Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Tag: winterland (page 1 of 4)

Keith’s Left, Keith’s Right, He’s Gone



Why did Keith’s piano move from one side of the stage to the other, depending on what show it was?

“Two reasons.”

Were they shits and giggles?

“Little bit, yeah.”

Why would you do that?

“Gotta find your fun somewhere. We’d put his piano stage left for a few shows, then shift it to the other side, and he’d get so confused. One time, he just sat on a road case and started playing a monitor.”

That is kinda funny.

“Yup. He kept tweaking Bobby’s nipples trying to turn himself up.”

That’s damn funny.

“Certainly was.”

Winter Has Come And Gone

I have been nabbed, Enthusiasts. Called out! Accused of a deed thick with perversity and ambition, one so low as to be almost unspeakable: doing my homework. As you know, TotD runs according to the strict tenets of Without Research. Looking facts up? Double-checking dates? Not on my watch. In fact, I won’t even keep watch on my watch. Someone’s gotta pay attention, but it ain’t gonna be me.

And yet here I stand feigning shame and ignoring calls to resign from the Senate.

Somebloke from the Comment Section noticed that–

You’re not going to say the guy’s name?

I did. Somebloke.

That’s just rude. 

Can we not do the Who’s on First routine?

But it’s such a fan favorite.

Shoo. Anyway, a commentator named Somebloke noticed that, tucked deeply within all the lies of Bill Graham’s Thanksgiving story, was a small nugget of truth. When Uncle Bill decried a shitty lineup that was playing Winterland in spring of ’76, he was talking about an actual show: 4/2/76 featuring BTO, Wishbone Ash, and Styx. This is a far drearier bill than I could have come up with, so it’s lucky I happened on this master list of Winterland performances. (In honesty, I don’t know how much of a “master list” it is; it must be missing some shows.) Go check it out, Enthusiasts, but if you don’t have time, I’ll do it for you:

  • The Dead only headlined Winterland once before 1970, and then it’s to play New Year’s in 1968; they wouldn’t make the crumbling venue their home base until late ’72.
  • Bill that sounds most like a Buddhist chant: Yes, Poco, Focus (4/7/73).
  • Not gonna lie: I read the list for about ten minutes while thinking to myself, “Who is this band called Cancelled? Never heard of ’em.”
  • On December 6th and 7th of ’73, Mike Bloomfield opened up for Paul Butterfield; sadly, the Buffalo Springfield were not the middle act.
  • The show immediately following the Dead’s November ’77 run was Genesis.
  • The show immediately following the Dead’s ’77 New Year’s run was the Sex Pistols.
  • Winterland used to simulcast Muhammad Ali’s fights; anyone ever attend?
  • For three nights in December of ’67, Chuck Berry opened up for The Doors, and here’s how big of an asshole Jim Morrison was: I bet he wasn’t embarrassed.
  • Hotchie motchie, look at the funkiness: 1/27,28/73 is Curtis Mayfield, Tower of Power, and the Bar-Kays.
  • Worth noting that Miles Davis never played Winterland, but Steve Miller did a whole bunch of times.
  • You can watch bands rise in the ranks, or some just disappear.
  • Be Bop Deluxe, Jam, Horselips (4/15/78) is the most unappetizing lineup I’ve ever heard.

To whence, Enthusiasts? We arm ourselves with the Time Sheath and head back to Winterland’s dozen-year lifespan. Which show do you go to? (DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Can’t go to a Dead show.) Cream or Hendrix in ’68? The Sex Pistols final performance in ’78? How about 3/6/77: Queen and Thin Lizzy? Sly Stone before he went nuts? The original Chicago and Allman Brothers lineups?

Pick your date, Enthusiasts.

A Thanksgiving Story From Bill Graham

“Fifteen! Fifteen, and that’s my final offer. You’re bleeding me here. You’re cutting into my flesh and sapping me of my blood. Do you understand that? Fifteen. Take it or leave it.”

“And free garlic bread.”

“No garlic bread, no deal! After everything I’ve done for you, after all the pizzas my organization has ordered from you, you gonif? How dare you! Garlic bread or Bill Graham is out!”

