|The Keystone Berkeley, at 2119 University Ave (at Shattuck Ave) as it appeared ca. 1982|
1974 Bay Area Rock Nightclub Survey-January to April 1974
As part of my program of unpacking the economics of original rock music in San Francisco Bay Area nightclubs in the 1970s, I have looked at the histories of different clubs. The Matrix had been San Francisco's original hippie rock nightclub, and although it was no longer economically important in 1970, it still played an important role in incubating rock bands. In contrast, the Keystone Berkeley had opened in March, 1972, and rapidly became the best paying night club booking the Bay Area. I reviewed the history of performers at both the Matrix and Keystone Berkeley at great length.
By 1974, the rock nightclub market in Berkeley and San Francisco had matured somewhat. There were a number of clubs that booked original music, sharing some bands, but each with their own slice of the market. Rather than repeat myself too often, I have chosen to look at 1974 by looking at a single month's booking for a variety of individual bands. We will learn enough about the dynamics of each club, while still reviewing just about all the acts playing the Bay Area. This post will look at early 1974 bookings for three main Berkeley clubs: the Keystone Berkeley, the Long Branch and the Freight And Salvage. For contrast, we will also look at a month of bookings for Bill Graham Presents, to provide some perspective on the rock market as a whole.
Keystone Berkeley, 2119 Shattuck Avenue (at University), Berkeley, CA
The Keystone Berkeley nightclub was open in downtown Berkeley for a dozen years, from 1972 to 1984. With an official capacity of 500--probably exceeded regularly--and relatively convenient parking, the Keystone played a critical role in Bay Area rock history. These days, Keystone Berkeley is most recalled for hosting Jerry Garcia. Long after the Grateful Dead had made Garcia a huge star, he played the Keystone Berkeley over 200 times, more than any other venue.
|All 11 members of Tower Of Power (from the February 13, 1974 Berkeley Gazette)|
Keystone Berkeley Performance List January 1974
January 4, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Tower of Power/ Gideon & Power (Friday)
January 5, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Tower of Power/Grayson Street (Saturday)
On the opening weekend of 1974, it appears that the Keystone Berkeley was also closed on Wednesday and Thursday (January 2-3), to accommodate the post New Year's hangover. Tower Of Power headlined both nights of the weekend, supported by popular local bands.
During this period, the Keystone Berkeley was open five or six nights a week. It was closed on Tuesdays, unless Jerry Garcia was playing, and sometimes closed on Wednesdays as well. The Keystone Berkeley benefited from its location: lots of people lived
near the club, but it was also easy to get to by main roads, with ample
parking downtown. On weekends, or if a big act (like Garcia or Tower Of Power) was playing, Keystone Berkeley drew crowds from Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, North Oakland and even Contra Costa or Marin. On weeknights, however, the club drew a smaller crowd from people who lived in Berkeley. On Monday nights, where there was often no cover, the Keystone probably just drew from people who lived in walking distance.
Tower Of Power, though originally from Fremont, were the pride of Oakland. They had been discovered by Bill Graham at the Tuesday night Fillmore West auditions, and their first album East Bay Grease had been released on Graham's San Francisco label (distributed by Atlantic). By 1972, the label was gone, but Atlantic's sister label Warner Brothers had picked up Tower. Tower's immortal second album, Bump City, would be released later in '72, just as the Oakland A's, Raiders and Golden State Warriors were making all things Oakland ascendant.
Back in May 1973, Tower had released their third album on Warners, Tower Of Power. With Lenny Pickett now leading the horn section on Tenor Sax and Chester Thompson on organ, the album featured timeless classics like "What Is Hip" and "So Very Hard To Go." It would reach #15 on the Billboard album chart. But Tower Of Power were still East Bay homeboys, and they would headline the Keystone Berkeley on this weekend, no doubt packing the joint wall-to-wall. Shortly after this, the band would release their fourth album, Back To Oakland.
Gideon & Power, the Friday night openers, were a high-energy Gospel/Soul band from San
Francisco with a dynamic lead singer, Gideon Daniels. and a swinging
soul chorus. Their one album (I Gotta Be Me, released on Bell in 1972) featured former AB Skhy guitarist Dennis
Geyer and Elvin Bishop keyboardist Stephen Miller. Daniels was the one
who taught future Bishop vocalist Mickey Thomas to sing. Gideon & Power were headlining two weeknights later in the month (January 10 and 24) and an opening slot like this could help build an audience for those nights.
Grayson Street were a sort of roots rock band from the East Bay. They were co-led by harmonica player Rick Kellogg and tenor saxophonist Terry Hanck, both of whom sang. Grayson Street never recorded, but many of its members ended up working with Elvin Bishop, Coke Escovedo, Tower Of Power, Santana and others. Lenny Pickett had been in Grayson Street, prior to answering the call from Tower. Grayson Street was very popular down at the Longbranch, about 2 miles West and South, over on San Pablo and Dwight (see February, below).January 6, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: The Tubes/Kid Gloves (Sunday)
At this time, The Tubes were an infamous legend around the Bay Area. They had no recordings, but you would hear about them. Presciently, even though they were unknown, Bill Graham Presents had booked them to open for Led Zeppelin at Kezar Stadium on June 2, 1973.
The Tubes members were from Phoenix, AZ. Initially, some of them were in a band called The Beans (guitarist Bill Spooner, organist Vince Welnick, bassist Rick Anderson) who had moved to San Francisco in late 1970 and had even played the Fillmore West Tuesday audition night under that name. They played jammed out blues-rock, like every other aspiring Fillmore band. Some members quit, however, so two other Phoenix musicians (drummer Prairie Prince and guitarist Roger Steen) joined the band in March, 1972, and the band changed their name.
The Tubes played a sort of progressive rock, quite well, but with satiric lyrics and an engaging stage show. Their roadie John "Fee" Waybill had taken over as lead singer. The stage shows got more and more elaborate, even though in the early period their prop budget was mostly confetti and cardboard. Prince's art school pal Michael Cotten was added on synthesizer, as well as chief creator of props. The group were supposedly quite popular in gay bars, normally not a money making proposition for long-haired rock bands. In an era where every San Francisco band stared at their guitars and talked about how much they loved the blues, The Tubes were raving about "White Punks On Dope." It was just Sunday night at the Keystone, but The Tubes were moving up and their time would come.
Kid Gloves are unknown to me.
January 7, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Trucking/Steelwind (Monday)
Trucking was a band from Fremont, with a full horn section and a female lead vocalist, apparently in the vein of Chicago or Blood, Sweat and Tears, though perhaps with a funkier edge. They played all the Bay Area clubs, and seemed to get good support from the local writers. They never really made it past weeknights at Keystone Berkeley, however.
Steelwind was based in Sacramento, and featured songwriter Jack Traylor. The Jefferson Starship had recorded one of his songs ("Flowers Of The Night" on Baron Von Tollbooth). Steelwind's lead guitarist was 19-year old Craig Chacuiqo. Steelwind had released one album on Grunt in 1973. Chacuiqo would go on to join Jefferson Starship shortly after this.
January 9, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA:Butch Whacks and His Glass Packs (Wednesday)
Butch Whacks and His Glass Packs were a 15-piece rock and roll band dedicated to performing old style rock and roll hits from the 50s and early 60s. The band got their start as students at St. Mary’s College in Moraga playing frat parties, and eventually morphed into a very popular bay area club and theater act.
One of the Keystone booking patterns was that bands who opened on big weekend gigs would headline on weeknights. Since more people would hear a band with a big headliner, it was a way for those groups to build an audience. So Gideon & Power had opened for Tower Of Power the previous Friday (above), and hopefully got a few more people to come out and see them play a longer set on Thursday.
Alice Stuart was a fine blues guitarist and singer. Although she
was from Seattle, she had been playing in the Bay Area since about 1964.
Stuart had performed and recorded in a variety of solo and group settings. Since 1971, she had been leading an elecrtric trio/quartet named Snake, and they
had released the album Believing on Fantasy Records in 1972. Stuart was still grinding it out in the clubs, and generally well-regarded, but Snake was treading water.
