May 28, 2013

June 1967: New York City



[The article starts with a fight between police & hippies in Tompkins Square Park on Tuesday May 30, Memorial Day.]
...In the late afternoon on Memorial Day, the Flower People were out in force, complete with kirtan and bongoes... The park foreman had had enough. It had been a peaceful, if boring, park before the hippies came... The hippies were playing musical instruments, and sitting on the grass at that, both in violation of park regulations.
[A noise complaint was made to the police.]
A couple of cops went over to the park and told the hippies to shut up and get off the grass. The kids laughed, and kept singing. The cops ordered them to leave. “They laughed at us,” patrolman John Rodd explained. “That’s when the trouble began.”
[The cops attacked & arrested a bunch of the hippies, but this backfired.]
...As city departments competed with self-absolutions and veiled accusations, the hippies emerged from the crisis as a community. They had won the park. The next day, the grassy battleground was designated a “troubador area” by Parks Commissioner August Heckscher, the gates were opened, and the “keep off the grass” signs removed. [ . . . ]
The Group Image played to a packed park Wednesday night, but there were no cops around to love. Their absence was regretted later in the evening when a group of Puerto Rican youths, upset by the hippies’ newly-won dominance of the park, rained rocks and beer cans on the musicians. The Group Image made a hasty exit. [ . . . ]
[The police captain met with the East Village Defense Committee, hearing protests against police actions.]
June began on Thursday, and the Grateful Dead were in town and, despite some rumble rumors from the Puerto Ricans, the prospects for peace looked promising. A happy, scruffy parade of 80 marched down St. Mark’s Place, complete with police escort, to present the Dead with a white carnation key to the East Village, graciously accepted by Pigpen. And the Tompkins Square bandshell rocked with San Francisco glory until a noise complaint was lodged in the late afternoon. Rather than tune down, the Dead turned off. [ . . . ]
[There was another committee meeting that night.]
Meanwhile, the Tactical Police Force was back in Tompkins Square Park.
All day there were rumors that the Puerto Ricans were uptight. The rumors were true. They knew about Memorial Day, and they had heard the “LSD music” and they thought that the hippies were taking over the park. The park was tense Thursday night as the Pageant Players performed three anti-war plays. “There was some hostile response,” Michael Brown of the Pageant Players recalled, “but there always is when we perform in the street. The last thing we tried was an improvisation about the events in the park Tuesday. At the end of it, there was a small fight in the audience.”
The Pageant Players were followed by a folk-rock group, and a group of Puerto Ricans came to the bandshell and demanded Latin music. Some words were exchanged, and a scuffle started, and the iron curtain was pulled down to close the stage. [ . . . ]
[A mob formed, attacking people & wrecking cars; police arrived & dispersed the crowd. The Puerto Rican community met & decided to have another concert Friday night, June 2.]
The park was jammed Friday night. Mongo Santamaria played, and Len Chandler sang, and China Garcia from the Real Great Society mc’d in Spanish. [ . . . ] Hippies and Puerto Ricans together grooved on the Latin music. And when the music stopped, shortly before midnight, everyone held his breath. But there was no riot. [ . . . ]
Saturday afternoon the Fugs played in the bandshell, and tourists swarmed into the park. [ . . . ] The community rallied to discourage the tourists, and Sunday the bandshell was closed. [After a stabbing, the Parks Commissioner revoked a permit for further concerts in the bandshell.] It was felt that the concerts attracted tourists, but were not representative enough to satisfy the community.

(by Don McNeill, from the Village Voice, June 8 1967) (6/8/67 Village Voice - Dead mentioned on p. 21)

See also: (particularly the comments)



Tompkins Square Park began to emerge as a sort of Mecca of psychedelia yesterday as about 3,000 assorted hippies gathered to commemorate the two-day-old Memorial Day Bash-In.
They sprawled out in every direction from a bandstand in the three-block-square park in the East Village, listening to an amplified explosion of rock 'n' roll by a San Francisco band that calls itself The Grateful Dead. They drew wide-eyed stares from oldsters sunning themselves in the park, and won support from at least one old woman who commented, "If I was young again, I'd probably be doing just the same thing."
Since nothing can be called just a crowd anymore, this gathering was called a "real-in." Its alleged purpose was to show police that the hippie element had not been intimidated by the battle Tuesday in which 42 hippies were arrested after they defied orders to leave the park. Several policemen stood at the rear of the crowd yesterday but did not interfere with the hippies' day in the sun.
The Grateful Dead, playing loud enough to raise the ungrateful dead, began playing at 2 PM and the music could be heard for blocks in every direction. The hippies began emerging from their nearby tenements and lofts and converging on the park in their usual varied get-up, including assorted combinations of long hair, beards, sandals, boots, saris, jeans and miniskirts. "We just gather here to be in the sun," said one hippie as he did his yoga exercises.
Some of the hippies were still in the park last night, but a large crowd gathered that was a mixture of non-hippie or anti-hippie, most of them youths. Several incidents were reported, and scores of police were rushed to the scene. In one incident a motoryclist was pulled from his cycle, which was then wrecked. In another, some clothes were ripped off a 29-year-old woman. Police rescued her, and she refused to press charges against anyone. Both incidents were attributed to the anti-hippie element, since the hippie code centers on peace and nonviolence. In contrast to Tuesday's battle, the cops asked the crowd to disperse last night, and then most of the policemen left without trying to break up the crowd with force.

(from Newsday, June 2 1967)



NEW YORK (UPI) - The biggest outpouring of hippies in the short history of New York's dropout generation converged on Tompkins Square Park Thursday to prove to police that they cannot be intimidated.
Clad in exotic attire that managed to combine the fashions and fragrances of Delhi and Dogpatch, the longhaired ones were over 3,000 strong at the daylong "real-in" in the Lower East Side park.
Tompkins Square was the scene of a bloody melee Memorial Day night when 200 hippies refused police orders to stay away from grassy sections of the park, which were closed to the public in order to keep the turf green. Nine persons were injured and 38 were jailed.
Mayor John V. Lindsay appeared to go along with subsequent criticisms of police, allowing that the incident might have been avoided if patrolmen had been "more tactful." The gates to the park's grassy areas were opened and the hippies lolled on the greensward playing bongo drums and reading poetry unmolested.