“Good! And make sure there are napkins in the bag. You always fuck us on the napkins and we have to wipe our mouths with unsold Klaus Nomi tee-shirts. That was a bad booking, but Bowie asked for a favor. When Bowie asks, you give. Why are you still on the phone and not making my food? Leave me alone, I have an anecdote to tell!


“This was ’76, the spring. Cartermania was about to take hold. We’re still doing shows at Winterland, and I’m there just about to plotz. Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Wishbone Ash, and Styx. It’s just caca. I’d rather be locked in an airplane bathroom with Ron Delsener than listen to another second of it.

“Phone rings. It’s Robbie Robertson. Robbie is one of the great geniuses of rock and roll, I mean that, and I pray I’m never in the same room with the son of a bitch again. He wants to talk. Where are you, I say? Malibu. I get in the convertible and I’m in Malibu by dawn.

“He’s up. What you have to understand is that no one in rock and roll slept during the latter half of the 70’s. Everyone stayed up for three days doing coke, passed out for twenty hours, and did it again. This was not seen as bad for you at the time.

“Robbie’s yakked out of his mind, in his underwear, playing a guitar on the floor of the living room. You can see the Pacific behind him. It was very glamorous until he shot at me. I wrestle the pistol away from him, and he apologized, blaming it on his Native American heritage. He says to me, ‘Bill, The Band’s breaking up.’

“This is shocking to me. The Band was the real thing, man. They were there when Dylan went electric. There was no one like The Band. Everybody else sounded like plastic; they sounded like wood. I always did very well presenting them in my venues. Shocking.

“He then accuses me of being an undercover Mountie trying to extradite him back to Toronto for crimes against the bourgeoisie.

“Robbie, I say, why are you committing crimes against the bourgeoisie?

“The conversation became less reasonable from there. At dusk, he got to the point. The Band would perform one last show at Winterland; I would produce. One thing, he says. There’s always ‘one thing.’ Every conversation I’ve had in this business, same ending: ‘One more thing, Bill.’ Sometimes I wanna tell people right when I start talking to them: Say the one thing first. The thing you’re saving for the end? Lead with that, so I can yell at you quicker. One thing, Bill, he says. We’re broke. No money at all.

“Robbie is holding a rock of cocaine the size of a matzoh ball, and I can see the Pacific Ocean over his shoulder. He’s broke. No money at all. One thing, Bill. The bullshit I gotta put up with. Sol Hurok, the great impresario, he had this office in Midtown. Magnificent. Leather and wood and quiet and nice. The bar cart with the expensive crystal, just so. Nice. His phone doesn’t ring. His secretary’s phone rings, and she puts it through. When people come to see him, they dress their best. It’s all dignified. Me? I gotta drive 400 miles to get lied to by a guitarist in his underwear.

“Robbie, I say. No problem. I got it. We’re gonna do this right.

“I chipped a kreplach-sized chunk of coke off the matzoh ball, got back in the convertible, and went home, where I immediately raised the price of hot dogs by a nickel.

“Everything I do, everything. Clean Winterland up. Sets from the San Francisco Ballet Company. I got a whole concept. We do dinner. It’s Thanksgiving, so we do turkey for everyone. Come in, and the floor is covered with tables. Sit down. There’s a vegetarian option. When everyone’s done eating, we have an orchestra play dance music. Take the tables away when people get up. And now all the tables are gone and it’s a concert. Then, The Band. That night had to be magic.

“I also needed to get enough coke to kill all of Hannibal’s elephants.

“Oh, and now: it’s a movie. Marty Scorsese is going to direct. I’d seen Mean Streets and loved it, just loved it. Marty comes in to Winterland and he’s already talking. The girl that brought him up says he was already yammering when he got out of the car. I can’t understand a word. Maybe he mentioned Cocteau. Kept asking me for Rolling Stones stories, but then he’d keep talking. Did that thing with his hands a lot, the director thing, you know, you make the frame. Runs around the place for two hours, never shuts up, leaves. I later receive a baked ziti in the mail.

