|A flyer for the Poppycock club in Palo Alto, at 135 University Avenue, featuring shows from November 8, 1969. Almost no flyers advertising the Poppycock have endured.|
Palo Alto, California, is only a town of about 60,000, about 35 miles South of San Francisco, and yet it looms large in the world, far out of proportion to its modest size. Palo Alto residents, like the residents of most small towns, think the world revolves around itself. The principal difference between Palo Alto and other towns is its tendency to invent or encourage institutions that redound to the importance of Palo Alto--Stanford University, Hewlett-Packard, The Stanford Shopping Center, Acid Tests, The Grateful Dead, Mapquest and Google, for example, just to name a few. All of these institutions re-write history in Palo-centric ways that reaffirms the town's importance. Residents of neighboring communities find Palo Altans self absorbed and self-important, which we probably are, but our next innovation will just reconfigure the past in a way that justifies our own narrative. And so it was with psychedelic rock and roll in the 1960s.
Palo Alto, by its own accounting, played a big part in 60s psychedelic rock and roll. The history of the Fillmore and The Avalon always begins with Ken Kesey at Stanford, and the parties and acid tests that followed. Of course, Kesey's cottage was really next door in Menlo Park, but that sort of detail never interfered with a Palo Alto story. At the same time, Jerry Garcia and other bohemians were hanging out in downtown Palo Alto, even if they often lived in Menlo Park themselves. Certainly, Jerry Garcia started playing live in Stanford and Palo Alto, and he took acid for the first time in Palo Alto, and by the end of 1965 Garcia was the lead guitarist in an electric blues band. The Warlocks--who debuted themselves in Menlo Park--became the Grateful Dead, and the house band of The Merry Pranksters, and Palo Alto's place in the rock revolution was secure.
|In the 1960s, all the music action in downtown Palo Alto was at the corner of University and High|
Downtown Palo Alto
The Poppycock was a Fish 'N' Chips shop at 135 University Avenue, on the corner of University and High Street (hard to make this up). It was open 7 days a week for take-out from 11am, and there was a big room for entertainment and, if you were old enough, to buy beer. The clearest picture of the Poppycock come from a book by writer Ed McClanahan, an associate of Ken Kesey’s. McClanahan was hired in to publish an underground newspaper, The Free You, associated with MidPeninsula Free University (of which more later). In his autobiography Famous People I Have Known, he writes about the Poppycock in 1968 and '69:
In the latter 1960s, on a corner of downtown Palo Alto scarcely a brickbat’s throw from the Stanford campus, there stood an aged, derelict, three-story brick office building, the first floor of which was occupied by a fish ‘n’ chips ‘n’ rock-and-roll establishment called The Poppycock (2003: University of Kentucky Press p.53).McLanahan writes of renting office space on the second floor, just above the bandstand, for twenty five dollars a month from the “sweaty hatband gents” who took over an office building originally leased to lawyers and doctors and leased it instead to a younger and less savory bunch. Those familiar with the today’s genteel and pricey Palo Alto, a “hotbed of social rest” (to quote local writer Rob Morse), would hardly recognize McLanahan’s description of the corner in 1969.
Beneath my window, meanwhile, the beat went on day and night. The sidewalks swarmed with rock and roll riffraff, adolescent acidheads and swiftly aging speedsters, motorcycle madmen and wilted flower children, slightly unhinged outpatients from the nearby VA hospital, spare changers and affluent musicians and plainclothesmen and nouveau riche dealers, all the myriad varieties of California white trash…The Poppycock corner was where It was indisputably At in Palo Alto (pp. 53-54).
|135 University Avenue in Palo Alto, site of the Poppycock, as it appeared in 2006 (at the time it was the Stanford Bookstore)|
Palo Alto Psychedelic Rock Performances, July-December 1969
July 1-2, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Orion (Wednesday-Thursday)
Orion is unknown to me, but they had been playing various weeknights at the Poppycock since April 1968.
July 3-4, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Loading Zone (Thursday-Friday)
The Loading Zone, while obscure, are a uniquely important group in Bay Area music history.