The Sons Of Champlin were a Marin County band, but unlike many of the others, the band had been founded by Marin County residents. Back in 1966, Bill Champlin and Terry Haggerty had founded the group, switching from an R&B dance band sound to more of a Beatles groove. By 1967, however, they had gone full psychedelic, and brought back the horn section. Champlin was a powerful lead singer and a fine organ player, and Haggerty was a hugely talented lead guitarist. Along with pianist/multi-instrumentalist Geoff Palmer, the band had made 3 sophisticated albums for Capitol before disintegrating in 1970.
The Sons Of Champlin did not actually break up, however, and around 1971 they re-made themselves into a sort of fusion jazz/R&B ensemble called Yogi Phlegm--a name popular with no one--before reconvening again as the Sons Of Champlin. They made a terrific album in 1973 for Columbia, called Welcome To The Dance. It had sold poorly, however, and The Sons had been cut from the label in the wake of Clive Davis' departure. The Sons kept plugging away, however, touring constantly. It was clubs like Keystone Berkeley that allowed the Sons to keep playing while they plotted their next move. By 1975, they would record and release their own album, without waiting for a record company to "discover" them.
At this time, the front line was still Bill Champlin (lead vocals, organ and guitar), Terry Haggerty (lead guitar) and Geoff Palmer (piano, organ, vibes, various). The rhythm section was David Schallock (bass) and Jim Preston (drums), both veterans of many Marin ensembles. I'm not sure if they had a horn section yet, or if they had one on every show.
The Terrible Aminos are unknown to me.
January 13, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Stoneground/Earth Quake (Sunday)
Stoneground had originally formed in 1970, as the "house band" for Tom Donahue's Medicine Ball Caravan adventure. They had released a few albums, and had built a sort of following, but they had broken up in early 1973. In 1974, the core members re-formed the group. This time, instead of 5 lead singers, there was just one, and (I think) there were only four band members, fronted by lead guitarist/singer Tim Barnes and organist Fred Webb. Although I'm sure they did some of the same songs, the new Stoneground would have only been vaguely similar to the earlier incarnation.
Earth Quake had formed at Berkeley High School in the 60s as The Purple Earthquake. In 1972, they would release their second album on A&M Records, Why Don't You Try Me. A&M would drop Earth Quake by the end of that year. Earth Quake had refused to give up, however. By 1974, the band had built up a huge following at the Long Branch, regularly headlining Friday night shows. With their own fan base, they were starting to build a crowd at the Keystone Berkeley as well. Earth Quake played in a somewhat anachronistic "British Invasion" style, but it would end up coming back into style.
Earth Quake had original material, but they also covered obscure hits from the 60s (like "Fridays On My Mind," by the Australian band The Easybeats), so they distinguished themselves from other bands. Earth Quake would resuscitate their career in 1975 by releasing records on their own label, Beserkely Records, presaging the punk/DIY movement by some years.
January 14, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA:Trucking (Monday)
|Merl Saunders/Jerry Garcia/John Kahn/Bill Vitt Live At Keystone double album. Released on Fantasy Records in January 1974, recorded July 1973|
January 17-18, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA:Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders (Thursday-Friday)
The most famous and the most important act to play Keystone Berkeley, in any and every year, was Jerry Garcia. Garcia had created an informal group with bassist John Kahn, organist Merl Saunders and drummer Bill Vitt, and they played whenever Garcia did not have a Grateful Dead gig. The band played mostly cover versions of popular rock and R& B songs--a typical set had some Dylan, some Motown and some old blues. Sometimes they would jam off a jazz standard like "My Funny Valentine," or an original Merl Saunders tune, but Garcia never sang any songs written by him nor associated with his Grateful Dead music. The group did not have a formal name, and they never rehearsed. Occasionally, they would run down the chord changes to a new song in the dressing room, but they did not "practice."
From 1972 to 1984, Garcia would play Keystone Berkeley over 200 times, in many ensembles. He often played on weeknights, packing the joint on a night when it normally would be empty. Needless to say, the local Deadheads came early and stayed until the end, so lots and lots of beer was sold. The shows were lucrative for Garcia and his bandmates, and extremely lucrative for Keystone Berkeley owner Freddie Herrera. There were never tickets sold in advance, so if Garcia's schedule changed, there was no need for refunds. This clearly simplified arrangements for Garcia, since he could book a show on a few days notice, or cancel without harm, particularly for a weeknight.
Interestingly, for this booking, Fantasy Records had just released the double album Live At Keystone. The album was credited to Jerry Garcia/Merl Saunders/John Kahn/Bill Vitt, and produced by all four. The sets had been recorded at Keystone back in July 1973, and edited together (including an overdubbed David Grisman mandolin solo on "Positively Fourth Street"). On Merl Saunders' two previous Fantasy solo albums, Jerry had taken a few lead vocals, and one song had even been recorded live ("Lonely Avenue"), but the double lp was the first full picture for Deadheads around the country of what Garcia was up to at Keystone Berkeley every month.
Back in December, Bill Graham Presents had advertised Friday and Saturday night shows at Winterland on January 11-12, headlined by Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders. Waylon Jennings and Alice Stuart had also been on the bill. The booking had the look of a "record release" event for the Live At Keystone album. The shows were canceled, however. It was a San Francisco paradox that although Jerry Garcia was a homegrown legend, he could not come close to filling two nights in the 5400-capacity Winterland, even on a weekend and even with Waylon Jennings in support. But the next weekend, there was Garcia, back at Keystone Berkeley, jamming it out and selling bucketloads of beer, just as had since 1971.
January 19. 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: James Cotton Blues Band/Grayson Street (Saturday)
January 20, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA:James Cotton Blues Band/California (Sunday)
James Cotton had played harmonica with Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters, and had led his own band as well since the 1960s. He was a great performer, and had been playing for white audiences at the Fillmore since November 1966. The blues weren't as cool now, and mostly played to white audiences, but Berkeley was a more fruitful place than clubs in African American neighborhoods that had stopped booking the blues a long time ago. Cotton's most recent album would have been Taking Care Of Business, released back in 1970 on Capitol. Matt "Guitar" Murphy was often part of Cotton's touring band.
California had a horn section, and sounded sort of like Chicago. Most of the six band members had been part of the Monterey Pacific College jazz band. Unlike most of the club bands in this chronology, I actually saw them during this period, because they played my high school graduation dance. They were OK, but I wasn't impressed.
January 21, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Trucking (Monday)
January 23, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA:Butch Whacks and His Glass Packs/Spellbound (Wednesday)
Butch Whacks returned for another Wednesday night. Spellbound is unknown to me.
January 24, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Gideon & Power/Clover (Thursday)
Clover was another Marin band whose members were really from Marin. Clover had formed in late 1967, out of a group called The Tiny Hearing Aid Company. Fantasy Records, flush with Creedence money, had signed Clover. The band released two poorly-produced but pretty good albums, their self-titled debut in 1970, followed by Fourty-Niner in 1971. Clover was a four-piece band, with lead and pedal steel guitarist John McFee, lead singer and guitarist Alex Call, bassist John Ciambotti and drummer Mitch Howie (McFee, Call and Howie had been in Tiny Hearing Aid). Clover worked out of Mill Valley.
|Evolution, the third album by Malo (Warner Brothers late 1973)|
January 25-26, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Malo/Flye (Friday-Saturday)
Malo was a pretty successful band at this point, but they were starting to look like they were on their way down. Malo had formed in 1971 as a merger of two bands. The Malibus had featured guitarist Jorge Santana (Carlos' brother), keyboardist Richard Bean and bassist Pablo Tellez, while Naked Lunch had included guitarist Abel Zarate and some horn players. Changing their name to Malo, and adding congas, the band started working in a Latin-rock vein, and thanks to the Santana connection they were well-produced. Their debut album featured the monster hit single "Suavecito," which reached #18 on Billboard (the album went to #14).
By 1974, Malo was on their third Warner Brothers album, Evolution. Their albums were still selling well, but nothing like the debut. They didn't have another "Suavecito." Zarate and Santana were still the guitarists, and Pablo Tellez still held the bass chair, but there had been a few other changes. Lead singer Arcelio Garcia was still with the band, as he had been from the debut, so the voice was familiar, but Richard Bean had left, and some other players had switched around. Tony Smith had joined on drums (formerly of Loading Zone, later with Jan Hammer). Malo was still a big draw at the Keystone Berkeley, and they probably put on a great show. The band remained together for a few more years, but they never reached their initial heights.
