Thursday, September 23, 2021

August 2-3, 1968, The Hippodrome, San Diego, CA; Grateful Dead (Next Phase)

The Grateful Dead in San Diego
In July of 1968, the Grateful Dead released their second album for Warner Brothers, Anthem Of The Sun. The album was released 13 months after their debut album, which for the era was a long stretch between records. The first album had not had a hit single, either, so the Grateful Dead were mostly an unheard legend outside of the few places where they had performed regularly. If a record company was going to pay attention to a band, it was going to be when there was a new release and something to sell. So even hippie bands tried to organize tours and high-profile gigs around any new album. Yet the Grateful Dead did no such thing.

In July of 1968, the Grateful Dead only played two shows. Both were in North Lake Tahoe, a vacation resort 200 miles from San Francisco. There were a few other posters for events that were spurious or canceled, in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Honolulu, but otherwise the band played no shows. How was there going to be any record sales if the Dead weren't going to even make an effort?

August was a little better. The Grateful Dead were booked at a rock festival in Orange County on Sunday, August 4. So the band decided to break in some new territory, and play a weekend in San Diego at a newly-opened psychedelic ballroom called The Hippodrome. The Hippodrome was a former roller skating rink, run by a bunch of inexperienced hippies, and had only been open since June. The Dead probably agreed to the date before the Hippodrome had even opened (less than 60 days earlier), a risky proposition. Risk? What's the risk? Just as big a question: what's the Reward?

The Grateful Dead in July 1968: Status Report
July 12-13, 1968 Kings Beach Bowl, North Lake Tahoe, CA: Grateful Dead/The Working Class
The Dead had played a weekend at Kings Beach Bowl in the previous Summer (August 25-26, 1967), and followed it up with a weekend during ski season (February 22-24, 1968). The operators of Kings Beach Bowl put the Dead up in some sort of Tahoe vacation home, so everybody must have had a lot of fun. One of the operators of the venue worked for the Sheriff's Department, so the cops weren't in the picture. The Summer '68 booking was probably long-standing, and much like a vacation. Working Class, the opening band, was from Sacramento. By 1969, they would evolve into San Paku, and ended up opening for the Dead a number of times. Members of the Working Class recall the weekend--vaguely--as a giant party. 

July 18, 1968: Release of Anthem Of The Sun
The official release date of Anthem Of The Sun was July 18, 1968. Without getting too wonky, it's worth noting that 60s album release dates were not nearly so precise as 70s release dates. By the mid-1970s, records were officially released on a certain day, usually a Tuesday. All the record stores would get the boxes of albums at the same time, and could not sell copies until the designated day. At the same time, FM radio stations had advance copies, and airplay, promotions and tours were structured around the release date.

The sixties weren't like that. It's possible that detailed coordination took place for Beatles records, or a few other high profile acts. Generally, though, most records were sold in department stores and drug stores, and albums were just a commodity like socks or shaving cream. The actual distribution of albums was largely farmed out to independent intermediaries (usually called "Rack Jobbers"). The boxes of manufactured albums were shipped weeks in advance, and would arrive at stores over a period of time. Sometimes albums arrived in stores after their "official" release date, and sometimes before. Many stores, particularly big chains, would want to limit what was in their precious shelf space to those albums being promoted by their companies. But there weren't prohibitions against selling an album before it's "official" release date.

If a teenager went into a store and asked if they had a new album, a friendly clerk could look in the waiting boxes and sell him one. If enough kids asked, the store would put the albums out on the rack. Once FM radio came along, and random cool album tracks started getting played, this happened more and more. If you read accounts of 60s rock tours, by the likes of Led Zeppelin for example, you'll read plenty of stories of people who bought an album before it's official release date. But the flip side also happened. Just because Warners declared July 18 the official release date, it didn't all mean that Anthem Of The Sun was in a given store at that time.

