Wednesday, September 28, 2011

August 17, 1966 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane (and a new PA)

A promotional photo from the August 10, 1966, San Francisco Chronicle, advertising the Grateful Dead's weekend appearance on August 12 & 13

August 17, 1966 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Mimi Farina with The Only Alternative and His Other Possibility/Quicksilver Messenger Service "A Psychedelic Fashion Show" Presented by The Mod Hatter

On Wednesday, August 17, 1966 the Fillmore had a rare midweek event, a psychedelic fashion show curated by The Mod Hatter, a hip Marin boutique. This wasn't totally unprecedented, as the Mod Hatter had held a fashion show at the Fillmore before. That June 26 event was headlined by The Great Society, with former model Grace Slick no doubt the main attraction. The event appears to have been by invitation only, although I suspect the invitations weren't hard to come by. The lettering on the invitation makes it look like Mimi Farina was the planned attraction, and the more popular Jefferson Airplane were only added at the last second. Nonetheless, I think this unheralded event was a very important one for the history of rock concerts, but the reason for its importance lies in the Grateful Dead performance the weekend before.

One of the defining contributions of the Fillmore and the Avalon to rock concerts was the seemingly foundational assumption that a true rock concert had great live sound. Both the Avalon and all three Fillmores--the Auditorium, West and East--were revered by touring musicians for their great house sound systems. However, I don't think the original Fillmore had great house sound until August 17, 1966. After that time, the Fillmore and all its successors were state of the art, and by setting the standard for live performance the Fillmore lifted up all its competitors as well. The reason I am confident of the date was that sometime in August, Bill Graham purchased the sound system that Owsley Stanley had designed for the Grateful Dead and had it installed in the Fillmore. Although I can find no confirmation of the date of purchase, it only makes sense that Owsley would bring in the system with the band, and then leave it there.

Thus the Wednesday night fashion show would have been more than just a party. It also would have been a test run for Graham's staff to try out the new sound system. The Young Rascals and Quicksilver were headlining the weekend show, and no doubt the crew would have wanted to get the bugs out of Owsley's notorious complex system. Although I know nothing about the music at the Fashion Show itself, I do know that the Fillmore had a sterling reputation for its sound system that only grew throughout the years, so the BGP crew must have figured out how to take advantage of Owsley's handiwork pretty quickly.

The First Owsley Sound System
The story of Owsley is shrouded in myth and tall tales, the majority of them created or spread by Owsley himself. In February 1966, Owsley Stanley had agreed to be the patron of the Grateful Dead's music, and he took them to Los Angeles where they put on a series of "Acid Tests" in conjunction with various Southern California crazies like Hugh (Wavy Gravy) Romney. From the proceeds of his various commercial activities, Owsley purchased the Grateful Dead their own public address system. At the time, the largest speaker available was called a "Voice Of The Theater" speaker, used for large auditoriums. Owsley reputedly went to a Bay Area music store and purchased every Voice Of The Theater speaker and wired them together. The speakers had been designed so that a single unit would provide enough sound for an auditorium, but that was insufficient for Owsley. He bought a bunch of them and wired them all up in some crazy fashion.

Thus the Grateful Dead were among the very first rock bands to actually travel with a full size public address system, louder than anyone else's at the time. Owsley was a genius, of course, and a visionary, but practicality was never his strong suit. The equipment that Owsley had purchased was designed to be installed in a theater, not hurled in the back of a panel truck and driven hundreds of miles, only to be rolled out and wired together. Apparently, many of the practical considerations of modern rock touring, like reinforced cables or easy connectors, had not yet been invented, and many things had to be done by laborious means. While no member of the Grateful Dead second guessed the sound of Owsley's system, it was furiously impractical to take on the road. According to Dennis McNally and Blair Jackson's Grateful Dead chronology The Illustrated Trip, Owsley sold the sound system to Bill Graham in August of 1966.

At the Fillmore, the sound system remained in place, so the complexities of setting it up were merely a one-time affair. Owsley purchased the Grateful Dead a new, more portable system, apparently equally fabulous sounding but more manageable on the road. Owsley's first sound system stayed in one place, wowing touring bands from afar as they came to play the Fillmore, just as Bob Cohen's system did over at the Avalon, and elevating the experience of rock concerts in general.

The Mod Hatter Fashion Show
The Mod Hatter was a hip fashion boutique in Mill Valley. The Wednesday night show was a private party, which is why there are invitations but no poster. As a result of being a party, the show was neither advertised in the paper (to my knowledge) nor reviewed, so nothing is known about it. The invitation has Mimi Farina and The Only Alternative in large letters, with "Jefferson Airplane" hand printed in an empty space. Quicksilver Messenger Service, then just an underground band, are listed in tiny print at the bottom of the invite.

Mimi Farina was Joan Baez's younger sister, and while she had a lovely voice and was stunning looking, she was much shyer than her more famous sibling. At the time, she was sort of a "guest singer" with The Only Alternative band, but this effort to be a rock singer never really suited her. Nonetheless, it was clear that the Mod Hatter needed a stylish young woman topping the bill, and Mimi fit that requirement very nicely, even if she herself may have had second thoughts. Obviously, once Signe Anderson and Jefferson Airplane were available, that meant two young women at the top of the bill, and some of the pressure may have been off both of them.

I'm sure this event was only partially a rock show. Rather than all three bands playing double sets, they probably all played single sets, interrupted by some sort of fashion shows. Indeed, with the Fillmore filled with fashion models, it must have been a pretty interesting night. If I am correct about the timeline, and Owsley had left his sound system intact on Saturday August 13, I have to think he would have dropped by as a technical adviser for the Fashion Show on Wednesday. Let's see: new sound system, Jefferson Airplane, fashion models, Quicksilver, Owsley and the future of rock music--an interesting night indeed.

Rock Concert Sound
Chet Helms's partner at the Avalon was soundman Bob Cohen, a true legend in his own right. The Avalon was always famous for having spectacular sound, so the Fillmore would have had to match it. No specific names are associated with the sound systems at the Fillmore and Fillmore West, so I think Graham had a series of technicians or consultants. While I think Graham made an effort from the beginning to make the Fillmore into a quality experience, with no Bob Cohen as a partner he needed outside expertise, and I think Owsley was the first of those. Of course, Graham's in-house staff must have started modifying the equipment immediately, so it may have strayed quite far from Owsley's original concept.

Nonetheless, the San Francisco ballrooms established the blueprint for the rock concert experience up to this very day. No rock concert goer today would expect any less than exceptional sound, loud as can be but clear as a bell, where any distortion is intended and not just an unfortunate byproduct. That's not to say we always get what we want as listeners, of course, but we know what we are supposed to get. So if I'm right, August 17, 1966 at the Fillmore marked the night that rock's most famous auditorium got a state of the art sound system and kept it that way, setting the standard for rock concert sound forever after.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

2201 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA The Electric Factory: Concert List July-December 1969 (Philadelphia IV)

[this post continues the series about rock concerts at and presented by the Electric Factory in Philadelphia in the 1960s]

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is one of America's great cities, but its proximity to New York has always made an unfair comparison. Philadelphia has an exciting music history, and an exciting rock music history in the 1960s, but that history can only be documented in the most fragmented of places. These posts about the Electric Factory marks the beginning of my effort to organize and analyze Philadelphia rock history in the 1960s. There are probably more dates to be found, but these posts will make a good starting point (thanks to Bruno for some fantastic research).

The Electric Factory, 2201 Arch Street
The Electric Factory, a former tire warehouse, opened in early 1968 at 2201 Arch.  The owners were the Spivak brothers, all experienced bar owners in the Philadelphia area. Their booker was Larry Magid.  They rapidly dominated the concert scene in Philadelphia, and the Electric Factory were the most important promoters in Philadelphia until they ultimately were purchased by larger corporate interests in the 1990s.

