Friday, February 10, 2023

Sophies, 260 South California Avenue, Palo Alto, CA: 1976 Performance List (Palo Alto VII-Keystone Palo Alto Origins)


The site of Sophie's, later Keystone Palo Alto, at 260 South California Avenue. Almost no patrons of the club had ever seen it in daylight. This photo was probably from the 1990s, when it was a dance club called Illusions. Still, it gives an idea of the modest scale of the club, inset from the street (California Avenue is off to the right about 50 yards)

The Keystone Berkeley looms large in 1970s Bay Area rock history, and even larger in Jerry Garcia history. Garcia played the Keystone Berkeley over 200 times, dwarfing the total of any other building that Garcia performed in. Numerous other important acts, both from the Bay Area and from out of town also played Keystone Berkeley during its tenure from 1972-1984. Freddie Herrera opened the Keystone Berkeley on March 1, 1972. On January 20, 1977, Herrera expanded his empire to include the Keystone Palo Alto. The Keystone Palo Alto, at 260 South California Avenue, was in a different part of Palo Alto than the downtown, where Garcia and others had gotten their start, and where rock and roll had unexpectedly thrived from 1967 through 1969

From 1975 through 1976, 260 South California had been a rock club called Sophie's. Initially, it mostly featured local acts, and it was a place for people to hang out, drink and dance, commodities rarely found in that part of Palo Alto. Throughout 1976, however, Sophie's started to book more and more rock bands with records, some from the Bay Area and some from out of town. There had always been occasional road bands at Sophie's, almost always on weeknights. The initial plan was that touring bands would only play Sophie's on Wednesday nights, with local bands on weekends. Top 40 or jazz was supposed to fill out the other nights. Whatever the plan, Sophie's bookings throughout 1975 were somewhat more flexible than that.

It turned out, however, that the South Bay needed a nightclub that was more than just a dance joint, and that California Avenue in Palo Alto was the perfect place. This post will look at Sophie's bookings for 1976, with an emphasis on the bands that had records. We will see how some club needed to fill the South Bay gap, and it will be clear why Herrera chose Sophie's to expand his Keystone empire in 1977.

A plaque at 391 San Antonio Road, in South Palo Alto, commemorates the first practicable Integrated Circuit, designed at Fairchild Semiconductor. And so Silicon Valley began.

Silicon Valley: Mid-70s

Silicon Valley, in its original 70s incarnation, was synonymous with Santa Clara County. Santa Clara County extends south from Palo Alto to the metropolis of San Jose, including various suburban towns in between them. Historically, San Jose was the center of agriculture in the South Bay. While the city was a thriving metro area, ultimately it was a center for the farming communities surrounding it. Palo Alto, a University town, generally looked down at San Jose as a city full of bumpkins. San Jose residents, in turn, had an inferiority complex towards San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. San Jose actually had a thriving music scene since the 1940s, but it was mostly about country music. There had been a lot of good rock and roll coming out of San Jose in the 60s, because there were so many teenagers, but there wasn't any established "scene," since successful bands just tried to move up to San Francisco.

By the early 1970s, however, Santa Clara County's economics had changed. Stanford, with all its property, had incubated some major "high-tech" companies, such as Fairchild-Hiller, Varian and others, and helped expand Hewlett-Packard. San Jose, in turn, was focused on manufacturing. Microchips were becoming the primary produce of Santa Clara Valley, but the joke to residents was that it was that Silicon was just another crop.

The nightclub guide from the September 9, 1976 SF Examiner

South Bay Live Music--1970s

There were a lot of live music clubs in the South Bay in the mid-70s. The El Camino Real in Palo Alto had some lounge music, but farther south, in Sunnyvale and San Jose and the suburbs, there were a lot of beer joints. Country was still popular, at places like Cowtown (at 1584 Almaden Expressway). But rock music was popular, too. If you had worked an eight hour shift in a factory, mellowing out with a tall cool one and some loud, rocking music was probably a lot of fun. A lot of bands played rock music you could dance to, some covers and some original, but all with a beat. There were plenty of places to play, and plenty of patrons.

One such place was The Bodega, at 30 South Central Avenue in Campbell. Campbell was a suburb of San Jose, but functionally part of greater San Jose. Campbell was just West of San Jose, but just south of Santa Clara (for those who know the area, Campbell is between CA17/I-880 and the San Tomas Expressway). The SF Examiner ran a periodic guide to local nightclubs, and for the Bodega, the description said

Popular rock. Friday and Saturday, $1 cover charge. There's no dance floor, but this place is so popular, they come to dance in the aisles. Thursdays, they have big-name entertainment. Young single crowd.
Local bands, probably playing mostly covers, played The Bodega on weekends and probably most other nights. But on Thursdays, the Bodega had the sort of band that played Keystone Berkeley, like Elvin Bishop Group or Sons Of Champlin. Young people with day jobs went to places like The Bodega (and The Pruneyard, The Odyssey Room and so on) to hang out, drink, dance and relax from the daily grind. There were nightclubs like The Bodega all over the South Bay, but none in Palo Alto. Silicon Valley was expanding, so there would be plenty of potential patrons.
The Santa Clara County Courthouse, a few blocks south of California Avenue, provided plenty of nighttime parking for Sophie's.

The Town of Mayfield vs Downtown Palo Alto

Ken Rominger, the manager of The Bodega decided to open a similar club in Palo Alto. Downtown Palo Alto had a surprisingly rocking late 60s, anchored by a club called The Poppycock. Ultimately, however, downtown Palo Alto frowned on the noise and hassle of a downtown nightclub. When the successor club to The Poppycock, a jazz club called In Your Ear, burned down on New Year's Eve 1972, no other club moved to University Avenue. On top of that, Silicon Valley was rising. The type of young long-hairs who were computer coders or product managers wanted to live in downtown Palo Alto, because it had Espresso coffee, bookstores and foreign movies, just like their college town. So downtown Palo Alto was starting to get upscale, and late night rock and roll didn't fit.

Even in Palo Alto, the past wasn't really past. Palo Alto had been created out of thin air by railroad magnate Leland Stanford, to accommodate Stanford University. The nearest town to the designated site of the University was Mayfield, infamous for its numerous saloons. The temperate Leland Stanford and his partner, Timothy Hopkins, offered to align the University to Mayfield, but only if they would close their saloons. Mayfield, of course, declined. Stanford and Hopkins then purchased all the land between Mayfield and Menlo Park, and invented saloon-free Palo Alto. Palo Altans always looked down on Mayfield as uncultured ruffians, and Mayfield residents looked down on Palo Altans as a bunch of snobs. Palo Alto was founded in 1875. In 1975, one hundred years later, when I graduated from Palo Alto High School, with Mayfield having been assimilated into Palo Alto 50 years earlier (in 1925), these attitudes were still embedded.

The main street for "downtown" for the original town of Mayfield was by now called California Avenue. In Mayfield days, it had been called Lincoln Avenue, but Palo Alto already had a Lincoln, so the street name was changed. While Mayfield was South of Palo Alto, by 1975 Palo Alto had spread much further South, beyond the confines of old Mayfield. Still, the "old" Palo Alto looked down on everything South of it. When Rominger chose a California Avenue location for his new nightclub, however, the civic forces of downtown Palo Alto had no objection. Mayfield had always been a bit rowdy, so a rock and roll nightclub on California Avenue seemed appropriate.

A Help Wanted ad in the October 15, 1974 Stanford Daily promotes the opening of Sophie's at 260 California in Palo Alto, "A new garden restaurant & night club"

Sophie's, 260 South California Avenue

Ken Rominger opened his new club Sophie's in early 1975. Sophie's was at 260 South California Avenue, at Birch Street, in "downtown Mayfield." The site had been a Purity Supermarket back in the 60s, but more recently it had been a German restaurant called Zinzinatti Oom Pah Pah. Zinzinatti had various kinds of music ("Oom Pah" and bluegrass, mostly).  That tells me that the building was zoned for some kind of entertainment. In California (and probably in most places), if a building is zoned as a nightclub, it's easier to transform the venue than to find a new place and get it approved.

The location was well-chosen, so well-chosen in fact that it would be a critical factor in the upgrade of Sophie's into a wing of the Keystone family. First of all, California Avenue is near the courthouse, so there was plenty of parking at night. Second of all, because of some odd geography involving the train tracks, there were no residences near the nightclub. This meant that no one would complain when noisy customers left the club at closing time. Finally, in the era before GPS, it was easy to get to Sophie's without directions. 

260 South California was two blocks from two of the main streets in Palo Alto, namely El Camino Real and Oregon Expressway. Since Oregon Expressway had its own freeway exit on CA101 (the Bayshore Freeway), the directions to Sophie's were easy from anywhere in the South Bay or the Peninsula, near or far.

(Palo Alto note: almost all advertising for Sophie's and Keystone Palo Alto says "260 California" when in fact the address was 260 South California. North California Avenue was across the train tracks, and not a commercial district. Anyone who says "260 South California" instead of "260 California" is just a Palo Altan signaling to his or her own kind. Which, admittedly, is what I'm doing)

Sophie's, January 1975
Sophie's opened on January 8, 1975. The Palo Alto Times had a feature article, with a picture of then 32-year old Ken Rominger. The plan, as described in the paper, was that Sophie's would be a restaurant and bar that was open seven nights a week, featuring jazz, folk and rock music. Wednesday night was reserved for "touring acts," and weekends were for Bay Area bands. The implication was that the other nights were for jazz, folk or Top 40 cover bands. 

The reality was slightly different. Touring bands typically played Wednesday nights, but touring schedules didn't work out that neatly. For the rest of the nights, Sophie's pretty much just booked rock groups. The weekend favored local bands who played mostly original material, but Sophie's was pretty much a rock club. Of course, it being the Bay Area and all, "local bands" included Jerry Garcia and some other higher profile bands, so Sophie's had a bit higher profile than a local dance club. Truthfully, however, Sophie's was kind of like The Bodega, a local dance and hangout, with the occasional "name" band, whether local or out-of-town.

Keystone Berkeley, at 2119 University, as it appeared in the early 80s

Bay Area Rock Nightclubs in 1976

By 1976, live rock music was a bigger business than ever, dominated in the Bay Area by Bill Graham Presents. BGP booked all the big touring rock bands in Winterland, Oakland Coliseum, Cow Palace and even the Oakland Stadium. One tier below that, however, the rock nightclub business had been booming the previous few years. As rock fans got a little older, and got jobs, they didn't always want to be in some giant barn with 5,000 or 15,000 or 55,000 other fans. A lot of them were more than willing to pay a few extra dollars, grab some drinks, and get a close up look at a band they really wanted to see. There were a number of choices around the Bay for original music, all favoring a different slice of the market.

Berkeley had many of the higher profile clubs:

San Francisco had a few:
  • The Old Waldorf (444 Battery) had just moved from the Western Addition to downtown. It had parking, seats and a nice bar, and was slowly becoming the record company "showcase" for new acts that they were promoting
  • The Boarding House (960 Bush) was much-beloved, but tiny (capacity 250-300) and hard to get to and park. Acoustic acts and comedy worked best there, since it couldn't pay well enough for a big ensemble, but it had its moments. The Tubes had played there for two weeks in Summer 1975, for example.
  • The Great American Music Hall (859 O'Farrell) had originally been a jazz club, but had expanded its footprint to include soul, folk and other kinds of music, as long as it was "Americana.” Possibly the GAMH held as many as 500, but unlike the Keystone Berkeley, they didn't pack them in like sardines.

There were a few other smaller clubs: for jazz, the Keystone Korner (750 Vallejo) in San Francisco, for rock and soul, The Orphanage (807 Montgomery), and some smaller places out of town, like  The Inn Of The Beginning (Cotati, Sonoma County) 

The Missing Link
What's notable about this list of nightclubs, however, was that there was really nowhere for rock bands to play in the South Bay. San Jose was a big city, yes, but there weren't any rock nightclubs. The Bodega had original bands on Thursday nights, as did the Odyssey Room in Campbell on Mondays, but they were both primarily Top 40 beer joints for dancing.

The bands with records that were playing clubs needed places to play. Whether they were Bay Area bands, or bands on tour, they couldn't play multiple nights in the same city. The South Bay was wide open, however, and by 1976 it was clear that those bands needed somewhere to perform. While Sophie's was initially conceived as a beer joint for dancing--and indeed, most nights it was one--it was the best choice for a booking by a rock band looking both to expand their audience and needing a payday.