July 23, 1968: A New Soundman Gets Hired
The Grateful Dead's former soundman, Owsley Stanley, had been arrested in Orinda, CA in late 1967. The case had wound through the courts, and Owsley's bail conditions in Summer '68 required that he get a job. Owsley, honestly, didn't have much work experience. Other than a stint in the Air Force, his previous, perhaps only, job had been as soundman for the Grateful Dead. On July 23, 1968, the Dead re-hired Owsley Stanley as their soundman. Owsley was a quick study, of course, which was good, since the first show upon his return was just 10 days later at the Hippodrome.

San Diego, CA
San Diego, with its deepwater natural harbor and balmy weather, has been a city since the state of California was founded in 1850. Always an important base for the US Navy, the population of San Diego doubled between 1930 (147,995) and 1950 (333,865). Some of this was due to military expansion during World War 2, but of course many Navy veterans went through San Diego and realized what a nice place it was. Numerous defense contractors also moved permanently to San Diego during this period.

San Diego has perfect weather, all year around. It's warm in the Summer, but never scorching, it's never humid--I believe humidity is forbidden by County ordnance--and there is usually a cool ocean breeze. The temperature on Christmas Day is usually about 72 degrees, and often you can go to the beach. If you go to San Diego, everybody is friendly and in a good mood, and why wouldn't they be? When a professional conference is held in San Diego, everybody wants to stay there when it's over.

San Diego is about 110 miles South of Downtown Los Angeles, however, so the cultural life of San Diego is swallowed up by that proximity. Think of rock music, for example. Plenty of musicians grew up in the San Diego area. But if they had musical dreams, they went to Los Angeles, and so we think of players like former Byrd Chris Hillman and former Eagle Bernie Leadon as "LA musicians" even though they both grew up in San Diego. The most successful 60s rock band from San Diego was Iron Butterfly, but they had to go to the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood to make it big.

San Diego's WW2 expansion was built on defense spending, and postwar cutbacks hurt the economy. The City and County of San Diego diversified into science, research and tourism. The suburbs around San Diego expanded significantly. San Diego State University, founded in 1897 as a teacher's college, had expanded to an enrollment of over 10,000 students by 1959, and had joined the State College system (by 1960 it was San Diego State College). In 1964, the University of California had opened its UC San Diego campus in suburban La Jolla, with an emphasis on mathematics, engineering and scientific research. The population in San Diego continued to expand between 1960 (573,224) and 1970 (696,769), with corresponding increases in the smaller suburban towns around the city.

Downtown San Diego and Concert Promotion
For much of the 1960s, the San Diego concert market was just a satellite of the Los Angeles concert market. Artists doing a national tour would slip in an extra day in San Diego, before or after any other Southern California bookings. The principal local concert promoter was James C. Pagni, who had gone from throwing fraternity dances in the early 60s to booking name acts. In 1964, the Exposition Hall at the Community Concourse had opened downtown. It was an auditorium that could be used for sports events, trade shows or concerts. Usually advertised as the "Community Concourse" (now the Civic Concourse), it was at  202 West C Street, at 2nd Avenue (sometime in the early 1970s, the Community Concourse was remodeled and re-named Golden Hall).

Most major touring acts played the Community Concourse, regardless of genre, and that included 60s rock bands. Pagni had an established record with booking agents, so he had a firm grip on the local concert business. In 1969, the much larger San Diego Sports Arena opened (at 3500 Sports Arena Boulevard). It could hold between 8,000 and 14,000 for concerts, so Pagni could book big acts as well, like James Brown.

Pagni was an established concert promoter, but he wasn't popular with the local hippies. In 1968, Pagni had booked the big touring acts like Big Brother (February 9) and Cream (May 19) at the Community Concourse. But the local hippies didn't like Pagni shows. It's hard to tell what the issues were, but Pagni's professional productions probably ensured that the Concourse wasn't much like the Fillmore. It does appear that rock shows at the Community Concourse had reserved seats, so that alone meant that there wasn't any kind of loose Fillmore scene. Although San Diego is a benign town, by and large, culturally it has always been dominated by ex-military folks (for obvious reasons), and the free-thinkers always decamped to LA. Downtown San Diego was somewhat in decline by 1968, but it wasn't being replaced by a bohemian underground.

