Monday, August 31, 2009

March 10-15, 1967, Whisky A-Go-Go, San Francisco, CA: The Grateful Dead (canceled)

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I have since changed my mind about these gigs, having found more evidence. My general points still stand, but I now think the Grateful Dead played the SF Whisky through March 15, 1967--see here

A thoughtful commenter on my post about the San Francisco Whisky reminded me of the scheduled performance by The Grateful Dead at the San Francisco Whisky-A-Go-Go from March 10 through 16, 1967 (Friday through Thursday). I was aware of this event, but I completely dropped the ball in mentioning it. I take some solace in the fact that I am fairly certain that the shows never occurred, which is how I drew the conclusion that the SF Whisky did not last until March of that year. However, since I never explained it, I could hardly have expected anyone to follow my reasoning. I will attempt to rectify this with the current post.

To briefly recap earlier posts, the world famous Whisky-Go-Go in Hollywood opened on January 11, 1964. It drew its name from a disco in Paris, and there already was a similarly named, though unrelated Whisky-A-Go-Go, in Chicago (on Rush and Chestnut). The Hollywood Whisky entrepreneur, Elmer Valentine, seems to have allowed or licensed the name and "concept" to other operators. The San Francisco Whisky-A-Go-Go, now thoroughly forgotten, opened in April, 1965 and seems to have lasted until early 1967. It was located at 568 Sacramento (at Montgomery), sort of near the Financial District but somewhat far from the action on North Beach. The Doors, along with The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, played some gigs at the SF Whisky in February of 1967, but although they were scheduled for two weeks, after two days of tiny crowds The Doors handed off their gig to The Wildflower. The Doors, at least, reported that the venue had gone from a "Go-Go" club, with scantily dressed girls dancing to the music (the Hollywood model) to a topless club, with topless waitresses, a pretty common business practice in the Bay Area at the time.

Most Grateful Dead chronologies, including Deadlists and, list March 10-16, 1967 shows for the Dead at the Whisky in Hollywood. This flies in the face of the fact that the surviving poster clearly indicates that the Dead were scheduled to play at the San Francisco Whisky (h/t to commenter psychlops). The book The Grateful Dead: The Illustrated Trip gets the location correct, although they do not comment on the shows themselves. In any case, most chronologies correctly suspect that the shows did not occur. In order to understand why this is the most plausible scenario--over and above the fact that no surviving tapes, photos or eyewitness accounts exist--we need to discuss the peculiar backstory of the Love Conspiracy Commune.

In 1966, the San Francisco underground exploded into the light, with local bands, drugs and scenes suddenly making waves in the National and Local press. All sorts of people flocked to San Francisco, some of them musicians, some of them future hippies, and some of them looking to make a buck. By 1967 a trickle had become a flood, and what was once a local happening was turning into a conflict between commercial potential and cultural authenticity. This tension would peak at the Monterey Pop Festival in the Summer, but the fault lines were already clear. Although Bill Graham and Chet Helms were the best known promoters in San Francisco (then and now), plenty of other people and groups put on concerts and happenings.

The Love Conspiracy Commune is usually known only from posters, having presented four events in San Francisco:

February 14-27, Whisky A-Go-Go (568 Sacramento): The Doors/Peanut Butter Conspiracy
The Doors are replaced by The Wildflower from February 16 onwards.

March 3, 1967, Winterland (Post and Steiner): Love/Grateful Dead/Moby Grape/Loading Zone/Blue Crumb Truck Factory "The First Annual Love Circus"

March 6, 1967, 8th and Irving Streets: The Love Conspiracy Commune Presents A Psychedelic Happening
No specific bands are mentioned in the poster, but Liqour, Beer and Sandwiches at low prices figure prominently in the poster.

March 10-16, Whisky A-Go-Go (568 Sacramento): The Grateful Dead

Who were The Love Conspiracy Commune, and how did they appear on the scene so suddenly to book rising underground stars like The Doors, The Grateful Dead and Moby Grape, at an established (if struggling) venue and a major hall (Winterland)? The one specific account of the Love Conspiracy Commune comes from the excellent book by Rolling Stone writer Charles Perry, Haight Ashbury: A History (Rolling Stone Press 1984). Perry writes in detail about a conflict about the March 3 show at Winterland. Local politics were too complicated to go into here, but suffice to say there was tension between those who felt that the scene should stay free or at least cheap, and those who saw it as a commercial bonanza. A sort of collective called The Diggers protested the show for being too expensive ($3.50, pricey at the time).

Perry details a complicated confrontation (p.150-151) in which The Diggers ended up picketing the Winterland show, and The Dead refused to play unless the picketers got in for free. The promoters relented, and some picketers were let in, though apparently not all. Amongst the various broadsides passed back and forth

"One of the group, said the Diggers, had admitted that the Love Conspiracy Commune was backed by "some mob." The mob was a group of dealers from the University of North Carolina who jokingly called themselves the "Chapel Hill Mafia" (p.150)."

While this accusation seems like the sort of criticism that angry ideologues hurl at each other, Perry points out later (p.189) that a Methedrine/DMT lab associated with the Love Conspiracy Commune, on Baker Street (in Pacific Heights), was busted on May 3, so the Commune may indeed have had some shady underpinnings.

The March 6 poster is interesting too. It promises a "Happening" with no specific bands, and makes clear that "Liquor, Beer and Sandwiches" will be available. While hardly illegal, this is clearly an effort to turn an Acid Test into a profitable dance party--dare I call it "A Rave"--and it too must not have gone over well in The Haight. Of course, I have never read or heard a single thing about the March 6 event, so I do not know what happened.

However, by the time of the scheduled March 10-16 Whisky event with the Dead, the "Love Conspiracy Commune" had already caused an ugly rift with the Haight community, and put the Grateful Dead in the middle of a political dispute. The Dead were always comfortable with chaos, but shied away from conflict, and I can't imagine them wanting to play a downtown club with topless waitresses for an out-of-town group who had already shown poor judgment at best.There is no record of the Grateful Dead shows at The Whisky, other than the poster, and I have no reason to think they played the gigs.

My own theory about the Love Conspiracy Commune is that they were connected to drug dealers of some kind, who were looking to make a splash quickly (perhaps to hide money). They blew into San Francisco and took over the booking of an available club, The Whisky A-Go-Go, not realizing it was in the wrong part of town and antithetical to the local scene. They seemed to have the ready cash to book a big event at Winterland, too, but they seemed to have drastically misjudged the local participants, who were still devoted to events that reflected the community as it was perceived, and not ready to fully exploit it commercially. The "Happening" on March 6 that advertises refreshments is actually the most jarring note, and a sign that the San Francisco scene still had an underground feel to it, even if it was slowly conceding ground to commercial realities.

The Peanut Butter Conspiracy/Wildflower shows went through February 27, and I have never seen an ad for an SF Whisky show other than the March 10-16 Dead poster. Its my belief that the SF Whisky had closed by March 10, if not even sooner after February 27, as another misguided enterprise from The Love Conspiracy Commune.

Crossposted on LostLiveDead

Saturday, August 29, 2009

April 1965, Whisky A-Go-Go, San Francisco, CA: Johnny Rivers

The world-famous Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood opened on January 11, 1964, with the then unknown Johnny Rivers as the featured act for much of the year. By the end of 1964, Rivers was a successful recording artist (his big hits were "Secret Agent Man" and "Memphis"), his hit album recorded live at the Whisky A Go Go, and the Whisky was a National sensation. The Whisky's special ingredient was pretty girls dancing in cages elevated above the crowd, dancing to a happening live band.

