Friday, April 12, 2013

Keystone Berkeley March 1973 (Marin County Musicians LinkedIn)

The 1971 Fantasy album Fourty Niner by Clover. Clover was a true rarity, a Marin rock band that was actually from Marin.
The history of the Grateful Dead is usually divided into two relatively discrete periods. In the first period, set in the late 60s, the Grateful Dead are at the heart of the San Francisco rock scene, embedded with Ken Kesey, Bill Graham, the Jefferson Airplane and numerous other legendary figures, making historic appearances at the Fillmore, Fillmore West, Avalon, Woodstock and Altamont. Later, in the final period, the Grateful Dead are coelacanths who have lived past their time, survivors of the meteor strikes of previous epochs, yet still exerting their gravitational pull on a few retro friends and acquaintances.

Yet there was another, middle period, rarely remarked upon today. In the first half of the 1970s, the Grateful Dead's members had moved to Marin County, which at the time was the home to a large percentage of the rock musicians in the Bay Area. The Dead were no longer cutting edge, but they weren't uncool yet. As a result, the Grateful Dead were mostly--though not exclusively--an admired band on the local scene. They had made it doing their own thing, and many bands sought to emulate that at least, even if their own music was different. Thus the Grateful Dead had numerous personal and professional connections to working bands in Marin County, at a time when they were not yet representative of some hippie past that had traveled on.

Marin County had been a prosperous county at least since 1937, when the Golden Gate Bridge had opened. However, except for a few easily accessible places like San Rafael and Sausalito, which served as commuter towns for San Francisco, Marin County was mostly modest and rural. It was a largely agricultural county, with dairy farming playing a big role. When rock bands started to move to Marin in the late 60's, there was plenty of cheap housing out in the country, big farmhouses on relatively empty lots. When a few bands started to make a little money, they moved inland to nicer communities, but Marin still housed a lot of musicians at modest prices.

Marin County itself was thinly populated. There was only one real rock venue, The Lion's Share in San Anselmo. It was a pretty tiny place, and was basically a musicians hangout. For Marin bands to really get somewhere, they had to build up a following elsewhere, and that usually meant the East Bay. Oakland and Berkeley were just across the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge, and had access to a bigger pool of potential fans, while still being in range of newspaper reviewers and talent scouts. As a result, places like the Longbranch and the Keystone Berkeley were dominated by Marin County musicians and bands, since the clubs were both near to Marin yet critical to future success. The Longbranch was for bands that had just started to "get it together," and the better ones graduated to the Keystone Berkeley.

The recent, excellent, release of the Keystone Companions box set, with the complete Jerry Garcia/Merl Saunders performances from the Keystone Berkeley on July 10-11, 1973, also included some Keystone calendars from that time. Thus I am taking the earliest calendar, from March 1973 (on disc 1), and analyzing all the acts at the Keystone Berkeley that month with respect to any connections to the Grateful Dead. Most of the acts, particularly the more well known ones, have numerous intricate connections to the Dead and its various members. It's a detailed reminder of how the Grateful Dead were seen as a successful band in early 70s Marin, not just as a leftover hippie band that had little connection to contemporary music.
The Keystone Calendar for March 1973

Keystone Berkeley Calendar March 1973
The March 1973 Keystone Berkeley calendar, like all Keystone calendars from that era, would have been posted on every telephone pole and University bulletin board within a radius of a few square miles of the club, because that was how club shows were publicized in those days. The Keystone also had a mailing list, but I think that was largely for people who lived out of town. In the upper left, we can see the address of the club, 2119 University (at Shattuck). University and Shattuck were two of the best known streets in Berkeley, so in the days before Google Maps, this made the Keystone Berkeley easy to find. The lettering of the various acts is nicely done and vaguely reminiscent of the Fillmore posters of yore, but done in such a way that each headline act's name can be read as one is walking by a telephone pole on your way to class or work.

In the lower right corner, we see some general information:
  • Doors Open @ 8:00 Music @ 9:00
  • Guys 21
  • Girls 18
The economic purpose of the Keystone Berkeley, as I have discussed, was to get patrons to drink beer. Lots and lots of beer. The club was nominally a restaurant, but apparently the only food they served was popcorn. The really archaic detail on the Keystone flyer was the admonition "Guys 21, Girls 18." Since the Keystone was technically a "restaurant," they could make whatever rules they wanted, and the rule they made--very common in California at the time--was that adult 18-year old women could come in, but men had to be twenty one.

