Monday, May 31, 2010

307 Church Street, Santa Cruz, CA Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, May 28, 1966: Jefferson Airplane/Mystery Trend/Flowers Of Evil

(left: a scan of the flyer for the Jefferson Airplane/Mystery Trend/Flowers of Evil concert at Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium on May 28, 1966)

Santa Cruz, California, foggy and beautiful on the Northern edge of Monterey Bay, isolated from the Bay Area by mountains yet easily accessible by car to San Jose and San Francisco, is renowned as a haven for free thinking, software and surfers. Santa Cruz most prominent institution is a famous branch of the University of California. UCSC's motto is Fiat Slug, a mock-Latin reference to the school mascot, the Banana Slug. Recently, UC Santa Cruz had the unique honor of becoming the repository of the Grateful Dead Archives, including all the contracts and letters sent to and from the Dead office over the decades.

Santa Cruz had been more or less a logging town in the 19th century, but had evolved into a resort town by the earliest twentieth century. Once Highway 1 to San Francisco and Highway 17 to San Jose were completed (by 1941), the town became more accessible, although growth was slow. The little city remained sleepy and seasonal until UC Santa Cruz opened in the Fall of 1965. The Santa Cruz Mountains were full of underused holiday resorts and abandoned logging towns, and all sorts of characters had taken refuge there, Ken Kesey and Ken Babbs of the Pranksters among them. It would seem that with a new University, all the bands in San Francisco and acid in the hills, Santa Cruz would be ripe to explode with a happening psychedelic rock scene.

Downtown Santa Cruz seemed to have all the ingredients for a happening little 60s scene: geography that created some isolation, while near enough to cities to provide bands; a captive audience of young people at the University and cheap, transitional housing for various scenemakers. All that would have been needed would have been an appropriate venue, and Santa Cruz had that too. The Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium at 307 Church Street (at Center) was a charming Art Deco building completed in 1940, capacity 2,000. It would seem likely that the Civic would have been a petri dish for San Francisco and San Jose bands looking for extra shows, with students providing a ready audience and freaks in the hills providing light shows and general madness. Yet this May 28, 1966 show headlined by the Jefferson Airplane was one of only two rock shows at the Santa Cruz Civic that I know of during the 1960s. What happened?

In May, 1966, the Jefferson Airplane would have been fairly unknown, even to college students, and AM radio reception was pretty sketchy in Santa Cruz. Perhaps some students knew "Its No Secret," but in general the Airplane would have been mainly a rumor that they had heard about. There is a chance that the Airplane played an on-campus event called "Spring Thing" (alluded to in a San Jose paper at the time), but I have not yet been able to pin that down. The Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium is not that near to the Campus, but since the Campus was up on a hill, anyone from Campus who was interested had few other entertainment options.  However, one tip-off to the thinking behind the Santa Cruz Civic show was the presence of The Mystery Trend.
The Mystery Trend--named because its members didn't quite understand Bob Dylan's lyrics to "Like A Rolling Stone"--were one of the first bands on the San Francisco underground scene, even though they were quite obscure even then. Many of the band members were artists as well as musicians, and they played some unique events. Their presence on the bill meant that someone in San Francisco had organized this show, as the Mystery Trend were only known in the cooler circles of the San Francisco underground. The Flowers Of Evil were a local band.

The Spring '66 Jefferson Airplane was not the powerhouse they would become, but they were still a hell of a band. Grace Slick was still in the Great Society, but Signe Andersen combined with Paul Kantner and Marty Balin to give a Weavers-like front line a rock and roll backing anchored by Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady. Soon-to-depart drummer Skip Spence wasn't as rock solid as Spencer Dryden (whose first show was probably June 6, 1966), but he held down the chair well enough. Folk rock was still a new thing in California, and while The Byrds were the premier exponent, Jefferson Airplane would have been pretty impressive to young people who hadn't seen them.

My only source for what happened next was some comments on Message Boards and an email from a then-teenager who went to the show, but it appears that the Airplane were way too successful. I have no idea how many tickets were sold, or if the show even made money, but the City Fathers of Santa Cruz were very bothered by the effect the Airplane had on the local youth (cue Paul Kantner smiling). Up until the University, the city of Santa Cruz had been quiet, business-like and Republican. Obviously the city saw financial advantages to the University, but they had not expected the Continental Divide of the 1960s.

