Sunday, July 26, 2020

22700 Old Santa Cruz Highway, Chateau Liberte, Los Gatos, CA: 1970-75 (Santa Cruz Mountains Rock History)

The pool at The Chateau Liberte in the Santa Cruz Mountains, with a tiled representation of "The ZigZag Man." Rock History lives on.

The Chateau Liberte was a former resort hotel that was turned into a hip entertainment enclave in the early 70s. Calling the Chateau Liberte "notorious" doesn't tell the half of it. Although the Liberte is in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and on the Old Santa Cruz Highway, it is actually in Santa Clara County. In the early 70s, the Santa Cruz Mountains had plenty of cheap, inaccessible housing, so those hills were full of bikers, pot growers, entrepreneurs and layabouts. Many Mountain residents fit more than one of these categories, and all of them hung out at Chateau Liberte on weekends.

"The Chateau" had originally been a Wells Fargo stagecoach stop. From 1920 to 1945, it was a resort called Chateau Boussy, a French restaurant and resort, noted as a hideaway for important political figures to stash their mistresses. When it got taken over by hippies in the early 70s, it became infamous for its swimming pool, which had a tiled "Zig Zag Man" adorning the swimming pool. The Chateau had a deserved reputation for being a hangout for the Hell's Angels, but many people who went there claim that it was mostly a mellow scene.

The cover of Doobie Brothers debut album (Warner Brothers '71), taken at the Chateau Liberte bar.

In 1970, when The Chateau first got rolling, one of the regular bands was Mountain Current, led by Matthew Kelly and John Tomasi (John Tomasi was the former lead singer of The New Delhi River Band). Mountain Current often shared the stage with either The Doobie Brothers or Hot Tuna, who tended to alternate weekends. Often the nights ended up in a big jam. The cover of the first Doobie Brothers album was taken at the Chateau Liberte bar, and the second Hot Tuna album (First Pull Up, Then Pull Down) was recorded there in 1971, with an inner sleeve photo of Tuna on stage at the Chateau.

W.J. McKay, who first frequented the joint as a teenager, recalled how everyone seemed to get along: "You had people that were totally politically opposite, socially opposite," he told me. "Bikers and hippies were about as different as people could be, and yet they totally co-existed up there. They even had their own underground economy going on. Dope had an established exchange rate. Pot was worth so much in weight, for so many hits of acid. The hippies and the bikers totally worked together. They exchanged food, they worked on each other's vehicles, they did chores for each other."

"It wasn't just a legendary rock & roll bar," McKay said. "It was an example of music and people breaking barriers, for better or worse, in one of the most beautiful natural coastal rain forests in the world. It was a scene that will never be re-created, and hopefully never forgotten."

Mountain Current had a floating membership, depending on who Kelly could get to play each weekend. Future Kingfish guitarist Robbie Hoddinott, then just out of Los Altos High School, played when he could. One other member of Mountain Current that I know was a temporary one, legendary South Bay guitarist Billy Dean Andrus. Andrus was the frontman for the popular San Jose band Weird Herald, fondly remembered by all who saw them (and by those lucky enough to have heard anything from their unreleased album on Onyx). Andrus was some character, however, and at one point around 1970 he was fired from Weird Herald, who temporarily replaced him with old Garcia pal Peter Grant. Andrus played with Mountain Current for about six weeks. Andrus liked to jam, and the suggestion was that he just plugged in and roared with Mountain Current. Andrus particularly enjoyed jamming with Hot Tuna (and no doubt the Doobies) when the shows were winding down.

How legendary was Billy Dean Andrus? He died in November of 1970, apparently after a wild party, and it hit all his friends hard, particularly those who were musicians. Kelly described the scene from that event, and it was so scary that the cops were afraid to come down the road to the club. After a nearly 24-hour blowout, with the musicians (and everyone else) high from too much crank, everybody tried to come down. Andrus took too much dope, and OD'd. Everybody took it hard.

Jorma Kaukonen, one of Andrus'  closest friends, wrote "Ode To Billy Dean," and Hot Tuna not only started playing the song by the end of that month, they still play it to this day.  Doobie Brothers' guitarist Pat Simmons had known Andrus when Simmons was just a teenager, working in folk clubs like The Brass Knocker. Simmons also wrote a song for Billy Dean, called "Black Water" ("Oh black water/Keep on rollin''/Mississippi Moon, won't you keep on shining on me"), and it became a worldwide hit that everyone recognizes. Pat Simmons and the Doobies still play that song, today, too.

In late 1974 and early 1975, Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir each played a few shows at The Chateau. In Garcia's case, I think he was just filling in the date book for an empty weekend, as the venue was tiny even by his standards. Kingfish, on the other hand, seemed to have used the gigs to give Bob Weir a chance to get his sea legs with the band. According to various accounts, the sound man at The Chateau was quite willing to let tapers plug in, so even though the gigs were obscure, tapes from the venue circulated relatively widely.

One other unique piece of Grateful Dead history took place at the Chateau Liberte: a very rare showing of the Sunshine Daydream movie, way back in 1974. I know it was also shown once at Stanford University around that time as well, as I recall not going because "how could it be any good if I hadn't heard of it?" Today, the Chateau Liberte is owned by a real estate agent, and the house is a private residence. It is hard to get to, and can't be seen from the road anyway. But the pool is still intact, apparently, so rock and roll history does live on.

Friday, July 17, 2020

519 W. Zane Street, Louisville, KY: The Kaleidoscope (1968)

The Kaleidoscope, 519 W. Zane Street, Louisville, KY
Kaleidoscope. An optical instrument with two or more reflecting surfaces tilted to each other in an angle. Basically a child's toy. Nonetheless, it became a sixties "word," like "Mandala" or "Stonehenge," turning up everywhere. In my archaeological diggings in the substratum of 60s psychedelic rock, Kaleidoscope always turns up
Sometimes, your archaeological digs find a synergy, unexpected but all the better for that. Here are the potsherds of the story of The Kaleidoscope in Louisville, KY, a psychedelic outpost on the circuit for 8 or 9 months in 1967.