You don't have to be a sociological genius to figure this one out. If you were a college senior, you were likely as not going to be dating a sophomore--your fellow senior women were out for greener pastures than some guy who was taking them to see Elvin Bishop at some joint with sawdust on the floor, where the special of the night was "popcorn"--so the Keystone Berkeley had that little niche. In theory, the 18-20 year old women were not allowed to drink, but something tells me they ended up with some beer anyway.

So, let's set the scene:
  • Easy parking in sleepy downtown Berkeley, a sketchy neighborhood but somewhat empty
  • Cheap beer, and maybe a seat at a table if you got there at 8:00 ish--otherwise on your feet
  • Popcorn, with a side of popcorn
  • Girls of just legal age who couldn't actually go to real bars
This was the East Bay/Marin hippie rock and roll universe in the early 70s, where the Grateful Dead were respected senior members of the fraternity, but not yet dinosuars. Most of the bands who played the Keystone Berkeley were connected to the Grateful Dead in some way, socially or professionally. This post will take the March 1973 Keystone Berkeley calendar and analyze each act with respect to its relationship to the Grateful Dead.

Rock My Soul, by the Elvin Bishop Group, originally released on Epic Records in 1972
Thursday, March 1: Elvin Bishop Group/Perry And The Pumpers
Elvin Bishop was an old friend of the Grateful Dead, dating way back to the 1960s. He had met the Dead back in 1966, when he was in the Butterfield Blues Band. When Bishop moved to Marin in 1968 to start a solo career, he jammed with members of the Dead at both the Matrix and the Fillmore West. By 1972, Bishop had released three albums and was a popular local attraction, but Columbia records had lost interest in him and he was effectively between contracts. Keystone Berkeley was always a well paying gig for musicians who had a following but little or no record company status. In Bishop's case, within a few years, he went on to much bigger success, but it was the Keystone Berkeley that helped keep him going. Betty Cantor has suggested in an interview that a tape she made of Bishop at the Keystone was essential in getting him signed by Capricorn Records in the mid-70s--I wish the tape would surface.

Bishop remained friendly with the Dead throughout the decades. When he opened for the Grateful Dead in Santa Barbara on June 4, 1978, Jerry Garcia sat in and took a solo on "Fishin' Blues." More importantly, in 1978 Garcia had a chance to hear Bishop's then-keyboard player, Melvin Seals, who ended up playing in the Jerry Garcia Band for 15 years. Bishop drummer Donny Baldwin played with the JGB for the band's final two years as well.

Perry And The Pumpers featured Perry Welsh on lead vocals and harmonica, along with guitarist Johnny Vernazza,  who would end up in the 1974 edition of the Elvin Bishop Group. I expect that there was a lot of jamming on stage between the Bishop Group and the Pumpers.

Cold Blood's 1973 Thriller album on Reprise, with Gaylord Birch on drums. Back in the day, this cover was supposed to be sexy and alluring, rather than just violent.
Friday-Saturday, March 2-3: Cold Blood/Hoodoo Rhythm Devils
Cold Blood was more of an East Bay band than a Marin band, and the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils were more of a San Francisco band. There were some Grateful Dead connections, however. At some point in 1973, although not necessarily during this show, Gaylord Birch was the drummer for Cold Blood. Birch would play with Garcia a little bit during the Merl Saunders era, and he was a member of the 1979 ensemble Reconstruction.

As for the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils, they were a high energy rock band with great vocals who never made it beyond the local club scene. However, their bassist Richard Greene (not the bluegrass violinist--this one performed with the Hoodoos using the name Dexter C. Plates) ended up as a member of the vocal group The Bobs, who opened for the Grateful Dead on New Year's Eve 1984.

Clover's first album, released in 1970 on Fantasy.
Sunday, March 4: Clover/Alice Stuart and Snake
Clover was a rarity, a long-standing Marin band that was truly from Marin. Their first show had been on July 4, 1967, when three members of a Tamalpais High School band, The Tiny Hearing Aid Company (guitarist John McFee, singer/guitarist Alex Call and drummer Mitch Howie) had joined with bassist John Ciambotti (formerly of the SF group The Outfit). A fine, if somewhat obscure band, they had been kicking around the San Francisco scene ever since. Clover had released two excellent, if poorly recorded albums on Fantasy in 1969 and 1970. However, the albums flopped, since Fantasy had done nothing to promote them, but amazingly Clover stuck together.