Something Stirring In The Suburbs?
Downtown San Diego might not have been thriving, but something was going on in the outskirts of town, as the suburbs were booming. Suburbs were booming all over California, of course, and it's no surprise that in a beautiful place like San Diego, once-small towns in driving distance of the city were getting bigger and bigger.

The town of La Jolla, on the ocean and just 12 miles North of downtown, had been the home of the esteemed Scripps Oceanography Institute since 1903, and also a Marine base (Camp Matthews). During and after World War 2, the civilian population of La Jolla had expanded, making Camp Matthews less suitable for firing practice. Ultimately, Camp Matthews was closed and "declared surplus" in 1962, and the land was used for the new University of California at San Diego. The first class of undergraduates enrolled at UCSD in 1964. 

The big attraction of La Jolla was the beach, of course, and that meant surfers. In early 60s Southern California, surfing was a weird, rebellious subculture. Middle-class young men (and their girlfriends) who organized their days around the tides, looking for the good waves, were not buying into the post-WW2 expectation that they should be a junior executive, join the Rotary Club, and raise 2.2 children. Tom Wolfe, a staff writer for the New York Herald Tribune Sunday Magazine, wrote a 2-part article about a bunch of teenagers he had stumbled across in La Jolla, published in February 1966.

Wolfe wrote an article called "The Pump House Gang," later the title and first chapter of a 1968 book of his collected articles. The Pump House Gang book was released at the same time as his more famous Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Though less dramatic, the "Pump House Gang" was just a less radical, but no less pronounced, rebellion by La Jolla teenagers against the conformist expectations of the world, just like Kesey and his Merry Pranksters up in Palo Alto.

Wolfe wrote about about some young surfers who hung out at the sewage pump house at La Jolla's Windansea Beach. Some were in High School, some were a little older. They considered the beach their own. What they didn't like was outsiders, from other suburbs, often older adults (probably about 35 years old), that the Gang considered interlopers. The teenagers would stare at the Moms in their station wagons, spit on the sidewalk and stage ad hoc sit-ins to prevent them from parking. Neighbors would call the police, and trouble would ensue. The Pump House Gang were mostly middle class, and the incidents were minor and passed by, but it was surfer rebellion nonetheless.

UC San Diego, which had just opened,  was more of a science school, but it was still the 60s. There were some "Be-Ins" at the beach in La Jolla, and a local band called Maya played at them. A few locals, George Driver and Ron "Anchovy" Barca helped put them on. San Diego was San Diego, though, not Greenwich Village. There weren't that many rebels. It was inevitable that they would meet and join forces. 

KPRI-fm, 106.5 FM, San Diego, CA
In 1967 and '68. the tipping point for rock music in most cities was the arrival of FM radio. FM radio broke the hegemony of Top 40, letting hippies hear cool album tracks from San Francisco and London. In San Diego, like most cities, rock radio on FM got its start in the middle of the night, but if you were tripping balls on LSD, what could be more appropriate?

Steve Brown (USN), stationed in San Diego, approached the owner of KPRI-fm in late 1967. At the time, FM radio was new, and not many people had FM receivers. Many new "Hi-Fi" stereos had FM receivers built-in, however. Young hippies were buying stereos to get the full effect of Beatles albums and the like, so there was an implicit audience. At the time, KPRI played typical MOR fare, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and so on. The (quite amazing) KPRI timeline picks up the story:

In December of 1967, all of that changed forever. Steve Brown approached Larry Shushan, owner and manager of KPRI and offered to keep the station on the air after their customary midnight sign-off time, as long as he could play any kind of music that he wanted.
There were no dollars offered for this service. Steve hit the airwaves of San Diego as O.B. Jetty, playing the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and The Holding Company, blues of all kinds and many bands that had never yet been heard on San Diego mainstream radio. Before long, Steve began gathering other like-minded people to to collaborate on those nightly journeys into the unknown, and the show "Electric Music For The Mind And Body" was born. The rest, as they say, is history.