The Zone had a singly dizzying history. Loading Zone had initially been formed out of the ashes of a Berkeley group called The Marbles (who played the first Family Dog Longshoreman’s Hall Dance on October 16, 1965). The two guitarists from The Marbles then joined with organist/vocalist Paul Fauerso (formerly of Oakland’s Tom Paul trio, a jazz combo) and played a hitherto unheard mixture of psychedelic blues and funky R&B.
Loading Zone were based out of Oakland (on East 14th Street), and while they had played the original Trips Festival and many dates at the Fillmore and Avalon, they also played many soul clubs in the East Bay. They added horns, and after some false starts, a powerhouse vocalist named Linda Tillery, and had released an under-rehearsed album on RCA in 1968. The band also had a brief national tour, and played all the clubs in the Bay Area. The Zone had played the Poppycock in December '68 and February '69.
By early 1969, however, lead singer Linda Tillery had been tempted to go solo by Columbia. Loading Zone soldiered on, with Paul Fauerso taking over all the vocal duties.
July 13, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Phoenix (Sunday)
Phoenix was yet another group that was handled by Ron Polte’s West-Pole management organization. Phoenix has a complex interrelationship with other San Francisco bands, including The Vipers, Blue House Basement and Mt. Rushmore. In 1968, three members of the band Mt. Rushmore had left that group and joined lead guitarist Stan Muther in Phoenix. By mid-1969, principal songwriter Warren Phillips had taken over the bass chair, as previous bassist Jef Jaisun had gone solo. Phillips, lead guitarist Stan Muther and drummer Ed Levin had all been in the Palo Alto group The Vipers. The Vipers had been formed at a house on High Street, just a few blocks from the Poppycock.
No incarnation of Phoenix ever released any records. A South Bay songwriter named Chuck McCabe led a group that released an ABC album entitled “Phoenix” in late 1969, there was no connection between McCabe and the original Phoenix.
July 17-19, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Earl Hooker’s Chicago Blues Band (Thursday-Saturday)
Earl Hooker (1929-70) was a blues slide guitarist from Chicago. Although not famous today, he was and is well regarded by Chicago blues aficionados. He had played the Poppycock in May, so obviously it had been a successful engagement.
July 22-24, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Magic Sam Blues Band/Sam Lay Chicago Blues Band (Tuesday-Thursday)
July 25, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks (Friday)
Dan Hicks had been the drummer in the 1965 incarnation of The Charlatans, but by 1968 he had been playing guitar and fronting the band. The Charlatans never rehearsed or gigged much (in any incarnation), and Hicks had an interest in psychedelically modified Texas Swing music, so in 1968 he had formed Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. Initially it was as a side project, to open for The Charlatans and occasionally play local clubs like The Matrix. The original configuration of the band featured David LaFlamme of It’s A Beautiful Day on violin.
July 31, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Frumious Bandersnatch (Thursday)
In the style of many Berkeley bands, Frumious Bandersnatch also recorded and released their own 3-song EP. It did not sell many copies, but it served as an advertisement for the band (and became a significant collector’s item over the years). The EP was recorded in Berkeley in April and May of 68 and released soon after. For the balance of the year, Frumious was picked up by Bill Graham’s Millard Agency and received numerous bookings, where their free flowing guitars were well received in concert. However, due to management and other issues, the band passed on some record company offers and despite their local popularity, the EP was the only official release of the group.
Frumious Bandersnatch’s component parts were far more successful than the original group. Most of the 1968 lineup ended up in the Steve Miller Band at various times in the next decade (Winkelmann, King, Valory and Denny). More importantly, bassist Ross Valory and guitarist George Tickner (who had been in the 1967 version) founded Journey, who sold millions of records in the 1970s and 80s, and the Journey empire was run by Frumious’s road manager and van driver Walter ‘Herbie’ Herbert. In 1996 Big Beat Records released a fine Frumious Bandersnatch cd called A Young Man’s Song, featuring a collection of studio and demo recordings from all lineups of the group.
