Thursday, May 3, 2012

David Nelson And The New Delhi River Band, January-June 1967 (David Nelson III)

A poster for The Loading Zone and The New Delhi River Band at Pauley Ballroom on the UC Berkeley Campus on Friday, March 3, 1967
The New Delhi River Band were founded in Palo Alto, CA in the Summer of 1966. They were one of the first psychedelic blues bands formed in the South Bay--though of course not the very first--, and they had a significant following in the South Bay underground. The group is usually remembered today, if at all, for being the first rock band for future New Riders of The Purple Sage David Nelson and Dave Torbert. Since the band never released any recordings, however, and the venues where they thrived are lost in the mists of time, the New Delhi River Band is just a ghost.

Despite substantial efforts by the group in 1967, The New Delhi River Band never succeeded outside of their South Bay turf, and the members moved on to other pursuits. My research seems to suggest, however, that they were an interesting and popular band in the little universe of the South Bay underground in 1966 and 1967, and their story makes a great case study on how regional bands help shape scenes while getting left behind themselves—the story of The New Delhi River Band stands for the tale of every cool local long haired band in 1966 and 1967 who never got big past the County Line, living on as a fond, hazy memory of their fans.

David Nelson was one of Jerry Garcia's best friends, and Nelson's career presents an interesting counterpoints to Garcia's. The Grateful Dead were the South Bay's first psychedelic blues band, of course, and the New Delhi River Band's ups and downs shed light on different ways in which the Dead were both fortunate and special. By the time Nelson and Garcia reconnected in 1969 with the New Riders of The Purple Sage, Nelson had had his own odyssey, far less legendary than Garcia's but fascinating nonetheless. This post will be part of a series on the hitherto lost history of the New Delhi River Band.

In a 21st century interview for RD Records, drummer Chris Herold recalled
NDRB was a really fine band. Some very fond memories of the formative time. We were one of the first white blues bands, probably THE first in the Bay Area. We were Butterfield Blues Band fans and it showed in our music. We also drew from all the old greats Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon, Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters . . . the list goes on. The band members were: Sweet John Tomasi (vocals and harmonica), Peter Sultzbach (lead guitar), David Nelson (rhythm guitar), Dave Torbert (bass) and me [Chris Herold] on drums.”
David Nelson played a critical role in Jerry Garcia's career, both before the Grateful Dead and during their existence. After the New Delhi River Band ended in early 1968, Nelson re-appeared in Garcia's universe at the end of 1968, participating in the Aoxomoxoa sessions (although probably not appearing on the record). More importantly, Nelson, along with Garcia and John Dawson, was a founding member of the New Riders Of The Purple Sage, Garcia's first extra-curricular band. In subsequent decades, Nelson made all sorts of great music, with and without Garcia, and continues to do so in both the revitalized New Riders and the David Nelson Band.

This chronology would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of Ross Hannan, Chris Recker, the late Russell Towle, the Magic Theater and David Nelson. Anyone with additional information, insights, corrections or recovered memories (real or imagined) is urged to Comment or email me.

Recap: The Formation Of The New Delhi River Band
Part I of the New Delhi River Band story reviews how David Nelson was a bluegrass musician in Palo Alto, just like his friend Jerry Garcia. The arrival of the Beatles and LSD electrified the tiny community of bohemian musicians, and the hitherto acoustic Nelson started to get interested in plugging in. By mid-1966, Nelson and his Channing Avenue housemate Carl Moore had joined forces with a Los Altos band called Bethlehem Exit, and hatched the idea of The Outfit. The Outfit was intended to be a sort of permanent Trips Festival in sleepy little Palo Alto, with a venue, a band and a light show all called The Outfit. According to Nelson, there was only one show, a memorable mini-Acid Test in June 1966 graced by Neal Cassady himself, but the enterprise never got any further. The New Delhi River Band found a name, however, and started to play a few shows in the South Bay, opening for Them and The Doors.

In Part II, The New Delhi River Band found a home in the Fall of 1966 at The Barn in Scotts Valley, a tiny unincorporated community in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Barn, known as 'The Fillmore of The Mountains," was only open from mid-66 through mid-68, and indeed it was closed during much of that time as well. What little information is available on The Barn mostly comes from our site, and what is posted there is fairly outdated. By the Fall of 1966, the New Delhi River Band would become the "House Band" of The Barn, whatever exactly that meant. After The Barn closed, it disappeared without a trace. The fuzziest and warmest memories of The New Delhi River Band stem from those lucky enough to be part of that tiny scene, when the few long-haired bohemians and some younger aspirants gathered together every weekend in the mountains in one of the earliest Bay Area hippie hangouts beyond San Francisco and Berkeley.

