Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Tombstones (South Bay 1966)

The Tombstones played two South Bay Area clubs throughout much of 1966. One of them was Palo Alto's Big Beat Club, the first rock and roll establishment in Palo Alto--although the venue is more famous for its pre-opening party, an Acid Test featuring The Warlocks--and the other was a club called The Trip, a few miles up the main road in San Mateo.

Both clubs were owned by Yvonne Modica, who had shrewdly determined that there was a market for 20-somethings who liked beer and rock and roll. The tagline for The Trip was "A Journey Through LSD (Lights, Sounds and Delicious Pizza)." Both clubs have largely been lost in the history of Bay Area rock, since they had no direct connection to the underground scene that came to life at The Fillmore and The Avalon. Up until now, I have assumed that The Tombstones were just another dance band, playing several sets a night of danceable cover tunes, and perhaps they were.

However, although I have never heard their single, it is apparently well regarded amongst the knowledgeable. Their song was called "Tell It To A Tombstone, " and the newspaper blurb (from the San Mateo Times of June 24, 1966) breathlessly ads "with beatnik poetry lyrics." Although nothing else is known--by me or anyone else apparently--here is a picture of the group, published in the same edition of the San Mateo Times. They appear to be a nicely-suited 5-piece band. The woman in the bikini must be "gorgeous Go-Go gal Linda Kordes, who looks like a doll from Playboy Magazine."

Although The Tombstones remain obscure, they are now an obscure band with a picture. Research continues, one artifact at a time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

37266 Niles Boulevard, Fremont, CA: The Yellow Brick Road (Revised)--Loading Zone/Wakefield Loop July 7-8, 1967

In a previous post, I posted this (partial) scan of a 1967 Fremont venue, and posited that a band called Yellow Brick Road was playing at a Fremont club called The Garden Of Chaste Refreshment. There was a Bay Area band called Yellow Brick Road, but it turns out that there was also a band called Garden Of Chaste Refreshment. The name of the venue was Yellow Brick Road.

More remarkably, I mentioned that a band called Wakefield Loop had opened for The Loading Zone at this venue. At the time, I only knew that Wakefield Loop was a tiny residential street in Fremont. Remarkably, thanks to the comments from members of The Wakefield Loop, an amazing snapshot of an aspiring band in the East Bay has come to light. The story is best told by Wakefield Loop guitarist Denny Mahdik (from the comment thread)

My name is Denny Mahdik (actually pronounced Magic), and here's the story...

I secured a record deal with Hank Donnig in San Mateo for a band I started called "The Perspectives in Sound". Hank was supposed to have had something to do with producing the hit "You were on my mind" by the We Five... I brought the deal to my bands next rehearsal, and was told by our drummer's parents (John Siebert) that "There would be no record deal as John was going to become a dentist", I protested by threatening to quit the band... and that band showed me the door. We were scheduled to perform at Washington High School the following month, for a Pepsi sponsored "Battle of the Bands". I was upset that the band didn't support me, so I immediately set out to form a new band, one that could deliver the kind of music that was just starting to catch on at that time. We did not have a name, but the new drummer Larry Payne lived on Wakefield Loop in Fremont so that is how we pick that name. We had a good laugh over that and it became the name of the new band. By the way "The Perspectives in Sound" replaced me with Bobby Carter, and my new band "The Wakefield Loop" ended up playing against them and we won the whole event. Later they changed their name to "The Collective Works".

Don DeAugustine became our drummer (funny thing is that Larry Payne actually did become a dentist)
Julio Staben was the Bass Player (now running his own landscaping business)
Dave Simpson was our male singer
Cheryl Williams was our female singer (now a school teacher in Florida)
Dan "Freddy" Garvey played a mean lead guitar
and me... Denny Magic on guitar

We came very close to "making it" but never tipped the scale our way. Yuri Toripov was our manager (him and Paul Cantalana brought the Beatles to S.F.) and at the same time he was managing us... Yuri also managed "The Sopwith Camel", in the summer of 1967 many of us live or stayed with Yuri and his wife in their flat on Fell Street in S.F. Living upstairs was Marty Ballen and Jack Cassidy from the Jefferson Airplane. We played all over S.F. and Marin that year, but never scored a record deal. Meanwhile my childhood friend Cyril Jordan went all the way with his band "The Flaming Groovies"... Now I design Disney-Style rides and attractions for theme parks (see www.dennymagicstudios.com), and on September 12th Cyril came to my home for a BBQ. It was the first time we had seen each other in nearly 49 years. For me, I can now listen to Cyril tell me aboiut all those years of touring, and through him I can be the rock star that I never was. He, he.

