|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 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.
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" 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
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.