By the mid-1970s, Clover was a six-piece band, playing 5 or 6 nights a week, all over the Bay Area. Clover had a sort of following at The Longbranch, and by 1973 they were trying to get established at the much-higher profile Keystone Berkeley. In a 1976 interview in the British fanzine Dark Star, members of the band described their long struggle to stay together in the seventies. Mickey Hart and Phil Lesh were big fans who saw Clover's shows at the Lion's Share, and Hart had let the band record demos at his barn (none of which have circulated, to my knowledge). The band members got by thanks to session work. Guitarist John McFee was the first-call pedal steel guitar player in San Francisco rock circles. He had played on albums by Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs and many others. In 1974, when Garcia couldn't play the parts on "Pride Of Cucamonga," CBS engineer Roy Siegel called on McFee (with Weir and Lesh's approval, and implicitly Jerry's) to play the part.

Clover was re-discovered in 1975 by Nick Lowe, who brought them to England. As a result, most of the band had played on the first Elvis Costello album My Aim Is True. Clover had two fine albums on Mercury in 1976 and 1977, but they couldn't get over the top. Still, most of the band members went on to bigger success. The 'newest' members (from 1971 onwards), Huey Lewis and Sean Hopper, went on to form Huey Lewis And The News. John McFee joined the Doobie Brothers (and is still a member), Alex Call went on to become a successful songwriter and John Ciambotti managed Carlene Carter for several years. Yet back in '73, they were just the band in Marin that had been together longer than anyone except the Dead, trying to make it happen on Sunday nights at the Keystone.

Alice Stuart was a guitarist and singer who had been around the folk and blues scene in the Bay Area since the early 60s. At various times she had been a member of The Mothers Of Invention (in 1965), and an occasional guest bassist with Commander Cody (in Fall '69), but by the early 70s she was an electric blues artist on Fantasy with a band called Alice Stuart And Snake. Snake's drummer was one Bob Jones, who had been an old bandmate of John Kahn back in the 60s, in groups such as Memory Pain. In fact, it had been Kahn who had encouraged Jones to switch from guitar to drums, which is how, as Jones put it, he was "Kahned into drumming." Alice Stuart and Snake, probably through the Kahn/Jones connection, were surely part of Garcia's circle. As proof, Alice Stuart seems to have sat in to sing a song with Garcia/Saunders the next year at The Lion's Share (Tuesday, June 4, 1974).

Monday, March 5: Grayson Street/Dixie Peach
Grayson Street was a funky East Bay rock and soul band, but with no Dead connections that I am aware of. I don't know anything about Dixie Peach.

Tuesday-Wednesday, March 6-7: Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders
When Garcia and Saunders played the Keystone Berkeley on a Tuesday and Wednesday night, they were packing the joint on nights when it would normally have just a smattering of casual beer drinkers. Thus Garcia's importance to the Keystones went beyond the fact that he filled the place--he filled it on nights when it would have barely been profitable, so the loyalty of the Keystone partners to Garcia was understandable.

On March 7, and almost certainly on March 6, the Garcia-Saunders group was joined by guitarist George Tickner, who seems to have played most or all the band's shows that Spring. Tickner had been in the Contra Costa band Frumious Bandersnatch, but he had left in 1968 to go to college. After what seemed like a sort of 'audition' for Garcia-Saunders, he would end up with the band Journey by the end of 1973.

Stoneground 3, on Warners, released in 1972.
Thursday-Saturday, March 8-10: Stoneground/Clover
Stoneground had formed in 1969, and they had many intimate connections to the Grateful Dead, although those connections had receded considerably by 1973. Stoneground had been put together by KSAN impresario Tom Donahue in 1969 for an intended movie about a 'traveling Woodstock' called Medicine Ball Caravan. The Grateful Dead were booked for the movie, but backed out at the last minute. However, Alembic sound had to honor their part of the contract, so the Dead stayed home and recorded American Beauty with Stephen Barncard, while Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor went on the road with Stoneground and the Caravan. Through Stoneground and their eventual trip to England, pianist Pete Sears got hooked up with Tom Donahue and eventually moved to the Bay Area. By 1973, Sears was already Marin-based and part of the Dead's scene of local musicians, although he was no longer connected to Stoneground.

