Friday, June 4, 2021

February 6-7, 1970 Red Ram, 444 E Williams St, San Jose, CA: Bronze Hog (Lost Horizons 1970 II)

A listing in the Berkeley Barb for the Red Ram, a pizza and beer joint in San Jose. Cotati band Bronze Hog were booked for the weekend of February 6-7, 1970
Recently I have been focusing my research on rock shows in the Bay Area in the early 1970s, focusing particularly on the lower tiers. With patience, I have done good research on the Matrix, the Keystone Berkeley, the Long Branch and a few other clubs. Yet I consistently come across tantalizing details of other venues, different untold stories and an insight into the unexplained. Without further information, I am often stuck with just the hint, not anything like the actual story.

My research method focuses on finding dates and venues where bands have performed, and constructing a narrative based on available sources. It sounds simple, but it reaps many benefits. Rather than assume what the motives and goals of different bands or promoters might be, I can let the evidence of actual performances tell me what is desired and what has resulted. The limits of this method, ultimately, are constrained by the limits of my available sources. From the 1960s and '70s, we don't always have that much evidence, so it can be hard to figure out the story. Not all old sources have been digitized, and in many cases a lot of shows were not advertised in any paper. If no local flyers were preserved, or there aren't other sources we can be left with very little. 

Lost Horizons, 1970
The Lost Horizons posts are a series of posts that I can't complete. In some cases I wish someone else would write the post, in other cases I'm hoping someone else has already written it, and in some others I am hoping for more information so I can try and take them on. There's no real connection between any of these topics, save for the device that there was a live performance in 1970 that intrigued my interest. My blogs have an explicitly rock and roll orientation, but my methodological approach veers off in different directions. Fernand Braudel, Reynar Banham, Marcy (emptywheel) Wheeler--it's still rock and roll to me. I'm hoping that the magic of the Internet and eternal Comment Threads will yield up information hitherto unknown to me. If you have any insights, corrections or entertaining speculation, please Comment.

The Berkeley Barb
The Berkeley Barb had been founded by Max Scherr in 1965. The weekly paper made a point of documenting the local counterculture. The readership was distinct from anyone subscribing to the local daily papers (the San Fransisco Chronicle or Examiner, the Oakland Tribune or the Berkeley Gazette). The Barb reported on protests, pot busts, sexual freedom and local rock shows. The ads were for organic foods, head shops or local crafts. The Barb was an alternative paper for an alternative audience. It was sold by hippies to other hippies for a dime or a quarter.  I don't know if the Berkeley Barb was the first such "underground" paper, but it was one of them, and it was a model for such papers all over the country.

By 1970, the Barb was being read all over the Bay Area. I don't know the exact details, but I believe that even outside of Berkeley the paper was available in Head Shops, espresso joints and other hip places throughout the Bay Area. At the back of every issue of the Barb was "Scenedrome," a summary of upcoming and ongoing events in the next week that might be of interest to its readers. While that would always include shows at Fillmore West, for example, it also included performers at Telegraph Avenue coffee shops, foreign movies, political meetings, self-help groups and all sorts of other gatherings. Getting listed in Scenedrome any week was free--someone just had to call the Barb by Tuesday at noon. So for hippie events that were on a shoestring, or just free, calling the Scenedrome was the cheapest way to get publicity. 

While Berkeley events had always been posted in Scenedrome every week since 1965, by 1970 it was plain that the rest of the Bay Area was paying attention as well. The Friday and Saturday listings in Scenedrome went well beyond Berkeley, a clear indicator that the Barb had a broader readership beyond central Berkeley. So we get tantalizing hints of what was going on around the Bay Area, without really knowing exactly what it was. Most of my notices below come from little more than the barest of listings in the appropriate issue of the Berkeley Barb, with occasional supplements from other sources.

Capitol Records released the debut album by the Bay Area jazz-rock quartet The Fourth Way in 1969

February 6-7, 1970 Red Ram, San Jose, CA: Bronze Hog (Friday-Saturday)
February 13-14, 1970 Red Ram, San Jose, CA: Fourth Way
For two issues of the Barb in February, 1970, Scenedrome included listings for a club in San Jose called the Red Ram. Since listings in Scenedrome were free, it just meant that someone from the club had called the Barb prior to the deadline (Tuesday noon). Since the club was in San Jose, not Berkeley, and no such listings appeared before or after, we have to reflect on what this might have implied. 

The Red Ram was at 444 E. William Avenue, between South 9th and 10th Streets. It was a few blocks from the San Jose State campus. The unexpected appearance of the club in the Barb listings sent me over to the San Jose State newspaper archive (The Spartan Daily), and I got a clearer picture of the story. In the case of the Red Ram, it turns out, I could figure out the whole arc and while it's worthy of a few paragraphs, it's just a kind of footnote.

Per the Spartan Daily, the Red Ram seemed to be a typical pizza-and-beer joint near campus. Starting in January, they had begun booking "name" acts on weekends. Now, in this case, "name" just meant they were professional bands playing original music, and they were familiar from clubs like the New Orleans House. The weekend acts in January at the Red Ram included the Fourth Way and Charley Musselwhite. The fact that someone at the Red Ram called Scenedrome in February indicates that the Barb must have been available around the San Jose State campus, which isn't surprising. 

