Sunday, April 25, 2010

6230 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, CA The Kaleidoscope 1968 Performance List

(The poster for the April 8-11 shows at the Kaleidoscope in Hollywood. h/t Ross for the scans)

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 Venue
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
April 14-16, 1967 The Kaleidoscope, Los Angeles  Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Canned Heat
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.


March 22-23, 1968  Jefferson Airplane/Canned Heat/Fever Tree
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
Evening show

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.

May 17-18, 1968 Moby Grape/Hour Glass/Mt. Rushmore
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.

May 24-25, 1968 Them/Incredible String Band/Sons of Champlin
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.

A contemporary ad in the LA Free Press (above--h/t Marc), probably from about June 18, lists the summer schedule for The Kaleidoscope:
  • Tuesdays: Rhinoceros
  • Wednesdays: Don Ellis Orchestra
  • Thursdays: Illinois Speed Press
  • Fridays and Saturdays: Dance Concerts
  • Sundays: Kaleidoflics
I'm not certain how closely this was adhered to. “Kaleidoflics” was essentially a 24-hour film festival of classic movies. I suspect that the plan was for the Kaleidoscope to be open six nights a week while school was out, essentially from mid-June until Labor Day.

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.


July 19-20, 1968 Love/Rhinoceros
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

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Oregon Rock Concerts 1968 (Oregon VI)

(a poster for the Charlatans at the Crystal Ballroom on March 8-9, 1968, a Family Dog production. h/t Ross for the scan)

Previous posts on the late 1960s in Oregon have focused narrowly on specific venues in Portland, whether high profile like the Crystal Ballroom or less well known ones. However, while Portland had a thriving local rock scene in the 1960s, the signal feature of Portland rock music was geography. Since Portland was on an Interstate Highway midway between San Francisco and Seattle, it made the city an attractive stop on many West Coast rock tours. Portland was not a large city in the 1960s, but its location meant that numerous bands played a show in Portland while heading North and South.

I should emphasize at the outset that my blogs have a very narrow focus towards Fillmore and Avalon style underground ("psychedelic") 60s rock bands. In fact, the whole Pacific Northwest had had a booming live music scene since the early 1960s, and rock bands all over Oregon played weekend shows at armories, rec halls and community centers all around the state, and continued to do so throughout the 1960s. However, my historical focus is on the sort of bands who played the Fillmore and Avalon, or at least aspired to do so.

I am attempting a list of every out-of-state touring rock band who played in Oregon in 1968 (1967 is here and 1969 will follow). I am not counting regional bands from Washington or Idaho as "out-of-state"-my focus is on bands who were on tour who played a show (or a few) in Oregon. This list is drawn from my own research and the lists of various bands' rock concert history. Within the confines of my interests (i.e.  Fillmore bands), it is as complete as I can make it. I have included shows from my Crystal Ballroom list or other lists if they feature touring bands. Anyone with additions, corrections, insights or recovered memories (real or imagined) is encouraged to Comment or email me.

1968 Portland Rock Concerts

January 20, 1968 Eureka Municipal Auditorium, Eureka, CA Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service
It may seem strange to start a history of concerts in Oregon with a show in California, but Eureka has a peculiar relationship to both California and Oregon. The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service had planned a joint tour of the Pacific Northwest, and following the "pay-as-you-go" nature of 60s rock tours, they booked a show in the North Coast town of Eureka, CA. The Dead were on their way to Seattle (where they would play the weekend of January 26-27), but they stopped halfway for a paying gig in Eureka.

Far Northern California and Southern Oregon see themselves as a state apart from Northern California (San Francisco and the Central Valley) and Central Oregon (Portland, Eugene and Salem). The area from Ashland, OR to Eureka, CA sees itself as another entity (google "State Of Jefferson"). The Grateful Dead's first foray into this area was a show at the tiny Municipal Auditorium at 1120 F Street. The Dead were in fact well received, for the most part, but they rapidly became too big to play such tiny outposts.

The Dead were taping all of the shows on this tour in order to use the material for their forthcoming album Anthem Of The Sun (released June 1968). A portion of the show has circulated amongst Dead tape collectors over the years. Two songs from the Eureka show ("Viola Lee Blues" and "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl") were released as bonus tracks on the 2009 archival Grateful Dead cd Road Trips Vol. 2 No. 2: Carousel 2/14/68. At the beginning of "Viola Lee Blues," Jerry Garcia regretfully informs the Eureka audience that "the cops say you can't dance," a sign of the tension that often ensued when the Dead broke in new territory. Pigpen then adds "Cops ain't God, man," and Phil Lesh helpfully observes "you can't dance, but that doesn't mean you can't take off your clothes and wriggle around," which helps to explain how the Dead created a lot of tension.

January 29, 1968 PMC College Center Ballroom, Portland State College, Portland, OR Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/PH Phactor Jug Band
After the weekend in Seattle, the Grateful Dead/Quicksilver tour--dubbed "The Quick and The Dead"--pulled into Oregon at Portland State College. This was a Wednesday night show at a relatively small college venue.

January 30, 1968  EMU Ballroom (U of O), Eugene, OR Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/PH Phactor Jug Band
PH Phactor Jug Band, a local Portland group, was not on the poster, but contemporary newspaper reports confirm their presence. Once again, the bands are playing on a weeknight (Thursday) at a much smaller college facility than they would ever play again.

February 2-3, 1968 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/PH Phactor Jug Band
The Crystal Ballroom played a peculiar role in Portland rock history, as it was the highest profile venue, but it was run on a shoestring basis. When the Crystal was functioning well, however, it provided some of the great memories of 60s Portland rock. When the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver tour hit the Crystal on a Friday and Saturday night, all the stars were aligned. After a few smaller shows at Portland State and U of O, hip Portland was primed for the shows at the Crystal.


According to Toody Conner, who was one of the volunteers who helped run the Crystal (per Tim Hills book), there were lines around the block, and there was so much money in gate receipts that they had to borrow an equipment case to stuff it into, which she sat on during most of the show. The Crystal had had financial struggles throughout its entire existence as a psychedelic venue, but for this weekend, with the audience ready and the Dead firing on all cylinders--not to mention the formidable Quicksilver Messenger Service--everything happened the way it was supposed to, if only for a weekend.

We know how well the Grateful Dead played, too, because they taped it. Partial tapes of Dead sets from both nights circulate —the only live tapes I know of from The Crystal—and one track was released on a Grateful Dead vault cd in 2009 (“Dark Star” from 2/2/68, as a bonus track on Road Trips Vol. 2 No. 2: Carousel 2/14/68).

February 4, 1968 Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR Beach Boys/Buffalo Springfield (afternoon)
The eternally huge Beach Boys returned to the Portland Memorial Coliseum for a Sunday afternoon show, this time supported by the Buffalo Springfield. The Springfield were a popular band on AM radio, if nowhere near the status of the Beach Boys, and their management booked them for popular shows like this one. The musicians in the band, however (at this point Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, Dewey Martin and bassist Jim Messina) saw themselves as a primarily live band who were more comfortable in a Fillmore-type environment. The frustrated Springfield broke up for good in May 1968.

February 4, 1968 Gym, South Oregon College, Ashland, OR Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service
The "Quick and The Dead" Northwest tour concluded with a Sunday night show in Ashland, OR at the Gymnasium of South Oregon College, 290 miles South of Portland. South Oregon College (today Southern Oregon University) had been founded in 1926. This was the Dead's only appearance in Southern Oregon, as their increasingly popularity in Oregon insured that they played the larger population centers around Portland the two largest State Universities for the rest of their career.

