Friday, August 24, 2012

Album Projects Recorded at Mickey Hart's Barn, Novato, CA 1971-76

Reputedly the entrance to Mickey Hart's ranch, somewhere in Novato (photo: JGMF)
Sometime in 1969, Mickey Hart moved to an unused ranch near Novato Road in Novato, CA, in Marin County. Neither Hart nor the Grateful Dead had much money at the time. Nonetheless, land in rural Novato was cheap in those days--believe it or not--and Hart found a way. According to McNally, the land belonged to the city of Novato, and Hart was technically the caretaker, for the princely sum of just $250 a month. The ranch rapidly became a clubhouse for the boys in the band and their crew. Apparently some members of the crew lived on the ranch between tours. At least some key crew members were from the tiny cattle ranching town of Hermiston, OR. Hart was actually an experienced horseman, surprisingly enough, but I suspect the crew members must have introduced the suburbanites who made up the rest of the Grateful Dead to the pleasures of rural Oregon: riding horses, shooting off guns and so on.

Sometime in late 1970, a studio was built on Hart's ranch, in the barn. At this time, home studios were not really viable propositions, so a band member having his own studio was a radical concept. Having a home studio in a room big enough to include a whole rock band was even more radical. The Dead's finances were even worse in 1970 than they were in 1969, so how the studio was financed is also in question. JGMF found some evidence that Columbia Records helped to put down some money for it. My own thesis was that producer Alan Douglas was romancing the Dead on behalf of Columbia president Clive Davis, in the hopes that the Dead would sign with Columbia when their Warner Brothers Records contract expired. [Update: McNally said that Dan Healy provided the designs for the electronics, and former Carousel Ballroom carpenter Johnny De Foncesca Sr actually built the renovations.]

Mickey Hart left the Grateful Dead in February, 1971, but he didn't leave the Grateful Dead orbit. Hart's studio, alternately called The Barn or Rolling Thunder on the backs of albums, was the first studio facility that was completely in control of a member or members of the Grateful Dead. It was  followed by the studio in Bob Weir's garage (usually called Ace's), and then by Club Front.

In the early 1970s, recording studios in San Francisco were doing big business. Places like Wally Heider's, Columbia Studios and many others were making a lot of records. However,  while those studios were excellent, they were also expensive and had to be booked far in advance. Hart's Barn in Novato offered a low-key alternative for the Grateful Dead and their friends and fellow travelers.

It's my contention that the Grateful Dead's ill-fated but fascinating effort to go independent in late 1972 was predicated on the availability of Mickey Hart's studio. Something like a Jerry Garcia solo album could be recorded at a major studio, but some of the more quixotic projects that the Dead were involved in had different financing and scheduling issues, and The Barn was perfect. This post will review the various album projects that appear to have been undertaken at The Barn from 1971 through 1976, considered in the context of Round Records and the music industry, rather than specifically with reference to the music that was produced. For clarity,  I have chosen to refer to the studio as The Barn rather than as Rolling Thunder.

The Grateful Dead's plan to have their own record companies, Grateful Dead and Round, was years ahead of its time. The idea to have a dedicated studio at The Barn was also years ahead of its time. Both plans were too far ahead of their time to make economic sense. A few decades later, many acts had their own record companies and worked out of home studios, recording whatever they liked--David Grisman is a great current example--but the Dead started the train rolling before the track was finished. This post will look at the Dead's effort to be a forward looking, independent music company from the point of view of the album projects recorded at The Barn in Novato from 1971 through 1976.

The cover to Mickey Hart's 1972 Warner Brothers lp Rolling Thunder
Rolling Thunder-Mickey Hart (Warner Bros BS 2635, released September 1972)
Warner Brothers gave Mickey Hart a three-album deal in 1971, soon after he left the Grateful Dead. Why would a record company give a three-album deal to a drummer, one who had neither sang nor composed with his prior group? I have written at length about my theory that with the Grateful Dead's popularity rising and their Warner Brothers records contract expiring, both Warners and Columbia were trying to offer incentives to sign with them. Warner Brothers had offered solo deals to Garcia and Weir, and by offering one to Hart they probably figured that the Dead would be well-disposed towards them.

In Fall '72, the Grateful Dead shocked the industry by going completely independent. Warners released Hart's first solo album, Rolling Thunder, while the Dead were still under contract to them. Probably Warners still hoped that the Grateful Dead could be talked out of their madness. Rolling Thunder is a fascinating album and period piece in many ways, but it did not have a radio-friendly sound and it rapidly disappeared.

Rolling Thunder was apparently recorded over a period of 18 months, and features an All-Star cast of San Francisco-based musicians, including Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Stephen Stills, members of the Jefferson Airplane, the Tower of Power horns and many more. Although the record was recorded in The Barn, it was mixed at Alembic Studios in San Francisco. Alembic, at 60 Brady Street,  had formerly been known as Pacific High Recorders. The Dead had recorded Workingman's Dead at PHR, and the room had a reputation as a particularly fine venue for mixing tapes. The Barn was designed as a place to record, rather than as a place to finish off albums, a task more suited to the equipment of full-time studios.

