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 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.


Friday, February 25, 2022

New Riders of The Purple Sage Tour History, January-April 1972 (NRPS '72 I)



New Riders Of The Purple Sage Tour History, January-April 1972 (NRPS '72 I)

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. Grateful Dead tours were booked by their in-house Talent Agency, Out-Of-Town Tours, led by Sam Cutler. Cutler and Out-Of-Town also booked the New Riders. 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. So 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 begin a 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. This post will focus on the New Riders performance history from January to April, 1972 (for the next post in the series, covering May-August '72, see here). Anyone with additions, corrections, insights or just interesting speculation, please include them in the Comments. Flashbacks welcome. 

Powerglide, the second album by the New Riders of The Purple Sage, was released by Columbia in April 1972

Status Report: New Riders of The Purple Sage, 1972

After Jerry Garcia heard Sneaky Pete Kleinow play pedal steel guitar over Owsley's sound system at the Avalon Ballroom (on the weekend of April 4-6, 1969), he bought a Zane Beck DB10 steel at Guitar City in Lakewood, CO, the next week (either April 13 or 14, 1969). He had it shipped back to the Bay Area, as the Dead were on tour. A weeks later, when he found out that old pal John Dawson had a Wednesday night coffee house gig in Menlo Park performing his own songs, Garcia showed up to practice his steel guitar chops by supporting him. Mutual friend David Nelson was invited along, and they became a band. By August of 1969, they had a drummer (Mickey Hart) and a bassist (Bob Matthews) and a name. The New Riders of The Purple Sage played tiny joints around the Bay Area for the balance of the year, and opened for the Dead once in a while, too. 

Starting in May, 1970, the New Riders toured the country as the opening act for the Grateful Dead. Since Garcia (and Mickey Hart) was in the band, save for the occasional Bay Area club gig, opening for the Dead was their only real option. New bassist Dave Torbert (ex-New Delhi River Band, with Nelson) added a lot of color, but the band was boxed in by the Garcia association. Garcia himself knew it. When they spotted Buddy Cage on the legendary Canadian Festival Express tour in Summer 1970, the Riders had found their man, At the time, Cage touring with Ian & Sylvia Tyson. Later, around July 1971, by which time Cage was touring with Anne Murray ("Snowbird"), Dawson and Nelson went to Vancouver and invited him to move to the Bay Area and take Garcia's place. 

By early 1971, the New Riders of The Purple Sage had been signed to Columbia and recording their debut album. Spencer Dryden (ex-Jefferson Airplane) had replaced Mickey Hart on drums, but Garcia was still in the band, and the Riders still opened most Grateful Dead shows. By the time the album was ready for release in September 1971, Cage was already in the Bay Area, rehearsing with the band. The loyal Garcia performed with the New Riders for the first leg of the tour, attracting a huge amount of attention to the band. Columbia paid up to ensure that the New Riders were broadcast on FM radio along with the Dead, so thanks to the presence of The Garcia, the New Riders weren't just another band with a new album. Garcia's last show as the Riders' steel guitarist was October 31, 1971 in Cincinnati. 

Buddy Cage 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. Initially their manager had been Jon McIntire, who also managed the Dead. McIntire had been the principal go-between for the record companies. By 1972, McIntire seemed to have little role in the New Riders affairs, however. It seems that management decisions were made by one Chesley Millikin, a London pal of Sam Cutler and a record company veteran. Road manager Dale Franklin, who had been sent over by Bill Graham, also played a critical role. 

The Riders were booked by Sam Cutler, who also booked the Dead, working with a variety of talent agents. By booking two 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).

The New Riders of The Purple Sage, January-April 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)

SF Examiner listing, New Year's Eve 1971

New Riders Of The Purple Sage Tour History, January-April 1972

January 2, 1972 Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Yogi Phlegm
(Sunday)
The New Riders had played with the Grateful Dead at Winterland on New Year's Eve (Friday, December 31, 1971), and they had also participated in the FM broadcast on KSAN. It must have been a surprise to fans who had bought the NRPS album to find out that Garcia was no longer in the band.Yogi Phlegm was the new (widely unpopular) name for the Sons Of Champlin. The bands skipped Saturday night (January 1) but returned Sunday night.

January 17, 1972 Wally Heider's Studio, San Francisco, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage w/Jerry Garcia ("Lochinvar" plus 4 other tacks) 6pm and 10 pm sessions
Triangulation suggests that the New Riders recorded their follow-up album at Wally Heider's Studio in San Francisco during January of 1972. We know the date that Garcia found time to participate, namely January 17. Garcia added banjo to two numbers ("Sweet Lovin' One" and "Duncan and Brady"), and piano (of all things) to another ("Lochinvar"), but Buddy Cage handled all the pedal steel parts. John Dawson had written and sang lead on all ten songs of the debut, but this time Dave Torbert took a more prominent role, singing lead on five songs, two of which he wrote. David Nelson sang a lead as well, and Nicky Hopkins played piano on several tracks. The New Riders were still country rock, but the new album would have a much more honky-tonk feel. Powerglide would be released in April. 

