Shows at The Fillmore West are enshrined in rock history not just because of the fine posters, but because they featured great bands in their prime, like the Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Grateful Dead and Big Brother. While Fillmore and Avalon posters have underground cool, Fillmore West posters present iconic Baby Boomer bands like Santana and CSNY when they were still fresh. For all the attention given to the posters, there are surprisingly few lists of concerts at the Fillmore West, and most of them are lists of the posters rather than the shows. The best list I am aware of is Ross Hannan's list of Fillmore West events, which attempts to add and correct information about which bands performed when, since not every advertised show was played exactly as it was billed. Reading this list is a primer in live rock at its finest, and often all three acts on the bill were exceptional bands, even if they did not achieve stardom.
In our continuing research into 60s rock concerts, however, I have discovered that there were a large number of Fillmore West concerts that have gone almost entirely unremarked in much of the Fillmore scholarship of the subsequent years. Bill Graham opened The Fillmore West on July 5, 1968 (with Butterfield Blues Band and Ten Years After), but at the end of the Summer he instituted a Tuesday night series featuring local bands. The series was called "Audition Night," and three bands would play for a small admission fee ($1.00 or $1.50). The best of those bands would often open a weekend show on Friday and Saturday, sometimes even the next weekend.
The Tuesday night series seems to have gone on almost every week for the life of The Fillmore West, excepting the Summers of 1968 and 1969 when a six nights a week concert schedule was employed, as well as occasional nights when a big act would play a Tuesday. However, although the Tuesday night concerts are regularly alluded to, there are almost no records of which bands played.
By my estimation, there must be approximately 100 Tuesday night Audition concerts, possibly more, meaning perhaps as many as 300 acts played the Fillmore West that we are not generally aware of. If the Tuesday night "winner" also played on each weekend, as appeared to be the case at least some of the time, then there would be approximately 50 or more acts that were part of the "main" Fillmore West schedule that we have no direct evidence of. At the very least, this fact explains the number of lesser known groups who claim to have played The Fillmore West who never appeared on a poster. There were no posters or flyers for Tuesday night show, and the band "added" to the weekend gig was not on the poster, as the artwork had been done and the posters distributed considerably earlier.
With this mystery in mind, I have been attempting to determine what I can about Fillmore West audition shows. Clearly this will be an ongoing project, but this post will explain the information that I have found.
Fillmore West Tuesday Night Audition Format
The Tuesday night Audition shows did not have posters or flyers that I am aware of, with occasional exceptions. There does appear to have been press releases, probably as part of regular Fillmore West press releases, so the performers would have been announced, but probably only on FM radio and at the Fillmore West itself. As rock music became more important, the Tuesday night shows would sometimes be listed in the paper as filler in the entertainment section, which is how I found out about most of the shows. In 1968 and 1969, however, the shows seem to have been all but unpublicized.
Bill Graham liked playing basketball, and apparently each Tuesday the Fillmore West "team" would play a game at the Fillmore West against another team (such as a radio station) prior to the show. A bit of this is shown in the 1972 Fillmore movie. Afterwards, three bands would play. It seems that everyone did just one set, unlike the normal two sets on the weekend, so it was a relatively early evening, appropriate for a Tuesday.
On weekends, the three billed bands (from the poster) each played two sets. Going back to 1966 at the old Fillmore, a local band often opened the show on Friday and Saturday, playing a single set. This was to encourage and accommodate early arriving patrons, and by extension to encourage the sale of more popcorn and soda. A local band playing a set at, say, 8:00 pm at the Fillmore would still have time to make it over to a nightclub if they were booked for a Friday or Saturday night gig, as many bands would have been. Whatever the proposition, however, there is no guarantee that the best band of each Tuesday night was guaranteed to be the opener on the next weekend. I'm sure it happened of course, and perhaps regularly, but I have yet to see indications of who actually opened which show.
