Friday, June 22, 2012

Bob Weir And Kingfish 1984-1987

The 1999 Kingfish album Sundown On The Forest, recorded over many years
After an extended three year run by Bobby And The Midnites, including many live shows and two studio albums, the band ground to a halt at the end of 1984. By this time, it seems that Bob Weir had crossed over, like his bandmate Jerry Garcia, and become a musician who had to be constantly performing. While there may have been an economic motive, since the Dead had not released an album since 1981, and the band's finances were reputedly quite dire, nonetheless in his thirties Weir may have realized he had a chance to tour and perform as much as he wanted to, and he seems to have enjoyed the opportunity.

This post will document Weir's extracurricular activities as a part-time member of Matthew Kelly's band Kingfish, from 1984 through 1987. This is not an exhaustive look at Weir's live performances during this period, nor is it any more than a series of intermittent snapshots of Kingfish during the same timeframe (the numbering system is arbitrary, and exists only to facilitate Comments). Nonetheless, it is an interesting perspective on Weir's activities during that time, when it seemed like the Grateful Dead had sort of peaked and would never get any bigger than they already were. All of my information comes from carefully writing down whatever was announced on the Grateful Dead hotline, supplemented by information from the San Francisco Chronicle or Relix magazine. Some shows or personnel may have been changed at the last minute. Anyone with additional information, insights, corrections or recovered memories (real or imagined) is encouraged to Comment or email me.

Kingfish with Bob Weir #11a (Kingfish Revue)
First show: October 24, 1984 Keystone Palo Alto
Last show: October 26, 1984 The Stone
Garth Webber-lead guitar
Bob Weir-guitar, vocals
Matt Kelly-harmonica-harmonica, guitar, vocals
Rahnie Raines-vocals
Barry Flast-piano, keyboards,vocals
Dave Margen-bass
Dave Perper-drums
Notes: Matt Kelly had reactivated Kingfish, which had only existed intermittently since Weir had departed the band in August of 1976. For the Fall of 1984, the band called themselves 'The Kingfish Revue,' and Weir joined them for two shows in the Bay Area. Kingfish would play a set, and featured some songs by singer Rahnie Raines, Weir would then play a brief solo acoustic set, and then he fronted Kingfish for some classic songs from his previous endeavors with the band. A few other guests showed up, most notably including guitarist George Thorogood one night at the Stone (on October 26).

Garth Webber was an exciting young guitarist, largely unknown during the time that he played with Kingfish. By 1986, however, he had replaced Robben Ford in Miles Davis's group, a clear benediction of his skills. Keyboard player Barry Flast had gone to college at Boston University in the 1960s, and had ended up in the group Tom Swift And The Electric Band. That group (with Billy Squier on guitar) became a sort of 'house band' at Boston's Psychedelic Supermarket, opening for everyone who came through town, including the Grateful Dead. David Margen had been in Santana in the 1970s.

Kingfish with Bob Weir #11b (Kingfish Revue)
First show: December 22, 1984 Keystone Palo Alto
Last show: December 26, 1984 The Stone
Garth Webber-lead guitar
Bob Weir-guitar, vocals
Matt Kelly-harmonica-harmonica, guitar, vocals
Rahnie Raines-vocals
unknown-keyboards, vocals
Dave Margen-bass
Bill Kreutzmann-drums
Notes: For some reason, Barry Flast was apparently not available for these shows, but I'm not sure who filled in on the keyboards (I'm not even sure how I came to know that).  Chris Herold was a guest at the Keystone Palo Alto on December 22. Herold had been the original drummer in Kingfish, and before that in the New Delhi River Band, but he was probably largely retired from music by this time. The most interesting detail about these two Kingfish shows was Bill Kreutzmann's presence on the drums.  

Kingfish #12
First show: January 5, 1985
Last show: February 14, 1985
Garth Webber-lead guitar
Matt Kelly-harmonica-harmonica, guitar, vocals
Barry Flast-piano, keyboards, vocals
Dave Margen-bass
Bill Kreutzmann-drums
plus: Brent Mydland-organ, vocals (Jan 21, 22, 24)
Notes: Kreutzmann's flurry of activity in the mid-80s has always been an indicator to me that members of the Dead were always looking for a little extra cash. I recognize that the occasional gig in Garberville or at a Keystone was often just for a laugh, or to get out of the house. I also understand that musicians often like to play challenging music at times, just because they they need to do it. However, Bill Kreutzmann would not have done a 16-date East Coast tour, playing simple rock and blues with Kingfish in the Winter, unless he needed the cash. I have to assume there was good money in playing the shows, since Brent Mydland must have been flown out for the three dates in late January.