February 11-12, 1972 Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Friday-Saturday)
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. My assumption here is that the band had some new material from recording, so they needed a few gigs to work out how they would sound live.

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, so booking the Riders made good sense.

The Sunday, February 13, 1972 LA Times ad for the New Riders and the Flying Burrito Brothers playing three nights in Los Angeles
February 18-19-20, 1972 Fox West Coast Theater, Long Beach CA New Riders of The Purple Sage/Flying Burrito Brothers (Friday-Sunday)
This three-day booking in Los Angeles were the very first performances of the New Riders of The Purple Sage that were outside the Bay Area where they were not opening for the Grateful Dead. It was appropriate that the Riders shared the bill with the Flying Burrito Brothers. As mentioned above, when the Burritos had opened for the Dead at the Avalon, on the weekend of April 4-6, 1969, Jerry Garcia had been so impressed with the sound of Sneaky Pete Kleinow's pedal steel guitar that he purchased one the next week.

Three years later, the New Riders had released their Columbia debut, while the Flying Burrito Brothers had all but disintegrated. The Burritos had released 4 albums on A&M, mostly well-reviewed and influential to other musicians. Yet the Burritos had barely sold any albums and were inconsistent live. Founding members Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman and Sneaky Pete had all left. Oddly enough, the Flying Burrito Brothers were only popular in Holland, so a version of the band was reconvened for a brief European tour. 

The Winter '72 Flying Burrito Brothers were lead by Rick Roberts, who had joined the band in 1970. Also on board were pedal steel guitarist Don Beck, drummer Erik Dalton (ex-Southwind) and guitarist/singer Kenny Wertz. Also in the band were fiddler Byron Berline, banjo player Alan Munde and bassist Roger Bush. Those three, along with Wertz, were also the bluegrass band Country Gazette, and they would do an acoustic mini-set as part of the Burritos. These Long Beach shows were a live warmup for the European tour (for a good taste of the 72 Burritos, see the UK-only Live In Amsterdam album on Phillips).

The New Riders were likely the headliners because they would have had the support of Columbia, whereas the Burritos were effectively without a label. Columbia probably used the gigs to hand out free tickets to local booking agents and djs, since the New Riders would have been unknown outside of Grateful Dead circles. The Fox West Coast was a converted movie theater that put on regular rock shows during this period. It was at 333 E. Ocean Blvd, now the site of the Westin Long Beach.


February 23, 1972 Chateau Liberte, Los Gatos, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage  (Wednesday)
The Chateau Liberte was a converted resort hidden in the Santa Cruz Mountains, well off the highway. Infamous doesn't tell half the story. The actual address was 22700 Old Santa Cruz Highway in Los Gatos, but it was a long, twisting drive to any town. The Santa Cruz Mountains at the time were full of loners, oddballs, pot growers, bikers and layabouts--many of whom fit more than one description--and they all hung out at the Chateau. The swimming pool had a tile mosaic of the "Zig Zag Man." 

Needless to say, rock bands enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the Chateau, particularly if they weren't in a hurry. For much of late 1970, Hot Tuna and the newly-formed Doobie Brothers alternated weekends. Matt Kelly's band Mountain Current also performed there regularly. The front cover of the Doobie Brothers' debut album showed the quartet seated at the Chateau bar. Hot Tuna's second album (First Pull Up, Then Pull Down) was recorded live at the Chateau Liberte, with a fuzzy interior photo of the band on stage.

As the seventies rolled on, more bands were booked at the Chateau Liberte, although getting to the club was an adventure, and apparently being there was even more so. Bands liked to play the club to work things out away from any prying eyes. The soundman at the Chateau Liberte was reputedly amenable to letting tapers plug in, so we have a surprising number of tapes from the club, given how small it was. We have a New Riders setlist, derived from a tape. Almost all the songs are from Powerglide, so the band was just working on new material. The crowd at the Chateau would have been very familiar with their first album, and when Dawson probably introduced "Henry" as he always did, saying "If you smuggle dope for a living, this one's for you," it wasn't some ironic joke. 

[The Chateau Liberte closed as a rock club in the later 70s. It's now owned by a real estate agent. The Zig Zag Man still reigns in the swimming pool, by all accounts.]


