|A poster announcing the forthcoming opening of the Boston Tea Party on January 20, 1967|
Boston Psychedelic Rock Concert Chronology, January-June 1967 (Boston I)
The history of underground psychedelic rock in the 60s in Boston was different than in any other major American city. Broadly speaking, there were two main paths for most cities. The first, and most famous path, was the San Francisco one: dissatisfied long haired youth provides an audience for local bands influenced by jazz, BB King and Revolver, congregating in underused downtown venues in a fading part of town. Before anyone knew it, particularly in the West, there was a Fillmore or an Avalon (or the Crystal in Portland, the Family Dog in Denver, Vulcan Gas in Austin or Eagles Ballroom in Seattle), and even if the venues didn't persist, the audiences did. Bands like the Grateful Dead or Canned Heat would come through town and help create a new underground economy.
The other trend was the negative version of the first one. Some local promoters would try and book some long-haired bands, but it didn't lead to much. The cops might be against it, there wasn't a promising part of town, or the promoters didn't have it together. The Dead, or Canned Heat, or Iron Butterfly might have passed through, but to the extent they played those cities, they were grudgingly absorbed into the regular Civic Auditorium-type gigs, just like Top 40 bands or country stars. The only real exception to this dichotomy was New York City, whose history has to be dissected by Borough or Neighborhood, which you will find generally fall into the two main paradigms, but distributed throughout the city itself.
Boston rock had a different history. Cambridge, Massachusetts, just across the Charles River from Boston, was one of the principal birthplaces of the “Folk Boom” of the early 1960s. Fueled by students from the many colleges in Cambridge, students who were serious about music as art rather than just entertainment flocked to places like Club 47, at 47 Mt Auburn Street. Club 47 was originally a jazz club, but on Tuesday nights they had a sort of "hoot night," and in Fall '58 a Boston University student named Joan Baez showed up. Things happened. Cambridge and Greenwich Village were the twin anchors of a rising interest in folk music that wasn't just decontextualized re-tellings of old folk songs (it is notable that Joan Baez was from Palo Alto, and that the Kingston Trio got their start there, but that's another saga).
Boston and Cambridge was one of the first outposts for the stirrings of what would become "the counterculture." It wasn't just Joan Baez. The Jim Kweskin Jug Band introduced jug band music to America, and they would have been hugely influential even if they weren't important to Jerry Garcia's idea of how music should be performed--but they were, when he saw them in Berkeley in March, 1964. That wasn't all. Two Harvard Assistant Professors experimented with something called "LSD-25" as early as 1962, and while Tim Leary wasn't Owsley, Cambridge and Boston weren't naive a few years later, unlike pretty much everywhere else.
When the Beatles and the British Invasion came in, New England jumped in with both feet, from Boston to Nantucket and in every suburb. Nearer the Charles River, however, the response was sophisticated, if no less enthusiastic. The Charles River Valley Boys, for example, played bluegrass versions of Beatles songs, a sort of second order joke that wouldn't have flown in a lot of towns. So on one hand, downtown Boston and Cambridge were absolutely ready for the rock explosion that would follow, as "folk-rock" followed the Beatles (via The Byrds, The Lovin' Spoonful and others) and the local bands who formed in their wake. Yet Boston's predisposition to the oncoming music revolution had some unexpected consequences.
In downtown Boston, there were plenty of venues, serving the student and faculty populations of all the colleges and universities. Sure, many of them mostly had theater and symphony productions, but they had no restrictions on having folk acts or other kind of music on off nights. Local Boston promoters had been booking "long-haired" folk acts since the early 60s, so booking black blues bands from Chicago or somewhat longer-haired musicians with pop hits was no problem. What that meant, paradoxically, was that the hot touring acts who played the West Coast ballrooms for hippie promoters--Butterfield Blues Band or Jefferson Airplane--were playing for better capitalized promoters in Boston as part of the regular entertainment scene. There were well-paying weekend gigs at college gyms, and Sunday nights when the Symphonies weren't using their halls.So the "psychedelic" underground in Boston was really underground, not at all part of the record companies’ mainstream. All those bands were playing Boston, at colleges or other events, and Boston college students and local hippies were fully tuned in, but there was no Fillmore (or Chicago's Electric Ballroom, or Eagles like Seattle) that was one-stop shopping for the local hipsters. The Boston venues had entirely different arcs. Those arcs began with the Boston Tea Party in January, 1967.
