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🎸 The Untold Story of Infamous California rock hall

50 Years ago...

🎙 Pepperland : Woodstock West 🎸 (1970-1973)

By Geo Thelen
with Contributions from
  Big Brother & The Holding Company drummer, Dave Getz
  Clover guitarist/vocalist/songwriter, Alex Call
  Sons of Champlin roadie (42yrs), Charlie Kelly
  Cold Blood mgt. / Fillmore East & West Stage Mgr. Charlie Ellicott
  Pepperland ownership family, Charlie Litchfield
  Pepperland Promoter, Skip Whitney
  Pepperland Stage Manager, Mapes Root

        The San Francisco Bay Area has a rich history of showcasing musical performance. From gold rush-era piano saloons to smoky 1950s jazz clubs and the psychedelic ballrooms of the 1960s, numerous Bay Area music venues have served as the backdrop for the region's ever-changing eclectic musical expressionists. Longtime sites like the Fillmore in San Francisco and the Trident in Sausalito are today reminders of the Bay Area's historic musical evolution.
     As the honeymoon from the Summer of Love was wearing off in the late 1960s, many Bay Area musicians were migrating north from the increasingly seedy mad scramble of San Francisco into easygoing Marin County. The influx of musicians inspired several new North Bay music venues. Places like Lion's Share in San Anselmo and The Sleeping Lady in Fairfax had long runs and showcased great talent, while other clubs closed as quickly as they had opened. Although short-lived (1970-1973), the former Pepperland rock hall in San Rafael is one of the most historically underrated music sites in the Bay Area, having hosted some of the biggest names of the post-1960s era -including dozens of artists who had played Woodstock, earning it the nickname "Woodstock West."  

A Place in the Sun 

    The specifics regarding the establishment of Pepperland remain as hazy as the air in the club itself. Nevertheless, in late 1969, work began to transition music performances from a club at the Litchfield's Bermuda Palms Motel (737 E. Francisco Boulevard) in San Rafael, California, to a much larger building on the same lot (now 721 E. Francisco). 
     Litchfield's Bermuda Palms Motel was constructed in 1949 by Marin County, California resident and construction mogul Irving "Whitey” Litchfield. The motel resort ultimately included a ballroom, upscale dining room, Bali Hai Cocktail Lounge, and convention rooms. The Bermuda Palms Club hosted nightly dancing and was known by locals as the dance hall at Litchfield's Bermuda Palms. The original motel is still recognizable by the refurbished Litchfield's sign along Highway 101, twenty minutes north of San Francisco. According to Marin resident Charlie Litchfield, "My grandfather, Irving "Whitey” Litchfield, built the original Bermuda Palms motel complex in the late '40s, including the iconic Litchfield's sign. It was originally a resort motel with an Olympic size pool. Sometime later, he built over the pool and created the club, centered around the large ballroom that hosted shows and entertainment." 
     The Bermuda Palms club attracted several name artists during the 1950s & 60s, including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, and Etta James. It was a popular California gateway and drew many entertainment influencers, including American Bandstand host Dick Clark. Movie stars John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, and Robert Mitchum stayed at the resort while filming "Blood Alley" at nearby China Camp (State Park) in 1954. Whitey Litchfield also facilitated a boxing camp during the 50s frequented by boxing greats Sugar Ray Robinson, Rocky Marciano, and Don Cockell, -who trained at the site for his World Heavyweight Championship fight against Marciano on May 16, 1955. Alex Call, lead guitarist / vocalist for the popular Marin-based band Clover, shared this description of Litchfield from his autobiography, 876-5309/Jenny. The song that saved my ass… for a while. “Whitey, who must have been in his sixties at the time, was a real character. He was, short, wiry, and tough; a film noir pug-faced gangster with a heart of gold and a Saturday Night Special in his briefcase kind-of-guy.” Litchfield was a good promoter with an “old school” style. ”The Club was a happening place," said Whitey's grandson, "hosting acts like Frank Sinatra and even an event for Richard Nixon's failed 1962 gubernatorial campaign (my grandfather griped long after that Nixon never paid his bill)."

A Big Empty Room 

       In January 1970, owner Whitey Litchfield announced a new venture based in a former storage Quonset at 721 E. Francisco Blvd. He had recently remolded the building hoping "to host big name bands, entertainers, special functions and one-off events." He called the new music venue The Citadel. However, there is no record of any shows at this location under the Citadel name, only a burglary and vandalism of the club on December 11, 1969. Earlier in September, Litchfield had agreed to lease the space to John Shaw and Lawrence "Larry" Paul Samuels as a concert and civic events venue. Two fellow east coasters, Benjamin Blatt and Natan Shind, would operate the site. According to a July 1970 mention in Billboard magazine, "four independent backers are providing the funds to open the rock ballroom, which will not compete for audiences with Bill Graham's Fillmore West in San Francisco, some 12 miles away." They didn't know it then, but Graham's Fillmore would close less than a year later -eliminating the competition altogether. 

   According to Charlie Litchfield, "It (site) was an existing industrial Quonset used for storage by the Litchfield Construction company, and it was converted into a concert space. It used to extend all the way back to Front Street, so it was a 16,000-square-foot venue. Whitey cut the building in half in the late 70s/early 80s to build another section of (Bermuda Palms) motel on the back half of the lot."

    Big Brother and the Holding Company drummer Dave Getz recalls performing at one of the first shows in the "new" music venue. "I remember a show we did there that was put on by the Hell's Angels. The stage was rather low, there was an area behind the stage for bands and friends to hang out, and the room itself was pretty much just a big empty room with nothing architecturally interesting."

    Although the former Quonset at 721 E. Francisco may have been uninteresting, the Hell's Angels event was not. Sunday, May 21, 1970, was a far cry from the former Bermuda Palms club shows. The event was a fundraiser for the Bay Area chapter of the Hell's Angels and featured Bay Area performers Big Brother and the Holding Company, Gold, and Janis Joplin with her band Main Squeeze. Janis was asked to perform at the benefit by one of her Hell's Angels "friends" named Sweet William. Her former band, Big Brother, and her current band, Main Squeeze, were each booked. Before the show, Big Brother guitarist Sam Andrew said, "This will be the first time that Janis' old band and her new band will be at the same venue, so everyone is a little on edge." Andrew was right, as the scene was intense. Several "rent-a-cops" wandered through the crowd, and motorcycles lined the parking lots as attendees took over the surrounding neighborhood. The event had a coat check and a weapons check.

    Big Brother and the Holding Company drummer Dave Getz, shared a story about the Hell's Angels benefit at Pepperland from his upcoming memoir, Death of Janis. Getz writes: "Big Brother with Nick Gravenites singing, played before Janis and ‘Main Squeeze’ (a tentative name that was later changed to 'Full-Tilt Boogie'). During BBHC's set a girl took off all her clothes and jumped on stage, dancing around. A guy took off all his clothes and proceeded to try to go down on her while she was dancing around. No one tried to stop this and some bikers were banging pool cues and hands on the stage -which was only about two feet high- yelling for him to 'get it up' and fuck her. Nothing much happened, and at the end of the evening, I saw the two of them huddled together in a blanket, talking, possibly getting to know each other. Maybe they eventually married and had a family. While this was happening onstage, Janis was backstage prancing around like a Peacock with a couple of friends and a bottle of Jim Beam. A biker from another club -I was told he was a Gypsy Joker- said to Janis something like, 'Hey mama, gimme a taste of that' and reached for the bottle. She told him to 'Fuck off, man,' and he either slapped her or punched her in the face. I personally saw the black eye. The story I got from Janis was that two or three Angels immediately jumped on him and punched his lights out. When Janis came out on stage, she was a fucking mess, and her band was trying to find a way to sound coherent, being her rant went on for at least 20 minutes. She ranted about the events that had happened and was full of self-pity about how what had happened was the story of her life. Her set was awful. I know that's hard to believe but she knew it later and told me she knew it. To redeem herself, she had Big Brother open for her in San Diego a few months later when she was about one month clean, and her band had been touring -her act was smokin'. We sat next to each other on the plane back from San Diego. That was the last time I saw her." After Joplin's "performance" at the Hell's Angles event, the band helped her to a waiting car. Her roommate, Lyndall (Erb), had driven and did not find it unusual that Janis was upset that she'd been "punched around" or that "she'd gotten so drunk that she was unable to remember the performance. It has happened before," Erb shrugged. The Angels paid Joplin $240 for the gig and had officially christened "the big empty room."


