Showing posts with label South Bay. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South Bay. Show all posts

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, October 27, 2009

The Tombstones (South Bay 1966)

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 13, 2009

May 23-24-25, 1969, 10th and Alma, San Jose, CA: Aquarian Family Festival Band List

May 23-24-25, 1969 practice field, San Jose State College
      Aquarian Family Festival

Ace of Cups/All Men Joy/Birth/Beggars Opera/Boz Skaggs/Crabs/Crow/
Cleanliness And Godliness Skiffle Band/Devine Madness/Denver/Scratch/Elgin Marble/Flaming Groovies/Frumious Bandersnatch/Gentle Dance/Greater Carmichael Traveling Street Band/ Glass Mountain/High Country/Jefferson Airplane/Joy of Cooking/Last Mile/Libras/Lamb/Living Color/Linn County/Mother Ball/ Morning Glory/Mad River/Mt. Rushmore/Nymbus/Old Davis/Red Grass, Green Smoke/Rubber Maze/ Rising Tide/Rejoice/Sunrise/Sable/Sons of Champlin/Sounds Unlimited Blues Band/ Sandy Bull/The Steve Miller Band/ Stoned Fox/South Bay Experimental Flash/Throckmorton/Tree of Life/Weird Herald/Womb/Warren Purcell/Zephyr Grove

The Aquarian Family Festival, a three day free concert held at a Football practice field across from San Jose State's Spartan Stadium, was a remarkable event held in conjunction with and in contrast to the Second Annual Northern California Folk Rock Festival at The Santa Clara County Fairgrounds at the same time. I have written about this event elsewhere. This post is an extensive footnote, listing the bands who played the Festival, to the extent that I know who they were.

The Aquarian Family Festival was a free concert, and all the bands played for free. Apparently the organizers simply called every band they knew, and a lot of them showed up. The agreement with the College stipulated that people could only be present when music was playing, so bands played continuously for the entire 72 hours. A specially constructed stage allowed one band to set up while another played. Apparently, bands simply showed up at the site and signed up, like signing up for a tennis court. Its uncertain exactly who played, and I'm not certain where the organizers got a list of who actually played. I wonder if that sign-up sheet survived? 

Even the organizers suggest that their list is only partial. Besides hippie solidarity, playing a free concert was a good way for a local band in the Bay Area to get known. Somewhere between 20,000 and 80,000 people attended the Festival, and for many of these groups this would have been the biggest crowd they had played for. Anyone with further information about who played (particularly if it was yourself), please Comment or email me.

Ace of Cups: The Ace of Cups were a fine band based in Marin, who are primarily remembered for being the only all-women psychedelic band. In fact, they were an excellent group, and much more disciplined than many of their peers, but we had to wait 36 years for their cd to be released.

All Men Joy: All Men Joy, despite what you may read, did not feature Duane and Gregg Allman (Duane and Gregg did have a band by that name in 1966 in Nashville, but by this time they had formed the Allman Brothers and moved to Macon, GA). All Men Joy was a San Francisco band featuring keyboardist Lu Stephens, and they were regulars at the Avalon Ballroom and Straight Theater. 

Birth: The group is unknown to me.

Beggars Opera: Beggars Opera were a Lafayette (Contra Costa County) band. As a result, they played a lot of gigs with Frumious Bandersnatch, but otherwise I know little about them.

Boz Scaggs: Boz Scaggs had left The Steve Miller Band at the end of 1968, but had not started playing around town. I doubt he had a band. I assume somebody recalls him playing (he was fairly well known locally), so I assume he sat in with another group.

The Crabs: The Crabs were a Berkeley band, regulars at The New Orleans House. They played in a style that would be called "roots-rock" today (the term did not exist at the time).

Crow: The group is unknown to me.
Cleanliness And Godliness Skiffle Band: The Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band were a group that had formed at Berkeley's Jabberwock. They played electrified skiffle music, a sort of old-timey New Orleans rock sound. They had an album on Vanguard. 

Devine Madness: The group is unknown to me.