|53 Berkeley Street in Boston, as it appeared in the 21st century. There is a 7-11 on the ground floor.|
Boston Tea Party, 1967
The Boston Tea Party, at 53 Berkeley Street, had opened on January 20, 1967. Ray Riepen and David Hahn were the founding partners, supposedly opening with a capitalization of a mere $850, and dependent on a lot of volunteer labor. The site had previously been a synagogue, and then a coffee shop called The Moondial. Riepen had come to Harvard Law School from Kansas City for a Masters Program in Fall '66. The club was opened as an underground concert venue, like the Fillmore. The legal capacity of the Boston Tea Party was 550, increased to 720 in 1968 when they added another fire escape. Whether the fire department limit was exceeded or not, that made it half the size of the Fillmore. No matter what, the Tea Party wasn't going to compete directly with the local promoters booking shows at colleges, arenas and concert halls.
The Boston Tea Party of 1967-68 is most remembered--on the web,
at least--for being the home-away-from-home for the Velvet Underground.
Scholarship on the Velvets is epic, and the pinnacle of it is Richie
Unterburger's chronology White Light, White Heat. Without VU scholars,
we would know surprisingly little about the Boston Tea Party. While VU
were famous for the adage that "not many people bought their record, but
everyone who did formed a band," it's important to remember that Boston Tea Party was an underground hipster joint, and not many people
in Boston had heard the Velvet Underground. If more people had heard
them, the band wouldn't have been any more popular. They weren't that
kind of band.
January 13-14, 1967 Jordan Hall, Boston, MA: Butterfield Blues Band/Otis Rush (Friday-Saturday)
These shows were promoted by Club 47 in Cambridge, who had already determined that emerging groups like the Butterfield Blues Band would completely outgrow the tiny clubs they had started in. Jordan Hall, at 30 Gainsborough Street, was the 1051-seat performance hall of The New England Conservatory, and was across the street from the Symphony Hall. There were regular folk shows on odd nights at Jordan Hall. However, renting the occasional public facility would never provide the continuity needed to sustain a continuous scene, and it was time for Boston to have its own permanent rock venue.
As a point of comparison, the The Grateful Dead and The Doors were booked this weekend at the Fillmore in San Francisco, and on Sunday (January 15) all the San Francisco bands played for free in Golden Gate Park at the Human Be-In. The Butterfield Blues Band had released two hugely popular albums on Elektra. Their second album, East-West, released back in July 1966, included the 13-minute instrumental title track, an unheard-of idea in rock circles. Originally entitled "Raga" by the band, the song managed to layer bluesy themes on top of broadly Indian structures, and it was very influential.
When the Butterfield Blues Band had first played the Fillmore in February 1966, the San Francisco bands were still figuring out electric instruments. Meanwhile, guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop weaved lead lines in and out with Paul Butterfield's amazing harmonica. East-West went way beyond the blues. The front line was ably supported by organist Mark Naftalin, bassist Jerome Arnold and (by 1967) drummer Billy Davenport. As if their proficiency wasn't enough, Arnold and Davenport were African-American, so that made the Butterfield Blues Band even more of a touchstone. Joe McDonald and Barry Melton, just for example, heard the Butterfield band at Fillmore several weeks after this, and decided right there that their folk duo was going electric.
Guitarist Otis Rush (1934-2018), was an influential Chicago blues guitarist. He had moved from Mississippi to Chicago around 1948, and had started playing the blues clubs in the 1950s, inspired by Muddy Waters. Rush had released a number of singles in the 50s and 60s on various labels, and was well regarded by other guitarists, including Mike Bloomfield. Though not a major figure, Rush was the kind of authentic blues player who would have had some recognition in the hip Boston market.
January 20-21, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA The Lost (Friday-Saturday)
The Boston Tea Party was at 53 Berkeley Street. As noted, the building was originally a synagogue, and just prior was an underground movie theatre/coffee house called The Moon Dial. The venue was on the corner of Berkeley and Appleton, in a neighborhood called The Back Bay. It wasn't far from the Charles River and the universities, but they weren't next door.
The Lost were from Plainfield, VT, and featured singer Willie Alexander. Presumably there were other bands playing, but only The Lost are on the poster.
