This post continues a project listing the major Berkeley and East Bay rock concerts from 1965 to 1969, and is part of our Berkeley Music Project. Our first entry listed rock concerts in Berkeley and the East Bay from October to December 1965. This post lists rock concerts from January to March 1966.
Our interest is in rock bands who played the Fillmore or Avalon during this period. I have tried to define this as broadly as possible, generally including bands who at least wanted to play the Fillmore (even if they didn’t), but I have generally shied away from pop acts. I have included some comments about the bands and venues, where relevant, but they are not exhaustive. I have assumed that anyone who actually reads this knows about, say, The Doors or Bill Graham.
In order to keep the scope of these posts plausible, I have generally refrained from listing shows that only featured local "garage" bands made up of mostly High School students, even though some of them had fairly substantial followings. I have also consciously excluded the popular groups who played teenage dances throughout the East Bay (for Bill Quarry and others) as those scenes have been fairly well documented.
Venues include, but are not limited to
• Berkeley Community Theater
• Provo Park, Berkeley
• Harmon Gym , UC Berkeley
• Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley
• Greek Theatre, UC Berkeley
• Oakland Auditorium, Oakland
• Oakland Coliseum Arena, Oakland
I have also included events at nearby Maple Hall in San Pablo and The Rollarena in San Leandro when there was a meaningful headliner, but the list is not exhaustive for those two venues. The list does not include performances at East Bay clubs, which we are covering in other lists (currently we have completed The Jabberwock, The Questing Beast, The New Orleans House and The Freight and Salvage, with more to come). Scholars who are more focused on the posters, handbills and more site-specific information about the venues should look on the Berkeley Art page.
Like all scholarship, this project is an ongoing work in development. This information is the most accurate available to us at this time. Parties with corrections, insights, information or recovered memories should Comment or Email.
Berkeley and East Bay Rock Concerts, January-March 1966
In 1966, Berkeley concerts were a mixture of popular folk and pop acts and small, strange underground events of uneven quality. Almost any available hall or room that could be rented was tried at one time or another for a rock venue.
January 14, 1966 Open Theater, Berkeley The Loading Zone
January 15, 1966 Open Theater, Berkeley Big Brother & The Holding Company
Open Theater Benefit
The Open Theater was an experimental theater group in Berkeley, on 2976 College Avenue (at Elmwood). The troupe did shows that would now be called ‘Performance Art’, with light shows and music. They auditioned to perform at Mother’s (at 430 Broadway in San Francisco), but Tom Donahue declared that they had “too much nudity” for Broadway. The Open Theater, while well-regarded, was never financially successful, and so they began to put on musical events.
The Loading Zone were based on East 14th Street in Oakland, and were a white group playing R&B music with psychedelic lead guitar. They were a rare band that played both East Bay soul venues and Bay Area psychedelic ballrooms. Big Brother and The Holding Company were a San Francisco band managed by local scenemaker Chet Helms. One of the nude performers at the Open Theater had been Chet Helms housekeeper.
Helms had been putting on Wednesday night events in the basement, and the band of residents played in the basement. Chet Helms invited neighbor Bill Ham (from 1839 Pine and the Red Dog ) to put on light shows, and groups like the nascent Big Brother performed. At the ‘rent parties,’ visitors contributed what they could. Peter Albin’s parents owned the rooming house at 1090 Page, and his older brother Rodney managed the building.
The Open Theater performance was Big Brother and The Holding Company’s first advertised show, where the public was invited. The band’s lineup was James Gurley (guitar), Sam Andrew (guitar, vocals), Peter Albin (bass, vocals) and Chuck Jones (drums).
January 28, 1966 Open Theater, Berkeley Congress Of Wonders, Ned’s Mob
January 29, 1966 Open Theater, Berkeley Loading Zone
Congress of Wonders were a comedy trio who were a regular part of The Open Theater. Ned’s Mob are unknown to me.
Februrary 25, 1966 Community Theater, Berkeley The Byrds, The Dillards
The show was billed as a ‘Byrds Bash.’ It was a benefit to raise money for The Board of Control Treasury (supposedly $1000 was raised, according to Byrds chronologist Christopher Hjort). The Byrds had their original 5-piece lineup with Gene Clark. Their second album Turn, Turn, Turn had been released in December, 1965 and the single reached Number 1 soon after.
The Dillards, a bluegrass group from Missouri, whose exceptional chops had made them modestly successful in Hollywood (they were best known as ‘The Darling Family’ on The Andy Griffith Show), had electrified their bluegrass sound. They played electric instruments, like The Byrds, and had Dewey Martin on drums. Shortly after these shows, they would dispense with Martin’s services (he would join the newly formed Buffalo Springfield) and return to a more traditional bluegrass format.
March 25, 1966 The Bear’s Lair, UC Berkeley The Wildflower, Bethlehem Exit, Frantic Folk-Kick
The Bear’s Lair was a coffee shop in the basement of the Student Union building at Bancroft and Telegraph. Shows were presented there intermittently. The show also featured movies from “Kesey’s Trip” and “Sassy Sophie from El Cid” (presumably a burlesque dancer). Wildflower were an Oakland band, formed at the California College of Arts and Crafts, and Bethlehem Exit were a Los Altos band, formed at Foothill College. I’m not clear whether “Frantic Folk-Kick” was a band or the theme of the event—probably the latter.
March 25, 1966 Harmon Gym, UC Berkeley Jefferson Airplane, Mystery Trend, Morning Fog
“Vietnam Day Committee Peace Trip”
Harmon Gym was the UC Berkeley basketball venue. By modern standards, it was quite small, only holding a few thousand people. It has since been replaced by a much larger structure with the same name at the same location.
The poster for this show bills it as a ‘Rock & Roll Dance Benefit.’ It must have been University sanctioned, and almost certainly University funded student entertainment. The Airplane’s willingness to play gigs at Berkeley accompanying political events endeared them to Bay Area college students. Political commitment was something that separated San Francisco bands from ‘straight’ entertainers.
California colleges (and probably most or all American colleges and universities) could not legally allow student events to profit, formally speaking. As a result, any excess funds had to be dedicated to some charity. That is why all UC concerts at the time generally list a non-profit beneficiary on the poster. Its a reasonable assumption that all the bands got paid, and its not at all certain that much (or any) money was necessarily raised for the designated charity.
March 25, 1966 Oakland Auditorium Arena, Oakland Kingston Trio, We Five
We Five were a Bay Area folk-rock group who shared management with The Kingston Trio.
March 26, 1966 Harmon Gym, UC Berkeley Bill Cosby, Ian and Sylvia
The next night was more typical student entertainment. Bill Cosby was a hip, if straight comedian. A local group called Womenfolk may have replaced Ian and Sylvia on the bill.
Next: East Bay Rock Concerts April-June 1966
7 months ago