The Kaleidoscope was a psychedelic rock venue run by the management of the band Canned Heat. It was only open for about 6 months in 1968. It had some memorable posters and some memorable bands, but it was one of many unsuccessful efforts to create a viable Fillmore type venue in Los Angeles.
The well-known 1968 iteration of the Kaleidoscope was housed in a built in 1938 by one Earl Carroll, and named the Earl Carroll Theater. The theater, at 6230 Sunset Boulevard (at Argyle near Vine) in Hollywood, featured two concentrically rotating stages at the center of the venue. Right on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, its purpose was to display naked women: at the time, it was illegal to have naked women in motion, but not stationary women on a moving stage. By the 1950s, the venue was a TV studio (Queen For A Day was filmed here), and by the early 1960s it had become The Moulin Rouge. By about 1965 it became The Hullabaloo (the TV show of the same name was broadcast from there). The Hullabaloo (also known as Dave Hull's Hullabaloo) was an industry showcase, so bands played every night. Many of these bands played for free, and even headliners just got scale. There was also an after hours set from 1-4:00 am, played by many aspiring bands (for some great photos of the incarnations of the Earl Carroll theater, see here).
Skip Taylor, the manager of Canned Heat, had been interested in running his own venue for some time. In early 1967, he attempted to book shows at a building on 1228 Vine Street, but they were stopped by an injunction and the project was put on hold. The circular poster became more famous than the abortive venue.
By Spring 1968, Canned Heat was a popular band with a successful single ("On The Road Again"), so Taylor was in a better position. Taylor, William Morris agent John Hartmann and Gary Essert took over the lease on former Hullabaloo (Taylor and Morris had been agents together at William Morris). It was presumably easier to take a venue that presented music and dancing already than to create a new one. Since Taylor and Hartmann were Canned Heat's manager and booking agent, respectively, the band played the venue often.
The unique design of the Earl Carroll Theater meant that The Kaleidoscope, as a rock venue, had a unique stage set up that allowed acts to set up prior to performing, and then rotated into place. A new sound system brought the Kaleidoscope up to Fillmore standards. However, the venue only held about 1,000 people, and it was not able to become a profitable venture. Kaleidoscope shows were advertised by posters, some of them quite interesting, but not every show appears to have featured a poster. Like many LA venues (and contrary to contemporary San Francisco ones), the Kaleidoscope was probably open many nights with only local bands, or other entertainment like films.
The Kaleidoscope 1967
This original weekend was supposed to be at a building on 1228 Vine Street (at La Mirada near Fountain), but a last second injunction stopped the show. For the weekend the show was moved to the Embassy Ballroom in the Ambassador Hotel, at 3400 Wilshire, which also housed the legendary Coconut Grove Ballroom. The Embassy Ballroom was jokingly referred to as "The Banana Grove." The hotel considered keeping the Ballroom open as a sort of psychedelic outpost, but chose not to.
For 1967, this was quite an inspired booking. Jefferson Airplane had just released Surrealistic Pillow and "Somebody To Love" was climbing the charts, while the Grateful Dead were underground legends who had just released their first album. Canned Heat were unknown to all but a few Los Angeles club goers, but they were an excellent live band.
April 21-23, 1967 The Kaleidoscope at Ciro’s, West Hollywood The Doors/Peanut Butter Conspiracy/UFO
The next weekend's show was moved to Ciro’s, a club at 8433 W. Sunset Boulevard (at Olive, near La Cienaga), in West Hollywood, just outside the Los Angeles City Limits. I don't think it was a coincidence that the substitute venue was in unincorporated West Hollywood, outside of the Los Angeles city limits.
Ciro's had been a glamorous Hollywood nightspot in the 40s, but struggled to find a niche in the 60s. The Doors were a popular, rising band, but not as huge as they were about to become. Peanut Butter Conspiracy were also popular, although they were on the decline. UFO is unknown to me. There were other rock shows at Ciro's after this, although I don't know how many. Its possible that some of them were promoted by "The International Kaleidoscope," which was the name on the initial poster, but the Kaleidoscope name seems to have been mostly dormant until March 1968.
