Friday, September 9, 2016

Dinosaurs With Robert Hunter 1982-84 (Fossil Record)

An Alton Kelley poster for Dinosaurs at Keystone Palo Alto (Jan 22 '83) and Cotati Cabaret (Feb 18 '83)

Around 1973, Robert Hunter slowly surfaced from a decade-long hiatus as a performer. Initially, he appeared under the Nom Du Rock "Lefty Banks," playing with some old folk pals in a rock band called Roadhog. Hunter also released two albums on Round Records, although initially the fact that he was performing was a kind of secret. By 1976, Hunter was appearing under his own name with Roadhog, who played in a sort of honky-tonk style. Although Roadhog skidded to a halt, Hunter came back on stage a year later with another band, Comfort. They recorded, though did not release, an entire album, and toured the East Coast with and without the Jerry Garcia Band. Comfort was a little more fluid than Roadhog, but still a songwriter-focused aggregation, appropriate for the mid-70s. Yet after the demise of Comfort, while Hunter continued to perform as a solo act, he mostly stepped away from performing in a rock group.

Yet the electric Robert Hunter did make another major landfall. Starting in the Fall of 1982, he started to appear with some old psychedelic Fillmore peers in the aptly named band Dinosaurs. All of the other members were veterans of now-retired legendary Fillmore bands, and although the group formed without Hunter, he joined for their second real engagement, and thus could be called a founding member. Hunter's presence provided a Grateful Dead bloodline to the Dinosaurs. While the other band members played old songs they had already written years before, Hunter provided his usual steady stream of new material. And while Roadhog and Comfort had been more in a "folk-rock" vein, Dinosaurs--not "The" Dinosaurs--was a true, lumbering psychedelic beast. Hunter knew a little about writing those kinds of songs too. This post will look at the formation of Dinosaurs, and Robert Hunter's two years in the band. Appropriately, it was Hunter's last meaningful foray into playing in an electric rock context.

Hunter remained a regular member of the Dinosaurs through the Summer of 1984. Throughout the whole period, Hunter continued to perform as a solo act, particularly in East Coast nightclubs. He left Dinosaurs on amicable terms, and The Dinosaurs continued on until 1996. This post will review the performance history of Robert Hunter and The Dinosaurs from 1982 to 1984. Anyone with any recollections, corrections or reflections should put them in the Comments. Besides correcting any errors, I am particularly interested in any missing shows with Hunter, as well as opening acts and any guests who may have sat in at each show.

The Dinosaurs only album was released on Relix in 1988. Robert Hunter had left the band in 1984, but he returned to sing on one song
Overview and Fossil Record of Dinosaur Formation
In July of 1982, Barry "The Fish" Melton, formerly of Country Joe and The Fish, invited former Big Brother and The Holding Company bassist Peter Albin and Jefferson Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden to play a one-off gig at the Russian River. The band Dinosaurs acquired its name from an off-the-cuff remark by Barry "The Fish" Melton at an early gig when he responded to an audience request as to whether they knew a specific song by saying "No, we're just a bunch of old Dinosaurs." Although Melton, Albin and Dryden were under 40, they felt a long way from the Avalon and Woodstock, when their bands headlined and their albums were bestsellers. This inspired Melton to form a group of players from that era to play occasional gigs in the style that brought them to fame in the first place. Their first shows were in August and September of 1982. The lineup of The Dinosaurs was
Barry Melton-lead guitar, vocals (ex-Country Joe and The Fish)
John Cippolina-lead guitar (ex-Quicksilver)
Robert Hunter-acoustic guitar, harmonica, vocals
Peter Albin-bass (ex-Big Brother)
Spencer Dryden-drums (ex-Jefferson Airplane)
The band was regularly joined by a variety of guests of similar vintage, who would generally sit in for a song or two. Hunter was not initially a member of the band, but he did make a guest appearance at their first "official" show, and seemed to have decided to stay. Hunter's presence gave Dinosaurs a connection to perhaps the five most iconic San Francisco bands of the 60s.

For the most part, Dinosaurs played in the loose style we associate with the Avalon and Fillmore of the 60s. This wasn't exclusively just a conscious choice by the band--it was who they were. Most Dinosaurs material was blues based, from Melton's various albums and also from the general zeitgeist of folk and blues covers that were characteristic of Avalon bands. The difference with Dinosaurs, other than their formidable pedigrees, was Hunter's original songs. Hunter would play the occasional Dead song, songs recorded on various albums in the 1970s, and even new material. Roadhog and Comfort had played in fairly intricate styles, but Dinosaurs weren't like that. The assembled Dinosaurs were great musicians, but they just counted to four and kicked off a shuffle, because that's how they had done it in the old country. It turned out that Hunter had a good feel for writing that kind of song, and performing them with a minimum of rehearsal. Who would have guessed?

In the early 1980s, psychedelic music seemed to be down for the count, and free form blues jamming was going to go with it. Only the Grateful Dead and their satellites were really out there making a success of playing that way, and they seemed to be the last of their breed. Sure, many artists from the old days, like Jefferson Starship and Steve Miller Band were still drawing good crowds and selling records, but they weren't playing what they had played at Fillmore. The ironic, unapologetic Dinosaurs seemed to the last of their kind. All that remained were the Grateful Dead, the Brontosaurus of psychedelia, and Dinosaurs as some sort of Triceratops. Hunter was actually writing new songs, but he was Hunter, and when the boys from Big Brother, The Fish, the Airplane and Quicksilver played them, it had that Cretaceous feel to it.

In the early 80s, Dinosaurs strictly played the West Coast. For practical reasons, most of their gigs were around the Bay Area, but they played some shows in Southern California and the Pacific Northwest. Although Dinosaurs were not directly involved in the rise of jam bands in the 80s, they did show that there was a market for that sort of music at the time. The difference between the West and other parts of the country, however, was that just as the likes of Phish, Moe and Widespread Panic were establishing themselves in their own regions, the West Coast still had the not-yet-extinct creatures of prior epochs.

July 5, 1982 Marin County Fairgrounds, San Rafael, CA: Dinosaurs (billing uncertain)
The story of the Dinosaurs was told best in Dinosaur manager Steve Keyser's liner notes of the 2005 Acadia Records double cd release of Dinosaurs music called Friends Of Extinction:
Like many of the good things in life, the band formed pretty much by accident in July 1982. Dinosaurs played around 130 shows until they called it quits in June of 1996. Melton and Albin had known each other for many years and still play together on a regular basis. In fact, all the members had many years of high profile experience, but more than that they didn't bring an attitude with them. Melton recalls the early days, "I was on the board of directors of this organization called The Freedom Foundation which met inside the San Quentin State Prison. The chairman of the organization was this guy called Dennis Jones who was doing life for three counts of conspiracy to commit murder - he is out now. Well, he was promoting concerts at the time, and Spencer was also on the board of directors along with Norton Buffalo. Peter and I had a trio and we booked ourselves a gig on the Russian River, this was 1982 and our drummer fell out, so I asked Spencer if he still played as he'd been half managing the New Riders. He said sure." It was at this show that the "Dinosaur" quip came and afterwards they decided that what they had was probably part of some bigger idea or concept. "When we got back we called Cipollina to see what he was doing." John, of course was in a half dozen bands at the time and as Melton jokingly remembers "The offer to be in another band was more than attractive to him, so he joined up." By the time they played their second gig things were beginning to take shape. "We booked ourselves as a quartet and we called ourselves Dinosaurs, just Dinosaurs. There never was a "the" in front of the name."
The July 5 show is generally believed to be the first Dinosaurs show, but I don't know how it was advertised, nor how the band was announced. Still, the timing fits. The performance is somewhat unlike subsequent Dinosaurs shows. The dominant instrument is tenor saxophone, played by someone announced as "Beans Banaka." Peter Walsh plays guitar along with Melton and John Cipollina. Walsh was probably a regular member of the Barry Melton Band at the time, but three lead guitars and a tenor sax makes for an odd sound. Still, the existing tape is enjoyable, if not really revealing of what is to come. When Melton ends the tape, he announces Mickey Hart, Airto and Vince Delgado, presumably all sitting in on assorted percussion instruments.

The Marin County Fairgrounds in San Rafael is part of the same complex as the Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium. All the shows at the Fairgrounds were on a formal stage, but outdoors.

August 10, 1982 Uncle Charlie's, Corte Madera, CA: jam
I have a note that there was some kind of "jam" with the Dinosaurs crowd at Uncle Charlie's in Corte Madera. Most likely, this was a sort of stealth warmup gig. August 10 was a Wednesday, so an unpublicized show would have been easy to pull off. It is possible that Hunter played on some songs here or at Cotati two nights later--see the comment below on the August 13 Old Waldorf show from a former roadie.

August 12, 1982 Cotati Cabaret, Cotati, CA: Dinosaurs
The Cotati Cabaret was at 85 La Plaza in Cotati. Cotati's first rock venue had been the venerable, if tiny Inn Of The Beginning at 8201 Old Redwood Highway (aka CA-12). The club had opened in 1968, and all the Marin musicians played there. It had been a good place for the New Riders of The Purple Sage or Old And In The Way to work on their chops, or for Janis Joplin to sit in with Big Brother even though she had left the band two years earlier. In 1966, Sonoma State College had opened in nearby Rohnert Park. However, Cotati was the nearest town to Sonoma State College, so it was both a college town and a hippie enclave. Calling Cotati "bucolic" almost does it a disservice--even today, it is so much nicer than just bucolic.

At some point in the 1980s, Mark Bronstein, the manager of the Inn Of The Beginning moved the action to the Cotati Cabaret, a different building that was still within walking distance of the old site, at the same downtown plaza. His partner was Ken Frankel, who had played mandolin in the Hart Valley Drifters back in 1963 with Garcia, Hunter and Nelson. All of the members of The Dinosaurs had played the Inn Of The Beginning at one time or another, in various incarnations.

The Alton Kelley poster for the Dinosaurs show at San Francisco's Old Waldorf on August 13, 1982. At the time, Kelley was as much a Dinosaur as anyone in the band
August 13, 1982 Old Waldorf, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs/Flamin Groovies
The Dinosaurs made their official debut at the Old Waldorf in San Francisco. The Old Waldorf, at 444 Battery Street in the Embarcadero Center, was opened in 1975 by restaurateur Jeffrey Pollack. It was a new type of rock club for San Francisco, similar to places like The Roxy in Los Angeles or The Bottom Line in New York. Large for a club but much smaller than any concert venue--it probably held around 600 patrons--the Old Waldorf generally featured up and coming bands that were rising on FM radio. The club sold a lot of drinks, often to invited guests on the record company tab. The waitresses were intimidatingly pretty. It was not a rowdy downtown beer joint like the Keystone Berkeley, but rather a more expensive place with good parking, for rock fans with a good job who wanted to take a date to a nice place. There was a tiny dance floor off to the side, but to get near the stage you had to get there early and sit at long tables running perpendicular to the stage, which meant you had to buy drinks. There was a two-drink minimum.

