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
- Sons Of Champlin Performance List 1966-67
- Sons Of Champlin Performance List January-May 1968
- Sons Of Champlin Performance List June-December 1968
Sons Of Champlin Performance List January-June 1969
In early 1969, The Sons Of Champlin were a six-piece band. The lineup was
- Bill Champlin-Hammond organ, guitar, lead vocals
- Terry Haggerty-lead guitar
- Tim Cain-tenor sax
- Geoff Palmer-piano, Hammond organ, vibes, baritone sax
- Al Strong-bass
- Bill Bowen-drums
In late 1968 and early 1969 the Sons Of Champlin had recorded Loosen Up Naturally for Capitol Records, their first album. Chief roadie Charlie Kelly said that the double-lp represented their live set at the time (often augmented by a few covers). Throughout 1968 and 69, The Sons regularly played many smaller venues in the Bay Area, and I have only captured a portion of those dates. I have to assume the Sons worked almost every weekend, or at least tried to, plus numerous weekday shows.
January 10-11, 1969: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups
January 15-18, 1969: New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Notes From The Underground (17th and 18th)
January 16, 1969: Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley, CA: Steve Miller Band/Sons Of Champlin/Mad River/Mint Tattoo/Frumious Bandersnatch/Cleanliness & Godliness Skiffle Band/Allmen Joy/Other Half/Little John/The Lamb
“Support the Oakland 7 Benefit Dance” emcee Chet Helms
The flyer for this event is in the A Young Man’s Song cd by Frumious Bandersnatch, but no venue is named. However, the Berkeley Barb lists the event as being held at Pauley Ballroom on campus. Note that the Sons were also playing at The New Orleans House the same night, but since the New Orleans House was only about a mile from campus, it would have been easy to play an early set at Pauley and then go over to the club. I do wonder if they brought along the Hammond organ, however.
January 24-26, 1969: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Sons Of Champlin/Initial Shock
Since Chet Helms and the Family Dog had vacated, the Avalon was now being booked by an organization called Sound Proof, which was connected to the group Initial Shock.
Aquarius Productions Presents “A Medieval Happening”
Renaissance Faires had started to become popular events, and the one in Marin County was among the first. This event was a sort of indoor "pseudo-Renaissance Faire." An eyewitness reported that the Duck's Breath Mystery Theater comedy troupe performed between sets, and that Steve Miller’s set was "the loudest [he] ever heard... Miller's Marshall amps, turned up all the way, sounded like gravel shaken in a bucket, but impossibly loud.”
The Dream Bowl had been a long time music venue dating back at least to World War 2. It was located near the intersection of Highway 29 and Kelly Road. It was a country venue for much of the 1950s and 60s, but for a few months in 1969 some promoters made a go of turning it into a sort of Napa Valley Fillmore. Like many of these experiments, it made no financial sense but was remembered fondly by those who attended.
February 17, 1969: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA:
“Happy Chinese New Year’s” A Benefit for Lenay Inc
Mike Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites Jam/Sons Of Champlin/Phoenix/Ace Of Cups/Pitschell Players
The poorly-reproduced poster is difficult to read. It must have been approximately this date (because of Chinese New Year’s), but it could have been any time from February 17th to 20th (Monday thru Thursday).
February 19, 1969: Fairfax Pavilion, Fairfax, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Beefy Red
Beefy Red was a Marin jazz-rock group from the 1969-70 period, led by San Francisco guitarist Barry Finnerty, later with the Jazz Crusaders. The drummer was Jim Preston, who went on to join the Sons in March, 1972. Mark Isham, also a future Son, was a trumpeter in Beefy Red at some point (the group had up to 10 members) but I do not know if he was in the band on this gig.
February 20-23, 1969: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Albert King/Sons Of Champlin/Cold Blood
February 28-March 1, 1969: The Poppycock, Palo Alto Sons Of Champlin/Boogie
The Poppycock was at 135 University Avenue (at High Street), and was Palo Alto’s tiny “psychedelic” club venue. Boogie was a trio that rehearsed at the Sausalito Heliport, along with the Sons and many other groups.
March 2, 1969: Speedway Meadows, San Francisco, CA: All Men Joy/Sons Of Champlin/Initial Shock/Morning Glory/Last Mile
An afternoon free concert, sponsored by the 13th Tribe.
