Friday, August 7, 2020

The Flowers>Solid State: South Bay Psychedelica 1966-68 (New And Improved)


Bassist Gordon Stevens and his wife made this banner on their living room floor in 1966, and hung it behind the band when they played (if it was possible). It's still intact as of Summer 2020

The Flowers
For reasons of my own, I spent a number of decades seeking out the history of the New Delhi River Band. The NDRB were the "other" psychedelic blues band from Palo Alto, so their story was as if the Grateful Dead were in a parallel world where nothing went right. Once the internet was invented, the research got easier, and I started to find out some things, and I even found some sources. Eventually, I succeeded in my quest, and resurrected the lost history of the New Delhi River Band. But along the way, I learned that there was another, deeper mystery. An old Palo Alto source, by then living in San Antonio (hi Chris), told me there was another psychedelic Palo Alto band: The Flowers.

So I spent another decade patiently waiting for the internet to improve, which it did, and facts to rise to the surface, which they always do. As of last month, I felt I had pieced together enough fragments to at least sketch the apparent history of The Flowers. I sort of knew who was in the band, and although I was only able to find performance dates in Palo Alto proper, it was a start. So there was an outline, at least, enough to publish a blog post.

Lo and behold, a friend doing a documentary spoke to Jerry Garcia's ex-wife, who knew the ex-wife of a member of The Flowers, who in turn knew the bass player. I was able to get in touch with Gordon Stevens, the bass player for The Flowers, and learn the whole story. So here it is--the story of The Flowers, a seminal South Bay psychedelic band, intrinsically linked to Ken Kesey and the South Bay underground. Pictures, too! Is the internet great, or what?

The Flowers and Solid State Performance History 1966-68

Roots Of The Flowers--San Jose and South Bay Jazz
The members of The Flowers were all working jazz musicians in San Jose and the South Bay. In the nature of jazz musicians, they had worked together in different combos over the years, so there was no magical meeting in somebody's parent's garage.

The original lineup of The Flowers, at the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco in late '66/early '67. (L-R) Gordon Stevens (bs), Paul Robertson (alto, flute), Terry Otis (dr), Bob Neloms (organ). [thanks Gordon for all the photos]
The Flowers--Mark I
Paul Robertson is best known as Ken Kesey's attorney. He was also a trained musician on flute and alto saxophone, and he had played many a sorority gig when he was an undergrad at Dartmouth. Robertson, according to Gordon Stevens, was the "CEO" of the band, trying to put all the deals together.

Bob Neloms' solo album from 1963, on Bai Records
Bob Neloms
played a Hammond M3 organ in The Flowers, with a Leslie amplifier. Neloms' family was from Detroit, but he had gone to High School in Eureka, CA, on the Northern Coast. Neloms had worked in Detroit, playing jazz and doing sessions for Motown in the early 60s, but he had returned to the San Francisco area in 1963. While Paul Robertson ran the business side of the band, Neloms was the arranger. Neloms had released a solo album in 1963 on Bai Records.

Gordon Stevens (b. San Jose, CA 1936) was a trained musician, having started playing viola in the San Jose Symphony at 16 (his father was Assistant Conductor). The Stevens family also ran a music store in the Willow Glen district in San Jose (with outlets later in other cities, including Fresno). Back in the late 50s, Leo Fender himself had visited their store, delivering two Strats, two Telecasters and two Precision basses. Stevens Music (at 1202 Lincoln Ave) became the official Fender representative at that time, so when the rock explosion hit in the 1960s, Stevens Music was well-placed. According to Gordon Stevens, they once sold 180 new Stratocasters in a month. Stevens had been playing as a professional jazz musician in the San Jose area since 1958.

Terry Otis, another African-American, played drums. He was a jazz player, but there wasn't much work in the South Bay, so he joined The Flowers.

All of the original members of The Flowers had been working jazz musicians in San Jose and the South Bay for several years. They had all made a living, too, which is pretty amazing when you think about it. Still, jazz wasn't growing in popularity.   Somehow, Robertson got the idea of forming a sort of electric jazz band, but to play "psychedelic" music. Kesey himself was all aboard. Kesey had made a little money with One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, so he staked Robertson to some electronic equipment.

All of the Merry Pranksters are practically mythological figures, so I won't recap it all here. Suffice to say, not only was Robertson Kesey's attorney, his wife was the sister of the infamous Prankster "Zonker" (Steve Lambrecht), who was the inspiration for the Doonesbury character. So although the members of The Flowers were all jazz musicians--rather than rockers--they had a mainline connection to the psychedelic underground.

In 1966, jazz was popular with beatniks, and some of the older rock fans, but it wasn't really music for teenagers. On the other hand, jazz was kind of quiet, and mostly played in nightclubs and hotels, not really accessible for younger people, nor folks with less money. So, whatever exactly Paul Robertson and Ken Kesey had in mind, they were going to inject jazz into the psychedelic rock scene--straight, no chaser.  There wasn't any concept of (what would be later called) "fusion music" yet,  and The Flowers played pretty straight jazz.

The difference was that The Flowers played loud jazz, with an electric bass and a Hammond organ. They also played it straight, and when the band improvised, they improvised in a way that fit the psychedelic rock bands at the Fillmore (Gordon Stevens called it "a heavy Anglo-Saxon beat"), rather than some free jazz being played on Divisadero Street in San Francisco. Stevens also doubled on electric viola and electric mandolin, and they would play a few recognizable "pop" hits (like Bobby Hebb's "Sunny"). The Flowers played jazz, real jazz, but it was jazz designed for rock fans, not downtown hipsters in Greenwich Village.

In Stevens' case, he joined the Flowers as a sort of lark, although he already knew the other band members. His father had just returned from a National Association of Music Manufacturers (NAMM) conference in Germany with a new Hofner electric bass, just like Paul McCartney played. He offered Gordon the bass if he wanted to play electric bass with the Flowers, so he took the gig. Although Gordon was a jazz player, he had been a huge fan of Paul McCartney's bass playing from the beginning of The Beatles.

The original Flowers, posing at Golden Gate Park in late '66/early '67. [L-R]: Terry Otis, Bob Neloms, Paul Robertson, Gordon Stevens
Early Gigs
The earliest performances by The Flowers seemed to have been at a legendary bohemian hangout called Ricardo's Pizza. Ricardo's was at 218 Willow Street, just across the Guadalupe River (and CA87) from the Willow Glen neighborhood, South of downtown but West of Kelley Park. Chet Baker had apparently played Ricardo's on Tuesdays back in the day, and in the future the Doobie Brothers would also had their first gigs at Ricardo's. I'm not certain if the band was called The Flowers yet, or even billed.

September 30, 1966 Gallery Lounge, San Francisco State College, San Francisco, CA: Whatever It Is-San Francisco State Acid Test
The last legal Acid Test in California was held at San Francisco State College. It was a three day event, culminating with a Grateful Dead performances at The Women's Gym on Saturday October 1, and another on the lawn on Sunday. There were numerous other "multi-media" events around the campus throughout the weekend. The Flowers were booked to make their big-city debut for the underground, in an arts show in the Gallery Lounge. The band was listed in the program as The Paul Robertson Quartet.

Gallery Lounge: Don Garrett, Chloe Scott, Poetry Reading , Paul Robertson Jazz Band, Congress of Wonders, Ron Boise Musical Sculpture and Artwork of Dion Wright, Bob Branaman, Bruce Connor and Karen Koslow

Unfortunately, things did not go well. Zonker, befitting his Prankster identity, insisted that all members of The Flowers drop acid before the show. Now, the band members, being jazz musicians, were hardly innocents. Still, the LSD was pretty potent, and Bob Neloms had a poor reaction, finding himself effectively frozen in place. Although Neloms eventually came down with no ill effects, the Flowers did not play that night, so their chance to get known on the underground San Francisco circuit was wasted.

During the downtime, however, Gordon Stevens went to the Pranksters bus and ended up talking with Neal Cassady, who was monitoring it. The Pranksters were about to take a bus trip to New York, and Cassady told Stevens that Kesey wanted two bass players on the trip, both Stevens and Phil Lesh. In reality, the Grateful Dead were just about to take off, so Phil of course wasn't going to New York. Stevens at least contemplated it, but of course when he got home and his wife pointed out that they had kids at home, that was the end of that idea. In any case, Kesey was soon in jail for his pot bust.

Fall '66 The Barn, Scotts Valley, CA: Del Fis/The Flowers
One of the legendary Bay Area hippie enclaves was.a mysterious building called The Barn, in the little hamlet of Scotts Valley, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I am pretty much the only person I know of who has done any research on The Barn. My first, simple version of The Barn saga can be seen here, but I have a lot more information now, but a revision will take some time.

The Barn was run by one Leon Tabory, a psychologist who had worked with Neal Cassady. The Barn was a converted dairy barn, with the upper story converted into a miniature psychedelic ballroom, with colorful murals and a light show. In Fall of 1966, there were so few genuine underground gigs that many cool bands played there, since there were so few other places to play. Scotts Valley, though nestled in the mountains, was just a few minutes from downtown San Jose and about 45 minutes from Fremont and Hayward. Lots of teenagers whose parents wouldn't have allowed them to go the Fillmore in San Francisco were perfectly OK with a visit to nearby Scotts Valley. Little did they know.

Does this cryptical ad for The Barn in the September 2, 1966 Santa Cruz Sentinel indicate The Flowers? Barn owner Leon Tabory had good reason to be vague about what was really happening
Actual performance dates at The Barn can be hard to come by. Tabory was constantly battling the county, so the advertisements in the Santa Cruz Sentinel tread lightly on the subject of which noisy electric band was really playing. The Barn was a true underground scene, however. The Kesey "Furthur" bus was parked out back, and all the local underground--hippies, Pranksters, beatniks, pot dealers and bikers--all hung out in peace there on weekends. Gordon Stevens recalls playing The Barn at least once (with the Del Fis, whomever they may have been). Tabory liked The Flowers, because they played jazz and didn't have vocals, different than almost all the young guitar bands.

Winter '67: The Vault, Sunnyvale
Terry Otis was a fine drummer, but he was basically a jazzer. Otis left The Flowers, and he went on to play some good jazz in the East Side San Jose scene, with guys like Napoleon Murphy Brock (later in The Mothers of Invention) and organist Clifford Coulter.

To replace Otis, The Flowers got drummer Buddy Barnhill. Barnill (1938-2011) had been born in nearby Los Gatos. Barnhill was well-known to the band members, and in fact Neloms, Stevens and Barnhill had played a regular trio gig together in Downtown Palo Alto. Barnhill was more versatile than Otis, and comfortable with the rock beat.

In early 1967, The Flowers had a regular gig at a place called The Vault, a converted bank in downtown Sunnyvale (I had thought that The Vault was the former Sunnyvale Whisky A-Go-Go at Washington and Murphy, but the timeline is wrong). At The Vault, the Flowers added a few songs with vocals. Paul Robertson wrote some songs, and Barnhill's wife (the former Louise DeLucchi) was a fine Bossa Nova style singer, so she sang a few numbers as well.

When The Poppycock opened in downtown Palo Alto in April '67, Stevens recalled his weekly trio gig with Neloms and Barnhill at a place called The Tangent, at 117 University. It was at the Western end of downtown, accessible to all the downtown beatniks, but in range of both the train station and Stanford students. University Avenue had seemed like a pretty amenable location, and the Poppycock was larger than The Tangent, and just a few doors away. The band members told Paul Robertson it was worth a try.

An ad in the April 21, 1967 Stanford Daily for the opening of The Poppycock, a Fish 'N' Chips joint that also presented music. It was Palo Alto's primarry rock club from 1967-1969. The Flowers (later Solid State) were effectively the house band throughout 1967, playing more weekends than not.

Downtown Palo Alto and The Poppyock: 1967
Palo Alto, California, is only a town of about 60,000, about 35 miles South of San Francisco, and yet it looms large in the world, far out of proportion to its modest size. Palo Alto residents, like the residents of most small towns, think the world revolves around itself.

