Friday, November 12, 2021

Palo Alto Psychedelic Rock Shows, July-December 1969 and Beyond (Palo Alto V)

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.

Yet Palo Alto, as ground zero for the consciousness expansion of rock music, has a rather scattered history of rock and roll events. While some of this had to do with economics, some of it had to do with the very peculiar circumstances of Palo Alto and Stanford, which both favored and discouraged any kind of rock and roll underground. But this peculiarity is perfectly Palo Alto--a story that applies to no other town, which is just how Palo Alto likes it. The story began with my prior post and the two most seminal events in Palo Alto rock history: August 31, 1965, the night the Beatles stayed at the Cabana Hotel in Palo Alto, and December 18, 1965, the Palo Alto Acid Test. I told the whole psychedelic rock history of 1966 Palo Alto, too, which is pretty interesting, but still pales in the shadow of 1965. The next post continued the story, reviewing the psychedelic rock history of Palo Alto in 1967.  and then 1968, when the action moved downtown. The last post looked at shows from January to June, 1969, the high water mark for downtown Palo Alto's rock history. This post will look at shows for the balance of 1969. Although some memorable acts played the Poppycock (including the New Riders of The Purple Sage and very likely the Grateful Dead), the club was too small to thrive in the booming rock market, and Palo Alto wanted peace and quiet.

In the 1960s, all the music action in downtown Palo Alto was at the corner of University and High

Downtown Palo Alto

By 1968, loud rock and roll had become more mainstream, at least in Northern California. Young people up and down the Peninsula wanted to see bands full of long-haired guitarists playing their own music. Palo Alto's downtown, having been gutted by the Stanford Shopping Center in the 1950s, started to add shops selling lava lamps and black light posters. There weren't any bars in Palo Alto yet--not until 1981--but The Poppycock sold beer, and that was enough. The locus of rock music in town had moved off the Stanford campus and over to the Poppycock.

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.

The Loading Zone thus laid the blueprint for the progressive soul music of Bay Area bands like Sly and The Family Stone and Tower of Power. Indeed, their roadie, high school student Steve Kupka, played baritone sax with the band’s horn section, when there was room on stage and he was allowed in the club. At one such gig, he met a Fremont band called The Motowns, and they joined forces to create Tower Of Power.

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 11-12, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Sweet Linda Divine (Friday-Saturday)

Sweet Linda Divine was the stage name of former Loading Zone singer Linda Tillery, who had now gone solo. Al Kooper had produced a solo album for her on Columbia by that name (it has never been released on cd). Tillery was backed by a trio, headed by ex-New Delhi River Band guitarist Pete Schultzbach. I assume that Tillery sang in the same soulful style that she had done with Loading Zone, but I have never read a review.

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 15-16, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Transatlantic Railroad (Tuesday-Wednesday)
Transatlantic Railroad was a Marin County band.

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)
"Magic Sam" Maghett (1937-Dec 1, 1969) had been an influential blues guitarist in Chicago since his debut in 1957. He had a little more success in the early 60s, particularly with his 1967 Delmark album West Side Soul, and he was highly regarded by other blues guitarists for his distinctive style. His current album would have been 1968's Black Magic, also on Delmark. Tragically, Maghett died of a heart attack later in 1969, just as he was developing a name for himself.
Sam Lay had been a professional blues drummer since 1957, and had played in Chicago with Little Walter. Lay had been the drummer in the initial incarnation of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 1965 and 66. He was also a singer (he sang "Got My Mojo Working" on the Butterfield debut album). In 1969, Lay had released his only solo album on Blue Thumb, Sam Lay In Bluesland. It had been produced by old pal Nick Gravenites, who was based in San Francisco.

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.
By mid-1969, the last version of The Charlatans had ground to a halt, and Dan Hicks And His Hot Licks were a full-tiime proposition. The lineup at this point was likely Hicks (guitar and lead vocals), Jon Weber (lead guitar), Sid Page (violin), Jaime Leopold (bass) and Sherry Snow (of Blackburn and Snow) and Marianne Price joining Hicks on vocals. Its not clear if there was a drummer this early, and the configuration of female vocalists changed in the early days. Columbia released their debut Original Recordings in late 1969, which included some of Hicks’s classic songs, including immortals like “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away” and ‘I Scare Myself.” Hicks and His Hot Licks had considerably more success with their early 70s Blue Thumb albums (such as Striking It Rich and Last Train To Hicksville).
July 29-30, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Tongue and Groove (Tuesday-Wednesday)
Tongue and Groove was another band linked to the infamous Charlatans. Lead singer Lynne Hughes had always been a sort of adjunct member of that band, occasionally joining them onstage. Tongue and Groove was basically a trio, with Hughes backed by ex-Charlatans Michael Ferguson (piano) and Richard Olsen (bass). They had released an album on Fontana earlier in 1969, helped out by various LA session musicians. I assume they had a full band when they played, but I don't actually know. Hughes was an interesting, bluesy singer, and she would end up in Stoneground the next year.
The SF Examiner and Berkeley Tribe have conflicting listings about whether Tongue and Groove or Frumious Bandersnatch played on different dates this week.

