Mar 24, 2017

June 22, 1968: Travelodge Theater, Phoenix AZ


There's a worthwhile happening at the Phoenix Travelodge Theater tomorrow night. James C. Pagni of San Diego is bringing in a couple of acts that ought to bring glee to the hearts of all dedicated followers of fashion. The lineup will consist of of San Francisco's pride and joy, the Grateful Dead, England's Ten Years After, and last, if not least, our own Thackeray Rocke.
The Dead are probably the most unappreciated group around these days. While their music has had a tremendous influence on the modern rock scene, their popularity among the pop population has not been a reflection of it. They remain as sort of musician's musicians. A major reason for this may be the Dead's out-and-out rejection of the commercial system. (The Maharishi once tried to persuade them to get on the bandwagon and change their name to Everlasting Life. They couldn't dig it.)
On stage the Grateful Dead are something else. They combine a funky rock with some hard core blues and manage to come up with new exciting sounds. You get the feeling that while the Jefferson Airplane was so busy "loving you" the Dead were spending their time in rehearsal. 
Ten Years After is another case of a fabulous group that is literally unknown in the States. (Promoter Pagni has another way of putting it, "I bought them too soon.") Their album has been at the top of the British charts for some time and lead guitar player Alvin Lee is finding himself thrust into that tight circle of such trendsetters as Hendrix, Clapton and Bloomfield.
The action will begin at 8.

(by Jon Sargent, from the Arizona Republic, Phoenix, 21 June 1968)


Jon Sargent also wrote a very brief follow-up review in his "Vibrations in the Valley" column in the 6/30/68 Arizona Republic:

Last weekend's Grateful Dead concert was a smash. Too bad not everyone knew it. The further the Dead got into their music the quicker some people got out to their cars.

 More photos at:

Mar 22, 2017

October 11, 1970: Paterson State College, Wayne, NJ


If you somehow missed Sunday evening's 7:00 o'clock performance by the Grateful Dead, but stuck around to raise hell about your money, you discovered to the Assembly Committee's relief that there would be a concert sometime the night of October 12.
The Dead late on arrival were minus one corpse, something about a lost bass player. The crowd stood passively, only occasionally crushing someone against the doors of the auditorium. Soon, thanks to the unrestrained efforts of the valorous N.Y. cabbie, a bass player did arrive in time for the nine o'clock show and was immediately given an option for the second appearance later in the evening. Bodies cleared, doors opened, nine hundred and eighty-seven people simultaneously passed through one set of double doors. (Approximately seven feet wide.)
Once inside, you had close to twenty seconds in which to obtain a seat, of course there were also the aisles. At that point, if you dig emphatic audio expression, you probably haven't thought about the ridiculously massive sound system staring down on you from the stage. Could all that have been delivered to the wrong Shea? Five or six figures wander out from the stage and take places in front of the wall of speakers. There are definitely six now, two drummers, why two drummers, "I still don't understand it."
The Dead play "rock blues," more often than not, wrapped country style. It's immediately captivating, and if you are really there to get into the sound, you can start with the first note: otherwise the second will do. Their greatest influence is The Band, "and fellows, it shows." But, do not disappear, there is a different individuality to their work. The lead guitar work more than made up for what was lacking in bass; but after all, he stepped out of the cab, and out onto the stage without even tuning up.
It was fascinating to see the audience become part of the show with the same speed at which they took their seats. It was also fortunate, for unfortunate was the brevity of both performances.
There is something to be said for the way in which the evening was run, for some people were not at all understanding in their point of view. There seemed to be a definite shortage of ushers; "compliments to those who showed." Also, hearts and flowers to the Assembly Committee for not hassling the two hundred or so people who attended each show unannounced.

Picture caption: "The Grateful Dead performed two concerts here during Homecoming weekend. They attracted one of the largest crowds ever to seek admission to a PSC activity."

(by Bill Lavorgna, from the Paterson State Beacon, 20 October 1970)  

November 16, 1970: Fillmore East, NYC


The concert was announced at the late show Saturday night; tickets went on sale Sunday noon, and were sold out Sunday evening, showing the popularity of the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. The two bands, the best that came out of San Francisco, had never played together in New York before. But the Airplane had a concert cancelled, and the Dead were in town, so Bill Graham scheduled the two together for last Monday night. Unfortunately, only half the Airplane showed up, but even so there was more than enough music to last for eight hours.
At 8:30 Bill Graham announced the New Riders of the Purple Sage who travel with the Dead, and for whom Jerry Garcia plays pedal steel guitar. They played their country western music very smoothly and tightly, playing most of the songs they usually do in concert - "Truck Driving Man," "Last Lonely Eagle," "Dirty Business," and ending, as almost always, with "Honkey Tonk Women."
In "Dirty Business," Jerry Garcia produced sounds that have to rank among the weirdest in the world, making wailing feedback noises with a wah-wah on his pedal steel guitar. By the time they played "Honkey Tonk Women," everyone was on his feet, dancing and clapping.
The audience was enthusiastic for Hot Tuna - Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady of Jefferson Airplane on guitar and bass, and Will Scarlett playing harmonica. Normally, Joey Covington of the Airplane plays drums, but since he had burned his hands, they had another drummer for the night. While the New Riders play country music, Hot Tuna is deeply rooted in the blues tradition. They play songs by Mississippi John Hurt, Furry Lewis, and Reverend Gary Davis, songs like "Candyman," "Windin' Boy Blues," and "The Midnight Special."
With Kaukonen, as usual, playing acoustic guitar, they started with "Know Your Rider." However, he then switched to electric guitar, and introduced a new member of his band, Poppa John, playing electric violin. Poppa John was immediately the star of the show. He stood swaying back and forth, his mouth half open, his violin seeming to be a part of his body. When he played a solo, his phrases soared and swooped, and wailed above Kaukonen's powerful guitar lines.
At one moment he would sound like Jimmy Page, at the next like Sugarcane Harris, then like nobody but himself, ending his lead on a screeching note that faded into the progression again. They returned to the traditional as they finished with "Hesitation Blues," showing off Kaukonen's finger-picking blues guitar style.
The Dead are the tightest band in the world. From the very first note of "Casey Jones," everything was in place and under control. Bob Weir holds everything together above the double drumming of Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann. Jerry Garcia swirls guitar phrases among Phil Lesh's syncopated bass lines, and Pigpen plays organ and sings.
They played dance music - "Casey Jones," "Not Fade Away," "Good Lovin'," and old rock and roll by Chuck Berry. During their set Steve Winwood came onstage and played organ, and Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi sang. All the while the Dead never got distracted. After three hours of playing, they finished with the most vocally tight version of Uncle John's Band I have ever heard.
Afterward, Hot Tuna jammed for another hour, finally ending what was for New York unfortunately a very unique concert, one where excellent musicians just get together and play.

