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.


  1. Actually, the final lineup for the 10/5 show was Sanpaku/Cold Blood/It's a Beautiful Day. It was common in that era for Bloomfield to be a no-show. I'm not sure what happened to the other two acts.

  2. I went to a concert at Frost in the summer of '68 featuring the Chambers Brothers when "Time" had reached its apex of popularity. Also there were Quicksilver, The Sons of Champlin and Creedence (who had not yet hit their peak). Anyone else go to this or remember it?

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    2. I was there. My dad took me and we met the band (I loved Brian Keenan). I think I was 8 then. (My dad took me to my first real concert as well -- a free one at El Camino Park on the soccer field featuring the (then) Santana Blues Band.

    3. I was there, too, with my high school friend Kathy Anderson, on the day before my 18th birthday. A few days prior, I had seen Moby Grape and Jeff Beck Group (before Truth came out) featuring Rod Stewart vocals and Ronnie Wood (pre-Stones) on bass. Opening number Beck's Bolero pretty much set the mood! Also on bill was Mint Tattoo. Steve K

  3. The Chambers Brothers/Quicksilver/Sons/Creedence show was held on July 28, 1968. The poster called it "Stanford Summer Rock."

    The Chambers Brothers had changed record labels, so an old album of live material called Shout!, recorded in 1967, was released in late 1968. The cover photo was taken at the 7/28/68 Frost show, even though the material was recorded earlier. You can look up the cover easily on Amazon--lots of faces in the crowd are visible in the photo.

  4. July '68 is just about peak QMS for my taste... that must have been really, really good.

  5. Quicksilver was easily the best band that day, although the crowd gave it up Big Time for the Chambers Bros. "Time" had come, at least that day...

  6. Yes I was at this concert, but am now wondering if I saw two concerts at Frost and combined them? As I recall, I saw a very young Credence with a smoking suzie q, the Sons of Champlin, Santana (alway hot), Quicksilver, Chambers Brothers, the Airplane and then the Dead. The Dead were late so they played last. It is a great show or shows

  7. You may be combining some different shows

    Jefferson Airplane, probably with Santana opening, played on either March 5 or May 7, 1967.

    Chambers Brothers/Quicksilver/Creedence/Sons was July 28, 1968

    I'm not aware of the Grateful Dead playing Frost until the 1980s, although Jerry Garcia played there in Fall 1971.

    However, I don't believe I have nailed down every Frost show from the 67-68 period, so maybe your memories are clearer than you think.

  8. I probably did combining two shows. I remember a show with santana, Airplane and Dead. And there was probably one more group.

    This may have be the March of 67 concert. I don't know if the Dead were scheduled to perform but showed up and played after the Airplane. I thinking this was March because it went on until dusk and that was about 7:00 pm.

    I clearly remember the July 28 68 show. It was excellent.

    It's been awhile since I thought about this stuff.

  9. Whether the Airplane played Frost on March 5 or May 7, the Dead were otherwise unengaged. I'm more inclined to the May 7 date, as they wouldn't let Frost run past dark (no lights). On March 5 they may have been in New York, and I think the show was rescheduled for May 7.

    Since there are no reviews of the Airplane show, its entirely possible the Dead played also. Since they had a new album, it may have been in Warner Bros interests to get them on a show like that. The Airplane played Frost in the afternoon and Davis that evening (with the Steve Miller Blues Band).

    Very interesting indeed. If any other memories bubble up, I'm very intrigued.

  10. Well what I remember of the Chamber Brother concert was CCR doing Suize Q and Smoke on the Water and thinking, hey these guys can rock. I also reclall that Chamber Brother Time was good but went on forever. Quicksilver I have no recollection, but I had seen them a few times before so nothing they did was new.

    Regarding the Airplane concert, I remember it was my first live viewing of Santana. They were young and raw. I knew they something special. The Airplane could be either great or disengaged and sadly I do not recall which it was. As I recall this concert was after their Bathing at Baxter's album.

  11. I have looked into this at some length, and I now think it must have been in Spring 1968. I had originally thought it was May 7, 1967, but I find it impossible for the Dead to have played, since they were booked at an afternoon Fillmore show. Interestingly enough, however, I'm now fairly certain that Santana did open the May 67 show, because future drummer Mike Shrieve recalls it.

    I grew up in Palo Alto and there were always foggy rumors about the Dead having played Frost, which I didn't trust. However, the Dead and Airplane played a lot of shows together in Spring 1968, and at some of them the Dead played unbilled, so playing at Frost together makes a lot of sense.

