Friday, October 30, 2009

Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco May 27-28, 1966: The Leaves/The Grass Roots/Grateful Dead (28th)

(This post is part of a series analyzing every show at the Avalon Ballroom)

Friday May 27, 1966 The Leaves/The Grass Roots
Saturday May 28, 1966 The Grateful Dead/The Leaves/The Grass Roots

The Leaves were part of the Los Angeles/Sunset Strip scene.  They had started out as The Rockwells in 1964 playing fraternity parties at San Fernando State College.They kept evolving, however, and when they replaced The Byrds at Ciro's in 1965, they had changed their name to The Leaves. Their ‘emblem’ was a marijuana leaf, the kind of in joke that could be pulled off at the time. Bassist Jim Pons, one of the founders, was later in The Turtles and The Mothers of Invention (around 1971), and guitarist Bill Rinehart would end up in a variety of bands as well. 

The Leaves played LA clubs like Ciro’s and The Whiskey after The Byrds had graduated to larger places.  The Leaves had a hit with “Hey Joe”, which entered the Billboard charts in June 1966, so it would have been getting heavy local radio airplay at the time of this show.  Love, The Byrds, and The Leaves were all performing and recording “Hey Joe” at the same time, but the Leaves had the hit. The Leaves' first album, also entitled Hey Joe (on Surrey) was released in 1966 as well, although I don't know exactly when. The Leaves professional experience apparently made them quite a good live band, and in any case a group whose emblem was a marijuana leaf was definitely welcome at the Avalon.

The Grass Roots were returning to the Avalon, having played there a month earlier.

The Grateful Dead had played the Avalon just nine days earlier, but this was their first time playing for Chet Helms and The Family Dog. I do not know why the Dead did not play the Friday night show at the Avalon (May 27), but I have to assume they had a gig elsewhere. I am certain that they did not play there, too, since I have a friend who chose not to go the Avalon that night because the Grateful Dead weren't playing, and chose to see some unknown bands at the Fillmore instead (and as a result my friend's first San Francisco rock concert was Mothers/Velvet Underground).

At this time, Grateful Dead soundman and patron Owsley Stanley had been purchasing more and more equipment in an attempt to invent modern sound systems. According to Dennis McNally's book What A Long Strange Trip (p.149), by the time of this show Owsley's PA was so large it blocked Bill Ham's light show.

Next: June 3-4, 1966 Grass Roots/Big Brother and The Holding Company

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco May 20-21, 1966: Love/Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band/Big Brother and The Holding Company (21st)

This post is part of a series analyzing every show at the Avalon Ballroom

Friday May 20, 1966: Love/Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band
Saturda May 21, 1966: Love/Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band/Big Brother and The Holding Company

These shows were the first time Love played the Avalon, but they had already played for The Family Dog at their last show at The Fillmore on April 8, 1966.   At the time, Los Angeles had a burgeoning and complex underground scene as well.  Love, featuring Arthur Lee, were the first and best of the LA underground bands.  Lee’s ‘black hippie’ clothes and spacey soul sound was acknowledged by Jimi Hendrix as a big influence, and Love’s hard driving version of “Hey Joe” was appropriated by everyone:  Hendrix, The Byrds and The Leaves (who had the hit).  In 1965, Jim Morrison had hoped the Doors would someday be as big as Love. Also in Love was ex-Byrds roadie Bryan MacLean (whose much younger sister was singer Maria McKee).

All eyewitnesses report that Love was a tremendous live band in the 65-67 eras, although I am not aware of a surviving live recording. Already legendary in the LA underground, Love’s first album has just been released on Elektra.  Their single “My Little Red Book,” a driving cover of a Burt Bachrach song (Bachrach reputedly hated it), was getting AM airplay throughout California.

Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band were from the High Desert area of California (Lancaster, etc) now a suburb but then quite remote.  They had cut their teeth in 1965 playing blues and R&B for hot-rod shows and the like, but now they were revered as the toughest blues band in LA.  In 1966 Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) was known as a great blues singer, rather than the avant-garde sonic poet he was known as a few years later.  Beefheart’s amazing voice allowed him to mimic the styles of great blues singers like Howlin Wolf and Muddy Waters, unheard of for a white singer.

At this time Captain Beefheart had released one single on A&M Records, a remake of Bo Diddley’s “Diddy Wah Diddy.” Amazingly, it had become a turntable hit (airplay with little sales) on Los Angeles stations, and was getting airplay in other cities.  The single was released in April of 1966, so it was probably getting at least occasional airplay on local AM stations.

The ‘Captain Beefheart’ name was made up by Van Vliet’s best friend in high school, one Frank Zappa.  The Magic Band at the time was Doug Moon and Alex St. Clair on guitars, Paul Blakely on drums and Jerry Handley on bass.  Rising Son bassist Gary Marker says that he played bass on May 21 and May 22, as Handley had to return to LA to deal with his draft board, and Marker was the regular ‘stand-in.’ The May 22 Sunday show, while advertised, was canceled and the Magic Band played in the South Bay instead.

All the evidence suggests that Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band played The Barn in Scotts Valley on May 22. Since this was Gary Marker's wife's birthday, it is unlikely he is mistaking this date for another one.

Big Brother and The Holding Company also played The Avalon on Saturday May 21. I have to assume this was due to poor ticket sales, as the Sunday show was canceled.

Next: May 27-28, 1966 Leaves/The Grass Roots/The Grateful Dead

Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco May 19, 1966: Grateful Dead/Wildflower/The Outfit Straight Theater Benefit


This post is part of a series analyzing every show at The Avalon Ballroom. Above is the poster for the event (h/t Ross Hannan for the scan).

Although Chet Helms controlled the lease on the Avalon (apparently $1500 a month, which was ultimately controlled by the Masons, through a sub-lessor), he sometimes let like minded folks use the venue. The Straight Theater, an old movie theater on 1702 Haight, used at the time as a rehearsal hall by The Grateful Dead and others, was trying to get a dance hall permit from the City of San Francisco. An old depression era law controlled the issuance of permits, which had devolved into a way for various downtown interests to control competition. The Matrix, for example, was not allowed to let patrons dance, and sometimes people were even arrested for it.

Bill Graham had initially used his predecessor's (Charles Sullivan) permit, but had been under tremendous pressure from the City until Chronicle columnist Ralph Gleason publically embarrassed the city into issuing the permit. Helms had managed to get his permit due to the fact that one of his roommates (Terence Hallinan) was well-connected to politics through his father, a legendary labor attorney. It is an interesting comment on the San Francisco scene that Chet Helms allowed the Avalon to be used on an off-night (May 19 was a Wednesday) to host a benefit for a Permit for a potential competitor.

