Thursday, March 31, 2016

Bootleg Grateful Dead LPs, East and West (Hollywood Palladium August 6, 1971)

The Grateful Dead At The Hollywood Palladium lp, recorded on August 6, 1971. Like many Dead bootlegs available on the West Coast, it was a single album with a gatefold cover.
The Grateful Dead are renowned for their comfort with allowing their audiences to tape their shows. The Dead's policy is usually seen as a precursor to Internet culture, before the Internet was even a culture. Certainly, the Dead's willingness to let people tape their shows created a different kind of enthusiasm from their fans, the kind that made them travel hundreds of miles for days on end in order to catch as many shows as possible. The Dead's open-mindedness towards taping, probably stemming largely from Jerry Garcia's bluegrass days, rather unexpectedly was the key to their future success.

However, there is a contrary side to the story: the Grateful Dead may have felt they had little choice but to accept audience taping and encourage their free exchange. The taint associated with selling Grateful Dead tapes has caused most old-time Deadheads, particularly on the East Coast, to elide the historical fact that most of us first heard unreleased Grateful Dead music on bootleg lps. Though the sales associated with bootleg records were ultimately small, the most motivated and determined fans of any group sought them out. Bootleg lps played a big part in expanding the Grateful Dead's audience, particularly in East Coast cities.

It is a paradox that the Grateful Dead were a West Coast band who ultimately made their fortune on the East Coast. Yet Deadhead culture really took root in the East and headed West. That has nothing to do with the West Coast's love for the Grateful Dead; it's that in San Francisco, or even Oregon, there was the inevitable feeling that the Dead, or at least Jerry Garcia, would be back soon and we could see them again, For Grateful Dead fans in the East, the band only played once or twice a year in any given city, and didn't always return to the same town. Thus the traveling Deadhead caravans were born, first small and then large. Even before that, however, bootleg records played a huge part in encouraging fans that traveling to see the Dead was worthwhile, and that too was initially an Eastern phenomenon.

Jesse Jarnow's book Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America (Da Capo Press, March 2016) is the first book that takes a close look at the underground economy surrounding the Grateful Dead, including bootleg albums
In the late 60s, cassette recorders had just gone commercial, and few people had them. In any case, there were almost no cassette recordings circulating, so even having one wouldn't have gotten you more unreleased music. Anyone who taped generally used a reel-to-reel recorder, not least because the new cassettes had terrible sound quality. Reel-to-reel recorders are inconvenient for casual listening, which is why almost all rock music consumers preferred records. A few dedicated tapers brought reel-to-reel decks into concerts--promoters did not yet have any reason to stop them--and started making Grateful Dead audience tapes. They shared these tapes with their hi-fi friends, and a few of them got the idea of making bootleg records.

The history of Grateful Dead bootlegs, particularly on the East Coast, has rarely been discussed and almost completely lost. A remarkable new book, however, brings this lost history to light in a richer context. Author Jesse Jarnow has written Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America (Da Capo Press March 2016). Jarnow's book takes a close look at the underground economies surrounding the Grateful Dead, and how they created a path to an alternative financial ecosystem in the 21st century. The story starts with the initially legal commerce in LSD, but when that goes under the radar, a thriving market in Grateful Dead bootleg records develops. Jarnow is the first person to actually look into who was making and selling these albums. I asked Jarnow, in a private email, when Grateful Dead bootlegs started appearing on the East Coast.
It seems like Dead bootleg LPs started popping up on the east coast in 1970 and 1971, probably after the Great White Wonder got written about in Rolling Stone in late 1969. But Dead bootlegs seemed to really start taking off in 1971, which is not coincidentally when the band themselves moved from being primarily an underground phenomenon into a band that played arenas in most parts of the country. I'm really fascinated by this period in Dead fandom, as the band was exploding but before the term "Deadhead" came into common use with the release of Skullfuck in October '71 and before all the Deadhead norms of tape-trading and folklore became fixed parts of the world around the band. When Dead freaks were Dead freaks 
Going by coverage in the [NYC underground newspaper] East Village Other, it seems like Dead bootlegs really exploded on the east coast the summer right before that. One show that was especially popular was from the KSAN broadcast of the October 4th, 1970 show at Winterland, the night Janis Joplin died. That sold especially well, since it came from an FM recording and sounded great, which was a pretty standard bootleg procedure even today with the new wave of bootleg LPs that have appeared with the so-called vinyl revival. Since the Dead and their friends really pioneered the act of live concert broadcasts (as you've pointed out!), you can maybe blame that aspect of bootlegging on them, too, sorta. A lot of the early bootlegs were totally white label, with no identifying information at all, so it's only later that we've been able to identify them.  
And the spring or summer of '71 was when Marty Weinberg put out his first bootleg LP, too. Marty was the inventor of really high quality Dead concert taping. He was a brainiac boy genius who went to Bronx High School of Science and was a teenage member of the Audio Engineering Society, among other cool things. But he'd sneak a mono Uher into the Fillmore East and position himself on Garcia side. His techniques were actually pretty different from what tapers developed later, but his tapes became legendary among east coast Deadheads. The guitarist in the earliest Dead cover band I know about (John Zias from Cavalry) told me Marty's tapes sounded dosed. But most of Marty's friends didn't own reel-to-reels, so he made an LP of his favorite jams from the fall of 1970, mostly from the Capitol Theater in Port Chester and some from the Fillmore East, and pressed up 500 copies, gave half away, and sold the other half. He never repressed it, but Marty's LP got play on New York radio stations, and he was invited to appear as a guest on Bob Fass's Radio Unnameable on WBAI, the hippest radio show in the city, where the Yippies first came together and Bob Dylan took calls on the air a few times.
Heads does a remarkable job of pulling together how the different strands of early Grateful Dead culture became a network. Most writers vaguely assert that Deadheads were some sort of "community," but Jarnow is the first to open the box and looks at the network diagram.

Bootleg Records In The 60s
The history of bootleg albums in the 1960s was murky but important. Most of the original bootlegs had plain white covers and very little information about the recordings. They featured the most popular artists, like Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones, and they were generally only available in small quantities in hip, non-chain record stores in big music cities like London, New York and Los Angeles. Nonetheless, for the lucky few who got their hands on those records, they were revelatory. Bob Dylan, the world's most popular rock solo artist, had released almost nothing between 1966 and 1968. Yet when a bootleg appeared that included the a dozen demos recorded with some Canadians in a basement near Woodstock, NY, of rough but powerful versions of unreleased songs, it was stunning. Rock fans had no idea that such a thing existed. The album, Great White Wonder, was reviewed in Rolling Stone.

No one really knows how many records Great White Wonder sold, and various exaggerations indicated it would have qualified as a gold record (250,000 units). The real number was probably 1/10th of that, but of course all the buyers were in big cities, so the records got a lot of attention. And since the albums weren't really legal, there was nothing to stop other bootleggers from bootlegging the original, so some more people would have bought inferior re-bootlegged copies, sometimes with different titles or cover art. An even more remarkable Dylan bootleg followed, under various titles like Royal Albert Hall and Play Fucking Loud. It was a stunning professional live recording of Bob Dylan and The Hawks in England in 1966, an eight-song masterpiece by young artists at the height of their powers. Typical of the bootlegger trade, the album suggested that it was recorded at the Royal Albert Hall, when it fact it had been recorded at the Manchester Free Trade Hall a few days earlier on the tour. The deception helped protect the bootleggers source, who I believe remains mysterious to this day.