Palo Alto, by its own accounting, played a big part in 60s psychedelic rock and roll. The history of the Fillmore and The Avalon always begins with Ken Kesey at Stanford, and the parties and acid tests that followed. Of course, Kesey's cottage was really next door in Menlo Park, but that sort of detail never interfered with a Palo Alto story. At the same time, Jerry Garcia and other bohemians were hanging out in downtown Palo Alto, even if they often lived in Menlo Park themselves. Certainly, Jerry Garcia started playing live in Stanford and Palo Alto, and he took acid for the first time in Palo Alto, and by the end of 1965 Garcia was the lead guitarist in an electric blues band. The Warlocks--who debuted themselves in Menlo Park--became the Grateful Dead, and the house band of The Merry Pranksters, and Palo Alto's place in the rock revolution was secure.

In the 1950s, Palo Alto had a thriving downtown. Palo Alto had been founded by the railroad magnates Leland Stanford and Timothy Hopkins as the town adjacent to the new Stanford University. Stanford opened in 1892, but the foundation of Palo Alto dated back to 1875. A condition of Palo Alto's formation was that there were no bars downtown. After Prohibition ended, Palo Alto relaxed slightly, and allowed beer and wine to be served at restaurants. Palo Alto residents, however, liked having no bars, and there were still no bars in the 1960s. At the same time, the revolutionary Stanford Shopping Center had opened in 1955, and wiped out many of the downtown Palo Alto business. So downtown Palo Alto was empty, yet had no bars. 

By the early 60s, dowtown Palo Alto was pretty sleepy, and there was plenty of cheap housing for local bohemian types like Jerry Garcia and his friends. There had been a little folk scene at The Tangent because the bohemians lived cheaply downtown, while Stanford students were still near enough to provide an audience. Palo Alto, though dull, was tolerant, and let the little scene grow on its own.

By 1967, folk fans were ready to plug in. There were no bars in downtown Palo Alto, but restaurants could serve beer and wine. The Poppycock, near enough to campus but still downtown, was a Fish "n" Chips shop--this was "foreign cuisine" in 1967, I kid you not--that served beer. They had a take-out counter, and a bigger room in back for music. There weren't a lot of working bands in the South Bay yet that played original music, so The Flowers got booked almost every weekend at The Poppyock when it initially opened.



The corner of University Avenue and High Street in downtown Palo Alto, as it appeared in 2018 (looking East towards downtown)
April 14-15, 1967  The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: San Francisco Mime Troupe/The Flowers
April 20, 1967 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: The Flowers
April 21-22, 1967 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: San Francisco Mime Troupe/The Flowers

Palo Alto's first rock club had been  a place called The Big Beat, way south of downtown. It is infamous as the site of the Palo Alto Acid Test on December 18, 1965, just prior to its opening. The Acid Test, aside, the club featured bands playing covers, and appealed to factory workers in the South Bay. The second rock club was The Poppycock, which opened on April 14, 1967. It was downtown, near the Stanford campus, at the corner of University Avenue and High Street (hard to make this up). I have written in great detail about the history of The Poppycock.

The first band to play the  Poppycock was The Flowers. They had played on opening weekend after the Mime Troupe, an on Thursday, April 20, they were the only act. 

April 27-29, 1967: The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: The Flowers
May 4-6,1967 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA The Flowers
May 11-13, 1967 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: The Flowers

I have listed every booking of The Flowers that I have been able to find. In fact, from April through June 1967, The Flowers probably played The Poppyock just about every weekend, but I am only including those were there has been concrete evidence. Generally, The Flowers held down the Thursday to Saturday slot, starting at 9:00pm with admission for 50 cents or a dollar. The Flowers seemed to have been the only act, although there is a report that The Standells (an LA band famous for the hit "Dirty Water") played on Thursday, April 27.

Gordon Stevens sent along an excellently recorded live set from the Poppycock right around this period. The Flowers play some straight-ahead jazz with a firmer beat than most jazzers of that era. By this time, Stevens had switched to a Fender Precision bass, as the Hofner had been too light in his hands. The Precision (as opposed to a Fender Jazz), combined with the Hammond, gave The Flowers a rockish sound, even though they were pretty much playing modern jazz. When they improvised, the band veered more towards a loose, rock sound rather than an avant-garde jazz sound, so they were danceable. In the set, they play some original material, a few with rock vocals (sung by Robertson), a jazzed-up pop single ("Sunny"). For the last number, Gordon Stevens switches to his custom-built electric viola, and plays an uptempo version of the Beatles "Norwegian Wood," complete with an echoplex box.

May 14, 1967 El Camino Park, Palo Alto, CA MPFU Be-In (local bands)
Have you ever wondered where the cliche started of replacing "Intro To English Lit" with "Underwater Basket Weaving?" It started in Palo Alto, because Palo Alto likes to start things. The Mid-Peninsula Free University (MPFU), or "Free You," was a loose affiliation of young Stanford professors and learned drop-outs who wanted things to be different. This was somehow connected to a Stanford group called "The Experiment." MPFU published a catalog of unique classes given in people's homes or community centers, offering instruction in all sorts of things. The Free You story is too long and too Palo Alto to go into here, but Palo Alto always documents itself, so you can read all about it.

In order to raise money for itself, the Free You decide to have a "Be-In," rather than a benefit concert. They held a free concert with local bands--I have never been able to find out who they were, although I suspected the Flowers were there--at El Camino Park in Palo Alto. El Camino Park was a grassy athletic field across from both The Stanford Shopping Center and ‘El Palo Alto’ (the tall tree that gave the city its name). The Park (at 100 El Camino Real) was at the intersection of Palo Alto Avenue, Alma Street and El Camino Real at the Palo Alto/Menlo Park border, and within easy walking distance of downtown. It is Palo Alto’s oldest park, first open in 1914.

After the initial “Human Be-In” in Golden Gate Park (on Jan 14 '67), The Diggers, the Grateful Dead and other like-minded souls were holding Be-Ins in the Bay Area and around the continent. There were Be-Ins (or similar events) in Los Angeles (Griffith Park), New York (Tompkins Square) and Vancouver (Stanley Park), for example, and around the Bay Area in Berkeley (Provo Park), San Jose (10th and Alma) and finally Palo Alto. The Palo Alto event capped a brief era that had begun only a half-mile away at Perry Lane. While Palo Alto’s leading hippies were migrating North to San Francisco or West to the Santa Cruz Mountains, the scene’s beginnings were still present. Palo Alto, while unhip, was a tolerant town and seemed perfectly willing to allow revelry to take place in a city park on a weekend afternoon. It went so well, Free You decided to have another one six weeks later.

I have never been able to find out who actually performed at the first Be-In, but I was 100% confident that The Flowers were one of the bands, and Gordon Stevens confirmed it.

May 19-21, 1967 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: The Flowers
May 26-28, 1967 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: The Flowers
Paul Robertson had always run the business side of the band, but according to Stevens, when the Flowers were regulars at The Poppycock, they actually started to make some money. Throughout this whole period, Stevens, Neloms and Buddy Barnhill played other jazz gigs, including a regular trio booking for a Sunday brunch show in Santa Cruz (across the street from the Cocoanut Grove). Palo Alto was more happening, however, and Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady would often visit The Poppycock.

In Spring '67, The Flowers went into Columbus Studios to record a demo. Columbus Studios was owned by Frank Werber, who had managed the Kingston Trio. The studio was in the uniquely shaped "Flatiron" building, at 916 Kearny (at Columbus and Jackson) in downtown San Francisco. The Flowers recorded a 9-track demo. According to Stevens, his Hagstrom electric bass was a little out of tune, and Paul Robertson got a little sharp on occasion, so the tracks weren't perfect. Most of the tracks were jazz instrumentals, but there were a few rockish songs with vocals. Still, they didn't get any bites from record companies.




June 3-4 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Doors/Miller Blues Band/The Flowers
Gordon Stevens recalls playing the Avalon Ballroom and opening for The Doors. I have only been able to triangulate the date, but it appears to be June 3-4, 1967, third on the bill beneath the Steve Miller Blues Band. The Flowers were not on the poster (Victor Moscoso's FD-64, above), but the Avalon almost always had opening acts who were not "on the poster" (for a discussion of this murky subject, see here).

The Flowers got the Avalon booking because Ken Kesey had called Chet Helms, and Chet basically took Kesey's recommendation. Stevens recalls their roadie parking their truck behind the Avalon, and the whole band going for a meal. When they returned, a bunch of their gear had been stolen, including Stevens' electric viola, electric mandolin, Fender bass and Fender PA system. Since Stevens' family owned a music store, the equipment was soon replaced.



July 2, 1967 El Camino Park, Palo Alto, CA: Mary Poppins Umbrella Festival and Be-In
Grateful Dead/ /Anonymous Artists of America/New Delhi River Band/Solid State/Good Word/
others
Since the network news had covered the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park back in January, the music industry caught the wave, and it all led to the Monterey Pop Festival on the weekend of June 16-18, 1967. All of the San Francisco bands, with only the barest of record sales, if that, were high profile guests with hip acts from London, Los Angeles and New York. Attendance at the Monterey Fairgrounds was somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000, far more than anyone had anticipated. After Monterey Pop ended, the Dead's crew cheerily absconded with the rented Fender amps. According to Rock Scully and a few others, they used the amps to put on free concerts for a short while. The July 2, 1967 Palo Alto Be-In was clearly one of these events. After a while, Scully contacted Fender and told them in which warehouse their borrowed amps were located, and invited them to pick them up. Scully thoughtfully added, "if you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair."

Solid State at the Palo Alto Be-In in El Camino Park on July 2, 1967. [L-R], Robertson (alto), Buddy Barnhill (dr) and Bob Neloms (organ). Gordon Stevens (bs) took the photo.
From the article in the Stanford Daily, we can see that The Flowers were by now using the name Solid State. According to Stevens, Ken Kesey had suggested that the band drop the name "Flowers," as it was passe: "I'm getting tired of this hippy-dippy shit." Kesey was intrigued by the technology of the new portable Fender amplifiers, so he suggested the name "Solid State." Thus The Flowers changed their name, probably in the nick of time.

My father, not interested in rock music per se, but having the foresight to recognize cultural touchstones when they occurred in his town, took the whole family to the Palo Alto Be-In—I was nine years old. I mainly recall Bill Kreutzmann’s psychedelically painted drum set, and my younger sister getting her face painted by nice hippie girls. My older sister recalls the Dead playing “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” (which is how that song made it into the Deadbase list). So it's possible that I even saw Solid State, though not necessarily likely.

A poster for the Fantasy Fayre Music Festival, held at the Devonshire Downs horse track on July 15-16, 1967. It exclusively featured underground hippie bands from both Northern and Southern California. A few were wellknown, like Jefferson Airplane and The Doors, but many were unrecorded or unsigned.
July 15-16, 1967:  Devonshire Meadows Raceway, Cal State Northridge, Northridge, CA  Fantasy Fayre and Magic Music Festival
Saturday, July 15 posted running order (10:00am-8:00pm): Second Coming/Kaleidoscope/Whirling Dervishes/Doors/Solid State/Iron Butterfly/Grass Roots/New Delhi River Band/Thorinshield/Kaliedoscope/Solid State/The Factory/[unknown]/The Groupies
Sunday, July 16 posted running order (10:00am-8:00pm): Solid Sate/Humane Society/Sunshine Company/Butterfield Blues Band/Country Joe And The Fish/Heather Stones/New Delhi River Band/ Jefferson Airplane/Thorinshield/Sunshine Company/Merry Go Round/Canned Heat
The "Fantasy Fayre" music festival at the Devonshire Downs racetrack was one of the first to have psychedelic "underground" bands, certainly the first in Southern California. The Monterey Pop Festival (and its Marin County predecessor, Magic Mountain), had only been the months before. All sorts of California hippie bands without record contracts played the Festival.
A sign at the Fantasy Fayre Muisc Festvial at Devonshire Downs, showing the actual running order of the bands. Solid State was scheduled for both days (Saturday and Sunday July 15-16, 1967)

Solid State, per the running order posted above, was scheduled to perform on both days. According to Gordon Stevens, the schedule on Saturday was adjusted so that Solid State could come on before The Doors, rather than after. Jim Morrison, apparently, had been "up all night" and needed to rest. The Doors also borrowed some equipment from Solid State, rather surprising for a hit band.

