Feb 20, 2012

October 1966: Crawdaddy Review


(From an article on the top underground bands in San Francisco, "particularly the Grateful Dead, who can be considered nothing short of fantastic.")

The Grateful Dead are rapidly gaining prominence and ascending from their underground status to a position close to the Airplane. Most local dance-concert attendees, when confronted with a question about the Dead, will mention "Midnight Hour." The Dead's closing number is usually Wilson Pickett's blockbuster, and it is transformed into a type of half-hour (sometimes longer) "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love," performed by the Dead's organist Pig Pen. (A recent concert featured "Midnight Hour" performed by a joint "Grateful-Airplane" with the assistance of Joan Baez and Mimi Farina.)
"Midnight Hour" is not the Dead at their best. They are a hard blues-rock band, a powerhouse unit of organ, drums, and three guitars. Their best accomplishments are Pig Pen's gutsy version of "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" (with fantastic controlled harp work), "The Creeper," "Empty Heart," and "Smokestack Lightning" (both now performed only by special request), and an unbelievable grooving piece about "Born in Jackson" (supposedly written by rhythm player Bob Weir). "Sitting on Top of the World" jumps, and "Dancing in the Streets" is a railroad trip.
Jerry Garcia's lead work is exciting, sustained genius. Bill Sommers is the Bay Area's best drummer. Their repertoire is chiefly city blues, some old folk and early rock, with some strong originals. A single is to be issued shortly. A Grateful Dead album is being re-prepared (a first effort was discarded). The group has a $10,000 sound system. The Grateful Dead figure to be important movers in imparting San Francisco's message to the world.

(by Gene Sculatti, from Crawdaddy, October 1966)
At some point it may be worth transcribing the full article, which also covers Jefferson Airplane (of course), the Great Society, and the Charlatans, with briefer mentions of Quicksilver Messenger Service, Sopwith Camel, Country Joe & the Fish, and others. It was reprinted in the Crawdaddy Book, 2002.


  1. The "Grateful-Airplane" Midnight Hour mentioned here was first written about by Ralph Gleason in the SF Chronicle, 7/20/66, in an article on the Fillmore Auditorium called "An Old Joint That's Really Jumpin'."
    He describes the Saturday 7/16/66 show:
    "The Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead loaded the [Fillmore] to capacity... The jammed house listened to a half-hour-long rendition of Wilson Pickett's Midnight Hour performed by the mass band and sung by Marty Balin (from the Airplane), Pigpen (from the Dead), Joan Baez and Mimi Farina. It was quite a night."

    Though I'd like to transcribe the whole article, now I can't remember where I saw it!

    I discussed these quotes in the comments to my "1966 Songs" post:

  2. Damn, that's another GD-Jeffersons crossing that I wasn't aware of. Very cool!

  3. John Wasserman mentions the 7/16/66 thing many years later, in reflecting on the Closing of the Fillmore West (and the end of the ballrooms), with one additional detail: "Joan Baez and Mimi Farina joining Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead for 30 minutes of 'Midnight Hour', singing and dancing, then, by themselves, doing 'Little Boy Blue' and turning the scruffy ballroom into a cathedral." (SFC 7/9/71 p. 45).

    1. That must have been quite a legendary Midnight Hour, to be mentioned in two articles that year and remembered by a local reporter five years later.... And yet, not on our tape of that show! Sigh....

  4. Unbelievably, I found ANOTHER print reference to the 7/16/66 Midnight Hour....this one written by Marty Balin himself, in an August 1967 article for Hit Parader called "Birth of the San Francisco Scene":

    "In San Francisco the Grateful Dead are doing blues; we're doing folk and commercial music. Everyone is doing their own thing. It's an honest scene.
    There's a lot of playing together and friendly competition. Like, "I wiped you out — ha ha." It's like the old musketeer days.
    Like, we did a concert with the Dead and we finished our second set with our version of 'Wait Till The Midnight Hour'. Then the Dead came out and opened their set with a long, extended blues version of 'Midnight Hour'. As soon as they finished, we came back on and joined them, and both of us did a completely improvisational wailing taking-off of 'Midnight Hour' together. Joan Baez got up and sang with us. Mimi Farina danced. It was wild. Things like that happen.
    There's lots of musical excitement. The people go crazy, the musicians get wilder, things happen, places stay open till four or five in the morning."

  5. may be the show Bill G refers to in this interview ('round the 12:00 mark):