Friday, September 30, 2011

Studio Recordings By Bob and Betty

Thc eover of the 1968 Grateful Dead album Aoxomoxoa, engineered by Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor
The Grateful Dead were a unique organization in many ways. It is rare enough in rock history to have studio projects consistently recorded by in-house staff over many years, but the Dead have to be the only rock band with multiple in-house engineers. Some of the Grateful Dead studio projects, whether by the band or various members, were recorded by Dan Healy, and some of them were recorded by the team of Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor (later Betty Cantor-Jackson). While as a practical matter there was always a little crossover, in general any given project was engineered by Dan Healy or the team of Bob and Betty, save for a few outsiders. The vast number of Grateful Dead projects makes this a subject of contemplation in its own right.

Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor are best known for engineering and mixing live Grateful Dead projects, first and most famously Live/Dead, but other album projects as well. Betty Cantor, of course (later Betty Cantor-Jackson), achieved Deadhead immortality for her beautiful live recordings of Jerry Garcia, the Grateful Dead and others. To most Deadheads, a 'Betty Board" is the gold standard for live field recordings. However, the team of Matthews and Cantor had a lengthy track record of recording studio projects as well, and those mostly get second billing to their deservedly famous live recordings. The purpose of this post is to create a running tab of Bob and Betty studio projects, whether directly associated with the Grateful Dead or not.

Bob and Betty
Bob Matthews was a friend of Bob Weir's from Menlo Park. He had attended Peninsula School (K-8) with Weir, John Dawson, Steve Marcus and others, and he attended Menlo-Atherton High School with Weir, although Weir's checkered academic history meant that he attended numerous schools besides M-A. When the Grateful Dead started, Matthews worked his way into the gang as a sound engineer, initially focusing on live sound, but he seemed to have been fired in December 1967 and shipped home from the Grateful Dead's Eastern tour (per McNally).

Only in the Dead, however, does it appear that you can be fired from a band's crew and spend the next 15 years recording their albums. Somehow, after his departure Matthews eventually migrated to studio duties. He helped Owsley build the Carousel sound system in early 1968, and later Matthews seems to have been central to the whole Alembic enterprise begun by Owsley, Ron Wickersham, Rick Turner and others.

Betty Cantor was a teenager from Martinez, CA, in farthest Contra Costa County, who had met the Dead at 710 Ashbury through mutual acquaintances. She worked at the Avalon in 1967, first as a gopher, then in administration, then in the ill-fated "Denver Dog" in late 1967. When she returned to the San Francisco Avalon in early 1968, she assisted Avalon soundman Bob Cohen with various set-up duties. By early 1968, Betty was working at the Carousel, helping house manager John McIntire while also learning about sound and stage set-up from Owsley and Bob Matthews.

Since Betty was friendly with the Grateful Dead crew, she managed to get involved with the recording of various Grateful Dead projects, including the Kings Beach Bowl shows in February 1968. Due to her friendship with Bob Matthews and others, Betty was part of the team that set up Pacific Recording in San Mateo, recording Aoxomoxoa and Live/Dead.

"Bob and Betty" became a familiar name on Grateful Dead albums. From 1968 top 1970, while Dan Healy was a staff engineer at Mercury Records in San Francisco, Bob and Betty were the house engineers for the Grateful Dead. In general, Bob managed the board while Betty focused on mike placement and equipment set-up, but their actual roles were considerably more fluid. They shared duties for recording, mixing and mastering for Aoxomoxoa, Live/Dead and Workingman's Dead. Both of them were a key part of the original Alembic team.

When Dan Healy returned in late 1970, the roles of Bob and Betty became more diffuse. However, there were so many projects in the Grateful Dead world that there seemed to be plenty of work to go around. Betty Cantor seems to have taken it on herself to record the Garcia/Saunders and Jerry Garcia Band concerts throughout the 70s--and god bless her for that--but she worked on numerous other projects as well. Bob and Betty were responsible for a lot of in-house engineering for various studio projects (as was Healy), and Betty was also a member of the Grateful Dead's crew in the 70s and early 80s, mainly as Weir's guitar tech. Once she finished setting up Weir, of course, she would record the Grateful Dead, and thus elevated herself to heroic status to Deadheads everywhere.

Studio Projects
This post lists all the known studio projects engineered and/or mixed by Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor. I have not attempted to separate their roles on each project, as they can do that themselves as needed. I am just making a list of the scope of their studio work. Plenty of attention has been paid to Betty's glorious live tapes, and similar attention has been paid to Grateful Dead live album projects, so I do not need to recap that, but Bob and Betty's studio work has been taken for granted.

I am not focused on what was actually released, since that often had to do with finances or record company business, and would hardly be the province of engineers. I have also ignored the fact that almost any Grateful Dead project would have some input by Bob or Betty, setting up equipment and so forth. Just because a Healy produced project lists Bob or Betty as a production assistant does not make it worthy of a mention here. I am trying to focus on projects were either or both of them put their golden ears and self-taught expertise to work to shape the music they were hearing.

Aoxomoxoa-Grateful Dead, Pacific Recording, San Mateo, Fall 1968-Spring 1969
The Grateful Dead began to record their third album in late Fall 1968 at Pacific Recording in San Mateo. Bob and Betty had to actually build the studio from scratch. Why the band chose to record in San Mateo in an unbuilt studio is not at all clear to me, but Bob Matthews seems to have been an employee of Pacific Recording at the time. The Dead initially used an eight-track tape player, and then a twelve track, and recorded an album tentatively titled Earthquake Country.

Ampex Electronics was near the studio, and the band managed to encourage some Ampex engineers to let Pacific Recording have one of the first 16-track tape machines. The Dead instantly decided to re-record the entire album, going massively into debt to Warner Brothers in order to do so. After a lengthy process, the studio album Aoxomoxoa was recorded, with Bob and Betty listed as engineers.

In the meantime, the band snuck the 16-track out of the studio and in to the Fillmore West and the Avalon and recorded the material used on Live/Dead. Ampex engineer Ron Wickersham also threw in his lot with the Dead, and the band spawned Alembic Engineering in Novato. Alembic was located in the Dead's rehearsal space and equipment warehouse in Novato, near Hamilton Air Force Base.

In an appropriate footnote to the Aoxomoxoa, Bob and Betty remixed the album in 1971 at Alembic itself, and the re-mixed album was the only one available for much of the 1970s.

New Riders demo, Pacific High Recorders, San Francisco, November 1969
The New Riders of The Purple Sage, with Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar, had been playing around Bay Area clubs throughout the back half of 1969. A four song demo was recorded in November 1969, at Pacific High Recorders in San Francisco, at 60 Brady Street--no connection to Pacific Recording in San Mateo. The tracks were released on the 1986 Relix NRPS lp Before Time Began.

