San Franciscan Nights Version 2.0
The Hell's Honkies Tape Club
This letter is to accompany the eight CDs or however many DVDs will make up the tree, "San Franciscan Nights Version 2.0". Please copy this letter so it accompanies the CDs or DVDs for people across the Internet.
This is a follow-up to the original "San Franciscan Nights" tree that first appeared on four DATs in 1997. It is our expressed desire to share this music with everyone, and it is our hope you will in turn SHARE this with other people. That means don't trade it or ask for any 2 for 1 trades that some people still think is ethical. Again, just share it! Also, converting this to MP3 is a no-no.
The Hell's Honkies Tape Club was founded in May 1972 for the express purpose of archiving the music played in the San Francisco ballrooms between 1965-1971. It is more important than ever to revisit this music and pass it on to the next generation. Don't forget to play it LOUD.
Where did this music come from?
Mostly from our old reels. The music was transferred to a computer using a Delta DI/O converter. The Sons of Champlin, Country Joe and the Fish, A.B. Sky, and Aum sets all came from first generation reels of FM broadcasts. Many other sets came from now defunct radio station archives that I first contacted in the mid-1970s. Not one note of music in San Francisco Nights Version 2.0 comes from commercially bootlegged material although a few things are from acetates.
Some quick notes:
Moby Grape: This complete version of Dark Magic showed the true potential of the band. Jerry Miller still plays around the Northwest. Go see him!
The Butterfield Blues Band: This is the original band, 'nuff said.
Jefferson Airplane. This set is with Signe Anderson, not Grace Slick.
Aum: Their guitarist, Wayne "The Harp" Cabellos, jammed with The Grateful Dead on 6/8/69 at The Fillmore West.
Lamb: Can Barbara Mauritz sing or what? Lamb put out three albums for the Fillmore label between 1969-1971.
The Charlatans: One of the founding bands of the entire San Francisco scene, they set the style and pace for that era.
The Steve Miller Blues Band: Very little live music is in circulation while Boz Scaggs was playing.
The Electric Flag: Another band that has little live music in circulation. Mike Bloomfield, Buddy Miles, and Company. Wow!
Quicksilver: You have to love this acoustic version of The Fool.
Country Joe & The Fish: Although this set has circulated for years, this should be an upgrade for many people.
A.B. Sky: This was the band that Howard Wales belonged to prior to his work with Jerry Garcia.
The Grateful Dead: This studio rehearsal from 1966 shows the band still working on their song arrangements. Jerry Garcia sings "Jet To The Promised Land". The Midnight Hour was at the end of an old beat up reel that is too good not to include. I decided to put this track at the end of the last CD for a closure effect. This particular version REALLY ended that show!
All the other music is pretty self explanatory.
Quicksilver Messenger Service
1. Chevy Camaro Commercial (Studio 1966)
2. The Fool (Studio 1967)
3. Stand By Me (Studio 1968)
4. Happy Trails (Studio 1968)
5. Hoochie Coochie Man (Avalon 1966)
Moby Grape - Avalon Ballroom 12/31/66
6. Dark Magic
The Grateful Dead (Studio 1966)
7. Walkin' The Dog
8. Big Boss Man
9. Beat It On Down The Line
10. It's All Over Now (Baby Blue)
11. Broken Heart
12. One Kind Favor
13. Jet To The Promised Land
Paul Butterfield Blues Band - Fillmore Aud. 10/14/66
1. Shake Your Money Maker
2. The Sky Is Crying
3. Pretty Woman
4. Help Me
5. Never Say No
6. You're So Fine
7. East West (Cut)
Jefferson Airplane - Fillmore West 10/14/66
8. The Other Side Of This Life
9. You're Bringing Me Down
10. This Is My Life
11. It's Alright
13. Go To Her
14. It's No Secret
Country Joe & The Fish (2/14/68 Carousel Ballroom)
2. Rock Coast Blues
3. The Masked Marauder
4. Death Sound Blues
5. Flyin' High
6. Rock 'n Soul Music
Aum (Avalon Ballroom 4/6/69)
7. I Need You
