Friday, November 25, 2022

July 24-August 2, 1970 Family Dog on The Great Highwy, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Various Shows [FDGH '70 XX]


The Family Dog on The Great Highway, at 660 Great Highway, ca. 1969

The Family Dog on The Great Highway, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA
The Family Dog was a foundation stone in the rise of San Francisco rock, and it was in operation in various forms from Fall 1965 through the Summer of 1970. For sound historical reasons, most of the focus on the Family Dog has been on the original 4-person collective who organized the first San Francisco Dance Concerts in late 1965, and on their successor Chet Helms. Helms took over the Family Dog in early 1966, and after a brief partnership with Bill Graham at the Fillmore, promoted memorable concerts at the Avalon Ballroom from Spring 1966 through December 1968. The posters, music and foggy memories of the Avalon are what made the Family Dog a legendary 60s rock icon.

In the Summer of 1969, however, with San Francisco as one of the fulcrums of the rock music explosion, Chet Helms opened another venue. The Family Dog on The Great Highway, at 660 Great Highway, on the Western edge of San Francisco, was only open for 14 months and was not a success. Yet numerous interesting bands played there, and remarkable events took place, and they are only documented in a scattered form. This series of posts will undertake a systematic review of every musical event at the Family Dog on The Great Highway. In general, each post will represent a week of musical events at the venue, although that may vary slightly depending on the bookings.

If anyone has memories, reflections, insights, corrections or flashbacks about shows at the Family Dog on the Great Highway, please post them in the Comments.

660 Great Highway in San Francisco in 1967, when it was the ModelCar Raceway, a slot car track

The Edgewater Ballroom, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA

As early as 1913, there were rides and concessions at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, near the Richmond District. By 1926, they had been consolidated as Playland-At-The-Beach. The Ocean Beach area included attractions such as the Sutro Baths and the Cliff House. The San Francisco Zoo was just south of Playland, having opened in the 1930s. One of the attractions at Playland was a restaurant called Topsy's Roost. The restaurant had closed in 1930, and the room became the Edgewater Ballroom. The Ballroom eventually closed, and Playland went into decline when its owner died in 1958. By the 1960s, the former Edgewater was a slot car raceway. In early 1969, Chet Helms took over the lease of the old Edgewater.
One of the only photos of the interior of the Family Dog on The Great Highway (from a Stephen Gaskin "Monday Night Class" ca. October 1969)


The Family Dog On The Great Highway

The Great Highway was a four-lane road that ran along the Western edge of San Francisco, right next to Ocean Beach. Downtown San Francisco faced the Bay, but beyond Golden Gate Park was the Pacific Ocean. The aptly named Ocean Beach is dramatic and beautiful, but it is mostly windy and foggy. Much of the West Coast of San Francisco is not even a beach, but rocky cliffs. There are no roads in San Francisco West of the Great Highway, so "660 Great Highway" was ample for directions (for reference, it is near the intersection of Balboa Street and 48th Avenue). The tag-line "Edge Of The Western World" was not an exaggeration, at least in American terms.

The Family Dog on The Great Highway was smaller than the Bill Graham's old Fillmore Auditorium. It could hold up to 1500, but the official capacity was probably closer to 1000. Unlike the comparatively centrally located Fillmore West, the FDGH was far from downtown, far from the Peninsula suburbs, and not particularly easy to get to from the freeway. For East Bay or Marin residents, the Great Highway was a formidable trip. The little ballroom was very appealing, but if you didn't live way out in the Avenues, you had to drive. As a result, FDGH didn't get a huge number of casual drop-ins, and that didn't help its fortunes. Most of the locals referred to the venue as "Playland."

The Family Dog In 1969
Chet Helms had opened the Family Dog at 660 Great Highway to much fanfare on June 13, 1969, with a packed house seeing the Jefferson Airplane and The Charlatans. One of the goals was that the Dog would feature mostly San Francisco bands and a variety of smaller community events and groups. Since so many San Francisco bands were successful, and had record contracts, this didn't confine the venue to obscurity. A lot of great bands played the Family Dog in 1969, but the distant location and the gravitational pull of major rock events hosted elsewhere in the Bay Area kept the Family Dog isolated. We know only the most fragmentary bits about music played, events and audiences throughout the year.  Despite the half-year of struggle, Helms had kept the Family Dog on The Great Highway afloat. He had entered the new year of 1970 with a new plan.

 

A photo of the band Phananganang (purportedly), from Discogs

July 24-26, 1970 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Indian Puddin' & Pipe/Tripsichord/Phananganang (Friday-Sunday)

By the middle of the Summer, Chet Helms must have only kept the Family Dog on The Great Highway open because he thought he could find new financial backing. The venue no longer even put on rock concerts every weekend, and was effectively for rent. The three obscure acts booked for this weekend all had in common that there were managed by the infamous Matthew Katz, who had been making money off San Francisco rock since 1965.

Katz had been the first manager of the Jefferson Airplane in 1965. By mid-66, the Airplane members were unhappy with him and wondering where their money had gone. A long series of lawsuits ensued, not resolved until the mid-1980s. At the end of 1966, Katz had put together five experienced musicians to form Moby Grape. By mid-67, the band members were angry and sued. The litigious Katz argued that he owned the name Moby Grape (sending out a fake Grape at one point). The legal wrangling over the rights to the name Moby Grape are still going on to this day. In 1967 Katz backed the band It's A Beautiful Day. As soon as they had a big hit with "White Bird," the lawsuits began. Leader David LaFlamme sued Katz and lost, causing untold damage to LaFlamme's career, since he couldn't reform his own most famous ensemble. 

By 1969, Katz had focused on the rights to name a band, then inserting different members. To the extent he released records, they were on his own label (San Francisco Sound) and he promoted his own concerts. At various times he seemed to control some venues in the Bay Area, including the Headhunters Amusement Park at 345 Broadway in San Francisco (in 1969), and the Aheppa Center in Oakland (at 7400 MacArthur Blvd). The venues mostly featured only his own bands.

On occasion, Katz booked concerts at larger venues, which seemed to be what was going on here. The three bands all have West Coast roots and confusing histories, which I won't detail in this post. Indian Puddin' and Pipe had evolved out of a Seattle band called West Coast Natural Gas, Tripsichord (sometimes called Tripsichord Music Box) would actually put out an album in 1971 and Phananganang were apparently from Marin. Needless to say, we know nothing about this weekend's performances.

July 27, 1970 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: AC Bhaktivendanta Swami (Monday)
In the Fall of 1969, San Francisco State literature instructor Stephen Gaskin had made "Monday Night Class" a popular thing, where he would lecture for free. Donations from the crowd covered expenses (the interior picture above is from a Monday Night Class). San Francisco State College was just up the road, and it was expanding rapidly. A lot of young people lived within range of the Family Dog, and what we would now call "Consciousness Expansion" was a big thing. At the time, Indian thought was considered to be the most sophisticated form of such things. Later in the 70s, the same people became interested in the "Human Potential" of things like EST.

If I have my gurus correct, Bhaktivendanta Swami was the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, but that is outside the scope of this blog.  For this night, the Dog was just rented out, just as with Matthew Katz's bands. The Hare Krsna group had rented the Family Dog as a culmination of a weekend long event  the previous month (on June 27), so there was an existing business relationship.


July 31-August 2, 1970 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Youngbloods/Joy Of Cooking/Jeffery Cain (Friday-Sunday)
The Family Dog on The Great Highway had a true headliner for the last weekend of July. The Youngbloods had played the Family Dog soon after it opened (July 11-13 '69) and had played there again in the Spring (March 27-29). The Youngbloods had formed on the East Coast in 1967, and RCA had released their debut album mid-year. In September 1967, the band had moved out to San Francisco, recognizing a better place for their music. By 1969, the Youngbloods had released their third album for RCA, Elephant Mountain, and were well-entrenched in Marin and the Bay Area Fillmore scene.

Unexpectedly, a song from the Youngbloods' 1967 debut was used in 1969 as background music for a Public Service Announcement for the National Conference of Christians and Jews. "Get Together" had been a modest hit in 1967, but when it was re-released in Summer '69, it went all the way to #5 on Billboard. The Youngbloods, a fine band with only modest success, were suddenly a high-profile rock group. They had the sense to get a new contract while they were hot.

By 1970, the Youngbloods had signed to Warner Brothers, who gave them their own Imprint, Raccoon Records. The Youngbloods were also a very entrepreneurial band, so my guess is that they played the Family Dog without a guarantee, probably in return for a better piece of the door. This is an assumption on my part, but the Youngbloods would play the venue for another 18 months after the Family Dog closed (when it was called Friends And Relations Hall) so I am assuming that the self-financed approach was in play here.

In the middle of 1970, the Youngbloods were a trio. Lead singer Jesse Colin Young played bass or guitar, Banana (Lowell Levenger) played piano, banjo, steel guitar and anything else, anchored by Joe Bauer on drums. Sometimes they were joined by a harmonica player (Richard "Earthquake" Anderson, who may have also been their road manager). It's possible that the Youngbloods' first Warner Brothers album Rock Festival had been released by this time. A mixture of live and studio recordings (including one track from the Family Dog, back in March), it had been produced by Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor, who had also produced Live/Dead and Workingman's Dead.

