Monday, April 26, 2010

Winterland, San Francisco "Monster Jam" for Olompali, March 17, 1969

March 17, 1969 Winterland "Monster Jam"

Rancho Olompali was the Marin County retreat for the Grateful Dead in Spring 1966, before they moved to 710 Ashbury (via Western Marin) in September.  It was owned by Don McCoy, who later lived across the street at 715 Ashbury. In 1967, McCoy started a commune called The Chosen Family. A fire caused by faulty wiring burned down the mansion. I assume that this Ralph Gleason column item from the San Francisco Chronicle (from Monday, March 17, 1969), refers to the fire's aftermath. It says "Tonight at Winterland, there's a benefit for Olompali with a monster jam session, light shows by both Jerry Abrams and Glenn McKay and also the Garden of Delights."

I know nothing else about this show except what you are reading here. Nevertheless, a Monday night rock show at the largest rock venue in San Francisco, with three established light shows, suggests that someone interesting was expected to show up at the jam. Given the connections between Don McCoy and the Grateful Dead, it does at least hint that Jerry Garcia and/or members of the Dead might be there. Glenn McKay was the Airplane's light show man, so that hints at some members of the Airplane who might like to jam (as the t-shirt says, if you don't know Jorma, you don't know Jack).

Most San Francisco bands didn't work Monday nights, and both the Dead's and the Airplane's March touring itinerary puts them in town. I don't know how to pursue this any further, but I'd certainly be looking for a Jorma and Jack, Mickey and The Hartbeats kind of thing. [update: As you can see in the Comments, Ross found that my supposition was largely correct].

Rancho Olompali, and the mansion on it, had a long and complicated history dating back to 1843, General Vallejo and Mexican California. The property had ended up in the hands of the University of San Francisco by the 1950s. In the 1960s, they attempted to sell it various times, but when various buyers defaulted, the property kept reverting back to USF. I assume Don McCoy gave up on the property as well. In 1977, the State of California purchased the property from USF, and turned it into Olompali Historic State Park. The address of the park is 8901 Old Redwood Highway, 3.5 miles East of Novato, CA.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Matrix, 3138 Fillmore Street San Francisco, CA Lightnin' Hopkins, JC Burris, Jean Ball: October 1, 1965

I have posted this review from Rag Baby magazine (Vol 1, No. 2 - October 1965) as it provides a good insight in to the structure of the performances at the Matrix shortly after it opened on August 13. The article is uncredited but I am pretty certain that it was written by ED Denson, who would go on to help shape the careers of Country Joe and The Fish. The only changes I have made to the review are a minor edit to the first paragraph, the addition of the graphics and the amendment of Lightning to Lightnin'. Otherwise the review has stood the test of time for nearly 45 years.

Lightnin’ Hopkins opened at the Matrix, a folk club, to a varied audience. The hippies turned out, and were mixed with the collegiate crowd and a few people who looked society. A few blacks were here and there in the audience - almost all in the collegiate or society categories. The emcee asked Lightnin’ how to introduce him: "just say an old blues singer". But when he hit the stage he was king. He slowly and carefully made certain that everything was set as he wanted it, and between numbers for the first half of the set he had his manager or one of the club owners come up and make adjustments on the amplifier, or move things around on the stage.

The set opened with a fast rocker, and then a Chicago sounding modern blues. Slowing down the pace he played a really fine version of "Baby Please Don't Go" - the audience was beginning to yell now when he hit long notes - and then he dropped into a really slow blues. He was playing flashily: hitting slam chords at the ends of measures, picking the bass strings all the way up the neck, moving his hands all over the gui tar, striking long slow "soul" notes, and mak-ing those incredible long runs which are his trademark. The audience was picking up on it. Cries of "play it baby" rang out, and J. C. Burris - a long time friend of Lightnin's - was whooping and yelling from his seat by Lightnin's wife. When the number stopped the requests began to come in, and he played "It’s Mighty Crazy (how they keep on rubbing at the same old thing)" - a bawdy novelty piece. The next request was for "Rocky Mountain", a blues with mediocre lyrics , and then the set was closed with a fast finger-picking piece Lightnin’ calls "The Old Folks Dance". It is a raggy song in the style of John Hurt or Mance Lipscomb, and is a half-joking put-down. Lightnin’ picked so fast that the notes blended in the amplifier and sounded like a horn. The audience was wild.

During the break the house, which had been jammed, cleared somewhat and Lightnin’ sat at his table talking to his wife, cousin, and J.C. Burris, surrounded by an entourage which had swollen to 12, all drinking free as the performer's party. Jean Ball played, and then J.C. Burris, and the audience was warmed up. When Lightnin’ got back on the stage the house was full and excited. This time he gave them a set with messages in it. He started with a genre song:

I don't want your woman, mister,
please don't mess with mine.
She's bowlegged and knock-kneed
and she sticks out behind,
but she's mine.

and the audience really dug it. They laughed so much they could hardly hear the words. He followed it with a song about J.C. Burris. The audience laughed thru the first half of it before they realized that he was serious when he said they should help J.C. out when they could. "You know when a man got to leave all he's got, that's hard". He was talking between the verses, telling about J. C. losing his house in New York, and his family. J.C. would yell "that's right" periodically and nudge the boy at the next table so that he would give him another glass of beer.

The mood lightened with "Mojo Hand" and you could see people in the audience intently following every note, every twist and turn in these Hopkins runs. They were yelling comments now, and after the song requests came in thick, Lightnin’ joked about wigs for a while and then sang "Deep Sea Diver", the party song for the set. Once the listeners realized what it was about they howled, and then Lightnin’ got serious again.

In the afternoon he had told the reporter that he was born in a field, and had spent his youth travelling in wagons, and now he was afraid of airplanes. Whereas the younger generation had it easy - they had been born into a modern world, and their parents had enough money to send them to college. "If I had gone to college ..." he began. But "some people hold guitars in their hands and some people hold pencils". The gulf had been deeper than Lightnin’ had realized, for the reporter had grown up in Chicago and never heard of Howling Wolf, or Little Walter, or Sonny Boy Williamson - his parents wouldn't let him go into the section of town where the blues clubs were. Anyway Lightnin’ was still thinking about his childhood that evening, and he played a piece that never stopped rocking, and yet was one of the most beautiful blues I have heard. He told about being a child and peeping into his girlfriend's house and seeing her asleep in the moonlight. "Mean Old Frisco" followed, and then Lightnin’ sang another song about his childhood. This time it was about picking cotton in the hot sun and watching his mother tally up the day's wages for the family. When he got up to end the set the audience cheered and called for at least a full minute while Lightnin’ hesitated. He sat down again, played a take-off on Ray Charles, and then left the stage.

