Saturday, October 6, 2018

Ace Of Cups Performance History 1968 (Ace Of Cups II)


The Ace Of Cups opened for Quicksilver Messenger Service (with whom they shared management) at The Bank in Torrance, CA (suburban Los Angeles) on September 21, 1968
Throughout the 20th Century, Ace Of Cups were a mystery bordering on myth: an all-female "psychedelic" playing many of the legendary places with all manner of legendary headliners, but with no released recordings, no known history and hardly even a photograph. This changed in 2003 with the release of their CD on the Big Beat label, It's Bad For You But Buy It (Big Beat CDWIKD 236). Historian and producer Alec Palao curated a wonderful release of demos and live tapes from the Ace Of Cups 60s heyday, and completed the set by writing comprehensive liner notes and finding wonderful photos that gave life to what had previously only been legend. Although 36 years late, the record was no less terrific for that, and it made great listening as well. It also provided a fascinating window to a hitherto untold 60s story. As a result, I set out to make a list of Ace Of Cups performances, and the band members were nice enough to post my initial version of the list on their old website.

Thanks to the Big Beat cd and the general wonderfulness of the band's music, there has been a considerable amount of attention focused on the band. Indeed, in their most recent reunion, the Ace Of Cups embarked on a worldwide tour of Marin County, as they played two shows in Marin on May 13 and 14, 2011. The relentless frenzy of activity has continued, with the band recording a new cd scheduled to be released on November 9, 2018. Time marches on, and over the years I have considerably upgraded my information, so I am presenting here a more complete history of Ace Of Cups performances from 1967 onwards.

What follows is a list of Ace Of Cups performances known to me. This post will deal with the band's performances in 1968. The previous post dealt with the band's formation in 1966 and their first year of performing in 1967. Future years will be dealt with in the subsequent post. Anyone with additional information, insights, corrections or recovered memories (real or imagined) are encouraged to put them in the Comments or email me directly. Thanks to everyone who has helped over the years, especially Ross and all the members of the Ace Of Cups.

1967
The individual members of the future band all made their way to San Francisco as aspiring musicians and proto-hippies, working formally and informally with various musical aggregations. Bassist Mary Gannon and pianist Marla Hunt met drummer Diane Vitalich, and they started playing together in 1966. When guitarist Mary Ellen Simpson came on board, they knew they had the makings of a band, even if it was not fully formed. Denise Kaufman came along in early 1967. The lineup of Ace Of Cups was
Denise Kaufman-guitar, harmonica, vocals
Mary Ellen Simpson-lead guitar, vocals
Marla Hanson-organ, piano, vocals
Mary Gannon-bass, vocals
Diane Vitalich-drums, vocals
Initially the band was managed by one Ambrose Hollingworth, but he was not physically able to be a full-time manager, and he turned those duties over to his friend Ron Polte, the manager of Quicksilver Messenger Service. Throughout the second half of 1967, Polte booked the Aces in smaller Bay Area clubs, as well as getting them opportunities to open for larger shows, as detailed in the previous post. 

What follows is the known 1968 performances of The Ace Of Cups. Anyone with additional information, eyewitness accounts or recovered memories (real or imagined) should post them in the Comments or email me directly through the blog.

The Berkeley Barb ad for Berkeley's New Orleans House from Dec 29, 1967. The Ace Of Cups are fairly unknown, so they are relegated to Monday night (Jan 1, 1968)
January 1, 1968  New Orleans House, Berkeley Ace of Cups/Congress of Wonders
The Ace Of Cups had begun 1967 at the bottom of the rock ladder, but they were climbing up. The New Orleans House was Berkeley's leading rock club, one of the few places, along with The Matrix , where rock bands playing original material could get booked. January 1, 1968 was a Monday night, so this wasn't yet a prestige booking.

In fact, the band Phoenix probably took the place of Ace of Cups (Phoenix were part of the West-Pole stable, too). According to the members of Phoenix, apparently only three people showed up, but they played a great set anyway.