The peculiar thing about this demo was that Bob Matthews appears to have been the principal bassist for the New Riders at this point. This is worthy of (yet) another post, but Matthews and Phil Lesh seem to have shared bass duties for the band. Lesh was better, of course, but apparently had little interest in playng obscure Bay Area clubs on Thursday nights, thus leaving the gig to Matthews. When it came to recording, however, Matthews was needed on the board, and in any case Lesh was the better bassist, so it's no surprise that Phil recorded with them.

The cover to the 1970 Warner Bros lp Workingman's Dead. Note Robert Hunter at far left.
Workingman's Dead-Grateful Dead, Pacific High Recorders, San Francisco, January-March 1970
Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor's two great contributions to the Grateful Dead were the recordings of Live/Dead and Workingman's Dead, which to this day represent the glorious spectrum of the band's music to most listeners. In contrast to Aoxomoxoa, Workingman's was recorded and mixed in a disciplined manner at Pacific High in short sessions in early 1970. The exact dates remain a mystery to this day, but it seems to have been between late January and early March 1970.  Bob and Betty are listed as the producers of the album, "in association with the Grateful Dead."

Stoneground project, Trident Studios, London, August 1970
Bob and Betty were an essential part of Alembic, which was conceived of by Owsley as the Grateful Dead's "engineering wing." The Dead had planned to go on a Tom Donahue (KSAN) promoted international tour called "Medicine Ball Caravan," where they would play free concerts across the country, but the Dead pulled out at the last minute. The tour went on, however, and the Alembic crew was already committed to the road trip, so Bob and Betty toured America and England with various groups. Since Bob and Betty were out of town, Stephen Barncard ended up producing American Beauty.

The Medicine Ball Caravan was conceived as a sort of rolling Woodstock, with a film crew capturing the proceedings. A very obscure documentary was released, as well as a soundtrack album, and I assume Bob and Betty played a role in the recordings.  The final concert of the "Caravan" was in England on August 31, 1970, at Charlton Park near Kent. Pink Floyd and The Faces headlined the show, but only 1500 attended, since the giant Isle Of Wight Festival was happening the same weekend. Although the event was filmed and recorded, none of the English bands apparently gave their approval, so the event had no part in the movie.

Donahue's "house band" Stoneground was the only American band to play the English Festival. The one London addition to Stoneground was bassist Pete Sears, who came into the San Francisco orbit by joining Stoneground in London in 1970 for the Kent festival. Stoneground had recorded an album at Trident Studios in London during August of 1970, with Bob and Betty working the board, and Sears had joined the band through an oblique connection to Donahue.

However, the London Stoneground album was not released. The band re-recorded most of the material in San Francisco later in the year. Sears went to San Francisco with the band, but returned home to work with Rod Stewart. Of course, Sears would shortly come back to live and work in the Bay Area, but his first contact was with Bob and Betty at Trident in London.

The cover of the 1971 James And The Good Brothers lp on Columbia Records, produced by Betty Cantor and engineered by Bob and Betty at Alembic Studios in Novato
James And The Good Brothers, Alembic Studios, early 1971
Members of the Grateful Dead met James Ackroyd and Bruce and Brian Good when they toured Canada on the infamous Festival Express tour in Summer 1970, and invited them to San Francisco. The trio played a little around Bay Area clubs, and Jack Casady and members of the Dead got the group a record deal. The self-titled album was released on Columbia. Various members of the Dead and the Airplane played on the record. When James and The Good Brothers opened for the New Riders at Fillmore West in February 1971, Jack Casady and Jerry Garcia (on banjo) sat in.

The album credits say that it was engineered by Bob and Betty at "Alembic" and Eastern Sound in Toronto. Alembic Studios was the Dead's technology headquarters, full of equipment but not really a studio. I suspect that Bob and Betty used the James and The Good Brothers album as an experiment to see if Alembic was a good place to record. Since I don't know of any other recordings there, I have to assume Bob and Betty were unhappy with the results. I also wonder if Bob and Betty were actually flown to Toronto to record--my guess is probably not. Record liner notes are not obligated to be accurate, and I suspect that different engineers handled the board in Toronto. In any case, Betty Cantor is actually listed as the producer of this album, as well as sharing the engineering credits with Bob Matthews. 

The cover to the 1972 Garcia album, engineered by Bob and Betty
Garcia-Jerry Garcia, Wally Heider's Studio, San Francisco, July 1971
Garcia went into the studio to record his solo album in part because he needed the advance to buy a house for Mountain Girl. At this time, Warner Brothers and Columbia were courting the various members of the Dead in anticipation of signing them once the band's Warners contract ran out. The story about this album was that they put up a sign that said "Anita Bryant Sessions" to discourage the likes of Paul Kantner and David Crosby from disrupting the work. 

Bob and Betty had not worked on a project with extensive overdubs since Aoxomoxoa, but no doubt their experience served them in good stead here.

Bob Weir's 1972 album Ace, engineered by Bob and Betty
Burgers-Hot Tuna, Wally Heider's Studio, San Francisco, late 1971
Betty was credited with mixing the classic third Hot Tuna album, released on RCA/Grunt in early 1972. Jorma Kaukonen was the producer, but given his schedule Betty must have had a substantial role in the preparation of the album.

Ace-Bob Weir, Wally Heider's Studio, San Francisco, Winter 1972
Weir had his own solo album, engineered by Bob and Betty at Wally Heider's, probably around January 1972. Both Garcia and Ace were fairly conventional album projects for the early 1970s, and Bob and Betty's work stands up well compared to similar efforts of that time. Regardless of the peculiar means by which Bob and Betty became recording engineers, their work was just as good as conventionally trained engineers in Hollywood or New York at the time. Ace was mixed at Alembic, so it seems that Alembic was a good room for mixing, but not for recording.

Baron Von Tollbooth vs The Chrome Nun-Paul Kantner, Grace Slick and David Freiberg, Wally Heider's Studio, San Francisco, November-December 1972
The Jefferson Airplane had some deal with RCA where they had all but unlimited studio time at Wally Heider's, so they recorded constantly. The Airplane only existed in name only, if that, by the end of 1972, so the recordings were for a Paul Kantner-Grace Slick album. David Freiberg, an old friend who joined the Airplane for their final tour, had such a substantial contribution that his name was added to the album credits.

This recording was the last of the major PERRO projects. Bob and Betty engineered most of the tracks, although Columbia engineer Jim Gaines was also involved. Bob and Betty shared the mixing with long-time pro Al Schmitt. So while its unclear exactly what tracks Bob and Betty worked on, they clearly played a major role. Jerry Garcia played on 8 of the 10 tracks on the album. A number of faces who would soon become part of Jefferson Starship made their first appearances in the Starship orbit on this album, including Pete Sears and Craig Chaquico.