A Boston Tea Party Facebook Group (Do You Remember The Boston Tea Party
1967-70) has produced a remarkable compilation of posters, flyers and
other ephemera from the beginning to the end of the venue (it can be
downloaded at the Facebook page). It's an amazing snapshot into the
past, and highly recommended.
January 27-28, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: The Lost/The Hallucinations (Friday-Saturday)
For the second weekend at the Boston Tea Party, The Lost were joined by The Hallucinations. The lead singer of The Hallucinations was former art student Peter Wolf. Wolf and Hallucinations drummer Stephen Jo Bladd would end up joining the J Geils Band in 1968, and go on to become one of the most successful rock bands to ever come out of the Boston area.
February 3-4, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: The Lost/Catharsis (Friday-Saturday)
For the third weekend at the Tea Party, The Lost were joined by Catharsis. I don't know anything about them. Truthfully, the shows of the first few weekends are known from the poster (above), and I don't know anything about any of the concerts. How many people came? How long did the bands play? Did they go over well with the crowd? I'm not aware of even second-hand descriptions of these shows.
February 10-11, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Chambers Brothers/The Hallucinations (Friday-Saturday)
The Chambers Brothers family had originally been from Mississippi, but they had relocated to Los Angeles in the mid-1950s. The four brothers had been singing gospel and folk music since about 1954, and were distinctive in that they had roots in both streams. When folk music evolved into folk-rock, the Chambers Brothers were better placed than many to "go electric." In 1966 the group would release People Get Ready on Vault Records. At this time, the Chambers Brothers had transcended their folk and gospel roots and were touring as a self-contained rock band. All of the brothers sang, while Willie and Joe Chambers played guitar, George Chambers played bass and Lester played harmonica. Drummer Brian Keenan (who was white) filled out the group.
At the end of 1967, after another album on Vault, the Chambers Brothers would make their Columbia debut with the nearly 11-minute long psychedelic soul classic "The Time Has Come Today" (with the immortal shout "my soul's been psychedelicized!," summing up 60s music in 4 words). But that was still in the future. In the meantime, however, while the Chambers Brothers were a newly-minted rock band, they were veteran performers and great singers, so their stage craft was probably well beyond that of the local rock bands.
The Chambers Brothers and The Hallucinations appeared at the Boston Tea Party this Saturday night, February 11, and set everyone and everything in sight and hearing on fire.
Rock and Soul
The Chambers Brothers were the main attraction of the night with their well known combination of hard rock and soul music. The quintet danced and gyrated along with the wild sounds they played. Most of their songs were solid rock rather than soul, probably for the benefit of the dancing public, but the soul songs that they brothers played came on smooth and mellow, though over-amplified. This is one of the few groups that sounds better live than it does on their records; the Brothers performance of their hit "All Strung Out" left everyone gasping for air when it was over. During their second set the group really had the audience switched on, dancing, clapping , shouting in time to a five minute drum solo.
Not to be outdone, the Hallucinations, who alternated sets with the Chambers Brothers, roared in with their own brand of rock and roll. Depending heavily on the frantic harmonics and screaming vocals of their lead [Peter Wolf], the Hallucinations blasted out a sound that put everyone within hearing on their feet. The mere volume of the the music knocked the legs off chairs and the surge and movement of the beat induced dancing that paralleled the rites of spring.
The Boston Tea Party...is in a huge cavernous room where one is engulfed by cascades of light and sound and surrounded by dancers in all types of clothing from "mad mod" to "straight."...Dave Hahn, who runs the discoteque and is an MIT graduate, likes to think the Tea Party is an experiment in euro-psychology; what happens to the mind when it has received so much stimulus that it reaches the overload point
February 17-18, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Beacon Street Union/The Hallucinations (Friday-Saturday)
The Beacon Street Union (per Wikipedia) was composed of four Boston University students: singer John Lincoln Wright (September 23, 1947 - December 4, 2011), guitarist/singer Paul Tartachny, bassist/singer Wayne Ulaky, keyboardist Robert Rhodes and drummer Richard Weisberg. With the exception of a few rock standards, their diverse music was composed by members of the band, primarily Wright and Ulaky.
In 1968, the band's
label, MGM Records, would promote them as part of the so-called Bosstown Sound
(along with the bands Ultimate Spinach and Orpheus), shepherded by the
record producer Alan Lorber. The national "underground" was suspicious of any hip music promoted by "The Man," and thus the Bosstown bands met with little nationwide
success. Their debut album, The Eyes of the Beacon Street Union, would
chart at number 75 on May 4, 1968. When the Bosstown Sound promotion
bombed, the record industry was spooked for the next few decades.