January 5-6-7, 1968 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco Youngbloods/Ace of Cups
Thanks to the booking muscle of Ron Polte's West-Pole Agency (he booked Quicksilver as well), Ace Of Cups opened for the Youngbloods at the Avalon. The Youngbloods had formed on the East Coast, but they had heard the tradewinds blow and moved to the Bay Area in September 1967. The Youngbloods had just released their second album on RCA, Earth Music.

February 2-4, 1968 Committee Theater, San Francisco: Congress of Wonders/Ace of Cups/Dino Valenti
The Committee was a hip improvisational theater troupe. They had their own theater at 836 Montgomery, and sometimes they booked rock bands instead of themselves. Dino Valenti was a folksinger who had written "Get Together" some years earlier. He had recently gotten out of prison from a drug bust in 1965. Thanks to fellow scholar LightIntoAshes, who not only found this listing, he found a review of the concert. Folk singer Sandy Darlington (of the duo Sandy & Jeanie) reviewed the Ace of Cups performance for the Express Times of February 15, 1968
"The Congress of Wonders presented themselves, the Ace of Cups, the Charles Lloyd Quartet, and Dino Valenti at the Committee Theatre for six days, January 30 through February 4. Excellent light show by Ben Van Meter. [...]
Then the Ace of Cups! Five groovy girls playing groovy rock music. A taste treat for the eyes and ears. It was unbelievably charming. Especially when you think of all that might have been wrong with them and wasn't: bitchiness, cloying sweetness, growling butch biceps, a topless revue with clothes, clumsy music...all those things I imagine most men half expect to see, and to which they plan to react with compassion and tolerance in the interest of erotic fantasy.
It wasn't like that at all. They are enjoyable to look at, and they do dress nicely and they smile, but it doesn't seem like an "act" as much as like five friends playing music together. Good music.
All of them sing; at least four sing lead. They use all sorts of different vocal combinations to get different textures. Their harmonies range from tight five voice Hi-Lo type to open harmonies with lots of 4ths and 5ths like in Sacred Harp hymns and Gregorian chants to slightly discordant effects reminiscent of Honegger.
As the ending to their last set, they came to the front of the stage and sang an unaccompanied song asking that there be No More War.
The fact that they didn't flaunt their sex made them all the more sexy. What more could you want? It was the first time I'd ever wanted to be a groupie."
(Sandy Darlington, "Act of Congress," SFET 2/15/68 p.11) 

A psychedelic nightclub on the corner of High and University seems appropriate, right? (The Poppycock, at 135 University Ave in Palo Alto, was on this intersection--photo 2018)
February 9-10, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto Ace of Cups
The Poppycock, at 135 University Avenue (at High Street—could you make this up?) was a ballroom-style club in Downtown Palo Alto. Complete with a light show and all the trappings, it was next to the building that had housed The Top Of The Tangent (which was at 117 University),where Jerry Garcia and other South Bay folkies had been regulars about 6 years earlier.

March 20, 1968 Avalon All Men Joy/Blue Cheer/Ace of Cups/Black Swan/Creedence Clearwater KMPX Strike Fund Benefit
KMPX-fm was the first underground rock station, but the Tom Donahue and his staff went out on strike in protest of ownership’s refusal to share the wealth (the staff later moved en masse to KSAN).  The original handbill shows Ace of Cups billed over Creedence, at the time an obscure club band from El Cerrito.  Many other acts actually played this benefit, including the Grateful Dead and Kaleidoscope.

The known performers, from various sources, were
Grateful Dead/Blue Cheer/Kaleidoscope/Jeremy Steig and The Satyrs/Charlie Musselwhite and Southside Sound System/Santana Blues Band/Frumious Bandersnatch/Clover
I don't know if Ace Of Cups actually played.

A benefit held outside of The Ark, April 6-7, 1968
April 6 or 7, 1968  Outside The Ark, Gate 6, Sausalito Quicksilver Messenger Service/Ace of Cups/Freedom Highway/Phoenix/The Boogie/Pacific Flash/Morning Glory/The Smoke/Dino Valenti/Clover/Gail Garnett and Gentle Rain and many more A benefit (admission 1.00) 10 am -8 pm. 
The Ark was an abandoned Ferryboat, and it had been a sort of hippie nightclub/hangout. This performance was some sort of benefit, on the pier where The Ark was berthed. All of the bands had performed at The Ark, or had some connection to it. Members of Quicksilver had lived on a houseboat nearby in 1965 and '66, for example. Many of the bands were West-Pole bands, too.