The New Delhi River Band, Early 1967
Sweet John Tomasi-vocals, harmonica
Peter Sultzbach-lead guitar
David Nelson-guitar
Dave Torbert-bass
Chris Herold-drums
The New Delhi River Band had become a sort of "house band" at The Barn in Scotts Valley in the Fall of 1966. Since The Barn was the main hippie venue in the South Bay, and one of the few outside of San Francisco and Berkeley, being the main attraction at the joint seems to have given the NDRB a kind of underground buzz. The band started to play around the South Bay, headlining small events in places like San Jose. They also played some shows in Berkeley and the East Bay. In the East Bay, the New Delhi River Band followed a pattern that had been perfected by the likes of The Grateful Dead and Country Joe and The Fish: play some relatively high-profile outdoor shows for free, so that when you had a paying gig at some nightclub, your name might be known a little bit.

Not only did the New Delhi River Band have no recordings in early 1967, there wouldn't have been a radio station to play them in any case, as KMPX--fm did not start playing rock until the Spring of '67. Thus live concerts were the only way for an unknown band to get their name out, and free concerts were the perfect vehicle. What following the New Delhi River Band had in the East Bay seems to have come from playing for free.

I do not know if the New Delhi River Band had a manager, or were associated with any booking agency. I do know that they had a business card (which I have never seen) that said "We Jumps." Besides a reference to the lively blues and R&B that the band played, it was also apparently a reference to a 1957 album called The Wide, Weird, World Of Shorty Petterstein. The album was recorded by a unique character named  Henry Jacobs, who was a pioneer in field recording, tape manipulation, surround sound and light shows. Jacobs was a contemporary and friend of Ken Nordine of "Word Jazz" infamy. The Shorty Petterstein LP 
consisted largely of encounters between hipsters and unknowing squares. One interviewer asks about art to be told, "Art? He's been with the band about six months. Blows good piano." When the interviewer protests that pianos aren't blown, but played with the hands, Shorty returns the opaque reply, "Blow is like an instrument."
While the New Delhi River Band were basing their music on well-traveled musical traditions, they had put their own bohemian stamp on it. 

The New Delhi River Band Peformance History, January-June 1967
I assume that my list has only captured a modest portion of the New Delhi River Band's live performances in the first half of 1967. The group had a certain following in the South Bay, so must have played a fair number of shows on weekends. However, I have mostly only been able to uncover shows that have a surviving artifact, like a flyer or poster. My knowledge of NDRB East Bay shows is a little better, since the Berkeley scene was covered effectively by Ralph J. Gleason in the San Francisco Chronicle and also by the Berkeley Barb. However, I suspect I have a somewhat complete listing of East Bay NDRB shows and a fairly sketchy list of their South Bay shows, so the list as I have it now is not entirely representative.

By early 1967, most  of The New Delhi River Band had moved to an old house on Euclid Avenue in East Palo Alto, along with various other denizens of the Channing Avenue house, including Carl Moore and Russell Towle. Nelson lived in the house, and Dave Torbert and John Tomasi were around there pretty much, while the more staid Peter Sulzbach and Chris Herold only dropped by when needed. East Palo Alto was across Highway 101 from Palo Alto, and was unincorporated county land (and San Mateo County at that), relatively sleepy and poor compared to well-to-do Palo Alto proper. The band used the house as a rehearsal space, and they stayed there throughout '67.

With that caveat, here is my list of known performances by the New Delhi River Band from January to June 1967. Anyone with additional information, corrections, additions or recovered memories (real or imagined) is encourage to include them in the Comments.

An ad in the SF Oracle by artist Eve Miyasaki, advertising the January 1967 program for The Barn
January, 1967: The Barn, Scotts Valley, CA: New Delhi River Band/Peter And His Group
For many years, I had thought that this poster was from June, 1967, and represented an effort to re-open The Barn after it had closed. However, poster artist Eve Miyasaki, then a Los Gatos high school student who was part of The Barn scene at the time, explained the situation more clearly
The above promo art announces the addition of two new nights, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The announcement was published in the San Francisco underground newspaper, "San Francisco Oracle", and was intended to coincide with the "Human Be-in" scheduled for January 14, 1967. From the beginning, the Barn had been open on Fridays and Saturdays only, except for special events. The date on the above flyer was not indicated because it was an change of scheduling beginning, Wednesday, January 18, 1967, ongoing after the date of publication in the Oracle. 

