Friday, May 7, 2021

The Troubadour, West Hollywood and San Francisco, CA: Performance List May-August 1970 (Troubadour II)


The Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA

The Troubadour, The Whisky A-Go-Go and West Hollywood
In the latter 60s, rock bands made their bones in the ballrooms, with the light shows and people swaying. Word would pass on the underground telegraph that Cream or Quicksilver Messenger Service  or Ten Years After were great, and you would check them out the next time they came to town. There were a few rock nightclubs, but most fans weren't even 21 yet, and clubs in any case were too small to create much residual buzz, not compared to a college gym. 

In the 1960s, however, there was one major exception to this rule. The infamous Whisky-A-Go-Go club in West Hollywood (at 8901 Sunset Blvd) defied all these conventions. Name bands played there for union scale just to get heard. The Hollywood hip people, whether in the record industry or just cool cats, heard the bands and helped to decide who got some buzz. In August 1966, the house band at the Whisky were some unknowns called The Doors, and they became as big as anybody. In January, 1969, a new group built on the ashes of the old Yardbirds played the Whisky, and within a week the word was out about Led Zeppelin.

Hollywood proper had been part of the city of Los Angeles since the 1930s. But West Hollywood was unincorporated, part of Los Angeles County, but not the city. It was insulated from the notorious Los Angeles police and the machinations of the LA City Council. Thus West Hollywood was, paradoxically, the entertainment district for Hollywood, and had been since the 1940s. There were clubs, restaurants and jazz, and plenty of stars came to hang out, and that was how tastes got made. Rock and roll wasn't that different. The Whisky had opened in 1964, and made "Go-Go" a thing. By 1966, the club had a new act every week, all trying to catch the Hollywood buzz. Cream and Jimi Hendrix each played there in 1967, for practically nothing, just so that people would listen. So did numerous other ambitious groups, because rocking the Whisky was a ticket to a big tour.

A mile East of the Whisky, however, was a former coffee shop called The Troubadour. The Troubadour was at 9081 Santa Monica Boulevard (at Doheny Drive), near the Beverly Hills border. Proprietor Doug Weston had opened the club in 1957, but by 1970 it had a full bar and regular performers. Initially it presented folk acts, and in a sense, it still did. Electric instruments were standard fare by the end of the 60s, and the Troubadour wasn't for purists. But the Whisky was for rocking out, and the Troubadour was for reflection.  As the 70s rose on the horizon, reflection was the order of the day, and success at The Troubadour  would turn out to have more impact than success at the Whisky.

Kris Kristofferson's debut album was released on Monument in 1970. He played the West Hollywood Troubadour in June, opening for Linda Ronstadt

Troubadour Performance List, May-August 1970

The Troubadour was open seven days a week, with performers every night. The restaurant and particularly the bar were open as well, so it was a hangout for music industry types as well as musicians. Supposedly, many 70s bands, such as the Eagles, had their beginnings in the Troubadour bar. Troubadour bookings were almost always from Tuesday through Sunday. The Tuesday night show was almost always reviewed in the Thursday Los Angeles Times, giving industry and fans an idea of what was worth seeing that weekend. A good review in the Times, followed by a packed house on the weekend, could make an artist's career, as it did with Elton John later in 1970.

Maximum capacity at the Troubadour was about 300. Generally, there were two shows each night, and sometimes three shows on weekend nights. Sets were relatively short, from what I can tell, in order to turn the house over. Headliners would play about 40 minutes, and openers nearer to 20. The Troubadour was a showcase, not a place where performers jammed all night with their pals. I don't know whether the Troubadour had the arrangement where if the late show was not sold out, patrons could stick around if they would buy another drink. For a packed James Taylor/Carole King show in November of 1970, the Times reported that all 4000 tickets were sold out, and while I don't know if that was for 12 or 14 shows, and whether it was an approximation, but it gives us an idea of capacity.

Monday nights were "Audition Nights." Performers were booked, but they weren't advertised in the papers. Presumably, patrons could call the club, or the bands were listed at the club itself. In some cases, record companies would arrange to have performers play Monday night at the Troubadour so they could invite a few people and check them out. I assume that when a performer did not have a full Tuesday-Sunday run, and no performer was listed (usually a Tuesday or a Sunday), "auditions" were booked on those open nights too. I think one reason to call these booking auditions was also to minimize what they were paying the performer (probably just union scale). I don't think there was an admission charge on audition night. I'm not aware of any way to retrieve who played on Audition nights (and I appear to be the first attempting to capture who played the Troubadour during this period). 

At the beginning of 1970, many of the acts at the Whisky had their eyes on Las Vegas, Television Variety shows and the big hotels. Hippie acts that might have been welcome at the Fillmore, or even a college campus, weren't that common. By the end of the year, the hair had gotten longer and the stakes had gotten higher. Rock music and the record industry was turning out to be big money, and finding the next big recording artist was more important than knowing who was looking good for the Ambassador Hotel downtown or the Sands in Vegas. 

In a previous post, I reviewed the performers at the Troubadour from January through April 1970. In a short time, the Troubadour went from mostly featuring performers looking to get on TV or into Las Vegas to long haired singer songwriters that are famous today. It was becoming clear that there was big money in the booming record industry, and the Troubadour was right at the center. This post will review the performers at the Troubadour from May through August 1970. It will also cover the opening of the ill-fated Troubadour in San Francisco. 


April 28-May 3, 1970, The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Van Morrison/Elyse Weinberg
(Tuesday-Sunday)
Van Morrison was yet another artist who used the Troubadour to get heard by the whole industry. Morrison had been around for a while, of course: he had been in Them, he had a '67 hit with "Brown-Eyed Girl," and a classic 1968 album Astral Weeks. Astral Weeks hadn't sold that well, however, and while Morrison had toured a little bit, he hadn't been much heard from. By this time, Morrison was based in Woodstock, NY.

Moondance, Morrison's new album on Warners, had been released in February 1970. I don't need to add that it was a revelation. There were no big singles, but FM radio worked differently than AM. Songs off the album got played all the time on the big FM stations: the title track, "Crazy Love," "And It Stoned Me," "Caravan" and Into The Mystic" got played all the time. And that was just from side one. Los Angeles wanted to hear just how he was doing this.

Michael Sherman gave a generally positive review of Van Morrison in the April 30 Times (covering opening night). Sherman praised the great song and the swinging six-piece band, and of course Van's epic singing voice. The only real complaint was Morrison's eerie detachment when he delivered his joyous music. Pretty much, this was the review of every Van Morrison performance ever (certainly all the ones I saw over some decades): great songs, hot band, fantastic singing, strangely aloof. Still, Van Morrison's talent wasn't going to be contained, and playing the Troubadour for a week ensured that.

Opener Elyse Weinberg is fairly obscure now, but she was very much in the mix in the 1960s. She had made a solo album in 1969 on Tetragrammaton, and it wasn't the typical singer-songwriter thing, but rather sort of a psychedelic album. Born in Ontario, Weinberg had been part of the Toronto folk scene around 1963. She had moved to Los Angeles in 1966 to meet up with her friend Neil Young. Staying with Cass Elliott, her songs got heard, and she got signed. Her album featured Neil Young and others, and apparently is a sort of lost psych classic. Weinberg released another album in 1971, then signed with Geffen Records in 1973, but ultimately retired from music.

May 5-10, 1970, The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Rick Nelson and The Stone Stone Canyon Band/Fairport Convention (Tuesday-Sunday)
Rick Nelson had been a radio and television star since the 1950s, as the real-life and TV son of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson. In the early 60s, teenage Ricky liked rockabilly music, so most episodes of Ozzie And Harriet featured Ricky playing a song with his band. His band included the great James Burton on guitar, and for pop music, it was pretty rockin'. Thanks to the power of TV, the records sold massively, and songs like "Hello Mary Lou" are classics today.

By the end of the decade, with Ozzie And Harriet off the air, Rick (not Ricky) Nelson was more interested in country rock in the style of Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline. His new album was called Rick Sings Nelson, credited to Ricky Nelson and The Stone Canyon Band. The Stone Canyon Band included pedal steel guitarist Tom Brumley, an All-Star from Buck Owens' Buckaroos. Also in the band were guitarist Allan Kemp, drummer Patrick Shanahan and bassist Peter Cetera.

Opening act Fairport Convention, then fairly obscure, would have been the real revelation. Their previous album, Liege And Leif (released in the States on A&M in December 1969), had all but single-handedly invented English folk-rock. Songs like "Come All Ye Roving Minstrels" and "Matty Groves" were getting good FM airplay all over the country. Yet for their first American tour, Fairport was without their most recognizable member, lead singer Sandy Denny. Of course, all that meant was that lead guitarist Richard Thompson was even more prominent. Despite the short opening sets, Fairport clearly caught the ears of the locals, since the band returned as headliners a few months later (in September), and apparently every musician in Los Angeles would show up.

May 12-17, 1970, The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Hedge and Donna/Frank Kimel (Tuesday-Sunday)
Hedge And Donna had deep roots at the Troubadour. The married folksinging duo (last name Capers) from the San Dieog area had been so impressive at a Troubadour Hoot Night in 1967 that Doug Weston became their manager. By 1970, Hedge And Donna had released their 4th album on Capitol, Special Circumstances. The duo were backed by heavyweight Hollywood session pros (Joe Sample, Carole Kaye, Paul Humphrey, Ron Tutt, Sneaky Pete Kleinow and Bernie Leadon, to name a few), but their folk-rock sound had become somewhat passe.

Frank Kimel is unknown to me.


May 19-24, 1970, The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Pentangle
(Tuesday-Sunday)
Pentangle were brilliant and unclassifiable, but they are usually broadly lumped in with Fairport Convention as "British Folk-Rock." That's not even wrong, but Pentangle was so much more. The quintet included two of the best and most original acoustic guitarists in the British folk scene, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. Established jazz bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Terry Cox added a light but swinging rhythm section, and Jacqui McShee had a striking, madrigal-style voice, ably supported by singing from the rest of the band.

Pentangle were among the pioneers in--for lack of a better term--amplified acoustic music. The twin guitars could be heard with the bass and drums, and the vocals soared over the delicate but firm sound. They weren't purists--banjo or electric guitar was added as needed. They did English folk songs, American folk music, the odd R&B song and even some Charles Mingus. There was nothing like them. The previous year, the band had toured all the psychedelic ballrooms. When Pentangle had opened for the Grateful Dead (Feb 27-Mar 2 '69 at Fillmore West), Jerry Garcia was so impressed that he adopted the twin-acoustics-plus-rhythm sound for the acoustic live Dead of 1970.  

For this tour, Pentangle was supporting their fantastic new album Basket Of Light, which had been released in October of 1969 on Transatlantic Records.

May 26-31, 1970, The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Doug Kershaw (Tuesday-Sunday)
Cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw had been a country musician for at least a decade. His song "Diggy Diggy Lo" had reached #14 in the country charts back in 1961. Cajun music, however, was particularly suited to the amplified style of rock music, and Kershaw's remake of "Diggy Diggy Lo" had reached #69 in 1969, not too shabby for an old country guy. Kershaw's 1970 album was Spanish Moss (on Warners), made in LA with James Burton, Red Rhodes (steel guitar), Russ Kunkel (drums) and others. His version of the bluegreass classic "Orange Blossom Special" had even been a minor hit. So Kershaw was playing the Troubadour, apparently to introduce himself to a different audience.

June 2-7, 1970, The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Mike Nesmith with First National Band (Tuesday-Sunday)
Mike Nesmith had been a Monkee, of course, so he was nationally famous. Also, he was quite a talented songwriter, but the Monkees' management had no interest in that. So when the band disintegrated at the end of 1968, Nesmith set out to make himself a "real" artist, instead of the plastic Monkee that had come before. In fact, prior to the Monkees, Nesmith had carved out something of a modest career already.

