Friday, October 23, 2009

Central Park, Fremont, CA, June 18, 1967: "Banana At Noon" Free Concert New Delhi River Band/Wakefield Loop/others-The Happening

In a previous post, I posed the question of whether the "Banana At Noon" event scheduled for Central Park in Fremont on Sunday, June 18, 1967 actually occurred. This "mini Be-In" was held the same day as the last day of the Monterey Pop Festival, and the free concert was the first event of its kind in Fremont (a suburban town halfway between Berkeley and San Jose). The Friday before the show, the front page of the local paper suggested that the event was in jeopardy due to thinly-veiled concerns about the hippie menace. The event was organized by a Fremont band called The Wakefield Loop, who were also scheduled to perform at the event.

Those who have been reading the various Wakefield Loop posts, particularly the last one, know that the event did occur and it was quite a success. It was such a success--relatively, anyway--that it made the front page of the Fremont and Hayward papers on Monday morning (the clipping above is from the Hayward Daily Review of Monday June 19, 1967), with the headline "Happy Happening Helps Hospital." Wakefield Loop guitarist and concert organizer Denny Mahdik picks up the story

I came up with the idea that it might be nice to use "Central Park" in Fremont to stage a free concert, and in doing so we could raise money for some charity. Hippies were getting such a bad rap in the local news that I thought we could help change the public's impression.

I approached "Dawn School" which used to be on Thornton Avenue, and it used to take care of "Special Needs" kids. At first they were excited at the prospects of getting some free press, and making some cleanliness standards I would not classify myself as one of those filthy hippies... but as I recall, the principal of 'Dawn School' pulled out of the event at the last minute.

I had everything in place by that time, and ended up with no charity.  Obviously my goal was to link up with a reputable organization to show the community that ALL rock bands were not 'low lifes', but "Dawn's" principal got cold feet because we were classified as a hippie band. Then he went to the press, and said something derogatory like " I initially thought it was a good idea but then the association with hippies is not what we want, I hated to break the kids heart, but..."
Once Dawn pulled out, I went back to the newspaper and did my best to make an issue out of the situation, as we felt slighted,  that although we were attempting to do good... they turned it into something bad. I was seeking a bit of community support. But as I recall I didn't get too far at age 17 or so.
However, the event did go on. A fair size crowd saw South Bay headliners The New Delhi River Band (with future New Riders David Nelson and Dave Torbert) supported by Wakefield Loop, The Collective Minds, The London Colony and Of An Ugly Nature. A careful reading of the poster (done by Wakefield Loop lead singer Cheryl Williams) tantalizingly suggests that a "surprise San Francisco group" would appear. Although Denny Mahdik talked to different groups, including The Sparrow, by showtime this was supposed to be The Sopwith Camel. The Camel and Wakefield Loop shared management in one Yuri Toporov, but in the end the Camel did not play the event.  Still, as Mahdik recalls,  in the end the event had a musical and personally satisfying resolution

Anyway the gig drew several thousand people, there were no incidents, and it came off without a hitch, a fellow Fremont musician that we hung with Steve Lynn was there with his father who was VERY supportive of all of us, and when he heard the story about Dawn School, he was pissed. Mr. Lynn got on the mic and related the entire story to the crowd, who was in total support of us... and he suggested that we go ahead and collect donations, and make the benefactor The Oakland Children's Hospital.  I don't recall how much he collected by I know it was more than $400.00.

So... The concert was a success... Dawn School received nothing, and our effort paid off for Oakland's Children's Hospital.

So the Wakefield Loop successfully introduced Fremont to the psychedelic age, and for those fans who were there, and couldn't be at Monterey, it was probably just as memorable.

(thanks to Denny Mahdik and Dan Garvey of Wakefield Loop for their memories and insights. Poster by Cheryl Williams, wherever she might be, and h/t to Dan Garvey for the poster photo)

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