         A month after the Hell's Angels fundraiser, the venue began operations as Euphoria, with shows presented by Euphoric Entertainment. The first lineup under the new name was Ike & Tina Turner, Boz Scaggs, and A.B. Skhy, who performed on Saturday, June 27, 1970. Shows by the Marin County group Clover and by Big Brother and the Holding Company on the first weekend of July helped spread the word about this "out of sight" new space in Marin booking great acts. The former Quonset at 721 E. Francisco quickly became a happening scene. Euphoria touted "organic foods" and "good people," with performances by Boz Scaggs, The Grateful Dead, and The Youngbloods during its three-month run from May to July 1970. Many local attendees recall Janis Joplin joining the Grateful Dead on July 16, and singing a sultry duet ("Turn On Your Lovelight") with Grateful Dead keyboardist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan -with whom Joplin had a romantic relationship. Most of this performance was captured on a bootleg recording that is still popular in the boot world. Joplin (who was living in nearby Larkspur at the time) would die from a drug overdose in Los Angeles less than three months later. You can hear McKernan and Joplin's original Pepperland bootleg HERE . 

       Events at 721 E. Francisco Blvd. were produced and presented over two-plus years by a handful of promoters, including Berkeley Folk Music Festival founder Barry Olivier, Skip Whitney of Fun Productions, and most notoriously by Larry Samuels and two East Coasters, Nat Shind, and Ben Blatt. "Two drug dealers from New York," says former Pepperland promoter Skip Whitney. "They did a number of shows. We took over from them (in Sept. 1971.) They eventually got into some pretty major trouble." 

      That trouble was a drug raid at the Bermuda Palms motel on June 30, 1970. The raid netted seven arrests, including club operators Nat Shind for marijuana possession, Larry Samuels for heroin, and Ben Blatt for battery on a police officer. The police also found and confiscated $15,000 in cash and charged each with being under the influence of narcotics. It was the first of many impediments the trio would face operating the club. "From the very beginning, it was like, is there going to be another show?" recalled Pepperland Stage Manager, Mapes Root. "I don't know how they funded it, but they had a source (laughs)… and it wasn't probably good. No question the money came from lord knows where!" 

       The venue closed for a remodel and rebranding at the end of July 1970. The "new" club was set to open on Labor Day Weekend 1970 with a bill featuring Deep Purple. However, the gig never happened. A week later, on September 18, 1970, 721 E. Francisco Blvd. officially opened as Pepperland. 

The Purple Palace 

       Pepperland was billed by proprietors Ben Blatt and Nat Shind as the "biggest ballroom on the West Coast" and as "Marin's First Rock Hall," both of which were untrue. The building was painted a loud (and locally controversial) purple color as the re-imagined club had an unapologetic Beatles Yellow Submarine influence. The venue featured a quadraphonic sound system developed by Meyer Sound founder John Meyer with giant molded fiberglass speaker cones big enough for diehards to sit in -and many did. In an interview with MixOnline magazine, John Meyer said he "started a company called Glyph to design and build sound reinforcement systems. Glyph's first installation was at Pepperland. It was a pure exponential horn-loaded bi-amped quadraphonic sound system. Each stack included a white fiberglass bass, mid-range, and high-frequency horns. The bass horns were huge, measuring 8×8 feet with 30-inch drivers." The system was big enough to fill Pepperland's giant interior (and most of the surrounding neighborhood) with sound. 

     Fitting with the "Yellow Submarine" influence, Pepperland's interior support girders were adorned with painted portholes mimicking those of a submarine. Although large, the performance space had low ceilings and poor ventilation, with cigarette and pot smoke dominating the air. According to Pepperland Stage Manager Mapes Root, "The place was not a good set-up for music. It had concrete floors throughout, and the exposed rafters in the ceiling… not a good place for sound. But man, what incredible shows! Just incredible acts." Root had toured with the Johnny Winter Group after working at Woodstock less than a year before being hired by Blatt and Shind to become stage manager at Pepperland. "I worked on the stage at Woodstock. Friday night, the crew they hired got stoned on acid and couldn't go on, so I worked the whole weekend. I met the road manager for the Johnny Winter Group and toured with them for a while. Then I drove cabs in New York, saved some money, and moved to Lagunitas (Marin County). I met these two guys from New York (Blatt & Shind), and I told them about my experience at Woodstock, and they said you can be our stage manager!" 

      Whether there was ever competition for artists or not, the roster of performers at Pepperland was entirely on par with that of Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. Many artists that played at Graham's Fillmore West also played at Pepperland, and a couple of groups Graham “managed” (including Lydia Pense and Cold Blood) began playing Pepperland after the closure of Fillmore West. "I don't think Bill had any official association with Pepperland, though. He had Winterland (Ballroom) and other things still going on," recalls Cold Blood management and one-time Fillmore Stage Manager Charlie Ellicott. "I was out of there by that time anyway. Things were really changing in the city, and it got more violent and dark. I moved up north." 

     Pepperland's September 18th opening night lineup included Captain Beefheart, Charles Lloyd, and San Francisco staples Hot Tuna (featuring Jefferson Airplane members Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen, Marty Balin & Papa John Creach -who had played Woodstock just a year before). It also happened to be the day Jimi Hendrix died in London. The music world was in shock. Hendrix fan Steve Miller showed up to Pepperland that night unannounced and played a tribute to the 27-year-old musician. Miller's performance at Pepperland was captured on a bootleg recording and later released in 2020 as Peppa Sauce (Sailor Records / Capitol Records). HEAR it HERE

The Scene 

        Pepperland bills usually featured at least three artists, and shows often lasted until the wee hours of the morning. Monday nights were only a dollar, and most shows were all ages. From September 1970 until mid-1971, the performance space was enhanced by the Brotherhood of Light (BOL) shows led by Bob Pullum. Pullum had produced light shows for many notable San Francisco venues in the late 1960s, including the Avalon Ballroom, Carousel Ballroom, and Bill Graham's Fillmore and Winterland Ballrooms. Pullum came to Pepperland after the Fillmore West closed.  

      Pullum recalled those days in a 2002 interview with Pooters Psychedelic Shack, "In the late spring of 1970, my (BOL) partners, Brian and Ed, had left, and Bill Graham was talking about shutting down (the Fillmore). I took an offer to do the light show at Pepperland in San Rafael with the promise of complete creative control. We had great shows there." Pulllums' Brotherhood of Light shows splashed Pepperland's relatively small stage and exposed ceiling, adding some much-needed ambiance to the former construction Quonset. 

       According to a review of Pepperland's first night printed in the September 25, 1970 issue of the underground newspaper Berkeley Tribe, "the new concert-dance hall has a 5000 (person) capacity. The place is reminiscent of the Fillmore, including a light show by people (Brotherhood of Light) from Bill Graham's Fillmore West." Bill Graham was also at Pepperland that evening, hanging "in the back with the performers, groupies, etc." As for the new club itself, the reviewer noted it had "a snack bar that serves organic foods, peanut butter and banana sandwiches, organic juices, cucumber sandwiches; an $18,000 quadraphonic sound system and remote controlled lights revolving in circles around the walls." Although he was not on the bill, Steve Miller and his new group opened the show, paying tribute to guitarist Jimi Hendrix. The Berkeley Tribe review stated, "Miller is now playing with ex-members of the old Frumious Bandersnatch, and they haven't quite got it together yet. The harmonies are weak, the music is sloppy, and at this time, the entire thing just isn't together. Miller had a few good moments of his own, but the rest of the band wasn't cutting it." Less than three years later, the "rest of the band" would get it together as founding members of the group Journey. 