Anyone who recalls anything--flashback, bad dream, recovered memory, grand jury testimony--please represent in the Comments.

Louisville, KY
Louisville, Kentucky was pretty far outside of the rock and roll touring mainstream in the 1960s. Louisville was near the rapids at the Falls of Ohio, on the Ohio River. Thus Louisville became a transit point, as boats had to be unloaded and their cargo transferred downriver. Prior to the Civil War, Louisville was also a focal point for escaping slaves, since neighboring Indiana was a Free State. In the 1960s, like many cities, Louisville experienced a move to the suburbs, leaving downtown buildings and businesses stranded. Although I do not know for sure, it is likely that is how the hotel where the Changes club was opened became available.

519 Zane St near the Ohio River and I-64, just north of the U. of Louisville. The University of Louisville was founded 1798,  city funded until 1970, when it became a state institution. The school was always a college basketball power, not surprising considering it was in between the University of Kentucky (in Lexington) and the University of Indiana. Peck Hickman was head basketball coach from 1944-67, and had 46 straight winning seasons (and his assistant John Dromo ran the team through 1971). Louisville hired Denny Crum in 1971, and he in turn ran the team until 2001, bringing the University of Louisville to the national sports stage. Crum won his first NCAA title in 1980, when Darrell Griffiths--" Dr. Dunkenstein"--led the team over Larry Brown's UCLA squad, anchored by Kiki Vanderweghe.

A photo accompanies a Louisville Courier Journal article from June 26, 1967. Innocent times. (the full article is reproduced below)

Some years ago, I did some crucial archeology on The Kaleidoscope in Hollywood. There were great posters, all sorts of Los Angeles law enforcement issues, great bands, a Saturday Night Live connection and so much more. As part of the analysis, I felt I needed (for Google purposes) to note that there had been venues named The Kaleidoscope in Philadelphia and Louisville. This was about a decade ago, and I think if you googled "Kaleidoscope + Louisville," all you got was my blog. Unexpectedly, I got some amazing comments about the Louisville venue.
Just a few things from memory regarding Kaleidoscope in Louisville, Kentucky.

It was originally called Changes and was located in a very old 3 story opera house. The first floor was an excellent gift/head shop. The exterior was painted brightly with flowers, peace signs, etc. Changes was owned by a dude from California, but I can't recall his name. He built a fantastic house in beautiful Floyd Knobs just across the river in Indiana. I smoke my first there.

Later, the club was owned by an interesting family trio of wonderful ladies; 3 generations of women running the coolest live music club in the Midwest. I can remember the names Goggie and Debbie, but the third escapes me. Both had a magnificent decor and wondrous light-show by Aurora Borealis (I think)

You are correct that Iron Butterfly played there, but the most memorable show was Frank Zappa and the Mothers. Local favorites were The Tiffany System and 31st of February who eventually became the Hour Glass, Allman Joy, and of course the Allman Brothers.

The place was under constant siege by the Louisville Police Department who at one time stole the club's dance license off the wall and tried to arrest anyone who danced. This was foiled by a signal light triggered from downstairs. When the light came on, everyone stopped dancing and sat down.

The historical building was destroyed by a mysterious fire that most thought was set by the police.
Randy Guest I believe was the original owner of the Kaleidoscope in Louisville. His wife's name was Keiko. Even though I was under age at the time, I was possibly Louisville's youngest hippie-freak and I spent a few enjoyable evenings there as well as having a private party celebrating my 9th birthday there, if I recall correctly. One of the popular local bands at that time who played there regularly was The Waters.

An old photo of the three-story opera house at 619 W. Zane Street, in Louisville, some decades before it became Changes (in 1967) and then the Kalieodoscope

As the internet has improved its scope and reach, we can find out a little bit about The Kaleidoscope and the Louisville rock scene. It's just fragments, but it paints the outline of what was happening. What we don't know from this vantage point is how often the Kaleidoscope was open. Most psychedelic clubs in this era were just open on weekends, rather than six or seven nights a week. There wasn't a bar, to my knowledge, and rock fans were young in those days, so the club wouldn't likely have made money on a weeknight. My guess is that local or regional bands played most weekends, and every once in a while they got a good out of town band.

The 1968 Vanguard debut album by the 31st Of February, with Scott Boyer, David Brown and Butch Trucks. Apparently the Jacksonville band played Louisville's Kaleidoscope
The 31st Of February were a Jacksonville, FL trio with guitarist Scott Boyer (later in Cowboy), drummer Butch Trucks (later in the Allman Brothers for 45 years) and bassist David Brown. Their debut album was released on Vanguard in 1968 (later in 1968, they were joined temporarily by Duane and Gregg Allman)

A long lost flyer for The Mothers of Invention show at The Kaleidoscope, on March 17, 1968 (thanks Lonnie for tweeting out the scan)
March 17, 1968 The Kaleidoscope, Louisville, KY: Mothers of Invention/The Oxfords (two shows)
This show was confirmed by Zappa scholar Charles Ulrich, the gold standard, so we can be sure of it even if we know little else. The lineup was the full MOI HOF: Ray Collins, Ian Underwood, the Gardners, Motorhead, Don Preston, Roy Estrada, Artie Tripp and Jimmy Carl Black (the Indian of the group).

June 13, 1968 The Kaleidoscope, Louisville, KY: Blue Cheer (two shows 8:00 and 10:30)
San Francisco's Blue Cheer was riding high behind their debut album Vincebus Eruptum, and the sorta-hit "Summertime Blues." Were they good? Opinions vary. Were they loud? Stacks of Marshall Stacks, cranked to 11--they were loud, in era when backlines were small and PAs often non-existent. Blue Cheer had enough infamy at least (and apparently some AM radio play, per the ad above) for the promoters to have two shows.