The history of bootleg records was a perpetual mystery, since the proprietors of these mysterious labels were both breaking the law as well as angering the artists they were bootlegging. Thus they had every reason to remain cryptical. Yet bootleg albums had a huge impact on rock fans in major cities, where these nondescript albums were available. They also had a huge impact on the record industry. Artists were concerned that they had no control over what was released, and were often bothered by sloppy, poorly recorded performances. Record companies, however, were terrified of disintermediation and their profitable control of distributing popular music. Many albums were released with the intent of forestalling or undermining existing bootlegs, including live Stones albums and Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes.

The veiled history of bootlegs was pierced somewhat with the 1996 book Bootleg: The Secret History Of The Other Recording History, by English author Clinton Heylin. Heylin, certainly rock music's leading archaeologist, ferreted out the identities of some of the main bootleggers of the 1960s, and he tells the fascinating tale of how certain records got made. Any rock fan should consider his book a must-read. However, Heylin cannot tell every tale, and his focus is more on (relatively) "major" bootleggers in London and Los Angeles. There were certain infamous bootleggers, and labels like Rubber Dubber, Trademark Of Quality and Swinging Pig take precedence in his story, as they should. The bootleg recordings that get the most attention and had the biggest influence were by artists like The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, and they are crucial parts of the tale. Heylin has little interest in the Grateful Dead, however, and in any case Dead bootlegs are peripheral to the history that he focuses on. Fortunately, however, Jarnow's indispensable book helps us close this gap.

Grateful Dead Bootleg Distribution-East Coast
By 1970, the Grateful Dead were beloved by their still relatively small but enthusiastic cohort of fans in Northern California. However, San Francisco-area Deadheads were used to regular Grateful Dead appearances every few months. In between, you could usually find a way to see the New Riders or Garcia/Saunders at some tiny joint, so NorCal Deadheads never worried about seeing more Dead shows, since they knew the next one would be coming up soon.

Things were different on the East Coast. Workingman's Dead, American Beauty and relentless touring had made the Dead a popular commodity in the Northeast. However, fans in Brooklyn, Cambridge or Princeton could not be certain when the Dead would return, nor if they would even play the same place they played before. Thus the routine of traveling to Dead shows began in the East, not the West. At the same time, newly minted East Coast Dead fans wanted more Grateful Dead music, any way they could get it. People with intact memories recall how they got that music--bootleg lps.

Since the Dead taping underground took hold in the mid-70s with the mantra that all music should be exchanged freely, we forget why that demand arose. Prior to the mass acceptance of cassette decks, people bought bootleg records. That meant neither the Dead nor Warner Brothers was benefitting from the proceeds of those records. Since most of the bootleg purchasers became tape collectors a few years later, everyone politely writes out that part of their own history. Jarnow's research and his book capture this lost era, and a critical era it was. Without the seed of bootleg Dead albums, there would have been no underground tape network, and the entire psychedelic underground economy would have taken on a different tone entirely. Jarnow tells us about where  budding Dead fans could find the bootlegs:
At some record stores, probably, where the record buyer had a connection. I'm sure a lot of distribution was out of suitcases and car trunks, but there wasn't really any firm distribution system, so it was pretty spotty. In New York, I know, they were sometimes sold outside of shows. Gary Lambert told me he told me saw his first bootleg for sale across the street from the Fillmore East on 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. Another father of Grateful Dead taping, Jerry Moore, was apparently inspired to start taping because he heard about a certain bootleg LP dealer who worked on a certain corner in Greenwich Village and trekked down there from the Bronx only to discover that the guy wasn't there that day, and Jerry was so annoyed that he started taping shows himself.  
Another place to get bootlegs was through the mail. One place I know about was Dead In Words, which was the first Grateful Dead fanzine, based out of North Carolina, predating Dead Relix by a year or so. They were a spinoff of a few different bootleg LP-oriented publications, one devoted to Dylan and one devoted to the Beatles. They were also the source of the first live Dead acquired by Dick Latvala, who went on to become the preeminent Grateful Dead tape trader, and organize and run the band's tape vault. Eventually, Jerry Moore and Les Kippel founded Dead Relix tape club, getting covered in Rolling Stone in 1973 and putting out the first issue of their magazine in late 1974, and began to permanently implant the notion of free tape trading in a national way. 
Even Jarnow's unique research cannot determine how many Grateful Dead bootleggers--in the vinyl sense--there really were.
I really have no way to estimate either of those numbers! Documentation was so spotty that it's hard to figure out who was making what or when. Sometimes, it seems like they were made by Deadheads, but many times the song titles are off, or whatever, and they obviously weren't. Bootlegs are an under-appreciated form of Deadhead folk art, too, if you find the right ones. I love finding white label bootlegs with illustrations and track listings filled in by the previous owners. This site has a preliminary catalog, but release dates are pretty murky: 
Were there any connections between the bootleggers, or were they just solo operators?
Both. When I interviewed Marty Weinberg, he said he never saw anybody else selling bootleg LPs outside shows, even though that was definitely happening at a few of the shows he was at. Specifically the East Village Other article I mentioned before seems to indicate that there was a faction connected to the Yippies that were making bootlegs on the east coast, so surely those people knew one another. Beyond that, I don't really know. That article is here, with more of LightIntoAshes excellent annotations in the comments:
Jarnow's unique take on original vinyl Grateful Dead bootlegs is just one of many remarkable insights that arise from Heads. Rather than just settle for oft-told tales and old journalism, Jarnow has tracked down a remarkable number of original participants, and not just in making bootlegs. The premise of Heads is the Grateful Dead were the fulcrum of an underground economy, first with LSD, then bootleg albums, then tapes, then t-shirts and then the psychedelic flea market of the "Shakedown Street" parking lot. Jarnow ably navigates the reader through this completely uncharted territory. I cannot recommend the book enough, and it sorts many Grateful Dead and Deadhead truisms into various kinds of fact and fiction. Heads is an indispensable book for any serious Deadhead.

World's Indoor Records, in downtown Palo Alto (405 Kipling at Lytton), where I got my first bootleg albums. The featured album in the ad is by Jimi Hendrix.
Grateful Dead Bootlegs In Northern California
The story in the West seemed to be somewhat different. However, without a California Jarnow, we are left only with me, to tell what parts of the story I can figure out. I was a bootleg lp consumer in the early 1970s, and I too can vouch that at the time I had no other avenues for finding unauthorized Grateful Dead releases. Sure, when I got to college I met some people, and I started to burrow into the network, but initially I was on my own. Mysterious albums with a hand drawn cover, or sometimes just a blank white sleeve, were my only entree into a new, secret world.

A high school friend had some Bob Dylan bootlegs that had purchased by an older sibling. The bootleg later officially released as Bob Dylan Live 1966 (intentionally mistakenly "released" as Royal Albert Hall) exploded my understanding of Dylan. I couldn't help but think--do any other artists have mysterious recordings like this?

