Wednesday, April 21, 2010

2629 Bayshore Blvd, San Francisco, CA The Moonrose Forest (formerly George's Log Cabin) November 1969


Some mysteries seem bound to remain mysterious, but they are no less fascinating for that. I have been reviewing the Entertainment Section (Datebook) for the San Francisco Chronicle for the latter half of the sixties, and each day it would include a brief listing of performances that were opening that day. This included both performers beginning long runs and one-night stands. Because of the way newspapers were constructed back in the day, the paper required a column of variable length for each edition. The Chronicle made a point to feature major events and regular advertisers, but if space needed to be filled, they stuffed in events that seemed interesting in order to fill the column inches. 

The rock venues listed in the 60s Datebook are mostly familiar to me, even if they are now obscure, but my eyes are attuned now to curiosities. In September 1969 occasional mentions occurred for a venue called George's Log Cabin, in a distant part of the City. I paid little attention until I reached the November 14 edition, which promoted the opening of "The Deviants and Life at Moonrose Forest (formerly George's Log Cabin), 2629 Bayshore boulevard." The Deviants were perhaps the London Underground's most notorious band, claiming to be the first band to be introduced on stage as punk-rockers (in July 1967) and spawning a host of nefarious progeny. They did one disastrous North American tour in the Fall of 1969--did they end up on the edge of San Francisco?

A brief glimpse at the openings for that Friday are pretty surprising--the Velvet Underground in the midst of a long, intermittent run at the Matrix, soul legend Solomon Burke at Basin Street West on Broadway, and some obscure legends at the newly re-opened New Old Fillmore on Geary (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had opened the night before at Fillmore West and thus did not appear in the Friday list). Yet if the Deviants played, they were unquestionably the rarest sound on tap that night, and that's saying a lot. We may never know the answer--but what can we find out?

The Deviants
The story of The Deviants, also known as The Social Deviants, seems like a work of fiction. Indeed, Deviant lead singer and lyricist Mick Farren is a prolific writer of fiction (and non-fiction), and in some ways The Deviants were like a literary creation, except that they actually existed in the flesh. In the mid-60s, "Deviants" or "Social Deviants" was a scientific term, and not one of praise, so naming a band after a term for troublemaking nonconformists was a threatening proposition. Among many other features, the Deviants were the bad boys in the London Underground scene, friendly with the local Hells Angels and too scary to play the UFO Club (the London counterpart to the Fillmore). I am hardly an expert on Mick Farren, but that hardly matters, since Mick Farren speaks for himself quite eloquently on the story of The Deviants.

By 1969, The Deviants had released three albums, and had a sort of cult following, and they had even made it into the UFO Club. After some personnel changes, the rest of the band (besides lead singer Farren) was guitarist Paul Rudolph, bassist Duncan Sanderson and drummer Russell Hunter. Although no live recordings exist (known to me), the group apparently sounded like Blue Cheer with an agenda, or the MC5 with an accent--loud, angry and on the edge.

The Deviants had set out on a North American tour, which collapsed disastrously when Farren was pushed out of the band in Vancouver. The only known date of the tour (to me) was September 25 through 28 at the Colonial Music Hall in Vancouver, where the band was advertised as "England's Leading Underground Group." Farren has chronicled his own adventures over the years, but the activities of The Deviants in North America after Farren was forced out of the band are unknown. The Deviants apparently continued to tour. Did they wind up in San Francisco six weeks later, to spend at least a week at a venue on the Southern edge of the City, far from the Fillmore West and the Haight Ashbury, and even the Family Dog on The Great Highway?

The next week's Friday Datebook (November 21, 1969) lists a new headliner at the Moonrose Forest: Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks, The Deviants, Life and 20 Dollar Friendship are all booked for the weekend. Dan Hicks was an original Charlatan, whose "psychedelic swing" band had moved from a part-time to a full time occupation with the demise of the Charlatans. The engagingly named 20 Dollar Friendship are completely unknown to me.

The remaining Deviants, if indeed they were the English band, were still a formidably crazy bunch. In early 1970, Rudolph, Sanderson and Hunter had returned to London and joined the infamous John "Twink" Adler to form an even more notorious group called The Pink Fairies. The Pink Fairies favored anarchy, drugs and publicity stunts, and their story is too demented to retell here. Suffice to say, the Pink Fairies played key roles in the future of Hawkwind and Motorhead. If the Rudoph/Sanderson/Hunter trio played San Francisco, even hardened Blue Cheer fans would have been surprised at the jolting sounds of the proto-Fairie Deviants. If it was them, what were they doing at Moonrose Forest, and why would anyone put a rock club on Bayshore Boulevard? That leads us to our next mystery.