On the way back to Berkeley he talked about J. C- Burris.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

2629 Bayshore Blvd, San Francisco, CA The Moonrose Forest (formerly George's Log Cabin) November 1969

Some mysteries seem bound to remain mysterious, but they are no less fascinating for that. I have been reviewing the Entertainment Section (Datebook) for the San Francisco Chronicle for the latter half of the sixties, and each day it would include a brief listing of performances that were opening that day. This included both performers beginning long runs and one-night stands. Because of the way newspapers were constructed back in the day, the paper required a column of variable length for each edition. The Chronicle made a point to feature major events and regular advertisers, but if space needed to be filled, they stuffed in events that seemed interesting in order to fill the column inches. 

The rock venues listed in the 60s Datebook are mostly familiar to me, even if they are now obscure, but my eyes are attuned now to curiosities. In September 1969 occasional mentions occurred for a venue called George's Log Cabin, in a distant part of the City. I paid little attention until I reached the November 14 edition, which promoted the opening of "The Deviants and Life at Moonrose Forest (formerly George's Log Cabin), 2629 Bayshore boulevard." The Deviants were perhaps the London Underground's most notorious band, claiming to be the first band to be introduced on stage as punk-rockers (in July 1967) and spawning a host of nefarious progeny. They did one disastrous North American tour in the Fall of 1969--did they end up on the edge of San Francisco?

A brief glimpse at the openings for that Friday are pretty surprising--the Velvet Underground in the midst of a long, intermittent run at the Matrix, soul legend Solomon Burke at Basin Street West on Broadway, and some obscure legends at the newly re-opened New Old Fillmore on Geary (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had opened the night before at Fillmore West and thus did not appear in the Friday list). Yet if the Deviants played, they were unquestionably the rarest sound on tap that night, and that's saying a lot. We may never know the answer--but what can we find out?

The Deviants
The story of The Deviants, also known as The Social Deviants, seems like a work of fiction. Indeed, Deviant lead singer and lyricist Mick Farren is a prolific writer of fiction (and non-fiction), and in some ways The Deviants were like a literary creation, except that they actually existed in the flesh. In the mid-60s, "Deviants" or "Social Deviants" was a scientific term, and not one of praise, so naming a band after a term for troublemaking nonconformists was a threatening proposition. Among many other features, the Deviants were the bad boys in the London Underground scene, friendly with the local Hells Angels and too scary to play the UFO Club (the London counterpart to the Fillmore). I am hardly an expert on Mick Farren, but that hardly matters, since Mick Farren speaks for himself quite eloquently on the story of The Deviants.

By 1969, The Deviants had released three albums, and had a sort of cult following, and they had even made it into the UFO Club. After some personnel changes, the rest of the band (besides lead singer Farren) was guitarist Paul Rudolph, bassist Duncan Sanderson and drummer Russell Hunter. Although no live recordings exist (known to me), the group apparently sounded like Blue Cheer with an agenda, or the MC5 with an accent--loud, angry and on the edge.

The Deviants had set out on a North American tour, which collapsed disastrously when Farren was pushed out of the band in Vancouver. The only known date of the tour (to me) was September 25 through 28 at the Colonial Music Hall in Vancouver, where the band was advertised as "England's Leading Underground Group." Farren has chronicled his own adventures over the years, but the activities of The Deviants in North America after Farren was forced out of the band are unknown. The Deviants apparently continued to tour. Did they wind up in San Francisco six weeks later, to spend at least a week at a venue on the Southern edge of the City, far from the Fillmore West and the Haight Ashbury, and even the Family Dog on The Great Highway?

The next week's Friday Datebook (November 21, 1969) lists a new headliner at the Moonrose Forest: Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks, The Deviants, Life and 20 Dollar Friendship are all booked for the weekend. Dan Hicks was an original Charlatan, whose "psychedelic swing" band had moved from a part-time to a full time occupation with the demise of the Charlatans. The engagingly named 20 Dollar Friendship are completely unknown to me.

The remaining Deviants, if indeed they were the English band, were still a formidably crazy bunch. In early 1970, Rudolph, Sanderson and Hunter had returned to London and joined the infamous John "Twink" Adler to form an even more notorious group called The Pink Fairies. The Pink Fairies favored anarchy, drugs and publicity stunts, and their story is too demented to retell here. Suffice to say, the Pink Fairies played key roles in the future of Hawkwind and Motorhead. If the Rudoph/Sanderson/Hunter trio played San Francisco, even hardened Blue Cheer fans would have been surprised at the jolting sounds of the proto-Fairie Deviants. If it was them, what were they doing at Moonrose Forest, and why would anyone put a rock club on Bayshore Boulevard? That leads us to our next mystery.

George's Log Cabin, 2629 Bayshore Boulevard
The Bayshore Highway was constructed in the 1920s and completed in 1937, designed to accommodate the new flow of traffic created by numerous bridges across the bay (The Dumbarton, San Mateo, Bay and Golden Gate Bridges were all completed during this period). The undivided four-lane road ran from Army Street (now Cesar Chavez) in San Francisco down to San Jose. The section in San Francisco's Visitacion Valley was known as "The Bloody Bayshore" due to the numerous accidents. Increasing traffic required changing the Bayshore from a Highway, with crossings and lights, to an uninterrupted Freeway. The first section of the Bayshore Freeway was completed in 1949. Most of the Freeway replaced the old Bayshore Highway, but in 1957 a section of the freeway was built on a landfill causeway from San Francisco Airport to Candlestick Cove, replacing the most dangerous part of the "Bloody Bayshore." This left the old Bayshore Highway to be renamed "Bayshore Boulevard," and what was once a main thoroughfare from the Peninsula to San Francisco became just another neighborhood artery, separated by a lagoon from US 101 and the new baseball stadium at Candlestick Point.

