Only a band like the Grateful Dead could have such a long and rich history of bootlegs on vinyl. Contributing factors varied and were plentiful. The Dead were pioneers in promoting free music and had full time followers, tapers and soundboard magicians, like Betty and Bear, which meant lots of recordings of their live shows were out there spanning decades. The band even had a meeting where they decided to let the bootlegging continue – check out this interview with Mickey Hart to learn more, and while it probably wouldn’t have mattered, bootlegs actually weren’t prohibited by U.S. law until 1994 when the Uruguay Round Agreements Act passed.
It’s also undeniable that live Dead shows provided a unique musical experience that were meant to be captured and circulated, and since the band didn’t put out tons of “official” live releases, at least not originally considering only three were produced between 1967 and 1972 (Live/Dead in ’69, Grateful Dead/aka Skull and Roses in ’71, Europe ’72 in ’72), it was up to unauthorized sources to pick up the slack. The relatively sparse live recordings officially released by the Grateful Dead left it up to fans and profiteers in the U.S. and abroad to produce bootlegged vinyl under colorful record labels like, Magic Bus Records, which were often littered with misspellings, incorrect song titles, varied sound quality and the like.
The actual number of unofficial Grateful Dead releases on vinyl is debatable, but the total count is likely close to 200 and still growing. For that reason, I found it better to approach this topic in digestible chunks. This article covers the complete list of unofficial releases on LP spanning the 1960s and 70s, starting with the first unofficial release in 1969 titled, By The Time We Got to Woodstock by Dark Star Productions, and the last in 1979 titled, Out Takes. Future articles on Thirsty Vinyl will cover complete lists of Grateful Dead LP vinyl releases from the 80s, 90s and 2000s to today.
"If you get confused just listen to the music play."
- Robert Hunter -
The first unofficial live Dead installment was By The Time We Got to Woodstock by Dark Star Productions in 1969 from the Bear’s Choice series. Fittingly, the album covers early Dead gems and the following track listing: St. Stephen, Mama Tried, Dark Star and Turn On Your Lovelight misspelled “Love Light”. The misspelling is minor but hints at a litany of errors both large and small to come on unofficial Grateful Dead releases.
Up next was Acoustic Dead, which was an FM radio broadcast covering a collaboration with New Riders of The Purple Sage (NRPS). The album was released in 1970 while the recording is apparently from 1971 – now that’s magic!
Next up was Vintage Dead which was the first bootleg from a foreign country and this time from Taiwan's Sunflower Records. Released in 1970, this unofficial release includes early Dead classics relatively rare on vinyl, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue and In the Midnight Hour tracking 18:23 long.
Later in 1970, another Acoustic Dead album was released by the Canadian label, Black Gold, which was the same FM broadcast recording with their friends from NRPS.
In 1971, Rare Records Underground released Dire Wolf, which was a live recording from Fillmore East in April 1971. The Dead played five consecutive nights at Fillmore East in New York, NY from April 25-29th so it’s unclear which night each song on the album is from. The track listing from Dire Wolf includes misspelled, Debellum Blues, which is supposed to be Deep Elem Blues and a mystery song, Diversion. I guess one of us needs to buy the album to find out and report back.
Later in 1971, a double LP titled, Fillmore West was released which includes live recordings from July 2nd, 1971. The show was broadcast simultaneously in Los Angeles and San Francisco and like some of its bootlegged predecessors, the release includes some gross misspellings like Momma Tried and even worse, the band’s name, Greatful Dead on the front cover.
Also in 1971, Mother Records produced Grateful Dead Recorded Live in Concert, a live recording from the iconic Winterland Arena in San Francisco on October 4th 1970. The recording is most likely a SBD from an FM radio broadcast and per comments on message boards, the sound quality is pretty solid.
Later in 1971, Taiwanese bootlegger, Liming Records released Grateful Dead, which was a straight rip off of the official Dead album affectionately known as Skull and Roses.