(by Chris Ross, from the Daily Princetonian, 23 November 1970)

Mar 13, 2017

January 14, 1967: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco


SAN FRANCISCO (UPI) - Anybody who was nobody was there.
And if there were any anybodys, nobody knew.
It was the city's biggest social event of the season but it failed to make the society pages.
It was a happening.
It took place at the polo field in Golden Gate Park. They were all there - the hippy denizens of the Haight-Asbury District and outlying regions, the activists from Berkeley, the Hells Angels, students, beatniks, toddlers. Thirteen thousand of them under a sunny sky.
And about 2,000 spectators, some of them bemused, some completely dumbfounded. The police also sent a delegation, mainly to ticket dozens of illegally parked cars.
Word of the event began circulating earlier this month in the Haight-Asbury, home for many of the city's far-out types. It was billed as a "human Be-In" and a "Gathering of the Tribes," a get-together for political activists and hippies. The public was also invited and asked to bring "costumes, blankets, bells, flags, symbols, drums, beads, feathers, and flowers."
Timothy Leary, high priest of the psychedelic cult, delivered a sermon. Bedecked with beads around his neck and flowers in his hair, he declared:
"Turn onto the scene; tune into what is happening; and drop out - of high school, college, grade school, junior executive, senior executive - and follow me, the hard way."
Jazz virtuoso Dizzy Gillespie blew his trumpet [to] the accompaniment of flutes and tambourines.
More music was provided by the Jefferson Airplane, the Quicksilver Messenger Service, and the Grateful Dead. Members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang guarded the generators which powered the public address system.
An unidentified guest with a white helmet arrived by parachute.
Poet Allen Ginsberg chanted a zen Buddhist hymn in Sanskrit as everybody faced the sun setting over the Pacific.
Anti-war activist Jerry Rubin, just out of a Berkeley jail, derided the establishment and passed the hat for money for his defense in court.
A gaunt young man with flowing hair wore a red gunnysack. Another was clad in the costume of a court jester. Togas and priest-like vestments were also in evidence.

(from the Argus, Fremont CA, 16 January 1967)

* * *


SAN FRANCISCO - The first "Human Be-In" was held here recently in Golden Gate Park.
And 10,000 of the faithful gathered to participate in the rites.
Who are the faithful? The hippies of the Haight-Ashbury district which has now become the hippie capital of the world.
It is the Mecca of the movement. Hippie pilgrims from afar journey hither to make the scene.
The major prophets of the new faith were all there at the Human Be-In. Poet Allen Ginsburg, who came up through the ranks in the quaint old beatnik days, was there to lead the mob in a Hare Krishna swami chant.
If you don't know what that is, you are unspeakably square.
Pig-Pen, the organ grinder for the Grateful Dead whose gaudy sweatshirts are a must for teen-age girls, gave the invocation with rock music.
And ex-Prof. Timothy Leary, high priest of the LSD cult, delivered an impassioned plea to "turn on, tune in and drop out" while everybody who could twirled around a maypole to the delirious beat of the Quicksilver Messenger Service.
It was the Happening of Happenings.
To the tune of "We Shall Overcome," the crowd belted out its national anthem, "We Are All Insane."
This is about the only thing that makes perfect sense to people not meshed in the hippie movement.
Some of the hippies are probably insane and others are suffering from serious mental disturbances. But probably most of them are kids who are getting a tremendous kick out of doing absolutely everything that is abhorrent and annoying to their parents.
Wait ten years and you will find most of the current hippies are "turned off, tuned out and dropped back in."

(by Ellis Spackman, from the San Bernardino County Sun, 16 February 1967)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

