Sunday, 27 June 2010

March 3-4, 1970 The New Orleans House, Berkeley: Hot Tuna/Dry Creek Road

Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady of the Jefferson Airplane recorded the first album of their band Hot Tuna at Berkeley's New Orleans House (at 1505 San Pablo Avenue) on September 16-18, 1969. The self-titled album was released on RCA Records in July, 1970. Outtakes from that weekend were recently released as Live At The New Orleans House (Collectors Choice Records). Although there have been some fallow periods, Hot Tuna has remained an active band since 1969, while the Jefferson Airplane is a distant (if fond) memory. Hot Tuna's second appearance at the New Orleans House, on March 3-4, 1970, shows what a flexible band Hot Tuna has always been, and highlights an unrecorded and largely undocumented lineup of the band.

In 1969, the Jefferson Airplane were San Francisco's most successful bands, and one of the top rock acts in the country. The idea that a couple of members of the group would play a different style of music in a different band was an unprecedented development in rock. Now, of course, every band has a spin-off band or two within hours of their formation, and fans expect that creative musicians need multiple outlets. In 1969, however, the concept was unknown.

Kaukonen and Casady had started playing around Bay Area clubs in about February 1969. The earliest known dates seem to be at The Matrix (January 29 and/or February 19). Initially, Jorma and Jack seemed to have played as an acoustic duo, sometimes abetted by harmonica player Will Scarlett, previously of the Cleanliness And Godliness Skiffle Band. When Jorma and Jack played acoustically (Jorma on acoustic guitar, and Jack on an electric bass), it was similar to the sort of music they played in hotel rooms when the Airplane were on the road. As 1969 wore on, Jorma and Jack sometimes played in an electric configuration as well, with drummer Joey Covington and whichever of their musical friends felt like sitting in. The electric configuration was similar to the sort of loud, intricate blues music Jorma and Jack played during Airplane concerts when Grace and Paul stepped aside.

Throughout 1969, however, the name "Hot Tuna" was never used.The first appearance of the name Hot Tuna may have been on the New Year's Eve 1969/70 poster for Winterland (BG209). When Jorma and Jack had recorded their September 1969 performance at the New Orleans House, they had been billed as Jorma Kaukonen And Jack Casady; a few months earlier in Santa Rosa (June 27-28), the electric configuration had been billed as Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady and Joey Covington. By early 1970, however, the name Hot Tuna was known. However, the Airplane were bigger than ever, so when Hot Tuna played a nightclub, they seem to have done it on a rather sub rosa basis. When Hot Tuna came back to the New Orleans House on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 3-4, 1970 there seems to have been little advance notice beyond a reference in Ralph Gleason's column in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Gleason reviewed the band in his column on Monday, March 6 (the Chronicle column is excerpted above). Gleason enthusiastically wrote
One of the best examples of the difference between playing and PLAYING is what happens when Jack Casady, bassist with the Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, is merely picking at the strings of the bass and when he is digging in and playing it.
The other night he stood on the stage at the New Orleans House for a couple of minutes while Hot Tuna was getting itself together and he picked. It sounded pretty and nice and very musicianly. Then he was joined by Jorma Kaukonen, lead guitarist in HT and JA, drummer Joey Covington and a rhythm guitarist whose name I did not catch.
They began to play a walking bass blues introduction, eight to the bar like an old boogie woogie record. They could have swung Mt. Tamalpais right over to Vallejo. They are really something else again.
Hot Tuna is the group that Jack and Jorma have formed and which has already cut an RCA Victor LP due out this month, I believe.
Gleason goes on to enthusiastically (and somewhat inaccurately, I think) describe Hot Tuna's music, as well as commenting on the rest of the evening. Drummer Joey Covington sang some numbers (I wonder which ones?), and Marty Balin of the Airplane joined in for a few numbers as well. Marty regularly sang with Jorma and Jack in the "Hot Tuna" sections of Airplane concerts, and while I found his R&B singing to be unimpressive, I still give Marty credit for trying to get outside of the slot he had built for himself in the Airplane.

Its remarkable to consider that in the bare year of the band's existence, Hot Tuna had already been through a variety of iterations, and it was still only an adjunct to the Jefferson Airplane. It had started out in 1969 as an acoustic duo (or trio if Scarlett was present), and had an alternative configuration as a sort of electric power trio with guests. The great Hot Tuna debut album recorded the acoustic configuration, but that lineup had effectively ceased to exist by the time the album was released in July of 1970.

