Mar 19, 2015

June 24, 1968: The Dead in Court


Members of The Grateful Dead hard-rock band appeared for sentencing on marijuana charges yesterday - and quickly converted the occasion to a sort of corridor commercial for their latest record.
"It's beautiful. Wow, it's great," they assured newsmen, friends, followers, and the curious outside the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Harry J. Neubarth at the Hall of Justice.
The new record - "Anthem of the Sun" - will be released July 18, they said.

Rock Skully, the long-haired group's long-haired business manager, also disclosed that The Dead hope to take over the Carousel Ballroom on the Fourth of July.
The Dead hope to unite with other "heavy bands" such as The Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Steve Miller's Blues Band to form an "aesthetic, artistic operation...something different," Scully added.
After the commercial, the four appeared before Judge Neubarth and were sentenced on marijuana charges which arose from the police raid on their 13-room communal house at 710 Ashbury Street last October 2.

Scully, 26, and Robert (Knobs) Matthews, 19, The Dead's Audio engineer, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of maintaining a residence where marijuana was used, and were fined $200.
Ron (Pig Pen) McKernan, a Dead singer and organist, and guitarist Robert Weir, 20, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of being in a place where marijuana was used. They were fined $100.
All were also placed on probation for one year.
Three girls and two other men who were at The Dead's pad when it was busted, received similar sentences.

(from the San Francisco Chronicle, 25 June 1968)


  1. For those who wondered how the Dead's October '67 bust was resolved in court, here it is....just a light fine for all.

    More interesting is that they used the court appearance to plug their upcoming album; and most intriguing is Scully's comment that the Dead planned to take over the Carousel Ballroom on July 4.
    Needless to say, this didn't happen - the Dead had already been running the Carousel for a few months, but as McNally says, it already "was in deep financial trouble." The Steve Miller Band played the last Carousel show on June 30.
    Per McNally, the day after the court appearance, "Tuesday, June 25, the managers and musicians met once again to discuss the future of the Carousel. 'Like every meeting anybody ever had like that,' said photographer Bob Seidemann, 'we all went home and nothing really happened.'" (p.265)
    Bill Graham immediately took over the Carousel, and reopened it as the Fillmore West with a Butterfield Blues Band show on July 5.

  2. I am still confused about the Carousel, like what exactly was the Dead's level of involvement? I am sure you and Corry have pinned it all down a hundred times, but this statement that the bands are going to take it over just confuses me all over again.

    1. I am also a little puzzled that at this late date, Scully said the Dead & co. were going to "take over" the Carousel (just a week before Bill Graham took over) - perhaps it was his usual idealistic hyperbole when dealing with the press, or perhaps a bit of promotional wishful thinking. The idea of forming some kind of independent "supergroup" operation with the other big SF bands was in the air in '68, but their attempt with the Carousel was already running aground.

      The Dead's associates had been running the place (with Ron Rakow as the official manager) - since March they'd leased it from owner Bill Fuller. As musicians, the Dead & the other bands basically just played there and provided support (and audiences); and it was the members of the Dead "family" that actually ran day-to-day operations. The Carousel was notoriously mismanaged, an utopian scheme that didn't last, with Rakow generally blamed for being a "rotten manager."
      Perhaps Scully's quote here indicates that up to the end the Dead still had high hopes for the Carousel. But this same week, Graham was in discussions with Fuller and the Carousel marquee read: "Nothing lasts."

      From an 8/10/68 Rolling Stone article:
      "The Carousel had been operated for several months by Headstone Productions, a corporation initially financed by a series of dances given by the Dead and the Airplane starting on St. Valentine's Day this year. The operation of the Carousel was marked by careless mismanagement in many details, although it was generally agreed that the feeling of the dances was good. On several occasions Headstone booked unwisely, paying high fees for low draws, and it was saddled with what Ralph Gleason has called "the stupidest lease in show business." The Free City Convention, a freakout with nude dancing, public grass-smoking and a "dirty" word ("cunt") on the marquee, started bringing an undesirable amount of police attention to the hall, and when Headstone fell several thousand dollars behind in its rent, landlord Bill Fuller opened his ears to Bill Graham."

  3. From the San Bernardino Sun, June 26, 1968:
    Grateful Dead Get Probation
    San Francisco (AP) - The Grateful Dead, their business manager and three friends were each given a year's probation and fined from $100 to $200 Monday on charges involving marijuana.
    Superior Court Judge Harry Neubarth imposed the penalties as the result of a raid last October....
    Pleading guilty were musicians and singers Ron McKernan, Robert Weir, Brian Rohan, Danny Rifkin, Antoinette Kaufman, and Rosalyn Stevenson; business manager Robert Scully, Robert C. Matthews, Veronica Grant, and Susan Swanson.

  4. From the 6/24/68 San Francisco Examiner:

    Members of the Grateful Dead, their business manager, and several friends all pleaded guilty today to misdemeanor charges involving marijuana, and were fined and given probation.
    Their appearance before Superior Court Judge Harry Neubarth was the result of a raid last Oct. 2...
    Business manager Rock Robert Scully, 26, and soundman Robert C. Matthews, 20, both pleaded guilty to maintaining premises where marijuana was used. Each received one year probation and a $200 fine.
    The others were charged with being in a place where marijuana was used. Ron "Pig Pen" McKernan, 22, organist and singer; guitarist Robert Weir, 20; and two girls not with the band - Veronica Grant, 23, and Susan Swanson, 20 - each received one year probation and $100 fines.
    Three others were not in court but entered guilty pleas through their attorney, Brian Rohan. Danny Rifkin, 23, Antoinette Kaufman, 22, and Rosalyn Stevenson, 19, all received one year probation and $100 fines.