Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Where Its At" TV show, Vancouver, BC late 1960s

All of the interesting rock scenes of the 1960s were fundamentally underground scenes. While some of the more famous groups ultimately had substantial recording careers, the initial scenes all stemmed from word of mouth, as a few hipsters would see a local band, and in turn tell a few of their friends, and the word would pass from person to person. Bands were only popular in their local scenes, because they had no recorded output and they were never heard on the radio. The famous psychedelic posters (of varying artistic qualities) would appear on local telephone poles, perhaps spreading a name around town, but even well-known San Francisco bands like Quicksilver Messenger Service were just a rumor to each person until they saw them in person. By the 1970s, DIY cassettes were a feature of underground scenes (like Punk), but in the 60s bands had to survive on reputation alone. If you couldn't find out where a show was, and go down and see it yourself, you had no way of knowing what a group sounded like, much less if they were any good. Every 60s scene had various legendary local bands, which all but a few people ever heard in their nascent form.

There was one startling exception to the history of psychedelic music: Vancouver, British Columbia. Vancouver was an important part of the West Coast "Circuit" of psychedelic ballrooms, from the Cheetah and the Kaleidoscope in Southern California, to the Fillmore and Avalon in San Francisco, the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, to Eagles Auditorium in Seattle and finally to the Retinal Circus in Vancouver, along with many smaller or temporary venues in every city. The recorded history of all the Vancouver bands was very minimal, just a few singles for the most part. The welcome explosion of archival releases has meant that many of the Retinal Circus bands have released cds featuring some of their 60s work, usually live or demos: groups like the United Empire Loyalists, My Indole Ring, Papa Bear's Medicine Show and Mock Duck can now be heard by modern audiences. Yet the burst of archival releases is not what set the Vancouver scene apart from the rest of the West Coast.

Throughout 1967 and 1968, once a week, initially on Fridays and later on Wednesdays, at 5:30 pm the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had a half-hour show called Where Its At, and every Vancouver psychedelic band appeared on the show many times. The show was broadcast across the country, so every single Canadian teenager who wanted to hear Vancouver underground bands simply tuned in Fridays at 5:30. None of these groups had recording contracts initially, and few of them released albums in their bands lifetimes, yet each of them appeared many times on National TV.

The clipping above is from Alberta's  Lethbridge Herald on Wednesday June 26, 1968: we can see that Tom Northcutt, My Indole Ring, The Collectors, The Poppy Family, Papa Bear's Medicine Show, The Northwest Company, Wiggy Symphony and Jason Hoover and The Epics, just about all of them underground Vancouver psychedelic bands, were playing on that night's episode. Although the shows were videotaped, the performances were live. The "house band" had been a group called The Classics, who evolved into The Collectors (and later Chilliwack) and they provided backing for any solo performers like Tom Northcutt. At this time, to my knowledge only Northcutt had an album and a Canadian hit (a cover of a Donovan song called "Sunny Goodge Street"). The rest were simply local bands. As far as I know, this was a typical episode.

Most of my information about this startling feature of Canadian music comes from a 2005 Guess Who cd called Lets Go. Where Its At was actually part of a nightly CBC series called Music Hop, had begun during the British Invasion in the mid-1960s, and which broadcast from a different region of Canada each night. By 1967, the lineup looked like this:

Mondays-Halifax, Nova Scotia Frank's Bandstand
Tuesdays-Montreal, Quebec
Wednesdays-Toronto, Ontario
Thursdays-Winnipeg, Manitoba Let's Go
Fridays-Vancouver, British Columbia Where Its At

All sorts of Canadian figures appeared on the shows. The Guess Who were the house band at Winnipeg's Thursday night feature, playing hits of the day, backing visiting singers and playing their own material (the basis of the cd). Anne Murray was a regular in Halifax, Alex Trebek had been the original host in Toronto, and so on: every figure in Canadian rock seems to have appeared on TV at 5:30, some of them numerous times. Seemingly every underground Vancouver band was on TV constantly, playing just a song or two perhaps, but nonetheless it insured that Vancouver teenagers knew what they were getting if they went to the Retinal Circus or anywhere else. Would that American underground scenes (then or now) would have such support, although it does cause me to rethink my definition of "underground" somewhat.

A diligent historian could go through the TV listings for Canada throughout 1967 and 1968 and document the appearance dates of every Vancouver psychedelic band. It won't be me, however. According to John Einarson's excellent liner notes on the Lets Go album, while a producer saved copies of the Music Hop shows with the Guess Who from 1967 and 1968, in general all copies of all shows were taped over by the CBC. This was standard television practice at the time, as videotape was expensive and bulky, and in any case who cared about recordings of soon-to-be-forgotten longhairs?

I can't bring myself to document a whole history of fascinating shows that I know have been lost. Nonetheless it is just one of many fascinating aspects of the Vancouver scene that most of the obscure bands whose names are on Retinal Circus posters performed live on Canadian Television, some many times. Fans of the music of other regions no doubt would be just as fascinated by the different performers of other regions, but save for some of the Music Hop shows in 67-68, they too are lost. Nothing would make me happier to find that some of them survived in some form, but I think that is too much to hope for.

Sic Transit Gloria Psychedelia, as the Romans would say.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Firehouse, 3767 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA

Located north of the Haight-Ashbury district on Sacramento Street and the home of number 10 fire truck and number 26 fire engine from 1910 to 1956, the Firehouse was operated as a concert venue for an all too short period of time in the early spring of 1966.
The building was owned by George Eby and his dog Potpan and had been known as the Theater for the World prior to The Firehouse. Eby and Potpan let the upper floor for rehearsals to the newly formed Sopwith Camel who were breaking in new bass player Martin Beard. The Firehouse was notable for showcasing a number of local bands in addition to the Sopwith Camel and for featuring some of the very first light shows to be performed in the city.

12 February 1966: The Amazing Charlatans, Sopwith Camel
Advertised as Lincoln's Birthday Party. After a month of rehearsals and much of the time living in the Firehouse, the Sopwith Camel made their debut performance backing The Charlatans for the Lincoln's birthday bash. Entry was a mere $2 donation and shows were from 9 to whenever. The Charlatans had already established their place in history following their six week run at the red Dog Saloon in Virginia City the previous summer. By the time of this show, the Charlatans’ set was beginning to come together and they had put a failed Autumn Records audition behind them as they prepared to sign with Kama Sutra Records.

