Friday, February 16, 2024

Chesley Millikin (1934-2001)


Jerry Garcia and Chesley Millikin, date and location unknown. I don't know the source of the photograph, nor even if Jerry was photoshopped into it. In any case, it could have been taken, or ought to have been.

The roots of 20th century rock music often gets described like ancient mythology, when gods and heroes roamed the earth, slaying dragons, freeing princesses and building castles. Figures like Jerry Garcia, Keith Richards or Bill Graham do seem almost mythical now, even if Keef is still actually with us. When industries are just starting, there are fewer participants, and they are more likely to cross paths. Yet mythological or not, even myths and legends do not cross each other's path by accident. Someone knew them both, and introduced them. Identifying the social and professional connections between historical figures is the study of prosopography. Rock Prosopography, as it applies to the Grateful Dead, and is practiced by me, focuses on how the paths of different musicians cross. It's rarely random. 

The name Chesley Millikin is only barely recognized in rock music history, half-remembered by people who have a lot of albums and read too many memoirs. Yet he was a very important guy, in Grateful Dead history, and in the histories of the Rolling Stones, Jackson Browne, Stevie Ray Vaughan and several other artists. He never wrote a memoir. Too bad--he was apparently quite a teller of tales, and what a tale he had to tell. Since Mr. Millikin (1934-2001) has traveled on, it's left to me to cobble together the pieces. I don't have anywhere near the whole Chesley Millikin story, so I'm just going to focus just on the Grateful Dead part. 

Chesley Millikin had a remarkable rock and roll career, and that isn't even the whole story. Despite only working for the Grateful Dead for a few years in the early 1970s, he made a number of important introductions for them before and during that time, and appeared to have remained in good standing with the band from 1966 through the 1990s, itself a remarkable achievement. A few, brief highlights:

  • Fall 1966: Millikin, from Dublin, IRL, was a Berkeley businessman when he saw the Grateful Dead and became friends with Danny Rifkin, Rock Scully and Pigpen
  • Summer 1969: Relocated to London, Millikin was the head of Epic Records’ European subsidiary. When Rock Scully arrived in London to meet the Rolling Stones, Chesley introduced him to Sam Cutler, who in turn introduced Rock to Keith Richards. Rock suggested a free Rolling Stones/Grateful Dead concert in San Francisco. 
  • 1971: Millikin had done some promotion work for the Grateful Dead after American Beauty. The Dead needed a laywer, and Millikin recommended his friend Hal Kant. Kant would remain the Dead's lawyer until the very end. 
  • 1972: Millikin was instrumental in working with Sam Cutler in putting together the Europe '72 tour. Afterwards, Millikin was Cutler's chief lieutenant in Out of Town Tours, booking the Grateful Dead and the New Riders of The Purple Sage and keeping the Riders on the road.  
  • 1973: Millikin gets the credit for turning Jerry Garcia on to the Chieftains, also from Dublin. The Chieftains opened for Old And In The Way, got taped by Owsley, and interviewed by Jerry, all in the space of a week or so. 
  • Summer 1974: After Sam Cutler was pushed out in a January, 1974 purge, and then the managers who replaced them (Jon McIntire, Richard Loren and Rock Scully) were then pushed out in France, Chesley Millikin and Hal Kant were left to manage the Grateful Dead, albeit only for two more months. 
  • 1979: Millikin was brought in to help manage the Manor Downs race track and concert venue, replacing old pal Sam Cutler. Millikin moved to Austin and booked the Grateful Dead there four times through the 1980s. While he was in Austin, he just happened to discover Stevie Ray Vaughan in some down and out Austin bar, and took on his management. 

So this post will review the history of Chesley Millikin and his history with the Grateful Dead, showing the prosopographical context for many seemingly random events in the band's history. I will provide some context for Millikin's history in general, though sadly not all of it. Suffice to say, there's a lot, and even I can only go so far down the rabbit hole. Anyone who has Millikin sightings, corrections, insights or fascinating speculation, please put them in the Comments.

Chesley Millikin co-managed the group Kaleidoscope. Their Epic Records debut in 1967, Side Trips, helped invent "World Music." David Lindley (RIP) upper left.

Back Story: How Did I Get Here?

The only substantial interview with Chesley Millikin that I am aware of was by no less than Dennis McNally, for his epic What A Long Strange Trip history. Although there is no transcript to my knowledge, McNally's book has more references to Millikin than any other source. Millikin's critical role can at least be discerned from McNally, and I will be referring to it often. I will proceed roughly in chronological order, but mostly I will go by topic, since otherwise the story will get diverted. The diversions are great, by the way--if only there'd been a book--but I will do my best to stay on the Grateful Dead track.

Millikin (1934-2001) was from Dublin, and he was on the Irish Olympic show jumping team. I do not know if he participated in either the 1956 (Melbourne) or 1960 (Rome) Olympics. The legend goes, however, that Millikin "jumped ship" in Vancouver, and somehow wound up in California. Millikin's older brother Cameron Millikin (1933-2013) had emigrated to New York and then Canada in 1956, making his way to Alberta by the sixties. Cameron had a long career in Alberta and Canadian politics, so I have to assume that his presence paved the way somehow for his younger brother

I don't know anything about Chesley Millikin's horse career, or if it is even true. I will note that Cameron Millikin escorted thoroughbred racehorses around the globe, so the Millikin family knew their horses. Googling around turns up various Millikins in the horse racing world. A Kerry Millikin, for example, won the bronze medal for the US in the 1996 Olympics. Make of it what you can, but I doubt it's a coincidence.

When industries are just being born, there aren't many practitioners and they usually are pretty closely connected. From a distance, we marvel how teenage Steve Jobs and Bill Gates knew each other, but that's just how it worked at the beginning of the Personal Computer era. 60s Rock and Roll wasn't much different. We think of a band like the Grateful Dead as separate from London and Los Angeles rock stars, but they were often only one step removed. Often enough, that single degree of separation was Chesley Millikin. 

Country Joe and The Fish and the Grateful Dead played Pauley Ballroom on the UC Berkeley campus on Friday, December 2, 1966. The show was produced by Bill "Jolly Blue" Ehlert, proprietor of Berkeley's Jabberwock coffee shop. This show was probably the one where Chesley Millikin met Rock Scully.

Berkeley '66
Our first firm sight of Chesley Millikin comes in 1966 Berkeley. McNally summarizes the first leg of Millikin's musical career:

Chesley was an interesting character on the Dead's scene. A little older than the band members, he'd fled his native Ireland to become a martini-guzzling businessman in Berkeley before going to a 1966 Dead concert on campus, where he fell in with Danny, Rock and Pigpen. After taking LSD for his alcoholism, he dropped out, eventually becoming the manager of a band called Kaleidoscope (which featured David Lindley), then the in-house hippie at CBS in 1968, and then Epic Records' European manager in 1969 (p437).

The source for this information was Millikin's interview with McNally. The likely date for the "campus" show was the December 2, 1966 show at Pauley Ballroom, but that's just a prudent guess. What business was Millikin in? How did he have a green card or work permit? Unknown as well. Nevertheless, the significant detail here was Chesley's early and lasting friendship with Rock Scully. Scully, of course had been the Dead's sort-of-manager since early '66, and was as close to Jerry Garcia as anybody until about '84, when he was pushed out of the Dead organization for being a "bad influence."

Some key events in Grateful Dead history seem to have happened as if by magic: the Altamont debacle, the abrupt arrival of Sam Cutler, the steadying presence of Hal Kant and so on. All of these events were not magic at all, however, but had depended on the initial friendship of Rock Scully and Chesley Millikin. Chesley introduced Rock and Sam Cutler, so while it triggered the ill-advised Altamont mess, it also brought Cutler into the fold so quickly. Hal Kant's legal advice was another steadying influence. If Rock hadn't gone back to 1966 with Chesley, none of these things would have happened.

Kaleidoscope's second album on Epic Records, A Beacon From Mars, was released in 1968

Los Angeles 1967-68

By 1967, Millikin was in Los Angeles, working in the music industry. Millikin was the co-manager of a truly legendary rock band from Claremont called Kaleidoscope. Kaleidoscope released 4 amazing albums on Epic from 1967 to 1970, and helped pioneer "World Music." No one was ready for it, unfortunately, except other musicians. Jimmy Page, for one, was a huge fan of Kaleidoscope. Once, in May 1968, the Yardbirds were playing the Fillmore, and Page later explained how between sets he walked the twelve blocks over to the Avalon just to catch Kaleidoscope. How Millikin came to be the co-manager of Kaleidoscope is lost to the mists of time.

Frazier Mohawk (l), born Barry Friedman, was Buffalo Springfield's first manager

Millikin's co-manager was another legendary character called Frazier Mohawk. Mohawk (1941-2012)--born Barry Friedman --had worked for KRLA dj Bob Eubanks (yes, of the Newlywed Game), and had done the promotion work for the Beatles 1964 appearance in Los Angeles, since the concert was promoted by Eubanks. By osmosis, Friedman then became the "house hippie" for Elektra Records, producing some early Butterfield Blues Band sides. He also helped his roommate, Stephen Stills, put together the Buffalo Springfield and he was the first manager of that band as well. Friedman had changed his name either to avoid bill collectors or because it sounded cooler. All the folkies-turned-rockers in LA knew Frazier Mohawk. He had suggested that Stills and Peter Tork audition for The Monkees, for example, and Tork got the gig (Stills had bad teeth). Jackson Browne slept on Mohawk's couch. Mohawk married singer Sandy Hurvitz, who changed her name to Essra Mohawk (she would turn up in the Jerry Garcia Band a dozen years later).

By the end of the decade, Mohawk had produced The Moray Eels Eat The Holy Modal Rounders and Nico's Marble Index, and in 1968 even got Elektra to finance an insane project in far Northern California called Paxton Ranch. The Paxton Ranch story is too nutty to believe (read Bob Segarini's summary for a taste), but the idea was that it was a remote communal studio to record Jackson Browne songs 24/7. Demos survived, but no album came of it. It was the 60s

The Poor, managed by Chesley Millikin, performing at Universal Studios in 1968. Future Eagle Randy Meisner is on bass, and future New Rider Pat Shanahan is on drums

Millikin, meanwhile, shared Kaleidoscope with Mohawk--and Jackson Browne slept some on his couch, too, which turned out to be important--but he also had his own gigs. Millikin was also the manager of a band of mostly Colorado transplants called The Poor. The Poor included bassist Randy Meisner, later in Poco and then the Eagles, and guitarist Allan Kemp and drummer Pat Shanahan. Shanahan, Kemp and Meisner were in Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band ("Garden Party"), and Shanahan and Kemp were both in the New Riders of The Purple Sage for several years in the late 1970s. Shanahan has described some of the adventures of The Poor with Millikin in an interview.