Parks Commissioner August Heckscher, one of the nation's leading experts in cultural transition, voiced concern that "America's youth are involved in a musical explosion and New York's Bohemian element has to get a permit to take part."
The explosion burst on Tompkins Square Thursday afternoon when a rock 'n' roll band, "The Grateful Dead" from San Francisco, with amplifiers turned up to infinity took over the bandshell and loosed a blast that could be heard blocks away. Oldsters sunning themselves in the normally quiet park looked stunned.
From surrounding streets the longhaired ones in leather, saris, jhelabas, jeans, and miniskirts filtered into the park. Many danced as in a trance, beads and Buddhist bells attached to their costumes jangling in weird accompaniment. Others sat on the grass, swayed, clapped hands, and smoked.
"We just gather here to be in the sun," said one hippy as he did his Yoga exercises. "We're friends, that's all."
He found an unexpected friend in a septuagenarian woman on a nearby bench.
"If I was young again, I'd be doing just the same thing," she said.

(UPI report, from the Independent,  2 June 1967)


From the New York Daily News:


The hippies were back in Tompkins Square Park last night [May 31]. So were their bongo drums, guitars, a harmonica, and all the noise they could produce. In fact, they had a sound truck amplifying the music so it could be heard six blocks to the north, at 13th St.
Thirty-five gyrating hippies swayed on the bandstand where four guitarists, a harmonica player, and a bongo player twanged and banged. And 1,000 other hippies, ringed by about 500 scowling older neighborhood residents, were gathered round the bandstand, at the south end of the park, which is between Avenues A and B and Seventh and 10th Sts.
The shindig lasted four hours, until 10:40 P.M., 20 minutes before the permit time limit.
And the hippies promised even bigger and bashier doings today. Between 2 and 5 P.M. the Grateful Dead, a California outfit, will perform before a turnout expected to be large. And from 6 to 11 P.M. there will be a concert by a unit calling itself the Group Image.

Five of the 38 hippies arrested Tuesday were interviewed on Bleecker St. yesterday and said they still loved the police. "Let us accept the police as people in a peaceful manner, with gentle voices," they urged other hippies.
Gentleness was not particularly noticeable in hippie music at the park last night. And the band's loud speakered noise was punctuated by the explosion of firecrackers set off by hippies in the crowd around the bandstand.
Hyman Abromowitz, 67, a cab driver who lives nearby at 40 Avenue D, sat with his wife, Rae, 62, on a park bench. His music comment for the evening was: "I never saw anything like this. They're wild people." His wife nodded and said: "They're for the birds."
Another neighborhood veteran chimed in: "It's a shame. The old-timers around here are afraid to come into the park because these bums have taken over."

Bowery derelicts had drifted into the park, looking for handouts. One could distinguish them from the hippies because the derelicts were older, quieter, less extreme in their clothing, and were pinch-smoking cigaret butts.
Some hippies were inhaling a smoke that smelled like incense. They waved thin, burning strips before their noses and breathed deeply. Another hippie wore a World War I helmet, painted black and emblazoned with this message on white: "LSD Forever."
Yesterday afternoon hippies "grooved" on the bright sunshine and on some of their music tootled by a flute player in the park.
[ . . . ]

(by Edward Benes & Patrick Doyle, from the Daily News, 1 June 1967)


The lower East Side got a small taste of the long, hot summer yesterday as several thousand hippies cosied into Tompkins Square Park to hear teeth-rattling rock music that even had the concrete band shell vibrating.
But if some neighborhood residents expected a replay of Tuesday night's riot, they were disappointed. What they saw was a massive display of "flower power," otherwise known as the power of love and peace.
Love was much in evidence, from the couples lolling on the grass to the lyrics of songs belted by a group called The Grateful Dead.
The day's events opened at 2 P.M. with a parade from Cooper Square to the park. It can be stated authoritatively that the line of march totalled 82 persons, not counting the occupants of three police radio cars that brought up the rear.
The real show was in the audience, where the mode of dress would have driven a fashion editor into shock. Girl hippies wore everything from baggy granny dresses to blush-length miniskirts. Boy hippies went from Luftwaffe jackets to cowboy outfits. Ronnie Jackson, known locally as Ronnie Mau Mau, and who seemed in charge, made the scene in a shirt open to the navel.
An anxious police sergeant from the 9th Precinct asked Ronnie if it was true that 4 or 5,000 college kids were expected to show up for tomorrow's concert by The Fugs and got a who-knows? answer.
It was obvious that police were walking a tightrope to avoid a repetition of the riot. Uniformed cops remained discreetly outside the park but others in casual civilian dress tried vainly to blend into the scene around the band shell.

[... The rest of the article warns that "50,000 Hippies from all over the country will be migrating to the East Village" this summer, bringing marijuana and LSD with them. Local hippie representatives are working to establish communes where they can stay, and raising a communal bail fund in anticipation of increased "narco busts."

(by Douglas Sefton, from the Daily News, 2 June 1967)

[ . . . ] The hippies had their third happening yesterday in the now un-restricted area of the park and it went without incident.
Police were nowhere to be found as some 500 weirdly dressed patrons of love-ins clapped their hands in rhythm as they marched behind "The Grateful Dead," a guitar playing group of mangy hippies from the West Coast.
Older residents sat trying to enjoy the park, but it was impossible as the hippies all sang and danced along with the group.
[ . . . ]
Meanwhile reports have been coming into City Hall, Police and Parks Department that a swarm of the new beat-generation who believe in love and music, were on their way from all parts of the country.
With a long summer ahead, officials are trying to cope with the problem and yet not allow the same situation to arise as in the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco.
For the past month police have been deluged with parents asking for help in finding their young daughters and sons. Daily parents come into the station houses and ask for an escort into the "Land of the Hippie" to retrieve a child.
Bigger and better things are planned for the newly arriving "lovers," including a community center where the hippie can get a place to live, raise bail, and maybe even a few bucks.

