The Sons Of Champlin were one of the best and most musical of the original San Francisco bands that played the Fillmore and the Avalon from 1966 onwards. Well ahead of their time, they are fondly remembered now, and since the world has finally caught up to them, they continue to perform this very day. This project is an attempt to identify all the performances of The Sons Of Champlin from 1966 to 1969. The previous installments of this series were
Charlie Kelly. Anyone with additional information, insights, corrections or memories (real or imagined) should Comment or email me.
Sons Of Champlin Performance List June-December 1968
In mid-1968, The Sons Of Champlin were still a seven-piece band. The lineup was
- Bill Champlin-Hammond organ, guitar, lead vocals
- Terry Haggerty-lead guitar
- Tim Cain-tenor sax
- Jim Beem-trumpet
- Geoff Palmer-piano, Hammond organ, vibes, baritone sax
- Al Strong-bass
- Bill Bowen-drums
As a side note, the term "roadie" is somewhat anachronistic. In the 1960s, roadies were typically called "crew" or "equipment men" (the Grateful Dead called them "Qwippies"). In London they were often known as "band boys." I am not certain of the precise etymology of the term "roadie," but for narrative simplicity I will stick with it here. Furthermore, in the days of small crews--the Sons typically had two or three crew members--the veteran Kelly was more like "first among equals" rather than "road manager," but as a practical matter it's easy to consider him the road manager as well.
In the Summer of 1968, The Sons Of Champlin signed with Capitol Records. The Sons persuaded Capitol to let them record a single and distribute it for free. Thus, the single "Jesus Is Coming" had gotten a little bit of play KSAN-fm, and anyone who wrote and asked for it received the single for free. In one sense, the Sons anticipated Internet marketing before it had been invented, but as often occurred with the Sons they arrived at a room that was not yet built.
June 23, 1968: El Camino Park, Palo Alto, CA: Sons Of Champin/Charley Musselwhite/Notes From The Underground
This show was a free ‘Be-In”, sponsored by the Midpeninsula Free University, a South Bay locus for various forms of consciousness expansion. Other cities had largely stopped having free concert/Be-In type events in public parts, but liberal Palo Alto continued having them throughout the Summer of 1968. While free concerts such as this were not the subject of Television news documentaries, like the 1967 events, they were remembered fondly by the local teenagers who attended them.
June 28-29, 1968: The Kaleidoscope, Hollywood, CA: Muddy Waters/Sons Of Champlin
As Charlie Kelly documents, the Sons Of Champlin asked him to join the crew in June 1968, prior to the trip to Southern California. The group was playing two weekends at the Kaleidoscope, bracketed by a few days in San Diego. Kelly and Steve Tobin drove the loaded equipment truck down Highway 101, and the band (plus manager Fred Roth) flew down to join them.
The Kaleidoscope, at 6230 Sunset (at Vine) in Hollywood, was an attempt by the management of Canned Heat to establish a Fillmore-style venue in Southern California. The Sons, although an "underground" San Francisco band without an album, had already played the club the month before, and presumably had done well enough to be invited back. In 1968, at least, "from San Francisco" was a sort of bona fide for rock bands that made them hip to out of towners, and the Sons were one of various underground bands playing up and down the West Coast who benefited from that.
July 2-3, 1968: The Hippodrome, San Diego, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Boogie
Kelly’s memoir includes a mid-week stand at The Hippodrome, San Diego’s psychedelic ballroom, located at Front and G Streets. According to an eyewitness, Dr. John The Night Tripper was the scheduled headliner, but he had canceled. I have not seen a poster. Boogie rehearsed at the Sausalito Heliport along with The Sons, and included John “Fuzzy” Oxendine on drums, who briefly was the second drummer with The Sons during 1969.
The dates are inferred as a Tuesday and Wednesday based on other San Diego shows.