The last installment of bootleg Grateful Dead releases in 1971 was Hollywood Palladium Vol. 1 from Trade Mark of Quality records. This was the first time an unofficial release took it to the next level by detouring from the standard black vinyl pressing and going with bright red. The album also included an insert with setlists from bands like Bob Dylan, the Beatles and Deep Purple from the same era. An alternate cover of the same album is depicted below too, which has a pig-nosed, fluffy JerBear on the front cover.
The first unofficial release of 1972 was The Dead Live in Milwaukee from Magic Bus Records. This live recording is mostly from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin show on March 21st at the Exposition Center except for two songs (Connections and Sweet Susie) from which the source is unknown. Like many other bootlegs, this album contains misspellings too, like Me and Bobby McGhee.
In 1972, a Jerry-centric unofficial album was released by Sugar Magnolia Records titled, Ain’t It Crazy. The album jacket looks like a "learn more about your local church" pamphlet with an angelic image of Garcia on the front and a larger-than-life cartoon distortion of Jerry on the back. The bootleg also includes a mislabeled song on Side 2, I Had To Move is really Bertha.
Also in 1972, a bootleg titled, Turn On Your Love Light was released by White Cover Folks (WCF) who have since changed their name to Berkeley Records. The album includes the title track as the first song on Side 1 and other classics like Deal, Broke Down Palace and Not Fade Away. This release appears to be extremely low budget with a faded photo on the front cover and a plain white label on the vinyl record. I wonder if the sound quality is similar?
Later in the same year, the unofficial release titled, Seven, Eleven Or Doubles: From The Time When The Grateful Dead Were The Grateful Dead was fittingly produced by Eleven Records since the album reverts back to earlier Dead material including The Eleven and the “The Seven” jam to close things out after Doin’ That Rag. The entire album contains live recordings from Grateful Dead shows in New York spanning 1969 and 1970 and the specific sources are as follows: (That’s it for) the Other One was recorded on 6/10/1969 in Central Park, NY; St. Stephen > The Eleven was recorded on 11/9 or 10 1970 at the Action House in Island Park, NY as was Doin’ That Rag > Jam; and Beat it on Down the Line was recorded on 5/15/1970 at Fillmore East, NY.
Strikingly similar to the aforementioned WCF release titled, Turn On Your Love Light, Dark Star Records produced a bootleg 1972 simply titled, Grateful Dead with the same font and low-budget look containing the following tracks – Me and Bobby McGee, Bertha, Big Boss Man, Dark Star > Me and My Uncle. The source of each live recording is unknown.
The last installment of unofficial releases in 1972 was titled, Sugaree and was another release by WCF. The track listing for this bootleg is as follows: Sugaree, So Long, Ramblin Rose, You Win Again, Truckin, It Hurts Me Too, Big Railroad Blues.
To kick off 1973, Trade Mark of Quality produced its 2nd unofficial release titled, Out West. The album was pressed on the same bright red vinyl (and on standard black vinyl as well) as their 1st bootleg and this time included recordings from late summer 1971 at Hollywood Palladium in Hollywood, CA which overlaps a brief period the Dead lived in LA with Bear. El Paso and Sugaree are recordings from 8/5 and all the other songs on the album are from the second night on 8/6. This bootleg leveraged super cool album cover art depicting the band in western character posing on the open frontier.
Much like the 1971 unofficial release by Trade Mark of Quality titled, Hollywood Palladium Vol. 1, this 1973 bootleg from the same record label titled, San Francisco 1 has a minimalist cover with stamped lettering and the record label’s trademark pig sticker attached. This release appears to be sourced from the soundboard and includes four songs: Sugar Magnolia, Sing Me Back Home, Mama Tried, and That’s It for the Other One. Only 100 of these bootlegs were pressed, which makes it rare and collectible. What makes this album even rarer and extremely collectible is that most were destroyed in 1980 upon “re-entry into Canada as "deletes" with punched covers.” Those not destroyed were returned since applicable laws at the time didn’t consider bootlegs illegal. As legend has it, only 19 copies survived.