Manhole-Grace Slick, Wally Heider's Studio, San Francisco 1973
This Grace Slick "solo" album was really a hodge-podge of tracks recorded at Wally Heider's, at least one of which did not even include Grace. Bob Matthews was credited as one of four engineers. The album was released on RCA/Grunt in 1974.

Tales Of The Great Rum Runners-Robert Hunter, The Barn, Novato early 1974
Bob Matthews was one of a number of engineers for Hunter's debut. Columbia Records had apparently helped Mickey Hart build a studio in his barn at his ranch in Novato. However, the tapes from The Barn in the early 70s, including Hart's 1972 Rolling Thunder album, don't sound that great to me. I love the songs on Rum Runners, but the actual recording leaves a lot to be desired.

Tiger Rose-Robert Hunter, The Barn, Novato late 1974
At some point In 1974, Mickey Hart acquired the mixing board that the Dead had used at Pacific High Recorders for Workingman's Dead, and the sound of his barn studio improved significantly. Pacific High, by now called His Master's Wheels, apparently upgraded their equipment, and Hart managed to get ahold of the old board.

Jerry Garcia produced Robert Hunter's second album for Round, Tiger Rose, recorded at Mickey's ranch. Bob and Betty engineered the recording, which had a nice, crisp sound, appropriate for Hunter's voice and songs, and appropriately reminiscent of Workingman's.

Seastones-Ned Lagin, The Barn, Novato late 1974
Ned Lagin's unique project lists a number of engineers and studios, and Bob and Betty at Mickey's barn was just one of four listed studios. It's not at all clear how much recording Bob and Betty did for Lagin's project, nor how much of what they actually recorded was actually released on the Seastones album itself, but they definitely participated. 

The Fish-Barry Melton project, The Barn, Novato, early 1975
The Barry Melton solo album The Fish was only released in the UK in late 1975, on United Artists Records. While the album features one song that Melton co-wrote with Robert Hunter ("Jesse James"), two Melton co-wrote with Mickey Hart ("Speed Racer" and "Marshmellow Road") and two more he co-wrote with Peter Monk, the album credits say that it was entirely recorded in Wales with English musicians. However, Betty clearly recalls producing the album in Novato. I presume that most or all of the album was re-recorded in Wales (at Rockfield Studios), and Betty would have had no say in the matter and may not have even known that her work was superseded.

Diga Rhythm Band-Mickey Hart, The Barn, Novato, 1976
This unique percussion album was recorded in Mickey Hart's studio in 1976, with guest appearances from Garcia, David Freiberg and a few others.  Betty was one of the engineers, and it was released in late 1976 on United Artists. 

Cats Under The Stars-Jerry Garcia Band, Club Front, San Rafael August-November 1977
The Jerry Garcia Band decided to record their album at their rehearsal studio because they loved the sound, so Betty persuaded Jerry Garcia to fund some expensive recording equipment and built a studio at Front Street in San Rafael. Bob and Betty engineered the wonderful Cats Under The Stars album, which went nowhere, much to Garcia's dismay. 

Alligator Moon-Robert Hunter project, Club Front, San Rafael, late 1977/early 1978
The next project at Front Street was the Alligator Moon album with Robert Hunter and Comfort. I have a lengthy post on this subject, so I won't recap it all here. Suffice to say, Hunter was not happy with the recording and it never saw the light of day. A few tracks were released on the Relix album Promontory Rider, but the studio version of the wonderful six-song "Alligator Moon" suite has never circulated, to my knowledge.

Go To Heaven-Grateful Dead, Club Front, San Rafael July 1979-January 1980
Veteran producer Gary Lyons (Aerosmith and others) managed the album (released April 1980) and also did some of the engineering himself. Since it was at Club Front, Bob and Betty are listed as engineer (Betty, along with Lyons) and assistant engineer (Bob). It was Gary Lyons' project, but they played a role in the engineering.

Run For The Roses-Jerry Garcia, Club Front, San Rafael 1981
Betty engineered most of the tracks for Garcia's final solo album in the Fall of 1981. Bob Matthews was credited with the mixing and the overdubs. A few tracks were recorded in Los Angeles with a different engineer [thanks to Commenter LIA for pointing out my omission of this album].

Brent Mydland project, Club Front (?), 1982
Betty's final major studio project was Brent Mydland's solo album, from around 1982. I assume it was recorded at Club Front. I know that former Silver guitarist Greg Collier played on it, but I do not know what other musicians may have participated. Tapes circulate, and I have heard a little of it. It seems very well recorded, but it's in a more conventional "80s rock" style. The few times that Bob and Betty made records that were intended to be more conventional with the contemporary record industry, they sounded as good as what was around at the time, so the fact that they were almost entirely self-taught seems not to have impeded their development.

At some point in the mid-80s, Betty Cantor and Bob Matthews both faded away from the Grateful Dead scene. Since the band had largely stopped recording, I presume their opportunities to participate were fewer in any case. No doubt the financial and personal politics of the crew and the band played a part in some complex and difficult way, but that is the subject for other biographers. Bob and Betty's legacy was fabulous live tapes, some of which were turned into records and some of which we just listen to for our own enjoyment. Nonetheless it's fascinating to see the extensive number of projects they worked on in the studio. If I missed any non-live recording projects, released or not, please mention them in the Comments. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

George Tickner-Guitar (Garcia/Saunders Group-Spring 1973)

Journey's 1975 debut album on Columbia, with George Tickner on rhythm guitar
Some recent discussions have indicated that George Tickner performed as an additional guitarist with Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders on a few shows in Spring 1973. Sharp ears have discerned his playing on a March 7, 1973 tape from Keystone Berkeley and a May 4, 1973 tape from Homer's Warehouse in Palo Alto. The Jerry Site also puts Tickner at the Boarding House in San Francisco on April 13 and 14, 1973. I have never heard a tape of any of these performances, but a reliable source confirmed to me that Tickner played the Boarding House shows, and he seems a likely candidate for the March 7 and May 4 tapes. Given that there were only 10 Garcia/Saunders live shows in the Spring of 73, between March 6 and May 5 (as Old and In The Way took up much of Garcia's "spare" time), and we only have tapes of two of them, it's entirely possible that George Tickner played guitar on all 10 of them.

Regardless of what Tickner may have added or subtracted from the group, his brief presence fascinates me in a number of ways. The Garcia/Saunders band was basically a bar band, so when friends joined in to sing a song or play a trumpet solo, that was part of the musician's code, letting your friends have a go just to have some fun. When different people filled in on bass or drums, that was just business--if John Kahn or Bill Vitt wasn't available, someone had to fill the chair.

However, if an additional musician joined the band for an entire show, much less for two or several, there's no other way to consider it but as an audition. Sure, the band was casual, and Kahn or somebody probably just invited someone like Martin Fiero to "come on down and play" a few times, but there's no way that happens unless Garcia had some kind of interest in adding something to the band. Tom Fogerty had been a part-time member of the Garcia/Saunders band in 1971 and '72, but by 1973 he seemed to be concentrating on his solo career. Thus the idea of another rhythm guitarist must have at least presented itself as a possibility. The part that interests me about George Tickner is this: as near as I can tell, Tickner had just graduated from college, and had not been a professional musician since at least 1969, if not before.

