Friday, August 12, 2022

May 1, 1973 Ahmanson Theater, Los Angeles, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show/Bruce Springsteen (Ships In The Night)

A few decades into the 21st century, we look back at the iconic names of iconic 20th century rock and rollers with reverence, reflecting on the days when they criss-crossed the country playing modest gigs to modest acclaim. Bruce Springsteen and the Grateful Dead are two of the most important and popular acts in rock history, and the performance history of both has been researched in great detail. Their paths only crossed twice. Bruce Springsteen attended a Grateful Dead concert at a junior college gym in Edison, NJ on November 22, 1970. Bruce, nonplussed at the event itself, admitted later that he didn't get it until a long time afterwards.

Even Bruce does not seem to recall, however, that early in his career, he opened for the New Riders of The Purple Sage at an event sponsored by Columbia Records. The New Riders had some status at the time--unlike Bruce--and no doubt in the interests of making an impression on Columbia, had invited three members of the Grateful Dead to sit in with them that night. Bob Weir and Keith and Donna Godchaux made their final live appearances with the New Riders, at the very show when Springsteen was the opener. None of the Riders nor Dead members have ever mentioned Bruce's presence on the bill, nor has Bruce referred to the Dead members' presence.

This post will look at the different arcs of both bands at the time, and review what little we can discern about the show. Oh yeah--Columbia made video and audio tapes of the event. We even know for a fact that the Springsteen tape was shown and still exists. And yet the full event remains lost in the mists of time.

Columbia promoted the seven nights at the Ahmanson as "A Week To Remember"

May 1, 1973 Ahmanson Theater, Los Angeles, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show/Bruce Springsteen (Tuesday)
Columbia Records was the largest record label in the world in 1973, and also a division of the powerful Columbia Broadcasting System, so the label could do things on a scale beyond that of other labels. In early 1973, Columbia chose to book all their major acts in Los Angeles' finest theater for seven consecutive nights. The real purpose of this mini-festival was to showcase their acts for radio djs, talent agents and Columbia sales staff. This was commonly done at company sales conventions. At a typical sales convention, however, with the drinks flowing, newly-signed bands found themselves playing to drunk industry pros catching up on gossip with their pals. By selling tickets at a big theater, the hall was filled with regular civilians who liked the bands. It was more of a true concert atmosphere, and the pros could more fairly gauge the impact of each band. 

The Ahmanson Theatre had opened in 1967, as part of the Los Angeles Music Center. It was Los Angeles' premier theater, and regularly featured prominent Broadway productions. For the week of April 29-May 5, Columbia booked the 2084-capacity Ahmanson for seven nights, with three acts each night. The acts ran the gamut, as Columbia was prominent in rock, soul, country, jazz and pop styles. Billboard reviewed all seven nights, which were apparently 95% sold out (Part 1 of the review is here, and Part 2 can be seen here). 

Gypsy Cowboy, by the New Riders of The Purple Sage, released by Columbia in December 1972

Status Report, May 1973: New Riders/Dr Hook/Bruce Springsteen

By May 1973, the New Riders of The Purple Sage had released three albums on Columbia Records (NRPS, Powerglide and December '72's Gypsy Cowboy). None had been big hits, but they had peaked in the 30s in the Billboard album charts. The New Riders had toured relentlessly, which not every rock band would actually do, so they were building audiences in the Northeast and elsewhere. After a Midwestern tour in February, the band had played numerous gigs in the Northeast from mid-March to mid-April '73. Here and there the band still opened for the Grateful Dead, but they were now headlining smaller theaters on their own.

While the New Riders were inevitably associated with the Grateful Dead, back in '73 the Dead weren't some "old hippie band." Indeed, hippies weren't even old yet. The Dead themselves had put out four gold albums in a row, so commercially the New Riders connection to the Dead was positive. Also, musical taste was evolving, and young long-hairs were starting to appreciate the directness and good nature of country music. Long-haired country rockers like the New Riders seemed well-placed to capitalize on this trend. In fact, it would turn out that real country singers who grew their hair long--Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, most prominently--would be the ones to get real attention, but that wasn't clear in Spring '73. The New Riders had a level of success and a promising commercial future, so it's no surprise that Columbia was having them headline on the Tuesday night showcase.


@
Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show had released their second album on Columbia, Sloppy Seconds, in 1972. It included their big hit "Cover Of The Rolling Stone."

Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show
were another band that mixed rock sensibilities with Nashville songwriting. The band had been playing in New Jersey around 1970 when they were discovered by Nashville producer and songwriter Shel Silverstein, and had performed for him on a movie soundtrack. Silverstein wrote most of the songs on the band's first two albums, combining country song structures with a comic pop edge. Their initial hit, "Sylvia's Mother," was a sincere parody of a pop country weeper. Their follow-up album, Sloppy Seconds, included the band's iconic hit "Cover Of The Rolling Stone" (written by Silverstein). The single would sell a million copies. In Spring '73, Dr. Hook was probably better known than the New Riders.

Bruce Springsteen's debut album Greetings From Asbury Park had been released by Columbia in January 1973

Bruce Springsteen
had been signed to Columbia by legendary talent scout John Hammond, who had also signed Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson and Bob Dylan to the label. He had just released his first album, Greetings From Asbury Park, in January of 1973. Although Bruce had a following in the Northeast, he was unknown on the West Coast. He had played a record company showcase at the Troubadour on February 26, 1973, with only a few dozen invited guests in attendance. He had also been booked for a tour with the Butterfield Blues Band right around then, too, yet all but a few shows were canceled. His manager had hustled Bruce into few opening slots, but nobody in California had heard of Springsteen unless they had a cousin from New Jersey (which I did, but that's another story). Bruce was opening so that local djs and talent agents could hear Columbia's latest signing in a good setting. 

As far as Columbia was concerned, Bruce Springsteen was a singer/songwriter rather than a rock and roller. The label saw him as someone like John Prine. Bruce had a backing band, but they were not using the name "E Street Band" yet. Clarence Clemons was on sax, "Phantom Dan" Federici was on organ, Garry Tallent on bass and Vini Lopez was on drums. They had all played a little bit on the Greetings album, and would all play on the following album, The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle, where they would be joined by pianist David Sancious (the band would rehearse at Sancious' house at 1107 E Street in Belmar, NJ). The five piece lineup had been playing together since October, 1972.

The Show
An unnamed Billboard reviewer ran down the Ahmanson show in the May 19, 1973 issue:

If any one artist captured the essence of what the week was really about it was Bruce Springsteen. Latest in Columbia's recent acquisitions of singer-songwriters (Bill Quateman & Andy Pratt), he has an appeal that borders on the universal. His songs are interesting, thoughtfully worked out and often exciting. Material aside, he has about him that glow, the elusive X factor that spells STAR. Comparisons to Van Morrison and Bob Dylan have been made, but he is no carbon, rather than glowing and vibrant performer in his own right.

Note that the reviewer compares Springsteen to two recently signed songwriters, both now largely forgotten (I had an Andy Pratt record, though, it wasn't bad). 

Conversely, the reviewer was scathing about Dr Hook:

Dr Hook and His [sic] Medicine Show were insufferably self-indulgent during their truncated set. They were obviously more concerned with their own enjoyment rather than that of the nearly full house. Engaging in oblique repartee and unfunny asides, their instrumental sloppiness and vocal insipidity did nothing to salvage their performance.

All in all, the Riders came out fairly well. He says:

The New Riders of The Purple Sage have uncovered nothing new or outrageous, but they do what they do very well and with more than a little bit of inspiration. The mode is country, mellow and laid back yet ready to set off sparks at a moment's notice. Joined by Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Keith Godchaux and Donna Godchaux they transformed the staid Ahmanson into a veritable hoe-down.

So Bob Weir made his last appearance with the New Riders, and Keith and Donna played yet another gig with the band, lending a little star power to the proceedings. This was never nothing in status-conscious LA. Save for the Billboard review a few weeks later, the show all but disappeared from the memory of participants or audience.