Throughout early 1968, Brown and a co-conspirator hold down the midnight-to-3am shift at KPRI. By May, Brown and his fellows were broadcasting rock music 24/7. The underground had come to San Diego, unexpected as that might have seemed.

Translove Airways crew at the Hippodrome, Summer '68. Jerilyn Brandelius: "I’m the one with the big smile on the left side next to the girl with long hair (Suzanne Spackman) and below Ramon Rashover and above the guy with the white shirt"

The Threads Come Together

Once a city had FM radio playing album tracks, young people wanted to see the bands. And they weren't the bands playing on the top 40 teenage circuit. San Diego needed its own Fillmore. Ron "Anchovy" Barca and George Driver, who had put on the Be-Ins in La Jolla in '67 were the primary organizers. Somehow, they found an old roller skating rink downtown at Front and G Street, once known as Skateland. They formed a production company called Translove Airways, after the lyrics from a Donovan song (from "Fat Angel:" it went "Fly Translove Airways, get you there on time/...Fly Jefferson Airplane, get you there on time"). They dressed up the Roller Rink, and opened it in June as The Hippodrome.

Among the Pump House Gang was one Jerilyn Brandelius (1948-2020), who would go on to play a big role in the Grateful Dead universe in the 70s and beyond. In her memoir, she wrote:

Translove Airways was our production company we created when we got the Hippodrome Ballroom in 1968. A group of us from La Jolla lived in San Francisco from 1965 until 1967. San Diego county was getting too hard for longhairs due to it being a military town during the Vietnam war, so we split to the freedom of San Francisco. We met many of the bands and decided to bring them to San Diego and open our own place like the Avalon & Fillmore.

Hippodrome Shows
The headliners at the Hippodrome were almost exclusively San Francisco bands. The opening acts were local San Diego bands, but there weren't that many of them. The first booking at The Hippodrome was for the weekend of June 7 and 8, with the Steve Miller Band headlining both nights. At the time, the Miller Band had just released their great debut album on Capitol, Children Of The Future. Side One was a continuous suite of music, not eligible for play on Top 40, but no doubt getting plenty on KPRI.

The Hippodrome only booked shows on Friday and Saturday nights, a sign that the underground market was both young and still just forming. The second weekend featured the Velvet Underground, which must have been pretty strange--San Diego doesn't do darkness. The next weekend (June 21-22) featured Mike Bloomfield and the Electric Flag, and the following one (June 28-29) was headlined by David Lindley and Kaleidoscope, one of (if not the) best underground bands in Los Angeles. Great as all these shows sound now, however, none of those groups would have been particularly well-known at the time.

During the same month of June, however, James Pagni was putting on rock shows at the nearby Community Concourse. The Mothers Of Invention played June 1, Eric Burdon and The Animals played June 18 and Canned Heat on June 25. Now, today, we care much more about the likes of the Velvet Underground and Kaleidoscope. In 1968, however, songs like "Sky Pilot" (Eric Burdon) and "Going Up The Country" (Canned Heat) were big on the radio, and they were both more popular bands (and I should add, both terrific live). Now, granted, the Burdon and Heat shows were on Wednesdays, since the prime bookings were saved for Los Angeles. So the weekend shows at Hippodrome would have been more accessible to suburban teenagers, but the acts were not as prominent as the ones at Community Concourse.

The Hippodrome, July 1968
Hippodrome bookings for July were even more shaky. Around July 4, which was on a Thursday, Dr. John The Night Tripper was supposed to headline, supported by two Bay Area bands. According to Sons Of Champlin road manager Charlie Kelly, however, Dr. John canceled. This left the largely unknown Sons and Boogie, another Bay Area band. The Sons had not yet released their debut album, and the group had barely played outside of the Bay Area.

For that weekend (July 5-6), there was a legendary show with the Quicksilver Messenger Service headlining over the returning Velvet Underground. Quicksilver, besides being hip, had just released their debut album on Capitol, and no doubt it was getting heavy airplay on KPRI. There are some descriptions of this show in Ritchie Unterburger's Velvet Underground chronology (White Light White Heat), and it sounds like a truly special event.

