Friday, September 9, 2016

Dinosaurs With Robert Hunter 1982-84 (Fossil Record)

An Alton Kelley poster for Dinosaurs at Keystone Palo Alto (Jan 22 '83) and Cotati Cabaret (Feb 18 '83)

Around 1973, Robert Hunter slowly surfaced from a decade-long hiatus as a performer. Initially, he appeared under the Nom Du Rock "Lefty Banks," playing with some old folk pals in a rock band called Roadhog. Hunter also released two albums on Round Records, although initially the fact that he was performing was a kind of secret. By 1976, Hunter was appearing under his own name with Roadhog, who played in a sort of honky-tonk style. Although Roadhog skidded to a halt, Hunter came back on stage a year later with another band, Comfort. They recorded, though did not release, an entire album, and toured the East Coast with and without the Jerry Garcia Band. Comfort was a little more fluid than Roadhog, but still a songwriter-focused aggregation, appropriate for the mid-70s. Yet after the demise of Comfort, while Hunter continued to perform as a solo act, he mostly stepped away from performing in a rock group.

Yet the electric Robert Hunter did make another major landfall. Starting in the Fall of 1982, he started to appear with some old psychedelic Fillmore peers in the aptly named band Dinosaurs. All of the other members were veterans of now-retired legendary Fillmore bands, and although the group formed without Hunter, he joined for their second real engagement, and thus could be called a founding member. Hunter's presence provided a Grateful Dead bloodline to the Dinosaurs. While the other band members played old songs they had already written years before, Hunter provided his usual steady stream of new material. And while Roadhog and Comfort had been more in a "folk-rock" vein, Dinosaurs--not "The" Dinosaurs--was a true, lumbering psychedelic beast. Hunter knew a little about writing those kinds of songs too. This post will look at the formation of Dinosaurs, and Robert Hunter's two years in the band. Appropriately, it was Hunter's last meaningful foray into playing in an electric rock context.

Hunter remained a regular member of the Dinosaurs through the Summer of 1984. Throughout the whole period, Hunter continued to perform as a solo act, particularly in East Coast nightclubs. He left Dinosaurs on amicable terms, and The Dinosaurs continued on until 1996. This post will review the performance history of Robert Hunter and The Dinosaurs from 1982 to 1984. Anyone with any recollections, corrections or reflections should put them in the Comments. Besides correcting any errors, I am particularly interested in any missing shows with Hunter, as well as opening acts and any guests who may have sat in at each show.

The Dinosaurs only album was released on Relix in 1988. Robert Hunter had left the band in 1984, but he returned to sing on one song
Overview and Fossil Record of Dinosaur Formation
In July of 1982, Barry "The Fish" Melton, formerly of Country Joe and The Fish, invited former Big Brother and The Holding Company bassist Peter Albin and Jefferson Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden to play a one-off gig at the Russian River. The band Dinosaurs acquired its name from an off-the-cuff remark by Barry "The Fish" Melton at an early gig when he responded to an audience request as to whether they knew a specific song by saying "No, we're just a bunch of old Dinosaurs." Although Melton, Albin and Dryden were under 40, they felt a long way from the Avalon and Woodstock, when their bands headlined and their albums were bestsellers. This inspired Melton to form a group of players from that era to play occasional gigs in the style that brought them to fame in the first place. Their first shows were in August and September of 1982. The lineup of The Dinosaurs was
Barry Melton-lead guitar, vocals (ex-Country Joe and The Fish)
John Cippolina-lead guitar (ex-Quicksilver)
Robert Hunter-acoustic guitar, harmonica, vocals
Peter Albin-bass (ex-Big Brother)
Spencer Dryden-drums (ex-Jefferson Airplane)
The band was regularly joined by a variety of guests of similar vintage, who would generally sit in for a song or two. Hunter was not initially a member of the band, but he did make a guest appearance at their first "official" show, and seemed to have decided to stay. Hunter's presence gave Dinosaurs a connection to perhaps the five most iconic San Francisco bands of the 60s.

For the most part, Dinosaurs played in the loose style we associate with the Avalon and Fillmore of the 60s. This wasn't exclusively just a conscious choice by the band--it was who they were. Most Dinosaurs material was blues based, from Melton's various albums and also from the general zeitgeist of folk and blues covers that were characteristic of Avalon bands. The difference with Dinosaurs, other than their formidable pedigrees, was Hunter's original songs. Hunter would play the occasional Dead song, songs recorded on various albums in the 1970s, and even new material. Roadhog and Comfort had played in fairly intricate styles, but Dinosaurs weren't like that. The assembled Dinosaurs were great musicians, but they just counted to four and kicked off a shuffle, because that's how they had done it in the old country. It turned out that Hunter had a good feel for writing that kind of song, and performing them with a minimum of rehearsal. Who would have guessed?

In the early 1980s, psychedelic music seemed to be down for the count, and free form blues jamming was going to go with it. Only the Grateful Dead and their satellites were really out there making a success of playing that way, and they seemed to be the last of their breed. Sure, many artists from the old days, like Jefferson Starship and Steve Miller Band were still drawing good crowds and selling records, but they weren't playing what they had played at Fillmore. The ironic, unapologetic Dinosaurs seemed to the last of their kind. All that remained were the Grateful Dead, the Brontosaurus of psychedelia, and Dinosaurs as some sort of Triceratops. Hunter was actually writing new songs, but he was Hunter, and when the boys from Big Brother, The Fish, the Airplane and Quicksilver played them, it had that Cretaceous feel to it.

In the early 80s, Dinosaurs strictly played the West Coast. For practical reasons, most of their gigs were around the Bay Area, but they played some shows in Southern California and the Pacific Northwest. Although Dinosaurs were not directly involved in the rise of jam bands in the 80s, they did show that there was a market for that sort of music at the time. The difference between the West and other parts of the country, however, was that just as the likes of Phish, Moe and Widespread Panic were establishing themselves in their own regions, the West Coast still had the not-yet-extinct creatures of prior epochs.

