Sunday, January 31, 2010

Washington and Murphy, Sunnyvale, CA Whisky A Go Go, August 1965 The Leaves

Recently we had been conducting archaeological digs into the little known San Francisco branch of West Hollywood's Whisky A Go Go. At the same time, I had commented in passing about a curious venue in suburban Sunnyvale (between San Jose and Palo Alto) called Wayne Manor. Wayne Manor was rock and soul dance club modeled on a Batman theme, with the club outfitted as the Bat Cave and the waitresses dressed like Bat Girl.

We were startled to receive email from the son of the Wayne Manor operator, the late Joe Lewis. Besides a treasure trove of information on the Wayne Manor itself, which had opened in February 1966. He startled us with the information that the venue had actually opened in Summer 1965 as a Sunnyvale branch of the Whisky A Go Go, offering as proof an amazing photo of the Joel Scott Hill Trio (with Bob Mosley, Johnny Barbata and Joni Lyman) playing the club, right underneath the logo.

The younger Mr. Lewis was also kind enough to send along some other promotional photos, one of which I am publishing here. These photos appear to have been promotional photos taken during or right after the club was opened, probably between July and September 1965. While I think this photo was staged for the cameras, since the real club was much darker, its nonetheless the real band and the real physical setup. I have posted this not only to marvel at it, but to consider a few things about the 1965 rock era:
  • The group is The Leaves, who were a popular Hollywood club band signed by Pat Boone. Their logo was a marijuana leaf, to the amusement of the few who recognized it. I assume the band members at this time were Jim Pons (bass), Bill Rhinehart (guitar), Robert Lee Reiner (guitar), John Beck (vocals) and Tom Ray (drums, not visible, possibly not even in the photo).
  • Note the tiny amount of equipment. There appear to be two amps for both guitars and the bass, and I don't see any drum mikes. I assume there was some sort of house PA for the vocals.
  • Note the dj booth. Whatever records were stacked up there would probably be an eBay goldmine now.
  • Check out the Go-Go girl fashions, a style originally made popular by the Hollywood Whisky. Both of the women are quite attractive, but neither the clothes nor the hairstyles look particularly flattering today
The Sunnyvale Whisky A Go Go was only open under that name until February 1966, when it became Wayne Manor.

(h/t Garth for the photo)

Monday, January 18, 2010

807 Montgomery, San Francisco-Roaring 20s May 1967

San Francisco always prides itself on being cutting edge, and it favors The New over everything else. This was never truer than the psychedelic 60s, when the eagerness to see bands trying new things often exceeded the bands' ability to do anything new. As far as music went, however, 60s psychedelia was part of a change of interesting if not always memorable entertainment options in San Francisco.

San Francisco's principal entertainment district for white people had always been the North Beach area, the heart of which was on Broadway and Columbus. The Beat Poets had found a home at City Lights bookstore in the 1950s, and cutting edge jazz was the order of the day. The jazz musicians themselves played (and often lived) in the Fillmore district, but North Beach had the best paying gigs. By the early 1960s, the happening music in North Beach was Latin jazz, where San Francisco was a critical outpost. While a very distant second to New York City, of course, San Francisco had played a surprisingly important role in Latin music, and a very important role in jazz as well. While the jazz scenes in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago (and probably Detroit) had more great players, San Francisco was a great incubator for new jazz talent. Throughout the 1950s, San Francisco had been a source of new entertainment for the country, with comedians, folk musicians, jazz and Latin musicians breaking out of the North Beach clubs.

For reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, the early 1960s North Beach club scene came to be dominated by Topless dancers. The most prominent of these (haha) was Carol Doda, the first and for some time only Topless dancer to use silicon implants, who appeared nightly at The Condor. Soon almost all of North Beach had followed suit with topless revues of different types. By 1965, except for a few jazz clubs, almost all the North Beach establishments featured topless dancers.