Some videos: - color - b&w

Mar 10, 2017

October 6, 1966: The Panhandle, San Francisco


The visitor from Omaha craned his neck and tried to observe precisely what was occurring in the Panhandle section of Golden Gate Park.
Yesterday's "Love Pageant Rally" held in that area of San Francisco was truly one of the year's prime tourist attractions - even if it was a nearly spontaneous outburst initiated by members of the Haight-Ashbury community for purposes of "celebrating" the first anniversary of making LSD illegal and of giving San Francisco Mayor John Shelley a chance to "turn on."
The group sent a delegation to City Hall to give the mayor a token of affection, but he was at his home.
About 500 of the wildly clad advocates of love, freedom, trust and other assorted causes gathered in the sun-speckled glades of the park to hear the throbbing rock sounds of such groups as "The Grateful Dead," "Big Brother and the Holding Company," and others, and also to let loose their spontaneous feelings of joy and love for everything and everybody.
Under the magnificent trees of the park near the corner of Masonic and Fell streets, the ever-changing group participated in a massive attempt to "communicate," as one disheveled youth put it.
Even the Ken Kesey bus was there. Kesey, the one-time author and resident of La Honda who is being sought by San Mateo County authorities for jumping bail on a narcotics charge, could not be found, but word at the "Happening" was that he was indeed there and "incognito." The Omaha visitor, camera in hand, took a picture of Kesey's multi-colored bus and hurried into the crowd.
A mammoth traffic jam developed along Masonic as the curious flocked to the wooded area to see and hear what was occurring. The police, both curious and a bit annoyed by the sudden end of tranquility in the region, watched the goings-on with a jaundiced eye.
Businessmen, nurses, students, tourists, and the elderly strolled through the park and gawked at the fantastic scene. One nurse, hearing the pulsating sounds of the music, was unable to control herself and threw off her crepe-soled shoes and danced away on the lawn and was engulfed by the weaving, chanting crowd of demonstrators.
The Kesey bus, one of the focal points of the affair, was filled with long-haired children, animals of a variety of sizes, shapes and forms, glassy-eyed adults, and a bundle of equipment and supplies calculated for living in when duty called.
A rumor that Kesey spoke to a creative writing class at Stanford University has been confirmed by university authorities. According to an official at the school, Kesey spoke on Wednesday to the class for about 45 minutes. The visit was unannounced.
The order of the day was boots, beards, bards, and beads. Even the animals of the group were arrayed in psychedelic gear. One monstrous but amiable dog (of undetermined origin and pedigree) was outfitted in a beautiful set of beads and participated fully in the day's events over the course of the afternoon.
As the day wore on, a small Negro boy dribbled a basketball towards a lone basket located about 100 yards from the main entertainment area. He paused, took one last look at the scene to his rear, and fired a jump shot. The visitor from Omaha smiled and snapped his picture.
He was back to reality.

(by John Horgan, from the San Mateo Times, 7 October 1966)

Thanks to Dave Davis. (has a brief glimpse of Big Brother playing)

See also: 

Mar 4, 2017

June 21, 1967: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco


The Flower Children climbed a mountain, swarmed a polo field, and crowded a beach to welcome the arrival of their "summer of love."
"A solstice happening," one bearded hippie termed the turnout for the first day of a season which the non-conformist disciples of love predict will bring 100,000 hippies to San Francisco.
In the chilly predawn Wednesday, scores gathered on Twin Peaks - 900-foot mountains in the city's center - where they chanted and meditated until the sun rose.
"It was a sort of Buddhist yogi," explained bearded Bill Thomas, his arm crushing a red-haired girl in filmy gown against his suede jacket.
Wailing electric guitars and booming drums assaulted the ears of upwards of a thousand at the "happening" at Golden Gate Park's polo field.
Tribal groups clustered about small combo bands - the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Mad River, the Phoenix, Big Brother and the Holding Company.
One tribe squatted under fluttering flags with the Star of David and the Cross, keeping time with a tabla - a bongo-like drum - a tambourine and a portable reed organ.
"This is a krishna, an Indian ceremony," one explained.
"This draws energy by clearing one's state of mind."
Nearby, a youth with hair hanging over his face ardently kissed a blonde.
The gathering ran the gamut of garb - miniskirts, shawls, black leather jackets, even a male wrapped in the royal purple of a Chinese Mandarin coat. Most of the males dangled bead necklaces. And everywhere were the paper flowers.
One squatting couple shielded a flickering candle from the wind with a sack, while they sipped wine from a silver chalice. Grownups blew bubbles, while their children romped.
At the beach Wednesday night the moonlight ceremony focused on a 63-year-old witch.
"She's freaking out a few people," a hippie told a bystander.
"Freak out?"
"Well," replied the hippie, fumbling for words, "that means blow out a few minds."
That's how summer came to Twin Peaks.

The picture caption of a smiling, face-painted blonde:
Judy Smith, who calls herself a "Summer Flower Child," enjoyed the first day of summer in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park Wednesday. Large crowds of hippies gathered in the park to observe the longest day of the year. A cook-in was scheduled later in the day.

(by Harold Streeter, AP report, 22 June 1967) 

This ran in newspapers across the country, with varying headlines - for instance the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Avalanche-Journal in Lubbock, TX, the Indiana Gazette in Indiana, PA, the Portsmouth Herald in Portsmouth, NH, etc.

Thanks to Dave Davis.

For some footage of the day, see the film "The Way It Was," particularly the last ten minutes.

Feb 26, 2017

September 1966: Camp Lagunitas


The Grateful Dead have been buried in the country, but are soon to be disinterred.
The rock 'n' roll combo is regretfully leaving its sylvan retreat at Camp Lagunitas the end of this month and returning to "the nervous scene" on the other side of the Golden Gate.
For three months, the five electronic musicians - together with three managers, one equipment man, four wives, and six weeks in the historic Bardell mansion on Rancho Olompali, the rest of the time at the former children's summer camp on Arroyo Road off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.
Manager Rock Scully explained the Grateful Dead's retreat to bucolic Lagunitas: "That city over there is what we call 'the scene.' It's meeting all kinds of people. It's a lot of extra nervousness. Being in a band is a nervous kind of work anyway. The band works smoother when it can get away some place from all that and relax."
The only drawback is that the band can't practice in the country, according to lead guitarist Jerry Garcia.
Scully pointed to the wooded hills around the nearly four-acre camp and explained that "the sound really bounces around this canyon and the neighbors don't like it.
"We understand, of course, and the policeman who said we'd better not play was awfully nice," added Garcia.
So, for Garcia, Ron (Pigpen) McKernan, Bob (Cowboy) Weir, Phil Lesh and Bill Sommers and their retinue, it's goodbye to their $600-a-month leafy acreage, tiny brook, sheltering cabins, and swimming pool.
They'll be too busy in the city across the bay, however, to have time for nostalgia, according to manager Scully.
The long-haired quintet is booked solidly for weekends through November and will have to spend most of the weekdays practicing and cutting their first records, Scully said.
The recording contract is a measure of how quickly the Grateful Dead have caught on since the group was formed nine months ago. Since then, they've played in Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, B.C., as well as in San Francisco dance halls. In November, they are booked into Chicago.
Nucleus of the group, all of whom are in their early 20's, were Garcia, McKernan, and Weir, who started as Mother McCrea's Jug Band. Bill Sommers was drafted when the three heard him on the drums one night in Palo Alto. Phil Lesh was studying composing at Mills College in Oakland, when the group persuaded him to team up as the electric bass player.
All except rhythm guitarist Cowboy Weir, who is from Wyoming, are Bay Area men.
The lyrics of one of the songs they will record while making the nervous scene may recall their Lagunitas retreat:
"When the cardboard cowboy dreams
In his cornucopia
He opens up the sky and sends my mind
To the corners of the rainbow bridge
Unrolling beneath my trembling toes."

