Dec 25, 2012

February 1975 Newsletter

Dear Dead People:

As you read this, the Grateful Dead will be in the studio recording a new album. You've no doubt heard the Dead are taking an indefinite break from touring. The reason for this is simply that the megagig form is sort of bankrupt; devoid of dignity for either the listener or the player. There are three plans under study which could make it possible for the band to perform. The fact is the Dead won't go out again unless the situation is groovey.

As an ongoing creative organization, there are several things we should be doing:

I. Expand the quality in all areas in which we interface with our own means of expression.
a. Films
b. Records
c. Musical Performance
d. Life
II. Remember to go after the big one-------all limitations are self-imposed.
III. Bring on tomorrow (at least be helpful) our emphasis in this regard is going into holography about which Anton Round will have some words in this same communique.

A description of the activities of each band member will give the clearest picture of how we move toward these goals.


Jerry along with Merl Saunders on organ, John Kahn on bass, Martine Fierro [sic] on saxophone and flute, and Ron Tutt on drums, have formed the "Legion of Mary", a band that gigs on a rather regular basis. "Legion of Mary" is planning to play all the major cities in '75.
Jerry just finished producing Robert Hunter's new album, "Tiger Rose". He played the guitar, the pen and the voice on the "Keith & Donna" album, guitar and vocals on the Ned Lagin & Phil Lesh album, "Seastones". He just finished producing a Blue Grass album called "Pistol Packin' Mama" which was a session of Blue Grass giants, Chubby Wise, fiddle; Don Reno, banjo; Frank Wakefield, mandolin; Dave Nelson, guitar; Pat Campbell, bass. You'll find it on Round Records sometime in the Spring, it's a continuation of Jerry's interest in Blue Grass evidenced by the "Old & In The Way" album.
Garcia has undertaken the responsibility of supervising the editing of the Grateful Dead movie shot at the last five night gig at Winterland in San Francisco. The film should be released sometime before Christmas.
In his spare time he's preparing material for a solo album which will be recorded in the Spring and released in the Summer.


Keith & Donna recently finished an album appropriately called "Keith & Donna". The cover is a photo of their now one year old son, Zion Rock. Interesting because we consider the musical form Neo-Gospel.
Keith & Donna are going to be performing before too long and have, for some reason, asked us not to say any more about it. They have been getting into working on the completion of the film.


Billy has been doing studio work with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. He's going to be playing with Steven Stills on his solo album.
In addition, Bill has gotten involved in trying to make a given amount of land yield more produce through Hydroponics. Hydroponics being the science of growing plants in solutions or moist inert materials containing the necessary nutrients instead of in soil. Bill's current theory is that 18" square can yield 1 1/2 tons of alfalfa. We, of course, are interested in the outcome of his experiments since the implications are incredible.


Phil along with Ned Lagin are taking their art slowly but surely to the further reaches of its limitations which, of course, are impossible for the human intelligence to define. Fortunately, they have been invited to share the capacities of the world's largest artificial intelligence network. Not understanding any of this is unimportant because over a period of time a body of work will be produced which your own senses will make clear. "Seastones" is, of course, the first of these works.


Bobby is working locally in Northern California with a band named "Kingfish" consisting of Robbie Hoddinott, lead guitar; Matthew Kelley, harp; Dave Torbert, bass guitar; Chris Herold, drums. "Kingfish" will be playing many cities later this year.
Bob has been working hard on the completion of his studio which is being christened now by the Grateful Dead. He's also preparing material for his solo album which will be out in the Summer.

These changes have caused us to make major shifts in our structures, we employ far fewer people now and do everything as economically as possible; including the operating of this communication network. While we can't handle things as personally as before, we will keep in touch somewhat regularly using the magic of computerization. We'll also make available, at a reasonable price, the stuff you most often request.

The Grateful Dead record being worked on now is planned to take a longer time than usual so that these additional activities can have the attention they need and so that fresh input to the Dead can result in ? ? ? ? ? ?

Grateful Dead Records

P.S. If you change address, we need the old and the new.

* * * * *

Dear Dead Folks,

Enclosed you'll find samplers of our new offerings. This time they're really collector's items since only the Old & In The Way cuts are the same as the ones on the album. Just a few words about each. The first two will be out by mid February and the second two around mid March.

"Old & In The Way" features
Vassar Clements - Fiddle
Jerry Garcia - Banjo
David Grisman - Mandolin
John Kahn - Bass
Peter Rown - Guitar
Playing America's own musical form, Blue Grass, recorded live by Owsley Stanley.

