Wednesday, December 23, 2009

York Farm, Poynette, WI April 24-26, 1970 Sound Storm: Grateful Dead/Illinois Speed Press/Mason Profitt/others

Sound Storm was a rock festival held on the York Farm in Poynette, WI on the weekend of April 24-26, 1970, and attended by about 30,000 people. Poynette is a small community 30 miles North of Madison and 100 miles West of Milwaukee. Although the "hippie invasion" was not welcomed by the community, greeted with great trepidation by the police and subject to numerous risky variables like the weather, in fact the whole weekend was a relaxed celebration of Woodstock Nation in its day.  I have written recently on the Grateful Dead's participation in this event, but the entire story of Sound Storm will be forthcoming in the Wisconsin Magazine of History's March 2010 issue, in a scholarly article by Michael Edmonds.

As an adjunct to Edmonds's forthcoming article, the Wisconsin Historical Society has posted numerous hitherto unpublished photos by co-organizer Bob Pulling of many of the bands who played Sound Storm. In honor of that, I thought I would list what is known about the bands who played Sound Storm. I am not familiar with most of the local bands, but I do know something about the regional bands. I have provided links to the Pulling's photos where available. There are many unidentified performers, so if you would recognize some of the bands who played--like for example it was your band--take a look in the Unidentified Performers pages.

According to the poster (above), the scheduled performers for Sound Storm were

Grateful Dead/Ken Kesey/Crow/Illinois Speed Press/Rotary Connection/Mason Profitt/Fuse/Baby Huey/Soup/The Sorry Muthas/Spectre Inc./Captain Billy's Whiz Bang/Django/Bowery Boys/U.S. Pure/The Soul Asylum/Bliss/Brown Sugar/Ox/Northern Comfort/Tayles/Sargasso/Wheezer Lockinger/Manitoba Hugger/Wingfield/Tounge/Groove/Woodbine/Strophe/Ice/Omaha/Staph/Hope/Fly-By-Night Blues Band/Mother Blues/Don Gibson/Wilderness Road
A different ad also lists Biff Rose, Soup and Bethlehem Boogie Band. What follows are some brief comments on the bands known to me.

The Grateful Dead were, in fact, the Grateful Dead, and I have written elsewhere about their participation .

Ken Kesey, although a friend of organizer Peter Obranovich, was not in fact present. I suspect that his name was a sort of code for "Acid Test," which was not misunderstood by those attending.

Crow were a hard rock band from Minneapolis. Their 1969 debut album Crow Music (on Amaret) included a modest hit single, "Evil Woman (Don't Play Your Games With Me)," later covered by Black Sabbath.

Illinois Speed Press were a Chicago band, but they were signed by CBS and moved to Southern California along with another band, the Chicago Transit Authority. The ISP featured guitarists Paul Cotton and Kal David, and they released two excellent if little-noticed albums. Cotton went on to some fame in Poco, and Kal David was in the excellent Fabulous Rhinestones.

Rotary Connection were a Chicago "psychedelic soul" band on Cadet Records, Chess Records rock imprint. They featured lead singer Minnie Ripperton, who achieved fame as a solo artist in the seventies. Sometime in 1970, Rotary Connection had released their fifth album Dinner.

Mason Profitt was led by two brothers John Micheal and Terry Talbot, originally from Indianapolis, but based in Chicago by 1969. The first of their five albums, Wanted, had been released in 1969.

Fuse was a band from Rockford, IL, featuring guitarist Rick Nielsen and bassist Tom Peterson. They released one self-titled, poorly produced album for Epic in 1968. The band broke up in 1971, and Nielsen and Peterson went on to form Cheap Trick.

Baby Huey and The Babysitters were a legendary soul-rock band from Chicago, somewhat in the mold of Sly And The Family Stone. Lead singer "Baby Huey" (James Ramey) was reputedly a dynamic performer, but he had many health problems and he died in October 1970.

Luther Allison, not on the poster, but appearing in Pulling's photos, was a Chicago blues guitarist who had played in Howlin Wolf's band.

Ox were a Milwaukee band that featured guitarist Bob Metzger. Metzger has had a lengthy professional career, and is currently playing guitar for Leonard Cohen.