In 1965, when Nesmith had been "discovered" by the TV production company, he had been the "Hootmaster" at the Troubadour. His job would have been to sing a few songs and then keep the participants moving on and off the stage. He had also written and copyrighted a number of original songs. One of them, "Different Drum," had even been a hit for the Stone Poneys (with Linda Ronstadt) in 1967, during Monkeemania. So Nesmith had plenty of building blocks for the next phase of his career.

Nesmith was interested in playing what would now be called "country-rock," and formed a band with pedal steel guitar ace Red Rhodes. Nesmith played guitar, sang and wrote, and drummer John Ware and bassist John London rounded out the group. In July 1970, Mike Nesmith and The First National Band would release the album Magnetic South on RCA Records. Playing the Troubadour prior to the album's release was probably intended to give agents and radio people some insight into what to expect from the former Monkee. Given how popular the Monkees had been, that was no small thing.

June 9-14, 1970, The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Theo Bikel/Peter Evans (Tuesday-Sunday)
Theo Bikel (1924-2015) was famous as both an actor and a folksinger. Born in Austria, he had emigrated to pre-war Palestine, and then ended up in New York. Among many other credits, he had originated the role of Captain Von Trapp in The Sound Of Music. The Times noted that he would be playing triple shows on Friday and Sunday. Bikel would have appealed to a broader age range than the hippie acts who were starting to dominate the Troubadour's bookings. Bikel would have been appealing to older fans who knew him from folk music and TV.

Peter Evans was a flamenco performer.


June 16-21, 1970, The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Ian and Sylvia with Great Speckled Bird/Danny Cox
(Tuesday-Sunday)
Ian and Sylvia Tyson had been a popular Canadian folk duo going back to 1959. When folk music faded away in the mid-60s, the duo easily made the switch to country-rock, both because of their talent and their excellent songwriting skills. Ian And Sylvia's early 1968 album Nashville, on Vanguard, was one of the first collaborations between rock songwriters using Nashville session men, preceding The Byrds' Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. By 1969, Ian And Sylvia had evolved into the band Great Speckled Bird, releasing an album of that same name on Ampex Records in October '69.

Ian and Sylvia received a very positive review, including compliments for their pedal steel guitar player. Although not named in the review, the steel chair was held down by the great Buddy Cage. Cage would play on many of Anne Murray's hits (like "Snowbird"). When Great Speckled Bird joined the fabled Canadian Train Tour immortalized in the movie Festival Express, Jerry Garcia heard Cage and tapped him as his own replacement in the New Riders Of The Purple Sage. Cage would leave Great Speckled Bird to join the Riders in the Fall of 1971. Guitarist Amos Garrett would also end up moving to the Bay Area. 

Danny Cox was an African-American folksinger from Kansas City. He shared management with Brewer And Shipley. Like them, Cox would also record in San Francisco with Nick Gravenites, but his debut album would not be released until 1971.


June 23-28, 30, July 1-5, 1970, The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Linda Ronstadt/Kris Kristofferson
(Tuesday-Sunday, Tuesday-Sunday)
If Linda Ronstadt and Kris Kristofferson appeared together today in Hollywood, it would be a media event--even though they both have retired and wouldn't be performing. Imagine, for a moment, both of them young, engaging, on the rise and singing for their future, appearing for two straight weeks at the Troubadour. There would have been 24 (or maybe 30) show over twelve days--no wonder the Troubadour is a West Hollywood legend.

Linda Ronstadt would have been supporting her second solo album, Silk Purse, which had been released on Capitol on April. Ronstadt had been part of the Stone Poneys, with Bobby Kimmel and Kenny Edwards. The trio had released three albums in 1967 and '68, and had even scored a modest hit with the Michael Nesmith song "Different Drum," which reached #13 in 1967. The Stone Poneys had come from Tucson in 1965, and had played the Hoot Night at the Troubadour many times. Ronstadt had received offers as a solo singer, but she had refused to abandon her bandmates. Finally, after a Troubadour hoot performance in 1966, the Stone Poneys had been signed as a group.

In the 1960s, Kris Kristofferson was only known as a Nashville songwriter, albeit a quite successful one. He had written hits like "Sunday Morning Coming Down," "Help Me Make It Through The Night" and "Me And Bobby McGee" for various artists. Kristofferson had only released his first album in 1970, Kristofferson, on Monument Records. It featured his own versions of many of his hits for others. He had toured around clubs a little bit, but he wasn't yet a polished performer. Kristofferson's backing trio had Zal Yanovsky (ex-Lovin Spooful) on guitar, Norman Blake on dobro and guitar, and Billy Swan on bass. 

According to a Robert Hilburn article (see August 2 below), Weston had been in San Francisco working on his new project, and invited folk legend and old friend Ramblin' Jack Elliott to see it. Elliott had brought along Kristofferson, and when Weston had heard Kristofferson casually picking and singing, Weston said he knew he had to book him. Weston had very good instincts about performers, which was how the Troubadour had consistently hired good acts on the way up.

July 7-12, 1970, The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: John Hartford/Steve Martin (Tuesday-Sunday)  
John Hartford was a singer, songwriter and talented musician from Missouri. He was best known for writing the song "Gentle On My Mind," a gigantic hit for Glenn Campbell and others. The success of the song gave Hartford some economic comfort not usually afforded bluegrass musicians. By this time, Hartford was familiar to audiences for having regularly appeared on TV shows like The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and The Glenn Campbell Goodtime Hour

RCA had signed Hartford back in 1966, probably figuring they were getting another country singer. In fact, Hartford was a unique and creative talent, but not always very commercial. In late 1969, Hartford had released an album entitled John Hartford (even though it was his sixth record for RCA). Strangely, it was a complexly-orchestrated country "art-rock" album, if such a thing can be imagined. It was not well-reviewed, nor did it sell well. Early in the year, Hartford had played a single Friday night engagement at the Troubadour, presumably in support (on January 2, 1970).

In mid-1970, Hartford had released Iron Mountain Depot. While less arty, it seemed to be a sort of wry knockoff. Micheal Sherman reviewed Hartford's show in the Times and said it was bland. Hartford had a four-piece band, and Sherman also disapproved of his playing an electric banjo. Per Sherman, Hartford played 9 songs in his set.

At this time, Steve Martin was a writer for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and an aspiring comedian. Since the highly-rated Smothers Brothers show had been abruptly canceled, however, Martin was probably out of work. Sherman commented that Martin played the banjo and told jokes "in the style of the Kingston Trio." I don't think he meant it as a compliment. Of course, Martin's angular approach to humor may not have been fully formed yet, and it may not have struck home to Sherman, either.

Neil Diamond's Gold album was recorded live at The Troubadour on July 15, 1970, and released in August. It featured performances of his biggest hits up to that time.

July 15, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Neil Diamond
(Wednesday)
Neil Diamond had been a hugely successful pop songwriter for many years, and in 1969 he started to get big hits under his own name. He didn't really have a reputation as a performer yet, however, so he had played a week at the Troubadour back in March (March 24-29). Playing a week at the Troubadour would have given the industry a chance to see how well Diamond could put on a show. It must have gone well, since Diamond returned for a night to record a live album. Diamond's album Gold: Live At The Troubadour was released shortly after, in August of 1970. It was a sort of "Greatest Hits" for Neil Diamond, but including some songs that had been hits for other artists. Diamond was backed by a trio (Carol Hunter [guitar], Randy Sterling [bass] and Eddie Rubin [drums]).

Diamond was from Brooklyn, and had worked in the famous Brill Building in the 60s. He had moved to Los Angeles in 1969. In 1969, Diamond's big hits had been "Sweet Caroline," which had reached #4 in May, and "Holly Holy," which had reached #3 in October. It is an irony of pop culture that the bigger of Diamond's two hits that year is now largely forgotten, whereas "Sweet Caroline" (thanks particularly to the Boston Red Sox) is an anthem.

July 16-19, 1970, The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Eric Andersen/David Brenner (Thursday-Sunday)
Eric Andersen had been among the first wave of folksingers that followed Bob Dylan. By 1969, he had released five album for Vanguard, and his songs had been recorded by a variety of artists. Andersen then signed with Warner Brothers, and given his excellent songwriting and the renewed interest in singer/songwriters, he seemed to be well-positioned. His self-titled December 1969 album had been his second album for Warners (and his seventh overall).

I'm not sure whether Andersen played solo or with a band, probably the former. Despite the changes in the record industry, his career never received the renewal that would have seemed so likely. He moved to the West Coast around this time--I'm not sure precisely when--but despite his talent and stellar connections, he never reached the success that might have seemed likely.

Comedian David Brenner opened the shows. I don't know if the Andersen/Brenner booking began on Tuesday and took a night off for Neil Diamond, so I have assumed they started on Thursday.

July 21-26, 1970, The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Albert Collins/Jerry Hahn Brotherhood (Tuesday-Sunday)
The Troubadour did not have a purist aesthetic, so for this week the club featured loud electric guitars. Texas guitarist Albert "The Iceman" Collins had been recording since the 1950s. In 1964, he had a hit with the song "Frosty," and he became somewhat well-known. In 1968, the band Canned Heat was playing in Houston and attended one of his shows. The Heat offered to get Collins a record deal and live work, and he accepted. Collins signed with Imperial Records, and moved to Palo Alto, CA (of all places) in November '68. Collins' first Imperial album was  Love Can Be Found Anywhere. By 1969, Collins was a regular at rock venues throughout the West Coast.

In Michael Sherman's review in the Times, he praised Collins, but suggested that he was only doing what other bluesmen had already done. Sherman probably didn't know that if there was a "typical" blues guitar sound, Collins had played a role in establishing that. Still, it isn't untrue that Collins fell into the category of "very good, but not exceptional." The Troubadour, like Hollywood in general, was about the Next Big Thing, and that wasn't going to be Albert Collins.

The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood were a San Francisco band that had only formed in March. They had gotten a fairly big advance from Columbia, who was heavy on the jazz-rock vein, since they had hit it big with Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago Transit Authority.  Hahn was a pretty serious jazz guitarist, based in San Francisco, and he had played with John Handy and Gary Burton, among others. As "jazz-rock" became a thing, Hahn seems to have wanted to play in a more rock vein. Organist Mike Finnegan was from Wichita, Kansas. He was not only a great Hammond player, he was a terrific blues singer too (also, he was 6'6'' tall, and had gone to U. of Kansas on a basketball scholarship, making him the Bruce Hornsby of his era). Filling out the band were jazz musicians Mel Graves on bass and George Marsh on drums. Marsh had just left the Loading Zone, an interesting (if perpetually struggling) Oakland band

Michael Sherman's review of the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood was scathing. The Hahn group was used to San Francisco, where every band jammed their brains out. Not in Hollywood. Sherman bluntly said that "at times the result was appalling. The band is either ahead of its time or simply grotesque. This reviewer leans towards the latter interpretation." The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood retreated quietly back to clubs like The Matrix in San Francisco, where they didn't seem to be grotesque.

July 28-August 2, 1970, The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Tiny Tim/Lynn Kellogg (Tuesday-Sunday)
Tiny Tim, born Herbert Khaury, was a talented, if eccentric performer, and an expert on largely-forgotten styles of American popular music. However, he had become a sensation when he appeared on the popular NBC variety show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. He had become a national figure, although he was seen as a novelty rather than a serious artist. At this time, his current album was For All My Little Friends, released in 1969 on Reprise Records. Tiny Tim had appeared earlier in the year at The Troubadour (the week of January 13-18). 

