Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Avalon Ballroom April 22-23, 1966: The Blues Project/Great Society


This post initiates a series analyzing every rock concert at the Avalon Ballroom. Above is the Wes Wilson poster for the event (FD5--thanks to Ross for the scan).

April 22-23, 1966 The Blues Project/Great Society

Transplanted Texan Chet Helms had started informally promoting shows in the basement of an old Victorian (by then a boarding house) on 1090 Page Street. He had taken over The Family Dog name from Luria Castell and others in early 1966, and initially he went into a partnership with Bill Graham. From February through early April of 1966, Graham and Helms alternated promotions each weekend at the Fillmore. Disputes rapidly arose between the two entrepreneurs, and Helms, realizing he would never co-exist with Bill Graham, found his own venue.

Helms took over the lease on The Avalon Ballroom, opened in 1911 as The Puckett School of Dance, for 800 dollars a month.  It was on 1268 Sutter (at Van Ness), 8 blocks nearer to downtown than the Fillmore, but just as far away from North Beach or the Haight Ashbury. The Avalon was somewhat smaller than the Fillmore, and was always a looser, wilder scene, remembered fondly by everyone who went.  As the evening wore on, the Avalon staff typically joined in the dancing and carrying on, and no one took tickets.  Over time, the hippie style of management meant that bands sometimes didn’t get paid (or on occasion were just given a kilo of weed).

The Avalon and The Fillmore summed up the dichotomy of the ballroom scene.  Bands and fans preferred the Avalon, but it was ultimately too disorganized to survive.  The implicit commercialism of the Fillmore guaranteed a level of professionalism that allowed bands to persist.  Most big cities and college towns soon developed a psychedelic ballroom scene, based on what little information could be gleaned from rumors and Life Magazine. Most of these scenes were like the Avalon:  fun, economically unsound, and unable to survive.  The Fillmore took the parts of the ballroom scene that were good for the music and injected enough commercial sense to insure survival.

For its opening weekend, the Avalon booked The Blues Project, the hippest band in New York.  Blues Project played extended blues like every band in this era, but they came at it from a more musical, up tempo New York style, doing relatively jazzy versions of blues songs, or bluesy versions of folk songs. Danny Kalb, though unknown beyond Greenwich Village, was one of the best electric blues guitarists outside of Chicago, and Al Kooper’s organ was well-known for his seminal playing on Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.”  Unlike any of the San Francisco bands, guitarist Steve Katz, bassist Andy Kulberg and drummer Roy Blumenfield could play a fast blues shuffle and still swing.  Although vocalist Tommy Flanders, who appeared on their soon-to-be released album Live At The CafĂ© Au-Go-Go (Verve May 66), had already left, Kooper, Katz and Kalb were adequate vocalists.

The Blues Project, already popular in Greenwich Village and the East Coast College circuit, were making their first trip West. The Avalon wasn't their Bay Area debut--they probably played The Matrix the week of April 12-17, and definitely played the San Francisco State Folk Festival (the weekend of April 15-17)--but the Friday and Saturday night shows were the highest profile gigs for the band in the area. Chet Helms was well known in the underground, and the opening of the Avalon was a big deal, and the Blues Project's hot swinging blues put the San Francisco bands on notice about how good a band could be. After this weekend, The Blues Project were extremely popular in San Francisco for the life of the band, and the Avalon was off to a roaring start.

The Great Society came out of the Film and Art world, and had never been folkies.  They were interested in improvised music and (for lack of a better term) Performance Art.  Grace Slick and her husband Jerry had seen the Airplane perform in August 1965, and felt inspired to form a rock band. Grace played keyboards and sang, Jerry played drums, Jerry's brother Darby played lead guitar, and David Miner played guitar and sang. Their inability to find a bass player in 1965 had led them to hire one Bard Dupont, after a chance meeting in the post office, because he had long hair and hip clothes.  The Great Society's public debut was at the first Family Dog event on October 16, 1965 at Longshoreman's Hall, although they did a brief unpublicized performance at a coffee shop the night before.

Great Society’s record company, Autumn, supposedly released a single of “Someone To Love” in March, written by Darby Slick, and later to become the legendary “Somebody To Love” when performed by The Jefferson Airplane.  The 45, while actually pressed, was never apparently distributed, as a result of Autumn Records’ financial difficulties.  Also, despite Dupont’s desire to be in a band, he didn’t play an instrument and his inability to play bass was holding up the band. By the time of the Avalon debut in April, Dupont had been summarily fired (he made the band promise to tell everyone he had quit) and replaced by Peter Vandergelder, a saxophonist who--while not a bassist either--was at least an actual musician.

The Great Society, who styled themselves jazzy improvisers, were humiliated by the musical sophistication of the Blues Project.  The Society decided to rent a house in Mill Valley, live communally and rehearse twice a day.  At this time, the Great Society were David Miner (guitar, vocals), Grace Slick (vocals, guitar, sometimes doubling on bass), Darby Slick (lead guitar), Peter Vander Gelder (bass, saxophone) and Jerry Slick (drums). While unsophisticated, The Great Society were neither blues nor folk, and didn't sound like anyone else playing live or on the radio, and Grace Slick was always a major presence, so while The Blues Project were the musical highlight, the Great Society were also memorable performers for the lucky attendees of the Avalon's first nights.

UPDATE: A knowledgeable Italian pointed out that in Spring 1966, the lead singer for The Blues Project was Emmaratta Marx, who was in the band for about two months. Although she only performed with the band for a few months, her presence with the Blues Project's stunning debut must have helped confirm the notion to the San Francisco underground that successful bands had female lead vocalists (or "chick singers" as they were called then).

Next: April 29-30, 1966 Big Brother and The Holding Company/Grass Roots

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fillmore East April 12-13, 1968: Butterfield Blues Band/Charles Lloyd/Tom Rush

 (this post is part of a series cataloging every show at The Fillmore East)

April 12-13, 1968  Butterfield Blues Band/Charles Lloyd/Tom Rush

The Butterfield Blues Band had come out of Chicago in late 1965 as America’s premier white blues band.  They featured guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop.  Bloomfield had moved to San Francisco and started the Electric Flag by this time, but Bishop was still in Butterfield’s group. The group had just released The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw (Elektra Feb 68) heralding Bishop’s newly-prominent role. However, rather than the guitar-oriented Chicago style blues of the first two albums, Butterfield’s new sound was closer to soul, with a three-piece horn section.

Elvin Bishop would leave the Butterfield band within two months of this show, and he too would move to the Bay Area and start his own band. Mark Naftalin, the group's original keyboard player, was also still with the band, but he too would leave shortly after this and move to the Bay Area. The other members of the group were probably Bugsy Maugh on bass, Philip Wilson on drums and Gene Dinwiddie (tenor sax) and Keith Johnson (trumpet) on horns, possibly with Dave Sanborn (alto). Sanborn had toured with the group in late 1967 and early 1968, but I don't know how long he stayed.


The Butterfield Blues Band already had a lengthy and fruitful relationship with Bill Graham at the Fillmore, but it is worth noting that this is the third act managed by Albert Grossman that headlined the theater in  its first six weeks of operation. That being said, the original powerhouse Butterfield Blues Band, with Mike Bloomfield in his prime, had played some seminal shows at the original Fillmore, helping to make both the venue and the band, so they were a great choice to help establish the Fillmore East.

Charles Lloyd, a tenor sax player, was a regular at the SF Fillmore.  His group, playing undiluted modern jazz in the style of Miles Davis, may still have included Keith Jarrett, Ron McClure and Jack DeJohnette. Lloyd was the first jazz act to become a regular in the hippie ballrooms around the country, and while his jazz remain undiminished he found himself a whole new audience that served him well. He even recorded an album at The Fillmore, a fine record called Love-In, released in January 1967. His current album was In Europe (Atlantic 1968).

Tom Rush was a popular Cambridge, MA folkie.  He had signed to Elektra and started to make folk-rock albums  His 6th album, The Circle Game (Elektra 1968) featured two songs by Joni Mitchell as well as songs by then-unknowns Jackson Browne and James Taylor.  Although he is largely forgotten today, Rush was instrumental in bringing attention to these writers. Kostelanetz reports that the light show was halted for ‘serious’ folk performers like Tom Rush or Richie Havens.

next: April 19-20, Mothers of Invention/James Cotton Blues Band

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fillmore East April 4-5, 1968: The Who/Buddy Guy/Free Spirits

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

The Fillmore East generally planned to have an early (8:00pm) and late (11:30pm) show for both Friday and Saturday night for each engagement. However, Martin Luther King had been assassinated on April 4th, and many New York nightspots were closed.  The Fillmore East remained open, but instead staged one long show each night.

The Who had been a hugely popular Mod group in England, but had never been particularly successful in America.  However, their performance at the Monterey Pop Festival and the SF Fillmore suggested that the Who were merely ahead of their time.  The Who had already headlined the SF Fillmore in June 67 and February 68. Their booking agent was Frank Barsalona of Premier Talent (about whom more later). The Who’s current album was The Who Sell Out (Decca Jan 68). The Who had played at the venue in its prior incarnation as the Village Theater (November 25-26, 1967), and had mentioned from the stage that at that time, prior to Graham’s refurbishment, the venue was a “pisshole.”