July 30, 1968 The Kaleidoscope, Louisville, KY: Iron Butterfly
Iron Butterfly were a cool underground band, at this point. Atco had just released their second album, Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida, the week before. That album that sold so much that Atco Records invented the Platinum record to honor it. At the time, though, the Butterfly were just a quartet from LA, with Erik Brann on guitar, not that well known after just one prior album. In 1969, behind their hit, Iron Butterfly would return to Louisville to headline the U. of Louisville basketball arena, Freedom Hall.

October 31, 1968 Freedom Hall, U. of Louisville, Louisville, KY: The Doors/Waters/Tom Dooley/The Lovelight
On Halloween 1968, however, The Doors were already big enough to headline Freedom Hall. It appears that the Kaleidoscope team did the lights, and Waters, who were one of the opening acts, were Kaleidoscope regulars. 

December 7, 1968 Knights Hall, Bellarmine College, Louisville, KY: Grateful Dead/The Oxfords/Waters/Stonehenge
The Grateful Dead always have a part to play in these psychedelic narratives, In this case, apparently the Dead were supposed to play The Kaleidoscope but instead played at nearby Bellarmine College. The Kaleidoscope crew put on the concert, however, and some of their regular bands seemed to be opening. The Grateful Dead were always willing to take a chance with new hippie venues in towns they had never visited, one of the reasons that so many 60s venues have some sort of legendary Dead show attached to their mythology.

It's not clear to me whether the Dead would have too big for the Kaleidoscope, or the building had already burned down. In any case, the December show seems to be the end of The Kaleidoscope story in Louisville.

Sic Transit Gloria Psychedelia.

Archaeological Appendix: Louisville Courier-Journal Article, June 26, 1967
I tend to focus pretty exclusively on 60s psychedelia, and I'm mainly interested in the bands and the economics and contemporary neighborhood politics around different venues. Still, this article from the previous year's Louisville Courier-Journal  (June 26, 1967)seems a goldmine for those interested in proto-hippie pop culture outside of the two coasts. The article is about two "Teen" clubs, Changes and the nearby 7-To-1 club. The reporter talks about the teenagers clothes, and what high school they go to, and has quotes from 17 year olds trying to sound sophisticated. You'll have to embiggen the clipping above, but if this sounds interesting it's a fascinating snapshot into 1967 Louisville teen life.

Update: 519 W. Zane Street--The Whole Story

Set the Wayback Machine, and listen to a 2-hour (!) audio special on 519 W. Zane Street, complete with a 60s rock and roll soundtrack. It turns out that the building dates to 1888, founded as the Louisville Athletic Club. Afterwards, it had many incarnations: a school, a Dairy, an Oil Company, and finally around 1958, local abstract artist Leo Zimmerman had formed the Society For The Arts in Louisville opened 519 W. Zane as the Louisville Art Club. It was a private club, which I think allowed it to serve liquor. Jazz acts and many other performers played the club.

There's a lot of great information--Iron Butterfly got paid $700, and Steppenwolf apparently played the Kaleidoscope (for $2000). Great work by the Louisville scholars. It's well worth the time of listening, so I won't spoil it all.

Monday, July 13, 2020

1814 Franklin Street, Oakland, CA--Regency Ballroom, Oakland, CA

The Leamington Hotel in Oakland was a downtown hotel that had fallen into disuse by the 1960s as fewer and fewer visitors actually stayed in hotels downtown. It was used briefly as a rock venue, initially for "teen" dances around 1966, and also for one psychedelic show with a widely circulated poster. On February 10, 1967, The Funny Company presented The Sparrow, The Widlflower, The Living Children and The Immediate Family at The Regency Ballroom. The Sparrow, then based in Sausalito, later evolved into Steppenwolf; The Wildflower were an Oakland-based band who were Fillmore and Avalon regulars; The Living Children were the finest psychedelic band in Fort Bragg, CA; and The Immediate Family, with guitarist Tim Barnes, were a popular Contra Costa County band. This intriguing foray into psychedelia was rare for Oakland, and never repeated at my knowledge at The Regency Ballroom. The venue was small, parking was probably difficult, public transport non-existent and the police almost certainly intolerant. Although the bands seem excellent today, and were probably a lot of fun in concert, they all would have been fairly unknown at the time. Although the site has obviously changed, the ballroom was plainly quite small by late 1960s standards, and even if the venue was full it would not have generated the kind of revenue needed to sustain a rock ballroom like The Fillmore or Avalon. I visited the site of The Leamington Hotel, at 1814 Franklin Street on August 7, 2009, and took photos of the interior (above) and exterior of the building. I assume the pretty colored glass in the center of the building is a remnant of the Regency Ballroom--it must have looked nice when it was part of a light show. The Leamington Hotel, now called "The Leamington", is basically an office building with a few shops and restaurants. In the 1980s, there was a good pizza place in the building (Da Vinci's), which is how I am aware of it.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

August 2, 1969 Baylands Athletic Center, Embarcadero Road East, Palo Alto, CA: Eleven Hours, Eleven Bands (Last Palo Alto Be-In)

The August 2, 1969 SF Chronicle lists "12 bands, 11am-11pm"

Palo Alto likes to see itself as one of the launching pads for 60s rock history, and it may not be wrong. The Beatles stayed in Palo Alto in 1965, and there was an Acid Test, and there was the Grateful Dead. So Palo Alto played its part. Unlike other small towns in the 60s, and even unlike most college towns, Palo Alto had a number of Be-Ins in the 60s. Most college towns had one, or sometimes two, and then gave it up. The City Of Palo Alto actually had six, from 1967 to '69.