1973 also brought the first bootlegged vinyl release that showcased a solo image of the band’s original front man, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, on its cover and which was titled, Warlox, the band’s original name despite the alternate spelling of Warlocks. Also of note, song 2 of side B of this release includes a track titled, Quadlebet for tenderfeet, which is the second of four sections of the That’s It For The Other One suite from the Grateful Dead’s 2nd studio album, Anthem of the Sun. The title hasn’t been used elsewhere as far as I know.
The last unofficial release in 1973 showcased the Dead’s legendary bassist swan song written by Lesh and Robert Hunter for Phil’s father, Box of Rain, released by Berkeley Records. The bootleg includes various live recordings from 1970 and 71 and includes a misspelled “Cosmic Charley” and an overemphasized New New Minglewood Blues. The album cover is the first bootleg to use Stanley Mouse’s iconic Jester with Mandolin and Roses, an image originally used for the cover of Grateful Dead Songbook published in November 1972 that included music and lyrics for the albums Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, both of which had cover artwork designed by Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley. The image of the jester had many themes not least of which was the band's sense of humor.
The first bootleg in 1974 was a direct play off Trade Mark of Quality’s release in 1973, San Francisco 1, by the same label under the following title, The Grateful Dead San Francisco 1 Silent Dead. The album includes soundboard recordings from an unknown source and year(s). Typical of unofficial Dead releases, the album includes misspelling/grammatical errors like, Candy Man (versus Candyman) and On Down The Line (versus Beat It On Down The Line).
The first release by the creatively named unofficial record label, Contra Band Music, was titled High Time in Old Town. The album’s cover featured a Gatsby-esque photo and was printed on a low budget and while the tracks listed say one thing, several titles on the release are non-descript like “Melody” or wrong like “West Texas Cowboy". The actual track listing is Casey Jones, Dark Star, Me and My Uncle, Ramble on Rose, Sugar Magnolia, St. Stephen and Johnny B. Goode.
The last bootleg released in 1974 was yet another pressing by Trade Mark of Quality titled, Grateful Dead Recorded Live in Concert. The album included five songs broadcasted from San Francisco radio stations, KSAN and KQED on October 4th, 1970. The night was infamous, tragic and the night Janis Joplin died.
The first of three unofficial Dead releases in 1975 was Grateful Dead/Live, which covered a powerhouse show and FM broadcast from Felt Forum in New York on December 5th, 1971. The show was the 2nd night of a 4 night run and includes an uninterrupted sequence of songs from mid-first set, starting with Brown Eyed Woman and going through I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water, Jack Straw, Mr. Charlie, Tennessee Jed and El Paso. The album also includes songs from the 2nd set including Comes a Time, One More Saturday Night and Mexicali Blues. It’s also curious how so many song titles on this bootleg are wrong – it’s actually incredible. Here’s the list: Gone Are The Days (Brown Eyed Women), I Wash My Hands (I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water), We Can Share (Jack Straw), Tennessee (Tennessee Jed), Mr. Charley Told Me So (Mr. Charlie), Only Love Can Fill (Comes a Time), Saturday Night (One More Saturday Night). Apparently quality control wasn’t a thing at Berkeley Records or maybe the joke's on us?
Later in 1975, the Amazing Kornyfone Record Label released The Grateful Dead, Make Believe Ballroom, Urobourus Deedni Mublasaron, The 1975 Spotcheck. The bootleg’s cover included a sketch image of each band member intersecting into one gigantic head and the vinyl included what I believe to be the coolest unofficial label to date. More importantly, this album includes songs from a Grateful Dead official live release, One From the Vault and live recordings from August 13th, 1975, which was first released on LP in Germany in 1991. Typical with bootlegs from this era, the song titles on this release are off and almost seem deliberately wrong, e.g., Perhaps The Other One, I’m Gonna Sit Right Here Until I Die.
