Dec 24, 2012

November 12, 1974: Garcia Plays Boston


The Dead will be very much alive in Boston for the next couple of evenings - The Grateful Dead that is. If last night was any indication, the memory of the San Francisco rock group should be resurrected by a few thousand enthusiasts who will converge on Paul's Mall, tonight and tomorrow night, to see and hear ex-Dead man Jerry Garcia.
It wasn't a throng of fans who crammed into a sweltering basement last night, but a cult of worshippers. Even Garcia's rather long tune-up breathers between the marathon numbers were filled with cries of JERRY!!; sporadic outbursts of applause followed each tuning stroke.

He walked to the stage unannounced ahead of fellow musicians Merle Saunders on keyboards, Paul Humphrey on drums, John Kahn - bass, and Martin Fieno - sax. [sic] He began a two-hour opening set with a slow easy blues number, "It Ain't No Use."
Garcia has an intimate, almost whispering vocal style that manages to evoke the necessary emotion of a blues ballad without ever getting flustered or rattled. For want of another term, "laid back" might be an apt way to describe how the group limbered up with this first number.
There were traces of Elmore James and B.B. King in Garcia's guitar play. He is a study in relaxed concentration. His thick black hair and full beard draw you to the eyes beneath the glasses. Observers used to refer to "Jerry's cosmic stare," back in the days of The Dead, and it is indeed a very intense yet warm and confident look he exchanges with the audience and the members of the group he casually spars with.
The mood is low key. Garcia stands off to the right of center, leaving the focal point for Fieno, the colorful and extremely fluid sax man. "It Ain't No Use" grew to set the tone for the evening, for it wasn't too long into the number that Garcia started to spin off a rich myriad of chord progressions. But like a trio of stunt pilots, these instrumental flights were always flanked superbly by Saunders and Fieno.

Though the moods of the numbers changed from a tropical-jazz instrumental reminiscent of Stan Getz, to an expanded version of Smokey Robinson's "I Second That Emotion," a specific pattern was established.
Garcia would usually lead the instrumental leaps, always in tight rapport with Saunders on organ, bassist Kahn and Humphrey. Then he would give the floor to Saunders, for some sizzling, free-wheeling play. All the time Fieno, in the center, would be helping out on percussion as in the samba-like instrumental or "Second That Emotion," or he would be weaving like an Indian in a tribal dance. (His long pigtails beneath western hat made the image that much stronger.) Then it was Fieno's turn, punctuating each number with staccato attacks or long swelling drifts that always honed into aggressive outpourings.
Garcia has expanded from the rock past and his audience knew and appreciated this. His foundations now seem to lie in a jazz motif. Only the familiar Motown riff and the vocals bore any resemblance to Smokey's "Second That Emotion," for the jamming was a jazz showcase. Garcia's guitar was tickling, almost sarcastic sometimes, pacing Fieno's sax that was ready to explode.

Merle Saunders offered a beautifully accented version of Randy Newman's "Leave Your Hat On," his vocal delightfully sleazy. The wah, wah phrasing of Garcia's guitar and Saunders' loping electric piano blues gave the effect of a steam roller's steady, surging bustle.
That lazy, subdued vocal delivery of Garcia was again evident with "Are You Gonna Let Me Stand Alone." His guitar ran in the background of Saunders' organ work.
Garcia's style last night was light, but piercingly exact and fluid. He races along smoothly not particularly caring to accent his play with an abundance of vibrato or harping on repeated phrases.
With a serving up of an old Elvis tune, "Money Honey," it seemed to this viewer at least that Garcia crept back momentarily into the days of The Dead. Not only the guitar licks, but even the vocals seemed nicely similar to a classic Dead song - "Truckin'." The song was done in that same effortless, tumbling style.
"Train, Runnin' Down The Track," was the finale and you could most definitely feel that train rumbling through that basement. The cohesion was masterful, as it had been all evening, and the tempo was a relentless back and forth sound that brought those old steam cylinders into view.
Garcia and his management were mute about his current plans. Jerry Garcia is billed as the headliner, but a source noted that it is actually Garcia playing with Merl Saunders. More bluntly put, it's Jerry Garcia jamming with four excellent musicians and the results are worth bucking the legions of the dead.

