• September 21, 2012
    http://www.dead.net/features/blair-jackson/blairs-golden-road-blog-keith-and-donnas-last-days-dead
    Blair's Golden Road Blog - Keith and Donna's Last Days with the Dead

    By Blair Jackson

    Over in one of the discussion groups on DeadNet Central recently, someone was fondly recalling Keith and Donna’s final show, at the Oakland Coliseum on Feb. 17, 1979, noting it was a rare great show from their late period with the band.

    My own experience of that show was not particularly positive. I went into it with a bad attitude, because I was bummed that the band had “sold out” by playing the 15,000-seat basketball arena so close on the heels of my beloved Winterland closing less than two months earlier on New Year’s Eve. I had trouble finding a good spot on the crowded floor that night, which reinforced my negative opinion of the Dead’s decision to play there, and at the time I thought the show was only OK. It wasn’t until many years later, when I finally deigned to check out a tape of the show I had dissed, that I realized what a good show I had “missed.” (It isn’t pretty, but it happens!)

    I could be mistaken, but my memory of that night is that I did not know that it was going to be Keith and Donna’s last show with the Dead. (Others in the discussion group said they did know.) Though I was an editor at BAM magazine at the time and we even had a Grateful Dead news column called “Dead Ahead” (penned by David Gans), I wasn’t really privy to insider gossip in those days. I certainly didn’t know that the couple was fighting like cats and dogs offstage or that Keith was battling a serious addiction to opiates - or that Jerry was, for that matter. (I believe I first heard that in 1980.)

    I remember being quite disappointed when I learned that Keith and Donna were departing. I felt the Dead’s music took a quantum leap when Keith joined in the fall of ’71, and I enjoyed Donna’s contributions when she came onto the scene the following year. I liked her vibe, she was easy on the eyes, and I appreciated that touch of gospel she brought to the harmonies. Unlike some Dead Heads, I was never bothered by her “wailing” in “Playing in the Band” or her little vocal improvs following “Scarlet Begonias.” Yes, there were occasionally pitch issues, but they were much more noticeable to me once I started seriously collecting tapes in the late ’70s than they were when I was in-the-moment at shows. I also felt a special kinship with them because I spent many a night standing 10 to 15 feet from them at Jerry Garcia Band club shows between 1976 and ’78. That’s where Keith really shone brightest, and I always loved the warm rapport between Jerry and Donna in those intimate settings. When Jerry started playing with the horn-heavy band Reconstruction in early ’79, I didn’t stop to think about why he had dissolved the group with Keith and Donna. I just chalked it up to Jerry wanting to go in another direction, as he did occasionally.

    Keith in happier times.

    There’s no question, however, that the quality of Keith’s playing in the Dead fell off in ’78 and early ’79. It no longer had that sparkle and imagination that marked his best work (’72-’74). Much of what he played in his last year was basic, blocky, chordal stuff. I don’t hear many wrong notes, but he’s not exactly out there on the edge taking chances and pushing the others, as he frequently did, in his own quiet way, in his peak Grateful Dead years. I guess the worst thing you could say about later-period Keith is that he was just taking up sonic space in the Dead’s overall sound. Did this affect the others? No doubt, though it can’t be measured. After all, who knows how much the personal issues of other band members at this time—as chronicled in Dennis McNally’s book, A Long Strange Trip, and other places—also colored the group’s music.

    It seems that when people talk about the winter of ’79, the only shows they mention are the January 10 concert at Nassau Coliseum, the one in Buffalo on January 20, and the Oakland show. The first two are famous mostly because “Dark Star” was played at each—10 and 20 days after the song was revived for the first time since 1974 at the Closing of Winterland. I’m on record as saying that the 1/10/79 version is my favorite post-’74 take on the tune; I stand by that. The killer second set of 1/10 also features the only “St. Stephen” of 1979 (and the last until the final three in ’83). The Buffalo “Dark Star” doesn’t have the depth and intensity of the Nassau one (and Bob cuts it off abruptly to go into “Not Fade Away”), but it’s still cool, as is the hurtling “Other One” split by “Drums.” Needless to say, the appearance of these tunes early in the year led to a rash of shouted requests of both tunes in every city the Dead played for the next few months.

    After digging those shows for the first time in a while, I decided to go a little deeper into the winter ’79 tour, which was marked by literal cold rain and snow at many stops. I checked out a half dozen other shows and I came away from it surprisingly impressed. True, Garcia’s voice was not in good shape at most shows. At the time, too, there were complaints from the Tour Heads about the amount of repetition of songs and combos—like the “I Need A Miracle” > “Bertha” > “Good Lovin’” trio that showed up so often. Were these same folks complaining about the repetition all through ’77? Probably not. But a lot more people were touring by late ’78, early ’79, and since the shows were hit and miss, quality-wise, during that period, the Great Grumbling about set lists began in earnest!