      The remainder of the opening night featured performances by Charles Lloyd, followed by Bay Area favorites Captain Beefheart and Hot Tuna. The reviewer noted, "Security was running through the crowd keeping the people out of the doorways and booting those without tickets. It was very crowded. Very hot. Several people on intense trips had to leave. Greed, shadiness, and contempt for the people who pay to support all this have made it all but impossible to feel at home in places like the Fillmore (East and West) as well as their bastard offspring like Pepperland. It's a social event. But no one gets it on. No one dances; there is very little motion. All you can do is sit down or lie down and listen. As far as the people at Pepperland go, they're nice. Marin freaks. So are the people who work there. You can rap to them. They listen and understand… and care about people, or at least they say they do."   

 Sigh of Relief        
         Despite the lukewarm review of Pepperland's official launch in the Berkeley Tribe, the show was a success, and the club was drawing people and big-name acts. The following weekend (Sept. 25&26, 1970) Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention performed as part of their 'reunion' tour. The set was recorded and later released in 2020 as a part of the Mothers 1970 cd box-set commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Mothers (Zappa Records / Universal Music). Two weeks later, on October 16 & 17, 1970, Pink Floyd performed two somewhat sparsely attended but highly memorable shows. Certainly well-regarded by those lucky enough to see it. "Pink Floyd. Wow! Man, I was there!" Pepperland stage manager Mapes Root recalled proudly. "Incredible show!" -and Roots' sentiment is shared by many. 

      "I went to both Pink Floyd's Pepperland shows on Oct.16 & 17, 1970, and I still remember to this day how awesome the whole experience was!" attendee Ezra B. Eddy IV wrtoe in 2022. "It's hard to believe that it didn't last longer than it did!! The whole submarine effect was really well done!!! And those speakers were fantastic; it was like an "Alice in Wonderland "experience come to life!!!!" 

       The Pink Floyd performance is among the most celebrated in Pepperland's history. The venue's low stage was too small to accommodate the groups' massive gear, which was largely set up on the dance floor. Pullum and The Brotherhood of Light projected fish-eye photos of farm animals at the painted portholes on the walls in reference to the Atom Heart Mother album released a few days before -Pink Floyds' first #1(U.K.) album. An estimated 500 people, primarily teenagers, attended the first of the two-night performances. 

      "My girlfriend and I drove up from Palo Alto to see Pink Floyd," shared an anonymous attendee. "Pink Floyd was set up against the back wall, opposite the entrance, on a very low riser. The floors and exposed metal rafters reminded me of a roller rink I used to go to as a kid. There were slide projectors up in the metal rafters projecting fish-eye photos of farm animals. Keyboardist (Richard Wright) had a joystick that he used to swirl his synth and other sounds around the room or have them rip through the room, front to back, to great effect. The big Glyph horns were set up in the corners, and there were Shure vocal columns set up every 20 feet or so along the walls in between. There were no more than 500 people sitting on the floor in the center, with some folks sitting up inside the big Glyph bottom horns!" 

       The first night of Floyd's two-night engagement became well-known for the group's brilliant performance and also for its technical difficulties. In the weeks leading up to the Floyd shows the venue had been having some issues "blowing fuses." The weekend before the show, Pepperland was shut down to "get everything together" and give electricians time to "rewire the stage." But to no avail. Pink Floyd's massive set-up taxed the venue's power supply to four power failures during the group's opening song, "Astronomy Domine", ultimately taking the group nearly twenty minutes to complete. Another failure on the finale of the two-hour show forced the band to re-play the ending of the song for the recording. The entire performance, including the power failures, was recorded using a single-point stereo microphone about ten rows from the stage. All of this can be heard on a two-hour bootleg of the show officially released as a 2-CD set in 1998 called Pepperland in the West (Highland Records). Listen HERE

      Concert-goer Richard Gillen recalled the two nights, writing, "Just as the Floyd were finishing the last song, the P.A. power failed! The band was as shocked as we were in the audience. After anger and groping around, they finished with what you hear at the end of the recording. I brought friends to the next night, and you could see Roger Waters just cringing as they hit the last notes. Thankfully, the power held up, and we all breathed a sigh of relief."

Pot Problem? What, pot problem? 

       The last four months of 1970 earned Pepperland the moniker Woodstock West in more ways than one. Accusations of open and frequent drug use at the venue caught the attention of city leaders, and promoters Ben Blatt and Nat Shind were under constant pressure to toe the line from local officials. On one occasion, San Rafael City Councilman Harry Barbier falsely claimed he was a fire marshall upon barging into the Pepperland and threatening to put the rock hall and the Bermuda Palms "out of business," later stating, "it ought to be closed. They're all smoking pot down there!" San Rafael Mayor Paul Bettini said that the "purple-painted building had drawn more complaints than any other item" in his time as mayor. City council meetings turned contentious with continued accusations towards the promoters of catering to large crowds of underage dope smokers getting high. The San Rafael city building inspector declared the venue's legal capacity to be "only 1,850," although shows often drew more than 2,000. Pepperland's attorney Daniel Weinstein fired back, accusing city leaders of not doing enough to give young people a place to go and keep them "off the streets." Meanwhile, memorable performances by Joan Baez, Hot Tuna, Incredible String Band, Leon Russell, and The Grateful Dead with David Crosby filled Pepperland with high-schoolers "jammed together, sitting on the floor smoking marijuana and hashish openly," giving all the rumors and accusations credibly.      
    The Joan Baez shows on Sunday, December 20, 1970, were one of Pepperland's most successful events. Baez performed two one-hour shows at 7:p.m. and 9 p.m., billed as “an hour with Joan Baez.” The founder and director of the Berkeley Folk Music Festival, established in 1958, Barry Olivier served as show producer. Olivier also promoted a pair of Muddy Waters and Big Momma Thornton shows at Pepperland and Berkeley Theater in April 1972. Records show "Folklore Productions" produced the Baez shows in an agreement documented between Olivier and Shind, with Olivier having rented Pepperland for $500 plus $250 to cover staff and crew, including coat check, security, and program salespeople who earned %20 on every program they sold. 
    Neither the cold December rain nor a bomb threat could keep people away from the heavily advertised Baez performance; the line for each show reportedly went around the block, and parking was "as bad as Kezar" (Stadium, San Francisco). The shows opened with a popular Sonoma County country-rock group called Frontier. The combined performances drew nearly 7,000 concert-goers, well above the city-stated capacity of 1,850 per show, and markedly better than the Chuck Berry show two nights earlier, -which saw less than 1,000 attendees. Police later reported that around 9:25 p.m. a male caller had phoned Pepperland and stated, "There's a bomb set to go off in Pepperland at 10 o'clock; we don't dig Joan Baez around here." Pepperland security, led by Nathaniel Weathers, had quietly but intensively searched the building, the crowd, and the grounds for over an hour and found nothing. No one at the show even knew. 
    The next night, December 21, was advertised on the Pepperland marque as "Acoustic Dead Jam," but it turned out to be an electrified Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, and Bill Kreutzmann backing up David Crosby. Numerous other Bay Area artists, including New Riders of the Purple Sage, joined the mostly electric jam. While the Grateful Dead (whose rehearsal space on Front Street was directly behind the Bermuda Palms) played at 721 E. Francisco Blvd. when it was known as Euphoria, this is the only known time the Dead performed at "Pepperland." 
    Pepperland finished 1970 (having been repainted from "passionate purple" to "subdued gold") by hosting a New Year's Eve show with one of the hottest acts in music at that moment, Sly and the Family Stone. The Bay Area funk group was just a year out from their triumphant performance at Woodstock. The night drew a great crowd, but they waited. And waited… and waited. “Sly didn’t even go onstage until at least 2:30 a.m.," Mapes Root recalled. "But people stayed around. He was so coked up, high out of his mind.”  The 1970 News Years Eve show finally began two and a half hours into 1971. It was a fitting end to a year that saw many highs for Pepperland. 

