Sunday, August 30, 2009

PayLess Drug Store, Fremont Plaza, Fremont, CA: Mount Rushmore/Linn County, October 25, 1968

These advertisements from the October 25, 1968 edition of The Fremont Argus promote "in-store" appearances of rock groups at a retailer to publicize their new albums. This is a pretty common retailing practice, made fun of in the movie Spinal Tap, but this example of it must have been a pretty strange experience.

First of all, while most records in the 1960s were sold at large general retailers like department stores, a suburban PayLess in 1968 had about the same hipness quotient that it does now. I don't doubt that many suburban fans bought many of their albums at PayLess, but I doubt it was a "destination" like a Tower Records would be.

Mount Rushmore and Linn County were both pretty good bands, if now somewhat obscure. Mount Rushmore was a San Francisco band who had formed in 1967, but only released their first album High On Mount Rushmore in late 1968. Ross Hannan and I have an ongoing project to document the complete history of Mount Rushmore and related groups like Phoenix. Mount Rushmore had played many Bay Area gigs, although I don't think there were many in Fremont, and I don't know how much the album would have been played on KSAN or KMPX, then the only two FM rock stations in the Bay Area. I would find it surprising if Mount Rushmore were well known in Fremont.

Linn County was a band that had relocated to San Francisco from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The band had formed around 1964, and played extensively around Chicago and the Midwest. They were led by a fine organist and singer named Stephen Miller--no, not the guitarist in the Steve Miller Band. Miller (1942-2003) was a fine, if underrated performer. Linn County relocated to San Francisco in 1968, and were rapidly signed to Mercury, and their first album Proud Flesh Soothseer had just been released. They would go on to release another album, Fever Shot, before they broke up. Stephen Miller had a long performing career, and an extensive discography, playing with The Elvin Bishop Group, Clifton Chenier, Grinderswitch and many others.

Linn County, although they had only been in the Bay Area for a few months, were already regular performers at rock clubs like The New Orleans House in Berkeley, but I do not how much they would have played Fremont in 1968, if at all. Similar to Mount Rushmore, while I'm sure their album got a little play on KSAN and KMPX, as they were a local band, it would not have been an overwhelming amount.

The PayLess Drug Store in Fremont Plaza in October 1968 is pretty far from the Straight Theatre in San Francisco or the New Orleans House in Berkeley, where the bands would normally play. Fremont was in the suburbs, and in 1968 the suburbs were pretty straight. Sure, the teenagers in High School knew something was happening, and had some cool records, but they didn't want to go down to the Fremont Pay Less with their Mom. The younger kids who would go with their Mom had probably just figured out who the Jefferson Airplane were, and hadn't yet figured out about lesser known bands that KSAN played late at night.

San Francisco long hairs like the members of Mount Rushmore and Linn County would have looked pretty out of place in the Fremont Plaza Mall. All in all, this sounds even stranger than the scene in Spinal Tap where the band does an in-store and no fans show up. Perhaps I'm being unfair--perhaps pretty girls from the High School showed up and swooned over the bands, and perhaps all the boys asked about the chord changes to all the tunes, but I think that's kind of unlikely. Still, I have Proud Flesh Soothseer, and I've heard some of High On Mount Rushmore, and they are both pretty good for late 60s albums, so maybe there are people who remember the day fondly, treasuring their autographed copies.

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.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

1545 Market Street, San Francisco, CA: The Bachelors live at The Carousel Ballroom, May 21, 1966

The Bachelors were an Irish singing group popular in the United Kingdom, with some following in the United States. This ad from the May 13, 1966 edition of the San Mateo Times has no significance from a rock perspective, except insofar as this is the future site of The Fillmore West.

Various San Francisco bands formed a consortium in early 1968 to compete directly with Bill Graham's Fillmore and Chet Helms's Avalon. They leased the Carousel and Grateful Dead staff largely ran it. Despite best intentions and great bills, the venue rapidly turned into a financial mess. The Carousel was owned by an Irishman, and Bill Graham apparently flew to Ireland to wrest the lease away from the bands. He succeeded, and moved his Fillmore operation to the much larger Fillmore West.