In 1981, Pollack had sold the club to Bill Graham Presents. In general, the same sorts of bands appeared, salted in with a few old Graham staples. In the case of Dinosaurs, all their bands had played for Bill Graham many times. Another old-time San Francisco act, the Flamin' Groovies, opened for them, and there was even a light show, an all but unprecedented attraction for the Old Waldorf. The Dinosaurs were advertised as Melton/Cipollina/Albin/Dryden. As it happened, Robert Hunter was invited out of the crowd to sing "Jesse James." Joel Selvin reported this in the Monday SF Chronicle review. Also stepping on stage at The Old Waldorf for a number or two were ex-Charlatan guitarist Michael Wilhelm, ex-Stained Glass (and High Noon) organist Jim McPherson and ex-Quicksilver drummer Greg Elmore.

There was also a poster for the show by Alton Kelley. More from the liner notes:
Manager Steve Keyser elaborates "Barry pointed out that there were a lot of Dinosaurs and it would be very presumptuous to say that they were "The Dinosaurs." There were many other Dinosaurs, and one of the nice things about about their live shows was they would do whatever they could to get other "Dinosaurs" to sit in, which happened a lot." In fact, it happened right from the first show! Melton takes up the story again. "I wrote up a press release for a gig at the Old Waldorf, Alton Kelley did up a poster. "We did it the old way. We went through the city and distributed the posters and the first night we played tons of people showed up. It sold out. A lot of our musical contemporaries showed up, Bob Hunter among them. Garcia was there but didn't play. Hunter jumps up on stage and starts playing harmonica." 
Of course, there was no call for psychedelic rock posters anymore, either, so Kelley was as much of a Dinosaur as his musician friends.

Now, an Archive commenter does say that Hunter was already a "member," , which contradicts everyone else's memory, so perhaps a more complicated plan was afoot.
Robert Hunter WAS actually a member of the band at this time. This was "The Dinosaurs" First actual gig. I had worked with Barry and the boys previously and had done 2 rehearsal type shows with Hunter prior to this, but this was the First Dinosaurs Gig, complete with the red and green Poster from Kelley.
September 16, 1982 Golden Bear, Huntington Beach, CA: Dinosaurs
Hunter joined the Dinosaurs for some dates in Los Angeles. The Golden Bear was on the Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County, and was in its second decade as a folk and rock nightclub. The Dinosaurs were also listed as being at KRLA-fm in Los Angeles, but I don't know if they actually played, or just talked on the radio. I think the latter is more likely. A friendly dj would certainly take the time to interview some rock legends for a few minutes, but there was no record company to organize a live broadcast.

Alton Kelley's poster for Dinosaurs and Canned Heat at The Roxy on September 17-18, 1982.
September 17-18, 1982 The Roxy, Los Angeles, CA: Dinosaurs/Canned Heat
The Roxy was Los Angeles' premier rock showcase club, on the Sunset Strip. Usually the bands that played there were heavily backed by record companies, but of course The Roxy had to fill up every weekend date, and a band of aging rock legends--all of them just around 40 years old, mind you--was the next best thing to some up and coming band. On the first night (Sep 17), legendary pianist Nicky Hopkins sat in for some numbers, as did Bay Area pals Righteous Raoul (piano) and Dave Getz (the drummer for Big Brother). To close the September 17 show, Hunter performed his newly-written "theme song" for the band, "Dinosaur." This wasn't insignificant--it meant that Hunter was taking the Dinosaurs seriously, because he was writing original material just for the band.

We don't have a tape or eyewitness account for September 18, to my knowledge, so I don't know who showed up or what the band played. Canned Heat, Dinosaurs themselves, was a band from way back in the day, but at this point the only Jurassic member from the 60s was drummer Fito Parra.

September 21, 1982 Uncle Charlie's, Corte Madera, CA: Dinosaurs
The Dinosaurs returned to Marin county for a show at Uncle Charlie's. Uncle Charlie's was mainly a hangout, although bands did play there regularly.[update] Guests apparently included Nick Gravenites, Elvin Bishop, Scott Lawrence (Youngbloods pianist) and Merl and Tony Saunders.

October 2, 1982 The Saloon, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs
The Saloon was a tiny bar on 1232 Grant Street in North Beach. It first opened in 1861. Barry Melton probably played there shortly afterwards. The Barry Melton Band played there literally hundreds of times over the decades. During this period, the Barry Melton Band often included Cipollina, Peter Albin and Dryden, along with other players.

November 19, 1982 Sweetwater, Mill Valley, CA: Dinosaurs
[update] Dinosaurs played a stealth show in downtown Mill Valley, per a Commenter, probably as a form of public rehearsal. Mickey Hart was present, apparently.

November 20, 1982 KFTY-TV studio, Santa Rosa, CA: Dinosaurs
November 20, 1982 KVRE-fm, Santa Rosa, CA: Dinosaurs
The Dinosaurs did make some "media appearances" in Marin. KFTY-tv, UHF Channel 50, was a local station in Santa Rosa, whose signal did not go very far. I assume that the band played a few songs in the studio. I also assume that the songs were broadcast--possibly simulcast--on KVRE-fm. These dates are from very old listings that I cannot confirm, but that seems to make sense.

November 21, 1982 Cotati Cabaret, Cotati, CA: Dinosaurs
The Dinosaurs began the steady habit of becoming regulars at Marin and Sonoma clubs. I think they used these gigs to warm up before more high profile shows. I doubt they rehearsed much, if at all.

December 8, 1982 KTIM-fm studio, San Rafael, CA: Dinosaurs
An old listing has The Dinosaurs playing on KTIM-fm in San Rafael. KTIM was the leading rock station in Marin County, but it didn't have a strong signal. It was just barely audible in Berkeley and San Francisco. Another old listing has the Dinosaurs at the Hun Sound studio in San Rafael. My suspicion is that the band played Hun Sound for a broadcast on KTIM, as KTIM had no facilities for a real live broadcast.

Dinosaurs returned to the Old Waldorf on December 10, 1982, and Kelley made a new poster for it
December 10, 1982 Old Waldorf, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs/Dan Hicks
Since many of the older San Francisco musicians were hardly working anymore, it turned out that they were very available for guest appearances. One of the perhaps unexpected dynamics of the Dinosaurs was that the concept was a perfect platform for old friends to get together on stage, since the fan base of all those groups was by now largely the same.

Although the five Dinosaurs, now including Hunter, were the core group, both Old Waldorf shows featured numerous guests who each sat in for a number: Merl Saunders, Country Joe McDonald, Mickey Hart, David Nelson, Greg Elmore, Dave Getz (Big Brother drummer), Sam Andrews (ex BB guitarist, now playing saxophone) Michael Wilhelm, drummer Harold Aceves and pianist Righteous Rauol. Nicky Hopkins sat in on piano for the entire late show. Old friend Dan Hicks (an ex-Charlatan himself) opened the shows. Given that almost none of the band members or guests had record contracts or current albums at the time, there was a fair amount of attention given to the Dinosaurs. There were early and late shows, but although the night was well attended, I don't believe that either show sold out.

Hunter sang "Franklin's Tower," a critical indication that Grateful Dead songs would not be off-limits for this endeavor.

There is a spurious tape listing for an Old Waldorf show on December 18. The Dinosaurs did not play the Old Waldorf that night. The booked bands at the Waldorf were Steel Breeze, The Payolas and The Silhouttes. The Old Waldorf wasn't like Marin--bands didn't just casually substitute on a Saturday night. Probably this tape is a mis-dated set from the previous weekend (Dec 10).

Another confusing issue for tracking Dinosaurs shows was that all the band members would regularly play without Hunter, under different names. Not only was there the Barry Melton Band, but Cippolina played in numerous local bands, sometimes with other Dinosaurs. Sometimes there were more casual aggregations, too. For example, on December 21, 1982, at Uncle Charlie's, there was a benefit for The Freedom Foundation. The show was billed as "Freedom Foundation Jam." At least based on the surviving tape, the lineup was Cippolina, Melton, Albin, Dryden, Bob Weir and Norton Buffalo. It is sometimes listed as a Dinosaurs show, which strictly speaking it wasn't, though it was part of the same evolutionary tree.

December 31, 1982 Oakland Auditorium Arena, Oakland, CA: Grateful Dead/Dinosaurs
In a unique occurrence, Dinosaurs with Robert Hunter opened for the Grateful Dead at Oakland Auditorium on New Year's Eve, 1982. This was the only time that Hunter opened for the Dead. A whole spectrum of Dinosaurs made guest appearances onstage, including Nicky Hopkins (who played electric piano most of the show), Kathi McDonald, Country Joe McDonald and saxophonist Stevie "Teenage" Douglas.

I attended this show--it was great--and wrote about it elsewhere at some length.

January 20, 1983 Phoenix Theater, Petaluma, CA: Dinosaurs
The Dinosaurs settled into the steady habit of playing a couple of shows a month, mostly around the Bay Area, but occasionally elsewhere. Melton and Hunter shared the vocals, although both Cipollina and Peter Albin would each sing a number, too. Melton's material was mostly his own, blues-based songs from prior albums. Hunter would mix in songs that Deadheads recognized (like "Fire On The Mountain," "Promontory Rider" or "New Speedway Boogie") with new material. Guests were routine. Although Dinosaurs were a jamming band rather than a rehearsed one, they were more like Quicksilver than the Dead, in the sense that the jams stayed within a safe scope.

January 22, 1983 Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA: Dinosaurs
One attraction for local promoters was that with the Jerry Garcia Band and Bobby And The Midnites regularly playing well attended local gigs around the Bay Area, the Dinosaurs added another option. The Dinosaurs played many of the venues that Garcia and Weir played during this period.

February 15, 1983 Mabuhay Gardens, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs
The Mabuhay Gardens was not a typical venue for any Dead related bands, nor any bands remotely like that. The Mabuhay Gardens was a Filipino Restaurant on Broadway, just across from The Stone. Since the mid-70s, the basement of the restaurant hosted punk rock shows, and the "Fab Mab" was a foundational venue for both local and touring punk and new wave bands. It was still around in the 80s. All of the Dinosaurs had a good sense of humor, and probably enjoyed reminding themselves that once they were the outlaws in town with the scary hair.

February 18, 1983 Cotati Cabaret, Cotati, CA: Dinosaurs
Matthew Kelly was a guest at this show (on "Lawdy Miss Clawdy"). Although Kelly was slightly younger than the Dinosaur crew, by the '80s, this hardly mattered. Kelly went back to the day with the rest of them.

February 22, 1983 Recreation Center, Corte Madera, CA: Dinosaurs
Although the Corte Madera Rec Center was probably a small gig, it was prime hunting ground for Dinosaurs. Guests this night included Matthew Kelly, Norton Buffalo, David Nelson, Kathi McDonald, Michael Wilhelm, David Cohen, Michael DeJong, Richard Olsen, Greg Anton and Mark Unobsky. David Cohen is listed as a sax player, which is either a mistake, or else it wasn't that (the CJF) David Cohen. The intriguing name is Mark Unobsky, a pretty good slide guitarist who was a key figure in the Red Dog Saloon way back In The Day, but had chosen to make a living in a profession besides music.

