Sunday, July 26, 2020

Palo Alto Psychedelic Rock Shows, January-June 1969 (Palo Alto IV)

An intruiging, and likely prescient ad for a new Palo Alto rock venue, The Morgue. The ad was from the May 2, 1969 Stanford Daily. The venue did not last.

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.  and then 1968, when the action moved downtown. This post will look at shows in the first half of 1969, the high-water mark in downtown Palo Alto's rock history.

An ad for The Poppycock in downtown Palo Alto, from February 28, 1968

Downtown Palo Alto
By 1968, loud rock and roll had become 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 Poppycock was a Fish 'N' Chips shop at 135 University Avenue, on the corner of University and High Street (hard to make this up). It was open 7 days a week for take-out from 11am, and there was a big room for entertainment, if you were old enough to buy beer.The clearest picture 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 and '69:
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 1969.
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).

Cold Blood's self-titled debut album was released in mid-1969 on San Francisco Records, one of Bill Graham's labels (distributed by Atlantic)
Jan 3-4, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Cold Blood/Day Blindness (Friday-Saturday)
To the extent downtown Palo Alto had a nightlife district in the late 1960s, it was centered on the Western end of University Avenue, the part of town nearest to the Southern Pacific train tracks and the Stanford campus. There were no bars, prohibited by town ordnance, but restaurants could serve beer and wine. A few pizza and burger joints were open at night, and some of them had some entertainment. All of them were just off University Avenue, nearer to campus. The Poppycock was at 135 University, on the corner of High Street, just a block from the tracks. At the other end of the block, at 117 University, The Tangent was still there, where Jerry Garcia had started as a performer in 1963.
The other side of the block had Palo Alto's expresso coffee shop, and a theater (The Paris) that showed only foreign films, all very bohemian.

Only the Poppycock, however, had bands from out of town, and only the Poppycock was a true destnation for the rest of the hip Peninsula. In 1969, the Poppyock was managed by Roy Kelsey, and the booking and the light show was handled by John Darcy. Popular local bands, some even with albums, played weekends. Less well-known rock bands, and the occasional jazz and folk performers played weeknights. For this chronicle, I have only listed shows where I could find listings, and have refrained from guessing who filled in nights with no trace evidence.

For the first weekend of 1969, Friday and Saturday nights were headlined by Cold Blood. Cold Blood had evolved out of a Peninsula band called The New Invaders (and at one point, The Generation). Lead singer Lydia Pense (Woodside High School) and lead guitarist Larry Field were both from Redwood City. The New Invaders had been one of the first bands on the Peninsula to mix rock guitar with an R&B horn section. Lead singer Pense, though under 5 feet tall, could absolutely belt it out--she had won a talent contest for best singer at the 1965 Teenage Fair held in Redwood City.

Cold Blood had opened at Fillmore West for a few weekends in 1968. The first time had been August 23-25, 1968 (for Quicksilver and Spooky Tooth). Cold Blood was booked by Bill Graham's Millard Agency. The Millard Agency figured out that a band that had opened at Fillmore West had a lot of credibility out in the suburbs, and they did. While Cold Blood shared some horn players with Tower Of Power over the years, and is generally seen as an East Bay band (because of their sound), in fact they were a true Peninsula band.

Cold Blood was signed to Bill Graham's label, San Francisco Records (distributed by Atlantic). They would release their debut album in mid-1969, and got a lot of local FM play with their cover of Sam & Dave's "You Got Me Hummin'." Lydia Pense--no taller, but still sounding great--is still out there, bringing the soul.

Day Blindness were originally a trio from San Mateo, originally formed when the various members met at a Battle Of The Bands at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds in 1968. The group featured guitarist Gary Pihl, organist Felix Bria and drummer Dave Mitchell. They released one album on the obscure Studio 10 label. Gary Pihl later went on to play with Sammy Hagar (in 1977), and subsequently joined the group Boston.
January 10-11, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Notes From The Underground

Notes From The Underground were on the verge of breaking up by this time. They were a Berkeley band, with an album on Vanguard, and they had played The Poppycock various times throughout 1968

In 2003, the Ace Of Cups finally released an album, a Big Beat Recordscompilation of live and studio tracks from the 1960s
January 17-19, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Ace Of Cups (Friday-Sunday)
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!).

The Aces had played the Poppycock almost a year earlier (February 9-10,1968), and guitarist Denise Kaufman had actually gone to Castilleja High School in Palo Alto. Ace Of Cups had played around the Bay Area continuously, so in theory at least they would have had a better crowd by this time.

January 18, 1969  Memorial Auditorium, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA: Richie Havens/The Dillards (Saturday)
Stanford Universtiy had played a huge part in bringing pyschedelic rock shows to the Peninsula back in 1966, but the school rapidly got cold feet. Since the university had no financial motive to book bigger shows, Stanford facilities were almost never used for rock shows.

Nonetheless, Stanford seemed okay with "folk" acts, that at least appealed to the rock fans in the student body. Richie Havens was an acoustic performer with R&B and blues leanings, and the Dillards were a former bluegrass group who had sort of "gone electric, " in the wake of The Byrds. Their current album was Wheatstraw Suite, on Elektra. The Dillards still had the tempos and harmony of a bluegrass band, but the album had a rhythm section. I suspect, however, that live they were still mostly acoustic. By 1968, Doug Dillard had left, leaving Rodney Dillard manning the helm. Originals Dean Webb (mandolin) and Mitch Jayne (bass), were still on board, with Herb Pedersen (banjo) replacing Doug. I suspect that Oklahoma fiddler Byron Berline was touring with them as well. They would have killed it on stage.

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.

An ad from the January 24, 1969 Stanford Daily for the Exit, at 3489 El Camino. The Meile [sic] Saunders trio was on the bill.
January 24-25, 1969 the Exit, Palo Alto, CA: Smoke/Merl Saunders Trio
By 1969, Palo Alto actually had a groovy little rock scene downtown. But it wasn't much of a jazz town. In the January 24, 1969 Stanford Daily there is an ad for an apparently new club called the Exit. There had been a juke joint over the county line in East Palo Alto called The Exit Inn, but I don't know if they played jazz. In any case, Exit is a typical sort of hipster club name, and may have had no connection to the East Palo Alto place. 3489 El Camino Real was way south of downtown, not far from a lengthy strip of motels. So there would have been plenty of potential patrons, but it wasn't any part of the downtown bohemian scene that had been pioneered by young folkies like Jerry Garcia.