FAREWELL, BUCOLIA - Ron (Pigpen) McKernan, Bob (Cowboy) Weir, and Jerry Garcia, who as Mother McCrea's Jug Band comprised the nucleus of what is now the Grateful Dead, twang and sing a little in Camp Lagunitas, former boys' camp they rented as Marin retreat. They are going back to "the nervous scene." Their rehearsing annoyed Lagunitas neighbors, it seems. (Independent-Journal photo)

(by Robert Strebeigh, from the San Rafael Independent-Journal, 19 September 1966)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

See also:

Feb 20, 2017

December 17, 1966: Ladera School, Ladera, CA


A little short of a miracle, the "Grateful Dead" have signed to play at the Ladera Christmas dance. What has brought this about, is that the kids themselves have been saving the profits that they have made from past dances so that now they can afford to pay for this important (and expensive) group.
They will be well worth hearing. To quote from Ralph Gleason's article (Dec. 8 Chronicle) "The Grateful Dead is a contemporary rock band, a good deal of whose music is blues based. They have evolved a magnificent playing style that features some of the most exciting instrumental rock music anywhere.
Included in their group is Ron "Pig Pen" McKernan who plays organ and harmonica and sings. Many young white performers in folk and rock music seem to be little but imitations of negro singers. Pig Pen, on the other hand, does not do this and he is tremendously effective. He sings like himself; the music and the style is blues, but he is not imitation."
That sounds good. And the sounds next Saturday night (December 17th at 8:00 o'clock) will be an exciting experience for everyone who can hear them. This will be a real Christmas present for those who attend.

(from the Ladera Crier newsletter, December 1966)



It was quite a party they had at Ladera School one evening of the Christmas holiday.
A gas?
A blast? What's the "in" word for it?
It really turned the kids on. Anyway, it was noisy and it was fun.
The teen-agers of Ladera decided to splurge the money earned on previous dances to hire themselves a band and throw a real bash.
They did.
The "Grateful Dead" came from San Francisco in full tonsorial and electronic splendor to play, with the Rhythm Method Blues Band donating their services to fill in any chinks of silence that might threaten the evening. A troupe headed by George Kelly put on a show of colored light, swirling dyes, movies, and slides, also donating services.
Joe Bonner, Ann Wilsnack, Barbie Rusmore, and Mark Wilson headed the dance committee and turned in a spectacular decorations job. The large window in the multi-purpose room was completely covered with batik designs which turned it into a kind of mod stained glass window, lighted from outside. The wall opposite had a full mural.
The Ladera Community Association sponsored the dance, as they do other teen dances several times a year in the community. Mrs. Richard Hayes had initiated the dance series and continues to assist with ticket sales and other chores. Mrs. Jack Wallis is the current dance committee chairman. Mrs. Dan Dana helped with printing of invitations, limited to Ladera teen-agers and their guests. Jeff Wilson aided and abetted the decorations committee.
[A list of a dozen adult chaperones follows.]

Picture captions:
Dancers trip the light fantastic -- and the fantastic ranged from rock and roll spine torture to Greek folk dances -- before a window decorated with batik panels and lighted from outside to give a stain-glass effect. Shown are Connie Hefte and Bruce Hird. That swirl of blonde hair behind Connie is Bruce's partner, Barbie Rusmore. All the pictures are by Ken Gardiner of Ladera, who found he could concentrate on his camera better after he stuffed his ears with cotton.
Gerry Wilsnack of Ladera was one of the many adults who helped the teens make their dream party come true. Took good care of the money, too.
Anne Creelman, a guest from Los Altos, gets into the swing of things.
George Kelly of San Francisco swirls dyes over a light to project colored patterns on a sheet-draped wall.
"Pigpen," he calls himself, one of the "Grateful Dead" who provided the decibels.