 Auditions were held [on Sundays] to book acts for the additional nights of Wednesday and Thursday.  This schedule change, began on January 18th, continued until the Barn closed down.
Miyasaki recalls that the New Delhi River Band played The Barn up to four nights a week in early 1967, unless they had a booking somewhere else. Peter And The Group, who were also local, played many dates there as well.

January 20-21, 1967:  The Barn, Scott’s Valley, CA: Country Joe and The Fish/New Delhi River Band
The Barn in Scotts Valley was still a going concern in early 1967. In fact, it was becoming increasingly popular and the tiny community of Scotts Valley, not yet a town, was trying to get the County Sheriff to shut down the venue. The New Delhi River Band were starting to play around the Bay Area, so they may not have been playing The Barn every Friday night, but they played there on at least some occasions in 1967.

It’s not clear from the poster whether each group played both nights or whether County Joe and The Fish played Friday (Jan 20) and NDRB played Saturday (Jan 21), or both played both nights. The four photos on the cover of Country Joe and The Fish’s first album (Electric Music For The Mind and Body) were taken at The Barn, probably on this weekend, with the Magic Theater light show in the background (two of the photos were reversed, however—no members of the group play left-handed). Country Joe and The Fish had just begun recording (and possibly finished recording) the album, which would be released around May.

My suspicion is that the New Delhi River Band just played Saturday January 21, and CJF played on the Friday, but that is just speculation on my part.

January? 1967, [somewhere in the San Jose area] The Seeds/New Delhi River Band
Chris Recker recalls seeing the New Delhi River Band opening for The Seeds "somewhere in the Santa Clara Valley." The Seeds had had a big hit with the song "Pushin' Too Hard." I know The Seeds played San Leandro and San Francisco on January 27 and 28, so I assume they played somewhere in the South Bay earlier in the week, or possibly the week before. 

The stage at Provo Park in Berkeley, as it appeared in August 2009
January 29, 1967: Provo Park, Berkeley, CA: Loading Zone/New Delhi River Band
This would have been a free daytime event, Provo Park (actually Consitution Park), in the center of downtown (on Allston and Grove) was a regular site for free concerts by mostly East Bay bands. Balmy California weather allowed free outdoor concerts in the Winter. At this time, East Bay groups like The Loading Zone were playing free concerts in town or on campus without any kind of permission, and somehow the New Delhi River Band seems to have gotten wind of it. The NDRB played for free many times in Berkeley, and eventually got a few paid bookings out of it.

February 4, 1967: Continental Ballroom, Santa Clara, CA:  Rodger Collins Review/New Delhi River Band/The Anonymous Artists of America “Bill Hamilton Presents in a Light Opera”
The Continental Ballroom, at 1600 Martin Avenue in Santa Clara, is well-known, but rarely written about. It was a roller skating rink that doubled as a “teen” venue.  When the Fillmore scene rose to prominence, the Continental Ballroom (so re-named to sound like the Avalon or Fillmore) hosted many groups that played the Fillmore, including The Dead, Big Brother and The Doors.

Rodger Collins was an Oakland-based soul singer who had a modest local hit with a song called "She's Looking Good," released on Galaxy Records (an R&B subsidiary of Fantasy--Merl Saunders was on Galaxy as well at the time). The New Delhi River Band and the Anonymous Artists Of America (with Sara Ruppenthal Garcia, among other members) were regulars at The Barn. This odd pairing of a popular soul artist with some 'psychedelia' seems odd now, but in fact it was common at the Fillmore and The Avalon. Bill Hamilton was a South Bay promoter, and he must have known that NDRB and AAA had a certain amount of underground cachet associated with them.

The San Jose market, particularly at the Continental, was very much oriented towards suburban teenagers. The implication is that there was some interest amongst High School students in seeing some of the bands that played The Barn, but their parents were not necessarily willing to let them go over the hill to Scotts Valley.
 
