Ross for the scan)
Previous posts on the late 1960s in Oregon have focused narrowly on specific venues in Portland, whether high profile like the Crystal Ballroom or less well known ones. However, while Portland had a thriving local rock scene in the 1960s, the signal feature of Portland rock music was geography. Since Portland was on an Interstate Highway midway between San Francisco and Seattle, it made the city an attractive stop on many West Coast rock tours. Portland was not a large city in the 1960s, but its location meant that numerous bands played a show in Portland while heading North and South.
I should emphasize at the outset that my blogs have a very narrow focus towards Fillmore and Avalon style underground ("psychedelic") 60s rock bands. In fact, the whole Pacific Northwest had had a booming live music scene since the early 1960s, and rock bands all over Oregon played weekend shows at armories, rec halls and community centers all around the state, and continued to do so throughout the 1960s. However, my historical focus is on the sort of bands who played the Fillmore and Avalon, or at least aspired to do so.
I am attempting a list of every out-of-state touring rock band who played in Oregon in 1968 (1967 is here and 1969 will follow). I am not counting regional bands from Washington or Idaho as "out-of-state"-my focus is on bands who were on tour who played a show (or a few) in Oregon. This list is drawn from my own research and the lists of various bands' rock concert history. Within the confines of my interests (i.e. Fillmore bands), it is as complete as I can make it. I have included shows from my Crystal Ballroom list or other lists if they feature touring bands. Anyone with additions, corrections, insights or recovered memories (real or imagined) is encouraged to Comment or email me.
1968 Portland Rock Concerts
January 20, 1968 Eureka Municipal Auditorium, Eureka, CA Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service
It may seem strange to start a history of concerts in Oregon with a show in California, but Eureka has a peculiar relationship to both California and Oregon. The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service had planned a joint tour of the Pacific Northwest, and following the "pay-as-you-go" nature of 60s rock tours, they booked a show in the North Coast town of Eureka, CA. The Dead were on their way to Seattle (where they would play the weekend of January 26-27), but they stopped halfway for a paying gig in Eureka.
Far Northern California and Southern Oregon see themselves as a state apart from Northern California (San Francisco and the Central Valley) and Central Oregon (Portland, Eugene and Salem). The area from Ashland, OR to Eureka, CA sees itself as another entity (google "State Of Jefferson"). The Grateful Dead's first foray into this area was a show at the tiny Municipal Auditorium at 1120 F Street. The Dead were in fact well received, for the most part, but they rapidly became too big to play such tiny outposts.
The Dead were taping all of the shows on this tour in order to use the material for their forthcoming album Anthem Of The Sun (released June 1968). A portion of the show has circulated amongst Dead tape collectors over the years. Two songs from the Eureka show ("Viola Lee Blues" and "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl") were released as bonus tracks on the 2009 archival Grateful Dead cd Road Trips Vol. 2 No. 2: Carousel 2/14/68. At the beginning of "Viola Lee Blues," Jerry Garcia regretfully informs the Eureka audience that "the cops say you can't dance," a sign of the tension that often ensued when the Dead broke in new territory. Pigpen then adds "Cops ain't God, man," and Phil Lesh helpfully observes "you can't dance, but that doesn't mean you can't take off your clothes and wriggle around," which helps to explain how the Dead created a lot of tension.
January 29, 1968 PMC College Center Ballroom, Portland State College, Portland, OR Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/PH Phactor Jug Band
After the weekend in Seattle, the Grateful Dead/Quicksilver tour--dubbed "The Quick and The Dead"--pulled into Oregon at Portland State College. This was a Wednesday night show at a relatively small college venue.
January 30, 1968 EMU Ballroom (U of O), Eugene, OR Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/PH Phactor Jug Band
PH Phactor Jug Band, a local Portland group, was not on the poster, but contemporary newspaper reports confirm their presence. Once again, the bands are playing on a weeknight (Thursday) at a much smaller college facility than they would ever play again.
February 2-3, 1968 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/PH Phactor Jug Band
The Crystal Ballroom played a peculiar role in Portland rock history, as it was the highest profile venue, but it was run on a shoestring basis. When the Crystal was functioning well, however, it provided some of the great memories of 60s Portland rock. When the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver tour hit the Crystal on a Friday and Saturday night, all the stars were aligned. After a few smaller shows at Portland State and U of O, hip Portland was primed for the shows at the Crystal.
According to Toody Conner, who was one of the volunteers who helped run the Crystal (per Tim Hills book), there were lines around the block, and there was so much money in gate receipts that they had to borrow an equipment case to stuff it into, which she sat on during most of the show. The Crystal had had financial struggles throughout its entire existence as a psychedelic venue, but for this weekend, with the audience ready and the Dead firing on all cylinders--not to mention the formidable Quicksilver Messenger Service--everything happened the way it was supposed to, if only for a weekend.