July 31, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Frumious Bandersnatch (Thursday)
Frumious Bandersnatch was based in Lafayette (Contra Costa County).  The group had formed in late 1967, featuring the best players of a number of Contra Costa teenage outfits.  The early lineup fell apart when most of its equipment was stolen from their Oakland rehearsal space in late 1967.  However, the group reconstituted itself in early 1968 at bassist Ross Valory’s parents' ranch in Lafayette. The new lineup featured twin lead guitarists (David Denny and Jimmy Warner), a dynamic lead singer who also played guitar (Bobby Winkelmann) and a solid rhythm section (bassist Valory and drummer Jack King). The band had played The Poppycock in 1968, and even broadcast their show live on KZSU-fm, the Stanford station (a tape survives--there's a chance that the May 31 broadcast was actually from 1969).

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)
The San Mateo Times reported that Joy of Cooking would start at 9:30 pm, and Elvin Bishop would play two sets at 10:30 and 12:30 pm.  Both bands had played the Poppycock before this.
Elvin Bishop had been a teenager in Tulsa, OK who fell in love with the blues he heard over the radio. In 1960 Bishop got a National Merit Scholarship to the University of Chicago, where educating himself about the blues took precedence over book learning. Bishop was part of the small cadre of young white musicians who learned Chicago blues from the blues masters themselves.  Bishop formed a group with Paul Butterfield that included black and white members, and it became a sensation in Chicago. Guitarist Mike Bloomfield had joined the group when they were signed to Elektra Records, and by late 1965 the Butterfield Blues Band were rolling over everything in their path.   

Bloomfield left the group in early 1967 and moved to the  Bay Area. Bishop took over the lead guitar chores for the next two Butterfield Blues Band albums (Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw and In My Own Dream). Bishop left Butterfield as well, however, and moved to the Bay Area in mid-1968.  The Butterfield Blues Band had been particularly successful and popular in the Bay Area, and Chicago had a significant expatriate community in the Bay Area.

By early 1969, Bishop had put a band together. The first Elvin Bishop Group featured Elvin on guitar and vocals, Art Stavro on bass, John Chambers on drums and fellow Chicagoan "Applejack” (Jack Walroth) on harmonica and vocals.  The group was signed to Bill Graham’s Millard Agency in April 1969 and also to Fillmore Records (distributed by Columbia), for whom the band recorded The Elvin Bishop Group, released later in 1969.  Organist Stephen Miller, from the band Linn County, played on the album and seems to have been a sort of ex-officio member. When Linn County broke up in early 1970, Miller would join the Elvin Bishop Group permanently for the next few years.

Chambers and Stavro were San Francisco musicians who had played with a variety of local groups (Chambers, for example, had played with both The We Five and The Loading Zone). For backup vocals, Bishop had a quartet of young women who were experienced gospel singers. However, since they were all in high school and their father was a preacher, they were limited as to what nights they could play and what venues they could appear at, and I do not know if The Poppycock met those standards. The Pointer Sisters went on to considerable success later.
The Joy of Cooking had formed as a duo in Berkeley called Gourmet’s Delight, featuring guitarist Terry Garthwaite and pianist Toni Brown.  Garthwaite was a veteran of the Berkeley folk and bluegrass scene, and Brown was an artist as well as a musician.  The group had expanded to include conga player Ron Wilson, bassist David Garthwaite (Terry’s brother) and drummer Fritz Kasten. They shared management with Country Joe and The Fish.

Joy of Cooking was a significant group on the Berkeley scene, because both Garthwaite and Brown were accomplished musicians. Although both were excellent singers as well, Joy of Cooking featured the same kind of lengthy jamming popular at the time, rather than short and sensitive neo-folk songs that were more typical of women singers of the era.  The group were ultimately signed to Capitol Records and released their first of three Capitol albums in 1971.

Joy Of Cooking (named after a then-popular cookbook) had built a following by playing regular weeknight gigs at a Berkeley club called Mandrake’s (at 1048 University Avenue). During much of 1969, The Poppycock and Mandrake’s shared a lot of acts.

August 2, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band/Joy of Cooking
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
In the latter 60s, progressive Palo Alto had been far more tolerant of Be-Ins and free concerts than many other cities. In 1967 and '68 there had been no less than five free concerts at El Camino Park, the main City park near downtown. The most legendary one featured the return of the Grateful Dead, on July 2, 1967. 1968 events were headlined by the Sons Of Champlin and the Steve Miller Band (with a Carlos Santana guest appearance). The Be-Ins were organized by and fundraisers for the Mid-Peninsula Free University (yet another only-in-Palo-Alto saga).
Palo Alto was fine with hippies and topless girls; what bothered the locals was noise. Attempts to hold a Be-In at El Camino Park on July 4, 1969 were thwarted by a noise ordance. Palo Alto was still Palo Alto, though. The city offered another city facility, a newly-constructed softball stadium across the freeway, next to the Bay. So the last Palo Alto Be-In was a free 12-hour event with 11 bands. No one recalls it, and it would have passed entirely into history except for me. I attempted to reconstruct what I could of this peculiar event elsewhere.  The bands were all obscure, even by my standards, but I attempt to sort them out at the link.  

August 8-9, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Sanpaku/Terry Dolan  (Friday-Saturday)

Terry Dolan was a singer/songwriter newly-arrived from the Washington, DC area. He would go on to some local recognition in the mid-70s, but at this time he was unknown.

August 9, 1969 Memorial Auditorium, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA: New York Rock and Roll Ensemble with The San Francisco Symphony (Saturday)
The New York Rock and Roll Ensemble was a rock group featuring classically trained musicians. They toured around and performed with local symphonies in each region. They were playing a series of shows with the San Francisco Symphony. Memorial Auditorium, known for generations as “MemAud,” was Stanford’s biggest indoor hall. It seated 1700 and had been built in 1937. It was rarely used for rock shows, but then this event wasn't actually a rock show. This sort of hybrid hasn't aged particularly well. The main force in the NYRRE was keyboard player Michael Kamen, who would play with David Bowie in the mid-70s, and later was very successful creating film scores.
August 12, 1969  Lytton Plaza, Palo Alto, CA: free concert and “riot”
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.

