Sunday, August 16, 2009

1048 University Avenue, Berkeley-Mandrake's


1048 University Avenue in Berkeley (between 10th Street and San Pablo Avenue) was the site of Mandrake's. From 1965 onwards, Mandrake's was a pool hall that booked occasional music shows, often for free. By mid-1968, the venue was taken over and booked by Mary Moore, the wife of a jazz musician (Willie Moore).

From 1968 to 1974, Mandrake's was an important club on the Berkeley music scene. The Joy of Cooking had a regular weeknight gig there for much of 1969, and it helped to establish both the band and the venue. Weekly bookings at Mandrake's ran the usual spectrum of American music, but there was a little more emphasis on blues and jazz than competing clubs like The Longbranch (on 2504 San Pablo) and the New Orleans House (on 1505 San Pablo).

After Mandrake's closed around 1974, the venue reopened as Jerry's Stop Sign. The one time I went there in 1977, there were pool tables, so it appeared that the venue had returned to its earlier incarnation. I was seeing a friend's band play, but no one was there. The bartender politely suggested that the previous night's shooting may have cut down on attendance.

I took the photo above on August 11, 2009. The site is currently a pet emergency hospital. The angle is poor because of roadwork at the time, but 1048 University is the right half of the structure, with the orange awning. I no longer recall if the other half (1054) was part of the original venue, but I doubt it.

Barbara Flaska
When I originally published this post, I was trying to memorialize the location of a long-gone Berkeley venue. Befitting a blog with the name "Rock Archaeology," my best case scenario was a few Comments that would provide the equivalent of a potsherd or spearpoint, a tiny hint at the rock and roll life of Berkeley in the 60s. Who could hope for more?

All this changed a few Comments down on the thread, when Barbara Flaska joined in. Barbara had been an employee of Mandrake's starting in 1969. She stayed there for the next two years, and stayed in touch with the club and its staff for the next several years. Barbara was not just an employee, but a huge fan of the music and the ambiance, blessed with a warm spirit, an excellent memory and a determination to get history right. Her huge contributions to this post, embedded in the gigantic 500-Comment thread, show the world of Mandrake's from 1969 to 1971 in a rich light. Barbara got numerous participants from back in the day to contribute directly and indirectly, and as a result this post is far and away the richest vein of Rock Archaeology on the entire blog.

Rock Archaeology always hopes for a glimpse of a rock and roll past, discernible perhaps from a few remaining artifacts. Thanks to Barbara Flaska, we have not just a glimpse but a detailed portrait of an entire lost world, with its dark and light portions equally available. Long gone characters come to life, lesser known musicians like Freddie Roulette are a regular part of the landscape, and major stars like the Rolling Stones wander through as well, all part of the intricate fabric of Mandrake's in Berkeley, back in the day.

Here's to Barbara--thanks for making Mandrake's come to life, a gift for everyone who reads this.

522 comments:

  1. it was a very small club. I remember seeing BB King there. I remember getting kicked out because I was underage (ABC board) raid.

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  2. wow Dakini, BB King in Berkeley! Do you recall what year it was?

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  3. Oh YES! B.B. King was there. Muddy Waters was there. Magic Sam was there! "Good Rockin'" Robinson was there. Earl Hooker! Freddie Roulette! Even Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee were there! And Mandrake's became a hangout for the blues greats who would sit around a big round table. I know, because I was there! And Charlie Musselwhite would lure his friends in, so John Lee Hooker was there, too, sitting and talking with his other friends. The marquee posters of coming attractions were hand painted in black on large white artist's sketching paper. After the event, the posters were stuck on the walls inside with masking tape. The walls inside were flat black, the full house lights were never very bright, but the greats were there. Even Mose Allison! Jerry Garcia showcased his new love, pedal steel guitar there. This was just June thru December 1969.

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  4. OH! How could I forget! Big Mama Thornton, and Lightning Hopkins, too. Those are just some of the blues greats who swung through. There was also a club directly across the street that had occasional jazz and sometimes served liverwurst sandwiches on rye in little red or green plastic baskets. We'd run over there and bring some food back once in awhile. You wouldn't believe me if I told you the name of the really famous rock group who rented Mandrake's one fall night for a rehearsal/private party. They performed, but weren't ever listed as one of the performing acts.

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  5. PS: I found this site while looking for Mary Moore. I was going to send her a thank you note, but I discovered she died in 2001 in Berkeley at the age of 83.

    Dear Mary,

    Many years ago, in 1969 in fact, you gave me a job serving at your club, Mandrake's in Berkeley.

    Well, here's this person from the distant past ... You know, I'm writing you because I've carved out a small task for myself ... I wanted to thank the people who had those small little businesses on the fringe for giving me jobs back in those old days ... so I've been getting in touch with the blues club owners, the record company owners, concert promoters, health food store owners, and so on (and of course the Mandrake's owner) to let them know I still appreciate the fact they'd hired me.

    Perhaps some of this hinges on coming from an era when people were optimistic and started up little businesses and hired people to help run them, and I was grateful for coming up through those times .... I'm thinking about those times because, well, it seems so different nowadays for most people. But mostly I wanted to say thank you. Anyway, it makes sense to me.

    Best,
    Barbara Flaska

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  6. Barbara, thanks so much for all your amazing memories about Mandrake's in the 60s. It sounds like it was a really happening place--in fact, with the New Orleans House, Lucky 13 and Freight and Salvage all nearby, there was a lot of good music in West Berkeley at the time.

    I would believe you if you'd name the rock group who rented Mandrake's...just tell me who!

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  7. Thanks, Corry. The Bay Area was rich in music, and Berkeley shared in the bounty. Name that band? Well, ok ..... They rented the place when the Magic Theater was putting on a triology of plays on Friday nights ("Supersargeant", "The Teddy Bear Picnic", and "Spider Rabbit"). The band even got onstage themselves for a few numbers and had borrowed bits and pieces of costumes from the theatrical "wardrobe room" (a small trunk upstairs pushed into the corner to make room for the sound and lights table). So they performed "incognito." Honest! (Not a word to any one now ... the Stones!)

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  8. Elvin Bishop would put on a one man blues show, and he was back several times until he got too expensive. We also had sterling local acts grace the stage, the Loading Zone, and I think Tower of Power lent some horns. The Fogarty Bros once fell by for a surprise set. Lots of musicians went onstage to sit in. They were the glue that held the whole scene together. Mondays were audition nights, when new, untried bands had the stage and for a long time there was free admission on Mondays. Not just music, as Richard Pryor was onstage there, but I didn't see that show.

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  9. Mandrake's was only the corner building. Next door at the time I am speaking of was Buddy's Cafe, mostly a hamburger place that also offered a $1 Race Track breakfast special. Sometimes the musicians would go there to hang out for coffee before performance.

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  10. The Kaleidoscope crowded the small stage and were accompanied by a pregnant belly-dancer with many coins sewn to her belt. Commander Cody performed for the Mandrake's Halloween Party, the show was filmed and later broadcast on KQED-TV. That's about all I can recall for Mandrake's for the time being.

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  11. Barbara, this is a pretty amazing tale about the Rolling Stones. I assume this would have been late October or early November 1969? The Rolling Stones American tour began November 7, 1969 in Ft. Collins, CO, so I assume they would have been rehearsing the week before.

    My notes say that Magic Theater was booked on Oct 30 and 31 (Thurs and Fri), at least according to the Barb. Any chance if you recall them playing around Halloween?

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  12. I think they were hanging out in the Bay Area quite often at that time, and this wasn't a formal rehearsal by any stretch of the imagination. Just something to do. The Magic Theater were performing at Mandrake's regularly every week for a number of weeks. The time frame had to be around Halloween as I and another waitress borrowed some of their greasepaint for facial decoration for our "costumes" for the Commander Cody show which was also Halloween.

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  13. I forgot to explain. The Magic Theater would come on about 7 pm Fridays, and do their vignettes. Then the club would clear and get ready to open the doors for the music acts.

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  14. Barbara, these recollections are very cool, thank you for sharing.

    Any chance you kept diaries/datebooks? :)

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  15. Barbara, that explains a lot about the Magic Theater bookings. Both Commander Cody and Magic Theater were booked for Halloween '69, which was a Friday, but now I see there was essentially an "early" Theater show and a "late" music show.

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  16. JGMF, you're most welcome. I was happy to find this site and know what someone else had an interest in this small part of music history. While going through the time, there were some definite flat spots and lulls, in looking back there were a remarkable number of riches. I never kept a diary or daytimer or journal of any sort as I always trusted someone else would. Mary booked the club during that time. Our manager was an actor turned school teacher named Don, and he wore his sweaters with the sleeves pushed up to the elbows. He would laugh about the fact that the Winston commercial he had been cast for in the early 60's paid his way thru teacher's college. Five people were silent owners in the bar. It took five people to open a business, and most all of them took turns working in the bar. Most were school teachers! Lee would tend bar, Sam (of Shakespeare's Books) would only attend meeting, Harry (once upon a time a comedian who by that time was quite abrasive) no one wanted around, I think Mary had a share at that time as she removed her tiffany style hanging lamps for fear of damage (The people who came to see Commander Cody would throw their beer glasses against the wall at the beginning of a favorite tune, like faux rednecks, resulting in much breakage, and were sometimes encouraged by the band onstage to do this. Don got miffed after awhile and added the cost of new barware to the band's tab at the end of the night)

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  17. There was a jukebox near the front door. And the owners had loaded it with some of their old '45s. Almost no one ever dropped a coin in the box. I remember "Hey Senorita" by the Penguins was on there. But apparently the jukebox rental company wouldn't allow people to put their own music on, or the club couldn't afford the rent any more, and the jukebox was summarily rolled out on a handtruck early one evening to be returned to jukebox warehouse.

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  18. The singles in the Jukebox would probably be worth more now than the Jukebox ever was.

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  19. Maybe. Mary was a kindly person. She arranged for a series of benefits at local clubs to help Charlie Musselwhite with medical expenses after he was in a very bad car accident. She even put a show on at the Keystone on University (long about 1971 ???) as that venue had more of a draw than Mandrake's. Charlie was part and parcel of Mandrake's. He felt welcome there and was most welcome always.

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  20. "Monk closed the Manne-hole on January 17, (1971) and then took the band up north for a week at Mandrake's." (Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, by Robin D.G. Kelly, (Simon and Schuster, 2009), p. 421.)

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  21. Just found Mary's obituary:
    Mary Moore -- founder of Berkeley nightclub Mandrake's
    December 28, 2001|
    By Charles Burress, Chronicle Staff Writer

    Mary Moore, the founder and guiding spirit of Mandrake's night club in Berkeley, died Dec. 19 at her Berkeley home at age 73.

    Ms. Moore started Mandrake's in 1968, and during its six years of existence the popular club blazed across the Bay Area music scene. Ms. Moore's love of music, and her engaging personality and friendships in the music world, are credited with making the small club a large name featuring top talents in blues, jazz and other types of music.

    "It was a powerhouse club for just that short period of time," said Country Joe McDonald.

    Mandrake's, situated at University Avenue and 10th Street, "was the birthplace for a lot of bands," said McDonald, whose Country Joe and the All Star Band got its start there.

    Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen were signed by Paramount Records after packing Mandrake's, and it was also where Joy of Cooking and Asleep at the Wheel first found an audience.

    Ms. Moore was longtime friends with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, who always drew large crowds, as did John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, James Cotton, Earl Hooker, Charlie Musselwhite and Mose Allison.

    From the modern jazz world came Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Ornette Coleman, Freddie Hubbard, Grover Washington Jr., Pharoah Sanders, Dexter Gordon, George Benson and other famous names.

    Other favorites included Elvin Bishop, Boz Scaggs, Bobby Hutcherson, Dan Hicks, and occasionally an act such as comedian Richard Pryor.

    Ms. Moore did the booking and was "the infusing spirit of the place," recalled Dave Greer, Ms. Moore's junior partner. She was always there, whether sitting at a front table with Muddy Waters, tending bar or attending the lines of patrons that often stretched around the block.

    Ms. Moore, who had been married to the late Willie Moore, a well-known Bay Area blues and jazz saxophonist, was known for her sharp humor, fairness, insight and love of music, Greer said.

    The club folded in 1974 because of increasing overhead and the introduction of exclusivity contracts into the music scene that stopped touring groups from playing more than one local venue, Greer said.

    http://articles.sfgate.com/2001-12-28/news/17631679_1_mandrake-mose-allison-ms-moore

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  22. Thanks for these. It's too bad I didn't start this when Mary Moore could have contributed.

