Nov 8, 2012

October 1973: Grateful Dead Records


"The record company appeals to people like Jerry Garcia for two reasons," explained Ron Rakow, president of the new Grateful Dead Records.
"One is that it's dangerous, and therefore exciting. And Garcia hates security. If there's anything in the world he hates it's security. The second reason is that it's our step going counter to the trend of concentration. In every industry, they're getting larger and larger and more concentrated. This represents a step away from concentration, from collectivization. And we think that's very important."
On Monday, the first release of Grateful Dead records, "Wake of the Flood," will be in your corner record store, and the world's most individualistic major rock band will have taken another step where mortals feared to tread.

On Wednesday, the Dead will take off for the Mid- and Southwest for a tour designed to coincide with the album's release. Rakow, a 35-year-old former accountant who has been with the Dead family since 1966, continued. "Warner Bros. (for whom the Dead produced nine albums, preceded by two for Sunflower) was never able to get the ultimate participation of the band for promotion. Now, on the other hand, I made up a list of 22 cities I wanted the band to visit while the record was in its intensive release period, and they agreed to play them all." Rakow sounded mildly astonished. "It may turn out that they all can't be done, but at least I have their own unqualified cooperation and incredible enthusiasm."
The history of pop music bands with their own label is not without precedent. From the Beatles' Apple to the Rolling Stones Records and Jefferson Airplane's Grunt, major stars have been able to pry certain concessions from the biggest record companies. The result is somewhat more artistic freedom, certain added prestige, and usually, a higher royalty rate. But generally, such arrangements have also left promotion, distribution, and certain mechanical concerns to the parent company. A mail-order operation allows independence but severely restricts the availability of the albums.

There will be no such compromise for the Dead. With the recent expiration of their contract with Warner Bros., they have absconded with complete artistic and financial control of their recording affairs. By brandishing their economic power (more than $3 million in albums sold in the last year) they have solved the major problem of any independent recording effort.
"We have independent distributors who operate out of 22 major locations," Rakow continued. "Our feeling is that these people, who built their own businesses, who don't work for somebody else, will give us even stronger distribution than Warner Bros. did."
Garcia, spokesman for the band, commented on a few reasons for abandoning Warner Bros. "We've never really gotten along that well; we've always been kind of at odds. We were never satisfied with the whole trip and having to deal with people we couldn't relate to. It was mostly a communications trip. Years of that kind of corporate's kind of hard to explain.
"But mostly, why should we be providing juice for the Kinney Corp. (Warner's parent company)? We thought it would be groovier to do it ourselves and take a lot of the money the record company made and use it to put out a better product. And we also felt that, even if we (bleeped) up real bad, we could still sell as many records as Warner Bros. could..."

If ever the time was propitious for the Dead to undertake such a project, it is now. The band is at the peak of its popularity; bordering on superstardom. They have some 60 people in the family, their own publishing company (Ice Nine), and even a travel agency, Fly-By-Night.
But, according to Garcia, they're not rich. "We're still a wage-earning band, our income from records has been minimal, and our operation is a high-overhead trip. Right now, we're not well-to-do but we're succeeding nicely. And the music is still a get-off; that's what makes it..."
"The Grateful Dead exists comfortably but is not a secure financial scene," Rakow concluded. "As a matter of fact, we have people thinking up ways to guarantee that the Grateful Dead will never be a secure financial scene..."

(by John Wasserman, from the San Francisco Chronicle, October 12 1973)

Nov 7, 2012

September/October 1973: Wake of the Flood Promotion

A mock Grateful Dead Records press release:

For further information, call
Ron Rakow or Bob Siedeman:

Grateful Dead Records was conceived in a stoned flash by Ron Rakow (now President of GDR) as he was driving down Highway 1 near Bolinas in his pickup.
"Here I am," he said to himself, "friends with a big rock band, so where's the graft?" (A financial wizard besides having above average intelligence, he realized that if he was ever going to get rich, graft was the American way.) In a flash which almost caused him to run into a bus full of hippies, the answer appeared: "Why, we'll have to start a record company!" Zap-Bing-Far Out!
Thus Grateful Dead Records became a reality and its motto became, "Lay some graft on me, man."
Actually, it wasn't that simple. The band had to be convinced that their mellowed out friends, bozos, freaks and weirdos could function logically, compute figures in the hundreds of thousands, and not freak out the people who buy records. Many a long evening was spent chewing the fat or passing the joint. They spaced out on the possibilities of such a venture--like what they would do when they were all rich, would they get into politics and run Jerry Garcia for President, have the band committed and take over, buy Warner Brothers--the typical flashes of people thinking of starting a new business.
The problem was everybody wanted to be president, then nobody did; it was decided that a consensus would decide, then no consensus could be reached; ideas flew up and blew away, like the idea of calling the company Dufo Discs (a dufo is the m.r. who squishes his ice cream cone into his forehead) which didn't work because nobody, nobody knew what dufo meant and it was hard to explain.
One night when everybody was too stoned to get off the floor, Rakow proclaimed: "We'll call it Grateful Dead Records and we'll do business in a down-home way; we may even tell the truth. All those opposed rise." Nobody moved, though a few "right on, man"s were barely audible.
And that is the truth or one possible truth or part of the truth or none of the truth about how Grateful Dead Records was formed.
The record company executives, working out of a disreputable-looking old house in San Rafael, California, will answer and and all questions on any subject. If the question is good enough, they may even study it.

