Sunday, November 1, 2009

May 19, 1967 Peter Wheat/Sons Of Champlin Rollarena>Carpenter's Hall

This picture caption in the May 19, 1967 points up how different the Fillmore/Avalon ballroom circuit was from the Teen rock scene that had developed just before it and was still active out in the suburbs. The picture is of Mill Valley's Sons Of Champlin, who are scheduled to play not one but two gigs on Friday May 19. They are paired with local heroes Peter Wheat, and promoter Bill Quarry has Peter Wheat and The Sons playing The Rollarena in San Leandro (at 15721 E. 14th Street). Later that evening, both bands are playing at the smaller Carpenter's Hall in Hayward. Their are different third acts on the bill for each--The Sounds of Silver Darkness play the Rollarena, and The Garden of Chaste Refreshment play Carpenter's Hall. Presumably start times were staggered so both bands could play both places.

At this time, even relatively successful local rock bands like The Sons of Champlin had very little equipment by modern standards. The Sons would have had to cart around Bill Champlin's Hammond organ--assuming he used a Hammond onstage--and Bill Bowen's drums, but bassist Al Strong and guitarist Terry Haggerty would have just had their amps. Their might have been an extra guitar and amp, as a spare and so that Champlin and saxophonist Tim Cain could double on guitar when needed. However, it all would have fit easily into a van, and could probably be moved out quickly. Thus a popular local rock band could play multiple gigs in a night. At this very same time, bands like the Dead and the Airplane were accumulating massive amounts of equipment that made multi-gig nights well nigh impossible. The Grateful Dead model of a self-contained PA and masses of equipment would soon become the rock band standard.

Up until June, 1967, The Sons of Champlin had been managed by Frank Werber's Trident Productions. Werber had struck it big with the Kingston Trio, and while he and producer Randy Stierling had very open ears and signed some good local acts, they still had a conventional show-biz approach to the business. Throughout the Spring of 1967, the Sons played many gigs sponsored by radio station KFRC, often headlining a Pepsi-sponsored Battle Of The Bands at various High Schools (student musicians at Washington High in Fremont and Woodside High in Redwood City still fondly recall The Sons' appearances, particularly guitarist Terry Haggerty). By the end of June, however, The Sons were heading in a more psychedelic direction and Trident was getting out of management, so Werber released the Sons from their contracts, freeing them to focus on the more artistic side of their music. This two-gig night was near the end of their tenure as a working dance band, and while the Sons do not reject any part of their past, they never evinced a desire to return to this kind of gig either.

Peter Wheat and The Breadmen were a popular Hayward group, one of the first "long-haired" local bands. By 1967, they had changed from British Invasion style music to more of an R&B style, with horns and a female vocalist, and mostly billed themselves as Peter Wheat (nobody was named Peter in the band, much less Peter Wheat), but their moment had passed. This show would have been near the end of their career, and the band probably broke up soon after this.

During their period with Frank Werber, the Sons of Champlin played a sort of sophisticated Beatles style rock that emphasized vocal harmonies (amply documented on the Big Beat cd Fat City). As the band became increasingly interested in the psychedelic music blossoming in the Bay Area, a split with Werber became more logical. To Werber's credit, he simply released the Sons from their contract, freeing them to continue however they pleased. By the end of June, The Sons Of Champlin had appeared at the Palo Alto Be-In with a horn section, and the same students who saw them at Woodside High wer completely surprised by their new direction. Thus the Sons set out on the path of trailblazing psychedelic fusion music that would lead them to fame and exactly no fortune whatsoever.


  1. Peter Wheat & The Bread Men were from Fremont, CA.

  2. The Oakland Tribune noted on December 9, 1966 that Wheat's principal in Fremont barred him from
    school because of his hairdo.

  3. Peter Wheat Forever!! Fremont, CA