Good Music, Bad Business 

         1971 would see a slew of great artists perform at Pepperland, coupled with a slew of problems leading to the club's demise. KSAN-FM San Francisco recorded The Youngbloods' live set on January 22, which was remastered and later released on a double CD in 2016 as Live at Pepperland, California '71 (Keyhole Label). Taj Mahal, Tower of Power, John Lee Hooker, Sons of Champlin, Spencer Davis, and Steve Miller were just a few of the fifty different acts who performed at Pepperland in 1971. The creative side certainly attracted the best. However, the business end suffered from inconsistent scheduling with shows often losing money.

    According to Charlie Kelly, (a 42-year roadie for the San Francisco psychedelic group Sons of Champlin), "When I collected the money for a 'Sons show there, the two (promoters Blatt & Shind) who were losing tons of money, got into the kind of drug-fueled argument that made you want to get out of the building before one of them found a gun." In April 1971, after continued financial, legal, and political pressures became too much, Sameuls, Blatt, and Shind skipped town. According to stage manager Mapes Root, "they were always just skating by and finally run off with the money after a show." On April 13, 1971, local papers reported, "Shind and Blatt had disappeared following their last show two weeks ago." Whitey Litchfield admitted, "The handwriting was on the wall. Bills have been mounting for months and they never paid on the lease. They were harassed with stringent regulations by the city council, and the police chased them out of town. They had no money to live up to their promises." Blatt and Shind (who had been living in Sebastopol after moving from Novato), had already dropped out by the time word hit the press, leaving behind a reported $50,000 in unpaid expenses. The club, considered "out of sight" by local youth, was now out of money. Following a benefit show for Native Americans on April 11, 1970, featuring Hot Tuna, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Lizard, Pepperland would lie dormant for nearly five months. 

Pepperland 2.0

     Pepperland held a "Grand Re-Opening" on the weekend of September 9/10/11, 1971. Opening night was headlined by The Steve Miller Band and the former Sons of Champlin (billed as 'Yogi Phlegm’), alongside local groups Nazgul and Clover, led by vocalist / guitarist Alex Call. Clover first played at 721 E. Francisco when it was still known as Euphoria, and ultimately performed at the venue more than any other artist -sharing bills with Linda Ronstadt, Big Brother and The Holding Company, Elvin Bishop, Cold Blood and Leon Russell, among others. "Some things I see clearly and other things are like the Viking sagas which weren't written down," described Call. Alex would later help write songs for Huey Lewis and the News, Pat Benatar, and Tommy Tutone's 1981 hit “867-5309/Jenny.”

     “Clover was hot right then, I think we were still pre-Huey (Lewis). We had legions of Marin high school fans, who showed up in droves that night. We blew Steve Miller off the stage, but he put us in our place a couple days later by bringing us to his office in San Francisco and showing us his national tour map and room full of guitars -we had niether.”

      Clover performed again two weeks later with Mike Bloomfield, Stoneground, and Mike Finnegan; a well-regarded two-night engagement. Fun Productions presented both events under promoter Skip Whitney. Whitney had managed to retain some of the original employees, and the Brotherhood of Light show. “We took over after them (Blatt & Shind). Pepperland 2.0. It was such a cool time in Marin. We were booking great shows, but  my business partner ran out of money,” and later promoters were unable to maintain what Whitney had continued. Even booking renowned artists Linda Ronstadt, Muddy Waters, Big Momma Thorton, and Van Morrison wasn’t enough to save the club, as the venue presented just over a dozen shows in 1972 under various promoters. The questionable activity of former promoters Blatt and Shind had soiled the reputation of Pepperland in the eyes of a vocal group of city officials. The Marin Performing Arts Guild suggested a partnership with the Marin County Supervisors to revive the concert hall in late 1972, but the county was tired of the  "nuisance" and ultimately declined. Heavy flooding in Marin County during January of 1973 caused some damage to Pepperland -ruining flooring and rugs. The club limped along before unceremoniously closing for good in early 1973, becoming a Carpet King Remnants store later that year. The original building, with its incredible #musichistory still stands today at 721 E. Francisco Boulevard in San Rafael, California. 

Click Here for Full Euphoria / Pepperland Show List   /pepperland-woodstock-west-1970-1973 

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     In a historic homage to the heyday of live recordings, the eagerly awaited vinyl debut of "Pure Jerry: Jerry Garcia & John Kahn LIVE at Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael, California" hits the shelves as part of the 2023 Record Store Day Black Friday releases. This auditory time capsule, recorded on February 28, 1986, (less than a year before Garcia and The Grateful Dead's commercial zenith), unfolds as a testament to the enduring allure of Garcia's live performances.

   The album, originally released on CD and helmed by producer John Cutler in 2009, now resurfaces in 2023, with remastered audio and new visual packaging. A striped down performance featuring Garcia on guitar and vocals with his long-time collaborator, bassist John Kahn, is presented on (Gold) vinyl for the very first time, adorned with all-new artwork created by Gabe Schneider (Sight Study), encapsulates the spirit of this unique performance.

     With a repertoire of twelve classic tracks, Garcia (1942-1995) and Kahn (1947-1996) embark on a journey that remains timeless. Garcia's compositions, co-authored with Robert Hunter, share the stage with classics from the likes of Bob Dylan, including the enchanting "When I Paint My Masterpiece" on Side B/Track 1. The musical odyssey also features a captivating rendition of "Goodnight Irene" (Side D/Track 2), penned by John Lomax and Huddle Ledbetter, clocking in at nearly eight minutes. The blues-infused tracks, such as "Spike Driver Blues" and the opening number "Deep Elem Blues," showcase the impeccable balance between Kahn's bass and Garcia's signature guitar and vocals. Noteworthy is the revelation on Side B/Track 3, "Run for the Roses," where Garcia unveils the embryonic elements that would later blossom into the iconic guitar parts of The Grateful Dead's hit "Touch of Grey."

   The historic Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium (est. 1971) located in Jerry Garcia’s stomping grounds of San Rafael, California serves as the backdrop for this sonic spectacle. In an interview with Grateful Dead Family Discography (; Garcia noted  "Marin Vets turns out to be an incredibly nice room to record in. There's something about the formal atmosphere in there that makes us work.” The performance, remastered from original two-track recordings, captures the raw, unbridled energy of that fateful night. The liner notes emphasize the album's authenticity, stressing that “these recordings are not to be confused with fully produced studio masters” but are a homage to the electric spirit of that unforgettable night. With a limited edition of 7,500 copies pressed on two 180g gold vinyl records, "Pure Jerry" emerges as a coveted relic documenting a time and place never to be replicated. 

Event: BLACK FRIDAY 2023 
Release Date: 11/24/2023
Format: 2 x LP
Label: ATO Records
Quantity: 7500
Release type: 'RSD First' Release

1. Deep Elem Blues
2. Little Sadie
3. Friend Of The Devil
4. When I Paint My Masterpiece
5. Spike Driver Blues
6. Run For The Roses
7. Dire Wolf
8. Jack A Roe
9. Oh Babe It Ain't No Lie
10. Bird Song
11. Ripple
12. Goodnight Iren

#RSD #RecordStoreDay #SmallBusiness @WattsMusic 
#GratefulDead #JerryGarcia #JohnKahn #Marin #VeteransMemorialAuditorium #SanRafael #California #LiveMusic #MusicHistory #RecordCollection #Vinyl #Records #RecordAlbum #LP #NewMusic #ThelenCreative #AlbumReview #MusicReview 
#ATO #ATORecords

Pepperland | Woodstock West  

The Untold Story's Sources…


Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Libraries. “Letter from Barry Olivier to Nat Shind”, Berkeley Folk Music Festival Accessed Sun Apr 23 2023. 

Stanley, Don. “Pepperland’s Great Circle.” Pacific Sun (San Rafael, CA). December 23, 1970. 

Sigman, Mike. “Pepperland Dancery To Open on Coast.“ Record World. August 1, 1970: pg 48. 