LA Free Press ad for The Magic Mushroom (111345 Ventura Boulevard), advertising Kaleidoscope performing on the weekend of January 18-21, 1968
By late 1967, Millikin was also the manager of a nightclub called The Magic Mushroom, out in Studio City, a sort of Fillmore for teenagers that was just outside of Los Angeles city limits.  The Magic Mushroom, at 11345 Ventura Boulevard, was between Sherman Oaks and Hollywood. Just to give a taste of the interconnectedness of the tiny rock scene at the time, the ontogeny of the club was that it was the former Cinnamon Cinder, a chain of teenage clubs owned by Bob Eubanks. Mohawk had run the clubs for Eubanks, insisting that bands had to play live rather than lip-sync. By the end of 1967, the Cinnamon Cinder was too uncool, so the anchor club in Studio City was transformed into the Magic Mushroom. Millikin was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times about the newly opened club on September 23, 1967. According to David Lindley, The Kaleidoscope played the Magic Mushroom regularly, as did the Hour Glass, featuring Duane and Gregg Allman.

As the Los Angeles Free Press ad above shows, Kaleidoscope, Millikin and Mohawk's band, played The Magic Mushroom on the weekend of January 18-21, 1968. Broadcasting on Sunday was "Radio Free Oz," a live comedy show on Eubanks' old station, KRLA. Radio Free Oz would evolve into the equally legendary Firesign Theater. All of these threads were in play at the same time, and Millikin was in the midst of band management with The Poor and Kaleidoscope, while running a nightclub at the same time. David Lindley said (in 2008) "Chesley was a prime mover in the whole California music thing."

Bang, Bang You're Terry Reid was Reid's 68 debut on Epic Records

1968-Epic Records London

By the end of 1968, Millikin and Frazier Mohawk were no longer managing Kaleidoscope, although the band soldiered on with an even better album (Incredible! Kaleidoscope) to even less acclaim. But Kaleidoscope had been on Epic Records, which had been conceived as a sort of specialty artistic imprint for giant Columbia Records. Columbia had decided to focus on the growing rock scene in London, so they hired Chesley Millikin to be in charge of Epic Records in London. Millikin relocated to London, leaving Kaleidoscope, The Poor and the Magic Mushroom behind.

Epic Records was a subsidiary of Columbia Records, founded in 1953 as a sort of prestige jazz and pop label. By the mid-60s, however, Epic had become the home for some more adventurous rock acts that didn't fit in with the staid entertainment professionalism of Columbia. Epic's biggest act in the US was Donovan, who was huge. We don't think of Donovan as "edgy," today, but back in 1966 he had been a long way from the Columbia mainstream. Epic was also the home of a number of "British Invasion" bands like the Dave Clark Five and The Hollies, as well as the Yardbirds. Millikin was hired to be the head of Epic in London, apparently to make them a hipper label. 

[Just to clarify some nomenclature: in the States, Columbia Records was a subsidiary of CBS, the parent company of the Columbia Broadcasting System TV and radio network. In the UK, however, the "Columbia Records" trademark was owned by EMI, so albums released on Columbia in the US were released on CBS Records in the UK. CBS Records UK was also a subsidiary of the US CBS parent. But—make a note—UK EMI-Columbia, not a CBS company, released their albums on Epic in the US.]

Sam Cutler, meanwhile, gotten into the rock and roll business, and was helping produce free concerts in Hyde Park in London. It's no surprise that Chesley and Sam would meet in the close-knit world of London rock and rollers, but we don't know how precisely that occurred. In the Summer of '68, Cutler had started working for the firm of Blackhill Enterprises, who managed Pink Floyd and promoted concerts. In the Summers of '68 and '69, Cutler had the principal duty of putting together free concerts in Hyde Park. Major acts headlined the Hyde Park shows, including the debut of Blind Faith (June 7 ‘69) and the debut of Mick Taylor with the Rolling Stones (July 5 ‘69). As a result of working with the Rolling Stones at Hyde Park, Cutler ended up as tour manager for the band’s 1969 US Tour.

Ralph Gleason's column in the SF Chronicle August 27, 1969
June 1969: Rock Scully Visits England
Grateful Dead co-manager Rock Scully's momentous visit to London in Summer '69 was described in detail in both Rock's and Sam's books. Sam Cutler had called Rock, probably bearing the imprimatur of Millikin, to propose that the Dead and the Airplane should come over to play a free concert in Hyde Park. Cutler said (as recalled by Rock, though not by anyone else):

"Wot abowt you bleedin' wankers commin' over 'ere and doin' a bit of jumpin' around wif guitars and other folly, eh darlin'?" Sam Cutler is on the line and wants to know what I think of the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane doing some free concerts in Hyde Park. They'll pick up the hotel costs and airfare and take care of the technical stuff...I am being sent as the front man, representing the Dead and the Airplane to "suss out" (in the phrase of the day) how the money would work, if it could really be done and whether it is worth doing." (p176).

Scully flies over to London in late June 1969, and gets busted by Customs for smuggling LSD. He is in the airport jail over the weekend, but fellow traveler Frankie Hart (later known as Frankie Weir) calls Cutler. Per Rock, "Sam calls Chesley Millikin" who's currently vice president of Epic Records in Britain, and on Monday Chesley gets me out." Cutler, in his book, tells the story slightly differently:

I got a call from my close friend Chesley Millikin, the former European head of Epic Records. He invited me to accompany him to Heathrow, where we were to collect an American friend he wanted me to meet. Though I was madly busy, Chesley wouldn't take no for an answer and he duly arrived in his wonderful old Bentley and we drove to the airport in magnificent style, smoking a large joint...

At the police station, we collected Chesley's friend, who turned out to be Rock Scully, one of the managers of the San Franciscan band the Grateful Dead....Rock was to swan around London and I saw very little of him, but he met up with Keith Richards, having been introduced by Chesley Millikin. It was at that meeting, at Keith's house in Cheyne Walk, that the idea of the Stones doing a free concert in California was first broached. No one seemed too enthusiastic as far as I could tell, but the idea would eventually come back to haunt the Stones [p.52]

Dennis McNally tells the story, too (p339), and his version in turn is slightly different than either Cutler's or Scully's versions. Even in my brief excerpts, you'll note that everyone's memory is fuzzy on the exact sequence of phone calls and meetings, but the essential fact was that Chesley was the link between Sam and Rock.

SF Good Times ad from September 5, 1969, where the Family Dog announces "a jam with members of 3 groups we're not allowed to name." Grateful Dead, New Riders and Jefferson Airplane played Friday, September 6, and the Dead played on the 7th as well. The 7th also featured jams with Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen, Jerry Garcia, Joey Covington and others.

On August 27, Ralph Gleason's column in the San Francisco Chronicle announced that the Dead and the Airplane (along with Crosby, Stills and Nash and Joni Mitchell) were going to play a free concert in Hyde Park on September 7. Needless to say, they did not, but Gleason's source was clearly an optimistic Rock Scully. In fact, the Dead and the Airplane played two stealthy weekend shows at the Family Dog on The Great Highway. Owsley had the foresight to tape the music.

The history of the Altamont concert needs no recounting here, but its one of the most infamous and influential events in 60s rock history. Without Chesley Millikin, there wasn't a link between Rock Scully and Sam Cutler, and no access to Keith Richards. That alone makes Millikin an important rock figure, and we aren't even out of the 1960s yet. 

In his excellent book (You Can't Always Get What You Want [2008: ECW Press]), Cutler describes in horrifying detail how Altamont goes bad, how he takes the blame, and how he ends up staying in San Francisco to become the tour manager of the Grateful Dead. It was Cutler who organized the Dead's chaotic finances and finds a way to tour profitably. Without Cutler, the Dead would not have recovered from the financial debacle wrought by manager Lenny Hart. Without Millikin, Cutler never meets the Dead, and the future of the band after 1969 would have been in question.

Terry Reid's second album, on EMI-Columbia in the UK released 1969. A different version of this album was released on Epic in the States as Superlungs My Supergirl

Terry Reid
Somewhere around the middle of 1969, Millikin had the responsibility of managing the career of the English guitarist and singer Terry Reid. Reid was signed to EMI-Columbia, but they were distributed by Epic Records in the States. It remains unclear whether Millikin was handling Reid on behalf of Epic, or was actually Reid's manager (you'll note that Scully and Cutler's quotes above state different things), and if so when his actual role switched. For our purposes here, it only matters that Millikin was close to Reid and actively assisted in promoting his career, whether as Record exec or manager. Cutler:

A couple of days later I was at dinner with Chesley and Jo Bergman, who managed the Stones' office. Chesley was the personal manager of Terry Reid, who although he was still very young, was in many people's opinion one of the greatest vocalists England had produced. Chesley was talking to Jo about the possibility of Terry getting a support slot on a Stones tour of America. The Stones were getting a lot of pressure from their record company to cross the pond [p52]  

Terry Reid (b 1949) was from greater Cambridge, and first became known as the guitarist for Peter Jay and The Jaywalkers, when they opened for a Rolling Stones UK Tour in 1966. He met Graham Nash, then of the Hollies, who helped get him a contract with EMI (Columbia in the UK).  Reid was an exceptional guitarist, a powerful singer and handsome as well. He had some chart success, and he came under the management of the famous hitmaking producer Mickie Most. Most (born Michael Hayes) had been a pop star in South Africa in the early 60s, which is how he acquired the stage name. By the mid-60s, he was a hugely successful pop producer, scoring big hits with Herman's Hermits, The Animals, Donovan and many others. 

Most's principal lieutenant was ex-wrestler Peter Grant, who acted as road manager for Most's bands. Most had signed the Yardbirds, and had taken Jeff Beck solo, but the Yardbirds were falling apart. Lead guitarist Jimmy Page, who played on many of Most's hits, was forming a band with bassist John Paul Jones, another veteran Most session man. Most was tired of rock groups, so Peter Grant was going to take Page's new band and manage them.

A Baltimore Sun ad for The Rolling Stones, BB King and Terry Reid at the Baltimore Civic Center, November 26, 1969

Terry Reid's eternal fame, for all his talent, stems from a Fall 1968 lunch he had with Jimmy Page, when Page offered him the job of lead singer in his new band. Reid was counting on money from touring with the Rolling Stones upcoming American tour, however, and didn't want to take a flyer on Page's new band. So--Terry Reid turned down Led Zeppelin. As a courtesy, however, Reid told Jimmy about a singer he had seen in the Midlands who kind of sounded like him. Page went to see the singer, signed up Robert Plant and his drummer John Bonham, and the rest was history. Reid was the opening on the Stones' US Tour, though. 

By 1970, Reid had toured America with both Cream (in 1968) and the Rolling Stones (in 1969) and played a bunch of rock festivals, and put out two really good albums that hadn't sold. Reid could see how rock was going, and he was ready to move towards sounding like Jeff Beck or Led Zeppelin, but his producer Mickie Most wouldn't have it. Most wanted Reid to make three-minute pop singles, and Reid refused, so Most wouldn't record him. The only way Reid could make any money was by touring, but his old band (organist Pete Solley and drummer Keith Webb) had left him. So Reid needed a new band, and only had a bass player. Lee Miles had played with Ike & Tina Turner when they, too, had opened for the 1969 Stones tour, and he had signed up with Reid. 

