Monday, August 31, 2009
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I have since changed my mind about these gigs, having found more evidence. My general points still stand, but I now think the Grateful Dead played the SF Whisky through March 15, 1967--see here
A thoughtful commenter on my post about the San Francisco Whisky reminded me of the scheduled performance by The Grateful Dead at the San Francisco Whisky-A-Go-Go from March 10 through 16, 1967 (Friday through Thursday). I was aware of this event, but I completely dropped the ball in mentioning it. I take some solace in the fact that I am fairly certain that the shows never occurred, which is how I drew the conclusion that the SF Whisky did not last until March of that year. However, since I never explained it, I could hardly have expected anyone to follow my reasoning. I will attempt to rectify this with the current post.
To briefly recap earlier posts, the world famous Whisky-Go-Go in Hollywood opened on January 11, 1964. It drew its name from a disco in Paris, and there already was a similarly named, though unrelated Whisky-A-Go-Go, in Chicago (on Rush and Chestnut). The Hollywood Whisky entrepreneur, Elmer Valentine, seems to have allowed or licensed the name and "concept" to other operators. The San Francisco Whisky-A-Go-Go, now thoroughly forgotten, opened in April, 1965 and seems to have lasted until early 1967. It was located at 568 Sacramento (at Montgomery), sort of near the Financial District but somewhat far from the action on North Beach. The Doors, along with The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, played some gigs at the SF Whisky in February of 1967, but although they were scheduled for two weeks, after two days of tiny crowds The Doors handed off their gig to The Wildflower. The Doors, at least, reported that the venue had gone from a "Go-Go" club, with scantily dressed girls dancing to the music (the Hollywood model) to a topless club, with topless waitresses, a pretty common business practice in the Bay Area at the time.
Most Grateful Dead chronologies, including Deadlists and Dead.net, list March 10-16, 1967 shows for the Dead at the Whisky in Hollywood. This flies in the face of the fact that the surviving poster clearly indicates that the Dead were scheduled to play at the San Francisco Whisky (h/t to commenter psychlops). The book The Grateful Dead: The Illustrated Trip gets the location correct, although they do not comment on the shows themselves. In any case, most chronologies correctly suspect that the shows did not occur. In order to understand why this is the most plausible scenario--over and above the fact that no surviving tapes, photos or eyewitness accounts exist--we need to discuss the peculiar backstory of the Love Conspiracy Commune.
In 1966, the San Francisco underground exploded into the light, with local bands, drugs and scenes suddenly making waves in the National and Local press. All sorts of people flocked to San Francisco, some of them musicians, some of them future hippies, and some of them looking to make a buck. By 1967 a trickle had become a flood, and what was once a local happening was turning into a conflict between commercial potential and cultural authenticity. This tension would peak at the Monterey Pop Festival in the Summer, but the fault lines were already clear. Although Bill Graham and Chet Helms were the best known promoters in San Francisco (then and now), plenty of other people and groups put on concerts and happenings.
The Love Conspiracy Commune is usually known only from posters, having presented four events in San Francisco:
February 14-27, Whisky A-Go-Go (568 Sacramento): The Doors/Peanut Butter Conspiracy
The Doors are replaced by The Wildflower from February 16 onwards.
March 3, 1967, Winterland (Post and Steiner): Love/Grateful Dead/Moby Grape/Loading Zone/Blue Crumb Truck Factory "The First Annual Love Circus"
March 6, 1967, 8th and Irving Streets: The Love Conspiracy Commune Presents A Psychedelic Happening
No specific bands are mentioned in the poster, but Liqour, Beer and Sandwiches at low prices figure prominently in the poster.
March 10-16, Whisky A-Go-Go (568 Sacramento): The Grateful Dead
Who were The Love Conspiracy Commune, and how did they appear on the scene so suddenly to book rising underground stars like The Doors, The Grateful Dead and Moby Grape, at an established (if struggling) venue and a major hall (Winterland)? The one specific account of the Love Conspiracy Commune comes from the excellent book by Rolling Stone writer Charles Perry, Haight Ashbury: A History (Rolling Stone Press 1984). Perry writes in detail about a conflict about the March 3 show at Winterland. Local politics were too complicated to go into here, but suffice to say there was tension between those who felt that the scene should stay free or at least cheap, and those who saw it as a commercial bonanza. A sort of collective called The Diggers protested the show for being too expensive ($3.50, pricey at the time).