July 5, 1982 Marin County Fairgrounds, San Rafael, CA: Dinosaurs (billing uncertain)
The story of the Dinosaurs was told best in Dinosaur manager Steve Keyser's liner notes of the 2005 Acadia Records double cd release of Dinosaurs music called Friends Of Extinction:
Like many of the good things in life, the band formed pretty much by accident in July 1982. Dinosaurs played around 130 shows until they called it quits in June of 1996. Melton and Albin had known each other for many years and still play together on a regular basis. In fact, all the members had many years of high profile experience, but more than that they didn't bring an attitude with them. Melton recalls the early days, "I was on the board of directors of this organization called The Freedom Foundation which met inside the San Quentin State Prison. The chairman of the organization was this guy called Dennis Jones who was doing life for three counts of conspiracy to commit murder - he is out now. Well, he was promoting concerts at the time, and Spencer was also on the board of directors along with Norton Buffalo. Peter and I had a trio and we booked ourselves a gig on the Russian River, this was 1982 and our drummer fell out, so I asked Spencer if he still played as he'd been half managing the New Riders. He said sure." It was at this show that the "Dinosaur" quip came and afterwards they decided that what they had was probably part of some bigger idea or concept. "When we got back we called Cipollina to see what he was doing." John, of course was in a half dozen bands at the time and as Melton jokingly remembers "The offer to be in another band was more than attractive to him, so he joined up." By the time they played their second gig things were beginning to take shape. "We booked ourselves as a quartet and we called ourselves Dinosaurs, just Dinosaurs. There never was a "the" in front of the name."
The July 5 show is generally believed to be the first Dinosaurs show, but I don't know how it was advertised, nor how the band was announced. Still, the timing fits. The performance is somewhat unlike subsequent Dinosaurs shows. The dominant instrument is tenor saxophone, played by someone announced as "Beans Banaka." Peter Walsh plays guitar along with Melton and John Cipollina. Walsh was probably a regular member of the Barry Melton Band at the time, but three lead guitars and a tenor sax makes for an odd sound. Still, the existing tape is enjoyable, if not really revealing of what is to come. When Melton ends the tape, he announces Mickey Hart, Airto and Vince Delgado, presumably all sitting in on assorted percussion instruments.

The Marin County Fairgrounds in San Rafael is part of the same complex as the Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium. All the shows at the Fairgrounds were on a formal stage, but outdoors.

August 10, 1982 Uncle Charlie's, Corte Madera, CA: jam
I have a note that there was some kind of "jam" with the Dinosaurs crowd at Uncle Charlie's in Corte Madera. Most likely, this was a sort of stealth warmup gig. August 10 was a Wednesday, so an unpublicized show would have been easy to pull off. It is possible that Hunter played on some songs here or at Cotati two nights later--see the comment below on the August 13 Old Waldorf show from a former roadie.

August 12, 1982 Cotati Cabaret, Cotati, CA: Dinosaurs
The Cotati Cabaret was at 85 La Plaza in Cotati. Cotati's first rock venue had been the venerable, if tiny Inn Of The Beginning at 8201 Old Redwood Highway (aka CA-12). The club had opened in 1968, and all the Marin musicians played there. It had been a good place for the New Riders of The Purple Sage or Old And In The Way to work on their chops, or for Janis Joplin to sit in with Big Brother even though she had left the band two years earlier. In 1966, Sonoma State College had opened in nearby Rohnert Park. However, Cotati was the nearest town to Sonoma State College, so it was both a college town and a hippie enclave. Calling Cotati "bucolic" almost does it a disservice--even today, it is so much nicer than just bucolic.

At some point in the 1980s, Mark Bronstein, the manager of the Inn Of The Beginning moved the action to the Cotati Cabaret, a different building that was still within walking distance of the old site, at the same downtown plaza. His partner was Ken Frankel, who had played mandolin in the Hart Valley Drifters back in 1963 with Garcia, Hunter and Nelson. All of the members of The Dinosaurs had played the Inn Of The Beginning at one time or another, in various incarnations.

The Alton Kelley poster for the Dinosaurs show at San Francisco's Old Waldorf on August 13, 1982. At the time, Kelley was as much a Dinosaur as anyone in the band
August 13, 1982 Old Waldorf, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs/Flamin Groovies
The Dinosaurs made their official debut at the Old Waldorf in San Francisco. The Old Waldorf, at 444 Battery Street in the Embarcadero Center, was opened in 1975 by restaurateur Jeffrey Pollack. It was a new type of rock club for San Francisco, similar to places like The Roxy in Los Angeles or The Bottom Line in New York. Large for a club but much smaller than any concert venue--it probably held around 600 patrons--the Old Waldorf generally featured up and coming bands that were rising on FM radio. The club sold a lot of drinks, often to invited guests on the record company tab. The waitresses were intimidatingly pretty. It was not a rowdy downtown beer joint like the Keystone Berkeley, but rather a more expensive place with good parking, for rock fans with a good job who wanted to take a date to a nice place. There was a tiny dance floor off to the side, but to get near the stage you had to get there early and sit at long tables running perpendicular to the stage, which meant you had to buy drinks. There was a two-drink minimum.

In 1981, Pollack had sold the club to Bill Graham Presents. In general, the same sorts of bands appeared, salted in with a few old Graham staples. In the case of Dinosaurs, all their bands had played for Bill Graham many times. Another old-time San Francisco act, the Flamin' Groovies, opened for them, and there was even a light show, an all but unprecedented attraction for the Old Waldorf. The Dinosaurs were advertised as Melton/Cipollina/Albin/Dryden. As it happened, Robert Hunter was invited out of the crowd to sing "Jesse James." Joel Selvin reported this in the Monday SF Chronicle review. Also stepping on stage at The Old Waldorf for a number or two were ex-Charlatan guitarist Michael Wilhelm, ex-Stained Glass (and High Noon) organist Jim McPherson and ex-Quicksilver drummer Greg Elmore.