April 12-13-14, 1968 Avalon The Fugs/Ace of Cups/All Men Joy
By Spring 1968, although legendary, the Avalon was having trouble competing with the Fillmore and the newly-opened Carousel. The Fugs were well-known, in their way, but they didn't have a huge following. This same weekend, for example, Big Brother, Iron Butterfly and Booker T were at Winterland, and Moby Grape was at the Carousel. The Avalon show was probably not well attended.

All Men Joy was a San Francisco group (Duane and Gregg Allman’s Los Angeles based group at the time was The Hour Glass)

April 16-17-18, 1968 New Orleans House, Berkeley Congress of Wonders/Ace of Cups
Congress Of Wonders, also booked by West-Pole, were a sketch comedy trio (who can forget "Pigeon Park"?). 

April 24, 1968 Straight Theater Big Brother and The Holding Company/Sons of Champlin/Congress of Wonders/Curley Cooke’s Hurdy Gurdy Band/Indian Head Band/Ace of Cups/Phoenix Time Again to Save The Straight Theater”
The Straight Theater was another city venue, actually in the Haight Ashbury, but it too wasn't able to compete in the booming rock market. A bunch of bands played a benefit for the Straight, but it didn't last much longer.

May 5, 1968 Provo Park, Berkeley Steve Miller Band/Ace of Cups/Indian Headband
Provo Park was the informal name of Berkeley’s large downtown park (really called Constitution Park, but no one used that name). From early 1967onwards, there had been free concerts on Sundays. Steve Miller had relocated to Berkeley in October 1966, and by Spring ’68 the Steve Miller Band were Fillmore and Avalon regulars, signed to Capitol. He hadn’t lost Berkeley cred, however, and his band (which included Boz Scaggs) still played free in the park.

By this time, managers had figured out that playing free in a park, any park, was a good way to get heard, so Ace Of Cups did it too.

May 10-11-12, 1968 Avalon Quicksilver Messenger Service/Ace of Cups/Flamin Groovies
Since Quciksilver, managed by Ron Polte, were West-Pole's main act, the Ace Of Cups opened for them regularly.

The Balconades Ballroom was at 181 W. Santa Clara St in San Jose, and was a rock venue for a few months in 1968 (h/t The Flamin Groovies site)

May 16-17, 1968 Balconades Ballroom, San Jose Flamin Groovies/Ace of Cups
The Balconades Ballroom was an old Ballroom in San Jose.  The Balconades was on an upper floor of The Lyndon Building (built 1882), at 181 W. Santa Clara St. After time as a printing press for a newspapers, it had been turned into a ballroom (probably in the 1920s). It had been part of a Country and Western circuit for performers like Hank Williams and Bob Wills, back when San Jose was an agricultural center and the biggest radio station (KEEN 1370 AM) played country music.  There were some rock shows at Balconades in 1968, featuring West-Pole bands, but the venue never caught on.



Summer '68 West-Pole TV Special, KQED-tv, San Francisco
Ralph J Gleason was the influential popular music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, and he was essential in getting people to notice that something interesting was happening to rock music in 60s SF.  Gleason was also a producer at KQED-tv, San Francisco's public television station (Channel 9), so he was also responsible for a lot of fine jazz and rock getting broadcast on TV throughout the entire decade.

In 1968, Gleason co-produced (with Bob Zagone) an hour-long KQED special about "Adult Rock in San Francisco." It was called "West-Pole," after Polte's booking agency, although that is never properly explained. There was footage of all the major San Francisco bands, plus live clips of two West-Pole band, the Sons of Champlin and Ace of Cups.

The three live performances of Ace of Cups, professionally shot in (what I presume to have been) KQED studios, are the best record we have of the Aces in their prime. There's no audience, of course, but as a result the cameras get an especially intimate look. It's easy to see how Ace of Cups looked like a band that couldn't miss. Most online sources will list the date of these three videos (all easily accessible on YouTube) as August 16, 1968, but that is incorrect. The "West-Pole" special was actually broadcast on August 16, so the recording had to be earlier in the Summer, probably May or June.

