Jun 13, 2013

May 10, 1970: Atlanta Sports Arena

If you were one of the few people who wasn't at the Sports Arena Sunday afternoon for the Grateful Dead concert, you've probably heard by now just what went down. Frankly, this was one of the greatest musical/sensual experiences the Atlanta hip community has ever had, rivalled only by another Dead offering in Piedmont Park after last year's Atlanta pop festival. Except that this year's big blow-out had more to do with where we are at now.
Imagine it: THE HAMPTON GREASE BAND, forever associated with Atlanta/Piedmont Park/Twelfth Gate/Sports Arena/everywhere we have needed their weird, hilarious brand of heavy rock: THE GRATEFUL DEAD, the West Coast Rock band most closely associated with the spirit of COMMUNITY, a band that has most consistently served the needs of the people and helped to raise their political and sensual consciousness, evoker of high-powered acid and swirling colors and hair, good times and free music in the streets and parks from the old days of the Haight (before HARD DRUGS and media-induced EGO TRIPPING), come like Pied Pipers to our own Piedmont Park to spread the word of what community can mean, back again but this time with another Rock group to tie together the experiences of West and South - THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND, the folks who took a lot of the hype and bullshit out of "white blues" and put a lot of their own grace and dignity and soul into the music, more in love with Atlanta than ever after successful excursions into Fillmore territory, East and West, after a beautiful album of some of their best of last year (a new one waits around the corner and it'll be better, just you watch), back in Atlanta for an unannounced jam with the Dead...
And who here in Atlanta will ever be the same? What we felt (and what other sense could you invoke to turn people on to the event?), inside and out, head and body, was the power and beauty of the many strains of our own community coming together, after another year of paying dues and fucking up, coming together in a few precious, explosive hours of what, for want of a better term, we will call Ecstasy!
*A big crowd - most of us back together again after a series of bummers
*No chairs on the dance floor
*No reserved seats
*Pigs that you could count on the fingers of one hand and still have some fingers left
*Total absence of uptightness and Atlanta paranoia
*Down home, sweaty, funky, sleazy, good ole Atlanta Sports Arena where nobody gets busted
*Announcement by Ed Shane that the Allman Brothers were present and would jam with the Grateful Dead
*Outasight stage built by community people for the Community Benefit
*Community staffed stage crew
*New material by the Hampton Grease Band, including more trumpet than usual, and probably the strangest setting for "Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey" we can imagine
*"Evans," as usual, bringing down the house - Jerry and Holbrook (drums and bass guitar) leading the group in a building Spanish progression while Hampton shouts "Evans! Evans! Evans!"
*Jerry Fields doing some fine singing
*The Allman Brothers lending their equipment to replace the Dead equipment left behind in Boston by the airline
*Dope and more dope and very good dope, too
*Sam Cutler, former stage manager for the Rolling Stones (he is one of the individuals that the Stones and everybody else involved in the Altamont disaster, including you and me, are singling out to put the blame on instead of recognizing what Capitalism and Ego-tripping can do to crush the world we are trying to build), serving as stage manager for the Dead
*Murray Silver, turned on to Kent State, and hinting that this "may be my last concert," shouting "Power to the People!"
*ACLU lawyers and freaks playing pickupsticks on the floor during breaks
*Instant replay of the Atlanta International Frisbee Contest
*Red fists on strike T-shirts worn by Sam Cutler and Dead stage crew
*The music of the Grateful Dead
*Vibrations that kept building and building until we moved on up to a whole other level
*Jerry Garcia's twanging, singing guitar, and the look on his face, and on the faces of the rest of the Dead as total communication between music and people was established
*"Mama Tried" by Merle Haggard, one of the first straight C&W songs to be picked up on by Rocklovers
*The first appearances on stage of Duane, Greg, Berry Oakley and Butch Trucks
*The first soaring blue notes played by Duane Allman - and what it did to the crowd; the duo riffs he played with Garcia and how the jam turned on the musicians participating in it
*Murray Silver in the crowd, wearing on his head a wreath of green, looking like a Bacchus figure from the Satyricon
*An incredible, unbelievable, destroying Southern hymn played by The Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band: "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" Most accurate theme of what was happening
*Brief burst of terror at the very end of the music as a firecracker exploded with an incredibly loud BAM!, a bright flash, and a cloud of smoke - a perfect audile exclamation mark for this most profound musical/community statement at the Sports Arena

(by Miller Francis Jr, from the Great Speckled Bird, May 18 1970)

See http://digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/GSB/id/1878/rec/98 courtesy of Georgia State University Library

Thanks to http://jgmf.blogspot.com/2011/03/gd19700510-sunday-may-10-1970-atlanta.html - see for more scans & info

* * *

David Powell: "I don't know if it was recorded, but my favorite version of "Dark Star" was one I saw the Dead perform live in Atlanta on Sunday, May 10, 1970 at the small Sports Arena. It was memorable because Duane Allman sat in & played second lead with Jerry. The Allman Brothers had driven up from Macon to lend the Dead some equipment that day and later sat in to play an encore set with the Dead. The opening act was Atlanta's Hampton Grease Band. As I recall, the Allman Brothers did not play a set by themselves, but sat in & played with the Dead as an encore set. That $3.00 ticket price was one of the best concert bargains I've ever enjoyed! ...Glenn Phillips, one of the guitarists in the Hampton Grease Band, the opening act for that memorable Dead concert, later recorded a version of "Dark Star" with Henry Kaiser."