Since the city controlled the Civic Auditorium, the city insured that no more rock concerts took place at the Civic Auditorium, thus ruining what should have been a great scene. Paradoxically, however, Santa Cruz's effective ban on rock concerts at the Civic brought to life an entirely different venue, in Scotts Valley, deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains: The Barn.

The Barn in Scotts Valley is a fascinating story in its own right, and some years ago we published my preliminary research on it. I have considerably more information today, but the thumbnail sketch is that Neal Cassady's prison psychiatrist (Dr. Leon Tabory) took over a Dairy-Barn-turned-Art-Gallery to provide a space for younger people to express themselves. The former Frapwell's Dairy Barn (built 1914) was just 7 miles North of Downtown Santa Cruz on Highway 17, towards San Jose. Scotts Valley itself was a sleepy rural community, not even incorporated as a town.

The earliest confirmed show I know of at The Barn was May 22, 1966, but there were probably some earlier shows. However, by the Summer of 1966, The Barn was just about the only hangout for longhairs outside of San Francisco, Berkeley and a few college coffeehouses. Hippies, bikers, Pranksters and other doubtful characters gathered almost every weekend to hear happening Underground bands. Scotts Valley was nestled in the Mountains, and despite efforts of the County Sheriff,  unincorporated Scotts Valley lacked the power to shut it down.

If Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium had been available as a rock venue, it would have easily trumped The Barn. Yet the city of Santa Cruz, exercising its atrophied conservative muscles, perhaps for the last time, blocked rock concerts at the Civic and paved the way for The Barn. The Barn etched vivid (if not always precise) memories on most or all of the people lucky enough to attend or work there, but its unique isolation was only viable because Santa Cruz blocked the Civic.

The community of Scotts Valley managed to close The Barn for a few months in 1967 (it was closed from April to June), but in fact the struggle against the venue was one of the principal motivators to incorporate the town. Once the town of Scotts Valley was incorporated, it was easy to shut down The Barn for good. Owner Leon Tabory was struggling financially anyway, and the building became home to the Baymonte Christian School. Some decades later, the Barn was torn down to build a parking lot for the Baymonte Christian School (the address of the school is 5000B Granite Creek Road, Scotts Valley, CA 95066).

March 25, 1967 Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium: The Sacred Cow Presents Quicksilver Messenger Service/The Sparrow/Blue Cheer
Somewhat mysteriously, there was another psychedelic rock show at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, on March 25, 1967. Presented by The Sacred Cow (a name I have seen occasionally on posters), it featured not only Fillmore headliners Quicksilver Messenger Service, but two hip underground San Francisco bands. The presence of The Sparrow and Blue Cheer, both quite unknown outside of The Matrix at this time, clearly indicates a San Francisco promotion. This one-off show does not quite fit the narrative I have proposed above, and yet it seems to be the only exception.

A comment I read on a message thread, impossible to verify, suggested that the promoters claimed that the show was sponsored by the Catholic Archdiocese, and the concert was some sort of Church-sponsored Easter teenage dance. The subterfuge did not go down well, and any chance for a change of heart by the city of Santa Cruz with respect to rock concerts at the Civic Auditorium for the balance of the 1960s was lost.

In the early 1970s, Santa Cruz began allowing rock concerts at The Civic. Bill Graham Presents began using the modest venue for extra nights and out-of-town warmups, and there were many tremendous shows there for most of the 70s and 80s.

This post has been pieced together laboriously over the years from the most fragmentary bits of information. I have proposed a plausible hypothesis for the absence of rock shows in downtown Santa Cruz in the late 1960s, but I recognize that at best I only know part of the story. Any former Santa Cruz residents who recall other Civic dynamics at the time, or Cowell and Stevenson College students who remember the early days (or Crown, Merrill or College Five students who heard tales) are encouraged to Comment or email me.

Friday, May 28, 2010

895 O'Farrell Street (at Polk), San Francisco, CA The Western Front

(a poster for the Western Front concert featuring The Youngbloods, Wildflower and Initial Shock on December 1, 1967. h/t Ross for the scan)

The Western Front is a very obscure rock venue in San Francisco, only open in 1967, and mainly known only to poster collectors. I don't think it was ever financially successful as a rock venue, and it's only through posters that we know of the venue at all. Although we know of some 1967 shows, I can't say I'm aware of any review, tape or eyewitness account of any of the psychedelic rock shows from 1967.