We know how well the Grateful Dead played, too, because they taped it. Partial tapes of Dead sets from both nights circulate —the only live tapes I know of from The Crystal—and one track was released on a Grateful Dead vault cd in 2009 (“Dark Star” from 2/2/68, as a bonus track on Road Trips Vol. 2 No. 2: Carousel 2/14/68).
February 4, 1968 Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR Beach Boys/Buffalo Springfield (afternoon)
The eternally huge Beach Boys returned to the Portland Memorial Coliseum for a Sunday afternoon show, this time supported by the Buffalo Springfield. The Springfield were a popular band on AM radio, if nowhere near the status of the Beach Boys, and their management booked them for popular shows like this one. The musicians in the band, however (at this point Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, Dewey Martin and bassist Jim Messina) saw themselves as a primarily live band who were more comfortable in a Fillmore-type environment. The frustrated Springfield broke up for good in May 1968.
The "Quick and The Dead" Northwest tour concluded with a Sunday night show in Ashland, OR at the Gymnasium of South Oregon College, 290 miles South of Portland. South Oregon College (today Southern Oregon University) had been founded in 1926. This was the Dead's only appearance in Southern Oregon, as their increasingly popularity in Oregon insured that they played the larger population centers around Portland the two largest State Universities for the rest of their career.
I assume the Dead and Quicksilver played McNeal Pavilion at 1250 Siskiyou Boulevard, since it was opened in 1957. The Pavilion was renovated in 1990, doubling its capacity to 1,400. Thus the Dead and Quicksilver played a tiny gym with 700 seats--and no doubt some people on the floor. Did they get to dance? No information or tape has ever surfaced about this interesting event, to my knowledge.
In February 1968, the Crystal Ballroom tried to make amends for its distant location from California by aligning itself with Chet Helms and the Family Dog. At this juncture, Whitey Davis had returned to California to become some sort of manager at the Avalon Ballroom, where he had worked in 1966. The Avalon had been very successful in 1967, but now it was getting squeezed by the increasing size of the rock market on one side and the Bill Graham empire on the other. Helms had the shrewd idea that if he could offer bands a series of West Coast dates, he could compete directly with Graham. This was a very sharp idea, but it was about a year too late.
According to a long circulating story, the Crystal and the Avalon were part of a Family Dog "empire" that included Vancouver and Anchorage, Alaska. While the Dog clearly had some connections in Vancouver, the Anchorage connection seems to have simply been a tall tale (and financially absurd in any case). Helms had opened a Family Dog outpost in Denver in 1967, but it was done in by constant harassment from the Denver police. If Helms had been able to link Denver, Portland and San Francisco, he might have had some clout, but after the financial draining of the Denver debacle, the undercapitalized Portland effort seems to have been a good idea executed too late.
Nonetheless, the "Crystal Dog" began with the rising San Francisco band Blue Cheer. Blue Cheer’s legendarily heavy debut album, Vincebus Eruptum, with its proto metal single ‘Summertime Blues”, had just been released. Blue Cheer was famous for touring with an enormous sound system (with a huge bank of Marshall Stax amplifiers), and was generally the loudest band around. Tim Hills, in his excellent 1997 book The Many Lives Of The Crystal Ballroom, recounts a story of the Crystal staff's brief panic when Blue Cheer did a full volume soundcheck on Friday afternoon, while normal people were still at work.
March 1-2, 1968 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Quicksilver Messenger Service/Nazzare Blues Band
This was the third Portland Family Dog show (the second featured The Weeds). Quicksilver were Family Dog regulars. Although they had not yet released their debut album, they would have been known to locals, having just come through town with the Grateful Dead.
March 8-9, 1968 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Amazing Charlatans/Alexander’s Timeless Bluesband
This was the fourth and apparently final Portland Family Dog show (poster up top). At this point, the arrangement seemed to end, although the whole story is murky. My assumption is that the financial benefits of a partnership between Chet Helms and The Crystal were not able to be realized. Helms’s bargaining power had been greatly reduced by the Denver debacle, and he may not have had sufficient cash to make the arrangement worthwhile in Portland. Like many of Helms’s ideas, the concept was sound but the execution was spotty.
The Charlatans, of course, had played the very first Family Dog dance in San Francisco on October 16, 1965. By 1968, other groups had passed them by, but they were still an interesting band.
The Cirque Club was just outside of Hillsboro, a suburb about 20 miles West of Portland. Directions on the surviving flyers do not give an address, but just say "1 mile East of Hillsboro on the TV [Tualatin Valley] Highway," a sign of the then-rural location. According to the excellent PNW page, it was a club for kids sixteen and over, a common sort of venue in the Northwest, and it was open for about 3 years in the late sixties. The owner was Ted Scott, a former Hollywood stuntman who had been Clark Gable's stand-in for several years, as well as helping to start the show "To Tell The Truth."
