(This is an extensive update of a previous post, which I have now divided into two parts)
Shows at The Fillmore West are enshrined in rock history not just because of the fine posters, but because they featured great bands in their prime, like the Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Grateful Dead and Big Brother. While Fillmore and Avalon posters have underground cool, Fillmore West posters present iconic Baby Boomer bands like Santana and CSNY when they were still fresh. For all the attention given to the posters, there are surprisingly few lists of concerts at the Fillmore West, and most of them are lists of the posters rather than the shows. The best list I am aware of is Ross Hannan's list of Fillmore West events, which attempts to add and correct information about which bands performed when, since not every advertised show was played exactly as it was billed. Reading this list is a primer in live rock at its finest, and often all three acts on the bill were exceptional bands, even if they did not achieve stardom.
In our continuing research into 60s rock concerts, however, I have discovered that there were a large number of Fillmore West concerts that have gone almost entirely unremarked in much of the Fillmore scholarship of the subsequent years. Bill Graham opened The Fillmore West on July 5, 1968 (with Butterfield Blues Band and Ten Years After), but at the end of the Summer he instituted a Tuesday night series featuring local bands. The series was called "Audition Night," and three bands would play for a small admission fee ($1.00 or $1.50). The best of those bands would often open a weekend show on Friday and Saturday, sometimes even the next weekend.
The Tuesday night series seems to have gone on almost every week for the life of The Fillmore West, excepting the Summers of 1968 and 1969 when a six nights a week concert schedule was employed, as well as occasional nights when a big act would play a Tuesday. However, although the Tuesday night concerts are regularly alluded to, there are almost no records of which bands played.
By my estimation, there must be approximately 100 Tuesday night Audition concerts, possibly more, meaning perhaps as many as 300 acts played the Fillmore West that we are not generally aware of. If the Tuesday night "winner" also played on each weekend, as appeared to be the case at least some of the time, then there would be approximately 50 or more acts that were part of the "main" Fillmore West schedule that we have no direct evidence of. At the very least, this fact explains the number of lesser known groups who claim to have played The Fillmore West who never appeared on a poster. There were no posters or flyers for Tuesday night show, and the band "added" to the weekend gig was not on the poster, as the artwork had been done and the posters distributed considerably earlier.
With this mystery in mind, I have been attempting to determine what I can about Fillmore West audition shows. Clearly this will be an ongoing project, but this post will explain the information that I have found.
Fillmore West Tuesday Night Audition Format
The Tuesday night Audition shows did not have posters or flyers that I am aware of, with occasional exceptions. There does appear to have been press releases, probably as part of regular Fillmore West press releases, so the performers would have been announced, but probably only on FM radio and at the Fillmore West itself. As rock music became more important, the Tuesday night shows would sometimes be listed in the paper as filler in the entertainment section, which is how I found out about most of the shows. In 1968 and 1969, however, the shows seem to have been all but unpublicized.
Bill Graham liked playing basketball, and apparently each Tuesday the Fillmore West "team" would play a game at the Fillmore West against another team (such as a radio station) prior to the show. A bit of this is shown in the 1972 Fillmore movie. Afterwards, three bands would play. It seems that everyone did just one set, unlike the normal two sets on the weekend, so it was a relatively early evening, appropriate for a Tuesday.
On weekends, the three billed bands (from the poster) each played two sets. Going back to 1966 at the old Fillmore, a local band often opened the show on Friday and Saturday, playing a single set. This was to encourage and accommodate early arriving patrons, and by extension to encourage the sale of more popcorn and soda. A local band playing a set at, say, 8:00 pm at the Fillmore would still have time to make it over to a nightclub if they were booked for a Friday or Saturday night gig, as many bands would have been. Whatever the proposition, however, there is no guarantee that the best band of each Tuesday night was guaranteed to be the opener on the next weekend. I'm sure it happened of course, and perhaps regularly, but I have yet to see indications of who actually opened which show.