The "Keith & Donna" sampler contains what's called a rough mix of "Every Song I Sing" in order to show how vastly different a final mix is from a rough. The album has 9 songs; 7 written and produced by Keith & Donna, and features performances of a bunch of our old friends like Garcia, Merl Saunders, John Kahn and a host of new friends all listed clearly on the back of the album.

Robert Hunter's "Tiger Rose" sampler has the title cut and a song by his cat (that's what he told us) called "Talking Money Tree"; the album was recorded at Mickey Hart's studio and produced by old iron fist in velvet glove, Jerry Garcia.

"Seastones", the Ned Lagin and Phil Lesh sampler contains only the basic structure of this portion of the piece. You'll be blown away by the difference. The music is interestng as it's really a union of music, biology and physics. The effect that it's having on the studio personnel and musicians is amazing. It makes people act as if they were high (exactly as Ned predicted years ago). I believe the word is stoning. The album will have vocals by David Crosby, Grace Slick, Jerry Garcia and David Freiberg.

We hope you'll enjoy these samplers. Last time we mailed out free samplers, so many people wrote to say thanks it thrilled us (a mail truck came to our office with a truck load of thanks). Now, however, with the Dead off the road and the necessary personnel cutbacks, we can't handle the thank you notes.

Instead of writing us, please just play these sides for 15 people who haven't heard them; have a party!

When he heard that this request was being made, Garcia said "these are our folks, don't try to get them to do anything without telling them why." We ask you to do this so that we can sell enough of these albums to be able to finance our next major step: the replacement of records and tapes as musical reproduction forms and the change over to holographically encoding our music on a one inch pyramid to be read by an optical fiber. This would have the advantage of no surface noise, no pops, scratches, skips or any of the baloney about present day records and tapes. The pyramid's musical quality wouldn't change until it is broken clean through which wouldn't be easy even on purpose.

Technically, it is possible to make a small player (same size as two packs of cigarettes) to retail in stores for about $13.00. Of course, we have lots of music to listen to over such a device, and the pyramids would cost no more than a record and perhaps less.

Another important reason for our doing this is realizing the other potentials of holography, such as retraining the eyes of people who wear glasses, or getting more efficient in terms of energy usage (Einstein's formula E=MC2 means one pound of coal per month should supply the entire energy requirement of the U.S.) or dozens of other potentials so farout it's dangerous to write them down.

The first step is the one we're closest to now--music better presented than anyone ever thought possible. To do this we only have two things to depend on:
I. Our good music.
II. Your sincere effort.
We'll do our part and know you'll do yours.

See ya!
Anton Round


  1. Just a few brief notes on these records -

    Grateful Dead Records and Round Records were, theoretically, two different organizations (though Garcia & Rakow headed both). GD Records handled strictly the Dead's releases (and put out 4 albums from '73-76), while Round Records handled solo projects (and put out 10 albums from '74-76).
    There being no new Dead records to announce, this newsletter focuses on the side-releases of Round Records.

    In mid-'74, Round Records had sent out samplers of Hunter's Tales of the Great Rum Runners and Garcia's Compliments, mentioned here. ( misdates the samplers as June '75.)
    They had a whole flurry of records ready at the beginning of 1975:

    OAITW had been recorded back in October '73 live shows, and the band was long since defunct by '75; I'm not sure what was the stimulus for putting it out then, but Grisman was hired to put it together from Owsley's tapes, and it was released in February. Unfortunately, Grisman apparently never received any royalties from the record, and stopped talking to Garcia for years.
    "Keith & Donna" (mostly recorded at the Godchauxs' house) was released in March. Neo-gospel it may be, but it was not a hit. They played shows through the rest of 1975, sometimes with Garcia.
    "Tiger Rose" was also released in March - I'm not sure whether Robert Hunter did any live performances in 1975, though by '76 he was playing with a band.
    "Seastones" was recorded in February '75 and released in April. Despite the hyperbole here, it was apparently a low-priority, low-promotion release for Round Records and disappeared shortly after release, which really bugged Ned Lagin - even Lesh called the deal "a rip-off." There were a couple live Seastones shows that year, though, before Lagin quit his involvement with the Dead.

    Other albums were not ready for release yet.
    It's puzzling that as of February '75, this says that Garcia has just finished producing the "Pistol Packin' Mama" album and it was due in the spring - but it wasn't released until March 1976. I'm not sure what caused the delay.

