|The debut album of The Loading Zone was released by RCA in June, 1968|
The Loading Zone-Performance List 1970
The Loading Zone, while obscure, are a uniquely important group in Bay Area music history. The Zone had a singly dizzying history. Loading Zone had initially been formed out of the ashes of a Berkeley group called The Marbles (who played the first Family Dog Longshoreman’s Hall Dance on October 16, 1965). The two guitarists from The Marbles then joined with organist/vocalist Paul Fauerso (formerly of Oakland’s Tom Paul trio, a jazz combo) and played a hitherto unheard mixture of psychedelic blues and funky R&B.
Loading Zone were based out of Oakland, in a house on West 14th Street. While they had played the original Trips Festival and many dates at the Fillmore and Avalon, they also played many dances and soul clubs in the East Bay. They added horns, and after some false starts, a powerhouse vocalist named Linda Tillery, and released an under-rehearsed album on RCA in 1968. The band also had a brief national tour, and played all the clubs in the Bay Area.
The Loading Zone thus laid the blueprint for the progressive soul music of Bay Area bands like Sly and The Family Stone and Tower of Power. Indeed, a Zone roadie, high school student Steve Kupka, played baritone sax with the band’s horn section, when there was room on stage and he was allowed in the club. At one such gig, he met a Fremont band called The Motowns, and they joined forces to create Tower Of Power.
|The Loading Zone, ca. 1968|
The unique status of the Loading Zone led to a major research project on their history. Besides creating a log of all known performances, based on the information available to us at that time, Ross created a spectacular Loading Zone Family Tree. The Tree gives a well-articulated picture of how the band was formed, and what it created. In retrospect, we did a really good job on the 1960s Loading Zone. Our information on the band in the early 1970s, however, was very limited, and some of it was actually incorrect.
With new information sources easily available, I am beginning a series of posts about the performance history of the Loading Zone from 1970 through their breakup in September 1972. The logging of the band's gigs, large and small, also acts as a survey of the different types of bookings available to a working rock band in the Bay Area at the time. This post will focus on all the known performances of the Loading Zone from 1970. Anyone with updates, corrections, insights, recovered memories or flashbacks with respect to the Loading Zone is heartily encouraged to put them in the Comments.
|Loading Zone guitarist Pete Shapiro on the front porch of the Loading Zone house on 14th Street in West Oakland, sometime around 1967 (the house was identified by Shapiro's then-girlfriend)|
The Loading Zone-1960s
1966-The Loading Zone were formed out of the ashes of the Tom Paul Jazz Trio and The Marbles, a British Invasion-styled rock band. They debuted on January 14, 1966. The band pioneered a blend of rhythm and blues with psychedelic guitar solos, showing that the mix worked in both hippie ballrooms and regular R&B dance gigs. The Loading Zone played the Trips Festival and many other foundational ballroom events, while playing dance clubs at the same time.
1967-The Loading Zone expanded their membership, experimenting with a female vocalist, and adding a horn section on occasion. The band played gigs all over the Bay Area, particularly in the East Bay.
1968-In early 1968, the Loading Zone added the dynamic young vocalist Linda Tillery. Female lead vocalists for San Francisco bands were hot, and the Zone was signed to RCA. The band recorded their debut album, probably too soon, and went on a National tour when the album was released around June. The band continued to improve and got better and better notices, although the album did not reflect that (for a good representation of the '68 Loading Zone, here is a mis-dated tape from September '68).
1969-At the end of 1968, Linda Tillery was signed to a solo contract by Columbia Records. The Loading Zone marched on, with Paul Fauerso taking over the lead vocals from the organ chair. In May '69, some original members left the band and the group was reorganized around Fauerso. The new members had more sophisticated jazz backgrounds. The mid-69 model of the Zone mixed the original funky drive of the band with some advanced jazz sounds. Tillery, meanwhile, released the Sweet Linda Devine album on Columbia, produced by Al Kooper in mid-July. She toured around the Bay Area with a trio.
