The Matrix, at 3138 Fillmore Street in San Francisco, had 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 had not only housed the Airplane, but 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, 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 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.
This post reviews all the performers at the Matrix from January to June, 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 guess 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 first half of 1970, even if here and there the exact dates may vary slightly.
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.
|The 1969 debut album for the Elvin Bishop Group, on Bill Graham's Fillmore label|
The Matrix, San Francisco, CA Performers List: January-June 1970
January 2-3, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Sandy Bull/Lambert & Nuttycombe (Friday-Saturday)
Sandy Bull was a solo guitarist, a unique and remarkable performer whose elaborate fingerpicking was enhanced by various electronic looping effects. Although appealing to a rock audience, more or less, Bull was the type of performer whose audience remained seated. He had played the Matrix many times over the years. At the time, his most recent album would have been E Puribus Unum, released on Vanguard the previous year. Bull had played all the instruments himself, and the music was hardly rock.
Folk duo Craig Nuttycombe and Dennis Lambert had been in the Eastside Kids in Southern California. Their album on A&M Records had been recorded at Nuttycombe's home.
January 5, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Monday Night Jam with Elvin Bishop
Guitarist Elvin Bishop hosted this Monday Night "Jam." In the parlance of the time, where a performer was named, the implication was that he would put on a show, but maybe not with his regular band, or doing a regular set. Of course, there would be some jamming, and some friends would probably get up onstage.
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.
January 6-7, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Miller, Bill Champlin & Friends (Tuesday-Wednesday)
Jerry Miller had been the lead guitarist in Moby Grape, and in 1969 he had formed a band in the Santa Cruz Mountains called the Rhythm Dukes. Bill Champlin was, of course, lead singer and organist for the Sons Of Champlin. The Sons, however, would break up in a few weeks, and Champlin was going to join the Rhythm Dukes. So this booking was effectively the soon-to-be Rhythm Dukes. In any case, both Miller and Champlin were better known than the Rhythm Dukes.
January 8-11, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Vince Guaraldi Trio (Thursday-Sunday)
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. His band at this date is unknown (per biographer Derrick Bang). A little-known fact about Guaraldi was that he like playing electric keyboards, and he may have been in a more electric format at the Matrix than his famous 60s sound might suggest.
January 12, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Monday Night Jam with Elvin Bishop
A rainy Tuesday night was one of the most famous nights ever at the Matrix. Guitarist Boz Scaggs was booked for a few nights (see Jan 14-15 below), and San Francisco Examiner critic Phil Elwood decided to review Scaggs' show for the Wednesday night edition. But Scaggs couldn't make it, and instead an unknown band from New Jersey filled in. Steel Mill had showed up in California two weeks earlier, and were hustling around the Bay Area, introducing themselves to club owners. This night, they got lucky. The January 14 Examiner featured a glowing Elwood review of Steel Mill, taking special note of the singing and songs of lead guitarist Bruce Springsteen. It was the first newspaper review Springsteen ever received, and reputedly it was part of his press clippings for a long time.
The other members of Steel Mill were organist Danny Federici, bassist Vinnie Roslyn and drummer Vini Lopez (both Federici and Lopez ended up in the initial E Street Band, and "Phantom Dan" remained an E Streeter his whole life). Steel Mill had a following in New Jersey and, oddly, Richmond, VA, but had headed West in the hopes of getting signed. After a New Years Eve show in Big Sur, Steel Mill spent January and February trying to make it in San Francisco. The Examiner review got them auditions at the Family Dog and Fillmore West.
|Boz Scaggs 1969 debut lp on Atlantic|
January 14-15, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Boz Scaggs/Johnathan Goodlife (Wednesday-Thursday)
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, 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 and. 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 connection 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.
Johnathan Goodlife, per the Elwood review, was a 4-piece band from Reno, NV.
January 16, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: ? (Friday)
I could find no evidence of who played at The Matrix on Friday, January 16. While I'm sure the club was open, the odds are that there wasn't an interesting, much less major act. Weekends tended to be less high profile acts, even by Matrix standards, often solo or folk acts who weren't getting weekend rock bookings anyway.