I assume the Dead and Quicksilver played McNeal Pavilion at 1250 Siskiyou Boulevard, since it was opened in 1957. The Pavilion was renovated in 1990, doubling its capacity to 1,400. Thus the Dead and Quicksilver played a tiny gym with 700 seats--and no doubt some people on the floor. Did they get to dance? No information or tape has ever surfaced about this interesting event, to my knowledge.

February 16-17, 1968 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Blue Cheer/Nazzare Blues Band
In February 1968, the Crystal Ballroom tried to make amends for its distant location from California by aligning itself with Chet Helms and the Family Dog. At this juncture, Whitey Davis had returned to California to become some sort of manager at the Avalon Ballroom, where he had worked in 1966. The Avalon had been very successful in 1967, but now it was getting squeezed by the increasing size of the rock market on one side and the Bill Graham empire on the other. Helms had the shrewd idea that if he could offer bands a series of West Coast dates, he could compete directly with Graham. This was a very sharp idea, but it was about a year too late.

According to a long circulating story, the Crystal and the Avalon were part of a Family Dog "empire" that included Vancouver and Anchorage, Alaska. While the Dog clearly had some connections in Vancouver, the Anchorage connection seems to have simply been a tall tale (and financially absurd in any case). Helms had opened a Family Dog outpost in Denver in 1967, but it was done in by constant harassment from the Denver police. If Helms had been able to link Denver, Portland and San Francisco, he might have had some clout, but after the financial draining of the Denver debacle, the undercapitalized Portland effort seems to have been a good idea executed too late.

Nonetheless, the "Crystal Dog" began with the rising San Francisco band Blue Cheer. Blue Cheer’s legendarily heavy debut album, Vincebus Eruptum, with its proto metal single ‘Summertime Blues”, had just been released. Blue Cheer was famous for touring with an enormous sound system (with a huge bank of Marshall Stax amplifiers), and was generally the loudest band around. Tim Hills, in his excellent 1997 book The Many Lives Of The Crystal Ballroom, recounts a story of the Crystal staff's brief panic when Blue Cheer did a full volume soundcheck on Friday afternoon, while normal people were still at work.

March 1-2, 1968 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Quicksilver Messenger Service/Nazzare Blues Band
This was the third Portland Family Dog show (the second featured The Weeds). Quicksilver were Family Dog regulars. Although they had not yet released their debut album,  they would have been known to locals, having just come through town with the Grateful Dead.

March 8-9, 1968 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Amazing Charlatans/Alexander’s Timeless Bluesband
This was the fourth and apparently final Portland Family Dog show (poster up top). At this point, the arrangement seemed to end, although the whole story is murky. My assumption is that the financial benefits of a partnership between Chet Helms and The Crystal were not able to be realized. Helms’s bargaining power had been greatly reduced by the Denver debacle, and he may not have had sufficient cash to make the arrangement worthwhile in Portland. Like many of Helms’s ideas, the concept was sound but the execution was spotty.

The Charlatans, of course, had played the very first Family Dog dance in San Francisco on October 16, 1965. By 1968, other groups had passed them by, but they were still an interesting band.

March 16, 1968  Cirque Club, Hillsboro, OR Family Tree/Jefferson Davis Five
The Cirque Club was just outside of Hillsboro, a suburb about 20 miles West of Portland. Directions on the surviving flyers do not give an address, but just say "1 mile East of Hillsboro on the TV [Tualatin Valley] Highway," a sign of the then-rural location. According to the excellent PNW page, it was a club for kids sixteen and over, a common sort of venue in the Northwest, and it was open for about 3 years in the late sixties. The owner was Ted Scott, a former Hollywood stuntman who had been Clark Gable's stand-in for several years, as well as helping to start the show "To Tell The Truth."

The Family Tree were advertised as a San Francisco band, not exactly true but not untrue either. The Family Tree apparently had a great live show and were very popular in Central California and Oregon. The Jefferson Davis Five were a local band.

April 13, 1968  Cirque Club, Hillsboro, OR Neighb’rhood Childr’n/Jefferson Davis V
Although the Neighb'rhood Childr'n were advertised as "Direct From Hollywood," they were actually Southern Oregon's best (and probably first) psychedelic band. Unlike all other Southern Oregon bands, they also had an album, the excellent if obscure LP Long Years In Space (released on Acta, and later released on cd by Sundazed).

I do not know much else about the Cirque Club, not even whether it was rare or common to have out-of-town bands as headliners. Owner Ted Scott went on to produce other shows, including apparently the Jimi Hendrix show at Portland Coliseum (see below).

May 3, 1968 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR The Fugs/Kaleidoscope
May 4, 1968 The Lemon Tree, Eugene, OR The Fugs/Kaleidoscope/Hammond Typewriter
A brief spurt of national touring acts in May and June suggests that there was still some informal cooperation between the Family Dog in San Francisco and the Crystal.

The poster for the May 4 show in Eugene advertised it as a Family Dog show, paired with the similar bill playing the at the Crystal. Neither show was part of the “official” Family Dog series (in February and March), so its unknown what the relationship was of this show (and the shows on 17-18 May) to the Crystal’s arrangement with the Family Dog. Nonetheless, Whitey Davis was probably still managing the Avalon, so its plausible that an informal arrangement was intact. It was also not unheard of for former associates of The Dog to use The Family Dog logo with at least tacit approval from Chet Helms, for reasons that remain obscure (as happened in February, 1968 in Denver).

Kaleidoscope were a legendary Southern California band who invented “world music” about 20 years before the world was ready for it. The group featured David Lindley, Chester Crill, Solomon Feldthouse and Stuart Brotman (as well as drummer Paul Lagos) on numerous exotic instruments, all played with talent and flair.

I do not know anything about The Lemon Tree in Eugene. Eugene was a college town, so it seems likely that someone would try and open some kind of psychedelic venue, but this Saturday event is the only show I know of at this place. I am not sure of the address.

May 17-18, 1968 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Kaleidoscope/Family Tree
The poster for this show also indicates that it was a Family Dog show, and equally little is known about the use of the logo and any formal connection to Chet Helms or The Dog.

The Family Tree had just released their debut album Miss Butters (on RCA), and they continued to be popular on the live circuit. However, their ambitious album failed to make a dent on the charts, and the group soon broke up. Bob Segarini then formed a group in Los Angeles called Roxy, the next step in a long and fascinating career.

May 24-25, 31, June 1, 1968 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Junior Wells Blues Band
Chicago blues bands like Junior Wells were now a regular part of the psychedelic ballroom scene. So many local and national bands covered blues songs that a lot of standard Chicago material was quite well known around the country, even to kids who had never heard the original. Wells very well may have played the Crystal in the early 60s, when it featured blues and soul acts.

June 14-15, 1968 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Youngbloods/Kaleidoscope
The Youngbloods, originally from New York City and Cambridge, MA, had moved to Marin County in September, 1967. The quartet (singer/bassist Jesse Colin Young, lead guitarist/singer Jerry Corbitt, multi-instrumentalist Lowell “Banana” Levinger and drummer Joe Bauer) had played regularly throughout the Pacific Northwest as well as the rest of the country. The group’s second album (Earth Music, on RCA) had been released in November 1967.

June 21-22, 1968 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Buddy Guy
Buddy Guy was a prominent blues guitarist in Chicago, not well known except to other guitarists. He was starting to make a name for himself on the ballroom circuit.

The city of Portland closed the Crystal Ballroom on or about July of 1968. Tim Hills reprints a headline in The Oregonian (Portland's main daily newspaper) from July 12, 1968 that says "City Closes Dance Hall: Crystal Ballroom Fails Inspection." Unhappy with the congregation of hippies downtown, the city had found a slew of code violations in June, and the operators of the Crystal--whoever they were by Summer 1968 is a bit vague--were unable to respond effectively. According to Hills, a Newsweek article (from May 20, 1968) that said that San Francisco hippies were all going to Portland for the Summer did not help matters.

