|The Whisky A-Go-Go, at 8901 Sunset Blvd (at Clark) on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, sometime in the 1960s|
In the late 1960s, one of the ways for a rock band to get big fast was to play the Whisky A-Go-Go in West Hollywood. True, the little club on the crowded Sunset Strip held 500 patrons at most, and the mini-skirted Go-Go dancers elevated above the floor could be as big an attraction as the band. Also true, the club only paid the minimum union scale, no matter how many records you sold. Nonetheless, record industry tastemakers either went to the Whisky or heard about it the next morning, so if you rocked the Whisky, and in particular if you rocked with some style, you could rock the nation afterwards, whether you had been famous beforehand or not. Them, The Doors, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin: they rocked the Whisky in style, and success followed.
By the early 1970s, although the rock music market had exploded, the Whisky was not the musical nexus of West Hollywood. Sensitive singer-songwriters expressing their feelings was the new pillar of the music industry, and those acts played the nearby Troubadour, not the Whisky. Flashy hard-rock itself was a bit passe, too, since rock took itself awfully seriously now. Yet the Whisky was still in West Hollywood, and it was still important. Surprisingly, however, for a few years the Whisky A-Go-Go became the locus for rock music in its newly-sophisticated form. We don't think of the Whisky as a home for "Jazz-Rock" and "Prog," but a review of the acts that played there in the first half of 1971 tell us just that.
This post is a review of all the performers at the Whisky A-Go-Go from January through June 1971, and an analysis of what it tells us about rock music and the record industry of that moment. Because of the way the Whisky did and did not advertise its shows, some of the exact beginning and end dates of some of the acts may be a bit vague, but I am confident that all the acts listed here played the Whisky during this period.
|Inside the Whisky A-Go-Go, ca. 1965|
Rock Nightclubs In The 1960s
One of the driving forces of live 1960s rock music was that it arose somewhat outside the confines of the regular entertainment business. Regional bands played the local version of the Fillmore, and although they released albums through national record companies, those bands did not achieve success by appearing on television. Rock music exploded in the minds of young people, with phenomenal economic returns as well. 60s rock in the United States had its own institutions: their own concert halls, modeled on the Fillmores, free-form FM radio, and hugely successful bands that seemed to owe little to the traditional starmaking machinery of New York and Los Angeles. The circuit of nightclubs that presented personal appearances by the familiar stars of stage and screen were all but completely shut out of the 60s psychedelic rock explosion. In any case, hippies, particularly younger ones, weren't looking for drink anyway. In America, at least, nightclubs did not play a significant role in the rise of late 60s rock bands.
The huge exception was the Whisky A-Go-Go, at 8901 Sunset Boulevard (at Clark) in West Hollywood. The Whisky played an essential role in breaking numerous American and English rock bands, all the more impressive since they only paid union scale. Although the financing of the American record industry operated out of New York, Los Angeles had just as big a role in finding and producing the actual music. The Whisky was in West Hollywood, and Los Angeles always wants to know what's hot and what's not. In the 1960s, what was at the Whisky was what was hot.
Hollywood proper had been absorbed as a district of Los Angeles back in the 1930s, but West Hollywood was just across the city limits. It was out of range of the notorious LA City Police, and the City Council as well. West Hollywood was part of Los Angeles County, but immune from some downtown politics. Thus it had been an entertainment district and playground for stars and fans since at least the 1940s. The Whisky A Go Go had opened on January 11, 1964, and it's gimmick was young women dancing suspended above the floor. Everybody got sweaty, and many drinks were sold.
|A promotional shot from August 1965 of The Leaves, opening at the long-forgotten Sunnyvale, CA (near San Jose) branch of the Whisky A-Go-Go. It only lasted six months.|
By the end of 1965, the Whisky A-Go-Go seemed passe. Rock music was changing--fans didn't want to hear Johnny Rivers crank out the same 12 songs every night. Valentine had another club in West Hollywood, however, called The Trip. The Trip booked touring rock acts for a week or two. LA and Hollywood like that better, because they could check out in person what they had only heard on record. For an industry town like LA, that was critical. So Valentine started booking the Whisky like The Trip. The Whisky was open every night with live music, but there were new headliners every few days. In the Summer of '66, a band called The Doors was the opening act almost every night, and they got signed to Elektra. It was Hollywood--people wanted to go down to the Whisky to see what was happening. The Hollywood hip people, whether in the record industry or just cool cats, heard the bands and helped to decide who got some buzz.
Fillmore headliners like Cream or the Jimi Hendrix Experience would play a few nights at the Whisky--capacity 500, maximum--for practically nothing, just to make sure they got seen and heard. Almost every good band in the 60s had a shot at the Whisky, and if you killed it there, the entire record industry knew your name by Sunday morning. In January, 1969, an English band rolled in from a Northwestern tour, and their debut album had not yet even been released by Atlantic. No matter--by the weekend, everybody was talking about Led Zeppelin. Rocking the Whisky could be a golden ticket to a big tour. There was live music every night at The Whisky. Sometimes, if a band had
another, better paying gig, they would skip a night at the Whisky, and
another band would take their place. This was true of both the headliner
and the "house" band. It being Hollywood and all, sometimes the
substitute band was better known--or just better--than the act they
By the 1970s, that had changed. The studied indifference and self-important--some said self-indulgent--music of the Fillmore bands was replaced by "singer-songwriters," singing catchy, heartfelt songs that captured the imaginations and hearts of huge swaths of the listening public. The singer-songwriters of the era, like Carole King, James Taylor and Cat Stevens, came from all over, but they made it big in Los Angeles.
A mile East of the Whisky was a former coffee shop called The Troubadour. Proprietor Doug Weston had opened the club in 1957, but by
1970 it had a full bar and regular performers. Initially The Troubadour 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. By 1970, it was a bar where the best of the singer-songwriters played for the Los Angeles music industry, who in turn made them famous. Hollywood, whatever else you think, knows how to make stars. In 1970, the stars were coming from the quieter confines of The Troubadour, rather than the rowdier premises of the Whisky.
|An ad for upcoming shows at The Whisky A-Go-Go, ca early April 1971|
Whisky A-Go-Go Performance List, January to June 1971
|The December 1970 debut album by Fanny on Reprise Records|
January 1-4, 1971Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Flying Burrito Brothers/Fanny (Friday-Monday)
The Flying Burrito Brothers were staples of the Hollywood scene, but had somewhat peaked. At this time, the Burritios' current album would have been their second one, Burrito Deluxe. It was a pretty good album, but frontman Gram Parsons had left the band back in June. The Burritos were an influential group, in fact, but almost all their business decisions were bad. Future Eagle Bernie Leadon was in the band by this time, as were former Byrds Chris Hillman (bass) and Michael Clarke (drums). The great Sneaky Pete Kleinow held down the pedal steel guitar chair, as always. Hillman would go on to great success with Manassas and Desert Rose Band, and even Clarke would join Firefall, who sold a lot of records, but the Burritos themselves never got over the hump. Songwriter Rick Roberts had replaced the increasingly erratic Parsons the previous year, so the Burritos were still an excellent band, yet they couldn't sell a record. They had played the Whisky many times, and all of West Hollywood knew about them.