Alas, no tape!


  1. The Great Speckled Bird was a heavily political Atlanta underground paper; this issue is full of reporting on the social turmoil of May 1970.

    The same issue had another mention of the Hampton Grease Band opening for BB King on the previous Friday:
    "Hampton and the band turned in a tight professional set (!) with, as always, some amazing moments to stand your hair on side. Highlighted was Bruce Hampton's terrible trumpet, balanced, fortunately, by the swift-as-light guitars of Harold Kelling and Glen Phillips, ably backed up by Holbrook and Fields on bass guitar and drums. No stars in the Grease Band; they are into playing as a unit more than ever."
    (BB King then proved that he was Boss...)

    Murray Silver, mentioned a couple times here, was the promoter of the concert. He was then about 17.

    The Allmans had played a show at Georgia Tech in Atlanta on May 9, while the Dead were playing Worcester, MA. As noted, the Dead's equipment was "left behind in Boston by the airline," but the Allmans were happy to loan theirs.

    Deadlists has some slightly inaccurate info about this show. The Hampton Grease band definitely opened; the Allmans did not play their own set - this review notes the surprise that "the Allman Brothers were present and would jam with the Grateful Dead," and specifies that they first came out during the Dead's set.
    One curious tidbit is that it says "Duane, Greg, Berry Oakley and Butch Trucks" came out - no Dickey Betts? This may seem to be the writer's oversight, but recall that Betts also did not join the jam on 2/11/70. (Nor did they have the Dead's amps to use at this show.)

    The Dead had put the student-strike red fist image on their drums after Kent State; note here that Cutler & the roadies were wearing t-shirts with it too.

    One colorful memoir of the Dead's 7/7/69 Piedmont Park appearance is here:

    David Powell writes: "That free Piedmont Park concert took place after the first Atlanta Pop Festival at Hampton Raceway on July 4th weekend. Amazingly, the Allman Brothers and the Dead were not booked for the festival. [Actually, the Allmans were.] The Piedmont Park concert started in the afternoon and went on into the night, with a thunderstorm/power outage delay. Local bands Radar and the Hampton Grease Band opened. In addition to the ABB & the Dead, acts that had played at the festival -- Spirit, Chicago Transit Authority and Delaney & Bonnie & Friends also played. My memory is hazy, but the Dead closed the show and at various times were joined by Duane & Dickie, Glenn & Harold, Delaney, Randy California and Terry Kath."
    This more or less corroborates the other memoir. Unfortunately, the final multi-band jam seems not to have been taped by Bear...

    This 5/10/70 review happily notes that there were few "pigs" in attendance. Sadly, this was not to be the case when the Dead returned to Atlanta on 11/11/71, and "uptightness and Atlanta paranoia" ruled the day.
    For that show, the place was full of cops manhandling the audience - you can hear Lesh shouting, "That's not really necessary! There ain't gonna be no music as long as there's cops on this stage!" The crowd then chants "Pigs off the stage!" until Sam Cutler warns them that the fire marshal won't allow the show to go on unless people clear away from the stage.
    Tom Lindley writes, " I remember the near police riot. They stopped the show at least twice because people were not in their seats and were too close to the stage and dancing in the aisles."
    And one Archive reviewer writes, "I was at the show, and it was one of the most unpleasant and disappointing ever. The band was annoyed at the Atlanta cops' overzealous behavior and did the bare minimum to get through the show."

  2. What a drag that there is a Dark Star with Duane that we most likely will never hear and Terry Kath supposedly played with the boys and that hasn't surfaced either.Will the Circle Remain Unbroken is also intriguing.I know it seems greedy to complain about something we don't have when we have so much,but I would surely trade some of what we have to hear Duane's Dark Star and Kath take a turn with the band.

  3. Yes, it kills me...of all the lost shows, THIS one had to be among them. I wail & gnash my teeth every time I think about it.

    The reference to Will the Circle Remain Unbroken is intriguing - the Allmans used that tune as a closing section of Mountain Jam, so the Dead & Allmans very likely closed the show with Mountain Jam>Will the Circle.

    With the big post-show jam from 7/7/69, it's also too bad there's no tape; but then, with 6-8 guitarists trading solos, just as likely it would sound like a big mess. I bet they were probably just doing some 12-bar blues, too, to make it easy for all involved.

    1. One person who attended recalls, "the Dead played a very long set with members of the Allman Brothers Band sitting in for a monumental Mountain Jam and more at the end." So I think that confirms a Mountain Jam.

  4. Assuming with the Dead is risky business,but I would go out on a limb and say that a Dark Star with Duane would have to feature some interesting guitar work from him and Jerry at the very least.Like you each time this comes to mind it will bum me out some.