Big Joe Williams (1903-82) was a unique blues performer who played a 9-string guitar. He had been rediscovered in the 60s folk revival. His most recent album would have been Hand Me Down My Walking Stick, released in 1969 on Liberty Records, but recorded in 1968. It seems to have been recorded in England. It's possible that Williams played on Friday (January 16) as well, but I don't know. Williams was interesting, but not a major figure. He wouldn't have been getting a rock gig at some high school gym the way other Matrix acts might.
January 19, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Monday Night Jam
Even if no one was named as hosting the jam, some musician would have been hired to organize it. If it was organized by a non-singer, the night was likely more jam-oriented. The musicians probably split the door take, which was probably only a few bucks each.
|The Seatrain debut album on Capitol, with Peter Rowan, released in mid-1970|
January 20-21, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Sea Train (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 later in 1970. January 22-24, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Big Joe Williams/Stuart Little Band (Examiner) (Thursday-Saturday)
This weekend showed different listings in the SF Examiner vs Berkeley underground papers (the Barb and the Tribe). I'm inclined to believe that the Examiner had a later deadline, but there's no certainty. Per the Ex, blues shouter Big Joe Williams was the headliner, supported by Stockton's Stuart Little Band. Presumably, Stuart Little Band backed Big Joe, even though their arty style would not have been a perfect match (one of the Stuart Little Band wrote a book about the group, A Mouse That Almost Roared).
Alternately, Elvin Bishop was booked for Thursday (Jan 22) and Friday (Jan 23), with Steel Mill also on the bill Thursday. Until or unless we find out something more, we can't know for sure. Steel Mill seems to have played The Matrix again in January after the Elwood review, but its not clear when. The booking would not likely have been noted in any paper.
January 26, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Monday Night Jam
January 27-31, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Boz Scaggs/Johnathan Goodlife (Tuesday-Sunday)
February 2, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Monday Night Jam with Elvin Bishop
February 3-5, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Lamb (Tuesday-Thursday)
Lamb was a songwriting duo featuring Barbara Mauritz (piano) and Bob Swanson (guitar). They were managed by Bill Graham's organization, and they would release their debut album A Sign Of Change on Graham's Fillmore Records label (distributed by Columbia) later in 1970.
February 6-7, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Joy of Cooking (Friday-Saturday)
Joy Of Cooking were a Berkeley band, formed in 1968. They had built their audience one gig at a time, playing regularly at clubs like Mandrake's and The New Orleans House. Joy Of Cooking played danceable music, but they liked to jam, too. They stood out, however, because their front-line players were both women who played instruments, rather than just being singers. Pianist Toni Brown and guitarist Terry Garthwaite had been in various Berkeley ensembles prior to Joy Of Cooking. The band was filled out by bassist David Garthwaite (Terry's brother), drummer Fritz Kasten and conga player Ron Wilson. Ultimately Joy Of Cooking was signed to Capitol, and they would release the first of their three albums in 1971.
February 9, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Monday Night Jam with Elvin Bishop
February 10-11, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Boz Scaggs (Tuesday-Wednesday)
|The February 13-19, 1970 Berkeley Barb advertised Boz Scaggs and "Steele Mill" with Bruce Springsteen|
February 12-14, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Boz Scaggs/Steel Mill (Thursday-Saturday)
Steel Mill played a few more dates at the Matrix. Somewhere around this time, Bill Graham saw them (probably checking them out after the Elwood review) and invited them to audition at one of the Tuesday night Fillmore West shows for unsigned bands. The Fillmore West Tuesday shows are an entirely different story (which you can read about here), but it's not certain which night Steel Mill played. The evidence points to Tuesday, February 17. That would fit the timeline of Steel Mill playing the Matrix this week.
February 16, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Monday Night Jam
February 17-19, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen/Robert Savage (Tuesday-Thursday)
Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen had created their knowing mix of Hippie Honky Tonk and Western Swing in Ann Arbor, MI, but had moved to the greener pastures of Berkeley. Working out of a house in Emeryville, they were playing any and every gig they could find at this time. Their sound was mostly complete, although guitarist and singer John Tichy was still finishing his PhD (in Electro-Mechanical Engineering) at the U. Of Michigan. The Airmen would not release their debut album until late in 1971.
