Saturday, August 22, 2009
November 12, 1965: Tiger A Go Go, San Francisco Airport Hilton, Burlingame
From the early 1960s until the mid-1960s adults who liked rock music and wanted to dance--almost exclusively in their 20s--patronized "Go Go" clubs. These were basically discoteques, with live bands playing danceable rock, surf and R&B music, and people did dances with "names" like The Twist or The Frug. Since patrons worked up a sweat, clubs sold a lot of drinks, so it wasn't a bad business model. Of course, the principal fans of this sort of music were too young to get in, but a 22-year old who wanted to dance to covers of Smokey Robinson or Dick Dale didn't want to go to a lounge, so there was ample patronage until Fillmore type venues came into being. Just about every aspiring rock musician in the mid-60s who wasn't a folkie played these venues at one time or another, because it was a paying gig.
The Joel Scott Hill Trio featured Joel Scott Hill on guitar, Lee Michaels on organ and John Barbata on drums. Lee Michaels, after stints with The Sentinels and The Family Tree (under the name Mike Olsen), went on to solo stardom. John Barbata joined The Turtles, Crosby Stills Nash and Young (for Four Way Street) and Jefferson Starship (in their mid-70s prime) as well as being an accomplished session musician. Joel Scott Hill, the least known of the trio because he spent the late 60s in Mendocino County, was in Canned Heat in 1971 and later in The Flying Burrito Brothers when the band revived in 1975-76. But here they were, much younger, playing several sets a night, probably almost every night of the week, at The Tiger A Go Go near the San Francisco Airport. Contemporary ads suggest they played Tiger A Go Go all of November, and were replaced by The Standells in December.
Going out to dance is about boys meeting girls, and from this distant remove it may seem odd that 20-something young men would drive to the San Francisco Airport (in Burlingame some miles south of the city itself) to meet girls. There is a simple, one-word answer, however: stewardesses. In the 1960s, at the rise of the Jet Age, stewardesses were picked for their looks. It was also one of the few career options available for pretty girls who were unable to get a college degree and become a teacher or nurse. Since stewardesses were fired if they gained weight, got married or got old (no, I'm not making this up), they had a short period of time to have some fun, so stewardesses were widely renowned as the best of the mid-60s party girls. Whether this is true or not is beside the point--every young man in San Mateo County would be driving over to the Tiger A Go Go in the hopes of meeting a pretty, exotic stewardess, only in town for a few days and ready to live it up.