Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Berkeley and East Bay Rock Concerts April-June 1966 (Berkeley III)

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. Previous posts have been
This post lists rock concerts from April to June 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 April-June 1966

April 1, 1966 Harmon Gym, UC Berkeley Jefferson Airplane, The Skins
April 2, 1966 Harmon Gym, UC Berkeley Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Exiles 
Delano Grape Strikers Benefit
I have had to make some assumptions about these shows, as they are usually listed as “April 1-2 Jefferson Airplane/Skins/Quicksilver/Exiles.” I believe it is the way I have it here, however. Unraveling the Berkeley concerts is complicated by the full schedule of rock shows in San Francisco. The Jefferson Airplane were headlining the Fillmore on Friday night (April 1), Saturday night (April 2) and Sunday afternoon (April 3). The Quicksilver Messenger Service were co-billed with the Airplane at the Fillmore on Friday night, and playing a different benefit at the nearby Geary Temple (at 1859 Fillmore) on Saturday night.

There are at least two different circulating handbills that I know of (above), and possibly more. Its remarkable enough that the Airplane were headlining two shows in Berkeley and San Francisco on the same night, but I find it impossible to believe that both Fillmore acts on Friday night were also playing Berkeley--who was going to be playing the Fillmore? That is why I have interpreted the ad to mean that the big Underground bands (the Airplane and Quicksilver) would highlight one show each night.

Even as early as April 1966, Bill Graham would not have wanted his headline act (the Airplane) playing Berkeley without his imprimatur, and Graham’s involvement is tipped by the listing of The Skins. The Skins was an informal name for three conga drummers Graham hired to play between sets (they included lightshow man Jerry Abrams and jazz musician Ulysses Crockett). I assume Graham saw the Airplane’s benefit show as publicity for the Fillmore shows, and given how few people would have actually heard the Airplane, this was very shrewd.

My assumption is that on Friday night, the Airplane played early in Berkeley, while Quicksilver and probably another band opened the Fillmore. The Airplane would have made it over to the Fillmore in ample time for their first set, probably around 10pm.

Meanwhile, Quicksilver could have played in the middle of the Saturday night Harmon Gym show, still leaving them plenty of time to get over to Geary Temple to participate in the Benefit, which probably went until at least 2am. Both events probably had additional performers, as well as speakers, since Cesar Chavez's UFW strike in Delano, CA was an important political cause in Berkeley.

April 6, 1966 Oakland Auditorium Arena, Oakland Paul Revere and The Raiders, Harbinger Complex, English Shillings, Peter Wheat and The Breadmen, The Baytovens, Wm Penn and His Pals
This show was presented by Bill Quarry’s Teens N Twenties Presents and MC’d by KYA dj Johnny Holliday. Quarry usually presented local bands at smaller venues, but periodically he had a big event. Paul Revere and The Raiders were a hugely popular band at the time, appearing almost weekly on ABC-TV's show Where The Action Is. The supporting groups were almost all East Bay “garage” bands popular at Quarry’s dances. The exception was Wm Penn and His Pals, a Paul Revere-styled South Bay band featuring organist Gregg Rolie, later in Santana and Journey.

April 9, 1966  Veterans Memorial Hall, Berkeley The Loading Zone, The Answer
“Trip A-Go-Go”
The Veterans Memorial Hall was a fairly small downtown auditorium at 1931 Center, (between Shattuck and Grove and near the High School). The Loading Zone were an Oakland-based "psychedelic soul" band, perhaps the first. The Answer was a band of Berkeley High School students.

April 15, 1966 Harmon Gym, UC Berkeley Clifton Chenier, Mance Lipscomb, Lighning Hopkins, Muddy Waters and His Chicago Blues Band featuring Otis Spann & James Cotton
Parts of this show were released on an album on Arhoolie Records, featuring Chenier and Lipscomb (who recorded for Arhoolie), from a tape for campus station KAL-fm.

April 15, 1966 The Bear’s Lair, UC Berkeley Bethlehem Exit, The Answer, The Exiles
“Trip Dance”

April 16, 1966 Harmon Gym, UC Berkeley  Butterfield Blues Band, Jefferson Airplane
This was a Bill Graham show. This bill was playing the Fillmore, but instead of a Saturday night Fillmore show, the bill played at Berkeley’s Harmon Gym instead. This may have been a concession to the synagogue next door to the Fillmore.