By 1969, in response to the MPFU having taken advantage of the private status of Lytton Plaza to hold concerts downtown, Lytton Bank (who owned the plaza) posted regulations that required assemblies of more than 25 people to have written approval from the bank. This requirement was widely ignored. Free concerts supposedly occurred almost every Saturday night in the Spring and Summer of '69, often organized by a group of Paly High students using the name “Free People’s Free Music Company.” The only specific rock group that I know played there was a group called Hydraulic Banana, featuring future Stoneground and Pablo Cruise pianist Cory Lerios and guitarist Phil Scoma, who later joined the final lineup of San Jose’s finest, The Chocolate Watch Band. In issue #2 of Cream Puff War, Scoma recalled the scene:
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.
Since the high school students in the bands were probably well known—Palo Alto is a small town—it may seem surprising that the police played cat and mouse with the organizers rather than cracking down more severely, as would have been typical in other plqces. Palo Alto policemen, however, were well paid compared to their peers in surrounding towns, and the there was almost no violent crime in Palo Alto. In return for their benign jobs, Palo Alto policemen were very hesitant to arrest the children of Palo Alto residents, a fact known by every high school student in Palo Alto.

August 12, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: 
Horses (Tuesday)
There was a 1968 South Bay band called Horses, featuring Dave Torbert (later in the New Riders and Kingfish) and Matthew Kelly (of Kingfish). They had released an album in 1968, on White Whale. I believe Horses had broken up by this time, however, and this was some other group.

August 15-16, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Mississippi Fred McDowell/Contemporary Jazz Quartet (Friday-Saturday)
“Missisippi” Fred McDowell was born in Rossville, TN in 1906. After a time in Memphis, he moved to Como, MS by the 1930s where he lived the rest of his life. Though mostly a farmer, he played locally most weekends for decades. McDowell was discovered by folklorist Alan Lomax, who recorded him in 1959 and released a few tracks as part of an Atlantic Records compilation. Berkeley’s Chris Strachwitz, proprietor of the Arhoolie record label, tracked McDowell down and recorded McDowell for Arhoolie.

The success of the first two Arhoolie albums (in 1964 and 1966) made Mississippi Fred McDowell a sudden hit—after 40 or so years of incubation—on the folk and blues circuit.  McDowell’s song “You Got To Move” was recorded by The Rolling Stones on Sticky Fingers, Bonnie Raitt was proud to cite Mississippi Fred McDowell as a significant influence, and recorded a number of his songs, and Hot Tuna made his “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” a staple of their electric and acoustic live sets.
I'm not sure who the Contemporary Jazz Quartet were. There were almost no paying jazz gigs for modern jazz in the Peninsula at the time, so touring jazz groups sometimes played the Poppycock anyway.

August 17, 1969 Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford U. Palo Alto, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Country Weather/Cold Blood/Old Davis/Fritz/Congress Of Wonders
After the City of Palo Alto froze the MPFU out of El Camino Park, Stanford provided a compromise that allowed them to use Frost Amphitheatre for benefit concerts. Ironically, the biggest issue was that the MPFU did not want to charge admission--a strange way to run a benefit--followed by an issue associated with what charities were eligible for Stanford student concerts, but ultimately those were resolved.

Frost Amphitheatre was a beautiful grassy bowl at the edge of campus, at Campus Drive and Galvez Street. Frost was somewhat between downtown Palo Alto and the Stanford Shopping Center. It had been built in 1937, to honor a student who had passed away. With a capacity of 6,900, it was mostly used for graduation, speeches and major events. For the most part, it was too large for the rock shows of the day (at this time, Fillmore West had a capacity of 2,500, so Frost was nearly three times that). Stanford was always uneasy about using Frost for rock concerts, but there had been a successful event in the Summer of '68, so the University was clearly willing to consider it again. The concert featured some regular acts from the Poppycock, who in turn were probably trying to build an audience for themselves. This was the usual formulation for free or benefit concerts in the Bay Area--bands didn't get paid, but they got heard, and hoped it would pay off later.

The Sons of Champlin were a Marin County band that were booked by West Pole (Quicksilver’s management team, who also booked Ace Of Cups, Freedom Highway and others). The genesis of the group was a Mt. Tamalpais High School R&B group called The Opposite Six.  The group, very successful on the ‘teen’ dance circuit, played tight rhythm and blues.  Lead singer Bill Champlin aspired to sing like James Brown or Lou Rawls rather than like Bob Dylan. When the draft decimated the group, it reformed at the College Of Marin in 1966. However, the Dean of Students objected to their name—The Master Beats—and on a whim they changed their name to The Sons of Father Champlin.

The Sons of Champlin played a kind of soulful rock with Beatles-like harmonies, and were discovered at the Fillmore and signed by local entrepreneur Frank Werber, who had produced the Kingston Trio. From late 1966 they mostly recorded and played to a teenage audiences.  While a single (“Sing Me A Rainbow”) had some play on local station KFRC-am, the expanding consciousness of the group was at odds with Werber’s pop-oriented production. In mid-1967, by mutual agreement, the group struck out on their own. The Big Beat cd Fat City is a wonderful representation of this mostly unreleased period.