This post will attempt to look at the social relationships that appear to exist that would facilitate the unknown George Tickner getting a chance to play with Jerry Garcia for a few nights. The relationships can only be discerned from a great distance, much as we analyze the genealogy of Medieval German princes in order to discover the alliances of their various tiny kingdoms in the 14th century. I actually saw George Tickner perform live twice in 1975, both times with Journey, and he seemed solid and tasteful, if unspectacular, so there doesn't seem to be any specific virtuosity that made him a candidate for the band. Without inherent virtuosity, only relationships could provide the opportunity, so I will consider George Tickner with respect to the degrees of separation from Jerry Garcia.

Frumious Bandersnatch in 1967, George Tickner second from right
Frumious Bandersnatch, Mark I
As far as I know, George Tickner was from Lafayette, CA, which in 1967 was a bucolic East Bay suburb in Contra Costa County, just over the hill from Berkeley. Although Lafayette was in easy driving distance to Berkeley and San Francisco, the City was seen as a distant, threatening place, which of course made it irresistible to the local teenagers. Some aspiring young residents formed the group Frumious Bandersnatch, and shortly afterwards moved to a warehouse in Oakland. The original lineup of Frumious Bandersnatch was
  • Kaja Doria-vocals
  • Bret Wilmot-lead guitar
  • George Tickner-guitar
  • Bret Hough-bass
  • Jack King-drums, vocals
Two studio recordings survive, captured on the 1996 Big Beat cd A Young Man's Song, a retrospective of the career of Frumious Bandersnatch with great liner notes by Alec Palao. The early Frumious had a sort of hard-rocking Jefferson Airplane feel, apparently, and Tickner's riffing guitar was a big part of their sound. Frumious Bandersnatch played all sorts of gigs around the Bay Area in 1967, including Lafayette's most notorious (and only) outdoor rock festival, The Fantastic Flight of The Mystic Balloon, on July 22, 1967 (some photos can be seen here). While there were numerous teenage bands playing the Contra Costa circuit, Frumious had been the only one to break out through the Caldecott Tunnel and play San Francisco venues, even if they were just an opening act. All this came to an end in late 1967, when the band's equipment was stolen from their Oakland waterfront warehouse. Frumious Bandersnatch had to pack it in.

Frumous Bandersnatch, Mark II
There weren't many Contra Costa bands, and they all knew each other. A band called the Good Timers heard about Frumious's demise and called Jack King. The Good Timers joined forces with King and took over the name Frumious Bandersnatch, which was sort of known around San Francisco. The new, 1968 lineup of Frumious Bandersnatch was
  • Jimmy Warner-lead guitar
  • David Denny-guitar
  • Ross Valory-bass
  • Jack King-drums, vocals
With the addition of guitarist/vocalist Bobby Winkelmann (formerly of The Epics), the three-guitar lineup of Frumious Bandersnatch became a popular live act in the Bay Area. They opened for the Grateful Dead on various occasions, including two of the nights at Fillmore West when the Dead recorded Live/Dead (March 1-2, 1969), when they replaced Doug Sahm.  Frumious was booked by Bill Graham's Millard Agency, so despite the fact they never landed a record contract, they played a lot of great live gigs around the Bay Area. Palao's liner notes have the complete story.

Herbie Herbert, probably in the 1980s
Walter "Herbie" Herbert
However, the most important part of the George Tickner story turns out to be Frumious Bandersnatch's road manager, Walter "Herbie" Herbert. Herbert had been a high school musician along with the rest of his friends, and was a drummer for the Orinda based Long Greens, but his real vocation turned out to be looking after bands. The band members were defiant hippies, but Herbert was a true recalcitrant (he was  kicked out of Miramonte High and graduated from Campolindo High School in 1966), just the right attitude for a road manager.

Herbert had been the manager, road manager and sole roadie for The Good Timers when they heard about the demise of Frumious Bandersnatch. Herbert had the idea of calling Jack King and taking the name, since it had more booking leverage than The Good Timers. David Denny had been a friend in various bands, and along with the two best members of The Good Timers (Warner and Valory), Herbert had the best players and the most salable name of the Contra Costa bands. He painted The Good Timers van over with the name Frumious Bandersnatch, and became the manager and road manager for them.

When Frumious Bandersnatch started to work for BGP and The Millard Agency, Herbert focused more on the road manager side of the business. However, working with BGP, Herbert got a major education in how the rock business really worked, and nothing was lost on him. When Frumious Bandersnatch broke up for good at the end of 1969, Herbert became a roadie and later the road manager for Santana, then BGP's principal client on the management side. Herbert helped shepherd Santana in their rise to world stardom, having gone from driving a van through the Caldecott tunnel to flying to Madison Square Garden for sold out engagements. As a result, Herbert knew all sides of the rock business as only an insider could.

George Tickner 1968-72.
Meanwhile, what of George Tickner? After the demise of Frumious Mark I, Tickner largely dropped off the rock and roll map. As near as I can tell, that was because Tickner seems to have taken the shocking, non-60s rock and roll step of attending and graduating from college. I'm not sure where he went or what he majored in, but I know he got into medical school (more on this later) so he was no slacker. It appears that Tickner was not working as a professional musician, not surprising for a serious student. Nonetheless, he must have kept up his guitar playing, and I assume he was in some jamming ensembles or part-time dance bands or something, because his guitar playing skills didn't disappear.

The only lp by Faun, circa 1968-69
For various reasons I have assumed that Tickner went to college from Fall 1968 through Spring 1972. Obviously, he could have had a slightly different program, but the bulk of his college education must have taken place during that time. The only professional role for Tickner that I am aware of is on an obscure album called Faun, released on Gre Gar records. Faun seems to have been recorded in the 1968-69 period, and released about 1969. Tickner and Ross Valory appear on the record. According to the liner notes, the album “seems to trip backward and forward through time”… a unique blend of pop, jazz, 1930 swing and the classics." Whatever the genesis of the Faun album, it seems to have been a studio concoction.

Garcia/Saunders with George Tickner, Spring, 1973
With this lengthy precis about George Tickner's career prior to 1973, the peculiarity of Tickner's nights with Garcia take on a new light. Tickner had not been a professional musician in several years, and he had no known professional connections to Garcia, Saunders, Kahn or Vitt, other than through Herbie Herbert. Even the Herbert connection isn't so direct--Herbert was not the road manager for Frumious Bandersnatch when Tickner was a member. Of course, all the Contra Costa hippie musicians, few in number, knew each other, so clearly Herbert and Tickner were connected. Nonetheless, I cannot find a plausible explanation for Tickner's appearance with Jerry Garcia except for that Herbie Herbert must have pitched him to Garcia. I also have to think there must have been a rehearsal or at least a jam, and Tickner must have passed well enough to play Keystone Berkeley (March 7), the two nights at the Boarding House and Homer's Warehouse (May 4), if not every show in the Spring.