The exact date of the last show isn't certain, and the venue may have put on shows as late as Saturday, July 6, 1968, but I don't know who might have played. Its known (from Billboard magazine) that Iron Butterfly had to cancel a July date at the Crystal (either 12-13 or 26-27), and according to Hills Big Brother and the Holding Company had to cancel as well, but the end of the psychedelic area came quickly for the Crystal Ballroom.

June 30, 1968 MacArthur Court, U. of Oregon, Eugene, OR The Doors
The Doors were huge by this time. MacArthur Court was the University of Oregon basketball arena.

July 10, 1968 Masonic Temple, Portland, OR Kaleidoscope/Crazy World of Arthur Brown
The Masonic Temple was a smaller venue at 1119 SW Park Avenue. The biggest events held there used the 4th floor Grand Ballroom. Although it was regularly used for smaller local events, it appears that activity picked up at the Masonic Temple whenever the Crystal Ballroom was inactive. With the Crystal closed, acts who wanted to play downtown Portland ended up at the Temple. I have always assumed that the Kaleidoscope show was originally scheduled for the Crystal, although I can't be sure.

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown had a fairly wild stage show for a 60s band. They were an interesting trio, with just a singer (Brown), an organist (Vincent Crane) and a drummer (the teenage Carl Palmer). Their big hit was the immortal "Fire."

September 9, 1968 Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR Jimi Hendrix Experience/Eire Apparent/Soft Machine
Ted Scott, proprietor of the Cirque Club, helped promote the next big show at Portland Coliseum. The opening acts, Eire Apparent and Soft Machine, were both very interesting groups managed by Hendrix manager Mike Jeffereys.

September 22, 1968 Lane County Fairgounds, Veneta, OR Country Joe and The Fish/Ian Maddron/Death Sound Blues Band
This is the first major rock show I know of at the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene. The Fairgrounds are located at 796 W. 13th Avenue, in the center of Eugene. I do not know whether this was an indoor or outdoor event, as there were and are a variety of facilities at the Fairgrounds. 

October 3, 1968 Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR Donovan
It is easy to forget today that Donovan was one of the biggest performers of the late 1960s. He played the Coliseum as well, demonstrating that he was as popular as Jimi Hendrix or The Beach Boys. It is possible there was an early and late show as well. Tapes supposedly exist of this concert.

November 15, 1968 Gil Coliseum, Corvallis, OR Grateful Dead/Mint Tattoo/City Blue
Gil Coliseum was the basketball arena for Oregon State University. Corvallis was about 82 miles South of Portland, but still 200 miles North of Ashford and Medford. The Grateful Dead were on their way to Vancouver and Seattle. Elsewhere I have speculated on the possibility that since the Saturday, November 16 show was canceled, it is plausible that the Dead played an unscheduled show somewhere in Oregon or Washington that night (EMU Ballroom at U. of O is a plausible).

Mint Tattoo were a San Francisco band featuring Sacramento musicians Bruce Stephens and Burns Kellogg. They released a self-titled album on Dot, and Stephens and Kellogg ended up joining Blue Cheer. Kellogg went on to a successful career as a producer under the name Ethan James.

November ?, 1968 Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR Grass Roots/The Turtles/Deep Purple
A Commenter recalls this event, called "Survey 68." The Deep Purple site lists "Portland, OR unknown venue" for this date, so I have made the assumption that these are the same events. Deep Purple "Mk 1" (with Rod Evans and Nick Simper), who had just released their modest hit "Hush," were on their first American tour.

December 29, 1968 Civic Auditorium, Portland, OR Vanilla Fudge/Led Zeppelin
The Portland Civic Auditorium, at 222 SW Clay St, was built in 1917. It was rarely used for rock shows. At this time it had about 4,500 seats, although it has since been remodeled into a smaller venue. Vanilla Fudge was a very popular band, and they were connected to influential concert promoters (Concerts West) who probably had access to venues that smaller promoters did not. No one cares about Vanilla Fudge today, however; what matters was that opening act Led Zeppelin made their Oregon debut.

Led Zeppelin's first album would not even be released for a few more weeks, but the band made their North American debut filling in for some dates that had been booked for the Jeff Beck Group, with whom Zeppelin shared management, opening for Vanilla Fudge. Zeppelin had made their North American debut in Denver on December 26, followed by dates in Seattle (27) and Vancouver (28). Portland Civic Auditorium was Led Zeppelin's fourth North American date. It was also the first where there was any kind of notice at all, as they had been added to the previous shows too late to change the advertising. A Portland newspaper ad promotes "Vanilla Fudge plus special guests Led Zeppilen featuring Jimmy Page." At this time, with no album and no airplay, Zep would have been completely unknown, but Jimmy Page had a certain amount of name recognition based on his career in the Yardbirds.

Vanilla Fudge and Led Zeppelin went on to perform the next night at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA (where Zep were billed as "Len Zifflin"). The band then had a scary ride through a Northwestern blizzard to the Seattle airport. Once Led Zeppelin landed in sunny Los Angeles to play the Whisky Au Go Go in West Hollywood, they were unknown no more.

Next: Oregon rock concerts, 1969

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Oregon Rock Concerts 1967 (Oregon V)

(A poster of the Jefferson Airplane/Byrds show at Portland Memorial Coliseum from May 28, 1967. h/t Ross for the scan)

Previous posts on the late 1960s in Oregon have focused narrowly on specific venues in Portland, whether high profile like the Crystal Ballroom or less well known ones. However, while Portland had a thriving local rock scene in the 1960s, the signal feature of Portland rock music was geography. Since Portland was on an Interstate Highway midway between San Francisco and Seattle, it made the city an attractive stop on many West Coast rock tours. Portland was not a large city in the 1960s, but its location meant that numerous bands played a show in Portland while heading North and South.

I should emphasize at the outset that my blogs have a very narrow focus towards Fillmore and Avalon style underground ("psychedelic") 60s rock bands. In fact, the whole Pacific Northwest had had a booming live music scene since the early 1960s, and rock bands all over Oregon played weekend shows at armories, rec halls and community centers all around the state, and continued to do so throughout the 1960s. However, my historical focus is on the sort of bands who played the Fillmore and Avalon, or at least aspired to do so.

I am attempting a list of every out-of-state touring rock band who played in Oregon in 1967 (1968 and 1969 will follow). I am not counting regional bands from Washington or Idaho as "out-of-state"-my focus is on bands who were on tour who played a show (or a few) in Oregon. This list is drawn from my own research and the lists of various bands' rock concert history. Within the confines of my interests (i.e.  Fillmore bands), it is as complete as I can make it. I have included shows from my Crystal Ballroom or other lists if they feature touring bands. Anyone with additions, corrections, insights or recovered memories (real or imagined) is encouraged to Comment or email me.

Portland Rock Shows 1965-66: Pre-History
Although there was plenty of live rock music in Oregon prior to 1967, a few shows stand out as harbingers of things to come.

August 22, 1965 Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR  The Beatles (two shows)
The Portland Memorial Coliseum, at 300 N Winning Street, opened in 1961. It had permanent seats for 9,000, and could include up to 14,000. At the time it was opened, it was the largest multi-use facility in the Pacific Northwest. It served as the major venue in Portland for music and sports until the Rose Garden Arena was opened in 1995. The Coliseum was the original home of the NBA Portland Trailblazers. Initially, it seemed unthinkable that a pop music event could fill such a large arena, but as was often the case The Beatles pointed the way forward.