"Lay some graft on me, man." -- Grateful Dead Records

* * * * *

A Dead Anecdote: Related by Ron Rakow, President of Grateful Dead Records - publication unknown:

This is the true story: I ran a finance company in San Francisco. I was a straight guy, 28 years old, and I mean a straight guy - really fashion conscious, with a beautiful business office front, and I lent money, that was my scene.
And one day my secretary ushered two guys into my office and I looked up and I had never seen creatures that looked like that before. One guy had curly black hair below his shoulders and as wide as his shoulders on both sides. And the other guy had real straight hair real long. It was Rock Scully and Danny Rifkin (the Dead's managers) and they were wearing Indian feathers and beads and all kinds of weird shit.
And I looked up and I said, "Sit down, what's the story?" And they said they got this rock 'n' roll band and they needed $12,000 for equipment. So I said, "Well, I don't know nothing about it." And they said, "You'll hear all about it - you listen to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones?" And I said, "No, I listen to Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett."
And they told me to come to a concert the next Saturday. So I went to the concert and they gave me this Coca-Cola and after about an hour I got this twitch in my face and my eyes started to tear and I had this incredible need for tissues and shit like that.
And I really got off on the music - really got off on it. I solved a lot of my own personal problems, just right there at the end of some of Garcia's guitar licks. So I just started to come around and I gave them the money - I didn't lend it to them, I gave it to them, 'cause it was obvious that they were never going to be able to pay it back.
And, sure enough, seven months later, my business went into the shit house and the Grateful Dead said, "Come live with us, be somebody else, what do you know how to do?" And I said, "I'm a photographer," and they said okay, you're our family photographer. And I took so many pictures that I eventually got a few good ones and I became, like really a good photographer.
And I went through a lot of other changes. I was always a business guy and I eventually came to the Dead with a some ideas for a record company and we did it.
And that's the true story.

* * * * *

A promo letter to Dead Heads:

September 4, 1973

Fellow Dead Head,

There are two reasons for writing to you now; first to give you the earliest specific information on our new record distribution program; secondly to ask you to join us as part of our eyes, ears and feet on the ground to keep the scene straight locally.
We've decided to produce, manufacture and distribute our records ourselves. The band today finished the recording of an all new studio album (been a long time) called "Wake of the Flood". The album will be made from the highest quality vinyl available, which has the best technical properties. In addition, it will be heavier (weigh more, that is) than most albums available in this country. It will be handled locally through independent record distributors and should be available everywhere.
This adventure is a jumping off point to get us in a position of greater contact with our people, to put us in more command of our own ship, and for unspoken potentials for the "far out".
If you're interested in getting involved, drop us a line here. In any case you'll enjoy the record--it's dynamite!

Gratefully yours,
Grateful Dead Records

* * * * *

The followup letter:


The response from you folks knocked us over. It was so great to hear from so many of you that we figured you'd like to see some of each other's lines which are separately enclosed.
[ . . . ]
We sell records to only 18 distributors, who in turn sell to stores, rack jobbers (who just stock record departments and racks in stores like Penney's and Supermarkets etc.), and one stops which are places where small stores get small quantities of records. They are all listed in the yellow pages under Record Dealers - Wholesale and Retail.
Radio stations exist to play what you want to hear. If you want to hear the Dead over the air waves, repeated calls to the stations should be made.
You've probably noticed that we sent you some boss art work (we call it our guerrilla kit), enough for your own stash and to put up elsewhere. The end of this road is the people, and wouldn't it be a gas if stickers, postcards, and posters were everywhere?


1. Nothing unless it's fun.
2. Call on the stores and one stops mentioned above, say hello and see that our stuff is neatly arranged. We've found that sometimes we've had to neaten up everybody's stuff because many of the people that work there don't understand that these things are our art.
3. Call the local distributor if a record store doesn't have our record (you can find out who our local distributor is by asking any large record store).
4. Put up posters, stickers, and handbills.
5. Call the radio stations and ask to hear your favorite album cuts.
6. Whatever you can think up that's fun for you and fun for other folks, too.

This should give you an inside look into the record industry which will at least give you some interesting pieces of information; have fun.

Grateful Dead Records

* * * * *

The enclosed replies:


We received almost 3000 replies (12% of Dead Heads) to our letter of which this is a compendium.