Heylin details some of the cryptical genesis of American bootleg albums, and some of the key players were based in Southern California. Two of the key figures are called "Dub" and "Ken" by Heylin (since it has been twenty years, I think their real names are now accessible on the Internet). Dub and Ken had produced the infamous Great White Wonder bootleg. Dub was responsible for the Rolling Stones bootleg LiveR Than You'll Ever Be, recorded at the late show on November 9, 1969 at the Oakland Coliseum, when the Stones used the Dead's PA. At the end of 1969, Dub and Ken teamed up to make the first true bootleg "label," Trademark Of Quality (known as TMQ). Trademark Of Quality consistently put out high quality recordings by a variety of groups, and they were indeed a trademark of quality in the nebulous universe of bootlegging.

After I had seen my friend's Dylan bootlegs, I started keeping my eyes open, and I finally found some in Palo Alto and Berkeley record stores around early 1974. Palo Alto had one independent record store, and the bootlegs would show up in the "Imports" section. Obviously they weren't imported from England, but it gave the proprietor a little deniability. Meanwhile, the biggest and best independent record store in Berkeley, Rasputin's, put the bootlegs in the "used" section. In many cases, they were obviously not used, but again, it provided a layer of deniability. Typically these bootlegs cost around $3.00, at a time when new lps were $4 or $5. So they were attractive propositions.

The difficult part with bootlegs, particularly Grateful Dead bootlegs, was trying to figure out what was on them. Any "album cover art" were often just hand-drawn, and usually said something like "Grateful Dead Live," so that wasn't much use. Sometimes there was a list of songs, but that didn't always help--what was the Grateful Dead song "We Can Share?" You could guess that it was "Jack Straw," but then what was "Only Love Can Fill" or "I Wash My Hands?" So there was an element of risk in buying any bootleg, which of course added to their mysterious allure. There must have been other places to get bootlegs, like Flea Markets (sometimes called "Swap Meets"), but I didn't know of any at the time. Certainly I had never seen bootleg Dead lps for sale outside of a Bill Graham Dead show, that was for sure.

The Grateful Dead Live At Fillmore West
There was one bootleg Grateful Dead album that was relatively regularly available, and it even had a cover and somewhat accurate songlists to go with its excellent recording quality. It's no surprise to find out decades later that this bootleg was a Grateful Dead release on Trademark Of Quality. The double-lp set was just about the complete recording of the Grateful Dead's performance at the closing of Fillmore West on July 2, 1971 (which I have written about at length). In the case of TMQ, it was sourced from the KMET-fm simulcast, rather than the KSAN/KSFX broadcast, but it was high quality. It also had a weird, spacey cover, and remains one of, if not the, best known bootleg Dead albums. For me personally, it was monumental: an alternative universe of different songs and different versions, well-recorded and with accurate sourcing. The table was being set for what I wanted from cassette trading before I even really knew what a cassette was.

However, there were numerous other Grateful Dead bootlegs, far less revealing in the details. They were a series of archaeological runes, mysterious talismans of a hidden world, with few clues as to their real nature, The Dead bootlegs seemed to fall into two categories. One category were albums with blank white covers, perhaps with a stenciled title and a few songs listed on the label. The other category was albums with a sort of compressed gatefold cover, even if it was a single album. Nonetheless, the "gatefold" albums had titles, artwork and photographs. Looking at them today, I can see that the photographs were probably all from the same film roll in 1971, but of course I couldn't know that at the time. I preferred the "gatefold" albums, because they had more information on the cover, and that was a better bet for a teenager on a budget. From what I can piece together today, the "gatefold" Grateful Dead bootlegs were a West Coast phenomenon. At the very least, the gatefold Grateful Dead albums were manufactured separately from any other bootleg lps that were circulating, as no other bands had albums configured that way.

Perhaps the most widely seen and best example of these West Coast gatefold Dead bootlegs was an album usually called "Hollywood Palladium." It had fairly good and accurate credits on the cover, and it was cool stuff indeed. The show was recorded at the Hollywood Palladium on August 6, 1971. The album featured a great version of "St. Stephen." To me, it was fascinating to hear a classic performance from Live/Dead done without the organ, which had seemed so essential to the original release. On top of that, there was a blazing version of Otis Redding's "Hard To Handle," far superior to the version released on Bear's Choice (and I had only bought the album after Bear's Choice--it must have been revelatory to those who discovered it beforehand).

Even more fascinating was a between song onstage comment from Bob Weir, telling a taper that his microphones were too close to the stage, and that it would harm the recording. Here was a member of the Grateful Dead casually acknowledging the bootlegger's craft and giving advice. Whatever Weir's intentions, it seemed like a Grateful Dead benediction of bootleggers. According to legend, the taper to whom Weir was referring to was not actually the source of the famous audience tape, but a different one entirely, but of course we didn't know that while playing the lp over and over in our bedrooms. The show was ultimately released as Road Trips Vol 1, #3, but for those of us of a certain age the Palladium show was about "St. Stephen" and "Hard To Handle," and we wore it out.

The Grateful Dead Hollywood Palladium I (TMOQ 71064), which may be the original "release" of the Hollywood Palladium show from August 6, 1971. I myself have not heard this lp.
The Hollywood Palladium album was released with numerous covers, and its impossible to say whether they were all from one bootlegger. More likely, the bootleg got re-bootlegged, an occupational hazard of the industry. Nonetheless, some evidence suggests that the first version of the album may have been a Trademark Of Quality (aka "Ken") production. This would make sense, as quality audience tapes were a distinguishing characteristic. If the Palladium show was initially a TMQ production, it does put West Coast Grateful Dead bootlegs, at least, more in the mainstream of California bootlegging in the early 70s.

There were other bootlegs, of course. Many of these were just different versions of existing tapes, such as the July 2 '71 Fillmore West show or the nationwide broadcast on Pacifica Radio (KPFA, WBAI, etc) of the May 2 '70 Binghamton show. It was always frustrating to get a white-covered bootleg, only to find out that the distinctive version of "Dancing In The Street" was the one I already had. There were upsides, however--for many decades, the only reason I knew that the Pacifica broadcast had included the New Riders was because I had a poor quality bootleg of the Riders set.

There were New Riders bootlegs, too, with the distinctive gatefolds. I had one from Binghamton, another from New Year's Eve 1971 and a great one from the Dead's guest appearance at Felt Forum with NRPS on March 18 '73, broadcast on WNEW-fm. A double lp with the Riders, featuring an acoustic gospel set with Jerry on banjo, guest appearances by Weir, Keith and Donna, Garcia and Ramblin Jack Elliott was another glimpse into a secret world of revelations. I only had the slightest hint that there was a world of tapers, but I was ready for it when it presented itself to me.

The Amazing Kornyfone Record Label (TAKRL) and Make Believe Ballroom
Back in the mid-70s, I had no real clue about "West Coast Bootlegs" and "East Coast Bootlegs." They were just strange records I found in record stores. Still, there were patterns. Here and there I even recognized some familiar "labels." Certainly, it was my only source of non-authorized music, so besides Dead bootlegs, I also had bootlegs by other groups. Around early 1975, I started to notice a significant new player in the bootleg record stores: mysterious albums with white covers but paper inserts, all indicating something called The Amazing Kornyfone Record Label.