Both nights were recorded for a possible live album, and many rarely performed numbers were played. A professional recording of The Who’s April 6  show was widely bootlegged.  Most famously, it was on a TMOQ (Trademark of Quality) bootleg lp, usually called Fillmore East.  It features a driving 60-minute set that includes the complete “A Quick One While He’s Away” and a tough cover of “Fortune Teller.” Kostelanetz’s glowing review mentions how since many in the crowd had seen the Monterey Pop movie, they expected The Who to smash their equipment, but when they did it was still stunningly theatrical to watch.

Buddy Guy was the sensational Chicago blues guitarist, who had often toured with harmonica player Junior Wells.  Guy had been on Chess Records for years, but had recently changed record companies, as rock labels were trying to capitalize on the new popularity of bluesmen. Buddy Guy’s current album was A Man And The Blues (Vanguard Feb 68). For at least one of these shows, Buddy Guy came on after The Who, and it was apparently an anticlimax. In the earlier years, Fillmore East shows were less rigid about headliners appearing in the correct order.  Travel schedules and other factors often caused bands to be presented in a different order than the one they were billed. On the first night, B.B.King sat in with Buddy Guy for two numbers. B.B. was probably playing another club in the area (such as The Generation).

Free Spirits was an attempt by producer Bob Thiele to have jazz musicians play rock.  Their album Out of Sight Out of Mind (ABC 1967) was interesting, but they had no real songs. Guitarist Larry Coryell, who played on the album, had left the group by this time.

Next: April 12-13, 1968: Butterfield Blues Band/Charles Lloyd/Tom Rush

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fillmore East March 29-30, 1968: Richie Havens/The Troggs/United States Of America

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

Richie Havens was a popular East Village folkie, with a unique style of singing.  His free form covers of songs, accompanied by endless strumming, do not hold up particularly well today, but Havens was well-regarded at the time.  His current album was Something Else Again (Verve/Folkways Feb 68). According to Kostelanetz, Havens, who was managed by Albert Grossman, was heavily promoted during this period.  The Joshua Light Show limited its activity when he performed, possibly as a mark of Haven’s perceived seriousness as a performer.  Still, the Friday late show that Kostelanetz attended was only half-full.

The Troggs were an English band ahead of their time.  They had the original hit with "Wild Thing", among others.  The Troggs were a sort of British Invasion proto-AC/DC (good natured macho hard rockers) but they were too daring for AM and too uncool for FM.  Their album Love Is All Around (Fontana May 68) would come out somewhat later.

The United States of America had one album on CBS (Mar 68).  They featured the academically trained composer Joseph Byrd and lead singer Dorothy Moskowitz, and their music was self-consciously avant-garde.  Apparently their live performances were rare and poorly received, except by Richard Kostelanetz, who really liked them. Dorothy Moskowitz ended up playing with Country Joe McDonald in the early 1970s. In an interview in 2003, she said that Troggs fans were particularly unimpressed with the oblique compositions of the USA, and heckled the band. The USA broke up a few weeks after these dates. Dorothy Moskowitz led a different version of the group (without Byrd) through a few dates later in the Summer, but that lineup had folded by Labor Day.

next: April 5-6, 1968: The Who/Buddy Guy/Free Spirits

Fillmore West Lost Concerts: Tuesday Night Auditions 1968-1971













Bill Graham's Fillmore West, formerly the Carousel Ballroom, at 1545 Market Street (at Van Ness), stands as the archetype of the modern rock concert. Although its predecessor, The Fillmore Auditorium (at 1805 Geary Blvd) and its main competitor, The Avalon Ballroom (at 1268 Sutter Street) were actually more instrumental in developing the rock concert, the term "Fillmore West" represents a host of references about the 60s and rock music. Most people, even big rock fans, do not even realize that the Fillmore West and The Fillmore were two different venues. "Fillmore West" and "Fillmore East" represent the two pillars of sixties rock on each Coast.

Shows at The Fillmore West are enshrined in rock history not just because of the fine posters, but because they featured great bands in their prime, like the Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Grateful Dead and Big Brother. While Fillmore and Avalon posters have underground cool, Fillmore West posters present iconic Baby Boomer bands like Santana and CSNY when they were still fresh. For all the attention given to the posters, there are surprisingly few lists of concerts at the Fillmore West, and most of them are lists of the posters rather than the shows. The best list I am aware of is Ross Hannan's list of Fillmore West events, which attempts to add and correct information about which bands performed when, since not every advertised show was played exactly as it was billed. Reading this list is a primer in live rock at its finest, and often all three acts on the bill were exceptional bands, even if they did not achieve stardom.

In our continuing research into 60s rock concerts, however, I have discovered that there were a large number of Fillmore West concerts that have gone almost entirely unremarked in much of the Fillmore scholarship of the subsequent years. Bill Graham opened The Fillmore West on July 5, 1968 (with Butterfield Blues Band and Ten Years After), but at the end of the Summer he instituted a Tuesday night series featuring local bands. The series was called "Audition Night," and three bands would play for a small admission fee (probably $1.50). The best of those bands would then open the weekend show on Friday and Saturday. The Tuesday night series seems to have gone on almost every week for the life of The Fillmore West, excepting the Summers of 1968 and 1969 when a six nights a week concert schedule was employed, as well as occasional nights when a big act would play a Tuesday. However, although the Tuesday night concerts are regularly alluded to, there are almost no records of which bands played.

By my estimation, there must be approximately 100 Tuesday night Audition concerts, possibly more, meaning perhaps as many as 300 acts played the Fillmore West that we are not generally aware of. If the Tuesday night "winner" also played on each weekend, as appeared to be the case, then there would be approximately 100 acts that were part of the "main" Fillmore West schedule that we have no direct evidence of. At the very least, this fact explains the number of lesser known groups who claim to have played The Fillmore West who never appeared on a poster. There were no posters or flyers for Tuesday night show, and the band "added" to the weekend gig was not on the poster, as the artwork had been done and the posters distributed considerably earlier.

With this mystery in mind, I have attempted to determine what I can about Fillmore West audition shows. Initially I was able to uncover about 21 shows, and a little bit of supporting information, and I have added more since the first posting. Clearly this will be an ongoing project, but this post will explain the information that I have found.

Fillmore West Tuesday Night Audition Format

The Tuesday night Audition shows did not have posters or flyers that I am aware of. There does appear to have been press releases, probably as part of regular Fillmore West press releases, so the performers would have been announced, but probably only on FM radio and at the Fillmore West itself. As rock music became more important, the Tuesday night shows would sometimes be listed in the paper as filler in the entertainment section, which is how I found out about most of the shows. In 1968 and 1969, however, the shows seem to have been all but unpublicized.

Bill Graham liked playing basketball, and apparently each Tuesday the Fillmore West"team" would play a game at the Fillmore West against another team (such as a radio station) prior to the show. A bit of this is shown in the 1972 Fillmore movie. Afterwards, three bands would play. It seems that everyone did just one set, unlike the normal two sets on the weekend, so it was a relatively early evening, appropriate for a Tuesday.

On weekends, the three billed bands (from the poster) each played two sets. Going back to 1966 at the old Fillmore, a local band often opened the show on Friday and Saturday, playing a single set. This was to encourage and accommodate early arriving patrons, and by extension to encourage the sale of more popcorn and soda. A local band playing a set at, say, 8:00 pm at the Fillmore would still have time to make it over to a nightclub if they were booked for a Friday or Saturday night gig, as many bands would have been. Whatever the proposition, however, there is no guarantee that the best band of each Tuesday night was guaranteed to be the opener on the next weekend. I'm sure it happened of course, and perhaps regularly, but I have yet to see indications of who actually opened which show.

Economic Rationale of Fillmore West Tuesday Audition Night

The Fillmore West was designed as a money making operation, but Bill Graham was also very shrewd about what would now be called "Leveraging His Brand" (had such a term existed then). First of all, since the three bands were probably not paid on audition night (or paid a token amount), it would not take a large crowd to justify the expense of the evening. At the time, Graham was aware of the economic limits of the Fillmore West, since the building had actually been sold to Howard Johnson's, and was scheduled to be knocked down and turned into a hotel.

In late 1968 Graham started both a booking agency and two record labels. One record label was supported by CBS, and was called Fillmore Records; the other label was San Francisco Records, distributed by Atlantic; and the booking agency was the Millard Agency. Thus the auditions were not just for finding opening acts at Fillmore West, which was hardly an impossible task, as Graham had done so for years at the Fillmore without a Tuesday audition night. Tuesdays provided Graham first look at acts for his record company, and immediate indications of the stage act of local bands for his booking agency. The Millard Agency actually played an important role in the Bay Area rock concert scene from about 1968 to 1970, and while it is the subject of another line of research, its worth noting that a lot of benefits accrued to Graham's organization from seeing bands live in a concert setting.