Whenever bands started to break out en masse from a city--such as
Seattle in the early 90s--record companies would let journalists talk
about such trends, rather than make a catchphrase in their ads, fearing a
repeat of the Bosstown Sound debacle.
|Boston Symphony Hall, at 301 Massachusetts Avenue|
February 17, 1967 Symphony Hall, Boston, MA: Lovin’ Spoonful (Friday)
At this time, the Lovin’ Spoonful were a hugely popular group. The concert was promoted by Frank Connelly, an established local promoter. Symphony Hall was at 301 Massachusetts Avenue, and had opened in 1900. It was the home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and seated 2625 people.
The Lovin' Spoonful's current single was "Darlin' Be Home Soon," which would reach #15. This was just the latest in a long string of hugely popular, catchy hits: "Do You Believe In Magic," (reached #9),"You Didn't Have To Be So Nice," (#10) "Daydream," (#2) "Summer In The City" (#1) and "Nashville Cats" (#8) still resonate today. Although they were popular, the Spoonful were also cool, so they could be booked at the Symphony Hall. This showed how different the Boston market was--in some cities, the Spoonful would have been relegated to a tiny college gym or radio promotion, but they were a major act in Boston. A place like the Tea Party could never have booked them.
February 24-25, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: The Cloud/Bagatelle (Friday-Saturday)
The Cloud are unknown to me. The Bagatelle featured Willie Alexander (as The Lost had broken up). They would release an album in 1968 (11 PM Saturday, ABC Records)
February 24-25, 1967 [various venues], MIT IFC Weekend Butterfield Blues Band/Jim Kweskin Jug Band/Rufus Thomas and Jimmy Soul/Little Anthony and The Imperials (Friday-Saturday)
The Intrafraternity Council (IFC) at MIT put on a “weekend” which had a number of acts at different local venues. Historically speaking, the students would invite their dates—who did not attend MIT, being girls and all—for the weekend. By this time, such events are starting to be crowded out by the general entertainment scene in Boston, but the concept was still viable in 1967. An article in The Tech (February 10, 1967) describes the acts in detail, but does not mention the venues since presumably its entire readership already knows. The acts were a mixture of rock, soul and folk.
February 24, 1967: Commonwealth Armory, Boston, MA Paul Butterfield Blues Band/Jim Kweskin Jug Band (Friday 12-4pm)
The Saturday afternoon IFC event featured the Butterfield Blues Band and the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. The Commonwealth Armory was located on Commonwealth Avenue, near Boston University, and was completed in 1914. It was used as a gym for BU and an occasional concert venue. The exact capacity is unclear, presumably a few thousand. It had long since decommissioned from military use (it was torn down in 2002).
The Butterfield Blues Band were well established in Boston, and indeed had just played the month before (Jordan Hall, January 13-14, above). The Jim Kweskin Jug Band were a long established Boston folk act. The Jug Band had all but single-handedly introduced jug music to America, letting everyone know that folk traditions could be played any old way, not just in formal structures like bluegrass. More importantly, the Kweskin Jug Band didn't wear stage clothes, didn't have "stage patter" and saw themselves as musicians rather than entertainers. They were an important influence on a lot of proto-hippie musicians, not least of them Jerry Garcia (who had seen them in Berkeley on March 11, 1964).
By early 1967, the current album for the Kweskin Band would have been See Reverse Side For Title, their 3rd album on Vanguard. At this time, the band featured Geoff Muldaur and his new wife Maria (nee D'Amato) on vocals, along with Kweskin, and on banjo no less than Bill Keith. Keith, from Massachusetts, had been the first "Yankee" to play with Bill Monroe. Keith's innovative banjo style was a huge influence on future generations of bluegrass pickers. In Boston, blues was categorized as "folk music," so the pairing of the Butterfield and Kweskin bands made sense. Keith's links to bluegrass also fit in with the interests of collegiate Boston fans.