(from the Country Almanac, 3 January 1967)

Thanks to Susan Suesser, who uncovered these articles: 

Jan 5, 2017

March 19, 1966: Carthay Studios, Los Angeles


It is early afternoon, Saturday, March 19, in a quiet South Los Angeles neighborhood. I’ve come here for an interview with the Grateful Dead and the Acid Test people, both of whom have been cancelled out of UCLA’s Grand Ballroom and what promised to be a huge gate.
Parked as unobtrusively as it can be is the Acid Test’s multi-colored tour bus. It is attracting a great deal less attention here than it did in Beverly Hills, where a small crowd gathered to watch it make a U turn. Off to one side a few children are giving the Merry Pranksters a wide berth; and other than their less than rapt attention, the bus is being completely ignored. There is a constant flow of Pranksters between the bus and a huge three story house that, in better days, was somebody’s mansion.
On the front porch glider is Bill Summers, a drummer for the Grateful Dead. He is taking a morning cup of coffee, and he gestures towards me with it as I head for the front door.
“You from UCLA?” he asks.
“No,” I tell him. He looks up at me from under his eyebrows, still a bit suspicious.
“You sure?”
“Of course,” I assure him, and quickly head into the house. I AM from UCLA. Inside is that same hurried activity. There is a feeling of tense anticipation, like before some stupendous event – like a hydrogen bomb explosion. Upstairs I find who I am looking for, Rock Skully.
Skully is the band’s manager and promoter of the ill-fated UCLA Acid Test. He is sitting on the edge of a mattress, deeply involved in a phone conversation. He nods hello and waves me over to the only other piece of furniture in the room, an Altec speaker crate. The house rents unfurnished.
Skully is nodding and agreeing, “Yeah…yeah…uh-huh…no…they did, huh? Son Of A Bitch.” This last statement is made one word at a time, with each word drawn out, given the proper inflection and clipped off, at the end.
Skully’s room is in the apparent center of the ant-like activity. People dash in and out, showing flyers and posters, making pantomimed requests, sometimes just ducking their heads in, taking a quick look around and spinning off down the hall.
A cute long-haired girl comes in, makes a grab for Skully’s green felt hat, and gets a rap on the ass for her trouble. The one-sided conversation continues.
“Yes…yes…oh, Hell, yes,” no to a boy with a still-wet poster, yes to a flyer, and an intricate hand gesture to someone looking for the head. Jerry Garcia, the Dead’s lead guitarist, sticks his head in the door. He is, I learn later, an ex-member of the Asphalt Jungle Mountain Boys Blue Grass Band.
Garcia looks to Skully, who is now nodding “yes” whenever he says “no” and shaking his head “no” whenever he says “yes.” This is too much for Garcia, who directs his attention to me.
“You from Life? Look? Newsweek? Time? Playboy?” I shake my head no.
Garcia pushes himself back, holding onto the door frame for balance. He snaps his head left and right, looking both directions down the hall. He leans back into the room and assumes a conspiratorial tone.
“You’re from ‘Storm Trooper,’ right?”
I tell him “no.” His eyes narrow.
“You’re not from UCLA, are you?”
“No,” I reply, a little too loudly.
“Hmmm.” He still isn’t sure. “Well, if you really are from ‘Storm Trooper,’ come on by my room; I got some shiny boots there, I know you guys like that kind of stuff.” Garcia gives me a knowing wink and disappears down the hall. I turn back to Skully, who has finished his conversation and is looking at me.
“Why isn’t there going to be an Acid Test?” I ask.
“There is,” says Skully, “but not at UCLA.”
“I don’t know,” says Skully, looking rather morosely at his boots.
“Don’t you see how they’ve hurt him?” says Garcia, who is back, standing in the doorway. “Leave him alone – come on, we’ll go look at Pig Pen.”
“Pig Pen?” I ask, trying to direct the conversation back to Skully.
“He plays organ and harmonica for us,” Garcia answers for Skully. “Comes from San Bruno, that’s where Gill Hile Lincoln-Mercury is. You guys from Storm Trooper ought to pick up on a name like that.”
“It’s not Hile, it’s Arrata Pontiac,” says Skully, coming to life a bit.
“Wait here,” says Garcia to me. “I’ll get Pig Pen.”
“Arrata does the late show on TV. He gives his pitch hanging upside down from a rope and rotating.” Skully seems to have brightened up.
“What happened at UCLA?” I ask again.
“They cancelled us. I don’t know why. They told Ken Babbs (spokesman for the Merry Pranksters) they wanted fifteen hundred dollars guarantee, because they didn’t think there’d be a draw.”
“When was this?”
“Thursday. They waited till five and then told him they wanted the money by ten that night – otherwise, no show. We got the money to them Friday morning.”
“Why did they cancel then?” I ask.
“It was a check; they said it had to be cash.”
“Who is ‘they’?”
“Dale Spickler from the Student Union, and Chuck McClure from the Administration. Spickler said that there was a signature missing from the contract, so they didn’t have to have the show anyway.”
“Had they mentioned the money or the contract before Thursday?”
“No. They could have. They could have told us about the money at two instead of five. We were there setting up at two.”
“Whose idea was it to use UCLA for the Test?”
“They came to us. Chris Bryer asked us to talk with them about it. We talked with Joel Peck of the Graduate Students Association, and it was with their sponsorship that we got the Grand Ballroom.”
“And it was the Graduate Students who cancelled the show?”
“No, it was Spickler and McClure. McClure’s from the Administration or Student Activities, I’m not sure which. They said the contract wasn’t valid because John Economos, the GSA Vice President, hadn’t signed it. They must have known that for two weeks, but they told us Thursday. Then they took our ad out of Friday’s paper (The Daily Bruin) and put in a notice that the Test was cancelled.”
“But you’re still having it?”
“Yeah, but I don’t know if anyone’ll come. If anyone’ll know where it’s at. We put up a sign in the Grand Ballroom with the new address. Ken just called and said they tore that down and put up one that just said ‘Cancelled.’
“Everyone’s out postering now, and there’s word of mouth – that’s about all we can do tonight. What the Hell, it’s a party. We’re gonna have a good time no matter how few come.”
Skully is looking down at his boots again. “Yeah, no matter what. Hey, man, wait’ll next week. Next week we got Trouper’s Hall on La Brea. Del Close – light show; Tiny Tim – old timey singing on the breaks; and the Grateful Dead – sound, pure sound. – Come on downstairs.” We go downstairs.
In the living room Garcia, Pig Pen, Summers, and the rest of the band – Phil Lesh and Bob Wier – are standing around waiting to hear a tape. The Dead’s engineer and electronic genius of the group is setting up.
Skully shows me a row of six “Voice of the Theater” speaker enclosures. They run the length of one wall. Behind and around us are microphones, stands and instruments. The engineer is dickering with a phantasmagoria of plugs, dials, and switches. Skully motions to him and he comes over to us.
“We operate at about one hundred ten decibels, three hundred thirty watts going through the speakers. I changed all the instruments from high to low impedance – that way we get pure sound,” he says.
I nod like I understand.
“See,” he goes on, pointing proudly, “four Macintosh preamps, one for each instrument. We got Super Basses, vacuum sealed for the lows and basslines, four Voice of the Theaters – one for each instrument. Oscilloscopic monitorization; we do continuous mix, as we play. That way you get recording studio quality in live performance.”
I nod again, looking out the window. In the street three kids and two neon-costumed Merry Pranksters are standing around the back of a Good Humor truck. I look back and Skully nods to the engineer. He starts the tape.
The sound comes. Pure sound – sound that makes you giggle that anything could be that loud. I look outside. The sound is like in an air raid. I expect to see people running for cover. But they are standing around, buying ice cream, like nothing is happening. They are cut off from us. We are enveloped in sound.
“What is it?” I yell, but even I don’t hear the words. I finally get Skully’s attention by nudging him.
“What is it?” I write on my pad.
“Our record, out Monday – ‘I Know You Rider,’ and the flip is ‘Otis On The Shake Down Cruise,’” he writes back.
I listen. It is loud, that kind of loud heavy sound that drives you towards the speakers. It is pure sound, never dissonant or muddy. Crystal clear, even at this volume. It is good groovy sound, with strong down home runs and good throaty voices. The music ends. Rock smiles at me.
“You like?” he wants to know.
“Boss,” I say, “you’ve really got that Sonny and Cher sound down.”
“Sonny and Cher eat,” says Pig Pen, looking like a bewigged Wallace Beery.
“How about an ice cream?” someone says, and we all head outside.
That night I go to the Carthay Studios, to see if they can draw a crowd on such short notice. There are people there – lots of people, over six hundred people – people from UCLA, from Canter’s, from Hollywood. Dick Alpert is there. Life Magazine is there. A cop is there. But most of all the Grateful Dead and the Acid Test are there.
There are three screens going, two with movies and one with a light show. People are dancing under the strobe light, people are flipping out, things are happening. And behind it, under it, over it, and permeating it is sound – pure sound. On the break I corner Skully.
“They sound great.” Skully shakes his head.
“This building, it’s soaking up all our sound. Wait, wait till next week – Del Close, Tiny Tim, the Dead, and sound – plenty of sound. You think this is something? Wait till next week.” The band starts again, the projections start, people start to dance, everyone starts to smile.
“What about UCLA?” I yell over the Dead. “Are you going to sue?”
“No,” yells Skully over his shoulder. “I’m having too good a time.” I look around. Everyone is having a good time. Later I catch sight of Skully, standing by the speakers; he mouths the word “sound.” I wave good-by smiling; there’s next week, too.