Economic Rationale of Fillmore West Tuesday Audition Night
The Fillmore West was designed as a money making operation, but Bill Graham was also very shrewd about what would now be called "Leveraging His Brand" (had such a term existed then). First of all, each of the three bands was paid Union Scale for a two-hour session. I do not precisely how much this was, and obviously depending on the number of members of the band it would vary slightly, but it was probably a relatively small amount. Thus, it would not take a large crowd to justify the expense of the evening (since bands had to join the union in order to play Fillmore West, some bands may have effectively not been paid at all). By 1969 Graham was aware of the economic limits of the Fillmore West, since the building had actually been sold to Howard Johnson's, and was scheduled to be knocked down and turned into a hotel (although this in the end did not happen).
Meanwhile, Graham is battling Local 6 of the American Federation of Musicians, which wants to raise the fees for the musicians playing the Fillmore West Tuesday night auditions.
The Tuesday night shows have been going on for a couple of years at a $1 admission as a device for young, new bands to get a hearing locally. Graham has used only union bands and in effect has acted as a union recruiting agent, since a number of groups have joined the union just to play the Tuesday night Fillmore West show.
Each band plays a 40-minute set for which it is paid at the union rate for two hours. Now Local 6 wants to charge Graham a four hour rate for the 40 minute set.
Even those who hate Graham concede that he can't make money on the Tuesday night auditions and the bands, the young musicians, certainly want the chance to be heard. If Local 6 had any real interest in young musicians, it would help sponsor such auditions instead of trying to suppress them.
July 21, 1970 Lamb/Lambert & Nuttycombe/Victoria/Equinox
This event was on a Tuesday, but this billing was very conciously designed as a singer-songwriter showcase for acts on Bill Graham's label. Lamb featured singer Barbara Mauritz and guitarist Bob Swanson, Victoria was a singer songwriter, Lambert & Nuttycombe were a duo, and "Equinox" was advertised as a collective of sorts, featuring Jeffrey Cain, Pamela Polland and Tangen & Freedman
September 29, 1970 four bands
San Francisco Chronicle columnist John Wasserman (who had replaced Ralph Gleason in June) mentioned that four bands would be playing the Fillmore West on Tuesday in his Monday column (September 28 1970), although he did not name them. This was an indication that the Tuesday auditions were back on the schedule. Far more obscure bands now played the Fillmore West on audition night, obscure even by the standards of this blog. Any of the groups listed below that I do not discuss I have never heard of and know nothing about. Anyone who knows anything about any of the bands here is encouraged to mention it in the Comments.
October 6, 1970 Salt Of The Earth/Quebec/Passion/Crystal Garden
October 13, 1970 Naked Lunch/Concrete/Jerry And The Crystals/Stone Face
Naked Lunch was a band featuring keyboard player Lu Stephens, from the 60s band All Men Joy, and young guitar ace Abel Zarate, who would go on to join Malo.
October 20, 1970 Rain Forest/Brown Rice/Abraxas
Our fellow scholar TourArchive notes
I would be surprised if Santana was ever actually billed as "Santana" on a Tuesday Audition "Sounds of the City" program as they were already being billed on weekend programs prior to the start of the Tuesday Audition "Sounds of the City" program on September 10, 1968.
In that regard, the bill for the Tuesday Audition "Sounds of the City" program for October 20, 1970 was Rain Forest, Brown Rice and Abraxas. I would submit that Abraxas may well have been Santana. They were in town as they were scheduled at the Matrix the next night on Wednesday October 21 and by coincidence their album "Abraxas" was released 6 days later on October 26.
Some food for thought.
October 26, 1970 Dave Van Ronk/Lamb/Fourth Way/Equinox
This show seems to be a little different than the others, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was on a Monday night, and normally the Fillmore West was closed Mondays and Wednesdays (although on October 28 there was a rare Wednesday concert with Rod Stewart and Small Faces). Also, unlike other bills, Dave Van Ronk was an older and more established folk artist. He did put out an album for Polydor in 1971, so I don't know if this was a record company supported gig, but it hardly featured an unknown headliner.
