Remembering Weather Report’s 1972 Tour with Santana

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So in keeping with my “fifty years ago today” theme, I should have written this post in mid-December. Oops! Still, it’s worth highlighting these unique gigs, even if a month late, so here goes.

In December 1972, the rock group Santana was fresh off a 19-concert, 27-day jaunt across Europe when it returned to the United States for a short tour that kicked off in New Orleans on December 9. At the time, Santana was hugely successful commercially—its previous two albums had hit #1 on the commercial charts—and it had just released its fourth studio album, Caravanserai. That record was a departure from Santana’s previous work, emphasizing improvisation and open-ended structures. In that endeavor, Carlos Santana and his musical partner Michael Shrieve were influenced by “all sorts of funk and jazz stuff,” but especially Miles Davis, Weather Report and Herbie Hancock. So a concert pairing with Weather Report wasn’t completely outlandish even though Weather Report was still essentially an avant garde jazz group at this point. And given that both were signed to Columbia Records, it was probably welcomed by the label.

I have contemporaneous confirmation for four shows: New Orleans; Dallas; Lubbock, Texas; and Tuscon, Arizona. A website visitor remembers a show in San Antonio, Texas, and there may have been one in El Paso as well. They were arranged by Bill Graham, the San Francisco–based promoter who was an early supporter of Santana’s, and who accompanied the troupe on this tour. (Brian Risner remembers him always being first off the airplane and immediately on the pay phones, conducting business.) When Graham asked Santana who he would like to have as the opening act, it took him “less than a second” to say Weather Report.

Santana was especially enamored with Wayne’s playing, and he and other band members would listen to Weather Report’s sets from the side of the stage each night. However, it wasn’t the happiest of tours for Weather Report. They got about 45 minutes of stage time in front of crowds that weren’t there to see them, and the response could be rather rude. Even Carlos found it uncomfortable when people would scream “Santana” while Weather Report was playing, as he related in his autobiography, The Universal Tone. “I wanted to go onstage, grab the mike, and say, ‘Hey, shut the fuck up! This is Weather Report—this is Wayne Shorter. You’re embarrassing me!’” He thought that maybe Santana could open the shows instead, but Graham dissuaded him of that idea, explaining, correctly, that people would leave as soon as Santana was done.

I have one review from these shows (from Tucson) and it confirms the audience’s attitude toward Weather Report.

The unknown and the well-known—that’s what it was at the Community Center Arena last night. Santana and Weather Report. Who has ever heard of Weather Report? Well, now Tucson has. They weren’t well received at all and it’s difficult to say why. I’m sure they won’t be forgotten.

None of Weather Report’s five men spoke a word—not even to introduce their songs, if that’s what you call them.

It was very free-form music, the success of which depends upon how well the musicians can interact with one another spontaneously. All of this added up to a set pervaded with subtle, fleeting, morsels of music followed by tense moments of waiting for them to do it again. I waited gladly, but “boos” could be frequently heard between numbers along with the cheers of the few but vociferous devotees.

Maybe the day will come when teenagers can trust a group with a balding piano player.

After that show, Santana recalled going up to Wayne and finding him “a little cool to me. I could tell that opening for Santana was not his favorite experience.” Nevertheless, Wayne took away some lessons that he recalled 35 years later in a JazzTimes article by George Varga.

There was a big snowstorm [in Lubbock]. And even after the storm let up a little and we went to the venue, we didn’t see any cars in the parking area, just a few buses. Then we went inside and the place was packed! We, as Weather Report guys, kind of realized, “People will get here super-early, even in a snow storm, to hear Santana.” This kind of affectionate crowd, with that degree of dedication, was something we didn’t see in a straight jazz-oriented setting.