TAKRL, as it was known, was everything I ever wanted in a bootleg label. According to Heylin, TAKRL (and some associated labels) was the brainchild of "Ken" from TMQ, based out of Southern California. But TAKRL records had everything I craved:
  • TAKRL albums were from great source tapes, either FM or board
  • TAKRL albums had detailed and accurate notes that indicated where the recordings were actually from
  • TAKRL albums focused on the coolest and most intriguing music around, not just retread live tapes of popular groups grinding out their big hits 
Among the many great TAKRL albums that I or my friends had was the Bob Dylan Blood On The Tracks outtakes, which was a true revelation on the scale of "Royal Albert Hall." There was a Buffalo Springfield album of outtakes that included a long version of "Bluebird," among other delights. There were also some great Little Feat live bootlegs, reputedly mixed by Lowell George himself. Mind you, at the time, Little Feat could barely fill a nightclub, but they were hip and cool. There were also TAKRL bootlegs for Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars at the Santa Monica Civic, at the time a very exotic UK act not popular in the States.

But my favorite TAKRL album fell into my hands late in 1975. I have written at length about the Grateful Dead's performance on August 13, 1975 at the Great American Music Hall. A few weeks later, all but the final set was broadcast on KSAN, KMET (in Los Angeles) and WNEW (in New York), and possibly other cities. It was electrifying to hear the Grateful Dead's return live in my suburban bedroom, right before I went off to college. But by the end of the year, a glorious TAKRL bootleg appeared at Rasputin's, a beautifully mastered double lp set of the GAMH show called Make Believe Ballroom. By this time, I had met people in the dorms with tapes and I knew there was another universe, but I couldn't access it yet. But Make Believe Ballroom allowed me to play the set I had heard on the radio over and over, and that was what asked for. I know for a fact that Make Believe Ballroom was much beloved by many nascent Deadheads, and was surely the source of a lot of early trading material back in the day.

Throughout the later 70s, there continued to be bootlegs, but cassette tapes seemed to be taking over for Deadheads. I had my own cassette deck within a few years, and didn't need to accumulate bootlegs anymore. The West Coast bootleggers with their gatefold covers had completely faded away, Jarnow has explained what happened to the Easterners, and Ken and TAKRL also went under the radar (per Heylin) in the later '70s. There was still some bootleg action, particularly around Bruce Springsteen, but Grateful Dead world moved to tapes. "Everyone" agreed that live Dead tapes shouldn't be sold, but everyone conveniently forgot that the prohibition came from the bootleg lps that had kicked the scene off in the beginning.

Bootleg lps are a limited medium, unfair to the artists and unfair to the copyright holders, since they are too expensive to duplicate at the copier's expense. So I'm not a person who thinks that anybody should be able to sell another person's creative output without permission, at least within the confines of modern copyright law. Most Deadheads probably agree with me. Yet those of us of a certain age recall when there was no trading network, and we didn't have cassette decks anyway, and the lure of a mysterious white album with a hand-drawn paper cover was the gateway to a magical world that had no other portal. Even if we don't acknowledge it now.
The Hollwyood Palladium, at 6215 Sunset Boulevard, as it appeared in the early 70s
Appendix 1: Hollywood Palladium August 6, 1971: Grateful Dead/New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Rowan Brothers
California is a huge, prosperous state, and there are actual several Californias. The San Francisco Bay Area, home of the Grateful Dead, may as well have been a completely different state than greater Los Angeles. They were 400 miles apart, with different weather and different economies. In fact, in the 1960s and 70s, the Grateful Dead were not particularly popular in Southern California. Now, to be clear, there was a huge population in Los Angeles, and a huge rock concert market went with it. The Dead certainly played there share of gigs in LA, and most of them were well attended. However, the same could be said of almost every other touring rock act. Relative to population, the Dead were no big deal in LA.

The Hollywood Palladium had been built in 1940, and had a concert capacity of between 4000 and 7500, depending on configuration. The Palladium was located at 6215 Sunset Boulevard, in Hollywood proper, as opposed to the Whisky-A-Go-Go and other places, farther West on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, outside the city limits. The Palladium was used for many famous TV shows and broadcasts, including the Lawrence Welk show, which broadcast from there during the 1961-70 period. The Emmy and the Grammy awards were also broadcast from the Palladium (JerryGarciasBrokendownPalaces has a more thorough look at the history of The Hollywood Palladium).

Pinnacle, the first major concert promoter in Los Angeles for Fillmore type bands had operated out of The Shrine in Los Angeles, at 32nd and Figueroa. Its successor, Scenic Sounds, had moved to the Rose Palace in Pasadena in 1969. By 1971, the promoters had moved to the Hollywood Palladium, using the name Pacific Presentations. The exact corporate history of the promoters is a bit murky, but generally speaking they represented the same people, and the Dead had played the Shrine and the Rose Palace, so it's no surprise they played the Hollywood Palladium as well. Back in the 60s, the Hollywood Palladium would have been too large and too prestigious for rock bands to play there, but by the early 70s rock concerts were the biggest live attractions, so it's no surprise that rock bands were booked. For a great overview of the Hollwyood Palladium's history, complete with pictures and a good list of 70s rock concerts, check out the truly impressive page on the GoGo's site (and just to be clear, I saw the Go-Gos back in November 1981 at the Market Street Cinema in San Francisco, and they rocked the house hard, ok?).

A ticket for the Grateful Dead concert at the Hollywood Palladium on August 6, 1971. "Dance" indicates that there would be no seats on the floor.
Initially, tickets were sold for the Friday, August 6 show. Once that show sold out (or at least came close), another show was added for Thursday, August 5. Obviously, both shows were booked in advance, but it was a common practice for the Dead in the early 70s to sell out one night before the next night was added. I don't know how many tickets the Palladium was configured for, but according to a review of the concert (from Variety, via Deadsources), it was around 4,000.
Yet Winterland was 5,400, and the Dead had booked two nights in Winterland back in May (although one was canceled). Los Angeles, despite its larger population, was no sure thing for the Dead. In the end, of course, they did fine, but fashion conscious LA has always been a tricky market.

An interesting detail that has surfaced from the ever-fascinating Deadsources blog was a reference that at least one bootleg was hawked outside the show:
A Rolling Stone article on the New Riders (in the 9/2/71 issue) mentions that at the Hollywood Palladium shows in August 1971, "outside the Palladium the Dead were being accorded the honor of having a bootleg LP of theirs peddled."
This probably stopped shortly afterwards, since Warner Brothers (and every other label) was right down the road, and would not have countenanced it. Certainly I'm not aware of it happening at any Bill Graham shows in San Francisco--he didn't like anyone selling anything outside of shows--but I guess it wasn't impossible. The Grateful Dead returned to the Hollywood Palladium for two shows the next year (September 9-10, 1972), but after that the band moved on to larger spaces. The Palladium was used for intermittent concerts throughout the 70s, but ultimately "went disco" about 1978.

Appendix 2: Some Bootleg Mysteries
Here are a few of the bootleg Grateful Dead lps that I have. They are presented here as exemplars of the curious archaeology surrounding them at the time. Anyone with any knowledge, memories (real or imagined) or clever speculation about any of them, please Comment.
"Western" Bootlegs
A Dead bootleg called Box Of Rain, consisting of various tracks from 1970 and '71.