|The Loading Zone's second album, One For All (Umbrella Records early 1970)|
The Loading Zone-Performance History 1970
At the beginning of 1970, the lineup of the Loading Zone was
Ron Taormina-tenor sax
Paul Fauerso-Hammond organ, vocals
The Loading Zone was trying to find a middle ground between their established funky sound and their jazzier leanings. In fact, once again, the Loading Zone were running a train down a track that had not been finished. In the 1970s, plenty of bands would try and straddle the line between making fun, danceable music that was sophisticated, including Santana, The Crusaders, Earth Wind and Fire and many others, but the Loading Zone created that problem first, even if they didn't rise to the heights of those other bands. In early 1970, Loading Zone released their second album, One For All. It was on Umbrella Records, and was essentially self-released, another ahead-of-their-time innovation.
January 2-3, 1970 Mandrakes, Berkeley, CA: Loading Zone/Hell and High Water (Friday-Saturday)
Mandrake's had been open since about 1965. Initially it had booked blues and jazz, but rapidly expanded to include rock when that music became prominent around 1967. The little club was on at the corner of San Pablo Avenue and University Avenue (at 1048 University), a faint trace of when San Pablo had been "Music Row," serving WW2 factory workers with money in their pockets. The Loading Zone had played Mandrake's many times.
I only have what must be a tiny portion of the Loading Zone's bookings for 1970. Many of the dance clubs they played would not have advertised in the newspaper (nor in ones that have since been digitized). So we only have the outlines of the band's gigging schedule.
January 23-24, 1970 Mandrakes, Berkeley, CA: Loading Zone/Geno Skaggs (Friday-Saturday)
The fact that Loading Zone kept returning to the same clubs, though making for dull reading, was a sign that they had built an audience and that clubs found it worthwhile to book them repeatedly.
February 11-12, 1970 Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Loading Zone (Wednesday-Thursday)
The Keystone Korner, in San Francisco at 750 Vallejo (at Powell), was just off Broadway. The club booked blues and bluesy rock acts, for the most part. I'm not certain if this was the first time the Zone had been booked there (probably they had played before), but in any case they would play there repeatedly, so it must have gone well.
February 13-14, 1970 New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Loading Zone/Tangen and Friedman (Friday-Saturday)
The New Orleans House was also on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, about a mile North of Mandrake's (at 1505 San Pablo, at Delaware St). It had been booking rock acts since late 1966, and had been one of the first Bay Area nightclubs (as opposed to ballrooms) booking original rock bands. The New Orleans House was fairly eclectic, booking some rock, songwriters, blues, jazz and folk, but the hybrid Loading Zone would have fit in nicely. Jan Tangen and Dave Friedman were a folk guitar duo.
The Lion's Share was at 60 Red Hill Avenue in San Anselmo, about 10 minutes West of downtown San Rafael. It held about 250, and served beer, wine and some food. It was sort of a local musicians hangout, but since so many musicians lived in Marin, it was oddly significant for that. For a band like the Loading Zone, it made a good gig, and probably a bunch of their musician friends came to see them, too. The Zone probably played on Saturday and maybe even Sunday night as well.
By March of 1970, there were some changes to the Loading Zone. Drummer George Marsh had left to join the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood, a Columbia band built around guitarist Hahn and organist/vocalist Mike Finnegan (they would release an excellent, if obscure, album later in the year). I do not know who replaced Marsh in the Loading Zone drum chair. More importantly, Linda Tillery had been dropped by Columbia, and returned as lead vocalist of the Loading Zone.
In March of 1970, the new lineup of the Loading Zone was
Ron Taormina-tenor sax
Paul Fauerso-Hammond organ, vocals
I know of no recordings from this era. Somehow, the Loading Zone would have had to reconcile the soulful power of Tillery's vocals with the jazz leanings of the rest of the band. Just to be clear--this could have been really, really great. Fauerso wasn't a bad singer, either, so the chance to have dual vocals could have added a lot to the band, as well.
March 13-14, 1970 Mandrakes, Berkeley, CA: Loading Zone (Friday-Saturday)
The reconfigured Loading Zone unveiled themselves at The New Orleans House. Again, the fact that they were regularly booked at the club was a sign that their past shows had been well-attended.
