Thursday, November 22, 2012

June 16, 1967: The Hullabaloo, Los Angeles, CA; Grateful Dead/Yellow Payges/The Power

The Hullabaloo, at 6230 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. The Grateful Dead played here on June 16, 1967 (the photo is from Alison Martino's amazing 'Vintage Los Angeles' blog)
A few years ago, the very first post on this blog speculated about a lost Grateful Dead show held on Friday, June 16, 1967 somewhere in the Los Angeles area. Both Dennis McNally and Rock Scully mentioned the date in their books, as it was the Friday of the Monterey Pop Festival weekend. It was memorable because Phil Lesh's bass had gotten stolen, and the Dead had to fly up to Monterey Saturday morning, with the Festival well underway. Yet there was no trace of where the Dead had actually played that Friday night in Los Angeles. I made a soundly reasoned case for suggesting that the Grateful Dead played The Cheetah on Santa Monica pier. I am happy to report that I was wrong.

I am happy to report that I was wrong about the Cheetah because I now know where the Grateful Dead played on Friday, June 16, 1967: they headlined two shows at The Hullabaloo, on Sunset Boulevard, supported by The Yellow Payges and The Power. Intrepid Commentator Paul explains: 
The June 16th show was at The Hullabaloo in Hollywood. A radio ad for it is track 29 on "Psychedelic Promos & Radio Spots Vol 6" that the yahoogroup U-SPACES assembled years ago. Here's the transcript:

"They're here, in a Hullabaloo after hours exclusive the mightiest of all San Francisco groups, the Grateful Dead. Yes the fantastic Grateful Dead in their exclusive Hullabaloo debut this Friday for both the early show and the after hours. Plus Hullabuloo stars The Yellow Payges and with their new smash recording of "Children Ask", The Power. (brief clip "Children ask if he is dead...") Be there for the one and only LA appearance of the mighty Grateful Dead plus Hullabaloo stars The Yellow Payges and The Power. That's the Grateful Dead this Friday only, two big shows, 8pm at the Hullabaloo and 1am for the outasight Hullabaloo after hours. That's the Hullabaloo, Sunset and Vine in Hollywood."

He sounds quite excited about it! As it was being advertised as "this Friday" I think we can be confident that there wasn't time for the venue to change.

This was the show where Phil's Guild Starfire bass was stolen meaning he had to switch to a Fender for Monterey.
Is the Internet a great place or what? This post will look at what I know about The Hullabaloo, and provide some insights into how Grateful Dead historiography skews away from venues like it.

The Hullabaloo, 6230 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles
The Hullabaloo was the mid-sixties incarnation of a building that opened in 1938, built by one Earl Carroll, and named the Earl Carroll Theater. The theater, at 6230 Sunset Boulevard (at Argyle near Vine) in Hollywood, featured two concentrically rotating stages at the center of the venue.  Right on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, its purpose was to display naked women: at the time, it was illegal to have naked women in motion, but not stationary women on a moving stage.

By the 1950s,  the venue was a TV studio (Queen For A Day was filmed here), and by the early 1960s it had become The Moulin Rouge, which apparently featured a kind of Vegas-style floor show. In December 1965 it became The Hullabaloo. The Hullabaloo was a 'teen' club, serving no alcohol (though I suspect plenty was consumed), and possibly with an upper age limit (although whether that was even enforced is unknown). The Hullabaloo acted as an industry showcase, so bands played every night.  Many of these bands probably played for free, or perhaps just union scale.  There was also an after hours set from 1-4:00 am, played by many aspiring bands (for some great photos of the incarnations of the Earl Carroll theater, see here).

The proprietor of The Hullabaloo was popular KRLA-am dj  Dave Hull, known as "The Hullabalooer." In the mid-sixties, rock was seen as a teenage phenomenon. KRLA was the biggest station in Los Angeles, and Hull was a prominent radio personality, so he ran a nightclub to create what would now be called 'brand synergy.' Most southern California teenagers had access to cars, so kids from the entire Los Angeles basin came to The Hullabalo. My own guess is that younger kids from more distant places came to the early shows, and older ones who lived nearer to Hollywood went to the 'after hours' shows. In California, bars were required to stop serving at 2am, but since The Hullabaloo wasn't a bar, they could have weekend shows that went on until 4am or later.