Merl Saunders had grown up the Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, and teenage pal Johnny Mathis had been his singer when his high school band had played dances back in the early 50s. After a stint in the Air Force (1953-57), Saunders had become a professional musician, playing piano and Hammond organ. From the late 50s onwards, Saunders had toured organ lounges on the "Chitlin Circuit," worked in Manhattan and Las Vegas, and had returned to the Bay Area around 1967. He led a trio in local jazz clubs, mostly with guitarist Jimmy Daniels and drummer Eddie Moore. Saunders had released his first album, Soul Grooving, on Galaxy Records in 1968.

I haven't seen many more ads for the Exit, and I don't know if jazz still got played much in South Palo Alto. Saunders, of course, went on to join forces with Jerry Garcia a few years later. Smoke was a "Progressive Jazz" group, with a downtown residency at The Tangent (see Jan 26 '69 below).

January 24-25, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Sky Blue/Indian Head Band (Friday-Saturday)
Sky Blue were an interesting Berkeley band, who lived in a house on Warring Street, just above the UC campus. By this time they were a trio. Vic Smith was the guitarist and Anna Rizzo the drummer, both of whom sang. The bassist was Jack O'Hara, who ended up helping to found "Pub Rock" in England, but that's rather a long story.

The Indian Head Band had been an improvisational ‘Raga Rock’ group featuring lead guitarist Hal Wagenet and a trained opera singer (Mickey Mader) as lead vocalist. The group had a certain following, but when Wagenet joined It's A Beatiful Day shortly after this, Indian Head Band broke up.

An ad for The Tangent, at 117 University Avenue, from the January 24, 1969 Stanford Daily

January 26, 1969 The New Tangent, Palo Alto, CA: Smoke (Monday)
The Tangent, at 117 University Avenue, just two doors down from The Poppycock, has passed into Palo Alto and Grateful Dead legend as the little folk club where Jerry Garcia started his career as a performer in 1963. The Tangent was a deli/pizza parlor, and two restless young doctors took over a room on the third floor for a folk club on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, called The Top Of The Tangent. Not only Garcia, but Jorma Kaukonen, Janis Joplin and a host of future Fillmore regulars played there as well.  The music scene, however, even in Palo Alto, rapidly outgrew the Tangent.

Nonetheless, in 1969, The Tangent was still open, still serving pizza, sandwiches and beer, and still having performances. The main resident at the Tangent had been an improvisational comedy troupe called The Illegitmate Theater, but there were regular folk and jazz performaces, and even a little rock on weekends. Because The Tangent and The Poppycock were just two doors apart, it made that block a little more of a "scene."

The ad above, from the Stanford Daily of January 24, 1969, notes that 'Progressive Jazz "Smoke"' will be playing every Monday night. There had been jazz at the Tangent at least since 1965. This was appropriate, since in the early 60s, there had been a jazz club on that corner (Alma and University) called The Black Cat, a very early beatnik hangout. To the extent there was a jazz club in downtown Palo Alto--and really there wasn't--it was at The Tangent. I don't actually know anything else about Smoke save for these few ads. I don't know how long they played Monday nights, nor if anyone else took their place.

David Blue's second album was his 1968 album on Reprise, These 23 Days In September
January 31-Feb 1, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: David Blue
Guitarist John Merrill (ex Ashes, Peanut Butter Conspiracy, Clear Light) recalls playing this weekend after a week at the Matrix. The band played the Matrix the week of January 14-18, so I am triangulating a bit, since a different band were booked at Poppycock (see above).  David Blue’s band featured Merrill on guitar, Ralph Shuckett on keyboards, Doug Lubahn on bass and Dallas Taylor on drums (all from Clear Light, and all later with many other credits). Of course, David Browne points out that Dallas Taylor was in Sag Harbor rehearsing with Crosby, Stills and Nash by this time, so it's just as likely that it was Clear Light's other drummer instead (Michael Ney).

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. Blue had played the Poppycock the previous year (Sep 24-30 '68), so he must have done well enough that time to get a return booking.

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.”

The Loading Zone were based out of this house in West Oakland
February 7-9, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Loading Zone
The Loading Zone, while obscure, are a uniquely important group in Bay Area music history. The Zone had a singly dizzying history. Loading Zone had initially been formed out of the ashes of a Berkeley group called The Marbles (who played the first Family Dog Longshoreman’s Hall Dance on October 16, 1965). The two guitarists from The Marbles then joined with organist/vocalist Paul Fauerso (formerly of Oakland’s Tom Paul trio, a jazz combo) and played a hitherto unheard mixture of psychedelic blues and funky R&B.

Loading Zone were based out of Oakland (on East 14th Street), and while they played the original Trips Festival and many dates at the Fillmore and Avalon, they also played many soul clubs in the East Bay. They added horns, and after some false starts, a powerhouse vocalist named Linda Tillery, and released an underrehearsed album on RCA in 1968. The band also had a brief national tour, and played all the clubs in the Bay Area. The Zone had played the Poppycock in December '68.

The Loading Zone thus laid the blueprint for the progressive soul music of Bay Area bands like Sly and The Family Stone and Tower of Power. Indeed, their roadie, high school student Steve Kupka, played baritone sax with the band’s horn section, when there was room on stage and he was allowed in the club. At one such gig, he met a Fremont band called The Motowns, and they joined forces to create Tower Of Power.

By early 1969, however, lead singer Linda Tillery had been tempted to go solo by Columbia. Her Al Kooper-produced Sweet Linda Devine would be released in mid-69 (see July 11-12 below) Loading Zone soldiered on, with Paul Fauerso taking over all the vocal duties.