Fanny was not the first all-women rock band by any means, but they were the first to get much attention from the serious rock press. Their debut album had been released on Reprise in December 1970, produced by Richard Perry. There were probably more booking agents and djs there to see Fanny than the Burritos. This wasn't necessarily a matter a of taste--Reprise would have been pushing Fanny hard, giving out free tickets and free drinks, whereas A&M would have been fairly indifferent to the Burritos.
The anchors of Fanny were sisters Jean and June Millington, both from the Sacramento area. The pair had fronted a Top-40 band called Svelt, which had evolved into Wild Honey. Both Jean (guitar) and June (bass) could really play and sing, and female musicians (as opposed to singers) were pretty rare in the late 60s. Of course, both were knockout-cute, too, but the music industry was still the entertainment business. Drummer Alice De Buhr had rounded out Wild Honey, and keyboard player Nicky Barclay was added by Reprise.
January 5-10, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Damnation of Adam Blessing/Sweet Pain (Tuesday-Sunday)
The Damnation Of Adam Blessing were from Cleveland, where they were contemporaries of the James Gang and the Raspberries. The band played a sort of hard-edged acid rock, and released four albums between 1969 and 73. In January of 1971 they were probably still touring behind their second album, Second Damnation. Their interesting group name was taken from a paperback. The band had toured as support to The Faces in 1970, so they weren't completely unknown, but they were another hard rocking band trying to get some attention, so they played the Whisky.
I don't know anything about Sweet Pain. There was a band of that name that released an album in 1973, I don't know if there was a connection.
January 13-17, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Blues Image/Elliot Randall (Wednesday-Sunday)
Back in 1967, Blues Image had been a band from Tampa, FL called The Motions. They had moved to Miami to become the house band at Miami's main psychedelic outpost, Thee Image. The Motions played the venue almost every weekend, opening for the major acts that came through town, and helped run the club. The Motions had changed their name to Blues Image, after both the club and the band Blues Project. Blues Image stood out for the time in having two drummers, which was a rarity. They impressed many of the bands they opened for, and both Frank Zappa and Eric Burdon told them that if they wanted to make it, they would have to move to Los Angeles or New York.
Blues Image had followed the advice, and moved to Los Angeles in late 1968. They were signed to Atco and released their debut album in February 1969. Blues Image even backed Eric Burdon in 1969 when he was without a band. The second Blues Image album, Open, was released in early1970. It featured the huge national hit "Ride Captain Ride," which reached #4 on the Billboard chart and is familiar to anyone of a certain age. Ironically, the song's co-composer, guitarist Mike Pinera, had already left the group in October 1969 to join Iron Butterfly. After some personnel changes, Blues Image had released a follow-up album later in the same year, Red, White and Blues Image.
Per the Los Angeles Times review of January 15, Blues Image had reformed again. Still on board, from the previous go-round were keyboardist Skip Konte (the other co-writer of their hit), bassist Malcolm Jones, drummers Manny Bertamatti and Joe Lala and lead guitarist Kent Henry (who had replaced Pinera in late '69). Newly onboarded was lead singer Ricky Lancelotti. Lancelotti was an interesting figure, best known now for a vocal appearance on the Frank Zappa song "Dirty Love," but apparently a remarkable singer. Interesting as this lineup sounded, they did not record, and I do not know if they toured much.
Elliott Randall was a New York guitar prodigy who was already an experienced professional by 1971. He had played with numerous outfits, including Seatrain. He had been signed by the Robert Stigwood Organisation (Eric Clapton's management) in 1970, and had released his debut solo album Randall's Island on Polydor that year. Randall would record the famous guitar solo on Steely Dan's "Reeling In The Years" in 1972. At this time, he was just another rising act with record company backing.
The band Chicago was absolutely huge, and had just released their third album, a double-lp called Chicago III. Since the band was based in Los Angeles--they had moved from Chicago in 1968--it was easy to play a gig at the Whisky. This would have been a strictly industry gig, with agents and djs and other industry pros, and few if any civilians. Chicago had played the Whisky many times back in 1968 and '69, when they were just starting out. This show would have been a victory lap of sorts.
For a hit band, Chicago III was a pretty "serious" album, with only a few tracks, and lots of solos. The album had been released by Columbia Records on January 11.There were only 9 tracks over 4 lp sides. The record sold well, because Chicago was hugely popular, but the record was a conscious effort to show how musical they were, rather than just a pop machine. Whether intentionally or not, the Whisky was becoming the place for record companies to show off their "serious" bands, whether playing jazz-rock, prog-rock or other peculiar hybrids.
|Sunflower, the first release on the Beach Boys' Brother Records, released in August 1970|
January 19, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: The Beach Boys (Tuesday)
The appearance by the current hit band Chicago on a Monday night was followed by the appearance of the former hit band The Beach Boys. Chicago had appeared at the Whisky on their way up, but the Beach Boys had both preceded the Whisky and had been too out of the jetstream to play the club in the 1960s. The Beach Boys had competed with the Beatles for popularity in the early 60s, and had achieved massive mainstream success, but as a result they had missed any "underground" credibility. As the Beach Boys aged, their teenybopper popularity worked against them. Warner Brothers/Reprise had given the Beach Boys their own imprint, Brother Records. The Reprise plan was to allow the Beach Boys to become hip by giving them artistic control of their output, just as the label had done with Frank Zappa (and Bizarre/Straight Records).
The first release on Reprise/Brother had been the Beach Boys Sunflower album. The album came out on August 31, 1970, and the Beach Boys had played four nights at The Whisky-A-Go-Go on November 4-7, 1970. This was not only the first Beach Boys performance at The Whisky, it was the band's first Los Angeles performance since June 25, 1966. The Beach Boys were popular worldwide, but in the wake of psychedelia had gotten too unhip for their own hometown. Playing the Whisky, for effectively no money, was a way to show that the Beach Boys were a cool, happenin' LA band.
The Beach Boys had pulled out all the stops in November. Of course they had the active road band, with Mike Love (lead vocals), Carl Wilson (guitar and vocals), Al Jardine (guitar and vocals), Dennis Wilson (drums and vocals), Bruce Johnston (various instruments, vocals), Ed Carter (bass) and Darryl "The Captain" Dragon (keyboards), but no less than Brian Wilson himself appeared, playing electric piano and singing. Not to mention a horn section. It was a very big deal, by LA standards, and that was what the Whisky was for.
For whatever reasons--it's not exactly clear why--the Beach Boys played the Whisky again on this Tuesday night in January 1971. They didn't have an a record release, that I'm aware of, but maybe they just wanted to be seen as one of those bands that hung out at the Whisky. This time, the road outfit would have been there, but without Brian nor any horn section.
The Los Angeles Free Press had Jam Factory opening for Bloodrock, and the LA Times had Elliott Randall and Sweet Pain. There's no telling which bands actually opened which nights. Since we can see that the openers were booked on different nights as well, it's clear that all the bands played some sets at the Whisky some time in January, even if we can't figure out exactly when.
