|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.
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.
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.
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 (Tuesday-Sunday)
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 (Tuesday-Sunday)
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."
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.
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 (Tuesday-Sunday)
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.
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 (Tuesday-Sunday)
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.
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 (Tuesday-Sunday)
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.
Appendix: Other Posts in the 1970s Rock Nightclubs SeriesLoading Zone Performance List 1970 (Loading Zone I)