Any New Orleans House patrons in March 1970 who were repeat visitors from the 1969 expecting  intricate acoustic blues would have instead heard an electric quartet (Paul Ziegler, formerly of the San Jose band Weird Herald, was the other guitarist). The Spring 1970 configuration of Hot Tuna featured three vocalists (Jorma, Covington and Marty Balin) playing loud, improvised blues, musically on a similar model to the acoustic lineup but with a completely different effect.

The Spring 1970 Hot Tuna remains largely undocumented as well. Covington soon took over the Airplane drum chair from Spencer Dryden (Gleason alludes to this at the end of his review), and for reasons that aren't clear Paul Ziegler did not remain with Hot Tuna. Covington, meanwhile, had met a jazz violinist known as Papa John Creach, and his addition gave Hot Tuna a unique sound that was different from any other electric blues band on the scene in the early 1970s, even though Covington shifted over to the Airplane full time. By the time of the second Hot Tuna album, also recorded live (in 1971 at The Chateau Liberte in Los Gatos), the fully electric Tuna was Jorma, Jack, Papa John, a re-enlisted Will Scarlett and a transplanted Texas drummer named Sammy Piazza.

Where had Piazza come from? According to Airplane historian Craig Fenton, Piazza came out from Texas to drum with a Bay Area band called Dry Creek Road, and through that, he met Jorma and Jack. Ironically enough, Dry Creek Road were opening for Hot Tuna at the March shows at New Orleans House, although it appears that Piazza did not join the group until August 1970 (I assume Piazza met the band when Dry Creek Road opened for the Airplane at Filmore West on September 14-15, 1970).

Hot Tuna's classic debut album and its recently re-released companion (Live At New Orleans House) were a snap shot of a configuration of the group that no longer existed by the time the album was released 9 months later. The March 1970 appearance at New Orleans House also appears to be a configuration that was not repeated, even if it was not so classic as the ones that preceded and followed it. Since the mid-70s, of course, every Hot Tuna show has been taped by somebody, so we have a pretty good idea of the band's evolution right up to the present day, but Gleason's review is all that remains of a long gone lineup.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Lion’s Share, San Anselmo

Slightly off the beaten track for Berkeley, but hey. An article by Dale Curtis that appeared in the October 3-9, 1969 edition of the Berkeley Tribe:

Remember the little places? The coffee houses? The folk-rock bistros?

They were the spots where, for a reasonable cover (or none) you could get beer and wine and coffee and some of the finest music in the world the music that grew up and took over the Avalon and the Fillmore and the whole country as the "San Francisco Sound."

Most of those places have died off now, or priced themselves out of the market, leaving only nostalgia behind.

But. if you are one who remembers: Be Informed! The Lion’s Share Lives again in San Anselmo.

Mike Considine, who operated the Share in Sausalito in the mid sixties, is back in business. In those days he presented such top people as Sandy Bull (whose manager he used to be), the New Lost City Ramblers, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Dino Valenti, and Rejoice (which made its first public appearance there).

After a couple of years of good times like this, Considine suddenly found himself fighting in the Marin County Board of Supervisors and in the Sausalito City Council to keep from being evicted.

The main complaint from the neighbors was noise: but the understood beef was the longhaired types who hung out at the Share.

Considine and his friends packed the Sausalito Council meeting and convinced the village elders that he was not too noisy. They voted 50 to keep him open. Mysteriously, the next night the Lion's Share burned down.

That was in November of'68. There was no fire insurance on the place, and Considine was out of business. One of the REALLY GOOD little folk-rock places seemed gone forever.

Not so! The new Lion's Share, at 60 Red Hill Avenue, does its predecessor proud. It has only been open a couple of weeks operating on Considine's friendships and on goodwill instead of bread, but already the clean sounds of Rejoice, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, and ROM have been tilling the night air.
The atmosphere is dark with beam ceilings, brick walls, tiffany lamps and relaxed. There are some problems with the sound system, but none with the performers. Saturday night, for example, the bill included guitarist Jeffrey Cain, Universal Medicine, and Dan Hicks. All were smooth, accomplished acts that worked well with a surprisingly full house (there has been virtually no advertising thus tar.

At present, the Share's schedule goes like this: dark Monday and Tuesday, new groups and no cover on Wednesday and Sunday. $1.50 cover on Thursday, $2.00 cover Friday and Saturday when the more established groups perform.

To eat: pizza, sandwiches, wine, beer, cider et cetera.