    But what I hear on this tour is a ton of adventurous and exciting playing. There are a few excellent versions of “Scarlet” > “Fire,” including Indianapolis (2/3), Kansas City (2/10) and Oakland (2/17). “China Cat,” absent from the repertoire since December ’77, returns at that Indy show and reclaims a spot in the rotation for the first time since ’74—welcome back, old friend! The versions of “Terrapin” feature somewhat extended middle interludes, and every “Playing in the Band” and every “Estimated” jam goes someplace interesting. The “Eyes” are speedy but often dazzling, with long outro passages. In most of the shows I listened to, Jerry is in no hurry to leave the stage before “Drums” (as he was so often post-’80), instead jamming energetically and inventively for long stretches, sometimes accompanied only by the drummers—listen to the amazing jam after “He’s Gone” on the 2/9 K.C. show. Keith shines occasionally, too, playfully interacting with Garcia from time to time—a flash of the past. But there are also long stretches where he is barely noticeable.

    Speaking of the drummers, Mickey and Bill’s solos still show the positive effects of their time in Egypt the previous September, with Mickey playing lots of tar and Bill working out on talking drum many nights. “The Other One” is consistently hot, and Jerry invests his ballads with as much passion as his creaky, fragile voice allows. There are a couple of heartwrenching “Stella”s and a fantastic “Comes A Time” (2/9 K.C.). The still-new “Shakedown Street” is starting to expand in compelling directions, and though you could argue that “Miracle” was a tad overplayed, these versions are all rippin’, with jammy codas (compared to most later ones). “Don’t Ease Me In,” full of pep, appears for the first time since ’74 in Carbondale, Ill. on 2/7, and “Might As Well,” on the shelf for the previous year and a half, is revived at the Kiel in St. Louis on 2/1l. The Oakland show includes two more songs not played since ’74—“Greatest Story Ever Told” and “Big Railroad Blues.” This does not sound like a band that’s just treading water or coasting on their past rep.

    That 2/17 Oakland show truly was the end of an era, as the Grateful Dead that returned to performing on April 22, 1979 at San Jose’s Spartan Stadium, with Brent Mydland replacing the Godchauxs, was a totally new animal. I didn’t see the new band until their two early August shows at the Oakland Auditorium (the “new Winterland” I called it), but I was an instant convert to this latest evolution—just as I had been when Keith joined and when Mickey came back. I always trusted the Grateful Dead to do what needed to be done to keep the ball rolling forward. And until fate cruelly intervened about 15 years up the road, they did just that.

    358551
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

9 years 7 months

By Blair Jackson

Over in one of the discussion groups on DeadNet Central recently, someone was fondly recalling Keith and Donna’s final show, at the Oakland Coliseum on Feb. 17, 1979, noting it was a rare great show from their late period with the band.

My own experience of that show was not particularly positive. I went into it with a bad attitude, because I was bummed that the band had “sold out” by playing the 15,000-seat basketball arena so close on the heels of my beloved Winterland closing less than two months earlier on New Year’s Eve. I had trouble finding a good spot on the crowded floor that night, which reinforced my negative opinion of the Dead’s decision to play there, and at the time I thought the show was only OK. It wasn’t until many years later, when I finally deigned to check out a tape of the show I had dissed, that I realized what a good show I had “missed.” (It isn’t pretty, but it happens!)

I could be mistaken, but my memory of that night is that I did not know that it was going to be Keith and Donna’s last show with the Dead. (Others in the discussion group said they did know.) Though I was an editor at BAM magazine at the time and we even had a Grateful Dead news column called “Dead Ahead” (penned by David Gans), I wasn’t really privy to insider gossip in those days. I certainly didn’t know that the couple was fighting like cats and dogs offstage or that Keith was battling a serious addiction to opiates - or that Jerry was, for that matter. (I believe I first heard that in 1980.)

I remember being quite disappointed when I learned that Keith and Donna were departing. I felt the Dead’s music took a quantum leap when Keith joined in the fall of ’71, and I enjoyed Donna’s contributions when she came onto the scene the following year. I liked her vibe, she was easy on the eyes, and I appreciated that touch of gospel she brought to the harmonies. Unlike some Dead Heads, I was never bothered by her “wailing” in “Playing in the Band” or her little vocal improvs following “Scarlet Begonias.” Yes, there were occasionally pitch issues, but they were much more noticeable to me once I started seriously collecting tapes in the late ’70s than they were when I was in-the-moment at shows. I also felt a special kinship with them because I spent many a night standing 10 to 15 feet from them at Jerry Garcia Band club shows between 1976 and ’78. That’s where Keith really shone brightest, and I always loved the warm rapport between Jerry and Donna in those intimate settings. When Jerry started playing with the horn-heavy band Reconstruction in early ’79, I didn’t stop to think about why he had dissolved the group with Keith and Donna. I just chalked it up to Jerry wanting to go in another direction, as he did occasionally.

