Friday, July 3, 2020

Palo Alto Psychedelic Rock Shows 1968 (Palo Alto III)



The cover of the 1969 Chambers Brothers album Shout!, recorded in 1967, had a photo of the band's headline performance at Frost in 1968. Back row, 6-r, Carlos Santana in a blue shirt (Santana Blues Band was one of many SF bands on the bill)

Palo Alto, California, is only a town of about 60,000, about 35 miles South of San Francisco, and yet it looms large in the world, far out of proportion to its modest size. Palo Alto residents, like the residents of most small towns, think the world revolves around itself. The principal difference between Palo Alto and other towns is its tendency to invent or encourage institutions that redound to the importance of Palo Alto--Stanford University, Hewlett-Packard, The Stanford Shopping Center, Acid Tests, The Grateful Dead, Mapquest and Google, for example, just to name a few. All of these institutions re-write history in Palo-centric ways that reaffirms the town's importance. Residents of neighboring communities find Palo Altans self absorbed and self-important, which we probably are, but our next innovation will just reconfigure the past in a way that justifies our own narrative. And so it was with psychedelic rock and roll in the 1960s.

Palo Alto, by its own accounting, played a big part in 60s psychedelic rock and roll. The history of the Fillmore and The Avalon always begins with Ken Kesey at Stanford, and the parties and acid tests that followed. Of course, Kesey's cottage was really next door in Menlo Park, but that sort of detail never interfered with a Palo Alto story. At the same time, Jerry Garcia and other bohemians were hanging out in downtown Palo Alto, even if they often lived in Menlo Park themselves. Certainly, Jerry Garcia started playing live in Stanford and Palo Alto, and he took acid for the first time in Palo Alto, and by the end of 1965 Garcia was the lead guitarist in an electric blues band. The Warlocks--who debuted themselves in Menlo Park--became the Grateful Dead, and the house band of The Merry Pranksters, and Palo Alto's place in the rock revolution was secure.

Yet Palo Alto, as ground zero for the consciousness expansion of rock music, has a rather scattered history of rock and roll events. While some of this had to do with economics, some of it had to do with the very peculiar circumstances of Palo Alto and Stanford, which both favored and discouraged any kind of rock and roll underground. But this peculiarity is perfectly Palo Alto--a story that applies to no other town, which is just how Palo Alto likes it. The story began with my previous post and the two most seminal events in Palo Alto rock history: August 31, 1965, the night the Beatles stayed at the Cabana Hotel in Palo Alto, and December 18, 1965, the Palo Alto Acid Test. I told the whole psychedelic rock history of 1966 Palo Alto, too, which is pretty interesting, but still pales in the shadow of 1965. The next post continued the story, reviewing the psychedelic rock history of Palo Alto in 1967.  This post will pick up the Palo Alto rock story in 1968.

1968: Rock Moves From Gown To Town
When psychedelic rock hit the San Francisco Bay Area in 1966, it started in neighborhoods full of bohemian dropouts and migrated quickly to college campuses. This was no accident, as those bohemians were often graduate students or drop-outs, and anyway, someone had to sell that weed to adventurous college students, right? This pattern repeated itself all over the country. The local hipsters would form bands and put on shows, and campuses provided an audience.

To some extent the pattern had followed that of folk music. By the 60s, many of the young people who were serious about folk music--Jerry Garcia, Jorma Kaukonen, Janis Joplin and so forth--had aged out (Jerry), dropped out (Janis) or actually graduated (Jorma), but it was college students who formed the audience that allowed them to play music. In Palo Alto, the Top Of The Tangent, at 117 University, was broadcast on the Stanford radio station (KZSU-am), and college students were probably a big part of the Tangent crowd.

In 1966, Stanford University had the concentration of finance and young folks to provide extra booking for the hip Fillmore bands. Even when Stanford got nervous about bands on campus, the Stanford-based MidPeninsula Free University were the ones putting on Be-In in Palo Alto's biggest park. By 1968, loud rock and roll was more mainstream, at least in Northern California. Young people up and down the Peninsula wanted to see bands full of long-haired guitarists playing their own music. Palo Alto's downtown, having been gutted by the Stanford Shopping Center in the 1950s, started to add shops selling lava lamps and posters. There weren't any bars in Palo Alto yet--not until 1981--but The Poppycock sold beer, and that was enough. The locus of rock music in town had moved off the Stanford campus and over to the Poppycock.

The clearest picture of the beginnings of the Poppycock come from a book by writer Ed McClanahan, an associate of Ken Kesey’s. McClanahan was hired in to publish an underground newspaper, The Free You, associated with MidPeninsula Free University (of which more later). In his autobiography Famous People I Have Known, he writes about the Poppycock in 1968
In the latter 1960s, on a corner of downtown Palo Alto scarcely a brickbat’s throw from the Stanford campus, there stood an aged, derelict, three-story brick office building, the first floor of which was occupied by a fish ‘n’ chips ‘n’ rock-and-roll establishment called The Poppycock (2003: University of Kentucky Press p.53).
McLanahan writes of renting office space on the second floor, just above the bandstand, for twenty five dollars a month from the “sweaty hatband gents” who took over an office building originally leased to lawyers and doctors and leased it instead to a younger and less savory bunch. Those familiar with the today’s genteel and pricey Palo Alto, a “hotbed of social rest” (to quote local writer Rob Morse), would hardly recognize McLanahan’s description of the corner in 1968. 
Beneath my window, meanwhile, the beat went on day and night. The sidewalks swarmed with rock and roll riffraff, adolescent acidheads and swiftly aging speedsters, motorcycle madmen and wilted flower children, slightly unhinged outpatients from the nearby VA hospital, spare changers and affluent musicians and plainclothesmen and nouveau riche dealers, all the myriad varieties of California white trash…The Poppycock corner was where It was indisputably At in Palo Alto (pp. 53-54).

Ralph Gleason's Ad Libs column in the SF Chronicle mentions Taj Mahal at the Poppycock on Wednesday and Thursday, January 3-4, 1968

January 3-4, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Taj Mahal (Wednesday-Thursday)
The Taj Mahal Poppycock shows were on a Wednesday and Thursday. I'm sure the Poppycock was open six or seven days a week, as a Fish 'N' Chips shop, and there was probably music, or some kind of entertainment, in the "big room" each night. I suspect most weeknights there was some folk, or some jazz or some silent movies, and perhaps local rock bands as well. Based on advertisements, out-of-town bands with some profile only played the Poppycock on weekends, unless the gigs fit their touring profile. In 1968 and 1969, the Poppycock was managed by Roy Kelsey, and the booking and light shows were handled by John Darcy.

These weeknight shows in Palo Alto must have somehow fit Taj Mahal's tour. Taj Mahal had played the Poppycock in September '67, and then a few gigs at the Avalon in October. It may have been that CBS management wanted to break in his new band outside of Los Angeles. By the end of 1968, Taj was using the great guitarist Jesse Ed Davis, so perhaps Palo Altans were lucky enough to get Davis for a few nights in January.

Taj Mahal (b. Henry Saint Clair Fredericks in 1942) had been raised in a musical family in Springfield, MA. He played in various musical ensembles in high school and in college (at U.Mass). By 1964 he had moved to the West Coast, and he formed a pioneering R&B combo called The Rising Sons, with Ry Cooder on lead guitar (a cd of their recordings was finally released in 1992). By early 1968, Taj had already signed and recorded his debut album with Columbia, with both Cooder and Davis on guitars, although it would not be released until later in the year.

Ralph Gleason's Friday column in the SF Chronicle noted Sons of Champlin at the Poppycock on January 5-6, 1968 (Friday and Saturday)

January 5-6, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Sons Of Champlin (Friday-Satruday)
The Sons Of Champlin had been playing around the Bay Area since 1966. They had released a few singles, and they had played enough that they were sort of a local "name." Still, the Sons were pretty much a local Bay Area band at this time.

The Sons of Champlin were a Marin County band that were booked by West Pole (Quicksilver’s management team, who also booked Ace Of Cups, Freedom Highway and others). The genesis of the group had been a Mt. Tamalpais High School R&B group called The Opposite Six.  The group, very successful on the ‘teen’ dance circuit, played tight rhythm and blues.  Lead singer Bill Champlin aspired to sing like James Brown or Lou Rawls rather than like Bob Dylan. When the draft decimated the Opposite Six, it had reformed at the College Of Marin in 1966. However, the Dean of Students objected to their new name—The Master Beats—and on a whim they changed their name to The Sons of Father Champlin.


Initially, the Sons of Champlin had played a kind of soulful rock with Beatles-like harmonies, and were discovered at the Fillmore and signed by local entrepreneur Frank Werber. Werber had had great success producing the Kingston Trio (also a Palo Alto-based group, incidentally). From late 1966 onwards,  the Sons mostly played to a teenage audiences.  While a single (“Sing Me A Rainbow”) had some play on local station KFRC-am, the expanding consciousness of the group was at odds with Werber’s pop-oriented production. In mid-1967, by mutual agreement, the Sons Of Champlin struck out on their own. The Big Beat cd Fat City is a wonderful representation of this mostly unreleased period.