A Dead bootleg called The Cowboy's Dead, with material from the May 2 '70 show, broadcast on Pacifica radio. The lyrics to "The Other One" are handprinted on the front of the gatefold cover

An exotic bootleg from the May 2 '70 show broadcast on Pacifica. Side 1 was the "acoustic Dead," but side 2 was the New Riders with Garcia. The quality was terrible, but for decades it was the only proof I had that the NRPS set had actually been broadcast.

A Dead bootleg called Dire Wolf, The material was from the Fillmore East in April 1971

The back cover of a "Warlocks" bootleg. Side 1 is the "Emergency Crew" demo (Golden State Recorders Nov 3 '65), and side 2 is the Fall 66 demos with "Caution" etc. However, the cover says "May 3, 1965, Los Angeles, CA" which is completely wrong. I got this album about 1977 in Rasputin's in Berkeley.

The label to the Warlocks bootleg appears to be from an old Jimmy Reed album. There is no connection between the songs listed on the label and the album itself. This may have been a sort of security issue, to create deniability

Nights Of The Living Dead
The front cover of the bootleg Nights Of The Living Dead

The back cover to the bootleg Nights Of The Living Dead. The material is typical live 1970-71 material, except for the last track (#6, "Jet To The Promised Land")
The music on the above bootlegs are mere curiosities now, as we have all the material in better and more accessible formats. Nonetheless, I would love to know the stories behind each of them, whatever they were. Far and away the most intriguing story has to be the last one, Nights Of The Living Dead. All of the albums have what is now conventionally available material. Indeed, once I started accumulating tapes in the late 1970s, I rapidly superseded anything on my bootlegs. Of course, it took a few decades to catch up to the complete NRPS set from Binghamton, but that was a Riders issue, not a Dead one. One mystery remained, and indeed remains a peculiarity to this day.

All but one of the tracks on Nights Of The Living Dead were typical circulating material from 1970-71. The last track, however, was a poorly sourced studio version of Chuck Berry's "Promised Land," but sung by Jerry Garcia rather than Bob Weir. As I accumulated more and more tapes, I kept waiting for the Jerry-sung version of "Promised Land" to turn up, but it never did. Until 2005, when it turned up on Rare Cuts And Oddities, an archival album of old Owsley tapes which featured the band performing forgotten songs, mostly in rehearsal.

So with all the bootleggers using the same easily circulated material from FM broadcasts or Fillmore shows, one guy had access to an Owsley tape. And he only bootlegged one track? This is as true a mystery as we are going to find. Who got the tape from Owsley, or an intermediary, and why did they only include one song amidst an album of conventional live tracks? Unlike every other bootleg I purchased, there was some important connection behind Nights Of The Living Dead, and I would be very interested to find out what it was.

"Eastern" Bootlegs
Dark Star is an Eastern bootleg, purchased at Rasputin's in Berkeley, probably in early 1974 or '75 (for $2.00). It was an FM broadcast from Fall 71, with a great "Dark Star">"Me And My Uncle"
The Dark Star bootleg included what appears to have been a late 71 "Dark Star," with Keith Godchaux on piano. At this juncture, I have no interest in figuring out which show it was, but keep in mind that back in the mid-70s, it was literally impossible. There was no Deadbase, no Deadlists, no list of shows, much less setlists--we couldn't even guess what it was. Unlike the Western "gatefold" albums, it had a conventional white cover with a pasted-on sheet.

This album had a blank white cover, no title. The label says Mother Records, with the song titles. The material was from the July 2 '71 Fillmore West broadcast

This album too had no title, just a blank white cover. The label said T.H.C. Productions. The song titles were "best guess,"--"Got No Chance Of Losing This Time," "King Bee" and "Going Down The Road."
Some other albums had white covers that told nothing, not even a pasted cover sheet. Only the labels said anything, and they were intentionally cryptic. The music on these two albums whose labels are posted above is just from the Fillmore West July 2 '71 show. I have no idea whether these were widely circulated bootlegs somewhere, or just a tiny press run from some freak. Anyone who has any ideas, or amusing speculation, should mention it in the Comments.
This album isn't mine. It's a re-bootleg of the Hollywood Palladium bootleg, called Out West
Bootleg lps were often re-bootlegged. It's not like the bootleggers could sue. Sometimes, the liner notes were better. In the case of the Hollywood Palladium bootleg "released" as Out West, I can assure you it wasn't a West Coast bootleg. No Californian, Southern or Northern, would ever call a Dead show in California "out West." They weren't "out West," they were from the West. So someone from further East had to have named the bootleg.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

March 11, 1968 Civic Auditorium, Sacramento, CA: Cream/Grateful Dead (Monday Night Live)

A poster for the March 11, 1968 show at Sacramento Memorial Auditorium with Cream and The Grateful Dead.
Cream, with Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, was one of the most important bands in the history of rock music. They showed the music world that great musicians could play great music, and it could be just as popular with fans as catchy pop songs. Cream was loud, their songs were long, and they gave no quarter. It turned out that the music world was ready for them before the record industry, and Cream made every record company let bands who could play make their music, because money could be made. Up until Cream, rock was dance music or pop music, but after Cream rock music could be just as serious as jazz, but just as popular as rock. The door was opened for the Grateful Dead, Santana, Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake and Palmer and a dozen other hugely popular bands that played serious music.

While the Dead benefited from Cream's general effect on the music industry, because the Dead were from San Francisco, they had a much more personal connection with Cream. On Cream's first two seminal American tours, they started in San Francisco. Jerry Garcia saw Cream at least twice in their first two-week run at the Fillmore in Summer 1967, and Garcia and Hart saw Cream at Winterland in March 1968. Their praise for Cream could not have been higher. However, unlike most other Fillmore bands or American 60s rock headliners, the Grateful Dead actually opened for Cream in their prime. This post will look at what is known about the performance by Cream and the Grateful Dead at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium on Monday, March 11, 1968.

Fresh Cream, the band's debut album, released in December 1966 on Atco.
Cream, Fillmore Auditorium, August 1967
It is difficult to overstate the importance of Cream to rock music in the 1960s. Not only were they a staggeringly popular group, Cream all but singlehandedly made instrumental virtuosity attractive to rock fans, and elevated great rock musicians to a status similar to great jazz musicians. It was probably going to happen anyway, but it happened in San Francisco at the Fillmore Auditorium in August 1967, and it permanently enshrined the Fillmore as the center of what was happening in 60s rock.

Cream had formed in England in 1966, and their debut album Fresh Cream was released on Atco Records in December of that year. Still, there wasn't any kind of hit single from that record. Eric Clapton was known both from early Yardbirds singles, like "For Your Love," and the great album with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. However, that was still an insider thing amongst musicians and hipsters, as Clapton had never toured America. In June of 1967, Cream had released a single from the sessions for their forthcoming album, "Strange Brew" backed by "Tales Of Brave Ulysses." The record was a huge step forward, and Eric Clapton's guitar playing cut like a knife. The single got some AM rock airplay around the country, even if it wasn't a giant hit.