The Winter 1985 Kingfish tour has the unique distinction of being the only Kingfish tour with Grateful Dead members who were not Bob Weir. However, the tour ended with an ugly incident. According to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, Matt Kelly ended up suing Kreutzmann for damages after a violent altercation near the end of the tour. The case was settled, apparently, and the details remain obscure, and probably better left undiscussed. I would note, however, that although Kelly and Weir remain friends and collaborators to this day, Matt Kelly never again played with the Grateful Dead after this tour.

Kingfish #12 performances
  • January 5, 1985 Country Club, Reseda, CA w/Zero
  • January 6, 1985 [Southern California?]
  • January 21-22, 1985 Lone Star Cafe, New York, NY [Brent Mydland on organ and vocals]
  • January 24, 1985 Paradise Club, Boston, MA [Brent Mydland on organ and vocals]
  • January 25, 1985 Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ w/Jorma Kaukonen/NRPS/Leon Russell
  • January 26, 1985 Tower Theater, Upper Darby,  PA
  • January 28, 1985 Hunt's, Burlington, VT
  • February 1, 1985 Lupo's, Providence, RI
  • February 2, 1985 Key Largo, Islip, NY
  • February 3-4, 1985 Lone Star Cafe, New York, NY
  • February 7, 1985 Mabel's, Champaign, IL
  • February 8-9, 1985 Cubby Bear, Chicago, IL
  • February 10, 1985 Headliners, Madison, WI
  • February 13, 1985 Rainbow Theater, Denver, CO
  • February 14, 1985 Glenn Miller Ballroom, U. of Colorado, Boulder, CO
There were two shows announced on the Hot Line that were canceled: March 8 at The Stone and April 11 at New George's in San Rafael. I assume that this was because of the altercation between Kelly and Kreutzmann. It's not impossible that some of the last shows on the main tour were not played as well.

Kingfish with Bob Weir #13
First show: March 1, 1986 Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ w/Sounds Of San Francisco/Zero
Last show: March 2, 1986 The Palladium, New York, NY w/Sounds Of San Francisco/Zero
Garth Webber-lead guitar
Bob Weir-guitar, vocals
Matt Kelly-harmonica-harmonica, guitar, vocals
Anna Rizzo-vocals
Barry Flast-piano, keyboards,vocals
Steve Evans-bass
Dave Perper-drums
Notes: Kingfish toured steadily throughout 1985, and underwent various personnel changes. Bob Weir joined them for two high profile shows in Passaic and Manhattan. At the time, this triple-bill was a sort of homage to psychedelic San Francisco, and it seemed about as relevant as The Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Sounds Of San Francisco was a sort of all-star band, put together for East Coast tours. This time out, the Sounds were John Cipollina, Greg Douglass, David Margen, Dave Perper and vocalist Alex Ligterwood (Santana). Zero also featured Cipollina at this time. Weir would not have needed to rehearse much, if at all, in order to sit in with Kingfish. Weir played a solo set as well.

On Sunday, March 2, Bob Weir appeared on an NBC Radio show called 'Sunday Night Live,' recorded at the Hard Rock Cafe in Manhattan. During the show, Bob Weir, Matt Kelly and Albert Collins sat in with Paul Shaffer and the David Letterman Show band for a version of "T-Bone Shuffle." I'm not sure whether Weir's booking on NBC Radio caused him to sit in with Kingfish, or the other way around, but I'm inclined to the latter scenario. Artists are usually only paid union scale to appear on TV or radio, so it would make sense that Weir was already there for a paying concert.

On Monday, March 3, Weir made a solo appearance at a Philadelphia club called Pulsations. According to Relix, John Cipollina apparently sat in.

