Apr 6, 2013

April 8, 1967: Ralph Gleason TV Interview

On 4/8/67, the TV show "The Maze" featured three San Francisco bands - the Wildflower, the Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Ralph Gleason interviewed the Dead.

ANNOUNCER: The man most in the midst of the San Francisco music scene is critic Ralph J. Gleason. In his syndicated newspaper column, Mr. Gleason has been the foremost interpreter of the sounds coming out of what he calls "the Liverpool of the United States." Mr. Gleason believes the San Francisco rock groups are making a serious contribution to musical history.
GLEASON: In the last year and a half, San Francisco has literally exploded with music... One of the most exciting and interesting bands in San Francisco these days is the Grateful Dead. We're talking to the Grateful Dead, particularly to Jerry Garcia, the lead guitarist. Jerry, what kind of music does the Grateful Dead play?
GARCIA: (laughter) Loud! Loud music - loud music - dance music, for dances, at dances.
GLEASON: Where does it come from, do you write all your songs?
GARCIA: No. We write some of it -
LESH: We steal it from a lot of places.
GARCIA: Yeah, we steal it from a lot of places.
LESH: As many as I can find, as a matter of fact.
GARCIA: We're clever thieves...we're clever thieves, steal from a lot of places, and rearrange -
LESH: Sort of like the baroque era.
GLEASON: Do you have any particular bank vaults of music that you raid periodically?
GARCIA: Old blues - new blues - (WEIR: Jugband.) - jugband music. We've been getting into stealing classical licks, and jazz - anything, anything we can hear!
GLEASON: You don't sound like other bands. Why is that?
GARCIA: Well, because we're not other bands! We're the Grateful Dead, and we've been together for long enough to where we are used enough to each other to be able to play together.
GLEASON: Even when you take old tunes, tunes that have old influences in them, you still don't sound like the originals, you sound like -
GARCIA: No, cause that's not who we are, we're not trying to recreate anything.
GLEASON: Do you change them around?
GARCIA: Freely, freely. Like I say, any one song could have lots of stuff in it from lots of different sources, but it always comes out nothing like the original, and also nothing like anything else.
GLEASON: Electronically, do you work at things electronically, for different sounds and devices?
GARCIA: We're getting into it more than we have been. We've been mostly just working at getting better at our instruments, and the electronic stuff is stuff that you discover playing at enormous volumes, when you play in the big auditoriums, and pretty soon your guitar's feeding back and there's this insane sound coming out of it, you know, and you find that by fiddling around the right way you can control it to a certain extent, and that becomes part of the way you play.
GLEASON: You use this in the way you -
GARCIA: Oh sure, yeah. You can't not; if you ignore it, it just gets louder and louder. (laughs)
LESH: It takes over the entire thing.
GARCIA: Right!
GLEASON: Do you write things out in arrangements that you're going to do?
GARCIA: Sometimes we do and sometimes we don't.
LESH: Only if the record company insists.
GARCIA: Right, if the record company insists.
GLEASON: Do you do them the same way time after time when you play them?
GARCIA: I don't think so. There are a few that are more or less the same, most of the time -
LESH: In the general country, you might say.
GARCIA: Right, but the events inside them aren't always the same - and the thing that we really like is when it's not - you know, when something new suddenly happens, and we're suddenly playing differently than we used to. It's sort of evolutionary stuff goes on.
GLEASON: What kind of thing can tick that off in the course of playing a tune?
GARCIA: Playing it long enough.
WEIR: Good vibes.
GARCIA: Yeah, and a good situation, you know, a lot of feedback from the audience and dancing and -
WEIR: - carrying on.
GARCIA: Playing in the big auditoriums is conducive to that.
GLEASON: The things that you've done yourself in music will suggest themselves to you at various points in playing a tune, in individual performance?
GARCIA: Uh...
GLEASON: Or you're a serial composer, will come up with some -
GARCIA: Yeah, that's kind of what happens, just all of a sudden you know, another possibility reveals itself to our wondering eyes and ears.
LESH: Somebody will play something, and it suggests another place to go.
GLEASON: Change the whole tune?
LESH: Right.
GARCIA: We like to let it go as far as it'll go.
GLEASON: What song are you going to play for us?
GARCIA: A song called Cream Puff War.
GLEASON: Did you write this?
GARCIA: Yeah, I wrote this particular song! (Weir laughs.) The only time I've ever written completely all the way, it's my song.
GLEASON: And it steals from all those places?
GARCIA: Oh yeah, well I mean, just the actual song, the melody and the words, but the rest of it is -
LESH: To the extent that all of us, doing our own thing, steal from everywhere.
GARCIA: Right.
GLEASON: Let's hear it.
GARCIA: Okay.