By early 1968 the Sons had a horn section and were playing their unique brand of soul-and-jazz-inspired psychedelia. Unlike many other rock bands that featured ex-folkies still learning to play electric, the Sons were all superb musicians who could play many instruments.  Lead singer Champlin was a fine organist and guitarist, Terry Haggerty was one of the best lead guitarists in the Bay Area, and newly arrived (since late 67) Geoff Palmer played piano, vibes, saxophone and pretty much everything else spectacularly well. By early 1969, the group had been signed to Capitol, and their first album, a self-titled double album, came out around May of 1969. According to road manager Charlie Kelly, the double lp consisted of most of their live set (save for the odd cover).

Country Weather were a Walnut Creek (Contra Costa County) group, from just over the Berkeley Hills. They had originally been called The Virtues, but soon after lead guitarist Greg Douglass joined, they changed their name to Country Weather. Country Weather never released a record when they were together from 1967-73.  Since the group was familiar from many posters from 1968 onward, Country Weather became one of the great lost San Francisco groups of the 1960s.  Ultimately, the group reformed in the 21st century and still performs occasionally. RD Records released some of their 60s demos and live performances, alonmg with some 21st century recordings.

Greg Douglass became a successful guitarist in the Bay Area, best known for co-writing “Jungle Love” for Steve Miller, with whom he played for many years. Douglass was also a member of Hot Tuna for one brief, sensational tour in Spring 1975.

Cold Blood had evolved out of a Peninsula band called The New Invaders (and at one point, The Generation). Lead singer Lydia Pense (Woodside High School) and lead guitarist Larry Field were both from Redwood City. The New Invaders had been one of the first bands on the Peninsula to mix rock guitar with an R&B horn section. Lead singer Pense, though under 5 feet tall, could absolutely belt it out--she had won a talent contest for best singer at the 1965 Teenage Fair held in Redwood City.

Cold Blood had opened at Fillmore West for a few weekends in 1968. The first time had been August 23-25, 1968 (for Quicksilver and Spooky Tooth). Cold Blood was booked by Bill Graham's Millard Agency. The Millard Agency figured out that a band that had opened at Fillmore West had a lot of credibility out in the suburbs, and they did. While Cold Blood shared some horn players with Tower Of Power over the years, and is generally seen as an East Bay band (because of their sound), in fact they were a true Peninsula band.

Cold Blood was signed to Bill Graham's label, San Francisco Records (distributed by Atlantic). They would release their debut album in mid-1969, and got a lot of local FM play with their cover of Sam & Dave's "You Got Me Hummin'." Lydia Pense--no taller, but still sounding great--is still out there, bringing the soul.

Old Davis was a popular Redwood City band, although I think they mostly played covers. By 1970, their lead guitarist would be Peninsula teenage sensation Neal Schon, and in fact members of Santana would discover Schon when he played the Poppycock with Old Davis. Schon was not in the band at this time, however.

Fritz had originally formed at Menlo-Atherton High School (in Menlo Park) in 1966. For a high school band, they were reasonably successful. In Summer '67, however, the lead singer and guitarist were going off to college. Bassist Lindsay Buckingham invited his girlfriend Stephanie "Stevie" Nicks to join the band as lead singer. Both Buckingham and Nicks were from the well-to-do Peninsula community of Atherton. Other members were lead guitarist Brian Kane, keyboard player Javier Pacheco and drummer Bob Aguirre. Pacheco wrote most of the songs, and Buckingham and Nicks were the primary singers. Fritz played all over the Peninsula from 1968-70, until Lindsay and Stevie left the band to go to LA in 1971.
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

For some photos of The Congress of Wonders, see here (Earl Pillow [actually Wesley Hind] was the original third member) and here


August 20-21, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: SRC/Happy Now
SRC was a Detroit band. SRC was short for Scott Richard Case, a reference to lead singer Scott Richardson. SRC were regular performers at Detroit's legendary Grande Ballroom. In 1969, SRC  had released their second album on Capitol, Milestones. SRC had opened at Fillmore West on August 5-7, and seemed to be touring around the West Coast. Weeknight gigs at the Poppycock were the kind of thing that kept road bands afloat.

Happy Now is unknown to me.
August 22-23, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Southern Comfort/Old Davis (Friday-Saturday)
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)
Maximum Speed Limit was a Berkeley band, but I don't know much else about them.

August 24, 1969  Cubberley High School, Palo Alto, CA: Cubberley High Big Band with special guest Don Ellis (Sunday)
Cubberley High School had been Palo Alto's second High School, at 4100 Middlefield Road, well South of Palo Alto High. Cubberley had a well-deserved reputation for being edgier and more progressive than the notoriously self-absorbed Paly (I went to Paly--Cubberley was indeed edgier, but we are proud of our self-absorption). 
Don Ellis, a cutting edge jazz big band leader straddling the middle ground of jazz and rock, was making a guest appearance with the Cubberley band.
August 26-27, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Gold/Sunnyland Special (27 only) (Tuesday-Wednesday)
Gold was a Berkeley band tied to Country Joe. Leader Ron Cabral was an old pal of Joe's from the US Navy. Sunnyland Special is unknown to me.