Nonetheless, The Western Front has an interesting history that provides an interesting reflection on the commercial history of rock music in San Francisco. The information posted here is the best available to me at this time. For reasons that will become clear, this is an exceedingly difficult venue to research, but anyone with useful information is encouraged to Comment or email me (and let me know if I can post it).

The Psychedelic Cattleman's Association
The original "Family Dog" partnership had formed in a house on Pine Street called "The Dog House" (because of various dogs that lived there). The first three Family Dog dances were produced by a quartet of House residents: Luria Castell, Alton Kelly, Jack Towle and Ellen Harmon. The 1965 shows were hugely successful, but the residents were not really prepared to ride the horse, and Chet Helms and others took over. By 1967, however, it was clear that Helms and Bill Graham had taken the Family Dog's initial concept--itself directly inspired by goings on at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada in Summer 1965--and founded thriving businesses. The original partners, although they had given up the Dog name willingly, were now looking to get back into the rock promotion business.
Calling themselves the Psychedelic Cattleman's Association, the quartet promoted a series of concerts at the newly opened Western Front, at 895 O'Farrell at Polk, near the Tenderloin district in San Francisco. The venue was only 4 blocks from the Avalon, and the impressive connections of the founding partnership netted a dramatic Kelly-Mouse poster and an impressive opening night lineup. In his June 28 Chronicle column (above), Ralph Gleason wrote:
tonight at Polk & O'Farrell, a new rock place called The Western Front is opening with Big Brother & The Holding Co., The Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Segal Schwall Blues Band [sic], the Charlatans, the Congress of Wonders and the Bill Ham-Jerry Granelli-Fred Marshall music-and-light show, "Light-Sound-Dimension."
The Quicksilver and Big Brother are there only tonight. The rest of the show remains through the weekend. 
Western Front is open six nights a week. They are appealing for a dance permit next week. Meanwhile it's concert style only. The place is reputed to be larger than the Fillmore, incidentally.
The Cattlemen had a venue and the connections, but an archaic San Francisco law required a City Permit in order to allow dancing. These permits were used as a means of control by various forces in San Francisco, and in particular were used to prevent rock venues where communities didn't want them located. Despite San Francisco's historical reputation as Baghdad-By-The-Bay, in the 1960s it was still very much like Footloose-By-The-Bay. Opening without a dance permit meant that people could listen to Quicksilver and Big Brother, but if they began to dance they would be arrested (try it at home: get in the mood, stand up and put on the first Quicksilver album--how long before they take you downtown?). The police had a vested interest in shutting down hippie venues, and arresting dancers who may have been carrying illegal substances was a proven method of harassing venues.

The Psychedelic Cattleman's Association put on another show the next weekend (July 7-8) with Sandy Bull, The Hobbits and Light-Sound-Dimension, a less dance-oriented billing, but as far as I know the venue went dark after that. I have to assume the PCA did not get their dance permit, and Bill Graham and Chet Helms were spared a competitor that had uber-hip underground connections, if little business experience.

The Western Front re-opened in late September. I do not know if they had received a Dance Permit by this time. Because a surviving poster (left) from September 22-23 does not say "Dance" I would assume that the venue had not received the Permit. There were shows for the next six weekends, although no sign of any sort of "six days a week" program.

I do not know who was promoting the Western Front at this point. I would have to assume that if the Cattleman's Association (the original Dog quartet) had still been the driving force, it would have been clearer from the poster. On the other hand, the San Francisco rock Underground was still quite small in 1967, and everyone knew each other, so the shift in management may not have been major.

The brief run of shows through October (below) is fascinating to rock historians, as they featured a series of interesting bands, many of which had just moved to San Francisco. Its important to remember, however, none of the albums who played the Western Front in September and October had released an album yet, and they were all quite obscure at the time. I do not know of a review or tape of any of these shows, or even an eyewitness account.

September 22, 1967 The Other Half/Freedom Highway/Peace
The Other Half had relocated from Los Angeles, but I believe Craig Tarwater had taken over the lead guitar duties from the legendary Randy Holden. Freedom Highway had formed in San Francisco, but they had moved to Marin by this time. The band Peace is unknown to me.