(by William Federici, excerpt from "Night Mayor Hit On Hippie Foulup," Daily News, 2 June 1967)


The hot sun shone on Tompkins Square Park yesterday [Sat. June 3] as swarms of hippies, college kids, tourists, and local young people converged for an afternoon and evening of entertainment. Serenity reigned under the watchful eyes of hundreds of cops.
Braced for a hot day and night of action in the battle-torn park, police watched from rooftops and inside the park for that spark of trouble - but vigilante groups from all factions of the neighborhood kept the peace.
In the band shell, the Fugs, an off-key rock group, bounced, twanged, and sweated out three hours of songs and antics as a varied group sat entranced.
The sound could be heard all over the park, but was barely audible outside the fence surrounding Tompkins Square.
Parks Department technicians manned the audio equipment, donated by an electronics company.
The older residents and the mothers with children seemed to be unaware of the entertainment. They enjoyed the park and sun.
Police and city officials on the scene seemed relaxed after Friday's meeting at City Hall. [ . . . ]
Leaders of all factions of the lower East Side neighborhood - Puerto Ricans, Negroes, Slavs, Italians, Jews and hippies - were cooperating.
Constantly on the move in the swarm of beards, long hair, crewcuts and miniskirts were men with white armbands. They were appointed by the vigilante committee, and had the full force of the police waiting for a sign of trouble.
Trouble had been expected, for the Fugs' appearance at the park was widely publicized at East Coast colleges. They are noted for songs of protest and irreverant presentations, and authorities watched intent listeners.
"It's amazing," one official said. "Why anyone would want to sit in the hot sun and listen to this is beyond me. But look at them. They're not all of the same cut. This is the new 'in' thing, I guess, and so everybody gets into the act."
Police will remain on duty until 10:30 P.M. daily. They hope they will not have to move in, as they did on Memorial Day and last Thursday [June 1]. 

(by William Federici, from the Daily News, 4 June 1967)



450 at the Band Shell Hear Electric-Guitar Combos

Hippies armed with electric guitars occupied the band shell at the Mall in Central Park yesterday and opened up their musical artillery. An audience of about 450 withstood the two-and-a-half-hour barrage.
About half the audience was composed of hippies, from 15 to 32 years old. The rest appeared to be passers-by.
Earlier this week the Parks Department barred such musical entertainment at the amphitheater in Tompkins Square Park, on the Lower East Side. But it gave permission for the use of the Central Park bandshell from 2 to 5 p.m. yesterday.
A combo called the Group Image - five electric guitars plus drums - achieved a sound at times that suggested a derailed freight train plunging over a cliff. Then a group called the Grateful Dead came on with electronically amplified variations on rock 'n' roll music.
The young people, some with bare feet and others wearing sandals or socks, did some moderately contortionate dancing at first. But then the pace quickened, and soon they were jumping around like rag dolls being jerked by wires.
"Part of our thing is to try to turn people on with our music, because if you're up tight, you can't relax," said Laird C. Grant of the Grateful Dead.
"I'm a pothead," a young man said amiably, walking by with a kitchen pot on his head.

(from the New York Times, June 9 1967)

Previously included here:



SCENES (from the Village Voice 6/15/67)

The Flower People went uptown Monday night for the first of a series of “Inter-Tribal Community Benefits” at Cheetah... Many who came in suits took out their handkerchiefs and used them for headbands. Many who came in shirts took them off.
The Grateful Dead played to their people for the third free time in their ten-day tour. They have functioned not only as missionaries of the San Francisco sound but as emissaries from the Haight. “It’s happening here,” Rock Scully said. “New York is still two years behind the Haight, but two months ago it was three years behind.”
The Group Image also played and they made people dance. It is possible that the tribal-fling sound might catch on further out than the East Village because of its influence on dancing.
Years ago the twist revolutionized dancing because it was so easy to do, but during the last few Beatle years, rock music has become complex and with it discotheque dancing has become something more demanding than just moving your hips.
The kind of full throttle runaway tuning up raga blast that the Group Image plays is very formless. A newcomer trying to dance to this sound at first finds it hard to figure out what to do. After a while the sound gets to you and you discover that you can dance to it but only if you forget old cliches.
Anyone, repeat, anyone can frenzy dance to the Group Image. You can jump up and down and wave your hands in the air and hurtle in circles and fall on the floor. Anything goes.
More freaking out at the Cheetah next Monday and profits go to buy paper for the Communications Company and more bail money for the Jade Companions. (6/15/67 Village Voice, see p. 19)

[Note: the show wasn't actually free. The same column also prints a letter from the San Francisco Oracle, saying they’re expecting thousands of people journeying to San Francisco, and they need to bring more than flowers and bananas: money for rent & food, sleeping bags, camping equipment, extra food, warm clothing, and ID. This issue of the Village Voice also has some fascinating articles & letters about the Tompkins Square situation, and the divisions in the community, particularly between the pacifist hippies who want to drop out & the political activists who want to reform society, and the inability of anyone to agree on what to do.]


From "What Goes On," Crawdaddy, Issue 10, July/Aug 1967:

There's still no real rock scene in New York, but things are happening very fast. (Rock Scully: "When I was here a month ago, New York was three years behind the Haight. Now it's two years behind.") The Grateful Dead came to town, and played so many free concerts that the SF tradition of music in the parks seems firmly established here.
The Group Image has been a particularly important influence on the scene. (The Image are an amorphous bunch who produce music, posters, confusion, and other useful items. As yet, their music is nothing very good, but their performance is very enjoyable - the audience makes as much noise as the Image, and it's all very tribal and very real.)
Monday nights at the Cheetah are now devoted to the community, following a marvelous Grateful Dead-Group Image concert there early in June. For the first time, the Cheetah had good people onstage and good people in the audience, and it made all the difference in the world.


From “Miles’ Trip: New York,” by Barry Miles, from the UK magazine International Times, 6/30/67 – an update on the NYC scene for English readers.

Tompkins Square Park is the focal point for hippie-power in the Lower East Side of New York. In the surrounding blocks are the Tompkins Square Bookshop, 10th Street Books, The Peace Eye Bookshop, the old E.V.O. Office, The Leather Shop, The Psychedehcatessen, Psychedelic Community Centre and many cafes, bars and boutiques all serving the hippie community. Two weeks ago the first major encounter between police and hippies occured in the park where the hippies got their heads smashed and the city apologised – Mayor Lindsey's second in command saying that the hippies should remember that the police are essentially a fascist organisation... Three police stand on each corner of the park now and more are available from an emergency van parked just off the square. The Ukranians and Puerto Ricans of the area have not made any arrangements with the hip community and the "melting pot" just doesn't melt. [. . . ]

The Mothers of Invention expect to be here [London] in late September. Their stage act in New York is, like their new album Absolutely Free, structured like an opera. Zappa stands amid dozens of people who appear in a state of total anarchy. At the raise of his arm they move from one number to another or stop or start. Groupies leap about the stage with tambourines or sweep up the mashed fruit that another Mother eats and spits out again into the audience – all a bit messy. The act requires a fairly complete knowledge of American classic pop music for a good appreciation of its musical content – they will blow people's minds here.

