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Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh turns 80 today, and while planned altogether run at The Capitol Theatre may accept been postponed, admirers can advice ample the gap by revisiting some of the Dead’s notable performances which took abode over the years on his birthday, March 15th.
Before we hop on the bus for a long, aberrant cruise bottomward anamnesis lane, here’s some age-related trivia surrounding the bassist and his above band. Phil was consistently the oldest affiliate of the Grateful Dead, so he’s the aboriginal affiliate of the bandage to about-face 80–lead guitarist/vocalist Jerry Garcia arrive Lesh to accompany the bandage not continued afterwards he’d hit the accomplished old age of 25. Lesh has additionally accomplished his 80th altogether afore any absolute affiliate of The Beatles, The Who, The Doors, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Pink Floyd, The Beach Boys, The Allman Brothers, as able-bodied as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Lesh was, however, baffled to the bite archetypal bedrock colleagues in Bill Wyman, (83, The Rolling Stones), Grace Slick, (80, Jefferson Airplane), Garth Husdson (82, The Band), Kris Kristofferson (83), John Mayall (86), and Willie Nelson (86).
Unlike Grateful Dead bagman Bill Kreutzmann, whose 11 altogether shows on May 7th were advance out appealing analogously over the band’s 30-year run from 1965-95, Lesh’s bristles altogether performances were concentrated in the ancient allotment of the band’s career. Three of the Dead’s bristles shows to abatement on March 15th took abode during the 1960s. Unfortunately, two of those took abode above-mentioned aback the bandage or their admirers began taping alive performances, appropriately there’s no accepted recording of the aboriginal few–in anniversary case, we’ve commissioned an accomplished recording from an adjoining day. Fortunately, it was aboriginal abundant that admirers can assumption with reasonable aplomb that the adjoining is apparently appealing abutting in repertoire to the absolute altogether shows, admitting the active adjustment would absolutely accept afflicted anniversary night.
Grateful Dead – Winterland Ballroom – 3/18/67
[Audio: Jonathan Aizen]
Lesh’s aboriginal altogether appearance (on his 27th birthday) was so aboriginal in the band’s career that they were still a quintet at this point, with accent guitarist Bob Weir and singer/keyboardist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan abutting Lesh, Garcia and Kreutzmann. The appearance was allotment of a week-long assignment at the 400-capacity Whisky-A-Go-Go club on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, CA, which was now on the civic map afterwards its above “house band” The Doors appear their acceptance LP two months earlier. It appears the Grateful Dead were acknowledging Anthony & The Imperials anniversary night during the week-long residency, and on March 17th, the aftermost day of the run, the Grateful Dead’s self-titled acceptance LP was released.
The afterwards day, the bandage would acknowledgment to their home accommodation in San Francisco to comedy shows on the 18th and 19th at Winterland Arena as the capital abutment to Chuck Berry, and fortunately, a recording from the 18th has survived. Unsurprisingly, it’s a young, active bandage who are aloof appropriately blitzing through their tunes. The bandage would comedy bristles of the nine songs that fabricated their acceptance LP that night, but what’s absolutely arresting about the setlist is how little aboriginal actual it contained–though it’s account advertence four of the awning songs in “Morning Dew”, “Me & My Uncle”, “Beat It On Bottomward The Line”, and “Cold Rain & Snow” would abide in the band’s repertoire for their absolute career. It’s additionally account acquainted that Pigpen was still actual abundant the frontman of the bandage at this point as he sang advance on four of the songs. The two originals the bandage did play, however, were rarities that admirers are advantageous to still be able to hear. The adaptation of “Cream Puff War” was the aftermost of alone seven accepted recorded versions afore the song was shelved, and the adaptation of “The Golden Alley (To Unlimited Devotion)” is the aboriginal accepted alive recording of the song–and one of alone three accepted to abide afore the song was axed from alive sets.
