where he booked the Dead were the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, Gaelic Park in the Bronx and the Academy of Music in Manhattan. Stein competed first with Bill Graham and later with John Scher for bookings from touring groups, not just the Grateful Dead.
The ad for Singer Bowl and Pavilion ad from the June 5, 1969 Village Voice
In the Summer of 1969, Howard Stein was booking both the Singer Bowl and The Pavilion, in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. The park had been the site of the New York World's Fair in 1964, and subsequently became the site of Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets (and for some time, the Jets as well). The Singer Bowl was the larger venue. You can see from the ad above that concerts at the Singer Bowl and the Pavilion did not directly conflict. The Grateful Dead had headlined a July 11-12, 1969 weekend at the Pavilion for Stein, supported by Joe Cocker And The Grease Band and Tribe. I believe the Pavilion shows were where Steve Parrish met the Grateful Dead.

Thus it does not seem surprising that since the Grateful Dead played early in the Summer for Howard Stein, they were booked for a return visit at the season's end, on the weekend of September 26-27. Yet the Dead ended up playing the Fillmore East with Country Joe And The Fish. My vague recollection is that the Dead were a late addition at the Fillmore East, replacing Mountain, but I could have it backwards--perhaps Country Joe And The Fish replaced Mountain. In any case, there seems to have been a change in plans. The Dead were planning to be in New York, but they ended up at Fillmore East rather than Flushing.

While I don't doubt that no one who might know the story has any interest in recounting it, I do doubt that this was casual. For all the Grateful Dead members' friendship with Bill Graham, which I believe to have been genuine, they were always willing to play for other promoters in San Francisco. The Dead even started their own ballroom to compete directly with Bill Graham. I can't think that they treated the lucrative New York market any differently.

Howard Stein vs Bill Graham, 1969-71
BGP: February 11-12, 1969 Fillmore East
BGP: June 20-21, 1969 Fillmore East 
     HS: July 11-12, 1969 Pavilion at Flushing
    HS: September 26-27, 1969 Pavilion at Flushing (canceled)
BGP: September 26-27, 1969 Fillmore East
BGP: January 1-2. 1970 Fillmore East
BGP: February 11, 13-14, 1970 Fillmore East
     HS: March 20-21, 1970 Capitol Theater, Port Chester
BGP: May 15, 1970 Fillmore East
     HS: June 24, 1970 Capitol Theater, Port Chester
BGP: July 9-12, 1970 Fillmore East
BGP: September 17-20 Fillmore East
    HS: November 5-8, 1970 Capitol Theater, Port Chester
    HS: February 18-21, 23-24, 1971 Capitol Theater, Port Chester
BGP: April 25-29, 1971 Fillmore East

Stein and Graham were drawing from similar pools of potential fans. Flushing Meadows was just 11 miles from Fillmore East (4/5/6 to the 7, change at Grand Central). Port Chester was a little farther away, up in Westchester County, and outside of the reach of the subway (though not Metro-North). Still, the Capitol was only 30 miles away, and there was plenty of overlap between the Fillmore East and Capitol Theater audience.

There's any number of possible explanations for the Grateful Dead canceling their date with Howard Stein at the Pavilion and playing the Fillmore East instead. I have no ideas of the contracts or expectations of the band, and the entire episode may have simply been a misunderstanding. However, there's no way that the September 26-27 weekend wasn't a serious competitive matter between Bill Graham and Howard Stein. Somewhere there's a story, and I hope we can figure it out at some point.


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