In early 1965, Whisky owner Elmer Valentine appears to have formally or informally licensed the Whisky name to other operators. There had been other clubs named Whisky A Go Go (in Chicago disco in 1958 for example), but the Hollywood Whisky invented its own formula. there are only traces of the various clubs, and my own research seems to be one of the few attempts to make sense of the San Francisco operation. It appears there was more to Elmer Valentine's club than just pretty girls, and it was not so easily copied.

This promotional photograph of Johnny Rivers is from the Oakland Tribune of April 18, 1965. It is the earliest notice or advertisement I have seen for the San Francisco Whisky. Although I know no more than the fact that Johnny Rivers was playing the SF Whisky in April 1965, we are able to glean a number of important conclusions from this shred of information.

  • The San Francisco Whisky was newly opened in April 1965, and in fact I would not be surprised to find out that Johnny Rivers was the first performer, as he had opened the Hollywood Whisky.
  • Johnny Rivers was a very big recording star in April 1965. "Secret Agent Man" had been a local hit (it would be a National hit in 1966, reaching #3), his cover of Chuck Berry's "Memphis" had reached #2, "Maybelline" went to #12, "Mountain Of Love" to #9, and "Midnight Special" had gone to #20. He had also recorded a number of successful live albums at the Hollywood Whisky. Elmer Valentine was not Rivers's manager, but whoever was must have been tied into the finances of the San Francisco Whisky, because getting Johnny Rivers to open your club was quite a coup.

I have not been able to determine much about the other Whisky franchises, but I would not be surprised to find out Johnny Rivers opened those venues too. I have seen other ads and notices for the SF Whisky in Bay Area papers from 1965 to 1967, but Rivers is far and away the biggest name to have played the venue until the abortive Doors/Peanut Butter Conspiracy shows in February 1967 (The Doors canceled after two days).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Steve Miller Band Performance History July 1968-December 1968 (Steve Miller IV-end)

This continues the Steve Miller Band performance history from 1966 through 1968. For the first installment, from October 1966 through May 1967, see here,for the second half of 1967 see here, and for the first half of 1968 see here. Anyone with additional information, corrections, insights or memories should contact me or post them in the comments. This installment attempts to identify every Steve Miller Band and Steve Miller performance from January to June 1968.

July 12-14, 1968: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Band/Howlin Wolf/Conqueroo
The Conqueroo were from Texas and were regulars at the Vulcan Gas Company ballroom in Austin.
July 26-28, 1968: Grande Ballroom, Detroit, MI Steve Miller Band/Odds and Ends (26)-Carosel (27)-Air Speed Indicator (28)
There must have been a few other dates outside of California, but I am not able to find any.
August 3, 1968: Shrine Expostion Hall, Los Angeles, CA Jeff Beck Group/Blue Cheer/Steve Miller Band/Big Mama Thornton and the original Hound Dog Band/Charles Lloyd
August 4, 1968: Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles Butterfield Blues Band/Ike & Tina Turner/Electric Flag/Magic Sam/Steve Miller Band/Kaleidoscope
August 13-15, 1968 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA The Byrds/Steve Miller Band/Blue Cheer/West
This date is noted in Chris Hjort’s Byrds book. Hjort notes that there is some doubt whether the shows took place. It may have been filming for a TV pilot.
August 16-18, 1968 The Cheetah, Santa Monica, CA Steve Miller Band/Barry Goldberg Reunion/Eastside Kids
High Torr Presents
August 31, 1968 Palace of Fine Arts Festival, San Francisco, CA Mike Bloomfield Jam Band/Quicksilver Messenger Service/The Lamb/Linn County/AB Skhy/Ace of Cups
Faren Miller has a detailed review in her diaries. The billing was somewhat different than what she describes, and its not clear who were no-shows and who she simply missed or didn’t comment on. John Handy, Steve Miller, Big Mama Thornton and HP Lovecraft were billed, and Mike Bloomfield was not. Miller specifically refers to HP Lovecraft as no-shows, but the rest aren’t referenced.
There were multiple stages, with multiple light shows. Peter Albin was the MC (Big Brother was apparently booked, but canceled). Mike Bloomfield Jam Band was initially Bloomfield, Gravenites, Mark Naftalin probably Ron Stallings on tenor and vocals, Bob Jones on drums and a bassist and conga player. Steve Miller and Curley Cook came out and played guitars, and Bloomfield played some organ.
September 5-7, 1968 Fillmore West Chuck Berry/Steve Miller Band/Kensington Market
An eyewitness blog post says that the entire 5-piece Miller Band backed Chuck Berry.
September 20-22, 1968: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Band/Muddy Waters/A.B. Skhy Blues Band
The fact that there are conflicts with two of these dates (see below) suggests that the Miller Band may not have played the gigs. Two gigs in a day was not unheard of, but it seems unlikely on multiple nights.
September 20, 1968: Community Theatre, Berkeley, CA Grateful Dead/Steve Miller Band/Ace of Cups
Note the conflict with the above Avalon date. It appears Steve Miller played two shows in one night, or more likely did not play the Avalon on Sep 20.
September 22, 1968: Del Mar Fairgrounds, Del Mar, CA Grateful Dead/Buddy Miles Express/Taj Mahal/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons of Champlin/Mother Earth/Curly Cooke’s Hurdy-Gurdy Band/Youngbloods/Ace of Cups/Phoenix
The Buddy Miles Express were billed as “Formerly: The Electric Flag.” An eyewitness reports that Steve Miller Band performed as well, with Boz Scaggs still in the band.
September 25, 1968: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band/Santana/Flamin Groovies/It’s a Beautiful Day/Frumious Bandersnatch/Cleveland Wrecking Company/Country Weather/The Womb
Benefit for the Peace and Freedom Cabaret
September 28, 1968: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA Super Session with Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield/It’s A Beautiful Day/Loading Zone
Mike Bloomfield does not show up the third day of "Super Session", so Elvin Bishop, Steve Miller and Carlos Santana take turns sitting in. Miller's guitar playing was left off the Super Session album because of record company conflicts (Miller was on Capitol, while Kooper was on CBS).
September 29, 1968 El Camino Park, Palo Alto, CA Steve Miller Band/Frumious Bandersnatch/Phoenix/Freedom Highway
Yet another “Palo Alto Be-In.” I have had to approximate the date from eyewitnesses and other peripheral evidence . At this show, the Steve Miller Band was a trio (per Bobby Winkelmann of Frumious Bandersnatch), as Scaggs and Peterman apparently did not make the gig. However, Carlos Santana did show up to jam with the Miller trio.
October, 1968: The Steve Miller Band’s second album, Sailor, is released by Capitol. Much of it had been recorded in London earlier in the year. However, guitarist/vocalist Boz Scaggs and organist Jim Peterman would quit the band by year's end (the clipping above is from October 3, 1968 edition of The Capital Times from Madison, WI).
October 2-6, 1968: Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA Steve Miller Band/Chicago Transit Authority
October 16-18, 1968 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA Steve Miller Band/Liverpool Scene
October 24?, 1968 [venue], Kansas City, MO Quicksilver Messenger Service/Steve Miller Band
Date approximated from a newspaper reference. I would presume there were other East Coast gigs.
November 2, 1968: Golden Gym, Cal Western College, San Diego, CA Country Joe & The Fish/Steve Miller Band/Framework
December 22-23, 1968 Sports Arena, Los Angeles LA Pop Festival A Christmas Happening
>December 23, 1968 Sports Arena, Los Angeles, CA Chambers Brothers/Steve Miller Band/Buddy Miles Express/The Turtles/Love Exchange/Box Tops/Grass Roots
December 26-29, 1968: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Band/Sly and The Family Stone/Pogo
A tape from KPFA-fm circulates from one of these shows. Boz Scaggs and Jim Peterman are still in the band, but their role seems reduced, and in any case they would both leave shortly afterwards.
The Steve Miller Band continues to record and perform to this day, but my research into early Steve Miller Band dates ends here. Please comment or contact me with additional information, insights, corrections or memories.

