|An ad for the Grateful Dead's acoustic appearance at the debut weekend of Thee Club, on 8409 Santa Monica Blvd. I found this ad on the fascinating Posterscene site, which has many rarely seen concert ads from newspapers|
Marshall Brevetz and The 60s Miami Rock Scene
The South was slow to open itself to psychedelic rock, not due to lack of interest from young people, but due to the more conservative nature of the region and police hostility to long hair, drug use and draft resisters. Miami, while very much part of the South, was also primarily a resort town and a destination for many people from the Northeast, and thus it had the relaxed informality of many seaside communities. While not necessarily hippie friendly, and while not yet quite Margaritaville, it was less conservative than other port cities in the South, so its not surprising that Miami was one of the first places in the South to attract a critical mass of hippies.
It was total Psychedelia. There were 5 or 6 stages high up over the dance floor. Black lights, strobe lights and oil/slide light shows were everywhere. The house band was The Kollektion, a Super Group made up of members of the best local bands in South Florida, such as the Mor-Loks, the Shaggs, Sounds Unlimited and Dr. T & the Undertakers.
Several bands would play every Wed., Fri. & Sat. nights, with a host of national acts, such as: Spirit, Spencer Davis Group, Iron Butterfly, Mitch Ryder, Wilson Pickett, Moby Grape and Wayne Cochran. Today, the building is a warehouse.
|A poster for the Grateful Dead's second weekend at Miami's Thee Image, on April 19-21, 1968|
The Grateful Dead came to Thee Image in April, 1968. They also apparently did some unproductive mixing of Anthem Of The Sun at famed Criteria Studios in Miami, but it's unclear whether they went to Criteria because they were playing shows in Miami, or vice-versa. Some prior research by me showed that the Dead actually played seven shows in Miami, not just three. They played two weekends at Thee Image, on the weekend of April 12-14 and then the following weekend (April 19-21, above--you can see tiny print that says "held over"). As was typical of the 60s, the Dead seem to have brought some San Francisco traditions with them.
A commenter on a 60s Miami thread recalls
The Grateful Dead played the next three nights after the Cream played (they broke up shortly after that). The Dead members (Garcia in particular) were chewed out right in front of me that weekend by the two brothers (names...?) who went into business with Marshall to open Thee Image in the first place. The Dead had not drawn a crowd as expected and were blamed for the lack of attendance. I had never seen them play before but thought they were wonderful. The only song of theirs on the radio around that time was "Morning Dew." They were working on their album, "Anthem of the Sun." I had the pleasure of going to Criteria with them and they told me how they made their sound (with the grand piano part).
Luckily I hung out with them for their entire stay and they ended up staying over a week, playing two weekends.
However, the Grateful Dead got too big for Thee Image, and never played there again. Nonetheless, Brevetz helped book a rock festival in Hallandale, FL, just North of Miami, on December 28, 1968, so the Dead indeed played for him yet another time in Florida. Thee Image ran into problems, mainly with the authorities, and Brevetz briefly ran a "teen club" called The Real Thing. Yet in early 1969, both Brevetz and house band Blues Image moved to Los Angeles. Thee Image closed shortly afterwards, in April 1969. Brevetz managed Blues Image, and they eventually had a pretty big hit in 1970 with "Ride, Captain Ride."
Brevetz moved to Los Angeles and opened a nightclub called Thee Experience, on "The Strip," in West Hollywood, just outside the LA city limits, at 7551 Sunset Boulevard. It may be that Brevetz had run an earlier Miami club called Thee Experience as well, but I have not yet determined that for certain. In any case, a "Thee" prefix became a sort of Brevetz signature.
|Photos of Thee Experience, The Whisky and other Sunset Strip clubs, from the Hollywood-Citizen News, December 10, 1969 (thanks mhfoto and QueenCityJamz)|
The only feature I know for sure about the decor of Thee Experience was that its front had a giant mural of Jimi Hendrix, and the front door was his mouth. Although this seems quite weird, Marshall Brevetz was apparently friendly with Hendrix (and many other stars) so while he may not have had formal permission, Hendrix must have at least been somewhat OK with, and in any case, he seems to have shown up to jam some nights in June (and possibly other times, too). There was also a light show, which may have been a little outdated by then for style conscious LA, but in any case it was no casual enterprise. In various references to Thee Image, there are regular recollections that the club had extremely pretty waitresses. While that may have been a Hollywood thing (and may still be) rather than specifically associated with Thee Image, in a town full of aspiring actresses, a joint remembered for attractive staff had to have stood out.
|The LA Collegian, March 28, 1969, describing the opening of Thee Experience (due to a file issue, you'll have to embiggen it yourself. The key part is quoted below).|
Two weeks ago, The [sic] Experience opened to guys 21 and over, girls 18 and over.