The organizers of the Free Concerts were the constituents of the MidPeninsula Free University, or "Free You." Free You was an aggregation of intellectuals, artists and characters, who provided alternative educational opportunities in storefronts and people's homes. While Free You helped popularize the likes of "Underwater Basket Weaving"--thanks, Palo Alto--the model has been copied by University Extenion courses throughout the country, so they weren't wrong. Initially, however, the Free You freaks raised money by having free concerts and asking for donations.

The first Free You Be-In was at El Camino Park in Palo Alto on May 14,1967. El Camino Park, at 100 Alma Street, was Palo Alto's oldest park. The park had opened in 1914, and it was the Western edge of downtown, across from Stanford Shopping Center. The May Be-In was a big success, with a few local rock bands (like The Flowers) providing the entertainment,and since Palo Alto was a tolerant town, FreeYou received a permit for a second one.

The second Palo Alto Be-In was an all-timer--on July 2, 1967, local heroes the Grateful Dead returned to Palo Alto in triumph, and packed the park. Palo Alto was still Palo Alto, though, and FreeYou held a third Be-In on October 1, 1967, with the Steve Miller Band (including Boz Scaggs) on top.

By 1968, sleepy Palo Alto was inadvertently turning into a rock and roll town. There was a popular rock club, The Poppycock, just a few blocks from El Camino Park. The high school kids discovered that a downtown plaza was private property, and held their own mini-Be-Ins and free concerts. University Avenue was full of hippies on Friday and Saturday nights. Things were happening.

The July 3, 1969 Stanford Daily describes how local rock bands risked getting their equipment impounded if it exceeded 25 watts when performing at a scheduled July 4 Be-In at El Camino Park

Palo Alto: 1969
Palo Alto isn't most towns. In most towns, in 1969, the issue with free concerts would have been fear of hippies, long hair, rampant drug use, topless young women, and the dreaded fear of corrupting youth. Palo Alto parents were middle class and extremely progressive, however, the kind of people who had hated Joe McCarthy, liked Pete Seeger and wanted to ban the bomb. It was their own kids who had long hair, and by and large Palo Alto parents were dismissive of those criticisms.

What Palo Alto didn't like, however, was noise, and any big crowds associated with rock concerts. The apartment building at 101 Alma was finally successful in shutting down the Be-Ins on the basis of noise. In the Spring of 1969, Palo Alto City Council had passed an ordnance that limited the amplification of Be-Ins to 25 watts. So Palo Alto would approve a permit for a Be-In, but not a sound system. FreeYou got a permit for a July 4 Be-In, but no sound system. Bands did not want to risk a bust, so no Be-In happened.

Remember, however, most of Palo Alto wasn't opposed to FreeYou or even rock music, as long as it was quiet and uncrowded downtown. So Palo Alto offered a different city site for a Summer Be-In. The city allowed FreeYou to have a free concert at the new softball complex at the Baylands Athletic Center, near the Bay on the Eastern edge of town.

The softball field at Baylands Athletic Center as it looked in the 21st century

Baylands Athletic Center
Most Palo Altans think of the city as ending at the Bayshore Freeway (US101), but it's really not the case. In fact, the city extends East over the freeway, following Embarcadero Road all the way to San Francisco Bay. Just north of it, the extension of University Avenue was East Palo Alto, and the extension of Willow Road was East Menlo Park. "East Palo Alto" and "East Menlo Park" were just designations in the 1960s, as they were unincorporated land in the county next to Palo Alto (East Palo Alto is now an incorporated city within San Mateo County). Out on Embarcadero Road, past the Bayshore, Palo Alto had all sorts of things, an airport, a duck pond, a yacht harbor, a "waste disposal site" (which we called "the dump") and some other ununsed wetlands.

Palo Alto, being Palo Alto, had an idea way back in the 1940s that some of the little-used wetlands should be preserved. Parks were established in the Baylands as early as 1940. By the 1960s, there were serious efforts afoot to preserve the environment of the fragile bayland ecology. Still, Palo Alto had needs, and along with the airport and yacht harbor, Palo Alto built an athletic center, with a lighted softball field and a baseball diamond. The athletic facility (now with the address of 1900 Geer Road), was just on open land between the Bayshore Freeway and the bay itself.

Palo Alto had limited any Be-In at El Camino Park to 25 watts of power, which was effectively a denial of the permit. But in turn, the city offered up the softball diamond, complete with lights, for a 12-hour free concert. We can laugh at Palo Alto--I love to laugh at Palo Alto--but in 1969, what other city was offering up a city facility for free, with parking, bathrooms and lights, for a 12-hour free concert?

The August 1, 1969 Berkeley Tribe says "11am-11pm, free." The only address is "Embarcadero Rd East," which I assure you was sufficient. Once you got past the Post Office, there was nothing on Embarcadero Road save for the softball field.

August 2, 1969 Baylands Athletic Center, Palo Alto, CA; Sunbear/Underwood Jug Band/ Western Addition/ United Circus Band/Divine Madness/ Magic/Cide Minder/Happy Now/ Blu/ Kidd Africa/ Schon & Ice

Who were the bands?
Sunbear, Underwood Jug Band, United Circus Band, Magic, Happy Now and Blu are unknown to me. I assure you, if a late 60s Peninsula band is obscure to me, they are awfully obscure.

Western Addition was some kind of R&B band with a horn section, probably playing covers. Their lead singer, however, was the fabulously talented Wendy Haas. Haas was from nearby Atherton, and had been in an all-girl garage band called the Freudian Slips. The Slips played the lower end of the Fillmore circuit, and got their picture in Life magazine, and then broke up when some of the members went to college (Haas said "we weren't very tight"). Haas knew Michael Shrieve, however, and got connected to the Santana axis, which is how she ended up singing in the wonderful group Azteca. She also worked with the Santana band and others. Haas was the lead singer for Western Addition.