Beyond the music, I could see in Carlos’s eyes and even in the attitude of the guys in the band that there was a humanistic approach to almost everything they did and were doing. I noticed that they were not like a band, but like a family. And I just couldn’t help but see this tremendous, reciprocal respect from Carlos to the band and from the band to Carlos. Of course we’d heard about him from Woodstock. But when we signed with Columbia Records, Carlos was the number one record-seller. Where Carlos was a challenge for us was to try to achieve that kind of audience, to gather that kind of audience in those kinds of numbers, to hear what we were doing. Carlos’s fame, audience-wise, ignited our imaginations to see if we could do that our way and accomplish that kind of audience recognition. We considered our music [to be] storytelling and almost very visual.

Another byproduct of this tour was the friendship that developed between Miroslav Vitous and Santana bass player Doug Rauch. The latter introduced Miroslav to former Sly and the Family Stone drummer Greg Errico, and the three of them would jam at Errico’s house in the San Francisco Bay Area. This would eventually lead to Errico joining Weather Report in June 1973.

The day after the Tuscon gig, everyone took a charter flight to San Francisco, where Graham gave Weather Report two more gigs at Winterland, opening for Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention the first night and B.B. King the second night. The San Francisco crowd seemed more receptive to the band than those of the Santana tour. Philip Elwood, the longtime music writer for the San Francisco Examiner, wrote that Weather Report was “the first new-sounds, or ‘jazz,’ group to have ever gotten a Winterland rock crowd really turned on.” The band turned in “a perfectly beautiful short set. Their ability to indicate rhythmic integrity and use dynamic surprise to perfection made their music exciting while still artistically valid. . . . If you are going to Winterland tonight be sure to hear Weather Report. Incredible.”

Weather Report performed with Santana at least one other time, at the Cleveland Coliseum in 1976. John McLaughlin’s Shakti was also on the bill. (Weather Report and Shakti did a number of joint concerts that year.) Over the years, Wayne and Santana also performed at several benefit concerts and a friendship developed, culminating in them touring together in 1988. Their performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival tour is preserved in CD and DVD form (Live At The 1988 Montreux Jazz Festival by the Carlos Santana–Wayne Shorter Band). And of course, one other Weather Report–related Santana connection is that he played on Weather Report’s final album, This Is This, effectively substituting for Wayne, who had already begun his post–Weather Report career and was unavailable for all but a cameo on that record.

6 thoughts on “Remembering Weather Report’s 1972 Tour with Santana

  1. Steve Ball

    …WR & Santana, two of my favourite bands, I first heard Santana after thier Woodstock performance – I was a young teenager with an ambition to be a rock percussion player, I didn’t hear of Weather Report until 1974 and by that time I was gigging in rock & R&B bands – Mysterious Traveller blew me away and that feeling has never left – I don’t know how I would have reacted at the gigs you’ve described, in 1972 I was looking for bands with that hard Latin edge, so if I had been at the gigs I would probably would have been calling for Santana. Thanks for the write up – the history and comments from Wayne etc really brings those days alive for me…

    Reply
  2. Ron Ballin

    They did a few other shows together in 1975-76. I saw them in Cleveland where John McLaughlin’s Shakti opened up for Santana who opened for Weather Report.

    Reply
    1. curt Post author

      Thanks for pointing that out, Ron. I could have figured that you from my own website! I feel an update to this post coming. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Charles Stein

    I heard the Zawinul Syndicate at an outdoor festival in down San Antonio in ‘02 or ‘03. To my surprise, when he walked on stage, he walked up to the mic and started talking. I’d heard WR four times between ‘76 & ‘80 and Wayne always introduced the band. I’d never heard Zawinul’s voice. After introducing his band, he mentioned that WR had come to San Antonio 30 years prior with San Antonio and was very complimentary of the city and his people. All that to say that Santana/WR also played San Antonio Tx on that tour.

    Reply
    1. curt Post author

      Thanks, Charles. I had never heard Joe speak either until after Weather Report. Regarding San Antonio, there were posters made up for that tour, including one for San Antonio, but they don’t all have accurate dates. I haven’t found any other contemporaneous verification of the gig, which is why I didn’t specifically mention it.

      Reply

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