Bloodrock was a hard rocking band from Ft. Worth, TX, who played loud guitar music in the style of Grand Funk Railroad. This wasn't an accident--Bloodrock was managed and produced by Terry Knight, who had driven Grand Funk's rise to huge success. After Bloodrock's first album, Knight took over and moved the singing drummer to frontman lead singer, and made sure Bloodrock delivered the goods in the style of Led Zeppelin or Cream.
The band's second album, Bloodrock 2, had been released on Capitol Records in October 1970. The record included the band's single "DOA" a surprisingly long (4:36) hit that made it to #36 on the Billboard charts. Bloodrock would have been playing the Whisky to get heard by the industry, since they probably weren't getting much FM airplay on the West Coast. The likes of Grand Funk Railroad and Bloodrock got very little respect from rock critics and tastemakers on the two coasts--some would say that history had borne that view out--but they were popular in the hinterlands, selling plenty of records and concert tickets.
Jam Factory was a band out of Syracuse, NY. They had released an an album on Epic (Sittin' In The Trap). It's also plausible that Elliott Randall and Randall's Island had simply stayed on board at the Whisky, or that Sweet Pain had returned. The Whisky's appeal was that they had live music every night, all the time, so having two or three bands playing in a night fit the club just fine. Since every band was getting union scale, or something like it (around $500, apparently), it wasn't a big expense to book multiple bands.
The Whisky's peculiar, unique business model was that it was open 7 days a week, with live rock and roll every night, no matter what. Since the most important part of their audience, industry professionals and tastemakers, worked or hung out in West Hollywood, the club could change headliners on immediate notice, and word would get around. If a big name band was put up on the marquee for that night's show, everybody who mattered would know soon enough.
The other audience for the Whisky was comparatively regular fans from outside of West Hollywood, driving in from Pasadena or Fullerton or wherever. The idea was that those people just wanted to say "I went to the Whisky-A-Go-Go" to their friends, and didn't care so much who played. Sure, it would be great if they saw some rock stars hanging out, or if the Byrds showed up, but it didn't matter. So the Whisky booked up and coming bands for relatively long runs, sometimes a few weeks at a time. When you see groups refer to having been the "house band" at the Whisky, this is usually what they were referring to. A multi-week booking at the Whisky, sometimes opening for a headliner, sometimes playing a few sets on their own. The bands were usually only listed on nights when there wasn't anything else, just to remind potential patrons that there was always something happening at the Whisky.
Pollution was advertised for Monday and Tuesday, January 25-26. They were also advertised for Tuesday January 19, when in fact the Beach Boys were actually playing. Pollution probably opened for the Beach Boys, but no one (except perhaps the band) recalls that. Pollution probably opened many show in late January and into February, but the name only turns up occasionally in notices.
Pollution was some sort of rock/R&B ensemble, with two lead singers. The musical Hair had been popular nationwide, and in 1969 it had a hugely successful run at the newly-renamed Aquarius Theater (at --Sunset, previously the psychedelic rock palace The Kaleidoscope, and before that, the Earl Carroll Theater). Both of the lead singers in Pollution had been in the LA production of Hair. Besides Tata Vega, the other singer was Dobie Gray, who had a big hit in 1965 with "The In Crowd," and an even bigger hit in 1973 with "Drift Away." Also in Pollution was guitarist James Quill Smith, who played with numerous other acts throughout the 1970s (Sylvester, Roger McGuinn and John Mayall). Pollution released an album on Atlantic later in 1971.
If was a pretty interesting English jazz-rock band that has been somewhat forgotten. In fact, If released eight albums between 1970-75, toured heavily and had a decent following, but jazz-rock doesn't get played on classic rock stations, so they have become obscure. In the early 70s, many "jazz-rock" bands were just groups with very few songs and long, noodly solos. Unlike many such outfits from this era, however, the main players in If were successful jazz musicians, so they could really play. If's front line featured saxophonists Dick Morrissey and Dave Quincy along with guitarist Terry Smith, all with huge pedigrees in English jazz. The only member of If who was in a band modern listeners would recognize, however, was drummer Dennis Elliott, who hit it big with Foreigner. Elliott was in Foreigner from 1976-93, and still plays occasional reunion shows with Foreigner.
If was a really good band, in fact, but they had to get people to listen to them. The Whisky provided a chance a comfortable environment for industry fans to listen to them, in return for comped tickets and free drinks. The Troubadour was the home of sensitive singer-songwriters, and If didn't play that kind of music. But rock music was changing, and the Whisky was a far better venue for discovering new jazz rock sounds than a snobby jazz club or opening for some hard rock band in a concrete arena. Throughout the first part of 1971, in between established hitmakers and hard rockers, the Whisky almost inadvertently became the Los Angeles showcase for sophisticated rock music. At this time, the group was touring behind their second album, If 2, released on Capitol Records in the States but on Island in the UK.
|The debut album by Jo Mama, released on Atlantic in 1970|
February 1-3, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Allman Brothers/Jo Mama (Monday-Wednesday)
The Allman Brothers were mainly a popular band on the Eastern seaboard, thanks to relentless touring and blazing live performances. While the Allman Brothers could surely have played a larger place than the Whisky, Duane and Gregg Allman had played the venue many times when they were in The Hour Glass back in the 60s, when they lived in LA, and Duane was good friends with owner Elmer Valentine. On the previous weekend (January 28-31), the Allman Brothers had headlined four nights at the Fillmore West (highlights of which can be found on an August 2019 archival release), so word was getting around. Still, Les Brers were at the Whisky, where the industry could hear what had become of two brothers who had abandoned Los Angeles when they didn't make it back in '68. In fact, the Allman Brothers Southern California debut had been at the Whisky the previous year (January 21-25, 1970).
In early 1971, the Allman Brothers were touring behind their second Capricorn Records album, Idlewild South (released September 1970). The Allman Brothers are rightly noted as the essential Godfathers of "Southern Rock," but it's important to put that in its proper context. Sure, Gregg Allman belted out his bluesy vocals in the style of Ray Charles. But it wasn't a Stax-Volt sound. Instead of a horn section, there was the twin guitars of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts, and they played lines that were more like Miles Davis than Memphis. And there were two drummers, underpinned by the unique driving sound of bassist Berry Oakley, and the resulting rhythms were nowhere near a straight 4/4. The bands that followed the Allmans might not have been as sophisticated, but the Allmans made "Southern Rock" a stew of both traditional R&B/country sounds and some significant jazz influences. Once again, the Whisky was the place to introduce sophisticated music to the record industry.
Opening act Jo Mama was pretty interesting too, if largely forgotten today. Jo Mama's debut album on Atlantic had been released in 1970. Their follow-up, J Is For Jump, was released later in 1971. For the most part, the band featured East Coast transplants who had relocated from New York in the late 60s. Lead guitarist and principal songwriter Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar had been in a group called The Flying Machine with James Taylor back in Greenwich Village in the mid-60s. Korthmar and bassist Charles Larkey had moved to LA around '68, and had a group called The City with Larkey's future wife Carole King, herself a recent transplant from NYC (and recently divorced from her husband, songwriter Gerry Goffin). The City had released an album on Ode Records in 1969, but Carole King didn't really like to perform much, so the band kind of expired.