Dr John finally turned up on the weekend of July 12-13. His debut album, Gris Gris, had been released fairly recently. Once again, Dr John is widely revered today, and rightly so, but he was pretty obscure at the time. I doubt he drew much of a crowd. Bo Diddley headlined the next weekend (July 19-20), enjoyable no doubt, but hardly a must-see event for suburban teen hippies.

Throughout July, James Pagni was promoting rock shows at the Community Concourse on Tuesdays. While Tuesday is a weeknight, the rock audience was mostly school-age, and thus in the Summer it wasn't a school night. The Tuesday night shows had much more prominent bands--Iron Butterfly, Paul Butterfield and Steppenwolf. As noted above, today we dream of time-traveling back to see the Velvet Underground or Kaleidoscope, but at the time, "Magic Carpet Ride" or "Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida" was a much bigger draw. Those bands were available on Tuesdays because they had better bookings on weekends.

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band played Thursday, July 25. This suggests that they had a better booking on the weekend, probably in LA, and that it wasn't worth it to them to play a whole weekend in San Diego. It also means that the Hippodrome didn't have the cash to book them all weekend, either. I can find no trace of a Hippodrome show on the weekend of July 26-27, another ominous sign for its financial well-being.

Owsley Stanley and Jerry Garcia at the San Diego Airport, August 1968
August 2-3, 1968 The Hippodrome, San Diego, CA: Grateful Dead/Curly Cooke's Hurdy Gurdy Band/Maya (Friday-Saturday)
The Grateful Dead played the first weekend in August at the Hippodrome. It was the band's first shows after the formal release of Anthem Of The Sun. The truth is, we know almost nothing about the show except that it was booked. If the poster had not been published in Paul Grushkin's book Art Of Rock, we might not have even known that. I'm not aware of an eyewitness account. Since Jerilyn Brandelius never mentioned that it was canceled, we can assume it happened, but beyond that I can only draw a blank (if anyone can find any accounts or references, please cite them in the Comments).

The Hippodrome was Owsley's first show as the returning soundman. Knowing Owsley's penchance for perfectionism, it's unlikely the technical set up was to his liking, so I'll bet the Dead didn't hustle right on to the stage. We don't have a tape. I'm no expert in this area, but I don't believe Owsley began taping until somewhat later.

Owsley was already an underground legend. There was a photo Owsley and Jerry, taken at the San Diego Airport (above). For many years, it was just about the only circulating photo of Owsley. Given that it was Owsley's first weekend, my guess is that when someone took a photo, Owsley realized it was going to get around, and took enormous pains not to be photographed again. There are a few backstage and private photos that eventually surfaced, mostly after his death, but my guess is that Owsley rapidly realized that Garcia was a magnet, and did not go near him in public after that.

Last Dance: Autumn Equinox Festival

September 22, 1968: Del Mar Fairgrounds, Del Mar, CA: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Grateful Dead/Buddy Miles Express (formerly The Electric Flag)/Youngbloods/Taj Mahal/Mother Earth/Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups/Phoenix/Curly Cooke's Hurdy Gurdy Band (Saturday)
After the Grateful Dead shows on August 2-3, I can find no trace of any more bookings at the Hippodrome, so it must have closed. Still, the hippies who ran it had one more event in them. Somehow they found the financing to put on an all-day rock festival at a former Ostrich Racing track in the suburbs. Yes, a former Ostrich Racing track, you read that correctly. It was actually the County Fairgrounds, established in 1937 as a horse racing track by Bing Crosby and his associates, but Ostriches apparently raced there (in the 1980s, Del Mar Fairgrounds became an auto racing track, but it's now houses I believe update: I had this wrong. The Fairgrounds and the horse racing track is still thriving. The auto track was a temporary facility in the parking lot, used for IMSA racing from 1987-92).

