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Thursday, May 19, 2011

GD in Walnut Creek; East Bay Psychedelic Scene?

Can anyone anywhere add anything about these three Grateful Dead shows in Walnut Creek, CA? Little is known about the first, and next-to-nothing about the second two.

1. Grateful Dead, Sunday, October 23, 1966: Gymnasium, Las Lomas High School, 1460 South Main Street,Walnut Creek, CA 94596-5383.

  • Deadlists: http://www.deadlists.com/deadlists/showresults.asp?KEY=10/23/66.
  • Deadlists notes: "Originally scheduled for Walnut Creek Library, showtime 3 PM." 
  • JGMF: I have elaborated the venue as "Gymnasium" based on the ads below.
  • JGMF: Not sure where the "originally scheduled" information comes from. Below is a mention and calendar listing for the show from the Contra Costa Times, October 20, 1966, p. 12:


The "Coming Attractions" listing for the GD show ("Coming Attractions," Contra Costa Times, October 20, 1966, p. 12) reads as follows:

"The Grateful Dead, rock-and-roll quintet, Art Forum Series, Walnut Creek Civic Arts Center, 3 p.m., Las Lomas High School gymnasium.

Then there's a little article ("'The Grateful Dead' Ducats Still Available," Contra Costa Times, October 20, 1966, p. 12) pimping the tickets:
The Civic Arts Center, City of Walnut Creek, advises that tickets for the concert, "The Grateful Dead", are still available. This rock 'n roll, second in the series of the Art Forum events, will take place at the Las Lomas High School gymnasium, Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are now on sale at $2 each at the Civic Arts Center, 1445 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek.
 I'll leave it to the GD historians to see if we learn anything from that. From a "Walnut Creek" (or a "1960s East Bay Psychedelia") perspective, it's just a little splash of color on a phenomenon that is very obscure (or penumbral, with your --ch-ching!!-- $5 word of the day).



Over at dead.net, meanwhile, user 'oakland dupree' gives an attendee's view [lightly edited]:

This was my first Grateful Dead show. There were maybe 50 -100 curiosity seekers. Very few teens like me. It was a free "arts and lectures" - type concert in the afternoon. Jerry wore a yellow Pigpen t-shirt. They were eating cookies and offered them to the audience. No takers. LOUD and good! Life changing concert for me. ... Someone passed out Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion fliers. A week or so later, I journeyed to 710 Ashbury and purchased a Pigpen long sleeve olive green polo shirt with turtle neck from MG. A few years later I gifted it to Debbie, background singer on Aoxomoxoa.
Sounds amazing. I wish I had a "Pigpen long sleeve olive green polo shirt with turtle neck [bought from Mountain Girl]". You get your sweet pippy I do. The fliers sound interesting too, natch ...

  • As an aside, not sure if Jefferson Airplane people would learn anything from the 10/28/66 Saint Mary's College, Moraga, CA listing in the "Coming Attractions" calendar "Coming Attractions," Contra Costa Times, October 20, 1966, p. 12):
The "Jefferson Airplane" with Patty Phillips "The Chosen For," concert sponsored by the Associated Students of Saint Mary's College, 7:30 p.m., Slip Madigan Memorial Gymnasium.
The SMC website doesn't really do the school's very interesting history justice. That said, let me just keep "Slip Madigan" in my head as the "Rudy" of this little college (with a $111 million endowment ... not bad!) in the gorgeous rolling hills of the east bay. Mmm mmm mmm.
  • As a second aside, I see from a Santana performance list of undetermined veracity that they are listed for Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek on April 1, 1969. 
    • As an aside to the aside, not that that same site has Santana at Gymnasium, Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill, CA. Corry or Ross or LIA or Bruno or anyone, how much stuff is "out there" on the East Bay?

Anyway, just hoping to learn more!

2. Grateful Dead, Friday, March 1, 1968: The Looking Glass, 1300 Boulevard Way, Walnut Creek, CA, 94595.

3. Grateful Dead, Saturday, March 2, 1968: The Looking Glass, 1300 Boulevard Way, Walnut Creek, CA, 94595.

I'll just discuss these together, naturally enough. Scattershot style, unfortunately, but IIWII.

dead.net lists "Looking Glass" as another billed band, not as the venue name. No venue name, just address. Funny. Given what I observe about the location below, I have a hunch that this was not a club at all, but a house party.

There is almost no information anywhere about these shows. I looked in the CC Times for evidence of this gig or, poking around this time period, listings for this venue. I found nothing. Google really turns up nothing. Corry's "Grateful Dead Tour Itinerary March-April 1968" avers that "this event and venue are the most mysterious of this time period". Neither LIA nor Ross has much to add in comments.

