One Night At Winterland

We didn't invent the Grateful Dead.
The crowd invented the Grateful Dead.
We were just in line to see what was going to happen.
- Jerry Garcia -

Jerry was quite a guy. He was one of my heroes. As lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead, known as Captain Trips, he marched at the front of one big wild parade. And he was always a part of the crowd, part of the scene, enjoying the ride as much as we did. Jerry presented a kind and warm presence, with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. As much as Jerry was responsible for the music, we should remember that the Grateful Dead has always been a community. Jerry knew that if you try just a little bit harder, give your best, it will last. He also knew that he was part of a larger whole, and that whole is still growing. He's gone, but his spirit keeps coming. And that spirit will be around for a long time to come.

Jerry said it best himself:

"I had originally been an art student and was wavering between one man and one work, or being involved in something that was dynamic and ongoing and didn't necessarily stay any one way. And also, something in which you weren't the only contributing factor. I decided to go with what was dynamic and with what more than one mind was involved with. The decision I came to, was to be involved in a group thing, which was what I was involved in, namely The Grateful Dead, and I'm still involved in it."

My name is Bill Weir, and yes, I am a deadhead. (Audible gasps from the audience.) I started out as a teenage deadhead and now I'm a grandaddy. Even though I am NOT related to Bob Weir, I have been a fan of the band for 27 years, ever since reading about them in Esquire magazine in the summer of 1968. I decided that any group with a drummer named Billy, and a guitarist named Weir, was my kind of band. The first album I heard was Live Dead and the first one I owned was Working Man's Dead, which I bought when it first came out.

After enjoying their music for a few years, I went to my first show at The Hollywood Palladium in August of 1971. Pigpen performed a showstopping version of Lovelight. A young woman got up on stage and started dancing. The security guards came out to grab her, but Pigpen yelled, "Stop! Let the lady dance!" The security guards backed off, Pig played Lovelight to her dancing, and the crowd went wild. It remains one of the best moment of showmanship I've ever seen. It was, unfortunately, one of his last solid shows. I saw his last performance with the band at the Hollywood Bowl in 1972. He only performed one song that night, playing harp. He died soon after and is still missed.

I've been to many concerts over the years and seen some amazing shows. In 1974 I moved from Los Angeles to Southern Oregon with some friends from that Palladium show to start a commune. We built cabins in the woods, grew our own food, and had a ton of fun. Every night we jammed for hours on guitars, banjos, harmonicas, tamborines, bongo and conga drums. We called ourselves the Bozo Mountain Tribe, in response to the Firesign Theatre's We're All Bozos On This Bus, and Robert Hunter's hilarious stories about the Wandering Tribe of Bozos in the early Deadhead Newsletters. In October a group of about twenty of us went down to Winterland in San Francisco for the Last 5 Days of the Dead. Supposedly, the band was retiring and nobody knew if they'd ever play again. (The original ugly rumor.) We yelled to Garcia as he passed us on the sidewalk and he waved back. That was the closest I ever got to talking to him. I spent my last five dollars to get in, and settled in for a wild night.

For the official record, we'll just say that I was young and wild back then. During the first set, after some serious dancing, I needed air, so I opened a side door to catch some. An usher ran up and started yelling at me. "Close the door, OR ELSE!" "Or else what?" I asked, but he told me I'd just better not try it. An hour later, after walking all around the crowded building, I was right back in the exact same spot, tired and hot and. . . and now I REALLY needed some fresh air. I looked around, saw no sign of the usher, and opened the door. WHAM! The usher came flying out of nowhere and, shoving me as hard as he could, he sent me flying out in the Fillmore District night. I fell against a dumpster. The door slammed shut behind me. Two young homeys stared at me, wondering what this hippie had done to get thrown out of a loose place like that. I didn't have any money, I'd lost my ticket and all my friends were inside enjoying the show. Hhmmm. I smiled at them.

The only thing I could find in any of my pockets was a hat check stub for the bag of groceries I'd dropped off in the check room. I ran back around the building and approached the nice old black guy who always worked the door at Winterland. I held up the hat check stub, put on my best grin and said, "I have to get my grocceries." He saw I that didn't really have a ticket and he gave me an odd look, but let me pass all the same. I ran back inside to the spot where my friends were standing. I told them that in five minutes I'd been thrown out and gotten back in without a ticket. Nobody seemed very surprised.

After the show, we gathered up all of our brothers and sisters and headed out. Then I remembered the groceries. I ran back into the lobby. The Winterland crew was starting to unwind when I showed up and they weren't very excited about looking for my groceries. I explained about how we'd come all the way from Oregon, everybody was counting on me and it was our only food, and what would they do if they were in my shoes with the big city blues.

Pretty soon half the Winterland employees were looking for the groceries. We searched around, but the room was empty. Somebody suggested we look in the basement. So we all went downstairs to look. Somebody reached down into a garbage can and there were the groceries in perfect shape. He handed them to me and I started up the steps, triumphant. Suddenly, I saw the guy who'd thrown me out was standing at the top of the stairs! I stopped and turned to the others and said, "Any ordinary bozo can lose their groceries, but a Real Bozo comes back for them!" They all started laughing and a couple of them clapped. I turned back to the guy who'd thrown me out and smiled. He remembered our encounter and was totally confused by my current popularity. I went past him.

Back in the lobby, I went for the door but it was locked. The guy who'd thrown me out was watching me, confused and irritated, so I wasn't about to ask him for help. Then somebody appeared behind me and said he'd let me out. I didn't turn around but as he was unlocking the door, I said, "That sure was a great show." And he said, "It was the best." I got to the sidewalk, where my friends were waiting for me and for the groceries. I turned to say good night to the guy who let me out, and as we said goodnight, I realized it was Bill Graham, the owner of the joint. He smiled and walked off down the street.

October 17, 1974, Thursday
First Set
Promised Land (piano lid falls with a loud boom, Bobby cracks up) - Mississippi Half-Step - Black Throated Wind - FOTD - Jack Straw - Loser - El Paso - China Cat > I Know You Rider > Me & My Uncle - Must Have Been The Roses - Weather Report Suite, Prelude >Weather Report Suite, Part 1 > Let It Grow

Second Set
Scarlett Begonias - Big River - Ramble On Rose - Mexicali Blues - He's Gone>The Other One>Spanish Jam>Mind Left Body Jam>The Other One>Stella Blue - Sugar Magnolia
Casey Jones - U.S. Blues

Beep! Beep! - Warner Brothers Roadrunner Cartoons were shown on the side wall toward the back of Winterland before the show & as the band came onto the stage.

A lot happened that night. October 17, 1974, was a Thursday night with a full moon and full lunar eclipse. Sometime, maybe I'll tell you the rest of story. Or maybe I'll tell you about New Years Eve in 1973 at Winterland, when Bill Graham (in a different mood) got into a pushing match with Michael Rabbi, another friend, and pushed him under a moving truck. It was a case of two headstrong guys going toe to toe. Rabbi lost. Dean McMurrey has always felt somehow responsible. A few minutes before he'd traded harmonicas with Rabbi. Dean got the C and he got to see the show, while Rabbi got the B flat and, well, he got to be flattened. Rabbi lived a while longer but now they are all gone: Rabbi, Bill Graham, Pigpen and now Jerry.

But we remember them and their spirits are with us.

Story by Bill Weir.