George's Log Cabin appears to have indeed been a log cabin. The Bayshore Highway (now Boulevard) is at the edge of one of the Southernmost San Francisco neighborhoods, Visitacion Valley.  San Francisco is a County as well as a City, and the edge of the City borders San Mateo County. Just before and after Prohibition, Counties had different laws about drinking and gambling. A remarkable artifact from a book on the history of the Visitacion Valley has an old napkin from George's Log Cabin (precise date uncertain)

a patron recalls  that there was a
line painted across the floor of George's Log Cabin on Bayshore. "If you were on the South side of the line on San Mateo County, you could gamble and drink to all hours, but on the North side you'd be in San Francisco, where gambling was illegal and their was a time limit on drinking."
The exact date of these doings at the Log Cabin is unclear. San Mateo County capitalized on being looser than San Francisco, and George's Log Cabin depended on that (Brisbane's Seven Mile House, a a short distance away on 2800 Bayshore, and still open for business, was even more notorious).

According to the book, sometime in the mid-1960s the Log Cabin (visible in the photos on the link) was taken over by a statuary company called Silvestri's. Given the peculiar information I have stumbled on in the Chronicle, the Silvestri's takeover was probably a bit later, in the early 1970s perhaps, or perhaps the Log Cabin briefly mixed day and nighttime uses.

Moonrose Forest
The history of Use Permits in California (and most places) made it so that it was always easier to start a rock venue at a place where music, dancing and refreshments were already approved. Many of the most famous rock establishments, not least the Fillmore and Avalon, had been long time venues for music and dancing. It seems plausible that some entity or other looking to start its own joint found an existing club down on its luck and available cheap, and was able to convert it to a rock music club because no additional approval was required.

My only clue about Moonrose Forest is that there was a Bay Area band called Moonrose Forest, started by bassist Michael Husser. Husser had been in a group called Martha's Laundry, a quite fascinating band for one that never recorded and may not have even been that great (per its own members), but some very interesting people were in that group (including Randall Smith and David Kessner, for those who recognize the names). Moonrose Forest backed Buffy St. Marie for a while,  in late 1968. Did members of the group decide to start their own nightclub? Its an intriguing possibility, and completely unknown, like everything else in this story.

Speculative Conclusions
What do we know for facts?
  • There was a club on the San Francisco County Line called George's Log Cabin, that started booking rock music in late 1969
  • In November 1969, George's Log Cabin changed its name to Moonrose Forest and at least once booked a "name" act (Dan Hicks)
  • Moonrose Forest also booked a group called The Deviants for two weekends when the infamous English group of the same name may have still been touring North America
  • Beyond the listing, no firm evidence survives of The Deviants possible visit to Bayshore Boulevard
What can we speculate?
  • The Deviants, bad boys of the sixties London Underground, ended up in San Francisco in November 1969, proving Oscar Wilde's adage "every one who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco."
  • Instead of playing the Family Dog, the Matrix or some downtown palace of sin, The Deviants played a newly re-purposed nightclub on the wrong side of the City, far from any Underground, hipsters or artistes
  • The place they played had a dark and ribald history, well suited for the Deviants and their kind, but lost in the mists of time
  • Someone is still alive with a recovered memory of a strange night on Bayshore Boulevard with some English crazies who sounded like Blue Cheer and packed an attitude
  • Mick Farren is more writer than performer, but still alive and well, and still occasionally working with a band called The Deviants, even if they are a different bunch
  • The remaining Deviants, who became The Pink Fairies, are still out there (in all senses) and recorded as recently as 2008
  • A. Silvestri's Inc. Home Furnishings moved across the street (to 2630 Bayshore Blvd) in the previous decade, but the Log Cabin is still in use as a showroom. The structure (or some of it, anyway) is visible on Google Street View (2635 Bayshore Blvd, San Francisco, CA, 94134)

View Larger Map
  • The once moribund Visitacion Valley neighborhood now has a streetcar, for the first time since the 1930s, and the Sunnydale Station, right in front of the old Log Cabin (at Sunnydale and Bayshore) is the terminus for the T-3rd Street line, so the area is predicted to be the next thriving City neighborhood
None of my speculations may be true, or all of them may be. Or somewhere in between. Someone knows--but do they remember?

Update: thanks to Ross's excellent research (in the Comments), we know that the venue was called the Polynesian Hideaway in 1966-67, and as George's Log Cabin it was booking rock bands as early as June 1969. More importantly, we know that the (English) Deviants played The Matrix--a more likely spot for them--in November, so they were definitely in San Francisco, meaning its very likely they were The Deviants who played Moonrose Forest.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

W Powell Blvd(US-26) at SE 190th Avenue, Gresham, OR: Springer's Ballroom 1969-72

(A poster for a Sons Of Champlin/Portland Zoo/Total Eclipse show at Springer's Ballroom, July 4, 1969. h/t Ross for the scan)

Although I know relatively little about Springer's Ballroom, and it only became a rock venue in 1969, it seems like a venue with an intriguing history. Like many 60s and 70s venues, Springer's Ballroom only persists in our consciousness due to the Grateful Dead. For many years, a lively board tape of a January 16, 1970 Springer's show circulated widely in Deadhead  collector's circles, complete with the tantalizing announcement that BB King would play soon after (Friday February 6, 1970) and the Dead would return two days after, on Sunday. Just 35 short years later, the Dead released the Sunday night concert (Jan 18, 1970) as Volume 2 of their Download Series. This post will collect what little information I have been able to piece together about the venue, as well as some interesting observations about its possible significance.

Springer's Ballroom: Location
Speaking generally, most underground 60s rock scenes began in residential areas near downtown that had been deserted by middle class families for the suburbs (that certainly describes the Haight Ashbury). Once rock became big business, however, the audiences for the music was suburban as well, so the main venues were either suburban or easily accessible from the suburbs via public transit or available parking. This meant that funky downtown venues, like the Fillmore or the Crystal Ballroom, were both too small and too inaccessible to the broadening suburban rock audience.  In most cases, the venues of the early 70s were larger Civic Auditoriums and Sports Arenas that had only been used for the likes of The Beatles in the 1960s. In Portland, for example, that meant the Portland Memorial Coliseum, the principal sports and entertainment facility for the region.