Grateful Dead – Carousel Ballroom – 3/16/68
[Audio: Jonathan Aizen]
It absolutely doesn’t get any added San Francisco/60s counterculture than aback Phil Lesh acclaimed axis 28 while the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane played a three-night run at the Carousel Ballroom in 1968. At that time, the breadth was run as a aggregate by those two bands, forth with Big Brother & The Holding Company and Quicksilver Messenger Service. The bands weren’t absolutely able to accomplish the breadth assignment as a business (not surprisingly) but that’s to be accepted aback they administer business practices like, “burn $1 or pay $5” as the acceptance policy. All that would change four months afterwards aback a bounded apostle alleged Bill Graham took over the breadth and rechristened it the Fillmore West. There is no accepted recording from the achievement of that run on March 15th, but fortunately, there is one from the afterwards day.
By the, the bandage had broadcast to a sextet with the accession of Mickey Hart as the additional drummer. The band’s artistic floodgates had opened acutely amid 1967 and 1968, and their set was mostly comprised of new originals like “Dark Star”, “China Cat Sunflower”, “The Eleven”, “Cryptical Envelopment”, “The Added One”, and “New Potato Caboose”. Pigpen’s role as a frontman was additionally preserved, if not elevated. He’d get to accomplishment off the aboriginal set with “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”, while his new tune “Alligator”–which would be admired with his absolute aboriginal “Caution: Do Not Stop On Tracks”–comprised the affection of the additional set.
If anyone at that Winterland 1967 appearance had doubted the Dead’s adeptness to address songs that would set them afar from anybody else, that agnosticism would accept able-bodied and absolutely abolished by now.
Grateful Dead – Hilton Hotel – 3/15/69
[Audio: Jonathan Aizen]
This is one of the weirdest shows that the Grateful Dead anytime played, which is adage something. This one-set achievement was allotment of the Atramentous And White Ball, an anniversary fund-raiser for the San Francisco Symphony, and the admission amount was added than four times as abundant as the boilerplate amount of a bedrock appearance aback in those days. If you’re apprehensive how the Dead got roped into this, it’s because Weir’s adoptive parents existed in San Francisco’s aristocratic circles, and Mom alleged in a favor. On principle, it seemed like a acceptable idea, and the bandage played forth added by bathrobe up in atramentous and white apparel in the guises of pirates, sailors, and alike Zorro.
While alike admitting the army seemed to adore the show, it was besieged by accessories problems and the bandage didn’t anticipate they had a acceptable night, as San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen would abundantly blab in his allotment about the event, appear three canicule later:
After the gig, Jerry Garcia was depressed. “We articulate terrible,” he lamented, abrading his thick, atramentous beard. “Couldn’t get the feel of the room. It was like arena in a cocktail lounge. We capital to do a acceptable job tonight – this is our hometown, afterwards all – but we’ve played bigger on the alley afterwards bristles nights of no sleep. Too bad. But say, did you see all those bodies out on the attic dancing? Having fun? That allotment was fun. I ambition the kids at the Fillmore who never ball could accept apparent that.”…as Garcia absolved away, a association administrator followed him with her eyes and said, “Oh, it talks, does it?” Yeah, it talks. “What in the apple do you acquisition to SAY to bodies like that?” she asked. I couldn’t acquisition annihilation to say to her, so I left.
Instead of blind about and assortment afterwards like they were declared to, the bandage skipped out not continued afterwards they finished, to the disappointment of the ball’s organizers. Unsurprisingly, they they were never arrive aback to comedy addition one.
Grateful Dead – Nassau Coliseum – 3/15/73
[Audio: Jonathan Aizen]
The apple of the Grateful Dead’s acquired in big means in the four years afterwards their abominable achievement at the Atramentous And White Ball. By then, the Dead had accustomed themselves as one the arch alive acts in rock, and they were now headlining arenas with regularity. On this date, they delivered the aboriginal of the 42 absolute banderole shows they would go on to comedy at Nassau Coliseum on Continued Island, NY. In aboriginal 1973, Nassau was a aboriginal breadth whose primary addressee was the New York Islanders.
The bandage was affective into a new breadth of their career now that they had completed their recording arrangement with Warner Brothers and had absitively to alpha their own label, an aberrant move by a above bandage at the time. However, all was not able-bodied central the walls of the camp. Aloof one anniversary beforehand on March 8th, they’d absent their aboriginal frontman for acceptable aback Pigpen anesthetized abroad at the age of aloof 27 from a gastrointestinal drain brought on by years of abundant bubbler and affliction that affected him off the alley for bristles months in 1971. Afterwards a bouncy deathwatch at Weir’s abode with hundreds of bodies and a added chastened burial afterward, the bandage stoically loaded out for the cruise east and the abutting tour, and it was neither the aboriginal or the aftermost time the bandage would compartmentalize adverse affairs and accomplish a quick acknowledgment to the road.
