10 Amazing Moments from Englishtown ’77 with The Grateful Dead

Posted on Tuesday May 14th in

On Labor Day Weekend 42 years ago, The Grateful Dead embarked on their most epic show to date, drawing a crowd of over 102K to Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey. This marked a new era of the Dead, where the fans would only grow in numbers and passion. In preparation for The Englishtown Project’s homage to the magic in ’77 on Sunday, May 26 at the Bowl, we’ve compiled a list of the original Englishtown’s most iconic moments.

1. An Epic Turnout

Photo by James McGrathy/NY Daily News via Getty Images

Though the exact concert attendance is disputed, the band is confirmed to have sold over 102,000 tickets to their 1977 Englishtown Raceway Park show. This was the largest crowd the band had drawn at that point in their career, solidifying ’77 as one of their most prominent years. Even with the massive audience, the attendees were peaceful and passionate about the music.

2. The Comeback

Englishtown was the first show the Grateful Dead performed after a three-month halt due to a car accident involving drummer, Micky Hart. He says of the experience, “This was our first show (back), so it was really an important show for me. This was kind of my comeback from my injury; I didn’t know it was going to be (in front of) like 175,000 people!”

3. The Show Must Go On

Conflict boiled to the surface when officials from the nearby Manalapan township sued in an attempt to prevent the show from happening. They claimed that it would violate a state law which dictated that any concert lasting over 18 hours and yielding over 3,000 people required a permit. Police Chief Thomas Wallace was more concerned that there would be appearances from motorcycle gangs such as the Hells Angels and firmly believed they would be representing the Grateful Dead as their bodyguards. The show was scheduled to last 8 hours, and it was proven that the Hells Angels were not bodyguards for the band, allowing for the show to go on.
 

4. Hungry Hungry Hippies

According to John Westlake who ran three concession stands at the concert,  the crowd had purchased an estimated 200,000 cans of soda and 15,000 pounds of hotdogs. He spoke of their demeanor, “But they were great, stood in line, waited patiently, and no one tried to start an argument.”

5. The Wait of a Lifetime

For the first time in over two years, the band played the renowned “Truckin,'” as spectacular as ever. They successfully relived what felt like the wait of a lifetime for Deadheads. The track, as well as the full set, can be heard on Dick’s Picks Volume 15.
 

6. Good Samaritan

Photo by James McGrathy/NY Daily News via Getty Images

With such a populated turnout to a small New Jersey town, parking became limited quickly. Some parked over a mile away and trekked the rest of the voyage on foot. However, good samaritan and property owner, Cecile Schmidt, was given $279 after she allowed concertgoers to park on her lawn and generously gave out free food. Others charged a small $10 fee to park on their property, striking a friendly relationship with the neighborhood and the fans.

7.  Unexpected 

In the picture above taken by photographer James R. Anderson, an aerial advertisement can be seen trailing over the concert encouraging people to “Join the people who’ve joined the army.” Last minute advertising plan? We think yes.

8. Terrapin that Could Have Been

“And now ladies and gentleman, we’d like to play a little ditty from our newest album, at your record stores currently,” says Phil Lesh before breaking into the first performance of “Terrapin Station,” since the release of the same titled album for the encore. Bob Weir wielded his double-neck twelve-string guitar in preparation for the “Terrapin Flyer” section of the “Terrapin” suite, only to be stopped short by Micky Hart due to the heat and exhaustion of playing rapid 32nd notes.

9. What’s Become Of The Baby

Shortly after the Marshall Tucker Band opening performance, a woman went into labor. She was swiftly evacuated by helicopter and gave birth to a healthy baby boy. He was only a few hours shy of being present to his first and what goes down in history as one of the most legendary Grateful Dead concerts of all time!

10. Commitment

Photo by James McGrathy/NY Daily News via Getty Images

Broken legged and barefoot, this Grateful Dead fan makes it through the mud for a show that absolutely can’t be missed. Nothing can stop the dedication of diehard Grateful Dead fans.

Knockdown
Alley

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