“Now the arguments start. Robbie’s making phone calls with my money, so he’s flying in half the world first class. Clapton? Sure. Clapton, you fly him first class. But not the fucking tuba player. Tuba player’s lucky he’s not on a bus. Marty Scorsese is a maniac. He wants to attach a camera crane to the Ceiling. Marty, I tell him, Winterland’s ceiling only stays on out of habit. You can’t suspend things from it or we’ll all die.

“All the stars are coming out. Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young. We got everyone from The Band’s past, all the people that influenced them. We got Ronnie Hawkins; they used to be his backup band. Van Morrison is semi-retired at the time and living in a castle an hour south of Dublin. I went there personally and lured Van back to the stage with the promise of cocaine and jumpsuits. On that trip, I discovered U2, but that’s a different story.

“Before I left, I told one of the staff at Winterland to get the coke. Had to be good stuff. Guy’s name was Brian, and if it wasn’t written on his underwear, he would forget it. Man walked around in a fog. Best electrician in the city, but he got lost in the bathroom sometimes. So I wrote down what I needed. I figured a quarter-pound would do, but I wrote it 1/4 pound and the dumb fuck bought 14 pounds of coke. I’ve accidentally become the third or fourth largest drug dealer in San Francisco.

“Robbie and Marty Scorsese are now breaking into my house at night to jabber at me about how the lighting needs to be warm. And then to demonstrate warmth, they set my comforter on fire. Everything about this is becoming less and less fun.

“Bob Dylan keeps sending telegrams. He’ll do it. He won’t do it. He’s a Hindu now. He’ll do it, but we’ve got to move the whole show to New Delhi. He caught something in New Delhi. He’s not a Hindu anymore. He won’t do it. He’ll do it. It’s a whole mishegos with the man. Never easy, but it’s Dylan. Always worth it.

“Show day. The fans come in. They’re sharp, man. Some of these people are true hippies, farmers and wackadoos that live in cabins, but they’re dressed to the nines. Everyone’s polite, quiet, nice. I feel like Sol Hurok for a second. Then I see Neil Young sprinting naked around the balcony. My Sol Hurok moment is over.

“My stars are in the back. I took a dressing room and turned it into the Nose Room. There’s little toy noses stuck to the wall and a couple couches and a big glass table. Big bowl full of drinking straws cut in half. I was going for a theme. My staff has tackled Neil Young and they throw him in the Nose Room, which is starting to look like the stateroom scene from that Marx Brothers’ movie, but instead of Margaret Dumont, it’s Ringo Starr.

“Everything’s running smooth. Dr. John comes out and does his voodoo-shmoodoo, and Neil Diamond for some reason, and the crowd is getting off and all the rock stars are happy. I’ve lost $40,000, but already have a plan to bilk it out of the Jefferson Airplane. My secretary comes running up. Apparently, word has gotten out about how much coke is in the building, and numerous criminal organizations are on their way to steal it. Hells Angels, Yakuza, Mafia, Black Panthers: the worst representatives of every ethnicity.

“I hate to leave the music, because I do it all for the music, but I run out of Winterland to head off the gangs. I met each of them on the street, talked to ’em man to man. These guys know who I am. This is my town, too. I got juice here. Talk to all the bosses. Tell ’em, Guys, this is a peaceful happening. It’s a party, it’s a celebration, it’s nothing but good vibes in there. This is rock and roll history, dammit! I look ’em right in their eyes and tell ’em they aren’t getting in. Then I tell ’em that the coke isn’t here, anyway.

“They wanna know where it is.

“I give ’em the address to Robbie Robertson’s beach house in Malibu.

“You know the rest. Dylan wound up playing, everybody boogied, Marty made his movie. I wasn’t in the movie. Robbie was probably mad about his house, but fuck him. The next night, we presented Ted Nugent. Wanna understand show biz? One night it’s The Last Waltz, the next it’s Ted Nugent.

“Go downstairs and see if my food is here. If the kid doesn’t have my garlic bread, send him away.”

She’s Safe, Everyone

Are you okay, Mrs. Donna Jean?

“I’m better’n okay, sugar. Momma got her load on.”

Wonderful. Glad you got away from Harvey.

“Harvey. Yeah. Okay. Sugar, I got a l’il secret for you.”