Stoneground had released a number of albums that were popular locally, but they had never really broken through. By mid-1973, the band would break up, although they would continue to reform periodically over the years.

Note that Clover, the headliner on a Sunday night, was still an opener on the weekend. That was how bands typically built an audience at the Keystone.

Sunday, March 11: Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders
Garcia and Saunders were back on Sunday night, another night when the Keystone would have normally been pretty low key.

The Rowan Brothers debut album on Columbia, released in 1972. David Grisman produced the album An out-of-context quote from Jerry Garcia was used to hype the album, and it doomed the band. When Clive Davis lost his job as the head of Columbia, the Rowan Brothers were dropped.
Monday-Tuesday, March 12-13: Old And In The Way/Rowan Brothers
Given Garcia's special relationship with the Keystones, they were willing to book his new bluegrass band, a type of music that was contrary to the whole booking history of Keystone Berkeley. I have not done a thorough check, but I believe the only bluegrass bands booked there were either with Jerry Garcia or opening for him. In any case, from the Keystone's point of view, these shows were on a Monday and Tuesday night, so they didn't need a big crowd to make it worthwhile, and Jerry effectively guaranteed a certain amount of folks, even if they had no idea in this instance of what they were getting.

These shows would have likely been the fifth and sixth nights that Old And In The Way had performed (unless you think they played before March 2--stay tuned). It appears they were still a quartet, with no fiddler present. The only real publicity for the group had been their debut on KSAN ten days earlier. Most people who went to the show probably had little idea what to expect. I do note that the listing for the show carefully says "Jerry Garcia-BANJO," but I don't know how many people noticed. I also note that Peter Rowan was listed as a member of Seatrain, since that is how he would have been best known at the time.

The Rowan Brothers, Chris and Lorin Rowan, were Peter's younger brothers. They were managed by David Grisman and Richard Loren. By 1973, Loren was Garcia's personal manager and booking agent, so he would have booked them to open for his other client. The Rowans had just released their overhyped debut album on Columbia, which featured an out-of-context quote from Garcia where he said that they could become the next Beatles. A few months earlier (December 12, 1972) the electric configuration of the Rowan Brothers, with David Grisman on keyboards, had opened for the Dead at Winterland. I have to assume that they played the Keystone as an acoustic duo, perhaps with a guest appearance by Grisman. Based on a review, we know that the two younger Rowans also joined Old And In The Way this night to sing harmonies on "Panama Red," at least the second night (and probably the first).

This 1973 album was an effort by Columbia to reap something from their investment in Mike Bloomfield. The trio of John Hammond, Dr. John and Bloomfield wasn't a bad idea, but the players themselves weren't into it, and the album is eminently forgettable.
Thursday-Saturday, March 15-17: Mike Bloomfield and The Mob/Frank Biner Band
Mike Bloomfield had been the guitarist for Chicago's legendary Butterfield Blues Band, but he had moved to Marin to start the Electric Flag in 1967. He had been the first important musician to play San Francisco's Keystone Korner in 1969, continuing the tradition established at the Matrix of San Francisco heavyweights playing local clubs without a hullabaloo.

When the Matrix closed, the Keystones--first in San Francisco and then in Berkeley--and the Lion's Share in San Anselmo were the prime platforms. When Bloomfield had started playing the Keystones, John Kahn had been his first call bass player, and Bill Vitt was his substitute drummer (Bob Jones got the first call). That connection between Kahn and Vitt had led Vitt to call Kahn when Garcia had started jamming with Howard Wales and Bill Vitt at the Matrix in 1970.

However, for all the synergies and parallels between Jerry Garcia and Mike Bloomfield, they were not known to be friends. The caustic Bloomfield generally looked down on the Grateful Dead crowd. Nonetheless, the Dead's booking agent, Sam Cutler, booked Bloomfield's out-of-town shows, so Bloomfield wasn't without ties.