March 24, 1983 Golden Bear, Huntington Beach, CA: Dinosaurs
March 25, 1983 Country Club, Reseda, CA: Dinosaurs
In Southern California, there were far fewer opportunities to see either members of the Grateful Dead or former Avalon legends like Cipollina, and Dinosaurs filled that need. The Country Club was out in the suburbs, and Deadheads who were a little bit older were happy to go buy a few drinks at a nearby club rather than make some giant trek.

Kelley's poster for Dinosaurs at the Kabuki in San Francisco on April 9, 1983
April 9, 1983 Kabuki Theater, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs
The Kabuki Theater was in Japantown, right across from the old Fillmore, appropriately enough. The parking was great, which mattered to a Dinosaurs audience. Old friends included  Greg Elmore, Charley Musselwhite, Pete Sears, Richard Olsen and Michael Wilhelm.

April 20, 1983 Barbary Coast Room, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs played an afternoon show at San Francisco State. Guests included some pretty obscure friends, drummer Chuck Bernstein (from It's A Beautiful Day) and horn player Richard Ralston from The Charlatans (neither of whom rings a bell with me, and I'm good with obscure names).

May 20, 1983 Porter College, UC Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA: Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs played Porter College--College Five for you old-time Banana Slugs--, probably in the Dining Commons. A commenter says it was "the night before Kresge Day '83." New Hunter songs like "Amagamalin Street" were starting to turn up in Dinosaurs sets. Keyser:
We only rehearsed about twice and with Bob Hunter we really needed to rehearse. Sometimes on stage with Hunter he would start a song that we that we had never heard. He wouldn't even say what key it was in, what the tempo was or the feel was. He would just start a song and just go for it. In a way I liked that kind of concept but for putting out recordings it just didn't work."
June 17, 1983 Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA: Dinosaurs/New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Mark Castro Band
June 18, 1983 Phoenix Theater, Petaluma, CA: Dinosaurs/New Riders Of The Purple Sage
By this time, the New Riders were just John Dawson and some other guys, with multi-instrumentalist Rusty Gauthier being the key player. Still, they were Dinosaurs too (Mark Castro, as I recall, was a blues harmonica player).

July 3, 1983 Civic Center, San Rafael, CA: Dinosaurs
This is a very old listing, which I cannot confirm. It could either be the Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium or the Marin County Fairgrounds, which are actually right next to each other. Or it could be a canceled or never-held event.

When Dinosaurs first played the Pacific Nothwest, Kelley made a poster for the three shows (Apr 14-16, 1983)
July 14, 1983 Starry Night, Portland, OR: Dinosaurs
July 15, 1983 4th Avenue Tavern, Olympia, WA: Dinosaurs
July 16, 1983 Paramount Theater, Seattle, WA: Dinosaurs
The Dinosaurs went out for a weekend tour in the Pacific Northwest. The Dead were as popular as ever there, but save for the occasional Garcia show, spinoff bands never played there, and the other Dinosaurs didn't play there much either. As a result, Dinosaurs could headline the Seattle Paramount, where the Dead had headlined a decade earlier.

September 16, 1983 Rainbow Music Hall, Denver, CO: Dinosaurs
Denver was another place where Deadheads were legion, but the spinoff bands didn't play there much. I have no idea whether this was well attended, but my guess would be that it did pretty well. [update] A Commenter reports that this show was well attended.

September 17, 1983 Salt Air Pavilion, Salt Lake City, UT: Dinosaurs
With a Friday show in Denver, it made sense to play a Saturday show within striking distance. According to an Archive commenter, it may not have been a financial pleasure:
I was living in SLC at the time...remember seeing a small poster for the show at the Smiths in the Ave's. I do not think more than 50 people showed up...funky hall out on a jetty in off the great salt lake...they had everyone arm in arm doing the hokey pokey at the end.
David La Flamme was a guest Dinosaur this night. I believe he had family ties in Utah.

September 24, 1983 Wolfgang's, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs
Wolfgang's was Bill Graham's new San Francisco nightclub, more or less superseding the Old Waldorf. While Jerry Garcia still played The Stone, in SF the Dinosaurs mostly played for Graham, just as they always had.

Wolfgang's was at 901 Columbus, formerly the site of The Village, and later a disco (Dance Yer Ass Off), and then the New Boarding House. Wolfgang's (called after Bill Graham's birth name, Wolodia in Hungarian, but Europeanized to Wolfgang) was mostly filled with hip rock acts, but it had to be open all the time, so the old Fillmore guys got their shots.

October 13, 1983 Phoenix Theater, Petaluma, CA: Dinosaurs
October 14, 1983 Catalyst, Santa Cruz, CA: Dinosaurs
October 15, 1983 Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA: Dinosaurs
All three of these Bay Area venues regularly booked the Jerry Garcia Band. Outside of Graham's SF territory, Dinosaurs were the next-best-alternative to a JGB show (Bob Weir drew many Deadheads, of course, but his appeal was less to the old hippie demographic).

At the October 15 Keystone Palo Alto show, the legendary Skip Spence made an appearance. Skip didn't really have it anymore, but by this time just saying that you saw him was worth something.

November 5, 1983 Cotati Cabaret, Cotati, CA: Dinosaurs
David Nelson was guest Dinosaur at the Cotati Cabaret. His regular number was "Crooked Judge."

November 9, 1983 Last Day Saloon, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs
The Last Day Saloon was at 406 Clement, near between 5th and 6th Avenue, in the Inner Richmond between The Presidio and Golden Gate Park (it's still a live venue, but now called Neck Of The Woods).

December 2, 1983 Cabo's, Chico, CA: Dinosaurs (early and late)
Dinosaurs played two shows in Chico. There is a tape, but other than that I know nothing about it.

December 1983 MuSiC
In December 1983, Cippolina, Melton, Albin and Dryden started playing shows with Merl Saunders on keyboards, but without Hunter. They used the name MuSiC for these bookings. Saunders gave them a Dead connection, and a different sound as well. Several months later, Saunders would "replace" Hunter in Dinosaurs, but in fact he had been playing with the crew for several months.

There is a studio rehearsal dated December 1983, but the first publicly advertised show that I know about was Keystone Berkeley on February 11, 1984. I attended, and the old fossils sounded great with Saunders on organ. Given that each Dinosaur, save for Hunter, tended to perform the same numbers, it was nice to both hear some new songs and a different feel on some of their regular material.

Kelley's poster for Dinosaurs appearance at the Corte Madera Rec Center, at the Arista Records Christmas Party on December 17, 1983

December 17, 1983 Recreation Center, Corte Madera, CA: Dinosaurs Arista Records Party
The Grateful Dead were still on Arista, even if they weren't really doing anything with them at the time. Still, there must have been a convention--East Coast labels liked to go California in the Winter--and presumably the Dead still had enough clout with Clive Davis to get their friends hired.

December 22, 1983 Union Square, San Francisco, CA: Nobody For President Rally
Wavy Gravy had a sort of comedy/activist routine called "Nobody For President" ("which politician is going to look after your needs? Nobody!"). Wavy would headline and emcee these sort of Rally/Protests around the Bay Area. The Dinosaurs were supposed to perform at a noontime rally in the tony San Francisco shopping district of Union Square, but rain interfered. The rally was still held, and Robert Hunter played a solo set instead.

January 28, 1984 Wolfgang's, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs/Country Joe McDonald
Country Joe McDonald, a true Dinosaur, had already made several guest appearances with the band. Now he started being booked with them. He would open the show with a solo acoustic set, and then join the rest of the band later in the show for a few numbers. Once again, for fans who had already seen them several times, this made for a nice change.

February 4, 1984 Catalyst, Santa Cruz, CA: Dinosaurs

February 17, 1984 KFOG-fm, San Francisco, CA.
I have an old listing for Dinosaurs on KFOG on February 17. I have no idea if they performed or were interviewed, or if the listing is spurious. Since February 17 was a Friday, I'm more inclined to think it was an interview.

February 18, 1984 Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA: Dinosaurs

March 2, 1984 Cotati Cabaret, Cotati, CA: Dinosaurs

April 26, 1984 BJ Kelly's, Eugene, OR: Dinosaurs
April 27, 1984 Hub Ballroom, U. of Washington, Seattle, WA: Dinosaurs/County Joe McDonald
April 28, 1984 Starry Night, Portland, OR: Dinosaurs/County Joe McDonald
Country Joe joined Dinosaurs for the two big weekend shows in Seattle (Friday) and Portland (Saturday).

May 26, 1984 Catalyst, Santa Cruz, CA: Dinosaurs

June 1, 1984 Wolfgang's, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs

June 8, 1984 Palace West, Phoenix, AZ: Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs made a little foray into the Southwest. I don't know anything about the Palace West in Phoenix. June 8 was a Friday.

June 9, 1984 Dinosaurs Cafe, Santa Fe, NM: Dinosaurs
Very appropriately, Dinosaurs played Dinosaurs Cafe in Santa Fe. Once again, I know nothing about the venue. On one hand, the various Dinosaurs would almost never have played Santa Fe, so it might have been exotic. On the other hand, there may not have been an audience for them, either. There are still a lot of old hippies in Santa Fe, even now, but I don't know if they were the sort who went out to see touring bands.

June 10, 1984 Peggy's Hi-Lo Bar, Boulder, CO: Dinosaurs
The Southwest excursion ended with a Sunday night show in Boulder. My notes come from some very old listings that the venue was either the Blue Note or the Olympic Lounge. Regular Commenter CryptDev, however, says that it was Peggy's Hi-Lo Bar, a roadhouse outside of town that mostly booked country acts.

July 15, 1984 Marx Meadows, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA: Dinosaurs/others
Robert Hunter had decided to leave Dinosaurs. All of the band remained friends, but Hunter's musical interests didn't really fit in with Dinosaurs at this time. It was announced, probably in BAM Magazine, that Hunter would be replaced with Merl Saunders, and that the show in Golden Gate Park would be Hunter's last appearance with the band.

Appropriately, given the history of the band members, Hunter's final Dinosaurs show was a free concert in Golden Gate Park, at Marx Meadows. Hunter, in fact, was the only Dinosaur who had not already played for free in Golden Gate Park. Michael Wilhelm was the guest Dinosaur that afternoon.

>August 10, 1984 Cotati Cabaret, Cotati, CA: Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs first gig without Hunter was once again in an out of the way venue, appropriate for a band that used live gigs as rehearsals. Along with Merl Saunders on organ, old friend David LaFlamme joined the group on electric violin, along with occasional vocals and electric guitar. LaFlamme, too, was announced in BAM as a permanent addition.

August 28, 1984 Wolfgang's, San Francisco, CA Dinosaurs/Jerry Garcia and John Kahn/Country Joe McDonald and Friends/David Nelson/Rick and Ruby Rodney Albin Benefit
Robert Hunter had left Dinosaurs, but sadly and appropriately he appeared with them one final time. Rodney Albin, not only Peter's brother but an absolutely essential figure in the careers of Jerry Garcia, Hunter, Big Brother and The Holding Company and many others, had died far too soon of stomach cancer in 1984. All of his friends came out for a memorial and fundraiser for him, headlined by Jerry Garcia. The whole night featured dinosaurs of every stripe, and I have written about both Rodney Albin and the benefit concert at Wolfgang's at great length.