The members of Solid State at Devonshire Downs on the weekend of July 15-16, 1967

Paul Robertson had been unable to put a record deal together, and Bob Neloms was getting restless. He left the band, returning to Detroit. Ultimately, Neloms moved on to Manhattan, living near the Village Vanguard and continuing his jazz career.

To replace him, the band signed up pianist Don Alberts to play Farfisa organ. Alberts, another veteran Bay Area jazzman, had been in trio with Stevens and Barnhill that had played all over the Bay Area, including San Francisco, San Jose and the San Pablo Avenue strip in the East Bay.

July 28-29, 1967 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Solid State
(formerly The Flowers)
Although I haven't found many bookings for Solid State, indirect evidence suggests they played The Poppycock for many of the weekends in the Summer and early Fall of 1967. The Poppycock did not advertise much, and the San Francisco papers rarely listed Poppycock bookings, so I don't really know who played there. I do suspect there were few out-of-town acts--they would have been advertised or noted--and there weren't really many local bands at this point, either. The Poppycock did point out in the Stanford Daily  (July 28 '67) that The Flowers had changed their name to Solid State.

October 1, 1967 El Camino Park, Palo Alto, CA: Steve Miller Band/Blue Cheer/New Delhi River Band/Solid State/Anonymous Artists of America/Congress of Wonders MPFU Be-In
Solid State definitely played the third Palo Alto Be-In of 1967 (it's mentioned in Don Alberts' novel, below).  This edition of the Steve Miller Band featured the classic lineup with Boz Scaggs, although their first album (Children Of The Future) was still almost a year from release. The New Delhi River Band, meanwhile, after early success, was starting to lose momentum. The NDRB had a following in the South Bay, but The Barn, their home base, had closed, and the group had not broken into the more lucrative San Francisco scene. Blue Cheer had formed relatively recently, and while their first album was a long way away, their demo was getting played on KMPX-fm. Congress Of Wonders was a popular hippie comedy troupe.
The Poppycock ad in the Stanford Daily for September 25, 1967
October 4, 6-7 1967 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Solid State
The Poppycock mostly stopped advertising in the Stanford Daily after the Spring '67 quarter, so my information about Poppycock shows is very scarce. For the first Stanford Daily issue of the Fall '67 quarter, however, The Poppycock had a relatively big display ad in the paper. When there weren't touring acts, Solid State was holding down the weekend. That suggests to me that Solid State still played the Poppycock regularly, but possibly not with the frequency of the Spring. The rock market in the Bay Area (and indeed the world) was exploding, and rock fans wanted to see something new and different each weekend, rather than just the same old house band.

A few Bay Area clubs that featured original rock, along with some blues and folk, was starting to surface. There was The Matrix in San Francisco, along with Mandrakes's and the New Orleans House in Berkeley. Slowly, the Poppycock would become a South Bay stop on the local circuit. The best bands in each of the counties would play the other clubs, and start to develop a name. In turn they would get the chance to open at the Fillmore or the Avalon. Solid State had opened at The Avalon (see above), but they never made the club circuit around the Bay Area.

Paul Robertson and the band took one more shot at a record contract. The quartet recorded at a studio on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood (Stevens no longer knows which one), and even stayed at the infamous Tropicana Motor Inn, owned by Sandy Koufax. They recorded about an album's worth of material. Some weeks later, Robertson hooked Gordon Stevens up with the hip son of a famous talent agent (Stevens no longer recalls the name), woi  took Stevens around the Hollywood record companies, searching for a deal. Stevens recalls puttin on a turtleneck and borrowing a Corvette to look cool.

Stevens recalls talking to staff at A&M Records, Capitol, MGM and Elektra. At A&M, Stevens recalls hanging out in the waiting room with Hugh Masakela and his band. The A&M guy liked the recordings, and said he would give it to Herb Alpert (Herb was the "A"--"M" was Jerry Moss) for the weekend. When Stevens called back on Monday, Alpert apparently complained that the sax was out-of-tune (not noticing Stevens out-of-tune Hagstrom bss). Capitol wasn't interested, and while the Elektra guys were nice, and one guy there liked it, they weren't going to sign Solid State.

The guys at MGM Records were pretty interested, however. A few days after arrival, MGM offered the band a $5000 retainer. A senior manager's approval was required, however, and he wasn't immediately available. It was a Tuesday, though, and Stevens had to return to the Bay Area because the group had gigs. Stevens recalls going back to Don Alberts' house, and waiting all week. No one from the record company called. Finally, the MGM guy called and said the whole thing was off. They had never cashed the check, so they didn't have to return any money, but that popped the air in the bubble.

A flyer for The Poppycock in February 1968, advertising The Flowers on Feb 21. The band was dormant, but hadn't really broken up. By this time, they usually used the name Paul Robertson Quartet.

February 21, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Flowers
Once the record deal fell through in late '67 the band was pretty much finished. In fact, however, in the manner of jazz bands, they didn't "break up." The band continued to gig off and on through late '69, usually performing as the Paul Robertson Quartet. But the dream of recording as a psychedelic jazz band had passed them by

On Wednesday, February 21, 1968 The Flowers were booked again at The Poppycock. I think in this case, they were using their best known name. There was a circuit around the Bay Area now for bands playing original rock music, but The Flowers weren't part of it, having arrived too early at The Fair.

Paul Robertson's second album on Palo Alto Records, 1982's Old Friends, New Friends
Afterwards
Paul Robertson (1936-93) had a very successful legal career, mainly in finance. He also contributed to legal practice on Search and Seizure, since he had kept so many people out of jail. He still found time to record. He released two album on Palo Alto Records, 1980s The Song Is You, and 1982s Old Friends New Friends. His supporting cast on the records included Mike Melvoin, Tom Harrell and Eddie Marshall.
Bobby Neloms 1982 album Pretty Music, on India Navigation Records
Bob Neloms (1942-2020) returned to Detroit, and then headed East to Boston and New York. For a while he taught at the Berklee School of Music. Later he moved to Manhattan, living near the Village Vanguard. Neloms played with The Roy Haynes Quartet (1974-76), The Charles Mingus Band  on Three Or Four Shades Of Blue, and the Dannie Richmond Quintet (1979-82), among others. Neloms released the album Pretty Music in 1982.

Bob Neloms passed away on July 28, 2020. Neloms' obituary was published in the New York Times.

Bob Neloms at the piano in the 1980s (photo c) and courtesy of Rick Luftglass)
 
update: Neloms' friend Rick Luftglass passed along a more detailed appreciation of Neloms musical career, as well as a photo (above):
Robert James (Bob) Neloms, 78, who died on July 28, 2020, was a jazz pianist, composer, arranger and educator.

The world has lost a musical treasure. Best known for his tenure with Charles Mingus in the late 1970s, he was also the original Motown Records staff pianist from 1961 to 1963 and helped create the popular Motown sound enjoyed by millions around the world. His May 1983 interview about his Motown years can be heard online at FreshAirArchive.org.

Born in Detroit, MI in 1942, he began formal piano instruction at the age of five, encouraged by house visitors such as Art Tatum and Coleman Hawkins. Aged 6, he and his adoptive parents moved to Eureka, CA where he graduated from Eureka High School, playing in country and western bands as a teenager.

Neloms won a Downbeat scholarship and studied at Berklee School of Music in Boston in 1959-60 before moving to Detroit, where at 18 he joined the Choker Campbell band, which backed such entertainers as Aretha Franklin and George Kirby. Berry Gordy hired the Campbell band intact for Motown Records for studio recordings and road tours with the Motortown Revue.

After his time with Motown Records, Neloms moved to California, where he recorded his first album, Bobby Neloms, at the age of 21, played jazz locally, and formed the pioneering jazz-rock fusion groups, The Flowers and Solid State, in San Francisco. He played with up and coming musicians including Sly Stone and Larry Graham, was the musical director for the Harlem Clowns basketball team in 1963 and musical director for actor Ted Ross from 1964-78.

Returning to Boston in 1968, he gained a reputation as a talented and versatile sideman. Moving to New York City in 1973, he began a long succession of engagements with such jazz innovators as Roy Haynes, Freddie Waits, Pharoah Sanders, Pepper Adams, Junior Cook, Bill Hardman and Clifford Jordan. In Mingus’ last band, he recorded with Mingus, Jack Walrath, Ricky Ford and Dannie Richmond on four albums and toured through over thirty countries. He was also a member of the All-Star Mingus Orchestra at the 25th Anniversary Newport Jazz Festival in 1978 in New York.

In the 1980s he continued to refine his piano playing solo at Burgundy and Kasper’s and in group contexts at the Tin Palace and other venues, and devoted considerable energies to composing, arranging and teaching. His 1982 solo piano album, Pretty Music, features all original songs except for one standard. He appeared as a sideman in recordings by Hamiet Bluiett, Ricky Ford, Lionel Hampton, Teruo Nakamura, James Newton, Dannie Richmond and on various Motown recordings with Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas and others.

Neloms’ work as an educator includes Artist-in-Residence at State University of New York – Binghamton Harpur Jazz Project, Manhattan Midtown Jazz School, United Cerebral Palsy Foundation as a music therapist, New England Conservatory of Music, Boston, Elma Lewis National School of Afro-American Art, Boston and private students from 1964 to the late 1980s.

He attended Berklee School of Music in 1959-60 and 1968-69; San Jose State College in 1966, Northeastern University, Boston in 1970, Manhattan College, 1974-76 (Dean’s List); and Baruch College, 1978. Up until 2017 he was still hoping to complete his B.A. and to resume a career on stage.

Bob’s good friend, critical care specialist, Dr. C. Simpkins, whom he met at Wally’s in Boston in the early 1970s while at Harvard Medical School, described Bob as follows:

“Bob was a charming and sincere person who was a natural-born teacher. He had a disarmingly playful sense of humor coupled with a brilliant musical spontaneity and drive. Following his complex emotional contours always had surprises with one constant to which he ferociously held. That constant was finding and speaking truth through music.” Bob had an essential influence in Dr. Simpkins writing of his book Coltrane: A Biography, teaching him many of the technical aspects of the music.

Jon Pareles, in the New York Times in 1985 described Neloms as “a thoroughly up-to-date player whose strong sense of history is underlined by a solid left hand….He can make a bass line strut or knock out oompahing stride patterns; he can also pile up angular modern chords or top a crescendo with a gospelly tremolo….His good humor and the volatility and ebullience of his playing are contagious.”

Predeceased by his mother, Nebba Best Kirk-Mial, and his adoptive parents Robert and Margaret Neloms, he is mourned and lovingly remembered by his wife of 35 years, Karen Hegge Neloms, and his children with his first wife - daughter GeMar Neloms and son Hillary Neloms .
 


Buddy Barnhill (1938-2011)
He was born on Dec. 1, 1938 and, like his father before him, graduated from Los Gatos High School, where he was in the marching band and orchestra. He was also in the choir at St. Mary’s Church. He married his high school sweetheart, Louise DeLucchi, and the two shared a love of music, Buddy as a professional drummer and Louise as a singer. They were married for 14 years and had two children, Scott and Cari.

Buddy spent his entire career as a musician, touring the United States and Canada and recording several albums. He played with such jazz greats as Toots Thielemans, Joe Sample, Al Jarreau, Wynton Marsalis and Freddie Hubbard and later toured with Don Ho. According to Louise, though, “his greatest highlight was playing gigs with his son Scott,” a professional saxophone player.


Don Alberts (1932-2018)
Don was raised in the Bay Area, started piano at age 10, and played the jazz venues of the ’60s. Don served in the armed forces and worked as a draftsman while starting a family. In the Portland, Oregon, jazz scene, Don played with Shorty Rogers and Bud Shank and hosted jazz radio. Returning to the Bay Area, Don issued ASCAP-awarded volumes of jazz compositions, recorded albums and gigged regularly at such venues as Pearl’s and the 7 Mile House, where his poetry was read to jazz accompaniment. Don also wrote fiction and a significant Bay Area jazz history book.