All that was in the future, however. In 1966, The Carousel Ballroom, once the El Patio, was a pale reflection of its former glory, but still served as a ballroom, as the above ad shows. The site is currently a Honda dealership.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

6300 Moraga Way, Oakland, CA: Montclair Recreation Center 1970-71

According to a long-ago eyewitness, the concerts were held in the biggest room in this building
According to an eyewitness, this building was still a working fire station and was not part of the concerts
While doing research for our Loading Zone Family Tree and Performance History, I came across numerous references to a series of shows at the Montclair Recreation Center in Oakland from 1970 to 1972. This was very surprising, because not only were there very few rock venues in Oakland, the Montclair neighborhood is in the Oakland Hills, not Downtown or near Berkeley, and I cannot think of any Oakland Hills rock venues even to this day. The Montclair Recreation Center, at 6300 Moraga Way (just after Moraga meets Thornhill) is a city park, with various picnic and play areas, plus nice grass fields, but it is relatively small.

When I was in the East Bay, I took photos of the only two buildings that could have housed rock concerts. Of course it has been many years, and a building that was used may have long since been torn down. Nonetheless, when I was there only two structures seemed like possible locations for rock concerts: a street level building that looks like a converted house (top), now boarded up, and an administration building that seems to have some community meeting rooms (below). Light show performers were identified for most events, so clearly the shows were indoors. The photos were taken August 11, 2009.

My sole source of information about these concerts was listings in the Wednesday "Teen Age" section of the Oakland Tribune, usually in the "What's Doing" section. These were free listings that included Fillmore concerts, charity events, High School dances and so on. Some listings refer to the "weekly" Saturday night concert, suggesting that I am missing many shows in my list, but at this juncture I have no way of determining that. Mostly the Tribune lists a single act plus a Light show, so it leads me to think that these shows were for teenagers and ended fairly early. I can see the Montclair neighborhood preferring that their teenagers stay home, at the price of a little noise, instead of looking for trouble and fun in Berkeley or San Francisco.

The shows first started being listed in Fall 1970, and a notice suggests that they are newly instituted. The Oakland Tribune of October 7, 1970 said the bi-weekly shows were co-sponsored by the Center and the Montclair Junior Women’s Club, which makes it clear that the operation had some civic "purpose" like keeping kids in the neighborhood on Saturday nights. Of course, the shows were sometimes more than bi-weekly, but a civic sponsor would explain why there seems to be little evidence of shows during holidays and high Summer. The bands were not obscure, but rather the sort of bands that headlined local clubs or played third on the bill at the Fillmore West. I did see a few notices for shows in 1972, but they featured considerably more local acts. Since the organization and financing of these shows is obscure, its hard to draw too many conclusions.

Here is my list of shows at the Montclair Recreation Center in Oakland for 1970 and 1971

September 19, 1970: The Tyde
October 10, 1970: The Fog
October 24, 1970: AB Skhy
October 31, 1970: Loading Zone
November 7, 1970: Loading Zone
November 14, 1970: Loveship
November 21, 1970: Beggar’s Opera
November 28, 1970: Joy Of Cooking
January 9, 1971: Loading Zone
January 30, 1971: Joy Of Cooking
February 6, 1971: Tyde
February 27, 1971: Cat Mother
March 13, 1971: Full Moon (formerly The Womb)
March 20, 1971: Loading Zone
March 27, 1971: Pipe
April 24, 1971: Western Addition
Wendy Haas, later of Azteca, was the lead singer for Western Addition.
May 1, 1971: Ice
May 8, 1971: Barry Melton and The Fish
May 22, 1971: Loading Zone
May 29, 1971: Gold
June 12, 1971: Malo
July 3, 1971: Sopwith Camel
July 10, 1971: Clover
September 19, 1971: Loading Zone
October 2, 1971: Barry Melton and The Fish
October 23, 1971: Jabo Stokes
November 6, 1971: Cat Mother
November 20, 1971: Loading Zone