Economic Rationale of Fillmore West Tuesday Audition Night
The Fillmore West was designed as a money making operation, but Bill Graham was also very shrewd about what would now be called "Leveraging His Brand" (had such a term existed then). First of all, each of the three bands was paid Union Scale for a two-hour session. I do not precisely how much this was, and obviously depending on the number of members of the band it would vary slightly, but it was probably a relatively small amount. Thus, it would not take a large crowd to justify the expense of the evening (since bands had to join the union in order to play Fillmore West, some bands may have effectively not been paid at all). By 1969 Graham was aware of the economic limits of the Fillmore West, since the building had actually been sold to Howard Johnson's, and was scheduled to be knocked down and turned into a hotel (although this in the end did not happen).
In late 1968 Graham started both a booking agency and two record labels. One record label was supported by CBS, and was called Fillmore Records; the other label was San Francisco Records, distributed by Atlantic; and the booking agency was the Millard Agency. Thus the auditions were not just for finding opening acts at Fillmore West, which was hardly an impossible task, as Graham had done so for years at the Fillmore without a Tuesday audition night. Tuesdays provided Graham first look at acts for his record company, and immediate indications of the stage act of local bands for his booking agency. The Millard Agency actually played an important role in the Bay Area rock concert scene from about 1968 to 1970, and while it is the subject of another line of research, its worth noting that a lot of benefits accrued to Graham's organization from seeing bands live in a concert setting.
This interesting snippet from a lengthy article on the operation of the Fillmore West, from the May 27, 1971 edition of the Hayward Daily Review, provides a telling insight into the focus of audition night ("Jackson" was Fillmore West manager Gary Jackson). In 1971, much less 1968, recording studio time was expensive and hard to come by. Since the Fillmore West was set up to record every live performance, each audition band effectively guaranteed the Graham organization a demo tape to use in pitching to record executives (for the Fillmore label) or to promoters (for the Millard Agency). If the band was willing to pay for their audition tape--and I don't doubt many were, as recording opportunities were scarce--it was another way to cover the costs of the evening.
Since the 1971 article was part of a lengthy story about the closing of the Fillmore West (the last day was July 4, 1971), the fact that recording and auditions continued right up until the end is a clear sign that Tuesday audition night had many other purposes besides merely finding openers for the weekend shows. While Graham's plans to become a record mogul fell short, one important group came out of the audition night: Oakland's Tower of Power. Although Tower had more success after leaving Graham's label, there was no question they were a ground breaking group that would not have made it without Graham's intervention (read Emilio Castillo's interview here). Graham did not lack for insight--he heard and tried to sign Bruce Springsteen at an audition night in February, 1970 (see the next installment), but the $1000 signing bonus was deemed insufficient. However, while many fine bands came through the Fillmore West auditions, Graham's booking agency (Millard) was a bigger beneficiary than his record companies.
Audition Night Schedule
The Fillmore West had its first concert on July 5, 1968. For the balance of the Summer, the venue was almost always booked six nights a week, just as the Fillmore had been the previous Summer. After Labor Day, the Fillmore West returned to a typical Thursday-thru-Sunday schedule, with occasional exceptions. I have assumed that a new program would not start the day after Labor Day (Tuesday, September 3), so since I know the approximate start date, I am positing Tuesday, September 10, 1968 as the first Audition Night.
Starting Tuesday, June 17, 1969, the Fillmore West resumes having shows six nights a week, through the end of August. After Labor Day 1969, the 4 day a week schedule resumes. The six night a week schedule does not resume until July 28, 1970, and again ends after Labor Day. Including the occasional Tuesday night gig during the Winter, and accounting for certain holidays, there appear to be 121 available dates for Tuesday audition nights at Fillmore West between 1968 and 1971. The implication is that these events were regular, but I do not know if all 121 dates were actually filled.
Tuesday Audition Night Shows--Known Performances
What follows is whatever trace evidence is available for specific bands who played audition nights. Most of the information comes from entertainment listings or snippets published in Bay Area daily or Underground papers. I have tried to identify each band. I have many more bookings yet to uncover. Anyone with other information or useful speculation is encouraged to put them in the Comments or email me. I'm particularly interested in band members who played these shows, as well as anyone who attended a Tuesday night show.
September 10, 1968 Tuesday Night Audition
This seems like the most likely date for the beginning of the Tuesday Night audition series, as up through Labor Day (September 2, 1968) the Fillmore West mostly had shows six nights a week.