David Kramer-Smyth found this "pre-launch" ad for Sophie's in the November 8, 1974 Palo Alto Times. Notice that it emphasizes food and drink as much as music, and doesn't claim to be a rock club per se

There were plenty of working stiffs, fresh off a shift from the phone company or a defense contractor manufacturing plant, who were in easy range of California Avenue. But California Avenue was in easy range of downtown Palo Alto, too. So there were plenty of young guys coding at these new companies, or selling "software," as it was called, and they listened to KSAN. They would go up to San Francisco for a big show, sure, but they didn't really want to just go dancing. They wanted to see a band with a record, something they could tell their friends about at work, maybe a chance to tell them in a few years that you saw The So-And-Sos "on their way up." 

If someone had decided to open a nightclub in 1976 in the South Bay that would be part of the Keystone Berkeley/Old Waldorf/Boarding House axis, and they had looked at a map, California Avenue would have been just about perfect. Sophie's was already there, and they had been open since 1975. Acts started to get booked there, first a few and then a lot. Tickets were available in advance from BASS, the new computerized ticket service, another mark of stability. After a while, it may have seemed inevitable. Maybe it was.

Sophie's, 260 South California Avenue, Palo Alto, CA

Performance List 1976

January 6, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Fever (Tuesday)
Sophie's was open six or seven nights a week (not always on Monday). I think there was a band every night. On weeknights, if there wasn't a "name" band, there was no cover. On weekends, there would be a $1.00 cover charge, just to keep out riff-raff (there wasn't much in the way of riff-raff in Palo Alto in those days, but still). For the most part, bands would play regularly on a given night of the week. Fever was a Palo Alto band. They definitely played some original music, but I think they also played some covers. Fever held down Tuesdays.

As a practical matter, I have only listed shows where I can find a listing in the newspaper, which is mostly the San Francisco Examiner or the Palo Alto Times. I am confident that I have just about all the listings for "name" bands, but the regular weeknight stuff is somewhat random, depending on what the Examiner or Times posted in their listing. Since bands played the same night week after week, I wouldn't assume we are missing anything interesting on the nights where I haven't found anything noted for Sophie's.

January 7, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Garcia Brothers (Wednesday)
To answer the obvious question: no. The Garcia Brothers, whoever they might have been, were booked regularly in all the South Bay beer joints, particularly The Bodega, which was also managed by Ken Rominger. At this time, the Garcia Brothers held down Wednesday night at Sophie's. 

update: thanks to David Kramer-Smyth, we know that Lucky (keyboards) and Gig Garcia (guitar) were originally from Chicago, and had been performing since 1973. The Garcia Brothers are still playing, and describe their music as "Tropical Rock," a combination of rock, reggae, Latin and soul music.

James Booker's 1976 album Junco Partner, released on Joe Boyd's Hannibal label

January 9-10, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Jerry Garcia Band (Friday-Saturday)
Jerry Garcia, a Palo Alto homeboy of sorts, had played Sophie's three times in 1975. Garcia mostly played the Keystone Berkeley, as well as some shows in San Francisco. In September of '75, Garcia had unveiled a new band name, The Jerry Garcia Band. The new lineup had featured Nicky Hopkins on piano, along with Ron Tutt on drums and the perennial John Kahn on bass. Since all Garcia ensembles were notoriously under-rehearsed, it was his general preference to open "out of town." Thus, the very first performance of the Jerry Garcia Band (proper) had been at Sophie's, so Palo Alto qualified as outside of Garcia's usual orbit. I'm not guessing--the band's remaining September dates were at tiny places in Sacramento and Marin (River City in Fairfax), prior to some high profile concerts in October.

This ad for the Jerry Garcia Band from the Palo Alto Times advertises the January 9, 1976 show. Note that no band members are listed. Also, the doors open at 6:00pm, dinner at 8, show presumably begins at 9 or later. A lot of drinks would have gotten sold, just one of the many ways in which Garcia gigs were very profitable for club owners (thanks DKS for finding this)

By January of 1976, however, the Jerry Garcia Band had just ended their experiment with the great Nicky Hopkins as pianist. Hopkins' talent was undeniable, but he was too erratic a personality, with too many apparent demons impeding his play. Garcia, bassist John Kahn and drummer Ron Tutt decided to replace Hopkins with someone who was one of the few players who was probably a better pianist than Hopkins, but even more difficult. Once again, Garcia chose Sophie's so that the new Jerry Garcia Band could open out of town.

For the new pianist, Kahn had recommended the great New Orleans legend James Booker, "The Bayou Maharajah." There's no way I can summarize the strange intersection between Booker and Garcia, as it would take an entire post of it's own. Fortunately, I have already written that post. Booker and Garcia was a great idea, and there is exactly no way it would ever succeed. The lucky Palo Altans who saw these shows saw a strange, but memorable event.

January 13, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Fever (Tuesday)

January 14, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Garcia Brothers (Wednesday)

January 19, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Bold Truth (Monday)
Bold Truth was another bar band, presumably a little lower on the heirarchy at this time since they appeared on a Monday night. Bold Truth played funk and disco music, somewhat in the style of the Sons Of Champlin. They were an East Bay group, with the key members having come from Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland (per FB, they seem to have had a full-band reunion in 2011).

January 20, 1976 Sophie's Palo Alto, CA: Kingfish
The January 20 (Tuesday) SF Examiner lists Kingfish, an established band featuring Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, and Dave Torbert, formerly of the New Riders Of The Purple Sage. This seems to supersede Fever (with a regular Tuesday night gig), although Fever very likely opened. The Sunday (January 18) Chronicle BASS tickets ad says Kingfish would play January 21-22 (Wed-Thur), but the band isn't listed on those nights in the Examiner. There is no definitive answer. It seems certain that Kingfish played Sophie's this week, possibly twice, somewhere from Tuesday to Thursday (20-22).

January 21, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Garcia Brothers (Wednesday)
I wonder if Kingfish actually played this night? It's likely that a band with a regular residency would have just been the opener if there was a better known headliner. Being announced as "The Garcia Brothers" at a Bob Weir gig...

January 28, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Chambers Brothers (Wednesday)
There is a little confusion around this date, magnified by the fact that Sophie's shows were neither advertised nor reviewed. The SF Examiner would list the Sophie's shows on their Entertainment page, but it was on a space available basis, and wasn't always accurate (since it was based on press release or a phone call). The Examiner mentions the Wednesday show by the Chambers Brothers at Sophie's in the Sunday (Jan 25) and Tuesday (Jan 27) papers. On Wednesday (Jan 28), however, Chuck Mangione is listed at Sophie's. Other papers list Chuck Mangione at Keystone Berkeley on Wednesday. All of the papers list Chambers Brothers as playing West Dakota in Berkeley as well, but that date, too, moves around.

For this narrative, the key point was that the Chambers Brothers were booked at in both Berkeley (West Dakota) and Palo Alto on consecutive days (whichever days they were). The Chambers Brothers had been on the folk circuit in the early 60s, and then hit it big with "Time Has Come Today" (y'know--"My soul's been psychedelicized!") in 1968. They still had a following, but they were past their prime.

January 30-31, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Garcia Brothers (Friday-Saturday)
Note the Garcia Brothers playing on a weekend, since there wasn't a high profile act. The cover charge was apparently $1.00. 

February 4, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Pablo Cruise
The band Pablo Cruise played Sophie's three Wednesday nights in February. Unlike other resident weeknight bands, Pablo Cruise had already released their first album on A&M Records back in August 1975. Their second album, Lifeline, was due in April, so these gigs were probably a chance for the band to work on performing their new material.

In fact, the key member of Pablo Cruise was from Palo Alto. Pianist Cory Lerios  had gone to Palo Alto High School. Lerios had been in a band that had played the free concerts at Lytton Plaza back in '68 and '69, along with drummer Steve Price, and then both Lerios and Price had ended up in Stoneground. They left Stoneground in 1973 to form Pablo Cruise with guitarist David Jenkins and bassist Bud Cockrell (ex-It's A Beautiful Day). It was the third Pablo Cruise album, A Place In The Sun, released in 1977, that would really make the band.

February 11, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Pablo Cruise (Wednesday)

February 12-14, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Snail (Thursday-Saturday)
Snail was a four-piece, twin guitar band from Santa Cruz, with Bob O'Neill and Ken Kraft leading the way on guitars and vocals. The band had formed as a trio (with O'Neill) back in 1968, so they were well-established in Santa Cruz. Snail held down a regular Wednesday night gig at The Bodega. They would go on to release two pretty good albums, the first one released in 1978 on Cream Records.

February 15, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Jerry Garcia Band (Sunday)
The Jerry Garcia Band returned on a Sunday night. James Booker had been replaced by Keith and Donna Godchaux, far more stable band-mates than either Nicky Hopkins or James Booker. Garcia particularly liked including Donna's vocals as part of his ensemble. Garcia would mostly have female backing vocalists in the Jerry Garcia Band for the balance of his career. The Godchauxs had debuted at a few shows in Keystone Berkeley in January and February.

February 16, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Snail (Monday)
Snail returned for another night. Santa Cruz County was less than an hour from California Avenue, so this was a local gig for Snail.

February 18, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Pablo Cruise (Wednesday)

Stanford Daily ad for Sophie's, February 27 1976

February 27-28, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Snail

March 3, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Terry Garthwaite (Wednesday)
Guitarist/songwriter Terry Garthwaite had been one of the leaders of Berkeley's Joy Of Cooking, along with pianist/singer Toni Brown. Garthwaite was solo now, although she sometimes played with Toni Brown, too.

I am assuming that all the regulars--Fever, Bold Truth, Garcia Brothers, and so on--were playing every night, but I don't have listings for them.

March 5-6, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Freddie King (Friday-Saturday)
The blues weren't as cool now, and mostly played to white audiences, but Palo Alto was a more fruitful place to fill a weeknight booking than clubs in African American neighborhoods that had stopped booking the blues a long time ago. Freddie King had been signed by Leon Russell's Shelter Records label in 1971, and had gotten some well-deserved attention from white hippie rock fans. Great as Freddie was, however, he never got over the top. By this time, Freddie had released two albums on RSO, probably on the word of Eric Clapton. Sadly, Freddie King would die of a heart attack in December, 1976, just 34 years old.

March 10, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: James Cotton Blues Band (Wednesday)
James Cotton was a great performer, and had been playing for white audiences at the Fillmore since November 1966.  James Cotton and Lightning Hopkins were booked at Keystone Berkeley on Friday and Saturday (March 12-13), so a booking on a weeknight helped pay the bills. This booking was a hint that Freddie Herrera at the Keystone Berkeley was working with Ken Rominger at Sophie's.

Cotton played a lot of soul along with the blues, so anybody who wanted to dance would have been well served by Cotton and his band.

March 11, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Lightnin' Hopkins (Thursday)
Lightning Hopkins, too, had been playing for white hippie audiences since 1965 at the Matrix (he had headlined then over a new band called "Jefferson Airplane"). With a weekend gig upcoming, a Thursday night booking filled out his week. I wouldn't be surprised if a regular bar band came on afterwards for dancing.

March 12-13, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Taj Mahal (Friday-Saturday)
Taj Mahal had been part of the Cambridge/Greenwich Village folk scene in the early 60s, but he had moved to Los Angeles by 1965. He had started the groundbreaking Rising Sons band, with Ry Cooder. By 1968, Taj had been signed as a solo artist by Columbia, and his debut featured some hot slide guitar by both Cooder and Jesse Ed Davis. Taj Mahal had introduced a lot of hippies to blues music, some of it quite imaginatively presented. Still, Taj was more of an aggregator than an original. He always played a good show, but he was outshone by other performers as the 70s wore on. Still, he had enough of a following to headline a weekend in the suburbs.

March 16, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Together (Tuesday)
Together is unknown to me. There had been a 60s Palo Alto band called Together, but it featured Cory Lerios and Steve Price, now of Pablo Cruise, so it's unlikely it was the same group.

March 18-20, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Fever (Thursday-Saturday)
Fever had moved up from  Tuesday nights, back in January, to Thursdays, and in this case the whole weekend.

March 23, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Together (Tuesday)

March 24, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Kenny Rankin (Wednesday)
Kenny Rankin was a jazz-influenced folk singer. He sometimes appeared with a jazzy combo, but often appeared solo as well. He had released his debut album Mind Dusters on Mercury in 1967. His most recent album was Inside, his fifth album.