March 19-22, 1970 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Chuck Berry/It's A Beautiful Day/Loading Zone (Thursday-Sunday)
Back in September '69, the Loading Zone had opened for Chuck Berry at Fillmore West, and Bill Graham had hired them as Berry's backing band. We know this because there is a tape on Wolfgang's Vault, and the Zone sounded pretty good. There's every reason to think the Loading Zone backed Chuck on this weekend as well, even if we don't have a tape.
March 27-28, 1970 New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Loading Zone/Slo Loris (Friday-Saturday)
April 2, 1970 Civic Auditorium, Stockton, CA: Youngbloods/Loading Zone/Staton Brothers (Thursday)
"Fillmore" was a golden name outside of San Francisco. The Youngbloods were established ballroom headliners, and they had increased in popularity since 'Get Together" had become a surprise hit in 1969. As for the Loading Zone, while their music was largely unknown, even by 1970 dorm rooms all over the country were full of colorful Fillmore posters, whether authentic or reprinted. So "Loading Zone" was a familiar name, even if fans weren't sure what they sounded like.
Stockton , CA was about 75 miles West of Oakland, on the San Joaquin River. It was an important agricultural town for the Central Valley, and it was the entertainment center for the rural areas surrounding it. The Stockton Civic Auditorium, at 525 N. Center Street, had opened in 1925, and had a capacity of 5000. Its unlikely to have been filled by this booking, but the show could have been very successful with just a portion of the number. Rock fans in the Central Valley were used to getting Fillmore bands on school nights, and this would have been an appealing event to Stockton fans.
The Staton Brothers were an East Bay band from Hayward who had
been signed by the Monkees' management around 1967. Jeff and Mike Staton
were both singing guitarists, broadly in the style of Buffalo
Springfield. The band had toured with the Springfield and others in the
late 1972, the Staton Brothers would release an album on Epic, but there
was a problem with distributors, so the album did not sell.
Ultimately both Staton brothers worked with Stephen Bishop and many
others as guitarists and songwriters, mostly based in Nashville. Since
"Staton" was often misunderstood, and just an adopted name anyway, they
used different names for their LA and Nashville work.
April 4, 1970 Quad, Irvington High School, Fremont, CA: Elvin Bishop Group/Loading Zone/Staton Brothers (Saturday)
Bill Graham's booking agency, the Millard Agency, specialized in bringing Fillmore West rock bands to the Bay Area suburbs around Northern California. Millard groups like Santana, the Elvin Bishop Group and Cold Blood were familiar from Fillmore posters, even if their music was barely known. In the suburbs, or Lake Tahoe, a flyer advertising "direct from San Francisco" was appealing to a lot of kids. Many rock fans were teenagers, and for many of them in the suburbs, the Fillmore West was off-limits. Some of them had a car, or a friend with a car, but their parents weren't going to let them drive to big, bad San Francisco at night. This probably went double for suburban daughters.
Fremont CA was a largely working class suburb at the time, the center of local agriculture, and anchored by a GM factory (now the Tesla plant). Fremont was in Southern Alameda County, right next to San Jose, half an hour from Oakland and 45 minutes from San Francisco. While Fremont parents may have been uneasy about San Francisco at night, a Saturday afternoon at the local High School would have been just fine. Irvington High (at 41800 Blacow Road) was a big public high school, and would have had plenty of young rock fans. This show would have been a good payday and allowed Elvin Bishop, the Zone and the Staton Brothers (another local group) to build an audience, too. Loading Zone was not booked by Millard, as far as I know, but Zone manager Ron Barnett had been working with Bill Graham since 1966.
Mills College was a highly regarded women's college in the Oakland Hills. It was at 5000 MacArthur Blvd and Seminary Avenue, just above the Oakland Coliseum (Seminary is 59th Ave, and the Coliseum is at 66th). Mills College had been established in 1871, as the first Women's College West of the Rockies. A band like the Loading Zone would make good money playing college dances, so this would have been a good gig. Linda Tillery may not have been thrilled to be promoted as "Sweet Linda Devine" but that was probably just business.