Fellow Dead,

Aiding the cause of hypnocracy is high on our list of priorities so don't hesitate to call on us. It would be a welcome opportunity to do something in a positive manner. I mean, I'm writing this letter, right? To join you as part of our lives seems perfect. Eyes, ears, nose, and throat. To free the ship of artistic freedom from the moorings of the corporate hydra. If you need a local sales person, I have a fine street corner. I read your letter very carefully and could not understand what you would want me to do. Although many consider the Dead to be a living anachronism, the letter serves a further proof to all perceptive Dead Heads that the trip has only just recently arrived at a point where it has the capacity to realize its potential. THERE is your destination: I refuse to believe this is happening to me. You can count me in. There are no limits. It's like a new door opening. I am jumping right with you. Heinzelmannchenstaat. I also can't help thinking your concerts should be run the same way. What do you have on your minds? When do you begin to permit the entrance into your chosen field of those of equal calibre; to ignite a spark of actual movement of your musical themes. Gather up the fragments. The sensual abounds: play to our higher selves. We will drown our friends with it. We have physical plane powers under THE LAW. We certainly will act. Eliminate the drag energy. Just got back from a trip to Mo-Leuka. Spent much time looking for a Suggested Cro-Magnon (suggested mass) Remover. No luck. It's getting harder I imagine. I am open to just about all of it. If you want, I could probably sell at least 20-30 records up here. If that's not what you want, let me know what else I might do to help us get in command of the ship. While my feet are on the ground, my eyes and ears are firmly embedded in the clouds along with the rest of my head, but if this complication proves surmountable, I'll be glad to help. All might help to get the job nicely done. Wahopaky. Apres le deluge, tout le monde rie. Waiting for the sky to turn, then my rest will find me. If I had to duke it with someone to defend your excellent image I might not win, but if that's OK with you it's also aces with me. Clapsnee ap ret lountree. There are people who will respond to a resourceful idea. If you would be so kind as to allay my paranoia. That flood? I travel light, juggle and perform occasionally magical rituals. I've been wondering if anyone else has been seeing strange high-velocity lights in the sky? I would like to add some fuel to the Dead ship. Only joyful noise can follow the water (and smoke). I got your letter today which really flashed me because for the last few weeks I've been meaning to write to you about the subject of your letter. It's no accident. This is what's happening. We're starting to realize why. Source is vital. We're involved. I am extremely excited about the prospects for the future. Call me Poindexter. This is me deep inside the cornfields of the midwest reporting that all is well. I can't describe it: it's not just the music - it's the idea. I believe this is the way it should be done. Dead United. I operate a small radio station. I'm a DJ. I work in a record store. I'm feature editor of my school's newspaper. I own a bookstore. We'll keep in touch. I'm glad your (our) project is finally off the ground. A group of us are interested in contributing to the wave mechanisms of the flood. While most of us here are involved in trying to stave off the final cosmological singularity with non-Rheimanian physics, some of us are interested in non-spherical music. What do you want me to do? Conspiring to rise the level of bossness has captured the essence of life. For one reason or another I have a lot of energy coursing through me. I feel I must get involved. Who else is involved? We're a community of artists, farmers and mad inventors; potters, methane generator builders, windmill crazies, biodynamic gardeners, painters and computer technicians. Personally I'm a mime. Being Dead is a way of life. The magic flute. It's a place to meet. After all, reality is what we make of it. I lay down the life of the leather of my soles and the vibrations of my inner ear. We're interested in getting ever more involved. Providing it won't be too bizarre. I am young, clear-eyed and healthy. There is more, much more.

Fellow Dead

* * * * *

A more official press release:

the Grateful Dead's independent release
on October 15, 1973

WAKE OF THE FLOOD is the Grateful Dead's new studio album and the first release of Grateful Dead Records, their 'in-house' record producing and marketing company. The last studio album was released in 1970. Three live albums, ten sides of music, have intervened.
WAKE OF THE FLOOD has 45 minutes of previously unrecorded songs, many of them heard in concert over the past year.


Visions of "our own record" and the organization to market it gestated for a year, from Independence Day 1972. WAKE OF THE FLOOD and Grateful Dead Records are the joint outcome. This originated from the base of establishing control and developing relationships in all phases of the record business. In its operational methods the company follows the direction pointed to by the musical source.
The idea was to let the feeling that goes into the music flow into every step of making the record and getting it distributed. Positive response to this simple motion for a new way came from music business people throughout the industry, and from Dead Heads everywhere.
Grateful Dead Records is an arm of the Grateful Dead, existing so as to get their music to the audience according to their own standards. WAKE OF THE FLOOD was recorded, mixed and mastered in Sausalito, Marin County. It is being pressed to weight 128 grams at three locations, where quality control will be supervised by a member of the studio production team.
Higher per unit profit is an advantage of independence. The band wants to recycle this money back into further creative possibilities.
Grateful Dead Records is run by a staff of eight, getting extra energy from the band and their management located close by in San Rafael, California. The record will be shipped to the 18 independent distributors who constitute the company's primary distribution system.
Foreign distribution is licensed to Atlantic Records for release on the same date.