Robert Savage had been the guitarist in a Hollywood band called The Leaves in the mid-60s, but was now working out of the Bay Area.
The Examiner listed Boz Scaggs playing the weekend, supported by Harvey Brooks, while the underground papers had Vince Guaraldi. Brooks was a bass player, and a kind of "name" (he had been in Electric Flag, for example) but he wasn't really a bandleader. Possibly he was playing in Boz Scaggs' band for the weekend.
If Guaraldi was playing, his quartet would have been Vince Denham (sax), Koji Kataoka (bass) and Mike Clark (drums).
|Feel It!, the second Elvin Bishop Group album, released on Fillmore Records in mid-1970|
February 23-24, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Elvin Bishop Group (Monday-Tuesday)
The Elvin Bishop Group was listed for both Monday and Tuesday night. Presumably this covered hosting the typical Monday Night Jam as well. The actual 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 John Chambers filled out the band.
February 25-28, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Sandy Bull/Victoria (Wednesday-Saturday)
Sandy Bull returned. Victoria (Victoria Domagalski) was a singer-songwriter, also part of the Bill Graham stable. Her debut album, Secret Of The Bloom, would be released on Graham's San Francisco Records label (distributed by Atlantic) later in 1970.
March 2, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Monday Night Jam
At some point, drummer Bill Vitt and organist Howard Wales took over responsibility for the Monday night jam at the Matrix. Indirectly, it seems that March 2 was where that began, since Elvin Bishop starts to take over the Monday night jams at the Keystone Korner. Now, the pair could play some good music as a duo, if need be, but of course if their friends would show up it would make for a better evening. The significance of this was that Wales and Vitt, between them, were responsible for initiating the 25-year partnership of Jerry Garcia and John Kahn.
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.
Per a David Gans interview with Bill Vitt, initially Wales and Vitt just played as a duo. Jerry Garcia showed up at one or some of the Matrix Monday night jam sessions with Wales and Vitt, but I think this night seems a bit early for that.
March 3, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Marvin Gardens (Tuesday)
Marvin Gardens was another band that had played all the hippie clubs in the 60s, recording a few demos but never putting out a record or getting high on the bill at the Fillmore. Apparently they sounded somewhat like Big Brother and The Holding Company. Lead singer Carol Duke apparently became a well-known figure in the LBGTQ community, but that was not widely known at the time. A retrospective album of Marvin Gardens demos (entitled 1968) was released in the 21st century. I think the group was at the end of the line by early 1970.
March 4-5, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Charlie Musselwhite (Wednesday-Thursday)
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 this time, his most recent Vanguard album was his third, Tennessee Woman. His band on the album, and probably live, featured Tim Kaihatsu on guitar.
March 6-7, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Sea Train (Friday-Saturday)
March 9, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jam with Bill Champlin, Jerry Miller (Monday)
The Sons Of Champlin had "officially" played their last concert as of February 20. although the band continued to record. This would have been a Rhythm Dukes show, with Miller and Champlin, but I don't know why it wasn't billed that way.
March 10-14, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: John Lee Hooker/Eric Ericson (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.
Presumably Bill Vitt and Howard Wales were managing the Monday jam again. As the Grateful Dead were starting their tour in Buffalo, NY on Tuesday, March 17, it's likely Garcia had already flown out of town.
March 17-21, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Boz Scaggs (Tuesday-Saturday)
Phil Elwood reviewed Boz Scaggs Tuesday Matrix show in the March 18 Examiner, and gave him very positive notices. Elwood was pretty much the only writer who reviewed shows at the Matrix. Presumably that encouraged fans to come out and see Boz later in the week.
March 23, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Monday Night Jam
The Grateful Dead were playing at an amusement park in Florida (and sitting around a hotel writing "Truckin'"), so Garcia definitely wasn't at this jam.
Harmonica player Sonny Terry and guitarist Brownie McGhee had been successful blues recording artists in the 1940s. Sonny and Brownie were very popular on the 'Folk Revival' circuit in the mid-60s. By 1970, however, there weren't really folk clubs with viable gigs. At the same time, rock bands in the Bay Area had more lucrative opportunities, so a lot of blues acts played the Matrix.