What little I know about Springer's Ballroom seems to fit the typical pattern. The initial flowering of the Portland scene, at the Crystal Ballroom, Caffe Espresso and elsewhere was all in the traditional downtown. Springer's, however, was not only about 15 miles East of Dowtown--it wasn't even in Portland. Springer's appears to have actually been in the suburban town of Gresham, OR. I assume that Gresham is one of those towns (like Ballard, WA) that has long been acclimated to being considered part of a larger city next door, but since I know no one from Gresham I can't say that for a fact. All the posters for Springer's Ballroom give directions from downtown Portland--"Powell to 190th, turn right"--which shows the orientation, but in fact Springer's was not in Portland. I doubt that bands such as the Grateful Dead even realized that.

The cityscape of Gresham, OR has changed considerably since the early 1970s, and now you can no longer go on W Powell Blvd and turn right on SE 190th Avenue. It appears that an interchange, a park, and some sort of apartment complex are part of a re-design of the area. In approximate terms, however, the apartment (or condo) at 1124 SW Pleasant View Drive (Gresham OR 97080) appears to be near what must have been the location of Springer's Ballroom. This is only speculation on my part. Anyone who can illuminate this further, whether current or former Greshamites or Google Earth experts (you know who you are), is encouraged to weigh in.

Update: Commenter Troy has the real scoop:
Your location estimate is a bit off... the exact address of Springer's was 18300 SE Richey Rd (Gresham, OR 97080). This is confirmed by some severely outdated search results when you Google the term "springers flea market."

More importantly though, I can confirm the location firsthand. We used to visit the weekend flea market from Portland once every month or so in the 80s. As a kid, I wondered what the building had been previously used for. Definitely a ballroom vibe, with a small elevated platform on one side and a concessions counter in the back as you entered. (The latter was still in use during flea market hours.)

When I lived near Gresham 10 years ago, I was told that the vague directions on many of the posters ("Out Powell to 190th — Turn right") was all that was needed, since there were scattered signs along 190th (now Pleasant View Drive) leading you on to the right turn at Richey.

The building was ultimately razed by a fire in the late-80s. (I could be a tad off on that, but I definitely know it was well before I moved to Gresham in '91.) 
Springer's Ballroom: History
This too is a murky subject. A gentleman selling old vacuum tubes on eBay had a lot that came from
a huge old dance hall called Springer's Ballroom in Portland, Oregon. Springer's was famous for some Grateful Dead and Byrds performances in the 60s and 70s. For many many years before that it was a popular venue for big band swing, country and western music. Many famous groups played there
This seems like a plausible story. Some Grateful Dead material suggests that the venue was called "Springer's Inn." It seems plausible that the venue was a riverside resort of some kind, no doubt connected to the Springwater Division Line railroad (also known as The Portland Traction Company), which was essential to the development of communities like Gresham that were directly East of Portland. Powell at 190th was the site of the Linnemann Station (still extant), and the railroad encouraged excursions on weekends. The area was a destination for the first half of the 20th century, but once the automobile replaced the railroads for passenger travel, many travel patterns changed. The Springwater Division stopped passenger service in 1958, and I assume that Springer's Ballroom (and/or Inn) declined with it.

Although the reasons for using Springer's Ballroom may have been one of convenience, in that it was probably a cheap, pleasant old hall without a lot of neighbors who would be bothered by noise, it still parallels the movement of 1960s rock from the City Center to the Suburbs. One intriguing detail of the poster for the January 16, 1970 show is that it says "No Age Limit!" suggesting something restrictive about Portland venues at the time. Since Gresham wasn't in Portland, Portland statutes wouldn't apply, but I don't know if I am reading too much into the statement--perhaps it was just emphasizing that there wasn't a bar.

Springers Ballroom: Owners and Promoters
I do not know the circumstances of the ownership, lease or promotions of Springer's Ballroom. A number of 1969 posters say "Jim Felt Presents." Jim Felt was a regular figure in the Portland concert scene, but I'm not certain if he was some sort of exclusive lessor at Springer's Ballroom, whether he promoted a lot of shows there, or whether he was just one of a number of promoters using the hall. We do know that the Velvet Underground show was promoted by someone who worked for their equipment manufacturer (Sunn), but that show could have been promoted through a sub-lease.

The open historical question is whether there were numerous shows at Springer's in 1969 and beyond, and we only have posters for a few, or whether it was a hall that was only used for somewhat larger touring acts. I am more inclined to believe there were many more shows, if not likely to feature out-of-state headliners, but I can't be sure yet. Jim Felt appears to still be around in Portland, so perhaps there is a lot more to learn.

Rock Shows at Springer's Ballroom
May 30, 1969 Grateful Dead/Palace Meat Market
The earliest record of Springer's comes from a poster advertising two Oregon Grateful Dead concerts: Friday May 30 at Springer's, and the next night at the basketball arena (McArthur Court) at the University of Oregon, about 120 miles South in Eugene. The Palace Meat Market, an Oregon group, appears to have opened both shows.

The poster (above) says "Springer's Hall." At other times, I have seen the venue referred to as Springer's Inn; I take that to mean that the ballroom was associated with a resort hotel, which seems likely. Rather than give a specific address, the poster just gives directions from downtown Portland: "take Powell to 190th, turn right." Powell Boulevard (which is also US Highway 26) is one of the main East-West thoroughfares in Portland, so the simple directions would work. The lack of an actual street address suggests that the venue stood alone, one of the ways I am fairly certain that present-day Gresham has been significantly redeveloped.

A board tape of the show endures. The Grateful Dead always played amazingly well in Oregon.

June 20-21, 1969 Cold Blood/Stoneground
Other dates at Springer's Ballroom are only known through surviving posters. Both Cold Blood and Stoneground were rising Bay Area bands at this time.

July 4, 1969 Sons of Champlin/Portland Zoo/Total Eclipse
The poster (top) calls the venue "Springer's Ballroom." The Sons once again were a popular San Francisco group, in the Northwest to play a festival with the Jefferson Airplane. Portland Zoo and Total Eclipse were popular Portland bands. 

July 18, 1969 Youngbloods/Portland Zoo/River/Ron Bruce
The Youngbloods continue the theme of popular Fillmore/Avalon bands headlining Springer's. Its possible that there were only posters for out-of-town headliners, and there may have been considerably more shows, perhaps every weekend. July 18 was a Friday night, so I assume the Youngbloods had another show in the Pacific Northwest Saturday night, but I haven't been able to figure out where.

