After their trio of shows in 1970-72, at Austin’s Municipal Stadium, the Dead found a new home base in Travis County at Manor Downs, a horse training facility and racetrack just northeast of Austin that was owned by friends of the group, Frances Carr and Sam Cutler. They wound up playing at Manor Downs in 1977, 1981-1983 and 1985. The venue’s unofficial slogan was "Horse racing and rock & roll," which explains the image in the poster!
The scene at Manor Downs Dead shows was a combination of bikers, hippies, cowboys, and freaks, and everybody got along. That was what Willie Nelson really did to Austin. Before, the rednecks would see someone with long hair and want to kick the shit out of them. But it changed when Willie Nelson started playing at the Armadillo.
Frances Carr and Sam Cutler began development of Manor Downs in 1975 on 44 acres of land that had an old horse race track on it. They initially planned for Manor Downs to be a horse-training stable and fairground facility. It was licensed as a class 2 racetrack in Texas, on which racing is conducted for no more than 44 days in a calendar year. As horse racing's popularity waned with the slow economy of the Great Recession, Manor Downs ceased operations in late July 2010 rather than continue losing money.
The group at Manor Downs were part of the extended Grateful Dead family. Frances and Sam Cutler, Libby Jones, and Bill Seal all worked together at a company called Out of Town Tours after Sam quit managing the Dead. They were in charge of road tours and had booked the Dead shows at the Municipal Auditorium. So when Sam and Frances opened the Downs, they brought in Gary Hart, road manager for New Riders. Ray Slade, one of the Merry Pranksters was also there along with Frances' brother, Loose Bruce Baxter.
Austin-based artist Micael Priest was known for his iconic laconic style of drawing. Quick witted and with a great sense of humor, Micael drew his way through life. “Priest was a walking, talking, real-life cowboy hippie cartoon character artist,” offers Kerry Awn. “Ink ran through his veins. When he came to town he changed everything just by being himself. He never heard a story he couldn’t embellish, an experience he couldn’t top, nor a chance to let you in on a pearl of wisdom spoken in a down-home manner so thick you might have thought it was all an act. It wasn’t. He was an original.”