For the only time, Hunter played the whole Dinosaur set with both Merl Saunders and David LaFlamme, along with the original quartet. Dinosaurs closed the show and rocked the house hard. Hunter's career as a performing electric Dinosaur ended on this night, but of course the community of old lizards remains intact to this day.

In 2005, Dinosaurs released the Friends Of Extinction cd. Disc one was the Relix album, and disc two was live material from the late 80s, after Hunter had left the band (although he guested on occasion, and thus sings on one track of the live album as well)
Dinosaurs: The Post-Hunterazoic Era
Dinosaurs continued on without Hunter, generally quite successfully. Merl Saunders was a great addition, and songs like "Sugaree" kept the Dead connection alive. However, John Cipollina died in June 1989, and that left a hole in the band. Still, there were still plenty of Dinosaurs around. Initially, electric violinist Papa John Creach took over Cippo's slot, amusingly appropriate since he was an even older Dinosaur than the rest of them. The music sounded great, but ironically enough, with the rise of cds, the Dinosaur appeal shrunk somewhat. For one thing, many old bands like Big Brother and The Holding Company got resuscitated, and that conflicted with any Dinosaur gigs. Guests still regularly dropped in on Dinosaur gigs, including, at least once, Robert Hunter himself (he sang "Amagamalin Street" at Keystone Palo Alto on October 25, 1985. I don't know if Hunter sang or played on other songs).

After Hunter left Dinosaurs, and even before, numerous other bands existed in tandem with them. The most famous, of course, was the reformed Big Brother And The Holding Company, which featured the original quartet, along with various singers. Another band was the Melton-Cipollina Band, usually billed as Fish And Chip. It initially featured the original Dinosaur quartet (Cipollina, Melton, Albin, Dryden), although in later years Doug Kilmer and Greg Elmore sometimes held down the rhythm section. Yet another configuration was the Barry Melton Band, sometimes called Fish Stu, which featured Melton, Albin, Dryden and keyboard player Stu Blank. Fish Stu mostly played The Saloon, and at times various other old friends participated or substituted.

Dinosaurs finally went into the studio in 1988, and released a self-titled LP on Relix Records later that year. The album mostly featured songs that had not been released on other albums. Robert Hunter reappeared to share vocals on the song "Who Makes The Moves" that he had co-written with Barry Melton. It had been a fairly regular part of the Dinosaurs repertoire when Hunter was in the band. Hunter also co-wrote a song with Merl Saunders, "Resurrection Rag." The album got a certain amount of attention, but like all Relix releases its footprint was not large.

Dinosaurs: Decline and Extinction
Even after the unfortunate death of John Cipollina in June, 1989, Dinosaurs soldiered on. Papa John Creach joined the group and the band continued to play. After a while, Papa John stepped down and was more or less replaced by Jerry Miller, formerly of Moby Grape, bringing another species into the band's DNA. At a certain point, however, the larger pool of fans interested in Dinosaur music had seen the band a few times, and since the group didn't rehearse, the fact that Dinosaurs didn't really vary their sets much started to weigh on fans' interest. Albin recalls 
"When we first started as Dinosaurs we definitely had a following with Dead Heads but when they realized we were playing the same songs over and over again they stopped coming. We did the same set all the time. Barry didn't want to do a set list, he refused saying that every audience was different and that he had to feel out the audience and then pick the song, well he picked the same songs all the time!"
Dinosaurs casually ground to a halt in 1996. There was no announcement or plan that I am aware of, only bookings became fewer and fewer and the band just stopped playing. Something might have been said in Relix, but even then it was pretty casual. All Dinosaurs, including Hunter, generally remained good friends and periodically appeared with each other when the opportunity arose. As the band members aged, their desire to go on the road, or even stay out late at night, faded somewhat.

In 2005, Acadia Records released a double cd of Dinosaurs material. All the songs from the Relix lp were included, along with two unreleased bonus tracks, and there was a variety of live tracks from 1987 to 1989 (for exact details, see the Appendix below).

Appendix: Officially Released Dinosaurs Material
Dinosaurs (Relix 1988)
Friends Of Extinction (Acadia 2005, double cd, original LP plus live tracks 87-89)

Dinosaurs
Initial release : 1988
Relix 2031 (US) / Big Beat WIK83 (UK) / Line Records (Germany)
  • Robert Hunter performs on one song and co-wrote two of the song on this album.
Lay Back Baby (Saunders / McPherson)
Strange Way (Melton / Zimmels)
Do I Move You? (Simone)
Butcher's Boy (Traditional arr. Melton)
Good Old Rock 'N Roll (Melton)
Resurrection Rag (Saunders / Hunter)
Who Makes Moves? (Hunter / Melton)
Mona (I Need You Baby) (McDaniel)

The CD release includes two extra tracks;
Fossil Fuel (Cipollina)
Motel Party Baby (Cipollina / Philippet)

Musicians
John Cipollina - guitar, vocals
Barry Melton - guitar, vocals
Peter Albin - bass, vocals
Spencer Dryden - drums
Merl Saunders - keyboards, vocals
Robert Hunter - vocals (Who Makes Moves? only)

Credits
Producer - John Cipollina, Merl Saunders and Dinosaurs
Engineer - Tom Flye, Bob Hodas, Bob Skye
Remix - Tom Flye
Mastering - George Horn
Post-production - John Hadden
Project coordinator - Steve Keyser
Front cover - Dennis Nolan
Graphics - Alton Kelley
Back cover photo - Alan Blaustein
Graphics - Mike Dolgushkin
Liner notes (Linosaur Diner Notes) - Robert Hunter
Many thanks to - Avrom Ash, Kevyn Clark, Sindi Cooper, Thad Cordes, Greg Elmore, Charlie Kaiser, Kenn Roberts, Hal and Sandy Royaltey, Mike Somaville, Dan Watham, Wally Watham, Debbie Wilensky and especially Rick Hubbard
This project was recorded at Tres Virgos Studios, San Rafael; Studio D, Sausalito and remote recording by The Plant Studios at The Cabaret, Cotati
Remixed at Prairie Sun Recorders, Cotati and Fantasy Studios, Berkeley

Friends Of Extinction-Dinosaurs
Initial release : 2005
Acadia Records

Double CD comprising a remastered version of the Dinosaurs only studio album plus previously unreleased live material. Robert Hunter, Merl Saunders and Barry Melton perform and contribute to the song writing.

Disc 1 (Original album);
Lay Back Baby (Saunders/McPherson)
Strange Way (Melton/Zimmels)
Do I Move You? (Simone)
Butcher's Boy (Traditional arr. Melton)
Good Old Rock 'N Roll (Melton)
Fossil Fuel (Cipollina)
Resurrection Rag (Saunders/Hunter)
Motel Party Baby (Cipollina / Philippet)
Who Makes Moves? (Hunter/Melton)
Mona (I Need You Baby) (McDaniel)
Honky Tonk Jekyll & Hyde (Cipollina)
Overnight (Cipollina)

Disc 2 (Dinosaurs Are Alive);
The Dance (Aceves)
Amagamalin Street (Hunter)
No More Country Girl (Creach)
The Love Machine (Melton)
I Can't Get Started With You (Gershwin / Duke)
Built For Comfort (Dixon)
Blind Man (Traditional)
Codine (Saint Marie)
Closer (Melton)

Musicians Disc 1:
John Cipollina - guitar, vocals
Barry Melton - guitar, vocals
Peter Albin - bass, vocals
Spencer Dryden - drums
Merl Saunders - keyboards, vocals
Robert Hunter - vocals (Who Makes Moves? only)

Musicians Disc 2:
John Cipollina - guitar, vocals
Barry Melton - guitar, vocals
Peter Albin - bass, vocals
Spencer Dryden - drums
Merl Saunders - keyboards, vocals
Papa John Creach - violin, vocals
Stu Blank - organ (on The Dance)
Greg Elmore - drums (on Love Machine)
Doug Killmer - bass (on The Dance and Love Machine)
Kathi McDonald - vocals (on Blind Man)
Robbie Hoddinott - guitar (on Closer)
Robert Hunter - vocals (on Amagamalin Street)

Credits
For the original album (Disc 1)
Producer - John Cipollina, Merl Saunders and Dinosaurs
Engineer - Tom Flye, Bob Hodas, Bob Skye
Remix - Tom Flye
Mastering - George Horn
Post-production - John Hadden
Project coordinator - Steve Keyser
This project was recorded at Tres Virgos Studios, San Rafael; Studio D, Sausalito and remote recording by The Plant Studios at The Cabaret, Cotati
Remixed at Prairie Sun Recorders, Cotati and Fantasy Studios, Berkeley
Honky Tonk Jekyll & Hyde and Overnight were recorded on February 5, 1985.

For the live disc (Disc 2);
Producer, mastering - Mick Skidmore
Executive producer, tape archivist, project coordinator - Steve Keyser
Track selection - Steve Keyser, Mick Skidmore, Barry Melton
The tracks on disc 2 are live recordings from the following sources;
The Dance - Chi Chi Club, San Francisco, October 17, 1987
Amagamalin Street - Keystone, Palo Alto, October 25, 1985
No More Country Girl - The Backstage, Seattle, August 12, 1989
The Love Machine - Chi Chi Club, San Francisco, December 5, 1987
I Can't Get Started With You - The Backstage, Seattle, August 12, 1989
Built For Comfort - Starry Night, Portland, October 22, 1988
Blind Man - Parker's, Seattle, November 1, 1987
Codine - Chi Chi Club, San Francisco, April 8, 1989
Closer - Mabuhay Gardens, San Fransisco, June 22, 1985




Friday, July 8, 2016

The Good Old Boys: Jerry Garcia, Producer (and some banjo)

The front cover to Pistol Packin' Mama by The Good Old Boys, released as Round Records RX-109 (distributed by United Artists) in March 1976. The album was produced by Jerry Garcia, and recorded by Dan Healy in Mickey Hart's Rolling Thunder Barn studio in Novato, and it featured David Nelson along with bluegrass legends Frank Wakefield (mandolin), Don Reno (banjo) and Chubby Wise (fiddle). 
In March 1976, Round Records released Pistol Packin' Mama (Round RX-109), a bluegrass album by a group called The Good Old Boys. Although the primary lead singer and guitarist was old friend and New Rider David Nelson, the anchor to the group was three certifiable bluegrass legends: banjo player Don Reno, fiddler Chubby Wise and mandolin legend Frank Wakefield. Bassist Pat Campbell, a younger player, filled out the band. It was a fine album of bluegrass classics, plus the New Riders "Glendale Train," itself a bluegrass classic by this time, but unlike every other Round release, there was no significant Grateful Dead member performing contribution. Jerry Garcia produced the album at Mickey Hart's Rolling Thunder Studios in his Barn in Novato, with Dan Healy as engineer, and it was mixed at Bob Weir's home studio (Ace's, above his Mill Valley garage), but other than an uncredited Garcia harmony, no member of the Dead played on the record.