April 11, 1970 South Cafeteria, College of San Mateo, San Mateo, CA: Loading Zone/The Dusters/ Backyard Mamas (Saturday)
The College of San Mateo was a junior college in the hills above San Mateo, at 1700 W. Hillsdale Blvd. The size of the student body was probably huge, although most of the students were probably part-time commuters. Back then, even junior colleges would have had entertainment budgets that would help support dances and other fun cultural events for the students. On a Saturday night, the student cafeteria would have been available, because the gym would have been in use for a sports event. California public school policy at the time (and no doubt still) was that any profits from an event would have to be donated, so the event was a benefit for the Peninsula Association for Retarded Children and Adults.
A promotional photo from the April 10, 1970 San Mateo Times shows a six-piece Loading Zone with Linda Tillery. This implicitly suggests that one of the horn players had left, but I can't tell for sure.
|A listing in the April 23-30 Berkeley Barb announces a benefit concert at the Fillmore West (or Winterland) on Wednesday April 29, 1970.|
April 29, 1970 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Charlie Musselwhite/AB Skhy/Loading Zone Benefit for Berkeley Defense fund (Wednesday)
Bill Graham would let organizations rent the Fillmore West on weeknights. In this case, the Barb advertised that this was a benefit for a Berkeley Defense Fund. It said "17 still in Santa Rita" (Santa Rita Jail, in Livermore,was the state lockup for those who had just been arrested). The ad also says "Fillmore West or Winterland." There's no telling if this actually took place.
Tower Of Power
Back in 1968, the Loading Zone had expanded to include a horn section. Initially, it featured tenor saxophonist Todd Anderson and trombonist Todd O'Hara. Sometimes, if there was room on the stage, and minors were allowed, teenage roadie Steve Kupka would join in on baritone sax. Kupka's father was a doctor, so he was nicknamed "Doc." On Saturday, July 13, 1968 the Loading Zone headlined the dance concert for the last night of the Alameda County Fair out in Pleasanton. Also on the bill were two local bands, the Lovestreet Offramp and The Motowns. The Lovestreet Offramp are unknown to me. But we know about The Motowns.
Alto saxophonist Emilio Castillo's family was from Detroit, but they lived in Fremont. By 1968, Castillo had been a working musician since his high school days. In 1966, he had been led a band called The Gotham City Crimefighters, who played at a place called Wayne Manor in Sunnyvale (what, you've forgotten "Who Stole The Batmobile"?). When the Batman craze faded, although still in High School (Kennedy HS in Fremont), Castillo and his friends got more into soul music. They formed a group called The Extension Five. The Extension Five had turned into The Motowns, playing dances and clubs (when minors were allowed, or allowed to sneak in) in Southern Alameda County. Member included Castillo, his brother Jack on drums, Jody Lopez on guitar, Rocco Prestia on bass and Greg Adams on trumpet. By 1968, Skip Mesquite was probably on tenor sax.
At the Alameda County Fair, Doc Kupka met the Motowns, a bunch of East Bay kids his age, playing soul music. Now, Loading Zone were barely in their twenties, but there was still some gap between them and Kupka, and the Zone had a psychedelic edge to them. The Motowns invited Kupka to jam with them, and he went over to a rehearsal with them at Castillo's house. Something happened--something really good. Doc Kupka joined The Motowns. By 1970, they were the Tower Of Power.
In 1969 and '70, Tower Of Power were regularly playing clubs in Oakland, mostly on Broadway (such as King Richard). The ABC cracked down on underage performers at one point, which cut down on their gigs, but the band just rehearsed more. Tower Of Power's big break came when they played the Tuesday Night Auditions at Fillmore West (an interesting story in its own right). Bill Graham used the auditions not only to find opening acts at Fillmore West, but also to find clients for his booking agency, management company and record label.
Tower first played the Fillmore West around January of 1970, and Graham and his producers liked what they heard, but they told Emilio Castillo that he had to get a new guitarist and a new drummer. The guitarist was an old pal, and the drummer was his brother, but Castillo and the band made the change. Tower Of Power returned to the Tuesday night auditions on April 21, 1970, with Willie Fulton on guitar and the great Dave Garibaldi on drums, and that sealed the deal: Graham signed the band to his San Francisco Records label, distributed by Atlantic.