March 8, 1969: Peterson Gym, SDSU, San Diego, CA Butterfield Blues Band/Sons Of Champlin/Taj Mahal
Since March 8 was a Saturday, I wouldn't be surprised if there was another Southern California show the night before (Friday March 7)
March 16, 1969: Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA: MC5/Boogie/Sons Of Champlin
Detroit’s hard-rocking MC5, headlining at the Straight Theater all weekend, used The Sons equipment for this free gig in the park. Bill Bowen’s drums took a particular beating.
March 17, 1969: Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Sons Of Champlin/Red Mountain “Monster Jam” Benefit for Olompali
I have written about Monday Night Winterland benefit featuring the Dead and the Airplane elsewhere. Olompali was a decrepit Victorian mansion in Marin that housed a hippie commune, and the building had burned down.
March 21-23, 1969: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Santana/Sons Of Champlin/Dancing Food & Entertainment
Parts of an FM broadcast survive from March 23. To my knowledge, this broadcast (I believe from KPFA) is the best circulating document of the early Sons' sound. Besides their first album material, they do a funky but faithful cover of Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill."
Santana were just a popular local band at this time, but the killer lineup that would record their first album and star at Woodstock had finally come together, and they were already a great live band. Dancing Food & Entertainment were booked by the Millard Agency, and featured singer Naomi Ruth Eisenberg (later in Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks) and bassist Tom Glass (aka artist Ned Lamont, formerly in The Jazz Mice with Ian Underwood).
March 29, 1969: New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups
April 1 thru 5, 1969: Straight Theater, San Francisco, CA:
Sons Of Champlin/Passion/Marvin Gardens/The Angels Own Band Chorus/Bicycle/Asoke Fakir/Morning Glory/Congress of Wonders/Rush/Last Mile/Glass Mountain
The Straight Theater was at the end of its financial rope. Tim Leary was supposed to headline, and canceled. Some of the bands may have played on some nights, but it is not certain whether the Sons played at all, on any night.
April 3, 1969: Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups/Country Weather/Phoenix
April 6, 1969: Provo Park, Berkeley, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Lamb/Frumious Bandersnatch/Ace Of Cups/All Spice Rhythm Band
Provo Park (previously Constitution Park) was the downtown park, near the Community Theater, Berkeley High and the Civic Center. Provo Park served the same function for Berkeley as the Panhandle did for the Haight Ashbury, and bands regularly played there for free.
Spring (?) 1969: Native Sons Hall, Sacramento, CA: Sons Of Champlin
A Commenter recalls this show.
I saw The Sons of Champlin in about 1968/69. They appeared at a small 2nd story ballroom in Sacramento (not Sound Factory(.It was *around* 13th Street between I and J Streets (my memory is fuzzy on the exact locations). The band was driving up from the Bay Area and only the rhythm section had arrived by showtime. It was guitar, organ, bass and drums and they jammed until the other members arrived.Research from Sacramento sources suggests that the venue appears to have been the ballroom in the Native Sons Hall on 11th and J Streets, across from the Elks Building that housed KZAP, Sacramento's first fm rock station.The Native Sons Hall had been known as The Trip Room at one point in 1966. I have arbitrarily suggested that the date was Spring '69, but until we have more evidence I can't say for sure.
As a side note, regardless of which Sons had been late to the show, the band members were so versatile that any four of them could have made up a solid rhythm section.
April 16, 1969: [Cowell College], UC Santa Cruz, CA Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups/Phoenix
I'm not sure of the venue for this show. Given the newly constructed nature of the UC Santa Cruz Campus (it had only opened in Fall 1965), the Cowell-Stevenson Dining Commons seems the most likely place. This was billed as a Benefit for “Malcom X College.” That too is a mystery, but UCSC had (and has) a residential college system modeled on the Oxbridge system, and they were opening a new College every year. Fall 1969 would see the opening of the fifth College, whose name was in some dispute, which is why it was called "College Five" for many years (and still is by some stubborn alums). My guess is that the "Benefit" was for a proposed name for the new College.
April 17-19, 1969: Winterland, San Francisco, CA: The Band/Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups
This was a very high profile show in San Francisco, as it was the live debut of "The Band" without Bob Dylan (leaving aside eight years on the road with Ronnie Hawkins, of course). Since the shows sold out Winterland instantly (a venue twice the size of Fillmore West), the opening acts were not needed to sell tickets and would have gotten great exposure. The Sons had been signed to Capitol Records, The Band's label, so they would have gotten the nod because of that connection.
April 20, 1969: Civic Center Plaza, San Francisco, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups/Freedom Highway
This was an outdoor free concert downtown, known from a dated photo by Kenneth Loh. All three bands were West Pole acts.