September 23, 1967 The New Delhi River Band/Mad River/The Other Half
Palo Alto's New Delhi River Band (who included David Nelson and Dave Torbert) were popular in the South Bay, but were struggling to attract attention outside of their home turf. This was one of their few San Francisco performances.

Mad River had moved to the Bay Area from Yellow Springs, OH in Spring 1967, and had taken up residence in Berkeley. They ultimately released two albums and became quite legendary, but at the time they were just another band trying to make it.

September 28-29, 1967 Blue Cheer/Wildflower/Jesse Fuller
Blue Cheer were becoming popular around the Bay Area from constant performing, but they were still some months shy of their recording debut Vincebus Eruptum.

The Oakland based Wildflower had been together since late 1965, a rarity for psychedelic bands. While an excellent live band who were present at the beginning of the scene, they had been unable to capitalize on their early arrival. The band did have a following, however, which was probably while they could headline two nights.

Oakland's Jesse Fuller was a unique artist, a sort of bluesman who wrote his own songs, many of which were covered by rock artists.

October 6, 1967 Sons Of Champlin/Frumious Bandersnatch/Morning Glory
The poster for October 6 says "Dance Lesson." The previous week, the Straight Theater, another venue having Dance Permit problems, had offered "Dance Lessons," followed by three hours of dance practice, accompanied by the Grateful Dead. No doubt the Western Front was following their lead.

Marin's Sons Of Champlin were remaking themselves from a sort of Beatles style band into a psychedelic R&B band, but although they would have an extensive career--they're still touring and have a loyal fan base--at this time they weren't fully established as a hip band yet.

Frumious Bandersnatch, while founded in Lafayette, CA, in Contra Costa County, were currently based in industrial West Oakland. This configuration of the Frumious was more Airplane-like, with a female vocalist. This lineup broke up in late 1967, when their equipment was stolen, and the group returned to the wilds of Lafayette and re-appeared with a new triple guitar sound in Spring 1968.

Morning Glory were from Marin. Their album on Fontana (Two Suns Worth) did not come out until 1968.

October 7, 1967 The Sons Of Champlin/Frumious Bandersnatch/Initial Shock
Initial Shock were from Montana, of all places. The group had been playing there because one member was assigned to an Air Force base there. When he got out, the group relocated to San Francisco. This was one of their earlier shows in the Bay Area.

October 13-14, 1967 Morning Glory/Indian Head Band/Peace
The posters say "Dance Academy" from here on, again apparently following the Straight Theater's lead.

Indian Head Band were from Castro Valley, then just a rural farming town in the East Bay (now a prosperous commuter suburb). They played improvised "Raga Rock," featuring guitarist Hal Wagenet and a female vocalist with operatic training. Wagenet later joined Its A Beautiful Day.

October 20-21, 1967 Blue Cheer/Other Half/Wildflower

October 27-28, 1967 Charlatans/Anonymous Artists Of America/Frumious Bandersnatch
The Charlatans had of course started it all in June 1965 at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, NV, but nothing had gone right for them since then. Despite their name recognition, they didn't have a large following.

The Anonymous Artists Of America had been based in the Santa Cruz Mountains, just outside of Palo Alto. Around this time they relocated to Potrero Hill in San Francisco, although I am not certain of the timeline yet. They featured a primitive synthesizer called a Buchla Machine, and played weird improvised music.

I do not know of other shows at The Western Front until December.

December 1-3, 1967 Youngbloods/Wildflower/Initial Shock
This show (poster up top) featured The Youngbloods, who had relocated to San Francisco in September 1967, and had two albums under their belt, along with a modest hit called "Get Together" (its re-release in 1969 became much more famous). The more substantial booking, along with the month gap, leads me to think that this show was put on by a different promoter than the September-October run.

December 1967-June 1969
I know nothing for certain about the Western Front for the 18-month period between December 1967 and June 1969. I only know two other facts, and I can't date them definitively or even confirm them:

The Western Front served as the Grateful Dead's rehearsal hall 
I have heard this fact, but have been unable to confirm it. It is very hard to pin down dates of rehearsal halls, for obvious reasons. I would assume it was their rehearsal hall after the Potrero Theater (308 Connecticut Street) but before Novato, which would put it in this window, but I don't know for certain. In any case, I don't know whether it was their hall for a long or short period of time, if it even was.