This interesting snippet from a lengthy article on the operation of the Fillmore West, from the May 27, 1971 edition of the Hayward Daily Review, provides a telling insight into the focus of audition night. In 1971, much less 1968, recording studio time was expensive and hard to come by. Since the Fillmore West was set up to record every live performance, each audition band effectively guaranteed the Graham organization a demo tape to use in pitching to record executives (for the Fillmore label) or to promoters (for the Millard Agency). If the band was willing to pay for their audition tape--and I don't doubt many were, as recording opportunities were scarce--it was another way to cover the costs of the evening.

Since the 1971 article was part of a lengthy story about the closing of the Fillmore West (the last day was July 4, 1971), the fact that recording and auditions continued right up until the end is a clear sign that Tuesday audition night had many other purposes besides merely finding openers for the weekend shows. While Graham's plans to become a record mogul fell short, one important group came out of the audition night: Oakland's Tower of Power. Although Tower had more success after leaving Graham's label, there was no question they were a ground breaking group that would not have made it without Graham's intervention (read Emilio Castillo's interview here). Graham did not lack for insight--he heard and tried to sign Bruce Springsteen at an audition night in February, 1970 (see below), but the $1000 signing bonus was deemed insufficient.

Audition Night Schedule

The Fillmore West had its first concert on July 5, 1968. For the balance of the Summer, the venue was almost always booked six nights a week, just as they had the previous Summer. After Labor Day, the Fillmore West returned to a typical Thursday-thru-Sunday schedule, with occasional exceptions. I have assumed that a new program would not start the day after Labor Day (Tuesday, September 3), so since I know the approximate start date, I am positing Tuesday, September 10, 1968 as the first Audition Night.

Starting Tuesday, June 17, 1969, the Fillmore West resumes having shows six nights a week, through the end of August. After Labor Day 1969, the 4 day a week schedule resumes. The six night a week schedule does not resume until July 28, 1970, and again ends after Labor Day. Including the occasional Tuesday night gig during the Winter, and accounting for certain holidays, there appear to be 121 available dates for Tuesday audition nights at Fillmore West between 1968 and 1971. The implication is that these events were regular, but I do not know if all 121 dates were actually filled.

Tuesday Audition Night Shows--Known Performances

What follows is whatever trace evidence is available for specific bands who played audition nights. 

October 1, 1968 Country Weather/Jim Pepper/Phoenix
Although the date is approximated, former Phoenix bassist Jef Jaisun recalled it vividly in a personal email. Phoenix was an established band in the Bay Area clubs, and when Graham established the Tuesday night program, they were quick to sign up. They were sharing the bill with a new band from Contra Costa County called Country Weather, and a singer named Jim Pepper. Pepper had been in a few bands (Free Spirits and Everything Is Everything) and had even had a minor hit with one of them ("Witchie Tai To"), but he was new in town and had no material. Country Weather, who would go on to some local success, were still relatively new. Phoenix's manager made sure to invite a number of record company reps. However, for some reason Phoenix ended up with the opening slot, and most of the crowd and none of the record reps were there, and Country Weather "won" the audition.

Country Weather opened the next weekend's show (presumably Canned Heat on October 4-5), started getting booked by the Millard Agency and developed a solid following around the Bay Area. Phoenix continued to struggle, and although they had a certain following, they never broke beyond their level. Jaisun's description is by far the most detailed of a Fillmore West audition, and it describes the meaningful stakes that were in play.

October 21, 1968 Crystal Syphon/Sanpaku/Crazy Horse
There is a flyer, and the date is difficult to discern, yet I am assuming this was the show that brought San Paku to the attention of the Bill Graham organization. This was definitely a Tuesday night audition (the poster says “1.00 Jam”).  Sanpaku was an interesting jazz/rock band from Sacramento, who went on to be booked by the Millard Agency. Crystal Syphon was a Merced band, and Crazy Horse was probably a Merced band also. 

February 25, 1969   Santana
The date for this show comes from a precise memory by Sons Of Champlin road manager Charlie Kelly. This was probably the first show with the ‘Woodstock’ lineup, with Michael Shrieve on drums (along with Santana/Rolie/Brown/Carabello/Areas).  This wasn't exactly an audition, since Santana had played Fillmore West many times, but Shrieve had just joined and the band probably wanted to try out their chops. Kelly, familiar with the earlier incarnation of Santana, reported being absolutely stunned, and was not the least bit surprised when they were signed by Columbia, and went on to conquer Woodstock and the world.

April 1, 1969    Ace of Cups
In the article above (from the April 11, 1969 Fremont Argus) about the upcoming Band/Sons/Ace of Cups show at Winterland, there is an allusion to The Ace of Cups appearing at a recent Tuesday audition night at Fillmore West. I have assumed April 1, but any Tuesday in March is also plausible. 

September 16, 1969 Home Cooking/Bronze Hog/Cosmo Quik/Dangerfield
Bronze Hog, based in Cotati in Sonoma County, were a regular band at the town's rock venue, The Inn Of The Beginning.

September 23, 1969    Summerland Blues Band/Free And Easy/South Bay Experimental Flash 
The Oakland Tribune's "Teen Age" section sometimes included press releases for upcoming rock events to fill space, so there was the occasional reference to Tuesday audition nights. The clipping above is from the September 17, 1969 edition of The Trib. South Bay Experimental Flash were a jazz-rock band from Richmond, in the East Bay, very active on the club circuit.

The other two bands (Summerland Blues Band and Free And Easy) are completely unknown to me, and I'm an expert on 1969 club bands in the Bay Area. It does point up the difficulty for Fillmore West of finding up to 15 new bands a month, suggesting that some of the groups may have been from out of town. Even from my limited evidence, its clear that some bands played the Tuesday auditions more than once. 

September 30, 1969 Cyprus/Kwane and The Kwanditos/Glad/Terry Dolan
Kwane and The Kwanditos included pianist Todd Barkan, later the proprietor of the great San Francisco jazz club Keystone Korner (still a rock club in 1969). Terry Dolan, a folksinger from the Washington, DC area, would go on to front a Bay Area club band called Terry and The Pirates.

October 7, 1969 Commander Cody/Gods Country/Sunday
Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen were from Ann Arbor, MI, and had relocated to the Bay Area in July of 1969. At this point, they lived in Emeryville and had started to play around the Bay Area, at clubs like Mandrake's and The Freight and Salvage.

October 14, 1969 Schon/Kimberly/Tongue and Groove/Richard Moore
It is tempting to believe that "Schon" was Neal Schon (future guitarist of Santana and then Journey), but since he would have been 15 years old at the time, I'm inclined to doubt it. I believe Tounge and Groove featured singer Lynne Hughes.

October 21, 1969 Black Ghost/Fritz/Mendelbaum
Mendelbaum was a band from Madison, WI, who had moved to the Bay Area in June, 1969. Already an experienced road band in the Midwest, they rapidly established themselves at The Matrix and elsewhere. The group included guitarist Chris Michie (1948-2003, later with Van Morrison) and drummer Keith Knudsen (1948-2005, later with Lee Michaels, the Doobie Brothers and Southern Pacific). CBS producer David Rubinson, Bill Graham's partner in Fillmore Records, recorded a demo with the band on September 22, 1969, and a month later the group was asked to audition night (the date comes from Chris Michie's 2001 memoir Name Droppings). According to Michie, "we played better than we ever had before and were asked back several times over the coming months."

While some of Mendelbaum's appearances were on Tuesday nights, they must have opened some shows and by 1970 they even "made the poster", appearing on the May 21-24 bill with BB and Albert King. One reason I believe that bands who "won" the audition did not always open the same weekend is that for this weekend of October 24-25, the Dead and The Airplane were headlining at Winterland, and there were already two other bands on the bill (The Sons and Doug Kershaw), so I doubt there was room for a fifth. My assumption is that a good performance on audition night got a band a weekend opening slot, but not always the next weekend. 

Fritz, from Menlo Park, had actually been formed as The Fritz Raybyne Memorial Band, named after a shy German exchange student at Menlo-Atherton High School. By 1969, the band featured mostly former M-A students, including bassist Lindsay Buckingham and singer Stephanie (Stevie) Nicks. 

October 28, 1969 Flying Circus/Bob McPharlin/Spectrum of Sound/Euphonius Wail
Flying Circus were based in Mill Valley, and had existed in some form since 1966. The more stable lineup that arose in 1968 featured lead guitarist Bob McFee. Flying Circus shared a rehearsal hall and equipment with another Mill Valley band, Clover (not coincidentally featuring Bob's brother John McFee on lead guitar).

Bob McPharlin and Euphonius Wail are familiar to me from various Bay Area club bills during 1969-70, but other than that I know little about them. Euphonius Wail appeared to be based in Sonoma County; Bob McPharlin seems to have been from San Diego and was based in Marin County (and now appears to be repairing vintage instruments in Harmony, PA).

November 4, 1969 Lamb/The New/Dementia/Young Luke Attraction
Lamb, possibly still a duo at this time, featured guitarist Bob Swanson and pianist Barbara Mauritz, both of whom sang and wrote. Lamb would get signed by Bill Graham's management and record label. Ultimately a full band was added, some albums were released and they were modestly successful around the Bay Area.