Alberts' 2009 history book was A Diary Of The Underdogs: Jazz in the 1960s in San Francisco, an impressionistic look at jazz in its context. More intriguing was Alberts' 2006 Roman A Clef novel,
The Rushing: Manbaby and The Crooked Road To The Big Time. The novel was significant for this blogger, at least, since prior to me it had just about the only googlable reference to The Flowers at The Poppycock.  It even listed the members of The Flowers (when Alberts was a member), without which I would not have gotten this far.

Gordon Stevens remained a professional jazz musician through 1975. Around 1971, he was also joined Moby Grape, since he was friend and minder to Skip Spence. Stevens played electric viola and mandolin on the 20 Granite Creek album. Stevens also worked in his family's music store. In 1994, Stevens turned the music store building into the Open Path Recording Studio, a business he ran until 2008. Stevens is still alive and well, and still living in San Jose.

The Flowers, later called Solid State, were one of the very first underground psychedelic rock bands in the Palo Alto area,  performing in 1966 and '67. Their few contemporaries were The Grateful Dead, the New Delhi River Band and The Anonymous Artists of America, only one of which is remembered today. Yet The Flowers were as wired to the Prankster underground as any of those groups, and need to take their place in psychedelic history.

135 University Avenue in Palo Alto, the former site of The Poppycock, at the corner of University and High, as it appeared in 2010


Sunday, July 26, 2020

Palo Alto Psychedelic Rock Shows, January-June 1969 (Palo Alto IV)


An intruiging, and likely prescient ad for a new Palo Alto rock venue, The Morgue. The ad was from the May 2, 1969 Stanford Daily. The venue did not last.

Palo Alto, California, is only a town of about 60,000, about 35 miles South of San Francisco, and yet it looms large in the world, far out of proportion to its modest size. Palo Alto residents, like the residents of most small towns, think the world revolves around itself. The principal difference between Palo Alto and other towns is its tendency to invent or encourage institutions that redound to the importance of Palo Alto--Stanford University, Hewlett-Packard, The Stanford Shopping Center, Acid Tests, The Grateful Dead, Mapquest and Google, for example, just to name a few. All of these institutions re-write history in Palo-centric ways that reaffirms the town's importance. Residents of neighboring communities find Palo Altans self absorbed and self-important, which we probably are, but our next innovation will just reconfigure the past in a way that justifies our own narrative. And so it was with psychedelic rock and roll in the 1960s.

Palo Alto, by its own accounting, played a big part in 60s psychedelic rock and roll. The history of the Fillmore and The Avalon always begins with Ken Kesey at Stanford, and the parties and acid tests that followed. Of course, Kesey's cottage was really next door in Menlo Park, but that sort of detail never interfered with a Palo Alto story. At the same time, Jerry Garcia and other bohemians were hanging out in downtown Palo Alto, even if they often lived in Menlo Park themselves. Certainly, Jerry Garcia started playing live in Stanford and Palo Alto, and he took acid for the first time in Palo Alto, and by the end of 1965 Garcia was the lead guitarist in an electric blues band. The Warlocks--who debuted themselves in Menlo Park--became the Grateful Dead, and the house band of The Merry Pranksters, and Palo Alto's place in the rock revolution was secure.

Yet Palo Alto, as ground zero for the consciousness expansion of rock music, has a rather scattered history of rock and roll events. While some of this had to do with economics, some of it had to do with the very peculiar circumstances of Palo Alto and Stanford, which both favored and discouraged any kind of rock and roll underground. But this peculiarity is perfectly Palo Alto--a story that applies to no other town, which is just how Palo Alto likes it. The story began with my previous post and the two most seminal events in Palo Alto rock history: August 31, 1965, the night the Beatles stayed at the Cabana Hotel in Palo Alto, and December 18, 1965, the Palo Alto Acid Test. I told the whole psychedelic rock history of 1966 Palo Alto, too, which is pretty interesting, but still pales in the shadow of 1965. The next post continued the story, reviewing the psychedelic rock history of Palo Alto in 1967.  and then 1968, when the action moved downtown. This post will look at shows in the first half of 1969, the high-water mark in downtown Palo Alto's rock history.

An ad for The Poppycock in downtown Palo Alto, from February 28, 1968

Downtown Palo Alto
By 1968, loud rock and roll had become more mainstream, at least in Northern California. Young people up and down the Peninsula wanted to see bands full of long-haired guitarists playing their own music. Palo Alto's downtown, having been gutted by the Stanford Shopping Center in the 1950s, started to add shops selling lava lamps and posters. There weren't any bars in Palo Alto yet--not until 1981--but The Poppycock sold beer, and that was enough. The locus of rock music in town had moved off the Stanford campus and over to the Poppycock.

The Poppycock was a Fish 'N' Chips shop at 135 University Avenue, on the corner of University and High Street (hard to make this up). It was open 7 days a week for take-out from 11am, and there was a big room for entertainment, if you were old enough to buy beer.The clearest picture of the Poppycock come from a book by writer Ed McClanahan, an associate of Ken Kesey’s. McClanahan was hired in to publish an underground newspaper, The Free You, associated with MidPeninsula Free University (of which more later). In his autobiography Famous People I Have Known, he writes about the Poppycock in 1968 and '69:
In the latter 1960s, on a corner of downtown Palo Alto scarcely a brickbat’s throw from the Stanford campus, there stood an aged, derelict, three-story brick office building, the first floor of which was occupied by a fish ‘n’ chips ‘n’ rock-and-roll establishment called The Poppycock (2003: University of Kentucky Press p.53).
McLanahan writes of renting office space on the second floor, just above the bandstand, for twenty five dollars a month from the “sweaty hatband gents” who took over an office building originally leased to lawyers and doctors and leased it instead to a younger and less savory bunch. Those familiar with the today’s genteel and pricey Palo Alto, a “hotbed of social rest” (to quote local writer Rob Morse), would hardly recognize McLanahan’s description of the corner in 1969.
Beneath my window, meanwhile, the beat went on day and night. The sidewalks swarmed with rock and roll riffraff, adolescent acidheads and swiftly aging speedsters, motorcycle madmen and wilted flower children, slightly unhinged outpatients from the nearby VA hospital, spare changers and affluent musicians and plainclothesmen and nouveau riche dealers, all the myriad varieties of California white trash…The Poppycock corner was where It was indisputably At in Palo Alto (pp. 53-54).

Cold Blood's self-titled debut album was released in mid-1969 on San Francisco Records, one of Bill Graham's labels (distributed by Atlantic)
Jan 3-4, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Cold Blood/Day Blindness (Friday-Saturday)
To the extent downtown Palo Alto had a nightlife district in the late 1960s, it was centered on the Western end of University Avenue, the part of town nearest to the Southern Pacific train tracks and the Stanford campus. There were no bars, prohibited by town ordnance, but restaurants could serve beer and wine. A few pizza and burger joints were open at night, and some of them had some entertainment. All of them were just off University Avenue, nearer to campus. The Poppycock was at 135 University, on the corner of High Street, just a block from the tracks. At the other end of the block, at 117 University, The Tangent was still there, where Jerry Garcia had started as a performer in 1963.
The other side of the block had Palo Alto's expresso coffee shop, and a theater (The Paris) that showed only foreign films, all very bohemian.

Only the Poppycock, however, had bands from out of town, and only the Poppycock was a true destnation for the rest of the hip Peninsula. In 1969, the Poppyock was managed by Roy Kelsey, and the booking and the light show was handled by John Darcy. Popular local bands, some even with albums, played weekends. Less well-known rock bands, and the occasional jazz and folk performers played weeknights. For this chronicle, I have only listed shows where I could find listings, and have refrained from guessing who filled in nights with no trace evidence.

For the first weekend of 1969, Friday and Saturday nights were headlined by Cold Blood. Cold Blood had evolved out of a Peninsula band called The New Invaders (and at one point, The Generation). Lead singer Lydia Pense (Woodside High School) and lead guitarist Larry Field were both from Redwood City. The New Invaders had been one of the first bands on the Peninsula to mix rock guitar with an R&B horn section. Lead singer Pense, though under 5 feet tall, could absolutely belt it out--she had won a talent contest for best singer at the 1965 Teenage Fair held in Redwood City.

Cold Blood had opened at Fillmore West for a few weekends in 1968. The first time had been August 23-25, 1968 (for Quicksilver and Spooky Tooth). Cold Blood was booked by Bill Graham's Millard Agency. The Millard Agency figured out that a band that had opened at Fillmore West had a lot of credibility out in the suburbs, and they did. While Cold Blood shared some horn players with Tower Of Power over the years, and is generally seen as an East Bay band (because of their sound), in fact they were a true Peninsula band.

Cold Blood was signed to Bill Graham's label, San Francisco Records (distributed by Atlantic). They would release their debut album in mid-1969, and got a lot of local FM play with their cover of Sam & Dave's "You Got Me Hummin'." Lydia Pense--no taller, but still sounding great--is still out there, bringing the soul.

Day Blindness were originally a trio from San Mateo, originally formed when the various members met at a Battle Of The Bands at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds in 1968. The group featured guitarist Gary Pihl, organist Felix Bria and drummer Dave Mitchell. They released one album on the obscure Studio 10 label. Gary Pihl later went on to play with Sammy Hagar (in 1977), and subsequently joined the group Boston.
   
January 10-11, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Notes From The Underground

(Friday-Saturday)
Notes From The Underground were on the verge of breaking up by this time. They were a Berkeley band, with an album on Vanguard, and they had played The Poppycock various times throughout 1968

In 2003, the Ace Of Cups finally released an album, a Big Beat Recordscompilation of live and studio tracks from the 1960s
January 17-19, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Ace Of Cups (Friday-Sunday)
The Ace Of Cups were an excellent band, and unique for the fact that they were the only Bay Area psychedelic band that hadall women members. They shared management with Quicksilver Messenger Service, and their manager (Ron Polte) dangled the popular band in front of record companies, waiting for a golden offer, a strategy that had worked with Quicksilver. However, for various reasons he missed the mark on Ace Of Cups, and they never recorded a studio album. More’s the pity, as the cd released a scant 36 years later of demos and live tracks revealed that the five women were excellent writers, singers and musicians (and just 15 years later, they released their first studio album!).

The Aces had played the Poppycock almost a year earlier (February 9-10,1968), and guitarist Denise Kaufman had actually gone to Castilleja High School in Palo Alto. Ace Of Cups had played around the Bay Area continuously, so in theory at least they would have had a better crowd by this time.

January 18, 1969  Memorial Auditorium, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA: Richie Havens/The Dillards (Saturday)
Stanford Universtiy had played a huge part in bringing pyschedelic rock shows to the Peninsula back in 1966, but the school rapidly got cold feet. Since the university had no financial motive to book bigger shows, Stanford facilities were almost never used for rock shows.

Nonetheless, Stanford seemed okay with "folk" acts, that at least appealed to the rock fans in the student body. Richie Havens was an acoustic performer with R&B and blues leanings, and the Dillards were a former bluegrass group who had sort of "gone electric, " in the wake of The Byrds. Their current album was Wheatstraw Suite, on Elektra. The Dillards still had the tempos and harmony of a bluegrass band, but the album had a rhythm section. I suspect, however, that live they were still mostly acoustic. By 1968, Doug Dillard had left, leaving Rodney Dillard manning the helm. Originals Dean Webb (mandolin) and Mitch Jayne (bass), were still on board, with Herb Pedersen (banjo) replacing Doug. I suspect that Oklahoma fiddler Byron Berline was touring with them as well. They would have killed it on stage.

Memorial Auditorium, known for generations as “MemAud,” was Stanford’s biggest indoor hall. It seated 1700 and had been built in 1937. It was mainly used for speakers and films.