Lynn Kellogg is unknown to me.

The Sunday Los Angeles Times (for August 2) had a glowing Robert Hilburn profile of Doug Weston. Weston was described as "the father of folk music in Southern California." Among other things, the article mentioned that Weston owned the building housing the Troubadour. More intriguingly, however, the article revealed that

Since the Troubadour's location is threatened by a future freeway, Weston has been devoting much of his energy lately to the renovation of a four-story building in San Francisco. The building will eventually serve as the center of an entertainment complex that will include a club, recording studio, health food restaurant, offices for his record company and his residence.

He originally planned to open the building last month [July], but a series of delays made him revise his schedule. Now, he's planning to open one phase of the operation at a time, with the restaurant due this month. 

"I will be able to stay in that building and keep busy 24 hours a day" Weston said. "It's the fulfillment of my dreams."

While it seems surprising that a Los Angeles personality like Weston would plan to decamp up to San Francisco, there was logic behind his thinking. For at least two decades, the San Francisco Bay Area had been an incubator of innovative musical talent that Los Angeles record companies had thrived upon. Back in the 50s, jazzmen like Dave Brubeck and Cal Tjader, singers like Johnny Mathis and groups like the Kingston Trio had all come from the Bay Area. More recently, bands like Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and now Santana were huge successes. So San Francisco was perhaps a better place to find and nurture new talent than Los Angeles. SF was open to new sounds, and the pressure was lower than in Hollywood.

Now, granted, Bill Graham was also trying to build a music machine, with concert promotion, a booking agency, management and two record companies. Graham, however, was more oriented towards loud rock groups. Graham's talent and connections were less oriented towards quieter singer/songwriters, since they were not going to go over as well when they were third on the bill at Fillmore West. Still, thanks to Graham and the Fillmore, the record companies were starting to build studios in San Francisco: Mercury had built a studio, Columbia was planning one, and all the big acts used Wally Heider's San Francisco studios. So SF wasn't a backwater.

I should note in passing that outside of sports--and really just the Giants and Dodgers--any enmity between San Franciscans and Los Angeles residents was strictly one-way. People from SF delight in putting down LA, but everybody I've ever met from Southern California absolutely loves the Bay Area. So Weston's willingness to base his operation in SF made lots of sense. For one thing, there really weren't any high profile contemporary rock clubs in San Francisco. The Matrix was a tiny backwater, and clubs like The Poppycock (Palo Alto) or The New Orleans House (Berkeley) were small and out of town. Weston would not be competing with Fillmore West for acts, and he would have no other serious competitors. It was a good plan.

August 4-9, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Livingston Taylor (Tuesday-Sunday)
Livingston Taylor was two years younger than his brother James, but he had been a folk singer in the Boston area since 1966. At this time, James Taylor had released one forgotten 1968 album (on Apple, of all things) and had released his Warners debut Sweet Baby James in February. So "Fire And Rain" was climbing the charts, but Livingston wasn't just "James' brother." Not yet anyway.

Livingston was also a songwriter, but he played in a bluesier style than James. Livingston had been one of the first signings on Capricorn records, the Macon, GA label founded by former Otis Redding manager Phil Walden. Walden and Capricorn's flagship was the Allman Brothers Band, of course, but they had various other acts as well. Taylor's self-titled debut on Capricorn had probably just come out.  The album was produced by Boston's Jon Landau, but mainly recorded in Macon. Players on the album were  Southern soul/rock veterans Pete Carr (guitar), Robert Popwell (bass), Paul Hornsby (keyboards) and Johnny Sandlin (drums).


August 4-9, 1970 Troubadour (North), San Francisco, CA: Kris Kristofferson/Doug Kershaw (Tuesday-Sunday)
On Tuesday, August 4, 1970, the San Francisco outpost of the Troubadour opened on 960 Bush Street. Old San Francisco rock fans may recall 960 Bush Street as the address of the Boarding House, a much-beloved venue open from 1972 to 1980. For those of us that recall the intimate circular bowl of a theater at the Boarding House, however, that was not in fact the setting for the Troubadour. The Troubadour's showroom was in the basement, basically a large dining room with a stage. In the Boarding House years, the old Troubadour stage was sometimes used for comedy shows, and generally referred to as the dining room. Probably it was used to serve dinner as well (I have included a picture of the Boarding House from the mid-70s, to show what the building looked like). 

What few references there are to the San Francisco Troubadour often call it the "Troubadour North," but in fact that was just a nickname; the club was named The Troubadour. To keep this post from going off the rails, however, I am referring to it here as the Troubadour (North). 

Phil Elwood reviewed the opening of the Troubadour in the August 5 Examiner. Elwood was very positive about Kris Kristofferson, and polite but dismissive about Doug Kershaw. In general, Elwood's description is mostly positive.
The club, once Facks II and the Balalaika restaurant among many other names, has been refurbished, expanded and fitted with excellent sound and light systems for the stage...It also has some traffic problems (inside and out), noisy patrons, natural foods, organic juices, sandwiches, dinners, "breakfast trips," plus beer and wine.
Clearly, Weston's concept was that the Troubadour (North) would be a restaurant destination, and not just a music showcase. It's fair to say that Weston correctly anticipated culinary trends of the next few decades, but I think he was at least a decade too early. He did say to Elwood that he expected a big lunch trade in the San Francisco club. 960 Bush (at Taylor) is in Lower Nob Hill, just West of Chinatown. It's not far from Union Square, and about six to eight blocks from Market Street and downtown, depending on what route you take.

Six to eight blocks from downtown sounds promising for a nightclub, or a fashionable lunch spot. But you have to think about San Francisco. For one thing, there are steep hills in San Francisco. For another, at all times of the year, the city can be cold and windy (insert mandatory Mark Twain joke). If your date or wife was wearing high heels--it was 1970, right?--were you going to say "come on honey, let's walk 8 blocks to dinner"? Sure, you could drive, but most people don't like driving on hills, much less parallel parking. So in order to go to see a show at 960 Bush Street, you had to be comfortable driving and parking in the city, and know your way around, or else be very, very warm and hearty indeed. Certainly, for suburban folks who only came to the City a few times a year, Bush and Taylor wouldn't be a trip made with confidence.

August 10, 17, 24 1971 Troubadour (North), San Francisco, CA: Hoot Night (Mondays)
The San Francisco Examiner usually listed the Monday auditions as "Hoot Night," continuing the pattern of the Hollywood club. I would love to know who played, but there's probably no way to ever find out.


August 11-16, 1970 Troubadour (North), San Francisco, CA: Livingston Taylor/The Dillards
(Tuesday-Sunday)
One very obvious benefit to Weston to opening the SF Troubadour was that he could book artists in two cities. For the opening month, San Francisco and Hollywood had very similar bookings. Livingston Taylor had played the previous week in Hollywood, and then came up to San Francisco for another week.

Also on the bill were The Dillards, who had played the West Hollywood club many times. The Dillards were veteran bluegrass performers, having come out to Los Angeles from Salem, MO back in 1963. The Dillards, too, had some TV fame, having had recurring roles as The Darling Family on The Andy Griffith Show. The Dillards had a new album in 1970, Copperfields, although I'm not sure exactly when it was released. It was their fifth album for Elektra, and their first in two years (since 1968's Wheatstraw Suite). By this time, The Dillards had remodeled themselves into a more folk-rock style, and less explicitly bluegrass oriented, but the high lonesome sound was probably still a big part of their stage show. Herb Pedersen had replaced Doug Dillard, but Rodney Dillard (guitar), Dean Webb (mandolin) and Mitch Jayne (bass) were still in the band. 

In the August 11 Examiner, Elwood had an extensive interview with Doug Weston about his new club:

"The Troubadour is not a night club," the thin, 6-foot-6 owner, Doug Weston stated as we walked through his newly opened establishment.
"It is the prepared health food and service here in the San Francisco Troubadour that are going to be the most important," he said, "not just the entertainment, or the recording studio, shops or even the natural food store.
"The Troubadour is going to provide the opportunity, for everyone who wants it, to get out of their plastic, rubber-stamp world. We are catering to all levels and phases of San Francsico's population.
"The Troubadour, you see, is a way of life to me and those who work with me. We think our life-style is worth expanding into the community."
Weston, something of a legend in the world of folk-rock (he admits to coining the term) has spent a dozen years building the Santa Monica Boulevard Troubadour in Hollywood into a world-famous entertainment room.
Six months ago [February] he bought the 45 year old building at 960 Bush Street and began a massive refurbishing job.
The lowest level (of four) is the showroom which opened to the public last week....
One level was once the Bush Street Theater, later Coast Recording's studios. The proscenium remains, as does a mishmash of recording studios and engineer's rooms. Weston plans to present live programs and TV programs from the hall as well as utilize the recording facilities...

What Elwood refers to here as the former Bush Street Theater would re-open as a theater in late 1971. By that time, SF Troubadour manager David Allen had re-opened the Troubadour as The Boarding House. Around 1972, the "Boarding House Theater" started being used for Boarding House shows, and ultimately the entire operation was based upstairs. The sightlines were better, and the capacity was greater (300 vs 225). In the Theater's prior life, it had been the Coast Recording studios in the 1950s and early '60s. In the early and mid-60s, the apprentice engineer was one Dan Healy, later the Grateful Dead's soundman (he apparently would sneak the Dead and other bands in after hours to make tapes). 


August 13-16, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Laura Nyro/Peter Evans
(Thursday-Sunday)
Laura Nyro headlined a week at The Troubadour, and it was a major event. Todd Rundgren, a formidable songwriter himself, heard her play live and changed his whole approach to songwriting, possibly at one of these concerts (in the song "Baby, Let's Swing" from Runt he sings "Laura/I saw you open in LA"). Laura Nyro was already a hugely successful songwriter by this time, but she didn't perform much. Few people would have been able to see her live, so this was a major event. Apparently she did not disappoint.

Laura Nyro (1947-1997) had been born in the Bronx. Her songs merged the catchy Brill Building sound with soul music, so her songs were catchy, deep and danceable--a formidable combination. Her 60s hit songs are familiar to everyone of a certain age: "Wedding Bell Blues" and "Stoned Soul Picnic" (both Fifth Dimension), "And When I Die" (Blood, Sweat and Tears), "Eli's Coming" (Three Dog Night) and "Stoney End" (Barbara Streisand) are just the most prominent.

Her actual recording career was more checkered. More Than A New Discovery, her debut, had been released by Verve Folkways in February 1967. Nyro had then appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival in July, but her soul sound did not go over as well as the more feedback-heavy acts. David Geffen then took over as her manager, and managed to void her previous contracts on the grounds that she had signed them as a minor. Nyro went to Columbia, where she had released Eli and The 13th Confession in 1968. It was followed by New York Tendaberry in Fall 1969. By 1970, Geffen and Nyro had sold her publishing (through Tuna Fish Music) for $4.5 million, a huge number. They split the money, and Nyro was then free of having to worry about her next hit.

Robert Hilburn's review of the opening show (Thursday April 13 early show) is glowing. The place was packed, Nyro played 8 songs on the piano and the crowd went absolutely crazy. She comes back for two more encores. Hilburn cannot say enough nice things about her, and all of Hollywood agreed. Although only 22 (Hilburn mentions this), Nyro doesn't need to record or tour, so it makes the rare display of her many talents all the more special. The fact that Nyro played the Troubadour and not a larger place--which she could have easily sold out--added immeasurably to the club's aura.

Nyro did not play a full six nights, like most acts, probably because she didn't need to. I'm sure there were additional "Audition Nights" on Tuesday and Wednesday, but I can't find any record of who might have played. 

I believe Peter Evans was a flamenco guitarist.