Round Records was basically Jerry Garcia's label, in partnership with the Dead's manager Ron Rakow, as Garcia and Rakow had a far larger appetite for the risk of the record business than the other members of the Dead. It is my proposition, however, that if Round Records would have had a future, it would have looked a lot more like Pistol Packin' Mama than, say, Reflections (Round RX-107) or Kingfish (RX-108). I think Garcia wanted to release music that he liked on a cost-efficient basis, playing whatever role he needed to play, whether guitarist or just producer. As had happened many times in the 1970s, the Garcia and the Dead had started the train rolling before the track was complete. This post will sort out the peculiar backstory of the Good Old Boys and the strange history of the release on Round Records, as well as raising some intriguing mysteries about Garcia's participation.

The back cover to Pistol Packin' Mama by The Good Old Boys, released as Round Records RX-109 (distributed by United Artists) in March 1976. Producer Jerry Garcia's photo is inset on the back.
Pistol Packin' Mama-The Good Old Boys (Round Records/UA RX-109)
The historic confusion of Pistol Packin' Mama stems from the perpetually confused financial condition of Round Records. The album was released in March 1976, a year after the Old And In The Way album was released, and some time after Garcia was known to have played banjo in public. Yet in fact the album had been recorded in January 1975, and it was linked to several other Garcia projects, including the Great American String Band. Garcia had even played banjo on stage with the Good Old Boys, and may have done so more than once. Yet no one knew that in 1976.

In 1976, Round had gotten a cash infusion from United Artists in order to produce and distribute the forthcoming Steal Your Face double-lp. Along with relatively conventional rock releases, Round released some fairly quixotic projects. In fact, these projects had been underway for years, but record buyers had little inkling of that. Prior to Pistol Packin' Mama, the last Round release, Seastones (RX-106) had been back in April 1975, and it had been the decidedly uncommercial electronic musical work of Ned Lagin (although billed as a Phil Lesh project at UA's insistence). After the Blues For Allah release in September 1975, Round came out with four albums the next Spring. Two were typical rock releases, Garcia's new solo album Reflections and the Kingfish album. The other two, however, were Mickey Hart's Diga project (RX-110), an unprecedented world music all-percussion ensemble , as well as the bluegrass album featuring a member of the New Riders and some players unknown to hippie rock fans. No live performances supported either release. By May '76, the Dead had announced their new tour, Round Records was done for, and all discussion of the label's lesser releases were forgotten.

The Greenbriar Boys album was released on Vanguard Records in 1962
David Nelson, Jerry Garcia and The Greenbriar Boys
The importance of Frank Wakefield has its roots deep inside David Nelson and Jerry Garcia's love of bluegrass. For young suburban musicians who learned about bluegrass from records, the music seemed like a cultural tradition that could only be mastered by those inside the tradition. The 60s question of whether "white men could sing the blues" was just as real a question to non-Southern bluegrass musicians who had learned about it from records. This was doubly true on the West Coast, because players like Nelson and Garcia had no local bluegrass tradition to learn from. Bluegrass legends rarely played the Bay Area (compared to, say, Cambridge, MA or Greenwich Village). The Greenbriar Boys were the first group that told the Garcias and Nelsons of America that they didn't have to come from some Kentucky hillside if they wanted to play bluegrass.

The Greenbriar Boys were formed in 1959 in Washington Square Park, a "holler" of sorts, to the extent that a holler on 10th Street and 5th Avenue that is within walking distance to the 1, 2, N, Q and R subway lines, not to mention the PATH, can be called a local community, but that it was. The players were all New Yorkers. The band's first album was released on 1962 on Vanguard Records, and it was the first indication that "Northerners" could play authentic bluegrass. For the likes of Nelson and Garcia, it set them free. The Greenbriar Boys were from New York and New Jersey, not the South, and they inspired suburban bluegrass pickers everywhere with the idea that bluegrass could be learned, even if you weren't born to it. Supposedly, a promotional photo for the Black Mountain Boys was posed identically to The Greenbriar Boys, as an homage.

By the early 60s, the members of The Greenbriar Boys were John Herald (guitar), Bob Yellin (banjo) and Ralph Rinzler (mandolin). Rinzler, among many other things, had introduced his teenage neighbor in Hackensack, NJ, young David Grisman, to the bluegrass mandolin. By 1966, Rinzler had left to work at the Smithsonian Institute, and his place had been taken by mandolinist Frank Wakefield. Wakefield was on the fourth and final Greenbriar Boys album, Better Late Than Never (Vanguard 1966). This, too, was a benediction: Wakefield was a certified bluegrass legend himself, and when he joined The Greenbriar Boys, it showed that Northern city kids and Southern pickers could all make bluegrass together.

Frank Wakefield had joined the Greenbriar Boys in 1965. Although not famous outside of bluegrass circles, he was already a mandolin legend (age 31) at that time. David Grisman's unforgettable quote about Wakefield sums it up: "he split the bluegrass mandolin atom. Some of us will never be the same again." Wakefield had been born in 1934 in Emory Gap, TN, but his family had moved to Dayton, OH, where he started performing in 1951. Throughout the 1950s, Wakefield toured with Jimmy Martin, The Stanley Brothers and others. He had joined Red Allen and The Kentuckians in 1958. Around 1960, he moved to Washington, DC with Allen and gave private lessons, including to a young David Grisman.  Wakefield also played with New York Philharmonic ('67) and Boston Pops ('68). Wakefield began a solo career in 1970, and released his first solo album on Rounder in 1972. The Greenbriar Boys released four albums, the last in 1966, and toured up until 1970. The Greenbriar Boys broke up in 1970, but they apparently played occasionally anyway. Bluegrass groups aren't like rock bands, and can "reform" for a single gig in your living room, if they are so inclined.

Good Old Boys Performance History
The foundation of the Good Old Boys was at a fascinating but now cloudy event called The Golden State Country And Bluegrass Festival, produced by Judy Lammers at the Marin County Fairgrounds in San Rafael from April 26-28, 1974. The story is a dense and complicated one, and only JGMF has attempted to do it justice, but it is complex reading. Briefly, although bluegrass was never a lucrative promotional vehicle, Judy Lammers and her husband produced a festival with many of the major stars of bluegrass at the time. The show also featured a momentary reformation of Old And In The Way--this is how bluegrass works--and that has swallowed up the history of festival itself. A famous photo of Jerry Garcia, John McEuen and Steve Martin playing banjos has drowned any other mention of the festival. The GSCBF was a remarkable event in many ways, but I am going to focus on one aspect that JGMF could simply not get to, namely the formation of the Good Old Boys by David Nelson and Frank Wakefield, and Jerry Garcia's prominent and yet unexplored role.

Bluegrass Festivals, even at the highest level of musicianship, are characterized by musicians hanging out and picking together, showing off their chops and sharing licks. It's acoustic music, so no one has to wait for a roadie. The classic bluegrass material is widely known, so any bluegrass picker who can't join in on "Wheel Hoss" at the count of four ain't much of a picker. Old friendships are renewed, new ones are made, and the real players find out whatever other gunslingers are in town. The Good Old Boys got their start at the Marin Fairgrounds, probably backstage picking. David Nelson explained in a 1976 issue of Dead Relix (Vol. 3, #1 quoted JGBP via JGMF):
D.R.: When did the Good Ol’ Boys begin?
Dave: It started at the Vassar Clements California Bluegrass Festival, put on by Judy Lammers, at the Marin County Fairgrounds. The real biggies that were there were Jim and Jesse McReynolds, the Virginia Boys, Frank Wakefield, Vasser, Doc Watson, Ralph Stanley, Jimmy Martin, Maria Muhdaur, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Doug Dillard.
Whether Wakefield and Nelson actually performed together at the Festival isn't clear to me, but it doesn't matter, since they were playing live a week later. In any case, Garcia (and Vassar) sat in with Wakefield and the Greenbriar Boys, which probably meant a lot to Garcia. Wakefield very likely had little idea who Garcia was.

An ad for the Keystone Berkeley for the week of May 5, 1974 from the Oakland Tribune of the same date. The Great American String Band headlined on Sunday May 5, and The Good Old Boys opened the show
May 5 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Great American String Band/Good Old Boys
Although the Keystone Berkeley was hardly a bluegrass venue, bluegrass is lively music that can be improved by beer. In any case, Jerry Garcia had played many a weeknight with Old And In The Way, and on a Sunday night, the Keystone always enjoyed having Jerry in any format. To the extent this show is noticed at all, it is because it is a very early iteration of the Great American String Band, the "new acoustic" ensemble that featured Garcia, Richard Greene, David Grisman, guitarist David Nichtern and various friends. The Good Old Boys opener is known from other listings.

No tape or eyewitness account circulated about this show, until a comment popped up on a post I wrote about a 1974 Peter Rowan demo session. An anonymous Commenter wrote
I saw Great American String Band show at the Keystone on May 5, 1974 and can attest to the fact that Peter Rowan and Jack Bonus were brought out for two songs - Midnight Moonlight and Hobo Song and the show was recorded professionally for what folks at the gig were hearing would be a future album. Gee, didn't get it until now that I might have actually seen Peter play with Jerry for the last time together (and it was my ONLY time with that privilege). Interestingly, considering it was recorded with studio mikes onstage, I am surprised that a recording of this concert with these two songs with Rowan and Bonus has not surfaced (and have not heard of anyone else acknowledging that they showed up at this gig).
So we know from this Comment that there are unheard, professionally mic'd tapes of a lost GASB show at Keystone Berkeley, including guest appearances by Peter Rowan and Jack Bonus (he wrote "Hobo Song" and recorded on Grunt Records). What's more intriguing is what I think is the likelihood that there was a recording of The Good Old Boys with Wakefield and Nelson, and that Garcia played banjo.

Let me respond to the obvious question first: how could the entire Grateful Dead community have missed a Jerry Garcia banjo appearance with David Nelson at the Keystone Berkeley? There are two critical points to make here:
  • Very few people probably actually saw the Good Old Boys. The Keystone Berkeley had no reserved seats, and you often ended up standing anyway (depending on what year we are talking about). So if you weren't planning to get there early, it made more sense to get there right before the headliner came on. There is a listing for The Good Old Boys opening, but all sorts of unknown local bands opened at Keystone Berkeley, and most locals just skipped them. There was no indication of who The Good Old Boys might have been, so few would have shown up early.
  • Seeing Jerry Garcia at the Keystone Berkeley just wasn't that big a deal back in '74. So for those who were there, even if they saw Jerry play with the Good Old Boys, they were going to see him play banjo with another group an hour later. We don't have any other eyewitness account of the GASB show, which honestly is typical of the era, and they just don't recall. I am hoping this post will jolt some long-dormant memories.
The second question is this: who says that Jerry Garcia played banjo with The Good Old Boys? The answer is that Frank Wakefield says so, and one of his friends and fellow musicians has even heard a tape. So Garcia had to play with Wakefield at some point, and the Keystone Berkeley fits the timeline. Back in 2006, Wakefield described his experience of playing with the Good Old Boys on a somewhat outdated (but still accessible) website (hosted by fiddler Jim Moss):
In 1975 David Nelson, Don Reno, Chubby Wise, and Jerry Garcia made an album out in California. That record sort of came about on the spur of the moment.  I was out in Marin County, in Northern California staying at David Nelson's house and doing shows with his band, The New Riders Of The Purple Sage.  Me and David... and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, were also doing some shows together.  When we did shows David would play guitar and Jerry played banjo. 
Whenever Garcia played with me and David, we would always have a full house.  I thought it was because of me.  I never had heard of Garcia or the Grateful Dead before. It took me a while to realize that people were coming to the shows because Jerry was playing with us.  When we played shows together we played acoustic.  I didn't know any of the Grateful Dead's music and the fact is I still don't.   The audience that was coming to see us was mostly Grateful Dead fans. Most of them had never heard Bluegrass music before, but they really loved it when they heard it.  
The site was run by bluegrass fiddler Jim Moss, who played with Wakefield (and everyone else, of course) many times. On the site, Moss recalls "Jerry Garcia actually was a member of the Good Ol' Boys on several occasions.  I have heard the live tapes from at least one of these shows." So we have confirmation that Garcia played with Wakefield and Nelson more than once, and that at least one was taped.