March 25, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Fever (Thursday)

March 26-27, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Gary Smith Band (Friday-Saturday)
The Gary Smith Band were a regular act at The Bodega. They also played at various clubs around the Bay Area. In the past they had been billed as The Gary Smith Blues Band. Smith played harmonica and sang, fronting a Paul Butterfield-styled group with twin guitars. In 1975, guitarist Dave Gonzalez had left to form the Jackson Street Band, and Smith had added saxophonist Ken Baker. I don't know precisely who was in the Smith band at this time (the '75 lineup also had Mike Mondello on guitar, Russell Ferrante-piano, Johnny Moon-drum, Steve Gomes-bass).

March 30, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Together (Tuesday) 

April 9-10, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Sons Of Champlin (Friday-Saturday)
Marin County's Sons Of Champlin were in their eleventh year together. The founding pair of Bill Champlin (lead vocals and organ) and Terry Haggerty (lead guitar) had been there at the beginning, and Geoff Palmer (keyboards, vibes) had joined in 1967. The other members (Jim Preston on drums, David Schallock on bass, with Michael Andreas, Mark Isham and Phil Wood on horns) were more recent, but they had all logged a lot of time together. The Sons always got great reviews and had a loyal fan base, but they couldn't get over a certain level of popularity.

The Sons had released a number of fine albums in the 60s and 70s, but record companies had lost interest. So the Sons took the step of releasing their own album in 1974, a step many other local bands were taking, and it revitalized interest in the band, and got them signed to Ariola Records. Later in 1976, they would release their first album on Ariola, Loving Is Why. The Sons were as sophisticated as ever, but they were emphasizing some funkier R&B sounds underneath the flying solos of Haggerty, Palmer and the horn section. They had played Keystone Berkeley numerous times. They had also played a lot of shows in the Palo Alto area, so they had a local following.

April 13, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Bold Truth (Tuesday)

April 14, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Gary Smith Band (Wednesday)

April 15-17, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Fever (Thursday-Saturday)

April 20, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Bold Truth (Tuesday)

April 21, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Gary Smith Band (Wednesday)

April 22, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Fever (Thursday)

April 23-24, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Snail (Friday-Saturday)

April 27, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA; Bold Truth (Tuesday)

April 28, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Gary Smith Band (Wednesday)
I do not know why there were no listings in the SF Examiner for Sophie's for April, May and June. Without going too deep, I think the main reason has to do with the Examiner listings themselves. I also think that there weren't any notable acts, or at least not many, at Sophie's during this period. David Kramer-Smyth found these April to June listings in the Fremont Argus.

April 29, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Fever (Thursday)

April 30-May 1, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Gary Smith Band (Friday-Saturday)

May 25, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Kenny Rankin (Wednesday) 

June 4-5, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Kingfish Quartet (Friday-Saturday)
Kingfish played some gigs around the Bay Area as a quartet, without Weir. They were anticipating his return to the Grateful Dead. 

June 11-12, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Skycreek (Friday-Saturday)

June 17, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Gary Smith Band (Thursday)

June 18-19, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Fever (Friday-Saturday)

June 25-26, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Gary Smith Band (Friday-Saturday)

July 8, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Nimbus (Thursday)
Nimbus was a band from the Hayward/Fremont area. They went back to the late 1960s, and I saw them in 1978. They weren't bad, but they never made a record as far as I know.

July 15, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Gary Smith Band (Thursday)

July 16-17, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Jackson Street Band (Friday-Saturday)
The Jackson Street Band were also regulars at The Bodega and similar clubs. They were lead by guitarist Dave Gonzalez, formerly of the Gary Smith Band.

July 22, 1976 Sophie's Palo Alto, CA: Gary Smith Band (Thursday)

July 23-24, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Skycreek (Friday-Saturday)
Skycreek are unknown to me. Based on their bookings, appeared to be a country rock band.

July 30-31, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Albert King (Friday-Saturday)
Albert King had been a crucial figure in the Blues Revival of the 1960s, all the more so since Cream had recorded his song "Born Under A Bad Sign." Many, perhaps most, rock guitar fans would have acknowledged Albert as a blues legend, but he was no longer playing arenas. Now, he probably made good money playing a weekend at Sophie's, but it wasn't as high profile as headlining a weekend at The Fillmore. Although Albert King was doing what he always did, his live performances were always strong, featuring his great guitar playing and soulful vocals.

Albert King was playing two shows at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on Wednesday, July 28. Since there was no competing South Bay club, however, a booking in Palo Alto made sense. At this time, Albert King had left Stax Records (which in fact had gone bankrupt), and had released some albums with an independent label Utopia.

August 2-3, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Roger McGuinn's Thunderbird
Roger McGuinn was a major rock music figure since his 60s success with The Byrds. He was widely respected by other musicians, most notably Bob Dylan, and popular with rock critics. He had gone solo after the Byrds had ground to a halt in 1973, but his records hadn't really sold. In May, 1976 McGuinn had released his fourth solo album, Cardiff Rose. The album was produced by Mick Ronson, of David Bowie fame, and featured Ronson and other members of Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue (David Mansfield, Rob Stoner and Howie Wyeth). Befitting McGuinn's historic stature, Cardiff Rose featured unreleased songs by Dylan ("Up To Me") and Joni Mitchell ("Dreamland"). 

McGuinn was setting out on a national tour to support Cardiff Rose, and he had a new road band. Palo Alto was still sufficiently out-of-the-way that he could have some warmup gigs on weeknights. The band featured the great Jesse Ed Davis on lead guitar, and Lost Planet Airmen Lance Dickerson on drums and Bruce Barlow on bass, (along with one James Q Smith, probably guitarist James Quill Smith). The tour probably wasn't long, since the Airmen would have had to return for any Commander Cody gigs.

August August 6-7, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Chris Hillman/Skycreek
Chris Hillman, another ex-Byrd, just like McGuinn, had also started his "solo" career. Hillman had been an original member of The Byrds (1965-68), then a founder of The Flying Burrito Brothers (1968-72), then Stephen Stills Manassas (1972-74) and the Souther Hillman Furay Band (1975-76). His first solo album was Slippin' Away, for Asylum Records in 1976. Hillman, too, was using Sophie's in Palo Alto as an out-of-town gig to get his band in order. 

August 10, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Etta James (Tuesday)
Etta James (1938-2012) was a rhythm and blues legend. She had a complex, up and down career. In 1976, she was still on Chess Records, and her current album was Etta Is Bettah Then Evah!

August 11-13, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Lily Tomlin/Cris Williamson (Wednesday-Friday)
Lily Tomlin had become nationally famous  in the 60s on the NBC show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. Tomlin had joined the hit show in 1969 (which had debuted in 1968), essentially replacing Judy Carne. Tomlin immediately became famous with characters like "Ernestine," the telephone operator ("We're the phone company, and we don't care"). It is difficult to overstate how ubiquitous National TV performers were at the time--almost everybody would have recognized Tomlin's comic characters.

From that point of view, it was remarkable that Tomlin would play an unheralded club in suburban Palo Alto. Tomlin had recently headlined a show at the 7500-capacity Concord Pavilion (on July 28). To  compare her to the only other big star to play Sophie's, Lily Tomlin was better known than Jerry Garcia at this point (funnier, too).  Presumably Tomlin wanted to work on new material, or do something different (just like Jerry). Once Tomlin had completed her headline gig at Concord, the show at Sophie's could then be officially announced (her contract would have prevented any official notification before that, a standard clause).

August 14, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Asleep At The Wheel
Asleep At The Wheel had been founded by guitarist and singer Ray Benson in the Washington, DC area around 1970. He put together a fairly large ensemble that played Western Swing music with a long-haired hippie sensibility. By 1971, they were based in Paw Paw, WV. In 1972 they opened for Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, perhaps the only other band remotely similar to them, and the Airmen encouraged them to move to Oakland, which they did. Asleep at The Wheel played almost every night in the Bay Area from 1972-74, at the Keystone Berkeley, Homer's Warehouse, the Long Branch and numerous other joints. In 1974, Benson and Asleep At The Wheel moved to Austin, TX, where they have thrived to this very day.

Nonetheless, when they reappeared in the Bay Area on their endless touring, I'm confident they could still pack them in.  Their current album would have been Wheelin' and Dealin', released on Capitol Records in 1976. It would have been the band's second album on Capitol, but their fourth overall (with one on UA and another on Epic). The Wheel typically toured with three fiddles and a horn section, so they could really light up a club.

The Palo Alto Times (Aug 17) enthusiastically wrote up Sasha And Yuri's upcoming show at Sophie's on August 19, 1976. The Soviet Union was still mysterious to Americans.

August 19, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Sasha And Yuri (Thursday)
In 1976, The Iron Curtain was a real thing, and life behind it was mysterious. Sasha Lerman and Yuri Valov were Jewish immigrants from Moscow (24 and 26, respectively) who had arrived in the Bay Area a few months earlier. In the Soviet Union, they had played guitars and sang in an underground rock and roll band. The pair teamed up with two Latvians and an American guitarist to form Sasha And Yuri. The Palo Alto Times enthusiastically promoted their Peninsula debut.

I saw Sasha and Yuri in Sproul Plaza right around this time. They were competent and enjoyable, but not special. They did sing "Boney Maronie" with an enthusiasm that no contemporary American could have matched. 

August 21, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Kenny Rankin (Saturday)

Sophie's was really the only club option in the South Bay, and its offerings were eclectic (Palo Alto Times ad August 8, 1976)

September 1, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: The Ramones (Wednesday)
Palo Alto prides itself on being cutting edge, but no matter what anyone tells you, it wasn't a punk rock town. There weren't punks, there weren't punk rock concerts, it just wasn't Palo Alto. The few Palo Altans intrigued by punk (such as the future co-editor of The Oxford Handbook Of Punk Rock) had to export themselves temporarily or permanently to San Francisco or Berkeley. So I'm confident that this concert was thinly attended, although those few who probably went (looking at you, Clay) are probably still dining out on it. 

The Ramones debut album had been released on Sire Records in April 1976. More people had read about the Ramones than had actually heard them. Although they seem like a cartoon today--rightly so--their leather jackets were considered faintly menacing.

September 7, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Michael Dinner (Tuesday)
The Palo Alto Times described Michael Dinner as a "singer-guitarist." Apparently the gig was part of a national tour.  

September 10-11, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Grinderswitch (Friday-Saturday)
Grinderswitch was a bluesy ensemble from Macon, GA, founded by former Allman Brothers Band roadie Joe Dan Petty. Not surprisingly, they were signed to Capricorn Records, and would have just released their third album Pullin' Together. They weren't a bad band, but they never managed to break out of the second tier. Besides Petty on bass and Dru Lombar and Larry Howard on guitars, this configuration included ex-Elvin Bishop Group organist Stephen Miller.

I don't have any evidence of any other performers at Sophie's for the balance of August or September. I don't read anything into that one way or another--it may have to do with the SF Examiner--but in general I have reason to take it that no major or interesting acts played there. I think the regular run of house bands played each night.

The SF Examiner's guide to nightclubs summarizes Sophie's on September 9, 1976. Compare it to the description of The Bodega (above), in suburban San Jose, run by the same management
The SF Examiner periodically ran a guide to nightclubs. Above I ran the description of The Bodega in suburban San Jose (actually the town of Campbell), run by the same management. At The Bodega, a young, single crowd are drinking beer and dancing in the aisles to local bands. Sophie's, in Palo Alto, has a different description
Sophie's, 260 California. Tuesday through Saturday. Rock, jazz, country music, a place which is always experimenting. Since their schedule changes, check before going. Also has big-name entertainment, such as Lily Tomlin. On Fridays and Saturdays, $1 cover charge. For name entertainment, cover charge varies, advance tickets necessary. Singles and couples, all ages.
Bud E Love (contemporary of Bobby Bitman), aka Bob Vickers

October 8-9, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Dick Bright
Dick Bright was--and, to my knowledge, remains--a true San Francisco character. Bright was a talented, well-trained classical violinist. He played many sessions in Bay Area studios as a violinist-for-hire. He was also an hilarious guy with an acute knowledge of current popular music. His main live gig was in a band called Little Roger and The Goosebumps. The Goosebumps were a poppy rock group with an arch sense of humor. Their showstopper was a version of the theme song to the TV show "Gilligan's Island," done to the tune of "Stairway To Heaven." I saw the Goosebumps open at Winterland (for Thin Lizzy and Graham Parker), and when they did "Stairway To Gilligan's Island" the house went batshit crazy (I can't link it, because the song was blocked for copyright reasons--but you gotta trust me).

