Thoughts On The Dead

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

When A Blind Faith Takes Your Hand

This is either the 23rd or 24th of March, 1968. Traffic was playing at the Fillmore and Winterland that weekend, and they set up their gear for a free show in front of the local hippie-run FM station; Garcia dropped by to jam. (I DARE you to find a sentence more 1960’s than the one I just wrote. I dare you, motherfucker.) Garcia brought Mickey, and Mickey brought his stupid hat.

Anyway, you can go read the story on Hooterollin’ Around. I know it posted it yesterday, but fuck it: I was just that entertained by this well-researched and deeply strange post. Besides the free gigs in front of radio stations, and the famous flatbed truck show during the Haight Street Fair, and the Disneyland gig (!), there was this:

In a better, purer world, the Dead served as Chuck Berry’s backup band those nights. Well, they did for the first night.

A Partial and Loose Timeline of the Weekend the Grateful Dead was Chuck Berry’s Band:

  • A month before the show, Bill Graham hires the Dead for the gig, giving them a list of Chuck’s songs and a pep talk about rehearsing and show biz and then he and Phil started yelling at one another.
  • The Dead do not learn any of the songs.
  • The night of the show, Chuck Berry arrives alone in a rented Cadillac ten minutes before curtain time.
  • Bill Graham pays him in cash.
  • He exits the Cadillac.
  • With five minutes until lights up, half the Dead is almost ready; the rest are missing, too high to function, or wrist-deep in skank.
  • Bill Graham corrals the Grateful Dead, much like a border collie with sheep, but if the sheep were surly and sarcastic.
  • There is a crisis: Billy cannot get his hand out of the skank.
  • The crisis is averted: a sneeze is induced in the skank and everything opens right up.
  • The Dead take their places.
  • Chuck Berry enters.
  • “Why the fuck are there so many people up here?”
  • “Hi, Mr. Berry. I’m Bob.”
  • “Shut the fuck up.”
  • Chuck Berry says “Maybelline in E flat.”
  • The Dead play Johnny B. Goode in G.
  • Chuck Berry calls out “No Particular Place To Go” in A flat.
  • The Dead play Johnny B. Goode in G.
  • This is the point at which the fistfight broke out.
  • The Flaming Groovies were called into service for the second set, and the following two nights.

4 Comments

  1. Sounds legit.

  2. Bill Graham

  3. Let’s try that again….surly sarcastic sheep

  4. Your timeline is great. “Half the Dead is almost ready” and “the rest is missing”…then debauchery! These stories would make the best cartoons.

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