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
Kaleidoscope, from Los Angeles, were one of the great bands of the 60s. They pretty much invented "World Music," at least the electric kind. Unfortunately, the band was about 20 years too early. They put out 4 albums between 1967 and '70, and despite some primitive recording techniques, they all hold up wonderfully today. The most famous member was David Lindley, the now-legendary multi-instrumentalist who supported Jackson Browne for so many years, and also had his own career leading the band El Rayo X. Lindley played "harp-guitar," (look it up), lead guitar, electric violin and some other instruments.
Lindley shared the front line with two other musical monsters, Solomon Feldthouse and Chester Crill, both of who played numerous instruments themselves. By 1969, the rhythm section was drummer Paul Lagos and bassist Stuart Brotman (who had replaced Chris Darrow, who himself would become an LA studio heavyweight). In June 1969, Kaleidoscope had released their 3rd album on Epic, Incredible Kaleidoscope, and indeed it was. It included their classic song "Seven-Ate Sweet."
Kaleidoscope was hugely popular with musicians, and too far out for most rock fans. They would do things like gather in a circle, with two band members playing electric violin, and the others electric bass and guitar, and toss the instruments around the circle, each member playing difficult music on violin, bass or guitar as needed. It was a stunt for audiences, but fellow musicians just about fell over backwards. Jimmy Page said that when the Yardbirds had played the Fillmore in 1968 (May 23-25), during their breaks between the early and late sets he walked 12 blocks over to the Avalon just to see Kaleidoscope play there.
Now, here was one of the great bands of the 60s playing weeknights in the suburb, probably to modest crowds. One dynamic of late 1969 was that rock bands could get good gigs on the weekend, and the 200-ish capacity Poppycock could not compete. So the Poppycock got some really good bands, like the Kaleidoscope, but they played on weeknights. This effect became more pronounced throughout the year. 
September 12-13, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA:  Cleveland Wrecking Company/Freedom Highway (Friday-Saturday)
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.
A google search of Cleveland Wrecking Company will net you pictures and references to playing huge dances for teenagers and young adults on late '60s and early 70s weekends. There was clearly real money to be made, and we have to presume they played their share of covers. During the week, however, and on some weekends, Cleveland Wrecking Company played rock clubs like The Matrix, and opened concerts for the Grateful Dead and others, presumably emphasizing original material. Bandleaders Jim Lowe (organ) and Norman Beale (lead guitar), had made a demo, to help book gigs, but they had no interest in making a record. They were, in effect, a Dance Band that moonlighted as an original rock band, instead of the opposite. Cleveland Wrecking Company broke up in 1972.

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 14, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA:  Ice (Sunday)
Ice was another band booked by Ron Polte’s West-Pole group, although I know little else about them. It seems clear that bookings by popular West-Pole groups like The Sons of Champlin opened the door for bookings for second tier groups like Ice.

September 17-18, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA:  Mother Bear (Wednesday-Thursday)
Mother Bear lead guitarist Roger Salloom and singer Robin Sinclair were originally from Texas. They moved to Chicago, where they recorded the 1968 album Saloom Sinclair and The Mother Bear (on Cadet Concept). Their second album, 1969’s Salloom-Sinclair, was recorded in Nashville and had more of a country rock sound. The group appears to have relocated to the Bay Area in 1969. They had played at another club in Palo Alto earlier in the year.   It's possible that Salloom and Sinclair had left the group by this time, and that Mother Bear was led by lead guitarist Tom Davis. Ultimately Roger Salloom returned to Texas and Robin Sinclair became the lead singer of Gold in about 1971.

September 19-20, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA:  AUM/Marvin Gardens (Friday-Saturday)
AUM (pronounced "ohm") were a Bill Graham-sponsored power trio who had released two albums in 1969 on Sire. Lead guitar, harmonica and vocals were provided by Wayne "The Harp" Ceballos, along with Ken Newell on bass and Larry Martin on drums. Their albums weren't bad, given the typical 60s exuberance. AUM was booked by Bill Graham's Millard Agency, so they were often booked as an opener for other Millard clients, like the Grateful Dead or Santana.

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 24-25, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Shag (Wednesday-Thursday)
Shag is unknown to me. They may have been a Fresno band.

September 26-27, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: 
Linn County/AB Skhy
It is possible, even likely, that each of these performers was headlining a different night, as both had headlined the Poppycock before.
Linn County were from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, by way of Madison, Wisconsin and Chicago. Known as The Prophets in Cedar Rapids, they had become the house band at a Chicago club called Mother Blues and changed their name to Linn County Blues Band (Cedar Rapids is in Linn County). The group was led by organistStephen Miller (the better known, guitar playing Steve Miller had long since graduated to headline status at the Fillmore and Avalon).. Stephen Miller (1942-2003) was the organ player and singer in Linn County, and later a mainstay of the original Elvin Bishop Group . They were signed by Chess Records and begun to record, but Mercury Records heard them, signed them away and moved them to San Francisco.
Linn County's debut album (Proud Flesh Soothseer) had been released in 1968. In 1969, the band would release two more albums, Fever Shot and Til The Break Of Dawn, but I don't know the exact release dates. The other band members were Fred Walk (guitar), Larry Easter (saxophones), Dino Long (bass) and Ray "Snake" McAndrew (drums). The album isn't bad, and they were probably a really good live band in a nightclub. Stephen Miller sat in with the Elvin Bishop Group when his schedule permitted, and would join them full-time when Linn County broke up in early 1970.

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.
Sometime in 1969, the band released their first album on MGM Records. It was typically bluesy, but Howard Wales unique organ playing set them apart. (a second album, without Wales, would be released in 1970). I don't actually know when Howard Wales left AB Skhy, so I don't know if he was playing at the Poppycock this weekend.