There was also a poster for the show by Alton Kelley. More from the liner notes:
Manager Steve Keyser elaborates "Barry pointed out that there were a lot of Dinosaurs and it would be very presumptuous to say that they were "The Dinosaurs." There were many other Dinosaurs, and one of the nice things about about their live shows was they would do whatever they could to get other "Dinosaurs" to sit in, which happened a lot." In fact, it happened right from the first show! Melton takes up the story again. "I wrote up a press release for a gig at the Old Waldorf, Alton Kelley did up a poster. "We did it the old way. We went through the city and distributed the posters and the first night we played tons of people showed up. It sold out. A lot of our musical contemporaries showed up, Bob Hunter among them. Garcia was there but didn't play. Hunter jumps up on stage and starts playing harmonica." 
Of course, there was no call for psychedelic rock posters anymore, either, so Kelley was as much of a Dinosaur as his musician friends.

Now, an Archive commenter does say that Hunter was already a "member," , which contradicts everyone else's memory, so perhaps a more complicated plan was afoot.
Robert Hunter WAS actually a member of the band at this time. This was "The Dinosaurs" First actual gig. I had worked with Barry and the boys previously and had done 2 rehearsal type shows with Hunter prior to this, but this was the First Dinosaurs Gig, complete with the red and green Poster from Kelley.
September 16, 1982 Golden Bear, Huntington Beach, CA: Dinosaurs
Hunter joined the Dinosaurs for some dates in Los Angeles. The Golden Bear was on the Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County, and was in its second decade as a folk and rock nightclub. The Dinosaurs were also listed as being at KRLA-fm in Los Angeles, but I don't know if they actually played, or just talked on the radio. I think the latter is more likely. A friendly dj would certainly take the time to interview some rock legends for a few minutes, but there was no record company to organize a live broadcast.

Alton Kelley's poster for Dinosaurs and Canned Heat at The Roxy on September 17-18, 1982.
September 17-18, 1982 The Roxy, Los Angeles, CA: Dinosaurs/Canned Heat
The Roxy was Los Angeles' premier rock showcase club, on the Sunset Strip. Usually the bands that played there were heavily backed by record companies, but of course The Roxy had to fill up every weekend date, and a band of aging rock legends--all of them just around 40 years old, mind you--was the next best thing to some up and coming band. On the first night (Sep 17), legendary pianist Nicky Hopkins sat in for some numbers, as did Bay Area pals Righteous Raoul (piano) and Dave Getz (the drummer for Big Brother). To close the September 17 show, Hunter performed his newly-written "theme song" for the band, "Dinosaur." This wasn't insignificant--it meant that Hunter was taking the Dinosaurs seriously, because he was writing original material just for the band.

We don't have a tape or eyewitness account for September 18, to my knowledge, so I don't know who showed up or what the band played. Canned Heat, Dinosaurs themselves, was a band from way back in the day, but at this point the only Jurassic member from the 60s was drummer Fito Parra.

September 21, 1982 Uncle Charlie's, Corte Madera, CA: Dinosaurs
The Dinosaurs returned to Marin county for a show at Uncle Charlie's. Uncle Charlie's was mainly a hangout, although bands did play there regularly.[update] Guests apparently included Nick Gravenites, Elvin Bishop, Scott Lawrence (Youngbloods pianist) and Merl and Tony Saunders.

October 2, 1982 The Saloon, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs
The Saloon was a tiny bar on 1232 Grant Street in North Beach. It first opened in 1861. Barry Melton probably played there shortly afterwards. The Barry Melton Band played there literally hundreds of times over the decades. During this period, the Barry Melton Band often included Cipollina, Peter Albin and Dryden, along with other players.

November 19, 1982 Sweetwater, Mill Valley, CA: Dinosaurs
[update] Dinosaurs played a stealth show in downtown Mill Valley, per a Commenter, probably as a form of public rehearsal. Mickey Hart was present, apparently.

November 20, 1982 KFTY-TV studio, Santa Rosa, CA: Dinosaurs
November 20, 1982 KVRE-fm, Santa Rosa, CA: Dinosaurs
The Dinosaurs did make some "media appearances" in Marin. KFTY-tv, UHF Channel 50, was a local station in Santa Rosa, whose signal did not go very far. I assume that the band played a few songs in the studio. I also assume that the songs were broadcast--possibly simulcast--on KVRE-fm. These dates are from very old listings that I cannot confirm, but that seems to make sense.

November 21, 1982 Cotati Cabaret, Cotati, CA: Dinosaurs
The Dinosaurs began the steady habit of becoming regulars at Marin and Sonoma clubs. I think they used these gigs to warm up before more high profile shows. I doubt they rehearsed much, if at all.

December 8, 1982 KTIM-fm studio, San Rafael, CA: Dinosaurs
An old listing has The Dinosaurs playing on KTIM-fm in San Rafael. KTIM was the leading rock station in Marin County, but it didn't have a strong signal. It was just barely audible in Berkeley and San Francisco. Another old listing has the Dinosaurs at the Hun Sound studio in San Rafael. My suspicion is that the band played Hun Sound for a broadcast on KTIM, as KTIM had no facilities for a real live broadcast.

Dinosaurs returned to the Old Waldorf on December 10, 1982, and Kelley made a new poster for it
December 10, 1982 Old Waldorf, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs/Dan Hicks
Since many of the older San Francisco musicians were hardly working anymore, it turned out that they were very available for guest appearances. One of the perhaps unexpected dynamics of the Dinosaurs was that the concept was a perfect platform for old friends to get together on stage, since the fan base of all those groups was by now largely the same.

Although the five Dinosaurs, now including Hunter, were the core group, both Old Waldorf shows featured numerous guests who each sat in for a number: Merl Saunders, Country Joe McDonald, Mickey Hart, David Nelson, Greg Elmore, Dave Getz (Big Brother drummer), Sam Andrews (ex BB guitarist, now playing saxophone) Michael Wilhelm, drummer Harold Aceves and pianist Righteous Rauol. Nicky Hopkins sat in on piano for the entire late show. Old friend Dan Hicks (an ex-Charlatan himself) opened the shows. Given that almost none of the band members or guests had record contracts or current albums at the time, there was a fair amount of attention given to the Dinosaurs. There were early and late shows, but although the night was well attended, I don't believe that either show sold out.

