Thursday, April 22, 2021

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders at The Matrix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA: Performance List January-April 1970 (Troubadour I)


The Troubadour, at 9081 Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood

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

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

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

A mile East of the Whisky, however, was a former coffee shop called The Troubadour. Proprietor Doug Weston had opened the club in 1957 over on La Cienaga. He moved to Santa Monica Boulevard a few years later. By 1970, the Troubadour had a full bar and regular performers. Initially it presented folk acts, and in a sense it still did. Electric instruments were standard fare by the end of the 60s, and the Troubadour wasn't for purists. But the Whisky was for rocking out, and the Troubadour was for reflection.  As the 70s rose on the horizon, reflection was the order of the day, and success at The Troubadour turned out to have more impact than success at the Whisky.

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

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

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

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

December 30-January 1, January 3-4, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Flying Burrito Brothers/Longbranch Pennywhistle
(Tuesday-Thursday, Saturday-Sunday)
Over the holiday weekend, the Flying Burrito Brothers were booked, supported by a local singing duo. From our distant remove, this seems like one of the memorable events that made the Troubadour legendary. The music very well may have been excellent. From a record industry point of view, however, the booking was just filler. John Hartford's Friday appearance (see below) interrupted the booking, a sign that the Burrito Brothers were no longer high on the food chain.

In February, 1969 the Flying Burrito Brothers had released their debut, Gilded Palace Of Sin, on A&M Records. The band featured two former members of The Byrds, who were revered as a best-selling band on a major label, and the debut album itself is now seen as an influential classic of country-rock. Gram Parsons, who died in 1973, is considered by many (though not all) as a significant artist who changed the face of rock and country music. By the end of 1969, however, the initial excitement about the Burritos had died out in Hollywood, even if it was yet to be discovered by the rest of the world.

Gilded Palace Of Sin did not sell very well, and would not for some years. The Flying Burrito Brothers, for all their talent, were indifferent performers who didn't rehearse much. Initially, they didn't even have a drummer. Because of Parsons, the Burritos are one of the most documented bands of all time, so I won't go through the whole story. But since they didn't like to tour much--Gram wanted to hang out with the Rolling Stones--they played LA clubs a lot, so their appearance at the Troubadour would have been nothing special. A&M Records, fairly fed up with Parsons by this time, would not have been paying for a lot of drinks at the bar, which is why Doug Weston would have interrupted their week-long booking (note below how rare that interruption is). 

Burrito Deluxe, the band's second album, would not be released until April 1970. Original bassist Chris Etheridge had left the band, so Chris Hillman had switched to bass. Bernie Leadon (from Dillard & Clark Expedition) had been brought in on lead guitar. The great Sneaky Pete Kleinow was still on pedal steel guitar, and ex-Byrd Michael Clarke had taken over the drum chair. There were three former Byrds, a future Eagle, and two country rock legends (Parsons and Sneaky) in the band. But they were last year's news in West Hollywood.

Opening act Longbranch Pennywhistle was the singer/songwriter duo of Glenn Frey and JD Souther. The pair would release their only album on Amos Records in early 1970. Presumably Frey and Souther's housemate, Jackson Browne, dropped by at least once.

January 2, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: John Hartford (Friday)
John Hartford was a singer, songwriter and talented musician from Missouri. He was best known for writing the song "Gentle On My Mind," a gigantic hit for Glenn Campbell and others. The success of the song gave Hartford some economic comfort not usually afforded bluegrass musicians. By this time, Hartford was familiar to audiences for having regularly appeared on TV shows like The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and The Glenn Campbell Goodtime Hour.

RCA had signed Hartford back in 1966, probably figuring they were getting another country singer. In fact, Hartford was a unique and creative talent, but not always very commercial. His most recent album, entitled John Hartford (even though it was his sixth record for RCA) had been released in late 1969. Strangely, it was a complexly-orchestrated country "art-rock" album, if such a thing can be imagined. It was not well-reviewed, nor did it sell well. This solitary show was probably to promote the album. Since Hartford worked out of Southern California, playing a one-off show wouldn't have interfered with any touring. Although the show probably wasn't anything like the album, Hartford was a terrific performer and it was probably a great night out.

The lone Friday night booking at the Troubadour was very rare. Few artists played one-nighters there except for Monday or Tuesday, and even fewer artists had their run interrupted like the Burritos.