I recognize the name Divine Madness. I think they were a San Jose-area band.

Cide Minder is likely Sideminder, a Monterey County band (maybe they changed their spelling, or it's a transcription error). Sideminder was popular in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, and occasionally made forays into the Bay Area. It was a sound practice at the time to play a free concert if you could, in the hopes that the locals would then pay to see you at a club (in this case, The Poppycock).

KiddAfrica is a familiar name from various billings, but I don't know anything about the band or singer.

Schon is very likely San Mateo's own guitar sensation, Neal Schon. At the time, Schon would have been 15 years old. What isn't clear is whether he had his own band, or he was sitting in with Ice.

Ice were booked by the WestPole agency, who booked Quicksilver Messenger Service, Sons Of Champlin and many other Bay Area acts. WestPole director Ron Polte was extremely shrewd about building a following from the ground up. The Sons, for example, had played a million gigs all over the Bay Area, but by the time their album was released in 1969 they had a solid following all over the region. Ice was a tier below the Sons, and I don't actually know anything about them besides their WestPole affiliation, but Polte was shrewd about using free concerts to build audiences.

The August 2 weather report for the Santa Clara Valley, published in the August 1 Examiner

What Happened?
The free concert at The Baylands Athletic Center in Palo Alto on August 2, 1969 was fairly well publicized, for an event with no "name" bands. So what happened?

No one knows. There were absolutely no reports from afterwards, I've never heard of anyone who went, no one mentions it on Facebook, no band members recall it in their memoirs. There is no trace of the event (and I actually look for these things). The weather forecast (above, from the previous day's SF Examiner) was "mostly fair," so that wouldn't have been a problem.

My guess is that Be-Ins were a downtown phenomenon, with a lot of hippies walking to the event, maybe going to or from a coffee shop or pizza joint before or after. Getting in a car to drive across the freeway for some no-name bands just wasn't attractive. I think the 1969 Palo Alto Be-In was thinly attended and unmemorable, so--execpt for me--it became lost to history.

An ad for a rock concert at the Baylands Athletic Center in Palo Alto, on Sunday, November 15, 1970, featuring Big Brother, AUM, Tower of Power and Nevada.
Never Again?
It's easy to say that the Be-In must have been such a debacle that there was never a concert at the Baylands again. To some extent, that's true. The Baylands Athletic Center had just opened in Summer 1969, and by the next Summer, any Saturday would have found the softball field booked solid with determined players. Good luck ever getting them to accept they should lose Saturday games to a rock concert, when the Fillmore West was just up the highway. Not to mention, a crowd would wreck the outfield grass, and that would never be an acceptable outcome.

For a minute, though, let's think about it. The Baylands was safely separated from residential Palo Alto by a freeway, which in turn gave tremendous access to the site for the entire Peninsula. Parking was abundant, the facility was preexisting, with bathrooms and concession stands. Even in August, being right next to the Bay means there is inevitably a cooling ocean breeze. OK, there's a slight issue of the fact that it was built on landfill, and every once in a while you might smell the rotting waste. But really, it's a rock concert, the whole crowd is going to be burning some fat ones, what are you really going to smell?

November 15, 1970 Baylands Athletic Center, Palo Alto, CA: Big Brother and The Holding Company/AUM/Tower Of Power/Nevada Palo Alto Jaycees Benefit
And it can't have been that terribleof an idea, anyway, since the Baylands Athletic Center was used for a concert the very next year. It was a benefit, sponsored by the Palo Alto Jaycees Youth Advisory Council. Knowing Palo Alto, this was probably a scheme to "keep the kids out of trouble." It was held on a Sunday afternoon from 11am-4pm. Remember, also, that the weather is balmy in Palo Alto, even in November. Maybe people had to wear a sweater, since it was probably windy, but a daytime concert in November is plausible in the Bay Area.

Sure, Janis had left Big Brother, but they were still a name. AUM, a power trio, were a good band who had played around, and of course the great Tower Of Power was up and coming. It was probably a pretty good show. Note that Big Brother's name is taped over Boz Scaggs, so there must have been some changes, so maybe it wasn't going as well as hoped. Still, I know nothing about this event, either, other than the poster. In any case, it was well after softball season, so there wouldn't been a conflict with any games, nor would they have had to worry about wrecking the turf. The header "AUTUMNAL 2" hints that maybe there was an earlier event as well. Still, I can find no trace of a Baylands concert after 1970.

Despite only having apparent failures as events, the blueprint for a concert at the Baylands Athletic Center seems to be a perfect model for a suburban concert venue. And so it was. On June 29, 1986 the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, just 4 miles South of the Baylands Athletic Center, debuted as the Penisnula's premier concert venue. OK, it wasn't free, but it had every other benefit of the Baylands Athletic Center, and no interference from softball bookings. So the Baylands event was a failure, but the seeds of success were embedded within it.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

October 5-6, 1968 San Francisco International Pop Festival, Searsville Lake, Palo Alto, CA: Traffic/Iron Butterfly/Blue Cheer/Country Joe and The Fish/Steve Miller Band (canceled)

July 28, 1968 Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA: Chambers Brothers/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons of Champlin/Creedence Clearwater Revival/Santana Blues Band/Morning Glory (“Stanford Summer Rock”)

Stanford's big 1968 rock event on July 28 was headlined by the Chambers Brothers, on top of a bunch of local bands

In 1966, Stanford University had the concentration of finance and young folks to provide extra booking for the hip Fillmore bands. Even when Stanford got nervous about bands on campus, the Stanford-based MidPeninsula Free University were the ones putting on Be-In in Palo Alto's biggest park. By 1968, loud rock and roll was more mainstream, at least in Northern California. Young people up and down the Peninsula wanted to see bands full of long-haired guitarists playing their own music. Palo Alto's downtown, having been gutted by the Stanford Shopping Center in the 1950s, started to add shops selling lava lamps and posters. There weren't any bars in Palo Alto yet--not until 1981--but The Poppycock sold beer, and that was enough. The locus of rock music in town had moved off the Stanford campus and over to the Poppycock. I have written about Palo Alto rock music in 1968 in great detail.