The location, 1300 Boulevard Way, Walnut Creek, CA, 94595, is an odd one and would have been much odder in 1968, when this area probably still had walnut trees. Boulevard Way has always been an odd little corridor in a little town that has a few of them (despite now being extreme shi-shi). It runs southwest from the shadows of the I-680 / US-24 interchange. It was an odd little no-man's land in the 1970s. Even presently, it features mixed light industrial / commercial (though not much retail) and multifamily residential. It gets a little leafier and turns due south through more single family type homes, ending at Olympic Boulevard. As I recall, that street parallels the old train tracks. Coming in off of Boulevard Way, to the right Olympic runs due west toward where Reliez Station would have been (in Lafayette). The left it runs northeast and takes you toward the southern edge of Walnut Creek.

From the street view of 1300 Boulevard Way, you get a sense of the neighborhood as it exists in my mind. Not the Nieman Marcus side of town, though presumably, now, expensive by any sane measure. It would not have been expensive in 1968. This is a pretty obscure place to have a night club, I can tell you that. I am not surprised that it (presumably!) wasn't around for very long, if it really was a nightclub. Ross speculates that it might have been a rehearsal or something. I'd guess it was a house party, or damn close to it. Maybe some kids rented a warehouse space and threw a party. Las Lomas is not that far, and the old Del Valle High School (closed 1979, thank you Proposition 13) was even closer. The absence of attendees listed at dead.net makes me very, very suspicious, and I think the dead.net notation (which probably derives from Deadbase) listing "Looking Glass" as a band and not a venue provides an important clue.

Surely if there were a psychedelic club in Walnut Creek in winter-spring 1968, even if only briefly, there would be some memory of it. Was there any psychedelic scene in the East Bay to speak of? Here's hoping one or two recllections might be jogged by this post.

14 comments:

  1. This is a great post. There's almost nothing on the intertoobz about the East Bay 60s beyond the Caldecott Tunnel. I have a post about the Concord Coliseum and researching that was like looking into Area 51.

    1300 Boulevard Way is connected to Meher Baba in some odd way. Did you know that Pete Townshend spent the Summer of 1975 (or maybe 76--not sure) studying at some Meher Baba center in Walnut Creek? I think he was studying at 1300 Boulevard Way. More of a cosmic coincidence than anything else, but still interesting.

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  2. FWIW, according to Ask.com there was a Sacramento trio called The Looking Glass "who bridged the gap between early-'60s pop/rock and mid- to late-'60s sunshine pop"

    http://www.answers.com/topic/looking-glass-band

    The Meher Baba connection is pretty interesting considering their 2/17/68 Selland Arena show was also connected to Meher Baba. But apparently they've (Sufism Reoriented) only been at 1300 since 1974.

    I checked some historic USGS topo maps but they offered no clues other than that a structure existed there in 1948.

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  3. Thanks so much for your information, IM! I really appreciate it.

    1300 Boulevard Way must have looked an awful lot different in 1948! I know they were still driving cattle down Mt. Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette at that time.

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  4. According to local info, 1300 Boulevard Way was the Irongate Restaurant (which I actually may remember and may have gone to) and before or after that it was a Portugese Hall.

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  5. I just came across a poster of sorts for the 10/23/66 show at sixtiesposters.com's current auction. http://auction.sixtiesposters.com/Bidding.taf?_function=detail&Auction_uid1=2466320

    It's actually a poster for the series of Art Forum events noted in the 'coming attractions' clip you posted.

    I tried to find some information about the Art Forum but was unsuccessful.

    I love finding "new" GD posters!

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  6. As a further note, the Pine Valley Boys, who are also listed on the poster as playing sometime later than the Grateful, were David Nelson's former band. Nelson had left the group by then, but there is still a distant Grateful Dead connection of sorts.

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  7. This is completely at random, but I thought I'd make a couple notes on the 10/23/66 show.

    While this post asks about the Walnut Creek 'psychedelic scene,' the ads specify quite a different context for this '66 show. A Dead concert sponsored by the Art Forum series of the Civic Arts Center - in the high school gym?
    I have to wonder what the other Art Forum events were! And how the Dead would've gotten this particular booking.

    I also wonder where deadbase got the info that this event was "originally scheduled for the Walnut Creek Library." However, their info that showtime was at 3 pm was correct, so someone must've seen an original source.
    My conjecture is that possibly other events in the Art Forum series were at the library, but the Art Center belatedly discovered that the Dead might be a little...er....noisy for such a setting.

