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One of the early psychedelic period’s most iconic posters, this is Wes Wilson. The father of the psychedelic poster, at his best. A month after the Human Be-In, with the Summer of Love on the way we had the Grateful Dead paired with legendary Chicago bluesman Otis Rush and blues devotees from Los Angeles, Canned Heat.
The Dead were probably happy to be back on a live stage again as the month prior they were recording for Warner Bros in RCA Studios in Los Angeles. The Dead recorded their first album in just a few days, basically taping live with only the vocals overdubbed. At this point the Dead thought of a studio record as just like a live set – the goal was to capture what they sounded like onstage.
The band picked their producer, Dave Hassinger, who was known for his recent work with the Stones and on the Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow. Hassinger, though, did little producing on this record. He admitted later, “That upset the band, because I had been primarily an engineer and that’s what the band wanted from me… They needed someone to help them get the record the way they wanted it to sound, and that’s what I would have liked to have done.”
Hassinger remembered, “We went in and did the first album very, very fast – less than a week… At that time I didn’t know them, and looking back I wish I could have had more time and done some things a little differently. But my understanding was that these were songs they’d played a lot, and they essentially wanted to get them down like they played them live. I’d made two or three trips up to the Bay Area and seen them at the Fillmore, and I thought they were dynamite. What I was after on the album was to capture as much of the energy as I could.”
Otis Rush was part of a number of black blues (and later jazz) artists who were adding the hippie psychedelic ballrooms to their usual venues on the “chitlin’ circuit” around the U.S. The Chitlin' Circuit was a collection of performance venues throughout the eastern, southern, and upper Midwest areas of the US that provided commercial and cultural acceptance for African American musicians, comedians, and other entertainers during the era of racial segregation in the United States through the 1960s.
Writing in The New York Times, Bill Friskics-Warren said, "A richly emotive singer and a guitarist of great skill and imagination, Mr. Rush was in the vanguard of a small circle of late-1950s innovators, including Buddy Guy and Magic Sam, whose music, steeped in R&B, heralded a new era for Chicago blues."
The Chicago blues style was characterized by amplified harmonica and electric guitar which could play above the volume of conversation in crowded bars as opposed to Delta blue which was primarily acoustic guitar-based, frequently with a bottleneck slide.