January 27, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Stoneground/Earth Quake (Sunday)
Stoneground and Earth Quake returned for another Sunday night, two weeks after the last booking. During this period, Earth Quake was generally headlining just about every Friday night at The Long Branch (see below), about two miles West (down University) and South (on San Pablo Avenue), so the band was omnipresent on the Berkeley nightclub scene.
January 28, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Truckin’/Saponin (Monday)
The band's name was Trucking, but sometimes they were billed as "Truckin'", in an inadvertent homage to Robert Hunter. Saponin is unknown to me.
January 31, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: John Lee Hooker/Colefeet (Thursday)
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. By this time, Hooker had moved to the hills in Redwood City, CA, above the freeway, so he was a regular in local rock clubs.
Hooker's recording history was tangled. His main contract was with ABC Records, and his most recent studio release for them was Born In Mississippi, Raised Up In Tennessee. It had been released in 1973, but had mostly been recorded in San Francsisco in 1971. It included various rock players, including Van Morrison on one track. There was also a 1973 release of an August 1971 live show at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco, Kabuki Wuki on Bluesway/ABC.
Colefeet (spelled different ways) was a local band, but I don't know anything about them. They were often booked in support of blues headliners.
February 1-2, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: New Riders Of The Purple Sage (Friday-Saturday)
Although the New Riders Of The Purple Sage were starting to separate themselves from the Grateful Dead, they were still inexorably connected to them in the minds of all their fans. In late 1973, bassist Dave Torbert had left the Riders (his last show had been at Winterland on December 15, 1973), replaced by veteran bassist Skip Battin (ex-Skip and Flip, ex-Byrds). The New Riders had a big Eastern tour coming up to support their new live album on Columbia, so they had broken in Skip Battin at the tiny Lion's Share in San Anselmo (on Tuesday, January 29). Now they were playing a weekend at Keystone Berkeley, working with their the new bassist while earning a little money.
Of course, the live album (Home, Home On The Road) had been produced by their former pedal steel guitarist, Jerry Garcia. So Garcia was intimately familiar with their material. In the middle of the second set on Saturday night, the dancing crowd hardly noticed Jerry walking through the crowd with his guitar, stepping up stage left to plug in for "Truck Drivin' Man." Garcia played the last six numbers with the Riders, his final public appearance with them (it's Garcia--of course there's a tape). Casual events like this added to the Keystone legend--a friend of mine saw John Lee Hooker once (about '72), and both Van Morrison and Elvin Bishop dropped by. Here was Garcia, killing time on a Saturday night at the Keystone, just like everyone else there, but doing it on stage.
|2504 San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, the site of The Long Branch Saloon rock nightclub, as it appeared in 2009 (2504 is in the center, behind the bus stop).|
The Long Branch Saloon, 2504 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA
Almost two miles West and South of the Keystone Berkeley was the Long Branch Saloon, at 2504 San Pablo Avenue (at Dwight). Back during World War 2, with the Oakland and Richmond shipyards full of workers on three shifts, San Pablo Avenue had been called "Music Row." There had been nightclubs and saloons all along the East Bay, as tired workers with their pockets full relaxed with some live music. Many musicians had relocated from the South or Southwest to the West Coast, since that was where all the work was. Many other musicians had migrated with the workers, only to find playing music more lucrative (and probably more fun). Even into the 1970s, there were still several nightclubs along the San Pablo Avenue corridor, a final hint of the booming war years.
2504 San Pablo Avenue itself was a seminal address in Berkeley 60s music history. It is a fact of zoning that use permits tend to persist, so a venue with a license to allow music will generally continue to offer music. It is far easier for a new proprietor to lease a building with an existing permit than lobby for a new one, so clubs often change names, owners and musical styles, but not addresses. In the early 1960s, 2504 San Pablo had been the site of The Cabale, later The Cabale Creamery, an essential stop on the early 60s folk circuit. In 1965 it briefly became The Good Buddy and then Caverns West, and in November of that year it became the pre-psychedelic Questing Beast. It was at the Questing Beast where local folksingers Joe McDonald and Barry Melton got some friends and "plugged in" to become Country Joe And The Fish.
The Questing Beast had closed in May 1966, and 2504 became Tito's, which featured live music but was mostly a dance club. Around 1970 the club was re-named Babylon, and featured local bands playing original music. In 1971, new owner Malcolm Williams doubled the capacity of the room from about 175 to around 350, and renamed the club The Long Branch Saloon. The Long Branch featured original music, too, but it paid a little better, with a correspondingly higher quality. The Long Branch acted as a sort of farm team for the Keystone Berkeley.
Bands would build a following at the Long Branch, and the bands that headlined weekends at the Branch would play weeknights at the Keystone Berkeley, with a built-in audience. Although it's hard to be sure, I think the Long Branch crowd lived relatively near the club, and was in the just-over-21 bracket. The Long Branch was definitely a hard-rocking club, with loud bands and patrons who liked to dance, with less of the University overlay that was included in the Keystone Berkeley audience. The Keystone was right near campus, so it's audience was broader but to some extent more snobby. The Long Branch was in West Berkeley, and less pretentious.
|The nightclub listings for The Long Branch (and Keystone Berkeley, and Berkeley Community Theater) from the February 13, 1974 Berkeley Gazette newspaper|
The Long Branch Saloon Performance List, February 1974
February 1, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA: Earth Quake (Friday)
Earth Quake played pretty much every Friday night at The Long Branch. As far as I know, the house was always pretty full. Earth Quake had been together since the late 60s, with a stable lineup, so they knew a million songs. In particular, the band knew cool but relatively obscure 60s British Invasion songs, so their covers were distinctly different than any other band. The large choice of material meant they could keep the same patrons happy not only every Friday, but when their fans came to see them at Keystone Berkeley or anywhere else around the Bay Area.
February 2, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA: The Rockets (Saturday)
The Rockets were another regular act at The Long Branch, and had been playing there since about 1972. Lead singer Eddie Mahoney was a transplanted New Yorker. By July, the Rockets would rename themselves the Eddie Money Band. In 1975, Eddie Money was signed by the Bill Graham organization, and went to sell a huge number of records. But Money, back when he was just Eddie Mahoney, had played numerous gigs at The Long Branch.
Grayson Street, as discussed above, were a sort of roots rock band from the East Bay. They were co-led by harmonica player Rick Kellogg and tenor saxophonist Terry Hanck, both of whom sang. Grayson Street never recorded, but many of its members ended up working with Elvin Bishop, Coke Escovedo, Tower Of Power, Santana and others. Lenny Pickett had been in Grayson Street, prior to answering the call from Tower. Grayson Street was a tiny alley a few blocks from the Long Branch, so the band was a Long Branch band if there ever was one.
February 5, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA: Chains/Above and Beyond (Tuesday)
Neither Chains nor Above and Beyond are known to me. A band playing Tuesday night at the Long Branch might actually have been pretty good, but they didn't have any kind of following.
February 6, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA: The Titans (Wednesday)
The Titans billed themselves as "Continental Reggae." I take that to have meant they were white guys who played reggae music. "Reggae-rock," or at least mostly white non-Jamaicans playing reggae music, was popular in Berkeley rock clubs in the 1970s, even though it never caught on.
February 7, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA: Grayson Street (Thursday)
Note that Grayson Street had just played the club five nights earlier. Thursday night seems to have been the band's "resident" night, but they would play other nights as well.
|Why Don't You Try Me, by Earth Quake. Released in 1972 on A&M, the band was dropped by the label shortly afterwards|
February 8, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA: Earth Quake/Son Of Pete-Mango Reggae (singing dj) (Friday)
Earth Quake had their usual Friday night gig at the Long Branch, but per Berkeley Gazette rock writer Todd Tolces, they were also booked at Zellerbach Auditorium on the UC Berkeley campus. Zellerbach was a 2000+ seat theater on Lower Sproul Plaza, rarely used for rock concerts at that time. Yet that Friday, Malo, Cold Blood and Stoneground were booked. Someone in Stoneground fell ill, so Earth Quake. opened the show, and scrambled on down the road to the Long Branch for their set.
Tolces also described Son Of Pete's set, extended somewhat due to Earth Quake's delayed arrival. Son Of Pete appears to have been a reggae "Toaster," a very odd thing outside of Jamaica and some neighborhoods in New York City. Toasters dj'd reggae records for dancing over customized sound systems, playing with the stereo mix and various effects, while also singing or talking over the records. As I understand it, the "Toaster" setup, pioneered in Jamaica, was a technological building block for rap music. Nascent rappers apparently took Toaster-type setups (sound system, multiple turntables, mic) and layered different music onto it. Outside of New York (or Kingston), however, many did not recognize the configuration.