"Fire On The Mountain" album project-Mickey Hart (1972-73)
For the second album of his deal, Hart produced a more conventional album. Although its impossible to know for certain what was intended, a circulating version has about 13 tracks, and the first song is an early version of "Fire On The Mountain." The vocals appear to be by Robert Hunter, and they are sung in a sort of chanted rap--not exactly Gil Scott-Heron, but definitely spoken rather than sung. Presumably, "Fire On The Mountain" was intended as the title track of the proposed album.

The rest of the prospective album had fairly conventional songs, with few of the strange sonic and musical experiments (like "Insect Fear") that had characterized Rolling Thunder. Vocals were by the likes of David Frieberg and Barry Melton. A few other Hunter compositions turned up on the tape, as well, such as "I Heard You Singing." The musicians were part of the same Marin County suspects that had played on Rolling Thunder, but somewhat less high profile players. The "Fire On The Mountain" tape that I have heard would have made a much better record than Rolling Thunder, but Warner Brothers rejected the album.

By mid-1973, the Grateful Dead had fully left Warner Brothers, and presumably Warners had no corporate interest in a loss leader project that supported the band's now departed drummer. Since Warner Brothers didn't hear an obvious hit on the proposed album, I presume they simply passed. Hart probably recognized the reality of what was happening.

[Soundtrack album for 'The Silent Flute' film]-Mickey Hart (1973)
The third album that Hart submitted to fulfill his contract was the soundtrack to a martial arts film. Supposedly this tape was rejected by Warners without being listened to, but the story may be apocryphal. I have to assume that Hart expected them to reject the album anyway, and that he simply submitted a tape from a project he was working on. I'm sure Hart made interesting music for the film, but I have to doubt that Warners would ever have been truly interested.

Does anyone have any idea of the title of the martial arts film? Was it even released? Was it a Bruce Lee type action movie, or some sort of documentary or training film? I know that Hart was interested in various kinds of martial arts, so his connection isn't surprising, but it's fascinating to think that there may have been some late night Kung Fu flick that has "Soundtrack-Mickey Hart" in the credits.

Update: thanks to a Commenter, we know that the album project was called The Silent Flute. A tape circulates, featuring ambient music played by Hart, Garcia and others. Thanks to another Commenter, we know that there was a1973 Bruce Lee project called The Silent Flute, which was halted when Bruce Lee passed away. The project was remade and released in 1978 as Circle Of Iron, with David Carradine (of Kung Fu fame) in the starring role. Was Hart's Silent Flute music intended for the Bruce Lee project?

The cover to Area Code 615's 1970 Polydor album Trip In The Country
"Area Code 415" album project (1973)
A tape has circulated that was made concurrently or shortly after the "Fire On The Mountain" project, generally labeled as "Area Code 415." At the time, the entire Bay Area was area code 415, including the East Bay (now 510), Contra Costa County (now 925), the Peninsula (now 650), San Jose (now 408) and the Santa Cruz area (now 831). Thus all Bay Area musicians would have used area code 415.

A band of Nashville session musicians had made some excellent country rock albums under the name Area Code 615, which was the area code for Nashville. Some heavy Nashville session men, led by guitarist Wayne Moss, who had played on many rock albums such as Blonde On Blonde, had decided to record as a rock group. Area Code 615 released two albums, Area Code 615 (1969) and Trip In The Country (1970). The albums were not huge hits, but they got played on FM radio and were well known amongst musicians and industry pros. Area Code 615 only toured a little bit, since they all made so much money from recording, but they did open once at the Fillmore West from February 12-15, 1970 (Country Joe and The Fish and The Sons topped the bill). Many of the members of Area Code 615 went on to form the group Barefoot Jerry, who had a sort of FM hit with the great song "Watching TV With The Radio On."

Thus, a tape of Bay Area musicians working together in a loose aggregation could be called Area Code 415, and locals and industry professionals would have gotten both the joke and the business concept. I have to think that the tape we know as Area Code 415, which is about 22 songs, including some from "Fire On The Mountain" and other projects on this list, was at least informally circulated amongst record companies for possible release. If so, their must have been no bites. While I find the Area Code 415 material enjoyable, it has a flatter sound that was a bit dated compared to 70s acts like The Doobie Brothers or Steely Dan, who sounded much brighter.

The cover to an Old And In The Way live cd, recorded in October 1973
Old And In The Way album project (Spring 1973)
The most interesting, most mysterious and completely unheard project recorded at The Barn was the Old And In The Way studio album, apparently recorded in March or April of 1973. The recording can be dated by a reference in a review found by JGMF. The timeline suggests that Old And In The Way got together and recorded an album almost immediately after forming, perhaps thinking that they could get an independently released album out within a few months. Yet the tape has never surfaced, in any form. At various times, members of the band have alluded to the fact that they were unsatisfied with the results. Ultimately, Owsley recorded Old And In The Way's next-to-last show live, and those tapes were the source of both the February 1975 album and two archival cds released in the 1990s.

