Friday, January 27, 2012

December 9-11, 1966, Fillmore Auditorium: Grateful Dead/Tim Rose (Morning Dew?)

The SF Chronicle from December 9, 1966, listing the opening of a three-date stand at the Fillmore featuring the Grateful Dead, Big Mama Thornton and Tim Rose

One paradox of bands that tour heavily is that they don't get out much to see other acts. The members of a group like the Grateful Dead, who toured relentlessly throughout almost their entire existence, would have had few opportunities or even an inclination to go out and check out other performers. When a group was playing music in a new style, as the Dead were in the 60s, seeing bands live can often be the only way to really check out what's happening, since records and radio were often well behind the times. Fortunately for the Dead, however, as a group whose members were very open-minded, the rock market at the time included the Grateful Dead on bills with many acts. We know for a fact that at least some of those opening acts caught the ears of Jerry Garcia and others, as we have specific testimony about how impressed band members were with acts as diverse as Miles Davis, Pentangle and The Great Speckled Bird (with Buddy Cage).

With that in mind, I am beginning an intermittent series looking at bands who opened for or shared the bill with the Grateful Dead in the 1960s. In the early days, not only were the Dead on bills with multiple acts, but the venues were smaller and the programming different, so the various members of the Dead were very likely to hear opening sets at least some of the time. I'm not going to try and make arguments for "secret influences," but rather I am suggesting that the Dead members, and particularly Jerry Garcia, were implicitly affected by what they heard. By looking at different bands that we can reasonably assume they actually saw and heard perform live, we can see how the Dead's own music may have been affected. In some cases, the 'influence' may have been about equipment, or song choices or stage presentation, rather than musical ideas. In others, the influence may have been negative, giving the Dead an indication of what wouldn't work. In any case, it's a reasonable proposition that acts who opened for the Dead in the 1960s, particularly for a multi-night stand, had to have been seen by most if not all of the band members, and they would have been among the few contemporary groups that the Dead would have gotten a close look at, since otherwise they were never home.

Tim Rose
Tim Rose opened for the Grateful Dead at the Fillmore Auditorium on December 9-11, 1966. This weekend was the first time the Dead headlined the Fillmore without another of their contemporaries, like Quicksilver Messenger Service, sharing the bill. However, as usual at the Fillmore there were three acts: The Grateful Dead, Big Mama Thornton and Tim Rose. Rose had a modest hit on AM radio at the time with a reworking of the Bonnie Dobson song "Morning Dew." The Grateful Dead had just been signed by Warner Brothers Records, and their own version of "Morning Dew" would appear on their forthcoming album. However, it is ambiguous when the Dead started to perform the song. It appears that it was after Tim Rose opened for the Dead at the Fillmore, so I am going to consider his performance in that light.

Tim Rose had been a folksinger in the early 60s. He was part of the East Coast crowd that included the future members of The Mamas And The Papas, among others. Rose's most famous folk group was called The Big Three, featuring himself, Cass Elliott and guitarist Jim Hendricks (no, not Jimi). The Big Three were a popular Greenwich Village folk act, and appeared on TV many times, releasing albums in 1963 and '64. When The Big 3 broke up, Rose went solo. By 1966, folk-rock was popular, and the gruff-voiced Rose was well suited for rock styled versions of folk songs, so his star had started to rise.

"Hey Joe"
Rose's first big hit was a slowed-down version of the song "Hey Joe," released in 1966. "Hey Joe" had been written by Los Angeles folk singer Billy Roberts in 1962, and many Los Angeles folk rock bands were performing it as part of their sets, including Love, The Leaves, The Standells and The Byrds. The Leaves had the first hit with it December 1965. Rose's innovation was that he changed the tempo of the song, slowing it down dramatically from the angry, up-tempo rocker that was typical of the Los Angeles groups. Rose's arrangement of "Hey Joe" was the inspiration for Jimi Hendrix's arrangement of the song, which ultimately became the best known version. Rose's version of "Hey Joe" got some airplay in various AM markets around the country, almost certainly including the Bay Area.

However, Rose's version of "Hey Joe" claimed himself as the songwriter, not Billy Roberts. Rose said that he had heard the song in Florida, and that it was treated as a traditional song. With that in mind, he had just re-written it and taken a songwriting credit, a common enough practice at the time. However, while "Hey Joe" has a particularly complicated song publishing history, the fact is that by 1966 it had already been a hit for The Leaves and released on a Byrds album, so even if Rose had initially heard the song at some coffee house, it appeared somewhat self-serving to assign publishing to himself. However, this was typical of the record business at the time. The Byrds had recorded an old blues number on an early album, for which songwriting credits were assigned to band members. That was how Jerry Garcia's version of "It's No Use" on the Live At Keystone album came to be 'written' by Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark.

"Morning Dew"
"Morning Dew" had been written by Canadian folksinger Bonnie Dobson in 1962, based on the nuclear disaster film On The Beach. Fred Neil recorded a popular version of "Morning Dew" in 1964, and it became a popular song in the way that folk songs do, passed around from player to player and sung at coffee houses and hootenannies and the like. It is important to remember that in 1965, even the most politically detached people, including beatnik bluegrass musicians, took the threat of nuclear annihilation seriously. Thus "Morning Dew" was a well known song in folk circles, even if Bonnie Dobson's actual recording itself wasn't so widely heard.

In late 1966, Rose released his own version of "Morning Dew." It was a churning, soulful version, "heavy" folk-rock in the parlance of the time. Rose made a few changes in the song, common enough when converting a folk song to rock, but his single of "Morning Dew" gave him a co-writing credit with Bonnie Dobson. Dobson knew nothing about this, would not have approved, and in any case his changes weren't that significant (Blair Jackson did some great work on the history of the song "Morning Dew" in his Golden Road magazine, but unfortunately the article is no longer accessible to me. However, if anyone can find it, it is well worth reading). Due to an anomaly in U.S. Copyright law, since Dobson had published the song in Canada, Rose received half the songwriting royalties from all versions of the song, including the Grateful Dead's, much to Dobson's dismay.

Rose's co-writing credit was a mark of the "old" record business, where the same songs got "published" over and over (like "It's No Use") for a few quick bucks, with no concern for the original songwriter's intellectual property. Whether Rose thought his changes deserved co-credit, whether he too was suckered by a shifty manager or it was just some sort of hustle remains unknown. However, over the years Rose has had a bit of a taint about him, as a guy who profited from other people's work. As it happens, Rose ended up being considerably more popular in England than America, and he ultimately moved there. He had a reasonably successful career, and passed away in 2002. I'm not aware of his ever having commented on opening for the Grateful Dead.