(by Steve White, Los Angeles Free Press, 25 March 1966)

Thanks to

Jul 27, 2016

The Dead on Neal Cassady

This collection of quotes is an appendix to the Neal Cassady article here:

Jerry Garcia:
“Neal Cassady, meeting him was tremendously thrilling. He was a huge influence on me in ways I can't really describe...lots of things, though, kind of musical things in a way — rhythm, you know, motion, timing. I mean Neal was a master of timing. He was like a 12th-dimensional Lenny Bruce in a way, some kind of cross between a great stand-up comedian like Lenny Bruce and somebody like Buster Keaton. He had this great combination of physical poetry and an incredible mind. He was a model for the idea that a person can become art by himself, that you don't necessarily even need a forum.”

“It wasn’t as if he said, ‘Jerry, my boy, the whole ball of wax happens here and now.’ It was watching him move, having my mind blown by how deep he was, how much he could take into account in any given moment and be really in time with it. He helped us be the kind of band we are, a concert not a studio band… He presented a model of how far you could take yourself with the most minimal resources. Neal had no tools. He didn’t even have work. He had no focus, really. His focus was just himself and time.”  
(Plummer, Holy Fool, p.144-45)   

“The reality of Cassady was so much more incredible [than in On the Road]. He was so much more than anybody could get down on paper. As incredible as he was as a fictional character, the reality was more incredible.
There's no experience in my life yet that equals riding with Cassady in like a '56 Plymouth or a Cadillac through San Francisco or from San Jose to Santa Rosa. He was like...the ultimate person as art. Not only did he play into his own myth, but he also played into you specifically.
He knew your trips — he knew who you were, like a person in a book. He had this uncanny ability to pick up a conversation where it stopped, even if it had been six months before. I mean right where it stopped. And he could do it with like a half dozen people at the same time. He was just incredible — there is really nothing like Cassady.
Plus, he was the ultimate sight gag. The most incredible wit and rap. And the most incredible physical body — I saw him do things that were at the level of like Buster Keaton, in terms of physicality and timing. Only in the real world.
He was so much larger than life. You know, he used to have this thing where you'd take a dollar bill out and he would holler out the serial number on it. And every once in a while he'd get it right. No shit. Your mind would be so blown. There was nothing like him.
Just the privilege of seeing him talk to a cop: There were times when we got pulled over in the bus and a cop would talk to Cassady. And Cassady had this incredible ability to mind-fuck the police. He'd instantly turn into this humble guy — "Hey, I'm just taking these college kids around. I'm a working man myself." And he'd have his wallet out, and they were asking him for a driver's license. He'd have his life story out. You know, a wallet this thick with stuff — little clippings and pictures and all kinds of shit. And pretty soon the cops would say, "Oh, fuck it!" A lot of people couldn't handle him, and a lot of people were scared to death of him. They thought he was totally crazy. And a lot of people would dismiss him because he didn't cop center stage. He would have a little side show going on over here. You'd ignore it as long as possible, but you'd sort of get sucked in, and pretty soon, wham! — there you are in this world. If you went for it, it was incredible. But he'd never lay it on you. It was one of those things you sort of had to volunteer for. I had incredible experiences with him. He blew my mind hundreds and thousands of times.”

