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36 Years Ago: The Winterland Ballroom Closes With Epic Grateful Dead Concert

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The Winterland Ballroom, where scores of memorable live albums and movies were recorded, went out in style on Dec. 31, 1978. The Grateful Dead headlined a farewell concert that stretched out for more than eight hours — with Jerry Garcia and band playing a stunning six of them.

The Dead were joined that night by the New Riders of the Purple Sage and the Blue Brothers, before the stage went dark a final time. During its run, the Winterland hosted such classic rock documents as the Band‘s ‘Last Waltz‘ and Peter Frampton‘s ‘Frampton Comes Alive.’

Winterland was originally an ice-skating rink and entertainment venue built in 1928. In 1971, promoter Bill Graham converted the 5,400-seat San Francisco landmark into a full-time music hall. (Graham died in a helicopter crash in October 1991, and in 2013, the executor of his estate was charged with bilking Graham’s sons out of millions of dollars in concert souvenirs.)

Over the years, many classic albums — including Cream‘s ‘Wheels of Fire,’ Jimi Hendrix‘s ‘Live at Winterland’ and portions of Bruce Springsteen‘s ‘Live 1975-85′ — were recorded at Winterland. ELO, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Humble Pie and Paul Butterfield also released concert albums recorded at the historic venue.

Springsteen was part of a series of late 1978 shows that culminated with the Dead’s final epic performance on New Year’s Eve. Tom Petty, the Ramones, the Tubes and Smokey Robinson also performed concerts at Winterland during its last weeks. In 2003, the venue’s final days were turned into a record and movie, ‘The Closing of Winterland.’

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