    This will take a lot more research on my part, but I will get to the bottom of this one.

  12. If the Dead or the Airplane had played Frost in spring of 1968, I would have known about it and I would have gone. I'm pretty sure it didn't happen, although sometime in 1967 is not impossible.

  13. I keep circling around the date of Sunday, May 7, 1967. The Dead were headlining the Fillmore in the afternoon, while the Airplane were headlining Frost in the afternoon and UC Davis that night.

    According to the previous poster's comments, its at least plausible that the Dead played their show at the Fillmore and rushed down to finish off the evening at Frost.

  14. If the exact date is May 7, 1967 Santana certainly NOT played because at the time Carlos Santana was hospitalized with tuberculosis (he left the hospital only in early June 1967).

  15. Very interesting indeed. Mike Shrieve said in an interview that he had seen Santana open for the Airplane at "an outdoor concert in Palo Alto," which had to be Frost. What about March 5, 1967? Was Carlos in the hospital yet? Maybe the Airplane really did play the March 5 date.

  16. Corry you certainly remember that I had already written about this Santana/Jefferson Airplane's Palo Alto gig on my blog "The San Francisco Sound" (
    As I said there Carlos was hospitalized with tuberculosis from early April to early June 1967. So for me the only plausible date is March 5, 1967 exactly.

  17. Curiouser and curiouser. I agree with you about the Santana date needing to be March 5, not May 7. Its strange though--how come there is no trace of the March Airplane date? Have you ever seen poster or ad?

  18. I don't know. The first and only time I read about this JA gig on March 5, 1967 is from your older post about "Jefferson Airplane Performance List" in this blog. However on this page....
    ....this gig is dated as "June?? 1967"....maybe this is the correct month?

  19. Even I cannot figure out where I got the March 5 date, and I'm wondering if its not a complete phantom.

    Another question to consider is that while I am sure of the May 7 date, how many times would the Airplane play Frost Amphitheater in a year. It was one of the biggest venues in the Bay Area at the time, and the South Bay was not as heavily populated then as it is now.

    The Airplane list you site would just as likely reference the May show, which they don't seem to know about.

    I would have to think if there was another Airplane show at Frost in 1967, it would have been in the Fall, around September or October, but that too is a reach.

  20. I agree with you Corry and also with the wbpiii's memories. I believe that the most plausible story about this Palo Alto gig is that Jefferson Airplane, Santana and Grateful Dead (and probably one more group) played together at Frost Amphitheater sometime during the Summer or Fall 1967'.

  21. There has to be coverage in the Stanford Daily. The university archives might also have some good information.

  22. Can anyone confirm that there were concerts at Frost during 1967 and 1968 in months other than June, July and August. As I recall, these were summer concerts, but then, my recollection is shakey.

    This site says June of 67


    but it seems unclear as to the precise date. So I am thinking it was mid to late June of 1967 because Santana was there.

  23. I am reliably informed that the July 28, 1968 Frost show advertising Chambers Bros/QMS/Creedence/Sons also featured two other bands: Santana and Morning Glory. This would explain various memories of Santana at Frost (including Mike Shrieve's).

    As a further footnote, even though the Chambers Bros were the headliners, QMS ended up coming on last because their drummer was late. Also, Creedence ended their show with Keep On Chooglin'.

    I'm still working on the Grateful Dead piece of the puzzle.

  24. The July 28, 1968 Frost show also featured Gypsum Heaps.

  25. Corry I don't think the Santana gig on July 28, 1968 is the same that Mike Shrieve remember in his interview because he said that Jefferson Airplane is on the bill and the year is 1967.

  26. Bruno, I'm wondering about that too, but I can't help but think Shrieve saw the Airplane show in 1967 and the Santana (and QMS etc) show in 1968 and lumped them together. Certainly every other Palo Alto hippie is guilty of that, and Shrieve was asked about it over 20 years later, so its not like his memory was fresh.

    Your own research is very convincing in saying that Santana Blues Band couldn't have opened for the Airplane on May 7, 1967 because Carlos was in the hospital. There could be another Frost show--I'm looking--but it was a University venue that was rarely used.

  27. Corry I agree with you about the "memory fresh theory" but this is not the case. In his interview Mike Shrieve said this about his time with Jefferson Airplane: "In the evening we go to the studio and David Crosby comes by with a song he wrote called “Triad” that he thought might be good for the Airplane to record. So I saw all that go down. I was just a kid who a year earlier had seen the Airplane and Santana at an outdoor show in Palo Alto". Jefferson Airplane recorded 'Triad' on May 29, 1968 so it is obvious that Mike refers to a concert that took place before that date (I think 1967 exactly) so July 28, 1968 is impossible.