The Grateful Dead and "Morning Dew"
 "Morning Dew" was recorded for the Grateful Dead's debut album. According to the most reliable accounts, the Dead commenced recording the album the week of January 30, 1967. Since they recorded the album in about 4 days, they could not have been experimenting much in the studio. The earliest sign of "Morning Dew" seems to be at the Human Be-In on January 14, 1967. Certainly the song had to already have been in the Dead's live repertoire prior to recording. The question is whether the Dead were performing it prior to seeing Tim Rose open for them in December at the Fillmore.

We have very few complete Grateful Dead setlists from 1966 and early 1967. Thus, while we have some information about some songs, it's misleading to say we "know" when certain songs entered the Grateful Dead's live repertoire. However, the Grateful Dead's arrangement of "Morning Dew" seems to owe nothing to Rose's arrangement. Rose's arrangement churns more, with an expressly soul-styled vocal. The Jeff Beck Group's recording of "Morning Dew," from 1968, with Rod Stewart on vocals, borrows heavily from Rose's arrangement (or you can click the Amazon preview for a 30-second snippet of Rose's version). This seems to legislate away from Rose being too much of a direct influence.

"Morning Dew" was a well known song in folk circles, and I have to think Garcia had known the song for a while. Whatever his plans for the song might have been, I think the genesis for the Dead's treatment of the song was Garcia's arrangement of the Jefferson Airplane song "Today" on Surrealistic Pillow. If you listen to it, Garcia plays a high guitar part (contrasting Jorma's lead) that is very reminiscent of the arrangement of "Morning Dew." Since Garcia worked with the Airplane in November of 1966, and "Morning Dew" had appeared a few months later the timeline seems to fit.

However, if you accept my hypothesis that the late November '66 Matrix shows represent a sort of demo tape of the Dead's material, you'll note that "Morning Dew" isn't present. This too fits the timeline--Garcia gets the idea in November, teaches it to the band in December, and it turns up in live sets by January. However, that puts the live performances by Rose right in the middle of it. Rose would have played six sets at the Fillmore, and "Morning Dew" would have been in at least three of them. Given that it was his hit at the time, he may have played it in all six. It's hard to think Garcia and the Dead wouldn't have noticed.

AM radio was ubiquitous in 1966, in a way that was not true even a few years later. With no FM radio, any time you drove a car, the radio was on, and there were only two rock stations in San Francisco (KFRC-610 and KYA-1260), so anything played on those stations was heard by every rock fan in the Bay Area, of whatever age. Thus, there's no way that Garcia and the Dead wouldn't have heard Tim Rose's version of "Morning Dew" on the radio. Since Garcia surely knew the song already, as the band's resident folkie, he would have noticed it being played on the air, and would have had some inkling of who Tim Rose was by the time he opened for the Dead at the Fillmore.

At this juncture, it's all but impossible to know for sure, but here's my theory:
  • Garcia, a veteran of folk clubs, had known and liked the song "Morning Dew" for years
  • Garcia's guitar part and arrangement on the Jefferson Airplane's "Today" was fresh in his mind
  • The Tim Rose single of "Morning Dew" was being played on KFRC and KYA
  • Tim Rose's live version of the song must have gone over pretty well at The Fillmore
The Grateful Dead's actual arrangement of "Morning Dew" owes nothing to Rose's. However, there doesn't seem to be any sign of the song prior to Rose playing the Fillmore. I think Rose's single and live appearance reminded Garcia of the song, and perhaps spurred him to pursue a musical idea that had already been percolating. I also think that in 1966, when the Dead were still unknown, a re-arrangement of a hip song that was popular on the radio made the band a lot more accessible to audiences who had never seen them.

Over the years, just about all the recorded versions of "Morning Dew" were credited to Bonnie Dobson and Tim Rose. In Blair Jackson's article on the song, he had some quotes from Dobson, who understandably was quite bothered by it. With an unpleasant whiff associated with Rose's version of "Morning Dew," nobody seemed to have pursued the angle of whether the Dead had heard him. Still, it's hard to get past the timing of Rose's appearance with the Grateful Dead and the first signs of "Morning Dew" in their set, so for now I am thinking that Rose's music inspired Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead to start playing the song, even though their version was entirely different.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Jerry Garcia's Automobiles 1960-1970

A white 1961 Corvair, similar to the type of car that Jerry Garcia and Sandy Rothman drove across the country in 1964
Automobiles have been an integral part of rock and roll since its inception. Many postwar blues songs celebrated the freedom and power of the automobile. Songs like K.C. Douglas' "Mercury Blues," attesting to how much women appreciated a '49 Mercury, easily made the transition to rock and modern country, and indeed the song is heard on Mercury commercials to this very day. In his first hit single, "Maybelline," back in '55, Chuck Berry sang
As I was motivatin' over the hill
I saw Maybelline in a Coupe de Ville
A Cadillac a-rollin' on the open road
Nothin' will outrun my V8 Ford
Berry inaugurated a rock tradition of not only singing about cars, but singing in detail about the make, the model and the special features. This tradition was picked up and expanded by American rock bands from the Beach Boys to Bruce Springsteen and beyond. Cars, Girls and Rock and Roll were the American teenager's dream in the 50s and 60s.

Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead were a contrarian force in American music and culture in numerous ways. One rarely noticed perspective on Garcia and the Dead was an all but complete absence of the automobile as an icon, whether in the music of the Grateful Dead or Jerry Garcia's personal or professional image. Jerry Garcia was much more likely to sing about a railroad line than a specific car, and Robert Hunter's lyrics always evoked a somewhat timeless America without too many time-bound references. As a result, to my knowledge, no one has ever done an automotive analysis of Jerry Garcia, not least because it is an absurdly trivial perspective on a great artist.

However, this blog is focused on Hooterolls. Like almost all Americans, a look at Jerry Garcia and his cars, or cars that were associated with him, tells us something about his professional life. This post will look at the cars that Jerry Garcia owned, drove or was regularly driven in during the formative years of 1960-70. Since any car owned or used by Garcia has usually been only mentioned in passing, the photographs I have included are often just guesses on my part. Anyone with additional information about this hitherto rarely discussed aspect of Garcia's career, whether make, model, color or engine size, is encouraged to Comment or email me.

A 1950 Cadillac Series 61, possibly similar to the car Jerry Garcia bought in 1960, and lived in when it broke down in East Palo Alto. This model was not a large Cadillac
1950 Cadillac
According to McNally, in 1960 Garcia used one of his last paychecks from the Army to purchase a 1950 Cadillac. This must have been Garcia's first car, although I don't know where he learned to drive--perhaps in the Army. (Update: according to Commenter LIA, Garcia had learned to drive prior to the Army, and in fact he "stole" his mother's car, which triggered a juvenile delinquency charge that led to his enlisting. In the Army itself, Garcia ended up in the motor pool, and apparently drove missile trucks around the base). In any case, Garcia drove the car to East Palo Alto to begin his new post-Army life, and the car promptly died. Garcia then apparently lived in the car. Although I don't know what model Cadillac he had bought, no Cadillac was small.