By early 1968 the Sons had expenaded to include a horn section and were playing their unique brand ofsoul and jazz inspired psychedelia. Unlike many other local rock bands, featuring ex-folkies still learning to play electric, the Sons were all superb musicians who could play many instruments.   Lead singer Champlin was a fine organist and guitarist, Terry Haggerty was one of the best lead guitarists in the Bay Area, and newly arrived (since late 67) Geoff Palmer played piano, vibes, saxophone and pretty much everything else spectacularly well. Three of the Sons (Palmer, Haggerty and drummer Bill Bowen) had parents who had or were playing professionally. Later in 1968 the Sons would sign to Capitol Records.

The Youngbloods played two nights at The Poppycock in Palo Alto on Thursday and Friday, January 11-12, 1968. The Poppycock was a restaurant, so minors were welcome (this may have been limited to 18 year olds)
January 11-12, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: The Youngbloods (Thursday-Friday)
The peculiar booking and advertisement of The Youngbloods for two nights at the Poppycock unveils some insights into the economics of the local rock industry. The Youngbloods were a fairly substantial hippie rock band, with a couple of albums on RCA. The weekend before (Jan 5-7), the Youngbloods had headlined at San Francisco's Avalon Ballroom, and yet here they were playing two nights in the suburbs at The Poppycock, with perhaps a fifth of the capacity of the Avalon.

The Youngbloods booking with the Avalon would have prevented them from advertising any upcoming shows in the Bay Area, a standard arrangement with the Fillmore and Avalon, or other big halls. Once the shows were complete, however, the Youngbloods could advertise. Thus the Poppycock took out a rare (for the time) Thursday ad in Stanford Daily to announce that an Avalon band would be playing on University Avenue. This allowed the Youngbloods to pick up an extra payday while still honoring their Avalon contract.

The Youngbloods were a Boston and New York folk-rock band in the mode of the Lovin Spoonful.  Lead singer and bassist Jesse Colin Young (nee Perry Miller from Queens) and the rest of the band (singer-guitarist Jerry Corbitt , pianist Lowell ‘Banana’ Levenger and drummer Joe Bauer) would move to San Francisco in September 1967  By late 1966, Young had released two solo albums, one called Young Blood.  The band had now been signed to RCA, and would release their first album as a band for RCA in late 1966 .


The early Youngbloods were much more bluesy than their lighter, better known work a few years later would suggest. It is a little-noticed fact that the Youngbloods recording of Dino Valenti’s “Get Together,” for which they are most famous, appeared on the first RCA album back in late 1966  It was a modest hit single, but the Youngbloods' version did not attract much attention until 1969. Valenti was well known around the scene, and both The We Five and The Jefferson Airplane had already recorded the song prior to the Youngbloods '66 recording


January 25-27, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: New Lost City Ramblers (Thursday-Saturday)
The New Lost City Ramblers were a hugely influential folk revival group from the early 60s. As a result, they could still tour on the rock circuit even when folk music was declining in popularity. Many of the songs from NLCR records had been "rocked up" by psychedelic groups, so much of the Ramblers material was accessible to fans who only generally knew their music.

The NLCR had a three-night, Thursday-to-Saturday booking. I think this was pretty common for Poppycock headliners in 1968. A touring band, or at least a local "name" band, the kind that would be third on the bill at the Avalon or Fillmore, would play three nights, and local bands would play Tuesday-Wednesday, unless some act on tour needed a fill-in date. Sunday and Monday were probably jazz or folk acts, or just movies. Given the trace material of advertisements and entertainment listings, however, I am mostly only finding Friday and Saturday bookings, or bookings for notable touring acts. Many of the Friday-Saturday bookings listed below probably include a Thursday night show as well, but I have refrained from speculating each time.

In 2003, Big Beat Records released It's Bad For You But Buy It!, a collection of live performances and demo recording by the legendary all-women pyschedelic group Ace Of Cups
February 9-10, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Ace Of Cups (Friday-Saturday)
The Ace Of Cups were an excellent band, and unique for the fact that they were the only Bay Area psychedelic band that hadall women members. They shared management with Quicksilver Messenger Service, and their manager (Ron Polte) dangled the popular band in front of record companies, waiting for a golden offer, a strategy that had worked with Quicksilver. However, for various reasons he missed the mark on Ace Of Cups, and they never recorded a studio album. More’s the pity, as the cd released a scant 36 years later of demos and live tracks revealed that the five women were excellent writers, singers and musicians (and just 15 years later, they released their first studio album!).

Ace Of Cups primary lead singer Denise Kaufman was from San Francisco, but in fact she had graduated from Castilleja High School in Palo Alto. As a high school senior, she had lived in an apartment (with her sister) in Palo Alto, and hung out at the Tangent. After High School, she quite literally got on the bus with Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters (in Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Denise was called Mary Microgram). In that respect, Denise is completely Palo Alto--always ahead of the curve, in the right place before anyone saw the turn-off on the highway (I'm skippng the parts where she gave Jerry Garcia the nickname "Captain Trips" and was Madonna's yoga instructor). In that respect, leading her own band, playing their own music in the town where Denise Kaufman went to high school must have been a nice little victory for her.


February 16, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Congress Of Wonders (Thursday)
Congress of Wonders were a comedy trio from Berkeley, initially from the UC Berkeley drama department and later part of Berkeley’s Open Theater on College Avenue, a prime spot for what were called “Happenings” (now ‘Performance Art’).  The group performed at the Avalon and other rock venues.


Ultimately a duo, Karl Truckload (Howard Kerr) and Winslow Thrill (Richard Rollins) created two Congress of Wonders albums on Fantasy Records (Revolting and Sophomoric). Their pieces “Pigeon Park” and “Star Trip”, although charmingly dated now, were staples of San Francisco underground radio at the time.


For some photos of The Congress of Wonders, see here (Earl Pillow (actually Wesley Hind) was the original third member) and here


An ad from the Stanford Daily (February 15) for a live KZSU broadcast the next night (Friday February 16, 1968) of the comedy troupe Congress Of Wonders, from the Poppycock

The truly remarkable thing about Congress Of Wonders Friday performance at the Poppycock, however, was that it was broadcast live on FM radio. Stanford station KZSU already had a remarkable tradition of broadcasting live. Have you ever wondered why there are Jerry Garcia tapes from 1963 and '64? It's because KZSU broadcast a show from the Tangent every week. The Friday night Tangent show was taped, and broadcast on Tuesday nights (initially the show was called "The Flint Hill Special"), which I have documented at length.


Back in 1963, KZSU was only broadcast on 880-AM, and only available in the Stanford dorms. By the end of 1967, however, KZSU was also broadcasting on 90.1 FM, and the tiny 10-watt transmitter was only audible in Palo Alto. Nevertheless, KZSU immediately took advantage of the primitive technology and started broadcasting shows live from the Poppycock. I assume that Congress of Wonders headlined the weekend, and broadcasting the Friday night show was intended to encourage attendance at the Saturday night show, an old business model dating back to country music in the 1940s.


For some context, keep in mind that the first known Grateful Dead live FM broadcast was just two days earlier. On February 14, 1968, the Grateful Dead and Country Joe and The Fish broadcast live from the Carousel Ballroom, on the pioneering San Francisco rock station KMPX-fm. While it appears that KMPX broadcast a Quicksilver live show as early as May 30, 1967, live music on FM was in its infancy. Yet here was a college station, already doing the same thing. It's easy to make fun of Palo Alto, but our argument for being first all the time holds a lot of water.


A flyer fot The Poppycock, from February 1968

February 21, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Flowers (Wednesday)
Flowers had been the house band when the Poppycock opened in April 1967, playing almost every weekend. The band was led by Ken Kesey's lawyer, and they were well wired to the Palo Alto psychedelia. In the Summer of '67, The Flowers changed their name to Solid State, and still regularly played the Poppycock. They seeemed to have faded away by the end of the year, however.

Was this Wednesday night show at the Poppycock some sort of reunion, or just another band with the name Flowers?

February 23-24, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: The Charlatans (Friday-Saturday)
The Charlatans had been the founders of the San Francisco Ballroom scene, but they had been surpassed by their original contemporaries, such as the Airplane and Big Brother.  By 1968, original founder George Hunter was now out of the group. Dan Hicks (originally the drummer) had switched to guitar and was the principal vocalist, while Terry Wilson (formerly with Orkustra) had taken over on drums. Original members Mike Wilhelm (lead guitar), Mike Ferguson (piano) and Richie Olsen (bass) remained in the group along with Hicks.


February 28-29, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Pure Funk (Wednesday-Thursday)
Pure Funk is not a band familiar to me. As this was a Tuesday/Wednesday booking, they were probably a local band. Incidentally, the word Funk did not have the musical connotation it does today, so this was more likely a rock or blues band.