The Sacramento Bee from Sunday, February 20, 1972, advertising the upcoming show (on February 27) with the Youngbloods, Joy Of Cooking and the New Riders of The Purple Sage

February 27, 1972 Memorial Auditorium, Sacramento, CA: Youngbloods/Joy Of Cooking/New Riders of The Purple Sage (Sunday)
The New Riders made their concert debut in the Bay Area away from the Grateful Dead by opening for the Youngbloods on a Sunday night in Sacramento. Paradoxically, the New Riders had a lower profile in the Bay Area, since they had played tiny clubs for so long. In Sacramento, they were just third on the bill.

The Youngbloods had relocated from the East Coast to Marin County in September, 1967, recognizing that their music was going to thrive in the Bay Area. Ultimately, the Youngbloods had a huge, surprise hit in Summer '69 with the song "Get Together," which they had released back in '67. The hit got the Youngbloods a huge contract with Warner Brothers, which included their own "imprint" label (Raccoon Records). The Youngbloods did well, but they never reached the heights of "Get Together" again. At this time, Jesse Colin Young had released a solo album (Together, on Raccoon). The Youngbloods would release one more album in November '72 before breaking up. 

The Joy Of Cooking were a popular Berkeley band, distinguishing themselves in having two women out front. Guitarist Terry Garthwaite and pianist Toni Brown not only sang and wrote, but could jam it up like a band full of boys. The group had come out of tiny Berkeley bars like Mandrake's, and by 1972 they had released their first of three albums on Capitol. 



March 4, 1972 UCSC College V Dining Hall, Santa Cruz CA New Riders of The Purple Sage (Saturday) Presented by Dead-Shot Non-Prophet
The New Riders were still playing a few local gigs to warm up for their tour supporting their impending album release. UC Santa Cruz had only been opened in 1965, and was still fairly new. "College V" would later become Porter College, but old Banana Slugs intentionally date themselves by calling it "College Five." "Dead-Shot Non-Prophet" was a student group formed in order to produce the show.

Esteemed scholar and fellow blogger CryptDev, then a UC Santa Cruz student, recalls this event:
The NRPS show at College 5 Dining Hall was pretty wonderful. There was a group called Deadshots, based out of [College V] that were hoping to bring the Dead to UCSC, and the Riders show was their first (and apparently only) foray into that direction.

The show was well attended - not sure if it was sold out, but the dining hall was definitely full. They set up the stage at the western end of the dining hall, and it was your typical festival standing/seating, with a motley mix of students, mountain folk, and plain old Santa Cruz hippies. I didn't know it at the time, but the Riders had played at the Chateau Liberte a couple of weeks earlier, and a tape of that show exists. Here's the setlist from the Chateau: Brown Eyed Handsome Man / Rainbow / Lochinvar / Hello Mary Lou / Henry / California Day / Linda / Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music) / Sailin' / Duncan And Brady / Big Yellow Taxi / Second Set : Garden Of Eden / The Bottle Let Me Down / I Don't Need No Doctor / Runnin' Back To You / Willie And The Hand Jive.

It was a pretty similar show at UCSC - the first time I heard the riders play "Big Yellow Taxi" and of course they played most of Powerglide, including long, jammed out versions of "I Don't Need No Doctor" and "Willie and the Hand Jive." It was also the first time I had heard a live version of "Garden of Eden," which I only knew at that point from the fast Marmaduke and Friends version I had heard on KSAN.  It was the first generous look I had at NRPS 2.0, with Torbert pretty much alternating lead vocals with Dawson in contrast to the 1970/71 shows where Marmaduke took the lion's share of lead vocals. Also only the second time I had heard Buddy Cage as the steel player after the 12/31/71 New Years extravaganza. I'm not sure what happened to the Deadshots, but the next time a Dead member played on campus was the Kingfish show we did three years later at Crown. Blessed with college-age vigor, I had no problem being raring to go to see the NRPS with the Dead the next night at Winterland, when the show went until Graham called curfew at 2 AM. Those were the days.

March 5, 1972 Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Yogi Phlegm (Sunday) Benefit for American Indians
The Grateful Dead put on a benefit for "American Indians" on Sunday, March 5, joined by the New Riders and the Sons Of Champlin (then using the name Yogi Phlegm). Three members of the Sons were stuck in traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge, and were not available when the Sons were due to come on stage. A furious Bill Graham told Bill Champlin and drummer Bill Vitt to find a guitarist and a bassist and to get on stage, or they would never play one of his shows again. An anxious Champlin corralled his friends Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh, who jammed the blues with them for a few numbers--at their own show--until the rest of the band made it.

 

SF Examiner listing for Thursday, March 23, 1972

March 23-24, 1972 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Thursday-Friday)
Keystone Korner owner Freddie Herrera took over a Frat pizza-and-beer joint called The New Monk and turned it into the Keystone Berkeley. Much larger than the San Francisco club, the Keystone Berkeley would become the home base for Jerry Garcia and all the Grateful Dead satellites. The Keystone Berkeley had only opened on March 1, 1972, and the New Riders were booked for two shows there later in the month.