'Equinox' indicates the name of the event, indicating a songwriters collective of sorts, although whether it was exactly the same as the previous one (June 26, 1970) isn't plain to me. Finally, there was a flyer, which suggests along with the somewhat-famous headliner that the weeknight shows also functioned like a normal nightclub show, regardless of any auditions.
The Fourth Way was a jazz-rock fusion group that had three albums on Capitol (two were actually on Harvest, a Capitol/EMI subsidiary). The band featured electric violinist Michael White, along with pianist Mike Nock, bassist Ron McClure and drummer Eddy Marshall. They were regulars in both jazz and rock clubs around the Bay Area.
October 27, 1970 Tyde/American Canyon/Charles Ford Band
The Charles Ford Band played some pretty jazzed up blues, in the style of the original Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The brothers were from Ukiah, and Charles Ford was their father. Brother Robben Ford had already played with Charlie Musselwhite for a while, and he would go on to an excellent solo career, as well as performing with George Harrision, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis and many others. The Charles Ford Band put out a nice album on Arhoolie Records in 1971.
November 3, 1970 Speed Turkey/Abraxas Rising/Nazgul
The band name "Abraxas Rising" is now intriguing considering the Oct 20 listing--could this have been another Santana show?
November 17, 1970 Day And Night Blues Band/Moss/Cookin' Mama
November 24, 1970 Cypress/Gallery Steel/Kontrapshon
November 31, 1970 Quebec/Fabulous Violations/Ark/Transatlantic Railroad
The Transatlantic Railroad were a Marin group.
Tom Paxton was an established folk artist, and strictly speaking this wasn't an "audition"night. Still, it is outside the regular chain of BGP shows, and seems to have been an attempt to establish a different type of show. His current album would have been Tom Paxton 6, on Elektra.
December 8, 1970 Bittersweet/Mustard Seed/Stow Lake
Stow Lake was a man-made lake in Golden Gate Park.
Again, like Tom Paxton, the Incredible String Band were an established group. This, too, seems to be an effort to use the Fillmore West for a different type of show. At this time, the Incredible String Band had just released their seventh album on Elektra, U. The live band was Mike Heron and Robin Williamson, supported by their girlfriends, Rose Simpson and Licorice McKechnie. It's not impossible that former Grateful Dead keyboard player Tom Constanten was playing with them.
December 15, 1970 Sandoz/The Beans/MJB Soul Brothers
Grateful Dead fans may not realize that Vince Welnick had played the Fillmore West three times as a member of The Beans.
Paxton returned. I'm assuming there was some connection between these three "An Evening With" shows in December, but I have to await further knowledge.
December 22, 1970 Foxglove/Ship Of The Sun/Prince Barakadia
December 29, 1970 Straight Phonk/Brothers Day/Lizard
January 5, 1971 Stow Lake/Crystal Garden/Slo Loris
JGMF observes that the SF Examiner lists Leo instead of Stow Lake.
January 12, 1971 Sunset/Blackbird/Tyde
January 19, 1971 Mad Dog/Jelly O's
January 26, 1971 Whispering Shadows/Andrew Hallidie/Styx River Ferry
The Styx River Ferry were a local bluegrass band, and they were essential in making a hip young bluegrass scene in the Bay Area. Besides playing places like The Freight And Salvage in Berkeley, Styx River Ferry had also started a regular bluegrass scene at a place called Paul's Saloon in San Francisco. The fiddler for Styx River Ferry was the daughter of famed jazzman Woody Herman.
February 2, 1971 Salt Of The Earth/Home Sweet Home/Children
February 9, 1971 Pipe/Keystone/Comfort
The SF Chronicle had these three bands listed. The Oakland Tribune just had "Mendelsonn." While they are unknown to me, it may have been a misprint for Mendelbaum.
Bittersweet was a band from Chico who had moved to the East Bay (Bruno Cerriotti has a detailed history here).
February 23, 1971 Cypress/Dono/Ship Of The Sun
JGMF observes that the SF Examiner has a contrary listing for March 2 '71: Hard Roads / Helix / Brothers Day / Brother Music, plus midnight jam.
