Wednesday, September 9, 2009

January 23, 1966 Whisky-A-Go-Go, San Francisco, CA: The Hedds

San Francisco's Whisky A-Go-Go was the little known cousin to the legendary Hollywood rock club. Located on 568 Sacramento Street, between Downtown and North Beach, it opened in about April of 1965, owned and managed by unknown parties. The club seems to have made a real, if failed, effort to succeed in early 1966, and faded away in early 1967 after another operator seems to have taken a brief stab at making it a sort of topless hippie club.

This listing from the entertainment section in the January 23, 1966 edition of The San Mateo Times reveals some of the interesting crosscurrents as the club tries to find its niche. The regular act for the week seems to be Gino Dentie and His Quartet. Gino Dentie, a native of Pittsburgh who moved to California in the 1960s. Dentie seems to have been working a sort of hip lounge act, since the blurb describes the new songs he has added to his act (Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me", Elvis's "Treat Her Right" and The Rolling Stones "Get Off My Cloud"). The blurb also ads that his Quartet has added the new sounds of the conga drums and 12-tring guitar.

Dentie seems to have made no impact on the San Francisco rock scene, but he was a successful disco performer in the 1970s, apparently, and from the 1980s onward he has appeared in numerous movies as a character actor. He also apparently owns World's Longest Car (as acknowledged by The Guinness Book Of World Records).

The group replacing Gino Dentie, The Plymouth Rockers, seems to be an Arizona "Garage" band, who released a 1966 single on Valiant Records ("Don't Say Why"/"Walk A Lonely Mile"). Their residency began on Thursday, January 27, and probably continued for a week or two. The Plymouth Rockers did play at the Hollywood Whisky in February, indicating that the clubs at least shared some bookings.

The most interesting note in the Times listing is for Sunday, January 23, as the club promotes Sundays as "Teen Age Day." Hollywood clubs, including the Whisky, often had weekend afternoon "All-Ages" shows, where no drinks were sold, and this must be the case here. The blurb says Teen Age Day is "one of the most popular days of the week." One must always suspect promotional material, but there's probably an element of truth, since there would have been a lot less for teenagers to do in San Francisco on a Sunday, and adequate public transport (unlike the suburbs). Of course, the club wouldn't have made nearly as much money selling cokes instead of booze.

The band for January 23 were The Hedds, by all accounts a fairly hip San Francisco band. The Hedds had relatively long hair for 1966, apparently had a pretty rocking Rolling Stones type sound, and of course their name intentionally broadcast that they were pot smokers, a bit of slang completely lost on parents. At the legendary Cow Palace Battle of The Bands, in April 1966 (The Liebes "Band Bash"), The Hedds came in second (to Butch Engle and The Styx), so they must have been pretty good. Lead singer Rory Block later joined Womb (a psychedelic band who released two albums later in the 60s), organist Reese Marin ended up in Aum, and drummer Barry Lewis played with a variety of bands.

It would be more interesting to know other groups who played Teen Age Sunday at the SF Whisky than the regular acts, but information about such things is very hard to come by. The San Francisco scene, still finding its legs, was oriented towards an all-ages scene--since drugs were illegal, age wasn't a barrier to getting high--and away from bars, so the headline acts at the SF Whisky seemed not to have fit into the San Francisco underground scene.

1 comment:

  1. The Whisky-A-Go-Go was not the only club to attempt a migration to San Francisco. For a while in 1970 Doug Weston's Troubadour operated out of the 960 Bush Street location (previously home to Coast Recorders) that would subsequently become the Boarding House. Adverts for a number of shows exist in Good Times.