In August 1972, Springfield Creamery was in financial trouble. Owners Chuck and his Sue Kesey have been in business for over 10 years and have just introduced a new probiotic product called Nancy’s Yogurt. But debt and unpaid taxes threatened to close them down.
Then someone had the groovy idea of asking a popular psychedelic rock band for help. and the help they did. KLCC’s Tiffany Eckhart takes a trip down memory lane with the Kesey family to mark her 50th anniversary when little local Creamery was saved by Grateful Her Dead.
Chuck Kesey has seen the band many times with his brother, novelist and Merry Prankster Ken Kesey. “I attended the early Grateful Dead Acid Test. Early on, there were 350 people in the crowd. They were dancing all night. Pretty spectacular, right?”
Chuck and Sue met lead guitarist and vocalist Jerry Garcia and several members of the crew. They said asking the band for help was like reaching out to a family member. “We went to San Francisco to talk to the Grateful Dead,” recalls Chuck. “And they said ‘yes.’ From there he held concerts in the fields for 28 days.”
Keseys rented a large open field at the Oregon Country Fair grounds in Beneta. So? “Well, start building the stage now,” said Chuck. “That crew was all volunteers. These were the Hoedads and the people who just showed up and they built the stage.”
“It’s almost working. I think it’s working now… yay!” , which he dubbed “field trips.”
The deceased bassist Phil Lesh walks over to the mic. This is really where we do our best work,” he told the growing audience.
“Good,” Babs said. The crowd erupts in cheers as the band storms into Promiseland.
No one knows how many people made it to the field for the show, but a common estimate is 20,000. I bought a ticket. “Tickets were $3.00 for her and $3.50 for her at the gate,” she said. “I don’t know why you wanted to exchange money at the gate. Anyway.”
So what were Sue and Chuck doing during the concert?
“I was behind the stage, and I think it was kind of like a little trailer kind of like an office,” Sue replies. “The money that was coming in was in buckets,” Chuck added with a laugh. you will see
This might be a good time to mention the heat wave. That late August day, the temperature was almost 100 degrees. “I did the math for how much water most people drink,” Chuck explained. “So I got a creamery tank truck full of water.” It became something.
“And I thought, ‘Oh, we’re in trouble now,'” Chuck recalled. “At that time, the lid of the tanker truck opened and a naked hippie who was swimming inside came out. And I realized, ‘We’re out of water.'”
But Chuck said the large crowd didn’t seem to care. The band told Mr. and Mrs. Kezy, “There were more naked people than at any concert we’ve ever been to.”
The Dead played a 31-minute version of Darkstar that afternoon, sometimes playful, sometimes brooding, and the extended jam was just a rumor to those who weren’t there.Until the 2013 documentary film sunshine daydream Directed by John Norris and produced by Sam Field, the film was a bird’s-eye view of the entire 1972 Beneta show.
After the third encore, the show ended as the sun dipped below the distant treeline. A bucket full of concert earnings could make all the difference in the future of Springfield Creamery. “Looking back, it was kind of a humbling experience for them to do this for us,” Sue said. , left us with all the money, and it was just enough to get us through the difficulties we had to overcome.”
The amount was reportedly $12,000. And to this day, Sue and Chuck Kesey are simply grateful. With a wide smile, Chuck articulated his own opinion of Dead. “This is the greatest band mankind has invented,” he said. “that’s right.”
The two children, Chuck and Sue, have grown up knowing that something pretty amazing happened. Her Son Kit Kesey, who was 6 years old at the time of the Field Trip show, became Eugene’s concert her promoter. His daughter Sheryl Kesey Thompson is a co-owner and oversees product marketing for Springfield Creamery. She remembers that she was 11 years old at the time of the show and she sat under a primitive stage while Grateful Her Dead performed.
“I think my generation looks back on that day and that time and sees it as a pretty significant fork in the road to Creamery. The Grateful Dead is playing in the background every time I call.”
On Saturday, the Keseys, both now in their 80s, will mark the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead benefit show by wearing a T-shirt that reads “The Day a Rock Band Saved a Yogurt Company.” And they’ll be listening to Dead Air at KLCC every Saturday night, they said.
Production assistance by Sheryl Kesey Thompson.audio from sunshine daydream Recording used here with permission from Rhino Records.