The initial lineup of the Garcia/Saunders band had been stable for 1971 and '72, with Tom Fogerty on rhythm guitar as a mostly-present member along with the base quartet (Garcia/Saunders/Kahn/Vitt). Early 1973 was characterized by some experimentation by Garcia, including Sarah Fulcher on vocals as well as the addition of Tickner on guitar. After a Winter and Spring of experimentation, Garcia seems to have decided on sticking with the quartet. This wasn't casual, as they recorded their album for Fantasy in July 1973, so the business decision must have been made earlier. Garcia, Saunders, Kahn and Vitt seem to have been trying out various band members to see how they wanted to constitute the band, but by June they seem to have decided on a quartet. Of course, different people dropped in throughout the year, but the first part of the year seems to have been taken up with exploring different options, and Tickner was part of that process.

Herbie Herbert has always proudly described himself as a Deadhead. Indeed, he has said his business plan for Journey was to make them a more polished version of the Grateful Dead. Although the original Santana band had disintegrated by the end of 1972, and Herbert was no longer their road manager, as part of a business agreement he was leasing Santana's sound and light equipment to other touring bands. Thus Herbert, who would have known Garcia for years in any case, would have been able to approach Garcia as a professional peer, not a wannabe who wanted to get in with the band. Herbert's persuasive powers are legendary, and I can think of no other explanation for Tickner's performance with Garcia in Spring 1973.

I think Herbert knew that Garcia was looking for other band members, and he persuaded Garcia and Kahn that they should try out his friend George Tickner. Tickner must have at least done well enough in rehearsal to get on stage with the band, even if he didn't play more than ten shows, and possibly fewer. Of course, I don't think the Garcia/Saunders band needed a rhythm guitarist anyway, so the fact that they didn't keep Tickner is not a criticism of his playing. Its funny to contemplate, though: how many recent college graduates in 1973 were pretty good guitar players, and thought to themselves, "yeah, I could play 'Expressway To My Heart' with Jerry in some bar!" Tickner seems to be the guy who got to do that, if just for a few nights.

Journey 1973-75
Supposedly, after the demise of Santana, guitarist Neal Schon had planned a group in 1973 with Pete Sears and Gregg Errico called "The San Francisco Rhythm Section," a sort of San Francisco Booker T and The MGs. It never happened, not least because major label recording activity declined in San Francisco. By the end of 1973, Schon's idea had evolved into a group called Journey. Journey recorded a demo in 1974 that got the band signed to Columbia Records. Journey's original lineup was
  • Neal Schon-lead guitar
  • George Tickner-guitar
  • Gregg Rolie-keyboards, vocals
  • Ross Valory-bass
  • Prairie Prince-drums
Prince, however, refused to leave The Tubes, and was replaced by the great Aysnley Dunbar before the end of 1974. Herbie Herbert was Journey's manager, and the band was a merger of his previous bands, with two guys from Santana and two from Frumious Bandersnatch.

After Journey had recorded their debut album, but before it was released, Journey played all over the Bay Area on the strength of Rolie and Schon's status as former members of Santana. I saw Journey twice during that period, once opening for Dave Mason at Maples Pavilion (January '75) and later headlining a local concert at Fiesta Hall at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds (May '75). George Tickner was the rhythm guitarist for both those shows. Early Journey had much more of a prog rock/fusion sound than the more famous, poppier Journey that would follow. While they didn't jam like the Dead, there were extended, unscripted solos. I wasn't impressed with Journey, but they were good musicians, and Tickner had no problem anchoring Schon, Rolie and Dunbar while they wailed away. I can certainly imagine Tickner hanging in there effectively with Jerry and Merl, even if he wasn't absolutely necessary.

Aftermath 1976>Now
After Journey released a moderately successful debut album in 1975, George Tickner left the band to go to medical school. There aren't a lot of musicians who leave major label bands in the middle of a deal to go to medical school. I assume he became a medical professional, as he dropped out of the music business. Tickner has occasionally appeared at events with members of Journey, so he clearly remained friends with the original band. Tickner released the album Charge Of The Light Brigade in 2009, and his MySpace page proudly acknowledged his opportunity to have played with Jerry Garcia.

Journey was hugely successful on a massive scale, and Herbie Herbert ultimately retired as their manager in 1993. Herbert chose to re-invent himself as the blues singer Sy Klopps. Sy's albums are dotted with numerous Grateful Dead connections. In 2002, Sy Klopps recorded an album and did a few shows with a group called The Tri-Chromes, who included Bill Kreutzmann and Neal Schon. When touring ended in 2003, Herbert retired fully to Mendocino.

George Tickner's brief foray with Garcia and Saunders remains a mystery. Only now are we piecing together the actual picture of Garcia's goals for the band, and most of the principals are no longer with us. Tickner is proud enough of having played with Garcia, as well he should be, but I'm not aware of him ever having explained in detail how he came to get the opportunity.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

May 23, 1968 The Trident, Sausalito, CA: Merl Saunders Trio

Jazz critic Russ Wilson's review of Merl Saunders Trio's performance at The Trident in Sausalito, from the May 24, 1968 edition of the Oakland Tribune. The other members of the trio were Jimmy Daniels (guitar) and Eddie Moore (drums)
While doing newspaper research into some other matters, I came across a glowing review of the Merl Saunders Trio performing at The Trident Restaurant in Sausalito. The Trident, on the waterfront on the Marin side of the Golden Gate bridge, was a destination restaurant in the 60s and a prestigious jazz booking. In his May 24, 1968 review, Oakland Tribune jazz critic Russ Wilson speaks highly of the performance of Saunders and his band. For me personally, the interesting thing about this review is that Merl's music is considered on its own merits, with no mention of Jerry Garcia. Saunders was not a major local jazz figure at the time, but he was known well enough to Russ Wilson to get a nice review in the Tribune.  I myself had not realized how little I had read about Merl Saunders's music that did not dwell at least implicitly on his music with Jerry Garcia. Interested parties can read the entire review itself (above), but I thought I would put a few thoughts in context.

The Trident Restaurant, at 588 Bridgewater in Sausalito, CA, just across from San Francisco. Patrons and employees remember it fondly, to the extent they remember
The Trident, 558 Bridgewater, Sausalito
Sausalito was once a fishing village on the opposite side of the bay from San Francisco. Ultimately it became a Ferry terminus to the North Pacific Coast Railroad. However, when the Golden Gate Bridge was opened in 1937, Sausalito's waterfront declined rapidly. Sausalito had always had a colorful history, with bootleggers, rum runners and bordellos, and that aspect of the community was ascendant for some years. By the 1960s, however, the seedy history of Sausalito had made it a desirable bohemian enclave.

