Jerry Garcia, Leon Russell, Doug Sahm & Others Perform At Armadillo World Headquarters On Thanksgiving 1972

Listen to the one-off group's performance.

By Andy Kahn Nov 24, 2022 8:15 am PST

Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia performed with renowned keyboardist Leon Russell and acclaimed Texas-native singer-songwriter Doug Sahm on Thanksgiving in 1972. The performance billed as “Doug Sahm and Friends” at Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin also featured Garcia’s Dead band mate Phil Lesh on bass, as well as Texas-based musicians, drummer Jerry Barnett of Shiva’s Headband and fiddlers Mary Egan of Greezy Wheels and Benny Thurman, the 13th Floor Elevators’ bassist.

Garcia and Lesh were in town for the final two shows of the Grateful Dead’s 1972 Fall Tour that were held on November 22 in Austin and on November 24 in Dallas. The Thanksgiving Day Jam featured Jerry moving between pedal steel guitar and electric guitar.

The Austin Chronicle published an oral history of the Grateful Dead’s ‘72 visit to Texas, in which the following was recounted:

The day the Grateful Dead made its third appearance at Municipal Auditorium on Nov. 22, 1972, [Armadillo World Headquarters owner Eddie] Wilson received a call from Sam Cutler, a former Rolling Stones tour manager who’d been demonized after that band’s deadly Altamont Speedway fiasco and later managed the Dead. Cutler asked the Armadillo to feed the band, and the venue’s hippie kitchen served them tenderloins with bowls of joints as table centerpieces.

“During dinner, Garcia looked up at the place and said, ‘I’d like to play here,'” recalls Wilson. “I said, ‘Okay, I can arrange that. When?’ He said, ‘We’re not doing anything tomorrow.’ So I asked, ‘What time?’ and he kind of got short. He didn’t like promising details.”

The Dead were on fire in 1972, having logged a monumental European tour. Although vocalist and organist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan had recently bowed out with fatal health problems, the band played an energetic set that included an 18-minute version of Bob Weir’s masterpiece “The Other One.”

“After the show, I was standing there with Leon Russell when Jerry walked in,” continues Wilson. “He goes, ‘We’re gonna jam tomorrow at the Armadillo; why don’t you come over?’ Leon says, ‘Fine, what time?’ And Garcia looks over at me and I say, ‘How about 3 o’clock?'”

The club owner placed one call to a local radio station, announcing that the ‘Dillo would be open on Thanksgiving and some friends would be playing.

“The next day, the doors open and people are filtering in, wondering what’s going on,” says Wilson. “Garcia wouldn’t go on. He said, ‘Lets just wait till Doug [Sahm] gets here. He’s the bandleader; he knows a thousand songs.’ And he did exactly that.”

The impromptu band, featuring Garcia again on pedal steel, Sahm, Russell, Dead bassist Phil Lesh, and several backing musicians, rallied through 29 covers by artists including Charley Pride, Roger Miller, Hank Williams, and Bob Dylan.

Here’s more on what went down on Thanksgiving 1972 produced by the Society for the Preservation of Texas Music with the Austin Museum of Popular Culture and Arts+Labor:

The setlist included covers of songs by The Rolling Stones, Merle Haggard, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and many more. Listen to the full show below:

Setlist (via JerryBase)

Set Ome: Hi-Heel Sneakers, Wild Side Of Life, Swinging Doors, Me And Bobby McGee, Stormy Monday, That’s Alright Mama, Come On In My Kitchen, T For Texas (Blue Yodel #1), Mr. Tambourine Man, Is Anybody Going To San Antone

Set Two: Sugarfoot Rag, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, Jambalaya, Today I Started Loving You Again, Columbus Stockade Blues > Honky Tonkin’ (I Guess I Done Me Some), Orange Blossom Special, Kentucky Waltz, Big Boss Man

Set Three: Searchin’, Those Lonely Lonely Nights > Shake A Hand, Hey Bo Diddley, It Takes A Lot To Laugh It Takes A Train To Cry, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Wild Horses, Slipping Into Christmas, Money Honey, Chug-A-Lug, Roll Over Beethoven > Good Golly Miss Molly > Roll Over Beethoven

[Updated article originally published November 25, 2021]

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