Thursday, March 10, 2011

2201 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA The Electric Factory: Concert List July-December 1969 (Philadelphia IV)

[this post continues the series about rock concerts at and presented by the Electric Factory in Philadelphia in the 1960s]

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is one of America's great cities, but its proximity to New York has always made an unfair comparison. Philadelphia has an exciting music history, and an exciting rock music history in the 1960s, but that history can only be documented in the most fragmented of places. These posts about the Electric Factory marks the beginning of my effort to organize and analyze Philadelphia rock history in the 1960s. There are probably more dates to be found, but these posts will make a good starting point (thanks to Bruno for some fantastic research).

The Electric Factory, 2201 Arch Street
The Electric Factory, a former tire warehouse, opened in early 1968 at 2201 Arch.  The owners were the Spivak brothers, all experienced bar owners in the Philadelphia area. Their booker was Larry Magid.  They rapidly dominated the concert scene in Philadelphia, and the Electric Factory were the most important promoters in Philadelphia until they ultimately were purchased by larger corporate interests in the 1990s.

The Electric Factory was a critical stop on 60s concert tours, and an integral part of the "Premier Talent" (Booking Agency) circuit that included both Fillmores, the Boston Tea Party and Chicago's Kinetic Playground. Philadelphia was a big, important city and Philadelphia fans were not shy about showing their appreciation or displeasure (a trait that has endured). However, since the Electric Factory did not generally use posters with collectible art for advertisements, the venue has been somewhat lost to 60s rock history. There were many relatively trivial 60s venues that had a famous poster or two, often printed in The Art Of Rock or otherwise promulgated, that are recalled much more often than the Electric Factory. Outside of Philadelphia, the early history of the Electric Factory is largely ignored, and I am attempting to begin to correct that here.
This post presents the lists of Electric Factory concerts from July through December 1969, as well as major Philadelphia rock events during that period. The list is almost certainly not complete. Our knowledge of shows at venues like the Fillmore, the Avalon or Detroit's Grande Ballroom comes from the wonderful (and collectible) posters that lived on in dorm room walls long after the venues ceased operating. However, the Electric Factory rarely used colorful, artistic posters to advertise the shows. I think the Electric Factory advertised on the radio and with print-only ads in various newspapers, making it harder to discern their schedule.
This post represents my best efforts at determining late 1969  shows at the Electric Factory, as well as shows promoted by Electric Factory concerts. Anyone with additional information, insights, corrections or recovered memories (real or imagined) is encouraged to Comment or email me, and I will update the list accordingly. 
(For earlier efforts at psychedelic ballrooms in Philadelphia as well as the first half of 1968 for the Electric Factory, see here, and for the second half of 1968 see here, and for the first half of 1969 see here)
Electric Factory Concerts in Philadelphia, July>December 1969
By the second half of 1969, rock concert promotion was big business, and Larry Magid and The Electric Factory were the dominant promoter in Philadelphia. Ironically, however, the market had gotten so big that many of the concerts were now held at the much larger Philadelphia Spectrum. The Electric Factory was also the primary promoter at the Spectrum (at 3601 Broad), though not the only one. I have tried to include all the major rock events at the Spectrum from this period, even though I am not always certain that the events were promoted by the Electric Factory. 

At the same time, the Electric Factory was under pressure from police commissioner Frank Rizzo, who managed to get the Electric Factory shut down for most of the Summer of 1969. The Electric Factory was busy promoting events at the Spectrum as well as the Atlantic City Pop Festival, but the Factory itself was closed for some portion of the Summer.
July 11-12, 1969 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Spectrum Pop Festival
>July 11, 1969:  Sly and The Family Stone/Mothers of Invention/Ten Years After/Jeff Beck/Savoy Brown
>July 12, 1969: Blood, Sweat & Tears/Edwin Hawkins Singers (afternoon show)
>July 12, 1969: Led Zeppelin/Johnny Winter/Al Kooper/Jethro Tull/Buddy Guy’s Blues Band

Many of the acts who played the Spectrum Pop Festival had previously headlined at the Electric Factory. The Summer of 1969 was the Summer of Rock Festivals, however, and bands had started crisscrossing the country.