August 1, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Elvin Bishop Group/Joy of Cooking (Friday)
August 2, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band/Joy of Cooking (Saturday)
On Saturday night, the headliners were Berkeley's Cleanliness And Godliness Skiffle Band. The CGSB had formed out of the same community of musicians that had given rise to Country Joe and The Fish. Initially, the CGSB did actually play skiffle music, which was a sort of New Orleans Jug Band style. By 1969, they were playing a sort of swinging country rock, no longer acoustic but not fully electrified either. They released one album in 1968 on Vanguard, The Cleanliness And Godliness Skiffle Band's Greatest Hits (back when such a title for a debut album was still clever).
More infamously, the CGSB were the primary musicians for an album called The Masked Marauders. Two Rolling Stone writers had written an obviously fake review of a "Supergroup" album called Masked Marauders. When people started calling record stores, they rushed into a Berkeley studio, and the CGSB and some friends mimicked the review, with songs like the touching "I Can't Get No Nookie."
|An ad in the Berkeley Tribe (August 1, 1969) for the free concert at Palo Alto's Baylands Athletic Center. I assure you "Embarcadero Rd East" were sufficient directions in those days.|
August 2, 1969 Baylands Athletic Center, Palo Alto, CA: Sunbear/Underwood Jug Band/Western Addition/United Circus Band/Devine Madness/Magic/Cide Minder/Happy Now/Blu/Kid Africa/Schon & Ice (Saturday) Free Concert 11pm-11am
August 8-9, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Sanpaku/Terry Dolan (Friday-Saturday)
August 9, 1969 Memorial Auditorium, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA: New York Rock and Roll Ensemble with The San Francisco Symphony (Saturday)
Lytton Plaza was a paved park, with benches and trees, on the corner of University and Emerson Street (at 202 Emerson). Local banker Bart Lytton, founder of Lytton Savings Bank, had built the park in 1964 on the former site of The American Savings and Trust Building, which was across the street from the bank’s headquarters. Although downtown and unfenced, the little park was actually on private property. During the previous Summer (1968), the MidPeninsula Free University had taken advantage of the private status and held some rallies and impromptu concerts at the park.
Since the park was private property, the police were not legally able to intervene, as trespassing laws did not apply in the absence of fences. It is a credit to Palo Alto’s tolerance that even though downtown merchants (and many residents) objected to the concerts, the police followed the letter of the law and allowed the miniature Be-Ins to take place. Local high school bands seemed to have provided the music.
The [Hyrdraulic] Banana played the Lytton Plaza protests, a sort of mini-Berkeley and the first hip thing to happen in Palo Atlo. We were on a stage with wheels; whenever the police came and the truck started, you held onto your amp and went down the road, and the cords were left wherever they came out (interview by Alec Palao, CPW #2, p.57)The concerts apparently became increasingly contentious, at least one of them devolving into mayhem when members of a motorcycle gang got into a series of fights with some high school hippies. August 12, 1969 seems to be the key date, but I haven't been able to precisely connect that with vaguely recalled events. Perhaps this was the day everything escalated. In any case, even tolerant Palo Alto was losing its patience.
August 12, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Horses (Tuesday)
August 15-16, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Mississippi Fred McDowell/Contemporary Jazz Quartet (Friday-Saturday)
|Congress Of Wonders would release their debut album Revolting on Fantasy in 1970|
Congress of Wonders were a comedy trio from Berkeley, initially from the UC Berkeley drama department and later part of Berkeley’s Open Theater on College Avenue, a prime spot for what were called “Happenings” (now ‘Performance Art’). The group performed at the Avalon and other rock venues.
Ultimately a duo, Karl Truckload (Howard Kerr) and Winslow Thrill (Richard Rollins) created two Congress of Wonders albums on Fantasy Records (Revolting and Sophomoric). Their pieces “Pigeon Park” and “Star Trip”, although charmingly dated now, were staples of San Francisco underground radio at the time. For some photos of The Congress of Wonders, see here (Earl Pillow (actually Wesley Hind) was the original third member) and here.
