Dave's Picks Vol. 4

Recorded at the College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA (9/24/76)

Released: 2012

Tracks

Promised Land [4:41]
Deal [5:07]
Cassidy [4:31]
Sugaree [10:25]
Looks Like Rain [7:53]
Row Jimmy [9:48]
Big River [5:33]
Tennessee Jed [8:55]

Playing In the Band > [11:53]
Supplication > [4:55]
Playing In the Band [4:43]
Might As Well [7:36]
Samson and Delilah [7:02]
Loser [8:06]
New Minglewood Blues [4:30]

Help On the Way > [5:06]
Slipknot! > [5:07]
Drums > [5:36]
Slipknot! > [5:28]
Franklin's Tower > [8:12]
The Music Never Stopped > [5:49]
Stella Blue [7:35]
Around and Around [6:54]
U.S. Blues [5:56]


dpv4.png

Liner Notes:

Higher Ed With the Dead

William & Mary Hall,
September 24, 1976

“We get hard fans.” That was how Jerry Garcia explained the band’s steadily burgeoning appeal to a young New York Times rock critic in 1969. “Once we play the same place three or four times we know we have a core of fans that’ll stay with us no matter what we do.” It was a prescient comment, typical of Garcia’s affable but keen insights--and also spot-on: Over the next 26 years, dozens of venues around the country would become hallowed ground to Dead Heads because of the legendary performances the band played in these places. That year marked the Dead’s first full-fledged tour of American colleges and universities, and over time, campuses would become incubators for Dead Head culture in ways that commentators have yet to fully explore. The way the band took root in America’s institutions of higher learning is a critical part of the story of the Dead, one that this release helps document.

And what a document. For their second visit to the venerable College of William & Mary, nestled in the colonial hamlet of Williamsburg, Virginia, the Dead puled out a pair of sets that turned wide-eyed freshmen into diehard devotees, and left local Dead Heads awed and amazed. Here was undeniable proof that the band was indeed back from their brief retirement, energized and at the peak of their powers. The stories of that show, bolstered only by a relatively primitive audience recording, made this one of the jewels in the band’s extended oral history. It was one of those shows whose power could really only be imagined, interpolated from the fervor and passion of those who were present--until now.

That passion also made stories of the band’s performance that year an indelible part of the campus’ history. Passed down from class to class, tales of that show, and of the band’s other performances at William & Mary, became part of the school’s unique contribution to Grateful Dead lore, something that Dead Head undergraduates and alumni could be proud of their campus for having fostered. As one William & Mary student put it, “There were different power spots around the country, and the Dead seemed to find those places to play, and Williamsburg, because of the history of it and the Revolution, was one of those spots. It just seemed that they played really well there.”

He should know, as one of the lucky ones who saw the band perform on all three of their stops at the second-oldest college in the country. When the band first performed in the 10,000-seat William & Mary Hall, it was 1973, but to local Heads, it seemed like 1967, with only the first hints of the burgeoning counterculture shaking the trees of the beautiful wooded college grounds. Three years later, when the Dead returned, the ‘60s were in full sway, shaking the foundations of the campus itself. Ads for head shops boldly touted their wares in the pages of the student newspaper, and the news that the Dead were returning to reprise their legendary stop at the campus electrified tidewater Dead Heads.

Every time the band played William & Mary, history seemed like it was in the air, and not just because of the time capsule nature of Williamsburg. For the band, the shows at William & Mary Hall happened during pivotal periods. In 1973, the band was in a building phase, with their homegrown business efforts already underway and about to deliver headline-making tours with the Wall of Sound. The burden of those efforts led to their hiatus from touring, and their return to the Hall in 1976 marked the advent of a leaner, more efficient approach that reflected painful lessons learned. “I now know more about the business end [of making music] than I ever dreamed imaginable,” Weir commented to a reporter a week after the Williamsburg gig. “The business got in the way of the music.”

And now the band was determined to let the music drive the business. During the hiatus, various notions for how best to accomplish that had been bruited about. Ideas included a permanent Bay Area hall where the band could hold court without touring, as well as stealth, or “hit-and-run” shows, with no advance announcement. Both ideas would come to fruition eventually, with the “Formerly the Warlocks” shows taking place at the band’s next Virginia venue, Hampton, in 1989, and both Weir and Lesh opening venues in Marin County in 2012. But in 1976, the Dead needed to focus on rebuilding.