Captain Billy's Whiz Bang (with a G), according to bassist Michael Pontecorvo,
were a blues/rock 'n roll band out of Madison and played on the Library steps (first Earth Day) on Saturday and then at Sound Storm  Sunday morning.  It was Bob Schmitdke (Guitar), Michael Pontecorvo(Bass-myself), Larry Robertson(Organ) and god help me I can't remember our drummer's name.
Hopefully the drummer will surface soon (thanks to Michael for writing in).

Biff Rose (if he played) was a comedian and songwriter, somewhat different than most of the rock bands on the bill.

The rest of the bands are unknown to me, although there are photos of Northern Comfort, Bowery Boys and Wheezer Lockinger. Anyone with information about the other bands, particularly if they are in  the Unidentified Performers photos, please contact me or mention them in the Comments.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

January 29, 1967 Glide Memorial Church, San Francisco (Taylor & Ellis) Gallery Opening

Part of San Francisco's schizophrenia about the Summer of Love is easily viewed in the 1967 San Francisco Chronicle. While the news sections were full of almost daily reports about LSD freakouts, drug busts and runaways, the Arts and Entertainment section cheerily reported the doings of the San Francisco psychedelic underground. The major San Francisco rock bands were definitely Art and Entertainment, and worthy of the paper's attention, even if the News section implicitly scolded their fans for being menaces to society.

This brief listing from the January 27, 1967 edition of the Chronicle offers a tantalizing taste of something that would be quite valuable now. Many of the members of SF rock bands saw themselves generally as Artists, with music being just one part of their self-expression. Glide Memorial Church, with its forward looking minister, the Rev. Cecil Williams, was always sympathetic to the hippies, so its not surprising that the church temporarily became an art gallery. The article reports
A showing of painting and photography by members of San Francisco rock bands is now open to the public at Glide Memorial Church, Taylor and Ellis.
The exhibition, open to 6:30 pm, includes works by members of the Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and The Holding Company, the Sopwith Camel, the Quicksilver Messenger Service and The Loading Zone.
My limited knowledge in this area suggests that the likely artistes from those groups would include Grace Slick from the Airplane and James Gurley (RIP) from Big Brother. I don't know who the artists might have been in the other groups. While not exactly lost vase paintings from the city of Troy, to whatever extent they may have been great art in their own right, I'll bet all of it would fetch a pretty penny now--here's to hoping that one way or another all the artifacts did indeed do so, and the band members or their family members are enjoying the fruits of that.

Washington at Murphy, Sunnyvale, CA Wayne Manor January 22-February 19, 1967 Bobby Taylor and The Vancouvers

I have written earlier about how while rock music was becoming "serious" at the Fillmore and Avalon, it was still just teen entertainment elsewhere in the Bay Area. The best example of this was Sunnyvale's Wayne Manor, a rock and soul nightclub modeled on the very popular Batman TV show starring Adam West. Inside Wayne Manor, apparently, it was got up like the Bat Cave, and the staff was dressed in various costumes. For a long time, the house band was a Fremont band called The Gotham City Crimefighters, and they wore capes and tights.

Besides the Crimefighters, Wayne Manor also featured live touring bands, who generally played several nights a week, at least according to the ads. Different groups cycled through the club, and were advertised in the papers. The ad featuring The Thunderbirds ("Direct from Reno") was from the October 21, 1966 San Mateo Times.  More interesting to me is the presence of Bobby Taylor and The Vancouvers, who played Wayne Manor from January 22, 1967 through at least February 19. They were advertised every week in the San Francisco Chronicle (the above is from Saturday, February 4), so they were definitely seen as an attraction.

Lead singer Bobby Taylor had been born in North Carolina, but raised in Washington State. In the early 1960s, his band (The Four Pharaohs) met another group (Little Daddy And The Bachelors) while they were in San Francisco, and they merged. They relocated to Canada, and in Calgary they were known as the Four Shades in reference to their multi-racial band members. By 1965 they were based in Vancouver, and mostly performed Motown covers, which is how they came to the attention of Motown Records, who signed them. I'm not sure if they had been signed to Motown by early 1967, but by 1968 they had a modest hit on Motown with "Does Your Mama Know About Me," which reached #29, and their sole album cracked the top 100 (#85).

Still, the history of a modestly popular soul band from Canada isn't the point of this post. Musicians are usually pretty hip, even if their band plays mainstream music, and their home base of Vancouver was a happening place in many ways. If the Vancouvers spent a month in San Francisco playing most nights of the week, they must have spent some time hanging out in hip San Francisco, Berkeley or Santa Cruz. It must have been pretty weird to go hear far out, free thinking stuff with light shows and LSD, and then go back the next night to a club modeled on a TV show with a house band of teenagers dressed like Batman and Robin. It can hardly have been clearer that music was changing, even if they were making good money.

