Memories of the Grateful Dead, Kezar Stadium SF, Ca. 5-26-73

Memories of The Grateful Dead

Kezar Stadium 5-26-73

By Jeff Perry

Originally posted at

   It had only been a couple months since Kevin's brother died. I saw the
Dead play a few months back at Maples (Stanford)... the sound was terrible
in that gym... the new songs were not very "Grateful Dead-like" and I only
heard Lesh's bass. I had gotten word that Pig was down to 90 lbs and
wanted to leave the hospital and go back to his home in Corte Madera. I
kept looking at the empty space onstage where he should be. Not a good
show, I just wasn't in the mood. A month later Pig would be dressed in his
honorary Hell's Angels vest and old hat at Roller and Hapgood funeral home
on Middlefield Rd in Palo Alto. The Dead were changing and Kevin
McKernan's brother was gone.

    Spring and summer came early to the Bay Area. My first love and I
broke up. The Dead were playing the Cow Palace and I decided to "pass" on
seeing them. Kevin had vanished from my "social circles" and there was
concern. My condolences seem to fall on deaf ears the last time we talked.
The Dead changed their plans and decided to play one show at Kezar
instead. A girl I grew up with was determined to get me out of my mood and
drag me to the show (her first..and last). My Austin-Cooper was not
running (as usual) so we took the train up. Spring/summer and the Dead are
playing again in Golden Gate Park and I wasn't up for it.

   Kezar seemed to have shrunk since my family took me to 49er games there
as a kid.  Low walls and bench seats that held only 40,000. The field was
half full of Deadheads... New Riders were singing "Hello Mary-Lou" when we
entered. I looked up and Keith was playing with them... my first thought
was "Where's Garcia on pedal-steel?" I wanted them to play "Portland
Woman" but don't remember if they did.  Waylon Jennings came on but the un
SF-like weather was getting warm and I just wanted to see the Dead and
leave. I remember Jennings doing "Me and Bobby McGee" and I thought
sarcastically "oh great, now the Dead won't do it". I noticed alot less
cowboy hats at that show... that's one phase (view blocking fad?) of the
Deadheads in the early 70s I was glad to see go... I only stand 5'8"...

    Even though I grew up in sunny California, during the peak of summer,
the best tan I can muster is comparable to a belly of a dead fish. This
was a hot day and I felt like a gopher out of his hole. The girl I was
with (Tonie) and I ran into alot of our friends and "staked" our area. I
was warned that our friend Margaret had had a few too many whites and was
talking a blue streak. The warning was on the money. She kept saying two
things thoughout the show.."I think the Grateful Dead should be only guys,
don't cha think?" and "Jeffrey, you're really getting sunburnt". 

    There was a LONG break between Jennings and the Dead... it seemed like
the entire crew was climbing in and out of Keith's grand piano...then I
think they replaced the piano (using a forklift). In about 1970 the Dead
had all tie-dyed speaker covers (I think Bill Kreutzman's (then) wife made
them), with time speakers had blown and were replaced. At this show I
noticed only a few tie-dyed speakers were left from the "old days". Bill
Graham came on the left side of the stage and said something like "I can't
think of a better way to start this new 'Day on the Green' series than to
say, 'ladies and gentlemen, The Grateful Dead.'" 

    My friend since 1st grade had become quite the
musician, Bob played in bluegrass bands at the time. He told me bluegrass
was "Happy Music". As I was listening to the Dead that day it struck me
that the "new" Dead was "Happy Music" also. I think everyone has a tape of
this show... some folks online say it's overrated, they weren't at this
show. The Dead worked intensely for 3 sets to put on something special. I
remember enjoying every song and jam. I guess I can only say to those
critics that the tapes must only captured the magic for those who were
there. (Many, many thanks to Prof. Paisley for upgrading my 70s crummy aud
with a sparkling Betty-board!). Someone once said to me that Keith had the
ability to outshine Garcia, I never thought it possible. I was a believer
after this show... the tone and playing of that instrument is what I
remember most... I was absolutely giddy during the China->Rider.

     During a break, out of the corner of my eye I saw Pig... it was
actually Kevin (they moved and (somewhat looked) alike). I went to the
gate area and found him. He was smiling. He was excited to tell me Garcia
had come to him and offered to get his band moving. Garcia was going get
him the "right" instruments and equipment *and* sit in on their
rehearsals. This was the only medicine from the only person that could
have helped his depression. We talked gossip for a while and then 2 giggly
girls came up to us... kinda pushing each other towards us... One said to
Kevin, "Are you Bob Weir's brother?" I rolled my eyes. Kevin looked down
and mumbled..."no"... they walked away one saying to the other "see, I
told you so". Kevin was quiet after that, we talked a bit about summer
plans and I went back to our group.

(True to his word, Garcia supplied new and used equipment for Kevin and
the Moore brothers (other old HS friends)... worked with them *AND* made
them the opening act to a number of Garcia Band/LoM shows. The band was
called "Osirus").

   The sun was going down over the stage....I was so burnt I had to turn
away during the encores... Tonie, to my amazement, was dancing during
Sugar Magnolia. We caught a ride back to Palo Alto with our friends. I sat
next to Margaret in the back seat still talking about how they should dump
Donna because the Dead was a "guy" band...and tips for a bad burn. All in
all I think I got my money's worth: $6 for the ticket and $12 for the
sunburn creme Margaret had recommended. More importantly, I liked the "New

   Kevin and my paths crossed less and less over time. I bumped into him
backstage a few times in the late 70's and we talked Jordan Jr High and
Paly HS days. I stopped going to Dead shows in '82 (left during  a
Tennessee Jed... 10-10-82 ). I saw him around town but funny how the Dead
never came up in our chats. In 1991 I ran into him at the DMV in Mt.View
he was looking great and was *really* witty. We talked and laughed for a
couple hours. I do remember him saying how Garcia was now incredibly
popular but stressed because "everyone wants a piece of him"... that was
about all the Dead we talked about. The plans to get together never
happened. I got a call in '94 from an old college friend who talked to him
before he died of congenital liver failure (same as PigPen). He said Kevin
knew he was going to die because he couldn't get on the liver transplant
"LIST". Garcia was checking in on him now and then. 
I hope in 1996 he still is.

See The Setlist For 5-26-73

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