February 13-15, 1969: The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Devil’s Kitchen/Immaculate Contraption
Devil's Kitchen was a band from Carbondale, IL, who had moved to San Francisco in Spring 1968. They  became the "house band" at The Family Dog, opening many of the shows there, even ones for which they did not appear on the bill. They also played other clubs around the Bay Area. The band members were guitarist Robbie Stokes, keyboardist/vocalist Brett Champlin, bassist Bob Laughton and drummer Steve Sweigart. While Stokes remained in the Bay Area for a dozen years or so, the rest of the band members ultimately returned to the Midwest later in 1970. Ironically, a recording of the group's performance at The Family Dog on March 22, 1970, promulgated by Wolfgang's Vault, roused the band back to life, and that is how I got in touch with them (Brett Champlin responded very kindly to emails, and to answer the obvious question, he is a 4th cousin of Bill Champlin but they had not met prior to the band arriving in SF).

Immaculate Contraption is unknown to me, although I have seen their name on various bills. Most intriguingly, the SF Examiner ad says "After Hours show at 2am Friday/Saturday." That would have been the most un-Palo Alto thing ever. After hours shows, generally speaking, were for musicians and their ne'er do well friends. Officially, bars were closed in California at 2am, but-ha ha--I'll bet you could get a drink. Now, after hours jams had been regular things in out-of-the-way venues (like The Ark, a grounded ferryboat in Saualito), or real inner-city joints (like the legendary jams at Jimbo's Bop City in the Filmore). But in Palo Alto? This was everything Palo Alto didn't want. Even the most progressive pro-Communist Palo Alto citizens didn't want anything happening after 2am on University Avenue.It's no surprise that these ads disappeared after a little while.

February 16, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Goldenrod (Sunday)
February 17, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Little John
February 18-19, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Ole Davis (Tuesday-Wednesday)
To make this chronicle readable, I have only noted events where I can find a confirmed ad or booking. For the most part, only weekend shows at The Poppycock were advertised in the Stanford Daily or listed in the SF Examiner or Chronicle, or the Berkeley Barb. Now and then, probably to fill space, weeknight listings were noted. It's safe to assume that the Poppycock was open every night, if just for Fish "N' Chips--remember in 1969 Palo Alto, Fish "N' Chips counted as ethnic food (they even had a downtown competitor, the local chain H. Salt)--but there was almost certainly some kind of entertainment in the "big room" every night. Most weeknights, it was probalby local bands, or bands from around the Bay Area trying out. Don't forget, for an aspiring band in 1969, making a listenable tape cost real money, and it was easier to just lug your gear to a club and play a set for free.

For this weekend, Goldenrod is completely unknown to me, which makes them super-obscure. Little John is familiar to me from East Bay clubs, although I don't know anything else about them. It seems like a band from one county looking for a gig out of their zone. Old Davis (listed here as Ole Davis) were a San Mateo band who were very popular in the South Bay. They had been playing around since at least early '68. In 1970, future Santana guitarist Neal Schon (still a teenager) would become a member. I don't know if Old Davis played originals or just covers.

February 20-22, 1969  The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: AB Skhy/Crowfoot (Thursday-Saturday)
AB Skhy were a progressive blues group from Milwaukee, WI where they had been known as The New Blues, and featured organist Howard Wales.  In mid-1968, they moved to the Bay Area from Wisconsin, and Wales joined them in San Francisco. AB Skhy had played a weeknight slot at the Poppycock a few months earlier (Dec 16-18, 1968), and now they were returing for the weekend, a marker for how the process was supposed to work.

An FM broadcast of AB Skhy playing at the Avalon Ballroom around this time (actually March 30 '69) has survived. While they play standard B.B. King style blues material, the four-piece group leans heavily on the remarkable improvisations of Wales’s organ. Later in 1969, the band released their first album on MGM Records (a second album, without Wales, was released in 1970).

The band Crowfoot is unfamiliar to me. There was a Bay Area band called Crowfoot, who released albums on Paramount (1970) and ABC (1971), some of whose members were in a later version of AB Skhy (guitarists Sam McCue and Russ DaShiel, and drummer Rick Jaeger). The connection between AB Skhy and Crowfoot seems to be manager Ken Adamany, (from Janesville, WI) a former musician who booked a lot of 60s rock bands and musicians. Some of the members of Crowfoot ended up in later versions of AB Skhy.

February 24, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Daily Flash/Spontaneous Folk (Tuesday)
There was a popular Seattle group called The Daily Flash, but they had been broken up for some time (since late 1967). I am assuming this was a different group. Maybe it was some sort of temporary reunion. Spontaneous Folk are unknown to me.

February 28-March 1, 1969  The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Sons of Champlin/Boogie (Friday-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 was 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 group, it reformed at the College Of Marin in 1966. However, the Dean of Students objected to their name—The Master Beats—and on a whim they changed their name to The Sons of Father Champlin.

The Sons of Champlin played a kind of soulful rock with Beatles-like harmonies, and were discovered at the Fillmore and signed by local entrepreneur Frank Werber, who had produced the Kingston Trio. From late 1966 they mostly recorded and 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 group 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 a horn section and were playing their unique brand of soul-and-jazz-inspired psychedelia. Unlike many other rock bands that featured 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. By early 1969, the group had been signed to Capitol, and their first album, a self-titled double album, came out around May of 1969. According to road manager Charlie Kelly, the double lp consisted of most of their live set (save for the odd cover).

Boogie was a band that rehearsed at the Sausalito Heliport along with The Sons. They were a trio, featuring guitarist Barry Bastian, bassist John Barrett and drummer John “Fuzzy” Oxendine. Boogie broke up soon after this, as Oxendine briefly joined The Sons as a second drummer, and then he and Barrett started The Rhythm Dukes with Jerry Miller of Moby Grape.

March 25, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Old Davis (Tuesday)
March 26,1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Mother Blue
April 1-3, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Mother Blue/Metropolitan Sound
Mother Blue is unknown to me. Metropolitan Sound were four African-American teenagers from Alameda County who played rock in a sort of Hendrix-style.

I don't have a listing for the weekend of March 27-28.

The Loading Zone's debut lp had been released by RCA in 1968. By early '69, however, lead singer Linda Tillery had already left the band to go solo.
April 4-5, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: The Loading Zone (Friday-Saturday)
The Loading Zone returned, a sign that they had done well two months earlier.

