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- bands of the fifties and sixties, In The Beginning, In The Still of the Night, Indianapolis, Indy Reads Books, Night People, Stark Naked and the Car Thieves, The Checkmates, The Reflections, Things We Lost in the Night
The History of San Francisco Music in the ’60s and its Influence Today
Source: Summer of Love: The History of San Francisco Music in the ’60s and its Influence Today http://blog.freepeople.com/2015/08/summer-love-history-san-francisco-music-1960s-impacted-music-festivals-today/#ixzz3hyEI1g3i
A look back at the festivals of the ’60s whose influence can still be felt in the music and festivals of today.
The year was 1967 and the place was San Francisco. It was the Summer of Love; a season of creative expression, free society, cultural revolution and arguably the beginning of what we now enjoy as modern music festivals.
I hit the road for Outside Lands this week and I can’t help but reflect (or slightly obsess) over the rich musical history that once graced the Bay Area. It was a time like no other — it was pure, quick-moving, and psychedelic — the Summer of Love irreversibly changed our culture forever. I grew up in Northern California, an hour outside of San Francisco, with my dad’s vinyl collection on continual rotation. The likes of David Crosby, the Doors, and the Who were constant companions of mine and I was captivated by an early age. I was in. But, alas, two decades too late… so this year I wanted to make a point to research this beautiful history and experience “today’s” San Francisco music festival with this knowledge in my back pocket. To feel the energy of the past, to respect the history and the people who pushed an artistic and creative generation forward.
Aug 04, 2015
IN AUGUST OF 1966, CAESARS PALACE, the most incredible casino/resort/hotel of it’s time, opened its doors to the public. A few months later the most improbable event imaginable happened when Trish Turner, a talented R&B singer who occasionally sang with us in early morning jams introduced me to Clyde Carson, a slight, pasty-faced guy with a mustache so thin it looked painted on ….
“Clyde made me the most inconceivable proposition I’d ever heard. “Would you guys be interested in playing across the street at Caesars Palace?” he said after we’d settled in with our drinks.
He told me he was well connected at Caesars and thought he could get us an audition to open the rumored new Nero’s Nook lounge at the opulent resort hotel. I was incredulous, it had to have been written all over my face. Caesars Palace being just across the street from the Pussycat might be geographically true, but for a band like Stark Naked and the Car Thieves that mammoth edifice was far across the musical universe from us. Only the biggest, most well known stars played there. Andy Williams, who hosted his own prime time television show, opened the main showroom to an international audience of celebrity and wealth flown in from all over the world just a few months ago. No rock star or group, no matter how famous or talented, had ever broken into a major Las Vegas Strip hotel, not even in the lounges. It would happen one day, but it was utter fantasy to imagine that event would take place now, with an unknown group like us. And certainly not at Jay Sarno’s, Jimmy Hoffa financed, luxurious Caesars Palace, already legendary among the elite for glamor and extravagance. When a rock artist did break that barrier, it would be the Beatles or Elvis, or maybe the Four Seasons, somebody famous worldwide taking the stage. Never an unknown band with no hit records, no matter how good anyone might think we were. It was laughable to think how being popular in a local rock n roll dance club would translate to a stage in the immense casino. Caesars overshadowed every other hotel on the Las Vegas strip, even the storied Sands and Flamingo. What Clyde was suggesting was like a talented Little League team being offered an opportunity to play with the Yankees in major league baseball.
And, of course, as is the case in fairy tales, there was a catch. We’d have to kiss a frog — Clyde Carson. He wanted to be our personal manager.” Continue reading…
When Dave, Mac and I first met Les, we didn’t realize what a good singer he was. He had an instrumental guitar band called the MG’s, who were highly influenced by Nokie Edwards and the Ventures. They were playing weekend sock hop dances with Bouncin’ Bill Baker for WIBC radio in Indianapolis, where they also backed our vocal group for a few appearances. Later, the MG’s backed us as the Reflections in our first studio sessions. When the vocal group made its first attempt to become a band, Les joined the three of us as a singer, and later became Stark Naked and the Car Thieves’ guitarist and vocal arranger. I do remember what a big deal it was when Nokie Edwards came in to a club to see us.
I just recently discovered that the Ventures’ first drummer, when they recorded Walk Don’t Run, and practically still a garage band, was George Babbit. Apparently, he was too young to play in many of the venues they were booked into when their record started to break. He entered the U.S. Air Force and went on to become a four star general.
If your love rock ‘n roll, and remember the Ventures, I invite you to click on the link below to watch this reunion. I think it’s pretty cool and I enjoyed it a lot. Hopefully you will too, and it brings you a smile.
Pleasant Hill to Hayward, California via Crow Canyon Road
Back when our band, then called The Checkmates, came to California, most of us lived inland around Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek because the first club we worked in was in Pittsburg, CA a few miles further north and east. When we started working at the Town Club in Hayward in late spring of 1965 we had to make that trek each night back and forth from work.