Topless clubs were an evolution of the existing circuit of Burlesque clubs, which had existed on the West Coast but in a sort of underground fashion for many years. In the 1960s, they came out into the mainstream as Topless clubs. While the attraction of a Topless club was women dancing with their tops off--just to be clear about it--they generally featured a floor show with some combination of musicians, comedians and costume to go with the dancers. Topless clubs were considerably less raunchy than today's Strip Clubs, although it was a somewhat more innocent time. By the 1960s, going to a Topless club was a racy thing for urban adults to do, like going to an R-Rated movie today (which did not in fact exist at that time), but still respectable.

When the Jefferson Airplane started The Matrix in 1965, some blocks away from North Beach, they were establishing a very different kind of entertainment than what was currently available (as I have discussed previously). By 1967, while Topless clubs still ruled North Beach, there were Topless clubs up and down the El Camino Real and San Pablo Avenue on both sides of the Bay, so suburbanites hardly needed to drive into the City for it. San Francisco is always looking for the next thing, and by 1967 what was happening was psychedelic rock. What had been an underground phenomenon in 1966 was wide out in the open by the next year, and the North Beach clubs immediately picked up on it.

The ad above is for a club at 807 Montgomery Street (one block from Columbus and two from Broadway) called The Roaring 20s. Their calling card was a naked girl on a swing who, indeed, swung over the entire building. The club had briefly gone away from Topless in 1966, but had rapidly returned. From looking at the ad (in the May 6, 1967 San Francisco Chronicle) its clear that they have borrowed the iconography of the Fillmore posters, with the wobbly letters and the promise of a light show. Their house band at the time was a group called The New Salvation Army Banned, a Haight Street group who had been playing there almost every night since at least March.

On Sunday, May 14, The Roaring 20s had a special event, promoted in that day's Chronicle (above), The Artists And Models Bal Masque. The blurb helpfully points out that tickets will be available to the public. Another listing says that the Jerry Hahn Trio (a jazz group) and Notes From The Underground (a Berkeley Folk-Rock group) would also be playing.

The New Salvation Army Banned eventually released two albums on ABC, under the name Salvation. For struggling rock bands, Topless clubs were fairly good gigs, if not exactly something to write home about. A band who wanted to work out on "Smokestack Lightning" with some modal jamming was free to do so as long as the drummer kept the beat going, and no one in North Beach cared if your hair was long or if you smoked pot (well, as long as you shared). In cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vancouver (that I know of) many psychedelic rock acts got their start keeping the beat behind topless dancers, and then cheerfully left that out of their resume when they got better known. I'm fairly certain that a band like NSAB, with a seven-nights-a-week gig, could skip out for a Fillmore gig when it was available, and show up later in the evening to finish out the night, so it didn't impede any progress.

Many tourists who came to San Francisco, whether from the suburbs or from out of town, were just looking for some fun, and probably merged the idea of Topless dancers and braless hippies anyway. A number of other North Beach clubs followed the lead of Roaring 20s. Most prominent in the Chronicle ads was a club called Goman's Gay 90s, which was run by an old showbiz family who had run a Vaudeville-type review at the club for many years, although they had 2am weekend rock shows. In April 1967, they caved in and went modern.

Goman's Gay 60s invokes a whole series of images, all of which are in fact incorrect, since "Gay" as a metonymy for homosexuality was not in common usage (if at all). the club was purposely inverting the previous name, and borrowing the psychedelic motif with the light show. No doubt many light show operators got their starts at Topless joints like these as well, although the half-life of light shows was very brief. Goman's Gay 60s did not advertise bands, so whatever combos played there were probably pretty raw, but with musicians moving to San Francisco every day, it was a paying gig.  For the club, it gave visiting tourists a chance to get both of San Francisco's entertainment attractions with no cover charge.