April 23, 1969: Nourse Auditorium, San Francisco, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Linn County/Mt. Rushmore/Kwane/The Last Mile
A free concert presented by KMPX-fm and The 13th Tribe. Nourse Auditorium was a small hall at 275 Hayes (at Van Ness).
April 25-26,. 1969: The New Dream Bowl, Vallejo, CA Sons Of Champlin/Rose and Amber Whine
The date is known from a poster from Paul Grushkin’s fine book Art of Rock. This is the latest date I have ever seen for a rock show at The Dream Bowl, and I am not convinced this show actually occurred.
Sometime in 1969, Capitol released the Sons Of Champlin's first album—a double lp--Loosen Up Naturally (SWBB 200 May 69). Although release dates in the 1960s are always murky, I am positing a release date of May 1969, based on a second hand comment of Bill Champlin’s that the Sons’ first album was released as the same time as the album Chicago Transit Authority (which was released in May 1969). Certainly various Bay Area fans remember being well familiar with the album by the beginning of summer, and it could have been available in April. The album reached #137 on the always unreliable Billboard Top 200 lp charts.
May 1, 1969: Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Phoenix/Wilderness/Womb
May 10, 1969: Pacific Memorial Stadium, U of Pacific, Stockton, CA Santana/Cold Blood/Sons Of Champlin/Evlin Bishop/Counry Weather/San Paku/ “Pacific Pop Festival” (noon to 7 pm)
Stockton was a prosperous Central Valley town about 90 miles East of San Francisco. The University football stadium was quite small, and probably only held several thousand. Note that all the groups except The Sons were from Bill Graham's Millard Agency.At this time, none of the groups would have released an album (possibly the Sons record was just barely available).
Known from the extant handbill (above).
May 23 thru 25, 1969: Practice Field, San Jose State College, San Jose, CA: Aquarian Family Festival
Ace Of Cups/All Men Joy/Birth/Beggars Opera/Boz Skaggs/Crabs/Crow/Cleanliness & Godliness Skiffle Band/Devine Madness/Denver/Elgin Marble/Flaming Groovies/Frumious Bandersnatch/Gentle Dance/Greater Carmichael Traveling Street Band/Glass Mountain/High Country/Jefferson Airplane/Joy of Cooking/Last Mile/Libras/Lamb/Living Color/Linn County/Mother Ball/Morning Glory/Mad River/Mt. Rushmore/Nymbus/Old Davis/Red Grass, Green Smoke/Rubber Maze/ Rising Tide/Rejoice/Sunrise/Sable/Scratch/Sons Of Champlin/Sounds Unlimited Blues Band/ Sandy Bull/The Steve Miller Band/ Stoned Fox/South Bay Experimental Flash/Throckmorton/Tree of Life/Weird Herald/Womb/Warren Purcell/Zephyr Grove
The Aquarian Family Festival was a free concert put on in conjunction with (and in contrast with) the Folk-Rock Festival at the Fairgrounds, less than a mile away. It is a remarkable and largely forgotten subplot in the history of Bay Area rock festivals in the 60s. A huge and controversial 3-day rock festival, headlined by Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the Jefferson Airplane, was held at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose. Some local hippies arranged for fans to hang out at a nearby football practice field near Spartan Stadium, at San Jose State College.
Terms of the agreement with the University required that people could be present only during the performance of music. Because part of the purpose of the concert was to provide a safe place to stay for tens of thousands of people traveling to town to attend another concert being held in town about a mile away at the Santa Clara County fairgrounds, music had to be performed continuously from the start at 12:00pm Friday until the close of the festival at 4:00pm Sunday afternoon. Thus the festival featured 52 hours of continuous music. The crowds were huge, with tens of thousands going in and out every day.
The Aquarian Family Festival was produced in 10 days at a total cost of $968 by approximately 30 people who were volunteers with the Institute for Research and Understanding whose Dirt Cheap Productions unit produced the concert. Assistance was also given by the musicians' cooperative Druid Corporation House and the San Jose Free University. Legal services were paid for by the band Led Zeppelin which did not perform at the [free] festival. A modern perspective on San Jose's Aquarian Family Festival was published in 2009.
There is some uncertainty as to which groups exactly played. Most of these groups were club attractions in the East and South Bay scenes, but not Fillmore headliners . Two stages were constructed so that bands could set up while another was playing, in order to fulfill the obligation that people could be present only when bands were playing. According to the website of one of the organizers, however, Steve Miller played a nice blues set, and the Airplane showed up Sunday morning (May 25) and played an extended set. At the end of Sunday afternoon, as the Festival stage was being broken down, Jimi Hendrix dropped by, hoping to jam, just as the stage was being dismantled and never got the chance.
