It’s Raining “New Betty Boards” but who is Betty and Why Should I Care? Betty Cantor-Jackson’s story of the highs and lows of the Grateful Dead.
Betty Cantor was a teenage math and science prodigy when she dropped acid and found herself at 710 Ashbury, where she met Weir and Garcia.
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She soon fell in with Bob Matthews and helped set up mics and recording equipment at the Avalon and Carousel ballrooms. Soon, she was helping with the making of Anthem of the Sun. Bob was trying his best to make her his “old lady” but she ended up marrying Rex “Ramrod”Jackson. Being the first female engineer was no picnic. The Grateful Dead was really a boys’ club, not necessarily Garcia, but the crew was famous as being one of the wildest in rock music. Jerry would come over and she would “make him a cappuccino and cut his hair” while they listened to tapes.
While Bob Matthews and her were a team, she helped record and master Live/Dead, Workingman’s Dead, and Aoxomoxoa. While Rex and her were on the road, they recorded the shows, and this is important, with their own equipment and tapes that they bought. She would record shows when she could on tour but mostly recorded all the Bay Area shows and JBG and JGB projects. Rex died in a car accident in 1976 and from 77-78, she was “officially” hired and put on salary for handling Bob’s stage setup and recording the shows. Unfortunately for us, Brent and her became an item and when they broke up, she was frozen out. Ex-girlfriends, even one with the skills of Betty, became persona non grata and she was given the cold shoulder from Club Front and the Vault.
Around 1987, she fell on hard times. As someone accustomed to being in the inner circle of a band and the habits of being in the inner circle of The Grateful Dead no less, bills and other debts became overwhelming for her. She asked the Grateful Dead for help but none was forthcoming, so her house was foreclosed on and everything in her house was moved to storage, while she moved to her in-laws in Oregon. Now we’ve all heard of “Storage Wars” but back in the days before crappy, on-the-cheap television, there was a group of people who would regularly attend the sales. Her tapes of the Grateful Dead along with, Legion of Mary, Reconstruction, Old and in the Way, Kingfish, the Keith and Donna Band and NRPS were purchased by mainly three people. None of them were really Deadheads.
There weren’t just tapes up for auction. Clothes and household items and sometimes they got a tape thrown in just for making the purchase. One of the buyers just stuck his his purchase in a storage locker. The second was a farmer who liked the cases and didn’t really care about the tapes and let them slowly rot in a barn. The third was a couple who were into bands like ELO and YES. However, they recognized and could appreciate the quality of the music on the tapes. So there were there were three people who now had in their possesion hundreds of tapes of the highest quality.
“Being avid collectors of bootleg recordings by numerous groups, it only seemed natural to share in the wealth,” they explain via email. “Our Grateful Dead collection consisted of many of the common shows that were out there at the time. These new tapes dramatically expanded that collection and it wouldn’t have been right not to share them. This was our way of getting new material into circulation and also breaking the hierarchy of those collectors who held on to prime shows for themselves. Initially, we started transferring the tapes to VHS Hi-Fi on our own, but soon realized what a daunting task this was going to be. So we reached out to one of our trading buddies who we knew had connections in the Dead trading community. From there, he gathered together what was later to become known as the ‘Unindicted Co-conspirators,’ who put in a massive archiving effort to back up the tapes and distribute them.”- the couple.
They got in touch with Ken Genetti, who met them and went to their closet and later said, “For me, it was like King Tut’s tomb. I knew immediately what they had when I looked in there. The first thing I saw was Port Chester, N.Y., Feb. 18, 1971, an incredible show which was Mickey [Hart]’s last concert for many years and I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’ Then I saw Kezar Stadium, San Francisco, Calif., ‘73, my favorite concert I ever went to. I pulled it out and I went, ‘Holy shit!’”.
This was in the days of “Dupree’s Diamond New’s” and “Relix” where in the back were trader’s pages and trade requests from people who were trying to start their collections and Genetti originally wanted to just mass-release the tapes to the hordes of new fans because up until then, if you didn’t know the right people or have the secret handshake, you couldn’t get at the choice material and Ken saw a chance to change the hierarchy. Because there were hoarders who had loads of great tapes but just sat on them and wouldn’t let people know what they had. This is still pre-Internet, of course. This didn’t happen but with the help of a trio of other tapers, who helped with gear, started spinning copies. Toward’s the end, despite the couple’s wish for anonymity, it got to the highest levels of GD management. Then the lawyers got involved and said they couldn’t sell the tapes, which no real taper would ever do anyway, but it stopped the transfer process. Basically the GD’s position was you own the tape but not what’s on the tapes.