    Garcia was due to start recording another solo album in January (as noted in his Nov '74 interview); and Weir was also supposed to record a solo album, as mentioned here.
    But "preparing material" for these albums turned out to take longer than expected. Weir spent the winter finishing work on his home studio; then the Dead started work on Blues for Allah in February, which consumed them for several months.
    Garcia recorded Reflections from August-November '75, and it was released in Feb '76.
    Weir meanwhile was working with Kingfish - their album was recorded at the end of '75 and released in March '76.

    Mickey Hart is noticeably absent from the lineup here. I think as of Feb '75, it was not certain whether he would be rejoining the Dead or not, and that was worked out during the album sessions.
    At any rate, in '75 he was also working with the Diga Rhythm Band, which recorded an album at his studio, released on Round Records in March '76.

  2. This was very much a "family" label - every band involved was Dead-related, even if they seem disparate on the surface. (Garcia played on practically everything but the Kingfish, and even tried his hand at producing.)
    David Nelson (of NRPS) was in the Good Old Boys bluegrass band, and Dave Torbert (also formerly of NRPS) was in Kingfish. (Nelson, Torbert, Chris Herold & Matt Kelly had all previously been in the New Delhi River Band.)
    There was some live cross-pollinization too. Kelly played harmonica in the Dead's 9/28/75 show - Garcia played with the Diga Rhythm Band on 5/30/75, and with Keith & Donna several times, and even played live with the Good Old Boys in Feb '75, and in an almost-full-band Seastones show on 6/6/75 - Keith & Donna also toured with Kingfish in the fall of '75.

    There's an odd mention that Keith & Donna are "working on the completion of the film." Overdubs on the Winterland tapes, perhaps? (Lagin found there were many problems with his tracks, and decided to bow out of the film rather than do overdubs.)

    As for Kreutzmann, his involvement with CSN&Y is doubtful since they did not do any recording in '75 (they were in one of their splitups), nor is he credited on Stills' solo album that year, or on Crosby & Nash's. In fact I don't think he'd played with those guys since the PERRO sessions in '71.

    The holographic pyramids must have sounded far-fetched, but it's clearly the same idea as the CD - the invention of small "optical audio discs" started in 1974, and the first ones were made a few years later.
    CDs are, at any rate, easier to store than stacks of little pyramids would be! And no one yet knew what "the magic of computerization" would lead to...

  3. In McNally's book p.485, he quotes from a 1/27/75 Grateful Dead Records letter to select deadheads, which must have gone out along with this newsletter.
    I don't have it so it wasn't included in the main post (it may be quite incomplete), but here I'll quote from McNally -

    Dear Guerrilla:
    You, along with the Dead Heads, will be getting within a few weeks a major communication from us. Since you are our advance guard, a little advance word... We want you to organize and communicate with each other so that you can help us take this trip to a dramatically higher level...but further it's a possibility, if remote, that the Dead may play in spots with advance notice to you guys as the only announcement (organization is, therefore, essential). "Big Steve" Parrish, one of our most energetic brothers, has volunteered to be the main guerrilla contact point. He can be reached at Box 548 Stinson Beach, California 94970. We realize that this message is vague, but this is heavy water we're treading in strange times and we've learned "loose lips sinks ships."
    God Love Ya! -- Grateful Dead Records

    (This idea would be expanded on in their next letter to deadheads.)

  4. Steve Brown (one of the GD Records crew) wrote in his article on Round Records:
    "The holographic music pyramid - one of the best hoaxes I've been proud to be associated with. Based on theoretical concepts of that time, the idea of encoding Dead music on a one-inch pyramid to be read by an optical fiber seemed to be plausible. In one of our...newsletters, we stated that the Dead would be attempting to come out with this new musical reproduction form, and actual scientists in the holographic field became more than curious about our heretofore unheard-of efforts in this new medium. Of course Rakow had made a one-inch model of this wondrous little pyramid, which he didn't hesitate to grandly produce at the slightest provocation. Just about the time when we thought our cheeks could no longer stand the pressure from our tongues, some Deadhead scientist in New York working with holography reported back to us that he had made preliminary progress on a similar device and wished to speak with our researchers..."
    ("If I Told You All That Went Down," in Golden Road, summer '86)

    Ah well, it sounded just like something the wild-eyed Dead would try; guess it'll have to be filed along with Bill's hydroponics experiments and alternate CSN&Y career!

    Brown also notes that the Dead tried checking out 3-D holographic art for their album covers, but it was too expensive to consider...