This show wass the first time the Grateful Dead played the Avalon, altough  since it was not a Family Dog production, it was not the first time the Dead played for The Family Dog (this would occur 9 days later).  A pristine board tape of both Grateful Dead sets survives.  The Dead had evolved from just covering blues numbers to playing elaborately arranged songs.  Much of their material was obscure folk and jug band music that would remain in their repertoire off and on into the 1990s, like “Cold Rain and Snow” and “Beat It On Down The Line.”  At the same time, they had started writing their own songs, most of which will not even survive through the end of 1966.  They still do covers, however, including blues (“It’s A Sin”), R&B (“Good Loving”) and even country (“Silver Threads and Golden Needles”). Every number except two “Viola Lee Blues” (7:24) and “Early In The Morning” (6:15) clocks in under 4 minutes, and many are under 3 minutes. The two sets together feature 17 songs and about 70 minutes of music.

The Wildflower had formed at Oakland's California College of Arts and Crafts, but the key members were former South Bay folkies, so they were well-connected to the San Francisco underground scene from the beginning. Although their recorded output is relatively slim, all that survives is excellent, and the band were key members of the scene. Their story is fascinating and complex, and deserves to be considered in its entirety

The Outfit were an obscure Mill Valley group.  The band members were all more interested in being on the scene than actually gigging, or even rehearsing.  Like all such bands throughout time, they made a point of playing obscure and undanceable songs. They had a backer, a wannabe hippie heir to the Zellerbach fortune, who paid their bills.  The cousin of one of the guitarists (Robert Resner) was the brother of the manager of the Straight Theatre, so they had a built-in rehearsal hall and knew everyone. Their ‘manager’ was Bard Dupont, the original bassist of the Great Society.  The Outfit did not play very many gigs, but they were always ‘on the scene‘.  The Outfit bassist, John Ciambotti, would end up in Marin band Clover with Huey Lewis. More notoriously, lead guitarist Bobby Beausoleil, after a stint in a group called Orkustra, ended up with Charles Manson and has been in prison since his murder conviction in 1970.

Next: May 20-21, 1966 Love/Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band/Big Brother and The Holding Company

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco May 13-14, 1966: Blues Project/Sons Of Adam/Quicksilver Messenger Service

This post is part of a series analyzing every show at The Avalon Ballroom.

Friday-Saturday May 13-14, 1966 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA 
Blues Project/Sons Of Adam/Quicksilver Messenger Service

Just five weeks into its existence, the Avalon Ballroom was already repeating bookings. Blues Project had played the opening of the Avalon, less than a month earlier (April 22-23). Although the release date of their first album (Live At Cafe Au Go Go) is somewhat foggy, it had definitely been released by now. Blues Project were ending a stay of several weeks in California, and their live shows had been enormously successful. The band members were much more experienced musicians than most of the musicians in the San Francisco bands, and even more so on electric instruments. The Blues Project would return East with a legion of hip fans on the West Coast.

Sons of Adam had played the second weekend of the Avalon (April 29-30). The Los Angeles band had a sterling reputation as a live band, although no recording has been released. Supposedly (per Ugly Things magazine #26) there is a good live tape of Sons Of Adam that may eventually see the light of day, where guitarist Randy Holden shines. One may hope its so.

Quicksilver Messenger Service had played for the Family Dog before, but when Chet Helms was alternating bookings with Bill Graham at The Fillmore Auditorium on February 26, 1966. Quicksilver had been formed when guitarists John Cipollina and Jim Murray met guitarist Gary Duncan and drummer Greg Elmore at the initial Family Dog event at Longshoreman's Hall (on October 16, 1965). Cipollina and Murray had been rehearsing a band at the Matrix, but the band never performed. One member, guitarist Skip Spence, was poached by the Jefferson Airplane (to be their drummer, oddly), and another, bassist David Freiberg, got busted and had to spend 60 days in jail. Supposedly there were plans to align this rehearsal group with singer/songwriter Dino Valenti, also then in jail on a drug bust, but with Spence and Freiberg gone the group disintegrated (drummer Casey Sonoban was the final member).

Duncan (nee Gary Grubb) and Elmore were from a little town in Central California called Ceres, near Merced. They had played in a variety of successful "teen" bands, most notably The Brogues, who released some fine, punky 45s. The Brogues were popular from about San Jose to Stockton, but the band broke up when some key members were drafted. Duncan and Elmore came to San Francisco to look for band members, and found Cipollina and Elmore. When Freiberg ended his 60-day sentence in late January, the band was complete. They lived on an old houseboat in Sausalito, a lodging obtained via the offices of John Cipollina's father. Initially the group had no name, and played that way at The Matrix and parties at Muir Beach Lodge in Western Marin.

Initially, Quicksilver had very little money or equipment. Their first gig was at a Christmas Party for an improvisational comedy troupe called The Committee, probably on December 24, 1965. With only two guitars, Gary Duncan mostly sang and played tambourine. At a party at Muir Beach Lodge in Western Marin, probably on January 15, 1966, they met their patron Ambrose Hollingsworth, a wealthy heir who provided some financial support for the band. The group considered their converging astrological signs and settled on a name as well.

Quicksilver Messenger Service rapidly became regulars at The Fillmore Auditorium. Initially, various promoters rented the hall from leaseholder Charles Sullivan, and shows were presented by Bill Graham, Chet Helms and various other entities, including Quicksilver themselves. By the time of their first Avalon show in May, Quicksilver had played the Fillmore 18 times from February to April.

By this time, the band had three guitars, and Duncan's driving rhythm guitar centered the band. Here and there they would switch instruments as well, as Duncan was a good bass player and he could free up Freiberg for some singing. Cipollina was working on his unique, shivering guitar style, and Duncan, Freiberg and Murray shared lead vocals. There are no tapes of Quicksilver from this early, but apparently thanks to Duncan and Elmore's live experience the band had a much more professional sound much more quickly than some of their San Francisco contemporaries.

Next: May 20-21, 1966 Love/Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band/Big Brother And The Holding Company

Friday, October 23, 2009

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Central Park, Fremont, CA, June 18, 1967: "Banana At Noon" Free Concert New Delhi River Band/Wakefield Loop/others (canceled?)


After the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park on January 14, 1967, the idea of free public rock concerts as a means of expanding consciousness and generating hip solidarity took hold throughout the West Coast. Throughout the Spring and early Summer of 1967, there were numerous free concerts, styled as Be-Ins and Love-Ins or other fancifully named events. Local authorities were tolerant, amused or threatened, depending on the circumstances. Among the most high profile events were a "Love-In" in Griffiths Park in Los Angeles (the first of several), Be-Ins in Manhattan (Tompkins Square Park) and Vancouver (Stanley Square Park), all on March 26. Numerous less famous events were held in various places, including San Jose and far flung outposts like Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Be-In phenomenon largely ended with its commercial result, the Monterey Pop Festival, held on June 16-18, 1967 at the Monterey County Fairgrounds. After a final burst of free concerts in Golden Gate Park and Palo Alto, using Fender equipment borrowed from the Monterey event, rock music blossomed into its full commercial flowering, and free concerts became just another promotional tool. Throughout that Spring, however, hippies and bands in many communities tried to have their own events with various results. The canceled free concert at Central Park in Fremont, scheduled for Sunday June 18, 1967, offers a case study in how the conditions that allowed Be-Ins in some places like San Francisco and Palo Alto couldn't always be repeated, even just a few miles away.