Denver: The group is unknown to me.

Scratch: The AFF site lists the Doobie Brothers as playing the festival, but the band had not yet formed. I have assumed that Pat Simmons's group Scratch was the one who actually played.

Elgin Marble: Apparently a San Jose band, but I have been unable to find out anything about them.

Flamin' Groovies: The Flamin Groovies were a "British Invasion" (Rolling Stones/Who/Yardbirds) style band from San Francisco. They did not find a big following in San Francisco until after the 1960s.

Frumious Bandersnatch: Frumious Bandersnatch were from Lafayette (Contra Costa County), and featured three guitarists. They were managed by the Millard Agency (part of Bill Graham's Fillmore operation) and played on many bills on the Fillmore West and elsewhere. They were a very popular local band, but no albums were released until well after they broke up. Most of the members of Frumious Bandersnatch ended up in the Steve Miller Band at some time or another, and one (bassist Ross Valory) ended up in Journey. Bandersnatch road manager Walter "Herbie" Herbert ended up as road manager of Santana and the manager of Journey

Gentle Dance: The group is unknown to me.

Greater Carmichael Traveling Street Band: The group is unknown to me.

Glass Mountain: The group is unknown to me.

High Country: High Country was a bluegrass band from Berkeley, regulars at Berkeley's Freight and Salvage. Their was some fluidity in their membership, but the founding members were Butch Waller and Rich Wilber. High Country has played continuously since 1968.

Jefferson Airplane: Jefferson Airplane were one of the headliners at the huge (paying) festival at the Fairgrounds, a mile away. True to their Haight-Ashbury roots, they came over and played a set at the free event as well.

Joy of Cooking: The Joy of Cooking were a newly formed band that had a regular gig at a club called Mandrake's in Berkeley. The group was fronted by two women, guitarist Terry Garthwaite and pianist Toni Brown. While both women sang and wrote, Joy Of Cooking defied expectations by being a very musical band that played extended jams, rather than falling into the cliche of sensitive girl singers. At this time, the band was very new. They would release several albums on Capitol, and occasionally they reform.

Last Mile: The group is unknown to me.

Libras: The group is unknown to me.

Lamb: Lamb was originally a duet featuring Bob Swanson on guitar and Barbara Mauritz on piano. Later they expanded to a full group, and they released an album on Fillmore Records and two more on Warners.

Living Color: The group is unknown to me.

Linn County: Linn County was a fine group originally from Cedar Rapids, IA. After some success in Chicago, they moved to San Francisco in mid-1968. They released two underrated albums on Mercury. Lead vocalist and organist Stephen Miller (1942-2003), perpetually confused with the guitar playing Steve Miller, had an extensive career with Elvin Bishop, Grinderswitch and other bands.

Mother Ball: The group is unknown to me.

Morning Glory: Morning Glory was a Marin band featuring singer Gini Graybeal and guitarist Danny Nudalman. They released the album Two Suns Worth on Fontana.

Mad River: Mad River were a remarkable band from Yellow Springs, OH. They moved to the Bay Area in 1967, but even San Francisco was not quite ready for them. Prophets before their time, both their albums became collector's items that were re-released to much acclaim. This show would have been one of their very last gigs.

Mt. Rushmore: Mt. Rushmore was a San Francisco band who released two albums on Dot. They played the Fillmore and the Avalon many times, and were regular performers in the Bay Area.

Nymbus: The group is unknown to me.

Old Davis: Old Davis was a South Bay band that had been together since at least 1968. In 1970, their guitarist was a teenage sensation named Neal Schon, who promptly joined Santana (after turning down Eric Clapton), but Schon would not have been in the band at this time.

Red Grass, Green Smoke: The group is unknown to me.

Rubber Maze: The group is unknown to me.

Rising Tide: The group is unknown to me.

Rejoice: The group is unknown to me, although I have some their name on other handbills. 

Sunrise: The group is unknown to me.

Sable: The group is unknown to me.

