A Look At Bob Weir Band’s 1978 Acoustic Show Featuring Most Of The Grateful Dead
Thanksgiving is filled with a number of music-related traditions for many people as annual screenings of the The Last Waltz, Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice Restaurant Massacree” being played on your local radio station Thanksgiving Day and listening to Doug Sahm and Friends’ 1972 Thanksgiving Jam have all become staples every year around this time. Here’s another to add to the repertoire: an acoustic show that members of the Grateful Dead performed around this time of the year at the Rambler Room on the campus of Loyola College in Chicago on November 17, 1978.
The Dead were in the midst of a three-night run at the Uptown Theatre in the Windy City, when Bob Weir, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart performed an impromptu benefit gig for the college’s Hunger Week. Billed as the “Bob Weir Band,” a small group of students at Loyola were treated to a loose, ten-song, off-the-cuff acoustic performance from three-quarters of the Grateful Dead, who hadn’t performed acoustically since 1970 and wouldn’t do it again until their 15th anniversary run in 1980.
The setlist is a mix of folk, country-blues and murder ballads that the seminal rock band had performed regularly during their Cosmic Americana period, some deep cuts and one-offs, a Weir solo tune from his sophomore album Heaven Help The Fool, which had been released earlier in the year and a couple purportedly were only performed live for the first time that night and then never again. All of those factors make this truly a singular show in the long and storied history of the band.
For their first acoustic set in roughly eight years Garcia and Weir reached back to their 1969/70 batch of covers for “Deep Elem Blues” and “Dark Hollow,” which were both staples during those acoustic sets. “Winin’ Boy Blues” and “Big Boy Pete” also dated back to those acoustic-electric-electric shows, but were true rarities having only been played just a handful of times or less. “Oh Boy,” which was made famous by Buddy Holly & The Crickets was performed just once in 1971 and released on the 2001 reissue of the Dead’s self-titled double-live album affectionately know as Skull & Roses. “Jack-A-Roe” was a recent addition to setlists having been debuted a year and a half prior and would remain with the band through their final year.
First-timers that afternoon included “KC Moan,” which wouldn’t be performed again until another one-off acoustic performance in 1994 and Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” which Garcia had debuted with his solo band two years prior and wouldn’t be performed by the Dead again until their 1987 tour with Dylan. The ten-song set also had two true one-timers with “Tom Dooley,” the famous murder ballad that The Kingston Trio turned into a hit in 1958, and “This Time Forever” from Weir’s aforementioned solo album.
Check out a very cool photo gallery from the show here and give a listen a fantastic sounding soundboard recording that’s got some fun between song banter from that afternoon:
Winin’ Boy Blues, Tom Dooley, This Time Forever, Deep Elem Blues, KC Moan, Big Boy Pete, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Jack-A-Roe, Dark Hollow, Oh Boy
[Originally Published: November 23, 2017]