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  26. I have added a very quick and dirty Mandrake's page to the web site that lists the perfomances I know of at the venue:

    www.chickenonaunicycle.com/Mandrakes.htm

    I have not put much effort in to this recently but given all of the new input perhaps we can come up with some really nice words to go with it. I am still in SF at the monent but will not be back to the UK for another 10 days - when I may have more time available.

    Ross

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  27. What an amazing list, and a fine piece of work that is. Thank you for sharing it!

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  28. I spent several nights at the Mandrake helping Bob Cohen try to make live recordings for Commander Cody's first album but none of those made it to the album.

    I also remember that the saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. who became VERY popular in the 70s played his first Bay Area shows at the Mandrake opening for Richard Pryor.

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  29. Oldsoundman, I think perchance I recognize your voice from afar! In my heart, I wish those blues shows had been recorded to treasure for all time. I wish Willie Dixon's Blues All Stars had a live recording from their shows at Mandrake's. Or a video tape of Elvin Bishop making his stage entrance dangling a rubber chicken (Magic Theater prop) ... the whole club fell apart laughing or at least all the blues guys sitting at the bar did, because he was making a reference to another blues hang out across the Bay, where they'd served free chicken dinners to lure in customers who might actually spend some money, like buy a drink. Mary was graced with unerring good taste in jazz. Once in great while, though, I seem to recall she'd come in with a still camera and surreptitiously take an occasional photo of the blues greats at least. And as to Commander Cody, I do remember who it was who helped land them that most important first gig at Mandrake's. Those people should not go unheralded nor unrecognized if the real history is to be told. I mean in terms of connecting the dots, sometimes it's interesting, and sometimes it's not.

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  30. Or at least a tape of Freddie Roulette backing up Charlie Musselwhite one night. Freddie sometimes sheer magic.

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  31. Jeanie lived in a house in Oakland near the border of South Berkeley. All I know about her is she was reputed to be the daughter of a diplomatic family and so she spent her childhood years in Africa. She saw people falling through the cracks while struggling to maintain their lives all around her in Berkeley and Oakland. So she began a free food program. She'd drive down predawn into the far reaches of the produce district and like other charities ask for produce giveaways. She described this as competing with the nuns for the watermelons. Then she'd deliver the food to the people in her adjacent neighborhoods, sometimes just go up and knock on a door to ask if they needed any food because she had some. That's how she met who became the Commander Cody band. I knew her only through a mutual friend, and she soon told me when she learned from that friend that I worked at Mandrake's about these musicians "who seemed like pretty nice guys", one of whom played boogie woogie piano pretty well and painted. So I told her if they had an act prepared to have them ask for Mary. So Jeanie is the one to be remembered.

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  32. That was an unofficial food giveaway program Jeanie began. Some hippies also started up The People's Taxi Company, with 2 somewhat battered old junkers as cabs. The driver for one of those cars was like no one I had ever met -- he wore a taxi drivers hat, a scraggly beard, two coats, and gloves with no fingers. He would sometimes run into Mandrake's and stand by the jukebox awaiting last call. After which, he would grab the closest pitcher and run from table to table emptying the remains of every glass of wine and beer and and pour every last drop from a pitcher into his own pitcher. Then he'd stand by a table and holding the pitcher with two hands guzzle it all down.

    Several times we were surprised by a little Hispanic lady who came in the club with a small bouquet to try to get people to buy an individual rose with a ribbon on it for their dates for $1. Don the manager would laugh at the incongruity and quote a line from "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" in a high falsetto voice, "Flores, flores para los muertos."

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  33. That taxi driver after lofting and emptying his pitcher once fell backwards into a chair and then onto the floor, where he remained for some time as no one could easily revive him to consciousness. Even after a bar tender dragged him into the men's room and held his head under a faucet, the guy was in no condition to go out on to the streets for quite some number of hours. The bar tender even stayed on hours past closing to look after this guy.

    The younger bands sometimes drank too much as well. I recall the time in 1969, Commander Cody was playing on stage and some of the musicians were really struggling their way through their increasingly ragged parts. That's when Bill Kirchen closed his eyes and fell face down on the floor. Lucky he landed on the stage. George was on piano and turned his head towards the sound of the thud. Then he turned back to his piano and played extra loud. They finished the tune, and George announced a "short break". They'd only appeared at the club a handful of times when this happened.

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  34. South Berkeley was a rough neighborhood and had been for years, and when the sun went down, the environment could be dicey. Not all was sweetness and light even at Mandrake's. The club had hired two young men to help with load-ins, equipment, sound and lights, tend bar, tend the door, and then everything to do with close out -- haul the overflowing trash cans out into the ally at the end of the evening, and occasionally make a run to the bank around the corner to deposit the night's take in the night slot. To aid in visualizing, the two young men were identical twins, which sometimes could cause laughable confusion to patrons. As young men, they pretended to be hipper and tougher than they really were. One had an acquaintance who he'd invited into the club, and though no one else liked him, he became something of a regular. Until he was discovered stealing from the tip jar, which immediately escalated into rifling through the waitresses' purses and stealing money one evening and slipping money out of the till one evening on yet another. I recall hearing Mary had a talk with him on the first occasion, and the second, and remarked he was just like "her kids" (meaning the delinquents she used to teach at juvey), and he'd pretty much been 86'd from the premises. Within a very short time, I returned to work one evening after having the previous night off to discover this young man had returned also, but he went to the greasy spoon next door where he robbed and pistol whipped "Mr Buddy", the man who owned the place, and sent him to the hospital. "Mr Buddy" poured me a cup of coffee a few nights later, and he had a horrific blue bruise from cheek to jawbone, and his eye was nearly closed.

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  35. Robbery and pistol whipping, unpopular though they were, had an encore at Mandrake's.

    http://www.acoustictruth.com/deacon.html

    Deacon and the Suprelles made their debut appearance at Mandrake's on August 25, 1969. What was to have been a Monday night try-out for an untried but promising band made a lasting lifelong impression on me. I hate to make things larger than they really were, or dramatize the retelling, but this was a night of firsts which became an evening of ongoing mystery changing rapidly into a time of never agains.

    Like anything in the Berkeley at that time, what promised to be a simple Monday night show evolved into a complicated sort of thing. The band described themselves as a "Jewish soul" group, meaning they performed R&B and soul tunes. Pretty good, kinda like the records.

    Which is exactly what they were doing at the time. They were onstage performing in front of a leopard skin curtain they'd brought for the occasion when a man and woman came into the club, sat down on the tall padded stools at the bar, where they ordered and were each served a drink. The phone rang shortly thereafter. A weeknight and we were breaking in a new bartender on what we assumed would be a much easier night than a busy weekend shift. Our new bartender, his first night on the job, answered the phone and chatted for awhile.

    He hung up the phone, came over and told me the police had just called. I probably said, "The police called?" That was a new one. I'd never heard anything like that before. He explained the cops had called and were looking for some suspects who had just robbed a hotel and pistolwhipped the nightclerk just down the street, and the cops described the couple who were now sitting at the bar. As he’d just served them a drink, the bartender recognized them from the description and told the cops the people were there. The police advised him the couple were armed and dangerous, and to clear the club without the suspects noticing it.

    After the bartender apprised me of these facts, he slipped over the bar and
    went out the front door. So I told the manager about this phone call, and
    he soon slipped away through that same door with the bouncer. We weren't used to trouble in that place. Onstage, the band continued what was likely the first song of their first set of the evening and I was the last employee left in the building. I went around casually pretending to wipe off tables and empty ashtrays. Maybe overacting the part while trying to look casual by boogalooing with my tray from table to table. And I leaned close to speak as the music was loud and I could feel the heat from the candles on the tables as I asked people one at a time and very cautiously to vacate the premises, to leave and be really cool about it.

    The band continued to play onstage. A group of white boys who covered R&B tunes pretty well, they were probably beginning to wonder about the quality of their performance with everyone starting to leave and all.

    I went back behind the bar and the couple noisily demanded another drink. I gave them each a drink, and I accidentally spilled some of one as I set it down. I apologized, lifted the glass, and wiped the spill from the bar top with a cloth.

    This incident made the woman very angry, and she seemed to spiral out of control and didn’t seem to like me, and let her companion know with the words, "kill that bitch." She started screeching, "Kill that bitch! Give me that gun, I’ll kill her." "Gimme the gun" she was shouting loudly. She moved towards him on the bar stool and tried to pull something from the pocket of his jacket, but he kept pulling his jacket away from her and told her to take it easy.

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  36. While they were so engaged, I walked away and got the last few people near the bandstand out. I walked over to the stage and told the lead singer every one’s getting off stage, there was going to be trouble. They tumbled off right away, and left en masse by the back door which slammed shut behind them. And I was soon right behind them, too, happy to leave the couple with the club all to themselves.

    The cops leveled their fire power at me as I came out the back door and I
    was so startled to be staring straight down gun barrels that I nearly hit the dirt. Unbelievably, up the block, a tv crew had been close and scanning the police radio. They'd set up and were interviewing the bartender. Why bother talking to him about anything, I thought, he'd barely even been there. His first night as a bartender in a blues club..

    I caught up with the band who were heading off down 10th St as I didn't want to go in the other direction where the television people were. After a cup of coffee with the band at a nearby restaurant, we waited for the police to enter the building and subdue the suspects.

    Well, the cops eventually went in and took them. But I was left wondering why I had to be the one taking the risks. Suddenly I felt like I had taken enough risks, and I was genuinely disappointed no one else was willing to take part. I guess there was an issue about safety and rescue, too, whirling around for me. Most times, there’s no such thing, you know

    We all made our way back to the club and finished off the night. Anyone who wanted to come back in to hear the music came back. I got my wages for the night and the tips though always lousy were even scarcer than usual, but the owner made a special point of expressing appreciation when I showed up for my next shift. No shots were fired, no blood was spilled, but this incident made a profound and lasting impression on me.

    All I know as "the end" is the police came back several times during daylight hours in the following days to search the club from top to bottom for the weapon, which was never found. The band to my knowledge never played Mandrake's again.

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  37. And that's all I remember about Mandrake's, at least for the time being. If you don't believe what I've told you is a true recounting, then feel free to ask around. I apologize for the lengthy posts. I've just tried to breathe a little bit of life back into a place long extinguished and give you an idea of what it was like back then.

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  38. Barbara, this is simply an amazing story, complete with a (linked) picture of Deacon and The Suprelles to boot. Thanks so much for including all these amazing memories. You've really bought the club to life.

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  39. Thanks, Corry. You all have done a wondrous job in your excavations. I wish you could have tasted that 35-cent a glass champagne at Mandrake's ... not half bad.

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  40. I was one of the two guitarists in Deacon and the Suprelles. What a trip! Thanks Corry and Barbara. I recall Harry Osibin did the announcing for the band, and at some point during that fateful gig he said,

    "Now don't look at the guy at the bar..DON'T LOOK!..he has a gun and just robbed some folks. Play another tune or two, then announce that you're taking a break. Then walk casually out the back door."

    I recall grabbing my guitar and leaving the place. There were cops with guns drawn and aimed at the folks exiting at the rear. That is, at me! They were crouching behind cars on the side street. That's about all I recall, but I can confirm most of what is written. Thanks for a great memory.

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  41. Richard, thanks so much for giving us the story from the stage. It sounds like a late night movie--I presume your future gigs seemed relatively uneventful after that.

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  42. Uneventful? Like the two Sexual Freedom League parties we played at under the name Electric Trousers? There's nothing like playing in a band with your naked manhood hanging out below your guitar...

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  43. Richard, I can't wait for your blog (you are planning one, right?).