November 11, 1969 Gold/Celestial Hysteria/Wisdom Fingers/Shag
Celestial Hysteria was a Berkeley and, or San Francisco based band, and played the Straight Theater and the North Beach club Deno and Carlo’s among other venues.  There apparently was some record company interest in 1968, and the band recorded some demos, but the band members were minors and their parents refused to sign a contract so the band went no further. The organist was John Barsotti, now a Professor of Broadcast Arts and Communications at San Francisco State University. No doubt Professor Barsotti is a relative of the many Berkeley Barsotti’s who played a critical role in the Bill Graham Presents organization.
 

According to Professor Barsotti (in an email):
“Celestial Hysteria had a male lead singer named Greg Renfro who later left the band and was replaced with a female singer named Mary Lou Hazelwood.  The band also consisted of Buddy Greer on traps, Mark Buvelot on Bass, John Formosa and Jim Logue on Guitar (later a guy named John Allen also on guitar), and I played Hammond organ.  We recorded and played shows from 1967-69…  I believe I am the only member of the band that stayed in the music Industry.”

November 18, 1969 Black Diamond/Crystal Syphon/Sideminder/Mother Bear

November 25, 1969 Deacon and The Suprelles/Track Stod/Good Humor

December 2, 1969 Arizona/Andrew Hallidie/Canterbury Fair
An earlier listing had San Francisco TKO/Indian Gold/Sunday, but that appears to have changed by the day of the show. I know Canterbury Fair was a band from suburban Palo Alto. 

December 9, 1969 Brotherhood Rush/Searchin Sound/RB Funk

December 16, 1969 Insanity Rules/Lila/Immaculate Contraption

December 23, 1969 Crystal Garden/Dry Ice/Styx River Ferry
The show was mentioned in Ralph Gleason's Chronicle column of December 22 (above). Styx River Ferry was a Berkeley bluegrass band, regulars at The Freight and Salvage. Their membership included Woody Herman's daughter (Ingrid Fowler) and banjoist Marty Lanham, now a well known Nashville guitar maker. The other two groups are unknown to me.

I do not think there was a Tuesday night show on December 30, 1969.

January 1970 Tower Of Power
Tower Of Power is the great success of the Fillmore West audition nights. In late 1969. Tower were underage kids who had been blocked from working Oakland bars, so they just rehearsed. Having run out of money, they played audition night in late 1969 as a last hurrah. Bill Graham himself was thrilled (showing his shrewd acumen once again) and signed the band. They may have auditioned twice, once in early 1969 and once later, but their early 1970 (or possibly late 1969) audition got them the support from the Bill Graham organization that they needed to go on to become successful.

February 9 or 10, 1970  Steel Mill
The exceptional Bruce Springsteen site Killing Floor has a detailed discussion of Bruce and his band Steel Mill and their attempt to "make it" in California in January and February of 1970. Although there are many great facts taken directly from band members, some details indicate confusion about the Bay Area music scene at the time. February 9, 1970 is actually a Monday, and Tuesday was audition night--this and other trivial details lead me to think that the band actually played Tuesday, February 10, 1970.

Bruce and his band Steel Mill had come to California in early 1970. They had gotten a gig opening at The Matrix, and when headliner Boz Scaggs did not show up on January 13, they played an extended set. San Francisco Examiner critic Phil Elwood wrote a glowing review. Bill Graham either attended a subsequent show or heard the buzz, and invited Steel Mill to audition at the Fillmore West. Graham was so impressed he offered Bruce and the band (Danny Federici, Vinnie Roslyn and Vinnie Lopez) an opportunity to record a demo and a $1000 to sign. Bruce, the band, and the band's manager turned him down.


February 10, 1970     Cata Hanna/Free And Easy/Flying Circus 
The above listing from the February 7, 1970 'Teen Age' section  of the Oakland Tribune includes the press release for the Tuesday audition night on February 10. The Killing Floor site suggests that Bruce Springsteen and Steel Mill substituted for a band that couldn't make it, so I think they played on this date and not on February 9. Steel Mill apparently "won." If so, they would have opened for Country Joe and The Fish, Sons of Champlin and Area Code 615 at the Fillmore that weekend. The website has a different suggestion, namely that Steel Mill played the 17th, but I find that unsupportable.

Note that Free And Easy, whoever they were, was scheduled to play audition night for at least the second time. Flying Circus was a Mill Valley band featuring guitarist Bob McFee (a former member of Tiny Hearing Aid Conspiracy), They shared equipment and often gigs with a band called Clover, featuring Bob's brother John (also part of the Tiny Hearing Aid Conspiracy).  Flying Circus had played Audition Night the previous year (October 28, 1969).

March 3, 1970 Celestial Hysteria/Torres Limited/Jan Tangen and Dave Friedman
Celestial Hysteria was playing the audition night for the second time (see Nov 11, 1969). This show was mentioned in Ralph Gleason's Chronicle column of March 2.

March 10, 1970 Rockwell/Errico/The Aliens
The Aliens were possibly the original "Latin-Rock" band in San Francisco, and thus possibly ever. They had an extremely interesting history that I have looked at elsewhere. I wonder if Errico had any connection to Vejtable/Mojo Men lead singer and drummer Jan Errico? This show was mentioned in Ralph Gleason's Chronicle column of March 9.

March 17, 1970    Straight Phonk Unlimited/Winfield Trust/Paco/Black Soul Distributors 
This show was mentioned in the 'Teen Age' section of the Oakland Tribune (March 14). The bands are unknown to me.

March 24, 1970 Wizards/CDC/Sundance/Trouble

April 7, 1970    New Freedom Band/Mendelbaum/Harbinger/Able
This show was mentioned in the Oakland Tribune 'Teen Age' section (April 4). Mendelbaum had played before, and they were playing again. They ended up being put on the May 21-24 bill with BB and Albert King. I have a feeling that often the Fillmore West made sure at least one of the Tuesday bands was a local group with a following to insure that some fans came to the show

There was local club band called Abel, and assume they are the "Able" referenced here. I don't know anything about the New Freedom Band.

April 14, 1970 Red Wing/Red Truck/Daybreak
Red Wing may have been the band Redwing, a Sacramento group that arose from the New Breed and then Glad.

April 21, 1970 Odyssey/Throckmorton/Tower of Power
This was probably the second Tower of Power audition show, as I think the first one was several months earlier (see December 1969).  More than any other group, Tower of Power was the band whose career was made by the Fillmore West auditions and in turn left a lasting musical legacy.

Throckmorton was a popular San Jose band.

July 21, 1970 Lamb/Lambert & Nuttycombe/Victoria/Equinox

This event was on a Tuesday, but this billing was very conciously designed as a singer-songwriter showcase for acts on Bill Graham's label.  Lamb featured singer Barbara Mauritz and guitarist Bob Swanson, Victoria was a singer songwriter, Lambert & Nuttycombe were a duo, and "Equinox" was advertised as a collective of sorts, featuring Jeffrey Cain, Pamela Polland and Tangen & Freedman.

October 26, 1970 Dave Van Ronk/Lamb/Fourth Way/Equinox 
This show seems to be a little different than the others, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was on a Monday night.  Normally the Fillmore West was closed Monday and Wednesday, but on  October 28 there was a rare Wednesday concert (Rod Stewart and Small Faces), so I believe the operation took Tuesday off. Also, unlike other bills, Dave Van Ronk was an older and more established folk artist. He did put out an album for Polydor in 1971, so I don't know if this was a record company supported gig, but it hardly featured an unknown headliner. Finally, there seems to have been some kind of flyer or something for this show (although I myself haven't seen it), which suggests along with the somewhat-famous headliner that the weeknight shows also functioned like a normal nightclub show, regardless of any auditions.

The Fourth Way was a jazz-rock fusion group that had three albums on Capitol (two were actually on Harvest, a Capitol/EMI subsidiary). The band featured electric violinist Michael White, along with pianist Mike Nock, bassist Ron McClure and drummer Eddy Marshall. They were regulars in both jazz and rock clubs around the Bay Area.

February 9, 1971 Mendelsonn
The group is unknown to me. 

February 23, 1971  Cypress/Dono/Ship Of The Sun
Starting in mid-February, the Hayward Daily Review has a weekly rock column (by Kathy Staska and George Mangrum) and they regularly, though not always, publish the Tuesday night audition bands. These three bands are unknown to me. The above clipping is from the February 18, 1971 edition.

March 2, 1971     Squid/Brothers Music/Bob McPharlin/Brothers Day
These bands are unknown to me.

March 6, 1971     Howard’s Band/White Light/Nevada
These bands are unknown to me.

March 23, 1971  Beggars Opera/Basca/Good Clean Fun
Beggars Opera were from Lafayette, in Contra Costa County, but otherwise I know nothing about them. The other two bands are unknown to me.

April 6, 1971  Augustus Warthog/Pollution/Childhood’s End
These bands are unknown to me.

April 20, 1971  Andrew Hallidie/Early Light/Ofeidian Dan
These bands are unknown to me.

April 27, 1971  Descimeister/Cookin Mama/Loose Gravel
Loose Gravel was a band led by guitarist Michael Wilhelm, formerly of The Charlatans. The movie Fillmore begins with Wilhelm insisting that Bill Graham book Loose Gravel for the last week of The Fillmore West. It is interesting to see they had already played audition night. The other two bands are unknown to me.