Legacy
Most of what we know about this Ahmanson Theater show comes from the thorough research of Bruce Springsteen historians. The indispensable Killing Floor site has some great details. Per the site:

All 7 shows in the Ahmanson series were recorded by CBS and professionally filmed in colour by Arnold Levine Productions on behalf of CBS, whose intent was to show the performances at the CBS Sales Convention in July. This did indeed happen - Bruce's entire performance was shown several times at the Convention - but has never been shown anywhere since.

So this means that the New Riders were filmed and recorded, with Bob Weir and the Godchauxs. This, too, may have been shown at the July '73 Columbia sales convention. I'm not aware of any such video in collector's circles, however. If it could be extracted, it would make a great archival release. Of course, Springsteen fans have been trying to disentomb his full live video, and they have had no luck yet. So near and yet so far. 

Since their were three acts, I would guess that the New Riders played about an hour, half of their usual show in those days. Keith Godchaux had played with them a number of times in the previous two months, so it's reasonable to assume he sat in for the entire show. Donna Godchaux probably sang harmonies on one or two numbers, which was her typical contribution when Keith sat in. Weir, however, had only played with the New Riders once onstage since 1970, in a unique show at the Felt Forum on March 18, 1973. That show included Jerry Garcia as well as Keith and Donna. My guess about the Ahmanson set--pure speculation--is that Weir joined the Riders for a final or encore number, perhaps two.

It's important to remember that while the Ahmanson shows would have seemed like regular rock shows to the paying customers, the experience would have been very different for the performers. One purpose of these events was to introduce bands to radio and concert professionals who might like them, and to encourage Columbia sales people to talk up the acts.  Both before and after the shows, all three acts would have been backstage being introduced and shaking hands. Drinks--and perhaps other things--would have been flowing freely. The Billboard reviewer leaves the distinct impression that Dr. Hook were there just for the party, and that their performance suffered as a result. Springsteen was known not to over-indulge, and while you couldn't really say that about the New Riders, they were nonetheless professional enough to ensure that they always came on stage in good shape to play. 

Thus it's extremely unlikely that any of the New Riders or the Dead members had a chance to observe the opening acts. By the same token, Springsteen and his band would have been equally consumed by what would now be called "networking" right after their set, so I doubt any of them had any chance to see the New Riders. Nor do I think they would have had time to care that half the Grateful Dead had joined them onstage, since all the djs and talent agents in Los Angeles were likely chatting them up.

Still, it happened. Bruce Springsteen and the soon-to-be-E-Street-Band opened a show for the New Riders of The Purple Sage and half the Grateful Dead. There is audio. There is video. It remains glimmering on the horizon, just outside our field of vision.

Appendix A: Bruce Springsteen Set, May 1, 1973, Ahmanson Theater, Los Angeles, CA
Per the Killing Floor site, one track was officially released, audio circulates, and there are eyewitness accounts of seeing the video. "Thundercrack" is now accessible on the internet (brace yourself if you’ve never seen Ur-Bruce). Of the five songs, only one was from his current album, and only one would even be on his next album. Since other pieces of the video have been used in documentaries, the material is accessible, somewhere.

01 Spirit In The Night
02 Circus Song
03 Tokyo
04 Thundercrack
05 Twist and Shout

  • [An audio] tape of the five-song Springsteen set has circulated for decades.
  • Bruce plays piano on "Spirit In The Night".
  • "Tokyo" is preceded by the long "Ducky Slattery Gas Station" monologue.
  • For "Thundercrack," a giant Asbury Park Turnpike sign descends from the back of the stage - the only time this prop was ever utilized.
  • "Twist And Shout" is performed as an encore.  
  • The entire video definitely survives to this day - in CBS's archives. It has still yet to leak out to collectors.
  • Very brief film snippets of "Circus Song" and "Thundercrack" were used by CBS as part of a promo-only video clip put together by the company in late 1973 to promote the newly released "Wild & Innocent" LP. This promo spot video circulates among collectors (and indeed was shown in the VH1 Rockumentary).
  • The very brief colour film snippet of Bruce performing "Spirit In The Night" on piano in the 1998 BBC Documentary "Bruce Springsteen - A Secret History" is from this show as well.
  • The recording of "Circus Song" from this show is released by CBS on July 7, 1973 on the promotion-only 7" CBS Playback EP.

Appendix 2: A Week To Remember
April 29-May 5, Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles, CA: Columbia Records "A Week To Remember: An Extraordinary Music Festival"
For the May 19, 1973 Billboard Review of all these shows (uncredited) see Part 1 here, and the longer Part 2 here.

Columbia had released Mahavishnu Orchestra's second album, Birds Of Fire, in January 1973. Despite the daunting music, the record would reach #15

Sunday, April 29, 1973 Mahavishnu Orchestra/Loudon Wainwright III/Anthony Newman

Monday, April 30, 1973 The Staple Singers/Johnny Nash/Billy Paul

  • The Staple Singers classic "I'll Take You There" had been released in February 1972, reaching #1
  • Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now" released in June 1972, had also reached #1
  • Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs Jones" released in September 1972, had peaked #1 for three weeks in December '72.

Tuesday, May 1, 1973 New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Doctor Hook/Bruce Springsteeen

Wednesday, May 2, 1973 Miles Davis/Earth, Wind & Fire/Ramsey Lewis

  • Miles Davis band at this time was: Miles Davis (tpt); Dave Liebman (ss, ts, fl); Pete Cosey (g, perc); Reggie Lucas (g); Khalil Balakrishna (sitar); Lonnie Liston Smith (keyb); Michael Henderson (el-b); Al Foster (d); Badal Roy (tabla); Mtume (cga, perc)
  • Miles Davis had played the previous day Santa Monica Civic, and some of that performance would appear on ABC-In Concert
  • Earth, Wind & Fire's Head To The Sky album (their fourth) was released in May 1973. It would reach #2 on the Billboard Soul chart and #27 on the Pop chart
  • Jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, who had been releasing albums since 1959, had released Funky Serenity in 1973. It would reach #6 on the Billboard jazz charts.

Thursday, May 3, 1973 Loggins and Messina/Taj Mahal/Albert Hammond

  • Loggins and Messina's "Your Mama Don't Dance" had been released in October 1972. It had peaked in early 1973 at #4
  • Albert Hammond's "It Never Rains In Southern California," released in November 1972, had peaked at #5
  • Taj Mahal was joined onstage by the Pointer Sisters

Friday, May 4, Johnny Mathis/Peter Nero/Maxine Weldon

Saturday, May 5 Johnny Cash/Lynn Anderson/Charlie Rich

 

Friday, May 27, 2022

January 30-31, 1970: Grateful Dead/Family Dog Merger (Not To Be) [FDGH VI]

 

 

Chet Helms, late 60s (also: some guy)

From the very beginning, the Grateful Dead had always tried to become a self-contained organism. One of their goals was to have some sort of permanent venue, where they could rehearse and perform at will. In the earliest days, the band even strove to live in such a place, although they only achieved it briefly at Rancho Olompali in Marin in the early Summer of 1966. Even though the band members' expanded personal lives pushed against communal living, the band was still looking for a room of its own. In old 1967 interviews, you can read about a mythical "Deadpatch." In 1968 the Dead took over the Carousel. These ideas persisted, and after 1995 the plan was resuscitated with "Terrapin Station," a permanent installation in San Francisco proper. 

In early 1970, however, it nearly happened. The Grateful Dead office nearly merged with Chet Helms and the Family Dog on The Great Highway. The Dead and the New Riders had played the beautiful old ballroom on 660 Great Highway (near 48th and Balboa) many times in 1969, and they always played well. Why not make it home? The Family Dog would have had a "House Band" that ensured some financial security, and Jerry Garcia, Owsley and the Grateful Dead could have the run of the place. If they had released Workingman's Dead and had been anchored at a home base, the arc of their career might have been different.

Dennis McNally wrote about it, but it mostly gets forgotten. The very weekend that manager Lenny Hart was moving the offices, the Grateful Dead were getting busted down on Bourbon Street. On top of that, while Lenny Hart was moving, he wasn't showing Chet Helms the books, and Helms realized that Lenny's management was bent. Helms called off the merger. Calling it off was a sad but shrewd decision, since Hart was stealing from the Dead and would have stolen from Helms. Helms was counting on the Dead's capital infusion, and all they had was debt. 

