|An ad from the Oct 16, 1970 Berkeley Barb for upcoming shows at The New Orleans House. James and The Good Brothers "Courtesy Of The Grateful Dead" are booked for the weekend of October 23-24|
James And The Good Brothers
James And The Good Brothers were a Canadian acoustic trio who were an extended part of the Grateful Dead family. Guitarist James Ackroyd had teamed with twin brothers Brian and Bruce Good, on guitar and autoharp, respectively. All sang, and their music was in a country-folk style, but without a pronounced Southern twang. The trio had met the Grateful Dead when they played on the infamous Festival Express cross-Canadian tour. The Dead invited them to San Francisco, and the group came down to San Francisco, where the Dead helped them get gigs.
James and The Good Brothers sang original songs, more or less in the vein of Crosby, Stills and Nash or America. They were more country than either of those bands, but since they had Canadian accents rather than Southern ones, their music had a different resonance with American listeners. Also, since the Good Brothers used an autoharp, a rarely used instrument, their music had a different feel to it. It's no surprise that James And The Good Brothers were signed to Columbia, since major label record companies were snapping up any band in the CSN vein.
According to Bruce and Brian Good, in a 2015 interview, they went into one of the "music cars" on the Festival Express train, and wound up picking with Garcia. They played bluegrass with him, and Garcia took a liking to them. Per Bruce, at the end of the train tour, the Dead would invite them to San Francisco record an album at their studio. Now, the story is a little more complicated than that, but for a broad brush 40-some years later, it was an accurate description.
And The Good Brothers would record at Wally Heider's with Grateful Dead
Betty Cantor. Jerry Garcia and Bill Kreutzmann likely played on the
initial sessions, although their tracks were not used on the final album.
Ultimately, parts of the album seems to have been re-recorded in
Toronto. Columbia would release the James And The Good Brothers album in
By March, 1971, however, the band had opened a weekend for the New Riders Of The Purple Sage at Fillmore West (on February 25-28). When they had played there, Jerry Garcia (pedal steel guitar), Jack Casady ("balalaika" bass) and Spencer Dryden (drums) had joined the trio. Now, Garcia and Dryden were playing with the New Riders that night anyway, but the fact that a trio of heavyweights joined them got the band mentioned in a review. It also made their status as Grateful Dead "family members" apparent.
Ultimately, James Ackroyd would stay in California, and the Good Brothers would return to Canada, where they had a successful musical career along with their banjo-playing younger brother Larry.
Rock Music Economics ca. 1970: New and Next Riders
In early 1970, the Grateful Dead had been in dire economic straights. In March, 1970, they had fired their manager Lenny Hart because he had absconded with $150,000 of the band's money, an enormous sum at the time. Their previous studio album had run way, way over budget, so they weren't getting royalties from that. The recently-released Live/Dead was promising, but it wasn't going to be any kind of conventional hit. All of the band members were functionally broke. Throughout 1970, under the guidance of road manager Sam Cutler, the Grateful Dead played there way back into solvency. Along the way, they had put out an album that was cheaply recorded and widely played on FM stations across the country. The album in turn increased concert receipts, so the Dead were finally doing pretty well. By the end of the year, band members had bought cars, and they had stopped living in overcrowded communal quarters.
The Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia did things in their own manner, but they always had an entrepreneurial streak. Unhappy with Bill Graham and Chet Helms, they had taken over the Carousel Ballroom in 1968. Though it had failed, they had nearly merged with Helms and his Family Dog in early 1970, until Helms had demurred at the idea of being in business with Lenny Hart. The Dead had also been instrumental in the formation of Alembic Engineering, creating a business where Ron Wickersham, Owsley Stanley, Bob Matthews and others could focus on high quality sound gear for live performance. Various other schemes had gotten floated over the years (google "Deadpatch"), even if they hadn't gotten off the ground. So Garcia and the Dead always had big schemes, even if they didn't go the way that they planned.
One of Jerry Garcia's unconventional enterprises was appearing as a sideman in a group completely separate from his main band. Garcia had been playing pedal steel guitar for the New Riders of The Purple Sage since Summer 1969. It was rare enough for rock stars to play outside their own group for more than a single recording session, but Garcia had a whole different band. The only real comparison was Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady in Hot Tuna, but Jorma and Jack led that band. Garcia actually played a different instrument in the Riders and let John Dawson be the frontman.
