Sunday, October 11, 2009

Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco May 6-7, 1966: Daily Flash/Rising Sons/Big Brother and The Holding Company/The Charlatans

This post is part of a series analyzing every concert at the Avalon Ballroom. Above is the Wes Wilson poster for the event (FD07--thanks to Ross for the scan)

Friday, May 6, 1966 Daily Flash/Rising Sons/Big Brother and The Holding Company
Saturday, May 7, 1966 Daily Flash/Rising Sons/The Charlatans

For the headliners at the Avalon's third event, Chet Helms turned to happening underground bands from elsewhere on the West Coast.  Every city was starting to have its own hippie ballroom scene, but California was the promised land.  Daily Flash were the coolest band in the embryonic Seattle psychedelic scene.  The Daily Flash, seeing no financial future in Seattle, were moving to Los Angeles, but on their way they stopped off to play a few gigs at the Avalon. Guitarist Steve Lalor had lived and played (as a folkie) in San Francisco in 1963-64, so he was connected enough the small scene to get his band a gig without having a record. Connections and underground cool were enough to get a band a gig, and the Daily Flash became Avalon favorites from their very first set.

The group was led by bassist and vocalist Don MacAllister. Doug Hastings played lead guitar, Lalor played rhythm, and drummer Jon Keliehor completed the group. Ultimately, the Daily Flash released a few singles and made some demos, but they never released a full album while they were still together.  However, the Flash had been together since 1965, and had played many gigs in the Seattle area, so they were much more experienced performers than the San Francisco bands. Typical Flash sets included Bob Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom” and jazz instrumentals like Herbie Hancock’s “Canteloupe Island.”  A 1985 retrospective album I Flash Daily (Psycho Records, later a cd on Sundazed) gives a hint of Daily Flash's live sound, although the excellent live tracks on it are actually a different 1967 lineup with Craig Tarwater on lead guitar in place of Hastings.  

Rising Sons were a popular Los Angeles band. They had signed to Columbia and recorded, but CBS couldn’t figure out what to do with them.  Taj Mahal was the lead vocalist, Ry Cooder was the lead guitarist, and other members were Jesse Lee Kincaid (guitar, vocals), Gary Marker (bass) and Kevin Kelley (drums).  Taj and Ry were into the blues, Kincaid wrote Beatles-type songs, and Marker was a Berklee School of Music-trained bassist.  Kelley was Chris Hillman’s cousin, and ended up in The Byrds (in 68).  Rising Sons were hugely popular on the LA ‘teen’ circuit, and way ahead of their time, doing great versions of "Statesboro Blues" and the like, but they couldn’t figure out what direction to go in.  Their performances were apparently well received by locals on the scene,  but this was probably one of Rising Sons last gigs.

Big Brother, who were managed by Chet Helms, had played the weekend before, but returned to fill out the bill on Friday, May 6. Local legends The Charlatans played on Saturday May 7. While its reasonably likely that all three bands on the bill each night played two sets, its not certain which bands played first or last, and in any case the Avalon was more like a party or "happening" at this stage, and the last act of the night would not have been seen as the "headliner." As near as I can tell, the Avalon followed the Fillmore pattern of going around the bill twice, so one band would perform first and fourth, another band second and fifth and the third would play third and sixth.

The Charlatans, whose presence has faded today, loomed large in psychedelic San Francisco.    The Charlatans were a bunch of arty pot-smokers from San Francisco State who decided to form a rock group. With little musical experience, they played rambling, folky blues with slide guitar and feedback.  The Charlatans, particularly guitarist George Hunter, establish the hippie look of thrift-store bought Neo-Victorian clothes and cowboy boots.  Through a chance meeting, they got a “residency” at a renovated hotel/bar called The Red Dog Saloon in a sleepy old mining town on the California border in the Summer of 1965.  Virginia City, almost a ghost town, was a Nevada version of arty desert communities like Taos, New Mexico, but with more guns.

The Charlatans (Mike Wilhelm-lead guitar, George Hunter-guitar/autoharp, Mike Ferguson-piano, Richie Olsen-bass, Dan Hicks-drums) spent the summer of 1965 dropping acid, shooting off guns and refining their loose folk blues while Bill Ham’s light show plays behind them.  Ham had perfected his light shows in the basement of the apartment house he managed at 1839 Pine.The first psychedelic poster (drawn by Charlatans Hunter and Ferguson) dates from these shows as well. Word got around San Francisco and the Red Dog received their share of visitors, including Chet Helms and John Cipollina.  The Charlatans had returned to the SF scene as local if unheard legends.

The Charlatans had played the Matrix, and then headlined the first Family Dog dance at Longshoreman's Hall on October 16, 1965. The Charlatans had been present at the founding of all the important events, but just one year later they were being superseded by brighter lights on the psychedelic scene.

Next: May 13-14, 1966 Blues Project/Sons Of Adam/Quicksilver Messenger Service


  1. Thanks for the great writeup!


  2. I have formulated an opinion that the Charlatans did not play this show and that they were replaced by The Jaywalkers. This is evidenced by the accounts incurred for these performances:

  3. I've got to say, I find your argument pretty convincing. I found Chet's math pretty hard to follow, but that's the story of the Avalon, isn't it?

  4. It does make one wonder how many other acts slipped off the schedule to be replaced by perfectly viable alternatives. I know that we have picked up on a lot of these - but I guess there are still many undocumented.

    Even more of a tempter here is to raise issue of the Fillmore listings for May 6 and 7 - the Jefferson Airplane and, yet again, The Jaywalkers. Maybe the Charlatans replaced them at the Fillmore on May 7.

    Both shows began at 9PM and it seems very unlikely that the Jaywalkers could have performed at both venues (only Country Joe and The Fish maintained control over time travel as we all know).

    On a sad note however, this weekend in 1966 saw the slaying of the Questing Beast.

  5. There's a lot of prosopographical strangeness this weekend--the Mojo Men were booked at both Winterland and California Hall, Quicksilver played at the UC Berkeley Architecture Building (Wurster Hall). Perhaps back in the day there was a "transfer window", where bands could be swapped like strikers.

  6. The Charlatans played at the UC Berkeley Harmon Gym on May they have the time to replaced The Jaywalkers at the Fillmore that night?....I don't know