In mid-1967, however, the San Francisco rock market was different, because it had FM rock radio. KMPX-fm had gone on the air in February of '67, and by April the station was playing rock 24/7. It didn't matter that Cream had no hit singles, because KMPX played album tracks. Cream was getting heavy airplay on KMPX, so they were a hit act in San Francisco long before anywhere else in the country. Cream had played one special show in New York in March of '67, but up until the Summer of '67 their touring had otherwise been confined to the United Kingdom. Bill Graham had his ear to the ground, and thanks to KMPX he knew something was happening with them. Thus he booked Cream for 12 dates over two weeks at the Fillmore Auditorium, an unprecedented booking for a band without a hit single.
Cream on stage at the Fillmore in the Summer of 1967 (from the BackWhenRadioWasBoss site)
August 22-27, 1967 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA: Butterfield Blues Band/Cream/Southside Sound System
August 29-September 3, 1967 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA: Cream/Electric Flag/Gary Burton Quartet
Bill Graham would have arranged the Summer booking for Cream in May or June of '67, when he must have known they were hot, but still with no idea how huge they would become. The bookings for both weeks were a 60s guitar extravaganza. The putative headline act for the first week was The Butterfield Blues Band, perennial San Francisco favorites. Guitarist Mike Bloomfield had left the band a few months earlier, but Elvin Bishop ably held down the lead guitar chores, and a young David Sanborn now led the horn section. Butterfield had headlined the Fillmore many times already, and was a proven commodity. The opening act for the first week was another band of white Chicago bluesmen, the Southside Sound System, who featured Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica and the great Harvey Mandel on guitar. Both men would stay in San Francisco after the Fillmore shows and become regulars on the scene.

For the second week, the other headliner was The Electric Flag, Mike Bloomfield's new band. At this point, the Flag had only played once, at the Monterey Pop Festival, and they had released no recordings. However, Bloomfield was the first American Guitar Hero, so his new band was a big deal, even if no one had heard it. The opening act was a New York jazz-rock group called the Gary Burton Quartet, featuring Larry Coryell on guitar. I don't have time to go into it here, but suffice to say that Coryell was and is as great as any American electric guitarist. And yet Cream were the featured attraction, and anyone in San Francisco who hadn't heard of Eric Clapton before he played the Fillmore sure heard about it afterwards.

English rock bands were always challenged when they came to the Fillmore. Of course, the light show, braless hippies girls and available weed were worthy of fond memories, but that wasn't what made the the Fillmore difficult. In England, although the gigging was constant and the fans discerning, even popular rock bands mostly played 30 minute sets, perhaps 40 at the most. Even if a band played multiple sets in a night, the house would be turned over, so a working band always put their best foot forward for each crowd, generally playing the same numbers.

At the Fillmore, however, while all the acts played two sets, the house did not change. Graham used to warn popular bands that he expected two one-hour sets and that the audience stayed, so everyone would expect a different second set.This could panic a band used to playing 30 minute sets. When The Who learned this on their first Fillmore trip (June 16-17 '67), they had sent their manager out to the record store, and spent the afternoon practicing songs off their own albums in their hotel room. When Cream heard they were supposed to do two hours, they didn't know what they were going to do, since unlike The Who, they didn't have a backlog of singles and albums to draw from.

Cream's solution to extending their set was to play the same songs, but to add long improvised sections. Jack Bruce has famously said that Eric Clapton was a great jazz player, but that he didn't like it and had to be forced. He was forced now. Cream had a small number of tunes, and Bruce and Baker were going to jam like crazy, so Eric had no choice but to improvise and try and stay on top of them. He did, of course, and rock guitar was never the same again.

In England, and indeed in many venues on their '67 American tour, Clapton and Bruce played through their Marshall amps, and Baker played unamplified, or perhaps with one drum mic (which tells you how loud he was). There was often no PA except for the vocals, which were drowned out. But the Fillmore was different in this way as well. The Fillmore had an excellent in-house PA, with a trained sound crew, so the Marshalls, the drums and the vocals blasted out to the back wall of the Fillmore. If you are lucky enough to go the Fillmore today--still in great shape, more or less original, and still the best place to see anybody--stand in the tiny auditorium and imagine what it was like to hear Eric Clapton at the height of his powers roared through blues changes as Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker played a thunderous hurricane--three instruments, all equal, all loud, all driving, the sound of the future, right there in the Summer of 1967.

 (L-R) Nick Gravenites, Mike Bloomfield, Buddy Miles, Harvery Brooks and the Electric Flag on stage at the Fillmore, opening for Cream, August 29, 1967 (from the great Mike Bloomfield archival site). Note the low height of the stage.
Cream, The Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia, August 1967
When Cream came to town, all the San Francisco musicians had to go see them. Conveniently, instead of one or two weekend shows when other musicians may have been working, Cream played at the Fillmore Tuesday through Sunday for two consecutive weeks, playing early and late sets every time. Anyone who wanted to find the time to see them did so. Garcia definitely did, and he was effusive in his praise for the band in a late '67 interview.
I would say the Cream are damn near the best group there is... Their music is really strong. I mean, really strong... They're much better musicians than Jimi Hendrix... You should have seen them at the Fillmore...cause they played with a lot of very heavy bands. They played with Gary Burton's band. They played with the Electric Flag. They played with Paul Butterfield's band and with Charlie Musselwhite's band. And they made them all sound pretty old-fashioned...
Garcia's comments about the other acts make it clear that he saw Cream at least once on both weeks. Garcia generally only went to concerts to see musicians that appealed to him, rather than just to hang out. So we can tell how important seeing Cream must have been, because we know how busy Garcia was for the week.

Garcia had spent the weekend of August 19 in Lake Tahoe, since the Dead played the Legion Hall in South Lake Tahoe on Saturday (Aug 19). Amazingly, Garcia and Mountain Girl actually went camping for a few days, but the Dead would return to Tahoe, this time to the North Shore, to play the Kings Beach Bowl the next weekend (Aug 25-26). On Monday August 28, the Dead and Big Brother had played a wake in Golden Gate Park for a Hells Angel (Chocolate George), and by the next weekend the Dead were playing at the Dance Hall in Rio Nido. Nonetheless, Garcia must have returned from Lake Tahoe in time to see Cream with Butterfield, and then excited enough to return the next week.

Cream was staying in Sausalito, near the waterfront. All the San Francisco musicians must have gone to hang out, and there are famous Jim Marshall photos of Jerry and Eric from right around then. Both of them are smiling genially, but there is no evidence that they played together. Apparently Clapton said (to an English paper) that the Dead were "the original ropeys," which Pete Townshend (in a later Rolling Stone interview) said was slang for "a drag," (I had this backwards: Clapton was polite about the Dead in a '68 Rolling Stone interviews, and it was Townshend who called them "ropeys" (a drag),so Clapton must not have been impressed with the Dead. Still, it was 1967, and he had not heard them live or jammed with Garcia, so probably Clapton just heard the first album and was nonplussed. In any case, although the friendly Clapton rarely criticized his fellow professionals, I don't think he was any kind of Dead fan. The opposite was the case for Garcia: Cream showed what was possible in instrumental rock music, and the Dead took note.

Keep in mind that the famous "Dark Star" rehearsal that Robert Hunter heard in Rio Nido was the weekend of September 3, and Cream had just burst open the doors of the instrumental possibilities of live rock music on stage. There was another connection to Cream as well, even though the timing is a bit obscure: Owsley. Rhoney Gissen describes in some detail having dinner with Owsley, Jack Bruce and his wife Janet Godfrey. It's unclear whether it took place in Summer '67 or March '68, but I think it was back in the Summer, and in any case, the initial connection must have been then. Thus, the Grateful Dead had social connections to Cream that weren't overtly based on sharing a bill or a recording studio. Eric Clapton, Jerry Garcia, Owsley: a strange brew indeed, and the music world is a better place for it.