After the February 13 Barb, the Red Ram wasn't listed in Scenedrome again. To some extent, that's just a sign that no one called the Barb again. The Red Ram ad in the next weekend's Spartan Daily had the band Mt Rushmore (who had two albums on Dot Records), and intermittent listings through April. By September, the Red Ram was still advertising in the Spartan Daily, but with no mention of bands. The experiment with professional bands seemed to have ended, with the Barb listings one of the few clues to the fledgling plan (see the appendix below for some more detail).

Appendix: The Red Ram, 444 East Williams St, San Jose, CA: Live Performances 1970
Having been intrigued by the listings in the Barb, I did some research in the Spartan Daily, and put together a brief summary of the history of original rock at the Red Ram. This list is hardly definitive. Anyone with additional information (or flashbacks, speculation etc) please mention them in the Comments.

January 9-10, 1970 Red Ram, San Jose, CA: Fourth Way (Friday-Saturday) [Spartan Daily ad Jan 7]
The Fourth Way were an electric jazz quartet based in the Bay Area. Broadly speaking, they were playing "jazz-rock," but their sound was more introspective than the more frantic East Coast fusion style of Miles Davis. New Zealand expatriate Mike Nock played electric keyboards, and Michael White (ex-John Handy) played electric violin. Veteran bassist Ron McClure (ex-Charles Lloyd Quartet) and drummer Eddie Marshall rounded out the band. The Fourth Way had released their debut on Capitol in 1969, and would go on to release two more albums on Harvest.

January 16-17, 1970 Red Ram, San Jose, CA: Charley Musselwhite
(Friday-Saturday) [Spartan Daily Jan 14]
Charlie Musselwhite had been born in Mississippi and moved to Memphis, and then ultimately to Chicago.  He was one of a small number of white musicians in Chicago (including Nick Gravenites, Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop and a few others) who had stumbled onto the blues scene by themselves.  A Chicago club regular, Musselwhite eventually recorded an album for Vanguard in 1967 called Stand Back, which started to receive airplay on San Francisco’s new underground FM station, KMPX-fm. Friendly with the Chicago crowd who had moved to San Francisco, his band was offered a month of work in San Francisco in mid-1967, so Musselwhite took a month’s leave from his day job and stayed for a couple of decades.

Musselwhite had released his second album on Vanguard, Stone Blues, in 1968. Sometime in 1969, Vanguard released Tennessee Woman. Musselwhite was a regular on the Bay Area club scene, and had played the Fillmore and Avalon as well. In Chicago, Musselwhite was just one of many fine blues acts, but in the Bay Area he stood out. Sometime in early 1970, teenage Ukiah guitarist Robben Ford joined the Musselwhite band. Ford would go on to great success, playing with the LA Express, George Harrison, Miles Davis and many others.

Hey! by The Bronze Hog was recorded in 1978 at the Inn Of The Beginning in Cotati

February 6-7, 1970 Red Ram, San Jose, CA: Bronze Hog (Friday-Saturday) [Barb Feb 6]
The Bronze Hog were a power trio from bucolic Cotati, in Sonoma County. Their home base was the Inn Of The Beginning, at 8201 Old Redwood Highway. Guitarist Frank Haycock would lead Bronze Hog for a couple of decades, but in 1968 they were one of many rising bands in the Bay Area struggling to get a wider audience. In 1978, Bronze Hog had a privately released live album, recorded (of course) at the Inn Of The Beginning.

February 13-14, 1970 Red Ram, San Jose, CA: Fourth Way (Friday-Saturday) [Barb Feb 13, also Spartan Daily Feb 13]

February 20-21, 1970 Red Ram, San Jose, CA: Mount Rushmore (Friday-Saturday) [Spartan Daily Feb 20]
Mt. Rushmore was a San Francisco band who had released two albums on Dot Records. The band had a complicated history, and was intricately connected to the band Phoenix (we have sorted it all out). The group did not last much past 1970.

February 24-25, 1970 Red Ram, San Jose, CA: South Bay Experimental Flash (Tuesday-Wednesday) [Spartan Daily Feb 20]
The Friday, February 20 Spartan Daily not only mentioned Mt Rushmore's weekend booking, but also advertised the local band South Bay Experimental Flash on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Experimental Flash were a San Jose based quintet, playing a sophisticated form of jazz-rock, fronted by saxophonist David Ladd. Although--ironically--the band members had moved to Richmond in the East Bay by this time, the group would have been known in the South Bay.

The mid-week listing suggests that the Red Ram was expanding its music booking, but the opposite appears to have been case. The Red Ram continued to advertise in the Spartan Daily, and while some ads through April mentioned "live music," no bands were named. This tells us that lower profile bands were being booked. By September, there was no mention of live music at the Red Ram. At this time, there were no night clubs in the San Jose metropolitan area booking original rock music.