  28. Corry your post about QMS being delayed seems to discount my recollection regarding the Dead and the Airplane show. I suspect it is a case of a confused memory. I cannot believe that at two shows, there was an act that followed the headliner. So I now think my Dead recollection is in error. Sorry guys

    Which brings me to the issue of who played with the Airplane at Frost and when.

  29. This is all getting curiouser and curiouser. There were very few rock concerts in Frost in the 1960s. I have only been able to confirm one in 1967 and one in 1968,and three in 1969. Many people in Palo Alto saw all of them, because there wasn't much else to do.

    I am going to look into the Stanford side of things but I don't know how much I will find out.

  30. I wish I had my old posters and handbills. I am wondering based on this discussion and my shakey recollection whether Santana played at both concerts? Based on facts present here, it seems there is strong evidence that they did.

  31. Its distinctly possible that Santana played Frost more than once in the 1960s--the question is what dates (other than 7-28-68, which has been confirmed by a poster and numerous eyewitnesses including yourself).

    The only other Frost concert I haven't discussed here is June 29, 1969 with Country Joe and The Fish/Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks/Lamb and "others." Did you see that one, by any chance? It was called "The Festival Of Growing Grass" (ha ha).

    Frost generally remains unchanged--certainly I saw various events there in the 1970s and 80s and they all run together in my mind, so its not surprising that some of the events may seem the same.

  32. No I didn't the Country Joe show. I only went to Chambers Brothers and Airplane concerts.

  33. Hi Corry, It me again :)

    I'm not sure it matters to the direction of your blog but.......

    I saw one of the most incredible shows I've ever seen at Frost in the spring of 1965.

    Ray Charles with his whole band and the Raylettes. (he was known to do small shows with fewer members) I was blown away.

    Ranks right up there with Otis Redding at the Fillmore

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  35. I did the sound for several of the Frost Amphitheater concerts in the 1969-71 period when I was working for Lumiere Productions.

    The dog in the picture of Sanpaku, October '69 was named "Heavy Duty".

    I know that because he lost himself in the groves of trees surrounding the venue and his owner was loudly calling his name while we were breaking down the equipment after the show.

    For the July 18, 1971 Elvin Bishop/Cold Blood show we showed up with our newly designed speaker system instead of the big, modified Altec Voice of the Theater cabinets we had been using until that time.

    The new system was far more efficient and compact resulting in Cold Blood's manager commenting that although it sounded fine and was sufficiently loud the system just didn't "look big enough" to him.

  36. Oldsoundguy, thanks for the perspective. Amazing to find out the dog's names!

    It's a funny story too about the sound system that didn't "look big enough," like a small car that goes fast but doesn't look fast. Although I have to admit, as a fan from back in the day, when you walked into an auditorium and saw speakers piled up to the ceiling, you thought "this is gonna rock!"

  37. Any stories about when Sly & Family Stone played Frost?

  38. Well, the story about Sly (per my older sister) was that Sly either did not show up or was very, very late. The crowd got very rowdy, not least because large numbers of locals knew how to sneak in, since they had been hopping the fence since they were little kids.

    By the standards of Chicago or Philadelphia, I'm sure it was just another day in the park, but by the standards of restful Palo Alto it was very tense indeed. Don't forget that Sly had a mixed black and white audience, a great rarity, and that had to put the Stanford cops on edge.

    The Sly Stone show was the beginning of the end for Frost. After a Cold Blood/Elvin Bishop show that got out of control (don't ask me why), Stanford declared that there would be no more rock shows at Frost. They actually went back on this within a few years, but a non-jazz African American act did not play there for many years (and may have never, for all I know). Plenty of Kenny Loggins, and they finally relented on the Grateful Dead, but it has remained white bread ever since.

    1. Fwiw, I absolutely and positively saw Creedence, Santana, and Jefferson Airplane on the same bill at Frost Ampitheatre on a Summer-like day circa 1967. The concert was so memorable that I decided to Google it more than 50 years later, and that’s how I stumbled on this blog. I lived in Palo Alto at the time. Hope this helps someone solve the mysteries of Frost history.

  39. I also saw Richie Havens, and Sergio Mendez and Brasil 66, on different dates at Frost.