Perry details a complicated confrontation (p.150-151) in which The Diggers ended up picketing the Winterland show, and The Dead refused to play unless the picketers got in for free. The promoters relented, and some picketers were let in, though apparently not all. Amongst the various broadsides passed back and forth
"One of the group, said the Diggers, had admitted that the Love Conspiracy Commune was backed by "some mob." The mob was a group of dealers from the University of North Carolina who jokingly called themselves the "Chapel Hill Mafia" (p.150)."
While this accusation seems like the sort of criticism that angry ideologues hurl at each other, Perry points out later (p.189) that a Methedrine/DMT lab associated with the Love Conspiracy Commune, on Baker Street (in Pacific Heights), was busted on May 3, so the Commune may indeed have had some shady underpinnings.
The March 6 poster is interesting too. It promises a "Happening" with no specific bands, and makes clear that "Liquor, Beer and Sandwiches" will be available. While hardly illegal, this is clearly an effort to turn an Acid Test into a profitable dance party--dare I call it "A Rave"--and it too must not have gone over well in The Haight. Of course, I have never read or heard a single thing about the March 6 event, so I do not know what happened.
However, by the time of the scheduled March 10-16 Whisky event with the Dead, the "Love Conspiracy Commune" had already caused an ugly rift with the Haight community, and put the Grateful Dead in the middle of a political dispute. The Dead were always comfortable with chaos, but shied away from conflict, and I can't imagine them wanting to play a downtown club with topless waitresses for an out-of-town group who had already shown poor judgment at best.There is no record of the Grateful Dead shows at The Whisky, other than the poster, and I have no reason to think they played the gigs.
My own theory about the Love Conspiracy Commune is that they were connected to drug dealers of some kind, who were looking to make a splash quickly (perhaps to hide money). They blew into San Francisco and took over the booking of an available club, The Whisky A-Go-Go, not realizing it was in the wrong part of town and antithetical to the local scene. They seemed to have the ready cash to book a big event at Winterland, too, but they seemed to have drastically misjudged the local participants, who were still devoted to events that reflected the community as it was perceived, and not ready to fully exploit it commercially. The "Happening" on March 6 that advertises refreshments is actually the most jarring note, and a sign that the San Francisco scene still had an underground feel to it, even if it was slowly conceding ground to commercial realities.
The Peanut Butter Conspiracy/Wildflower shows went through February 27, and I have never seen an ad for an SF Whisky show other than the March 10-16 Dead poster. Its my belief that the SF Whisky had closed by March 10, if not even sooner after February 27, as another misguided enterprise from The Love Conspiracy Commune.
Crossposted on LostLiveDead
Saturday, August 29, 2009
The world-famous Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood opened on January 11, 1964, with the then unknown Johnny Rivers as the featured act for much of the year. By the end of 1964, Rivers was a successful recording artist (his big hits were "Secret Agent Man" and "Memphis"), his hit album recorded live at the Whisky A Go Go, and the Whisky was a National sensation. The Whisky's special ingredient was pretty girls dancing in cages elevated above the crowd, dancing to a happening live band.
In early 1965, Whisky owner Elmer Valentine appears to have formally or informally licensed the Whisky name to other operators. There had been other clubs named Whisky A Go Go (in Chicago disco in 1958 for example), but the Hollywood Whisky invented its own formula. there are only traces of the various clubs, and my own research seems to be one of the few attempts to make sense of the San Francisco operation. It appears there was more to Elmer Valentine's club than just pretty girls, and it was not so easily copied.
This promotional photograph of Johnny Rivers is from the Oakland Tribune of April 18, 1965. It is the earliest notice or advertisement I have seen for the San Francisco Whisky. Although I know no more than the fact that Johnny Rivers was playing the SF Whisky in April 1965, we are able to glean a number of important conclusions from this shred of information.
- The San Francisco Whisky was newly opened in April 1965, and in fact I would not be surprised to find out that Johnny Rivers was the first performer, as he had opened the Hollywood Whisky.
