Family Dog jam -- the Dead, the Airplane & Santana



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Grateful Dead - Family Dog jam -- the Dead, the Airplane & Santana (Night at the Family Dog 1970)

Checking for Matches…

The San Francisco Family Jam at the Avalon Ballroom, 1970

This is as good as it gets in terms of a rock peek inside the musical scene that was San Francisco in the late sixties. This is where blues beats met be-bop solos, where melodies took off from Bird & Trane’s riffs into Les Paul’s dreams. 

There’s a lot to catch in this 7 minute excerpt from the Family Dog Ballroom out on the Great Pacific Coast Highway, but it really could be “Anywhere, Anytime” San Francisco.  These events, collaborations /  jams occurred on an almost nightly basis from about 1963 until . . . well, today.  But here’s a 7-minute snippet from early 1970 with all the local heroes channeling their sources –– an all-hands-on-deck jam at the conclusion of a show featuring The Grateful Dead, The Jefferson Airplane and Santana.

This performance was recorded as part of an ongoing music series on PBS by Ralph Gleason, the highly respected San Francisco Chronicle writer who, as both a founding editor at Rolling Stone and a mainstay at DownBeat, championed the burgeoning The San Francisco Renaissance.  The show's title is a nod to the “other” SF promoter, Chet Helms, whose commune-like Family Dog Productions was a popular alternative to New York businessman Bill Graham’s concerts.

One of the many wonderful things here is seeing & hearing how Garcia is the obvious bandleader – listen for his lift-off around 3:30 until 5:10 – even though the camera's showing Jorma and others. We’re gifted here with wonderful footage and music -- but it’s not necessarily synched up. Or complete! Starting around the 6 minute mark, Jack Casady begins laying out why he and Phil Lesh were the driving innovators in rock bass. He thrumbs out the bottom to gain control, but sadly only in the last 20 seconds do you get the electric Mingus landscape he was riding into. But at least we get a sense of where this music went. 

Most important here is that one of these common collaborative jams was actually captured on film.  This was the experimental wing of rock’s family bird –– and they're caught right here in full flight.

That’s Santana’s Michael Shrieve on drums, the same guy who set the standard for drum solos in the Woodstock movie, and that sure as hell looks like Janis dancing in front of the stage –– something she quite often did.

This was a family, a community, a musical church that sadly lost many of its congregation, but is still being preaching in clubs and theaters all across the musical landscape. 

May these seven minutes inspire you to make the pilgrimage to the nearest  house of musical worship in your hometown.

The solos:
Jorma’s from the opening until . . .
Garcia – 3:30 onward
      note how he and the percussion lock in around the 4:40 mark 
          then that’s Jorma who hands off to Jack
Jack Casady’s brief gallop – 6:497:09
Front line (left to right): Jerry Garcia, guitar; Jorma Kaukonen, guitar; Jack Casady, bass; Carlos Santana, guitar
Rhythm line (left to right): unknown drummer with beard (best view at 4:50); shirtless guitarist, likely Paul Kantner (around 3:20); Jose Areas, congas; that’s likely Bob Weir in the dark on rhythm guitar; Michael Shrieve, drums.

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