Dec 10, 2015

November 1970: Alan Douglas & the Dead


SAN FRANCISCO - Douglas Records will record two albums with individual members of the Grateful Dead, a Warner Bros. group. In the arrangement, Alan Douglas, head of Douglas Records, will produce and release one LP featuring Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia and organist Howard Wales, who was with MGM Records' A.B. Dick Band. [sic] The second album will be based on a percussion concept developed by the Grateful Dead's two drummers, Bill Kreitzman and Micky Hart.
Recording of the Garcia-Wales LP was completed last week in San Francisco at Wally Heider Studios. It will be released by Douglas through its distributor, Pickwick International. The Kreitzman-Hart LP will be recorded at a fully equipped 16-track studio Douglas has installed in Hart's barn in Navato, Calif. The studio, designed by Kreitzman, Hart, and Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead under the supervision of engineer Dan Healey, will be completed within the month.
Joe Smith, Warner Bros. executive, said that the Douglas recordings will be beneficial to Warners in terms of artist exposure as well as enhancing the climate of artistic freedom which is so necessary among serious musicians who want to work with artists from other labels.

(from Billboard, 7 November 1970)

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  1. Just a brief comment: this article may not be accurate - in fact it could all be hot air.
    But if even part of it is correct, you have to wonder: what was going on between Alan Douglas and the Dead?
    Joe Smith's true feelings were probably not as warm and benevolent as his quote here - he made it clear elsewhere that "artist exposure" and "artistic freedom" were all very well as long as they didn't include his artists making records on other people's labels.
    (See the comments here: )

    The Garcia/Wales album Hooteroll was not actually finished (though Garcia, in a fall '70 interview, also thought it was) - recording continued intermittently til June '71 or so.
    Whether Alan Douglas was responsible for installing Mickey Hart's barn studio is a question that I don't think anyone ever thought to ask, let alone answer, until this article was found. One theory is that the impetus & bankroll came from Clive Davis, president of Columbia Records, behind the scenes. Davis had wanted to sign the Dead to Columbia back in '69, and was now waiting for their Warners contract to expire again; in late '72 he was finally able to meet with the Dead to discuss signing them (without success). In the meantime he was making overtures to the Dead - for instance, signing the New Riders in 1971. So possibly he could have supplied a whole studio so Mickey Hart could develop "a percussion concept!"

    One trouble I have with that explanation, though, is that as of fall 1970, Pickwick International was the distributor for Douglas Records, as this article says. Columbia didn't take over the distribution of Douglas Records until February '71.
    (See this 2/27/71 Billboard article: )
    It's certainly possible, though, that Clive Davis was in discussions with Douglas in the fall of 1970, though I'm not sure he would have financed Douglas projects at that time. More research is needed here!

  2. I wish someone could track Douglas down to ask some questions. The Hooteroll +2 included those extra live tracks, makes me salivate to wonder if he has the rest of the tour!

    1. Since Douglas died last year, it would be difficult to contact him. I also hope more live Garcia/Wales tapes from the vaults can be heard someday! There should've been a whole live bonus disc with Hooteroll, but I suppose any Howard Wales release has limited sales prospects...