The Fugs are still playing in the Village – the words making up for a certain lack of music continuity. Ken Weaver's brilliant humour and Sanders' direct approach hold the audience in a way that no other group could... The pornographic interlude in the middle of the show would probably be unintelligible here but is very funny. Tuli Kupferberg visualises many of the songs in a way of his own, particularly in 'Kill For Peace'.

The Grateful Dead and the Group Image were at the Cheetah with an expensive light show. The Dead play like a more electronic version of Tomorrow, the Group Image are a mixture of the Soft Machine and A.M.M. – heavily experimental, heavily amplified. The light show is overdone and becomes tame. It seems to be preselected or programmed in some way though there seemed to be operators on the projectors.

[The rest of the article is about Tim Leary's activities.]

The Bob Fass radio show from 6/7/67 has an interview with several Group Image members, and Rock Scully & Danny Rifkin representing the Dead.
This isn't a normal question & answer radio show, though, mostly just stoned banter & laughter. (There's even a group humming session.)

They announce the Central Park show the next day, from 2-5 pm. The Group Image are looking forward to playing out in the park. “Free in the park, tomorrow – free freak!”
Foss asks the Group Image to describe their sound. "Come tomorrow and find out, listen to us!"
Foss: “You’re also doing something at the Cheetah for money.”
“It’s a benefit for the Lower East Side community, it’s gonna be every Monday night during the summer at the Cheetah.” They talk about ticket arrangements, how the money will be divided between the tribes, Group Image's control of the events, the situation at Cheetah, and how the light show is run.

Foss says, "The peace in Tompkins Square Park seems to have been restored by the people wearing armbands.”
“And playing in rock bands – of course the rock bands started it!”
Foss: “You think that’s true?”
“No. [But] that kind of music stirs people up - it gets people to freak.”
"You know something, it doesn't stir people up violently in sunshine, rock music and sunshine go together real well."

Introducing the Dead, Foss says to Scully, “I hear a lot of beautiful things about you, you have a lot to live up to... People have been telling me about you for well over a year, and that's a long time..."
He says, “Rock’s from San Francisco where the name ‘Grateful Dead’ makes a lot of sense.”
And he asks Rifkin, “How do you guys compare with Moby Grape?”

Scully & Rifkin complain about the scary police in San Francisco, who are out to get the hippies. (They seem to think that in NYC, police just keep the peace & stop crime...) Foss compares the San Francisco & New York Be-Ins (there had been a couple Be-Ins in Central Park), feeling that in SF the people were all watching the bands, while in NYC everyone did their own thing. Scully & Rifkin disagree, talking about the different circles of people all over Golden Gate Park, and describing the experience in glowing terms. Foss is curious about San Francisco & asks them what the "tribes" are like out there - they think it's much the same as in NYC, but it's easier for people to get together out west.

Jim Fosso, a Group Image member, remembers playing with the Dead at the Tompkins Square Park show.

"The park had become a hippie hangout of sorts, with weed being smoked more or less openly until the cops staged a big raid, beat up several people and threw them in jail. This caused a huge uproar, police were shamed for their brutality, and proclaimed that they wouldn't be patrolling the park anymore.
I had co-founded a band called "Group Image" (name inspired by Marshall McCluhan's "The Medium Is The Message"). We planned to play a benefit concert, I think to help with legal expenses for the police victims, and we contacted the Dead to invite them to join in. They accepted because they were in town anyway, and visited us at the loft for a brief jam a day or two before.
They played a few of their songs for us, and then asked us to play some of ours. One of us replied, "We don't have any songs. We just play free." We were known as the loudest band in New York, having learned how to stack columns of Marshall amps together at a time when the Beatles were using little Standells. We would often set up at St Mark's Church or some other venue such as the Balloon Farm, set up a light show, and just start jamming, improvising, the word would spread, crowds showed up. We were wild, primitive, unstructured, like a tribe, and the music sprang from that roughly organized chaos.
I was a fan of Charles Lloyd, a jazz musician in the Coltrane, Albert Ayler mold (although much more whimsical in his "Free Music" style) and had translated that genre into rock in my own crude way, with a lead guitar style similar to the Byrds "Eight Miles High". I was also a hanging-out friend of Larry Coryell, one of the early jazz fusion guitarists, whose apartment was across the street from Tompkins Square. Anyway, I brought my crude oddball guitar style with those influences to the Tompkins Square concert. I think the Dead and Group Image played some songs, then jammed for about 5-6 hours. The crowd went insane, as they usually did at our shows.
Toward the end, things got increasingly crazy and scary...women being assaulted, weapons brandished by ethnic groups that were somewhat resentful of the hippie invasion of the Lower East Side, with no cops in sight. We were on our own to get out of there. We quickly tore down our gear, packed up and ran for our lives. I think I remember Weir slamming the last of their gear into the back of a Chevy panel truck."

(Judging by the newspaper reports, which describe neither long jams nor assaults at either of the Dead's park shows, he may be mixing up memories of the Group Image's May 31 Tompkins Square Park show and the Dead/Group Image June 8 Central Park show.)

See also: - the Group Image on TV, 1969

The Dead also played at the Cafe au Go Go from June 1-11, but I haven't seen any news reports about that.

May 25, 2013

May 12, 1967: Marigold Ballroom, Fresno


The Grateful Dead, one of the fastest rising groups in the mercurial world of rock and roll music, will be featured Friday at a concert-dance in the Marigold Ballroom.
Together with the Jefferson Airplane, another San Francisco group, The Grateful Dead is the exponent of the latest R and R sound, psychedelphia. [sic] The Dead's version is a harsh-rock sound weaving together Indian raga, blues and country and folk music, usually presented in an atmosphere of swirling lights, art nouveau posters, underground films and "hippie" happenings.
Lead guitarist Jerry Garcia, a former folk musician from Palo Alto, and Pig Pen, their organist, harmonica player and blues singer, have been featured in national magazines and television documentaries. The group's first album, entitled "The Grateful Dead," was recently released.
The Fresno group, The Road Runners, will share the billing in the Friday program. Shows are scheduled for about 9:45 and 11:15 p.m. Tickets for $2.50 may be purchased in the Discorama or the Gospel Music and Supply Co. The price at the door will be $3.

