May 29, 2012

Archive Receives Latvala Letter

Dick Latvala, 1993. © Susana Millman  

After the band’s first gift of materials, the first major collection to be donated to the Archive came from several friends of Dick Latvala, who presented his collection of more than 500 reels, many in elaborately decorated boxes, along with several linear feet of his papers. Much of that material documents his work to determine which shows were fan favorites. 

What Latvala did not document, however, were the hundreds of letters, most hand written, he penned to fans who emailed or corresponded to tell him what shows they thought should be released. One letter, recently donated by Archive supporter Steve Armato, demonstrates that effort, a thoughtful note letting Armato know that Latvala shared his high opinion of the show in question, May 21, 1974—one known for its legendary, longest-ever version of “Playing in the Band. ” 

Latvala cautions Armato that the process of getting the band to approve a release “really isn’t as simple as one might assume at first glance,” which those familiar with the decision-making process at Grateful Dead Productions at the time would second. But his enthusiastic affirmation of Armato’s opinion—“that incredibly long ‘Playing in the Band’ is one of my favorites, also”—is a sentiment that Deadheads familiar with the show share. Dupree’s Diamond News publisher John Dwork calls it “a wild ride through a dark and stormy sea of swirling musical chaos” that is “stunning in its dark power” in his review of the show in the second volume of The Deadhead's Taping Compendium.

Latvala's Letter to Armato, Jan. 9, 1994

Armato recalls with pleasure getting Dick’s hand-written reply in 1994 and he saved it until the Archive was underway. Having donated a wonderful pair of posters and visited the Archive last November, he thought of the letter and asked whether the Archive might be interested. Any correspondence from Dick is potentially interesting to us, and this note is useful on several levels, not only for its insights into Latvala’s work but also his connections with the broader Deadhead scene. Our thanks to Steve for thinking of the Archive and for making this piece of history available to scholars and researchers.

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