June 8, 1974 Oakland Coliseum Stadium; Grateful Dead/Beach Boys/New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
In the midst of Garcia's acoustic gigs, the Grateful Dead headlined a baseball stadium show with the Beach Boys. I have written about it at great length, and you can see the whole story here. The New Riders came on stage about noon that day, and they were joined by Wakefield for one song, Red Allen's "Teardrops In My Eyes," which the Riders had recorded on Panama Red. Wakefield's appearance at the Coliseum definitely puts him in town at the time, and it lends some color to Wakefield's explanation of the Good Old Boys album, which seems mildly exaggerated, as we will see below.

The June 9, 1974 Oakland Tribue Keystone Berkeley ad shows the Great American String Band playing June 13 and 14 (Thursday and Friday) "plus--The Good Ol' Boys."
June 13-14, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Great American String Band/The Good Old Boys
The Great American String Band played two nights at Keystone Berkeley, following a Wednesday night show (June 12) at the Lion's Share. Tapes of the GASB sets circulate for both nights at the Keystone (JGMF has the whole story, of course), but there is silence on The Good Old Boys. Few people may have been there for their set, and since regular tapers made Keystone GASB tapes, I have to assume if they were present they would have taped Jerry with The Good Old Boys. However, this does not exclude the possibility that the shows were recorded by Round for possible release, per the description of the May 5 show. Jim Moss heard some tape, and there was apparently more than one tape, so three Keystone shows make good sense.

In June of 1974, Grateful Dead Records was still riding pretty high. The Dead were selling out to record crowds throughout the country, they were about to release their second album on their own label, and Round had just released new albums by both Garcia and Robert Hunter. Sure, now we all know what was happening--The Wall Of Sound sucked up any excess cash, Mars Hotel wasn't really a hit (nor was Compliments Of Garcia) and that doesn't even count the forthcoming debacle of spending $100,000-plus that the band didn't have on filming their retirement. But it didn't look that way in the Summer of '74.

There's plenty of evidence that Garcia was at least contemplating all sorts of releases, like a live Garcia/Saunders album that might have followed the Fantasy album. There were plans afoot for an Old And In The Way album, a Keith And Donna album, something involving Seastones and no doubt other ideas. The record companies all had stars in their eyes at the time, and there were no "Indies" putting out well-recorded music in the hopes of a modest profit. Bluegrass was barely being recorded, with the East Coast label Rounder Records being about the only option. If there was a Rounder, why not a Round? I think the Good Old Boys show were taped because Garcia and Nelson were thinking about a live album, similar to how Old And In The Way ended up getting released. What became of these tapes?

November 29, 1974 Academy Of Music, New York, NY: New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Good Ol' Boys
In the fall of '74, the New Riders of The Purple Sage played three nights at Manhattan's Academy Of Music as part of their East Coast tour. A Jerry Moore tape endures of a brief performance by the Good Old Boys, apparently opening the show. Along with Nelson and Wakefield, Riders' bassist Skip Battin joins in, along with a banjo player (Dave something--I couldn't quite catch it) and fiddler Kenny Kosek. Kenny Kosek was in an Ithaca, NY band called Country Comfort that had backed Wakefield on his first Rounder solo album in 1972. Sharp-eyed fans may recall that just 13 years later, Kosek ended up playing with Nelson and Garcia in the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band. Waylon Jennings may have also been on the bill.

At the Academy, the Good Old Boys play 27 minutes. The group does seven tunes. John "Marmaduke" Dawson comes out to sing the bluegrass classic "Live And Let Live." I don't know if Good Old Boys opened the other two shows (Nov 27 and 28). Nelson introduces Wakefield as "the Evel Kneivel of bluegrass."

Wakefield picks up the story:
The way the Pistol Packin' Mama album came about was me and David were sitting around talking when I told David I'd like to do a record of me and him with Don Reno and Chubby Wise.  First, David thought I was kidding.  When he realized that I was serious he said, "Boy, I would love too, but that you could never get to talk to people like Don Reno and Chubby Wise".   I had already recorded with Don and Chubby back in 1959, so I said to David, "Why don't we call them, but first lets go talk to Ron Rakow."   Rakow was the fella who ran Round Records, the Grateful Dead's record company.  So we went over to Ron's office to talk to him and he was really interested after I told him that Chubby and Don were some of the original people in Bluegrass.  Ron had actually never heard of them.  Ron asked me how much I thought it would cost to do the record.  I said, "Oh,maybe three or four hundred dollars."  David looked at me kinda funny and said "Frank, it will cost more than that".   Then Ron Rakow said, "You'd have to have at least five thousand to start off with."  That sounded good to me so I said, "Well, I ain't gonna argue with that".

Then Ron asked me who would I like to have produce the album?  At that time I still didn't know Jerry's last name even though I had played with him about five times.  So I didn't think about having Garcia produce the record.   I thought we might have John Dawson from the New Riders produce the record, I did know his name.  Then later that day Ron called me and David and asked how about having Jerry Garcia produce the record? I said "who?" --"The guy who has been playing banjo with you."  I told him that that sounded fine with me because "he's alright."
Well, this is a pretty good story. Bluegrass legend plays with some young, admiring hippies, and agrees to make an album with his legendary bluegrass friends. Then, surprise--it turns out that the banjo player owns his own record company and can finance the whole thing! Good times. Now, to be clear, I'm sure Wakefield had no idea who the Grateful Dead were in 1974, and that when he first met Garcia backstage in Marin or at the Keystone, he had no idea who he was. Garcia, for a rock star, was notably self-effacing around other musicians, and Wakefield would not have been the only band member to play the Keystone Berkeley who did not realize that the crowd was there for Jerry.

However, for this story to be convincing Wakefield has to have "not noticed" that his banjo player's band was headlining a concert at a baseball stadium in the midst of all those Keystone gigs. I guess it's possible--maybe Wakefield left early and didn't see his banjo player backstage. But I think Wakefield was exaggerating for effect. Initially he didn't know who Garcia was, but later he did, but it's a funnier story the way Wakefield tells it now. Fair enough. In any case, Nelson, Ron Rakow and Wakefield seem to have agreed to have Garcia produce an album with some other legends. The sessions were booked for January 27-28, 1975. Wakefield:
So, after that, I called Don Reno.  I talked to him for a few minutes and asked him if he wanted to come to California to do a record.  Then I told him that David wanted to talk to him.  Don said, "David who?" I told him David Nelson from the New Riders of the Purple Sage.  I am not sure if Don knew who they were or not, but I handed the phone to David. David held the phone for a long time and said nothing.  I said, David is Don still on the phone?  Did you get cut off?  Finally, David said, "H-h-Hello?, Don, Don Reno? Dave kept stuttering, "I can't believe I'm talking with you."  After a while David calmed down.   He and Don talked for awhile then I got back on the phone and asked Don what he would have to have to do the record.  Don said, "what could you pay me?"I said about $800 plus a round trip ticket and a plane ticket for his banjo.  He would also get a hotel room.   Don said "That sounds good to me.  When do you want to do it". When I called Chubby it went exactly the same way.  Again, David was speechless to talk to Chubby also.

In a few days Don flew out and me, David and Garcia picked him up at the airport. Chubby wouldn't ride in a plane.  So he drove out from Texas in his Cadillac.  it took Chubby about a week to drive to California, but he got there.  We went into the studio and I would call off a song and we would do it.  David and Garcia knew all the old Bluegrass songs.  Don practiced with us for about an hour before we recorded. Chubby got to California the night before we were going into the studio. Chubby didn't get a chance to practice with us at all.

We were in the studio a total of 12 hours, two days, 6 hours each day.  We recorded about 28 songs in those 12 hours.  We did "Leave Well Enough Alone" twice.  That was a song I had wrote and forgot.  Garcia suggested we do it.   Jerry had to tell me the words.  Don was suppose to sing baritone on it, but he had never heard it before. Don couldn't remember the words so Garcia came out from the control room and did the baritone with us on it.  
The Pistol Packin' Mama album was recorded in two days at Mickey's Barn in Novato. The sessions are usually listed as January 27-29, so maybe Jerry and Healy spent an extra day mixing. It's notable that Nelson and Garcia knew all the material, even though neither had played much bluegrass in the intervening decade since The Black Mountain Boys. Garcia even recalled a song that the other band members had forgotten. The notable detail is that 28 songs were recorded, a fact basically confirmed by Nelson (who said they recorded 25 songs). Where are the other songs? Even if there are some flubbed numbers, wouldn't there be enough for another album of outtakes? The window to release them may have closed, as the cd market has shrunk, but it seems unfortunate that a Garcia-produced session of authentic bluegrass legends has sunk under the waves.

January or February 1975 Paul's Saloon, San Francisco, CA: Jam Night
Fiddler Jim Moss recalls a remarkable aftermath of The Good Old Boys in California. Although Deadheads are understandably Garcia-centric, in fact in the early 1970s there was a significant revival of bluegrass amongst young hippie pickers. Jerry was the most famous, of course, but it was happening all over the country, as young players appreciated how the beauty and discipline of bluegrass lent itself to good music played in a simpler acoustic setting.

In the Bay Area, this revival had been led by a now-forgotten group called The Styx River Ferry. Styx River Ferry played what few folk clubs there were, but they also played Fillmore West on audition night and put on bluegrass shows in Ghirardelli Square. The band members were mostly Southern transplants who had come to San Francisco like everyone else, but they found themselves flying the bluegrass flag. As I understand it, Styx River Ferry was looking for a bar to play in, and they stumbled onto a place called Paul's Saloon in the Marina District (I believe the address was 3251 Scott Street), owned by one Paul Lampert. By the early 1970s, there was bluegrass almost every night of the week at Paul's. Paul's Saloon was the real nexus of Bay Area Bluegrass, where all the pickers swapped licks, beer and tall tales. By about 1973, many of the key members of Styx River Ferry had returned to the South, but Paul's Saloon remained the nexus of Bay Area bluegrass activity.

Fiddler Jim Moss continues the story:
One night in 1975 at Paul's Saloon in San Francisco, a jam night as I remember, musicians were standing around getting ready to put together a pickup band and jump up on stage to play a few songs.  At the time this was how musicians kept in shape and how bands were formed.   I seem to remember this was how the Phantoms of the Opry, the Good Old Persons, and the Done Gone band first got together.  Paul's was an incubator for SF Bay Area bands.  Paul himself was very difficult... to say the least.