(from the Fresno Bee, May 11 1967)

Thanks to David Sorochty.

* * *


For a study in musical contrasts, one would have to go far to beat the trip from the so-called "psychadelic" sounds of the Grateful Dead at the Marigold Ballroom to the Country Music Spectacular in the Convention Center Theater.
Largely adult crowds sat in on two shows in the theater featuring some of the nation's top C&W performers playing and singing the finest, softest modern country tunes and popular ballads. The show had not the excitement of the compelling Grateful Dead, one of the currently most "in" groups in the rock-and-roll world, but the melodies were lovely, the lyrics readily distinguishable, and the atmosphere - "corny" as it may be - had a fresh, open-country feeling, in contrast to the gritty look and musical approach of the raggle-taggle "Dead."

[omitted description of country music show - featuring Slim Whitman, Charlie Pride, Roy Clark, Connie Smith, & Ray Price]

The Grateful Dead would make any but a hippie's worst-dressed list, with their piecemeal clothing. Their disarray was exceeded only by the variety of the garb among the audience which paid $2.50 to $3 to hear the Fresno introduction of "The Dead," live. The girls' styles, especially, ran the gamut, from granny dress to miniskirt. Many of the youngest in the junior-high to high-school age crowd puffed cigarettes, to the concern of no one, including the usual roving officers.
The music is ear-splitting, with wall lights and strobe lights on stage pulsating to the beat of the harsh, discordant sounds. Purple neon lights cast a weird phospherescent glow on the circus of bobbing dancers.
The Grateful Dead claim roots in country western, but it is lost in the blend of blues, folk rock, classic turns and Indian Raga. The arrangements are full of deliberately harsh dissonances and thunderous, repetitive climaxes. It is not pleasant listening but it is powerful and compellingly rhythmic.
The Grateful Dead are not yet widely recorded, so, not surprisingly, few in the audience differentiated between "Golden Road," "The New Minglewood Blues," or the "Viola Lee Blues." But the dancers were oblivious. "The Dead" are one with the Haight-Ashbury "hippies" of San Francisco. Unlike old fashioned country western music, often redolent of the past, they spell Now. Maybe even Tomorrow.

(by David Hale, from the "On the Aisle" column, Fresno Bee, May 13 1967)

Thanks to Lost Live Dead

May 23, 2013

March 1967: Garcia Interview


An interview by Randy Groenke & Mike Cramer
Originally published in Golden Road, Summer 1985

Blair Jackson’s 1985 introduction:
There are surprisingly few Grateful Dead interviews available that took place before 1969. Of course, the rock press was just beginning in 1967, and the straight press all but ignored rock and roll…
When Santa Cruz record collector/archivist Glenn Howard told me that he knew of a never-published-before tape interview with Garcia from early ’67, my curiosity was piqued. Getting the tape proved to be a difficult task, however; it was ultimately dug out of storage several months later and many states away.
This interview was done at 710 Ashbury in February or March of 1967, just before the release of the Dead’s first album. Randy Groenke, the principal interviewer, had been a banjo student of Garcia’s in the early ‘60s when they both lived in the South Bay. He and his friend Mike Cramer simply called Jerry up and arranged to do the interview, friend to friend. The tape then sat unused until now.
Why run parts of a nearly 20-year-old interview? Because when we listened to the tape it struck us how little Garcia’s ideas have changed during the interim. Plus it is a revealing look at him and the band at a very early point, before the Haight Street scene began its decline. It’s a snapshot in time, as it were.
To set the scene: Garcia, Randy and Mike are talking in an upstairs room at 710. The band’s equipment truck had been stolen the night before, so there is considerable commotion in the background about that. Weir drops by at one point, as does Mountain Girl, bearing a plate of Oreos. The conversation starts on the topic that first brought Randy and Jerry together – bluegrass.

Q: So you’ve left the bluegrass world completely, eh?
GARCIA: No, I’m re-entering it by way of the electric banjo. My banjo is in the process of being electrified.

Q: Oh no! I never thought Garcia would go electric banjo! How does it sound, anyway? I’m really not familiar with it.
GARCIA: I haven’t used it yet ‘cause it’s not finished. I played a friend of mine’s who did it by means of a very simple operation involving a ceramic cartridge from a stereo taped underneath the bridge of the banjo. It sounds really good, better than a contact microphone or a magnetic pickup microphone. It still sounds like a banjo, but an electric banjo. I don’t know how I’m going to use it, but I’m going to use it. I also have another instrument, pedal steel guitar. I’ve been working on it about a month, and I should be using it with the band within about six weeks. [In fact he didn’t play one publicly for nearly three years. – BJ] This is just an effort to broaden the scope a little, experiment a little. We’re ready to experiment.

Q: What do you like better, rock and roll or bluegrass?
GARCIA: I’m not saying what I like in terms of what I like to listen to. What I like to play is the music that we play. I don’t want to call it rock and roll because it isn’t exactly. It is, but it isn’t. It’s our music. We’ve developed it. We’ve developed our own sound, and it’s our own music. That’s what I’m into. I still listen to bluegrass. I don’t listen to that much rock and roll. I listen to almost everything but rock and roll.

Q: What do you think of the Airplane’s stuff?
GARCIA: Well, their most recent album [Surrealistic Pillow] I’m kind of prejudiced in favor of because I’m on it. [Laughs.]

Q: You played flat-top on ‘My Best Friend’ and ‘How Do You Feel’?
GARCIA: I played flat-top on ‘How Do You Feel.’ Skip Spence played on the other one. He wrote that song. I played the high guitar line on ‘Today,’ and I played flat-top on ‘Plastic Fantastic Lover.’ And I played on ‘Coming Back To Me.’

Q: That and ‘Today’ I think are about the best tunes on the album. What do you think?
GARCIA: I’m kind of fond of the songs that Gracie sings. I like ‘White Rabbit’ a lot. I like ‘Somebody To Love.’ The arrangement on the album is more or less my arrangement; I kind of rewrote it. I always liked the song as she used to do it with the Great Society, but the chord changes weren’t really very interesting.