January 6-11, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Mason Williams (Tuesday-Sunday)
Mason Williams was another performer with a unique history, and to some extent an "only-in-LA" booking. Williams was an accomplished classical guitarist, and had had a surprise hit with the song "Classical Gas," which had reached #2 on the Billboard charts in April, 1968. Although it is an instrumental, it has been used many times in soundtracks and commercials, and it is probably familiar to many people even today. Williams had also been the head writer for the Smothers Brothers show, so of course any opportunities to perform were limited. Due to controversy, however, CBS had abruptly canceled the 1969-70 season for the hit show, so Williams would have been available to perform.

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

At this stage in early 1970, the Troubadour had booked TV personalities each week. While the Flying Burrito Brothers were a hippie ensemble, they were in a dead holiday week, and were bookending a TV personality. Variety show stars had played the Troubadour three weeks in a row, when you count John Hartford (who was nationally known himself). 

January 20-25 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Clara Ward Singers/Camp Hilltop (Tuesday-Sunday)
The Clara Ward Singers had been essential in bringing the styles and sounds of Black Gospel music to popular attention. Clara Ward had been popular since the late 40s, and had appeared in movies and televsion as well as having a successful recording career. Various singers had been through her group, but she had an acknowledged style. The Los Angeles Times review was very enthusiastic.

The Camp Hilltop singers seemed to be a pop-folk ensemble, competent but politely dismissed by the Times.

January 27-February 1, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Phil Ochs/The Dillards (Tuesday-Sunday)
Back when Greenwich Village folksingers were singing protest songs, Phil Ochs had only been out-shined by Bob Dylan, for affecting but politically potent songs. Dylan, being Dylan, had moved through the protest phase, and indeed the folksinging phase itself. Ochs had continued in a more political vein, but the music world was passing him by. Ochs had moved from New York to Los Angeles around 1967, but he was a tireless activist as well as performer. Ochs, for example, was crucial in the formation of the "Youth International Party," better known as the Yippies. Ochs had also continued making albums, but they had not been particularly successful.

Ochs had released a bleak album in mid-69, Rehearsals For Retirement. In a thoroughly unexpected move, his next album for A&M, Greatest Hits--not his hits at all, but all new songs--were in an old-time rock and roll style and had no "political" content at all. The album would be released in February, 1970, and former folkie Ochs would appear on stage in a gold lame suit backed by a rock band. The approach seemed guaranteed to alienate what fans he had. 

The Dillards were veteran bluegrass performers, having come out to Los Angeles from Salem, MO back in 1963. The Dillards, too, had some TV fame, having had recurring roles as The Darling Family on The Andy Griffith Show. The Dillards had released four albums for Elektra, the most recent back in 1968 (Wheatstraw Suite). They would have a new album in 1970, Copperfields, although I don't think it would be released until later in the year. By this time, The Dillards had remodeled themselves into a more folk-rock style, and less explicitly bluegrass oriented, but the high lonesome sound was probably still a big part of their stage show.

February 3-8, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Tim Hardin/Judy Mayhan (Tuesday-Sunday)
Tim Hardin had been an important figure in Greenwich Village folk music as far back as 1964. He was a terrific songwriter and an engaging performer. His first album had been released in 1966, and included his now-classic "Reason To Believe." Tim Hardin 2, released in 1967, included "If I Were A Carpenter." Both of these songs have been recorded by many famous singers over the decades. Hardin had health problems, however, and his drug use did not help. Despite his promise, and high hopes, he remained a minor figure.

Columbia had signed him, and he had released the Suite For Susan Moore and Damion in March of '69, but the record hadn't gone anywhere. Hardin's appearance at the Troubadour appears to have been an attempt to prove that he could be a functioning performer. The disappointed LA Times reviewer gave Hardin's opening night a dismal review (in the February 5 edition). The specter of Hardin's drug use is never stated--it was 1970--but a knowing reader would catch that Hardin was still a mess. There were plenty of knowledgeable readers in Los Angeles, many or most of them in the music industry. They weren't going to take a chance on Hardin if he was not healthy.

Judy Mayhan wrote and sang, and accompanied herself on piano.