Life is really a trip, isn't it?
 This isn't just a verbal snapshot, either--lead guitarist Dan Garvey has a remarkable series of snapshots of Wakefield Loop and other Fremont bands in the 1960s. He even includes a great shot of the poster for The Loading Zone and Wakefield Loop at the Yellow Brick Road.

Is blogging great, or what?

update: see here for another post about The Wakefield Loop

Friday, October 16, 2009

3101 E. 14th Street, Oakland, CA: Ann's New Mo-Skull's May 10-11, 1968

I have written earlier about trying to fathom the iconography of an ad for an Oakland club called Ann's New Mo. Here is another ad, from the Oakland Tribune of Friday, May 10, 1968. Without recapping every point of my previous post, let's consider what little we know

  • Ads in the Friday entertainment section of the Tribune were for "destination" establishments, trying to encourage patrons to come out for an evening. The Trib (Oakland's main daily) would have been too expensive for a "neighborhood" bar.
  • 3101 E. 14th Street (now International Blvd) was some miles from downtown, not part of an entertainment district. No doubt the ads were to encourage people to make the trip.
  • Ads in the Tribune were not for secret "subculture" ads, as squares might misread the ads and show up anyway, so whatever the score was here it wasn't likely to be too salacious.
  • Ann's New Mo advertised for at least three years, from 1966-69 (maybe longer), so the club stayed open awhile.

Now let's review what we don't know

  • What is Ann's New Mo? What's a Mo? Mod? Momentum? Mojo?
  • What kind of music was being played, and who did it appeal to? Jazz, blues, rock, R&B, soul?
  • Who were the bands? I have reviewed the ads in the Trib for the late 60s pretty carefully, and none of the bands who played at Ann's New Mo played anywhere else in Oakland.
  • Skull's? Is this a typo for Skulls?--It's still a strange name for a band. If the band is "Skulls," does that seem like a band who would play a nightspot that would advertise on the same page as clubs offering steak dinners and a lounge act? If its "Skull's", I'm even more confused.
  • What about the dancing girl icon? Who is that supposed to appeal to? Single businessmen? Hipsters? Emma Peel fans?

I can't get past any of this.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

1 Casino Terrace, Newport, RI: Bambi's, January-February 1967

This ad from the Newport (RI) Daily News of January 7, 1967 shows an interesting snapshot of rock in transition. Newport, Rhode Island, besides being the home of many wealthy people (mostly from shipping and insurance fortunes), was also an East Coast resort destination. In the Summer, the famous Newport Folk and Newport Jazz Festivals were must-see destinations for music fans. Like any seacoast resort, things were a little slower in the offseason.

The Cowsills were one of Newport's few musical exports. Initially, around 1965, the four teenage Cowsill brothers simply played Beatles covers on the Newport pier, for tourists. After awhile, they developed a following, and a kind of act, and in 1966 they were spotted by a Tonight Show talent scout, and they appeared on that show. The novelty of talented young teenagers from the same family was appealing as a sort of Everly Brothers/Beatles cross, and the group started to appear regularly on TV.

By early 1967, the group had recorded some singles for Mercury Records, although they hadn't had much success yet. Nonetheless, having appeared on TV and recorded, they were plainly local heroes. The ad says the club is "Now Under The Supervision of William J. Cowsill."At the time, Billy Cowsill was 18 years old. One suspects that his father Bud was keeping an eye on things as well. Later in 1967, The Cowsills would have a substantial hit with "The Rain, The Park And Everything," (MGM) peaking at #2 in October, 1967. By that time, they had added their younger sister Susan to the group, and subsequently their mother Barbara joined the band as well, and they toured the country in a big bus.

Does any of this sound familiar? The Cowsills story was the basis of the sitcom The Partridge Family, an ABC Sitcom from 1970-74 (on Friday Nights, right after The Brady Bunch), but they balked at starring in the show when the network insisted that Shirley Jones had to play the role of the mother, instead of their actual mother. As a result, the Cowsills were replaced by David Cassidy, Danny Bonaduce, Susan Dey, et al. As a great poet once said, "Time will tell/who has fell/and who's been left behind," and the career arc of the Cowsills and the Partridges is roughly comparable: success, derision, nostalgia and respect as time passes.