Sons of Champlin: The Sons of Champlin were one of Marin's finest bands, who had already released two albums on Capitol. However, the world wasn't quite ready for the swinging, ultra-musical Sons, and they did not have the following they might have had later. The group has intermittently broken up and gotten back together, but fortunately they have remained active since the late 1990s. Lead singer/organist Bill Champlin was a member of Chicago from 1981-2009.

Sounds Unlimited Blues Band: The Sounds Unlimited Blues Band was a San Francisco group that featured singer Robert Lazaneo and lead guitarist Jorge Santana (Carlos's younger brother). Jorge left at the end of 1969 and went on to success with the group Malo.

Sandy Bull: Sandy Bull (1941-2001) was a unique musician, playing guitar and other stringed instruments in a style that would have been called "World Music" if the term had been invented. He was a very influential guitarist in the early 1960s, not least because he was one of the first to overdub numerous guitars (and other instruments) to create unique compositions. Bull generally performed solo, but with tapes and loop effects that gave him a different sound.

The Steve Miller Band: The Steve Miller Band were regular headliners at The Fillmore West, and had played at the Folk Rock Festival at the Fairgrounds. Miller and his band (bassist Lonnie Turner and drummer Tim Davis) dropped by the free festival to play some blues.

Stoned Fox: The group is unknown to me.

South Bay Experimental Flash: The South Bay Experimental Flash were a funky jazz-rock band from Richmond. They, too, were regulars at Berkeley's New Orleans House. Some members of the group ended up in Norton Buffalo's Stampede, as Buffalo (also from Richmond) made his stage debut at The New Orleans House at age 17, sitting in with the band.

Throckmorton: Throckmorton were a San Jose band. Lead singer Chris Mosher was also instrumental in helping to put on the festival.

Tree Of Life: The group is unknown to me, but they appear to be a San Jose area band.

Weird Herald: Weird Herald was a psychedelic folk rock band from San Jose, featuring guitarists Billy Dean Andrus and Paul Ziegler. They put out a 45 on Onyx Records in 1968 ("Saratoga James"/"Just Yesterday"). After the demise of Weird Herald, guitarist Paul Ziegler, an old pal of Jorma Kaukonen's, was in an early version of Hot Tuna, around 1970. Guitarist and vocalist Billy Dean Andrus had worked with Pat Simmons (and later with Skip Spence in a band called Pachuco), but he died in 1970.  Both the Doobie Brothers "Black Water" and Hot Tuna's "Ode To Billy Dean" are tributes to him.

Womb: Womb was a jazzy psychedelic band whose lengthy compositions bordered on progressive rock. They released two albums on Dot in 1969. Lead singer Rory Butcher had been in The Hedds.

Warren Purcell: Thanks to a Commenter, we know that Warren Purcell was a country singer from San Jose. He performed at the Grand Ole Opry, and also played with a Las Vegas-based touring band. He passed away in 2002.

San Jose had a substantial country music scene that dated back before World War 2, and continued on through the 1960s, and there was a popular San Jose country music station (KEEN-AM 1370, which opened in 1947). There were many fine players in that circuit, although they tended not to be famous outside of the region. By the 1970s, when some of the more agricultural communities around the Bay Area were converted to suburbs, the musical audience evolved as well towards more rock and soul orientations. Purcell's performance at the Aquarian Festival was a rare known instance of a San Jose country performer appearing at a hippie rock event.

Zephyr Grove: The group is unknown to me.

Honorable Mention-Jimi Hendrix: Jimi Hendrix didn't play the Aquarian Family Festival, but not for lack of trying. Hendrix headlined the huge Folk Rock Festival at the Fairgrounds, and as such came on last on Sunday afternoon (May 25) to close the show. After his set, he brought his guitar over to the Aquarian stage, hoping to jam, only to find that the stage was being broken down and the generator unplugged. 

Given that there was 72 hours of continuous music, this can not have been all the performers who played. Anyone who recalls other performers, or performed themselves, should contact me or Comment.