Hunter sang "Franklin's Tower," a critical indication that Grateful Dead songs would not be off-limits for this endeavor.

There is a spurious tape listing for an Old Waldorf show on December 18. The Dinosaurs did not play the Old Waldorf that night. The booked bands at the Waldorf were Steel Breeze, The Payolas and The Silhouttes. The Old Waldorf wasn't like Marin--bands didn't just casually substitute on a Saturday night. Probably this tape is a mis-dated set from the previous weekend (Dec 10).

Another confusing issue for tracking Dinosaurs shows was that all the band members would regularly play without Hunter, under different names. Not only was there the Barry Melton Band, but Cippolina played in numerous local bands, sometimes with other Dinosaurs. Sometimes there were more casual aggregations, too. For example, on December 21, 1982, at Uncle Charlie's, there was a benefit for The Freedom Foundation. The show was billed as "Freedom Foundation Jam." At least based on the surviving tape, the lineup was Cippolina, Melton, Albin, Dryden, Bob Weir and Norton Buffalo. It is sometimes listed as a Dinosaurs show, which strictly speaking it wasn't, though it was part of the same evolutionary tree.

December 31, 1982 Oakland Auditorium Arena, Oakland, CA: Grateful Dead/Dinosaurs
In a unique occurrence, Dinosaurs with Robert Hunter opened for the Grateful Dead at Oakland Auditorium on New Year's Eve, 1982. This was the only time that Hunter opened for the Dead. A whole spectrum of Dinosaurs made guest appearances onstage, including Nicky Hopkins (who played electric piano most of the show), Kathi McDonald, Country Joe McDonald and saxophonist Stevie "Teenage" Douglas.

I attended this show--it was great--and wrote about it elsewhere at some length.

January 20, 1983 Phoenix Theater, Petaluma, CA: Dinosaurs
The Dinosaurs settled into the steady habit of playing a couple of shows a month, mostly around the Bay Area, but occasionally elsewhere. Melton and Hunter shared the vocals, although both Cipollina and Peter Albin would each sing a number, too. Melton's material was mostly his own, blues-based songs from prior albums. Hunter would mix in songs that Deadheads recognized (like "Fire On The Mountain," "Promontory Rider" or "New Speedway Boogie") with new material. Guests were routine. Although Dinosaurs were a jamming band rather than a rehearsed one, they were more like Quicksilver than the Dead, in the sense that the jams stayed within a safe scope.

January 22, 1983 Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA: Dinosaurs
One attraction for local promoters was that with the Jerry Garcia Band and Bobby And The Midnites regularly playing well attended local gigs around the Bay Area, the Dinosaurs added another option. The Dinosaurs played many of the venues that Garcia and Weir played during this period.

February 15, 1983 Mabuhay Gardens, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs
The Mabuhay Gardens was not a typical venue for any Dead related bands, nor any bands remotely like that. The Mabuhay Gardens was a Filipino Restaurant on Broadway, just across from The Stone. Since the mid-70s, the basement of the restaurant hosted punk rock shows, and the "Fab Mab" was a foundational venue for both local and touring punk and new wave bands. It was still around in the 80s. All of the Dinosaurs had a good sense of humor, and probably enjoyed reminding themselves that once they were the outlaws in town with the scary hair.

February 18, 1983 Cotati Cabaret, Cotati, CA: Dinosaurs
Matthew Kelly was a guest at this show (on "Lawdy Miss Clawdy"). Although Kelly was slightly younger than the Dinosaur crew, by the '80s, this hardly mattered. Kelly went back to the day with the rest of them.

February 22, 1983 Recreation Center, Corte Madera, CA: Dinosaurs
Although the Corte Madera Rec Center was probably a small gig, it was prime hunting ground for Dinosaurs. Guests this night included Matthew Kelly, Norton Buffalo, David Nelson, Kathi McDonald, Michael Wilhelm, David Cohen, Michael DeJong, Richard Olsen, Greg Anton and Mark Unobsky. David Cohen is listed as a sax player, which is either a mistake, or else it wasn't that (the CJF) David Cohen. The intriguing name is Mark Unobsky, a pretty good slide guitarist who was a key figure in the Red Dog Saloon way back In The Day, but had chosen to make a living in a profession besides music.

March 24, 1983 Golden Bear, Huntington Beach, CA: Dinosaurs
March 25, 1983 Country Club, Reseda, CA: Dinosaurs
In Southern California, there were far fewer opportunities to see either members of the Grateful Dead or former Avalon legends like Cipollina, and Dinosaurs filled that need. The Country Club was out in the suburbs, and Deadheads who were a little bit older were happy to go buy a few drinks at a nearby club rather than make some giant trek.

Kelley's poster for Dinosaurs at the Kabuki in San Francisco on April 9, 1983
April 9, 1983 Kabuki Theater, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs
The Kabuki Theater was in Japantown, right across from the old Fillmore, appropriately enough. The parking was great, which mattered to a Dinosaurs audience. Old friends included  Greg Elmore, Charley Musselwhite, Pete Sears, Richard Olsen and Michael Wilhelm.

April 20, 1983 Barbary Coast Room, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs played an afternoon show at San Francisco State. Guests included some pretty obscure friends, drummer Chuck Bernstein (from It's A Beautiful Day) and horn player Richard Ralston from The Charlatans (neither of whom rings a bell with me, and I'm good with obscure names).

May 20, 1983 Porter College, UC Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA: Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs played Porter College--College Five for you old-time Banana Slugs--, probably in the Dining Commons. A commenter says it was "the night before Kresge Day '83." New Hunter songs like "Amagamalin Street" were starting to turn up in Dinosaurs sets. Keyser:
We only rehearsed about twice and with Bob Hunter we really needed to rehearse. Sometimes on stage with Hunter he would start a song that we that we had never heard. He wouldn't even say what key it was in, what the tempo was or the feel was. He would just start a song and just go for it. In a way I liked that kind of concept but for putting out recordings it just didn't work."
June 17, 1983 Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA: Dinosaurs/New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Mark Castro Band
June 18, 1983 Phoenix Theater, Petaluma, CA: Dinosaurs/New Riders Of The Purple Sage
By this time, the New Riders were just John Dawson and some other guys, with multi-instrumentalist Rusty Gauthier being the key player. Still, they were Dinosaurs too (Mark Castro, as I recall, was a blues harmonica player--update: apparently he's a guitar player).