The February 29, 1968 Stanford Daily notes a "Be-In For The Benefit of Mr. Kite" at White Plaza on campus, at noon on Saturday, March 1. This was probably a fairly mild event, but Be-Ins were already normalized enough to be a campus event in 1968
March 1, 1968 White Plaza, Stanford U, Palo Alto, CA: Be-In For The Benefit of Mr. Kite
The Daily advertised a Be-In for a Saturday afternoon on Campus. There may not have been rock bands, but the fact that it was noticed without fanfare as a campus event was a sign how normalized hippie rock culture had become

March 1-2, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA:  Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band
(Friday-Saturday)
The Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band had formed out of a loose pool of musicians that had played the Berkeley folk club The Jabberwock as The Instant Action Jug Band. Some of the members of The Instant Action Jug Band had gone on to form Country Joe and The Fish, and most of the rest of them formed The Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band. They played a sort of modern skiffle music, a mixture of folk music and New Orleans style jazz, but with contemporary original songs. The group was lead by singer/guitarists Phil Marsh and Annie Johnston. It also included some exceptional local musicians, including fiddler Hank Bradley, bassist Richard Saunders and harmonica player Will Scarlett (who was later in Hot Tuna).




Ralph Gleason's Ad Libs column in the March 8 '68 SF Chronicle notes Freedom Highway at the Poppycock, amidst a formidable weekend in the Bay Area, including Smokey Robinson and The Miracles in Oakland, Cream at Winterland, Cannonball Adderley at the Both/And

March 8-9, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Freedom Highway (Friday-Saturday)
Freedom Highway were a band from Mill Valley, and another group that was booked by Ron Polte’s West-Pole organization. Although just barely out of high school, the group had been playing for a few years already, and had played Palo Alto at least once before (at the Cubberley graduation on June 15, 1967, opening for Quicksilver). The band was as influenced by British groups as well as Fillmore bands, but never released an album and broke up in 1970. However, a nice album of 60s demos was released in this century.
An ad from the February 16, 1968 Stanford Daily for the Sandy Bull performance at TMU on Friday, March 8. Bull was a unique performer, playing what would now be called "World Music."

March 8, 1968 Tressider Union, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA: Sandy Bull
In 1966, Stanford University had put on a number of shows on a deck at the Tressider Student Union. The shows included popular groups like the Butterfield Blues Band, Lovin' Spoonful and the Grateful Dead (on October 14 '66). Abruptly, Stanford stopped hosting rock shows at Tressider, and there were none in 1967.

Sandy Bull was a solo guitarist, a unique and remarkable performer whose elaborate fingerpicking was enhanced by various electronic looping effects. Although appealing to a rock audience, more or less, Bull was the type of performer whose audience remained seated, so it made sense that he was allowed to play Tressider.


           
Ralph Gleason's Ad Libs column in the March 15 '68 column mentions Mt. Rushmore at the Poppycock, but the weekend was full of amazing acts: Don Ellis and Count Basie at Basin Street West, Smokey at Winterland, Traffic at the Fillmore and the Dead and the Airplane at the Carousel. Sic Tranist Gloria Psychedelia

March 15-16, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Mt. Rushmore  (Friday-Saturday)
Mt. Rushmore were a San Francisco band that was formed in the Spring of 1967. They went through a personnel upheaval in early 1968, so I do not know whether this was the early version (with Warren Phillips) or later version of the group (with Mike Bolan and Glen Smith). The latter version put out two unremarkable album on Dot (High On Mt. Rushmore and ’69). The group also had management associated with Ron Polte’s West-Pole booking agency.

March 18-21, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: ACF Brill (Monday-Thursday)
These dates were Monday through Wednesday, mentioned in one of Ralph Gleason's Ad Lib columns in the SF Chronicle. I assume ACF Brill was a local band.

March 22-23, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Liberty Street (Friday-Saturday)
Liberty Street were a San Francisco band, so named because the band lived in a house on Liberty Street.

For whatever reasons, listings for The Poppycock in the Berkeley Barb become scarce at this time, but this should not be taken as a presumption of a change in entertainment policies.


March 24, 1968 The Big Beat, Palo Alto, CA: Charlie Musselwhite/Old Davis/Ripple
This odd flyer circulates around the internet, and it is oddly revealing of the times. The Big Beat, at 998 San Antonio Road, near the Mountain View border, had been the site of the Palo Alto Acid Test on December 18, 1965. Other than that, however, the Big Beat had featured cover bands. By 1968, young people wanted to hear original music, not just dance to Rolling Stones covers. Its sister club in San Mateo, The Trip, would close in a few weeks (going R&B, new name: Souled Out), and the Big Beat did not last much longer than Spring '68.

It is notable, however, that someone was putting on a Sunday night show with Fillmore style music. Charlie Musselwhite had played the Fillmore and Avalon, and local band Old Davis was at least young and rising, although I don't know exactly what they played. Apparently, the Big Beat hosted a 2-6am "Breakfast Show" for musicians on Sunday mornings, so the club itself was cool, even though its business rationale had passed it by.

March 29-30, 1968  The Poppycock, Palo Alto,CA:  Phoenix (Friday-Saturday)
Phoenix was yet another group that was handled by Ron Polte’s West-Pole management organization.  Phoenix has a complex interrelationship with other San Francisco bands, including The Vipers, Blue House Basement and Mt. Rushmore. Back in 1965,  guitarist Stan Muther had been in a Palo Alto group called The Vipers, living in a house on High Street. The Vipers had played at the second Mime Troupe benefit at the Fillmore (Dec 10 '65), and the band members had attended the Palo Alto Acid Test, the Trips Festival and other seminal psychedelic events.

By early 1968, the various members of The Vipers were distributed amongst Mt. Rushmore, Phoenix and other groups. Still, for Muther, at least, it must have been interesting to return to Palo Alto, headlining a club just a few blocks from where his band had originally gotten together.

April 1, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA Country Weather (Monday)
Country Weather were a Walnut Creek (Contra Costa County) group, from just over the Berkeley Hills. They had originally been called The Virtues, but soon after lead guitarist Greg Douglass joined, they changed their name to Country Weather.

Country Weather never released a record when they were together from 1967-73.  Since the group was familiar from many posters from 1968 onward, Country Weather became one of the great lost San Francisco groups of the 1960s.  Ultimately, the group reformed in the 21st century and still performs occasionally. RD Records released LP and CD editions of some of their 60s demos and live performances.

Greg Douglass became a successful guitarist in the Bay Area, best known for co-writing “Jungle Love” for Steve Miller, with whom he played for many years. Douglass was also a member of Hot Tuna for one brief, sensational tour in Spring 1975.

April 1 was a Monday, as Country Weather was a fairly unknown band at the time.

April 3, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA:  Mississippi Fred McDowell (Wednesday)
On Wednesday, April 3, bluesman Missisippi Fred McDowell played the Poppycock. As an example of how artists used the Poppycock for booking, note that McDowell had played the Lion's Share in San Anselmo on Friday (March 29), Sonoma State on Monday (Apr 1), the Poppycock on Wednesday and then Berkeley's New Orleans House on Thursday (Apr 4).

“Missisippi” Fred McDowell was born in Rossville, TN in 1906. After a time in Memphis, he moved to Como, MS by the 1930s where he lived the rest of his life. Though mostly a farmer, he played locally most weekends for decades. McDowell was discovered by folklorist Alan Lomax, who recorded him in 1959 and released a few tracks as part of an Atlantic Records compilation. Berkeley’s Chris Strachwitz, proprietor of the Arhoolie record label, tracked McDowell down and recorded McDowell for Arhoolie.

The success of the first two Arhoolie albums (in 1964 and 1966) made Mississippi Fred McDowell a sudden hit—after 40 or so years of incubation—on the folk and blues circuit.  McDowell’s song “You Got To Move” was recorded by The Rolling Stones on Sticky Fingers, Bonnie Raitt was proud to cite Mississippi Fred McDowell as a significant influence, and recorded a number of his songs, and Hot Tuna made his “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” a staple of their electric and acoustic live sets.

Much loved by everyone who knew him, McDowell died in 1972,

 

April 16-18, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Petrus (Tuesday-Thursday)
Petrus was based in El Granada, near Half Moon Bay, of all places, on the opposite side of the hill from San Mateo. The Poppycock was certainly the nearest rock club to Half Moon Bay. Petrus' lead guitarist was Peter Kaukonen, Jorma's brother. Peter had been Jorma's first choice as electric bassist for the Jefferson Airplane back in October '65, but Peter had had to stay in Stanford to avoid the draft, so the bass chair had gone to Jack Casady instead.

More intriguingly, the lead singer and principal songwriter of Petrus was Ruthann Friedman. Friedman was an interesting Los Angeles songwriter, best known for writing "Windy," which hit #1 for The Association in July 1967 (when you hear it, you'll realize that everyone knows it's "Windy").