The clipping above is from the Friday, June 16, 1967 edition of The Fremont Argus, headlined "Hapless Hippies Hamper Happening." The first sentence says "Fremont's first happening may not happen at all." Whatever the back story may have been, the event seems to have been conceived by Fremont local heroes Wakefield Loop as a fund raiser for a local school for the mentally handicapped called The Dawn School. The featured act was Palo Alto's own New Delhi River Band. The New Delhi River Band, who were popular in the South Bay due to their regular performances at The Barn in Scotts Valley (and whose full story is forthcoming) were a swinging blues band whose memberships included future New Riders of The Purple Sage Dave Torbert and David Nelson.

The New Delhi River Band was quite popular in San Jose and thereabouts--they had played the San Jose Be-In on May 14--, and Fremont's peculiar geography made it near the South Bay scene around San Jose as well as the self-consciously hip Berkeley scene to the North, without quite being part of either. The New Delhi River Band were playing with  Wakefield Loop at Yellow Brick Road, Fremont's new psychedelic venue (at 37266 Niles Blvd), on Friday and Saturday (June 16-17), and appeared to be ending the weekend with a free Sunday concert. Other bands on the bill included Wakefield Loop's friends and rivals The Collective Mind, as well as a group whose name I can't read and the promise of a surprise San Francisco guest. Who the guest band was supposed to be can only be speculated upon, since the concert never took place, but the highest profile San Francisco bands were all much further South at the Monterey Pop Festival, held the same weekend and culminating Sunday night.

The city of Fremont seems to have initially given approval for the event, but according to the article at least, got cold feet at some of the language in the poster. Miraculously, a copy of the poster survives on the site of the lead guitarist of Wakefield Loop. The poster, drawn by Loop lead singer Cheryl Williams, including tiny lettering that said "bring incense, apples, love beads, food and flowers to share." This seditious language was supposedly enough for the director of the putative beneficiaries (The Dawn School) to disassociate itself from the event, causing the City of Fremont to reconsider permission to use the park for the event.

None of these explanations are believable; it sounds like local bandmembers got permission, and someone in City management saw a Be-in on TV and became nervous, and found some pretense for interfering with the event. The implication of the news article is that the show would not take place, although a guerilla event was not out of the question. Wakefield Loop guitarist Denny Mahdik is quoted in the article as saying a crowd of 150 to 200 was expected; the City clearly feared many more. The city's assumption was somewhat naive, since many of the likely fans were already in Monterey, but they had no direct way of knowing that. Fremont, about halfway between Berkeley and San Jose, both of whom had successfully had free outdoor concerts at city parks, wasn't quite ready for the psychedelic revolution yet.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fillmore East May 17-18, 1968 The Byrds/Tim Buckley/The Foundations

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

May 17-18, 1968 The Byrds/Tim Buckley/The Foundations

The Byrds had been major rock stars since 1965. They had even played the venue in its previous incarnation, The Village Theater (on July 22, 1967, supported by The Seeds and Vanilla Fudge). By 1968, however, while still popular, The Byrds had been through numerous personal and musical changes, and were not as highly ranked in the firmament as before.

The Byrds current album at this time was Notorious Byrd Brothers (Columbia Jan 68), but the band had already moved on. The May 1968 lineup of The Byrds featured Roger McGuinn, Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman and Kevin Kelley, and banjoist Doug Dillard (Dillard was not actually a member of the group, just an additional musician). The Byrds had just finished recording Sweetheart of The Rodeo, although that album would not be released until August.  The country sounds of the Gram Parsons-era Byrds would have been completely unprecedented to a New York Fillmore East audience, as Gram Parsons was crucial in legitimizing the concept of country rock (although he himself did not like the term).  According to the June 1 Billboard review (quoted in Christopher Hjort's fine Byrds chronology So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star), however, the Byrds country material was quite well received by the audience.

The review in Billboard magazine was a crucial element of Fillmore East's importance. Billboard was the leading music industry trade journal, and in many ways the only source of information about bands on tour. One of the weekend performances in Fillmore East was always reviewed in each week's Billboard, so that meant that all three bands on the bill got National exposure. Managers, particularly of English bands, liked to start tours at the Fillmore East because a good review in Billboard could go a long way towards creating interest in their group amongst booking agents and promoters.

The Foundations are mainly known for their 1968 hit  “Build Me Up Buttercup.” Much to the surprise of everyone who recalls the song, they were actually an English group (with some West Indians and a Sri Lankan thrown in for good measure). The Foundations were one of the few English groups to have success playing in a soul style. They had plenty of live experience in England, and they were probably a pretty good live band. In Hjort's book, Foundations bassist Peter Macbeth recalled that their equipment was stolen and that the Byrds wouldn't let them borrow theirs. Equipment hassles were particularly critical at the Fillmore East, since bands rightly felt the pressure of needing to have a great performance there in order to have a successful tour.

Tim Buckley had played Fillmore East the first night it opened (March 8, 1968), and returned for another engagement.

May 20, 1968 Black Theater for The Black Panthers
Benefit for Eldridge Cleaver with LeRoi Jones, Marlon Brando and others.

Eldridge Cleaver was running for President on the Peace And Freedom Party ticket. Cleaver was also Minister Of Information for Oakland's Black Panthers. This event was held on a Monday night, and the poster lists various speakers and writers, but no musicians. The history of The Peace And Freedom Party (and for that matter The Black Panthers) is an interesting 60s story, but outside the scope of this blog. Suffice to say that Bill Graham was very alert to the virtues of allowing local benefits for various popular causes at his venues on off nights.

next: May 24, 1968: Ravi Shankar with Alla Rakha//May 25, 1968 Country Joe and The Fish/Pigmeat Markham

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Orpheum Theater, Madison, WI: Eric Burdon and The Animals, March 8, 1967


This picture from the February 21, 1967 edition of Madison, Wisconsin's Capital Times promotes two  shows by Eric Burdon and The Animals at the Orpheum Theater in Madison on March 8, 1967. The caption says
The young rock 'n' roll veterans have recorded nine hit singles, including the million platter seller, "House of the Rising Sun." and also "Don't Bring Me Down," "Cee Cee Rider," "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," and "Bring It On Home To Me."
While the blurb about the Animals recording history is correct, it was a somewhat misleading promotion. The Animals were one of the biggest "British Invasion" bands in America, and only The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Dave Clark Five could fairly be marked as bigger. However, except for lead singer Eric Burdon, the previous Animals were a different entity. The new group, initially called Eric Burdon and The New Animals, were a different creature entirely.