The Grateful Dead/Family Dog merger never reached fruition. Nor could it have worked, really, given the financial realities. But let's consider it anyway, as a path not taken. 


The Grateful Dead, 1970: State Of Play

The Grateful Dead had been underground rock legends since their inception. More people had probably heard of them, however, than actually heard them. Their first three albums had not been successful. Aoxomoxoa, their third album, had cost over $100,000 and gone way over budget, so even if record sales were adequate, they wouldn't see any money from it for some time. The double album Live/Dead, however, constructed in parallel, had been released in November of 1969. It got spectacular reviews, probably got some FM airplay at new stations around the country, and probably sold a little bit.

Grateful Dead manager Lenny Hart had renewed the Grateful Dead's contract with Warner Brothers in 1969. Their initial 4-album deal would have expired with Live/Dead, but Lenny had extended it. The band didn't even know they were up for renegotiation. Hart probably pocketed the advance, since after he was fired it was revealed that he had stolen over $150,000. Meanwhile, the Dead were touring hard, winning fans everywhere they went, but without any strategy. Hart took gigs for the band as they were offered, and the Dead's touring schedule was not efficient, so they probably wasted money traveling unnecessarily to make gigs.

Meanwhile, the ambitious Jerry Garcia had numerous other plans. He was learning pedal steel guitar, and backing songwriter John Dawson in the New Riders of The Purple Sage. There was also a nascent plan to have some sort of country "Revue," seemingly called Bobby Ace And The Cards Off The Bottom Of The Deck. An ensemble that included Garcia, Bob Weir, the New Riders, Peter Grant and possibly others would play honky-tonk music and perhaps some originals, broadly in the style of the Porter Wagoner Show, which Weir and Garcia regularly watched on syndicated television. There was a lot going on in Deadland, and I'm not even counting soundman Owsley Stanley's mad experiments and Alembic Engineering's newly modified electric instruments.

In the end, the Family Dog benefit was moved from Winterland to the smaller Fillmore West

Family Dog, 1970: Plans and Portents

In 1969, the Family Dog on The Great Highway had mostly featured San Francisco bands as weekend headliners, while also open many nights of the week for a variety of community and entertainment events. Economically, the Dog had been a dismal failure. Undercapitalized to start with, the organization also had to get out from under a $5000 IRS tax lien, a substantial sum in 1969. By year's end, the Dog told the San Francisco Examiner that they were $50,000 in debt. A benefit concert, held at the Fillmore West of all places, had helped to keep the Great Highway operation afloat. At the time Helms promised, albeit vaguely, to have a new plan for the next year that focused on larger weekend events. The New Year had opened with some modest bookings the first two weekends (January 2-3 and 9-10), and then the Family Dog was dormant until month's end.

All the evidence we have for the first part of 1970 points to an ambitious, sensible plan by the Family Dog on the Great Highway. Helms was never explicit about these plans, however, for reasons that will become clear. I have had to piece together the outlines of the Family Dog's new arrangement from external evidence and a few after-the-fact reminisces, some of them from anonymous sources on Comments Threads (@anoldsoundguy, always hoping you can weigh in). I am providing my best guess, always subject to modification, and I should add that even if I am largely correct, Chet Helms and the Family Dog may not have used the modern terminology with which I describe the approach. Nonetheless, here's what all the evidence points to for the Family Dog's planned road to stability, even if they never got very far.

The Family Dog on The Great Highway, at 660 Great Highway, ca. 1969

The Family Dog on The Great Highway, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA
The Family Dog was a foundation stone in the rise of San Francisco rock, and it was in operation in various forms from Fall 1965 through the Summer of 1970. For sound historical reasons, most of the focus on the Family Dog has been on the original 4-person collective who organized the first San Francisco Dance Concerts in late 1965, and on their successor Chet Helms. Helms took over the Family Dog in early 1966, and after a brief partnership with Bill Graham at the Fillmore, promoted memorable concerts at the Avalon Ballroom from Spring 1966 through December 1968. The posters, music and foggy memories of the Avalon are what made the Family Dog a legendary 60s rock icon.

In June, 1969, Chet Helms had opened the new Family Dog on The Great Highway, at 660 Great Highway in San Francisco. It was on rocky Ocean Beach at the edge of the city--indeed, the edge of North America--far from downtown, far from Marin and Berkeley, and not even that accessible to the Peninsula by freeway. The former Edgewater Ballroom, built 1926, was a wonderful little venue. The official capacity was under 1500, though no doubt more people were crammed in on occasion, and it was smaller than the old Fillmore. Bill Graham, meanwhile, had moved out of the old Fillmore into the larger, more freeway-friendly Fillmore West, and he still dominated the rock market. Helms had opened the Family Dog on The Great Highway on June 13, 1969, with a sold-out Jefferson Airplane show, but the going had been rocky for the balance of the year.

 

One of the only photos of the interior of the Family Dog on The Great Highway (from a Stephen Gaskin "Monday Night Class" ca. October 1969)
Step 1: Weekends Only
From January 30, 1970 onward, the Family Dog on The Great Highway only booked weekend shows, and the headliners were established bands with albums. It was a fact of San Francisco that just about all the headliners were Bay Area bands, as San Francisco was at the center of rock music at the time. So the Family Dog was in a unique position to feature largely local acts while still having headline bands with albums. In many cases, the albums were successful, too. So it wasn't exactly a "local" venue, but definitely home-grown. San Francisco is an insular place, so this was a potentially viable strategy. The Dog wasn't opposed to hiring touring bands, but they were more expensive, and in any case preferred the higher-profile Fillmore West.

Here and there the Family Dog was used on weekdays for a few events, but it stopped trying to be a community center. Weekend ticket prices were typically $3.50. That was high, but not excessive. The shows were booked in order to make a profit for the bands and the venue. The headliners in February and March read like it was 1967 again: Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver, Steve Miller, Big Brother, the Grateful Dead, Lee Michaels and Country Joe and The Fish. All those bands were from the Avalon days, but they all had record contracts and current or forthcoming albums, too. The first weekend booking was Jefferson Airplane, on January 30-31, 1970.

Step 2: New Finance
Clearly, the Family Dog was recapitalized by the end of January. Although Chet Helms had loyal support from the local bands that had played the Avalon, they were all working bands as well. Helms could not have booked the bands that he did from February through April without some cash on hand. It is the source of the new finance that has never really been explained, and that I have had to infer. Anyone who has insights or knowledge into this area, please Comment or email me. I am noting in advance that these are my most plausible guesses, and I am open to substantial corrections.

As near as I can tell, Helms collected contributions from local hippie entrepreneurs. My guess is that most of them sold products that were--shall we say--not subject to taxation, nor available in stores. Similarly, these same entrepreneurs did not want their names publicly identified as a source of cash.  

Step 3: A New Implied Business Model
Chet Helms is often unfairly criticized as a poor businessman, because he has always been compared with Bill Graham. Pretty much anyone wasn't as good a businessman as Graham, certainly not in the rock and roll business. Helms had his flaws as a business operator, but he was very innovative, and in many ways I believe his approach to the Family Dog on The Great Highway was innovative as well. For simplicity's sake, I will use modern terminology to explain what appear to have been the outlines of his plan. I'm sure that Helms himself would have used different terms, but I'm not aware of a public or written statement. 

The traditional criticism of Helms' business practices vis-a-vis Graham was that Bill charged everybody for tickets, and Chet let all of his friends in for free. By 1970, I do not believe that was the case. Based on Comment Threads, it appears that the Family Dog doorman had a Rolodex (address card file), and if your name was in that Rolodex, you got let in for free. Many of the names on that Rolodex were the hippie entrepreneurs that had laid out cash to keep the Dog going. In return, they got in for free whenever they wanted.