8433 W. Sunset Blvd is now the site of an equally legendary club, The Comedy Store.
The Kaleidoscope 1968
The Kaleidoscope opened (or re-opened) in Spring 1968 at the former Earl Carroll Theater, at 6230 Sunset Boulevard, in Hollywood proper (Hollywood agreed to be annexed by Los Angeles in 1910 in order to insure an adequate water supply). I have a feeling there were a few Kaleidoscope-promoted shows on the Sunset Strip between April 1967 and March 1968, however.
Once again, the Jefferson Airplane headlined the opening of The Kaleidoscope. Canned Heat was a much more substantial band, with a hit single and popular album. Buffalo Springfield were initially on the bill but canceled these two nights. Fever Tree replaced them, a band from Houston who would soon have a hit with “San Francisco Girls.”
According to a quote in Paul Grushkin's book The Art Of Rock, a live elephant was positioned near the stage during the Airplane's set. Let's just say I'm glad this is not a practice that caught on.
March 24, 1968 Benefit for Radio Strike fund for KMPX and KPPC djs
Buffalo Springfield/Jefferson Airplane/Tiny Tim/H.P. Lovecraft/Steppenwolf/Sweetwater/Firesign Theatre/Clear Light/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Peanut Butter Conspiracy/Genesis
This was an afternoon show. The Kaleidoscope used the rotating stage to great effect, apparently managing set changes in 16 seconds.
Disc jockeys on KMPX-fm radio in San Francisco, the first underground rock station in America, had gone on strike. The staff on their sister station KPPC (Pasadena) had joined them. There were a couple of events in San Francisco as well.
The group Genesis was a Los Angeles group, not the English one (whose members were still in school).
March 24, 1968 Buffalo Springfield/Jefferson Airplane/Canned Heat
March 28, 1968 Fever Tree
March 29, 1968 The Doors/ Peanut Butter Conspiracy/Bo Diddley/Clear Light
The poster does not include The Doors, but they appeared to have been added. They were so popular that they could have sold out the Kaleidoscope instantly. According to the very thorough Doors site, their appearance was still considered part of the "Grand Opening," and The Doors performance was filmed by an independent filmmaker.
March 30-31 Peanut Butter Conspiracy/Bo Diddley/Clear Light
April 5-7, 1968 Youngbloods/Spirit/Genesis
April 8-11, 1968 Canned Heat/Evergreen Blue Shoes/Travel Agency
This was a Monday to Thursday billing, a sign that the Kaleidoscope intended to be a full time nightclub. Canned Heat were more or less the "house band." Evergreen Blue Shoes and Travel Agency, while not well known, played around Hollywood and both ended up recording albums (the poster is up top).
I suspect the April 11 (Thursday) show was superseded by the KPPC benefit (below).
April 11, 1968 The Doors/Traffic/Canned Heat/Bo Diddley/Kaleidoscope/Holy Modal Rounders/others. “Super Ball” Benefit for KPPC Strike Fund.
A similar event in San Francisco, for KMPX, also entitled "Super Ball" was held at Winterland on April 3. Traffic was on tour at this time. KMPX and KPPC had made Traffic very popular in California, so the band was very supportive.
Kaleidoscope was a unique band based in Claremont, with great musicians (David Lindley, Chester Crill, Solomon Feldthouse, Stuart Brotman, Paul Lagos) who invented World Music about twenty years before anyone was ready for it. The band had the name before the venue had opened--contrary to what you may read elsewhere, although Kaleidoscope played The Kaleidoscope regularly, they had no specific connection to the venue.
