Jan 5, 2024

November 13 & 16, 1968: EMU Ballroom, University of Oregon, Eugene

All articles from the Oregon Daily Emerald


Efforts to change the Grateful Dead concert Wednesday to a dance-concert will culminate in a University staff meeting today, but will probably be futile, as far as McArthur Court is concerned. 
A new policy this year prohibits all dances in Mac Court fall and winter terms. 
Speaking for Students for a Democratic Society, which is co-sponsoring the Grateful Dead's appearance, David Gwyther complained that the policy is too "inflexible."
Gwyther said damage to the court's floor was no longer a problem. SDS, he said, would buy $50 worth of special tape which would hold the canvas protecting mats together and in place. He said SDS would also pay labor costs. 
Gwyther said he saw the only remaining problem was the "inflexible policy." He said SDS members plan to seek a waiver of the policy. [...] 
According to Norv Ritchey, assistant to the athletic director, the mats are totally unsuitable for dancing on. "They slip and slide." 
Ritchey said the University's only mats were actually 20-year-old canvas conveyor belts, hand-me-downs from a paper mill. 
Multi-purpose mats which are easy to dance on and which can also withstand the 'exuberance' of dancers cost $20,000, he said. 
Ritchey said the University could not afford these mats or new canvas replacements because of budget limitations. 
The no-dance policy was set up jointly by the athletic department and the EMU officials, Ritchey said, to keep the floor in good condition for basketball games. 
After basketball is over, dances [are] allowed on the floor since it is always refinished every fall term anyway. [...] 
Ritchey said when dances were allowed fall and winter terms, the top seal and sometimes the paint was worn off, creating slick spots and an inferior basketball floor. 
When the paint wears off, the wood is exposed and starts to go, Ritchey said. He said the canvas mats sufficiently protect the floor from foot traffic and chairs. 
"But based on previous experience, at dances I've chaperoned myself, it's impossible to protect the floor," Ritchey said. 
Gwyther said SDS would insure that all dancers not wear shoes, but Ritchey said it would be impossible to enforce that control. [...] 



"Feeling Caught Up in the System" is the theme of United States Memorial Week, sponsored by the campus Students for a Democratic Society, and beginning today. 
A number of activities including a radical film festival, resistance seminars, and anti-draft demonstrations are planned here for the week. 
Purpose of the activities, according to SDS spokesmen, is to promote direct action by members of the Eugene community against the "establishment." 
"The elections have not solved this country's problems," said a society flyer. "We must start solving them ourselves." 
Five documentary films, among them a 50 minute work titled "The Columbia Revolt," will highlight the film festival. [...] 
"Columbia Revolt" deals with recent disturbances at Columbia University in New York City. According to SDS, special emphasis is placed upon the role of Black students in the protest against university administration. 
Other films to be shown are "No Game," an essay on the October 1967 Pentagon demonstration; "The Boston Draft Resistance Group;" "Black Panther," an interview in jail with Panther leader Huey Newton; and "Garbage Demonstration," a humorous look at the recent garbage strike. 
The films will be shown Tuesday and Thursday in the EMU Ballroom. [...] 
The Free University will be held in the EMU Ballroom Tuesday... Students, non-students, and faculty members will participate in seminars on a variety of topics, including imperialism, colonialism, revolution, and function of the University, non-violence and violence, high school organizing, as well as draft and military resistance. 
Wednesday activities will be climaxed by a concert featuring "The Grateful Dead" and "The Sir Douglas Quintet" at McArthur Court. 
Tickets, at $2 per person, are on sale at the EMU main desk and at the door. Curtain time is 7 p.m. 
Thursday has been designated National Resistance Day by the national SDS. Anti-draft demonstrations are planned at a number of colleges in Oregon. [...]  
Activities at the University will probably include draft card burning and a demonstration against the Selective Service System.



The Grateful Dead concert tonight has been moved from Mac Court to the EMU Ballroom and dancing will be allowed, Dave Gwyther, spokesman for SDS, said Tuesday night. 
The move came after a meeting with Acting President Charles Johnson re-affirmed the policy of not allowing dances in Mac Court due to the possibility of damage to the basketball court. 



The Palace Meatmarket shared the spotlight with the Grateful Dead at Wednesday's dance-concert in the EMU Ballroom. The dance-concert was part of Wednesday's U.S. Memorial Week activities sponsored by the Students for a Democratic Society.


MAC COURT POLICY TOO INFLEXIBLE  (editorial -- excerpt)

The athletic department, it seems, doesn't trust students. 
Not at least when students want to use the McArthur Court floor for a dance. A new athletic department policy prohibits all dances at Mac Court fall and winter terms so that the floor won't be messed up before our basketball teams play on it.
As a result of this policy, the Grateful Dead were moved from the court to the EMU Ballroom, which is too small to comfortably handle all the students who wanted to see the group. We wonder how many people they would have stuffed into the Ballroom if the Dead had not been first billed as a concert in Mac Court, if Oregon State hadn't advertised in the Emerald their Grateful Dead concert as a dance, and if the sponsors, SDS, hadn't waited until the last minute to switch the show to the Ballroom. 
According to Norv Ritchey, assistant to the athletic director, it would be impossible to protect the court's floor during a dance even if canvas mats were laid over it. Dancers, he says, exert much more pressure on the floor than people in chairs. 
He assumes, however, the dancers would be wearing shoes. The sponsors of the dance said they would make sure that all dancers would take their shoes off before going onto the floor. 
Ritchey says that would be impossible to enforce. Bull. It would be very easy to collect shoes in the Mac Court lobby, before the people go through the doors to the court. [...] 
When the next nationally known rock group agrees to perform for a dance here, we hope the athletic department will cooperate with the rest of the University community, and allow the use of the only existing facility which can adequately hold everyone who wants to attend.