Steve Miller Band Performance History January 1968-June 1968 (Steve Miller III)

This continues the Steve Miller Band performance history from 1966 through 1968. For the first installment, from October 1966 through May 1967, see here, and for the second half of 1967 see here. Anyone with additional information, corrections, insights or memories should contact me or post them in the comments. This installment attempts to identify every Steve Miller Band and Steve Miller performance from January to June 1968.
January 4-6, 1968: Winterland Vanilla Fudge/Steve Miller Blues Band/Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee/Sweetwater (4th Fillmore)

January 12-18, 1968: Café Au Go Go, New York, NY John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers/Steve Miller Band
The Steve Miller Band were probably on their way to London to record their first album, but they seem to have stopped off in New York/ At this point, they are no longer billed as The Steve Miller Blues Band. The Cafe Au Go Go was a Greenwich Village nightclub located at 152 Bleecker Street.

February, 1968: The Steve Miller Band was in London recording their first album. Miller made recording in London a condition of signing a contract. While there, all but Miller are busted for marijuana (the newspaper clipping above is a wire story from the February 27, 1968 Des Moines Register).

April, 1968: The Steve Miller Band’s first album, Children Of The Future, is released on Capitol. Records. Given that the band was recording the album in January and February, an April release is a pretty quick turnaround, even for the 1960s.

April 11, 1968: Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA Yardbirds/Steve Miller Band
The Miller Band seems to have made a national tour, but I only know of a few gigs. The Boston Tea Party was the a major stop on the psychedelic "circuit." Jimmy Page was the lead guitarist of The Yardbirds at this time.

April 12-13, 1968: Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA Steve Miller Band/Earth Opera
Earth Opera was a psychedelic folk-rock group on Elektra that featured Peter Rowan and mandolinist David Grisman, both of them later in Old and In The Way with Jerry Garcia. Earth Opera released two interesting albums on Elektra in 1968 and 69.

April 15-17, 1968: Garrick Theater, New York, NY Steve Miller Band
The Garrick, upstairs from the Café Au-Go-Go, was a small theater in Greenwich Village.

April 18-21, 1968: Café Au Go Go, New York, NY Steve Miller Band/Bunky and Jake

April 26-28, 1968: Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Band/James and Bobby Purify/Sons of Champlin
Tapes survive of all three nights.

May 8, 1968: Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Charlatans/Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks/It’s A Beautiful Day “Fire Dance” Alton Kelly Benefit
The Steve Miller Band may have also played this Carousel benefit.

May 10-12, 1968: Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Band/Kaleidoscope/Youngbloods
Tapes of the Steve Miller Band survive for all three nights. The band engages in some impressive extended jamming, soaring off a chord or two for long periods of time. Lonnie Turner in particular shines on bass. On May 11, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady (and possibly Elvin Bishop) show up to jam at the end of the show.

May 17-18, 1968: Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA Grateful Dead/Steve Miller Band/Taj Mahal Pinnacle Presents
On May 18, the Jefferson Airplane appeared as unannounced guests.

May 18, 1968: Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, San Jose, CA

Jefferson Airplane/Big Brother and The Holding Company/Grateful Dead/Steve Miller Band/Youngbloods/People/Sons of Champlin/Crome Syrcus/Transatlantic Railroad/Indian Head Band/Mourning Reign

This was the first day of the two-day Northern California Folk Rock Festival. Acts are listed in reverse running order (the Airplane closed the show). An audience tape survives of the Miller Band set, seven songs in about 40 minutes.

May 21, 1968: Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: jam with Jerry Garcia, Jorma Kaukonen, Elvin Bishop, Steve Miller, others
Although the Carousel's finances were terrible, the music was still good. Jerry Garcia wanted a place to jam, so the idea was that Tuesday nights would be "jam night" at the Carousel. Admission was only a $1.00, and musicians felt free to hang out and jam. There is a tape, and Miller plays some blues on songs like "Key To The Highway." Probably other members of the Steve Miller Band were there as well. 

May 30, 1968: Acalanes High School, Lafayette Steve Miller Band/Loading Zone/Country Weather/Frumious Bandersnatch
Teen Drop-In Center Benefit
The Frumious Bandersnatch were from Lafayette, CA, in Contra Costa County. This was the first time the band met Steve Miller. Every member of Frumious Bandersnatch ended up in the Steve Miller Band at one time or another in the later 60s and 70s.

June 6-7, 1968: The Hippodrome, San Diego, CA Steve Miller Band/Alexander’s Timeless Blooze Band/Baptized By Fire
The Hippodrome was downtown at Front and G Streets.

June 12, 1968: Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Steve Miller Band/The Charlatans/Dan Hicks

June 16, 1968: Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA Big Brother and The Holding Company/Steve Miller Blues Band/Sandy Bull/Dan Hicks/Santana Matrix Benefit

June 19, 1968: The Ark, Sausalito Steve Miller Band/Curley Cook’s Hurdy Gurdy Band
Although the Steve Miller Band was billed at The Ark, a tiny hangout on am old Ferryboat moored at Gate 6 in Sausalito, I find it highly unlikely that the Steve Miller Band actually played there. However, it seems very plausible that Miller would show up to jam with his old pal Curly Cook, so this was probably Cook’s band with Miller helping out and sitting in.

June 24-25, 1968 The Cheetah, Santa Monica, CA: Steve Miller Band/Rubber Hi-Way
The Cheetah, on Navy Pier, was more of a "teen" place, and often featured local bands. Capitol probably got the Miller Band booked there to create some sort of buzz. It's hard to say if it worked, but these kind of clubs soon disappeared anyway.

June 28-30, 1968: Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Band/Buddy Guy/Initial Shock
The Steve Miller Band may not have played on the 29th (see below). Given the state of The Carousel’s finances, they may not have played any of the shows, or the shows may not have even happened.

June 29, 1968: Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA The Who/Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac/Crazy World of Arthur Brown Pinnacle Presents
This was almost certainly Fleetwood Mac’s American debut (there is a small chance they debuted June 23 at the Carousel in San Francisco). The Mac was still the original 4-piece lineup (Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood) as Danny Kirwan would not join until August. The second night (June 29) Steve Miller Band replaced Crazy World of Arthur Brown, due to an injury in the band.
For the final installment, see here.

Steve Miller Band Performance History June 1967-December 1967 (Steve Miller II)

This continues the Steve Miller Band performance history from 1966 through 1968. For the first installment, from October 1966 through May 1967, see here. Anyone with additional information, corrections, insights or memories should contact me or post them in the comments [2017 update: I am substantially updating the Steve Miller posts in honor of the 48th anniversary of Brave New World]

June 1-4, 1967: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA The Doors/Daily Flash/Miller Blues Band

By the middle of 1966, the Steve Miller Band were an established attraction in the San Francisco Bay Area. Organist Jim Peterman, a friend from Wisconsin, had auditioned in February, but had wanted to finish college. At the end of his senior year at UW, he flew out to join the Steve Miller Band, arriving in late May or early June.

The group was often billed or listed in newspapers as the Miller Blues Band. This wasn't correct, but it didn't interfere, since all the local hippies knew who they were.

June 6-8, 1967: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band

June 10, 1967: California Hall, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band/Anonymous Artists of America
The poster suggests that Miller headlined two nights at California Hall, but a contemporary listing in Ralph Gleason's column shows that Quicksilver headlined Friday (June 9), and AAA replaced The Sparrow.

