Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Steve Miller Band Performance History October 1966-May 1967 (Steve Miller I)


The Steve Miller Blues Band at the Matrix on the weekend of December 20-23, 1966
While researching an extensive future project about rock concerts in Portland, Oregon in the late 1960s, I had to determine a date for a Steve Miller concert in Oregon and discovered that I had a fairly extensive record of early Steve Miller Band shows. Since I had no other plans for the information, I have decided to post the information here.

Steve Miller moved to Berkeley in October, 1966, and made his name as leader of The Steve Miller Band, who first came to fame at the Avalon and the Fillmore in 1967’s Summer of Love. History has made Steve Miller appear as a slick professional musician, an appellation Miller would be proud of. Nonetheless, endearingly, Miller remained friends with Country Joe McDonald, Chet Helms and other denizens from his scuffling days in Berkeley.

I am trying to identify all performances by The Steve Miller Band and Steve Miller himself from his arrival in California in October 1966 through the end of 1968. Anyone with additions, corrections, insights or memories should contact me directly or put them in the comments [2017 update: I am substantially updating the Steve Miller posts in honor of the 48th anniversary of Brave New World]

Background
Steve Miller, from Madison, Wisconsin, had been a successful musician in Texas and Chicago in 1965 and 1966. In Texas, he had a band with Boz Scaggs (who by 1966 had became a folk singer in Sweden, where he released a now-obscure album), and in Chicago he had a band with pianist Barry Goldberg, who taught him to name bands after himself. In the late Summer or Fall of 1965, Miller made a scouting trip to the Bay Area. Since there weren't many bohemian proto-hippie musicians yet, it's not surprising that Miller found himself staying at a house full of scuffling musicians near Telegraph Avenue and Russell Street. The house was behind a folk club and coffee house called The Jabberwock, on 2901 Telegraph.

Some of the musicians who lived in the house had a jug band called The Instant Action Jug Band, so named because they could spring into action at any time when the Jabberwock had no other performers. The membership was kind of fluid, since if anyone had another gig or a date they didn't play. According to Joe McDonald and Barry Melton, the future founders of Country Joe And The Fish, Miller not only stayed with them, but actually played with the Instant Action Jug Band as well. Miller was sold--he made plans to return to Berkeley.

October 16, 1966: The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA Butterfield Blues Band/Jefferson Airplane/Big Mama Thornton
Miller moved to Berkeley and lived in his VW Microbus. He visited the Fillmore on October 16, and joined in on stage for a jam with members of The Butterfield Blues Band and the Jefferson Airplane, invited on stage by his friend Paul Butterfield. When Miller announced he was moving to the Bay Area, the crowd cheered.

December ?, 1966: The Forum, Berkeley, CA Steve Miller Blues Band
Miller had visited SF in 1965 and he found the SF scene fun but unprofessional. However, having moved to the area, he called on old Madison friends Curley Cooke on guitar and Tim Davis on drums to join him in California, along with bassist Dick Personett (thanks to Italian correspondent Bruno for pointing this out). Personett, however, would only play the first few gigs and returned to the Midwest.
Miller's new band rehearsed over Thanksgiving weekend in the unlocked basement of Wurster Hall, the UC Berkeley Architecture building. According to Miller, he rapidly had a band that knew 25 tunes, “in tune and tight.” He found a gig for his band at a Berkeley coffee house on Telegraph Avenue (near Bancroft) called The Forum.

As December wore on, however, Miller began to run out of money. His gig at The Forum, however, lead to a paying gig at the Avalon, and the princely offer of $500 made sure he would not be forced to return to Chicago. To celebrate, Miller rented a room on College Avenue, and took his band to dinner and a movie.

The Datebook listings from the San Francisco Chronicle of December 16, 1966. The Steve Miller Blues Band and guitarist Steve Mann are opening at The Matrix. This was the first published listing for the Steve Miller Band
December 16-17, 1966: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Steve Miller Blues Band/Steve Mann
The Steve Miller Blues Band was booked at The Matrix, probably as a result of being seen at The Forum. In any case, once they were on an Avalon poster, even as an opening act, the Matrix could book them. Steve Mann was an astonishing fingerpicking blues guitarist, a successful session musician and a personal mess, with numerous health problems. Those who saw him play way back when--and that includes people like Jorma Kaukonen--say he was one of the most talented players in the Bay Area.