(by Peter Gelzinis, from the Boston Herald American, November 13 1974)

* * * * *


The traffic began to back up on Boylston Street Tuesday night, and Boston drivers, never noted for their patience, were getting a bit testy. Cars were stopping, their occupants gaping at hundreds of scruffy kids lined up on the sidewalk, standing out in the cold and drizzly New England night.
"Hey, what's happening?" shouted a truck driver as his behemoth ground to a halt.
"We're waiting to get in," yelled a wet but smiling young woman as she pointed up to the marquee at Paul's Mall.
Noting that the sign was blank, the truck driver shook his head, mumbled something to himself and drove away.
The attraction was Jerry Garcia, lead guitarist for the Grateful Dead and father figure of the rock culture, whose appearance at the Back Bay bistro was to have been a well-kept secret.
Trouble is, you can't keep a secret from Deadheads, by far the most fanatical music fans alive. There was no advertising, no promotion, no names on the marquee. Garcia's drawing power is absolutely phenomenal. He is perhaps the only pop figure who plays and tours regularly and is still able to sell out his concerts through word-of-mouth alone.
The Dead are currently enjoying a one-year self-imposed "retirement" from the rigors of road work, but their leader has taken the opportunity to tour the country with some of his favorite musicians.
The three-night engagement which ends this evening was sold out instantly when word leaked out over a week ago, and the music played Tuesday night was not at all like vintage Dead material.
The band features Merl Saunders, the Bay area keyboard wizard with whom Garcia has already recorded two albums. Paul Humphrey is on drums, Martin Fierro on a fiery, electrified sax, and John Kahn, producer of Garcia's second solo record, on bass. As a group, they play amazingly diverse music, shifting emphasis effortlessly from blues to free-flowing jazz to soul variations to hard rock.
Saunders was an absolute delight on the organ. Trading riffs with Garcia on Smokey Robinson's "I Second That Emotion," he extended the three-minute soul classic to a quarter-hour without once losing touch with the spirit and feeling of the original. Switching to electric piano for Randy Newman's sardonic "You Can Leave Your Hat On," Saunders showcased his rich, gravelly and authoritative voice.
The mood of the audience was one of euphoria. After all, most of them were veterans. Some had surely seen Garcia a dozen times with the Dead but at places like Woodstock, Watkins Glen or, at best, in the Garden. Here was Dr. Trips, picking in his sweet staccato style only ten or 20 feet away. People were pinching themselves. It was simply too good to be true.
Garcia, an extremely interesting and articulate conversationalist, declined interviews but related his reasons through a spokesperson: "I don't want my silence to be interpreted as an ego thing. This isn't the Dead. We are working musicians and would prefer to be judged solely on our music this time around. We just hope you enjoy the music."

(by William Howard, from the Boston Globe, November 14 1974)


  1. In general I'm not focusing on reviews of Garcia's sidebands right now, but I made an exception for this show, since I had two good reviews of it.

    This is the 11/12/74 early show at Paul's Mall, the first night in a three-night run.
    Note that there's no setlist for this show on the Jerrysite. But the first article says it was a 2-hour show and lists:

    It Ain't No Use
    tropical jazz/samba-like instrumental
    I Second That Emotion
    You Can Leave Your Hat On
    He Ain't Give You None ("Are You Gonna Let Me Stand Alone")
    Money Honey
    Mystery Train

    Gelzinis is much more descriptive, going into close detail. Howard appreciated the show - particularly Saunders! - but seems to have been unfamiliar with Garcia (calling him "Dr. Trips").
    I love the descriptions of Garcia's "cosmic stare" and the euphoric crowd, a "cult of worshippers" and "the most fanatical music fans alive" - particularly this line:
    "Even Garcia's rather long tune-up breathers between the marathon numbers were filled with cries of JERRY!!; sporadic outbursts of applause followed each tuning stroke."

    Of particular importance here is that with "no advertising, no promotion, no names on the marquee," and for that matter no Dead, the shows sold out instantly by word-of-mouth. (I suspect the "leak" was intentional, though.)
    Note that, with a blank marquee, Gelzini had to ask how the show is being billed. JGMF might enjoy his dispute over whether this is a "Garcia" or a "Garcia & Saunders" show!

    It strikes me that the second article here, and the previous one I posted, both refer to a "one-year retirement" for the Dead. I wonder where they got the one year from - a press release?

    It's also noteworthy that Garcia's deification is by now in full swing. In the last article he was "Uncle Jer," and here he's a "father figure"!

    Garcia didn't speak to either of these reporters, but he did give an interview to the Boston Phoenix during his stay in town, which I'll post next.

  2. Oh my, these are like gold to me. Thank you.

    There were at least a few ads, and they just said "Jerry Garcia". Same story at the Bottom Line - almost no advertising, perhaps none.

    Yep, Jerry was totally already deified, and many critics took issue with what they viewed as the excessive enthusiasm (and insufficiently critical spirit) of his fans.