August 18-23, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: The Dillards/Longbranch Pennywhistle (Tuesday-Sunday)
The Dillards now headlined a week at The Troubadour in West Hollywood. They had played the clubs many times before, but in their most recent appearance (in January of 1970) they had been opening for Phil Ochs. Now they were the headliners. I suspect this was because they had a new album (Copperfields), but I haven't been able to track down the release date. Since they were playing in Los Angeles, it's likely they were joined by fiddler Byron Berline, who was sort of an adjunct member of the group.

Opening act Longbranch Pennywhistle was the singer/songwriter duo of Glenn Frey and JD Souther. The pair would release their only album on Amos Records in early 1970. They had opened at the Troubadour before, for the Flying Burrito Brothers (in January and then April of 1970). Presumably Frey and Souther's housemate, Jackson Browne, dropped by at least once.

August 18-23, 1970 Troubadour (North), San Francisco, CA: John Stewart/Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks (Tuesday-Sunday)
Phil Elwood reviewed John Stewart's opening night at the Troubadour in the Examiner (Thursday August 20), and hinted at the club's problems. Elwood loved Stewart, but he began the review by saying "If the new Troubadour on Bush Street can come up with a quality headliner like big John Stewart every week, most of Doug Weston's problems will evaporate." So even two weeks in, it was clear that the Troubadour wasn't catching on. Jerry Jeff Walker had originally been booked, but he seems to have been replaced by Stewart. Stewart had many local ties, and may have already been living in Marin by this time. Elwood mentions that Stewart played a 9-song set, and compliments his' singing and guitar playing, mentioning that he was backed by bassist Bryan Garafolo and drummer Lloyd Barata.

John Stewart (1939-2008) had been a member of The Kingston Trio from 1961 to 1967. The group had been very popular, but they were passed by when the likes of The Beach Boys and The Beatles came along. Stewart had gone solo, and released a variety of well-received albums, such as 1969's California Bloodlines. Although he had written a hit for The Monkees ("Daydream Believer"), Stewart was well known at this time, but not particularly successful. His current album would have been Willard, released on Capitol in 1970. The album was produced by Peter Asher, and recorded in Hollywood and Nashville. The LA tracks included players like James Taylor, Carole King, Mike Stewart (John's brother) and Chris Darrow, and the Nashville tracks had stellar backing as well. Clearly, Capitol felt Stewart was ticketed for success in the new world of singer/songwriters. Stewart actually had a fairly productive career into the 21st century, but in the early 70s he did not have the success that his talent would have foretold.

Elwood also briefly mentioned opening act Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. Hicks had been around the San Francisco scene as long as there had been one. He had been the drummer in the Charlatans, the band that started the psychedelic ballroom revolution in Virginia City, NV. Later he had switched to guitar, so he could sing more. The Charlatans played loud, psychedelic blues, however, and Hicks had other interests. He formed a "side group" with local violinist David LaFlamme to play a sort of modified swing music. When LaFlamme left to form It's A Beautiful Day, Hicks left the Charlatans and formed Dan Hicks And His Hot Licks. 

The band had released an album in 1969 on Epic, Original Recordings. The group wore Edwardian clothes, and it looked like a repackage of an old album. While the band played acoustic swing music, kind of, Hicks' wry, cynical lyrics were a striking contrast to the music. The album included future Hicks' classics like "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away" and "I Scare Myself." Nobody sounded like Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. The band at this time was probably Hicks on lead vocals and guitar, Jon Weber on lead guitar (Elwood mentions him), Sid Page on violin and Jaime Leopold on bass. "The Hot Licks" personnel varied sometimes, but at this time I believe it was Maryann Price and Naomi Ruth Eisenberg. Hicks most famous album, Where's The Money (Blue Thumb) would actually be recorded at the West Hollywood Troubadour in February 1971.


August 25-30, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Elton John/David Ackles
(Tuesday-Sunday)
Elton John's appearance at the Troubadour was likely the most significant booking in the history of the club, and that's no small thing. Certainly, Elton John is a huge star, and his performance at the Troubadour was a booster rocket for his success. Elton himself thinks that, as the event is replayed in his biopic, where he feels like he is being lifted off the stage as he plays the Troubadour. Still, the event wasn't just significant for Elton John's formidable career.

The 1960s had witnessed the rise of rock music, first the Beatles and Stones, and then Cream and Hendrix and both Fillmores. It was loud, free and electric. In Hollywood, rising rock bands played the Whisky-A-Go-Go. Led Zeppelin had come to town as nobody in January of 1969, and after a week at the Whisky they were off and running. 

Now, wherever you are on the spectrum of Elton John fandom, it's undeniable that he cut across a lot of boundaries. Bernie Taupin's lyrics were thoughtful, and Elton sang them with feeling. The songs were carefully arranged so the full impact of those lyrics could be heard. Yet even just with a trio, Elton John rocked hard, his piano covering a lot of musical territory. Elton could have rocked out the Whisky, no problem. Certainly, Elton killed it later in the year at both Fillmores. But he played The Troubadour the week of August 25-30, 1970, and elevated it, and the era of the singer-songwriter had begun, with its most successful performer.

Elton John had been a working musician in England in the mid-60s, playing with Long John Baldry and others. He also had a songwriting partnership with Bernie Taupin. Elton (birth name Reginald Dwight) had released his debut album Empty Sky in 1969. It was only released initially in the UK, and made little impact. In 1970, he released his second album, Elton John, but it was his first album released in the United States, on the tiny Uni label (DJM in the UK). Ultimately, there were two big hits off the record, "Your Song" and "Take Me To The Pilot," but the single wasn't released until October of 1970. Still, Elton's album was getting FM airplay on rock stations.

Elton's management sent him to America mainly to expose him to the music industry, so that he could get radio play. It was the form book for success in the 1970s. The old 60s model had been that bands toured all the Fillmore-type places, as well as the civic auditoriums and the rock festivals and college gyms, first as an opening act, then second and finally headlining. As a band became known, they started getting airplay on the local hippie FM stations. Bands like Ten Years After became huge on this model, without any really major records. The 1970s acts inverted this model--get big on the radio, and then rake in the concert receipts. In that sense, Elton John (along with his manager John Reid) were pioneers.

Robert Hilburn's review of Elton John's opening night is the biggest rave any artist has probably ever received (from the August 27, 1970 Times):
Rejoice. Rock music, which has been going through a rather uneventful period lately, has a new star. He’s Elton John, a 23-year old Englishman whose United States debut Tuesday night at the Troubadour was, in almost every way, magnificent...
His music is so staggeringly original that it is obvious he is not merely operating within a given musical field (such as country or blues or rock), but, like Randy Newman and Laura Nyro among others, creating his own field…
The audience, which included one of the largest local gatherings of rock writers in months, roared its approval, bringing John back for an encore….Tuesday night at the Troubadour was just the beginning. He’s going to be one of rock’s biggest and most important stars.

Remember, Hilburn was right in all of his predictions. Hilburn reveals another important point, too, which any 20th century rock journalist would confirm. The local rock writers in any city all knew each other, and often judged the buzz surrouding an artist by how many of their fellow critics were at a show. When Hilburn says Elton's opening show was "one of the largest local gatherings of rock writers in months," it's a marker that it isn't just Hilburn who can read the omens. Elton John was coming, and the Troubadour was where you got to see it first.

David Ackles, an American songwriter, had released his second album on Elektra in 1970, Subway To The Country. Ackles was widely regarded by British artists like Elton John, Elvis Costello and Phil Collins, but he did not become known at all until later, and he was never really popular. Ackles opened for Elton John at the Troubadour in both Hollywood (August 25-30) and San Francisco (September 1-6), and apparently Elton watched his show every night. Bernie Taupin would produce Ackles' 3rd album (American Gothic) released in 1972.
 


August 25-30, 1970 Troubadour (North), San Francisco, CA: Mike Nesmith and First National Band/Lisa Kindred (Tuesday-Sunday)
Nesmith and his First National Band played a week in San Francisco. By this time, their new album Magnetic South would have been out for at least a month.

Opener Lisa Kindred was a bluesy guitar player from Buffalo. She had released an interesting album on Vanguard in 1965 (I Like It This Way). While it was well-received, Kindred had had a variety of problems with record companies, and pretty much did not release anything after that. She had moved to the Bay Area by 1969, where she would perform in various configurations for many years. Elwood praises her singing, and mentions that she was accompanied by guitarist John Besharian.

September 1-6, 1970 Troubadour (North), San Francisco, CA: Elton John/David Ackles (Tuesday-Sunday)
The display ad above (from the August 28, 1970 Examiner) is one of the very few traces of Elton John's appearance at the San Francisco Troubadour. Following his pattern, Weston booked Elton John for a week in San Francisco right after his Los Angeles debut. Elton's performance at the Hollywood Troubadour made his career, changed his life and was a milestone in popular music. 

It is telling that Elton John's similar performance in San Francisco disappeared almost without a trace. I'll save you the trouble of googling--I'm the only person to write about it. Even the first-rate Eltonography site can only allude to it vaguely. Now, let's be clear--the SF Examiner reviewed the opening night, and the reviewer (Michael Kelton) acknowledges Elton's talent, energy and songs. But he dismisses him for being "inauthentic," although he uses the term "artificial." The San Francisco ethic at the time was Jerry Garcia or Carlos Santana, crouched and squinting over their guitars, not a guy in a sequined suit jumping around. Elton John's appearance at the Hollywood Troubadour is the centerpiece of his bio-movie--his appearance at the same club in San Francisco is barely even noted in the website devoted to his history. 

Music and the music industry was changing, and the center of gravity was heading south down Highway 101, from San Francisco to Los Angeles. By the end of 1970, as we will see in the next installment, the West Hollywood Troubadour was one of the most important venues in popular music. The San Francisco Troubadour would only last two more months, and would disappear with almost no trace.

For subsequent posts in the 70s Rock Nightclubs series, see here.


 

 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The Matrix, 3138 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA: July-September 1970 Performers List (Matrix II)

 

The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood were regular performers at the Matrix throughout 1970. Their lone album on Columbia was released around July

The Matrix, at 3138 Fillmore Street in San Francisco's Marina District, had quite literally been the first hippie nightclub. Originally opened in August, 1965 by Jefferson Airplane lead singer Marty Balin's father (along with some partners), the club not only housed the Airplane, it was also the only hangout for most of the long-haired musicians. When the Fillmore and Avalon started putting on shows in early 1966, pretty much the only other steady hippie gig in the city was at The Matrix. Many of the Fillmore bands, even the popular ones, put in time at the Matrix

The Matrix was a tiny, rectangular club, a former pizza parlor with a beer license. Maximum official capacity was 150. Patrons were not allowed to dance--this was no joke, as the cops liked to bust hippies just to find joints in their pocket--so the Matrix generally eschewed dance music. Befitting the Fillmore, the Matrix favored noodly blues jamming, presented in all seriousness like a jazz club. The owners of the Matrix also tried to tape every show, a saga in its own right, which over the years has left us far more of a history of music at the club than would normally be available. 

By 1970, rock music was booming all over the Bay Area. There were rock clubs that booked original music in Berkeley, Palo Alto and Sonoma County, and shows in high school and college gyms on weekends. The Matrix was no longer the only alternative if there was no Fillmore gig. The Matrix, however, although hardly lucrative, still had some advantages over its suburban competitors. For one thing, the Matrix was open six or seven nights a week, so working bands with good gigs on the weekend still booked at the Matrix during the week. Furthermore, the Matrix had an expectation like a jazz club, with musicians playing serious music without worrying about pleasing a crowd, very different than a rocking high school gym. Thus weeknight bookings at the Matrix are often far more intriguing in retrospect than the weekends, in contrast to most nightclubs.