What was wrong with the Old And In The Way studio album? Of course, if it was recorded in March or April 1973, the band had only been together a short time, and some of the arrangements may not have been fully fleshed out. (It's my current hypothesis, by the way, that lacking a fiddle player, Old And In The Way brought in the great John Hartford for the recording, thus accounting for the peculiar situation where Hartford is constantly referred to as a former member although there seems to be no evidence of a gig where he played live.)

Nonetheless, for experienced musicians, bluegrass arrangements come quickly. Bluegrass is recorded live--it wasn't Terrapin Station. Are we to believe that not a single take of any song was worthy of release, even as a bonus track 20 years later? I believe there were no contractual problems associated with anyone in Old And In The Way, so no lawyers would have gotten in the way of a release. Why have the Old And In The Way studio tapes disappeared?

The most plausible explanation for the Old And In The Way studio tapes staying in the vault would be that the actual recorded sound was very unsatisfying. Musicians are considerably more bothered by poor recordings than civilians, and if the band members didn't like the recorded sound, they would have simply buried the tape. In general, tapes recorded at The Barn had a kind of tinny, 60s feel to them. Sometimes a thin sound can be very effective on a recording, such as on Electric Music For The Mind And Body, Country Joe and The Fish's 1967 debut album. Mind And Body didn't have the sheen of Revolver, but it had an immediacy that makes the record very powerful.

If the sound for a recording is wrong, however, no amount of studio trickery can really fix it. Up until this time, no truly acoustic project had been recorded at The Barn. Notice also that the Old And In The Way was the first genuine Garcia project recorded at The Barn. Garcia had been involved intermittently with Rolling Thunder, but Old And In The Way would have been his first full project. Given that the Dead were self-financing in 1973, working at Mickey Hart's studio would have been a lot cheaper than recording in San Francisco at The Record Plant (I am confident that Hart was paid for the use of his studio, by the way). I would note, however, that the Old And In The Way project was Garcia's last project at The Barn before they got a new mixing board (see below).

I think The Barn was falling behind as a professional studio in 1973, and it was a particularly poor room for acoustic music. I think both Garcia and Grisman, and probably one Mr. Owsley Stanley, were very unhappy with the sound quality of the Old And In The Way recording, and seem to have buried it where it can never be found. I hope it remains intact as part of Owsley's taped legacy, whatever its quality.

The cover to Barry Melton's 1975 album The Fish, a UK only released on UA Records
The Fish-Barry Melton album project (1973-74)
Betty Cantor engineered and produced a Barry Melton solo album at The Barn entitled The Fish. By the time the album was released in 1975, however, it had been entirely re-recorded in Wales. I take this chain of events to suggest that the record industry did not like the sound of tapes recorded at The Barn, and the history of The Fish is one of the indirect reasons that I hold to my theory that Garcia, Grisman and Owsley rejected the sound of the Old And In The Way tapes. I have speculated at length about the history of the recording of this album, so I won't recap it all here.

The cover to Robert Hunter's 1974 album Tales Of The Great Rum Runners, the first release on Round Records
Tales Of The Great Rum Runners-Robert Hunter (Round Records RX-101, released June 1974)
The first release on Jerry Garcia's Round Records label was thoroughly unexpected, as it was an album by the Dead's hitherto mysterious lyricist Robert Hunter. I have quite a lot to say about the reasoning behind this release, but that is a subject for another (no doubt lengthy) post. Since Tales Of The Great Rum Runners was released in June 1974, the album must have been recorded at The Barn earlier in 1974. Jerry Garcia and a few other Grateful Dead members make appearances, and numerous other Bay Area locals--the Area Code 415 crowd--play on it as well.

Then and now, Tales Of The Great Rum Runners was a fascinating if flawed album. One of its major flaws was that it just didn't sound that great by 1974 standards. Jerry Garcia mixed the album, but over at Alembic. Hunter's semi-electric music may have been more amenable to the sound of The Barn than Old And In The Way, but it can't have been completely satisfying. Round Records was independent, however, so working at The Record Plant wasn't really a financial option.

Roadhog album project (1974)
A recent and curious tape has surfaced of what appears to be some sort of album project for the band Roadhog. Robert Hunter played around the Bay Area with Roadhog in 1976, but the band had existed for sometime before that. A 39-minute, 15-track tape has surfaced that features mostly Hunter compositions, recorded by Roadhog. Hunter himself sings lead on several of them. Six of the tracks were different versions of songs that turned up on Rum Runners, and a few more songs are now known from later Hunter albums or performances. A few tracks, like the song "Roadhog" itself, were unheard up until now.