A clip from Ralph Gleason's SF Chronicle column on February 3, 1967, mentioning the New Delhi River Band's appearance at the Fillmore on Sunday, February 5
February 5, 1967: Fillmore, San Francisco, CA: Delano Strike Benefit
Jefferson Airplane/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Country Joe and The Fish/New Delhi River Band/Loading Zone/Dino Valente
This was a Sunday night benefit for striking grape workers in Delano, CA.  The New Delhi River Band did not appear on the poster.  However, I am confident that they played, because of a reference from Faren Miller, a Berkeley teenager who kept a diary of every show she attended (to the delight of psychedelic prosopographers everywhere).

In early 1967, weekend shows at the Fillmore were well attended and featured high profile acts, by the standards of the underground scene at the time. Often, the bands "on the poster" played Friday and Saturday nights and then on Sunday afternoons. This left the Fillmore free on Sunday nights, and as a result there were often benefits held on Sunday evenings. Sometimes, the bands playing the night time benefits were the same ones playing the paying afternoon shows, which has lead to a lot of confusion. In early 1967, there were very few paying gigs for psychedelic bands outside of Friday and Saturday nights, so Sunday night was  good night for a benefit, since a lot of groups were available.

On the weekend of February 3-5, 1967, the Fillmore featured the Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Dino Valente. At one point, there appears to have been a separate afternoon show and an evening benefit, but fhe bill for the Sunday afternoon and Sunday night shows on February 5, 1967 seems to have changed several times. As near as I can tell, the benefit and "paying" show were merged into one giant eight hour show (who might have gotten paid and who didn't remains a mystery). By Friday night (February 3), Ralph Gleason had noted it in his Chronicle column (above):
Sunday the Fillmore runs from 2pm to 10pm with the regular weekend cast of Dino Valente, the Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service. In addition (as this is a benefit for the US Strike Committee), there'll be special lights by Head Lights and Dan Burns, costumes and appearances by the New Delhi River Band, Country Joe & The Fish, the Grateful Dead (if they're back from recording in L.A.) and others.
While there are a variety of confusing handbills to go along with Gleason's column, since Faren Miller attended the show and wrote out all the events with her usual attention to detail, we know that the New Delhi River Band played the Fillmore on Sunday, February 5, 1967, opening for the Airplane, Quicksilver and Country Joe and The Fish. I suspect The Loading Zone helped get them on the bill. We also know, thanks to Miller, that the Grateful Dead did not appear, although it's interesting to see that they were at least trying to get there.

The New Delhi River Band's appearance early in a marathon Fillmore show turned out to be the group's only Fillmore appearance, and in fact one of just a few San Francisco appearances of theirs that I could find. Despite the group's popularity in the South Bay, and some sort of traction in the East Bay, they could never break out from their own little enclave into the big city of San Francisco. The Grateful Dead before them had been an ambitious South Bay band who had made the jump, but the New Delhi River Band never made that leap.

As far as I can tell, despite the fact that David Nelson was one of Jerry Garcia's best friends, Garcia never saw the New Delhi River Band. Both the Dead and the NDRB were scrambling around playing,  mostly on weekends, and Garcia in particular would have had no time to hang out when the NDRB were playing. The fact that the February 5 Fillmore show was the New Delhi River Band's only Fillmore appearance was made doubly poignant by the Dead's inability to get back from LA, given the subsequent history of Garcia and Nelson.

Early 1967, Museum Of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA: The Magic Theater with The New Delhi River Band
In 1967, San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art was housed in part of the San Francisco Civic Center. The Magic Theater light show was invited to perform at the Museum. They invited the New Delhi River Band along to provide accompaniment.  I believe this was part of a series. Bill Ham, who did lights for the original Family Dog, did a show at SFMOMA with his ensemble Light Sound Dimension (including Vince Garauldi's rhythm section, Fred Marshall on bass and Jerry Granelli on drums), on February 3, 1967. I'm assuming that the Magic Theater performed after that.

Eve Miyaski poster for the weekend of February 18-19, 1967
February 18, 1967: The Barn, Scott’s Valley, CA: New Delhi River Band/Peter and The Group
This show was on a Saturday night. It's hard to say how much the New Delhi River Band played The Barn during this period (by the way, The Spirits, who headlined Friday February 17, were a local group, not the Southern California group with Randy California).

February 25, 1967: Provo Park, Berkeley, CA: Loading Zone/New Delhi River Band/Motor
Once again, the New Delhi River Band played for free on a Saturday afternoon in downtown Berkeley. Note that they would have had to drive to Santa Clara for a show later that night.  David Nelson had a white 1962 Chevy station wagon at the time, which was used as one of the principal band vehicles.