June 5, 1969: Thee Experience, Hollywood, CA: Sons Of Champlin
Thee Experience was a sort of “upscale” rock club at 7551 Sunset (at Curzon). It was run by Marshall Brevitz the former operator of Miami's Thee Image. Although a popular musicians hangout, the concept was some years ahead of its time, and the club was only open for about 8 months in 1969.
June 6-7, 1969: Rose Palace, Pasadena, CA: Joe Cocker/Sons of Chaplin/E.T. Hooley
This was Joe Cocker’s first tour of America.
June 8, 1969: Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA: Janis Joplin/Sons Of Champlin/Linn County/Crazy Horse/Elvin Bishop/Cedro Wooly/Alice Stuart and Minx/Victoria/Kwane and The Kwan-ditos
June 8, 1969: Unitarian Center, San Francisco, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Bycycle /Freedom Highway/International Press/Indian Gold/Ace Of Cups/Mark of Kings/Dementia/Dr. Zarkof/Phoenix/Freedom/Interplayers Circus/Douglas Waugh/Morning Glory/Kevin, Gino and Cynthia Benefit for The Fellowship Church at the Unitarian Center
The Sons returned to San Francisco for this benefit and the preceding afternoon free concert, having driven up from Los Angeles right after the Pasadena shows. Keep in mind that Interstate Highway 5 was not statewide at the time, and they probably had to maneuver the truck over The Grapevine and up Highway 101 along the Coast, a formidable task indeed.
The church was on Geary at Franklin. The poster for the event is featured in Art Of Rock.
June 14, 1969: The Fun House, South Lake Tahoe, CA Sons Of Champlin/Santana/AB Skhy
The Fun House was the new name for The Sanctuary, which had opened in the Summer of 1968. By Summer 1969, the always remarkable Lake Tahoe scene had gone from three venues to one. Kings Beach Bowl in North Shore had effectively closed. On the more crowded South Shore, the American Legion Hall had been damaged in a Winter snowstorm, so it too was out of commission. However, Legion Hall operator Jim Burgett had taken over The Sanctuary, a converted supermarket a little nearer to the Lake, and changed its name to The Fun House.
The Fun House was open 7 nights a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and Burgett's band played almost every night. Amazingly, Burgett's band also played six days a week at Harrah's Lake Tahoe, just across the Nevada border. However, Burgett also booked San Francisco rock bands, particularly on weekends, so many Fillmore and Avalon regulars played The Fun House. By 1969, however, the headliners who had played Lake Tahoe in the previous Summers (like Jimi Hendrix or the Grateful Dead) had moved to more National markets, but bands like The Sons still found Lake Tahoe a lucrative booking.
The date has been approximated from the Santana timeline. Its not clear if the bill was for one or two nights. Based on the Santana timeline, the show (or shows) was somewhere between June 1 and June 14. Various eyewitnesses (including Charlie Kelly) remember a hot set by Santana, and then the Sons being shut down by the cops because of “suspicious activities.” However, Jim Burgett, who promoted the show, recalls few problems with the police and suspects that any band who was shut down would simply have been running overtime.
By summer 1969, Jim Beem had returned on trumpet, although he did not stay long. He may have also played a little bit on the album. However, I haven't been able to determine his exact tenure. For one month in mid-1969, John ‘Fuzzy’ Oxendine, from the band Boogie, had played drums alongside of Bill Bowen, but I do not know exactly when. According to Bill Champlin (on his site), the extra drummer lasted 4 gigs because Bill Bowen was unhappy with the arrangement.
Chet Helms opened his new Family Dog venture on June 13, 1969. It was located far from downtown, at the Playland Amusement Park at Ocean Beach, on 660 Great Highway. A San Mateo Times article from June 10, 1969 about the opening of the new Family Dog, with Jefferson Airplane headlining, lists the (hitherto unknown) bill for the second weekend that featured the Sons.
An Oakland Tribune article in the June 28, 1969 “Teen Age” section describes this forthcoming event. It was a benefit for one Chris Cormier, who was apparently part of the staff at St. Elizabeth’s. St. Elizabeth’s was a private High School in Oakland, but for some reason it had quite amazing groups in 1968 and 69: Quicksilver, The Sons, Ace Of Cups, Blue Cheer, Loading Zone, Mint Tattoo and more.
For the final installment of this series (July 69-February 1970), see here.