June 10, 1967: Muhammad Ali Festival at Hunters Point, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band/many others
This mysterious two day event (Saturday and Sunday June 10 and 11) is only known from a poster. I have written about it elsewhere. I have assumed that the Miller Band played June 10 since they played Mt. Tam the next day (see below), but I do not even know for certain that the event occurred. I presume the Miller Band would have played the Ali Festival on the afternoon of the 10th (Saturday) and played California Hall (above) that night.

June 11, 1967: Mt. Tamalpais Theater, San Rafael, CA Fantasy Fair and Magic Music Festival-Benefit for Hunter’s Point Child Care Center
Byrds/Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band/Country Joe and The Fish/Every Mother's Son/Grassroots/Jefferson Airplane/Lamp of Childhood/Loading Zone/Merry-Go-Round/Mystery Trend/New Salvation Army Band/P.F. Sloan/Penny Nichols/The Seeds/Sons of Champlin/Steve Miller Blues Band/Tim Buckley
Originally scheduled for the weekend of June 3-4, and delayed a week due to rain, causing a significant change in the performers. Listed above are the actual June 11 performers.,albeit in alphabetical order.

June 13-15, 1967 The Matrix, San Francisco Steve Miller Blues Band

June 17, 1967: Monterey Pop Festival, Horse Show Arena, County Fairgrounds, Monterey, CA
Otis Redding/Booker T and The MGs/Jefferson Airplane/Laura Nyro/The Byrds/Hugh Masakela/Moby Grape/Steve Miller Blues Band/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Electric Flag/Butterfield Blues Band/Al Kooper/Country Joe and The Fish/Big Brother and The Holding Company/Canned Heat
This was the middle day (Saturday) of the Festival. Acts listed in reverse running order (Otis Redding closed the evening).

June 17, 1967 Athletic Field, Monterey Peninsula Junior College, Monterey, CA: Grateful Dead/Eric Burdon and The Animals/Country Joe and The Fish/Steve Miller Band/others
The Grateful Dead did not entirely approve of the organization of the Monterey Pop Festival, and at their insistence the athletic field across from the Fairgrounds was available for camping. There was also a free stage, and the Dead and some other bands performed. Some eyewitnesses put the Steve Miller Band there, which seems logical, as it was a great opportunity to get heard, but of course no ones memories are very clear.

June 20-21, 1967: New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA Steve Miller Blues Band

June 22, 1967: Bandshell, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA: Steve Miller Blues Band/Sons of Champlin/Ridge Runners free concert
The San Francisco Examiner sponsored free Thursday afternoon concerts from 1:00-3:00pm in the Golden Gate Park Bandshell, with Examiner music critic Phil Elwood as the MC. This was the first one. Supposedly, this was Boz Scaggs debut with the Miller Band, but the dates don't quite line up. The Ridge Runners were a band from nearby St. Ignatius High School.

June 24, 1967: Earl Warren Showgrounds, Santa Barbara, CA Chambers Brothers/Steve Miller Blues Band/Canned Heat

June 25, 1967 Provo Park, Berkeley, CA Steve Miller Blues Band/Loading Zone/Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band/Motor free concert

June 27-July 2, 1967: Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA Chuck Berry/Eric Burdon and The Animals/Steve Miller Blues Band
Steve Miller Blues Band backed Chuck Berry, released on lp Chuck Berry Live at the Fillmore (Mercury Nov 67). This was The Steve Miller (Blues) Band's first appearance on an album. Steve Miller duets with Chuck on "It Hurts Me Too."

July 1, 1967: Greek Theatre, UC Berkeley, CA Doc Watson/Steve Miller Blues Band/Sam Hinton/Cleanliness & Godliness Skiffle Band/Charley Marshall/The New Age
UC Berkeley Folk Festival “Freedom Concert” 8:00 pm, Saturday Night.
The Steve Miller Band was listed for the Saturday nighttime concert at the Berkeley Folk Festival, but there was an inherent conflict with the Fillmore. Given that they would have been playing four sets over six hours (two of their own and two backing Chuck Berry), they probably didn’t play on Saturday night. More likely they appeared at the Sunday afternoon concert the next day at the Greek Theatre.

July 6-9, 1967: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco Steve Miller Blues Band/Siegal Schwall Band
Somewhere around this time, guitarist Curly Cooke quits the Steve Miller Band. The group plays as a 4-piece for a little while, but they realize that the band sounds better with two guitarists. Miller puts in a call to another old friend, this time from prep school in Texas.

July 9-10, 1967: California Hall, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band/The Sparrow

July 14-15, 1967: California Hall, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band/Sunshine Company/Anonymous Artists of America

July 17-20, 1967: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band/Mother Earth

This photo was taken at Buckeye Ranch in Lafayette on July 26, 1967. Memories are vague. Based on other photos, this guitarist is playing in front of Country Joe and The Fish's equipment. Note the reel-to-reel tape recorder, possibly for sound effects. The perfomer may be Steve Miller.
July 22, 1967: Casa Loma Swim Club, Lafayette, CA Country Joe and The Fish/Steve Miller Band/New Salvation Army Band/Roger Collins/Majestic Sound/Don Holland/Clark Miller Trio/Maggie’s Farm/The Virtues/Blue Union/Frumious Bandersnatch/Opus Three
The Oakland Tribune (in its July 26, 1967 edition) reported that after this 12-hour “Happening” on private property (at the Buckeye Ranch on the end of Springhill Road) the Contra Costa County District Attorney filed an injunction against the organizer, alleging zoning violations related to traffic and noise. The organizer was expecting 6,000 fans, but only 2,000 showed after a court order “ruined” the show. Only six of the twelve groups played, including CJF, Miller and Salvation. Country Joe and The Fish were named in the injunction. I have written elsewhere about some interesting, if fragmentary memories of this show. An unidentified photo may in fact be of Steve Miller, playing on Country Joe and The Fish's equipment, with a tape recorder. It is possible that the entire Miller band did not show up, since the event was flaky, and Miller fulfilled the obligation himself.

July 24-27, 1967: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band/Mother Earth

July 28-29, 1967: Continental Ballroom, Santa Clara, CA Steve Miller Band/Kaleidoscope/Anonymous Artists of America

August 4-5, 1967: Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR Steve Miller Band
There are reports that the Miller Band played some dates at the Crystal Ballroom in the Summer of 1967. The promotion of Crystal shows was murky in that Summer, and little evidence survives. The dates are just guessed, based on the Miller Band’s schedule. Crystal shows were on the weekend, generally both Friday and Saturday. 19-20 or 25-26 August are just as plausible.

August 9, 1967: New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA Steve Miller Blues Band

August 11-13, 1967: Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA Electric Flag/Steve Miller Blues Band/Southside Sound System
Although all three bands were based in the Bay Area, they all had deep roots in Chicago.

August 15-17, 1967: Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA Chuck Berry/Charles Lloyd Quartet/Steve Miller Blues Band
Although I have not been able to confirm this, there is good reason to assume the Miller Band backed Chuck Berry. It's also possible that some members of the band backed Chuck Berry, but not the guitarists (see Dec 26 '67 below). 

September 1-3, 1967: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Band/Mother Earth/Bukka White
Per our Italian correspondent, Curley Cooke's last gigs with the Steve Miller Band were at the Avalon, probably these shows. Cooke recalled that he was quite sick and had a hard time playing. Cooke returned to Wisconsin for a while to recover. The Steve Miller Band played a few shows as a quartet (confirmed by Jim Peterman), but they realized they needed another guitarist and singer, so Miller got in touch with Boz Scaggs.