An ad from the January 24, 1969 Stanford Daily for the Exit, at 3489 El Camino. The Meile [sic] Saunders trio was on the bill.
January 24-25, 1969 the Exit, Palo Alto, CA: Smoke/Merl Saunders Trio
By 1969, Palo Alto actually had a groovy little rock scene downtown. But it wasn't much of a jazz town. In the January 24, 1969 Stanford Daily there is an ad for an apparently new club called the Exit. There had been a juke joint over the county line in East Palo Alto called The Exit Inn, but I don't know if they played jazz. In any case, Exit is a typical sort of hipster club name, and may have had no connection to the East Palo Alto place. 3489 El Camino Real was way south of downtown, not far from a lengthy strip of motels. So there would have been plenty of potential patrons, but it wasn't any part of the downtown bohemian scene that had been pioneered by young folkies like Jerry Garcia.

Merl Saunders had grown up the Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, and teenage pal Johnny Mathis had been his singer when his high school band had played dances back in the early 50s. After a stint in the Air Force (1953-57), Saunders had become a professional musician, playing piano and Hammond organ. From the late 50s onwards, Saunders had toured organ lounges on the "Chitlin Circuit," worked in Manhattan and Las Vegas, and had returned to the Bay Area around 1967. He led a trio in local jazz clubs, mostly with guitarist Jimmy Daniels and drummer Eddie Moore. Saunders had released his first album, Soul Grooving, on Galaxy Records in 1968.

I haven't seen many more ads for the Exit, and I don't know if jazz still got played much in South Palo Alto. Saunders, of course, went on to join forces with Jerry Garcia a few years later. Smoke was a "Progressive Jazz" group, with a downtown residency at The Tangent (see Jan 26 '69 below).

January 24-25, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Sky Blue/Indian Head Band (Friday-Saturday)
Sky Blue were an interesting Berkeley band, who lived in a house on Warring Street, just above the UC campus. By this time they were a trio. Vic Smith was the guitarist and Anna Rizzo the drummer, both of whom sang. The bassist was Jack O'Hara, who ended up helping to found "Pub Rock" in England, but that's rather a long story.

The Indian Head Band had been an improvisational ‘Raga Rock’ group featuring lead guitarist Hal Wagenet and a trained opera singer (Mickey Mader) as lead vocalist. The group had a certain following, but when Wagenet joined It's A Beatiful Day shortly after this, Indian Head Band broke up.

An ad for The Tangent, at 117 University Avenue, from the January 24, 1969 Stanford Daily

January 26, 1969 The New Tangent, Palo Alto, CA: Smoke (Monday)
The Tangent, at 117 University Avenue, just two doors down from The Poppycock, has passed into Palo Alto and Grateful Dead legend as the little folk club where Jerry Garcia started his career as a performer in 1963. The Tangent was a deli/pizza parlor, and two restless young doctors took over a room on the third floor for a folk club on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, called The Top Of The Tangent. Not only Garcia, but Jorma Kaukonen, Janis Joplin and a host of future Fillmore regulars played there as well.  The music scene, however, even in Palo Alto, rapidly outgrew the Tangent.

Nonetheless, in 1969, The Tangent was still open, still serving pizza, sandwiches and beer, and still having performances. The main resident at the Tangent had been an improvisational comedy troupe called The Illegitmate Theater, but there were regular folk and jazz performaces, and even a little rock on weekends. Because The Tangent and The Poppycock were just two doors apart, it made that block a little more of a "scene."

The ad above, from the Stanford Daily of January 24, 1969, notes that 'Progressive Jazz "Smoke"' will be playing every Monday night. There had been jazz at the Tangent at least since 1965. This was appropriate, since in the early 60s, there had been a jazz club on that corner (Alma and University) called The Black Cat, a very early beatnik hangout. To the extent there was a jazz club in downtown Palo Alto--and really there wasn't--it was at The Tangent. I don't actually know anything else about Smoke save for these few ads. I don't know how long they played Monday nights, nor if anyone else took their place.

David Blue's second album was his 1968 album on Reprise, These 23 Days In September
January 31-Feb 1, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: David Blue
(Friday-Saturday)
Guitarist John Merrill (ex Ashes, Peanut Butter Conspiracy, Clear Light) recalls playing this weekend after a week at the Matrix. The band played the Matrix the week of January 14-18, so I am triangulating a bit, since a different band were booked at Poppycock (see above).  David Blue’s band featured Merrill on guitar, Ralph Shuckett on keyboards, Doug Lubahn on bass and Dallas Taylor on drums (all from Clear Light, and all later with many other credits). Of course, David Browne points out that Dallas Taylor was in Sag Harbor rehearsing with Crosby, Stills and Nash by this time, so it's just as likely that it was Clear Light's other drummer instead (Michael Ney).

David Blue (1941-82) had been an early 60s Greenwich Village folksinger, part of the crowd of young songwriters who hung out with Bob Dylan in those days. As a result, despite his talent, Blue’s career has always been overshadowed by the Dylan connection. Blue had released an album for Elektra in 1966, then recorded a more rock styled album that was never released, after which he switched to Reprise. In 1968 he recorded his first album for Reprise, These 23 Days In September. He was probably touring in support of that album. It is likely he was a solo performer, but it is at least possible that he was touring with rock band backing. Blue had played the Poppycock the previous year (Sep 24-30 '68), so he must have done well enough that time to get a return booking.

Although Blue never achieved significant success as a performer, quite a few of his songs were recorded by other artists. He is most well known for the Eagles cover of his song “Outlaw Man.”

The Loading Zone were based out of this house in West Oakland
February 7-9, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Loading Zone
(Friday-Sunday)
The Loading Zone, while obscure, are a uniquely important group in Bay Area music history. The Zone had a singly dizzying history. Loading Zone had initially been formed out of the ashes of a Berkeley group called The Marbles (who played the first Family Dog Longshoreman’s Hall Dance on October 16, 1965). The two guitarists from The Marbles then joined with organist/vocalist Paul Fauerso (formerly of Oakland’s Tom Paul trio, a jazz combo) and played a hitherto unheard mixture of psychedelic blues and funky R&B.

Loading Zone were based out of Oakland (on East 14th Street), and while they played the original Trips Festival and many dates at the Fillmore and Avalon, they also played many soul clubs in the East Bay. They added horns, and after some false starts, a powerhouse vocalist named Linda Tillery, and released an underrehearsed album on RCA in 1968. The band also had a brief national tour, and played all the clubs in the Bay Area. The Zone had played the Poppycock in December '68.

The Loading Zone thus laid the blueprint for the progressive soul music of Bay Area bands like Sly and The Family Stone and Tower of Power. Indeed, their roadie, high school student Steve Kupka, played baritone sax with the band’s horn section, when there was room on stage and he was allowed in the club. At one such gig, he met a Fremont band called The Motowns, and they joined forces to create Tower Of Power.

By early 1969, however, lead singer Linda Tillery had been tempted to go solo by Columbia. Her Al Kooper-produced Sweet Linda Devine would be released in mid-69 (see July 11-12 below) Loading Zone soldiered on, with Paul Fauerso taking over all the vocal duties.

February 13-15, 1969: The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Devil’s Kitchen/Immaculate Contraption
(Thursday-Saturday)
Devil's Kitchen was a band from Carbondale, IL, who had moved to San Francisco in Spring 1968. They  became the "house band" at The Family Dog, opening many of the shows there, even ones for which they did not appear on the bill. They also played other clubs around the Bay Area. The band members were guitarist Robbie Stokes, keyboardist/vocalist Brett Champlin, bassist Bob Laughton and drummer Steve Sweigart. While Stokes remained in the Bay Area for a dozen years or so, the rest of the band members ultimately returned to the Midwest later in 1970. Ironically, a recording of the group's performance at The Family Dog on March 22, 1970, promulgated by Wolfgang's Vault, roused the band back to life, and that is how I got in touch with them (Brett Champlin responded very kindly to emails, and to answer the obvious question, he is a 4th cousin of Bill Champlin but they had not met prior to the band arriving in SF).

Immaculate Contraption is unknown to me, although I have seen their name on various bills. Most intriguingly, the SF Examiner ad says "After Hours show at 2am Friday/Saturday." That would have been the most un-Palo Alto thing ever. After hours shows, generally speaking, were for musicians and their ne'er do well friends. Officially, bars were closed in California at 2am, but-ha ha--I'll bet you could get a drink. Now, after hours jams had been regular things in out-of-the-way venues (like The Ark, a grounded ferryboat in Saualito), or real inner-city joints (like the legendary jams at Jimbo's Bop City in the Filmore). But in Palo Alto? This was everything Palo Alto didn't want. Even the most progressive pro-Communist Palo Alto citizens didn't want anything happening after 2am on University Avenue.It's no surprise that these ads disappeared after a little while.

February 16, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Goldenrod (Sunday)
February 17, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Little John
(Monday-audition)
February 18-19, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Ole Davis (Tuesday-Wednesday)
To make this chronicle readable, I have only noted events where I can find a confirmed ad or booking. For the most part, only weekend shows at The Poppycock were advertised in the Stanford Daily or listed in the SF Examiner or Chronicle, or the Berkeley Barb. Now and then, probably to fill space, weeknight listings were noted. It's safe to assume that the Poppycock was open every night, if just for Fish "N' Chips--remember in 1969 Palo Alto, Fish "N' Chips counted as ethnic food (they even had a downtown competitor, the local chain H. Salt)--but there was almost certainly some kind of entertainment in the "big room" every night. Most weeknights, it was probalby local bands, or bands from around the Bay Area trying out. Don't forget, for an aspiring band in 1969, making a listenable tape cost real money, and it was easier to just lug your gear to a club and play a set for free.

For this weekend, Goldenrod is completely unknown to me, which makes them super-obscure. Little John is familiar to me from East Bay clubs, although I don't know anything else about them. It seems like a band from one county looking for a gig out of their zone. Old Davis (listed here as Ole Davis) were a San Mateo band who were very popular in the South Bay. They had been playing around since at least early '68. In 1970, future Santana guitarist Neal Schon (still a teenager) would become a member. I don't know if Old Davis played originals or just covers.

February 20-22, 1969  The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: AB Skhy/Crowfoot (Thursday-Saturday)
AB Skhy were a progressive blues group from Milwaukee, WI where they had been known as The New Blues, and featured organist Howard Wales.  In mid-1968, they moved to the Bay Area from Wisconsin, and Wales joined them in San Francisco. AB Skhy had played a weeknight slot at the Poppycock a few months earlier (Dec 16-18, 1968), and now they were returing for the weekend, a marker for how the process was supposed to work.

An FM broadcast of AB Skhy playing at the Avalon Ballroom around this time (actually March 30 '69) has survived. While they play standard B.B. King style blues material, the four-piece group leans heavily on the remarkable improvisations of Wales’s organ. Later in 1969, the band released their first album on MGM Records (a second album, without Wales, was released in 1970).

The band Crowfoot is unfamiliar to me. There was a Bay Area band called Crowfoot, who released albums on Paramount (1970) and ABC (1971), some of whose members were in a later version of AB Skhy (guitarists Sam McCue and Russ DaShiel, and drummer Rick Jaeger). The connection between AB Skhy and Crowfoot seems to be manager Ken Adamany, (from Janesville, WI) a former musician who booked a lot of 60s rock bands and musicians. Some of the members of Crowfoot ended up in later versions of AB Skhy.

February 24, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Daily Flash/Spontaneous Folk (Tuesday)
There was a popular Seattle group called The Daily Flash, but they had been broken up for some time (since late 1967). I am assuming this was a different group. Maybe it was some sort of temporary reunion. Spontaneous Folk are unknown to me.

February 28-March 1, 1969  The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Sons of Champlin/Boogie (Friday-Saturday)
The Sons of Champlin were a Marin County band that were booked by West Pole (Quicksilver’s management team, who also booked Ace Of Cups, Freedom Highway and others). The genesis of the group was a Mt. Tamalpais High School R&B group called The Opposite Six.  The group, very successful on the ‘teen’ dance circuit, played tight rhythm and blues.  Lead singer Bill Champlin aspired to sing like James Brown or Lou Rawls rather than like Bob Dylan. When the draft decimated the group, it reformed at the College Of Marin in 1966. However, the Dean of Students objected to their name—The Master Beats—and on a whim they changed their name to The Sons of Father Champlin.