By 1970, Kortchmar and Larkey formed Jo Mama with keyboardist Ralph Shuckett (another transplant) and singer Abigail Haness (Kortchmar's girlfriend), along with drummer Joel Bishop O'Brian. Jo Mama put out two albums, and I, at least, can vouch for the quality of the second album (J Is For Jump). Still, the band never really got traction, despite releasing two albums on Atlantic. Of course, Carole King, who played a modest role on J Is For Jump (backing vocals), released her own second album on Ode Records, Tapestry, on February 10. It was one of the best-selling and most influential albums of the 70s, and that's saying a lot.
February 4-7, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Gypsy/Pollution (Thursday-Sunday)
The band Gypsy had released an albums on Metromedia Records in 1970. Their second album, released in 1971, had a few faces familiar to music fans, like bassist Willie Weeks and drummer Bill Lordan, but the group is otherwise somewhat unknown. Pollution was also on the bill.
February 8-11, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: BB King/Crabby Appleton (Monday-Thursday)
A peculiarity of Whisky bookings at this time was that the most famous bands generally played on school nights. Working bands could make big money on a weekend, but that wasn't always true the rest of the time. If a legend like BB King was going to play a nightclub gig for union scale, it wasn't going to be on weekend nights when he could make real money.
BB King had a new studio album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds. It had been released on ABC Records in October 1970. It had been recorded in Los Angeles with the likes of Joe Walsh, Leon Russell and Carole King (who played piano on four tracks) on the sessions. In that sense, it was the time that BB King recorded like everyone else in the 70s, but he made a really good album. Playing the Whisky was a chance for industry people to see BB and hear his new material.
Crabby Appleton had released their debut album on Elektra in 1970. Four of the band members were from the Los Angeles-area group Stonehenge, but lead singer and guitarist Michael Fennelly had been in the front man in the critically regarded (but otherwise obscure) group Millenium. Crabby's first album had a the modest hit single "Go Back," which reached #36. Their second album, Rotten To The Core, was not released until later in 1971.
Crabby Appleton was actually a really good group, even if no one remembers them now. They broke up after poor sales for their second album, and Fennelly put out some albums recorded in England (I recommend Lane Changer). In the liner notes to a cd re-release of their album, some members of Crabby Appleton said they had to play the Whisky once in a while just to pay off their bar tabs. I don't know if that was really true of just a funny thing that musicians like to say, but even if it was a straight up joke it gives us a hint to how musicians were both watching and being watched at the Whisky.
|Crabby Appleton's 1970 debut album on Elektra|
February 12-14, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Crabby Appleton/Smokestack Lightnin' (Friday-Sunday)
For the weekend, Crabby Appleton was on top of the bill, as BB King probably had a really lucrative show somewhere else. Smokestack Lightnin' is a name I recognize from Whisky bills in the past, but I don't actually know anything about them (there was a band with that name who released an album in 1969 on Bell Records, but that could be a coincidence).
February 15-18, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Pollution (Monday-Thursday)
Fleetwood Mac was supposed to be the headliner from Monday to Wednesday. The Mac weren't that big, by any means, but they had toured the States a few times and had been reviewed in Rolling Stone. Once again, a "name" band was headlining on a school night. The Mac had released their most recent album Kiln House on Reprise in September 1970, their first without Peter Green. To fill out the band's live sound, the bass player's wife--Christine McVie--came out on tour to play keyboards and sing a few harmonies.
Original Fleetwood Mac member Jeremy Spencer abruptly left the band in Los Angeles to join a Christian cult called The Children Of God. Spencer had been detached from the band for some time, and simply had enough and left. Fleetwood Mac got a lot of unwanted publicity for this, but they didn't play the Whisky gigs. They brought back a not-all-there Peter Green to finish out the balance of the tour.
Pollution, who may have been booked as the opening act anyway, played for these nights.
February 19-20, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Hugh Masekela/Pollution (Friday-Saturday)
Trumpeter Hugh Masakela was a pioneering South African jazz musician, playing jazz with a nice helping of rhythm and blues along with some African beats. He had a genuine hit in 1968 with the catchy instrumental "Grazing In The Grass" (better known from the later version, with lyrics, by The Friends Of Distinction). Masakela had also added a little trumpet blast to The Byrds hit "So You Wanna Be A Rock And Roll Star." The Whisky wasn't a jazz club, but Masakela was much more prominent than a jazz act.
In fact, back in 1967, Masakela had even recorded an album at the club. Hugh Masakela Is Alive and Well at The Whisky had been recorded during his September 18-20 '67 stand at the club. Masakela's current album was Reconstruction, released on Chisa Records back in July of 1970.
|The Time Is Near by Keef Hartley Band, released 1970 on Deram|
February 24-28, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Keef Hartley Band/American Eagle/Redeye (Wednesday-Sunday)
The Keef Hartley Band were the the Whisky headliners at the beginning of the week. The ads are a bit ambiguous--typical of the Whisky--but I think Redeye replaced the Hartley Band for Saturday (and probably stayed over Sunday), while American Eagle opened for the week.
During the '69-'70 season, US record companies were signing any rock band with a horn section that had any kind of R&B whiff. Columbia in particular had been all-in: Chicago Transit Authority (now Chicago) had been huge, Blood Sweat & Tears were one of the biggest bands in the country, and they had signed other bands, too. Groups like the Sons Of Champlin (Capitol), The Flock (Columbia) and Ides Of March (Warners) had been eagerly signed by different companies. The Keef Hartley Band seemed to be just an English variant of this theme, and while they lacked the polished sheen of Chicago or BS&T, they were a terrific band.
Drummer and bandleader Keef Hartley had initially been part of the early 60s "Liverpool Scene." He had replaced Ringo Starr in Rory Storm and The Hurricanes in late 1962, when Starr had left the Hurricanes for another Liverpool band. In subsequent years, Hartley had played with the Artwoods and then with some classic lineups with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. In 1968, having been fired by John Mayall (as all musicians ultimately must be), he formed his own band. Unlike most contemporary English bands, striving to play Chicago blues, Hartley modeled his band on the Buddy Rich Big Band.
Buddy Rich was an absolutely phenomenal Big Band drummer, with stunning technique. By the late 60s, he was leading a 15 piece band that played rock and pop standards in a loud big band style, with driving horns and an electric rhythm section. It was all propelled by Rich's astonishing drumming, amazingly well-suited for amplified rock. For the most part, the Hartley band was limited to six or seven pieces, but the style was very much a jazz-rock hybrid. The Keef Hartley Band had played Woodstock, but their manager had refused to allow them to be recorded, so they were not on the film or record (now, maybe they wouldn't have been anyway, but there was no chance in any case).
The Keef Hartley Band featured Scottish guitarist and singer miller Anderson, bassist Gary Thain (later to join Uriah Heep), organist Mick Weaver (aka Wynder K Frogg) and a two-piece horn section (Lyle Jenkins on tenor and Dave Caswell on trumpet). Anderson had a gruff, soulful voice, but he wasn't devoted to aping American R&B singers, and he wrote good songs. Anderson played good rhythm guitar, and took tasty solos when required. Hartley, Thain and Anderson generally drove the band, while the organ and the horns let it rip. In many ways, the Keef Hartley Band was an English counterpart to bands like Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears, but paradoxically closer to an American R&B sound.