The Animals had visited San Francisco in July of 1966, where Eric Burdon experienced that rare natural occurrence, a warm San Franciscan night. After visiting the Fillmore and hanging out with the bands, Eric underwent a sort of conversion experience. When the Animals "broke up"--not least because bassist Chas Chandler had discovered Jimi Hendrix in Greenwich Village and planned to become his manager--Eric formed a "new" Animals with an entirely different sound.

While the original Animals had played very basic blues to great effect, the new Animals were a musically sophisticated group ready to stretch anything out in true psychedelic style. Eric sang in his powerful,  over the top style, but instead of swirling organ he was supported by the twin guitars of Vic Briggs and John Weider. Weider had a driving blues sound, which contrasted nicely with Brigg's jazzier stylings. Danny McCullough and Barry Jenkins held down the rhythm section. Surviving tapes suggest the band sounded somewhat like Quicksilver Messenger Service. Interestingly,  none of them (save Burdon) would have ever heard Quicksilver, who had neither recorded nor played outside of San Francisco at that point.

Although the group typically performed a few Animals hits, like "House Of The Rising Sun," "See See Rider" and "When I Was Young" (their current single at the time), they also performed extended versions of songs like "Tobacco Road," "Roadrunner" and "Rock Me Baby." What few recordings survive suggest that they were a tremendous live band, well ahead of their time but perhaps not entirely what their fans expected.

Eric Burdon transformed himself from a British Beatster to a psychedelic ranger, and the Animals even went so far as to entirely relocate to California, unique among 60s British bands. Their concert history has remained all but entirely untold up to now, but Ross and I have rectified that with a Family Tree and Performance History for Eric Burdon and The New Animals of 1967 and 1968.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

November 18-19, 1967, Cow Palace-Hollywood Bowl: Free Concerts


November 18, 1967 Cow Palace, Daly City, CA
November 19, 1967 Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA
The Association/The Animals/Everly Brothers/Sopwith Camel/The Who/Sunshine Company

These two concerts stand out on lists of old rock concerts, for any number of reasons. The 1967 rock market was quite small, and the 11,000 seat Cow Palace (at 2600 Geneva Avenue, just South of San Francisco) and the prestigious 17,000 seat Hollywood Bowl (at 2301 North Highland) was on a substantially larger scale than the Fillmore or equivalent venues. The Association, The Animals and The Who had all headlined the Fillmore, the Everly Brothers, while past the prime of their radio popularity, were still very well known, and Sopwith Camel had had a radio hit ("Hello Hello").

What is particularly different about these rock concerts was that they were effectively free. The article above is from the Oakland Tribune 'Teen Age' section of November 8, 1967, and it says
Tickets to the musical extravaganza are free with the purchase of any one M-G-M or Warner Brothers stereo album at any Bay Area White Front store, sponsor of the event.
White Front was a large department store, like Sears or Macy's, and there were quite a few around the Bay Area. Thus you could have gone into the store and purchased, say, Freak Out by The Mothers of Invention (on MGM), or the first Grateful Dead album (on Warners), and gotten a free ticket. Of course, in those days, the record sections of stores had considerably fewer albums, and you might find yourself having to buy a considerably less attractive album.

The article also says the show was scheduled to run for two and one-half hours. With six acts, even with a shared sound system and rapid equipment changes, bands could be playing for no longer than 25 minutes. The groups who had gotten used to the Fillmore, with its Owsley Stanley designed sound, intimate setting and two hour-long sets, must have found these shows to be trivial and alienating.

Notes on the bands
The Association
The Association were one of the most commercially successful folk-rock bands. While they were all fine musicians, they wore suits on stages, and did coordinated dance steps and little skits between songs, like a Las Vegas act, so they were roundly dismissed by the hip underground. Their big hit in the Summer had been "Windy," and their current hit was "Never My Love." They were on Warner Brothers Records.

The Animals
The Animals had been one of the biggest acts of the British Invasion. However, the "new" Animals were very different creatures indeed than the minimalist R&B combo of the mid-60s. With twin guitarists Vic Briggs and John Weider and Eric Burdon's powerful if histrionic vocals, they had a big hit with the psychedelic "San Franciscan Nights" (how good was Owsley's acid if Eric thought a San Franciscan night was warm?). On stage, the band sounded like a cross between the original Animals and Quicksilver Messenger Service. They were on MGM Records.

Everly Brothers
The Everly Brothers had been one of the biggest acts of the early 1960s, and they were a huge influence on The Beatles and many other groups. They were all but single-handedly responsible for showing that the traditional brother harmonies of old time country music (originated by the likes of The Delmore Brothers) could be effectively transposed onto popular rock music, a lesson the Beatles took very well. Although the Everlys were still making fine albums, they were no longer pop hitmakers in America. They recorded for Warner Brothers Records.

Sopwith Camel
The Sopwith Camel had formed at 1090 Page Street, the same hippie rooming house that spawned Big Brother And The Holding Company. Although the Camel was one of the original ballroom bands, they had been signed quickly by Kama Sutra Records, and had an early 1967 hit with their song "Hello Hello." The Fillmore underground rather unfairly dubbed them "sell-outs", and they missed being attached to the underground wave that they had helped begin. Reputedly they were a pretty good live band, with a tough twin guitar sound somewhat at odds with the Lovin Spoonful-ish style of their album.

The Who
The Who hardly need an introduction here. Similar to the Animals, The Who spent 1967 converting themselves from a pop-oriented British Invasion band to a serious Underground band. The band had already headlined the Fillmore (June 16-17, 1967) and played Monterey Pop (June 18), but they had spent the next eight weeks touring America with Herman's Hermits. The band's most recent album was A Quick One, released in America in May 1967 (December 66 in the UK). Their current single was  the great "I Can See For Miles", from their forthcoming classic The Who Sell Out. This show was the beginning of an American tour where The Who still played "teen" venues, but by 1968 they had evolved into serious rock musicians who played the Fillmore East. The Who recorded for Decca Records.

The Sunshine Company
The Sunshine Company played a sort of psychedelic pop music native to Los Angeles, with catchy tunes, nice harmonies and quirky arrangements. They had a modest hit with "Back On The Street Again." They recorded for Imperial Records. The Sunshine Company may not have played the Hollywood Bowl.

Notes On The Venues
The Cow Palace 2600 Geneva Avenue, Daly City, CA
The Cow Palace, originally the California State Livestock Pavilion was built in the depression and completed in 1941. A local politician was quoted as saying "People are starving, and we're building a palace for the cows," and the name stock. With a concert capacity of around 11,000, it was the biggest indoor concert venue in the Bay Area until the completion of the Oakland Coliseum in 1966. The Beatles played there twice, and the Rolling Stones played there as well. Although it became increasingly outdated, many fine rock concerts were held there when better venues were filled up (I saw great shows there by Pink Floyd, Neil Young and Nirvana, to name a few, and a dreadful Iron Maiden/Twisted Sister show). The building is currently slated for demolition.