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  44. For the record (for THELONIOUS MONK as above):

    Tues Jan 19 (1971) - Mandrake's
    Weds Jan 20 (1971) - Mandrake's
    Thur Jan 21 (1971) - Mandrake's
    Fri Jan 22 (1971) - Mandrake's
    Sat Jan 23 (1971) - Mandrake's
    Sun Jan 24 (1971) - Mandrake's

    ("Brilliant corners: a bio-discography of Thelonious Monk", by Chris Sheridan, Greenwood Publishing Group, (2001), p. 454)

    Thelonious Monk Quartet (Paul Jeffrey (ts); Monk (p); Larry Gales (b); Leon (Ndugu) Chancler (d))

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  45. And a quick correction. Daniel Moore's collection of vignettes was called "The Charboiled Chinchilla" not "The Charbrou Chinchilla". (1969)

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  46. Wow! This is Bob Zuckerman, the other guitarist and singer in Deacon and the Suprelles that night. We were Rocking! all our friends were there. We were Stoned! and suddenly, I looked out and the place was almost empty! I could not believe that we sounded that bad that our friends wouldn't even last the first set. Harry (as Richard recounted) came up to the state to tell us - "see that guy at the bar? DON'T LOOK! - He's got a heater, and the cops are ready to take the place over. Get out of here, but be cool man!". So, I walked up to the mike and said something like "Well I thought we sounded pretty good, but maybe I was wrong. If you're willing to stick around for another set, we'll be right back". At that point I headed out the back door, and looked right into the barrel of a rifle held in the shaking hands of a very young and nervous cop, telling me to move. Move I did, and we hung out in the street for an hour or two while the cops searched the place for evidence. Whatever. By the time we were able to get back in, the place was dead as a club can get. We played a few tunes and broke down the gear.
    Barbara, I remember hanging out with you on the street during our "break". Thanks for the retelling!
    Bob

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  47. Great retelling. I was there too (a good friend and one time roomate of Bob and Richard, the guitarists for the band). I was one of the patrons told by Barbara to leave and our table quietly left in the middle of a number by our friends. When we got outside, there was a line of Berkeley's finest with their rifles pointed at us.

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  48. Ah .... those were the good old days, eh?

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  49. Whoopsie, Michael McClure. and "CHARBROILED"

    (Daniel Moore headed the Floating Lotus Magic Opera at the same time McClure's plays were being done at Mandrakes -- slip of the tongue)

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  50. Hello to the Suprelles! What a genuine surprise to have you reappear after all this time! I didn't think any one was still around who remembered that night.

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  51. Speaking of surprises, in 1969 portions of the Masked Marauders reassembled for a guerilla performance at Mandrake's. As this was after that English rock group had invaded our space, I thoroughly enjoyed the mock.

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  52. Barbara, the Masked Marauders were actually The Cleanliness And Godliness Skiffle Band, plus a few friends. I had no idea that they actually performed as the Masked Marauders, even as a joke (and I of all people should know-http://www.chickenonaunicycle.com/Cleanliness%20and%20Godliness.htm)

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  53. Well, honest to heavens, they certainly did. That piece of guerilla theater happened in real time -- though it may not have been the entire original group of musicians. This is in no way a hoax, a contrivance, or distorted wishful thinking on my part.

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  54. I admit I make mistakes and might momentarily confuse names, and such, but there is no way I could invent such a thing.

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  55. They only did a couple of songs as their set, and the band wore those little black Halloween masks with elastic strings. Their lead singer that evening wore a long fringed scarf with eyeholes cut out as his mask. That's all I know about them. They might be a distant memory know, but they were real enough to me.

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  56. Correy & Ross, I looked through that page just now. Your dedication to this project, scholarly methodology, and devotion really is quite astounding.

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  57. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  58. The Yellow Shark said...
    The Mandrakes' page has now been updated to pull together some of the memories from this blog:

    www.chickenonaunicycle.com/Mandrakes.htm

    Ross

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  59. This might be extraneous, but Jerry Garcia showcased pedal steel at Mandrake's. I am "fairly confident" Jerry had visited Sandy Bull back in 1967 or so when Sandy lived off 5th Street in South Berkeley. Sandy was already playing pedal steel and had one set up in his living room. And Jerry may have been inspired somewhat.

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  60. Wow, very interesting, and not at all extraneous!

    I'd love to hear more about the ca. 1967 Sandy Bull connection, if you know more.

    In terms of Jerry at Mandrake's, here are the dates that I feel pretty sure of:

    19691014 Tuesday NRPS
    19691015 Wednesday NRPS
    19691016 Thursday NRPS
    19700421 Tuesday NRPS
    19700422 Wednesday NRPS

    But we know relatively little about NRPS from this time.

    So I have a few questions, would love to hear any memories you might have!

    Did Jerry and Marmaduke ever play just as a duo?

    If it was full NRPS, who was playing bass? Phil? Robert Hunter? Bob Mathews?

    Thanks for sharing so many great memories and so much great information!

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  61. Thanks for the performance dates, 1969 is the period under discussion for me. It might seem that I'm totally out of it, but I don't even know who Marmaduke is. I have no idea who else was in the band onstage at that time. I just remember Jerry who I sort of knew as a person rushing past me as a musician to run to the stage, nearly bowling me over. All I know is it's not only quite likely and probable though I can't say positively factual as I can't provide specific dates that Jerry visited and spent time with Sandy Bull and his pedal steel. I kind of knew Sandy's landlord. I can remember this vividly because of others who were in the vicinity at the time, as well, and perhaps a more memorable marker is some people who were staying at my house were taken out to eat at a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco by "The Grateful Dead". Which was a very good thing indeed as money was thin, and food was getting a bit scarce in the house. I'm sorry I can't help you fill in the blanks on the musician list.

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  62. Sandy's landlord was the projectionist at the Berkeley Repertoire Theater, a job he occasionally found so boring and repetitious, he would pick up the projector during a movie and project the film on the wall, like a light show, and every one would laugh, or at least sometimes they would.

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  63. Jerry made his entrance from the street door that night I am describing. He was holding his guitar, and he curled over a bit like a player in a football rush ... The band had already set up on the little stage and an announcer came to the microphone ... the crowd exploded into cheers and Jerry ran in and onto the stage. That's all I can recall of that evening, although it was also a nice crowd.

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  64. The club was maybe a little too crowded for comfort, but the crowd was a little more easy going ... I mean nobody threw beer glasses at the wall, or acted up in any way, etc. ... no memorable trouble events (and I confess I have a tendency to remember the things that were bad about shows, or went wrong with shows)

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  65. The only thing I can remember is noticing beer bottles in the trash that night, and at that time we only served tap beer. That was a no-no, to bring in liquor from outside, as it could get the placed closed down by ABC. We did have wine, which wasn't so hot and purchased for bar use in gallon jugs which came four to a box. Although we offered a "split" of wine (red or white) on the menu for $2 (which was about a glass more than two glasses), almost no one ordered those --- except occasionally on jazz or blues nights. If someone did order that, we'd give the bartender the order and he'd run into the refrigerator to fill a split bottle from a big jug using a funnel. That was rather funny, even at the time.

    One time the bartender and I decided to start recycling (which was a newer phenomenon in Berkeley at that time) and we saved the big glass jugs, and put the empties in the cartons they'd come in. We loaded these boxes in his van and I went with him as he was giving me a lift home. We were stopped by the police in the middle of the night on the way home, and separated and questioned, and he had to open the back of the van for them. Then they let us go. I asked the bartender what the police asked him, maybe figure out why they stopped him, and he said "He just wanted to know what we were going to do with the big glass jugs."

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  66. A theatrical atmosphere, and word got around I was miffed at one of the bar tenders. Order after order came in for splits of wine. The bar tender was flustered by all this unusual activity when he'd just wanted to sit on his bar stool and groove with the band music onstage. It got so busy even the manager had to help with the bar orders. In the refrigerator, Don the manager was freezing, pouring order after order from big jugs. It was like something out of Laurel and Hardy. And Don acted the part by grabbing a plastic tube that was used as a keg syphon, and pretended to drink from it, as he staggered backward in a pretend drunk. Outside the walk-in cooler once again, I tried not to laugh, as I handed over yet another bar order, "One split of red, please."

    The next time the bartender acted up, someone (I know not who) shoved a broom handle across the walk-in's door while he was inside. He was having a prolonged cooling off period, and I was made aware of his dilemma by him pushing aside some items on wire shelves and knocking and shouting on the sliding glass reach-in door. I admit I pretended not to hear him for awhile, the music could be so very loud, but eventually relented and set him free.

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  67. The twins who acted as bouncer/bartender on some nights went away somewhere, maybe on a trip, maybe off to visit their grandmother. In the interim, Don who was growing concerned about the increased roughness of the area had hired a new doorman. A huge well muscled black man. The guy certainly presented a scary appearance. Even he began acting up, and that was scary to consider. It started shortly after I sat at a table with him to get to know him a bit. He never seemed to say a word, and not just because he was the strong, silent type. and I wondered how it was he got thru the interview. We sat across from one another at a small table for two, and the table candle flickered. The whites of his eyes were rimmed with red. He always wore black. And we spoke. I tried to "rap" with him, get to know him a bit. He mumbled his answers, and all I could hear of his personal history was that he used to work in a steel mill, or foundry, and in Louisiana he had served two concurrent sentences. His voice dropped when he said that. And I asked him for what, and he said simply, "Murder." My blood ran cold as he warmed up to the conversation, and told me again he used to work in a steel mill, "And I drink molten steel." He spoke quite softly and mumbled a bit when he did. So I excused myself and went to talk to the manager about what I had found out about this man, or at least what he had said. He continued on, with no appreciable trouble from him. He would sometimes amuse himself in the cooler by picking up a beer keg (which weighed close to 100 pounds) ... one in each hand, and he'd lift them up and down like he was pumping dumbells.

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  68. He stuck around until he erupted one night. I was walking up the aisle toward the bar, and I saw Don the Manager and him having a conversation by the wall just past the juke box. Then suddenly he lifted Don up and placed him against the wall, then he was holding Don by the throat, and Don's feet were fully two or three feet off the ground as he was kicking his feet. The guy held him in place with one arm and turned to look at me coming up the aisle. I was shouting, "No! No!" so he let go and down Don slid into a seated position holding his throat. Somehow that scene cooled out and I think Don fired the guy.

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  69. Yes, food was getting scarce in certain areas of South Berkeley back then. This particular area, the block of houses I am speaking of, was originally developed for the people who emigrated to the Bay Area to work in the shipyards. And some of those families had stayed on. After the war, work was scarce for some. By 1967, this neighborhood was a little shabby, with wood framed houses usually not in great repair. And the Colgate plant which occasionally spewed a chemical stench was directed to build there by the city fathers, which showed how poorly they had regarded the area even back in a more distant history. They called it the flatlands, the Berkeley flatlands. So the new influx in the 60s were first students looking for cheap rent and hippies. Then the gypsy wagons arrived and departed to some distant place in New Mexico. As I said, food was so scarce that a big beefy guy named Bakersfield Mike who worked for the railroad came upon a small mountain of rice somewhere in the San Joaquin Valley while he was working. He shoveled the rice into any bag he could find, and brought the food back to the people who he knew lived in the gypsy wagons. You had to wash the rice thoroughly to get the pebbles out and use a colander to collect the gravel. That food was a kindly gift. Some bags of that rice were taken by truck or car to a far distant place in New Mexico called Morningstar. The flatland neighborhood was a mix of Mexican, black, a few bikers, hippies, poor whites, whores, junkies, and sometimes it's easy to understand how some people could become embittered by making their hard lot through life. One man who had been there for years and owned his home eventually constructed a 10' tall chainlink fence around his place with barbed wire at the top to keep the thieves at bay. Another man I knew, an actor and more recent resident, had so much stolen by the kids breaking into his house over and over again, that he only had a piano left and he just left his door unlocked.

    This was the neighborhood where Sandy Bull lived, renting a basement room from the guy who worked at the Berkeley Repertory. He had a pedal steel that had a sticky foot pedal. He practiced for hours, countless hours. Some of the others in the vicinity at the time might recall exactly how Jerry and Sandy connected, though Sandy's 2 Vanguard records were in every single musician's record collection at the time. All I know is some Golden Toad musicians were around at the time, and the Grateful Dead's sound man liked their music a lot, and I saw his green and foreign and most unpractical car parked down the street now and again.

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  70. It was always a struggle to keep Mandrake's afloat, the ebb and flow of lucre. So it was a good thing that NRPS played there as the house was packed all of those nights. There were some surprises with other performers. When Linda Tillery reappeared as Sweet Linda Divine, people bought tickets and came in expecting to see the Loading Zone powering out "Danger, Heartbreak Straight Ahead". But Ms Tillery announced that no dancing was allowed when she was singing, and this was a gospel night. But she and her staff were so strident about this, their demands cast something of a pall on the room. And a few couples got up and danced anyway, which upset her. Maybe Mary knew this would be a different sort of performance, but that was not communicated to me. When Sonny & Brownie performed, an unusual crowd appeared, the olde folke crowd, super respectful of the performers. So much so no one would order so much as a beer when they were onstage. Between songs, it was deadly still as well and something like being in church. Maybe one or two people got a glass of wine. You can see that those shows cost the club money to produce and generated very little beyond the door fee, which was quite modest. They really were almost giveaways. Jerry's visit with his band helped the club along quite a bit, maybe helped us continue to make payroll and order a bit more booze for a few weeks.