The Time Is Near, released on Deram in 1970, and followed another great album, The Battle Of Northwest Six (a London postal code). The Keef Hartley Band's next album would be Overdog, released in April 1971. Keef Hartley had a sort of underground following in the States, but for whatever reason they never broke out of their little niche, despite their talent.
Redeye was an LA band led by guitarist and singer Douglas Mark, who had been in The Sunshine Company. His new band sounded more like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, but it was still gentle pop, apparently. Their second album was called One Man's Poison, and was released in 1971, although I'm not sure exactly when.
American Eagle seems to have been a Pacific Northwest band. They had released an album on Decca in 1970, and appeared to be some sort of hard rock band.March 2-7, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Wishbone Ash/Ned (Tuesday-Monday)
Wishbone Ash was a relatively new English band that had released their debut album back in December 1970 on MCA. Like many bands that played the Whisky during this period, Wishbone Ash rocked fairly hard, in the spirit of the club, but they weren't at all a typical blues-'n'-boogie band. Wishbone Ash was a four piece, featuring the twin guitars of Ted Turner and Andy Powell, and nice harmony vocals. The Ash didn't really play blues licks, however, and were intriguingly hard to categorize. The dual guitars often played horn-like parts, giving the band an R&B feel without a conventional "soul" sound. At the same time, while the guitars played intricate licks, they didn't fall into the deep swirl of progressive rock, either. Michael Ross reviewed them positively in the Times (March 5).
Wishbone Ash had some good songs, though not enough of them. Over the years, they built a solid following from heavy touring, but they never got past the middle level. Intriguingly, they were managed by the Copeland Brothers (Miles and Ian), so the successes and failures of Wishbone Ash helped the Copelands properly manage the Police.
Ned was a four-piece band from Chicago.
March 10-14, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Dada & Melting Pot (Wednesday-Sunday)
Dada was an English R&B group with some jazz leanings, as once again the Whisky hosted an "arty" band. I believe the group toured with an entire horn section and two lead singers. The group was led by guitarist and songwriter Pete Gage. On their sole album, released in 1970 on Atco, vocals were shared by Elkie Brooks (Gage's wife) and Paul Korda. Sometime after, Korda was replaced by Robert Palmer. Palmer may have been touring with them at this time. Palmer, Brooks and Gage would go on to form the band Vinegar Joe in 1972, who released three albums before Palmer began his stellar solo career in 1975.
Melting Pot are unknown to me.
March 16, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Fanny (Tuesday)
March 17, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Sugarloaf/Flame/Fanny (Wednesday)
March 18-21, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Sugarloaf/Flame (Thursday-Sunday)
Fanny returned for a few more dates.
Sugarloaf were a sort of psychedelic pop band, originally from Denver, who had scored a big hit with "Green-Eyed Lady" back in 1970 (it had reached #3, everyone knew the song). In 1971 they had put out their follow up album, Spaceship Earth. The band did have some minor hits, but nothing like "Green-Eyed Lady." Michael Sherman fo the LA Times reviewed the opening night (in the March 19 Times) and found them to be a weak, derivative band. Such a review was the downside to playing the Whisky. Now the whole LA record industry could write off Sugarloaf as just another one-hit wonder (which, admittedly, they probably were).
The Flame were a South African group who had managed to turn their native success into a chance to perform and perform in London around 1969. In 1970, the band (then called The Flames) were signed by the Beach Boys imprint label, Brother Records, and invited to move to America. In the States, the band's name was changed to Flame over trademark concerns. The band released their self-tilted album on Brother in Quadrophonic (very '71).
The Flame album was the only release on Brother that did not include a current member of the Beach Boys. Of course, Flame was unhappy in California, and drummer Ricky Fataar and guitarist Blondie Chaplin did join the Beach Boys touring band, and the rest of Flame returned home. It's reasonable to assume that the Beach Boys played a few dates at The Whisky in return for getting The Flame booked there.
March 22-23, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA:John Mayall/Randall’s Island (Monday-Tuesday)
March 24, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Randall’s Island (Wednesday)
John Mayall had moved to Los Angeles around 1970. Mayall was famous for being "The Father Of British Blues," and no less than Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor had been the lead guitarists for John Mayall's Bluesbreakers from 1966 to 1969. Numerous other fine musicians went through his band, as well. By '69, Mayall had moved from Decca and gone solo, although the Bluesbreakers--even the famous ones--had always been just hired hands.
Mayall was famous through his association, but his music was somewhat of an acquired taste. While he was deeply rooted in the blues, most Mayall performances had large improvisational sections, so his shows were often more like a bluesy jazz group than what rock fans thought of as "the blues." Many of his vocals were somewhat improvised, as well, and he only played snatches of familiar songs. In fact, when Mayall was properly recorded--not always the case--his music holds up pretty well, but he did not fit into easy slots for FM radio and record companies.
In March, 1971, Mayall had released a double album on Polydor called Back To The Roots, recorded in Los Angeles and London. It had some tracks with his new American band, and some recorded with old pals, including Clapton, Taylor, Green, Johnny Almond (tenor sax and flute, Keef Hartley (drums) and Stephen Thompson (bass). His current American band featured Harvey Mandel on guitar and Larry "The Mole" Taylor on bass, both recently of Canned Heat, the legendary Don "Sugarcane" Harris on electric violin and newly-added drummer Paul Lagos (ex-Kaleidoscope and Little Richard). Mayall himself sang, played harmonica, guitar and keyboards.
Randall's Island was the new name of Elliot Randall's band (see January 13-17 above).
|East Bay Grease, the debut album by Oakland's Tower Of Power, released in late 1970 on Bill Graham's San Francisco label (distributed by Atlantic)|
March 25-28, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA:Elvin Bishop Group/Tower of Power (Thursday-Sunday)
The Elvin Bishop Group and Tower Of Power were both Bay Area groups, both signed to a Bill Graham record label, and both booked by Graham's Millard Agency. Graham had aspirations to be a music mogul beyond just a concert promoter, and at his peak in 1969 he had arranged deals with not one but two record labels. The Elvin Bishop Group was on Fillmore Records, distributed by Columbia, and Tower of Power was on San Francisco, distributed by Atlantic. Graham and Producer David Rubinson had signed a variety of other groups as well, but these two were the most prominent. Both bands got FM airplay and drew good crowds in the Bay Area, but had little traction elsewhere.
Guitarist Elvin Bishop, from Tulsa via Chicago, had been in the original, groundbreaking Paul Butterfield Blues Band. He had been Mike Bloomfield's wingman, and then the primary lead guitarist, but by 1968 he had moved to San Francisco to lead his own band. The Elvin Bishop Group played a rocking mixture of blues and soul, with plenty of soloing to keep the dancers going. Vocals were shared between Bishop, singer Jo Baker and organist Stephen Miller. Feel It!, released in 1970 was their second album on Filllmore Records.
