I inaugurated this blog with a post that collected what little information could be gleaned about a venue called The Bank in Torrance, just outside of Los Angeles. It was gratifying to find out that others were interested as well, and the growing Comment thread added considerably to our knowledge, but the venue largely remained a mystery. However, having finally spoken to one of the founding principals of The Bank, a general picture of the venue has emerged. Combined with the information that I have since learned, I am re-publishing my post.
I have done extensive research into rock concert dates in Southern California in the 1960s, but so far only my lists for the Whisky A-Go-Go list (attempting to document every show at the Whisky from 1966 to 1969), its sister club The Trip (1965-66) and its near neighbor The Kaleidoscope (1968) have seen the light of day. The profusion of entertainment options in Los Angeles creates the paradoxical result that many go unnoticed. As a result, some interesting 60s venues seem to have been all but forgotten, and research can be very difficult. I am posting my current research in its improved but still incomplete form in the hopes that others will have more to add. I am very interested in any information anyone might have regarding the backers of this venue, the history of the building, its general successes and problems, and of course any corrections, insights and additions to the show list.
The Bank, at 19840 South Hamilton Avenue in Torrance, California, about 20 miles Southwest of Los Angeles, is one of the least remembered and most obscure venues in Southern California. Although it was only open for about six months in the second half of 1968, numerous fine bands played there, mostly from San Francisco. The posters for the shows, pleasant but unimpressive, still circulate, which has been just about my only source for information about shows at The Bank. Kim's page on The Bank has a fairly complete package of posters and newspaper ads. A few listings in local newspapers (such as The Pasadena Star-News) confirmed some of the poster dates, but the Comment thread on the first post were my first eyewitness sources.
Thomas Linn was one of the original principals of The Bank, and he spoke to me at length about the founding of the venue. Linn, known to friends as "Lunch," knew Jim Burrows (possibly spelled Jim Burroughs) from Laguna Beach (Update: thanks to a Commenter, we know that the partners were named Bill Acker and Mike Williams). Burrows's wife had inherited a six figure sum, and in early 1968 Burrows, Linn and two others decided to open a club that featured the sort of music they liked. Their model was the Fillmore and the Avalon in San Francisco. The original concept was that they would find a traditional bank building, with high ceilings and an ornate interior, and their slogan was going to be "deposit your money at The Bank." Linn recalled
Jim Burrows of Laguna Beach and I came up with the Idea of the Bank..his wife inherited a 1/4 mil which got it rolling ...we initially were looking for an old empty bank in the LA area we found a great old bank but its location was not great and it was too small for the groups we intended to have. A real Estate agent brought our attention to the Blue Law was going out of business...we could take over the lease...I didn't care much for the location...but Jim was the money man..and we were in a rush to put something together quick...so there it was... a fairly new red brick warehouse..ready to roll....The partners decided that it was quicker to get the show on the road by taking over the Blue Law at 19840 South Hamilton Avenue in suburban Torrance than waiting for a suitable old bank to become available, so the concept of The Bank was simply applied to the warehouse in Torrance that had become the Blue Law.
Torrance, California is an industrial suburb of Los Angeles, about 20 miles South of LA. Torrance has some beachfront, but the nearby coastal towns of Redondo Beach and Palos Verdes are better known. Torrance extends several miles inland, and The Bank was on the inland edge of town, close to the intersection of the Harbor (I-110) and San Diego (I-405) Freeways. The building housing the Blue Law and then The Bank was visible from both freeways, and today it is not only visible from both freeways but also on Google Street View (19840 S. Hamilton Ave, Torrance, CA 90502). It appears to be a commercial establishment of some kind, but Linn recognizes the building, so it is largely intact.