Once Tower Of Power was signed up with Graham, they weren't just a bunch of kids anymore, and they needed a manager. It's not surprising to find out that Tower signed up with Loading Zone manager Ron Barnett, since they already had a connection through Doc Kupka. I don't believe that Tower Of Power were booked by Graham's Millard Agency, but Barnett had been working with Graham since 1966, so there was a long history of cooperation.
|An ad in the October 24, 1969 Oakland Tribune, for the Kings X at 4401 Piedmont (at Pleasant Valley)|
As far as I know, Tower Of Power and Loading Zone shared a rehearsal
hall in Oakland somewhere, and would end up sharing some musicians as
well. They also played many gigs together. Ironically, if justly, it was
Loading Zone that opened the door to hybrid soul-rock bands playing the
Fillmores, but it was Tower Of Power who took Oakland soul to the
National stage (with the Pointer Sisters close behind, I might add). In the 1970 period, many of Loading Zone and Tower Of Power's bookings were not rock gigs at all, but gigs in dance clubs in the East Bay, probably from Richmond to Fremont. Those clubs didn't advertise in the hippie underground or mainstream papers, so we have almost no traces of those shows.
In a fascinating interview with researcher Jake Feinberg, Paul Fauerso described sharing many gigs with Tower Of Power. One place he specifically mentioned was alternating sets all night with Tower at The King's X in Oakland. The King's X, at 4401 Piedmont Avenue, just across 51st Street, right near the Chapel Of Memories (old Oaklanders know what I mean), was a wonderful little restaurant at the edge of the commercial district, but near the Mountain View Cemetery. I used to go there regularly in the 1980s, but it no longer had bands any more. I miss the Kings X these days--and I didn't even get to see Tower and The Zone funking out until closing time.
May 16, 1970 Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa, CA: Loading Zone with Linda Tillery/Charlie Musselwhite/Mose (Saturday)
June 17-18, 1970 Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Loading Zone (Wednesday-Thursday)
Two weeknights at the Keystone Korner seemed to be the end of the line for this configuration of the Loading Zone. Fauerso, after slugging it out as a professional musician for at least 6 years, dropped out of the music business. In the Feinberg interview, Fauerso mentioned getting a call around this time that Janis Joplin was putting a new band together. This group would become her Full Tilt Boogie band. Now, of course, an invitation was not a guarantee of employment, but the fact that he got a call was in indication of his standing in the San Francisco music scene. But Fauerso chose to focus on lecturing and writing about the then-new subject of Transcendental Meditation, and Loading Zone seemed to disintegrate.
|An ad for King Richards, at 310 Broadway in Oakland, from the April 21, 1969 Oakland Tribune. Jules Broussard, Al & Tom Coster had a residency on Monday and Tuesday nights|
While it appeared that the Loading Zone would disappear with the departure of founder Paul Fauerso, the July 4, 1970 Chronicle mentioned that the Loading Zone has been "reorganized." Linda Tillery, the most recognizable person in the band, had in effect formed a new group using the Loading Zone name. Now, no doubt, they did some of the same songs, and roughly played in the same soul/jazz mode, so it wasn't misleading, but it was still a new group.
The reorganized Loading Zone in July 1970 had the following lineup:
Tom Coster-Hammond organ
Tom and Al Coster had extensive jazz backgrounds. In the prior year, they had mostly been playing in a trio with saxophonist Jules Broussard. In 1969, I know they had a Monday/Tuesday residency at an Oakland club on 3rd and Broadway called King Richard (see the ad above). Tower Of Power would play regularly at that club later. The Coster brothers were probably personally well-known to the Loading Zone crew.
The new-model Loading Zone made their debut at a dance at St. Elizabeth's, a Catholic School in the Fruitvale District (at 1516 33rd Avenue). Now, back in the 1960s, most Bay Area High Schools had the occasional Fillmore band play a dance or some event, but for some reason St. Elizabeth's dances in the 60s read like a Fillmore poster. I don't specifically know why so many good bands played there. In any case, Loading Zone was just one of many bands with Fillmore pedigrees who had played a dance there. For some of the private schools, their dances often allowed in students from other high schools (with student IDs), so there was a certain amount of publicity to encourage it.
