Jul 19, 2019

August 7, 1971: Convention Hall, San Diego


The Grateful Dead, back to one drummer and the original organ player, will appear at 8 tomorrow night in Convention Hall.
The present group features Jerry Garcia, lead guitar; Phil Lesh, bass; Mickey Hart, drums; and Pig Pen, harp and organ. The band also carries a second organist to fill in for Pig Pen, one of the original members of the early San Francisco group. A second drummer who performed with the group for some time has been dropped.
The New Riders of the Purple Sage also will be part of the bill. An acoustically and country oriented group, the Sage features Garcia on pedal steel guitar.
Four vocalists also perform with the Sage, which records for Capitol Records.

(unknown paper, 6 August 1971) 

* * *


The Grateful Dead, a San Francisco group, rocked until 1 a.m. yesterday at Convention Hall. They began their concert four hours before.
The group apparently wasn't worried about overexposure. Most groups have limited their performances to one 50-minute set.
Playing many of their best album cuts, plus their current single hit "Truckin'", the group once again lived up to its reputation as being "the people's band."
As evidence that "they cared," the Grateful Dead have stayed fairly non-commercial and given any number of free concerts.
When they play for money, the audience gets what it pays for - not three or four hours of warmup acts and a short set by the group it paid to see.
They're a jamming band. They depend on flow, taking each step with positive care, making sure that each note is meant for the next. They produce the kind of total sound that could only have come about through years of playing together.
To begin their show, even before the engineer had a chance to dim the lights, they played "El Paso." Bob Weir did the smooth vocal work required on this old Marty Robbins hit. Jerry Garcia played an impeccable lead guitar melody.
The next few songs flowed into each other so well that there was a settling effect on the listeners.
Acoustics were a minus factor. Open seating on the floor in the echo-ridden convention hall hurt the sound quality.

(by Vern Benson, unknown paper, 8 August 1971)

* * * 

Crowd Seems To Enjoy S.F. Quintet

Saturday night, the Grateful Dead died.
The San Francisco-based quintet performed in San Diego's Convention Hall and those not dead from boredom should at least have been grateful when it finally ended.
The Dead played more than three hours of "goodtime"
[ . . . ]
in the country - music, that is.
Even their current Top [40] hit, "Truckin'," wasn't enough to salvage the marathon set. They just kept "truckin'" on with more junk.
But if the Grateful Dead were bad - and they were - the New Riders
[ . . . ]
done by top groups, and ruined them, also.
"Honky Tonk Women" - their final number - "Lodi," and The Band's "The Weight" all suffered bad renditions.
The group even managed to pull out Billy Joe Royal's "Down in the Boondocks" [ . . . ] 

(by Joe Cromwell, San Diego Evening Tribune, unknown date -- I've only seen a fragment of this review)

Thanks to runonguinness. 

Released on Dick's Picks 35.


  1. Normally I don't include short show announcements unless they have some interesting twist, but this one's unique in its mangling of the Dead's membership. Bob Weir is left out of the lineup; Mickey Hart is on drums; and "a second organist [will] fill in for Pig Pen."
    I wouldn't read too much into the errors - it's just a hastily put-together newspaper blurb - but I have to wonder where they heard about a second organist. That sounds ominous: Pigpen would be in the hospital just a month later; and when he returned to the road there was indeed a second keyboard player. On the other hand, whoever wrote this may have thought Tom Constanten was still with the group! (TC had been at the Dead's previous San Diego show in January '70.)

    Two contrasting reviews of this show. The first review is vaguely approving but doesn't say much; the reporter knows about the Dead's reputation as "the people's band" and is impressed by how long they play. El Paso (as it frequently was) is the main song named by the reporter; people at the time evidently regarded this as one of the Dead's standout numbers, or at least a popular tune everyone would know, and reviewers always nodded in approval at the Dead's cover.
    He's also struck by the good flow of the show, to the point of mentioning its "settling effect on the listeners" - not an effect many other reporters ever noticed! But he doesn't like the open-seating arrangement or the echoey sound in the hall.

    The second reviewer doesn't like anything. I wish I had the full review since this is hilariously negative, the kind of bad review Dead shows would more commonly get in later years - "those not dead from boredom should at least have been grateful when it finally ended." All the Dead's songs are junk and the New Riders are even worse; but for some reason, the "crowd seems to enjoy" it!

    I'm struck that both reviews name Truckin' as a current hit. The single had been released in January and slowly clawed its way onto the charts, making it to #64 on the Billboard's top 100...in December 1971. (The 2/13/71 Billboard had claimed the single "has it to climb the Hot 100 in short order," but it didn't even show up on the chart until December.) So it was by no means a national top 40 hit in summer 1971; three Chicago reviewers that same month didn't even mention the single. Perhaps it got more airplay in California. (11/20/71 is the earliest time I've found that Weir jokingly introduces Truckin' as the song that went "straight to the top of the charts in Turlock, California," which Garcia finds hilarious.)

  2. I think the second organist thing is super interesting. There's no way it's just some random error, given what we know ex post.

    Now, of course, on All Hooteroll? All The Time (AHATT) principles, I need to wonder if Wales might not have been in mind for this. Blair has reported that there's a Wales-Garcia tape in the Vault labeled 8/1/71, live from Boston. I'd be shocked if this wasn't the 1/26/72 gig, and have of course searched and found no evidence of them in that neck of the woods in that time frame. But why would there be a tape labeled that way? The GD played New Haven the night before, and, not knowing east coast geography, I assume that's not far. I have wondered over the years if maybe they went into a studio in Boston or something to do some Hooteroll related work, but I dunno.

    Now we have reference to a possible second organist with the GD six days later. And I have Wales trying out two months later.

    Curious, I say.

    1. The "second organist" really intrigued me at first too; it seemed like it couldn't be just a mistake, and I wondered if the Dead had been publicly seeking another player even before Pigpen fell ill, and this was the first sign of it.
      But after some thought, it seems very unlikely that a San Diego reporter who's confused on the actual members of the Dead and says there are "four vocalists" with the New Riders had actually heard any kind of news about an extra organist. All other mid-'71 press on the Dead that I've seen so far are silent on the subject. So I suspect this was just a mistaken reference to the long-gone Constanten, nice as it would be to have a hint of Wales here.

  3. I still disagree, but of course we will never know unless we track down the author or some other backstage info emerges.

    1. The Emerson-Loew photos of 71-08-07 show Pigpen or no-one at the B3 and no-one behind the amps looks like Wales in the Hooteroll photo.

    2. The ironic part is that a week later at the Berkeley shows, Ned Lagin showed up to fill in on organ! And Lagin was definitely jamming with the Dead that month, as the 8/21/71 tape shows. If we are to take the "second organist" rumor seriously, I think Lagin would be the first candidate.
      We don't even know if the announced September '71 benefit with Wales was played, though I suspect it wasn't.

  4. RoG, I am not saying it happened, just that the idea was in the wind, and didn't reflect a basic error by the writer.

    Agree that Lagin should come first to mind!

    And on the 9/71 Harding listings, I agree, they probably weren't played for the public - someone would remember. My hypothesis has been that maybe they played the room as a rehearsal hall. Very low probability, of course, but not impossible.