July 3, 1983 Civic Center, San Rafael, CA: Dinosaurs
This is a very old listing, which I cannot confirm. It could either be the Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium or the Marin County Fairgrounds, which are actually right next to each other. Or it could be a canceled or never-held event.

When Dinosaurs first played the Pacific Nothwest, Kelley made a poster for the three shows (Apr 14-16, 1983)
July 14, 1983 Starry Night, Portland, OR: Dinosaurs
July 15, 1983 4th Avenue Tavern, Olympia, WA: Dinosaurs
July 16, 1983 Paramount Theater, Seattle, WA: Dinosaurs
The Dinosaurs went out for a weekend tour in the Pacific Northwest. The Dead were as popular as ever there, but save for the occasional Garcia show, spinoff bands never played there, and the other Dinosaurs didn't play there much either. As a result, Dinosaurs could headline the Seattle Paramount, where the Dead had headlined a decade earlier.

September 16, 1983 Rainbow Music Hall, Denver, CO: Dinosaurs
Denver was another place where Deadheads were legion, but the spinoff bands didn't play there much. I have no idea whether this was well attended, but my guess would be that it did pretty well. [update] A Commenter reports that this show was well attended.

September 17, 1983 Salt Air Pavilion, Salt Lake City, UT: Dinosaurs
With a Friday show in Denver, it made sense to play a Saturday show within striking distance. According to an Archive commenter, it may not have been a financial pleasure:
I was living in SLC at the time...remember seeing a small poster for the show at the Smiths in the Ave's. I do not think more than 50 people showed up...funky hall out on a jetty in off the great salt lake...they had everyone arm in arm doing the hokey pokey at the end.
David La Flamme was a guest Dinosaur this night. I believe he had family ties in Utah.

September 24, 1983 Wolfgang's, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs
Wolfgang's was Bill Graham's new San Francisco nightclub, more or less superseding the Old Waldorf. While Jerry Garcia still played The Stone, in SF the Dinosaurs mostly played for Graham, just as they always had.

Wolfgang's was at 901 Columbus, formerly the site of The Village, and later a disco (Dance Yer Ass Off), and then the New Boarding House. Wolfgang's (called after Bill Graham's birth name, Wolodia in Hungarian, but Europeanized to Wolfgang) was mostly filled with hip rock acts, but it had to be open all the time, so the old Fillmore guys got their shots.

October 13, 1983 Phoenix Theater, Petaluma, CA: Dinosaurs
October 14, 1983 Catalyst, Santa Cruz, CA: Dinosaurs
October 15, 1983 Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA: Dinosaurs
All three of these Bay Area venues regularly booked the Jerry Garcia Band. Outside of Graham's SF territory, Dinosaurs were the next-best-alternative to a JGB show (Bob Weir drew many Deadheads, of course, but his appeal was less to the old hippie demographic).

At the October 15 Keystone Palo Alto show, the legendary Skip Spence made an appearance. Skip didn't really have it anymore, but by this time just saying that you saw him was worth something.

November 5, 1983 Cotati Cabaret, Cotati, CA: Dinosaurs
David Nelson was guest Dinosaur at the Cotati Cabaret. His regular number was "Crooked Judge."

November 9, 1983 Last Day Saloon, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs
The Last Day Saloon was at 406 Clement, near between 5th and 6th Avenue, in the Inner Richmond between The Presidio and Golden Gate Park (it's still a live venue, but now called Neck Of The Woods).

December 2, 1983 Cabo's, Chico, CA: Dinosaurs (early and late)
Dinosaurs played two shows in Chico. There is a tape, but other than that I know nothing about it.

December 1983 MuSiC
In December 1983, Cippolina, Melton, Albin and Dryden started playing shows with Merl Saunders on keyboards, but without Hunter. They used the name MuSiC for these bookings. Saunders gave them a Dead connection, and a different sound as well. Several months later, Saunders would "replace" Hunter in Dinosaurs, but in fact he had been playing with the crew for several months.

There is a studio rehearsal dated December 1983, but the first publicly advertised show that I know about was Keystone Berkeley on February 11, 1984. I attended, and the old fossils sounded great with Saunders on organ. Given that each Dinosaur, save for Hunter, tended to perform the same numbers, it was nice to both hear some new songs and a different feel on some of their regular material.

Kelley's poster for Dinosaurs appearance at the Corte Madera Rec Center, at the Arista Records Christmas Party on December 17, 1983

December 17, 1983 Recreation Center, Corte Madera, CA: Dinosaurs "Artista" Party
The Grateful Dead were still on Arista, even if they weren't really doing anything with them at the time. Still, there must have been a convention--East Coast labels liked to go California in the Winter--and presumably the Dead still had enough clout with Clive Davis to get their friends hired.
update:
thanks to Commenter RWK, we can see that my assumption was incorrect: it wasn't Arista Records at all:
You make note of the December 17, 1983 Recreation Center, Corte Madera, CA show as an Arista Records party, but this is incorrect. As the poster correctly tells you, it was an Artista party. The Artistas were a "gang" consisting of various artists and musicians and invitees, a fairly exclusive private "club". The Dinosaurs were members of The Artistas and played several Artistas parties, of which the Corte Madera Rec. Center show was just one. One of the benefits of being an Artista is that you got your own Artista jacket, very nice silk concert jackets with the member's name stitched on the front. In some photos of The Dinosaurs you can see one or more of the musicians wearing their Artista jacket. In any case, nothing to do with Arista Records! 

December 22, 1983 Union Square, San Francisco, CA: Nobody For President Rally
Wavy Gravy had a sort of comedy/activist routine called "Nobody For President" ("which politician is going to look after your needs? Nobody!"). Wavy would headline and emcee these sort of Rally/Protests around the Bay Area. The Dinosaurs were supposed to perform at a noontime rally in the tony San Francisco shopping district of Union Square, but rain interfered. The rally was still held, and Robert Hunter played a solo set instead.

January 28, 1984 Wolfgang's, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs/Country Joe McDonald
Country Joe McDonald, a true Dinosaur, had already made several guest appearances with the band. Now he started being booked with them. He would open the show with a solo acoustic set, and then join the rest of the band later in the show for a few numbers. Once again, for fans who had already seen them several times, this made for a nice change.

February 4, 1984 Catalyst, Santa Cruz, CA: Dinosaurs

February 17, 1984 KFOG-fm, San Francisco, CA.
I have an old listing for Dinosaurs on KFOG on February 17. I have no idea if they performed or were interviewed, or if the listing is spurious. Since February 17 was a Friday, I'm more inclined to think it was an interview.

February 18, 1984 Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA: Dinosaurs

March 2, 1984 Cotati Cabaret, Cotati, CA: Dinosaurs

April 26, 1984 BJ Kelly's, Eugene, OR: Dinosaurs
April 27, 1984 Hub Ballroom, U. of Washington, Seattle, WA: Dinosaurs/County Joe McDonald
April 28, 1984 Starry Night, Portland, OR: Dinosaurs/County Joe McDonald
Country Joe joined Dinosaurs for the two big weekend shows in Seattle (Friday) and Portland (Saturday).

May 26, 1984 Catalyst, Santa Cruz, CA: Dinosaurs

June 1, 1984 Wolfgang's, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs

June 8, 1984 Palace West, Phoenix, AZ: Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs made a little foray into the Southwest. I don't know anything about the Palace West in Phoenix. June 8 was a Friday.

June 9, 1984 Dinosaurs Cafe, Santa Fe, NM: Dinosaurs
Very appropriately, Dinosaurs played Dinosaurs Cafe in Santa Fe. Once again, I know nothing about the venue. On one hand, the various Dinosaurs would almost never have played Santa Fe, so it might have been exotic. On the other hand, there may not have been an audience for them, either. There are still a lot of old hippies in Santa Fe, even now, but I don't know if they were the sort who went out to see touring bands.

June 10, 1984 Peggy's Hi-Lo Bar, Boulder, CO: Dinosaurs
The Southwest excursion ended with a Sunday night show in Boulder. My notes come from some very old listings that the venue was either the Blue Note or the Olympic Lounge. Regular Commenter CryptDev, however, says that it was Peggy's Hi-Lo Bar, a roadhouse outside of town that mostly booked country acts.

July 15, 1984 Marx Meadows, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs/others
Robert Hunter had decided to leave Dinosaurs. All of the band remained friends, but Hunter's musical interests didn't really fit in with Dinosaurs at this time. It was announced, probably in BAM Magazine, that Hunter would be replaced with Merl Saunders, and that the show in Golden Gate Park would be Hunter's last appearance with the band.

Appropriately, given the history of the band members, Hunter's final Dinosaurs show was a free concert in Golden Gate Park, at Marx Meadows. Hunter, in fact, was the only Dinosaur who had not already played for free in Golden Gate Park. Michael Wilhelm was the guest Dinosaur that afternoon.

>August 10, 1984 Cotati Cabaret, Cotati, CA: Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs first gig without Hunter was once again in an out of the way venue, appropriate for a band that used live gigs as rehearsals. Along with Merl Saunders on organ, old friend David LaFlamme joined the group on electric violin, along with occasional vocals and electric guitar. LaFlamme, too, was announced in BAM as a permanent addition.

August 28, 1984 Wolfgang's, San Francisco, CA Dinosaurs/Jerry Garcia and John Kahn/Country Joe McDonald and Friends/David Nelson/Rick and Ruby Rodney Albin Benefit
Robert Hunter had left Dinosaurs, but sadly and appropriately he appeared with them one final time. Rodney Albin, not only Peter's brother but an absolutely essential figure in the careers of Jerry Garcia, Hunter, Big Brother and The Holding Company and many others, had died far too soon of stomach cancer in 1984. All of his friends came out for a memorial and fundraiser for him, headlined by Jerry Garcia. The whole night featured dinosaurs of every stripe, and I have written about both Rodney Albin and the benefit concert at Wolfgang's at great length.

For the only time, Hunter played the whole Dinosaur set with both Merl Saunders and David LaFlamme, along with the original quartet. Dinosaurs closed the show and rocked the house hard. Hunter's career as a performing electric Dinosaur ended on this night, but of course the community of old lizards remains intact to this day.

In 2005, Dinosaurs released the Friends Of Extinction cd. Disc one was the Relix album, and disc two was live material from the late 80s, after Hunter had left the band (although he guested on occasion, and thus sings on one track of the live album as well)
Dinosaurs: The Post-Hunterazoic Era
Dinosaurs continued on without Hunter, generally quite successfully. Merl Saunders was a great addition, and songs like "Sugaree" kept the Dead connection alive. However, John Cipollina died in June 1989, and that left a hole in the band. Still, there were still plenty of Dinosaurs around. Initially, electric violinist Papa John Creach took over Cippo's slot, amusingly appropriate since he was an even older Dinosaur than the rest of them. The music sounded great, but ironically enough, with the rise of cds, the Dinosaur appeal shrunk somewhat. For one thing, many old bands like Big Brother and The Holding Company got resuscitated, and that conflicted with any Dinosaur gigs. Guests still regularly dropped in on Dinosaur gigs, including, at least once, Robert Hunter himself (he sang "Amagamalin Street" at Keystone Palo Alto on October 25, 1985. I don't know if Hunter sang or played on other songs).