Geary, Marilyn.“Litchfield’s - a Sign of the Past.” Anne T. Kent California Room. 8/27/20 

Brother, Water. “Pepperland.” Berkeley Tribe, Sept. 25-Oct. 2, 1970. (Vol. 3) pg.6. The Red Mountain Tribe publishing. Berkeley, California. 

“Rock Ballroom Ready to Swing Out in Calif. Town.” Billboard. July 25, 1970. page 22&25. 

Campbell, Tom. “On The Scene: Rock Pops Up in Pepperland.” San Francisco Examiner. July 25, 1970. Sat pg10. 

“Pepperland Will Open in San Rafael.” The Los Angeles Times, August 29, 1970. Sat pg28. 

“San Rafael Eyes Closing ‘Pepperland’” San Francisco Examiner, March 1, 1971. Mon. pg4. 

“Hard life and times of Janis Joplin.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 11, 1979. Sun. pg146. 

Modderno, Craig. “Something For Young Set: The Hard Rock Scene” Oakland Tribune, September 24, 1970. Thurs. pg88. 

Courtesy Marin History Museum
Independent Journal (Marin County) 
“The Citadel.” IJ. Fri. January 30, 1970. pg14. 
“Narcotics Raid Hearing Slated For July 24.” IJ. Mon. July 13, 1970. pg9. 
McCarthy, C.P. “Pepperland Debate : Charges Traded On Rock Palace.” IJ. Tuesday, November 17, 1970 
McCarthy, C.P. “Pepperland: A ‘Bad Scene’ Or Youths’ Saving Grace?” IJ. Dec. 2, 1970. pg 20 
“Bomb Threat, Armed Theft Mar Concert by Joan Baez.” IJ. Mon. December 21, 1970. pg19. 
“Pepperland’s Safety, Use Permit Queried By Council.” IJ. December 22, 1970. pg15. 
“Pepperland’s Sign Is Empty As Well As ‘Healthy’ Coffers.” IJ. Tues. April 13, 1971. pg16. 
“Charges from Motel Drug Raid Booted.” IJ. April 14, 1971. pg6. 
“Charges from Motel Drug Raid Booted.” April 14, 1971. pg6. 
“Pepperland Reopening Is Discussed.” IJ. July 28, 1971. Wed. pg46. 
“Supervisors Nix Offer To Sponsor Rock Hall.” IJ. October 18, 1972. pg16. 

Novato Historical Guild Archives

Getz, Dave. Death of Janis. to be released 2023.

Call, Alex. 876-5309/Jenny. The Song tat saved my ass… for a while. Amazon Books. Aug. 2020.

Andrew, Sam. "Big Brother history, part six, 1969 to 1972.” May 9, 2012. Archived from the original on May 17, 2020. Retrieved May 9, 2023.  

Bob Pullum, “Brotherhood of Lightshow Timeline,” 2012. Accessed April, 2023.  

Pullum, Bob. “Brotherhood of Light Show Current.” Interview w/ Pooters Psychedelic Shack. 2002, Accessed April 23, 2023. 

Parrish, Michael. Cryptical Developments. “Reflections on Music in the Bay Area: 60s, 70s and Beyond.” February 27, 2011.  J. Garcia / D. Crosby image

Light Into Ashes, blog post “Grateful Dead Guide: The Mysterious Case of 12/21/70.” October 28, 2013. Post Feb. 15, 2018  

Taj Mahal. The Real Thing. Columbia Records, 1971. Gatefold Image, Dr. Ché.

Tower of Power. LIVE Fillmore West. Bill Graham Presents, July 4, 1971.

Ezra B. Eddy IV, blog post on the subject,  March 9, 2021.  

Meyer, John. “Meyer History.” MixOnline Magazine. 2013.  

Romanus, W. “The Ultimate Bootleg Experience blog, Pink Floyd.” based on recollections of Rolf, Mike K., Ron C., Duckpont49, creamcheese and WRomanus. 2011. Accessed May 9, 2023.  
Pink Floyd. “Astronomy Domine.” Oct. 16, 1970. Live at Pepperland Audio Bootleg
Steve Miller Band. “Pepper Sauce." Sept. 18, 1970. Live Unreleased Sailor Records Audio Bootleg
The Grateful Dead. “Turn on Your Lovelight." July 16, 1970. Live Unreleased Audio Bootleg

Pepperland Imagery & Info: 
#thelencreative @ebay / Watts Music, Novato / Wolfgang’s Vault 
Paul “The Poster Guy” Getchell / Marin History Museum / Anne T. Kent California Room

Marin History Museum 
Heather Powell / Marcie Miller

Carol Acquaviva
Anne T. Kent California Room 
San Rafael, Calif.

Darin Chace
Watts Music, Novato, Calif. Est 1979

Geo Thelen email Interview. Pepperland Ownership Family, Charlie Litchfield, esq. April 2023 
Geo Thelen email Interview. Dave Getz, Big Brother & Holding Company, drummer. April 2023. 
Geo Thelen email Interview. Alex Call, Clover, Guitar/Vocals/Songwriter. June 2023.
Geo Thelen email Interview. Charlie Kelly, Sons of Champlin (42yr) Crew/Roadie  May 2023 
Geo Thelen phone Interview. Charlie Ellicott, Fillmore Stage Manager/Cold Blood Mgt. June 2023.
Geo Thelen phone interview. Pepperland Promoter, Skip Whitney. May 16, 2023 
Geo Thelen phone interview. Pepperland Stage Manager, Mapes Root. May 18, 2023

#ThelenCreative #Pepperland #WoodstockWest #MusicHistory

#MusicNews #Summer #SummerMusic #SummerofLove 
#Woodstock #WoodstockPerformers #1960s #Hippie #SanFrancisco 
#LegacyArtists #LegacyVenue 

🎃 A Spooky Spin Through The History of Popular Halloween-Vibed Vinyl Records 

👻 Grooving to the Ghouls
  As the leaves turn and the nights grow longer, it's that time of year again when ghosts, goblins, and vinyl enthusiasts unite for a spine-tingling celebration. Halloween, a holiday filled with frights and delights, wouldn't be complete without the eerie ambiance set by spooky vinyl records.  In the world of vinyl records, Halloween has always had a special place. From the timeless classics of the '60s to the modern spins of today, hauntingly delightful albums have kept the spirit of Halloween alive through the decades. In this article, we'll take a spin through the history of some popular Halloween-vibed vinyl records.








🎙 Vinyl's Haunting Past 
  Vinyl records have long been a conduit for audible creativity, but their association with Halloween ambience dates back to the early 20th century. Back then, radio broadcasts of spine-tingling sound effects and ghostly tales set the stage for vinyl records to become the perfect medium for haunting sounds. Popular horror radio shows such as “Beyond the Limits” and the Orson Welles alien invasion classic “War of the Worlds” (first broadcast on Halloween eve in 1938), eventually found a second life on vinyl pressings in the 1960s and ‘70s. 

🤖 Monster Mash Hits the Charts 
  The 1960s saw a period that spawned some of the most iconic Halloween vinyl records ever. Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash" clawed its way up the charts in 1962, giving birth to a graveyard smash that is still on nearly every Halloween party playlist. This tongue-in-cheek tune became an instant Halloween classic, and its vinyl record sales reflected the monstrous craze that swept the nation. Movie and television soundtracks like Henri Mancini’s 1962 “Experiment In Terror” film score, "Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Ghost Stories for Young People" and Vince Guaraldi’s “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” TV soundtrack from 1966 are still modern day holiday staples for many.








☠️ The Ghastly Grooves of the 1970s
  The '70s brought a groovier, yet equally eerie, vibe to Halloween vinyl records. Albums like "Halloween: Sounds of Horror" and "Moog Plays The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman" combined electronic synthesizers with chilling soundscapes, creating a unique and otherworldly listening experience. The soundtrack for the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show in 1975 also added to the spirit of the season. Haunted house sound effect albums and spooky spoken-word records such as Pickwick labels Famous Ghost Stories remained popular throughout the decade. "Vincent Price's A Hornbook for Witches, Stories and Poems for Halloween" (1976) delivered spine-tingling narratives that transported listeners to the heart of the macabre complete with eerie sound effects and haunting voices -and a precursor to another Vincent Price spoken classic. 