In June, 1967, the Grateful Dead had released their debut album, and there would have been some desire to make successful inroads into conventional "teen" markets. The Dead were already infamous, due to media coverage of San Francisco, but they had no real following in Los Angeles. Warner Brothers Records was probably instrumental in getting the Dead booked at a place like The Hullabaloo. While the Grateful Dead would have been a bit edgy for The Hullabaloo, it's important to remember that many of the aspiring LA bands were very good. For example, a group called The Hour Glass, featuring Duane and Gregg Allman, were apparently regulars at the Hullabaloo after hours shows, and there's no doubt about how good they were. Many other SoCal bands were terrific live acts, even if their only recorded output was some sort of poppy 45s.

West Hollywood and The Sunset Strip
Sunset Boulevard is one of the most famous streets in a city full of such roadways, and that's saying a lot. The stretch of Sunset between Hollywood and Beverly Hills (from Doheny Drive to Crescent Heights Boulevard) is known as "The Sunset Strip." For decades the famous, the legendary and the low-down of film, fashion and music have gravitated towards The Strip. This was no less true in the 60s. However, the most infamous 60s rock clubs on the Strip, like The Whisky Au Go Go (at 8901 Sunset), were actually just over the Los Angeles County line, in West Hollywood, safe from the Los Angeles Police. Thus the West Hollywood section of The Strip acted as a sort of Red Light district for the City of Los Angeles. The famous teen riots on November 12, 1966 (about which Stephen Stills wrote "For What It's Worth," even if Buffalo Springfield was playing the Avalon that night), took place in West Hollywood, not Hollywood proper.

The Hullabaloo's location in Hollywood itself, at 6230 Sunset, was more glamorous than West Hollywood but less adventurous. The city of Hollywood had merged with Los Angeles in 1910 to guarantee an adequate water supply, so the part of Hollywood inside the city limits was considerably less ribald. However, that probably made The Hullabaloo a more palatable destination for teenagers, since it was far from the notorious low-life of West Hollywood. Los Angeles parents would tolerate their sons and particularly their daughters going to Hollywood, but not so much the den of iniquity further to the West. The Whisky Au-Go-Go was hipper than hip, but it served liquor and was (nominally at least) forbidden to minors, symbolizing the cesspool of sin that was celebrated in West Hollywood. The Hullabaloo, meanwhile, would have just sold sodas and popcorn, and would have seemed considerably less threatening to teenagers' parents.

Limits Of Grateful Dead Historiography
The early chronology of the Grateful Dead has focused on shows where there were posters or flyers. Of course, the Grateful Dead's principal venues in 1966 and '67 were mostly underground venues, who had few other means of publicity besides ornately created psychedelic artworks tacked up on telephone poles. Indeed, it was sort of a code: young longhairs in every town grasped that a hard to read poster with strangely named bands would be a focal point of weed, loud music and free love, none of which could precisely be promised in a poster. Once rock started to become a source of profits in the entertainment industry as a whole, concerts were advertised through more conventional means, like newspapers, but very few daily papers carried information about rock concerts in 1966 and '67, and there were very few underground papers as well.

However, in 1966 and '67, working rock bands like the Grateful Dead played a fair number of shows that did not have posters, because they were more mainstream than the psychedelic underground of the Fillmore and its ilk. Paradoxically, however, more mainstream shows did not usually have posters. There were two main sources of such paying gigs for working bands: school dances and shows sponsored by AM radio stations, and these were not exclusive categories.

School budgets were very different in the 1960s, and high schools and junior colleges had built in finances for entertainment. High schools and colleges had dances every fall and spring, and individual student groups could sponsor events as well. If some hip kids got on the dance committee, all sorts of cool bands were happy to play the show. Indeed, the same night the Dead were playing the Hullabaloo, their friends Quicksilver Messenger Service were playing the graduation dance at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto.

Radio stations also promoted numerous shows and dances at High Schools, both at night and during the day. Throughout early 1967, for example, the Sons Of Champlin played numerous High Schools on Friday at lunch time, in events promoted by radio station KFRC. Up until mid-1967 (and later in many cities beyond San Francisco), AM radio was the only game in town for music, so all rock fans listened to the big AM stations. As a result, radio stations promoted their own events, effectively for no cost, but as a result their was very little residual printed evidence of these shows.

The Grateful Dead probably played a fair number of shows in 1966-67 that are outside the scope of our usual historical artifacts. Its a fortunate thing that the determined U-Space group rescued and circulated the Hullabaloo ad, probably as much for the other bands as the Grateful Dead. We do know a little about the weekend of June 16, since it encompassed the Monterey Pop Festival. On Thursday, June 15, the Grateful Dead and The Wildflower played at a private party at the Straight Theater, celebrating the forthcoming public opening of that venue. The band was not scheduled until Sunday night, June 18, at the Monterey Pop Festival, so manager Rock Scully squeezed in the show at The Hullabaloo. Air travel was very cheap in California in the 60s, so the band probably flew down to Los Angeles on Pacific Southwest Airlines for $20 apiece, carrying their guitars as carryon luggage, and simply played all night and flew back the next morning.