19 February 1966: The Wildflower, Sopwith Camel
It was from the handbill that advertised this show that we know that the Firehouse was once the home of number 10 fire truck and number 26 fire engine. For this evening’s events the Sopwith Camel are joined by The Wildflower in the first of their three performances at the Firehouse. In late 1965, The Wildflower began at California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland with Stephen Ehret on rhythm guitar, Tom Ellis on drums, John Jennings on bass, Teddy Schneider played percussion, Lee Chandler played guitar and the whole band sang. Stephen wrote the songs for the band and also collaborated with poets, Michael McClure and Michael McCausland. Lee Chandler soon left, probably around the time of this show, to pursue an acting career and Michael Brown joined on lead guitar. The band was soon playing venues all around the Bay Area and has recently released the album that should have hoisted them to fame in the 1960s.

26 February 1966:
I have never been able to find any record of a show taking place on February 26.

05 March 1966: Jesse Fuller One Man Band, The Amazing Charlatans, The Wildflower
Most of the shows were advertised by large format handbills, each containing humorous notations, such as the March 5 handbill which entices attendees by promising Sensual Titillations and Mind Diddlers with the extra added attraction of the Lately Painted Lady. March 5 sees the return of Firehouse Jesse Fuller who was playing regularly in the Bay Area coffee shops and clubs. A week before Fuller’s seventieth birthday, he crossed the bridge from his Oakland home and brought his fotdella and unique style of San Francisco Bay Blues to the Firehouse.

12 March 1966: The Charlatans, Sopwith Camel, Duncans Blue Boy and His Cosmic Yo-YoBy all accounts the Alligator Clip welcome all heads of state for this show. The Charlatans and the Sopwith Camel return, but the intriguing thing about the boxing style handbill is the third act on the bill – Duncans Blue Boy and His Cosmic Yo-Yo (I know there is a missing apostrophe by the way). Anyway – the only known show by Duncans Blue Boy – was it a briefly used name of another band, was it a joke? I don't know.

19 March 1966: Big Brother and the Holding Company, A Moving Violation, Movies Projections by Elias Romero, Assorted Effects by Ray Andersen
Big Brother and the Holding Company need no introduction here – they had been playing regularly for a couple of months and had established themselves at the Fillmore and Matrix. Jim Gurley, Sam Andrew and Peter Albin had just been joined by drummer Dave Getz. The arrival of Janis Joplin was still three months away although there is a chance that this was one of the performances where Ed Bogas joined the band on violin. I know nothing of A Moving Violation, but the poster is annotated a discover in Movement and Light For Them and you and us which leads me to believe that they were possibly a dance troupe accompanying the in house light show – a multi-media extravaganza so to speak. The light shows at the Firehouse featured Elias Romero and Ray Andersen (who was also the manager of The Matrix at the time). Although he never went on to work the ballrooms, Romero was a long-time light artist with his own distinct approach utilising a unique, all-liquid show. Andersen went on to form the Holy See Light Show and to feature prominently at San Francisco ballrooms, such as the Fillmore. Since the late 1990s, Andersen has run Grooves Vinyl Attractions on Market Street in San Francisco.

26 March 1966: The Outfit, Great Society
The Outfit were formed in San Francisco during late 1965 as the Four Letter Outfit and the line-up at the time of this show, which is perhaps their first, included Johnny Ciambotti, Steve Bonuccelli, Cousin Robert Ressner and a female guitarist called Judy playing her only show. The group played regularly at Bay Area venues through 1966 despite several changes in personnel. They would go on to become part of the tangled staory that is the overlapping history of The Outfit, The Tiny Hearing Aid Company, The Flying Circus and Clover. I have plans for a family tree at some point. Support acts for this show remain unknown.

02 April 1966: The Wildflower, Ale Extrom and His Conceptina, Movies [Final Show]
Seven shows had been held each Saturday through to April 2, 1966 when The Firehouse presented The Wildflower supported by Ale Extrom and His Conceptina at The Wreckers Ball. Advertised as For our parting event, we present ... see this grand old firehouse in its last days before it becomes a parking lot …. Ale Extrom was a purveyor of sea shanties and had appeared at the Jabberwock and Cedar Alley Coffee House. Ale remains a water-bound neighbor of Wildflower member Stephen Ehret to this day.

Sadly George Eby's dog Potpan is no longer with us.

Friday, November 20, 2009

4742 Mission Blvd, San Francisco The Rock Garden 1967 Sunday Dinner Shows

This intriguing clipping from the entertainment column in the San Mateo Times of December 8, 1967, has the following intriguing quote
Making a big hit with the early Sunday evening dancing crowd is the special $1.25 dinner at the Rock Garden on Mission near Ocean Avenue, in San Francisco.  The dinner and dancing to the great Tracy Brothers combo begins at 6 p.m., with minors welcome. Talent auditions for recording contracts are another popular Sunday Rock Garden feature
Although the location is not precise, this is almost certainly the same Rock Garden that was briefly a psychedelic rock venue for several weeks in March and April 1967, featuring Big Brother, The Grateful Dead and the Buffalo Springfield, among others. An April show featuring Country Joe and The Fish seems to have been canceled, and nothing surfaced afterwards about the club. Further research revealed that it turned into a club called The Ghetto, featuring Soul and Latin music, and that it was a foundational venue for the Latin Rock explosion in San Francisco that culminated with Santana and Malo breaking out onto the National scene.

When I wrote about the venue earlier, I made the point that when a Use Permit is in force, its easier for a promoter to use an existing entertainment venue rather than create a new one. Whoever the owners or promoters behind the original Rock Garden might have been, the club seems to have had a post-psychedelic period before it became The Ghetto. The Tracy Brothers are unknown to me--I wonder if anyone got a recording contract from the auditions? I am still searching for who might have been performing at The Rock Garden on nights other than Sunday.