After Hunter left Dinosaurs, and even before, numerous other bands existed in tandem with them. The most famous, of course, was the reformed Big Brother And The Holding Company, which featured the original quartet, along with various singers. Another band was the Melton-Cipollina Band, usually billed as Fish And Chip. It initially featured the original Dinosaur quartet (Cipollina, Melton, Albin, Dryden), although in later years Doug Kilmer and Greg Elmore sometimes held down the rhythm section. Yet another configuration was the Barry Melton Band, sometimes called Fish Stu, which featured Melton, Albin, Dryden and keyboard player Stu Blank. Fish Stu mostly played The Saloon, and at times various other old friends participated or substituted.

Dinosaurs finally went into the studio in 1988, and released a self-titled LP on Relix Records later that year. The album mostly featured songs that had not been released on other albums. Robert Hunter reappeared to share vocals on the song "Who Makes The Moves" that he had co-written with Barry Melton. It had been a fairly regular part of the Dinosaurs repertoire when Hunter was in the band. Hunter also co-wrote a song with Merl Saunders, "Resurrection Rag." The album got a certain amount of attention, but like all Relix releases its footprint was not large.

Dinosaurs: Decline and Extinction
Even after the unfortunate death of John Cipollina in June, 1989, Dinosaurs soldiered on. Papa John Creach joined the group and the band continued to play. After a while, Papa John stepped down and was more or less replaced by Jerry Miller, formerly of Moby Grape, bringing another species into the band's DNA. At a certain point, however, the larger pool of fans interested in Dinosaur music had seen the band a few times, and since the group didn't rehearse, the fact that Dinosaurs didn't really vary their sets much started to weigh on fans' interest. Albin recalls 
"When we first started as Dinosaurs we definitely had a following with Dead Heads but when they realized we were playing the same songs over and over again they stopped coming. We did the same set all the time. Barry didn't want to do a set list, he refused saying that every audience was different and that he had to feel out the audience and then pick the song, well he picked the same songs all the time!"
Dinosaurs casually ground to a halt in 1996. There was no announcement or plan that I am aware of, only bookings became fewer and fewer and the band just stopped playing. Something might have been said in Relix, but even then it was pretty casual. All Dinosaurs, including Hunter, generally remained good friends and periodically appeared with each other when the opportunity arose. As the band members aged, their desire to go on the road, or even stay out late at night, faded somewhat.

In 2005, Acadia Records released a double cd of Dinosaurs material. All the songs from the Relix lp were included, along with two unreleased bonus tracks, and there was a variety of live tracks from 1987 to 1989 (for exact details, see the Appendix below).

Appendix: Officially Released Dinosaurs Material
Dinosaurs (Relix 1988)
Friends Of Extinction (Acadia 2005, double cd, original LP plus live tracks 87-89)

Dinosaurs
Initial release : 1988
Relix 2031 (US) / Big Beat WIK83 (UK) / Line Records (Germany)
  • Robert Hunter performs on one song and co-wrote two of the song on this album.
Lay Back Baby (Saunders / McPherson)
Strange Way (Melton / Zimmels)
Do I Move You? (Simone)
Butcher's Boy (Traditional arr. Melton)
Good Old Rock 'N Roll (Melton)
Resurrection Rag (Saunders / Hunter)
Who Makes Moves? (Hunter / Melton)
Mona (I Need You Baby) (McDaniel)

The CD release includes two extra tracks;
Fossil Fuel (Cipollina)
Motel Party Baby (Cipollina / Philippet)

Musicians
John Cipollina - guitar, vocals
Barry Melton - guitar, vocals
Peter Albin - bass, vocals
Spencer Dryden - drums
Merl Saunders - keyboards, vocals
Robert Hunter - vocals (Who Makes Moves? only)

Credits
Producer - John Cipollina, Merl Saunders and Dinosaurs
Engineer - Tom Flye, Bob Hodas, Bob Skye
Remix - Tom Flye
Mastering - George Horn
Post-production - John Hadden
Project coordinator - Steve Keyser
Front cover - Dennis Nolan
Graphics - Alton Kelley
Back cover photo - Alan Blaustein
Graphics - Mike Dolgushkin
Liner notes (Linosaur Diner Notes) - Robert Hunter
Many thanks to - Avrom Ash, Kevyn Clark, Sindi Cooper, Thad Cordes, Greg Elmore, Charlie Kaiser, Kenn Roberts, Hal and Sandy Royaltey, Mike Somaville, Dan Watham, Wally Watham, Debbie Wilensky and especially Rick Hubbard
This project was recorded at Tres Virgos Studios, San Rafael; Studio D, Sausalito and remote recording by The Plant Studios at The Cabaret, Cotati
Remixed at Prairie Sun Recorders, Cotati and Fantasy Studios, Berkeley

Friends Of Extinction-Dinosaurs
Initial release : 2005
Acadia Records

Double CD comprising a remastered version of the Dinosaurs only studio album plus previously unreleased live material. Robert Hunter, Merl Saunders and Barry Melton perform and contribute to the song writing.

Disc 1 (Original album);
Lay Back Baby (Saunders/McPherson)
Strange Way (Melton/Zimmels)
Do I Move You? (Simone)
Butcher's Boy (Traditional arr. Melton)
Good Old Rock 'N Roll (Melton)
Fossil Fuel (Cipollina)
Resurrection Rag (Saunders/Hunter)
Motel Party Baby (Cipollina / Philippet)
Who Makes Moves? (Hunter/Melton)
Mona (I Need You Baby) (McDaniel)
Honky Tonk Jekyll & Hyde (Cipollina)
Overnight (Cipollina)

Disc 2 (Dinosaurs Are Alive);
The Dance (Aceves)
Amagamalin Street (Hunter)
No More Country Girl (Creach)
The Love Machine (Melton)
I Can't Get Started With You (Gershwin / Duke)
Built For Comfort (Dixon)
Blind Man (Traditional)
Codine (Saint Marie)
Closer (Melton)

Musicians Disc 1:
John Cipollina - guitar, vocals
Barry Melton - guitar, vocals
Peter Albin - bass, vocals
Spencer Dryden - drums
Merl Saunders - keyboards, vocals
Robert Hunter - vocals (Who Makes Moves? only)