December 18-22, 1966: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band/Congress of Wonders

December 23-24, 1966: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Grateful Dead/Moby Grape/Steve Miller Blues Band

January 6-7, 1967: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Quicksilver Messenger Service/Miller Blues Band
Dick Personett seems to have returned to the Midwest fairly quickly. Around this time, Miller replaced Personett with Berkeley bassist Lonnie Turner, whom he’d met at The Jabberwock on the previous year’s scouting trip. At the time, Turner was the bassist for a Berkeley band called Second Coming. It's not certain when Turner actually joined.

January 10-15, 1967: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band

January 20-21, 1967: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Lee Michaels/Miller Blues Band [added

January 24-27, 1967: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band
A live tape from the date circulates with the date January 27, 1967.

February 10-11, 1967 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band/Lee Michaels/Peanut Butter Conspiracy [added

February 17, 1967: New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA Steve Miller Blues Band

February 18-19, 1967 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band 
Sometime in February of 1967, Miller flew out keyboard player Jim Peterman, also from Madison. In an interesting interview with Nick Warburton, Peterman explains that he came out and played some shows in February to see if he would fit in. It's not precisely certain which shows he played, but I assume he would have had some warmup gigs at a place like the Matrix before playing more high-profile shows like the Fillmore. The audition was a success, but Peterman wanted to finish his last three months of college at UW, so he did not join the band until late May.

February 19, 1967: California Hall, San Francisco, CA Country Joe and The Fish/Steve Miller Blues Band/Mime Troupe
“Port Chicago Vigil Benefit”

February 26, 1967: Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA BB King/Moby Grape/Steve Miller Blues Band [added] 

March 4, 1967: Steninger Hall, UC Medical Center Auditorium, San Francisco, CA Big Brother and The Holding Company/Steve Miller Blues Band/Robert Baker
“Journey To The End of The Night” Benefit for Peace
Steininger Hall was the auditorium of what later became UCSF, the med-school only wing of the University of California. It was several blocks uphill from the Panhandle. 

March 5, 1967: California Hall, San Francisco, Steve Miller Blues Band/Orkustra/Dino Valenti/SF Mime Troupe/The Committee/Richard Brautigan
“Bedrock One” CA “A Benefit for the Communication Company” A Rock Dance Happening Environment

The Communications Company was a sort of "newspaper" and printing press that printed a lot of broadsides in the Haight on behalf of the Diggers.

March 10-11, 1967: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Quicksilver Messenger Service/Steve Miller Blues Band/Daily Flash

March 12, 1967: Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA Country Joe and The Fish/Big Brother and The Holding Company/Steve Miller Blues Band/Quicksilver Messenger Service 
“Phoenix Dance” Benefit for Aid to Vietnam and Mississippi

March 17-19, 1967: The Afterthought, Vancouver, BC Steve Miller Blues Band/Collectors
The Vancouver scene had many ties with San Francisco, and underground SF bands often played there.

March 22-23, 1967 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco Quicksilver Messenger Service/John Lee Hooker/Miller Blues Band
This was a rare Wednesday-Thursday gig for the Avalon.

March 24-26, 1967: New Orleans House, Berkeley Steve Miller Blues Band

March 26, 1967: Elysian Park, Los Angeles, CA Burbank Easter Love-In
Grateful Dead/Steve Miller Blues Band/Sopwith Camel/Iron Butterfly/Clear Light/The Nazz/many others
The poster does not list the bands, and bands are only known from various accounts that are not 100% reliable. Doug Lubahn (bassist for Clear Light) does remember playing with the Dead and another SF band. The Alice Cooper list has The Nazz (newly arrived from Phoenix, later to become Alice Cooper) and Iron Butterfly (newly arrived from San Diego). A Commenter spoke with the late Curly Cooke, who specifically recalled playing the event.

March 30, 1967: Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, CA Jimmy Reed/John Lee Hooker/Charles Lloyd/Miller Blues Band

April 1, 1967: Main Auditorium, San Francisco State College 6th Annual Folk Festival Buffy St. Marie/Greg Ohrlin/Patrick Sky/Steve Miller Blues Band

April 1, 1967: Girls Gym, San Francisco State College 6th Annual Folk Festival Dance Chambers Brothers/John Hammond and The Screaming Nighthawks/Steve Miller Blues Band
This event began at 11pm, part of the weekend’s folk festival. Possibly the Miller Band participated in the Sunday afternoon (April 2) finale as well.

An ad from the April 6, 1967 Sf Chronicle for the Steve Miller Band at the Rock Garden.
April 4-9, 1967: Rock Garden, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Band/The Only Alternative and His Other Possibility with Kay Olsen/The Orkustra
The Rock Garden was a short-lived attempt to have a Fillmore style venue at in the neighborhoods. Now the venue is largely only remembered for some exotic, circular posters.