8. Little Brown Hen
9. A Little Help From You
10. Bye-Bye Baby
Steve Miller Blues Band (Carousel Ballroom 5/10/68)
1. Living In The USA=>
2. Mercury Blues
3. Stepping Stone
4. Feel So Good
5. Junior Saw It Happen=>
6. Walking Cane (Cut)
The Electric Flag (Carousel Ballroom 5/68)
4. Hey Joe
6. I've Been Loving You Too Long
7. Another Country
9. Don't You Lie To Me
10. Soul Searching
A.B. Sky (Avalon Ballroom 3/30/69)
1. The World Needs Love
2. Thinking It Over
3. Sweet Little Angel
4. Just What I Needed
5. St. James Infirmary
6. Every Day I Have The Blues
Congress of Wonders
7. "Pigeon Park" Comedy Skit (KSAN)
Grateful Dead - Family Dog at the Beach 9/6/69
8. Not Fade Away>Easy Wind (Cut)
The Sons of Champlin (Winterland 10/24/69)
1. It's Time
2. For The Love Of A Woman
3. We Got To Leave Tomorrow Behind
4. You Can Fly
5. Get High
The Charlatans (Sausalito Sessions 1969)
6. I Always Wanted A Girl Like You
7. Alabama Bound
8. No Place To Go
9. How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away
10. We're Not On The Same trip
Janis Joplin, Mike Bloomfield, & Friends (Studio 12/3/69)
1. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out
2. Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)
3. Don't Quit, Daddy
4. Get It While You Can
5. Had To Get Out Of Texas
Lamb (Fillmore West 1970)
6. Flower Song
7. Let's Go Flying
8. Love Came To Me
9. Get Happy
Santana (The Fillmore West 1970)
12. Evil Ways
13. Black Magic Woman
The Grateful Dead (Unknown 1966)
13. Midnight Hour
“It All Rolls Into One:”
The Psychedelic Ballroom Era in San Francisco,
To the business manager of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, what was most remarkable about his successful fund-raiser was the cross section of people it had drawn together. It was November of 1965, and the Troupe had been busted for obscenity. To raise money for their legal defense, they settled on the idea of a party: invite the Bay Area’s art community to come and perform at the Troupe’s South of Market loft in San Francisco. Years later, famed rock promoter Bill Graham—the Troupe’s manager who saw, as he put it, “the business of the future” that night—recalled: “People lined up in the street for the party. Huge hoards of people. Thousands of them. ... A mixed group. It was amazing. ... In San Francisco, you could turn over seventeen different parts of the city and the worms under each rock would represent one neighborhood. That night, all the worms got into one pot.”
For the musicians, painters, light show artists, sculptors, actors and all of the other avant-garde artists and bohemians of the Bay Area, it was equally historic in feeling, but not unprecedented. Indeed, one of the most striking aspects of San Francisco history is the degree to which each of California’s bohemian colonies—Venice and North Beach in the Fifties, Big Sur in the early Sixties, the Haight in the Mid-Sixties, and so on—eventually collides and connects with the others. In that regard it conforms with American bohemianism in general: its ripples intersect as they unfold with maddening frequency and often intricate complexity.
Tracing the ballroom scene is a good way of unraveling the tangle in the mid-Sixties. San Franciscans tend to think of the Mime Troupe’s first party as the genesis of the scene, but it all begins, really, with the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada. The brainchild of two stoned ex-Marin County hippies, it transformed an old saloon into a certified psychedelic ballroom for a couple of summers, starting in 1965, when Mark Unobsky, proprietor of this acid-soaked enterprise, auditioned a hopelessly tripping group of San Francisco State musicians called the Charlatans on the Red Dog’s tiny stage. With Bill Ham’s home-made light show pulsing around them, the Charlatans were too badly impaired to do more than flail, even switching instruments at one point, but Unobsky—also tripping—was vastly amused and invited them for a summer-long residency.
