Friday, December 17, 2010

September 22, 1968: Del Mar Fairgrounds, Del Mar, CA: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Grateful Dead/others (West-Pole Agency)

(one of the posters for the September 22, 1968 all-day show at Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego County)

Many 60s events are only recalled through the posters advertising the events. If the posters feature groups that are now famous, like the Grateful Dead, the events persist in the historical record, but with little consideration about the nature of the event itself. The all-day rock festival at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, in Del Mar, CA, near San Diego, held on Sunday, September 22, 1968, was one such event. There are a few vague eyewitness accounts, and it seems to have been a pleasant enough show. The weather is always inviting on the San Diego coast, and the bands were a mixture of some excellent well and lesser known San Francisco bands. Ten bands were scheduled in a noon-'til-dusk event, followed by fireworks, so it was probably pretty fun.

What were nine San Francisco bands doing playing an all-day festival in San Diego County in 1968? How did this come about? Without any special information, it's impossible to know for certain. However, a careful analysis of the poster will show us some of the now-forgotten factors in play. In particular, I am interested in looking at this minor, nearly unique event as a way of looking at the important role of Booking Agents in 1960s. Booking Agents, sometimes called Talent Agents, were a crucial piece of the 60s rock story and their role has been largely obscured. This 1968 event mostly featured groups booked by the same agency, San Francisco's West-Pole Agency, so I will look at this event from the point of view of the West-Pole Agency, and Booking Agencies in general.

September 22, 1968: Del Mar Fairgrounds, Del Mar, CA: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Grateful Dead/Buddy Miles Express (formerly The Electric Flag)/Youngbloods/Taj Mahal/Mother Earth/Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups/Phoenix/Curly Cooke's Hurdy Gurdy Band

Booking Agents
A booking agent arranges performances by musicians or bands at different venues, in return for a fee, generally capped at 10% of the performance fee. A booking agent--by law--is different from a talent manager, whose fees are capped at 15%, but who can in turn take a percentage from all revenues, including recording and other sources. Booking agents were and are licensed by the different States, and had to follow various rules, comparable to how Real Estate Agents are overseen. In the 1960s, Booking Agents were limited to taking 10% of a performer's fee (for example, if a band was paid $1000 to play the Fillmore, the Booking Agency received $100), but if the Agent performed certain other services, usually involving publicity (such as providing and circulating posters), they could take up to another 10%. Booking Agents can and did share fees with each other.

The importance of Booking Agents to 60s rock history cannot be overstated, but it is generally completely ignored. A practical analysis shows their importance. If you consider Bill Graham's Fillmore operation, open 52 weeks of the year, with 3 bands each weekend, the need to fill the stage with an endless string of performers was critical. It would be impossible for even the most hard-working promoter to ever find the phone numbers of every band in the country that was on tour, much less those coming from England. However, Booking Agents acted as the middlemen for the touring acts, working with venues across the country to insure that there were bands to play the various auditoriums. By the same token, a band like the Grateful Dead (or any other band) could never have found the contact numbers of every venue in the country, so the Agency served as a critical go-between for bands and promoters.

It is common to look at old rock posters from the Fillmore era, like the one above, and think about the friendships of different band members. It's easy to assume that because bands were friendly, they shared bills or worked different venues, but in fact that had very little to do with friendship. The critical relationship outside of a band's local area--and even within it--was always with the Booking Agent. The Doors and The Jefferson Airplane shared many famous bills in the 60s, including an infamous 1968 European tour, but the fact that they shared a Booking Agency (APA) overrode any other connections between the groups. By the same token, venues far from San Francisco that featured then little-known San Francisco bands farther down on the bill indicate a relationship with the group's Booking Agency, rather than the bands themselves.

Booking Agency relationships are only mentioned in passing, if at all, in most rock histories, so I can only piece together the relationships from fragmentary information. Also, like Real Estate Agents, Booking Agencies shared fees where appropriate. While there were a few National Agencies (usually based in Los Angeles or New York), most Agents worked regionally. If their clients went out of town, like when a West Coast rock band toured the East, they might share with regional agencies with better connections there in return for similar considerations. Nonetheless, the 60s rock business was new enough that some clear outlines could be discerned in San Francisco, where bands had less access or appeal to the big Hollywood agents (like APA, William Morris or Famous).

West-Pole was a San Francisco Booking Agency that seems to have exclusively booked Fillmore-style rock bands in the late 60s and early 70s. They were not a large Agency, in the scheme of things, but as a result it has been easier to discern their operations, and it is thus easier to use them as a template for showing the interrelationship of Booking Agents to the 60s rock business in general. I should add that I am not aware of any history of these matters, so I have had to make educated guesses about a lot of things. Any readers who can illuminate me on either the specific details of the Booking of any of these bands or the general operations of Talent Agents are encouraged to do so.

The West-Pole Agency was a partnership between Quicksilver Messenger Service manager Ron Polte and former Big Brother and The Holding Company manager Julius Karpen. Both were former Chicago labor organizers who had relocated to San Francisco in the early 1960s. For many years, I was confused at Ron Polte's role as Manager and Booking Agent, and most descriptions of that are incorrect. There was even a 1969 TV documentary called "West-Pole," produced for Public Television by Ralph Gleason (available as a Bonus Disc as part of the Jefferson Airplane Go Ride The Music DVD). However, although the show features mostly (but not exclusively) West-Pole bands, the actual function of West-Pole is never explained.

Ron Polte
Ron Polte had come to San Francisco from Chicago, because the Chicago police did not want him in town anymore. Polte was friends with Paul Butterfield and Nick Gravenites, among many other musicians, and these friendships would stand him in good stead in the future. By 1967, Polte became the manager of Quicksilver Messenger Service. As the group expanded beyond just playing local shows at the Fillmore and the Avalon, it appears that Polte looked for other ways to maximize the group's returns. Polte was instrumental in putting on concerts outside of San Francisco, in particular booking the Continental Ballroom in San Jose (actually at 1600 Martin Avenue in Santa Clara) for eight weekends in Summer, 1967. While Polte made sure to hire his own band (Quicksilver), he hired all the other San Francisco groups as well.

Somewhere around the Summer of Fall of 1967 Polte seems to have recognized the expanding appeal of San Francisco music and created West-Pole. Thus if West-Pole booked Quicksilver, Polte got two bites of the apple: Polte-the-manager took 15% of the fee, and West-Pole took another 10%. At the same time, Polte had working relationships with all the San Francisco bands, so he was well positioned to work as a Booking Agent, no doubt presenting himself as more sympathetic than the archetypal cigar chomping middle-aged guy in a suit.

Julius Karpen, another expatriate Chicagoan, had taken over the management of Big Brother And The Holding Company after the band had split with Chet Helms in Fall 1966 (ironically over taking a gig Polte had arranged for them in Chicago). However, when Janis Joplin's star quality manifested itself at Monterey Pop, uber-manager Albert Grossman (who handled Bob Dylan among others) took over Big Brother's management. It appears that West-Pole took over the booking of Big Brother on the West Coast, as a kind of "consolation prize" for being pushed aside as manager. Thus the many concerts where Big Brother and Quicksilver played together resulted not just from long-standing friendships between the band but from sharing the West-Pole Booking Agency.

West-Pole Clients
To my knowledge, my best guess at the West-Pole client list was:
Ron Polte managed Quicksilver and Ace Of Cups, while Albert Grossman managed Big Brother and Electric Flag. The other groups had a variety of managers: Fred Roth managed The Sons, and George Smith managed Phoenix, for example.
(an alternate poster for the September 22, 1968 Del Mar Fairgrounds festival)

Del Mar Fairgounds Rock Festival, September 22, 1968
The Del Mar "Autumn Equinox" Festival seems to have been planned on the Monterey Pop model: using an existing outdoor venue for an all-day continuous music show. It was a nice idea, but none of those Festivals actually made any money. Monterey Pop itself only succeeded because all the bands agreed to work almost for free--an agreement that was not repeated--and because ABC-TV financed a TV special (which ultimately turned into the movie Monterey Pop). Still, it seemed like a good idea for a year or so, until the "Woodstock model" took precedence.

The Del Mar festival seems to have been a West-Pole inspired effort to have a sort of "Monterey Pop" event in San Diego. In general, it seemed like a good idea, but the economics did not favor it. Given that there were 10 acts, and a 7-8 hour window for performances (noon until dusk), 5 of the lesser acts must have played about half an hour, the headliners probably played an hour, and some of the in-between a little bit less. A few eyewitness accounts suggest that this was an enjoyable show, if not hugely attended. The members of the group Phoenix recall the show as "an ostrich racing track." While the race track was actually founded in 1937 (by Bing Crosby) as a horse racing track, it's not impossible that ostriches raced there. Nonetheless, the festival was not repeated, so good weather and good vibes aside, it must not have been a profitable event.