David Nelson at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA on March 26, 1972 (from The Mustang Daily, Apr 28 '72)
March 26, 1972 Men's Gym, Cal Poly, San Luis Obiso, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage/California Express (Sunday)
One lesson that Sam Cutler had learned from helping the Grateful Dead tour their way back to solvency in 1970 and '71 was the value of playing colleges. In the early 70s, many colleges had "entertainment budgets" designed to bring artists and performers to campus. Typically, some hippies would get on the "entertainment committee" and lobby for some hip rock bands. Since the college had funding, ticket sales only had to cover part of the cost, and the bands got paid well. On top of that, if a band played a college, all sorts of curious undergraduates would show up--at a lot of colleges, there was nothing to do at night--so a good band made new fans. 

The California State Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, known as "Cal Poly," had been chartered by the state of California in 1901. By 1960, it had become part of the California State College system (along with San Jose State, San Francisco State and so on). The school had continued to grow and is generally seen as the most prestigious school of the CSU system. Today the school has 22,000 students, although I don't know how many it had back in '72. San Luis Obispo is beautiful, but there isn't much to do there if you are young and restless, so undergraduates would be inclined to see any band coming to campus. The New Riders were playing The Men’s Gym, a fairly large 3,000-capacity venue built in 1960. A local bluegrass band was the opening act. Here's how the New Riders were described in the student paper:

ROCK CONCERT SLATED SUNDAY EVENING  
The New Riders  of  the  Purple  Sage, a country  rock  group  that  rode  to  prominence  with  the  Grateful  Dead  will  appear  in  the  Men's  Gym  at  Cal  Poly  at  8  p.m. on  Sunday (March  26). The concert  is  being  sponsored  by  the  Assemblies  Committee  of  the  Associated  Students,  Inc.  

The  New Riders  of  the  Purple  Sage, featuring strings  and  drums, play  country  music  with a rock  beat  to  it. They  appear  as  a  warm-up group  for  the  Grateful  Dead. The New  Riders  record  on  the  Columbia  label.  

The concert  is  open  to  the  public. General  admission  is  $2.50  for  college  students  and  $3.50  for  all  others. Tickets  will  be  on  sale  in  the  College  Union  Plaza  during registration  on  Thursday  and  Friday  (March 23-24)  and  at  the  door. 

A review of the show a few days after was modestly positive, although it's clear that the writer had only barely heard of the band (the venue is now known as Mott's Gym).

April 7 or 8 1972 William & Mary Hall, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA: Virginia Folk Festival  (7pm-1am each night)  Produced by Web LTD. & Free Flow Productions
Richie Havens/Kris Kristofferson/Country Joe McDonald/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Linda Ronstadt/Earl Scruggs Review/John Prine/Dave Von Ronk/McKendree Spring/Goose Creek Symphony/Keith Sykes/David Rea/Ramblin Jack Elliott/Rosalie Sorrells/Bob Brown/Mick Greenwood

Powerglide, the second album by the New Riders of The Purple Sage, was released by Columbia Records in April, 1972. Release dates were not precise in the early 70s, and on-stage comment from John Dawson (on the April 13 tape) suggested that the album wouldn't be generally distributed until mid-April. As the tour started the album would have already been available to FM radio stations, and probably some of the hipper stores were already selling it.

The New Riders touring schedule was modeled on the Grateful Dead's touring schedule back in 1970, when the Dead were trying to get Workingman's Dead heard and build a fan base. The key was to get heard by as many young rock fans as possible, both through FM airplay and concentrating on certain areas. Since the Dead were popular in the Northeast, the initial tour focused on colleges and college towns where the Grateful Dead already had a footprint.

The tour began at a 2-day weekend indoor "folk festival" at the College Of William & Mary. College students were not inclined to "country music," but "folk" didn't have a redneck connotation. As a practical matter, I assume that the New Riders played Saturday, April 8. Note that the Grateful Dead would return themselves to the College Of William & Mary in September, 1973.
 

April 9, 1972 Cherry Hill Arena, Cherry Hill, NJ: Hot Tuna /New Riders of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody & his Lost Airmen (Sunday)
Cherry Hill is near Camden, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, so the town was part of the Philadelphia Metropolitan area. The Grateful Dead had been establishing themselves in Philly since April 1970. It made sense to start building the New Riders fanbase there.

There weren't that many hippie "San Francisco bands" actually touring, so Hot Tuna, the New Riders and Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were often booked together in various combinations around the country.