- Johnny Rivers was a very big recording star in April 1965. "Secret Agent Man" had been a local hit (it would be a National hit in 1966, reaching #3), his cover of Chuck Berry's "Memphis" had reached #2, "Maybelline" went to #12, "Mountain Of Love" to #9, and "Midnight Special" had gone to #20. He had also recorded a number of successful live albums at the Hollywood Whisky. Elmer Valentine was not Rivers's manager, but whoever was must have been tied into the finances of the San Francisco Whisky, because getting Johnny Rivers to open your club was quite a coup.
I have not been able to determine much about the other Whisky franchises, but I would not be surprised to find out Johnny Rivers opened those venues too. I have seen other ads and notices for the SF Whisky in Bay Area papers from 1965 to 1967, but Rivers is far and away the biggest name to have played the venue until the abortive Doors/Peanut Butter Conspiracy shows in February 1967 (The Doors canceled after two days).
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
January 4-6, 1968: Winterland Vanilla Fudge/Steve Miller Blues Band/Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee/Sweetwater (4th Fillmore)
January 12-18, 1968: Café Au Go Go, New York, NY John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers/Steve Miller Band
The Steve Miller Band were probably on their way to London to record their first album. At this point, they are no longer billed as The Steve Miller Blues Band. The Cafe Au Go Go was a Greenwich Village nightclub located at 152 Bleecker Street.
February, 1968: The Steve Miller Band was in London recording their first album. Miller made recording in London a condition of signing a contract. While there, all but Miller are busted for marijuana (the newspaper clipping above is a wire story from the February 27, 1968 Des Moines Register).
April, 1968: The Steve Miller Band’s first album, Children Of The Future, is released on Capitol. Records.
April 11, 1968: Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA Yardbirds/Steve Miller Band
The Miller Band seems to have made a national tour, but I only know of a few gigs. The Boston Tea Party was the a major stop on the psychedelic "circuit." Jimmy Page was the lead guitarist of The Yardbirds at this time.
April 12-13, 1968: Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA Steve Miller Band/Earth Opera
Earth Opera was a psychedelic folk-rock group on Elektra that featured Peter Rowan and mandolinist David Grisman, both of them later in Old and In The Way with Jerry Garcia. Earth Opera released two interesting albums on Elektra in 1968 and 69.
April 15-17, 1968: Garrick Theater, New York, NY Steve Miller Band
The Garrick, upstairs from the Café Au-Go-Go, was a small theater in Greenwich Village.
April 18-21, 1968: Café Au Go Go, New York, NY Steve Miller Band/Bunky and Jake
April 26-28, 1968: Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Band/James and Bobby Purify/Sons of Champlin
Tapes survive of all three nights.
May 8, 1968: Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Charlatans/Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks/It’s A Beautiful Day “Fire Dance” Alton Kelly Benefit
The Steve Miller Band may have also played this Carousel benefit.
May 10-12, 1968: Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Band/Kaleidoscope/Youngbloods
Tapes of the Steve Miller Band survive for all three nights. The band engages in some impressive extended jamming, soaring off a chord or two for long periods of time. Lonnie Turner in particular shines on bass. On May 11, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady (and possibly Elvin Bishop) show up to jam at the end of the show.
May 17-18, 1968: Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA Grateful Dead/Steve Miller Band/Taj Mahal Pinnacle Presents
On May 18, the Jefferson Airplane appear as unannounced guests.
May 18, 1968: Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, Santa Jose, CA
Jefferson Airplane/Big Brother and The Holding Company/Grateful Dead/Steve Miller Band/Youngbloods/People/Sons of Champlin/Crome Syrcus/Transatlantic Railroad/Indian Head Band/Mourning Reign
This was the first day of the two-day Northern California Folk Rock Festival. Acts are listed in reverse running order (the Airplane closed the show).
May 30, 1968: Acalanes High School, Lafayette Steve Miller Band/Loading Zone/Country Weather/Frumious Bandersnatch
Teen Drop-In Center Benefit
The Frumious Bandersnatch were from Lafayette, CA, in Contra Costa County. This was the first time the band met Steve Miller. Every member of Frumious Bandersnatch ended up in the Steve Miller Band at one time or another in the later 60s and 70s.