Meanwhile, in March, 1970, David Lindley had left Kaleidoscope, who promptly disintegrated anyway. Although Millikin was no longer Kaleidoscope's manager, he arranged to have Lindley write a letter to Reid offering his services. Lindley, along with about two dozen instruments, came over to England to tour with Terry Reid. Reid, Lindley, Lee Miles and various drummers (Bruce Rowland, Tim Davis and Alan White) toured the US and UK in 1970 and '71

Millikin had also facilitated the connection between Lindley and his former couch-surfer Jackson Browne. According to Lindley, back in 1968, when Millikin was still working with Kaleidoscope,  Lindley was at the CBS Record Convention in Century City with Chesley, and Lindley gave Jackson a ride home. Later, Millikin told Lindley "[Jackson]'s really good. [He] writes incredible songs." Subsequently (the exact timing is uncertain), Lindley played fiddle supporting Browne at the Troubadour, spontaneously, and later played with him in Cambridge as well. Jackson was in England recording, and Lindley was working with Terry Reid. They agreed to get together in LA if they had the chance. In 1972, they did. Chalk another one up for Chesley Millikin. 

1971: Return To The States
Whether Millikin was still working for Epic in London, Terry Reid's manager, or something else, we finally sight him again at the end of 1970. By the end of that year, the Grateful Dead were rather unexpectedly dealing with some success on FM radio, having released Workingman's Dead in June and American Beauty in November. "Truckin'" even has some hope as an AM hit single, and Rock Scully described the band's next step:

"Truckin'" is the first song we think could be a hit so we hire the best "hit men" in the business. First we hire Chesley Millikin away from Epic Records to help us make "Truckin'" a hit...and through Chesley I meet a guy who is one of the most successful record pushers and AM radio fixers in the business" (p193).

In the parlance of the time, Millikin would likely have been an "independent promoter," paid for by the Dead but neither their employee nor Warner Brothers’. In any case, this seems to have facilitated Millikin's return to the US. 

In 1971, Millikin's seemingly magical ability to know everybody you might need to know pays another huge dividend for the Grateful Dead. By 1971, the band were actually making money, with two hit albums and Sam Cutler leading a profitable touring operation. The Dead's unique approach to business and troubled managerial history made a good lawyer imperative. They hired Hal Kant, and he remained their attorney until the very end. And how did the band find out about Kant? McNally:

[Hal Kant] joined a small Beverly Hills law firm that happened to be next door to the William Morris Agency, and eventually began to add entertainment clients to his list. One day late in the 1960s, a "charming psychopath" friend of his from graduate school had brought to Hal's home another charming rogue, Chesley Millikin. Chesley was quite taken by Hal, and was a close friend of Rock Scully, so when the band sought an attorney in 1971, Hal's name came up. (p422)

Europe '72

It's not quite clear what Chesley Millikin was doing for the balance of 1971, or even what continent he lived on. Maybe he was still doing independent promotion for the Grateful Dead, or maybe something else. Yet he turns up again in Grateful Dead circles by early 1972. Sam Cutler had been working on the Dead's mammoth "Europe '72" tour starting in late 1971. As Jesse Jarnow's Deadcast series so aptly explains, Cutler had to effectively invent a network of promoters in different European countries to execute the tour. Millikin turns up in the tale by the time Europe '72 is in its final planning stages, so he may have been there all along. In any case, Millikin was Cutler's henchman in making sure that the Dead concerts in multiple countries came off on a timely basis.

A late 1973 flyer for Out of Town Tours. While it's a stretch to argue that The Band were OOT clients, The Band only played three live shows in 1973, and Cutler had booked all of them. Note that Merl Saunders' name has an incorrect spelling. The New Riders are not listed, as they had moved over to another booking agent by the end of 1973 (Ron Rainey of Magma).

1973: Out of Town Tours
Sam Cutler had always been a very active Tour Manager for the Grateful Dead. He had a hand in booking and arranging tours from the time of his arrival (February 1970), rather than merely just wrangling the crew from town to town. After the Europe '72 tour, the Grateful Dead decided to break free of ties to any record company, letting their Warner Brothers contract expire and starting their own labels. At the same time, they took their booking and travel in-house as well, starting a Travel Agency (Fly-By-Night Travel) and a booking agency. Thus the fees that would have gone outside the band's circle stayed inside, as friends, wives and girlfriends were the employees of the Travel and Booking agencies. 

Sam Cutler was the head of Out of Town Tours, but also remained the Grateful Dead's road manager. Chesley Millikin was Cutler's chief deputy, managing the office when Cutler was absorbed in Grateful Dead duties. Millikin also had principal responsibility for booking the New Riders Of The Purple Sage. Garcia had left the New Riders after Fall 1971, but Jon McIntire was still co-manager of the Riders. The New Riders were on Columbia rather than Warners, so there was an entirely different set of relationships. The New Riders followed the Cutler playbook, touring colleges and different regions in order to build an audience, and did so quite successfully. They scored a big hit with their Adventures of Panama Red album, released in October 1973. Millikin's presence allowed the New Riders to get the attention they deserved (I have discussed the New Riders 1972 and '73 touring schedule in great detail elsewhere). 

Out Of Town Tours had grand ambitions that were never met. It appears that some finance for the agency was provided by Cutler's girlfriend, Frances Carr. Frances Carr, inevitably described as a "leggy heiress," apparently came from a family made wealthy by oil, but I don't know how much access she had to the fortune. Carr had been part of what was known as "The Pleasure Crew," a loose bunch of wealthy dilettantes who could afford to simply follow the Grateful Dead around and stay high. One of the most infamous of The Pleasure Crew, "Loose Bruce" Baxter, was supposedly Carr's half-brother.

Chesley Millikin played a central role at Out of Town Tours from the very beginning. An early 1973 press release describes the original set-up (emphasis mine):

Press Release February 1973
Out of Town Tours was born during the European Tour of the Grateful Dead in 1972. The album "Europe 72" was recorded on that tour and bears our company logo on its cover.

After the tour, Sam Cutler, the Road Manager of the Dead formed Out of Town Tours to handle bookings for the band and to co-ordinate all personal appearance activities. The New Riders joined us in December, 1972 and the Sons in January of this year. Since then, the family has been re-united with Ramblin Jack, an old friend, and Terry Reid, who warbled way back in '69 on The Rolling Stones American tour.

Fine artists, with whom we enjoy a groovy relationship, are the backbone of our trip. All of the staff at Out of Town tours are folks who left the regular music business to create a more humane and meaningful trip.

A call to either myself or Chesley Millikin for the New Riders of The Purple Sage, Terry Reid & Jack Elliott will produce amazing results, and at the same time please rap to me regarding the Dead and the Sons Of Champion.

We keep our office open from 10 in the morning until 6 at night for five days a week. On the weekends we play!

Millikin had brought his old charge Terry Reid into the fold. Reid was based in Los Angeles, where he would mostly live from 1972 onwards. Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records had purchased Reid's contract, freeing him from Mickie Most. Reid would release the album River in 1973, which included tracks recorded with David Lindley, even though Lindley had already begun his historic association with Jackson Browne in 1972. I'm not actually aware of any Terry Reid tour dates in 1973 (please advise in the Comments if you know of any), however. By year's end, based on the flyer above (with The Band), Terry Reid was no longer on the Out of Town Tours roster. Reid had a series of health problems that made his touring and recording intermittent, despite his undeniable talent. Millikin's loyalty to Reid, however, was a clear mark of how Chesley kept his friendships seemingly forever. 

October 1973: The Chieftains
The Chieftains had been formed in Dublin in 1962, and were the premier worldwide exponents of traditional Irish music. While The Chieftains would release their 4th album in 1973 (Chieftains 4), like all their records up to that time they were released on the Irish label Claddagh. Chieftains albums were only available as imported records in the United States. Although Millikin had not lived in Dublin for many years, thanks to his experience with Kaleidoscope and David Lindley, he would not have failed to be aware of traditional music from his homeland.

According to numerous accounts, Millikin introduced Jerry Garcia to the music of The Chieftains. The musically omnivorous Garcia loved them, of course, but in 1973 The Chieftains' albums were only available as imports, and they had never toured the States. It's a mark of Millikin's status that Garcia would listen to what Chesley suggested--you have to figure that half of Marin County was always ready to tell Jerry what album he should listen to. 

Garcia was so enthusiastic about The Chieftains, however, that he underwrote their initial US tour (which I take to mean that he guaranteed against any losses). He also arranged to have them open for Old And In The Way at The Boarding House, and interviewed some members of The Chieftains on KSAN. Garcia was a genuine San Francisco rock star, by any calculation, and for a band on their first tour his endorsement must have made a huge difference. The Chieftains music was so good, however, that once the word had spread, they went on to worldwide fame. In 2022, the Owsley Stanley Foundation released a cd set of The Chieftains's Boarding House show

1974-76: Grateful Dead Records
In January 1974, Sam Cutler and Out of Town Tours were pushed out of the Grateful Dead orbit. It's not really clear what happened, but there was some kind of internal power struggle involving money. Some parties seemed to feel that OOT was charging too much. Cutler was very angry at Jerry Garcia for not taking his side, and never spoke to him again. Decades later, with all surviving parties reminiscing on The Deadcast, everyone respects Cutler's professionalism, and his importance in the survival of the Grateful Dead. Cutler, for his part, doesn't overtly criticize his rivals, and only has kind words for Garcia.

With Out of Town tours removed, Rock Scully and Richard Loren took over the booking. Since the New Riders had left OOT some months earlier, thanks to new management (Joe Kerr, a college roommate of Commander Cody), that would seem to have left Chesley Millikin out in the cold. Yet the very opposite seems to have been the case, although I am hard pressed to say exactly what role Millikin played in the Dead’s operations.

From what little evidence I can find, Millikin played an important role in Grateful Dead Records, and probably its sister, Round Records. As one of the few people in the Grateful Dead organization with actual record company experience--possibly the only one--he would have been important. Since Millikin was seemingly friends with everyone and knew the players on multiple continents, it's obvious why he would have been important. But it's hard to find out what anyone did at or for Grateful Dead Records, not just Chesley.

After Sam Cutler was pushed out in January 1974, the Dead were managed by Jon McIntire. I believe Rock Scully had the dominant role in booking, but I'm not even certain of that. The members of the Dead were not happy with the situation, however. When the Dead toured Europe in 1974, albeit rather briefly, things really fell apart. In Munich in September, a temptestuous meeting led to Bill Kreutzmann forcing out McIntire, who simply quit. The rest of the band went along with Kreutzmann. McNally describes the scene, based on Millikin's recollection:

One night in Munich there was a confrontation between Lesh and Kreutzmann on the one hand and the management--McIntire, Loren and Scully--on the other, "a knock-down-drag-out," as Millikin put it. Kreutzmann was at this time part of what John Barlow called the "neo-cocaine cowboy aesthetic" that characterized one chunk of the crew, and the aesthetic had no affinity for an intellectual like McIntire. After plenty of abuse, McIntire had had enough and quit.

The next morning Chesley met Hal Kant in the hotel lobby and asked him "What are you looking so forlorn for?"
"Don't you known, didn't you hear?""No, what?" said Chesley.
"The band fired their management last night."
"No kidding. Who's management now?" Asked Chesley.
"You are," said Hal. [p476]

Chesley and Hal Kant shepherded the Dead through the three remaining European shows, and the "Last Five Nights" at Winterland.  

After October 1974, the Grateful Dead saw themselves as a recording entity with a record company, not a performing band. The individual members performed, at least some of them, but the Dead weren't a touring entity. Millikin played an important part, whatever it might have been.