While the San Mateo Times was a suburban newspaper, the Rock Garden was more accessible to much of the South Bay suburbs than it was to downtown San Francisco. The South Bay's main "strip," El Camino Real, turned into Mission Boulevard in San Francisco. A South Bay resident could drive up El Camino to Mission without having to go over the substantial hills between the Excelsior District and Downtown, so it makes sense that the interregnum Rock Garden was aiming for a suburban appeal.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

2850 19th Avenue, San Francisco, CA September 10, 1966 The Mothers/Oxford Circle

The Scottish Rites (Masonic) Temple at 2850 19th Avenue in San Francisco is the least known of all Bill Graham's 1960s San Francisco venues. It was only used once for a rock concert, to my knowledge, and I know nothing about the event itself. Nonetheless this building is always forgotten in chronicles of the 1960s in San Francisco, so I thought I would address what little is known about it.

Bill Graham's famous Fillmore Auditorium on 1805 Geary Blvd (at Fillmore Street) was next door to a Synagogue. I have written about the peculiar place in rock history of Temple Beth Israel (at 1839 Geary Blvd) elsewhere. Suffice to say, Bill Graham faced various political problems with his new underground rock venture, and one of them was a rabbi who was not sympathetic to Graham's desire to have weekly rock concerts. Honoring the concerns of his neighbors, Graham moved two Saturday night concerts in 1966. The April 16, 1966 show with the Jefferson Airplane and Butterfield Blues Band was moved to Harmon Gym at UC Berkeley, while the Friday and Sunday shows remained at the Fillmore. Similarly, on the weekend of September 9 and 10 in 1966, with a bill of The Mothers and Oxford Circle, Graham moved the bill across town on Saturday (September 10) to the Scottish Rites Temple at 2850 19th Avenue, near Sloat Boulevard and Stern Grove.

19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard is very far from the Fillmore District, almost as far from the Fillmore as one could get and remain in San Francisco. For those familiar with San Francisco geography, it is near Stern Grove and San Francisco State University, between the Sunset District and West Portal. This interesting experiment was not repeated, suggesting that it was not a worthwhile location for a rock performance at the time. While San Francisco State had many rock fans, many of the hippest ones lived in the Haight Ashbury, so they were nearer the Fillmore than the College. No record survives of the show itself, whether as a tape, a review or an eyewitness account.

The Concert
By September of 1966 The Mothers had released their groundbreaking debut album Freak Out. However, it was their nervous record company (MGM) that had added "Of Invention" to their name. The group had been playing the San Francisco Bay Area with some regularity since late 1965, and they were known by their original name, The Mothers, which is how they were billed on the poster (BG27).

It is difficult to determine for certain the membership of the Mothers for these shows, as the band’s personnel was in flux.  The poster shows 7 people, but the poster probably came from a Verve promo photo and some of them aren't even band members, so it doesn't really represent anything about the band's lineup.  I am reliably informed that the Mothers at this time were Zappa and Elliot Ingbar on guitars, Ray Collins on vocals, Roy Estrada on bass and Billy Mundi and Jimmy Carl Black (The Indian of the group) both on drums. While the other members had been on Freak Out, Mundi had recently joined, having recently played as part of a group called Mastin And Brewer (featuring Michael Brewer, later of Brewer and Shipley) and then briefly in Lamp Of Childhood.

The Oxford Circle, the most exciting band in Davis, CA at the time, were a hard rocking quartet styled on the Yardbirds. Although the band released very little during its existence, 1997 saw the release of a great live cd recorded around this time (Live At The Avalon Ballroom 1966, on Big Beat), so we know how they sounded. Members of Oxford Circle went on to join Blue Cheer and Kak, among other groups.

The Venue
It is difficult to find out much about the venue. It does appear that the venue is still there. I suspect it is unlikely that a new building has replace the old one, but it is plain that the auditorium itself has been remodeled in the intervening years. It does appear that the capacity was smaller than the Fillmore Auditorium, though not by that much. The Free Masons have a long history in California, dating back to the mid-19th century, but that is well outside the scope of the blog here.

It does appear that the Scottish Rites Temple at 19th and Sloat was a much more recent building than other Masonic Temples in San Francisco. There were Masonic Temples right next to both the Fillmore and The Avalon--conspiracy theorists take note--but both of them (at 1859 Geary, dating to the 19th century, near the Fillmore, and 1300 Sutter, next to the Avalon) had long since been devoted to other uses by the 1960s. There was also a Masonic Auditorium on Nob Hill (at 1111 California) but that was a large (3200 capacity) and fairly conventional theater.

The building appears to be in active use today, and the auditorium remains available for rental.

1839 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA July 29-30, 1977 Theatre 1839 Jerry Garcia Band

Most scholarly Deadheads are aware that the Jerry Garcia Band played two shows at Theatre 1839 in San Francisco on July 29 and 30, 1977, not least because a fine double-cd set was released from those shows. I attended the second show on July 30, and it was a truly wonderful performance in an inspiring venue. I was sorry that Jerry never played there again. It was only later when I found out some of the interesting historical aspects of the building, and I thought I would pass those on.

There were three significant buildings on the South (odd numbered) 1800 block of Geary Boulevard. The most famous to rock fans is of course the Fillmore Auditorium at 1805 Geary, on the corner of Fillmore and Geary, built in 1912 (as The Majestic Hall and Dancing Academy) and still operating today. Next door was the former site of the synagogue for Temple Beth Israel, an early Jewish congregation in San Francisco, founded around 1860, which began constructing its fifth building at 1839 Geary in 1905, although its completion was interrupted by the April 1906 earthquake .  Next to the synagogue was the Scottish Rites (Masonic) Temple Building, known as the Alfred Pike Memorial Temple, at 1859 Geary, which dated back to the 19th century. A remarkable photo exists from right after the 1906 San Francisco  earthquake, showing a damaged Beth Israel synagogue and the equally damaged Masonic Temple, with an empty lot where the future Fillmore would be built a few years later. Although there were a number of different addresses on the block, these three buildings were the main structures on the block until the 1980s.

I have written an extensive post about The Geary Temple (1859 Geary) elsewhere, but 1839 Geary deserves some attention of its own.  A striking photograph from 1964 of Temple Beth Israel can be seen at the San Francisco Public Library site. The edge of the Fillmore Auditorium is visible just to the left (East) of the building. It is a striking and beautiful building, which in 1964 would have been 58 years old (it was completed in 1906, after the earthquake). In 1964 the Fillmore Auditorium, after some time as a roller skating rink, had become an important venue for African-American music, promoted by Charles Sullivan, who was one of the principal promoters of black music on the West Coast.