March 16, 1971 Howard’s Band/White Light/Nevada
March 23, 1971 Beggars Opera/Basca/Good Clean Fun
April 6, 1971 Augustus Warthog/Pollution/Childhood’s End
April 27, 1971 Descimeister/Cookin Mama/Loose Gravel
Loose Gravel was a band led by guitarist Michael Wilhelm, formerly of The Charlatans. The movie Fillmore begins with Wilhelm insisting that Bill Graham book Loose Gravel for the last week of The Fillmore West. It is interesting to see they had already played audition night.
May 4, 1971 Canterbury Fair/Sundance/Tovarich/The Mark's Club Francisco
There was a Palo Alto band called Canterbury Fair around this time, although I do not know if this was them.
May 11, 1971 Vertrek/Brotherhood Rush/Nevada
Vertrek was a trio from Red Bluff, CA, way up in Northern California, past Chico but not quite to Redding and Lake Shasta.
May 18, 1971 Pre-Dawn Left/Black Magic/7th Congressional Distric
The 7th Congressional District (in California, at least, assuming the band was from California) was in the Sacramento area.
May 25, 1971 Chico David Blues Band/Quebec/Kwane and The Kwanditos
Kwane And The Kwanditos featured pianist Todd Barkan, later the proprietor of the famed San Francisco jazz club Keystone Korner (which was still a rock club in 1971). Kwane and The Kwanditos had played the Fillmore West as early as September 30, 1969, and they were "on the poster" for Januar 7-9, 1971, opening for Spirit and Elvin Bishop. I assume they were the "headliners" this night, since the other two bands appear unknown. By this time, the Fillmore West's closing had been announced, so any Tuesday night gigs were either to turn a profit or to find bands for booking or signing to the record label. The urgency to find "new" groups for the Fillmore West was pretty small.
June 8, 1971 Latin Blood/Country Side/Beans
Latin Blood and Country Side are unknown to me (the Beans evolved into The Tubes, as noted above on Dec 15 '70).
June 14, 1971 Mother Earth/Doobie Brothers/Long John Baldry/Stoneground
This was a Monday night show, sponsored by Warner Brothers. All the acts were Warner Brothers Records acts. Presumably a lot of tickets were given away by radio stations, although I'm sure anyone could have bought them. Warner Brothers would have rented the hall for the evening. According to the Hayward Daily Review(June 17), Elvin Bishop and Taj Mahal showed up to jam at evening's end.
June 15, 1971 Terry Dolan/Cookin Mama/Earth Rise
Terry Dolan was a Washington, DC songwriter who had moved to the Bay Area a few years earlier. Somewhat later he would be known for fronting the part time band Terry And The Pirates, with John Cipollina. Note that Cookin Mama is appearing for at least the second time (they played April 27, 1971 as well), as was Dolan (September 30, 1969).
Truckin' was an 11-member Hayward band, friendly with the Daily Review critics, so their doings were well covered. Truckin' got to play the very last audition night at Fillmore West.
The last Tuesday night show at The Fillmore West was not an "audition" night in the sense that there was nothing to audition for. Still, the night was listed on the final poster, and even if the show was not broadcast on the radio like the other nights, it was still a part of history. Kwane and The Kwanditos returned. Sawbuck featured guitarists Ronnie Montrose and William "Mojo" Collins. Montrose would go on to fame withVan Morrison, Edgar Winter and his own band, and Collins had been in the group Initial Shock.
The future stars of the night were Malo, then in an early incarnation. They featured Carlos Santana's brother Jorge on guitar, along with Abel Zarate on guitar (from Naked Lunch), Arcelio Garcia on vocals, Richard Kermode on keyboards (later in Santana), Pablo Tellez on bass (also later in Santana), Roy Murray on horns (Naked Lunch) and Richard Bean on timbales and vocals. Malo would hit it big the next year with their debut album and with Bean's song "Suavecito," produced by David Rubinson and released on Epic.