On this night things would be different.  In through the swinging doors came Frank Wakefield, Don Reno, Jerry Garcia, Pat Campbell and David Nelson. What a buzz in that place that night.  They went to the back room, the warm-up room.  Before long all but Garcia had left for the stage where they would perform 2 sets.   Some of us hung back in the warm-up room to see up close what kind of a Bluegrass guy Garcia was. Garcia sat there with his banjo around his neck.  Robbie McDonald the banjo player for the Phantoms of the Opry, in true gun fighter fashion blasted off a tune in a fiery fashion. This was clearly a challenge to a big time rocker!  A big time rocker with a missing finger on his right hand at that! What would happen next?   Well, Jerry Garcia simply looked at Robbie and said, "nice playing". I would go on to meet Garcia several more times at different places in California only to see the same unpretentious character who each time seemed interested in any Bluegrassers that might be there.

Jerry Garcia actually was a member of the Good Ol' Boys on several occasions.  I have heard the live tapes from at least one of these shows.  Maybe Frank will find a record company to invest and put these out for all to hear someday. I know that Frank has said that he would like to find some photos of them playing together in that band someday.  I know that Paul of Paul's Saloon took pictures of that night in 1975, but who knows what ever happened to him after he shut down Paul's.
February 21, 1975 1685 Commercial Way, Margarita's, Santa Cruz, CA: The Good Old Boys
There is one final known appearance of Jerry Garcia with The Good Old Boys, and it makes even less sense than these other appearances. On Saturday, February 21, 1975, about three weeks after the album was recorded, The Good Old Boys played an out-of-the-way venue in Santa Cruz called Margarita's. It was at 1685 Commercial Way, not near downtown (but near Moe's Alley at 1534 Commercial, if you know Santa Cruz). Nelson, Wakefield and bassist Pat Campbell were joined by Jerry Garcia on banjo. We are fortunate indeed to have an impeccable eyewitness, CryptDev himself:
Jerry Garcia's second appearance in Santa Cruz during the 1970s was a very low key affair. As was the case elsewhere in the Bay Area at that time, he could show up at a club, get a reasonable but not unmanageable crowd, and get to play some music without a lot of the hoopla and baggage that came with a Dead show. Because Margarita's had just opened, publicity for this show was pretty miniscule - a concert schedule listing in Santa Cruz weekly rag Sundaz was about all there was. I had learned about it when I went to the Kingfish opening show, but found a relatively sparse group in attendance when we showed up at the show. The Jerry Site gig list shows two Margarita's dates for the group, on Feb. 20 and 21st, but to the best of my recollection they only played the one night I heard them. 
At Margarita's the Good Old Boys comprised Garcia on banjo, mandolin player Frank Wakefield, New Riders guitarist David Nelson, and standup bassist Pat Campbell. During the course of their set, it became apparent that the group, less Garcia (who had produced) and augmented by bluegrass legends Chubby Wise on fiddle and Don Reno on banjo, had just recorded an record an album, Pistol Packin' Mama, that came out a few months later [sic--it was a year later] on the Dead's Round Records label. Clearly Reno and Wise, who participated in two days of recording for the album, had already decamped back down south, so Garcia was recruited to fill the banjo slot. 
I wish my memory of the set was more substantial, but it is no surprise that they played most, if not all, of the material on the album, which included the title tune, "Ashes of Love," "Dim Lights," and "Glendale Train" from the NRPS repertoire and "Deep Elem Blues" (Wakefield's version) which was a regular in the Dead's 1970 acoustic set lists.  I do not remember any Garcia lead vocals, although a reputed GOB tape I had at one point had him singing "Russian Lullaby" (I suspect that was actually derived from a Great American String Band set rather than a GOB set) but they definitely did not play it that night. Further details are lost in the sands of time, and complicated by the fact that I was just starting to learn the traditional bluegrass repertoire at the time. Nonetheless, it was a fun, low-key evening, and Garcia, Nelson, Wakefield, and Campbell seemed to be really enjoying themselves.
When The Good Old Boys played the Bay Area in 1974 and early '75, almost no Deadheads in the Bay Area had any idea of the connection. David Nelson's name was never mentioned, much less Garcia's. How many shows did they play? It's not really clear, but Wakefield and Moss seem to suggest that Garcia played several shows, and Wakefield specifically said that he had "already played with Garcia five times" before the album. That fits with the known or likely events at Keystone Berkeley (May 5 and June 13-14), Paul's (early 75) and Margarita's (Feb 21 '75). Since bluegrass bands have no amps or roadies, we can hope that there were a few more at places like The Lion's Share or The Inn Of The Beginning, but on the whole there were likely no more than about ten (JGMF found an ad for an outdoor show in Berkeley on July 7, 1974, with the Great American String Band and Good Old Boys, but since GASB didn't play, I don't think Good Old Boys would have either).

Good Old Boys 1975-76
The Good Old Boys started to play shows on the East Coast in 1975. The New Riders Of The Purple Sage were a popular act on the East Coast, and his name would have attracted some people. Also, by early 1975 the Old And In The Way album had been released, so it may have seemed that Nelson was doing what Garcia had been doing, playing some bluegrass on the side, which wasn't untrue. With hindsight, it seems plausible that the shows were booked in anticipation of a Summer '75 release of Pistol Packin' Mama, but of course financial trouble at Round delayed any such plans. Nelson played at least one more show with Wakefield in the Good Old Boys in 1976. Garcia spent a day in January of 1976 mixing the album, and Round finally released Pistol Packin' Mama in March, almost a year late, thanks to a final cash infusion from United Artists.

By early 1976, The Good Old Boys were touring East Coast clubs with Peter Rowan on guitar instead of Nelson, along with Wakefield and a few other players. On at least one occasion (Feb 25 '76), David Nelson appeared with the band, presumably in anticipation of the still-delayed Round album. On other occasions, according to tapes, the likes of Vassar Clements and David Grisman joined in. From the point of view of East Coast Deadheads, who may have known very little about bluegrass, it must have made a lot of sense. The Old And In The Way album was released in March 1975, and Pistol Packin' Mama a year later. Rowan and Wakefield touring together, performing a mixture of songs from both albums (such as "Panama Red" and "Deep Elem Blues") as well as bluegrass classics made for a coherent expression of Garcia and Nelson's bluegrass roots, even if neither of them were present.

Up through the mid-80s, Wakefield mostly used the name Good Old Boys (or Good Ol' Boys) for his band when he toured, regardless of the membership. Since Pistol Packin' Mama was well-known, he regularly performed songs from that album, but many of them were bluegrass standards anyway. Relix Records released two albums in 1992 as Frank Wakefield and The Good Old Boys (Frank Wakefield and The Good Old Boys and She's No Angel). In typical Relix fashion, there is no helpful information on the liner notes, but an article suggested it was from a 1975 show (possibly June 6, 1975--see below). David Nelson is listed as a member on both albums, but there is no other information about other band members, recording dates, or anything else, save for song titles. Since banjo player Tom Stern helped produce the album, and was a later member of Good Old Boys, it seems plausible to assume that he was in the '75 lineup, but I'm not sure about the fiddler or the bass player.

Aftermath
"New Acoustic Music" rose to a deservingly prominent position in the 1990s, not least because of the David Grisman Quintet. The rise of the cd market, which re-released a lot of long-lost material to music fans, brought a renaissance for many artists in a variety of genres. Frank Wakefield was one of many bluegrass players whose catalog across many decades was suddenly accessible, and he continued to tour successfully well into the 21st century. I myself saw Frank Wakefield play the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley in November, 1997--just a brief 23 years after I had seen him with the New Riders at the Oakland Coliseum Stadium--and he was tremendous. Plus, it was Berkeley--Peter Rowan showed up for a few numbers, and then David Nelson did, too. It was a great night. Wakefield is still with us, I'm happy to say. He's not a young buck anymore, so I don't think he plays much, but he split the atom, so he doesn't have to.

Appendix 1:
Pistol Packin' Mama-The Good Old Boys
Initial release : March 1976
Round RX-109 / RX-LA597-G
The only Round Records release that does not include a major playing contribution from a member of the Grateful Dead. This bluegrass album was produced by Garcia. Garcia has stated in an interview that he sings harmony on Leave Well Enough Alone.
Tracks
  • Ashes of Love (Anglin / Anglin / Wright)
  • I'm Here to Get My Baby Out Of Jail (Traditional arr Wakefield)
  • Long Gone (Public Domain / Reno)
  • Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (Fidler/ Maphis / Maphis)
  • Deep Elem Blues (Traditional arr Wakefield)
  • Pistol Packin' Mama (Dexter)
  • Banjo Signal (Reno / Smiley)
  • Toy Heart (Monroe)
  • Leave Well Enough Alone (Traditional arr Wakefield)
  • Too Wise Special (Wise)
  • On Top of Old Smokey (Traditional arr Wakefield)
  • Barefoot Nelly (Reno / Davis)
  • Don't You Hear Jerusalem Moan (Reno)
  • Glendale Train (Dawson)
Musicians
  • David Nelson - guitar, vocals
  • Frank Wakefield - mandolin, vocals
  • Don Reno - banjo, vocals
  • Chubby Wise - fiddle
  • Pat Campbell - bass
  • Jerry Garcia - harmony vocals (on Leave Well Enough Alone)
Credits
  • Producer - Jerry Garcia
  • Engineer - Dan Healy
  • Mixing - Jerry Garcia, Dan Healy
  • Production assistants - Kidd, Steve Brown
  • Art direction - Ria Lewerke
  • Album design - Leonard Spencer
  • Photography - Ron Rakow, John Allen
  • Recorded at Rolling Thunder
  • Mixed at Ace's
David Nelson, Winter 76 Round Records Newsletter
When Anton Round asked me to write a few words about the "Pistol Packin' Mama" album, I tried to think of what to say and couldn't even come close to what a fantastic trip it was, doing that session. In two days we had 25 songs down on tape, and upon listening back, some of the tastiest, most fun, and liveliest bluegrass ever recorded! I felt like a kid with dreams of the big leagues who was approached by Mantle, DiMaggio, and Ruth and told "well sure we'll play with you, and all your friends too!" 
These three guys wrote the book on banjo, mandolin and fiddle. Chubby Wise is the dearly loved daddy of the country fiddle. He played on the sessions which are today regarded as the definitive bluegrass music. Don Reno is a phenomenal all round musician as well as one singer, guitar picker, and innovator in the highest degree. 
What can I say about Frank Wakefield? He's Brer Rabbit jumping through the briar patch, in the flesh. I'd have to quote Oxford's Dictionary and say, "luxuriously prolific, virtuosity abounding, technical ability overflowing with spirit." All I can say is that it was so much fun doing this album. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.
Appendix 2: Good Old Boys with David Nelson (additional live shows)
June 6, 1975 The Other End, New York, NY (early and late)
David Nelson played at least a few shows with The Good Old Boys in June 1975. It seems that the shows were planned as publicity for the Round Records release of Pistol Packin' Mama, and presumably the dates were fulfilled anyway. We are lucky to have a fine Jerry Moore audience tape. On the tape, Nelson says that the groups has been "on the road about three days," so presumably there are a few other dates. Band members not announced (the lineup is DN, FW, banjo, fiddle, bass--Tom Stern may be the banjo player).