It's easy to laugh at Berkeley--and fun too--but here was a guy making a living of sorts as a Reggae Toaster, playing a style of music unseen outside parts of New York Metro. Tolces praised Son Of Pete particularly for having numerous cool, unheard Reggae 45s, and I assure you that Berkeley took record snobbery seriously indeed.
February 9, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA: The Titans (Saturday)
February 10, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA: Grayson Street (Sunday)
February 12, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA:The Valley Boys (Tuesday)
The Valley Boys, based on various club ads, played some kind of country rock. I assume they were from the Central Valley, but I don't know that for a fact.
February 13, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA: The Titans (Wednesday)
Asleep At The Wheel had been founded in Paw Paw, West Virginia, and they were hippies playing Western Swing music. They had opened for Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen in West Virginia when they came through in late 1971, and the Airmen persuaded them to move to Berkeley. In 1972 and '73, The Wheel had played ever club in the Bay Area, any night there was a gig. Their debut album Comin Right At Ya had been released on United Artists in March 1973. Asleep At The Wheel was an 8-piece (or more) band, featuring vocalists Ray Benson and Chris O'Connell.
At this time, Asleep At The Wheel lived in the East Bay, so a show in Berkeley was like a homecoming. Shortly after this, the band would move to Austin, TX and even greater success. Asleep At The Wheel are still touring.
|Believing, by Alice Stuart and Snake (Fantasy Records 1972)|
February 15, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA:Alice Stuart and Snake/The Valley Boys (Friday)
February 16, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA:Alice Stuart and Snake/Clover (Saturday)
Alice Stuart and Snake were a weekday band at Keystone Berkeley, but a weekend headliner at The Long Branch.
February 17, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA: Grayson Street (Sunday)
February 19, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA:The Valley Boys (Tuesday)
February 20, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA:The Titans (Wednesday)
February 21, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA:Grayson Street (Thursday)
The Tubes were still a Sunday night band at Keystone Berkeley, but headlined the weekend at The Long Branch.
February 26, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA:The Valley Boys (Tuesday)
February 27, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA:The Titans (Wednesday)
February 28, 1974 Long Branch, Berkeley, CA:Grayson Street (Thursday)
The Long Branch booked bands on 23 nights in February, and Grayson Street headlined 6 of them.
|The Bill Graham Presents upcoming concerts ad from the SF Examiner on March 3, 1974|
Bill Graham Presents: Winterland Ballroom, 2000 Post St, San Francisco, CA
Bill Graham Presents: Berkeley Community Theater, 1980 Allston Ave, Berkeley, CA
Bill Graham Presents: Paramount Theater, 2025 Broadway, Oakland, CA
Bill Graham Presents: Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva Ave, Daly City, CA
Rock promoter Bill Graham, already a legend by 1974, dominated the Bay Area concert business with his firm Bill Graham Presents. Graham booked just about every major rock act that came through San Francisco, which was all of them. His principal venue was the Winterland ballroom, an aging ice rink that had opened in 1928. Graham had converted the building to a music-only venue in 1971, the same year that he had closed the Fillmores East and West. Winterland wasn't a nightclub, of course, but for rock fans, BGP and Winterland defined the rock market, so any rock nightclub in Berkeley or San Francisco was indirectly competing with Bill Graham for patronage.
For just about anyone under 30--and some people older than that--rock music represented the most important form of entertainment, whether live or on record. When major acts came to the Bay Area, they were major events. Bill Graham Presents always booked the major acts. When The Who had begun their Quadrophenia tour at The Cow Palace on November 20, 1973, it had been a major event. When Bob Dylan and The Band had played two shows at the Oakland Coliseum Arena on February 11, 1974, it had been an even bigger event. Rock fans lucky enough to get tickets had circled their calendars weeks in advance.
Still, Bill Graham Presents booked a concert at Winterland just about every weekend. Most bills featured two or three bands, somewhat like the Fillmore West days. The headline bands weren't arena-level, but any act headlining the 5400 seat hall had albums that got heavy airplay on FM radio. Any rock fan considering their weekend live music options was going to compare a local club offering to whoever was booked at Winterland. So in that sense, every nightclub was competing against Bill Graham and Winterland each weekend.
Younger rock fans had little choice, of course. If a fan was under 21, and had access to a car, Winterland was more viable than trying to get a fake ID and get into a club. The "festival-style" seating meant that it didn't matter if you got tickets later, or if a friend wanted to come, as it favored a group of friends, or loose multiple groups of friends, hanging out together.
Rock fans weren't all under 21, however. If you didn't want to hang with a bunch of people, or you were on a date, the huge Winterland floor wasn't so appealing. If you wanted a beer, or some food, a club was way more attractive. And Winterland was in a sketchy (spelled "African-American") neighborhood, far from any convenient bridge off-ramp. For many rock fans, a night at the local rock club had a lot of appeal. The question was always the same--who was playing?
Rock and roll's economy had exploded in the early 70s, and successful bands made more money than ever. For the rank and file bands, however, touring was not a prevalent as it had been. The "Oil Shock" of 1973 had made the economy more difficult. While fans would always find money for Bob Dylan or The Who, they weren't as ready to go out every week. Also, in the Fillmore days, a lot of fans just went to "the Fillmore" to see whoever was playing there. Winterland did not have that cachet. Fans knew more, and were more selective, so BGP no longer booked as many shows each month as they had when Fillmore West was open. If Winterland wasn't an appropriate venue, than BGP used other halls around the Bay Area, but the "concert dollar" (as it was called) seemed to be finite.
|The Berkeley Community Theater, on the campus of Berkeley High School (1980 Allston at Grove Street)|
Bill Graham Presents Performance List, March 1974
March 1-2, 1974 Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, CA: Joni Mitchell/Tom Scott and The LA Express (Friday-Saturday)
Prior to 1974, Joni Mitchell was much-beloved by her fans and fellow musicians, but she had only been a modest commercial success. In January of 1974, she had released her Asylum album Court And Spark, which had brought forward her nascent jazz leanings. She was backed by the young Los Angeles jazz rock band LA Express. The album was the biggest hit of Joni Mitchell's career, and also had her biggest single (though hardly her most famous song), "Help Me." Court And Spark reached #2 on Billboard, and "Help Me" would reach #7 during the Summer.
Joni Mitchell had been touring since January, so by the time they got to Berkeley, the ensemble would have been humming. For this tour, the LA Express was bandleader Tom Scott on tenor sax, Ukiah, CA native Robben Ford on guitar, Max Bennett on bass, John Guerin on drums and veteran pianist Roger Kellway. The LA Express would have done a set to open the show, and then would have backed Mitchell for her set.
Berkeley Community Theater was located on the campus of Berkeley High School, right near downtown at 1980 Allston Way (at Grove Street, now MLK Blvd). It had a capacity of about 3500, and had been completed in 1959. It was easy to find, and the sightlines were good. However, since it was on a school campus, it was only available when school was out (usually weekends or the Summer). Also, for whatever reasons, there were no concessions--you couldn't get even a soft drink or a hot dog. That made the building less desirable to a promoter like Bill Graham. Still, for certain types of artists like Joni Mitchell, her fans wanted to sit and listen in their own assigned seats, not dance around in a cavernous ice rink like Winterland. So BGP used Berkeley Community when Winterland was booked, or when the artist's fans expected seats.
March 2, 1974 Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Poco/Copperhead/Maggie Bell (Saturday)
Poco had been founded in 1969 out of the remnants of the great Buffalo Springfield. They had put out several excellent albums and always seemed on the verge of stardom. They were also an excellent live band. Yet by 1974, they were down to a quartet (guitarist Paul Cotton, steel guitarist Rusty Young, bassist Tim Schmidt and drummer George Grantham--all sang), and the two ex-Springfield members (Jim Messina and Richie Furay) had departed. Their album from Summer '73, the excellent Crazy Eyes, featuring Richie Furay, had done very poorly. In fact, Poco was still really good, but they didn't seem to be on the rise.