Friedman (b.1944), from the Bronx, had moved to Southern California as a young teenager. She had fallen in with the young folk crowd, playing guitar and singing. After 1964, she bounced around a bit, first to Denver and then to San Francisco in 1966, where she became friendly with the San Francisco bands.
“Tandyn asked me if I’d like to come in and sing on a Goodyear tire commercial. It was a parody of Nancy Sinatra’s hit, (sings "These tires are made for walking"). Soon after Tandyn asked Ruthann to sing on a new song he wrote with John Walsh called “Little Girl Lost–and–Found.” “I fell in love with that song. Tom Shipley [of Brewer & Shipley] and I sang the vocal parts. It was Tandyn and Larry Marks’ studio project. Why they didn’t release it under my name I could never understand. That could’ve been my entrĂ©e.”

“Little Girl” was issued by A&M in April 1967 under the moniker The Garden Club and the single was a regional success, especially in Los Angeles where it received a significant amount of airplay. As a result, Ruthann was asked to form a live “Garden Club” to help promote the record. Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane) suggested his brother Peter for the “Club.” As a result, Ruthann and Peter became fast lovers, traveled up and down the coast, and formed a band called Petrus.

Concurrent to this activity, Ruthann received a call from Association member Jim Yester’s wife, Jo-Ellen, inquiring if she had any songs suitable for them to record. Ruthann suggested a new tune she had written while living in a single underneath David Crosby’s house on Beverly Glen. “It only took me 20 minutes to write, and I wrote it as an escape."

“Windy” went to Number One in July 1967, staying there for four weeks, and reached Number 3 on Billboard’s Top 100 Songs of 1967.
The Palo Alto Times reviewed Petrus on April 17, 1968 (reproduced on Ruthann Friedman's now-incactive website). This itself was rare: the conservative Times generally paid no attention to rock music, and certainly not to the Poppycock. For some reason,however,  the Times reviewed the Wednesday night show at the club.
A Stanford Daily ad for Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Poppycock

April 19-20, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Creedence Clearwater Revival (Friday-Saturday)
At this time, Creedence Clearwater Revival had not yet released even a single (the relatively obscure "Porterville", released by The Golliwogs in November '67, did end up on their debut album). Their cover of "Suzie Q" would not be released until June. Still, they had played all over the Bay Area as The Golliwogs, and by late '67 as Creedence. Drummer Doug Clifford had family ties to Palo Alto.

Amazingly, Creedence Clearwater Revival was broadcast live on KZSU-fm. The ad above isn't precise, as it says "you heard them on radio, now dance to them in person." I suspect the Friday night show (April 19) was broadcast, and probably just an early set. It's possible that Creedence had already played at the Poppycock, perhaps on a weekday. In any case, the early Creedence broadcast is periodically alluded to, so it plainly happened. Sadly, I do not know of any surviving recording.

April 25-26, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: All Men Joy (Thursday-Friday)
All Men Joy was a San Francisco band managed by one of the operators of Haight Ashbury’s Straight Theatre. The band featured guitarist Roger Saunders, keyboardist Lu Stephens, bassist Dennis Parker and drummer Rod Harper. Harper had drummed in the first lineup of the Santana Blues Band in 1966-67. All Men Joy played many Bay Area gigs, but they never recorded. However, Saunders, Stephens and Parker went on to successful music careers. Parker went to play bass for the Don Ellis Orchestra, and is now a successful producer in Mexico (All Men Joy were not associated with Duane and Gregg Allman).

The gym at Foothill College in Los Altos, back in the early 1960s.

April 26, 1968 Gym, Foothill College, Los Altos, CA: Big Brother and The Holding Company
Foothill Junior College, just up the hill in Los Altos, only used its facilities for rock shows occasionally, but for this Friday night Big Brother and The Holding Company headlined the gym.

April 27, 1968 Frost Amphitheater, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA: Joan Baez (afternoon Benefit for Resistance)
Joan Baez wasn't a rock act, of course, but she crossed over to the rock audience. Baez had gone to Palo Alto High School until the 11th grade, when her father (a Stanford professor) had gone to Harvard. In High School, Baez had become notoriuos for refusing to participate in "duck and cover" anti-nuclear drills.

April 27, 1968: The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Fifty Foot Hose (Saturday)
On a Saturday night, The Poppycock featured a local band, the Fifty Foot Hose. The Fifty Foot Hose had been formed by bassist Corky Marcheschi, along with guitarist David Blossom and his vocalist wife Nancy (drummer Kim Kimsey and guitarist Larry Evans filled out the group). Marcheschi had played the El Camino Real circuit in a band called The Ethix, but Fifty Foot Hose was truly experimental, mixing rock with avant-garde composition and electronic sounds. Fifty Foot Hose put out an infamous album, Caudlron, in late 1967, on Limelight Records (a Mercury subsidiary). Even now, it's a weird album, and it was an infamous collector's album.

Fifty Foot Hose did not play many live shows, to my knowledge. It's a perfect touch that they played one in Palo Alto. As a great footnote, the engineer and producer of their very far-out album was one Dan Healy, who went on to produce the Grateful Dead's Anthem Of The Sun in 1968 (not to mention spending 20+ years with the band as a soundman). 

I really wonder how Fifty Foot Hose went down on stage. They are such a legendary mystery, it's remarkable to think of them actually playing live.

April 28, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Rejoice/Siddhartha (Sunday)
Rejoice was a South Bay band, mostly playing in the San Jose area. Siddhartha was presumably a local group as well.

April 29, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Jef Jaisun (Monday)
Jef Jaisun, a journalist and photographer as well as a musician, wasthe bassist for Phoenix, who had recently played the Poppycock. Jaisun also played solo. Jaisun wrote the song “Friendly Neighborhood Narco Agent,” andreleased it in 1969, destined to become a Bay Area radio classic as well as a Dr. Demento staple.

April 30-May 1, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Orion (Tuesday-Wednesday)

May 3-4, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Flamin' Groovies (Friday-Saturday)
The Flamin' Groovies were a San Francisco band that preferred the British Invasion sound of The Who to the typical Fillmore blues-jam.

May 10-11, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Petrus (Friday-Saturday)
Petrus returned, this time for a weekend stand, so the April booking must have gone well.

May 17-18, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Notes From The Underground (Friday-Saturday)
Notes From The Undeground were a Berkeley group whose sound fell between Country Joe and The Fish and The Loving Spoonful.  They featured Southern California high school friends Fred Sokolow and Mark Mandell on guitars and vocals, as well as an electric pianist (Jim Work) and a rhythm section (Mike O’Connor-bass and Peter Ostwald-drums).

Notes From The Underground was signed by Vanguard Records (who had hit it big with Country Joe and The Fish), and the band’s sole album was released around this time.


May 25, 1968  [venue], Foothill College, Los Altos, CA: United States of America
The United States of America were formed in New York in 1967 by Joseph Byrd, who had studied with legendary avant garde composer John Cage and was a contemporary of Yoko Ono, the United States of America membership comprised Byrd, Dorothy Moskowitz, Rand Forbes, Gordon Marron, Craig Woodson and, for the album and tour, Ed Bogas.

Byrd was an avant-garde composer, who had received an MA from Stanford in 1960. He went to New York, but returned to UCLA in 1963 (along with Dorothy Moskowitz) to enroll in the musicology doctororate program. Byrd worked with Don Ellis (see August 4 below) and others, pioneering "performance art." He soon realized that rock music was a path to a wider audience.

The band's album was released on Columbia in early 1968. It is now regarded as a sort of avant-garde classic, but the world wasn't ready for it. The band toured the East Coast, and then the Southwest. They may have broken up before they played the Foothill gig.

May 31, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Frumious Bandersnatch (Friday)
I am not certain of this date, but it seems pretty likely. Remarkably, for a college town, a live tape of Frumious Bandersnatch from KZSU-fm circulates from this date. It's possible that it's from 1969, but I find 1968 more likely. We know, for example, that KZSU was broadcasting Friday night shows from the Poppycock, since they had already done it with Creedence and Congress Of Wonders (see above).

Frumious Bandersnatch was based in Lafayette (Contra Costa County).  The group had formed in late 1967, featuring the best players of a number of Contra Costa teenage outfits.  The early lineup fell apart when most of its equipment was stolen from their Oakland rehearsal space in late 1967.  However, the group reconstituted itself in early 1968 and based itself at bassist Ross Valory’s parents ranch in Lafayette. The new lineup featured twin lead guitarists (David Denny and Jimmy Warner), a dynamic lead singer who also played guitar (Bobby Winkelmann) and a solid rhythm section (bassist Valory and drummer Jack King).

In the style of many Berkeley bands, Frumious Bandersnatch also recorded and released their own 3-song EP.  It did not sell many copies, but it served as an advertisement for the band (and became a significant collector’s item over the years).  The EP was recorded in Berkeley in April and May of 68 and released soon after. For the balance of the year, Frumious was picked up by Bill Graham’s Millard Agency and received numerous bookings, where their free flowing guitars were well received in concert.  However, due to management and other issues, the band passed on some record company offers and despite their local popularity, the EP was the only official release of the group.   