Frank Biner was a popular local soul singer. He put out a few albums over the years, and wrote a number of songs recorded by Tower Of Power. However, there were no Grateful Dead connections that I am aware of.

The 19722 Fantasy album Believin', by Alice Stuart And Snake. The band was a trio, with Stuart on guitar and vocals, Bob Jones on drums and vocals, and Karl Sevareid on bass.
Sunday, March 18: Clover/Alice Stuart and Snake
Clover and Alice Stuart were back on a Sunday night two weeks later. This was how bands tried to build audiences at the Keystone, or any club in the Bay Area.

After Elvin Bishop hit it big with "Fooled Around And Fell In Love" in 1976, Epic released Crabashaw Rising: Best Of Elvin Bishop, with material from his three 1970-72 Epic albums.
Monday, March 19: Crabshaw's Outlaws featuring Elvin Bishop
As near as I can tell, Elvin Bishop had two bands in early 1973. It appears that he still played shows with the latest iteration of the Elvin Bishop Group, with Jo Baker on vocals and Stephen Miller on organ. That band had released three albums on CBS, most recently the very good Rock My Soul, but they had just been (or were about to be) dropped by the label.

Meanwhile, Bishop played additional weeknight shows at the Keystone with a group called Crabshaw's Outlaws ("Pigboy Crabshaw" was a Bishop nickname). In that respect, Bishop was like Jerry Garcia, a compulsive performer with a Keystone-only band to fill up his off nights. I think some of the members of Crabshaw's Outlaws made up the core of the next lineup of the Elvin Bishop Group, which signed with Capricorn Records in 1974.

Graham Central Station's 1973 debut album on Warners
Thursday, March 22: Graham Central Station/Greg Errico, Larry Graham and Neal Schon/Pearl
Bassist Larry Graham had been a founding member of Sly And The Family Stone. In songs like "Dance To The Music," Graham's string-popping funk style revolutionized the bass guitar. However, after a string of massive hit singles, hit albums and exciting concerts, Sly And The Family Stone was in disarray. Most of the original members left the group. Drummer Greg Errico had split in 1971, and Graham followed by the end of 1972. Errico focused on production, and hung out with Mickey Hart in Novato (he played on the Rolling Thunder album, for example), but Errico still played around on occasion. Graham had initially signed on as a producer as well, of a band called Hot Chocolate. However, shortly afterwards, he joined the band, and they re-named themselves Graham Central Station.

Graham Central Station would release their first album in 1974, and they had a string of popular hits. In early '73, however, they were still figuring out where they were at in the rock and soul universe. Based on Keystone bookings, some shows were billed just as 'Graham Central Station,' and others, like this one, were billed as 'Graham Central Station, Neal Schon, Larry Graham and Greg Errico.' The implication seems to have been that GCS would do a set, and Schon, Graham and Errico would jam as well, with or without the other band members. Schon had just left Santana, and he and Errico were working on putting together a sort of "San Francisco Rhythm Section" for session work. Different players were involved, including Pete Sears and Prairie Prince. By the end of 1973, Gregg Rolie would leave Santana, and he and the above mentioned George Tickner would join Schon and Prince and (ex-Frumious Bandersnatch/Steve Miller) bassist Ross Valory to form Journey.

In the early 70s, Greg Errico hung out a little bit with Hart when he wasn't producing. However, by the late 70s, Errico had drummed with both Garcia and Weir's side bands, as well as sat in with the Grateful Dead. Errico was also intimately contacted with the formation of Journey, a band managed by long-time Deadhead Walter 'Herbie' Herbert (did you think it was an accident that Journey had an ubiquitous Kelly/Mouse logo from day one?).

I'm not sure about Pearl. In the mid-1970s, there was a man called Pearl who sounded very much like Janis Joplin who played her songs, and claimed that Joplin's last album was named after him, who played around the Bay Area. I saw him once in Sproul Plaza, about 1976--very strange. I don't know if that Pearl was the same one here.

Tower Of Power's third album, released on Warners in 1973. Tell me, tell me, what is hip?
Friday-Saturday, March 23-24: Tower Of Power/Graham Central Station
Tower Of Power, the pride of Oakland, had been discovered by Bill Graham at the Tuesday night Fillmore West auditions. They were initially signed by Graham's label, but after their initial 1970 album they were picked up by Warner Brothers. In late '72, they released their second album, the immortal Bump City. It included such classics as "You've Got To Funkifize," "Down To The Nightclub" and "You're Still A Young Man." In early '73, however, after a million gigs at the Keystone and every other dive in the East Bay, Tower Of Power were on their way up, giving hope to every band from Marin or the East Bay slugging it out on the circuit.