May 25, 1971  Chico David Blues Band/Quebec/Kwane and The Kwanditos
Kwane And The Kwanditos featured pianist Todd Barkan, later the proprietor of the famed San Francisco jazz club Keystone Korner (which was still a rock club in 1971). Kwane and The Kwanditos had played the Fillmore West as early as September 30, 1969, and they were "on the poster" for Januar 7-9, 1971, opening for Spirit and Elvin Bishop. I assume they were the "headliners" this night, since the other two bands appear unknown. By this time, the Fillmore West's closing had been announced, so any Tuesday night gigs were either to turn a profit or to find bands for booking or signing to the record label.  The urgency to find "new" groups for the Fillmore West was pretty small.


June 1, 1971  Transatlantic Train/Bloodworth/Straight Phonk Unlimited 
All three of these groups are unknown to me (Hayward Daily Review May 27, 1971)

June 8, 1971 Latin Blood/Country Side/Beans
The Beans were newly arrived from Phoenix, and would later become The Tubes.

June 14, 1971   Mother Earth/Doobie Brothers/Long John Baldry/Stoneground
This was a Monday night show, sponsored by Warner Brothers. All the acts were Warner Brothers Records acts. Presumably a lot of tickets were given away by radio stations, although I'm sure anyone could buy tickets. Warner Brothers would have rented the hall for the evening. According to the Hayward Daily Review(June 17), Elvin Bishop and Taj Mahal showed up to jam at evening's end.

June 15, 1971   Terry Dolan/Cookin Mama/Earth Rise
Terry Dolan was a Washington, DC songwriter who had moved to the Bay Area a few years earlier. Somewhat later he would be known for fronting the part time band Terry And The Pirates, with John Cipollina. Note that Cookin Mama is appearing for at least the second time (they played April 27, 1971 as well), as was Dolan (September 30, 1969).

June 22, 1971  Truckin’/others
Truckin' was an 11-member Hayward band, friendly with the Daily Review critics, so their doings were well covered. Truckin' got to play the very last audition night at Fillmore West. 

June 29, 1971 Sawbuck/Malo/Kwane and The Kwan-ditos
The last Tuesday night show at The Fillmore West was not an "audition" night in the sense that there was nothing to audition for. Still, the night was listed on the final poster, and even if the show was not broadcast on the radio like the other nights, it was still a part of history. Kwane and The Kwanditos returned. Sawbuck featured guitarists Ronnie Montrose and William "Mojo" Collins. Montrose would go on to fame withVan Morrison, Edgar Winter and his own band, and Collins had been in the group Initial Shock.

The future stars of the night were Malo, then in an early incarnation. They featured Carlos Santana's brother Jorge on guitar, along with Abel Zarate on guitar (from Naked Lunch), Arcelio Garcia on vocals, Richard Kermode on keyboards (later in Santana), Pablo Tellez on bass (also later in Santana), Roy Murray on horns (Naked Lunch) and Richard Bean on timbales and vocals. Malo would hit it big the next year with their debut album and with Bean's song "Suavecito," produced by David Rubinson and released on Epic.

Examining the Tuesday night audition shows at Fillmore West is an ongoing project. I will put updates in the comments and in the post, and hopefully anyone who attended (or played!) one of these shows will be kind enough to comment as well. When I get enough new information, I will repost the updated list.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fillmore East March 22-23, 1968: The Doors/ARS Nova/Crome Syrcus

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

Two weeks after a single show with Big Brother on Friday, March 8, to inaugurate the venue, the Fillmore East featured The Doors for two shows on both Friday and Saturday. This initiated an almost continuous run of weekend shows through June of 1971.

The Doors had already had a huge hit with "Light My Fire" (Summer 67) and their first two albums were big hits. Strange Days, The Doors second album had been released by Elektra in November 1967.  The Doors were one of the first bands who had to choose between ‘AM’ stardom (16 Magazine) and ‘FM’ stardom (Rolling Stone).  The Doors rapidly moved on to venues larger than the Fillmore East.  Kostelanetz reports that the late show on Saturday went on until 3:45 am.  He called the band “at the time, the greatest rock performers I have ever seen.”

Free-form ‘underground’ FM radio had started in San Francisco in spring 1967, and rapidly spread to every major city. Suddenly album cuts were being played in their entirety, and if a DJ liked a band he could make a band popular by himself.  Since there were very few underground rock stations, the individual stations themselves (such as WNEW in New York) were very influential.  Not only did the stations help determine who was popular, not playing a band on underground radio made them ‘uncool.’  Even universally popular bands like the Beatles and Stones did not typically have their AM singles played on FM, as that was ‘uncool.’

Ars Nova was a six-piece ‘baroque rock’ group, with a two-piece brass section.  They had an album on Elektra (1968). 

Crome Syrcus (often mis-billed as Chrome Syrcus, or Chrome Circus) was originally from Seattle, and they had one album on the obscure Command label (1968). They had been commissioned to write the music for a Joffrey Ballet show (“Astarte”) and received a lot of national press coverage as a result. They were in New York at the time, performing regularly with the ballet.  They apparently performed at the ballet, uptown, between the early and late Fillmore East shows.


next: March 29-30, 1968 Richie Havens/The Troggs/United States of America

Fillmore East March 8, 1968: Big Brother and The Holding Company/Tim Buckley/Albert King

(This post begins a series cataloging every performance at The Fillmore East)

The Fillmore East was an old Greenwich Village venue that was originally a Loew’s Commodore movie theater. By 1967 it was known as The Village Theatre, and had featured a number of rock shows.  It was located on 105 2nd Avenue at 6th Street in the East Village.  Bill Graham, with a very successful operation in San Francisco with the Fillmore Auditorium, was looking to go bi-coastal and renamed the 2500-seat Village Theatre the Fillmore East. Unlike the Fillmore or Fillmore West, the Fillmore East had theatre seats and a balcony. Whereas the West Coast Fillmore was more of an environmental ‘happening’, the Fillmore East was more of a theatrical event.  The spectacular sound system and house light show were used to maximum effect to bring out the best every band had to offer.

The Fillmore East bills generally played Friday and Saturday, with two shows each night at 8:00 and 11:30 pm, although most recollections do not indicate whether they attended an early or late show.  However, this very first Fillmore East show was only presented on a Friday night. The next show was not until two weeks later, after which the venue put on shows just about every weeekend, so I assume this first gig was a sort of "Technical Rehearsal" for the venue.

Big Brother and The Holding Company, featuring Janis Joplin, were stalwarts of the San Francisco scene. Their most recent album was the terrible first album on Mainstream (Aug 67), all recorded in 1966.  Cheap Thrills would not come out until late July 1968, so to some extent Big Brother were headliners as much on the basis of being underground legends as anything else. They had played New York as recently as the previous month (Anderson Theater, Feb 17, 1968). Big Brother’s manager was Albert Grossman, also the manager of Bob Dylan and others.  Grossman had helped finance the Fillmore East for Graham, so it is not surprising that one of his acts opened the venue.  

Tim Buckley was a unique jazz/rock singer/songwriter with a remarkable voice.  He was from LA, and he shared management with Frank Zappa. In 1968 he was supporting his well-regarded second album Goodbye And Hello (Elektra Sep 67). Tim Buckley died young in 1975, and he was the father of unique singer Jeff Buckley, who also died young. 

Albert King was the legendary left-handed blues guitarist, who had just recently debuted at San Francisco’s Fillmore (2.1.68). Many ‘Chitlin Circuit’ blues performers were given a new and more lucrative career by the Fillmores.  Albert King was an ancient 45 years at this time (for those who accept 1923 as his year of birth).  The reverence with which Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and others held Albert, Freddie and BB King, along with Buddy Guy, Bobby Blue Bland and others, gave all those performers a hitherto undreamed of access to white audiences. His classic album Born Under A Bad Sign (Stax Feb 67) received extensive play on FM rock radio.

Albert King was a substantial influence on rock guitarists of this period.  To name just a few of many influenced by him, Cream did a cover of “Born Under A Bad Sign” and the legendary opening lick of Eric Clapton’s “Layla” is based on Albert King’s song “As The Years Go Passing By” (a tidbit acknowledged by Clapton).  King had also played with another famous left-handed guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, on the Chitlin circuit some years earlier, and had indeed shared the bill with Hendrix a few weeks earlier at the Fillmore and Winterland in San Francisco.

Next: March 22-23, 1968 The Doors/ARS Nova/Crome Syrcus

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Matrix, San Francisco, CA (412 Broadway): 1973 Shows





The Matrix in San Francisco, founded in 1965 at 3138 Fillmore Street in the Marina District, is one of the touchstones of San Francisco rock. Originally backed by Marty Balin and his father, the club was founded so that Jefferson Airplane would have a place to play. From 1965 to 1971, the tiny club hosted numerous legendary bands (as Ross Hannan's detailed list makes clear), some on the way up, some new in town, some just local legends having fun on their nights off. The original Matrix was a tiny club, seating no more than 120 people, with a menu of only beer and pizza, and it could not sustain itself in the exploding rock market that the club itself was instrumental in creating.