September 28, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Anonymous Artists of America (Sunday)
The Anonymous Artists of America were a peculiar band, and like many peculiar bands they had deep roots in Palo Alto. Initially, the band had formed around 1966 with some like-minded souls, mostly dropouts from Stanford University. Founder Lars Kampen came into a little inheritance, which he promptly spent on new instruments. The band, mostly, couldn't play those instruments, but their journey of self-discovery was part of their performance process. They had debuted at a Wedding Ceremony held at the Fillmore Auditorium on July 24, 1966. Some member of the Merry Pranksters crew had gotten married, and the ceremony was held after the Quicksilver concert. Later, on Halloween, the AAA had played Ken Kesey's infamous Acid Test Graduation, described in detail by Tom Wolfe in the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
Throughout 1967, the AAA had done the true hippie thing. They had a primitive synthesizer, known as a Buchla Box, inherited from the Merry Pranksters. They played gigs like The Barn in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and outdoor Be-Ins. They had played the San Jose Be-In, and the Palo Alto Be-In with the Grateful Dead (on July 2, 1967). Initially, the group had lived in a crumbling mansion in the Redwood City hills, but ultimately they moved to Potrero Hill.

By 1969, the AAA was somewhat more serious as a group. Some of the members had dropped out, including Jerry Garcia's ex-wife (Sara Ruppenthal) and her then-husband. While the band was more serious, they were hardly mainstream--the Anonymous Artists of America are still mainly remembered for the fact that bassist Trixie Merkin (surprise, not her real name) almost always played topless. In the Fall of 1969, the band made a stab at playing around like a real band (albeit with a topless bassist). In 1970, most of the band members would move to Colorado and form a commune.

September 30-October 8, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Big Mama Thornton (Tuesday-next Wednesday)
Big Mama Thornton had been a popular and important blues singer since the early 1950s. She originally recorded “Hound Dog” in 1952, years before Elvis Presley, and her 1968 version of “Ball And Chain” was a huge influence on Janis Joplin’s more famous cover version (as Janis was the first to admit). However, Thornton’s successful records did not lead to her own financial success, and despite being a fine performer she was notoriously difficult to work with. Nonetheless, she seems to have headlined for over a week at The Poppycock, so she unquestionably had a following. While Thornton was not said to be “reliable,” at her best she was apparently an exceptional singer. 
The eight-day booking was rare for the Poppycock, and I suspect Big Mama may not have played on one or two of the weeknights.

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)
The August 17 Free University benefit at Frost had been enough of a success to repeat the exercise. Despite all my best efforts, however, I haven't been able to nail down exactly who actually played. I think the practical reason was that many Palo Alto area teenagers dropped in and saw some bands, but many probably weren't there for the whole show (or were otherwise distracted).

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.
As far as I can tell, Mike Bloomfield did not show up. This wasn't uncommon. While I'm sure a few fans were disappointed, for all his name recognition, Bloomfield was a local act. Missing him wasn't like missing someone who only came through town once a year. 

Sanpaku was a sophisticated eight-piece band with a horn section. They were managed by the Bill Graham organization, and booked by the Millard Agency. The Sanpaku story is pretty interesting, but I have covered it at length elsewhere. Palo Alto teenager Michael Parrish attended the Frost show, and took a few pictures of the band (one is above). Millard had booked both Cold Blood and Sanpaku for this show, part of their strategy of building audiences for their bands out in the suburbs and colleges.

Southern Comfort had initially been a band of San Francisco studio players, but they had written some songs and started playing around. The lead singer and drummer was Bob Jones (ex-We Five), with Fred Burton on guitar, Steve Funk on keyboards and Ron Stallings on tenor sax and vocals (the bass chair was never really stable). Jones and Burton were first call players for producer Nick Gravenites, along with bassist John Kahn. They had played on records by Brewer And Shipley, Danny Cox and others. In 1970, Gravenites and John Kahn would co-produce Southern Comfort's only album for Columbia.

By 1970, future Santana guitarist Neal Schon was a member of Old Davis, but I don't think he was in the band yet.

October 6-8, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Chicago Blues Band (Monday-Wednesday)
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)
As experienced Chicago blues musicians found a second career playing for white hippies, more and more acts found it profitable to tour the rock circuit. Willie Dixon was a Chess producer and songwriter as well as a bassist and singer, composer of “Hoochie Coochie Man” and many other blues classics. Harmonica player Walter “Shakey” Horton (born 1917) and guitarist Johnny Shines (born 1915) were older musicians, part of the first wave of Southern musicians who migrated to Chicago to work (Shines had even been Robert Johnson’s traveling partner for a time). They had both been somewhat retired after the late 1950s, but the blues revival of the late 1960s brought them back into the spotlight. 

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.
Magic Theater were a hippie Berkeley performance troupe, founded by director John Lion (1944-99) who presented plays in nontraditional venues like rock clubs. The troupe moved to San Francisco in 1977, and was still putting on plays in 2008.

October 12-14, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: 
Charlie Musselwhite
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. 

A Chicago club regular, Musselwhite eventually recorded an album for Vanguard in 1967 called Stand Back, which started to receive airplay on San Francisco’s new underground FM station, KMPX-fm. Friendly with the Chicago crowd who had moved to San Francisco, his band was offered a month of work in San Francisco in mid-1967, so Musselwhite took a month’s leave from his day job and stayed for a couple of decades.