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"The Loading Zone" album by Ron Barnett

As part of my research into the history of The Loading Zone, I came across this ad for the Loading Zone's self-titled first album on RCA. It was part of an ad for albums available at Longs Drugs in the May 26, 1968 edition of The Fresno Bee. Mistakes in album titles and artists were common enough, of course, but usually they were simply misspellings or inversions--"Love by Four Sail" instead of "Four Sail by Love", for example.

The oddity here is that Ron Barnett was the manager of The Loading Zone. How he ended up listed as the artist is a mystery.

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.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Whisky A-Go-Go, San Francisco 1965-67

The Whisky A-Go-Go in West Hollywood is rightly revered as a seminal club in the history of rock music. It is a little remembered fact, however, that owner Elmer Valentine appeared to have franchised the name and style of the club (or "The Brand" as we would now say) to other operators outside of Los Angeles. There was a Whisky A-Go-Go in Chicago, and I believe in Atlanta, and one in San Francisco, all largely forgotten.

The San Francisco club was at 568 Sacramento Street (at Montgomery), right near downtown but somewhat far from the action on North Beach. The earliest evidence I have seen of it is the first week of 1966, from which the article (left) about the engaging Ms. Tina Loo's dancing ability was drawn (San Mateo Times, January 7, 1966). The last I know of it was February, 1967, when The Doors played a few dates, quickly replaced by The Wildflower. I have seen a few other ads from the San Mateo Times in early 1966, of which the above (from February 11, 1966) is typical.

Other than these scattered facts, I know very little about the San Francisco Whisky, or anything at all about the other Whisky "franchises." However, the little information I have about the San Francisco Whisky does show how the "business model" of an entertainment vehicle depends so much on the operator, not the model. I have written extensively about performers at the Whisky from 1966 to 1969, and while they were only paid union scale, they were the coolest and most interesting bands in Los Angeles, whether living there or just visiting. West Hollywood was where the cool people were, and the Whisky became a hangout and taste-making club. In an entirely different way, the same could be said of the Fillmore and The Avalon in San Francisco.

Conversely, however, a bunch of unhip lounge bands and pretty go-go dancers in San Francisco's Financial District seems to have made an impression on no one. Elmer Valentine's booking policies made the Whisky what it was, and the style and the girls were just icing (if delicious at that). By the same token, Fillmore-style clubs never made it financially in Southern California, because despite plenty of good bands it lacked the focus that the Fillmore and Avalon brought to San Francisco.

I know that by the time The Doors played the SF Whisky it had become a topless joint, and after there were only a few patrons at their first gigs (on February 14-15, 1967), The Doors handed off their booking to The Wildflower. I think the SF Whisky folded soon after that. To this day, I have no idea who financed or ran the San Francisco Whisky.

Cross posted in Rock Prosopography 101.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

1827 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA--The Freight and Salvage (original site)

The Freight and Salvage is Berkeley's premier traditional music club, open continuously since 1968. Originally opened to provide a forum for folk music traditions after similar venues in Berkeley had closed or migrated to rock, the Freight is now a folk tradition of its own.

This is the original site, at 1827 San Pablo Avenue, now Berkeley Auto Body at 1829 San Pablo. The building was called The Freight and Salvage, and founder Nancy Owens chose to keep the name so the club could keep the Yellow Pages listing. I have written extensively about performers at the original site in the first two years of the Freight's existence.

The Freight moved to 1111 Addison Street, a few blocks away, in about 1988, and have since moved to 2020 Addison Street in downtown Berkeley. This photo was taken on August 11, 2009.