Based on the chronology, however, I suspect that this booking was a test run of a unique aggregation called Dick Bright and The Highballs. Around 1978-79, Dick Bright and The Highballs mainly--perhaps exclusively--played The Red Chimney Lounge in the Stonestown Shopping Mall in South San Francisco. It being 1978, and all, middle-aged velour coated gentlemen and their dates enthusiastically supported the Highballs as they worked their way through the AM pop hits of the day. A few knowing people in the corner (Dick Bright's girlfriend, her best friend--my girlfriend--and some other knuckleheads) would chuckle away at the over-the-top schtick. When they played a Pablo Cruise song, Dick would brag about how he knew Pablo (Bright indeed knew the band, but of course there was no "Pablo Cruise"). Such explicit irony could not be pulled off today.

Besides Bright, the front man for Dick Bright and The Highballs was "Bud E Luv." the Nom Du Lounge of Bob Vickers. Vickers was actually an excellent singer in a variety of styles, but he somehow embodied the schmaltz of lounge singing with a fondness that made his performance both a parody and a homage at the same time. Bud E Luv would front the band, while Bright would act as a sort of foil and a narrator. 

[update 16 February '23: I was partially correct. DKS found a review in the October 14 Stanford Daily. Little Roger and The Goosebumps played an opening set, and the balance of the show was a parody of The Tonight Show with Dick Bright as Johnny Carson's "Guest Host." A version of this show had been put on at The Boarding House. Some of the Tonight Show schtick would also turn up in the Dick Bright and The Highballs lounge show. There was good reason to think that the Boarding House show was an influence on Martin Mull's Fernwood 2Night TV show).

October 13-14, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Jean-Luc Ponty
Jean-Luc Ponty was a French, classically trained violinist who loved jazz, so he switched to electric violin and embarked on a unique career starting about 1967. In 1969, he had come to California to record and perform with the George Duke Trio, and Frank Zappa heard Ponty (not to mention George Duke). Ponty recorded and later performed with Zappa and The Mothers of Invention off and on from 1969-73.

In 1973, Ponty had joined the premier "fusion" band, John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. Mahavishnu was very high profile, and rightly so, and Ponty became well-known in a genre were musical excellence was highly regarded. Ponty recorded for Atlantic, and had a high profile as a band leader as well. Aurora, on Atlantic, had been his third album, released in February '76. For this tour, although Ponty's new album Imaginary Voyage would not be released until November, I assume he was touring with that lineup. Ponty had a great band--Daryl Steurmer (later in Genesis) on lead guitar, Zappa alumni Tom Fowler on bass, Alan Zavod (future Zappa bandmember) on keyboards and Mark Craney on drums.

October 15-16, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Country Joe McDonald (Friday-Saturday)
Country Joe McDonald, of course, had been an anchor of the San Francisco Fillmore scene in the 60s. In conjunction with his partner, Barry "The Fish" Melton, Country Joe had led Berkeley's Country Joe and The Fish band to psychedelic success, culminating in the famous "Fish Cheer" at Woodstock.  By 1975, however, like many Fillmore West stalwarts, McDonald had gone solo and had a new, radio-friendly career. McDonald's 1975 Fantasy album Paradise With An Ocean View had some songs that got huge play on FM radio. All Bay Area rock fans recognized "Save The Whales," "Breakfast For Two" or "Oh Jamaica."

However, McDonald's 1976 follow-up, Love Is A Fire, wasn't nearly so successful. Still, McDonald was a good choice to headline a weekend in Palo Alto. There were old hippies who wanted to hear "Section 43" again, and newer fans who liked his hit album. With no other clubs in the South Bay, Sophie's was about the only choice.

October 20, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Ace
Presumably, on nights where I can find no listings, the usual local bands were taking their turns at Sophie's, and the locals would show up to drink beer and dance. Still, there were a few more bookings in October. On this Wednesday, the headliner was the English band Ace, although by this time the group had moved to Los Angeles

People of a certain age have Ace's hit single "How Long" ("How long/Has this been going on") drilled into their skull. The hit, from the band's debut album, was monstrously huge. Ace was made up of guys who had been in other bands, so they were pros, but "How Long" was simply too big to ever top. Ace, sharing management with Yes, toured America and played big arenas back in '75, but they never really recovered.

Their second album Time For Another had followed up their debut later in 1975. Ace would release their third album No Strings in in early 1977 (all three albums had been on Anchor Records). The author (and lead singer) of "How Long" was keyboard player  Paul Carrack, who would go on to other successes with Squeeze and Mike And The Mechanics. "How Long," which appeared to be a song about a girlfriend's infidelity, was actually inspired by Ace bass player Tex Comer secretly rehearsing with another group. The line about "your friends of a fancy persuasion" was a reference to that other band's management. The other group (if you've read this far, you probably care) was Sutherland Brothers And Quiver. Tex Comer, in fact, never left Ace and would still have been in the band at this time.

The October 29 Fremont Argus included a review of Neil Young and Crazy Horse at The Bodega in Campbell on the previous Saturday (Oct 23 '76). Ken Rominger owned both The Bodega and Sophie's

October 23, 1976 The Bodega, Campbell, CA: Neil Young and Crazy Horse (Saturday)
While strictly speaking this show is out of scope, its relevant to the tale in a way. As noted, Ken Rominger's other club was The Bodega in suburban Campbell, about 20 miles South of Sophie's. It was basically a beer joint, although "name" bands played there on some weeknights. On this Saturday night, however, nearby resident Neil Young invited himself to the Bodega to play three electric sets, apparently to ensure that his voice was ready for upcoming concerts. The show was enthusiastically reviewed by Fremont Argus critics Kathi Staska and George Mangum (writing as "KG"). 

Neil is Neil, however, so it's hard to always discern his motives. Nonetheless, there were very few South Bay club choices to try out Crazy Horse. Neil played three tiny Mountain joints (including the infamous Boots N Saddle in La Honda), then The Bodega and then the Catalyst in Santa Cruz (then at 833 Pacific Ave).

October 28-30, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Maria Muldaur
A sign of Freddie Herrera's hand in booking can be seen by Maria Muldaur playing a weekend in October and weekdays in November at Sophie's. Muldaur had succeeded with a huge hit with "Midnight At The Oasis" in 1974, which she would never top. She was a great performer, though, and still very popular. With respect to Freddie Herrera and the Keystone,  however, Maria Muldaur's musical director was her boyfriend John Kahn. Kahn didn't always play in her band, but he helped choose the musicians.

Kahn's main gig, of course, was acting as Straw Boss for the Jerry Garcia Band, where he was also musical director. Jerry had the final word, of course, but it was Kahn who found his musicians. Even though Maria Muldaur had a new record on Warner Brothers (Sweet Harmony), there was a direct link  between Muldaur and Garcia in John Kahn, and his links to Herrera went back to 1969 and the Keystone Korner.

November 8, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Jerry Garcia Band (Monday)
In November 1976, we see a rare"display ad" for Sophie's. I don't actually know where the ad was run, but the fact that it exists was a sign that the club was expanding beyond just being a watering hole for local drinkers who wanted to dance.  I presume all the regular local bands were playing each night, but this ad was to entice regular rock fans to take a look at who was playing Sophie's. Keep in mind, the Jerry Garcia Band would pack the house on a Monday night, so what would have been a dark night was now hugely profitable--such was the Garcia effect on Bay Area nightclubs.

In 2016, the Jerry Garcia Estate released the double-cd Garcia Live: Volume Seven: November 8, 1976 Sophie's Palo Alto. The album was a Betty Cantor-Jackson recording of the entire show. 

November 10, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Spirit/Gasolin' (Wednesday)
The Stanford Daily reviewed this show, although they weren't precise about the date. Spirit was now a trio, with guitarist Randy California and drummer Ed Cassidy. Gasolin' was a Danish band on their first (and I believe only) American tour. They were popular in Denmark, and kind of sounded like Mott The Hoople, but in a more pop vein.

November 12-13, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Bo Diddley (Friday-Saturday)
Bo Diddley was on tour, and he played a weekend at Sophie's For drinking and dancing, nothing is better than the Bo Diddley beat, so why not get it from the source?

November 16, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Jerry Garcia Band (Tuesday)
The Garcia Band returned on a Tuesday, another quiet night turning into a big moneymaker.

November 17-18, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Maria Muldaur (Wednesday-Thursday)
Maria Muldaur wouldn't have drawn like Garcia, but she would draw far more paying customers than a local dance band. It looks like Herrera had his big renovation coming up, and he was getting a little cash in the till before he closed the club for a while.

November 19-20, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Snail (Friday-Saturday)
Snail were probably the regular weekend band, although they seem to have been popular enough to mention in the ad. Maybe there was just an effort to ensure that everyone understood the club was open each weekend.

November 26-27, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Soul Syndicate (Friday-Saturday)
The ad says that Soul Syndicate were "from Kingston, Jamaica." I don't know why it didn't say "Reggae Music." As near as I can tell, the Soul Syndicate were sort of like a Booker T and The MGs for Jamaican reggae sessions. The band members backed numerous well known reggae singers, even if they weren't well known themselves.

There are no other listings in the Examiner for Sophie's until early 1977, when the club re-opened as The Keystone in Palo Alto. I know that Freddie Herrera and some partners undertook a $70,000 renovation to Sophie's--that's $70K in 1976 money, mind you--but I don't know for sure if Sophie's was closed for any of that time. 

December 31, 1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Courtial (Friday)
Courtial featured ex-Vince Guaraldi guitarist Bill Courtial, along with ex-Azteca singer Erroll Knowles. The Times described them as a blend of jazz, blues and funk. They had released the album It's About Time on Pipeline Records.

January 7-8, 1977 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Snail
January 12-13, 1977 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: John Stewart (Wed-Thur)
January 14-15, 1977 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA: Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (Fri-Sat)
Nonetheless, in January of 1977 there was an ad in the Stanford Daily. All of these acts were local (Stewart lived in Marin County). It seems to have been a sort of "soft opening," waiting to replace the sign until the official opening weekend.
The first Keystone Palo Alto calendar, from January 1977

The Keystone, newly-remodeled, opened on Thursday, January 20, 1977, with the local band Sass. At the time, its formal name was "The Keystone," and it did not take on the "Keystone Palo Alto" name until July 1977. John Lee Hooker followed on Friday, with the Jerry Garcia Band officially christening the club on Sunday, January 23. A subsequent post will cover the fascinating and surprisingly turbulent first six months of the Keystone Palo Alto in 1977.

The official transfer deed from the January 11, 1977 Palo Alto Times. The official transfer took place on January 21, 1977. The Keystone Leasing business address was 2119 University Avenue, location of the Keystone Berkeley. Signatory Robert Corona became Freddie Herrera's partner in the Palo Alto club (and later The Stone).


By September 2016, 260 South California Avenue was a condo complex

Palo Alto Rock History Landscape and Navigation

60s and 70s Rock Nightclubs Navigation and Tracker


Friday, December 16, 2022

Keystone Berkeley, 2119 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA: Performance List January-April 1975 (Keystone '75 I)

Keystone Berkeley, 2119 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA: Performance List January-April 1975
The Keystone Berkeley had opened on March 1, 1972, taking over the site of a club called The New Monk. With an experienced owner in Freddie Herrera, and a legal capacity of 476--probably exceeded regularly--Keystone Berkeley almost immediately became the second-best rock gig in the Bay Area. The premier booking, of course, for any band, was playing concerts for Bill Graham Presents. BGP booked all the big acts in the biggest halls, but that included every major touring act. Winterland shows still usually booked three band, but for the most parts there were fewer opening acts. A local band, even one with some albums under its belt, wasn't going to play often enough for Graham to stay afloat. Popular local bands could play the Keystone every month or two, and that would pay the rent.