Nonetheless, the point I am making here is the critical role of West-Pole as the Booking Agent. Look at the list of acts in terms of Agencies-the West-Pole Acts are in bold:
  • Quicksilver Messenger Service
  • Grateful Dead
  • Buddy Miles Express (formerly The Electric Flag)
  • Youngbloods
  • Taj Mahal
  • Mother Earth
  • Sons Of Champlin
  • Ace Of Cups
  • Phoenix
  • Curly Cooke's Hurdy Gurdy Band
The two key headliners were Quicksilver and The Dead, both linchpins of the San Francisco underground, and essential to giving the Festival the hip cred it would need. The Buddy Miles Express were totally unknown, however, and even the Electric Flag were never really that popular. However, since it was clear that West-Pole played a crucial role in booking the show, Buddy Miles could be given a more prominent position on the bill than they otherwise might have deserved.

As to the Sons Of Champlin, Ace Of Cups and Phoenix, good as those groups were, they were San Francisco bands who were completely unknown in the San Diego area. However, because West-Pole was providing the headliners, they could provide the opening acts, and so were able to put their own bands on the bill. In this case, at least, the hippies of San Diego County were the beneficiaries, as all those groups were excellent. However, if different agencies had played a larger role, different groups would have opened the show.

In the 1968-69 period, the Grateful Dead were booked by the Millard Agency. The Millard Agency was the Booking Agency wing of Bill Graham' s organization, as Graham wanted multiple bites of the apple, just as Ron Polte did. The Dead (Millard) and Quicksilver (West-Pole) shared many bills, but the role of the Booking Agent can often be seen in the opening acts. When the Dead played a show opened by Santana, Sanpaku, Cold Blood, Elvin Bishop or It's A Beautiful Day (among others), the Millard Agency's hand seems plain. When groups like The Sons or Ace Of Cups open a show, West-Pole would seem to have been the driving force.

These bookings weren't just gravy: while some bands are only recalled by the likes of me, others like Santana or The Sons Of Champlin ground out a fan base all over Northern California. In the 60s and 70s, relentless touring was a way to bypass radio and the record companies, and a shrewd and efficient Booking Agent could open a lot of doors to a good live band. The most important Booking Agent in the 60s rock scene was actually Frank Barsalona's Premier Talent Agency, responsible for bringing great English bands like The Who, Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac to America, but that is too large a story to tell here.

The Autumn Equinox Festival at Del Mar Fairgrounds was not repeated. Some of the West-Pole bands probably garnered a few fans, but West-Pole's primary acts disintegrated at the end of 1968. While both Quicksilver and Big Brother returned to touring in 1970, their impact was not the same (and with Janis Joplin permanently departed from Big Brother, this was no small thing). I believe West-Pole lasted until mid-1970, when various management issues caught up with it. However, because West-Pole was a small agency that represented only San Francisco bands, its footprint is easy to discern, and it provides a useful insight into the unseen role of Booking Agents in 60s rock history.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Sons Of Champlin Performance List July 1969-February 1970 (Sons V)

(a scan of the poster for The Sons Of Champlin at Springers Ballroom in Oregon, on July 4, 1969. h/t Ross for the scan)

The Sons Of Champlin were one of the best and most musical of the original San Francisco bands that played the Fillmore and the Avalon from 1966 onwards. Well ahead of their time, they are fondly remembered now, and since the world has finally caught up to them, they continue to perform this very day. This project is an attempt to identify all the performances of The Sons Of Champlin from 1966 to 1969. The previous installments of this series were

This post will look at the Sons Of Champlin's known performances from January through June 1969. Thanks to various people who have helped with this project over the years, including Ross and the old Yahoo Sons discussion group, but most particularly Sons road manager Charlie Kelly. Anyone with additional information, insights, corrections or memories (real or imagined) should Comment or email me.

Sons Of Champlin Performance List July 1969-February 1970
In mid-1969, The Sons Of Champlin were a six-piece band. The lineup was
  • Bill Champlin-Hammond organ, guitar, lead vocals
  • Terry Haggerty-lead guitar
  • Tim Cain-tenor sax
  • Geoff Palmer-piano, Hammond organ, vibes, baritone sax
  • Al Strong-bass
  • Bill Bowen-drums
In late 1968 and early 1969 the Sons Of Champlin had recorded Loosen Up Naturally for Capitol Records, their first album.  Chief roadie Charlie Kelly said that the double-lp represented their live set at the time (often augmented by a few covers).  The album was released in the Spring of 1969, probably about May. Throughout the balance of 1969, The Sons regularly played many smaller venues in the Bay Area, and I have only captured a portion of those dates. I have to assume the Sons worked almost every weekend, or at least tried to, plus numerous weekday shows. Anyone with additional information, corrections, updates or recovered memories (real or imagined) should email me or Comment.

July 4, 1969: Springer’s Ballroom, Gresham, OR: Sons Of Champlin/Portland Zoo/Total Eclipse
Springer's Ballroom was an old resort in suburban Portland that was briefly a rock and roll ballroom.

July 6, 1969: Bullfrog Music Festival, near Estacada (Clackamas County), OR: Jefferson Airplane/Sons Of Champlin/Ace of Cups/Portland Electric Zoo Band/Family Tree/Mixed Blood/other local bands
This was a 3-day festival held outside Oregon City (about 20 miles south of Portland) on private land at Bullfrog Lake Trailer Park. Charlie Kelly recalls that Grace Slick dressed in a Girl Scout uniform, and the Airplane started their show with three quick fireworks blasts and hit the downbeat on the four, electrifying the crowd.

Summer 69: Andrews Park, Vacaville, CA: Sons Of Champlin
This show was presented by The Sun Company, a group pf high school kids that produced local shows. Steven Bise of the Sun Company recalls that they had "a cool little Quonset hut (a former Boys Club) that we turned into a dance hall (complete with pretty decent light shows).  Not bad for a bunch of small town kids.  I remember being thrilled that we had the Loading Zone in town {on Aug 2, 69} (Sons Of Champlin, Mad River and others also played) that summer.   It was a big deal to us!"

July 12, 1969: Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Nick Gravenites/Brothers/Linn County  Benefit for the 13th Tribe

week of July 13-18, 1969:
Various gigs, Seattle area, possibly at the Eagles Auditorium.  Charlie Kelly describes a road trip from Oregon to Seattle to Colorado and Utah.

July 19, 1969:  unkown venue, Salt Lake City, UT:  Sons Of Champlin
Described in Charlie Kelly’s website. An old stone structure outside of town.  The date is approximate, but Kelly remembers being in Salt Lake City when astronauts landed on the moon.

July 20, 1969:  Folsom Field, U. of Colorado, Boulder, CO: The Byrds/Steve Miller Band/Buddy Guy/Sons Of Champlin
This leg was described in Charlie Kelly’s website.  The dates are approximate, but they fit The Byrds touring schedule (the Byrds were in NYC on July 13 and the Pacific Northwest on July 26-27).

In late July, The Sons were in Hollywood recording their second album.

July 27, 1969: Balboa Stadium, San Diego, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Sons Of Champlin/Ten Years After/Congress of Wonders

July 28, 1969: Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups
A Monday afternoon free concert.  The LA Police attended, in full riot gear.

August 1-3, 1969:  Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Everly Brothers/Sons Of Champlin/Frumious Bandersnatch
Baby Huey and The Babysitters canceled (replaced by Frumious), because Baby Huey died.

August 7, 1969: Santa Venetia Armory, San Rafael, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Tamalpais Jungle Mountain Boys/Free and Easy

August 8-9, 1969: New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA:  Sons Of Champlin/South Bay Experimental Flash

August 10, 1969: Rio Theater, Rodeo, CA: Sons Of Champlin/South Bay Experimental Flash

August 16, 1969; Gym, Monterey Peninsula College, Monterey, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Country Weather/Catharsis
For a brief period around the Summer of 1969, the Millard Agency (the talent booking wing of Bill Graham) helped set up a series of concerts in the Monterey area with San Francisco bands. There were some fine shows, but it didn't extend much beyond this Summer.

August 17, 1969:  Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA: Benefit for MPFU
Sons Of Champlin/Country Weather/Cold Blood/Fritz/Old Davis/Sunbear/Congress of Wonders
The Midpeninsula Free University (known locally as "MFU" or "Free You") was a South Bay attempt to shake up higher education, and it succeeded in certain ways. For a few years in Palo Alto, they held a series of free concerts at El Camino Park, and later, after much distress from the City of Palo Alto, moved their events to Stanford University's Frost Amphitheater.