April 12-14, 1968 The Kaleidoscope, Hollywood HP Lovecraft/James Cotton Blues Band/Mint Tattoo
The poster says "First Anniversary." This is accurate (the first show had been April 14, 1967), but I can't help but think that if the Kaleidoscope had ceased altogether after April 1967 they would not be celebrating their Anniversary. This is one of the main reasons I think there were periodic "International Kaleidoscope" productions on Sunset Strip. I do know of a photo showing a Ciro's marquee featuring Canned Heat, The New Age (from San Francisco) and the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. The date can be triangulated to May 12-13, 1967, so I wouldn't be suprised to find out there was an ongoing Kaleidoscope connection.
April 16, 1968 A Memorial For Bobby Hutton
A Black Panther Defense Fund rally, featuring (per the newspaper ad), Bobby Seale and Dick Gregory.
April 19-21, 1968 Quicksilver Messenger Service/Kaleidoscope/Flamin Groovies
April 24, 1968 The Doors
The Doors were friendly with Canned Heat--I believe the William Morris agency booked the Doors concert tours, but I'm not certain--and as a result they seemed to have played the Kaleidoscope when they didn't actually have to. This was a Wednesday night between legs of tours, so the Doors were probably just having a fun show at home.
April 26-27, 1968 The Fugs
April 30, 1968 Jefferson Airplane/Canned Heat
I believe Jefferson Airplane shared a booking agent (presumably William Morris or an affiliate) with Canned Heat and The Doors, and that is why they shared so many bills. Touring musicians are generally quite friendly with each other, regardless of music (tales of the road, faulty gear and dodgy promoters transcend genres), but groups only played together regularly if there was some affiliation between management or booking agents. This was a Tuesday night show, and neither Canned Heat nor the Airplane "needed" to play Kaleidoscope, much less sharing a bill.
May 3-4, 1968 Don Ellis Orchestra
This was part of a Friday-to Sunday 72-hour “Film Orgy” (per a Los Angeles Free Press ad), with 11 pm shows on Friday and Saturday night by Don Ellis.
The Don Ellis Orchestra was a brilliant and forward looking big band, playing weird time signatures with electric instruments and generally ahead of its time. Don Ellis, unlike other jazz musicians, wanted to break out of jazz confines but refused to do so by playing simplistic music. Although his music sounds a bit dated now (he is best known for his French Connection soundtrack), it is brilliant and memorable. Since Ellis's difficult charts (in times like 19/4 or 17/8) required A-list players, his Orchestra was mostly made up of first call session men like Tom Scott or Steve Bohannon. As a result, the group mostly stuck to California, as the band members were in the Ellis Orchestra for fun and made their living in the studio.
May 10-11, 1968 Eric Burdon And The Animals
I was stuck on this date, but Marc figured out that Eric Burdon and The Animals played. This was the new, psychedelic Animals, who were based in Southern California at the time.
Moby Grape had been in litigation with former manager Matthew Katz, so Katz had put together a band of Seattle musicians and booked them as Moby Grape, as a means of asserting his rights to the name (as well as making some money). Such practices were hardly unknown in the music industry, but the post-Beatles rock market made individual members of groups considerably more important than they had been. While most shows by the false Grape were in the hinterlands where people hadn't seen the original band, they did play a show at The Cheetah in Santa Monica (at 1 Navy Pier) on March 29, 1968. Thus the Kaleidoscope poster says ‘The Real’ Moby Grape, a reference to the March 29 Cheetah show.
Hour Glass was a Los Angeles based blues band featuring Duane and Gregg Allman. The Hour Glass had apparently played the venue quite regularly in its previous incarnation as The Hullabaloo (maybe in the 1:00-4:00 am slot), so they were familiar with it. Mt. Rushmore was a San Francisco band.
Van Morrison had left Them two years previous, but they were still an enjoyable live band. Incredible String Band were a unique Scottish folk duo on their first American tour. The Sons of Champlin, a San Francisco band who had not yet released their first album, were on their first trip to Southern California.