Washington at Murphy, Sunnyvale, CA: Wayne Manor 1966-67

How popular was ABC-TV's Batman show? While it only ran for two and a half seasons (Jan 12, 1966 to March 14, 1968), it was on twice a week for most of its run. It rapidly went from hip to camp to passe. When it was popular, however, it was a huge hit, in an era when there were only three TV channels, so its appeal cut a wide swath.

By the middle of 1966, there was a club in Sunnyvale called Wayne Manor, designed to look like the "Bat Cave" from the TV show. Mind you, this club sold drinks and was intended for adults. It was successful enough to stay open at least into the middle of 1967. I don't know exactly when the club closed, but the Batman show ended in early 1968, so I'm sure the club had closed or changed its name by then.

The top ad is from the July 22, 1966 edition of the San Mateo Times, and the lower one is from the October 21, 1966 San Mateo Times. Sunnyvale is the town just South of Mountain View, which in turn is just South of Palo Alto. Washington and Murphy is roughly between El Camino Real and Central Expressway (Alma), next to Los Altos Town Center and the train station (now the Cal Train station). Since there isn't a precise address, I can't say if the building is still standing.

Sometimes you will see 60s South Bay musicians refer to this club, although they usually call it "The Bat Cave." According to the San Mateo Times (October 21, 1966), the owner or manager of the club was named Joe Lewis. I believe Emilio Castilio's first band, The Gotham City Crimefighters, were regularly featured here, before he formed The Motowns, who then evolved into Tower of Power. In the various ads I have seen for the club, the only group I have heard of is The Music Machine, who were scheduled to play on October 25, 1966 (they were mentioned in a notice, but not in the weekly advertisement above).

Friday, August 28, 2009

4290 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA: Cabana Hotel, "Tune-In" November 10, 1967

The Cabana Hotel, at 4290 El Camino Real in Palo Alto, was Palo Alto's most glamorous hotel. It was so glamorous, in fact, that it was completely out of place in Palo Alto. The hotel was built in 1962 by entrepreneur Jay Sarno, and Doris Day was one of the original investors. The flashy, Roman-themed design was apparently the blueprint for Caesar's Palace. The Cabana has a permanent place in South Bay mythology because The Beatles stayed there when they played San Francisco in 1965.

Out of place in Palo Alto The Cabana may have been, but it was the primary spot for important social events like debutante balls. In fact, the Jefferson Airplane played the "Step 'N Time" Gala there on May 22, 1966. For the most part, however, the Cabana featured traditional lounge acts, playing jazz and supper club music. Even The Cabana could feel the blowing winds, however, as their featured show for Friday night, November 10 was

The sights, sounds and styles of the San Francisco psychedelic scene will be seen and heard at the Cabana Hotel, in Palo Alto. A one-night only performance, produced by Sarah Urquhart and Jerry Booker, tonight's "Tune-In" will be for adults only. Two wild groups, Howl and the West Coast Natural Gas Company, will perform throughout the evening.

West Coast Natural Gas had formed in Seattle, and had been invited to San Francisco by their manager, Mathew Katz. Katz had been the manager of Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape, but his parting with those groups was quite bitter (he was in litigation for the Airplane for at least two decades, and he remains in litigation with Moby Grape as of this writing). Katz had been the Airplane's manager when they had played the Cabana the previous year, so perhaps he had a connection there.

Needless to say, I know no one who ever saw this show. In 1968, for reasons unknown to the band, shortly after West Coast Natural Gas arrived in the Bay Area, Katz changed their name to Indian Pudding And Pipe. The Cabana Hotel was sold to Hyatt House in the late 60s, as Sardo had built Caesar's Palace (in 1966), and it is now the Crowne Plaza Cabana Hotel, and it has since been remodeled. While this makes business sense, the original Cabana was Palo Alto's only true kitsch landmark--and anyway The Beatles stayed there.