What is less well known is that The Matrix reopened in 1973 at a different location in San Francisco. The "New" Matrix was only open for about 3 months, but it presented some very interesting music. A post of mine speculating on an Iggy & The Stooges/Tubes Halloween show lead to some interesting research about the club's brief resurrection, which I am presenting here.

The early 1970s were a much more interesting time in San Francisco music than is usually recognized. The Fillmore West, Avalon and Fillmore had been the center of the rock universe in the 1960s, and that was no longer the case. Most Bay Area rock bands lived out in the suburbs somewhere, and played San Francisco when they started to get good, so the "San Francisco" scene was much more regionalized. Still, popular bands still came out of the Bay Area (such as The Doobie Brothers and Jefferson Starship) and excellent bands still broke out of the Bay Area (such as The Tubes or Tower of Power), even though no bands really fell into the category of the Dead, Airplane, Santana or Big Brother, who were both excellent and popular.

Besides a very lively club scene around the Bay Area, the combination of Bill Graham Presents and KSAN-fm created a regional concert market that was very different than the rest of the country, as the rock market was still generally regionalized. Bands that were very popular nationally, such as Three Dog Night and Grand Funk Railroad, were relatively modest attractions in the Bay Area (compared to the rest of the country) whereas a host of other acts that were third on the bill elsewhere were popular headliners in San Francisco. Most famously, Peter Frampton recorded his Frampton Comes Alive album at Winterland (and Marin Civic) in May 1975 because the Bay Area was the only place where he was a National headliner. A band could break out of San Francisco clubs into local concert success, and record companies were very aware of it, so the Bay Area club scene was still diverse, competitive and interesting from a musical point of view.

The first show at The Matrix was on August 24, 1973. The new club was on 412 Broadway, formerly the site of Mr. D's Supper Club. The venue seated at least 700, and had a full bar and a Chinese restaurant. The owners where Peter Abrams, one of the old Matrix's owners, Dave Martin and John Barsotti, a former member of the Berkeley rock band Celestial Hysteria. Using Ross's list as a starting point, I have researched contemporary Newspapers to list the different groups who played the Matrix in 1973, providing an interesting snapshot of the San Francisco rock market at that time.


August 24-25, 1973  Mike Bloomfield Group, Copperhead, Nimbus
The club opened on August 24. Mike Bloomfield was a regular in Bay Area clubs, as he preferred not to tour much. He would have appeared with Mark Naftalin on piano, along with a rhythm section. Copperhead was John Cipollina's new band, which (at the time) included Gary Phillipet, Hutch Hutchinson and Andy Weber. Nimbus was a hard rock quintet.

Matrix listings in the Hayward Daily Review mostly listed weekend shows. I don't know if the venue was dark when there were no shows, or local bands played, or perhaps only the bar was open--probably some combination of all three. In any case, they seemed to have tried to establish a regular schedule of shows but folded before they could get really established.

August 31-September 2, 1973 Stoneground, Graham Central Station
Stoneground had been a popular local group, led by Sal Valentino and guitarist Tim Barnes, with no less than 4 female vocalists. However, they had ground to a halt by early 1973. I'm fairly certain that this was the "new", smaller Stoneground, featuring guitarist/vocalist Barnes and singer Jo Baker, formerly of The Elvin Bishop Group.

Graham Central Station was led by former Sly And The Family Stone bassist Larry Graham. Their funk-rock sound was very popular in Bay Area clubs, and they had become successful nationwide by 1975.

September 4-6, 1973  New York Dolls, Tubes, Pristine Condition, Naomi Ruth Eisenberg
The New York Dolls were founding fathers of punk rock. Malcolm McLaren saw them in New York City and recognized them as the blueprint for the Sex Pistols. The original Dolls were extremely ragged but very exciting, and popular in an adventurous city like San Francisco.

Naomi Ruth Eisenberg had been in the group Dancing Food and Entertainment, and then in an early lineup of Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks. Pristine Condition are unknown to me.

September 7-8, 1973   Papa John Creach and Zulu, Steelwind with Jack Traylor
Electric violinist Papa John Creach had been a member of Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane, and now he was a member of the Jefferson Starship. He also led his own band, which recorded for Grunt, the Airplane's RCA imprint.

Steelwind was a Sacramento band that also recorded for Grunt. Their lead guitarist was Craig Chacuiqo, then a teenager, who would end up playing lead guitar for the Starship for many years.

September 14-15, 1973 Boz Scaggs, Mike Finnegan and Jerry Miller, El Roacho
Boz Scaggs was a popular recording artist who liked to play the Bay Area clubs even when he didn't entirely have to.

Mike Finnegan and Jerry Miller were both excellent musicians, and they must have sounded excellent together. Jerry Miller had been lead guitarist in Moby Grape (as well as The Frantics, Luminous Marsh Gas, Rhythm Dukes and various others), and Finnegan had been in the great Jerry Hahn Brotherhood, as well as playing with Jimi Hendrix and many others. Miller remains a touring musician today, and still puts on a great show, while Finnegan went on tour with Dave Mason, Crosby Stills and Nash and many others, and remains an active musician also.

El Roacho was a Tulsa band, that at one time featured Phil Seymour (Dwight Twilley's partner), although he had left by this period. El Roacho had an album, but I don't know much about it.

September 20, 1973  Sugar Daddy, Natural Act, Mendocino Allstars
Thursday night was audition night (per Hayward Daily Review September 14). All these bands were local acts who were regulars in smaller clubs farther away from San Francisco. This seems to be an effort by the club to start establishing more than just a weekend presence.

September 21-22, 1973 Pure Food featuring Harvey Mandel, The Sal Valentino Band, Bittersweet
Harvey Mandel, although born in Chicago, had moved to the Bay Area in 1967. A tremendous player, he was widely regarded by other guitarists. Besides his solo work, he had played with Charlie Musselwhite, Canned Heat and John Mayall, to name a few. Pure Food had been the name of his 1970-71 group with Sugarcane Harris, but the current lineup featured drummer Paul Lagos (ex-Kaleidoscope and John Mayall), guitarist/vocalist Coleman Head, and bassist Victor Conte. Conte, who would later join Tower of Power, is now more famous in the Bay Area as part of the "BALCO Scandal," supplying performance enhancing drugs to professional athletes.

Sal Valentino, a San Francisco native who had started the Beau Brummels in the early 1960s, had started his own group after he left Stoneground. Bittersweet are unknown to me.

Seotember 23, 1973 Timothy Leary Benefit
Timothy Leary was a fugitive from justice from 1970-73, and this Sunday night benefit would have been for his legal expenses. Apparently, films were shown, but I'm not sure if any bands played. Leary was not popular with the San Francisco LSD crowd (professional disputes with a certain Ursine character), so any groups who played were probably just local acts. There were two shows, at 8 and 11 pm.

October 5-6, 1973 Copperhead, Albert Collins
Blues guitarist Albert "The Ice Man" Collins had been popular in the early 1960s, but semi-retired until Canned Heat rediscovered him in 1968.

October 7, 1973  Albert Collins, Frank Biner
Frank Biner (sometimes spelled Byner) had a band called Night Shift, and they were another group trying to break out of the suburbs and into San Francisco.

October 10, 1973 audition night (Wednesday)

October 12-13, 1973 Azteca, Philip Goodhand-Tait, Delta Wires
Azteca was a 15-piece Latin rock "big band" led by Coke Escovedo, with numerous singers including Wendy Haas, attempting to capitalize on the huge record sales and musical success of Santana and Malo. Azteca made two albums and was widely regarded as a fantastic live band, but a huge ensemble was impossible to keep together. Azteca is fondly remembered as one of the great lost San Francisco bands.

Philip Goodhand-Tait was an English singer songwriter. Although he never caught on, the fact that he had an obviously subsidized gig (by his record company) is a sign that record companies considered San Francisco an important market.

Delta Wires were an East Bay blues band with horn section. A popular club band who never really broke out, they are still together today.

October 14, 1973 David Rea with Slewfoot
David Rea was a Toronto singer-songwriter-guitarist with a peculiar history. His first solo album was produced by Felix Pappalardi, and Rea ended co-writing three songs for Mountain, including the great "Mississippi Queen." In 1971, he briefly replaced Richard Thompson if Fairport Convention. By 1973, he was signed to CBS Records, and his album Slewfoot was produced Bob Weir, with many of the Dead and New Riders and their friends on board. This album was more on the Country side of country-rock, but largely got lost in the shuffle, and I do not believe it was ever released on cd.

Rea formed a band to promote the album, but I think their Matrix shows were among their very few gigs. Besides Rea on guitar and vocals, the rest of the band was Bill Cutler on guitar and vocals, Matt Kelly on harmonica and guitar, James Ackroyd on bass and Chris Herold on drums. Slewfoot was the basis of Matt Kelly's band Kingfish, which existed from 1973 to at least 1999.

October 15, 1973  Howard Wales and friends
Howard Wales had been in the group AB Skhy, who moved from Milwaukee to the Bay Area in 1968. Wales is better known for being Jerry Garcia's Monday night jamming partner at the original Matrix in 1970, and he made an album with Garcia (Hooteroll). Wales was and is a fantastic organ player. This show was a reduced admission ($1.50) Monday night show.