The Family Tree were advertised as a San Francisco band, not exactly true but not untrue either. The Family Tree apparently had a great live show and were very popular in Central California and Oregon. The Jefferson Davis Five were a local band.
April 13, 1968 Cirque Club, Hillsboro, OR Neighb’rhood Childr’n/Jefferson Davis V
Although the Neighb'rhood Childr'n were advertised as "Direct From Hollywood," they were actually Southern Oregon's best (and probably first) psychedelic band. Unlike all other Southern Oregon bands, they also had an album, the excellent if obscure LP Long Years In Space (released on Acta, and later released on cd by Sundazed).
I do not know much else about the Cirque Club, not even whether it was rare or common to have out-of-town bands as headliners. Owner Ted Scott went on to produce other shows, including apparently the Jimi Hendrix show at Portland Coliseum (see below).
May 3, 1968 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR The Fugs/Kaleidoscope
May 4, 1968 The Lemon Tree, Eugene, OR The Fugs/Kaleidoscope/Hammond Typewriter
A brief spurt of national touring acts in May and June suggests that there was still some informal cooperation between the Family Dog in San Francisco and the Crystal.
The poster for the May 4 show in Eugene advertised it as a Family Dog show, paired with the similar bill playing the at the Crystal. Neither show was part of the “official” Family Dog series (in February and March), so its unknown what the relationship was of this show (and the shows on 17-18 May) to the Crystal’s arrangement with the Family Dog. Nonetheless, Whitey Davis was probably still managing the Avalon, so its plausible that an informal arrangement was intact. It was also not unheard of for former associates of The Dog to use The Family Dog logo with at least tacit approval from Chet Helms, for reasons that remain obscure (as happened in February, 1968 in Denver).
Kaleidoscope were a legendary Southern California band who invented “world music” about 20 years before the world was ready for it. The group featured David Lindley, Chester Crill, Solomon Feldthouse and Stuart Brotman (as well as drummer Paul Lagos) on numerous exotic instruments, all played with talent and flair.
I do not know anything about The Lemon Tree in Eugene. Eugene was a college town, so it seems likely that someone would try and open some kind of psychedelic venue, but this Saturday event is the only show I know of at this place. I am not sure of the address.
The poster for this show also indicates that it was a Family Dog show, and equally little is known about the use of the logo and any formal connection to Chet Helms or The Dog.
The Family Tree had just released their debut album Miss Butters (on RCA), and they continued to be popular on the live circuit. However, their ambitious album failed to make a dent on the charts, and the group soon broke up. Bob Segarini then formed a group in Los Angeles called Roxy, the next step in a long and fascinating career.
May 24-25, 31, June 1, 1968 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Junior Wells Blues Band
Chicago blues bands like Junior Wells were now a regular part of the psychedelic ballroom scene. So many local and national bands covered blues songs that a lot of standard Chicago material was quite well known around the country, even to kids who had never heard the original. Wells very well may have played the Crystal in the early 60s, when it featured blues and soul acts.
June 14-15, 1968 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Youngbloods/Kaleidoscope
The Youngbloods, originally from New York City and Cambridge, MA, had moved to Marin County in September, 1967. The quartet (singer/bassist Jesse Colin Young, lead guitarist/singer Jerry Corbitt, multi-instrumentalist Lowell “Banana” Levinger and drummer Joe Bauer) had played regularly throughout the Pacific Northwest as well as the rest of the country. The group’s second album (Earth Music, on RCA) had been released in November 1967.
June 21-22, 1968 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Buddy Guy
Buddy Guy was a prominent blues guitarist in Chicago, not well known except to other guitarists. He was starting to make a name for himself on the ballroom circuit.
The city of Portland closed the Crystal Ballroom on or about July of 1968. Tim Hills reprints a headline in The Oregonian (Portland's main daily newspaper) from July 12, 1968 that says "City Closes Dance Hall: Crystal Ballroom Fails Inspection." Unhappy with the congregation of hippies downtown, the city had found a slew of code violations in June, and the operators of the Crystal--whoever they were by Summer 1968 is a bit vague--were unable to respond effectively. According to Hills, a Newsweek article (from May 20, 1968) that said that San Francisco hippies were all going to Portland for the Summer did not help matters.
The exact date of the last show isn't certain, and the venue may have put on shows as late as Saturday, July 6, 1968, but I don't know who might have played. Its known (from Billboard magazine) that Iron Butterfly had to cancel a July date at the Crystal (either 12-13 or 26-27), and according to Hills Big Brother and the Holding Company had to cancel as well, but the end of the psychedelic area came quickly for the Crystal Ballroom.
