The Long Strange Golden Road by Courtenay Pollock - Chapter 8
During the summer of 1971 when the band was home we used to play baseball against the Jefferson Airplane. There was a baseball field down by Rancho Nicasio at the end of Nicasio Valley Road in West Marin County, California.
Marin County is the beautiful garden county across the Golden Gate bridge from San Francisco. Back then it was a low population area with sleepy hamlets of small villages with lots of space between and lovely country roads. The main road leading to the Golden Gate was highway 101, it was a two-lane road with only one traffic light in the county in the capital city of San Raphael.
The Grateful Dead all lived in Marin County during those years and the Jefferson Airplane (later Starship of course) were in San Francisco. So when both bands were home from tour we would get together for a bit of fun and exercise playing baseball.
The Grateful Dead team included a few Oregon lads who were pretty good at the game. Me, I had never played before since I grew up in England. Bobby Weir told me the basics of the game and how to swing the bat. I had played cricket of course and had good hand-eye coordination so was able to get on base with my first try. Sonny Heard was one of our crew and a good pitcher so I took a few throws from him during our warmup.
Weir played and so did Bill Kreutzmann and Garcia would show up on the sidelines. Our team all wore Courtenay tie-dye shirts of course.
Rex Jackson was a good player and all round champ but big Garry Harover was the best hitter. He knocked that ball clear out of the park about every time he was up. Big Steve Parish always made a good showing and Johnny Hagen was a good allrounder, Ramrod always solid and reliable and Joe Winslow, tall and rangy, was a good hitter, Sonny Heard's pitching always carried the day. The Starship guys always got trounced, but it was all just fun and games.
There were not any spectators generally except some of the staff and close friends who came for the party.
After the game wound down in the late afternoon some of us would go to Rancho Nicasio for refreshments and dinner.
They had fresh Abalone on the menu back then, big, beautiful abalone about 8” across for $5.99 with all the trimmings with coffee and dessert. Now, of course, the abalone are really hard to find and half that size and cost a small fortune.
Weir’s ranchette was just a mile away on Nicasio Valley road and a lot of the gang would gather there and take turns riding the few horses and share some smokes of course. There was always some beer but in those days we didn’t drink much alcohol. Such lovely and carefree summer evenings hanging at Weir’s place shooting the breeze and getting high.
These were Halcyon days for all of us. The eve of the break into the Big Time. Hard drug use was at a minimum and we were all in our twenties with the mystery of our futures ahead of us. Psychedelics were the drug of choice for most of us and life was simple and full of potential. We were a band of brothers and sisters making it up as it went along. The music always carried the day and the band members and songwriters were golden.
Sam Cutler was tour manager and definitely one of the boys and brought an easy direction to the band having been working for three years or so with the Rolling Stones. It was at the end of the Stones first U.S. tour that Sam left them as tour manager and was invited by Garcia to tour manage the Grateful Dead.
The Rolling Stones left Sam Cutler to deal with the debacle at Altamonte after Sam had repeatedly told them that doing a free concert was a bad idea.
Sam was instrumental in steering the Grateful Dead into the great fame and fortune that they found during the seventies.
My own humble contribution of the tie dye stage sets came along at the perfect time. My legacy is the GD fans association with tie dye and the Grateful Dead music. Many say it is a visual expression of the music. Flattery indeed but I can certainly concur with that for my own experience and intent.