July 20, 1969 Sweetwater/Portland Zoo/US Cadenza
[update] Thanks to Commenter Bert Paul, who kept the handbill, we know that Sweetwater headlined on this day. Sweetwater was a rising Los Angeles band, who played Woodstock, but soon afterwards was force to go dormant because singer Nancy Nevins was in a car accident.

July 26, 1969 Spirit/Total Eclipse/Gazebo
[update] Known from another handbill kept by Bert Paul. Spirit was a mighty band indeed, although their legend only became cemented after the original configuration of the band broke up in 1971.

November 18, 1969 Charlie Musselwhite/Notary Sojac
Chicago blues harmonica ace Charlie Musselwhite had been based in San Francisco since 1967. Notary Sojac was from Tigard, OR, a suburb West of Portland.

November 21, 1969 Velvet Underground/Chapter Five
The Velvet Underground were spending a lot of time on the West Coast during this period. Richie Unterberger's excellent VU chronology White Light/White Heat (Jawbone Books 2009)includes some interesting information, namely that the show was promoted by Don MacLeod, a production manager for Sunn Instruments in Tualatin, OR (VU used Sunn equipment). This suggests, to some extent, that various promoters were using the ballroom. The book reports that about 800 people attended the show.

December 12, 1969 Country Joe and The Fish/Notary Sojac
My assumption is that there were regular shows at Springer's Ballroom, but only some of them featured out of town headliners that justified the expense of a custom poster. I do not yet have any way of confirming my assumption, however--perhaps the venue was only used for more substantial acts. Country Joe and The Fish were an extremely popular band at the time, bigger than contemporaries like the Grateful Dead or the Steve Miller Band.

1970 and beyond
In general I am not pursuing venue research beyond 1969. Nonetheless, I will mention a few high profile dates that I am aware of:

January 16, 1970-Grateful Dead/River
One song ("Easy Wind") was released as a bonus track on the expanded Workingman's Dead cd in 2001. The poster is here.
January 18, 1970-Grateful Dead
The concert was released as Volume Two of the Grateful Dead's Download Series, in 2005.
February 6, 1970-BB King
Known from a stage announcement from the January 16 Dead show
April ?-, 1970 Boz Scaggs
A bootleg tape circulates. This would be one of the earliest Boz Scaggs solo performances in circulation.
July 10, 1971-Brewer and Shipley/Kobolden and Keep
Known from a poster
November 11, 1971-The Byrds/Bill Withers
This show was promoted as "The New Rock And Roll Circus," and was part of a three-date Northwest tour (Springer's, then Seattle, then Gonzaga College in Spokane).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

1119 SW Park Avenue, Portland, OR Masonic Temple Rock Performance List 1966-69

(a poster advertising the Grateful Dead and regional bands Poverty's People, US Cadenza and Nigells, from Tuesday, July 18, 1967)

I have been working through the history of psychedelic rock in Portland, Oregon in the late 1960s. Portland makes an interesting study, as it was very much a part of the West Coast scene, but not quite economically robust enough to create lasting traction. I have made a pretty good start at identifying the history of the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, and I am working on other projects as well (see here and here). However, the nature of the Oregon scene at the time meant that there was relatively little contemporary record of concerts and other events at the time. As a result, some intriguing venues remain somewhat mysterious. Perhaps the most fascinating venue, beyond the Crystal, was the Masonic Temple ballroom.

The Masonic Temple was built in 1925, at 1119 SW Park Avenue at SW Jefferson Street. The Masonic Temple building is now part of the Portland Art Museum (the address is 1219 SW Park).  The 4-story building still includes the Grand Ballroom, which is probably a remodeled version of the Ballroom used for rock concerts in the 1960s. The current capacity is about 1000 (per the site), so perhaps up to twice that many could have been squeezed in.The Masonic Temple was a regular, if intermittent venue for Portland rock concerts in the 60s. I do not know if a specific promoter controlled the lease; more likely, the hall was simply for rent. In particular, the Masonic Temple had a number of high profile Fillmore-type bands in the Summer of 1967, exactly when the Crystal Ballroom was at a low ebb since its founding partners (Mike Magaurn and Whitey Davis) were in absentia that Summer. There seems to have been intermittent concerts throughout the end of the 1960s, but our information is spotty.

The definitive work on the Portland music and cultural scene as folk music transformed into electric rock is Valerie Brown's excellent article in the Oregon Historical Quarterly of Summer 2007, Music On The Cusp: Folk To Acid Rock in Portland Coffeehouses 1967-70. However, Brown's superb research is focused more on the musicians themselves rather than the specific concert venues, and while she alludes to the Masonic, that is not the focus of her article. Since there is so little information extant, I am posting what little information is available, along with some informed speculation on my part, in the hopes of finding out more.

The random shreds of information available about rock concerts at the Masonic Temple offer tantalizing hints of out-of-town bands and a thriving local scene. Yet hints can be deceiving--perhaps only the most interesting events are memorialized, and the truth is smaller and duller. I am inclined towards the former possibility, however, and have pursued this on the assumption that Portland's Masonic Temple is an interesting story waiting to be told. Anyone who recalls more about specific shows at Masonic Temple in the 60s, or knows anything about the promoters or economic backdrop, or even just has intriguing speculation, please Comment or email me.

Portland Masonic Temple Performance List: 1966-69

October 29, 1966 PH Phactor Jug Band/US Cadenza/The Weeds/ Inc w/Joe Uris/The Sodgamoli Jug Band/Dave Coffin/Earl Benson
The first rock poster presents a mixture of electric rock bands (The Weeds and US Cadenza) and more folk-oriented acts. The Weeds would have just arrived in Portland at this time, probably the week before, having run out of gas on the way to Vancouver. This show was not the first "ballroom" rock concert in Portland (that is another topic), but it represents a very early event(h/t Ross for the Masonic posters).

July 15, 1967 Battle of The Bands
United Travel Service was one of the bands (which is how we know the date). This suggests that many of the events featured local bands, and were more oriented towards dancing than anything else. I simply have no idea of whether there were many or few concerts at the Masonic Temple between October 1966 and July 1967.

July 18, 1967 Grateful Dead/Poverty’s People/U.S. Cadenza/Nigells
The Grateful Dead had played in Portland before, at the “Portland Acid Test” at Beaver Hall (at 425 NW Glisan) in January 1966 (the exact date has never been satisfactorily confirmed to my knowledge), but this was the first time they played an advertised rock concert. Anticipating future touring, the Dead had played the weekend in Seattle and Vancouver, and played a Tuesday night on their way back to San Francisco.

