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


  1. This show is lost, of course. It was the Dead's first appearance in Fresno - apparently they played early & late shows, at 9:45 and 11:15. (They would play the Convention Center in 1969.)

    The Dead are called "one of the currently most 'in' groups," despite having just one album out. Several songs off the first album are listed, but it's uncertain whether the reviewer actually identified them at the concert or just grabbed the names off the album. They were most likely played, though, in particular Viola Lee which seems to be described.

    For a 1967 mainstream newspaper review, this is surprisingly positive, especially comparing the Dead to the much more popular & accessible country stars. The author amusingly lists the attributes missing from the Dead's music - lovely melodies, understandable lyrics, a country feel - and, like many writers of the time, is fascinated by hippie fashion styles.

    But, despite the music being "ear-splitting" and "not pleasant listening," the reviewer has a sharp ear for the Dead's "blend of blues, folk rock, classic[al] and Indian Raga," and astutely notes that "the arrangements are full of deliberately harsh dissonances and thunderous, repetitive climaxes."
    Even though soft, old-fashioned country music is more to the writer's liking, he concludes that the Dead are "powerful and compellingly rhythmic," and admits that their show was more exciting.

    The two shows seem split by age, with "largely adult crowds" at the country show, and high-schoolers watching the Dead! But the author notes that the country show had a "far below capacity audience," whereas the Dead show was a wild circus - no wonder it looked like the Dead might be the music of Tomorrow.

  2. I added the preshow announcement, "Grateful Dead Plan Fresno Appearance." It notes that the local group The Road Runners will open the show.

    It also mentions that Garcia & Pigpen "have been featured in national magazines and television documentaries." The Grateful Dead had been covered in a Newsweek article back in December '66, but I'm not sure what TV documentaries they'd been in by May '67...
    But I'm reminded of the March '67 radio interview that mentions that whenever a magazine does a story on hippies, they run a picture of Pigpen.