September 9, 1967: California Hall, San Francisco, CA Kaleidoscope/Steve Miller Band/Sopwith Camel/Southside Sound System/Hair/Mt. Rushmore
Benefit for Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic

September 12-14, 1967: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band/Peter Walker
Apparently, the Miller Band played a number of gigs without a rhythm guitarist, but the date of Boz Scaggs actual debut is unkonwn. Scaggs and Miller had played together in Texas when they were in school together. Scaggs had since gone to Sweden, where--strangely--he had made an album of folk songs, but he returned to San Francisco when Miller reached out. I have to assume that Boz' debut was at a club like the Matrix or the New Orleans House, rather than a larger show.

I don't have any specific evidence that Boz debuted at these Matrix shows, but the timing fits.

September 15-16, 1967: The Straight Theatre, San Francisco, CA The Steve Miller Band/Billy Roberts/Sopwith Camel/Notes From The Underground
Around this time, the Steve Miller Band starts to drop the "Blues Band" tag, although they are often billed that way anyway, since that is how they have been known.

September 19-20, 1967: New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA Steve Miller Band
>Fall, 1967: El Camino Park, Palo Alto, CA Steve Miller Band/New Delhi River Band
A free concert, confirmed by an eyewitness.

October 2-4, 1967: New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA Steve Miller Band

October 30, 1967: Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band/Sopwith Camel/Mother Earth/Incredible Fish/Collectors
This KPFA Benefit was originally supposed to be headlined by Pink Floyd, on their first American tour. However, the band had visa problems and canceled their first American dates. Steve Miller Blues Band took their place. The above is a contemporary ad from the Berkeley Barb (h/t Ross). The Incredible Fish were Country Joe and The Fish but without Joe McDonald, who had temporarily left the band due to the usual "creative differences" (he rejoined a few months later, although the creative differences remain at issue).  The Collectors were a hip band from Vancouver.

November 14, 1967: North Face Ski Shop, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band/Jesse Fuller
“Rite of Winter” presented by The North Face Ski Shop. 
North Face was the hip ski wear company started by Doug and Susie Tompkins, later famous with the Esprit clothing line. The store was at 308 Columbus. Unlikely as it may seem, the Steve Miller Band were not the first rock band to play the North Face, as the Grateful Dead had played the stores opening the month before. It appears that this event was to celebrate the second store, near the Stanford University campus.

November 15, 1967 North Face Ski Shop, Palo Alto, CA Steve Miller Blues Band/Jesse Fuller
“Rite of Winter” presented by North Face Ski Shop. 
North Face also had a store in the Old Barn near the Stanford Shopping Center. I'm not sure if this was a grand opening or not.

December 26-28, 1967: Winterland, San Francisco, CA The Doors/Chuck Berry/Salvation (26th Fillmore)
December 29-30, 1967: Winterland, San Francisco, CA Chuck Berry/Big Brother and The Holding Company/Quicksilver Messenger Service
Wolfgang’s Vault has promulgated a tape of the first night’s Chuck Berry set (Dec 29). Berry plays a very fluid set with some nice guitar work, backed by (as the announcer calls it) “The Steve Miller-less Blues Band”, Jim Peterman on organ and Lonnie Turner and Tim Davis on bass and drums. Presumably the same group backed him all week.
For the next installment, see here.

Steve Miller Band Performance History October 1966-May 1967 (Steve Miller I)

The Steve Miller Blues Band at the Matrix on the weekend of December 20-23, 1966
While researching an extensive future project about rock concerts in Portland, Oregon in the late 1960s, I had to determine a date for a Steve Miller concert in Oregon and discovered that I had a fairly extensive record of early Steve Miller Band shows. Since I had no other plans for the information, I have decided to post the information here.

Steve Miller moved to Berkeley in October, 1966, and made his name as leader of The Steve Miller Band, who first came to fame at the Avalon and the Fillmore in 1967’s Summer of Love. History has made Steve Miller appear as a slick professional musician, an appellation Miller would be proud of. Nonetheless, endearingly, Miller remained friends with Country Joe McDonald, Chet Helms and other denizens from his scuffling days in Berkeley.

I am trying to identify all performances by The Steve Miller Band and Steve Miller himself from his arrival in California in October 1966 through the end of 1968. Anyone with additions, corrections, insights or memories should contact me directly or put them in the comments [2017 update: I am substantially updating the Steve Miller posts in honor of the 48th anniversary of Brave New World]

Steve Miller, from Madison, Wisconsin, had been a successful musician in Texas and Chicago in 1965 and 1966. In Texas, he had a band with Boz Scaggs (who by 1966 had became a folk singer in Sweden, where he released a now-obscure album), and in Chicago he had a band with pianist Barry Goldberg, who taught him to name bands after himself. In the late Summer or Fall of 1965, Miller made a scouting trip to the Bay Area. Since there weren't many bohemian proto-hippie musicians yet, it's not surprising that Miller found himself staying at a house full of scuffling musicians near Telegraph Avenue and Russell Street. The house was behind a folk club and coffee house called The Jabberwock, on 2901 Telegraph.

Some of the musicians who lived in the house had a jug band called The Instant Action Jug Band, so named because they could spring into action at any time when the Jabberwock had no other performers. The membership was kind of fluid, since if anyone had another gig or a date they didn't play. According to Joe McDonald and Barry Melton, the future founders of Country Joe And The Fish, Miller not only stayed with them, but actually played with the Instant Action Jug Band as well. Miller was sold--he made plans to return to Berkeley.

October 16, 1966: The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA Butterfield Blues Band/Jefferson Airplane/Big Mama Thornton
Miller moved to Berkeley and lived in his VW Microbus. He visited the Fillmore on October 16, and joined in on stage for a jam with members of The Butterfield Blues Band and the Jefferson Airplane, invited on stage by his friend Paul Butterfield. When Miller announced he was moving to the Bay Area, the crowd cheered.

December ?, 1966: The Forum, Berkeley, CA Steve Miller Blues Band
Miller had visited SF in 1965 and he found the SF scene fun but unprofessional. However, having moved to the area, he called on old Madison friends Curley Cooke on guitar and Tim Davis on drums to join him in California, along with bassist Dick Personett (thanks to Italian correspondent Bruno for pointing this out). Personett, however, would only play the first few gigs and returned to the Midwest.
Miller's new band rehearsed over Thanksgiving weekend in the unlocked basement of Wurster Hall, the UC Berkeley Architecture building. According to Miller, he rapidly had a band that knew 25 tunes, “in tune and tight.” He found a gig for his band at a Berkeley coffee house on Telegraph Avenue (near Bancroft) called The Forum.

As December wore on, however, Miller began to run out of money. His gig at The Forum, however, lead to a paying gig at the Avalon, and the princely offer of $500 made sure he would not be forced to return to Chicago. To celebrate, Miller rented a room on College Avenue, and took his band to dinner and a movie.

The Datebook listings from the San Francisco Chronicle of December 16, 1966. The Steve Miller Blues Band and guitarist Steve Mann are opening at The Matrix. This was the first published listing for the Steve Miller Band
December 16-17, 1966: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Steve Miller Blues Band/Steve Mann
The Steve Miller Blues Band was booked at The Matrix, probably as a result of being seen at The Forum. In any case, once they were on an Avalon poster, even as an opening act, the Matrix could book them. Steve Mann was an astonishing fingerpicking blues guitarist, a successful session musician and a personal mess, with numerous health problems. Those who saw him play way back when--and that includes people like Jorma Kaukonen--say he was one of the most talented players in the Bay Area.

December 18-22, 1966: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band/Congress of Wonders

December 23-24, 1966: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Grateful Dead/Moby Grape/Steve Miller Blues Band

January 6-7, 1967: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Quicksilver Messenger Service/Miller Blues Band
Dick Personett seems to have returned to the Midwest fairly quickly. Around this time, Miller replaced Personett with Berkeley bassist Lonnie Turner, whom he’d met at The Jabberwock on the previous year’s scouting trip. At the time, Turner was the bassist for a Berkeley band called Second Coming. It's not certain when Turner actually joined.