Last weekend, The Experience featured Chicago, nee Chicago Transit Authority, an up and coming blues group out of Daley's Hog Farm.
The group plays tight, urban Chicago blues, modified by their non-blackness and electricity. Chicago, properly promoted, may become one of the major groups of the 1970s. Blues Image, a heavily instrumental white blues group and Little John Farmer finished the bill.
The light show, together with the oval stage, provide a suitable experience.
The club also has become a gathering place for bigger groups. Saturday night [March 22], there were two guest sets, by San Francisco acid-blues Grateful Dead, and Los Angeles' own Mothers Of Invention. Eric Burdon, lately with the Animals, has also "jammed" on occasion.
Meanwhile, back on the Sunset Strip . . . Marshall Brevitz is quietly running Thee Experience. He came to L.A. after serving seven weeks as the original operator of Miami's Thee Image and three more weeks running a larger club called The Real Thing, leaving Florida after his license had been canceled. He says it took him five months to collect backing for Thee Experience, opening the small (capacity about 300) club in middle March.
Food prices in the club are high, but everything else seems about right. The tab at the door is $2 during the week, $3 weekends—half price after 12:30, and all-day Sunday jam sessions have included the Grateful Dead, Steve Miller, Eric Burdon and members of Steppenwolf, Black Pearl and Iron Butterfly. The modest light show, by Athanor Visual Team, is also one of the best in town.
|A poster for the March 21-22 weekend show at Pasadena Rose Palace with the Butterfield Blues Band, the Grateful Dead and Jethro Tull, then on their first American tour.|
Seasoned dance and concert promoters from Miami, Chicago and San Francisco—the last being the Fillmore's Bill Graham—have entered the sagging Los Angeles night club scene in recent weeks, creating a healthier rock prognosis than has existed in nearly a year....
Graham is handling all the booking for Scenic Sounds, concert promoters who recently left the Shrine Exposition Hall in downtown Los Angeles for the Rose Palace in Pasadena...
It was as Scenic Sounds moved to Pasadena that Graham arrived. "Just say I'm helping them," Graham said. "I'm helping Tommy (Nieto) do the booking. He'd had some troubles with the agencies there and so I'm doing all the booking for him. I don't think he's gotten a fair shake of late. I think I can do more than he can now. Later hopefully he can take the whole thing back again."
Graham says he is not receiving anything in return for this advice and services. "I am not involved in the financial picture in any way," he said. "I am not getting paid. Absolutely not."
|A 1973 article from the Kansas City alternative paper Public Notice, describing the author's experiences with Owsley and the Grateful Dead while he was a dishwasher at Thee Experience in March, 1969|
A Weekend With Owsley
The implication of the Hopkins' Rolling Stone article was that the Dead participated in a Sunday afternoon jam. This has some logic to it--the Dead would have rushed over to Thee Experience to get their set in, but they wouldn't necessarily been anxious to rush back to some cheap hotel. Indeed, while 7551 Sunset Blvd was just 15.7 miles from the Rose Palace, and now Google says "24 minutes without traffic," even back in the day there was traffic 24/7 in Los Angeles. Given the choice between hanging out all night and jamming in the afternoon or driving back to Pasadena, what do you think the Dead would choose? Why would the Dead even try and drive? As my cousin once said, "What do you do at a blue light?"