However, copies of the 71′ Cap theater run, the Cornell show, and the NY Academy of Music show in 72′ were traded far and wide. In fact, the band doesn’t even have a copy of the Cornell show in the vaults and it’s Betty’s recording that the Library of Congress put in their collection of important musical documents. It’s also not impossible that the spreading of these beautiful recordings started the Dick’s Picks series, after ravenous Deadheads got copies of these and wanted more in 1993. The story could have been over but then Rob Eaton of Dark Star Orchestra stepped in.
He’s best known for playing the “Weir” in D.S.O but he had also spent a lot of time working at recording studios for some great musicians. He was contacted in 1995 by the second buyer, a high school teacher, who had left his purchase in a barn to mold and decay. “Out of 200 tapes, only six boxes were legible and 75 to 80 tapes had no boxes at all—they had completely disintegrated from rot.” Eaton took on the challenge and thought he could save some of the reels and his roommate happened to be Dick Latvala, keeper of the Dead’s vault until he passed away in 1999.
“I spent all night long with some tools and cleaned up a portion of one of the reels. It was a reel from 9/6/73—a Garcia-Saunders show from the Capitol Theatre in Passaic that no one had ever seen before. So we knew this was a legitimate stash of tapes.” Eaton said and started cleaning up the tapes in 40 box sets. The farmer wanted to sell his stash of decayed Betty Boards for a million dollars, that’s right, one MILLION dollars. He hired Eaton to fix the tapes and facing foreclosure himself in 2012 he asked Rob to help on some more tapes. He said he had found fifty more tapes in the barn and Eaton met him and was handed a box of tangled tape that looked unsalvageable. With a little loving care and time, those tapes turned out to be beauties too. In fact, half of them were from June 1976. High on his success, he got in touch with the couple who supplied Rob Genetti with his tapes and with a little research found the third buyer. He contacted the party in 2014 and entered into arrangements about the cleaning of all the tapes from all three buyers. So what are Rob’s plans?
“What I’d love to see done—in a perfect world—is I think all the tapes need to go back to the vault, I think the people that have purchased these tapes should be compensated. I don’t think we’re talking huge sums of money but enough to make them relinquish the tapes back to the Grateful Dead. They should be part of the collection. Another thing that’s important is if these tapes do get back to the vault, Betty should get her production royalty on anything that gets released, which is completely reasonable. Those were her tapes; those weren’t the Dead’s tapes. I’d love to see Betty get her due.”
Betty says, she would love to see her work spread around. “I’d like everyone to get them for unless someone is making money for it, and then I want money too”. Not an altogether outrageous request from the woman who made some of the greatest Dead recordings of all time and was given the cold shoulder from the band and forced to give up her house and belongings. She said she didn’t ask Jerry for money because,”she could tell he already had so much of his shoulders.”
Her recordings are immediately recognizable “It has my tonalities. My sound is beefy. My recordings are very stereo, very open, with a lot of air in them. You feel like you’re standing in the middle of the music. My feeling is everyone wants to play in the band.” Between Owsley and her we have a duo who made saving this music for posterity a passion and job. The Grateful Dead should be ashamed of the way they hung her out to dry but the music business is cutthroat, even in the loosest of bands. Owsley got the same treatment pretty much.
“I did it because I love the music and felt it needed to be captured. It’s so beautiful that it needs to be captured,” she said. “Eventually, we’re going to be gone, and this is our legacy to leave behind.”
In 2012, she was working at Glide Memorial in SF, recording the choir. She has also recorded some DSO shows but her true legacy is the what she left us from the Dead camp and all it’s side projects. Here is a list of all the known, released Betty Boards. The “What’s Become of the Betty Board”project has still more it’s working on and the link is here:
Written by: Greg Heffelfinger
The New Yorker
List of all available “Betty Boards” and the ones that have been released since 2002
Here are the currently available ones:
Betty Cantor-Jackson Soundboards
02.18.71 The Capitol Theater, Port Chester, New York
02.19.71 The Capitol Theater, Port Chester, New York
02.20.71 The Capitol Theater, Port Chester, New York
02.21.71 The Capitol Theater, Port Chester, New York
02.23.71 The Capitol Theater, Port Chester, New York
02.24.71 The Capitol Theater, Port Chester, New York
04.05.71 Manhattan Center, New York City (End Of 2nd Set Only)
04.06.71 Manhattan Center, New York City
04.07.71 Boston Music Hall, Boston, Massachusetts
04.08.71 Boston Music Hall, Boston, Massachusetts
12.14.71 The Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan
05.04.72 The Olympia Theater, Paris, France
08.21.72 Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, California
08.22.72 Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, California
08.25.72 Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, California
08.27.72 Old Renaissance Faire Ground, Veneta, Oregon
03.16.73 Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, Long Island, New York