September ?, 1968 Santana Blues Band/Devil's Kitchen
Brett Champlin of Devils' Kitchen recalls playing audition night with the Santana Blues Band (announced as such) around this time. Santana Blues Band were a popular band around the Bay Area, and did not need to "audition" as such, so I think this must have been more of a showcase for Talent Agents and record companies. Santana were booked by the Millard Agency, so it was in Bill Graham's interests to promote interest in the band. The lineup at the time would have included Doc Livingston on drums and Marcus Malone on congas (along with Carlos, Gregg Rolie and bassist David Brown).
Devil's Kitchen were a newly arrived band from Carbondale, IL. They remained in the Bay Area for about two years, and at one point became the house band for The Family Dog On The Great Highway (h/t to Bruno)
October 1, 1968 Country Weather/Jim Pepper/Phoenix
Although the date is approximated, former Phoenix bassist Jef Jaisun recalled it vividly in a personal email. Phoenix was an established band in the Bay Area clubs, and when Graham established the Tuesday night program, they were quick to sign up. They were sharing the bill with a new band from Contra Costa County called Country Weather, and a singer named Jim Pepper. Pepper had been in a few bands (Free Spirits and Everything Is Everything) and had even had a minor hit with one of them ("Witchie Tai To"), but he was new in town and had no material. Country Weather, who would go on to some local success, were still relatively new. Phoenix's manager made sure to invite a number of record company reps. However, for some reason Phoenix ended up with the opening slot, and most of the crowd and none of the record reps were there, and Country Weather "won" the audition.
Country Weather opened the next weekend's show (possibly Canned Heat on October 4-5, if I guessed the date right), started getting booked by the Millard Agency and developed a solid following around the Bay Area. Phoenix continued to struggle, and although they had a certain following, they never broke beyond their level. Jaisun's description is one of the few detailed memories of a Fillmore West audition, and it describes the meaningful stakes that were in play.
January 7, 1969 All Men Joy/Clover/Boogie
All Men Joy were a San Francisco band who did not feature Duane and Gregg Allman. Clover was a Marin band that included John McFee and Alex Call, and they would soon be signed to Fantasy. Boogie was a band that rehearsed at the Sausalito Heliport, a trio that featured guitarist Barry Bastian, bassist John Barrett and drummer John Oxendine.
January 14, 1969 Ace Of Cups/Indian Head Band/Littlejohn Blues Band
The Ace Of Cups were San Francisco's all women psychedelic band. They were handled by Quicksilver manager Ron Polte, who probably held them back somewhat.
Indian Head Band was fronted by guitarist Hal Wagenet, soon to join It's A Beautiful Day. They featured an operatic female singer, and the group played mostly improvised music in a sort of Indian music style. Littlejohn Blues Band is unknown to me.
January 21, 1969 Crystal Syphon/Sanpaku/Crazy Horse
A hand-drawn flyer for this event occasionally circulates on eBay, and as a result I misunderstood the date (for October 1968). However, Sanpaku road manager Hewitt Jackson has uncovered a better flyer, probably made by someone associated with the Merced band Crystal Syphon, which has the accurate date. The flyer says "$1.00 Jam." This was slightly misleading, in that it wasn't really a jam session, but in 60s parlance "jam" also meant "laid back evening," and it was common to see groups billed on weeknights at clubs as a "jam" (like "Monday Night at The Matrix: Jam with Elvin Bishop), and the implication was that it was a less formal event.
Sanpaku was a Sacramento-based band whose performance history I have documented at length. At this time, Sanpaku was playing regularly at a Sacramento venue called The Sound Factory. Sound Factory proprietor Whitey Davis wanted to manage them, and helped to arrange the Tuesday night booking at Fillmore West. For some reason, Davis was not at the show, however, and after an impressive performance Bill Graham came backstage to meet Sanpaku. When Graham discovered that the band had no manager, he offered his own services on the spot.
Sanpaku also started being booked by the Millard Agency, along with Country Weather, Santana, Cold Blood, Its A Beautiful Day and The Grateful Dead. Notice that in the first six months of Audition Nights, Graham had signed two groups to his booking agency roster and become manager of one of them, so regardless of whether each night's show showed a net profit, the venture was already paying dividends.