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  71. ps. I think her gospel name Sweet Linda Divine was taken to help carry the name Sweet Daddy Grace.

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  72. My fragile memory banks were just jiggled a bit. Did they do the "rider" song at that time? Here is what came to me in the past few moments. I thought that song might be a derivative of another. The stage steps at Mandrake's were awkwardly located to the left of the stage facing it, near the men's and women's restrooms. First night they entered from that side and played, which because there were a lot of them and a lot of their friends hanging near them, that clogged up the access to the bathroom for customers (and in a beer joint that could be difficult for people). So, the next night they came in walking through the front entrance, first through were a couple of guys, and I saw Jerry and tried to say something appropriately "hip", like ... "Hey, I know you, Rider ... " as a way of saying howdy. I think that was it. But truly I was like a piece of furniture in the way to some others around him, and they kind of muscled him past me. So that's ok, this is not the same guy now I tried to teach what little finger picking I knew on guitar to, not now he isn't ... and they were clumped near the front and beginning to spill their numbers towards the rest rooms again. I was a little hurt and miffed about what seemed to me to be arrogant behavior from a couple of guys around him, but I figured that's show biz. I pointed out the bathroom situation to Mary. She went and disbursed them, and that's why they made their entrance from the front door and came down the aisle. On another night, they made stage entrance by coming in from the alley door. Sounds a little flat and colorless, but memories are like that some times.

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  73. Jerry's singing wasn't the greatest, and his voice was fractured and he sang off key. Through the mikes sometimes it sounded like he was gargling. So I went home quite late (as always) with my boyfriend that night I was totally disregarded and we were getting ready for sleepy bye. I was brushing my teeth and gargling. I'd made a discovery. So I stopped and shouted a bit for my boyfriend come in and hear my imitation of Jerry's singing, which was done gargling with mouthwash and ended up with a complete chorus of The National Anthem. Take that, I said to myself.

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  74. Not only did we have domestic keg beer on tap and jug wine served usually by the glass, and a limited "champagne" hour, we soon ramped up to fine dining. Mary had Don install a new potato chip dispenser at the bar, which I admit may have been fueled partly by the basest mercantile interests. I was there when Don pulled a big box out onto the floor. Oh boy! A delivery! He dug into the box and removed the little metal dispenser with two fingers as if it were the most delicate crystal champagne flute. Oh boy! He could be funny! Once installed in a place of honor on the bar, the bags were held by clips, and the bags were much bigger than those sold individually now, and the chips were a quarter. After the introduction of chips, we referred to Mary as the Salt Monster for a brief while.

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  75. Barbara, I'm very interested in your comments about Linda Tillery as "Sweet Linda Devine." I thought her solo shows were in the same vein as the Loading Zone, but I guess I was mistaken. Was she backed by a regular rock band (guitar/bass/drums)?

    Tillery left Loading Zone in late '68 and recorded an album for Columbia called Sweet Linda Devine in '69. She played around the Bay Area for about a year, and then re-joined Loading Zone in about April '70. I had always assumed she stayed in a rock vein.

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  76. I only saw that one show of hers. People danced in spite of being told not to on at least one number. There were likely some upbeat numbers that people who aren't familiar with gospel would likely dance to mistakenly (Think of something bouncing like Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning). She did some slow numbers where people danced close, in each others arms. There had to have been a band, or a drum at least now that you mention it. That's what I recall of that evening. But what I recall left such a weird impression on me, I never sought out any of her other performances.

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  77. Not necessarily with Ms Tillery, but with the other bands new to performing, let's say they tried to make up for lack of chops with enthusiasm, and would crank the sound far too high for audience comfort ... A lot of times I'd go home with my head throbbing. Another waitress began stuffing her ears with toilet paper or cigarette filters.

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  78. Ms Tillery had an opening act for her show, one which she had recommended and brought in. A black lady in a black dress who sang, and my impression is a capella. Maybe that's the early portion of the show where dancing was disallowed.

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  79. Elvin Bishop sometimes referenced that other blues club across the Bay onstage (rubber chicken above). Another time, he grabbed two round bar trays and held them in front of his chest as he strutted back and forth across the stage which mimiced Carol Doda, a stripper famed for her oversized breast. Her name was renown in San Francisco, where the glittery neon clad strip clubs had over run the old North Beach and replaced the belly dancing clubs and addagio dancers of yore. Time had changed, and women's lib was brewing in Berkeley, and that stage gag fell a bit flat. The only thing I got out of that performance is a friend later shared with me that her father had once seen Sally Rand perform her famous fan dance, and it seemed to me that things were a little classier in the old days.

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  80. Elvin was quite nimble, and he did his rooster strut during a monologue. That's how Sally Rand came up.

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  81. That was back when he sometimes performed barefoot and shirtless wearing a faded pair of blue denim overhauls. The evening I am speaking of, he wore overhauls, too, but I believe they were predominantly white with thin black stripes, with one strap a bit long and tucked back under a buckle and he was wearing a crisp white cotton shirt.

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  82. After Don unloaded the box of potato chips and holder, and all bags were neatly clipped on the stand people started ordering them. I grabbed the empty box and went around table to table asking for donations, just the way the hats and cans were passed at Berkeley rallies. "Potato chips ... potato chips for Biafra"

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  83. * potato chips for Biafra was a cover article on Ramparts in 1968, and betokened the out of it though well meaning rich who'd chartered a plane with a cargo of potato chips in a first bid to help qwell the rising famine in Biafra.

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  84. I would do small things to help keep people amused. One time I collected a handful of barf bags on a plane, and then served them along with drinks like cocktail napkins on audition night.

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  85. We were expecting a smooth flight, and didn't anticipate any need to use them. They were provided just in case we encountered some turbulance.

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  86. The cast of characters:
    Mary Moore, co-owner
    Sam (of Shakespeare's Books)
    Harry (comedic casualty)
    Don Osborne, club manager
    Bill Lee, mellow school teacher and bartender
    Katzenjammer kids (the twins)
    Me
    Juanita (waitress on alternate nights. She wore a leather cowboy hat and would yell "yew-hoo"). She'd answered a help wanted ad in the paper and was one of the few who still lived in the neighborhood.
    Joan (waitress who was let go because she'd ask for 3 weeks off to go to Europe with her boyfriend, and return two days later saying they'd had a fight. One of her boyfriends of the time was a playwright and I went to an exclusive performance of "Prometheus Unbound" at a private amphitheater in a private glade nestled on an estate in the Berkeley hills).
    Bartender who fled: President of SDS in Berkeley
    Bartender who left to open the slot for the bartender who fled had assisted in the psychological intervention of Alan Blanchard after he was shot during People's Park, who later became a psychologist who dealt with high profile cases
    The waitress I replaced became a Chinese scholar of some stature who was in China and in close uncomfortable vicinity to Tianamen Square.

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  87. That Prometheus Unbound went on to one and only one public performance before closing, because it really wasn't very good.

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  88. Mandrake's receives a compliment.

    I was worried that these reminiscences wouldn't carry any weight in the current coin of cultural approval. But my story about Deacon & Suprelles and just the roster of bands who played there excited a young musician I know.

    He read my story and laughed periodically (I can only hope at the appropriate spots). Then he read through the band roster and said, "Ooh, Buddy Guy!" And he'd even heard of Commander Cody even though he wasn't born until 1970!

    Then he continued reading through the roster, and couldn't believe we'd only charge 50 cents admission some nights.

    He asked me, "You had a job as a server there when all this happened?"

    I nodded yes.

    Finally, he said, "I'd gladly take on the seven or twelve or how ever many of the labors of Hercules just to have been in that club to see some of those bands!"*

    *Alan Bailey, guitarist for Filter (2002) and quoted without permission

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  89. I was just reminded that Biff Rose came in to catch an act one time. He wore a black cowboy shirt with red piping, as befit what ever group it was onstage.

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  90. Gloria, former wife of ED Denson, read through the roster of performers, and wrote, "Oh, take me home!"

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  91. Gloria had a great trick at Mandrake's. If the people seated next to her talked too loud, or acted up in any way, she stealthily threw her lit cigarette into their beer glass while their heads were turned.

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  92. ED would ask the waitresses to put little quarter page hand bills advertising next appearance by artist on the table next to the candles. He'd command the waitresses to bring back every leaflet that wasn't taken at the end of the night, "And I don't want to see any on the floor." Then he'd stand back by the entry door in his herringbone Harris tweed jacket and count heads at the tables. As the club was dark, lit only by red hurricane lamps wearing a wrap of white plastic fishnet, and the tables were unsteady and rocked as much as the bands, he typically got a handful of smeared, stuck together, beer soaked papers at the end of the night.

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  93. With some bands, let's say Commander Cody, sometimes there was so much spilled beer on the tables you couldn't clean the tables with a bar rag. You'd have to tilt the tables so the beer first spilled like a small niagara onto the floor, and the floors would be awash with beer, so high it would get up past the soles of your shoes and start seeping into the leather. So much so Don had to first use a pushbroom to move the juice as if he were repairing the place from a flood before even beginning to mop.

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  94. After ruining what once was a perfectly good pair of shoes, I took to wearing my hiking boots to work.

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  95. Spilled wine and beer so thoroughly permeated my clothing that even after a trip to the laundromat, I would walk into class and people nearby would turn their heads and look at me as if I were a staggering alcoholic.

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  96. Not to be outdone in any way by that blues club across the bay in San Francisco, the one surrounded by the strip clubs and near Finnochio's, we had naked pansies on our stage as well.

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  97. And there were often naked women on the stage swirling and dancing ... two, three, four times a week some evenings.

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  98. (I should explain here about recycling in 1969. This was an idea floating around since WWII when everyone saved every bit of string and piece of scrap for the war effort. Once the war was over, everyone went back to their old ways. The idea had been brought forward again (in Los Angeles of all places, in 1960, and was summarily dismissed as an inconvenience to busy housewives during Mayor Sam Yorty's bid for re-election). With the institution of ecology studies at Berkeley which had spread from Davis, time was ripe for such a social experiment and people went out of their way to drop items off at the recycling center. Believe me, "ecology" was nearly a brand new word back then. There was no economic incentive, i.e., no Cash Redemption Value. That concept arrived just a teensy bit later when Coors brewing understood the money they'd save by using recycled aluminum for their beer cans, as aluminum was becoming more expensive due to the prolonged engagement in Viet Nam (helicopter parts first come to mind). So Coors was an early supporter of recycling. Did that mean Mandrake's ordered from the Coors distributor when he came by to offer us a deal on beer, even on tap beer? Hell no.)

    We served beer at Mandrake's but all I remember is it was on tap.

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  99. The handbill for the Charbroiled Chinchilla was kind of black and gray and said in a white handscrawled print, "Mmmmm .... Tastes like chicken"

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  100. I happened to be walking down Shattuck one time before and fell in with some actors who were looking for props. We ducked into the only square department store in Berkeley and rode the escalator into the basement into the men's wear department and walked past the racks of tweed coats and mufflers. This department store was trying to become modern as bell bottoms, but their buyers were still a little behind the times. I cracked up when I saw a torso mannikan on a counter garbed in what a manufacturer must have thought was the new sexy sleek look for hot dudes on the prowl during this exciting new period of sexual freedom. This was a matching set of men's underwear by Munsingwear, a tank top and boxer shorts in silky smooth rayon and mustard yellow in color. It looked a bit like body armor to me. That ensemble was what the supersargeant wore onstage for "Meatball" as his roman soldier uniform.

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  101. The icky waitress Joan who expected to have all her shifts handed back over to her after a falling out with her boyfriend had once proudly told me she was a "Fury". The Prometheus Unbound was an adaptation of Percy Byshe Shelley's "play", actually a poem that was never intended to be on stage. They called those "closet" pieces in Shelley's time. Back in the more literate times I was living in, a friend asked me what I had thought of it (and of course that meant the skills of the new "playwright" adapting and presenting it. "Like Oscar Wilde," I said after some thought. She brightened like she thought I was going to say it was brilliant. "Sometimes seeing how it all worked out, it's best to stay in the closet."

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  102. In thinking back to how it was in the sixties and with all this stuff going on to keep the doors open every night, I was amazed to read through the roster of appearances. "You mean we had BANDS there?"