“It’s hard to even know what to say about Cassady. He had an incredible mind. You might not see him for months and he would pick up exactly where he left off the last time he saw you; like in the middle of a sentence! You’d go, ‘What? What the…’ and then you’d realize, ‘Oh yeah, this is that story he was telling me last time.’ It was so mind-boggling you couldn’t believe that he was doing it…
If you’d go for a drive with him it was like the ultimate fear experience. You knew you were going to die, there was no question about it. He loved big Detroit irons – big cars. Driving in San Francisco he would go down those hills like at 50 or 60 miles an hour and do blind corners, disregarding anything – stop signs, signals, all the time talking to you and maybe fumbling around with a little teeny roach, trying to put it in a matchbook, and also tuning the radio maybe, and also talking to whoever else was in the car. And seeming to never put his eyes on the road. You’d just be dying. It would effectively take you past that cold fear of death thing. It was so incredible…
He was the first person I met who he himself was the art. He was an artist and he was the art also. He was doing it consciously, as well. He worked with the world… He scared a lot of people. A lot of people thought he was crazy. A lot of people were afraid of him. Most people I know didn’t understand him at all. But he was like a musician in a way.” 
(Jackson, Garcia, p.93)

“We all saw different aspects in Neal. He’d show different aspects of himself to everybody. He was able to refer to lots and lots of different things in one conversation. He had lots of levels going. Some of them you knew about, some of them you didn’t know about, but there was continuity there... He filled the role of the person you go to for advice… We were all malleable. He was the guy speaking to us from the pages of Kerouac. He was a breeze, some kind of incredible super-American mythos personality blasting through the highways of 1947 America.” 
(This Is All A Dream We Dreamed, p.29)

“A guy like Neal Cassady would leave writers or speakers or literal thinkers or rationalists really crazy and they would say, 'He's crazy' - they would dismiss him as crazy. [But] in my mind, Neal Cassady was the complete communicator - he was the 100% communicator. The guy always had it, always had a stream going, and you could always jump right on it and be right in it. And he would always take into account that you were there. He was a model of a completely far-out guy.”
Mountain Girl:
"And he was personally responsible for a lot of people getting high, and ripping girls out of their suburban homes - boldly going in and plucking them off of the street and putting them in his car and taking them off and completely blowing their minds, changing their minds totally, and from that day on they'd be different people. He had a fantastic power over people, and it was all benign."
(Signpost to New Space, p.31-32)

Phil Lesh: 
“He was the only person I ever knew who resembled what they used to call a saint, someone who could be a role model for the real spiritual life. It may seem incongruous… He was a saint for us; he was a saint for me. He showed by example how to live in the weirdest possible way. He inspired weirdness, among many other things… It wasn’t so much the energy he represented – it was the articulation of that energy into meaning. It was like he had a field around him that reached far away from him and made things happen before he got there physically… Neal [in a] car full of people, feelin’ up a chick in the back, drivin’ with one hand, playin’ the radio, going through this traffic. Everybody else was doing three miles an hour, and Neal was doing twenty. He knew they’d get out of his way, just like he always knew whether or not there was a car around the corner when he went around it on the wrong side of the street with two wheels up on the sidewalk…
It wasn’t just his rap, which was incredibly funny, and it wasn’t just how interesting he was. When Neal was rapping, not only was he talking to everybody in the car at once – four or five people – but he was also driving the car and playing what we used to call ‘Radio I Ching.’ Every time he hit the button, whatever came out of the radio made sense with what he was saying or was otherwise complementary to what was going on.
There was nothing facile about him. Neal was always full on, and there was never any bullshit. He had the least bullshit coming out of him of anybody I’ve ever seen. Even in my wildest dreams I don’t believe that everybody’s supposed to live like that, but I’d say he defined the cultural phenomenon that started in the fifties and is still reverberating now. He just personified it. He was like a great artist whose art form was his life.” 
(Gans, Playing in the Band, p.42-44) 

Bob Weir: 
“He seemed to live in another dimension, and in that dimension time as we know it was transparent.” “Neal used to be able to drive through downtown San Francisco at rush hour at around 55 miles an hour, never stopping for a stoplight or a stop sign or anything like that. Nobody could figure out how he could do it. He was an amazing man.” “He could see around corners – I don’t know how to better describe it… He was one of our teachers, as well as a playmate... If there was something on your mind, if you had a problem or an'd bring it to'd bounce it off him; and it sure as hell would bounce.” “We’re all siblings, we’re all underlings to this guy Neal Cassady. He had a guiding hand…”  
(Gans, Playing in the Band, p.43 / This Is A Dream We All Dreamed, p.29 / McNally, Long Strange Trip, p.108, 357)

Bill Kreutzmann:  
“Cassady was famous for his ability to hold seven conversations at once while doing a dozen other things and, like a master juggler, never drop a ball... He was always really wired, juggling conversations, sledgehammers, girls, and drugs – all at once, although nobody could keep count. He was jazz personified… Just watching him, in his everyday life, was like watching an action film – comic, adventurous, frantic… Neal was a true showman and we were his audience. He was always good for a laugh.” 
(Kreutzmann, Deal, p.39, 51, 56)