Still, there was one big event on the Stanford campus in 1968. Frost Amphitheatre, a beautiful outdoor arena built in 1937, was an expansive grass bowl with perfect sight lines. With a capacity of 6,900, however, it was generally far too large for 60s rock events. Stanford, like most colleges, was also generally resistant to rock shows that might interfere with classes. By the Summer of '68, the rock business had gotten big enough that using Frost at least made some financial sense. For whatever unknown reasons, Stanford was amenable to a 7-hour, Sunday afternoon rock "festival." It was the only event of its kind at Frost--to the present day--and it is perpetually recalled, albeit in the foggiest ways, when old Palo Alto rock concerts are resurrected.

July 28, 1968 Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford U., Palo Alto  Chambers Brothers/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons of Champlin/Creedence Clearwater Revival/Santana Blues Band/Morning Glory  “Stanford Summer Rock”
The July 19 Stanford Daily had a display ad for "Student Police Needed for Folk-Rock Festival at Frost." $1.50/hr for, apparently seven hours of work, was actual money in 1968.

The cover of the 1969 Chambers Brothers lp Shout! (on Vault), recorded in 1967. The cover photo, however, was taken at Frost Amphitheatre on July 28, 1968. On the side, Carlos Santana, blue shirt, back row, 6-r.
Modern readers may think the order of the billing (from the poster) is inverted. In fact, the Chambers Brothers were Fillmore headliners with a successful hit single “Time” (with the memorable chorus “The time has come today”). The Chambers Brothers were popular enough in 1968 that other record companies released crummy old tapes of theirs in order to cash in. Vault Records released a 1967 live Chambers Brothers tape as Shout!, with front and back covers taken at the Frost concert (above and below). It's an inferior, terrible record, by the way--and I like the Chambers Brothers--but the cover is fun if you're from Palo Alto.

The back cover of the 1969 Chambers Brothers Vault Records album Shout!, recorded in 1967, but with pictures from the July 1968 Frost show. Note the tiny backline.
Quicksilver had always been locally popular, their first album on Capitol had only been out for a few months. The Sons of Champlin did have a local following, but were still several months away from recording their first album (also on Capitol), which would not be released until the Spring of 1969. Morning Glory was a Marin band ((with an album on Fontana), but I have never been able to determine if they played. Gypsum Heats is also unknown to me, nor have I been able to determine if they played [update: I have learned that Gypsum Heats was a rock band with horns, with the guitarist from Kensington Market (Chris Guiver) and the future lead singer of Tower Of Power. They had a single on Onyx)

Creedence Clearwater Revival, while performing together as a unit for several years, mostly as The Golliwogs, had only recently become a full-time group because John Fogerty had completed his duties in the US Army Reserve. Their debut album on Fantasy had probably just been released. Possibly their first single “Suzie Q” was getting play on AM radio at this time, as it did become a local hit. Creedence had played The Poppycock, and they had been broadcast live on Stanford radio station KZSU-fm, but they were still just up-and-coming. As it happened, Quicksilver Messenger Service was late, so they came on last, after the Chambers Brothers.

The July 19, 1968 Stanford Daily reports that the Satan Blues Band will open at Frost
As for Santana, they were still called the Santana Blues Band at this time. Organist and singer Gregg Rolie was from Palo Alto, Cubberely High School class of '65. Rolie had been in a popular South Bay band, William Penn And His Pals, who were a local knock-off of then-popular Paul Revere And The Raiders. Rolie, presciently, had quit the popular band to move to the city and play the blues with a young guitarist from the Mission. The Santana Blues Band had a following around San Francisco, but were unknown in the South Bay. For a Palo Altan like Rolie, it must have been a kick to play Stanford's huge amphitheatre. In the Stanford Daily (July 19, above), the group was called the Satan Blues Band.

On the cover of the Chambers Brothers lp, amongst the crowd watching from stage left, Carlos Santana is clearly visible in a blue shirt (back row, 6th from the right), just another hippie checking out the hit band. Three summers later, when Bill Graham closed the Fillmore West, Santana, Quicksilver and Creedence all headlined, and the Sons played as well, and all were broadcast live on FM radio. No wonder this 1968 Frost show looms so large in Palo Alto memory.

Monday, July 6, 2020

January 23, 1970 Honolulu Civic Auditoriom, Honolulu, HI: Michael J. Brody (Strange Daze)

Oleomargarine heir Michael J. Brody and his wife, as they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in January 1970

Jerry Garcia was revered by his fans not just for his great music, but as some sort of embodiment of a commitment to higher ideals, an emphasis on Art and living how you chose, above Commerce and celebrity. However you think Garcia himself saw that conflict, there's no question that a spotlight was continually focused on him. Garcia was an iconic figure from the earliest days of the Fillmore in 1966, and his legendary status only grew in the remaining 29 years of his life, not just for his music but his continuing commitment to Music in the face of overwhelming attention and financial opportunity. So even small deviations from the Normative Garcia stand out, because there were so few.