Hollywood Bowl, 2301 North Highland, Los Angeles, CA
The 17,000 capacity Hollywood Bowl is an outdoor venue carved out of a natural amphitheater on a hillside above Los Angeles. It was used in a basic form for outdoor concerts as early as 1922, but a substantial and distinctive bandshell was constructed in 1929. The Hollywood Bowl has always been a prestige venue in Hollywood, for those acts big enough to play there. It remains an active venue to this day.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fillmore East May 10, 1968 Jimi Hendrix Experience/Sly And The Family Stone

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

The second weekend in May of 1968 had an atypical billing, as their were completely different shows on Friday May 10 and Saturday May 11.

May 10, 1968    Jimi Hendrix Experience/Sly and The Family Stone
The Friday night bill at Fillmore East was a rock bill for the ages, featuring one of the biggest rock acts in the world, supported by a group that would soon join Hendrix at the mountaintop. Jimi Hendrix Experience were big and getting bigger, but Bill Graham always excelled at persuading bands and their management that performing at his showcases in San Francisco and New York always paid more dividends than playing a larger place.

The current Experience album was Axis: Bold As Love (Reprise Feb 68). These shows featured the original Experience, with Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums.One of Hendrix's shows featured a 17-minute performance of “Red House,” and the lucky patrons who caught either the early or late show never forgot it. 
  
San Francisco's Sly And The Family Stone were not just electrifying but groundbreaking. Vocalist/organist/guitarist Sly Stone (Sylvester Stewart) was from Vallejo, CA and Sly and The Family Stone (including brother Freddie Stone on guitar, sister Rose on vocals, cousin Larry Graham on bass, Cynthia Robinson on trumpet and ‘white guys’ Jerry Martini on sax and Gregg Errico on drums) wore way out hippie clothes, sang about peace and love and were absolutely the funkiest band around. Sly’s addition of rock elements to soul music was so influential that his approach is taken for granted today, but an inter-racial band adding rock guitar on top of James Brown licks, along with the thumb-popping bass of Larry Graham was unthinkable before Sly.  Biographer Joel Selvin correctly observed that in Black Music, there is 'before Sly' and 'after Sly.'

In Fall 1967, Sly And The Family Stone had an extensive, successful residency at a dance club at 19 St. Marks Place, between 2nd and 3rd Street (in Greenwich Village, not far from Fillmore East) called The Electric Circus, so they were somewhat known in hip New York. The band's current album was still their first, A Whole New Thing (Epic 1967). However, the song “Dance To The Music”, from their next lp, had already been released as a single and it was a hit on AM pop charts as well as soul radio.

Sly and The Family Stone were truly electrifying performers, and in Joel Selvin’s  biography of the reports that their set culminated with Sly, Freddie and Larry Graham dancing into the aisles and leading the crowd out into the street, while Gregg Errico and the horn section wailed away. They absolutely killed the house, and that was before Hendrix came in and shattered the place, and they did it all over at the late show. Truly a night to remember at Fillmore East.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience never played the Fillmore East again, although Band Of Gypsies did play there (in 1970). However, Hendrix hung out regularly at Fillmore East, when he could, and was a familiar figure backstage.

May 11, 1968 Autosalvage/Group Therapy/Joyfull Noise

In contrast to the Friday night show with two of rock's most legendary acts at the height of their powers, Saturday's show featured three acts on RCA Records that are largely forgotten.  Bills full of unknowns were common in the early days of the San Francisco Fillmore, but that was a very localized ‘scene’ and was driven by a different dynamic. Given the obscurity of these performers, I have to assume that RCA footed the bill for this booking.

Autosalvage was a jug band who had "gone electric".  Supposedly they were discovered by Frank Zappa in New York (presumably in 1967).  Autosalvage had a self-titled album (RCA 1968).  Their music was very eclectic, typical of a lot of jug bands at the time.  Members included bassist Skip Boone (brother of a member of The Lovin Spoonful) and guitarist Rick Turner, later to become famous as a guitar builder for Alembic instruments.

There were several sixties bands named Group Therapy, but this was likely the Northeastern variant featuring vocalist Ray Kennedy (who worked with the Beach Boys and Mike Bloomfield in the 1970s).  There music was of the heavy Vanilla Fudge variety, and not apparently memorable.  They would have been supporting their album People Get Ready For Group Therapy (RCA 1968).

Joyfull Noise was a soft-rock band from the Northeast, also on RCA, also supporting their self-titled first album. 

next: May 17-18, 1968: The Byrds/Tim Buckley/The Foundations

Thursday, October 15, 2009

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

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

The first appearance of the Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore East featured the classic Airplane with Grace Slick and Marty Balin (along with Kaukonen/Kantner/Casady/Dryden), the flagship of San Francisco’s  Summer of Love.  The current album was After Bathing At Baxter’s (RCA Dec 67). “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit” had been big hits in the summer of 1967. Unlike almost every other band at Fillmore East, the Airplane did not use the Joshua Light Show, but their own light show (Glenn McKay’s Head Lights).  For the encore on Saturday night (presumbably the late show), Kostelanetz reports various drummers sat in for Spencer Dryden, the first being Mitch Mitchell (of the Jimi Hendrix Experience).

All four sets of the Airplane were casually recorded by Fillmore East soundman John Chester.  The officially released 2002 cd Jefferson Airplane Live At Fillmore East (BMG) is a sort of “best-of” the four nights.  The Airplane are ragged but exciting, with difficult arrangements and interesting songwriting mixed with erratic execution.

Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s big hit was “Fire.”  They had a notorious stage show in which Brown was hung up on a cross. “Fire” was not yet a hit, and neither the single or album of “Fire" had been released in the US. The single and album would go on to become huge hits. Various commentators report Brown entering the stage by being carried down the aisle by four men (in a coffin or throne, or some conveyance), wearing a mask that is on fire.  Organist Vincent Crane (later in Atomic Rooster) was the primary musician in the band, with drummer Drachen Theaker the only other member of the trio.

Next: May 10, 1968: Jimi Hendrix Experience/Sly and The Family Stone

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

1825 Salvio Street, Concord, CA: Concord Coliseum Performances 1967-68


Ross found this hitherto unknown poster featuring the Loading Zone headlining at the Concord Coliseum on October 11 and 12, 1968, supported by the Gettysburg Express and Bronz Inc. The clarity of the scan gave me a good look at the address of the venue, at 1825 Salvio Street. Due to the miracle of googling, I discovered some recent blog posts about the Concord Coliseum at Claycord.com (devoted to the area of Clayton, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill and Concord). Former and current Concord residents recall the venue and the building, as well as numerous concerts and events. Fans of old venues are well-advised to click over there, and in particular read the comments. They give a nice flavor of how exciting rock and roll was back then when it came to your town.