The Sons of Champlin played a kind of soulful rock with Beatles-like harmonies, and were discovered at the Fillmore and signed by local entrepreneur Frank Werber, who had produced the Kingston Trio. From late 1966 they mostly recorded and played to a teenage audiences.  While a single (“Sing Me A Rainbow”) had some play on local station KFRC-am, the expanding consciousness of the group was at odds with Werber’s pop-oriented production. In mid-1967, by mutual agreement, the group struck out on their own. The Big Beat cd Fat City is a wonderful representation of this mostly unreleased period.

By early 1968 the Sons had a horn section and were playing their unique brand of soul-and-jazz-inspired psychedelia. Unlike many other rock bands that featured ex-folkies still learning to play electric, the Sons were all superb musicians who could play many instruments.  Lead singer Champlin was a fine organist and guitarist, Terry Haggerty was one of the best lead guitarists in the Bay Area, and newly arrived (since late 67) Geoff Palmer played piano, vibes, saxophone and pretty much everything else spectacularly well. By early 1969, the group had been signed to Capitol, and their first album, a self-titled double album, came out around May of 1969. According to road manager Charlie Kelly, the double lp consisted of most of their live set (save for the odd cover).

Boogie was a band that rehearsed at the Sausalito Heliport along with The Sons. They were a trio, featuring guitarist Barry Bastian, bassist John Barrett and drummer John “Fuzzy” Oxendine. Boogie broke up soon after this, as Oxendine briefly joined The Sons as a second drummer, and then he and Barrett started The Rhythm Dukes with Jerry Miller of Moby Grape.

March 25, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Old Davis (Tuesday)
March 26,1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Mother Blue
(Wednesday)
April 1-3, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Mother Blue/Metropolitan Sound
(Tuesday-Thursday)
Mother Blue is unknown to me. Metropolitan Sound were four African-American teenagers from Alameda County who played rock in a sort of Hendrix-style.

I don't have a listing for the weekend of March 27-28.

The Loading Zone's debut lp had been released by RCA in 1968. By early '69, however, lead singer Linda Tillery had already left the band to go solo.
April 4-5, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: The Loading Zone (Friday-Saturday)
The Loading Zone returned, a sign that they had done well two months earlier.

April 6, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Metropolitan Sound Company (Sunday)
April 7, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Auditions
(Monday)

April 8-10, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Joy of Cooking (Tuesday-Thursday)
The Joy of Cooking had formed as a duo in Berkeley called Gourmet’s Delight, featuring guitarist Terry Garthwaite and pianist Toni Brown.  Garthwaite was a veteran of the Berkeley folk and bluegrass scene, and Brown was an artist as well as a musician.  The group had expanded to include conga player Ron Wilson, bassist David Garthwaite (Terry’s brother) and drummer Fritz Kasten. They shared management with Country Joe and The Fish.

Joy of Cooking was a significant group on the Berkeley scene, because both Garthwaite and Brown were accomplished musicians. Although both were excellent singers as well, Joy of Cooking featured the same kind of lengthy jamming popular at the time, rather than short and sensitive neo-folk songs that were more typical of women singers of the era.  The group were ultimately signed to Capitol Records and released their first of three Capitol albums in 1971.

Joy Of Cooking (named after a then-popular cookbook) had built a following by playing regular weeknight gigs at a Berkeley club called Mandrake’s (at 1048 University Avenue). During much of 1969, The Poppycock and Mandrake’s shared a lot of acts, and there are some nights where bands are listed at both places. The most likely explanation is probably that their agency knew which nights they would be playing, but were not precisely certain which night would have been at which club. Thus, since Joy of Cooking was advertised at Mandrake’s in Berkeley on April 8 (Tuesday), they may not have played that night, but some other configuration is also possible.

The Stanford Daily ad for The Poppycock from April 11, 1969
April 11-12, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA:  Country Weather/Glass Mountain
(Friday/Saturday)
Country Weather were a Walnut Creek (Contra Costa County) group, from just over the Berkeley Hills. They had originally been called The Virtues, but soon after lead guitarist Greg Douglass joined, they changed their name to Country Weather. Country Weather had played a Monday night gig at the Poppycock the previous year (April 1, 1968), but by now they were well enough known to headline the weekend.

Country Weather never released a record when they were together from 1967-73.  Since the group was familiar from many posters from 1968 onward, Country Weather became one of the great lost San Francisco groups of the 1960s.  Ultimately, the group reformed in the 21st century and still performs occasionally. RD Records released some of their 60s demos and live performances, alonmg with some 21st century recordings.

Greg Douglass became a successful guitarist in the Bay Area, best known for co-writing “Jungle Love” for Steve Miller, with whom he played for many years. Douglass was also a member of Hot Tuna for one brief, sensational tour in Spring 1975.

Glass Mountain is unfamiliar to me. 

April 13, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Rockwell Blues Band (Sunday)
April 14, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: auditions
(Monday)
April 15-16, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Williver Fields
(Tuesday-Wednesday)
April 16-17, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Rockwell Blues Band (Wednesday-Thursday)
Rockwell Blues Band and Williver Fields are unknown to me. Listings are contradictory as to who played Wednesday night (April 16).

April 18, 1969 Gymnasium, Gunn High School,Palo Alto, CA:  It’s A Beautiful Day/Cold Blood/Lamb/A.B. Skhy (Friday)
Palo Alto High School gymnasiums were generally not available for rock concert promotions. However, this Friday night show was the culmination of a week of festivities celebrating Palo Alto’s 75th Anniversary as an Incorporated city (as reported in the Cubberley High School newspaper, The Catamount).  Tickets were $2.50, but only $2.00 for Palo Alto students. Gunn High School was the newest High School in Palo Alto (it ahd only opened in 1964), and its gym was probably the biggest and best equipped for a concert.

It’s A Beautiful Day were locally popular, but had not yet released their famous first album. Cold Blood had extensive Peninsula roots as well (see January 3-4 above). Both Cold Blood and Lamb were booked by The Millard Agency (for A.B. Skhy, see April 25-26 below).

Proud Flesh Soothseer, the 1968 debut album on Mercury by Linn County. Mercury had moved the band from Cedar Rapids, IA to San Francisco.
April 18-19, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Linn County (Friday-Saturday)
Stephen Miller (1942-2003) was the organ player in Linn County, and later a mainstay of the original Elvin Bishop Group (the better known, guitar playing Steve Miller had long since graduated to headline status at the Fillmore and Avalon). Linn County were from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, by way of Madison, Wisconsin and Chicago. Known as The Prophets in Cedar Rapids, they had become the house band at a Chicago club called Mother Blues and changed their name to Linn County Blues Band (Cedar Rapids is in Linn County). They were signed by Chess Records and began to record, but Mercury Records heard them, signed them and moved them to San Francisco.

Their 1968 album on Mercury was Proud Flesh Soothseer. In the cosmology of 1969, a band with an album, particularly on a national label like Mercury, was a "real" band, not just some local outfit. When a band with an album played downtown, then Palo Alto was moving up. Linn County would go on to release two more albums for the label. The other band members were Fred Walk (guitar), Larry Easter (saxophones), Dino Long (bass) and Ray "Snake" McAndrew (drums). The album isn't bad, and they were probably a really good live band in a nightclub.

Spring and Summer 1969: Lytton Plaza Free Concerts
Lytton Plaza was a paved park, with benches and trees, on the corner of University and Emerson Street (at 202 Emerson). Local banker Bart Lytton, founder of Lytton Savings Bank, had built the park in 1964 on the former site of The American Savings and Trust Building, which was across the street from the bank’s headquarters. Although downtown and unfenced, the little park was actually on private property. During the previous Summer (1968), the MidPeninsula Free University had taken advantage of the private status and held some rallies and impromptu concerts at the park.

Since the park was private property, the police were not legally able to intervene, as trespassing laws did not apply in the absence of fences. It is a credit to Palo Alto’s tolerance that even though downtown merchants (and many residents) objected to the concerts, the police followed the letter of the law and allowed the miniature Be-Ins to take place. Local high school bands seemed to have provided the music.

By 1969, in response to the MPFU having taken advantage of the private status of Lytton Plaza to hold concerts downtown, Lytton Bank (who owned the plaza) posted regulations that required assemblies of more than 25 people to have written approval from the bank. This requirement was widely ignored. Free concerts supposedly occurred almost every Saturday night in the Spring and Summer of '69, often organized by a group of Paly High students using the name “Free People’s Free Music Company.” The only specific rock group that I know played there was a group called Hydraulic Banana, featuring future Stoneground and Pablo Cruise pianist Cory Lerios and guitarist Phil Scoma, who later joined the final lineup of San Jose’s finest, The Chocolate Watch Band. In issue #2 of Cream Puff War, Scoma recalled the scene:
The [Hyrdraulic] Banana played the Lytton Plaza protests, a sort of mini-Berkeley and the first hip thing to happen in Palo Atlo. We were on a stage with wheels; whenever the police came and the truck started, you held onto your amp and went down the road, and the cords were left wherever they came out (interview by Alec Palao, CPW #2, p.57)
The concerts apparently became increasingly contentious, at least one of them devolving into mayhem when members of a motorcycle gang got into a series of fights with some high school hippies. Since the high school students in the bands were probably well known—Palo Alto is a small town—it may seem surprising that the police played cat and mouse with the organizers rather than cracking down more severely, as would have been typical in other towns. Palo Alto policemen, however, were well paid compared to their peers in surrounding towns, and the there was almost no violent crime in Palo Alto. In return for their benign jobs, Palo Alto policemen were very hesitant to arrest the children of Palo Alto residents, a fact known by every high school student in Palo Alto.


998 San Antonio Road, formerly the site of the December 18, 1965 Palo Alto Acid Test, as it appeared in 2009. In 1965, it was a new rock club called The Big Beat. The Big Beat closed in 1968, and in 1969 a new club called The Morgue was in the building.

April 25-26, 1969 The “New” Morgue, Palo Alto, CA: Transatlantic Railroad (Friday-Saturday)
Palo Alto isn't most towns. Palo Alto can name the date and location when psychedelia came to town: December 18, 1965, when the Grateful Dead played the Palo Alto Acid Test, at a newly-opened club called The Big Beat, at 998 San Antonio Road. The club was far south of downtown, right on the Mountain View border. It probably mainly drew factory workers at places like Lockheed and Fairchild Hiller. In 1966, a mostly-cover band called The Tombstones played every weekend. The club advertised "LSD-Lights, Sounds, Delicious Pizza."

The Bay Area rock audience moved away from cover bands, however, and The Big Beat had closed by mid-1968, as had its sister club in San Mateo (The Trip). In April 1969, a new club took over the site. The April 25 Stanford Daily advertised a new club, open since April 4, called The Morgue. The pitch wasn't Delicious Pizza--it was "Psychedelic Shows-Bands-Topless." The headliner this weekend was a Marin county band called Transatlantic Railroad.

I have to say, I'm all for unique clubs, but I don't know what the groove was supposed to be. It's true that hippie rock shows sometimes featured girls who took their tops off, but the context was different than a topless show (even if the appeal was the same). And "The Morgue"--who calls a club The Morgue?

The Stanford Daily ad for the Poppycock, from April 25, 1969
April 25-26, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: AB Skhy/Glass Mountain
(Friday-Saturday)
 AB Skhy had started playing weeknight gigs at the Poppycock in December of '68, and obviously had been good enough to rise up to a weekend bookings in 1969. They had already played earlier in the year (see Feb 20-22 '69, above) and they were returning again.