“Harvey wasn’t so special. They was all like that. Every. Single. One.”


“‘Oh?’ That’s all you got?”

Your hair looks nice.

“Bless your heart.”


The trunk. Jesus, the trunk. There is neither floor nor ceiling to the Bush League that the Grateful Dead occupied.

Live Nudies

The Nudie Suit experiment has never been properly explained; this sounds like a job for Lost Live Dead. There’s not many pics of The Boys in their suits, and they only wore them for a few shows: one (or more) of the Winterland run in December ’72, and then again at New Year’s. The outfits came out again 2/19/73 in Chicago, and then made their final appearance on 3/19/73 at Nassau Coliseum. (And not even for the whole show: everyone changed during set break.)

Wait, you’re saying. Those sound suspiciously like facts, TotD. You don’t traffic in fact and research.

Stop talking, I’d say, or I’ll throw myself out the window and you’ll never find out how the Little Aleppo story ends.

Wow, you’d reply. That got dark real fast.

And then I’d start crying. Are you happy? Is that what you wanted?

Stop this.

They did it. It’s all their fault.

Who is “they?”


Just stop it.

Fine. The dates from Winterland and Chicago may be wrong–I’m just going on Archive comments–but the Nassau show is a confirmed event. There is, Enthusiasts, evidence.


Bobby says in an interview that Garcia had his first, in fact had his before April of ’72 because he brought it to Europe with him (even though he didn’t have the balls to wear it onstage.) After March of ’73, though, they were gone forever. Phil still has his…

…and it still fits. (Phil went a little low-key with his, which I disagree with. What’s the point of a Nudie Suit if it can’t be seen from space?)

Who has Garcia’s? Gotta be worth something, more if it hasn’t been laundered.

But let me start at the beginning: 1902 was a terrible time to be born Jewish in Kiev. There’s never been a good time, but 1902 was worse than usual.


“Yes, Schmuley?”

“We should go somewhere where there aren’t Cossacks.”

“What is it with those guys?”

“They just seem to like hitting us with sticks.”

“And kicking.”

“Kicking, too. Let’s go to America.”

“You mean the Land of the Free, a country built on immigration that would never turn away needy and desperate refugees?”

“No, America.”

“Oh, okay. At least there’ll be jobs.”


And so on.

One of these newly-arrived Jews was a young man named Nuta Kotlyarenko, who renamed himself Nudie Cohn and became a tailor, first in Minnesota where he met his wife Bobbie; they opened a shop in New York selling underwear to showgirls, and then moved to Los Angeles in the 40’s to make Western Wear. Spangles and frills and themes, and the last one is the most important: the key to the Nudie Suit is the theme. Anyone can slap some rhinestones onto a jacket, but a Nudie has a raison d’etre.

Look at this bullshit:

That’s some down-home bullshit right there.

That’s Porter Wagoner (right), and he was the first Country star to start wearing Nudie Suits; in fact, Nudie gave him his first suit for free, thinking it would be good promotion. It was. Soon, every male Country star had to have a Nudie Suit.

Hank Williams had one:

The notes represented his love of music.

Gram Parsons had one, too:

The drugs represent his love of drugs.

Every artist has a masterpiece, and Nudie Cohn was certainly an artist. His greatest suit of all time may have been both his simplest and his flashiest. You’ve seen it before once or twice:


No, you’re not. Shh.

Anyway, Nudie Cohn died in 1984, but you can still get “Nudie Suits;” they make periodic comebacks adorning roots-rockers or alt-country acts. (You really can’t wear a Nudie Suit anywhere other than the stage. If you walk into a Taco Bell dressed like this, you will get gorditas thrown at you.)

Circling back to the Dead (this is about the Grateful Dead, remember), we still have many questions. Why would Garcia have had one in the first place? A Nudie Suit wasn’t an impulse purchase, nor could it have been a gift: they were hand-made, so you have to visit Nudie for measurement and fittings, and very expensive. And recall that Garcia got his before everyone else did, so it wasn’t a group decision. Garcia–in an entirely out-of-character move–bought himself a Nudie Suit out of nowhere? None of this makes sense. Bobby was the one who thought he was a cowboy. Someone explain this to me.

