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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Boar's Head #1, 1101 or 1107 San Carlos Avenue, San Carlos, CA

Capacity 40
The term, The Boar's Head Tavern, on Eastcheap, featured in historical plays of Shakespeare as a favorite of the fictional character Falstaff and his friends. It was the subject of essays by Oliver Goldsmith and Washington Irving. The Boar's Head Inn, at Whitechapel, the courtyard of which was used to stage plays from 1557 onwards. It was refurbished in 1598-99. Established before 1537, but destroyed in 1666 in the Great Fire of London, it was soon rebuilt, and continued operation until some point in the late 18th Century. What remained of the building was demolished in 1831.
Surely Rodney Albin was aware of these things when he named his loft The Boar's Head.

There were two Boar's Head in the early days of Jerry.
The original Boar’s Head (#1) was a room upstairs at Mr. Hutchins’ bookstore that was used for music from 9-11pm a few nights a week. It was located in San Carlos.[3]
"Spanish Colonial style storefronts. You went through the front door and there was a staircase immediate to the right which went up to a loft - and that's where the happening happened."[9]Early in the summer of 1961 a pair of folk music enthusiasts, Rodney Albin and George "The Beast"Howell, launched a small coffeehouse called the Boar's Head in a loft above a bookstore called the Carlos Bookstall in San Carlos (north of Menlo Park). Peter Albin, Rodney's younger brother, later became a founding member of Big Brother and the Holding Company.[1]
"Peter says of it, "Rodney ran it with a guy called George Howell. They were both students at San Mateo. I helped them out a little bit running the club. It only operated on weekends, and we served hardly anything, just coffee, hot chocolate and crackers.
The building sold in 1979 for $179,000 and again in 1983 for $118,000.[11]
Boar's Head moved to the Jewish Community Center in 1962.
(see Boar's Head, Jewish Community Center, San Carlos, CA)

"Come Thursday, I went to the Boar’s Head early to help Rod and Pete set things up. It was looking pretty ridiculous. Broken chairs, makeshift tables here and there, a tiny little stage made from a shelf unit cut in half, and an old RCA “hand grenade” microphone plugged into a 12-watt Bogen amplifier. Pathetic, but we didn’t care, nor did we know any better.
None of us had any idea if the Kepler’s crowd or Garcia would show up. By 8 or so there were a few familiar faces, so Rodney kicked things off with some finger-pickin’ songs, then Pete and I got up and played Woody’s Rag with me on mandolin, Pete on guitar. A while later we heard a motorcycle pull up outside and that was a sure sign. Those colorful beatniks were starting to filter in. Hipsters, chicksters, all manner of eccentric individuals were coming up the stairs to check out the scene. In no time the place was buzzin’. Nobody took the stage just yet, it seemed as if we all were waiting for something as the party rolled on. Some time later a friend nudges me to look around and there’s Garcia, guitar in hand, heading for the stage. In a brief shuffle I grabbed a seat as everyone settled down to listen.
Quietly and matter of factly he started strumming. And with that soulful, dark-eyed gaze, he began singing, “When first unto this country, a stranger I came …” a great song that tells the story of an early settler’s hardships and love. Then he did some finger picking – I think it was Wilson Rag – then more songs: Peggy-O, Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie, Whiskey in the Jar and others. The audience was spellbound, myself included. As we listened on, excitement grew. An invisible fire had been sparked. Everyone felt connected in some way, a feeling of kindred spirit, a “cause” with gusto.
It was decided we should do this more, and Rodney got Mr. Houchen’s okay for every Tuesday and Thursday night. These little wingdings gathered momentum in the weeks that followed. Jerry brought friends, he must’ve told everybody, because suddenly the place was crawlin’ with performers of all kinds. One friend was Bob Hunter, who had been playing as a duet with Jerry at a couple of private gigs. They did Saro Jane and other folk songs. There was Marshall Liescester, who played amazing five-string banjo and guitar and knew all these really cool Appalachian tunes and blues – everything from Rabbit Chase to Keep On Truckin’ Mama. Also from the Kepler’s crowd was Sherry Huddleston, who sang Milk Cow Blues, with Garcia adding guitar. A big hit was Dave McQueen, a black guy from East Palo Alto nicknamed “David X” who didn’t play an instrument, but had this wonderful velvety voice that could sing you off into a cloud: “Trouble in mind, I’m blue …” Warm, funny and personable, David X hosted many after-gig parties at his house.
Most remarkable of those who found their way to the Boar’s Head was a 14-year-old kid named Ron McKernen. He had intelligent eyes on a face that had been roughed up by severe acne, and the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll greasy-hoodlum jelly-roll hairdo. His outrageous appearance belied a shy and reserved demeanor. He showed up one night and to our astonishment delivered a set of country blues with electrifying authenticity. He played harp and guitar and sang totally naturally in his own way, yet sounded like one of the classic blues greats, the real thing. It blew our minds.'[13]