Copperhead had been founded by former Quicksilver guitarist John Cipollina. They had released an album on Columbia, but had since been dropped. Cippolina, though a fine guitarist, didn't seem fresh and new. Copperhead was a pretty good band, actually, but everyone who had wanted to see or hear them had probably already done so.
Maggie Bell was a talented Scottish singer who had been in the band Stone The Crows. Rock fans would recognize her voice (even today) for singing the counter-vocal to Rod Stewart on his "Every Picture Tells A Story." Her current album would have been Queen Of The Night, on Atlantic, recorded in New York with a funky session crew (including members of the group Stuff).
The show was probably enjoyable for those who went, but the fact that it was only booked for just Saturday night was a sign that ticket sales were thin.
|For his second solo album after leaving Humble Pie, Peter Frampton called his band Frampton's Camel. The album was released on A&M in October 1973|
March 8-9, 1974 Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Doobie Brothers/Frampton's Camel/REO Speedwagon (Friday-Saturday)
March 10, 1974 Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Doobie Brothers/REO Speedwagon/New Stoneground (Sunday)
This weekend's Winterland bill was more reminiscent of the old Fillmore West days. The Doobie Brothers were local heroes, and they would have been promoting their 4th album on Warners, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. The album had not been the huge hit that prior albums had been, but the band was hugely popular (and in fact the next year the single "Black Water" from the album would become the Doobies first #1). Although the Doobies were radio-friendly, they could rock pretty hard if given the chance, so Winterland was the perfect place for them. They could headline all three nights, just like a Fillmore West gig in the past, though with twice the capacity (3 shows at Winterland was at least 16,000 tickets, depending on how many people were crammed in). At this time, the Doobie Brothers lineup was the classic one with two guitars (Tom Johnston and Pat Simmons), two drummers (Michael Hossack and John Hartmann) and three singers (the guitarists and bassist Tiran Porter).
Supporting the Doobie Brothers for the weekend was Frampton's Camel. Peter Frampton had left Humble Pie in 1971, right before they had hit it big with the Rockin' The Fillmore double lp. His new band was a quartet, with Mickey Gallagher on keyboards, Rick Wills on bass and John Siomos on drums. In 1972, Frampton had released a solo album (Winds Of Change) that went nowhere, and his new Frampton's Camel album had been released in October 1973, but it wasn't gaining traction in many cities. San Francisco, however, was one place where he got radio airplay. As a result, when Frampton returned to Winterland the next year he was a headliner, one of the few places in the country where that was true. Thus, Frampton Comes Alive was mainly recorded in the Bay Area (at Winterland and another venue). because Frampton could headline.
REO Speedwagon was from the Champaign-Urbana area in Southern Illinois ("Cham-Bana"), near the University Of Illinois. REO had just released their album Ridin' The Storm Out on Epic in December of '73. They were still some distance from big success, but this was how it was done in the olden days, touring the country and being third on the bill so that you got heard by a lot of fans. Ultimately, it worked for REO Speedwagon.
On Sunday night (March 10), Frampton's Camel had moved on, so Stoneground filled in. This, too, was a Graham tradition, giving a local band a shot when there was an opening on the bill.
|A current view of the beautiful interior of Oakland's Paramount Theater (as seen from the stage). The theater was built in 1931.|
March 8-10, 1974 Paramount Theater, Oakland, CA: Boz Scaggs Black Tie with Orchestra (Thursday-Saturday)
Boz Scaggs had been popular on Bay Area FM radio since the 1960s, when he had been a member of the Steve Miller Band. His solo albums got good local airplay, but Boz had mostly played smaller halls around the Bay Area. In March, 1974, Boz had released Slow Dancer on Columbia, his sixth album. This one was produced by R&B veteran Johnny Bristol, and Boz was presented as a blue-eyed soul man rather than a swinging blues guitarist. The musical settings were lush, with strings and horns, instead of slide guitar. The album took off, and made Boz Scaggs' career. His initial hit was the great song "You Make It So Hard (To Say No)."
The Paramount Theater, at 2025 Broadway in dowtown Oakland, had been opened in 1931 as an Art Deco palace of a movie theater. It had 3,041 seats. A white elephant from the beginning, it had closed for the first time in 1932. It was open and closed intermittently until it finally seemed to be closed for good by 1970. However, in 1972, the Paramount was fully refurbished to its Art Deco glory, chandeliers and all, and made into the home for the Oakland Symphony. It was also available for other events, and Bill Graham took advantage of it when could.
This weekend inaugurated an annual series of weekends where Boz Scaggs and his band would appear at the Paramount with the Oakland Symphony in assistance. Fans were encouraged to wear "Black Tie" and evening dresses, and many apparently did. These were famous, high profile shows that elevated Boz Scaggs as a performer. He hadn't lost his swing or his feel for the blues, but he was now seen as a stylish soul singer as well.
The Paramount Theater was (and still is) a wonderful venue, but there were some issues. For one thing, Oakland is a large city, but many people outside the city limits associated it with violence and Black Panthers. This wasn't remotely true downtown, but outsiders didn't know that, and many fans would not come to downtown Oakland for a show, even though it was an easy drive from the freeway. Also, based on my experience, although the Paramount was a glorious place to see a concert, or a movie or anything, the sound wasn't actually that good for rock shows. Still, for an event like Boz Scaggs with the Oakland Symphony, the Paramount was perfect.
|Tales From Topographic Oceans, a double album by The Yes (released December 1973 on Atlantic)|
March 15-16, 1974 Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Yes/Charlie Starr (Friday-Saturday)
The Yes were bigger than ever. Their new album was the double-lp Tales From Topographic Oceans, released in December 1973 on Atlantic. For all the band's musical chops, many listeners had grudgingly conceded that The Yes had pop sensibilities, and songs like "Roundabout" and "Close To The Edge" were actually kind of catchy, with good hooks. But Tales was just a suite of compositions spread out over 4 sides, about the cosmos (or something). Even Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman found it unfathomable. Still, the band packed Winterland for the weekend, and they would only go on get bigger.
Charlie Starr is unknown to me. It's surprising that a band was on a Winterland bill that can't be traced, but I can't figure out who they (or he) were.
John Prine was another rising singer/songwriter who needed an audience that was sitting down. Prine, from Kentucky by way of Chicago, was a unique and affecting songwriter who would go on to have a brilliant career for another 45 years. At this time, however, his current album was Sweet Revenge, his third album on Atlantic (released October '73).
Supporting him was Leo Kottke. Kottke was mainly an accomplished acoustic guitarist, playing difficult instrumental music in the tradition of John Fahey. Unlike players like Fahey, however, Kottke had a countrified side as well. Kottke's current record was Ice Water, on Capitol. It included Kottke's only charting single, a wry vocal of a Tom T. Hall song, "Pamela Brown." Kottke, too, would go on to have a long and thriving career, but it was far from the confines of pop radio. For Friday night in Berkeley, however, they were a good bet.
On Saturday night, hometown favorites the Grateful Dead made their debut at the Cow Palace. This show is famous among Deadheads as the official debut of the band's gargantuan "Wall Of Sound," a remarkable 32-foot high tower of amplifiers behind the band that could part your hair at 200 yards (I heard it--it could). Interestingly, I think the band did not play Winterland because Graham could book other acts that weekend, while the Dead could play the Cow Palace.
The Cow Palace, formerly the California State Livestock Pavilion, had been completed in 1941. A newspaper asked in 1935, "why, when people are starving, should money be spent on a palace for cows?" A headline referred to the proposed building as a "Cow Palace," and the name stuck. The Cow Palace, at 2600 Geneva Avenue, was on the border of Daly City and San Francisco, and it was a huge concrete barn. However, it had easy access from the freeway and ample parking. Numerous sports, livestock and concert events were held there. The Beatles and Rolling Stones had both played there, as had and would many other groups. The San Francisco (and later Golden State) Warriors played many games there, including playoff finals.
In concert configuration, the Cow Palace could hold up to 16,500. That was about the equivalent of 3 nights at Winterland. Of course, if the Dead had played three nights at Winterland, they would have done better, since many fans would have come multiple nights. I think the Dead did well at the Cow Palace, but they didn't sell it out.March 23, 1974 Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Johnny Winter/Brownsville Station/Creation (Saturday)
On Saturday night, Johnny Winter and Brownsville Station headlined at Winterland. With 5400+ tickets available, this would have been somewhat comparable to two or three nights at 2500-capacity Fillmore West. The difference was that all the risk or reward was on a single night. Now, almost no fans at the time would have wanted to see both the Grateful Dead and Johnny Winter, so that risk was minimized. Still, it was a sign of the greater risk/reward ratio in the concert business. The Grateful Dead weren't risky, as they always sold tickets, but since Winter and Brownsville Station were booked some months in advance, BGP was taking a risk that they would sell enough tickets when the time came.