Keith in happier times.

There’s no question, however, that the quality of Keith’s playing in the Dead fell off in ’78 and early ’79. It no longer had that sparkle and imagination that marked his best work (’72-’74). Much of what he played in his last year was basic, blocky, chordal stuff. I don’t hear many wrong notes, but he’s not exactly out there on the edge taking chances and pushing the others, as he frequently did, in his own quiet way, in his peak Grateful Dead years. I guess the worst thing you could say about later-period Keith is that he was just taking up sonic space in the Dead’s overall sound. Did this affect the others? No doubt, though it can’t be measured. After all, who knows how much the personal issues of other band members at this time—as chronicled in Dennis McNally’s book, A Long Strange Trip, and other places—also colored the group’s music.

It seems that when people talk about the winter of ’79, the only shows they mention are the January 10 concert at Nassau Coliseum, the one in Buffalo on January 20, and the Oakland show. The first two are famous mostly because “Dark Star” was played at each—10 and 20 days after the song was revived for the first time since 1974 at the Closing of Winterland. I’m on record as saying that the 1/10/79 version is my favorite post-’74 take on the tune; I stand by that. The killer second set of 1/10 also features the only “St. Stephen” of 1979 (and the last until the final three in ’83). The Buffalo “Dark Star” doesn’t have the depth and intensity of the Nassau one (and Bob cuts it off abruptly to go into “Not Fade Away”), but it’s still cool, as is the hurtling “Other One” split by “Drums.” Needless to say, the appearance of these tunes early in the year led to a rash of shouted requests of both tunes in every city the Dead played for the next few months.

After digging those shows for the first time in a while, I decided to go a little deeper into the winter ’79 tour, which was marked by literal cold rain and snow at many stops. I checked out a half dozen other shows and I came away from it surprisingly impressed. True, Garcia’s voice was not in good shape at most shows. At the time, too, there were complaints from the Tour Heads about the amount of repetition of songs and combos—like the “I Need A Miracle” > “Bertha” > “Good Lovin’” trio that showed up so often. Were these same folks complaining about the repetition all through ’77? Probably not. But a lot more people were touring by late ’78, early ’79, and since the shows were hit and miss, quality-wise, during that period, the Great Grumbling about set lists began in earnest!

But what I hear on this tour is a ton of adventurous and exciting playing. There are a few excellent versions of “Scarlet” > “Fire,” including Indianapolis (2/3), Kansas City (2/10) and Oakland (2/17). “China Cat,” absent from the repertoire since December ’77, returns at that Indy show and reclaims a spot in the rotation for the first time since ’74—welcome back, old friend! The versions of “Terrapin” feature somewhat extended middle interludes, and every “Playing in the Band” and every “Estimated” jam goes someplace interesting. The “Eyes” are speedy but often dazzling, with long outro passages. In most of the shows I listened to, Jerry is in no hurry to leave the stage before “Drums” (as he was so often post-’80), instead jamming energetically and inventively for long stretches, sometimes accompanied only by the drummers—listen to the amazing jam after “He’s Gone” on the 2/9 K.C. show. Keith shines occasionally, too, playfully interacting with Garcia from time to time—a flash of the past. But there are also long stretches where he is barely noticeable.

Speaking of the drummers, Mickey and Bill’s solos still show the positive effects of their time in Egypt the previous September, with Mickey playing lots of tar and Bill working out on talking drum many nights. “The Other One” is consistently hot, and Jerry invests his ballads with as much passion as his creaky, fragile voice allows. There are a couple of heartwrenching “Stella”s and a fantastic “Comes A Time” (2/9 K.C.). The still-new “Shakedown Street” is starting to expand in compelling directions, and though you could argue that “Miracle” was a tad overplayed, these versions are all rippin’, with jammy codas (compared to most later ones). “Don’t Ease Me In,” full of pep, appears for the first time since ’74 in Carbondale, Ill. on 2/7, and “Might As Well,” on the shelf for the previous year and a half, is revived at the Kiel in St. Louis on 2/1l. The Oakland show includes two more songs not played since ’74—“Greatest Story Ever Told” and “Big Railroad Blues.” This does not sound like a band that’s just treading water or coasting on their past rep.