June 6-7, 1968: The Hippodrome, San Diego, CA Steve Miller Band/Alexander’s Timeless Blooze Band/Baptized By Fire
The Hippodrome was downtown at Front and G Streets.
June 16, 1968 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA Big Brother and The Holding Company/Steve Miller Blues Band/Sandy Bull/Dan Hicks/Santana
June 19, 1968: The Ark, Sausalito Steve Miller Band/Curley Cook’s Hurdy Gurdy Band
Although the Steve Miller Band was billed at The Ark, a tiny hangout on am old Ferryboat moored at Gate 6 in Sausalito, I find it highly unlikely that the Steve Miller Band actually played there. However, it seems very plausible that Miller would show up to jam with his old pal Curly Cook, so this was probably Cook’s band with Miller helping out and sitting in.
June 28-30, 1968: Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Band/Buddy Guy/Initial Shock
The Steve Miller Band may not have played on the 29th (see below). Given the state of The Carousel’s finances, they may not have played any of the shows, or the shows may not have even happened.
June 28-29, 1968: Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA The Who/Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac/Crazy World of Arthur Brown Pinnacle Presents
This was almost certainly Fleetwood Mac’s American debut (there is a small chance they debuted June 23 at the Carousel in San Francisco). The Mac was still the original 4-piece lineup (Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood) as Danny Kirwan would not join until August. The second night (June 29) Steve Miller Band replaced Crazy World of Arthur Brown, due to an injury in the band.
For the final installment, see here.
June 6-8, 1967: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band
The poster suggests that Miller headlined two nights at California Hall, but a contemporary listing in Ralph Gleason's column shows that Quicksilver headlined Friday (June 9), and AAA replaced The Sparrow.
June 13-15, 1967 The Matrix, San Francisco Steve Miller Blues Band
September 1-3, 1967: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Band/Mother Earth/Bukka White [added]
This KPFA Benefit was originally supposed to be headlined by Pink Floyd, on their first American tour. However, the band had visa problems and canceled their first American dates. Steve Miller Blues Band took their place. The above is a contemporary ad from the Berkeley Barb (h/t Ross).
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.
January 6-7, 1967: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Quicksilver Messenger Service/Miller Blues Band [added]
January 10-15, 1967: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band
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
February 19, 1967: California Hall, San Francisco, CA Country Joe and The Fish/Steve Miller Blues Band/Mime Troupe
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
March 5, 1967: California Hall, San Francisco, Steve Miller Blues Band/Orkustra/Dino Valenti/SF Mime Troupe/The Committee/Richard Brautigan
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 [added]
“Phoenix Dance” Benefit for Aid to Vietnam and Mississippi
March 30, 1967: Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, CA Jimmy Reed/John Lee Hooker/Charles Lloyd/Miller Blues Band [added]
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
April 4-9, 1967: Rock Garden, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Ban/The Only Alternative and His Other Possibility with Kay Olsen/The Orkustra [added]
April 14-15, 1967: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA The Doors/Miller Blues Band/Hajibaba [added]
April 21-23, 1967: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band
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 [added].
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 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.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Since the reproduced poster can be hard to read, I will indicate the facts here. The header says "Muhammad Ali Festival-Hunters Point-Free-June 10-11." Hunters Point was a mostly African-American district of San Francisco, which had grown to prominence during World War 2, as many African Americans moved to San Francisco to work in the Naval Shipyards in Hunters Point (similar to Oakland, Richmond, Marin City and Vallejo). Free rock concerts in San Francisco, of which there were a lot at the time, had hitherto been in Golden Gate Park or nearer Downtown (Union Square, etc), so a free concert in an African American neighborhood was new territory, particularly a two-day event on Saturday and Sunday. Along with a 1969 Synanon Festival in Oakland, this show appears to be one of the very few efforts to merge white rock hippie festivals with the African American community, so whether the show succeeded or not is a much more interesting question than usual.