Southern Comfort was led by saxophonist and vocalist Ron Stallings, and drummer, vocalist Bob Jones. Jones and Stallings had been in the informal T&A Rhythm and Blues Band with John Kahn, and Kahn, Jones and Stallings were among the musicians who intermittently backed Mike Bloomfield when he felt like playing a gig. Southern Comfort released an album in 1970 on Columbia, produced by Kahn and Nick Gravenites. The album mostly featured songs by Stallings and Jones, and also featured trumpeter Mike Wilmeth and guitarist Fred Burton, both part of the same crew of musicians who worked with Gravenites and Bloomfield in the studio and live. Other members were bassist Karl Sevareid and organist Steve Funk. (The album also features a number of bass players--Bob Huberman and Art Stavro, with Kahn at least in the room).
Old Davis was playing the Poppycock, no doubt hoping to capitalize on their Sunday appearance at Frost for the MPFU Benefit.
August 24, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Maximum Speed Limit (Sunday)
August 24, 1969 Cubberley High School, Palo Alto, CA: Cubberley High Big Band with special guest Don Ellis (Sunday)
August 28, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Orion (Thursday)
August 29-31, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Sweet Linda Devine (Thursday-Sunday)
September 5-6, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Elvin Bishop Group/Fritz (Friday-Saturday)
The businesses in downtown Palo Alto had been decimated by the rise of Stanford Shopping Center in the mid-1950s. University Avenue had become fairly dormant. As a result, downtown Palo Alto was a good location for the kind of hippie businesses that wouldn't be in the Stanford Mall: head shops, stores that sold beads and posters, and clothing from South America. Local Peninsula hippies, or teenage wannabe hippies, hung out around University Avenue during the day. Palo Alto was tolerant, and there were stores to check out. Since Stevie Nicks is quite famous today, there are plenty of recollections of people who met her around downtown Palo Alto back in the 60s.
|Incredible! Kaleidoscope, released in June 1969 on Epic|
September 9-11, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Kaleidoscope (Tuesday-Thursday)
Cleveland Wrecking Company was an interesting band who had been playing Bay Area clubs since 1968. The band, a 7-piece with horns, and often a female singer, had a completely different business model than every other hippie rock band in the Bay Area. Other bands were interested in making albums, and only played dances and the like when they were starting out, just to make ends meet. Cleveland Wrecking Company had the opposite approach.
Freedom Highway were a band from Mill Valley, and another group that was booked by Ron Polte’s West-Pole organization. The band had formed straight out of High School, so the group had been playing for a few years already. They had played Palo Alto before (at the Cubberley graduation on June 15, 1967, opening for Quicksilver, and at The Poppycock on March 8-9, 1968). The band was as influenced by British groups as well as Fillmore bands, but never released an album and broke up in 1970. However, a nice album of 60s demos was released in this century.
September 17-18, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Mother Bear (Wednesday-Thursday)
September 19-20, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: AUM/Marvin Gardens (Friday-Saturday)
Marvin Gardens was another band that had played all the hippie clubs in the 60s, recording a few demos but never putting out a record or getting high on the bill at the Fillmore. Apparently they sounded somewhat like Big Brother and The Holding Company. Lead singer Carol Duke apparently became a well-known figure in the LBGTQ community, but that was not widely known at the time. A retrospective album of Marvin Gardens demos (entitled 1968) was released in the 21st century. The group broke up in mid-1970, as far as I know.
September 26-27, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Linn County/AB Skhy (Friday-Saturday)
AB Skhy were a progressive blues group from Milwaukee, WI where they had been known as The New Blues. In mid-1968, they moved to the Bay Area from Wisconsin, and were joined by organist Howard Wales, from Cincinnati via El Paso and Seattle. AB Skhy had played the Poppycock in December 1968, and then February 1969. The front man was guitarist/singer Dennis Geyer, but Wales was the standout soloist.
