Wednesday, September 16, 2009

807 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA: The Orphanage May 29-30, 1973 Kingfish (first shows?)

 

The Orphanage was the hot North Beach rock club for a brief moment in the early 1970s. Located just off Broadway at 807 Montgomery (at Pacific), it was the former site of a North Beach topless club called Roaring Twenties. Even Roaring Twenties had a brief rock history, as the venue tried rock in 1967, and featured The Wildflower and then six weeks of The Charlatans before giving it up in late July. By 1973, the Orphanage was a happening spot for up and coming rock bands, as rising local bands like Graham Central Station got their start there, and veterans like Van Morrison were willing to play the room as well.



The above clipping is from the Entertainment Listings of The Fremont Argus of Friday, May 25, 1973. Besides featuring the exceptional Azteca, a groundbreaking San Francisco Latin rock band, the booking for Tuesday and Wednesday, May 29-30 for Kingfish is the earliest booking I have seen for that band. Now, since it was my belief that Kingfish did not even form until spring of 1974, until after Dave Torbert left the New Riders and re-upped with his old friend Matthew Kelly, it is entirely possible that this is some other band named Kingfish, and has nothing to do with the Matt Kelly-led band that worked in some form from 1974 to the 1990s, featuring Torbert, Bob Weir, Patti Cathcart and many others over the years. 


On the other hand, I know that Matt Kelly was working on an album in 1973, originally intended as a harmonica instruction album (tracks from these sessions were released as part of Kelly's 1985 solo album A Wing And A Prayer). Kelly had also been working with a group called Slewfoot, a sort of proto-Kingfish, backing singer David Rea. I believe David Rea had moved on by 1973, but its plausible to think that Kelly might play a few gigs, and he always called his band Kingfish, so its reasonable to think that he started in 1973. Slewfoot featured Kelly, guitarist Bill Cutler, bassist James Ackroyd and drummer Chris Herold (backing David Rea). 


Its entirely possible that the "Kingfish" at the Orphanage had nothing to do with Matt Kelly. However, the venue was at the top of the local tree, and was not going to book an amateur group. Although Matt Kelly was hardly known at the time, he had been a professional musician since the mid-60s, and he's the sort of solid local musician whose band would play The Orphanage on a weeknight. For now I'm going to assume that these performances are a the first live iteration of Matt Kelly's Kingfish.

6 comments:

  1. This was the Kingfish with Dave Torbert and Matthew Kelly but I believe the show was 1974 and not 1973 because Torbert was still touring with the New Riders in May of 1973. And before they called themselves Kingish, they played the Orohanage and a couple of other venues as Scarab. Just something I happen to know for SURE.

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  2. I meant Kingfish... cannot see anything any more, especially my own typos (although I am usually the first to point them out in the postings of other people).

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  3. Thanks Michelle, I will look for Scarab.That's a fascinating piece of information.

    My theory was that Matt Kelly had some other lineup, pre-Dave Torbert (possibly a version of Slewfoot?)and was trying out the name Kingfish. Still, it sounds like this was another Kingfish entirely.

    Corry

    Corry

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  4. A propos the venue, it seems that in 1973-1974 it also hosted bluegrass. There was a radio show on KSAY (then on KEST) called "Saturday Afternoon Bluegrass Experience" which appears to have been broadcast from the Orphanage. From April of 1974 there may also have been Thursday evening shows for a broadcast called "Bluegrass by the Bay." Radio show executive producer Mick Seeber says that the shows were typically SRO (ca. 500 people, with the room's legal capacity at 600). (Note that he said this in promotional materials for the Golden State Country Bluegrass Festival, and as such it might represent a bit of boosterism for the Bay Area bluegrass scene.)

    All of this comes from a fascinating set of documents relating to the GSCBF held at the Southern Folklife Collection Festival Files at the UNC Chapel Hill library.

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  5. I guess I should drive all 2.7 miles over there and look at the Southern Folklife Collection Files at UNC. I wonder if there are tapes of "Bluegrass By The Bay"?

    It may be a more interesting place than I had originally thought.

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  6. I have pretty much hit them up for all of the known/possible Garcia/OAITW dates from their festival files. I didn't ask about the Bay Area bluegrass recordings. Might be fun.

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