Where do the Roadhog tapes fit in with Tales Of The Great Rum Runners? This, too, is mysterious, making my upcoming Rum Runners post even longer. Did the Roadhog project precede Rum Runners, and get superseded? Was it a parallel project, with the idea that Hunter would write the songs for Roadhog as well as the Dead? JGMF found an ad for Roadhog at the Inn Of The Beginning on September 27, 1974, where they are listed as playing "songs by Robert Hunter." All quite fascinating material for contemplation.

For the purposes of this post, however, it's simply worth noting that the Roadhog recordings have a demo tape feel. I wouldn't be surprised if the Roadhog tape was also shopped to record companies with no bites. In any case, Roadhog are thanked on the Rum Runners liner notes, which confirms that the band already existed prior to the record, so there must have been some parallel development, but that will have to wait for another post.

The cover to Robert Hunter's 1975 album on Round, Tiger Rose
Tiger Rose-Robert Hunter (Round Records RX-105, released March 1975)
I believe that Mickey Hart's Barn studio was intended as an important linchpin in the Round Records plan. In order for the members of the Grateful Dead to record the albums they wanted to make, their had to be an affordable, friendly studio. Local studios like The Record Plant, Wally Heider's and Columbia Studios were fine facilities, but they were expensive to use and heavily booked. The Barn had seemed like a perfect solution, but it's hard not to look at the recorded evidence and think that the sound quality of the recordings at The Barn were not up to 1974 standards.

At some point in 1974, Alembic Sound sold Alembic Studios to producer Elliott Mazer. Alembic was a sound company that was intimately connected to the Grateful Dead, though in fact a separate business entity. Alembic had purchased the old Pacific High Recorders studio at 60 Brady Street, where the band had recorded Workingman's Dead, and re-named it Alembic Studios. Alembic was generally only used for mixing, rather than recording. Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead mixed "Skull And Roses," Europe '72 at Alembic, and Garcia had re-mixed Anthem Of The Sun and Aoxomoxoa there, as well.

Alembic had decided to get out of the studio business, however, and focus on making instruments and other live performance equipment. Mazer would upgrade the studio's equipment and re-name it His Master's Wheels. Many albums were recorded at His Master's Wheels, including the Jerry Garcia Band portions of Reflections. As part of the upgrade, however, the old mixing board was sold off, and it ended up in The Barn. I don't know what the financial arrangements were--were old mixing boards desirable commodities in 1974?--but there's no question that the sound of albums recorded at The Barn improved after that. I'm sure other technical changes had been made as well, which would be way beyond me, but I like the synergy that the board used for Workingman's Dead became the platform for recording several projects on Round Records.

I suspect that Tiger Rose was the first project recorded on the old PHR board. I suspect that it was an implicit condition of Jerry Garcia acting as the producer and arranger for the album. Notwithstanding Garcia's fine musical contributions, the sound of Tiger Rose is far superior to the Barn-recorded albums that preceded it. It can't have been an accident.

The cover to the album Seastones, released in 1975 on Round Records, recorded by Ned Lagin and members of the Grateful Dead, including Phil Lesh, Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart
Seastones-Ned Lagin and Phil Lesh (Round Records RX-106, released April 1975)
Keyboardist Ned Lagin had come out to California in 1973 work with Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and others on a variety of electronic music projects. The "Seastones" performances with Phil Lesh and the accompanying album on Round were just a portion of what was recorded, much less what was intended. For record company reasons, a sticker on the album cover presented Seastones as a joint collaboration between Lagin and Lesh, and that was apparently a bit misleading, though not incorrect. The project was really Lagin's, but Lesh's name was attached to it to make it into a "solo album." Lagin did not object, by any means, but Garcia and Hart played big roles in the composition, development and recording of the album as well, and that has apparently been somewhat lost over time. A two cd set of Seastones is due sometime, and that should help lend some clarity to the scope and intentions of the project.

Seastones was not a typical recording project in any way, so it is all but fruitless to compare it to anything else. Nonetheless, The Barn seems to have been one of four recording studios for the work. Lagin had spent some time in California earlier in the 70s, and some recording on Seastones related projects had taken place at The Barn in 1971-72. The project re-started when Lagin returned to Califronia in 1973. In some personal correspondence, Lagin alluded to studio time being rushed and limited by record company finances, so that is one way I have been able to assume that projects recorded at The Barn were paid and paying work, not just larks. Of course, there were three other studios, one of them in Bob Weir's garage, so there may be some other nuances to this as well.

It's hard to compare Seastones to, say, a Hunter album, but I have to assume that Lagin aslo appreciated the upgrades associated with the PHR mixing board. Seastones was mixed in Quadrophonic, the hi-fi of it's time, ironically enough at His Masters Wheels.