Whats interesting about this ad is that the pop construct of the Cowsills has the seeds of its own demise embedded in the ad. The Left Bank (really The Left Banke) had a number of hits, and while fine pop concoctions, they were in a similar vein as The Cowsills. Nonetheless, while its impossible to be certain, I believe The Pigeons to be the band that ruled the roost at The Action House in Long Island. The Pigeons were a loud, rocking combo, and they would shortly change their name to Vanilla Fudge. The Fudge, while easy to sniff at now, had a huge influence on other bands, not least the Jeff Beck Group (Beck left his band to play with the Fudge rhythm section), Deep Purple (they hoped to become the "British Vanilla Fudge"), Three Dog Night (who got the idea of rocked up covers of contemporary songs from them) and Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page liked the thunderous bottom of the Fudge).

The final act listed is Eric Burdon and The Animals, on February 10, 1967, one of the first shows of their American tour. Although fans probably expected the British Invasion style Animals of previous years, this was in fact the new, psychedelic Animals, with Vic Briggs and John Weider on dueling guitars. Their live sound was closer to Quicksilver Messenger Service (if you can imagine Eric leading Quicksilver) than the Dave Clark Five. Even if fans didn't expect that, the noisy blues covers and extended guitar solos would have introduced Newport to the shape of things to come.

Reedy Creek Park, Raleigh, NC-Raleigh Be-In, May 7, 1967

The Summer of Love had a huge impact beyond San Francisco. The effect of seeing the Human Be-In from Golden Gate Park on National televised news, with rock bands, hippies and (in Paul Kantner's words) "acid, incense and balloons" in the height of Winter (it was January 14, 1967) was a clarion call. Many West Coast cities joined the circus immediately, and Be-Ins were held in Los Angeles, Seattle and Vancouver, among other places, and New York as well. As Spring turned into Summer, the major San Francisco bands played free concerts at Be-Ins in places like San Jose and Palo Alto, making the Bay Area seem like a magical destination.

Cities with less forgiving weather, or less available psychedelic accoutrements, were left to made do with what they had. A few years ago the News And Observer, formerly The Raleigh News And Observer, had an interesting Sunday feature on the Summer of Love in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill "Triangle" events in the Summer of Love. While considerably less memorable than Golden Gate Park, I think they were emblematic of the way that people responded to the Be-Ins, creating their own events based on what flimsy information they had, what with their being no YouTube.

Raleigh, North Carolina is in the center of the State, and it has been the State Capitol since the late 18th century. The smaller city of Durham and the college town of Chapel Hill form the Raleigh Durham Triangle, now best known because of Research Triangle Park, a Silicon Valley like complex between the three communities. All three cities also have major Universities: UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State in Raleigh, and Duke in Durham. In the 1960s, Duke was a sleepy private school awash in Tobacco money but not much else, with indifferent athletic success and an unspectacular student body. Now, with the advent of the New South and RTP, the area is booming and College Basketball mania approaches cult-like fervor, but things were considerably slower then.

Nonetheless, UNC Chapel Hill and NC State were as forward looking as anywhere in the South, although that was a far cry indeed from Berkeley or Columbia. NC State had its own advocate of consciousness, psychology professor Gene Bernard. On April 20, 1967--note the date--Dr. Bernard gave a lecture on hallucinogenic drugs at NC State. Just a week earlier (on April 13, 1967) the state of North Carolina had made LSD illegal. Also on the 20th, a few students at UNC Chapel Hill held their own Be-In, although there seems to be scant record of this.

The Raleigh Be-In, remembered fondly 40 years later by N&O writer Thomas Goldsmith, was held on May 7, 1967 at Reedy Creek State Park. Goldsmith published a lengthy retrospective of the Summer of '67 in the August 5, 2007 News And Observer (excerpted above). About 300 people attended the Raleigh Be-In, and there being no Jefferson Airplane in town, bluegrass music was played. Raleigh had had a proto-psychedelic white blues band, The Heavenly Blues Band, but they had moved to San Francisco in 1966. They were scheduled to open for Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore on June10-11, 1966, but the guitarist got sick and they missed the gig.