July 16, 1969: The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Blind Faith/Delaney & Bonnie & Friends/Taste
The Blind Faith tour was probably the biggest National rock tour up until this time. Taste featured Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher.

July 19, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Tom Rush
July 23, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Crazy World Of Arthur Brown/Sweet Stavin Chain


July 25-26, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: AUM/Sweet Stavin Chain

July 29, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Dr. John The Night Tripper

July 30, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Lothar and The Hand People
Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo managed to get a judge to close the Electric Factory ("corrupting the youth" seemed to be the charge) for the rest of the Summer.

August 1-3, 1969 Atlantic City Racetrack, Mays Landing, NJ: “Atlantic City Pop Festival”
Although held outside of Atlantic City, New Jersey, about 50 miles to the Southeast of Philadelphia, this show was promoted by the Electric Factory. During this time, the Electric Factory was holding “Be-Ins” at Belmont Plateau in Fairmount Park, but the city would not have allowed a rock festival outdoors.  Even in freewheeling Atlantic City, the event still had to be called a “Pop” Festival.

Like most 60s festivals, it is difficult to determine who actually showed and who played, much less in what order. According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer on August 1, 2004, the festival was a commercial and musical success.  It was promoted by Philadelphia’s Electric Factory (who could not get a permit for anywhere in Philadelphia), and crowds of about 40,000 showed up all three days.  There was a campground next door, and adequate facilities (as well as a fence) at the horse racing track.

The advertised acts appear to have varied significantly from who actually played. I am unable to determine even whether bands appeared for two days or three. My guess is that three days were planned, and after a series of cancellations the show was scaled back to two days. A program circulates with only two days of acts, differing dramatically from what was advertised. Such changes were common occurrences in late 60s' festivals. I suspect that the first night featured Philadelphia area bands, since many people would have started camping out on Friday August 1.

Poster courtesy of the collection of Ed Galm

Atlantic City Pop Festival: Advertised Acts
Friday, August 1: Iron Butterfly/Johnny Winter/Crosby Stills Nash & Young/Chicago Transit Authority/Procol Harum/Joni Mitchell/Mother Earth/Santana Blues Band/Booker T & The MGs

Saturday, August 2: Jefferson Airplane/Creedence Clearwater Revival/Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Tim Buckley, B.B. King/Butterfield Blues Band/The Byrds/Hugh Masakela/Lighthouse/American Dream

Sunday, August 3: Janis Joplin/Canned Heat/Mothers Of Invention/Moody Blues/Three Dog Night/Sir Douglas Quintet/Joe Cocker/Little Richard/Buddy Rich Big Band/Dr. John The Night Tripper

The actual reality of who played seems somewhat different. CSNY canceled, apparently because Graham Nash had vocal nodes, insuring that he would be well enough to sing at Woodstock two weeks later. Johnny Winter was unable to play because his equipment did not arrive, although it appears he borrowed a guitar and sat in with Janis Joplin.

A program exists listing acts only on Saturday (Aug 2) and Sunday (Aug 3). It includes some of the acts scheduled for Friday night. Did some bands play twice, was Friday's billing re-organized or was it canceled? My guess is that there was a concert Friday night, but it featured mainly local bands.

Atlantic City Pop Festival: Programmed Acts
According to a circulating program (above), these were the acts on Saturday and Sunday, in order of appearance, from 1:00-9:30 pm.

Saturday, August 2: American Dream/Tim Buckley/The Byrds/Booker T and The MGs/Hugh Masakela/Butterfield Blues Band/BB King/Lighthouse/Creedence Clearwater Revival/Jefferson Airplane

Sunday, August 3: Sir Douglas Quintet/Santana Blues Band/Canned Heat/Three Dog Night/Joe Cocker and The Grease Band/Mothers Of Invention/Buddy Miles Express/Johnny Winter/Janis Joplin/Little Richard
Janis Joplin is actually listed on the program twice. I assume this was just a misprint, and some other act came on between Joe Cocker and The Mothers (I don't envy them). Johnny Winter was reputed not to have made it, but of course I can't be sure. Keep in mind that many of the big names booked for these days were not big names at the time. Acts like Santana, Joe Cocker, Three Dog Night and Joe Cocker would have just released their first albums at this time, and would have been big surprises to the Festival audience.

