Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Matrix, San Francisco, CA February 19, 1969 Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady/Weird Herald

The Matrix, at 3138 Fillmore Street in San Francisco, was the original hippie hangout, even before there were hippies. Founded by Marty Balin and his father, the club provided a place to play for the newly-formed Jefferson Airplane on August 13, 1965. Numerous other groups either debuted or made their San Francisco debut there, such as Big Brother and The Holding Company (on January 10, 1966). The Matrix was also a clubhouse and hangout for what few underground pothead musicians were around at the time. As the scene expanded, and the Fillmore and Avalon became major venues, the Matrix became as a hangout as much as a club. Although The Matrix only served beer and pizza, hippies were very much not welcome at many establishments, and in any case it took a while for rock music to become the dominant form of music in San Francisco nightclubs, so the Matrix was the best small place in the City for rock.

A tiny place that only seated 100, by 1969 it was a place for new bands in town to get heard or for local heavyweights to try out different configurations in a casual setting. The actual billing for February 19, 1969 (according to a newspaper listing, I believe in the San Francisco Chronicle) was   for Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady with Weird Herald (for many years, it was believed that Jerry Garcia and High Country played The Matrix on February 19, but it seems definitive that the Dead played Fillmore West that night. I discuss the Garcia/High Country Matrix tape elsewhere).

Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady started Hot Tuna--whom I saw just a few months ago, only 40 years later--because they played together so much in hotel rooms they thought it would be fun to continue it on stage when the Jefferson Airplane weren't playing. This booking at the Matrix is the first known public booking of the pair. Did Jorma and Jack play or plan to play acoustic, or electric? My guess would be acoustic, since subsequent electric gigs at the Matrix in 1969 (such as April 13, 1969) were billed as "Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady and Joey Covington." Still, this would have been the duo's first night, so its hard to say what was planned.

Weird Herald is even more mysterious, but all the more interesting for that. Jorma Kaukonen had gotten his start in the South Bay folk scene, where he was friends with Garcia, Nelson and all the rest. Among his San Jose pals were guitarists Paul Ziegler and Billy Dean Andrus. Andrus, a transplant from Mississippi, was reputed to be one of the hot pickers in the South Bay. Weird Herald was the 1968-69 folk rock band started by Ziegler and Andrus. They played many "underground" gigs in San Jose, but little is known about them save for one 45, featuring some spacey acoustic fingerpicking. Supposedly Weird Herald recorded an unreleased album (for Onyx Records) but I don't know what it might have sounded like. Did Weird Herald even have a drummer? Were they planning to play an acoustic gig without a band? Were Jorma and Jack going to join in with Weird Herald? Ziegler was the guitarist with Hot Tuna in 1970, so that isn't such a stretch.

Unlike Jorma and Jack, Billy Dean Andrus remains an unheard legend. After Weird Herald broke up, Andrus joined a San Jose group called Pachuco, featuring the even more legendary Skip Spence, and finally a Santa Cruz Mountains band called Mountain Current. In early November 1970, Andrus died of a drug overdose, supposedly after  a three-day party at a notorious biker hangout in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Jorma Kaukonen wrote "Ode To Billy Dean" (on Burgers) and still plays it to this day. One of Andrus's San Jose pals, Pat Simmons, had joined a band called The Doobie Brothers, and later dedicated the song "Black Water" to him, so Andrus's presence still resides with his friends.

The Matrix owners recorded every show, although they did not preserve every tape due to the cost of recording tape at the time. We can only hope that some piece of Weird Herald's performance is still accessible.

Update
a photo of Weird Herald, purportedly from late 1967
I am happy to report that my fishhook in the ocean about Weird Herald has gotten some real bites. Two surviving members of the band,  drummer Patrick McIntire and bassist Cecil Bollinger can both be seen in the Comments, and I have been in touch with a wide variety of people regarding the band. An album was recorded in San Francisco in 1968 and the recordings still exist--I have heard a little bit and they really were some band--but it remains to be seen whether the surviving recording is releasable.

I am attaching a photo--unfortunately tiny--sent by a mysterious stranger (hey, the band wasn't called "Normal Herald"). This correspondent said that he was Weird Herald's manager in late 1967, that they recorded a now-lost 4-song demo, and he almost took the band to Australia. He included this promotional photo. I'm putting it on this post in the hopes that other correspondents may recognize the photo, the setting, or anything else.

