One of my favorite memories of the Dead was on this trip to Toronto (in early August 1967) engineered by Bill Graham for the Dead and the Airplane. The Airplane actually went up about a week early and played free concerts in Toronto and Montreal; it was one of Bill’s machinations to do that and then come back and do paying gigs. Anyway, in Toronto, we all·stayed for about a week at a very old, staid place called the Royal York.
A really attractive, elegant place that drew an older, very sophisticated clientele. I don’t think the poor Canadians knew what they were getting into when they gave us these rooms, all on one floor. They weren’t really ready for these freaks from America, especially during that period. It was really just beginning there, with weirdness beginning to creep into the midwest and over the border. And then we showed up!
Now the Dead and the Airplane were really two different sides of what was happening in San Francisco. The Dead were much freer; they had that family thing. There were always children around, there were always dogs everywhere, and people tended to not wear shoes. This is only a slight exaggeration. They really looked the part-if you wanted the definition of the word “hippie” you’d point to them. Well, some of the Grateful Dead feeling must’ve rubbed off on our band, because when we found ourselves on the same floor with them and all in connecting rooms, we decided to basically just open up the whole floor. You could start in Jack Casady’s room and open the door connecting to Jerry and Mountain Girl’s room, connecting to Kantner’s, connecting to Phil’s, connecting to Jorma’s, connecting to Kreutzmann’s and on down to the crew’s rooms. It was completely wild, and what was even wilder is that, to a room, each was a completely different environment. One kind of incense would be in one room, another in the next. The Dead would put up tapestries on the walls, Persian carpets on the floors, posters were brought out, hookahs. The Dead traveled with literally trunks filled with all this stuff – candles, you name it.
Graham got it all into the country for us. The borders were a little looser then, but the real thing of it was that traveling with this absolute circus completely confounded the customs people. This was a large group of people with tons of boxes of all sizes and shapes. People dressed like you couldn’t believe – day-glo, strange makeup. The Dead took trunks everywhere, and we all got really into decorating the rooms as differently as we could. We simply carried our home with us. – Spencer Dryden (The Golden Road)
A rare photo of Jerry without a beard
The poster on this page was one of Jerry’s all time favorites: February 14, 1968 at the Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, California
St. Valentine’s Day 1968
Tonight we danced to the grateful dead
In a ballroom hung with gold
And while we hung our acid heads
They made their dream unfold:
They began in red and black ribbons
Of silk shantung
Sequined with gold and pearls
Bold as antique heroes
Humble as home town boys
They led us down a flaming trail
Of flowers and creepers
And low voltage suns
Half hidden in Messianic volcanoes:
Did you see god?
The people all around were asking;
Did you slip through the fire
Without getting burned?
Till one cool head
Turning out his inner eye; said
I made the trip
God’s not dead
He’s a beautiful joke.
Photo: Tom Copi, Poster: Alton Kelley & Stanley Mouse 1968