April 12, 1972 Clark Gym, SUNY Buffalo, Buffalo, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (Wednesday) 2 shows 8 & 11:30
Clark Gym at SUNY Buffalo was built in 1948. I don't know the exact  capacity but I don't think it was very large. The fact that there were two shows was a sign that there was some demand. In the case of SUNY Buffalo, I think they also sold tickets to rock fans around town, not just students. Harvey Weinstein (later a film producer and convicted rapist) was a SUNY Buffalo student around this time, soon to become a major concert promoter in the Buffalo area, so he may have had some contact with Sam Cutler at this time. Certainly the Dead were slowly building an audience in the Buffalo area, and having the New Riders pass through could only help.

The concert listings from the April 13, 1972 edition of Tangerine, the Utica College student newspaper

April 13, 1972 Women's Gym, Syracuse U, Syracuse, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage
(Thursdays Early and Late shows) broadcast WAER-fm
This Thursday night show in Syracuse is interesting for any number of reasons. Firstly, the show was broadcast in its entirety on WAER-fm, the Syracuse University radio station, so we have an excellent tape. It's a great snapshot of the Riders on tour in the East, mixing together most of the debut album with a number of songs from Powerglide. John Dawson is still the primary singer, but Dave Torbert took the lead every fourth song or so.

David Kramer-Smyth found a listing for the show (in the Utica College paper--above), and the show was held at the Syracuse University Women's Gym. Confusingly,  the tape of the show has been listed as "Manley Field House, Le Moyne College," which is a contradiction. LeMoyne College is a long-established Jesuit College in Syracuse, whereas Manley Field House was the basketball arena for Syracuse University, about 3 miles West of LeMoyne. We know that the show was broadcast on WAER, as the introducing dj's mention the station, but they didn't say where they are. 

The Women's Gym, now known as Women's Building A, was the center for Women's Sports at Syracuse up until 1982. The men's basketball team played in nearby Manley Field House, a 5400-capacity gym. By 1980, the men's team had moved to the Carrier Dome, and in 1982 the Women's team moved to Manley Field House. Somehow, "Women's Gym" got retconned into Manley Field House. I don't know the capacity of the building, but eyeballing the current facility it was probably barely 1000, which seems right for two New Riders shows in 1972.

My current theory is that LeMoyne College was producing the show at nearby Syracuse University. WAER was the Syracuse U radio station, but since the event was on campus it would not have mattered much if it was "sponsored" by someone else. The Grateful Dead were also building an audience in Syracuse, having played at the Onandoga War Memorial in downtown Syracuse on October 27, 1971. That show, too, had been broadcast on  WAER. Jerry Garcia had also played with Howard Wales in Syracuse back in January, so the New Riders would have benefited from the prior Dead association. 

In the between-song patter, John Dawson says "an Irish Friend reminds me that we have a record coming out next week." This is surely a reference to Chesley Millikin. Millikin was subsequently Sam Cutler's second-in-command at Out-Of-Town Tours, and while his exact duties remain a mystery, he later seems to have functioned as the New Riders' booking agent. Although Dawson is noting that Millikin said he should tell the audience to go out and buy the album, it's not plain whether this was a general directive or if Millikin was actually in the house. In any case, Dawson tells the crowd that Powerglide will be in stores "by next week." The album would reach #33 in the Billboard charts.

April 14, 1972 Proctor's Theater, Schenectady, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Tranquility (Friday) presented by Union College
This Friday night show was presented by Union College, a 2000-student liberal arts college founded in 1795. Proctor's Theater, capacity 3250, had opened back in 1926. Back in the first part of the 20th century, Schenectady had been an important commercial and manufacturing center, with General Electric and other major companies. The city and region declined from the 1950s onward, however, so large old theaters like Proctor's were available for rock shows. Union College students seem to have rented the theater to put on the show.

David Kramer-Smyth did find an ad for the New Riders at the "Wisconsin Folk Festival" in Madison for the weekend of April 14 and 15. It was produced by Free Flow Productions and Web LTD, and featured the same headliners as the Virginia Folk Festival (April 7-8, above). The New Riders were initially advertised, but later there was no mention of them, either in ads or the review. They were probably booked for Saturday (April 15) and then withdrew. Since they would have had to fly from Schenectady to Madison, hardly a direct flight, it may simply have not been worth it. 

The Proctor's show was reviewed in the SUNY Albany paper a few days later (April 18 1972)
Flying high on their music were the New Riders themselves, their warmth and friendliness, coupled with their obvious enjoyment of their now show, summoned up a healthy dose of those special "Live Dead" vibes. After nearly two hours of playing live they were still rocking on strong when midnight struck and the theater manager turned into a pumpkin, forcing them into an abrupt finale. Despite that (which the Union College people assure me won't happen again; they'd rented the theater "for the day" and didn't realize that the management would be quite so literal about it.. Next time round they'll have it covered). It was a lovely evening.

Another review in the Union College paper was less charitable.