But the Dead would soon be back... 

SENATORS APPROVE FREE 'DEAD' CONCERT' (by Mike O'Brien -- excerpt)

Grapes and the Grateful Dead constituted the main business of the ASUO Senate last night. 
One bill requested that the Grateful Dead, a popular music group, be allowed to give a free concert Saturday night and that the social director make the arrangements for that concert. 
After a guarantee from Bill Kerlee that the SDS would cover expenses involved, the bill passed. [...] 


The Grateful Dead played up a storm during Saturday night's free concert, as an estimated 2,000 persons showed up for the four-hour rock session. The program ended on a dramatic note, with a "bomb scare" clearing the EMU Ballroom in a matter of moments. Whether the scare was legitimate, or merely a hoax, is being investigated by the Eugene Police Dept.



A 'bomb scare' that emptied the EMU Ballroom Saturday night has turned out to be a hoax. 
"There was no bomb," according to Sergeant Carely of the Eugene Police Department. However, detectives have been assigned to 'follow-up' the incident for more information. 
A mock or model wooden bomb was found on the stage during a dance and concert given by the band, the Grateful Dead. Approximately 2,000 persons were in the ballroom at the time. The Eugene Police Department was called and the ballroom cleared. 
Nothing more has been discovered about the incident. 


And from the Eugene daily paper, the Register-Guard... 


A fake bomb planted near some amplifiers brought an early end Saturday night to a University of Oregon concert and dance by a rock group known as the Grateful Dead.
Eugene police said someone attending the dance noticed the "bomb" - consisting of seven wooden sticks, painted red to resemble dynamite, an alarm clock, battery, and wires - and reported it to Anthony Evans, night manager at the Erb Memorial Union, where the concert and dance were being held.
Even though one of the band member[s] held up the "bomb" and indicated it was a fake, Evans decided to clear the Erb ballroom at about 11:40 p.m., police said. Police were called, took possession of the "bomb," and were still investigating Monday.

See also


  1. I think the 11/13/68 Eugene show was unknown until last year. The 11/16 show had been found a few years ago, but at the time the 1968 issues of the Daily Emerald (the University of Oregon student paper) weren't online. When they did appear, lo and behold, so did another Dead show in the same venue earlier that same week.

    The story of the shows is simple, though some parts remain unknown. The Dead were doing a brief run of shows in the Pacific Northwest this week:
    11/13 Eugene, OR
    11/15 Corvallis, OR
    11/16 Vancouver, BC
    11/17 Seattle, WA

    The Eugene show was sponsored by SDS as part of their "Memorial Week" of campus events. It was felt that the Dead would fit right into a schedule of revolutionary films, talks & demonstrations - what band to better promote action against the Establishment? (Coincidentally, one of the films showing was Columbia Revolt, which also featured an appearance by the Dead at the May '68 Columbia protests!)

    The venue was to be the McArthur basketball court; but here there was a hitch, as the university refused to allow dancing there. So the show was moved to the much smaller EMU Ballroom. (I think McArthur held over 9000, the ballroom officially only 1400, although it was stuffed with 2000 people for the free show.)
    Then more problems occurred: the Dead's Vancouver show on the 16th had been cancelled, on top of which there were complaints that the ballroom was "too small to comfortably handle all the students who wanted to see the group."

    So the Dead decided to come back and play a free show there on the 16th. (SDS may have paid them something, I don't know.) Apparently the free show was quite a success, with 2000 people cramming the ballroom and the Dead "playing up a storm" for four hours - at least until a fake bomb was spotted. This seems to have been a gag gone awry - concert bomb scares were common at the time so people could sneak in for free with the crowd after the venue was emptied, but that couldn't be the case here. (Personally I wonder if the ballroom manager created the hoax himself to get the Dead to finally stop playing!)

  2. By the way, it's curious how the Sir Douglas Quintet was to play with the Dead on 11/13, until being replaced at the last minute by the Palace Meat Market (a local band who would also open for the Dead's Oregon shows in May '69).
    Speaking of which, singer Jim Richmond once posted on dead.net:
    "I was the lead singer for the Palace Meat Market. Four days prior to this show we were asked to open for the Dead. I had been with the band about 10 days and had never performed before more than 20 or 30 people as a folk singer. Imagine me stepping onstage to find some 2-3000 real strange looking people. That first set we did and the Dead show that followed changed my life forever."
    This was attributed to the Dead's 1/30/68 show at the EMU Ballroom, which was at the time their only known show there. But now I think it makes more sense that he was actually talking about the 11/13/68 show. (Back in January, the PH Factor Jug Band had opened for the Quick & Dead tour.)

  3. Unfortunately, the Daily Emerald had nothing to say about the 5/31/69 show at McArthur Court on campus...because the last issue of the term had been on 5/29/69. But I might as well list a couple short entries here, for lack of a better spot.

    A notice on 5/15/69: "The Oregon Radio Club was granted permission to hold a dance May 31 in Mac Court. Appearing will be the Grateful Dead, the Palace Meat Market, and the Ocular Mirage. Admission will be $2 for students and $2.50 for non-students."

    A 9/23/69 year-in-review article briefly noted: "The Grateful Dead played. McArthur Court came alive with 4,000 people dancing, watching the light show or digging the music."

    The show poster lists Ocular Marage and Phantazma Agora as the lights. Note that by the end of the spring term, dancing on the court was permitted.
    McArthur holds about 9000 people, so the arena would have been half-empty. Interesting to see that in mid-1969, only about 4000 people in Eugene wanted to see the Dead! (And this show would have been one of the Dead's bigger audiences at the time.) I wonder how many of them had also gone to the November '68 shows...