There was much to rebuild. The year had begun withe the Bank of Boston calling in their loan to the band’s record company; when label president Ron Rakow left, along with the bulk of the advance from United Artists, Grateful Dead Records and Round Records were doomed. The release of Steal Your Face, the live double-LP set culled from badly flawed tapes of the band’s farewell shows at Winterland in 1974, didn’t help; panned by both critics and fans alike, it haunted the tour, but those who caught the band on a good night would have been hard pressed to connect it to the band on that album.

Longtime fans understood, however: the Dead’s capacity for rebounding from adversity was one of their hallmarks, a quality highlighted in an extraordinary weeklong sting in San Francisco’s Orpheum Theater that summer, hailed by critics and ecstatically celebrated by Dead Heads as proof of the band’s return to form. It set the stage for a powerhouse fall tour, with a streamlined operation supported by a crew of only six, playing small halls, for the faithful.

Musically, the tour marked the ongoing reintegration of Mickey Hart back into the ensemble, after several years away, along with changes in the band’s songbook. Several fine new songs debuted, notable the triumvirate “Help On The Way,” “Slipknot!.” and “Franklin’s Tower,” and “Cosmic Charlie” was retired, following a final airing the night after the stop in Williamsburg. Other absences haunted the tour, chief among them the tragic death of longtime roadie Rex Jackson, who died in a car accident on Labor Day weekend. His death was a tremendous blow to the band and extended family, prompting speculation that the tour would be cancelled, but the Dead followed through on their pledge to mount the “Dead Heads Only Tour,” as it was nicknamed using mail-order sales to ensure that fans had dibs on tickets.

For William & Mary Dead Heads, the band’s appearance on September 24, 1976, heralded a return to glory. That glory had begun in 1973, when the band earned the undying loyalty of students with a marathon show on September 11. “I couldn’t believe that any band could play that long, and for one concert,” marveled one first-time audience member and soon-to-be-converted undergraduate. But what really cemented the show in Virginia Dead Head mystique was Phil Lesh’s announce at the end of the show that they had enjoyed themselves so much they were going to play another night--general admission, without any chairs to impede dancing. “The Grateful Dead played at William & Mary two nights! The Grateful Dead played at William & Mary two night!” raved the campus reviewer in the student newspaper. “For many old style deep down Dead Heads this in itself is beyond belief,” she exulted. her review illustrates how the shows galvanized the campus, praising the “smoothness and simplicity of the Dead’s approach to performing” which serve to set a Dead concert apart from other rock concert events,” and concluding: “They take you through all the paces. They can jazz it up...they can set you down next to a country stream, they can trip you out, damn they can do most anything.”

Indeed. Three weeks later, William & Mary fans remembered, and tickets were hard to come by. Fans drove in from as far away as Florida and New York, painting the campus in tie-dye. Students were used to costumes in Williamsburg, but not these. “I remember waking up the day of the show and all the tie-dye in the middle of Colonial Williamsburg was just surreal!” one student recalled.

The band responded, giving William & Mary one of the best shows of the tour. For one recent graduate, “the topper was the ‘Playing In The Band’” to close the first set, featuring a nested “Supplication” that fans still rave over today. The most memorable description came from a poker-playing Dead Head, who wrote, “Have you ever drawn a straight flush--all in a row--as you open the cards? I did once...It’s dumbfounding. I almost fell out of my chair. That’s the way this feels. I just shake my head and laugh at how amazing the segue is...As a purely unique animal, it’s what every trooblooo Head drams of stumbling onto.” The second set was no less memorable, “required listening for every Dead musicologist!” as one fan put it, with an encore that left the locals truly dazzled: “Then ‘U.S. Blues’ to top it all off: in Williamsburg, with the whole Revolution and everything...we just walked out of there changed forever by that strange ritual.”

You can hear that transformative magic in the recordings. More than three decades later, even the audience tape made one younger Dead Head marvel, “This show could STILL change your life.” Another fan mourned, “Too bad that this very good audience recording couldn’t have been a Betty Board, because it blows almost all of the other 1976 shows completely out of the water in terms of the sheer energy and creativity…”

The campus newspaper critic praised the show, but found the scene somewhat baffling. “An integral part of a Dead concert is the ‘unconcert-like’ atmosphere,” he observed, but the songs and moments he singled out are perceptive, and no one can fault him for feeling that shows were already rituals for the faithful: “A Dead concert can be seen as a ‘gathering of the tribes’,” he noted, but ultimately “a Dead concert is as much a sociological phenomenon as a musical one.”