The Paxton Brothers 1975 album on Anchor Records. This is Chesley Millikin's only credit on Discogs (as "Coordinator") save for an archival Stevie Ray Vaughan album

We get another sighting of Chesley Millikin in an unexpected place. A lengthy post by singer James Paxton, of the Paxton Brothers, fondly recalls Chesley and his career. The Paxton Brothers were a sort of country-rock duo, and they released a self-titled 1975 album on Anchor Records. Chesley Millikin gets a credit on the back of the album, as "Coordinator" (old buddy David Lindley also appears on the record). For the record, this is Millikin's only appearance on save for an archival Stevie Ray Vaughan album. 

James Paxton says that Chesley Millikin booked the Paxton Brothers during the 1974-76 period, although he assigns him to Out of Town Tours, which no longer existed. This means that Millikin's booking was kind of a "side hustle," a relatively common thing in the record industry. Grateful Dead Records wouldn't have paid much, so working on something else makes sense. Millikin may have had a role in helping to book some of the other Round Records act, too, like Keith & Donna or Robert Hunter, but that's just an assumption on my part. 

In any case, Grateful Dead Records collapsed in mid-1976, with Ron Rakow taking off with most of the money (around $225,000). McNally said "the most disappointed person in the whole mess was possibly Chesley Millikin, who had actual record company experience and who was a true believer in the Dead" (p492). So Millikin was part of Grateful Dead/Round right up until the end, having survived the peaks and valleys until the money finally ran out. From 1976 to '79, I can't find any indicator of what Chesley Millikin might have been doing or even where he lived.

The Manor Downs team, ca 1977. Sam Cutler with cowboy hat, and Frances Carr is on the far right (Watt Casey photo via Michael Corcoran)
Meanwhile, Back In Texas
Sam Cutler had been pushed out of the Grateful Dead orbit in January 1974. Out of Town Tours, needless to say, was closed for business. A year later, however, Cutler turned up outside of Austin, TX. Cutler and Frances Carr's new venture was restoring a quarter-horse track called Manor Downs, east of Austin and just outside the small town of Manor. This was a very peculiar project, in many ways decades ahead of its time and of course, fated to be fondly remembered and financially dubious. Naturally, a good time was had by everyone.

The best summary of the Manor Downs saga has been provided by journalist Michael Corcoran, part of his ongoing work at writing the history of the Austin, TX, music scene

Out of Town partner Frances Carr, an oil heiress from Corpus Christi, came back to Texas and bought a dormant 1960’s horse track 12 miles east of Austin called Manor Downs. She was “through with show biz,” she told the Statesman in March 1975, which is what the regulatory boards and conservative Manor neighbors wanted to hear.
Managed by her boyfriend and O.T.T. partner Sam Cutler (of Altamont notoriety) the Downs would be an equine-training facility, with quarter horse racing on weekends. It was also pitched as the new home for the Travis County Fair and Livestock Show, which Austin’s City Coliseum proved woefully inadequate to handle. The renovated Manor Downs debuted in May 1977, and just five months later, the Dead played the infield of the racetrack for the first of five shows there in the next eight years. The track’s new slogan was “Horse Racing and Rock and Roll.” ...

The setup at Manor Downs was unconventional, but Cutler as usual saw the future before others did. Manor Downs was a "quarter horse" track, where the horses raced in a quarter mile sprint, rather than the  oval typical of the Kentucky Derby-like "thoroughbred" races. Thoroughbred races, what most people are referring to when they think of "horse racing," typically range from 5/8 of a mile to 1 1/2 miles. The Kentucky Derby, for example, covers 1 1/4 mile. 

Quarter Horse racing, however, uses a much shorter track, and the races are generally 440 yards (a quarter of a mile, hence the name of the sport). The straight, 400-meter Quarter Horse track thus provides a form of Equine drag racing. Quarter Horses race much faster than Thoroughbreds, though obviously for shorter distances. Manor Downs was a quarter horse track. Cutler's idea was to re-establish the horse racing, and use the races as entertainment while presenting rock and roll concerts. Cutler had effectively hit on the Indian Casino model, several years before it became conventional around the country. The expanding rock market needed venues, but at the same time rock fans wanted something more to do at a concert site than just enter, listen and leave. The original concept, apparently, was that Manor Downs would be a horse training (and boarding) facility as well as a kind of fairgrounds, and the concerts and horse racing fit into the fairgrounds model.

One peculiar barrier for Manor Downs was that it did not have a gambling license. So patrons could watch the horses race, but couldn't gamble on them. This defies any economic logic. I can't help but think there were kindly locals willing to take a wager on any of the horses, and that perhaps these kind locals had some agreement with Manor Downs management. I have no evidence, of course, but all I can say is that if I can figure it out, the perpetually shrewd Mr Cutler was no doubt way ahead of me. Because of Texas racing rules, Manor Downs could only have horse races 44 calendar days a year. 

The first major concert at Manor Downs featured no less than the Grateful Dead, on October 12, 1977. In some ways this was historic, the Grateful Dead presented by Sam Cutler, the re-introduction of one of the most critical figures in the Dead's touring history. All was clearly not golden, however. Cutler does not mention the event at all in his book. He also pointedly says, after he was fired, that his anger was such that he never spoke to Garcia again. It's striking to think that he ran the venue the Dead played at, and somehow never actually spoke with Jerry, which tells me it was a conscious choice. 

The first Manor Downs show must have gone alright, because the band returned, but not for four more years, when Cutler had departed for Australia. Draw your own conclusions. The real connection between the Grateful Dead and Manor Downs seems to have been Frances Carr. Apparently there was a large house (or group of houses) attached to the Manor Downs site, and Carr lived there. When the Grateful Dead played the venue, they stayed there rather than a hotel, a fairly unique arrangement. 

For the purposes of this story, however, the key event seems to be that around 1979 Cutler left Manor Downs, moving to Australia. Presumably he and Carr were no longer a couple. To replace him, Carr brought in Chesley Millikin. Millikin, you will recall, not only had a great rock and roll pedigree, he was a veteran horseman as well. His experience on the Irish Jumping team must have served him well in managing a racetrack. The timing is a little uncertain--Millikin may have come on board in 1978, and Cutler may not have left until 1980, but in any case Chesley became an Austin resident. 

Millikin and Carr promoted the Grateful Dead at Manor Downs (in association with John Scher, of course) four times: July 4 '81, July 31 '82, September 13 '83 and August 31 '85. The shows are fondly remembered on the Archive, and elsewhere. After 1985, the Grateful Dead were not only too large for Manor Downs, but basically gave up on Texas. They did not play Texas after 1988.

Manor Downs’ last really big concert was Farm Aid II, on July 4, 1986, which was also Willie Nelson's annual picnic. It was shown live on VH1, and it featured Willie, Stevie Ray Vaughan and many others. Afterwards, Frances Carr converted Manor Downs to a horse racing track with parimutuel betting, and it was a full thoroughbred track, not just quarter horses. Rock and roll was no more at Manor Downs. 

Stevie Ray Vaughan opened for Bobby & The Midnites at Manor Downs on May 31, 1982. Stevie Ray was unsigned at the time, but Chesley Millikin had made him known to Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones

1980-93: Chesley Millikin in Austin
Millikin had moved to Austin, TX, in 1979 or '80 in order to help manage Manor Downs. Yet he had a huge impact, far beyond just the concert site. Even a casual search of Austin music during that period turns up Millikin's name in numerous places. His impeccable taste, legendary connections and universal charm made him an important man to know. The Austin music scene is worthy of a book in itself (Michael Corcoran may be writing it, I hope), so I will limit myself just to a few Millikin notes.

The most important story about Millikin in Austin was that Chesley and Frances were interested in management. Carr had capital, and Chesley had Chesley. Millikin's most famous discovery was Stevie Ray Vaughan, playing blazing blues guitar every night in crummy Austin bars. Millikin heard Vaughan at some dumps (The Steamboat and The Rome Inn) and signed him to Classic Management, his firm with Carr. Around April 1982, Mick Jagger and his wife Jerry Hall came to Manor Downs to watch the horses, and Millikin showed Mick a VHS of Vaughan playing in some club. We'd all like to show Mick a video of our favorite artist, but Millikin actually got to do it. An intrigued Jagger wanted to see Vaughan live. 

Millikin flew Stevie Ray and his band to New York to play a private showcase for the Stones, with an eye to getting them signed to Rolling Stones' Records. The tiny show was written up in New York papers, and even though Jagger passed on signing him ("blues doesn't sell"), Vaughan became a name of sorts. Millikin managed to get him on the bill at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Summer '82. Recording contracts and success followed. Plenty of musicians and managers had already heard and recorded Stevie Ray Vaughan prior to 1982, but it took Millikin to get him in front of the Rolling Stones and on to the Montreaux Jazz Festival bill. 

By 1986, Stevie Ray Vaughan was a huge success, but he was struggling with drug and alcohol addictions. Millikin regretfully stepped away from managing Vaughan, because he did not want to get the phone call that Vaughan had destroyed himself. As it happened, Vaughan died in a helicopter crash in 1990 on the way to a performance, a sad ending way too soon.

All The Rage, Ian McLagan's tale of Small Faces, Faces and all his friends. A must read.

1990 Coda: Ian McLagan
After 1986, Chesley Millikin was no longer running Manor Downs, nor was he managing Stevie Ray Vaughan's career. Still, he was an important man in rock and roll Austin. His most prominent client was English legend Ronnie Lane, who had moved from England to Houston in '84. in the hopes of managing his multiple sclerosis. Lane, much beloved by Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton and others, had been hugely successful in the Small Faces, The Faces and as a solo artist until his MS had slowed him down. When Houston didn't pan out, Millikin persuaded him to move to Austin for the mild climate, and also managed Lane's musical career. Lane's final performance was in 1992. He moved to Colorado (funded by Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood and Jimmy Page), and died in 1997.

Chesley Millikin wasn't managing major acts after '86, but he still knew everybody. Unlike many people in the entertainment business, all friends of Chesley Millikin always remained thus, and he could always get his phone calls returned. Ian McLagan was the keyboard player for both the Small Faces and Faces, and he had also toured with the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt and too many others to count. In his must-read autobiography All The Rage (2000), McLagan mentioned that in 1990 Millikin called him with the opportunity to audition with the Grateful Dead for the chance to replace Brent Mydland. Despite Millinkin's promise of a minimum o f$250K a year, McLagan turned it down (I wrote about the auditions elsewhere), but the point for this saga was that 15 years after working with the Dead, living 2000 miles away, Millikin was still in the band's loop.

In 1993, Millikin was diagnosed with cancer and retired to Indian Wells, CA. He made it to 2001. His departure was much mourned, but not as widely as it should have been. Millikin was a crucial link for the Grateful Dead, Jackson Browne, Stevie Ray Vaughan and many others, all of which must make up for Altamont somehow.

Friday, November 24, 2023

New Riders of The Purple Sage Tour History May-September 1973 (NRPS V)


 Riders Of The Purple Sage Tour History, May-September 1973 (NRPS V)
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 had 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 still part of the Grateful Dead's business operation. Grateful Dead tours were booked by their in-house 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 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 first post focused on the New Riders' performance history from January to April, 1972. The next post focused on the New Riders' performance history from May through August 1972, then the New Riders' performance history from September through December 1972, and then the New Riders' performance history from January through April 1973. This post will focus on the New Riders' performance history from May through September 1973. Anyone with additions, corrections, insights or just interesting speculation, please include them in the Comments. Flashbacks welcome.