Q: How do you think the sound of the Grateful Dead fits in with what people are now calling the ‘San Francisco Sound’?
GARCIA: I’m not sure what they mean when they say the ‘San Francisco Sound.’ I’d say we’re a perfect example of the ‘San Francisco Sound,’ since we’re from San Francisco. [Laughs.] That term is somebody’s idea besides mine. There’s a similarity in the sound of San Francisco groups because they tend to do things kind of long, and they tend to have a certain kind of sound because you hear them in the same halls all the time. The Quicksilver Messenger Service sound a little more like us than, say, Big Brother & the Holding Company. But neither of them sound very much like us. We don’t sound anything like the Jefferson Airplane. It’s a matter of fine points. Superficially it might all sound similar, but actually, if you listen to the stuff, it’s not very similar.

Q: OK, let’s take these San Francisco groups you just mentioned and compare them with the Byrds or the Animals and the English groups.
GARCIA: It’s different. It’s a different sound. But each of the San Francisco bands sounds as different from each other as they do from everyone else. I think the San Francisco scene is healthier, and there’s more stuff going on in it than there is anywhere else. The musicians are all young, and we steal freely from each other because we all play together and we’re all friends. We all listen to each other and we’ve all gotten good together. We’ve all improved over the last year or so, playing the same gigs the same weekends, getting together and jamming and so forth.

Q: What’s your definition of a hippie? You hear so much about it and people write it up…
GARCIA: I’m not sure I have a definition. I’d say it’s someone that’s turned-on. And they can be turned-on any way; like someone who’s in forward motion. They might have been called “progressive” at one time. But it’s motion, and creative energy at its best. It’s just a better way for people who are in a creative community to look at things.

Q: Do you like the term “psychedelic” to apply to all of this?
GARCIA: It could, but any of those kinds of terms could apply, because I don’t think the scene excludes anything. I think it’s more inclusive than exclusive. Everyone has his own particular way of going about things and getting things done. Our way of doing things has to do with integrity and how we feel about what we’re doing. We’ve been together for almost two years and we’re only just now making a record. And the reason we’ve done it that way is in the past we’ve had all kinds of offers but we were never in a position to be able to control what we were doing. But because we held out, because we thought we were worth something, now we can do anything we want. We have control over our product. It’s not going to be chopped or changed. It’s our stuff, and because it’s our stuff, we’ll take full responsibility for it. Record companies don’t want you to do that.
The point is, we’re not trying to be famous or rich. We’re just trying to make our music as well as we can and get it out, because we’ve created a demand for it to some extent. It’s a matter of artistic pride with us, because it’s the only thing we do – make music. So we devote a lot of time and energy and thought and actual work to it. We practice every day.

Q: Do you think the Airplane have the same view, or do you think they’re going more commercial?
GARCIA: I think they have the same view. If their stuff has a commercial thing, it’s because they’ve been victimized by the record company to some extent, in that they don’t have a say…their producer decides what their sound will be like sometimes. Hopefully, that won’t happen on their next album, though this album was more a product of them than their producer. But it was his idea to have a lot of echo and reverb, and they’re really not too satisfied with it. But the Airplane is concerned about being musically good. They are really a talented organization. All the people in the Jefferson Airplane are professionals and good musicians, and they work well and have good ideas.

Q: These kids who come down to Fillmore Auditorium – are they phonies or really in with the music?
GARCIA: Who knows? The point is that they’re really people. Anything else that they are doesn’t alter the fact they are really people. They’re human beings. Like I was saying, I don’t want to exclude anybody, or include anybody. Whether or not they’re all musicians or music critics I don’t know. It doesn’t matter to me. Because on the level of the musical part of it, there are musicians there who will recognize when something musically groovy happens. If they don’t, I will. But for some reason with the music we’re playing, when something groovy does happen, everyone knows about it. Nobody has to tell anybody, because it’s obvious music. It’s loud and there’s excitement about it. But it’s like reciprocal excitement. We pick it up from the audience, we feed it back to them; it works back and forth. For any kind of music you play, it’s always groovy to play for an audience that’s responsive, and I find the audiences at the Fillmore Auditorium and the Avalon Ballroom to be pretty responsive. When something groovy gets going we can always depend on a little support. If that wasn’t happening, the music wouldn’t be as much fun to play.

Q: If you were to go to New York right now, what do you think your reception would be like?
GARCIA: I don’t know. We’re going to New York pretty soon, so we’ll find out. What we’ve heard from the people that we know from New York who’ve been here is that we’d really kill ‘em in New York. Whether or not that’s so is something I don’t know, because I don’t know about New York and what it’s like to play there.

Q: Well, I guess it’s a fact that this San Francisco music scene isn’t anywhere else. Why is that? Why did it happen in San Francisco?
GARCIA: I don’t know. Here’s the thing: there really aren’t that many musicians in San Francisco, but there is a fantastically good scene going on in San Francisco. San Francisco is a good place to live, and then, incidentally, a good place to play. But first it’s a good place to live, and having that place – where you can do what you want and feel the way you want – has something to do with your outlook on things.
The San Francisco music scene is unique in some aspects, socially. For example, there isn’t any competition going on; the bands don’t compete with each other. The bands do things to help each other. The managers don’t do things the old cigar-chewing-manager way. When our managers [Danny Rifkin & Rock Scully] go someplace, they go just the way they are around the house. They have long hair, wear outlandish clothes and beads, and they talk like people on Haight Street do. Because that’s the way they are. That’s the way we all are, and we’re not sacrificing any part of ourselves to do business. When we go into the business part of things – when we talk to lawyers, the vice presidents of Warner Bros. – we talk to them the way we talk to our friends. We’re being out front. We’re trying to change the whole atmosphere of music, the business part of it as well as just the way it is, just by dealing with it on a more humanistic level because it’s a valuable commodity – it’s an art.

Q: What did you think of that article in Newsweek, “Dropouts with a Mission”?
GARCIA: It surprised me that it was in Newsweek, but it didn’t surprise me too much because they’d taken the pictures here and everything. But if we hadn’t known in advance that the article was going to be favorable, we wouldn’t have consented to appear in pictures. But because it was favorable they got a good reception.