Was this a new model? Not really. It's how every museum in America was run, and largely still is. It's true that museums are not-for-profit and donations are tax-deductible, but Chet may have got to that over time. Certain people in the hippie community had money, and they contributed more of it in return for guaranteed admission. Today, the venerable Freight And Salvage club in Berkeley runs on this model. It's a very sound plan that could have worked.

SF Examiner columnist Jack Rosenbaum mentioned on Wednesday, February 25, that the Grateful Dead had taken over the Family Dog on the Great Highway (although in fact Chet Helms had backed out already, and the deal was off)


Step 4: A High Profile Partnership
It seems that Helms wasn't going to do this alone. He had a partnership lined up, and his partners were going to be no less than the Grateful Dead. The Dead were going to move their operation from Novato to the Family Dog on The Great Highway. It some ways this may have been designed as a replay of the Carousel Ballroom, but with an experienced producer like Helms as part of the team. The New Riders of The Purple Sage had played numerous dates at the Family Dog in 1969, so Jerry Garcia clearly liked the place. Remember, there were only a few, tiny rock clubs to play in the Bay Area at the time, so the 1000>1500 capacity Dog left room for the Riders to consider building their own audience.

Of course, the Dead and the Family Dog did not merge. The merger was scheduled for early February  1970, and that is precisely when everything fell apart for the Grateful Dead. The band was busted in New Orleans, putting the freedom of soundman Owsley Stanley in great jeopardy, due to a prior LSD arrest. More critically, the Dead discovered that manager Lenny Hart (drummer Mickey Hart's father) was an outright crook, and had ripped the band off for $150,000, an enormous sum at the time. The Grateful Dead were dead broke, without a manager and without a soundman. Dennis McNally mentions the abandoned merger in his epic Dead history A Long Strange Trip, but it is remarked on almost in passing amidst all the other tumult. McNally:

As the Dead had been busted in New Orleans [January 31], [Lenny Hart] had been in the process of moving their office from Novato to the Family Dog on the Great Highway, with Lenny to become manager of the FDGH as well as the Dead, and with Gail Turner to be the FDGH secretary as well as Lenny's. The idea of sharing space with the Dead appealed to Chet Helms, but became evident to him and Gail that the numbers weren't adding up and that there had to be at least two sets of books. Before anyone in the band even knew, Lenny moved the office back to Novato. [p.360-361].
So just as Jefferson Airplane are re-opening the Family Dog, the Grateful Dead office is relocating to merge their businesses. Helms, while not Bill Graham, was neither a sucker nor a crook. Lenny Hart would have stolen from him, too, so he canceled the merger. The Grateful Dead themselves were probably unclear about what was happening, in between recording Workingman's Dead, worrying about Owsley and constantly performing.  But the planned merger can't have been a secret in the local rock community. On Wednesday, February 25, Examiner columnist Jack Rosenbaum (the Ex's Herb Caen, if you will), had an item (posted above):
Love Generation: to help the Grateful Dead rock group build a defense fund for their pot-bust in New Orleans, Bill Graham staged a benefit Monday night [Feb 23] at Winterland, raising a tidy $15,000. So-0, the Grateful Dead have taken over the Family Dog rock-dance auditorium on the Great Highway--in competition with Graham.
Rosenbaum was wired to local gossip, but not the freshest of rock news. Now, thanks to McNally (writing in 2003), we know that by late February the Dead-Dog deal was off. Still, the point here was that the word was around and had gotten to a city paper columnist, even if it was already a stale item.
1
Kleiner Perkins HQ on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, a mile or so from the former site of Perry Lane

A Brief Reflection
It's world-changing to imagine Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead with their own performance venue doubling as a rehearsal hall, on the beach in San Francisco. It's important to remember that it could not have happened. Lenny Hart had organized the deal, Helms had seen through the scam, and both entities were fairly broke. It's ironic that the local dealers probably loved the idea of supporting a partnership with the Dead, but could not publicly acknowledge themselves. The Dead/Dog merger could never have worked in the form in which it was conceived.

But let's take a moment to respect Helms for his forward thinking. The Edgewater Ballroom, which evolved into the Family Dog on The Great Highway, was torn down in 1973. But, just for a moment, let's say there was still an elegant 1500-capacity dance hall at Ocean Beach. What does the funding structure look like in 2022?

Proposition:
  • A Jam Band palace at Ocean Beach, on the edge of San Francisco
  • The Great Highway converted to pedestrian only access (or nearly so)
  • Cannabis entrepreneurs providing capital, and now able to publicly sponsor the hall
  • For a membership fee, you would be guaranteed entrance without needing a ticket (within the confines of safety laws, of course)
  • Participation and partnership from and with the Grateful Dead organization

Ocean Beach is near Interstate 280. You could head South and turn off at the Sand Hill Road exit into Menlo Park, where Kleiner Perkins and all the other Venture Capitalists started the tech boom. Kleiner Perkins helped found Amazon, Google and Twitter, among many other companies. You could arrange infinite financing on your iPhone before you even got to Sand Hill Road--before Crystal Springs, honestly--and just sign the deal when you got out of the car. Helms was just ahead of his time by 50 years or so.

It wasn't to be. Jefferson Airplane re-opened the Family Dog on Friday, January 30, but the plan was already crumbling around the Dog.

Appendix
Grateful Dead and The New Riders of The Purple Sage at the Family Dog on The Great Highway
The Grateful Dead and the New Riders of The Purple Sage played many shows at the Family Dog. The band and particularly Garcia must have enjoyed playing there, or Lenny Hart wouldn't have made the proposition to merge the operations. 

August 1, 1969 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Light Show Strike [Grateful Dead canceled] (Friday)

August 2-3, 1969 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Albert Collins/Ballet Afro-Haiti (Saturday-Sunday)

August 12 or 13, 1969 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: New Lost City Ramblers/New Riders of The Purple Sage (Tuesday or Wednesday)
There is some uncertainty as to whether the Riders played on Tuesday (12th) or Wednesday (13th). Garcia and Nelson jammed with Mike Seeger and the New Lost City Ramblers for the encores. There was also an August 14 jam with the New Lost City Ramblers and Mickey Hart and The Hartbeats. It's not clear if that was a public event, or just a musicians jam.

August 19, 1969 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Tuesday)
For New Riders setlists during this period, see here.

August 28, 1969 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Mickey Hart and The Hartbeats/New Riders of The Purple Sage (Thursday)

August 29-30, 1969 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen/Rubber Duck (Friday-Saturday)

September 6, 1969 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead (Saturday)

September 7, 1969 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: jam (Sunday)
Garcia, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady and others had some kind of jam on Sunday, September 7. It's unclear if other bands played.   

September 11, 1969 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Purple Earthquake/Johnny Mars Blues Band/Wisdom Fingers/Osceola (Thursday)
There is a Grateful Dead tape fragment dated September 11. There is no other evidence that the Dead played the Family Dog, but it was "New Band Night" so maybe they showed up.  

October 22, 1969 Family Dog on the Great Highway, San Francisco, CA New Riders of the Purple Sage/Lazarus  (Wednesday) Ecological Ball

November 1-2, 1969, Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Danny Cox/Golden Toad (Saturday-Sunday)

November 18, 1969 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Tuesday)

November 19, 1969 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Family Dog Benefit with Steve Miller Band/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Barry McGuire and The Doctor/Humble, Mumble, Fumble and Dumble (formerly Big Brother and The Holding Company) (Wednesday)

November 22-23, 1969 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Anonymous Artists of America/Devil's Kitchen (Saturday-Sunday)

November 27, 1969 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Cleveland Wrecking Company/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Lamb/Deacon and The Suprelles/East Bay Sharks/Pitschell Players/Morning Glory Theater Free City Puppet Ball (Thursday)

February 4, 1970 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Santana/Kimberly "A Night At The Family Dog" (Wednesday)
There was also a rehearsal/soundcheck on Tuesday, February 3.