January 10-15, 1967: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band

January 20-21, 1967: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Lee Michaels/Miller Blues Band [added

January 24-27, 1967: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band
A live tape from the date circulates with the date January 27, 1967.

February 10-11, 1967 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band/Lee Michaels/Peanut Butter Conspiracy [added

February 17, 1967: New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA Steve Miller Blues Band

February 18-19, 1967 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band 
Sometime in February of 1967, Miller flew out keyboard player Jim Peterman, also from Madison. In an interesting interview with Nick Warburton, Peterman explains that he came out and played some shows in February to see if he would fit in. It's not precisely certain which shows he played, but I assume he would have had some warmup gigs at a place like the Matrix before playing more high-profile shows like the Fillmore. The audition was a success, but Peterman wanted to finish his last three months of college at UW, so he did not join the band until late May.

February 19, 1967: California Hall, San Francisco, CA Country Joe and The Fish/Steve Miller Blues Band/Mime Troupe
“Port Chicago Vigil Benefit”

February 26, 1967: Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA BB King/Moby Grape/Steve Miller Blues Band [added] 

March 4, 1967: Steninger Hall, UC Medical Center Auditorium, San Francisco, CA Big Brother and The Holding Company/Steve Miller Blues Band/Robert Baker
“Journey To The End of The Night” Benefit for Peace
Steininger Hall was the auditorium of what later became UCSF, the med-school only wing of the University of California. It was several blocks uphill from the Panhandle. 

March 5, 1967: California Hall, San Francisco, Steve Miller Blues Band/Orkustra/Dino Valenti/SF Mime Troupe/The Committee/Richard Brautigan
“Bedrock One” CA “A Benefit for the Communication Company” A Rock Dance Happening Environment

The Communications Company was a sort of "newspaper" and printing press that printed a lot of broadsides in the Haight on behalf of the Diggers.

March 10-11, 1967: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Quicksilver Messenger Service/Steve Miller Blues Band/Daily Flash

March 12, 1967: Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA Country Joe and The Fish/Big Brother and The Holding Company/Steve Miller Blues Band/Quicksilver Messenger Service 
“Phoenix Dance” Benefit for Aid to Vietnam and Mississippi

March 17-19, 1967: The Afterthought, Vancouver, BC Steve Miller Blues Band/Collectors
The Vancouver scene had many ties with San Francisco, and underground SF bands often played there.

March 22-23, 1967 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco Quicksilver Messenger Service/John Lee Hooker/Miller Blues Band
This was a rare Wednesday-Thursday gig for the Avalon.

March 24-26, 1967: New Orleans House, Berkeley Steve Miller Blues Band

March 26, 1967: Elysian Park, Los Angeles, CA Burbank Easter Love-In
Grateful Dead/Steve Miller Blues Band/Sopwith Camel/Iron Butterfly/Clear Light/The Nazz/many others
The poster does not list the bands, and bands are only known from various accounts that are not 100% reliable. Doug Lubahn (bassist for Clear Light) does remember playing with the Dead and another SF band. The Alice Cooper list has The Nazz (newly arrived from Phoenix, later to become Alice Cooper) and Iron Butterfly (newly arrived from San Diego). A Commenter spoke with the late Curly Cooke, who specifically recalled playing the event.

March 30, 1967: Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, CA Jimmy Reed/John Lee Hooker/Charles Lloyd/Miller Blues Band

April 1, 1967: Main Auditorium, San Francisco State College 6th Annual Folk Festival Buffy St. Marie/Greg Ohrlin/Patrick Sky/Steve Miller Blues Band

April 1, 1967: Girls Gym, San Francisco State College 6th Annual Folk Festival Dance Chambers Brothers/John Hammond and The Screaming Nighthawks/Steve Miller Blues Band
This event began at 11pm, part of the weekend’s folk festival. Possibly the Miller Band participated in the Sunday afternoon (April 2) finale as well.

An ad from the April 6, 1967 Sf Chronicle for the Steve Miller Band at the Rock Garden.
April 4-9, 1967: Rock Garden, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Band/The Only Alternative and His Other Possibility with Kay Olsen/The Orkustra
The Rock Garden was a short-lived attempt to have a Fillmore style venue at in the neighborhoods. Now the venue is largely only remembered for some exotic, circular posters.

April 14-15, 1967: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA The Doors/Miller Blues Band/Hajibaba 

April 21-23, 1967: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Steve Miller Blues Band

April 28-30, 1967: Fillmore Buffalo Springfield/Steve Miller Blues Band/Freedom Highway
The 30th was an afternoon show.

May 5, 1967: Stockton Ballroom, Stockton, CA Steve Miller Band/The Plague
An obscure poster for this event has turned up. The Stockton Ballroom was a small ballroom that still exists. The show was presented by Green Grass

May 7, 1967: Freeborn Hall, UC Davis, CA Jefferson Airplane/Steve Miller Blues Band

May 13, 1967 Wurster Hall, UC Berkeley Steve Miller Blues Band
This was part of a campus event called The Beaux Arts Festival. Wurster was the new UC Architecture building. It is doubtful that the current configuration could handle a dance concert, but I assume the building was less full then.

May 15, 1967 Both/And Club, San Francisco Steve Miller Blues Band
The Both/And was a jazz club at 350 Divisadero, near the Haight. Rock bands sometimes played there as well, particularly on otherwise empty Monday nights like this one.

May 26-27, 1967: Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA Big Brother and The Holding Company/Steve Miller Blues Band

May 28, 1967: Provo Park, Berkeley, CA Steve Miller Blues Band, Mad River, Purple Earthquake
Bands played for free in Berkeley's main city park (at Grove and Allston), similar to how they played for free in Golden Gate Park.

For the next installment, see here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

June 10-11, 1967: Muhammad Ali Festival, Hunters Point, San Francisco, CA

One of the more mysterious events in San Francisco rock history is the "Muhammad Ali Festival," held in the Hunters Point district of San Francisco on June 10-11, 1967. This event is only known to me and my fellow historians from a poster in Paul Grushkin's fine book The Art Of Rock (plate 2.245, p.206, reproduced here). I have never read or heard an account of any band who recalls playing there or people who attended the event, and in fact I can not even be certain that the event occurred. Many surviving sixties posters promote events that were subsequently canceled, or changed dramatically, so the existence of a poster does not remotely insure the event occurred as planned. However, the tantalizing evidence of this poster suggests that whoever planned this festival had something different in mind than the typical Rock Festival in Golden Gate Park, which were common in the first half of 1967.

Since the reproduced poster can be hard to read, I will indicate the facts here. The header says "Muhammad Ali Festival-Hunters Point-Free-June 10-11." Hunters Point was a mostly African-American district of San Francisco, which had grown to prominence during World War 2, as many African Americans moved to San Francisco to work in the Naval Shipyards in Hunters Point (similar to Oakland, Richmond, Marin City and Vallejo). Free rock concerts in San Francisco, of which there were a lot at the time, had hitherto been in Golden Gate Park or nearer Downtown (Union Square, etc), so a free concert in an African American neighborhood was new territory, particularly a two-day event on Saturday and Sunday. Along with a 1969 Synanon Festival in Oakland, this show appears to be one of the very few efforts to merge white rock hippie festivals with the African American community, so whether the show succeeded or not is a much more interesting question than usual.