A 1940 Chrysler New Yorker. Robert Hunter owned a 1940 Chrysler (model unknown) when he met Jerry Garcia in Palo Alto in the early 60s.
Robert Hunter's 1940 Chrysler
Garcia quickly became friends with Robert Hunter, whom he met at St. Michael's Alley in Palo Alto. Hunter was getting out of the Army, too, and he had returned to Palo Alto, where he gone to school from the 8th to the 11th grade (Wilbur JHS and Cubberley HS). Hunter had a working car, so that insured that the new friends would spend a lot of time together, since Garcia's car was broken. David Nelson had an old '48 Plymouth (h/t LIA), so Nelson and Hunter's closeness to Garcia may have been essential in cementing their future lifelong cooperation.

A 1940 Chrysler seems old and exotic to us today. However, in 1961, a 1940 Chrysler would have only been 22 years old. There are plenty of 1990 Plymouth Reliants on the road today, so a 1940 Chrysler would not have attracted particular attention. Since no American passenger cars were manufactured between 1942 and 1946, due to World War 2, there were somewhat more cars around from the pre-war era, since a whole generation of vehicles had never been built.

A 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk, similar to what Jerry Garcia was riding in when he was in a terrible accident that killed his friend Paul Speegle
Lee Adams' Studebaker Hawk
The Studebaker Hawk is a largely forgotten car today. However, it was designed as a competitor to the Corvette, and the Hawk was a cool looking and powerful vehicle for the time. It was in a speeding Studebaker Hawk on the Foothill Expressway in Palo Alto, driven by his friend Lee Adams on February 20, 1961, where Garcia found himself in a terrible accident that took the life of his friend, painter Paul Speegle. The accident had a profound affect on Garcia's life in many ways. I think one of the minor ways in which it affected Garcia's life was to inoculate him from thinking that a fast, masculine car was a desirable object.

Jerry Garcia's 1961 Corvair surely did not look this good. By the standards of early 60s American cars, the Corvair was a small sedan
1961 Chevrolet Corvair
Other than the Cadillac, the one specific vehicle associated with Jerry Garcia prior to the Grateful Dead was the 1961 Chevrolet Corvair in which Garcia and Sandy Rothman drove across the country in 1964. The Corvair was Chevrolet's "compact" sedan, a relatively small four-door for the era. The Corvair did not have a good reputation for quality, which may have accounted for the fact that the perpetually poor Garcia could have ended up with a car that was only a few years old.

In 1965, Ralph Nader wrote an alarmist book (Unsafe At Any Speed) about the safety record of the Corvair, criticizing General Motors for building an unsafe car and ignoring crash test data. Notwithstanding that Nader's book may have overstated the danger, the Corvair has become a black sheep amongst otherwise classic 60s cars (Time magazine included the 1961 Corvair in its list of "The 50 Worst Cars Of All Time"). Nonetheless, none of this was known in 1964. However, the Corvair was a relatively small, underpowered family sedan, not an attractive hot rod.

A 1958 Dodge Sierra Station Wagon, probably similar to Bill Kreutzmann's gray wagon that was the Warlocks first band vehicle (along with Garcia's Corvair)
Bill Kreutzmann's 1958 Dodge Station Wagon
When the Warlocks started, Bill Kreutzmann owned a Dodge station wagon. I assume it was a relatively large one, since it became the unofficial 'band vehicle' of the Warlocks. Kreutzmann was married and had a child, so a station wagon would have been par for the course. Garcia was married and had a child, too, but I'm not certain he still even had the Corvair (Update: apparently he did).

A 1967 Ford Mustang was as cool as an American car could be, and great looking, too
Bill Kreutzmann's 1967 Ford Mustang
The Grateful Dead received a $20,000 advance from Warner Brothers for signing a record contract. Apparently the station wagon had been run into the ground, and no doubt replaced by a panel truck, so Kreutzmann insisted that he should get a brand new Ford Mustang out of the advance money. In 1967,  the Ford Mustang was the coolest of cool cars. Frankly, it still is today, whether it had a 200, a 289 or a mighty 390.

Garcia and the band consented to Kreutzmann's demand for the Mustang. In a typical rock band, it was the lead guitarist or the lead singer who drove the hot cars. Eric Clapton had a fleet of amazing Ferraris, and Rod Stewart spent his entire advance from his first solo album on a Lamborghini. Yet Garcia cheerfully assented to the drummer getting a cool car, while he himself may not have had a car at all.

Mountain Girl's Plymouth Station Wagon
A 1961 Plymouth Wagon, possibly similar to Mountain Girl and Jerry Garcia's car in 1967
 In fact, the whole time the Dead lived in the Haight, from mid-66 through early '68, there was no talk of Garcia driving. However, thanks to intrepid Commenter LIA, we know that once Garcia and Mountain Girl moved out of 710 Ashbury into a nearby apartment, she recalled "We had a big Plymouth station wagon with a back window that didn't roll up, and that was what we got around in." Lacking further evidence, I am using a picture of a 1961 Plymouth.

In 1968, the Grateful Dead leased a fleet of 13 Ford Cortina Mark IIs like this one
Grateful Dead 1968 Ford Cortina fleet
In mid-1968, Ron Rakow arranged for the Grateful Dead to lease a fleet of 13 Ford Cortinas, presumably 1968 Mark IIs. Whatever hodge-podge vehicles the band members and family may have been driving--Kreutzmann and his Mustang excepted, of course--the Cortinas would have been cooler and more fun. The somewhat unreliable Cortina never really caught on in the United States, but in England they were both ubiquitous family sedans and pretty cool street cars. Indeed, the legendary Lotus-Cortina variant (1963-70) had a phenomenal competition record, and was a formidable race and rally car in the hands of the likes of a Jim Clark or a Vic Elford.

Presumably Garcia or anyone who drove him around used the Cortina fleet once the band moved to Marin County in the Spring of 1968, although I think Mountain Girl still had the old Plymouth wagon. Marin County was and is thinly populated and spread out, and walking or public transportation was not a serious option. The Ford Cortina was a cool and practical little car, but while it was an English icon it was not an American one. I don't recall a specific story or picture of Garcia driving or riding in a Cortina, although he must have. Due to Rakow's peculiar business practices, almost all of the Cortinas were repossessed by New Year's Eve. Bob Weir had run his into a tree, but Pigpen took a fancy to his, and kept up the payments and held onto it.

Update: I just noticed that Dennis McNally says that in May, 1969, at the birth of the New Riders, Garcia drove his "midget school bus" (p.318) down to Menlo Park to play with John Dawson. I wonder what kind of vehicle this was? Whatever it was, the description makes sense for a musician's utility vehicle.