Because I am in the precise age bracket that thought Cheech And Chong was the funniest thing a 14-year old had ever heard ("Dave's not here, man"), I am always interested in Bobby Taylor and The Vancouvers because the band's rhythm guitarist was Tommy Chong. I guess if he did a comedy routine where he said "we played in this club, man, where it was like the Bat Cave, and the waitresses dressed like Bat Girl," everyone would have thought it was just a drug-fueled fantasy. The idea that the Vancouvers had really done that, for a month, and got paid for it, would have been beyond my thinking at the time.

There are actually many interesting things about Bobby Taylor, not least that the Jackson 5 opened for them in Chicago in July 1968, and Taylor was so impressed he brought them to Motown for an audition. The Vancouvers broke up shortly afterwards, and Taylor ended up producing much of the first Jackson 5 album. As for the Gotham City Crimefighters, they ultimately returned to Fremont, dropped their uniforms and changed their name to The Motowns, and subsequently became Tower Of Power. Yet for all that, I am still stuck in 1972, thinking how Cheech and Chong's stoner musings were actually more conventional than what Chong, at least, had actually done as a musician.

Friday, December 18, 2009

49 Wentworth Alley, San Francisco Drag'on A' Go-Go January-February 1967

Rock music in the 1950s and 1960s was essential in creating a distinct category of American human called "Teenager." Up until the mid-1960s, rock was seen as fun to dance to, but too trivial for adult attention. The Beatles, Bob Dylan and the San Francisco changed that, but even into 1967 many rock clubs were still directed exclusively at teenagers. The Drag'on A' Go-Go was in San Francisco's Chinatown, at 49 Wentworth Alley near the intersection of Grant and Washington.

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.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

150 Bleecker Street, New York, NY The Infinite Poster Company (1967)

The San Francisco underground rock scene that began at the Fillmore and The Avalon in 1966 had ramifications far beyond the scene itself. Like all underground phenomenons, its status as legend superseded its status as music. Many of the famous groups were legends before they had albums, and many of the albums were hardly hits, and with little or no FM radio can hardly have been widely heard. Yet young people all over the country had heard of the Fillmore and the Avalon, and it helped define 60s rock even for people who had never been there and hardly heard the music.

One of the reasons that the legend of the Fillmore spread so far was the ubiquity of the famous posters by Mouse and Kelly, Wes Wilson, Victor Moscoso and the rest of the fine San Francisco artists. Just one of those posters on a dormitory wall in a cold winter might act as a beacon to the entire floor, as they gathered in the room to amuse themselves in appropriately 60s fashion. Seeing known and unknown bands on posters, with wild colors and weird found art, and the promise of light shows and strange occurrences made San Francisco a place of promise and mystery.

It is not widely known today by non-collectors that the San Francisco rock posters had a distribution well beyond telephone poles and store windows in The City. This ad (from the September 9, 1967 Village Voice) for a store called The Infinite Poster Company, on 150 Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village (next door to the Cafe Au Go Go), includes the following offers
  • San Francicso Fillmore Auditorium (F Series 20 Different Posters 14 x 22 in full color [reg. $1.25] now 75 cents each
  • San Francisco Avalon Ballroom (T Series 20 Different Posters 14 x 20 in full color [reg $1.25], now 75 cents each
  • Cafe Au Go Go (60 cents)
  • L20 Mothers
  • L24 Blues Project
  • L30 Dave Van Ronk
  • L33 Gordon Lightfoot
  • L34 Grateful Dead
  • L38 Butterfield Blues Band

The store also sold numerous travel, auto racing and other posters. While the Avalon and Fillmore posters were reprints, and not originals, and thus worth less today from a collectable point of view, from the point of view of someone at SUNY Binghamton buying a poster for his dorm room, they would have looked just as good.

The history of the Filmore and Avalon posters is well known amongst those who collect and analyze such items. Ross has found the history of the Avalon reprints on-line, for those interested in the exact history.