Jim and Artie Mitchell promoted rock shows at 895 O'Farrell

Jim and Artie Mitchell were two brothers from Antioch, who played an important role--like it or not--in San Francisco in the 1970s and 80s. They also were instrumental in various events, such as FBI warnings on Videotapes (stemming from copyright cases) and commercializing lap dances (supposedly). For the purposes of this blog, however, I am only interested in the fact reported in a biography of the Mitchells (David McCumber's 1992 X-Rated) that the Mitchells promoted rock shows at 895 O'Farrell before figuring out a more lucrative use for the site. I have been unable to confirm this. I don't know how early the Mitchells were using 895 O'Farrell, and if they had any involvement in the above list of shows, whether they promoted other shows in 1968-69, or whether this is just a tall tale.

895 O'Farrell-Afterlife
895 O'Farrell became the Mitchell Brothers Theater, initially showing "adult" films, mostly made by the brothers themselves. Some of them were quite famous, as these things go, and the Mitchells were a big part of San Francisco's hedonistic 70s. The theater moved towards live performers, and a whole other series of legends and confrontations. Ultimately Jim shot and killed his brother Artie in a dispute in 1991, and went to prison for several years. Jim Mitchell died in 2007.

The Mitchell Brothers and their theater are infamous, and the theater remains open to this day (two doors down from the Great American Music Hall). I have avoided mentioning its specific history because it is outside of my scope and I am not interested in the search engine traffic that would come my way, but its interesting in an icky sort of way. Don't look into it if you're at work.

As a result of the Mitchell Brothers Theater, no revival of the Western Front was forthcoming. Needless to say, some efforts at researching the Mitchell Brothers revealed precious little about their efforts as rock promoters in the late 1960s, although they were both part of the hip underground scene in various ways. The Western Front has become another lost venue, with one famous poster and a few obscure ones, but the old Pontiac dealership seems to have had a considerably more interesting history than most sites, even if that history remains mostly untold.

(For a more elegant presentation of this material, with a thorough run of posters, see here)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

4290 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA Cabana Hyatt House "Cabana '67 Presents 'Who Is Miss Boutique'"-Music By The New Delhi River Band

(a flyer for a Wednesday afternoon "hip" fashion show at Palo Alto's Cabana Hyatt House on June 28, 1967, with music by the New Delhi River Band--h/t Ross)

Palo Alto, California, home of Stanford University, played an essential role in 60s music. Palo Alto was the incubator for Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters and the Grateful Dead, both of whose peculiar missions were transformed by early LSD experiments. Even though many of the seminal events in the early history of the Pranksters and The Dead (nee Warlocks) actually took place in neighboring Menlo Park (including the LSD experiments, at the VA Hospital on Willow Road), it was bohemian downtown Palo Alto that provided the nesting place. When the legendary Trips Festival at Longshoreman's Hall (on January 21, 22 and 23, 1966) exported the South Bay "Acid Tests" to San Francisco, the modern rock show was born. Groups like the Grateful Dead took flight at the Fillmore and Avalon ballrooms, and ad-hoc rock venues had sprung up around the country by 1967.

Despite its status as a "psychedelic start-up" (so to speak), Palo Alto itself was strangely bereft of musical action. When the psychedelic scene took root in the Haight Ashbury, the Grateful Dead and  others relocated to San Francisco. One participant at the time told me that the whole Palo Alto bohemian scene was a few dozen people, not counting Kesey's crowd, so it didn't take much to scatter the crew. Those who did not find urban San Francisco appealing found the then largely deserted Santa Cruz Mountains more hospitable. As a result, while progressive Palo Alto was considerably more friendly to long hair, protesters and loud music than most other South Bay towns, there were few actual hippies to provide the economic basis for a rock venue.