(The clipping is from the November 10, 1967 edition of The San Mateo Times)

1310 Old Bayshore Highway, Burlingame, CA: The Syndrome June 1966-July 1967

The Syndrome in Burlingame was another effort to try and accommodate the burgeoning rock underground flowering in San Francisco into the South Bay Area Peninsula. This obscure club has only been noted historically because it was a regular venue for a Moby Grape predecessor called Luminous Marsh Gas. A Tacoma, WA band called The Frantics had moved to San Bruno (of all places), but by 1966 the "Northwest Sound" was migrating towards a spacier, bluesier sound. The members of The Frantics, guitarist Jerry Miller, organist Chuck Schoening (aka Chuck Steaks) and drummer Don Stevenson, added singer/harmonica player Denise Kaufman, well before she was in The Ace Of Cups. They took their name from a peculiar news articles that suggested that UFO sightings were really Luminous Marsh Gas. By the end of 1966, Miller and Stevenson would be playing the Fillmore and The Avalon as members of Moby Grape, but in the middle of the year they were still playing The Syndrome.

In 1966, there was a club attempting to attract the hip rock audience every several miles in the South Bay. In South Palo Alto there was The Big Beat, in Redwood City there was The Spectrum (previously The Nu Beat), in San Mateo there was The Trip and in Burlingame there was The Syndrome. Articles in the San Mateo Times (such as the ones above from June 10 and December 16, 1966) make it clear that the club emphasized "psychedelic" lighting to create an "experience." The December, 1966 article says that "With the mass discharge of college hippies from school, you can bet that Bill Hotmans Syndrome in Burlingame will be junpin during the holidays." The Syndrome clearly recognized that they were aiming at the "hippie" market, but they seemed to missed the target. The original proprietor, Joe Gannon, had been the road manager of The Kingston Trio, so he was not a fuddy-duddy old man, but he still seems to have overestimated the reach of the underground. I do not know if Bill Hotman was a new owner or simply a manager.

For one thing, many hippies did not have much money, not enough to afford to hang out in bars. For another, the location of The Syndrome on the South Bay's main drag, El Camino Real, required a car, and if you had a car, why not see the Dead or Big Brother at the Avalon or The Fillmore, just a few miles up the road? Furthermore, many of the hippest rock fans were under 21, in many cases well under 21, and not able to get into a bar. Finally, the Fillmore and Avalon had bands that were perceived as cool, that made people want to go out and see them. The primary act that was advertised at The Syndrome was Mr. Clean (the above is from November 25), a soul combo headed by former NFL player and saxophonist/vocalist Ollie McClay. While no doubt McClay was a fine musician (lounge musicians usually are), he didn't have the underground cachet that the Fillmore bands did.

It is ironic that Luminous Marsh Gas, with two future members of various Fillmore bands, who apparently played the club regularly but were not advertised in the paper, probably had the talent and underground cred to make The Syndrome into a happening place, but the proprietors were unable to capitalize on it. According to Kaufman, the band was already playing some nascent Moby Grape material, including the great song "Murder In My Heart For The Judge."

The Syndrome was only open from June 1966 until July 1967. It was replaced in August of 1967 by a Greek restaurant called Zorba's.

4301 El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA: The Trip November 1966-Spring 68

As Bill Graham's Fillmore and Chet Helms's Avalon became increasingly successful, the entertainment scene in the more staid Peninsula felt the whiff of change. While most of the El Camino Real bars styled themselves as Las Vegas Lounges--if without the gambling--with dinner, drinks and dancing, a few entrepreneurs started looking for a different audience. One of the sharpest of these was Yvonne Modica, a successful restauranteur since the 1950s. She had opened The Big Beat in South Palo Alto, and it had been an almost immediate success. Her next venture, The Trip, in San Mateo, was the first overt attempt in the South Bay to commercially exploit the San Francisco underground.

Modica opened The Trip about a year after she opened The Big Beat in Palo Alto. The Palo Alto club opened around Dec 21, 1965, and The Trip opened November 22, 1966 (the article above is from the November 11 San Mateo Times). It followed the model of The Big Beat by having pizza and beer to go with the dancing, with an after hours jam session from 2-6am on Saturday and Sunday mornings. However, the club's name overtly identified with the underground rock scene in San Francisco. Just in case you missed the reference, the ad says "A Journey Through LSD--Light, Sound, Delicious Pizza." There seems to have been some version of a Fillmore-style light show.