Although the Matrix was in decline by 1970, and no longer at the center of the San Francisco rock scene, its unique status meant that interesting musical events still happened there. Most famously, one night in January when Boz Scaggs missed his show, an unknown band from New Jersey played instead, and Examiner critic Phil Elwood became the first of many to write a glowing review of Bruce Springsteen. Throughout the Spring, the Monday night jam session evolved into the seeds of what would become the hugely successful Jerry Garcia Band. In a prior post, I reviewed all the performers at the Matrix from January to June, 1970. 

This post will review all the performers at the Matrix from July through September, 1970. While Matrix shows were listed regularly in San Francisco and Berkeley newspapers, they were rarely reviewed, so some of the listings have contradictions. I have made my best guesses here, but not attempted to resolve the murky differences between, say, the Berkeley Barb or the San Francisco Examiner on a given weekend. I am confident that all the bands listed here played the Matrix during the second half of 1970, even if here and there the exact dates may vary slightly. While Bruce Springsteen had returned to New Jersey by Spring, there was still interesting and excellent music played at the Matrix in latter 1970. 

Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders, around 1973 or so. There are no pictures (known to me) of Garcia and Saunders playing at the Matrix (and for that matter only one brief tape)

Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders at The Matrix

By the second half of 1970, the Matrix was mainly a musician's hangout. In retrospect, the most interesting story of this period is the emerging collaboration between Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders. Garcia had already played the Matrix many times, with the Grateful Dead, Mickey Hart and The Hartbeats and at informal jams. In the first half of 1970, Garcia had started jamming regularly on Monday nights with organist Howard Wales and drummer Bill Vitt. Vitt had brought in bassist John Kahn. Garcia enjoyed having regular jamming partners, and made time in his schedule to ensure he got to jam at the Matrix.

When crowds started to turn out for Garcia at the Matrix--remember, we are talking about 100 people on a Monday night--Howard Wales became uncomfortable with the notoriety. In the Fall, Kahn brought along his friend Merl Saunders, and he took over the Hammond at the Matrix jams with Garcia. While the jams were informal, they were regular and scheduled. Ultimately, these jams would lead to collaboration and recording by Jerry Garcia, John Kahn and Merl Saunders (and Bill Vitt). In the end, Kahn and Garcia were musical partners for the next 25 years, and it all began at The Matrix during this period. Amongst all the performances at the Matrix in the second part of 1970, the casual but real formation of Jerry Garcia's future as a stand-alone performer had the most lasting impact. Garcia was booked for 25 nights over the course of 1970 (plus dropping by for a few jams), a remarkable number for a musician with a full-time rock band at the same time.

Anyone with additional information or insight into any of these bands, or with suggestions for accurate dating, or missing groups, or just intriguing speculation, is encouraged to enter them in the Comments. 

Boz Scaggs' debut album, released on Atlantic in 1969. Duane Allman and Donna Jean Thatcher were both on the record, produced by Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner

The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Performers List: July-September 1970

June 30-July 1, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Boz Scaggs (Tuesday-Wednesday)
Boz Scaggs had been in the Steve Miller Band in 1967 and '68. He had left the Miller Band and was signed to Atlantic. Scaggs had released a terrific debut album in 1969, produced by Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner, recorded in Muscle Shoals, AL with Duane Allman, Donna Jean Thatcher (pre-Godchaux) and the Muscle Shoals rhythm section. Although the album got good airplay on San Francisco FM radio, it really didn't sell. While signed to Atlantic, Scaggs was neither touring nor recording, so he played a lot of local clubs. When he didn't have other gigs, Scaggs played the Matrix.

Boz' ensemble at the time was a five-piece, with Doug Simril on lead guitar, David Brown on bass and Reese Wynans on organ (I'm not sure who was the drummer). Brown had played with Duane Allman and Butch Trucks in Florida around 1968, in a band called 31st Of February. Wynans, from Sarasota, FL, had been in a Jacksonville band called Second Coming, which had included guitarists Dickie Betts and Larry Reinhardt, as well as bassist Berry Oakley. In 1969, Second Coming broke up because Oakley and Betts had joined Duane Allman's new band in Georgia. Initially, Wynans had joined the nameless band as well, but he was soon nudged aside for Duane's brother.

Somehow Brown and Wynans had ended up in San Francisco, playing with Boz Scaggs. I don't know what the exact link was, but it seems clear that Scaggs' recording connections in Muscle Shoals played a part. Brown would remain part of Scaggs's band for the next few years, whereas Wynans would return to the South, ultimately becoming part of Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble.

So Fine!, the second album by the Elvin Bishop Group. It was released in July 1970 on Bill Graham's label, Fillmore Records (distributed by Columbia)

July 2, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Elvin Bishop Group
(Thursday)
Elvin Bishop, from Tulsa by way of Chicago, had joined the Butterfield Blues Band in the early 60s. Bishop had initially shared guitar duties with Michael Bloomfield on the bands' first album. Bishop had graduated from wingman to lead soloist for two albums (1967's Resurrection Of Pigboy Crabshaw and '68's In My Own Dream), and then left the Butterfield band to move to the San Francisco in 1968. He had been leading his own group in the Bay Area since early 1969.
 
The Elvin Bishop Group was listed for both Monday and Tuesday night. Presumably this covered hosting the typical Monday Night Jam (when fan expectations were less rigid) as well. The Elvin Bishop Group was managed by Bill Graham's team, and signed to Fillmore Records. They had released the band's debut album in 1969. Stephen Miller played organ, and Miller, Jo Baker and Bishop were the singers. Bassist Kip Mackerlin and drummer Bill Meeker filled out the band. Around July, 1970, the Elvin Bishop Group had released Feel It!
 
Stephen Miller, from Cedar Rapids, IA, had been in the band Linn County (the County of Cedar Rapids), and they had released three albums on Mercury. Up until this time, Miller had only been a de facto member of the Bishop Group, although he had played on the first album and many of their live shows. Linn County had disbanded, however, so Miller could become an "official" member of the Elvin Bishop Group.
 
July 3, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Bill Champlin and Friends (Friday)
Bill Champlin, of course, had been the founder and lead singer (as well as organist) for Marin County's Sons Of Champlin. The Sons had officially disbanded after a February 20, 1970 show at Fillmore West. Champlin had gone on to join an intriguing group called the Rhythm Dukes, with ex-Moby Grape lead guitarist Jerry Miller. Talented as the band was (there was a really good privately released cd in the early 20th century), the Santa Cruz-based band did not create enough of an audience to sustain itself.
 
The Sons Of Champlin, meanwhile, although they had "broken up," continued to record. Later in the year the band would release the fine album Follow Your Heart, fulfilling their Capitol Records contract.
 
July 4-5, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: closed Saturday-Sunday?
I could find no listings for The Matrix on the weekend of July 4-5. It's not impossible that they were closed. It may seem startling that a rock nightclub was closed on a holiday weekend, but the Matrix was not a prime gig anymore. All the regular Matrix bands would have had much better bookings this weekend. The Matrix often booked blues or folk acts on weekends, who didn't get the more lucrative high school dance gigs or Ballroom bookings. Whether the Matrix was dark or simply did not have an act worth promoting this weekend, it was a sign that the Matrix was mainly a weekday hangout for musicians.
 
Hooteroll?, by Howard Wales and Jerry Garcia, was recorded in October 1970, but not released until late 1971. Producer Alan Douglas dropped by the Matrix and heard the pair jamming, and arranged to produce and release the album. Recording continued even though Garcia had started playing with Merl Saunders at the Matrix, since Wales chose not to continue playing live

July 6, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia, Howard Wales and friends
(Monday)
In early 1970, around February or March, organist Howard Wales and drummer Bill Vitt were signed up to host the "Monday Night Jam." The two of them could make enough music as a duo, but other musicians don't work much on Mondays, so Wales invited Jerry Garcia to come jam with them. The story of how some casual spring jams on Monday night evolved into the Garcia/Saunders ensemble is the most important historical narrative of the 1970 Matrix.

Organist Howard Wales was from the Cincinnati area, where he had backed guitarist Lonnie Mack in the mid-60s. Wales then ended up in El Paso, TX, working in a jazz trio with tenor saxophonist Martin Fierro, and after that in Seattle. By 1968, Wales had made landfall in San Francisco. He joined a blues trio that had just moved from Milwaukee, The New Blues. They became a quartet called the AB Skhy Blues Band. The band's debut had been released on MGM in 1969, and they performed regularly around the Bay Area. Wales had jammed with the Grateful Dead at least once (the tape is from August 28, 1969), so he had met Garcia somewhere. 

Drummer Bill Vitt had gone to High School in Northern California (he was born in Washington State), but had ended up as a studio musician in Los Angeles around 1965. Around '66, Vitt had joined Jack Bedient And The Chessmen, and he toured Nationally, even going to Hawaii for a residency. By 1969, however, Vitt had tired of the road, and he preferred Northern California, so he quit The Chessmen and moved to the Bay Area. Besides playing local gigs, Vitt was soon in demand as a session drummer. There was a growing recording scene in the Bay Area, and Vitt worked on many sessions for producer Nick Gravenites. Another of Gravenites' first call players was bassist John Kahn, and Vitt and Kahn had met when the drummer was invited to play with Mike Bloomfield. Kahn lived near Vitt in the tiny Marin community of Forest Knolls, and they worked many sessions together.

After the initial bass player (classically trained Richard Favis) did not work out, Bill Vitt invited his Forest Knolls neighbor John Kahn. The most likely date for Kahn's debut on stage with Garcia was April 13, 1970. Besides being regular session players for Nick Gravenites (Kahn and Vitt were the rhythm section for the Brewer And Shipley hit "One Toke Over The Line," for example), the pair played together in the Mike Bloomfield band. Nick Gravenites put together lineups to back Bloomfield, a genuine rock star who liked to play small clubs and never rehearse--hey, does this sound like a plan?--and would book whatever players were available. John Kahn was always his first-call bassist, and his first-call drummer was Kahn's best friend, Bob Jones. Jones had another band, however (Southern Comfort), so if Jones wasn't available, Bill Vitt got the call (amusingly, Jones was Vitt's landlord).

Kahn and Garcia hit it off, musically and personally. They would become musical partners until Garcia's death, with Garcia/Saunders, Jerry Garcia Band, Old And In The Way and a variety of other ensembles.  Kahn would organize the bands and deal with many of the musical logistics. Garcia himself said that without Kahn, most of his side-ensembles would not have existed. 

At this time, Garcia, Wales and company were just playing way-out jams. As far as anyone knows, there weren't "songs." We only have one tape, from May 18, 1970, released as Side Trips many years later. But no comments by Garcia or Kahn suggest that they did anything but jam. Nonetheless, there's no doubt that jamming at The Matrix was a high priority for Garcia. On July 6, the Grateful Dead had just returned from the legendary Canadian Festival Express Tour (immortalized in a movie), and their last date was in Calgary on Sunday, July 5. Garcia must have returned to SFO that afternoon, and been jamming at the Matrix just a few hours later.

A flyer for the New Riders of The Purple Sage show at the Matrix on Tuesday, July 7, 1970. The Matrix did not produce flyers for their shows, so someone associated with the band must have done this. Note: Guys 21, Chicks 18.

July 7, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: New Riders Of The Purple Sage (Tuesday)
As if jamming with Howard Wales the day he landed at the airport wasn't enough, Garcia returned to the Matrix yet again on Tuesday night. There a number of remarkable things about this performance, starting with the fact that Garcia had just played Calgary on Saturday and Sunday, the Matrix on Monday and would play in Illinois with the Grateful Dead on Wednesday. Yet he still played the Matrix with the New Riders Of The Purple Sage on his only open night back in town.
 
