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.
|a photo of Weird Herald, purportedly from late 1967|
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.