April 6, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Metropolitan Sound Company (Sunday)
April 7, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Auditions

April 8-10, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Joy of Cooking (Tuesday-Thursday)
The Joy of Cooking had formed as a duo in Berkeley called Gourmet’s Delight, featuring guitarist Terry Garthwaite and pianist Toni Brown.  Garthwaite was a veteran of the Berkeley folk and bluegrass scene, and Brown was an artist as well as a musician.  The group had expanded to include conga player Ron Wilson, bassist David Garthwaite (Terry’s brother) and drummer Fritz Kasten. They shared management with Country Joe and The Fish.

Joy of Cooking was a significant group on the Berkeley scene, because both Garthwaite and Brown were accomplished musicians. Although both were excellent singers as well, Joy of Cooking featured the same kind of lengthy jamming popular at the time, rather than short and sensitive neo-folk songs that were more typical of women singers of the era.  The group were ultimately signed to Capitol Records and released their first of three Capitol albums in 1971.

Joy Of Cooking (named after a then-popular cookbook) had built a following by playing regular weeknight gigs at a Berkeley club called Mandrake’s (at 1048 University Avenue). During much of 1969, The Poppycock and Mandrake’s shared a lot of acts, and there are some nights where bands are listed at both places. The most likely explanation is probably that their agency knew which nights they would be playing, but were not precisely certain which night would have been at which club. Thus, since Joy of Cooking was advertised at Mandrake’s in Berkeley on April 8 (Tuesday), they may not have played that night, but some other configuration is also possible.

The Stanford Daily ad for The Poppycock from April 11, 1969
April 11-12, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA:  Country Weather/Glass Mountain
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 had played a Monday night gig at the Poppycock the previous year (April 1, 1968), but by now they were well enough known to headline the weekend.

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 some of their 60s demos and live performances, alonmg with some 21st century recordings.

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.

Glass Mountain is unfamiliar to me. 

April 13, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Rockwell Blues Band (Sunday)
April 14, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: auditions
April 15-16, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Williver Fields
April 16-17, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Rockwell Blues Band (Wednesday-Thursday)
Rockwell Blues Band and Williver Fields are unknown to me. Listings are contradictory as to who played Wednesday night (April 16).

April 18, 1969 Gymnasium, Gunn High School,Palo Alto, CA:  It’s A Beautiful Day/Cold Blood/Lamb/A.B. Skhy (Friday)
Palo Alto High School gymnasiums were generally not available for rock concert promotions. However, this Friday night show was the culmination of a week of festivities celebrating Palo Alto’s 75th Anniversary as an Incorporated city (as reported in the Cubberley High School newspaper, The Catamount).  Tickets were $2.50, but only $2.00 for Palo Alto students. Gunn High School was the newest High School in Palo Alto (it ahd only opened in 1964), and its gym was probably the biggest and best equipped for a concert.

It’s A Beautiful Day were locally popular, but had not yet released their famous first album. Cold Blood had extensive Peninsula roots as well (see January 3-4 above). Both Cold Blood and Lamb were booked by The Millard Agency (for A.B. Skhy, see April 25-26 below).

Proud Flesh Soothseer, the 1968 debut album on Mercury by Linn County. Mercury had moved the band from Cedar Rapids, IA to San Francisco.
April 18-19, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Linn County (Friday-Saturday)
Stephen Miller (1942-2003) was the organ player in Linn County, and later a mainstay of the original Elvin Bishop Group (the better known, guitar playing Steve Miller had long since graduated to headline status at the Fillmore and Avalon). Linn County were from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, by way of Madison, Wisconsin and Chicago. Known as The Prophets in Cedar Rapids, they had become the house band at a Chicago club called Mother Blues and changed their name to Linn County Blues Band (Cedar Rapids is in Linn County). They were signed by Chess Records and began to record, but Mercury Records heard them, signed them and moved them to San Francisco.

Their 1968 album on Mercury was Proud Flesh Soothseer. In the cosmology of 1969, a band with an album, particularly on a national label like Mercury, was a "real" band, not just some local outfit. When a band with an album played downtown, then Palo Alto was moving up. Linn County would go on to release two more albums for the label. The other band members were Fred Walk (guitar), Larry Easter (saxophones), Dino Long (bass) and Ray "Snake" McAndrew (drums). The album isn't bad, and they were probably a really good live band in a nightclub.

Spring and Summer 1969: Lytton Plaza 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, had 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. During the previous Summer (1968), the MidPeninsula Free University had taken 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, as 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.

By 1969, in response to the MPFU having taken advantage of the private status of Lytton Plaza to hold concerts downtown, Lytton Bank (who owned the plaza) posted regulations that required assemblies of more than 25 people to have written approval from the bank. This requirement was widely ignored. Free concerts supposedly occurred almost every Saturday night in the Spring and Summer of '69, often organized by a group of Paly High students using the name “Free People’s Free Music Company.” The only specific rock group that I know played there was a group called Hydraulic Banana, featuring future Stoneground and Pablo Cruise pianist Cory Lerios and guitarist Phil Scoma, who later joined the final lineup of San Jose’s finest, The Chocolate Watch Band. In issue #2 of Cream Puff War, Scoma recalled the scene:
The [Hyrdraulic] Banana played the Lytton Plaza protests, a sort of mini-Berkeley and the first hip thing to happen in Palo Atlo. We were on a stage with wheels; whenever the police came and the truck started, you held onto your amp and went down the road, and the cords were left wherever they came out (interview by Alec Palao, CPW #2, p.57)
The concerts apparently became increasingly contentious, at least one of them devolving into mayhem when members of a motorcycle gang got into a series of fights with some high school hippies. Since the high school students in the bands were probably well known—Palo Alto is a small town—it may seem surprising that the police played cat and mouse with the organizers rather than cracking down more severely, as would have been typical in other towns. Palo Alto policemen, however, were well paid compared to their peers in surrounding towns, and the there was almost no violent crime in Palo Alto. In return for their benign jobs, Palo Alto policemen were very hesitant to arrest the children of Palo Alto residents, a fact known by every high school student in Palo Alto.

998 San Antonio Road, formerly the site of the December 18, 1965 Palo Alto Acid Test, as it appeared in 2009. In 1965, it was a new rock club called The Big Beat. The Big Beat closed in 1968, and in 1969 a new club called The Morgue was in the building.