The Beatles played two shows for 20,000 screaming fans, and members of the Beach Boys (then on tour) attended the show. According to Keith Badman’s definitive tour history of The Beach Boys, Carl Wilson and Mike Love visited with the Beatles between shows.  Paul asked them “where’s Brian?” and Carl replied “Oh, he’s given up touring.  He just stays at home producing and recording our records.”  Paul replied  “That’s a good idea,” presaging the Beatles abandonment of touring a year later.

Late September or Early October, 1965 Reed College, Portland, OR 
Joe McDonald and Barry Melton
At the other end of the spectrum, this obscure event, only barely recalled by Joe McDonald, was the first “tour” by Joe and Barry, planting the seed for Country Joe and The Fish. The pair took the Greyhound Bus, and played in someone’s living room as well as at the very progressive Reed College. This informal trip was one of the first glimmerings of a West Coast underground as a network for rock performances outside of any mainstream radio or television coverage.

January ?, 1966 Beaver Hall, Portland, OR Acid Test
Psychedelia was introduced to Portland without warning, as Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters held an Acid Test at tiny Beaver Hall, at 425 NW Glisan St (at NW 5th Avenue). The Grateful Dead were in tow, and Phil Lesh (at least) recalls it, but no one is certain of the exact date. Maybe January 1, or maybe January 14, no one can recall exactly when--but Portland was officially "on the bus."

The Byrds were reputed to have played Beaver Hall in early 1966, and very well may have, but the definitive history of Byrds performances (Chris Hjort's excellent book So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star) has not yet uncovered a specific date.

March 6, 1966 McNeal Gymnasium, Southern Oregon State College, Ashland, OR Beach Boys (afternoon concert)
Southern Oregon and upper Northern California were a separate economic entity from the other two states, and in some ways a separate cultural entity as well (google "State Of Jefferson"). While the Beach Boys were hardly as cool as the Beatles or Stones, they were still hugely popular.

July 21, 1966 Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR Rolling Stones
Although everyone loved The Beatles, Oregon was more inclined to the Rolling Stones side of the British Invasion.

August 20, 1966 Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR Beach Boys
The Beach Boys were big enough to play Portland Coliseum as well.

September 3, 1966 The Armory, Salem, OR  Yardbirds
British Invasion type bands probably played Oregon all the time--I haven't been tracking them all--but the Yardbirds loom much larger than most. The Yardbirds were on a completely insane West Coast tour, so nutty that lead guitarist Jeff Beck got sick--or fed up--and had quit the tour eight days earlier. So on August 25, 1966, at San Francisco's Carousel Ballroom, bass player Jimmy Page switched to lead guitar (rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja moved over to bass). Thus Page played in his first power trio at the future site of the Fillmore West, one of the key places where Led Zeppelin would reveal themselves to the world in early 1969.

After the Carousel show, the Yardbirds had played San Leandro (26), Santa Barbara (27), San Diego (28), San Jose (30), Pismo Beach (31) and Stockton (Sep 1). After a day's rest, they played the Armory in Salem on September 3, and then went on to Hawaii (!) for the next night's show (Sep 4).

Salem was the state capital. I believe the National Guard Armory was a common site for teen dances. There likely would have been numerous other support acts on the bill.

1967 Portland Rock Concerts
January 20, 1967 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Weeds/Tweedy Bros/Family Tree
The Crystal Ballroom, built in 1914 at 1332 W. Burnside Street, (at SW 14th Ave) had been Portland's premier venue for soul and R&B in the early 1960s. However, promoter Charles Sullivan, who also held the lease at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium, retired at the end of 1965. While Bill Graham picked up his lease in San Francisco, the Crystal remained dark until it was taken over in January 1967 by Caffe Espresso booker Coleman "Whitey" Davis and his partner Mike Magaurn. The Crystal immediately became Portland's coolest concert venue again.

The Family Tree were from the Stockton, CA area, and featured lead singer Bob Segarini. They were popular up and down the West Coast, particularly in the Central Valley.

February 3-5, 1967 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Sopwith Camel/Tweedy Bros/Gozero and The Psychedelics (3-4)/Weeds (5)
The Sopwith Camel, an original San Francisco underground band, had also been one of the first to be signed by a record company. Their song "Hello Hello" was a modest hit single, although apparently they were a different sounding band in concert. The Crystal promoters invited them up from San Francisco for a weekend.

February 10-12, 1967 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Family Tree/Gazebo/Warlocks
The Family Tree returned to headline another weekend. I believe the other two groups were from Seattle.

February 19, 1967 Caffe Espresso, Portland, OR  Them Again/Earl Benson
The Caffe Espresso (at 409 SW 13th Ave at W. Burnside St) was right around the corner from the Crystal Ballroom. It had been one of the first venues to regularly book psychedelic rock bands every weekend, but its tiny size mostly confined it to local groups. For some reason or another, however, Them Again played there on Sunday, February 19.

Them Again was almost certainly the Irish group Them with a new lead singer.  Kenny McDowell had replaced Them founder Van Morrison.  There is a story of Them Again playing the Crystal Ballroom, leaving the crowd with the impression they had seen Van Morrison, so perhaps they played the Crystal around this time (although it seems odd that they would also play a coffee shop around the corner as well—see The Crystal Ballroom October 17, 1967). 

March 18-26, 1967 
Buffalo Springfield played several dates in the Pacific Northwes, including some in Oregon.

March 22, 1967 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Buffalo Springfield/Mr. Lucky and The Gamblers/Warlocks/Weeds
This was a Wednesday night show, a rarity for the Crystal.

March 23, 1967 Second City, Corvallis, OR Buffalo Springfield/The Seeds/Paul Revere and The Raiders
Corvallis was the home of Oregon State University, the second largest University in the State (U. of Oregon, in Eugene, was the largest). I don' t know anything about the venue. Paul Revere and The Raiders were huge in Oregon (as in the rest of the country), and The Seeds were popular too, so this must have been a substantial place.

March 30, 1967  [venue], Portland, OR Butterfield Blues Band/Country Joe and The Fish/The Youngbloods
I assume that this show was at one of the standard Portland venues (Crystal, Masonic Temple, etc), but I don't know which one. Mike Bloomfield would have just left the Butterfield band, leaving the guitar chair in the capable hands of Elvin Bishop.

April 14-15, 1967 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Family Tree/Warloks (14)/Redcoats (15)
The Warloks (with a K) were from Tigard, OR, a suburb West of Portland. The Warlocks were a Seattle band, to my knowledge (unless the spellings on previous posters were just wrong).

April 22, 1967  PSC Ballroom, Portland, OR The Heirs/Blue Cheer
This was at Portland State College. The handbill says ‘Blue Cheer—from the Fillmore in San Francisco.’ Blue Cheer were a fairly unknown band at this point, and had only started to play around San Francisco relatively recently.

April 23, 1967 Caffe Espresso, Portland, OR  Blue Cheer
Since Blue Cheer had come up from San Francisco, they played a Sunday night show at Caffe Espresso to go along with their Saturday event. Its likely they were expecting to play shows through the weekend of April 30 (see May 14 below).

April 29, 1967 Ballroom, Portland State College, Portland, OR Sopwith Camel/Redcoat/Warlocks/Epix/US Cadenza

May 14, 1967 Portland Spring Trips Festival Portland Armory, Portland, OR
The Wailers/Blue Cheer/P.H.Phactor Jug Band/Weeds/Red Coats/Courtmen/Tweedy Bros/Impacts/U.S. Cadenza/7th Resemblance/Russo and Brentano/Poverty Five/The Gazebo/The Seventh
This show was  rescheduled from April 30. Based on the billing, it looks like a hitherto typical Northwest "Teen" dance reconfigured under the guise of a "Trips Festival." The Wailers were already legendary in Seattle, but had reconstituted themselves somewhat as a Folk-Rock band, and they were joined by Blue Cheer (if in fact Blue Cheer made the show). The rest of the acts seem to be a mixture of budding folk-rockers and more dance oriented bands, as near as I can tell.