Muhammad Ali also had a unique status at this time. Besides his enormous status as an athlete (comparable to someone like Shaquille O'Neal), he had refused induction into the US Army as a Conscientious Objector, saying that it went against the teachings of The Koran. His famous remark "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong" made him a hero to many people who were not boxing fans. In 1964, Ali had changed his name from Cassius Clay, and this alone was unprecedented (most sports headlines still called him Clay), and making his religious beliefs the basis for refusing to be drafted made him a figure much larger than a mere a sports hero. In April, 1967 Ali was arrested for formally refusing his draft notice, and his trial was set for June 20. He was convicted, and although he was not jailed, he was stripped of his heavyweight title and did not box again until 1971. As a result, Ali crystallized opposition to the War, reflecting a man so principled that he gave up money and fame to do it.
Thus an event 10 days before Ali's trial that says "Muhammad Ali Festival" is self-evidently intended as a celebration of racial solidarity and opposition to the Vietnam War. Of course, that would be the hippie interpretation--whether the local community perceived it as supportive or patronizing is unclear. Some of the fine print says "Free Bar B-Q", which in California was effectively code for African Americans, although how black people might have felt out about it was completely unclear. There is also a small map of Hunters Point but I cannot discern the actual place where the festival was held.
No specific organizer or affiliations are identifiable for this event, so it makes me wonder how carefully it was organized. A lot of hippie events were thrown together kind of casually, and they did not always fall together gracefully: bands didn't show up, generators ran out of power, the cops hassled about permits, neighbors complained, and so on. Its impossible to say if this well-intentioned event had a chance of succeeding, much less whether it actually did.
As to the mystery of this event, it happened to take place on a particularly busy rock weekend in the Bay Area. A huge rock festival that was scheduled the previous weekend at Mt. Tamalpais in Marin had been delayed and rescheduled to the weekend of June 10-11. This all day event, featuring groups like The Doors, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and The Fish and a couple of dozen others, would have sucked away numerous people who might have considered journeying to Hunters Point. Numerous other people may have been saving up time or money to go to the Monterey Pop Festival the next weekend. Meanwhile, The Doors were at the Fillmore Friday and Saturday night (June 9-10), Big Brother and Canned Heat were at The Avalon all weekend (June 8-11) and Steve Miller Band was headlining California Hall on Friday and Saturday night as well.
The listed performers for this concert were not well known at the time, even if some of them have grown in stature since. The acts listed are:
Steve Miller Blues Band: a great group, but a year shy of their first album, and only known locally. Curley Cook was still on rhythm guitar, as Boz Scaggs would not join until later in the Summer.
Orkustra: A Haight Ashbury band that played all instrumental music, featuring future Manson Family member Bobby Beausoleil on guitar and David LaFlamme, later of Its A Beautiful Day.
The Loading Zone: an Oakland band that played both rock and soul clubs, they too were a year shy of their debut album.
The Charlatans: though Haight Ashbury legends, these pioneers were never actually that popular, and their first album did not come out until much later.
Ulysses Crockett and The Afro Blue Persuasion: Crockett was a Berkeley vibraphonist whose modern jazz sextet played a lot on Haight Street.
Phoenix: A San Francisco group that was still a year shy of their performing peak, although they never got the breaks they needed either.
Anonymous Artists of America: A Santa Cruz Mountains band who lived in a commune
SF Mime Troupe: Popular political theater group in the City
The Committee: Improvisational theater troupe, based on Broadway in North Beach
Sonny Lewis Quintet, Haight Street Jazz Band, Raquels, Earth: all unknown to me.
One of the "acts" says "Gonga Drums", which I take to be an informal drumming group, common in Golden Gate Park and Sproul Plaza, and the Radha Krishna Temple. What the temple was providing isn't clear, although one assumes they all chanted. There are numerous initials, like "B.A.Q," "P.L.T's" and "B.J.", which may be code or who knows what. There are numerous assurances of "Surprise Guests," but of course there is no way of knowing.
To some extent, the fact that this event ended up taking place on a giant rock weekend during the Summer Of Love has pushed it into obscurity. Nonetheless, the poster remains a tantalizing curiosity about an event that was interesting whether it occurred or not.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
On August 9, 1969, the City of Oakland held a Synanon-sponsored Street Fair. It featured a 14-hour free concert on two stages, headlined by Country Joe and The Fish. Just one week before Woodstock, the Oakland Tribune reported that 75, 000 people attended the event.