Muhammad Ali also had a unique status at this time. Besides his enormous status as an athlete (comparable to someone like Shaquille O'Neal), he had refused induction into the US Army as a Conscientious Objector, saying that it went against the teachings of The Koran. His famous remark "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong" made him a hero to many people who were not boxing fans. In 1964, Ali had changed his name from Cassius Clay, and this alone was unprecedented (most sports headlines still called him Clay), and making his religious beliefs the basis for refusing to be drafted made him a figure much larger than a mere a sports hero. In April, 1967 Ali was arrested for formally refusing his draft notice, and his trial was set for June 20. He was convicted, and although he was not jailed, he was stripped of his heavyweight title and did not box again until 1971. As a result, Ali crystallized opposition to the War, reflecting a man so principled that he gave up money and fame to do it.

Thus an event 10 days before Ali's trial that says "Muhammad Ali Festival" is self-evidently intended as a celebration of racial solidarity and opposition to the Vietnam War. Of course, that would be the hippie interpretation--whether the local community perceived it as supportive or patronizing is unclear. Some of the fine print says "Free Bar B-Q", which in California was effectively code for African Americans, although how black people might have felt out about it was completely unclear. There is also a small map of Hunters Point but I cannot discern the actual place where the festival was held.

No specific organizer or affiliations are identifiable for this event, so it makes me wonder how carefully it was organized. A lot of hippie events were thrown together kind of casually, and they did not always fall together gracefully: bands didn't show up, generators ran out of power, the cops hassled about permits, neighbors complained, and so on. Its impossible to say if this well-intentioned event had a chance of succeeding, much less whether it actually did.

As to the mystery of this event, it happened to take place on a particularly busy rock weekend in the Bay Area. A huge rock festival that was scheduled the previous weekend at Mt. Tamalpais in Marin had been delayed and rescheduled to the weekend of June 10-11. This all day event, featuring groups like The Doors, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and The Fish and a couple of dozen others, would have sucked away numerous people who might have considered journeying to Hunters Point. Numerous other people may have been saving up time or money to go to the Monterey Pop Festival the next weekend. Meanwhile, The Doors were at the Fillmore Friday and Saturday night (June 9-10), Big Brother and Canned Heat were at The Avalon all weekend (June 8-11) and Steve Miller Band was headlining California Hall on Friday and Saturday night as well.

The listed performers for this concert were not well known at the time, even if some of them have grown in stature since. The acts listed are:

Steve Miller Blues Band: a great group, but a year shy of their first album, and only known locally. Curley Cook was still on rhythm guitar, as Boz Scaggs would not join until later in the Summer.

Orkustra: A Haight Ashbury band that played all instrumental music, featuring future Manson Family member Bobby Beausoleil on guitar and David LaFlamme, later of Its A Beautiful Day.

The Loading Zone: an Oakland band that played both rock and soul clubs, they too were a year shy of their debut album.

The Charlatans: though Haight Ashbury legends, these pioneers were never actually that popular, and their first album did not come out until much later.

Ulysses Crockett and The Afro Blue Persuasion: Crockett was a Berkeley vibraphonist whose modern jazz sextet played a lot on Haight Street.

Phoenix: A San Francisco group that was still a year shy of their performing peak, although they never got the breaks they needed either.

Anonymous Artists of America: A Santa Cruz Mountains band who lived in a commune

SF Mime Troupe: Popular political theater group in the City

The Committee: Improvisational theater troupe, based on Broadway in North Beach

Sonny Lewis Quintet, Haight Street Jazz Band, Raquels, Earth: all unknown to me.

One of the "acts" says "Gonga Drums", which I take to be an informal drumming group, common in Golden Gate Park and Sproul Plaza, and the Radha Krishna Temple. What the temple was providing isn't clear, although one assumes they all chanted. There are numerous initials, like "B.A.Q," "P.L.T's" and "B.J.", which may be code or who knows what. There are numerous assurances of "Surprise Guests," but of course there is no way of knowing.

To some extent, the fact that this event ended up taking place on a giant rock weekend during the Summer Of Love has pushed it into obscurity. Nonetheless, the poster remains a tantalizing curiosity about an event that was interesting whether it occurred or not.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

7th and Market Streets, Oakland: August 7, 2009

On August 9, 1969, the City of Oakland held a Synanon-sponsored Street Fair. It featured a 14-hour free concert on two stages, headlined by Country Joe and The Fish. Just one week before Woodstock, the Oakland Tribune reported that 75, 000 people attended the event.

I have written about what I could determine about this remarkable event here. When I was in California recently, I took pictures of the site. Of course, the area has changed dramatically, both because of redevelopment and because of changes resulting from the aftermath of the Cypress Freeway collapse during the Loma Prieta Earthquake (October 17, 1989).

In August, 1969 these blocks were probably largely empty, which is why a large, free event could be held there. I have assumed that the area was slated for redevelopment, so many buildings must have been razed, but there was probably nothing yet in its place.

These photos were taken from a gas station on the corner of 7th and Market, looking across Market street. The top photo, with the tall apartment building, is the Southwest corner of 7th and Market; the lower photo, looking at a McDonald's, is on the Northwest corner of 7th and Market.

August 9, 1969 7th and Market Streets, Oakland, CA: Synanon Street Fair with Country Joe and The Fish

On Saturday, August 9, 1969, one week prior to Woodstock, Country Joe and The Fish headlined a 14-hour free concert at a Street Fair in Oakland for as many as 75,000 people. There are many remarkable things about this event, not the least that it seems to have been totally forgotten in the history of the East Bay and East Bay music. Until I discovered it recently in the archives of the Oakland Tribune, I knew nothing about it, and that made it officially obscure. This post is a brief effort to show what I have learned from the Tribune archives, as well as showing how remarkable this event appears to be.

Throughout most of the 1960s, the city of Oakland took pains to separate itself from its neighbor Berkeley, frowning on Anti-War demonstrations, long hair, rock music and everything associated with it. Berkeley had been having all sorts of free rock concerts and events for years, but Oakland remained a staid, middle class city. The Oakland Tribune was owned by the Knowland family, one of California's most powerful families, and The Trib represented Oakland's political and economic power brokers at the time. When the Tribune started giving over substantial space to promoting the Synanon Street Fair, in July 1969, a month before the event, it is clear that this event was supported by the City of Oakland at the highest levels.

Synanon was a drug rehabilitation program that put addicts to work doing a variety of community activities, thus becoming a sort of self-funding entity. Synanon had good relations with the City of San Francisco, and they had put on very successful Street Fairs in San Francisco in 1967 and '68. The Fair itself, complete with rock bands, were free, but Synanon made money through concessions and sponsorship. These events appear to be the predecessors of such San Francisco events as The Haight Street Fair or The Folsom Street Fair.

Oakland seems to have felt that the city needed such a fair, but a number of things seem to make the Oakland event different from the San Francisco events. The event was held at 7th and Market Streets, not too far from Downtown, but also part of the more African American neighborhoods that had been bisected by new roads as part of urban re-development. The trace evidence of the performers and the photos suggest that the event was intentionally structured to engage both the Black and White communities, a common effort in Berkeley but not so common in Oakland. 7th and Market was approximately in the area that had seen the founding of The Black Panthers, Oakland's most infamous export, so a multi-racial City-sponsored Rock Festival was not at all insignificant.

There were two stages, with 14 hours of almost continuous performers. According to the August 7 Tribune, the scheduled performers were:

Rock Stage (10:00am-midnight, scheduled order)

VeeJays/Southern Comfort/Phananganang/Marvin Gardens/Country Weather/Transatlantic Railroad/Synanon/Frumious Bandersnatch/Joy of Cooking/Flamin’ Groovies/Everyday People/Country Joe and The Fish/Morning Glory/Womb/The Crabs

Concert Stage (10:00am-midnight, scheduled order);

Johnny Mars Blues/Ice/Murray Music Co/Martha Young/Eddie Henderson/Gentle Dance/Harley White Sextet/Afro-Jazz Quartet/Gospel Tonics/Sounds of Synanon/Esther Phillips/QueQeg/Sebastian Moon/Orion

In an article on the day of the concert, The Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band were also listed as performers, probably on the Rock Stage.