* * * * *

A postcard to Dead Heads:

Our record is being counterfeited, and the authorities move too slowly not realizing our survival is at stake. We need your diligent efforts. The counterfeit has square (not round) corners on the stickers and a white (not orange) 0598 on the spine. Check all stores and immediately report phonies to us.
Grateful Dead Records

* * * * *

From the October 1973 newsletter, a compendium of replies to the May '73 "State of the Changes" letter:


Moliere, "Man needs nothing so much as the dance... All human unhappiness, all blows of fortune which history reports to us, all mistakes of politics...result from...that the dance is misunderstood."

Is it sad to be one's own enemy?...all that super-star hype. Don't get lost in the shuffle. It sounded like a stock report. If I don't hear the Grateful Dead at least once a day I go into withdrawals. Will you come play our softball team? Have you sold out? Whoever wants to be born must first destroy a world. The egg is the world. Is it a non-profit organization? Concerts are way too big. Their music is hair. We know each other. Remember, the truth hurts! if you got any feelings to begin with. Music to remember innumerable lifetimes. The showboat lifted into a brightening atmosphere - orange sun across numerous heads regathering from muddy drizzle fallen for 2-3 days. In case you are planning to rip-off a starship, I do simple veterinary medicine. What is hypnocracy? Who is St. Dilbert? Cut albums on astrologically auspicious days. Run twice as fast as you can run. I'm doing my best not to be a fan. Am I writing to a computer or real people? Record lots more studio material, and undersell; the more you play the better you'll get. Develop wrap-around concert sound. Get a banjo or fiddle player. Form a symphony orchestra from Dead Heads to do to classical what the Dead do to rock and roll. Make coke commercials or an underarm thing. Gibran, "Yet unless the exchange be in love and kindly justice it will but lead some to greed and others to hunger." The physical newcomers can go - cool, cool - but they don't dig the head. Is this bad? I don't know, do you think so? It's impossible to ask any more of any musicians than what you've given us. Release more singles. I love you.
Spiritual forces control events today; the state of conflict in the spirit world parallels conflict on earth. Satan is a liar. You are the only band who still plays for the people, not money. Whatever happened to the music for the common people? Don't call it a revolution, we still have birth and death; keep it clean and honest, we have to try just a little bit more. Annual Dead Heads reunion. The whole must shift. I want to know what's going on. Coupons in albums for concert ticket discount or annual freebie tour. You still do parties or small clubs? I dig chamber music. If the AM and FM DJs won't promote you, who can you turn to? The police band? Astral project yourselves to everywhere at once. Call it all an Opportunity to Experiment With On-Stage Sound. TV should display Dead form and style so people won't fear what it really represents. Simulcast. Do a screenplay for Dead music. Cuckoo's nest. Play a small hall five days running. Play two small halls a day or two apart. I've some ideas about concert sound. Concert sound has a long way to go. Low-budget 16mm, 35mm feature film; videotapes; independent distribution channels, campus screenings, network TV, film-to-cassette. Mobile TV w/ XCU individuals, concerts, lots of tight short tunes; blow-up to 35mm for theatres...tight pilot for TV variety series, group talk, films you already have...syndicated prime-access markets...cinema-verite concert/studio/Dead lifestyle footage for art houses, campus... Define yourselves to yourselves. Jam baroque works from Bach, Handel energetic dazzling to mellow moods of Mozart and Ludwig van, new experience in as yet nonsyncretist forms w/ symphonic format and much practice, as country-classical/spacey-acid-jazz-classical/blues-jazz-pop etc. w/ref a multitude's life-style. Literally five minutes before you came onstage the sun broke through the clouds, remained the entire show.

Nov 4, 2012

Summer 1973: New Label, New Albums


The History of the Dead may well be a funeral dirge for some, but it heralds the birth of an empire for the Dead.

It's an unlikely place to find a rock and roll emporium. Located just north of San Francisco, overlooking the San Pablo Bay, sits the peaceful city of San Rafael. The tiny city is surrounded by northern California’s natural splendor, but nestled in its heart is an efficient, modernistic, business complex. In one of the largest suites of offices, the walls are decorated with gold records, posters, banners, photos and mementos of the eight year existence of America’s biggest cult supergroup. Scattered across these bulletin boards are countless hits of memorabilia, attesting to the band’s incredible endurance in a business where rock groups come and go as quickly as a summer shower.

Secretaries hustle about the offices, xeroxing documents while the phones ring on and off their hooks, inquiries are answered and interview requests are received for information concerning Grateful Dead Records, the newly formed record label owned and operated by its famous namesake. Sitting in a plush, wood-paneled office adjacent to the active front room, legendary lead guitarist and Grateful Dead mastermind Jerry Garcia leans back in a squeaky swivel chair and surveys the busy scene.