April 25-26, 1969 The “New” Morgue, Palo Alto, CA: Transatlantic Railroad (Friday-Saturday)
Palo Alto isn't most towns. Palo Alto can name the date and location when psychedelia came to town: December 18, 1965, when the Grateful Dead played the Palo Alto Acid Test, at a newly-opened club called The Big Beat, at 998 San Antonio Road. The club was far south of downtown, right on the Mountain View border. It probably mainly drew factory workers at places like Lockheed and Fairchild Hiller. In 1966, a mostly-cover band called The Tombstones played every weekend. The club advertised "LSD-Lights, Sounds, Delicious Pizza."

The Bay Area rock audience moved away from cover bands, however, and The Big Beat had closed by mid-1968, as had its sister club in San Mateo (The Trip). In April 1969, a new club took over the site. The April 25 Stanford Daily advertised a new club, open since April 4, called The Morgue. The pitch wasn't Delicious Pizza--it was "Psychedelic Shows-Bands-Topless." The headliner this weekend was a Marin county band called Transatlantic Railroad.

I have to say, I'm all for unique clubs, but I don't know what the groove was supposed to be. It's true that hippie rock shows sometimes featured girls who took their tops off, but the context was different than a topless show (even if the appeal was the same). And "The Morgue"--who calls a club The Morgue?

The Stanford Daily ad for the Poppycock, from April 25, 1969
April 25-26, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: AB Skhy/Glass Mountain
 AB Skhy had started playing weeknight gigs at the Poppycock in December of '68, and obviously had been good enough to rise up to a weekend bookings in 1969. They had already played earlier in the year (see Feb 20-22 '69, above) and they were returning again.

April 27, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Fifty Foot Hose (Sunday)

On this Sunday night, The Poppycock featured a local band, the Fifty Foot Hose. The Fifty Foot Hose may have also played a single show at The Poppycock the previous year, but since the date was also April 27, I suspect they only played The Poppycock once. 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, Cauldron, 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 at least 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. By 1969, the Fifty Foot Hose probably had Robert Goldbeck on bass. The band finally broke up later in 1969, when most of the band joined the cast of the San Francisco production of the rock musical Hair.

April 28, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Rejoice/Siddhartha (Monday)
April 29, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA; Jef Jaisun (Tuesday)
April 30-May 1, The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Orion (Wednesday-Thursday)
Rejoice and Siddhartha are unfamiliar to me, although I recognize their names from various club listings. Orion is unknown to me, but they had been playing various weeknights at the Poppycock since April 1968.

Jef Jaisun, a journalist and photographer as well as a musician, had been the bassist for Phoenix, who had played the Poppycock back in 1968.  Jaisun had left Phoenix to go solo in late 1968 (and he had played a weeknight at the Poppycock back in '68 as well). Jaisun wrote the song “Friendly Neighborhood Narco Agent,” and released it in 1969, destined to become a Bay Area radio classic as well as a Dr. Demento staple.

What's the appeal of going to a club called The Morgue? From the May 2, 1969 Stanford Daily (Mother Bear had relocated from Chicago and had an album on Cadet)
May 2-3, 1969 The Morgue, Palo Alto, CA: Mother Bear (Friday-Saturday)
The Morgue had another ad in the Stanford Daily on Friday, May 2. "Come Out and Turn On to the live sounds of Mother Bear", it said, with a drawing of a long-legged, long-haired, mostly-naked young woman. Why call it The Morgue, and why The "New" Morgue? Was there an old Morgue? Did they change it because it was dead on weekends? Topless clubs were just barely tolerated in Palo Alto, and only in the Southern part of town, which had once been salacious old Mayfield anyway. I don't know how long The Morgue actually lasted.

As for Mother Bear, lead guitarist Roger Salloom and singer Robin Sinclair were originally from Texas. They moved to Chicago, where they recorded the 1968 album Saloom Sinclair and The Mother Bear (on Cadet Concept). Their second album, 1969’s Salloom-Sinclair, was recorded in Nashville and had more of a country rock sound. The group appears to have relocated to the Bay Area in 1969   Ultimately Roger Salloom returned to Texas and Robin Sinclair became the lead singer of Gold in about 1971.

May 2-3, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Mad River
Mad River was a legendary, if obscure, Berkeley group who had relocated from Yellow Springs, OH just in time for the Summer of Love in 1967. They broke up around this time, and this was probably one of their last gigs.

May 4, 1969   The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA:  The Last Mile (Sunday)
The Last Mile are unfamiliar to me.

An ad for The Underground, at 925 El Camino Real in Menlo Park, where John Dawson and Jerry Garcia would birth the New Riders of The Purple Sage (from Stanford Daily Apr 4 '69)
May 7, 1969 The Underground, Menlo Park, CA: Daniel Crisman/John Dawson (Wednesday)
The Underground was a hofbrau on the El Camino Real in Menlo Park, near Santa Cruz Avenue. It was in walking distance of downtown Palo Alto. Like many hippie joints, the hofbrau had folk singers and the like. John "Marmaduke" Dawson had grown up in Los Altos Hills, but he had been part of the bohemian folkie crowd in the early 60s. He was a songwriter, too, and in May 1968 he was playing his songs on Wednesday nights at The Underground, sharing the bill with local flamenco guitarist Daniel Crisman.

A month prior, Dawson had visited his old pal Jerry Garcia to hear him play his new pedal steel guitar. Dawson played a few of his songs, so that Garcia could accompany him, and Garcia invited himself to join Dawson on Wednesday nights at the Underground. May 7 appears to be the first night, just Dawson playing his own songs and a few folk and Bakersfield classics, with Garcia backing him up, figuring out his new Zane Beck Double 10.

The Underground was at 925 El Camino Real, right next door to Kepler's Bookstore. The Underground was just a block away from the music store Guitars Unlimited (at 1035, later Su Hong Restaurant), where Garcia and Bob Weir had given guitar lessons and borrowed equipment, right before the band took off for Los Angeles with Owsley.