The cover to the Round Records album Pistol Packin' Mama, by the Good Old Boys, recorded in 1975 and released in 1976
Pistol Packin' Mama-Good Old Boys (Round Records RX-109, released March 1976)
Jerry Garcia produced a bluegrass album for Round, featuring New Rider David Nelson and three genuine bluegrass legends: Frank Wakefield (mandolin), Don Reno (banjo) and Chubby Wise (fiddle). Limited evidence suggests that the album was actually recorded in about February 1975, even though it was not released until March 1976. I think the Grateful Dead's financial problems intervened, and there was not enough cash to release the album until the Grateful Dead had signed a distribution deal with United Artists Records at the end of 1975.

Pistol Packin' Mama is a beautiful sounding album, bluegrass like it should be recorded. With musicians as accomplished as The Good Old Boys, the key for the producer was simply to record the music as clearly as possible, and Garcia and engineer Dan Healy seem to have achieved that. I have to assume that the long lost Old And In The Way studio album did not sound nearly as good as Pistol Packin' Mama, and I have to think that a variety of technical upgrades must have made all the difference. Without knowing much about recording, I have to think that the mixing board from PHR was a big part of that.

The cover to the 1976 Round album Diga Rhythm Band
Diga Rhythm Band (Round Records RX-110, released April 1976)
Throughout much of 1975, Hart was apparently working on his Diga Rhythm Band project. The album was finally released in early 1976, but I do not think United Artists was very happy with it. When they agreed to distribute Grateful Dead and Round Records, UA must have been thinking about Garcia and Weir solo albums. They did get Reflections (RX 107) and Kingfish (RX 108), but UA can't have been happy about an electronic music album best heard in quadrophonic (Seastones), an album of cover tunes in a nearly forgotten country subgenre (Pistol Packin Mama) and finally a percussion album that you can't dance to (unless you are very, very limber). Hart apparently spent a lot of UA's money re-mixing Diga to get it just exactly perfect.

In June, 1976, the Grateful Dead returned to full-time touring, with Mickey Hart back on board. By the end of 1976, Grateful Dead and Round Records were no more. By the middle of 1977, "Le Club Front," which was initially the Jerry Garcia Band's rehearsal studio, had become the primary in-house recording venue for the Grateful Dead and its members. The Barn studio receded into the background. Once in a while, if Hart was not on tour, it seems to have been put to good use: a local Marin band featuring future JGB drummer Johnny De Foncesca recorded a demo there in 1978, and some Rhythm Devils sessions were held there in March, 1980.

In general, however, I have to assume that The Barn at Hart's ranch simply became Mickey Hart's home studio, available to put down ideas or record jams as the mood struck him. At some point the studio was dismantled, although I don't know the exact story. A fellow blogger interviewed Hart and Hart not only confirmed the fact that the PHR mixing board went to his studio, he commented on its own aftermath. Sometime in the 1980s, apparently, the mixing board was donated to a studio in Hunter's Point in San Francisco that was run as part of the San Francisco Public Schools. Somewhere out there, in the aether where there is a Kung Fu movie with a Mickey Hart soundtrack, there are some tapes by aspiring teenage rappers in San Francisco in the late 80s with a whiff of Workingman's Dead on them. As far as I know, the actual barn itself that housed the The Barn studio has since been dismantled.


  1. the board has apparently been dismantled - healy has the faders for sale on ebay right now.

  2. The 'Martial Arts" project was called The Silent Flute, and the soundtrack music does circulate. It's about 90-odd minutes of semi-ambient music featuring Garcia and others. I remember Hart talking about it at length in one interview. Another weird Barn project was a tape labelled "Insects" which was a spoken word radio play with music about an invasion of giant insects - participants included Garcia, Steve Parish, Barry Melton and doubtless many others.

    1. from

      The Bugs - Mickey Hart ( , 42:25) A radio play, with Mickey Hart, Steve Parish, Barry Melton, Bill Graham, and others, recorded some time after 1978. The moral of the story is to preserve the environment and to not kill
      insects with pesticides. This was not released. The soundtrack includes a short segment from the Palace of Fine Arts performance of November 28, 1973 of "Experiments in Quadrophonic Sound".

      I-) ihor

  3. A minor detail: An brief news item in a 1975 issue of ROLLING STONE indicated that the "Good Ol' Boys" album was recorded during the last week of January.

    1. Anon, thank you so much for this detail. By my accounting, this is not minor at all. First of all, it confirms what I had thought, and second of all, it places the recording even earlier than February. I am working on an elaborate post about Round Records, and this is a critical piece of the puzzle.

  4. Another item: "The Silent Flute" (not necessarily the same project that Mickey worked on) was a film that Bruce Lee had tried to get made since 1969, and the lengthy process involved names like Steve McQueen and James Coburn. Lee died before the project could even begin, and David Carradine later bought the rights and filmed and released the story as CIRCLE OF IRON. Is this the same "Silent Flute" that Mickey was involved with? We may never know, but I think it's suggestive that Mickey supposedly worked on the music in 1973, Bruce Lee died in 1973 and just like that the project seems to have vanished into the ether. Coincidence?

