Friday, September 10, 2010

Fillmore West Lost Concerts: Tuesday Night Auditions 1970-71 (FW Auditions II)

Datebook Listing from the SF Chronicle for January 20, 1970
[This is an extensive update of a previous post, which I have now divided into two parts. The first part, detailing Tuesday night auditions for 1968-69, is here]

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

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

In our continuing research into 60s rock concerts, however, I have discovered that there were a large number of Fillmore West concerts that have gone almost entirely unremarked in much of the Fillmore scholarship of the subsequent years. Bill Graham opened The Fillmore West on July 5, 1968 (with Butterfield Blues Band and Ten Years After), but at the end of the Summer he instituted a Tuesday night series featuring local bands. The series was called "Audition Night," and three bands would play for a small admission fee ($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).


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 below), 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.

Fillmore West Tuesday Night Audition Shows: Known Performances, 1970-71
(for the list of 1968-69 Tuesday Night Auditions Known Performances, see here)

January 6, 1970 Flying Circus/Bosca/The Radio
This show was mentioned in a brief notice in the SF Chronicle. Flying Circus was a Mill Valley band featuring guitarist Bob McFee (a former member of Tiny Hearing Aid Company), They shared equipment and often gigs with a band called Clover, featuring Bob's brother John (also part of the Tiny Hearing Aid Company).  Flying Circus had played Audition Night the previous year (October 28, 1969).

Bosca and The Radio are unknown to me.

January 13, 1970 Maggie's Basement/Magic Color/Daybreak
This bill was listed in Ralph Gleason's SF Chronicle column of Monday, January 12. Its possible that "Maggie's Basement" was a misprint of the East Bay band Maggie's Farm. Magic Color and Daybreak are unknown to me.

January 20, 1970 Errico/Arizona/Pink Ivory
This show was mentioned in Raph Gleason's column of January 20. I wonder if Errico had any connection to Vejtable/Mojo Men lead singer and drummer Jan Errico? All three bands are unknown to me.

January 27, 1970 Tower Of Power
I have not yet found a listing for the Fillmore West audition of January 27, 1970 (or February 3). I know the approximate date that Tower of Power played, which was sometime in late December 1969 or January 1970, so I have assumed it was January 27. However, they could have substituted for a band or been added any time in the previous six weeks.

Tower Of Power was the great success of the Fillmore West audition nights, the one group who were literally discovered at the audition and ended up a San Francisco area headline act. In late 1969, the members of Tower were underage kids who had been blocked from working Oakland bars, so they had just been rehearsing, and become a very tight band. However, having run out of money, they played audition night in late 1969/early 1970--the date is uncertain--as a last hurrah. Bill Graham himself was thrilled (showing his shrewd acumen once again) and signed the band. They may have auditioned twice, once in early 1969 and once later, but their early 1970 (or possibly late 1969) audition got them the support from the Bill Graham organization that they needed to go on to become successful.

February 10, 1970  Steel Mill
The exceptional Bruce Springsteen site Killing Floor has a detailed discussion of Bruce and his band Steel Mill and their attempt to "make it" in California in January and February of 1970. Although there are many great facts taken directly from band members, some details indicate confusion about the Bay Area music scene at the time. The site lists Steel Mill as playing February 9, 1970, but that is actually a Monday, and Tuesday was audition night--this and other trivial details lead me to think that the band actually played Tuesday, February 10, 1970. There's a small chance they played February 17, not February 10, but I am more comfortable with the 10th.

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

The website and general Bruce lore suggests that Steel Mill was invited to open a show at the Fillmore West that weekend. If this was the case, they would have opened for Country Joe and The Fish, The Sons of Champlin and Area Code 615 on one or two of the weekend shows, such as Friday February 13 or Saturday February 14. If the episode had taken place on the next weekend, they would have played February 17 and opened for Delaney and Bonnie and Friends with Eric Clapton on the weekend of the 20th. One reason I think Steel Mill opened for Country Joe the weekend before is that I think the event would have loomed much larger in the band's mind if they had opened for Eric Clapton, and they would not have left out that fact.


February 10, 1970 Cata Hanna/Free And Easy/Flying Circus 
The above listing from the February 7, 1970 'Teen Age' section  of the Oakland Tribune includes the press release for the Tuesday audition night on February 10. The Killing Floor site suggests that Bruce Springsteen and Steel Mill substituted for a band that couldn't make it, so I think they played on this date.  Steel Mill apparently "won" (see above) and opened for Country Joe and The Fish the next weekend.

Note that Free And Easy, whoever they were, was scheduled to play audition night for at least the second time. Flying Circus were playing at least the third time (Oct 28 1969 and Jan 6 1970), one of the many clues that the shows were not entirely about auditions.

Ralph Gleason's Chronicle column of February 16, 1970 (above) had some interesting insights into the finances of the Tuesday Night Auditions, and a glimpse at some of the forces in play. He wrote
Meanwhile, Graham is battling Local 6 of the American Federation of Musicians, which wants to raise the fees for the musicians playing the Fillmore West Tuesday night auditions. 
The Tuesday night shows have been going on for a couple of years at a $1 admission as a device for young, new bands to get a hearing locally. Graham has used only union bands and in effect has acted as a union recruiting agent, since a number of groups have joined the union just to play the Tuesday night Fillmore West show. 
Each band plays a 40-minute set for which it is paid at the union rate for two hours. Now Local 6 wants to charge Graham a four hour rate for the 40 minute set.
The Musicians Union in San Francisco, as was the case in many other cities, was organized around providing permanent jobs for musicians working in hotels, shows and studios and was ill equipped to consider the financial goals of musicians who saw their own bands as independent entrepreneurships (not to say that the musicians weren't suffering under a variety of financial delusions as well).