Palo Alto did have its own leading psychedelic band, The New Delhi River Band. The group had formed in June 1966, out of what was left of a folk rock band called Bethlehem Exit, which had been based in the Los Altos/Cupertino area just South of Palo Alto. The New Delhi River Band was based at a house on Channing Avenue (between Waverley and Cowper) in Palo Alto. Today, the New Delhi River Band is only known, if at all, as the first rock band for future New Riders Of The Purple Sage David Nelson and Dave Torbert. Although no recordings are known to survive, they played Butterfield-style blues, with a touch of R&B thrown in: typical sets apparently included "Young Blood" and "Suzie Q" along with Muddy Waters classics. The lineup of The New Delhi River Band (up until its final incarnation) was
  • John Tomasi-vocals, harmonica
  • Peter Sultzbach-lead guitar
  • David Nelson-guitar
  • Dave Torbert-bass
  • Chris Herold-drums
Sultzbach had founded Bethlehem Exit in 1965, Tomasi and Herold had joined the group by 1966. David Nelson was living at the Channing Avenue house, on hiatus from playing bluegrass (foregoing the riches therein), and jammed with the Bethlehem Exit members. After an initial bass player did not pass muster at rehearsal (he was a converted guitarist), Dave Torbert was brought in.

I am working on the complete history of The New Delhi River Band--and quite a history it will be--but the shortest version is that by September 1966, the group was the house band at a remarkable place called The Barn in Scotts Valley, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. There were many hip, rocking bands in the South Bay in 1966 (such as The Chocolate Watch Band), but whatever the personal proclivities of the musicians, their audiences were more teenage and radio-oriented. In the Fall of 1966, outside of the Fillmore, the Avalon and near the Berkeley campus, there was no other place for older long hairs to congregate and hear their own music. The Barn put on shows just about every weekend from mid 1966 through April 1967, and hippies (and bikers and musicians) from all over the Bay Area went there.

Since the New Delhi River Band seems to have played at The Barn almost every weekend in Fall 1966 (the poster here features the NDRB on Friday, December 16, with the Anonymous Artists of America appearing the next night), sometimes multiple times, and regularly in early 1967 as well, they were a well known band in the tiny circles of the Bay Area underground. People in the extended "families" of the Family Dog or The Grateful Dead (albeit not the busy band members themselves) were regulars at The Barn, since there were few other places to go without drawing the unwelcome attention of the police or local yahoos. As a result, by mid-1967 the New Delhi River Band were regularly headlining concerts in San Jose and around the South Bay. These were modest venues, admittedly, but the NDRB was the cool underground band for the area, and they were based in Palo Alto.

To my knowledge, however, the mid-week fashion show on June 28, 1967 was the first paying gig in Palo Alto for the New Delhi River Band. The Grateful Dead had moved North at the first whiff of opportunity, but the NDRB had chosen to stay home. With The Barn closed in April of 1967, due to constant harassment from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff, the group lost their principal place to play. Although The Barn would reopen intermittently from June of 1967 through mid-1968, it stopped being a useful paying venue for a working band. The New Delhi River Band was thus left in the South Bay without an anchor venue.

The Cabana Hyatt House, 4290 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA
Palo Alto had been conceived by Leland Stanford as a sleepy college town, and it generally lived up to its founder's goals. Thus it was surprising when hotelier Jay Sarno opened the opulent Cabana Hotel in 1962 as a sumptuous luxury hotel in Palo Alto, 4 miles South of Downtown, near the Los Altos border. The wife of one of the investors said "Who's going to stay at a hotel like that in Palo Alto--and without gambling?"This initial prognosis turned out to be correct, but for a few years the hotel was a glittering swan in the Palo Alto Duck Pond. The Cabana Hotel's lasting fame in Palo Alto history came when the Beatles stayed overnight on August 31, 1965, prior to playing the Cow Palace. Room 810 is still designated the "Beatles Room" in the current hotel (although I have to assume all the band members got their own rooms).

In 1966, Sarno used the design of the Cabana Hotel as the basis for his new Las Vegas Casino, called Caesar's Palace. The garish, theme-oriented Caesar's was a pioneer establishment in modern Las Vegas for a luxurious gambling resort. Many of those elements could be seen at the Cabana Hotel, such as huge chandeliers, giant fountains and an upscale lounge with the name "Nero's Nook." By 1967, however, the Cabana had become the Cabana Hyatt House. The theme of elegance was maintained, but Sarno had already moved to Vegas, where such opulence belonged. Nonetheless, the Cabana Hyatt House was the Peninsula's "best" hotel, a regular site for debutante balls and Society fundraisers.

In California, at least, the confluence of the Fillmore and Swinging London had made Carnaby Street fashions stylish, at least for younger women. I assume that the boutiques (dress shops) advertised for the fashion show were smaller places on the Peninsula, but the names and the Wednesday afternoon "Tea" seem directed at the older daughters and younger wives of the Fashionable set in the South Bay. (I'm particularly curious about the Suzy Creamcheese Boutique).