The concert business has really changed by the early 70s. In the late 60s, bands were focused on making a profit on the road. By the early 70s, record companies had figured out that there was huge money in hit rock albums, so touring was seen as an engine to generate radio play and record sales. Record companies would support their bands that had new albums by buying ads or running promotions in underground papers or on local FM stations. They would also subsidize the tours in various ways--the usual term was "Tour Support"--by covering certain expenses, like airline tickets or hotel rooms. This meant that bands only had to break even on the road, covering their day-to-day costs, so they could afford to take chances on smaller gigs. Of course, this wasn't charity--the record companies charged the Tour Support costs against future royalties. But if an album became a big hit, a few plane tickets weren't going to matter.

For rock fans in the early 70s (like me), that meant that lots of good bands were touring around the country, deficit-financed by their record companies. You could be in any large or medium sized city in America, or most college campuses, and see a "real band" with an album, whether were from England, New York or California. The New Riders were probably getting plenty of tour support on their 1972 tours, because Columbia wanted to build on their hit debut album. As a result, the New Riders didn't have to worry if their touring entirely made financial sense.

Second on the bill in Schenectady, and opening various Riders' dates throughout April was Tranquility, a band on Epic (a sister label to Columbia), getting a big promotional push from CBS. As I recall, Tranquility was an English quartet or quintet (not sure) that played sort of sophisticated guitar pop, somewhat like Badfinger. Tranquility--who could very well have been good, I don't know--seemed to have a burgeoning American following, and were getting a big push from the record company. Tranquility may have been a very enjoyable act, but even at the time it was noted that record company promotions like this pushed out local bands. In the Fillmore days, the best local bands would open for touring headliners and get heard, but that happened less when big companies were promoting their new albums. Tranquility opened for various CBS acts in the Spring, including the Byrds, and did well enough that Epic would support a second album (Silver) and a Fall tour, but ultimately they never made it over the top. 

April 15, 1972 Kenyon Hall, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Orleans (Saturday)
On a Saturday night, the New Riders were headlining at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, just 95 miles South of Schenectady. Vassar had been founded as a private liberal arts Women's College back in 1861, and was one of the original "Seven Sisters," Women's Colleges that had served as a sort of separatist Ivy League for women. By 1969, Vassar had gone co-ed, but men weren't yet a huge portion of the student body. Kenyon Hall, built in 1934, was the Vassar gym, with a capacity of about 1200.

Reviewer Michael Kimmel in the Vassar student paper--it says so much that the Vassar rock critic was a man--had high expectations for the New Riders. His opinion was that the New Riders were good, but not transcendent. Tranquility was apparently originally booked as the opening act (a Billboard Tranquility ad includes this date), but according to the review, the opening act was Orleans. Orleans was a quartet from Woodstock, NY, at the time unsigned, but who would later go on to great success. Guitarist and singer John Hall was the best-known member (along with Larry and Lance Hoppen and drummer Wells Kelly). Orleans was playing around the club circuit, and was known informally as "the best unsigned band in the Northeast." In this case, they took over the slot that had been reserved for Tranquility. In previous years, the opening slot at a small college show would have inevitably gone to a local band, but now that was no sure thing. Orleans would release their debut album on ABC in Fall 1973 and ultimately have a big hit with "Still The One."

Newsday (April 15 '72) listing for the Hofstra show on April 18, 1972

April 18 1972 Hofstra University Playhouse, Hempstead NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Tuesday)
The Grateful Dead were well-established in Long Island, so booking the New Riders there made good sense. The Hofstra University Playhouse was an 1105-seat theater on the Hofstra campus.

April 20, 1972 [venue], Stony Brook, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Thursday)
The New Riders continued their tour of Long Island with a show at Stony Brook. The Grateful Dead had played Stony Brook in 1967, '68 and Halloween '70. The Riders had opened there in 1970, so they would have been somewhat of a known quantity, compared to some places. 

We may be missing some additional nights for the New Riders in April, as a touring band always tried to work Friday and Saturday nights. 

The Passiac Herald-News (Friday Apr 21 '72) list the New Riders at both the Capitol Theater on Saturday and Princeton on Monday
April 22, 1972 Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Dr. John/Tranquility (Saturday-8:00 and 11:30pm)
Once Bill Graham stopped booking the Fillmore East, the door opened for rock shows in Northern New Jersey. John Scher, from West Orange, NJ, began booking shows at the Capitol Theater in Passaic.  The Capitol, at 326 Monroe Street, had been built in 1921 and had a capacity of 3,200. By late 1970, it was showing "adult" films. Scher and his partner Al Hayward booked their first rock show at the Capitol on December 16, 1971 (J. Geils Band/Humble Pie). Scher would go on to dominate the New Jersey rock concert market for several decades.