JGMF has done his usual exceptional analysis of the actual performance, so you can assess it for yourself. The existing tape has 2 hours of music, and some other evidence suggests that the New Riders did two 75-minute sets (a half-hour of tape appears to be missing). Even more remarkably, Garcia does not play pedal steel guitar with the Riders, but instead played six-string electric. On a few numbers, Garcia even plays banjo, perhaps his only public banjo performance for two years (between February '69 and February 1971). The implication is that Garcia's steel guitar is either not yet back from Canada, was getting repaired or was on its way to Illinois, so Garcia was playing the axes available to him. 

The New Riders Matrix gig is also unique in that there is a flyer for the show. Since it was published in the Art Of Rock book, it is somewhat known to poster collectors. It is misleading, however, since there were very few flyers for individual Matrix shows after the 1960s. This one seems to have been produced by someone associated with the New Riders, and no doubt intended to promote a larger crowd. 

Another fascinating sub-plot to the tape is that the band invites a friend on stage to sing harmonies on "Long Black Veil," and introduce her only by her first name. Clearly, everyone there seems to know her. She is introduced as "Bev," and I think it was Beverly Bivens of the We Five (retired at that point). David Nelson, when asked, couldn't remember, but did observe that he loved Bivens' singing in the We Five, so it could have been her. This little interchange gives us a taste of a musician's night at the Matrix--your friends are in the crowd, so you invite them up to sing on a tune they know.

July 8-11, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Hahn Brotherhood (Wednesday-Saturday) [per Berkeley Barb]
or July 10-11 Charlie Musselwhite (Friday-Saturday) [per SF Examiner]
Both Charlie Musselwhite and Jerry Hahn Brotherhood played the Matrix often during this period.  Without a review or other evidence, it's impossible to know which band actually played this weekend.

Harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite, from Tennessee by way of Chicago, had been one of many young white musicians who were intrigued by the blues in the mid-60s. He played with Mike Bloomfield and others around the Chicago scene. The story goes that he took a month off of his factory job to come to San Francisco for some gigs, and stayed for 30 years. By 1970, his most recent Vanguard album was his third, Tennessee Woman. His band on the album, and probably live, featured Tim Kaihatsu on guitar.

Jul 14-17, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Hahn Brotherhood (Tuesday-Friday)
The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood was an only-in-San-Francisco band, and they had become regulars at the Matrix. Peripheral evidence suggests that they must have been great live, and jammed up a storm, but they were pretty far out, and the Matrix is one of the places where audiences would have at least expected that. The band played the Matrix regularly throughout their only year of existence.

Jerry Hahn was a pretty serious jazz guitarist, based in San Francisco, and he had played with John Handy and Gary Burton, among others. As "jazz-rock" became a thing, Hahn seems to have wanted to play in a more rock vein. Early in 1970, organist Mike Finnegan had been newly arrived from Wichita, Kansas. He was not only a great Hammond player, he was a terrific blues singer too (also, he was 6'6'' tall, and had gone to U. of Kansas on a basketball scholarship, making him the Bruce Hornsby of his era). Filling out the band were jazz musicians Mel Graves on bass and George Marsh on drums. Marsh recently been in the Loading Zone, an interesting (if perpetually struggling) Oakland band.

July 18, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Elvin Bishop Group (Saturday)
 
July 20-21, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Howard Wales and friends (Monday-Tuesday)
These shows were billed as Howard Wales and Friends. Garcia's name wasn't listed. On the other hand, Garcia was not on tour with the Dead--what else would he have been doing? To my knowledge, the Grateful Dead did not start recording for American Beauty until August 6. August and early September were taken up with recording, however, and that may explain why there were no known Garcia gigs at the Matrix for the next several weeks.

No one really thought to ask Kahn, Wales or Vitt who they might have played with when Jerry didn't show. On a few known occasions, Terry Haggerty of the Sons Of Champlin sat in with Wales, so he's a possible candidate.
 
Hello There Universe, Mose Allison's 1970 album for Atlantic. He had a large (8-piece) ensemble backing him, instead of just playing in his usual trio format.

July 22-25, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Mose Allison
(Wednesday-Saturday)
Mose Allison. Who do you think is the coolest, most influential, ahead-of-his (or her)-time musician in 20th century popular music? You pick your guy, and I'll pick Mose Allison. Guess what? Whoever you picked, I'll bet they take Mose Allison too. Mose Allison, born 1927 in Tippo, MS (on the Bayou, no less), piano lessons from age 5, enlisted in the Army, ended up with an English degree from LSU in 1952. He was a working jazz musician in New York by 1956, played with everyone. Somewhere, it turned out that he could write and sing, too, and he sang the blues--he was from Mississippi, right?--but he was a college graduate white guy.
 
Mose Allison's vocal numbers didn't get much traction until the mid-60s, but eventually they were covered by The Who ("Young Man's Blues"), Bonnie Raitt, The Clash and numerous others. "Parchman Farm" has been covered by too many artists to mention. His laconic style and witty writing was Bob Dylan and Randy Newman before such things even existed. Record companies recognized his talent but didn't know what to do with him. Until the 1980s, Mose Allison was an acquired taste. 
 
I assume that Mose Allison was touring around with a trio in 1970. At this time, his current album was Hello There Universe, released in 1969 on Atlantic, with relatively large 8-piece ensemble. Mose's next Atlantic album, Western Man, released in 1971, was a trio recording with Billy Cobham and Chuck Rainey. I don't know who regularly toured with Mose Allison at this time. Still, whoever was lucky enough to see Mose in the tiny Matrix would remember it.
 
The SF Examiner listing from Monday July 27, 1970 lists Mickey Hart and the Hart Beats, with Jerry Garcia, for Monday and Tuesday (July 28)

July 27-28, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Mickey Hart and The Hart Beats with Jerry Garcia (Monday-Tuesday)
The SF Examiner announced "Mickey Hart and The Hart Beats, with Jerry Garcia" on Monday and Tuesday. This supersedes some earlier listings which had been mentioned in Berkeley papers, so that suggests that this was a late addition, phoned in to the Examiner by the Matrix to drum up a crowd. "Mickey Hart and The Hartbeats" was intermittently used by the Grateful Dead to informally indicate that Garcia and other members of the Dead would be playing, but that they wouldn't be doing a regular Grateful Dead set. 
 
In previous iterations of Grateful Dead scholarship, the sequence of listings (a display ad in Berkeley's Good Times, but no mention in the listings of The Tribe) suggested the date had been canceled. But over time, notices in the SF Chronicle and Examiner (above) suggest that the Mickey And The Hart Beats show, whatever it was, really happened. Generally speaking, daily listings to Metro newspapers were phoned in the day before, not weeks in advance, so there was reason to think they were current bookings. So it seems that Jerry Garcia and some other members of the Grateful Dead actually played the Matrix on Monday and Tuesday, July 27 and 28, 1970.
 
Since Garcia had been playing every Monday night that he was in town for some months, it seems plausible that if the Dead had some sort of plan, they would use the Matrix to execute it. Tuesday was often a kind of flexible night at the Matrix, too, so a two-night booking makes sense as well. But what was planned, and who played? Some past but still accurate analysis by an esteemed Grateful Dead scholar gives a shrewd assessment of the possibilities and the likelihoods.
 
The most likely explanation was that what would now be called "Acoustic Grateful Dead" played a couple of nights at the Matrix, supported by the New Riders of The Purple Sage (who were largely the same folks). The Grateful Dead were planning to go into the studio to record what would become American Beauty, and--being the Dead and all--it would have made sense to try the songs out a few times on stage. The Matrix was a safe place for that. A few days later, they would do the same at the tiny Lion's Share in San Anselmo, so this speculation doesn't come out of nowhere. There are also a couple of Acoustic Dead tapes with uncertain provenance (one generally listed as Matrix-July 30, for example, clearly incorrect, as they were at the Lion's Share), and a few dates at the Matrix would explain them.

Back in April, the Dead had played a weekend at the Family Dog (April 17-19, 1970) under the name Mickey Hart and The Hartbeats, and had debuted the Acoustic Dead that would play on the Summer tour as part of the band's "An Evening With The Grateful Dead." We know this not least because the Dead released an archival tape of one of these performances. It's not impossible, however, that the Dead also jammed with Howard Wales at the Matrix one of these nights, since they didn't really have a keyboard player. It's also possible, that they did both, perhaps on consecutive nights. Bob Weir had alluded to jamming with Wales, but it has always been unclear when that was. Tantalizingly, Wales had jammed with members of the Grateful Dead at the Family Dog on August 28, 1969, and Owsley had labeled the tape "Hartbeats."

So I'm pretty sure that Garcia was at the Matrix these two nights, with other members of the Grateful Dead, but we still await confirmation about what exactly they might have been up to.

July 29, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Harvey Mandel (Wednesday)
Harvey Mandel (b. 1945) had grown up in the Chicago area, and was one of the young white guitar players who were interested in the local blues scene. Mandel's first recording was with Charlie Musselwhite, and his record Stand Back!, released on Vanguard in 1967. Mandel had relocated to San Francisco, along with Musselwhite, and ultimately went solo. Mandel, though not famous, was well regarded amongst fellow musicians. Mandel had released three albums on Phillips. His most recent had been Games Guitars Play, released in 1969. In 1968  and '69, Mandel had played the Matrix regularly with various combos, as well as joining in jam sessions with Jerry Garcia and others.

In August, 1969, Mandel had been backstage at Fillmore West to see Canned Heat. Heat guitarist Henry Vestine quit the band after an argument. In place of Vestine, Mike Bloomfield (also backstage) played the first set, and Mandel played the second set. Mandel was invited to join the band. Just three gigs later, Mandel played Woodstock with Canned Heat. He toured with the band until the middle of 1970.

After some more Canned Heat upheaval, Mandel and bassist Larry Taylor left to join John Mayall, who by this time was based in Los Angeles. They would make Mayall's USA Union album and a few others. The USA Union album was recorded in LA on July 27-28 (and released in October). Mandel seems to have zipped back to San Francisco for a gig. The Matrix could have been a warmup gig for a different weekend booking.

July 30-Aug 1, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Smokestack Lightning (Thursday-Saturday)   
Two Berkeley underground papers (The Tribe and Good Times) and the SF Examiner conflict on the bookings between July 28 and July 30. Initially, Texas Songster Mance Lipscomb (1895-76), who recorded for Arhoolie, was booked for Tuesday (28) and Wednesday (29), but seems to have been replaced by The Hartbeats and Mandel. Smokestack Lightning (below) was advertised from July 29-through August 1. The Examiner has Mandel on Wednesday July 29, but Good Times had him July 29-30. I have made the best guesses based on what I think were the latest publication dates.
 
There were so many 60s bands called Smokestack Lightning that it is hard to keep track. A band of that name played Southern California clubs regularly at this time, perhaps it was them. Note that of this week, whoever exactly played, it was the least well-known act that was booked on the weekend, when the Matrix was not a desirable booking.

August 3, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Monday Night Jam
Presumably Howard Wales and Bill Vitt ran the jam this night. It's reasonable to wonder why Garcia was not billed, since he was actually in town. At this time, I think Garcia was focused on (what would now be called) "pre-production" for American Beauty, although the Dead probably called it "rehearsal." This still doesn't exclude Garcia showing up anyway. From Garcia's point of view, he may not have wanted to be advertised, in case his Grateful Dead duties kept him away. 
 