Although the event was quite low-key, for the relatively few proto-hippies in Raleigh, where even long hair was still threatening, it was a hint that the world was about to change. Although it does not sound like there was much drug use (nor many drugs to use) Goldsmith's article does not report any police harassment, so everyone seems to have gone home safe and happy.

Above is a Raleigh News And Observer file photo from the May 7, 1967 Be-In at Reedy Creek Park (reprinted in the August 5, 2007 News And Observer). Reedy Creek Park, originally founded as a park for Black people in Raleigh, had merged with the (White) Crabtree Creek Recreation Area park to form Umstead State Park in 1966, but for some reason the paper still referred to it as Reedy Creek Park. I find it hard to believe that local readers would miss the association.

Looking at the picture, I can see some untucked shirts and Beatle length haircuts, and the blonde has unpermed hair--Bob Weir or John Cipollina would still stand out, but clearly things are starting to change.

  • The Heavenly Blues Band broke up, but many of the members stayed in San Francisco.
  • Dr Gene Bernard left North Carolina State in his psychedelically painted VW bus, heading West. He turned up in Oregon, having long since given up on academics, and worked as a potter. He died in 1994.
  • Thanks to Willis Carrier, the most important man in the history of the South (he commercialized air conditioning) and the foresight to plan Research Triangle Park in 1958, the Raleigh Durham Chapel Hill Triangle has expanded massively in population and income, becoming an important intellectual and financial center in the Southeast.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

May 8, 1964 - Polk-Gulch Cafetorium: Pat Kilroy (Cancelled)

Pat Kilroy was a young folk singer just beginning to make his name on the Bay Area circuit. His story is definitively documented in Issue 25 of Ugly Things by David Biasotti. Kilroy had been spotted at the Cabale in Berkeley by the owner of a property at Polk and California Streets in San Francisco that was being converted in to a “licensed” coffeeshop that would provide live entertainment at the weekends and a home to a cinema group on Mondays. The licensing would allow the sale of beer, but no hard liquor and restrictions would apply. Permits had taken longer to obtain than anticipated, but an opening was scheduled for 4pm on May 8, 1964 and Pat Kilroy was due to play a set at 9pm.

By all accounts, Kilroy arrived at 8:30 to find that the venue had been busted and locked up within an hour of opening for (a) not obtaining a license to sell beer, (b) selling beer to a minor in what was perceived by the owner, but never confirmed, to be a sting.

Kilroy would go on to achieve some local success as a solo artist and with The New Age. He would appear in the movie “The Love Ins” before an early passing at Christmas 1967.

As for the Polk-Gulch Cafetorium, it never re-opened – but I have no doubt that for the one hour it did exist for was an absolute blast. I asked about artifacts and have been told that there were a couple of hand written handbills (something like "Grand Opening with Troubadour Pat Kilroy this Friday") and they were taped to the door and window. It seems unlikely that they will show up now.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

April 10, 1974 Freight and Salvage, Berkeley: David Grisman and David Nichtern

The seemingly innocuous listing in the Hayward Daily Review of April 5, 1974 for Thursday, April 10 at Berkeley's Freight and Salvage, featuring David Grisman and David Nichtern, in fact appears to be the public debut of a very important band. At this time, guitarist David Nichtern was only known for writing a song for Maria Muldaur, "Midnight At The Oasis," which was currently climbing the charts. Mandolinist David Grisman was only known outside of bluegrass circles for being a pal of Jerry Garcia, having played with him in the recently defunct bluegrass group Old And In The Way. Old And In The Way's album, celebrating Jerry's 1973 return to banjo, was not released until 1975, by which time Garcia had already given up the banjo again.

Although Old And In The Way only played a modest number of gigs in 1973, and did not release an album until two years later, they ended up having an enormous effect on bluegrass. Fiddler Vassar Clements was already a great American musician, if not widely known, and David Grisman would soon become one. Peter Rowan was an interesting contemporary songwriter, and Garcia could hold his own on the banjo. Old And In The Way's 45 or so appearances and posthumous album opened up bluegrass to a wide variety of new listeners, thanks to Garcia's participation. Supposedly, for many years their album was the best selling bluegrass album ever (a less impressive achievement than it sounds, and Ricky Skaggs, Allison Kraus and others have certainly passed it). Thanks to Garcia, a wave of young hippies and college students saw bluegrass as cool, serious music--which it always was, of course, but it took Jerry and some contemporary lyrics to make it so.