Like I said, the rest of the band thought it was a spiffy idea, so they followed Garcia down to the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, where Nudie’s of Hollywood was located, and fancied themselves right up. Bobby and Billy looked like this:

“I was gonna get skank on the legs, but I settled for pot.”

Quiet. This is not a dialogue post.

“Ah, suck my nuts.”


Even Keith had one, though there’s just this one black-and-white photo of him:

Poor Keith. He doesn’t want to be in a Nudie Suit. He knows he’s not pulling it off. Aw.

Much like the Farewell Shoes, Mrs. Donna Jean was not included. She did, however, wear a very fetching red number when the rest of the band payed dress-up. She looked like this:

Another alternate reality created, another unwritten future. What if they hadn’t learned to write songs? What if they buckled down and rehearsed and continued being the band they were in ’77? What if Brent didn’t die? And: What if they gave a shit about what they looked like?

Alas, it was not to be. The Nudie Suits were put in the closet, and the tee-shirts and jeans came out; in the 80’s, sweatpants and short shorts replaced the jeans. Never again would the Dead have “stage clothes.” But for a moment, they looked bitchin’.

Balloony, Tunes

They ran a tight ship.


It’s past that kid’s bedtime.


Rarest Phil of all: baseball cap Phil.


Could the giant speaker be any closer to Keith’s head? When he died, how deaf you think he was on a scale of one to Mickey?


On New Year’s, Precarious always amused himself by getting the newest member of the crew to look for the “heavy helium” to fill the balloons with.


Seriously, why is Phil wearing a hat?

Reunited And It Choogles So Good

“Hey, Billy?”

“Yeah, Mick?”

“Who are all the new people in the band?”

“Piano player’s named Keith. Some kinda bullshit last name.”

“What about the chick?”

“That’s his old lady.”

“You’re shitting me.”




“He got a big dick or something?”

“Haven’t seen it yet.”

“Tell me if you do.”


“Something wrong with her throat?”

“No, that’s what she sounds like.”

“Okay. Billy?”


“Who’s the little guy with all the synthesizers?”

“He belongs to Phil. Neil? I wanna say his name is Neil.”

“Is he contributing?”

“No one’s quite sure. Tell you this, though: this whole tour, him and Phil have been making the most unholiest racket you ever heard during set break. Merch sales went up 20%.”


“They scared everyone into the lobby.”

“Sure. Hey, Bill, it’s nice to be back.”


“The Rhythm Devils are back together!”



“That’s what I said. Yay.”

Balloon Boys (And Mrs. Donna Jean)

Maybe it was just the ossification of habit, but Brent was always stage left. Keith was left, right, sometimes in the middle, once he was by the merch table.


“Don’t you do it, Weir.”


“Step on a balloon.”

“You saw my leg?”

“I saw your leg, man.”

“Hey, Jer.”

“Ah, shit.”

“Y’know, it’s New Year’s Eve.”

“Every fuckin’ year.”

“That means, uh, that this is the anniversary of our friendship.”

“Great, man. Play the song.”

“I got you a little something.”

“You really shouldn’t have.”

“Here ya go, Jer.”

“You went to Jared.”

“I did, yeah.”

“Is this a tennis bracelet?”

“Better. Anklet.”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?”


Later that evening, Mrs. Donna Jean (already in her ceremonial gown) would be thrown into the volcano to appease Gbaja-biamila, the god of backup singing.

Stranger Shows

We found Barb.

But What Does Ned Lagin Think?

“Keith, you want anything special for the show?”




Ned Lagin asked what key the next song was in, and then proceeded to play vaguely rhythmic and atonal squeaky bloops for the next 20 minutes.


Bobby has no idea who the fuck the skinny guy with all the toys is, and at this point it’s too late to ask.


S. Lighthill! When you absolutely, positively, 100% guaranteed need everything left lying in the middle of the stage, call S. Lighthill.


Billy kept punching Ned Lagin in the dick and fucking around with his patch cords.

“One ringy-dingy. Look at me! I’m Billy Tomlin! Two ringy-dingy.”


Game on: Spot The Heineken.


Someone please feed Ned Lagin.

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