Johnny Winter was a terrific musician, in fact, although he didn't get much credit for it at the time. Winter was an accomplished, knowledgeable blues guitarist with a powerful singing voice. The fact that he was an albino gave him a kind of notoriety that shouldn't be commercially underestimated. He had come to New York from Texas in late 1968, and had been signed to a huge contract by Columbia. After some early success, he teamed up with producer/guitarist Rick Derringer and his band, who were formerly The McCoys. Johnny Winter And (for Johnny Winter and his band), his fourth album, had been released in September 1970 to a rapturous review in Rolling Stone. Winter had established himself as a serious rock artist, finally. The album bombed.
Winter retreated to releasing some bluesy hard rock, well-done but simple. He had some health issues, too, which didn't help. Winter's appeal seemed focus on the hard rock crowd (heavy metal wasn't a genre yet), long haired dudes who drank a lot and took too many downers. At this time, Winter's new album was Saints And Sinners, released in February 1974. It was produced by Derringer, and included some of Johnny's regular suspects, including his brother Edgar (who played keyboards). The record wasn't bad, but it was run-of-the-mill early 70s guitar excess--long solos, going nowhere.
Since Winterland had no seats, the feel of the room depended on the crowd. For the Grateful Dead, it was relaxed and fun. It was probably like that for the Doobie Brothers, too. For a hard rocker like Winter, however, the crowd would have been really, really loaded. Every now and again, some big oafs would bump into each other in a stupor, and square off while the crowd separated. If you liked Winter's music, Winterland wouldn't have been the place to see him (I never saw JW at Winterland, but I am describing what I saw when a Winterland crowd had too many drunk, rowdy fans).
Brownsville Station, from Ann Arbor, MI, had been together since 1969. Led by guitarist Cub Koda, they had finally hit it big with the single "Smokin' In The Boys Room," which reached #3 in the US. The song had been from their 1973 album Yeah!, and they were still riding it. Brownsville Station was a pretty good rocking band, but of course the crowd would have just cared about the hit.
There were various bands named Creation, but I cannot figure out which one opened the show.
|Selling England By The Pound, by Genesis (released October 1973 Charisma Records)|
March 24, 1974 Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Genesis (Sunday)
The English band Genesis were playing Winterland on Sunday night. Graham did not typically book Sunday night concerts, but he did when a band had a devoted following. Genesis was a new, rising band that most rock fans hadn't yet heard of, since they didn't have a hit single or any song in high rotation on FM radio. But the band's fans were crazy about them, so they would show up on a Sunday night.
Genesis had been formed in 1968 and an English Public School. The band had sophisticated songs with elaborate arrangements, and a stage presentation to match. They weren't taking long guitar solos and turning their back to the audience, like jazz musicians. The only comparison was Pink Floyd, and Floyd did take long guitar solos. The key figure for Genesis was singer and main writer Peter Gabriel. At this time, Phil Collins was just the band's drummer (and a good one), and no one even knew he could sing. Their current album was Selling England By The Pound, which had been released by Charisma Records in October 1973.
Genesis would have been better appreciated sitting down, but Berkeley Community Theater was not typically used on Sunday nights. Also, BGP may have benefited from the upside that Genesis could sell more tickets at Winterland (5400+) than at Berkeley (3500). Genesis had just played three nights at Santa Monica Civic (Thursday through Saturday), so they were obviously on the rise.March 30, 1974 Winterland, San Francisco, CA: Black Oak Arkansas/Jo Jo Gunne/Journey (Saturday)
Black Oak Arkansas really was from Black Oak, AR, in the Ozarks. Initially they had been a 60s psychedelic band called The Knowbody Else (and even released an album on Stax in '69) but then returned from Memphis back to Black Oak. The band is generally lumped with Southern rock in the early 70s, and that's only partially true. They were from the South, more or less, but the band pretty much played boogie music, rather than having any of the jazz and country overtones of the Allman Brothers, Marshal Tucker or Charlie Daniels. It's hard to play boogie music really fast, so Black Oak were probably better musicians than we give them credit for, but they were hardly virtuosos.
Black Oak Arkansas's current album was High On The Hog, on Atco Records. It was their fifth album, and it included the single "Jim Dandy," a cover of a 1957 LaVern Baker song, and the band's biggest hit, which reached #25. Their lead singer and frontman was Jim "Dandy" Mangrum, hence the song (which went "Jim Dandy to the rescue" etc). It wasn't high art. The Black Oak Arkansas crowd would have been like Johnny Winter's, full of liquor and 'ludes.
Opening act JoJo Gunne were an offshoot of the great Los Angeles band Spirit. After three brilliant and well-reviewed albums, and only modest sucess, Spirit had disintegrated after their fourth album, Twelve Dreams Of Dr Sardonicus, released in December 1970. Of course, after they broke up, the album was a huge FM radio hit and went Gold, just as the previous three should have. Spirit lead singer Jay Ferguson and bassist Mark Andes formed JoJo Gunne (named after an obscure Chuck Berry single). Hardly as diverse as Spirit, they were still lively and catchy. Yet by 1974, JoJo Gunne was basically treading water. Their current album on Asylum would have been Jumpin The Gunne.
It is emblematic of San Francisco and Bill Graham Presents that perhaps the biggest act in the month of March, 1974 was third on the bill on a Saturday night, opening for Black Oak Arkansas and JoJo Gunne. The ensemble that would become Journey had originally come together in early 1973, with the intention of being a studio band like the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (their original name was the Golden Gate Rhythm Section). Guitarist Neal Schon was the anchor, and initially he was going to work with bassist Pete Sears and drummer Gregg Errico. The unit had evolved, however, and once organist Gregg Rolie left Santana, they realized they were a band and not a rhythm section.
Journey had debuted on New Year's Eve, 1973, opening for Santana at Winterland. The band had been Schon on lead guitar, Rolie on organ and vocals, drummer Prairie Prince from The Tubes, and bassist Ross Valory and guitarist George Tickner, both from an obscure Lafayette, CA band Frumious Bandersnatch. A few gigs later, Journey realized they were a real band, and Prairie Prince in turn remained with The Tubes. For a drummer, Journey had recruited the great Aynsley Dunbar, most famously ex-Mothers Of Invention (and Jeff Beck, John Mayall and others). The new Journey had debuted at The Great American Music Hall in February of 1974, and were promptly signed by Columbia. Thus, although the band had no album, they were a major-label act and booked to open for Black Oak. Journey would go on to sell more records than almost anyone in this blog post, only perhaps save the Doobie Brothers.
|The Freight And Salvage could not afford advertising, so the shows were promoted all over Berkeley with these unique calendar flyers. Few survive. This one is actually from February, 1970. Each square is like a miniature Avalon poster.|
Freight And Salvage, 1827 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA
It is easy to make fun of the city of Berkeley--indeed, no one has more fun with that than current and former residents (old hippies still refer to Berkeley as the "People's Republic"). For good or ill, however, Berkeley is generally ahead of its time, and The Freight And Salvage may very well be Exhibit A. Back in the early 60s, "Folk Music" was mainly popularized by clean-cut college students strumming guitars and harmonizing old songs whose context had been anesthetized. Much of that Folk Music, and the clubs where it was performed, had disappeared in a cloud of funny-colored smoke during the Vietnam War, and folk music itself seemed to shrink in importance.
The Freight And Salvage had opened on July 24, 1968, at 1827 San Pablo Avenue (at Delaware St) in Berkeley. The club was opened on a shoestring in a former furniture warehouse, and the name was kept so they wouldn't have to change the sign. The goal was to have a club committed to the preservation and promotion of traditional music, rather than promoting folk music as "popular." It was Berkeley, and it was 1968. All the locals were hippies, they all smoked pot and all were against the Vietnam War. They all loved traditional folk music, but they all loved the Beatles too. Many of the folk performers at the Freight had been or were currently members of rock bands, so the interest in folk traditions was never conceived as hostile to any rock or popular music. The Freight also made a point of booking non-Appalachian traditional music. The roots of current interest in "Americana" music has one of its main wellsprings at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, starting back in 1968.