George's Log Cabin, 2629 Bayshore Boulevard
The Bayshore Highway was constructed in the 1920s and completed in 1937, designed to accommodate the new flow of traffic created by numerous bridges across the bay (The Dumbarton, San Mateo, Bay and Golden Gate Bridges were all completed during this period). The undivided four-lane road ran from Army Street (now Cesar Chavez) in San Francisco down to San Jose. The section in San Francisco's Visitacion Valley was known as "The Bloody Bayshore" due to the numerous accidents. Increasing traffic required changing the Bayshore from a Highway, with crossings and lights, to an uninterrupted Freeway. The first section of the Bayshore Freeway was completed in 1949. Most of the Freeway replaced the old Bayshore Highway, but in 1957 a section of the freeway was built on a landfill causeway from San Francisco Airport to Candlestick Cove, replacing the most dangerous part of the "Bloody Bayshore." This left the old Bayshore Highway to be renamed "Bayshore Boulevard," and what was once a main thoroughfare from the Peninsula to San Francisco became just another neighborhood artery, separated by a lagoon from US 101 and the new baseball stadium at Candlestick Point.

George's Log Cabin appears to have indeed been a log cabin. The Bayshore Highway (now Boulevard) is at the edge of one of the Southernmost San Francisco neighborhoods, Visitacion Valley.  San Francisco is a County as well as a City, and the edge of the City borders San Mateo County. Just before and after Prohibition, Counties had different laws about drinking and gambling. A remarkable artifact from a book on the history of the Visitacion Valley has an old napkin from George's Log Cabin (precise date uncertain)

a patron recalls  that there was a
line painted across the floor of George's Log Cabin on Bayshore. "If you were on the South side of the line on San Mateo County, you could gamble and drink to all hours, but on the North side you'd be in San Francisco, where gambling was illegal and their was a time limit on drinking."
The exact date of these doings at the Log Cabin is unclear. San Mateo County capitalized on being looser than San Francisco, and George's Log Cabin depended on that (Brisbane's Seven Mile House, a a short distance away on 2800 Bayshore, and still open for business, was even more notorious).

According to the book, sometime in the mid-1960s the Log Cabin (visible in the photos on the link) was taken over by a statuary company called Silvestri's. Given the peculiar information I have stumbled on in the Chronicle, the Silvestri's takeover was probably a bit later, in the early 1970s perhaps, or perhaps the Log Cabin briefly mixed day and nighttime uses.

Moonrose Forest
The history of Use Permits in California (and most places) made it so that it was always easier to start a rock venue at a place where music, dancing and refreshments were already approved. Many of the most famous rock establishments, not least the Fillmore and Avalon, had been long time venues for music and dancing. It seems plausible that some entity or other looking to start its own joint found an existing club down on its luck and available cheap, and was able to convert it to a rock music club because no additional approval was required.

My only clue about Moonrose Forest is that there was a Bay Area band called Moonrose Forest, started by bassist Michael Husser. Husser had been in a group called Martha's Laundry, a quite fascinating band for one that never recorded and may not have even been that great (per its own members), but some very interesting people were in that group (including Randall Smith and David Kessner, for those who recognize the names). Moonrose Forest backed Buffy St. Marie for a while,  in late 1968. Did members of the group decide to start their own nightclub? Its an intriguing possibility, and completely unknown, like everything else in this story.

Speculative Conclusions
What do we know for facts?
  • There was a club on the San Francisco County Line called George's Log Cabin, that started booking rock music in late 1969
  • In November 1969, George's Log Cabin changed its name to Moonrose Forest and at least once booked a "name" act (Dan Hicks)
  • Moonrose Forest also booked a group called The Deviants for two weekends when the infamous English group of the same name may have still been touring North America
  • Beyond the listing, no firm evidence survives of The Deviants possible visit to Bayshore Boulevard
What can we speculate?
  • The Deviants, bad boys of the sixties London Underground, ended up in San Francisco in November 1969, proving Oscar Wilde's adage "every one who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco."
  • Instead of playing the Family Dog, the Matrix or some downtown palace of sin, The Deviants played a newly re-purposed nightclub on the wrong side of the City, far from any Underground, hipsters or artistes
  • The place they played had a dark and ribald history, well suited for the Deviants and their kind, but lost in the mists of time
  • Someone is still alive with a recovered memory of a strange night on Bayshore Boulevard with some English crazies who sounded like Blue Cheer and packed an attitude
Today
  • Mick Farren is more writer than performer, but still alive and well, and still occasionally working with a band called The Deviants, even if they are a different bunch
  • The remaining Deviants, who became The Pink Fairies, are still out there (in all senses) and recorded as recently as 2008
  • A. Silvestri's Inc. Home Furnishings moved across the street (to 2630 Bayshore Blvd) in the previous decade, but the Log Cabin is still in use as a showroom. The structure (or some of it, anyway) is visible on Google Street View (2635 Bayshore Blvd, San Francisco, CA, 94134)

View Larger Map
  • The once moribund Visitacion Valley neighborhood now has a streetcar, for the first time since the 1930s, and the Sunnydale Station, right in front of the old Log Cabin (at Sunnydale and Bayshore) is the terminus for the T-3rd Street line, so the area is predicted to be the next thriving City neighborhood
None of my speculations may be true, or all of them may be. Or somewhere in between. Someone knows--but do they remember?