Gypsy Cowboy, the third album by the New Riders of The Purple Sage (Columbia Records December 1972). The title (and title track) were inspired by a hippie boutique in St. Louis.

New Riders of The Purple Sage Status Report, May 1, 1973

By May, 1973, the New Riders of The Purple Sage had released three albums on Columbia Records, all of which had been moderately successful. The band had established themselves as a successful touring entity independent of Jerry Garcia. They were inevitably associated with the Grateful Dead, which was not at all a bad thing, but it made it harder to establish a fully separate identity. Long-haired country rock seemed to be rising in popularity, although no one suspected that the Outlaw Country sound coming out of Austin at this time would supersede it. The New Riders were becoming an established act in the Northeast, able to fill the smaller halls and college gyms that the Grateful Dead had been filling just a few years earlier.

The New Riders were now a tight live band, playing two-hour shows that were a mix of old and new material, originals and covers. John Dawson was still the focal point, but Dave Torbert's singing and writing made a nice contrast. David Nelson sang the occasional country cover, too, just to widen the band's scope. The record industry was booming, the concert industry was booming, the New Riders were good and signed to a major record label. By any reasonable standard, the future looked very bright for the band in the middle of 1973.

The New Riders were still part of the Grateful Dead family, and not just socially. Grateful Dead manager Jon McIntire shared the same duties for the New Riders, along with NRPS road manager Dale Franklin. McIntire was the principal go-between for the record companies, while Franklin dealt with the day-to-day. The Riders were booked by Sam Cutler and Out-Of-Town Tours, who also booked the Dead. By booking 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 in his book as "Mustang Sally," perhaps a reference to her 428ci Ford Mustang). Travel arrangements were made by the Grateful Dead's in-house agency, Fly By Night Travel.

The New Riders of The Purple Sage, May-September 1973
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)
May 1, 1973 Ahmanson Theater, Los Angeles, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show/Bruce Springsteen (Tuesday) 
The New Riders’ Northeastern tour had ended in the second week of April, and the band had returned to California and took most of the month off, prior to a run along the West Coast later in May. In between, however, there was one extremely interesting performance in downtown Los Angeles, a reminder that the hippie New Riders were signed to a very big corporation.

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

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

The New Riders played Tuesday, May 1, headlining the show over Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show. Dr. Hook had released their album Sloppy Seconds, which included their most famous single, “Cover Of The Rolling Stone." Opening the show, however, was one Bruce Springsteen, who had released his debut album Greetings From Asbury Park in January 1973. Columbia recorded and filmed all the Ahmamnson shows professionally. Bits and pieces of all seven nights have turned up over the years. A tape of the five-song Springsteen set has circulated for decades, a fragment of the video even turned up in a 1998 BBC documentary, and one song has turned up on the internet, so the video at least exists.

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

If any one artist captured the essence of what the week was really about it was Bruce Springsteen. Latest in Columbia's recent acquisitions of singer-songwriters (Bill Quateman & Andy Pratt) he has an appeal that borders on the universal...a glowing and vibrant performer in his own right.
Conversely, the reviewer was scathing about Dr Hook, calling them "insufferably self-indulgent...instrumental sloppiness and vocal insipidity did nothing to salvage their performance."

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

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

So Bob Weir made his last appearance with the New Riders, and Keith and Donna played yet another gig with the band, lending a little star power to the proceedings. This was never nothing in status-conscious LA. Also, given that we know the Springsteen material exists, it's just possible that there is professional audio and video of the May 1 NRPS Ahmanson show, deep in the Columbia vaults.

May 8, 1973 Churchill High School Gym, Eugene, OR: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Old and In The Way (Tuesday)
Pacific Presentations had booked the Grateful Dead for three shows in the Pacific Northwest in May of 1973, in the biggest arenas available (May 3-Portland Coliseum, May 5-PNE Vancouver and May 7-Seattle Center). Bill Kreutzmann had cut his finger, however, so  the shows were rescheduled for June. The interesting detail was that the New Riders were booked for two shows in Oregon, with Old And In The Way as the opening act, right after the scheduled May shows. Since Sam Cutler booked the Dead and, the New Riders.

The Grateful Dead shows were rescheduled, but Garcia kept the Old And In The Way dates. Cutler replicated the Dead's strategy from before, booking one show in Eugene and one in Portland. He also booked the Riders into the Paramount in Portland, where the Dead had played the Summer before. Cutler regularly booked the New Riders into smaller theaters around the country where the Dead had played previously, taking advantage of relationships with promoters and fans that had already been established.

Note that Old And In The Way is noted on the poster as "Brand New Bluegrass Ensemble." No mention of Jerry Garcia. No doubt the crowd was surprised to see Jerry there playing banjo. 

May 9, 1973 Paramount Theater, Portland, OR: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Old And In The Way (Wednesday)
Back in '72, the Grateful Dead had played the Paramount Northwest Theater in Seattle, so the New Riders were following the Cutler playbook. The Paramount Portland Theater (now the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall) had been built as a movie theater in 1928. Located at 1037 SW Broadway, it seated about 3,000. It had shown its last movie in 1972, when it was converted to a concert hall.

Per an eyewitness, there were about 1500 fans in attendance. That's actually pretty good for a Wednesday night. The eyewitness  said (per Jerrybase), "it didn't seem to be much of a secret that Garcia was in town to play, but most thought he would be doing his steel guitar thing with the New Riders." The New Riders did have a guest, though--Old and In The Way fiddler Richard Greene sat in with the New Riders. Most people didn't know that Greene had been in a bluegrass band in Los Angeles with David Nelson (the Pine Valley Boys) back in '64. Greene had played a little bit on Gypsy Cowboy, so he had remained connected with the band. Darlene DiDomenico, another band friend (both a singer and a Grateful Dead staff employee, I believe for the Fly-By-Night travel agency), sang on a few numbers. She, too, had been on Gypsy Cowboy

May 11, 1973 ABC In Concert Broadcast, New Riders from Bananafish Gardens, Brooklyn, NY on March 22, 1973
The New Riders didn't perform on Friday night, but they may as well have. Back on March 22, the band had recorded a set at the Bananafish Gardens in Brooklyn (known back in 1970 as the 46th St Rock Palace). They were filming for ABC In Concert, the groundbreaking Friday night 90-minute concert show on ABC. I have written about this show elsewhere, but speaking as a suburban teenager, I cannot emphasize how amazing it was to see actual rock bands with their real live rigs playing in front of a live audience. I already had the first three NRPS albums, but I had never seen the band on stage, not even a picture—I was totally awestruck when they rocked out on "Willie And The Hand Jive." I had no idea.

This Friday night broadcast would have been a huge factor in introducing the New Riders to a broad national audience, just as it was every other Friday night for every band that appeared on ABC In Concert at 11:30 pm.

May 12, 1973 Freeborn Hall, UC Davis, Davis, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Ramblin' Jack Elliott  (Saturday)
Freeborn Hall, built in 1961 as Assembly Hall, was the main auditorium at UC Davis. It held about 3000. The Grateful Dead had played there as recently as 1971. The New Riders headlined a Saturday night, with fellow Out-Of-Town Tours client Ramblin' Jack Elliott opening the show. The New Riders played a lengthy show, joined on various numbers by Ramblin' Jack, Darlene DiDomenico and, on harmonica, Matthew Kelly. Kelly was an old friend of Torbert's, and had recently returned to the Bay Area. He, too, had played on Gypsy Cowboy and sat in regularly.

May 20, 1973 Harder Stadium, UC Santa Barbara, Goleta, CA: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage (Sunday)
The New Riders had released three albums, and were starting to establish an identity somewhat distinct from the Grateful Dead. Nonetheless, the band had a vested interest in emphasizing their intimate connection to the Grateful Dead. It's important to remember that while the Dead were no longer a hip underground band in '73, they weren't yet being written off as an old hippie band--hippies weren't even old yet. Also, around the country, there weren't even "Jam Bands," much less Dead cover bands (ok--there was one in New Jersey called Calvary). If fans were going to get a hit of the California sunshine embodied by the Grateful Dead, the New Riders were pretty much alone as the alternative choice.

Thus, not only did the New Riders benefit financially from the bookings opening for the Grateful Dead, it was part of the strategy of Jon McIntire and Sam Cutler to build a Grateful Dead community that extended beyond the band. Ultimately, that strategy was spectacularly successful, even though McIntire and Cutler could only witness it from afar. 

Harder Stadium at UC Santa Barbara had been built in 1966. It had a football capacity of about 17,000. For concerts, with fans on the field, the capacity was nearly twice that. Ironically, in 1971, the UCSB Gauchos dropped football. In an unexpected twist, Harder Stadium became an attractive concert venue, since it was about the same size as a basketball arena, but outdoors in beautiful Santa Barbara weather and with no competition from sports bookings. The New Riders opened for the Dead on this Sunday afternoon, joined for a few numbers by Darlene Domenico.

May 26, 1973 Kezar Stadium, San Francisco, CA: GD/Waylon Jennings/New Riders of The Purple Sage (Saturday)
Bill Graham was not only a pioneer of the rock concert business, but he had dreams of empire beyond the Bay Area. On this weekend, Graham planned to break in two substantial venues for rock music shows. On Sunday, May 27, Graham had booked the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers at the Ontario Motor Speedway just outside of Los Angeles. This show was canceled, probably due to poor ticket sales, but two months later the headliners would attract 600,000 to Watkins Glen Speedway, and the next year (April 6, 1974) Ontario Motor Speedway was the site of what was at the time the concert with the highest paid attendance ever up to that time (168,000). So Bill was right, but a little early.

Ontario was planned for Sunday, but on Saturday the Grateful Dead were headlining at a football stadium in Golden Gate Park. The San Francisco 49ers had moved from Kezar Stadium to Candlestick Park after the 1971 stadium, so Kezar could be booked for rock concerts without major conflicts. Graham had booked the Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin for consecutive weekends, in anticipation of establishing a new, major venue for high-profile Bay Area concerts.

The most intriguing aspect of the Kezar show was Waylon Jennings, second on the bill. Everyone expected the New Riders to open for the Dead, that was a regular thing. But Waylon Jennings was seen as a country act. By '73, Jennings (1937-2002) was already an established country singer, but he had roots in rock and roll. Jennings had been the bass player for Buddy Holly and The Crickets, and had graciously offered to give up his seat on the airplane to The Big Bopper, on the fateful flight on February 3, 1959 that crashed, killing Holly, the Bopper, and Ritchie Valens. 

Jennings had gone on to success as a Nashville singer, but he had never been happy with how his records were made. By '73, country rock was starting to become a commercially viable enterprise, with the Eagles as the most prominent band, along with a slew of other groups like Poco, the New Riders and Pure Prarie League. The unhappy Jennings, however, would manage to tap into something much more potent than hippies playing rock and roll with a twang.

The more potent and lasting merger of country music and the 60s would be the music coming out of Austin, TX. Genuine country musicians, with proper Nashville pedigrees, would move to Austin, grow their hair, light one up and pretty much play the same music they had been playing before. OK--maybe there was a bit more attitude, but that wasn't incompatible with older roughneck country, anyway. One of the earliest converts was Jennings. 

