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Cinco de Mayo and Warlocks


We all know that Cinco de Mayo celebrates the…. wait, what the hell does it celebrate? This can’t just be an excuse to pound margaritas and indulge our ourselves in a vat of nacho cheese, right? Well, I for one won’t stand for that. Let’s end this mindless celebration right now and acknowledge what this holiday is really about: The Warlocks.

No, not the sci-fi fantasy kind or the witchcraft warriors. The Warlocks I’m talking about were an early incarnation of the Grateful Dead with band members Jerry Garcia, Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, and Dana Morgan Jr.. Take out Morgan and add Phil Lesh, and you have the core group of what would come to be the Grateful Dead. And on May 5, 1965 the Warlocks would go public for the first time with a show at Magoo’s Pizza Parlor in Menlo Park, California.

Phillip Brown, author of Cosmic Trends, describes what the shows (taking place throughout May of 1965, the first being on May 5) at Magoo’s were like,

“The atmosphere inside Magoo’s was strictly pizza parlor – bright overhead lights, long tables, ovens in the back. The band was set up by the front plate glass window, confined to a rather narrow area without a stage. Jerry Garcia was on the audience’s left, Pigpen on the far right. Those two, especially, looked somewhat menacing… They reminded me of outlaw bikers.” (

As the Warlocks, their sound was much more ‘electric blues band’ than their previous sound as Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Band, and was no doubt inspired by the likes of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones who were charging the scene. Along with musical turning points, civil rights movements were underway and raising heat.  Also during this time Garcia started his relationship with LSD that would set him free and open a whole new world of sound and play.

“Yeah, this is what I’ve been looking for. You know I’ve been a seeker all along, and this is at least part of what it was I was looking for and maybe even more.” (Garcia on LSD in Dennis McNally’s A Long Strange Trip)

What was happening at Magoo’s was the beginning of a cultural phenomenon and musical genius that would span 30 years, and then some. So you see, May 5th is a day to be celebrated, and not just with salsa and debauchery. To help you out, I’ve put together a little play list for your festivities. The following links are to various shows played by the Grateful Dead on May 5 up until 1980. Why stop at 1980, you ask? Because, I have a job.

May 5, 1967

May 5, 1977

May 5, 1978

May 5, 1979

Happy Cinco de Mayo.

“Is there anything a man don’t stand to lose
When the devil wants to take it all away
Cherish well your thoughts, keep a tight grip on your booze
‘Cause thinking and drinking are all I have today”

Mexicali Blues

References and Links

Phillip Brown’s full account

McNally’s A Long Strange Trip

The Grateful Dead on

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 05/05/2010 7:09 pm

    Love that song! And I’m lovin’ your insight and historical tidbits. Great work. :-)

  2. 05/05/2010 8:31 pm

    Thanks Marie! Loving your blog too. (for those who don’t know, check out

  3. 05/05/2010 11:03 pm

    A very interesting way to think about Cinco De Mayo, which itself commemorates an unlikely victory (of the Mexicans over the invading French i n1862). Certainly the history of The Grateful Dead represents an unlikely victory, although i’m not precisely certain of the defeated enemy.

    The address of Magoo’s Pizza was either 635 or 639 Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park, CA, 94025. 635 is currently a restaurant called The Left Bank; 639 used to be a furniture store, and may still be. I don’t know if the buildings have been remodeled since the 1960s, which has been common for buildings in downtown Menlo Park.


    • 05/13/2010 1:21 pm

      Thanks for the info Corry!

      I don’t think the Grateful Dead ‘defeated’ any enemy. Instead, they just persuaded outsiders to come on in ;)

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