It is definitely no tie (tie? what’s a tie?) Enjoy.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

This Katz Where It's Happening

The following article, penned by Jef Jaisun - then Phoenix bass player and Barb jounalist - appeared in the August 25, 1967 edition of The Berkeley Barb. The photograph of Mr Katz was taken by Gsheidle.
Moby Grape, Jefferson Airplane, West Coast Natural Gas, Melvyn Q.

The names are readily recognizable to anyone who frequents Bay Area dance halls, collects posters, or buys records. And to a greater or lesser degree each of the above groups has contributed to the creation of what the national music industry is today calling the San Francisco "Sound."

There is, however, a much more common yet lesser known meeting ground for the four groups; they all came up through the spotlight ranks while under the knowing managerial guidance of one man.

His name is Matthew Katz (pronounced like "dates") and his business is music.

"You can pay $50 an hour for studio time, press 1000 records, and put them out on the market make two million bucks if it's that easy," Katz recently told the Barb. “But out of every 8,800 records cut, only one makes it. In this scene you've got to have ideas; or you don't make it."

Katz, a 37-year-old Sagittarius who towers well over six feet in his bare boots, began a show business career 15 years ago. I was an entertainer who went into folk music, not only because I liked folk music but because I couldn't stand what was passing for rock and roll."

Though he sports a neatly trimmed beard and longish hair, Katz clings to no particular cultural category, “I wasn't accepted by hippies - they said I was plastic. I wasn't accepted by the straights because I was a hippie. I kind of got squashed between them and I was melted into both."

During the folk boom of the early sixties Katz broke into managing, with dubious results. "I produced a lot of straight music that never made it.

Then about two and a half years ago he received a call from a young singer named Marty Balm. “I’d heard Marty sing before and I told him I’d be glad to help him anytime. As far as I’m concerned, he's still the best male vocalist around."

The call from Balin eventually developed into what has become a national phenomenon, the San Francisco "Sound", an outgrowth of rock and folk, a driving, bluesy, sometimes soft, often screaming expression of musical freedom.

"Jefferson Airplane is a Happening. It's like the Beatles. Not because of singles, not because White Rabbit is number three on Cash Box with a bullet to go higher.” Jefferson Airplane started a musical thing that is turning on the world to an entirely different sound. It's a real sound. "That's what the Beatles were when they hit here. They were real. The S.F. Sound should hit Europe like the Beatles hit the States”

“Go to a record store and you probably find the Dead, Moby Grape, the Airplane. There are 30 or so other groups all trying to get into the psychedelic thing. But they're not San Francisco groups, and, there is definitely a San Francisco sound.”

Where does it come from? "It's brought about by drugs like grass and LSD, which eventually they (musicians) get off because it blows their thing. But it's the mind opener. They get on stage, the audience gets into it, digs it, trips out, and people groove. This is it - the SF Sound!"

Katz' optimism was not nearly as high on the subject of local cooperation in publicizing the Sound. "So far we've done a piss-poor job of getting it out-because no one will get together to work. It’s got to be a family. Everybody pretends it is, right?"

Katz cited the current Joint Show Art Exhibit as the kind of cooperation needed in the music scene.

"If the musicians can just take a lesson from the artists. That five cats can get together and put on a joint show - Kelly and Moscoso and those guys deserve one hell of a lot of credit."

The lack of unity in the SF music community has had a profound effect on Katz. He is currently involved in a multi-thousand dollar breach of contract suit with the Airplane and Fillmore Auditorium owner Bill Graham.

Katz, under whose direction Moby Grape rocketed to the top of national record charts in two short months, always has his ears open for new talent. The recently-signed West Coast Natural Gas from Seattle received a standing ovation at the Avalon two weeks ago, and Katz has even bigger plans for them.

"There's a formula for putting together an outstanding group, and it's not that hard. All you need is four or five better than aver age musicians who can sing - and I mean sing together – and you work like like hell.

"Then you find someone to tell a guy, 'Sorry, man, but we need a new bass player who’s heavier'."

“The reason most groups don’t make it is not because they don’t get the recognition. It's because they don't deserve it."

Katz' latest project is the renovation of the Orkustra, a popular local jazz-rock group into a "musical happening" called It’s A Beautiful Day. "We've added two chick singers and a new sound.”

He also has a formula for getting the San Francisco Sound out to the world. "Five years ago I turned down a thing with Dylan on a TV show because I thought he would hurt the image of the folk group I was handling. The place where I was five years ago is where the big industry is now. They don’t understand yet. They've GOT to know.

“Whatever's happened in the last two and a half years has got to be put into a crash program. Everybody's got to see the whole thing; not garbage, but the real thing delivered by the people who created it”

"We may not make a lot of money, but we’ll deliver the message.”