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.
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.
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.