"West-Pole" was ultimately released on DVD, paired with another Gleason/Zagone special, 1970's "Go Ride The Music," which featured Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service.

May 31-June 1, 1968  Straight Theater Notes From The Underground/Ace of Cups/Liberty Street
The Straight Theater was just about at the end of the line.

June 21-22, 1968 New Orleans House, Berkeley Congess of Wonders/Sea Train/Ace of Cups
Sea Train was the new name for the former Blues Project. How the Greenwich Village-bred Blues Project had ended up in Marin was an interesting story, but too convoluted to tell here.
An obscure handbill for a free concert in Golden Gate Park on June 23, 1968
June 23, 1968 Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park Fraternity of Man/Flaming Groovies/Ace of Cups/All Men Joy
This was a free concert (Ross Hannan found the handbill). Kenneth Loh had a photo. Denise Kaufman recalls Quicksilver Messenger Service playing as well.

July 10, 1968 Avalon Quicksilver Messenger Service/Ace of Cups/American Indian Dancers            Benefit for American Indian Well-Baby Clinic
The Poster is in Paul Grushkin’s fine book The Art of Rock.

The Sound Factory, in Sacramento, was briefly a competitor to the Fillmore and Avalon
July 12-13, 1968 Sound Factory, Sacramento Steppenwolf/Ace of Cups/Initial Shock
The Sound Factory was Sacramento's entry into the growing circuit of psychedelic ballrooms. It was initially managed by a former Avalon character named Whitey Davis. Sacramento had numerous teenagers, so a ballroom of their own was inevitable. 

July 20, 1968  The Bold Knight, Sunnyvale Sons of Champlin/Ace of Cups
The Bold Knight was a “teen club” (underage welcome, no alcohol served, no doubt plenty consumed) in Sunnyvale, a suburb of San Jose.  It was located on 769 North Matilda Avenue.

August 3-4, 1968 The Garage at Tamarack Lodge, Calaveras County  Ace of Cups
The handbill (reprinted on the cd) says ‘Friday August 3 and Saturday August 4’, but that fits no year the Ace of Cups performed, so the handbill must be inaccurate. I have assumed that the correct year is 1968 (when 8.3-4 would have been Saturday and Sunday) but in fact I can’t be sure, and it very may well be 1967. The handbill says “on highway four, the road to Bear Valley.”  Bear Valley is a ski area in the lower Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the venue was probably a ski lodge.

August 9-10, 1968 Sound Factory, Sacramento Quicksilver Messenger Service/Ace of Cups/Congress of Wonders

The Eureka Times-Standard of August,  16,1968, reported that the Ace Of Cups would headline the "San Francisco Rock Show" at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds on Friday night. Also, 173 animals would be for sale in the livestock pen.
August 16, 1968 Humboldt County Fairgrounds, Ferndale, CA Ace Of Cups/Old Davis/Transatlantic Railroad/All Men Joy
The Ace Of Cups headlined the Friday night show at the Humboldt County Fair. Friday night’s show was billed (correctly) as The San Francisco Rock Show. Old Davis was a Redwood City band, Transatlantic Railroad was from Marin and All Men Joy (NOT with Gregg and Duane Allman) was from San Francisco.

Wednesday night (14 August) had been highlighted by a country concert featuring Roy Clark and Dorsey Burnette.

August 23-24, 1968 New Orleans House, Berkeley Ace of Cups/Congress of Wonders

August 31, 1968 Palace of Fine Arts Festival, Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco: The Lamb, A.B.Skhy, Ace Of Cups, Linn County, The Mike Bloomfield Jam Band
This was a big three-day event at the Palace of Fine Arts over Labor Day weekend, although the last day probably wasn't held. On Saturday, the first day, the Aces played the afternoon show. Mike Bloomfield and a pick-up band played (filling in for H.P. Lovecraft). 