October 16, 1973   auditions (Tuesday night)

October 19-20, 1973  The Wailers, David Rea with Slewfoot, Stuart Little Band, Steve Head

These shows are far and away the most famous in the history of the latterday Matrix. The Wailers--this was before they were Bob Marley and The Wailers--were apparently stranded in Las Vegas after a gig was canceled. At the time, the group, feauring Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny  Wailer, had just released their classic album Catch A Fire on Island Records. Matrix booker Scott Piering took a chance and booked them, in place of The Sons Of Champlin. The band sold out both nights, to the surprise of everyone. Of course, the band completely rocked the joint, and were invited to do a live broadcast on KSAN from Sausalito's Record Plant a few days later. The Matrix show was apparently one of the first indications that Marley, The Wailers and Reggae Music were going to make it big in the United States.

The entertainment listing above is from the Hayward Daily Review on October 19, 1973, which still includes the Sons of Champlin. Even though it doesn't include the forthcoming Wailers gig (below), it shows the club how the owners intended it--established bands, plus some up and comers, and local bands on weeknights. The idea was sound, but the owners apparently couldn't sustain it.

Stuart Little Band played a lot around the Bay Area at the time, but they are otherwise unknown to me. Steve Head is unknown to me.

October 23, 1973   auditions with Elvis Duck and others
Elvis Duck was a South Bay band (they were regulars at clubs like The Bodega in Campbell), probably looking to break into San Francisco. Remember, this was years before Elvis Costello, so it was a funky and original thing to name yourself Elvis.

October 26-27, 1973 James Cotton Blues Band, Graham Central Station
James Cotton was as great as ever, but he had been playing San Francisco rock clubs since he played the Fillmore in 1966.

October 29-30, 1973  The Wailers
The Wailers returned on a Tuesday and Wednesday, and broadcast on  KSAN the next day (Oct 31)..

October 31, 1973  Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Tubes, Sugardaddy
I meditated elsewhere on the idea of seeing Iggy and The Tubes on Halloween in 1973, but it turns out Iggy canceled. Still, The Tubes, although ragged at this stage, were still something.

Iggy made up the date, after the Matrix was closed, on January 11-12, 1974 at Bimbo's 365 Club on Columbus Street. Although the crowd was small, no one there forgot it (read the comments at the above link).

November 13, 1973   Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, J.R. Weitz (two shows)
Brian Auger was not well known in America, but he had a fantastic band, touring behind the album Closer To It, and he was well reviewed in the Hayward Daily Review (of November 16). Guitarist Barry Dean and vocalist Alex Ligterwood fronted the ensemble along with Auger's great Hammond organ playing.

November 18, 1973 Steelwind, Dolly and The Lama Mountain Boys (free)
November 25, 1973 Steelwind, Dolly and The Lama Mountain Boys (free)
The last two shows advertised for The Matrix were somewhat mysterious. Free shows for Steelwind and the unknown (to me) Dolly and The Lama Mountain Boys were advertised for Sunday November 18 and Sunday November 25. No other shows were advertised that week. The clipping above was from Friday November 23. I was able to find no articles about the closing of the club, so it seems to have simply disappeared.  My guess is that November 18 was the last show, but that is just supposition on my part. Steelwind had probably just released their album, and the free concert was probably a record-company financed extravaganza.
        
Aftermath
The most intriguing event that never occurred at The Matrix was the Yoko Ono performances of November 26-December 2 (mentioned above, in the November 9, 1973 edition of the Hayward Daily Review). I feel confident that if Yoko Ono had performed at The Matrix in 1973, it would have been covered (I saw Yoko Ono at The Warfield in San Francisco many years later, but that is a story for another time--trust me when I say it would have been covered).

An article in the Hayward Daily Review in November mentions a scheduled gig at The Matrix at the end of December by a local band (a Hayward band called Truckin, for December 28-29), so clearly the club had long range plans, but it was not to be. Despite the interesting billings and record company support, rock clubs in San Francisco had a hard time in the mid-1970s, and the Matrix's brief reincarnation lasted less than 4 months.

The site became Soul Train, a soul club associated with the Don Cornelius TV show of the same name. From 1980 until 1990, the site was The Stone, part of the Corona Brothers Keystone troika (Berkeley and Palo Alto being the other wings), and the club finally fulfilled some of the promises implied by its incarnation as The Matrix.

The club is now The Broadway Showgirls Cabaret. Don't Google it at work.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Trip, West Hollywood, CA 1965-1966




The Trip in West Hollywood opened up in April 1965 at 8572 West Sunset Boulevard (at Londonderry Place). It was on the site of The Crescendo, a jazz club that had closed because its owner (Gene Norman) wanted to focus on record production. The Trip was owned by Elmer Valentine and his partners, who also owned the nearby Whisky A Go Go (8901 Sunset at Clark). The Whisky had opened on January 11, 1964, and instantly became a sensation. Los Angeles was ready for rock music, and the chance innovation of having mini-skirted dancers elevated over the floor immediately created the “Go-Go” sensation. The Whisky A-Go-Go was Celebrity Central overnight, and Johnny Rivers, who played The Whisky much of 1964, was an immediate star.

Valentine and his partners, however, seemed to recognize that there was more than one rock audience, and took immediate steps to expand their empire. In April of 1965, they opened up a “branch” of The Whisky A-Go-Go in San Francisco, and they also opened up The Trip. The SF Whisky was modeled on the Hollywood Whisky, but was largely a failure. The Trip was a much more intriguing venture, and while it too lasted only 13 months under Valentine’s management (and briefly afterwards), it had an important effect on the Whisky and thus Los Angeles rock history.

The Whisky A-Go-Go aimed at a rock audience in its mid to late 20s, which is why people like Steve McQueen and Jayne Mansfield were regulars. Johnny Rivers played a very danceable mixture of rock and R&B, and had a big hit with a version of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis.” There was a younger audience, however, who found The Whisky a bit too adult, and that was the target audience of The Trip. Since The Trip served drinks, only those over 21 could get in, but it was a shrewd call nonetheless.

Thanks to a friend’s kindness, I was given access to research into ads for The Trip in the weekly Los Angeles Free Press in 1965-66. Although The Trip was opened in April, Freep ads did not appear for The Trip until the Fall of 1965, and even then they did not always advertise. While their may be a variety of reasons for the failure to advertise certain weeks, it is my current hypothesis that The Trip only advertised shows in the Free Press when they had headliners.

The Trip, like the Whisky, was open 7 nights a week, and its basic business model was to encourage people to come in the club to dance or watch others dance, and thus get thirsty and buy drinks. The Whisky generally featured Johnny Rivers for most of 1964, and well into 1965.  The Whisky also featured local bands who played several sets a night, but they were the sort of bands who would not have had a real following, much less a record, so advertising them as a coming attraction wasn’t worthwhile. Its my supposition that The Trip followed the Whisky model initially, booking local bands without a following, but switched over to promoting more high profile bands who either had records on the radio or at least some sort of fan base. In 1965, this was distinctly different than the Whisky, but by early 1966 The Whisky had moved over to The Trip’s approach of booking popular bands with records, rather than simply having local rock and roll combos.

What follows is a list of bands that were advertised at The Trip in the Los Angeles Free Press. Keep in mind that The Trip was open every night, and probably almost every night at least one (and possibly more) bands played who were not advertised. These would have been local bands—some of who may have gone onto become quite well known—whose job would have been to keep the crowd dancing. In some cases, some of the acts may not have played certain nights, if they had another gig or ended their engagement early. In any case, this is the best information I have for who played The Trip in 1965 and 1966.

September 26-30, 1965: Barry McGuire/The Grass Roots
Barry McGuire, formerly of the New Christy Minstrels, hit #1 on the Billboard singles charts this very week with the PF Sloan composed “Eve Of Destruction.” Although somewhat trivialized now, this Dylan/Byrds knockoff was an early sign that Folk-Rock was going to be very popular. The 'Top Ten' list above is from the Oakland Tribune on September 18, 1965, and Barry McGuire trails only Bob Dylan in the charts, ahead of The Beatles "Help."

The Grass Roots had had a hit with “Where Were You When I Needed You,” another PF Sloan composition. The story of The Grass Roots deserves a post (or a website) of its own. The short version, however, is that Sloan and his partner, Steve Barri, recorded and released “Where Were You When I Needed You” under the name The Grass Roots, and it became a “turntable hit” (maning airplay without sales). They needed a group to promote the record, so they found a San Mateo, CA group called The Bedouins and made them The Grass Roots. Bedouins lead singer Bill Fulton re-recorded the vocal to the single, and the re-release was a hit. The Grass Roots started to play around California, playing the same covers they had played as The Bedouins plus their new hit.