On the Saturday prior to the 'Who Is Miss Boutique' show, the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and The Holding Company had headlined a Be-In at Palo Alto's El Camino Park (on June 24, 1967). The Be-in was well attended and went off without any problems, a sign of Palo Alto's benign tolerance. I have to assume that the members of the New Delhi River Band were present at The Be-In, not least since Nelson was old friends with both Jerry Garcia and Big Brother's Peter Albin. [update: I have since found out that the Be-In was four days after this event, on July 2, and that the NDRB played the event]. Four days later the NDRB would have found themselves at Palo Alto's most fashionable hotel, playing loud electric blues for pretty young women in miniskirts, all eating tea and sandwiches.

I have to wonder which event was stranger for Nelson and his bandmates: native sons of the South Bay--most of the Grateful Dead and Peter Albin of Big Brother--headlining a comparatively large outdoor concert as local heroes? Or finding the New Delhi River Band cool enough to lend some hip credence to a Society fashion show for young women who might not typically give a scruffy hippie blues band the time of day?

The former Cabana Hotel and Cabana Hyatt House is now the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Frost Amphitheater, Stanford University, October 5, 1969 Sanpaku

October 5, 1969 Frost Amphitheater, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA Its A Beautiful Day/Mike Bloomfield-Nick Gravenites/Cold Blood/Southern Comfort/Sanpaku/Old Davis
Benefit for MidPeninsula Free University
 (Guitarist Mark Pearson, drummer Duane 'Motor' Timme and bassist Kootch Trochim of Sanpaku, Frost Amphitheater, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA Sunday October 5, 1969--h/t Michael Parrish for his great photo)
Sanpaku were originally from Sacramento. Initially called The Working Class, they spent a fabulous Summer in 1968 as the house band at Kings Beach Bowl on Lake Tahoe's North Shore, where they met the Grateful Dead and other bands. Sanpaku played the Tuesday night Fillmore West auditions, where they got heard by Bill Graham and signed to his management company. Well regarded, well connected, friends and jamming partners with groups like The Grateful Dead and Santana, they played numerous shows large and small throughout 1969.

Like many fine bands, however, it didn't happen for Sanpaku. I am compiling their complete performance history here (and the band's own blog is here); thanks to former Palo Alto resident Michael Parrish, however, we have some long ago photos of Sanpaku at Stanford University's, Frost Amphitheater on the sunny Sunday of October 5, 1969, part of a multi-act bill playing a benefit for the MidPeninsula Free University of Palo Alto and Menlo Park. This post--to some extent an excuse to show some great photos--will put some context around the pictures.

The Midpeninsula Free University, known as the MFU or "Free You" was an important part of countercultural intellectual life in the towns around Stanford University in the late 1960s. The MFU was an effort to make higher education relevant and forward looking, rather than traditional and stodgy. It may all seem like underwater basket weaving today, but major Universities like Stanford were quite threatened by efforts to provide an alternative to traditional higher education. Many of the instructors at the Free You had advanced degrees, and in some cases were even Stanford Faculty themselves. The Free You worked out of storefronts in the Palo Alto and Menlo Park downtowns, both near the campus.The story of the MFU is quite interesting, and well outside the scope of this blog, but their own website provides an in-depth history.

The MFU played an important part in South Bay rock history, however, because they regularly sponsored Be-Ins and free concerts at El Camino Park and elsewhere. While initially this was perceived as benign by Palo Alto residents, ultimately the size and scope of the free concerts at El Camino Park created a lot of tension between the MFU and the City of Palo Alto. The issue was only partially political, as Palo Alto has always been a progressive town; rather, Palo Alto has also always been a "hotbed of social rest" (as one writer put it), and the otherwise liberal residents didn't like noise and fuss.

By the end of 1968, the City of Palo Alto had found means to block the MFU from receiving a Permit to hold any more free concerts at El Camino Park, primarily by insisting on enforcing a noise ordnance. An unhappy compromise was reached, where some free outdoor events were held in 1969 at a Softball facility on the opposite side of town (at the Baylands, on 2775 Embarcadero, East of Highway 101). These windy, treeless and relatively distant events satisfied no one. As a result, the MFU decided to hold fundraising benefit concerts at Stanford's Frost Amphitheater. This of course, entailed much philosophizing, since the events weren't free, but they made for good concerts. There were two events, both on Sunday afternoon, the only day the University would allow the venue to be used.