Joy Of Cooking's debut album would be released on Capitol in January 1971

Joy Of Cooking
had played the Family Dog in March, and now they were returning. Joy Of Cooking had formed as a duo in Berkeley called Gourmet’s Delight, featuring guitarist Terry Garthwaite and pianist Toni Brown.  Garthwaite was a veteran of the Berkeley folk and bluegrass scene, and Brown was an artist as well as a musician.  The group had expanded to include conga player Ron Wilson, bassist David Garthwaite (Terry’s brother) and drummer Fritz Kasten. They changed their name to Joy of Cooking and shared management with Country Joe and The Fish. Joy Of Cooking had been a regular performer weeknights at a tiny Berkeley club called Mandrake's, where they built up a solid following.

Joy of Cooking was a significant group on the Berkeley scene, because both Garthwaite and Brown were accomplished musicians. Although both were excellent singers as well, Joy of Cooking featured the same kind of lengthy jamming popular at the time, rather than short and sensitive neo-folk songs.  The group were ultimately signed to Capitol Records and released their first of three Capitol albums in January 1971.


Singer/Songwriter Jeffrey Cain had been signed to the Youngbloods' Raccoon label. The Raccoon imprint allowed the band to sign anyone they wanted, while Warner Brothers would manufacture and distribute the record. The profits and losses were assigned to the Youngbloods (the Airplane had a similar deal with RCA, called Grunt Records), but the band had artistic control. Cain's album For You was released in mid-1970, and members of the Youngbloods backed him on the album

For the next and final post of the series (Quicskilver Messenger Service August 21-22, 1970), see here

 

Sunday, November 20, 2022

July 14-15, 1970 Family Dog on The Great Highway, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Terry Reid/Cat Mother and The All-Night Newsboys/Ace Of Cups [FDGH '70 XIX]


The Family Dog on The Great Highway, at 660 Great Highway, ca. 1969

The Family Dog on The Great Highway, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA
The Family Dog was a foundation stone in the rise of San Francisco rock, and it was in operation in various forms from Fall 1965 through the Summer of 1970. For sound historical reasons, most of the focus on the Family Dog has been on the original 4-person collective who organized the first San Francisco Dance Concerts in late 1965, and on their successor Chet Helms. Helms took over the Family Dog in early 1966, and after a brief partnership with Bill Graham at the Fillmore, promoted memorable concerts at the Avalon Ballroom from Spring 1966 through December 1968. The posters, music and foggy memories of the Avalon are what made the Family Dog a legendary 60s rock icon.

In the Summer of 1969, however, with San Francisco as one of the fulcrums of the rock music explosion, Chet Helms opened another venue. The Family Dog on The Great Highway, at 660 Great Highway, on the Western edge of San Francisco, was only open for 14 months and was not a success. Yet numerous interesting bands played there, and remarkable events took place, and they are only documented in a scattered form. This series of posts will undertake a systematic review of every musical event at the Family Dog on The Great Highway. In general, each post will represent a week of musical events at the venue, although that may vary slightly depending on the bookings.

If anyone has memories, reflections, insights, corrections or flashbacks about shows at the Family Dog on the Great Highway, please post them in the Comments.

660 Great Highway in San Francisco in 1967, when it was the ModelCar Raceway, a slot car track

The Edgewater Ballroom, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA

As early as 1913, there were rides and concessions at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, near the Richmond District. By 1926, they had been consolidated as Playland-At-The-Beach. The Ocean Beach area included attractions such as the Sutro Baths and the Cliff House. The San Francisco Zoo was just south of Playland, having opened in the 1930s. One of the attractions at Playland was a restaurant called Topsy's Roost. The restaurant had closed in 1930, and the room became the Edgewater Ballroom. The Ballroom eventually closed, and Playland went into decline when its owner died in 1958. By the 1960s, the former Edgewater was a slot car raceway. In early 1969, Chet Helms took over the lease of the old Edgewater.
One of the only photos of the interior of the Family Dog on The Great Highway (from a Stephen Gaskin "Monday Night Class" ca. October 1969)


The Family Dog On The Great Highway

The Great Highway was a four-lane road that ran along the Western edge of San Francisco, right next to Ocean Beach. Downtown San Francisco faced the Bay, but beyond Golden Gate Park was the Pacific Ocean. The aptly named Ocean Beach is dramatic and beautiful, but it is mostly windy and foggy. Much of the West Coast of San Francisco is not even a beach, but rocky cliffs. There are no roads in San Francisco West of the Great Highway, so "660 Great Highway" was ample for directions (for reference, it is near the intersection of Balboa Street and 48th Avenue). The tag-line "Edge Of The Western World" was not an exaggeration, at least in American terms.

The Family Dog on The Great Highway was smaller than the Bill Graham's old Fillmore Auditorium. It could hold up to 1500, but the official capacity was probably closer to 1000. Unlike the comparatively centrally located Fillmore West, the FDGH was far from downtown, far from the Peninsula suburbs, and not particularly easy to get to from the freeway. For East Bay or Marin residents, the Great Highway was a formidable trip. The little ballroom was very appealing, but if you didn't live way out in the Avenues, you had to drive. As a result, FDGH didn't get a huge number of casual drop-ins, and that didn't help its fortunes. Most of the locals referred to the venue as "Playland."

The Family Dog In 1969
Chet Helms had opened the Family Dog at 660 Great Highway to much fanfare on June 13, 1969, with a packed house seeing the Jefferson Airplane and The Charlatans. One of the goals was that the Dog would feature mostly San Francisco bands and a variety of smaller community events and groups. Since so many San Francisco bands were successful, and had record contracts, this didn't confine the venue to obscurity. A lot of great bands played the Family Dog in 1969, but the distant location and the gravitational pull of major rock events hosted elsewhere in the Bay Area kept the Family Dog isolated. We know only the most fragmentary bits about music played, events and audiences throughout the year.  Despite the half-year of struggle, Helms had kept the Family Dog on The Great Highway afloat. He had entered the new year of 1970 with a new plan.

 

 


July 14-15, 1970 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Terry Reid/Cat Mother and The All-Night Newsboys/Ace Of Cups (Tuesday-Wednesday)
By mid-July, the Family Dog on The Great Highway was just barely open, rented occasionally by outsiders. I have to assume that Chet Helms had not yet closed it because he was hoping to arrange new financial backing. Despite these precarious circumstances, however, there were still some interesting bookings on the Great Highway during the Summer. One of the most intriguing events was near the end: two weeknights featuring the British guitarist Terry Reid. We know nothing about the events, not even whether they were held. But all the signs point to something very interesting indeed. 


Terry Reid

Singer and guitarist Terry Reid (b.1949) had been in Peter Jay and The Jaywalkers when they had opened a UK tour for the Rolling Stones in 1966. Reid soon came to the attention of producer Mickie Most, who had been hugely successful with the Animals, Hermans' Hermits, Donovan and many other hit artists. Reid's debut album, produced by Most for Epic, Bang Bang You're Terry Reid, had been released in 1968. Reid had toured the United States opening for Cream in their high-profile "Farewell Tour." Reid's band was a trio, with Reid on guitar and vocals, Pete Solley on organ and Keith Webb on drums. Reid was personally well-connected, as was Mickie Most, so Reid was scheduled to support the Rolling Stones on their 1969 tour of America.

Terry Reid's legendary status stemmed from his relationship to Most. Mickie Most's management partner was one Peter Grant, who had been the road manager for the Animals and the Yardbirds, among many others. Most had also produced the Yardbirds' album Little Games, but it had not gone well. As the Yardbirds had disintegrated, Jimmy Page was planning to form a new band with session man bassist John Paul Jones. They needed a singer and a drummer. Peter Grant recommended that Page ask Terry Reid about joining up as the lead vocalist. Since Page and Reid shared management, the idea made a lot of sense.

Around September 1968, Terry Reid and Jimmy Page had a nice lunch, where Page asked him to be lead singer in his new band. Reid had been promised a lot of money to tour the States with the Stones, however, and since Page could not guarantee that he would make up that income, Reid declined the offer. As a friendly gesture, however, Reid told Page about a Midlands band with a singer whose style was similar. They also had a good drummer. Page went to see them, and soon after hired Robert Plant and John Bonham. So Reid became a legend by turning down Led Zeppelin.


Reid went on tour the States with his trio throughout 1969. He had played the Fillmore East with BB King and Johnny Winter (January 1969), and he had played the Fillmore West with Country Joe and The Fish (December 1968) and Ten Years After (July 1969). Reid and his trio can be seen performing a song in the cheesy 1970 documentary Groupies: The Movie, probably recorded at Fillmore West in July '69. His second album also came out in 1969 (on Columbia instead of Epic). In the Fall of 1969, Terry Reid did indeed open many shows in the United States for the Rolling Stones. Of course, Led Zeppelin were already fast-rising stars by this point, but Reid was talented, versatile and handsome, and in general it looked his bet on himself would pay off.

In early 1970, however, Reid had a falling out with Mickie Most. Most wanted Reid to keep his songs under three minutes and aim them towards the singles market, whereas Reid was more interested in the extended jamming of groups like Jeff Beck and Led Zeppelin. Lawsuits followed, and Reid wasn't able to record. Reid did perform live, but details are scant. The two days at the Family Dog on The Great Highway are exotically intriguing, and we know nothing. I am going to hazard an educated guess about what went down, however, based on some triangulation. If anyone knows anything, or has some clever speculation of their own, please mention them in the Comments.