August 20, 1969: Concord Armory, Concord, CA: Sons Of Champlin

August 21, 1969:  California Ballroom, Modesto, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Daybreak/[unreadable]
The California Ballroom was a small venue in the sleepy farming town of Modesto. It held 500 to 800 people.  It is still extant, and is located at 6th and E Street.  An eyewitness reported in an email:

just a comment..........i don't have the date but it had to be 69, maybe
70', because i came from vietnam in may of 69.  while spending some
time with my parents who had moved from santa cruz to modesto,
i did see the sons play at the california ballroom in modesto.  i have
no idea who was on the bill with them..........but i do remember the local
police stopped the show when the sons were on stage.

~laughing to myself...........i can remember the local police, undercover
had wigs on.........turn the lights on..........had all the exits locked 
for the front door and for whatever reason made everyone file out the front
August 23, 1969: Family Dog at The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons Of Champlin with Jimmy Witherspoon/Anonymous Artists of America/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
This was A Wild West “makeup” gig. According to Ralph Gleason, the Sons backed Jimmy Witherspoon for “Stormy Monday,” presumably among other tunes.

August 24, 1969: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Country Joe and The Fish/It’s a Beautiful Day/Sons Of Champlin
Another Wild West makeup gig.

August 27, 1969: College of Marin, Kentfield, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Loading Zone/Phoenix/Freedom Highway/Circus/Clover  SDS Legal Defense Fund Benefit
Possibly August 26.

August 28, 1969: The Armory, Eugene, OR: Sons Of Champlin/Searchin’ Soul Blues Band

August 30, 1969: Second Sky River Rock Festival Rainier Hereford Ranch, near Tenino, WA (south of Olympia)
Anonymous Artists of America/Black Snake/Blue Bird/Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle     Band/Collectors/Congress of Wonders/James Cotton/Country Weather/Country Joe and The Fish/Crome Syrcus/Crow/Dovetail/Floating Bridge/Flying Burrito Brothers/Frumious     Bandersnatch/Grapefruit/Guitar Shorty/Buddy Guy/Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks/Dr. Humbead’s New Tranquility String Band/Juggernaut/Kaleidoscope/Los Flamencos de Santa Lucia/Fred McDowell/Steve Miller/New Lost City Ramblers/Pacific Gas and Electric/Peter/Terry Reid/Mike Russo/Sons Of Champlin/Rhythm Dukes/Mark Spoelstra/Alice Stuart/Yellowstone/ Youngbloods/Dino Valenti/Elyse Weinberg

September 7, 1969: Folsom Field, U. of Colorado, Boulder, CO: Country Joe and The Fish/Steve Miller Band/Tim Hardin/Buddy Guy/Sons Of Champlin/Conal Implosion

September 12-14, 1969:  Family Dog at The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: It’s A Beautiful Day/Sons Of Champlin/Fourth Way

September 20, 1969: Monterey Jazz Festival, Monterey County Fairgrounds, Monterey, CA: Little Esther Phillips w/Bobby Bryant and The Soul Festival All-Stars/Roberta Flack/Sons Of Champlin/Lighthouse
Reviewed in the September 22, 1968 San Mateo Times by Jack Russell. Willie “The Lion” Smith was unable to make the afternoon “Blues” program, and according to Russell, the Sons performed admirably in his place.

September 21, 1969:  Benson Cafeteria, University of Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Ace of Cups/Freedom Highway

September 24, 1969: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: It’s A Beautiful Day/Sanpaku/Sons Of Champlin/Ace of Cups/The Outlaws (Dino Valenti and Garry Duncan)/Terry Dolan  
Bay Area Drug Committee Presents At Bill Graham’s Fillmore West A Benefit Show Save The Children
The only  Outlaws (Duncan and Valenti) show.

September 25, 1969: Peterson Gym, San Diego State College, San Diego, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Kaleidoscope

October 4, 1969:  Lake Amador, Plumas County, CA:  ‘Gold Rush’  Santana/Taj Mahal/Bo Diddley/Albert Collins/Kaleidoscope/Al Wilson/Southwind/Ike and Tina Turner/Sons Of Champlin/John Fahey/Cold Blood/Linn County/Daybreak

>October 5, 1969:  Houston Coliseum, Houston, TX: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Hot Tuna/Sons Of Champlin
The Sons were advertised, but did not perform at this show.

October 7-8, 1969:  Mandrake’s, Berkeley, CA: Sons Of Champlin
Mandrake’s, at 1048 University (and 10th Street, near San Pablo Avenue), was mainly a blues club, although rock bands played there as well. Berkeley’s Joy of Cooking got their start holding down a regular weeknight gig throughout the Spring of ’69.

October 9, 1969: Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Sanpaku

October 10-12, 1969:  Family Dog at The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA:  A.B. Skhy Blues Band/The Sons/Brewer and Shipley

October 12, 1969: Applegate Park, Merced, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Crazy Horse/Cloud/Ruben Gomez Rhythm Band (free noon concert)
The San Joaquin Valley farm town of Merced had its own mini-Woodstock, featuring the Sons. Merced was prosperous, and only a few hours from San Francisco, but in some senses it was worlds away. Crazy Horse was not Neil Young's backing band but a local group (as were the other groups).

October 14-16, 1969: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Mendelbaum

October 17, 1969: Legion Hall, Merced, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Crazy Horse/Cloud

October 24-26, 1969: Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Jefferson Airplane/Sons Of Champlin/Doug Kershaw
A board tape from October 24 circulates. Bill Champlin mentions from the stage that the Sons new album was being released the next week. John Leones appears to have played tenor sax with the group at this show; he had been a member of the Opposite Six with Bill Champlin in 1965. I do not know if he was a regular guest or if this was a one-off appearance.

In November, 1969, Capitol released the second Sons Of Champlin album The Sons (SKAO 332 Nov 69).  It ostensibly reached #171 on the Billboard lp charts.  On the back cover, it says “The Sons Of Champlin have changed their name to The Sons,” but in actuality that was far from a pre-determined fact.

Also in November, 1969, The Sons set out on an eight week national tour.  They persuaded Bill Graham to co-sign a loan for a truck, which they beat to death on their tour.  However, I know few details of their tour schedule besides its mileage (8,000, according to Charlie Kelly). The dates at Fillmores East and Winterland presumably ended the tour. What I have been able to piece together is below.

November 1, 1969: Civic Center, Santa Monica, CA: Youngbloods/Sons Of Champlin
Date approximated from an eyewitness account.

November 11-12, 1969:  East Town Theater, Detroit, MI: Jefferson Airplane/The Sons/King Crimson
This gig is very hard to confirm, and I had thought it was canceled. However, in the Comments, Bruno tells us he asked Tim Cain about this, and Cain said
"Bill Bowen and Geoff Palmer got arrested for marijuana by the Detroit Police in our hotel the day before this concert. Bill Champlin had to play drums all night and sing at the same time. Bowen and Palmer were later found to be not guilty - we think the police planted some false evidence when they could not find any pot in our rooms. When they searched our rooms they took our touring money for evidence and never gave it back".
Charlie Kelly confirmed the story about the Detroit police, and since the Sons had ended up lighter in the wallet by several thousand dollars, it meant they could no longer afford hotels.

November 14-15, 1969: The Palladium, Birmingham, MI: The Jagged Edge/The Sons/Promise

November 21-22, 1969: Ludlow's Garage, Cincinatti, OH Lemon Pipers/Ricky Nelson/Sons Of Champlin
A commenter vividly recalls a Sons performance at Ludlow's Garage, Cincinatti's stop on "the Fillmore Circuit" (thanks to Bruno for the dates).

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

November 30, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Jethro Tull/Sons Of Champlin
Although some timelines list this show as having been at The Spectrum, the great site TourArchive confirmed to me that the Philadelphia Flyers had a game that night, so the event was at the Electric Factory instead. Charlie Kelly remembers being billed at the Electric Factory with Jethro Tull, so that is additional confirmation.

December ?, 1969: The Hedges, West Hartford, CT: Sons Of Champlin
A fan posting on the Sons Of Champlin site recalls paying $5 as a High School Junior to see the Sons play a VFW-type hall (with no chairs).

December 8-9, 1969: Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Jethro Tull/The Sons Of Champlin
This is an inferred date, but likely.  In a New Musical Express article about Jethro Tull’s American tour, writer Nick Logan refers to Tull bassist Glenn Cornick going to back to the Tea Party for an afternoon jam with The Sons Of Champlin.  I inferred from that remark that the Sons opened these shows at the Tea Party.

Charlie Kelly commented, ”We did the Electric Factory in Philly with Tull.  They were in Boston at the same time, for sure, and one afternoon the bass player and I walked all over Boston together, so maybe we were on the same bill.  I remember seeing Johnny Winter at the Tea Party, but I don't think the Sons were on that show” (private email).

As these shows were on a Monday and a Tuesday (Tull was rapidly becoming huge in America, and could fill up a club on a weeknight), the Sons must have played somewhere in the Northeast on the weekend of December 5-6 (possibly Boston). According to Charlie Kelly, due to their lack of money, the band ended up staying at the Tea Party for several days.