The Electric Factory was a critical stop on 60s concert tours, and an integral part of the "Premier Talent" (Booking Agency) circuit that included both Fillmores, the Boston Tea Party and Chicago's Kinetic Playground. Philadelphia was a big, important city and Philadelphia fans were not shy about showing their appreciation or displeasure (a trait that has endured). However, since the Electric Factory did not generally use posters with collectible art for advertisements, the venue has been somewhat lost to 60s rock history. There were many relatively trivial 60s venues that had a famous poster or two, often printed in The Art Of Rock or otherwise promulgated, that are recalled much more often than the Electric Factory. Outside of Philadelphia, the early history of the Electric Factory is largely ignored, and I am attempting to begin to correct that here.
This post presents the lists of Electric Factory concerts from July through December 1969, as well as major Philadelphia rock events during that period. The list is almost certainly not complete. Our knowledge of shows at venues like the Fillmore, the Avalon or Detroit's Grande Ballroom comes from the wonderful (and collectible) posters that lived on in dorm room walls long after the venues ceased operating. However, the Electric Factory rarely used colorful, artistic posters to advertise the shows. I think the Electric Factory advertised on the radio and with print-only ads in various newspapers, making it harder to discern their schedule.
This post represents my best efforts at determining late 1969  shows at the Electric Factory, as well as shows promoted by Electric Factory concerts. Anyone with additional information, insights, corrections or recovered memories (real or imagined) is encouraged to Comment or email me, and I will update the list accordingly. 
(For earlier efforts at psychedelic ballrooms in Philadelphia as well as the first half of 1968 for the Electric Factory, see here, and for the second half of 1968 see here, and for the first half of 1969 see here)
Electric Factory Concerts in Philadelphia, July>December 1969
By the second half of 1969, rock concert promotion was big business, and Larry Magid and The Electric Factory were the dominant promoter in Philadelphia. Ironically, however, the market had gotten so big that many of the concerts were now held at the much larger Philadelphia Spectrum. The Electric Factory was also the primary promoter at the Spectrum (at 3601 Broad), though not the only one. I have tried to include all the major rock events at the Spectrum from this period, even though I am not always certain that the events were promoted by the Electric Factory. 

At the same time, the Electric Factory was under pressure from police commissioner Frank Rizzo, who managed to get the Electric Factory shut down for most of the Summer of 1969. The Electric Factory was busy promoting events at the Spectrum as well as the Atlantic City Pop Festival, but the Factory itself was closed for some portion of the Summer.
July 11-12, 1969 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Spectrum Pop Festival
>July 11, 1969:  Sly and The Family Stone/Mothers of Invention/Ten Years After/Jeff Beck/Savoy Brown
>July 12, 1969: Blood, Sweat & Tears/Edwin Hawkins Singers (afternoon show)
>July 12, 1969: Led Zeppelin/Johnny Winter/Al Kooper/Jethro Tull/Buddy Guy’s Blues Band

Many of the acts who played the Spectrum Pop Festival had previously headlined at the Electric Factory. The Summer of 1969 was the Summer of Rock Festivals, however, and bands had started crisscrossing the country.

July 16, 1969: The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Blind Faith/Delaney & Bonnie & Friends/Taste
The Blind Faith tour was probably the biggest National rock tour up until this time. Taste featured Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher.

July 19, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Tom Rush
July 23, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Crazy World Of Arthur Brown/Sweet Stavin Chain

July 25-26, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: AUM/Sweet Stavin Chain

July 29, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Dr. John The Night Tripper

July 30, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Lothar and The Hand People
Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo managed to get a judge to close the Electric Factory ("corrupting the youth" seemed to be the charge) for the rest of the Summer.

August 1-3, 1969 Atlantic City Racetrack, Mays Landing, NJ: “Atlantic City Pop Festival”
Although held outside of Atlantic City, New Jersey, about 50 miles to the Southeast of Philadelphia, this show was promoted by the Electric Factory. During this time, the Electric Factory was holding “Be-Ins” at Belmont Plateau in Fairmount Park, but the city would not have allowed a rock festival outdoors.  Even in freewheeling Atlantic City, the event still had to be called a “Pop” Festival.

Like most 60s festivals, it is difficult to determine who actually showed and who played, much less in what order. According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer on August 1, 2004, the festival was a commercial and musical success.  It was promoted by Philadelphia’s Electric Factory (who could not get a permit for anywhere in Philadelphia), and crowds of about 40,000 showed up all three days.  There was a campground next door, and adequate facilities (as well as a fence) at the horse racing track.

The advertised acts appear to have varied significantly from who actually played. I am unable to determine even whether bands appeared for two days or three. My guess is that three days were planned, and after a series of cancellations the show was scaled back to two days. A program circulates with only two days of acts, differing dramatically from what was advertised. Such changes were common occurrences in late 60s' festivals. I suspect that the first night featured Philadelphia area bands, since many people would have started camping out on Friday August 1.

Poster courtesy of the collection of Ed Galm

Atlantic City Pop Festival: Advertised Acts
Friday, August 1: Iron Butterfly/Johnny Winter/Crosby Stills Nash & Young/Chicago Transit Authority/Procol Harum/Joni Mitchell/Mother Earth/Santana Blues Band/Booker T & The MGs

Saturday, August 2: Jefferson Airplane/Creedence Clearwater Revival/Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Tim Buckley, B.B. King/Butterfield Blues Band/The Byrds/Hugh Masakela/Lighthouse/American Dream

Sunday, August 3: Janis Joplin/Canned Heat/Mothers Of Invention/Moody Blues/Three Dog Night/Sir Douglas Quintet/Joe Cocker/Little Richard/Buddy Rich Big Band/Dr. John The Night Tripper

The actual reality of who played seems somewhat different. CSNY canceled, apparently because Graham Nash had vocal nodes, insuring that he would be well enough to sing at Woodstock two weeks later. Johnny Winter was unable to play because his equipment did not arrive, although it appears he borrowed a guitar and sat in with Janis Joplin.

A program exists listing acts only on Saturday (Aug 2) and Sunday (Aug 3). It includes some of the acts scheduled for Friday night. Did some bands play twice, was Friday's billing re-organized or was it canceled? My guess is that there was a concert Friday night, but it featured mainly local bands.

Atlantic City Pop Festival: Programmed Acts
According to a circulating program (above), these were the acts on Saturday and Sunday, in order of appearance, from 1:00-9:30 pm.

Saturday, August 2: American Dream/Tim Buckley/The Byrds/Booker T and The MGs/Hugh Masakela/Butterfield Blues Band/BB King/Lighthouse/Creedence Clearwater Revival/Jefferson Airplane

Sunday, August 3: Sir Douglas Quintet/Santana Blues Band/Canned Heat/Three Dog Night/Joe Cocker and The Grease Band/Mothers Of Invention/Buddy Miles Express/Johnny Winter/Janis Joplin/Little Richard
Janis Joplin is actually listed on the program twice. I assume this was just a misprint, and some other act came on between Joe Cocker and The Mothers (I don't envy them). Johnny Winter was reputed not to have made it, but of course I can't be sure. Keep in mind that many of the big names booked for these days were not big names at the time. Acts like Santana, Joe Cocker, Three Dog Night and Joe Cocker would have just released their first albums at this time, and would have been big surprises to the Festival audience.

Anyone with more specific memories of the acts playing the Atlantic City Pop Festival is encouraged to Comment. For a more general picture of the Atlantic City Pop Festival, there is an interesting website by one of the promoters of the event.

September 5-6, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Spooky Tooth/Chicago Transit Authority

September 9-11, 1969 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Tyrannosaurus Rex/Chris Smither
I suspect that the Electric Factory was closed for most of August 1969, just like the Fillmore East. I don't really have a sense of how many 1969 shows I am missing from the Electric Factory itself, as I'm not sure if they tried to be open every weekend no matter what.

Although Tyrannosarus Rex featured Marc Bolan, it was not the hard rocking glam of "Bang A Gong," but a hippie folk duo featuring Bolan and a conga player. They would have been a sort of cult act at this time, a clear indicator that the bigger acts were playing the Spectrum or elsewhere, at least in the Summer.

Chris Smither was a Cambridge, MA based folk blues guitarist. 