Remarkably, a recent correspondent has more or less confirmed that the Dead spent a fair amount of time at Thee Experience. That pretty well confirms the idea that the band played a late night set on Saturday, March 22, and then did some jamming the next afternoon. Correspondent Roger, now a sensible person, was then just a transplanted hippie from Kansas when he got a job at Thee Experience shortly after it opened. Just a few years later, he wrote up his remarkable encounter with Owsley and the Grateful Dead for a Kansas City underground paper called Public Notice (there is a problem with the file copy, and you will have to embiggen it yourself, or else read it here at DeadSources). Owsley, perhaps with no sound duties to occupy him, seems to loom large in the story. Roger:
I once spent time in a nightclub kitchen with the man who saturated the West Coast with purple, owl-embossed LSD in the late 1960's, Augustus Stanley Owsley (that's why the owl) III, a man known for such flamboyances as parachuting into Golden Gate Park to distribute tabs of his acid to the loved-in hippies there. Neither Owsley nor I chose to be there, in the kitchen of Thee Experience, 7751 Sunset Strip, Los Angeles; he was following the Grateful Dead and I was following some faded Kerouac adventure dream that took me to California and back to Kansas in that weird year of '69.Researching the 1969 Grateful Dead isn't exactly linear, but some confirmation of this story is provided by this obscure web link with memories from a former (extremely attractive) waitress at Thee Experience.
I was washing dishes in a three-chambered sink while he was standing with his back rested against the freezer door, shooting the gas from cans of whipped cream into his lungs by holding the whipped cream cans upright and bending the nozzle into his mouth, bouncing against the freezer door as the nitrous oxide went to his head. He stood there and emptied a dozen cans that night, always asking me to find more for him in the freezer after he finished a couple and wanted a couple more.
...And so for two days I continued fetching Owsley cans of whipped cream from the freezer. He even stayed on after the Grateful Dead left. And I, the waitresses, the light show man, the wimpy chef--all of us kept waiting for the scream from the floor of the nightclub as someone rolled in 3-D hysteria of LSD. It never happened. After Owsley had gone, one of the waitresses reported that she had felt a little strange eating a few mushrooms from the salad bar the night before, but there no confirmed LSD experiences among the staff members.
It is hard to dissect the exact timeline from this tale, but it seems the Dead stayed for a while, and Owsley somewhat longer. Roger confirms the Dead's performance, as he says "The Dead played for next to nothing" without elaboration. praising the loyalty artists had to Marshall Brevetz. So I am confident the Dead played a late Saturday night set, and wouldn't be surprised to hear that at least some of them jammed on Sunday afternoon (March 23). My beating heart cannot take any speculation on an evening where the Spring 69 Mothers played a set followed by Primal 69 Grateful Dead, so I won't think about it. The Dead had already played at least 8 times for Brevetz, and they seemed to have played a 9th time (and possibly a 10th time, if there was a Sunday jam), pretty much just for fun.
In August of 1970, the Grateful Dead were hardly performing. They were mostly recording American Beauty in San Francisco, with producer/engineer Stephen Barncard. Their regular producers, Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor, were on tour with Tom Donahue's Medicine Ball Caravan. The Grateful Dead had originally been supposed to go on the Caravan, but had stepped away from it at the last moment. However, Bob, Betty and the Alembic sound system were booked, so the Dead had little choice but to stay home and record. However, the band was able to play acoustically, without Bob and Betty, and as a result they played a few unique shows during that month.
One of the least known appearances of the Grateful Dead in August 1970 was their appearance at Thee Club, in Los Angeles, on that club's opening weekend. The strange spelling of the venue has lead to much confusion in its own right--sometimes it is listed as "The Club"--but Thee Club was the correct name of the venue. What little we know of Thee Club comes from a Robert Hilburn column in the Los Angeles Times.
|Robert Hilburn's column from the Los Angeles Times on Aug 28, 1970, about the not-quite-ready-for-opening of Marshall Brevetz's Thee Club on Sunset Strip.|
At the same time Thursday [Aug 27], a few blocks down Santa Monica Boulevard, Marshall Brevetz, the round, Buddha-shaped owner of the new Thee Club, was hosting some 600 friends in a preview of his new rock facility.
"This club has to happen," he said, the day before the opening."People want a place to go to hear rock music and meet their friends and relax. They want to be able to get out of their house or apartment for a night, and there aren't many places for them to go."