April 14-15, 1967: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA The Doors/Miller Blues Band/Hajibaba 

April 21-23, 1967: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band

April 28-30, 1967: Fillmore Buffalo Springfield/Steve Miller Blues Band/Freedom Highway
The 30th was an afternoon show.

May 5, 1967: Stockton Ballroom, Stockton, CA Steve Miller Band/The Plague
An obscure poster for this event has turned up. The Stockton Ballroom was a small ballroom that still exists. The show was presented by Green Grass

May 7, 1967: Freeborn Hall, UC Davis, CA Jefferson Airplane/Steve Miller Blues Band

May 13, 1967 Wurster Hall, UC Berkeley Steve Miller Blues Band
This was part of a campus event called The Beaux Arts Festival. Wurster was the new UC Architecture building. It is doubtful that the current configuration could handle a dance concert, but I assume the building was less full then.

May 15, 1967 Both/And Club, San Francisco Steve Miller Blues Band
The Both/And was a jazz club at 350 Divisadero, near the Haight. Rock bands sometimes played there as well, particularly on otherwise empty Monday nights like this one.

May 26-27, 1967: Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA Big Brother and The Holding Company/Steve Miller Blues Band

May 28, 1967: Provo Park, Berkeley, CA Steve Miller Blues Band, Mad River, Purple Earthquake
Bands played for free in Berkeley's main city park (at Grove and Allston), similar to how they played for free in Golden Gate Park.

For the next installment, see here.







10 comments:

  1. Add another show:
    March 30, 1967 Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, CA
    Jimmy Reed/John Lee Hooker/Charles Lloyd/Miller Blues Band

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  2. My Italian correspondent says that Steve Miller jammed with Paul Butterfield at the Fillmore on Sunday, October 16, not Saturday 15 as I had thought.

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  3. I have added two dates--May 13 and May 15, 1967.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Re: March 26, 1967 "If the Steve Miller Band did indeed play the Griffith Park Love-In, they probably flew down to LA for the day and returned home for their New Orleans House gig the same night"

    Corry I asked James 'Curley' Cooke about this and his answer was: "We did do the L.A. Love In. I don't remember having to fly back the same night to do the other gig"

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  6. Re: March 26, 1967: Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA Burbank Easter Love-In..."The poster does not list the bands, and bands are only known from various accounts that are not 100% reliable"

    Corry, a few of footnotes:

    (a) Elysian Park NOT Griffith Park

    (b) "Easter Sunday Love-In" NOT "Burbank
    Easter Love-In"

    (c) I talked with many musicians that played (or not) that day and also with an eyewitness (that have a diary of his memories about that day) and the exact bill was:
    - The Turtles
    - Sopwith Camel (cancelled)
    - The Daily Flash
    - Peanut Butter Conspiracy
    - Clear Light
    - Steve Miller Blues Band
    - The Rainy Daze
    - The Factory
    - West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
    - Flamin' Groovies
    - Iron Butterfly
    - The Nazz
    - Grateful Dead
    - Other Half
    - Seventh Son
    - Firesign Theatre & New Generation

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  7. Re: December ?, 1966: The Forum, Berkeley, CA..."Miller called on old Madison friends Curley Cooke on guitar and Tim Davis on drums to join him in California. He added Berkeley bassist Lonnie Turner"

    (a) The first bassist of the band was Richard 'Dick' Personett. Lonnie Turner replaced him in the last week of December 1966

    (b) I asked James 'Curley' Cooke about this first gig at The Forum and his answer was: "I remenber nothing of that. To my memory, we 1st played at the Matrix, which booked us quite a bit, and was quite responsible for introducing us to the scene out there".

    PS: about The Matrix, in your list you missed their first gigs there on December 16-18, 1966 (strangely billed as 'Steve Miller and the Chicago Blues Band')

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  8. Re: January 10-15, 1967: The Matrix, San Francisco

    A curious fact about their show on day 12: Paul Butterfield sat-in on harmonica during their song "Blues With A Feeling"

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  9. Re: December ?, 1966: The Forum, Berkeley, CA

    Again Corry, I also asked Richard Personett about this first gig at The Forum and his answer was: "Absolutely have to agree with Curley on the Forum thing. I do not remember this. I was probably busy that night. Just kidding! This doesn't mean it didn't happen, only that I do not specifically remember that gig".

    Richard Personett also remember (and he's 100% certain) that the very first gig of the band was at the Fillmore Auditorium in early December 1966 during one of the Bill Graham's afternoon audition.

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  10. I remember a concert at Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill. There were banners hung on the church with an image of a wolf howling in front of a full moon which might indicate a January date.
    Can you put a date on this event?

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