Terry Reid Live Performances July 1970

I only know of three live dates for Terry Reid in 1970.

July 3, 4 or 5, 1970 Second Atlanta International Pop Festival, Middle Georgia Raceway, Byron, GA
July 14-15, 1970 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA
July 28, 1970 Third Isle Of Wight Festival, Afton Down, Isle Of Wight, UK

Terry Reid's performance at Isle Of Wight was released on a 2004 cd (Silver White Light on Water Records). His band was
Terry Reid-guitar, vocals
David Lindley-slide guitar, guitar, banjo, violin
Lee Miles-bass
Mike Giles-drums

It seems reasonable to assume that Miles and Lindley, for reasons I will explain, were also at Atlanta and the Family Dog. Who the drummer might have been for those shows is not so certain.

Lee Miles had met Reid on the Rolling Stones tour, as he had been the bass player for the Ike&Tina Turner Revue. Since Ike & Tina had opened many Rolling Stones shows, it's not surprising that Reid and Miles became friends. Miles would go on to be in many of Terry Reid's future bands.

The David Lindley connection was a little more unlikely. David Lindley, a multi-instrumentalist of infinite talent, is best known as Jackson Browne's principal co-conspirator in the 1970s, but Lindley also played on records by Crosby & Nash, Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon and the rest of the Troubadour crowd from those days. He also has had a unique and thriving solo career.

In the late 60s, Lindley was a principal member of a band called Kaleidoscope, a band who pretty much invented "World Music" about twenty years before the world was ready for it. A brilliant, versatile band, they put out four poorly-selling but critically acclaimed albums on Epic. Save for some primitive production, the music sounds contemporary today. Kaleidoscope was revered by fellow musicians (not least Jimmy Page), but the public had simply not been ready for them. By mid-1970, Kaleidoscope had finally sputtered to a halt. 

According to Peter Doggett’s excellent liner notes to the 2005 Terry Reid cd Superlungs (compiled from his first two albums), Lindley and Reid had met at the Sky River Rock Festival in Summer ‘69 (August 30-September 1). Nonetheless, the key connection between David Lindley and Terry Reid was a legendary rock and roll character named Chesley Millikin (1942-2019). Just the parts of Millikin's story that I know are filled with adventure. He was a member of the Royal Irish Jumping Team (horses) in the 1950s, apparently of Olympic quality, but he had ended up in Canada in the early 1960s. By 1966, Millikin was in the music business in Los Angeles and managing Kaleidoscope, who were on Epic. In 1967, Millikin was offered the job as executive vice-president of Epic Records in London. In London, Millikin became friendly with the Stones, and Stones' road manager Sam Cutler. Millikin's connection to the Stones was most likely how Terry Reid got on to the US Stones tour. 

Millikin must have been looking after Reid on the Stones tour, as well as hanging with Sam Cutler. By 1970, Cutler (blamed for Altamont) had defected to the Grateful Dead, and Millikin wasn't far behind. So when Reid was in limbo and looking for a band, Millikin would have known that his old charges the Kaleidoscope had broken up, so was the connection between the two guitarists (the Millikin story goes on and on, but it's a rabbit hole of its own). 

Denise Sullivan's liner notes to Silver Light White (from 2004) give more detail, although they elide some other points

"What was happening was, we'd not been able to make an album for two to three years," [Reid] says by way of explaining away his fairly well-documented legal hassles with his former producer, Mickie Most. The troubles besieged him before, during and after the [1970 Isle Of Wight performance].

"So what I'd done is put a band together in England with myself, [bassist] Lee Miles who was with Ike and Tina Turner, Alan White on drums and David Lindley." It was a mutual friend, the 60s character Chesley Millikin, who had suggested Reid join forces with California's kaleidoscopic multi-instrumentalist, Lindley. "David wrote me this letter, it was a page and a half of the instruments he played and I thought, imagine what the the freight'll be when he gets here," Terry laughs. "He turned up with something like 20 instruments."

As the band got the call for the Isle Of Wight Festival, drummer White was committed to studio work with John Lennon, who had refused the drummer a “day pass.” Though it was Lennon who kindly suggested Reid pull in Mike Giles from King Crimson for the day, "I'm sure it was a blur for him. It was the only gig we ever did together,' says Reid

From Sullivan’s liner notes--referring to events over 30 years in the past when they were written--we can infer that Reid had enough backing to import American musicians. (Doggett’s liner notes add some interesting details, and they don’t contradict Sullivan directly, but certain details do not match up. It too was researched 30 years after the fact). Kaleidoscope's last known shows were in April 1970, so Lindley must have come over to England in May or June. Yet Terry Reid played the Atlanta Pop Festival and the two Family Dog shows, which seems a rather slight touring schedule. I have to think there were more American shows around July. Just to confuse matters, the Terry Reid Wikipedia entry says that Tim Davis played with Reid, Lindley and Miles in America. Davis, a fine drummer, had just left the Steve Miller Band, but there is no attribution. In any case, whether Alan White was the drummer, or Tim Davis, or someone else, Reid, Lindley and Miles seem to have been the rest of the band at the edge of the Western World.

Why Weeknights?
Given that the Family Dog was empty, it doesn't make too much sense that Terry Reid played a Tuesday and a Wednesday. The only thing that makes sense to me is that they were warming up for a bigger weekend gig somewhere else. Since all the participants were based in Southern California, it also doesn't make sense that they played a gig in San Francisco. It may be that Los Angeles would have been too high-profile for a warmup gig, but it begs the question of what was behind the booking. Possibly some planned tour dates were canceled.

In any case, because of the Isle Of Wight live album, we have a pretty good idea of what Reid and Lindley sounded like. It's not fully fleshed out, but its intriguing. Once the lawsuits were settled, Atlantic Records would go on to sign Reid. Ultimately, Atlantic would release the next Terry Reid album River in 1973, and Chesley Millikin remained Reid's booking agent (as part of Sam Cutler's Out-Of-Town Tours). The album included material with Lindley and Lee Miles, but Lindley had already moved on to Jackson Browne by then. Supposedly, Lindley and Jackson Browne had actually met in London in 1971, Browne recording and Lindley working with Reid at Glastonbury Fayre, and agreed to put something together in the future. If that (possibly apocryphal) story is true, its funny that two guys from Claremont (Lindley) and Orange County (Browne) started their partnership in London. 

Reid would go on to have intermittent successes, but would still remain more famous for turning down Page then his own music. Whatever may have happened on these two nights at the Family Dog seems to have stayed out on the Great Highway.


Greenwich Village band Cat Mother and The All-Night Newsboys had formed in 1967. By 1969, they had been signed by Michael Jeffery, the manager of Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix had even produced the band's debut album on Polydor, The Street Giveth and The Street Taketh Away. Thanks to the Jeffery connection, Cat Mother got to open for Hendrix and a number of other high profile events. Cat Mother even had a minor hit in late '69, with medley of oldies called "Old Time Rock And Roll." In fact, the band's sound was more country-folk oriented, but they were versatile musicians.

By 1970, however, Cat Mother was anxious to separate themselves from Jeffery's questionable management practices. Their second album, Albion Doo-Wah, would be recorded at Pacific High Recorders in San Francisco. In February, the band had played the Family Dog, probably because they had just arrived in San Francisco to start recording. By June, they had probably completed the album. Cat Mother had played the Family Dog in February, probably when they had started recording, and they had returned in June. Returning to the Dog so quickly meant that the gigs must have gone well.

After they finished their second album, Cat Mother relocated permanently to San Francisco, although I assumed they must have briefly returned to New York. San Francisco had a unique status for rock bands in the late 1960s and '70s. While the record industry was centered, as it always had been, in Manhattan and Hollywood, San Francisco was an enticing opportunity for rock groups. For one thing, the concert industry was thriving, so a good band could make a living whether they had an album or not. Plus, there were studios and plenty of A&R guys, so SF wasn't the wildnerness. And, it was California--no snow, pretty girls, open minds--so it wasn't hard to persuade fellow band members to make the move. A large number of bands from elsewhere moved to San Francisco in the late 60s and early 70s.

The three founding members of Cat Mother, Roy Michaels (bass, vocals), Bob Smith (keyboards, vocals) and Michael Equine (drums), would all relocate permanently to California. At the time of this show, the band still had lead guitarist Paul Johnson and probably violinist Larry Packer. Both of them would ultimately return to New York. Michaels, Smith and Equine would move to Mendocino County and continue on as Cat Mother until 1977. 

The Ace Of Cups debut studio album (released in 2018)

The Ace Of Cups were another unique ensemble, and they had a following in the Bay Area, if not a huge one. The fact that there were three bands booked for this weeknight makes it even stranger--how much revenue was expected to come in? Perhaps someone was bankrolling the event, as some sort of dry run for an unfinished plan, but with an open weekend date, booking two mid-week nights seems strange. 

The Ace Of Cups were an all-woman band, pretty much the only one on the Fillmore scene. They were managed by Ron Polte, who also handled Quicksilver Messenger Service. There was a lot of record company interest in the Aces, as a band of young hippie women writing their own songs and playing their own instruments. Polte had overplayed his hand, however, holding out for a best offer which never actually came. By 1970, the individual members of the band were starting to have babies and the band was playing less and less. I wrote about the entire Ace Of Cups saga at great length, but they would not release an album until 2003.