The first MFU Benefit at Frost was held on August 17, 1969. The acts were
Sons of Champlin/Country Weather/Cold Blood/Fritz/Old Davis/Sunbear/Congress  of Wonders

The Sons of Champlin had headlined at least one MFU Be-In at El Camino Park the previous year. Country Weather (from Walnut Creek) and Cold Blood (originally from San Mateo) were popular bands around the Bay Area. All three of those groups had played the Fillmore West a number of times, albeit farther down on the bill. The Congress of Wonders was a trio of hip comedians who had played everywhere in the Bay Area.

Fritz, Old Davis and Sunbear were local bands. Fritz (whose full name was The Fritz Rabyne Memorial Band) were from Menlo Park, and are most famous today for their lead singer Stephanie (Stevie) Nicks and bassist Lindsey Buckingham. Old Davis were from San Mateo, and the next year would hire a teenage guitarist named Neal Schon.
(bassist Kootch Trochim, conguero Rico Reyes, trumpeter David Ginsberg and saxophonist Gary Larkey of Sanpaku, Frost Amphitheater, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA Sunday October 5, 1969--h/t Michael Parrish for his photo)

The first MFU benefit was a success, enough so that a second one was held on October 5. The acts were
Its A Beautiful Day/Mike Bloomfield-Nick Gravenites/Cold Blood/Southern Comfort/Sanpaku/Old Davis
Michael Bloomfield was a major star from his time in the Butterfield Blues Band and Electric Flag, but he was very erratic and I'm not sure he even showed up. Its A Beautiful Day had been a popular local band for over a year, but they were now riding high behind their debut album and the song "White Bird." Sanpaku and Southern Comfort were popular Bay Area club bands, and Cold Blood and Old Davis returned to play again. With five acts, the show probably went on from noon until at least 6 pm.  We can see from the photos that by modern standards the sound system and other gear was relatively modest. Of course, all the instruments and speakers in the picture would go for spectacular values on eBay today.

Michael Parrish, then a Palo Alto teenager, took photos of many of the acts at this show. Since I am honored to be the official historian of Sanpaku, he scanned his copies (the negatives are lost) and let me post them. He has photos--some from the original negatives--of some of the other acts, and they will be very special indeed. For now, we can enjoy the memories of a fine band on a sunny afternoon long ago.
(Organist Bob Powell, Guitarist Mark Pearson, drummer Duane 'Motor' Timme and saxophonist Gary Larkey of Sanpaku, along with an unnamed dog, at Frost Amphitheater, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA Sunday October 5, 1969--h/t Michael Parrish for great photo)

Appendix: Frost Amphitheater, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA 
Frost Amphitheater is a beautiful open air venue, dug out of an artificially constructed hill. 6,900 people can fit inside the grassy, terraced bowl. The Amphitheater was named for Laurence Frost, Stanford class of ’35, who died of polio at age 23. The Amphitheater was first opened in June, 1937, and for many decades was the site of Stanford’s commencement. The amphitheater, near the corner of Galvez and Campus (the entrance is near Laurel Street) rapidly became a treasured venue for music and theater performances.

Stanford University has always been careful about using Frost for too many events. In the 1960s, they limited rock concerts to weekend, afternoon events. A March 5, 1967 show headlined by Jefferson Airplane is the first (that I know of) of the few 60s concerts held there. In the 60s, Frost’s size actually made it too large for most concert attractions, and the University had no financial imperative to attract bigger shows.

In the early 1970, problems with fights and bottle-throwing (specifically at a July 18, 1971 Elvin Bishop/Cold Blood show) caused the University to ban rock concerts at Frost. After a October 1, 1972 show with Miles Davis (nominally a jazz show, although the New Riders Of The Purple Sage were also on the bill) was marred by people trying to get in for free (a breeze for agile locals who knew the grounds well) the University banned all shows at Frost, and all rock concerts moved to nearby Maples Pavilion. By 1975, however, the University relented and started to allow the occasional Sunday afternoon concert, as long as the band drew the “right” sort of crowd (no R&B, no metal, etc). Today, Frost Amphitheater remains a lightly used but extremely popular area venue.