Tower Of Power were originally from Fremont, but they made their bones playing in Oakland soul clubs. Their unique horn section would become famous worldwide, with an immediately identifiable sound and a ferocious beat. Their debut album East Bay Grease had been released on San Francisco records in late 1970. The debut already had some Tower classics, like "Knock Yourself Out," Social Lubrication" and "Sparkling In The Sand." Anyone in LA who was lucky enough to catch Tower back then would have known that the band was really something, and that there wasn't anyone like them.
Graham's record labels folded by 1972, and he returned to focusing on the concert business. His ears were good, however, as both Bishop and Tower went on to sell many records.
Sha Na Na had been formed by some students at Columbia University, mainly for fun. Because Columbia is in New York, and all, they ended up playing the Woodstock Festival. After that, the band became "real." Of course--Columbia and all--some of the original band members went to Law School instead of the music business, but the founding members of the band were from the University. Sha Na Na is recalled as a "50s Revival" group, although in fact some of the old-time rock songs the band covered were from the early 60s as well.
Sha Na Na released their debut album on Kama Sutra in 1971, I'm not sure exactly when. More importantly, however, the Woodstock movie was released on March 26, 1971, and since Sha Na Na made a 90-second appearance (singing "At The Hop," originally recorded by Danny & The Juniors), the Whisky was perfect. Los Angeles was nothing if not a movie town, Sha Na Na was in a widely heralded new movie, and so they were making a personal appearance in West Hollywood. Sha Na Na went on to decades of fame in music and television.
|The debut album by the J Geils Band, released on Atlantic in late 1970|
March 31-April 4, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: J Geils Band/Dreams (Wednesday-Sunday)
The J Geils Band had been an extremely popular live band in the Boston Area in 1969-70. They had been formed from the remnants of two Boston bands, The Hallucinations (with lead singer Peter Wolf and drummer Stephen Jo Bladd) and the J Geils Blues Band (with guitarist John Geils and harmonica player Magic Dick). Because of some outstanding commitments, they had adopted the "J Geils Band" when they formed. In fact, Geils, while a fine guitarist, was more of an ensemble player than guitar hero, so the group was somewhat misnamed.
The J Geils Band had taken R&B showmanship and knowledge of some hip records and brought it into the hippie ballrooms. Instead of crouching over their instruments like jazz musicians, the Geils Band had the all-in histrionics of a good R&B band. Hippie crowds loved it. Lead singer Wolf had already been an underground star in Boston, as the midnight-to-six-AM dj on WBCN-fm, Boston's first underground rock radio station. If The Hallucinations didn't have a gig, then Peter Wolf was "The Woofuh Goofuh,", laying all sorts of crazy schtick on hippies that were up all night.
Atlantic had released the J Geils Band's debut album in November 1970. It wasn't bad, but if the Geils band was going to make it big, they were going to have to hit the road, and bring their rocking stage show to the rest of the country. In the end, they did it, even if it took a dozen years and some help from MTV (and "Centerfold"). But it started at places like The Whisky, because nobody knew nothin' about the J Geils Band in West Hollywood in 1971.
A look at the J Geils Band touring schedule at this time is revealing (here's to the great JGeils tour date blog site). The week before Geils played the Whisky, the band had opened for Eric Burdon and War at the Fillmore West (Mar 25-28). On the last day of their Whisky booking, Sunday April 4, the J Geils Band had opened for Johnny Winter and Little Feat at the Santa Monica Civic, a booking they repeated the next night (Monday April 5). On Sunday, they probably simply came on late at the Whisky, a common arrangement for bands with gigs around town. The next week, the J Geils Band was back up at Fillmore West, opening for Johnny Winter (April 8-11).
Dreams was an exceptional jazz-rock band that featured John Abercrombie (lead guitar), both Brecker Brothers and drummer Billy Cobham. A very underrated group, Dreams had just released their (self-tilted) debut album on Columbia. Dreams had fairly straightforward rock songs, mainly from singer Kent Henry, but they were embellished by some pretty expansive instrumental sections from the jazzy gunslingers in the band. Henry had been in the reformed version of Blues Image (see above), but presumably that ensemble had already broken up.
Dreams was not only booked to open at the Whisky for J Geils Band, they would also be on the bill with them the next week at Fillmore West, opening for Johnny Winter.
April 6, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Black Oak Arkansas/Raymond Lewis Kennedy (Tuesday)
Black Oak Arkansas were a very popular touring act in the early-to-mid-1970s, and they are generally lumped in with the rise of "Southern Rock." While it's not unfair in terms of audience, Black Oak had a rather different sound and genesis from the bands that arose in the wake of the Allman Brothers. Black Oak Arkansas had been an essentially psychedelic blues band in the relatively unappreciative milieu of the Ozarks. They had even released an album on Stax back in 1969 as the Knowbody Else. Ultimately they ended up in the Black Oak, AK region, and renamed themselves.
Black Oak Arkansas played boogie music, loud and proud. There were no jazzy overtures with reference to John Coltrane, nor attempts to faithfully honor past bluesmen. Now, it's a little harder to do the high-voltage rocking that epitomized Black Oak than it looked, so the band were probably better musicians than they let on. Still, nobody confused them with purists. They rocked, they rocked hard, and crowds that liked them got loaded and got nuts. In 1971, Black Oak Arkansas had just released their debut album on Atco, so a Monday night at the Whisky would get them known to talent agents, even if they wouldn't get no respect.
Raymond Louis Kennedy was a singer that had released an obscure "psychedelic" album on Cream Records in 1970. Among the players on the album were Harvey Mandel (ex-Canned Heat), Bob Mosely (ex-Moby Grape), Duane Hitchings and Jim McCarty (both future Cactus). Those readers with too many albums will recall that Kennedy would end up being the "K" in KGB, an underperforming "supergroup" with Mike Bloomfield, Rik Gretch and Barry Goldberg.
April 7-11, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: If/Uriah Heep/Charlie D and Milo (Wednesday-Sunday)
If returned for a few dates, along with Uriah Heep (see the ad up top).
Uriah Heep was a somewhat successful English band that needed a few identity changes before they found a popular niche. When they formed in 1969, they were an explicitly "heavy" group, in the mode of Led Zeppelin or the like. They had released their second album, Salisbury, in February 1971 on Vertigo Records. By this time, they had moved from "Heavy" to "Progressive," and the record included a 16-minute track with an orchestra.
It is easy to make fun of Uriah Heep. Rolling Stone reviewer Melissa Mills said (Oct 1 '70) of their debut, "if this group makes it, I'll have to commit suicide," calling them "watered-down, tenth-rate Jethro Tull." One of the funniest scenes in the Spinal Tap movie is based on the Heep's 1984 American tour (when the Tap play the officers dance, with Fred Willard as a hapless Air Force captain--Dave "Viv Savage" Kaffinetti said it was all but a re-enactment of the Heep gig played a few weeks earlier, when he was a member of the band). Nonetheless, by any reasonable rock and roll standard, Uriah Heep did make it. I can't speak for the Rolling Stone writer's response.