September 12-13, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Junior Wells/Mandrake Memorial

September 19-20, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Buddy Miles Express/The Stooges

September 26-27, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: MC5/American Dream

October 3-4, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Mountain/Lonnie Mack

October 10-11, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: War featuring Eric Burdon/The Raven/Lee Michaels
Eric Burdon was a big star, but his collaboration with War was a new venture. Lee Michaels was shy of his first big hit as well. This was probably a terrific show, but the bands were not major acts at the time.

October 17-18, 1969 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Aum/Elvin Bishop
Aum and Elvin Bishop were both managed by Bill Graham's organization, and they both had new debut albums.

October 19, 1969 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: The Who/American Dream
There were two shows at 4 and 8 pm, where The Who memorably played all of Tommy. The Who had probably been booked prior to the album, which broke The Who into another level of stardom. The band would not play venues this small again.

October 24-25, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: The Byrds/Litter/Elizabeth/P.I.L.T

October 26, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Benefit For Burned War Children

November 7-8, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Lee Michaels/The Flock

November 14-15, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Joe Cocker/Holy Modal Rounders

November 21-22, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Youngbloods/Rockin' Foo

November 21, 1969 The Palestra, U. Penn, Philadelphia, PA: Jefferson Airplane/Lighthouse/Sweet Stavin Chain
The Palestra was Penn's basketball arena. I'm not sure whether Electric Factory promoted this event, but I thought I would include it for completeness.

November 25, 1969 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Rolling Stones/B.B. King/Ike & Tina Turner/Terry Reid
The Fall '69 Rolling Stones tour eclipsed the Summer's Blind Faith tour as the biggest rock event so far. This was near the end of the tour (Altamont was only 11 days away).

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

November 30, 1969 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Jethro Tull/The Sons
This date is from the Jethro Tull list.  If this is accurate, Tull would have been opening for someone else, as they were not yet at the level of Spectrum headliners.

December 5, 1969 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Chambers Brothers/The Kinks/Spirit/American Dream
The Kinks, having settled their issues with the American Musicians Union (Ray Davies had punched someone important in the face in Los Angeles in 1965), had begun to join their peers in touring across America.

December 7, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA “Benefit For Help”
Elizabeth/Stone Dawn/High Treason/Stock Yard/Sweet Stavin Chain/Hard Road/Edison Electric/The Max/Maholo Reigns/American Dream  (Sunday afternoon show)
I'm not sure whether this concert benefited the Electric Factory itself or some other cause. All of the groups were local Philadelphia bands who had probably played the Electric Factory many times.

December 12-13, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Edison Electric Band/Sweet Stavin Chain/Max

December 26, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Cold Blood/American Dream/Pookah
December 27, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Grand Funk Railroad/American Dream/Pookah

December 31, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Lighthouse/Catfish/Elizabeth

Although my concert list is not entirely complete, the general trend makes it clear that the rock market had outgrown the Electric Factory venue. In fact, 2201 Arch Street would remain open through November 1970, but Electric Factory promotions increasingly moved to the larger Spectrum. Even when the Arch Street facility closed down, Electric Factory promotions remained active in the Philadelphia area. Electric Factory was far and away the biggest promoter in Philadelphia through the 1990s, when it was ultimately merged with larger corporate interests.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Good News-Performance History 1966

(drummer Chris Herold, guitarist Tim Abbott and keyboardist Bob Stephens of The Good News, from Redwood City, CA, playing somewhere on the Peninsula in 1966-photo courtesy of Tim Abbott)

History is written by the winners, and hindsight is always 20/20, so rock history often falls into a tautology: since only famous bands are written about, rock history is shrunk to a tiny roster of famous bands. The reality is messier and way more interesting. The San Francisco Bay Area in 1966 was rightly remembered as a time of great creativity and musical experimentation, as the likes of Ken Kesey, Bill Graham, the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead created the blueprint for the modern rock concert as we know it today. A closer examination of the time, however, shows that a lot of interesting things were going on.

In the course of my research, I was fortunate enough to learn some things about a hitherto obscure group called The Good News, from Redwood City, CA. The Good News played heavy Butterfield-style blues, had their own light show and played some hip venues, and some of their members went on to better known endeavors, but they have been all but lost to history up until now. The Good News were interesting and well ahead of their time, and an examination of some surviving evidence gives an interesting picture of bands on the rise in 1966, when the Bay Area was exciting and everything seemed possible.

Redwood City, CA
Redwood City is in San Mateo County, just a few miles North of Palo Alto, but still about 30 miles South of San Francisco. It's a nice little town, but back in the 60s it was just another suburb on the Bay, with no University to make it cool, yet still too far from the City to be hot. There were a few tiny venues in Redwood City, but most of the action, such as it was, could be found on El Camino Real, the main commercial strip that ran from Mission Boulevard in San Francisco to downtown San Jose, touching every town along the way. By day, the El Camino was a commercial district with stores and auto dealers, and at night it was the entertainment district in each of the little suburban communities. In 1965, many entertainers simply played up and down the El Camino. For example, in the Fall of 1965 a Palo Alto blues band called The Warlocks had a lot of bookings in and around El Camino Real.

As to indigenous Redwood City rock bands, however, they were few and far between. I do know of a folk-rock group called The Sit-Ins, but they seem to have been High School students. So far, the first group from Redwood City who played outside of the town that I have been able to discover has been The Good News. One eyewitness describes them as "a Butterfield-style band," which for the early 1966 suburbs is pretty surprising. David Nelson of the New Riders Of The Purple Sage described them as "a Redwood City blues band," which had to be a pretty short list. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band had only released their groundbreaking debut album on Elektra in October '65, showing that it was possible for white boys to play the blues, and it had an electrifying effect on musicians and audiences.

Good News lead guitarist Tim Abbott recalls
The Good News was a group that I joined in about 65 and split up in 66 or early 67 The group went through some changes in personnel over it's time together. It started with 
  • Chris Herold-drums, 
  • Dan Hess- Bass, 
  • Kinkade Miller- Keyboards, 
  • Tim Abbott- Lead Guitar and Vocals and 
  • Dave Torbert-Lead Vocals and Guitar.
After several months we got Bob Stephens in on Keyboards, Harmonica and Sax (he also did some  amazing Howlin Wolf style vocals) [Stephens replaced Miller]
The timeline fits nicely. The first Butterfield album came out in Fall '65, so it makes sense that it would inspire any just-formed band. The Good News lasted until about the end of 1966, although there seems to have been a few personnel changes at the very end.

Tim Abbott would go on to join the South Bay's finest, The Chocolate Watch Band. Dave Torbert (1948-82) is best known today as the bassist for The New Riders and Kingfish, and drummer Herold was also in Kingfish. Both Torbert and Herold left The Good News in late Summer 1966 to join the South Bay's other psychedelic blues band, The New Delhi River Band. The New Delhi River Band are a fascinating story in their own right. I am working on the definitive NDRB story (and it will be definitive) but it turns out that The Good News were a critical prequel.

 (The Good News perform at a debutante ball, with their strobe-light-ready clothing. The caption from  a forgotten newspaper says "Peninsula Deb Janet Laird, Steve Boyden dance to the Big Beat"--clipping courtesy Tim Abbott)

The Light Show
The Good News were playing some pretty serious blues by early 1966, making them ahead of the curve but not unique. What set them apart, however, was that they appear to have been the first Bay Area band to travel with their own light show. It was pretty simple, but remember that at the time there was no concept of "light shows" outside of a few underground Family Dog events in San Francisco. Almost none of the suburban teenagers who would have seen The Good News would have been to The Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City or a Family Dog dance at Longshoreman's Hall or The Trips Festival.

The Good News basically used a strobe light, which must have been quite a shock to teenagers used to conventional stage lighting. The Good News had special stage clothes that were embarrassingly colorful in true 60s style, but they were designed to look exciting when they jumped around under the strobe. It may seem corny now, but seeing flashing lights jumping around the stage while the band laid it down on "Got My Mojo Working" must have been a surprising moment, and however briefly shown the shape of things to come.