June 30, 1968 MacArthur Court, U. of Oregon, Eugene, OR The Doors
The Doors were huge by this time. MacArthur Court was the University of Oregon basketball arena.
July 10, 1968 Masonic Temple, Portland, OR Kaleidoscope/Crazy World of Arthur Brown
The Masonic Temple was a smaller venue at 1119 SW Park Avenue. The biggest events held there used the 4th floor Grand Ballroom. Although it was regularly used for smaller local events, it appears that activity picked up at the Masonic Temple whenever the Crystal Ballroom was inactive. With the Crystal closed, acts who wanted to play downtown Portland ended up at the Temple. I have always assumed that the Kaleidoscope show was originally scheduled for the Crystal, although I can't be sure.
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown had a fairly wild stage show for a 60s band. They were an interesting trio, with just a singer (Brown), an organist (Vincent Crane) and a drummer (the teenage Carl Palmer). Their big hit was the immortal "Fire."
September 9, 1968 Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR Jimi Hendrix Experience/Eire Apparent/Soft Machine
Ted Scott, proprietor of the Cirque Club, helped promote the next big show at Portland Coliseum. The opening acts, Eire Apparent and Soft Machine, were both very interesting groups managed by Hendrix manager Mike Jeffereys.
September 22, 1968 Lane County Fairgounds, Veneta, OR Country Joe and The Fish/Ian Maddron/Death Sound Blues Band
This is the first major rock show I know of at the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene. The Fairgrounds are located at 796 W. 13th Avenue, in the center of Eugene. I do not know whether this was an indoor or outdoor event, as there were and are a variety of facilities at the Fairgrounds.
October 3, 1968 Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR Donovan
It is easy to forget today that Donovan was one of the biggest performers of the late 1960s. He played the Coliseum as well, demonstrating that he was as popular as Jimi Hendrix or The Beach Boys. It is possible there was an early and late show as well. Tapes supposedly exist of this concert.
Gil Coliseum was the basketball arena for Oregon State University. Corvallis was about 82 miles South of Portland, but still 200 miles North of Ashford and Medford. The Grateful Dead were on their way to Vancouver and Seattle. Elsewhere I have speculated on the possibility that since the Saturday, November 16 show was canceled, it is plausible that the Dead played an unscheduled show somewhere in Oregon or Washington that night (EMU Ballroom at U. of O is a plausible).
Mint Tattoo were a San Francisco band featuring Sacramento musicians Bruce Stephens and Burns Kellogg. They released a self-titled album on Dot, and Stephens and Kellogg ended up joining Blue Cheer. Kellogg went on to a successful career as a producer under the name Ethan James.
November ?, 1968 Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR Grass Roots/The Turtles/Deep Purple
A Commenter recalls this event, called "Survey 68." The Deep Purple site lists "Portland, OR unknown venue" for this date, so I have made the assumption that these are the same events. Deep Purple "Mk 1" (with Rod Evans and Nick Simper), who had just released their modest hit "Hush," were on their first American tour.
December 29, 1968 Civic Auditorium, Portland, OR Vanilla Fudge/Led Zeppelin
The Portland Civic Auditorium, at 222 SW Clay St, was built in 1917. It was rarely used for rock shows. At this time it had about 4,500 seats, although it has since been remodeled into a smaller venue. Vanilla Fudge was a very popular band, and they were connected to influential concert promoters (Concerts West) who probably had access to venues that smaller promoters did not. No one cares about Vanilla Fudge today, however; what matters was that opening act Led Zeppelin made their Oregon debut.
Led Zeppelin's first album would not even be released for a few more weeks, but the band made their North American debut filling in for some dates that had been booked for the Jeff Beck Group, with whom Zeppelin shared management, opening for Vanilla Fudge. Zeppelin had made their North American debut in Denver on December 26, followed by dates in Seattle (27) and Vancouver (28). Portland Civic Auditorium was Led Zeppelin's fourth North American date. It was also the first where there was any kind of notice at all, as they had been added to the previous shows too late to change the advertising. A Portland newspaper ad promotes "Vanilla Fudge plus special guests Led Zeppilen featuring Jimmy Page." At this time, with no album and no airplay, Zep would have been completely unknown, but Jimmy Page had a certain amount of name recognition based on his career in the Yardbirds.
Vanilla Fudge and Led Zeppelin went on to perform the next night at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA (where Zep were billed as "Len Zifflin"). The band then had a scary ride through a Northwestern blizzard to the Seattle airport. Once Led Zeppelin landed in sunny Los Angeles to play the Whisky Au Go Go in West Hollywood, they were unknown no more.
Next: Oregon rock concerts, 1969