July 4-5 (6-9-10-11), 1968: The Kaleidoscope, Hollywood, CA: Canned Heat/Sly and The Family Stone/Sons Of Champlin
Kelly has a lengthy reminiscence of a memorable 10-day trip to Southern California, his first as a roadie, bracketed by two weekends at the Kaleidoscope. According to Kelly, Canned Heat played only one song (“Refried Boogie”) for all six sets throughout the entire weekend as they were recording a live album (later part of Living The Blues).
Kelly's memory is quite vivid (and he confirmed some other details in an email), but the story is complicated somewhat by the posters. The poster lists Canned Heat, Sly and The Family Stone and The Sons for July 4-5 and then July 9-10-11, but Kelly only recalls a single weekend with that bill. Given that it was his first road trip, and the other memorable events of the trip, it is not likely he forgot an extra week in Southern California. Thus I have to conclude that although the poster suggests the Sons played both weekends, they in fact did not stick around for the second weekend (they were probably never booked for it).
This scenario, too, is slightly complicated by the fact that Kelly recalls six sets of Canned Heat over the weekend, when it would seem that they should have only played four (on Thursday July 4 and Friday July 5). The Doors and Spirit were booked on Saturday July 6, and by all accounts both The Doors and Spirit played that night. I see two possibilities:
- The Doors, who hardly "needed" to play the modest Kaleidoscope, may have played a show very late on Saturday night, and a regularly scheduled bill with Canned Heat, Sly and The Sons played earlier on July 6, or
- Canned Heat, Sly and The Sons only played Friday and Saturday night, but sitting through "Refried Boogie" four times made it seem 50% longer than it actually was.
July 20, 1968: The Bold Knight, Sunnyvale, CA: Sons of Champlin/Ace Of Cups
The Bold Knight was a “teen club” (no alcohol, some kind of age limit) in Sunnyvale, a suburb of San Jose. It was located on 769 North Matilda Avenue. The flyer for this show features an artist’s rendition of Bill Champlin and Tim Cain.
The Ace Of Cups were a fine band who shared the West-Pole booking agency with The Sons, accounting for the large number of shows the groups where the bands were billed together. I do not know exactly when West-Pole started booking Sons Of Champlin, but it seems to have been around this period.
July 27, 1968: Berryessa Bowl, Napa, CA: Sons Of Champlin
Lake Berryessa was a large man-made lake created in 1957. Although it was created for water management purposes, Lake Berryessa is also a popular recreational area. The outdoor concert venue was opened earlier in the summer of 68.
July 28, 1968: Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA: Chambers Brothers/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons Of Champlin/Creedence Clearwater Revival/Santana Blues Band/Beggar's Opera Stanford Summer Rock
Frost Amphitheater (capacity 6,900) was a leafy outdoor bowl on the Stanford campus. It was rarely used for rock concerts. This show was a big event in Palo Alto, however. The excellent Cryptical Developments blog has a great description of this 1968 Frost show. The author already had the "Jesus Is Coming" single by this time, so it gives a good time frame for the release of the single as well.
Summer 1968: St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Palo Alto, CA: Sons Of Champlin
Cryptical Developments also recalls seeing the Sons play a Palo Alto church one evening in the Summer. I do not know how often or why they had rock concerts there, but I assume it was some sort of "youth event."
St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church is Palo Alto's oldest church, at 745 Waverley Street (at Homer Avenue), very near downtown Palo Alto. If you're from Palo Alto, you'll care that this church appears in a scene in the 1971 movie Harold & Maude (Harold meets Maude at a funeral).
Summer 1968: Kings Beach Bowl, North Lake Tahoe, CA: Sons Of Champlin/The Working Class
Kings Beach Bowl was a gutted bowling alley in North Lake Tahoe that became a weekend venue for psychedelic rock bands in the Summers of 1967 and '68. The story of Kings Beach Bowl, and its fascinating contrast to the even more remarkable scene in South Lake Tahoe at Jim Burgett's American Legion Hall and its nearby competitor, The Sanctuary, is one I am planning to tell in spectacular detail, but not here.