More knowledgeable critics demurred. Writing about the major gig that fall, the band’s two-day appearance with The Who in Oakland, jazz historian Frank Kofsky called the Dead’s music “almost willfully oblivious to fad fashion, which, paradoxically, may be part of the reason for its uninterrupted success,” noting that “it never fails to rouse all but the most lethargic audiences.” Kofsky’s column was on of the better press accounts of the tour, which generated the standard range of reactions, from the clueless to the insightful. In Cincinnati, one thoughtful commentator observed that, “The Dead are older, moving at generally a slower pace, building not only tunes, but the total ambience for the show carefully--with less risks taken musically. But when the proper balance of attitude and atmosphere was reached various tunes revealed rather than exerted, an ethereal presence in the listener’s minds.”

Fittingly, the best press of the tour appeared in the most unlikely of places: a few paragraphs on one of the shows, buried in a review of a Monty Python album. After noting that the Dead’s “collective stage presence was about on a par with that of a fifth grade drama group,” the reviewer goes on to describe a classic Dead concert moment: “Something unusual was taking place, one of those rare moments when everything begins to work, when the band’s disparate elements suddenly--after vainly trying for hours--fell into place and the music began to soar...each unexpected transition to another old hit rendering the crowd--which was by now up and dancing on the folding chairs--even more helplessly ecstatic. The band had taken a mob of tired, drunk, stoned, bored and listless people and turned them into a seething mass of benevolent hysteria. It was surprising, it was funny, it was exciting and it was the purest expression of what rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be I’ve ever heard.” On September 24, 10,000 Dead Heads spilling out of William & Mary Hall would have agreed.

The Dead played William & Mary one more time, in 1978. By then, the campus had hosted dozens of rock bands, but the Dead’s shows were the stuff of local legend. To fans, William & Mary Hall “just had this mystique: there was something happening there, and so people would come out of the woodwork” when a show was announced. On April 15, 1978, thousands of Virginia Dead Heads did, and were treated to a fine show. Fans were ecstatic; visitors there for Parents Weekend were not. That scheduling debacle may explain why the Dead were notably missing from the list of bands to play the Hall in that year’s yearbook, but over time, the band’s appearances would become a point of pride, and today, the Dead are the first of the major rock groups cited as having performed on campus. It is a fascinating example of how the band created pockets of followers across the country--especially in higher education.

For Virginia Dead Heads, the shows at William & Mary cemented the Dead’s legend and gave them a piece of the phenomenon they could call their own. That local pride followed the band when they moved to Hampton Coliseum in 1979, where they woudl play a number of legendary shows over the next decade and deepen Virginia’s proud association with the band. Jerry was right: the Dead did earn “hard fans.” Shows like this remind us why.

--Nicholas G. Meriwether
Grateful Dead Archivist at the University of California-Santa Cruz

 

Credits:

Grateful Dead

JERRY GARCIA: Lead Guitar, Vocals
DONNA JEAN GODCHAUX: Vocals
KEITH GODCHAUX: Keybords
MICKEY HART: Drums
BILL KREUTZMANN: Drums
PHIL LESH: Electric Bass
BOB WEIR: Rhythm Guitar, Vocals

Produced by GRATEFUL DEAD
Produced for Release by DAVID LEMIEUX
Executive Producer: MARK PINKUS
Associate Producer: DORAN TYSON
CD Mastering by JEFFREY NORMAN at MOCKINGBIRD MASTERING, Petaluma, CA
Recorded by DAN HEALY
Art Direction and Design: STEVE VANCE
Cover Art: SCOTT McDOUGALL
Tape Research: MICHAEL WESLEY JOHNSON
Archival Research: NICHOLAS MERIWETHER/USCS Grateful Dead Archives
Photos: JAMES R ANDERSON
Special Thanks: Mason Williams, Kate Dear, Julie Temkin, Steve Woolard, Tyler Roy-Hart

 

 



Add this Album to your Collection

 

 

 

This album was released in November 2012.



GD Songfinder | GD Reference Site | GD Album Reference