May 28, 1967 Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR Jefferson Airplane/The Byrds/PH Phactor Jug Band/Magic Fern
The Jefferson Airplane were big stars by this time, and The Byrds had already become big stars, so this was a very high profile event (see the poster up top). The Magic Fern were from Seattle.

May 31, 1967 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Fugs/Family Tree

July 14, 1967 Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR Herman’s Hermits/The Who/Blues Magoos
The Who started their first American tour by headlining at the Fillmore (June 16-17) and playing the Monterey Pop Festival with Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead (June 18). They spent the rest of the Summer on a mundane British Invasion tour with the poppy Herman's Hermits and New York's Blues Magoos.

July 18, 1967 Masonic Temple, Portland, OR Grateful Dead/Poverty’s People/U.S. Cadenza/Nigells
The Masonic Temple, at 1119 SW Park was a smaller alternative venue to the Crystal Ballroom. The Crystal had a quiet Summer, for a variety of murky reasons, and it appears that the Masonic got some interesting bookings as a result. The Dead were on their way back from a weekend in Seattle and Vancouver, and as a result played a Tuesday night in Portland.

July 26, 1967 Masonic Temple, Portland, OR The Doors
The Doors played a Wednesday night show at The Masonic. Although still an "underground" band, even at this early date The Doors were very popular. Anyone who saw this show was quite lucky, as The Doors would not play any venue in Portland this small ever again.

August 4-5, 1967 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Steve Miller Blues Band
For the murky history of who may or may not have played The Crystal Ballroom in the Summer of 1967, see my post here. I'm fairly certain that the Steve Miller Blues Band actually played, but exactly which weekend in August is currently murky.

August 11, 1967 Masonic Temple, Portland, OR  Moby Grape/Peanut Butter Conspiracy
This date comes from The Peanut Butter Conspiracy list of shows, which refers to a double bill with Moby Grape. The Moby Grape list does not confirm this booking. However, while Moby Grape was billed at The Avalon (August 10 thru 13), on at least one or all of those shows they did not play. Supposedly it was because Skip Spence was unavailable, but perhaps it was because they had a gig in Portland.

October 6, 1967 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Charles Lloyd/Family Tree/Weeds
The Crystal Ballroom came back to life in the Fall of 1967, and a few more shows are known. Charles Lloyd, an established modern jazz player, had found a new audience by regularly playing the psychedelic ballrooms.

October 13-14, 1967 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Country Joe McDonald
Originally the Electric Flag was supposed to play this weekend, but some band members got busted in Los Angeles, and they were replaced by Country Joe and The Fish. But Joe and the rest of the band were squabbling, so Joe ended up headlining the shows as a solo act.

October 17, 1967 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Van Morrison/Daily Flash
Van Morrison was on his first national tour, possible because "Brown Eyed Girl" was a hit in many markets. This was a Tuesday night show. There has been a long history of confusion about Them and Van Morrison appearing in Portland, which I have discussed in detail elsewhere.

October 20-21, 1967 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR The Incredible Fish
After Country Joe had played the Crystal--the "Fishless Joe"--the rest of the band played the next weekend--the "Joeless Fish"--as The Incredible Fish (Barry Melton, David Cohen, Bruce Barthol and Chicken Hirsh).

October 28, 1967 Crystal Ballroom, Portland,  OR Electric Prunes

November 11, 1967 Coliseum, Oregon State U., Corvallis, OR The Doors
The Doors were huge, so they played two dates in Oregon, at the basketball arenas of the two biggest Universities in Oregon.

According to Doors drummer John Densmore’s autobiography (Riders On The Storm), former Daily Flash drummer Jon Keliohor substituted for his Laurel Canyon neighbor Densmore at the Eugene and Corvallis shows. Fortunately for Densmore, although Keliohor was a fine drummer, the band didn't like playing with a substitute.

November 12, 1967 MacArthur Court, U. of Oregon, Eugene, OR  The Doors

November 18, 1967 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR The Incredible Fish
The Fish appear to have returned for another Saturday night at the Crystal, although I am not yet 100% convinced about this.

December 2, 1967 Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR The Doors
Just a month after playing two shows at Oregon's biggest Universities, The Doors return to play Oregon's biggest venue (this time with drummer John Densmore). There could be no clearer sign of how huge they were at this time.

December 3, 1967 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR BB King
BB King had probably played the Crystal Ballroom a number of times in the early 1960s, when the venue was run by Charles Sullivan. In late 1967, just as had happened at the Fillmore (also run by Sullivan until 1965), BB King played for a mostly white audience and blew them away, building a whole new fan base in the process.

December 29, 1967 Masonic Temple, Portland, OR Family Tree/Gentlemen Wild/Poverty’s People/Sound Vendor/Echoes/Epix  “Grand Opening”
The poster says “Grand Opening”, but its not clear what that means. Perhaps new promoters had taken over. The ubiquitous Family Tree headlined over mostly regional bands.

Next: Oregon rock concerts, 1968.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Caffe Espresso, Portland, OR Rock Performance List 1966-1967 (Oregon IV)

(A poster for The Thundering Heard at the Caffe Espresso in Portland, OR on January 27-28, 1967. h/t Ross for the scan)

This post is a summary of known rock performances at the Caffe Espresso in Portland, Oregon from late 1966 until mid-1967. The Caffe Espresso was located at 409 SW 13th Avenue (at West Burnside Street), and played a critical role in the development of psychedelic rock in Portland, and thus indirectly on the West Coast as well. It also makes an excellent case study of the mid-60s cultural and musical migration from Folk music to Rock, an event that is paralleled by many similar venues at the same time, such as Berkeley's Jabberwock.

This is part of a series of posts on the Portland rock scene in the late 1960s. For more, see threads here and here.

Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon is located on the Willamette River, shortly before it merges with the mighty Columbia River. Although Portland is over 100 miles from the Pacific Ocean, seagoing ships were able to sail upriver to Portland, and in the 19th century Portland was the point of embarkation for timber, agricultural and mining products from the Pacific Northwest. While Portland remained an important commercial city throughout the 20th century, it continued to function in the shadow of larger cities along the West Coast.

In the 1960s, Portland may not have been as liberal or freewheeling as San Francisco, but like most port cities it was comfortable with a wide variety of people and a broader view of the world than other places, so the arts received a friendly welcome. Portland’s location between Seattle and San Francisco made it a regular stop on National tours of all types, and Portland had always been a prominent stop on the folk music circuit. When the Beatles hit, and as music migrated from folk to rock in the middle 1960s, various beatnik and folk music oriented coffee shops in Portland started staging rock shows, usually on weekends. 

The definitive work on the Portland coffee-house music scene in the 1960s is Valerie Brown’s exceptional article in The Oregon Historical Quarterly, “Music On The Cusp: Folk To Acid Rock in Portland Coffeehouses 1967-70”  [Brown, Valerie, Music on the Cusp: From Folk to Acid Rock in Portland Coffeehouses, 1967-1970. Oregon Historical Quarterly 108.2 (2007): 63 pars. 10 May 2009]. Brown’s detailed research and numerous interviews make for an exceptional portrait of how a town reacted to the musical and cultural changes of the 1960s.

Caffe Espresso, Portland, OR 409 SW13th Ave at W. Burnside St
In late 1966, The Caffe Espresso, at  SW 13th and West Burnside (around the corner from the Crystal Ballroom), started promoting rock bands on weekends, complete with light shows and colorful posters.During The Caffe Espresso’s brief foray into rock promotion, they booked mostly regional acts (the definitive resource for almost every rock band in the Pacific Northwest is the great Pacific Northwest Bands site on the Sonics website).

