It was on a hot, humid September day in 1977 that a crowd estimated to be between 90,000-150,000 packed Raceway Park in Englishtown for a Grateful Dead concert. There was pent up demand for the show as the Dead hadn’t performed live for three months; it was Mickey Hart’s first gig back after recovering from an automobile accident. But the concert almost didn’t happen; according to the Asbury Park Press, the neighboring town of Manalapan sued to stop the show, fearing, among other things, motorcycle gangs, drugs, and violence.

A judge refused to stop the concert and promoter John Scher told the Press that the additional publicity the lawsuit generated probably helped boost attendance; according to Jambase, 102,000 tickets were sold for the show. The show wasn’t incident free, however; there were cases of dehydration, injuries from falls, and two deaths: a Long Island man choked to death and a Brooklyn woman died in a car crash leaving the show. In all, at least 50 people were taken to Jersey Shore Medical Center for treatment. Authorities, however, said the massive crowd was remarkably well behaved, and no motorcycle gangs showed up.

Jambase says that the performance was special:

“But the Dead’s lone concert at Raceway Park isn’t just remembered for its huge draw, it’s remembered for the wonderful music that went down in New Jersey’s Middlesex County. The show on September 3, 1977 features outstanding renditions of “Mississippi Half-Step,” “Eyes of the World” and “Not Fade Away” as well as the return of “Truckin'” for the first time in over two years.”

You can see part of the performance here:

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.

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