The Grass Roots also backed Barry McGuire for his set, something the band did for a lot of Sloan/Barri acts.  At this time, The Bedouins would have just become The Grass Roots, and it is no coincidence that the shrewd Sloan and Barri would have put their new act in a hip Hollywood club with their current number one artist. Barry McGuire never had another significant hit; The Grass Roots had numerous hits, but their history is too dizzyingly complex to explain here, and involves none of the band members who would have played this gig.As the review above shows (for a McGuire/Grass Roots show at the Hungry I in San Francisco, from the Oakland Tribune of February 18, 1966), electric guitars were still viewed very suspiciously, and there was a definite "generation gap" in popular music that The Trip looked to capitalize upon.

October 1, 1965: The Byrds/Barry McGuire/Grass Roots
The Byrds, huge stars because of “Mr Tambourine Man” and “Turn Turn Turn”, were playing on  Friday, October 1 to publicize their forthcoming run at The Trip.

October 2-3, 1965: Barry McGuire/The Grass Roots

October 4-17, 1965: The Byrds/Grass Roots/Skip Battyn Trio
The Byrds began a lengthy run at The Trip. The Byrds played The Trip long before they played The Whisky, a clear indicator of how The Trip and The Whisky were aimed at different audiences, and how The Whisky eventually adopted The Trip’s booking policy.

Skip Battyn, formerly of Skip And Flip, ended up joining The Byrds in 1969 (spelling his name Battin).

October ? 1965: The Leaves/The Grass Roots
The Leaves were a popular group on the Sunset Strip. They had a hit with “Hey Joe,” which was performed by a lot of groups at that time (probably The Byrds did it first). The Leaves logo was a marijuana leaf, a fact completely lost on all but a few stoners.

The Grass Roots played The Trip for most or all of October. The clip above is from Mike Connolly's column in the Pasadena Star-News of October 29, 1965

November 11-17, 1965: The Miracles/Billy Preston
Smokey Robinson was not yet distinct from The Miracles. Billy Preston had toured with Ray Charles for a few years, and was just breaking out on his own.

November 18-27, 1965: Marvin Gaye

December 1-9, 1965: Lovin Spoonful
The Lovin Spoonful were huge, behind their hit “Do You Believe In Magic.” Their hit in December was “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice.” The economics of Hollywood clubs was that all performers, even hit bands like The Spoonful, simply got union scale.

December 10-?, 1965: Billy Preston and The Soul Brothers

December ?, 1965: The Leaves/The Mothers
Bruno reports (in the Comments) that a flyer exists with the Leaves and The Mothers. It says "Happy Xmas Beat," so the shows must be around Christmas time.

January 5-16, 1966:The Byrds/Paul Butterfield Blues Band
The Butterfield Blues Band were a profoundly important band, not just multi-racial but the first rock band that was instrumentally spectacular. Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop built the template for every dual guitar band that would follow, including the Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers and numerous others. Their ground breaking debut album had been released in December.

January17-30, 1966:Wilson Pickett/Paul Butterfield Blues Band/Modern Folk Quartet
After a month at The Trip, The Butterfield Blues Band would move on to play three weeks at The Whisky (February 4-20), yet another sign that The Trip’s bookings were a blueprint for The Whisky.

The Modern Folk Quartet recorded two albums in 1963 and 1964, and their folk music was oriented towards group harmonies. Although not considered a major band these days, they were a well-connected group. Members included Chip Douglas (later in The Turtles and producer of The Monkees) and Henry Diltz (now more famous as a photographer), along with Cyrus Faryar and Stan White. Their manager was Herb Cohen, most famous as the manager of The Mothers

January 31, February 1-2, 1966: The Mothers
The Mothers were a well-known—indeed, notorious—band on the Sunset Strip. They had already played The Whisky. The Mothers would not be signed until March of 1966, when their nervous record company (MGM) would insist they add “Of Invention” to their name. The basic lineup of The Mothers was Frank Zappa, Ray Collins (vocals), Roy Estrada (bass, vocals) and Jimmy Carl Black (drums, and the Indian of the group), but Zappa was still looking for a second guitarist. Henry Vestine had probably just quit, and would soon go on to Canned Heat.

Esteemed Zappa gigolist Charles Ulrich reports that Jim Guercio was The Mothers guitarist briefly for an engagement at The Trip. Guercio would go on to become a successful producer of Chicago Transit Authority and many other groups.These gigs would fit the timeline. Given that these dates were on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, my guess is that The Mothers actually had a somewhat more extended engagement, and only these days were listed in the ad, as I think that Zappa would not have rehearsed a new band member for a three day gig. This supposition is borne out somewhat by the note that singer Tim Buckley met Jimmy Carl Black at The Trip on February 5, 1966 (a Friday), and Black in turn introduced him to Mothers manager Herb Cohen.

February 3-6, 1966: Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs/Rising Sons
The Rising Sons were a popular local band, featuring singer Taj Mahal, newly arrived from Cambridge, MA, and slide guitarist Ry Cooder. The teenage Cooder had only recently “gone electric,” having previously been an acoustic folkie.

February 17-27, 1966: Temptations/The Rising Sons

February-March 1966: Tim Buckley
The exact dates are uncertain. Mothers manager Herb Cohen had become Tim Buckley's manager, too.

March 10-20, 1966: Martha and the Vandellas/The Rising Sons

March 24-31, April 1-2,1966: Donovan with The Jagged Edge/Modern Folk Quartet
There were all ages matinees on March 26 & 27 (Saturday and Sunday). The all-ages matinees on weekends were also being used at The Whisky. Many rock fans were underage, and no drinks were served at these events.

Donovan had had a hit in 1965 with the Dylanesque “Try And Catch The Wind.” Management problems intervened, however, and he hardly performed or recorded for several months. By mid-1966, however, these problems were resolved, and his huge run of hits began in Summer 1966. These gigs were probably intended to re-introduce Donovan to the Los Angeles music industry. I assume The Jagged Edge were his backing group.

The Donovan song “The Trip”, from his massive hit 1966 album Sunshine Superman, is apparently about The Trip in West Hollywood, or at least by being thought of as such, served to immortalize the venue after it was gone.

April 2, 1966: Byrds
            All ages matinee at 4:00 pm (on Saturday), a preview of the next week.

April 4-10, 1966: The Byrds/Modern Folk Quartet
The Byrds play a final week at The Trip. They have just released “Eight Miles High”, and are bigger than ever.

A flyer has the Grass Roots instead of the Modern Folk Quartet.

April 14-24, 1966: The Four Tops

May 3-5, 1966:Velvet Underground & Nico/The Mothers/(Modern Folk Quartet)
This event was the most famous, most notorious and last of The Trip’s brief history. The Velvet Underground, a remarkable group for many reasons, were under artist Andy Warhol’s umbrella. Although Warhol only provided financial support for the Velvets, and had no direct influence on their music, his sponsorship and connections allowed them to become not only a unique band but part of a groundbreaking multimedia extravaganza. The Velvet Underground-plus-light show-plus-dancers-plus movies spectacle was billed as “Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable.” Although the Velvet Underground had not released any records, they were already an underground sensation, and the band was booked at The Trip for three weeks (from May 3-18).

However, The Mothers were booked as the opening act, and there was apparently hostility between Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground from the beginning. Zappa made fun of the Velvets on stage, and with the packed crowd of celebrities in attendance, this began a Zappa/Lou Reed “feud” (possibly exaggerated by rock critics) that would last decades. After the first night, however, crowds were somewhat thin. Given the hostilities, an unknown band playing The Whisky were considered as a replacement for The Mothers. However, The Doors never get the opportunity, because after three days, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department shut down The Trip, either for pornographic exhibitions or for drugs (Richie Unterberger’s 2009 VU Chronology White Light/White Heat has the best and most extensive discussion of this subject).

To add to the historical confusion, the LA Free Press ad lists The Modern Folk Quartet as the opening act, rather than The Mothers. Unterberger reports both a picture of the marquee with the Velvets and The MFQ (and no Mothers), and a quote from a member of the MFQ who says they opened for The Velvets and The Mothers didn’t play. The entire ending of The Trip is shrouded in confusion, a story that only adds to the legend of this short-lived venue. According to The LA Free Press, The Trip officially closed on May 13, although it does not appear any shows took place between May 6 and May 13.

Whatever the problems with the Sheriff’s Department (West Hollywood was part of unincorporated Los Angeles County, not the City), Elmer Valentine and his partners may have been overextended, with clubs in San Francisco  and Atlanta and plans for more. However, the lessons of The Trip were already benefiting The Whisky. While the Whisky A-Go-Go was still a place for hip Hollywood to see and be seen, now instead of just a nameless string of dance combos, The Whisky featured the newest and coolest bands around, usually with new albums and hit singles as well. The Trip had served its purpose, and its ethos became an important part of the Whisky’s status as the coolest place to play in Los Angeles.

The Byrds were advertised for May 11-22, but it appears those shows were canceled. The Trip reopened under new management, and a few more shows were advertised, although I know nothing about the new owners or what the club was like in its final incarnation.

June 2-12, 1966: The Miracles
June16-26, 1966: The Knickerbockers
The Lovin' Spoonful were advertised but probably replaced by The Knickerbockers.


June 30-July 10, 1966: Jackie Wilson
July ?, 1966: Bo Diddley
July 14-24, 1966: The Impressions
August ?-14, 1966- The Temptations
August 18-28, 1966: Martha and the Vandellas