Tim Abbott very kindly sent me the clipping above (and the other visual materials), but he doesn't know where the photo was taken. It was common in the mid-60s at Debutante parties to have two bands, a big band for the adults to dance to and a rock band for the kids. The groups would usually alternate sets. Many famous Fillmore bands actually played Debutante parties, as the money was good and the girls were cute. Abbott recalls playing a Debutante event at San Francisco Airport (of all places) for Bob Weir's sister (update: FOUND! June 24, 1966--see below).

I wonder who Janet Laird and Steve Boyden were (the couple in the photo)? Were they just dancing together, or did they get married and have three kids? Maybe the Internet will work it's magic and they will write in.

Good News Performance Venues
The performance history of The Good News remains murky. Since the band did not go on to subsequent fame, few artifacts of their past remain preserved. Abbott, fortunately, does recall a few events, and it at least gives us a picture of the circuit that was available to aspiring bands. The Grateful Dead had graduated from the El Camino Real by the end of 1965, as their association with Ken Kesey led them to Owsley and then The Trips Festival. Other bands had to keep slugging it out.

(a flyer for The Good News performance at The Bold Knight in Sunnyvale, April 1, 1966-courtesy Tim Abbott)

The Bold Knight, 769 N. Matilda Avenue, Sunnyvale, CA
Abbott recalls "we used to play The Bold Knight a lot." The Bold Knight was in Sunnyvale, a few miles South of Palo Alto, nearer to San Jose (Redwood City was North of Palo Alto). Once a sleepy farm town, after World War 2 it was a booming suburb full of people working for Lockheed and other aerospace companies. It was garage band central, and the South Bay was full of great bands. The local radio station (KLIV-am 1590) liked to play local bands, so groups like The Chocolate Watch Band, The Syndicate Of Sound and The E-Types were making real money playing dances and concerts all over the area, even though the band members were barely out of high school (and in the case of The Syndicate Of Sound, still in High School).

Two Los Altos High School graduates, Mike McCluney and Terry Nininger, leased the banquet room of a restaurant in a shopping mall and put on rock concerts. These were mostly directed at kids under 21, although unlike some parts of the Bay Area older patrons were not excluded. The banquet room could fit up to 1000, so it was  relatively substantial place. The Bold Knight put on about one show a week on Friday or Saturday, occasionally both, so it was a regular venue without being full time. With a huge audience of mobile South Bay teenagers and a lot of great bands, so when the Bold Knight opened in early 1966 it was successful almost immediately.

McCluney recalled The Good News fondly, and remembers them mostly playing blues covers but doing some original material as well. This was typical of a lot of bands in San Francisco and elsewhere, particularly those playing blues. Since the Rolling Stones and others had made a lot of blues songs sort of well known, they could play music they liked that audiences knew, and slip in some of their own stuff as they worked it out.

The June 28, 1966 SF Examiner Society Column reports on Wendy Weir's deb party at SFO Airport the previous Friday. 

San Francisco International Airport Ballroom, SFO Airport, San Mateo, CA
Esteemed scholar LightIntoAshes managed to track down the precise reference to Wendy Weir's Deb Party. Bob Weir's mom had an Andy Warhol-inspired theme and a hot local blues band. The date was Friday June 24, 1966--read all about it just above--and Bob did not attend because he had another (as yet unknown) gig.

In the early years of the Jet Age, SFO was a glamorous place. There was an exciting lounge nearby, The Tiger-A-Go-Go, where hot stewardesses hung out, and the ballroom over at the airport was desirable, not least, I assume, because one's rich friends could just fly right in.

The Cocoanut Grove Ballroom, 400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz, CA
The Cocoanut Grove Ballroom is connected to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, a sort of East Coast-style amusement park somewhat out of place on the West Coast. Although it was established in 1907, by the 1960s, the Cocoanut Grove had regular "teen" dances, usually on Friday or Saturday nights, with the local bands who were popular on KLIV. It was part of the same circuit as The Bold Knight. Santa Cruz had nice beaches (if kind of cold), so many families would spend a week or a weekend in town, so there were many more kids available to go to shows at the Grove (capacity 800) than the tiny population of the town might indicate. The Good News played the Cocoanut Grove regularly, just as all the other South Bay bands did. Abbott recalls a number of bookings at Cocoanut Grove with the Chocolate Watch Band, who were the best, best-known and most infamous of all the South Bay bands in that period.

The Spectrum, 1836 El Camino Real, Redwood City, CA
Abbott recalls, "We did several weeks at the Spectrum in Redwood City with what later became Moby Grape (Jerry Miller introduced me to the Sitar and some great guitar licks)." He added "Jerry [Miller] and Don [Stevenson's] group were called The Frantics at the point that they were working with us and Bob Mosley hadn't joined the band yet. Chuck [Schoning] was on bass, and they had a girl who's name I can't remember on rhythm guitar."

The Frantics had relocated from Tacoma, WA to suburban San Bruno. Jerry Miller and drummer Don Stevenson were only a few months away from the roller coaster ride of Moby Grape, but couldn't have known it at the time. Schoning too would go on to a lengthy music career (with AAA and Quicksilver, among others). The "girl whose name I can't remember" was the uber-cool Denise Kaufman, immortalized as Mary Microgram in Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and by 1967 the main voice of the great band The Ace Of Cups. So The Good News were bumping into musicians just like them, playing around the circuit and trying to break through.

The Spectrum was at an intersection in Redwood City called Five Points. It had been an Autumn Records-owned place called The Nu Beat, but when Autumn folded in April 1966, the place changed its name to The Spectrum. I have written about the intersection of Autumn Records, The Nu Beat, The Frantics and The Spectrum elsewhere.

The Barn, Granite Creek Road at Highway 17, Scotts Valley, CA
Abbott: "I also remember playing at The Barn at some point, but can't remember if we were sitting in or were on the bill."

The Barn in Scotts Valley was a hippie enclave that started in Spring 1966 in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In 1966, the only true "hippie" places were The Fillmore and The Avalon in San Francisco. You could argue that the college campuses of UC Berkeley, San Francisco State and San Jose State were hippie friendly, but those zones didn't extend very far off their respective campuses. For the rest of the South Bay, there was just The Barn. The converted dairy barn, halfway between Palo Alto and Santa Cruz, was an isolated little clubhouse for all the longhairs: hippies, bikers, Merry Pranksters, light shows and psychedelic blues bands were all there at once. Good bands played The Barn, but at the time they played there, they were mostly unknown. The more adventurous of the teenagers going to places like The Bold Knight would find there way to The Barn, so for the South Bay it was a signpost to new space.

I am working on the history of The Barn, and I have a very preliminary version online. The Spring and Summer of 1966 remain very murky, however. Abbott's confusion over whether they were on the bill leads me to think that they played on a Thursday night, but explaining why is too much of a tangent, so you'll have to take my word on that for now. The essential point about playing The Barn was that it was one of the few places outside of San Francisco and Berkeley for longhairs to hangout, so if a band played well at The Barn then the right people heard about it.

Fillmore Auditorium, 1805 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA
October 22-23, 1966 Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band/Chocolate Watch Band/Great Pumpkin/Good News
Abbott: "We did one date at the Filmore and were asked back but we had broken up by that point."

Without question, bands made it in San Francisco by playing The Fillmore and The Avalon, and indeed succeeding at The Avalon mainly guaranteed that Bill Graham would steal you from Chet Helms for a more lucrative Fillmore booking. So if The Good News had played The Fillmore and were asked back, things were definitely looking up, yet they did not stay together to make the jump. If the Good News had played The Barn before the Fillmore (not a certainty), the word would have traveled particularly fast. Abbott recalled that Good News manager Denis Minga lined up the Fillmore appearance, but Graham would have asked around about the band.

Shortly after the Good News played the Fillmore, the band broke up. Dave Torbert and Chris Herold became members of The New Delhi River Band, who were regularly headlining at The Barn. While Torbert had played guitar in The Good News, he played bass in NDRB, an instrument he would play for the rest of his career. There is some ambiguity as to exactly when Herold and then Torbert joined NDRB, and either or both musicians may have been members of both bands for a brief while.