When Sam Cutler met Jerry Garcia in December 1969, he was driving a "battered old Volvo," possibly similar to this 1966 Volvo 122S sedan
1960s Volvo Sedan
Sam Cutler's book You Can't Always Get What You Want (2010: ECW Press, Toronto) is mostly a description of the 15 month period from June 1969 through September 1970, when he went from shepherding the Rolling Stones across America to shepherding the Grateful Dead across America. The apex of the book comes in December, 1969, when Cutler is left in the Bay Area to clean up the disastrous mess left by the Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Speedway. Cutler describes being met at Mickey Hart's ranch by Garcia, who had "arrived in a battered old Volvo" (p.193). Cutler doesn't describe the car further, but I take it to be a mid-60s Volvo 122 Sedan, which were popular in California at the time. By this time, when Garcia wasn't on the road, he was living a quiet suburban life in the beautiful little Marin town of Larkspur.
I was surprised when we arrived at Garcia's place to find that he lived in a perfectly normal house in a perfectly normal street intertwined with massive redwood trees. Perhaps I expected him to dwell in some strange version of Gandalf's Garden, or a peculiar Hobbit's cave? His house was set back from the road and had a driveway beside a front lawn that needed mowing. There was no front fence; the garden was open to the road (Cutler, p.196)
In 60s Northern California, the Volvo 122 was a sort of hip Mom-mobile. Volvos were still exotic cars, a critical factor in the Bay Area, and they drove well enough for Dad to enjoy them on the freeway, but they were safe, reliable and had lots of room in the back seat. Whether or not Jerry shared the car with Mountain Girl isn't clear, but rock star or not, an old Volvo 122 was exactly what a hip young couple with a child would have had in sleepy Marin in the late 60s.

The three bedroom house and the old Volvo that Garcia shared with Mountain Girl and her daughter describe a certain kind of reality that is often ignored when thinking about Garcia's wide range of activities in the 1970s. It is a traditional trope of rock stars that they are terrible drivers who need to be waited on hand and foot by a retinue of sycophantic groupies and road crew. Yet in the early 70s, when Garcia was not on the road, he was a regular at San Francisco recording studios and clubs like the Matrix, Keystone Korner and Keystone Berkeley. None of that would have been possible if Garcia wasn't able to drive himself to where he needed to be, find a parking space and drive home. Easy tasks, yes, but not one mastered by the likes of many a rock legend.

In 1970, Jerry Garcia was a hip guy who lived in groovy Larkspur with his little family, and when he wasn't on the road, he drove into San Francisco and Berkeley to ply his trade. In that respect, he was probably similar to a lot of young professionals his age who were lawyers or architects or something similar. Plenty of people in Marin liked to smoke a joint, or more, but they still had work to do. So they drove a Volvo 122 to where the work might be, a suitably cool vehicle but a reliable one, with plenty of room in the back seat for the family or a Fender amp, as needed. As the 1970s wore on, when Garcia became both more successful but less able to travel freely, I believe he mostly took to driving BMW sedans. Now, BMWs are wonderful machines, but they represent a little more success, and they were commonplace in Marin County by the middle of the 1970s. At the end of the 1960s, though, like many of Marin's future BMW drivers, Jerry Garcia was just another ambitious professional commuting to work in an old Volvo.

Update: a reader found a comment elsewhere from someone who said:
I remember back in the 70's when he had a funky house up in Madrone Canyon in Larkspur near where I lived, and also he used to live up on the hill in Stinson Beach at Mountain Girl's house near where I lived. I used to see him all the time in Larkspur and Stinson Beach. He did have a cool little Volvo sportwagon (made by Jensen), but he never once gave me a ride when I was hitch hiking over the hill.
Now, I just assumed that Garcia had a Volvo 122, but I don't really know, or maybe he had a 544, or maybe he had a Wagon. The Volvo 1800 ES Sportwagon was not made until 1972 (to my knowledge), so that would date the car as later. Nonetheless, the Sportwagon was a cool looking and high performing car for a wagon, prefiguring the BMWs Jerry would drive in later years.

Update 2: Correspondent Michael positively identifies Garcia's Volvo as either a 1972 or '73 P1800ES. He even sent in a photo (I think by Annie Liebovitz, from Rolling Stone) of Garcia at the wheel, allowing a positive identification.
Jerry Garcia at the wheel of his 1972 (or '73) Volvo P1800ES (photo probably by Annie Liebovitz, from Rolling Stone)

A rear view of a 1973 (or 72) Volvo P1800ES, though not Garcia's. The car was only made for two years, and the body and some gear were designed by the English manufacturer Jensen. The engine and chassis was based on the sports-car like Volvo P1800S coupe.

Appendix 1: David Nelson
A 1948 Indian Chief motorcycle

Working on automobiles requires knowledge and skill, but in post WW2 America, it didn't require specialized tools or a degree in computer science. Parts could often be had cheaply, as well, from junkyards or other sources. This led to the post-war phenomenon of the "Car Guy," usually a young male who not only kept his own car running, but took pride in making sure that however old his car might be, it looked better and ran faster than his classmates' rides. Jerry Garcia was fairly far outside this slice of Americana, but I believe that to a moderate extent David Nelson was a "Car Guy." This meant that Nelson would have always had a good ride to share with Garcia, a necessary thing for any band seeking work. Hunter wasn't a good enough guitarist to play bluegrass with Garcia, but Nelson was, and I think he had a better car, too.

A white 1962 Chevy Impala station wagon, probably similar to the car David Nelson had in 1967
Initially Nelson had a '48 Plymouth that he drove Garcia around in, but I think he liked Pontiacs. I know that by 1967, Nelson's Pontiac station wagon was the main band vehicle for his group, the New Delhi River Band (update: thanks to David Gans, we know from Nelson himself that his wagon was a white '62 or '63 Chevy. I have assumed it was an Impala, but it could have been a Bel-Air). Pontiacs were commonly available GM cars, but they had a well-deserved reputation for relatively high performance, particularly according to the metric a friend of mine used to describe as "dollars per miles an hour."

Betty Cantor-Jackson said that when she first met David Nelson at Pacific Recording in San Mateo, during the initial period of producing Aoxomoxoa, he rode up on an Indian motorcycle. Whether the Indian was Nelson's or just borrowed, it marks him with a certain sort of cool. The Indian motorcycle company (based in Springfield, MA)  had a legendary competition history, but the company had gone out of business in 1953. Thus riders of an Indian (the Scout and the Chief were their most popular models) were an exotic cult who appreciated high performance without having to lay down too much money. Nelson seems to have been one of the few people in the 1960s Garcia universe who qualified as a "Car Guy," and even riding an Indian, whether or not Nelson owned it, marked him as such.