The Claycord site has done such a good job of evoking the building and the era that I thought I would make a brief chronology of known shows at the Concord Coliseum. The history of the building is better described on that site, but the building was a former Purity Supermarket that was taken over by Bill Vavrick and Bill Quarry. Quarry was a successful East Bay promoter, with his production company Teens N Twenties (TNT). TNT mostly focused on the Oakland-San Leandro-Hayward corridor, along East 14th Street, and his most well known venue was the Rollarena in San Leandro, where he promoted rock shows on Friday nights from New Years Eve 1965-66 through mid-1967. However, Quarry promoted shows throughout the East Bay and the Bay Area.

The Concord-Walnut Creek area is now a thriving suburb of San Francisco, with heavy commute traffic going in all directions on a huge freeway network. In the late 1960s, however, Concord and Walnut Creek were sleepy little communities, with plenty of open space and few commuters to San Francisco, and even fewer elsewhere, as much of the County was agricultural. While teenagers were certainly aware of the Fillmore and Avalon, that was perceived as being quite a bit farther away than it is today, and there wasn't as much to do on weekend evenings. The Bill Quarry model was to put on dances every Friday and Saturday night, for both teenagers and young adults (hence "Teens N Twenties"). Since no alcohol was served (I'm sure plenty was consumed) city authorities and parents were comfortable with allowing the events. According to commenters, there wasn't even really a stage at the venue, and fans could look the performers in the eye if they so chose.

While the Claycord site suggests that the Concord Coliseum put on shows almost every Friday and Saturday night, only a few shows are known based on surviving posters and newspaper clippings. Most of the bands who played were local East Bay rock bands, with periodic visits from out of town stars. What follows is a list of known shows--consider this a work in progress. Anyone with specific information about dates and performers please contact me or mention it in the comments. I have added a few notes about some of the bands.

August 4, 1967 Chocolate Watch Band/Harbinger Complex/Virtues
August 5, 1967 Roger Collins/Harbinger Complex/Virtues
This was the opening weekend of the venue. San Jose's Chocolate Watch Band were both popular and a fantastic live group. Harbinger Complex were a popular TNT attraction from Fremont. The Virtues were a Contra Costa band who included guitarist Gregg Douglas (later of Hot Tuna and the Steve Miller Band). The Virtues later changed their name to Country Weather and played the Fillmore West many times.

August 11, 1967 The Mojo Men
The Mojo Men had had a hit with Buffalo Springfield's "Sit Down I Think I Love You," with vocals by drummer Jan Errico.

September 1, 1967 Rear Exit/Indian Head Band
September 2, 1967 Immediate Family/Rear Exit
September 3, 1967 The Virtues/Immediate Family

Labor Day weekend in 1967 featured local bands. Rear Exit was a San Leandro band, and Indian Head Band was from Castro Valley, then quite a rural area. Indian Head Band played mostly improvised "raga-rock," featuring guitarist Hal Wagenet, who would later join Its A Beautiful Day. The Immediate Family were from Clayton, and guitarist Tim Barnes would later help found Stoneground.

September 8, 1967 The Epics
September 9, 1967 Little Richard/Dearly Beloved
The Epics were a Walnut Creek band featuring Bobby Winkelmann, later in Frumious Bandersnatch.

October 13, 1967 Midnite Hour/Purple Haze
October 14, 1967 The Grass Roots/Bristol Box Kite
This was the second, more famous Grass Roots. They had played The Fillmore the previous weekend.

October 20, 1967 Buffalo Springfield
October 21, 1967 Strawberry Alarm Clock/King Biscuit Entertainers
The poster for the Grass Roots show says "October 20-Buffalo Springfield." The band had played for Quarry before, and they did play Santa Rosa on the next night (Saturday October 21 at Sonoma County Fairgrounds), so it seems likely they played there. Santa Barbara's Strawberry Alarm Clock were climbing the charts with there hit "Incense And Peppermints."


October 25, 1967 Van Morrison
Van Morrison, on his first solo tour, played a Wednesday night at Concord Coliseum. Van had played for Bill Quarry at The Rollarena in May of the previous year on Them's legendary American tour. It was at the Rollarena in May 1966, in the alley behind the rink, where Van met Janet (Planet) Riggsbee, his future wife and the world's Brown-Eyed Girl. By October 1967, Van had just finished a weekend at the Avalon (October 20-22), and was touring with just two other band members (a bassist and reed player). The clipping above is from the October 21, 1967 Oakland Tribune "Teen Age" section.

November 3-4, 1967 Moby Grape/The Blues Union
The Moby Grape shows were highlighted in a November 4, 1967 Oakland Tribune interview with the Grape. A local band, The Blues Union, opened the show.

November 24-25, 1967 Quicksilver Messenger Service/Martha's Laundry (24)/Zackfield Underground Railroad
Reader Kent contributed this long-forgotten Quicksilver flyer.

December 23, 1967 The Wildflower
The Wildflower were an Oakland based group who were popular at the Fillmore and Avalon.

1968 (uncertain) Sonny And Cher
Sonny and Cher played a Cerebral Palsy benefit at the Concord Coliseum, but the exact date is unclear.

Spring 1968 Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
An eyewitness recalls seeing the Dirt Band in the Spring of '68.

May 3-4, 1968 Archie Bell and The Drells/Frumious Bandersnatch/Overbrook Express
Archie Bell and The Drells (from Houston, TX) had a huge crossover hit with "Tighten Up." Frumious Bandersnatch was Lafayette's leading (and first) psychedelic band. Many of the members went on to play with the Steve Miller Band.

May 29, 1968 The Yardbirds/Flamin Groovies/Linn County
The Yardbirds, near the end of their existence, featured Jimmy Page on lead guitar, and had begun to perform a few numbers (like "Dazed and Confused") that would turn up in Led Zeppelin a few months later. The Flamin Groovies were a San Francisco band who bucked convention by continuing to play in a British Invasion style, while Linn County were a blues band who had recently located from Cedar Rapids, IA.

May 31-June 1, 1968 Country Weather/Frumious Bandersnatch
Both of these groups were Contra Costa bands who were trying to break in to the Bay Area scene, and regularly gigged around the circuit. Although at the time they would have just been local heroes, whom many in the crowd probably knew, in later years Greg Douglass of Country Weather co-wrote "Jungle Love," a huge hit  for Steve Miller. Not only did Douglass tour with the Steve Miller Band (as well as Hot Tuna), but four of the five members of Frumious Bandersnatch ended up touring with Miller as well. On top of that Frumous bassist Ross Valory and road manager Walter "Herbie" Herbert achieved fame and fortune with Journey.

June 7-8, 1968 The Box Tops/Cold Blood
Children all over the world dream of Alex Chilton, but in Concord they saw him in person, singing songs like "The Letter" with The Box Tops. Cold Blood was part of a new breed of rocking East Bay funk bands, just getting their feet on the ground.