At one point the band tells the crowd
[Nelson]:"We just made a record on Round Records. I imported Frank out to California and Garcia produced it. We did 25 songs in two days. It blew our minds. It's coming out in June or July, I think." [Wakefield]: "it was supposed to be out last week." 
These comments hint at the confusion surrounding Round Records. The album had been recorded four months earlier, and Old And In The Way had come out in the Spring, so another bluegrass release made good sense. Good sense, however, didn't always figure into Round calculations.

The Other End was at 147 Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. Back in the early1960s it had been a coffeehouse called The Bitter End, and had played a critical role in the 60s folk scene. Prior to that, in the '50s, 147 Bleecker was called The Cock And Bull, and Hugh Romney was a regular performer (before he became better known as Wavy Gravy). In 1974, the venue became a nightclub called The Other End. It was a hippie rock hangout during a period when New York music was evolving in various different directions. Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue got its start performing on an ad hoc basis at The Other End. At the end of the '70s, the club reverted to the more famous name The Bitter End. It remains open and apparently thriving today.

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December 20, 1975 My Father's Place, Roslyn, NY: Good Old Boys
[update] Correspondent Keats writes in with an excellent link to what sounds like a Jerry Moore tape recorded at My Father's Place in Long Island. Possibly this is a source tape for the Relix album. The mc begins each set by saying "Will you please welcome Frank Wakefield and Dave Nelson, The Good Old Boys. " There are two sets, the first about an hour and the second 40 minutes. There are many songs from the upcoming album, and some bluegrass classics.

The Good Old Boys are a quintet, with Nelson doing most of the lead vocals (Wakefield handles a few). The balance of the group is Tom Stern (banjo, harmonies), John Glick (fiddle) and Rick Lindner (bass).

Nelson and Wakefield do refer to the forthcoming album. Wakefield says, mock plaintively, "when's that coming out" and Nelson says "March or maybe February." Once again, the New Riders were touring the area, having played the nearby Calderone Arena in Hempstead, NY on the previous weekend (Dec 12 and 13).

December 23, 1975 The Red Rail, Nanuet, NY: Good Old Boys/The Rowans
[update] A Jerry Moore tape has preserved the group's performance at the Red Rail (as well as a tape of The Rowans). Nelson alludes to "coming back one more time to the Red Rail, so I figure they may have played there in June. Nanuet was Southwest of Manhattan, near Nyack and the New Jersey border

February 25, 1976 The Other End, New York, NY (early and late)
w/Wakefield, Nelson, Peter Rowan (mandola), Tom Stern (banjo), John Glick (fiddle), Rick Lindner (bass)
The Good Old Boys apparently played regularly around the East Coast in 1976, as we have tapes from February, April, July and November 1976. Frank Wakefield led the band, of course, but the guitar and lead vocals were handled by Peter Rowan rather than Nelson. To Deadheads, this must have made perfect sense. Most Deadheads had just discovered bluegrass via Old And In The Way (I certainly had), so Wakefield and Rowan touring together presented the two leaders of the "Grateful Dead Bluegrass Scene," such as it appeared. The Good Old Boys with Rowan performed a mixture of songs from Pistol Packin' Mama, Old And In The Way and bluegrass standards. The balance of the band besides Rowan (guitar, vocals) and Wakefield (mandolin, vocals) was Tom Stern (banjo), John Glick (fiddle) and Rick Lindner (bass).

However, for one show at The Other End, on February 25, 1976,David Nelson "rejoined" the band. Rowan played mandola instead of guitar, but he sang as well. Clearly, this show was intended to publicize the release of the album, but once again the album was not even released yet. We have a fine tape of the show, but I don't know whether or if Nelson appeared at any other Good Old Boys concerts after that show.

Appendix 3: Don Reno and Chubby Wise
Don Reno (1926-84) was a legendary banjo player in bluegrass circles. After time in the US Army in WW2, Reno joined Bill Monroe and The Bluegrass Boys in 1948, replacing Earl Scruggs. For a player like Garcia, Don Reno was a foundational player in the three-finger picking style. In 1950, Reno formed his most famous bluegrass partnership with guitarist and singer Red Smiley, which lasted until 1964. Reno continued to perform until his death in 1984. He is buried in Lynchburg, VA.

Fiddler Chubby Wise (1915-1996) was a member of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys from 1942-48, making him a critical member of the band that invented bluegrass. He had an extensive career after Monroe, including becoming a member of The Grand Ole Opry (essentially meaning he was in the house band). He worked on numerous country sessions as well.

Appendix 5: Frank Wakefield On Meeting Jerry
Here is the complete Wakefield interview about Garcia and Nelson, from Jim Moss's excellent Candlewater site. I have excerpted various parts as appropriate above, but here is the whole interview.

Frank Wakefield:  In 1975 David Nelson, Don Reno, Chubby Wise, and Jerry Garcia made an album out in California.  That record sort of came about on the spur of the moment.  I was out in Marin County, in Northern California staying at David Nelson's house and doing shows with his band, The New Riders Of The Purple Sage.  Me and David... and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, were also doing some shows together. When we did shows David would play guitar and Jerry played banjo. 
David and Jerry started out playing music together in a Bluegrass band before they got into Country Rock and they both really loved Bluegrass music.   Whenever Garcia played with me and David, we would always have a full house.  I thought it was because of me.  I never had heard of Garcia or the Grateful Dead before.  It took me a while to realize that people were coming to the shows because Jerry was playing with us.  When we played shows together we played acoustic.  I didn't know any of the Grateful Dead's music and the fact is I still don't.   The audience that was coming to see us was mostly Grateful Dead fans. Most of them had never heard Bluegrass music before, but they really loved it when they heard it.  Both Jerry Garcia and David Nelson helped create a lot of Bluegrass fans.  I still meet fans who say that they first heard Bluegrass back when we were doing those shows with Garcia and David in the Good Ol Boys back east in 1976 and 1977 [sic].

The way the Pistol Packin' Mama album came about was me and David were sitting around talking when I told David I'd like to do a record of me and him with Don Reno and Chubby Wise.  First, David thought I was kidding.  When he realized that I was serious he said, "Boy, I would love too, but that you could never get to talk to people like Don Reno and Chubby Wise."  I had already recorded with Don and Chubby back in 1959, so I said to David, "Why don't we call them, but first lets go talk to Ron Rakow." Rakow was the fella who ran Round Records, the Grateful Dead's record company.  So we went over to Ron's office to talk to him and he was really interested after I told him that Chubby and Don were some of the original people in Bluegrass. Ron had actually never heard of them.  Ron asked me how much I thought it would cost to do the record.  I said, "Oh, maybe three or four hundred dollars."  David looked at me kinda funny and said "Frank, it will cost more than that".   Then Ron Rakow said, "You'd have to have at least five thousand to start off with."  That sounded good to me so I said, "Well, I ain't gonna argue with that". 
Then Ron asked me who would I like to have produce the album?  At that time I still didn't know Jerry's last name even though I had played with him about five times.  So I didn't think about having Garcia produce the record.  I thought we might have John Dawson from the New Riders produce the record, I did know his name.   Then later that day Ron called me and David and asked how about having Jerry Garcia produce the record? I said "who?" The guy who has been playing banjo with you.  I told him that that soundedfine with me because "he's alright."
So, after that, I called Don Reno.  I talked to him for a few minutes and asked him
if he wanted to come to California to do a record.   Then I told him that David wanted
to talk to him.  Don said, "David who?".  I told him David Nelson from the New Riders
of the Purple Sage.  I am not sure if Don knew who they were or not, but I handed
the phone to David. David held the phone for a long time and said nothing.  I said, David, is Don still on the phone?  Did you get cut off?  Finally, David said, "Hh Hello?, Don, Don Reno?" Dave kept stuttering, "I can't believe I'm talking with you."  After a while David calmed down.   He and Don talked for awhile then I got back on the phone and asked Don what he would have to have to do the record.  Don said, "what could you pay me?" I said about $800 plus a round trip ticket and a plane ticket for his banjo.  He would also get a hotel room.   Don said "That sounds good to me.  When do you want to do it".  
When I called Chubby it went exactly the same way.  Again, David was speechless to
talk to Chubby also. In a few days Don flew out and me, David and Garcia picked him up at the airport. Chubby wouldn't ride in a plane.  So he drove out from Texas in his Cadillac.  it took Chubby about a week to drive to California, but he got there.   We went into the studio and I would call off a song and we would do it.  David and Garcia knew all the old Bluegrass songs.  Don practiced with us for about an hour before we recorded.
Chubby got to California the night before we were going into the studio.  Chubby
didn't get a chance to practice with us at all. 
We were in the studio a total of 12 hours, two days, 6 hours each day.  We recorded
about 28 songs in those 12 hours.  We did "Leave Well Enough Alone" twice.  That was
a song I had wrote and forgot.  Garcia suggested we do it.   Jerry had to tell me
the words.  Don was suppose to sing baritone on it, but he had never heard it before.
Don couldn't remember the words so Garcia came out from the control room and
did the baritone with us on it.

I decided on the name for the album.  Pistol Packin' Mama sounded like a good
name for an album.  We put four of Don's songs on the album, "Banjo Signal,"
"Barefoot Nellie," "Don't You Hear Jerusalem Moan" and "Long Gone."  Don sang
lead on the vocals he wrote.  We put an instrumental of Chubby's on the record too.
Chubby didn't have a name for the tune.  I always called him Chubby Too Wise,
so I said, "Why don't we call it the "Too Wise Special"?"  Well, that really tickled
Chubby.  When Chubby would start laughing with that big laugh of his, it would
start his belly to shakin all around.  He said, "That sounds mighty fine Little Frankie!"
Chubby would always call me "Little Frankie".
(Jim Moss interview-2006)
Frank Wakefield's debut album in 1972, on the Cambridge, MA label Rounder Records. The backing musicians were an Ithaca, NY band called Country Cooking, who included Kenny Kosek (fiddle) and Pete Wernick (banjo).
Appendix 6: Frank Wakefield (Rounder)
Frank Wakefield's first solo album was released in 1972 on Rounder Records, out of Cambridge, MA. Although there are not track-by-track credits, the backing group was a band of young bluegrass musicians in Ithaca, NY, called Country Cooking. As a sign of how tiny the hippie bluegrass world was back then, it is worth noting that while Country Cooking fiddler Kenny Kosek would go on to perform in the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, banjo player Peter Wernick had already played with both Nelson and Garcia. Back in the Summer of 1963, Wernick had played a few shows in a group called The Godawful Palo Alto Bluegrass Ensemble with Jerry Garcia and Eric Thompson. In the Winter of '69, Wernick had played with Nelson in a bluegrass group called High Country.

Wernick, although a regular in the Greenwich Village folk clubs, was also getting a PhD in Sociology from Columbia University, thus earning the name "Dr Banjo," by which he is still well known. In the early 70s, Dr. Wernick had an academic appointment at Cornell , which is how he came to found a bluegrass band that still had connections in University enclaves like Greenwich Village, Cambridge, Berkeley and Palo Alto (looking at you, Dr. Humbead).




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