Cream's second album, Disraeli Gears, released on Atco in December 1967
February 29-March 3, 1968 Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Cream/Big Black/Loading Zone (Mar 3-Fillmore)
March 7-10, 1968, Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Cream/James Cotton Blues Band/Blood, Sweat & Tears/Jeremy & The Satyrs (Mar 7 Fillmore)
When Cream returned to San Francisco six months later, it was certified event. Never mind two weeks at the Fillmore--now Cream would headline six weekend shows at the 5400 seat Winterland, an unprecedented booking, with two shows at the Fillmore thrown in (on Sunday Mar 3 and Thursday Mar 7). There were opening acts, but none of them were major bands, since Cream was going to sell all the tickets. Blood, Sweat & Tears was a new band at this time, still fronted by Al Kooper, and while James Cotton was probably a big name to Eric Clapton, he was not a big Fillmore draw. The other acts were even less well-known, as they were just there to provide something to listen to while fans filed in and bought popcorn. The setlists (see Appendix 2 below) suggest that the regular formula was probably followed, with Cream playing the 3rd and 6th (or, for the second week, 4th and 7th) sets of the night.

In December 1967, Atco had released the second Cream album, Disraeli Gears. It was a revelation. Recorded in New York with Felix Pappalardi and Tom Dowd, it had the crisp sound of Booker T and The MGs supercharged with maximum volume and Owsley-inspired pyrotechnics. There was a modest AM hit with the song "Sunshine Of Your Love," but it didn't matter. People bought the album for all the tracks, and Disraeli Gears sold and sold and sold. Atlantic Records had never seen anything like it. A gold album without a serious hit was unprecedented. Sure, the single got a little play and there was that weird FM station in San Francisco, but only jazz albums sold without airplay. And in pop terms, jazz records sold peanuts. Here was a sophisticated rock group selling truckloads of albums without any of the conventional superstructure. Suddenly, record companies looked at seemingly uncommercial groups like the Grateful Dead or Quicksilver Messenger Service and thought "maybe there is a way we can sell some records after all."

Garcia and other members of the Dead were not going to miss Cream at Winterland. The first weekend, the Dead had two shows in an obscure venue in Walnut Creek (March 1-2 at Clifford's), and the second weekend they were in Southern California, opening for the Jefferson Airplane at Disneyland (March 8-9 Melodyland). In between they were at Coast Recorders with Dan Healy, struggling with making sense of the tapes they had made for Anthem Of The Sun. However, that left Garcia and the others some chances to catch Cream, either at the late set on the weekends or on one of the Thursday or Sunday nights.

Garcia made a point of going, as recalled by Mickey Hart in a 1981 interview with John Platt (quoted by David Gans and Blair Jackson):
We walked into [Winterland] right as [Cream drummer Ginger Baker] was getting into his solo. It was amazing. I turned to Jerry and said 'They have to be the best band in the world," and he said 'Tonight, they are the best band in the world." 
This would have been a few days before the band opened for Cream at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, on Monday, March 11.

The Sacramento Memorial Auditorium at 1515 J Street, in March 2009
Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, 1515 J Street, Sacramento, CA
Sacramento was California's Capital city and it was located in the center of the state, at the junction of the Sacramento and American Rivers. The Sacramento area had been the heart of the Gold Rush, and the two rivers sent the agricultural bounty of California's Central Valley down the Sacramento to the San Francisco Bay and beyond. In 1854, Sacramento was made the permanent capital of the state, succeeding Vallejo and Monterey. It was a good compromise between the agricultural center of the state and the booming, sinful vortex of San Francisco. When Los Angeles arose as an important economic counterweight to San Francisco in the early 20th century, Sacramento's central location was also very politically advantageous.

Befitting the capital city of a booming state, Sacramento opened the Memorial Auditorium downtown at 1515 J Street in February, 1927. It had a capacity of 3,687, huge for the time. The Sacramento rock market in the 60s wasn't large, but it's proximity to San Francisco made it an attractive "extra" booking for bands touring on the West Coast. Bay Area Fillmore bands tended to play the two colleges, at either UC Davis or Sacramento State College. The relatively larger touring bands would play the larger Sacramento Memorial Auditorium. The Rolling Stones had played the Auditorium three times (Sep 30 '64, May 23 '65 and a double show on Dec 3 '65), and the Yardbirds had played there twice in 1966 (Jan 8 and Sep 7). Subsequently, bands like Herman's Hermits (July 16 '67 with The Who), The Doors (Dec 15 '67) and the Vanilla Fudge (Jan 19 '68 with The Fifth Dimension) had all headlined there. In 1968, Cream was the biggest rock act actually touring, so it was appropriate that they would play the Memorial Auditorium, the biggest venue in the Central Valley.

A poster for an early light show by Sacramento's Simultaneous Avalanche, at the Governor's Hall on May 12, 1967
The Simultaneous Avalanche, Lake Tahoe and The Sacramento Scene
The Grateful Dead had played shows in Sacramento and Davis, but they had another connection to the Sacramento fans through the now-forgotten rock scene at Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe was the premier resort for all of Northern California, and from Memorial Day through Labor Day it was packed with Northern California teenagers. In the mid-60s, Lake Tahoe had rock shows several nights a week, since every night was Saturday night for vacationing teens. Various San Francisco bands found out they could get good bookings when they weren't playing the Fillmore or Avalon, so there were a lot of cool shows up at Tahoe, at several different venues. In Summer 1967, the Grateful Dead had played both the South Shore (at the Legion Hall on August 19) and two nights at the North Shore (at Kings Beach Bowl August 25-26). Many of the teens seeing the shows were from the Sacramento area, so the Dead had plenty of fans in the area, even when they hadn't played Sacramento much.

Some of the Tahoe crowd had a light show called Simultaneous Avalanche. When they returned to Sacramento in the Fall, they started organizing shows in the area. Most famously, they put on a Big Brother show at the gym in Sacramento State on January 6, 1968 and a Jimi Hendrix Experience there on February 8, 1968. So there was definitely a growing psychedelic rock scene in the area. Cream was a certified event, larger than any other touring rock band at the time, but thanks to the Simulataneous Avalanche crowd, Sacramento had a psychedelic tinge to it as well.

March 11, 1968 Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, Sacramento, CA: Cream/Grateful Dead
Various groups opened for Cream in 1968, but the Grateful Dead were among the most prominent of the time. This speaks well of the band's willingness to put music first, and not to be concerned with whether there own status as headliners would be diminished by opening for a bigger act. We do not have a tape, but apparently the Dead played a pretty spirited set to open the show (see the setlist below). As a remarkable footnote, Deadbase reports that they were joined by Tom Constanten for this show, a foretaste of the Live/Dead era a year early. Gans and Jackson rescue another quote from a John Platt interview with Mickey Hart (Comstock Lode magazine, #9, Autumn 1981)
MICKEY HART: We invited them to play with us. We played Sacramento, and Kreutzmann and I really got up for it. We were the best band in the world that night. Ginger got crazy, and they blew out every speaker on the first note. They were trying to reach our intensity. We got our equipment guys to roll our equipment out. It was so clear, it scared the shit out of Clapton--they were used to feeding back through all their Marshall [amps]. (p106)
Hart's memory that the Dead invited Cream to play with them is touching, but probably completely divorced from reality. The Cream at Sacramento would have been booked 30 to 60 days before it was held, and Cream would have been in England. Cream was also the hottest touring act in the country, and did not have to accept "invitations" from any locally popular bands anywhere. Furthermore, the Dead would have had no chance of booking a profitable show on a Monday night in Sacramento--the show had to have been booked by Cream's booking agency well in advance. The poster (above) had to be printed weeks in advance too, so it was no last-minute booking.