Frumious Bandersnatch’s component parts were far more successful than the original group. Most of the 1968 lineup ended up in the Steve Miller Band at various times in the next decade (Winkelmann, King, Valory and Denny). More importantly, bassist Ross Valory and guitarist George Tickner (who had been in the 1967 version) founded Journey, who sold millions of records in the 1970s and 80s, and the Journey empire was run by Frumious’s road manager and van driver Walter ‘Herbie’ Herbert. In 1996 Big Beat Records released a fine Frumious Bandersnatch cd called A Young Man’s Song, featuring a collection of studio and demo recordings from all lineups of the group.

June 3-5, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Auditions for “Ten Nights In A Barroom” (Monday-Wednesday)
The Poppycock tried something different for the Summer of '68, perhaps anticipating a drop in business caused by the lack of Stanford students. The club put on some event called "Ten Nights In A Barroom" in July (see below) These weeknights in June were auditions. I'm not sure whether it was a play, a musical, or some kind of a performance troupe. I believe it was some kind of musical based on a slient movie, with skits and songs woven into it. The show was produced by The Mellerdrammers Associates.
          
June 6, 1968 Gym, Palo Alto High School, Palo Alto, CA: Cold Blood
I am told by Paly '68 Grads that Cold Blood played the Graduation Dance. Cold Blood had evolved out of a Peninsula band called The New Invaders. Lead singer Lydia Pense (Woodside High School) and lead guitarist Larry Field were both from Redwood City. According to Facebook commenters, Cold Blood also played the 1968 Menlo-Atherton graduation dance.

June 6, 1968 Fiesta Lanes Bowling Alley, Palo Alto, CA: People!/The Jaguars
According to the Catamount of May 31, 1968, the Cubberley Grad Night party was at the Fiesta Lanes Bowling Alley, and featured People! and The Jaguars, both popular South Bay bands.

I do not know who performed at Gunn's '68 Grad night party.

June 13, 1968 [venue], Stanford U, Palo Alto, CA: United States of America
The band United States Of America may have broken up prior to this Thursday show (see May 25 above). Bandleader Joseph Byrd had received a Masters Degree from Stanford in 1960.

June 21-22, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Dandelion Wine (Friday-Saturday)
Dandelion Wine were a Contra Costa County band. Formerly, the Strawberry Window, Dandelion Wine would release an EP in 1968. Guitarist Jack Eskridge remains a professional musician in the Bay Area to this day.

June 23, 1968 El Camino Park, Palo Alto, CA: Charley Musselwhite/Sons of Champlin/Notes From The Underground MPFU Be-In
This show was a free ‘Be-In”,  sponsored by the Midpeninsula Free University, a South Bay locus for various forms of consciousness expansion. The MPFU featured storefront classes taught by academics and others on subjects considered more relevant than current academic fare at Stanford and elsewhere. Classes could be on anything from Marxist economics to basket-weaving. The “Free U” published an underground newspaper out of The Poppycock building, edited by Ed McClanahan (see above), and classes and activities tended to be located in Downtown Palo Alto and nearby Menlo Park. El Camino Park was just about the exact midpoint between University Avenue and Menlo Park’s Santa Cruz Avenue.

In 1967, the MPFU had put on three Be-Ins in El Camino Park. The first (May 14) only featured local bands, but the second one (July 2) was an epic Palo Alto event headlined by The Grateful Dead, returning home to conquer. The third one (October 1) had been headlined by the up-and-coming Steve Miller Band. Many cities and college towns had tried out Be-Ins in the Spring of '67, but Palo Alto was still putting them on. In the end, Palo Alto put on five free concerts in 1967 and '68, in the biggest city park, a rarity for all but the biggest cities.

One change from 1967, however, was that thanks to The Poppycock, there was now a paying rock gig in downtown Palo Alto. Charlie Musselwhite, The Sons and Notes From The Underground had or would play the Poppycock. With a few thousand people coming to the Be-In (probably not all at the same time), if only a small percentage took a liking to a band, it could make a big difference at a club date. So, similar to Golden Gate Park and downtown Berkeley, there were now commercial considerations for bands playing free Palo Alto Be-Ins.

It was a warm, sunny day, and the place was packed. My cousin, then 14 years old, visiting from dreary suburban New Jersey, walked from my parents' house to El Camino Park, to a magical land of free music, bright sunshine and pretty hippie girls, and decided right then he would be heading to Northern California at the first opportunity (which as it happened was 4 years later). Such was the clarion call of the West in the 60s.

June 28-29, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Pure Funk (Friday-Saturday)
Pure Funk seems to have graduated from weeknights to the weekend.

June 30, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Roscoe Mitchell Trio (Sunday)
Palo Alto wasn't really a jazz town, but there weren't any real jazz venues, either. I'm pretty sure the Poppycock regularly had jazz on Sundays, whether in the afternoon or evening. Saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell was a founding member of the Art Ensemble Of Chicago, and he played some seriously avant-garde stuff. Certainly there was no jazz venue in Palo Alto for that kind of far-out music, so the Poppycock took the booking.

>Summer 68 Lytton Plaza, Palo Alto, CA: Free Concerts
 Lytton Plaza was a paved park, with benches and trees, on the corner of University and Emerson Street (at 202 Emerson). Local banker Bart Lytton, founder of Lytton Savings Bank, built the park in 1964 on the former site of The American Savings and Trust Building, which was across the street from the bank’s headquarters. Although downtown and unfenced, the little park was actually on private property. In the summer of 1968, the MidPeninsula Free University took advantage of the private status and held some rallies and impromptu concerts at the park.

Since the park was private property, the police were not legally able to intervene, since trespassing laws did not apply in the absence of fences. It is a credit to Palo Alto’s tolerance that even though downtown merchants (and many residents) objected to the concerts, the police followed the letter of the law and allowed the miniature Be-Ins to take place. Local high school bands seemed to have provided the music. I'm pretty sure that Palo Alto High School student Cory Lerios, later the pianist in Stoneground and a founding member of Pablo Cruise, was in one of those bands (I think it was called Hydraulic Banana).

By the summer of 1968, sleepy downtown Palo Alto had something happening. University Avenue had a bunch of "head shops" and hip boutiques, and the High School kids were having their free concerts at Lytton Plaza. Come nighttime, young adults from all over the Peninsula would come to The Poppycock. Even without actual bars, there were enough beer joints to make University Avenue a sort of hippie hangout, as alluded to by Ed McClanahan (above). Middle class Palo Alto parents were liberal and tolerant, but they much preferred a sleepy downtown to a noisy one. In the Summer of '68, however, there wasn't much they could do about it.

Throughout the Summer of 1968, Stanford University used Frost Ampitheatre for dance, classical music and jazz events, since they represented "Culture (Stanford Daily May 26 '68)

July 5-6, 1968 Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA: Ravi Shankar’s Festival From India
Ravi Shankar wasn’t rock, of course, but his audience crossed over with the rock crowd. The Friday and Saturday shows culminated a week of performances and workshops about Indian culture. A Festival celebrating Indian culture and music was much more Stanford’s style than a big rock blowout. The Shankar show was part of a Frost series (above) throughout the summer that included dance, theater, jazz and classical music.

July 19-20, August 2-3 and 16-17, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA “Ten Nights In A Barroom”
Auditions for this show had been held in June. I believe "Ten Nights In A Barroom" was a sort of revue based on a movie, with skits and songs worked into the plot. I have never seen a review, so I have no idea what transpired and how well or poorly the event was received.
     


Stanford's big 1968 rock event on July 28 was headlined by the Chambers Brothers, on top of a bunch of local bands

July 28, 1968 Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford U., Palo Alto  Chambers Brothers/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons of Champlin/Creedence Clearwater Revival/Santana Blues Band/Morning Glory  “Stanford Summer Rock”
Stanford University continued to limit the number of rock shows on campus. This show was held on a Sunday afternoon when college was not in session.



Stanford had avoided big rock shows at Frost, and even smaller rock shows on campus, since 1966. For whatever reasons, the University was now amenable to an outdoor summer event. The July 19 Stanford Daily had a display ad for "Student Police Needed for Folk-Rock Festival at Frost." $1.50/hr for, apparently seven hours of work, was actual money in 1968.

The cover of the 1969 Chambers Brothers lp Shout! (on Vault), recorded in 1967. The cover photo, however, was taken at Frost Amphitheatre on July 28, 1968. On the side, Carlos Santana, blue shirt, back row, 6-r.
Modern readers may think the order of the billing (from the poster) is inverted. In fact, the Chambers Brothers were Fillmore headliners with a successful hit single “Time” (with the memorable chorus “The time has come today”). The Chambers Brothers were popular enough in 1968 that other record companies released crummy old tapes of theirs in order to cash in. Vault Records released a 1967 live Chambers Brothers tape as Shout!, with front and back covers taken at the Frost concert (above and below). It's an inferior, terrible record, by the way--and I like the Chambers Brothers--but the cover is fun if you're from Palo Alto.