It's a little known fact that many bands played The Fillmore who were not "on the poster." In 1966, Graham would advertise two or three bands on his famous posters, usually for three shows from Friday through Sunday. Each advertised band would play two sets. Often, however, another unadvertised group would open the shows on Friday and Saturday night, playing a single set. These were usually called the "audition" bands, and were probably paid union scale. Trying out bands this way gave Graham a look at which groups were worthy of getting on the poster for a forthcoming date. No doubt The Good News acquitted themselves well, as they were asked back, but it was not to be.

The Good News-Aftermath
When The Good News broke up, in early November 1966, Tim Abbott became the lead guitarist in a group called The San Francisco Bay Blues Band. The group was not particularly successful, even by local standards. However, in early 1967 lead guitarist Mark Loomis left the Chocolate Watch Band, and bassist Bill Flores asked Abbott to take his place. Although the Chocolate Watch Band members weren't any older than The Good News, they were already hugely successful. By 1967, the group had successful records, and airplay on KLIV insured that they were hugely popular in the South Bay.

Despite many social connections to the San Francisco bands, the Chocolate Watch Band were never able to really break into the Fillmore. The CWB played there a few times, and were well received, but they were one of the Bay Area's best bands, and should have had a much higher profile at the Ground Zero of San Fransicso 60s rock. Different reasons are ascribed for this--competition between Bill Graham and CWB manager Ron Roupe, stemming from Graham's attempt to manage the band may have been a factor, or it may have been that San Franciscans couldn't believe that a cool band could come from San Jose instead of Seattle or London. As a result, while the Chocolate Watch Band belong in the top rank of Bay Area bands from the 60s, they are often given only second tier status. Nonetheless, Abbott joined the group in 1967 when they were hugely popular. His first show with the band, after three days of frantic rehearsal, was at the Mt. Tamalpais Festival on June 10, 1967, as the Chocolate Watch Band went on between The Doors and The Fifth Dimension.

Abbott, however, left the Chocolate Watch Band by the end of 1967 due to concerns about the band's finances. The New Delhi River Band had ground to a halt by early 1968, so Abbott, Torbert and Herold formed a group called Shango with a few other players (Matthew Kelly and Ryan Brandenburg), but that is yet another story that I will tell later. Torbert went on to great success with The New Riders Of The Purple Sage, and then Kingfish, and Chris Herold rejoined Torbert in the latter band. Torbert passed on in 1982, way too early, and is sorely missed by fans and friends alike.

I had thought that the story of The Good News was completely lost, but the former proprietor of The Bold Knight tipped me off to the fact that Tim Abbott owns a recording studio in the South Bay. Tim could not have been more helpful and generous with his memories and pictures, and so a seemingly lost piece of Bay Area rock history as been retrieved.

And who says the past has to be past? Guess what band has Tim Abbott as their lead guitarist? Why, The Chocolate Watch Band, still going strong with members from back in the day, still ready to be there when you make your move (at the Love-In), still the pride of the South Bay 60s. Good News, indeed. The CWB have produced a new album, recorded at Abbott's studio, featuring new and old Watch Band songs. Whether the band will break out the multi-colored Good News stage gear remains to be seen.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

2201 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA The Electric Factory: Concert List January-June 1969 (Philadelphia III)

[this post continues the series about rock concerts at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia in the 1960s]

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is one of America's great cities, but its proximity to New York has always made an unfair comparison. Philadelphia has an exciting music history, and an exciting rock music history in the 1960s, but that history can only be documented in the most fragmented of places. These posts about the Electric Factory marks the beginning of my effort to organize and analyze Philadelphia rock history in the 1960s. There are considerably more dates to be found, but these posts will make a good starting point (update: thanks to Bruno, the list is largely complete).

The Electric Factory, 2201 Arch Street
The Electric Factory, a former tire warehouse, opened in early 1968 at 2201 Arch.  The owners were the Spivak brothers, all experienced bar owners in the Philadelphia area. Their booker was Larry Magid.  They rapidly dominated the concert scene in Philadelphia, and the Electric Factory were the most important promoters in Philadelphia until they ultimately were purchased by larger corporate interests in the 1990s.

The Electric Factory was a critical stop on 60s concert tours, and an integral part of the "Premier Talent" (Booking Agency) circuit that included both Fillmores, the Boston Tea Party and Chicago's Kinetic Playground. Philadelphia was a big, important city and Philadelphia fans were not shy about showing their appreciation or displeasure (a trait that has endured). However, since the Electric Factory did not generally use posters with collectible art for advertisements, the venue has been somewhat lost to 60s rock history. There were many relatively trivial 60s venues that had a famous poster or two, often printed in The Art Of Rock or otherwise promulgated, that are recalled much more often than the Electric Factory. Outside of Philadelphia, the early history of the Electric Factory is largely ignored, and I am attempting to begin to correct that here.
This post presents the lists of Electric Factory concerts from January through June 1969, as well as major Philadelphia rock events during that period. The list is almost certainly not complete. Our knowledge of shows at venues like the Fillmore, the Avalon or Detroit's Grande Ballroom comes from the wonderful (and collectible) posters that lived on in dorm room walls long after the venues ceased operating. However, the Electric Factory rarely used colorful, artistic posters to advertise the shows. I think the Electric Factory advertised on the radio and with print-only ads in various newspapers, making it harder to discern their schedule.
This post represents my best efforts at determining early 1969  shows at the Electric Factory, as well as shows promoted by Electric Factory concerts. Anyone with additional information, insights, corrections or recovered memories (real or imagined) is encouraged to Comment or email me, and I will update the list accordingly. 
(For earlier efforts at psychedelic ballrooms in Philadelphia as well as the first half of 1968 for the Electric Factory, see here, and for the second half of 1968 see here)

January 10-11, 1969: Buddy Rich/Sweet Stavin Chain/Virgin Spring

January 17-18, 1969: Iron Butterfly/Sweet Nothin'

January 24-25, 1969: Mother Earth/Edison Electric Company/Virgin Spring
An early ad featured the group Genesis. Whoever, "Genesis" was, it wasn't the English group featuring Peter Gabriel. There was a Los Angeles group called Genesis, featuring at least one former member of The Sons Of Adam, and it may have been them. On the other hand, probably ever region had a band named Genesis, so I wouldn't jump to conclusions yet. A Commenter reports, however, that Genesis leader Jac Ttanna says
We were scheduled for an east coast tour around that time, but the band broke up in Houston after playing only three shows, and we never made it up the coast. It's possible that gig was part of the tour schedule, but we didn't play it. Maybe they brought in some imposters to take our place, or maybe it was just a local band with the same name. It definitely wasn't us.
I am more inclined to the theory that the booking was indeed for the Los Angeles Genesis (it fits some other details), but they must have been replaced or the show canceled altogether.

Mother Earth were based in San Francisco, and featured singer Tracy Nelson. Like many San Francisco bands in the 60s, the members were actually from elsewhere (Nelson from Wisconsin and the rest of the band mostly from Texas).

January 31, 1969 Baltimore Civic Center, Baltimore, MD: Blood, Sweat & Tears/Rhinoceros/Spirit/The Nazz/Mother Earth "The Electric Factory Presents The Baltimore Rock Festival"
I do not know if Electric Factory did a lot of promotions in Baltimore, or if this was a one-off. It appears, by default, that the Philadelphia venue was closed that weekend.

February 7-8, 1969: Spirit/Chicago Transit Authority/Noah's Ark

February 11-12, 1969: Mothers of Invention/Paul Pena
Although this booking was a Wednesday-Thursday show, rare for the Electric Factory, keep in mind that Thursday February 12 was a National Holiday (Lincoln's Birthday). Thus the two days were kind of like a weekend. The Mothers had headlined the Electric Factory the previous year (March 22-24, 1968).

Paul Pena was a bluesy solo performer. He later moved to the Bay Area, and rather unexpectedly one of his songs, "Jet Airliner" was rearranged by and became a huge hit for Steve Miller.  Pena replaced the British band Gun, which featured Paul and Adrian Gurvitz, then calling themselves Paul and Adrian Curtis.

