Friday, December 18, 2009
49 Wentworth Alley, San Francisco Drag'on A' Go-Go January-February 1967
Although Chinatown was a genuine and long-standing community of immigrant Chinese and Chinese-Americans, commercially Chinatown was geared towards tourists. In the 1960s, Chinese restaurants were not common in most places, and good ones were even less common, so Chinatown made San Francisco an exotic and attractive destination. Since Chinatown was in walking distance of both the Financial District and North Beach (if you don't mind a few hills), it was accessible to the majority of San Francisco visitors. Chinatown was an appealing destination for families from the suburbs looking to spend a fun evening in the City, because it was exotic and fun, but easy to get to.
The Drag'on A' Go Go seems to have been open from about 1965 to 1967, at the height of both teen clubs and "Go Go" clubs. As far as I can tell, the Drag'on pushed cokes and hot dogs, and the like, although it may have sold beer, to, and directed itself at the 18-20 year old segment. For a couple of years it seemed to make money, too. While no truly legendary bands played the Drag'on, a few good groups appear to have played there, including the Beau Brummels and The Frantics (who evolved into Luminous Marsh Gas and then Moby Grape). The club's name (spelled Dragon) comes up in various chronologies of Bay Area rock.
The Liverpool Five were actually from England, though not from Liverpool, and had two albums on RCA in 1966 and 1967. They toured America pretty steadily and were apparently a pretty good live band. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, from which the above ad comes, the Liverpool Five engagement had started on January 17, and continued at least through February 26, so they must have been packing them in. Drag'on owner Lou Chin was quoted in the Chronicle as saying they had to turn people away, and while that may be hyperbole, they would not have been extended for nothing.
I do not know how long the Drag'on A' Go-Go lasted, but I doubt it made it to 1968. Go-Go music seemed pretty unhip to teenagers by '68, when they were listening to FM radio and going to the Fillmore and Avalon. In any case, Wentworth Alley (known as Salty Fish Alley in the early 20th century) was at a central location for restaurants, and it would have been a desirable place for many establishments, so once they stopped turning people away I assume it must have become another restaurant. I am unable to determine the current use of the building.