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.


  1. Its possible Bob Mosley was on bass at this time, and Lee Michaels had not yet joined.

  2. I am pretty certain the Bob Mosley would have been on bass at this time. It seems very close timewise to the Whisky A Go Go show featuring the quartet of JSH, Bob, Johnny B and Jon Lyman. What is seemingly harder to nail down is how the same quartet appeared under the guise of The Strangers during the later part of 1965. At present I am putting that down to JSH being booked previously under that name.

    As a side issue, the original criteria for a stewardess in England was being a registered nurse. That would be in the 1930s.

    But I also recall the TWA stewardesses who used to serve me - not mid-60s party girls, but party girls in their mid sixties.

    Remind me to tell you about my Dan Air flight to Toulouse and the wash room events with a stewardess some time.

  3. It was the best place on the Peninsula to go have fun. I remember watching the girls dance in their go- go cages. Fun times back then. Too bad life has changed so much.

  4. grabini, thanks for the insight. I don't have a picture from the Tiger-A-Go-Go, but I do have a similar one from Sunnyvale here:

    The band in the picture on the other post at the Sunnyvale Whisky A Go Go (yes, Sunnyvale) was the very same Joel Scott Hill Trio with Joni Lyman that played the Tiger. Moby Grape bassist Bob Mosley was on bass, as well as future Turtles/CSNY/Starship drummer John Barbata (Hill was in Canned Heat in the 70s, and later the Flying Burrito Brothers).

    Thanks for chiming in.

  5. Every Saturday night from 1965 to 1970 my muddies and I went to the Tiger club at SFO to meet girls, or at Artichoke Joe's in Burlingame. Great times, great music, and great girls!!!
    What happened after 1970 --- I got married!!!

  6. Out of the service in 1965 August, started work at the Tiger a few months later for a couple of years. Doorman, keep the piece guy, walking around with notebook and pencil taking phone numbers. Unfortunately only one way to spell fun in those days but it felt like there were hundreds of ways at the time. Bill Gilbert the owner of the club was quite a character and the go-go-girls out of the world type. How many of us still alive, who knows? Don't think I want to know. Sad. 949 506 7939 Don Say hello?

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