February 25, 1967 Sargent Gym, Boston University, Boston, MA: Paul Buttefield Blues Band/Orphans/Phlumph (Saturday)
Lead guitarist Mike Bloomfield was the first American rock guitar hero, before Clapton, before Hendrix, before anyone. The Butterfield Blues Band saw themselves as a serious musical ensemble, like the Modern Jazz Quartet. Their fellow musicians would have agreed. But by 1967, the band was selling lots of albums, even without FM radio ("underground" FM rock radio would only surface in San Francisco in April 1967). So the Butterfield band was treated like a pop commodity, with relentless personal appearances.
According to organist Mark Naftalin, the band played 3 gigs in one day in Boston and Mike Bloomfield declared that he had had enough and quit. Although I have only been able to find a Friday afternoon show at the Armory and this Saturday night show at BU, this weekend fits the chronology. There must have been a Friday evening show somewhere, and then perhaps a late night appearance of some kind. It's possible that Bloomfield finished off a gig or two after this, but the weekend in Boston was the last straw for the peripatetic guitarist.
Boston University was a private research institution, founded in 1839. In 1920, the school had purchased 15 acres along the Charles River. After World War 2, BU expaned dramatically. In 1951, Harold C. Case became the school's fifth president and under his direction the character of the campus changed significantly, as he sought to change the school into a national research university. The campus tripled in size to 45 acres, and added 68 new buildings before Case retired in 1967.
Boston University campus buildings ran along the Charles from Commonwealth Avenue and Kenmore Square all the way to the Allston district. While BU had fewer than the 34,000 students that it does today, it was a large school. It was also right across the river from Harvard and MIT, so its section of Boston was a nexus for live music, theater and the arts that appealed to college students.
BU was not a basketball school, and did not have a huge sports tradition--save for Ice Hockey, a unique Boston thing--and Sargent had a capacity typical of such facilities, probably around 1800 in concert configuration. BU's current gym was built in 1972, so I assume Sargent was torn down. As for the opening acts, The Orphans were from the Brockton area. Phlumph is unknown to me.
March 3-4, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: The Hallucinations/Eden’s Children (Friday-Saturday)
The Hallucinations returned again. Eden’s Children were a power trio who would release two albums on ABC in 1968.
March 10-11, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Lothar and The Hand People/Outcasts (Friday-Saturday)
Lothar and The Hand People had been founded in Denver in 1965, but had migrated to New York sometime in 1966. Lothar was ostensibly the name of the Theremin that the band used, a sort of primitive synthesizer. Lothar and The Hand People would release some albums on Capitol starting in 1968. Thanks to "Lothar," the band was one of the first rock bands to tour and record with any kind of synthesizer.
I am not familiar with The Outcasts.
March 11, 1967 Cousens Gym, Tufts University, Medford, MA: Simon & Garfunkel (Saturday)
Simon & Garfunkel are actually outside the scope of this chronology, but are included here as a useful illustration. At this time, the duo was hugely popular. Their 3rd Columbia album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme had been released in October, 1966. The current hit single from the album--the third from it--was "At The Zoo" b/w "59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)." While Simon & Garfunkel were hardly psychedelic, they were popular, and plenty of hip college students who might go the Boston Tea Party were going to take a date to see Paul and Artie instead.
The Tufts booking points up both the strength and the uniqueness of the Boston market. There were big audiences for music acts, but promoters were competing with colleges as well as each other. Colleges had entertainment budgets, so ticket costs only needed to cover part of the perfomers' fee. This was true of all colleges at the time, more or less, but most schools were in self-contained college towns. A show put on by the University of Michigan, for example would be in Ann Arbor, and would only peripherally affect the Detroit market. In Boston, however, there were numerous colleges and Universities, many of them right near the center of town. A rock club like the Boston Tea Party was competing directly with well-funded schools for bookings.
Tufts University is a private research university on the border of Medford and Somerville, Massachusetts, about 5 miles from Boston. It was founded in 1852. Tufts has around 5000 undergraduates (plus post graduates, although many of them are on other campuses around the city). Cousens Gym had been built in 1932, and had a capacity around 2000. Simon and Garfunkel were a huge popular act, and could have played a larger place in Boston, but no doubt a hefty subvention from Tufts' entertainment budget made it worth their while.
March 17-18, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Lothar and The Hand People/The Hallucinations (Friday-Saturday)
Like all good underground clubs, a core of bands was starting to play the Boston Tea Party regularly.
March 24-25, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA The Bagatelle/The Growth (Friday-Saturday)
The Growth are unknown to me.