Q: How about that title, “Dropouts with a Mission”?
GARCIA: I am a dropout. When I was teaching music, I was doing it because it was a way to exist without having to do a work thing – put on a collar and go do eight hours a day and all that stuff. I’m not interested in doing that. What I was interested in doing was making music, and I’ve been willing to put down everything else for that at one time or another. So in that case, socially I’m a dropout. But the result has been that because I was willing to take a chance and say, “I want to play music and I don’t care what anybody else thinks about it,” it put me in the position of where I’m starting to be successful at it, which I never dreamed I’d be. I was willing to work at it like I might have worked at a job, but I worked at it out of love, and not because I had to eat and make car payments or any of that stuff.

Q: If you’d had enough money to exist, would you have not taught and spent all your time with your music?
GARCIA: I might have. The teaching was valuable, though, because it made me think about what I was doing –

Q: It was valuable to me!
GARCIA: - and it might have been valuable to a few others, like you or any of my students. But it’s not really my thing to be a teacher. My thing is to play.

Q: What really made you quit pounding on the banjo and start playing guitar?
GARCIA: It was a gradual changeover. The main thing was, when I was playing the banjo there was nobody to play with and no place to play, no way for anyone to hear me. There wasn’t enough popular interest in bluegrass music for it to ever be worthwhile in this area. That’s what happens when you take up something that’s pretty esoteric. You have to sort of accept that. I didn’t want to do it.
I got into rock and roll music through the jug band. When I first started playing [guitar], I played rock and roll. My first guitar was electric, and I played Chuck Berry, stuff like that.

Q: I remember when you were the Warlocks and at Magoo’s you were doing stuff like ‘The Last Time’ –
GARCIA: Right, popular stuff.

Q: Did you have your sights on what you’re doing now?
GARCIA: We didn’t know what we were doing! We were just screwing around. We were just trying something.

Q: Did the music of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones help you get into this?
GARCIA: For sure. Because the Beatles’ music was interesting music. The Rolling Stones’ music was not that much of a surprise, because I’d listened to a lot of rhythm & blues, and early Rolling Stones was similar to that music, although not as well done. But the Beatles were doing something new and they had great musical ideas and a great thing going. Plus, seeing the movie Hard Day’s Night was a turn-on. It was very “up,” and I’ve always preferred things that are a little on the “up” side.

Q: If it comes along that you become successful and fairly wealthy –
GARCIA: - then we’ll see if there’s a better way to become successful and wealthy! A way that’s more rewarding to us. A way to spend our money so that it brings about more enjoyment for more people, or more something for people. More food certainly. A lot of what we make now is just money to live on for us and our friends and anybody around who doesn’t have anything. There are always people who need something. I don’t need anything. I don’t really want anything. I’ve got instruments, I know I can eat, so there’s nothing to worry about.

Q: How is this war in Vietnam hitting you?
GARCIA: Well, not directly at all so far, except that it’s getting hard to buy things like cymbals and guitar strings because they’re making bullets out of them.
There’s something going on in the world that nobody knows about. It’s like a big mystery. But it’s not really a mystery. The war is an effort on the part of the establishment to keep the economic situation in the United States comparatively stable.

Q: If you had not already been in the service –
GARCIA: - would I go? I would not go. I am totally against war. I could never kill anybody. Killing might be the only “sin” that there is. It’s anti-life. I don’t see how anybody could do it. I don’t feel like any kind of subversive force. I feel like an American, and I’m really ashamed of it lately.

Q: Do you think your music is talking about those kinds of things?
GARCIA: We’re trying to make music in such a way that it doesn’t have a message for anybody. We don’t have anything to tell anybody. We don’t want to change anybody. We want people to have the chance to feel a little better. That’s the absolute most we want to do with our music. The music that we make is an act of love, an act of joy. We really like it a lot. If it says something, it says it in its own terms at the moment we’re playing it, and it doesn’t have anything to do with…we’re not telling people to go get stoned, or drop out. We’re just playing, and they can take it any way they want.

Q: In short phrases, name some “in” things and some “out” things, some things you like and don’t like.
GARCIA: I can only tell you about things I like. There isn’t that much that I don’t like. I don’t have any complaints.

Q: What do you think of Buffalo Springfield?
GARCIA: I like them a lot. Have you heard Moby Grape? They’re really good.

Q: What do you think of the Monkees?
GARCIA: What am I supposed to think of them? [Laughs.] I mean, what do you want me to say?

Q: Well, I mean, why should they get to be Number One?
GARCIA: I don’t know. Maybe because their records are really pretty good. They should be good, because they have the best L.A. studio musicans and the best arrangers…

Q: You’ve heard your own album by now. What do you think?
GARCIA: Well, I think our album is honest. It sounds just like us. It even has mistakes on it. But it also has a certain amount of excitement on it. It sounds like we felt good when we were making it. We made it in a short period – four days – and it’s the material we’ve been doing onstage for quite a long time. It sounds like one of our good sets.

Q: What do you think is going to happen to the San Francisco scene?
GARCIA: I don’t know. I’m not even sure why there’s so much commotion, let alone what’s going to happen to it.

Q: All things come to an end, and things go “out” – like the English sound is sort of going out. What will you do if this goes out – switch back to bluegrass?
GARCIA: Who knows? I’ll know that when I get there. It doesn’t bother me now because the thing I’m most interested in is the thing that’s going on around me now, not what might happen tomorrow or yesterday.

Q: In that respect, you don’t seem very concerned about the stuff [the band’s equipment truck] that was stolen.
GARCIA: Well, it’s pointless to worry about it. I could work myself into a frenzy about it, but somebody stole it; it’s gone. I hope they can have a good time with it. [Laughs.] I hope we can get it back without having to put somebody in jail. It’s not that big a thing, because we can afford to get more. And maybe that’s some sort of spiritual dues that we paid for being successful; that means that now somebody can steal our equipment and not feel too guilty about it because we’re making more money than they are.

Q: As far as creativity goes, it seems like outside of music there really hasn’t been that much going on.
GARCIA: There never is. But there is a small, heavily concentrated area of a lot of activity. There is a lot of creativity, but it’s not always on levels you can observe because there are different trends happening in what we used to call “the arts.” For example, six or seven years ago, if you were a painter in San Francisco, you never sold anything, because nobody in San Francisco buys paintings and there’s no place to sell them. But a guy with a light show can make money. The guys who run the light shows are the guys who were painters a few years ago, and they’re finding out something new about color, and the eye, and about spontaneity. Those are all aspects the plastic arts have never had before.
Poster design and printing, all those things are skills. These posters here are a product of a lot of people’s working at something, and they’re getting a return for it. The people who run the dance halls are doing a thing. The people who are being managers are doing something. There’s a lot going on. People are opening stores. Not everybody is an artist or a creative person, but not everyone has to be a bookkeeper or a businessman to make it. They can get into something that turns them on a little. With our scene here, we’ve managed to employ just about everyone we know in some capacity, because everybody has something they can do.