December 17-18, 1969: Ungano's, New York, NY: Terry Reid/The Sons
Ungano's was a club in the West 70s, a showcase and hangout for record companies based in Midtown. The club worked cooperatively with the Fillmore East, so it's not surprising that the band played Ungano's right before their weekend at the Fillmore East(for more about Ungano's, see here).

Terry Reid was a fine English singer and guitarist, so highly touted for stardom that he turned down Jimmy Page's offer to join Led Zeppelin, recommending the unknown Robert Plant instead (h/t Its All The Streets You Crossed blog for the Ungano's ad).

December 19-20, 1969: Fillmore East, New York, NY: The Byrds/The Nice/Sons Of Champlin/Dion (Dion late shows only)

December 31, 1969: Winterland, San Francisco, CA:  Jefferson Airplane/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons Of Champlin/Hot Tuna

In 1970 The Sons Of Champlin fell into disarray.  Although still signed to Capitol, they would effectively break up by March, 1970.

January 10, 1970: Convention Hall, Community Concourse, San Diego, CA: Grateful Dead/The Sons/Aum
According to eyewitnesses, The Sons were a last second replacement for Savoy Brown, who appeared on the poster.  The Sons ran overtime on their set (according to Charlie Kelly), ending with Bobby Blue Bland’s classic “Turn On Your Lovelight”, already a Grateful Dead concert staple.  As the promoter and the Dead were getting irritated, the promoter started lowering the hydraulic stage to indicate to them that it was time to go.

January 17, 1970: Freeborn Hall, UC Davis, Davis, CA: It’s A Beautiful Day/Sons Of Champlin/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen

February 12-15, 1970: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Country Joe and The Fish/Sons Of Champlin/Area Code 615
Area Code 615 was a band of veteran Nashville session-man (led by guitarist Wayne Moss) who had put out a few rock albums.  This weekend was the only live performance of the group, all of whose members were well-paid Nashville session musicians.

February 20, 1970: Community Theater, Berkeley , CA: Youngbloods/The Sons/Lamb
Ralph Gleason's Chronicle column of February 18, 1970 was headlined "Sons Of Champlin In Farewell Shows" (left). The relevant parts said

 The Sons of Champlin, who made their farewell appearance last week, prior to taking a sabbatical from playing, are giving two more farewell appearances this weekend...
The Sons are tired of the road--they just did a tour--and say they are going to take a long vacation after these next couple of dates. Saturday [Feb 21] they play the Contra Costa Fairgrounds in Antioch with Aum and Joy Of Cooking, and there are some other out of town dates later in the month. Then they take five months off.
Bill Champlin, however, will probably work with the Rhythm Dukes. He has been rehearsing with them frequently and they are planning on having him with them in Marin. The Rhythm Dukes is the surviving group of Moby Grape. It has Jerry Miller on guitar and vocals and John Oxantine on drums [sic-Oxendine] (he once played with The Sons) and John Barrett (formerly with Boogie) on bass.
The circumstances of the Sons 'hiatus' has remained obscure over the years. Certainly the group had worked very hard for little reward over the previous years, and their must have been frustration over management, the record company and other issues. Supposedly there was some concern on the part of the band that they were trapped. Unlike many groups at the time, however, The Sons seemed to have made some effort to plan their dissolution, for whatever good it may have done them.

February 21, 1970: Contra Costa County Fairgrounds, Antioch, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Aum/Joy of Cooking
Whatever brave face may have been presented to Ralph Gleason the week before, this February 21 show in Antioch was the last performance of the initial iteration of The Sons Of Champlin. The Sons Of Champlin still owed an album to Capitol Records, although Capitol was uninterested, and thus Bill Champlin and Geoff Palmer led a recording effort that resulted in Follow Your Heart (Capitol ST 675 Apr 71).  Although the Sons were nominally Haggerty/Palmer/Champlin/Bowen/Strong, the entire group was probably never in the studio at the same time, Indeed, Palmer and Champlin overdubbed many instruments, including bass and drums, which effectively pushed Bill Bowen and Al Strong away from the band.

Aftermath: Spring and Summer 1970
Bill Champlin indeed joined the group called The Rhythm Dukes, whowere  based in Santa Cruz.  The Rhythm Dukes, originally based in Marin, had been playing since late 1969. They had done one tour of the Midwest and Northwest (in late Summer or early Fall), where for at least some gigs promoters billed them as Moby Grape without prior knowledge of the group. By the end of 1969, Rhythm Dukes gigs were apparently mostly in Santa Cruz County, as Jerry Miller lived in Boulder Creek. Champlin was a member of The Rhythm Dukes throughout the Spring and early Summer, but after his foray into Santa Cruz he returned to Marin (as a footnote, The Rhythm Dukes with Champlin were billed on February 20-21, 1970 at The Family Dog, which conflicts with the "Farewell" Sons shows, but in fact the Dukes were replaced by Cat Mother--for Champlin's known dates with the Rhythm Dukes, see here).

Sometime around 1970, the Sons privately released an LP of rehearsals called Minus Seeds And Stems.  The material and sound suggest a 1969 or 1970 recordings, but I am not certain of the exact dates. Supposedly the record was recorded at Sons rehearsal hall, ‘The Church’ (1405 San Anselmo Avenue, San Anselmo). For all their poor career decisions, the Sons were consistently ahead of their time, and a privately released DIY album was about 5 years too early.

Concurrently with this activity, various former members of The Sons and various other groups were playing The Lion’s Share in San Anselmo on Sunday nights as Nu Boogaloo Express.  Bill Champlin returned from Santa Cruz after a few months (the Rhythm Dukes continued without him) and started to work with Nu Boogaloo Express, alternating vocal and keyboard chores with Mike Finnegan.  Other ‘members’ of the group included Haggerty, Geoff Palmer, Dave Shallock, Big Brother drummer Dave Getz and ex-Morning Glory guitarist Danny Nudalman, as well as any friends who wanted to sit in. Generally speaking, the Nu Boogaloo Express was whichever musicians were available backing either Finnegan (who generally sang blues) or Champlin (who generally led a jazzier jam session). Conveniently, the soundman at The Lion's Share was Charlie Kelly.

As an outgrowth of The Nu Boogaloo Express, a loose group formed called Yogi Phlegm
  • Terry Haggerty-lead guitar
  • Bill Champlin-organ, guitar, vocals
  • Geoff Palmer-piano, organ, vibes
  • Dave Schallock-bass
  • Bill Vitt-drums
After starting to get their sound together at The Lion's Share, the band started getting bookings around San Francisco and California. Initially the three former Sons were attempting to distance their sound from the heavily arranged Sons Of Champlin style to a looser fusion jazz style, and in any case they weren’t certain if they had the rights to the name Sons Of Champlin.  However, at most venues they were advertised as ‘Yogi Phlegm-formerly The Sons’ so it hardly mattered. 

Subsequently, Yogi Phlegm morphed back into The Sons Of Champlin and continued on until August 6, 1977 (after which they broke up, reformed, broke up and reformed again—but that’s another story).

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Sons Of Champlin Performance List January-June 1969 (Sons IV)

(a scan of the ad for New Orleans House, from the January 10, 1969 Berkeley Barb)

The Sons Of Champlin were one of the best and most musical of the original San Francisco bands that played the Fillmore and the Avalon from 1966 onwards. Well ahead of their time, they are fondly remembered now, and since the world has finally caught up to them, they continue to perform this very day. This project is an attempt to identify all the performances of The Sons Of Champlin from 1966 to 1969. The previous installments of this series were
This post will look at the Sons Of Champlin's known performances from January through June 1969. Thanks to various people who have helped with this project over the years, including Ross and the old Yahoo Sons discussion group, but most particularly Sons road manager Charlie Kelly. Anyone with additional information, insights, corrections or memories (real or imagined) should Comment or email me.

Sons Of Champlin Performance List January-June 1969
In early 1969, The Sons Of Champlin were a six-piece band. The lineup was
  • Bill Champlin-Hammond organ, guitar, lead vocals
  • Terry Haggerty-lead guitar
  • Tim Cain-tenor sax
  • Geoff Palmer-piano, Hammond organ, vibes, baritone sax
  • Al Strong-bass
  • Bill Bowen-drums
Trumpeter Jim Beem was still associated with the band, but he had been having personal difficulties and was not a part of the group during this period.

In late 1968 and early 1969 the Sons Of Champlin had recorded Loosen Up Naturally for Capitol Records, their first album.  Chief roadie Charlie Kelly said that the double-lp represented their live set at the time (often augmented by a few covers).  Throughout 1968 and 69, The Sons regularly played many smaller venues in the Bay Area, and I have only captured a portion of those dates. I have to assume the Sons worked almost every weekend, or at least tried to, plus numerous weekday shows.