July 5, 1968 Big Brother and The Holding Company
Janis and Big Brother liked to play smaller places around California, and they played a gig at Concord. Cheap Thrills would have just been released, and the band would have been at the height of their powers.

July 19-20, 1968 Iron Butterfly
This booking was alluded to in Billboard Magazine (July 13 '68).

August 8, 1968 Eric Burdon And The Animals
Eric Burdon had played a number of shows for Bill Quarry in the past. This was a Thursday night show, the night before a three-night stand at the Fillmore West. Although its easy to be smug about Burdon's vocal excesses now, the "New Animals" with guitarists John Weider and Andy Somers (better known now as The Police's Andy Summers) and organist Zoot Money, were a powerful live band.

October 11-12, 1968 Loading Zone/Gettysburg Express/Bronz Inc
The Loading Zone was one of (if not the) first East Bay bands to successfully cross psychedelic rock with soul, kicking the door open for Cold Blood, Sly and The Family Stone, and numerous others. The Zone played both the psychedelic ballrooms and East Bay soul clubs. The other two acts are unknown to me, although it might be possible that Bronze Inc was Cotati's Bronze Hog.

Obviously there are numerous shows missing from this chronology, but I do not know of any after October 12, 1968. By 1969, owner Bill Vavrick had converted the building to a furniture auction warehouse, and the site is now a Petco.

Unsupported dates
The Claycord site had a link to a Teen Magazine calendar that suggested that The Who played Concord on August 23, 1968. Magazines were published months in advance in those days, and while that Concord may have been on an early itinerary, The Who did not play Concord on that day, as they were in Oklahoma City. In any case, the site misdates events of 1967 as 1968 (The Who toured with Hermans Hermits in 1967), but on August 23, 1967 The Who were in Flint, MI.

Various commenters recall Country Joe and The Fish playing Concord Coliseum, and while that is certainly possible, the most advanced list (Ross's) does not show it. CJF did play Concord, at DeLaSalle High (on January 28, 1967), so perhaps memories are getting merged.

This list represents the extent of my knowledge. Check out the Claycord posts for more personal memories. I will update the list in the Comments, and do a new post if I get enough information.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fillmore East April 19-20, 1968: Mothers Of Invention/James Cotton Blues Band

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

Although the iconoclastic Mothers of Invention are rightly remembered as an underground Los Angeles band, in fact they had spent the fall of 1967 based in New York City, with residencies in Greenwich Village at the CafĂ© Au Go Go and Garrick Theater.  Their revue at the Garrick was called Absolutely Free.  Out of town visitors from, say, Piscataway,  New Jersey were surprised not only to discover that show was not, in fact, free, but that the opening number consisted of surprisingly ugly men with beards, wearing dresses, doing a Supremes medley as a prelude to crazy avant-garde music. 

 The Mothers lineup for this show would have been FZ, Don Preston (organ), Ian Underwood (keyboards, reeds), Bunk Gardner (reeds), Motorhead Sherwood (baritone sax), Roy Estrada (bass, vocals), Jimmy Carl Black (Indian of the group, drums) and Artie Tripp (drums, percussion).  Ray Collins (sometime lead vocalist) had an ambiguous status and may or may not have appeared. Sandy Hurvitz (later known as Essra Mohawk) may have appeared as vocalist, as she often sang at New York appearances.

The Mothers were confusing to follow since Zappa’s complicated sonic productions had little to do with his stage band at any given time.  The current Mothers of Invention album would have been the immortal We're Only In It For The Money (Verve February 68). Albums such as Cruising With Ruben and The Jets and Uncle Meat had largely been recorded, but they would be released until later in the year.

Harmonica master James Cotton had replaced Little Walter in Muddy Water’s band in the late 1950s, and now led his own group, probably featuring Luther Tucker on guitar (Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy, later in The Blues Brothers movie, subsequently replaced Tucker), Albert Gianquinto on piano (who later wrote some songs for Santana), and Francis Clay on drums.  Cotton was already a regular at the San Francisco Fillmore. His mixture of blues classics and bluesy version of R&B hits (like "Turn On Your Lovelight") always went over well.

Some live material recorded in Montreal in 1967, released many years later, gives a good idea of Cotton's sound at the time. To fans at the Fillmore East his current album was probably Cotton In Your Ears (Verve 1967). He did release a 1968 album on Verve, Pure Cotton, but I do not know the exact release date.

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

Sunday, October 4, 2009

March 4, 1966 Swarthmore College Rock Festival, Swarthmore, PA Blues Project/Myddle Class



The article excerpted above from the March 2, 1966 edition of the Delaware County Daily Times proudly announces "Swarthmore College To Rock 'n' Roll For First Time." Swarthmore College is an academically exceptional private college about 20 miles West of Philadelphia. As Rock and Roll creeped into serious culture on the Beatles coattails, serious students who hitherto dismissed rock as "dance music" started to get on board. In the 1960s, many colleges had significant entertainment budgets, and if a few shrewd students could get on the appropriate committees, an act thoroughly unacceptable to the college--had they known who they were--could be paid to come on campus and indoctrinate the youth.

At this time The Blues Project were the hippest band in Greenwich Village, playing swinging bluesy versions of classic folk and blues songs. They were perennial regulars at the ultra-hip Cafe Au Go Go, but their first album (Live At The Cafe Au Go Go) had not yet been released. Shortly after this, the band would head West and conquer the Fillmore and Avalon, but all that lay in the future. At this time, the Blues Project was just another Greenwich Village band looking for paying gigs. Since Swarthmore is only about two hours from the Village, and The Au Go Go allowed in teenagers, I have to assume some with-it students knew about the band and got them booked.

In early 1966, there was no concept of a "Rock Festival" as we know it today. The Swarthmore students must have sold it to the college on the grounds of being similar to a Folk Festival, something the school would have been comfortable with. Events consisted of

  • 2:00 pm Friday, March 4, Brown Hall: Festival organizer Chris Brown will play his own records and the harpsichord, to introduce the unitiated to rock and roll blues (really, that's what it says)
  • 3:00 pm Friday, March 4, Somerville Hall: Record dance, featuring hits of 1965 or before
  • late afternoon Friday, March 4, Somerville Hall: screening the "TAMI Show" movie
  • 7:00 pm Friday, March 4: Sharpies Dining Hall: The Myddle Class, a New Jersey folk-rock band (students only)
  • 9:00 pm Friday, March 4: Clothier Hall: formal concert with The Blues Project
  • The Campus will be quiet until Saturday morning classes are finished (yes, children, they had Saturday morning classes, and if you flunked them you were drafted and sent to Vietnam)
  • 1:30 pm, Saturday, March 5: Clothier Hall: lecture and demonstration by Peter Schickele and his band The Night People. Shcickele, a Swarthmore alumni, was widely acclaimed for his "PDQ Bach" concerts (too hard to explain). Schickele would create and perform a rock song at the lecture.
  • 5:00 pm, Saturday, March 5: Wallingford Arts Center, Nether Providence: cocktail reception for over-21 students
  • 7:00 pm, Saturday, March 5: Clothier Hall: concert with Peter Schickele and The Night People, Swarthmore Scruples, The Side Track (from Montreal) and Philadelphia City Hall Singers