For the next post in the series (July 31-August 2 Youngbloods), see here

 

Friday, November 11, 2022

June 30-July 1, 1970 Family Dog on The Great Highway, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: The Kinks/Osceola [FDGH '70 XVII]

 

The Family Dog on The Great Highway, at 660 Great Highway, ca. 1969

The Family Dog on The Great Highway, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA
The Family Dog was a foundation stone in the rise of San Francisco rock, and it was in operation in various forms from Fall 1965 through the Summer of 1970. For sound historical reasons, most of the focus on the Family Dog has been on the original 4-person collective who organized the first San Francisco Dance Concerts in late 1965, and on their successor Chet Helms. Helms took over the Family Dog in early 1966, and after a brief partnership with Bill Graham at the Fillmore, promoted memorable concerts at the Avalon Ballroom from Spring 1966 through December 1968. The posters, music and foggy memories of the Avalon are what made the Family Dog a legendary 60s rock icon.

In the Summer of 1969, however, with San Francisco as one of the fulcrums of the rock music explosion, Chet Helms opened another venue. The Family Dog on The Great Highway, at 660 Great Highway, on the Western edge of San Francisco, was only open for 14 months and was not a success. Yet numerous interesting bands played there, and remarkable events took place, and they are only documented in a scattered form. This series of posts will undertake a systematic review of every musical event at the Family Dog on The Great Highway. In general, each post will represent a week of musical events at the venue, although that may vary slightly depending on the bookings.

If anyone has memories, reflections, insights, corrections or flashbacks about shows at the Family Dog on the Great Highway, please post them in the Comments.

660 Great Highway in San Francisco in 1967, when it was the ModelCar Raceway, a slot car track

The Edgewater Ballroom, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA

As early as 1913, there were rides and concessions at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, near the Richmond District. By 1926, they had been consolidated as Playland-At-The-Beach. The Ocean Beach area included attractions such as the Sutro Baths and the Cliff House. The San Francisco Zoo was just south of Playland, having opened in the 1930s. One of the attractions at Playland was a restaurant called Topsy's Roost. The restaurant had closed in 1930, and the room became the Edgewater Ballroom. The Ballroom eventually closed, and Playland went into decline when its owner died in 1958. By the 1960s, the former Edgewater was a slot car raceway. In early 1969, Chet Helms took over the lease of the old Edgewater.
One of the only photos of the interior of the Family Dog on The Great Highway (from a Stephen Gaskin "Monday Night Class" ca. October 1969)


The Family Dog On The Great Highway

The Great Highway was a four-lane road that ran along the Western edge of San Francisco, right next to Ocean Beach. Downtown San Francisco faced the Bay, but beyond Golden Gate Park was the Pacific Ocean. The aptly named Ocean Beach is dramatic and beautiful, but it is mostly windy and foggy. Much of the West Coast of San Francisco is not even a beach, but rocky cliffs. There are no roads in San Francisco West of the Great Highway, so "660 Great Highway" was ample for directions (for reference, it is near the intersection of Balboa Street and 48th Avenue). The tag-line "Edge Of The Western World" was not an exaggeration, at least in American terms.

The Family Dog on The Great Highway was smaller than the Bill Graham's old Fillmore Auditorium. It could hold up to 1500, but the official capacity was probably closer to 1000. Unlike the comparatively centrally located Fillmore West, the FDGH was far from downtown, far from the Peninsula suburbs, and not particularly easy to get to from the freeway. For East Bay or Marin residents, the Great Highway was a formidable trip. The little ballroom was very appealing, but if you didn't live way out in the Avenues, you had to drive. As a result, FDGH didn't get a huge number of casual drop-ins, and that didn't help its fortunes. Most of the locals referred to the venue as "Playland."

The Family Dog In 1969
Chet Helms had opened the Family Dog at 660 Great Highway to much fanfare on June 13, 1969, with a packed house seeing the Jefferson Airplane and The Charlatans. One of the goals was that the Dog would feature mostly San Francisco bands and a variety of smaller community events and groups. Since so many San Francisco bands were successful, and had record contracts, this didn't confine the venue to obscurity. A lot of great bands played the Family Dog in 1969, but the distant location and the gravitational pull of major rock events hosted elsewhere in the Bay Area kept the Family Dog isolated. We know only the most fragmentary bits about music played, events and audiences throughout the year.  Despite the half-year of struggle, Helms had kept the Family Dog on The Great Highway afloat. He had entered the new year of 1970 with a new plan.


June 30-July 1, 1970 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: The Kinks/Osceola (Tuesday-Wednesday)
The Family Dog on The Great Highway had pretty much just been a hall for rent throughout June of 1970. I presume that Chet Helms was keeping it open only because he was seeking some sort of well-capitalized partner in order to make another go of it. The month of July only featured a couple of bookings, and two of them were mid-week, so the venue was only just barely open. Yet a few of the bookings in July were among the most fascinating in the brief history of the Family Dog, and worthy of careful examination of the evidence that remains. Perhaps the most unlikely booking was on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 30 and July 1, 1970, when the Family Dog on The Great Highway presented no less than The Kinks. As if that wasn't enough, the Family Dog presented The Kinks again the next night (Thursday July 2), at a High School Auditorium in the suburbs. This was the only Family Dog promotion at a High School, at a time when the Bay Area rock audience was centered around that age group.

The Kinks had been a legendary "British Invasion" band since the release of "You Really Got Me" and "All Day And All Of The Night" back in 1964. In 1965, the Kinks had been booked to tour the United States. In Los Angeles, singer Ray Davies got in a fight with the head of the Los Angeles Musicians Union. As Ray had been a champion teenage boxer, he probably thumped the guy pretty hard. The US Musicians Union banned The Kinks from performing in the States. So unlike the Beatles, Stones, Animals, Yardbirds and others, the Kinks weren't able to build the reputation from touring that their music deserved. Instead, they concentrated on England and Europe. Despite the touring ban, a few Kinks hits still made it across the pond to US radio, like "Sunny Afternoon."

By 1969, the fact that the Kinks could not tour the States was a serious impediment to their future success. With the rise of the Fillmore circuit, English bands without a giant hit single (like Fleetwood Mac, Traffic or Ten Years After) could build an audience and sell albums, thanks to FM radio. The Kinks made great records, but they needed to get out there. Eventually, the union issues were resolved, and the Kinks were able to tour America in the Fall of '69. The band was still intact: Ray Davies was the lead singer and songwriter (and rhythm guitarist), his brother Dave played lead guitar and sang harmonies and Mick Avory played drums. All three had been in the Kinks from the beginning. Bassist John Dalton had permanently replaced Peter Quaife in early '69. The Kinks initial tour of the US was as a quartet, mostly opening for other bands. The Kinks were inconsistent and unpredictable, which, while part of their appeal, didn't always translate well on the road. 


In the Summer of 1970, the Kinks had set out on another North American tour. Their most recent album had been Arthur (or The Decline And Fall of The British Empire), released in October of 1969. It was a brilliant album that holds up well today, but it hadn't yet gained much traction on FM (or AM) radio in the States or Canada. In 1970, the Kinks had added John Gosling on piano, initially just for the US tour (Gosling would in fact stay in the band until 1978). The Kinks were booked in June for some Northeastern US shows, a Canadian tour, then a week in Hawaii and a few days at the Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood. It was common for touring bands, particularly from England, to spend time in Hawaii as a kind of vacation. They would book a few shows in Hawaii to pay for the trip.

Unfortunately for The Kinks, however (per the indispensable Douglas Hinman's amazing 2004 Kinks chronology All Day And All Of The Night: Concerts, Recordings and Broadcasts 1961-1996), the three gigs booked for Hawaii from June 30-July 2 were canceled, as the venue had closed. Having just played British Columbia, and awaiting a high-profile Whisky show, the Kinks were stranded on the West Coast. The bookings at the Family Dog were clearly put together at the last minute. Since The Kinks were playing the Whisky on the weekend of July 3-5, only these weekdays would have been available. The Fillmore West had booked Traffic and Leon Russel. The Kinks were not popular enough yet to get Bill Graham to upend his booking, nor would Graham have booked a show competing against his own venue. That seems to have left the Family Dog.

We can be pretty certain that the Kinks Family Dog shows took place, but we don't know how many tickets were sold or what songs the band played. We have some slight confirmation of the High School show on Thursday (see below), but the Kinks appearance at the edge of the Western World remains just outside of our view. As any Kinks fan can tell you, the Kinks can be a charming mess, or get in a fistfight onstage or be one of the greatest bands you've ever seen in a concert. Ray Davies' song choices could be a surprise--sometimes he might do old blues covers--but the Kinks never run out of great songs to play, when Ray was inclined. So the Kinks could have absolutely killed it (if anyone has an inkling about what really happened, please note them in the Comments).


Things were about to change for The Kinks fortunes in the States, however, in a very unlikely way. In May, the Kinks had finished a new single, which was released in the UK in early June. It was starting to be a hit in England. "Lola" would not be released in the US until the end of July, and it's hard to imagine that a sing-along about a transvestite would make a band's fortunes back in 1970, but that's what it did. So maybe the Family Dog audience got to hear then-unknown (to them) "Lola" for the first time, and maybe they all just sang along...when the Kinks would return to the States at the end of 1970, they were riding a big hit single and a popular album, and they wouldn't be playing little ballrooms on a Tuesday night.