The last show at The Blue Law as such seems to have been May 19, 1968 (see below). Linn recalls that they took over the venue shortly before Bobby Kennedy was murdered in Los Angeles (June 6, 1968), as he recalls working in the empty venue when they heard the news. Burrows brother-in-law had also joined the original founders, as his wife had also recently inherited a similar sum. Linn was an artist, and he and Burrows focused on the concept of the club. Although Linn has forgotten their names, the other partners besides Burrows and his brother-in-law included someone who built the sound system and someone who booked the bands. The partner who designed the sound system also built recording studios, so the house PA sounded great and impressed visiting musicians. Linn also recalls a tape deck being run at the mixing board, so perhaps there is a secret treasure trove of tapes somewhere as well.
What follows is my list of known rock shows at The Blue Law and The Bank. The sources most dates are posters, except where indicated. I have included a few interesting notes about the chronology and history of some bands that played the venue, but I take for granted that anyone reading this post does not need a primer on the likes of Pink Floyd or Canned Heat. Some posters advertise additional theater or film attractions as part of the bills, but I have not mentioned them here, as they are outside my scope and I have even less of a context for them.
Although I have considerably improved my list, there is still much to learn. Anyone with additional information, corrections, insights or recovered memories (real or imagined) are encouraged to Comment or email me.
THE BLUE LAW
I now know more about The Blue Law then I did before, but it isn't much. The Blue Law, at 19840 South Hamilton Avenue, was owned by a doctor. Lunch and others knew his daughter, who was a teenager at the time. Thanks to Marc, I know that the Blue Law debuted on December 15, 1967.
December 15-17, 1967 The Blue Law: Love/Canned Heat/The Hook
Marc found a Pete Johnson review of the debut show in the Los Angeles Times of December 18, 1967. Johnson describes the venue as a concrete block with terrible sound, but said the proprietors promised to improve it. Thomas Linn says the building was designed as a warehouse. It appears that the Blue Law was only open on weekends, like the Fillmore and the Avalon. Many clubs in Los Angeles, like The Cheetah and The Whisky, were open six or seven days a week, even if they didn't always present bands.
This gig is discussed at length in drummer Michael Stuart-Ware’s book about his time in the band Love (Behind The Scenes On The Pegasus Carousel, Helter Skelter Books, 2003). Ware’s description suggests the venue is somewhat small. Linn recalls that the space was about 250 x 400 ft. I have found no other published account of the venue, as either The Blue Law or The Bank. Ware recalls
The building was like a rec center, located in the heart of a typical suburban Los Angeles community. The stage had no private rear entrance or dressing rooms, and the groups that were scheduled to perform simply walked through the front door, past the people that had come to see them play, and right up the stage steps (p. 152).He adds that “the place was jam-packed, but room capacity was only seven or eight hundred, tops.” The context suggests that Love did not play the venue the next night.
The Hook were a Los Angeles-area blues rock band.
December 22-24, 1967 The Blue Law: Country Joe and The Fish/The Sunshine/Inner Spirit
Inner Spirit was an early name for Spirit (Randy California’s band).
Mandel and Musselwhite were among the many white Chicago blues musicians who had moved to San Francisco. In formal terms, Mandel was the lead guitarist in Musselwhite's band, as Musselwhite had an album on Vanguard, but Mandel was also a featured performer in his own right (h/t Kim for the scan).
I have been unable to find any other information about performances at the Blue Law until May, when it appears the club closed.
May 17-18-19, 1968 The Blue Law: Blue Law Survival Benefit
Strawberry Alarm Clock/Quicksilver Messenger Service/P, G & E/Sweetwater/Love Exchange/Hour Glass/Things To Come/Albert King/Spirit/Genesis/Touch/Mothers of Invention/H.P. Lovecraft/Triangle/East Side Kids/Copper Leaf/Fair Befall
The flyer suggests this is a benefit for the club itself. Since The Bank would open on the site later, its clear that the club is near the end of the line. The exact date for the demise of The Blue Law is unknown to me, but apparently the doctor who owned it was losing money. However, the fact that some established bands were willing to play a benefit for the club suggests that The Blue Law was an established venue.
Obviously these groups were spread out over the entire weekend. The band Genesis was a local band (featuring former members of Sons of Adam), not the English group.