    1. I will see if I can find the interview where Hart talked about all this. As you did, he tied together the Silent Flute, Circle of Iron and Bruce Lee, so I believe it is the same project.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I am the only sister of Mickey Hart. Holly. I know that I have photos of him sparring with Bruce Lee at some point probably the late 60s early 70s. This would fit the time frame. Just for the record. My brother was not an "accomplished horseman" I am. He was however an accomished martial artist.

    4. Also for the father Milt Farrow played in the main 10 tower of power on tales of the great rum runners and My brothers solo Album Rolling Thunder, a classic BB, orchestra Horn playet.Now 85. Be aware that I am planning to reprint my book "living in the shadow of a god" that I wrote at age 15, I'm now 57. Im not a band fan. But my brother at one point was in top 24 and still probably is. I agree with one poster that stated this list is based on band. Mickey Hart is still considered one of the top drummers of all time based on his accomplishments alone, his experimental type of music, his book writing, music composition and awards. I know he's an owner of a GRAMMY or 2. How many drummers own those?

  5. Crypt and Anon, thank you so much for filling out the details of the Silent Flute project. It's quite amazing to think that Mickey Hart might have been the missing link between Bruce Lee and Jerry Garcia, even if its probably wishful thinking.

    Based on my fuzzy memory of watching Kung Fu movies late at night on fuzzy UHF channels, if the Garcia/Lee connection had really happened, then the Grateful Dead could have had a second career as villains. I vaguely recall long-haired biker types being thumped by slick Martial Artists. Whether the crew could act wouldn't have mattered, since the 'dialogue' would have been dubbed and re-looped to not match their mouths.

    1. Jorma has a story that the name for the album Quah came from when he was riding by on Market Street and he heard/saw Mickey karate-chop a block of wood in an adjacent studio, and "QUAH" is what it sounded like to Jorma's ears!!

  6. Another murky project at The Barn was a project where Mickey Hart recorded his friend Jim McPherson. Apparently Hart was recording McPherson in October '74 when the Dead 'retired' at Winterland. McPherson, among others, encouraged Hart to come by the last night (McNally p.478).

    McPherson was later in Roadhog and High Noon, but he died in 1985. An album of his work. A Promise Kept, was released in 2009. I'm not sure whether or how much of the album included pre-76 material.

  7. I have discovered another album project recorded at Mickey Hart's barn. In a 1976 interview in the English fanzine Dark Star (on the Clover site), John McFee talks about an album by singer Darlene Di Domenico. McFee says

    "I was on one for Round records by Darlene Di Dominico, she's a really good chick singer who writes her own songs. Huey was also on it, so was Norton Buffalo, Garcia and Cipollina. Mickey was on it too, he does a lot of sessions."

    Di Domenico sang on some New Riders albums and was part of the Dead's 70s circle. So it seems this was another Round project that never saw the light.

  8. :-) i think there are more members of the jeff plane on 'seastones' than there are gd members. :-)

    I-) ihor

  9. N.B. The studio at Ace's is not in the basement. It's over the garage, a separate building from the main house.

    1. Steve Barncard's site has a number of photos of Weir's home studio being constructed, and the Dead rehearsing Blues for Allah there:

  10. I have discovered yet another album project recorded at The Barn. Saxophonist Cornelius "Snooky" Flowers worked on an album sometime in the 1972-74 period. Some details can be found here:

    Snooky Flowers is better known today as a photographer. However, he was around the scene to photograph it because he was a fine baritone and tenor saxophonist in an R&B vein. He was in Janis Joplin's Kozmic Blues Band (and played Woodstock with her), and played on various other records and sessions.

  11. From an interview I did with Jerilyn Brandelius, Mickey's ex- in May 2014:

    JB: "The Silent Flute" was a great album; we worked on that with Grace Slick and that was kind of fun. It was supposed to be a Bruce Lee movie and Grace and Paul were way into kung-fu movies and had some kind of option on it and they wanted Mickey to help them make the soundtrack. It never got released. "Area Code 415" never got released, either. That was a great record with all sorts of people on it like Norton Buffalo, John McFee, Jim McPherson; all these stellar players. Warners thought it was too weird; they didn’t think it was commercial enough. And the "Silent Flute" for sure they didn’t think was commercial enough.

    * * *

    I have not been able to verify the Slick/Kantner connection, but it is a fact they were way into kung-fu moves, so it rings true. Jerilyn has a pretty good memory and was around the ranch for the the entire hey-day of the studio.

    1. All of this makes total sense. While I understood Mickey's enthusiasm for a Martial Arts film (I know he does judo or something related), I had often wondered who might have commissioned him. If it was a Grace and Paul thing, all of the pieces fit.

  12. In the UK magazine Swing 51, issue 13 (1981), Mickey Hart has an extensive interview talking about album projects like Fire on the Mountain, 415, The Silent Flute, the Diga Rhythm Band, song collaborations with Hunter & Melton, etc.