August 9, 1969 7th and Market Streets, Oakland, CA: Synanon Street Fair with Country Joe and The Fish
On Saturday, August 9, 1969, one week prior to Woodstock, Country Joe and The Fish headlined a 14-hour free concert at a Street Fair in Oakland for as many as 75,000 people. There are many remarkable things about this event, not the least that it seems to have been totally forgotten in the history of the East Bay and East Bay music. Until I discovered it recently in the archives of the Oakland Tribune, I knew nothing about it, and that made it officially obscure. This post is a brief effort to show what I have learned from the Tribune archives, as well as showing how remarkable this event appears to be.
Rock Stage (10:00am-midnight, scheduled order)
VeeJays/Southern Comfort/Phananganang/Marvin Gardens/Country Weather/Transatlantic Railroad/Synanon/Frumious Bandersnatch/Joy of Cooking/Flamin’ Groovies/Everyday People/Country Joe and The Fish/Morning Glory/Womb/The Crabs
Concert Stage (10:00am-midnight, scheduled order);
Johnny Mars Blues/Ice/Murray Music Co/Martha Young/Eddie Henderson/Gentle Dance/Harley White Sextet/Afro-Jazz Quartet/Gospel Tonics/Sounds of Synanon/Esther Phillips/QueQeg/Sebastian Moon/Orion
In an article on the day of the concert, The Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band were also listed as performers, probably on the Rock Stage.
- A huge free concert near downtown, directed at a multi-racial audience, is both radical and far-sighted, particularly for Oakland. Whose idea was it, and how did it get traction?
- Free rock concerts, starting in Golden Gate Park (on October 6, 1966), and followed by The Human Be-In (January 14, 1967), were iconic events in the 60s rock world, remembered fondly and often incorrectly by aging white hippies. What did the African American community think of this event, held near "their" neighborhood, then, afterwards and now?
- If this concert was the success the article makes it out to be, why wasn't it repeated? While I note the large crowd in the picture above, based on the schedule the picture was probably taken about 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon. How big a crowd was there at midnight, when The Crabs and Orion closed each stage?
(I have re-written this post with substantially more information here)
Provo Park in Berkeley, originally named Constitution Park, lies in the center of town, near City Hall and Berkeley High School. It is bounded by Allston Way, Martin Luther King Junior Way (called Grove Street in the 1960s) and Center Street. In the mid-1960s, Berkeleyites started calling Constitution Park "Provo Park" in support of the IRA, and the name stuck. This is typical Berkeley politics, hardly noticed by residents, and almost no one living there now recalls why the park was called Provo Park.
January 15, 1967 Loading Zone/Ulysses B. Crockett
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The Whisky A-Go-Go in West Hollywood is rightly revered as a seminal club in the history of rock music. It is a little remembered fact, however, that owner Elmer Valentine appeared to have franchised the name and style of the club (or "The Brand" as we would now say) to other operators outside of Los Angeles. There was a Whisky A-Go-Go in Chicago, and I believe in Atlanta, and one in San Francisco, all largely forgotten.
The San Francisco club was at 568 Sacramento Street (at Montgomery), right near downtown but somewhat far from the action on North Beach. The earliest evidence I have seen of it is the first week of 1966, from which the article (right) about the engaging Ms. Tina Loo's dancing ability was drawn (San Mateo Times, January 7, 1966). The last I know of it was February, 1967, when The Doors played a few dates, quickly replaced by The Wildflower. I have seen a few other ads from the San Mateo Times in early 1966, of which the above (from February 11, 1966) is typical.
Other than these scattered facts, I know very little about the San Francisco Whisky, or anything at all about the other Whisky "franchises." However, the little information I have about the San Francisco Whisky does show how the "business model" of an entertainment vehicle depends so much on the operator, not the model. I have written extensively about performers at the Whisky from 1966 to 1969, and while they were only paid union scale, they were the coolest and most interesting bands in Los Angeles, whether living there or just visiting. West Hollywood was where the cool people were, and the Whisky became a hangout and taste-making club. In an entirely different way, the same could be said of the Fillmore and The Avalon in San Francisco.