Flying from the nest

When the group’s long-run affiliation with Warner Brothers Records came to an end last July with the release of History of The Grateful Dead Volume One: Bear’s Choice, the band decided not to renew their contract, and not even to move to another record company. In one of the most historic events in the history of rock they began their own record company, allowing The Dead full and complete control over their records — from the second they begin recording to the instant someone buys an album in a record store.

The idea of a rock band’s personal label is not a new one. Elton John operates through his newly formed Rocket Records. Emerson, Lake and Palmer record on their personally owned Manticore label, while the Stones own Rolling Stones Records. However, each of these independently owned recording companies is distributed by a major company, like Warner Brothers. That means, for example, that Deep Purple Records are shipped to local record stores all over the world by Warner Brothers. Most independently owned labels seek a large company to distribute their albums so they can be assured their LP will be available everywhere. Astonishingly, the Dead have decided to take the entire job of recording, pressing, shipping, and advertising into their own hands, and they claim it will be no less easy to obtain future Dead releases than it was in the past. “It took a lot of work to get this thing together,” grins the personable Rock Scully, one of a trio of Dead band managers, “but it’s well worth the effort.”

Garcia counts the pennies

Jerry Garcia couldn’t agree more. “There are a lot of people on our payroll,” he says as he tugs at his well-worn dark green polo shirt in the Dead offices, “and we can’t really count that much on record royalties to take care of business. The live shows we do are the main source of income for the band, and we’ve been playing an awful lot to pay off our overhead.

“We’ve planned for over a year to form our own record manufacturing and distributing company so as to package and promote our stuff in a more human manner. A large benefit from that will be our capability of getting away from the retail list price inflation while still keeping more of the profits. We have nothing against the way Warner Brothers have treated us. They’ve never interfered with our music. But if the records cover a larger share of our overhead, then we can pick and choose on our live shows. We can experiment a little bit and play the really groovy shows.”

A season of supershows

An indication of the surprises in store and part of the concert experimentation has already begun with the recent Grateful Dead shows that have combined the Dead with another American supergroup, The Allman Brothers. In the case of the amazing Watkins Glen Festival in New York this past July, the Dead and the Allmans were joined by the Band. The original idea for these supershows started over a year ago when a full length, cross-country tour with the Allman Brothers was booked into some of America’s largest stadiums. The two bands have been long time friends, going back to the days the members of the groups first met each other backstage at the Fillmore East. Both bands were set to hop on planes to begin the tour last fall when Allman bassist Berry Oakley was killed in a motorcycle accident just a few days before their opening show in Houston, Texas. The joint tour was cancelled until this past summer, when the Allmans and the Dead made an appearance at the RFK Stadium in Washington. The RFK Stadium appearance made concert history. Ticketron, the computer network covering the eastern coast, reported that tickets to the Dead-Allmans concert were snapped up as far away as Montreal, Canada. More than 80,000 seats were sold for the two consecutive concerts.

Garcia waxed ecstatic about the experience, saying he couldn’t have been more at home with The Allmans.

“It’s kind of like playing with us the way we were five years ago,” Jerry laughs. “Musically and set-up wise, they’re kind of similar to the way we used to be. They especially sounded like us when they were the original Allman Brothers. They had two drummers, two guitars, organ and bass...exactly the instrumentation we had (when drummer Mickey Hart and organist-vocalist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan were in the band).

“In fact, Dickey and the guys had flashed on our music when we played at a festival in Florida about five or six years ago. We really inspired them and they’ve patterned a lot of their trip after us. They’re like a younger, Southern version of us in some ways musically. I really enjoy playing with those guys, they’re fun to play with. They’re good.”

‘Eyes’ to the future

Although there are definite plans afoot to release an album of a monumental Dead-Allmans jam-session early next year, the first release of the Grateful Dead Records label will be the long-awaited Grateful Dead studio album — their first since American Beauty hit the racks three years ago. Tentatively titled We Are The Eyes Of The World, Garcia insists the band went into the studios with the objective to “do it and do it right.” He is also quick to add that the “we” is everybody and not the group.

Recorded at the prestigious Record Plant tucked away next to a humble Sausalito boat dock on the bay, time was booked every evening from six until midnight beginning in early August and lasting into September.

“We’re recording close to two albums’ worth of material,” Garcia explains as he chain-smokes his umpteenth filterless Camel of the interview, “and distill it into one record, leaving the rest in the can. It’s funny, you know, but I can’t really pin down what kind of album it’s gonna be. I never have been able to tell with past albums either. When I get the final copy home and listen to it, then I’ll be able to look back and see what it is. Right now, all I know is that the tunes are all good. The tunes that me and Robert Hunter wrote are the best we’ve ever written. For sure.”

A crush brings a spurt

Jerry is the first to admit that he is a somewhat less than prolific songwriter, but it was last January that he underwent a creative “spasm” that left him with seven new songs. The band was about to begin rehearsals the next week in their deserted and dilapidated Point Reyes rehearsal hall and Jerry, who undoubtedly felt the crush for new material, came up with the goods. “Sometimes,” he says, “I can just crank ‘em out and other times...nothing. Like I could have a spurt in which I’d write four new songs in one week, and in the next six months I wouldn’t be able to put two words together. It’s that kind of thing.”