The Cafe Au Go Go posters are less known, at least to me. The Grateful Dead poster is accessible on-line. Interestingly, the dates are actually wrong, as the poster has the band playing June 1-10, when in fact it was June 1-11. This has been discussed at length elsewhere, so it leaves open to speculation why the poster was incorrect. One possibility is that the Cafe Au Go Go posters listed in the ad were made up after the fact to commemorate famous groups that had played the Au Go Go. Certainly, given the numbering system in the ad, it shares nothing with the chronology of shows at the club (I have an exact and complete list). Also, the known poster has no information about show times, the club address or anything else, not typical of posters used to advertise real events.

This is just speculation on my part, but while this ad shows at the minimum that underground rock artifacts were already commodities, it may be that as early as 1967 venues were making up mementos of recently past events in order to have something to commodify.  Now, of course, commemorative posters are a common business, but I had no inkling that it may have started this early.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Convocation Center, Ohio University, Athens, OH May 19, 1969 Junior Prom Jose Feliciano/Led Zeppelin

This event is well documented in the history of Led Zeppelin, but its still striking to come across the article. In the 1960s, most American colleges and Universities had substantial budgets for student entertainment, and major entertainers performed regularly. Outside of the two coasts, many schools still had "Prom" dances, just like High School. Ohio University in Athens, OH is a major public University, so their Junior Class dance would have been a fairly large event. The headline in the April 29, 1969 edition of the local Athens Messenger says "Jose Feliciano Heads OU's J-Prom Concert." The first paragraph cheerily begins
The 1969 J-Prom Concert at Ohio University will feature singer-guitarist Jose Feliciano and Led Zeppelin, a British rock group.
Jose Feliciano was a popular artist, in what today would be called a "crossover" style. He was popular in Las Vegas type places, but he also had some radio hits, including a sort of Brazilian version of The Doors "Light My Fire." He would have appealed to a broad swath of the Midwestern student body, talented enough for the hipsters, but catchy enough for everyone else.

This show was probably booked in March or so, if not earlier, and Led Zeppelin's first album was only released in January 1969. The thinking of the booking agent was probably to have an enjoyable artist for everyone, supported by someone a bit louder for the hip kids. Led Zeppelin was booked as an opening act on most dates of their first American tour from December 68 through May 69, and this was no exception. There were various English bands touring around America at the time, trying to build an audience: Ten Years After, Family, The Nice, John Mayall, Savoy Brown and so on. Some made it, and some didn't.

None of them were Led Zeppelin however. Its well worth a read of the concert memories on the Zep concert site. By May, everyone had memorized the first Zeppelin album, and they charged the stage while Zeppelin showed everyone that the first album was just a taste of the metal madness that awaited. They blew everyone's brains out, and much of the crowd simply split, leaving Jose Feliciano to play to a half-empty hall.

I've got to think 1970's Junior Prom Concert was kind of a letdown.

(oh yes: Has The Monster Returned? refers to the so-called Mason County Monster, supposedly a giant bird that ate pets. Its not a Led Zeppelin reference, but perhaps it ought to be)

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.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

3626 Doniphan, El Paso, TX The Kingsmen Lounge May 9-10, 1969 Deep Green

Cultural information did not travel as quickly in days of yore as it does now. The famous Humbead's Map Of The World, which suggested that Berkeley, CA and Cambridge, MA were right next door to each other, was not so far wrong. Anyone not in that nexus got their information a little bit later.

This ad is from the El Paso Herald-Post of Friday, May 9, 1969, advertises the Deep Green at the Kingsmen Lounge. They are described as "fabulous" exponents of "The San Francisco Steppenwolf Sound." It is easy to look at this from the perspective of San Francisco or Chicago and chuckle at the naivete of local rubes who didn't realize that Steppenwolf were a bunch of Canadians who lived in Los Angeles, who only had a peripheral connection to the so-called "San Francisco Sound," which in any case was some years prior when the band was called The Sparrow.

El Paso wasn't a place for hippies, and the Deep Green were probably the most hip guys in town, with all the latest records and hot licks to boot (Texas doesn't take kindly to second rate musicians in any genre). Its not their fault that the club they played at needed to push the latest California band to make them sound cool. They probably played a smoking version of "Don't Step On The Grass, Sam," which was pretty dangerous stuff for 1960s Texas.

The location of the venue at 3626 Doniphan Drive (at the intersection of Racetrack Dr), is just between Interstate 10 and the Texas-New Mexico border. At the same time, it is just about two miles from the Mexican border, near Jaurez. At the time, it was probably a hopping joint. According to the Google Satellite photo, no buildings are currently visible at the site.