In the 1960s, while many bands flew from concert to concert, their equipment traveled by truck, and most major engagements were on weekends. Many medium sized cities thus featured mid-week rock concerts on weeknights, as bands migrated from city to city. This touring schedule was particularly prominent for cities on major Interstate Highways. Thus bands playing California and then Chicago might play weeknight shows in Salt Lake City, Omaha or Des Moines, because they were intermediate stops on I-80.

In the case of Portland, even the limited information available to us now suggests that the relatively small Masonic Temple could host weeknight shows by Fillmore headliners who were in between California and Seattle or Vancouver. Portland (particularly in the 1960s) was considerably smaller than any of those cities, but was more or less halfway from San Francisco to Seattle on I-5.

July 26, 1967 The Doors
At this time, although The Doors were extremely popular on the strength of their debut album and the single “Light My Fire,” they were still considered an “underground” band. The Doors would never play an Oregon venue as small as the Masonic Temple again. This was a Wednesday night show, and once again Portland fans benefited from being in the middle of the West Coast (besides the obvious inherent advantages of living in Portland).

August 11, 1967  Moby Grape/Peanut Butter Conspiracy
This date comes from The Peanut Butter Conspiracy list of shows, which refers to a double bill with Moby Grape. The Moby Grape list does not confirm this booking. However, while Moby Grape was billed at The Avalon (August 10 thru 13), on at least one or all of those shows they did not play. Supposedly it was because Skip Spence was unavailable, but perhaps it was because they had a gig in Portland.

In any case, although not widely regarded today, the Conspiracy were a popular band amongst hippies, and whether or not Moby Grape played, the Masonic Temple seems to have had another interesting show by an out-of-town band (or two). There is a chance that the Conspiracy and Moby Grape actually took place at the Crystal Ballroom, but concerts during the Summer of Love in Portland seems to be a murky subject indeed.

December 29, 1967 Family Tree/Gentlemen Wild/Poverty’s People/Sound Vendor/Echoes/Epix  “Grand Opening”
The poster says “Grand Opening”, but its not clear what that means. Presumably new promoters had taken over, but of course its unknown whether there were concerts at the Masonic Temple since the Summer. I will note that while our information about Portland rock concerts stems almost exclusively from surviving posters, it does seem that Masonic posters pop up when there was little or no known activity at the Crystal Ballroom. I know of no Crystal concerts between December 3, 1967 and February 2, 1968, and while I wouldn't read too much into those dates, there may not have been room for two concert halls in Portland. The Crystal was the leading rock venue in Portland until July 1968, when it closed, and no Masonic Temple posters seem to have endured from that specific time period.

The Family Tree was a Northern California band with a great live reputation who were very popular in Oregon. Lead singer Bob Segarini went on to lead both Roxy and The Wackers, among other bands.

June 1, 1968  “Rock Festival”
25 bands including Portland Zoo/The Epix/Stone Garden/Brigade/Soundvendor/Music-Box/The Redcoats/The Echoes/The Mod’s/The Wom-Bats/The Quents/The Phantoms/Fringe Benefit/Peppermint Express/The Le-Sabres/Back Street Electric Band/C.C. Riders/Dark Ages/Peace Corps/The Grail/The Band of Angels/US Cadenza/others
It seems surprising that all the bands played in one day, but then there are multiple floors at the Masonic Temple, so perhaps this took place in multiple rooms. Once again, I have no idea how much or how often there were concerts at the Masonic after the December "Grand Opening."
July 10, 1968 Kaleidoscope/Crazy World of Arthur Brown
The Kaleidoscope, who invented "World Music" about 25 years before most of the world (Jimmy Page and a few others excepted) were ready for it, had played some well received shows at the Crystal Ballroom in May. It seems surprising that the Kaleidoscope wouldn't play the Crystal again, but I take it that the Crystal was on very shaky financial footing and may have already closed by this time. The City of Portland officially closed the Crystal on July 12, 1968, but the venue may not have put on shows for some weeks prior to this.

Arthur Brown is best known for his hit single "Fire," and the band was reputed to have a wild stage show in an era when bands usually just stared at their amplifiers while they jammed. Both the Kaleidoscope and Arthur Brown had records and a following, so once again the Masonic seems to be stepping into a breech left by the (imminent) demise of the Crystal Ballroom.

November 8, 1968 Thundering Heard/Muddy Valley/Crawdad Band
This date comes from a poster or flyer or advertised for auction. It suggests that many local bands played regular gigs at Masonic Temple, but of course its hard to say for sure.

March 16, 1969 Paul Butterfield Blues Band/Pulse
The poster says “Temple Dance”, but the venue is not actually the Masonic Temple. The show took place a few blocks away, in one of the ballrooms at the Governor Hotel at 614 SW 11th Street (at Alder). The Governor Hotel was built in 1909 (as The Seward Hotel), and has several ballrooms. The Hotel and the ballrooms are still in use.

The term “Temple Dance” suggests that it is a “Brand Name” (to use a modern term) that would be a self-evident reference, another sign that there were many more Masonic Temple events than we have posters for. The same bill, with Butterfield Blues Band and Pulse, had played Seattle’s Eagles Auditorium the night before (Saturday, March 15 1969). Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop had long since left the Butterfield Blues Band (in 1967 and 68 respectively), but guitarist Buzzy Feiten and a horn section supported Butterfield admirably.

The Light Show was provided by PH Martin's Magic Medicine Show, which presumably was Gary Ewing's popular light show at the Crystal Ballroom. The hip Portland music scene was small, so its reasonable to assume that there were many more connections between the Masonic Temple and the Crystal Ballroom.

April 13, 1969 Deep Purple
This was the original version of  Deep Purple (with Rod Evans on vocals), touring the West Coast behind their hit single “Hush.” It’s possible that Deep Purple was not the headliner. As this is a Sunday night show, one is left to speculate whether this performance was actually at the Masonic Temple or at the Governor Hotel, as for the Butterfield show above.

June 25, 1969 Steve Miller Band/Total Eclipse/United States Cadenza
June 25 was a Wednesday night. The random assortment of dates that we have found for the Masonic Temple makes it hard to guess whether weeknight gigs were typical or rare. However, we know that the Steve Miller Band were on their way to Seattle, where they played the next night (June 26), and probably elsewhere, so once again Portlanders were treated to a weeknight headliner by virtue of their location.