As a further complication, the Grateful Dead were supposed to have been going on Tom Donahue's Medicine Ball Caravan, which departed San Francisco on August 4. The band pulled out at the last minute, for various financial reasons. From a planning perspective, it's another reason that Garcia wouldn't have been officially advertised, even if in the end he was available. I would say the odds favor Garcia having shown up for some late night jamming anyway.
 
August 4, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: jam with Hot Tuna, QMS, Carlos Santana (Tuesday)
A tape has circulated for many decades of a jam at the Matrix on this night. The jammers, based on the tape, seem to be Dino Valente, John Cipollina and Nicky Hopkins of Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady of Hot Tuna and Carlos Santana. Some drummers are present of course, but their identity is unknown. It makes a lot of sense that all of these old pals would show up to jam at the Matrix, but why exactly is another matter. The only listing I could find has blues guitarist Albert Collins (see below) for Tuesday and Wednesday (August 4-5). You can listen to the tape and decide for yourself it the identification of players is accurate. As to an accurate dating of the tape, we await further information, should it ever be forthcoming.

August 5, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Albert Collins (Wednesday)
Texas guitarist Albert "The Iceman" Collins had been recording since the 1950s. In 1964, he had a hit with the song "Frosty," and he became somewhat well-known. In 1968, the band Canned Heat was playing in Houston and attended one of his shows. The Heat offered to get Collins a record deal and live work, and he accepted. Collins signed with Imperial Records, moved to  Palo Alto, CA (of all places) in November '68. Collins' first Imperial album was  Love Can Be Found Anywhere. By 1969, Collins was a regular at rock venues throughout the West Coast.

Collins is listed as being booked at the Matrix on Tuesday and Wednesday (August 4-5), but it seems the Quicksilver jam took place on Tuesday night. Obviously, I don't know if Collins canceled out of both bookings, or just played Wednesday.

August 6-8, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Ramblin Jack Elliott (Thursday-Saturday)
Ramblin' Jack Elliott was a folk legend. Here he was headlining the Matrix on a weekend, since good rock bands would have better bookings. I think Elliott lived in the North Bay by this time, or at least spent a lot of time there, so playing the Matrix would have been convenient.
 
August 10, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Monday Night Jam
The Grateful Dead were supposed to be out of town, on the Medicine Ball Caravan tour, so Garcia wouldn't have been advertised for the Monday night jam. But the Dead had bailed at the last second, for financial reasons. Garcia was definitely in town, as he recorded with the Airplane crew at Wally Heiders this day. The odds are good that Howard Wales was leading the jam, and that Garcia showed up. We'll probably never know.

August 11-12, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Charlie Musselwhite (Tuesday-Wednesday)
 
August 13-15, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Hahn Brotherhood (Thursday-Saturday)
 
August 17, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Boz Scaggs/AB Skhy/Benny Cecil/Uncle Vinty Soledad Brothers Defense Committee Benefit (Monday)
This Monday night was taken up with a benefit for the Soledad Brothers Defense Committee. Besides Boz Scaggs, AB Skhy was a group of Wisconsin transplants. Howard Wales, though not from Wisconsin, had joined the band in 1968, when they had moved to San Francisco and appeared on their first album. He had left the group, but I wouldn't rule out him sitting in.

I recognize the name Benny Cecil from local bills, but I don't know anything about him (or if it as a group). Uncle Vinty sang and played piano. Old photos show him wearing viking hats and other odd get-ups. He seems to have been some kind of satiric performer, but for a minor act, he is certainly remembered fondly on the internet.
 
Big Brother and The Holding Company had existed before Janis Joplin, and they had existed afterwards. The Be A Brother album, released in Summer 1970, was actually really good, but no one noticed it.

August 18-19, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Big Brother and The Holding Company
(Tuesday-Wednesday)
Big Brother and The Holding Company had disintegrated in December, 1968, when Janis Joplin left the band for solo stardom. They got back together in late 1969. starting to work on an album, and by 1970 they were performing. The group would release the underrated Be A Brother later in the year, produced by Nick Gravenites.  
 
The reconstituted Big Brother featured the four original (pre-Janis) members, although James Gurley had switched to bass, and Peter Albin now played guitar (plus Sam Andrews on guitar and Dave Getz on drums). They had also added Dave Schallock on guitar, so they were a five-piece band. 
 
For a contrast, consider the Grateful Dead, contemporaries and personal friends of Big Brother. The Dead had planned to tour America with the Medicine Ball Caravan, and canceled at the last minute for financial reasons. Bill Graham Presents rapidly booked Dead shows at Fillmore West for three weeknights (August 17-19, Monday through Wednesday). Though probably not at all sold out, these would have been good, profitable bookings for the Dead and their satellite, the New Riders. Meanwhile, the four original members of Big Brother were booked at the tiny Matrix on the same nights, playing for perhaps 100 patrons.
 
August 20-22, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Boz Scaggs (Thursday-Saturday)

August 24, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia, Howard Wales and friends (Monday)
Somewhere in the month of August, two interesting and important things occurred, but the exact dates remain mysterious.

First off, somewhere around July or August, Columbia staff producer Alan Douglas wandered into the Matrix and liked what he heard. Douglas had his own "Imprint," on Columbia, and was pretty much free to release what he wanted. Douglas had produced many jazz albums for United Artists from 1962 onward, and by 1967 Columbia assigned him to his own Douglas label (not the same as Douglas Records, by the way). The Douglas label released some "hip" 60s stuff, including albums by Timothy Leary, Lenny Bruce and the Lost Poets. Douglas also released albums that were nascent jazz-rock hybrids, including John McLaughlin's Devotion album, where he was paired with drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Rich. From that point of view, Wales and Garcia's spacey jamming fit right in, on the border between jazz and electric rock.

Alan Douglas arranged for Wales and Garcia to record an album. Keep in mind, however, that although Douglas could make his own decisions, Columbia label head Clive Davis loved Jerry Garcia, and would have liked the idea of supporting a Garcia endeavor. Operators like Davis were always thinking ahead to the next time an artist's contract would come up. The Dead had just signed an extension with Warners, but Davis was patient. So Douglas certainly would have had Clive's support. The album was recorded at Wally Heiders Studio in October of 1970, as we know that the sessions were complete by October 28.

Secondly, however, around August, Howard Wales became uncomfortable with the crowds coming to the Matrix to see his jams with Garcia. In some ways, this is comical, and in others very hard to explain. Word had obviously gotten around about Garcia playing, and his name was listed in the major papers (the Chronicle and the Examiner). Yet the Matrix couldn't really hold more than 150 people, tops, so even accounting for some turnover, at most 200 people would have come through the door on a given night. Wales had played with Lonnie Mack in the mid-60s, and had certainly played to larger crowds, so it really made no sense. On top of that, Alan Douglas was coming around to ask about recording, and here was Howard Wales trying to step aside.

Jerry Garcia always has his own plans, however, and a reticent organ player didn't faze him. Garcia loved playing with Wales, and he spoke highly of Wales' playing many times in later years. Garcia also agreed to recording with Wales for the Douglas album. To resolve the fact that Wales didn't want to come to the Matrix, Garcia just needed another keyboard player. Kahn had an organ-playing friend named Merl Saunders, whom Garcia had met at Wally Heider's when they had been in the studio on separate sessions. So around September, Merl Saunders took over the organ chair for the Monday night jams, even though Garcia continued his musical collaboration with Wales.

Why did Wales want to stop playing with Garcia at the Matrix? Various people, including Garcia, have just said things over the years like "Howard's a weird dude, and wasn't that comfortable with the music industry." Both those things were probably true. It's also very likely true that Wales had certain business interests where being a well-known rock musician was not appealing. Wales was never forthcoming about this, but in any case, his reticence triggered the important partnership between Garcia and Saunders.
 
August 25-26, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Harvey Mandel (Tuesday-Wednesday)

The very strange Music Of El Topo album, inspired by the film, but not the soundtrack. Musicians included Howard Wales, Martin Fierro and the Shades Of Joy. Recorded 1970, released 1971.

August 27, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Shades of Joy
(Thursday)
The Shades Of Joy were an obscure, but interesting band that had been around since about 1968. They featured tenor saxophonist Martin Fierro, guitarist Jackie King and organist Jymm Young. The band had released an album on Fontana, back in 1969. Chronicle columnist Ralph Gleason gave them favorable notice on a night when they opened for the Grateful Dead (probably February 28, 1969, although they are not on the poster). Gleason said
Shades Of Joy is a local group (a spin-off of several other local units) which features wild free form modern jazz saxophone playing by Martin Fierro, a roaring R&B rhythm section and two voices, Martin and Millie Foster, who is much better in this role than as a pure jazz singer. It's an exciting and interesting group...It is rather a wild experience to see a group featuring a saxophone soloist who looks like the leader of a Third World Student picket line accompanied by a drummer who looks like he just got in from the cattle drive. Is there still hope?
Fierro had played in a jazz trio in El Paso, TX with Howard Wales around 1966. This turned out to be significant. When Alan Douglas recorded the Hooteroll? album with Wales and Garcia, Fierro got the call for tenor sax, and began a fruitful several years playing with Garcia. On top of that, Douglas recruited the Shades Of Joy, along with Wales, to contribute to a very strange album called The Music Of El Topo. El Topo, directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, was a Mexican avant-garde "Acid Western" art film. The album was "inspired" by it, but was not the soundtrack.  The El Topo album was completed after Hooteroll?, but was released before it, in mid-1971.
 
Guitarist Jackie King was a highly regarded guitarist around the Bay Area well into the 21st century. Jymm Young, while not widely known, played with many Bay Area bands including Boz Scaggs (he would join Boz by early '71). Most importantly, pretty much every rock listener of a certain age is familiar with Young's warm, swirling organ as it plays underneath Steve Miller singing "Time/Keeps on slipping, slipping/Into the future..."

August 28-29, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Mimi Farina (Friday-Saturday)
Mimi Farina (b.1945-2001) was Joan Baez's younger sister. Although she had the beautiful voice and the striking looks of her more famous sister, Mimi was more comfortable in a duet than by herself. In 1963, then 17 years old, she had married singer and novelist Richard Farina. By 1966, Mimi and Richard had already released two albums on Vangaurd, and in many ways they seemed like an "It Couple." Mimi was charming and had a famous sister, and Richard had not only published a fine debut novel (Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me), he was friends with people like Bob Dylan and Thomas Pynchon. Farina's novel was published in 1966. Two days after his book was published, at a party in Carmel, CA, celebrating his wife Mimi's 21st birthday, Farina took a ride with a friend on his motorcycle. Apparently (per Pynchon, in a latterday introduction to Been Down So Long), Farina's friend had been going at least 90 mph when 30 would have been recommended, and the motorcycle driver lost control.
 
Bereft, Farina noodled around the Bay Area. Periodically, she would appear with her sister in various formats. Mimi was always popular, but she didn't crave the spotlight like her older sister. Farina also appeared occasionally with a band called The Only Alternative (And His Other Possibilities). None of these opportunities played out for Mimi Farina, probably mostly because she didn't want to be a solo star.
 
If Mimi Farina was interested in finally stepping out, the Matrix was a great place to start. The Matrix was a hippie enclave where whatever fans were there cheerily tolerated whatever artists wanted to do. Certainly, guys like Jerry Garcia (particularly with Howard Wales) were playing some very weird stuff, and whatever fans that went to the Matrix were good with it. Nobody was going to criticize Mimi Farina at the Matrix. 
 
Based on the timeline, my guess is that Mimi Farina had begun her partnership with guitarist and songwriter Tom Jans. The pair would release an album in 1971, and would work together for some years. In 1970, however, Mimi Farina had a name whereas Tom Jans did not, so I suspect the Matrix booking was a chance for them to try on their new material.