May 19, 1968 The Blue Law, Torrance, CA: Quicksilver Messenger Service/The Mothers of Invention/Iron Butterfly/LA Smog and Refinery
The flyer says “Rock For McCarthy” and advertises “2pm to 1am Sunday.” This sort of fits in with the above flyer, although not exactly. The flyer says “Blue Law Ballroom” (update: Zappa scholar extraordinaire Charles Ulrich points out both that the Mothers Of Invention were clearly at a rock festival in Hallandale, Florida this weekend. In any case, Frank Zappa would not have endorsed a candidate for President--voting, maybe, but not a candidate).
Thomas Linn recalls opening The Bank at the end of June or beginning of July. Kim has found a poster as early as July 19-20, 1968, but so far I have been unable to identify the inaugural performers. Linn said that The Bank was only open Fridays, Saturday and Sundays, so that makes the opening date likely to be June 28 or July 5.
The booking pattern at The Bank generally featured multiple acts on Friday and Saturday night, often including a substantial headliner, and Sunday shows (often in the afternoon) featuring local groups, and sometimes films as well. Usually the local groups headlining on Sunday also played Friday and Saturday as well. Linn recalls that at the beginning the "house band" was a group called Gravity. Linn recalls them playing in a heavy blues style that would later be popularized by the Allman Brothers.
July 19-20, 1968 The Bank: Charlie Musselwhite
Kim found this early poster. Musselwhite had played The Bank in its Blue Law incarnation. Linn recalls him being particularly impressed with the new sound system.
July 26-27, 1968 The Bank: Charlie Musselwhite/Smokestack Lightning/Genesis
Marc found an ad in the LA Free Press that called this weekend the "Grand Opening," although obviously the venue had quietly opened a few weeks before.
August 2-3, 1968 The Bank Barry Goldberg Reunion/Mint Tattoo/Turnquist Remedy
Kim has found a poster for this, but I can't read it. Hopefully someone will figure it out (update: Marc did, by looking in the LA Free Press--thanks).
August 9-11, 1968 The Bank: PG&E/Illinois Speed Press/Sons of Champlin/Freedom Highway
Artist Bob Wilson made the familiar run of posters that have given The Bank what little notoriety it has retained. The poster for this show (above) seems to be the first of his works. Wilson apparently received $50 per poster, and he and his girlfriend got to see all the shows for free.
Linn explained that the partners considered San Francisco to be the center of the musical universe at the time, so they tried to book as many San Francisco bands as possible. The Sons Of Champlin and Freedom Highway were both associated with West-Pole Talent Agency in San Francisco, who also booked Quicksilver Messenger Service, among many others. Numerous West-Pole groups were booked at The Bank during its brief tenure.
P, G & E was a Los Angeles blues rock band (formerly The Bluesberries), and Illinois Speed Press had recently been signed by Columbia and relocated from Chicago to LA. Guitarist Paul Cotton, later famous in Poco, was the main singer and writer for the ISP.
August 16-17, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: The Fugs/Mt. Rushmore
August 18, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Gravity (afternoon show)
Mt. Rushmore (who had two albums on Dot Records) were another San Francisco group managed by West-Pole.
August 23-24, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Pink Floyd/Black Pearl
August 25, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA : Black Pearl (afternoon show)
At the time, Pink Floyd was an underground band who were not particularly well-known. Linn recalls them playing a fantastic show to just a few dozen people.
Black Pearl was an obscure San Francisco band, featuring former members of New England’s Barbarians.
August 30,31, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: United States of America/Taj Mahal
September 1, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA Gravity/Mondo (afternoon)
The United States of America were a very forward looking band featuring experimental composer and UCLA ethnomusicologist Joseph Byrd and singer Dorothy Moskowitz. They released one obscure album that has grown in stature over the decades, and made one brief tour before they split up. By this time, founder Joseph Byrd had already left. This was probably one of their last shows. Linn remembers that Jim Burrows hated their performance, but he can't recall whether because they were too advanced or just no good.