Conversely, however, a bunch of unhip lounge bands and pretty go-go dancers in San Francisco's Financial District seems to have made an impression on no one. Elmer Valentine's booking policies made the Whisky what it was, and the style and the girls were just icing (if delicious at that). By the same token, Fillmore-style clubs never made it financially in Southern California, because despite plenty of good bands it lacked the focus that the Fillmore and Avalon brought to San Francisco.
I know that by the time The Doors played the SF Whisky it had become a topless joint, and after there were only a few patrons at their first gigs (on February 14-15, 1967), The Doors handed off their booking to The Wildflower. I think the SF Whisky folded soon after that. To this day, I have no idea who financed or ran the San Francisco Whisky.
Crossposted at Rock Archaeology 101.
In the first half of 1966, Frenchy's, at 29097 Mission Boulevard in Hayward, was the only rock club between Berkeley and San Jose, and the rock club that was farthest East of San Francisco. Plenty of rock was played at High School dances and "Teen" events, but there were still very few adult rock clubs where drinks were served. Frenchy's was considerably less cool than The Matrix in San Francisco or The Whiskey A-Go-Go in Hollywood, but it was one of the few gigs available for aspiring rock bands. As a result, a review of the shows from Frenchy's in the first half of 1966 reveals an interesting cross-section of rock music.
Hayward, California, while a prosperous suburb, was still a distant enclave in 1966. Neither the freeway network nor public transportation (such as BART) was anywhere near what it was today, so there was considerably less contact with San Francisco, Berkeley or San Jose. Hayward wasn't far from its agricultural roots, and the biggest industry around was the auto plant in nearby Fremont.
Frenchy's dated back to at least 1962 (The Warlocks had played a gig there on June 18, 1965). It seemed to be run on the Whisky A-Go-Go model, with pretty girls dancing on elevated stages to lather everyone up, and bands playing dance music throughout the night. While the drinking age was 21 in California, insuring no teenagers, because food was served 18-year olds could attend in some circumstances (allowing young men to bring even younger dates). Rock music was popular with people in their twenties, but not with older people. Some of the bands who played were clearly cover bands who probably also played Las Vegas type lounges, and some were more original groups, but even the bands playing original material must have played a lot of covers to fill out the evening.
I have compiled the list for the most part from ads in the Hayward Daily Review. The ad and photo above are from the March 18, 1966 edition.
Frenchy's 1966 Show List
January 7-18, 1966 The Leaves
The Leaves were a popular band on Hollywood's Sunset Strip. The January 7, 1966 edition of the Daily Review said they were proteges of Pat Boone. Did he know their logo was a marijuana leaf? The Leaves were a pretty good band, with two albums and a hit single ("Hey Joe" which they got from The Byrds). Bassist Jim Pons was later in The Turtles and The Mothers of Invention.
Most engagements at Frenchy's were from Friday to Thursday, but The Leaves ended on a Tuesday.
January 19-27, 1966 The Liverpool Five
I don't know anything about this group, but I'll bet they weren't from England. I don't know exactly when their engagement ended, or if another group played at the beginning of February.
January 28-February 6, 1966 The Mojo Men
The Mojo Men were on Autumn Records, the label of KYA-AM dj Tom Donahue (who later founded KSAN-fm). Rather confusingly, another group on Autumn was The Vejtables, featuring the singing girl drummer Jan Errico. When Autumn fell apart in April of 1966, Errico left The Vejtables and joined The Mojo Men, and they had a hit with a Buffalo Springfield song "Sit Down I Think I Love You." At this time, however, The Mojo Men still featured bassist/singer Jim Alaimo.
February 7-17: The Vejtables
The Vejtables, with Jan Errico (Gregg Errico's cousin) on drums and vocals, had played Frenchy's often in the second half of 1965, as had their label mates The Mojo Men.
February 18-March 3, 1966 The Gauchos
The Gauchos were led by one Jim Doval. Based on the advertising, they seem to be a typical Nevada lounge act, probably quite talented in a rock/r&b style but strictly a cover band.
March 4-March 17, 1966 The Wild Ones
The Wild Ones were (according to the ad) fresh from a gig at Arthur's, a New York disco.