Appendix 2: Bob Weir's Vehicular History
A 1965 Mercedes 220, similar to Bob Weir's first car
A 2007 article in Motor Trend magazine had an interview with Bob Weir, where he discussed his own personal history of driving and automobiles. For anyone who has read down this far, its well worth checking out. Weir was younger than Garcia, so his driving history was quite different. He learned to drive on a tractor at John Perry Barlow's family farm when he was 15. Weir did not get a driver's license until he was 20, presumably in order to drive one of the Cortinas. Weir then bought a used Mercedes 220 in 1968 or '69. The Mercedes 220 sedan had a profile similar to the Volvo 122, a good car that had hip cachet but wasn't too expensive, believe it or not. Mercedes 220s also had a rock-and-roll sub-plot in 1960s Marin, connected to the MESA Amplifier company, but that is too long a tangent even for this blog.

Although Weir was mostly a BMW driver as well--his first new car was a 1969 BMW 2002ti--he became a true American male when he bought a 1963 Corvette Roadster in 1976. Weir still owns the car today.

A 1963 Corvette Roadster, similar to the car Bob Weir bought in 1976 and still owns today
Appendix 3: Bob Matthews 1955 Plymouth Station Wagon
A 1955 Plymouth Plaza station wagon, probably similar to Bob Matthews' car
A Commenter (h/t LIA) discovered that Bob Matthews Plymouth Station Wagon was also used as an equipment vehicle for the Warlocks and the early Grateful Dead. Matthews was still a teenager in 1965, and a 1955 Plymouth would have been cheap, easy to fix and large enough to fit lots of friends or lots of amplifiers, depending.

Friday, January 13, 2012

August 9, 1975: Frost Amphitheater, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA: Eric Clapton/Kingfish

Frost Amphitheater is a bucolic terraced amphitheater on the Stanford University campus, with grassy platforms rising steeply in a wooded glen. The 6,900 capacity venue, built in 1937, was always the jewel of the Stanford campus, but for many decades it was mostly used for University events like graduation. When I was growing up near Stanford, I can recall that the gates were mostly unlocked during the daytime, and Frost Amphitheater was treated like a park by the locals. There are very few outdoor amphitheaters that seem like a park when they are not in use, but Frost was one of them.

In the late 60s, Stanford allowed Frost to be used for a few rock concerts. However, although everyone recalls events in 1968 and 1969 fondly, the escalating size of the rock market led to problems, particularly from locals sneaking in. By 1972, Stanford had banned all rock concerts in Frost after that, thus taking the nicest venue in the Bay Area out of the rock marketplace.

In 1975, however, Stanford University relented and allowed a few Summer events. The highlight was a concert by no less than Eric Clapton. In August, 1975, I had just graduated from High School and was on my way to UC Berkeley, and here was Eric Clapton playing within walking distance of my house. What could be better? What turned out to be better was that after I got tickets, the opening act turned out to be Kingfish. So I got to see my first Grateful Dead 'spinoff' band at a concert I already had tickets to, in a place I had been going to since I was a child. In retrospect, it turns out to be an interesting snapshot of Bob Weir's efforts to make Kingfish a success, and an interesting look at the rock market of the time, but for me of course it was the capstone to my Senior year in High School, and thus infinitely memorable in its own right. This post is about that Frost show, from the specific point of view of Kingfish's participation.

The cover to the Chambers Brothers 1968 Shout! album, photographed at (but not recorded at) Stanford's  Frost Amphitheater on July 28, 1968
Frost Amphitheater, Stanford University
Frost Amphitheater is a beautiful open air venue, dug out of an artificially constructed hill. 6,900 people can fit inside the grassy, terraced bowl. The Amphitheater was named for Laurence Frost, Stanford class of ’35, who died of polio at age 23. The Amphitheater was first opened in June, 1937, and for many decades was the site of Stanford’s commencement. The amphitheater, near the corner of Galvez and Campus (the entrance is near Laurel Street) rapidly became a treasured venue for music and theater performances.

Stanford University has always been careful about using Frost for too many events. In the 1960s, they limited rock concerts to weekend, afternoon events. A March 5, 1967 show headlined by Jefferson Airplane is the first (that I know of) of the few 60s concerts held there. In the 60s, Frost’s size actually made it too large for most concert attractions, and the University had no financial imperative to attract bigger shows. There was a 1968 show starring the Chambers Brothers, and a few 1969 shows, but the events were limited.

In the early 1970, problems with fights and bottle-throwing (specifically at a July 18, 1971 Elvin Bishop/Cold Blood show) caused the University to ban rock concerts at Frost. Stanford still allowed jazz shows, however, which was how Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders made their South Bay debut at Frost on October 3, 1971.  After a October 1, 1972 show with Miles Davis, nominally a jazz show, although with the New Riders Of The Purple Sage also on the bill, was marred by people trying to get in for free--a breeze for agile locals who knew the grounds well--the University banned all shows at Frost, and all rock concerts moved to nearby Maples Pavilion, Stanford's relatively new basketball pavilion. By 1975, however, the University relented and started to allow the occasional weekend afternoon concert, as long as the band drew the “right” sort of crowd (no R&B, no metal, etc).

A listing from the August 8, 1975 Hayward Daily Review
Eric Clapton, 1975
This post isn't about Eric Clapton, so I'll keep it brief. Eric Clapton had had a self-imposed hiatus in the early 70s, but he had come back with a popular album, 461 Ocean Boulevard, which featured the hit single "I Shot The Sheriff." At the time, Bob Marley and The Wailers were all but completely unknown in the United States, and Clapton's record was hugely important in popularizing Marley. However, Clapton had stepped back from being the gunslinging guitar hero of Cream and Derek and The Dominoes. After a triumphant tour in 1974, Clapton had spent the Summer of 1975 touring with Santana, double billed in huge venues throughout the United States. For Clapton's Bay Area appearance, however, Carlos Santana and his band stayed home. Oddly enough, this show was not a Bill Graham Presents event, and I believe the promoter had to find a venue that was not controlled by Graham, and somehow Frost had become available. By any standard, Clapton was an extremely big deal, and the beautiful setting of Frost Amphitheater made the event a must-see. Clapton's band at the time was
Eric Clapton-guitar, vocals
George Terry-guitar
Dick Simms-keyboards
Carl Radle-bass
Jamie Oldaker-drums
Yvonne Elliman-vocals (she had sung "You Don't Know How To Love Him")
Marcy Levy-vocals (later known as Marcella Detroit)
Although not big names, Clapton's group were serious, funky players, mostly from Tulsa, OK.