January 10-11, 1969: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups

January 15-18, 1969: New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA:  Sons Of Champlin/Notes From The Underground (17th and 18th)

January 16, 1969:  Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley, CA: Steve Miller Band/Sons Of Champlin/Mad River/Mint Tattoo/Frumious Bandersnatch/Cleanliness & Godliness Skiffle Band/Allmen Joy/Other Half/Little John/The Lamb
“Support the Oakland 7 Benefit Dance” emcee Chet Helms
The flyer for this event is in the A Young Man’s Song cd by Frumious Bandersnatch, but no venue is named. However, the Berkeley Barb lists the event as being held at Pauley Ballroom on campus.  Note that the Sons were also playing at The New Orleans House the same night, but since the New Orleans House was only about a mile from campus, it would have been easy to play an early set at Pauley and then go over to the club. I do wonder if they brought along the Hammond organ, however.

January 24-26, 1969: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Sons Of Champlin/Initial Shock
Since Chet Helms and the Family Dog had vacated, the Avalon was now being booked by an organization called Sound Proof, which was connected to the group Initial Shock.

January 31-February 1, 1969: Longshoreman’s Hall, San Francisco, CA:  Steve Miller Band/Sir Douglas Quintet/Sons Of Champlin
Aquarius Productions Presents “A Medieval Happening”
Renaissance Faires had started to become popular events, and the one in Marin County was among the first. This event was a sort of indoor "pseudo-Renaissance Faire."  An eyewitness reported that the Duck's Breath Mystery Theater comedy troupe performed between sets, and that Steve Miller’s set was "the loudest [he] ever heard... Miller's Marshall amps, turned up all the way, sounded like gravel shaken in a bucket, but impossibly loud.”

February 14-15, 1969: Dream Bowl, Vallejo, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Blues Helping
The Dream Bowl had been a long time music venue dating back at least to World War 2. It was located near the intersection of Highway 29 and Kelly Road. It was a country venue for much of the 1950s and 60s, but for a few months in 1969 some promoters made a go of turning it into a sort of Napa Valley Fillmore. Like many of these experiments, it made no financial sense but was remembered fondly by those who attended.

February 17, 1969: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: 
“Happy Chinese New Year’s” A Benefit for Lenay Inc
Mike Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites Jam/Sons Of Champlin/Phoenix/Ace Of Cups/Pitschell     Players
The poorly-reproduced poster is difficult to read. It must have been approximately this date (because of Chinese New Year’s), but it could have been any time from February 17th to 20th (Monday thru Thursday).

February 19, 1969: Fairfax Pavilion, Fairfax, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Beefy Red
Beefy Red was a Marin jazz-rock group from the 1969-70 period, led by San Francisco guitarist Barry Finnerty, later with the Jazz Crusaders.  The drummer was Jim Preston, who went on to join the Sons in March, 1972.  Mark Isham, also a future Son, was a trumpeter in Beefy Red at some point (the group had up to 10 members) but I do not know if he was in the band on this gig.

February 20-23, 1969: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Albert King/Sons Of Champlin/Cold Blood

February 28-March 1, 1969: The Poppycock, Palo Alto Sons Of Champlin/Boogie
The Poppycock was at 135 University Avenue (at High Street), and was Palo Alto’s tiny “psychedelic” club venue. Boogie was a trio that rehearsed at the Sausalito Heliport, along with the Sons and many other groups.

March 2, 1969: Speedway Meadows, San Francisco, CA: All Men Joy/Sons Of Champlin/Initial Shock/Morning Glory/Last Mile
An afternoon free concert, sponsored by the 13th Tribe.

March 8, 1969: Peterson Gym, SDSU, San Diego, CA Butterfield Blues Band/Sons Of Champlin/Taj Mahal
Since March 8 was a Saturday, I wouldn't be surprised if there was another Southern California show the night before (Friday March 7)

March 16, 1969: Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA:  MC5/Boogie/Sons Of Champlin
Detroit’s hard-rocking MC5, headlining at the Straight Theater all weekend, used The Sons equipment for this free gig in the park.  Bill Bowen’s drums took a particular beating.

March 17, 1969: Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Sons Of Champlin/Red Mountain “Monster Jam” Benefit for Olompali
I have written about Monday Night Winterland benefit featuring the Dead and the Airplane elsewhere. Olompali was a decrepit Victorian mansion in Marin that housed a hippie commune, and the building had burned down.

March 21-23, 1969: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Santana/Sons Of Champlin/Dancing Food & Entertainment
Parts of an FM broadcast survive from March 23. To my knowledge, this broadcast (I believe from KPFA) is the best circulating document of the early Sons' sound. Besides their first album material, they do a funky but faithful cover of Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill."

Santana were just a popular local band at this time, but the killer lineup that would record their first album and star at Woodstock had finally come together, and they were already a great live band. Dancing Food & Entertainment were booked by the Millard Agency, and featured singer Naomi Ruth Eisenberg (later in Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks) and bassist Tom Glass (aka artist Ned Lamont, formerly in The Jazz Mice with Ian Underwood).

March 28, 1969 Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Santa Rosa, CA: Sons Of Champlin/West/Womb/Richie Ross
[update] This flyer turned up unexpectedly on Facebook (h/t Rebecca). West featured guitarist Ron Cornelius (ex-Justice League, later a Nasville producer) and Womb was a North Bay band linked to the group Hedds. Richie Ross is unknown to me.

March 29, 1969: New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups

April 1 thru 5, 1969: Straight Theater, San Francisco, CA:
Sons Of Champlin/Passion/Marvin Gardens/The Angels Own Band Chorus/Bicycle/Asoke Fakir/Morning Glory/Congress of Wonders/Rush/Last Mile/Glass Mountain
The Straight Theater was at the end of its financial rope. Tim Leary was supposed to headline, and canceled.  Some of the bands may have played on some nights, but it is not certain whether the Sons played at all, on any night.

April 3, 1969: Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups/Country Weather/Phoenix

April 6, 1969: Provo Park, Berkeley, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Lamb/Frumious Bandersnatch/Ace Of Cups/All Spice Rhythm Band
Provo Park (previously Constitution Park) was the downtown park, near the Community Theater, Berkeley High and the Civic Center. Provo Park served the same function for Berkeley as the Panhandle did for the Haight Ashbury, and bands regularly played there for free.

Spring (?) 1969: Native Sons Hall, Sacramento, CA: Sons Of Champlin
A Commenter recalls this show.
I saw The Sons of Champlin in about 1968/69. They appeared at a small 2nd story ballroom in Sacramento (not Sound Factory(.It was *around* 13th Street between I and J Streets (my memory is fuzzy on the exact locations). The band was driving up from the Bay Area and only the rhythm section had arrived by showtime. It was guitar, organ, bass and drums and they jammed until the other members arrived.
Research from Sacramento sources suggests that the venue appears to have been the ballroom in the Native Sons Hall on 11th and J Streets, across from the Elks Building that housed KZAP, Sacramento's first fm rock station.The Native Sons Hall had been known as The  Trip Room at one point in 1966. I have arbitrarily suggested that the date was Spring '69, but until we have more evidence I can't say for sure.

As a side note, regardless of which Sons had been late to the show, the band members were so versatile that any four of them could have made up a solid rhythm section.

April 16, 1969: [Cowell College], UC Santa Cruz, CA Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups/Phoenix
I'm not sure of the venue for this show. Given the newly constructed nature of the UC Santa Cruz Campus (it had only opened in Fall 1965), the Cowell-Stevenson Dining Commons seems the most likely place. This was billed as a  Benefit for “Malcom X College.” That too is a mystery, but UCSC had (and has) a residential college system modeled on the Oxbridge system, and they were opening a new College every year. Fall 1969 would see the opening of the fifth College, whose name was in some dispute, which is why it was called "College Five" for many years (and still is by some stubborn alums). My guess is that the "Benefit" was for a proposed name for the new College.

April 17-19, 1969: Winterland, San Francisco, CA: The Band/Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups
This was a very high profile show in San Francisco, as it was the live debut of "The Band" without Bob Dylan (leaving aside eight years on the road with Ronnie Hawkins, of course). Since the shows sold out Winterland instantly (a venue twice the size of Fillmore West), the opening acts were not needed to sell tickets and would have gotten great exposure. The Sons had been signed to Capitol Records, The Band's label, so they would have gotten the nod because of that connection.

April 20, 1969: Civic Center Plaza, San Francisco, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups/Freedom Highway
This was an outdoor free concert downtown, known from a dated photo by Kenneth Loh. All three bands were West Pole acts.

April 23, 1969: Nourse Auditorium, San Francisco, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Linn County/Mt. Rushmore/Kwane/The Last Mile
A free concert presented by KMPX-fm and The 13th Tribe. Nourse Auditorium was a small hall at 275 Hayes (at Van Ness).

