On September 3rd, 1977, the Grateful Dead returned to the stage at Englishtown, NJ’s Raceway Park for the band’s first show in three months after a car accident left drummer Mickey Hart temporarily unable to play. The group was welcomed back by a record-breaking crowd numbering at least 125,000 fans, with some sources claiming as many as 175,000 were in attendance.
Originally billed as the Summer’s End Concert but known to posterity simply as “The Englishtown Show”, the historic concert featured sets by Marshall Tucker Band and New Riders of the Purple Sage and nearly didn’t happen at all due to a a state law that required a permit for any concert lasting over 18 hours and yielding over 3,000 people. Luckily, authorities allowed the show to go on, but only after they were assured that the Hells Angels would not be providing security for the Dead.
With limited parking at the venue, locals offered to let fans park on their properties, while some left their vehicles miles from the venue and walked the rest of way. Like Woodstock, which brought scores of surprisingly polite young hippies to an unsuspecting small town, The Englishtown Show wound up impressing locals like John Westlake, who worked concessions at the concert. Fans purchased an estimated 200,000 cans of soda and 15,000 pounds of hotdogs, “But they were great, stood in line, waited patiently, and no one tried to start an argument,” Westlake said.
Musical highlights of the performance included the first “Truckin’” in over two years, and the first “Terrapin Station” since the release of the of the same name. “And now ladies and gentlemen, we’d like to play a little ditty from our newest album, at your record stores currently,” Phil Lesh said introducing the tune. There were many non-musical highlights as well, including when a woman went into labor shortly after Marshall Tucker Band’s opening set. She was evacuated by helicopter and gave birth to a heady, I mean healthy baby boy.
The Englishtown Show was released on Dick’s Picks Vol. 15 in 1999. Listen via Spotify here or check out the full recording below, courtesy of the DeadLists Project.
Grateful Dead – Raceway Park – Englishtown, NJ – 9/3/77
[Audio: Matthew Vernon via DeadLists Project]