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  103. Mary lived in a very nice house up in the Berkeley hills off Arlington, kind of close to Chris Strachwitz's house. Gloria Denson used to visit her there. The bartender who became a psychologist used to visit there sometimes, and took his girlfriend with him for dinner there. He rode his BMW motorcycle up from the flatlands. He also was proud of the fact he rode in Chocolate George's funeral procession and would chew on the edges of his mustache as he recounted that story. Mary knew many of the artists and would likely visit them, too. She knew that Freddie Roulette was an apartment manager in the building he lived in. The first local press story on Freddie said he was a janitor there. That wasn't true. At the club I watched in amazement as one of the most famous big blues men (maybe Albert Collins, maybe Willie Dixon) put a cigarette in his mouth and leaned back in his chair. And Freddie lit the cigarette for him with a match just as fast as that. At the time, I thought that was most gracious of Freddie.

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  104. When located near 5th Street, Sandy Bull had a baby in his household. They had a little springy baby jumper hanging in the door way. And some adults would mention they wanted something like that but for grown ups. His was actually a Jolly Baby Jumper brand. I like to think that's where the title for one of his tracks came from on Demolition Derby ... "sweet baby jumper"

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  105. Freddie Roulette used to smoke a fancy briarwood pipe and the smoke would swirl like a genie taking form above his head. He'd leave his pipe resting in an ashtray on a round table at the front near the stage when he went onstage to play. The hippies who came into the club would find an occasional quarter on the table, likely a tip left behind for a waitress who couldn't see the glitter of coin in the dark. And usually some patrons would slide the quarters across the table and conceal them in clenched hand. One time I saw a guy doing that, and I gently pried the coin from his fingers. Sometimes they'd combine it with another quarter in their pocket and hand two to a waitress who would then take their beer or wine order. Sometimes, all things considered, it's a miracle Freddie's pipe was waiting for him when he got offstage.

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  106. The waitresses would try to clean the tables and empty the ash trays and get the seating tidy for incoming patrons, who scooted to new seating as others vacated. We'd even give the ash trays a little wipe with a paper towel we carried on our trays and dump the ashes and cigarette butts into an ashtray we carried on our trays reserved for that exclusive use and carry that back to the bar with the drink order. Tips were quite scarce in that place what with 50 cent beer and (I hate to say it) hippies who didn't tip. Once I dumped an ash tray into the garbage can behind the bar and I heard a little metallic sound, perhaps a coin hitting a piece of a broken beer glass. I stared down into the trash can. The quarter was there resting atop a paper towel, mixed in with cigarette butts. "My tip! I threw away my tip!" Don the manager came over and looked in, and turned to smile at me. Then he pulled his sweater sleeve even higher over his elbow and raised his arm straight in the air and wiggled his fingers as if he were summoning courage, to cross the line between man and desperate bum and dive in to the garbage can. Then he plunged his hand in to retrieve the quarter or dime or whatever it was and held it up to my face for my approval. He could be quite funny.

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  107. And of course one time the trash can ignited and we doused the smoldering mess with a few pitchers of beer pulled off a tray as the bartender was in the way leaning over the sink deep in conversation with a musician he hoped to impress. After that incident, we dumped ashtrays into a bigger receptacle behind the bar.

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  108. Charlie Musselwhite would sometimes pull out obscure tunes. He sang "J.B. Lenoir is Dead," but with such a distant hollow sound to his voice it sounded like the music was being piped in from a place far away and long ago, but it hadn't been that many years since he'd died, just a few years prior. Now bluesmen passed the word he'd died to each other, their audiences, and the world at large.

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  109. You might have heard John Mayall's song, which was on a record almost instantly on the heels of J.B. Lenoir's death. The one where he sings in a high voice to imitate the voice of J.B. Lenoir. This was a completely different song.

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  110. I always called Muddy "Mr. Morganfield" and Willie "Mr. Dixon". That was a basic form of respect, which you might not understand unless one of your parents was raised in the Deep South and suffered a lifelong embarrassment just remembering the attitudes and behaviors of some white Southerners.

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  111. Officer, officer, I have a coincidence to report. Now it actually turns out I had seen the Berkeley debut of the Commander Cody Band, in front of Cody's Bookstore (in order to better ingrain the name or as a curious coincidence of some kind), but I didn't catch the name of the band as I had arrived a bit late and the whole scene erupted in a riot with tear gas and all. The little show was disrupted and the drummer was quickly dismantling his gear. I told one of them, "Hey, that's great! Next time play a little closer to the Bank of America!" and I laughed and walked off. The next time I saw them was in front of the Bank of America, and the fellow I'd talked to was playing an accordian and someone else was tapping out rhythm on a stand-up cymbal and they had a little serape thrown on the ground in front of them. At the time, I was walking around Telegraph handing out small maroon and emerald green hand bills for Mandrake's with the Chinese scholar, which we'd designed and just printed up at our own expense at Cleo's copy service. I wasn't even working at Mandrake's yet, but then neither was Commander Cody Band.

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  112. The name on the handbill was Notes from the Underground. I always thought that name was a little spin off from Kerouac's "Subterranean Underground", which I had read in the earlier 60's but I probably read too much into things. The book was about a waitress in a jazz club, so I teased my scholarly friend a bit as we walked around handing out the circulars. Almost everyone had read the beats and had a familiarity with them.

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  113. It's funny, sometimes, however far back you go in history, there is always an antecedent.

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  114. On a few early handbills and ads, the band from Ann Arbor was listed here and there as simply "The Cody Band", but that was probably because people misunderstood and shortened the name. Almost everyone understood the name Commander Cody because the serials were such popular fare on television in the 50s and 60s, something to entertain the kids on a Saturday morning. So much so there were "happenings" in Los Angeles, in the mid-60s, usually near college campuses, where they'd assemble and show old the serials and people kind of responded like what eventually happened with the Rocky Horror Picture Show, although this was a much shorter lived phenomenon. They'd sit on folding chairs in gymnasiums, upholstered theater seats in small movie theaters, and shout out the scripted dialog in advance, make up dialog as if the sound were turned down on the tv and they were in their own living rooms making stuff up for fun, and so on.

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  115. So now the kids had grown up a little bit and here was Commander Cody entertaining them again, but in a little different way on a Saturday evening.

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  116. Our handbills and poster art at Mandrake's were in no way as artful and beauteous as the work being produced for the Avalon or even the Fillmore. This was a completely different trip. The bands sometimes made up their own posters and they and their friends posted them around town themselves (like Deacon and the Suprelles, where the price for admission was 50 cents and cost exactly the same as a two-scoop ice cream cone at the time). George Frayne's brother did an early poster for Mandrake's, which I once saw. It was a squiggly line drawing of a woman carrying a round object while suspended in space (it was a little hard to figure out, but I guessed it must be the nun carrying the watermelon), and I think that was done more like mimeograph art although there were photocopy machines more accessible now. You might find this hard to believe, but photocopy machines were immensely expensive when they first came out and were reserved for private use by very rich corporations. Though the machines themselves were so costly, they were (how ever many thousands of dollars they cost to rent ... rent and not purchase, as the company held ownership forever of the machines in those early years, and on some early models the innards or working parts were actually sealed in some kind of seamless box to prevent casual examination of the sacrosanct device) very nearly giveaways -- and the company hoped to make the real money selling the paper. As the machines gradually came down in price, they became a bit more accessible but still there was a reluctance to sell them near certain college campuses. There was a rumor that though the company claimed they were concerned about "copyright infringement" with professors printing out hand outs of additional reading for class and years later, there was an additional concern about hand bills for political use (i.e., Civil Rights Movement in Berkeley in the early 60s.) Well, whatever, who knows. There were photocopy machines near campus now and people used them to make posters and handbills. And back to the topic, I saw that George himself had refined that first squiggly artistic concept quite substantially in a later fine oil painting he did in bright Thoreau-like colors (that's Henry David Thoreau), a portrait as it were of a nun holding a bright green watermelon and hovering in gradual ascent, as if flying up towards heaven.

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  117. If all this Commander Cody stuff I've posted here were a chapter in a book or I were the artist who'd done that fine oil painting of the flying nun holding the watermelon, I'd call it "Vision of Cody" if only to keep that Jack Kerouac theme going and kind of continue the conversation that day with the Chinese scholar.

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  118. .... in a later fine oil painting he did in bright Rousseau-like colors (that's Henri Rousseau) ... Henri David Thoreau had nothing whatsoever what to do with any of it, except for the civil disobedience part.

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  119. In a small intimate club, Joy of Cooking could put down a groove that just made everybody want to dance. "You Gotta Get Down (yeah) A little closer to the ground (yeah)" and and some voices in the crowd would say "oh yeah (meaning it's time to dance) and the conga riff would entice people onto the dance floor. Everyone at tables would start pulling out of their chairs, and the aisle leading to the dance floor would be crowded with people in line because the people in front were held back from getting on the floor til somebody would slide past and they'd wiggle in like stepping on a carousel. So the people danced even in line, and some held on to the hips of the person in front of them like it was a big long swaying snaky conga line. And I saw a friend of mine nearly toppled by the small crush, and she had to hang onto the belt loops of the guy in front of her to re-right herself in time to get onto the floor to prance. They later recorded that song, and they performed it at bigger outdoor rallys, though the song was recognizable, it never for me in those circumstances had the same impact as in that small club. But those who had seen them at Mandrake's remembered and could make that connection.

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  120. So Wild Man Fischer showed up, and he walked through the front door looking a bit dazed with a strange little smile and I glanced over and at first thought it was that crazed cab driver for People's Taxi, the one who had started decorating his windshield interior with dangling fringed balls like they had on Filipino or Mexican taxi cabs. That show was poorly attended, and Wild Man Fischer's act was to come out with a guitar which he wore backwards with the soundhole pointed at his belt buckle like a comedian who can't play would do. And his act was a lot of half songs that he had made up and couldn't complete ... He was weird, and the only reason he graced the stage that evening I am more than confident is because I had known Frank Zappa in the old days when he was starting out, but that's a bit off topic as Frank wasn't the one onstage at Mandrake's. He sent Wild Man Fischer. I don't think Wild Man Fischer was doing a tour or appeared at any other place in the Bay Area at that time. Mary told me Wild Man Fischer was genuinely crazy, "A schizophrenic ..." who'd been on a genuine psych ward, she said, and then elaborated, "He stabbed his mother." She considered him to be "dangerous" and used that very word to describe him. And Mary had rubbed shoulders and got to know some of the other blues club owners across the Bay, and maybe heard stories from musicians, and one night said of one of the club owners, "I'm worried he's gonna kill someone one day."

    She could read people very well, that Mary Moore. So Wild Man Fischer never appeared at Mandrake's ever, ever, ever again.

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  121. And you know it turned out that very blues club owner of whom Mary spoke did eventually kill someone, but that was after he'd sold his place.

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  122. Wild Man Fischer played Mandrake's? Amazing. I had no idea he had ever played outside of the Los Angeles area.

    Zappa and his manager had signed this contract with Warners that allowed them to sign and record anyone they wanted. They recorded some great people like Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart, but they signed a lot of weirdos too. Warners was OK with Zappa's strange signings, by the way, since one of the LA weirdos he signed was Alice Cooper, who made the label millions.

    Wild Man Fischer was a guy on the Sunset Strip who made up songs for quarters (you got to choose the topic). He had spent a lot of time in mental institutions, although I don't think he harmed anyone. I only know of one other public performance for him, opening for the Mothers in 1968.

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  123. Let's see ... Wild Man Fischer was there probably because I'd mentioned the story (and probably only because someone had recently reminded me) about seeing Don and his group at (what has been since been traced and noted down as history) their first performance at a college football field in my own precious village, back in 1964, when there was precious little to do in precious village for amusement or entertainment. And, you see, he'd gone on to some then current renown performing as Captain Beefheart. I was around them back then in those early days as they were beginning to form, and they were people I had known. So, indeed, had my sister, who was visiting in Berkeley at the time slightly prior to the Wild Man's appearance and who was still in regular touch with Frank. So things are a little hazy in recollection, but that's likely how that all came about as I saw my sister and Mary chatting at a back table at Mandrake's.

    But in thinking about it, as I later told Mary, after Wild Man's performance, "I should have known."

    I mean the "Beefheart" group weren't very good, either, the first time I saw them. At least not then, not when I saw them on the little college football field.