Ironically, however, another effect of the Fillmore and Avalon was to reduce Broadway's role in the San Francisco entertainment spectrum. Up until the mid-1960s, entertainment in The City equaled Broadway, but afterwards it was spread all around downtown and the nearer neighborhoods. Broadway remains an important neighborhood for nightlife in San Francisco, but hardly the only one.

update: it appears that soon after the New Salvation Army Banned moved on from The Roaring 20s to greener pastures, their residency was taken up by a band called West Coast Natural Gas, newly arrived from Seattle. For a description of the experience, see here.

(807 Montgomery became the rock club The Orphanage for awhile in the 1970s. Currently neither 807 Montgomery or 345 Broadway appear to feature entertainment venues)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

3138 Fillmore Street, San Francisco The Matrix pre-opening

This paragraph from Perry Phillips's Night Sounds column in the August 13, 1965 Oakland Tribune may be the earliest listing of The Matrix in print--at the minimum it was one of the first.  Phillips's column was a typical sort found in Daily newspapers at the time. On Tuesdays and Fridays, Phillips would survey the week's entertainment options, covering nightclubs, restaurants and special events. While the major focus was on Oakland and nearby towns, he also made some mention of goings on in San Francisco, Lake Tahoe and Reno. The coverage was generally positive and skewed heavily towards Tribune advertisers, but someone like Phillips clearly enjoyed going out most nights and liked a wide variety of music, entertainment and food. Obviously hoping to encourage the Matrix to become a Tribune advertiser, he wrote
A new nightclub opens tonight in San Francisco, the Matrix. It will feature a combination of folk and rock-and-roll music. Matrix' owners are opening the club for the specific purpose of promulgating the folk art but will divert occasionally to jazz and comedy. When I asked about the unusual name, they told me Matrix means "a place where something of value originates and develops." If the club lives up to this definition, it will be a huge success. The Maitrix [sic] is at 3138 Fillmore Street.
Although this prose is typical of Entertainment columns in daily newspapers at the time, in this specific instance there was a large amount of truth. The Matrix was founded by Marty Balin and his father Joe, and they intended the pizza-and-beer joint primarily as a place for Marty's new group The Jefferson Airplane to perform. As the first "long-hair" joint in San Francisco, it featured the San Francisco debuts and critical early performances of many great bands, like the Great Society, Quicksilver Messenger Service (under another name) and Big Brother and The Holding Company.

Although the rock market rapidly outgrew the Matrix, it was still a primary stop for new bands, and a hangout for established groups on weeknights. The list of performerances at The Matrix reads like a Who's Who of San Francisco rock bands of the time. While The Matrix was never the financial success that Perry Phillips suggested, it was indeed "a place where something of value originates and develops," and its legendary status is assured. In the context of the page of advertisements where Perry Phillips column appeared so many years ago, I thought I would highlight some of the other establishments, to show how different the Matrix truly was at the time. All of these scans are from the same page as Phillips column in the August 13, 1965 Oakland Tribune.

Ann's New Mo, a club that has utterly mystified me for some time, was a few miles from downtown and seemed to feature Swing Dancing and Jazz. I cannot fathom what "New Mo" referred to, and the iconography only became stranger later in the 1960s.

The Ali Baba (at Grand and Webster) and The Sands Ballroom (at 19th and Broadway, near what is now the BART Station) had persisted since the Swing Era. In fact, had any promoter been willing to put on rock shows at either venue, Bill Graham and Chet Helms would have had formidable competitors, but it was not to be. The Sands, at 1933 Broadway, had been known as McFadden's when Benny Goodman rolled into town in August 1935, and the club made his career.

Cal Silva's Hitchen Post, on the Northern edge of Oakland at San Pablo and 61st St (1850 San Pablo), had a sort of Western Swing motif (connected to his similar venue in Hayward), but at this time it featured Go Go dancers, apparently in bikinis. Performing were the rockin' Au Go Gos. Although the place was probably a fun joint to go to, the iconography suggests a kind of rocked up Cowboy bar, with twanging Telecasters and a lot of honky tonk gals.

The It Club, much farther North on the other side of Berkeley in low-down El Cerrito (on San Pablo and Central Avenues, near the Bay), was presenting an "All Bosom Revue," with "Girls direct from the PLAYBOY CLUB in L.A." Song stylist David Thornton appears to have been providing the music.