The next unofficial release called, Owsley Owls, was dedicated, at least by title, to Augustus Owsley Stanley III who’s more affectionately known as Bear, which appears to be the first and only release by Flat Records/Spindizzie. The bootleg includes five tracks from an unknown source and show. It also includes song titles that are nondescript (e.g., I Can't Get Through To You, Kingfish (name of a Bob Weir side project band and not an actual song title), Tasteful Jam) and require a listen to figure out what’s really on the album. Feel free to comment if you own a copy and know what they are.
The only known unofficial release in 1977 was a 4 LP bootleg from Smilin’ Ears Records called, Good Lovin’, which was a recording from Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey on September 3rd 1977 except the title track, which was from Fillmore West in San Francisco, July 2nd 1971. The highlight from this show is from the 2nd set with the start of side F, Samson & Delilah > He’s Gone > Not Fade Away. It’s also worth mentioning this show and album end with Terrapin Station with a little banter from the band regarding the encore, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’d like to perform a little ditty from our newest album, at your record stores currently.”
A bootleg named after Jerry’s nickname, Captain Trips, Etc. was released by The Impossible Recordworks in 1978, which was a live recording from Hollywood Palladium in Hollywood, CA on September 9th, 1972. The album includes songs from the 1st set but which are out of order and several with incorrect song titles. The actual songs on the album are Mexicali Blues, Deal, Playing In The Band, Loser, Johnny B Goode, Promised Land, Sugaree, Me And My Uncle and Bird Song.
Also in 1978, an unofficial release that fully embraced bootlegging was titled, Bootleg: Capitol Theatre – November 24, 1978. The album is a 4 LP box set and is a classic live recording from the KBFH FM radio broadcast from Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey. The 2nd set of the Dead’s performance that night was captured on video too and is available here – Grateful Dead 11/14/1978 Remaster.
The final unofficial release in 1978 was called, Moe’s Place, which was another release by The Impossible Recordsworks in the same year. The album includes a few mislabeled song titles like, The Only Game In Town (should be Passenger), Miracle Everyday (should be I Need a Miracle) and Deal Gone Down (Deal). A few sources suggest that this album includes a mash up of songs from the classic Passaic, New Jersey show from the bootleg listed above, but that seems suspect considering Deal is on this unofficial release and the song wasn’t performed on November 24th, 1978. Same as a few others, someone’s going to have to get a copy of this album and report back.
The first bootleg release in 1979 is a classic and highly sought after show. The album includes a live recording from the Grateful Dead’s last show at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, CA on New Year’s Eve 1978, and is fittingly titled, Farewell to Winterland. The album’s cover features a great photo of Jerry offering you/me a sip of his drink, but beware! The Dead have been known to spike drinks from time to time.
Later in 1979, a bootleg titled, Head Trip was released which included various live recordings from US tours ranging from 1977 to 1979. The Scarlet > Fire on slide 1 is from the Dead’s 2nd night in Portland, Oregon at Paramount Theater (10/2/1977). The China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider on side 2 is from Keil Auditorium in St. Louis on 2/11/1979. Jack Straw and Sugaree on side 3 are the show openers on 11/24/1978 in Passaic, New Jersey, and the songs from side 4 are from Red Rocks in Morrison, Colorado on 7/8/1978 but which include the encore (Werewolves in London) first and the show openers, Bertha > Good Lovin’ last. This bootleg stepped it up and pressed the album on clear and red vinyl versus the standard and cheaper, black.
Later in 1979, Canadian bootlegger, K&S Records released San Francisco, a super rare rainbow splatter pressing with songs performed live at the Fillmore West on July 2nd, 1971, which was also an FM radio broadcast in the local area. Only 100 of these albums were pressed. This is a rare one folks.
The last unofficial release of the Grateful Dead in the 70s was Out Takes. The bootleg includes studio session outtakes from the Dead’s 9th studio album, Terrapin Station released on July 27th, 1977, but it also includes other recordings like, Smokestack Lightnin’ with Pigpen from earlier and unknown recordings. Despite what’s listed on the album’s back cover, the actual track listing is Passenger, Estimated Prophet, Fire On The Mountain, Equinox, Terrapin Station, Dancing In The Streets and Smokestack Lightnin’.