At this point, being billed as "Loading Zone with Linda Tillery" was not just sound business, it was really true, as the band had been re-formed around her. American Canyon was a community near Napa, but it was also the name of a local band (probably from American Canyon).July 16, 1970 Civic Auditorium, San Jose, CA: BB King/Loading Zone (Thursday)
The San Jose Civic Auditorium, at 135 W. San Carlos Avenue, had been built in 1934. The 3000-capacity auditorium was the South Bay's biggest rock venue for many years, and lots of classic bands played the building. There could hardly be a more classic act than BB King. The King's most recent album would have been Completely Well, released on Bluesway/ABC in December 1969. The album featured BB's biggest ever pop hit "The Thrill Is Gone" which reached #15 on the Billboard pop charts.
July 17-18, 1970 New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Loading Zone/The Crabs (Friday-Saturday)
The more public debut of the band was the next weekend at The New Orleans House, where they were billed as "The New Loading Zone." Also on the bill were The Crabs, a Berkeley "roots-rock" band (although that term was not yet in use).
July 31-August 2, 1970 Mandrakes, Berkeley, CA: Loading Zone (Friday-Sunday)
The Loading Zone also returned for a weekend at another old standby, Mandrake's. Since the new Loading Zone was booked at all their old venues, and then re-booked regularly, they must have gone over pretty well. My own guess is that Linda Tillery backed by the Costers was more straightforward than the six or seven-piece band with some advanced jazz leanings. Now, Tom Coster was a pretty interesting organ player, and the music must have been extremely high quality, but it would have been less dense than it would be with numerous soloists.
The Odyssey was at 1606 El Camino Real in San Mateo (at 16th Avenue, near CA-92 and the San Mateo Bridge). They booked local rock bands for a few months this Summer, and sent in their listing to the Berkeley Barb. I don't know anything else about the club.
August 14, 1970 Peninsula YMCA, San Mateo, CA: Loading Zone (Friday)
The Peninsula YMCA, at 240 El Camino Real in San Mateo, was often for rent for events on Friday and Saturday night. Some local club was probably putting on a dance, and rented the gym. I presume the Loading Zone played numerous such weekend events in their time, but we only have trace evidence of them.
August 20, 1970 Lion's Share, San Anselmo, CA: Loading Zone/Nazgul (Thursday)
August 21-22, 1970 New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Loading Zone/Pig Newton and the Wizards From Kansas (Friday-Saturday)
The Loading Zone had a return weekend at the New Orleans House, so the new band must have gone over well. The peculiarly-named Pig Newton and The Wizards From Kansas suggests a one-time ensemble featuring expatriate Kansas musicians, who may have included Mike Finnegan and Jerry Hahn, among others.
Redding is about 200 miles North of Oakland, near Mt. Shasta. Far Northern California is very beautiful but thinly populated. The Junior College had been founded in 1950, but by 1965 it had expanded so much that it moved to a new, expansive campus at 11555 Oregon Trail, where it thrives today (incidentally, its likely that the road really did follow the track of the Oregon Trail). This seven-band event included two "big city" bands, including Oakland's Loading Zone and San Jose's People. Bittersweet was a band from Chico, and presumably the other bands were local. School wouldn't likely have been in session, so this was probably just a fun end-of-summer events. City rock bands didn't play Redding much, and there wasn't that much local entertainment, so the event was probably pretty well attended.
|The Lion's Share, at 60 Red Hill Avenue in San Anselmo, sometime in the 1970s|
August 28-30, 1970 Lion's Share, San Anselmo, CA: Loading Zone/Cookin' Mama (Friday-Sunday)
The Loading Zone returned for an entire weekend at The Lion's Share, another sign the new band was a success. Cookin' Mama was a big horn band featuring vocalist Sherry Fox and guitarist Pat Thrall.