The Dead play a concise 4-minute Cream Puff War.
The Wildflower played Please Come Home, and QMS did Pride of Man. Interestingly, to illustrate that "even when three San Francisco groups play the same tune, each band contributes its own distinctive style," the show then intercut each band playing their own version of Walkin' Blues: QMS first verse, Dead second verse, Wildflower third verse & guitar solo, Dead - Pigpen harmonica solo & Garcia solo, QMS conclusion. (It being a TV show, the solos are extremely clipped!)

The video is apparently lost, but the audio is here:
http://archive.org/details/gd67-04-08.tv.hanno.12623.sbeok.shnf

For those curious about the Wildflower, they have their own site, with more music:
http://www.thewildflower-sf.com/

And here is another 1967 clip from The Maze, a 25-minute documentary about the Haight-Ashbury hippie scene, with a few minutes at the end of the Dead inside 710 Ashbury (no Dead music or interview, though):
https://diva.sfsu.edu/collections/sfbatv/bundles/189371
For those who want to skip right to the Dead footage:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IjpBXWMyNs

These photos are not from the Maze show, but from some other unknown TV appearance where the Dead had to mime - nonetheless I couldn't resist including them:





This photo seems to be from the actual Maze show:

5 comments:

  1. This is a pretty close transcript, just lightly cleaned up (taking out all the "uhs" & "ums" & so forth).

    Ralph Gleason had done a long interview with Garcia in March 1967 (reprinted in the Grateful Dead Reader), and this is like a condensed version of that, as he & Garcia repeat many of the same questions & answers for TV viewers.

    Gleason wrote "San Francisco has become the Liverpool of America" in a 3/19/67 Chronicle article on the Dead announcing their new album, "Dead Like Live Thunder" (also in the GD Reader).

    When Garcia says "we've been getting into stealing classical licks," I wonder if he's referring to New Potato Caboose in particular, which the band had started rehearsing in February/March.
    It's worth noting that when he says "we're not trying to recreate anything," this was still a relatively recent step in the Dead's evolution, basically starting around the Acid Tests. Before then, Garcia had been trying to recreate bluegrass music (in various bands), old jugband & hokum tunes (in Mother McCree's), and Stones covers & folk-rock hits (in the Warlocks).
    By early 1967 though, the Dead were becoming confident in their originality. They were also well aware that their music was changing, as they mention in the interview.

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  2. I just noticed that this interview was also transcribed in the book Dead Studies vol. 1 a couple years ago - hadn't seen it before! But I'm happy to report that the two transcriptions are almost identical, just a few small differences.
    The Dead Studies book also has a long unpublished interview with Garcia done by Frank Kofsky in early September 1967. I don't think it will appear on this site, but I've been using it in comments here & there.

    I've added another photo which I think is from this show.

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  3. A Record World article from 8/7/67:

    KPIX(TV) TAKES VIEWERS ON HIPPIELAND TRIP

    Westinghouse Broadcasting-owned KPIX(TV) San Francisco this month completed a three-part documentary series that amounted to a psychedelic trip to the grooviest hippie hangout in the country. This television happening took place in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury section. It included love-rock music, flower children, long-hairs, beards, such musical groups as The Grateful Dead and The Quicksilver Messenger Service, and a strong flavoring of LSD.
    KPIX's examination of the hip society began last February with a visit to the Psychedelic Shop, The Print Mint, the Drug Store Cafe, the Straight Theater, and to the Swami, who conducts services in Krishna Consciousness, a new Eastern-oriented mystical religion.
    The second documentary in the series, broadcast last May, examined the dance-music sounds peculiar to the hippie society. Introduced was the Quicksilver Messenger Service, a group that has never made a record or appeared on television, yet is considered one of the most popular dance-hall performers.
    The concluding half-hour special, presented July 11, took a close look at LSD and the people who use the drug. Each of the programs in the series, entitled The Maze, had a different tour guide or program commentator.