Scher would have a crucial relationship with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. Scher not only promoted many Garcia and Dead shows himself, from the 1980s onward, Scher's company booked all Grateful Dead and Garcia shows East of the Mississippi (Bill Graham handled the West). So the relationship with Scher was essential to the historical success of the Grateful Dead. Yet the very first contact between the Dead organization and Scher was when the New Riders headlined the Capitol Theater in April of 1972, right when Powerglide was actually released. 

Booking agents often work through intermediaries, with agents from different regions cooperating and sharing fees. So it's not impossible that the initial contact between Sam Cutler and John Scher was indirect. Nonetheless, things must have gone well. Three months after the Captiol show, Scher and Hayward were booking the Grateful Dead at an old stadium in Jersey City (July 18 '72 at Roosevelt Stadium), and the long history of the Dead and John Scher began. The Jersey City show must have been planned soon after the Riders played the Capitol, so something good happened there. Note that there are early and late shows at the Capitol, so ticket sales must have been pretty good. The Passaic newspaper listing (above) also mentions that the two shows in Princeton were sold out. Now, Alexander Hall at Princeton (capacity 1100) was a lot smaller than the Capitol, but that's still a lot of tickets sold for a band that had just released its second album. 

Also billed at the Capitol show was Dr. John. Dr. John had just released Gumbo, his fifth album on Atco, marking a move away from being an eccentric to a traditional New Orleans musician with a rock twist.

April 23 1972 Franklin & Marshall College Mayser Center Lancaster PA New Riders of The Purple Sage/Tranquility (Sunday) Produced by S.U.B. & F&M
One theme of the New Riders’ April ‘72 tour supporting Powerglide was how it revisited some of the touchstones of the Grateful Dead’s successful touring in 1971. Sam Cutler had done this before for the Dead, and it had worked out very well, so it was smart to draw from the same playbook. Back on April 10, 1971, the Grateful Dead and the New Riders had played Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. Lancaster was in Amish country, about an hour West of Philadelphia (great pretzels out there, trust me). The gig had been part of the Dead’s strategic assault on the Philadelphia Metro area, which would lead to the Dead becoming a perennial attraction in Philadelphia. The strategy, conceived by Rock Scully, was to play the outlying areas to build interest on FM radio.

Franklin and Marshall was a highly regarded liberal arts school of about 2000 students. There would have been a lot of students from the Philadelphia suburbs, so playing there was also a way to build a future audience in the City. In this case, the New Riders would have actually played the school the year before, so some of the underclassmen might have remembered the band's name. In 1971, the Dead’s gig had been facilitated by Philadelphia’s Electric Factory, who also booked the Spectrum and were the principal promoters for the region. No doubt the return gig for the Riders at F&M helped Cutler keep his relationships with the Electric Factory in tune. On September 21, 1972 (and then again on March 24, 1973) the Dead would play for the Electric Factory at the giant Spectrum, home of the NBA 76ers and NHL Flyers. The Dead would go on to rule the Spectrum, so these relationships were important.

April 24, 1972 Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Monday 8pm-11pm shows)
Back on Saturday, April 17, 1971, the Grateful Dead and the New Riders had played Dillon Gym at Princeton University, one of the most legendary gigs in Dead history. All of the 1971 college shows were outright bangers, mostly, and many people got On The Bus right then. The difference was that Princeton (then as now) was at the vortex of American cultural hegemony, so the young men who burned some fat ones and danced all night went on to the State Department or Wall Street. So it was no surprise to see the New Riders reappear at Princeton almost exactly a year later. Similar to F&M, there would have been plenty of undergraduates who could have vouched for the New Riders.

In the early 1970s, numerous rock bands played at Princeton. The reason, peculiarly, was Bill Graham. Bill Graham’s contracts at the Fillmore East (like almost all rock promoters) prevented a booked band from playing any advertised show within 50 miles of the East Village within 3 weeks of the show date (or some criteria approximating that). Since Fillmore East booked everyone, Graham effectively crushed any nascent rock promotions in Northern New Jersey from 1968-71. An exception to this rule was shows presented by colleges that were not advertised off campus. This specific exemption was what had allowed the Grateful Dead to play old Jadwin Gym (built 1949, capacity 3200) in 1971 just a week before their Fillmore East booking. The show was only “promoted” in the Princeton school newspaper, and sold out instantly.

As a result of the Fillmore East clause, bands played Princeton (and other schools) constantly in 1970 and ‘71. Princeton had money for entertainment, so ticket sales didn’t have to cover all of the costs. Lots of great acts played there. Princeton had enough money to pay for bigger acts on occasion, even when the venues were small. Until John Scher got fully established in 1974, touring bands regularly played the school. The New Riders played Alexander Hall, built in 1892. It seated about 1100. As noted in the Passaic clipping above, the early show was sold out, so things must have gone well.