    Another thing to just put in your mind, which has been much in mine: McNally called the JGB "a little cash cow", and he was right. This is the first tour Jerry does under his own flag, and he never really stopped from this point forward.

  3. Here are a couple excerpts from Cash Box regarding the Bottom Line shows:

    November 9, 1974
    2,220 tickets were sold out in only two hours when hundreds of ticket buyers, eager to see Jerry Garcia's first performance since the disbanding of the Grateful Dead recently, besieged New York's Bottom Line. 75 Garcia freaks camped out last Monday night, October 28, to be first in line when the box office opened Tuesday, October 29 at 1:00 PM. Garcia is slated to perform November 5-7 with Merle Saunders. Interestingly enough no advertising was used to announce Garcia's opening; the Bottom Line announced his upcoming appearance at the club last Friday evening, included him on their coming attractions telephone tape, and posted signs outside the club and in their box office window.

    November 16, 1974
    John Lennon was seen leaving the Bottom Line on Tuesday night, Nov 5, after seeing SRO Jerry Garcia/Merle Saunders performance. Garcia/Saunders, who sold out six shows (2200 tickets) in a record-breaking two hours, are on the first leg of a national tour, Garcia's first appearance since the break-up of the Grateful Dead.

    (By the way - this eastern tour must have been scheduled before the Dead played their "final" Winterland shows in October. So he lost no time in setting up a tour under his own name; and headed back east again next spring, starting a spring/fall eastern-tour pattern - and I would guess none of Garcia's earnings from these shows got put into GD productions. He must have realized he could use his popularity to his financial advantage, rather than just pickin' in clubs back home.)

  4. How do you access Cash Box? I'd love to go through it.

    That second song has to be "Favela", or at least that'd be my guess.

  5. And another. You say "this eastern tour must have been scheduled before the Dead played their "final" Winterland shows in October."

    I don't think so. I am sure there were notions, but as I understand it the contracts were drawn up around 10/31/74 and signed only a week before the gigs.

    But I think you are right that this was not money that went into some common GD pool. There was some kind of vague business entity referred to in papers I have seen around this tour as "Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia".

  6. Note that the Bottom Line shows in April 1975 weren't advertised, either. I have some notes here:

  7. I didn't access Cash Box - actually, all these November '74 articles are collected in the Archive clippings, grouped together as "Garcia Newsletter, December 1974." There's even a newsletter cover with the Round Records seal, a list of December '74 tour dates, and a couple reviews of Compliments.
    (It's hard to directly access it by tag, but will get you to the images.)

    I was surprised to see that there was a "Garcia Newsletter," and am not sure if it was actually issued in this form. It bears no resemblance to the Dead newsletters, and seems awfully self-promotional for Garcia. (And yet, the Archive generally does not carry reviews of Garcia shows - and has hardly any newspaper reviews from 1974 in general - so I think they had some such source for this little Nov '74 collection.)
    If a Garcia newsletter was issued (in any form), it would go right along with your theory that Garcia was suddenly ready to monetize his name & popularity once the hiatus started.

    Anyway - after quickly selling out the Nov '74 Bottom Line shows, probably no one saw any need to advertise the next shows there in April '75! It must have been immediately obvious that Garcia would sell out any time he came around.

    As far as scheduling the eastern tour - do you mean contracts drawn up between the band & the clubs, or among the band itself?
    I was assuming that Garcia's management needed to schedule the tour weeks in advance. Note that the Bottom Line shows went on sale on October 29, so they had to have been scheduled some time before that (presumably along with the rest of the tour). Garcia booked some weekend shows at theaters that I really doubt would've had the dates free just a couple weeks in advance (like the Capitol & the Tower). So I think the tour was planned (if not all the dates finalized) before the GD's last shows.

  8. You're probably right. Lots of stuff is backdated. But I can only go with what I have seen. For the Paul's Mall shows, The "Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia" pseudo business entity sent out contract and riders on 10/31/74. Contracts were dated 11/5. Those dates may not be particularly meaningful in terms of the actual timeline, but they're all I have to go on.

    I agree in general that one would think that lots of advance notice would be required. But, when talking about the Cap in Passaic, especially, it seems pretty clear to me that John Scher saw a massive opportunity in being Jerry's go-to organizer on the east coast. I think he would have squeezed most anyone else off the bill if it meant he could get Garcia, with both short-run benefits (sellouts) and long-run ones (investing in a going concern). And this proved to be a winning strategy. How much of Monarch Entertainment's success derives from Scher's very early --in his enterprise-- embrace of Garcia and the GD? A lot.

  9. Cash box is located in world radio history website Grateful seconds