Sep 1, 2014

July 1969: Grateful Dead Sued By Studio


For want of a few words on the back of their latest album cover, the Grateful Dead have been slapped with a suit for $120,750. A suit was filed last week by Pacific Recording, the San Mateo studios where the Dead made and mixed Aoxomoxoa. According to Paul Curcio, owner of Pacific, an "oral agreement" had been made with the Dead that he would give the band a 20 percent discount off studio fees if Pacific Recording got a credit on the LP jacket.
The band then racked up some 500 hours of studio time, including use of remote equipment and 8- and 16-track machines, over a six-month period. When the album finally came out: no Pacific mention. Curcio is suing the band for $20,750 - the amount of the discount - plus $100,000 damages.
He claims that the Dead left the credit off deliberately. Rock Scully, manager of the Dead, couldn't agree more. "Things got so bad with Curcio that we decided not to give him credit, and just gave credit to our engineer (Ron Wickersham of Pacific) and our musicians. Like all the wind for the album came from the Grateful Dead, and all the technical stuff came from Ron, who built and wired the studio and is like the mind of the place."
After Warner Brothers gave the Dead an ultimatum to finish up studio work, Scully said, the Dead returned to Pacific one Monday and "Boom! Over the weekend Curcio'd had the board ripped out from under us."
The Dead finished up at San Francisco's Pacific High Recording studios. They've now furnished Warner Brothers with tapes for two live albums in addition to Aoxomoxoa, along with more than $100,000 of bills.
Scully claims that "no real promise" was ever made for crediting Curcio's studios in the album. Curcio, however, says the oral understanding was made "between the band, their management and their attorney and myself and my attorney."

(from Rolling Stone, July 26, 1969)


  1. Michael Lydon wrote in his August '69 Rolling Stone article on the Dead: "Their dealings with the business world have been disastrous. Money slips through their fingers, bills pile up, instruments are repossessed and salaries aren't paid. The group is $60,000 in debt, and those debts have meant harm to dozens of innocent people. 'I remember times we've said, "That cat's straight, let's burn him for a bill,"' says Phil Lesh."
    Evidently Paul Curcio was one of those cats.

    The Dead had started working at Pacific Recording in summer '68, most likely because Bob Matthews was a recording engineer there.
    I think the Dead moved to Pacific High Recording in SF in March '69 to finish the album, no doubt with Warner Bros breathing down their necks. The "two live albums" were the Live/Dead double album, which was mixed & ready to go by the time Aoxomoxoa was finished, but held back for later release.
    Curcio's suit was unsuccessful.

  2. "Pacific Recording studios is suing the Grateful Dead for more than $20,000 because the group failed to include a studio credit on its new LP, Aoxomoxoa. (The album title, incidentally, is not mentioned in the suit because the plaintiff's attorney admitted he couldn't figure out 'the weird lettering.'"
    (Diane Morgan, "The Disc Seen," Santa Rosa Press-Democrat 6/30/69)

  3. An article from the San Francisco Examiner, 6/12/69:

    The Grateful Dead, a local rock group, faces a $20,750 damage suit filed by a San Mateo recording studio in San Francisco Superior Court.
    It seems that Pacific Recordings had allowed the Dead a discount in fees for use of its studios in making recordS only if the firm received jacket credit.
    But, according to the suit, no credit was given.
    Harold Silen, Pacific’s attorney, said he didn’t know what the record was because “the title’s in some weird lettering I can’t understand.”
    The record was released under the Warner Bros.-Seven Arts label.