The Dead’s newest tunes, especially ‘We Are The Eyes Of The World’, are surprisingly complex and sometimes jazz-oriented compositions. At a recent performance at Universal Ampitheatre in Los Angeles, the song stood out from the regular standards with ease. “They’re a little more sophisticated in terms of structure than our other ones, the new tunes,” Jerry admits. “But they’re Grateful Dead all the way. I mean they sound like The Grateful Dead. I can’t really look at them objectively, but I feel that they’re better. It’s hard to tell what direction they’re moving in. They’re really sort of dispersed in that they are widely-patterned. All the tunes are very different from each other and the ones that preceded them as well.”

Pigpen’s last stand

We Are The Eyes Of The World will provide especially fascinating juxtaposition with their latest release, History of the Grateful Dead Volume One: Bear’s Choice. Rather than to choose the usual “greatest hits” packaging, for their final album commitment, The Dead dispatched production manager Owsley “The Bear” Stanley to rummage through his collection of live tapes to find a unique performance LP with which to bow out.

What The Bear chose (hence the title) was a very special recording of two nights the band performed at The Fillmore East on Friday the 13th and Valentine’s Day in February, 1970. “It’s a side of the group that never went on record,” says Jerry in retrospect.

“It shows a Dead you’ll never see or hear again,” Rock picks up the story. “The album is sixty percent Pigpen and the other forty percent is acoustic material. Needless to say, Pigpen is no longer with us and The Dead don’t do acoustic material onstage anymore. The record is very, very interesting if you know the history behind it. Pigpen went out on the stage and sat down in a was the only time he ever did it. He sat down and played the bottleneck guitar. He had never done that before or after. We’d been pushing him for years to do it and finally he just got loose enough and comfortable enough with the audience there at the Fillmore to go out and do it. He went out and sat down on the stage — it was Valentine’s Day and he had a honey out in the crowd. He went out and played ‘Katie Mae’ to her. Immediately following that, Bobby (Weir) and Garcia went out and did the same thing. They sat down and played acoustic guitars. They don’t do that anymore. With Pigpen’s death, Mickey Hart’s departure and Keith and Donna Godchaux’s addition on piano and vocals it’s a whole new band.”

History Of The Dead is an historic event for many reasons, including the last of Pigpen, the last Dead album ever to appear on a major label, and the beginning of a whole new era in small recording companies. And possibly, if Jerry Garcia can keep his eyes on “the retail list-price inflation spiral”, the benefits will be reaped in terms of dollars and concerts by grateful Grateful Dead fans everywhere.

(by Cameron Crowe, from Circus magazine, October 1973)

Nov 2, 2012

July 27-28, 1973: Watkins Glen, NY


From the start everyone knew "Summer Jam" would be the year's biggest rock & roll show. The 95-acre Watkins Glen Grand Prix auto circuit was a natural site. Large, party-mood crowds are routine at the big races, such as the annual United States Grand Prix for formula one cars. The two young promoters announced early on that they would sell 150,000 tickets, at $10 each.

But no one could have predicted that 600,000 people would ultimately choose to attend and make this the largest gathering of rock & roll fans in history. About one in every 400 persons in the U.S. was there.

By Thursday night, July 26th, a full 36 hours before the music was scheduled to sound, more than 80,000 persons were camped in the woods and groves surrounding the stage site. By the next night, still with 12 hours to go, traffic toward the area, about 120 miles west ot New York City, was being affected more than 100 miles away.

By 4 AM Saturday morning, New York State Police established roadblocks 20 miles from Watkins Glen. Undaunted, the people abandoned their cars, hoisted backpacks and set out on foot. From the air, the ribbons of cars stretching toward the horizon looked if they had been dropped in place by cranes, rather than parked by human beings.

Watkins Glen was the largest gathering of its type since Woodstock, four years ago, when a tribal gathering at the late Max Yasgur's dairy farm gave the so-called counterculture a landmark. But Watkins Glen was no Woodstock. It has spawned none of the sociological sermonizing of its predecessor, unless one can say it is the middle of Watergate summer. There were no self-congratulatory, itchycoo Vibes of Nirvana Found.

Watkins Glen was, simply, a presentation of three of the most enduring rock & roll bands ever - the Grateful Dead, the Band and the Allman Brothers - a "Summer Jam."

The co-promoters, Shelly Finkel, 29, and Jim Koplik, 23, first met in 1971 when Finkel, a product of Brooklyn and NYU, traveled to Ohio with a band he was managing. Koplik, a New Rochelle, New York, native who attended Ohio State, was presenting the show.

They met again in New Haven later that year at a rock concert being presented by Finkel, and the two decided to team up. Last year they presented six shows at a 20,000-seat football stadium in Connecticut, and it was at one of those shows, featuring the Grateful Dead, that the germ of Watkins Glen took hold.