While all the evidence suggests that the private Garcia was an ambitious, complicated rock star, he kept those sides away from casual observers. Although Garcia avoided a lot of contact in later years, he was almost always gracious with fans when he met them, and his interviews were always deferential to other musicians and personalities, whatever his private views might have been. In particular, while Garcia had clearly defined, if broad, musical tastes, he refrained from criticizing other musicians directly, beyond saying he didn't feel their music. It made Garcia seem like a decent guy, a far cry from many other arrogant big mouth rock stars who got interviewed. Thus it was a surprise to see a 1990 interview (in the May 29, 1990 Eugene Register-Guard) for a Hawaii Garcia Band concert where Jerry's only recollection from having played Honolulu in 1970, was:
the opening act, an heir to a margarine company fortune who played a set of "terrible" acoustic guitar
How did the heir of a margarine fortune end up opening for the Dead? And how bad did he have to be for Garcia not only to remember it decades later, but to break his long-standing practice of not directly criticizing other musicians?

Here's the thing: Garcia's memory was correct. An oleomargarine heir did indeed open for the Grateful Dead in Honolulu on January 23, 1970. Conveniently, the Dead's set was released as Dave's Picks Volume 19. You can hear the music for yourself, one of the last shows of then-organist Tom Constanten. But a closer look at the concert event itself uncovers the strange, strange story of Michael J. Brody.

January 23, 1970 Honolulu Civic Auditorium, Honolulu, HI: Grateful Dead/The Sun And The Moon/September Morn/Pilfredge Sump
By 1970, the Grateful Dead weren't exactly popular, not in the sense of, say, Jefferson Airplane. Nonetheless, they were authentic rock stars, infamous even when their music itself wasn't well-known. So the band was invited to perform in Hawaii, despite having no actual popular songs, since their legend preceded  them. This led me to the very sixties, very strange story of Michael J. Brody. Brody, at the time a national figure who had already appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Brody played a 15-minute solo set to open the first show, but did not open the second show.

A picture sleeve for the stereo release of Michael J. Brody's "War Is Over" single on RCA, released in early 1970

Michael J. Brody, January 1970
A word of caution: this is a true story, even though it reads like semi-fictional madness caused by time travel and a roadie named Precarious. But it's not, it really happened, and seems to have slipped the bands of time.  I will try and give a brief overview, but you can read the entire story here. The background is this:
Michael James Brody Jr. made the news in January 1970 as he offered to give money from his $25 million fortune to anyone who needed it. Newspapers called him a “hippie angel,” a “giveaway millionaire.” But as the attention grew overwhelming and checks started bouncing, he withdrew from the public eye, resurfacing only occasionally amid legal problems, killing himself three years later in Upstate New York.
When turned 21 on Oct. 31, 1969, Brody got access to his part of a trust fund set up by his grandfather, Chicago oleomargarine millionaire John F. Jelke. Brody had graduated from Butler University that year, where he’d been a member of Phi Delta Theta. 
On Jan. 10, 1970, Michael James Brody Jr. — arriving back in New York with his new wife Renee after a honeymoon in Jamaica, for which they’d bought out all the seats of a Pan Am 707 for more than $7,000 — announced he wanted to give away his fortune. He broadcast his phone number and home address and welcomed all comers. By some accounts he was worth $25 million or $26 million or $10 billion; in a report on NBC the fortune was $50 million.
Television networks picked up the story, and Brody was a national sensation. He was flooded with requests for money, and he expressed a desire to be a recording artist. RCA signed him immediately, and must have been the ones to get him on the Ed Sullivan show. Brody went everywhere with his new wife Renee, whom he apparently had only met a few weeks earlier. He put forth an idea that he would fund a peace offering to North Vietnam, offering millions of dollars in return for an end to the Vietnam War. By the time Brody went to Honolulu to play with the Grateful Dead, less than two weeks later, he was a nationally known figure, some sort of embodiment of hippie ideals, willing to trade money for peace and good vibes.

Needless to say, it didn't last. Brody had inherited a substantial amount of money, yes, but it may not have even been a million dollars, perhaps $3 million at most. Now, back in the 1960s that was a lot more money than it would be today, but it was nothing like the fortune Brody thought he had inherited. A year or so later, Brody also added that his "plan" was the result of hundreds of LSD trips, so it wasn't like there was much more than good impulses, rather than any sort of sustained effort. Brody wrote lots of checks to strangers, but pretty rapidly they started to bounce. Brody took the opportunity to get out of New York, and headed to Hawaii, but he was still a national figure.

Michael Brody In Hawaii
The entire saga is fairly complex, and in many ways seems like a bad straight-to-video movie. The entire, bizarre Michael Brody saga can be read here (thanks to Jesse Jarnow for tracking this down). Brody was nationally famous, and a Hawaii radio station decided to capitalize on that:
While Kennedy’s joke was playing out in London, Brody and Renée were half way around the globe opening for The Grateful Dead. Brody’s fame had brought him the gig. The Dead was playing a two-day concert at the Honolulu Civic Auditorium. The Sun and the Moon and the September Morn were booked as the opening acts. The shows were scheduled for January 23 and 24. Radio station KPOI in Honolulu was promoting the concerts, and its general manager, Tom Moffatt, had the idea of bringing Brody to the island as another opening act: an opener for the openers.

Moffatt made a few calls to contacts in New York, and quickly got word back from RCA that Brody and Renée were on the q [sic]. They could be there for the Friday and Saturday shows. No contracts were signed, and no details hashed out. When Brody and Renée arrived on January 23, Moffatt still did not know what he would pay Brody.