The Trident was owned by one Frank Werber, who had made a fair amount of money as the producer of The Kingston Trio. Under his Trident Productions banner, he produced a variety of other acts as well. In the mid-60s, he dipped his toes in the folk-rock waters, signing and producing Bay Area acts like Blackburn & Snow and The Sons Of Champlin.  In 1966, Werber and the Kingston Trio opened up The Trident Restaurant on the water, which also regularly featured jazz. It instantly became the in place for upscale downsiders and downscalers with an upside.

In 1967 Frank Werber gave up the record business, a rare man who took his money out of the biz before he lost it. He kept The Trident, however. As the San Francisco bohemian underground became rock and roll royalty, The Trident was a main hangout for record company people, Bill Graham, rock stars, film stars and other cool people. The Trident was famous for having spectacularly beautiful waitresses, all reputedly braless. The Trident also booked jazz five or six nights a week, an interesting paradox in a club that celebrated the rock and roll life. Nonetheless, the quality of jazz performers at The Trident was uniformly high, whether local performers or recruited from out of town.

Merl Saunders Trio At The Trident, May 21-June 9, 1968
According to Wilson's review, the Merl Saunders trio was engaged when, per Wilson, "oddly enough... pianist Vince Guaraldi sprained a finger Saturday night getting off an airplane, and notified the club he couldn't keep his booking for the following Tuesday, according to club manager Lou Ganapoler" (Vince Guaraldi scholars take note). The peculiar tone of Wilson's explanation suggests that there was more to Guaraldi's sprained finger than he is saying, but no matter: Merl and his trio were on board. Apparently Saunders had filled in for a few days the previous year (1967) when another headliner had been unable to make it, so they weren't a complete unknown to The Trident.

Saunders group was an organ trio on the classic model of Jimmy Smith, with drummer Eddie Moore and guitarist Jimmy Daniels. Moore, besides being Saunders's cousin, was a well known drummer in Bay Area jazz circles. Daniels was a Connecticutt native and had formerly played with the great organist Johnny "Hammond" Smith. Saunders would have kept up the bass with his feet. For Garcia fans, the Merl Saunders trio would have played music like "Expressway To Your Heart" or "My Funny Valentine," but without Garcia's trademark note bending, which he brought in from the rock side.

Wilson names a few songs that the Saunders trio played, such as "Up, Up And Away," "You Better Love Me," "Little Bird" and "Sometimes I'm Happy." Wilson praises Saunders as "an organist who knows his stops as well as his keyboards, and who builds on this foundation with musicality, taste and a strong ability to swing..."[Saunders] perceptive use of these basics often makes his output superior to that of widely known jazz organists." The critic does add that "there are times when Saunders and his cohorts fall into a dismal swamp, as they did with the current pop tune "Up, Up And Away." These two points fairly sum up Saunders ability as a keyboard player: he is versatile, sticks to the basic and knows how to swing, while sometimes falling into unneeded noodling.

It is interesting also to read Wilson's comments about guitarist Jimmy Daniels. He says "on appropriate numbers he utilizes a blues vibrato that gets into the nitty-gritty and on ballads he plays with a full melodic sound that enhances the tune." A few years later, Saunders would play with another guitarist who would utilize even more blues vibrato and play with a full melodic sound, as well.  It is interesting to see that Merl Saunders's sound was well established prior to playing with Jerry Garcia and John Kahn in 1970. Since Saunders had logged three weeks at the Trident in 1968, he would not have been at all unknown to the music cognoscenti in 1970, even if he wasn't well known to the general public.

Russ Wilson and The Oakland Tribune
Oakland had been a worthy competitor to San Francisco since the time the Transcontinental Railroad terminated at the Port Of Oakland in 1869. However, once the Bay Bridge was opened in 1936, Oakland's status declined relative to San Francisco, as automotive travel made the City more accessible from the East Bay. Oakland continued to boom throughout World War 2, but afterwards the East Bay metropolis lagged farther and farther behind San Francisco in every respect. A general Post WW2 movement to the suburbs did not help Oakland's status.

Nonetheless, the Oakland Tribune, owned by the powerful Knowland family, continued to be an important newspaper up until the 1970s. Jazz critic Russ Wilson was a significant voice in the East Bay musical community. Wilson liked all styles of jazz, befitting a critic for a daily paper, but he liked soul, folk and blues as well. On occasion he commented on rock bands in his local column, and unlike some 60s jazz critics, he had positive feelings and a good ear for rock, despite having a different primary focus. Wilson's broad tastes were comparable to other music writers at Bay Area papers in the 1960s, including Ralph J Gleason at the San Francisco Chronicle and Phil Elwood at the San Francisco Examiner.

The Merl Saunders Trio made a two-month tour of the Far East later in 1968. In the next two years, Merl Saunders would be the musical director of a Broadway show and jam with Miles Davis in New York. He returned to the Bay Area in 1970, where he met Jerry Garcia at Wally Heider's studio. This led to an extensive and memorable career playing live with Jerry in the 1970s and beyond.

The Trident Restaurant was open from 1966-76, and it is remembered fondly by patrons and employees alike (one of those employees appears to have been Jerry Garcia Band singer Julie Stafford). Members of the Kingston Trio sold their interest in the restaurant in 1976, so Frank Werber did as well. The restaurant was called Horizons after 1976. I don't know the exact history of the building. It now appears to be called Events Ondine.

The Oakland Tribune had commenced publication in 1874. Like most newspapers, it declined in circulation throughout the 1970s. At some point, the excellent Larry Kelp became the primary music writer for the Tribune. I can not recall if he published alongside Russ Wilson or replaced him. The Tribune went through numerous ownership changes throughout the end of the century. For the moment it is part of BANG (The Bay Area Newspaper Group). The Oakland Tribune is scheduled to cease publication after November 1, 2011, when its circulation will merge with other papers under the name East Bay Tribune.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sarah Fulcher-Vocals

Sarah Fulcher's 1971 album Sarah & Friends on TMI Records, produced in Memphis by Steve Cropper
In 1973, the Garcia/Saunders band was a much looser aggregation than what it would become later. There were often different musicians sitting in on rhythm guitar, or trumpet or something, and at least once someone other than John Kahn played bass (Marty David, on January 19, 1973 at the Keystone Berkeley). One prominent figure in 1973 was singer Sarah Fulcher, who played on a number of shows in early 1973. When she performed, she took a substantial role that has generated widely varying reactions amongst listeners. Speaking for myself, when she was on the bandstand, it gave the Garcia band a different sound, and Jerry always benefited from that in the long run. If I recall correctly, she sang a little bit on the Wake Of The Flood sessions as well, although I think she was lost in the mix somewhere.

