The Grateful Dead have disbanded, WBCY has gone silent and the Charlotte Coliseum has been downpurposed and thrice renamed. But this pinback button from the Dead’s 1979 concert has survived unscathed. And so has this flyer from the band’s 1991 performance at the second Charlotte Coliseum.
Between 1971 and 1995 the Grateful Dead played 27 shows in North Carolina — that’s Charlotte (12), Greensboro (7), Durham (5), Chapel Hill (2), Raleigh (1).
This concert flyer isn’t fancy, but it’s packed with useful Charlotte-specific info for itinerant Deadheads, including North Carolina’s ban on nitrous oxide.
“[In 1971 the Grateful Dead] tour stopped at Wallace Wade Stadium at Duke University….Eric Greenspan was the student responsible for booking the show, which included the Dead, the Beach Boys and the Butterfield Blues Band. It was his first large outdoor event, and he was ill prepared. The stage was low and had no roof, the security barricade was a rope and there were no trailers for dressing rooms. The weather forecast was for rain….
“[But] the sun was bright as the gig day dawned, and… among other chores, Eric took [crew member Bill] Candelario to the store, where he bought 15 pairs of Converse sneakers, and swapped them around so that everyone had two colors….
“Although there were only 7,000 kids in a 50,000-seat stadium — there had been no advertising or off-campus sales — or perhaps because there were only 7,000 kids, it was a blissful day that established the Dead in North Carolina forever….”
— From “A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead” by Dennis McNally (2002)
“Working on the Grateful Dead’s farewell shows in Chicago, [entertainment lawyer] Greenspan’s career had come full circle — back to a show he promoted as a Duke University student…. ‘Everything in my career dates back to that,’ he says.”
Between 1971 at Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium and 1995 at the Charlotte Coliseum, the Grateful Dead by one count played 27 shows in North Carolina. For at least 19 of these shows, peel-and-stick backstage passes (not to be confused with the laminated security passes issued to band members and crew) were distributed among friends, fans and camp followers.
Like so much Dead memorabilia these strikingly designed passes drew from an iconography developed over the decades. Here’s a long strange slideshow from a sampling of their North Carolina performances.