February 25, 1967: Continental Ballroom, Santa Clara, CA:  Electric Prunes/New Delhi River Band/Teddy & The Patches
The Electric Prunes were a Los Angeles group that had had a big hit with “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night.” Teddy & The Patches had had a local hit on KLIV-am in San Jose with the song "Suzy Creemchease." The fact that the unrecorded New Delhi River Band was sharing a bill with those two suggests that NDRB had a following as well. Also, it suggests to me that the New Delhi River Band had a certain amount of underground credibility that the two more successful bands lacked. That's not a knock on the bands--the Electric Prunes were really good--but in the 60s, mainstream success was often suspect. For the South Bay, at least, the New Delhi River Band seemed to stand for a hip local band who were outside the lines.

Ralph Gleason's Chronicle column from Friday, March 3, 1967
March 3, 1967: Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Loading Zone/New Delhi River Band
The poster for this is at the top of the post. The Loading Zone, and by extension, the New Delhi River Band, had been playing regularly for free, and now they were playing on campus as known entities. The Magic Theater did the lights for this event.

March 5, 1967: Provo Park, Berkeley, CA: Loading Zone/New Delhi River Band/The Motor
Once again, the bands played Provo Park on Sunday afternoon.

March 19, 1967: Provo Park, Berkeley, CA: Loading Zone/New Delhi River Band/Motor/Blue Cheer/Soul Purpose/Ulysses S. Crockett and The Afro-Blues Persuasion “The Reversal Of The Earth Human Be-In”
After the success of the Human Be-In in San Francisco on January 14, 1967, similar events were held all over the state and the country. Berkeley's "Be-In" was scheduled for Saturday, March 11, at Tilden Park in the Berkeley hills. However, that event was rained out, and the groups found themselves back downtown in Provo on a subsequent Sunday.
   
March 31, 1967: New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: New Delhi River Band
The New Orleans House, on 1505 San Pablo in West Berkeley, was a new rock club that featured Bay Area rock bands playing original music. The club had been open for less than a year at the time. By this time, thanks to their Provo Park shows, the New Delhi River Band would have been at least somewhat known in the East Bay.

April 8, 1967-closing of The Barn
The Barn, the base of operations for both The New Delhi River Band and the Magic Theater, had been in dire financial straits throughout the year. A fund-raising concert had been held at the San Jose Civic Auditorium, headlined by Charles Lloyd, but the event was not a success. The Santa Cruz County sheriff's department shut down The Barn as a performing venue on April 8. It was still used as a sort of clubhouse by local bands for another year, but there were no official performances after that point.
A poster from the Pythian Ballroom on April 8, 1967, featuring the New Delhi River Band and the Loading Zone, along with the Magic Theater light show, presenting a "Psychedelic Circus"
April 8, 1967: Pythian Ballroom, Portland, OR: New Delhi River Band/Loading Zone
[update] The Yellow Shark found this remarkable poster. It seems that the NDRB and the Magic Theater light show took a field trip north to Portland, along with their friends from Oakland, The Loading Zone. The show was billed as a "Psychedelic Circus," and there was definitely an Acid Test vibe to this event. The Pythian Ballroom was a real underground Portland place, at 918 SW Yawmill. I don't know anything about the hall or who might have been the organizers of the event.

April 10, 1967 Experimental Building, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA: New Delhi River Band/Magic Theater/Medway Forest Indians
A number of eyewitnesses recall this show, although none too clearly. This was on a Monday night. No one can precisely recall what the Experimental Building was. There were a lot of new buildings on the Stanford campus at the time, and some of them may have been underused. There may have been a similar event in Fall 1966, at the same location.

One member of The Magic Theater light show recalls a performance at what is now the Bechtel International Center, at 584 Capistrano Way, near the Tresidder Union. That building seems a likely candidate for the venue. The "Medway Forest Indians" were a sort of commune that lived on Medway Road in Woodside, above Skyline Drive. Whether or how they performed isn't clear.

Thanks to Paul J for contributing this amazing poster of the New Delhi River Band, Bogus Thunder and Weird Herald at the Balconades Ballroom in San Jose (at 181 W. Santa Clara) on April 12, 1967
April 12, 1967, Balconades Ballroom, San Jose, CA: New Delhi River Band/Bogus Thunder/Weird Herald
[update] The Balconades Ballroom had an interesting history.  The Balconades Ballroom was an old Ballroom in San Jose.  The Balconades was on an upper floor of The Lyndon Building (built 1882), at 181 W. Santa Clara St. After time as a printing press for a newspapers, it had been turned into a ballroom (probably in the 1920s). It had been part of a Country and Western circuit for performers like Hank Williams and Bob Wills, back when San Jose was an agricultural center and the biggest radio station (KEEN 1370 AM) played country music.