Eyewitnesses reported that it was a nice afternoon--hey, it was San Diego, right?--and a nice time, although the event was not well-attended. The underpinning to the booking seems to be that most of the bands were tied to the same booking agency, San Francisco's West-Pole. West-Pole was run by Quicksilver manager Ron Polte, and they had ties to many other bands in San Francisco, including the Dead. From looking at the list of bands at the Equinox Festival, we see a number of bands that played the Hippodrome, so we can see that West-Pole was tied in to booking for the Hippodrome. Curly Cooke's Hurdy Gurdy Band, featuring ex-Steve Miller Band guitarist Cooke, was booked by West-Pole, which explains why they had opened the Grateful Dead weekend.

Ron Polte also regularly promoted shows, through another wing of his company, so I suspect Polte financed the show, booked the bands and hired the Hippodrome crowd to actually put it on. After that, as far as I know, the Hippodrome crowd went their own ways, leaving San Diego concert booking to others.


The Grateful Dead returned to San Diego, albeit intermittently. In 1969 (on May 11), the Dead played a concert at the Aztec Bowl (the San Diego State football stadium), along with Canned Heat, Lee Michaels and Santana. The promoter was the new hippie competitor to the Pagni kingdom, a former assistant named Roger Hedgecock. Hedgecock had some success promoting concerts, but ultimately left the field. Later, he became Mayor of San Diego.

The band played the Community Concourse in 1970 (on January 10), but I'm not sure who the promoter was (Magna Productions is on the poster). In subsequent years they played for Pacific Presentations (1971 and '73), old friends from the Shrine in LA, and in 1978 for Bill Graham. The band almost played a show for James Pagni, in 1972 or so, but it was canceled (probably due to lack of ticket sales). San Diego was not really a big market for the Dead until their last several years, and by then everywhere was a big market. So the efforts to plant the seed in San Diego in 1968 were well-intentioned, but didn't add up to anything significant, really, other than a great Fall '73 show (on November 14). 

Captain Milkshake
was one of the first "Anti-Vietnam" hippie movies, financed in the wake of the unexpected success of Easy Rider, and released in 1970. The IMDB blurb says "A Marine on leave from Vietnam becomes involved with hippies, communes and drug-running." It was filmed in and around La Jolla, and includes scenes from inside the Hippodrome. The Translove Airways crowd appears in the movie, mostly as themselves. Ron Barca plays "Anchovy."

Jerilyn Brandelius decamped North, and helped run the show for Chet Helms at his Family Dog on the Great Highway enterprise in 1969 and '70. Ultimately, Jerilyn and Mickey Hart had two kids, and she became a regular part of the Grateful Dead family. Her Grateful Dead scrapbook (now online) is a fascinating chronicle of life from the inside. She died in 2020.

Steve Brown (OB Jetty), who had been the key to starting KPRI and the underground rock explosion in San Diego, missed out on the San Diego Summer of '68. Brown was in the US Navy, and the Navy decided to send him to Vietnam from June to December. He returned intact. But never fear--ultimately he came up to San Francisco and helped found Round Records with Jerry Garcia.

KPRI-fm (106.5) was hugely successful, so much that the station had been sold to Southwestern Broadcasting in mid-1968. By early 1969, KPRI was the #4 station in San Diego, in all formats (AM, FM, news, music etc). Southwestern Broadcasting decided to switch to a Top-40 format during the daytime in Spring '69. The change was a catastrophe, and KPRI reverted to all album rock by the Summer. KPRI remained a top rock station in San Diego for many years.

James Pagni (1943-2005) remained the king of the San Diego concert business until about 1974, when he stepped aside and into a successful career in the restuarant business.

Appendix: San Diego Rock Concerts, June-September 1968
June 1, 1968 Community Concourse, San Diego, CA: Mothers of Invention (Saturday) Presented by James C. Pagni
The Community Concourse was at 202 West C Street (at 2nd Avenue). Shows were presented in the Exhibition Hall (which was later remodeled and re-named Golden Hall).