March 30, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Monday Night Jam
The Grateful Dead were back in town. Based on some comments by Bill Vitt (via David Gans), he showed up to jam one night, and liked it so much he wanted to continue with a bass player. Triangulation suggests that this may be the night Garcia initially showed up. He had probably jammed at the Matrix before on Monday nights, off and on, as had many musicians, but there wasn't any record of it. Certainly Garcia had played the Matrix many times with various Dead-related "ensembles" like Mickey Hart and The Heartbeats in 1968 and '69 (Garcia, Phil Lesh, Hart, Kreutzmann and any friends who showed up).
March 31-April 2, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Cleveland Wrecking Company (Tuesday-Thursday)
Cleveland Wrecking Company was an interesting band who had been playing the Matrix since 1968. The band, a 7-piece with horns, and often a female singer, had a completely different business model than every other hippie rock band in the Bay Area. Other bands were interested in making albums, and only played dances and the like when they were starting out, just to make ends meet. Cleveland Wrecking Company had the opposite approach.
A google search of Cleveland Wrecking Company will net you pictures and references to playing huge dances for teenagers and young adults on late '60s and early 70s weekends. There was clearly real money to be made, and we have to presume they played their share of covers. During the week, however, and on some weekends, Cleveland Wrecking Company played rock clubs like The Matrix, and opened concerts for the Grateful Dead and others, presumably emphasizing original material. Bandleaders Jim Lowe (organ) and Norman Beale (lead guitar), had made a demo, to help book gigs, but they had no interest in making a record. They were, in effect, a Dance Band that moonlighted as an original rock band, instead of the opposite. Cleveland Wrecking Company broke up in 1972.
The weak position of the Matrix is shown by this weekend. John Jackson (1925-2002) played acoustic blues and country dance music on the guitar. He had been found by Berkeley's Arhoolie Records in the 1960s, and he had put out a few albums. I used to have one--it was fairly enjoyable, but he wasn't a major player. Jackson belonged in a folk club, not a hippie pizza joint on a weekend. Saddhu Brand, meanwhile, played some sort of rock/Indian music hybrid. Saddhu Brand had put out an album, and featured Peter Van Gelder, who had played at the Matrix with the Great Society, back in 1966.
Neither John Jackson nor Saddhu Brand were any kind of draw. During the week, the Matrix had some pretty good bands, and those bands mostly had a rock album, or at least had some members who had been in a popular band. On the weekend, though, a lot of those acts found better gigs, leaving the Matrix with folk club leftovers.
April 6, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Monday Night Jam
Based on my proposed timeline, this would be the night that a bass player joined Jerry Garcia, Howard Wales and Bill Vitt. Vitt invited Richard Fevis, who was also playing in the Oakland Symphony. Vitt was a trained musician (a fine piano player as well as a drummer), and he may have thought that a sophisticated bass player would be the best fit with Wales. It didn't work, however, according to Vitt, so he would invite John Kahn on the following Monday.
|Be A Brother, Big Brother and The Holding Company's first post-Janis album, released 1970|
April 7-9, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Big Brother and The Holding Company with Nick Gravenites (Tuesday-Thursday)
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. Big Brother didn't really have a lead singer, so Gravenites sang on the album. It's not surprising he performed with them. Probably Gravenites sang a few songs with the band, while the group also performed without him. Most likely these were "live rehearsals" for some upcoming higher profile shows.
April 10-11, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: T-Bone Walker/Juke Boy Bonner (Friday-Saturday)
It would be difficult to overstate the importance of T-Bone Walker and the history of electric guitar, particularly blues and rock guitar. T-Bone started recording in the 1940s, and he pretty much invented the modern blues guitar style. BB King explicitly modeled his playing on T-Bone, and when T-Bone was the King of Central Avenue in Los Angeles in the late 40s and early 50s, he invented all the "duckwalking" showmanship that Chuck Berry made famous. Music history hadn't yet caught up with music in 1970, however, and white hippies only had the vaguest idea of the enormity of T-Bone Walker.
