44 years ago today, a historically significant concert took place at the Winterland Arena in San Francisco. For the first time, legendary concert promoter Bill Graham welcomed Chuck Berry to the Bay Area to share a bill with the Grateful Dead. At the time, Berry was relatively unknown to much of the hippie generation, but with concerts such as these he was able to revive his career and went on to play many more shows hosted by Graham. This was also one day after the Dead had released their debut album, The Grateful Dead.
Berry’s set is surely something worth hearing (you can stream it over at Wolfgang’s Vault), but most of our attention is turned toward the Dead’s performance. On this night, the Dead performed an early and a late set with Berry’s set placed in between. In the first, it’s Pigpen’s band we’re hearing with uptempo blues classics like “Smokestack” and “It Hurts Me too.” It closes with “Dancing in the Streets offering a brief glimpse into the band’s psychedelic side.
In the second, that side fully takes over, and the Dead deliver a scorching set of music from start to finish including the highlight version of “The Same Thing” featured on the So Many Roads box set. It’s a perfect piece of musical history, marking a transitional phase in the Dead’s career. Six months after this show, the band’s sound would undergo radical changes. This is one of few recordings from this time, and a show that every Dead fan should hear.