June 7-8, 1968 The Hippodrome, San Diego, CA: Steve Miller Band/Alexander’s Timeless Blooze Band/Baptized By Fire (Friday-Saturday) Trans-Love Airways Presents
The Hippodrome was downtown at Front and G Streets.

June 14-15, 1968 The Hippodrome, San Diego, CA: Velvet Underground/Clover/Maya (Friday-Saturday) Trans-Love Airways Presents

June 18, 1968 Community Concourse, San Diego, CA: Eric Burdon & The Animals/Brain Police (Wednesday) Presented by James C. Pagni

June 21-22, 1968 The Hippodrome, San Diego, CA: Electric Flag/Clover/Pacific Flash (Friday-Saturday) Trans-Love Airways Presents

June 25, 1968 Community Concourse, San Diego, CA: Canned Heat (Wednesday) Presented by James C. Pagni

June 28-29, 1968 The Hippodrome, San Diego, CA: Kaleidoscope/Baptized By Fire/Maya (Friday-Saturday) Trans-Love Airways Presents

June 29, 1968 Community Concourse, San Diego, CA: The Doors/Chambers Brothers (Saturday) Scenic Sounds Presents
Scenic Sounds were Los Angeles promoters, who had evolved from the team that promoted shows at Los Angeles' Shrine Exposition Hall. Later, Scenic Sounds management formed Pacific Presentations.

July 2, 1968 Community Concourse, San Diego, CA: Iron Butterfly (Tuesday) Presented by James C. Pagni

July 2-3, 1968 The Hippodrome, San Diego, CA: (Dr. John)/Sons of Champlin/Boogie (Tuesday-Wednesday) Trans-Love Airways Presents
Date approximated from a memoir on the website of  Sons roadie Charlie Kelly.  Dr. John The Night Tripper was the headliner, but he canceled. Boogie was a Bay Area power trio.  

July 4, 1968 The Hippodrome, San Diego, CA: Velvet Underground (Thursday)
July 5-6, 1968 The Hippodrome, San Diego, CA:  Quicksilver Messenger Service/Velvet Underground
(Friday-Saturday) Trans-Love Airways Presents
Velvet Underground played by themselves on Thursday night. This week is the only (known) week where the Hippodrome was open most nights of the week. The weekend shows were reviewed, with both bands getting impressive notices. VU must have been getting some airplay on KPRI, because fans seem to have known who they were.

July 9, 1968 Community Concourse, San Diego, CA: Paul Butterfield Blues Band (Tuesday) Presented by James C. Pagni

July 12-13, 1968 The Hippodrome, San Diego, CA: Dr. John The Night Tripper and His Louisiana Voodoo Show (Friday-Saturday) Trans-Love Airways Presents

July 16, 1968 Community Concourse, San Diego, CA: Paul Butterfield Blues Band/Framework (Tuesday) Presented by James C. Pagni

July 19-20, 1968 The Hippodrome, San Diego, CA: Bo Diddley/Maya/Frumious Bandersnatch (Friday-Saturday) Trans-Love Airways Presents

July 23, 1968 Community Concourse, San Diego, CA: Steppenwolf/Brain Police (Tuesday) Presented by James C. Pagni

July 25, 1968 The Hippodrome, San Diego, CA: Butterfield Blues Band/Maya/Early Morning Blues Band (Thursday) Trans-Love Airways Presents

July 30, 1968 Community Concourse, San Diego, CA: Moby Grape (Tuesday) Presented by James C. Pagni

August 2-3, 1968 The Hippodrome, San Diego, CA:  Grateful Dead/Curly Cooke’s Hurdy Gurdy Band/Maya (Friday-Saturday) Trans-Love Airways Presents

August 10, 1968 Community Concourse, San Diego, CA: Jefferson Airplane (Saturday) Presented by James C. Pagni

August 13, 1968 Community Concourse, San Diego, CA: Spirit/Jello’s Gas Band (Tuesday) Presented by James C. Pagni

August 20, 1968 Community Concourse, San Diego, CA:  James Cotton Blues Band (Tuesday) Presented by James C. Pagni