By 1970, Walker was 60 years old, and not in good health. His guitar playing, based on his recordings, was still amazing, but he wasn't necessarily in the best settings. At this time, his most recent albums were Good Feelin', on Polydor and recorded in France, and Every Day I Have The Blues, on Bluestime. The latter album (released '69) was produced by jazzman Bob Thiele, and included LA session players like Max Bennett (bass), Paul Humphrey (drums) and Tom Scott (tenor sax). Musicians knew how great and important T-Bone Walker was, even if fans hadn't caught on. Reputedly there is (or was) a tape of one of the T-Bone Matrix sets from this weekend. He was probably playing with a pickup band, well below his status, even if his health was in decline. T-Bone was also booked at the Berkeley Blues Festival this same weekend.
Weldon "Juke Boy" Bonner (1932-1978) was a "one-man band" from Houston, TX, playing guitar and harmonica. He had released a few albums on Arhoolie, and he performed his own material in a Lightnin' Hopkins vein. An earlier ad had Jesse Fuller as the headliner, but he seems to have been replaced by T-Bone.
Since Richard Fevis hadn't worked out on bass, Bill Vitt invited his Forest Knolls neighbor John Kahn. 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.
April 14-16, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Luther Allison Blues Band (Tuesday-Thursday)
Luther Allison had played guitar for Howlin Wolf, Freddie King and many other Chicago bluesmen in the late 50s and 60s. He didn't really start a solo career until the 1970s. He had a sterling reputation with other musicians.
April 17-18, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Vince Guaraldi (Friday-Saturday)
Vince Guaraldi returned for another weekend at the Matrix. His band would have been Vince Denham (sax), Koji Kataoka (bass) and Mike Clark (drums). One reason Guaraldi might have liked to play the Matrix, even if it didn't pay that well, was that (per Derrick Bang), Guaraldi liked to play electric keyboards. He could have indulged that at the Matrix, where it might not have gone over that well at a more "traditional" jazz booking.
April 20, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia, Howard Wales and friends (Monday)
Finally, Jerry Garcia was advertised in the paper. Up until this time, only a very few people had shown up to Monday night jams at the Matrix, since no one would have had any idea that Garcia would be there. Once Garcia's name was in the paper, people started to show up (incidentally, both Jerry Garcia and John Kahn were interviewed about this, in 1991 and '96, respectively, and they both got the timelines almost completely wrong). Still, as far as we know, the ensemble didn't play "songs," just way-out jams with no vocals.
April 21-22, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Hahn Brotherhood (Tuesday-Wednesday)
The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood was a newly-formed, only-in-San-Francisco band, and they would 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. At this early date, however, they were probably just gigging to "get it together."
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. Organist Mike Finnegan was 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 had just left the Loading Zone, an interesting (if perpetually struggling) Oakland band.
Jerry Hahn Brotherhood got 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. Thus I think the Brotherhood, while hardly rich from their advances, had a little cash and could focus on gigs like the Matrix in order to make their music better.April 23-24, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Boz Scaggs (Thursday-Friday)
April 25, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: AUM (Saturday)
AUM (pronounced "ohm") were a Bill Graham-sponsored power trio who had released two albums in 1969 on Sire. Lead guitar, harmonica and vocals were provided by Wayne "The Harp" Ceballos, along with Ken Newell on bass and Larry Martin on drums. Their albums weren't bad, given the typical 60s exuberance. By 1970, however, the band's moment had kind of passed.
The Berkeley Barb had The Rhythm Dukes (with Jerry Miller and Bill Champlin) playing from Thursday through Saturday (Apr 23-25), but I am inclined to go with the Examiner listings shown above.
April 27, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia, Howard Wales and friends (Monday)
Garcia, Wales, Kahn and Vitt returned for another Monday night. Garcia's thinking about jamming had evolved since he had started playing electric guitar in 1965. Initially, Garcia had been willing to jam with seemingly anyone. At a certain point, around 1967 or so, he seems to have become frustrated with jamming with musicians way below his level. In '68 and '69, Garcia appears to have switched his focus to jamming in more controlled situations in clubs, where the quality of musicians could be somewhat guaranteed. He also liked to jam with other musicians on the Dead's equipment, in various settings, no doubt as a way to control both the gear and the guests.