However, up until this time, I have never been able to find out anything about Ms. Fulcher. Google works in mysterious ways, however, and this time around I seem to have come up with enough information that I'm pretty sure I finally know something about her recording and performing history. What follows is what I believe to be the faintest outline of Sarah Fulcher's musical career, up until 1973. More importantly, I have discovered that she released an album on TMI Records in 1971, Sarah & Friends (TMI Z30968, above), produced by Steve Cropper and distributed by Columbia. How Sarah Fulcher made the connection to performing with Jerry Garcia still remains elusive, but all signs point to--Hooteroll!

Roy Head's 1964 single "Get Back", apparently featuring Sarah Fulcher on vocals
Roy Head And The Traits
San Marcos, TX is on Interstate 35, midway between Austin and San Antonio. A San Marcos high school band called The Traits, featuring singer Roy Head (b. 1943) started recording in 1958. The Traits had a series of regional hits in Texas and the Southwest through the early 1960s. The Traits played a mixture of rock, rockabilly and rhythm and blues, typical of the flexible style of Texas music since its creation.

By 1964, it appears that Sarah Fulcher was a member of Roy Head and The Traits. She even apparently was featured singing with Head on a 1964 single 'Get Back"/"Never Make Me Blue" (Lori 9551, later released on Scepter). Roy Head had his biggest hit in 1965 with "Treat Her Right," and the band toured throughout America. Although The Traits faded away, Head continued to have a successful career in the rock and country fields. How long Sarah Fulcher remained a member of The Traits remains unknown.The one time I have heard Sarah Fulcher talk, between numbers on the Jan 19, 1973 Keystone tape, she does appear to have a Texas accent, so at least some pieces of the puzzle fit.

TMI Records
I could find no record of Sarah Fulcher's career for the balance of the 1960s. However, a series of Billboard magazine articles in early 1971 make a number of references to a Sarah Fulcher who is a singer on TMI Records. She is specifically referred to as being from San Marcos, TX, so I am confident that it is the same Sarah Fulcher. More importantly, it appears she recorded an album for TMI Records in Memphis in 1971, produced by Steve Cropper of Booker T and The MGs. Finally, since her picture is on the cover, we can now put a face to the voice.

A detailed feature in Billboard describes the backstory to Trans Maximus Inc (TMI). Manager Jerry Williams and guitarist/producer Steve Cropper teamed up to form a production company in Memphis, TN, complete with a recording studio and record label. Williams had been manager of Paul Revere and The Raiders, among many others, and Steve Cropper had not only been in the MGs, but he had written, recorded and produced many hits for Stax Records and many other labels. According to a May 29, 1971 Billboard article on TMI, Cropper had produced Fulcher's debut album for TMI, and there was a lot of enthusiasm for the record.

TMI Records was a "Custom" label for Columbia Records. Structurally, this meant that the principals (Cropper and Williams) had control of their artists, but the ultimate output belonged to Columbia, the parent label. The idea was that this arrangement promoted the creative vision of the principals while leveraging the financing and distribution of a major label. This is a tried and true formula for major record companies. Columbia particularly liked this arrangement in the early 1970s, and they had a similar arrangement with Douglas Records. Producer Alan Douglas, of course, made the arrangement to have Jerry Garcia record with Howard Wales for the Hooteroll album.

Thanks to an apparently Japanese site, I found the cover and the track listings for Sarah Fulcher's 1971 album. It appears that one of the mysteries has been that Sarah Fulcher's last name doesn't seem to appear on the album, thus hiding it in plain sight all those years. Only when I found the Billboard articles was I able to connect the dots.

Sarah & Friends (TMI 30968)
Released 1971
Produced and Arranged by Steve Cropper
Recorded at Trans Maximus Sound Studio, Memphis, TN

1. Fly By Night (Walter Ramsey, Jr.)
2. Cycles (Sam Samudio)
3. Big City Eye (David Mayo)
4. The Natural Order Of Things (Eric Mercury & Carson Whitsett)
5. I've Told You For The Last Time (Steve Cropper & Delaney Bramlett)
6. Antique Age  (Mary V. Williams & Mack Rice)
7. She Who Steals My Man  (Mary V. Williams & Mack Rice)
8. Take It Like You Give It  (Ted White & Aretha Franklin)
9. Like A Road Leading Home  (Don Nix & Dan Penn)
10. I'm Sticking With My Man  (Eddie Floyd, Mack Rice, Steve Cropper & Chester Simmons)
11. Lord I Wonder Why  (Betty Cropper)

Steve Cropper-Guitar
Paul Cannon-Guitar
J. Spell-Piano, Organ
Jim Johnson-Bass
Richie Simpson-Drums
David Mayo-Organ, Guitar, Backing Vocals
Walter Ramsey-Piano
David Beaver-Backing Vocals
Pat Taylor-Backing Vocals

I wonder what the album sounds like? Only Cropper's name is familiar to me. It may be, however, that Sarah Fulcher brought "Like A Road" to Garcia, interestingly enough. 

I don't know yet what the connection was between Sarah Fulcher and the Garcia/Saunders axis, but I think it had to do with Columbia connections. TMI studios was in Memphis, and Steve Cropper recorded either there or Los Angeles, so I don't think that was the link. However, one name mentioned in the Billboard article was engineer Jim Gaines, and I know Gaines was friendly with Garcia. The only record I could find where Gaines produced and Garcia performed was Baron Von Tollbooth And The Chrome Nun. That album was recorded at Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco in 1972, with Gaines as one of the engineers, so there may have been some connections there.

In any case, I think the TMI connection meant that Sarah Fulcher's singing had been heard by various studio professionals in the Columbia orbit, whether Jim Gaines or someone else. In turn, Garcia's connection to the Columbia studio orbit came from Hooteroll, so although it is a stretch, Sarah Fulcher may qualify as all Hooteroll, all the time. Here's to hoping that Sarah Fulcher or someone who knows her is still out there and can fill in some of the blanks.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Paul Humphrey-Drums

The cover of the 1973 Paul Humphrey Blue Thumb album Supermellow

Paul Humphrey was the drummer for the Jerry Garcia/Merl Saunders band for some of 1974. He seems to have joined the band during the late Summer, and left the group in or by December. Since Humphrey was replaced by the great Ronnie Tutt, the Garcia/Saunders ensemble did not suffer a drop in quality, but their sound changed distinctly. Humphrey was a funky, versatile drummer, and he gave the 1974 Garcia/Saunders band an appropriately funky sound that fit in nicely with newly added band member Martin Fiero on tenor sax and flute. That five piece lineup has been permanently and excellent captured on the 2004 3-disc cd set from the Pure Jerry series, Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders Band: Keystone Berkeley, September 1, 1974.