Although the top local acts played the Keystone Berkeley, changes in the rock industry meant that there were fewer touring acts booked there by 1975. For one thing, thanks to the "Oil Shock," the economic downturn had reduced the number of band touring. For another, the record industry was throwing a lot of support to "singer/songwriters," and they were more appropriate for the Boarding House than the noisy Keystone. The Keystone was for fans who wanted to hang out and dance. Disco music, however, was indirectly cutting into that as well. It's not that Keystone Berkeley regulars liked disco music--they mostly probably didn't. But for couples who wanted to go out and dance--or singles who wanted to find someone to dance with--a disco was another alternative. So in 1975, the Keystone Berkeley was doing well, but the bookings weren't as diverse as when it had opened. Still, the Bay Area had a thriving rock scene, and plenty of local bands had established careers and put on great live shows.

Also, although Keystone Berkeley was in the center of the city, it was on the Northern edge of downtown, and their were plenty of potential patrons who lived within walking distance of the club. While the bigger acts were going to pull fans from all over the East Bay, and probably Marin or even parts of San Francisco, on weeknights the Keystone was just a local joint. When a band was playing Monday night for no cover, a lot of nearby residents probably dropped in for a beer. Thus the Keystone could advertise for bigger acts on weekends, but still have a modest, profitable night with local bands, a rare combination for a semi-suburban nightclub.

I have reviewed all the Keystone Berkeley performances for 1972, the first year the club was open. I also zoomed in for a snapshot of the January, 1974 bookings. This post will review the performers at the Keystone Berkeley from January through April, 1975.


Keystone Berkeley Performance List January-April 1975
December 29, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Kingfish with Bob Weir and Dave Torbert (Sunday)
December 30, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Van Morrison with Soundhole/Elvin Bishop/John Lee Hooker (Monday)
December 31, 1974 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Lucky Strike (Sunday)
Keystone Berkeley had ended 1974 with some premier acts that any nightclub in the country would have been happy to book, and one "almost." 

The Grateful Dead had "retired," sort of, after some Winterland shows in October 1974. A restless Bob Weir had visited a gig by his old friend Matt Kelly and his band Kingfish. Weir had asked to sit in, and it went so well that he joined the band. Also on board was ex-New Rider Dave Torbert. Lead guitarist Robbie Hoddinott and drummer Chris Herold filled out the band. Kelly played harmonica and guitar, and Torbert and Weir shared most of the lead vocals. Kingfish played blues and old rock and roll, with a few originals thrown in. They were a good rocking band, all the more so for restless Deadheads with no one else to see. The Sunday night Keystone show was probably Weir's 5th show with Kingfish, and likely the first one where he was advertised.

A fellow blogger attended these shows, and gives a detailed account of Kingfish's performance. At this time, Kingfish's repertoire was not set, and they played a few numbers that did not stay in their subsequent rotation. Also, although James And The Mercedes were booked, they did not open the show.

On Monday night, December 30, Van Morrison was the headliner. Morrison lived in Fairfax, and liked to play local clubs. Soundhole was his Marin-based backing band. Three members of Soundhole would go on to Huey Lewis and The News (bassist Mario Cipollina, guitarist Johnny Colla and drummer Bill Gibson).

John Lee Hooker, by now a resident of Redwood City, was a Keystone Berkeley regular. My guess is that Hooker just sat in with Van's group, rather than hiring his own band.

Elvin Bishop, another Keystone regular, and friends to both headliners, was also on the bill. It's entirely possible that Bishop just sat in with Hooker and Van, rather than bringing his own group.

An early Keystone Berkeley ad listed Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders as "tentative" for New Year's Eve. In the end, Garcia chose not to play. Local band Lucky Strike filled in.

Cold Blood's 1974 album on Reprise was Lydia, banking on the potential star power of lead singer Lydia Pense

January 3-4, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Cold Blood/Caledonia Express
Cold Blood is generally associated with the East Bay funk sound of bands like Tower Of Power. The East Bay association was appropriate musically, but in fact Cold Blood had its roots in the South Bay. Lead singer Lydia Pense, from San Mateo, and bassist Rod Ellicott had been in a Peninsula Band in 1966 called the New Invaders, who then evolved into The Generation. The Generation were known as the first Bay Area band to merge a horn section with a rock band. The Generation turned into Cold Blood, and they were signed  to Bill Graham's San Francisco label (distributed by Atlantic).  Cold Blood had released two albums on San Francisco, their self-titled debut (1969) and Sisyphus (1970), which spawned a modest local hit with a remake of "You Got Me Hummin'." Lydia Pense was a powerful singer, and Cold Blood was a tight band, so the group was very popular in night clubs and at local dances. In retrospect, however, they sound as if they were trying a bit too hard, instead of just playing the music they liked. 

After Graham's labels folded, Cold Blood ended up on Reprise. In 1974, they had released Lydia, their fifth album. The album was produced by Steve Cropper, and various session heavies had played on it, along with members of the band. The great Oakland drummer Gaylord Birch was on the album, but I think he had left by this time (to become the Pointer Sisters bandleader). By calling the album Lydia, Reprise was clearly hoping to draw attention to Pense, the most recognizable member of the band. Still, while Cold Blood was good, but they didn't really stand out. Their James Brown-styled music was somewhat retro by 1975. That in itself wasn't bad, but it meant that they had to carve out their own sound, and Cold Blood never managed to rise to that level, despite being a popular club band.

Caledonia Express is unknown to me.

January 5-6 , 1975 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Lucky Strike/Peak (Sunday-Monday) (Peak--Monday only)
Lucky Strike were an Alameda County Band that played original music, described as "danceable rock." I think they were from Hayward or Fremont. They were a popular club band and regularly played weeknights at Keystone Berkeley. I don't believe they ever released a record.

Peak is unknown to me. Keystone Berkeley used Monday nights to try out new bands. Locals would drop by for a beer and check them out, as there was usually no cover.

January 9, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Snooky Flowers and Headhunters (Thursday)
Snooky Flowers was baritone sax player who had been a regular on the rock scene for some years. He had played Woodstock as a member of Janis Joplin's Kozmic Blues Band, among other things. He had sat in with many local groups, and appeared on many albums. He was also a successful professional photographer, a profession he ultimately took up full time.

Headhunters was the name of Flowers' band, but I don't know who was in it. Flowers recorded a demo album at Mickey Hart's Novato studio around this time, and the tape circulates.

January 10-11, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee/Dave Alexander (Friday-Saturday)
Sonny Terry (1911-1986) and Brownie McGhee (1915-1996) achieved some fame in the 50's and 60s' as traditional folk blues artists, but in fact both had already had extensive performing careers in a variety of musical genres prior to that. By the 1970s, they were generally associated with folk-style acoustic blues, and that appealed to mainly white audiences. There were few paying gigs anymore in white folk clubs, but since Keystone owner Freddie Herrera regularly booked blues acts, Keystone fans got the benefit of that.

Dave Alexander was a mostly self-taught blues pianist. He had moved to Oakland in 1957, when he was in the US Navy. He had released two albums on Berkeley's Arhoolie Records. His most recent had been The Dirt On The Ground, from 1973. Alexander almost always played solo, a rarity for blues pianists in the 1970s. 

January 13, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Lucky Strike/Coal Train (Monday)
Coal Train is unknown to me.

January 16, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Earth Quake/Grayson Street (Thursday)
The Long Branch, at 2504 San Pablo Avenue (at Dwight Way) was just 2 miles South and West of Keystone Berkeley. While the two clubs were of course in competition with each other, local bands had a symbiotic relationship with both. Keystone Berkeley was larger and nearer to campus, so it had bigger and more prestigious bookings. It also drew from a larger area, at least when there were higher profile bookings. 

Still, the Long Branch had a capacity of up to 350, so it too could sell a lot of beer. The Long Branch draw from a younger, narrower base that lived nearer to the club. The Long Branch's audience was more oriented towards repeat business, however, so the same bands could play the Long Branch over and over, often every week. Bands that had established themselves at the Long Branch tried to move up to the Keystone Berkeley, and expand their audience. When they did this, however, their own Long Branch crowds remained loyal, so a successful band could play both clubs.

Earth Quake had formed at Berkeley High School in the 60s as The Purple Earthquake. In 1972, they would release their second album on A&M Records, Why Don't You Try Me. A&M would drop Earth Quake by the end of that year. Earth Quake had refused to give up, however. By 1974, the band had built up a huge following at the Long Branch, regularly headlining Friday night shows. With their own fan base, they had built a crowd at the Keystone Berkeley as well. 

Earth Quake played in a somewhat anachronistic "British Invasion" style, but it would end up coming back into vogue when the "New Wave" surfaced. Earth Quake had original material, but they also covered obscure hits from the 60s (like "Fridays On My Mind," by the Australian band The Easybeats), so they distinguished themselves from other bands. Earth Quake would resuscitate their career in 1975 by releasing records on their own label, Beserkely Records, presaging the punk/DIY movement by some years.  

Grayson Street were a sort of roots-rock band from the East Bay. They were co-led by harmonica player Rick Kellogg and tenor saxophonist Terry Hanck, both of whom sang. Grayson Street never recorded, but many of its members ended up working with Elvin Bishop, Coke Escovedo, Tower Of Power, Santana and others.  Lenny Pickett had been in Grayson Street, prior to answering the call from Tower. Grayson Street had played regularly at the Keystone and the Long Branch for over 3 years. 

January 17-18, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Grayson Street (Friday-Saturday)
While headlining both nights of the weekend was a good deal for Grayson Street, it was a sign that the Keystone Berkeley didn't really have any better bookings. Grayson Street was a local band, with a following, and surely deserved their chance. But they had played Thursday night with Earth Quake, and here on the weekend they had both nights. 

January 19-20, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Eddie Money/Third Rail (Sunday-Monday)
Back when he was still Eddie Mahoney, a recently relocated police trainee from New York City,  Eddie Money had been the lead singer of a band called The Rockets. The Rockets had been regulars at the Long Branch since early 1972. By 1974, they were headlining the club regularly, and they changed their name to Eddie Money and The Rockets, then the Eddie Money Band, and then just Eddie Money. At this time, Eddie Money was still just an East Bay act, but he was starting to get at least some attention from local writers.

Third Rail was a local band. I don't really know anything about them, but I actually saw them around this period, opening a show at Winterland. If I recall correctly, they were a hard rocking power trio.

January 21-22, 1975 Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders/Paul Pena
Jerry Garcia had always been essential to the economic well-being of the Keystone Berkeley, but that was more true than ever in 1975. All told, Jerry Garcia played Keystone Berkeley 243 times (that we can confirm) over the course of 12 years, a number that dwarfs any other venue that Garcia played. I would guess that Garcia also played the Keystone Berkeley more than any other musician, although I can't prove that.

Garcia's importance to Keystone Berkeley went well beyond the fact that he was a huge draw, which he certainly was. For one thing, Garcia often played weeknights, packing the house on nights when the club would either be dark or just have a few casual patrons with no cover charge. For another, the nature of Garcia's fans was that many of them arrived as soon as the doors opened around 8:00pm, to stake out the few seats or just to hang out. Lots and lots of extra beer was sold, even though they knew perfectly well that Garcia would not come on until 10:00.

Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders had opened the Keystone Berkeley on March 1, 1972. They had even recorded a double album there, Live At Keystone (credited to Garcia/Saunders/Kahn/Vitt). It had been recorded in July 1973, and released on Fantasy Records in January 1974. The album gave the Keystone Berkeley a regional and national status not usually afforded to a beer joint near a college campus, yet another way in which Garcia was essential to the club's well-being.

In October 1974, the Grateful Dead had gone on hiatus and stopped touring. Up until that time, the Garcia-Saunders aggregation had not really been a band, as it didn't have a name, nor even a fixed membership. Bassist John Kahn was almost always present, but even he skipped a gig on occasion. The drum chair was fluid, and other players had come and gone, sometimes for a few months or just one show. At the end of 1974, however, Garcia made his side-trip into a formal band. Legion Of Mary, as they were called, was Garcia, Saunders, Kahn, drummer Ron Tutt and tenor saxophonist Martin Fierro. Garcia was insistent that the band be billed that way, and that the Grateful Dead were never mentioned in any advertisements.

Drummer Ron Tutt, however, not only drummed for Garcia but also for one Elvis Presley (think about this for a moment). If Tutt had a gig with Elvis, Garcia often still wanted to play, so the band would use a different drummer. If they used a different drummer, the group was booked as Garcia/Saunders, not Legion Of Mary. This wasn't widely understood at the time, but it was important to Garcia, and always honored by Freddie Herrera at the Keystone.