Old and In The Way had run its course, however, as the band simply became too popular in the wake of the Dead's increasing popularity. David Grisman had another idea, however, which was that he would start a band that would revolutionize all American acoustic music--old timey, swing, blues, bluegrass and everything else. Garcia, being Garcia, was right on board. Other members included David Nichtern on guitar, Richard Greene on fiddle (Greene had played with Old And In The Way as well) and various guest bassists. However, Garcia only played six times with the Great American String Band, from April 20 to June 13, 1974, before it too became buried by Grateful Dead obligations and he dropped out of the band.

The Great American String Band went on under various names throughout 1974, such as Great American Music Band, or Great American Fiddle Band. By 1975, the group changed its name to The David Grisman Quintet, and subsequently the Quintet did indeed revolutionize all American acoustic music.

But the revolutionary David Grisman Quintet had to start somewhere, and it appears it started at The Freight and Salvage on April 10, 1974. Now, I don't know if the performance was just Grisman and Nichtern, or those two plus some friends, or what. Of course its possible or even likely that there were some low-key gigs in Marin to get their feet wet. However, this seems to be the first Bay Area show that was actually advertised. Furthermore, The Great American Music Band had its formal debut in Los Angeles at The Pilgrimage Theater on April 20, 1974, sponsored by a well-known music store (McCabe's), with Jerry Garcia in the band and guest Maria Muldaur singing her hit single. I can't believe that the core of the band wouldn't have a warm up gig, and this seems to be it. The Freight and Salvage had been a place for both innovative and traditional music since it opened in 1968, and it looks like here's another piece of evidence. Grisman plays the Freight (now in its third incarnation) to this day.

Who was in the band that night? I'd love to know. Was a certain Spud Boy playing banjo? Much as I wish it were so, and it is within the realm of possibility (Garcia was in town), I kind of doubt it, since by 1974 everyone who went to the Freight would recognize Jerry, and there would have at least been a legendary tale that got repeated. But Grisman is enough of a legend on his own, and its nice to see where his next chapter started.

Update: Intriguing as my speculations are, JGMF has rather definitively shown that the Great American String Band started at the Great American Music Hall on March 10, 1974. This Freight and Salvage show a month later is still an as yet undetermined piece of an intriguing puzzle, but it wasn't the debut.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Merl Saunders Trio, Far Eastern Tour Summer 1968

Organist Merl Saunders (1934-2008) is best known as Jerry Garcia's jamming partner, initially in a San Francisco club called The Matrix, spreading outwards to the Bay Area in the early 1970s, and then touring Nationally with The Legion Of Mary in 1974-1975. Garcia and Saunders collaborations have been well documented by Grateful Dead archive recordings, and while Saunders was not in Garcia's class as a soloist, he brought a musical breadth to Garcia that the Dead lacked. Saunders had played in jazz clubs, worked Off-Broadway in New York (as musical director for an Oscar Brown show) and done sessions at Fantasy Records.

This brief listing in Russ Wilson's Jazz column in the Oakland Tribune of July 28, 1968, gives an insight into Saunders true breadth, and serves as a reminder to one of the forgotten markets of sixties music. The notice says
Organist Merl Saunders' trio is on a Far Eastern tour that has included Bangkok, Manila and Tokyo, where the group now is playing club and TV engagements.
While I would love to know more about this tour, its a reminder that up to 500,000 American soldiers were in Vietnam, which meant that at any given time a lot of soldiers were in Manila, Bangkok and Tokyo. The perennial presence of American soldiers had in turn given Asian nations a taste of American music,  too, so there were many opportunities to tour Asia. Many groups toured Vietnam, too, under some quite weird conditions (rock bands weren't allowed to play The Animals song "We've Gotta Get Out Of This Place").

Merl Saunders was interviewed many times, but of course almost all those interviews were Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, so I don't recall ever hearing about a Far Eastern tour. Whether Merl's trio played venues that attracted servicemen or locals, it had to be an odd experience to play American music in Asia at the height of the Cold War. I assume Merl's trio was a standard organ combo, with Merl on organ, a drummer and either a guitarist or sax player, but I don't even know that much. It certainly puts playing the Keystone Berkeley with a bunch of hippies in a different light.