"We had the Dead at Dillon Stadium," said Koplik, "and after their set Dicky Betts and the late Berry Oakley of the Allmans came on and jammed. The music they produced was unbelievable, and we decided we had to get the two bands together for a planned concert."

In February of this year, they found out about Watkins Glen. "When we began thinking of a third act to round out the bill, we decided to ask the two bands who they wanted. They suggested the Band and everyone agreed," said Koplik.

The partners had high praise for Bill Graham and FM Productions, Graham's stage, sound and lighting people. "He's Number One, the best," said Koplik of Graham, who gave his advice and counsel at Walkins Glen free of charge. "In fact," said Koplik, "a couple of weeks ago Bill called us up and asked if it would be all right if he came."

Koplik, speaking by telephone from New York several days after the event, said he had one more thing to add: "We don't want to sound corny, but the real credit goes to the 600,000 who supported the show."

George Rehety was sitting under a large oak in his front yard on a slatwood lawn chair. Rehety is 74 years old. His face is flecked with liver spots. "You know," he said, "these are nice kids. I haven't seen one fight." All through Watkins Glen (pop. 3000) townspeople perched on lawn chairs and bridge chairs, sitting in their yards, watching the hippies. No one saw a fight.

By Saturday afternoon there wasn't an ice cube in Watkins Glen, or a potato chip. The Beverage Baron was almost out of beer. The Beverage Baron was absolutely out of cold beer. "And I'd filled the place with beer, up to the ceiling," Jack Mafianey, the Beverage Baron himself said. "This is ten times bigger than the Grand Prix."

Watkins Glen regularly draws 100,000 and more to the auto races. But these were different people. "I'd rather deal with these kids than the race crowd any day," a mounted cop said. "I've never been called 'Sir' so many times in my life."

Wooley's Liquor Store stocked up heavy on Boone's Farm fruit wine. What the race crowd drinks. But Boone's Farm didn't move. Instead Wooley's sold out of Jack Daniel's and Southern Comfort, and an extra truck full of liquor was shipped in with a police escort - to get through the traffic, not because of hijack fears.

Which is not to say there was no trouble. Friday night five youths were arrested for butchering and attempting to barbecue a farmer's pig -- SOP at races, but that was before bacon hit $1.69 a pound. Virtually every shopping cart in Watkins Glen and nearby Mantour Falls was borrowed for the hike to the festival site. There were some 200 arrests, most for misdemeanor drug possession.

At the site a Midway had been set up: shirts, $2; ice cream, 25 cents. One kid had set himself up with a sign: MEXICAN GRASS $20 AN OUNCE. Another walked the Midway singing: "Opium, opium, who wants to cop some opium."

"It's funny, we're seeing no heroin, almost no LSD. Our biggest drug problem here is alcohol." Bill Nagle, a local internist, directed medical operation. He went through $30,000 worth of Band-Aids and Thorazine and tetanus toxoid. Late Saturday night another doctor reported: "Two-thirds of the people we've seen have come in with cuts and fractures. They're all drug related, because everybody is wrecked here, but just one-third of our patients have been ODs. And half of those have come in with acute alcohol intoxication." Acute alcohol intoxication means dead drunk. Or nearly dead.

The medical tents saw 7000 people. Forty-three were helicoptered out to nearby hospitals. One remains in serious condition. OD'd on booze and downs, but he is expected to make it.

There was just one death at the site itself. A skydiver, jumping, carrying some kind of exploding device, caught fire. He was dead before he hit the ground. And at least five persons were reported killed in automobile accidents en route to Watkins Glen. There were two stabbings. Two young men refused to give away a quantity of marijuana they had been intent upon selling, so two other young men tried to pry the dope away from them.

Co-producers Finkel and Koplik estimated that costs would run to more than $1 million. Although they would not divulge exact figures, they said it was a "good estimate" that the total band fees amounted to about $400,000. "We believe," said Koplik, "that each band had its biggest payday." (Later it was learned that the Dead received a flat fee of $117,500.)

Other bills included: $30,000 for helicopters; $50,000 for police; $100,000 for rental of 1000 portable toilets; $40,000 for water; $40,000 for clean-up. Also provided were 300,000 pre-moistened facial towelettes. Bill Graham's FM Productions earned $200,000 for the stage, lighting and 50,000-watt sound system.

The Watkins Glen Grand Prix Association rented the circuit for a guarantee against a percentage. That figure was unavailable. The association also ran the concessions, and figured to make a neat profit off such items as hot dogs, pizza and 30-cents-a-can soda pop.

Promptly at noon Saturday, the Dead came on and began a five-hour set. The Band played from 6 PM until 9, and the Allman Brothers came on at 10 PM and played until 2 AM. Then everybody jammed till 3-30. The last song was an extended "Johnny B. Goode."

While the Band was playing, the rains came for about thirty minutes, churning the turf into mud. When the rain stopped, and the Band came back to finish up, there was this couple balling in the mud just below the stage. She was a little zaftig, and you heard the shoosh when she lifted her hips and the splat when she hit bottom.