The column continues
Even those who hate Graham concede that he can't make money on the Tuesday night auditions and the bands, the young musicians, certainly want the chance to be heard. If Local 6 had any real interest in young musicians, it would help sponsor such auditions instead of trying to suppress them.
While their may be considerably more to this story, it does show that even though rock and Bill Graham were well established by 1970, the music industry itself still treated the musicians like interlopers. Of course, Gleason's principal source was Graham himself, who no doubt presented the facts that suited him the best, but this column is a rare snapshot of the different forces at play.

February 17, 1970 A Public Nuisance/Helix/A Tear And A Smile
This show was mentioned in Gleason's column on February 16. All these groups are unknown to me.

February 24, 1970 Maximum Speed Limit/Floating Bridge/Tide/Pyewacket
This show was mentioned in Gleason's column on February 23. The Floating Bridge were an excellent twin guitar band from Seattle, featuring Rich Dangel (ex-Sonics) and Joe Johannson. They were widely regarded by everyone who saw them, and even released an album, but they never got over the hump.

Maximum Speed Limit were from Berkeley, and Pyewacket were from Marin, but I don't know much else about them. Tide is unknown to me.

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

March 10, 1970 Rockwell/Errico/The Aliens
The Aliens were possibly the original "Latin-Rock" band in San Francisco, and thus possibly ever. They had an extremely interesting history that I have looked at elsewhere. This show was mentioned in Ralph Gleason's Chronicle column of March 9.

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

March 24, 1970 Wizards/CDC/Sundance/Trouble
All these groups are unknown to me.

March 31, 1970 Dry Creek Road/Frank Doyle/Blue Morning/Crystal Syphon

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

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

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

Red Truck were another Sacramento band, featuring guitarist Mark Pearson. Pearson had been in Sanpaku, who had broken up in December 1969, and would go on to success some years later with the Nielsen Pearson Band. 

April 21, 1970 Odyssey/Throckmorton/Tower of Power
This was probably the second Tower of Power audition show, as I think the first one was a few months months earlier (see January 27, 1970).  More than any other group, Tower of Power was the band whose career was made by the Fillmore West auditions and in turn left a lasting musical legacy. I believe this audition was to prove to BGP that they were ready for prime time. Apparently, they passed the test, since their first Graham-sponsored show seems to be opening for Jimi Hendrix at Berkeley Community Theater on May 30, 1970.

Throckmorton was a popular San Jose band. Odyssey is unknown to me.

We are missing most Tuesday night shows for the balance of 1970, but that is just because I have not been able to find them yet. I don't think there was any change in the program, other than a tendency to have more weekday shows during the Summer, which may have superseded some Tuesdays.

July 21, 1970 Lamb/Lambert & Nuttycombe/Victoria/Equinox
This event was on a Tuesday, but this billing was very conciously designed as a singer-songwriter showcase for acts on Bill Graham's label.  Lamb featured singer Barbara Mauritz and guitarist Bob Swanson, Victoria was a singer songwriter, Lambert & Nuttycombe were a duo, and "Equinox" was advertised as a collective of sorts, featuring Jeffrey Cain, Pamela Polland and Tangen & Freedman.

October 26, 1970 Dave Van Ronk/Lamb/Fourth Way/Equinox 
This show seems to be a little different than the others, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was on a Monday night.  Normally the Fillmore West was closed Monday and Wednesday, but on  October 28 there was a rare Wednesday concert (Rod Stewart and Small Faces), so I believe the operation took Tuesday off. Also, unlike other bills, Dave Van Ronk was an older and more established folk artist. He did put out an album for Polydor in 1971, so I don't know if this was a record company supported gig, but it hardly featured an unknown headliner.

'Equinox' indicates the name of the event, indicating a songwriters collective of sorts, although whether it was exactly the same as the previous one (June 26, 1970) isn't plain to me. Finally, there was a flyer, which suggests along with the somewhat-famous headliner that the weeknight shows also functioned like a normal nightclub show, regardless of any auditions.

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

February 9, 1971 Mendelsonn
The group is unknown to me.  This may be a misprint for Mendelbaum.

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

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

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

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

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

April 20, 1971  Andrew Hallidie/Early Light/Ofeidian Dan
These bands are unknown to me, other than seeing their names on obscure billings. Andrew Hallidie (probably named after the inventor of the cable car) had played a Fillmore West audition on December 2, 1969.
[update: an email from Gene Cross, former lead singer for the Andrew Hallidie band, sorts out the tale. Andrew Hallidie was a six-member band from the Maxwell Park area in Oakland (near Mills College). Cross and Kathy Walsh were the singers, the lead guitarist was Steve Tillotson, Chuck Anderson on organ, Ron Reagan on bass and Karen Ripley on drums. They recorded some material at Funky Jack Studios, and ultimately Cross released an album of the material under his name, which is available at CDBaby, 30 Degrees)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

1 comment:

  1. I was at several tuesday night shows as a kid...I attended the March 24,1970 show and remember the group Sundance (as they lived near my house in Sebastopol,Sonoma County)...

    They were based (for a while) in the Chico area and eventually released a record on Kapp Records...They had a Poco-type country rock feel and were pretty good.The song "Chico Women" is on youtube.

    ReplyDelete