May 31-June 1, 1968 Iron Butterfly/Life/Things To Come
June 7-8, 1968 Kaleidoscope/Don Ellis Band/H.P. Lovecraft
H.P. Lovecraft were a Chicago band who would ultimately move to San Francisco.
June 14-15, 1968 Love/Rhinoceros/Taj Mahal
The show was reviewed by Pete Johnson of the Los Angeles Times. He describes a line around the block for Love. He says the band played well on simpler songs but had trouble with more complex material. Love rarely played live, and almost never outside of California, because Arthur Lee didn't like to fly, so its not surprising they were sloppy. Johnson also spoke well of Rhinoceros and Taj Mahal's performances.
Billboard (May 25, 1968) has Oakland's Loading Zone this weekend. However, our latest (as yet unposted) research shows that the Zone was on a National tour and played La Cave in Cleveland that weekend. Thus I am uncertain who actually played this weekend.
- Tuesdays: Rhinoceros
- Wednesdays: Don Ellis Orchestra
- Thursdays: Illinois Speed Press
- Fridays and Saturdays: Dance Concerts
- Sundays: Kaleidoflics
Rhinoceros was a "supergroup" put together by Elektra, with sports-team like auditions. They were actually a pretty good band, although they had difficulty overcoming the hype.
The Illinois Speed Press were an excellent band from Chicago featuring guitarists Paul Cotton and Kal David, recently signed by Columbia and relocated to Los Angeles (just as were their pals, the Chicago Transit Authority). As a newly arrived band, it would make sense that a Thursday night residency would get them known around town. I don't know how many Thursday nights they actually played. The excellent ISP performance list shows some conflicts.
June 21-22, 1968 The Byrds/Crazy World Of Arthur Brown/Frumious Bandersnatch
The Byrds at this time featured their Sweetheart Of The Rodeo lineup. The album had been recorded but not yet released. The Byrds consisted of Roger McGuinn, Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, Kevin Kelley and non-member Doug Dillard (on banjo).
Frumious Bandersnatch were from San Francisco.
June 25, 1968 Rhinoceros
June 28-29, 1968 Muddy Waters/Sons of Champlin or
June 28-29, 1968 Electric Flag/Smokestack Lightning/Illinois Speed Press
Sons road manager Charlie Kelly clearly recalls his first road trip, which was bracketed by two weekends at the Kaleidoscope. He recalls opening for Muddy Waters, then going to play a few shows in San Diego (at the Hippodrome), then returning for a long weekend with Canned Heat. The weekend of June 28-29 is only a guess. The poster (above) advertises something quite different (Electric Flag etc).
There are a couple of ways to resolve these scenarios. One is simply that the Kaleidoscope was open several nights a week anyway, and while Muddy Waters and the Sons didn't play June 28-29, but they did play around that time, such as July 2-3. This causes some problems with the Sons touring schedule, but I won't go into that here. A more likely scenario to me was that Electric Flag canceled. Mike Blomfield's last performance with the band was June 7, and though he was replaced by Hoshal Wright, the appeal of the Flag was dimmed without Bloomfield, and that lineup played few shows. I think Muddy Waters replaced Electric Flag, and the Sons were added to the booking (this wouldn't rule out either Smokestack Lightning or ISP or both playing as well).
July 2-3, 1968 Peanut Butter Conspiracy
This was a Tuesday and Wednesday. Peanut Butter Conspiracy's presence does not exclude the possibility of Kaleidoscope and/or Don Ellis playing on their respective nights, but it does suggest that the LA Free Press ad may have been more aspirational than accurate. It does indicate that for the Summer, at least, the Kaleidoscope was probably open six nights a week.
July 4-5, 1968 Canned Heat/Sly and The Family Stone
San Francisco's Sly And The Family Stone had been together for about 18 months. After playing many club shows and releasing a mostly ignored first album, their January 1968 single "Dance To The Music" let the world know that psychedelic soul was on the march. Everyone who saw Sly And The Family Stone during this period was absolutely knocked out by them.