17 comments:

  1. A little clarification on Andrus. According to the UPI based article in the November 7, 1970 edition of the Oakland Tribune: Guitarist's Funeral Held In San Jose: Funeral services were held yesterday for songwriter and rock guitarist Billy Dean Andrus who composed more than 300 songs, including "Saratoga James." Andrus, a native of Park Rapids, Minn., died Monday of undetermined causes. He was 24. The Santa Clara County Coroner's Office placed his death on the "unnatural list" with "determination pending." It will be from one to three weeks before laboratory tests will determine the results of an autopsy, a coroner's spokesman said. Andrus was lead guitarist for the Weird Harold for more than three years and joined another rock group, Mountain Current, a month ago. Survivors include his widow, Dianne. Ross

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  2. Great find.

    Its also interesting to see that he was in Mountain Current, who were sort of a linking term between New Delhi River Band and Kingfish.

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  3. Yes, WH had a drummer.... me. After Bill's death (its complicated), we all ventured into other combo's but none as satisfying as the original WH (with bassist Cecil Bollinger from Los Gatos, Ca.) Paul did play with Hot Tuna for awhile; Cecil bought a fishing boat. I giged with Juice Newton and Otha Young as Dixie Peach, then headed north to Ashland, Oregon, playing mostly country bars for five years.

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  4. These are amazing details, Patrick, as Weird Herald has largely been a mystery. What was the actual lifespan of the group (it seems like 1968-70)? Was there really an unreleased album recorded for Onyx Records?

    Its also amazing to see that you are a link between Weird Herald and Juice Newton. I had no idea that Juice Newton went to Foothill College in Los Altos (I just looked it up). The other (in)famous band that got its start at Foothill was the legendary Chocolate Watch Band.

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  5. Corry - yes, we did an album in 1968-69. And it remains unreleased. I'm in touch with Bill Andrus' brother who told me that Bill's father has a decent-quality copy of the studio master. He and I are very interested in getting it out there via the Web as a tribute to Bill's incredible talent. BTW - Danny Phay (CWB)was the WH vocalist for about a week. Go figure. More later.

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  6. Patrick--can you email me at corrarnold at gmail.com? Your Comments have attracted a lot of interest and a number of people have emailed me about it.

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  7. RE:Weird Herald

    To: Patrick, Cecil, Corry & the Yellow Shark. I was a good friend of Paul Ziegler’s’ for many years. He and I go back to the Brass Knocker days. Patrick, I understand Paul is dead, can you confirm this because I lost touch a long time ago. Also, can you tell me who it was that produced your sessions and if it is possible to contact him? I tried to Google him but it's pretty obscure. Paul gave me a reel of the album you made but I didn't want to release it without due diligence in finding you and Cecil, and the producer. Contracts need to be signed, royalties agreed to, etc. Remember the picture I took of you and the group in "The Cellar" in Los Gatos with one-candle watts worth of power? I thought about using that color photograph as the cover for your album; it came out great. I would really like to see your album finally come out. Corry & Yellow Shark: when Billy Dean died of an over-dose it was Jorma who covered the cost of the funeral expenses, burial, head stone, etc. and I love him for that. Billy is buried in the Soquel graveyard. After Billy Dean passed away Paul got Pete Grant to play lead guitar. I still have the pictures I took of all the guys on a bright, sunny day with Pete, who has his electric guitar strapped on and hooked up to this mini-amp, which in turn is hooked-on to his belt and Pete is playing away. I moved to San Diego around the time Paul had Fat City guitars and Saf was busted. Shortly after that period of time I was on my way down to take photos of the Maya temples in Central America, so whenever I came back up to the Bay Area I asked around but the trails were getting pretty cold. I'm sorry to say that I heard we lost Chris Ramey too; he was a fine finger-picker who also played the Knocker and downtown at The Shelter w/ Paul & Jorma. I've been in Eugene, Oregon since '75 so it is wonderful to see this site on the Internet and to see that you, Patrick, have gotten in touch this way. I was afraid I would Never be able to find you two again. Patrick, please contact me at - I would love to hear from you and get all this information. JSJR 11152011 BTW I talked w/ Paul a couple of times about the gigs he played w/ Hot Tuna in England (Bath?) and what impressed Paul was how Huge the audiences were and it was never reported in the press here. Also, Château Liberte (sp?) was where all the action went down. Basically it was one weekend with Tuna and the next w/ The Doobie Bros; they alternated. When Tuna played then after a set or two ‘Pachuco’ would play (or jam is more like it) w/ Jorma. Billy inspired Jorma; it was never a contest it was always a great outlet. For the audience it was always outrageous! And I wish the press would quit constantly referring to CL as a biker bar. Sure, there were bikers there but mainly it was the mountain people from Loma Prieta/Redwood Estates, Los Gatos, etc.