When Charles Sullivan retired at the end of 1965, after renting the facility a few times, Bill Graham took over the lease of the Fillmore Auditorium, starting on February 1, 1966. The venue was an immediate success, but Graham was not without troubles. In particular, he had particular difficulty with the status of his "Dance Hall Permit," a left over bit of bureaucracy from the post-Prohibition era. While initially Graham had used Sullivan's license, he had considerable trouble procuring a license from the City of San Francisco, and at one point was even arrested. This made Graham particularly susceptible to challenges from the community.

Apparently the rabbi at Temple Beth Israel was not a fan of Graham's use of the Fillmore (whether he appreciated Sullivan's promotions is unknown). Graham took a bitter relish in relaying the story of how the rabbi accused him of not knowing the suffering of the Jews, in response to which Graham pulled up his sleeve and showed the rabbi the number the Nazis had tattooed on his arm as a child (I heard Graham tell this story in person at a lecture in 1976, and he was still angry at the rabbi). Twice in 1966, Graham moved events at the Fillmore to other venues to accommodate Jewish religious celebrations: on April 16, 1966 the Jefferson Airplane/Butterfield Blues Band show was moved from the Fillmore to Harmon Gym at UC Berkeley, and on September 10, 1966 the Mothers Of Invention/Oxford Circle show was moved to the Scottish Rites Temple across town (at 2850 19th Avenue and Sloat Blvd).

Graham eventually received a Dance Hall Permit, and apparently by 1967 conflicts with the neighboring Synagogue were no longer an issue. Whether Graham was no longer concerned with political pressure, whether he moved key dates to Winterland or there was some other solution is not clear to me (I have not been able to determine which would have been the relevant dates in 1967). In any case, Graham was so successful he looked to move out of the Fillmore to the Fillmore West, and by mid-summer 1968 Graham had moved to Market and Van Ness.

Temple Beth Israel was on the move as well, as its Congregation merged with another Congregation, becoming Congregation Beth Israel-Judea in 1969. The Congregation moved to 625 Brotherhood Way in San Francisco, where it remains today. The Temple at 1839 Geary seems to have been temporarily used for other functions and then sold around 1971, as near as I can tell. The building's history from 1971 to 1977 is obscure to me.

Theatre 1839
Ads for the shows above abruptly appeared in 1977. The promoters were unknown to me. Older folks must have recognized the building, but all I knew at the time was that it was near Winterland (at Post and Steiner), then the principal rock and roll concert venue in the Bay Area. I knew the Fillmore Auditorium had been somewhere around there, but when we went to see Jerry Garcia (hi Geoff) at Theatre 1839, we had no idea that the fully intact Fillmore was right next door. Although the venue had "festival seating" for the most part, probably different than its synagogue functions, the elegant ceilings and decorations were intact, and it was not only a beautiful building but beautiful sounding as well.

The Garcia Band show on July 30, 1977 was fantastic, and when I later acquired tapes of that night and the night before I learned that I had not imagined it. The Hot Tuna show on August 5 was used for the 1978 Hot Tuna live album Double Dose, so all the shows at Theatre 1839 were turned into live albums. I talked to someone who went to the Hot Tuna show, and he confirmed my feeling that it was a wonderful venue.Whatever the finances behind the Theatre, however, it was not used for another show in that incarnation, and more's the pity for that.

Right next door, however, was the converted Alfred Pike Memorial Scottish Rites Temple, which by this time was the headquarters of Jim Jones's infamous Peoples Temple. Jones and his followers left for Jonestown, Guyana and their tragic mass suicide took place on November 18, 1978. While Theatre 1839 was not directly connected to those events, it did add to the strange mojo of the block.

Temple Beautiful
Theatre 1839 did arise as a performance venue, however, known as Temple Beautiful in early 1979 and hosting a number of punk rock shows. The Clash in particular played a warmly remembered gig there, as well as many more local bands. While this is outside the scope of this blog, it is worth noting that once a Use Permit has been defined, venues are more likely to remain in use. Once again, I do not know the finances behind the concerts, nor why the building stopped being used for music after about 1980. At some point the building became "The Duquette Pavilion," hosting the work of artist Anthony Duquette.

The Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 damaged the Fillmore Auditorium, Temple Beautiful (1839) and the former People's Temple (1859), and all the buildings were damaged by fire. The Fillmore was fully refurbished, but the two other buildings were torn down. After some time as vacant lots, the 1859 Geary address is now a newly constructed Post Office, and I do not know the fate of the lot at 1839.

Cross posted at Lost Live Dead

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.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

316 Congress Avenue, Austin, TX: Vulcan Gas Company Performance List 1969 (Austin III)

The Vulcan Gas Company was the most memorable psychedelic venue in Austin, Texas. Texas and particularly Austin has a rich rock history, featuring rock bands with light shows in late 1965, contemporary to events in San Francisco. The history of the Vulcan Gas Company is not hard to retrieve, and the posters are very nice and eminently collectible. Nonetheless, from the very narrow perspective of rock prosopography, there is no list of concert performances at the Vulcan.

I am posting this list as an aid to prosopographical scholarship. I am not attempting to write another history of the Vulcan, as that seems to have been covered in various sources, just a list of concerts. I compiled this list almost exclusively from the posters. This means that some weekends may be missing, and other performances may be different than what was actually advertised. I have included events promoted by the Vulcan Gas Company itself even when other venues were used. Anyone with additional information or corrections please put it in the Comments or email me.

Part I-1967

Part II-1968

Part III-1969

January 17-18, 1969   Big Joe Williams
All shows were at the Vulcan Gas Company venue at 316 Congress Avenue in Austin, TX unless otherwise noted.

January 30-31, February 1, 1969  John Lee Hooker/Shiva’s Head Band

February 21-22, 1969  The Fugs/Shiva’s Head Band

February 28-March 1, 1969   Texas

March 7-8, 1969 New Atlantis/Untouchables/Texas Rangers

March 14-15, 1969  Jimmy Reed/Onion Creek
 The calendar is very hard to read in the tiny reproduction.