Anyone with more specific memories of the acts playing the Atlantic City Pop Festival is encouraged to Comment. For a more general picture of the Atlantic City Pop Festival, there is an interesting website by one of the promoters of the event.

September 5-6, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Spooky Tooth/Chicago Transit Authority

September 9-11, 1969 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Tyrannosaurus Rex/Chris Smither
I suspect that the Electric Factory was closed for most of August 1969, just like the Fillmore East. I don't really have a sense of how many 1969 shows I am missing from the Electric Factory itself, as I'm not sure if they tried to be open every weekend no matter what.

Although Tyrannosarus Rex featured Marc Bolan, it was not the hard rocking glam of "Bang A Gong," but a hippie folk duo featuring Bolan and a conga player. They would have been a sort of cult act at this time, a clear indicator that the bigger acts were playing the Spectrum or elsewhere, at least in the Summer.

Chris Smither was a Cambridge, MA based folk blues guitarist. 

September 12-13, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Junior Wells/Mandrake Memorial


September 19-20, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Buddy Miles Express/The Stooges


September 26-27, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: MC5/American Dream

October 3-4, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Mountain/Lonnie Mack

October 10-11, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: War featuring Eric Burdon/The Raven/Lee Michaels
Eric Burdon was a big star, but his collaboration with War was a new venture. Lee Michaels was shy of his first big hit as well. This was probably a terrific show, but the bands were not major acts at the time.

October 17-18, 1969 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Aum/Elvin Bishop
Aum and Elvin Bishop were both managed by Bill Graham's organization, and they both had new debut albums.

October 19, 1969 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: The Who/American Dream
There were two shows at 4 and 8 pm, where The Who memorably played all of Tommy. The Who had probably been booked prior to the album, which broke The Who into another level of stardom. The band would not play venues this small again.

October 24-25, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: The Byrds/Litter/Elizabeth/P.I.L.T


October 26, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Benefit For Burned War Children


November 7-8, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Lee Michaels/The Flock


November 14-15, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Joe Cocker/Holy Modal Rounders


November 21-22, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Youngbloods/Rockin' Foo

November 21, 1969 The Palestra, U. Penn, Philadelphia, PA: Jefferson Airplane/Lighthouse/Sweet Stavin Chain
The Palestra was Penn's basketball arena. I'm not sure whether Electric Factory promoted this event, but I thought I would include it for completeness.

November 25, 1969 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Rolling Stones/B.B. King/Ike & Tina Turner/Terry Reid
The Fall '69 Rolling Stones tour eclipsed the Summer's Blind Faith tour as the biggest rock event so far. This was near the end of the tour (Altamont was only 11 days away).

November 28-29, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: The Sons/Jacobs Creek

November 30, 1969 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Jethro Tull/The Sons
This date is from the Jethro Tull list.  If this is accurate, Tull would have been opening for someone else, as they were not yet at the level of Spectrum headliners.

December 5, 1969 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Chambers Brothers/The Kinks/Spirit/American Dream
The Kinks, having settled their issues with the American Musicians Union (Ray Davies had punched someone important in the face in Los Angeles in 1965), had begun to join their peers in touring across America.

December 7, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA “Benefit For Help”
Elizabeth/Stone Dawn/High Treason/Stock Yard/Sweet Stavin Chain/Hard Road/Edison Electric/The Max/Maholo Reigns/American Dream  (Sunday afternoon show)
I'm not sure whether this concert benefited the Electric Factory itself or some other cause. All of the groups were local Philadelphia bands who had probably played the Electric Factory many times.