Sara Garcia: 
“I came to love the man dearly, but at first I found him very intimidating. It wasn’t until the Big Beat Acid Test that I really came to appreciate him. That was the night I saw him do that thing where he could tune into everybody’s reality. He had an extraordinary gift. He really was a ‘Martian policeman,’ as he called himself. Doing his monologue with a hammer – juggling a hammer – and talking. And somehow managing to touch everybody in this circle of people watching him, to call each of them on their trip or let them know what they were thinking and could never say. He was a genius, maybe psychopathic. Probably really psychic and a brilliant psychologist. And a very gentle soul. A very compassionate person, although he would always head for the medicine cabinet and help himself to whatever you had.” 
(Gans/Jackson, This Is All A Dream We Dreamed, p.30) 

Rock Scully: 
“I would liken him to a poet. He was always spouting off quotes from his most recent reading. He did it in a musical way with the rest of the room even if no one was listening. He would also juggle with the sounds of the room and with what other people were doing. He could have several things going on at the same time. He was very off the cuff and very avant-garde. He was a day ahead in any conversation. He never forgot a road he had driven. He could go through these amazing turns and look at you and never look at the road. He had feelings and eyes in back of his head… Driving was his specialty. It was amazing because he rarely had his eyes on the road, but he was a great driver. Driving was just one of the things he did while he was talking and juggling all kinds of stuff.” 
(Troy, One More Saturday Night, p.109-110)

Dave Parker:
"He was a unique individual, for sure, and anybody that was that filled with energy and that much in motion all the time was never easy to be around. You had to balance right there on the edge to stay with it. He came around the house on Waverly a few times and I got to hear his amazing raps on a few occasions, and I had the rare privilege of driving with him around Palo Alto one time. He had this Zen driving technique where he would just fire right on through whatever was in the way. If there was traffic, it didn't matter. I remember one time he drove up on this sidewalk and there was a space between a telephone pole and a building that was wide enough for the car to go through with maybe six inches on either side, and he just whizzed through there. Talk about edge of your seat! But everything with him always happened so fast he'd be onto the next thing by the time you figured out what you'd just experienced. He was a fascinating guy to be around, but a difficult guy to spend a lot of time with because he was so exhausting; who could keep up with that?"

Robert Hunter:
“He used to visit me a lot. He paid me the compliment of saying that when he goes to New York he visits Bill Burroughs, and when he comes out here he hangs out at my house. I don't know; he was probably just trying to get some bennies and some camels off me. That's all Neal ever wanted, was a benny and a pack of camels.
He would sit there and I'd come in and hand him a microphone or something like that, so I had a lot of that on tape. I subsequently lost those tapes, but he did one tape that I would play, and I’d swear that every time I played that tape that there would be a different conversation with me on it. He was flying circles above me. I said, 'I have a book on that subject.' He says, 'he would' - and not in a put-down way, but it was true - I would, you know. Listening to that, I hear myself kind of bumbling around with what appeared to be a seventy-eyed creature. I was Flakey Foont to his Mr. Natural there.
He was Mr. Natural for us. He would say things and if you had him on tape and could listen back, you could hear replies you hadn't heard - multi-faceted replies. The man was phenomenal, a phenomenal brain. He was a wonderful guy...
I tell you, it was hard not to be Neal after he was around. He was such a master of any social situation that you would learn it yourself, and when he was away it would take weeks before you would stop being Neal. This was true of all of us. It was a way of handling a lot of communications. [imitates Neal speech] And you could do it, and it would create the same impression on other people when you were being Neal as Neal would create on you when he was being himself. Bradley Hodgman [one of Neal's friends] was our best stand-in Neal when Neal wasn't around. He and Ann Murphy would go at it just as though he was Neal. He was such a type that you could get him down; an original.
He had a dynamic life, and it was just packed. He just enjoyed the hell out of it. As long as he could get a pack of camels and a benny, he was cool. Never shot any stuff, he was just an all-time benny man.
Driving with him was such an experience. Of course you've heard that story a million times, I'm sure. But it was sooo frightening because he would depend on his radar, and I didn't have that radar and couldn't relax. I finally swore that I'd never drive with that madman again. He'd have your hair standing on end, and destroy your car too! He'd run right through that thing, man.”
(Relix, vol.5 no.2, May 1978)

On Neal's raps: 
Darby Slick: “To listen to him was to be roller-coastered... It was like listening to someone talk improvised poetry, so fast and strong that it...hurt my brain.” (Deadhead's Taping Compendium, p.141)
Paul Foster: “[Neal’s rap was] interesting, voluminous, humorous, often rhyming, and intimidatingly encyclopedic in that he was enormously well read and could handle simultaneously eight channels of audio interchange, including items from all radios and televisions he had turned on, random street noise, conversations within earshot, and several secret thoughts, it would all enter the fabric…of his rap.” (McNally, Long Strange Trip, p.108)

One incident that struck the Dead was after the Watts acid test, when Cassady knocked over a stop sign and tried to prop it back up - it's described in Deal, p.51, Searching for the Sound, p.80-81, and Jerry on Jerry p.133-34, as well as Garcia's "Behind the Wheel with Neal" foreword to Paul Perry & Ken Babbs' book On The Bus.
Riding on a truck with Cassady through a blizzard to the Portland acid test also left a big impression on Lesh & Pigpen - see Searching for the Sound, p.72, and This Is All A Dream We Dreamed, p.31.

See also: 
McNally, Jerry on Jerry, p.128-141 - Garcia's extended musings on Cassady
Lesh, Searching for the Sound, p.30-31 - Phil's more literary memory - John Barlow's reminiscence