April 24, 1966 North Field, UC Berkeley Country Joe And The Fish, Malvina Reynolds, Wildflower, Dan Paik, Chris Selsor, Gothic Cathedral Jug Band, Bethlehem Exit
Robert Scheer For Congress Benefit
Bob Scheer was the anti-Vietnam war candidate, running in the Democratic primary. I’m not sure where North Field was. Knowing UC Berkeley, I’m sure it’s a building now.

May 6, 1966 Wurster Hall, UC Berkeley Latin All-Stars, John Handy, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Bethlehem Exit
“Beaux Arts Ball.”
Wurster Hall was the newly-constructed building for the Department of Architecture. The current configuration of the building would not support a dance/concert. However,  I think the building was not fully utilized at the time, so the open architecture of the interior could simulate a ballroom environment.

The Beaux Arts Festival was a week long Arts Festival at the University, and the Friday Night Ball was the culminating event.

May 7, 1966 Harmon Gym, UC Berkeley  Grateful Dead, Jaywalkers, Billy Moses Blues Band
“Peace Rock 3”
The Dead’s performance was reviewed in the UC Berkeley student newspaper (The Daily Cal) by one Jann Wenner, who went on to found Rolling Stone magazine the next year. This was a benefit for The Vietnam Peace Day Committee.  A peculiarity of Berkeley student events was though they were run as commercial enterprises (bands were paid, etc), since University funds were used, no profit could be made by the students, so a charity always had to be designated.

The Charlatans and Great Society opened along with Billy Moses Blues Band (The Charlatans were also playing the Avalon, but they could have played both shows). The Great Society were a Palo Alto based group featuring the inimitable Grace Slick on vocals and keyboards.

The Jaywalkers featured guitarist Charlie Cockey. Billy Moses Blues Band is unknown to me.

May 12, 1966 Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley Blues Project
Robert Scheer For Congress Benefit
Pauley Ballroom was a moderate sized Ballroom with a very low ceiling, on the second floor of the new Student Union building on Bancroft and Telegraph (the Bear's Lair was in the Basement). It overlooked both Upper and Lower Sproul Plaza. Student groups apparently could reserve the Ballroom for a relatively token fee, so many events were put on there, even if it doesn't sound that great when the music is loud. Pauley Ballroom has a capacity of several hundred at most.

The Blues Project, from Greenwich Village, were performing around California at this time.

May 14, 1966 Veterans Memorial Hall, Berkeley  Grateful Dead, Final Solution
Berkeley was a principal source of attendees at the Fillmore and Avalon (for obvious reasons), but despite continued efforts no suitable rock venue was ever established in Berkeley. Ironically, the failure to find a suitable venue in Berkeley helped insure the vitality of the San Francisco ballroom scene. Since Harmon Gym was a University facility, it could never take on status as a regular venue (bad sound and poor parking notwithstanding), and the same was true of the Berkeley Community Theater, located at the High School.

The Veterans Hall was (and is) a tiny hall in downtown Berkeley, and bands like The Dead were already too big for this venue, even by this early date. The Final Solution were a San Francisco State band, well connected to the scene and led by Ernie Fosselius. Well regarded by their peers, if undanceable, they were quite embarrassed years later when they figured out why Holocaust survivor Bill Graham only booked the band one time at the Fillmore. Fosselius went on to become a filmmaker, best known for some animated features he created in the early 1970s for Sesame Street.

May 20, 1966 Rollarena, San Leandro Neil Diamond, The Spyders, The Harbinger Complex, Mack and The Uptowners, The Epics  
Bill Quarry's TNT presented Neil Diamond, backed by a local group, The Spyders.  Apparently, Diamond was picked up at the airport by promoter  Quarry, spent a day rehearsing with The Spyders,and was paid $1000. The flyer says “Direct From New York!!! Singing his hit ‘Solitary Man.’” The next night (Saturday May 21) Diamond played Frenchy’s in Hayward where he was backed by the other band on the bill, The Mothers (really). Diamond flew back East after the weekend.

May 21, 1966 Greek Theatre, UC Berkeley Lovin’ Spoonful, Charlatans, Syndicate Of Sound
The Greek Theater was a faux “Greek” Theatre nestled on a hillside at Hearst St and Gayley Rd, on the Berkeley campus, that seated about 8700.  The sound was beautiful and the site was perfect.  The University allowed occasional rock shows in the 60s and early 70s, mostly on Sunday afternoons, but otherwise prevented shows from taking place.  Ironically, this perfect East Bay dance-concert venue was there all along, but UC Berkeley for its own reasons chose to limit access.  The Grateful Dead triumphantly returned to the venue in 1981 and the Greek Theater became a major Bay Area rock venue throughout the 80s.