At ten it was dark - country dark, and the Allman Brothers chewed 'em up and spit 'em out whole, as they say. Surveying the scene from behind the stage, a roadie said of the endless flickering campfires that could be seen: "It looks like something from the Civil War."

"The Band played brilliant music," said Bill Graham. "Robbie [Robertson] said it was the first 100 percenter he'd been to. Leon had a kick to his drums, and Manuel...great. They all had a marvelous time. And the Allmans and the Dead - of their ilk, they're the best."

Graham revealed how the early arrivals at the race circuit received unscheduled entertainment. "By Thursday night there were already 80,000 to 100,000 camped outside. I said to the promoters let's open at dawn [Friday] and do a sound check in front of 100,000 people. Everybody agreed. My theory was that rather than have a stampede, open up at dawn, and those that were up could come in and those that were sleeping could sleep, then get up and not be in the middle of a crowd.

"So they came in Friday. At noon on Friday the sound was set - and this was never reported - the Dead played two hours. It drove the kids crazy. The Band came on and did an hour. The Allmans did two hours. By Friday night 150,000 people had gotten a five-hour show. They'd gotten a taste, an appetizer, and they knew their heroes were there."

Capricorn Records, the Allmans' label, recorded their set. So some sort of Watkins Glen album seems probable. However, there won't be a Watkins Glen movie. The Grateful Dead refused to participate, and in a statement, released by manager Sam Cutler, explained:

"The Grateful Dead are sick and tired of being given cornball ideas for rock movies. The Grateful Dead are delighted that Watkins Glen is only a fond memory and that there will be no further commercial exploitation of what was a tasteful musical trip."

Sunday, 7 AM: the morning after. In the early light the compound looked, indeed, like a war had been fought there. A war fought with beer cans and plastic water jugs, whiskey bottles and Cracker Jack boxes and 10,000 jars of Skippy Peanut Butter. The young promoters, it turned out, had forgotten to rent garbage cans.

But while "Summer Jam" ended messy, it also ended happy. One youth who faced a ten-mile hike to his car - and then an all-day and all-night drive home - said he'd do it again - next week. The girl who'd hitched down from Toronto barefoot not only had a good time, but she was beaming over the pair of discarded sandals she'd found to wear home. And the guy, stark naked, drying his Levis over a fire, holding them there with a slick the way you'd roast a hot dog, he looked like any contented backyard barbecue chef.

"Things went so well," said Koplik, "there's a chance we'll do another one, but not this year. Henry Valent [of the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Association] says, 'No more.' We can't do one of this magnitude. He asked me, 'How can we hold things down the next time?' I told him, 'I don't know how we got all those people here in the first place.'" Wandering around in the rubble, I found a Bible half buried in the mud. It was open to the Book of Isaiah. Chapter 24, The Apocalypse: "Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and he maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down."

(by Joel Siegel, from Rolling Stone, August 30 1973)

This article is also included here:

And there is also a long article by Robert Santelli about the festival here:

June 9-10, 1973: RFK Stadium, Washington DC


It was far less a concert than an event -- the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band together for two days at RFK Memorial Stadium. Every rock & roller on the East Coast worth his or her faded jeans -- about 80,000 of them -- showed up. The emphasis was so much on scene-making that the music frequently seemed incidental to the conspicuous consumption here of reefers, reds and Ripple.

Doug Sahm and Wet Willie opened the festivities on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Sahm's Texas country-blues drew heavily on his recent album, culminating with a raucous run-through of "San Antone."

But on Sunday, June 10th, Wet Willie surprised everyone with the most lively, vibrant music of the weekend -- an energetic brand of Southern R&B. Jimmy Hall's vocals and razor-edged harp, Ricky Hirsch's scorching guitar and Jack Hall's insistent bass taxed the twin sound systems and filled the stadium with layers of funky greaseball drive.

The Allmans closed the Saturday show with an inspired performance most obvious during "Les Brers in A Minor," which was driven to incredible levels of intensity by Dicky Betts' searing guitar lines.

Sunday evening, the Dead did not fare as well. Though they frequently displayed commendable instrumental virtuosity, they suffered from a relative paucity of musical ideas, which they compounded by playing for more than six hours. After the third or fourth hour of extended variations on the "Dark Star" theme, many persons began to leave. But it must be admitted that the hard-core remainder seemed to enjoy every minute of the rest of the show, especially during "Truckin'," which was accompanied by much stomping and clapping.

The long awaited inter-group jam finally materialized around Sunday at midnight, but with Betts and Butch Trucks the only Brothers participating, it was, in effect, another 90 minutes of the Dead.

President Nixon chose not to attend. In the audience, however, was Caroline Kennedy, Sam Cutler, the Metropolitan Police and a big brown dog.

(by Gordon Fletcher, from Rolling Stone, July 19 1973)

Article also included here: (the "paucity of musical ideas"...)