March 21-22, 1969  Big Mama Thornton/New Atlantis

March 28-29, April 4-5, 1969  Mustangs/Georgetown Medical Band

April 11-12, 1969  Shiva’s Head Band/Sunnyland Special

April 18-19, 1969   Fred McDowell/Texas Rangers

April 25-26, 1969 Muddy Waters/Sunnyland Special

May 2-3, 1969 Shiva’s Head Band/Sherwood

May 8, 1969 Shiva’s Head Band/Sunnyland Special/Mustangs
 Benefit for the Vulcan Gas Company

May 9-10, 1969  Mance Lipscomb/Onion Creek

May 16-17, 1969 Georgetown Medical Band/Sherwood
 The poster says “If you toke, don’t tote,” a sign the venue was under significant pressure from the police.

May 23-24, 1969  Shiva’s Head Band/Texas Rangers

May 30-31, 1969  Big Joe Williams/Georgetown Medical Band

June 13-14-15, 1969 Texas/Fat Emma/Shiva’s Head Band

June 20-21, 1969  Shiva’s Head Band/Georgetown Medical Band/Ramon Ramon and The Daddy-O’s
To my knowledge, this was the last show at the Vulcan Gas Company at 316 Congress Avenue.

This completes my working list of shows at (or promoted by) Austin's Vulcan Gas Company. Anyone who can add additional dates or correct information about which bands played on which nights (as opposed to who might have been advertised) please Comment or email me.

316 Congress Avenue, Austin, TX: Vulcan Gas Company Performance List 1968 (Austin II)

The Vulcan Gas Company was the most memorable psychedelic venue in Austin, Texas. Texas and particularly Austin has a rich rock history, featuring rock bands with light shows in late 1965, contemporary to events in San Francisco. The history of the Vulcan Gas Company is not hard to retrieve, and the posters are very nice and eminently collectible. Nonetheless, from the very narrow perspective of rock prosopography, there is no list of concert performances at the Vulcan.

I am posting this list as an aid to prosopographical scholarship. I am not attempting to write another history of the Vulcan, as that seems to have been covered in various sources, just a list of concerts. I compiled this list almost exclusively from the posters. This means that some weekends may be missing, and other performances may be different than what was actually advertised. I have included events promoted by the Vulcan Gas Company itself even when other venues were used. Anyone with additional information or corrections please put it in the Comments or email me.

Part I-1967

Part II-1968

January 5-6, 1968  Lord August and The Visions of Life/Georgetown Medical Band
All shows were at The Vulcan Gas Company venue at 316 Congress Avenue in Austin, TX unless otherwise noted.

January 12-13, 1968  Shiva’s Head Band/The Lost and Found

(January 16, 23, 30 and February 6, 1968)  movies

January 19-20, 1968  Mance Lipscomb/Conqueroo

January 26-27, 1968  Shiva’s Head Band/Afro Caravan and the Strawberry Shoemaker

February 1-2-3, 9-10, 1968  Shiva’s Head Band/Conqueroo/Lost and Found/Georgetown Medical Band
 The tiny reproductions of the posters make it hard to tell exactly which groups play which shows on the two-weekend posters.

February 14, 1968   Conqueroo/Shiva’s Head Band

February 16, 1968   Texas & Pacific/New Atlantis/Shepherd’s Head/Good Humor
"Benefit for Oleo Strut, A Radical Coffeehouse for G.I.s at Fort Hood” (afternoon show?)

February 16-17, 23-24, 1968   Shiva’s Head Band/Conqueroo/Rubaiyat/Lightning Hopkins

February 22, 1968 Shiva’s Head Band/Conqueroo/Georgetown Medical Band
 “Bust Benefit Dance”

March 1-2, 8-9, 1968    Shiva’s Head Band/Big Joe Williams/Conqueroo/Rubayyat

March 10, 1968  Rubayyat/Austin Suburban Loan Co. 
 “Bust Benefit”

March 15-16, 22-23, 1968  Shiva’s Headband/Space American Eagle Squadron/Conqueroo/Lost and Found

March 29-30, April 4-5-6, 1968   Conqueroo/Bubble Puppy/Shiva’s Head Band/Blues Bag

April 12-13, 19-20, 1968   Shiva’s Head Band/Rubaiyat/Conqueroo/Sleepy John Estes

April 25, 1968  Angela Lewis and The Fabulous Rockets

April 26-27, May 3-4, 1968  Shiva’s Head Band/Bubble Puppy/Angela Lewis and The Fabulous Rockets/Wild Chicken

May 10-11, 1968  Shiva’s Head Band/Canned Heat/Conqueroo

May 13, 1968  Bubble Puppy

May 16, 1968    Conqueroo “Free Gig”

May 17-18, 24-25, 1968  Shiva’s Head Band/Zig Zag Quartet/Liquid Marble/Wild Chickens

May 19, 1968  Zilker Park, Austin, TX Shiva’s Head Band/Stone Axe/Angela Lewis 
 “Gathering of Ye Olde Tribe”
 The handbill, drawn by Gilbert Shelton, includes two of his Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.

May 24-25, 1968  Moby Grape/Shiva’s Head Band/Angela Lewis
 This conflicts with the previous poster.

May 31-June 1, 1968  Conqueroo/Bubble Puppy

June 21-22, 1968  Conqueroo/Bubble Puppy

June 27-28-29, 1968   Conqueroo/Bubble Puppy

July 5-6, 1968  Johnny Winter/Bubble Puppy

July 7, 1968   Conqueroo/Winter/Shiva’s Head Band
 Winter was Johnny Winter’s trio.

July 26-27, 1968  New Atlantis/Grits 

August 2-3, 1968   Muddy Waters/Winter

August 16, 1968 Winter/New Atlantis/Zackary Thacks/1948

August 29-30-31, 1968   Stacy and The 13th Floor Elevators/New Atlantis

September 6-7-8, 1968  Bubble Puppy/Zig-Zag Quartet

September 12-13-14, 1968  New Atlantis/Gritz

September 20-21, 1968  Winter/Endel St. Cloud

September 27-28, 1968   Big Joe Williams/Sky Blues

September 29, 1968 Woolridge Park, Austin, TX  New Atlantis/Lavender Hill Express
Although this was not a Vulcan Gas event, they appear to have some involvement. Vulcan Gas artist and Jim Franklin included his first Armadillo on the handbill, later to become legendary at his Armadillo World Headquarters in the 1970s.