The 1967 MGM 45 "Children Ask" by The Power
The Grateful Dead At The Hullabaloo
Of course, almost nothing is known of the Grateful Dead's performance at The Hullabaloo. Interestingly, the only fragmentary memory comes from Yellow Payges lead singer Dan Horter, who recalled that they had opened for the Dead, but that he couldn't remember where. This newly discovered date seems to confirm that. The Yellow Payges were sort of a house band at the Hullabaloo throughout 1967, and played their many times (there are some nice pictures of the band at the Hullabaloo here). The Power, from what little I can determine, seem to have been managed by the same guy who managed The Palace Guard, who were the Hullabaloo house band prior to the Yellow Payges.

Given the rotating stages at the Earl Carroll Theater, my own guess is that the all the bands played at least two sets each show. Thus the Dead would have played at least four sets from 8:00 pm until 4:00am, and possibly as many as six. The lengthy engagement would also explain the chronology wherein the band did  not fly into Monterey for the Pop Festival until Saturday morning (confirmed by Rosie McGee's book). After the group played their last set at The Hullabaloo, they probably went and took an early morning flight out of LAX to Monterey. The only other known fact about the Hullabaloo show was that Phil's bass got stolen. Somewhere in the midst of all that, Phil had his bass stolen but given the extended evening its easier to understand how Phil could lose track of it. On the other hand, did Phil lose his bass mid-show, and have to play some final sets on a borrowed axe?

Aftermath
I do not know exactly when The Hullabaloo closed, but I don't believe it lasted into 1968. Rock continued to grow up with its audience, and relatively age-segregated 'teen clubs' became passe, since teenagers wanted to see the widely popular groups that older fans wanted to see. FM radio broke the hegemony of 45s and record promotion, and while AM radio actually was bigger than ever, the concert industry was more oriented towards the groups that were played on FM radio.

The former Earl Carroll Theater, however, at 6230 Sunset, continued to change with the times. A consortium headed by the management of Canned Heat took over the building, and opened it as The Kaleidoscope. The Kaleidoscope had its own hip, complicated history, and some great posters, which I have dealt with elsewhere at length.  Lots of great bands played there throughout 1968, although, not as it happened, the Grateful Dead (for the only known photo of The Kaleidoscope incarnation, from the weekend of July 12-13, 1968, see here).

When the Kaleidoscope folded by the end of the Summer of 1968, the venue evolved again as the home base for the Los Angeles-based production of the rock musical Hair. 6230 Sunset was renamed the Aquarius Theater, and Hair was shown six days a week, starting in September 1968. Periodic rock shows were held at The Aquarius in 1969, usually on Monday nights (when Hair wasn't playing). The events were usually industry showcases of some kind--it was Hollywood, after all--and often benefits for some cause as well. In 1970, the Aquarius hosted a stage version of Tommy.  It is possible that the Grateful Dead played the Aquarius for a Warner Brothers Records promotional party on December 14, 1969 (Tom Constanten's diary says they played "The Kaleidoscope"). Today, 6230 Sunset is a movie theater (Update: a Los Angeles native points out that the building was catty corner from the Hollywood Palladium, at 6215 Sunset, where the Grateful Dead played on August 5-6, 1971, and doing the pre-eminent "Hard To Handle").

By the end of 1968, San Francisco style rock concerts were dominating the music industry, and the same type of teenager who went to The Hullabaloo wanted to go The Shrine or The Bank to see bands like the Dead. Thanks to Commentator Paul and U-Spaces, however, we have audio evidence that for one night, at least, the Grateful Dead played on a rotating stage on the former set of Queen For A Day. Uncovering lost Grateful Dead dates has become a surprisingly atomized endeavour, as none of the major sites listing Grateful Dead shows actually update their data on a meaningful basis (unlike TheJerrySite, which strives to remain up-to-the-moment). Nonetheless, a step forward is still a step forward, and it's good to get another date right. So for those of you keeping your own list:

June 16, 1967: The Hullabaloo, Los Angeles, CA: The Grateful Dead/Yellow Payges/The Power (two shows 8:00pm and 1:00am)

7 comments:

  1. An interesting look at how 60s shows were advertised and how some have fallen through the cracks...

    I wonder how the Dead felt about the Hullabaloo. An LA teen club would not have been their usual 'market' (much as Warner Bros might have liked it to be) - and they also had negative feelings about the LA scene, partly due their experiences there in early '66, and partly because of the negotiations with the LA producers of the Monterey pop festival that weekend. On top of that, bands tend to dislike rotating stages! Not that it would've affected the shows, but having Phil's bass stolen on top of all that, they might've headed to Monterey feeling rather glum.