That 2/17 Oakland show truly was the end of an era, as the Grateful Dead that returned to performing on April 22, 1979 at San Jose’s Spartan Stadium, with Brent Mydland replacing the Godchauxs, was a totally new animal. I didn’t see the new band until their two early August shows at the Oakland Auditorium (the “new Winterland” I called it), but I was an instant convert to this latest evolution—just as I had been when Keith joined and when Mickey came back. I always trusted the Grateful Dead to do what needed to be done to keep the ball rolling forward. And until fate cruelly intervened about 15 years up the road, they did just that.

Display on homepage featured list
Off
Custom Teaser
Over in one of the discussion groups on Deadnet Central recently, someone was fondly recalling Keith and Donna’s final show, at the Oakland Coliseum on Feb. 17, 1979, noting it was a rare great show from their late period with the band.

dead comment

user picture

Member for

8 years 4 months
Permalink

I went to the January '79 show in Utica. All I really remember is that it was a cold, snowy night and they opened with CR&S. And that it was the only Dead show I ever saw where they didn't play an encore. I remember reading that Keith fell asleep at the piano, but I don't remember noticing it when I was there.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

8 years 7 months
Permalink

I'm not very familiar with this period of Grateful Dead- perhaps my musings have often led me to other eras than this. To borrow the phrase- So many shows, so little time. A casual observation reveals only 3 releases in the year and a half span between Dick's Picks 25 (5/10-5/11/78) and the first Road Trips from the Fall of 79. 2 of these releases- Rocking The Cradle and the Road Trips, From Egypt With Love, are both from the Fall of 78. And of course the Closing Of Winterland New Year's show. There's no release from the time period this article encompasses, nor from the November or December 78 tours (save for 12/31). Add the first few months of Brent's tenure, and there's the Release Gap. I wish more high quality recordings are available of the beginning of 1979- all the more reason a release from this period would be sweet. Although, as is often in the case, I don't know how much of this music exists in the Vault. And on a side note, Release Gaps are not common, and bravo to Blair for shining a light on one. One of the largest release gaps is between Dick's Picks 6- October of 83, and Dick's Picks 21- November of 85.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

A bunch of those early '79 shows are not in the vault and only circulate as audience recordings. By and large, though, the quality is very good. If I was going to choose just three to listen to, I'd go with 1/10, 2/9 and 2/10.
user picture

Member for

10 years 8 months
Permalink

I was sorry I missed the Oakland show but I always thought it to be pretty decent. The set list was fun and ambitious. Not being plugged into any gossip stream I was shocked that Keith and Donna had been fired, mostly because I didn't think anybody had the guts. Not being a musician my comments are totally subjective but I thought Keith's playing when he first joined the band was OK but as time went on he sort of noodled around or just pounded. Donna on the other hand, started off dreadful. I'll never understand it as long as I live. ( Blair, you're not a global warming denier too, I hope). By the end of her tenure she had improved but I never warmed up to her. Brent was a welcome relief and I have no real opinion on Vince. Aside from the tragic ends all these keyboardists had, it strikes me how (seemingly) melancholy they all were. The rest of the band usually projected a positive vibe, at least among themselves. Yeah, the Jerry/Brent thing but that even seemed creepy after awhile. May they all R.I.P.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

11 years 4 months
Permalink

This isn't the first time I've piped in here regarding Keith and Donna. Like you, Blair, I loved them. Keith to me brought a texture to the Dead that was simply irreplaceable. It was the sound that I truly fell in love with. That said, the new Spring 1990 Box has resurrected my appreciation of Brent. Though I saw the bulk of my shows with Brent on keys, I had many issues with his style. But the 1990 box has allowed me to put many of those aside and simply enjoy the music, which was MUCH better than I had realized at the time. I was absent from the Spring 1990 tour and never really paid much attention to those later years on tape. They were, more often than not, a rather depressing experience for me (with the occasional positive surprise thrown in). But back to Keith and Donna... Like you, I loved Donna. Just as some can't understand how anyone could like her, I can't understand how they could not. As mentioned, she could have the occasional pitch issue, but so did the rest of the band. Her energy and emotional contribution was sorely missed by me upon her exit. The band's vocals never rose to the same level again. Brent may have made fewer mistakes, but his vocal style rarely moved me as deeply, heartfelt as it was. The gospel qualities of Donna touched my soul. And still do. And the female energy was a very welcome balance for the boys, in my opinion. Keith and Donna's time with the band will always be my personal favorite. All these years later, it still calls to me...
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

Always loved Keith and what he brought to the band and sound, its what I grew up on. Never a fan of Donna and all the "Playing in the Band's" she ruined. A big fan of Brent and what he contributed to the band and the sound. If only they'd taken a break after his passing, we might be having a different discussion. . .
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