Moffatt and Lennie Hart, manager of the Dead, met Brody and Renée at the airport. Naturally, Brody’s presence had already attracted a crowd of money seekers and reporters. Hart asked Brody what he planned to play. “I don’t know,” Brody said. “I haven’t written it yet.” The concert was six hours away.
“What did you do for the Ed Sullivan show?” Hart asked. “You Ain’t Going Nowhere,” Brody replied. He explained that RCA was releasing the record that day. “It’s going to sell over 100 million copies in a month. It should be the biggest record RCA ever had.” Hart laughed. “You’re talking about a lot of records.” He could barely control himself.
It may seem surprising to the uninitiated that Grateful Dead manager Lenny Hart would go out actually meet someone as insubstantial as Brody at the airport. Hart, however--the father of Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart--was quite the hustler himself, and would definitely have been looking to get a piece of Brody's supposed millions. The Dead, although genuine rock stars, were actually quite broke, mainly due to Hart's mismanagement. The very next month, the Grateful Dead would fire Hart, and he would abscond with over $150,000 of the band's money, virtually bankrupting the group. So we don't have to doubt why Hart was so supportive of meeting Brody, and why he would have gone along with the radio station's stunt.
Hart suggested that they head to the Civic Auditorium for rehearsal. Brody protested. While they spoke, money seekers made their pleas. A young man, perhaps 20, perhaps younger, asked for a hand out.
“It’s for my brother,” the stranger explained. “He’s in jail. He just got busted. You’re our only hope.”
“I’m really sorry,” Brody said. “I don’t have any now.” Brody turned to a reporter and said slowly and firmly, “The ones who need it most are going to get it. The ones who are starving and without shelter.”

Brody started explaining about his musical background. He’d only been playing the guitar a couple of months but he learned fast. He could play anything, from classical to rock. But he didn’t really want to be a rock star anyhow. “I may become a movie star. I’ve been offered $1.5 million to sign with one company.”

“Which one?” a reporter asked sternly. It was obvious he, unlike other members of the media, was no longer willing to let Brody make wild claims without factual support. “I don’t want to say right now.” Another money seeker came up to Brody and asked for a dollar. He was well dressed and did not appear to be in need. “If I’ve got any in my pockets,” Brody said. “I’ll give you whatever I have.” Brody turned his pockets inside out and produced a folded $10 bill. He gave it to the man. Brody turned to Renée. “Well, we got rid of our last $10.”

“How much have you given away?” a reporter asked.

“About 5 mil. It was mostly other people’s money that they gave to me to give away.” There was money flowing all the time. And many more requests for money. Over 60,000 telephone calls an hour. “We’ve got two-hundred million letters to answer.”

“Two-hundred million?” “At least!,” Renée said.

Brody was asked again how much he had given away. “$500,000,” he answered. “$24,500,000 to go.” The group passed a holding room full of United States soldiers, waiting to ship out to Vietnam. “The war’s over men,” Brody shouted. “We’ll bring you back soon.” The G.I.s cheered.

After rehearsal, it was decided that Brody would sing “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” and one or two of his own compositions, assuming he finished them by the concert, which was about three hours away. Moffatt said he would pay Brody $300 to appear, and Brody accepted without haggling. He had only two conditions. He insisted that he be paid in single dollar bills on stage. And Renée had to be with him when he performed.
Even for experienced musicians, opening by yourself for a popular rock band in a large auditorium is a daunting proposition. But Brody was not an experienced musician, much less performer, and he didn't have much sense, nor good advice. So what did he do next?
With about three hours to kill and a couple of songs to write, Brody did the next best thing. He got high. He smoked some pot with a couple of the roadies. Renée did not smoke but downed a few gin and tonics. One of the roadies slipped some acid into Brody’s bottle of Coke. By the time the show opened, Brody was having a bad trip.
If it was any consolation for Brody, he would not have been the first act opening for the Dead who hung out with the road crew and found themselves rather higher than they had initially planned. The actual performance went about as well as you would expect.
The Civic Auditorium was filled to capacity—about 3,000 Dead Heads. Brody walked onto the stage. He felt dizzy. He struggled to stay standing. Renée was close by, sitting off to the side.
“The war will be over on Wednesday,” he announced. He explained his peace plan. The bribery of the North Vietnamese with $10 or $20 billion. He was having trouble remembering his plan. The crowd was uneasy and somewhat hostile, but it was as high as Brody.

“If you think I’m a phony, then I’m a phony. You are all phonies. You should give your money to end the war and fight poverty instead of wasting it on this concert.” There are a smattering of boos and whistles in the audience. Others cheered.

“I know you don’t want to hear me. You want the Grateful Dead.” He strummed a chord on his guitar. He then sang “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.” He then sang anywhere from two to four other songs, all original compositions, all improvised. They lasted anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. They made no sense, and no one noticed. It was a Dead concert, after all. After he finished, the audience applauded, politely. Brody told the audience that he was too stoned to continue. “I’d like to give you thousands of dollars,” he yelled, “but ending the war in Vietnam is more important than giving money to the people of the Fiji Islands.”
He then called for his salary. A representative walked on stage and handed Brody 300 one-dollar bills. Brody took the stack and threw it to the audience. The bills separated and fluttered into the crowd. Brody swayed back and forth, then tried to walk off the stage. He staggered, and Renée had to help him. She supported his arm and guided him through the side curtain.

Brody seemed to know he had blown it.
Backstage, Brody was disoriented but also agitated. “I’ve only been playing the guitar for five months. What do they expect? I couldn’t get into it,” he told a magazine reporter. “Somebody gave me acid. I’ve taken 300 trips. I don’t want it anymore but they keep shoving it down my throat.” As he spoke, his anger grew. “All you need is love.” He pointed to the audience “Those people don’t love. They don’t have any love. I want to give and all they want to do is take.”

Renée stroked his hair and held his hand. “They’ve just locked their love inside them,” she said.
None of it would end well. Brody and his fiancee left Hawaii. He was still a sensation, still in the news, and he appeared on the Dick Cavett show. By March, Brody had some kind of breakdown, and Renee left him. It soon turned out he had given away all his money, as he had far less than he thought. Still, by 1971 the couple was back together, with a son, and Brody was enrolled at the University of Colorado. Still, a series of breakdowns followed, and ultimately a thoroughly broken Brody committed suicide in 1973.

People often wonder what it would be like if your life was different. What if you were rich? What if you could open for the Grateful Dead? What would you do? No one really knows, of course, but think about Michael J. Brody before you give your answer.