July 6, 1968 The Doors/Spirit
Spirit, then a rising underground band in Los Angeles, were listed on the poster along with a variety of other (possibly whimsical) entertainments. The Doors headlined the Saturday night show. They had headlined the huge Hollywood Bowl the night before, so their presence at the relatively small Kaleidoscope could not have been advertised.
Marc reports that Chad Stuart (of Chad & Jeremy) played as well, as the contract was for sale on eBay.
July 9-11, 1968 Canned Heat/Sly and The Family Stone/Sons of Champlin
According to Sons road manager Charlie Kelly, Canned Heat played only one song (“Refried Boogie”) for all six sets throughout the entire second weekend. They were recording a live album (ultimately released as Living The Blues).
July 12-13, 1968 Big Brother and The Holding Company/Rhinoceros
A photo exists of The Kaleidoscope, and this bill is visible on the marquee. It is the only photo I know of the Kaleidoscope incarnation of the building.
July 17, 1968 Don Ellis Orchestra
Billboard (July 13, 1968) says that Don Ellis will play Wednesdays at the Kaleidoscope for an “indefinite” engagement. This seems to confirm the LA Free Press ad. Of course, the peculiar nature of the Don Ellis Orchestra favored set residencies in Hollywood, unlike an ambitious band such as the Illinois Speed Press.
This was probably the last performance by the original configuration of Love.
July 26-27, 1968 The Hook/Sweetwater/Fraternity Of Man
All three of these groups were local bands. I am missing performers for most of the next several weekends. The presence of these three good but not famous bands suggests that The Kaleidoscope was having trouble competing financially for headliners.
August 8, 1968 Canned Heat
Canned Heat kicked off a four-day around the clock film weekend festival, advertised in the Free Press. August 8 was a Thursday, so this seems to be another sign that the Kaleidoscope was having trouble booking headline acts.
August 16-17, 1968 Muddy Waters/Sons of Champlin/Genesis
The Sons of Champlin did not play this show. I do not know if this was because the Sons plans changed, or the show was canceled outright.
Around this time, according to the biography of Canned Heat drummer Fito de la Parra (Living The Blues, published 2000), the band showed up for a gig at The Kaleidoscope to find the theater taken over by well-dressed gentlemen who appeared to be members of the organized crime community, and different entertainment was being provided. It seems that managers Taylor and Hartmann had borrowed money to start the Kaleidoscope from these characters, and their failure to make payments lead them to take over the theater. Skip Taylor apparently told Parra "Don't ask; it's better for you if you don't know" (p.100). Parra ads "that was the end of the dream of duplicating Bill Graham's success with The Fillmore."
August 23-25, 1968 Moby Grape/Group Therapy/Genesis/McCoys
I have yet to confirm whether Moby Grape played these shows, but Marc Skobac confirmed that they were advertised in the LA Free Press, so I think they happened.The McCoys were from Indiana, and trying to live down their pop hit "Hang On Sloopy." They made a try at being a psychedelic blues band. Apparently they were pretty good live, but it was hard to live down their past history. The McCoys ended up becoming the "And" in Johnny Winter And.
August 30-31, 1968 Staple Singers/Genesis
Marc Skobac confirmed that this was the last Kaleidoscope show to be advertised in the Free Press, followed by a Sunday, September 1 showing of the movie Manchurian Candidate. The musical Hair started sometime in September. Its my belief that the creditors of the Kaleidoscope (whatever their affiliations) found a better paying tenant and called their note.
The former Kaleidoscope was re-invented yet again, this time as The Aquarius Theater. A touring production of Hair, the first rock musical, ran for several nights a week for an extended period, starting sometime in September of 1968. Sometime in late 1969 or 1970, a stage version of The Who's Tommy also ran for extended periods. The Aquarius was still used for occasional rock shows, when Hair wasn't playing, or between musicals.