Musicians Disc 2:
John Cipollina - guitar, vocals
Barry Melton - guitar, vocals
Peter Albin - bass, vocals
Spencer Dryden - drums
Merl Saunders - keyboards, vocals
Papa John Creach - violin, vocals
Stu Blank - organ (on The Dance)
Greg Elmore - drums (on Love Machine)
Doug Killmer - bass (on The Dance and Love Machine)
Kathi McDonald - vocals (on Blind Man)
Robbie Hoddinott - guitar (on Closer)
Robert Hunter - vocals (on Amagamalin Street)

Credits
For the original album (Disc 1)
Producer - John Cipollina, Merl Saunders and Dinosaurs
Engineer - Tom Flye, Bob Hodas, Bob Skye
Remix - Tom Flye
Mastering - George Horn
Post-production - John Hadden
Project coordinator - Steve Keyser
This project was recorded at Tres Virgos Studios, San Rafael; Studio D, Sausalito and remote recording by The Plant Studios at The Cabaret, Cotati
Remixed at Prairie Sun Recorders, Cotati and Fantasy Studios, Berkeley
Honky Tonk Jekyll & Hyde and Overnight were recorded on February 5, 1985.

For the live disc (Disc 2);
Producer, mastering - Mick Skidmore
Executive producer, tape archivist, project coordinator - Steve Keyser
Track selection - Steve Keyser, Mick Skidmore, Barry Melton
The tracks on disc 2 are live recordings from the following sources;
The Dance - Chi Chi Club, San Francisco, October 17, 1987
Amagamalin Street - Keystone, Palo Alto, October 25, 1985
No More Country Girl - The Backstage, Seattle, August 12, 1989
The Love Machine - Chi Chi Club, San Francisco, December 5, 1987
I Can't Get Started With You - The Backstage, Seattle, August 12, 1989
Built For Comfort - Starry Night, Portland, October 22, 1988
Blind Man - Parker's, Seattle, November 1, 1987
Codine - Chi Chi Club, San Francisco, April 8, 1989
Closer - Mabuhay Gardens, San Fransisco, June 22, 1985




15 comments:

  1. I went to the Denver show on 9/16/83 and remember it being quite well attended. The 6/10/84 Boulder show was not at the Blue Note, but rather at Peggy's Hi-Lo Bar, a now-defunct roadhouse out on the Diagonal that mostly hosted country acts. I don't remember a lot of details about either show,. but both were taped by locals.

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  2. 7-20-82 Uncle Charlie's, Corte Madera Freedom Jam#1 Cipollina, Dryden, Melton, Ozzie Dylan, Michael White, Steven Shuster, Michael Dejong, Scott Morris, Ansley Dunbar
    9-21-82 Uncle Charlie's, Corte Madera guests Nick Gravenites, Scott Lawrence, Elvin Bishop, Tony Saunders, Merl Saunders
    11-19-82 Sweetwater, Mill Valley guests Mickey Hart (one song on bass), Peter Walsh
    1-24-84 Wolfgang's
    10-25-85 Keystone, Palo Alto John Lee hooker guests

    Info from tape database - I'll have to check if 1-24-84 is misdate and if Mickey really plays bass

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    1. Great stuff. A comedy show was booked at Wolfgangs on Jan 24 84, but I wouldn't rule out some missing shows there.

      I figure the Sweetwater show was a sort of public rehearsal

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    2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9VkftY0rFY&t=18s
      here is the show & Mickey did play bass on one song

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  3. I saw them once post-Hunter at the Keystone PA, the only time I saw Cippollina, who was absolutely mind-bogglingly good that night.

    The band had another odd little influence on the history of rock and roll: they sued the band Dinosaur about the name, so Dinosaur changed their name to Dinosaur, Jr.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinosaur_Jr.

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    1. Andrew, thanks for the fascinating tidbit. Melton was an attorney, after all, and surely knew his copyright.

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  4. I saw the Dinosaurs at the Saint in NYC, on the site of the Fillmore East. I think the Saint was winding down and may have already been sold as real estate. I enjoyed the show but I really remember the dead tape they played - a tremendous good lovin - I would love to hear that again.

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  5. I saw the Dinosaurs at the Saint in NYC, on the site of the Fillmore East. I think the Saint was winding down and may have already been sold as real estate. I enjoyed the show but I really remember the dead tape they played - a tremendous good lovin - I would love to hear that again.

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  6. Mark Castro is a virtuoso guitarist.
    It makes me sick that you assume he played blues harmonica. It isn't hard to research before you slander. Shame on you.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyd6tQmo-P4
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2PvOPyB4nk
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoqDIasxRU8


    June 17, 1983 Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA: Dinosaurs/New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Mark Castro Band
    June 18, 1983 Phoenix Theater, Petaluma, CA: Dinosaurs/New Riders Of The Purple Sage
    By this time, the New Riders were just John Dawson and some other guys, with multi-instrumentalist Rusty Gauthier being the key player. Still, they were Dinosaurs too (Mark Castro, as I recall, was a blues harmonica player).

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  7. You make note of the December 17, 1983 Recreation Center, Corte Madera, CA show as an Arista Records party, but this is incorrect. As the poster correctly tells you, it was an Artista party. The Artistas were a "gang" consisting of various artists and musicians and invitees, a fairly exclusive private "club". The Dinosaurs were members of The Artistas and played several Artistas parties, of which the Corte Madera Rec. Center show was just one. One of the benefits of being an Artista is that you got your own Artista jacket, very nice silk concert jackets with the member's name stitched on the front. In some photos of The Dinosaurs you can see one or more of the musicians wearing their Artista jacket.
    In any case, nothing to do with Arista Records!

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    1. RWK, thanks so much for this. I updated the post

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  8. Also, regarding the December 22, 1983 Union Square, San Francisco appearance (which I attended), The Dinosaurs DID perform, despite the rain, which wasn't heavy but was enough to prevent them from playing as usual. The other four members (even Spencer) sang accapella with Hunter, who had his acoustic guitar with him. Not really the preferred way to see and hear the band!

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  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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