April 25-26,. 1969: The New Dream Bowl, Vallejo, CA  Sons Of Champlin/Rose and Amber Whine
The date is known from a poster from Paul Grushkin’s fine book Art of Rock.  This is the latest date I have ever seen for a rock show at The Dream Bowl, and I am not convinced this show actually occurred.

Sometime in 1969, Capitol released the Sons Of Champlin's first album—a double lp--Loosen Up Naturally (SWBB 200 May 69).  Although release dates in the 1960s are always murky, I am positing a release date of May 1969, based on a second hand comment of Bill Champlin’s that the Sons’ first album was released as the same time as the album Chicago Transit Authority (which was released in May 1969). Certainly various Bay Area fans remember being well familiar with the album by the beginning of summer, and it could have been available in April. The album reached #137 on the always unreliable Billboard Top 200 lp charts.

May 1, 1969: Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Phoenix/Wilderness/Womb

May 10, 1969: Pacific Memorial Stadium, U of Pacific, Stockton, CA Santana/Cold Blood/Sons Of Champlin/Evlin Bishop/Counry Weather/San Paku/ “Pacific Pop Festival” (noon to 7 pm)
Stockton was a prosperous Central Valley town about 90 miles East of San Francisco. The University football stadium was quite small, and probably only held several thousand. Note that all the groups except The Sons were from Bill Graham's Millard Agency.At this time, none of the groups would have released an album (possibly the Sons record was just barely available). 

May 15, 1969: Nourse Auditorium, San Francisco, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Cold Blood/Country Weather/Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band/Tree Wizard/Behemoth
Known from the extant handbill (above).

May 20-21, 1969 George's Log Cabin, San Francisco, CA: Sons Of Champlin
The Sons played a Tuesday and Wednesday night at an old speakeasy joint on the far Southern edge of San Francisco. George's Log Cabin, at 2629 Bayshore, had a colorful history indeed. The Bar Room was right on the San Mateo/SF County border, and at times the rules for buying and selling drinks were different in different parts of the bar. By the 60s, it was just another bar, and the owners took a stab at making at a rock club (it was later called George's Soul Cabin and Moonrose Forest). (h/t JGMF for finding this listing).

May 23 thru 25, 1969:  Practice Field, San Jose State College, San Jose, CA: Aquarian Family Festival
Ace Of Cups/All Men Joy/Birth/Beggars Opera/Boz Skaggs/Crabs/Crow/Cleanliness & Godliness Skiffle Band/Devine Madness/Denver/Elgin Marble/Flaming Groovies/Frumious Bandersnatch/Gentle Dance/Greater Carmichael Traveling Street Band/Glass Mountain/High Country/Jefferson Airplane/Joy of Cooking/Last Mile/Libras/Lamb/Living Color/Linn County/Mother Ball/Morning Glory/Mad River/Mt. Rushmore/Nymbus/Old Davis/Red Grass, Green Smoke/Rubber Maze/ Rising Tide/Rejoice/Sunrise/Sable/Scratch/Sons Of Champlin/Sounds Unlimited Blues Band/ Sandy Bull/The Steve Miller Band/ Stoned Fox/South Bay Experimental Flash/Throckmorton/Tree of Life/Weird Herald/Womb/Warren Purcell/Zephyr Grove

The Aquarian Family Festival was a free concert put on in conjunction with (and in contrast with) the Folk-Rock Festival at the Fairgrounds, less than a mile away. It is a remarkable and largely forgotten subplot in the history of Bay Area rock festivals in the 60s. A huge and controversial 3-day rock festival, headlined by Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the Jefferson Airplane, was held at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose. Some local hippies arranged for fans to hang out at a nearby football practice field near Spartan Stadium, at San Jose State College.

Terms of the agreement with the University required that people could be present only during the performance of music. Because part of the purpose of the concert was to provide a safe place to stay for tens of thousands of people traveling to town to attend another concert being held in town about a mile away at the Santa Clara County fairgrounds, music had to be performed continuously from the start at 12:00pm Friday until the close of the festival at 4:00pm Sunday afternoon. Thus the festival featured 52 hours of continuous music. The crowds were huge, with tens of thousands going in and out every day.

The Aquarian Family Festival was produced in 10 days at a total cost of $968 by approximately 30 people who were volunteers with the Institute for Research and Understanding whose Dirt Cheap Productions unit produced the concert. Assistance was also given by the musicians' cooperative Druid Corporation House and the San Jose Free University. Legal services were paid for by the band Led Zeppelin which did not perform at the [free] festival. A modern perspective on San Jose's Aquarian Family Festival was published in 2009.

There is some uncertainty as to which groups exactly played.  Most of these groups were club attractions in the East and South Bay scenes, but not Fillmore headliners . Two stages were constructed so that bands could set up while another was playing, in order to fulfill the obligation that people could be present only when bands were playing. According to the website of one of the organizers,  however, Steve Miller played a nice blues set, and the Airplane showed up Sunday morning (May 25) and played an extended set. At the end of Sunday afternoon, as the Festival stage was being broken down, Jimi Hendrix dropped by, hoping to jam, just as the stage was being dismantled and never got the chance.

June 5, 1969: Thee Experience, Hollywood, CA: Sons Of Champlin
Thee Experience was a sort of “upscale” rock club at 7551 Sunset (at Curzon). It was run by Marshall Brevitz the former operator of Miami's Thee Image. Although a popular musicians hangout, the concept was some years ahead of its time, and the club was only open for about 8 months in 1969.

June 6-7, 1969: Rose Palace, Pasadena, CA: Joe Cocker/Sons of Chaplin/E.T. Hooley
This was Joe Cocker’s first tour of America.

June 8, 1969: Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA: Janis Joplin/Sons Of Champlin/Linn County/Crazy Horse/Elvin Bishop/Cedro Wooly/Alice Stuart and Minx/Victoria/Kwane and The Kwan-ditos

June 8, 1969: Unitarian Center, San Francisco, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Bycycle /Freedom Highway/International Press/Indian Gold/Ace Of Cups/Mark of Kings/Dementia/Dr. Zarkof/Phoenix/Freedom/Interplayers Circus/Douglas Waugh/Morning Glory/Kevin, Gino and Cynthia Benefit for The Fellowship Church at the Unitarian Center
The Sons returned to San Francisco for this benefit and the preceding afternoon free concert, having driven up from Los Angeles right after the Pasadena shows. Keep in mind that Interstate Highway 5 was not statewide at the time, and they probably had to maneuver the truck over The Grapevine and up Highway 101 along the Coast, a formidable task indeed.

The church was on Geary at Franklin. The poster for the event is featured in Art Of Rock.

June 14, 1969: The Fun House, South Lake Tahoe, CA Sons Of Champlin/Santana/AB Skhy
The Fun House was the new name for The Sanctuary, which had opened in the Summer of 1968. By Summer 1969, the always remarkable Lake Tahoe scene had gone from three venues to one. Kings Beach Bowl in North Shore had effectively closed. On the more crowded South Shore, the American Legion Hall had been damaged in a Winter snowstorm, so it too was out of commission. However, Legion Hall operator Jim Burgett had taken over The Sanctuary, a converted supermarket a little nearer to the Lake, and changed its name to The Fun House.

The Fun House was open 7 nights a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and Burgett's band played almost every night. Amazingly, Burgett's band also played six days a week at Harrah's Lake Tahoe, just across the Nevada border. However, Burgett also booked San Francisco rock bands, particularly on weekends, so many Fillmore and Avalon regulars played The Fun House. By 1969, however, the headliners who had played Lake Tahoe in the previous Summers (like Jimi Hendrix or the Grateful Dead) had moved to more National markets, but bands like The Sons still found Lake Tahoe a lucrative booking.

The date has been approximated from the Santana timeline.  Its not clear if the bill was for one or two nights.  Based on the Santana timeline, the show (or shows) was somewhere between June 1 and June 14.  Various eyewitnesses (including Charlie Kelly) remember a hot set by Santana, and then the Sons being shut down by the cops because of “suspicious activities.” However, Jim Burgett, who promoted the show, recalls few problems with the police and suspects that any band who was shut down would simply have been running overtime.

By summer 1969, Jim Beem had returned on trumpet, although he did not stay long. He may have also played a little bit on the album. However, I haven't been able to determine his exact tenure. For one month in mid-1969, John ‘Fuzzy’ Oxendine, from the band Boogie, had played drums alongside of Bill Bowen, but I do not know exactly when. According to Bill Champlin (on his site), the extra drummer lasted 4 gigs because Bill Bowen was unhappy with the arrangement.

June 20-22, 1969: Family Dog On The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Elvin Bishop/Congress of Wonders
Chet Helms opened his new Family Dog venture on June 13, 1969. It was located far from downtown, at the Playland Amusement Park at Ocean Beach, on 660 Great Highway. A San Mateo Times article from June 10, 1969 about the opening of the new Family Dog, with Jefferson Airplane headlining, lists the (hitherto unknown) bill for the second weekend that featured the Sons.