Musselwhite released his second album on Vanguard, Stone Blues, in 1968. Sometime in 1969, Vanguard released Tennessee Woman. Musselwhite was a regular on the Bay Area club scene, and had played the Fillmore and Avalon as well. In Chicago, Musselwhite was just one of many fine blues acts, but in the Bay Area he stood out.

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)
Jesse Fuller was a "one-man band" who accompanied himself on guitar and a homemade percussion contraption called a Fotodella. Fuller wrote some songs that were known around the rock circuit, like "San Francisco Bay Blues" and "Beat It On Down The Line" (recorded by the Grateful Dead).

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)
Mendelbaum, formerly the Mendelbaum Blues Band, were newly arrived from Madison, WI. They had been pretty successful in Wisconsin, but they chose to relocate to San Francisco, since their favorite bands came from there. This story was pretty common in the 60s. A lot of bands would be killing it in their home territory, but knew they had to go somewhere to get noticed. The choices were usually New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco. 
Mendelbaum did better than a lot of bands. They played regularly at the Matrix and other clubs, and they ended up playing Fillmore West a few times. Still, by 1971 they seemed to have realized they weren't going to get over the hump and broke up. In 2002, the German label Shadoks released a double cd of live and studio recordings by Mendelbaum, from the Matrix, Fillmore West and Wally Heider's Studio. 
Mendelbaum guitarist Chris Michie (1948-2003) stayed in the Bay Area, and had a fairly successful career. He scored a lot of commercials, and toured for a while with Van Morrison (he also wrote an interesting 2001 autobiography, Name Droppings). Drummer Keith Knudsen (1948-2005) stayed too, and he would join Lee Michaels in 1971, and then was in the Doobie Brothers during their prime years from 1973-82, and also the band Southern Pacific from 1985-89.

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)
John Fahey was an acoustic guitar pioneer, founder of both Takoma Records and a whole style of music.  Fahey had been a regular performer on the Berkeley folk scene for several years by this time. Fahey was a unique, transcendent acoustic guitarist with unmatchable technique. His music was difficult and not relaxing--like Fahey himself, apparently--but he was a significant influence on County Joe McDonald’s compositions, as well as the guitar playing of musicians like Leo Kottke and Robbie Basho.

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) 
Lamb was the songwriting duo of pianist/singer Barbara Mauritz (1948-2014) and guitarist Bob Swanson. Ultimately they would get a rhythm section, but at this time they probably just had a bass player. Lamb was managed by Diane Sward of the Bill Graham organization. In 1970, Lamb would release their first of four albums for Columbia, A Sign Of Change.
Eric The Magician is unknown to me. 
November 6, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Folk and Blues Workshop with Brian Day (Thursday)
The Folk and Blues Workshop was usually held every Tuesday night, but it was rarely mentioned in the newspaper listings. In this case, it seems to have been noted because for this week it was on a Thursday instead.

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.

The Tangent had not stopped presenting shows, however, They regularly had an improvisational comedy group (the Illegitimate Theater), and sometimes jazz and rock groups, although not well known ones. Their were still regular "hoots" at The Tangent, although the focus was more on original songwriting than folk music. The Folk Blues Workshop was a kind of "Best Of The Hoots" ensemble that played different clubs around the Bay Area. The best known graduate of this process was folksinger Jim Page (no, not him), now based out of Washington State.
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
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)
Chris Lunn's Folk and Blues Workshop returned to its regular Tuesday night slot.

November 12, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA:  Canterbury Fair (Wednesday)
Canterbury Fair are unfamiliar to me, although there name appears on ads for numerous venues.

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. 
Old South Bay pal David Nelson was also available, as The New Delhi River Band had broken up as well. After assorted Wednesday nights as a trio (the first trio gig was on May 14, 1969), a plan evolved to use the Grateful Dead rhythm section to create a band.

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)
Phoenix would break up in early 1970, and morph into a Santa Cruz based group called Potter’s Wheel.
November 16, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA:  John Smith (Sunday)
John Smith is unknown to me.

November 19, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA:  Errico (Wednesday)
Errico is unknown to me. I'm certain that the band name was not a reference to Sly And The Family Stone drummer Greg Errico, who was touring hard at this time. It's possible, however, that this was a band led by singing drummer Jan Errico, Greg's cousin. Jan Errico had been the lead singer for The Mojo Men (and also The Vejtables), and she had sung lead on the band's 1967 hit cover of "Sit Down I Think I Love You." Jan Errico was a talented singer and pretty good drummer, but she more or less passed on her possible opportunity for rock stardom and its rewards and pitfalls.

November 20, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA:  New Riders of The Purple Sage (Thursday)
The New Riders were booked for two Thursdays in a row. This night was the second one. There is some whiff that possibly they did not play this night.

November 21-22, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Mime Troupe Gutter Puppets/Gorilla Marching Band (Friday-Saturday)
This confusing listing from the San Francisco Examiner suggests an SF Mime Troupe booking. I suspect that "Gutter Puppets" and "Gorilla Marching Band" were names of performance pieces  by the Troupe, rather than separate ensembles.

November 23, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA:  Happy Now (Sunday)
Happy Now is unknown to me. It is possible they were a band called Happy Day (also unknown to me).