February 10-15, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: James Taylor
The booking of James Taylor in February was one of the most consequential bookings of 1970 for The Troubadour, and probably one of the most important bookings in its history. Taylor had released an obscure album on Apple Records in 1968, but it had largely gone unnoticed. Subsequently, Taylor was dropped by Apple and signed by Warner Brothers. Sweet Baby James, Taylor's debut on Warners, had just been released. It had been recorded in Los Angeles for just $7600, produced by Peter Asher. Taylor accompanied himself on guitar, with a little help from his fellow East Coast transplants, guitarist Danny Kortchmar and pianist Carole King. Other session players were on the record, but the recording was simple.  

By 1970, rock was getting harder and louder. Cream and Iron Butterfly had paved the way for Led Zeppelin and Mountain. The Rolling Stones had gotten louder. As for pop music, groups like the Beatles and the Moody Blues were making complex musical sculptures in the studio. Yes, there was still Bob Dylan, but Dylan had an edge, too, even if it was lyrical rather than sonic. James Taylor was different. Original songs, sung with feeling, simply recorded and easy to understand. 

Sweet Baby James was a smash, of course. The album reached #3 on Billboard, as did the single "Fire And Rain." To date, the record has sold over 3 million copies, and most of North America can sing along with the title track. Sweet Baby James was more than just a hit, however. It was instrumental for ushering in the era of "singer-songwriters," merging the personal authenticity of rock with the directness of folk music. The album also proved there was a huge market of record buyers who weren't necessarily on board for harder rock, but still wanted their own music to listen to.

Although Taylor already had an album (from '68) and experience as a performer, when he played the Troubadour, he had seemed to come from nowhere. In 1970, the Troubadour's focus on "folk music" was suddenly a critical vortex for the music industry. Singer-songwriters who were going to make it big got noticed at the Troubadour first. 

A significant part of Doug Weston's success at the Troubadour was that when he signed an act to play a week at the club, they also had to agree to an "option" for Weston to re-hire them at a similar rate. Thus when a singer hit it big, Weston could book them cheap for a sell-out gig, while the performer had to take a lower payday. It was good business for Weston, and not popular with performers. The exact details of the options remain obscure, but there isn't any question about it in general (it was written about in Rolling Stone, for example). Some singers bought their way out of the option obligations for cash. 

James Taylor would play a week at the Troubadour 9 months later (November 20-24). By then, Sweet Baby James was a huge hit, and the Troubadour sold 4000 tickets for the week. Clearly, Weston was exercising his option for Taylor's services. While up-front and perfectly legitimate, the option clause was probably one reason why performers didn't drop by and do "surprise" one-off shows at the Troubadour

Roy Harper's 1969 album Folkjokeopus

February 17-22, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Jennifer/Roy Harper
James Taylor may have been the shape of things to come for the music industry, but that would take a few months. The next week's headliner was "Jennifer," no last name given. She was an attractive folk-style singer with a 4-piece band. Times reviewer Michael Sherman, however, dismissed her as only an actress. He pointed out that she smiled her way through Bob Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," paying no apparent attention to what she was actually singing.

Opening act Roy Harper is a legend today. The British singer-songwriter is well-regarded by many fans, most prominently Jimmy Page and David Gilmour. In later years, Led Zeppelin recorded a song about him, "Hats Off To Harper" (from Led Zeppelin III), and Harper did a guest lead vocal on Pink Floyd's "Have A Cigar" (singing the immortal line "by the way/Which one's Pink?"). 

In early 1970, Harper was newly-signed to Harvest Records. His most recent album had been his third record on Liberty, Folkjokeopus. All this sounds quite historical, the great Roy Harper opening for a canned Vegas wannabe. It didn't go over well with Michael Sherman, however. His only remark was that Harper began his set by announcing "I'm tired, I'm stoned." Sherman added "let's leave it at that."

February 24-March 1, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Randy Newman/Mary McCaslin (Tuesday-Sunday)
Randy Newman already had a name around the record industry as a songwriter. His debut solo album had been released by Reprise in 1968. His second album, 12 Songs, would be released in April, 1970. Newman's songs had been covered by many other artists. In 1966 he had written the song "Mama Told Me Not To Come" for Eric Burdon and The Animals. It was finally released by them in 1967, and Newman would include it on the 12 Songs album. More importantly, a rocked-up version had been recorded by Three Dog Night, and that would be released in May. It reached #11. Even people who hadn't heard Randy Newman would have heard of Three Dog Night. At the Troubadour, Newman played a 40-minute set, accompanying himself on piano.

Mary McCaslin was another aspiring singer-songwriter. She played in a more traditional folk style, but she wrote her own songs. She was not a major performer, but she had a successful career for many years.