February 14-15, 1969: Grateful Dead/Paul Pena
The Grateful Dead had also headlined the Electric Factory the previous year (April 26-28, 1968). The venue had been in business long enough that they were starting to become a known stop on "the circuit."

There are tapes of the Grateful Dead performances from both nights. The Saturday night tape (Feb 15) is nearly 3 hours long, typical of Dead performances in those days. These tapes are among the relatively few that survive from the Electric Factory in the 60s.

Pena also replaced Gun on this bill.

February 16, 1969: Tim Buckley/Good News

February 21-22, 1969: Canned Heat/American Dream

February 23, 1969: Blood, Sweat & Tears/Sweet Stavin Chain
Blood, Sweat and Tears had been scheduled to play Electric Factory in April 1968, but they had canceled, probably because Al Kooper had just quit. Now they were back with new lead singer David Clayton Thomas.

February 28-March 1, 1969: Rhinoceros/Valentine

March 7-8, 1969: Three Dog Night/Flying Burrito Brothers
The Magical Mystery Tour movie also played.

March 14-15, 1969: B.B. King/Sweet Nothin'/Damion

March 16, 1969: Pete Seeger/Jean Ritchie/Michael Cooney "Sing Out Benefit"

March 21-22, 1969: Woody's Truck Stop/Thunder & Roses/Fire Eye and The Farm/Black Flag

March 23, 1969: Ian and Sylvia and Great Speckled Bird/Cashman/Pistill & West

March 28-29, 1969: Taj Mahal/Donny B. Waugh/Mountain

March 30, 1969: Procol Harum/Edison Electric
Edison Electric bassist ‘Freebo’ recalls meeting Bonnie Raitt around the time of this show (whether at the show or not isn't clear). Freebo went on to accompany Bonnie for some years.

April 1-2, 1969: Steppenwolf/Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation

April 4-6, 1969: Ten Years After/Gun/Sweetwater
Ten Years After was one of many English bands working through the Premier Talent Agency. A fantastic live band, they made no less than 28 American tours from 1968-74. Every time they played a show like the Electric Factory, they created a buzz for the next time they came through town.

Sweetwater were an interesting group from Los Angeles. They played Woodstock, but broke up soon afterward when lead singer Nancy Nevins was hurt in a car accident.

April 11-12, 1969: Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and The Trinity

April 12, 1969: The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Jimi Hendrix Experience/Fat Mattress
 Hendrix had played the Electric Factory the previous year, but by this time they were among the biggest acts in rock. I believe that this show at The Spectrum was promoted by the Electric Factory.

April 18-19, 1969: Crazy World Of Arthur Brown/AUM
According to one account, the Electric Factory was shut down around this time by the Philadelphia police, as a public nuisance and a gathering place for drug dealers. Bruno found numerous advertisements for shows, but some of them may not have been played.

May 2-3, 1969: Pacific Gas & Electric/Raven

May 9-10, 1969: Iron Butterfly/Black Pearl

May 16-17, 1969: Sea Train/Elizabeth
Sea Train was an outgrowth of the old Blues Project, but by this time the band had migrated to the Bay Area and lived in Marin County. Violinist Richard Greene may have been a member by this time.

May 23-24, 1969: The Who/Sweet Stavin Chain
The Who had just released their new album, Tommy. They would never play a place in Philadelphia as small as the Electric Factory again. It must have been a heck of a weekend.

May 30-June 1, 1969: It’s A Beautiful Day/American Dream/Fat Band

June 6-7, 1969: Bobby Darin/The Churls or Lighthouse/The Churls
This was a rather unexpected booking. Bobby Darin was a much more interesting performer than most people give him credit for, and he had a sort of "folk" side that was later forgotten when he started framing himself as the next Frank Sinatra. In that respect, it would be very interesting to know whether Darin played with his usual Vegas-style ensemble or appeared in some other configuration.

Lighthouse were a Canadian group who had a sort of orchestral sound. I don't know who actually headlined in the end--I suspect it was Lighthouse.

June 11, 1969: New York Rock And Roll Ensemble/Good News
The New York Rock And Roll Ensemble, some mostly Julliard trained musicians who figured there was more money in rock, were a sort of 60s highbrow act. I assume they played opposite Sly at the Spectrum since it was presumed they didn't draw from the same audience.

I don't know why the band played on a Wednesday night. The NYRRE often played in conjunction with local symphonies or "Pops" orchestras.

June 11, 1969: The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Sly and The Family Stone
I think Electric Factory promoted Sly at the Spectrum, but I'm not certain. Sly was starting to become huge throughout the US, but I have to imagine he was even bigger in Philadelphia.

June 13, 1969: Alice Cooper/MC5
June 14, 1969: Alice Cooper/Sweet Stavin Chain
An ad says “Frank Zappa Debuts Bizarre World of Alice Cooper.”  Zappa had signed Alice Cooper to his Warner Brothers imprint, Bizarre Records. The ad also has Edison Electric as the opener for both shows, instead of MC5 and Sweet Stavin Chain. I don't know who really opened.

June 20-1969: Elizabeth/Sweet Nothin'/Sweet Stavin Chain

June 22, 1969: The Nazz
Philadelphia's The Nazz, named after a Lord Buckley reference, featured guitarist Todd Rundgren, and were a popular band in the Philadelphia area. June 22 was a Sunday. I have to assume that some other acts were booked for the weekend of June 20-21. It may also be that local acts regularly played Sunday, but little record of them survives.

In the Summer of 1968 and probably in the Summer of 1969, the Electric Factory regularly put on at least some free concerts at the Belmont Plateau in nearby Fairmount Park, but I have been unable to determine further details. These seem to have featured the local groups that mostly opened the shows at the Electric Factory, like American Dream, Elizabeth or Sweet Stavin Chain. I assume these were on Sunday afternoons, but I have almost no direct information.

June 27-28, 1969: Velvet Underground/American Dream
There are still numerous weekends where I have been unable to find out who played at the Electric Factory, but these posts are making a good start. Anyone with additional information, corrections, insights or recovered memories (real or imagined) about Philadelphia rock shows in the first half of 1969 is encouraged to contact me or Comment.

The Summer of 1969 was a big Summer for rock, and it was certainly big for the Electric Factory and the Philadelphia area, which is covered in my next installment.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady Performance History, January-February 1969 (early Hot Tuna)

(the San Francisco Chronicle listing for shows opening on Thursday, January 2, 1969)

January 2, 1969: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jorma Kaukonen/AB Skhy
The Jefferson Airplane were San Francisco's biggest homegrown rock band, but after three frenzied years of touring and recording, they took a well-deserved rest at the end of 1968. Grace Slick had had an operation on her vocal chords in December, so she was prevented from singing. The Airplane couldn't tour, but they focused on beginning work on their next album, which turned out to be Volunteers. However, local Airplane fans must have been surprised to see that guitarist Jorma Kaukonen was listed as a performer at the tiny Matrix club on Thursday, January 2, 1969. I have every reason to believe this show to be the first public performance of what would later be known to this very day as the band Hot Tuna.

Jorma and Jack
Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady had been playing together since they were teenagers in Washington, DC in the late 1950s. Kaukonen had insisted that Casady join the Airplane as bass player in late 1965 without, in fact, having heard him play bass. No matter. Casady turned out to be one of the great electric bassists in rock. While other members of the Airplane came from a folk singing background, Jorma and Jack were more about playing. During downtime on the road, they would play together in their hotel rooms, with Jorma's elaborate fingerpicked acoustic guitar winding in and out with Jack's tasteful electric bass playing.

The two musicians decided that the Airplane simply didn't play enough, and apparently decided in late 1968 to start playing local clubs themselves, rather than trying to goad the other band members to perform more often. Since Grace had already had her operation (reported by Ralph Gleason in the January 8 Chronicle), early 1969 seemed like a great opportunity to get started. Although the Thursday night Matrix show was billed as "Jorma Kaukonen," there's every reason to assume Jack Casady played along with him. However, up until now this show seems to have been ignored by historians, and I know of no tapes or eyewitnesses.