2362 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA-The Blind Lemon

The Blind Lemon was the first folk club in Berkeley, and one of the first on the West Coast. It was founded by Rolf Cahn, a German by way of Cambridge, Massachuessets, who was an accomplished guitarist. The club was opened in 1958, and served coffee and folk music, literally setting the stage for what was to come. Cahn would later found The Cabale Creamery, an important early 1960s Berkeley folk club, a few blocks away at 2504 San Pablo.

This photo was taken on August 11, 2009. The typewriter repair business at the site seems to have closed some time ago. The building is even smaller than it appears in the photo, a narrow building that is not particularly long.

2504 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA--Cabale Creamery, Good Buddy, Caverns West, The Questing Beast, Tito's, The Longbranch

2504 San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley (at Dwight Way) was a music venue in Berkeley more or less continuously from 1963 to about 1976. Use Permits in California make it a lot easier to open a venue in a building that has already received permission to be a live music venue.

This photo was taken August 11, 2009. 2504 San Pablo is the building with the brown facade, behind the bus stop. For many years it has been a retail store called Good Vibrations. You can google it, but don't do it at work.

2504 San Pablo Site History

January 1963-Early 1965: Cabale Creamery
A folk club founded by Rolf Cahn, Debbie Green, Howard Zeem and Chandler Laughlin, one of the principal folk stops on the West Coast in the early 60s.

Mid 1965; The Good Buddy

Fall 1965: Caverns West

November 1965-May 1966 The Questing Beast
A folk club with a psychedelic twist to it. A few local rock bands played there, including an embryonic Country Joe and The Fish, and there may have been an Owsley Stanley connection. A Grateful Dead tape listed as "Questing Beast Rehearsal 2-11-66" is spurious, but the Dead may have been considering using the Beast for a rehearsal hall prior to their departure to Los Angeles with Owsley in February 1966. The city Public Health department closed the club.

1967-69 Tito's
Tito's was more of a "joint", a place that featured dancing to local bands. Most of them were unknown, although a few (like The Loading Zone) became well-known later. The bookings--at least of bands that were known--seemed to lean more towards R&B or funky jazz.

1970-76 (approximately) The Longbranch
The Longbranch was a hard rock club. East Bay bands like Earthquake, Greg Kihn and Eddie Money were regulars at the venue. At one point in the early 70s, a lot of reggae bands played at the club, including groups like Toots And The Maytals, then quite unknown. A few touring acts filled in their itinerary with gigs at the club, usually when they were opening a show at Winterland or a similar venue, and had room for an extra gig.

1106 Solano Avenue (901 San Pablo Avenue), Albany, CA--The Lucky 13

The Lucky 13 in Albany is a mysterious venue for many reasons, and it has been written about elsewhere. I took some pictures of the venue site. The building is L-shaped, and original ads list the venue at 901 San Pablo Avenue (at the corner of San Pablo and Solano Avenues). The building is now listed at 1106 Solano, and it is a restaurant/dance palace called Montero's.

Briefly, in 1966-67, The Lucky 13 was a teen club that sold cokes and burgers while teenage rock bands played. By 1968, The Lucky 13 was associated with the R&B station KDIA, at 1310-AM, known as "The Lucky 13." The radio station advertised the venue as an after hours soul club, open from 2-6am. Tower of Power played a gig there and got signed to a record contract by Bill Graham's Fillmore agency.

Was the teen club open in the early evening while the soul club happened after hours? Did the venue have music at all during regular hours when it was an after hours club? These and many other questions remain currently unanswered.

These photos were taken August 11, 2009, one facing the intersection (of San Pablo and Solano) and one from the Solano Avenue side. This part of Albany is very near the Northern border of Berkeley.

1048 University Avenue, Berkeley-Mandrake's

1048 University Avenue in Berkeley (between 10th Street and San Pablo Avenue) was the site of Mandrake's. From 1965 onwards, Mandrake's was a pool hall that booked occasional music shows, often for free. By mid-1968, the venue was taken over and booked by Mary Moore, the wife of a jazz musician (Willie Moore).