The Steve Miller Band would have just released their excellent third album, Brave New World, in June of 1969. Boz Scaggs and organist Jim Peterman had left the group, and I'm not certain if guitarist Bobby Winkelmann would have joined by this time. The group may have just been a trio with Miller, bassist Lonnie Turner and drummer Tim Davis.

July 29-30, 1969 Steve Miller Band/Alice Cooper/Total Eclipse
These gigs were for a Tuesday and Wednesday night. Alice Cooper had recently signed with Frank Zappa’s Straight Records label, and would have been touring in conjunction with their first album (Pretties For You). There were major events in the Pacific Northwest the previous weekend, including the Seattle Pop Festival in Woodinville, WA (July 25-27) and the one-day Eugene Pop Festival (Saturday July 26). Alice Cooper was playing both events, and I assume that Steve Miller Band played at least one of them, although they weren't billed for either of them.

I have only vague information about rock concerts at the Masonic Temple after 1969. That in itself does not mean anything, given the scattered nature of our sources, but the concert business changed considerably after 1969. I do know of a Sons Of Champlin poster that is probably from the early 1970s (on the PNW Band site). In Portland, in particular, an old rule outlawing music at venues that served alcohol was changed in 1973, allowing bars and taverns to compete in the music business, so its unlikely there was a substantial music history to the Masonic Temple after that. In 1992, the building was purchased by its next door neighbor, the Portland Art Museum, and it was rechristened the Mark Building.

(The former Masonic Temple today, at 1119 SW Park Avenue, now known as the Mark Building at the Portland Art Museum. photo: wikimedia commons)

The scattered evidence of Portland's Masonic Temple in the 1960s suggests a number of very interesting stories, just beyond my current reach. Anyone with information, corrections or interesting speculation is encouraged to Comment or email.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Some Notes About Whitey Davis

(A late 1966 poster from the Caffe Espresso in Portland, OR, when Whitey Davis was booking the venue. h/t Ross for the scan)

Coleman "Whitey" Davis was an important figure in West Coast psychedelic rock music in the 1960s, but he has been largely forgotten today. As I have begun working on the history of the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, and Oregon psychedelic venues in the 1960s in general, I thought a brief overview of what is known about Davis's fascinating career would be useful, as he will keep re-appearing at a variety of interesting junctures.

Whitey Davis had been the Assistant Manager at the Avalon Ballroom in 1966. He then moved to Portland, where he owned a coffee shop with music called The Folksinger, at 409 SW 13th Ave (at Burnside Street). Thanks to Valerie’s Brown exceptional research, the confusing timeline of Portland coffee house music venues can be clarified. There had been an earlier coffee shop named Caffé Espresso, at SW 6th and Harrison, and it was a famous Portland beatnik hangout, but it had closed in 1965, its owner bought out of his lease for an urban renewal. A popular folk music club called The Folksinger had moved from its original site on SW 10th (across from the Country Library) to 409 SW 13th at W. Burnside.

The Folksinger had a capacity of about 100, and in 1966 manager Whitey Davis began to experiment with blues, jazz and rock bookings as well as folk. Since Davis had worked with Chet Helms and The Family Dog in San Francisco, he was connected to the underground music scene. At some point in late 1966, the Folksinger changed its name to Caffé Espresso, in part probably to avoid the by-then somewhat stale “folk” association.

By early 1967, Davis was promoting rock bands, complete with light shows, on weekends at the Caffé Espresso. Weekdays still featured local folk performers, in a variety of styles. In Portland, somewhat uniquely, clubs that served alcohol were effectively barred from hiring bands (until 1973), so coffee houses did not face competition from conventional rock clubs. The small capacity of Caffé Espresso was frustrating, however, and in January 1967, Whitey Davis found a partner and started to book shows around the corner at the much larger Crystal Ballroom. The booking for the Caffe Espresso was taken over by Larry Howard, but given the close proximity to the Crystal, it is likely that there were at least social connections to Whitey Davis.

In 1967, Davis was also became the manager of a rock band called The Weeds, who had literally run out of gas in Portland (on their way to Vancouver), and played the Folksinger to earn money to travel on. The group ended up staying in Portland. By 1968, however the Weeds had gone to Los Angeles to record, and a new manager changed their name to The Lollipop Shoppe.

Davis and partner Jim Magaurn took over the Crystal Ballroom in January 1967 and managed it through early 1968. In the beginning of 1968, there was an effort to merge the Crystal with Chet Helms’ Family Dog operation, and around that time both partners left the Crystal, albeit on friendly terms. Davis returned to San Francisco to manage the Avalon Ballroom, with a particular emphasis on booking groups throughout the West Coast, at the Crystal Dog in Portland as well as the Avalon. While a Family Dog 'circuit' was an excellent idea, Helms and Davis were about a year too late, and more powerful associations (such as between Bill Graham and Frank Barsalona's Premier Talent Agency) were able to outbid the Dog. Davis left the Family Dog around June 1968.

(the first known poster from The Sound Factory, 1817 Alhambra, Sacramento, June 28-29, 1968. h/t Ross for the scan)

Davis went to Sacramento, California, where he ran a ballroom called The Sound Factory (at 1817 Alhambra). The Sound Factory opened in June, 1968, with great bands and great posters. In return for advertisements on the local underground rock station, KZAP-fm, Davis was a Saturday afternoon dj on the station, so he is fondly remembered in the Sacramento area. However, the Sacramento area was not really big enough to support an ongoing venue, and the Sound Factory was always on shaky financial footing. After various fits and starts, it closed in Spring 1969.