April 27, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Fifty Foot Hose (Sunday)

On this Sunday night, The Poppycock featured a local band, the Fifty Foot Hose. The Fifty Foot Hose may have also played a single show at The Poppycock the previous year, but since the date was also April 27, I suspect they only played The Poppycock once. The Fifty Foot Hose had been formed by bassist Corky Marcheschi, along with guitarist David Blossom and his vocalist wife Nancy (drummer Kim Kimsey and guitarist Larry Evans filled out the group). Marcheschi had played the El Camino Real circuit in a band called The Ethix, but Fifty Foot Hose was truly experimental, mixing rock with avant-garde composition and electronic sounds. Fifty Foot Hose put out an infamous album, Cauldron, in late 1967, on Limelight Records (a Mercury subsidiary). Even now, it's a weird album, and it was an infamous collector's album.

Fifty Foot Hose did not play many live shows, to my knowledge. It's a perfect touch that they played at least one in Palo Alto. As a great footnote, the engineer and producer of their very far-out album was one Dan Healy, who went on to produce the Grateful Dead's Anthem Of The Sun in 1968 (not to mention spending 20+ years with the band as a soundman).

I really wonder how Fifty Foot Hose went down on stage. They are such a legendary mystery, it's remarkable to think of them actually playing live. By 1969, the Fifty Foot Hose probably had Robert Goldbeck on bass. The band finally broke up later in 1969, when most of the band joined the cast of the San Francisco production of the rock musical Hair.

April 28, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Rejoice/Siddhartha (Monday)
April 29, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA; Jef Jaisun (Tuesday)
April 30-May 1, The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Orion (Wednesday-Thursday)
Rejoice and Siddhartha are unfamiliar to me, although I recognize their names from various club listings. Orion is unknown to me, but they had been playing various weeknights at the Poppycock since April 1968.

Jef Jaisun, a journalist and photographer as well as a musician, had been the bassist for Phoenix, who had played the Poppycock back in 1968.  Jaisun had left Phoenix to go solo in late 1968 (and he had played a weeknight at the Poppycock back in '68 as well). Jaisun wrote the song “Friendly Neighborhood Narco Agent,” and released it in 1969, destined to become a Bay Area radio classic as well as a Dr. Demento staple.



What's the appeal of going to a club called The Morgue? From the May 2, 1969 Stanford Daily (Mother Bear had relocated from Chicago and had an album on Cadet)
May 2-3, 1969 The Morgue, Palo Alto, CA: Mother Bear (Friday-Saturday)
The Morgue had another ad in the Stanford Daily on Friday, May 2. "Come Out and Turn On to the live sounds of Mother Bear", it said, with a drawing of a long-legged, long-haired, mostly-naked young woman. Why call it The Morgue, and why The "New" Morgue? Was there an old Morgue? Did they change it because it was dead on weekends? Topless clubs were just barely tolerated in Palo Alto, and only in the Southern part of town, which had once been salacious old Mayfield anyway. I don't know how long The Morgue actually lasted.

As for Mother Bear, lead guitarist Roger Salloom and singer Robin Sinclair were originally from Texas. They moved to Chicago, where they recorded the 1968 album Saloom Sinclair and The Mother Bear (on Cadet Concept). Their second album, 1969’s Salloom-Sinclair, was recorded in Nashville and had more of a country rock sound. The group appears to have relocated to the Bay Area in 1969   Ultimately Roger Salloom returned to Texas and Robin Sinclair became the lead singer of Gold in about 1971.

May 2-3, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Mad River
(Friday-Saturday)
Mad River was a legendary, if obscure, Berkeley group who had relocated from Yellow Springs, OH just in time for the Summer of Love in 1967. They broke up around this time, and this was probably one of their last gigs.

May 4, 1969   The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA:  The Last Mile (Sunday)
The Last Mile are unfamiliar to me.

An ad for The Underground, at 925 El Camino Real in Menlo Park, where John Dawson and Jerry Garcia would birth the New Riders of The Purple Sage (from Stanford Daily Apr 4 '69)
May 7, 1969 The Underground, Menlo Park, CA: Daniel Crisman/John Dawson (Wednesday)
The Underground was a hofbrau on the El Camino Real in Menlo Park, near Santa Cruz Avenue. It was in walking distance of downtown Palo Alto. Like many hippie joints, the hofbrau had folk singers and the like. John "Marmaduke" Dawson had grown up in Los Altos Hills, but he had been part of the bohemian folkie crowd in the early 60s. He was a songwriter, too, and in May 1968 he was playing his songs on Wednesday nights at The Underground, sharing the bill with local flamenco guitarist Daniel Crisman.

A month prior, Dawson had visited his old pal Jerry Garcia to hear him play his new pedal steel guitar. Dawson played a few of his songs, so that Garcia could accompany him, and Garcia invited himself to join Dawson on Wednesday nights at the Underground. May 7 appears to be the first night, just Dawson playing his own songs and a few folk and Bakersfield classics, with Garcia backing him up, figuring out his new Zane Beck Double 10.

The Underground was at 925 El Camino Real, right next door to Kepler's Bookstore. The Underground was just a block away from the music store Guitars Unlimited (at 1035, later Su Hong Restaurant), where Garcia and Bob Weir had given guitar lessons and borrowed equipment, right before the band took off for Los Angeles with Owsley.

Charlie Musselwhite's 3rd album for Vanguard, 1969's Tennessee Woman
May 9-11, 1969  The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Charlie Musselwhite
(Friday-Sunday)
Charlie Musselwhite had been born in Mississippi and moved to Memphis, and then ultimately to Chicago.  He was one of a small number of white musicians in Chicago (including Nick Gravenites, Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop and a few others) who had stumbled onto the blues scene by themselves. 

A Chicago club regular, Musselwhite eventually recorded an album for Vanguard in 1967 called Stand Back, which started to receive airplay on San Francisco’s new underground FM station, KMPX-fm. Friendly with the Chicago crowd who had moved to San Francisco, his band was offered a month of work in San Francisco in mid-1967, so Musselwhite took a month’s leave from his day job and stayed for a couple of decades.

Musselwhite released his second album on Vanguard, Stone Blues, in 1968. Sometime in 1969, Vanguard released Tennessee Woman. Musselwhite was a regular on the Bay Area club scene, and had played the Fillmore and Avalon as well. In Chicago, Musselwhite was just one of many fine blues acts, but in the Bay Area he stood out.

May 13, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Jef Jaisun (Tuesday)
May 14, 1969 The Underground, Menlo Park, CA: John Dawson (Wednesday)
John Dawson retuned to the Underground, and Jerry Garcia was with him. Owsley Stanley was also there, and he taped the show (it took three reels to record all 27 songs).

May 16-17, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Joy of Cooking/Birth (Friday-Saturday)
Joy Of Cooking retunred for a weekend. Birth is unknown to me, but the band name is familiar from numerous flyers.

May 18, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Alligator (Sunday)
May 20, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Jef Jaisun (Tuesday)   
Alligator is unknown to me.Jef Jaisun seems to have had a regular booking on Tuesday nights.

May 21, 1969 The Underground, Menlo Park, CA: John Dawson (Wednesday)

May 21-22, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto,CA: All Spice Rhythm Band (Wednesday-Thursday)
All Spice Rhythm Band were primarily an East Bay club band, although I know little else about them.

May 23, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Earl Hooker (Friday)
Earl Hooker (1929-70) was a blues slide guitarist from Chicago. Although not famous today, he was and is well regarded by Chicago blues aficionados.

May 27, 1969 Roscoe Maples Pavilion, Stanford U. Palo Alto, CA: Ray Charles (Tuesday)
While live rock music had seemed to thrive in downtown Palo Alto from 1967 onwards, Stanford University had largely remained on the sidelines. In early 1969, Stanford opened its new basketball arena, the Roscoe Maples Pavilion. With a 7,300+ capacity, it was much bigger than any other potential rock venue in the South Bay. Stanford, however, had no commercial interest in facilitating rock promotions.

Nonetheless the inaugural concert at Maples was held on Tuesday, May 27th, with the immortal Ray Charles. I assume that this show was ok'd for a weeknight since the Spring Quarter would have nearly been complete, and it wouldn't have been a "school night." Stanford also had a tricky history with African-American music. The University was comfortable promoting "serious" music, like jazz or folk music, but didn't like promotions where excessive dancing was likely to happen, partiucularly during the school year. This unstated preference had pushed aside a lot of rock bands after 1966, and save for a sole Wilson Pickett appearance in May of '67, soul music was unseen on campus.

I'm sure Ray Charles was great, in every way. I presume that the University felt that Brother Ray was esteemed enough that excessive dancing was not a risk. I'll bet Ray felt otherwise. There would not be another Maples Pavilion concert for two more years (the band Chicago, in 1971). Draw your own conclusions.

May 30-31, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Frumious Bandersnatch/Beggars Opera (Friday/Saturday)
Frumious Bandersnatch was based in Lafayette (Contra Costa County).  The group had formed in late 1967, featuring the best players of a number of Contra Costa teenage outfits.  The early lineup fell apart when most of its equipment was stolen from their Oakland rehearsal space in late 1967.  However, the group reconstituted itself in early 1968 and based itself at bassist Ross Valory’s parents ranch in Lafayette. The new lineup featured twin lead guitarists (David Denny and Jimmy Warner), a dynamic lead singer who also played guitar (Bobby Winkelmann) and a solid rhythm section (bassist Valory and drummer Jack King). The band had played The Poppycock in 1968, and even broadcast their show live on KZSU-fm, the Stanford station (a tape survives--there's a chance that the May 31 broadcast was actually from 1969).

In the style of many Berkeley bands, Frumious Bandersnatch also recorded and released their own 3-song EP.  It did not sell many copies, but it served as an advertisement for the band (and became a significant collector’s item over the years).  The EP was recorded in Berkeley in April and May of 68 and released soon after. For the balance of the year, Frumious was picked up by Bill Graham’s Millard Agency and received numerous bookings, where their free flowing guitars were well received in concert.  However, due to management and other issues, the band passed on some record company offers and despite their local popularity, the EP was the only official release of the group.  

Frumious Bandersnatch’s component parts were far more successful than the original group. Most of the 1968 lineup ended up in the Steve Miller Band at various times in the next decade (Winkelmann, King, Valory and Denny). More importantly, bassist Ross Valory and guitarist George Tickner (who had been in the 1967 version) founded Journey, who sold millions of records in the 1970s and 80s, and the Journey empire was run by Frumious’s road manager and van driver Walter ‘Herbie’ Herbert. In 1996 Big Beat Records released a fine Frumious Bandersnatch cd called A Young Man’s Song, featuring a collection of studio and demo recordings from all lineups of the group.

Beggars Opera were another band from Contra Costa County, and often played with the better known Frumious Bandersnatch.

June 1, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Day Blindness (Sunday)
Day Blindness had played the Poppycock earlier in the year (see Jan 3-4 '69, above). At some point in 1969, and old friend of guitarist Gary Pihl, fellow guitarist Johnny Vernazza joined the group. By 1970, the band had changed its name to Fox (or The Fox).

June 4, 1969 Peninsula School, Menlo Park, CA: Marmaduke and Friends (Wednesday)
In his definitive biography, Garcia: An American Life (1999), Blair Jackson described a pre-natal New Riders show at Peninsula School, with Garcia, Nelson, Dawson and Phil Lesh. The lineup was apparently Dawson, Garcia, David Nelson and Phil Lesh (per Jackson), so Nelson must finally have been involved, and somehow Lesh had gotten in the picture as well. Although undetermined, the most likely date for this gig is during this week. My general theory, unproven, is that Garcia played the Peninsula date on the afternoon that he had a date at the Underground, so I have asserted June 4.

Peninsula School was a "progressive" K-8 school for the Ban The Bomb crowd in the South Bay, located at 925 Peninsula Way in Menlo Park, near Willow Road. Bob Weir and Bob Matthews had attended the school, as had John Dawson. Future GDTS operator Steve Marcus had grown up nearby, and probably attended this show. Jerry Garcia had a long history of playing at the school, as his first paying gig was at Peninsula's 1961 8th grade graduation (he and Robert Hunter were paid $5). Garcia's daughter Heather was probably a student by 1969, and his ex-wife Sara may have been a music instructor thereat the time. It's likely that the proceeds from the show offset Heather's tuition (as the New Riders would play the next few years as well).