August 27 1968 Community Concourse, San Diego, CA:  The Who/Brain Police (Tuesday) Presented by James C. Pagni

September 3, 1968 Balboa Stadium, San Diego Jimi Hendrix Experience/Vanilla Fudge/Eire Apparent/Soft Machine  (Tuesday) James C Pagni Presents

September 22, 1968 Del Mar Fairgrounds, Del Mar, CA Grateful Dead/Buddy Miles Express/Taj Mahal/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sons of Champlin/Mother Earth/Curly Cooke’s Hurdy-Gurdy Band/Youngbloods/Ace of Cups/Phoenix (Saturday)

September 28, 1968 Community Concourse, San Diego, CA:  Big Brother and The Holding Company (Friday) James C Pagni Presents


  1. Great stuff. I believe Mr. Cooke's other name was spelled "Curley". I touched on San Diego a little in Darkness, Darkness.

  2. Del Mar Racetrack has hosted many events over the years but it was never an auto racetrack. The stuffy folks in Del Mar would never have put up with that. Must be some confusion. The 1980s actually saw the expansion of the racetrack grandstands. It was a boom time for the horse races.

  3. Del Mar Racetrack has hosted many events over the years but it was never an auto racetrack. The stuffy folks in Del Mar would never have put up with that. Must be some confusion. The 1980s actually saw the expansion of the racetrack grandstands. It was a boom time for the horse races.

  4. Del Mar Racetrack has hosted many events over the years but it was never an auto racetrack. The stuffy folks in Del Mar would never have put up with that. Must be some confusion. The 1980s actually saw the expansion of the racetrack grandstands. It was a boom time for the horse races.

    1. Thanks for this. I updated the post. It seems the racetrack and Fairgrounds are thriving. The auto racing track was a temporary circuit in the parking lot, used for IMSA Sports Car Racing from 1987-92)

    2. There actually was a famous SCCA road racing course in Torrey Pines in the early 1950's. I have sold rare posters from this track for a lot of money. That might be where the confusion stems from.

    3. Torrey Pines was in La Jolla (near Camp Matthews), north of San Diego. It wasn't the same site as Del Mar

    4. True it wasn't the same site but situated right next to Del Mar. I have been selling antiques at the Del Mar site for over thirty years so am well aware of the place.

    5. The confusion in the post was largely mine. I knew there was an 80s track called "Del Mar Raceway" and thought it was the same as the Ostrich/Horse track. That's been resolved--there's the original horse track (ca 30s), the Torrey Pines SCCA track (50s, now a golf course I think) and the 80s IMSA track (was a parking lot, now housing or something like that). All different but near each other.

  5. Fascinating post on the background of these shows! Of course, these shows are as lost as lost can be....I'm not aware of anything written about them either.
    The Hippodrome strikes me as the San Diego equivalent of the Carousel (which they must have been aware of)...and just as short-lived! Closer to home, the San Diego crew may also have picked up tips from Pinnacle Concerts' shows at the Shrine in LA....but the Pinnacle outfit was to fall apart the next month as well.

    I've also wondered why the Dead barely played any shows from late June through early August, 1968. In a two-month period, they played only three weekends. This wasn't a happy time for the Dead - the Carousel had just closed, few bookings were found elsewhere, and McNally says they were "stumbling about in a mental fog." By the end of August they were all but ready to split up. I'm sure these Hippodrome shows were glorious, though!

  6. July 12-13 1968 Dr John cancelled and the Son of Champlin filled in. {source sons of champlin history page}

  7. is steve brown the same guy who recorded 3/3/68 and maybe another stage mic recording in 69 using a nagra and a neumann?

  8. Amazing stuff as always! Hope it never stops :-).

  9. I watched Steve McQueen race at the Torrey Pines track in the late 50s or early 60s.

    1. Oh man, that's so great. Apparently he would race under the name "Harvey Mushman." He drove a Porsche 356A Carrera, and then later a Lotus Eleven. What a gas.