Charlie Musselwhite's 3rd album for Vanguard, 1969's Tennessee Woman
May 9-11, 1969  The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Charlie Musselwhite
Charlie Musselwhite had been born in Mississippi and moved to Memphis, and then ultimately to Chicago.  He was one of a small number of white musicians in Chicago (including Nick Gravenites, Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop and a few others) who had stumbled onto the blues scene by themselves. 

A Chicago club regular, Musselwhite eventually recorded an album for Vanguard in 1967 called Stand Back, which started to receive airplay on San Francisco’s new underground FM station, KMPX-fm. Friendly with the Chicago crowd who had moved to San Francisco, his band was offered a month of work in San Francisco in mid-1967, so Musselwhite took a month’s leave from his day job and stayed for a couple of decades.

Musselwhite released his second album on Vanguard, Stone Blues, in 1968. Sometime in 1969, Vanguard released Tennessee Woman. Musselwhite was a regular on the Bay Area club scene, and had played the Fillmore and Avalon as well. In Chicago, Musselwhite was just one of many fine blues acts, but in the Bay Area he stood out.

May 13, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Jef Jaisun (Tuesday)
May 14, 1969 The Underground, Menlo Park, CA: John Dawson (Wednesday)
John Dawson retuned to the Underground, and Jerry Garcia was with him. Owsley Stanley was also there, and he taped the show (it took three reels to record all 27 songs).

May 16-17, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Joy of Cooking/Birth (Friday-Saturday)
Joy Of Cooking retunred for a weekend. Birth is unknown to me, but the band name is familiar from numerous flyers.

May 18, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Alligator (Sunday)
May 20, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Jef Jaisun (Tuesday)   
Alligator is unknown to me.Jef Jaisun seems to have had a regular booking on Tuesday nights.

May 21, 1969 The Underground, Menlo Park, CA: John Dawson (Wednesday)

May 21-22, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto,CA: All Spice Rhythm Band (Wednesday-Thursday)
All Spice Rhythm Band were primarily an East Bay club band, although I know little else about them.

May 23, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Earl Hooker (Friday)
Earl Hooker (1929-70) was a blues slide guitarist from Chicago. Although not famous today, he was and is well regarded by Chicago blues aficionados.

May 27, 1969 Roscoe Maples Pavilion, Stanford U. Palo Alto, CA: Ray Charles (Tuesday)
While live rock music had seemed to thrive in downtown Palo Alto from 1967 onwards, Stanford University had largely remained on the sidelines. In early 1969, Stanford opened its new basketball arena, the Roscoe Maples Pavilion. With a 7,300+ capacity, it was much bigger than any other potential rock venue in the South Bay. Stanford, however, had no commercial interest in facilitating rock promotions.

Nonetheless the inaugural concert at Maples was held on Tuesday, May 27th, with the immortal Ray Charles. I assume that this show was ok'd for a weeknight since the Spring Quarter would have nearly been complete, and it wouldn't have been a "school night." Stanford also had a tricky history with African-American music. The University was comfortable promoting "serious" music, like jazz or folk music, but didn't like promotions where excessive dancing was likely to happen, partiucularly during the school year. This unstated preference had pushed aside a lot of rock bands after 1966, and save for a sole Wilson Pickett appearance in May of '67, soul music was unseen on campus.

I'm sure Ray Charles was great, in every way. I presume that the University felt that Brother Ray was esteemed enough that excessive dancing was not a risk. I'll bet Ray felt otherwise. There would not be another Maples Pavilion concert for two more years (the band Chicago, in 1971). Draw your own conclusions.

May 30-31, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Frumious Bandersnatch/Beggars Opera (Friday/Saturday)
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). The band had played The Poppycock in 1968, and even broadcast their show live on KZSU-fm, the Stanford station (a tape survives--there's a chance that the May 31 broadcast was actually from 1969).

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.

Beggars Opera were another band from Contra Costa County, and often played with the better known Frumious Bandersnatch.

June 1, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Day Blindness (Sunday)
Day Blindness had played the Poppycock earlier in the year (see Jan 3-4 '69, above). At some point in 1969, and old friend of guitarist Gary Pihl, fellow guitarist Johnny Vernazza joined the group. By 1970, the band had changed its name to Fox (or The Fox).

June 4, 1969 Peninsula School, Menlo Park, CA: Marmaduke and Friends (Wednesday)
In his definitive biography, Garcia: An American Life (1999), Blair Jackson described a pre-natal New Riders show at Peninsula School, with Garcia, Nelson, Dawson and Phil Lesh. The lineup was apparently Dawson, Garcia, David Nelson and Phil Lesh (per Jackson), so Nelson must finally have been involved, and somehow Lesh had gotten in the picture as well. Although undetermined, the most likely date for this gig is during this week. My general theory, unproven, is that Garcia played the Peninsula date on the afternoon that he had a date at the Underground, so I have asserted June 4.

Peninsula School was a "progressive" K-8 school for the Ban The Bomb crowd in the South Bay, located at 925 Peninsula Way in Menlo Park, near Willow Road. Bob Weir and Bob Matthews had attended the school, as had John Dawson. Future GDTS operator Steve Marcus had grown up nearby, and probably attended this show. Jerry Garcia had a long history of playing at the school, as his first paying gig was at Peninsula's 1961 8th grade graduation (he and Robert Hunter were paid $5). Garcia's daughter Heather was probably a student by 1969, and his ex-wife Sara may have been a music instructor thereat the time. It's likely that the proceeds from the show offset Heather's tuition (as the New Riders would play the next few years as well).

June 4, 1969 The Underground, Menlo Park, CA: John Dawson (Wednesday)
By this time, Dawson was backed by both Jerry Garcia on pedal steel and David Nelson on electric guitar.

The late Bob Jones, drummer and leader of the band Southern Comfort (see June 5 below), recalls Southern Comfort playing the Poppycock, and hopping into their van prior to the show, going out to see "Pigpen in some nearby club, or something," as he put it to me. The band got pulled over by the cops, who took their weed and didn't arrest them (this happened to numerous Palo Alto High School kids, I assure you). So they didn't go to jail, and they played their gig, but they never got their weed.

