Tuesday, December 8, 2009

26220 Moody Road, Los Altos, CA Adobe Creek Lodge June 24-25, 1967 Sopwith Camel/The Wildflower

This tantalizing poster has piqued my curiosity over the years, mainly as a talisman of what might have been. The venue site was remarkable, and the South Bay was ripe in 1967 for a viable venue, and the superior weather of the South Bay would have made an outdoor venue appealing indeed. All my research came up dry, however. Eventually, I discovered that "Sopwith Camel Productions" was the business identity of Camel manager Yuri Toporov. A Fremont band called The Wakefield Loop, about whom I have written extensively, were also Toporov clients, and according to some band members the Camel were on the verge of splitting with Toporov around this time, so I think this show never actually occurred. Since The Wildflower don't recall it either, I think its simply a case of what might have been.

Nonetheless, the venue site was very intriguing. The South Bay in the 1960s featured prosperous suburbs, but prior to Silicon Valley it was not a gold mine, so there were plenty of unused land in the hills behind the various towns. Initially just a Summer Resort, Los Altos is just Southwest of Palo Alto, and the town had only incorporated in 1952, primarily to prevent annexation from larger towns. Foothill Junior College (birthplace of The Chocolate Watch Band) had opened its new campus in 1961, but the town was still undefined in the mid-1960s.

The Adobe Creek Lodge, at 26220 Moody Road, had originally been built as the summer estate for San Francisco industrialist Milton Haas in 1934. The Lodge was located above what is now Foothill College (El Monte Road turns into Moody Road), and even today is quite a rugged, inaccessible area. It included not only a substantial mansion but cottages for the 27 servants in residence. In the 1940s and 50s, the Lodge became a commercial resort, with a restaurant and summer camp. It was a place to “see and be seen” in the wealthy South Bay hills. Big Band stalwarts like Harry James and Jimmy Dorsey performed under the stars on the grounds, and major corporations sponsored huge corporate picnics for thousands of employees.

By the 1960s, the Lodge had become The Los Altos Hills Country Club, and at its peak in the late 60s the club had 1,000 memberships. Many South Bay “society” events featured local rock bands (the Dead played Bob Weir’s sister’s Debutante Ball, for example), often alternating with a big band for the older members, so rock groups were not unknown in Peninsula Society. Nonetheless, the June, 1967 event, which advertises “To The Woods: Dancing Amongst The Trees, Grass and Colored Lights and Moons” appears to be a fully commercial event.

The weekend of June 24-25, 1967 was the week after the Monterey Pop Festival, and it featured many great rock shows all over the Bay Area (Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore and the 13th Floor Elevators at The Avalon among the most prominent) and—quite a rarity—direct competition in Palo Alto itself. The Palo Alto Be-In was on Saturday,  and Country Joe and The Fish had just played at Gunn High School (on Thursday June 23)  just a few miles down from Foothill. Whether the show was canceled due to weak ticket sales or because of a dispute between Sopwith Camel and their manager isn't clear, but in either case the result seems the same. No one recalls the event because it probably didn't occur.

The Adobe Creek Lodge show appears to have been lost in the shuffle, and a fascinating potential rock venue was never used again. The city of Los Altos Hills ended up taking over the property in the late 1970s, and eventually the mansion and many of the grounds were incorporated into a private residence.


  1. Was that Debutante Ball the 9/2/66 show at the La Dolphine estate? I've always wondered how they came to play a show there.

  2. Actually, Fillmore bands played a lot of debutante balls, since there was usually an orchestra for the adults and a rock band for "the kids."

    The La Dolphine ball was arranged by Bob Weir's sister, who would have been a debutante herself. I can't recall if Wendy Weir was older or younger, so I'm not sure if she had already been or was planning to be one, but in either case she was the connection.

    You can find out about La Dolphine by nosing around on the internet, although the site was substantially reduced by the time the Dead played there (albeit still over the top).