October 10-11-12, 1968 New Atlantis/Winter

October 13, 1968 Theater For The Performing Arts, Hemisfair Arena, San Antonio, TX Steppenwolf/Johnny Winter/New Atlantis
 Not a Vulcan Gas event, but Vulcan Gas artist Gilbert Shelton did the poster.

October 17-18-19, 1968  Shiva’s Head Band/Winter

October 31, November 1-2, 1968   Shiva’s Head Band/Grits

November 8-9, 1968   Steve Miller Band/New Atlantis

November 14, 1968   Texas Pacific/Blues Bag  
“Bail Bund Benefit”
 Texas was a dangerous place for pot smokers in the 60s, as indicated by the number of benefits for raising bail.

November 15-16, 1968   Freddie King/Winter 

November 21, 1968 Theater For The Performing Arts, Hemisfair Arena, San Antonio, TX Big Brother and The Holding Company/Winter/Shiva's Headband 
A Vulcan Gas show at a theater in San Antonio. Janis Joplin would leave Big Brother shortly after this.

November 22-23, 1968 Mance Lipscomb/Shiva’s Head Band

November 28-29, 1968 The Children/New Atlantis

December 6-7, 1968  Shiva’s Head Band/Bubble Puppy

December 13-14, 1968  New Atlantis/Texas Pacific

December 20-21, 1968  Winter/New Atlantis

December 31, 1968   Shiva’s Head Band/Winter

Part III-1969

316 Congress Avenue, Austin, TX: Vulcan Gas Company Performance List 1967 (Austin I)

The Vulcan Gas Company was the most memorable psychedelic venue in Austin, Texas. Texas and particularly Austin has a rich rock history, featuring rock bands with light shows in late 1965, contemporary to events in San Francisco. The history of the Vulcan Gas Company is not hard to retrieve, and the posters are very nice and eminently collectible. Nonetheless, from the very narrow perspective of rock prosopography, there is no list of concert performances at the Vulcan.

I am posting this list as an aid to prosopographical scholarship. I am not attempting to write another history of the Vulcan, as that seems to have been covered in various sources, just a list of concerts. I compiled this list almost exclusively from the posters. This means that some weekends may be missing, and other performances may be different than what was actually advertised. I have included events promoted by the Vulcan Gas Company itself even when other venues were used. Anyone with additional information or corrections please put it in the Comments or email me.

Part I-1967

January 7, 1967  Doris Miller Auditorium, Austin, TX 13th Floor Elevators/Conqueroo/Jomo 
Electric Grandmother Presents
Electric Grandmother was a production company that preceded Vulcan Gas.

February 10, 1967 City Coliseum, Austin, TX  13th Floor Elevators/Conqueroo
 Electric Grandmother Presents

February 18, 1967 Houston Music Theater, Houston, TX 13th Floor Elevators/Conqueroo/Jomo Disaster
 Electric Grandmother Presents

April 22, 1967 Doris Miller Auditorium, Austin, TX  Conqueroo/Rachel’s Children
 Vulcan Gas Company Presents

May 6, 1967 Doris Miller Auditorium, Austin, TX Conqueroo/Rachel’s Children
 Vulcan Gas Company Presents

September 24, 1967  “Love-In”, Zilker Park, Austin, TX Shiva’s Headband/Thingies/Circus Maximus/Conqueroo/Black Lace
 Vulcan Gas Company was among the promoters

October 27-28, 1967 Vulcan Gas Company, Austin, TX Conqueroo/Shiva’s Headband
The first Vulcan Gas show at 316 Congress, with a poster by Gilbert Shelton (later of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers). All shows from here on were at 316 Congress Avenue unless otherwise events.

November 3-4, 1967  13th Floor Elevators/Conqueroo/Shiva’s Head Band

November 10-11, 1967  Conqueroo/Swiss Movement

November 17-18, 1967  Thingies/South Canadian Overlflow/Shiva’s Head Band

November 24-25, 1967   Thingies/Golden Dawn

December 1-2, 1967  Lightnin Hopkins/Conqueroo

December 8-9-10, 1967  13th Floor Elevators/Shiva’s Headband/Swiss Movement/South Canadian Overflow

December 15-16, 1967  Shiva’s Headband/Lost and Found

December 17, 1967   Conqueroo/Shiva’s Head Band

December 22-23, 30-31, 1967  Conqueroo/Afro Caravan/Golden Dawn/Shiva’s Head Band

Part II-1968
Part III-1969

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Matrix, San Francisco, CA February 19, 1969 Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady/Weird Herald

The Matrix, at 3138 Fillmore Street in San Francisco, was the original hippie hangout, even before there were hippies. Founded by Marty Balin and his father, the club provided a place to play for the newly-formed Jefferson Airplane on August 13, 1965. Numerous other groups either debuted or made their San Francisco debut there, such as Big Brother and The Holding Company (on January 10, 1966). The Matrix was also a clubhouse and hangout for what few underground pothead musicians were around at the time. As the scene expanded, and the Fillmore and Avalon became major venues, the Matrix became as a hangout as much as a club. Although The Matrix only served beer and pizza, hippies were very much not welcome at many establishments, and in any case it took a while for rock music to become the dominant form of music in San Francisco nightclubs, so the Matrix was the best small place in the City for rock.

A tiny place that only seated 100, by 1969 it was a place for new bands in town to get heard or for local heavyweights to try out different configurations in a casual setting. The actual billing for February 19, 1969 (according to a newspaper listing, I believe in the San Francisco Chronicle) was   for Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady with Weird Herald (for many years, it was believed that Jerry Garcia and High Country played The Matrix on February 19, but it seems definitive that the Dead played Fillmore West that night. I discuss the Garcia/High Country Matrix tape elsewhere).

Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady started Hot Tuna--whom I saw just a few months ago, only 40 years later--because they played together so much in hotel rooms they thought it would be fun to continue it on stage when the Jefferson Airplane weren't playing. This booking at the Matrix is the first known public booking of the pair. Did Jorma and Jack play or plan to play acoustic, or electric? My guess would be acoustic, since subsequent electric gigs at the Matrix in 1969 (such as April 13, 1969) were billed as "Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady and Joey Covington." Still, this would have been the duo's first night, so its hard to say what was planned.