In 1972, Jennings had had a pretty good hit with the song "Ladies Love Outlaws," and RCA still wanted him to be a typical Nashville artist. By 1973, however, Jennings had moved to Austin, TX, to join fellow outcast Willie Nelson, and RCA finally saw the light. Jennings kept the beard he had grown, and "Outlaw Country" followed, with Willie and Waylon in the forefront. Sharing bills with the Grateful Dead and in California was a huge break from country practice. Jennings was consciously and enthusiastically aligning his music with long hair, weed and loud, loud music. 

Booking Waylon in between the Dead and the New Riders was noticed by the whole record industry. The Kezar show with the Dead, Waylon and the Riders drew about 30,000. Jennings was a big hit with the Dead crowd, and abruptly long-haired country and country rock were starting to merge. Ultimately, Waylon, Willie and their pals benefited more from the confluence than hippie bands like the New Riders or Poco would, but that was still a few years in the future.

For the Kezar encore, Keith Godchaux and Matthew Kelly joined the Riders for "Willie And The Hand Jive." After the Kezar show, the New Riders took a break from touring. Soon, the band would begin recording their next album for Columbia at the Record Plant, with established Nashville producer Norbert Putnam.

June 24, 1973 The Orphanage, San Francisco, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Sunday)
In the Sunday SF Chronicle of June 24, music critic John L Wasserman reported that the New Riders were recording in the Bay Area with Norbert Putnam. They were recording the album that would become The Adventures of Panama Red, the Riders' only gold album. In the 60s, Putnam had been the bass player in the house band for Muscle Shoals' legendary FAME Studios in Florence, AL (he surely knew Donna Thatcher, later Donna Godchaux). He left Alabama to become a producer in Nashville around 1969. In Nashville, he mostly produced "non-country" acts, which was a perfect fit for the New Riders: a Nashville producer with an R&B pedigree.

"Peter Rowan alias Panama Red" playing Thursday, March 5, 1970 at Berkeley's Freight and Salvage folk club. Had he already written the song?

"Panama Red" is probably the New Riders' best known song. It was written by Peter Rowan, and Rowan had been performing the song for some time. Rowan had certainly been performing "Panama Red" with Jerry Garcia and Old And In The Way since March of '73, but in fact Rowan had written the song in Spring 1969, after the California break up of his band Earth Opera. Rowan himself explained the genesis of the song in a personal email (via David Gans)

Panama Red was written in 1969 in Cambridge Mass, the summer after Earth Opera’s March breakup after our last gig in Long Beach at the Golden Bear.   Seatrain felt the song was too “funky-country” for the band’ pop-classical recording  direction.  We did perform it in the early days.  The subject was "taboo” in those days. You did jail time for pot.  So that might have scared commercial interests.  

But Garcia was a green light all the way! “ Oh sure” was his motto, both ironically and straight but always with a twinkle in his eye!  True to form when the Riders got a hit with Panama Red, the Seatrain management kept all the money! Oh sure!

Jerry suggested I bring the song to Marmaduke and Nelson!

Rowan had played gigs at the Freight and Salvage in February and March 1970 as "Panama Red," so the song had a longer history than we initially realized. 

Garcia must have known that Putnam and the New Riders were looking for songs, which was a very Nashville approach to a new album. According to legend, Rowan pitched his songs like he was in a building in Nashville, strumming away on his acoustic guitar and singing his proverbial heart out. Rowan's  pitch worked--the New Riders recorded great versions of "Panama Red" and "Lonesome LA Cowboy." When exactly Rowan sang his songs to the New Riders isn't clear, but I would guess March or April. Most likely, Rowan went to the New Riders rehearsal space at 20 Front St. The Dead also stored equipment there. Ultimately, the Dead would take over the entire Front Street space. My guess is that the real audience for Rowan wasn't the Riders, but producer Norbert Putnam.

Although New Riders' setlists are incomplete, the first known appearance of "Panama Red" was on July 21, 1973 (see below). We don't have any other setlists before May, however, and those all happened before the recording of the album. The New Riders did play this one club gig, at the Orphanage in San Francisco on June 24. The Orphanage, at 807 Montgomery (near Columbus) wasn't a premier club, but established bands played there periodically. Based on the timing, I think the band was near the end of recording Panama Red. I suspect they tried out a few numbers for the Sunday night Orphanage crowd, so I would bet that their first live version of their most famous song was at the Orphanage.

The New Riders were initially advertised as performing at a Folk Festival in Pennsylvania, but they appear to have canceled (the Folk Festival was scheduled for June 29-July 4 at Valley View Park in Hellam Township, near York. Thanks as always to David Kramer-Smyth for his spectacular research on concert dates). 

July 6-7, 1973 Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Doobie Brothers/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Barnstorm w/Joe Walsh (Friday-Saturday)
The New Riders got back on the touring horse at Winterland in early July. Back in October '72, the Riders had opened for the Doobie Brothers in Sacramento. By July '73, the Doobies had some huge hits: "Listen To The Music," "Long Train Running" and the newly-released single "China Grove" were the most prominent. The band's March '73 album on Warners, The Captain And Me, would go double platinum. The Doobies were big and getting bigger. While most people tend to think of the 1960s as the time when Bay Area rock music shone the brightest, and it's true, the fact is that popular bands like the Doobies, Malo and The Tubes continued to come out of the Bay Area throughout the early 1970s as well.

Opener Joe Walsh had recently quit the James Gang. His second solo album The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get had just been released on ABC-Dunhill. It included the soon-to-be hit single "Rocky Mountain Way." At this time, Walsh was trying to sound more like CSN than the rocking James Gang. Barnstorm had been the name of his 1972 solo debut, and his touring band was named after it. Drummer Joe Vitale and bassist Kenny Passarelli anchored Barnstorm, along with organist Rocke Grace. Walsh was great live. The New Riders were a fine live act themselves, but there would have been a lot of competition on the Winterland stage this weekend.

An article in The Albertan on July 10 suggests that the New Riders might "bring a few friends"

July 12-13, 1973 Summertown Stampede '73: Tent Village Stampede Park, Calgary, ALB (Thursday-Friday)
The New Riders kicked off their National tour with two nights at the Calgary Stampede. The Riders were an excellent choice for the Stampede, young and long-haired, still country, but with a rowdy rock and roll edge. Per Wikipedia:

The Calgary Stampede is an annual rodeo, exhibition, and festival held every July in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The ten-day event, which bills itself as "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth," attracts over one million visitors per year and features one of the world's largest rodeos, a parade, midway, stage shows, concerts, agricultural competitions, chuckwagon racing, and First Nations exhibitions.

Still, an article in the July 10 Albertan indicated the price the New Riders often paid for their intimate affiliation with the Grateful Dead

"there is a strong possibility they might bring a few friends with them" said Debbie Dean, Summertime committee member in charge of musical entertainment, the nightly feature of the Stampede's annual youth fair. 

Somehow, the underground telegraph seemed to know that Jerry Garcia and three other members (Weir and the Godchauxs) had made an extended appearance at the Felt Forum in March, and perhaps that the Godchauxs had sat in for several shows in March and April. Even if the locals didn't know these for facts, the general rumor was probably about, and it wasn't false. In this case, however, no members of the Dead were showing up. It meant that no matter how long or well the New Riders played, a segment of the crowd would go home disappointed. 

An ad for the Milwaukee Summerfest, a Pabst sponsored festival from July 13-22. Tickets for each day were only $2. The weekend headliners were Humble Pie and the Steve Miller Band.

July 16, 1973 Schlitz Tent Theater, Summerfest, Milwaukee, WI: Doobie Brothers/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (Monday)
The Summerfest in Milwaukee, sponsored by Schlitz Beer, was a week-long event that booked major acts throughout the week. Schlitz subsidized the event, so tickets were only $2. The bookings went beyond just rock music. The actual bookings had changed by the time the shows actually happened, but the weekend headliners were the Milwaukee Symphony (Thursday July 19), Buck Owens (Friday July 20), Humble Pie (Saturday July 21) and Sergio Mendes (Sunday July 22). Back on Monday, the newly-huge Doobie Brothers were headlining again over the New Riders. Out in the hinterlands, the New Riders were still relatively unknown, while the Doobies had a huge new album and single. 

Based on a tape, Commander Cody and Matthew Kelly sat in. I assume Cody and the Airmen were on the Summerfest bill by this time, because they wouldn't likely have been in town otherwise. I'm not sure why Kelly would have been in town, but he was always welcome to sit in.

July 20, 1973 Cape Cod Coliseum, S. Yarmouth, MA: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (Friday)
The Cape Cod Coliseum was in South Yarmouth, about 90 minutes (75 miles) Southeast of Boston. The Cape Cod Coliseum, at 225 Whites Path, had only been built in 1972, and had a capacity of about 6000. Since Cape Cod was a vacation destination in New England, I believe the Coliseum provided entertainment for all the vacationers in the Spring and Summer. In the Fall and Winter, the Coliseum hosted minor league hockey teams (in 1973, the home team was the Cape Codders of the Northeastern Hockey League). 

In the Summer of 1973, the New Riders started to perform regularly throughout the country with Commander Cody and The Lost Planet Airmen. Of course, Cody and the Riders had known each other from the Bay Area, but now they were working together everywhere. The bands were close in style, as pot-smoking hippies playing music inspired by Buck Owens, but it ended up being far more important than that. 

At this time, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were managed by Joe Kerr, who was an old college friend of George (Commander Cody) Frayne. Kerr also managed Asleep At The Wheel and Clover. By the end of 1973, Kerr would be co-manager of the New Riders along with road manager Dale Franklin. Kerr effectively replaced Jon McIntire as co-manager. Although McIntire hadn't really had an official status with the Riders, Kerr's status was formal. I don't know exactly when Kerr took over.

July 21, 1973 Capitol Theater, Port Chester, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (Saturday) Arty Schaub and Ken Hersh Present 7:00 and 10:30
The New Riders and the Airmen played two Saturday night shows at the 1800-seat Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York. The Capitol, 30 minutes North of Manhattan, and near the Connecticut border, was legendary in rock history from the 1970-71 period, when Howard Stein booked the Grateful Dead and many other great bands. 

Stein had moved out of Port Chester in Summer '71. The Capitol was too small, and Bill Graham had closed the Fillmore East, so Stein had started booking shows in Manhattan. The Port Chester Capitol had not closed, however, and various promoters rented the venue for shows up until about 1978. This show was presented by Arty Schaub and Ken Hersh. 

We have a setlist from the Capitol, though whether from the early or late show isn't clear. It's the first show where we have a setlist since the recording of the new album was complete, so it was the first confirmed sighting of "Panama Red" and "Lonesome LA Cowboy," among other songs. I assume they had been playing these songs for a while. 

The New Riders and Cody were booked on Sunday, July 22 at the Great McGonigle's Seaside Park in Annapolis, Maryland, promoted by New Era Follies, but the show was canceled. 

July 24, 1973 [venue], Auburn U. Auburn, AL: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (Tuesday)
Following a general strategy that would end up working for the Grateful Dead, Cutler had started booking the Riders at colleges in the Southeast, trying to build an audience. Although the New Riders were an excellent match for Southeastern musical tastes at the time, the band never really established itself in the region.  