In the case of these Keystone dates, we know that both Ron Tutt and John Kahn were not present. The guest bassist was Tony Saunders, Merl's son, and a regular fill-in. On drums was the great Gaylord Birch, one of Oakland's best drummers. Birch was probably the band leader for the Pointer Sisters at this time. Later in his career, Birch would drum with Garcia in the band Reconstruction (around 1979). 

Paul Pena's Capitol album, released in 1972

Paul Pena,
who was mostly blind due to a childhood condition, had led a blues band in Philadelphia that had opened for the Grateful Dead at the Electric Factory in February 1969. Pena became friendly with Garcia. He would move to the Bay Area in 1971. Almost entirely blind by that time, Pena called the Dead office, who helped him get work.

Pena recorded two albums, both with a who's who of local SF players. His self-titled debut album had come out on Capitol in 1972. The followup, New Train, was recorded for Bearsville in 1973, but (like many Bearsville albums) was tied up in litigation for decades and not released until 2000. However, Steve Miller had heard a copy of New Train, and in 1977 he made a big hit of Pena's song "Jet Airliner," providing Pena with a solid income.   Pena ended up living near Keystone Berkeley, so he played the club regularly

January 23, 1975  Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Frank Biner and Nite Shift (Thursday)
Frank Biner was a popular local soul singer. Over the course of the 70s, Tower Of Power recorded a few of his songs, and Biner put out a few albums as a bandleader in the 90s, but back in '75 Biner was just another guy working the clubs with his band Nite Shift. Biner was originally from Chicago, where he had recorded a few singles, but he had moved to the East Bay in the late 60s. On occasion, some members of Tower Of Power would sit in with The Nite Shift.

January 24, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Kingfish/Paul Pena (Friday)
January 25, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Kingfish/James And The Mercedes
Kingfish returned for a weekend of performances. Saturday night opener James And The Mercedes was led by guitarist James Ackroyd. Ackroyd had been in the Canadian group James And The Good Brothers, who had met the Dead on their infamous Canadian train tour. The band had relocated to San Francisco for a while, and recorded an album for Columbia in 1971. The Good Brothers ultimately returned to Canada and some success, while Ackroyd chose to remain in the Bay Area. One of the backing singers in his band was Frankie Weir, Bob's then-wife.

January 26, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Caledonia Express (Sunday)

January 27, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Crackin'/Amber
Crackin' was an R&B band from San Mateo. They released an album on Polydor in 1975. They also played my High School graduation dance later in the year.

Amber is unknown to me.

January 28-29, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Eddie Palmieri/Pete & Coke Escovedo and Azteca (Tuesday-Wednesday)
Eddie Palmieri was a Latin bandleader from New York, who seemed to be based in the Bay Area at this time. In the late 50s, Latin dance music had been very popular, and leaders like Palmieri added some jazz to make the music sophisticated, while still danceable. In the early 70s, however, Latin music was at a low ebb in the Bay Area. Palmieri seems to have been getting some weeknight gigs at Keystone Berkeley simply because there were few other options. Palmieri's current album was The Sun Of Latin Music (on Coco Records).

Pete and Coke Escovedo had been established musicians on the San Francisco Latin Jazz scene since the 1960s, when that music was popular in North Beach and Broadway. In the 1970s, the Escovedos had worked with Carlos Santana, and had also formed Azteca. Azteca was a remarkable group, playing progressive jazz with a Latin twist, with contemporary lyrics layered above it. Azteca had up to 15 members, including 3 or 4 vocalists and a horn section. They had put out two albums on Columbia (in 1971 and '73). The records got incredible reviews, but there was no way they could break through to sell enough records to break even. At this point, I think any band the Escovedos fronted was called Azteca--which wasn't invalid--but it's unlikely to have been the All-Star ensemble of prior years.

January 30, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Delta Wires (Thursday)
Delta Wires were a hard-working band from Oakland. They had formed in 1970 at the California College of Arts and Crafts (on Broadway Terrace), and had been gigging ever since. They had a bluesy sound with a 3-piece horn section. They played East Bay clubs for many years, and developed a local following, but never graduated beyond the East Bay. 

January 31, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Booker T/Howard Wales
While Booker T Jones was nationally famous from leading Booker T and The MGs, he in fact lived in the Bay Area at this time. He had left Stax Records and the MGs, and had been living in the North Bay with his wife, Priscilla Coolidge (Rita's sister). Booker T and Priscilla had put out two albums on A&M in 1972 and '73. In 1974, Booker T made a solo album for Epic under his own name. Evergreen had been recorded at the Record Plant in Sausalito, but with heavyweight session men from LA and Memphis (Michael Utley, David T. Walker, Jim Keltner, Bobbye Hall, Bob Glaub). Booker T's band featured Bay Area players: Fred Burton on guitar (ex-Southern Comfort), Doug Kilmer on bass and Pete Melios on drums.

Howard Wales was a veteran organ player. He had played with Lonnie Mack and others in the 60s, and then moved out to San Francisco in 1968. He had joined a group called AB Skhy, and then left them. Wales had been Jerry Garcia's initial jamming partner at the Matrix, and Garcia had been inspired by Wales sophisticated, free-form approach to improvisation. Garcia cited Wales as a big influence on his playing. Wales and Garcia had recorded the Hooteroll? album for Douglas Records (a Columbia imprint), released in 1971. Wales, however, did not like the spotlight, so he had stopped playing with Garcia.

Periodically, however, Wales would resurface in the local clubs. This was one of those periods. His band featured guitarist Jim Vincent, a Chicago transplant, who had played with Wales earlier. Wales' group didn't play songs, but rather would just jam.

February 1-2, 1975 Sons Of Champlin/Howard Wales (Saturday-Sunday)
The Sons Of Champlin had been together in some form or other since 1966. They had released three albums on Capitol, then broken up, kind of, changed their name (to Yogi Phlegm), changed it back, released an album in 1973 and then got dropped by Columbia. The band kept on plugging, however. By 1975, still a popular club act, the Sons decided to record and release their own album. This radical strategy would soon be adopted by the rest of the record industry later in the 1970s. In the meantime, steady gigs at places like Keystone Berkeley had kept the Sons afloat.

The core of the Sons had been the same since 1971: namesake Bill Champlin on lead vocals, organ and guitar, Terry Haggerty on lead guitar, Geoff Palmer on keyboards and vibes, David Schallock on bass and Jim Preston on drums. They had since added a horn section, Mark Isham on trumpet and Phil Woods on saxophone. It was this lineup that would record their independent album a few months later.

Frankie Beverly and Raw Soul, ca mid-70s

February 3, 1975 Frankie Beverly's Raw Soul
Frankie Beverly was from Philadelphia, and he had recorded some singles in the 60s as part of The Butlers. In 1970, he had gotten signed by ace producer Kenny Gamble, and had formed a group called Raw Soul. Raw Soul recorded a few singles, but wasn't right for the smooth sound created by Gamble, however. Somehow, Raw Soul had gotten support from Marvin Gaye, and they ended up relocating to San Francisco.  Raw Soul toured around with Gaye, who suggested they change their name to Maze. Maze would release their first album in 1977, and the band remains a huge success, still touring in the present day. 

Frankie Beverly and his band playing a "no-cover" Monday night is one of those bookings that makes looking back at old Keystone billings historic. 

February 6-7, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: California (Thursday-Friday)
California were refugees from the Monterey Peninsula College jazz band. They were a six-piece band with horns, who played in the style of Chicago (with the appropriate name). California was led by songwriter and vocalist Brad Stewart, who also played lead guitar. California played Keystone Berkeley regularly. I saw California a few months later, when they played my high school graduation dance (along with Crackin').

February 8, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Butch Whacks and The Glass Packs (Saturday)
Butch Whacks and His Glass Packs were a 15-piece rock and roll band dedicated to performing old style rock and roll hits from the 50s and early 60s. The band got their start as students at St. Mary’s College in Moraga playing frat parties, and eventually morphed into a very popular bay area club and theater act.

February 9, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Cold Blood/Eddie Money (Sunday)

February 10, 1975
Keystone Berkeley, CA: Elvin Bishop Group/Lucky Strike (Monday) Benefit
This show was advertised as a benefit, while being coy about the name of the headliner. Local writers effectively indicated that it was Elvin Bishop. Presumably, Bishop had an advertised gig that would prevent him from playing a publicly identified show at Keystone Berkeley.

Elvin Bishop had moved to the Bay Area in late 1968. When he formed the Elvin Bishop Group in 1969, Freddie Herrera had booked him regularly at the Keystone Korner. When Herrera had opened the Keystone Berkeley, Bishop was booked there regularly as well. Bishop and Herrera were loyal to each other, although that relationship would ultimately fray.

Bishop had been signed by Bill Graham and released two albums on Fillmore, the BGP Columbia imprint. When that label folded, Epic had picked Bishop up, then dropped him after another album. Bishop had reformulated his group and gotten signed by Capricorn Records, the Allman Brothers label. His May 1974 album, Let It Flow, was had certainly been his most successful nationally to date.

February 11, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Suntar (Tuesday)
Suntar is unknown to me.

February 12-13, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Bo Diddley/John Lee Hooker (Wednesday-Thursday)
Bo Diddley and John Lee Hooker had gotten booked at the Fillmores and college campuses when white college kids were re-discovering the blues and the roots of rock and roll. Tastes had moved on, however. Freddie Herrera still regularly booked those acts, however, keeping the blues alive and providing an opportunity for them to be heard.

February 14-15, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Kingfish/Grayson Street (Friday-Saturday)

February 17, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Eli/Mosaic Band (Monday)
I actually saw Eli once, opening a show at Winterland around this time. I don't remember them, however. The Mosaic Band is unknown to me.

February 18-19, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Eddie Palmieri  (Tuesday-Wednesday)

February 21, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Earth Quake/Eddie Money (Friday)

February 22-23, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Frank Biner & The Night Shift (Saturday-Sunday)

February 24, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Soundhole (Monday)
Soundhole was a Marin County band that had formed around 1973. In 1974, Soundhole had hired on as Van Morrison's backing band, so they had a certain status around the Bay Area, even if they had never made an album. Soundhole played rock with some jazz and soul edges, appropriately enough in the style of mid-70s Van Morrison. Soundhole never did make an album (you can find a Nov 26 '74 Winterland tape if you poke around Wolfgang's Vault), but most of the band members went on to bigger things. Guitarist Brian Marnell was in SVT, with Jack Casady, organist John Farey was in Zero, and saxophonist Johnny Colla, bassist Mario Cipollina and drummer Bill Gibson would go on to Huey Lewis and The News (tenor saxophonist Brian Hogan was the other member). Soundhole were good, if not well-known. University and Shattuck was just an hour from San Rafael, so it would have been worth the trip for the band to cross the Richmond bridge.

February 25, 1975
Keystone Berkeley, CA: Good Old Boys/Soundhole "Country Rock Dance" (Tuesday)
Tuesday night was more intriguing, and for those curious folks who showed up, it was the kind of event that gave the Keystone its cachet. The Good Old Boys were a group of bluegrass legends, who had just made a record produced by Jerry Garcia. No one knew that yet, since the record would not be released until a year later (Pistol Packin' Mama, by the Good Old Boys). The album had featured mandolinist Frank Wakefield, fiddler Chubby Wise and Don Reno on banjo. All were certifiable bluegrass legends. New Riders guitarist David Nelson was also on board, as well as bassist Pat Campbell. They had recorded the album at the end of January. 

Wise and Reno had departed the Bay Area, but Wakefield was still around. Jerry Garcia, who had not played on the album sessions, worked up his banjo chops, and the Good Old Boys had played on Friday and Saturday at a nightclub in Santa Cruz. Fellow blogger CryptDev was an eyewitness. The band for the Santa Cruz shows was Wakefield (mandolin), Garcia (banjo), Nelson (guitar), Campbell (bass) and Brantley Kearns (fiddle). Conveniently, the long-dormant tapes were released in 2019. 

It seems, however, that Garcia wasn't going to practice banjo just for a weekend. The Good Old Boys played a stealth gig at Keystone Berkeley. On an otherwise empty Tuesday night (see the advance calendar above), the Tuesday afternoon SF Examiner listed "Country Rock Dance with Good Old Boys and Soundhole." The Good Old Boys would have been thoroughly unknown, and Garcia was sensitive about his name being used when he wasn't the frontman. The underground telegraph would have gotten to work, however, and saying "Country Rock Dance" was a tip to those who might have heard a rumor. Old And In The Way, Garcia's bluegrass ensemble, had played the Keystone Berkeley many times, as had the Great American String Band, so Garcia playing banjo at Keystone would have been well understood.