The Sons would have likely played both a Friday and Saturday night. The Working Class, from Sacramento, were the "house band" at Kings Beach Bowl and played every weekend. By Summer's end, they would evolve into the group Sanpaku. All the members of Sanpaku recall playing Kings Beach Bowl with The Sons, albeit few other details.
The Bank was a little known venue in Torrance, near Santa Monica. It had opened the month before, in July 1968, and largely featured San Francisco bands, many of them booked by West-Pole. It was one of many efforts throughout the country to create Fillmore-Avalon type scenes, but like many such places it was overtaken by the rapidly expanding rock market and police pressure.
The Sons were booked again at the Kaleidoscope on the weekend of August 16-18, 1968. However, they did not play the show, and in fact I think the shows were canceled.
August 30-September 1, 1968: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Preservation Hall Jazz Band/Sons Of Champlin
Bill Graham had moved his Fillmore operations to the former Carousel (at 1545 Market St), and renamed it the Fillmore West.
September 1, 1968: Sports Arena, Los Angeles, CA: Steppenwolf/Quicksilver Messenger Service/H.P. Lovecraft/Buddy Miles Express/Three Dog Night/Sons Of Champlin/Black Pearl/Fraternity of Man/West
The Sons Of Champlin were billed for this lengthy extravaganza, but it conflicts with the Fillmore West show. They could have flown down for an early performance, and flown back for the evening show, or else the poster was simply mistaken.
>September 2, 1968: Palace of Fine Arts Festival, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/S.F Mime Troupe/Crome Syrcus/Sons Of Champlin/ Country Weather/Randy Boone/Black Pearl
The Dead and The Sons were billed for the third day of a three-day festival, but both played Sky River instead. Probably the whole day was canceled (the previous two days did take place).
September 2, 1968: Sky River Rock Festival and Lighter Than Air Fair Betty Nelson's Farm, Sultan, WA
The Sky River Rock Festival (August 31-September 2, 1968) was the first outdoor rock festival on the model that was immortalized at Woodstock. Numerous bands and other performers played nonstop for 72 hours through all kinds of weather, as the crowd endured the elements in a muddy field. This model was repeated endlessly throughout the Summers of 1969 and '70 all over the country, but Sky River was the first of such events. Originally, the organizers had wanted to have a festival featuring balloon rides (hence “Lighter Than Air Fair”) but Country Joe and The Fish were invited to provide musical entertainment, and the whole event escalated.
Although the 1968 Sky River Festival was held on an organic raspberry farm outside of Seattle, booking agent John Chambless (a former UC Berkeley lecturer in Philosophy, newly-employed at the University of Washington) was a former organizer of the Berkeley Folk Festival. Thus Sky River was dominated by Bay Area bands, and was a sort of Bay Area ballroom band road trip, with a heavy emphasis on Berkeley bands. As word spread at what a fun scene was happening at Sky River, bands rushed to Washington to play. The Grateful Dead, who were not even booked at the Festival, flew up after their Fillmore weekend and played anyway. It appears the Sons Of Champlin did the same. Numerous other bands would have been on the bill on the last day, but no one recalls who played when.
Most paying shows for San Francisco rock bands were on the weekends, and I have probably only uncovered a modest portion of the Sons shows from this period. Equally intriguing, however, were the different sorts of shows bands played when they could. Many Debutante Balls in the 1960s featured alternating sets by an orchestra (for the adults) and a local rock band (for their kids). Since rich kids went to the Fillmore just like their peers, some cool bands played debutante balls.
This Wednesday night show was a Country Club ball for Piedmont debutante Suzanne Bradford. The event was mentioned both in Robin Orr's Oakland Tribune Society column (Sep 5) and the Tribune Women's Section (Sep 8, shown here). The members of the Sons had all been in dance bands, and The Sons had played some dances when they started, so they would have been comfortable with the music. Presumably the Sons played a few more covers than they would at the Fillmore. I suspect the Sons road crew were not mistaken for debutante escorts.