February 27-March 1, 1970 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (Friday-Sunday)

March 18, 1970 Family Dog on the Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Rolling Thunder (Shoshone Medicine Man)/Hot Tuna/New Riders of the Purple Sage  [Benefit for the Sons of Thunder] (Thursday)

April 17-19, 1970 Family Dog On The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Mickey Hart and The Hartbeats/Bobby Ace And The Cards Off The Bottom Of The Deck/Charlie Musselwhite/New Riders Of The Purple Sage (Friday-Sunday)

[For current links to all the listed Garcia and Dead shows at the Family Dog on The Great Highway, see the Tracker here]

Friday, April 22, 2022

New Riders of The Purple Sage Tour History, May-August 1972 (NRPS '72 II)


New Riders Of The Purple Sage Tour History, May-August 1972 (NRPS II)

The music of Jerry Garcia casts a large shadow, if a shadow that is bright rather than dark. It is so large, however, and so bright, that it outshines many things around it. In the 21st century, the New Riders of The Purple Sage are best known as the vehicle through which Jerry Garcia created an opportunity to play pedal steel guitar as a sideman in 1970 and '71. When the demands of playing full-time with both the Grateful Dead and the New Riders became too gargantuan a task, Garcia stepped aside from the Riders. For most Deadheads, that's where the story ends.

Yet the story of the New Riders of The Purple Sage was only beginning. For obvious reasons, the Riders are always compared to the Dead, and like almost every other 20th century rock band, the Dead outshone NRPS by many orders of magnitude. Compared to all the other bands struggling to make it in the early 1970s, however, the New Riders of The Purple Sage were hugely successful. After their debut album with Garcia in late 1971, they released four more albums with Buddy Cage on pedal steel in 1972 and '73. The albums sold well--Panama Red eventually was certified Gold--and the New Riders were a popular concert attraction. 

On top of the Riders' undeniable success, they were also still part of the Grateful Dead's business operation in 1972. The Grateful Dead tour booking was handled by Sam Cutler, apparently working through a variety of talent agents. Cutler also had a key role in booking the New Riders, although they would have also worked directly with certain agents. So a review of the New Riders touring history in 1972 and '73 shows both what lessons Cutler had learned from the Dead's rise to success in 1970 and '71, and also provided an avenue for Cutler to expand his relationships with promoters who worked with the Grateful Dead. Thus the New Riders' touring schedule was both a do-over and a rehearsal for what had come before and what would come later for the Grateful Dead. 

This post will continue the series on the tour history of the New Riders of The Purple Sage in 1972 and '73, with a particular emphasis on how their saga was similar to and different from that of the Grateful Dead. These posts would not have been possible without the stellar research of fellow scholar David Kramer-Smyth, whose contributions have been both deep and broad. The prior post focused on the New Riders performance history from January to April, 1972. This post will focus on the New Riders performance history from May through August 1972. Anyone with additions, corrections, insights or just interesting speculation, please include them in the Comments. Flashbacks welcome.


New Riders of The Purple Sage Status Report, May 1972

Buddy Cage had debuted with the New Riders of The Purple Sage on November 11, 1971. Amazingly, his debut was broadcast live on FM radio, perhaps a unique occurrence in rock history. Throughout the Fall of 1971, the New Riders of The Purple Sage toured the country with the Grateful Dead, often broadcasting live on FM radio along with them. As far as I can tell, the NRPS album got a fair amount of FM radio airplay throughout the country. It reached #39 on the Billboard charts, fairly respectable for a debut album without a big AM hit single. Still, although the New Riders had scored a successful debut, they no longer had their most high-profile member. The absence of Jerry Garcia had provided freedom, but the New Riders were going to have to make it in 1972 flying under their own power.

Nonetheless, the New Riders were still part of the Grateful Dead family, and not just socially. Their manager had initially been Jon McIntire, who also managed the Dead. McIntire was the principal go-between for the record companies. Sam Cutler would have been the principal connection with the booking agents, as he was for the Grateful Dead. By representing multiple bands, Cutler had more to negotiate and thus more leverage with promoters and agents throughout the country. The Riders didn't have to worry about being left out of the mix--Cutler's principal assistant was Sally Mann Dryden, the drummer's wife (whom Cutler refers to now as "Mustang Sally," perhaps a reference to her 428ci Ford Mustang).

In January, 1972, the New Riders had recorded their second album Powerglide. Jerry Garcia had visited Wally Heider Studios for a day (January 17) and contributed banjo and piano(!) parts on three numbers, but Buddy Cage held down the pedal steel guitar chair. John Dawson wrote and sang lead on five of the songs, but Dave Torbert sang five (and wrote two) of them, and David Nelson sang a cover as well. The 1972 New Riders were more of a band than the earlier incarnation. The group had begun to perform outside of the Bay Area on their own, rather than just opening for the Grateful Dead as they had in 1971. In April 1972, they had toured the East Coast, promoting Powerglide, which was officially available in stores around April 15. The East Coast touring had ended May 2, and the New Riders then flew on to Europe.

The New Riders of The Purple Sage, May-August 1972
John Dawson-vocals, rhythm guitar
Buddy Cage-pedal steel guitar (ex-Great Speckled Bird and Anne Murray)
David Nelson-lead guitar, vocals (ex-New Delhi River Band)
Dave Torbert-bass, vocals (ex-New Delhi River Band, Horses)
Spencer Dryden-drums (ex-Jefferson Airplane)
The restored Palace Theater, at 100 E. Main St in Waterbury, CT

May 1 1972 Palace Theatre Waterbury CT New Riders of The Purple Sage/Henry Gross Produced by Web LTD
(Monday)
Web LTD had booked the New Riders for the "Folk Festival" shows in Virginia back on April 8, and they also booked a Monday night at a now-legendary venue called the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. Waterbury is between Hartford (33 miles to the Northeast) and New York City (77 miles to the Southwest). It had (and has) a population of around 110,000. In the first half of the 20th century, it was a thriving industrial city. From the 60s onward, however, Waterbury underwent a severe economic decline. As a rock peculiarity, however, Waterbury had a large movie theater from its glory days, and easy freeway access from larger areas. The Palace Theater, at 100 E. Main Street in downtown, had been built in 1922. By the early 1970s, it wasn't apparently in great shape, but it had a capacity of a few thousand and fantastic acoustics. It went from being an oversized movie house to a destination rock concert venue.

In the early 1970s, bands figured out that in order to make touring profitable, they had to play as many nights as possible with reasonably short trips in between. If a band on a road had, for example, a lucrative weekend booking in Manhattan, and another the next weekend in Boston, they had to do something in between that paid. A night or two at a place like Waterbury was perfect. It was just far enough from major cities that it didn't tread on the major bookings, and attracted fans who wouldn't (or couldn't) go to a big-city show. FM radio was everywhere, anyway, and there were plenty of kids in the suburbs who wanted to see the bands that played Manhattan or Boston. Whoever owned the aging Palace Theater would have been happy to rent it out profitably, unconcerned if some hippies might raise a little ruckus. All the good touring bands of the 1970s played the Palace in Waterbury, some of them many times.

I doubt the New Riders sold that many tickets on a Monday night, but on the road it may not have mattered. If they covered their expenses, then it was better than just spending the night in a hotel. Sam Cutler, meanwhile, would have learned about the Palace, and the Dead would return in September.

May 2, 1972 Academy Of Music, New York, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Alex Taylor/Tranquility (Tuesday-8:00 and 11:30 pm)
The Academy of Music, at 126 E.14th Street, had opened as a movie theater in 1922 (taking its name from the Opera House that had been across the street in the 19th century). The 3000-seat venue had been used intermittently for rock concerts in the 1960s, but had mostly been a movie theater. Promoter Howard Stein (1945-2007) had been putting on shows at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, just outside the City, in 1970 and '71. When the Fillmore East closed in June, 1971, Stein took over the The Academy of Music. Stein had been promoting rock shows in the New York area throughout the 1960s. The Academy of Music would change its name to the Palladium in 1976. In the 1980s, Stein would move away from the rock concert business and into the nightclub business, opening some legendary New York discos. Back in '71, however, Stein was a key promoter filling the void left by Bill Graham's departure.

In March of 1972, the Grateful Dead had played six shows in seven nights at the The Academy of Music (Hot Tuna filled in the other night), a legendary event in Deadhead history. In this case, the New Riders provided a kind of encore to the six sold-out Dead shows in March.