    "Fire on the Mountain is in a locker somewhere and Warners has it. They signed me up for a few albums, and Rolling Thunder was one of them. That was very well received and it was a fine album. Then I went with a second one called Fire on the Mountain... I bring it down to Joe Smith and those people at Warner Brothers, and they canned it. They wanted 'rock 'em, sock 'em,' something to take on the road. I don't think they knew what they had, I don't think they understood it... They could have been selling fish. They actually walked out on me while I was playing it for them."

    415: "We live in 415 area code and all my friends like Jim McPherson, John Cippolina, Barry Melton and David Freiberg were from that area. We got together and played things like 'Ghost Riders in the Sky' and Jim McPherson's songs... So we put together this loose, fragmented group of musicians and that's why we called it 415. We never released the material. We just stuck it in the locker. That seems like my life story. Our output is so much greater than our releases. We're pretty prolific. Most of the big companies aren't really interested in these recordings and I'm not into hawking them. But a lot of them are really worthy. It's just laying there, man. I don't know what's going to happen to it. We play it all the time...
    "Maybe Fire on the Mountain will be released someday, if somebody cared to do it, but doing battle with a record company is my least favorite occupation, because I'm not very compatible with record companies. We don't see eye to eye on many things. I haven't found one I can even sit down and talk with. Oh, we'll sit down but so far I haven't been able to find a good business relationship with any record company."

  13. Mickey on The Silent Flute: "You haven't heard of that one! That's obscure and that's my best work. A very strong piece of work in a locker someplace in Warner Brothers... I did it all in two weeks and it never saw the light of day...
    "OK, I'm into martial arts. Grace Slick is into this kung fu stuff too. We're hanging out watching them make kung fu movies. Bruce Lee had just died and they were making these movies in San Francisco at this big house. I was interested in doing the score; I was interested in doing action movies."
    Grace gave him the Silent Flute screenplay: "a screenplay by Sterling Silliphant, James Coburn, and Bruce Lee, and it was written for Bruce Lee's next movie." But Bruce had died and the project was canceled. Undeterred, Hart decided to record a soundtrack for this unproduced screenplay anyway:
    "I was just totally taken by the imagery... It was magnificent, so well written... I went home, locked myself in my studio for 2 1/2 weeks. I never left the studio. I had my food put in underneath the door. I didn't change my clothes... Serious composing, man!... I didn't have the script, I just remembered it; and I wrote the score... The movie wasn't even in production yet. Grace loved it. Everybody I played it to thought it was just like the movie should have been... Jerry was on it too. It was all space; it was gorgeous. Piano; low frequencies. It was my best work, the best I ever did."
    Years later: "I see in a paper that The Silent Flute is going into production with David Carradine, with this Richard St. Johns fellow producing it. Warner Brothers were putting it out! Warner Brothers didn't even know that I had written the score years ago. I went to Richard St Johns and told him and he said, 'What are your qualifications for it? What is your resume?' I've never done a resume in my life! What can I say? 'No, I've not done a movie.' I don't think he took me seriously.
    "It was made as The Circle of Iron... It was released a year ago and flopped totally. It was awful. They raped it. But originally [the script] was really well done... Basically I made this music to the imagery of the movie. Of course, what turned out was nothing like what I had seen. That first draft was beautiful. They turned it into a 29-cent special. Bruce Lee would've turned over in his grave."

  14. Nedbase is great, and I highly recommend it to everyone (or at least everyone who is the sort of person who reads this blog).

    I wish everyone who recorded at Mickey's barn had such a site...

  15. The Good Old Boys sessions were January 27-29, 1975 for those who care for such precision.

    1. I, for one, care greatly about such precision. Thanks

    2. Steve Brown in Relix (1986) said it was two days, but I have pretty firm evidence for all three.

  16. Tamarkin, Jeff. 1977. The Rowans. BAM (July): 14-15.

    This says the Rowan Brothers were recording their third Asylum Record at Mickey Hart's Rolling Thunder Studios, ca. 1977.

  17. A 1975 album by Nick Katzman on Kicking Mule Records, called Delta Blues (Kicking Mule 111) was mixed at Hart's ranch. Terry Garthwaite of Joy Of Cooking sings on one track, using the Nom Du Bleus of Ruby Green

    Some more details about the recording here:

  18. Mr DC, thanks for the link. Any information I have is either in the post or the Comment thread, so I don't have any more details.

    I am certainly inclined to believe any tales of excess, and I also think the tape deck was running all the time at the Barn. However, the unanswered question is always how much tape was actually preserved. Recording tape--of the 16-track kind--wasn't free, and storage is a problem in its own right. So I think the deck ran often, and then got taped over on a regular basis. More's the pity.

    I'm not aware, sadly, of a huge cache of tapes from Mickey's barn that have been preserved in some vault-like facility. I hope I'm wrong, of course, but I think we would have heard by now.