December 12-13, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Edison Electric Band/Sweet Stavin Chain/Max

December 26, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Cold Blood/American Dream/Pookah
December 27, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Grand Funk Railroad/American Dream/Pookah

December 31, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Lighthouse/Catfish/Elizabeth

Although my concert list is not entirely complete, the general trend makes it clear that the rock market had outgrown the Electric Factory venue. In fact, 2201 Arch Street would remain open through November 1970, but Electric Factory promotions increasingly moved to the larger Spectrum. Even when the Arch Street facility closed down, Electric Factory promotions remained active in the Philadelphia area. Electric Factory was far and away the biggest promoter in Philadelphia through the 1990s, when it was ultimately merged with larger corporate interests.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Good News-Performance History 1966

(drummer Chris Herold, guitarist Tim Abbott and keyboardist Bob Stephens of The Good News, from Redwood City, CA, playing somewhere on the Peninsula in 1966-photo courtesy of Tim Abbott)

History is written by the winners, and hindsight is always 20/20, so rock history often falls into a tautology: since only famous bands are written about, rock history is shrunk to a tiny roster of famous bands. The reality is messier and way more interesting. The San Francisco Bay Area in 1966 was rightly remembered as a time of great creativity and musical experimentation, as the likes of Ken Kesey, Bill Graham, the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead created the blueprint for the modern rock concert as we know it today. A closer examination of the time, however, shows that a lot of interesting things were going on.

In the course of my research, I was fortunate enough to learn some things about a hitherto obscure group called The Good News, from Redwood City, CA. The Good News played heavy Butterfield-style blues, had their own light show and played some hip venues, and some of their members went on to better known endeavors, but they have been all but lost to history up until now. The Good News were interesting and well ahead of their time, and an examination of some surviving evidence gives an interesting picture of bands on the rise in 1966, when the Bay Area was exciting and everything seemed possible.

Redwood City, CA
Redwood City is in San Mateo County, just a few miles North of Palo Alto, but still about 30 miles South of San Francisco. It's a nice little town, but back in the 60s it was just another suburb on the Bay, with no University to make it cool, yet still too far from the City to be hot. There were a few tiny venues in Redwood City, but most of the action, such as it was, could be found on El Camino Real, the main commercial strip that ran from Mission Boulevard in San Francisco to downtown San Jose, touching every town along the way. By day, the El Camino was a commercial district with stores and auto dealers, and at night it was the entertainment district in each of the little suburban communities. In 1965, many entertainers simply played up and down the El Camino. For example, in the Fall of 1965 a Palo Alto blues band called The Warlocks had a lot of bookings in and around El Camino Real.

As to indigenous Redwood City rock bands, however, they were few and far between. I do know of a folk-rock group called The Sit-Ins, but they seem to have been High School students. So far, the first group from Redwood City who played outside of the town that I have been able to discover has been The Good News. One eyewitness describes them as "a Butterfield-style band," which for the early 1966 suburbs is pretty surprising. David Nelson of the New Riders Of The Purple Sage described them as "a Redwood City blues band," which had to be a pretty short list. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band had only released their groundbreaking debut album on Elektra in October '65, showing that it was possible for white boys to play the blues, and it had an electrifying effect on musicians and audiences.

Good News lead guitarist Tim Abbott recalls
The Good News was a group that I joined in about 65 and split up in 66 or early 67 The group went through some changes in personnel over it's time together. It started with 
  • Chris Herold-drums, 
  • Dan Hess- Bass, 
  • Kinkade Miller- Keyboards, 
  • Tim Abbott- Lead Guitar and Vocals and 
  • Dave Torbert-Lead Vocals and Guitar.
After several months we got Bob Stephens in on Keyboards, Harmonica and Sax (he also did some  amazing Howlin Wolf style vocals) [Stephens replaced Miller]
The timeline fits nicely. The first Butterfield album came out in Fall '65, so it makes sense that it would inspire any just-formed band. The Good News lasted until about the end of 1966, although there seems to have been a few personnel changes at the very end.