In May of 1969, Garcia had gotten interested in playing the pedal steel guitar, and started up the New Riders Of The Purple Sage. This was Garcia's first experience with an established "side band" outside of the Grateful Dead. It is often overlooked that after the Riders, Garcia moved his extra-curricular interests moved over to a model where he had a somewhat fixed band, rather than random guests. It's notable that once Garcia found he enjoyed jamming with Vitt and Wales, he "wanted to make a regular thing of it" (per Vitt) and they got a bass player. When the first one didn't work out, Vitt got Kahn, and that was that. While the Garcia/Wales/Kahn/Vitt ensemble was a forum for wide-open jamming, it was jamming by a comparatively fixed group of musicians.
April 28-May 2, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Sandy Bull (Tuesday-Saturday)
Sandy Bull returned for an entire week. To be realistic, as a solo performer, a Matrix gig made more sense for him financially than for a four or five-member band. The Barb also mentions showing the Jean Cocteau film "Blood Of A Poet" (as a side note, there is a New Riders tape listed as "Matrix" supposedly from April 30, but all exterior evidence suggests it is mis-dated).
I don't know how this night was billed, but Garcia was still on tour with the Dead.
May 5-6, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Catfish (Tuesday-Wednesday)
Catfish was a blues-rock band out of Detroit that released their first album, Get Down, in 1970. Catfish Hodge, later a solo blues guy, was the leader of that group (which incidentally opened for the Dead at the Capitol Theatre on 3/20-21/70). I believe by about 1980 he was the lead singer in a band called The Bluesbusters, which featured some former Little Feat guys (thanks CryptDev for the update).
May 7-9, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Hahn Brotherhood (Thursday-Saturday)
May 11, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jam with Howard Wales and friends (Monday)
The Grateful Dead were still on (a legendary) tour on the East Coast, so Garcia wasn't available. Now, Wales' name was on the ads, which would turn out to have interesting consequences.
May 12-14, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: AB Skhy/Shag (Tuesday-Thursday)
As near as I can tell, Howard Wales had left AB Skhy by 1970. I think, based on scanty evidence, that the band now featured transplanted Wisconsites Curley Cooke on guitar and vocals and Rick Jaeger on drums, replacing Dennis Geyer and Terry Anderson. Possibly also Russ Dashiell was on guitar as well. That was more or less the lineup for AB Skhy's second MGM album Ramblin' On. Of course, even if Wales was out of the band, it's not unlikely that he left his organ at the Matrix and jammed with them anyway.
I recognize the name Shag, but I don't know anything about them. They may have been from Fresno.
May 15, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Saddhu Brand (Friday)
Saddhu Brand probably played Saturday (May 16) as well, but I don't have direct evidence.
|Side Trips, recorded at the Matrix on May 18, 1970 and released in 1998. Howard Wales, Jerry Garcia, John Kahn and Bill Vitt, jamming their brains out.|
May 18, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia, Howard Wales and friends (Monday)
This night is significant because we have an officially released tape. In 1998, Grateful Dead Records released Side Trips, credited to Jerry Garcia and Howard Wales. Kahn and Vitt play as well, and it's as clear a picture as we are going to get of the Garcia/Wales shows at the Matrix. The cd is over an hour, and there are only 4 tracks, all of them way, way outside jamming. There are not even repeated choruses, as far as I can tell, much less any vocals. Garcia has said that Wales opened up his ears for playing really outside music. There's no question that the spacey, early 70s Dead with Keith Godchaux owes a lot to the kind of unlimited improvisation on display here.
May 19-20, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Linn County (Tuesday-Wednesday)
In the 1960s, bands from all over the country moved to San Francisco to make it. Linn County were from Cedar Rapids, IA (Cedar Rapids was in Linn County). They had moved to the Bay Area in 1968. They were a pretty good band, and released three albums on Phillips. Their 3rd and last album was 1970's Til The Break Of Dawn. Organist and lead singer Stephen Miller regularly played at the Matrix, with Linn County, on his own and with the Elvin Bishop Group. Linn County broke up soon after this, and Miller officially joined Bishop (he had been a de facto member for at least a year).
