By David Gans

My contributions to this year’s WALL OF NEWS will focus on photos and stories from my new book, Improvised Lives: Grateful Dead 1972-1985. Signed copies are available now from

New Year’s Eve at the Cow Palace, 1976

I was invited by someone at BGP – “charge d’affaires” Zohn Artman, I think – to bring my camera to the Cow Palace to help document Bill Graham’s midnight pageant.

When I got to the box office on New Year’s Eve, the name I was told to drop didn’t seem to ring a bell with the event staff. I got in, somehow – with a pass, if I remember correctly.

My photos of the midnight festivities were pretty shaky, as I was on the main floor near the stage, caught up in the tide of humanity that was swept aside by Bill’s entrance as Father Time. Once the midnight frenzy abated, the band settled in for a very strong performance (released in 2006 on a CD set titled Live at the Cow Palace: New Year’s Eve 1976).

© David Gans

The whole nature of concerts, and press and photo coverage of concerts, was significantly looser in the ‘70s than it became in later years. The practice of allowing the photographers to shoot only the first three songs started sometime after my concert-shooting years.

This was my first New Year’s Eve show. I saw all of them after that except 12/31/78 and 12/31/85. For the former, I had weaseled my way home from a work assignment in Florida but I had a vicious cold and wound up watching the show at taper Bob Menke’s house. On New Year’s Eve ’85, I (foolishly) opted to spend the evening at KFOG making two sets of reel-to-reel masters of the broadcast feed.

David Gans is one of the best-known media guys in the Grateful Dead world as well as an exceptional interpreter of GD music; he has performed with Phil Lesh, written songs with Robert Hunter, and played with many of the best-known jam band musicians around. He started as a journalist at BAM, the California Music Magazine, and wrote for many music magazines in the ‘70s and ‘80s. In the mid-’80s he helped with the KFOG Deadhead Hour, which became the nationally-syndicated Grateful Dead Hour, still airing from coast to coast. He’s also co-host, with Gary Lambert, of the Sunday-afternoon talk show Tales from the Golden Road on SiriusXM’s Grateful Dead Channel. He’s the author (with Blair Jackson) of This Is All A Dream We Dreamed, An Oral History of the Grateful Dead, and Improvised Lives: Grateful Dead 1972-1985, a book of his photos and stories. He will perform at Skull and Roses.