8 years
Permalink

As Fate would have it, there is an interesting post just up on the Lost Live Dead site about the choices Garcia had to make when he saw the end of Keith and Donna in the Dead, and consequently his own band. An interesting post on how he might have made his choices, and how he came to his choices. http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2012/09/jerry-garcia1978keyboards-jerr…
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

11 years 2 months
Permalink

January highlights, I think, were both Garden and Nassau shows, Springfield, and New Haven, or at least these had at least a few great moments and spurts. (Springfield, despite comatose Keith, was a minor legend around here, surprised to see no mention by BJ.) The music was pretty uneven, with some terrible shows (e.g. Utica). I always enjoyed the tape of the Oakland show, I loved that The Wheel was still possible to hear played. When Brent came, we got a hot one right away in Baltimore in early May, and by September (MSG) and October (Cape Cod) we were pretty sure everything would be cool.
user picture

Member for

6 years 11 months
Permalink

I will state up-front that I am not a big fan of donna, but as a musician I can say that she had some very good moments nailing the harmony parts with the rest of the band. But......I have to say that my belief is that the vocals in the 80's and especially post coma were goose bump material at some times. Black Peter at the December 15th run of shows after the coma is the first to come to mind. Some of the I Know You Rider's. I will agree to disagree.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

10 years 11 months
Permalink

I saw the February 17 show, and for me it was a terrific show. One thing I do recall, however, was how fragmentary the dissemination of information was at the time. We take the Internet for granted now. Just before the Coliseum show, a bearded hippie in a Mexican restaurant on Euclid Avenue in Berkeley (it was near LaVal's--it was the kind of place where they sold beer without checking IDs, ahem) told me that the Dead had played "China Cat Sunflower" out in the Midwest. This turned out to be true, but I had no confirmation about it for some years. Prior to the show, this was my only hint that changes in the repertoire were afoot. My friends and I considered ourselves "connected" Deadheads, in that we tried to sort wheat from chaff, but what pathways did we have? Pretty much just the Dead Ahead column in BAM and whatever random eyewitness accounts we came across. Bay Area new year's shows had a lot of East Coasters, so I used to quiz them about different shows they had seen, which is how I first learned about all sorts of facts we now take for granted (like that the band played a great show in Binghampton in 77. Someone told me about that at Winterland a few months later). On our way into the show, my friends and I compared rumors. I had heard about "China Cat," someone else had heard Keith and Donna had left the band, someone else had heard it was just Donna. But the whole band came onstage, so who knew? As it happened, Donna had missed two shows at the end of the February tour, but Keith and Donna (per McNally) would not quit until March 1, so that "rumor" wasn't true. People who said they 'knew' that it was Keith and Donna's last show may have heard the rumor, but it doesn't mean it was "true." Once Golden Road (and to a lesser extent Relix) got into the mix, even without the Internet there was some continuous threads of valid information, but even so there was a huge element of randomness in any information that was circulating. I don't know how many times throughout the 80s I heard the "Garcia has cancer, this is their last tour" rumor, which no one mentions today, but that sort of tall tale was standard issue for any Dead show. It was actually more surprising when a story turned out to be true. For me personally, the most memorable thing about Feb 17 was the random songs that I had never seen, like "Greatest Story," "Don't Ease Me In" and "Big Railroad Blues," all of which meant a lot to me at the time.
user picture

Member for

11 years
Permalink

I love Keith and Donna. The vast majority of what I listen to is 71-77 Dead; this article has inspired me to search for some of these early 79 shows which I haven't listened to in probably 15 years. I suppose drug issues among Keith and other band members led to the dropoff (to my ears) in 78 but I really enjoyed the jazz element he brought to the band right out of the gate.As for Donna, I'm a big, big fan. Not so much when I first jumped on board in the late 80s but as I listened to more and more tapes the more I liked her. I used to chalk it up to the psychology term "classical conditioning," meaning I would hear Donna and immediately get excited because that meant it was the Dead at their best. There are several songs that just NEED Donna: WRS, GSET, Eyes, Sugar Magnolia, and then she really hit her stride in 76/77 on Dancin', LLRain, Mission and of course Music Never Stopped along with countless other songs. Regarding the Jerry Band, Warner Theater 78 is one of my all time favorites--love that lineup with Maria Muldare, although I read an interview somewhere where Jerry mentioned how unpleasent it was to tour with two wives of bandmembers in the group. Great article, I'm off to (re-)explore early 79.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