Opening act Osceola were regular performers at the Family Dog on The Great Highway. Guitarist Bill Ande had founded the group in San Francisco, but all the members were transplanted Floridians. Osceola played around the Bay Area from 1969 to '72, but never recorded. The members mostly returned to successful music careers in the Southeast.

July 2, 1970 Ygnacio Valley High School, Concord, CA: The Kinks/Beggars Opera (Thursday)
The Kinks had an open date, so the Family Dog booked a show way out in Contra Costa County, over the hill from Berkeley. The suburbs in Contra Costa--Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Pleasanton, Danville, Concord and so on--were just starting to boom. There were a lot of teenagers there, and not surprisingly a booming rock concert market. One intriguing dynamic of the Contra Costa County market was that the suburban teenagers all had access to cars, but in many cases were not allowed to go to San Francisco or Berkeley. They would all be dying to go to the Fillmore West or the Oakland Coliseum, but it was forbidden. So a fair number of bands played some venues on that side of the hill. There was a Fillmore competitor called the Concord Coliseum in 1967-68, and later a number of shows at the Concord Armory in 1968 and '69

Since school was out, it appears that the Ygnacio Valley High School gym was just rented like any other venue. Ygnacio Valley High School was at 755 Oak Grove Road in Concord, and had only opened in 1962. Since the Contra Costa suburbs were expanding, new schools had to be built to accommodate them. The local rock shows were centered around Concord because the network of freeways led to the town, and a critical mass of teenagers could go to a Concord show from different towns, even if they weren't allowed to go the City. 

Contra Costa teenagers read the newspaper, so they had all heard of the Family Dog. The Family Dog probably seemed like a cool and exotic place, so the fact that the Dog was bringing an English band to a local High School gym would have been extremely attractive to restless suburban teenagers. It does hint that Helms could have used the value of the Family Dog's hipness--today it would be called "His Brand"--to generate interest farther from San Francisco. He lacked the capital to do so, however, which poses the question of how these Kinks shows were financed, particularly this lone adventure to a distant suburb. As a curiosity, the Kinks had actually played Contra Costa the previous year, at the County Fairgrounds in Antioch (on November 26, 1969, opening for It's A Beautiful Day).

In a Comment Thread on my post about Concord rock shows in the 60s, a few commenters mention attending the Kinks show at YGVS, so it appears to have happened, yet once again we know next to nothing about it. Beggars Opera was a Contra Costa County band, but I don't know anything else about them. 

For the next post in the series (July 14-15, 1970 Terry Reid), see here


Thursday, November 3, 2022

May 29-June 27, 1970 Family Dog on The Great Highway, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Various shows [FDGH '70 XVII]

 

The Family Dog on The Great Highway, at 660 Great Highway, ca. 1969

The Family Dog on The Great Highway, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA
The Family Dog was a foundation stone in the rise of San Francisco rock, and it was in operation in various forms from Fall 1965 through the Summer of 1970. For sound historical reasons, most of the focus on the Family Dog has been on the original 4-person collective who organized the first San Francisco Dance Concerts in late 1965, and on their successor Chet Helms. Helms took over the Family Dog in early 1966, and after a brief partnership with Bill Graham at the Fillmore, promoted memorable concerts at the Avalon Ballroom from Spring 1966 through December 1968. The posters, music and foggy memories of the Avalon are what made the Family Dog a legendary 60s rock icon.

In the Summer of 1969, however, with San Francisco as one of the fulcrums of the rock music explosion, Chet Helms opened another venue. The Family Dog on The Great Highway, at 660 Great Highway, on the Western edge of San Francisco, was only open for 14 months and was not a success. Yet numerous interesting bands played there, and remarkable events took place, and they are only documented in a scattered form. This series of posts will undertake a systematic review of every musical event at the Family Dog on The Great Highway. In general, each post will represent a week of musical events at the venue, although that may vary slightly depending on the bookings.

If anyone has memories, reflections, insights, corrections or flashbacks about shows at the Family Dog on the Great Highway, please post them in the Comments.

660 Great Highway in San Francisco in 1967, when it was the ModelCar Raceway, a slot car track

The Edgewater Ballroom, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA

As early as 1913, there were rides and concessions at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, near the Richmond District. By 1926, they had been consolidated as Playland-At-The-Beach. The Ocean Beach area included attractions such as the Sutro Baths and the Cliff House. The San Francisco Zoo was just south of Playland, having opened in the 1930s. One of the attractions at Playland was a restaurant called Topsy's Roost. The restaurant had closed in 1930, and the room became the Edgewater Ballroom. The Ballroom eventually closed, and Playland went into decline when its owner died in 1958. By the 1960s, the former Edgewater was a slot car raceway. In early 1969, Chet Helms took over the lease of the old Edgewater.
One of the only photos of the interior of the Family Dog on The Great Highway (from a Stephen Gaskin "Monday Night Class" ca. October 1969)


The Family Dog On The Great Highway

The Great Highway was a four-lane road that ran along the Western edge of San Francisco, right next to Ocean Beach. Downtown San Francisco faced the Bay, but beyond Golden Gate Park was the Pacific Ocean. The aptly named Ocean Beach is dramatic and beautiful, but it is mostly windy and foggy. Much of the West Coast of San Francisco is not even a beach, but rocky cliffs. There are no roads in San Francisco West of the Great Highway, so "660 Great Highway" was ample for directions (for reference, it is near the intersection of Balboa Street and 48th Avenue). The tag-line "Edge Of The Western World" was not an exaggeration, at least in American terms.

The Family Dog on The Great Highway was smaller than the Bill Graham's old Fillmore Auditorium. It could hold up to 1500, but the official capacity was probably closer to 1000. Unlike the comparatively centrally located Fillmore West, the FDGH was far from downtown, far from the Peninsula suburbs, and not particularly easy to get to from the freeway. For East Bay or Marin residents, the Great Highway was a formidable trip. The little ballroom was very appealing, but if you didn't live way out in the Avenues, you had to drive. As a result, FDGH didn't get a huge number of casual drop-ins, and that didn't help its fortunes. Most of the locals referred to the venue as "Playland."

The Family Dog In 1969
Chet Helms had opened the Family Dog at 660 Great Highway to much fanfare on June 13, 1969, with a packed house seeing the Jefferson Airplane and The Charlatans. One of the goals was that the Dog would feature mostly San Francisco bands and a variety of smaller community events and groups. Since so many San Francisco bands were successful, and had record contracts, this didn't confine the venue to obscurity. A lot of great bands played the Family Dog in 1969, but the distant location and the gravitational pull of major rock events hosted elsewhere in the Bay Area kept the Family Dog isolated. We know only the most fragmentary bits about music played, events and audiences throughout the year.  Despite the half-year of struggle, Helms had kept the Family Dog on The Great Highway afloat. He had entered the new year of 1970 with a new plan.

May 29-31, 1970 Family Dog on the Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Indian Music Festival featuring Ali Akbar Khan, Indranil Bhattacharya, Zakir Hussain (Friday-Sunday)
Indian classical music had been known in the West since Ravi Shankar's album Three Ragas, released on World Pacific Records in 1956. By the mid-60s, jazz musicians like John Coltrane and rock musicians such as Eric Clapton had discovered the music. George Harrison had helped introduce the sitar, Ravi Shankar, and Indian music to the wider pop music audience. Indian music was important in both rock and jazz because it influenced players like Coltrane and Clapton, even when the wider public was only vaguely aware of it. In the Bay Area, the Ali Akbar Khan School of Music in Oakland had been an important locus for teaching and learning since the 1960s. As it happened, Family Dog soundman Owsley Stanley was not only a huge admirer of Indian music, he was intimately connected to the Ali Akbar Khan School as well. The School had been based in a big house on Ascot Drive in the Oakland hills.

In her recent book Owsley And Me: My LSD Family, Rhoney Gissen described the house in Ascot Drive in some detail. Originally it had been rented by Ali Akbar Khan school of music. 

Indian music gave me clarity, so I drove to the Ali Akbar Khan School Of Music, situated in a beautiful Spanish-style multilevel house with arts-and-crafts detailing in the secluded hills of Oakland, southeast of Berkeley. While I was listening to a morning raga played by Khansahib with Vince Delgado on tabla, it occurred to me that this place would be perfect for Bear. With all the rooms and levels, he could live here with any member of the Grateful Dead family. Ramrod had already agreed to live with Bear when he moved [p166]
Since the School was moving at month's end, Owsley was intrigued enough to visit:
We walked around the house and there was a swimming pool and a separate entrance in the back. Stately trees reached beyond the third floor. We went back inside which was atop a long stairway from the front door.
"Look, Bear, I can stand at the top of the stair and see who's coming."
"Yes, but you can't see the front door from any of the windows." [p.167]
Bear eventually agrees, and Rhoney gets Bear to let Ali Akhbar Khan and his students to open for the Grateful Dead in Berkeley (at the Berkeley Community Theater on September 20, 1968) in return for letting Owsley take over the lease.
At the end of the Summer of 1968, when the Indian musicians moved out of the house in the Oakland hills, Bear moved in. Betty and Bob Matthews took the downstairs apartment, and Ramrod moved into the bedroom next to Bear's. Weir camped out in the living room. [p168]
Owsley lived in the Ascot Drive house until his incarceration in July of 1970. The Ali Akbar Khan School of Music moved to San Rafael, and seems to be still going strong today.