March 18-31, 1966 The American Beetles
How would you like to be in this band? Notice that the drum kit has "Beetles" but the club advertised "American Beatles."
April 1-14, 1966 The Mojo Men
The Mojo Men return.
April 15-21, 1966 Peter Lewis with Peter and The Wolves/Linda Carr
Peter Lewis was later in Moby Grape. I have written about this elsewhere.
April 22-28, 1966 The Sons Of Adam/Linda Clark and Randy Meek
In complete contrast to The American Beetles, The Sons Of Adam were the coolest band on the Sunset Strip. Guitarist Randy Holden was a titan, as would soon be proven in The Other Half and Blue Cheer.
April 29-May 5, 1966 The Ashes
The Ashes were a Los Angeles band who played in a folk-rock style. Drummer Spencer Dryden would shortly join the Jefferson Airplane, so there were probably some Airplane people checking him out.
May 6-May 26, 1966 The Mothers
Frank Zappa's band was known as The Mothers. His anxious record company (MGM) added "Of Invention." At this time, they would have mostly recorded Freak Out, but it would not have been released. The ad for May 6 still features The Ashes, but esteemed Zappa gigolist Charles Ulrich is confident that the Mothers gig started on Friday May 6. Ulrich has been in correspondence with Ashes guitarist Alan Brackett, who recalls hanging out with The Mothers as they came into town, so I am inclined to agree with his analysis.
At this time the Mothers lineup would have been
Frank Zappa-guitar, vocals
Roy Estrada-bass, vocals
Jimmy Carl Black-drums
When the Mothers finished their engagement they played The Fillmore on the weekend of May 27-29.
May 21, 1966 Neil Diamond/The Mothers
I have ruminated elsewhere about the cosmic convergence of The Mothers backing Neil Diamond on a Saturday night in Hayward. Charles Ulrich has sound reason to believe that Diamond was backed by just Roy Estrada and Jimmy Carl Black (Diamond was an adequate guitarist), rather than the full band. Diamond, riding high on "Solitary Man", had flown into town to play a gig in San Leandro as well as at Frenchy's.
May 27-June 9, 1966 The Ashes
The ad for June 3 says "The Ashes-still!."
June 10-23, 1966 WC Fields Electric String Memorial Band
I know nothing about this group, but I note that they have a more whimsical psychedelic name, a sign of changing times regardless of what they played.
June 24-July 6, 1966 The Vejtables
To add to the confusion, when Jan Errico left The Vejtables to join The Mojo Men, The Vejtables continued on. This would have been the post-Errico lineup. They may have featured future Moby Grape bassist Bob Mosley at this time, but I am not certain of his chronology.
This is as much of the Frenchy's gig list as I have been able to determine. Anyone with additional information is encouraged to send it to me or include it in the comments.
After June, Frenchy's mostly featured a group called The Tijauna Rejects, and by late 1966 had gone "topless," heading away from a focus on the music. This had changed by mid-1967 (the ad says 'Topless was a big bust'), but by then Frenchy's was just another rock club in the East Bay.
This ad and photo from the April 15, 1966 Hayward Daily Review is the only ad I have seen for the group Peter And The Wolves, starring Peter Lewis, some months shy of founding Moby Grape. The photo identifying him as Loretta Young's son guarantees that this is the same Peter Lewis. The band was based in Southern California, and I did not even realize that they had played any Northern California shows.
At this time, all the other members of Moby Grape were in the Bay Area as well, except possibly for Bob Mosley. Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson were in The Frantics, living in the hills of San Bruno and playing South Bay bars, but they would shortly change the name of the band to Luminous Marsh Gas and add a female singer, Denise Kaufman (subsequently of Ace Of Cups). Skip Spence was still drumming in the Jefferson Airplane, although he would leave the band the next month.
Bob Mosley was probably in the Bay Area, working with either the Joel Scott Hill Trio (with Lee Michaels and John Barbata) or The Frantics, but I am not certain of his exact timeline.
I don't know anything about Peter and The Wolves material, or whether or not they played any proto-Moby Grape material, but his photo is still a fascinating snapshot of a changing moment in time.