January 28, 1969 Midnight Rovers/Notes From The Underground/Lazarus
Notes From The Underground were a Berkeley band. They had released an album on Vanguard, but they were on their last legs at this point. Lazarus was another Berkeley band. Midnight Rovers (who had replaced Aum on the bill) are unknown to me.
February ?, 1969 Santana/Bronze Hog
The date for this show is speculative, but it comes from a clear memory by Sons Of Champlin road manager Charlie Kelly. This was probably the first show with the ‘Woodstock’ lineup, with Michael Shrieve on drums (along with Santana/Rolie/Brown/Carabello/Areas). This wasn't exactly an audition, since Santana had played Fillmore West many times, but Shrieve had just joined and the band probably wanted to try out their chops. Kelly, familiar with the earlier incarnation of Santana, reported being absolutely stunned, and was not the least bit surprised when they were signed by Columbia, and went on to conquer Woodstock and the world.
Kelly had gone to the show to see his friends in Bronze Hog, a Cotati band. The crowd was floored by Santana, and promptly left, which wasn't great for Bronze Hog.
Day Blindness were a South Bay trio featuring guitarist Gary Phil. South Bay Experimental Flash was a sort of progressive jazz rock band featuring horn player David Ladd. They had formed in San Jose, but some band members now lived in Richmond.
Big Foot was a Sacramento power trio, featuring guitarist Mike Botham and drummer Reid Neilsen. Neilsen would go on to form the Neilsen Pearson Band and become a successful Nashville song writer.
February 25, 1969 Devils Kitchen/Steve Lock Front/Buffington Rhodes
Buffington Rhodes were from Illinois, but they had spent some time in the Bay Area.
I have not yet identified any other performers for the balance of Spring 1969. There would have been no Tuesday Night Audition shows from June 17 through September 2, 1969, since the Fillmore West was largely booking major shows from Tuesday through Sunday nights anyway.
September 9, 1969 Artichoke Jones/Canterbury Fair/Siddhartha
Ralph J Gleason makes a reference to the Audition Night programs resuming on Tuesday, September 9 in the August 27 Chronicle, but he doesn't name the bands (update: Bruno found the bands who played. I have discovered that Canterbury Fair were a popular Fresno band).
September 16, 1969 Home Cooking/Bronze Hog/Cosmo Quik/Dangerfield
Bronze Hog, based in Cotati in Sonoma County, were a regular band at the town's rock venue, The Inn Of The Beginning.
September 23, 1969 Summerland Blues Band/Free And Easy/South Bay Experimental Flash
The Oakland Tribune's "Teen Age" section sometimes included press releases for upcoming rock events to fill space, so there was the occasional reference to Tuesday audition nights. The clipping at the top of the post is from the September 17, 1969 edition of The Trib. South Bay Experimental Flash were a jazz-rock band from Richmond, in the East Bay, very active on the club circuit.
The other two bands (Summerland Blues Band and Free And Easy) are completely unknown to me, and I'm an expert on 1969 club bands in the Bay Area. It does point up the difficulty for Fillmore West of finding up to 15 new bands a month, suggesting that some of the groups may have been from out of town. Even from my limited evidence, its clear that some bands played the Tuesday auditions more than once.
September 30, 1969 Cyprus/Kwane and The Kwanditos/Glad/Terry Dolan
Kwane and The Kwanditos included pianist Todd Barkan, later the proprietor of the great San Francisco jazz club Keystone Korner (which was still a rock club in 1969).
Glad was a Sacramento band, having arisen out of a group called The New Breed, who would evolve into a group called Redwing.
Terry Dolan, a folksinger from the Washington, DC area, would go on to front a Bay Area club band called Terry and The Pirates.
October 7, 1969 Commander Cody/Gods Country/Sunday
Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen were from Ann Arbor, MI, and had relocated to the Bay Area in July of 1969. At this point, they lived in Emeryville and had started to play around the Bay Area, at clubs like Mandrake's and The Freight and Salvage.