    I mean we (a friend of mine and I) kind of pretended they were knocking us and they sort of were because it seemed music and live performance were like a severely restricted and monitored commodity in that particular town and here against all odds they were performing (and likely without asking anybody for use of the "venue" for that official permission likely would never have been granted), and a few people attended because a poster went up and word went out, so we danced around raising little clouds of dust as the lawn had died back a bit in the summer, and yelled out encouragement, but that's what friends do.

    I'd tried to get a current act for Mary, and that's how Frank had responded, and he was probably sincere in his attempt to promote a "freak" artist. So we got Wild Man Fischer, you see. We didn't get Frank .... we didn't get Beefheart ....

    So I told Mary, "Aw, I should have known. THEY (the guy who became Captain Beefheart and his band of that earlier time) weren't really that great, either."

    (And I have kind of a funny story of how later I managed to get some tickets thrown from a limousine in San Francisco to a very proper person I knew for the new Alice Cooper Show, which she attended because it was a free ticket after all and which she found to be genuinely awful! and why I chose to do something like that, but I won't go into that here. Though I look back now and think, "Gee, you could have a lot of fun back then on next to nothing. Those were the good old days." )

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  124. In mid-1964, Frank Zappa owned a recording studio in Cucamonga, not far from Claremont. It was Zappa who made up the "Captain Beefheart" name for Don Van Vliet. It's fascinating but not surprising that Beefheart played a football field in Claremont in 1964. Supposedly the early Beefheart audience, such as it was, were "greasers" who had semi-impromptu "car club" gatherings.

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  125. Corry, my friend,

    Just seeing his name on the roster of acts brought it all back .... quite vividly!

    Sunday 24 August 1969 Wild Man Fischer, The Crabs

    He was there! And all the descriptions of him were from comments made at the time .... he eventually put out an album (and I just saw the cover) of him holding a knife with a cardboard cutout of a woman who was supposed to be his mother --- that's how he was being presented to the world at large .... I had to look that up to make sure I wasn't misremembering ...

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  126. Wow, I didn't even notice it on the list. And I wouldn't have believed it had you not actually been there.

    On the bright side, he didn't play the next night--which was the Deacon and The Suprelles night with the robbers. At least the Suprelles kept their cool. Goodness knows what Fischer would have done (it does appear he had a somewhat violent streak, and did try to stab his mother).

    Quite a week.

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  127. Well, these really are the old days now, because I knew Don before he had the Van (which he added I am convinced and it is an easy guess that others have guessed) because of Vincent Van Gogh, and perhaps for understandable reasons. We'd all seen "Lust for Life" and there was a resurgence of interest in Van Gogh at the time maybe because of an art exhibit in Los Angeles, who knows, really. As I recall I cut out a little picture from Mad Magazine and gave it to Don, which was a recognizable sketch of Vincent Van Gogh with a dotted line across the side of the head, captioned, "Cut on dotted line." There was a lot of art in Claremont as artists were in residence there, and I think Don always wanted to do that and I'm happy to report he eventually did.

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  128. And, anyway, the next act I'd seen in nascent form which eventually became Commander Cody turned out to be a lot of fun and overall not nearly so difficult to deal with.

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  129. But, yes, Corry, you're right that was a heck of a week.

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  130. I should explain here, too, that while people have certain impressions of the 60s, and hippies and all, I was working at Mandrake's while going to college. And I was damn lucky to have a job, as the student population was immense and all but the very rich needed a little money to get by on so jobs in town were already scarce. But added to that stable student population was the continued influx of young folks who migrated to the Bay Area to check out the scene or those who swarmed into town for assorted demonstrations, like a continuous mass geographic dislocation of youth, all of whom needed to get by in some way. And for the rest of us, just feeding friends ... well, I don't know how any of us did it, it was like loaves and fishes.

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  131. So that week that started out with Wild Man Fischer and segued into Deacon and the Suprelles was mellowed a bit by the arrival of a long-term run with Sonny & Brownie. Charlie Musselwhite would stop in when they were there. Brownie wanted a beer, just one beer, and nobody drank at their shows, they worshipped Sonny & Brownie. So he was being devilish, you see, in asking for a beer. I pretended I was a white southern barkeep, and shook my head no. "No, Brownie," I said. "I like you, Brownie, but I can't serve you no beer... not in here, not with this crowd around" (and I glanced up at out towards the lily-white faces in the audience). Then I gave in, and I told him he could order a beer any time he liked, but if he wanted to actually get served a beer and drink it, he to turn over the key to his car, because we didn't want no possible ABC trouble. Which he did. Then he wanted another beer, and my eyebrows arched and I told him he had to turn over the key to his apartment. I was joking and so was he, and it was a funny little interchange. I'd later see him at shows and here and there around town, all the places people went, like grocery shopping at the Co-op. Last time I encountered him was in Honolulu in the late 80s, he'd apparently moved there and he was sitting on a park bench playing a guitar to keep himself company.

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  132. Next up was Commander Cody for a three-day run. Most of blues acts Mary first connected with through people she knew, who were managing some blues acts then, and Charlie Musselwhite was an instrumental figure (pun half intended) in getting some of the bluesmen he knew into the club. Not just blues men, we had blues women. Big Mama Thornton onstage there! And someone pointed out Sam and Ann Charters to me one time (I knew his name as producer of the best blues record triology to be found then anywhere in the world, "Chicago/The Blues/Today", the epitome, the absolute epitome if not the outright holy grail, and there he was! Sitting at a table with his wife right in our club! I almost fainted! Charlie Musselwhite had made his studio debut on that record as Memphis Charlie and he was sitting there at a table, too. Everything seemed to be coming full circle, faster and faster. I felt like Alice but in a Blues Wonderland.

    I wish now we'd had someone like Dick Waterman around to take some photos, just to capture those special moments for all time.

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  133. Over the course of a few years before Mary took over Mandrake's, I'd watched the club change hands a few times. I knew they occasionally had jazz, as did a lot of other clubs in the earlier history of San Pablo Avenue clubs. I knew things were really starting to change for that place when I took the bus or hitch-hiked up University one day to school in 1968, and saw a sign outside advertising "Muddy Waters". It was like a dream beginning to come true.

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  134. We had naked pansies, and naked women on stage three, four times a week, and it was a blues club, so you know what that means. Yeah, we had hookers in there, too. John Lee Hooker and Earl Hooker ... now Earl was a serious sort of guy and you could never joke around with him like I did with Brownie. And Earl was rumored to be a bad actor, and to have even stolen a guitar. He played down and dirty stomp blues, nasty stuff. Gloria Denson was there for one of those shows of his, I remember hearing her laugh peal out when Gino, the bass player, came out to join Earl onstage for these hard, hard blues. Gino, who everyone knew as a tough, usually expressionless tough guy hanging with a tougher real deal blues man started playing. But his stage appearance had been transformed. His eyes were huge like saucers and his face was plastered with a really weird and silly grin. That's why Gloria fell apart laughing out loud. He just looked out of it and yet he continued to play. I learned later he had eaten a plate of magic mushrooms upstairs by the light table and apparently they were kicking in as he made his entrance on stage. Not to be outdone in any way by the psychedelic clubs across the Bay, some of the musicians in our club performed in highly altered near mystical states.

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  135. Not only tough blues guys, but some younger black women singers would get onstage a bit zonked. I apologize, I have to tell this story about Linda Tillery, who had returned with the Loading Zone. Well, all I can tell you is it sure seemed the zone was loaded that night. The band was about to take the stage and were about the climb the stairs and the announcer was shouting, "Linda Tillery and the Loading Zone" and everyone applauded. At which point Linda instead of walking up the stairs started walking out towards the audience, and her band just stood there kind of staring at her as she disappeared into the audience. And then she was starting to make her way walking up the aisle as if to go wandering out of the club and people at nearby tables were looking at her and smiling and applauding. That's when one band member strode quickly up to her and gently threw his arm around her shoulders, turned her around and led her back to the stairs to start the ascent all over again. So she started going up the stairs and made one slow step up the steep stairs, but this time she sort of lost her balance, and was stiff as a board as she threatened to fall straight backwards, but her band members each took a hand to her back and gave her a little push to upright her. And the announcer came over and offered her his hand, and pulled her up the last steep step, so she was onstage at last. And then he ran back to the microphone and shouted, "Miss Linda Tillery! Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Linda Tillery!" And club all applauded and the band played a bouncing lead in that snapped her back and she went on to perform a really good show as if nothing had happened.

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  136. Interestingly, three years earlier Wild Man Fischer had been singing for quarters on Telegraph Avenue when he was seen by Barry Melton. Barry took him to the Jabberwock where he made an impromptu, but so far undated, appearance.

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  137. Yes, that is an interesting fact. Maybe Wild Man Fischer remembered that and told Frank he already had a big following in Berkeley. :)

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  138. Wait a minute! Hey .... yeah .... blame that lousy booking on Barry!

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  139. There were a lot of weirdos on Telegraph, where they hoped to blend in and people were rather tolerant of them, maybe they hoped to earn a little money with their performance. The Polka Dot Man was famous, a guy who'd painted yellow polka dots on his clothes and black and red polka dots on his face and hands, and he'd sing, shout and testify through a microphone and little amp he'd carry, and I could only think sometimes, "Never give a microphone to a schizophrenic."


    Some others were just weird street people, and you'd notice them and the changes they were going thru. One of whom started wearing a sky blue officer's jacket from the air force for some reason.

    I used to see Mary sitting on the grass at Provo Park for some of those peace rallies, and she would be wearing her big brown courderoy coat. At one of these rallies, General WasteMoreLand appeared, and he had plastic planes and rockets attached to his army officers hat and the epaulets of his olive green military officer's jacket, and snazzy pressed officer's trousers -- the full regalia. He'd deliver a little routine onstage, kind of comedic relief.

    Well, it was a peace rally, you see. But the weird guy in the air force officer's jacket was there and saw General Wastemoreland on stage. Who knows what he was thinking, but it looked a little like what might happen when two crazy people who think they're Napolean encounter each other in the loony bin.

    The guy in the airforce jacket stormed the stage, and he shoved General Wastemoreland away from the microphone and stood there glaring out into the crowd. And General Wastemoreland tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention and tried to lure him away from the microphone. It ended up, they got into a fist fight, right on the stage at a peace rally. The incongruity of it was simply hilarious.

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  140. Big Mama Thornton was living in Oakland or on a prolonged visit with friends there in 1968-1969. Chris at Arhoolie had taken an interest in her and put out a record of her performing in Europe in 1967. She performed at some San Pablo clubs in that era. She performed at Mandrake's!

    After hours, some people would stay up late and visit friends after the club closed, maybe go out to breakfast before going home. The Chinese scholar told me she was driving along San Pablo in the early morning, just after daybreak, when she caught a glance of Big Mama wearing striped overhauls and slugging down a bottle of gin, standing on some sidewalk stairs next to a laundromat and talking to friends. Somewhere deep in the numbered streets of Oakland where they crossed San Pablo.

    Everything came full circle for me at Mandrake's, because until that time I had only seen Big Mama on television when I was a kid, when she was appearing on the Johnny Otis Show.

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  141. As I recall, the Chinese scholar had stayed up late after work because she had to drive her boyfriend to the airport for an early morning redeye and so budget priced and better affordable flight.

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  142. Big Mama Thornton was called "Big Mama" for a reason, she was physically a large woman. And Linda Tillery at the time carried some extra weight.

    So when she started to lose her balance on those stage stairs ....

    (If this were a death defying circus high wire or trapeze act, it would be at this point the drummer would stutter out a sharp tattoo drum roll summoning audience interest and pointing their attention towards the impending danger of the high flyer) One hand on her back, then another to provide more support, and yet another hand went on the flat of her back and she regained her balance! (I nearly applauded and shouted, "Yay! Linda!! Give her a hand, folks, give her a hand!")

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  143. That Earl Hooker ... Musselwhite called him "Zebedee" ... Zebedee could rock. He didn't sing much at Mandrake's, and didn't bring his two-neck guitar as it was too heavy for him to use regularly. Not too much wah-wah, either.

    He was just coming out of a long bout of TB that had hospitalized him for nearly a year and he pulled himself back on the road for what was to be his glorious burning finale.

    Earl Hooker was in Berkeley recording an album by day for Chris Strachwitz on Arhoolie and he played Mandrake's every single night he was in town. And we still couldn't get enough of him. He still looked a bit like Chuck Berry, though a tired looking Chuck Berry. He dressed well.

    His work that last year was prolific. He had never recorded much because he was always touring, and he made up for that in spades. He must have recorded six albums for six different companies that year. Zebedee. He was dead within a year at the young age of 41.