If you were thinking of food, why not go to Zombie Village? "Lunches-Dinners, Cantonese and American Cuisine," per the ad. Mmm--Zombies! 6485 San Pablo was near San Pablo and Alcatraz, close to Emeryville and Aquatic Park (and the Hitchen Post). The place advertised in the Tribune for years--no one has ever explained the appeal of a Chinese restaurant called "Zombie Village," but there are many things we don't understand about the 60s.

Ravazza's was an Italian restaurant that had been across from the old Oakland Oaks (Pacific Coast League) baseball park, at 41st and San Pablo in Emeryville. Alone among the advertisers listed here, it actually survived until the 1980s, and I actually ate there. It was mostly a pizza place by then, but it was like stepping into a time machine, with pictures of PCL players like Joe DiMaggio and Billy Martin on the walls, smiling in pictures from the very same tables (with the same decor) that you were sitting at. Ravazza's was torn down to provide a parking lot for the Card Club across the street (The Oaks Club, on the site of the old stadium), although the last three letters of its sign were used by Zza's Tratoria. Zza's opened in the mid-1980s, and it was a fine place--and no doubt still is--located at 552 Grand Avenue in Oakland (across from Lake Merritt), a final tenuous link to its predecessor.

This was the context of The Matrix, on August 13, 1965. To a Tribune reader, its competitors would have been The All Bosom Revue, a Cowboy Go Go joint, some old Swing Music, a Zombie Village, an ancient Italian restaurant across from a long-gone landmark. Knowing what we know now, the Matrix was far and away the best choice that week, a place where something of value would originate and develop. Ironically enough, this was the only mention (to my knowledge) of The Matrix in the Tribune, as they did not advertise in the paper and were thus ignored in future columns, but Perry Phillips got it right the first time. Right across the bay, something of value was originating and developing,  starting with the Jefferson Airplane and followed closely by the rest of the sixties.

Research continues on the Zombie Village.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cafe Au Go Go, New York City 152 Bleecker Street Rock: Performance List 1964-65

The Cafe Au Go Go, at 152 Bleecker Street in New York City's Greenwich Village, was a critical venue for aspiring rock bands in the 1960s. Whatever the indisputable charms of the West Coast, the commercial and cultural capital of the United States has always been New York City, and bands had to make a good showing in New York if they expected to make it. Perhaps because the venue had no collectible poster art, the club has been somewhat unfairly left out of many rock chronicles, when in fact it played a crucial role in introducing new bands to New York City, and by extension to the whole country.

Thanks to my friend Marc, I have had an excellent list of performers at the Cafe Au Go Go from 1965 to 1969, when it closed. I was lacking much of a context, however, but now that I have discovered the excellent New York City site prosopography blog Its All The Streets You Crossed Not So Long Ago, and its exceptional post on the Cafe Au Go Go, my performers list can be put into some kind of context. My goal for this series was to list all the rock performers at the Cafe Au Go Go from July 27, 1965 through late 1969, when the club closed.

As a footnote to all of this, however, Marc's fantastic research included performers from when the club opened on February 7, 1964 onwards. Although it is way out of my time period, I thought I would include the information on the performers for the first 16 months without comment, in the service of prosopographers everywhere.

Cafe Au Go Go Rock Performers List 
Part I July 27, 1965-December 1965
Part II January 1966-June 1966  
Part III July 1966-December 1966
Part IV January 1967-June 1967 
Part V July 1967-December 1967
Part VI January 1968-June 1968
Part VII July 1968-December 1968
Part VIII January 1969-June 1969
Part IX-July 1969-October 1969

Cafe Au Go Go Performers List February 1964-July 1965

February 7-March 15, 1964 Professor Irwin Corey

March 17-22, 1964 Grecco & Willard, "Vikings Three"

March 25-29, 1964 Josh White Jr.