Auburn University, initially founded in 1856 as East Alabama Male College, ultimately became Alabama's land-grant engineering university. Today it has around 30,000 students. While it probably didn't have that many students in 1973, it was a large school. I'm not sure what venue the Riders and the Airmen played. Finding that out would tell us a lot about how well-known the bands were in Eastern Alabama.

July 26 1973 Municipal Auditorium Nashville, TN: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (Thursday)
The Nashville Municipal Auditorium had been built in 1962, and it was the first "public assembly" building in the Mid-South with air conditioning. The auditorium was at 417 4th Avenue North, and could seat around 9,300 in the round. I highly doubt that the New Riders and the Airmen could sell anywhere near that number of tickets on a Thursday night, and so I assume that part of the arena was cordoned off.

July 28, 1973 Park Center, Charlotte, NC: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Saturday)
The Grateful Dead would go on to build a substantial audience in North Carolina by playing numerous shows in Charlotte and Durham throughout the 1970s. Clearly, Sam Cutler was planning a similar assault with the New Riders, even though it never really got that far. The Park Center, now the Grady Cole Center, was an auditorium at the Piedmont Community College. The building, at 310 North Kings Drive had opened in 1956. The 3000-capacity arena is now part of Mecklenburg County Sportsplex.

It would be an interesting to know how many fans the New Riders could draw in Charlotte on a Saturday night in 1973, but we have no intel at this time. I assume that Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen opened the show, but that's logic, not yet supported by solid evidence. 

July 31, 1973 Fairgrounds Educational Building, Tulsa, OK: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (Tuesday)
The Tulsa County Free Fair began in 1903 at the Western Association baseball park at Archer and Boston. With enactment of the Oklahoma Free Fair Act in 1915, a 15-acre tract of land north of Archer and Lewis was purchased to provide more suitable grounds. In 1923, thanks to a land donation from J.E. Crosbie, the fair was moved to a portion of the present Expo Square between 15th and 21st Streets. The fair board acquired land adjacent to the gift acreage in later years, and the "state fair" was born. Fairgrounds.

I'm not sure which building the New Riders and the Airmen performed in, and in any case due there has been substantial remodeling since then. I assume that there were regular music events at the Tulsa Fairgrounds throughout the Summer.

August 1, 1973 Memorial Hall, Kansas City, KS: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (Wednesday)
Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas (also known as Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall) was opened in 1925. The 3500-capacity hall remains open today at 600 N. 7th Street. The New Riders had already played the hall, headlining over Loggins & Messina on Friday, June 30, 1972 (Kenny Loggins performed a slow version of "Friend Of The Devil," and Betty Cantor, doing sound for the New Riders, taped it and played it for Jerry Garcia, who liked it so much he adopted the arrangement). 

The Riders probably didn't sell out on a Wednesday night, but since they were established they probably drew a decent crowd. At the time, fans in places like Kansas City generally accepted that touring acts came through when they had an open night, and the weekend gigs were often reserved for bigger cities like St. Louis and Chicago.

August 3 1973 American Theatre, St Louis, MO: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (Friday) Contemporary Productions Inc Presents 2 shows (7:30 & Midnight)
The New Riders were actually fairly well established in St. Louis. St. Louis, as Jesse Jarnow has illuminated, was a major Midwestern stronghold of Deadheads. The New Riders had played there a number of times, and had even headlined the Fox Theater in December of 1972. The most recent New Riders album, Gypsy Cowboy, was actually named after a hippie boutique not too far from the Fox itself.

The American Theater seems to have been somewhat similar to the Fox. The theater at 416 N. 9th Street had opened in 1917 as a Vaudeville House, but had been sold to Warner Brothers as a movie theater in 1930. Its exact capacity is uncertain. At some point it was re-named the American Theater and restored by the 1980s (currently it is closed, but there are plans to re-open it as the Orpheum Theater). There's a small chance that this venue isn't the one on N. 9th Street, but it seems the most likely fit.

The Fox Theater was still mainly a movie house, so it may not have been available. I'm not sure who Contemporary Productions might have been. Since there were two shows, then it's a sign that the promoters thought the Riders had drawing power in St. Louis.

August 4, 1973 Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, IL: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Saturday)
Like most touring bands, the New Riders saved the weekends for the best bookings in the biggest markets. The New Riders had headlined in St. Louis the year before, and they had played the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago as well. Back on December 16, 1972, the New Riders had played the 3,800-seat hall along with Mott The Hoople, a fellow Columbia act riding a hit record. This time, the New Riders were the sole headliner, and once again I have every reason to assume that Commander Cody was opening the show.

The Auditorium Theatre (at 50 Ida B Wells St) had been built in 1889. The Dead and the Riders had played two nights there in 1971 (October 21-22), and then the Riders had returned with Mott (Dec 16 '72) with Mott the Hoople and now they were headlining alone. This was how the rock business was designed to work, and in the Upper Midwest, at least things were going according to plan.

August 5, 1973 Minneapolis Auditorium, Minneapolis, MN: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (Sunday) Gulliver Presents
The New Riders played Sunday night in Minneapolis. They had also played Minneapolis in 1972, at the relatively tiny Guthrie Theater (on December 17, 1972). The Municipal Auditorium was actually quite large, holding up to 10,000. I'm confident that the New Riders and Cody did not want to play to a semi-empty house, so I'm sure there was a configuration where they would play to a much smaller segment of the building. It was still a good booking.

The Minneapolis Auditorium had been built in 1927, and was the principal public hall until it was replaced by the Met Center in suburban Bloomington. The Minneapolis Lakers had played there from 1947-1959. Ultimately the building was torn down in 1989. The approximate location was 1301 2nd Avenue South.

The Colorado Springs Gazette (Aug 19) mentioned two Monday night (August 20) shows at the City Auditorium with Waylon Jennings and the New Riders

August 20, 1973 City Auditorium, Colorado Springs, CO: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Waylon Jennings (Monday)
The New Riders took a couple of weeks off. Although Norbert Putnam was in charge  of their next album, they may have also been needed for some final harmonies or other touches. 

The New Riders had an interesting booking in Colorado Springs, a double show on a Monday night that was unconnected to any other leg of the tour. They were sharing the bill again with Waylon Jennings. Colorado Springs is all groovy today, but in 1973 it was cowpoke country. The Grateful Dead had played there once in 1969, and there had been a whiff of a counterculture, but on the whole it was more Waylon territory than a Riders zone. 

Note that the article in the Gazette says "The New Riders formerly played with the hard-rock group the Grateful Dead." It adds "the concerts are the first appearances for both groups in Colorado in two years." With respect to the New Riders, they had been booked in Aspen in February of '73, but those gigs had been sort of a stealth appearance (indeed they might not have happened). If Waylon Jennings hadn't been around in a while, however, his return with the New Riders in tow was a clear sign of how we was making a name for himself as a long-haired outlaw aligned with rock bands, not as a Nashville guy.  

The Colorado Springs City Auditorium is at 221 E. Kiowa Street, with a capacity of 2200. It had been built in 1923. I would love to know any scrap of information about these shows: how many attended, how each act went over and so on, but I have nothing. Based on the schedule, it's clear that the New Riders flew in from California and flew on to the East Coast.

The Troy Times-Record from Saturday, August 25, 1973 reported on the New Riders show at the Lebanon Valley Speedway in W. Lebanon, NY

August 24, 1973 Lebanon Valley Speedway, W. Lebanon, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage/John Lee Hooker/Star Spangled Washboard Band (Friday)
The New Riders played two more weeks in the Northeast. This leg of the tour was notable for some interesting venues. The rock concert industry was expanding rapidly at this time, and all sorts of venues were in play that might not have been considered before. Sam Cutler, Chesley Millikin and the New Riders followed the Grateful Dead's playbook, always willing to take a chance on a new venue or an imaginative promoter. 

I previously wrote about the history of auto racing tracks as concert facilities, although I focused on Grateful Dead concerts, in order to keep the topic manageable. Yet some less prominent auto racing tracks had brief histories as concert venues in the 70s. One of the smallest was the Lebanon Valley Speedway, in tiny West Lebanon, NY, between Albany and Pittsfield, MA.

West Lebanon, NY is a tiny hamlet (current population: 132) in Columbia County, about 25 miles Southeast of Albany and just 15 miles West of Pittsfield, MA and the Berkshires. The Mohicans originally lived in the area, but the Dutch started to move in to the region in the 17th century. Columbia County itself was founded in 1786. The Vermont Central Railroad was built through the area in the 1850s, linking Portland and other cities in New England with Chatham, NY, thus linking to Manhattan. The nearby town of New Lebanon was the home of the Shaker religious community. 

West Lebanon was on US Route 20, the longest transcontinental road, which stretches from Boston to Newport, OR. US-20 was the main route through Columbia County prior to the introduction of Interstate 90 in 1957. Lebanon Valley Speedway commenced racing in 1953, and the track is still open (using the name Lebanon Valley Raceway). It currently features a half-mile clay oval track for dirt track racing as well as a quarter-mile dragstrip. There are SuperModified and Sportsman Dirt Track Races every Saturday night starting in May. The venue lists a capacity for racing at 7100 fans. An historic site has a good summary of the track history.

A characteristic of regional tracks like Lebanon Valley Speedway was that they typically held races only one weekend night a week, on either Friday or Saturday. For one thing, rural areas couldn't really support more than one night. More importantly, some of the more serious regional racers would race at one track on Friday and another track on Saturday, ensuring that the fields were larger and more competitive at more than one track. In the case of Lebanon Valley Speedway, Saturday night has been "Race Night" since 1957, so that left Fridays open for other kinds of promotions. Thus the first rock concert at Lebanon Valley Speedway was on a Friday night.  

In the 1960s, kids in Columbia County would have liked rock music, but would have had a hard time knowing about all but the most famous groups. By 1973, however, they would all have been listening to FM radio and reading Rolling Stone, just like their peers throughout the country. All the Riders needed was a venue in the right place. Someone seems to have figured out that a Friday night at the Lebanon Valley Speedway would work. It was a standing venue with power, water, bathrooms, parking and crowd control. Rock concerts can be noisy, but they aren't necessarily noisier than the Saturday night Super Modifieds. So the New Riders of The Purple Sage were booked to open their tour on Friday, August 24, supported by blues legend John Lee Hooker and a local group. The concert was supported by radio station WGFM in Albany, NY. 

The Troy (NY) Times-Record article from Saturday (August 25) told the tale. The event was a modest success, and a good time seemed to be had, but attendance wasn't up to expectations. 

Quiet Night At Speedway 'Blues' Concert (Bill Rice, Troy Times-Record, Saturday, August 25, 1973)
WEST LEBANON-It might be the first and last, and it might be the first of many.

Some 4,700 young people attended the first country blues concert ever held at Lebanon Valley Speedway here last night.

On the program were the New Riders of The Purple Sage, John Lee Hooker and The Star Spangled Washboard Band.

Promoters of the concert, National Student Productions and Radio station WGY-WGFM were not hoping for another Watkins Glen or Woodstock. A crowd of around 6,000 was anticipated by Bill Brina of National Student Productions.