    Mountain jam is my favorite of the Dead "jams" and to hear it with members of the Allman's on stage and have it go into the classic Will the Circle Remain Unbroken is something I would love to hear.It seems full of possibilities.

    I misunderstood and thought musicians were joining the Dead throughout their set.As you said those stage full of people end of show jams generally go nowhere.

  5. Yeah, my first comment perhaps wasn't clear that the post-show multi-musician jam was on 7/7/69 - 5/10/70 was just the Allmans & Dead.

    I see I confused the Atlanta Pop '69 festival with the Atlanta Pop '70 fest, too - in July '69 the Allmans were still unknowns, except perhaps locally, so of course they weren't booked.

    The funny thing is, Alex Cooley (organizer of the Atlanta Pop Festival, on July 4-5 '69) felt so guilty about making a $12,000 profit from the festival that he put together the free Piedmont show on July 7 with the Dead & other bands.

  6. Check The Strip Project.com for info on Atlanta during the hippie daze.

  7. The 5/11/70 Great Speckled Bird show announcements:

    "Saturday night at Georgia Tech...the Allman Brothers Band will play... If you haven't heard the Allman Brothers here in Atlanta lately, you might take this opportunity to hear them. Folks say that what they played at DeKalb Junior College recently was 10 times better than what we heard last summer in the park! Tickets are $2.50 for non-students.
    Sunday, there's only one place to be - the Sports Arena for one of Atlanta's very favorite groups, the good ole Grateful Dead! Remember Piedmont Park, and what the Dead did there? This should be more of the same. The Dead have a new live album, Live Dead, that should help you decide whether or not to go hear them at the Sports Arena. That 'Reserved Seat' bullshit has been got rid of; all tickets are $3.50, so come early.
    Tuesday, May 12, we get a real treat: Pink Floyd, one of the best rock groups there is, and different from all the rest. They have an incredible album out, called Pink Floyd, which is half live and half studio work; the funny thing is that you can hardly tell the difference as far as sound quality and technical equipment used are concerned. Three tons is a lot, and they use all of it live from what we can tell by listening to the album. Rolling Stone says Pink Floyd uses the blow-up ending of Zabriskie Point as part of their light show (they did much of the freaky electronic music for that film), and we're hoping they'll bring it along with them to Atlanta. In any case, they do it all - hard rock, bluesy stuff, electronics, jazz. The audience who knows how fantastic Pink Floyd is is much too small, so take this opportunity to expand your mind (Pink Floyd defines psychedelic!) and your musical horizons this Tuesday night, 8 pm, at the city auditorium."

    (Miller Francis Jr., "Atlanta Rocks," GSB 5/11/70, p.10 - there is also strong praise for the upcoming BB King and Van Morrison concerts, and a lament that no one can afford to go to so many great concerts in one week.)

  8. I was there Still my top concert. Very magic evening.

  9. I was there with a friend. I had been drafted and was in the Army. I remember parking at an old building in an industrial area of Atlanta. I promptly locked my keys in the car. While trying to figure out how to get the door open a cop walked up and asked what was going on. Locked my keys inside I told him. He pulled a ring of about thirty keys out of his pocket, fiddled with them, selected one, inserted it in the door lock and unlocked it. He smiled and walked off as I said thanks.

    The place wasn't very big nor were there many people there. We were able to sit anywhere we chose and sat not far from the stage. For some reason I remember thinking the stage was a boxing ring. If there were any police inside I don't remember seeing any. I don't remember the playset either. What I do remember is that the Dead played for a long time.

    At a short break, someone, I assume Garcia announced that their equipment hadn't arrived and that they were using the equipment of a local band who was now going to join them onstage. The Allman Brothers Band. Everyone plugged in and another long session began. Dead and Allman Brothers Band. They were jamming along when suddenly there was a loud explosion and a ball of white smoke arose from the stage. Garcia at the mic said we just blew a 50 am fuse and we are going to take that as a sign from god that this is a good time to end the show. And they did.

    1. What better way to end such a show than in a ball of smoke? The article mentions this too.

    2. On Facebook, multiple Hampton Grease Band fans (all apparently in the front rows) recall the jam concluding with Lovelight featuring Gregg Allman on organ, which ended when Pigpen slid a cherry bomb under the organ, causing the explosion/smoke.

  10. One witness on the Archive recalled, "The Dead's equipment didn't get there in time. The promoter contacted the Allman Brothers and asked to borrow their equipment. Of course they came with. The Dead played a great set ending with drums. The crowd clapped to the beat as they left the stage. The Dead came back with the Brothers, picked up the beat from the crowd, unbelievable synchronicity."
    Old memories being what they are, it might not have happened this way, but it's an interesting possibility.

    The promoter Murray Silver wrote on dead.net, "The Dead arrived in Atlanta without their equipment, and I called Duane Allman at home in Macon early on Sunday morning to ask him if I could rent his sound system. He asked me who it was for, and when I told him it was for the Dead, he told me that I could have it for free... The Brothers brought their equipment to Atlanta and the two bands met... At the end of the Dead's set, the Allman Brothers joined them onstage and played a version of 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken'."
    (He was under the impression the bands were meeting for the first time, but that wasn't the case.)