4301 El Camino Real, on the main street for the whole South Bay (El Camino Real runs from South San Francisco to Santa Clara), had formerly been a place called "Big Al's Gashouse." The Gashouse, also a pizza-beer-entertainment join, was at least thematically connected to a well-known San Francisco club on Broadway called Big Al's. Various local bands had played Big Al's, including the Vejtables and The Warlocks, but the venue burned down in early 1966.

The Trip was only open until early 1968, when Modica re-opened it under the name "Souled Out," going for more of a rhythm and blues sound. A South Bay resident at the time told me that one of the problems with these El Camino bars trying to be "hip" was that they were kind of expensive for hippies surviving hand to mouth, and in any case since you had to drive you may as well go to the Fillmore or Avalon, just a few more miles up the road. The Big Beat was pretty far from San Francisco, but that isn't true for San Mateo. In any case, many of the Fillmore and Avalon patrons were too young to get in a bar, thus creating another limitation for The Trip.

One thing that Modica and others missed in trying to export psychedelia to the suburban South Bay was that the Fillmore experience doesn't work without a good band, preferably one that likes to jam. Modica regularly presented the same groups at The Trip that she did at The Big Beat. While I don't know much about The Tombstones, the peripheral evidence suggests that they were a typical South Bay dance band--they probably played a lot of rock and roll and Motown covers, probably pretty well, but they weren't the sort of band that people went out of their way to see. However delicious the pizza may have been, people looking for a transcendent experience were more likely to get it from the wide open explorations of The Dead or Quicksilver, despite any sloppiness, rather than the efficient cover versions of a dance band.

4301 El Camino Real is now the site of a used car dealer called Auto Access.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

November 12, 1965: Tiger A Go Go, San Francisco Airport Hilton, Burlingame

From the early 1960s until the mid-1960s adults who liked rock music and wanted to dance--almost exclusively in their 20s--patronized "Go Go" clubs. These were basically discoteques, with live bands playing danceable rock, surf and R&B music, and people did dances with "names" like The Twist or The Frug. Since patrons worked up a sweat, clubs sold a lot of drinks, so it wasn't a bad business model. Of course, the principal fans of this sort of music were too young to get in, but a 22-year old who wanted to dance to covers of Smokey Robinson or Dick Dale didn't want to go to a lounge, so there was ample patronage until Fillmore type venues came into being. Just about every aspiring rock musician in the mid-60s who wasn't a folkie played these venues at one time or another, because it was a paying gig.

The Joel Scott Hill Trio featured Joel Scott Hill on guitar, Lee Michaels on organ and John Barbata on drums. Lee Michaels, after stints with The Sentinels and The Family Tree (under the name Mike Olsen), went on to solo stardom. John Barbata joined The Turtles, Crosby Stills Nash and Young (for Four Way Street) and Jefferson Starship (in their mid-70s prime) as well as being an accomplished session musician. Joel Scott Hill, the least known of the trio because he spent the late 60s in Mendocino County, was in Canned Heat in 1971 and later in The Flying Burrito Brothers when the band revived in 1975-76. But here they were, much younger, playing several sets a night, probably almost every night of the week, at The Tiger A Go Go near the San Francisco Airport. Contemporary ads suggest they played Tiger A Go Go all of November, and were replaced by The Standells in December.

Going out to dance is about boys meeting girls, and from this distant remove it may seem odd that 20-something young men would drive to the San Francisco Airport (in Burlingame some miles south of the city itself) to meet girls. There is a simple, one-word answer, however: stewardesses. In the 1960s, at the rise of the Jet Age, stewardesses were picked for their looks. It was also one of the few career options available for pretty girls who were unable to get a college degree and become a teacher or nurse. Since stewardesses were fired if they gained weight, got married or got old (no, I'm not making this up), they had a short period of time to have some fun, so stewardesses were widely renowned as the best of the mid-60s party girls. Whether this is true or not is beside the point--every young man in San Mateo County would be driving over to the Tiger A Go Go in the hopes of meeting a pretty, exotic stewardess, only in town for a few days and ready to live it up.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