The back cover of the 1969 Chambers Brothers Vault Records album Shout!, recorded in 1967, but with pictures from the July 1968 Frost show. Note the tiny backline.
Quicksilver had always been locally popular, their first album on Capitol had only been out for a few months. The Sons of Champlin did have a local following, but were still several months away from recording their first album (also on Capitol), which would not be released until the Spring of 1969. Morning Glory was a Marin band (see September 6-8, below), but I have never been able to determine if they played. Gympsum Heats is also unknown to me, nor have I been able to determine if they played.

Creedence Clearwater Revival, while performing together as a unit for several years, mostly as The Golliwogs, had only recently become a full-time group because John Fogerty had completed his duties in the US Army Reserve. Their debut album on Fantasy had probably just been released. Possibly their first single “Suzie Q” was getting play on AM radio at this time, as it did become a local hit. Creedence had played The Poppycock (see April 19-20 above), and they had been broadcast on KZSU, but they were still just up-and-coming. As it happened, Quicksilver Messenger Service was late, so they came on last, after the Chambers Brothers.



The July 19, 1968 Stanford Daily reports that the Satan Blues Band will open at Frost
As for Santana, they were still called the Santana Blues Band at this time. Organist and singer Gregg Rolie was from Palo Alto, Cubberely High School class of '65. Rolie had been in a popular South Bay band, William Penn And His Pals, who were a local knock-off of then-popular Paul Revere And The Raiders. Rolie, presciently, had quit the popular band to move to the city and play the blues with a young guitarist from the Mission. The Santana Blues Band had a following around San Francisco, but were unknown in the South Bay. For a Palo Altan like Rolie, it must have been a kick to play Stanford's huge amphitheatre. In the Stanford Daily (July 19, above), the group was called the Satan Blues Band.

On the cover of the Chambers Brothers lp, amongst the crowd watching from stage left, Carlos Santana is clearly visible in a blue shirt (back row, 6th from the right), just another hippie checking out the hit band. Three summers later, when Bill Graham closed the Fillmore West, Santana, Quicksilver and Creedence all headlined, and the Sons played as well, and all were broadcast live on FM radio. No wonder this 1968 Frost show looms so large in Palo Alto memory.



The very far-out 21-piece Don Ellis Orchestra played Sunday evening (5pm), August 4, 1968 at Frost Amphitheatre in Stanford. Al Kooper recorded it for the Ellis album Autumn (Stanford Daily Aug 2 '68).

August 4 1968,  Frost Amphiteheatre, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA:  Don Ellis Orchestra
Don Ellis was a unique, only-in-LA big band. Ellis, a well-known trumpeter in New York in the 50s and early 60s, had gone to UCLA for a Masters Degree. He studied Indian music, and his Orchestra attempted to--brace yourself--play big band music with Indian rhythms, while using electronic rock amplification. Typically, there would be 15 to 22 band members, including 3 drummers and a gigantic horn section, with electric pianos and guitars in the rhythm section. The compositions would be in crazy times, like 7/4 or 19/8. Only the best of the best could play in the Don Ellis Orcestra.

Who would play in such a band, and how could the group every make a dime? The Don Ellis Orchestra never made more than expenses, if that, but it didn't matter. The Orchestra typically played Monday nights in Los Angeles, and all the heavy Hollywood session guys were in the band. After a week of recording lucrative sesssions, tootling simple figures for Disney movies or pop singles, these guys had to prove their jazz cred. Jamming out in 19/8 with the cream of the studio scene showed definitively that you were a Playa. Since the entire band made real money playing session dates, performing was a matter of pride, not money.

The Don Ellis Orchestra did play the occasional weekend dates in San Francisco, including Fillmore West. The group was such a rhythm monster that they went over well in rock settings. For this date, they headlined a jazz day for Stanford's Summer Festival Of The Arts. The Amphitheatre's stage was so big that it could have accomodated the Orchestra easily, not always true in some venues. Columbia sent staff producer Al Kooper along, and the show was recorded. Two tracks from Frost were released on the late '68 Don Ellis album Autumn (the tracks were "Indian Lady" and "KC Blues"). To my knowledge, the Autumn tracks are the only officially released live recordings from 20th century Stanford performances.


August 9, 1968 Stanford Daily

August 1968 The Tangent, Palo Alto, CA: The Fourth Hour
The first steady music venue in Palo Alto had been the Top Of The Tangent, on top of the Tangent pizza parlor, just two doors down from the Poppycock at 117 University. The Tangent was still open. By Summer '68, things were starting to happen in downtown Palo Alto, much to the dismay of the local residents. There were still no bars, but there were college beer joints near the Poppycock, such as the Red Lion (at Hamilton and Alma) and the MJB Ranch Room (on Ramona near University).

The Tangent had slowly re-invented itself into a nightime hangout with beer, food and music. As we can see from the ad in the August 9, 1968 Stanford Daily, there was music almost every night, and an impprovisational troupe (The Illegimate Theater) on weekends. During the week, the music was folk, blues or classical guitar, but a rock band played on weekend evenings. It was a house band, The Fourth Hour, about which I know nothing. What with  music at both the Poppycock and the Tangent, and other places to drink and hang out, downtown Palo Alto became a sort of hippie destination on the Peninsula. Palo Alto was pretty tolerant, and most of the middle-class people shopped at Stanford Shopping Center, not downtown. The high school students would protest at Lytton Plaza, and older hippies would come from surrounding towns. This wasn't really what Palo Alto wanted, but it was what they had.

September 6-8, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Morning Glory (Thursday-Saturday)
There is no reason to presume that The Poppycock had changed its booking policy in the summer months, but for some reason the listings pick up again in the Berkeley Barb.

The Morning Glory were a Mill Valley band who sounded a bit like the Jefferson Airplane, with male and female vocalists (or, as it was known at the time, a “chick singer”). The band had released an album on Fontana. Thanks to the rise of underground “free form” fm rock radio, first at KMPX and after April 1968 at KSAN-fm, people outside of San Francisco could hear the latest sounds, and rock had become a bigger and bigger business. By this time, groups like Morning Glory, newly signed or perhaps with an album under their belt, worked a local circuit of rock clubs, including The Poppycock, The Matrix in San Francisco and The New Orleans House in Berkeley, and on occasion they would open at the Fillmore West. As a result, many of the bands who played the Poppycock were from the Bay Area, but not necessarily local to Palo Alto.
        

September 13-15, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Stonehenge (Thursday-Saturday)
Stonehenge may have been a band from Fairfield (in Solano County) called Maze, who released an album called Stonehenge in 1969. On the other hand, Stonehenge is a pretty obvious 60s band name, so they may have been another group entirely. 


September 17-19, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Notes From The Underground (Tuesday-Thursday)
Notes From Underground, who had released an album and headlined a weekend at the Poppycock (May 17-19 above), returned for a midweek booking. I don't what to read into this, but it wouldn't have been the sign of a growing band.

September 20, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Sky Blue (Friday)
Sky Blue was a popular Berkeley band (they lived on Warring Street) featuring guitarist Vic Smith and singer Anna Rizzo, who would go on to lead an early 70s band called Grootna.


A September 20, 1968 ad for a nightime rock concert at Frost on September 24, headlined by The Youngbloods. This is the only nighttime rock concert in Frost in the 20th century that I am aware of.

September 24, 1968  Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA: The Youngbloods/Sundown Collection
A few days after the Fall Quarter began, The Youngbloods headlined a night-time concert at Frost Amphitheatre. Now, the Youngbloods were a popular band in San Francisco ballroom (see January 11 above), but they probably drew a thousand fans when they headlined the Avalon. Frost held 6,900, so it must have seemed very spread out and relaxed. I'm not certain why this event was on a Tuesday night, nor have I ever heard of the opening act, the Sundown Collection. The show was not reviewed in the Stanford Daily, so I don't know what it was like.

Given the 8:00pm start time, and given that it was September, the show had to be under lights. Not only was this the first rock concert at Frost held at night, it may have been the last. I'm not aware of a Frost rock concert at night in the balance of the 20th century. If there was one--if there has ever been one, even in this century--it was a long, long time after 1968.

September 24-30, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: David Blue (Tuesday-Monday)
David Blue (1941-82) had been an early 60s Greenwich Village folksinger, part of the crowd of young songwriters who hung out with Bob Dylan in those days. As a result, despite his talent, Blue’s career has always been overshadowed by the Dylan connection. Blue had released an album for Elektra in 1966, then recorded a more rock styled album that was never released, after which he switched to Reprise. In 1968 he recorded his first album for Reprise, These 23 Days In September. He was probably touring in support of that album. It is likely he was a solo performer, but it is at least possible that he was touring with rock band backing.

Although Blue never achieved significant success as a performer, quite a few of his songs were recorded by other artists. He is most well known for the Eagles cover of his song “Outlaw Man.”

