Saturday, July 11, 2020

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.

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