Kingfish with Bob Weir #14
First show: April 26, 1986 River Theater, Guerneville, CA
Last show: October 31, 1986 Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, Oakland, CA
Steve Kimock-lead guitar
Bob Weir-guitar, vocals
Matt Kelly-harmonica-harmonica, guitar, vocals
Anna Rizzo-vocals
Barry Flast-piano, keyboards,vocals
Steve Evans-bass
Jimmy Sanchez-drums
Kingfish with Bob Weir #14 performances (Spring)
  • April 26, 1986 River Theater, Guerneville, CA
  • April 27, 1986 Keystone Palo Alto
Notes: In the Spring of 1986, Steve Kimock replaced Garth Webber as Kingfish's lead guitarist. In fact, it's not totaly impossible that Kimock played the March shows in New York with Weir and Kingifish (if anyone knows, please mention it in the Comments).  Singer Anna Rizzo had also joined. Rizzo was (and no doubt still is) an excellent, bluesy singer, but had never gotten a real opportunity to shine. She had been in various mostly Berkeley-based ensembles, including Sky Blue, Grootna and Country Joe's All-Star Band. She was also a pretty good drummer, although she didn't get any opportunity to prove it in Kingfish. Weir played two gigs with Kingfish in the Spring.

On April 28, Weir headlined a show at Wolfgang's, called "A Benefit For A Sick Friend." As far as I know, Weir played solo, although I wouldn't be surprised if he had played a little with David Nelson and Tom Stern, who were also on the bill (as were Tom Constanten and the Tim Ware Group).

On May 29, 1986, Weir made a solo appearance at an East Village disco called The Saint for an event called 'The Great Sixties Ball.' The other acts on the bill were Country Joe McDonald and Buffy St. Marie. This was significant, since in its prior incarnation The Saint had been The Fillmore East. Weir was joined at various points by Matt Kelly, Barry Flast, Jorma Kaukonen, Anna Rizzo and Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary).

Update: I have discovered that Kingfish played an Anti-Nuke Rally in Corte Madera on June 7, 1986 (at least one song is accessible on YouTube), and also at the Rainbow Music Hall in Denver, CO on August 11, 1986.

Kingfish with Bob Weir #14 performances (Fall)
  • September 7, 1986 Ranch Rock, Pyramid Lake, Nixon, NE Mickey And The Daylites/Kingfish with Bob Weir/Robert Hunter and The Mystery Band/Problem Child/Zero
  • October 29, 1986 Arlington Theater, Santa Barbara, CA w/Robert Hunter
  • October 30, 1986 Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz, CA
  • October 31, 1986 Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, Oakland, CA w/JGB
Notes: On July 8, 1986, Jerry Garcia went into a diabetic coma, and the entire Grateful Dead universe was thrown into upheaval. Although band members were too proud to make a point of it, there had to be a serious cash flow problem for everybody. Weir was better positioned than others to make a little money touring, but he had broken his arm in a mountain biking accident, and was limited to being just a vocalist until the end of the Summer.

Various bands associated with the Grateful Dead played at an outdoor event at Pyramid Lake in Nevada (hot enough for ya?). Weir appeared with Kingfish, but only as a singer, since he couldn't play guitar. The Mickey And The Daylites and Robert Hunter and The Mystery Band ensembles were unique configurations that never played any other time. Although there were six bands on the bill, many of the musicians played in multiple groups

Fortunately, Garcia was back in action in October. Weir, too, was back in October, his arm fully healed so that he could play guitar. Weir and Kingfish played three shows in California. Weir and Kingfish headlined two of them in small theaters, and one of them was second on the bill to the Jerry Garcia Band at the Kaiser Convention Center. In fact, per their usual practice, Weir and Kingfish closed the Oakland show, rocking the night away, but the newly-recovered Garcia was still the headliner.

Kingfish with Bob Weir #15
First show: May 26, 1987 The Bacchanal, San Diego, CA
Last show: May 30, 1987 Country Club, Reseda, CA
Steve Kimock-lead guitar
Bob Weir-guitar, vocals
Matt Kelly-harmonica-harmonica, guitar, vocals
Anna Rizzo-vocals
Barry Flast-piano, keyboards,vocals
Steve Evans-bass
Dave Perper-drums
Kingfish with Bob Weir #15 performances
  • May 26, 1987 The Bacchanal, San Diego, CA
  • May 27, 1987 The Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, CA
  • May 28, 1987 Fender's, Long Beach, CA
  • May 29, 1987 De Anza Theater, Riverside, CA
  • May 30, 1987 Country Club, Reseda, CA
Notes: Weir had one last brief run with Kingfish in May, 1987. Although I only have setlists for one of these shows, I assume that it was the standard configuration: Kingfish played a set, Weir played solo and then Weir joined Kingfish for some of their regular material, by this time almost 12 years old.