Thanks to Valerie’s Brown exceptional research, the confusing timeline of Portland coffee house music venues can be clarified. There had been an earlier Portland coffee shop named Caffé Espresso, at SW 6th and Harrison, and it was a famous Portland beatnik hangout, but it closed in 1965, when its owner bought out of his lease for an urban renewal. Meanwhile, a popular folk music club called The Folksinger had moved from its original site on SW 10th (across from the Country Library) to 409 SW 13th at W. Burnside. The Folksinger had a capacity of about 100, and in 1966 manager Whitey Davis began to experiment with blues, jazz and rock bookings as well as folk. Davis had worked with Chet Helms and The Family Dog in San Francisco, so he was connected to the underground music scene. At some point in late 1966, the Folksinger changed its name to Caffé Espresso (in part probably to avoid the now somewhat stale “folk” association).

By early 1967, Davis was promoting rock bands, complete with light shows, on weekends at the Caffé Espresso. Weekdays still featured local folk performers, in a variety of styles. A unique factor of the Portland live music market at the time was that clubs that served alcohol were effectively barred from hiring bands (until 1973), so coffee houses did not face competition from conventional rock clubs. The small capacity of Caffé Espresso was frustrating, however, and in January 1967, Whitey Davis found a partner and started to book shows around the corner at the larger Crystal Ballroom. The booking for the Caffe Espresso was taken over by Larry Howard, but given the close proximity to the Crystal, it is likely that there were at least social connections to Whitey Davis.

The Café Espresso booked mostly regional bands throughout the first half of 1967. However, the changing economics of the rock business made it hard to compete with larger venues, and other more hippie-oriented coffee shops like The Charix took away patrons as well. The Café Espresso stopped booking rock shows in mid-1967, although it may have stayed open until 1968.



Caffe Espresso Rock Performance List
Late 1966
While the venue was still called The Folksinger, manager Coleman “Whitey” Davis started booking local bands like The New Tweedy Brothers and The Great Pumpkin, as well as acts like Lightning Hopkins. In one particularly famous incident, a band from Las Vegas called The Weeds, on their way from San Francisco to Vancouver, ran out of gas in Portland during the last week of October. Lead singer Fred Cole fell in love with a girl named Toody Conner, who worked at The Folksinger, and The Weeds stayed in Portland. This allows us to date the name change as no earlier than November 1966 , and more likely December (Fred and Toody are still married, by the way).

After the venue changes its name to Caffé Espresso, some undated posters (see above)—possibly from 1966--exist with bands like The Echoes, Blues Union, Overland Caterpillar and The PH Phactor Jug Band. Whitey Davis took over the lease on the Crystal Ballroom on January 1, 1967 and his first show at the Crystal was January 20. In January, Larry Howard took over the booking at Caffe Espresso, although given that they were only a block from each other, its likely that Whitey Davis still had an informal role in booking acts.

December 13-15, 1966 PH Phactor/Great Pumpkin
December 16, 1966 Laura and The Vipers
December 17, 1966 US Cadenza
December 18,1966 Melodious Funk
Valerie Brown included a very early Cafe Espresso flyer as one of many amazing artifacts.

1967
January 27-28, 1967  The Thundering Heard
The first dated poster that I am aware of (top) is for Friday and Saturday, January 27 and 28, 1967. It appears that folk acts played weeknights, but rock acts started to be featured on weekends.

February 3-4, 1967 U.S. Cadenza
Consider the economics of a club like Caffe Espresso. The cover charge is 75 cents, and the capacity was apparently about 100. Granted, the club assumes a certain amount of turnover throughout the night, and expects to sell some coffee and food throughout the night. Given that the club could not sell beer, wine or liquor however--per Portland law, saloons could not have live bands--the take for refreshments would have to be limited. It seems reasonable that a busy Friday night might have 150 patrons, and assuming a few coffees and the like for each person, the take might be $200 or $300. Just making some broad assumptions about expenses and overhead, assume that the performers got half of that. Now, $100 is a great night for a solo artist with a guitar, at least in 1967. Its very different for a four or five piece band with a van, amplifiers and electronic equipment. On a less successful night, even $25 might be worth it for a solo folk musician, but $25 would hardly be worth it for a band. Although there was clearly a lot of interest in rock music from Portland College and High School students, the economic parameters at a venue like Caffe Espresso were not ultimately in favor of booking rock acts.

February 17, 1967  The Rubber Band
February 18, 1967  U.S. Cadenza
February 19, 1967  Them Again
The Rubber Band were from Boise, ID.

Them Again was almost certainly the Irish group Them with a new lead singer.  Kenny McDowell had replaced Them founder Van Morrison.  There is a story of Them Again playing the Crystal Ballroom, leaving the crowd with the impression they had seen Van Morrison, so perhaps they played the Crystal around this time (although it seems odd that they would also play a coffee shop around the corner as well).  Van Morrison played the Crystal later in 1967 (on October 17), so perhaps some stories about Them and Van Morrison have gotten somewhat conflated.

February 24, 1967   P.H. Phactor Rock Band
February 25, 1967  U.S. Cadenza
February 26, 1967   Melodious Funk
The handbill clearly says “Rock Band” instead of “Jug Band.” Whether PH Phactor was playing as a rock band, with drums, or whether it was just to accommodate the flyer, Café Espresso clearly needed to establish that they were not a folk club on weekends.

Note the solo (and apparently folk) acts advertised throughout the week
March 10-12, 1967  U.S. Cadenza/Rubber Band

March 24, 1967  Thundering Heard
March 25, 1967   U.S. Cadenza

April 21, 1967 Poverty’s People
April 22, 1967 U.S. Cadenza
April 23, 1967 Blue Cheer
The poster says "Blue Cheer-from San Francisco." Blue Cheer turns out to have been the most famous band known to have played Caffe Espresso, although at the time they were an obscure, unrecorded band very low on the San Francisco underground circuit. Blue Cheer was playing Saturday night (April 22) at Portland State College, so an additional night at Caffe Espresso would help to make the 680 mile drive worth the group's time.
May 26, 1967   US Cadenza
May 27, 1967   Poverty’s People
The handbill for the May 26-27 weekend says “Hear the incredible rock sounds of the U.S. Cadenza with their new sound, “ and "Hear the new tunes in Folk-Rock from Seattle’s Poverty’s People, the stars of the Trips Festival.” Poverty’s People, a band from Centralia, WA, had played Portland’s Trips Festival two weeks earlier (May 14, 1967) as The Poverty Five

June 6-8, 1967  Great Pumpkin/P.H. Phactor
A rare weekday rock billing for the Caffe Espresso.

June 9-10, 1967 Poverty’s People

June 11, 1967  Melodious Funk
This is the latest handbill for a Caffe Espresso rock show that I have seen. The Caffe Espresso may have remained open as late as early 1968, and there may even have been rock shows, but at this point the trail grows cold. The Portland hippies had shifted to The Charix, the new shop in town, and the Crystal Ballroom, Portland's leading venue, was just around the corner, so the Espresso was squeezed on all sides.