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  2. Rock Scully's book more or less confirms your hypothesis. He regretted booking them in LA on the 16th--which led to my searching for the date--because they came into high-profile Monterey tired and out of sorts.

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  3. Of course, they did have all of Saturday & Sunday to rest at Monterey, so they shouldn't still have been "demoralized & exhausted" at their Monterey show...

    Scully's book does make what seems like an accurate comment about why he made the LA booking:
    "We are all ragged since we just got back from New York. But we're hungry, and we're not even sure we're going to do Monterey, so we book another date just to be sure to make some money that weekend. Unfortunately, by waiting until the last minute to decide whether we'll play, we've gotten screwed as to position..."
    Since they had the misfortune to play in-between the two most powerful rock bands of the era, they probably felt afterwards like they needn't have bothered at Monterey! But what happened on the main stage was probably not the important part of the festival for them.

    I wonder, if not for the festival, would they have played Fri-Sat-Sun at the Hullabaloo? I don't know if clubs like that typically had weekend-long engagements, or if there was high band turnover there & a different act each night.

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  6. Wow! When I saw this it blew my mind! My name is Robin Johnston and I was in ‘Power’ back in the day. We were a 5 piece band with 2 guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards. We played for about two years as one of the house bands along with The Yellow Payges and The East Side Kids. The headliner house band was The Palace Guard, and we were all managed by Gary Bookasta. And the name of the band was ‘Power’, not ‘The Power”.
    The members of the band were John Romero, lead singer and guitar, his brother Joe Romero on vocals and bass, Jim Sanchez on keyboards, and Joe Rodriguez on drums and vocals. Joe Romero and I originally started out in a South Bay Surf band called The Wild Ones, and several years and iterations later, with another singer named Gary Soloman, worked our way into The Hullabaloo as a house band.
    We played mostly top 40 hits of the time, and eventually brought in two song writers named Bernie Swartz and Morgan Cavett who wrote the two songs here, ‘Children Ask’ and ‘She Is The Color Of’. We went into Paramount Studios on Santa Monica Blvd. in the summer of 1967 and recorded both of the songs. The original words to ‘Children Ask’ were “Children ask if God is dead”. The radio stations refused to play the song because of the word ‘God’ so we had to go back in and redo the lyrics to say “Children ask if He is dead”.
    We did a lot of local TV shows like ‘Groovy’ and such, and we even played on the ‘Last Train To Clarksville’ promotion of the Monkees which was a real train to Del Mar where we picked up The Monkees and they played on the way back. Then we went to Biloxi, Mississippi to promote the record that had started to play on an Armed Forces radio station there. We also played in New Orleans and did a TV show there.
    We came back from there in December of 1967 and after the first of the year several of us were in danger of being drafted, and the band was starting to fall apart. I went into the army in March of 1968 and Joe went in later that year.
    Where are they now? John Romero lives in Santa Cruz and works for a car dealer in the parts department. Jim Sanchez lives somewhere in the New England States. Joe Rodriguez lives in Torrance with his wife and children. Joe Romero came back from Viet Nam and after 36 years retired as a Captain from the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Myself, I live in San Pedro with my wife and son and work for LAUSD in electronic repair.
    Also, I have never stopped playing music, having been in several dozen bands over the years playing every style of music. And the kicker? Joe Romero and I came full circle and are now playing again in an oldies band called ‘The Soundwaves’. We have been together for eight years now, still going strong and having a ball, playing two or three times a month with two great guys, John Metcalf, retired LAPD, and bobby K, the drummer in my country band, ‘The Golden State Cowboys’ for ten years. Our website is http://www.thesoundwavesband.net/. And our specialty, is, of course, SURF MUSIC!
    I look back on very fond memories of the times we had, we were so young but blessed to experience the things we did. This is an overview, there is a lot more, maybe I’ll post more someday.
    Robin Johnston
    By the way, I still have several copies of this record, and have digitized and processed it to sound pretty good.

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