Whitey Davis appears to have become Miles Davis’s road manager from about 1970-72. The surreality of Miles Davis having a white road manager named Whitey Davis can hardly be imagined, and I find it unlikely that it was a different Whitey Davis. However, Whitey Davis died prematurely—I think in  the late 1970s—but he seems to be fondly remembered by those that worked with him. The West Coast 60s rock underground was a considerably smaller universe than it might appear, and Whitey Davis seems to have been a surprisingly important figure. Its unfortunate that there is so little information about him.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Emerald Tablet, Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco June 25-July 16, 1967

Rick Griffin and Victor Moscoso's poster for the June 22-25, 1967 13th Floor Elevators/Charlatans bill at the Avalon [FD67]--h/t Ross for the scan
Ralph J. Gleason's San Francisco Chronicle column for Friday, June 23, 1967, listing the Emerald Tablet as an additional opening act on Sunday, June 25

The history of San Francisco rock music in the 1960s has in many ways been an outgrowth of the fantastic poster art of the era. The legendary Fillmore and Avalon posters, along with other famous ones from the era, were reprinted many times, and have been displayed on dormitory walls and living rooms for decades. Many posters are now more well-known than the bands who actually appeared on the bills they advertise. As a result, the starting point for most 60s San Francisco rock prosopography is a transcription of the performers advertised on the most well-known posters. I myself started my research some years ago by making lists of this sort.

However, as I have done considerably more research in the meantime, I have learned that what was advertised on Fillmore and Avalon posters was at best only part of the story. The complexity of the art work and the practical issues associated with printing meant that the posters had to be commissioned, designed and produced before the show's details were finalized, and many Fillmore and Avalon shows featured somewhat different bills than were advertised. Speaking generally, the headline acts on almost all the Fillmore and Avalon posters usually performed as advertised, there were periodic substitutions for the secondary acts, and there were numerous bands who performed on Fillmore and Avalon bills who were not advertised at all on that weekend's poster. It is the third category that interests me the most, and is the subject of this post.

I have been doing newspaper research (via microfiche) on the 1967 San Francisco Chronicle. The Datebook entertainment section often included detailed information about local "Dance Concerts," as they were referred to, in both the regular listings and in Ralph J. Gleason's Ad Lib columns (on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday). The Chronicle listings were usually based on press releases that were more current than the posters. As a result, when there are differences between a poster and the Chronicle, the Chronicle was more likely to be correct, since the press release was more recent than the poster. In most cases, the principal difference for Fillmore and Avalon bills was the addition of another act, usually a lesser known band, to fill out the bill. In some cases, there were changes to the bands billed on the poster.

However, while the additional bands added to the Fillmore and Avalon bills that have been revealed in the Chronicle are obscure by any normal standards, they are familiar to scholars of 60s San Francisco rock: The Daily Flash, The Other Half, Salvation Army Banned, and so on, while not well known today, were regular bands on the scene, so its not unexpected that they would play the major venues. From my point of view, however, this begs an important question: who were The Emerald Tablet?

The Emerald Tablet, whoever they were, seemed to have played 11 shows at the Avalon between June 25 and July 16, 1967. All of these were mentioned in press releases sent to Ralph Gleason at the Chronicle, so the performances weren't completely ad hoc. The Avalon was a prime San Francisco venue, and bands always welcomed paying bookings. Every band in San Francisco wanted to play the Avalon, so there wouldn't have been any lack of choices. Plus, Helms always had hip ears and found interesting bands, so a band that got a couple of weekends at the Avalon was more likely to be an interesting group than not--how come there is no trace whatsoever of The Emerald Tablet? I am presenting what little evidence I have here, in the hopes someone may shed some light.

June 25, 1967 13th Floor Elevators/The Charlatans/Emerald Tablet
As shown by the clip above, the Emerald Tablet seem to only be playing on Sunday.

June 29-30, 1967 Quicksilver Messenger Service/Mt. Rushmore/Emerald Tablet
This clip from Ralph Gleason's June 28, 1967 Ad Lib column shows the Tablet opening on a Thursday night.

June 1-July 2, 1967 Big Brother and The Holding Company/Blue Cheer/Emerald Tablet
This listing from the Chronicle's entertainment section on Saturday July 1 shows Emerald Tablet opening for Big Brother. Incidentally, these two listings clarify the poster that suggested that Quicksilver and Big Brother played 4 nights together at the Avalon (June 29-July 2): in fact they each headlined two nights, while the mysterious Emerald Tablet apparently opened all the shows.

July 6-9, 1967 Steve Miller Blues Band/The Sparrow/Emerald Tablet
This listing from Gleason's July 5 column has Emerald Tablet opening for Steve Miller Blues Band and The Sparrow (note that the poster, Wes Wilson's FD70, has Miller and Siegal Schwall). I suspect the Sparrow had just broken up, but its hard to be certain. If they had in fact broken up, then perhaps there was yet another band on the bill, possibly Siegal Schwall.

July 14-16, 1967 Charlatans/Youngbloods/Emerald Tablet
This listing from the Sunday Chronicle Datebook (the "Pink Section") of July 9, 1967 lists the Youngbloods and Charlatans along with the Emerald Tablet. Yet Bob Fried's poster (FD71) lists the Other Half as opening the show. Leaving aside that we know that the Youngbloods were replaced on Sunday July 16 by The Wildflower (the Youngbloods were playing a benefit in the tiny Berkeley Hills town of Canyon), we are left hanging. At this point, the Emerald Tablet disappear without a trace, just as they appeared, after a dozen shows at The Avalon during the Summer Of Love. Who were they?

Some Speculation
Helms tended to work with the hippie underground, both in San Francisco and elsewhere, and less so with established record industry booking agents. Helms also had good ears, and knew who to trust if someone told him to give a chance to a band, which is why the Avalon was so good at discovering acts, even if the Fillmore ended up making them big. Given Helms connections, and importance as a scenemaker, I feel safe making a couple of assumptions about the mysterious Emerald Tablet.

  • I don't think the Emerald Tablet would have been an unknown group pushed by a record company, as Helms was on the opposite side of that world
  • While the Emerald Tablet may have been unknown, they wouldn't have been inexperienced musicians, as too many good (if obscure) bands were lining up to play the Avalon in the Summer of Love
My most likely guesses for the identity of the Emerald Tablet are
  • A popular band in some obscure region where Helms had a connection. Helms might have offered the band some gigs and a place to stay, trusting his friend's instincts. Its a good idea--but why isn't there some story floating around about a band from Fort Worth or Kansas City who spent three weeks at the Avalon during the Summer of Love? Did they all go into the Witness Protection Program?
  • A band that is known to 60s scholars, but who changed their name right before they broke up. The most likely candidates here might in fact be The Other Half, who had moved to San Francisco around this time and then broke up. There are almost no records of The Other Half's time in San Francisco, so a final name change might have gone unnoticed. If not The Other Half, then perhaps another local band that was otherwise familiar used this name for a while--why?--before moving on in some fashion.