Kingfish, Frost Amphitheater, August 9, 1975
I have discussed the touring history of Bob Weir and Kingfish at great length, so I won't recap it here. My goal here is to describe how Kingfish appeared in a conventional rock setting, and how important that is to understanding what Weir was trying to do with the band. In particular, the Frost show emphasizes how much Kingfish was a conventional rock band, in complete contrast to the Grateful Dead, and indeed how good a job they did of it. I admit that much of my analysis comes in retrospect, as although I had seen the Grateful Dead five times prior to the Frost show, I had never seen Weir or Jerry Garcia in any other configuration. However, I had seen enough other rock bands by that time to realize that in many ways Weir and Dave Torbert were consciously trying to achieve rock stardom through regular means, and it may have been well within their grasp.

Of course my experience of Kingfish live for the very first time was tempered by the general excitement of the moment. However, it has to be pointed out that in the Summer of 1975, Kingfish had released no albums, no tapes were circulating to the likes of me and they were only reviewed in the most cursory of terms by the likes of Joel Selvin in the SF Chronicle. Thus, unlike music today, all I knew when Kingfish took the stage was that Bob Weir and Dave Torbert had been in two bands that I liked. I had no idea what they would play or how they would sound. I was the proverbial clean slate, and they absolutely knocked me out from the first note. In some ways, that was a rare instance where I could listen to a member of the Grateful Dead like a regular rock fan.

The traditional Deadhead criticism of Kingfish was that they didn't vary their music enough. They had a couple of dozen songs, and while their arrangements were hardly note for note repetition, they didn't vary their performances that much.  However, in 1975 that "criticism" was true of just about all rock bands, certainly all major ones, except for the Grateful Dead and whatever other ensemble Jerry Garcia was playing in. Deadheads who saw Kingfish a dozen times in 1975 and complained that "they always sounded the same!" were missing the point. Kingfish had a broad repertoire, but they were competing with the likes of Dave Mason or Foghat on their turf, playing enjoyable rock and roll that could be appreciated as soon as it would heard, not only by you but by your girlfriend (if you had one) rather than requiring a cosmic intervention. Dissecting a Kingfish performance on tape doesn't remind you of Miles Davis, but that wasn't what Weir and Dave Torbert were trying to do.

By Summer 1975, Kingfish had mostly played bars or hard-to-get-to venues, locking out any opportunities for suburban teenagers like me. Once they got into a big venue like Frost, however, Weir and Torbert's experience in successful rock bands really showed. What Kingfish did was move air, with the veteran assurance of a band led by players who had played in huge outdoor venues with giant sound systems many a time. The Grateful Dead are such a difficult, multi-legged beast that it is easy to forget how powerful the individual musicians were on their own. Weir's remarkable pianistic approach to the rhythm guitar drove Kingfish right from the first notes of "I Hear You Knockin." Weir didn't play that many chords, but he pushed and pulled the sound so that it seemed bigger than it actually was. Dave Torbert's bass surged against it, with old friend Chris Herold locked in the groove on the drums, and lead guitarist Robbie Hoddinott's stinging Roy Buchanan-styled Fender Telecaster adding some fire. Kingfish sounded huge, and yet they were barely playing any notes.

I have cherished these memories fondly over the decades, although it turns out that Bob Menke was there as well, and made a great tape. Kingfish sounds terrific, so I wasn't imagining it. However, what even the best tape doesn't capture is the surge of air when a rocking band gets a whole crowd going, and Weir and Torbert were playing a rootsy rock and roll that got the crowd up immediately. By this time, although just a soon-to-be-college student, I had seen my share of bands besides the Dead, including Poco, Jesse Colin Young, the Allman Brothers, Faces, Pink Floyd, Dave Mason and others, and Kingfish was right on their level. It's a daunting thing to open for Eric Clapton, but the fact was that Weir had already done it, since the Grateful Dead had opened for Cream long ago (March 11, 1968 in Sacramento).

Jerry Garcia and his various aggregations generally made an effort to walk their own path, playing their own shows outside of any normal music business context. Weir and Kingfish, however, while headlining plenty of nightclubs like the Keystone, seemed perfectly willing to play second on the bill to one of the biggest acts to come to town all year. That bespoke confidence and ambition--Weir and Torbert were planning to be rock stars, and rock stars share the stage with Eric Clapton.

At least four of the members of Kingfish had grown up in the South Bay, and likely had been to Frost Amphitheater on occasion for something, as had many other kids like me. Weir and Matt Kelly (both Atherton) and Torbert and Herold (both Redwood City) most likely recognized and remembered Frost Amphitheater from their childhood and probably felt like Big Kahunas for actually taking the stage (I'm not sure where Hoddinott grew up). Weir was a handsome lad, and Torbert was the essence of Cowboy Surfer cool, and their onstage demeanor was understated but positive. Torbert and drummer Chris Herold had been playing together for nearly 10 years, so the pocket was tight. Kelly, Hoddinott, Torbert and Herold had all been playing together in various Santa Cruz and South Bay bands the previous several years, so although Kingfish was in itself new they had a veteran feel. As far as my teenage self was concerned, I couldn't see why all of America wasn't going to be knocked out by Kingfish.

Why Weren't Kingfish Big Rock Stars?
Why weren't Kingfish big rock stars? I consider this a serious question, not a joke. I saw the band open for Eric Clapton, they looked and sounded great, and the band kept their repertoire and arrangements in the normal range of rock music at the time, instead of heading down the road of Grateful Dead weirdness. They certainly could have become big rock stars. The answer, ultimately, was that although Kingfish shied away from some of the most difficult aspects of Grateful Dead music, Weir and Torbert's insistence on keeping their music separate from the Grateful Dead and the New Riders of The Purple Sage made Kingfish's success too much of an uphill battle.

Several months prior to the Clapton/Kingfish show at Frost, I had seen Dave Mason at the Maples Pavilion basketball arena, less than a mile away. Mason had been in Traffic in the 60s, and had some other abortive endeavors, and a hit album in 1970 (Alone Together), but since that time he had been slugging it out on the road. When he finally headlined Maples in January 1975, it was the culmination of a lot of heavy labor built upon an older recorded legacy.

I had seen Dave Mason, and let me tell you he was great, with a great band. But he didn't limit himself to his own material and a few exotic cover versions. Mason played a song from his Traffic days ("Pearly Queen"), a song from a band where he was the roadie (the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin'") and a song where he had played bass in the studio, even though it later got overdubbed (Jimi Hendrix's "All Along The Watchtower"). Mason's other showstopper was a great version of Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me," a song that Mason had nothing to do with. Sure, Mason did some of his own songs, and I really liked them ("Only You Know And I Know," "Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave," etc), but his big numbers were his own versions of songs that were only distantly, if legitimately associated with him. Mason came into each arena looking to hit a home run, and he wasn't going to lay off any fastballs because of any fastidiousness about whether songs "belonged" to him, so he ended every show with "Gimme Some Lovin'" and rocked the house.