The English band Tranquility, label mates (on Epic), opened the show. In the middle of the bill was Alex Taylor, the older brother of James. Alex had a more bluesy sound than James, and he just released Dinnertime, his second album on Capricorn. Since Capricorn was the Allman Brothers label, it's not surprising to see other fellow travelers on the record, like Chuck Leavell, Tommy Talton and Jaimoe.

Following their Northeastern tour, the New Riders of The Purple Sage headed off to England and Europe, including hooking up with the Grateful Dead for the end of their epic Europe '72 tour.

NRPS on stage at Bickershaw Festival, Wigan, GB May 7 '72

May 7, 1972 Bickershaw Festival, Wigan, England: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Country Joe McDonald/Brinsley Schwarz (Sunday)
In the early 70s, Europe and the UK still had rock festivals on the Woodstock model, with masses of people gathering on a muddy farm for several days and music 24/7 . Wigan, in the Greater Manchester area, was the only major multi-day festival with camping in the Northwest of England during this period. Of course, it rained constantly and everything fell apart. The Grateful Dead were the headliners on Sunday, the third and final day of the Festival. According to David Nelson (via Jesse Jarnow), the New Riders were not originally on the Bickershaw bill. Sam Cutler and his associate Chesley Millikin, however, were able to wrangle the band into the lineup. Both Cutler and Millikin were veterans of the 60s London rock scene, so they would have known how to make things happen.

The Dead had kicked off their epic Europe '72 tour back on April 7 with two shows in London, followed by one in Newcastle (April 11). They had since played nine shows in Denmark, West Germany and Paris, before returning to England for Bickershaw. The New Riders flew over from the East Coast to make their European debut opening for the Dead. The Riders came on after Country Joe. Brinsley Schwarz--a truly great band fronted by Nick Lowe--had played before Joe. 

By Sunday, organization was chaotic. New Riders office Admin Michelle McFee had flown over from California to join the tour, but was unable to find her way backstage. A veteran concertgoer herself, she made her way through the muddy crowd to get near the stage, and shouted at the band until they recognized her. The saga of the Bickershaw Festival is too much for me to summarize, but stories abound on the website. For a useful overview of the entire 3-day Bickershaw festival, see the DJT blog post here.

May 9, 1972 Old Refectory, University College, London, UK: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Tuesday)
The history of the New Riders of The Purple Sage '72 European tour has been entirely obscure up until now. A few events have been noted,  but always in the context of the storied Grateful Dead '72 tour. In fact, the Riders were only briefly involved with the Dead on tour, but that is often the only thread we can pull. David Kramer-Smyth has rescued some dates from obscurity, and there are clearly stories to tell, yet we have little to go on.

An e-tree listing indicates a tape of a New Riders show at the Old Refectory at University College in London, the Tuesday after Bickershaw. UCL (as it is known) was established in 1826, and has been a London institution ever since. The Old Refectory, just opposite the Jeremy Bentham Room, seems to have been the original cafe at UCL. It is between Gower and Gordon Streets. Gordon Street is the site of the Bartlett School of Architecture, founded in 1841. The Bartlett seems to about a 1/4 mile from the Old Refectory.

My father graduated from the Bartlett School in the late 1940s, so he probably found time to make it over to the Old Refectory--probably just called "The Refectory" then--for some tea or eggs. He would come to California in the 1950s, and meet a teacher at Peninsula School in Menlo Park (who may have taught John Dawson), thus leading to--among other things--this blog. 

May 12, 1972 Main Hall, Surrey University, Guildford, London, UK; New Riders of The Purple Sage/Colin Scott (Friday)
Surrey University was officially established in 1966. located in Battersea Park, on the Thames River just opposite Chelsea. Its roots, however, go back to the Battersea College of Technology, founded 1891. The University has expanded substantially since then, so I do not know the size or location of "The Main Hall," although it could very well be extant.

May 13 1972 Main Hall Kingston Polytechnic, Kingston, UK: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Rab Noakes (Saturday)
A ticket survives from the Saturday night show at Kingston Poly. The Institute had been founded in 1899, and was located in Southwest London, at Kingston-Upon-Thames. There were apparently regular shows at the venue. For those not familiar with London, the different shows at colleges around greater London would not at all have drawn on the same pools of fans. Based on David Kramer-Smyth's research, a tape may exist of this show. 

Scottish singer/songwriter Rab Noakes released his self-titled second album in 1972, on A&M Records (his 1970 debut Have You Seen The Lights, had been released on Decca in 1970).

May 14, 1972 Essex Arts Festival, Dance Hall, Essex University, Essex UK: New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Dr John (Sunday)
The indefatigable David Kramer-Smyth found a note about this show in the April 1, 1972 issue of Record Mirror (see page 6).

Per Record Mirror, the Essex Arts Festival took place from May 7-14, and included a number of San Francisco acts: Quicksilver Messenger Service (May 8), Country Joe McDonald (May 12) and finally the New Riders. The University of Essex had been established in 1963. A mere 10 year-history was common for a lot of American colleges and State Universities, but for England that was pretty much the day before yesterday.

May 18 1972 Zoom, Frankfurt, West Germany New Riders of The Purple Sage presented by Lippman-Rav-Zoom (Thursday) {source poster}
By the next week, the New Riders had gotten over to the continent. A poster for the Zoom club shows the band's booking for Thursday night. What they did in between, whether they played any gigs or just hung out in London is completely unknown. 

May 20 1972 Paradiso, Amsterdam NL New Riders of The Purple Sage/Strrrriptoneel (Saturday)
The Paradiso was a legendary, indeed infamous, Amsterdam rock club. The Riders appeared on the schedule for Saturday night. The Paradiso is near Der Melkweg, another legendary Amsterdam venue.


May 21, 1972 Germersheim, Pfalz, West Germany: British Rock Meeting 2 Festival-  The Faces/Kinks/ Family/Rory Gallagher/Country Joe McDonald/Savoy Brown/Status Quo/Beggar's Opera/Sam Apple Pie/Nazareth/Uriah Heep/Frumpy/Ekseption/Amon Düül 2/New Riders of the Purple Sage/Billy Joel/Spencer Davis Group/East of Eden/Lindisfarne/Jerusalem/Max Merrit (Sunday)--NRPS were no shows
The Second British Rock Meeting was a 2-day rock festival. Above is the second poster made for the festival, which had been moved from Mannheim to Germersheim, West Germany. The prior day (May 20) saw performances from Pink Floyd, Humble Pie, Curved Air and many other bands.  The Doors were just a trio at this point, since of course Jim Morrison was not available.  Curved Air has released their performance at the festival on CD.

According to an online source, the US Army initially supported the organization of rock festivals in the Rhine-Main area, including the 2nd British Rock Meeting. The soldiers made ​​an average of 50 to 70 percent of festivalgoers. Jesse Jarnow, as part of his Deadcast research, spoke with a Canadian who attended the British rock meeting. Much of the audience were GIs, who were very good at helping everyone set up temporary shelters. The New Riders, however, were no-shows. At 70s rock festivals, no-shows and last-minute substitutions were common. Most likely transit difficulties caused the problem. 

May 22, 1972 Olympisch Stadion, Amsterdam, NL: Rock Circus- Pink Floyd/Donovan/Gene Clark/Spencer Davis and Sneaky Pete/Dr. John The Night Tripper/Tom Paxton/Buddy Miles/Memphis Slim/The New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Pacific Gas & Electric/Sgt. Peppers Band/Het Gewestelijk Orkest (Monday) 
I don't exactly know what Columbia's booking strategy was for the European New Riders' tour. In the States, the goal was to enhance FM airplay, but European radio didn't work the same way. The Riders played some UK college gigs, some "underground" clubs and were part of the bill on some big festivals. Was this a sound strategy? Who can say? Clearly, opening for the Dead and playing West German TV (Beat Club, below) were the key gigs, and the rest may have just been filler. Remember, however, the costs of this tour would have been deducted from future New Riders royalties, so the band was paying for it.