The Red Dog fluoresced. There had been nothing quite like it before: a proto-psychedelic Haight-Ashbury Disneyland, just a few hours away, with real guns and Western Edwardiana, twenty-four hours a day. And the allure of the wide, wide West was that as long as they kept things relatively quiet, they could get away with as much pot-smoking and acid-dropping as business would allow. Perfect.
That fall, veterans of the Red Dog experiment tottered back to San Francisco. Among those who had been to the Red Dog and been impressed were a group of dealers and friends living in two houses along Page Street. Naming themselves after a beloved pet that had died, the Family Dog decided it was time for San Francisco to hold its own dance parties. Enlisting the aid of influential music critic Ralph J. Gleason, they successfully hired the Longshoreman’s Hall to host a series of new bands, starting with the Lovin’ Spoonful. Members of the Dead, still soaring after a day-long acid romp on Mt. Tamalpais, showed up that night; Phil Lesh buttonholed one of the organizers at one point and enthused, “Lady, what this little seance needs is us.”
Indeed. For a couple of shows, starting mid-October, it worked: hundreds of hippies showed up in the first real manifestations of what one participant marveling said was a sense of, “Wow, they can’t arrest us all!” But holding dances with non-union bands in a union hall was something that couldn’t last. Neither could hundreds of stoned hippies, grooving and bopping, without attracting the attention of local teen hoodlum culture. By the fourth dance, there were skirmishes and fistfights at the doors, and the union attention meant that it was the last of the Longshoreman Hall dances for the original Family Dog.
The idea had caught fire, though. Shortly after the second Family Dog dance, the street-savvy business manager for the San Francisco Mime Troupe, a struggling avant-garde theater group that had recently been busted for obscenity, seized upon the idea of calling together the various strands of the Bay Area’s avant-garde art community for a benefit to raise money for the Troupe’s legal defense. Young rock bands like the Jefferson Airplane responded to the call, and the business manager, an ex-New Yorker named Bill Graham, was stunned at the turn-out: thousands of people cycled through the Troupe’s small loft that night in November, 1965.
By January, Graham was installed in the Fillmore Auditorium, a grand second-story ballroom on the outskirts of one of the black areas of town, the Fillmore District, just West of downtown. His partners for the first few months were two hippies, one of whom was an ex-Texan named Chet Helms, a sincere young man possessed with a missionary zeal for the values of hippiedom. Chet had occasionally been known to deal a little of the herbal sacrament hippies found so useful; and he and his colleague had a circle of friends and acquaintances that constituted the core of the Haight-Ashbury’s younger bohemian scene. With diligent phone work, the turn-out for their show with the Paul Butterfield Blues band was remarkable.
Graham had seen enough. He could do this. And he didn’t need a stoned partner. In one of the most oft-told stories of the scene, Graham set his alarm clock for 6 a.m. so he could call New York when they were first stirring. He got Albert Grossman on the line; could he arrange for exclusive rights to Butterfield’s next Bay Area appearance? “How about in three weeks? Thank you, Mr. Grossman.”
Chet steamed in around noon and was treated to the second half of this story, which is Graham’s notorious rejoinder, “Chet, you’re gonna be in this business and I’m gonna be in this business. And I’ll tell you, there’s only one suggestion I can make to you. Get up early.”
The strained partnership nonetheless continued alternating weekends until early April, when Chet finally pulled out; two weeks later, he started his rival to Graham at the ornate Avalon Ballroom, a few blocks East on Van Ness Avenue. Another second-story ballroom, it featured a marvelous sprung floor, making dance there an especially powerful experience. Chet continued with the Avalon for a couple of years, until it was shut down on a noise complaint in September of 1968. He switched to a venue out at the Great Highway in 1969, lasting long enough to host some great shows, including legendary runs by the Velvet Underground and the Dead, before finally shutting for good shortly after.
