Thursday, September 2, 2010

Summer Rock, Frost Amphitheater, Stanford, CA 7/28/68

As I spent more and more time listening to the music coming out of San Francisco, I became frustrated about it being so near and yet so far (particularly for a non-driving 9th grader. At that point, going to shows in either San Francisco or San Jose was pretty much out of the question for me, Thus it was a cause for celebration when I learned that a day-long rock festival was going to be held just a few miles away from home, at Stanford University’s gorgeous Frost Amphitheater. The Frost is a nice big bowl ringed on all sides by Eucalyptus trees. This picture,  two years later at the second QMS appearance at Frost, gives a feel for the amphitheater, which is simply a great place to hear music of any kind.  A sloping tiered grass lawn makes for good sight lines from almost anywhere. It turned out to be a cloudy Sunday afternoon, which was a real asset from a comfort standpoint, as I learned going to a few sun drenched scorchers at the Frost in subsequent years.

I think I learned about this show from a poster at one of the area record stores (more on these later). Paradoxically, the only mention of this show I could find in the Stanford Daily was this little calendar listing: 


My parents were initially leery of even such nearby event, but agreed to me going with Tim A., one of my neighborhood buddies. For some reason, I did not have the foresight to take my camera to this show, but Tim and I did attempt to make an audience tape of parts of the show on a little 3 1/2” reel tape recorder he had (we were foiled in our clandestine effort by some weak batteries that left the results unlistenable. And no, I don’t know what happened to the tape!).

Quicksilver at Frost Amphitheater 8/70 Photo: M. Parrish



One thing that was true of almost all of the rock events that occurred at Frost was that the lineups listed on the posters rarely corresponded to who actually appeared.This was  true of Summer Rock right at the outset, when it was announced that the planned opening act, Morning Glory, would not appear. Appearing in their place was Beggar’s Opera, not the Scottish band but a group from the east bay that did not make much of an impression on me at the time. I remember a curly haired lead singer and that’s about it.

Next up were the Sons of Champlin. At this point, they were unrecorded, except for a very obscure single (“Sing Me a Rainbow”/”Fat City”) released in 1967 on Verve Records that I don’t remember hearing on the radio at all. What did get them a great deal of airplay was their first Capitol single, “Jesus is Coming (pts. 1 and 2),” which they offered for free through the mail for anyone requesting it. The Sons at that point featured the longtime core of organist-vocalist Bill Champlin, guitarist Terry Haggerty,  and vibes, keyboard and horn player Geoff Palmer. The rest of the group was rounded out by the original rhythm section of bassist Al Strong and drummer Bill Bowen, and the horn section of sax player Tim Cain and trumpeter Jim Beem. At the Frost, their set was pretty much drawn from the material that came out early in 1969 on Loosen Up Naturally, their first and best album. Knowing them only from the single at that point, I found their combination of jazz influences (Haggerty’s angular, unorthodox solos, the horns, and Palmer’s vibes) and Champlin’s soulful vocals and organ) irresistible. This was either my first or second time seeing the Sons (my brother Bill and I also saw them at an evening gig in downtown Palo Alto at, I believe, the St. Thomas Aquinas church sometime in 1968, but I have kept seeing them whenever I get the opportunity over the years. Although the group has broken up more than a few times, and changed players with abandon, I have never seen a bad Sons gig.  For all things Sons see the excellent San Francisco Sound Blog, Sons roadie Charlie Kelly's Sons Page and the Sons own site.
Sons of Champlin Winterland 10/24/69 Photo: M. Parrish


Following the Sons were the Santana Blues Band, who were not in the advertised lineup. I knew their name from their frequent appearances as a supporting act at the San Francisco ballrooms, but did not know at all what to expect since they had no recorded music released at the time. As you might imagine, seeing Santana in their formative years was quite another unexpected treat. Having no context at the time, I imagine their set was mostly drawn from material that ended up on their first album, along with regularly performed early material like “Fried Neckbones.” I clearly remembered them closing their set with a long, long piece called  “Freeway,” but did not see any evidence of this composition either on records or on concert tapes until the 2 CD Live at the Fillmore ’68 was released. That double disc set, which concludes with a ripping half hour “Freeway,” is probably a good representation of what the the band sounded like that July afternoon. This was a transitional version of the Santana band with fellow Cubberley High school alum Greg Rolie already on keyboards and vocals but with original drummer “Doc” Livingston and a somewhat different percussion lineup. They all looked to be about 14 years old. I clearly remember a trumpet player, which does not jibe with the family tree at the San Francisco Sound website, but perhaps this was either a guest musician or an early appearance of Jose “Chepito” Areas, who joined the band officially the next year.  From what I have been able to determine researching Frost shows in the ‘60s, this was in fact Santana’s first appearance there, which means this was probably the first time future drummer Michael Shrieve saw the band as well (see discussion here).