September 4-6, 1970 Frenchy's, Hayward, CA: Cold Blood/Loading Zone/Charlie Musselwhite (Friday-Sunday)
Although it was in Southern Alameda County, Hayward was not the upscale, upper-middle-class commuter town that it is today. As noted above, much of the area East of Mission Boulevard was unincorporated farm land, and the biggest employer was the GM factory in Fremont. Frenchy's, way out on Mission Boulevard (at 29097 Mission, near Tennyson Rd), had been a big nightclub since the 1960s. Frenchy's had been through every fad, Go-Go dancers, topless, the British Invasion and all sorts of things. At different times, Frank Zappa and Sly and The Family Stone had played there. The club sold a lot of drinks and was one of the primary destinations for that part of the County.
September 17-19, 1970 Lion's Share, San Anselmo, CA: Loading Zone/Sea Train (Thursday-Saturday)
Sea Train (aka Seatrain) had arisen out of the ashes of the Blues Project, who for convoluted reasons had reformed in San Francisco in 1968, even though the band had been founded in Greenwich Village in 1965. By 1970, Sea Train had moved from A&M Records (where they had released their debut album Sea Train) to Capitol, where they had released their album Seatrain. Their membership had changed in the meantime. By 1970, Seatrain featured guitarist/singer/songwriter Peter Rowan, keyboardist/singer/songwriter Lloyd Baskin and electric violinist Richard Greene. As before, bassist (and flautist) Andy Kulberg and drummer Roy Blumenfield remained. Since Greene and Rowan had wintered in Marin the previous year, the band had numerous pals in town. This was probably sort of a homecoming gig for Seatrain.
September 24-26, 1970 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Chuck Berry/Buddy Miles/Loading Zone (Thursday-Saturday)
The Loading Zone played yet another weekend at the Fillmore West, once again opening for Chuck Berry. It seems plausible that the Zone backed Berry, as they had before. If they did, only bassist Mike Eggleston would have actually had prior experience with it (having done it at least once, and possibly as many as four times). Tom and Al Coster were both jazz guys, so while I'm sure they could play rock and roll--I have seen Tom Coster live, I assure you he can play anything--it would have been somewhat out of character. Graham could have hired another local band to back Berry, of course, but it was usually simpler to let one of the opening acts do it.
October 2-4, 1970 Mandrakes, Berkeley, CA: Bill Evans Trio/Loading Zone (Friday-Sunday)
The newspaper listings are a little ambiguous (as they often are), but based on the past history of Mandrake's, it seems likely that the Bill Evans Trio and Loading Zone were probably separate admissions, at least on Friday and Saturday night. It would have been well worth it, however, great jazz from an iconic pianist, and then dancing away the evening with Linda Tillery and the Costers.
October 27-28, 1970 Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Vince Guaraldi/Loading Zone (Tuesday-Wednesday)
A few weeks later, The Loading Zone played two weeknights at Keystone Korner with another jazz great, Vince Guaraldi. Because it wasn't the weekend, there wouldn't have been separate admissions. Guaraldi, unlike almost all jazz musicians, had steady income from the Peanuts soundtracks, so he could play when he wanted to. Guaraldi loved performing but not touring, so he played clubs constantly around the San Francisco area, yet rarely left town.
At this time, the Keystone Korner was a blues and rock club, rather than a jazz club (which it became in Summer '72). According to definitive Guaraldi biographer Derrick Bang, however (whose book Vince Guaraldi At The Piano is a must-read for anyone interested in West Coast Jazz), it was a little-known fact that Guaraldi liked playing electric keyboards. So while he Guaraldi would play grand piano with his groups in traditional jazz venues, in some more "rock" oriented clubs he might be more likely to play a Fender Rhodes, with a big amplifier. Guaraldi often used Mike Clark as a drummer during this period (per Bang), so there could be some big sounds indeed coming from the bandstand.
October 30, 1970 Salesian High School, Richmond, CA: Loading Zone (Friday)
Salesian High School was a Catholic High School in Richmond, at 2851 Salesian Avenue. It had opened as a Seminary in 1927, but started admitting High School boys in 1960. This was probably a school dance.