From 1968 to 1974, Mandrake's was an important club on the Berkeley music scene. The Joy of Cooking had a regular weeknight gig there for much of 1969, and it helped to establish both the band and the venue. Weekly bookings at Mandrake's ran the usual spectrum of American music, but there was a little more emphasis on blues and jazz than competing clubs like The Longbranch (on 2504 San Pablo) and the New Orleans House (on 1505 San Pablo).

After Mandrake's closed around 1974, the venue reopened as Jerry's Stop Sign. The one time I went there in 1977, there were pool tables, so it appeared that the venue had returned to its earlier incarnation. I was seeing a friend's band play, but no one was there. The bartender politely suggested that the previous night's shooting may have cut down on attendance.

I took the photo above on August 11, 2009. The site is currently a pet emergency hospital. The angle is poor because of roadwork at the time, but 1048 University is the right half of the structure, with the orange awning. I no longer recall if the other half (1054) was part of the original venue, but I doubt it.

Barbara Flaska
When I originally published this post, I was trying to memorialize the location of a long-gone Berkeley venue. Befitting a blog with the name "Rock Archaeology," my best case scenario was a few Comments that would provide the equivalent of a potsherd or spearpoint, a tiny hint at the rock and roll life of Berkeley in the 60s. Who could hope for more?

All this changed a few Comments down on the thread, when Barbara Flaska joined in. Barbara had been an employee of Mandrake's starting in 1969. She stayed there for the next two years, and stayed in touch with the club and its staff for the next several years. Barbara was not just an employee, but a huge fan of the music and the ambiance, blessed with a warm spirit, an excellent memory and a determination to get history right. Her huge contributions to this post, embedded in the gigantic 500-Comment thread, show the world of Mandrake's from 1969 to 1971 in a rich light. Barbara got numerous participants from back in the day to contribute directly and indirectly, and as a result this post is far and away the richest vein of Rock Archaeology on the entire blog.

Rock Archaeology always hopes for a glimpse of a rock and roll past, discernible perhaps from a few remaining artifacts. Thanks to Barbara Flaska, we have not just a glimpse but a detailed portrait of an entire lost world, with its dark and light portions equally available. Long gone characters come to life, lesser known musicians like Freddie Roulette are a regular part of the landscape, and major stars like the Rolling Stones wander through as well, all part of the intricate fabric of Mandrake's in Berkeley, back in the day.

Here's to Barbara--thanks for making Mandrake's come to life, a gift for everyone who reads this.

200 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA-Veterans Memorial Building

The Veterans Memorial Building in Oakland, on 200 Grand Avenue (at Harrison St), just across from Lake Merritt, was only used for rock shows a few times in 1966. There were a few "teen" dances, and two "psychedelic" shows. The relatively nondescript flyer for one of these obscure shows has circulated quite widely.

On September 24, 1966, Deed Of Shame headlined over The Friendly Stranger, Motley Crew and Iron Butterfly. Deed Of Shame and Motley Crew remain unknown to me. The Friendly Stranger were a psychedelic blues band from San Francisco. The Friendly Stranger played a gig in San Diego, and impressed one of the other bands on the bill, a San Diego group called The Palace Pages. The Palace Pages promptly changed their sound and changed their name to The Iron Butterfly. This Oakland show is certainly the first out-of-town gig for the band under the name Iron Butterfly.

The Oakland Veterans Memorial Building is a beautiful, 1930s era auditorium with a basketball court in the middle, like a high school gym. It would only fit a few hundred patrons. The building has been restored since the 1960s, but was probably somewhat rundown. Although the Lake Merritt area is beautiful in the daytime, it was probably somewhat seedy at night during the 1960s. Certainly by the late 1970s the area was genuinely dangerous at night, although by the mid-1980s, when I moved to the area, the city of Oakland had taken major steps to improve the area, and now it is a wonderful area.

As a result of the venue's small size and unappealing location, I know of no other rock shows at the Oakland Veterans Memorial Building. Now nicely restored, it is used for community athletic and social events.