Happy Birthday Etta James: Grateful Dead Sit-In On New Year’s 1982

The Tower Of Power Horns, John Cipollina and Matthew Kelly also made guest appearances with the band.

By Andy Kahn Jan 25, 2022 6:02 am PST

Acclaimed vocalist Etta James was born on this day in Los Angeles in 1938. The golden-voiced performer died in 2012 days before what would have been her 74th birthday, bringing to an end her Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame career. Known for such classic hits such as “At Last,” “I’d Rather Go Blind,” “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” and “Tell Mama” James’ sang alongside a diverse array of musicians during her time in the studio and on stage, including Harvey Fuqua, Dr. John, B.B. King, Chuck Berry and many others. For what would be Etta’s birthday today, we’re looking back at the time she joined the Grateful Dead for a performance on New Year’s Eve in 1982.

In 1982 the Grateful Dead rang in the new year with five shows at the Oakland Auditorium Arena on December 26, 27, 28, 30 and 31. On December 30 the band treated fans to a special encore, busting out a cover of “Hard To Handle” for the first time since 1971 and debuting “Tell Mama” – both with the aid of Etta James and the Tower of Power horns. One night later on New Year’s Eve they dusted off more classics last played with Ron “Pigpen” McKernan acting as frontman, as the Dead’s entire third set featured a return of James and the horns for “Turn On Your Love Light,” “Tell Mama,” their first “Baby What You Want Me To Do” since 1969, “Hard To Handle” and a bust out of “Midnight Hour” which the group had last played in 1971.

Below is footage of the full show from December 31, 1982 featuring Etta, Tower of Power horns and the Dead. It also includes the band’s “Brokedown Palace” encore performed that night. Watch James sitting-in and the rest of the concert via the JamBase Live Video Archive (JBLVA) below:

voodoonola (See 128 videos)
Grateful Dead (See 1,297 videos) , Etta James (See 20 videos) , Matt Kelly (See 3 videos) , John Cipollina (See 6 videos) and Tower of Power (See 6 videos)

Setlist (via JerryBase)

Set 1: Cold Rain And Snow, C.C. Rider [1], Cumberland Blues, Far From Me > Cassidy, Ramble On Rose, Looks Like Rain, Day Job

Set Two: Sugar Magnolia > Sugaree > Man Smart (Woman Smarter), Ship Of Fools, Playing In The Band > Drums > Space > Not Fade Away [2][3] > Deal [2][4] > Sunshine Daydream [2]

Set Three: Turn On Your Lovelight [5][6] > Tell Mama [5][6][7], Baby What You Want Me To Do? [5][6][8], Hard To Handle [5][6][7], Midnight Hour [5][6][9]

Encore: Brokedown Palace

  • [1] with Matthew Kelly on harmonica
  • [2] with John Cipollina on guitar
  • [3] Includes short GDTRFB tease at the end
  • [4] Last performance (by GD) in Set 2 1979-12-31 (232 events ago)
  • [5] with Etta James on vocals
  • [6] With Tower of Power horns section
  • [7] Final performance (by GD)
  • [8] First known performance (by GD)
  • [9] Last performance (by GD) 1971-04-29 (736 events ago)

[Originally Published: January 25, 2016]

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