September 28, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Anonymous Artists of America (Sunday)
|Sanpaku's Bob Powell (organ), Mark Pearson (guitar), Duane 'Motor' Timme (kneeling) and Gary Larkey, plus an unnamed dog, at Stanford's Frost Amphitheatre on October 5, 1969 (photo by and thanks to Michael Parrish). |
October 5, 1969 Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA: It’s a Beautiful Day/Mike Bloomfield & Mark Naftalin/Cold Blood/Southern Comfort/Sanpaku/Old Davis Benefit for MPFU (Sunday)
It's A Beautiful Day had released their debut album in June, 1969. The single from that album, "White Bird" was not only heavily played on FM radio, it had become an AM hit as well--rare for a Fillmore West band. The song would rise to #3 on the KYA-am chart. The song didn't break out as a National single, but "White Bird' has been a rock classic ever since. It's A Beautiful Day, with leader David LaFlamme's stately violin, and the shared vocals between LaFlamme and singer Patti Santos, seemed ticketed for a big career. For various reasons, not least a bitter dispute with manager Matthew Katz, 1969 was the band's high water mark. In October, however, this would have been a big deal in Palo Alto: a band with a hit single and Fillmore West credibility headlining Frost Amphitheatre.
By 1970, future Santana guitarist Neal Schon was a member of Old Davis, but I don't think he was in the band yet.
The San Francisco Examiner listed "Chicago Blues Band." Clearly they had left off a name (e.g. Luther Tucker's Chicago Blues Band, or something like that).
October 9-11, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Chicago Blues All-Stars (Willie Dixon, Big Walter Horton, Johnny Shines)/Magic Theater (Thursday-Saturday)
This booking conflicts with dates at Mandrake’s in Berkeley (where Dixon was scheduled from the 10th to the 12th). Once again, I believe it is a case where both gigs were advertised before the exact schedule had been worked out.
October 12-14, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Charlie Musselwhite (Sunday-Tuesday)
The Examiner has Musselwhite on October 9-11, also (instead of Willie Dixon), but I’m not sure if Musselwhite would have played the whole week. Musselwhite had been a regular performer at the Poppycock for some time.
Charlie Musselwhite had been born in Mississippi and moved to Memphis, and then ultimately to Chicago. He was one of a small number of white musicians in Chicago (including Nick Gravenites, Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop and a few others) who had stumbled onto the blues scene by themselves.
October 15-16, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Womb (Wednesday-Thursday)
Womb was a local band. I think they were previously called Birth
October 17-18, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Jesse Fuller/Ice (Friday-Saturday)
Ice was a Marin band booked by Ron Polte, who managed Quicksilver Messenger Service.
October 22-23, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Mendelbaum (Wednesday-Thursday)
October 24, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Loading Zone (Friday)
October 25, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: John Fahey/Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup (Saturday)
R&B singer Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup had started recording for Ace Records back in the 1940s. He is best known outside of blues circles for having written "That's Alright, Mama" and "My Baby Left Me," both made famous by Elvis Presley.
October 31-November 1, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Congress Of Wonders/Lamb/Terry Dolan/Eric The Magician (Friday-Saturday)
Two doors down from the Poppycock was the Tangent, at 119 University. The Tangent loomed large in Palo Alto music history, even though it was basically just a deli and pizza parlor. In 1963, two restless Stanford Hospital doctors had rented an upstairs room there and started a folk club called The Top Of The Tangent. Among the performers were Jerry Garcia, Jorma Kaukonen, Bob Weir and Janis Joplin, along with many others who would take the stage at the Fillmore and Avalon a few years later. Music had gotten bigger, however, and the Tangent was pretty small, so by mid-67 the bands were all playing the Poppycock.
November 7, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Anonymous Artists of America (Friday)
November 8, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: John Fahey/Billy Joe Becoat (Saturday)
Billy Joe Becoat is unknown to me.
November 9, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Rhythm Dukes (Sunday)
The Rhythm Dukes were a band based in Felton, in the Santa Cruz Mountains, even though its members all originally came from Marin. When Moby Grape disintegrated in mid-1969, songwriting partners Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson decided to form a new group, and teamed up with the remnants of a group called Boogie (bassist John "Fuzzy" Oxendine and drummer John Craviatto). Miller and Stevenson were the vocalists, and Miller played lead guitar. Stevenson had played drums in Moby Grape, but he played rhythm guitar in the Dukes. Bassist John Barrett and drummer Fuzzy Oxendine rounded out the group.