03.21.73 Memorial Auditorium, Utica, New York
03.22.73 Memorial Auditorium, Utica, New York
03.24.73 Spectrum Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
05.26.73 Kezar Stadium, San Francisco, California
06.22.73 Pacific High Exhibition Coliseum, Vancouver, B.C.
ca. Aug-early Sep ‘WAKE OF THE FLOOD Studio Out-takes, San Rafael, CA
circa 1975 ‘REFLECTIONS’ Studio Out-takes
06.10.76 The Boston Music Hall, Boston, Massachusetts
06.11.76 The Boston Music Hall, Boston, Massachusetts
06.14.76 The Beacon Theater, New York City
06.15.76 The Beacon Theater, New York City
06.29.76 The Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, Illinois
ca. Early 1977 Side Two Of ‘TERRAPIN STATION’
02.26.77 The Swing Auditorium, San Bernadino, California
05.05.77 New Haven Coliseum, New Haven, Connecticut
05.07.77 Boston Gardens, Boston, Massachusetts
05.08.77 Barton Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
05.09.77 War Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, New York
09.29.77 The Paramount Theater, Seattle, Washington
10.02.77 The Paramount Theater, Portland, Oregon
10.28.77 Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Missouri
10.29.77 Field House, Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, Illinois
10.30.77 Assembly Hall, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana
11.01.77 Cobo Hall, Detroit, Michigan
11.05.77 War Memorial, Rochester, New York (End Of Show)
11.06.77 Broome County Arena, Binghamton, New York
04.07.78 Hollywood Sportatorium, Hollywood, Florida
04.10.78 The Fox Theater, Atlanta, Georgia
04.11.78 The Fox Theater, Atlanta, Georgia
04.12.78 Cameroon Indoor Stadium, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
04.14.78 Coliseum, Virginia Polytechnic, Blacksburg, Virginia
04.15.78 William And Mary College, Williamsburg, Virginia
07.07.78 Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison, Colorado
07.08.78 Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison, Colorado
10.18.78 Winterland, San Francisco, California (“From Egypt With Love”)
04.22.79 Spartan Stadium, San Jose, California
Jerry Garcia Band
10.11.75 The Keystone, Berkeley, California (Second Set) (w/Nicky Hopkins
10.17.75 Concorde Pavilion, Concord, California (w/Nicky Hopkins)
12.17.75 The Keystone, Berkeley, California (w/Nicky Hopkins)
07.20.76 The Keystone, Berkeley, California
09.18.81 (Location Uncertain) (Rehearsal or Soundcheck) (The Jerry Garcia
circa 1975 ‘REFLECTIONS’ Studio Out-takes
Legion Of Mary
11.27.74 The Keystone, Berkeley, California
11.28.74 The Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, California
Various 1975 From 3.22, 5.22, 6.21, & 6.22.75 Keystone (except 3.22 – locatio
03.07.79 Rancho Nicasio, San Rafael, California
03.08.79 Cotati Cabaret, Cotati, California
03.09.79 Cotati Cabaret, Cotati, California
04.08.79 Cotati Cabaret, Cotati, California
06.16.79 Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, California
06.22.79 The Keystone, Berkeley, California
07.08.79 The Keystone, Berkeley, California
Garcia & Saunders
01.15.73 The Inn Of The Beginning, Cotati, California (w/Unidentified Fema
01.24.73 The Boarding House, San Francisco, California
07.10.73 The Keystone, Berkeley, California
07.11.73 The Keystone, Berkeley, California
Garcia, Saunders, &
06.04.74 The Lion’s Share, San Anselmo, California (w/Unidentified Female
07.21.74 The Keystone, Berkeley, California (The Grateful Dead Played The
07.22.74 The Keystone, Berkeley, California
09.02.74 Marx Meadows, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California
Keith & Donna Band
08.20.75 The Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, California
10.17.75 Concorde Pavilion, Concord, California (Also See…The Jerry Garc
12.02.71 The Boston Music Hall, Boston Massachusetts
12.04.71 The Felt Forum, New York City (w/Jerry Garcia ?)
12.07.71 The Felt Forum, New York City (w/Jerry Garcia ?)
12.10.71 The Fox Theater, St. Louis, Missouri (w/Jerry Garcia ?)
12.15.71 The Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan
05.26.72 The Strand Lyceum, London, England
03.08.73 Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, California
03.30.73 Community War Memorial, Rochester, New York
04.02.73 Boston Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
Date/Location Unkno(Probably 1973)
10.02.73 Winterland, San Francisco, California
11.24.74 Winterland, San Francisco, California
Sons Of Champlin
12.03.72 Winterland, San Francisco, California