Good Friday was March 24, and Easter Sunday was on March 26. It's likely that many of the college students cleared out of Boston, whether to go home or somewhere sunny (if Spring Break had been invented by this time). In any case, that may account for not only the Tea Party's closure, but the fact of no other rock events in town for a few weeks.
April 14-15, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA Lothar and The Hand People/The Front Page (Friday-Saturday)
The Front Page are unknown to me.
The Unicorn was a folk club run by George Papadopolis, a competitor to the Club 47. Like most folk clubs, by 1967 there were occasional electric rock bands. In this case, Papodopolis managed to snag the Jefferson Airplane for a two weeks, the band's debut in the Boston area. Since the Airplane were nominally a "folk-rock" band, by their own definition, playing a folk club sort of fit. The Unicorn was on Boylston Street, I think at 1066 Boylston, although the club moved more than once. Papadopolis would go on to open the Psychedelic Supermarket in September of 1967, a competitor to the Boston Tea Party (which, just to confuse matters further, he would re-name The Unicorn in 1969).
Jefferson Airplane had just released their second album for RCA in February, 1967. The immortal Surrealistic Pillow would make Grace Slick and the Airplane '60s icons. There wasn't FM radio yet, so the album would have just been heard in the dorms. Still, the single "Somebody To Love" was released on April 1, 1967, so the local students were starting to hear the band. Seeing the Airplane at the Armory, with a couple of folk singers, wasn't going to be like seeing the Airplane with the Dead and a light show at the Fillmore, but the locals would still have recognized the shape of things to come.
April 21-22, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Lothar and The Hand People/Hallucinations (Friday-Saturday)
|The Commonwealth Armory (on Commonwealth Avenue), near BU, as it appeared in September 1920|
April 21, 1967 Commonwealth Armory, Boston, MA: Festival of American Music
Jefferson Airplane/Pete Seeger/Dave Van Ronk (7:30 pm)
Chuck Berry/Otis Redding/Muddy Waters/John Lee Hooker (10:30 pm)
The Festival of American Music was a four day event featuring different types of music, including rock, folk, soul and mariachi. I am only noting the rock oriented events here. The location of the Commonwealth Armory meant that the event was directed at BU students.
Outside of San Fransisco proper, the Jefferson Airplane were considered "Folk-Rock." Thus, booking them with Pete Seeger made a commercial sense. A folkie like Paul Kantner was probably thrilled to be on the bill with Pete, though how Pete felt about it may be unknown. By 1967, however, rock bands were playing regularly at folk festivals, so Seeger wouldn't have had an issue with the Airplane playing rock music. The Airplane was booked at the Unicorn folk club (see April 18-30, above), but it was typical in these arrangements for a band to skip a date at a club if they had a headline gig. The Airplane probably usually did an early and late show at the Unicorn, and this night they probably did only a late show.
Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002), a bluesy folk singer, was an important mentor and influence on the Greenwich Vilalge folk revival scene, to Bob Dylan and others. His current album would have been No Dirty Names, released in 1966 on Vanguard. None of Van Ronk's albums sold well, but his music influenced others.
At night, Chuck Berry headlined over three blues legends. It was a mark of Boston's sophistication about folk music and the blues that these acts appealed to a largely young, white audience. A local band would have been hired to back Chuck Berry, but I don't know who that might have been.
|Flashes, by the Cambridge band Ill Wind, was released on ABC in 1968. Guitarist Ken Frankel, an MIT graduate student, had played bluegrass with Jerry Garcia in the early 1960s|
April 28-29, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: David Blue and The American Patrol/Ill Wind (Friday-Saturday)
David Blue (b. Stuart David Cohen 1941-82) was a Greenwich Village folkie, friends with Dylan and part of the scene. His self-titled debut album had been released in 1966 on Elektra. In 1967, Blue started playing at least some shows with an electric band. The American Patrol featured lead guitarist Bob Rafkin (1944-2013), who also had an extensive career. Rafkin would move to San Francisco later in 1967, and worked regularly with producer Erik Jacobson. Blue himself would move to Los Angeles in '68, and he and Rafkin continued to work together for the next several years. Rafkin would produce Blue's best-known album, Stories (from 1972).