Kingfish sounded like rock stars, but if they had played "Sugar Magnolia" and "Panama Red" they might have really become them. Now, speaking personally, I'm glad they played "See See Rider" and "Overnight Bag" instead, but the correct rock thing to do would have been to play the biggest hits from their previous incarnation. Never mind that Torbert hadn't been the singer when the New Riders recorded "Panama Red." Bands with long pedigrees advertised that history by playing the song, regardless of the singer: I saw Lindsay Buckingham sing Peter Green songs at Winterland before his own songs became more famous, and it helped Fleetwood Mac climb the ladder. Weir had enough Garcia in him, and Torbert too, that they kept their best known material out of Kingfish, and ultimately they paid an implicit price of never going over the top. Kingfish were a great live band, particularly in a big place, but they tied one hand behind their back, even if they played better music as a result.

Weir did perform "One More Saturday Night' with Kingfish, but the song was not particularly well known at the time to the general population. "Minglewood," too, had dropped out of the Dead's rotation years before, and covers like "Around And Around" and "Promised Land" were hardly known as Dead standards at the time. Torbert occasionally played New Riders numbers with Kingfish, but not often, and never the popular ones that he himself had not sung. I'm happy they didn't, but Weir performed on stage like a rock star while eschewing the popular songs that had made him so, a very rare set of choices for musicians who were not members of the Grateful Dead.

Kingfish still became pretty popular in the 1975-76 period, and they played some big events, including a rock festival near Trenton, NJ with Aerosmith, and some stadium shows in the Bay Area. They released a pretty good debut album, Kingfish, in March 1976, but though they were a popular live act they never got past the second tier. Although the Eric Clapton crowd at Frost was not a Deadhead crowd, Palo Alto was still home court for the Dead, and Kingfish certainly went over well with the Frost audience, a mark of how they could have succeeded in an alternative universe. "Jump For Joy" wasn't "I Shot The Sheriff," however, and Kingfish never got enough traction to become stars separate from Bob Weir's status as a member of the Grateful Dead.

August 9, 1975 was a very hot afternoon, and Clapton seemed to get a slow start, with a sort of perfunctory "Layla." As testament to Eric's status as a true rock star, he did not even bother to play "I Shot The Sheriff," his #1 single from the previous summer, but since he played songs like "Layla," it didn't matter.  Unlike Dave Mason, Clapton was big enough not to have to play his last big hit, but Weir was more like Mason, much as he aspired to be Clapton. Finally, during the guitar break in "Badge," Clapton found his groove, and he ruled the place from then on. Although the setlist seems pedestrian now, Clapton's searing, confident playing at its best can't be duplicated, and by the time he finished with "Let It Rain" it was one for the ages.

People who had seen Clapton's East Coast tour had seen him share the billing with Santana. Personally, I was happier to see Bob Weir and Kingfish, but I got the best of best worlds. On the sloped terrace of Frost, you could see Carlos hovering by the side of the stage much of the day, and for the encore Santana came onstage to join in the fun. Santana traded hot licks with Clapton and George Terry for a long version of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Eyesight To The Blind." Although Eric and Carlos love the blues, this too was no casual choice. Clapton had done the song as part of an All-Star cast of the Ken Russell film of The Who's Tommy, so the choice allowed Clapton to jam the blues on his encore while playing one of his best known numbers. I love that Weir did no such thing, but he gets no recognition for keeping the Grateful Dead's music distinct from his own at exactly the moment when he could have sold himself to a bigger audience.

Audience Recording of Kingfish on Sugarmegs
Kingfish Setlist
d1t01 - Hear You Knocking
d1t02 - CC Rider
d1t03 - Overnight Bag
d1t04 - Big Iron
d1t05 - Jump Back
d1t06 - New Minglewood Blues
d1t07 - Juke
d1t08 - /Hypnotize
d1t09 - Promised Land
d1t10 - Jump For Joy
d1t11 - Around & Around
d1t12 - Saturday Night

Eric Clapton Setlist
Knockin' On Heaven's door
Tell The Truth
Can't Find My Way Home
Key To The Highway
Better Make It Through Today
Blues Power
Rambling On My Mind
Let It Rain
Eyesight To The Blind (with Carlos Santana)

Friday, January 6, 2012

John Hartford, Fiddle: Old And In The Way (April-May 1973?)

An Oakland Tribune clipping from April 26, 1973, mentioning weekend shows by Old And In The Way. John Hartford may have played with the band on those dates.
The second most famous member of the bluegrass band Old And In The Way wrote a huge hit single, performed nearly weekly on CBS-TV for many years, won a Grammy in the 21st century for a movie soundtrack, was a Mississippi River steamboat captain and a seminal figure in modern bluegrass and country music. Yet John Hartford (1937-2001) is such an afterthought in the history of Jerry Garcia's bluegrass band that he is barely mentioned. Despite the determined scholarship on Garcia's performing career, I can find nary a tape, nor a review, nor a photo, nor even a confirmation that John Hartford played with Old And In The Way. Yet both Richard Loren and David Grisman have said that Hartford did just that, in the liner notes to Old And In The Way albums, so it must be so. If I had more evidence than this, I would write about Hartford in my research blog, but I don't. Thus the subject of John Hartford in Old And In The Way is a bluegrass Hooteroll (to use a technical term), and my triangulation and speculation about Hartford's appearances with the band appear here.

The Evidence
Hartford's name had been floated in the past as a member of Old And In The Way, but I was never really certain.  Confirmation came with the release of two retrospective albums on David Grisman's Acoustic Disc label in 1996 and 1997. In the liner notes for the '96 cd That High Lonesome Sound, Jerry Garcia manager Richard Loren wrote:
David [Grisman] invited Richard Greene to play fiddle, and when he couldn't make it, John Hartford sat in. Finally, for their first (and only) East Coast tour, the boys contacted Vassar [Clements] in Nashville and asked if he'd come and play.
Loren marks Hartford as playing with the band between Greene and Vassar Clement's debut on June 5, 1973. On the subsequent release, 1997's Breakdown cd, Grisman confirms Hartford's presence. In the notes, he writes:
We [Garcia, Grisman and Peter Rowan] casually became the now-legendary "hippiegrass" band Old And In The Way, and played local gigs with various fiddlers (Richard Greene, John Hartford and, finally, the great Vassar Clements) and Jerry's bassist John Kahn for most of 1973. 
On a later release, David Grisman's 2003 cd Life Of Sorrow, an album of bluegrass duets recorded over several decades (released on his Acoustic Disc label), Grisman adds another clue. John Hartford appears on the record (recorded in 1994), and Grisman mentions that Hartford "played a gig with Old And In The Way in 1973." Is Grisman using 'a gig' literally,  meaning that Hartford played a single show? Or does 'gig' mean a brief run? Either are plausible interpretations, particularly since Grisman himself may not have precisely remembered 30 years on.