November 27, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA:  Floating Bridge
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)
Although he was from nearby San Mateo and of Swedish extraction,  Cal Tjader (1925-1982) was an important figure in Latin Jazz. He was also a successful jazz musician in general. His career is too lengthy to detail here, but among many other things he was the drummer in Dave Brubeck’s original band, and worked with Brubeck in the early 1950s. Tjader learned to play the vibraphone, and began The Cal Tjader Modern Mambo Quintet at The Blackhawk club in San Francisco in 1954. Tjader had a successful and interesting career in both jazz and Latin music (the term “Salsa” to describe lively Latin dance music comes from chanting on the title track of 1965 Tjader record called  “Soul Sauce (Guachi Guaro”).

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)
Mark Spoelstra, who had released some folk albums on Elektra in the early 1960s, was now based in Sonoma County performing in a country styled group along with guitarist Mitch Greehnill and steel guitarist Mayne Smith. All three wrote and sang, and were joined by a rhythm section. They played in a more traditional “Western” style, rather than in the Bakersfield oriented style being played by The Flying Burrito Brothers and others.

December 10-11, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Gold (Wednesday-Thursday)
December 17 (?), 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: The Grateful Dead 
The most signficant and most mysterious appearance at the Poppycock involves the time the Grateful Dead played there. Initially, as a Palo Alto native, I dismissed the vague rumors of a Dead appearance downtown as the usual hyperbole. Take it from me, in the 70s, alumni of every high school and nightclub would always swear up and down to some version of "Jerry went to my school" or "the Dead played graduation" or "the Dead showed up one night to jam." In some cases, there was a half-truth, typically that the New Riders had actually played, but there was no reason to take any assertions otherwise at face value.
Nonetheless, persistent research and a preponderance of evidence suggests that the Grateful Dead really did play the Poppycock. Without going too far down the rabbit hole, I will point out some reasons for confidence, and why I am assigning this approximate date to the event.
  • 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 26-27, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Malvina Reynolds/Lamb (Friday-Saturday)
Malvina Reynolds was a popular folksinger, famous for writing the song “Little Boxes.”

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)
Charlie Musselwhite and his band played New Year's Eve. Musselwhite was a good performer and the fans no doubt had a good time, but rock was getting bigger and bigger, and the Poppycock wasn't. The bigger acts were skipping the club on weekends, since there were more lucrative gigs elsewhere. Palo Alto wasn't very happy with a noisy scene on University Avenue, full of people not-from-Palo-Alto. Notable acts stopped playing the Poppycock by 1970, and the club was losing its identity.

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
I recognize the Peace Bread and Land Band from various listings, but I know nothing about them.

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
I also recognize the Thompson Brothers from various listings, but I know nothing about them.
March 4, 1970  The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Alistair Crowley (Wednesday)
Presumably this group or performer was named after Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), mystic, occultist and ceremonial magician. Some may believe that the so-called “Wickedest Man In The World” was able to come back to life, although I find it doubtful that someone with such dark powers would play suburban nightclubs in 1970, reincarnated or not.

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.

It remains obscure when the Poppycock actually closed. Unlike many towns in 1970, the City of Palo Alto was not bothered by rock music, long hair or even weed. That wasn't anything that couldn't be managed. The issue was that Palo Alto was a hotbed of social rest, and residents didn't like noise or trouble. The Summers of '68 and '69 had included contests between the Police and Palo Alto teenagers over concerts downtown. While the actual teenagers would go off to Princeton or Berkeley, Palo Alto homeowners were not interested in a repeat. 

In fact, I think the Poppycock was sized out of the rock market, its 250-ish capacity simply too small to entice local bands with better gigs available. But Palo Alto wasn't going to do the club any favors. So whatever actually caused the club to fade away, the city wasn't going to do anything to keep it there. I dont know the exact date the Poppycock closed.

Ironically, in the Spring of 1970 Stanford University started booking regular rock concerts at Frost Amphitheatre. Country Joe McDonald headlined on April 26, 1970, supported by Eric Burdon and War (Burdon was surprisingly good, based on the tape--trust me), Cold Blood and Tower of Power. There were a few more shows later in the year: Elvin Bishop and Boz Scaggs on July 26 and Quicksilver Messenger Service on August 9. The infamous event in Palo Alto history was Sly And The Family Stone at Frost Amphitheatre on Friday, October 8. The packed house had a mixed audience, and Sly was very late. By Palo Alto standards, it was a bad scene, and Stanford got cold feet. Versions of this would play out over the decades.
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.
On May 20, 1971, the site at 135 University Avenue reopened as a music club called In Your Ear. Nominally, it was a jazz club, much more in the comfort zone of Palo Alto. Intriguingly, the club had a  booking policy similar to the future-version of the Great American Music Hall: not just jazz, but blues, folk and thoughtful (though not rowdy) rock. It was much more the Palo Alto style. I don't know what the economic prospects of the club might ultimately have been, but a fire in the pizza oven burned the club down on New Year's Eve, 1972-73. 
Original live music disappeared from downtown Palo Alto, save for a few concerts at movie theaters and the occasional folk singer. The action moved out of downtown, briefly to a Quonset Hut "across the tracks," and then to a former supermarket in the old, rowdy part of Palo Alto on California Avenue. Different posts will address Homer's Warehouse (covered by fellow scholar CryptDev), Sophie's and Keystone Palo Alto, at 260 South California Avenue and concerts in Stanford and Palo Alto.

Palo Alto, always determined to have its own, private arc, had its own 1960s rock story. Psychedelic rock music had effectively began very near to downtown, was welcomed for a few years and then casually chased out. Not because of long hair or weed, or corrupting morals, but because it was too much trouble. Once Palo Alto is able to say "been there, done that" the town loses interest, and so it was with live 60s rock downtown.

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