|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)|
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).
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|
|Ralph Gleason's Friday column in the SF Chronicle noted Sons of Champlin at the Poppycock on January 5-6, 1968 (Friday and Saturday)|
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)|
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
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|
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.
|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.
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.
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|
|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.
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.
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.
Back in Los Angeles by1967, Friedman began working with various Los Angeles players, including songwriter Tandyn Almer, who had written "Along Comes Mary" for The Association."
“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 entrée.”
“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.
|A Stanford Daily ad for Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Poppycock|
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
|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)|
|Stanford's big 1968 rock event on July 28 was headlined by the Chambers Brothers, on top of a bunch of local bands|
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.
|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.|
|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.|
|The July 19, 1968 Stanford Daily reports that the Satan Blues Band will open at Frost|
|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).|
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.
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 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.|
|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)|
|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|
|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)|
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.
|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|
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.
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.
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.
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|