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    Replies
    1. I checked TV listings in some local newspapers through early '67. Though apparently taped on 4/8/67, this Maze episode was broadcast on May 16 (listed in "Today's Specials," so that was the first broadcast).

      10:00 PM - Ch. 5 - KPIX - CBS NEWS SPECIAL (Color) - This report examines the world of today's "hippies" in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco.
      10:30 PM - Ch. 5 - KPIX - KPIX REPORTS (Color) - "The Maze: Liverpool, USA" - report on today's Bay Area music of the younger generation, featuring such groups as Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Wildflower.

      (The 5/27/67 Billboard also ran a little piece on this episode: "KPIX-TV aired a half-hour special - "The Maze...Liverpool USA" - last Tuesday (16) centered on San Francisco's contribution to psychedelic music. Commentator Ralph J. Gleason of the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out that nearly 300 rock 'n' roll groups work in the area. Appearing on the show were the Grateful Dead, the Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Wildflower. Show was produced by Alan Goldberg and directed by Charles Ed Rickey.")

      "The Maze" only ran occasionally on Tuesday nights - according to Record World there were only three episodes. It was apparently part of the "KPIX Reports" series (which sometimes had writeups in the "specials" sections in the TV listings, fortunately for future researchers). Although the "Liverpool USA" video is apparently lost except for a tiny off-air fragment, these two still exist:

      February 21 -
      10:30 - KPIX Reports: "The Maze." Tonight, KPIX takes its viewers on a tour of the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco and most of them won't believe it. For the most part, it makes the old North Beach beatnik area resemble an oasis of sanity and cleanliness. Conductor of the tour is playwright-poet Michael McClure, who will explain the philosophy and habits of the hip society and how it affects the rest of the population.

      July 11 -
      10:30 PM - KPIX Reports (color) - "The Maze: Etched in Acid" - a study of the world of LSD by psychologist Allan Cohen and Hank Harrison, originator of San Francisco's LSD Rescue Mission.

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    2. As for the photos of the Dead miming on another show, with Phil 'playing' a duster:
      Researcher Volkmar Rupp found that it was broadcast on the POW! show on KPIX.

      Some comments on the show:
      "I vividly remember "POW!" It was VERY hip, and at the same time low-key. It used Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" as its theme music, and the end credits would roll over old nickelodeon/silent film footage. They aired "Flash Gordon" serial episodes and sometimes had musical guests, including the Vince Guaraldi Trio."

      "KPIX, Ch-5. A memorable, great locally produced TV program with production support I believe from the Television/Broadcasting Dept. at SF State.
      Rolfe Petersen (sp?) was perfect as an amused and dry of wit program host. Enjoyed seeing the Jefferson Airplane for the first time with their first female vocalist Signe Toly Anderson perform at least once and perhaps multiple times on that Sunday afternoon show."
      http://www.outsidelands.org/cgi-bin/mboard/stories2/thread.cgi?460,42#msgtitle

      I don't have any more info on POW!, but someone else also remembered seeing the Airplane on that show: "the quirky TV show from around 1966 on KPIX, I believe the host's first name was Rolf? I remember they had bands like the Jefferson Airplane."
      http://ba.broadcast.narkive.com/nV41OX1L/pow-show

      And I found another reference to the Butterfield Blues Band appearing on what might be this show - at least, it was also absurdly lip-synced:
      "KPIX studios, San Francisco, CA; January(?) 1966
      Mark Naftalin recalled that the Butterfield Band made two TV appearances during its first trip to California. The first was a lip-synched tune on this unknown show on KPIX. He jokingly played the tune a half-step sharp, much to the dismay of Hans Conried who was also a guest on the program. Bloomfield, Mark remembered, used a piece of celery as a slide."
      http://www.mikebloomfieldamericanmusic.com/bloomweb07/1966-1967.htm

      Newspaper TV listings revealed that while POW! faithfully ran on KPIX each Sunday afternoon, almost never was the show topic listed in the paper, so there's no telling when most musical guests appeared.

      However, on March 4 '67, the program Tempo on KPIX did air an episode on "The 'Grateful Dead' rock 'n' roll group" (from 1:30-2 PM). Which is a lucky find, since usually Tempo topics weren't listed either.

      While the Dead probably aired on POW! around March '67 as well, here we find another broadcast on them in this period. They may well have been lip-syncing their new single on the air near the album release date. It's too bad these early Dead TV appearances have been lost!

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