As he spoke, Thee Club, just East of La Cienaga Blvd, seemed far from ready. There was dirt all over the floor, the carpet wasn't down, chairs and tables hadn't arrived, booths weren't installed, and the sound system wasn't finished.
But Brevetz was getting a lot of help. As the owner of Thee Experience rock club on Sunset Blvd for nearly a year (it closed last January), he made a lot of friends. He built a good reputation amongst both musicians and customers.
Thee Experience was a major hangout for some of the top musicians in the country. Often, they would just drop in and get on stage and play. Jimi Hendrix, to cite one of numerous examples, was in Thee Experience 10 nights in a row one time.
The friends were helping Brevetz now because they want to see the club succeed. They have felt a void since the closing of Thee Experience. For musicians, it provides another place to play. For audiences, it provides another place to go.
By late Thursday, much progress had indeed been made. The carpet was down, the lights up, the chairs and tables in place. There was also a large buffet for guests. But the sound system hadn't been completed in time for a full sound check so Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention, who had agreed to play at the preview, didn't perform. Brevetz didn't want to use the sound system until it was fully checked. Nothing gives a club a bad reputation in the music industry as fast as bad sound.
At 8:45 pm the doors opened and Brevetz, still in his work clothes, welcomed the booking company agents, writers, record company representatives and other guests. "It's going to be alright," he said later, surveying the jammed room.
Though the public opening was still a night away, Brevetz was, as always, optimistic. There were still some things to be done--the sound, some more flooring--but he was back in business. It felt good for him and his friends. The Grateful Dead is set to appear tonight [Saturday Aug 29] with Blues Image on Sunday [Aug 30] and Iron Butterfly [Aug 31] set Monday.Did the acoustic Grateful Dead actually open Thee Club on Friday and Saturday, August 28 and 29, 1970? We know from contemporary references that acts were playing Thee Club within the next few weekends, but the question is whether Brevetz got the club ready in time for the Dead. I think we know the issue--if the sound system was good to go, the Dead would have been happy to try out their new material regardless of the status of the flooring, and if not, well, then not.
|A different ad for the opening of Thee Club on the weekend of August 27-29, 1970, with the acoustic Grateful Dead, the New Riders of The Purple Sage and Roxy (from the great Posterscene site)|
But it would have been pretty good, if it happened. Brevetz was certainly right about the evolution of the market. Even by 1970, people were a bit tired of a huge, rowdy hall. How would you feel about seeing the Grateful Dead playing acoustic in a 600-seat club? With nice food, and a bar, and presumably the same knockout waitresses who had worked at Thee Experience?
The New Riders of The Purple Sage would have been a complete mystery in Los Angeles at the time, and it would have been a trip to see Jerry playing pedal steel guitar with some honky tonk band. Roxy was also a terrific band, for what its worth, and lead singer Bob Segarini was an old pal of the Grateful Dead's, to boot (he had been in The Family Tree, and would go on to make records with The Wackers, and later became famous as a dj in Montreal).
The show remains a mystery. If it happened, and I hope and think it did, it would have been a sort of Hollywood hipster thing, kind of un-Dead, and that would account for the paucity of memories about it. A bunch of record company groovers who saw everything in LA wouldn't differentiate this from one or another event. The next two nights also featured bands close to Brevetz (Blues Image and Iron Butterfly) and the guest list was probably the same all three nights.
Was there a tape? Probably not. But there is a tape marked as San Diego, August 5, 1970, that is hard to account for, and perhaps that could be more correctly attributed to Thee Club. Still, once again, the Grateful Dead were ahead of the curve, and thus got left behind. Rock and roll supper clubs became a big thing a few years later, with places like The Roxy in LA or The Bottom Line in Manhattan, but Thee Club was simply too early, and the Dead's appearance--or non-appearance--at its debut seems impossible to trace at this time. Hopefully someone will have a flashback, and tell us about it in the comments.
Update: I discovered that Thee Club was renamed the Bitter End West. A Facebook link has some memories of opening night from Bob Segarini, of the band Roxy.
Bob Segarini of Roxy recalled “When we were sound checking for the opening of the Bitter End West on Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood with the Grateful Dead, my wife, Cheryl, Rita (Coolidge), and Janis (Joplin) , sat in a booth drinking Southern Comfort and Tequila like 3 old friends on a girls-night-out. You would never have guessed they were anything more than that… and that’s what made them special.” Mike Pinera jumped up on stage with us at the Bitter End West when we opened for the Grateful Dead."