The Sound Factory was Sacramento's answer to the Avalon and the Fillmore, initially managed by Whitey Davis, the operator of Portland's legendary Crystal Ballroom (and more recently, in early 1968, the assistant manager of the Avalon itself). The Sound Factory was at 1817 Alhambra, and it seems to have opened in late June of 1968. The Sound Factory is mostly remembered for some terrific posters in its first few months, featuring some of San Francisco's leading bands. In fact, the Sound Factory continued on for almost a year, but many of the shows remain shrouded in obscurity.
The house band at the Sound Factory in September 1968 was Sanpaku, previously a Sacramento band called The Working Class (see Kings Beach Bowl above), so they probably played at this show as well.
September 9, 1968: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Steve Miller Band/Sons Of Champlin
September 20-21, 1968: The Bank, Torrance, CA: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons Of Champlin/Love Exchange/Ace Of Cups (21st only)
The Sons returned to The Bank in Torrance. Quicksilver and The Sons played two nights (Friday and Saturday), and the The Ace Of Cups, another West-Pole band, also played Saturday night.
Septemer 22, 1968: Del Mar Fairgrounds, Del Mar, CA: Grateful Dead/Buddy Miles Express/Taj Mahal/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons Of Champlin/Mother Earth/Curly Cooke’s Hurdy-Gurdy Band/Youngbloods/Ace Of Cups/Phoenix
This was an outdoor, daytime "festival" held at a horse racing track 20 miles North of San Diego (members of the band Phoenix recall it as "an ostrich racing track"). Just about all of the bands were San Francisco groups, and most of them were either booked by West-Pole (Quicksilver, Sons, Ace of Cups, Phoenix) or socially connected to them (Grateful Dead, Buddy Miles, Curly Cook, Steve Miller).
This was one of the earliest performances for the Buddy Miles Express, and they were billed as "Formerly The Electric Flag."
September 27-29, 1968: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Flatt and Scruggs/Ramblin' Jack Elliott/Sons Of Champlin/Country Weather
October 6, 1968: Provo Park, Berkeley, CA: Youngbloods/Santana/Sons Of Champlin/Frumious Bandersnatch
Provo Park in downtown Berkeley was the site of many free concerts. Although not quite as high profile as Golden Gate Park, it was an important place for bands to get heard.
The New Orleans House in Berkeley, at 1505 San Pablo Avenue, was an important booking for 60s bands trying to play original music. One of the advantages of having played Provo Park for free the weekend before (Oct 6) was that the Sons would be more of a known quantity when they played New Orleans House. At this time, the Sons were a recognizable name, but save for occasional airplay for their "Jesus Is Coming" 45, prospective fans could only hear them in person.
In the Fall of 1968, trumpeter Jim Beem started having personal difficulties and stopped performing with the band. He had contributed a little bit to recording The Sons debut album, but while his absence could be fixed in the studio (by overdubbing), the Sons live sound was thinned out somewhat.
>Fall 1968 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Ike & Tina Turner/Sons of Champlin
Charlie Kelly remembers this event because Bill Graham threw him out of the Fillmore West during an Ike& Tina Turner show. It is possible that these shows were October 30-November 1969 (billed as It’s A Beautiful Day/Ike & Tina Turner/Alice Cooper). Since there are conflicts with the Alice Cooper timeline, perhaps The Sons replaced Alice Cooper (then a little-known and much disliked LA band on Frank Zappa’s label).
November 28-30, 1968: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons Of Champlin/Initial Shock
December 1, 1968: The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Sons Of Champlin
The Poppycock was Palo Alto's pocket sized psychedelic ballroom. Similar to the New Orleans House and The Matrix, it provided a circuit for bands playing original music who could not yet headline at the Avalon or the Fillmore.
I have inferred this specific date because Charlie Kelly recalled returning from a gig in Palo Alto to catch the final Big Brother show at the Avalon, which would have been on December 1.