07/??/61 Robert Hunter, Marshall Leicester
Jerry plays a banjo and an acoustic 12 string guitar.
Garcia provides patter before a next song, calling it an "old chestnut", and adding that, "here's this twelve string. And I don't know if I can do it on a twelve-string, but it'll be fun to find out." Railroad Bill comes off well, Garcia needling the audience to join in the chorus: "It's only one word three times, think you can do it?" They do, and the full flavor and charm of a coffeehouse folk sing comes through plainly." Garcia sings acapella on Wagoneers West. One of Garcia's between song quips mentions that this is the "sixth or seventh " time they've played there.[5]

In July of '61, Garcia and Marshall Leicester played a show at the Boar's Head that was taped on a reel-to-reel recorder by Rodney Albin; it's one of just a handful from the pre-Dead days that has survived. (Years ago Willy Legate organized that performance and a few others from '61-'64 onto a series of six cassettes that were dubbed "Primordial Writhing, Vols. 1-12.") On the tape, Garcia plays guitar and Leicester plays banjo on a handful of folk standards, including Darling Corey, Wildwood Flower and Jesse James. It was all very relaxed and informal; really just a hint of what was to come from them over the next couple of years as they developed as players. Jerry also spent hours studying and learning how to play Child ballads (songs collected by the 19th century British folklorist John Child), which his friend Danya Veltfort used to copy out of books in the library for him. [12]

1961 Solo, Robert Hunter, David McQueen, Sherry Huddleston
"As Dave Nelson says alongside Rodney Albin, referring to his first meeting with Garcia, "So we asked him to come play at the Boar's Head. That night at the Boar's Head it was Garcia, who played some songs on guitar, and then Bob Hunter came on wearing his army boots, as he always did in those days, and he sang a couple of songs. And there was also David X (David McQueen, a black man in his forties who was part of the Chateau scene) and Sherry Huddleston, who's the one who gave Pigpen his name (the next year). It was very low-key. The Boar's Head always seemed more like a party than a real gig."[2]
1961 Ron McKernan
When he was 16, Ron McKernan met Jerry Garcia at the Boar's Head, a loft over the San Carlos Bookstore .[4]

1962 Worth Hanley, Brooks Otis, Eric Thompson
Jerry plays an acoustic Guild with maple body and heavy white binding, possibly an F-50.[14]

1962 David Nelson, Robert Hunter
1962 David Nelson, Robert Hunter, unknown fiddle player
With the audience attuned and attentive, Jerry's patter is relaxed and good-natured, and provides a tantalizing bit of information about the set, when he notes, to great laughter, that"last night, just about this time, we were gonna do a song. We finally did do it, called Ellen Smith. And ah,-but the trouble was last night, a banjo string broke. A very key one: the fifth one, the one that distinguishes it from a cigar box."
Jerry announces the encore by saying, “For those of you that are interested, we’re gonna do one more. Not because any of you asked or anything, but just because we felt like it.” And the communal feeling continues without a lapse, band and audience launching into “Darling Corey” as if on cue. And here, everyone sounds almost in tune with each other, with the applause at the end as much a celebration of the audience as the musicians. What it lacks in polish, it more than makes up for in spirit. This is what a hootenanny must have sounded like at its peak. [6]

Unknown 1962 David X (McQueen)
"A black blues musician who was occasionally backed by Garcia."[7]

It's likely there were other performances here.

"The club ran into problems with the authorities and only lasted in it's original location for about 6 months. "We had problems in keeping the club at that location, we had lots of complaints from the City Fathers. At that time there were only two black families living in San Carlos, also there were ordinances banning fortune tellers, palm readers-a very hostile atmosphere. Anyway, we were brought in the City Council chambers on charges of having a black man on our balcony with white girls. It wasn't quite that blatant, they said he was an undesirable character or something. So we had to move to another location, which was a Jewish Community Center on Holly Street. [8]

Boar's Head #1 (upstairs of Carlos Bookstall), San Carlos, CA
1.)^Jackson, Blair, Garcia, An American Life, pg. 39-40
2.)^Jackson, Blair, Garcia, An American Life, pg. 40
3.)^ Mahan, Rich, Grateful Dead Hour, 2010-11,
4.)^Mullen, Shaun, Kiko's House, 2008-03-08, Ron 'Pigpen' McKernan: An Appreciatio,
5.)^Getz, Michael M. and Dwork, John R., The Deadhead's Taping Compendium, pg. 66.
6.)^Garcia, Jerry, Getz, Michael M. and Dwork, John R., The Deadhead's Taping Compendium, pg. 68.
7.)^Platt, John, Pete Albin:Be A Brother, Comstock Lode 3.
8.)^Albin, Peter, Platt, John, Pete Albin:Be A Brother, Comstock Lode 3.
9.)^Newton, Chris, 2014-06-20, email to author
10.)^San Mateo Pacific Yellow Pages, 1965, pg. 134.
12.)^Jackson, Blair, Garcia,:An American Life, pg. 30, 31, 32, 36, 40.
13.)^Nelson, David, Jerry Garcia: The Early Days (David Nelson Looks Back), 2012=08-06,
14.)^Wright, Tom, 2015-01-04, email to author.