Ramblin' Jack Elliott was a folk legend, and Rosalie Sorrells was a well-known folk singer as well. Here they were headlining the Matrix on a weekend, since good rock bands would have better bookings. Elliott probably lived in the North Bay by this time, or at least was based there (he definitely would be within a year or two).
May 25, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia, Howard Wales and friends (Monday)
|The 1970 Jerry Hahn Brotherhood album, on Columbia, featuring Mike Finnegan|
May 26-30, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Hahn Brotherhood (Tuesday-Saturday)
Sometime in 1970, the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood recorded their debut album at Wally Heiders in San Francisco. Most of the songs on their debut album, released later in 1970, were by one Lane Tietgen, who had been in a Kansas band with Mike Finnegan called The Serfs.
Although the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood lp is very obscure, never released on cd, two of the songs are pretty well known. Manfred Mann's Earth Band recorded two of the songs,"Martha's Madman" and "Captain Bobby Stout." Mann's version of both songs got good FM airplay in the mid-70s, and have been staples of the Earth Band's concerts ever since.
June 1, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia, Howard Wales and friends (Monday)
June 2-4, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Boz Scaggs (Tuesday-Thursday)
June 5-6, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: John Fahey (Friday-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 unitiated however, so the Matrix may have been an appropriate place.
June 8, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia, Howard Wales & Friends (Monday)
June 9-11, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Lightning Hopkins (Tuesday-Thursday)
Lightnin' Hopkins had played the Matrix in the very beginning in 1965, headlining over Jefferson Airplane, and had played there ever since.
June 12-13, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Sandy Bull (Friday-Saturday)
Sandy Bull returned for the weekend. The Barb had the Rhythm Dukes and Vince Guaraldi, but I assume they were replaced.
June 15, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia, Howard Wales & Friends (Monday)
June 16-18, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Charlie Musselwhite (Tuesday-Thursday)
June 19-20, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Rig (Friday-Saturday)
Rig was a New York band that had been signed by Bill Graham's management company. They had released a self-titled album on Capitol. Rig had opened at Fillmore East a number of times, but they decided to move to San Francisco to be nearer to the Bill Graham organization. By the end of 1970, however, Rig would break up. Pianist/songwriter Kendall Kardt would stay in San Francisco as a solo artist for a few years, as would drummer Rick Schlosser (later with Van Morrison and then Montrose).
June 22, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jerry Garcia, Howard Wales and friends (Monday)
We happen to know a lot about this night, thanks to some great research by Guaraldi biographer Derrick Bang, and the good memory of Bill Champlin. According to Champlin, his friend Bill Vitt invited him along as a rhythm guitarist, because Garcia was getting carried away with his effects box (which tells you how far out things must have been). When Champlin arrived at the Matrix, it turned out that Howard Wales was not there. In his place was Vince Guaraldi. Garcia must have been the one to call him, as Gauraldi and Garcia went back a few years and had jammed various times.
Champlin describes the whole show, including a guest appearance by Vince Denham, playing soprano sax. Later, Curley Cooke shows up to hang out, and ends up jamming on stage with Champlin's Gibson. According to Garcia, Kahn and Vitt, at different times, Wales was a great musician but became uneasy when crowds started to show up. By triangulation, we can infer that 100 or so people must have started showing up to on prior Monday nights. In this century, Wales's privately circulated autobiography suggests he had a non-musical career as a--shall we say, "Product Manager"--for certain agricultural imports. Attention may have been a problem in itself, which lead to Wales replacement a few months later by the more available Merl Saunders.
June 29, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Howard Wales, Terry Haggerty and friends (Monday)
The Grateful Dead were touring across Canada on a train, the legendary Festival Express, so Garcia was not available. His place seems to have been taken by Terry Haggerty. Haggerty, an exceptional guitarist himself, was a member of the Sons Of Champlin, to the extent the band existed. The social connection was probably through Bill Vitt, who would join the Sons later in the year. Limited evidence suggests that Haggerty may have been a regular fill-in when Garcia wasn't available (there is a late 1970 photo of Wales, Haggerty and Kahn playing together in Marin), but with Matrix jams, it's hard to know.
June 30-Jul 3, 1970 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Boz Scaggs (Tuesday-Friday)
Appendix 2: Other Posts in the 1970s Rock Nightclubs Series