6 years 10 months
Permalink

I think that there are two factors at play here. One is the decline of Keith Godchaux's quality of musicianship towards the end of his and Donna's time with the band. Listening to the Winterland CD, the first example of that time I heard, I was struck that there is little of that amazing musicianship that he had previously shown. His playing is unexceptional and could really have been anyone able to comp along with the band's songs. I wonder if it wasn't just the substances that were behind his decline: the CD booklet has a picture with Donna and Bob Weir with their arms around each other... The other factor is more general. I've always felt that the band's sound changed radically after Mickey Hart returned. Although there was still some great jamming, for example the 'Playing...' on the Cow Palace CD is very good, this was more the exception, unlike mid-1971 to the end of 1974 when practically every gig had a jammed-out 'Dark Star' or 'Other One', or lengthy jams out of 'Trucking'. The 'Dark Star' on the Winterland CD just doesn't compare with those of just a few years previously. Even had Keith Godchaux kept his playing chops, I don't think he would have shone as he did during 1971-74, as the band's sound had changed. Then, of course, there's the matter of his death, not just a personal tragedy for his family and friends but for those who appreciated him through his music. Given the right band, he could well have shone once more. Sadly, this opportunity was cruelly taken from him.
user picture

Member for

10 years 9 months
Permalink

I love the days which included the making of the "Cats Under the Stars' album. The augmented version on the jerry box has some great gospel songs to which donna added some wonderful vocals. I like the Keith and Donna solo effort with Jer helping out. Other than keith's amazing instrumental playing in the mothership, the place to truly appreciate both Keith and Donna is in the Jerry Band. Don't forget the release from May 21, 1976, of Jerry Garcia Band at the Orpheum Theatre-withKeith and Donna and Ron Tutt. Some truly great music from a great soulful, gospelly band. donna started as a studio singer at Muscle Shoals Alabama and I think it was true that it was hard for her to do the live stage with the behemoth that was the old dead-so we may tend to dismiss her if we don't look further. 1978, on-yes i think the opiates were taking their toll all around.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

7 years 7 months
Permalink

As a charter member of the Anti-Donna club, I could easily get into "glad to see you go rant".....I won't......I was at the Nassau show 1/11/79 which from what I remember was an OK show since I was lucky to get a "magic" ticket through a friend. I didn't forsee the Keith and Donna firings , one figured they would continue "status quo". The show was good but I felt at the time where would they go musically after Terrapin Station. Much to my surprise , they were let go and there I was 9/4-5-6/79 MSG a much happier camper.It was like a kid getting a new toy. The Dicks Picks Vol.#14 and Europe'72 4/16/72 releases show how good a player Keith was, throw in Dave's Picks #3 , too. As I said the Nassau show was the last of the Keith/Donna era for me , one wonders where it would have went had they stayed???
user picture

Member for

11 years
Permalink

Does anyone know where we can purchase the Keith and Donna album that Underthevolcano mentioned? It was available here a decade or so ago and I just never got around to ordering it and now am kicking myself. I'm talking about the CD, not vinyl or cassette. It seems that there should be some market for any CD that Jerry played on.Speaking of Dicks Picks, DP2 is a great example of Keith jumping right in there and sounding great early on.
user picture

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

Somewhere I read that Charlie Miller no less, rated 1/8/79, in particular the second set, as among his favourites of all time. I was so surprised that I took of a note of it, which is why I am able to share this now. I tracked down and downloaded the show, but have never got round to listening to it, as there are so many official releases there days. Also (shock horror) there are some other artists I like to listen to sometimes! Now would seem to be the time to revisit that last tour.
user picture

Member for

11 years 1 month
Permalink

My first Dead shows were in the mid-70's and I've always loved Keith. I've come to love him so much more as time has past and the band from 1971 - 1977 is my favorite time. My fondest Keith moment was seeing him and Billy (but not Donna) playing with the Healy-Treece Band. It was at a small bar/club called Traces in north Jersey. Keith and Billy were the first to come out on stage and we were standing at the stage, not 3 feet away from Keith, joking with both of them waiting for the rest of the band to get on stage and plugged in. I remember knowing that Keith was a sheet or two to the wind but he was in such a great mood and was very friendly towards us in those 10 or so minutes we were bantering back and forth. Went on to see them at a couple of more east coast stops culminating with a great, great show at the Lone Star Cafe in NYC. As for Donna and her singing, I got a lesson in what may have been going on with her sometimes off-pitch wailing, as some have described it. I saw the Donna Jean band last year and Jeff Mattson told a tale of beginning a song (can't remember which one) while playing with DSO but was out of sync with the rest of the band. He said that he realized that he was playing the song in a different key - the key he would play it in when playing in Donna's band. He recovered and the band played on. This shone a bright light, for me, on why Donna sometimes seemed so out of sync, harmonically, with the Dead.
user picture

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

As far as I know,their one album for Round records (RX-104) is one of the few Round releases never to have seen a CD reissue - sadly. If anyone knows differently I, for one, would be glad to hear about it..
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