    Unfortunately the poster for the Art Forum events mentioned by the commenter above is no longer up - however that site mentions that the event WAS scheduled for the Walnut Creek Library! "According to Deadbase the show was moved to Los Lomas High School, which was probably a larger venue."
    Other events in the series: "Besides several films being listed here there is also a Dave Brubeck and a folk festival with Sam Hinton and the Pine Valley Boys."

    The memory on dead.net is interesting, but not surprisingly at this late date, it might not be entirely reliable. He mentions it being an "arts and lectures-type concert" which was free - though we know tickets were $2, it's just possible that schoolkids got in free.
    He also mentions getting a Golden Road flyer - as far as I know these didn't exist until '67. (This is one - http://www.gdao.org/items/show/386690 )
    And he mentions going to 710 Ashbury shortly afterward & buying a t-shirt from MG.
    Per McNally, members of the Dead started moving into 710 in September '66, and MG moved in at some unspecified point in fall '66 - and we know Pigpen shirts were also available in fall '66. So this is theoretically quite plausible - however I wonder how this kid knew where to go. 710 Ashbury couldn't have been reported in the press yet, so were the Dead giving out their new address at the show?
    My guess is that this part of his memory (the flyer, the shirt) come from some later show he went to in '67.

    But anyway. What I'm left wondering is whether some Arts Center member would've given a lecture before the Dead's show, illustrating their place in the arts to the "curiosity seekers!"

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  8. I attended the 1966 show in Walnut Creek - I was 15 and attending Las Lomas High School at the time. My parents were subscribers to the Civic Arts Art Forum series and bought me tickets to shows I wanted to see. Most of the shows were at the Walnut Creek Library - I saw Dave Brubeck play there. I don't really remember that the Dead show was originally supposed to be at the library but was moved. It seems quite possible, even logical since rock 'n' roll was rare in the series, the library was small and there were a bunch of kids who wanted to see the Dead. Sorry to say, I don't remember much of what they played - one song that sticks in my memory was Pippen singing "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" - of course that was totally appropriate. My main memory is what happened when the show started. There was no lecture, just a brief introduction. The crowd was split between season ticket holders like my parents and teenagers. When the Dead started playing all the teenagers left their folding chairs and started dancing, and someone, I guess the Civic Arts organizers, stopped the show. There was some discussion with the band on stage, then Jerry explained that the Civic Arts people had not applied for a dance permit, so there would be no dancing allowed. He said the band wasn't happy about it, that their music was dance music, but there was nothing they could do. So we sat on the floor in front of the stage and bounced around, dancing as best as we could sitting down.

    Regarding the 1968 shows - that's a real mystery - this is the first I've heard of them. By that time I had seen the Dead play a few times - at the Fillmore, the Avalon and in Golden Gate Park, and I was still living in Walnut Creek - seems like I would have heard about them playing in my home town, and I have no idea what was at 1300 Boulevard Way back then.

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  9. I am so grateful to you for sharing your recollections, Bob. Very cool! Hopefully more will turn up on the Boulevard Way thing.

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  10. I forgot to notice it before, but Phil actually mentions the 10/23/66 show in his book - he remembers it quite well!

    "One Sunday afternoon at a high school gym in Walnut Creek, across the bay and over the hills. We're in the middle of the show...and I look up and out into the audience - everyone's smiling, kind of grooving in their folding chairs - except for two unsmiling faces in the aisle in about the tenth row. What's with these folks? Omigod! No, it can't be! Dad? Mom? Sure enough - the only people in the place not enjoying themselves: my parents. They had sour pusses on, that's for sure. After the show, my dad asks, 'Couldn't wave hello, huh?' and Mom says, 'Isn't it awfully loud, dear?' I think maybe they were a little shocked by their first sight of Pig and Jerry." (p.92)

    By the way, his comment about the audience "grooving in their folding chairs" instead of dancing confirms the last commenter's memory!

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  11. To confuse the Looking Glass venue issue a bit more, the Turlock Fairgrounds poster for 2/16/68, says "Lights By The Looking Glass".

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  12. Late 1969 I find a gig at this address, identified as "Cliffords Hall". FWIW.

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  13. I've got a flyer for a battle of the bands from July 10 1965 (or maybe 1966) that I picked up from Greg Douglas, the guitarist for Country Weather. His pre-CW band was playing. The venue is 1300 Boulevard Way. No name, just the address. It doesn't prove or disprove the Dead gig, but it does show that there was some type of rock scene in Walnut Creek in the 60s.

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!Thank you for joining the conversation!