Jan 20, 2022

October 23, 1966: Las Lomas High School, Walnut Creek CA


The second event of the Walnut Creek Civic Art Center's Art Forum series will be a rock and roll concert by "The Grateful Dead." They'll appear in the Las Lomas High School gymnasium on Sunday, Oct. 23, at 3 p.m. "The Dead," who have a specially designed sound system, have played in San Francisco and Los Angeles and have been busy recently making records. Tickets are priced at $2 each and may be obtained by contacting the Civic Arts Center office. 

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Last Friday night was "Nostalgia Night" at Diablo Valley College when the Associated Students presented Louis Armstrong and his All Stars. When I tell you that we heard Mood Indigo, Blueberry Hill, Avalon, Sleepy Time Down South, and lots more, you get the idea. 
It was a good show, lots of mugging, visual jokes, happy music, and a full house at the DVC gym. But except for "Hello Dolly" and a couple of other great post World War II hits, we could have heard the same concert 30 years ago. In those days it was called "Chicago Jazz." I am not up enough on terminology to know what it is called now, but it was good then, and it is good now. 
Louis Armstrong can still sell a song and wake up an audience. [ . . . ] "Hello Dolly" was the big hit of the evening, with audience participation in clapping, and chorus after chorus rocking the big barn-like gym. Louis did very little playing on his trumpet, and we understand it is his age and heart that keep him from blowing that big, wonderful sound we used to hear years ago. [ . . . ] 
The Armstrong sound, the instrumentation, the harmonies are distinctive and durable. He is one of the great personalities of our time. 

Sunday at Las Lomas High School, the Walnut Creek Civic Arts Committee presented a concert (concert?) by the "Grateful Dead." This could have been heard only in 1966. Sunday's musicians were as youthful as Friday's were old, and the difference told. They just didn't put on the show that Satchmo did. They were, unfortunately, not told that dancing would not be allowed, and they were disappointed when the audience just sat there. 
And the audience (or a portion of it) would have loved to dance, but unfortunately the rules of the school made it impossible for the Civic Arts Committee to allow it. It seems like a foolish rule. The audience was one-third to one-half adult, it was a sunny afternoon in a very sky-lit auditorium, and there was nothing, really, to listen to. By this I don't mean that this sound doesn't have its place. It does, but the place is in a dance hall. It is really unlistenable. When the musicians sang the words were unintelligible, and the music was played at such a deafening volume that it was virtually impossible to distinguish one sound from another. Three electric guitars, vibes, and a drum played at full volume - they drowned each other out. 
I think I have discovered why these kids wear long hair. It has to be that they are concealing ear muffs under those locks. The song they played right before intermission had some intriguing harmonies, and if it were a little softer, I think I could almost have enjoyed it. 
No one ever told me the names of the musicians, and I have no idea what happened after intermission, because along with about half of the audience, I went home to my peaceful garden.

(by Newmark Goodman, from the Contra Costa Times, October 27, 1966) 

See also: 


  1. Dead Sources resumes!

    A hilarious review of one of the Dead's odder early bookings. Goodman was, it appears, an elderly gentleman whose taste in music was formed 30 years earlier. He contrasts the Dead with a recent Louis Armstrong "Nostalgia Night" performance. Louis gets nothing but praise. The Dead? Deafening and unlistenable.
    There were some older listeners at the time, like Ralph Gleason, who could tell that the Dead were influenced by the same tradition of jazz improvisation that Louis Armstrong had embodied 40 years before. Goodman was not one of them. After sneering at the kids, his only desire was to leave early and go home to his "peaceful garden."
    Whenever one of these old '60s reviewers complains about the Dead being too loud, I'm reminded of this guy:

    He mentions that the Dead were "not told that dancing would not be allowed, and they were disappointed when the audience just sat there." No dancing in the school gymnasium! Even Goodman was aware that these 1966 rules weren't appropriate for the Dead. This may have stifled them, but things may have improved after all the adults (half the audience!) left during intermission...

  2. To recap the comments on the JGMF post:
    The Walnut Creek Civic Arts Center sponsored a series of Art Forum concerts (including a Dave Brubeck show and a folk festival). I'd love to know how the Dead got the call to represent rock music in the series; they wouldn't have been well-known at the time. The show was originally scheduled for the Walnut Creek Library, but someone must have realized that an electric rock band might be a little loud for the library!

    One witness on dead.net recalls, "This was my first Grateful Dead show. There were maybe 50-100 curiosity seekers. Very few teens like me. It was a free arts&lectures type concert in the afternoon. Jerry wore a yellow Pigpen t-shirt. They were eating cookies, offered them to the audience. No takers. LOUD and good! Life changing concert for me... Someone passed out Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion fliers. A week or so later, I journeyed to 710 Ashbury and purchased a Pigpen [shirt] from MG."

    Another JGMF commenter recalls, "I attended the 1966 show in Walnut Creek - I was 15 and attending Las Lomas High School at the time. My parents were subscribers to the Civic Arts Art Forum series and bought me tickets to shows I wanted to see. Most of the shows were at the Walnut Creek Library - I saw Dave Brubeck play there. I don't really remember that the Dead show was originally supposed to be at the library but was moved...[but] rock 'n' roll was rare in the series, the library was small and there were a bunch of kids who wanted to see the Dead... One song that sticks in my memory was Pippen singing "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" - of course that was totally appropriate.
    "My main memory is what happened when the show started. There was no lecture, just a brief introduction. The crowd was split between season ticket holders like my parents and teenagers. When the Dead started playing all the teenagers left their folding chairs and started dancing, and someone, I guess the Civic Arts organizers, stopped the show. There was some discussion with the band on stage, then Jerry explained that the Civic Arts people had not applied for a dance permit, so there would be no dancing allowed. He said the band wasn't happy about it, that their music was dance music, but there was nothing they could do. So we sat on the floor in front of the stage and bounced around, dancing as best as we could sitting down."

    Phil remembered the show in his book too: "one Sunday afternoon at a high school gym in Walnut Creek, across the bay and over the hills. We're in the middle of the show...and I look up and out into the audience - everyone's smiling, kind of grooving in their folding chairs - except for two unsmiling faces in the aisle in about the tenth row. What's with these folks? Omigod! No, it can't be! Dad? Mom? Sure enough - the only people in the place not enjoying themselves: my parents. They had sour pusses on, that's for sure. After the show, my dad asks, 'Couldn't wave hello, huh?' and Mom says, 'Isn't it awfully loud, dear?' I think maybe they were a little shocked by their first sight of Pig and Jerry." (p.92)