Weird Herald is even more mysterious, but all the more interesting for that. Jorma Kaukonen had gotten his start in the South Bay folk scene, where he was friends with Garcia, Nelson and all the rest. Among his San Jose pals were guitarists Paul Ziegler and Billy Dean Andrus. Andrus, a transplant from Mississippi, was reputed to be one of the hot pickers in the South Bay. Weird Herald was the 1968-69 folk rock band started by Ziegler and Andrus. They played many "underground" gigs in San Jose, but little is known about them save for one 45, featuring some spacey acoustic fingerpicking. Supposedly Weird Herald recorded an unreleased album (for Onyx Records) but I don't know what it might have sounded like. Did Weird Herald even have a drummer? Were they planning to play an acoustic gig without a band? Were Jorma and Jack going to join in with Weird Herald? Ziegler was the guitarist with Hot Tuna in 1970, so that isn't such a stretch.

Unlike Jorma and Jack, Billy Dean Andrus remains an unheard legend. After Weird Herald broke up, Andrus joined a San Jose group called Pachuco, featuring the even more legendary Skip Spence, and finally a Santa Cruz Mountains band called Mountain Current. In early November 1970, Andrus died of a drug overdose, supposedly after  a three-day party at a notorious biker hangout in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Jorma Kaukonen wrote "Ode To Billy Dean" (on Burgers) and still plays it to this day. One of Andrus's San Jose pals, Pat Simmons, had joined a band called The Doobie Brothers, and later dedicated the song "Black Water" to him, so Andrus's presence still resides with his friends.

The Matrix owners recorded every show, although they did not preserve every tape due to the cost of recording tape at the time. We can only hope that some piece of Weird Herald's performance is still accessible.

a photo of Weird Herald, purportedly from late 1967
I am happy to report that my fishhook in the ocean about Weird Herald has gotten some real bites. Two surviving members of the band,  drummer Patrick McIntire and bassist Cecil Bollinger can both be seen in the Comments, and I have been in touch with a wide variety of people regarding the band. An album was recorded in San Francisco in 1968 and the recordings still exist--I have heard a little bit and they really were some band--but it remains to be seen whether the surviving recording is releasable.

I am attaching a photo--unfortunately tiny--sent by a mysterious stranger (hey, the band wasn't called "Normal Herald"). This correspondent said that he was Weird Herald's manager in late 1967, that they recorded a now-lost 4-song demo, and he almost took the band to Australia. He included this promotional photo. I'm putting it on this post in the hopes that other correspondents may recognize the photo, the setting, or anything else.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mammoth Gardens, Denver, CO Performance List April-October 1970

The various corporate mergers of LiveNation and SFX has led to a national "re-branding" of small rock concert venues around the country as "Fillmores." While some venues with the name Fillmore have little in the way of rock history, the Denver Fillmore at 1510 Clarkson Street, which opened in 1999, actually has a somewhat interesting history of rock concerts for a brief period in 1970. While it is not hard to find out a brief history of the building, I could not find a record of 1970 rock performances at the venue, so I will rectify that as best I can.

Briefy, the building opened in 1907 as a skating rink, then became a manufacturing site for electric cars and car batteries. From 1935 to 1962 it was the Mammoth Gardens, an all-purpose sports arena. After several years as a warehouse, it was purchased by Stuart Green with the express purpose of emulating Bill Graham's Fillmore. Chet Helms had opened a branch of his Family Dog in 1967, but constant police harassment had led to its financial demise. Nonetheless, due to its location on I-70 and near I-80, Denver remained an important stop on the rock circuit. Green opened for business in the Spring of 1970.

What follows is my working list of Mammoth Gardens shows. There are many gaps, and I do not know if there are missing shows of if the venue was dark for certain weekends. Anyone with knowledge of additional shows please Comment or email me.

Mammoth Gardens 1970 Performances

April 11-12, 1970  Spirit/Van Morrison (canceled show)
April 17-18, 1970  Clouds/Zephyr
This was the opening night of Mammoth Gardens. Zephyr featured guitarist Tommy Bolin, and was the the leading band from Boulder, Colorado.

April 24-25, 1970 Grateful Dead/John Hammond
April 28, 1970 Joe Cocker and Mad Dogs and Englishmen
May 15-16, 1970 Mountain/Shocking Blue/Blues Image
May 22-23, 1970 Eric Burdon & War/Fever Tree
May 29-30, 1970 John Sebastian/Poco/Ballin Jack
Headliner Grand Funk Railroad canceled.

June 5-6, 1970 Spirit/Pentangle/Gypsy
June 9-10, 1970 The Who
June 26-27, 1970 Iron Butterfly/Black Oak Arkansas
July 3-4, 1970 60,000,00 Buffalo/Deep Rock/Jasmine and Mystic Moods
 “Audition Night” Presumably these were local bands.

July 10-11, 1970 Terry Reid/Jerry Hahn Brotherhood
July 17, 1970 Leon Russell/Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
July 29, 1970  Procol Harum
I am missing a large block of dates here.

September 12, 1970 Johnny Winter/Brownsville Station
September 16-17, 1970 Santana/Country Joe McDonald/Bread
October 2-3, 1970 Flash Cadillac and The Continental Kids/Illusion
October 6, 1970 Van Morrison/Sugarloaf/John Mayall
October 9, 1970 Spirit
October 17, 1970 Linda Ronstadt/Black Oak Arkansas
October 23, 1970 Leon Russell/Clouds
October 31, 1970 Steve Miller Band

 I am not certain that this last concert was played.

November 11, 1970 Derek and The Dominoes (canceled)
The city of Denver blamed the concert venue for the general decline of the neighborhood. The venue closed and the building was apparently boarded up by this time. 