 

I'm not sure who booked the Indian music weekend at the Family Dog, or to put it another way, I'm not sure who took the risk and whether it was profitable. The program featured Ali Akbar Khan (sarod), Indraril Bhatticharva (sitar) and Zakir Hussain (tabla). Nonetheless, Owsley was still Owsley, and not only did he act as soundman, but he taped it as well. In 2020, the Owsley Stanley Foundation released some performances from the first night (May 29, 1970).

 


June 7, 1970 Family Dog on the Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: The One Festival (Sunday)
Our only trace of this weekend's events was an ad in the SF Good Times for a Sunday afternoon lecture called "The One Festival." With no Friday or Saturday night rock show (that I am aware of), it seems pretty likely that the Family Dog on The Great Highway was effectively just another hall for rent.

The names on the poster are all Indian or South Asian "gurus," save for "Sufi Dancers," and Indradril Bhattacharva, noted as a member of the Ali Akbar Khan college of music, and Stephen Gaskin. Gaskin, a popular literature instructor at San Francisco State who had held "Monday Night Class" events at the Family Dog in the Fall, presented a variety of Indian and Asian philosophies, so he actually fit in with the rest of the bill. In modern terms, this would be seen as a "Self-Help" or "Human Potential" seminar. Hippies were inclined to think India was a purer source for spiritual enlightenment than the West.

June 13, 1970 Family Dog on the Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: First Anniversary at the Beach Party (Saturday)
June 13, 1970 was indeed the first anniversary of the opening of the Family Dog on The Great Highway. On June 13, 1969, the Dog had opened at the beach with the Jefferson Airplane and a jam-packed house. By 1970, there was only the vaguest mention of an event, with no bands listed. It was probably an open house of some sort. The Family Dog on The Great Highway had fallen far in the preceding year, and I'm sure no one thought there would be a second anniversary.


June 17, 1970 Family Dog on the Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Michael Bloomfield & Marin Music Band/Charles Musselwhite Blues Band/Sandy Bull 
St Jacques Benefit for the Porcupine Family Inc drug treatment program (Wednesday)
Mike Bloomfield had been America's first genuine guitar hero, and he was a truly great musician. He had moved to San Francisco in 1967 to form the Electric Flag. When Bloomfield had left the Flag in 1968, he had a brief flash of solo stardom with Al Kooper and Super Session, but he largely limited himself to playing small local gigs. He had a rotating lineup of fine players in support, but he never rehearsed. So while Bay Area rock fans all agreed, in principle, that Bloomfield was a legend, his appearances were hardly events. Presumably, he was backed at this show by the likes of Nick Gravenites, Mark Naftalin, John Kahn and Bob Jones (his "first-call" team), but we don't know that for certain. Bloomfield had headlined a weekend at the Dog back on August 15-16, 1969.

As far as records went, Bloomfield's most recent album was It's Not Killing Me, released on Columbia in 1969. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't really memorable, either. Bloomfield was backed by the crew who made up his rotating stage band, and they were all good, but the material was weak. 

Charlie Musselwhite, from Memphis via Chicago, had been the top white harmonica player in the mid-60s in Chicago, when Bloomfield had been part of the Butterfield Blues Band. Musselwhite, too, had moved to San Francisco in '67 and had played the Avalon and other ballrooms regularly. His current album would have been Memphis, Tennessee, on Paramount, featuring the unique steel guitarist Freddie Roulette. I don't know if Roulette was still in Musselwhite's band. By the end of 1970, his group would be fronted by a teenage guitarist from Ukiah, CA named Robben Ford, who would go on to a brilliant career himself. 

Sandy Bull was a solo guitarist, a unique and remarkable performer whose elaborate fingerpicking was enhanced by various electronic looping effects. Although appealing to a rock audience, more or less, Bull was the type of performer whose audience remained seated. He had played the Bay Area many times over the years, usually at The Matrix. He had played the Family Dog a month earlier (May 15-16). At this time, his most recent album would have been E Puribus Unum, released on Vanguard the  previous year. Bull had played all the instruments himself, and the music was hardly rock.



June 19-21, 1970 Family Dog on the Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Flying Burrito Brothers/Cat Mother & the All Night Newsboys/Rhythm Dukes with Bill Champlin and Jerry Miller 
(Friday-Sunday)
This June weekend was the last time that the Family Dog presented a multiple bill featuring a touring act and some local bands for a weekend. There were a few more rock concerts in July and August, but none of those suggested that there was anything ongoing, just concert opportunities. This booking was the last sign of the Family Dog as an ongoing concern.


The Flying Burrito Brothers had released their second A&M album in May 1970, Burrito Deluxe. The band's 1969 debut had gotten extraordinarily good reviews, but the Burritos had been a sloppy and indifferent live band. Gram Parsons, in particular, refused to tour much, as he was determined to hang out in Los Angeles with the Rolling Stones. Parsons was a Burrito for the Burrito Deluxe album, but he was fired by Chris Hillman before touring had started in June. Parsons was increasingly erratic, and in any case wasn't up for the promotional effort. The Burritos had never played the Fillmore West, but they had played the Family Dog, so that may account for why they were booked at the Dog instead.

During this brief period, the Flying Burrito Brothers were just a quartet. Chris Hillman was the primary vocalist and bassist, with Bernie Leadon on lead guitar and harmonies. The legendary Sneaky Pete Kleinow remained on pedal steel guitar, and ex-Byrd Michael Clarke remained the drummer. The Burritos knew they needed a fifth member, and toyed with adding ex-Byrd Gene Clark, who actually played a few gigs. It's not impossible Gene Clark was at one or all of the Family Dog gigs. Clark, too, was an erratic character, and ultimately Rick Roberts would join the Burritos later in 1970.

The Rhythm Dukes at The Family Dog on The Great Highway, sometime in 1970. (L-R) Bill Champlin, John Oxendine, Jerry Miller.

The Rhythm Dukes had formed in the Santa Cruz mountains in 1969, and had played the Family Dog on The Great Highway on December 12-14, 1969. Originally the band had featured two former members of Moby Grape, lead guitarist Jerry Miller and ex-drummer Don Stevenson (who switched to guitar). They were supported by bassist John Barrett and drummer Fuzzy Oxendine, formerly of the 60s group Boogie. The band was often billed as Moby Grape, and Stevenson had left by the end of Summer '69. The Rhythm Dukes carried on as a trio, finally adding two more members by December (saxophonist Rick Garcia and keyboardist Ned Torney).

By January, however, the two extra members had left, to be replaced by Bill Champlin from the Sons. By early 1970, despite a loyal Bay Area following and two excellent Capitol albums, the Sons of Champlin were frustrated and broke and they decided to go "on hiatus." Effectively that meant they were breaking up, although they continued to finish an album they owed Capitol (released in 1971 as Follow Your Heart). The Sons had concert obligations through February of 1970, so while Bill Champlin played a few gigs with the Rhythm Dukes, he was also finishing up with the Sons. By March, the Sons had stopped performing--that didn't last long, but it's another story--and Bill was full time with the Rhythm Dukes and Jerry Miller. 

We have a photo of Bill Champlin with the Rhythm Dukes from the Family Dog, although the exact date is unknown. Champlin played organ and rhythm guitar with the Dukes, and was the principal lead singer, although Jerry Miller was also a fine vocalist. Our only tape of this era of the Rhythm Dukes was privately released 2005 cd of some demo tapes from April 1970, (called Flash Back) but they were plainly an excellent live band. This was the third weekend that the Rhythm Dukes with Champlin would play the Family Dog on The Great Highway, but this seems to be the last booked show I can find by the band. Both Miller and Champlin would return to their natural homes (Moby Grape and The Sons) later in 1970.


Greenwich Village band Cat Mother and The All-Night Newsboys had formed in 1967. By 1969, they had been signed by Michael Jeffery, the manager of Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix had even produced the band's debut album on Polydor, The Street Giveth and The Street Taketh Away. Thanks to the Jeffery connection, Cat Mother got to open for Hendrix and a number of other high profile events. Cat Mother even had a minor hit in late '69, with medley of oldies called "Old Time Rock And Roll." In fact, the band's sound was more country-folk oriented, but they were versatile musicians.

By 1970, however, Cat Mother was anxious to separate themselves from Jeffery's questionable management practices. Their second album, Albion Doo-Wah, would be recorded at Pacific High Recorders in San Francisco. In February, the band had played the Family Dog, probably because they had just arrived in San Francisco to start recording. By June, they had probably completed the album.

After they finished their second album, Cat Mother relocated permanently to San Francisco. San Francisco had a unique status for rock bands in the late 1960s and '70s. While the record industry was centered, as it always had been, in Manhattan and Hollywood, San Francisco was an enticing opportunity for rock groups. For one thing, the concert industry was thriving, so a good band could make a living whether they had an album or not. Plus, there were studios and plenty of A&R guys, so SF wasn't the wildnerness. And, it was California--no snow, pretty girls, open minds--so it wasn't hard to persuade fellow band members to make the move. A large number of bands from elsewhere moved to San Francisco.
 