In doing some recent research into Ron Tutt, I was struck by how little I knew about not only Paul Humphrey but his time playing with Jerry Garcia. It's not at all clear who drummed for Garcia/Saunders in the Summer of '74, and its even less clear when Ron Tutt started to play with the group. We do know that the first confirmed sighting of Tutt was on December 15 in Oregon, but its plain that he had started earlier. The question is not only how much earlier, but whether there was any overlap. Bill Kreutzmann was the drummer for early 1974, but an oblique remark by Kahn suggested that Kahn had to "fire" Kreutzmann, which I take to mean telling him he would not be a permanent member of the group, but only a substitute. Gregg Errico may also have been an occasional substitute as well in the 1974 period.

JGMF recently uncovered some new information that identifies May 31, 1974 as a crucial date in Tutt's tenure with Jerry Garcia. It's possible, even plausible, that Garcia, Kahn and Tutt played together in mid-1974 and agreed to start working together at the time. The ever-busy Tutt, however, may not have been able to start immediately, and with Garcia not desiring Kreutzmann as a permanent member, Humphrey may have been drafted as a temporary guest for a few months. Although this is speculation on my part, I looked into Humphrey' history as a drummer and musician, and I was quite startled by what I found, and it makes my "temporary guest" theory more plausible. Humphrey, it turns out, has a truly substantial history as a drummer, in many ways as impressive as Ron Tutt's and that's saying a lot. Since I don't know anywhere else that Humphrey's history has been laid out in the context of Jerry Garcia, I will do so here, and consider the implications for Garcia's band below.

The British 45 rpm picture sleeve for Joe Cocker's 1969 hit "Feelin' Alright"
Paul Humphrey-Drums
Paul Humphrey was born in Detroit in 1935. He made his way to Los Angeles in the early 1960s, where he was well regarded as a session drummer. He was at least a satellite "member" of the so-called "Wrecking Crew," an aggregation of Los Angeles studio musicians who played on numerous sessions and are generally believed to be the "most recorded" musicians in the world, at least with respect to released albums, singles and movies. One session that Deadheads may recognize was the late 1968 Joe Cocker recording of Dave Mason's song "Feelin' Alright." Although every other track on Cocker's 1969 debut album on A&M (With A Little Help From My Friends) was recorded in London with the likes of Jimmy Page and Steve Winwood, one track was recorded in Los Angeles with the heaviest of LA's players.

Dave Mason's original version of "Feeling Alright" was a mournful lament that appeared on Traffic's famous second album. Cocker, an entirely different singer than Mason, turned it into a soulful funkfest, managing to maintain the irony of the song's lyrics while investing it with a different kind of power. The version was a modest hit on AM radio, but remains a staple of FM rock radio to this day. The sparse arrangement features a modified sort of Latin beat with legendary wrecking crew bassist Carol Kaye bouncing off against Humphrey's urgent drums. Piano (Artie Butler), congas (Laudir de Oliviera) and guitar (David Cohen--not the Fish guy) join in the background, and Cocker and his backing vocalists sing their hearts out. Kaye says
Paul immediately struck up a semi-samba funk drum part and I went a contrasting way with a rhythm for a bassline. The chorus features the bass playing mostly down beats while Paul was accenting up beats, then we switched places for the verse. It was that simple. Joe had a lot to do with the feel though. He is a very soulful guy and we got along instantly. It was a great date. But the real take (I thought) was the take before the one you hear. I always thought that was the better take, but something happened, erased, or not recorded or something like that. But "Feelin' Alright" was a big hit twice, so I guess that's pretty good.
Humphrey has played uncountable sessions, but even a list of the records where he was named is pretty stunning. Pretty much everybody who isn't deaf must have heard Humphrey drum on Marvin Gaye's immortal "Let's Get It On," but Humphrey has played jazz, rock and soul sessions for decades. And it wasn't just easy music, either--he played on Frank Zappa's Hot Rats (he shouldn't be confused with mid-70s Zappa drummer Ralph Humphrey, another phenomenal player). Paul Humphrey even had some modest R&B hits in 1971, "Cool Aid" (#20) and "Funky L.A." (#45). He even released an album, Paul Humphrey and The Cool Aid Chemists, on Lizard Records. Humphrey also released albums in 1973, 1974 and 1981, mostly instrumental funky jazz.

Of course, within the realm of Garcia scholarship, the fact that always gets mentioned was that Humphrey was the drummer for the Lawrence Welk TV show. The syndicated program was on TV five days a week much of the year, and while the Welk "aesthetic" it represented was fairly staid and retro, the quality of the performers was very high. Welk, like Elvis, could hire anyone and he chose to hire Paul Humphrey. However, as best as I can tell Humphrey was the drummer for the Welk show from 1976-1982, so his tenure there actually post-dated his time with Jerry Garcia.

I'm not certain what the connection was between Humphrey and Garcia might have been, but there's good reason to think that the connection was Merl Saunders. Although Humphrey was based in Los Angeles, he recorded various sessions for Fantasy in Berkeley. Saunders was on the Fantasy label and was a regular presence at the 10h Street studios. I'm not aware of Saunders and Humphrey recording together prior to playing together with Garcia, but it's clear they traveled in the same musical circles. Given that Humphrey had recorded with both Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell prior to playing with Garcia, there can't have been any doubt that Humphrey knew how to work with great guitarists.

Paul Humphrey's 1971 album on Lizard Records
At this point, I can only speculate on the professional relationship between Humphrey and Garcia. However, it would fit the profile that Humphrey was a successful studio musician who enjoyed the freedom of playing with Garcia, while still earning enough money to justify missing sessions. Without belaboring my reasoning, I'm going to lay down a series of propositions about Humphrey's tenure in the Garcia/Saunders band, and wait for them to be proved or disproved.
  • Bill Kreutzmann was not Garcia's preferred choice for drummer of the Garcia/Saunders band. This appears to stem from a desire to have that band differ from the Dead, rather than any concerns about Billy K's excellent drumming
  • Ron Tutt had played on the Compliments album sessions, but hardly or never met Garcia until around May 31, 1974 sessions at Wally Heider
  • While Garcia and Tutt no doubt hit it off musically and personally right away, Tutt's busy schedule would have made it difficult to immediately step in as Garcia's regular drummer
  • Garcia must have at least anticipated if not actually known that the Dead would be going on hiatus, and that Garcia would play a correspondingly high number of shows
  • Garcia, Kahn and Saunders were able to hire Humphrey for a finite period of time from about August through November 1974, with the understanding that Humphrey was only a temp.
  • Rumors that Gregg Errico was starting to sub around this time are plausible, since Bill Kreutzmann may not have felt charitable about solving Garcia's personnel commitments during this time
  • Once Tutt's schedule was clear, both with respect to Elvis and any recording commitments, Tutt took over full time duties as Garcia and Kahn had always intended
Paul Humphrey appears to still be alive, and I hope well, and I hope still laying it down cool and funky, so maybe we can find out how far on or off the mark my speculation might be.