Seatrain, with Peter Rowan, Richard Greene and Andy Kulberg, released their second album (although their first on Capitol) in 1970.

September 1-2, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Sea Train/Kracker Jack
(Tuesday-Wednesday)
Sea Train (aka Seatrain) had been formed from the ashes of the Blues Project in 1968. For complicated reasons, the Blues Project had reformed in San Francisco, and then changed their name to Sea Train. After a 1968 debut on A&M, Seatrain reconstituted itself (and changed its spelling) and ended up recording for Capitol. The new band was mainly based in Cambridge, MA, but they seemed to winter in the Bay Area. At this time, Seatrain had Peter Rowan on guitar and vocals, Richard Greene as lead soloist on electric violin, Lloyd Baskin on keyboards and vocals, Andy Kulberg on bass and Roy Blumenfield on drums. Their first album on Capitol (entitled Seatrain) would be released in 1970, although I am not precisely sure what month it was actually released.
 
Kracker Jack is unknown to me.

Note: there is a tape attributed to the New Riders of The Purple Sage at the Matrix on September 2, 1970, but for various reasons it seems like a spurious date.

Lovecraft was an outgrowth of the Chicago bands Aorta and HP Lovecraft. Their album Valley Of The Moon was released on Reprise in 1970.

September 3-5, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Lovecraft
(Thursday-Saturday)
Lovecraft was the revised name of a 60s Chicago psychedelic band--actually two--that had moved to San Francisco, and had re-invented itself. The band H.P. Lovecraft had put out two albums on Philips (a Mercury subsidiary) in 1967 and '68. They were popular with Bill Graham, which wasn't nothing, and had played the Fillmore a number of times. Another Chicago group, Aorta, had released an album on Columbia in 1969. Aorta had released a second album, Aorta 2, on Happy Tiger Records, a label supported by and promoting the Flying Tiger air freight airline.

H.P. Lovecrat broke up after 1968. The members of Aorta ended up in San Francisco by 1970. Somehow H.P. Lovecraft drummer Michael Tegza (who had been in the interesting group Bangor Flying Circus in 1969) came out to SF as well. By September, the band members had joined forces, using the name Lovecraft. The band anticipated the move made by the likes of Jefferson Starship, to retain some continuity without implying that they would replicate all the old hits. In fact, the only actual remaining member from the original H.P. Lovecraft was Tegza. Aorta brought guitarist James Vincent Donlinger, better known to rock fans as Jim Vincent, and bassist Michael Been. Marty Grebb, another transplanted Chicago musician, played keyboards.

Lovecraft would release the album Valley Of The Moon on Reprise sometime during 1970. Lovecraft faded away after that, but the different members continued to work steadily. Jim Vincent worked with Howard Wales for many years, and Michael Been ended up in a variety of Moby Grape-related bands in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Ultimately, Been was one of the key members of The Call. Marty Grebb was in various groups, but he had great success as a studio musician and producer.
 
September 7, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia and Friends (Monday)
For all the intense scholarly focus on Jerry Garcia for the last several decades, determining the date of the first public performance of Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders has remained elusive. Indirect evidence seems to point to Monday, September 7, 1970. There is a rumor of a tape, but that too remains just over the horizon. Even if we can pin down that Merl and Jerry played on this date, we still wouldn't necessarily know for certain if it was their debut

No matter. Somewhere around this time, Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders played at the Matrix with John Kahn and Bill Vitt. While Garcia and Saunders had met at Wally Heider's studio, through John Kahn, they had not played together. When Garcia and Saunders plugged in the first night, neither really knew what to expect from the other. Saunders' music could not have been a more striking contrast to Howard Wales, a fact commented on by Garcia. Wales's music was far-out jamming, defying conventional structures. Saunders, however, already had a decade of experience in dance bands and organ trios, and knew all the popular songs and jazz standards. Garcia had no direct experience of playing "The Great American Song Book."

It is a common musical art that a musician will struggle for years playing popular music and standards in bars, so that when he finally gets to play his own compositions, they are infused with musical history. Other than folk music, Garcia had no such background. Garcia had gone straight from bluegrass to psychedelic improvisation at full volume. In a very unique pattern, though already a genuine rock star, Garcia took time to go back to the bars and find out what he missed. Wales provided the freedom, and Saunders brought the standards. Garcia and the Grateful Dead's music in the 1970s benefited enormously from both. 

Merl Saunders had formed a band at Lincoln High in San Francisco in 1948 (he was 14), and his singer was classmate Johnny Mathis. Saunders had played music ever since, spending 4 years in the US Air Force Big Band, playing in organ trios and learning from Jimmy Smith, and playing jazz and popular music in San Francisco and Las Vegas. Merl had toured the country, toured Vietnam, been musical director for a show that went to New York, had met Miles Davis and played and hung out with many great jazz musicians (I have written about Saunders' diverse career here). 

By 1970, Merl was back in San Francisco, writing commercial jingles, holding down the organ job at Jack's On Sutter and playing sessions in studios. At Wally Heider's, where the big San Francisco bands recorded, he worked a lot for producer Nick Gravenites, as did John Kahn. Around August 1970, Saunders and Kahn were working on demos for an album by Kansas City folksinger Danny Cox (the album would ultimately be released in 1971). Garcia, hanging out and playing on a Brewer And Shipley session, was introduced to Saunders. A few weeks later, when Wales was unwilling to come to the Matrix, Kahn recommended Saunders and Garcia assented.

September 10-12, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: John Fahey (Thursday-Saturday)
John Fahey was a giant of acoustic guitar, and his unique virtuoso style inspired numerous talented guitarists such as Robbie Basho and Leo Kottke, just to name a few. Fahey's lengthy instrumentals were somewhat inpenetrable to the uninitiated however, so the Matrix may have been an appropriate place.
 
September 14, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia and friends (Monday)
For September 7 and 14, the Matrix lists "Jerry Garcia and friends" instead of "Jerry Garcia, Howard Wales and friends." That is my principal reasoning for assuming Wales had been supplanted by Saunders. Saunders' name starts being mentioned in Matrix ads in October. 
 
We have no idea what Garcia and Saunders were playing at the Matrix during 1970. Our earliest tape is from May of 1971, and it's just a jam. The Garcia archives recently released an archival tape from Keystone Korner from May 21, 1971. Mostly the band just jams, and Garcia sings some blues, and also covers a Band song ("Dixie") and a David Crosby song (an apparently one-time version of 'Wall Song"). Since Garcia and Saunders had never met, nor jammed, nor rehearsed (not that they ever would rehearse), I think early shows were just about jamming the night away. I'm sure with Saunders on board, the jams were more bluesy and structured than with Wales, and perhaps some familiar chord changes were even adhered to. While there was likely the occasional vocal, probably on a blues, I think the group initially just improvised.

September 15-16, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Charlie Musselwhite (Tuesday-Wednesday)
 
September 17-19, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Hahn Brotherhood (Thursday-Saturday)
The Berkeley Barb lists Boz Scaggs for September 18-19 (Friday-Saturday), but I am more inclined to think Jerry Hahn Brotherhood played.

September 21, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Vince Guaraldi (Monday)
Pianist Vince Guaraldi was San Francisco's best-known jazz export since Dave Brubeck. With the success of Guaraldi's Peanuts soundtrack, however, Guaraldi was free to perform as much as he wanted in the Bay Area without actually going on the road. Per biographer Derrick Bang, Guaraldi's band would have been saxophonist Karl Denham, bassist Koji Kataoka and Oakland drummer Mike Clark. Clark, a phenomenal drummer, would later go on to well-deserved renown as the drummer for Herbie Hancock's mid-70s ensemble, the Headhunters. A little-known fact about Guaraldi was that he liked playing electric keyboards, and he may have been in a more electric format at the Matrix than his famous 60s sound might suggest. 

Given that it was Monday night, which was jam night, it's hardly impossible that some of Vince's pals showed up to hang out and play. The Grateful Dead were booked at Fillmore East the prior weekend (September 17-20), so that would explain why Garcia might not have been booked for this Monday.

Cat Mother and The All Night Newsboys were a Greenwich Village band, aligned with Jimi Hendrix's manager. They recorded their second album in San Francisco in 1970. Most of them stayed in the Bay Area afterwards.

September 22-23, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Cat Mother and The All Night Newsboys
(Tuesday-Wednesday)
San Francisco had a unique status for rock bands in the late 1960s and '70s. While the record industry was centered, as it always had been, in Manhattan and Hollywood, San Francisco was an enticing opportunity for rock groups. For one thing, the concert industry was thriving, so a good band could make a living whether they had an album or not. Plus, there were studios and plenty of A&R guys, so SF wasn't the wildnerness. Plus, it was California--no snow, pretty girls, open minds--so it wasn't hard to persuade fellow band members to make the move. A large number of bands from elsewhere moved to San Francisco.
 
Cat Mother and The All-Night Newsboys had formed in Greenwich Village in 1967. By 1969, they had been signed by Michael Jeffery, the manager of Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix had even produced the band's debut album on Polydor, The Street Giveth and The Street Taketh Away. Thanks to the Jeffery connection, Cat Mother got to open for Hendrix and a number of other high profile events.
 
By 1970, however, Cat Mother was anxious to separate themselves from Jeffery's questionable management practices. Their second album, Albion Doo-Wah, was recorded in San Francisco. Since the producer was ex-Charlatan Richard Olsen, I'm pretty sure it was made at Pacific High Recorders. Cat Mother then stayed on in San Francisco. The three founding members of the band, Roy Michaels (bass, vocals), Bob Smith (keyboards, vocals) and Michael Equine (drums), would all relocate permanently to California. At the time of this show, the band still had lead guitarist Paul Johnson and probably violinist Larry Packer. Both of them would ultimately return to New York. Michaels, Smith and Equine moved to Mendocino County and continued on as Cat Mother until 1977.

September 24-26, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Hahn Brotherhood (Thursday-Saturday)
 
September 28, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Vince Guaraldi and friends jam (Monday)
Gauraldi took the booking for another Monday night, and Bang reports the same lineup (Denham, Katoaka and Mike Clark). The Grateful Dead were booked for Southern California the prior weekend, and that might again explain why Guaraldi took the jam night. Of course, the Dead had to cancel Sunday night in San Diego, so Garcia would have been back in town in Monday. Is it too much to hope that he dropped into the Matrix to jam with his pal Vince?

September 29-October 3, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: John Lee Hooker (Tuesday-Saturday)
John Lee Hooker was a blues legend, of course. Hippies officially loved the blues--Eric Clapton played them, and so on--but in fact there weren't many bookings for veteran blues artists. They were out-of-date for R&B clubs, but not hip enough for white rock shows. At this time, Hooker's most recent album would have been 1969's That's Where It's At on Stax. Somewhere around this time, Hooker would move to the hills behind Redwood City (where he lived for many decades), so he preferred playing in the Bay Area.

Phil Elwood of the Examiner, perhaps the only writer in town who actually went to the Matrix, reviewed Hooker's show there in the October 1 edition (probably a review of the September 30 show). Elwood was very enthusiastic, and mentioned that Hooker's band included Tim Kaihatsu on guitar, Geno Skaggs on bass and Kenny Swank on drums.

Status Report: The Matrix, October 1970
Rock music was booming, in San Francisco as elsewhere. As the rock audience got older, nightclubs started to play a more prominent role for rock music. The tiny, out-of-the-way Matrix was not benefitting financially from either of these developments. Paradoxically, the club was more than ever an oasis for local musicians to do what they felt like, if they had the time.

2504 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA: The Long Branch May-December 1971 Performance List(Long Branch I) 

For subsequent posts in the 70s Rock Nightclubs series, see here.