Whether Soundhole actually stayed over and played another night isn't clear. I have discussed the peculiar history of this event in even greater detail elsewhere. Still, after Garcia played, word must have been around--hey, Jerry played at Keystone Tuesday night!.

February 26, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: (Man with Deke Leonard)/Earth Quake (Wednesday)
Man, a great Welsh band that was popular on Bay Area FM radio, was advertised for February. Guitarist Deke Leonard's solo albums were getting airplay, as well, so when he rejoined Man his name had a little heft in the Bay Area. Man was on tour, however (they played Toronto, ON on February 25), so I'm sure they didn't play. Earth Quake probably played.

Man would return in March, when their tour reached San Francisco (see March 23-24 below). 

February 27, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Alice Stuart and Snake (Thursday)
Alice Stuart was a fine blues guitarist and singer. Although she was from Seattle, she had been playing in the Bay Area since about 1964. Stuart had performed and recorded in a variety of solo and group settings. Since 1971, she had been leading an elecrtric trio or quartet named Snake, and they had released the album Believing on Fantasy Records in 1972. Stuart was still grinding it out in the clubs, and generally well-regarded, but Snake was treading water.

February 28, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Kingfish (Friday)
Kingfish returned. With Garcia headlining on Saturday and Sunday, it was a full Deadhead weekend.

March 1-2, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Legion Of Mary/Paul Pena (Saturday-Sunday)
Legion Of Mary was Jerry Garcia's "official" group, with John Kahn on bass and Ron Tutt on drums. 

March 5-6, 1975
Keystone Berkeley, CA: Tower Of Power/Frank Biner and The Night Shift (Wednesday-Thursday)
Although not on the calendar, the Monday (March 3) Examiner listed Tower Of Power with Frank Biner on Wednesday and Thursday. Tower Of Power was an established National band by this time, and they had played Keystone Berkeley many times, and had largely graduated. In this case, however, they had a National tour coming up and they had a new lead singer. Tower had released their Urban Renewal album on Warners in January, with Lenny Williams on vocals. But Williams had departed, and Hubert Tubbs was replacing him, so Tower chose to break him at the friendly Keystone prior to the tour.

SF Chronicle rock critic Joel Selvin described the event in his March 16 column. Tower killed it, of course, making it easy for Tubbs to get a good reception. Even though the Keystone Berkeley mostly only had Bay Area bands, they regularly got appearances by major Bay Area stars, and this was just another example.

March 7-9, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Bobby Blue Bland/Lucky Strike (Friday-Sunday)
Bobby "Blue" Bland was a legendary blues singer, and it was thanks to the Keystone Berkeley that he still had a good gig in the Bay Area. African-American clubs had moved well past the blues, and, generally speaking, white hippies preferred their blues from guitar players. Bland was hugely influential, but only other musicians really knew that. His current album was probably Dreamer, which had been released the previous year on ABC-Dunhill. Bland had been backed by ace LA session players (like Wilton Felder, Michael O'Martian and Larry Carlton), with legendary pop producer Steve Barri.

March 11-12, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Etta James/Frank Biner and The Nite Shift (Tuesday-Wednesday)
Etta James (1938-2012, born Jamezetta Hawkins) was a legendary talent, but her career had been beset by numerous health issues. At this time, her most recent album would have been Come A Little Closer, which had been released in 1974 on Chess Records.  She had recorded the album in conjunction with a trip to drug rehab, and it was a tribute to her talent that everyone got it done. It was produced by Gabe Mekler (from Steppenwolf), and had included contributions from the likes of Lowell George, Chuck Rainey and Larry Nash. I suspect that Frank Biner and The Nite Shift were James' backing band, but I don't actually know that.

March 13-14, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Delta Wires (Thursday-Friday)

March 15, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Legion Of Mary/Delta Wires (Saturday)
The March 15 Examiner listing described Legion Of Mary as a "Jazz Rock Blues Dance." This was quite accurate--everyone would be up and dancing, but the music was pretty funky, with a lot of solos. If anyone thought it was just Garcia only playing Dylan songs (he would play them, certainly), the Keystone didn't want to mislead anyone. 

I believe that Delta Wires were booked for the whole weekend, just in case Garcia canceled. Since he didn't, Delta Wires became the opening act. Even though Keystone Berkeley advertised advance tickets through a computerized service (BASS), those tickets were not available for Garcia shows. This allowed Garcia to add or cancel shows at will (and also explains why no Keystone Berkeley ticket stubs exist for Garcia shows there).

March 16, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Hoodoo Rhythm Devils (Sunday)
The Hoodoo Rhythm Devils were a funky rock band from San Francisco. They were apparently great live, and much beloved by their fans, but they never got over the top. In the early 70s, they were led by singer Joe Crane and lead guitarist John Rewind. The band released an album for Capitol in 1971, and two for Blue Thumb in '72 and '73, and then broke up by 1974. 

By 1975, the band had gotten back together. They would record an album in 1975 that did not get released, before releasing two more albums on Fantasy in '76 and '78, and then breaking up again. I'm not precisely certain who was in the band at this time, other than Joe Crane.

In 1976, Beserkely Records would release Greg Kihn's debut album. Kihn was mostly backed by label-mates Earth Quake. The cover showed Kihn in front of his then-employer, Rather Ripped Records in Berkeley (Northside, on Euclid and Hearst)

March 17, 1975
Keystone Berkeley, CA: Rubinoos/Greg Kihn (Monday)
Even if the Keystone Berkeley was a little lower on the rock pecking order than they had been a few years earlier, there was a lot going on in Berkeley, and Keystone managed to be in the middle of it.

The group Earth Quake were a popular local band, and they had put out two albums on A&M before they were dropped. They passed on any other offers. Following the direction of their manager, Matthew "King" Kaufman, they released the occasional single on his DIY label "Beserkeley." Singles played no real part in the hip record industry at the time, and they were cult items that acted as promos, and maybe keepsakes for fans of the band. The singles were probably only available through the band or at a few hip record stores in Berkeley.

Still, something was brewing. Berkeley has a knack for being ahead of the curve. Not everyone liked long guitar solos that aspired to jazz, not everyone liked "progressive rock" that aspired to pseudo-classical music, not everyone like elaborately orchestrated pop that required a huge stereo system. There was room for catchy pop music, with a rocking beat yet simply recorded, maybe with some nice harmonies and a catchy hook. But record companies weren't signing those kinds of bands. 

Later in 1975, Kaufman would release an album of some tracks recorded by Beserkely acts, including some tracks that hadn't even been released as singles. The album, comically, was called Beserkeley Chartbusters. It featured a couple of tracks from a few different artists, and the members of Earth Quake were the backing band for most of the tracks. The artists were Earth Quake (4 tracks), Johnathan Richman (4 tracks), Greg Kihn (2 tracks) and The Rubinoos (1 track). Album tracks got played on local FM radio, and the artists got heard. Beserkeley would go on to release albums, and Richman ("Roadrunner" ['76 UK] and "Egyptian Reggae" ['77 UK]) and Kihn ("Breakup Song"[in '81] and "Jeopardy" ['83]) had big hits. 

But all that was in the future. For this Monday night, I don't believe Beserkeley Chartbusters had even been released yet, and Kihn and the Rubinoos were unknown. The Rubinoos, with lead singer Jon Rubin and guitarist Tommy Dunbar (brother of Earth Quake guitarist Robbie Dunbar), played intentionally retro 60s-styled pop. Greg Kihn had moved from Baltimore in 1974, and besides playing in coffee houses, had found a job at Rather Ripped Records, Berkeley's coolest record store (Hearst at Euclid, on Northside near the Sather Gate and Cloyne Court).  Although Kihn's music was sincere and simple, he knew his music history (all Rather Ripped employees had PhD's in Record Collecting), so he would have been conscious of the pop styles he was evoking.

I don't know if Kihn had a band. Most likely, Kihn played some songs on his own, then the Rubinoos would have played, and I'll bet Kihn joined them for a few numbers (if anyone actually knows, please mention it in the Comments). In 1975 and '76, Beserkeley Records devotion to independently released albums of short, catchy pop songs seemed like a fey Berkeley pose.  A year later, with rockin' punk and New Wave bands releasing their own primitively recorded records on their own labels, Beserkely Records seemed positively prescient.

March 18-19, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Azteca/Sapo (Tuesday-Wednesday)
Azteca had been a groundbreaking group, fusing a Latin orchestra with jazz, rock and multiple vocalists. Azteca had released two albums on Columbia, their debut album (1972) and Pyramids Of The Moon (1973). Although the albums and the band received universally positive notices, neither record sold well. Since Azteca toured with around 15 members, they weren't going to make money on the road without a succesful record. The band subsquently disintegrated. I believe that for a period of time, Pete & Coke Escovedo called their live band Azteca, and not unreasonably, but it wasn't the main track of the band.

Sapo is unknown to me, but based on various listings, they seem to have been a Latin-styled jazz or rock ensemble. 

March 20-21, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Soundhole (Thursday-Friday)
The Keystone advertisement (above) has Kingfish and Soundhole for these dates, but the March 20 SF Examiner just listed Soundhole. Kingfish seems to have gone to Los Angeles to play a weekend at the Pitschel Players Cabaret (at 8162 Melrose Avenue). Freddie Herrera had a unique relationship with the Grateful Dead organization, and gigs were often tentatively booked, advertised, canceled or added at the last minute. Since there were no advance tickets (that I am aware of), and the Dead members often booked weeknights, it was a comfortable arrangement. Kingfish would return to Keystone Berkeley in May, so clearly the cancellation was well within the realm of the expected.

March 22, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Bo Diddley and Lady Bo (Saturday)

March 23-24, 1975
Keystone Berkeley, CA: Man/Earth Quake (Sunday-Monday)
In the early 70s, even though large-market FM stations were often owned by corporate chains, individual djs had a lot of freedom to choose records. Welshman Deke Leonard had been a guitarist in the group Man from 1968-71, but he had left the group to release his first solo album, Iceberg in 1972. Leonard had an insistent, engaging voice, catchy songs, and driving guitars in the style of Quicksilver Messenger Service. Iceberg started getting airplay on KSJO-fm in San Jose, and then KSAN in San Francisco. His second album, Kamikaze (both on UA) also got played. Leonard rejoined Man in1974 for their next album, Rhinos, Winos and Lunatics, and by that time, Man had their own section in Bay Area record stores.

By 1975, Man had released a new album Slow Motion. They got regular play on Bay Area FM rock stations. It was appropriate, since they were proudly carrying on the bluesy psychedelic tradition of the Fillmore, but with a Welsh twist. They had played Berkeley once before (opening for Hawkwind in 1974), but this time through they had a lot more attention. Man was booked for Friday and Saturday night at Winterland  (March 21-22), second on the bill to Peter Frampton. Frampton was another act who was popular in San Francisco but few other places, which was why his Frampton Comes Alive album would be recorded at Winterland a few months later (in May '75).

Not surprisingly, Man did great at Winterland. I'm not speculating--I saw the Friday night show, and Man's reception by the crowd was enthusiastic. They had plenty of partisans in the crowd, there to see them (although I should add that Peter Frampton was great, too). So it wasn't surprising that the Keystone Berkeley booked them for some additional dates on the following nights. At this time, Man was a quartet, with Deke Leonard and Mickey Jones on guitars and vocals, the great Terry Williams on drums (later in Rockpile and Dire Straits) and bassist Ken Whaley.

Phil Elwood of the Examiner reviewed Man's Monday night show (March 25 paper), and he gave enthusiastic approval. He also referred to them as "Man with Deke Leonard," which is how they had been booked in February. The Bay Area was probably the only market in the US where Deke Leonard had a following that was parallel to Man, since his albums hadn't done well elsewhere. 

The 2008 cd re-release of Slow Motion on Esoteric Recordings included four tracks recorded at Keystone Berkeley, listed as April 1975. They must be from these March shows, however.  For those who are familiar with the Man saga, the Monday night Keystone show was the last one with Ken Whaley on bass. He left for personal reasons. Man had numerous other Bay Area gigs booked, so old friend and former bandmember Martin Ace was flown out from Wales for some quick rehearsal. Man would return to San Francisco and the Keystone Berkeley in 1976, right before they broke up (although, of course, they got back together again).