Even by 1974, everything about the Freight And Salvage was different than every other club, and that was so, so Berkeley. Shows were only publicized by a calendar posted on every bulletin board and telephone pole, since the club couldn't afford advertising. The Freight had a maximum seated capacity of just 87 patrons. While they served food and coffee, they didn't serve beer, because clinking glasses interfered with appreciation of the mostly acoustic performers. As if that wasn't financially daunting enough, the Freight And Salvage had banned smoking cigarettes, too (and had done so since it had opened in '68). It may seem normal now, but I assure you in the early 70s, a club that didn't allow smoking or beer was a financially bonkers proposition (as a footnote, restless patrons and musicians with urgent needs went across the street to the delightful Albatross Pub at 1822 San Pablo). Yet the Freight And Salvage survived from month to month, and it is still thriving today.
|The April 5, 1974 Hayward Daily Review listed the acts playing Berkeley's Freight And Salvage that week. David Grisman played in a duo with guitarist David Nichtern on Wednesday, April 10.|
Freight And Salvage, Berkeley, CA: April 1974 Performance List
April 2, 1974 Freight and Salvage, Berkeley, CA: Hoot Night (Tuesday)
During this period, the Freight and Salvage was closed on Sunday and Monday, but Tuesdays were "Hoot Night." Letting local players get up and sing a few songs had been a folk club tradition going back to the 1950s ("Hoot" was short for "Hootenany"). In that way, the Freight was like other folk clubs. In another way, however, the Freight was quite different. The community of musicians who performed at the Freight was small, and they often used Hoot Night to try out some new material or new configurations, so the quality of music on Tuesday nights could be pretty high.
Rolf Cahn and Janet Smith both had deep roots in the Berkeley folk scene, arguably the deepest roots of all. Both of them played guitar and sang. They probably each did some solo material, and then a few duets.
Rolf Cahn, a German by way of Cambridge, MA, was an accomplished guitarist. In 1958, he had founded Berkeley's first folk club, the Blind Lemon, at 2362 San Pablo. The Blind Lemon served coffee and folk music, literally setting the stage for what was to come. The Blind Lemon was a mainstay of the Berkeley folk scene for many years to come, even after Cahn had moved on.
Cahn was also a co-founder of an even more important Berkeley folk club, the Cabale Creamery, nearby at 2504 San Pablo (by 1974, 2504 San Pablo was the site of the Long Branch--see February '74 above). The Cabale had been founded by Cahn, Debbie Green, Howard Ziehm and Chandler A. Laughlin III, and was a crucial stop on the early 60s folk circuit.
An equally foundational pioneer in the Berkeley folk scene was one Mayne Smith, who--among many other firsts--had founded Berkeley's first bluegrass band, the Redwood Canyon Ramblers back in 1959. Janet Smith was Mayne Smith’s younger sister, and while very much part
of the Berkeley folk scene, was initially more of a listener than a participant,
being somewhat younger. By the 1960s, however, she had become
interested in Elizabethan folk songs. Some of Janet Smith's singing was captured on a Folkways album called Berkeley Farms, recorded around 1970.
April 4, 1974 Freight and Salvage, Berkeley, CA: Rockabilly Rhythm Boys (Thursday)
Although the Freight And Salvage often featured bluegrass and Old-Time music, it had a much broader view of folk traditions. In particular, the Freight regularly booked both old and new performers of "Western Music," which was the less persistent half of "Country And Western" music. The Rockabilly Rhythm Boys described their music as "Rhythm and Western." Leader Tim Johnson would eventually form a group called The Moonlighters, linked to Commander Cody, and playing in the hippie Western Swing style that Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen had made popular.
April 5, 1974 Freight and Salvage, Berkeley, CA: Phantoms of The Opry (Friday)
The Phantoms of the Opry played bluegrass, and were led by Pat Enright. Other band members, at one time or another, included Chuck Wiley, Joe Zumwalt, Robbie Macdonald, Paul Shelasky, Gene Tortora, Brantley Kearns, and Laurie Lewis.
|The Arkansas Sheiks album Whiskey Before Breakfast, released on Bay Records in 1975|
April 6, 1974 Freight and Salvage, Berkeley, CA: Arkansas Sheiks (Saturday)
The Arkansas Sheiks were another bluegrass band, led by Karana Hattersly, along with, at one time or another, Hoyle Osborne, Michael Drayton, Paul Shelasky, Laurie Lewis, Kate Brislin, Tony Marcus, Barbara Mendelsohn, and Tom Marion. If you've noticed that some of the members of the Arkansas Sheiks were also sometime members of the Phantoms Of The Opry, you're catching on to how the Freight And Salvage worked. Bluegrass bands made no money, but they also had no equipment, so swapping out a fiddle player for a night--or a year or two--was no problem. A core of East Bay musicians played at the Freight, often in a dizzying variety of ensembles, sometimes in the same week or on the same bill.
Typically, most of the regular Freight And Salvage bands played the club once a month. So a band like Phantoms Of The Opry or the Arkansas Sheiks might play the Freight every month for a long time, sometimes years. If a band member had another gig, or had a baby, they would be replaced by another friend, and yet on occasion, the departed might still return to the group for a night or a year.
In 1975, the Arkansas Sheiks would release Whiskey Before Breakfast, on Bay Records.
Back in 1966, young mandolinist David Grisman had relocated from Hackensack, NJ to Oakland. Grisman played an integral role in the tiny, hip Berkeley bluegrass sound. He formed a trio with banjo player Rick Shubb and guitarist Herb Pedersen called The Smoky Grass Boys, and they flew the bluegrass flag while bands all around them "went electric." By 1968, Grisman had returned to the East Coast, and formed the psychedelic rock band Earth Opera with guitarist Peter Rowan. Grisman mainly played electric mandola, and the band released two albums on Elektra before splitting up in late 1969.
By 1972, Grisman was producing The Rowan Brothers. Chris and Lorin Rowan were Peter's younger brothers, and Columbia had signed them. Grisman was in their stage band, too, but he mostly played keyboards. By late '72, older brother Peter had left his band (Seatrain) and come out West to hang out in Stinson Beach with Grisman and his brothers. Peter and Grisman ended up playing bluegrass with their banjo-playing uphill neighbor, one Jerry Garcia.
Now it was 1974. Columbia Records had dropped the Rowan Brothers. Old And In The Way, the bluegrass band with Garcia, Rowan and Grisman, had stopped playing (save for one final reunion gig). The band's groundbreaking album would not be released until early '75. In the Bay Area, however, David Grisman had a little bit of a name now as "the guy who had played mandolin with Garcia." In March of 1974, Grisman and Richard Greene had put together a loose aggregation of players for a weekend at the Great American Music Hall. Appropriately, they were called The Great American String Band.
The Great American String Band was all-acoustic, but they didn't limit themselves to bluegrass or Old-Time music, or any genre at all, save for playing acoustic. They played bluegrass, swing, old-time and some unclassifiable music that would ultimately be called "New Acoustic." Membership varied, but for the band's second show (at the Great American on March 10, 1974), Jerry Garcia was the banjo player (Sandy Rothman had played the first night, but switched to guitar with Garcia there). One of the other players was guitarist David Nichtern.
David Nichtern was more of a songwriter than performer. Just in February, Maria Muldaur had released her debut album on Reprise, which included Nichtern's song "Midnight At The Oasis." The song was Maria's biggest hit, forever associated with her, and a pop classic (it would go to #6 on Billboard). Nichtern was an interesting, jazzy guitarist, however, not a conventional bluegrass flatpicker, so he added something else to the Great American String Band mix.
The Great American String Band (sometimes called The Great American Music Band) would go on to play throughout the Bay Area in 1974, occasionally with Jerry Garcia, but always with Nichtern and Grisman. Ultimately the band would evolve into the groundbreaking David Grisman Quintet, which mowed down everything in its path--acoustically--for decades to come. Yet with the GASB having just debuted, here was the duo of Grisman and Nichtern, using the Freight And Salvage to work together on the future of acoustic music.