Now, Monday night shows are traditionally poorly-attended, and their may have been some anxiety from Cream's management about the crowd, so booking a locally popular band as an opener was a good hedge. Not so much that people would see the Dead without wanting to see Cream--every rock fan wanted to see Cream--but that adding the Dead would make it a can't-miss-even-on-a-Monday event. And the Dead probably did have their own back channels to Cream's booking agent, and probably made it clear that they were willing to be a support act rather than a headliner, but that's a far cry from "inviting" Cream.

The interesting detail that Hart adds has to do with the sound system. Cream was unhappy with their sound on tour in most places, since they did not bring their own PA. At Sacramento, they may have simply been using their Marshalls for amplification. If some fuses were blown out, it stands to reason that Owsley and the crew would plug in the Dead's PA, which was probably still on stage. The Dead's live sound was so superior to other bands that it probably did surprise Clapton to hear no feedback with his guitar maxed out. This event was a sort of precursor to a similar, larger episode when the Rolling Stones would play the Oakland Coliseum Arena 18 months later, when the Dead offered their gear for the second set after the Stones Ampeg gear was blown out.

Did Cream blow out their gear because they were trying to match the intensity of the Grateful Dead's set? No Cream member has ever mentioned it. There's no guarantee that any of the trio were even listening to the opening set. Given what the Dead apparently played, it would have been Bruce or Baker who would have been impressed, rather than Clapton. Baker would have liked the free double drumming of "That's It For The Other One," although he probably would have thought "I could do both parts." Bruce would have liked the complex, orchestrated music of songs like "Born Cross-Eyed," even if his classical training would have been nonplussed by the inorganic structure. Clapton was a purer bluesman playing with two aggressive jazzers, and would have preferred a long version of "Lovelight" or "King Bee"--the Dead weren't going to do "Spoonful"--but the Dead weren't in that mode that night in Sacramento, so the only time we know Clapton could have seen the Dead he must have written them off, if he even heard them.
Wheels Of Fire, Cream's hugely successful double album, released on Atco in June 1968. One lp was a studio recording, and the other was recorded live at Winterland in March 1968.

1968 was a whirlwind of activity for both Cream and the Grateful Dead, and afterwards the show just filed itself into the zeitgeist. Cream headed South, first to the Selland Arena in Fresno (Wednesday March 13) and then a weekend at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles (March 15-16), then on Eastwards to fame and legend. Their next album, the double-lp Wheels Of Fire, featured a live album from Winterland in March. Cream stunned the industry again by having record sales for a double album with no single, much of it consisting of long instrumental jamming. Cream paved the way for groups like the Grateful Dead (and Pink Floyd and a dozen others) to make serious rock albums like Live/Dead, because Cream had show record companies that great live music was no barrier to successful record sales.

The Grateful Dead's month was equally frantic. Amidst all this, they were opening the Carousel Ballroom and competing directly with Bill Graham and Chet Helms. The band would return to the Carousel for three nights in the forthcoming weekend (March 15-17). They too would then head east to fame and legend, if on a slower track than Cream. Yet Cream's presence and music had a big effect on both Jerry Garcia and the Dead.

In September 1967, the Dead started rehearsing "Dark Star," added Robert Hunter as lyricist and added Mickey Hart as a second drummer. "Dark Star" is a long way from Cream's "Spoonful," but it's virtuoso music for serious listening, and Cream had made that possible. Cream did not generally write their own lyrics, a subject I have not even discussed here, as they were written by poet Pete Brown, and that was another way in which Garcia was emulating them (although I think Procol Harum was an equally big influence in that respect). Finally, Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady was also enamored of Cream, and Garcia and Casady played around with the idea of forming their own power trio. There's even a tape, from Rancho Olompali on July 28, 1968. The idea never really went anywhere, I think for practical reasons, but Cream inspired Jerry and Jack to try it on, and that's saying something.

The Dead would play Sacramento Memorial Auditorium four more times from 1970-79 (Dec 22 '70, Aug 12 '72, Jan 17 '78 and June 28 '79). Sacramento made a good weeknight booking or warm-up show, and by the end of the 70s plenty of Bay Area Deadheads were more than willing to make the two-hour drive, so the shows did good business. By the 1980s, however, the Dead simply got too big for Sacramento Memorial, and the building closed in 1986. Still, the Dead did great business in Sacramento in much bigger venues. Nonetheless, however many good shows there were at Cal Expo, none of them would have been like seeing the 1968 lineup firing on all twelve cylinders, trying to show the mighty Cream that they were contenders too. Here's to hoping that someone, somewhere, has some pictures or memories that will bring the event into clearer focus.

Appendix 1: Grateful Dead setlist March 11, 1968
Deadbase shows a setlist for March 11, 1968. I don't know the source, and there is no evidence of a tape. Sounds like a great set, however, and it fits Mickey Hart's description of an intense performance.
Cryptical Envelopment > Other one > Cryptical Envelopment > New Potato Caboose > Born Cross-Eyed > Caution (Do Not Stop on tracks) Jam. [w/Tom Constanten]

Goodbye Cream, released in 1969 after the band had done their farewell tour.
Appendix 2: Cream setlists
There was a Cream setlist from the Fillmore for Sunday, September 3, 1967. This must be based on an audience tape. I do not know if this was the early set or the late set. There may have been some different songs throughout the booking, but Cream did not have that many songs at the time, so most nights were probably pretty similar to this.
  • Spoonful
  • Tales of brave Ulysses
  • Sunshine of your love
  • Sweet wine
  • N.S.U.
  • Lawdy mama
  • Sleepy time time
  • Steppin' out
There are setlists from March 8 and 9 at Winterland. These two appear to be based on audience tapes. The shows were professionally recorded by Atlantic Records, and were the basis for the live sides of Wheels Of Fire, but the complete sets have not been released to my knowledge.

A bootleg cream cd recorded from the March 1968 Winterland shows
March 8 '68 setlist Winterland
I do not know whether this is a combination of both sets, or if the band played one long set.
  • Cat Squirrel
  • Sunshine of your love
  • Spoonful
  • Traintime
  • I'm so glad
  • Toad
  • Hideaway
  • Crossroads
  • Sleepy Time Time
  • Tales of brave Ulysses
  • We're going wrong
  • Steppin' out

March 9 '68 setlist Winterland

The setlist for March 9 seems to indicate two sets, and they do "Toad" twice.

First Show

  • Tales of brave Ulysses
  • N.S.U.
  • Sleepy time time
  • Crossroads
  • Sweet wine
  • Toad

Second Show

  • Spoonful
  • Sunshine of your love
  • Sitting on top of the world
  • N.S.U.
  • I'm so glad
  • Toad
The setlists are from the great German site Slowhand Tourography.