Friday, March 7, 2008

The Dead goes to prison

Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, circa 1968

On a strange stop on their long, strange strip, the Grateful Dead played an afternoon concert on the lawn outside San Quentin State Prison in California n this date in 1968, a Thursday. I looked long and hard for details of this show and could only find one entry, from someone named David Higginbotham, who attended the show, but whose memory seems a little sketchy. He dates the show March 15, but the Deadnet site says the concert was on March 7. This is his report posted on the Deadlist site:

"Regarding this 'free' concert. It did happen as the previous commentator states, on a spit of land opposite the prison, separated by a body of water, amongst some trees, on a flatbed truck with an incredible echo reverberating back from the other side.

"I cannot say exactly who played or any titles, but I do recall Jack Cassidy and his Guild Bass. We hitch-hiked to attend the event which was learned about either over radio KMPX or by word of mouth. I did not stand close to the stage for some reason long forgotten. Possibly to not jeopardize my ride back to the city. It's possible also that we either, arrived late, left early, or the show was cut short."

The dead played 115 shows in 1968, including a concert Dec. 28 in Houston. That show was number 113, their third to the last for the year.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Coming to a big screen near you

Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder in The Producers

Movies released this month included:

March 8: The first of three Elvis movies of 1968 was foist upon an unsuspecting public. Stay Away, Joe was called a “comedy-drama western film with musical interludes set in modern times." Elvis' co-stars were Burgess Meredith and Joan Blondell. One commenter on the Internet Movie Database called it an unusually bad film. It was the 65th highest grossing film in the U.S. of the year.

March 18: The Producers, written and directed by Mel Brooks, starring Zero Mostel, and Gene Wilder. Producers Max Bialystock (Mostel) and Leo Bloom (Wilder) make a fortune by producing a sure-fire flop. Premiere voted this movie as one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time" in 2006. Mel Brooks won an Oscar in 1969 for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen. A musical based on the film hit the boards on April 19, 2001, for a very successful run on Broadway, and later across the nation and the world.

March 21: The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band was a Disney film that goes down in history as the setting for the first meeting of Kurt Russell (then age 16) and Goldie Hawn (then age 21), who both were in the film. They have been partners since 1983.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cowboys and Hillbillies light up the Dome

Actors Buddy Ebsen and Irene Ryan starred
as Jed and Granny Clampett
in the 1960s comedy The Beverly Hillbillies

If you’re one of the lucky 70,000 or so “rodeo fans” who are holding tickets to see Hannah Montana this year at Reliant Stadium, or planning to see the other rodeo entertainment, such as Alan Jackson Thursday night, John Fogerty and perennial favorites Brooks and Dunn, to name just a few, you might be looking ahead to the excitement or longing for a quieter time. A look back at the 1968 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo shows how the focus of the rodeo has changed..

The show ran for 12 days - Feb 21 to March 3 - at the pre-Reliant Astrodome and featured as several TV stars as nightly entertainment.

Appearing the first three nights were Buddy Ebsen and Irene Ryan – Jed and Granny Clampett – of the Beverly Hillbillies, which was one of the most popular TV shows of time and was aired on KHOU-TV.

Michael Landon – Little Joe on Bonanza – and singer Marty Robbins were on stage for the next three nights. A big singing star, Robbins had recorded at least 15 No. 1 songs on the pop and country charts between 1955 and 1968.

Following them was 25-year-old Wayne Newton who was just getting his 40-year run as “Mr. Las Vegas” off and running. His two big hits, Danke Schoen and Red Roses for a Blue Lady carried him through the 60s.

Playing that other kind of music – western Roy Rogers and Dale Evans made their first appearances in Houston's Astrodome on March 2 and 3 along with the Sons of the Pioneers. Worried that their music would not be heard properly over the Dome sound system, Rogers and pre-recorded their musical numbers which were played by tape while they lip-synced from the portable stage in the middle of the arena.

Restaurant owner James A. "Bill" Williams bought the Grand Champion Steer for $16,700. The Hereford steer was exhibited by Henry Musselman from Albany, Texas. Last year’s Grand Champion Steer sold for $300,000, just half of the record price of $600,001 set in 2002.

It’s hard for me to imaging what Ebsen, Ryan and Landon did to entertain the audience, but even with Newton and Robbins, I would imagine the Dome sounded like a church service compared with the high-energy shows of today. I wonder how many daughters dragged their parents out to see the hottest TV stars of the day.

Source: Houston's Rodeo History

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Life as it was March 1, 1968

Georgia O'Keffe
Photo: John Loengard, David Lees

Catching up -- Here are some things that happened the first week of March 1968:

March 1
- NBC's unprecedented on-air announcement, Star Trek will return. Star Trek premiered on Sept. 8, 1966. The last show in the original series aired on June 3, 1969. Here's a clip from YouTube from Sept. 15, 1967.

March 1
- Singers Johnny Cash, 36, and June Carter, 38, wed, less than a week after winning a Grammy award for their duet Jackson. Johnny left us on Sept. 12, 2003, almost four months after June died.

March 2
- Worlds Ladies Figure Skating Champ in Geneva won by Peggy Fleming, about a month after winning the gold medal in the Grenoble Olympics.

March 4
- Joe Frazier TKOs Buster Mathis in 11 for heavyweight boxing title

March 4
- Martin Luther King Jr. announces plans for Poor People's Campaign (There will be more on MLK in the next couple of weeks.)

March 4
- Orbiting Geophysical Observatory 5 launched

Also, on March 4, my childhood friend and school chum Larry Reid turned 18. For some reason, I can still remember the birthdays of three longtime schoolmates, and every year about this time, my thoughts turn to this guy that I haven't seen since college. So, happy 58th birthday to you Larry.