I have not found any Poppycock listings for October, 1968, but there is no reason to assume there was a change in booking policies.
An ad from the September 27, 1968 Stanford Daily for a dance at TMU Deck, featuring a local band, the Fritz Rabyne Memorial Band (with Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks)

September 27, 1968 TMU Deck, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA: Fritz Rabyne Memorial Band
Another rare public use of the TMU Deck, in this case a dance featuring a local band. Admission was 75 cents, but only 25 cents for girls. Tellingly, the dance only featured a local band, rather than a Fillmore band with an album, as had been the case a few years ago.

Fritz Rabyne Memorial Band had formed in 1966 at nearby Menlo-Atherton High School. Fritz Rabyne had been a German exchange student, hence the joke about his "memorial" (he had returned to Germany alive). By 1968, the band had changed members somehat, and included Lindsay Buckingham on guitar and his girlfriend Stephanie (Stevie) Nicks on vocals.

A poster for the MPFU ("Free You") Be-In at El Camino Park, September 29, 1968. The event took place, but most of the bands on the poster (and all the known ones) did not actually play

September 29, 1968 El Camino Park, Palo Alto, CA: Quicksilver Messenger Service/ Youngbloods/Ace Of Cups/Freedom Highway/Cold Blood/Flaming Groovies/Frumious Bandersnatch (revised)
The MPFU had scheduled yet another free concert at El Camino Park, pretty uncommon for a small college town. A poster (above) circulates, and I have included this listing here for clarity. In fact, the lineup was completely revised (see below).   

Steve Miller leading his stripped-down band at the MPFU Be-In at El Camino Park in Palo Alto on September 29, 1968 (photo c. Michael Parrish)

September 29, 1968 El Camino Park, Palo Alto, CA: Steve Miller Band/Frumious Bandersnatch/ Phoenix/Freedom Highway Free You Be-In
While cities like New York and San Francisco continued to have "Be-Ins" and free concerts in city parks, most college towns and smaller cities actively discouraged them after mid-1967. Palo Alto, as always, heard the beat of other drummers, and continued to put on free concerts. Initially, Quicksilver and the Youngbloods had been scheduled for this event, but they were replaced by the Steve Miller Band. Once again, this was an MPFU ("Free You") event. The Steve Miller Band had headlined an MPFU Be-In just a year earlier (October 1, 1967). Boz Scaggs (and organist Jim Peterman) were still in the band, but the Miller Band was just a trio for this event (Miller with Lonnie Turner on bass and Tim Davis on drums). An eyewitness reports, however, that Miller's set was greatly enlivened by a guest appearance from Carlos Santana.

Cubberley High School student Michael Parrish, a scholar of both the Grateful Dead and dinosaurs, attended the concert and described the scene (for Prof Parrish's complete write-up, along with tremendous photos, see his blog post here):
I somehow convinced my folks to let me ride my bike to the Be-In held on September 29, 1968. This time, undeterred by uncomfortable family members, I stayed pretty much the whole day and, camera in hand, got to document a very memorable day of music. The event was nonetheless somewhat of a culture shock for me. I think it was the first time I saw such widespread consumption of pot and even alcohol, and there were also a few audience members letting their freak flags fly, so to speak. Paradoxically, it was also quite a family event, as demonstrated by the many young children hanging out on and near the stage. I guess I approached all of this with the eye of a cultural anthropologist and focused on the music. For this show, the stage was set up at the north end of the field, and you can see from the photos that the P.A. and onstage sound reinforcement was very primitive relative to what you see at a typical rock show today.
Supporting the Steve Miller Band were Frumious Bandersnatch, Phoenix and Freedom Highway. Once again, a changing dymanic of Palo Alto Be-Ins was that the support bands had a genuine incentive to put on a good show, since it would improve their response at the Poppycock. This sort of implicit promotion was common in, say, San Francisco or Berkely, but it was less typical in a small college town. Frumious Bandersnatch, Phoenix and Freedom Highway had all played the Poppycock already, and would play there again, so a good showing at El Camino Park could only help them.

For Frumious Bandersnatch, this El Camino Park gig was important because it was where they all met Steve Miller. Four of the five members of Frumious (bassist Ross Valory, drummer John King and guitarists Bobby Winkelmann and David Denny) would end up in the Steve Miller Band over the ensuing years (David Denny still does archival studio work for Miller to this day).

Phoenix at El Camino Park in Palo Alto, Septembr 29, 1968. L-R: Ed Levin (dr), Jef Jaisun (bs) and Stan Muther (gtr). Photo c. Michael Parrish
As for Phoenix, guitarist Stan Muther and drummer Ed Levin had been in a Palo Alto band called The Vipers, and both had attended the Palo Alto Acid Test on December 18, 1965. They had played the Poppycock before, but a free concert just a few blocks from their old band house on High Street had to be memorable.

After this concert, there were substantial noise complaints from the relatively new high-rise apartment building across the street from El Camino Park (still there at 101 Alma Street, albeit now a condominium). I don't doubt the noise complaints were sincere, but the City of Palo Alto seemed comfortable enough using the complaints as an excuse to stop offering permits for free concerts at El Camino Park. The next year, the city provided a distant, unsuitable site (at the Baylands), and ultimately Free You events were moved to Frost Amphitheatre, and they stopped being free. There were occasional (paid) rock concerts in the 1970s at El Camino Park, but the city was generally resistant to any use as a concert venue.



A clip from the TeenAge section of the Oakland Tribune of September 7, 1968, announces the forthcoming two-day San Franciso International Pop Festival at Searsville Lake, near the Stanford campus. It was to be a 2-day event on October 5-6, headlined by Traffic, Country Joe and The Fish. Blue Cheer and the Steve Miller Band

October 5-6, 1968 San Francisco International Pop Festival, Searsville Lake, Palo Alto, CA:
Traffic/Iron Butterfly/Blue Cheer/Country Joe and The Fish/Steve Miller Band

In 1968, the rock music business was at a critical crossroads, going from local entertainment to big business. This divide was particularly acute in big cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Palo Alto, as a hip satellite of San Francisco, was feeling the pressure. Free concerts in the park had gotten bigger and bigger, and the local rock nightclub was drawing out-of-town bands. University Avenue, the main downtown street, had become a sort of hippie hangout on weekends.

One of the crucial dynamics of the late 60s rock concert business was the rise of festivals. Rock festivals, with seemingly unlimited attendance, appeared to offer a chance to cash in on the young audience in a big way. 1968 was full of stories of exciting rock festivals of different types, often incredibly fun and very often financial debacles. Palo Alto came oh-so-close to having a rock festival debacle of its own, but I'm the only person who ever seems to have noticed.    

A brief but intriguing listing in the September 7, 1968 ‘Teen Age’ section of the Oakland Tribune (above) indicates plans for a San Francisco Pop Festival at Searsville Lake. Searsville Lake was near Palo Alto, on Stanford land, though several miles West of the University campus. The Festival would have featured Traffic, Iron Butterfly, Blue Cheer, Country Joe and The Fish and the Steve Miller Band. Needless to say, this event didn’t happen.

A San Francisco Pop Festival was indeed held in October (on the 27th and 28th), but the venue was the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, and none of the above named groups were present (Johnny Rivers, Eric Burdon, Canned Heat and Procol Harum were among the acts).

I would have been 10 years old, and although I would not have been interested in the event at the time, it would have been a big event in Palo Alto. I recall Searsville Lake quite clearly, and I doubt it could have taken on a big rock festival. The lake had been formed by the damming of San Francisquito Creek in 1889, inundating the little town of Searsville. Stanford University had taken over the dam and the land in 1919, promptly leasing the area to a series of recreational operators. The little lake was a pleasant swimming area with a little beach and hiking trails. While the operators were presumably free to run their business, Stanford had been suspicious of rock shows since 1966 and must have had ways to block the event.

Searsville Lake had been a regular site of Stanford Fraternity parties, and an early 60s Palo Alto band called The Zodiacs had played them regularly, sometimes with stand-in bassist Jerry Garcia. Bill Kreutzmann’s group The Legends probably played there as well.

Searsville Lake is now part of the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. Searsville Dam had never worked properly, and Searsville Lake had silted up significantly throughout its existence, and will eventually disappear. Stanford bought out Searsville Lake in 1976, closing the recreational area and making it part of the preserve.

An article in the September 28, 1968 Billboard Magazine sheds more light on the matter. The promoters were Bill Quarry (of "Teens and Twenties") and Ron Roupe (manager of the Chocolate Watch Band), promoters in the East and South Bay respectively. According to Billboard, they had a signed contract, and agreements for police and fire support, and had already sold 2000 tickets (for $5, big money at the time), when Stanford University unilaterally canceled the show.

A September 27, 1968 ad in the Stanford Daily for Cream at the Oakland Coliseum on October 4 shows Traffic as the opening act. In fact, Traffic was replaced by Delaney& Bonnie, but the booking fit with the plan for Traffic to play Palo Alto on October 5

According to Billboard, permission for the event was withdrawn when, reportedly, University officials objected to getting involved in the type of problems caused by this type of event. The article goes on to explain that the show was rescheduled with different acts for later in October, which was the event held in Pleasonton.

