Friday, October 16, 2009

Fillmore East May 10, 1968 Jimi Hendrix Experience/Sly And The Family Stone

(this post is part of a series cataloging every performance at the Fillmore East)

The second weekend in May of 1968 had an atypical billing, as their were completely different shows on Friday May 10 and Saturday May 11.

May 10, 1968    Jimi Hendrix Experience/Sly and The Family Stone
The Friday night bill at Fillmore East was a rock bill for the ages, featuring one of the biggest rock acts in the world, supported by a group that would soon join Hendrix at the mountaintop. Jimi Hendrix Experience were big and getting bigger, but Bill Graham always excelled at persuading bands and their management that performing at his showcases in San Francisco and New York always paid more dividends than playing a larger place.

The current Experience album was Axis: Bold As Love (Reprise Feb 68). These shows featured the original Experience, with Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums.One of Hendrix's shows featured a 17-minute performance of “Red House,” and the lucky patrons who caught either the early or late show never forgot it. 
San Francisco's Sly And The Family Stone were not just electrifying but groundbreaking. Vocalist/organist/guitarist Sly Stone (Sylvester Stewart) was from Vallejo, CA and Sly and The Family Stone (including brother Freddie Stone on guitar, sister Rose on vocals, cousin Larry Graham on bass, Cynthia Robinson on trumpet and ‘white guys’ Jerry Martini on sax and Gregg Errico on drums) wore way out hippie clothes, sang about peace and love and were absolutely the funkiest band around. Sly’s addition of rock elements to soul music was so influential that his approach is taken for granted today, but an inter-racial band adding rock guitar on top of James Brown licks, along with the thumb-popping bass of Larry Graham was unthinkable before Sly.  Biographer Joel Selvin correctly observed that in Black Music, there is 'before Sly' and 'after Sly.'

In Fall 1967, Sly And The Family Stone had an extensive, successful residency at a dance club at 19 St. Marks Place, between 2nd and 3rd Street (in Greenwich Village, not far from Fillmore East) called The Electric Circus, so they were somewhat known in hip New York. The band's current album was still their first, A Whole New Thing (Epic 1967). However, the song “Dance To The Music”, from their next lp, had already been released as a single and it was a hit on AM pop charts as well as soul radio.

Sly and The Family Stone were truly electrifying performers, and in Joel Selvin’s  biography of the reports that their set culminated with Sly, Freddie and Larry Graham dancing into the aisles and leading the crowd out into the street, while Gregg Errico and the horn section wailed away. They absolutely killed the house, and that was before Hendrix came in and shattered the place, and they did it all over at the late show. Truly a night to remember at Fillmore East.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience never played the Fillmore East again, although Band Of Gypsies did play there (in 1970). However, Hendrix hung out regularly at Fillmore East, when he could, and was a familiar figure backstage.

May 11, 1968 Autosalvage/Group Therapy/Joyfull Noise

In contrast to the Friday night show with two of rock's most legendary acts at the height of their powers, Saturday's show featured three acts on RCA Records that are largely forgotten.  Bills full of unknowns were common in the early days of the San Francisco Fillmore, but that was a very localized ‘scene’ and was driven by a different dynamic. Given the obscurity of these performers, I have to assume that RCA footed the bill for this booking.

Autosalvage was a jug band who had "gone electric".  Supposedly they were discovered by Frank Zappa in New York (presumably in 1967).  Autosalvage had a self-titled album (RCA 1968).  Their music was very eclectic, typical of a lot of jug bands at the time.  Members included bassist Skip Boone (brother of a member of The Lovin Spoonful) and guitarist Rick Turner, later to become famous as a guitar builder for Alembic instruments.

There were several sixties bands named Group Therapy, but this was likely the Northeastern variant featuring vocalist Ray Kennedy (who worked with the Beach Boys and Mike Bloomfield in the 1970s).  There music was of the heavy Vanilla Fudge variety, and not apparently memorable.  They would have been supporting their album People Get Ready For Group Therapy (RCA 1968).

Joyfull Noise was a soft-rock band from the Northeast, also on RCA, also supporting their self-titled first album. 

next: May 17-18, 1968: The Byrds/Tim Buckley/The Foundations

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