The hard part was the weekends. Not only did we have to play Friday and Saturday, 9pm to 2am like the other nights, we also had to be back Saturday and Sunday mornings, 4 hours later when the bar opened and liquor could be served to play a 4 hour jam session. Not enough time to get home and back so we found ways to stay up all night, at afterhours clubs like Soul City or even sleeping in the back seat of a car for a few hours. Later, to make more money we even became the house band at Soul City, which meant we were expected to play for 12 straight hours before we could drive from the East Bay back inland to our apartments.
Back then there wasn’t a freeway that ran through the mountains so we had to traverse twisty Crow Canyon Road when we were often so exhausted we would hallucinate. I remember staring out the window from the passenger side (not driving fortunately) and seeing mailboxes we were passing and losing all sense of motion and thinking they were rabbits. Going through the canyons was definitely like being down the rabbit hole. We did it for six months and in the end we had a much tighter band and a new name.
What I find particularly interesting is that in Google Maps, choosing directions between Pleasant Hill and Hayward, there is a ‘3D’ button. When pressed it actually switches to satellite view and animates traveling along the route, up and down and around along Crow Canyon to where it comes out on the backside of the mountains near San Ramon before heading north through Walnut Creek and into Pleasant Hill. Maybe I’m easily amused but I love taking that trip because it reminds me of those days. Many years ago it inspired me to write a short story, ‘The House on Crow Canyon Road’. Unfortunately through years of moving I seemed to have misplaced it. I hope in one of those motivated moments when I decide to really straighten out the garage that I’ll find it again.
The Indianapolis Times
My last job in Indianapolis was at the Indianapolis Times. I was hired in 1963 to sell classified advertising. I didn’t realize it at the time but it was a dead end job because Scripps-Howard had already announced they planned to discontinue the paper. The Indianapolis Star, a morning paper, had already gobbled up the Indianapolis News, portending the change in the business environment. You needed to know the news before your working day not leisurely looking at in the evening.
The venerable Indianapolis Times, also an afternoon paper, held on even longer than it should have to try and keep Indianapolis from becoming a one newspaper town. Even then it was realized how dangerous it was to have only one news source (FoxNews crack addicts are you listening?).
[Location: 300 block W. Maryland Street at Capitol Avenue, Indianapolis (Marion County, Indiana)]
Life at a Dying Newspaper
I was excited at the prospect of working for a newspaper at first but my department had realized long before I arrived that there was no future in working hard at the Times. We met at 8 o’clock in the morning for a half an hour sales meeting, usually including donuts and coffee (some people surreptitiously adding a little kick to their coffee even that early). Then everyone left, supposedly to work on sales for the classified ads. I was told to ‘cold call’ car lots, gas stations, radio stations, local businesses, etc. to drum up sales but within a couple of weeks some of the old timers told me not to waste my time. I would get ads from the companies that just wanted to be in every publication but I wouldn’t get any new ads because everyone knew the Time wouldn’t be in business much longer and circulation was way down.
Everyone in the department except me was split into two groups. The golfers, who left immediately for the links after the morning sales meeting, and the rest, who left for the bars. Around 4:30 everyone would gather again for the final sales meeting before leaving for the day. That could be a hoot as the barflys could be raucous and unruly and the golfers told outrageous lies about their golf game or sexual adventures.
For me, I found that I could slip into a library and read science fiction novels or meet up with some of the guys I sang with, most of whom were chronically unemployed. Often there were enough of us to get in some a cappella practice time. 1964 was the year we had a close brush with fame after recording “In The Still of The Nite” and our trips to Chicago to support the record. In the first few months of the year we still hoped we might be able to keep recording but the Indy Sound and Jan Hutchens Productions died as quickly as it had risen. It was on one such day in the fall that I recruited Mac Brown from the Casinos to come and sing with us. At our New Year’s Eve party on the last day of 1964, knowing that the day the Times would close was near I agreed to a brash proposal to try our luck as The Checkmates (precursor to Stark Naked and the Car Thieves) singing in night clubs. So in early February of 1965 I gave notice at the Times and tried my luck as a bar singer. Though that experience was a complete disaster life was never the same again.
One of the best things I learned at the Times was from the display artist. I would bring him display ads and he would draw them up right in front of me. He was half cartoonist and have illustrator. His main tools were a metal ruler and a #2 pencil. He would use the ruler to tear through newspaper pages and his pencil to block out new art, write in new copy using the ruler edge, and illustrate where and when needed. I’ve always been influenced by his rough and ready skill and talent even though the medium has changed to a digital world. I still keep a couple of steel rulers around for when I work on art in article, brochure, or book form even in this digital world.