June 4, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo, CA: Alto Cedro Wooley (Wednesday)
Cedro Wooley (whether a group or person) is unknown to me. Based on the Southern Comfort story above, I think Southern Comfort was playing the Poppycock on Wednesday (June 4) as well as Thursday. The Berkeley Barb listed Cedro Wooley on Wednesday, and Southern Comfort on Thursday.

Southern Comfort, a San Francisco band styled after Booker T and The MGs, and led by drummer/singer Bob Jones, would release their Columbia album in 1970. It was co-produced by Nick Gravenites and John Kahn
June 5, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto ,CA: Southern Comfort (Thursday)
Southern Comfort was led by saxophonist and vocalist Ron Stallings, and drummer, vocalist Bob Jones. Jones and Stallings had been in the informal T&A Rhythm and Blues Band with John Kahn, and Kahn, Jones and Stallings were among the musicians who intermittently backed Mike Bloomfield when he felt like playing a gig. Southern Comfort released an album in 1970 on Columbia, produced by Kahn and Nick Gravenites. The album mostly featured songs by Stallings and Jones, and also featured trumpeter Mike Wilmeth and guitarist Fred Burton, both part of the same crew of musicians who worked with Gravenites and Bloomfield in the studio and live. Other members were bassist Karl Sevareid and organist Steve Funk. (The album also features a number of bass players--Bob Huberman and Art Stavro, with Kahn at least in the room).

June 6-7, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Country Weather/Terry Dolan (Friday-Saturday)
Terry Dolan was a folksinger from Washington, DC who had moved to San Francisco in May, 1969.  He shared management with Country Weather. When Dolan had the opportunity to record demos in the early 70s, he was joined by various friends who included John Cipollina, Nicky Hopkins and Country Weather’s Greg Douglass. This led to the popular Bay Area bar band Terry & The Pirates, which featured Dolan backed by whichever of his friends were available. Terry & The Pirates first album was released in 1979, and Dolan has continued to periodically release albums into the 21st century.

(For more about Country Weather, see April 11-12 '69, above)

June 8, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA Sky Blue (Sunday)
June 10, 1969  Gym, Palo Alto High School, Palo Alto, CA Santana (Tuesday)
Palo Alto High School--Paly--has an historic reputation for being a snobby and self-involved school. Santana, then just a popular local band without an album (although already signed to Columbia), played Paly’s 1969 graduation dance. For the next several years, Paly Seniors dismissed every band that played graduation—including, I believe, Cold Blood (70), the Sons of Champlin (71) and Elvin Bishop (72)-- as inferior to Santana (my year [1975] had the unmemorable Crackin’).

June 10, 1969 Frontier Village, San Jose, CA: Cold Blood (Tuesday)
According to the Juen 5, 1969 Catamount, Cubberley High's Newspaper, Cubberley and Gunn High Schools held a joint Graduation Dance at Frontier Village, featuring Cold Blood. The joint Grad Dance appears to be due to poor attendance, a very 60s phenomenon. This is worth noting, however, since it suggests that considerably fewer people saw Santana's performance at Paly than have claimed to do so.

Frontier Village was an amusement park in San Jose, but operated by a Palo Alto family. The Park, at 4885 Monterey Road, featured various movie-set type buildings and rides with an Old West, Little-House-On-The-Prairie type themes.

June 11 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Cedro Wooley (Wednesday)

The 1969 debut album by the Elvin Bishop Group, on Bill Graham's Fillmore Records (distributed by Columbia). Stephen Miller, from the Linn County Band, was a "guest," although he would join the group a few months later
June 13-14, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Elvin Bishop Group (Friday-Saturday)
Elvin Bishop had been a teenager in Tulsa, OK who fell in love with the blues he heard over the radio. In 1960 Bishop got a National Merit Scholarship to the University of Chicago, where educating himself about the blues took precedence over book learning. Bishop was part of the small cadre of young white musicians who learned Chicago blues from the blues masters themselves.  Bishop formed a group with Paul Butterfield that included black and white members, and it became a sensation in Chicago. Guitarist Mike Bloomfield had joined the group when they were signed to Elektra Records, and by late 1965 the Butterfield Blues Band were rolling over everything in their path.   

Bloomfield left the group in early 1967 and moved to the  Bay Area. Bishop took over the lead guitar chores for the next two Butterfield Blues Band albums (Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw and In My Own Dream). Bishop left Butterfield as well, however, and moved to the Bay Area in mid-1968.  The Butterfield Blues Band had been particularly successful and popular in the Bay Area, and Chicago had a significant expatriate community in the Bay Area.

By early 1969, Bishop had put a group together. The first Elvin Bishop Group featured Elvin on guitar and vocals, Art Stavro on bass, John Chambers on drums and fellow Chicagoan "Applejack” (Jack Walroth) on harmonica and vocals.  The group was signed to Bill Graham’s Millard Agency in April 1969 and also to Fillmore Records (distributed by Columbia), for whom the band recorded The Elvin Bishop Group, released later in 1969.  Organist Stephen Miller, from the band Linn County (see April 18-19 '69, above), played on the album and seems to have been a sort of ex-officio member. When Linn County broke up later in 1969, Miller would join the Elvin Bishop Group permanently for the next few years.

Chambers and Stavro were San Francisco musicians who had played with a variety of local groups (Chambers, for example, had played with both The We Five and The Loading Zone). For backup vocals, Bishop had a quartet of young women who were experienced gospel singers. However, since they were all in high school and their father was a preacher, they were limited as to what nights they could play and what venues they could appear at, and I do not know if The Poppycock met those standards. The Pointer Sisters went on to considerable success later.

June 15, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Greater Carmichael Traveling Street Band (Sunday)

June 18, 1969 The Underground, Menlo Park, CA: John Dawson (Wednesday)

By mid-1969, Capitol Records had released the debut Sons Of Champlin, Loosen Up Naturally. A double album, it did not sell well, but it still sounds great today.
June 18-19, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Sons of Champlin (Wednesday-Thursday)
The Sons had already played weekend shows at the Poppycock (see Feb 28-Mar 1 '69, above), and were already established in the South Bay. I think they were playing weeknights in Palo Alto because they could draw a crowd, but they could get better gigs elsewhere on the weekend. This was a peculiar marker, showing that while The Poppycock was a successful venue in downtown Palo Alto, the rock business was getting so big that it was moving away from seeing local bands in teh suburbs.