The band had problems, not least because promoters kept billing them as Moby Grape. Stevenson left the group in mid-1969, leaving them a power trio. Ultimately guitarist Ned Torney and saxophonist Rick Henry were added to the group, although I'm not sure if they were in the band in November. These two in turn would be replaced by Bill Champlin, during a time in 1970 when the Sons were on hiatus. A demo recording of the Miller/Champlin lineup was released some decades later. The Rhythm Dukes would continue on until 1971 with various members. All of The Rhythm Dukes remained friends, and the group occasionally reformed for fun (for a more complete history, see Italian historian Bruno Ceriotti's site).
November 10, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Auditions and Special Guests (Monday)
November 11, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Workshop (Tuesday)
November 12, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Canterbury Fair (Wednesday)
November 13, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Thursday)
Los Altos resident John Dawson had been working at a songwriter since the early 1960s. By 1968, he was playing them Wednesday nights at a Hofbrau in Menlo Park called The Underground. The Underground was at 925 El Camino Real, right next to Kepler's Books. In Spring 1969, he visited his old friend Jerry Garcia in Kentfield, and played his songs while Jerry played his newly purchased pedal steel guitar. Garcia decided to sit in with Dawson on those Wednesday nights when the Dead were not otherwise engaged.
The early New Riders Of The Purple Sage—the name was created by Dead lyricist Robert Hunter as oblique references to a Zane Grey novel and to Nelson’s New Delhi River Band—played Dawson’s originals along with a selection of Honky Tonk and Top 40 tunes. Garcia stuck to the pedal steel, leaving the electric lead guitar and vocal harmonies to David Nelson, while Bob Matthews (bass) and Mickey Hart (drums), with no experience in either Top 40 or Honky Tonk music, lent their unique stylings to the band. Throughout 1969, the group played rather obscure club gigs on weeknights when the Dead were in town.
Although a minor gig on a Thursday night, playing next door to The Tangent would have been a homecoming of sorts for Garcia, and Nelson had never played in Downtown Palo Alto in a rock group. The New Riders only played The Poppycock in November, perhaps twice (see below). Nonetheless, the fact that Garcia appeared even once at the Poppycock ensured a long, foggy history of rumors that “The Grateful Dead used to play The Poppycock all the time.” Every venue in the Bay Area that ever featured a Garcia appearance (usually with the New Riders) inevitably created a chain of local rumor that expanded into imagined frequency and importance (one tiny venue claimed on its website that the Dead used to play there “every Tuesday night” in 1970).
In fact, besides a couple of November New Riders appearances, it does appear that the Grateful Dead really did play the Poppycock. Of course, this likely-but-unconfirmable event only added to the legend of the Poppycock. The club had been a happening part of the Bay Area rock circuit from mid-68 to mid-69, but by this time it was fading away. Still, because Jerry Garcia (and Stevie Nicks) had played there in late '69, the legend of the club extended into the future.
November 14, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Mendelbaum (Friday)
November 15, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Phoenix/Freedom Highway (Saturday)
November 19, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Errico (Wednesday)
November 20, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage (Thursday)
November 21-22, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Mime Troupe Gutter Puppets/Gorilla Marching Band (Friday-Saturday)
November 23, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Happy Now (Sunday)
November 27, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Floating Bridge (Thursday)
Floating Bridge were from Seattle. They were a “heavy” band featuring the twin guitar leads of Rich Dangel and Joe Johansen. They had been an established band in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest since about early 1968, but were probably touring California in support of their album on Vault Records. Dangel had been the lead guitarist for Northwest legends The Wailers (today mostly known as The Fabulous Wailers, to distinguish them from Bob Marley) and Dangel was widely regarded as one of the best guitarists in Seattle (not least by his former roommate, Larry Coryell). At various junctures, Floating Bridge also featured an electric cellist (who doubled on saxophone), setting them apart from most contemporaries.
The Wailers, from Tacoma, WA had hit it big nationally with the song “Tall Cool One.” The Wailers and The Sonics were anchors of the Tacoma/Seattle scene, particularly a place called The Spanish Castle (memorialized by Jimi Hendrix in “Spanish Castle Magic”). Dangel had left around 1965 (The Wailers continued on, as they do to this day) and moved to California. After briefly forming a band called The Rooks, he ended up in The Time Machine, in San Diego. When the Time Machine broke up, Dangel and another member (bassist Joe Johnson) moved back to Seattle and formed The Floating Bridge.