The Ill Wind had been formed by MIT students. Their lead guitarist, Ken Frankel, had played mandolin in a bluegrass group (The Wildwood Boys) with Jerry Garcia in summer 1963. The group would release an album called Flashes on ABC in 1968.
|David Blue's 1966 Elektra Records debut album|
May 5-6, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: David Blue and The American Patrol/The Orphans (Friday-Saturday)
I know in later years that the Tea Party would let bands stay over at the Tea Party. If that was the case as early as 1967, then a two-weekend booking with a place to stay would have made a lot of sense for a visting act like David Blue and his band.
May 12-13, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Bo ston, MA: Lords and Ladies/The Orphans (Friday-Saturday)
The Lords and Ladies are unknown to me.
May 19-20, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Children of Paradise/Beacon Street Union (Friday-Saturday)
Children Of Paradise are unknown to me.
May 23-25, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: John Lee Hooker/The Hallucinations (+Quill on Wednesday May 24) (Tuesday-Thursday)
I don't know why there was a unique Tuesday-Thursday booking at the Tea Party. It's possible that the semester had just ended at a number of schools, so students may have been more available than a typical weeknight.
Quill, who was added to the bill on Wednesday (May 24), was a new band from the Boston area. They had been formed by two songwriting brothers, Jon and Dan Cole. The group was just getting started. Ultimately the band would release an album on Cotillion in 1970.
May 26-27, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Velvet Underground/Ferris Wheel (Friday-Saturday)
The Velvet Underground, by any standard, were an important, influential band. MGM/Verve had released the band's famous debut album The Velvet Underground and Nico in March, 1967. Due to a lawsuit over an unauthorized cover photo, the album was withdrawn and delayed until around June, undermining what little commercial momentum the band might have had. In 1982, Brian Eno famously said that while the album sold only 30,000 copies in its early years, "everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band."
The Velvet Underground, despite their now-legendary status, were not really a popular group anywhere except Boston. Steve Nelson, the house manager of The Tea Party booked the VU many times, and at one point became manager of the group. It's important to note, however, as I mentioned before, that if more people had heard the Velvets back in the 60s, almost none of them would have liked the band. The band was brilliant, but not the sort of brilliance that makes best-sellers. The group's counterintuitive insistence in allowing no R&B influences made the group sound strange, which was intentional, and the perfect setting for Lou Reed's dark tales.
Despite the paucity of record sales, the Velvet Underground has been one of the most researched bands ever (Richie Unterberger's White Light, White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day-By-Day is most highly recommended). Much of our admittedly limited information about the Boston Tea Party comes from the Velvet Underground saga.
June 2-3, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: The Hallucinations/Jeremy Steig (Friday-Saturday)
Jeremy Steig was a New York jazz flautist. He was a pioneer of jazz-rock. In 1968 he would form the jazz-rock group Jeremy And The Satyrs, who were initially formed to back singer Tim Hardin.
The Velvet Underground returned two weeks after they had first been booked, a sign that the original Tea Party booking had gone well. While it's true that the Velvet Underground didn't sell a ton of albums, and got almost no radio play, they did find a following in many cities. Somehow, people found about them, and they could tour somewhat profitably.
June 16-17, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: The Hallucinations/The Ill Wind (Friday-Saturday)
June 23-24, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Grass Menagerie/Beacon Street Union (Friday-Saturday)
The Grass Menagerie is unknown to me.
June 30-July 1, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Lothar and The Hand People/The Shakers (Friday-Saturday)
The Shakers are unknown to me.
In the summer of 1967, there was a thriving rock concert industry in Boston, particularly near the Charles River and the major Universities. In contrast to other big cities, however, the most prominent concerts were at the college auditoriums and gyms. By 1967 standards, there was a large, sophisticated audience who that knew and liked folk, blues and jazz music along with the new psychedelic rock and roll.
At the same time, the little Boston Tea Party was thriving as an underground club. The Tea Party had built a solid core of bands that could play the club repeatedly: the Halluciniations, the Beacon Street Union, the Bagatelle, Lothar and The Hand People and others. Boston rock fans didn't have to make a choice to check out the psychedelic underground or bands that were popular on the radio. The hit bands played the colleges, and there was underground music at the Tea Party, and it was all pretty much in one area. Most cities had one or the other, but Boston seemed to have it all the pieces for something big to happen.
In the second half of 1967, this trend would only continue. A competing underground club would open, but the Tea Party would continue to thrive, and all the colleges kept booking shows.