While Uriah Heep wasn't substantial enough to be a successful Prog band, they would reconfigure themselves yet again around 1973 to a more radio friendly format, with heavy rock mixing with piercing harmonies, prefiguring bands like Queen and Journey, albeit without the memorable songwriting. Still, the band sold a lot of albums and sold a lot of concert tickets in the latter 70s. Back in '71, however, they were on their first American concert tour, trying to get known. Lead singer David Byron fronted the band, later to become famous in Whitesnake. Guitarist Mick Box and organist Ken Hensley held down the front line, with Hensley as the principal writer. Bassist Paul Newton and newly added drummer Ian Clark rounded out the band.
Charlie D and Milo were a country-rock band, apparently sounding somewhat like the Flying Burrito Brothers. Charlie D Harris and Lon Mile Duquette led the group. They had released their only album on Epic back in 1970.
April 12, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Flash (Monday)
Flash, whoever they were, probably played at least Monday through Wednesday, and perhaps the whole week. This group was not the Flash with Peter Banks and Tony Kaye, as Kaye was still in The Yes, and that Flash would not form until later in 1971 at the earliest.
The Beach Boys were kicking off a new National tour, so they kicked it off at the Whisky. Keith Badman's definitive chronology has the band at the Whisky on Tuesday and Wendesday, April 13 and 14. The Beach Boys had a new single ("Cool Water"), but not a new album. They were mostly in the process of recording what would become Surf's Up at Brian Wilson's home studio. The performing band would have been Mike Love (lead vocals), Carl Wilson (lead guitar), Al Jardine (guitar), Dennis Wilson (drums), Bruce Johnston (various), Darryl "The Captain" Dragon (keyboards) and Dennis Dragon (bass). Pretty much everyone in the band sang.
The Beach Boys had just signed with a new booking agency, Bill Graham's Millard. The goal for both Graham and the band seems to have been to show that the Beach Boys weren't aging teen stars, but rather cool hippie artists. All the band had grown beards, and they didn't wear matching outfits on stage anymore. On this tour, the Beach Boys would open for the Grateful Dead at Duke University (April 24), and then famously join the Dead onstage at Fillmore East (on April 27--it's the Dead, so of course there's a tape). On stage at Fillmore East, the Beach Boys (I think Mike Love, I'm not sure) joked about smoking dope with Buffalo Springfield, in a cringeworthy effort to appear hip.
Bill Graham's agency booking the Beach Boys at the Whisky was smart, but note that the Millard Agency also booked Elvin Bishop and Tower Of Power, who had played March 25-28. There's nothing sinister about any of this, but it's worth remembering that Millard would likely have booked the Beach Boys in return for a booking opportunity with their rising stars, because that's how the record industry worked.
April 14-18, 1971Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Hugh Masekela (Thursday-Sunday)
Hugh Masakela returned, a clear sign that he was a popular draw, and not just a booking as a favor to his agency or record company.
|Reprise released the first album under the name T Rex in December 1970|
April 19-20, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: T. Rex/Help (Monday-Tuesday)
T. Rex was a sensation in England at this time, and they were on their first American tour. T. Rex would have been a perfect band for the Whisky in the 60s, and if anything they were even more so in the 70s. Stylish yet rocking, sounding original but with a familiar beat, they were made for West Hollywood. And indeed, as far as I know, West Hollywood loved them from the minute they showed up at the Whisky. The strange disconnect was that the rest of America did not care. T. Rex had a long, complicated, hugely successful history in England from 1968 through 1977, until Marc Bolan's untimely death in a car crash. Yet to most of America, T. Rex is just a one-hit wonder recalled only through the 1973 hit "Bang A Gong."
The Marc Bolan story is too much to tell here. Briefly, Bolan was in a semi-acoustic psychedelic duo (with bongo player Mickey Finn) called Tyrannosaurus Rex from 1968 on. In 1969 they even had an American tour, playing some obscure psychedelic venues. By the end of 1970, however, Bolan had reconfigured and shortened the band name to T. Rex. While T. Rex still had the arty overlay of a Psych band, they had added a driving beat that was pretty radio-friendly. At the end of 1970, T. Rex had two big hit singles in the UK, "Ride A White Swan" and "Hot Love." Reprise released the band's debut album under the shorter T. Rex name (it was actually the duo's 5th album) in December 1970, adding "Ride A White Swan." The band hit the road as a quartet, with drummer Bill Legend and Steve Currie on bass.
In England, and to some extent Europe, Bolan not only had hit after hit, but with his good looks and fashion sense, he initiated the "Glam Rock" look that captured 70s English rock, and thus American Heavy Metal a generation later. Those Metal lead singers with flowing locks, mascara and tight, glittery shirts unzipped in the front? That's all Marc Bolan, and his records were better too. West Hollywood was ready for Marc Bolan, but the rest of America was not. Indeed, the same thing would happen with David Bowie the next year, but Bolan blazed the trail that Bowie followed (as I think his friend Bowie would have cheerily admitted).
T. Rex was playing Monday and Tuesday, which of course was record company showcase night. Michael Ross of the LA Times gave a glowing review (April 21) of the Monday night show. Big things were afoot, but not, as it happened, in the United States.
Help is unknown to me. In his review, Michael Ross mentions that they were a trio.
April 21-25, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes/Brownsville Station (Wendesday-Sunday)
In contrast to the rising star of Marc Bolan, the balance of the week was taken with the declining marginal value of Ted Nugent and The Amboy Dukes. The Amboy Dukes had formed in Chicago in 1964, but had sucess in Detroit a few years later. They had one memorable hit single, the grinding psychedelic classic "Journey To The Center Of Your Mind." By 1971, after numerous personnel changes, the only constant thread was lead guitarist Ted Nugent. In April 1971, Polydor had released the band's fifth album, a live record called Survival Of The Fittest. It was the first album credited to Ted Nugent and The Amboy Dukes, instead of just The Amboy Dukes. By 1974, Nugent would drop the Amboy Dukes name, since no one recalled their hit anymore.
Also on the bill was a Michigan band on the rise, Brownsville Station. Brownsville Station was a hard rocking band, too, but they had some good songs (unlike Nugent), many written by guitarist/singer Cub Koda. At the time, Brownsville Station had just released No BS, their debut album on Warners. A few years later, the band would hit it big with their anthem "Smokin' In The Boys Room," which in turn was a hit single and MTV video for Motley Crue in 1985.
April 26-27, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Fanny (Monday-Tuesday)
The fact that Fanny played every month tells us that record company support aside, Fanny must have put on a good show and sold a lot of drinks. Not surprising--they were a good rocking band, unique for the time as an all-girl band, and all cute of course. A lot of guys must have been at the bar, and their girlfriends probably enjoyed Fanny too, but probably from a different point of view.
April 28, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Trapeze/Southwind (Thursday)
Trapeze was an English band, touring behind their second album, Medusa, released in November 1970. The group was signed to Threshold Records, the imprint of The Moody Blues. Moody bassist John Lodge had produced their first two albums. Trapeze was a trio, with guitarist Mel Galley, bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes and drummer David Holland. The music was sort of funky hard rock. Hughes would later join Deep Purple (in 1973) and Galley would eventually join Whitesnake (around 1981).