Still, Garcia's unorthodoxy had gotten the New Riders noticed. The Riders opened for Dead shows and played around the Bay Area, to the extent Garcia was available. By the Summer, Garcia knew that in order for the New Riders to thrive, they would need their full-time pedal steel guitarist, and he had spotted Buddy Cage. Cage was on the Festival Express tour playing with Ian and Sylvia Tyson's band Great Speckled Bird. Some sort of invitation resulted from the train trip, and Cage would join the New Riders in November of 1971, after relocating to the Bay Area.
I don't think Garcia reflected much on what he was doing, but I am confident that he was conscious of what he was trying to do. Unlikely as Garcia's efforts with the New Riders were in the world of hippie rock, they were pretty common in the worlds of jazz or country music. Plenty of jazz musicians would play around New York outside of their usual combos, bringing attention to lesser known musicians. Similarly, most jazz fans had bought a jazz album by someone they hadn't heard of just because another, more famous musician was on the record.
Generally, when a Nashville star toured, they usually brought along an ensemble of other singers and players, helping to build those careers. Porter Wagoner, a huge country star since the 1950s, had a singer in 1965-66 named Jeannie Seely, who was part of his show and duetted with him. No one really remembers her. But we all remember Dolly Parton, who replaced Seely in the Wagoner show (on TV and on tour) from 1966-74. So when the New Riders played on a Dead show, with Garcia in the band, there was an existing business model.
Other wings of the fledgling Grateful Dead enterprise were benefiting from the New Riders. Sam Cutler was organizing tours and booking shows, Jon McIntire was working with the record companies and Alembic was providing sound gear. With another band "in development," all these enterprises had a chance to benefit. In turn, those enterprises gave the New Riders access to people and equipment they would not have had without the Dead connection. So when Garcia invited James and The Good Brothers to come to San Francisco to help them make a record, he wasn't just being friendly--it was part of a plan.
Although only partly articulated, the pillars of the early 1970s Grateful Dead empire was built on three legs:
Generosity: at his core, Garcia was a generous man when it came to music and musicians. He didn't need much--a guitar, an amp, something to smoke, and a gig--and he was going to share what else he had. Garcia also implicitly realized that his status could help other musicians without any harm to his own future, so why not be generous? Garcia's attitude defined the entire Grateful Dead enterprise: if your own needs are met, look out for someone else.
Community: some parts of the Grateful Dead team were specifically interested in building community. Jon McIntire was an important voice here. Blair Jackson and David Gans quote him as saying his principal interest was in building community, not business (This Is All A Dream We Dreamed, p.214). The Grateful Dead grasped early that their own audience could be self-sustaining, if they were treated properly. In general, the Dead were interested in creating a tiny ecosystem where goods and services were largely supplied by an interlocking group of people. This could keep a lot of friends and family employed, without those people having to be musicians or have other rare skills. Old friends and band girlfriends could look after the warehouse or answer phones or any number of other roles, and they did.
Transactional: in order to function safely in the Capitalist world, the Grateful Dead had to thrive in it. Garcia, nor Cutler, nor McIntire, had no problem with any of this, beyond not wanting to wear a suit and tie. The businesses created by the Grateful Dead--, booking, tour management, recording studios, live sound equipment--still needed additional customers beyond the Dead. At the same time, the clients of these enterprises (Out Of Town Tours, Alembic, etc) benefited from the expertise of the likes of Sam Cutler, Jon McIntire or Ron Wickersham.
So when Garcia invited James And The Good Brothers to come to San Francisco, it went beyond a musician helping some guys he liked who were a bit lower on the ladder than he was. Garcia was providing fuel for the Grateful Dead economy to thrive, and James And The Good Brothers were going to benefit. I'm not imagining this--Garcia would do exactly the same thing a few months later when he invited David Grisman, Richard Loren and the Rowan Brothers to relocate from Manhattan to Stinson Beach. On a larger scale, these pillars were the thinking behind Round Records. Garcia didn't have to risk his capital on albums by bluegrass bands, Robert Hunter or electronic composers, but he did.