June 4, 1969 The Underground, Menlo Park, CA: John Dawson (Wednesday)
By this time, Dawson was backed by both Jerry Garcia on pedal steel and David Nelson on electric guitar.

The late Bob Jones, drummer and leader of the band Southern Comfort (see June 5 below), recalls Southern Comfort playing the Poppycock, and hopping into their van prior to the show, going out to see "Pigpen in some nearby club, or something," as he put it to me. The band got pulled over by the cops, who took their weed and didn't arrest them (this happened to numerous Palo Alto High School kids, I assure you). So they didn't go to jail, and they played their gig, but they never got their weed.

June 4, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo, CA: Alto Cedro Wooley (Wednesday)
Cedro Wooley (whether a group or person) is unknown to me. Based on the Southern Comfort story above, I think Southern Comfort was playing the Poppycock on Wednesday (June 4) as well as Thursday. The Berkeley Barb listed Cedro Wooley on Wednesday, and Southern Comfort on Thursday.

Southern Comfort, a San Francisco band styled after Booker T and The MGs, and led by drummer/singer Bob Jones, would release their Columbia album in 1970. It was co-produced by Nick Gravenites and John Kahn
June 5, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto ,CA: Southern Comfort (Thursday)
Southern Comfort was led by saxophonist and vocalist Ron Stallings, and drummer, vocalist Bob Jones. Jones and Stallings had been in the informal T&A Rhythm and Blues Band with John Kahn, and Kahn, Jones and Stallings were among the musicians who intermittently backed Mike Bloomfield when he felt like playing a gig. Southern Comfort released an album in 1970 on Columbia, produced by Kahn and Nick Gravenites. The album mostly featured songs by Stallings and Jones, and also featured trumpeter Mike Wilmeth and guitarist Fred Burton, both part of the same crew of musicians who worked with Gravenites and Bloomfield in the studio and live. Other members were bassist Karl Sevareid and organist Steve Funk. (The album also features a number of bass players--Bob Huberman and Art Stavro, with Kahn at least in the room).

June 6-7, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Country Weather/Terry Dolan (Friday-Saturday)
Terry Dolan was a folksinger from Washington, DC who had moved to San Francisco in May, 1969.  He shared management with Country Weather. When Dolan had the opportunity to record demos in the early 70s, he was joined by various friends who included John Cipollina, Nicky Hopkins and Country Weather’s Greg Douglass. This led to the popular Bay Area bar band Terry & The Pirates, which featured Dolan backed by whichever of his friends were available. Terry & The Pirates first album was released in 1979, and Dolan has continued to periodically release albums into the 21st century.

(For more about Country Weather, see April 11-12 '69, above)

June 8, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA Sky Blue (Sunday)
June 10, 1969  Gym, Palo Alto High School, Palo Alto, CA Santana (Tuesday)
Palo Alto High School--Paly--has an historic reputation for being a snobby and self-involved school. Santana, then just a popular local band without an album (although already signed to Columbia), played Paly’s 1969 graduation dance. For the next several years, Paly Seniors dismissed every band that played graduation—including, I believe, Cold Blood (70), the Sons of Champlin (71) and Elvin Bishop (72)-- as inferior to Santana (my year [1975] had the unmemorable Crackin’).

June 10, 1969 Frontier Village, San Jose, CA: Cold Blood (Tuesday)
According to the Juen 5, 1969 Catamount, Cubberley High's Newspaper, Cubberley and Gunn High Schools held a joint Graduation Dance at Frontier Village, featuring Cold Blood. The joint Grad Dance appears to be due to poor attendance, a very 60s phenomenon. This is worth noting, however, since it suggests that considerably fewer people saw Santana's performance at Paly than have claimed to do so.

Frontier Village was an amusement park in San Jose, but operated by a Palo Alto family. The Park, at 4885 Monterey Road, featured various movie-set type buildings and rides with an Old West, Little-House-On-The-Prairie type themes.

June 11 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Cedro Wooley (Wednesday)



The 1969 debut album by the Elvin Bishop Group, on Bill Graham's Fillmore Records (distributed by Columbia). Stephen Miller, from the Linn County Band, was a "guest," although he would join the group a few months later
June 13-14, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Elvin Bishop Group (Friday-Saturday)
Elvin Bishop had been a teenager in Tulsa, OK who fell in love with the blues he heard over the radio. In 1960 Bishop got a National Merit Scholarship to the University of Chicago, where educating himself about the blues took precedence over book learning. Bishop was part of the small cadre of young white musicians who learned Chicago blues from the blues masters themselves.  Bishop formed a group with Paul Butterfield that included black and white members, and it became a sensation in Chicago. Guitarist Mike Bloomfield had joined the group when they were signed to Elektra Records, and by late 1965 the Butterfield Blues Band were rolling over everything in their path.   

Bloomfield left the group in early 1967 and moved to the  Bay Area. Bishop took over the lead guitar chores for the next two Butterfield Blues Band albums (Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw and In My Own Dream). Bishop left Butterfield as well, however, and moved to the Bay Area in mid-1968.  The Butterfield Blues Band had been particularly successful and popular in the Bay Area, and Chicago had a significant expatriate community in the Bay Area.

By early 1969, Bishop had put a group together. The first Elvin Bishop Group featured Elvin on guitar and vocals, Art Stavro on bass, John Chambers on drums and fellow Chicagoan "Applejack” (Jack Walroth) on harmonica and vocals.  The group was signed to Bill Graham’s Millard Agency in April 1969 and also to Fillmore Records (distributed by Columbia), for whom the band recorded The Elvin Bishop Group, released later in 1969.  Organist Stephen Miller, from the band Linn County (see April 18-19 '69, above), played on the album and seems to have been a sort of ex-officio member. When Linn County broke up later in 1969, Miller would join the Elvin Bishop Group permanently for the next few years.

Chambers and Stavro were San Francisco musicians who had played with a variety of local groups (Chambers, for example, had played with both The We Five and The Loading Zone). For backup vocals, Bishop had a quartet of young women who were experienced gospel singers. However, since they were all in high school and their father was a preacher, they were limited as to what nights they could play and what venues they could appear at, and I do not know if The Poppycock met those standards. The Pointer Sisters went on to considerable success later.

June 15, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Greater Carmichael Traveling Street Band (Sunday)

June 18, 1969 The Underground, Menlo Park, CA: John Dawson (Wednesday)

By mid-1969, Capitol Records had released the debut Sons Of Champlin, Loosen Up Naturally. A double album, it did not sell well, but it still sounds great today.
June 18-19, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Sons of Champlin (Wednesday-Thursday)
The Sons had already played weekend shows at the Poppycock (see Feb 28-Mar 1 '69, above), and were already established in the South Bay. I think they were playing weeknights in Palo Alto because they could draw a crowd, but they could get better gigs elsewhere on the weekend. This was a peculiar marker, showing that while The Poppycock was a successful venue in downtown Palo Alto, the rock business was getting so big that it was moving away from seeing local bands in teh suburbs.

June 20-21, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Linn County (Friday-Saturday)
June 24-29, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Charlie Musselwhite (Tuesday-Sunday)
The San Francisco Examiner listing for Tuesday, June 24, says Musselwhite is booked all the way through Sunday night. I don't know if this was an error, or a unique booking.

June 25, 1969 The Underground, Menlo Park, CA: John Dawson (Wednesday)

The first album by Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, Original Recordings (Epic '69)
June 29, 1969 Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford U. Palo Alto, CA: Country Joe and The Fish/Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks/Lamb/others “Festival of Growing Grass”
Frost Amphitheatre, with a capacity of 6,900, had been too large for rock concerts back in '66. As rock got bigger and bigger, however, the size of Frost seemed to be an attraction rather than an impediment. Stanford, however, didn't want to use Frost for any rock events during the school year. Still, there had been a succesful multi-act show there the previous summer, on July 28, 1968. Presumably, Stanford was willin gto try again.

Country Joe and The Fish were a fairly major Bay Area act, with popular albums that received plenty of airplay on KSAN. The band's fourth album, Here We Are Again, would shortly be released on Vanguard. The band itself was in an unsettled postion, which was common. When the group embarked on a tour in the Summer, which lead them from the Fillmore West to Woodstock, Joe McDonald and Barry Melton would lead an entirely new lineup out with them (Mark Kapner-keyboards, Doug Metzner-bass and Greg Dewey-drums).

I'm not even entirely certain that Country Joe and The Fish were actually playing at the Frost event, as it may have been just Country Joe by himself. Certainly, Barry Melton and The Fish were playing that same night at The Family Dog, with the Kaleidoscope. Without a firm eyewitness, we won't know (the confusing uncertainty was common with the band).

More interesting was the opening act, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. Hicks had been the drummer in the 1965 incarnation of The Charlatans, but by 1968 he had been playing guitar and fronting the band. The Charlatans never rehearsed or gigged much (in any incarnation), and Hicks had an interest in psychedelically modified Texas Swing music, so in 1968 he formed Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks as a side project to open for The Charlatans and occasionally play local clubs like The Matrix. The original configuration of the band featured David LaFlamme of It’s A Beautiful Day on violin, and that was the band playing on Hicks’s first solo album Original Recordings (on Epic).

By mid-1969, the last version of The Charlatans had ground to a halt, and Dan Hicks And His Hot Licks were a full-tiime proposition. The lineup at this point was probably Hicks (guitar and lead vocals), John Girton (lead guitar), Sid Page (violin), Jaime Leopold (bass) and Sherry Snow (of Blackburn and Snow) and Marianne Price joining Hicks on vocals. Its not clear if there was a drummer this early, and the configuration of female vocalists changed in the early days. (Naomi Ruth Eisenberg may have already replaced Snow). Although Original Recordings includes some of Hicks’s classics, including immortals like “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away” and ‘I Scare Myself” Hicks and His Hot Licks had considerably more success with their early 70s Blue Thumb albums (such as Striking It Rich and Last Train To Hicksville).

Palo Alto was still suburban enough in 1969 that a concert could be advertised as a “Festival Of Growing Grass” and the marijuana reference was lost on an older generation, so that the University would not oppose the event. By the early 1970s, even the squarest college administrator would have known that a “Festival Of Growing Grass” did not refer to the sloping lawn at Frost Amphitheatre.

Reset: Summer of '69, High Water Mark
My lengthy chain of posts on Palo Alto rock shows from 1965 through '69 seems to show a rising tide, and it does. By the Summer of '69, rock music is not just "for kids," but big entertainment business and serious art. The Poppycock was open seven days a week, and just about every weekend the band playing the club had just released or was about to release an album. Some of them, like Elvin Bishop or The Sons Of Champlin, still have a following today. It sounds like there was a lot of fun to be had on the corner of University Avenue and High Street in the Summer of '69, and there was.

In fact, the tide of the rock industry was turning away from suburban clubs like The Poppycock. Rock music was getting bigger than ever, and the young people in Palo Alto and the nearby Peninsula towns were just an hour away from San Francisco, Berkeley or Oakland. With FM rock radio dominating the airwaves, more and more fans wanted to see the big bands they heard on KSAN. The cozy Fillmore Auditorium (capacity 1,500) had given way to the bigger Fillmore West (cap. 2,500), and often now to the even bigger Winterland (cap. 5,400). Blind Faith would come to the Oakland Coliseum in August '69, and that was the biggest indoor rock show to date.

At the same time, the big money in the music industry was in selling records, and that in turn meant getting played on the radio. Rock managers were less interested in a paying booking at a little club than they were in getting some attention from radio listeners. A lot of second-tier bands wanted to get heard on the bill with a famous rock band, in the hopes of ending up with more FM airplay. Killing it in a little club was fun, and sometimes profitable, but not where the big money was. All the rising Bay Area bands came through the Poppycock. But once they had an album out, they looked for bigger stages. Rock music was big business now, and the managers and record companies knew it. Palo Alto didn't really have a part to play in that, and it was starting to show in the Poppycock bookings.

135 University Avenue (at High Street), as it appeared in 2006. It was the former site of The Poppycock. In 2006 it was an outlet of the Stanford University Bookstore.