An eyewitness reported to me that Commander Cody backed Doug Kershaw when he opened for The Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead on October 24-26, 1969 at Winterland. Since Cody and the Airmen were new in town, they must have come to BGP's notice at this audition. Kershaw was an odd sort of hybrid, a cajun style fiddler who played a rock-country hybrid. Unlike almost any other rock band in the Bay Area (as BGP weren't working in the country circuit), Cody's crew were somewhat familiar with those idioms.
October 14, 1969 Schon/Kimberly/Tongue and Groove/Richard Moore
It is tempting to believe that "Schon" was Neal Schon (future guitarist of Santana and then Journey), but since he would have been 15 years old at the time, I'm inclined to doubt it. I believe Tounge and Groove featured singer Lynne Hughes.
October 21, 1969 Black Ghost/Fritz/Mendelbaum
Mendelbaum was a band from Madison, WI, who had moved to the Bay Area in June, 1969. Already an experienced road band in the Midwest, they rapidly established themselves at The Matrix and elsewhere. The group included guitarist Chris Michie (1948-2003, later with Van Morrison) and drummer Keith Knudsen (1948-2005, later with Lee Michaels, the Doobie Brothers and Southern Pacific). CBS producer David Rubinson, Bill Graham's partner in Fillmore Records, recorded a demo with the band on September 22, 1969, and a month later the group was asked to audition night (the date comes from Chris Michie's 2001 memoir Name Droppings). According to Michie, "we played better than we ever had before and were asked back several times over the coming months."
While some of Mendelbaum's appearances were on Tuesday nights, they must have opened some shows and by 1970 they even "made the poster", appearing on the May 21-24 bill with BB and Albert King. One reason I believe that bands who "won" the audition did not always open the same weekend is that for this weekend of October 24-25, the Dead and The Airplane were headlining at Winterland, and there were already two other bands on the bill (The Sons and Doug Kershaw), so I doubt there was room for a fifth. My assumption is that a good performance on audition night got a band a weekend opening slot, but not always the next weekend.
Fritz, from Menlo Park, had actually been formed as The Fritz Rabyne Memorial Band, named after a shy German exchange student at Menlo-Atherton High School. By 1969, the band featured mostly former M-A students, including bassist Lindsay Buckingham and singer Stephanie (Stevie) Nicks.
Black Ghost may have been a Fresno band.
October 28, 1969 Flying Circus/Bob McPharlin/Spectrum of Sound/Euphonius Wail
Flying Circus were based in Mill Valley, and had existed in some form since 1966. The more stable lineup that arose in 1968 featured lead guitarist Bob McFee. Flying Circus shared a rehearsal hall and equipment with another Mill Valley band, Clover (not coincidentally featuring Bob's brother John McFee on lead guitar).
Bob McPharlin and Euphonius Wail are familiar to me from various Bay Area club bills during 1969-70, but other than that I know little about them. Euphonius Wail appeared to be based in Sonoma County; Bob McPharlin seems to have been from San Diego and was based in Marin County (and now appears to be repairing vintage instruments in Harmony, PA).
October 28, 1969 Tuesday Night Auditions at The Fillmore East
In Fall 1969, Graham began running a Tuesday Night audition series at Fillmore East. The Fillmore East series is considerably more obscure than the Fillmore West series, and that's saying a lot. Nonetheless the fabulous Its All The Streets You Crossed blog (which everyone should read) did manage to uncover some critical information.
In the July 31, 1969 edition of the Village Voice, Fillmore East manager Kip Cohen grumbles that his call for bands to play audition night at the Fillmore East met an underwhelming response. In the September 4, 1969 edition it is reported that thanks to the Voice, numerous bands showed interest and the Fillmore East Tuesday night series would commence on October 28, 1969.
Lamb, possibly still a duo at this time, featured guitarist Bob Swanson and pianist Barbara Mauritz, both of whom sang and wrote. Lamb would get signed by Bill Graham's management and record label. Ultimately a full band was added, some albums were released and they were modestly successful around the Bay Area.
November 11, 1969 Gold/Celestial Hysteria/Wisdom Fingers/Shag
Gold was a Berkeley band managed by Ron Cabral, an old friend of Country Joe McDonald's, which is how Joe ended up producing their 1969 single ("Summer Time" on Golden State). The band did record an album, but it was not released until about 40 years later (on Rockadelic).