Faren Miller, (then a Berkeley teenager, and a thorough and accurate diarist) has a detailed review in her diaries, and it contains the most detailed contemporary description of an Ace Of Cups performance.  The billing was somewhat different than what she describes, and its not clear who were no-shows and who she simply missed or didn’t comment on.  John Handy, Steve Miller, Big Mama Thornton and HP Lovecraft were billed, and Mike Bloomfield was not.  Miller specifically refers to HP Lovecraft as no-shows, but the rest aren’t referenced.
            Faren Miller:

            “Then we went to the middle stage, where we stayed for the rest of the afternoon. All of a sudden, Quicksilver/West Pole people showed up, because the Ace of Cups were coming on. Ron and Frank Polte, and the “Ace of Cups man” [roadie] arrived along with the girls. Ron looks almost like a cartoon character with his pointy nose, his lank thatch of hair, and his inevitable black leather jacket. The Ace of Cups looked pretty good: Mary Simpson’s hair is longer, and she less resembles Jimmy Murray now; Mary Gannon was demure in a white-collared purple smock dress and black tights; Marla wore dark pants and shirt and she was barefoot; Diane wore the flowered bell bottoms her mother had made her and a black velvet blouse; Denise looked incredible in a white East Indian pajama outfit,and her hair was tied back from her ears with a long blue scarf. All of them sang beautifully, their voices enhanced by the place’s echo-chamber effect.
            One number was actually a trio of gentle songs sung by both Marys and Denise. They “cranked it up” with Denise doing “Gypsy Boy”, jumping all over and madly playing harmonica. Every song was a delight, as [San Francisco Chronicle music columnist] Ralph Gleason would say (he was there), and I couldn’t quibble with the girls’ musicianship at all. They write their own material, and they put most groups to shame in that area. Marla sang “Lord, Lord, Lord, Won’t You Listen to Your Children”. They did a tribute to life in the country (“sitting on the back porch, smoking a peace pipe”); another song, “Circles”, put down city life -- obviously, the Cups live in the country. They closed with the acapella “No More War”, an appropriate song in these days after the Chicago Democratic Convention.”

Later in the show, Miller describes the Cups coming back on stage to sing with Mike Bloomfield’s group

            “But both eyes turned to the stage when Bloomfield suddenly called up all the Ace of Cups to join him. Giggling, they formed a semicircle around a microphone and practiced a few “Baby!”s, under Mike’s direction. “We’re the Bloomettes!” Denise laughed. (She was now wearing the gold-rimmed spectacles she’d donned offstage.) The Cups provided soulful background while Mike sang a blues. He’s a good singer as well as guitarist, and he also plays organ. Everyone loved the Cups”

A flyer for a benefit at the Berkeley Community Theater on September 20, 1968, with the Grateful Dead and The Ace Of Cups

September 20, 1968 Community Theatre, Berkeley Grateful Dead/Steve Miller Band/Ace of Cups
The Ali Akbar College of Music was moving from a house in Ascot Drive in the Oakland hills to Berkeley. Owsley's girlfriend, Rhoney Gissen, arranged for Owsley to move into the Ascot Drive house in return for helping the school move. Denise Kaufman had taken sitar lessons at the school during the Summer of 1967.

A unique feature of this night's Grateful Dead performance was an extended drum performance with two Indian musicians (I believe Shankar Ghosh and Vince Delgado). 

September 21, 1968  The Bank, Torrance, CA Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons of Champlin/Love Exchange/Ace of Cups

September 22, 1968  Del Mar Fairgrounds, Del Mar, CA Grateful Dead/Buddy Miles Express/Taj Mahal/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons of Champlin/Mother Earth/Curly Cooke’s Hurdy-Gurdy Band/Youngbloods/Ace of Cups/Phoenix
West-Pole, the booking agent for Quicksilver, Ace Of Cups and many other bands, seems to have put together a "Monterey Pop" type event in San Diego. The venue, according to members of the band Phoenix, was a former ostrich racing track. In fact, the fairgounds were built in 1937 by Bing Crosby, and originally featured a horse track, but there is reason to think there was ostrich racing. 

The bands were mostly West-Pole, except for some headliners who were closely linked to West-Pole (the Grateful Dead, Youngbloods and Buddy Miles). The weather was good--it was in San Diego, after all--and it seemed like fun, but it wasn't a money maker and there were not other rock shows at Del Mar (the fairgounds later became an auto racing track. I assume it's housing now).  Buddy Miles Express was billed as “Formerly: The Electric Flag.” An eyewitness reported that Steve Miller Band performed as well, with Boz Scaggs still in the band.  