June 29, 1969: St. Elizabeths High School, Oakland, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Little John/Post Raisin Band
An Oakland Tribune article in the June 28, 1969 “Teen Age” section describes this forthcoming event. It was a benefit for one Chris Cormier, who was apparently part of the staff at St. Elizabeth’s. St. Elizabeth’s was a private High School in Oakland, but for some reason it had quite amazing groups in 1968 and 69: Quicksilver, The Sons, Ace Of Cups, Blue Cheer, Loading Zone, Mint Tattoo and more.

For the final installment of this series (July 69-February 1970), see here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Sons Of Champlin Performance List June-December 1968 (Sons III)

(A scan of the flyer for The MFU Be-In on June 23, 1968 at El Camino Park in Palo Alto, featuring The Sons Of Champlin)

The Sons Of Champlin were one of the best and most musical of the original San Francisco bands that played the Fillmore and the Avalon from 1966 onwards. Well ahead of their time, they are fondly remembered now, and since the world has finally caught up to them, they continue to perform this very day. This project is an attempt to identify all the performances of The Sons Of Champlin from 1966 to 1969. The previous installments of this series were
This post will look at the Sons Of Champlin's known performances from June through December 1968. Thanks to various people who have helped with this project over the years, including Ross and the old Yahoo Sons discussion group, but most particularly Sons road manager Charlie Kelly. Anyone with additional information, insights, corrections or memories (real or imagined) should Comment or email me.

Sons Of Champlin Performance List June-December 1968
In mid-1968, The Sons Of Champlin were still a seven-piece band. The lineup was
  • Bill Champlin-Hammond organ, guitar, lead vocals
  • Terry Haggerty-lead guitar
  • Tim Cain-tenor sax
  • Jim Beem-trumpet
  • Geoff Palmer-piano, Hammond organ, vibes, baritone sax
  • Al Strong-bass
  • Bill Bowen-drums
As the rock market started to expand beyond San Francisco, the Sons had begun looking farther afield. After a difficult road trip to Los Angeles (where the Sons supported the Yardbirds on May 31-June 1), the band decided that they needed two roadies who could drive.  David Harris moved on, and Charlie Kelly joined Steve 'Tooth' Tobin (aka Tollestrup) in the road crew. Kelly's descriptions of life on the road with the Sons on his own site are well worth reading, and a unique slice of 1960s rock life with a largely unseen perspective.

As a side note, the term "roadie" is somewhat anachronistic. In the 1960s, roadies were typically called "crew" or "equipment men" (the Grateful Dead called them "Qwippies"). In London they were often known as "band boys." I am not certain of the precise etymology of the term "roadie," but for narrative simplicity I  will stick with it here. Furthermore, in the days of small crews--the Sons typically had two or three crew members--the veteran Kelly was more like "first among equals" rather than "road manager," but as a practical matter it's easy to consider him the road manager as well.

In the Summer of 1968, The Sons Of Champlin signed with Capitol Records. The Sons persuaded Capitol to let them record a single and distribute it for free. Thus, the single "Jesus Is Coming" had gotten a little bit of play KSAN-fm, and anyone who wrote and asked for it received the single for free. In one sense, the Sons anticipated Internet marketing before it had been invented, but as often occurred with the Sons they arrived at a room that was not yet built.

June 23, 1968: El Camino Park, Palo Alto, CA: Sons Of Champin/Charley Musselwhite/Notes From The Underground
This show was a free ‘Be-In”, sponsored by the Midpeninsula Free University, a South Bay locus for various forms of consciousness expansion. Other cities had largely stopped having free concert/Be-In type events in public parts, but liberal Palo Alto continued having them throughout the Summer of 1968. While free concerts such as this were not the subject of Television news documentaries, like the 1967 events, they were remembered fondly by the local teenagers who attended them.

June 28-29, 1968: The Kaleidoscope, Hollywood, CA:  Muddy Waters/Sons Of Champlin
As Charlie Kelly documents, the Sons Of Champlin asked him to join the crew in June 1968, prior to the trip to Southern California. The group was playing two weekends at the Kaleidoscope, bracketed by a few days in San Diego. Kelly and Steve Tobin drove the loaded equipment truck down Highway 101, and the band (plus manager Fred Roth) flew down to join them.

The Kaleidoscope, at 6230 Sunset (at Vine) in Hollywood, was an attempt by the management of Canned Heat to establish a Fillmore-style venue in Southern California. The Sons, although an "underground" San Francisco band without an album, had already played the club the month before, and presumably had done well enough to be invited back. In 1968, at least, "from San Francisco" was a sort of bona fide for rock bands that made them hip to out of towners, and the Sons were one of various underground bands playing up and down the West Coast who benefited from that. 

July 2-3, 1968: The Hippodrome, San Diego, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Boogie
Kelly’s memoir includes a mid-week stand at The Hippodrome, San Diego’s psychedelic ballroom, located at Front and G Streets.  According to an eyewitness, Dr. John The Night Tripper was the scheduled headliner, but he had canceled.  I have not seen a poster.  Boogie rehearsed at the Sausalito Heliport along with The Sons, and included John “Fuzzy” Oxendine on drums, who briefly was the second drummer with The Sons during 1969.

The dates are inferred as a Tuesday and Wednesday based on other San Diego shows.

July 4-5 (6-9-10-11), 1968: The Kaleidoscope, Hollywood, CA: Canned Heat/Sly and The Family Stone/Sons Of Champlin
Kelly has a lengthy reminiscence of a memorable 10-day trip to Southern California, his first as a roadie, bracketed by two weekends at the Kaleidoscope.  According to Kelly, Canned Heat played only one song (“Refried Boogie”) for all six sets throughout the entire weekend as they were recording a live album (later part of  Living The Blues).

Kelly's memory is quite vivid (and he confirmed some other details in an email), but the story is complicated somewhat by the posters. The poster lists Canned Heat, Sly and The Family Stone and The Sons for July 4-5 and then July 9-10-11, but Kelly only recalls a single weekend with that bill. Given that it was his first road trip, and the other memorable events of the trip, it is not likely he forgot an extra week in Southern California. Thus I have to conclude that although the poster suggests the Sons played both weekends, they in fact did not stick around for the second weekend (they were probably never booked for it).

This scenario, too, is slightly complicated by the fact that Kelly recalls six sets of Canned Heat over the weekend, when it would seem that they should have only played four (on Thursday July 4 and Friday July 5). The Doors and Spirit were booked on Saturday July 6, and by all accounts both The Doors and Spirit played that night. I see two possibilities:
  • The Doors, who hardly "needed" to play the modest Kaleidoscope, may have played a show very late on Saturday night, and a regularly scheduled bill with Canned Heat, Sly and The Sons played earlier on July 6, or
  • Canned Heat, Sly and The Sons only played Friday and Saturday night, but sitting through "Refried Boogie" four times made it seem 50% longer than it actually was.
In any case, for a club like The Kaleidoscope, posters were future advertisements, and could hardly be expected to be precise descriptions who actually ended up performing on given nights. Based on Charlie Kelly's vivid recollections, I'm going with the Sons playing two or three nights the first weekend (July 4-5-6) and returning to San Francisco, leaving Canned Heat and Sly to play July 9-11.

July 20, 1968: The Bold Knight, Sunnyvale, CA:  Sons of Champlin/Ace Of Cups
The Bold Knight was a “teen club” (no alcohol, some kind of age limit) in Sunnyvale, a suburb of San Jose.  It was located on 769 North Matilda Avenue. The flyer for this show features an artist’s rendition of Bill Champlin and Tim Cain.

The Ace Of Cups were a fine band who shared the West-Pole booking agency with The Sons,  accounting for the large number of shows the groups where the bands were billed together. I do not know exactly when West-Pole started booking Sons Of Champlin, but it seems to have been around this period.

July 27, 1968: Berryessa Bowl, Napa, CA: Sons Of Champlin
Lake Berryessa was a large man-made lake created in 1957. Although it was created for water management purposes, Lake Berryessa is also a popular recreational area. The outdoor concert venue was opened earlier in the summer of 68.

July 28, 1968: Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA:  Chambers Brothers/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons Of Champlin/Creedence Clearwater Revival/Santana Blues Band/Beggar's Opera  Stanford Summer Rock
Frost Amphitheater (capacity 6,900) was a leafy outdoor bowl on the Stanford campus. It was rarely used for rock concerts. This show was a big event in Palo Alto, however. The excellent Cryptical Developments blog has a great description of this 1968 Frost show. The author already had the "Jesus Is Coming" single by this time, so it gives a good time frame for the release of the single as well.

Summer 1968: St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Palo Alto, CA: Sons Of Champlin
Cryptical Developments also recalls seeing the Sons play a Palo Alto church one evening in the Summer. I do not know how often or why they had rock concerts there, but I assume it was some sort of "youth event."