Had the San Francisco International Pop Festival occurred, it would have drawn a huge crowd. It would have been a disaster--Palo Alto roads, particularly around Searsville Lake, would not have been able to handle the heavy traffic. Palo Alto and Stanford would have put a sharp end to any flexibility about rock concerts. Frost Amphitheatre was only used intermittently throughout the 70s, but at least Stanford would consider it. If there had been a disastrous festival at Searsville Lake, it would.not have gone well (as well as no doubt being an ecological disaster for the relatively fragile Jasper Ridge).

On the other hand, Traffic would have played my town.

October 12, 1968 Memorial Auditorium, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA: Pete Seeger
Pete Seeger was a folk act, but his fans still crossed over with the rock crowd. Probably more faculty and local adult residents were fans of Seeger than 1968 undergraduates. Seeger had become a big star in the 1950s, as a member of The Weavers, who had pulled off the rare double of being both successful entertatiners and avowedly left wing (a fascinating story detailed in Jesse Jarnow's 2018 book Wasn't That A Time). Stanford undergraduates had probably heard Weavers songs growing up.

Memorial Auditorium, known for generations as “MemAud,” was Stanford’s biggest indoor hall. It seated 1700 and had been built in 1937. It was mainly used for speakers and films.

October 27, 1968 Auditorium, Palo Alto High School, Palo Alto, CA: Thelonius Monk Quartet
The unlikely concert came about due to the precocious machinations of Danny Scher, who was taking his first steps toward his future role as rock impresario Bill Graham’s right-hand man.

“Jazz was my thing, but I wasn’t old enough to get into the Jazz Workshop,” says Scher, referring to the storied North Beach jazz club where Monk’s quartet performed regularly through the ’60s. “I was in the International Club at Palo Alto High, and we wanted to do a fundraiser for it.”

So Scher contacted Monk’s manager and arranged for the pianist’s quartet to headline a triple bill at the Paly High Auditorium on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 27, 1968, while the band was in the midst of a run at the Jazz Workshop. Tickets were $2.

Featuring tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, bassist Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley, all of whom are now deceased, Monk’s band was a formidable unit that was well documented over four years of steady work. But no previous live album rendered the quartet swinging with such joyous power.
I went to school with Danny Scher's younger brother. I met Danny once or twice, and he was an extremely nice guy. I believe he went to Stanford, where he helped promote concerts in the early 70s, and then ended up playing a big part in the Bill Graham organization, so there's no doubt Danny was a key Palo Alto rock and roll player.

Impressive as it was for a high school senior on his own initiative to get a jazz legend to play a concert at his school, the Palo Alto part is getting the tape, preserving it for 51 years, and then releasing it, so everyone can know how cool it actually was. That's how Palo Alto rolls.

November 1-2, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Charlie Musselwhite (Friday-Saturday)

November 8-10, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: The Crabs (Friday-Sunday)
The Crabs were a Berkeley band, who played what would now be called "Roots Rock."

November 15, 1968 Memorial Auditorium, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA: Billy Roberts/Jesse Fuller/Lamb
This was an odd booking, in many ways. It was presented by the ASSU (Stanford Student group). While Billy Roberts (“Hey Joe”) and Jesse Fuller (“San Francisco Bay Blues”) were solo acts, and Lamb was a songwriting duo. Within a few years, Lamb would go full electric and sign with Bill Graham, so they played the closing of the Fillmore West. At this time, however, Lamb was probably just the duo of singer Barbara Mauritz and guitarist Bob Swasnson. I wonder how many tickets were sold for this show?

November 15-16, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: All Men Joy (Friday-Saturday)
All Men Joy returned for another weekend (see April 25-26). 

November 28-29, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Morning Glory (Friday-Saturday)
Morning Glory returned for another weekend 9see September 6-8).

Based on a remark by Sons road manager Charlie Kelly about returning from a gig in Palo Alto to catch the final Big Brother show at the Avalon, the Sons seem to have played there on December 1. It seems unlikely the Sons played the Poppycock on a Sunday night (they wouldn't have made the Avalon that night, in any case), so perhaps there was some Stanford campus gig.

December 7-8, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Loading Zone (Saturday-Sunday)
By late 1968, the Bay Area rock market had expanded considerably beyond Filmore West and the Avalon. Thanks to FM rock radio, initially KMPX and then KSAN, underground "psychedelic" rock music reached far beyond the Haight-Ashbury and Telegraph Avenue, deep into the Bay Area suburbs. A couple of local booking agencies, Millard (associated with Bill Graham) and West-Pole (aligned with Quicksilver Messenger Service), focused on booking Fillmore-type bands in the suburbs and junior colleges around the Bay Area.

At the same time, there was a circuit of rock clubs hosting bands playing original music: The Matrix in San Francisco, the New Orleans House and Mandrake's in Berkeley, the Inn Of The Beginning in Cotati and The Poppycock. The booking agencies could play bands around these clubs and have them open for the likes of the Dead and Quicksilver out in the suburbs, or sometimes at Fillmore West. Bands playing oriignal music could actually scrape out a living playing their own music.

The record companies were prowling around, too. All the big Fillmore acts had been signed by 1967, but rock turned out to be big, big business. The companies were starting to sign any San Francisco band with long hair, even if they were currently second-tier bands. More and more, the bands headlining weekends at the Poppycock had record contracts, if not an actual album in the stores.

Loading Zone, for example, had been aound since 1966. The Zone had pioneered mixing soul music with psychedelic guitar solos. While not a major band, they had shown that ballroom audiences liked that sort of thing, and the Loading Zone kicked open the door that Sly and The Family Stone and later Towere of Power would walk through. By the end of '68, the Zone had released their debut album on RCA. Unfortunately, their dynamic lead singer Linda Tillery would jump ship the next year to go solo on Columbia, a sign of how hot the record market was for SF acts.

December 13-15, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Sons Of Champlin  (Friday-Sunday)
The Sons Of Champlin had played around the Bay Area constantly, and by the end of 1968, they had built up a pretty good live audience. They, too, had a record contract, and their album would come out in May 1969.

December 16-18, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: AB Skhy (Monday-Wednesday)
AB Skhy had been a trio from Wisconsin called The New Blues, who had moved to the Bay Area in mid-1968. In the Bay Area, they hooked up with organist Howard Wales, from Cincinatti via El Paso. The progressive, unique Wales gave the New Blues a singular sound. I don't know the significance of changing their name to AB Skhy. At this time, AB Skhy would have been a pretty new band, so they were playing the weeknight slot at The Poppyock.

December 20, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Dancing, Food and Entertainment/Terry Dolan (Friday)
Dancing, Food and Entertainment was linked to the Millard Agency. The band was fronted by Naomi Ruth Eisenberg, later better known as an original Hot Lick (from Dan Hicks And), and bassist Tom Glass. Glass, an original hipster if there ever was one, hadd moved to the Bay Area in about 1959, playing bass in jazz and bluegrass bands and poster art on the side (his nom du poster was Ned Lamont).

Terry Dolan was a folksinger from the Washington, DC area. He had just moved to San Francisco, and would become known as a solo artist a few years later.

135 University Avenue (at High Street), in Palo Alto, the site of The Poppycock, in 2006

Psychedelic Rock in Palo Alto: 1968
In 1967, Palo Alto had been a West Coast college town, more tolerant than most, and with more of a psychedelic pedigree. There had been a few free concerts in the city park, and a little rock club in the sleepy downtown.

By 1968, the free concerts in El Camino Park were getting too big. The proximity to San Francsico and the Fillmore meant that there was a huge supply of rock bands to play at the Poppycock. Downtown Palo Alto was turning into a weekend hangout for Peninsula hippies, despite or possibly because there were no actual bars. Stanford University had cautiously introduced rock concerts to Frost Amphitheatre, but definitively rejected a rock festival on the campus. Palo Alto, being Palo Alto, was still near the center of things, but both the city and the University had shied away from the vortex. Live rock music was bigger than ever, and Palo Alto still had a part to play in 1969.


4 comments:

  1. one item of note here, and in the other PA posts, is how many bands played around the ballrooms in SF and the clubs in PA - all within weeks of each other.

    I-) ihor

    ReplyDelete
  2. April 25-26, 1968: You says "and drummer Rod Harper. Harper had drummed in the first lineup of the Santana Blues Band in 1966-67."

    Actually Rod Harper and Carlos Santana in 1966 played together in the Mocker Manor Blues Band, and then in 1967 in Santana Blues Band (this band didn't exist in 66)

    ReplyDelete
  3. May 31, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Frumious Bandersnatch

    Actually May 30-31, 1968 and Beggars Opera were also on the bill

    ReplyDelete
  4. December 13-15, 1968 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Sons Of Champlin

    A.B. Skhy also on the bill on December 15

    ReplyDelete