After various uses, the venue re-opened as a concert site in 1986. In 1999 the building's name was changed from Mammoth Gardens to The Fillmore Auditorium, Denver.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

1275 Pine Street, Walnut Creek, CA The Hawks's Nest: The Socialites November 6-December 4, 1969

I know nothing about this group or this venue beyond what I have presented here, but it doesput the strange universe of 1969 into stark contrast. Since the late 1970s, rock and its offshoots have dominated the music industry, as the rock generation began having kids of their own, and rock and its musical values became mainstream. Even by 1969, however, rock was far from dominant except among people under a certain age, and who lived in big cities or college towns. It is easy now to mock the stoned seriousness of hippie groups who insisted on playing their own songs--not always good ones--while dressed in baggy jeans. However, a glance at the Oakland Tribune entertainment section for November 1969 shows what passed for entertainment. The ad on the top is from the Friday, November 7 1969 Trib, promoting nightly performances by "The Beautiful And Exciting Socialites," who were apparently "The Number One All Girl Band." A promotional description in the Entertainment column a few days earlier (Tuesday November 4) tells the story:
The Socialites, an all female quartet, will open a one month run at The Hawks Nest in Walnut Creek Thursday night. Shades of Phil Spittany, but I haven't seen an all-girl group since Pee Wee's opened over in North Beach in San Francisco.
That particular group, if I remember correctly, was hailed as the first topless band. The Socialites recently returned from a Vietnam tour and the Hawks Nest management has been after them for some time. They are beauties, and besides that they play their own music. I understand they're quite entertaining. The club is geared for a busy run and from all indications it will be.
So, to review:
  • the writer has only seen one other all-female band, and they were topless
  • the band members are good-looking
  • they "play their own music,"asserted with a tone of wonderment akin to meeting a dog who brushed his own teeth
What drove The Socialites? Obviously, they were musicians who wanted to make music for a living instead of work in an office, and in any case there were a lot fewer professional options for women at the time. I have ruminated before on the strange, rarely recalled history of touring Vietnam and Asia in the 60s, and it must have been doubly weird for women. Still, they were almost certainly playing cover songs in matching outfits in places where their job was to provide background music for dancing and drinking, and any artistry had to just be on private display for the occasional musicians in the crowd. Better than being a secretary or working in a Cannery, but does anyone recall them? They don't seem to have made a record, nor can I find another whiff of them (although their name is singularly difficult to google).

Compare The Socialites to the Bay Area's own all-female psychedelic band, The Ace Of Cups. For various reasons the band never made an album, and was never a headline act, but they played music they wrote, and they remained underground legends to this day. Ultimately their old tapes were made into an excellent album, and their website message board attests to the impact they had. That's not to say that The Socialites had any desire to be The Ace Of Cups, but its important to remember that the rock music scene in the 1960s was only a small slice of the musical dollar.

The site of The Hawks Nest (1275 Pine Street in Walnut Creek) is now an Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The fate of The Socialites remains unknown.

Update: I still know nothing about The Hawk's Nest, but quite the opposite is the case with respect to The Socialites. I was fortunate enough to be contacted by Socialites keyboard player Sandy Towers, who gave me the whole story (she is on the far left in the above picture). It's quite a fascinating story, so I'm posting her history in its entirety (note the link to Michigan's contribution to "all-girl" bands, The Debutantes). Sandy Towers:
The Socialites was a top-40 band, with quite a show.  Char Velasquez, a phenomenal bass player, was quite wild and uninhibited in expressing her instrument, and many times her sister, Toni Velasquez, the lead guitar player would dance in unison with Char.  Both girls would kick their legs up and throw up their instruments in unison, quite a show to see.  Their father had his own band, back in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and he encouraged the girls to start their own group.  I think they started their group at quite a young age, with a local gal, Nancy Rogers, playing drums and another girl, Nancy Anglum,  playing keyboards.  At some point the girls lost the drummer and hired a drummer from Detroit named Jino Chominski who had been playing with "The Debutantes," a very successful Detroit group.  The keyboard player also left the group.  The group had been on the road and had been doing tours in Southeast Asia.  Their manager came to Indianapolis to offer me a job with them playing in Hawaii.  I was playing with a group called the Pastels and the group was going to be breaking up. I accepted the gig in Hawaii without even meeting the players.  Soon I was on a plane, 18 years old, flying to Hawaii to meet three girls who were complete strangers.  The money was much better playing in an all-girl band as it was quite a novelty.

The material we played was danceable, party music as well as ballads with lots of three part harmony. There were some showstoppers:  both Char and I played horns while playing our instruments.  Char played trombone and bass at the same time and I played trumpet and my Hammond B3 and electric piano.  I had studied classical piano from the age of 4 and had the ability early on to hear a song and be able to play it.  I was an educated musician and was "instrumental" in helping to give the girls their vocal parts as well as the chord changes.  Our harmonies were very strong and we rehearsed constantly--we did take our music seriously.  For me, music was the only thing I ever thought about at a very young age.  We consistently toured across the US, played many gigs on the West Coast, in the Midwest and in Michigan.  
Jino left the group shortly after we left Hawaii and we ended up picking up a phenomenal drummer from Chicago named Donna Smolak who not only sang but play double bass drums.  SHE DID NOT PLAY LIKE A GIRL!!!  We became a very tight group.  We did get into the studio in Memphis and recorded a demo which was never released.  All good things come to an end, and unfortunately for me, I was losing my eyesight and had to quit the band.  I ultimatly went blind for six years and continued playing with local groups playing Top 40 / R&B music.  I also did some piano bar work. After two corneal transplants, I was able to prepare for a new career as an administrative assistant, actually winning a national typing contest

Tony Velasquez died of cancer a few years ago, which was devastating to her sister Char.  They were very close and Char was Tony's caretaker.  Char currently lives in Reno, Nevada, still plays the bass and has a house gig there.  As of 2009 Jino Chominski, now known asJJanice Evans, lives in Algonac, Michigan. is a Massage therapist, a Tai-Chi instructor, and a drummer.  Donna Smolak, the later drummer with the group, is a very successful realtor in downtown Chicago, right on 
Michigan Avenue. She also plays drums on the side.

All of us girls ONLY wanted to play music - it seemed our destiny and what an exciting time to be playing music.  Your reference in your article about girl musicians in the late 60's-early 70's not wanting to be a secretaries cracked me up, as that is what I ultimately ended up doing.  I am a Sr. Executive Assistant at Kellogg Company's World Headquarters - been there the past 18 years. 
Is this an amazing story or what? Most people are looking for a bite of the apple, and it seems like The Socialites got a big, juicy one. Thanks so much to Sandy Towers for bringing to light this great tale.

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.