1836 El Camino Real, Redwood City, CA-The Nu Beat (later The Spectrum)

The Nu Beat club in Redwood City was only open for about four months in 1966, and its successor, The Spectrum, was only open for a few months later in 1966. While not an important venue in its own right, The Nu Beat is an interesting snapshot of the different ways in which entrepreneurs tried to capture rock music's entertainment dollars. While Bill Graham and Chet Helms, just up Highway 101, were figuring out the Fillmore/Avalon model that would define live rock until the present day, numerous other participants had their own plans.

The article and ad above are from the San Mateo Times of January 7, 1966. As a comparison, remember that The Beatles Rubber Soul album had been released the month before (December 1965), LSD was still legal, and while Bill Graham had put on his first benefit at the Fillmore (December 10, 1965), The Trips Festival had not yet been held (Jan 21-22-23) and the underground rock scene that would lead to the Fillmore and Avalon was still quite nascent. Bobby Mitchell and his partner Tom Donahue were djs on KYA-am, the #2 music station in the San Francisco market (KFRC was #1), and they also promoted concerts, owned racehorses and had their own record label. Autumn Records had hit with The Beau Brummels, among others, and their house producer was Sly Stone.

Donahue and Mitchell had had a topless club in North Beach called Mother's (at 430 Broadway, alluded to in the article), but it had closed. The Nu Beat seems to have been an attempt to move North Beach's "glamor" to the staid suburb of Redwood City. I know almost nothing about the club save for this article and some ads, but here's what I can discern:

  • 'Leslie, Our Go Go Girl' means that pretty girls in skimpy outfits danced on elevated stages or platforms to excite the crowd, on the model of Hollywood's Whisky A-Go-Go
  • Beau Brummels and The Mojo Men were both Autumn acts, as were The Vejtables from the previous week
  • The club was previously "The Pink Panther," which was very 1962, and ripe for change

The tricky part of this business model was that rock mostly appealed to teenagers, and they couldn't attend a club where drinks were sold. Conversely, in 1966, no one over the age of 29 listened to rock music.

The Frantics, listed in the article as one of the initial acts, probably playing New Year's Eve, were a Tacoma band that moved to San Bruno (improbably enough). Band members at this time included guitarist Jerry Miller and drummer Don Stevenson, both of whom would be in Moby Grape and playing the Avalon by the end of the year. Its not impossible that the Frantics bassist was Bob Mosley, also a future Grape, but his timeline isn't so certain.

In subsequent ads I have seen for the Nu Beat (all in the San Mateo Times), the acts were Autumn Records acts, except in the first two weeks of March when the featured act was The Justice League of America. Justice League of America was led by guitarist Ron Cornelius, later a vastly successful bandleader and Nashville producer. The ads abruptly cease in early April.

I am pretty certain that the ads for the Nu Beat ceased in April because Mitchell and Donahue's empire was shut down by creditors--apparently their penchant for racehorses was one of the problems. Autumn Records artists like The Vejtables and The Mojo Men were surprised to find the Autumn Records offices padlocked in early April. I have to assume the rest of their empire, including Mitchell's Nu Beat, went with it.

Sometime later in 1966, the club reopened under the name The Spectrum. I know almost nothing about it, but as a mark of the times, future Moby Grapers Miller and Stevenson played the club regularly, but this time under the name Luminous Marsh Gas. Miller, Stevenson and organist Chuck Schoening dropped the Frantics name and added singer Denise Kaufman and immediately started playing spacier blues. They mainly played two places on El Camino, The Spectrum and The Syndrome in Burlingame. I only know the location of The Spectrum because an eyewitness recalls seeing them there, and recalls the location.

1836 El Camino Real in Redwood City is near a place known as "Five Points," mentioned in the ad, where Woodside Road, El Camino Real and Main Street intersect. The site is now a Holiday Inn Express.