Per the link, the November 28, 1970 Billboard explained that "Elektra and Warner Bros, are jointly financing the Bitter End West club. The two Kinney owned companies originally gave the money to open the Thee Club, which lasted one month and which has now been taken over."
Thee Club definitely opened, because there are references to it in LA papers for the next few weeks, but they fade away. I have to assume it didn't stay open very long. Brevetz seems to have gotten out of the club business. Remarkably, however, he went on to his greatest success. In the early 1970s, Brevetz became the manager of singer and songwriter Bobby Womack, probably when Womack moved to Los Angeles. Womack (1944-2014) is one of those guys about whom modern fans say "I don't know any of his songs," and I have to answer "yes you do."
Bobby Womack got his start in gospel music in the 1950s with his brothers. They were signed by Sam Cooke in the 1960s, who changed their name to The Valentinos, and they recorded secular music. Today, their best known hit is Bobby Womack's "It's All Over, Now" which the Dead got from the Rolling Stones' record. In the early 70s, Womack really hit his stride, and Brevetz was his manager. The titles of classic hits like "Breezin, "Lookin' For A Love" and "Across 110th Street" may not ring a bell, but they would very likely sound familiar if you heard them. Womack was successful as a singer, a songwriter and a producer, and his credit lists from the 1970s alone are simply too long to list here.
Womack's downfall was cocaine. He became running mates with Sly Stone (and worked on Sly's classic album There's A Riot Going On), and things got way out of hand. Of course, since Womack was writing and recording numerous hits, there must have been plenty of money around, but it went to the wrong place. Although Womack's career declined somewhat as the 70s wore on, he was never actually unsuccessful, and continued to make good music into the 21st century. Somewhere along the way in the 70s, Brevetz dropped out of the Womack picture. All I really know is that Brevetz had an art gallery in Los Angeles called Thee Gallery, the last thread of the Brevetz trademark.
Marshall Brevetz was a dealmaker, and he managed artists like Blues Image and Bobby Womack to success. His clubs didn't really make money, but they were popular hangouts with fans and musicians, as Brevetz' long track record demonstrated. Certainly the Grateful Dead played for him long after they had any financial incentive for doing so. If you Google around, you will find numerous reminiscences of Brevetz, all of them fond, many of them from people who were just fans who met him. He apparently had time for everyone, from Jimi Hendrix to random teenagers, and that was probably the secret of his ability to put deals together.
Yet Brevetz dealmaking was probably the source of his demise. In 1981, Brevetz was convicted of possessing cocaine for sale, and he served 15 months of a 3-year sentence. He was paroled in 1983. In 1986, Brevetz was found slain in El Sereno, a Los Angeles neighborhood apparently gangland style. It is hard not to assume that someone unpleasant thought Brevetz owed him money. Since Brevetz just ran an art gallery in Studio City--which wasn't near El Sereno--, it wasn't like he was any kind of Player, but in the high-80s, negotiating debts was not part of the process. A terse news article in the Los Angeles Times tells the tale.
Marshall Brevetz was a flyer in the day, and he came to an unfortunate end. Possibly his end was his own doing, but it is sad nonetheless. Certainly many 60s characters engaged in all sorts of nefarious activities and lived to tell the tale in their memoirs, but Brevetz was not among them. Still, it is better to remember what Brevetz brought to the table, and not for his mistakes. Brevetz was the linchpin of the South Florida rock scene in the 1960s, and the Dead were a huge act in the Greater Miami area their entire careers, mainly thanks to him. They didn't forget him, either, coming to play his new nightclubs in both 1969 and 1970, in return for just about nothing. The Dead owed Marshall Brevetz and didn't forget, and that is a bigger legacy for him than a sad ending in El Sereno.
update: fellow scholar Grateful Seconds found an add for the show in the LA Free Press
|An ad in the Aug 21 '70 edition of the LA Free Press for the "acoustical" Grateful Dead at Thee Club on August 28&29, 1970 (h/t Grateful Seconds)|