The three founding members of the band, Roy Michaels (bass, vocals), Bob Smith (keyboards, vocals) and Michael Equine (drums), would all relocate permanently to California. At the time of this show, the band still had lead guitarist Paul Johnson and probably violinist Larry Packer. Both of them would ultimately return to New York. Michaels, Smith and Equine would move to Mendocino County and continue on as Cat Mother until 1977.

June 23-25, 1970 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: 12 bands (Tuesday-Thursday)
A note in the June 22 San Francisco Examiner mentioned that "12 bands" would play the Family Dog from Tuesday through Thursday. I have no other information, nor any real indication that any of these events were held. The shows may have featured some local bands, possibly high school kids or a battle of the bands or other such events.

June 27, 1970 Family Dog on The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Krishna festival dinner (Sunday)
The only indication of an event on the weekend of June 25-27 was that the Hare Krishna was going to have a big public dinner at the Family Dog on The Great Highway on Sunday, June 27. The Krishna were having a big "happening" in Golden Gate Park over the weekend, and it would culminate with a big dinner. Whether the Hare Krishnas had other, private events at the Dog during the weekend is not mentioned.

The Family Dog on The Great Highway was just a venue for rent, with no viable economic program. It was only a matter of time before it would shut down.

For the next post in the series (The Kinks, June 30-July 1, 1970) see here

Friday, October 28, 2022

May 1-24, 1970 Family Dog on The Great Highway, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: various shows [FDGH '70 XVI]

 

The Family Dog on The Great Highway, at 660 Great Highway, ca. 1969

The Family Dog on The Great Highway, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA
The Family Dog was a foundation stone in the rise of San Francisco rock, and it was in operation in various forms from Fall 1965 through the Summer of 1970. For sound historical reasons, most of the focus on the Family Dog has been on the original 4-person collective who organized the first San Francisco Dance Concerts in late 1965, and on their successor Chet Helms. Helms took over the Family Dog in early 1966, and after a brief partnership with Bill Graham at the Fillmore, promoted memorable concerts at the Avalon Ballroom from Spring 1966 through December 1968. The posters, music and foggy memories of the Avalon are what made the Family Dog a legendary 60s rock icon.

In the Summer of 1969, however, with San Francisco as one of the fulcrums of the rock music explosion, Chet Helms opened another venue. The Family Dog on The Great Highway, at 660 Great Highway, on the Western edge of San Francisco, was only open for 14 months and was not a success. Yet numerous interesting bands played there, and remarkable events took place, and they are only documented in a scattered form. This series of posts will undertake a systematic review of every musical event at the Family Dog on The Great Highway. In general, each post will represent a week of musical events at the venue, although that may vary slightly depending on the bookings.

If anyone has memories, reflections, insights, corrections or flashbacks about shows at the Family Dog on the Great Highway, please post them in the Comments.

660 Great Highway in San Francisco in 1967, when it was the ModelCar Raceway, a slot car track

The Edgewater Ballroom, 660 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA

As early as 1913, there were rides and concessions at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, near the Richmond District. By 1926, they had been consolidated as Playland-At-The-Beach. The Ocean Beach area included attractions such as the Sutro Baths and the Cliff House. The San Francisco Zoo was just south of Playland, having opened in the 1930s. One of the attractions at Playland was a restaurant called Topsy's Roost. The restaurant had closed in 1930, and the room became the Edgewater Ballroom. The Ballroom eventually closed, and Playland went into decline when its owner died in 1958. By the 1960s, the former Edgewater was a slot car raceway. In early 1969, Chet Helms took over the lease of the old Edgewater.
One of the only photos of the interior of the Family Dog on The Great Highway (from a Stephen Gaskin "Monday Night Class" ca. October 1969)


The Family Dog On The Great Highway

The Great Highway was a four-lane road that ran along the Western edge of San Francisco, right next to Ocean Beach. Downtown San Francisco faced the Bay, but beyond Golden Gate Park was the Pacific Ocean. The aptly named Ocean Beach is dramatic and beautiful, but it is mostly windy and foggy. Much of the West Coast of San Francisco is not even a beach, but rocky cliffs. There are no roads in San Francisco West of the Great Highway, so "660 Great Highway" was ample for directions (for reference, it is near the intersection of Balboa Street and 48th Avenue). The tag-line "Edge Of The Western World" was not an exaggeration, at least in American terms.

The Family Dog on The Great Highway was smaller than the Bill Graham's old Fillmore Auditorium. It could hold up to 1500, but the official capacity was probably closer to 1000. Unlike the comparatively centrally located Fillmore West, the FDGH was far from downtown, far from the Peninsula suburbs, and not particularly easy to get to from the freeway. For East Bay or Marin residents, the Great Highway was a formidable trip. The little ballroom was very appealing, but if you didn't live way out in the Avenues, you had to drive. As a result, FDGH didn't get a huge number of casual drop-ins, and that didn't help its fortunes. Most of the locals referred to the venue as "Playland."

The Family Dog In 1969
Chet Helms had opened the Family Dog at 660 Great Highway to much fanfare on June 13, 1969, with a packed house seeing the Jefferson Airplane and The Charlatans. One of the goals was that the Dog would feature mostly San Francisco bands and a variety of smaller community events and groups. Since so many San Francisco bands were successful, and had record contracts, this didn't confine the venue to obscurity. A lot of great bands played the Family Dog in 1969, but the distant location and the gravitational pull of major rock events hosted elsewhere in the Bay Area kept the Family Dog isolated. We know only the most fragmentary bits about music played, events and audiences throughout the year.  Despite the half-year of struggle, Helms had kept the Family Dog on The Great Highway afloat. He had entered the new year of 1970 with a new plan.

May 1-3, 1970 Family Dog on the Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Big Brother and the Holding Company/Aum/Back Yard Mamas/Lambert & Nuttycombe (Friday-Sunday)
Chet Helms had re-opened the Family Dog on the Great Highway on a new footing at the end of January, 1970. Instead of a mixture of community events, the Dog had focused on weekend rock concerts featuring major San Francisco bands. The Dog headliners were Fillmore West headliners, too, so the venue was would be more of a destination than just a hang-out. But the momentum hadn't lasted. The big headliners faded away after April, an implicit note that Helms could no longer afford to guarantee bands a payday. Starting in May, while the Family Dog remained focused on weekend bookings, the bands weren't Fillmore West material.

Big Brother and The Holding Company had returned to headline the Family Dog for the third weekend since February. They were a huge name, of course, but without Janis Joplin fronting the band, they weren't a huge draw. The original four members (Sam Andrews, James Gurley, Peter Albin and Dave Getz) were all still in the band, along with an additional guitarist (David Schallock). Big Brother was actually a pretty good band, and they were working on an album with producer Nick Gravenites. The underrated Be A Brother would come out around July, to little fanfare. 


Aum
was a trio featuring guitarist Wayne Ceballos. Ironically, they were booked by Bill Graham's Millard Agency. Graham and Helms were competitors, but this did not extend so far as to cutting Helms out of Millard acts. Aum had released its second album in late 1969. Resurrection had been released on Fillmore Records, Graham's own label (distributed by Columbia). Aum had been booked fairly prominently around the Bay Area in 1969, often opening for the Grateful Dead (booked by Millard at the time as well). The band had faded away a little bit by 1970, and would soon break up (Ceballos continues to perform, now based out of Austin, TX).

The Backyard Mamas are familiar to me from various listings, but I don't really know anything about them.

Folk duo Craig Nuttycombe and Dennis Lambert had been in the Eastside Kids in Southern California. Their album on A&M Records had been recorded at Nuttycombe's home.



May 8-10, 1970 Family Dog on the Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen/Osceola/Southern Comfort (Friday-Sunday)
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen had only relocated to Berkeley from Ann Arbor, MI in the Summer of 1969. Their unique blend of dope-flavored Western Swing and old-time rock and roll instantly found an audience. One of the Airmen's first gigs had been at the Family Dog in August 1969, and they had opened shows regularly at the venue, for the Grateful Dead and for the Youngbloods. While they were the headliners at this show, the Airmen were still a local club act. They would not be signed to Paramount ABC to record their debut album until 1971. 

Osceola had been playing the Family Dog since September of 1969. They would play the Dog many times, and played around the Bay Area regularly until at least 1972. Osceola lead guitarist Bill Ande was a transplant from Florida. He had played and recorded with some modestly successful bands, like the R-Dells, the American Beetles (really), who had then changed their name to The Razor's Edge and had even played American Bandstand. Come '69, Ande had relocated to San Francisco to play some psychedelic blues. The musicians he linked up with were all Florida transplants as well, so even though they were a San Francisco band, they chose the name Osceola as an homage to their roots. To some extent, Osceola replaced Devil's Kitchen as the informal "house band" at the Family Dog, insofar as they played there so regularly.

Osceola was a five piece band with two drummers, and played all the local ballrooms and rock nightclubs. Ande was joined by guitarist Alan Yott, bassist Chuck Nicholis and drummers Donny Fields and Richard Bevis. Osceola was a successful live act, but never recorded. Almost all of the band members would return to the Southeast (mainly Tallahassee and Atlanta) in the mid-70 to have successful music careers.