    You know, even though Charlie was shoulder to shoulder as a bluesman with these players, and would get up and play on stage with them, the way he said "Zebedee" to me sounded like he could be as much in awe of them as I was.

    Was I ever lucky and privileged to hear Earl Hooker.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_RorqxpotU&feature=fvw

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  144. Earl Hooker could literally have a conversation with his guitar. He would say a phrase, then he'd play the same phrase on his guitar and you could hear the words in the notes. He'd do that again until the audience would get used to that, and finally he would just play a phrase ... and you'd almost catch on to what the guitar was saying ... then he'd play the same phrase while he mouthed the words and you would catch on. He could make an audience laugh and enjoy his music. He was really something. And it was all blues, you see.

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  145. Actually, I don't think we even had tickets. We had an entry fee at the door, and I can't remember if the doorman even used a rubber stamp to mark a patron as paid. The club was so small the doormen if they had a decent memory could likely remember the face of anyone who came in.

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  146. And after I collected my tips for the evening, I always had plenty of money. I always had twenty, thirty, thirty-five cents in my pocket.

    I mean to say that $1, $2, $3 entry fee multiplied by maybe 100 patrons, that was serious money at the door.

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  147. Nick Gravenites came in a few times to talk to Mary, and they'd sit on bar stools deep in conversation. But I don't recall seeing him onstage at the club.

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  148. To this day when you mention the name Big Mama Thornton to people who knew her, they start laughing a little bit in preparation, like they know they're going to hear another good one.

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  149. Earl Hooker drove away from Mandrake's and Berkeley, hit the highway and performed a ton of other shows that year. He flew to Europe, and performed there. Along the way, everywhere, he jumped into studios and made a slew of records. Because he had never made too many records, all of that immense activity was based on his very solid reputation. Earl couldn't even read. And I always wondered how it was he could find his way on a map or even drive around town.

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  150. I honestly don't recall too much about Southern Comfort, but people would dance a lot at their shows. They covered some Sam & Dave songs. They probably did the big showcase piece, "Hold On, I'm Coming." That was like reading the mind of the waitresses, who'd run back and forth and pull beers for sometimes impatient customers.

    The musicians had a sense of humor. They'd played strip clubs I guess and between songs and sometimes even during a song the drummer would spy a waitress sashaying with a tray of drinks coming down the aisle and headed for a table. And once in awhile he'd hit the standard intro rhythm used when a stripper first walked on stage ... da da BUMP da da BUMP da da BUMP BUMP BUMP ... and he'd match the rhythm to each of her steps, so she'd be walking in time with the music. They could be funny!

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  151. I relied on Charlie a lot, too, as a translator sort of. He felt comfortable enough to hang with the blues men. I'd see him laughing and talking with the guys and I'd wonder, "What's so funny?" He was sitting with Earl and Gino. So I'd swing by the table on my way to the bar, and pretend to take an order, and kind of whisper in his ear, "What's so funny?" And Charlie would turn to me and say through a chuckle, "Fungus Among Us. He wrote a song ... " and then he'd erupt into a small laugh.

    Every night he was there at Mandrake's, Earl Hooker would pull out another showcase special effect number, and he never repeated himself from one show to the next. Much of his act at Mandrake's relied on blues bounce numbers, as people liked to drink and dance there. But rationing out the special tricks from night to night, it's as if he knew how to keep people coming back to see him. People would talk about shows, "Did you see him when he talked to his guitar?" "No, I saw him when he was doing something like surf music lead ins" Or maybe one of those slow dance tunes like "Wah Wah Blues." Earl had a weird sense of humor, and wrote a jazzy song titled "The Fungus Among Us" about the TB that he and his bassplayer Gino shared. It wasn't a big serious blues about tuberculosis like Champion Jack sang about: "Oh I've got the TB, TB is killing me .... ". But it was.

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  152. So I'd heard all these stories about Earl when he was on the road touring as a young man. How he'd gotten into fights (and that might account for his chipped tooth), and even rumored to been in a knife fight, and he was known as a thief and a bad actor. And he did make friends with guys who had gold teeth and shades and looked genuinely like hardened men and they'd all meet up and travel around town together. And all I could say to people was, "I dunno, he was okay when he was at Mandrake's."

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  153. I kind of suffered through most of the hippie bands. They were young, just starting out, and if they lasted playing together longer than a summer they might eventually get something together. Though there were some fine players onstage at the Avalon or Fillmore at that time, we didn't get too many of them because they were busy onstage at the Avalon or Fillmore, you see. The blues and jazz guys were polished, and knew their chops. And some of the new ones coming up who Mary'd booked in were diamonds, not so much diamonds in the rough, but real jewels. And they just needed a little time to develop more of a polished sheen.

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  154. Earl didn't sing much at Mandrake's, but he did do "Anna Lee" and the way he sang it nearly made every man and woman there fall in love with each other.

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  155. When the jazz or blues people played, black couples out on a date would come in, and they'd be dressed to the nines. At the end of an evening, one such fellow asked me to call a cab for him. I pulled the dime out of the drink change I carried in an ashtray, and stopped by to tell Mary about this phenomenon, which had never before happened.

    "He asked me to call a cab for him! We're a nightclub now!" and I started to walk on, and finished up with, "Good thing we have a telephone."

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  156. Sometimes I think I have to keep reminding everyone because they weren't there at the time that Mandrake's existed when the student demonstrations were going full bloom, and the Black Panthers were shoving a paper in the face of everyone going into campus. And tensions between white and black were growing by the minute. Lots of random violence was escalating, too. And by that time a friend of mine, an actor, was mugged by some young black guys in North Side Berkeley and because he didn't have enough money to satisfy them, they shot him twice in the spine crippling him for life. Then they were still pissed, and started kicking him as he lay there. One of those miracles you hear about. The doctors told him later their kicking him started his heart going again and kept the blood pumping through his body and that kept him alive until an ambulance arrived. So after all that Civil Rights stuff nearly every one I knew had taken part in, we had the Panthers now. And sometimes my friends wondered aloud, "Where'd all my nice black friends go?" And I'd tell them they're probably at Mandrake's.

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  157. With all the violence outside on the street, and the little crumb pistol whipping Mr. Buddy, and that televised capture of the armed robbers, I used to tease Mary. "wow, it's amazing we managed to live long enough to see the whole show." I would sometimes sing, "Who Killed Mary Moore" imitating Bob Dylan, after a song that we all had heard in his early concerts.

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  158. It wasn't a very good song ... but I extemporaneized it. That's a long word for making it up as you go. Even a long made-up word like extemporaneized.

    My favorite line from the whole "song" came from the first and only stanza:

    "Who killed Mary Moore?
    They asked that pimp, they asked his whore
    And then they came and they asked me
    And I said "Mary Moore ... who she?
    I just came in to take a leak.
    This isn't the face on the bar room floor,
    So who did what to Mary Moore?
    She might be face down on the bar room floor,
    But that's always the case with Mary Moore."

    (Because I was well schooled in literary criticism, I have a very good memory, especially when it involved music. So you might think it strange, but with a little jogging and getting to the right packet of memories, I can almost hear the riff that George Frayne played when Billy K slumped to the ground. He raised his hands extra high, and hit the treble pedal, and it was a very cool crossover that hinted at some Ian Matthews English music hall piano ... but I wouldn't be able to whistle it for you.)

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  159. Whitcombe. Ian Whitcombe not Ian Matthews. (I get names up mixed up)

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  160. Just as a few of my friends had grown up to become increasingly famous rock musicians and recording stars, a few of my early college friends grew up from being concert promoters doing folk music shows on campus to running rock palaces of their own. So once when they were in town and I'd happened to run into them, I'd invite them in to see a show on me. And maybe with a few more connections made like that, people could have a place to play out of town. One of my friends had started up some kind of rock palace like that in far away San Diego, a place called the Hippodrome a few years prior to 1969, but I'm not sure if Mandrake's shared many acts with them. Other friends became road managers of fairly well known groups, but none of those groups played Mandrake's. Which was just fine, because we had our own scene and plenty to draw on.

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  161. Earl Hooker could play his guitar with his teeth!

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  162. You know, the name "Charbroiled Chinchilla" was designed to be offensive. It's a little hard to read, too, isn't it? So many c's and l's and r's that look like n's. And it was printed on a gray background that made it harder to read. Once, I was with the actors handing out the flyers near University and Shattuck. A young woman and man were walking together and she took a flyer. Then she stopped to try to read it, holding it like a book in her hands ... she eventually caught on to what it said, and she exclaimed, "Ooph!" in absolute horror and disgust, and stared in disbelief at the backs of the actors walking away.

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  163. All those swirling naked women each night, the naked pansies ... that was art. They were part of the plays. Still, such activities would sometimes prompt a visit from "the vice squad". ABC could be bad enough. But "vice squad" ... we all took on talking like Lee Marvin just describing their visit ....

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  164. So quietly in 1974, Mandrake's closed their doors, probably without much in the way of fanfare or a big "Adieau, Adios, Alfweidershein" party full of stars and patrons gathering for one last hurrah while sobbing into their beer, like some other clubs soon went under, which allowed the SF Chronicle to take note and run a little so long it's been good to know you piece.

    And everybody knew, without even saying, that it was in major part because of the great Satan Bill Graham and his clever-lawyer exclusivity contracts that our own little corner oasis of occasional happiness and sometimes great music and everybody trying to get along despite their differences went out of business.

    The great grasping bloatman who had only heard about art and music enough to make opportunistic money from it all, with, it always seemed to me, very little in the way of real appreciation or understanding of what was actually happening there in his clubs ... except for some acts onstage and money rolling into his coffers. In any other era, he would have had Bing Crosby or even trained dog acts onstage if it made him money. The Chronicle loved him because he'd helped put San Francisco on the culture map heads and shoulders above the more philistine Hollywood/Los Angeles notion, where art and culture (if noticed at all there) existed merely as a commodity to make money from. He was even late to the scene, and people had already invented their own bands and rock palaces and posters and such.

    He had managed, probably without noticing our existence at all because our small venue could never have been regarded as any sort of real economic threat, to extinguish Mandrake's and forever suck whatever small joy there could be from many people's lives. But like a python squeezing the life out of its prey, that just seemed to be the nature of some people. But that's-ssss-ssss-sss an entirely different ssss-ssss-ort of ssss-ssss-ssstory. But you really have to wonder sometimes just how greedy is greedy.

    Greedy is as greedy does, so there were exclusivity contracts developed.

    The exclusivity contracts were a major part, and also too it's likely the landlord kept raising the rent, and bands kept raising their prices because they were getting used to the higher paychecks from some of the other more glittery club owners with deeper wallets.

    Oh well, so goes history, though sometimes it is painful to be part of the historic process.

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  165. Don't you wish, as I find myself doing, that Mandrake's could come back to life, if only for a minute?

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  166. Mandrake's

    Best Blues and Jazz in all the West
    (And a little bit of all the rest)

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  167. I didn't know the name of that big scary bouncer who'd turned on Don that evening. I simply called him "Caliban".

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  168. That nickname wasn't a casual choice. I'd been reading the "Tempest" and in the early part Prospero described how Caliban didn't even have speech when they'd arrived.

    Of course there is this speech of Caliban's
    (Act 3, Scene 2) once he'd learn to speak:

    Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
    Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
    Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
    Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices
    That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
    Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming,
    The clouds methought would open, and show riches
    Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
    I cried to dream again.

    (And if this were a book, and "Caliban" were a chapter, I would stick this speech up at the top).

    Caliban had been taught to speak, and they were trying to tame him, so he could be their slave. And now he was aware of it enough to describe it. He'd rather be be wrapped in comforting dreams than face his waking reality as a slave.

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  169. So black and white tensions were being rubbed sometimes like kindling because the newspapers ran stories about Black Panthers arming themselves with machine guns.

    Back in 1968, on 5th Street, I'd read about some of the things the Panthers were also doing, and they'd included such things as free breakfasts for Oakland school children. And I'd seen the comic book the Panthers would hand out to kids, maybe right along with the free breakfast, which though a little revolutionary in flavor also had a section on how they didn't like dope dealers. There were framed cartoon drawings, very well done by the way, and the argument was summed up: "Dope dealers steal the souls of your brothers and sisters".

    But SDS leadership went to talk to the Panthers back then in 1968 and were kicked out of the office by Elaine Brown.

    So the ground rules were changing. All of the well meaning Civil Rights activists who happened to be white in color were now "honkies" and the Panthers were charting their own course. And the Panthers reasoning for this was because the Civil Rights movement had been so heavily infiltrated by informants.