April 26, 1972 at the Boston Music Hall (from The Globe). The New Riders, in between showings of a the "Blacksploitation" movie Cool Breeze

April 26, 1972 Boston Music Hall, Boston, MA: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Tranquility (Wednesday)
The Boston Music Hall, at 268 Tremont Street, had been built in 1925 as the Metropolitan Theater. It had been renamed the Boston Music Hall in 1962. Boston Music Hall had a capacity (at the time) of 4225, large for the era (now, as The Wang Theater, the capacity is around 3500). Performers included the Ballet and Symphony as well as music acts. In the 60s, rock bands had played a place called The Back Bay Theater, but it had been torn down in 1968. After that, big rock acts played Boston Music Hall. The Grateful Dead would go on to play the Music Hall numerous times in the 1970s.

The Boston Music Hall was not booked by a single promoter, but was just available for rent. The Dead had played Boston Music Hall for Howard Stein in April, 1971, and for unknown promoters in December, 1971. In September of 1972, the Dead would play the theater for Cable Music, part of their long relationship with promoter Jim Koplik. But I don't know who promoted the April 1972 New Riders show.

At this time, the Boston Music Hall was mainly a movie theater. During this week, per the Boston Globe (above), the feature was a "Blacksploitation" crime flick called Cool Breeze. It does not sound like a very good movie. In this case, the 8:00 showing was replaced by the New Riders. Tranquility listed this show in their Billboard ad, so presumably they opened the show.  Keep in mind, even if the New Riders did not sell out the hall--I'm sure they didn't, on a weeknight--they still got more money than they would have if they had been just doing nothing.

April 28, 1972 Meehan Hall, Brown U, Providence, RI: Mahavishnu Orchestra/New Riders of The Purple Sage (Friday) superseded?
Brown University was founded in 1764, and it is located in downtown Providence. Indeed, I think it precedes downtown itself. Meehan Auditorium is the 3000-capacity hockey facility, and the largest indoor facility at the school. It opened in 1961 at Hope Street and Lloyd Avenue. As a lesson in 1970s rock economics, the Mahavishnu Orchestra had opened for Jerry Garcia (with Howard Wales) a few months earlier, and now as Mahavishnu's album became hotter, the New Riders were opening for them. Howard Wales, Mahavishnu and the New Riders were all on Columbia, so record company support was easier to come by when the label could share promotional costs.

The seemingly strange pairing of the New Riders and Mahavishnu makes more sense if you consider that the University was probably striving to get a cross-section of undergraduates. Note the descriptions from that day's Brown Daily Record (from David Kramer-Smyth's stellar research):

John Mclaughlin & the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Fri. 8 p.m.Meehan. Intense synthesis of jazz, rock, classical, blues and Eastern music, lead with spiritual conviction by dynamic guitarist McLaughlin, who sees his music as "an offering to the supreme being."

NEW RIDERS of the Purple Sage. Fri.. 8 p.m.. Meehan. A light, peppy. Poco-like brand of country-rock-western, guaranteed to have you bouncing in your seat.

April 29, 1972 [venue], Bayside Community College,  Bayside, Queens, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Tranquility (Saturday)
The Tranquility ad has them supporting the New Riders at Bayside Community College. Bayside was 222-05 56th Street in Bayside, in Queens. The school had been founded in 1959, and by 1965 it was part of CUNY. A Saturday night gig at a Community College followed the Cutler playbook, building fans one gig at a time, while covering expenses.

The Tranquility Billboard ad also has them supporting the New Riders on Sunday at Brown (April 30), but since the Riders opened for Mahavisnu on Friday (above) that must have been changed.

May 1 1972 Palace Theatre Waterbury CT New Riders of The Purple Sage/Henry Gross (Monday) Produced by Web LTD
Web LTD had booked the New Riders for the "Folk Festival" shows in Virginia on April 8 (above), 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 do a little damage. 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 there in September.

Henry Gross had been the original guitarist in Sha Na Na, appearing at Woodstock, but by 1972 he had gone to a more conventional solo career. He had just released his debut album on ABC/Dunhill. In 1976, Gross would have a big hit with his song "Shannon."

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, near Greenwich Village, had opened as an movie theater back in 1926. The 3500-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, Cutler would have been able to have the New Riders provide a kind of encore to the six sold-out Dead shows in March.

Tranquility 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 labelmates on the album, 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.

New Riders of The Purple Sage Status Report, May 1972
By May of 1972, the New Riders of The Purple Sage were a fully separate musical entity from the Grateful Dead, while retaining the family and business ties. Powerglide, their second Columbia album, and first without Jerry Garcia, had been released in mid-April. The New Riders had toured the Northeast that month, prime territory for newly-minted Deadheads from the hard touring the Dead and the Riders had done the previous few years. In May, the New Riders would once again travel on the Grateful Dead path, touring England, the Netherlands and Germany.

For the next post in the series (NRPS Tour History May-August 1972), see here