March 3-8, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Bill Medley/Patchett & James (Tuesday-Sunday)
Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield were the Righteous Brothers, a  "blue-eyed soul" singing duo who had enormous success with Phil Spector, most famously for "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." Medley had the baritone voice, and Hatfield sang the higher parts. They had broken up in 1968 and each had gone solo. In 1970, Medley released his third album, Nobody Knows You, on MGM. In fact, Medley and Hatfield periodically reformed during this period for Las Vegas gigs or specific projects, but for the most part they were solo.

Patchett & James were a comedy duo.

March 10-15, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Carmen McCrae/Fourth Way
Carmen McCrae was a great singer, but trying to catch up with popular tastes. She had just recorded an album in Miami in February, with Atlantic producer Arif Mardin. The album would be released in July as Just A Little Lovin', and it would include a number of Beatles covers. McCrae was a fine singer, but she would have been aiming at Las Vegas and TV bookings.

The Fourth Way, on the other hand, were an interesting jazz-rock hybrid band from San Francisco. There were a lot of jazz-rock experiments going on in the Bay Area, but they were generally less frantic than the high-powered "fusion" music inspird by Miles Davis' album Bitches Brew. All of the band members had substantial pedigrees. Their self-titled second album had been released on Capitol in 1969.

Pianist and band leader Mike Nock, a New Zealander, had gone to the Berklee School of Music in the early 1960s. He had played with Larry Coryell and others. He had moved to the Bay Area in 1968, and in the Fourth Way he played electric keyboards. Electric violinist Michael White had played with the John Handy Quintet in the mid-60s, and had appeared on some albums with him. Drummer Eddie Marshall was an established player in the Bay Area jazz scene. Normally, the bassist for the Fourth Way was Ron McClure, who had played in the Charles Lloyd Quartet, as well as with Wes Montgomery. For this date, however, the Fourth Way was using Kenneth Jenkins.

March 17-22, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Butterfield Blues Band/Jeffrey Comanor (Tuesday-Sunday)
It's surprising to see the well-established Butterfield Blues Band booked at the Troubadour. It's possible that this show was an "option," but that seems unlikely. More likely, Elektra Records wanted industry people to see the newest iteration of the band, and those people were more likely to come to the Troubadour than some barn of an arena. The Butterfield Blues Band's most recent album was Keep On Movin,' which had been released back in October 1969. It had the Woodstock lineup, with Buzz Feiten on lead guitar, Philip Wilson on drums and Dave Sanborn leading the horn section on alto sax. I'm not sure which of those players, particularly Sanborn, were still on board in early 1970.

Jeffrey Comanor is mainly known as a songwriter. He had released the album Sure Hope You Like It on A&M Records in 1969, but he would not release another album until 1974. He did contribute many songs over the years to a variety of artists.

March 24-29, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Neil Diamond/Seals and Crofts (Tuesday-Sunday)
Neil Diamond had been a hugely successful pop songwriter for many years, and in 1969 he started to get big hits under his own name. He didn't really have a reputation as a performer yet, however, so playing a week at the Troubadour  was a chance for the industry to see how well Diamond could put on a show. In 1969, Diamond's big hits had been "Sweet Caroline," which had reached #4 in May, and "Holly Holy," which had reached #3 in October. It is an irony of pop culture that the bigger of Diamond's two hits that year is now largely forgotten, whereas "Sweet Caroline" (thanks particularly to the Boston Red Sox) is an anthem.

Diamond was from Brooklyn, and had worked in the famous Brill Building in the 60s. He had moved to Los Angeles in 1969. This week at the Troubadour must have gone well, because later in the year (on July 15, 1970) Diamond would record his Gold: Live At The Troubadour album. Released in August 1970, it was a sort of "greatest hits" of Neil Diamond, including some songs that had been hits for other artists.

Dash Seals and Jim Crofts were both long-time professional musicians from Texas. Both of them had been in The Champs, albeit for touring some time after "Tequila" had been a smash hit in 1958. Both of them had also backed Glenn Campbell in Van Nuys nightclub, back in the early 60s, when Campbell was an established session musician but not yet a recording star. After various ins and outs, they ended up as a singer/songwriter duo signed to TA Records. Seals and Crofts self-titled debut came out in 1969, and their follow-up Down Home would come out in September 1970. They would not see big success until after they signed with Warner Brothers in 1971.