Sometime in 1966, probably around the time of this show, Lovin Spoonful guitarist Zal Yanofsky was busted in San Francisco for marijuana possession.  The police let him go after he gave up his dealer, who was a member of The Committee.  Yanofsky, a Canadian, was afraid of getting deported and losing his chance at stardom.  Word got around the underground rapidly, however, and Lovin Spoonful was no longer invited to play the Fillmore and The Avalon, and in fact they never played either venue.

Although the Spoonful's records remained successful, it would turn out that the road was the only place for bands to make money.  When Lovin Spoonful was cut out of the nascent underground touring scene, their chance to establish themselves as ‘artists’ like the Airplane or the Blues Project was destroyed.  Zal Yanofsky left the Spoonful once the story broke publicly in Spring, 1967, but the damage had already had been done.  The underground was now strong enough to not only make bands, but also to finish them.

May 27, 1966 Rollarena, San Leandro Them, Peter Wheat and The Breadmen, Canadian Fuzz
Van Morrison and Them were on the typical mid 60s “British Invasion” tour, appearing as headliner on top of numerous local bands.  Them were small change compared to the Dave Clark Five or The Animals, much less the Beatles or the Stones. Nonetheless, Them were very popular in California and were revered by many young musicians, since their immortal “Baby Don’t Please Don’t Go”/”Gloria” single in November 1964. That record had been shockingly raw for 1964 radio.

Van Morrison’s success in the 1970s has left fans with an image of an insular, brooding crooner.  However, in 1966 not only were Them popular as wild rockers with songs like “Gloria” and “Mystic Eyes”, but Van had come out of Irish “Showbands”, which were quite the opposite of Celtic mysticism.  Reports from every city on the 1966 American tour not only tell of how great Van’s singing and music were, but his wild James Brown-style showmanship as well.  The showstopper for Them was a high-octane version of Bobby Blue Bland’s “Turn On Your Lovelight.” Bill Quarry reminisces (in Bruce Tahsler’s book) that Them’s performance had the biggest crowd ever to see a show at the Rollarena, and fans were lined up at 3:00 pm when Quarry’s staff pulled in to set up the show.

Everything changed for Van after this show, in an alley behind the venue, when Van bumped into 19-year old Janet (Planet) Rigsbee, his future wife and the world’s Brown-Eyed Girl.  She had gone to see the show, and was trying to get backstage to meet him afterwards. 

Peter Wheat and The Breadmen were the KYA ”house band”, which suggests that this may have been a KYA sponsored event.  The Canadian Fuzz were apparently actually Canadians who lived in California.

May 28, 1966  Community Theater, Berkeley Simon & Garfunkel

June 26, 1966  Oakland Auditorium Arena, Oakland  Them, The Association, The Grass Roots, The Baytovens, The Wildflower, The Harbinger Complex, William Penn and His Pals
Leander Productions Presents
This was another big "Teen" show, featuring a wide variety of groups playing brief sets. Note, however, that Oakland's psychedelic Wildflower were on the bill along with various teen bands. The Grass Roots were Fillmore and Avalon regulars (for complicated reasons), and Them would play some historic shows at the Fillmore a few days after this event. So while this Oakland Auditorium show was in many ways typical of teen rock shows throughout the country, the migration of rock music from radio "entertainment" to Fillmore-style "Art" was already happening.

Next: East Bay Concerts July-September 1966


  1. I've trying to date a Phil Ochs poster, for a Berkeley performance ("First Bay Area concert") at Garfield Friday, April 9, no year given. The day/date concordance would make that 1966 or 1977, and Phil dies in 1976. I don't see such a concert listed on this page. What do you know?

  2. The Arthur Gorson presented Phil Ochs show at Garfield Auditorium (Rose and Grant) was on April 29, 1966 - not April 9. It is not here as it does not fall in to the category of "Rock Concerts". Ross

  3. Why doesn't anyone remember the "John Bear Trail", from Telegraph to Canyon, CA? I'll bet there is ONE person who recalls this, and knows who John Bear was.