The members of Southwind had mostly been in an Oklahoma band called The Disciples. By 1970, they had all moved out Los Angeles, resurrected themselves as Southwind and had gotten signed to Blue Thumb. The band played country rock with a kind of funky soul undertone. I believe their current album would have been their second one on Blue Thumb, What A Place To Land. The principals were guitarists Jim Pulte and John "Moon" Martin. Moon Martin would go on to some success as a songwriter in the latter 70s, including "Bad Case Of Lovin' You."
April ?, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Three Dog Night
Three Dog Night apparently played one night at the Whisky sometime in April, Three Dog Night was huge by this time, and any appearance at the Whisky would have been a promotional gig that could not have been advertised.
May 2, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Medusa (Monday)
Medusa is unknown to me.
|Rock On, by Humble Pie, produced by Glyn Johns, released by A&M in March 1971. It was the band's second album on A&M, and their fourth overall.|
May 4-8, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Humble Pie/Jo Jo Gunne (Thursday-Sunday)
On Thursday, May 4, Humble Pie and Jo Jo Gunne opened a weekend stand at the Whisky. Humble Pie had played the Whisky back in '69, their first time through the States (one of the shows was actually an archival release). Their two albums had not made any dent, however. The Pie had then signed with A&M Records, and their first, self-titled album for the label had been released in July 1970. Humble Pie had returned to tour America, and had played the Whisky again in December 1970.
In March, 1971 Humble Pie released Rock On, their second album on A&M, produced by Glyn Johns. This album was the blueprint for Humble Pie's forthcoming success, and it made clear that the big star was not actually Steve Marriott, but Peter Frampton. Humble Pie didn't need to play the Whisky, as they had just opened at Long Beach Arena for Ten Years After on Sunday (May 2). The band was booked at both Fillmores, too. Still, playing the Whisky got a band attention, and since Humble Pie would become huge stars within a year, manager Dee Anthony knew what he was doing.
At the end of '71, Humble Pie released their double-lp Rocking The Fillmore, recorded live at Fillmore East. Humble Pie got big, and seemed on the verge of a breakout, which was somewhat derailed by the departure of Frampton. Frampton himself would go on to huge success with a double live album a few years later, showing that manager Dee Anthony (who stayed with Frampton) indeed knew how to make stars.
JoJo Gunne was another rocking band, featuring two former members of the band Spirit. Spirit had been adored by rock critics, but had not sold any records until their final, post-breakup album Twelve Dreams Of Dr Sardonicus finally got the airplay and gold record sales that the band deserved. Lead singer Jay Ferguson and bassist Mark Andes had left Spirit and signed with Asylum Records. Their debut would not be released until 1972.
After the May 4 show, there was a huge fire at the Whisky-A-Go-Go and the club was closed for about six weeks.
May 5-8, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Humble Pie/Jo Jo Gunne (Cancelled due to fire)
May 9, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Mothers of Invention/Crowbar (Cancelled due to fire)
May 12. 1971:Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Sweathog (Cancelled due to fire)
May 15, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Hugh Masekela (Cancelled due to fire)
May 16, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: T. Rex (Cancelled due to fire)
|It Ain't Easy, by Long John Baldry. One side was produced by Rod Stewart, and the other by Elton John, both former band members|
June 23-27, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Long John Baldry/Savage Grace (Wednesday-Sunday)
The Whisky finally re-opened on June 23, with Long John Baldry and Savage Grace. Long John Baldry, a nickname befitting his 6'7'' frame, had been a singing legend on the London rock scene since 1964. Around 1965, Baldry had a group called Steampacket, with three lead singers--himself, Julie Driscoll and Rod Stewart. Only Baldry had not yet made it big. A few years later, his band included organist Reggie Dwight and jazz saxophonist Elton Dean. Dwight, an aspiring songwriter, decided to change his Nom Du Rock to "Elton John" after his fellow band members.
Warner Brothers had signed the hugely talented Baldry, and It Ain't Easy, his first Warners album, had side 1 produced by Rod Stewart and the flip by Elton John. The album even had a sort of novelty hit, "Don't Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock and Roll." Still, despite Baldry's skills, and his rock star producers, the album was mostly a mess. The show was reviewed in the Times, and the reviewer acknowledged the talent while wondering why the singer couldn't just be more straight ahead.
Savage Grace was a Warner Brothers quartet who played Jackson Browne-style rock. I'm not sure whether their current album was their 1970 debut or their second album (Savage Grace 2).
|The Yes Album was released on Atlantic in February 1971|
June 28-29, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Yes/Fat Chance (Monday-Tuesday)
Around 1971, the "progressive" in "progressive rock" was an adjective. In my experience, it was The Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer that made Progressive Rock a genre. Musically sophisticated, with a big drum sound, but nodding to classical or pop structures more than the blues, "Prog" came on strong in the early 1970s. One of the seminal records was The Yes Album, that had been released in February 1971. Songs like "Yours Is No Disgrace," "Your Move" and "All Good People" got heavy airplay on FM radio and in college dorms. The pristine production and sophisticated ensemble playing seemed light-years ahead of some choogly blues jam.
I was a huge fan of Yes at the time of this show and followed closely
club and concert announcements. There was absolutely no mention of
these two shows at the wiskey in the local papers. I got a call from
my brother the afternoon of the show saying that he had happened to
drive by the whiskey as Yes were unloading their equipment and had met
the band and was calling from Jon Anderson's room at the Hyatt on
sunset blvd. I was completely blown away. My brother is Christopher
North the founding keyboard player of the best American prog band
Ambrosia. I raced up to Hollywood and saw the show both nights. It was
great to finally see and hear Yes live. They did two complete sets each
night. Most of the songs were from The Yes Album.
The Yes were already popular in the UK and Europe, to some extent, but their 1971 North American tour introduced them to a new audience. The band played mid-sized civic auditoriums throughout the country, usually supporting the likes of Jethro Tull or Humble Pie. The Whisky was the only nightclub The Yes played on the tour, and it may have been their last nightclub gig ever. At this time, the lineup had Steve Howe on guitar and Tony Kaye on Hammond organ, along with Jon Anderson on lead vocals, Chris Squire on bass and Bill Bruford on drums.
Fat Chance is unknown to me.
June 30-July 4, 1971 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA: Ides of March/Rita Coolidge (Wednesday-Sunday)
The Ides of March were a Chicago band that had been together since 1964, and had run through a variety of styles. In 1970, the band had a huge hit with the single "Vehicle," a horn-driven rocker that sounded like a gruffer version of Chicago Transit Authority. "Vehicle" reached #2 on Billboard on May 23, 1970. The Ides of March had some success after that, but nothing of that magnitude. In 1971, their current release was their second Warner Brothers album, Common Bond.
Rita Coolidge had been an experienced studio backup singer for several year in the 60s, eventually ending up in Los Angeles. Coolidge had joined Delaney and Bonnie and Friends in late 1969, going on the famous tour with Eric Clapton and George Harrison. Coolidge then ended up as part of the Joe Cocker Mad Dogs And Englishmen tour, and Leon Russell had written the song "Delta Lady" about her. Coolidge's debut album on A&M had been released in February, 1971. Typical of the LA session scene at the time, the record featured performances by Leon Russell, Stephen Stills, Clarence White, Booker T, Ry Cooder and numerous other legendary players.