Thursday, 21 January 2010

09 July 1967: A Wake for the 'Wock

The Jabberwock closed officially on July 8, 1967. The last notes were played by Doc Watson, banjoist Rick Shubb and fiddler Hank Bradley (then in Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band). Doc Watson was certainly the featured act. At the time, Shubb and Bradley regularly joined in at the end of Doc’s Bay Area shows to perform as an old-timey trio.

Although the Jabberwock had survived financial difficulties since the start and a number of brushes with the authorities, it was the Berkeley Health and Building Departments that finally drove the Jabberwock out of business. The building was re-classified “due to increased occupant load” - the result of which was the need for remodelling that simply was not financially viable.

Jef Jaisun (regular 'Wockite, member of Phoenix and massively successful (Narco Agent) pop star) wrote an obituary for The Jabberwock in the Berkeley Barb (Volume 5, Number 1 (Issue 99) dated July 7-13, 1967). He knew the end was near.

By the following week, the Berkeley Barb (Volume 5, Number 2 (Issue 100) dated July 14-20, 1967) was left to report on the final knockings:

A Wake for the 'Wock

The Jabberwock, in finest tradition, went down swinging last weekend.
After full houses jammed the now extinct coffeehouse both Friday and Saturday nights to hear Doc Watson, old time "wocknies" gather for a good old traditional wake on Sunday.

Characteristic of the change in modern music, much of the night was devoted to electric blues sounds. And as musicians played, others rolled back the tables and danced, sang, cried a little, and drank a lot.

The Jolly Blue Giant was on hand to give the "Wock" a royal send-off, while 75 freebies completely obliterated any and all crumbs of food that remained in the kitchen.

The evening would not have been complete without a visit from The Man, and sure enough, at 1:30 am two of Berkeley's finest attempted to literally pull the padlocked front door from its hinges. When informed that it was a private party they became very paranoid and fell back on the fire code.

"You'll have to either unlock this door or clear the place in five minutes." Ah, sweet memories.

A scribbling on the outside blackboard mourned, "The Jabberwock hath been slain."

In the immortal words of the Carter Family, "All the good times are past and gone." RIP.

While some folk music bookings were picked up by the newly opened New Orleans House (1505 San Pablo Avenue, in West Berkeley), the true successor to the ‘Wock on the Berkeley Folk scene was the Freight and Salvage. That club opened in June 1968 (at its original location of 1827 San Pablo), and although it has moved a couple of times, it remains open today.

The site of The Jabberwock is currently a parking lot.

Photographs are from the Campbell Coe Collection. Thanks are due to Sandy Rothman and Tom Weller for making them available.