September 28, 1968 Straight Theater, San Francisco Movies/Congress of Wonders/Ace of Cups
LightIntoAshes found this listing in the SF Examiner. It appears the theater showed movies, with Congress of Wonders playing inbetween and Ace of Cups after (probably). The listing was
"Revolution 7, 11
What's New Pussycat? 8:45
Congress of Wonders 6:30-10:40
plus Ace of Cups" 
September 29, 1968 El Camino Park, Palo Alto Free You Be In
Quicksilver Messenger Service/Youngbloods/Ace Of Cups/Freedom Highway/Cold Blood/Flaming Groovies/Frumious Bandersnatch (Ace Of Cups canceled)
The Mid Peninsula Free University was known as “Free You,” and they regularly organized free concerts in Palo Alto’s El Camino Park. However, in the end QMS canceled (they were listed as "tentative" on the flyer), to be replaced by Steve Miller Band, and Ace of Cups didn't play either. The actual lineup was Steve Miller Band (with a guest appearance by Carlos Santana), Frumious Bandersnatch, Phoenix and Freedom Highway.

The Ace Of Cups opened for Quicksilver Messenger Service at the Avalon in October, 1968
October 4-5-6, 1968 Avalon Quicksilver Messenger Service/Black Pearl/Ace of Cups
The Avalon was really struggling at this time, up against Bill Graham's Fillmore West. Still, the West-Pole bands played there. Faren Miller has more comments from the Saturday night (Oct 5 68) show (she was a college freshman at the time)

            “It really wasn’t fair to make the Ace of Cups come on after that. They’re charming girls, but they have none of the Quick’s [relative]professionalism. Luckily, they made a good impression by virtue of their charm and their fine songs. After a good ovation for one number, Mary Gannon (the brunette) smiled, “Thanks, men.”
            The Cups were loveably disorganized, haphazardly picking each song before they played it and tuning as much as the Quicksilver. (John attributed the Quick’s problems to the full moon.) Mary Simpson called to the equipment man for help. She had no makeup but was dressed well in a dark minidress, dark tights and black boots. She’s getting less and less tomboyish. Mary G. wore a green and buff Indian tunic over brown velour trousers. Diane, who’s always darling, wore a patterned blouse and a fringed miniskirt over bare legs. Good old Denise had white trousers and a dark top, and she was wearing her spectacles. Her masses of frizzy hair waved about, though part of it was tied back. It must grow _very_ quickly. Marla was plainly dressed in dark slacks and shirt. She looked like a serious little girl most of the time, except during some vocal solos (and also when she was talking with the equipment man, and with David Freiberg -- who got her beaming in short order). The Cups only had one set, so it was longer than the other groups’. They sounded a bit shrill on most of the up-tempo numbers, while instrumentally they’re adequate -- but after the Quick.... Still, there were some lovely moments in their set, and they made a lot of friends tonight (especially with the men, as Mary G. noted).”

October 11, 1968  Silver Dollar Fairgrounds, Chico, CA Quicksilver Messenger Service/Ace of Cups/Cranberry Frost
October 12, 1968  Shasta Community College, Redding, CA Quicksilver Messenger Service/Ace of  Cups
West-Pole's strategy at time was to book their less well-known bands with their headliners. Teenagers throughout California wanted to see the bands whose names they had seen on Fillmore posters, so Quicksilver had a lot of standing in places like Chico or Redding. Had Ace Of Cups actually made an album, the time they put in touring throughout California might have paid off for them, as it did for bands like Cold Blood or It's A Beautiful Day.

November 15-16, 1968 New Orleans House, Berkeley, Ace of Cups/Freedom Highway
At the beginning of 1968, Ace Of Cups had been paired on the bill at Berkeley's New Orleans House on weeknights, and by the end of the year they were headliners for the weekend. This was a clear sign they were developing a following. 