Tim Abbott would go on to join the South Bay's finest, The Chocolate Watch Band. Dave Torbert (1948-82) is best known today as the bassist for The New Riders and Kingfish, and drummer Herold was also in Kingfish. Both Torbert and Herold left The Good News in late Summer 1966 to join the South Bay's other psychedelic blues band, The New Delhi River Band. The New Delhi River Band are a fascinating story in their own right. I am working on the definitive NDRB story (and it will be definitive) but it turns out that The Good News were a critical prequel.

 (The Good News perform at a debutante ball, with their strobe-light-ready clothing. The caption from  a forgotten newspaper says "Peninsula Deb Janet Laird, Steve Boyden dance to the Big Beat"--clipping courtesy Tim Abbott)

The Light Show
The Good News were playing some pretty serious blues by early 1966, making them ahead of the curve but not unique. What set them apart, however, was that they appear to have been the first Bay Area band to travel with their own light show. It was pretty simple, but remember that at the time there was no concept of "light shows" outside of a few underground Family Dog events in San Francisco. Almost none of the suburban teenagers who would have seen The Good News would have been to The Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City or a Family Dog dance at Longshoreman's Hall or The Trips Festival.

The Good News basically used a strobe light, which must have been quite a shock to teenagers used to conventional stage lighting. The Good News had special stage clothes that were embarrassingly colorful in true 60s style, but they were designed to look exciting when they jumped around under the strobe. It may seem corny now, but seeing flashing lights jumping around the stage while the band laid it down on "Got My Mojo Working" must have been a surprising moment, and however briefly shown the shape of things to come.

Tim Abbott very kindly sent me the clipping above (and the other visual materials), but he doesn't know where the photo was taken. It was common in the mid-60s at Debutante parties to have two bands, a big band for the adults to dance to and a rock band for the kids. The groups would usually alternate sets. Many famous Fillmore bands actually played Debutante parties, as the money was good and the girls were cute. Abbott recalls playing a Debutante event at San Francisco Airport (of all places) for Bob Weir's sister.

I wonder who Janet Laird and Steve Boyden were (the couple in the photo)? Were they just dancing together, or did they get married and have three kids? Maybe the Internet will work it's magic and they will write in.

Good News Performance Venues
The performance history of The Good News remains murky. Since the band did not go on to subsequent fame, few artifacts of their past remain preserved. Abbott, fortunately, does recall a few events, and it at least gives us a picture of the circuit that was available to aspiring bands. The Grateful Dead had graduated from the El Camino Real by the end of 1965, as their association with Ken Kesey led them to Owsley and then The Trips Festival. Other bands had to keep slugging it out.

(a flyer for The Good News performance at The Bold Knight in Sunnyvale, April 1, 1966-courtesy Tim Abbott)

The Bold Knight, 769 N. Matilda Avenue, Sunnyvale, CA
Abbott recalls "we used to play The Bold Knight a lot." The Bold Knight was in Sunnyvale, a few miles South of Palo Alto, nearer to San Jose (Redwood City was North of Palo Alto). Once a sleepy farm town, after World War 2 it was a booming suburb full of people working for Lockheed and other aerospace companies. It was garage band central, and the South Bay was full of great bands. The local radio station (KLIV-am 1590) liked to play local bands, so groups like The Chocolate Watch Band, The Syndicate Of Sound and The E-Types were making real money playing dances and concerts all over the area, even though the band members were barely out of high school (and in the case of The Syndicate Of Sound, still in High School).

Two Los Altos High School graduates, Mike McCluney and Terry Nininger, leased the banquet room of a restaurant in a shopping mall and put on rock concerts. These were mostly directed at kids under 21, although unlike some parts of the Bay Area older patrons were not excluded. The banquet room could fit up to 1000, so it was  relatively substantial place. The Bold Knight put on about one show a week on Friday or Saturday, occasionally both, so it was a regular venue without being full time. With a huge audience of mobile South Bay teenagers and a lot of great bands, so when the Bold Knight opened in early 1966 it was successful almost immediately.