Only Country Joe and The Fish were headline performers. Most of the names were popular club bands around the Bay Area. The division of acts suggests that the Rock Stage featured mostly white rock acts, and the Concert Stage featured mostly, but not exclusively, "black" acts. I doubt there was a Free Concert or similar event prior to this that tried to appeal to both Black and White audiences, and precious few afterwards.

Articles leading up to the event suggested that as many as 100,000 people were expected. The headline article on the Sunday afterwards (August 10, 1969, from which the above pictures are taken) says that 75,000 people attended. Given the Tribune's and Oakland's vested interest in a successful event, there is reason to think this may be an exaggeration. Nonetheless, as the top photo shows, there was certainly a substantial crowd, at least early in the day, so any exaggeration may be mild. The numerous photos in the Tribune pictured a broad spectrum of attendees: children, hippies, and young and old black and white people. Regardless of who may have actually attended, it is clear that a peaceful multi-racial social event was a primary goal of the effort.

After August 10, however, I could find nothing more about this event. This leaves numerous questions unanswered. Among them:

  • A huge free concert near downtown, directed at a multi-racial audience, is both radical and far-sighted, particularly for Oakland. Whose idea was it, and how did it get traction?
  • Free rock concerts, starting in Golden Gate Park (on October 6, 1966), and followed by The Human Be-In (January 14, 1967), were iconic events in the 60s rock world, remembered fondly and often incorrectly by aging white hippies. What did the African American community think of this event, held near "their" neighborhood, then, afterwards and now?
  • If this concert was the success the article makes it out to be, why wasn't it repeated? While I note the large crowd in the picture above, based on the schedule the picture was probably taken about 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon. How big a crowd was there at midnight, when The Crabs and Orion closed each stage?

I lack the resources to investigate this event, but it stands in stark contrast to almost every other rock festival and free concert in the Bay Area and elsewhere during the late 1960s, and it seems ripe for analysis and research.

Notes on the performers
Country Weather, pictured above, were a Contra Costa County band featuring guitarist Greg Douglass, who co-wrote the hit single "Jungle Love" for The Steve Miller Band.

Joy Of Cooking, a Berkeley band who released several fine albums on Capitol in the 1970s, had only formed a few months prior and was still mostly playing Berkeley clubs.

Frumious Bandersnatch were a band from Lafayette, popular locally but who never recorded. Members of the group were later in Journey and The Steve Miller Band.

For a current picture of the site, see here.

Provo Park, Berkeley: 1967-69 concerts

(I have re-written this post with substantially more information here)

Provo Park in Berkeley, originally named Constitution Park, lies in the center of town, near City Hall and Berkeley High School. It is bounded by Allston Way, Martin Luther King Junior Way (called Grove Street in the 1960s) and Center Street. In the mid-1960s, Berkeleyites started calling Constitution Park "Provo Park" in support of the IRA, and the name stuck. This is typical Berkeley politics, hardly noticed by residents, and almost no one living there now recalls why the park was called Provo Park.

When free concerts in the Golden Gate Park Panhandle became commonplace, many Berkeley rock bands looked to extend the idea to Provo Park. It was fun, it was cool and anyway it was good publicity for the bands. The first Panhandle show was October 6, 1966, the day LSD was declared illegal, and when The Grateful Dead, Big Brother, Wildlower and Orkustra played an unauthorized event there. By Spring 1967 the idea had spread to Berkeley, and there were apparently almost weekly shows, mostly during weekend afternoons. While many of the performers were simply aspiring local folk musicians or Berkeley High School rock bands, many larger events took place there too.

Provo Park remains fairly similar to how it looked in the day, although the buildings around have changed considerably. I took these two photos on August 11, 2009. The top photo is from near Center Street (Stage Right), looking across towards Allston. The Berkeley Community Theatre looms in the background, on the grounds of the High School. The bottom photo is taken about half way back on the lawn from the Martin Luther King Jr Way side (Grove Street), looking at the whole stage.

It would be impossible to compile a complete list of Provo Park shows in the 1960s, as many of the performances were casual. However, here are a few highlights, taken from flyers and newspaper notices at the time.

January 15, 1967 Loading Zone/Ulysses B. Crockett
March 19, 1967 Loading Zone/New Delhi River Band/Motor/Ulysses S. Crockett and The Afro-Blues Persuasion “The Reversal Of The Earth Human Be-In”
This was Berkeley's "Be-In"

April 23, 1967 Loading Zone/2 others
According to the Oakland Tribune (Apr 21, 1967), the city agreed that using Provo Park for free concerts would be good for the city, and limit confrontations between hippies and police.

September 24, 1967 Initial Shock
April 14, 1968 Country Joe and The Fish/Mad River/Loading Zone/SF Mime Troupe
May 12, 1968 Phoenix/Martha's Laundry/Creative Arts Guild Improvisational Ensemble

July 21, 1968 Sky Blue/Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band/Crome Syrcus

April 6, 1969 Sons of Champlin/Lamb/Frumious Bandersnatch/Ace of Cups/All Spice Rhythm Band

April 20, 1969 Joy of Cooking

May 5, 1969 Loading Zone/All Spice Rhythm Band/This Ole World/Gentle Dance

September 29, 1969 Maximum Speed Limit/Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band/The Crabs

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Whisky A-Go-Go, San Francisco 1965-67

The Whisky A-Go-Go in West Hollywood is rightly revered as a seminal club in the history of rock music. It is a little remembered fact, however, that owner Elmer Valentine appeared to have franchised the name and style of the club (or "The Brand" as we would now say) to other operators outside of Los Angeles. There was a Whisky A-Go-Go in Chicago, and I believe in Atlanta, and one in San Francisco, all largely forgotten.

The San Francisco club was at 568 Sacramento Street (at Montgomery), right near downtown but somewhat far from the action on North Beach. The earliest evidence I have seen of it is the first week of 1966, from which the article (right) about the engaging Ms. Tina Loo's dancing ability was drawn (San Mateo Times, January 7, 1966). The last I know of it was February, 1967, when The Doors played a few dates, quickly replaced by The Wildflower. I have seen a few other ads from the San Mateo Times in early 1966, of which the above (from February 11, 1966) is typical.

Other than these scattered facts, I know very little about the San Francisco Whisky, or anything at all about the other Whisky "franchises." However, the little information I have about the San Francisco Whisky does show how the "business model" of an entertainment vehicle depends so much on the operator, not the model. I have written extensively about performers at the Whisky from 1966 to 1969, and while they were only paid union scale, they were the coolest and most interesting bands in Los Angeles, whether living there or just visiting. West Hollywood was where the cool people were, and the Whisky became a hangout and taste-making club. In an entirely different way, the same could be said of the Fillmore and The Avalon in San Francisco.

Conversely, however, a bunch of unhip lounge bands and pretty go-go dancers in San Francisco's Financial District seems to have made an impression on no one. Elmer Valentine's booking policies made the Whisky what it was, and the style and the girls were just icing (if delicious at that). By the same token, Fillmore-style clubs never made it financially in Southern California, because despite plenty of good bands it lacked the focus that the Fillmore and Avalon brought to San Francisco.

I know that by the time The Doors played the SF Whisky it had become a topless joint, and after there were only a few patrons at their first gigs (on February 14-15, 1967), The Doors handed off their booking to The Wildflower. I think the SF Whisky folded soon after that. To this day, I have no idea who financed or ran the San Francisco Whisky.

Crossposted at Rock Archaeology 101.