November 22, 1968 Gym, Campolindo High School, Moraga  Santana Blues Band/Country Weather/Ace of Cups/Velvet Hammer
Another long-forgotten historical detail was that the Fillmore bands played many High School dances. Campolindo, in Moraga (in Contra Costa County), had both Santana and the Grateful Dead in the same school year. I'm not 100% certain that the Ace Of Cups played Campolindo on this date (Santana did--there are pictures), there is a whiff that Ace Of Cups may have played (or also played) a separate, smaller show at Campolindo in Spring ’69, possibly in the daytime, alluded to by someone who attended the school.

November 27, 1968 St. Elizabeth’s High School, Oakland, CA Quicksilver Messenger Service/Ace Of Cups
St. Elizabeth's, a private high school in Oakland (at 1530 34th Avenue), had a string of hip Fillmore bands play there. Musicians liked High School gigs, because they were nearby and a quick payday. The high school girls attending the dance must have found it a unique experience to have a band of women on the bill.


December 6, 1968 Merced County Fairgrounds, Merced, CA Quicksilver Messenger Service/Ace of Cups/Crystal Syphon

The Berkeley Barb ad for Berkeley's New Orleans House, Dec 27 1968
December 31, 1968 New Orleans House, Berkeley Congress of Wonders/Ace of Cups
The Ace Of Cups began 1968 playing New Orleans House on the Monday after New Year's, and ended it co-headlining the entire week there, including New Year's Eve. They had played a series of high profile gigs throughout California, and were starting to build a following. The next post will cover the Ace of Cups performance history from 1969 through 1972.


Ace Of Cups (High Moon Records 2018)
It is appropriate then, that Ace of Cups finally get to release the album they might have released some decades ago. Few bands from that era can even muster a quorum, much less all original members. Another World Tour, at least the world of Southern Marin County, will surely follow.


12 comments:

  1. Re: July 20, 1968 The Bold Knight, Sunnyvale Sons of Champlin/Ace of Cups

    A poster exist, I have it posted in my Sons story in my website here: http://brunoceriotti.weebly.com/the-sons-of-champlin.html

    As you can see Weird Herald were also on the bill.

    Anyway, the Sons were also booked to play at the Cheetah in Los Angeles that same night, July 20, 1968, so I guess they cancelled one of these two gigs, which one? I don't know!

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  3. Re: August 31, 1968 Palace of Fine Arts Festival Mike Bloomfield Jam Band/Quicksilver Messenger Service/The Lamb/Linn County/AB Skhy/Ace of Cups
    Faren Miller, (then a Berkeley teenager, and a thorough and accurate diarist) has a detailed review in her diaries, and it contains the most detailed contemporary description of an Ace Of Cups performance. The billing was somewhat different than what she describes, and its not clear who were no-shows and who she simply missed or didn’t comment on. John Handy, Steve Miller, Big Mama Thornton and HP Lovecraft were billed, and Mike Bloomfield was not. Miller specifically refers to HP Lovecraft as no-shows, but the rest aren’t referenced.

    Corry we need to definitely clear the air here. I have the festival programme and actually on August 31, 1968 there were two shows. The one in the afternoon, from 12 noon to 6pm, have this bill: The Lamb, A.B.Skhy, Ace Of Cups, Linn County, The Mike Bloomfield Jam Band [with Steve Miller as guest] (filling in for H.P. Lovecraft), Festival Jam Band, Peter Albin (MC), Light Shows by The Ibis, Holy See, Jerry Abrams Head Lights

    The evening show, from 8pm to 12 midnight, have this bill: Steve Miller Band, Big Mama Thornton and The Hound Dog Band, John Handy and His Concert Ensemble, Peter Albin (MC), Lights by The Ibis, Holy See, and Jerry Abrams Head Lights.

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    1. Thanks for sorting out the booking the Palace of Fine Arts, Bruno, I updated accordingly.

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    2. You're welcome! Don't forget to added Weird Herald on the bill for the show on July 20, 1968 at the Bold Knight (my above comment)

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  5. Re: September 21, 1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons of Champlin/Love Ace of Cups

    Not "Love" but Love Exchange

    Also as you can see from the poster you have the band was missbilled as Ace of "Cubs"

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    1. Good catch, Bruno, I fixed it. Thanks.

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  6. Another listing to add!

