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This poster is called a “tour blank,” which was first printed in color and then overprinted for each local venue with their location and dates in black. The double live album, Grateful Dead, aka Skull & Roses, was released on October 24th – during this pair of shows at the Eastown Theatre in Detroit. The artwork from the album was used for the tour blank – an indicator of Warner Brothers involvement in the Dead's Fall '71 tour.
The Grateful Dead delivered two successful albums to Warner Brothers in 1970. While Warner had initially considered the Dead a sort of prestige cult act in the 60s, the band had surprised the label by releasing the very accessible Workingman's Dead in June 1970, just as FM radio was becoming a nationwide phenomenon. They followed it up with American Beauty in November 1970, which FM DJs liked even better. Warner Brothers rewarded the Dead with $100,000 in marketing dollars for Skull and Roses – and part of that money was spent on promotions like this poster.
Manager Rock Scully came up with a radical plan for the rest of the money.
The bulk of the rock audience in 1970 was young people in suburbs and colleges. Many of them might have heard of the Grateful Dead in a sort of legendary way, but they weren't that familiar with them beyond maybe a few songs on FM radio.
Up until this time, there had been relatively few live FM broadcasts of rock bands. The Dead pushed to spend the rest of the Warner promotional money on buying out 4 hours of advertising inventory on a local FM radio station in 15 cities - live broadcasts of complete concerts all across the country.
Such an extravaganza was never duplicated again, but it had far-reaching implications for the Dead, spreading their music and legend far and wide to young rock fans who would not otherwise have been able to see them. Interestingly, no other band dared broadcasting live shows across the country - perhaps out of fear that they would be implicitly conceding that every show they did was the same, or the fear of bootlegging. The success of these broadcasts did inspire the creation of the famous King Biscuit Flower Hour broadcasting every Sunday night beginning in February 1973.
The cross-country radio broadcasts helped propel the album into gold record status. Once purely a hippie band, the Grateful Dead were now big business.