Celestial Hysteria was a Berkeley based band, and had played the Straight Theater and the North Beach club Deno and Carlo’s (later the Keystone Korner) among other venues. There apparently had been some record company interest in 1968, and the band recorded some demos, but the band members were minors and their parents refused to sign a contract so the band went no further. The organist was John Barsotti, now a Professor of Broadcast Arts and Communications at San Francisco State University. No doubt Professor Barsotti is a relative of the many Berkeley Barsotti’s who played a critical role in the Bill Graham Presents organization.
According to Professor Barsotti (in an email):
Celestial Hysteria had a male lead singer named Greg Renfro who later left the band and was replaced with a female singer named Mary Lou Hazelwood. The band also consisted of Buddy Greer on traps, Mark Buvelot on Bass, John Formosa and Jim Logue on Guitar (later a guy named John Allen also on guitar), and I played Hammond organ. We recorded and played shows from 1967-69… I believe I am the only member of the band that stayed in the music Industry.
Celestial Hysteria's performance at the Fillmore West seems to have been at the end of their tenure.
Shag was a Fresno band. Wisdom Fingers are unknown to me.
November 18, 1969 Black Diamond/Crystal Syphon/Sideminder/Mother Bear
Lead guitarist Roger Salloom and singer Robin Sinclair were originally from Texas. They moved to Chicago, where they recorded the 1968 album Saloom Sinclair and The Mother Bear (on Cadet Concept). Their second album, 1969’s Salloom-Sinclair, was recorded in Nashville and had more of a country rock sound. The group appears to have relocated to the Bay Area in 1969, where they played local clubs. Ultimately Roger Salloom returned to Texas and Robin Sinclair became the lead singer of Gold in about 1971 (see November 11, 1969).
Salloom Sinclair And Mother Bear had already played the Fillmore West the previous year (Oct 31-Nov 2, 1968, opening for Procol Harum and Santana), and they were regular names around Bay Area clubs. I think by 1969 Graham regularly tried to book at least one band with some kind of local following, to insure that a certain number of people showed up. Since a number of local bands (like Mendelbaum) played "Audition Night" a number of times, it was clear that every performer wasn't auditioning.
Crystal Syphon were back for a second look. Sideminder were apparently from the Monterey area. Black Diamond are a familiar name from various club bills, but I know nothing about them.
November 25, 1969 Deacon and The Suprelles/Track Stod/Good Humor
Deacon and The Suprelles were a Jewish soul band from Berkeley. The other groups are unknown to me.
December 2, 1969 Arizona/Andrew Hallidie/Canterbury Fair
An earlier listing had San Francisco TKO/Indian Gold/Sunday, but that appears to have changed by the day of the show. Andrew Hallidie invented the cable car in the 19th century, and thus was an important figure in San Francisco, if nowhere else. I doubt there was someone named Andrew Hallidie in the group.
December 9, 1969 Brotherhood Rush/Searchin Sound/RB Funk
All of these groups are unknown to me.
December 16, 1969 Insanity Rules/Lila/Immaculate Contraption
All of these groups are unknown to me.
The show was mentioned in Ralph Gleason's Chronicle column of December 22 (above). Given the speed at which Gleason had to put together his column, it is not surprising their were many typos and hiccups. Its not impossible that Crystal Garden was really just Crystal Syphon. Dry Ice is unknown to me.
Styx River Ferry was a Berkeley bluegrass band, regulars at The Freight and Salvage. Styx River Ferry were an important bluegrass band in San Francisco, as they helped popularize bluegrass in the City, primarily at a place called Paul's Saloon. The group moved to Nashville in 1972, however.
Styx River Ferry included Woody Herman's daughter (Ingrid Fowler) and banjoist Marty Lanham, now a well known Nashville guitar maker. In fact, Woody Herman and his big band had opened for The Who at Fillmore West in June 1969. I have to assume that Woody and his daughter are the only father-daughter (and probably the only father and child) combination to perform separately on the Fillmore West stage.
I do not think there was a Tuesday night show on December 30, 1969.
The updated 1970-71 Fillmore West Audition Night list is here.