Tower drummer Dave Garibaldi was a long-time pal of Mickey Hart's, though I'm not sure how far back that went. For New Year's Eve 1982, the mighty Tower Of Power horn section joined Etta James and the Grateful Dead for a memorable third set. On January 23, 1988, Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir joined Tower Of Power for a truly epic jam, so the ties between the Dead and Tower ran deep, even if Tower was an East Bay band.

Graham Central Station, who had headlined Wednesday night (March 21), with the addition of Neal Schon and Greg Errico, were opening for the weekend. A few years later, these two bands would each be headliners at big theaters, but for tonight, they were laying it down at the Keystone Berkeley. Larry Graham defined funk bass to this very day, and Tower Of Power has one of the most iconic horn sections in soul music, and they were both playing for a few bucks cover and a couple of beers.

After many years as a session guy and hip insider, Dr. John hit it with 1973's "Right Place, Wrong Time," backed by the incomparable Meters. "I'd of said the right thing/But I must have used the wrong line." Been there.
Sunday-Monday, March 25-26: Dr. John The Night Tripper/Dixie Peach
Dr. John, the stage name of Mac Rebennack, had just released what would be his biggest and best-remembered song "In The Right Place," with The Meters in New Orleans. He was on tour behind the album, but the single hadn't hit yet, so he was still playing the Keystone. He was on his way up, however, and well-deserving of it.

Dr. John was based in Los Angeles, with roots in New Orleans, but he still ended up with a Dead connection or two. At some point around this era, New Orleans keyboard legend James Booker was in his band, and Booker played a few sessions in LA as well. This lead to John Kahn's ill-fated, if fascinating, suggestion to use Booker to replace Nicky Hopkins, an experiment that lasted for one weekend.

(Also, many years later, if memory serves, Dr. John opened for Garcia and Kahn at the Beacon Theater on April 21, 1982, and he played piano on the late show encore of "Goodnight Irene.")

The cover to the first Malo album on Warners, from 1972. The hit "Sauvecito" ('Little Sweetie') is still heard regularly today.
Thursday-Saturday, March 29-31: Malo/Hoodoo Rhythm Devils
Malo was another band on the way up. Their lead guitarist was Jorge Santana, Carlos' younger brother. Their first album had included the massively popular--and rightly so--hit "Sauvecito." Even if you say "I don't know that song," all I can tell you is "yes you do." Malo had come out of the Mission Street Latin/Jazz/Rock scene that had sprung up in the wake of Santana's success. That scene wasn't really part of the Grateful Dead orbit, yet there were still some connections.

Jerry Garcia had jammed with some of those Latin rock guys a bit, around 1972, and trumpeter Luis Gasca, a sort of elder statesman, had been essential to Malo's debut. Gasca had played the trumpet parts on "Mexicali Blues" when Ace was recorded. One of Gasca's replacements in Malo, trumpeter Bill Atwood, would play on Wake Of The Flood, so the Dead had plenty of professional connections to Malo, even if they weren't personally close to the members.

I could take any of the other four calendars from the Keystone Companions album--April, May, July and August 1973--and parse out all the Grateful Dead connections. There are plenty of other names who didn't happen to play in March: Nick Gravenites, Banana And The Bunch and Copperhead, just to name a few, have plenty of local Marin connections to the Dead. Out of town acts at the Keystone Berkeley during that time who have links to the Dead included Little Feat (spelled 'Little Feet') and Al Kooper. The Grateful Dead were very integrated into the Northern California rock scene in 1973, admired as prominent successes but not yet isolated as anachronistic freaks.

Within a few years, the music industry did its usual re-invention, and the Grateful Dead started to seem out-of-date. After some years in the wilderness, the Dead went from "out-of-date" to actually Jurassic, with all the attendant exceptions that goes with such status. Back in '73, however, they were just another band from Marin, a little older and a little wiser, but other than that connected to many of their long-haired peers trying to make it without succumbing to having a real job.