So the invitation for James And The Good Brothers wasn't just a generous suggestion by Jerry Garcia, but a test run of Garcia's new recognition that the success and fame of the Grateful Dead could be a magnet for the success of others. Thus, reviewing the performance history of James And The Good Brothers in the Bay Area isn't just archival, but a roadmap for Garcia to replicate his contribution to the New Riders on to another band, a Next Riders. It was only partially successful, but it was no less informative for that.
|The Inn Of The Beginning, at 8201 Old Redwood Highway in Cotati, CA, as it appeared in 2010|
October 16-17, 1970 Inn Of The Beginning, Cotati, CA: Cat Mother/James and The Good Brothers (Friday-Saturday)
|The Lion's Share, at 60 Red Hill Avenue in San Anselmo, sometime in the early 1970s|
December 4-5, 1970 Lion's Share, San Anselmo, CA: James and The Good Brothers /The Pipe (Friday-Saturday)
Gigs in Bay Area coffeehouses were easy to get, but they didn’t make a lot of money for anyone, including the performers. They were able to get a few gigs in clubs at 8 or 8:30 p.m., prior to when many rock bands began setting up for a 9:30 show. I told club owners that my band would help warm up the audience, didn’t need a big stage setup (no drums, no big amps, no stage monitors) and would make them enough extra bucks selling drinks to pay us.Sward went on to find unique bookings for her acts, and helped them record as well. Still, her reflections point up an historically unnoticed barrier for James And The Good Brothers. In the 60s and 70s, San Francisco was renowned for breaking new and interesting bands: Jefferson Airplane, The Dead, Big Brother, Sly and The Family Stone, Santana, Tower Of Power and the Doobie Brothers, to name the most prominent. While those groups were not confined to a single genre, they were all loud, danceable bands that could rock the Fillmore and Winterland.
However rock fans and acoustic music fans didn’t always mix well. More often than not the audience would start getting impatient around 9:15. “We want Jerry (Garcia); we want Elvin (Bishop) and so on.”
I attended a lot of Lamb gigs and saw such other Bay Area acoustic performers as Lambert & Nuttycombe, Jeffrey Cain and Uncle Vinty. They were all bucking up against rock ‘n roll. The audiences for rock bands were larger; and that meant more money for the club owners.
The Christmas seasons festivities will begin tomorrow in Burbank Auditorium at 4.p.m when the student body of this campus will have the opportunity to hear three farout Canadians who call themselves JAMES AND THE GOOD BROTHERS.The article goes on to say that the show's ticket sales will not even cover the costs, a sign that the school was dipping into its entertainment budget for this. In the early 70s, even Junior Colleges had entertainment budgets, and local bands could be the beneficiaries. It's likely that the fact that all three acts were acoustic, rather than full-out rock and roll, made them more palatable to the college. Tickets for the show were available at the Inn Of The Beginning, so it suggests that the Inn helped Gail Hellund book the band. Now, while I find it pretty likely that Gordon Lightfoot liked James and The Good Brothers, I doubt he would "really freak out" when he heard them. One can't help but suspect that a Mr. Rock Scully was helping to explain things to an eager cub reporter.
Their manager, Gail, met them on the Festival Express while on a tour of Canada last summer, with the Grateful Dead and persuaded them to give California a go.
The first performance of James and The Good Brothers was two months ago at the Inn Of The Beginning. The audience response was so enthusiastically overwhelming that they are currently in the process of recording their first album.
According to one of the college sponsors of the group, the Grateful Dead, Eric Anderson, Gordon Lightfoot and countless others, who have heard James and the Good Brothers really freak out when they hear them.
|A picture and listing from the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat of February 15, 1971 for the Saturday night (February 20) show at the Veterans Memorial|
February 20, 1971 Veterans Memorial Building, Santa Rosa, CA: Bronze Hog/Cat Mother and The All-Night Newsboys/James and The Good Brothers/Abraxas Rising (Saturday)
February 25-28, 1971 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Boz Scaggs/James and The Good Brothers (Thursday-Sunday)
|The Boarding House, at 960 Bush St in San Francisco|
March 26-28, 1971 Boarding House, San Francisco, CA: James and The Good Brothers/Melissa (Friday-Sunday)
May 29-30, 1971 Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage/RJ Fox/James and The Good Brothers (Saturday-Sunday)
Remarkably, DKS also found the Fictitious Business Name Statement for James And The Good Brothers, published in the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat of August 1, 1971. The address given is 8201 Old Redwood Highway, the site of the Inn Of The Beginning. IOTB manager Ward Maillard is listed as their manager. This tells us when the band had to "get serious" as a California business, with an album on the way.
|The James And The Good Brothers album was released on Columbia in November 1971|
September 5, 1971 Pacific High Recorders (Alembic Studios), San Francisco, CA: James and The Good Brothers (Sunday)
September 7-12, 1971 Boarding House, San Francisco, CA: James and The Good Brothers/Cris Willliamson/Uncle Vinty (Tuesday-Sunday)