Thursday, November 12, 2009

Springhill Road, Lafayette, CA July 22, 1967: Casa Loma Swim Club "Fantastic Flight Of The Mystic Balloon"


(update: some photos turned up that appear to be from this show)

The Summer of 1967 in the Bay Area offered a peculiar paradox for aspiring rock promoters. On one hand, it was plain to anyone who wasn't completely deaf and blind that the San Francisco rock scene was the coolest thing happening in the country. On top of that, not only were there numerous Bay Area bands, musicians were flocking from all over to start or join bands, and there weren't enough gigs at the Fillmore and the Avalon to go around. As for the audiences, kids outside of San Francisco, Berkeley and San Jose were dying to see happening rock shows, as many as they could. The only problem in the way was the absence of suitable rock venues, and the resentment and suspicion with which hippies and their music were greeted by the so-called "older generation."

This article from the July 26, 1967 edition of the Oakland Tribune describes a long-forgotten, ambitious and somewhat unsuccessful event, the "Fantastic Flight of The Mystic Balloon," a planned 12-hour Happening with a dozen bands, outdoors at the private Casa Loma Swim Club in suburban Lafayette, just over the hill from Berkeley. While Lafayette today is a somewhat upscale suburb, in the 1960s it was considerably emptier and less wealthy (though hardly poor). On the other hand, the community had more of a small town sensibility than that of a town full of urban commuters. According to the article, producer Eric Town expected to draw 6000 people (at $3 a head) to his extravaganza, to see the following bands:

Country Joe and The Fish/Steve Miller Blues Band/New Salvation Army Band/Roger Collins/Majestic Sound/Don Holland/Clark Miller Trio/Maggie’s Farm/The Virtues/Blue Union/Frumious Bandersnatch/Opus Three

The Casa Loma Swim Club had six open acres land at the deadend of Springhill Road. However, according to article, a residential group, the Springhill Improvement Association, voted to encourage District Attorney John Nejedly in declaring the promoter and the bands a "Public Nuisance," alleging a violation of zoning ordinances. A judge filed a temporary injunction,  but the show went on as planned. Nonetheless, according to the promoter, the show was "ruined," and only six of the twelve scheduled bands performed. The District Attorney and the homeowners prevailed in preventing a follow up event the next Saturday (July 29).

While complaints were alleged about excessive noise--probably with some justification--the principal issue seemed to be the threat of the "hippie element." The paper interviews one homeowner--

Alan Stanley, 33, a county engineer who lives near the club at 1200 Martino Road, said the residents were not concerned about hippies attracted to the music, but were concerned about safety.
He conceded some residents were "jumping up and down" about the hippie element. He said there were "an awful lot of psuedo-hippies, you know, kids who were trying to act like hippies." He said only about ten percent of the crowd could be considered hippies.

Its hard to parse these comments without feeling that the homeowner was trying awfully hard to find a way to explain that he feared hippies near his property, like they were some sort of species of marauding wildlife, but everyone is free to draw their own conclusions. In any case, the next weekend's shows were canceled, and Lafayette returned to its quiet sylvan state. I could find no trace of the Casa Loma Swim Club on the satellite map.

Notes On The Bands
Country Joe and The Fish were Berkeley's leading rock band. At this time, they had released their successful first album Electric Music For The Mind And Body (Vanguard) and were regular Fillmore and Avalon headliners.
Steve Miller Blues Band were a popular local group, but a year away from their first album. Steve Miller had come from Madison (via Chicago) and imported friends from there in order to start his band. At this time, Boz Scaggs was about to join the group, or may have already, as original guitarist Curly Cook had fallen ill.
New Salvation Army were a San Francisco band. They released two albums under the name Salvation, as the actual Salvation Army objected to their name.
Roger Collins was an East Bay soul singer who had some minor local hits.
Majestic Sound are unknown to me
Don Holland was a popular lounge act, probably in an R&B style. They may have backed Collins.
Clark Miller Trio are unknown to me.
Maggie's Farm appear to have been a Pleasant Hill garage band. At some point they had a keyboard player from Berkeley (Mark Batterman, formerly of Haymarket Riot), but they seem to have been a Contra Costa band.
The Virtues featured guitarist Greg Douglas (who co-wrote "Jungle Love" for Steve Miller many years later). This group evolved into Country Weather.
Blue Union are unknown to me.
Frumious Bandersnatch arose from a band called All Night Flight, founded at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill. This was the first lineup, featuring drummer/vocalist Jack King, guitarists George Tickner and Brett Wilmot, bassist Brian Hough and singer Kaja Doria. This lineup broke up after their equipment was stolen in late 1967 from an Oakland warehouse. King reformed the group in 1968 and went on to play with Steve Miller in the 1970s. Tickner was a founding member of Journey, and is now apparently a doctor.
Opus Three are unknown to me.




1 comment:

  1. It has never been absolutely clear to me which six of the twelve groups played, although we do know that it included Country Joe and The Fish, Steve Miller and Salvation. Country Joe and The Fish were named in the subsequent injunction.

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