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  8. Patrick - For some reason the email address you can contact me at was removed so I'll try and add it here. Thanks

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  9. 3rd X's the charm - Patrick - this website is censoring the yahoo email address I have provided; twice now. Just put in john sharkey jr as one, long word and it will get to me at yahoo. Adios JSJR 11152011

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  10. OK - one more thing I forgot to mention. Billy didn't form 'Pachuco' After WH broke up; they were all still together until Billy's death. He played in both; "Pachuco" was rowdy rock n' roll; a different kind of musical trip than the format in WH; like I said earlier, a different outlet. JSJR 11152011

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  11. John of Eugene, thank you so much for including all these amazing details about the backstory of Weird Herald. It's also fascinating to hear about Pachuco. Did Skip Spence ever play with Pachuco? That's the way the story is usually told.

    It's also fascinating to hear that Pete Grant played some gigs with Weird Herald. I had only known of him as a banjo and pedal steel player, I had no idea he was a six-string player.

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  12. My name is Jason Bollinger. I am the son of Cecil Bollinger. I grew up hearing stories of Weird Herald my entire life and to read these posts is something incredible!!! Any further information on my father and the band would be much much appreciated!!! My father is alive and well by the way and enjoying retirement to the fullest!! PLEASE PLEASE contact me at bollingerjason2@gmail.com

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  13. Ok... Ya found me. I'm Cecil Bollinger.
    I'm really glad to hear that Pat whom we used to call "The BIG Mamu" is still kickin.
    I've not heard anything about Pat or Paul Zeigler for years and years. Is Paul still alive? I'm still pretty healthy and still kickin.

    After the fishing boat gig for a few years I became a full time computer nerd and am retired now... Been married for 29 years. We raised an played with horses for about 10 years but for the last few years we've decided to travel so we full-time RV all over the country now. I'm now a Texas resident but we still own a small home and acreage in Northern CA.

    I guess I'm still not sure what I want to be when I grow up but I do insist on enjoying life.

    We (Weird Herald) did record an album in the Max Weise Studio in San Francisco. The last I knew of the tapes was - I think Paul had a copy as well as Max Weise. If Bill's folks had a copy too - I'm glad to hear that.

    Jorma's visits to Paul's house lead to some really fun jams for all of us and, I think, did influence our whole group.

    It's good to hear about Peter Grant too... He was a spunky guy. I remember that he used to drink so much carrot juice that his skin would glow orange... (an extremely versatile and colorful musician)

    I think we'll always miss Bill as his creativity was an inspiration to us all.

    Thanks for replying to my son, Jason, so promptly. I'm looking forward to being in contact with Pat again. We have another son, Chris, who's a drummer. Since my dad was a musician the family tradition will continue...

    Please let me know if I can help with any more WH history....

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  14. Cecil, thank you so much for joining in. Glad to hear you are alive and well. I posted an unfortunately tiny jpg of what supposedly was a promotional photo of WH from late 1967. Are you in the photo? Is it even Weird Herald? Any light you can shed on it would be great.

    In the spirit of this blog, if you don't know or aren't sure, feel free to post some half-remembered rumors or likely speculation, since that's what this blog is all about (it's worked so far).

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  15. Hi Cecil....
    Very quickly, I believe that the photo is of the original Weird Herald: Bill Andrus, Paul Ziegler, Bill Hole (bass), and the drummer (sorry, can't remember his name). The drummer quite so I joined; then Bill Hole left and we got Cecil. I joined just as the band was supposed to go to Australia, but that fell through.

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  17. Hey guys! Has there been any update at all of a release for the album? Or even that the reels are safe and accessible? Id really like to see the record! I've tried to retrace Onyx records, but keep running into dead ends. The 45 is almost unattainable, and consistently goes for over 200 dollars online. I really feel like there would be an interest to put the reels on a record! If anyone has any info that would be great. bollingerjason2@gmail.com

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