    Well, that was one little corner of the population, but they were heavy with rhetoric. In front of the campus, they sold copies of Mao Tse Tung's little red book for $1 as fundraisers. And when they sold newspapers, one of their vendors would purposefully shout "Pan-fer paper" just to get in our faces more.

    So in a climate in which the black panthers also swirled, in simultaneity with other interacting social forces, isn't it amazing Mandrake's was a place where black and white could mix peacefully and just enjoy a nice evening of entertainment together? Mandrake's was like a little island of sanity.

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  170. One of my favorite lines from the McClure vignettes came from the mouth of the supersargeant in Meatball.

    He was a blustery, bombastic, billowy supermacho warrior type. At one point, he realized he needed the assistance of some of his underlings, whom he regarded much lesser creatures than he, common cannon fodder (or trebuchet fodder because cannons hadn't been invented yet). But he needed a little help to fight the hoardes.

    And he said, "I can't do everything by myself, you know. I'm only superhuman."

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  171. And sometimes I would say to my friends, "Honkies? When'd we stop being ofays?"

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  172. As was custom in small establishments in the old days, Mary kept the first dollar the place ever earned. The George Washington was held high in a place of honor above the cash register in the bar, held tight behind glass in an old wooden frame that displayed the beer and wine license.

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  173. You see, Bill Graham's exclusivity contracts closed down a lot of other things, too, if Mandrake's is any indication, and not just music. The venues go away, so there's not a ready stage for poetry, comedy, political and social satire.

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  174. No more audition nights, so there's no place for new acts to give it a try. For older more polished acts, there are fewer places to play to fill out a gig list and afford a tour however small. The situation overall I think is much worse now, but it is a logical conclusion to the early plans of Bill Graham, and the development of music and art I can argue have suffered tremendously as a result.

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  175. But that is now, and we are discussing then.

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  176. Bill Graham was no Saint, certainly, but Late Capitalism just commodifies things. In other parts of the country, where there was no Bill Graham, the same things happened to smaller clubs and music was even worse.

    People make the same complaint about the Internet now. It used to be Free and Fun, and now it's not. Anything inspirational becomes a commodity, and you have to live with that in order to consume it.

    Certainly when I was a teenager my principal interest was in seeing "Major Rock Bands" rather than some local band at a club I couldn't get into. That's how the rock industry shook out from a mosaic of little regional "scenes" into one National one, because music got commodified.

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  177. Just got home and found out the Captain died today.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/dec/17/captain-beefheart-died-aged-69

    Saw him rolling down the street in Arcata in his chair in 2005. Then a meal at a bistro on the square. Now goodbye. I have to get used to this death idea.

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  178. Your observations, Corry, about the commodification of nearly everything than can be deemed to have a mercantile value in this society (and others) and your following comments are quite thoughtful and bright and really cannot really be disputed.

    You couldn't keep me away from seeing Ike & Tina (becoming a national act) when they came within easy distance, not with a stick. But I also pranced around at a free concert at the college football field, and there were only a handful of people there, a few college boys on the ground standing around with their hands in their pockets were nearly outnumbered by the small group on the stage. It was amazing the college boys were around at all because it was the beginning of summer.

    Both those experiences were important to me and had value, price tag or not.

    This is a strange day for me, because I used to recall now and again how Frank, Don, my sister and me would travel around the area on small adventures, and share meals, and sit in the living room together, and sit in the kitchen and some of the things we said and did together. My sister, Frank, and now Don all gone and they all died in December. Today, it is only me now with my memories of them (and us), you see.

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  179. Just as commodification undermines Art, Art in turn undermines commodities. Don Vliet, sadly, moved on after (as the English would say) a very good innings. Captain Beefheart, however, lives on, in defiance of any rational force that suggested he should not succeed in the first place.

    Just as music and art suffer in the face of commerce, commerce crumbles under the power of music and art. The loon-balls that Frank Zappa signed on his Bizarre-Straight label--Capt Beefheart, Alice Cooper, Lord Buckley--generally sold more records than the 'normal' groups signed to Warner Bros at the same time.

    I saw Beefheart only once (opening for Frank at Winterland on December 27, 1975) but it was a powerful, otherworldly performance that I've never forgotten.

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  180. Ok, I'll tell a story about Don that happened while I was working at Mandrake's. He was in the area at some really wavy point at that time. First, I'd seen him walking around on Telegraph, taking long strides, and he had his top hat on and a longish mustache, and he looked a little familiar, but it didn't really register I might have known him from the past because his appearance had changed so. And within moments a fella I knew appeared, who was much more recognizable, and I was reminded (because many years had elapsed) that he was now Don's manager, and now Don was Captain Beefheart. So we all chit chatted a bit, and assembled and drove over to Mendocino for the day. My boyfriend really didn't want to go, and if he did, he wanted to take his own vehicle, and we probably should have, as it turned out. So there Don was walking around Mendocino, a small picturesque village on the coast, and we darted in and out of various shoppes. And wandered around on the sand dunes having a much needed day out of town in the country.

    Well, during the course of this wandering around, my boyfriend and I got quite separated from the entourage and we had to hitch hike home back to Berkeley. This seemed to me to be a very typical Don Vliet experience.

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  181. God, Corry, what a beautiful thing you just said.

    We used to love Lord Buckley. I loved Lord Buckley. I heard a story once that he used to tease his children when they went downstairs, saying "Faster, children, faster, faster!"

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  182. Mandrake's stayed open on Christmas Day, 1969. There was a little talk prior that the club would be closed for a few days, because people as Lee said would be out of town visiting family. And I said, "Aw" because I was thinking people might not have a place to visit at Christmas. So I thought the club would be closed, and nothing to my knowledge was scheduled. I flew out of town to visit family. My boyfriend flew back East to see his family. But Lee was in there working Christmas Day all by himself and said he had some customers. And Mary said she spent the day at home. I don't know if bars generally stay open on Christmas Day, but Mandrake's was.

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  183. Not only did Mandrake's stay open on Christmas Day in 1969, they advertised a performance by "Maggie's Farm". I came across an article in the Berkeley Barb about Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen appearing on a Monday audition night (August 11, 1969) which includes a photograph that may well be from the inside of Mandrake's - perhaps you may be able to confirm. Another 100 or so dates have been added to the list and the web page updated:

    www.chickenonaunicycle.com/Mandrakes.htm

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  184. That does not look at all like Mandrake's stage and the piano is different. Though George still had that striped shirt, I mean I saw him wearing it. Still, that is pretty much how they looked when they first came out onto the stage, but they'd usually lose the ties and hats. The stand up bass was used only occasionally, electric bass usually. I suspect that was a recent photo they handed the writer to go with the article.

    My very first observation:

    The article opens by quoting the lyrics to their tune (and there's a long space to indicate a surprise is coming, which is a change of the expected usual lyrics).

    "One drink of wine, two drinks of gin ..... "

    That's from Sonny Boy Williamson's well known song, "Early in the Morning". Musselwhite covered that on his first album Stand Back released in 1967 and he would perform that song regularly back then. Lance worked with Charlie and knew his material inside and out for awhile.

    The lyrics in the blues song (Charlie's version) go:

    "One drink of wine, two drinks of gin
    Little girl put me in the shape I'm in"

    So, you see, the Commander Cody band were announcing things were going to be a little different when they took their turn at the microphone.

    "One drink of wine, two drinks of gin
    And I'm lost in the ozone again"


    Even though the notes were different, the words were recognisably drawn from a blues standard. After Commander Cody started becoming popular around Berkeley, Charlie dropped that particular lyric for years whenever he did that song.

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  185. After Wild Man Fischer's appearance, a few weirdos stopped in to audition what they regarded as their acts that would make them rich and famous. Maybe like the young bands coming up they had dreams of making a record and getting rich and famous, who knows. The weirdos like Wild Man Fischer (who could travel from Los Angeles to Berkeley, and apparently more than once) would also travel, as part of the great youthful migration. One guy came into the club, and his entire act one which he was auditioning for was to stand by the jukebox, take off his pants to reveal his baggy striped boxer shorts, and hand me a Necco wafer. He had managed to get to Berkeley from New York.

    Musicians, too. One guy his hair combed in a greasy style country and western waterfall could do a fine version of Johhny B Goode, but I never heard him do any other song. He came onstage wearing his gas station attendant's uniform, a gray jumpsuit with the short sleeves rolled up, with a big bright Texaco star on his chest. Most rock bands knew that number, and could fake it. He was onstage twice there that I know of.

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  186. By the way, just to refine things a bit, Lord Buckley was already dead when Frank "signed him". Frank worked with Buckley's widow and former record company to gain rights to re-release Buckley's records.

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  187. Bob Hirshfield (mentioned in the Poetry article) was also with the Magic Theater. A few years after the poetry readings at Mandrake's, his troupe put on some plays around town.

    In reaction to the poster for Charbroiled Chinchilla, for a low budget production they produced one of the finest posters I'd ever seen advertising a play.

    The poster was printed on expensive glossy paper, a subdued lavendar in color .... a photograph of a woman's nether parts with a bit of curl showing, with the seeds of a pomegrante spilled over her. And the lady had a tatoo of a small hummingbird near her tierra del fuegos, and it appeared the humming bird was about to dip his beak into the pomegrante arils.

    Then Hirshfield went on to direct or do something with Oppenheimer's Chair, a play all about the chair Robert Oppenheimer sat in while he struggled with the notion of nuclear destruction.

    Then Bob borrowed a page from Don's book and got a paying job in some commercials on television. Bob would likely have a hard time finding a job in movies or television because he was a big bear of a man (with a wild beard back in 1969) and movies and television always tend to type cast.

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  188. I remember seeing the expression on Charlie's face when he listened to that signature Cody number once in the very early days .... a smile of initial enjoyment that soon melted into a mien of contemplative resignation.

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  189. At some point Don brought in rose wine, which complicated the order taking process. Beer or wine .... red or white ... we also have rose.

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  190. "Charbroiled Chinchilla" was also hard to read for some because one is a three-syllable word, and they both were very long words spelled out on a page, and the sixties were very stony times.

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  191. Some patrons took a very long time indeed deciding between "beer" or "wine" and I would have to prompt them along a bit. "Did you want something to drink this evening?" No reply. "Do you want a drink? Do you want a beer or a glass of wine?" Then to make matters worse, Don added a machine that had tubes and spritzers, and I had to add "soft drinks" to the array. "Coke or seven-up?" And I'll be damned -- some people after paying a dollar at the door would order a glass of water. We didn't believe in two drink minimums like the jazz clubs, you see. People didn't have to drink to enjoy music there.

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  192. The Chinese scholar had left and got another job in a place that had a little jazz, better tips, and which served hard liquor. She told me she'd get a little mixed up sometimes and push the wrong buttons and serve a gin and root beer.

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  193. ED Denson bought another wool jacket as he got more prosperous as Country Joe & the Fish started taking off. This was adark brown with large windowpane black squares. A little fuzzy like some mohair was woven into the wool. He'd wear that one sometimes when he came in to see groups, which wasn't all the time as Joe was getting busy and ED would help tour the group.

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  194. Wow, just found Robert Hirschfeld online. You might have actually seen him if you watched the right television shows:

    http://www.hillstreetblues.tv/cast/cast.html

    The food critic part makes sense as I used to run into him over french onion soup at Crouchon's (a restaurant on Shattuck near University where everyone who was anyone dined. I ate there, too. As did Alan and Juno Watts when they were in town). And Spenger's (a fine fish dining experience). I also saw him at the Balabosta (a brave eatery that opened at University and 6th or 7th in 1970 with a mixed mostly French cuisine). Buddy's was about it in 1969, though sometimes the staff and musicians would stop into Brennan's on 4th and University (a steamy wonderful hofbrau that had a huge oval stand up bar complete with brass foot rests. All that was missing were the spitoons) for a stiffer drink.

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  195. Leo from Hill Street Blues a Berkeley food critic, who knew.

    I recall Spengler's and Brennan's. Sometime in the early 90s, Brennan made a stab at being a music bar. I remember seeing Harvey Mandel there--very odd to see such a legend playing in the corner of the big room.

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  196. I would have loved to see Harvey Mandel! I'm a little envious, I've never seen him. And I wouldn't mind a hot sandwich from Brennan's, either!

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  197. Hirschfeld heavy into food:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOLBWo6aP0g

    (This wasn't the commercial I was thinking of, though)

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