The remarkable poster up above, contributed by former Cupertino, CA resident Paul J, includes fine print that says that the Balconades will feature "Hard Rock" dances every Friday night, and jam sessions on Sunday afternoons. I wouldn't be surprised if Saturday nights still featured country music. April 12 was a Wednesday, and was probably intended as a sort of kick-off. Paul showed this poster to David Nelson, who recalled the event, but I don't think they lasted long. In early 1968, Quicksilver and Ace Of Cups (who shared management) played separate shows at the Balconades, but those too did not generate a long run of shows at the Balconades, either. 

The opening acts for New Delhi River Band at the Balconades were legendary in their own right. Bogus Thunder had been previously known as The Other Side, and were inextricably linked with the South Bay's finest, The Chocolate Watch Band. Weird Herald may have been the great lost band of the South Bay, and their story, and the sad tragedy of their guitarist Billy Dean Andrus is too dense to go into here. Suffice to say, this triple bill at the Balconades featured some true legends of South Bay psychedelia. 
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Spring 1967, Highlands, Clear Lake, CA: New Delhi River Band/Magic Theater
The Magic Theater recalls doing the lights a show up in Clear Lake with the New Delhi River Band. Clear Lake was a resort area North of Sonoma County. Generally speaking, rock shows at Clear Lake were associated with Bill Quarry's TNT dances in Oakland and the East Bay (usually billed as "Highlands A-Go-Go"), so the booking was probably the result of the New Delhi River Band's East Bay connections. At this time, "teen" dances were seeming a bit staid, so it's not surprising that a band who could bring a light show might seem cooler in 1967 than the typical dance band.

April 30, 1967: Provo Park, Berkeley, CA: Loading Zone/New Delhi River Band/Motor/Mad River
Rescheduled from an April 23 show that was rained out. Mad River were newly arrived from Yellow Springs, OH.

May 13, 1967: Campus Center, Foothill College, Los Altos, CA: New Delhi River Band/Mudd/Philadelphia Jazz Quintet
Foothill College was the Junior College for the Palo Alto/Los Altos area. Indeed, it was at Foothill College, one night in 1975, when I unexpectedly discovered the prior, lost existence of both the New Delhi River Band and The Barn. I was at the Foothill College radio station (KFJC-fm, 89.7, "The Fine 89"), and I saw the Pete Frame New Riders Family Tree. There at Foothill College, on Moody Road, I was less than a half an hour from the former site of The Barn, yet it was gone without a trace.

Foothill College actually had an interesting musical history. Among other things, the South Bay's finest group, the Chocolate Watch Band, had gotten their start there in 1965. This May performance was probably a student event, but its revealing that the New Delhi River Band got the call, since it suggests they must have had some sort of following.

According to Mathew Kelly in a 1977 interview (later an adjunct member of NDRB, and subsequent leader of the group Kingfish), the NDRB were getting as big in Palo Alto as the Dead were in San Francisco. This is probably a considerable exaggeration, but does indicate how the band had a genuine local following. Music scenes in the Bay Area and elsewhere were considerably more localized than they would become in the near future. 

A flyer for the San Jose Be-In on May 14, 1967. The New Delhi River Band supported Country Joe And The Fish
May 14, 1967  City Park, San Jose, CA San Jose Human Be-In
Country Joe and The Fish/New Delhi River Band/Sweet Smoke/Anonymous Artists Of America/Wakefield Loop/others
San Jose's iteration of the Human Be-In was held at a park at 10th and Alma, near the Fairgounds and Spartan Stadium. The park was across the street from the 1940-vintage San Jose Municipal Stadium, the current home of the San Jose Giants (Class A Advanced California League, and well worth a visit).  I have written about the event (and other San Jose outdoor shows) elsewhere.

Amazingly, the NDRB were mentioned in the Billboard Magazine edition of May 20, 1967. Emblematically, however, they were only listed in a brief article about unsigned bands. Other bands listed included The Hajibabs Band, Hangmen, Wry Catchers, Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band, The Orkustra, Loading Zone, Second Coming, Dusty Miller and Symphony, Bitter Seeds, Notes From The Underground and Motor.

clip from Ralph Gleason's May 19, 1967 Ad Lib section in the SF Chronicle
May 21, 1967 Willard Junior HS, Berkeley, CA: Loading Zone/New Delhi River Band/Haymarket Riot
At the time, there was a sort of grassroots effort to move the outdoor Provo Park scene indoors, and turn it into a paying gig. Bands played at a local Junior High not far from the park, but the shows never really caught on.