McCluney recalled The Good News fondly, and remembers them mostly playing blues covers but doing some original material as well. This was typical of a lot of bands in San Francisco and elsewhere, particularly those playing blues. Since the Rolling Stones and others had made a lot of blues songs sort of well known, they could play music they liked that audiences knew, and slip in some of their own stuff as they worked it out.

The Cocoanut Grove Ballroom, 400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz, CA
The Cocoanut Grove Ballroom is connected to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, a sort of East Coast-style amusement park somewhat out of place on the West Coast. Although it was established in 1907, by the 1960s, the Cocoanut Grove had regular "teen" dances, usually on Friday or Saturday nights, with the local bands who were popular on KLIV. It was part of the same circuit as The Bold Knight. Santa Cruz had nice beaches (if kind of cold), so many families would spend a week or a weekend in town, so there were many more kids available to go to shows at the Grove (capacity 800) than the tiny population of the town might indicate. The Good News played the Cocoanut Grove regularly, just as all the other South Bay bands did. Abbott recalls a number of bookings at Cocoanut Grove with the Chocolate Watch Band, who were the best, best-known and most infamous of all the South Bay bands in that period.

The Spectrum, 1836 El Camino Real, Redwood City, CA
Abbott recalls, "We did several weeks at the Spectrum in Redwood City with what later became Moby Grape (Jerry Miller introduced me to the Sitar and some great guitar licks)." He added "Jerry [Miller] and Don [Stevenson's] group were called The Frantics at the point that they were working with us and Bob Mosley hadn't joined the band yet. Chuck [Schoning] was on bass, and they had a girl who's name I can't remember on rhythm guitar."

The Frantics had relocated from Tacoma, WA to suburban San Bruno. Jerry Miller and drummer Don Stevenson were only a few months away from the roller coaster ride of Moby Grape, but couldn't have known it at the time. Schoning too would go on to a lengthy music career (with AAA and Quicksilver, among others). The "girl whose name I can't remember" was the uber-cool Denise Kaufman, immortalized as Mary Microgram in Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and by 1967 the main voice of the great band The Ace Of Cups. So The Good News were bumping into musicians just like them, playing around the circuit and trying to break through.

The Spectrum was at an intersection in Redwood City called Five Points. It had been an Autumn Records-owned place called The Nu Beat, but when Autumn folded in April 1966, the place changed its name to The Spectrum. I have written about the intersection of Autumn Records, The Nu Beat, The Frantics and The Spectrum elsewhere.

The Barn, Granite Creek Road at Highway 17, Scotts Valley, CA
Abbott: "I also remember playing at The Barn at some point, but can't remember if we were sitting in or were on the bill."

The Barn in Scotts Valley was a hippie enclave that started in Spring 1966 in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In 1966, the only true "hippie" places were The Fillmore and The Avalon in San Francisco. You could argue that the college campuses of UC Berkeley, San Francisco State and San Jose State were hippie friendly, but those zones didn't extend very far off their respective campuses. For the rest of the South Bay, there was just The Barn. The converted dairy barn, halfway between Palo Alto and Santa Cruz, was an isolated little clubhouse for all the longhairs: hippies, bikers, Merry Pranksters, light shows and psychedelic blues bands were all there at once. Good bands played The Barn, but at the time they played there, they were mostly unknown. The more adventurous of the teenagers going to places like The Bold Knight would find there way to The Barn, so for the South Bay it was a signpost to new space.

I am working on the history of The Barn, and I have a very preliminary version online. The Spring and Summer of 1966 remain very murky, however. Abbott's confusion over whether they were on the bill leads me to think that they played on a Thursday night, but explaining why is too much of a tangent, so you'll have to take my word on that for now. The essential point about playing The Barn was that it was one of the few places outside of San Francisco and Berkeley for longhairs to hangout, so if a band played well at The Barn then the right people heard about it.

Fillmore Auditorium, 1805 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA
October 22-23, 1966 Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band/Chocolate Watch Band/Great Pumpkin/Good News
Abbott: "We did one date at the Filmore and were asked back but we had broken up by that point."