Q: How do the Hell’s Angels strike you?
GARCIA: I like ‘em. They’re honest and they’re out front and they don’t lie to you. They’re good people. They’re brutal, but their brutality is really only honesty. You have to know a few of them. They’re kind of like the cops in a way. They have very heavy standards of what they do and what’s right.

Q: But by what you were saying before, you’re not into that.
GARCIA: That’s their scene, not my scene. They’re also capable of not being brutal. They can be depended on in a funny way. When there was the Be-In up here [1/14/67], I’d never seen so many people in my life. It was really fantastic. I almost didn’t believe it. It was a totally underground movement. It was all the people into dope of any sort, and like 20,000 people came out in the park and everyone had a good time. There was no violence, no hassling. But one of the things that happened was that somebody came along and cut the lines of the P.A. and the electricity. Some guys got together to repair it, and then the Hell’s Angels guarded the wire. They took care of lost kids, they baby-sat! You can hit on ‘em to do that kind of thing. Like we’re hiring a couple to guard our warehouse, now that the equipment’s been stolen.
I know that they’re making a big change, that they’re different than they used to be. They’re hanging out in the scene and getting out of their brutal bags and just taking it easy a little.

Q: Do you think they see what you guys are doing and then –
GARCIA: Well, they know that we’re all doing the same thing. What we’re saying is, “We don’t want the world the way you’ve got it” – the establishment. We don’t want to be successful or super-rich or businessmen. We don’t want to do any of that shit. We want to have a nice quiet life and a few good times.
[Bob Weir comes in the room and announces that the Dead’s equipment van has been found. There’s much rejoicing.]
Here’s another similar scene. We once played a ski shop, a very plush ski shop for this super-rich ski crowd. It was jet-setters and what have you. Joan Baez was there. And the guy who owned the ski shop hired two Hell’s Angels to guard the door to make sure nobody got in without an invitation. And they did it fine. And then the guy took us all out to dinner – us and the Hell’s Angels. So we walked into this restaurant and lots of tourists split in horror, and this juiced San Francisco attorney came over and slapped us on the back and said [slurring] “Glad you folks are here,” and he bought us all wine. [Laughs.]

Q: Would you like to do a movie?
GARCIA: Well, as a matter of fact, when we were in L.A. making our record, we got a movie offer from ABC-Paramount. We got an offer to be in a James Coburn movie in which he plays the psychiatrist for the President, who runs off from his job for a series of misadventures, one of which is to spend a certain amount of time with us, with a rock and roll band that is traveling around in a nomadic fashion. We’re written into the script, with speaking parts and everything. We’ve agreed to do it, provided we have control over the section we’re in. So we might not do it because they might not give us control. We don’t want to be in a movie unless it’s good, and it won’t be good unless we do it ourselves.
[The film was The President’s Analyst. Ultimately, the Dead were not in it. – BJ]

Q: What do you get out of smoking dope? Do you play better under it?
GARCIA: No, but I might feel better. I feel like if you want to have something that makes you feel a little better and maybe gives you a slightly different outlook than your normal one, it’s nobody’s business but yours. Grass is so much like an everyday thing. You don’t get wasted on it.

Q: How about LSD and the whole “Captain Trips” thing?
GARCIA: That’s a whole ‘nother matter. We’ve played on acid and that does do things to your time sense, and it does other things. It produces an unimaginably wider scope of ideas. More consciousness means you have more of an understanding of what you’re doing, and that means you can do it better because you’re doing it with that much more of your mind.

Q: But you don’t go down to the Fillmore or Avalon on acid…
GARCIA: Not anymore. We used to. I wouldn’t do it anymore because we’re in a different position than we were a year ago. At this point, the experimentation we’re doing now isn’t a matter of drug experimentation; we’re experimenting with music.

March 17, 1969: Winterland


A "Superjam" dance and concert will be thrown at Winterland this Monday, St. Patrick's Nite, to benefit the Chosen Family that was busted and burned out at Rancho Olompali in Novato.
Featured will be musicians from the leading Bay Area rock groups, according to Bob McKendrick from Olompali, the Airplane, the Dead, and Sons of Champlin are expected to show up; also jamming will be the Garden of Delights, and a blues-rock group new to San Francisco, Red Mountain. Glen McKay's Headlights will provide enlightenment for all.
The Superjam is for a good cause...something like 18 to 20 people from Olompali haven't the bread to pay their attorney's fees, and they are all homeless, as Burdell Mansion on Olompali burned down after the bust.
The Benefit is being sponsored by the Deja Vu Foundation, Inc., in association with Crinkle Productions, and will happen at Winterland, Post and Steiner Streets in The City.
That's Monday, March 17th, from 8:30 pm till 1 am; donation asked at the door will be $3.00...for some beautiful people.

(from the Berkeley Barb, March 17 1969)

Thanks to Lost Live Dead

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This post was originally a notice for a new documentary being produced about Rancho Olompali, which was in the fund-raising stage. They have now raised their funding goal. The original post:

I thought you might want to know about a new documentary we're producing about Rancho Olompali, where the Dead lived for a short time during 1966, called "Olompali: A California Story." The film is about the history of Olompali and will focus primarily on my late father, Don McCoy, who started a commune there in 1967. I was there the day the Dead came to the ranch to have their photo taken by Tom Weir for the back cover of Aoxomoxoa, and appear in the photo next to Jerry along with my sister and friends, some of whom went to live with Mickey at his ranch when the mansion at Olompali burned down. My mother, Paula McCoy, lived across the street from the Dead at 715 Ashbury and was good friends with Bill Graham and Peter Coyote, among many others.

You can check out a trailer for the film and get more information by going to our KickStarter page, which we're using to raise funds to finish the film:

If you feel it's a worthwhile project, we would really appreciate your help in spreading the word! KickStarter is an "all or nothing" proposition, so every little bit helps, and any help we can get to increase awareness of the project would be fantastic.

Thanks very much,
Maura McCoy