Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fillmore East April 26-27, 1968: Traffic/Blue Cheer/Iron Butterfly

(this post is part of a series cataloging every performance at the Fillmore East)

This was Traffic’s first American tour, which began on March 14 in San Francisco at The Fillmore. The group was originally a quartet, with Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason.  However, the mercurial Mason quit and rejoined the group regularly, and he had apparently left the group prior to their American tour, which had begun in March. Traffic’s current album was Mr Fantasy (UA Dec 67).

Traffic was one of the first groups to emphasize overdubbing as a means of creating different sounds on different songs.  Winwood, Mason and Wood played numerous instruments, and clever use of the studio meant that Traffic songs could be anything from frothy pop ballads with flute and sitar to heavy rock with twin lead guitars and organ. Live, however, Traffic’s sound was very different, as it depended on Winwood’s versatile organ playing (including the bass pedals), and they were more like a typical (if excellent) British R&B combo. For whatever reasons, Dave Mason reappeared in New York and joined the group onstage for at least one of the four performances. He would rejoin the group for the recording of their next album.

Blue Cheer were an SF power trio, backed by LSD king Owsley Stanley, and named after a brand of his acid. Owsley bought the band tons of equipment (supposedly Blue Cheer had 12 Marshall Stacks, 6 each for bass and guitar), and they were famously loud.  Unlike other peace-and-love SF bands, Blue Cheer had a noisy, nasty sound and demeanor.  Their quasi-hit, a remake of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” is a precursor to Heavy Metal.  Their first album (Philips Mar 68) was called Vincebus Eruptum (the underground buzz at the time was that it was Latin for “Throw Up And Live“, although actually it meant nothing). Amazingly, their single got to number 14, and for many out in the hinterlands, it was a hint of something darker and wilder in the world.

Although Blue Cheer is fondly remembered for being ahead of their time as masters of sonic assault, even their fans concede that they weren’t particularly disciplined. This show would have been with the original trio, with Leigh Stephens on guitar, Dickie Petersen on bass and vocals, and Paul Whaley on drums.    

Iron Butterfly were originally from San Diego, and had relocated to Los Angeles in late 1966.  They were touring behind their first album Heavy (Atco Jan 68). However, the album had been recorded in late Summer 1967, and by the time Atco released the album, the band's lineup was somewhat different. Bassist Jerry Penrod had been replaced by Lee Dorman, and singer Darryl DeLoach had departed also, with vocals shared amongst the band. Erik Brann (sometimes spelled Braun) played guitar  along with Doug Ingle on organ and Ron Bushy on drums. According to an internet commentator, Iron Butterfly’s equipment had not yet arrived and they used Blue Cheer’s amps. At this point, the Butterfly were just another psychedelic group from California.

Next: May 3-4, 1968 Jefferson Airplane/Crazy World Of Arthur Brown


  1. Owsley helped name Blue Cheer but had no part in financing the band . They bought their six stacks of Marshalls themselves with a credit line from Don Weir's Music City in San Francisco. They played with 3 Stacks each and Paul Whaley used a double Rodgers Drum Set.

    Eric Albronda

  2. Eric good to hear from you. But the correct spelling of Don surname is "Wehr" not "Weir" as you said. Bad news: Dickie Peterson, bassist/vocalist and founding member of Blue Cheer, passed away this morning (Monday, October 12) at 5:00am in Germany. Although the cause of Peterson's death has not been released, he had reportedly been battling cancer for the past several months.

    R.I.P. Dickie!