April 11, 1974 Freight and Salvage, Berkeley, CA: Frankie Armstrong (Thursday)
Frankie Armstrong (b.1941) was an English folk singer from the 1960s, with a substantial history behind her.
|Rick Shubb, Bob Wilson and Markie Shubb Live (1976 Pacifica Records)|
April 12, 1974 Freight and Salvage, Berkeley, CA: Shubb, Wilson and Shubb (Friday)
April 13, 1974 Freight and Salvage, Berkeley, CA: Hired Hands (Saturday)
Rick Shubb may as well be the archetype for the unique kind of Berkeley musician who was integral to the founding of the Freight And Salvage. Originally from Oakland, Shubb had rented a room in Fall 1965 in a Palo Alto house to Jerry Garcia and his wife. Shubb, an accomplished banjo player, designed the Warlocks first logo (on Bill Kreutzmann's bass drum), and was later in the Smoky Grass Boys with David Grisman. In between trying to make a living playing banjo--not easy--Shubb designed some nice posters for the Carousel Ballroom in 1968. Shubb had been a regular performer at the Freight since it had opened. Shubb also co-created Dr. Humbead's Map Of The World, a story in itself.
On Friday night, Shubb was playing in a trio with guitarist Bob Wilson and his wife, bassist Markie Sanders Shubb. They played kind of swinging old-timey music, or modern acoustic swing, or something like that.
On Saturday night, the Shubbs fronted The Hired Hands, a bluegrass ensemble. Markie played mandolin and Rich Wilbur played guitar and sang, with Markie's brother Mike Sanders on bass. In earlier times, the Hired Hands had included Paul Shelasky, Brantley Kearns, Pat Enright, Dick Stanley, Bert Johnson and John Cooke, many of whom were in all the other above bands. Both groups typically played the Freight every month or so.
April 17, 1974 Freight and Salvage, Berkeley, CA: Larry Hanks (Wednesday)
Larry Hanks was an old-school Berkeley folkie. A Berkeley resident, he had started performing folk music in the Bay Area in the 1950s. He had been a former member of The Instant Action Jug Band, the house band at The Jabberwock, which had given birth to both Country Joe And The Fish and the Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band. Hanks had also hosted the Hoot Nights at the Jabberwock and the New Orleans House in the 60s. Apparently, Hanks had recorded a folk album for Takoma Records, but when he heard the reverb on the final mix, he considered it inauthentic and withdrew his permission.
|Good Though, by U Utah Phillips was released on Philo Records in 1973|
April 18-20, 1974 Freight and Salvage, Berkeley, CA: U Utah Phillips (Thursday-Saturday)
While it is well worth your time to read the entire entry, here are some key notes from the Wikipedia entry for U. Utah Phillips:
Bruce Duncan "Utah" Phillips (May 15, 1935 – May 23, 2008) was an American labor organizer, folk singer, storyteller and poet. He described the struggles of labor unions and the power of direct action, self-identifying as an anarchist... He adopted the name U. Utah Phillips in keeping with the hobo tradition of adopting a moniker that included an initial and the state of origin, and in emulation of country vocalist T. Texas Tyler....He often promoted the Industrial Workers of the World in his music, actions, and words... Though known primarily for his work as a concert performer and labor organizer, Phillips also worked as an archivist, dishwasher, and warehouse-man.
At this time, Phillips current album was 1973's Good Though on Philo Records. Philo was a true independent, and the releases were largely promoted and sold by the artists themselves. In 1975, a peculiar station in Gilroy, CA (south of San Jose) called KFAT would start playing a unique mixture of country, bluegrass and rock with a refreshingly zany playlist. Phillips' talking blues song "Moose Turd Pie"--with its epic punchline, "it's good, though!"-- would become a staple of the KFAT playlist during the station's memorable existence (1975-83).
April 24, 1974 Freight and Salvage, Berkeley, CA: Dick Oxtot's Hat 4 with Terry Garthwaite (Wednesday)
Dick Oxtot had been playing New Orleans-style jazz since World War 2. He had played cornet, banjo and sang. Terry Garthwaite, meanwhile, had been a in a bluegrass band called The Crabgrassers back in the mid-60s. She was also the co-founder and lead guitarist of the band Joy Of Cooking, who had released three albums on Capitol in the early 70s. Joy Of Cooking had played some formative gigs at the Freight back in 1969. By 1974, Garthwaite had a conventional (for the time) singer-songwriter career. But here she was on a Wednesday night, singing old-time New Orleans songs (and probably playing guitar) in a style completely outside of her recording career.
|Lawrence Hammond's 1976 solo album Coyote's Dream, on Takoma Records. James Parber (Bob Weir's half-brother) played lead guitar and was a member of the Whiplash Band|
April 25, 1974 Freight and Salvage, Berkeley, CA: Lawrence Hammond and The Whiplash Band (Thursday)
Lawrence Hammond had been in the absolutely legendary psychedelic band Mad River. Mad River, formed in Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH in 1966. They had moved to Berkeley in early 1967. Even by the standards of the Avalon, Mad River had been out there. Hammond played bass and was the primary songwriter. After an epic, feedback-laden debut on Capitol in 1968 (even the band cannot tell if the record was recorded at the wrong speed--what's that tell you?), Mad River had unexpectedly released an album of country flavored songs before they split up in Summer 1969.
Hammond had stayed in the Bay Area. He wrote country songs in a distinctly Western style, as opposed to the Nashville sound of the time. Unlike some Freight performers, Hammond and his Whiplash band played all over the Bay Area (and probably Northern California). They still played a weeknight at the Freight every month. I think that a Freight gig allowed Hammond and his band to try out new material in a comfortable setting, rather than in some rowdy (if well-paying) honky-tonk. Hammond, backed by his band, did release a hard-to-find solo album on Takoma Records in 1976 called Coyote's Dream.
I don't know exactly who was in the Whiplash Band in 1974. The most interesting band member, however, surely has to have been lead guitarist James Parber. Parber was definitely a band member in 1975-76, and he played on Coyote's Dream. Parber had grown up in Merced, seeing the Grateful Dead and other 60s bands when they played the Central Valley and in San Francisco. Tragically, Parber became very ill in 1979 with a particularly vicious form of cancer, eventually dying in 1991. After 1996, Bob Weir looked into the identity of his birth father, and it turned out that James Parber was Bob Weir's half-brother.
|1827 San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, as it looked in the 21st century, long after the Freight and Salvage club had moved to Addison Street|
April 26-27, 1974 Freight and Salvage, Berkeley, CA: Rosalie Sorrells (Friday-Saturday)
Rosalie Sorrells (1933-2017) was born in Idaho and moved to Salt Lake City after she was married. She was part of the Utah folk scene in the late 1950s and early 60s. Around 1966 she began a career as a performer and later an author. She has an extensive discography. Her current album would have been Whatever Happened To The Girl That Was, released in 1973 on Bearsville. Sorrell had played for many years (in the studio and sometimes live) with guitarist Mitch Greenhill, who played on the album along with players like Eric Kaz, Harvey Brooks and Dave Holland.
|Listing for the Tuckett Inn (18564 Mission Blvd) from the Hayward Daily Review, March 22, 1974|
Appendix: Other East Bay Clubs, Spring 1974
The clubs listed here were not the only clubs in the East Bay booking original rock music in early 1974. The three listed here booked the bands that we now see as the most prominent. Keystone Berkeley bands were popular at the time, and the Long Branch fed the Keystone (and other clubs), so we recognize some stars from that month. The Freight And Salvage was tiny, but its importance was outsized in retrospect.
The other rock club in Berkeley was The New Orleans House, at 1505 San Pablo (at Delaware), about a mile North of the Long Branch. It had opened back in 1966, and started booking rock bands later that year. The New Orleans House was one of the first clubs in the Bay Area booking original rock music, so lots of interesting bands played there in the 1960s (for a performance history of that era, see here). New Orleans House only had a capacity of about 250, however, and wasn't in a freeway-accessible location, compared to Keystone Berkeley. By 1974, the club mostly just booked local bands, although some of them had records. It also leaned more towards singer/songwriter music than harder rock, with a touch of jazz and blues thrown in.
There were also a few music clubs in the South Bay, such as the Tuckett Inn in Hayward, at 18564 Mission Boulevard (near where I-238 met I-580). These were essentially dance clubs that booked original rock music. Bands could play what they wanted, but people had better be able to dance to it. Although the club probably paid alright, no band was going to get discovered way out on Mission Boulevard.
70s Rock Nightclub Series: Previous Posts