The Caffe Espresso played a critical role in the founding of the psychedelic rock scene in Portland. Although various promoters used local ballrooms for events, the Caffe Espresso seems to have been the first establishment to book shows every week. Yet the very economics that made coffee houses viable folk venues worked against it as a rock venue, a fate shared by contemporary venues around the country (such as Berkeley's Jabberwock and New York's Cafe Au Go Go, to name a few). As the rock market exploded nationwide, smaller venues like Caffe Espresso fell by the wayside.

update: it was pointed out to me (h/t Doug) that in the same building as the Caffe Espresso, but at 411 West Burnside, was the Northwestern Inc. recording studio. In this modest studio on April6 , 1963, engineer/proprietor Bob Lindhal recorded The Kingsmen's seminal hit "Louie Louie." The Kingsmen's version was not initially as succesful as the one recorded by Paul Revere and The Raiders, but remarkably enough the Raiders version was recorded at Northwestern just a week later, on April 13, 1963. While the early 1960s is a bit outside of my timeline, the World Historical import of "Louie Louie" overrides that concern. I do not know if the studio was still active in 1966-68 when rock bands played at the Caffe Espresso or around the corner at the Crystal Ballroom.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W. Burnside, Portland, OR Performance List January-June 1968 (Oregon III)

(The poster from the February 2-3, 1968 performance by The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service at Portland's Crystal Ballroom)

This post is the third and last part of a series listing the rock performances at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon in 1967 and 1968. Also see
Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon was a regular stop on the touring circuit for all kinds of entertainment, but in the late 1960s it was not a major or important market. As a result of Portland’s then modest status and a tolerant attitude befitting its status as port city on the West Coast, it became a sort of satellite of the San Francisco scene. 

The Crystal Ballroom, 1332 West Burnside at N.W. 14th Avenue, Portland, OR, 97209
The Crystal Ballroom at 1332 West Burnside (at NW 14th) was built in 1914 as the Cotillion Dancehall.  It was constructed with a mechanical “Floating Dance Floor” (on ball bearings), a concept that was thought to be unique on the West Coast at the time. The building was used for dances, parties and musical performances throughout its history. The complete history of the Crystal, and in effect the entertainment history of downtown Portland, can be found in Tim Hills' book The Many Lives Of The Crystal Ballroom (1997: McMenamins Pubs & Breweries). This book is the principal source of almost all the information currently available on the web about the Crystal, and I have relied on it heavily here for background and facts about both the Crystal and the Portland scene in general.

In the early 1960s, the Crystal became an important stop on the Rhythm and Blues circuit, and many famous R&B acts like James Brown and Ike & Tina Turner had memorable performances at the hall. These shows were booked by one Charles Sullivan, who booked many R&B acts up and down the West Coast. Sullivan controlled the lease on San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium (Bill Graham took over the lease when Sullivan retired in 1966), and booked shows not only at the Fillmore and the Crystal but at a string of venues in the Northwest (including the University of Oregon at Eugene, the Salem Armory, the Evergreen Ballroom in Lacey [WA], the Crescent Ballroom in Tacoma and the Encore Ballroom in Seattle). Hills has excellent and detailed recollections of the various soul and R&B shows at the Crystal in the early 60s.

Hills also documents the city of Portland’s uneasiness with the popular shows in the local African American community. When the city put a freeway through the middle of downtown (now Interstate 405), many businesses near the Crystal were demolished. Although the Crystal itself was spared, many of the patrons of the Ballroom had lived in nearby residence hotels that disappeared. With Sullivan on the verge of retirement and the Crystals’ neighborhood crippled, management gave up their lease on the Crystal at the end of 1965, and the building was dormant for all of 1966.

As the “underground” rock market became bigger in the wake of the Fillmore, Whitey Davis, manager of the Caffe Espresso (previously The Folksinger), needed a bigger venue to accommodate larger crowds for bigger bands. Davis had worked at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco, so he was both well connected and had some idea of how to proceed. He formed a partnership with friend and Los Angeles club manager Michael Magaurn, and on January 1, 1967 they took over the lease on the then-vacant Crystal Ballroom.

Starting on Friday, January 20, 1967, Davis and Magaurn took over the Crystal Ballroom for weekend dances. Most of the initial acts were local, but by the end of 1967 the Crystal became a regular stop on the West Coast for bands touring the “ballroom circuit” that had developed from San Francisco’s Fillmore and Avalon. There may have been dances on other nights of the week as well, but our information so far has come from surviving posters and handbills, and weeknight shows seem to have been limited to when major acts were passing through Portland.

According to Hills, while the Ballroom was immediately popular with the local counterculture, Davis and Magaurn had trouble making ends meet. As a result, bands were apparently not paid well (compared to other venues), and some of them appear to have had a sour taste about the Crystal.In early 1967, however, the hippie counterculture scene was still exciting and early shows were well attended. This post is the third of a three part history of performances at the Crystal Ballroom in its brief flowering as a psychedelic rock ballroom, from January 1967 through June 1968.

I have taken the best available information from posters, books and reminiscences (cited above and throughout).   This performance list only covers the period from when Whitey Davis took over the booking in 1967 to when the city of Portland forced the closure of the ballroom in July 1968. As our research is mostly from posters, there are substantial gaps in the chronology. We do not know if the Crystal skipped a lot of weekends, or (more likely) whether we simply have not uncovered the dates.

As this remains a work in progress, anyone with corrections, insights, new informations or recovered memories (real or imagined), please Email me or post them in the Comment section. I have made some comments on some of the bands, but for more detailed information, see the fantastic Pacific Northwest Bands site (which includes an alphabetical list of Crystal performers, but not by date). For a sharper picture of the Portland scene, and particularly the move from  based acoustic folk music to electric rock music, see Valerie Brown's exceptional article in the Summer 2007 Oregon Historical Quarterly (From Folk To Acid Rock In Portland Coffeehouses, 1967-70).

This post covers Crystal Ballroom rock performances from January to June 1968 (for January to June 1967, see here; for July to December 1967, see here; for additional Oregon rock history see here and here).

February 2-3, 1968 Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/PH Phactor Jug Band
There were likely other rock shows at the Crystal Ballroom in January 1968, but this show was the first known Crystal event in 1968, by far its most successful event, and the only one memorialized by a recording that was actually released.

In January and February 1968, the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service had a particularly legendary tour of the Pacific Northwest, dubbed “The Quick and The Dead” on posters. Tim Hills writes about the show at some length. The Grateful Dead had played Portland twice before--a January 1966 Acid Test at Portland's tiny Beaver Hall, and on Wednesday, July 18, 1967 at the Masonic Temple in downtown Portland. However, the Dead/QMS bill had already played Eureka, CA, hopscotched over Oregon for a weekend in Seattle, and then played two College shows in Oregon, at Portland State (Jan 29) and at the University of Oregon at Eugene (Jan 30). Thus the word was out when the bands hit the Crystal Ballroom for the weekend of February 2-3.

According to Toody Conner, who was one of the volunteers who helped run the Crystal (per Hills), there were lines around the block, and there was so much money in gate receipts that they had to borrow an equipment case to stuff it into, which she sat on during most of the show. The Crystal had had financial struggles throughout its entire existence as a psychedelic venue, but for this weekend, with the audience primed and the Dead firing on all cylinders--not to mention the formidable Quicksilver Messenger Service--everything happened the way it was supposed to, if only for a weekend.

We know how well the Grateful Dead played, too, because they taped it. The Dead had recorded their Northwest shows so they could use them as part of the sound collage for their second album, Anthem Of The Sun (released June 1968). Partial tapes of Dead sets from both nights survive —the only live tapes I know of from The Crystal—and one track was released on a Grateful Dead vault cd in 2009 (“Dark Star” from 2/2/68, as a bonus track on Road Trips Vol. 2 No. 2: Carousel 2/14/68). 