January 9-12, 1969: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: County Joe and The Fish/Led Zeppelin/Taj Mahal
Country Joe and The Fish had had difficulties filling their bass chair (Bruce Barthol was in England avoiding the draft, and replacement Mark Ryan had fallen ill), so Jack Casady filled in for some December dates. He also played the four nights at Fillmore West that proved to be the last stand of the most famous configuration of the band. One night of the concert stand (either January 11 or 12) was recorded and ultimately released in 1994 (as Live! Fillmore West 1969). Since CJF was breaking up, in a manner of speaking, all their friends showed up: Steve Miller, Mickey Hart, Jerry Garcia and Jorma Kaukonen sat in for a 30+ minute version of "Donovan's Reef."

Of course, many of the lucky fans attending these shows were still recovering from the blazing performance by the opening act, the then thoroughly unknown Led Zeppelin, just a dozen shows into their first American tour, with only advance copies of their first album available. It's telling, however, that on a night when Jack Casady had another gig, Jorma showed up to jam anyway.

(the San Francisco Chronicle listing for shows opening on Tuesday, January 27, 1969)

January 27-29, 1969: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady/Morning Glory
Although there is no telling where Jorma and Jack may have popped up in the rest of January, the next sign of them that I have uncovered was a three night stand at The Matrix from Tuesday January 27 through Thursday January 29. A tape has survived from the January 29, and that is the earliest "Hot Tuna" performance on record (I am using quotes since they would not use the name Hot Tuna until quite some time in the future).

The Matrix
The Matrix, at 3138 Fillmore Street in the Marina District, was San Francisco's primary hangout for hippie musicians. It was actually a pizza parlor that served beer, rather than a bar per se, and dancing was not actually allowed (by law). The Matrix had opened in August 1965, owned by Marty Balin, his father and some other partners, and it had been the first place to favor adventurous electric "folk-rock." The Fillmore and the Avalon and other places came along the next year, of course, but they were concert halls rather than clubs, so the musicians used the Matrix as a place to play on off-nights and hang out and jam as well. In the late 1960s, even in tolerant San Francisco, there still weren't that many places where longhairs felt comfortable relaxing, so the Matrix filled the bill nicely.

The Matrix was also the favored stop for bands that were new in town, or newly formed. The Matrix was also the preferred venue--practically the only one--for band members who wanted to try something outside of their usual groups. Since a lot of Matrix material was taped (I'm happy to say), we have at least some idea of what went down, and some pretty weird music got played there. There were regular jam sessions, mainly on Monday nights but often other times as well. Tapes have endured of Jerry Garcia, Jack Casady and various other musicians having some particularly memorable jams in October 1968 (known for various reasons as the Mickey Hart and The Hartbeats tapes, even though they were billed as Jerry Garcia and Friends). So the Matrix was the obvious choice for Jorma and Jack's experiment in modern blues.

January 31, 1969: Londonside Tavern, Glen Ellen, CA: Jack Casady & Jorma Kaukonen, Wingnut Buckboldt
The most remarkably obscure performance I have been able to uncover is this booking at the Londonside Tavern in Glen Ellen. It was mentioned in Ralph Gleason's Chronicle column of that day (above). There is actually a typo in Gleason's listing, and the actual name of the venue is Londonside Tavern, not Longside. Bucolic Glen Ellen is in Northern Sonoma County, 50 very twisty miles from the Matrix. Famed writer Jack London had an estate up there, which is now a state park, and the "Londonside" reference of the venue refers to the writer rather than the Thames Estuary. I do not know where, precisely the Londonside Tavern was located, but Glen Ellen is not large now, and surely was even less so then.

Bay Area groups regularly played the Londonside Tavern in early 1969, but the venue mostly favored quieter and more folk oriented ensembles, like Berkeley's Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band or the very peculiar Golden Toad. Marin-based Golden Toad seems to have had a Sunday night residency for much of early 1969. The Golden Toad mostly played somewhat medieval music on lutes and such, mostly playing Renaissance Faires during the Summer. Their leader was Bob Thomas, an old compatriot of Owsley's, and among many other accomplishments Thomas created the Grateful Dead "Lightning Bolt" logo.

Thus, while it is indeed strange that Jorma and Jack played a show in tiny Glen Ellen, the little venue was part of the circuit of local club bands. The surprising part, in the end, was that Jorma and Jack would go against entertainment business convention and play such small venues even though they were presumably "stars." This interesting pattern would be followed by Jerry Garcia several months later when he played numerous smaller rock clubs with the New Riders of The Purple Sage at the end of 1969.

(Ralph Gleason's Chronicle column from February 17, 1969)

February 17-19, 1969: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jack Casady & Jorma Kaukonen/Elvin Bishop Group (17), Weird Herald (18-19)
Jack and Jorma returned for three more shows at The Matrix in mid-February. It seems odd that Elvin Bishop was also booked on Monday night (Feb 17), which I take to mean that Jack and Jorma were added to the bill at the last minute. Weird Herald were an excellent San Jose band. Although their surviving single is sort of folkie, their actual sound was pretty psychedelic and hard driving. The group featured two old friends of Jorma on guitars, Billy Dean Andrus and Paul Ziegler, along with bassist Chuck Bollinger and drummer Patrick McIntire. The band was well regarded in San Jose, and according to McIntire, a long-dormant recording may yet see the light of day.

Weird Herald had other impacts on the history of Hot Tuna. Weird Herald broke up in early 1970, and Paul Ziegler joined Hot Tuna as rhythm guitarist for a while. He took part in some abortive recording projects, but there is little evidence today of his time in the band. Andrus, who had gone on to form the group Pachuco with Moby Grape's Skip Spence, died under unfortunate circumstances in November 1970. Jorma promptly wrote the song "Ode To Billy Dean," and Hot Tuna performs the song to this day (the Doobie Brothers's Pat Simmons, another friend, wrote "Black Water" in Andrus's honor as well). To my knowledge, these two Matrix shows are the only time that Billy Dean Andrus played on a bill with Jorma Kaukonen after the Jefferson Airplane formed.

February 21, 1969: The Bear's Lair, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady (two shows 8:30 and 11:00)
Jorma and Jack ended the week by playing two Friday night shows at UC Berkeley's Bear's Lair coffee shop, another typical stop on the local folk-rock circuit. The Bear's Lair was (and is) in the basement of the Student Union building (Pauley Ballroom is two floors above it). Although I'm sure the room has been remodeled numerous times over the years, the basic contours of the building haven't changed. The basement coffee shop is a tiny room now, and it would have been a tiny room then. It's remarkable to think that Jorma and Jack played two shows in a place about the size of two classrooms.

I am not yet aware of any March Jorma and Jack performances. In any case, the Airplane would have been recording Volunteers in earnest and gearing up for a tour (did they play that March 8 show in Hawaii mentioned above?), so there would have been less downtime anyway. Yet by the time Jorma and Jack recorded the first acoustic Hot Tuna album in September, 1969 at the New Orleans House, it turns out that they had been performing live since January, for the lucky few who were able to catch them.

January 10-11, 1969 TNT-Alpine Meadows: Santana Blues Band

(a promotional photo from the Sunday January 5, 1969 San Francisco Chronicle, promoting the Santana Blues Band's appearance at a new Squaw Valley Venue, "TNT")

The Lake Tahoe area has always been a sort of remote suburb of the San Francisco. It is no surprise, then, that in the late 1960s the Lake Tahoe area was a prime outpost for all the bands playing the Fillmore, but this slice of rock history has been largely forgotten. There were no less than three major venues in Lake Tahoe in the late 60s, yet even I was surprised to discover this another remote outpost of the San Francisco ballroom scene, with a press kit photo of the late '68 Santana Blues Band promoting the band's weekend appearance near a ski resort. It appears that TNT-Alpine Meadows (as it was called in the Chronicle) was only open for about a month, but it provides an easy way to introduce some of the mysteries of the Lake Tahoe scene in the late 60s.

Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe, straddling California and Nevada, is one of the West’s largest, deepest, clearest and most beautiful lakes. The lake sits six thousand feet above sea level, and the Truckee River feeds the lake, flowing into and then out of the lake. Truckee, California, about 12 miles North of Lake Tahoe and 30 miles West of Reno, was an original train stop on the Transcontinental Railroad. In 1899 the Duane L. Bliss Family built the Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company. The Southern Pacific Railway actively encouraged tourist attractions along its rail lines, and Lake Tahoe became a popular resort for the San Francisco Bay Area.

Many families in both the Bay Area and the Sacramento/Central Valley area would buy or rent second homes in Lake Tahoe, and they would spend much of the Summer and many Winter weekends at Tahoe. Part of Lake Tahoe's specialness was that it was a great resort for both Summer and Winter. After 1960, when the Winter Olympics were held at nearby Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe boomed again, particularly for Winter sports. Since the Lake was on the California/Nevada border, parents could go over to the Nevada side and gamble, leaving their teenage kids to fend for themselves.

View Larger Map

(The site of the American Legion Hall, Post 795, in South Lake Tahoe, CA, at 2848 South Lake Tahoe Blvd [US 50])

Lake Tahoe Music in The 1960s
The first person to catch on to the vast quantity of teenagers in Lake Tahoe was a guitarist named Jim Burgett. He started putting on dances at the South Lake Tahoe American Legion Hall (at 2848 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe, CA) in 1958. The story is complicated, but by the mid-60s Burgett was holding dances at the Legion Hall seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. For any teenagers spending a week, a month or a Summer in Lake Tahoe, every night was Friday night, and with the parents often away in Nevada anyway, the Legion Hall dances were the only show in town. Burgett's own band played most nights, but on occasion he hired out of town acts as well. When the Fillmore bands became popular, he would often hire them to give his own band a night off (they also played six days a week at Harrah's Tahoe, believe it or not). The Jim Burgett saga is amazing, and well worthy of a book, which fortunately he is planning to write.

North Lake Tahoe, about 20 miles away, was less crowded and hence had less activity. However, the North Lake Tahoe set considered themselves cooler than the South, and a venue opened in North Lake Tahoe as well. Kings Beach Bowl, a converted bowling alley on North Lake Avenue, was opened in the Summer of 1967, but it was only open on weekends. The sons of the owners had a band, and their dads created a place for them to play. Although the teenagers were not the bookers, they advised the booking agents on what was cool in Sacramento (where they were from) and San Francisco, so some very cool Fillmore bands played Kings Beach Bowl in 1967 and 1968, including Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead and Buffalo Springfield.

By 1968 there were so many teenagers in Tahoe that a third venue opened, The Sanctuary. The Sanctuary took over an old supermarket in South Lake Tahoe, and being just a mile North off Lake Tahoe Boulevard it was a direct competitor to the American Legion Hall. It too was open many nights of the week, starting in June of 1968, with an eight week residency by Santana. In 1968, at least, The Sanctuary was focused a little more on hip San Francisco bands while the smaller but more established Legion Hall depended on Jim Burgett's well known band. The smaller, more distant Kings Beach Bowl retained its hipness factor, but it was too small to compete directly with the two South Shore venues.

Winter Shows
Lake Tahoe had primarily been a Summer resort, but after the 1960 Winter Olympics were held in Squaw Valley, on the Western edge of the Lake, Winter tourism boomed as well. Many of the same families who came to Lake Tahoe for Summers would also go the area to ski, skate and enjoy the Winter. This was exotic fun for Californians, since "Winter" in the Bay Area generally means sunny, 60-degree days with occasional rain. With the increasing number of Winter visitors, it's not a surprise that some Tahoe venues experimented with rock shows to capture some of the teenagers who would have been visiting from the Bay Area on any given weekend.
(The "Trip Or Ski" poster from Kings Beach Bowl, North Lake Tahoe, February 22-24, 1968)

The best known of the attempts at Winter Lake Tahoe rock shows was what I believe to be the first attempt at a "psychedelic" Winter event. Kings Beach Bowl had a three night event from Thursday to Saturday, February 22-24, 1968. The poster (above) was entitled "Trip Or Ski." The date was well-chosen: Thursday, February 22, was Washington's Birthday, then a National holiday, and all schools would have been off. Many families would have gone to Lake Tahoe on Wednesday night, skipping out on work or school for Friday the 23rd. Thus the weekend was perfectly timed for a foray into exporting the San Francisco ballroom scene to wintery Lake Tahoe.

The Grateful Dead had already played Lake Tahoe the previous Summer. They had played a memorable show at the American Legion Hall on August 19, 1967, and then played the next Friday and Saturday night at Kings Beach Bowl (August 25-26). In the intervening week, Jerry Garcia and Mountain Girl, bored of their low-rent motel, went camping. There is even a plausible sounding eyewitness account of a thinly attended American Legion Hall show in Fall 1966. Nonetheless, it hardly mattered: almost all the people in North Lake Tahoe in February '68 would have been from the Bay Area or Sacramento, and the younger people would have known the Grateful Dead well.

The February '68 Kings Beach Bowl shows were part of the Dead's Anthem Of The Sun project, so the shows were recorded. Ultimately, the Friday and Saturday shows (Feb 23-24) were released as Vol 22 of the band's Dick's Picks archival series in 2001 (there were problems with the tape of the first night). Although I have been in touch with someone who attended the shows (a Marin teenager who was mainly interested in seeing the opening act, The Morning Glory), I'm not sure how well attended the events were.

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(Alpine Meadows, just South of Squaw Valley and West of Lake Tahoe)

Winter '69
Clearly the Bay Area rock community was aware that much of their audience decamped to Lake Tahoe on Winter weekends. TNT, whatever it stood for (if anything), seems to be an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of San Francisco bands by extending themselves to Squaw Valley. The location of the venue is described in the (above) photo as "one mile south of Squaw Valley in the Powder Bowl." Squaw Valley and Powder Bowl were both ski areas about 10 miles West of Lake Tahoe. In between them was Alpine Meadows. In contemporary press releases, the venue is described as "TNT-Alpine Meadows." The area was probably unincorporated at the time. I do not know what building was used for the venue. I suspect it was a left over building from the 1960 Olympics, repurposed as a rock venue.

So far, I have only been able to find four booked weekends for the TNT Alpine Meadows venue, all in the month of January. The bookings were
  • January 10-11, 1969: Santana Blues Band (Friday and Saturday)
  • January 18-19, 1969: Cold Blood (Saturday and Sunday)
  • January 24-26, 1969: Country Weather (Friday thru Sunday)
  • January 31-February 1, 1969: Frumious Bandersnatch (Friday and Saturday)
This was not at all a random selection of second-on-the-bill San Francisco bands. All of them were booked by Bill Graham's Millard Agency. The Millard Agency was one of the principal suppliers of bands to the Lake Tahoe venues in 1968 and afterward, and the agency was clearly looking to continue mining the Lake Tahoe market. The purpose of the promotional photo in the Chronicle was that the audience for the concert was in the Bay Area, even though it was 200 miles from the venue.

Santana in early 1969 was not quite the band they would become by the time of their first album and Woodstock, but they were still a great band. The lineup for this show was probably Carlos Santana, Gregg Rolie (organ, vocals), Dave Brown (bass), Mike Carabello (congas) and Doc Livingston (drums). It's possible that conguero Marcus Malone is in the photo above, as it's hard for me to tell for sure. In any case, it probably made for a great night for the young skiers who attended the show.

I don't know what happened to the TNT-Alpine Meadows, or anything else about it. I know that Kings Beach Bowl had some low-key shows later in the Winter of 1969, so the idea didn't totally die out. The most unexpected event of the Winter of 1969 was that the owner of The Sanctuary asked Jim Burgett to take over his operation. This was fortunate for Burgett, since at some later point in the Winter heavy snowfall collapsed the roof at the Legion Hall, but he had already agreed to take over The Sanctuary. Burgett changed the name of the venue to The Fun House, and it remained the premier Tahoe venue for several more years. Millard Agency clients from the Bill Graham organization, like Elvin Bishop, Cold Blood and others were regular performers at The Fun House, which became the major Lake Tahoe destination for rock bands and fans. The subsequent history and fate of TNT-Alpine Meadows remains unknown at this time.