Nonetheless, with both Richard Loren and David Grisman putting words to paper, there seems no doubt that Hartford briefly performed with the band. Yet when might have Hartford played with Old And In The Way?

The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, OR, built 1928 and called The Paramount Theater in the '70s
The Timeline
To my knowledge, the last confirmed date with Richard Greene on fiddle was at the Record Plant in Sausalito on the afternoon of April 21, 1973. It seems reasonable to assume that Greene played with Old And In The Way at the Lion's Share that night. In the following weeks, however, there are a series of shows for which we only have advertisements, without tapes, review, photos or eyewitness accounts. I have to assume that Hartford played some or many of the following shows:
  • Monday, April 23, 1973; The Orphanage, San Francisco, CA
  • Friday, April 27, 1973: Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
  • Saturday, April 28, 1973: Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
  • Monday, April 30, 1973: The Orphanage, San Francisco, CA
  • Tuesday, May 8, 1973: Churchill High School, Eugene, OR
  • Wednesday, May 9, 1973: Paramount Theater, Portland, OR
We do have an account of the Old And In The Way show at Bimbo's, in San Francisco, on May 25, 1973. There is no mention of John Hartford or any other fiddler, but I would point out that Hartford was a nationally known television figure at the time, and not as likely to be simply ignored in a memoir. The next show is June 5, 1973 in Boston, and Vassar had joined the group by then.

One issue to consider is why Hartford was invited to play with Old And In The Way at all. I don't mean this in the musical sense; Hartford was a great bluegrass musician and playing with him must have been really fun. However, Hartford was not based in the Bay Area, and would not have been nearer than Los Angeles, so there had to have been a certain amount of planning if not actually a plane ticket involved. It appears that Richard Greene was not available for a certain show or shows, and the band must have felt a need to get an A-list replacement. Grisman would have known Hartford from the bluegrass festival circuit in the 60s, so that was clearly the connection. 

One possible consideration might be the performance at the Paramount Theater in Portland, opening for the New Riders Of The Purple Sage. The Paramount would have been the largest venue that the band had played up to that point, with an official capacity of 2,776, and I have to think they would not have wanted to play that show without a fiddler. Old And In The Way, like any bluegrass band, could play without one instrument, but the sound wouldn't be complete. That might be all right at, say, Monday night at the Orphanage, but not debuting in a new city in front of a few thousand people. If Greene had had a conflict for the Oregon shows, then Old And In The Way would have had an incentive to bring Hartford in. If that were the scenario, I would assume that Hartford played the two Keystone shows (April 27-28) and the second Monday night at The Orphanage (April 30) as a warmup, and then met the band for the two Oregon shows.

However, Old And In The Way was opening for the New Riders of The Purple Sage for both of the Oregon shows, and that may legislate against my elegant little hypothesis.  The New Riders archival setlist site lists fiddlers sitting in on various songs on both May 8 and May 9. Vassar Clements is listed on the first night, and Richard Greene the second. Needless to say, Vassar wasn't there, but it adds to the air of confusion. If John Hartford was Old And In The Way's fiddler, did he then sit in with the New Riders? It's possible, but extremely unlikely that a headline band would invite a new acquaintance to sit in for an entire set. Conversely, Greene was an old friend of Nelson's, and had played on the previous NRPS album (Gypsy Cowboy), so he would be an obvious candidate for a guest appearance (as a sidelight, OAITW's opening sets for the New Riders point to another layer of cooperation between the Dead and the New Riders in 1973 that has been ignored, but that would the topic of another post).

Yet if Richard Greene was the fiddler on Oregon, 'proven' by a guest appearance with the Riders, then when did Hartford actually play with Old And In The Way, and why? If needed, the New Riders could have played as a quartet, even if they preferred not to go without a fiddle. The band must have felt a need to fly in such an important player, and his presence has been confirmed. Why does it remain such a mystery? If Hartford played a single night at the Orphanage or the Keystone Berkeley, what was the urgency? Perhaps Hartford was just in San Francisco that night and Greene wasn't, but it's still a peculiar conjunction.

It's important to remember that Hartford definitely played, it's only a question of when. Hartford had been established on the bluegrass circuit since the 1950s, and Grisman knew him from the festival circuit. Hartford had a certain amount of financial independence due to the success that Glen Campbell had with Hartford's song "Gentle On My Mind," so he was free to take gigs for low pay. Nonetheless, it's striking that Hartford agreed to one or a few dates with a part-time bluegrass band playing oddball songs about dope along with bluegrass classics. Hartford himself was one of the most important figures in progressive bluegrass in the early 70s, but he wasn't close to any of the band members, as far as I know. Somewhere out there has to be a photo, a review, a tape or a recovered memory of Hartford playing with Old And In The Way in April or May of 1973. Here's hoping someone can point us there in the Comments.

The cover to John Hartford's 1971 album Aereo-Plain, with Vassar Clements, Norman Blake and Tut Taylor
John Hartford (December 30, 1937-June 4, 2001)
John Hartford had such a fascinating and important career that it's impossible to summarize. One problem with researching his time in Old And In The Way is that Hartford's career had so many highlights that playing with Jerry Garcia doesn't even get mentioned. Rather than trying to cram Hartford's interesting career and life into a few paragraphs, I will just point out a few highlights, and leave you to pursue the rest.
  • Hartford was raised in St. Louis, MO, and learned banjo, fiddle and guitar as a teenager
  • Hartford's version of his song "Gentle On My Mind" was a modest hit in 1967. However, Glenn Campbell had a giant country and pop hit with it in 1968, as did (amazingly enough) Dean Martin and Patti Page
  • Hartford moved to Los Angeles in 1968 where he became a regular performer on CBS's Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
  • When Glenn Campbell got his own musical variety show, The Glenn Campbell Goodtime Hour, from 1969-72, not only was Hartford a regular performer each week, but "Gentle On My Mind" was the theme music, insuring that the royalties would provide financial security for Hartford for the rest of his life
  • In 1971, Hartford recorded the forward looking bluegrass album Aereo-Plain on Warner Brothers Records, joined by Tut Taylor, Norman Blake and Vassar Clements. Sam Bush of Newgrass Revival and many other musicians credit the album as setting the stage for modern, progressive bluegrass
  • Hartford was a certified steamboat captain on the Mississippi River
  • Hartford contributed several songs to the award winning movie O Brother Where Art Thou (2000), including the theme song "Man Of Constant Sorrow." Hartford won a Grammy for his recording
  • The soundtrack to O Brother became a huge hit, reaching #1 on the country charts. Hartford went out on top, having led the huge cross country Down From The Mountain tour that features artists and songs from the soundtrack album. Hartford died in 2001 after a long struggle with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.