June 20-21, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Linn County (Friday-Saturday)
June 24-29, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Charlie Musselwhite (Tuesday-Sunday)
The San Francisco Examiner listing for Tuesday, June 24, says Musselwhite is booked all the way through Sunday night. I don't know if this was an error, or a unique booking.

June 25, 1969 The Underground, Menlo Park, CA: John Dawson (Wednesday)

The first album by Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, Original Recordings (Epic '69)
June 29, 1969 Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford U. Palo Alto, CA: Country Joe and The Fish/Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks/Lamb/others “Festival of Growing Grass”
Frost Amphitheatre, with a capacity of 6,900, had been too large for rock concerts back in '66. As rock got bigger and bigger, however, the size of Frost seemed to be an attraction rather than an impediment. Stanford, however, didn't want to use Frost for any rock events during the school year. Still, there had been a succesful multi-act show there the previous summer, on July 28, 1968. Presumably, Stanford was willin gto try again.

Country Joe and The Fish were a fairly major Bay Area act, with popular albums that received plenty of airplay on KSAN. The band's fourth album, Here We Are Again, would shortly be released on Vanguard. The band itself was in an unsettled postion, which was common. When the group embarked on a tour in the Summer, which lead them from the Fillmore West to Woodstock, Joe McDonald and Barry Melton would lead an entirely new lineup out with them (Mark Kapner-keyboards, Doug Metzner-bass and Greg Dewey-drums).

I'm not even entirely certain that Country Joe and The Fish were actually playing at the Frost event, as it may have been just Country Joe by himself. Certainly, Barry Melton and The Fish were playing that same night at The Family Dog, with the Kaleidoscope. Without a firm eyewitness, we won't know (the confusing uncertainty was common with the band).

More interesting was the opening act, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. Hicks had been the drummer in the 1965 incarnation of The Charlatans, but by 1968 he had been playing guitar and fronting the band. The Charlatans never rehearsed or gigged much (in any incarnation), and Hicks had an interest in psychedelically modified Texas Swing music, so in 1968 he formed Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks as a side project to open for The Charlatans and occasionally play local clubs like The Matrix. The original configuration of the band featured David LaFlamme of It’s A Beautiful Day on violin, and that was the band playing on Hicks’s first solo album Original Recordings (on Epic).

By mid-1969, the last version of The Charlatans had ground to a halt, and Dan Hicks And His Hot Licks were a full-tiime proposition. The lineup at this point was probably Hicks (guitar and lead vocals), John Girton (lead guitar), Sid Page (violin), Jaime Leopold (bass) and Sherry Snow (of Blackburn and Snow) and Marianne Price joining Hicks on vocals. Its not clear if there was a drummer this early, and the configuration of female vocalists changed in the early days. (Naomi Ruth Eisenberg may have already replaced Snow). Although Original Recordings includes some of Hicks’s classics, including immortals like “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away” and ‘I Scare Myself” Hicks and His Hot Licks had considerably more success with their early 70s Blue Thumb albums (such as Striking It Rich and Last Train To Hicksville).

Palo Alto was still suburban enough in 1969 that a concert could be advertised as a “Festival Of Growing Grass” and the marijuana reference was lost on an older generation, so that the University would not oppose the event. By the early 1970s, even the squarest college administrator would have known that a “Festival Of Growing Grass” did not refer to the sloping lawn at Frost Amphitheatre.

Reset: Summer of '69, High Water Mark
My lengthy chain of posts on Palo Alto rock shows from 1965 through '69 seems to show a rising tide, and it does. By the Summer of '69, rock music is not just "for kids," but big entertainment business and serious art. The Poppycock was open seven days a week, and just about every weekend the band playing the club had just released or was about to release an album. Some of them, like Elvin Bishop or The Sons Of Champlin, still have a following today. It sounds like there was a lot of fun to be had on the corner of University Avenue and High Street in the Summer of '69, and there was.

In fact, the tide of the rock industry was turning away from suburban clubs like The Poppycock. Rock music was getting bigger than ever, and the young people in Palo Alto and the nearby Peninsula towns were just an hour away from San Francisco, Berkeley or Oakland. With FM rock radio dominating the airwaves, more and more fans wanted to see the big bands they heard on KSAN. The cozy Fillmore Auditorium (capacity 1,500) had given way to the bigger Fillmore West (cap. 2,500), and often now to the even bigger Winterland (cap. 5,400). Blind Faith would come to the Oakland Coliseum in August '69, and that was the biggest indoor rock show to date.

At the same time, the big money in the music industry was in selling records, and that in turn meant getting played on the radio. Rock managers were less interested in a paying booking at a little club than they were in getting some attention from radio listeners. A lot of second-tier bands wanted to get heard on the bill with a famous rock band, in the hopes of ending up with more FM airplay. Killing it in a little club was fun, and sometimes profitable, but not where the big money was. All the rising Bay Area bands came through the Poppycock. But once they had an album out, they looked for bigger stages. Rock music was big business now, and the managers and record companies knew it. Palo Alto didn't really have a part to play in that, and it was starting to show in the Poppycock bookings (the Palo Alto saga continues for the second half of 1969 in the next post).

135 University Avenue (at High Street), as it appeared in 2006. It was the former site of The Poppycock. In 2006 it was an outlet of the Stanford University Bookstore.


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  2. Couple more thoughts: Charlie Musselwhite and Elvin Bishop returned to Palo alto for the first time in many years December 2019 one at the new Mitchell Park Center the other at the Jewish community center which is across the street from where the big beat would’ve been. Greg Brown about a year and a half before he passed away called me once to say he found the flyer he designed for Old Davis I think that was the name of the band. Maybe Julie knows where it is. I have produced a half dozen small events at Lytton Plaza it’s still somewhat contentious. The city of Palo Alto history Association made rock history the theme of its annual dinner with a presentation by Bo Crane summer 2019

    1. Mark, thanks for the thoughtful comments. I would have come to the dinner if I had known about it.

      Old Davis was a popular South Bay band back in the day (based in Redwood City I think). Neal Schon was briefly a member, in 1970, right before he joined Santana.