Creedence Clearwater Revival’s first album had been played as an advance tape for months on KSAN and KMPX, and I picked it up right when it was released a few weeks earlier, so we had a pretty good idea of what to expect. At this point, the group was in transition from the more extended explorations of the first album to the amazing string of albums that came out in the next 3 years showcasing John Fogerty’s concise, tuneful songwriting and the group’s crisp ensemble playing. At Summer Rock, the group played first album material like “Suzie Q” and “I Put A Spell On You” along with a bunch of material from what became their second album, Bayou Country, including “Born on the Bayou”, “Proud Mary,” and a long, long version of “Keep On Choogling” that closed the set. A remarkable event during the closing number when a classmate of ours who was a remarkable dancer to the catwalk that spanned the orchestra pit and proceeded to do an amazing solo boogie that seemed to energize the band as much as the audience.

The Chambers Brothers were advertised as headliners, but ended up playing next, because the Quicksilver Messenger Service were late in arriving. At that point, “Time Has Come Today” was omnipresent on both the AM and FM airwaves, and the Chambers Brothers were at the top of their game. The group came out in hip finery including an assortment of straw hats (see the cover of Shout! which features two photos taken at this gig) and held the audience in the palms of their hands for a good 90 minutes. All I clearly remember of the setlist was “People Get Ready” and the inevitable long, long version of “Time Has Come Today" that closed out the set.

It was late in the day by the time Quicksilver finally took the stage. Theie eponymoua debut was one of the  first San Francisco albums I bought, and the group put on a fine set that drew mostly on material from that release. Even though the bulk of their their extraordinary live album Happy Trails was recorded a few weeks earlier at the Fillmore East, I do not recall them playing either of the extended Bo Diddley songs that made up the bulk of that record. Instead, I remember a very professional set, hour long set that included stretched out versions of “The Fool” and “Gold and Silver” along with the shorter, folkier tunes like “Light Your Windows,” “Dino’s Song” and “Pride of Man.” The group was in their best gunslinger finery, and I was particularly impressed by Cipollina’s remarkable amplifer setup, with the klaxon horns grafted onto its front. Although I got to see the Valenti-led group at Frost a couple of years later, this was my only chance to see the original quartet, and I felt very fortunate in retrospect to have had the opportunity.

I suppose Tim and I were picked up by one of his or my parents after the show as darkness started to descend on the Stanford campus. Given that it was July, this meant this long, very memorable day of music had been going on for seven hours or so. It was a hallmark of that era that one could see two bands that were among the most popular of their day (the Chambers Brothers and QMS), a perennial ballroom favorite (the Sons), and two emerging groups that made history at Woodstock a year later (Santana and Creedence) all on the same bill for $4. When you consider that was about the price of a record album in 1968, it really brings home what a bargain live music was at one time.  

18 comments:

Corry342 said...

What a great description. How loud was it? I'm noticing the relatively tiny PA to the right and left of the stage in the 1970 photo. Do you recall if the sound system setup was similar in 1968?

cryptdev said...

I don't remember it being especially loud, certainly relative to the Dead or Hot Tuna - and we were down pretty close to the stage. You can see the Chambers Brothers' amp setup in this alternate cover to Shout!:
www.powerhouseradio.com/images/chambro.jpg

Bruno Ceriotti said...

Wow!, great description of the event and thanks for the information about Beggar's Opera filling in for Morning Glory because I don't know this fact (I updated my blog with this new information). Thanks too for the information about QMS gig on August 1970 (Michael you remember the day?) because I don't know this fact too and I updated my "QMS Performance List" with this new gig. About Santana's trumpet player, he was certainly a guest musician but not Jose 'Chepito' Areas because he was introduced to Carlos and the others by his friend Michael Carabello only after the latter rejoin the band in February 1969. A question for you Michael: Santana Blues Band shortened their name to Santana in June 1968, but in your article you are referring to them still as 'Santana Blues Band', this is a typo or the band was actually announced still as 'SBB' at this show?

cryptdev said...

