Monday, April 26, 2010

Winterland, San Francisco "Monster Jam" for Olompali, March 17, 1969

March 17, 1969 Winterland "Monster Jam"

Rancho Olompali was the Marin County retreat for the Grateful Dead in Spring 1966, before they moved to 710 Ashbury (via Western Marin) in September.  It was owned by Don McCoy, who later lived across the street at 715 Ashbury. In 1967, McCoy started a commune called The Chosen Family. A fire caused by faulty wiring burned down the mansion. I assume that this Ralph Gleason column item from the San Francisco Chronicle (from Monday, March 17, 1969), refers to the fire's aftermath. It says "Tonight at Winterland, there's a benefit for Olompali with a monster jam session, light shows by both Jerry Abrams and Glenn McKay and also the Garden of Delights."

I know nothing else about this show except what you are reading here. Nevertheless, a Monday night rock show at the largest rock venue in San Francisco, with three established light shows, suggests that someone interesting was expected to show up at the jam. Given the connections between Don McCoy and the Grateful Dead, it does at least hint that Jerry Garcia and/or members of the Dead might be there. Glenn McKay was the Airplane's light show man, so that hints at some members of the Airplane who might like to jam (as the t-shirt says, if you don't know Jorma, you don't know Jack).

Most San Francisco bands didn't work Monday nights, and both the Dead's and the Airplane's March touring itinerary puts them in town. I don't know how to pursue this any further, but I'd certainly be looking for a Jorma and Jack, Mickey and The Hartbeats kind of thing. [update: As you can see in the Comments, Ross found that my supposition was largely correct].

Rancho Olompali, and the mansion on it, had a long and complicated history dating back to 1843, General Vallejo and Mexican California. The property had ended up in the hands of the University of San Francisco by the 1950s. In the 1960s, they attempted to sell it various times, but when various buyers defaulted, the property kept reverting back to USF. I assume Don McCoy gave up on the property as well. In 1977, the State of California purchased the property from USF, and turned it into Olompali Historic State Park. The address of the park is 8901 Old Redwood Highway, 3.5 miles East of Novato, CA.


  1. This has passed me by in terms of detail, so a good find. I have done some digging and it seems like your conjecture is good. I cannot find any post show reviews at all, but I have find a little more preamble than Gleason had. From pp12 of the Berkeley Barb Issue 187 (March 14-21, 1969):

    "A "Superjam" dance and concert will be thrown at Winterland this Monday, St. Patrick's Nite, to benefit the Chosen Family that was busted and burned out at Rancho Olompali in Novato.

    Featured will be musicians from the leading Bay Area rock groups, according to Bob McKendrick from Olompali, the Airplane, the Dead, and Sons of Champlin are expected to show up; also jamming will be the Garden of Delights, and a blues-rock group new to San Francisco, Red Mountain. Glen McKay's Headlights will provide enlightenment for all. The Superjam is for a good cause . . . something like 18 to 20 people from Olompali haven't the bread to pay their attorney's fees, and they are all homeless, as Burdell Mansion on Olompall burned down after the bust.

    The Benefit is being sponsored by the Deja Vu Foundation, Inc., in association with Crinkle Productions, and will happen at Winterland, Post and Sterner Streets in The City. That's Monday, March 17th, from 8:30 pm till 1 am; donation asked at the door will be $3.00 . . .for some beautiful people."

    A scan is en route as I type.

  2. Very intriguing. I see that McCoy has passed away, but based on a quick Google search I couldn't see whether Abrams/McKay might still be around? It seems like Jack/Jorma sometimes can recall these kinds of things, if anyone is in touch with them to ask.

  3. As someone who was living at Olompali at the time of this concert I have vague memories of this gig. Most of the members of both the Airplane and the Dead showed up to play as well as Elvin Bishop and some of the member of It's a Beautiful Day and others. It was a good gig though not as successful monetarily as was hoped and the ranch was sadly closed not too long afterwards due to the drowning of 2 of the ranch's resident children in the unattended swimming pool...

    1. Terry, thank you very much for this recollection. Given the infamy of Olompali at the time, it has always been surprising to me that the Winterland event seems to have been lost in the mists of history.