👹 A Thriller of a Record 
  The 1980s saw a slew of creepy related releases including Onigo Boingo’s 1985 album Dead Man’s Party lead by Danny Elfman -who would pen a number of creepy scores for director Tim Burton including The Nightmare Before Christmas, (1993) and the ominous Batman, (1989) and Batman Returns, (1992) soundtracks. However, no discussion of Halloween vibed vinyl records would be complete without the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson. In 1982, Jackson released "Thriller," an album that sent shockwaves through the music industry -and Halloween parties alike. The title track's iconic music video, featuring zombies dancing with the King of Pop, became a Halloween staple. Then record flew off the shelves, making it one of the most sought-after albums of all-time and featuring a now classic cameo from the king of creepy spoken-word himself, Vincent Price.







👺 Haunted Harmonies of the 1990s
  The 1990s brought a wave of alternative and rock bands into the Halloween music scene. Artists like Marilyn Manson with "Antichrist Superstar,” The Smashing Pumpkins "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” and Rob Zombies 1998 solo debut Hellbilly Deluxe blended haunting lyrics with rock 'n' roll intensity. These vinyl records continue to provide the perfect backdrop for Halloween parties with a more sinister edge.

🧡 Modern Day Mayhem 🖤 
  Fast forward to the present day, and Halloween vinyl records are as popular as ever. Contemporary artists continue to embrace the spooky season with releases like The Black Keys' Let's Rock and Jack White's Lazaretto. These vinyl records not only pay homage to the classics but also add a modern twist to any Halloween playlist. Special editions and re-releases of classics such as the orange colored pumpkin shaped vinyl It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown released by Craft Recordings in 2021 add to the ongoing collectibility factor of holiday vinyl records.








🪦 The Beat Goes On
Whether you're a vinyl collector, a Halloween enthusiast, or just someone looking to add some eerie ambiance to your October nights, these records have something for everyone. So, dust off that turntable, light some candles, and let the spooky spin begin!

#Spooky #Halloween #Vinyl #Records #Album #VinylRecords #RecordCollection #HalloweenMusic #HolidayMusic #MusicHistory #GreatPumpkin #VincentPrice #Thriller  #CharlieBrown #OrsonWelles #WaroftheWorlds #HalloweenRecords #HalloweenPlaylist 

🖤 If You're a #Byrds Fan, Explore #LOVE's 1966 Self-Titled Debut Album #LOVE | #VinylRecords 









    In the vibrant 1960s LA music scene, LOVE's debut self-titled album LOVE was a pivotal moment, featuring the iconic lineup of Bryan MacLean, Arthur Lee, Alban “Snoopy” Pfisterer, Johnny Echols, and Ken Forssi. This album, released in 1966 on Elektra Records, not only marked their beginning but also left an enduring impact on the music landscape of the era.

   Inspired by the likes of the Byrds and the burgeoning folk-rock sound echoing from the hills of LA, LOVE's music served as a wellspring of inspiration for many other local groups. Among them was none other than Jim Morrison of the Doors, who regarded LOVE as a significant musical influence. Songs like 'Softly To Me' and 'No Matter What You Do' on Side One of the album unmistakably resonate with the Doors' vibe, creating a fusion of sounds where Doors meet the Byrds.









   LOVE's connection with the Byrds goes deeper, as Bryan MacLean, vocalist and guitarist of LOVE, had previously worked as a roadie for the Byrds. This collaborative atmosphere and shared musical influence are what made the 1960s LA music scene so iconic. Recorded in January of 1966 at Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood, California, LOVE's debut album encapsulates the spirit of that era. 

      While some may argue that LOVE's later albums are superior, (check out Forever Changes) their debut album is a valuable piece of Laurel Canyon history, taking you on a flashback journey to the heart of the LA music scene. Notably, the album's track "No Matter What You Do" found its way onto the 'Echo in the Canyon' soundtrack, released in 2018, solidifying LOVE's enduring legacy in the world of music. Discover the roots of LA rock and the sounds that shaped an era with LOVE's debut album. 





#LOVEBand #LA60sMusic #InfluentialAlbums #ByrdsInfluence #EchoInTheCanyon #1960sRock #LAHippieScene #SunsetSoundRecorders #FolkRockSound #MusicHistory #BryanMacLean #ElektraRecords #LauralCanyon #DoorsVibe #MusicFlashback

Founding member of 1960s LA-based group LOVE and former  Byrds roadie, Bryan MacLean born September 25, 1946.

Classic Vinyl: Ten Must-Have LIVE Vinyl Record Albums 









Prompt Engineered & Edited by Geo Thelen

     Live albums have a magical ability to capture the raw energy, electric atmosphere, and unfiltered passion of a live performance. They allow fans to relive the thrill of a concert experience and provide audio documentation of a past moment. Over the years, several live albums have transcended the boundaries of music, achieving monumental success and etching their names in music history. In this article, we dive into the world of live music and unveil ten must-have live albums for your vinyl record collection.





1. Eagles Live - Eagles
    Kicking off the list is the iconic American rock band Eagles with their 7x platinum album Eagles Live. Released in 1980, this album captures many of the band's stellar performances from their "Hotel California" tour. With classics like "Hotel California" and "Take It Easy," this album remains a timeless gem in the rock and roll universe.

2.  Live Bullet - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
    Bob Seger's raspy vocals and heartland rock sound come alive in Live Bullet. Released in 1976, this multi-platinum album captures Seger's electrifying performance at Cobo Hall in Detroit. With tracks like "Turn the Page" and "Old Time Rock & Roll," Seger's live prowess is on full display.

3.  The Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus - The Rolling Stones
    The Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus is a one-of-a-kind live album that encapsulates the essence of the 1960s rock scene. Recorded in 1968 as part of a film project of the same name, the album was released in 1996, and features not only the Stones, but also an array of legendary artists like The Who and John Lennon. It's a true time capsule of rock history.




4.  Frampton Comes Alive! - Peter Frampton
    Peter Frampton's Frampton Comes Alive! is not just an album; it's a cultural phenomenon. Released in 1976, this live double album skyrocketed Frampton to superstardom. Featuring the unforgettable talk box-infused rendition of "Do You Feel Like We Do," this record is a must-have for any rock enthusiast -recorded in part at the Marin Civic Center in San Rafael, California.

5.  Live/1975-85 - Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
    When it comes to live performances, few artists can match the energy and charisma of Bruce Springsteen. Live/1975-85 is a comprehensive collection of Springsteen's live recordings from 1975 to 1985. From anthems like "Born to Run" to a heartfelt "Thunder Road," this album is a historical journey through The Boss's live evolution.

6.  Live at Wembley '86 - Queen
    Queen's larger-than-life stage presence is perfectly captured in the double-album Live at Wembley '86. Recorded during the band's Magic Tour, the album (currently awaiting vinyl release) showcases Freddie Mercury's unparalleled showmanship and the band's ability to command a massive audience. From "Bohemian Rhapsody" to "We Will Rock You," Queen's live legacy lives on.




7.  MTV Unplugged in New York - Nirvana
    Nirvana's MTV Unplugged in New York is a hauntingly beautiful testament to Kurt Cobain's songwriting genius. Recorded just months before Cobain's tragic passing in 1994, this album strips away the grunge sound to reveal the raw emotion and vulnerability behind Nirvana's music. The unplugged album is often included in Top 100 Best Albums of All-Time lists.

8.  Live in Cook County Jail - B.B. King
    B.B. King's soulful blues guitar and heartfelt vocals shine in Live in Cook County Jail. Recorded in front of an enthusiastic audience of inmates in 1970, the album captures the essence of King's emotional connection with his music and the power of the blues and ranks in Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All-Time.

