Feb 26, 2017

September 1966: Camp Lagunitas


The Grateful Dead have been buried in the country, but are soon to be disinterred.
The rock 'n' roll combo is regretfully leaving its sylvan retreat at Camp Lagunitas the end of this month and returning to "the nervous scene" on the other side of the Golden Gate.
For three months, the five electronic musicians - together with three managers, one equipment man, four wives, and six weeks in the historic Bardell mansion on Rancho Olompali, the rest of the time at the former children's summer camp on Arroyo Road off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.
Manager Rock Scully explained the Grateful Dead's retreat to bucolic Lagunitas: "That city over there is what we call 'the scene.' It's meeting all kinds of people. It's a lot of extra nervousness. Being in a band is a nervous kind of work anyway. The band works smoother when it can get away some place from all that and relax."
The only drawback is that the band can't practice in the country, according to lead guitarist Jerry Garcia.
Scully pointed to the wooded hills around the nearly four-acre camp and explained that "the sound really bounces around this canyon and the neighbors don't like it.
"We understand, of course, and the policeman who said we'd better not play was awfully nice," added Garcia.
So, for Garcia, Ron (Pigpen) McKernan, Bob (Cowboy) Weir, Phil Lesh and Bill Sommers and their retinue, it's goodbye to their $600-a-month leafy acreage, tiny brook, sheltering cabins, and swimming pool.
They'll be too busy in the city across the bay, however, to have time for nostalgia, according to manager Scully.
The long-haired quintet is booked solidly for weekends through November and will have to spend most of the weekdays practicing and cutting their first records, Scully said.
The recording contract is a measure of how quickly the Grateful Dead have caught on since the group was formed nine months ago. Since then, they've played in Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, B.C., as well as in San Francisco dance halls. In November, they are booked into Chicago.
Nucleus of the group, all of whom are in their early 20's, were Garcia, McKernan, and Weir, who started as Mother McCrea's Jug Band. Bill Sommers was drafted when the three heard him on the drums one night in Palo Alto. Phil Lesh was studying composing at Mills College in Oakland, when the group persuaded him to team up as the electric bass player.
All except rhythm guitarist Cowboy Weir, who is from Wyoming, are Bay Area men.
The lyrics of one of the songs they will record while making the nervous scene may recall their Lagunitas retreat:
"When the cardboard cowboy dreams
In his cornucopia
He opens up the sky and sends my mind
To the corners of the rainbow bridge
Unrolling beneath my trembling toes."

FAREWELL, BUCOLIA - Ron (Pigpen) McKernan, Bob (Cowboy) Weir, and Jerry Garcia, who as Mother McCrea's Jug Band comprised the nucleus of what is now the Grateful Dead, twang and sing a little in Camp Lagunitas, former boys' camp they rented as Marin retreat. They are going back to "the nervous scene." Their rehearsing annoyed Lagunitas neighbors, it seems. (Independent-Journal photo)

(by Robert Strebeigh, from the San Rafael Independent-Journal, 19 September 1966)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

See also: http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2013/02/august-1966-grateful-dead-interview.html

Feb 20, 2017

December 17, 1966: Ladera School, Ladera, CA


A little short of a miracle, the "Grateful Dead" have signed to play at the Ladera Christmas dance. What has brought this about, is that the kids themselves have been saving the profits that they have made from past dances so that now they can afford to pay for this important (and expensive) group.
They will be well worth hearing. To quote from Ralph Gleason's article (Dec. 8 Chronicle) "The Grateful Dead is a contemporary rock band, a good deal of whose music is blues based. They have evolved a magnificent playing style that features some of the most exciting instrumental rock music anywhere.
Included in their group is Ron "Pig Pen" McKernan who plays organ and harmonica and sings. Many young white performers in folk and rock music seem to be little but imitations of negro singers. Pig Pen, on the other hand, does not do this and he is tremendously effective. He sings like himself; the music and the style is blues, but he is not imitation."
That sounds good. And the sounds next Saturday night (December 17th at 8:00 o'clock) will be an exciting experience for everyone who can hear them. This will be a real Christmas present for those who attend.

(from the Ladera Crier newsletter, December 1966)



It was quite a party they had at Ladera School one evening of the Christmas holiday.
A gas?
A blast? What's the "in" word for it?
It really turned the kids on. Anyway, it was noisy and it was fun.
The teen-agers of Ladera decided to splurge the money earned on previous dances to hire themselves a band and throw a real bash.
They did.
The "Grateful Dead" came from San Francisco in full tonsorial and electronic splendor to play, with the Rhythm Method Blues Band donating their services to fill in any chinks of silence that might threaten the evening. A troupe headed by George Kelly put on a show of colored light, swirling dyes, movies, and slides, also donating services.
Joe Bonner, Ann Wilsnack, Barbie Rusmore, and Mark Wilson headed the dance committee and turned in a spectacular decorations job. The large window in the multi-purpose room was completely covered with batik designs which turned it into a kind of mod stained glass window, lighted from outside. The wall opposite had a full mural.
The Ladera Community Association sponsored the dance, as they do other teen dances several times a year in the community. Mrs. Richard Hayes had initiated the dance series and continues to assist with ticket sales and other chores. Mrs. Jack Wallis is the current dance committee chairman. Mrs. Dan Dana helped with printing of invitations, limited to Ladera teen-agers and their guests. Jeff Wilson aided and abetted the decorations committee.
[A list of a dozen adult chaperones follows.]

Picture captions:
Dancers trip the light fantastic -- and the fantastic ranged from rock and roll spine torture to Greek folk dances -- before a window decorated with batik panels and lighted from outside to give a stain-glass effect. Shown are Connie Hefte and Bruce Hird. That swirl of blonde hair behind Connie is Bruce's partner, Barbie Rusmore. All the pictures are by Ken Gardiner of Ladera, who found he could concentrate on his camera better after he stuffed his ears with cotton.
Gerry Wilsnack of Ladera was one of the many adults who helped the teens make their dream party come true. Took good care of the money, too.
Anne Creelman, a guest from Los Altos, gets into the swing of things.
George Kelly of San Francisco swirls dyes over a light to project colored patterns on a sheet-draped wall.
"Pigpen," he calls himself, one of the "Grateful Dead" who provided the decibels.

(from the Country Almanac, 3 January 1967)

Thanks to Susan Suesser, who uncovered these articles: