The Tet Offensive
of January 1968 embarrassed our armed forces in Viet Nam
all those enemies counted as killed on the nightly news for the
last three years suddenly attacked in force, and even U.S. embassies
were scenes of front line combat.
I saw the fighting on TV along with millions of other Americans.
I really needed the relief of seeing one of my top five favorite
bands live in concert.
Below -- Clockwise from top left: Jack Cassady, Grace Slick, Marty
Balin, Spencer Dryden, Paul Kantner, and Jorma Kaukonen. White
Rabbit Inc. was the name of an alternative shop, similar to
the Cosmic Aeroplane on 9th & 9th, but located on 3rd Avenue,
in the midst of a neighborhood where the new counter-culture thrived.
Airplane had soared to the heights of popularity almost exactly
a year before with their single Somebody to Love and the
album Surrealistic Pillow. I was a Folk-Rock fan, and felt
their first album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off was the harbinger
of a very bright future to me. When I saw that my intuition was
correct, and had my chance to hear them in person, I seized it with
We were lucky enough to see Taj Mahal in the days of his first album,
with magnificent guitarist Jesse Ed Davis. Then-unknown African-American
Henry Saint Clair Fredericks won over the nearly all-white crowd
with the sheer force of his cheerful personality and confident playing
of his band. I would see and hear Taj Mahal again, at home, and
Jefferson Airplane delivered everything I ever went to the Terrace
Ballroom for -- good songs, good singing, with an instrumental core
which was awe-inspiring. I was a Jazz fan too, and they included
a surprising jam led by Jack Cassadys bass, which was all
too short. Spencer Dryden was an impressive drummer whose advanced
musicianship was never fully recognized by the public. He drove
the long encore set, starting with an extended round of Bo Diddley
percussion which led into She Has Funny Cars. My favorite
bandmember was versatile guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, but Marty Balin
was as good a lead singer as Ive ever seen -- he had a high,
effortless voice and radiated an intense enthusiasm which really
stood out in a group of people whose behavior tended more towards
Paul Kantners coolness. What about Grace Slick? Everybody
in the place was in love with her she introduced every song,
and sang from the stratosphere in solo, duet, and group arrangements.
She was cool too, I must say, but she smiled often.
The Viet Nam war got worse and worse Lyndon Johnson declined
to run again, kindling a little hope in our hearts that Ho Chi Minh
and he might start talking peace. Not only was that never to be, but
one of the Anti-war Movements greatest allies was shot and killed
on April 4, 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King, who had done so much
for making my country better, and meant so much as a world leader,
was suddenly gone. There was no street violence in Salt Lake City,
Utah, but nevertheless, we felt shock and sadness.
didnt stop me from seeing the Byrds and Sopwith Camel on April
6th at the Terrace Ballroom again, though. Next to the Beatles,
Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan, the Byrds had made the most influential
music of the 60's for my age group.
The Sopwith Camel were known for one huge hit single (Hello Hello),
and a quirky album that people still bought and played, with a trippy,
proto-psychedelic cover. Below: Victor Moscosos widely-published
image of his whimsical Sopwith Camel a name made famous by
Charles Schultzs Snoopy, and forever attached to a music-hall
styled song featuring a NICE bass solo.
out of reality, be what you want to be.
Do what Im telling you, before reality steps out YOU!
Just as the
Sopwith Camel were tuning up to play, the police announced that
theyd received a phone call warning of a bomb on the
premises. The pianist led the crowd in a sing - along while the
police searched the corners of the ballroom, although nobody took
the threat seriously. (Its sad how times have changed for
When we finally
saw the legendary Byrds, we were generally shocked first
by their appearance. They all had short hair, which was the OPPOSITE
of fashionable in those days. There were only two members of the
original quintet onstage Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn,
who was once known as Jim McGuinn. The drummer was unknown to us
(Kevin Kelley, Hillmans cousin), and the fourth Byrd was Gram
Parsons, who almost stole the show with his brilliant songs and
high, sweet singing. The audience at that show generally HATED Country
Music, (there was a real Generation Gap in those days) but they
heard quite a bit of it that evening. However, because this band
was the Byrds, and we had grown up hearing so much good music from
them, they got the benefit of many doubts that night.
Old John Robinson and his damn Stetson hat went over very
well, so did Dylans You Aint Going Nowhere. Parsons
Hickory Wind literally blew away any preconceptions of what
Country or Rock could be. What wed all paid our money for
was McGuinns finger-picking on his electrified Rickenbacker
guitar, and Turn Turn Turn put any disappointments to rest.
The young audience walked out with some new learning between their
ringing ears the music was wonderfully loud and clear. Later
I learned that this incarnation of the Byrds lasted only a few months
we were very fortunate to see them, although somewhat baffled
by our experience. Various lineups of the Byrds came to town afterward
with virtuoso Clarence White -- one of the few men who could match,
or even out-do, McGuinn on guitar.
Later that spring,
I saw Robert F. Kennedy speak at the same place. Wouldnt you
know that someone called in a bomb threat again. As before, it was
a false alarm, and we were thrilled by the words of a man who we
KNEW would be our next president, promising to get us out of the
literal bloody quagmire which was the Viet Nam war. Unfortunately,
RFK died on the night of my High School graduation from an assassins
enjoyed Canned Heats uptempo electric blues for a year
I bought their first album on sight after hearing my friend Michael
G. Cavanaugh tracking through it during his midnight radio show. The
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had also impressed me with their eclectic first
album, and exuberant appearances on TV.
by Mikel Covey and Nick Thayne) On April 27, 1968, I went to the
Fairgrounds Colosseum in my west side neighborhood for my first
Psychedelic Concert. The entire circular arena was surrounded
by screens hanging from the domed roof, and Jerry Abrams Headlights
turned out to be the stars of the evening, despite some very good
playing by every band that night. Smoke, a local blues band, did
a credible opening set -- theyd gig around the area for about
another half-decade. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band were hard to classify,
but they were fun. Their musicianship was first-rate they
continue to sing and play nowadays to the highest standards, with
fans in all genres of popular music. Best of all, most of the core
group members I saw back then still work with one another.
Canned Heats second album was brand-new, and their set featured
long Boogie sessions with lots of soloing by guitarist
Henry Vestine in his creative prime; Alan Wilson's harmonica stylings
which brought people to their feet cheering; Fito De La Paras
fleet drumming impressing everyone right at the beginning of the
set and never letting up; plus Larry Taylors mighty bass filling
the cavernous hall, while the crowd undulated to his rhythms like
waves in a giant pool.
Personable Bob Bear Hite sang well and charmed the huge
gathering from top to bottom he also gawked along with us,
and his bandmembers, at the light show (during the bands instrumental
tours de force) directing attention towards particularly interesting
I worked at the copper smelter west of town, and bought lots of
records, but saw very few shows because I worked afternoon/evening
shifts. Outside of my own personal struggles with dirt and danger,
the police riot at the Democratic Convention in Chicago dealt a
serious blow to the Anti-war Movement, and George Wallaces
racist and hateful presidential campaign opened fissures in the
civil structure of U.S. society which have yet to close.
started in the fall, I went to two more concerts by San Francisco
groups -- Quicksilver Messenger Service, September 7, 1968 on the
revolving stage at Valley Music Hall just north of Salt Lake City.
I frankly remember NOTHING about Leaves of Grass, the opening act,
and was neither stoned nor drunk.
first album cover art by Rick Griffin.) I was TOTALLY impressed
with Quicksilver -- Singers Gary Duncan and David Feiberg were handsome
men with good strong voices. Most of their material were Folk standards
like Buffy St. Maries Codine, or Robert Johnsons
Walking Blues. Greg Elmore was a show in himself with his
flowing blond hair, beard, and intensely concentrated playing across
a large span of drums, but when they unleashed the power of lead
guitarist John Cippolina, this band was something very special indeed.
Cippolina was also handsome, with hair that wouldnt quit.
The girls couldnt turn their eyes away from him standing at
the back, next to Elmore. He hardly moved, but it made sense
he was busy working his pedals, his tremelo bar, and caressing the
guitar strings on his hollow-body Gibson in front of a stack of
LOUD Marshall amps, topped by a brass horn. His long solos were
masterful, and I loved the counterpoints he played with Duncan,
few as they were. He was nearly a one-man orchestra.
The constant rotation upset the performers enough to complain, so
Quicksilver took a short break while the crew stopped the stage
from turning, and the audience all moved to the north end of the
half-full arena. The light show wasnt as good as Abrams
Headlights, but the golden age of those visual spectaculars was
already fading away, although nobody knew it yet. When Quicksilver
returned, they concentrated on songs from their first album, climaxing
with Cippolinas keening guitar work on The Fool.
returned to promote their upcoming album Crown of Creation
at Lagoon, an amusement park even further north of Salt Lake. Summer
was over -- it rained on us while we were waiting to get in the
pavilion. If there was an opening group, I dont remember them
at all. The Airplane played in a style which was much HEAVIER than
just a few months before, which alienated some older
members of the audience who came to hear White Rabbit, and
familiar romantic ballads from Takes Off and Pillow.
Younger guys like me enjoyed the deep, roaring bass
and drums, and especially dug hearing new tunes. They DID play White
Rabbit -- as the venues own rotating stage spun around
at the start of the show, for effect, and stopped with Grace Slick
singing dead-center at the front. She sang the whole darn song too.
There was a LOT more of Jorma Kaukonens vocals that evening,
which pleased me, and his sinuous guitar rang strongly at the center
of each new number, which pleased me even more.
Paul Kantner acted more like a bandleader the second time I saw
the group. He sang his fresh material well, but beautiful Gracie
still dominated the stage nobody complained about that, not
even the local newspaper critic who hated the concert. Her new,
theatrical, Greasy Heart was a definite highlight that night.
I loved Crown of Creation for its group dynamics, but Jormas
crushing Star Track impressed me the most. Cassady played
no solos, but Dryden and Balin had a lot of fun jamming on some
of the familiar stuff like Three Fifths of a Mile in 10 Seconds,
and Plastic Fantastic Lover. Just one year later, Rock crowds
would DEMAND blocs of new material, but THIS crowd was split on
the issue. Ironically, the album Crown of Creation sold pretty
well when it came out soon afterward Grace Slicks haunting
Lather got a lot of airplay as FM started overwhelming AM
After the second Jefferson Airplane concert, the next important
show I went to see was Joni Mitchell in mid-winter, when she wasnt
famous yet -- me and my friends were eyewitnesses to history! There
were many more concerts in many more places, and I went to as many
as my time and finances could afford. These were the first, however,
and although I may not go into so much detail about other concerts,
they still marked significant times in my young life during the
Sixties and Seventies.