March 31-April 7, 1964  Lenny Bruce, Shawn Phillips, Tony Hendra & Nic Ullet
Lenny Bruce was arrested before the 10m show on the 3td and again on the 7th for obscenity.

Writer Tony Hendra may be best known as manager Ian Faith in the movie This Is Spinal Tap.

April 10-11, 1964 Lionel Shepard

April 13-19, 1964 Prof Irwin Corey, Tony Hendra & Nic Ullett

April 21-May 3, 1964 Jimmy Witherspoon & Coleridge Parkinson Trio

May 8-31, 1964 Stan Getz w/Astrud Gilberto, Adam Keefe, George Carlin, Sema Marcus, w/Ben Webster on May  26-28.  
The show on May 22 was recorded for the Getz a Go Go lp.

June 2-12, 1964 Bob Gibson, Jose Feliciano, George Carlin

June 14, 1964 Benny Powell Quartet

June 16-July 12, 1964 Mort Sahl

July 14-25, 1964 Vaughn Meader w/ Reynolds, Eduardo Sasson

July 27-August 4, 1964 George Carlin, Tobi Reynolds, Eduardo Sasson
Mon nights Ed McCurdy’s Hootenanny

August 5-30, 1964 Vaughn Meader

September 1-27, 1964 Bill Evans Trio, Nancy Harrow, George Carlin

Sepember 29-October 18, 1964 Bill Evans Trio, Oscar Brown Jr. (Stan Getz on 6th)

October 20-November 8, 1964 Vaugn Meader’s The Populace with Renee’ Taylor
Originally they were scheduled for November 20-31 as well, but seem to have been replaced by other artists.

November 9, 1964  Alison Knowles (performance artist)

November 12, 1964 Anita Sheer, Adam Keefe, Lydia Wood

November 14, 1964 Alison Knowles (performance artist)

November 17-22, 1964 Muddy Waters featuring Otis Spann

November 24-29, 1964 Olatunji

December 1-6, 1964 ClaraWard Singers, Olatunji

December 8-31, 1964 Oscar Brown Jr. with Floyd Morris Trio

January 21-24, 1965 Shunna Pillay, Dave Astor, Olatunji

January 25, 1965 Monday Night Letter
A series of happenings events and music presenting the works or Emmett Williams

January 26-28, 1965 Shunna Pillay, George Carlin

January 29-30, 1965 Shunna Pillay, George Carlin, Olatunji

January 31-February 6, 1965 Shunna Pillay, George Carlin

February 7, 1965 Coleman Hawkins, John Coats Jr.

February 8-18, 1965  Shunna Pillay, Olatunji

February 19-22, 1965 Woody Herman and his Swinging Herd, The Bomb and Swing

February 25-March 1, 1965  Shunna Pillay

March 2-7, 1965 Shunna Pillay and The Legend of Charlie Parker with Jim Mendehall, Paula Shaw and others

March 14, 1965 A Tribute to the Memory of Charlie Parker w/Jackie McClean, Hank Mobley, Le Konitz, Joe Henderson, Fredde Hubbard, Walter Davis Jr., Lucky Thompson and others.

March 24-31, 1965 Lord Burgess

April 1-4, 1965 Lord Burgess, Olatunji

April 5-11, 1965 Lord Burgess, The Au Go Go Singers
Apparently the Au Go Go Singers still included Stephen Stills or Richie Furay at this point,although I think they left soon after.

April 15-17, 1965 Chico Hamilton

April 21-25, 1965 Stan Getz

April 27-May 30, 1965 Max Roach, Abby Lincoln

June 16-23, 1965 Monti Rock III with Lester  Young

June 23-30, 1965 Monti Rock III with Richard Pryor and Lester Young

July 3-10, 1965 Ian and Sylvia

July 13-19, 1965  Bob Gibson

July 20-25, 1965  Bob Gibson, John Lee Hooker

for the beginning of the Cafe Au Go Go rock's booking, on July 27, 1965, see here