At some point around the end of the Summer, Thomas Linn left The Bank. He was an original partner, but he hadn't taken any money, and for a variety of personal reasons he moved on. What information we have here on out comes from various Commenters and Kim's blog.
September 6-7, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Moby Grape/Fair BeFall
September 8, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Fair BeFall/Gravity (afternoon show)
September 13-14, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Lee Michaels/All Men Joy
September 15, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: All Men Joy/Gravity
All Men Joy were a San Francisco band, and did not feature Duane and Gregg Allman. Lee Michaels was also based in the Bay Area at the time.
September 20, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons of Champlin/Love Exchange
September 21, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons of Champlin/Ace Of Cups
September 22, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: jam
Quicksilver, The Sons of Champlin and the all-women band Ace Of Cups were all San Francisco West-Pole bands.
September 27-28, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: John Mayall/Chicago Transit Authority/Mug-Wumps
September 29, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: John Mayall/Maze/Flash Gordon (afternoon show)
John Mayall’s group at this time was a quartet featuring guitarist Mick Taylor.
The Chicago Transit Authority, like the Illinois Speed Press, had been signed by Columbia and relocated to Los Angeles. They had not yet released their first album.
October 4, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Country Joe and The Fish/A.B. Skhy Blues Band
The A.B. Skhy Blues Band, featuring the fine organist Howard Wales, had recently relocated from Milwaukee (where they were known as The New Blues) to San Francisco.
October 5, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: The Hook/A.B. Skhy Blues Band
October 6, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Shakey Jake and The All Stars
The poster for the October 4/5/6 weekend says at the bottom “Next week-Canned Heat and Spirit, ” but a later ad in the LA Free Press does not have Canned Heat and Spirit, suggesting the bill was changed.
October 11-12, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Charlie Musselwhite/Shakey Jake and His All-Stars/Pollution
October 13, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA jam plus films
Harmonica player and singer Charlie Musselwhite, who had moved from Chicago to San Francisco in 1967, was yet another Bay Area band that played The Bank. Ron Polte, the head of West-Pole and Quicksilver’s manager, was a former Union organizer in Chicago, so he had many connections to all the Chicago>San Francisco transplants (Musselwhite, Mike Bloomfield, Nick Gravenites, Harvey Mandel, etc), even if he did not manage those artists.
October 18, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Grateful Dead/Cleveland Wrecking Company
Cleveland Wrecking Company were a well regarded San Francisco-area band. They were a 7-piece band (founded at College of San Mateo) that played jazz rock. They mainly played dances, but they also played a few Fillmore-type gigs as well. Although they played original material, they never recorded and apparently never had plans to do so.
October 19, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Big Mama Thornton/Cleveland Wrecking Company
October 20, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA Free Clinic Benefit (bands not named)
October 25-26, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Sweetwater/Black Pearl
October 27, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA films/jam/KPFK broadcasting live
I believe "KPFK broadcasting live" refers to a live remote dj, not live performances broadcast over the radio (sadly).
November 1, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Three Dog Night/Alice Cooper
In a slight deviation from the norm at The Bank, there are two local headliners on Friday night, with a different lineup on Saturday and Sunday.
Three Dog Night had recorded their first album for ABC Records, and probably released their first single (“Nobody”), but their album had not yet come out. They were still playing local gigs around Southern California to establish themselves.
Alice Cooper—at the time, the name of the band, not lead singer Vince Furnier—had only changed their name from The Nazz in March 1968. By November, they were affiliated with Frank Zappa, but their debut album on Zappa’s Straight Records would not be released until the next year. Sheryl recalls that the Alice Cooper group lined up at the entrance to The Bank and shook hands with each arriving patron, as if they were on the receiving line at a wedding.