A poster for the May 27, 1967 New Delhi River Band show at San Jose City College
May 27, 1967: Men’s Gym, San Jose State College, San Jose, CA:  New Delhi River Band/Lincoln Zephyr/Ephemaral Metamorphosis/Magic Theater/The Dentist
This too was probably some sort of student sponsored event. The show was in the Men's Gym at San Jose City College. Admission is listed as free. Once again, the New Delhi River Band were headliners, albeit over some very obscure groups (if I call a Bay Area 60s group obscure, trust me, they're obscure).

May 30, 1967: Provo Park, Berkeley, CA: New Delhi River Band/Motor/Purple Earthquake
This was a Tuesday afternoon show (1:00-7:00 pm), but the following day was Memorial Day.

Motor and Purple Earthquake were Berkeley bands. Purple Earthquake, whose members were still in high school at the time, evolved into the band Earthquake who released a number of albums in the early 1970s.



June 11, 1967: Mt. Tamalpais Theater, San Rafael, CA:  Fantasy Fair and Magic Music Festival-Benefit for Hunter’s Point Child Care Center
This was one of the first rock festivals, a two-day event originally scheduled for the weekend of June 3-4 and then re-scheduled for the next weekend due to rain. It was the week before the Monterey Pop Festival. A Commenter on a newspaper article commemorating the event mentions seeing the New Delhi River Band playing at a stage at the foot of the mountain.

The Mt. Tamalpais Theater had no parking, so fans had to park at the foot of the mountain and wait for shuttle buses. Various bands were booked to entertain fans coming and going as they waited for shuttle buses (or their parents), and the New Delhi River Band seemed to have been one of those bands playing the parking lot.

A poster advertising the opening weekend of The Yellow Brick Road teen club in Fremont, on June 16-17, 1967. The New Delhi River Band headlined the weekend.
June 16-17, 1967 Yellow Brick Road, Fremont, CA: New Delhi River Band/Wakefield Loop
The Yellow Brick Road was a newly opened “teen” venue in then-agricultural Fremont, somewhat modeled on The Barn. Interestingly, hip Fremont teenagers had mostly gone to The Barn rather than San Francisco, as it was actually nearer, and probably less implicitly threatening to their parents (if only they had known).

I have written about the fascinating story of The Yellow Brick Road elsewhere, and it is too hard to recap here. Suffice to say, the booking for The Yellow Brick Road was handled by one of the guitarists for The Wakefield Loop, and they made sure to book themselves for the opening of Fremont's hippest venue. This was the same weekend as the Monterey Pop Festival, but Fremont was still a largely agricultural community--believe it or not--and parents would not have let their kids go to Monterey for the weekend anyway.

A poster promoting the free concert in Fremont's Cental Park on Sunday, June 18, 1967, headlined by The New Delhi River Band, supported by local Fremont bands. Poster by Cheryl Williams.
June 18, 1967: Central Park, Fremont, CA “Banana At Noon” New Delhi River Band/Wakefield Loop/The Collective Minds/The London Colony/Of An Ugly Nature
Wakefield Loop guitarist and booker Denny Mahdik was determined to introduce the then largely agricultural city of Fremont to the Summer Of Love, on the same weekend as the Monterey Pop Festival. He arranged for the New Delhi River Band to headline a Be-In at Fremont's Central Park, supported by a number of local bands, mostly consisting of high school students. The city got cold feet, but Mahdik and his bandmates pushed on, and in the end the New Delhi River Band headlined a great afternoon for a few thousand teenagers, and Fremont did indeed join the 60s.

I have written about the "Banana At Noon" story at length elsewhere.


A clip from Ralph Gleason's Chronicle column of June 23, 1967
June 24 or 25, 1967: Folsom St and 7th St, San Francisco, CA: Big Brother and The Holding Company/Santana Blues Band/New Delhi River Band/Mad River/Mount Rushmore/Freudian Slips/many others  Synanon Street Fair
The Synanon Street Fair is worthy of a whole blog post on its own (albeit on another blog). It was the first free rock concert in San Francisco on a closed street, funded by a promoter who had various kinds of concessions such as food. It was the forerunner of the Haight Street Fair, and every other street fair with a band in San Francisco and another city. Synanon was a drug rehabilitation organization that used community events as part of their program.