Appendix: Final Notes
Canned Heat Live At The Kaleidoscope 1969
For a variety of reasons, manager Skip Taylor sold a live tape of Canned Heat at the Kaleidoscope, probably recorded in July 1968, to a record company in 1969 and claimed that it was recorded at The Topanga Corral in 1966. The subterfuge about the date was required because in 1966 Canned Heat was not under contract. Since the tape featured Canned Heat's unique take on blues covers, the premise was at least plausible. Subsequent reissues recognized that the album was recorded at the Kaleidoscope, but the date is often listed confusingly and mistakenly as 1969.
The Kaleidoscope, Main Street, Manayunk, PA
Just as their was a band and a venue called Kaleidoscope in Los Angeles that were created without reference to each other, there were at least two other psychedelic venues called The Kaleidoscope.The first psychedelic venue in Philadelphia was a converted movie theater in suburban Manayunk, and it was dubbed The Kaleidoscope. I don't know much about it. The venue opened in early 1967, or perhaps late 1966 (which puts it in the same time frame as a Philadelphia venue called The Trauma, but that's another subject entirely)with day-glo painted walls and black lights. The promoter was one David Carroll, and the venue apparently opened with Philadelphia's own underground stars, The Mandrake Memorial, supported by the Ultimate Spinach, from Massachusetts. I do not believe this Kaleidoscope was open for long.
The Kaleidoscope, 519 W. Zane Street, Louisville, KY
Louisville, Kentucky was pretty far outside of the rock and roll touring mainstream in the 1960s, but there does appear to have been a psychedelic venue called The Kaleidoscope in Louisville. Based on some obscure but interesting posters, the venue at 519 W. Zane Street was at least open in the Summer of 1968, and Blue Cheer (June 13) and Iron Butterfly (July 30) played there. I know nothing else about the venue or the promoters.
Aquarius Theater Rock Performances 1969
March 28-29, 1969 Jethro Tull/Zephyr/Goose Creek Symphony
March 31, 1969 LA Free Clinic Benefit
Mothers of Invention/Chicago Transit Authority/Illinois Speed Press/Red Beans & Rice/Captain Beefheart/Linda Ronstadt/Jethro Tull/Buddy Miles Express/Southwind/Dillard & Clark
May 26, 1969 Incredible String Band
July 7, 1969 Love/Lonnie Mack
Marc discovered a July, 1969 Billboard article promoting a series of Monday night Showcase concerts sponsored by Elektra Records. Hair was still running, but the theater could be rented on Monday nights. While the theater was too small to turn a profit, by the same token its smaller size and Hollywood location made it a good venue for a high profile record company event. Probably a lot of the people attending these shows were guests of Elektra Records.
This night featured a new lineup of Love, who still had a solid Southern California fan base. Lonnie Mack, although newly signed to Elektra, also had a well deserved reputation as a guitarist.
July 14, 1969 Dillard & Clark/Flying Burrito Brothers/Bread
The Flying Burrito Brothers were actually on A&M, while Dillard & Clark and the newly-formed Bread were on Elektra.
July 21-22, 1969 The Doors
The Doors were the biggest group on Elektra, and one of the biggest bands in the country. They had just resurfaced after Jim Morrison's "indecency" bust in Miami, and their album Soft Parade had just been released four days earlier. The Doors played two shows at the Aquarius on Monday, July 21. They also performed without an audience on Tuesday, July 22, in a kind of "rehearsal" show. Some of the performances from both nights were issued on various live releases, and both Monday shows plus the rehearsal were ultimately issued in 2001.
I assume most, if not all, of the tickets for July 21 were distributed by Elektra to important people in the industry or friends of the band. The Doors had made their mark at the Whisky A Go Go, just down the road, so a return to Hollywood would have been a big deal indeed. The Doors immediately set out on a tour of major concerts, including the Cow Palace and two major Rock Festivals (Eugene and Seattle).
September 8, 1969 Incredible String Band