This is pretty far from the Woodstock model. On the other hand, if Woodstock had had a cocktail reception for the 21-and-overs on Saturday night, perhaps the event would have been even better, so who can say (the harpsichord thing, maybe not). In retrospect, Peter Schickele, while kind of "hep" at the time, was hardly rock and roll, and chump acts like the City Hall Singers (unnacompanied singers who sang under the arches at City Hall because they liked the echoes) seem like light fare, the Blues Project were the coolest band for 1000 miles (the distance to the Butterfield Blues Band in Chicago, friends and rivals of The Blues Project). Although I know little about The Myddle Class, supposedly they were a cool New Jersey garage band, so it sounds like all the memorable action was on Friday night.

Other than this article, I know nothing about the First Swarthmore Rock Festival. Intriguingly, I am told there was at least a second Swarthmore Rock Festival the next year, either October 1966 or Spring 1967, featuring the Jefferson Airplane and Woody's Truck Stop (with teenage lead guitarist Todd Rundgren). At the very least, it suggests that the first one went well enough to allow the second to happen. I wonder if there was a third one?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco April 29-30, 1966: Grass Roots/Sons Of Adam/Big Brother and The Holding Company




This post is part of a series analyzing every concert at the Avalon Ballroom. Above is the Wes Wilson poster for the event (FD6--thanks to Ross for the scan).

For the Avalon's second event, Chet Helms turned to a mixture of San Francisco and Hollywood groups. Given the lengthy pop history of The Grass Roots, with huge AM radio hits like "Midnight Confessions," it seems strange at this remove to see them as regulars of the early days at the Fillmore and The Avalon. In fact, however, the original Grass Roots were a strange hybrid of Bay Area and Southern California, and the little told story of the original band is a protoypical "only in the 60s" tale.

Two LA songwriters, P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, produced and wrote for numerous acts (for example, they wrote Barry McGuire’s hit “Eve Of Destruction”).  Often, when they had a good song, they simply recorded it themselves and simply made up an appropriate sounding group name. They had written and sang on some records as the Grass Roots on Dunhill Records.  When they found some radio success on California AM stations with a song called “Where Were You When I Needed You” in late 1965 , a band had to be created to support the records.  “Where Were You When I Needed You,”  with a lead vocal by P.F. Sloan, strangely, was a radio-station only single and was not for sale.

Sloan and Barri found a San Francisco band called the Bedouins, and sent them out as The Grass Roots. The Bedouins were apparently a pretty good local band, and are known to have won a 1965 Battle of The Bands at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds. In about October 1965, Bill Fulton, the new lead singer of The Grass Roots (nee Bedouins) sang lead on the next Grass Roots single, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Ballad Of A Thin Man.” The band was offended that their lead singer merely sang over pre-recorded tracks performed by session musicians, rather than getting to record as a band. 

In late 1965 and early 1966, The Grass Roots (nee Bedouins) played numerous gigs in Southern California, particularly at The Trip in West Hollywood. At The Trip, where they played every night for almost a month, they played their own sets and backed Barry McGuire for his set. McGuire was another Sloan/Barri act, riding high with his folk-rock hit "Eve Of Destruction." The Grass Roots also played numerous TV gigs, often backing other acts like Barry McGuire or The Mamas and Papas. At the same time, the band played County Fairs and other teenage gigs, where besides the Grass Roots two singles, they mostly played the same blues and R&B tunes that they had played as The Bedouins.

By April of 1966, The Grass Roots were actually relatively popular, as “Where Were You When I Needed You” has been re-released by Dunhill Records and was now getting national airplay.  Producers Sloan and Barri had replaced Sloan’s lead vocal with a new take by lead singer Bill Fulton, so there were now two versions of their best known song.  However, while the Grass Roots still only had two singles, The Sons of Adam only had one, which wasn't a hit, and Big Brother hadn't recorded at all. It was a tribute to the thriving underground scene that the Avalon Ballroom could do well for two nights on groups with such a skinny track record.

Sons Of Adam, whose roots lay in Baltimore, MD, were a Yardbirds-style band from Southern California. The Sons Of Adam were extremely popular in Hollywood clubs, and they had a sensational guitarist in Randy Holden, a sonic legend who blew away everyone who heard him. The Sons Of Adam had only released one single in December 1965 (on Decca), but by all accounts they were a smoking hot live band. The band that played The Avalon was the original and by all accounts the best lineup of The Sons Of Adam. Besides lead guitarist Randy Holden (later in The Other Half and Blue Cheer), guitarist Joe Kooken (aka Jac Ttanna, later Lee Michaels road manager), bassist Mike Port and drummer Michael Stuart (later in Love). Supposedly there is an extant live recording of this lineup (albeit not of this show) that will be released someday, at least according to Ugly Things Magazine (Greg Provost's Sons Of Adam article in Issue 26 tells the whole story).

For purely homegrown undergound talent, Chet Helms booked Big Brother and The Holding Company. Chet Helms was the manager of Big Brother, as well as being the proprietor of The Avalon. Big Brother, in various configurations, had began by playing in the basement of 1090 Page Street, where some of them lived, and had performed at what were essentially ‘Rent Parties.’  Peter Albin’s parents owned the rooming house at 1090 Page, and his older brother Rodney managed the building.  Chet Helms had been putting on the Wednesday night events in the basement, so the band of residents played in the basement. Chet Helms subsequently invited neighbor Bill Ham (from 1839 Pine and the Red Dog ) to put on light shows. By early 1966, band had chosen their name and the group's personnel had stabilized: James Gurley and Sam Andrews on guitars, Peter Albin on bass and Dave Getz on drums. The band's public debut under the Big Brother name was at Berkeley's Open Theater on January 15, 1966.
 
Albin, Andrews and Gurley had all been folkies, and did many of the typical bluesy songs that other bands did (like “I Know You Rider”), but Big Brother’s music featured loud and jagged improvisations.  Lead guitarist James Gurley had been a fine fingerpicking folk guitarist, but the addition of an amplifier and LSD made Gurley into one of the first ‘psychedelic’ guitar players.  Sam Andrew and Peter Albin sang some songs, but many Big Brother numbers were instrumentals with Getz’s jazzy drumming anchoring the self-procalimed Big Brother ‘freak rock’ sound. In this early period, Big Brother’s show-stopping set closer was an instrumental version of Grieg’s  “Hall Of The Mountain King.”

Next: May 6-7, 1966: Daily Flash/Rising Sons/Charlatans/Big Brother and The Holding Company