Bruno:

The group was definitely introduced as the Santana Blues Band. It is always possible that the announcer was not aware of the name change, but certainly no one in the group corrected him.

I'm trying to pin down the date of the Quicksilver concert, but have not been able to find a listing for it anywhere as of yet. I know it was a Sunday, and after the Dead shows at the Fillmore mid August. Your list indicates that they were at the Family Dog 8/21-22 (F-S) and they were live on Calebration on 8/30, so a good guess for me would be 8/23. It is also possible that it was very early September (9/6). I'll try to clarify this, as I plan to post on this show in more detail at a later date.

Jerry Garcia's Middle Finger said...

Even though the bulk of their their extraordinary live album Happy Trails was recorded a few weeks earlier at the Fillmore East

I don't think so. The June 7-8, 1968 material is very hot, has appeared on innumerable bootlegs (and also the live side of the official release Lost Silver and Gold (or whatever it's called), and features lots of hot jamming of the same tunes that appeared on Happy Trails. But the HT material comes from the November 7-9 (off memory) shows, I think.

Bruno Ceriotti said...

The "Happy Trails" live material comes from the shows at Fillmore East (November 1-2, 1968) and at Fillmore West (November 7-10, 1968). Only one track, 'Calvary', was instead recorded in studio on November 19, 1968 at the "Pacific High Recorders" in San Francisco.

cryptdev said...

JGMF and Bruno:

I bow to your careful study of the '68 QMS shows. I've always been confused about which of the Fillmore East and West gigs formed the basis of Happy Trails. Given that most of that material comes from later in the year, it would explain why the Frost set resembled the QMS sets from early '68 more than the material on Happy Trails. Thanks for the clarification!

Anonymous said...

I remember the reaction to Santana by both myself and most of the audience - they had never heard anything like it. With the latin style and the conga drums it was simply amazing.

Was this the Frost concert that had the 20-30 minute power disruption, or was that a later one?

Anonymous said...

I remember the day was overcast, I scored some decent acid, sat close to the stage, and grooved to the unbelieveable lineup. I've since told many friends about it. During the Chambers Brothers set a pic was taken that is the cover photo of their album "Shout" Carlos Santana had joined the audience and can be seen in the cover photo wearing a blue shirt standing behind the girl with the tambourine. Glad I found this blog

cryptdev said...

Wow - I never noticed Carlos in that photo. Thanks for pointing that out.

Rick English said...

We think Carlos is standing on the stage far left of the 'Shout' cover.

Rick English said...

Dan Lucas and I think Carlos is standing on the stage far left on the 'Shout' cover....we were both there, it was a great show.

cryptdev said...

Rick - I'm pretty sure you're right.

Anonymous said...

This is amazing; I was at this show and I still remember it. I was 15 at the time. The obvious standout was the sheer number of bands there and the music that made the most impact on me was Santana and Quicksilver. I distinctly remember Gary Duncan and perhaps even John Cippolina as well use the mike stands to create some interesting sounds on that extended tune from their first album called The Fool. I recall being amazed that they could create some of the sounds that were on the record in a live format. Santana expanded my musical horizons as well

James said...

Wow! I was there too, lived in Menlo Park at the time and soon moved to the Oak Creek Apartments (which were a few miles away. I remember at night (or early morning hours) we would sneak into the Amphitheatre and hide up in the trees until it was safe to mix in with the crowds. Between 68-71 I made it to several events there, or El Camino Park, remember Lytton Plaza? The Poppycock?
Anyway, I made it on the crowd shot of Shout, clear picture of me in the orchestra pit near the stage, I was 17. I also remember Eric Burden doing 'Spill the Wine' with War (at one of the shows around then). I also remember Buddy Miles filling in as drummer for the Santana Blues Band there(!?).
Wow again! Stanford was happening during those years. Anybody remember The Moody Blues when they played at the Roscoe-Maples Pavillion (within a few years of the Shout photo)? How's that for restored brain cells!!!? Peace and Love y'all!

Anonymous said...

the guy dancing up on the catwalk was my brothers classmate Alvis Rhodes. Does anybody know if he made the rear cover shot.

cryptdev said...

Alvis and I were also in the same class at Cubberley, so I was pretty surprised to see him up on the catwalk wowing the crowd. One could never get away with something like that at an amphitheater show today.

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