9.  Live at the Fillmore East - The Allman Brothers Band
    The Allman Brothers Band's improvisational prowess comes to life at a classic venue in Live at the Fillmore East. Recorded in 1971, this album showcases the band's unique blend of Southern rock, blues, and jazz influences. With extended jams and virtuosic guitar solos, this record is a testament to musical craftsmanship.

10.  At Folsom Prison - Johnny Cash
    Closing our list is a live album that goes beyond the music, transcending into a cultural milestone. Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison is a powerful and poignant recording of Cash's legendary performance at the Folsom State Prison, California in 1968. Cash's connection with the inmates and his emotionally charged delivery make this album a must have timeless classic.

#vinylrecords #recordcollection #musicnews #musichistory #livealbums #recordstore 
#fillmore #johnnycash #FolsomPrison #Queeen #Nirvana #MTV #rollingstones #bobseger #eagles #hotelcalifornia #livemusic #concerts #summerconcert #musicfestival 
#outsidelands #woodstock #folsomprison #topten #livealbums #vinylrecords Happening Now

TOP 3… 2… 1.💥 Atomic Album Art ☢️ Best Atomic Blast Album Covers of the 1950s 60s & 70s. 

by Thelen Creative








      Keeping with the #Oppenheimer vibe, I recently pulled a handful of albums from our record collection with #albumArt featuring atomic #explosions. Bellow are three #atomic classics representing the best of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.

#3 - Jefferson Airplane, Crown of Creation (1968) -The cloud on the cover is not the only mushroom-influenced element of this psychedelic album on Victor RCA by San Francisco’s preeminent acid rock band, Jefferson Airplane. The cover image has often been misattributed to the Hiroshima bombing (including on the album credits). The front image photo was taken at a series of atomic tests held in the Nevada desert during the summer and fall of 1957, known as “Operation Plumbbob.” The specific image used for the album was from the “Fizeau” detention in September and was provided by the United States Air Force. A psychedelic photo of the Jefferson Airplane is fittingly superimposed onto the mushroom cloud high off the ground. The album was released in August of 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War and two months after the assignation of presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy, Sr.
#2 - KISS, The Originals (1976) - Nothing says rock and roll like a nuclear blast. No other band is known for their explosions and pyrotechnics like the rock group KISS. The cover of their 1976 three-vinyl album The Originals features the faces of the four group members transposed within an image of a nuclear explosion. The album combined KISS’s first three studio albums and was prophetically promoted as “the albums that touched off a Rock & Roll explosion.” Casablanca Records had just released KISS’s now famed Destroyer album four months prior, and when The Originals hit record store bins, the band’s status as rock and roll stars exploded.

#1 - Count Basie, Basie (1958) - Released in March of 1958 on Roulette Records by the King of Swing, this album is as great as the brilliance of its’ cover. Influenced by the period, the album cover photo was also taken at the atomic test “Operation Plumbbob” held in the Nevada desert during the summer of 1957. A true atomic age recording! This album was Basie’s third studio release as a solo artist and is known by three different titles; Basie, The Atomic Mr. Basie, and the stereo release version E=MC2. The album itself ranks in the top 25 of the 1950s greatest overall and is a must-have for any atomic record collection. 


Record Plant : Sausalito Studios

📰 OUT NOW! ⚡️ #SummerReading
by Katiana Giacona
     The Record Plant studio in Sausalito, California, was one of America's top-of-the-line music recording facilities. Opened in 1972, Record Plant was known as the "resort studio," just across the Golden Gate Bridge in Northern California and away from the big city. One of three studios, the first Record Plant was opened in New York City in 1968 by Chris Stone and Gary Kellgren. The second studio in Los Angeles opened in 1969, followed by the third studio in Sausalito. San Francisco Bay Area-based radio station KSAN FM hosted live studio broadcasts from the Sausalito studio. With its nautical-inspired interior wood artistry, the building known as the "Plant" had a groovy aesthetic that drew in some of the most iconic musical artists of all time, including Fleetwood Mac, Bob Marley, the Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, Prince, Tom Petty, Metallica, Santana, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Dave Matthews Band, and many more. Katiana Giacona, a Marin County native, was resident DJ at the former Sausalito Studio location when it was a spa and yoga event center called Harmonia. For Record Plant, Sausalito Studio she has assembled a collection of discography and photographs from the studio as well as interviews from former receptionists, managers, audio engineers, producers, and staff. Ken Caillat was the producer of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours album, one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time. 
Order Book via Amazon HERE

New Book on History of former Record Plant Recording Studio, Sausalito, Ca Availble SUMMER 2023 

Record Plant, Sausalito - Historic Nor-Cal Music Studio SAUSALITO, CA

June 26 2023 ! The Record Plant Sausalito Studio Book will be out!
     Sausalito Historical Society member Katiana Giacona has put in a lot of work into this book and it includes many old old photos from the opening party in 1973. The book contains interviews with Arne Frager, producer, engineer, and former owner of The Plant Studios, and Ken Caillat, producer of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time recorded at this studio. It is a great collection of information, photographs, documents, and interviews from former receptionists, managers, engineers, producers, and staff.

“Record Plant | Historic Nor-Cal Music Studio”

FOLLOW  Thelen Creative @ Youtube

Legendary recording studio Record Plant, Sausalito located in Marin County, California. 

     The former studio site at 2200 Bridgeway holds credits on dozens of gold & platinum recordings including five of the top 50 best-selling albums of all-time. The short doc features commentary from 3x Grammy Award-winner, Record Plant recording artist and Marin County resident, Narada Michael Walden, as well as Darin Chace, longtime manager of Watts Music in Novato, (Marin County’s oldest record store established 1979). Walden’s work as drummer on the Rick James 1981 album Street Songs and producing Grammy-winning records for Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston at the Record Plant are just part of this legendary locations rich history. “We all knew that working at the (Record) Plant, you were working at a place of history,” says Walden. “Because of the artists that had worked there; Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, Prince’s first album… Fleetwood Mac.” 

     In 1976, Fleetwood Mac recorded much of their Grammy-winning classic, Rumour’s album at 2200 Bridgeway. Rumour’s became the 10th best-selling album of all-time. “We could sell this (Rumour’s) album everyday if we had enough copies,” states Darin Chace of Watts Music. “We’ve sold a lot of records made at the Record Plant in our forty years... It’s a legendary place.” A diverse group of artists from Sly Stone and Bob Marley to Van Morrison and Metallica recorded successful projects at the Record Plant, Sausalito until this historically significant location officially closed its doors in 2009. The nearly fifty-year-old building has changed relatively little since it’s initial construction. As of 2021, a group, which includes Fleetwood Mac, Rumours co-producer & engineer Ken Calliet, have purchased the former studio and plan to preserve the site with a future eye on recording, history and education. It is now known as the #SausalitoRecordFactory and is celebrating 50 years at 2200 Bridgeway, in Sausalito, California. 1972-2022 

🎧 The #RecordPlant #FleetwoodMac #ChristineMcVie #Rumours #Prince #RickJames #SlyStone #Journey #NaradaMichaelWalden #SlyandtheFamilyStone #StevieWonder #WhitneyHouston #GeorgeMartin #MusicHistory #ShortDoc #MusicDoc #MusicStudio #DigitalMarketing #ShortFilm #RecordStoreDay #RSD #RecordCollection #VinylRecords #Music #History in #Sausalito and #Novato #MarinCounty #California #WattsMusic #Prince #MusicOriginsProject #MusicHistory

🎹 Vince Guaraldi — In Person - LIVE at the Trident, Sausalito, California Celebrating 60 Years In Person : 1963 - 2023 

🍀 The Italian Leprechaun 🎶
🎹 Vince Guaraldi — In Person - LIVE at the Trident, Sausalito, California
Celebrating 60 Years In Person : 1963 - 2023

by Geo Thelen 

    Somewhat lost in the crowded list of albums recorded in Marin County, California over the decades, is the 1963 Fantasy Records release of Vince Guaraldi — In Person, a live album recorded at the Trident lounge located at 558 Bridgeway in Sausalito. The venue (formally known as the Yacht Dock) was purchased by Bay Area folk group Kingston Trio in 1960 and hosted live jazz music nearly every night of the week for fifteen years. The Trident is the location of numerous live jazz recordings during the 1960s, including albums by Bill Evans, Jon Hendricks, Denny Zeitlin, The Don Scaletta Piano Trio, and Vince Guaraldi in December of 1962.