November 2-3, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Alice Cooper/Mint Tattoo/Pollution
Mint Tattoo were also a San Francisco-based group, although the principal members were actually from Sacramento. Guitarist/vocalist Bruce Stephens and bassist/organist Ralph Burns Kellogg went on to join Blue Cheer in 1969, and both recorded in a number of obscure but interesting settings over the next few decades. Kellogg (1946-2003) was a successful engineer and producer in Los Angeles in the 1980s under the name Ethan James, for groups like The Minutemen and Black Flag.
November 8-9, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Ten Years After/The Collectors/Floating Bridge
This bill was a unique instance at The Bank where none of the acts were California-based. Ten Years After were on the second of their 28 (count ‘em) American tours, the Collectors were from a suburb of Vancouver (Chilliwack, BC) and The Floating Bridge were a highly regarded band from Seattle.
November 15, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Canned Heat/Linn County/Flamin Groovies
Sheryl recalls Canned Heat playing the club at some point, and that it was the best attended show in the history of The Bank, so they definitely played some weekend.
Linn County were from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but they too had relocated to San Francisco in 1968. They released three albums on Mercury. The Flamin’ Groovies were a San Francisco band as well, but their neo-British Invasion stylings were never popular in the Bay Area itself.
November 16, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Harvey Mandel/Linn County/Flamin Groovies
November 17, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: jam (afternoon)
Harvey Mandel, an exceptional guitarist, was one of the white Chicagoans who played authentic blues, like Mike Blomfield and Paul Butterfield. He had relocated to San Francisco as well. Besides recording for Mercury, he would later work with Canned Heat and John Mayall. Mandel had played the venue was the Blue Law (January 19-20) when he was still working with Charlie Musselwhite, but I'm not sure if he was still part of Musselwhite's band when The Bank opened in July.
November 22, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Bo Diddley/Fur
November 23, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Bo Diddley/Notes From The Underground
Notes From The Underground were a Berkeley Folk-Rock group. They released an album on Vanguard.
November 27, 1968 The Bank: Spirit
November 29, 30, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Spirit/Harvey Mandel/Blues Image
December 1, 1968 The Bank: uncertain
I can't quite read all the details on the poster.
December 6, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Love/Three Dog Night/Fair BeFall
December 7, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Love/Three Dog Night/Middle Earth
A handwritten Three Dog Night tour diary shows 3DN playing both nights (for $500 each night), varying a bit from the poster.
December 8, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: The Turtles/’KPFK Live’
I don’t believe this indicates that The Turtles were broadcast live on KPFK (although it would be great if they had been, as the Turtles were reputedly a fine live band).
December 13-14, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA: Grateful Dead/Magic Sam/Turnquist Remedy
The bare outlines of the story of The Bank in Torrance end here. A clue to the club’s fate comes from the poster for the show. Half of it is taken up with an entreaty:
The Police can only close usThis plea suggests that police pressure had led to enough drug busts that it affected attendance, a common fate of rock ballrooms in the 1960s. The poster advertises a movie on Sunday afternoon, December 15 (The Return of Flash Gordon), but I have to assume the venue closed after these shows. Thomas Linn, while admitting that he was out of touch with The Bank after the Summer, felt that they may have brought some of the pressure on themselves. The venue ran FM radio ads with their catchphrase "Come deposit your money at The Bank" and tried to make the voice-over sound as cool and stoned as possible.
with YOUR fear.
Please help us, the Music,
Bring friends to The Bank.
Come clean, be safe be happy
with YOUR fear.
Please help us, the Music,
Bring friends to The Bank.
Come clean, be safe be happy
On top of police pressure--always a problem at hip 60s venues--the rock market was exploding and smallish venues could hardly compete for good acts, even when they sold out, and The Bank was not generally well attended, so the The Bank seems to have closed after this Grateful Dead concert.
As a peculiar footnote to The Bank, unlike many Grateful Dead shows, there were no known tapers at the December Grateful Dead shows. Uniquely, however, there was a tapir (really).
Thanks to Kim, Sheryl, and all the Commenters who helped out. Anyone with further information or recovered memories (real or imagined) is encouraged to Comment or contact me.