9 years 8 months
Permalink

"I felt the Dead’s music took a quantum leap when Keith joined in the fall of ’71, and I enjoyed Donna’s contributions when she came onto the scene the following year." I guess me and Blair just generally have differences of opinions (and ears!). Oh well. LOL! No better Dead than 69-71 and Donna sounded like a bag full of cats being hit by a bat. Don't get mad...just my opinion!
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

8 years
Permalink

There was a vine circulating last year with this album on a CD. If anyone wants a copy send me a PM.
user picture

Member for

7 years 1 month
Permalink

Blair: Your article makes the interesting point that this brief period is unrepresented by official releases and deserves reconsideration.This sounds like it would have made a very interesting Road Trips release (as that series had been originally purposed). The only unreleased show I have from this time is Providence 1/18/79 and I've always valued it for its differences from other Keith & Donna era stuff. After a perfunctory 1st set there is rousing Good Lovin', a touching (and rare) From the Heart of Me, a delicate Ship of Fools and a spooky Other One. Any chance of seeing an official release from this time? One that might be 2 or 3 discs and simple packaging with a realistic price tag?
user picture

Member for

7 years 1 month
Permalink

I had this on vinyl when it came out and despaired of ever seeing a CD re-release. Odd, because everything else from that time (Seastones even!) has seen the light of the digital day. I remember liking it but I seem to have misplaced it and haven't heard it for decades.
user picture

Member for

9 years 11 months
Permalink

If I had the blessed opportunity to hear Jerry Garcia jam once again, I would hope that Keith would be his piano player. I felt that those two had a telepathic union (maybe because they were in the same state of mind) onstage that really lifted me, especially in the Jerry Garcia Band. I know his playing went downhill later, but I prefer to listen to the beautiful performances.I appreciated Donna for her beauty and soulfulness, but I truly couldn't understand how the rest of the band could put up with the sound of her screeching. It got so I could barely stand to hear them start Playing in the Band because of my dread for when she would come in at the climax, a god-awful caterwauling that would make Yoko Ono cringe. In her defense, IMO there are very, very few women who's voices hold up in front of a big-time rock band in full roar without degenerating into those mad-cat wails. Donna's studio singing and her performances with the Jerry Garcia Band were a different story altogether. She has a beautiful vocal instrument when used right.
user picture

Member for

8 years 9 months
Permalink

I saw my first Jerry show at "The Barn" on the campus of Rutgers University in December of 1977.Keith and Donna were of course in the line-up at the time. Maria Muldaur shared the background vocals with Donna. Very exciting to see Jerry in such an intimate setting. And only four miles from my home. The barn was basically one half of a small gymnasium.Jerry returned to the barn in February of 1980 with a much younger Drummer and Keyboardist and they kicked ass in a way that would just not be possible with Keith in the band. If you want to hear a truly great JGB show go onto SugarMegs and listen to 2-22-80 from "The Barn" you will not be disappointed. What a difference a change in personnel could make. Jerry did what needed to be done and it payed off handsomely. I always felt that Keith was a very competent keyboard player but lacked that certain type of drive to really push things forward. I wrote this post while listening to 2-22-80. You will do youself a disservice by not listening to this superior audience recording.
user picture

Member for

8 years 9 months
Permalink

Robert Hunter was the opening act.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

6 years 1 month
Permalink

My first show was not until 1982. Obviously I really cant comment on Keiths playing other than what Ive heard on tape.Listening to the second set of "So gad you made it", the color that Brent lent to the sound is certainly something to be reckoned with. The singing that Brent has to offer is the soul of 1980-1990. When the Dead were in a malaise Brent always picked there to pick them up.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

...but I think Keith sometimes gets short shrift because he was such an inward personality and because he basically didn't sing with the GD. For my money, though, no other keyboardist the Dead had even comes close to Keith from '71-'74. He was right for that era, just as Brent was (mostly) right for his era.
user picture

Member for

8 years 10 months
Permalink

offshoot from the main body signalling continued growth.
user picture

Member for

6 years 3 months
Permalink

a fine phenomenon to witness indeed :) .....
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

10 years 8 months
Permalink

Loved them both from 76- early 78 but by late 78 it seemed something was sliding (or maybe everything). That Utica show was funny for me as I had been a young Deadhead for several years and convinced all the jocks and cheerleaders from my nearby high school that if they only gave it a chance they'd be on the bus. WRONG. The Dead sucked eggs all night long and left without an encore....Probably just as well though...
user picture