The Floating Bridge were fondly remembered by those who saw them live. Their 1969 debut album on Vault Records featured a lengthy jam on a medley of “Eight Miles High” and “Paint It Black.” Dangel continued to be a highly regarded guitarist on the Seattle scene until his death in 2002.
November 28-29, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Cal Tjader Quintet (Friday-Saturday)
December 2, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Folk and Blues Workshop (Tuesday)
December 5, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Mark Spoelstra/Fritz (Friday)
December 10-11, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Gold (Wednesday-Thursday)
- The operator of the club, Roy Kelsey, remembers the Grateful Dead playing the club. It's not likely he would forget that event, or mistake it for a New Riders show
- Since the New Riders had played the club, it seems plausible that the Dead would consider playing there. That is my logic for assigning a date after the New Riders' known appearance (above)
- Fellow scholar LIA found a convincing eyewitness account, mentioning that the Dead were "on their way from somewhere else." I don't actually believe that, but I do believe that was an explanation they would give. Even by '69, the Dead had to plan appearances, but it was in their interests to spread the word that they weren't actually planning (to discourage other requests, fulfill contracts, etc)
- Larry Rogers (RIP), an old friend of the band, had a Facebook post where he described a fight breaking out at the Poppycock between two groups of bikers, and he went and stood in front of Garcia to protect him. Garcia hefted his Gibson, and said (whether comically or not), he was ready for action. The revealing detail here was that Garcia was playing a Gibson, and he wouldn't have done that with the Riders
- My working assumption is this, for now: some bikers were having a weeknight party, and invited the Dead as entertainment. Said bikers would have made it worth the band's time. The Dead said yes, since Garcia had played the Poppycock. But things got out of hand, hence the fight. A weeknight in December 1969 seems like a plausible date. By early '70, the Cutler era was underway, and there was too much organization for such a casual, ill-planned happening.
December 29, 1969,The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Auditions and Special Guests (Monday)
December 30, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto , CA: Folk And Blues Workshop (Tuesday)
Decmber 31, 1969-January 1, 1970 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Charlie Musselwhite (Wednesday-Thursday)
1970: The Demise Of The Poppycock
We have almost no information about Poppycock performers in 1970. It seems likely that local bands played more often.There are almost no listings in the various papers. While that may be a sign that no one from the Poppycock was calling the papers, it was also a sign that the bookings at the club weren't notable enough to make the listings. Newspapers like the Examiner or Chronicle only included entertainment listings to entice readers (they weren't paid ads), and only more promient events got noted. The few random listings I have found (below) were for weeknights. That implies to me that Poppycock listings only made the cut when there wasn't much else, or space to fill. It's a mark that the club was booking local bands, and not ones with albums.
January 7-8, 1970 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Peace Bread and Land Band (Wednesday-Thursday)
The January 16, 1970 San Mateo Times entertainment column reports that the hootenanny-style Folk and Blues Workshop has moved to Tuesday, as the Thursday night Workshop is at the Odyssey in San Mateo.
February 4-5, 1970 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Thompson Brothers (Wednesday-Thursday)
One intriguing story from the Poppycock has to do with how guitarist Neal Schon joined Santana. Schon, then 15 years old, played in a Peninsula band called Old Davis, which had been around for a few years. They were a popular group, but played mostly covers. Some time in 1970, Old Davis was playing The Poppycock, where they were spotted by Gregg Rolie and Mike Shrieve of Santana, both with Peninsula family ties and many reasons to hang out in the South Bay. The were in the midst of recording Abraxas, and were invited to take a break and see the show by the bassist of Old Davis, a friend of theirs. As a result of Schon’s performance at the Poppycock, he was invited to jam with Rolie and Shrieve, and subsequently to join Santana.The date seems to track to 1970, but its one of those foggy rock and roll memories, so it may never be pinned down.
The November 18, 1970 Stanford Daily had an article on the recently opened Mom’s, on the site of The Poppycock. Two bands alternated there, Fast Eddy and The Sheiks and Rocking Ricky Zambo and His Miracle Restoration Revival Band. The club seemed to close very shortly afterwards.