The crowd was quiet and orderly, as The Star Spangled Washboard Band did the opening act.
Brina said there were no problems with gate crashers. A Lebanon Valley security officer said

"The kids are minding their own business and playing it cool. What they do someplace else doesn't interest us. We have had more trouble with Saturday night race crowds."

He did say about 200 youngsters tried to go over the fence, and half made it without paying the $5 admission fee

There were a few other rock concerts at Lebanon Valley Speedway after this, in 1977 and 1980, but I wrote about them elsewhere.

August 25, 1973 Central Maine Youth Center, Lewiston, ME: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Fabulous Rhinestones (Saturday) Maine Man Music Productions presents
The Central Maine Youth Center was a hockey arena in Lewiston, then rated to handle up to 7000 patrons. Mostly high school hockey teams played there (per former resident Grateful Seconds). It was also the biggest arena in the area until the Cumblerland County Civic Center would open around 1978, so occasionally there were major events there. The biggest event in the history of the arena was the Cassius Clay vs Sonny Liston heavyweight title boxing match on May 25, 1965.

Joan Margalith reviewed the August 25, 1973 show in the Lewiston Sun-Journal. She found the Riders stiff, and raved about the Fabulous Rhinestones.

This show was presented by Main Man Music Productions, but I don't know who that may have represented. Real touring rock bands didn't get to Maine very often. The Grateful Dead had played Bangor in 1971, and sometimes bands would play the University of Maine in nearby Orono, but it was pretty far off the path. Joan Margolith of the Lewiston Sun-Record (August 28, above) and reported that 4500 people attended the show. She called the Riders "structured and somewhat unemotional...polished, almost structured." She raved about the Fabulous Rhinestones, however.

The Fabulous Rhinestones had formed in San Francisco, but most of the musicians were from Chicago or New York. Chicago guitarist Kal David (ex-Illinois Speed Press) was the main songwriter, and other 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. By 1973, they had just released their second album Freewheelin'.

August 27-29, 1973 Paul's Mall, Boston, MA: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Monday-Wednesday) early and late shows each night
The New Riders had been booked to play as part of a rock concert series at Suffolk Downs, the historic East Boston thoroughbred track, on Monday, August 27, but that show had been canceled (I'm not sure if the whole series was canceled, or just their event). With an opening in their schedule, Sam Cutler booked the New Riders at the prestigious but small Paul's Mall, a rock club in downtown Boston. A Monday-thru-Wednesday gig at Paul's Mall wasn't going to pay that well, but the New Riders would have had the same hotel bills anyway, so anything they made offset their costs. A casual, friendly review of the Monday night show in the Boston Globe acknowledged that the Riders were just filling out their tour schedule. For the locals who went, it was probably a lot of fun.

733 Boylston Street was the entrance to a pair of side-by-side nightclubs, the Jazz Workshop and Paul's Mall. The Jazz Workshop, at least, had opened in 1963. Paul's Mall wasn't large, but its location ensured that performers regularly got reviewed in the paper. WBCN often broadcast from one of the two clubs, and it appears that one set of the Wednesday night show (July 29) was broadcast over WBCN.

Village Voice ad from August 30 for the Sunshine Inn in Asbury Park, NJ. The New Riders were booked for Friday August 31

August 31, 1973 Sunshine Inn, Asbury Park, NJ: New Riders of The Purple Sage/David Buskin (Friday)
The Sunshine Inn in Asbury Park was another small, legendary Northeastern venue. At the time, Asbury Park had been a sort of resort town, with a beach boardwalk and various arcades along the shore. By 1973, it was decaying, the perfect metaphor for then-aspiring songwriter Bruce Springsteen. The Sunshine Inn was on First Avenue and Kingsley, near the shore, and near the boardwalk. Bruce had opened many shows at the Sunshine Inn with various bands, and even headlined a few. 

The Sunshine Inn had opened in December 1970. A lot of touring bands had an extra night in the Northeast and would play shows there, with local bands--like Springsteen's--opening up. Many young Asbury rock fans have fond memories of seeing bands at the Sunshine. Bands, however, have less fond memories, as owner Bob Fischer (actual name: Herbert Fleisher) was notorious for underpaying, or not paying at all (for those who know their Springsteen lore, Fleisher also owned the Student Prince, a bar that was across the street, and he didn't always pay bands there either). John Scher had gotten his start in New Jersey booking the Sunshine Inn in 1971, but he had moved on the Capitol Theater in Passaic and bigger venues by this time. Fleisher finally gave up on the Sunshine Inn in late 1974, but the performances are fondly remembered by then-locals.

September 1, 1973 Gym, Staples High School, Westport, CT: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Saturday) early and late shows
The Staples High School gym was just another gymnasium in a suburban high school, but it had an intriguing rock and roll history. In 1966, some enterprising students had been looking to raise money, and realized they could book popular rock bands. At the time, there were so few rock venues that working bands had plenty of free nights. While the high school students at Westport had no experience or background, that was true of most of the rock venues at the time. As a result, groups like The Doors and Cream played Westport High School from 1966-68. Afterwards, there were more rock venues and major acts weren't going to play some High School.

Still, the initial blast led to a sort of tradition of using the Westport High gym for rock shows, and bands continued to play there intermittently. Westport is on Long Island Sound, about 50 miles North of Manhattan, so it made a convenient gig for touring rock bands. The audience would likely have been young people who weren't able (or allowed) to get all the way into Manhattan to see rock bands. The Riders appear to have played early and late shows. 

September 4, 1973 [venue?], Nassau Community College, Garden City, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage  (Tuesday)
Nassau Community College was in Garden City, NY, in Long Island, and had opened in 1959. By 1973 it had expanded substantially (today it has around 10,000 students). Nassau County was prime Deadhead territory, and the New Riders had already opened for the Dead at the Nassau County Coliseum in nearby Uniondale. Given the date, this show would have likely been a start-of-term event.

September 5, 1973 Philharmonic Hall, New York, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Wednesday) 8pm & 11pm
Howard Stein presented the New Riders for two shows on a Wednesday night at Philarmonic Hall. This was probably the booking that the tour was built around. Philharmonic Hall had been built in 1962, and was the home of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Of course, the hall was regularly used for other performances, including rock bands. The hall was at 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, near Broadway and West 65th Street. Shortly after this, Philarmonic Hall would change its name to Avery Fisher Hall (it is now the David Geffen Hall at the Lincoln Center).

The room had 2738 seats, so Howard Stein was confident that the Riders could sell almost twice that many tickets. That's a pretty good marker for how popular the New Riders were in New York Metro at the time. Keep in mind that the location made it easy to get there for Deadheads throughout the region. The Grateful Dead did not play Manhattan proper from 1972 until 1976, so the New Riders would also have been a kind of proxy event for local Deadheads.

September 6, 1973 Palace Theater, Albany, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Thursday)
After the Philarmonic Hall show, the New Riders played the next night for Shelly Finkel and Jim Koplik 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. 

The New Riders had played the Palace in May 1972 (for different promoters), and had returned to play for Finkel and Koplik on March 21, 1973. By this time, Finkel and Koplik had booked both the Grateful Dead and the New Riders many times. The most famous booking, of course, was when Finkel and Koplik had put on the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen with the Dead, the Band and the Allman Brothers, on July 28, 1973. Waterbury was the perfect distance from New York, a separate market, but still an easy trip for the band and crew, and both Cutler and the Riders had a good relationship with the promoters. 

A listing in Billboard had the New Riders playing the Rock Quarry Festival in Lowellville, OH on Saturday, September 8. We could not find any sort of confirmation, even to know if the event occurred. It does seem like a logical booking, though--Thursday in in Waterbury, Sunday in Pennsylvania, so a Saturday night show near Youngstown, not too far from Penn State (175 miles), would have been smart.

September 9, 1973 [venue?], State College, Penn State U,. State College, PA: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Sunday)
The New Riders ended their Northeastern tour with a long show at Penn State. Penn State University was established in 1855, and it is in the countryside, midway between Pittsburgh (135 miles to the West) and Philadelphia (200 miles to the Southeast). Even by the standards of flagship state institutions, Penn State is huge--it currently has a 90,000 students. While probably not that large in 1973, it still would have been a city unto itself. 

I don't know what venue the New Riders played at Penn State. We do have a setlist, however, and even by the standards of 1973 it's a really long show. All of the Panama Red material was part of the set. 

First Set
Six Days On The Road / Teardrops In My Eyes / It's Alright With Me / Panama Red / One Too Many Stories / Hello Mary Lou / Henry / School Days / Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music) / Rainbow / Important Exportin' Man / She's No Angel / Contract / Sutter's Mill / LA Lady / Lonesome L.A. Cowboy / I Don't Need No Doctor

Second Set
Sea Cruise / You Should Have Seen Me Runnin’ / Whiskey / Take A Letter Maria / Groupie / Parson Brown / Glendale Train / Lochinvar / Duncan And Brady / Truck Drivin' Man / Portland Woman / Louisiana Lady / Last Lonely Eagle / Willie And The Hand Jive / Encore: Kick In The Head

The New Riders were at their peak as performers, the Grateful Dead affiliation had its greatest power, and the band had a great new album coming out.

September 29-30, 1973 Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, CA: Waylon Jennings/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen/Roger McGuinn (Saturday-Sunday)
Billboard listed a date for the New Riders in Houston, venue unstated, on September 28, but we can't confirm it and it doesn't seem to fit any touring schedule, so I'm assuming it didn't happen.

On the weekend of September 29-30, the New Riders played two outdoor shows at the 6,000 seat Universal Amphitheatre. The Amphitheatre was part of "Universal City," an adjunct to the Universal Studios tourist attraction. The then-outdoor venue had started putting on rock concerts in 1972.

Waylon Jennings is headlining over the New Riders, continuing the pattern of performing together. Since playing with the Dead and the New Riders back at Kezar Stadium in April, Jennings had released his Honky Tonk Heroes album on RCA in June. He had two big hit singles on it, "You Asked Me To" (reaching #8) and "We Had It All" (#28). With songs mostly co-written by Jennings and Billy Joe Shaver, the album was a seminal record in the emerging sub-genre of "Outlaw Country." Ironically, although Jennings and the New Riders were initially closely aligned, the Outlaw Country style of Jennings and Willie Nelson would thrive, while the country-rock of the New Riders and Commander Cody would slide in importance. 

Roger McGuinn had gone solo, since the Byrds had broken up. His debut album on Columbia had been released in June of 1973. He had started to tour around a little bit in support, accompanied by Mike Wofford (keyboards), David Vaught (bass) and John Guerin (drums).

Status Report: New Riders of The Purple Sage, October, 1973
The New Riders of the Purple Sage had toured heavily throughout 1973. The band had a genuine following in the Northeast, and seemed to be drawing well in the Midwest as well. While still in the inevitable shadow of the Grateful Dead, that was not a bad place to be. Country rock was on the rise, in parallel with the newly-arrived "Outlaw Country" longhairs.

When headlining, the New Riders would play a pair of hour-long sets, with a mixture of originals and covers, and including new, unrecorded songs as well. The band had just completed a new album with Nashville producer Norbert Putnam, and they must have known it was going to be good. Many of the songs from the forthcoming Panama Red album, including the title track, were already regular parts of their live repertoire. 

The New Riders were an excellent live band, with a promising fourth album coming out soon, and in tune with the popular music trends of the day. Things looked bright indeed for the band.