Jesse Jarnow did determine that the New Riders played this festival, and even left on the early ferry, because they had to get back to the UK for the London gig with the Dead. This information came from the festival light crew, who were the recipients of the New Riders' extra hash. The lighting crew made a visit to the Van Gogh Museum before catching a later ferry.


May 23-26, 1972 The Strand Lyceum, London, England: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage 
(Tuesday-Friday)
The Grateful Dead concluded their Europe '72 tour with a 4-night stand at the Strand Lyceum. The New Riders opened all four shows, as far as I know. The Lyceum, originally opened in 1834, only had a capacity of 2,100. The Riders weren't "needed" to sell the tickets, but this was clearly intended as a Central London showcase for both bands by Warner Brothers and Columbia.

There is a photo of Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and members of the New Riders strumming acoustic guitars at a Private Chapel in St. John's Jerusalem House in Sutton-at-Hone in Kent, about an hour from the Lyceum. The timing suggests it must have been during the stretch at the Lyceum. I have no idea how the bands got there or what they might have been doing in Kent.

May 29, 1972 [TV Studio], Beat Club, Bremen, Germany: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Monday)
Beat Club was a West German public television show that broadcast weekly live performances of touring rock bands. It is one of the best sources of professionally-filmed and recorded live rock music from 1965-72. Many of the episodes can be found on YouTube and elsewhere. The New Riders played for about a half-hour, probably the first live video of the post-Garcia lineup. Staying a few extra days in Europe and flying over from London would have been well worth it for Columbia Records. Of course, the additional expenses would have been charged against the Riders' future royalties. We have not been able to find any European Riders' dates after Beat Club, so it probably ended the European leg.

The Grateful Dead had played on Beat Club back on April 21. 

June 4-5, 1972 Carnegie Hall, New York, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage /Eric Andersen (Sunday-Monday) Presented by Ardee Productions & Ron Delsener
The New Riders returned to the United States from Europe, but played some high profile Manhattan shows before returning home. On Sunday and Monday, the band played no less than Carnegie Hall. The Carnegie Hall facility actually has two auditoriums. Stern Hall, the main auditorium, seats 2,800. The smaller Zankel Hall seats 1000. I'm assuming that the Riders played their two nights at Zankel.

Producer Ron Delsener was a major New York Metropolitan area promoter well into the 21st century, but he did not work much with the Grateful Dead. There's no direct conclusion to draw from that, except to note that the relationships built by the likes of Larry Magid (in Philadelphia) and John Scher were forged early in the 70s and continued on into the 1990s.


Opening act Eric Andersen was a veteran singer-songwriter, recently signed to Columbia Records. Blue River, his Columbia debut, had been released in February 1972. It was Andersen's 9th album. He had released 6 albums on Vanguard (1965-69), dating back to his Greenwich Village folk days, followed by two 1969 Warner Brothers albums. Since that time, Andersen had moved to Mill Valley, CA, and was Bob Weir's next-door neighbor. In late '72, Weir would ask Andersen to help him finish the lyrics to "Weather Report Part I." So despite the different musical history, Andersen was part of the Marin rock scene, and regularly toured with the New Riders as their opening act. On some occasions, he would join them for some encore performances. One of the Carnegie performances by Andersen and the New Riders was favorably reviewed in Cash Box (see p.28).

June 7, 1972 Central Park Bandshell, New York, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Wednesday) presented by WNEW radio
In 1967 and '68, the Grateful Dead had played a number of free concerts in Manhattan that attracted a lot of attention, crucial since they were not being played on the radio. The New Riders had even played a free concert in Central Park in May, 1970, although it went almost unnoticed at the time. So it was pretty logical that the New Riders would follow the Grateful Dead playbook of giving as many curious fans a taste of the live New Riders for free. The New Riders would go on to become a very successful concert attraction in and around New York Metro for several more years, so the strategy clearly worked.

When the Dead had first come to Manhattan in June, 1967 free concerts were a stealthy underground thing. By '72, the free concerts were in Central Park, sponsored by the biggest FM station in the city (for a photo from Central Park, see here). 

June 15, 1972 Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Thursday)
The New Riders had been regular performers in Bay Area rock nightclubs in 1970 and '71, mainly because those were the gigs that Jerry Garcia was available to play. Once Buddy Cage joined up, however, New Riders club dates were a lot rarer. The Keystone Korner, at 750 Vallejo Street in San Francisco, had been one of the first clubs that had  exclusively booked original rock bands since it had opened in late 1968. Since 1971, Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders had played there regularly, and the Riders had played two dates back in February, probably to try out new material. I'm not sure why they booked this gig (thanks to DKS for finding this one).


June 17, 1972 Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage (Saturday) Pacific Presentations
The Grateful Dead and the New Riders had returned from their mutual European adventures. They played a Saturday night show at the Hollywood Bowl. The Bowl was quite large, and also quite suburban. Located at 2301 North Highland, the outdoor bowl had opened in the 1920s and could seat as many as 17,500. The LA Philharmonic regularly played there. The prohibition against too much noise was probably lifted somewhat by the early 70s, but the show still started at 7:00pm, so that it would not run too late. The Hollywood Bowl show was Ron "Pigpen" McKernan's last show with the Dead. He played organ on a few numbers, but was unable to sing.

June 28 1972 Met Center, Bloomington, MN: The Byrds/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Eric Andersen (Thursday) canceled
Throughout the Summer of '72, the New Riders had numerous concerts booked, mostly with other acts on Columbia Records. A number of them were canceled, in itself not significant, as tour schedules often changed for any number of reasons. As a result, however, it's hard to figure out how many gigs the Riders really played. Are we missing a bunch of shows, or did the band just play some random bookings where they were getting good FM airplay? Either scenario is possible, but I'm more inclined to think that the band just flew out to play a show when the money made sense, rather than grind it out on a tour bus.

David Kramer-Smyth found ads for numerous shows in the Summer of ' 72 where the New Riders were booked to open for The Byrds. The Byrds were also on Columbia, and while not the best-sellling band they had been in the 1960s, they were still popular and were actually a much better live band than previously. Booking the New Riders with the Byrds made perfect sense. According to Christopher Hjort's definitive Byrds chronology So You Wanna Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star (2008: Jawbone Press), however, all the Summer Byrds shows were canceled. The Byrds did not have a drummer (Gene Parsons had quit), and the band took a break. Byrds' bassist Skip Battin would actually end up replacing Dave Torbert in the New Riders in early 1974, but they don't seem to have met out on the road this Summer.



June 30, 1972 Memorial Auditorium, Kansas City, KS (New Riders of The Purple Sage/Loggins & Messina (Friday) Good Karma Productions Presents
The New Riders were headlining in Kansas City, Kansas on Saturday night. I suspect that this meant that they were getting good FM airplay on a KC radio station. The opening band was a new Columbia act, Kenny Loggins. His debut album had been produced by former Buffalo Springfield and Poco guitarist Jim Messina, which was why it was billed as Kenny Loggins Band with Jim Messina. Loggins' album Sittin' In had been released in November, 1971 and was starting to get some good airplay. Messina had taken on a much larger role than he had initially anticipated, so his name had been added to the album in order to attract attention (a strategy that worked very well). 

By the time of their second record, the "accidental duo" of Loggins & Messina was on their way to mega-stardom, ultimately selling 16 million albums. In the Summer of '72, however, they were still an opening act, and they played a very peculiar role in Grateful Dead history. Betty Cantor was at the show, presumably working the soundboard for the New Riders as a hired hand, on behalf of Alembic Sound, who were her actual employers. Betty being Betty, and all, recorded Loggins & Messina's opening set. Loggins played a slowed down version of "Friend Of The Devil," and Betty eventually played it for Jerry Garcia, who liked the slow version so much that he brought the song back in that fashion a few years later (I wrote about this exchange at great length elsewhere). 

Good Karma Productions was a Kansas City-based management team associated with Brewer & Shipley, among other acts.