Without question, bands made it in San Francisco by playing The Fillmore and The Avalon, and indeed succeeding at The Avalon mainly guaranteed that Bill Graham would steal you from Chet Helms for a more lucrative Fillmore booking. So if The Good News had played The Fillmore and were asked back, things were definitely looking up, yet they did not stay together to make the jump. If the Good News had played The Barn before the Fillmore (not a certainty), the word would have traveled particularly fast. Abbott recalled that Good News manager Denis Minga lined up the Fillmore appearance, but Graham would have asked around about the band.

Shortly after the Good News played the Fillmore, the band broke up. Dave Torbert and Chris Herold became members of The New Delhi River Band, who were regularly headlining at The Barn. While Torbert had played guitar in The Good News, he played bass in NDRB, an instrument he would play for the rest of his career. There is some ambiguity as to exactly when Herold and then Torbert joined NDRB, and either or both musicians may have been members of both bands for a brief while.

It's a little known fact that many bands played The Fillmore who were not "on the poster." In 1966, Graham would advertise two or three bands on his famous posters, usually for three shows from Friday through Sunday. Each advertised band would play two sets. Often, however, another unadvertised group would open the shows on Friday and Saturday night, playing a single set. These were usually called the "audition" bands, and were probably paid union scale. Trying out bands this way gave Graham a look at which groups were worthy of getting on the poster for a forthcoming date. No doubt The Good News acquitted themselves well, as they were asked back, but it was not to be.

The Good News-Aftermath
When The Good News broke up, in early November 1966, Tim Abbott became the lead guitarist in a group called The San Francisco Bay Blues Band. The group was not particularly successful, even by local standards. However, in early 1967 lead guitarist Mark Loomis left the Chocolate Watch Band, and bassist Bill Flores asked Abbott to take his place. Although the Chocolate Watch Band members weren't any older than The Good News, they were already hugely successful. By 1967, the group had successful records, and airplay on KLIV insured that they were hugely popular in the South Bay.

Despite many social connections to the San Francisco bands, the Chocolate Watch Band were never able to really break into the Fillmore. The CWB played there a few times, and were well received, but they were one of the Bay Area's best bands, and should have had a much higher profile at the Ground Zero of San Fransicso 60s rock. Different reasons are ascribed for this--competition between Bill Graham and CWB manager Ron Roupe, stemming from Graham's attempt to manage the band may have been a factor, or it may have been that San Franciscans couldn't believe that a cool band could come from San Jose instead of Seattle or London. As a result, while the Chocolate Watch Band belong in the top rank of Bay Area bands from the 60s, they are often given only second tier status. Nonetheless, Abbott joined the group in 1967 when they were hugely popular. His first show with the band, after three days of frantic rehearsal, was at the Mt. Tamalpais Festival on June 10, 1967, as the Chocolate Watch Band went on between The Doors and The Fifth Dimension.

Abbott, however, left the Chocolate Watch Band by the end of 1967 due to concerns about the band's finances. The New Delhi River Band had ground to a halt by early 1968, so Abbott, Torbert and Herold formed a group called Shango with a few other players (Matthew Kelly and Ryan Brandenburg), but that is yet another story that I will tell later. Torbert went on to great success with The New Riders Of The Purple Sage, and then Kingfish, and Chris Herold rejoined Torbert in the latter band. Torbert passed on in 1982, way too early, and is sorely missed by fans and friends alike.

I had thought that the story of The Good News was completely lost, but the former proprietor of The Bold Knight tipped me off to the fact that Tim Abbott owns a recording studio in the South Bay. Tim could not have been more helpful and generous with his memories and pictures, and so a seemingly lost piece of Bay Area rock history as been retrieved.

And who says the past has to be past? Guess what band has Tim Abbott as their lead guitarist? Why, The Chocolate Watch Band, still going strong with members from back in the day, still ready to be there when you make your move (at the Love-In), still the pride of the South Bay 60s. Good News, indeed. The CWB have produced a new album, recorded at Abbott's studio, featuring new and old Watch Band songs. Whether the band will break out the multi-colored Good News stage gear remains to be seen.