This accomplished appearance on March 15th independent no beneath than 10 songs in the set that weren’t there on the abominable Europe ’72 tour. There were no beneath than eight new Garcia/Hunter originals, additional a awning of Tammy Wynette’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough” to accord Donna Godchaux her aboriginal opportunities to sing lead. Lesh was additionally coaxed into assuming “Box Of Rain” alive in the abatement of 1972, two years afterwards its absolution on 1970’s American Beauty.
In fact, of the 26 songs on action during the 3/15/73 show, alone six had been in the repertoire for added than two years. Three of the “old ones” were Weir-sing covers dating aback to the ancient days–”Beat It On Bottomward The Line”, “El Paso”, “Me & My Uncle”–but the added three would be two-thirds of the night’s big jam area “Truckin’” and “The Added One” abutting up with new songs “Eyes Of The World” and “China Doll”, forth with the night’s closing number, “Casey Jones”. The show’s highlight would be that of the 23-minute “Playing In The Band”, which concluded the aboriginal set and showcased both Garcia’s aggressive guitar architecture and how Lesh’s bass architecture would seamlessly associate with it.
Grateful Dead – Captial Centre – 3/15/90
[Audio: Jonathan Aizen]
The abutting (and last) Phil Lesh altogether appearance with the Grateful Dead would not appear for addition 17 years, aback Lesh angry the then-unthinkable-for-a-rock-star age of 50 during the average night of a three-show run at the Capital Centre in Landover, MD to alpha the band’s 1990 Spring tour. Forth with the Dead’s 1989’s Abatement tour, the two closing era runs would prove to be two of the arch during their final, “Post-Coma” era from 1986 to 1995. The breadth was, like Nassau Coliseum, additionally a mainstay for the bandage over the years, as they played 29 shows there amid 1976 and 1994.
The bandage would acceleration to the break on this night and bear one of the three “signature” shows from the Spring 1990 tour–along with March 24th in Albany and March 29th aback at Nassau–and presented a absolute snapshot of the Brent Mydland era at its best. Speaking of Brent, the aboriginal big highlight of the night was Mydland’s bust-out of “Easy To Love You” aloof three songs into the show, which was the aboriginal aboriginal tune he wrote as a affiliate but had not been played alive in about 10 years. The versions of “Walking Blues” and “Althea” in the aboriginal set would both end up on the “Without A Net” double-live album, and Phil would sing his awning of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” afore Garcia concluded the set three songs afterwards with a “Don’t Ease Me In”.
The additional set began with a aimless adaptation of “Happy Altogether To You” by the army afore tight, focused versions of “China Cat Sunflower”, “I Know You Rider”, and “Samson & Delilah”. “Terrapin Station” would chase and be its usual, majestic self, but on that night the bandage aloft their bold added by blockage out for a attractive eight-minute jam afore “Drums”, which was a rarity. As a final bonus, the bandage would use the acclamation to apprehension out their aboriginal adaptation of the Beatles’ White Anthology canticle “Revolution” back 1985.
The Grateful Dead absolutely rose to the break on this night, borne out the actuality that this appearance would become became an official absolution as “Terrapin Station” alone two years afterwards the bandage alleged it quits afterwards Garcia’s afterlife in 1995. Aside from the advancing alternation of “Dick’s Picks” releases, this was absolutely the aboriginal complete multi-track, complete Grateful Dead appearance to accept an official release.
Encore: Phil’s Agency Donor Rap
Phil Lesh would not accept accomplished the age of 80 after the alarmist displace he accustomed in 1998, and anyone who has apparent him accomplish alive back again has heard the bassist apostle for agency donations afore the acclamation at every show.
“All you accept to do is acquaint your family, ‘If article anytime happens to me, I appetite to be an agency donor.’” Lesh’s printable donor agenda can be begin here.
Happy Altogether Phil “Reddy Kilowatt” Lesh!
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