The Grateful Dead performed their original songs hundreds of times throughout their 30-year run. Still, there was something special about the very first time the band debuted one of their new songs in a live setting. For songs like “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)” from the Dead’s 1967 debut album and “Fire On The Mountain” from 1978’s Shakedown Street, both of which enjoyed favor in the Dead’s live repertoire during different eras, younger fans today can only imagine what it was like to hear them with fresh ears for the first time.
Coincidentally, both of the above-mentioned songs debuted on the same day, March 18th, exactly ten years apart. “Golden Road” came first, jumping out during a show on 3/18/67 at the Winterland in San Francisco when the band was just making a name for themselves. The electrifying guitar tones from Jerry Garcia played alongside Ron “Pigpen” McKernan‘s blues-drenched piano made the first-ever performance of “Golden Road” quite the power-packed debut.
Related: Grateful Dead Debut “Shakedown Street” At Red Rocks, On This Day In 1978 [Full Audio]
Listen to the full audio from the dead’s March 18th, 1967 show below.
Grateful Dead – Winterland Arena – 3/18/1967 [Full-Show Audio]
[Audio: Jonathan Aizen]
Over the next decade, the world of the Grateful Dead would experience some notable changes. Pigpen would succumb to a combination of alcoholism and disease on March 8th, 1973, and the band relied on Keith and Donna Jean Godchaux to augment their sound throughout the 70s. The growing legion of fans which would soon be known as “Deadheads” began showing up to concerts in scores. By 1977, the Dead had reached a new peak, playing tight, incredible-sounding shows on a consistent basis
With Terrapin Station still just a few months from being released in late winter 1977, the Grateful Dead were in a strong creative place when they returned to Bill Graham‘s Winterland on March 18th. Coming out of a monster “Scarlet Begonias”, the group debuted the first full-on version of “Fire On The Mountain”. Based on a simple two-chord progression, the Mickey Hart-penned song would prove its longevity many times over, and would become a setlist favorite amongst Deadheads as the second half of the “ScarFire” combination of “Scarlet Begonias” > “Fire on the Mountain”.
Relive the live debut of “Fire On The Mountain” during the band’s 3/18/77 performance below.
Grateful Dead – Winterland Arena – 3/18/1977 [Full-Show Audio]
[Audio: Jonathan Aizen]
This concludes another exciting “On This Day” chapter in the Grateful Dead’s history. Enjoy the music!
[Originally published 3/18/16]