After these shows, Weir started making regular appearances with the band Go Ahead, whose other members were Brent Mydland, Bill Kreutzmann, Dave Margen, Alex Ligterwood and Jerry Cortez. Weir followed the same pattern as he did with Kingfish; Go Ahead would play a set, Weir would play a solo set, and then Weir would join Go Ahead and rock out. The history of Go Ahead is unwritten, and I will write it, but that is a subject of another series of posts.

May 28, 1989 San Gregorio Music Festival, San Gregorio Resource Center, San Gregorio, CA
Bob Weir and Kingfish/Maria Muldaur and Band/Dan Hicks and The Acoustic Warriors/NRPS/Country Joe McDonald/Terry Haggerty 
Weir's final appearance with Kingfish was a one-off show at an outdoor festival in San Gregorio. San Gregorio is an obscure town in San Mateo County, not quite coastside, but just down the hill from La Honda where Kesey had holed up back when the Warlocks were morphing into the Grateful Dead. A large area around the town had been turned into a Nature Preserve, and it appears that this show was a benefit in support of that. Whoever organized it must have been an old hippie, given the bands, but then of course most of the residents in the coastside part of San Mateo County in those days were old hippies anyway, so it was appropriate. I don't know exactly who was in Kingfish at that point, although it probably didn't matter from Weir's point of view. By this time, Weir had first played with Kingfish fifteen years earlier, and in some ways they were like the old blues and R&B acts that had inspired them in the first place, playing their traditional material for people who had been fans for a long time.

Matt Kelly let Kingfish slide away in the 1990s. Weir and Kelly remained friends, and Kelly was a member of Ratdog for a while. However, Kelly left that group, and ultimately moved to Thailand, where he has focused on charity work. Kingfish, after an unheralded start in 1974, lasted over 15 years, remarkable for any band, and Bob Weir was a part of it near the beginning and near the end.


  1. I can't wait until you do a CSI on Go Ahead.
    I miss Brent

  2. Your research on these obscure moments of Dead history is very, very VERY much appreciated!

  3. Thanks to everyone for the kind words.

  4. Another great post for sure! There's some video on youtube of the San Gregorio benefit. You may be able to see who was "Kingfish" that day.

  5. bRad, thanks for the fascinating link. On the video (a one camera job, but well done), Chris Herold is invited on stage to sit in, a nice tribute given that he had been playing with Kelly as far back as 1968 and had long since retired from music.

    Kingfish plays "Promised Land" on the video. Besides Weir, Kelly and Herold, I note Barry Flast on piano. I can see Anna Rizzo hanging out, but she doesn't sing on this one. There's a bass player and a lead guitarist, but I don't know who they are. Very interesting all around.

  6. Here's one you don't have listed, I was at this show.
    Lone Star Cafe, New York, NY
    Line-up: Jorma Kaukonen - guitar, vox; Jack Casady - bass
    *w/ Kingfish: Steve Kimock - guitar; Anna Rizzo - vox; Barry Flast - keyboards, vox; Matthew Kelly - guitar, harp, vox; Danny DeGennaro - guitar, vox; Kenny Ness - drums

    Set 1: *
    1. Intro
    2. Unchain My Heart
    3. Sea Cruise
    4. Slippin’ And Slidin’
    5. Find Somebody Else
    6. Living In The USA
    7. Stormy Monday
    8. Band Intros
    9. I Hear You Knockin’
    10. Mona
    11. “tuning”
    12. Baby What You Want Me To Do

    1. Does anyone know if an audio recording of this show exists?

  7. Fascinating. DeGennaro (and I think the drummer) were a part of the East Coast Kingfish (from Bucks County, PA) which is a whole other story I haven't even gotten to.

  8. Corry342 let me know if you want a copy of my tape, I have a master SBD.

  9. "I would note, however, that although Kelly and Weir remain friends and collaborators to this day, Matt Kelly never again played with the Grateful Dead after this tour."

    Actually, he sat in for a few tunes on March 12 & 13, 1985, at the BCT.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. I have an April 25th show for 1986 which took place at Fender's Grand Ballroom, Long Beach, CA. I'll be seeding it to Lossless Legs in the next day or so.