Member for

6 years 1 month
Permalink

This was my first dead show, DP 25 and a great one it was! I didn't really know much about the band. My buddy Peter said we should go, his sister's older boyfriend said they were cool. That night everyone seemed to be in the groove, Jerry even had a sunset ray from a corridor window in the rear of the civic center back lighting him as he stepped out on stage. Donna was flowing with the music and Keith was right in step with subtle fills and blasts of keys. Werewolves encore with everyone dancing. Their next appearance at our local venue was January 79, another rocker. Phil was lost in the audience during the break and had to be paged for the second set. A rollicking Casey Jones closed the set with everyone spilling outside with smiles and oblivious attitudes. I made the mistake of making a trade in front of the man and ended up behind bars for the rest of the evening and missed the New Haven show the next night. Keith and Donna were there when I first made the connection with the music and I will always be grateful.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

7 years 3 months
Permalink

At the 2/11/79 St. Louis show, I distinctly remember Donna going over and giving Bob a big hug at the end of Good Lovin' while the crowd roared. I remember a feeling of family on the stage that night with Keith and Donna that I never felt again with them. I remember everyone went wild when they broke into China Cat/Rider, as they had just brought it back to regular rotation on this tour and many had never seen it played before. It was the last show with Keith and Donna before they headed for the final show in Oakland the following weekend. When they came back to St. Louis later in 1979 with Brent, they sounded like a different band.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

1 year
Permalink

Embarrassed by my probable lack of credibility, (at age 21, my big brother's dealer took me to my one and only show, 8-16-80, Mississippi River Festival) I knew a few songs from FM radio, Truckin' Casey Jones, etc. I enjoyed the show, but that was the end of my Dead phase, and I really didn't "get it". Then, in 1991 I got EUROPE 72". I played that CD till it wore out, I genuinely "got it". So here's where I'll get attacked, I much, much prefer the Keith & Donna years to the Brent years. I dislike his voice, his keyboard sounds, to me, totally ill-fitting, sonically. I heard someone once refer to Brent's "Fisher-Price" Piano. Does this statement disqualify me from being "on the bus"?
user picture

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

I'd say no, it's a sure sign you're a Deadhead all right... Everybody tends to be a bit passionate about their favorite era, in my experience.

The Band

40 comments
sort by
Recent
Reset
  • SaltyPepper
    1 month 2 weeks ago
    Keith or Brent
    Keith....no brainer
  • marye
    2 months 1 week ago
    speaking as a Brent fan
    I'd say no, it's a sure sign you're a Deadhead all right... Everybody tends to be a bit passionate about their favorite era, in my experience.
  • Default Avatar
    WhatToChoose
    2 months 1 week ago
    Keith & Donna or Brent
    Embarrassed by my probable lack of credibility, (at age 21, my big brother's dealer took me to my one and only show, 8-16-80, Mississippi River Festival) I knew a few songs from FM radio, Truckin' Casey Jones, etc. I enjoyed the show, but that was the end of my Dead phase, and I really didn't "get it". Then, in 1991 I got EUROPE 72". I played that CD till it wore out, I genuinely "got it". So here's where I'll get attacked, I much, much prefer the Keith & Donna years to the Brent years. I dislike his voice, his keyboard sounds, to me, totally ill-fitting, sonically. I heard someone once refer to Brent's "Fisher-Price" Piano. Does this statement disqualify me from being "on the bus"?
  • Default Avatar
    bigtreesnotbigstumpz
    4 years 7 months ago
    2/11/79 St. Louis Show Memories
    At the 2/11/79 St. Louis show, I distinctly remember Donna going over and giving Bob a big hug at the end of Good Lovin' while the crowd roared. I remember a feeling of family on the stage that night with Keith and Donna that I never felt again with them. I remember everyone went wild when they broke into China Cat/Rider, as they had just brought it back to regular rotation on this tour and many had never seen it played before. It was the last show with Keith and Donna before they headed for the final show in Oakland the following weekend. When they came back to St. Louis later in 1979 with Brent, they sounded like a different band.
  • eelbones
    6 years 1 month ago
    Springfield MA 78
    This was my first dead show, DP 25 and a great one it was! I didn't really know much about the band. My buddy Peter said we should go, his sister's older boyfriend said they were cool. That night everyone seemed to be in the groove, Jerry even had a sunset ray from a corridor window in the rear of the civic center back lighting him as he stepped out on stage. Donna was flowing with the music and Keith was right in step with subtle fills and blasts of keys. Werewolves encore with everyone dancing. Their next appearance at our local venue was January 79, another rocker. Phil was lost in the audience during the break and had to be paged for the second set. A rollicking Casey Jones closed the set with everyone spilling outside with smiles and oblivious attitudes. I made the mistake of making a trade in front of the man and ended up behind bars for the rest of the evening and missed the New Haven show the next night. Keith and Donna were there when I first made the connection with the music and I will always be grateful.