Update: thanks to Ross's excellent research (in the Comments), we know that the venue was called the Polynesian Hideaway in 1966-67, and as George's Log Cabin it was booking rock bands as early as June 1969. More importantly, we know that the (English) Deviants played The Matrix--a more likely spot for them--in November, so they were definitely in San Francisco, meaning its very likely they were The Deviants who played Moonrose Forest.

11 comments:

  1. A thrice of points:

    (a) Georges Log Cabin had previously been called the Polynesian Hideaway - certainly through 1966 and 1967. It was a dinner-dance type venue and probably piped Don Ho through the PA.

    (b) The Deviants, sans Mick Farren, also played a show during November 1969 at the Matrix. Available dates appear to be November 1, 2, 5, 6, 16, 21 and 22 - although I am 90% sure that Mendelbaum played November 5 and 6.

    (c) June 20-21, 1969 saw George's Log Cabin, (which is sometimes advertised as being in Daly City and sometimes has its proximity to the Cow Palace mentioned) hosted our great friends Phoenix together with Ice. A recent find that I may have fogotten to mention - but it did lead to a couple of hours research in to the Log Cabin - hence the above being to mind.

    Ross

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  2. I was the bassist for the band called MoonRose Forest. After we recorded a live album with Buffy Sainte-Marie in 1968, members of the group returned to Santa Cruz, CA to continue creating original music. David Seltzer (guitar) toured the world playing his original songs and now lives in Santa Cruz. His stage name is David Lamar. Michael Husser is still playing bass in a variety of groups and owns a video production company in Richmond, CA. David O'Connor is a professional guitarist in the Santa Cruz area. Richard Novak, who was the manager of the group founded Santa Cruz skateboards and a company called NHS, Inc.

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  3. Thanks for the great information about MoonRose Forest. Do you have any idea about the name of the venue? Was there any connection between the band MoonRose Forest and the "new" name of George's Log Cabin?

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  4. Have any posters or flyers for the Log Cabin rock venue ever shown up?

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  5. Well, not to my knowledge. These references in the Chronicle are the only traces I have found of the Log Cabin as a rock venue.

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  6. I have never come across any posters either. Regular ads were placed in the Berkeley Barb. If I had to guess, I would say there were never any posters beside hand written ones inside the club, but there were probably handbilsl at the door. It seems strange that they have never turned up though.

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  7. There were also regular ads for George's Log Cabin in the Berkeley Tribe in September-October 1969.

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  8. My name is Dina and I am the granddaughter of Silvestri. My mom sent me this email and it is fantastic... thank you for researching and writing this. I practically grew up in that log cabin and only know a little bit of history, mainly what you wrote about. Anyhow, I would love to speak with the author and even show you around the log cabin as there may be some clues in there that can help. The original bathroom is in with all of the "writing on the walls" and there are some secret doors and an upstairs section.

    My mom came across this article because she was doing research. We are kicking around the idea of re-opening the log cabin as a wine bar or venue. Anyhow, please give me a call so we can chat. I look forward to hearing from you.

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  9. Dina

    Thank you very much for your enthusiastic response. I would very much like to see the inside of George's Log Cabin, but as I live in Chapel Hill, NC it won't be anytime soon, sad to say.

    Its great to hear that the Log Cabin, with all its seemingly delicious history, has endured into the 21st Century. While I know little more than what I have posted in the blog, I do know that after it was called Moonrose Forest, it briefly reverted to the name George's Log Cabin (early '70) and then became the Soul Cabin in February 1970.

    You can email me through the blog.

    Good luck, Corry

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  10. Hi Corry,

    Too bad...I hope you can make a trip out here to SF and check out the log cabin. This article has really inspired my mother and I to move forward with our idea of opening a wine bar. We have for the most part decided that the original name "George's Log Cabin" (at the county line) would be the most appropriate. We would definitely paint the line down the center of the room like it had in the past. We are just trying to determine exactly where that line was but my mom has some ideas of where it may have been. I will keep you posed on what we decide to do.

    thanks,
    Dina

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  11. Dina, its an honor that the blog is so inspirational. History is a powerful thing.

    The line down the center of the room would be a great throwback (will you charge different prices?).

    If Ross (Yellow Shark) and I come across some more good stuff we'll make sure it gets posted.

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