  19. Mike Poster - I heard the studio also made x rated records or music for then ( before the Valley) a thriving porn industry in S.F. ( you even see it in one Dirty Harry movie/ Harry crashes into a movie scene trying to catch the bad guy - probably Tenderloin district) anyway when I was in Florida in a used record shop I picked up Sly and the Fsmily Stone Stand and an crated 8 Track - when I get home I'll unearth it. Anyway The barn is where this was supposedly made. Hey even a drummer has to eat sometime!!!!

  20. ned lagin has released a new, remastered, 2 CD 'seastones'. it is available through the store at his web site. you can read the album notes here

    p.s. it is a limited edition. if you are going to get it, get it soon.

    p.p.s. it is great!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. > p.s. it is a limited edition. if you are going to get it, get it soon.

      oops - it is not a 'limited edition'. it is a fantastic album!

  21. Thanks for sharing this kind of useful information Soundmagixstudio offers best service.
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  22. I think I have found the link between the "Dead Heads" May 1973 newsletter announcement of an imminent Hunter LP ("Robert Hunter has written the material for his own album and recorded it with Liberty, a Bay Area band. To be released."), the Roadhog studio tape and the eventual release of "Rum Runners" in May 1974. The link is Jerry Wexler of Atlantic.

    Robert Hunter was interviewed by Mick Skidmore and Allan Donovan for the Scots fanzine "Hot Wacks" in late 1979. Issue 20/21 p 14 contains the following

    HW: "So you didn't get signed to Arista along with the Dead?"

    RH: "No! (mock indignance) I did not! No, actually I haven't finished "Alligator Moon." I sent it off to Jerry Wexler and he didn't want it, and as I said I played it to Barry (Melton) and it put him to sleep. So I figured if it did those two things then it wasn't worth it.

    "I respect Wexler a lot. He did a number with "Rum Runners" but he just didn't want to handle it. He wrote me a critique sheet on it. You know, all the things that he thought were bad about it and all the things that he thought were good about it. So I sat down and redid it with the sheet in front of me. I thought he would like that record, but now I can understand it. With the industry being the way it was at that time."

    So it sounds like Hunter recorded "Rum Runners" mark 1 with Rodney Albin's Liberty (Hill Aristocrats)/Road Hog in early 1973 which is their studio tape (or at least part of it is). He submits the tape to Wexler who pays him some attention because Atlantic are negotiating for the foreign rights to the new Grateful Dead Records and hoping for more business. Wexler does not want the album but takes the trouble to mark Hunter's homework and give him constructive advice to keep the Dead camp sweet. Hunter then rerecords "Rum Runners" mark 2 for release on Round in 1974.

    1. runon, this is pretty amazing research. It explains a lot, both why there was an "original" version of the album, and (if speculatively) why Atlantic dropped out of the picture.

  23. I'm not sure if you know that there are 2 versions of Tiger Rose? The original Round Records vinyl release has the original vocals by Robert Hunter. When it was released by Rykodisc Hunter re-recorded the vocals because he did not like how the original vocals sounded.

  24. From a June 1971 San Francisco Examiner article:

    "Hidden in an old barn on 50 acres of farm land outside Novato is Hart’s Rolling Thunder studio. The fully equipped, ultra-modern, 16-track recording complex took three years to complete – a stroke of genius, finished just in time for the trend toward the basics.
    Hart plans to incorporate into his music the live sounds of barnyard animals. What Martin Denny did for the jungle, Micky Hart will do for the farm... He calls it Organic Rock."
    (from Tom Campbell's 'On the Scene' column, "Musical Moos of Organic Rock," SF Examiner 6/12/71)

    Facetious, but intriguing... It suggests that the building of Hart's studio has just been finished (although "three years to complete" seems an exaggeration), and also indicates that Mickey's bent toward unusual musical sounds started early on...

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  29. Ive just come across another album that was recorded at the Barn in 1975:

    Katie Lee also recorded there in 1977 but that falls outside you timeframe for this page.

  30. That's pretty remarkable. Garcia talked about her with Dennis McNally: "There was something about that that was so … It was very romantic to me even though I was just a little kid. Something about her voice. You know? … I didn't know anything about music, then. I wasn't aware of styles, or … I wasn't aware there was such a thing as country music. This was when I was a little kid. And for me, all music was just undifferentiated stuff that came out of the radio ... I remember that because it was the thing of the beautiful, the unaccompanied female voice" (McNally 2015, 34)

  31. David Grisman recently talked a little about the Old & in the Way studio album:
    "Mickey Hart had a studio and we spent a few days there. Somebody found the tapes a number of years ago. It was towards the end. Vassar [Clements] was there. And as I remember, we didn’t think it was all that good. I was pretty critical at the time."

    It appears this was recorded in November '73, pretty much the last thing they did together. Not sure what was recorded in spring '73, but more information will probably come to light.