    Friday, Feb 2, 1968 - "Concert: The Congress of Wonders, Dino Valenti, Ace of Cups, The Committee Theatre, 836 Montgomery, 9-2, $3.00"
    (from the SF Express Times event listings, 2/1/68)
    The Ace of Cups played more days as well, since the Congress of Wonders were there all week; the listing was repeated for Feb 3-4.

    The 2/15/68 Express Times even had a show review!
    "The Congress of Wonders presented themselves, the Ace of Cups, the Charles Lloyd Quartet, and Dino Valenti at the Committee Theatre for six days, January 30 through February 4. Excellent light show by Ben Van Meter. [...]
    Then the Ace of Cups! Five groovy girls playing groovy rock music. A taste treat for the eyes and ears. It was unbelievably charming. Especially when you think of all that might have been wrong with them and wasn't: bitchiness, cloying sweetness, growling butch biceps, a topless revue with clothes, clumsy music...all those things I imagine most men half expect to see, and to which they plan to react with compassion and tolerance in the interest of erotic fantasy.
    It wasn't like that at all. They are enjoyable to look at, and they do dress nicely and they smile, but it doesn't seem like an "act" as much as like five friends playing music together. Good music.
    All of them sing; at least four sing lead. They use all sorts of different vocal combinations to get different textures. Their harmonies range from tight five voice Hi-Lo type to open harmonies with lots of 4ths and 5ths like in Sacred Harp hymns and Gregorian chants to slightly discordant effects reminiscent of Honegger.
    As the ending to their last set, they came to the front of the stage and sang an unaccompanied song asking that there be No More War.
    The fact that they didn't flaunt their sex made them all the more sexy. What more could you want? It was the first time I'd ever wanted to be a groupie."
    (Sandy Darlington, "Act of Congress," SFET 2/15/68 p.11)

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    1. The Oakland Tribune verified the bill for that week, Jan 30-Feb 4:

      "The Congress is appearing nightly through Sunday at The Committee Theater, 838 Montgomery St., San Francisco. For folk-rock fans, Dino Valenti is also on the bill. The Ace of Cups provides rock 'n roll and hard-rock sounds, and jazzman Charles Lloyd completes the entertainment."
      ("Congress of Wonders Keeps Needles Sharp," Oakland Tribune 1/31/68, p.25)

      And, not a new listing but an interesting announcement for the 10/12/68 Shasta College show:

      "POPULAR BANDS FOR SHASTA DANCE; CHANNEL 9 BENEFIT
      Jazz rock will be featured at the open dance at Shasta College Saturday with the appearance of the 'Quicksilver Messenger Service' and the 'Ace of Cups' bands.
      The dance will be held from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. in the college gym. Admission will be $2.50 with a college student body card and $3 without...
      'The Quicksilver Messenger Service' is one of Capitol Records' top recording groups, and the all-girl band, 'Ace of Cups,' is the house band for the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco...
      Bill Reed, general manager of education channel 9, KIXE, reported that this is a fund raising event for the channel in cooperation with the Shasta College Associated Students..."
      (Red Bluff Daily News, 10/11/68 p.7)

      "House band for the Avalon" is something of an exaggeration, but it's interesting that's how they were advertised in other cities...

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    2. Thanks for this. Sandy Darlington and his wife put out a few albums as a folk duo (Sandy & Jeanie). Jeanie Darlington was a regular columnist for the Express Times, although not about music.

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  7. Some more info on the 4/6/68 benefit:

    "NOW BENEFIT
    The Quicksilver Messenger Service and other bands will play at a benefit dance at the Ark today and tomorrow to raise money for five persons still in jail following the recent drug raids in Marin County.
    The bands will play from 10 a.m. till 8 p.m. in the parking lot of the Ark at Gate 6 in Sausalito. Admission is $1. Buddha, who is organizing the events, asks that there be no free admissions in order that all five can be released."
    (Berkeley Barb 4/5/68, p.13)

    The SF Examiner movie listings on Saturday, Sep. 28 included an unusual movie night at the Straight Theater:
    "Revolution 7, 11
    What's New Pussycat? 8:45
    Congress of Wonders 6:30-10:40
    plus Ace of Cups"
    Whether that means the groups were doing short sets before each film, I'm not sure!

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