March 27, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Hot Ice (Thursday)
Hot Ice
is unknown to me.

March 28-29, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Crackin' (Friday-Saturday)
Crackin' broadly sounded like the Sons, albeit with more emphasis on funk. As a point of trivia, the Sons Of Champlin broke up in 1977, and then reformed in 1980 without Champlin, calling themelves The New Sons. Bill Champlin, with a successful career as a session man in Los Angeles, was fully on board with this, and sat in with The New Sons on occasion. The New Sons needed to have a lead vocalist, however, so they used Les Smith, who had been in Crackin' (who had also broken up by that time).

March 30, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Crackin' (Sunday)

March 31, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Eddie Money (Monday) 

April 1, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Yesterday & Today/Alexis (Tuesday)
Yesterday & Today, later famous in the 80s as Y&T, were a hard rock band from Oakland. For whatever reasons, they are always associated with Hayward, but they were actually founded in Oakland. When Y&T hit it big in the 80s, they were somewhat lumped in with Heavy Metal--I saw them at Heavy Metal Day On The Green with Motley Crue and Poison, for example--but they actually preceded the genre.

Yesterday & Today had been formed in Oakland in 1972, as a cover band. At some point, guitarist Dave Meniketti joined, and they started playing original material. The band's name happened to be the record on the turntable at the time (a 60s US Beatles album). Yesterday & Today sounded more or less in the vein of Humble Pie, loud and rocking, with high energy vocals, but still playing within a song structure. At the time, the band did not fall into the cliche of playing elaborate little hooks that were sort of "pseudo-prog" (one of the marks of latter metal bands). 

Yesterday and Today played all over the Bay Area. On the Sunday before (March 30), they had been third on the bill at Winterland, below headliners Queen. Queen was on their first trip to San Francisco, and this was before A Night At The Opera and "Bohemian Rhapsody." Queen was presented as a sort of Led Zeppelin with better harmonies, and a lot of guitar solos and dry ice. Second on the bill was Mahogany Rush. The show was pitched as a Sunday-night special for $3.00, and while the show wasn't sold out, there was a hefty crowd there. Yesterday & Today weren't Queen, of course, but they acquitted themselves well (I was there, so I'm not guessing). 

The band would open for numerous Winterland concerts in the next several years, even though they did not rise to success until the 80s. In the meantime, Yesterday & Today slugged it out at the Keystone Berkeley, paying the bills. Their first album would be released on London Records in 1976. Ultimately they changed their name to Y&T when they signed with A&M in 1980. They finally hit it big with their sixth album, In Rock We Trust.

Alexis is unknown to me.

April 3, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Delta Wires/Kid Kohoutek and The Shooting Stars (Thursday)
I don't know anything about Kid Kohoutek and The Shooting Stars. The Comet Kahoutek had been hyped as the most amazing celestial event in, like, 150,000 years, but when it arrived in December 1973, it was not so. 

April 4, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Cold Blood/Richard Torrance and Eureka (Friday)
Richard Torrance was a guitarist and songwriter from the Midwest, but he was based in Los Angeles. In 1974 he had released his debut album, Eureka, for Leon Russell's Shelter Records label. In 1975, he would release Belle Of The Ball, by Richard Torrance and Eureka (I'm not sure if that album had been released by April). Eureka played in a bit of a Southern Rock style, anchored by the twin guitars of Torrance and Gary Rowles (ex-Love). Although Eureka never hit it big, Torrance went on to have a steadily successful music career.

April 5, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Butch Whacks and The Glass Packs/Richard Torrance and Eureka (Saturday)
Richard Torrance and Eureka played three nights at the Keystone Berkeley, opening for two established local bands with completely different sounds (and likely audiences), and holding down the fort themselves on Sunday night. From the point of view of the record company, who was probably supporting the tour financially, this was well worth it, since it diversified the band's exposure.

April 6, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Richard Torrance and Eureka (Sunday)

Kevin McKernan stepping up to sing one for Osiris, ca. 1974-75

April 7, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: The Skins/Osiris (Monday)
The Skins are unknown to me. Osiris was a Palo Alto band, who played in a Grateful Dead style. Their organ player was Kevin "Mickey" McKernan, Pigpen's younger brother. He apparently killed it on "Turn On Your Lovelight." Osiris got some help from the Dead office, and in 1974 and '75 opened a few shows for Kingfish, Garcia/Saunders and Keith and Donna. I wrote about Osiris in some detail when I discussed their New Year's Eve '74 gig in Palo Alto, opening for Kingfish (as always, check out the CommentsThread).

April 8, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Chango/Alexis (Tuesday)
Chango is unknown to me. Note that Alexis has returned for another Tuesday night.

April 10-12, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Hugh Masakela/Pharaoh's Whistle (with Patti Santos) (Thursday-Saturday)
Trumpeter Hugh Masakela was a pioneering South African jazz musician, playing jazz with a nice helping of rhythm and blues along with some African beats. Masakela had a profile beyond his standing as a jazz musician. Masakela had added a little trumpet blast to The Byrds hit "So You Wanna Be A Rock And Roll Star," and he had played the Monterey Pop Festival, too. He had a genuine hit in 1968 with the catchy instrumental "Grazing In The Grass" (better known from the later version, with lyrics, by The Friends Of Distinction).

At this time, Masakela's last album would have been I Am Not Afraid, released in March, 1974 on Blue Thumb. It was a nice mixture of jazz, soul and funk, so Masekela would fit right into a rowdy joint like the Keystone Berkeley. Masakela's next album would be released in June, 1975 on his new label, Casablanca. The Boy's Doin' It mixed Masakela's sounds with the newly-arising Afro-Beat style of Fela Ransome- Kuti. 

Patti Santos (1949-89) had been the lead singer for San Francisco's It's A Beautiful Day. Everybody recognized her voice from "White Bird." When IABD broke up, she sang with various ensembles. I don't know anything about Pharaoh's Whistle. Sadly, Patti Santos died in an auto accident in Mendocino County.

April 13-14, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Axis/Earth Quake (Sunday-Monday)
Axis was a group featuring former Stephen Stills (and CSNY) bassist Calvin "Fuzzy" Samuels, and 60s English pop star PP Arnold. In a mark of the newly transatlantic nature of the 70s record industry, Samuels was a London Jamaican, who had come to America when he hooked up with Stills in England. Patricia "PP" Arnold was an African-American from Los Angeles. She had joined the Ike & Tina Turner Revue as an Ikette in 1965, but left them after an English tour in order to go solo. Arnold had signed with Immediate Records, and had a number of hits like "Here Comes The Nice." Keith Emerson was part of her backing band at one point (and his first ensemble, not coincidentally, was called The Nice).

By 1974, Samuels and Arnold had teamed up in LA with guitarist Leon Rubenhold. Lowell George had produced an album for them, intended for Atlantic Records, but it was never released. I assume these oddball weeknight dates were a tryout for a tour that never came. 

It is telling that this period of the Keystone Berkeley only has touring acts with record company support on weeknights, and usually pretty obscure bands at that. There were plenty of Bay Area bands, some of them quite established, who played the Keystone regularly. But record companies were only putting their bands in the club when they seemingly had no other choices. I suspect the biggest factor was not money, nor the club itself--bands were apparently treated well, and the crowds were usually lively. Since Keystone Berkeley was largely a beer joint, with just a few tables, shows didn't get reviewed much there. Local rock critics and radio people preferred the Boarding House or the Great American Music Hall, where they could get a table and drinks. As rock music focused towards FM radio play, that affected where touring acts were booked.

April 15-16, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: "Blockbuster Show" call for details (Tuesday-Wednesday)
I don't know who might have played these nights, but "stealth" shows at Keystone Berkeley tended to be the Usual Suspects. Since we know that Garcia didn't play, and Tower Of Power had done some stealth shows the month before, the most likely suspects would be Elvin Bishop or Van Morrison. Now that Bishop had a more substantial recording career, casual club gigs may have upset his management or booking agency, so a lower profile may have been in order.  Van was just Van, of course, and couldn't be predicted anyway.

April 17, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Hoodoo Rhythm Devils/Waterbaby (Thursday)
Waterbaby is unknown to me.

April 18-19, 1975
Keystone Berkeley, CA: Kathi McDonald/Eddie Money (Friday-Saturday)
Kathi McDonald (1948-2012) had sung with 60s bands in the Pacific Northwest like the Unusuals and Fat Jack, and they had opened for all the touring San Francisco groups. McDonald moved to San Francisco in the late 60s, and ended up a member of the Ikettes (even though she was blonde), and then toured with Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen. By 1971, she had joined Big Brother and The Holding Company, participating in the album How Hard It Is. McDonald had the unenviable task of singing Janis Joplin's iconic songs for a few years.

In February 1974, McDonald had released Insane Asylum on Capitol. It was produced by David Briggs (of Neil Young fame) and pianist Pete Sears, and the record had an All-Star cast. Still, the album didn't really go anywhere. McDonald sang with various ensembles, and sometimes fronted them. I'm not sure who was in her band at this time.

April 20, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Eddie Money (Sunday)

April 21, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: James And The Mercedes/Cisum (Monday)
Cisum is unknown to me, although I recognize the name from numerous club listings.  

The March Keystone ad (above) lists Leo Sayer playing on this Monday, but he did not. He was then advertised for the next week (April 28), but didn't play then, either. This was one of those signs that Sayer, then a rising star, got better bookings and didn't need to play Keystone Berkeley on an off-night.

April 24, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Alice Stuart (Thursday)

April 25-27, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Willie Dixon/Frank Biner and the Nite Shift (Friday-Sunday)
Bassist Willie Dixon (1915-1992) was a blues legend, but in the early 70s he was better known as a songwriter and Chess Records producer. By the time he started touring outside of Chicago, many of his songs had already been made famous by English rock bands: "Little Red Rooster," "Hoochie Coochie Man," 'Spoonful," "Back Door Man" and others. Dixon only released his own albums intermittently. His most recent would have been Catalyst, released on Ovation in 1973.

April 28, 1975 Keystone Berkeley, CA: Holly Penfield/Spectrum (Monday)
Holly Penfield has been a singing star in London and Europe for over 25 years, known for her sophisticated jazz styles. Penfield was a native of San Francisco, however, and back in the 1970s, she was writing her own songs and accompanying herself on piano. At this time, of course, Carole King was one of the most popular recording artists in the world, and the singer/songwriter track was a viable one. Penfield played many club gigs around the Bay Area, but did not thrive until she went to London and re-invented herself in the 1980s.

Spectrum was a disco-styled dance band. My guess is that Penfield played a set for the after-work crowd, and then the tables were cleared out for Spectrum and dancing. There were few, if any, places to dance in downtown Berkeley, so the Keystone Berkeley once again found a way to fill in a variety of gaps in the neighborhood entertainment.

Leo Sayer had been advertised for this night (with Penfield), but Spectrum was added instead.

April 29, 1975
Keystone Berkeley, CA: The Shakers (Tuesday)
Berkeley was always different than everywhere else in the United States, and exceedingly proud of it. When was smoking banned in restaurants in your town? In Berkeley it was 1971. Against the Vietnam War? The Berkeley City Council officially declared in 1972 that they were not at war with North Vietnam. Drugs? Berkeley was years ahead of every other town for any drug, for better or worse. Music? Whether it was bluegrass, psychedelic rock or punk, Berkeley got on the train the first.

A byproduct of Berkeley being Berkeley, however, was that some things caught on in Berkeley that didn't make it far past the city limits. One of those things was Reggae-Rock (sometimes called "Yankee Reggae," or something similar). In the mid-70s, numerous bands of mostly white rock musicians played original rock with a reggae beat. They wrote their own songs, they had some sophisticated jamming, but everyone could dance to it. The Shakers the first of those groups, and there were a few others like the Tasmanian Devils and The Edge. In some cases, the musicians lived in Marin or wherever, but the prime stomping ground was Berkeley. The Shakers got their break at The Long Branch, so now they were getting introduced at the Keystone Berkeley.

The Shakers were likely the first white reggae band, and recorded the album Yankee Reggae for Elektra/Asylum in 1975. Thanks to Elektra, the Shakers got to open for many great reggae acts on their first (or early) American tours. But it wasn't to be, and the band faded away. None of the other white reggae acts got much traction beyond Berkeley, either.