St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church is Palo Alto's oldest church, at 745 Waverley Street (at Homer Avenue), very near downtown Palo Alto. If you're from Palo Alto, you'll care that this church appears in a scene in the 1971 movie Harold & Maude (Harold meets Maude at a funeral).

Summer 1968: Kings Beach Bowl, North Lake Tahoe, CA: Sons Of Champlin/The Working Class
Kings Beach Bowl was a gutted bowling alley in North Lake Tahoe that became a weekend venue for psychedelic rock bands in the Summers of 1967 and '68. The story of Kings Beach Bowl, and its fascinating contrast to the even more remarkable scene in South Lake Tahoe at Jim Burgett's American Legion Hall and its nearby competitor, The Sanctuary, is one I am planning to tell in spectacular detail, but not here.

The Sons would have likely played both a Friday and Saturday night. The Working Class, from Sacramento, were the "house band" at Kings Beach Bowl and played every weekend. By Summer's end, they would evolve into the group Sanpaku. All the members of Sanpaku recall playing Kings Beach Bowl with The Sons, albeit few other details.

August 9-11, 1968: The Bank, Torrance, CA: PG&E/Illinois Speed Press/Sons Of Champlin/Freedom Highway
The Bank was a little known venue in Torrance, near Santa Monica. It had opened the month before, in July 1968, and largely featured San Francisco bands, many of them booked by West-Pole. It was one of many efforts throughout the country to create Fillmore-Avalon type scenes, but like many such places it was overtaken by the rapidly expanding rock market and police pressure.

The Sons were booked again at the Kaleidoscope on the weekend of August 16-18, 1968. However, they did not play the show, and in fact I think the shows were canceled.  

August 30-September 1, 1968:  Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Preservation Hall Jazz Band/Sons Of Champlin
Bill Graham had moved his Fillmore operations to the former Carousel (at 1545 Market St), and renamed it the Fillmore West.

September 1, 1968: Sports Arena, Los Angeles, CA: Steppenwolf/Quicksilver Messenger Service/H.P. Lovecraft/Buddy Miles Express/Three Dog Night/Sons Of Champlin/Black Pearl/Fraternity of Man/West
The Sons Of Champlin were billed for this lengthy extravaganza, but it conflicts with the Fillmore West show. They could have flown down for an early performance, and flown back for the evening show, or else the poster was simply mistaken.

>September 2, 1968: Palace of Fine Arts Festival, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/S.F Mime Troupe/Crome Syrcus/Sons Of Champlin/ Country Weather/Randy Boone/Black Pearl
The Dead and The Sons were billed for the third day of a three-day festival, but both played Sky River instead.  Probably the whole day was canceled (the previous two days did take place).

September 2, 1968: Sky River Rock Festival and Lighter Than Air Fair  Betty Nelson's Farm, Sultan, WA
The Sky River Rock Festival (August 31-September 2, 1968) was the first outdoor rock festival on the model that was immortalized at Woodstock. Numerous bands and other performers played nonstop for 72 hours through all kinds of weather, as the crowd endured the elements in a muddy field. This model was repeated endlessly throughout the Summers of 1969 and '70 all over the country, but Sky River was the first of such events. Originally, the organizers had wanted to have a festival featuring balloon rides (hence “Lighter Than Air Fair”) but Country Joe and The Fish were invited to provide musical entertainment, and the whole event escalated.

Although the 1968 Sky River Festival was held on an organic raspberry farm outside of Seattle, booking agent John Chambless (a former UC Berkeley lecturer in Philosophy, newly-employed at the University of Washington) was a former organizer of the Berkeley Folk Festival. Thus Sky River was dominated by Bay Area bands, and was a sort of Bay Area ballroom band road trip, with a heavy emphasis on Berkeley bands. As word spread at what a fun scene was happening at Sky River, bands rushed to Washington to play. The Grateful Dead, who were not even booked at the Festival, flew up after their Fillmore weekend and played anyway. It appears the Sons Of Champlin did the same. Numerous other bands would have been on the bill on the last day, but no one recalls who played when.

September 4, 1968: Debutante Ball, Burlingame Country Club, Burlingame, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Walt Tolleson Orchestra
Most paying shows for San Francisco rock bands were on the weekends, and I have probably only uncovered a modest portion of the Sons shows from this period. Equally intriguing, however, were the different sorts of shows bands played when they could. Many Debutante Balls in the 1960s featured alternating sets by an orchestra (for the adults) and a local rock band (for their kids). Since rich kids went to the Fillmore just like their peers, some cool bands played debutante balls.

This Wednesday night show was a Country Club ball for Piedmont debutante Suzanne Bradford. The event was mentioned both in Robin Orr's Oakland Tribune Society column (Sep 5) and the Tribune Women's Section (Sep 8, shown here). The members of the Sons had all been in dance bands, and The Sons had played some dances when they started, so they would have been comfortable with the music. Presumably the Sons played a few more covers than they would at the Fillmore. I suspect the Sons road crew were not mistaken for debutante escorts.

September 6-7, 1968: Sound Factory, Sacramento, CA: Linn County/Sons Of Champlin/Charlie Musselwhite
The Sound Factory was Sacramento's answer to the Avalon and the Fillmore, initially managed by Whitey Davis, the operator of Portland's legendary Crystal Ballroom (and more recently, in early 1968, the assistant manager of the Avalon itself). The Sound Factory was at 1817 Alhambra, and it seems to have opened in late June of 1968. The Sound Factory is mostly remembered for some terrific posters in its first few months, featuring some of San Francisco's leading bands. In fact, the Sound Factory continued on for almost a year, but many of the shows remain shrouded in obscurity.

The house band at the Sound Factory in September 1968 was Sanpaku, previously a Sacramento band called The Working Class (see Kings Beach Bowl above), so they probably played at this show as well.

September 9, 1968: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Steve Miller Band/Sons Of Champlin

September 20-21, 1968: The Bank, Torrance, CA: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons Of Champlin/Love Exchange/Ace Of Cups (21st only)

The Sons returned to The Bank in Torrance. Quicksilver and The Sons played two nights (Friday and Saturday), and the The Ace Of Cups, another West-Pole band, also played Saturday night.

Septemer 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
This was an outdoor, daytime "festival" held at a horse racing track 20 miles North of San Diego (members of the band Phoenix recall it as "an ostrich racing track"). Just about all of the bands were San Francisco groups, and most of them were either booked by West-Pole (Quicksilver, Sons, Ace of Cups, Phoenix) or socially connected to them (Grateful Dead, Buddy Miles, Curly Cook, Steve Miller).

This was one of the earliest performances for the Buddy Miles Express, and they were billed as "Formerly The Electric Flag."

September 27-29, 1968: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Flatt and Scruggs/Ramblin' Jack Elliott/Sons Of Champlin/Country Weather

October 6, 1968: Provo Park, Berkeley, CA: Youngbloods/Santana/Sons Of Champlin/Frumious Bandersnatch
Provo Park in downtown Berkeley was the site of many free concerts. Although not quite as high profile as Golden Gate Park, it was an important place for bands to get heard. 

October 11-12, 1968: New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Congress Of Wonders
The New Orleans House in Berkeley, at 1505 San Pablo Avenue, was an important booking for 60s bands trying to play original music. One of the advantages of having played Provo Park for free the weekend before (Oct 6) was that the Sons would be more of a known quantity when they played New Orleans House. At this time, the Sons were a recognizable name, but save for occasional airplay for their "Jesus Is Coming" 45, prospective fans could only hear them in person.

In the Fall of 1968, trumpeter Jim Beem started having personal difficulties and stopped performing with the band. He had contributed a little bit to recording The Sons debut album, but while his absence could be fixed in the studio (by overdubbing), the Sons live sound was thinned out somewhat.

>Fall 1968  Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA:  Ike & Tina Turner/Sons of Champlin
Charlie Kelly remembers this event because Bill Graham threw him out of the Fillmore West during an Ike& Tina Turner show. It is possible that these shows were October 30-November 1969 (billed as It’s A Beautiful Day/Ike & Tina Turner/Alice Cooper).  Since there are conflicts with the Alice Cooper timeline, perhaps The Sons replaced Alice Cooper (then a little-known and much disliked LA band on Frank Zappa’s label).

November 28-30, 1968: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons Of Champlin/Initial Shock

December 1, 1968: The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Sons Of Champlin
The Poppycock was Palo Alto's pocket sized psychedelic ballroom. Similar to the New Orleans House and The Matrix, it provided a circuit for bands playing original music who could not yet headline at the Avalon or the Fillmore. 

I have inferred this specific date because Charlie Kelly recalled returning from a gig in Palo Alto to catch the final Big Brother show at the Avalon, which would have been on December 1.