Around May, 1969, drummer Bob Jones and some other local musicians formed a band modeled on Booker T and The MGs. The idea was that they would be a complete studio ensemble, and also record and perform their own music. All of the musicians were regulars in the busy San Francisco studios, often playing for producer Nick Gravenites. The members of Southern Comfort were:

Fred Burton-lead guitar [aka Fred Olson, his given name]
Ron Stallings-tenor sax, vocals
John Wilmeth-trumpet
Steve Funk-keyboards
Art Stavro-bass
Bob Jones-drums, vocals

Ron Stallings had been in the T&A Blues Band with Kahn and Jones. He would turn up later with Kahn in Reconstruction in 1979. In late 1969, Southern Comfort had been signed by Columbia Records, and Gravenites was signed up as the producer. At this period of time, Gravenites was also working with Mike Bloomfield, Brewer And Shipley and later Danny Cox (who shared management with Brewer And Shipley), and the individual members worked on many of those records. Meanwhile, Southern Comfort gigged steadily around the Bay Area.

According to Jones, Nick Gravenites found himself overcommitted in the studio, and turned the production of the Southern Comfort album over to John Kahn. Kahn and Jones were close friends, so this was fine with the band. Gravenites had been using the musically trained Kahn as an arranger and orchestrator anyway, so this was more like a promotion rather than a new assignment. Kahn was listed as co-producer on the Southern Comfort album, and he filled in a few gaps--co-writing songs, helping with arrangements, playing piano--but not playing bass.  Columbia released the Southern Comfort album in mid-1970. At the time of this Family Dog show, the album had probably just been released.


May 15-16, 1970 Family Dog on the Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Big Mama Thornton/Sandy Bull/Mendlebaum/Doug McKechenie and His Moog Synthesizer
(Friday-Saturday)
Big Mama Thornton (1926-1984) had been a popular and important blues singer since the early 1950s. She had originally recorded “Hound Dog” in 1952, years before Elvis Presley, and her 1968 version of “Ball And Chain” was a huge influence on Janis Joplin’s more famous cover version (as Janis was the first to admit). However, Thornton’s successful records did not lead to her own financial success, and despite being a fine performer she was notoriously difficult to work with. Big Mama had played a number of weekends at the Fillmore in 1966, including opening for both the Jefferson Airplane (October 1966) and the Grateful Dead (December 1966). Unlike many blues artists who played the Fillmore the first year, she had not reappeared. There's no explanation as to why she hadn't been seen at rock venues since. Big Mama had played at the Family Dog back in July '69, but she had almost no rock profile.

From today's perspective, Big Mama Thornton seems like a very interesting performer, and no doubt she was, but in 1970, to the mostly teenage audience, she would have just seemed old (of course, in 1970 she would have been just 43). Her current album would have been The Way It Is, on Mercury.

Sandy Bull was a solo guitarist, a unique and remarkable performer whose elaborate fingerpicking was enhanced by various electronic looping effects. Although appealing to a rock audience, more or less, Bull was the type of performer whose audience remained seated. He had played the Bay Area many times over the years, usually at The Matrix. At this time, his most recent album would have been E Puribus Unum, released on Vanguard the  previous year. Bull had played all the instruments himself, and the music was hardly rock. 


Mendelbaum
had arrived from Wisconsin at the end of Summer 1969. They featured lead guitarist Chris Michie, who went on to play with Van Morrison and others, and drummer Keith Knudsen (who would play with Lee Michaels and then the Doobie Brothers). By May of 1970, Mendelbaum were regulars around the Bay Area rock club scene. In 2002, the German label Shadoks would release a double-cd of Mendelbaum material from 1969 and '70 (both live recordings and studio demos).

Doug McKechnie and his Moog synthesizer, ca 1968

Doug McKechnie
performed on his Moog Synthesizer. He had previously played the Family Dog under the name SF Radical Lab,  back on August 31, and then again on the weekend of September 19-21. At this time, there was a little bit of awareness about synthesizers, through Walter Carlos' 1968 album Switched On Bach record and George Harrison's 1969 Electronic Sounds lp, but they were still pretty mysterious. No one would have seen a Moog Synthesizer live, so in that respect McKechnie's performance would have been quite interesting.

Doug McKechnie's history was unique in so many ways. Around about 1968, McKechnie had lived in a warehouse type building on 759 Harrison (between 3rd and 4th Streets-for reference, 759 Harrison is now across from Whole Foods). Avalon Ballroom soundman and partner Bob Cohen lived in the building, and Blue Cheer (and Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks) practiced upstairs. One day, McKechnie's roommate Bruce Hatch acquired a Moog Synthesizer, and the instrument arrived in boxes, awaiting assembly. At the time, a synthesizer was like a musical unicorn, only slightly more real than a myth. Hatch had the technical ability to assemble the machinery, but he was basically tone-deaf. So McKechnie focused on actually making music on the Moog. 

McKechnie and Hatch referred to their enterprise as Radical Sound Labs. Word got around--McKechnie helped the Grateful Dead record the strange outtake "What's Become Of The Baby" on the 1969 Aoxomoxoa sessions in San Mateo (his memories are, uh, fuzzy). Thanks to the Dead, McKechnie and his Moog--the size of a VW Bus--can be seen in the Gimme Shelter movie, providing peculiar music on a gigantic sound system for the anxious masses.



May 22-24, 1970 Family Dog on the Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Shorty Featuring Georgie Fame,/Jerry Hahn Brotherhood/Fourth Way (Friday-Sunday)
This May weekend featured an all jazz-rock bill, and the performances would certainly be of a very high quality. None of the groups were particularly popular, unfortunately, so attendance was probably thin.


Georgie Fame
(b. Clive Powell in 1943) had been a huge star in England in the 60s. In the early 60s, Fame played legendary gigs at the Flamingo Club for American servicemen. Fame sang and played organ, and was heavily influenced by Mose Allison, James Brown and others. He merged soul, blues and jazz in a unique English way. Without Georgie Fame, there would be no Van Morrison (Fame was an anchor of Van's live bands in the 80s and 90s, and they would make an album together). Fame had three #1 hits in England, "Yeh Yeh" (1964), "Get Away" ('66) and "The Ballad Of Bonnie and Clyde" (1967). Only the latter was a hit in the States, however. Georgie Fame never toured America with other British Invasion acts, reputedly because he had Nigerians and Jamaicans in his band. 

In 1969, Fame reformulated himself with a sophisticated band called Shorty. They released an album on Epic in early 1970. It was supposedly recorded live, but it sounds to me like it was actually recorded live in the studio with crowd noise dubbed in. In any case, there was a mixture of originals and jazzed up covers of blues songs like "Parchman Farm" and "Seventh Son." The band seemed to be a quintet with Fame on Hammond organ, an electric guitarist and a tenor saxophone. Shorty seems to have done a short American tour, as they had just played at the Fillmore West (opening for Lee Michaels and the Faces from May 7-10).


The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood
was a newly-formed, only-in-San-Francisco band, and they had gotten a fairly big advance from Columbia. Columbia was heavy in the "jazz-rock" vein, and had hit it big with Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago. They would release an album in the middle of the year.

Jerry Hahn was a pretty serious jazz guitarist, based in San Francisco, and he had played with John Handy and Gary Burton, among others. As "jazz-rock" became a thing, Hahn seems to have wanted to play in a more rock vein. Organist Mike Finnegan was newly arrived from Wichita, Kansas. He was not only a great Hammond player, he was a terrific blues singer too (also, he was 6'6'' tall, and had gone to U. of Kansas on a basketball scholarship, making him the Bruce Hornsby of his era). Filling out the band were local jazz musicians Mel Graves on bass and George Marsh on drums. Marsh had just left the Loading Zone, an interesting (if perpetually struggling) Oakland band


The Fourth Way
was an interesting electric jazz-rock band. There were a lot of bands in the Bay Area fusing rock, jazz and electricity, but Fourth Way did it in a less frantic style than Miles Davis or the Tony Williams Lifetime. Fourth Way did release three albums on Capitol, now long out-of-print. Bandleader Mike Nock, formerly pianist with Yusef Lateer, Steve Marcus and many others played electric keyboards. The lead soloist was electric violinist Mike White, best known for playing with the John Handy Quintet. Bassist Ron McClure had played with Handy, and then with a Charles Lloyd Quartet lineup when it was based in San Francisco (along with Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette). Drummer Eddie Marshall rounded out the quartet.

This Susanna Millman photo from the old Grateful Dead Tapers Compendium shows Owsley tapes for Shorty, Fourth Way and Jerry Hahn Brotherhood from May 23, 1970


An intriguing detail about this set of concerts is that Owsley preserved tapes of all three bands from the Saturday night show (May 23, 1970). A long-ago Susanna Millman photo of the Grateful Dead Tape Vault, from the old Grateful Dead Tapers Compendium, which at the time included Owsley's material , shows tape boxes for all three bands. After Owsley had been busted with the Grateful Dead in New Orleans, back at the end of January, he was no longer able to travel with them due to a parole violation from a previous arrest. At least on some occasions, Owsley was the soundman at the Family Dog, and as a result some interesting tapes from 1970 were preserved. The current status of these three tapes is unknown, but I remain ever hopeful.

For the next post in the series (various bookings, May 29-June 27, 1970), see here