March 31-April 5, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Tim Buckley/Camp Hilltop (Tuesday-Sunday)
Tim Buckley was a unique, jazz-inspired singer, and also kind of an acquired taste. The music world hadn't really acquired that taste yet. Buckley's fourth and most recent album was Blue Afternoon, which had been released in November 1969 on Straight Records. Straight was part of a pair of labels that were an "Imprint" (specialty label) on Warners for Frank Zappa and his manager, Herb Cohen (the other half of the pair was Bizarre Records). It's easy to look at Bizarre/Straight as a vanity label, since it included albums by Zappa's best friend in High School, a group featuring his daughter's nanny, and so on. Still, Zappa and Cohen signed a lot of talent that has held up well over the years, such as Buckley, even if they didn't sell a lot of albums.

The Longbranch Pennywhistle album (JD Souther and Glenn Frey), released on Amos Records in 1969

April 7-12, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Flying Burrito Brothers/Longbranch Pennywhistle
The Burritos returned, no doubt to promote their newly-released A&M album Burrito Deluxe. Unlike almost every week at the Troubadour in 1970, the first night was not reviewed in the LA Times. This was probably mainly because the Burritos had been reviewed back in January. Even with a new album, however, Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers were last year's news to Hollywood, and thus ignored. Hollywood's star-making machinery could be very powerful, but very dismissive as well.

April 14-19, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Peter Tork/Earth Disciples (Tuesday-Sunday)
Dion, formerly of Dion and The Belmonts, but by 1970 a singer/songwriter himself, had originally been promoted for this week. Dion dropped out, and was replaced by former Monkee Peter Tork. Tork had left the Monkees in 1968, when they had disintegrated. Tork had originally been an aspiring  folk singer, and had returned to that, doing some recording in 1969 that had never been released. By 1970, he was in an only-in-LA circumstance, hugely famous, generally popular but not particularly respected as a singer or performer, since the Monkees were the epitome of "plastic." No doubt he felt that playing this week at the Troubadour could put on the level of less famous but more "serious" performers. I don't think Tork embarrassed himself as a performer, by any means, but he didn't stand out. 

There's a chance Dion played a couple of shows early in the week, but I don't think so. Tork was not reviewed, itself a sign of how he was seen as lightweight, despite his fame. The Earth Disciples are unknown to me.

April 21-26, 1970 The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA: Buffy Sainte-Marie/Goose Creek Symphony (Tuesday-Sunday)
Buffy Sainte-Marie was an interesting artist for a variety of reasons, but she did not fit easily into regular categories. Sainte-Marie (b.1941) is an indigenous Canadian-American, born on a reservation in Saskatchewan. She eventually ended up at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst). She was also a regular performer in the folk clubs in Greenwich Village, Cambridge and Yorkville (in Toronto). She wrote a number of well-known songs that were successful for other singers, including "Codine" and "My Country 'Tis Of Thee I'm Dying." Her debut album It's My Way had been released on Vanguard in 1964.

After some interesting but conventional albums on Vanguard, her sixth album for the label was a real departure. Illuminations was recorded in quadrophonic, and included synthesizer contributions from the legendary Don Buchla. It had minimal rock backing supported by string arrangements, and was an experimental album for someone like Sainte-Marie. Of course, it did not sell well. On stage, Sainte-Marie was surely more conventional, but I don't know if she had a band or just played solo.

Goose Creek Symphony was a band from Arizona. Their first album, Established, had been released by Capitol in 1970. Broadly speaking, Goose Creek were a country rock group, but the genre hadn't been fully formed yet.

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

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

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

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

Status Report: May 1970
At the beginning of 1970, the Troubadour was booking a lot of acts who were connected with or aspiring to television or Las Vegas. But things were rapidly changing. In the first four months of the year, lots of performers that we recognize now as hugely successful, very influential or both had played the Troubadour. Along with that, some of the opening acts were pretty interesting, too, even if in retrospect they are more like cult figures.

There was money to be made in the record industry, big money. The rock market was expanding, thanks to FM radio. Also, it seemed that the teenagers who liked rock music in the 60s were going to continue to consume it as they grew up, but their tastes were broadening as they grew up. The Troubadour was at the heart of the music industry, so it was perfectly placed. For a lot of acts, and a lot of record companies, making a splash at the Troubadour was going to have major career implications.