The New Delhi River Band appears to have played at the Synanon fair, hoping to get some traction in San Francisco by playing for free.

A flyer for the fashion show at Palo Alto's Cabana Hyatt House on June 28, 1967, with music by the New Delhi River Ban
 June 28, 1967: Cabana Hyatt House, Palo Alto, CA: New Delhi River Band Cabana ’67 Presents “Who Is Miss Boutique”
This was a “hip” fashion show on Wednesday afternoon from 2-5pm, at Palo Alto’s finest hotel. The New Delhi River Band provided the music. This event was few days after The Palo Alto Be-in, which had featured both the Grateful Dead and Big Brother. 18 months earlier, the long-haired members of the NDRB would not have gotten a glance from the fashionable young women at this event, but now it was a different story. While the band members may not have been respectable, by mid-1967, long haired rock musicians had definite bad boy appeal that they had not had before.

June 30, 1967: The Bold Knight, Sunnyvale, CA: New Delhi River Band/Adi Plain
The Bold Knight was a “teen club”—no alcohol served—at 769 N. Matilda Ave.  Such establishments were rampant in San Jose and other suburbs, usually featuring local bands, until the Fillmore revolution passed them by. The Bold Knight was a particularly successful variant on this model. Two young promoters, Mike McCluney and Terry Nissinger, put on shows almost every Friday night in the banquet room of a local restaurant. Up to 1000 people would attend. With a lot of great bands, and a lot of teenagers with cars, the Bold Knight did a thriving business and put on some great shows from about 1966 to 1969. Dave Torbert and Chris Herold had been in the Good News, who had played The Bold Knight many times.

The flyer says “From San Francisco,” which wasn’t really true, but the New Delhi River Band had played the Fillmore, which counted for something in the suburbs. By the middle of 1967, The New Delhi River Band weren't really successful, but they were knocking on the door. The band had a genuine following in the South Bay, headlining small underground events on a regular basis. They had started to get a little traction in the East Bay as well, getting a few paid bookings after plenty of free shows. However, although they had played the Fillmore once, they hadn't made any inroads into San Francisco. Even though their original base of operations, The Barn in Scotts Valley, had closed, it seemed like success was just around the corner for The New Delhi River Band.

The final part of the New Delhi River Band story can be seen here

10 comments:

  1. One I have from your RJG/SFC research: 6/24/67, Folsom Street Fair. Is that not right?

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  2. I'll Be. Gotta pay attention to my own work here. Thanks

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  3. Getting fact-checked with your own stuff. I hate that.

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  4. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, I have been able to add an amazing poster from April 13, 1967 at the Balconades Ballroom in San Jose, featuring the New Delhi River Band, Bogus Thunder and Weird Herald.

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  5. Thanks to the Yellow Shark, I have added a remarkable poster (or flyer) from an April 8, 1967 show at the Pythian Ballroom in Portland, OR

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  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  7. the New Delhi River Band performed in Northridge, Ca July 15, 1967 at the Fantasy Faire and Magic Music Festival.

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  8. A reviewer on setlists.net claims that once when the Dead played the Continental Ballroom in Santa Clara 1967, "David Nelson's band The New Delhi Riverband also played. I remember Morning Dew being performed... I did see them at least once at this venue in '67 but I've forgotten which month it was. The New Delhi River Band did play the night I was there."
    http://www.setlists.net/?show_id=0174

    Since you found no evidence of the NDRB ever playing on the same bill with the Dead, I view this memory skeptically, but list it for the record.
    The NDRB played several shows at the Continental Ballroom that year as well as the Dead, so he may remember them from a different show (perhaps opening for another SF group). Also, the opening acts listed on the '67 posters are different, though we know those could be subject to change.
    (The one possible opening is the Dead's 12/21/66 show at the Continental, which oddly lists no opening acts for the Dead on the poster.)

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    1. Thanks for including this. I just don't think NDRB ever opened for the Dead, not least because the various participants would have been likely to mention it.

      I checked the link, and there is an additional post where he says he's not sure if the NDRB were at the show or not, but he definitely saw them.

      I think there wasn't an opener for Dec 21 '66 because it was a Wednesday night. Most kids were off school, but I think keeping them out late wasn't a good business proposition.

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