October 31, 1970 Montclair Recreation Center, Oakland, CA: Loading Zone (Saturday)
As the 1970s dawned, many Bay Area parents didn't really object to rock music, but weren't necessarily enamored of the idea of their children traveling to San Francisco or Berkeley at night just to see rock bands. In the Fall of 1970, the parents in the Montclair district of Oakland arranged to have rock shows on Saturday night at the local recreation center. The idea was to give kids something fun to do in their own neighborhood. There were rock shows most Friday nights for the next year. The bands were local, but they were good ones. Many of them had played the Fillmore West, and a few of them even had albums.
The Montclair Recreation Center was at 6300 Moraga Way, on the main road through Montclair, but just outside the district shopping area. The Rec Center was just above a Fire Station, and there was even a light show. The shows were listed in the Oakland Tribune, and supposedly there were flyers as well (although I've never seen them). The shows seem to have started on September 19, 1970 and the Loading Zone played five weeks later. The Zone played the Montclair Rec Center the next week, and then a few times after that, so it must have gone well.
November 4-5, 1970 Mandrakes, Berkeley, CA: Loading Zone (Wednesday-Thursday)
November 7, 1970 Montclair Recreation Center, Oakland, CA: Loading Zone (Saturday)
There is a bit of uncertainty about whether the Zone played this date.
November 13-14, 1970 Basin Street West, San Francisco, CA: Aum/Loading Zone (Breakfast shows 2:30am Friday and Saturday)
Basin Street West was a jazz club at 401 Broadway in San Francisco. The Broadway district had been the Bay Area's nightlife district, between North Beach, the Financial District and the Bay Bridge. In the mid-60s, the clubs were mostly topless, and by 1970 the area was pretty unseemly. It wasn't such a good place for a music club, since parking was difficult and the atmosphere could be grimy. Still, Basin Street West had the occasional rock act.
Although the advertising in the SF Chronicle is confusing, it appears that AUM and Loading Zone were booked to do Friday and Saturday night "Breakfast Shows" from 2:30am-6:30am. Since bars closed at 2:00am, these shows were often musician hangouts. Officially, drinks were not served, although I'll be alcohol was available somehow. Due to some peculiarities in the SF Chronicle Datebook "Pink Section," this Breakfast Show booking was advertised every week through February. For reasons too granular to get into here, there is no reason to believe them to be accurate. I suspect that AUM and the Zone did play a month of Breakfast shows, however, or something like that. Breakfast shows did not interfere with other lucrative weekend bookings, and musicians often stay up all night anyway.
November 17-18, 1970 Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Cold Blood/Loading Zone (Tuesday-Wednesday)
Cold Blood was booked by the Millard Agency, and even had an album. On weeknights, however, they were on par with the Loading Zone, so they were sharing a booking at Keystone Korner.
December 4-6, 1970 Frenchy's, Hayward, CA: Righteous Brothers/Loading Zone (Friday-Sunday) The Righteous Brothers, "blue-eyed soul" singers Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley, had been huge in the 60s, with hits like "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" and "Little Latin Lupe Lu." They had split up in 1968, but periodically got back together. The Frenchy's crowd had money, but wasn't a Fillmore audience--the Righteous Brothers would have fit the bill, and the Loading Zone would have kept everyone sweaty and dancing.
In the December 8, 1970 Oakland Tribune, jazz writer Russ Wilson mentioned that local guitarist Eddie Duran had played the Monday night jam session with his new quartet (it may have been November 30). It included Tom and Al Coster (and bassist Peter Marshall). Obviously, with the Loading Zone obligations, the Costers could only play part-time with Duran. Still they probably played some weeknights with him around and about.
December 9-10, 1970 Mandrakes, Berkeley, CA: Loading Zone (Wednesday-Thursday)
The last 1970 gig I can find for the Loading Zone was at the Keystone Korner on a Thursday night. The opening act was a Marin band called Beefy Red. Beefy Red was a big, jazzy group with a horn section. They never recorded, but they had a few members who went on to musical success: Barry Finnerty on guitar, Jim Preston on drums and Mark Isham on trumpet.