Early on there were a number of promoters, such as Beat poet Lew Welch, who ran shows all over the city, including the Fillmore, California Hall, Winterland, and the Masonic Temple, but the Fillmore and the Avalon were the best halls, and Graham and Helms rapidly dominated the field. Their only other real competition came from the bands themselves: in early 1968, the Airplane, the Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service opened a ballroom at the corner of Market and Van Ness, the heart of the City: for eight months, it ran as an absolute antithesis to the comparatively tidy scenes at the Fillmore and the looser one at the Avalon.
Not as loose as the Carousel. Set up in deliberate defiance of the ballroom promoters, it flourished under the banner of artistic anarchy, creating some legendary shows and disastrous finances. When hippies couldn’t pay in cash, they worked—or paid with other specie. Garcia recalled seeing a bloody haunch of mutton sticking out of the cash register drawer. Some of the greatest stories of Dionysian excess emerged from the Carousel, painting the stories of its bacchanals with Hieronymous Bosch strokes. When the Carousel closed in mid-summer, 1968, after a particularly notorious event, the Free City Convention, Graham snapped up the lease and left his increasingly unsafe venue at the edge of the now-smoldering Fillmore District. Rechristened the Fillmore West, the old Carousel became the last bastion of the Haight-Ashbury’s psychedelic dancehall scene until it finally closed July 4, 1971 with a legendary week of concerts, immortalized in Bert Decker’s film, Fillmore: The Last Days.
The ballrooms were the crown jewels of the scene, but there were a number of important smaller venues in the city that played vital roles in the music scene: the tiny Matrix, in the Marina, hosted legendary runs of artists; so did tiny, fly-by-night clubs like the Rock Garden, out in the Mission District, which showcased the Dead and the Charles Lloyd Quintet for several nights in Spring, 1967. And there were larger venues, of course, like Winterland Arena, the apex of Graham’s burgeoning empire. Just up the street from the old Fillmore, Winterland ended up with as distinguished a rock history as its smaller, more gaudy cousins before it closed in 1978. In the Seventies, Graham would expand to venues like the Orpheum and the Warfield, old downtown theaters famous for hosting touring Broadway shows, and eventually to huge venues all over the Bay Area and the world.
But the music on these disks dates to that first, youthful period of ballroom psychedelia, from major voices like the Grateful Dead to brief constellations like the Oxford Circle, whose Paul Whaley went on to play with Blue Cheer. It’s an admirable cross-section of the bands who defined the era and gave voice to the times.
Other cities had their scenes: Austin, Los Angeles, Portland, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Philadelphia, Boston, New York ... but there was something about the San Francisco ballrooms that breathed prototype; even archetype. This was because they were exemplars, too: the bands, the posters, the scene—they made the Haight the living, breathing embodiment of the ancient Dionysian spirit of Bohemia, for a few months, in 1965 and 1966 and into 1967, before it all began to implode. The ripples are still unfolding.
— Nicholas Meriwether
The literature on the ballroom era is vast and variegated, both in quality and focus. Good basic sources—which also inform this essay—are Charles Perry, The Haight-Ashbury: A History (New York: Random House, 1984); Bill Graham and Robert Greenfield, Bill Graham Presents (New York: Doubleday, 1992); Jack McDonough, San Francisco Rock (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1984); Paul Grushkin, The Art of Rock (New York: Artabras, 1984); and Emmett Grogan, Ringolevio (New York: Little, Brown, 1972). A much fuller treatment of the ballrooms and Graham’s role in them are my liner notes to the as-yet unreleased boxed set, The Fillmore Years (1992). Dozens of officially released live albums were recorded at the Fillmore and the Avalon; a good sampler of the last week’s shows is Fillmore: The Last Days (U.S.: Epic/Associated/Legacy Z2K 31390).
Another Foolish musical distribution from The Ship of Fools.
Only the finest cozmic delights, as we sail into the mystic.