July 2 1972 Bosse Field Freedom Festival, Evansville, IN: Ike & Tina Turner/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Edgar Winter/Dr. John/Cactus/Black Oak Arkansas/Spirit/Country Joe McDonald/Howlin ' Wolf/Herd/Gandalf (Sunday)
After various rock festival debacles in 1970, most famously Altamont, promoters tried to shift festival events to more permanent facilities. The Bosse Field Freedom Festival was held at a minor league ballpark in Evansville, IN. Bosse Field had been opened back in 1915, and had a baseball capacity of around 6,000. At the time, the Evansville Triplets were the AAA franchise of the Milwaukee Brewers (in the American Association). By using the outfield for General Admission, the promoters drew around 30,000 to the all day event. An interesting summary of the day's events mentions:

Outside, a riot erupted when the promoters, who had promised free admittance after 9 p.m., changed their minds. It was a strange policy to announce in the first place because it would obviously lead to a crowd of people gathering, happy to turn up for the last couple of hours and pay nothing for the pleasure. And then to say, actually no, you’re not getting in, well it was bad ju ju all round, baby.

One of [the promoters], Bob Alexander said of the Bosse Field show which had pulled in 30,000 people “I made the most money that I'd ever made in my life at that point by doing that event. I don't remember exactly how much we made because it was so long ago, but I remember that I took my whole family down to Montego Bay, Jamaica, after it was over, and I had a real ball.”

The promoters went on to produce the infamous Labor Day '72 Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival, in Griffin, IN, a notorious disaster. 

July 4 Spirit of 76 Festival, Illinois--canceled 

The Ritz, at 3430 N. Illinois St in Indianapolis as it appeared in 2004


July 5 1972 Ritz Theater, Indianapolis, IN: New Riders of The Purple Sage [2 shows] (Wednesday)
The Ritz Theater, at 3430 N. Illinois Street in Indianapolis, had opened in 1927. It had a movie capacity of 1400 seats. In June 1970, the seats were removed and it was turned into a rock concert venue called Middle Earth. In January 1972, the name reverted to the Ritz, but the venue closed by the end of the year. The building remained intact in the 21st century.

July 7 1972 Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL:  New Riders of The Purple Sage/Fabulous Rhinestones (Friday) Jan Winn Productions
The Aragon Ballroom, at 1106 W. Lawrence in Uptown Chicago, had opened as a Big Band showcase in 1926. After various incarnations, it became the Cheetah Club in 1966, and then in 1968 became a leading rock venue. It competed with the Kinetic Playground, the Syndrome and other halls. It had stopped putting on rock shows in 1970. In 1972, the Aragon re-opened as a rock venue. The show was reviewed in the July 10 Chicago Tribune. The reviewer praised the New Riders, but wasn't happy with the sound at the Aragon

The Fabulous Rhinestones opened the show. Chicago guitarist Kal David (ex-Illinois Speed Press) was the main songwriter, but the band had actually formed in San Francisco. Members included bassist Harvey Brooks (ex-Electric Flag), organist Marty Grebb (another Chicagoan, ex-Buckinghams) and drummer Gregg Thomas (ex-Mint Tattoo). The band had moved to Woodstock, NY, and would ultimately release three albums. Still, they weren't a local band, despite some Chicago connections, another sign of how the early 70s concert industry hamstrung opportunities for local bands to get heard.

July 9 1972 Edgewater Park, Edgewater OH: James Gang/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Buffy St Marie/Raspberries/Tony Joe White/Brewer&Shipley/Brownsville Station/Lobo/Country Joe McDonald (Sunday 12-8 pm) Spirit of ‘72 WIXY Free Festival
This seems to be a free event sponsored by WIXY 1260 AM in Cleveland. Edgewater is a Cleveland district near Lake Erie (apparently photos of the event can be found on Facebook).

We may be missing a Saturday night (July 8) New Riders show in the area.



July 10, 1972 Minneapolis Auditorium, Minneapolis, MN: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Dr Hook and The Medicine Show/Fanny (Monday)
A Monday night show in Minneapolis makes sense if you realize that the New Riders were already in the Midwest, and that they had booked a Tuesday night show in Madison, WI (even though it apparently was canceled--see below). The Minneapolis Auditorium had been built in 1927, and had a capacity of 10,000. It had originally mainly been a hockey arena, but after 1967 it had been superseded by the Met Center. I doubt that the full capacity of the arena was in use on a weeknight, so I assume some sections were roped off.

Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show was another rising Columbia band with a countrified hippie edge. Nashville producer Shel Silverstein had engaged the band as a vehicle for his songwriting. The band had released their debut album in February1972, and the Silverstein song "Sylvia's Mother" had become a big hit in the Spring. Note that the New Riders are listed with the song "I Don't Need No Doctor," from Powerglide. While not a hit single, the mention suggests that fans may recognize it from FM radio. 

Fanny were an "All-Girl" group on Reprise. They had just released their third album Fanny Hill in February. While they were treated as a gimmick (not surprisingly), all four of the women in Fanny were good musicians, particularly sisters June (guitar) and Jean Millington (bass).

July 11 1972 Dane County Coliseum Madison Wisconsin: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show/Fanny (Tuesday) canceled
The timeline suggests that the New Riders spent July and early August of 1972 recording their next album. Columbia would release Gypsy Cowboy in December 1972.

July 30 1972 Pine Knob Music Theater, Pine Knob MI: The Byrds/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Eric Andersen (Sunday) canceled
July 31 1972 Arie Crown Theater,  Chicago IL: The Byrds/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Eric Andersen
(Monday)  Howard Stein Productions canceled
August 2 1972 Sports Arena, Atlanta, GA: The Byrds/New Riders of The Purple Sage
(Wednesday) canceled
August 4 1972 Fort Homer Hesterly Armory, Tampa, FL: The Byrds/New Riders of The Purple Sage
(Friday) canceled
August 5 1972 Sportatorium, Fort Lauderdale FL The Byrds/New Riders of The Purple Sage
(Saturday) canceled

August 23, 1972 Balboa Park Bowl, San Diego, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Wishbone Ash (Wednesday) 2 & 8pm shows
The New Riders headlined a pair of shows at San Diego's Balboa Park Bowl on a Wednesday afternoon. Thanks to a peculiarity of Airline regulation, it cost around $20 to fly from San Francisco to San Diego, so it made sense for the band to play a one-off. Now called the Starlight Bowl (at 2005 Pan American Plaza), the 4300-capacity arena had been constructed for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition.

Wishbone Ash was an English band who had just released their third album, Phoenix. Wishbone Ash had a twin-guitar lineup and a unique approach. They were great live and very influential.

August 24, 1972  Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, CA: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage (Thursday)
The Grateful Dead played four nights at the Berkeley Community Theater (August 21, 22, 24 and 25). The Dead did not need help to sell tickets, nor was there any financial benefit for the promoter if the crowd came early, since there were no concessions for sale. Nonetheless, the New Riders opened on Thursday night anyway. 


August 27, 1972 Renaissance Fairgrounds, Veneta, OR: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage
(Sunday)
On Sunday, the Grateful Dead headlined the legendary "Springfield Creamery Benefit" at the Renaissance Fairgrounds in Veneta, OR, near Springfield. The entire event was filmed and recorded, released many years later as the movie Sunshine Daydream. There is a little footage of the New Riders live, and the entire New Riders set was released in 2004 as the archival cd Field Trip.

The New Riders were advertised for a show with John Lee Hooker in Vancouver on August 27, but that was superseded by Oregon. The New Riders would go on to play Vancouver in October. 

New Riders of The Purple Sage Status Report, September 1972
The New Riders of The Purple Sage had begun 1972 by touring without their most famous member, as Jerry Garcia had been replaced by Buddy Cage at the end of 1971. Their second album Powerglide had been released in April, however, and had done just about as well as their debut. The New Riders had toured the East Coast with some seriousness in the Spring, and had even joined the Grateful Dead in Europe.

Performances were somewhat intermittent in the Summer of 1972, due to a number of shows that were canceled when the Byrds were unavailable to headline. Nonetheless, Columbia was clearly behind the band, as the New Riders had begun recording their third album in the Summer. For the fall, the New Riders were going to tour the Northeast and elsewhere, building on their Grateful Dead association but trying to stand on their own two feet.