February 16-17, 1968 Blue Cheer/Nazzare Blues Band
In February 1968, the Crystal Ballroom tried to make amends for its distant location from California by aligning itself with Chet Helms and the Family Dog. At this juncture, Whitey Davis had returned to California to become some sort of manager at the Avalon Ballroom, where he had worked in 1966. The Avalon had been very successful in 1967, but now it was getting squeezed by the increasing size of the rock market on one side and the Bill Graham empire on the other. Helms had the shrewd idea that if he could offer bands a series of West Coast dates, he could compete directly with Graham. This was a very sharp idea, but it was about a year too late.

According to a long circulating story, the Crystal and the Avalon were part of a Family Dog "empire" that included Vancouver and Anchorage, Alaska. While the Dog clearly had some connections in Vancouver, the Anchorage connection seems to have simply been a tall tale (and financially absurd in any case). Helms had opened a Family Dog outpost in Denver in 1967, but it was done in by constant harassment from the Denver police. If Helms had been able to link Denver, Portland and San Francisco, he might have had some clout, but after the financial draining of the Denver debacle, the undercapitalized Portland effort seems to have been a good idea executed too late.

Nonetheless, the "Crystal Dog" began with the rising San Francisco band Blue Cheer. Blue Cheer’s legendarily heavy debut album, Vincebus Eruptum, with its proto metal single ‘Summertime Blues”, had just been released. Blue Cheer was famous for touring with an enormous sound system (with a huge bank of Marshall Stax amplifiers), and was generally the loudest band around.

February 23-24, 1968 The Weeds/PH Martin’s Magic Medicine Show
This was the second Portland Family Dog show. By this time, The Weeds had moved to Los Angeles, where their manager had changed their name to The Lollipop Shoppe, but they would have been better known in Portland as The Weeds.

"P.H. Martin's Magic Medicine Show" was the name of Gary Ewing's light show. By this time, Ewing had probably become a partner in the operation of The Crystal.

March 1-2, 1968 Quicksilver Messenger Service/Nazzare Blues Band
This was the third Portland Family Dog show. Quicksilver were Family Dog regulars. Although they had not yet released their debut album,  they would have been known to locals, having just come through town with the Grateful Dead.



The Nazzare Blues Band, while a local Portland band, were named after the same Lord Buckley monologue ("The Nazz") that the Yardbirds named a song after. Whether the Portland band named themselves after the Yardbirds song (as Todd Rundgren's Philadelphia band The Nazz did) or directly after the joke isn't clear.

March 8-9, 1968 Amazing Charlatans/Alexander’s Timeless Bluesband
This was the fourth and apparently final Portland Family Dog show. At this point, the arrangement seems to end, although the whole story is murky. My assumption is that the financial benefits of a partnership between Chet Helms and The Crystal were not able to be realized. Helms’s bargaining power had been greatly reduced by the Denver debacle, and he may not have had sufficient cash to make the arrangement worthwhile in Portland. Like many of Helms’s ideas, the concept was sound but the execution was spotty.

The Charlatans, of course, had played the very first Family Dog dance in San Francisco on October 16, 1965. By 1968, other groups had passed them by, but they were still an interesting band.

March 29, 1968 Fringe Benefit/Nazz Are Blues Band/Quorem 
March 30, 1968 Fringe Benefit/Nazz Are Blues Band/ Rainy City Spring 
It appears that the Crystal returned to booking local and regional bands.

April 26, 1968 Tweedy Brothers/The Moss
April 27, 1968 Fringe Benefit/The Moss

May 3, 1968 The Fugs/Kaleidoscope
There were apparently regular rock shows at the Crystal Ballroom, probably every weekend, but save for the few listed above, we have no evidence of what they might have been. A brief spurt of national touring acts in May and June suggests that there was still some informal cooperation between the Family Dog in San Francisco and the Crystal.

The poster for the May 4 show in Eugene advertised it as a Family Dog show, paired with the similar bill playing the at the Crystal. Neither show was part of the “official” Family Dog series (in February and March), so its unknown what the relationship was of this show (and the shows on 17-18 May) to the Crystal’s arrangement with the Family Dog. Nonetheless, Whitey Davis was probably still managing the Avalon, so its plausible that an informal arrangement was intact. It was also not unheard of for former associates of The Dog to use The Family Dog logo with at least tacit approval from Chet Helms, for reasons that remain obscure (as happened in February, 1968 in Denver).

Kaleidoscope were a legendary Southern California band who invented “world music” about 20 years before the world was ready for it. The group featured David Lindley, Chester Crill, Solomon Feldthouse and Stuart Brotman (as well as drummer Paul Lagos) on numerous exotic instruments, all played with talent and flair.

May 17-18, 1968 Kaleidoscope/Family Tree
The poster for this show also indicates that it was a Family Dog show, and equally little is known about the use of the logo and any formal connection to Chet Helms or The Dog.

The Family Tree had just released their debut album Miss Butters (on RCA), and they continued to be popular on the live circuit. However, their ambitious album failed to make a dent on the charts, and the group soon broke up. Bob Segarini then formed a group in Los Angeles called Roxy, the next step in a long and fascinating career.

May 24-25, 1968 Junior Wells Blues Band
May 31, June 1, 1968 Junior Wells Blues Band 
Chicago blues bands like Junior Wells were now a regular part of the psychedelic ballroom scene. So many local and national bands covered blues songs that a lot of standard Chicago material was quite well known around the country, even to kids who had never heard the original.

Apparently guitarist Buddy Guy, Junior Wells's sometime partner, was not part of this tour.

June 14-15, 1968 Youngbloods/Kaleidoscope
The Youngbloods, originally from New York City and Cambridge, MA, had moved to Marin County in September, 1967. The quartet (singer/bassist Jesse Colin Young, lead guitarist/singer Jerry Corbitt, multi-instrumentalist Lowell “Banana” Levinger and drummer Joe Bauer) had played regularly throughout the Pacific Northwest as well as the rest of the country. The group’s second album (Earth Music, on RCA) had been released in November 1967.

I assume that the Youngbloods are pictured in the poster, which is odd since they were a quartet, not a trio. Guitarist Jerry Corbitt would leave soon after this, so perhaps this was somehow anticipating the event.

June 21-22, 1968 Buddy Guy
Buddy Guy was a prominent blues guitarist in Chicago, not well known except to other guitarists. He was starting to make a name for himself on the ballroom circuit.



The city of Portland closed the Crystal Ballroom on or about July of 1968. Tim Hills reprints a headline in The Oregonian (Portland's main daily newspaper) from July 12, 1968 that says "City Closes Dance Hall: Crystal Ballroom Fails Inspection." Unhappy with the congregation of hippies downtown, the city had found a slew of code violations in June, and the operators of the Crystal--whoever they were by Summer 1968 is a bit vague--were unable to respond effectively. According to Hills, a Newsweek article (from May 20, 1968) that said that San Francisco hippies were all going to Portland for the Summer did not help matters.

The exact date of the last show isn't certain, and the venue may have put on shows as late as Saturday, July 6, 1968, but I don't know who might have played. Its known (from Billboard magazine) that Iron Butterfly had to cancel a July date at the Crystal (either 12-13 or 26-27), and according to Hills Big Brother and the Holding Company had to cancel as well, but the end of the psychedelic area came quickly for the Crystal Ballroom.


(Outside the Crystal Ballroom at Sw14th Ave and W. Burnside St, Portland, OR in July 2008. photo: me)


Although it closed as a rock venue in July, 1968, The Crystal remained dormant, a beautiful dream left sleeping downtown. Happily, the building was purchased and restored by local entrepreneurs, and the Crystal Ballroom reopened in 1997. Its “Floating Ballroom” was restored as well, and The Crystal Ballroom is once again a popular local attraction and a glamorous tour stop for a wide variety of music.

Apparently the city of Portland is concerned with the liquor license and activities of the venue, again, but as this struggle has been going on since 1873 the Crystal Ballroom is likely to weather this storm as well.