   "What Vince has got in his playing is feeling. This is a quality that money can't buy, practice cannot make perfect and technique tends to defeat rather than enhance." 
- Ralph J. Gleason, San Francisco Chronicle Jazz Critic, 1963

   Following a two-week run (ending in November 1962) billing with the Ramsey Lewis Trio at the famed Blackhawk jazz club in San Francisco, Vince Guaraldi and his group began a yearend run of performances across the Golden Gate Bridge at The Trident club in Sausalito. Six months earlier, Guaraldi's breakthrough album Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus and its' somewhat surprising hit, "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," had been released on San Francisco-based Fantasy Records. By December 1st, "Cast Your Fate…" had entered Billboard magazine charts at #127 and was climbing. Looking to take full advantage of Guaraldi's budding commercial popularity, Fantasy Records set up recording equipment at the waterfront club on December 4th, 1962, to capture Guaraldi in his element.

   Vince Guaraldi considered the Trident in Sausalito home turf, having played there since it was known as the Yacht Dock Jazz Club. After the Kingston Trio purchased the venue, more high-profile patrons and artists began calling the Trident home. Guaraldi would ultimately perform at the club for over a dozen years. Soon after the location was rebranded from the Yacht Dock to Trident in 1961, Guaraldi said, "This is one place a jazz musician won't have to work pianissimo to keep from breaking the customers' glasses. The only place we couldn't get complete acoustical control is on the speakers outside, on the yacht deck. On foggy nights we'll have to compete with the Alcatraz fog horn. I feel bad about it. The seagulls really dig us."

     On Tuesday, December 4th, 1962, the material for what would become Vince Guaraldi - In Person was taped live at the Trident. Guaraldi’s quintet featured himself on the piano, Colin Bailey on drums, Fred Marshall playing bass, Eddie Duran on guitar, and Guaraldi's former Cal Tjader bandmate, Bayardo "Benny" Velarde, on scratcher. The group recorded several songs that night and ultimately settled on nine for the album, with only one Guaraldi original included; Side Two, track 3: "Freeway." The album captures a unique time and place while hinting at things to come (think of the yet-to-have-been-written "Skating" from Charlie Brown Christmas when listening to "Jitterbug Waltz"). On some tracks, such as Side 1, Track 3: "Miserlou," you can hear the Trident patrons talking and milling about the club that evening. Longtime San Francisco Music Journalist Ralph Gleason commented in the album's liner notes: "Vince looks forward to… trying to be a good musician and making the best album he can, every time. That's what you hear in Vince Guaraldi "in person." He's in there, trying every minute."

    The minutes started to move much faster for Guaraldi after that December 1962 evening at the Trident. In Person was released on June 10th, 1963, a month after Guaraldi won his first Grammy Award for "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" -which had held its' own on the Billboard charts all spring long. "Zelao" and "Jitterbug Waltz" were released as singles during the summer, and within 24 months, millions of children would be introduced to jazz music for the first time, thanks to his association with the Charlie Brown and Peanuts Gang franchise.

    Guaraldi's future creative output is stylistically revealed in the pianists' interpretations of the compositions captured on In Person. And while live albums recorded at the Trident, Sausalito have not captured as much acclaim or notoriety as albums recorded at the club's San Francisco counterparts El Matador, hungry i, or Blackhawk, In Person is the only one to capture a slice of West Coast Jazz History before it was Joe Cool.

“Vince Guaraldi — In Person”
1963, Fantasy Records
Recorded Live at The Trident, Sausalito, California
December 4th, 1962
Vince Guaraldi - piano
Fred Marshall - bass
Benny Velarde - scratcher
Eddie Duran - guitar
Colin Bailey - drums
Cover Photo - Chas Weckler (credited Jim Weckler)

“Anatomy of a Hit; 1; The Serendipity Groove.” 1964. NET. Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting         
Gleason, Ralph. Vince Guaraldi In Person, Liner Notes, Fantasy Records LP 8352, 1963
Bang, Derrick. Vince Guaraldi at the Piano, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. North Carolina, London. 2012

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Pave Paradise : Jazz at the blackhawk

Jazz at the Blackhawk : Reflections of Cal Tjader’s First Live Album
Fantasy Records San Francisco, 1957 

by Geo Thelen 

Anecdotes from the last surviving member of the Cal Tjader Quartet, drummer, Al Torre. 

    The historic Blackhawk jazz club (1949-1963) was formerly located at 200 Hyde Street on the northeast corner of Turk Street in the heart of San Francisco's tenderloin district. The smoky neighborhood nightclub launched the career of Johny Mathis, helped Dave Brubeck find an audience, and gave numerous national artists such as Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk a musically intimate space to experiment and record quality live albums. Arguably though, Bay Area vibraphonist Cal Tjader (pronounced Jay-der) was the most synonymous name associated with this historic jazz club.   

    Cal Tjader first came onto the San Francisco jazz scene after returning from U.S. Navy service and meeting future jazz great Dave Brubeck while each was attending San Francisco State (University) in the early 1950s. Over the next decade, the two future Grammy award-winning artists would navigate successful jazz careers as part of a young trio, then as individuals, with the Blackhawk playing a significant role in their development and popularity. Cal Tjader would ultimately record five live albums at the historic venue and was the featured entertainment during the Blackhawks' final two weeks of operation in July 1963. 

More Wires     

    True jazz lovers, young and old, went to the Blackhawk for great music. The dank and dusty 200-person capacity Blackhawk was a great-sounding room, although better seen in the dark. The club had a reputation with patrons and authorities. San Francisco city officials tried numerous times to shut the Blackhawk down, conducting police raids on at least two occasions, but to no avail. The club was one of the few in the city to allow minors, albeit behind a wall of chicken wire separating them from the club's adult patrons and a full-service bar. 

    According to B. Rose on The Cal Tjader Sextet A Night At The Blackhawk liner notes from 1958, "The Tjader audience is a curious amalgam of Jazz, Latin and dance fans. They range from youngsters just barely old enough to use their own I.D. cards in a night club to grey-haired oldsters." 

     Cal Tjader's first live album, Jazz At The Blackhawk was recorded at the end of a month-long run of shows the combo did at the club, culminating on Sunday, January 20, 1957. The group consisted of Tjader on vibraphone, Vince Guaraldi of later Peanuts fame on piano, future Dave Brubeck bassist Gene Wright, and Al Torre on drums. "We played six nights a week at the Blackhawk," recalls Torre, now 92 and living in Southern California. "We were the "home band" for the club. The night of the recording was just another night but with more wires.”        

The Blackhawk Sound 

     The evening of January 20th, 1957 was "under the personal supervision of John Noga and Guido Cacianti with incidental assistance from S. W. Weiss and J. W. Easton." -as stated in the credits of the May 1957 Fantasy Records mono (red vinyl) LP 3241 album liner notes. Noga and Cacianti were owners/proprietors of the Blackhawk, with Weiss having an interest in Fantasy Records. The recorded performance that night has become one of the Blackhawk's most notable live albums. "What you hear on the record is exactly what we did that night," says Torre. "Tjader never had a set list; he'd just start playing, but was a stickler about the group sound.” And the Blackhawk was known for its' sound. “I saw Miles Davis there too, incredible sound. The room had no echo. There was cloth hanging on the ceiling, which helped absorb the noise. It was just good acoustics. The Black Hawk had good acoustics." 

     According to longtime San Francisco Chronicle Jazz Critic Ralph J. Gleason, who was present during the recording of Tjader’s album, "Fantasy's recording engineers set up the tape machines in the Blackhawk's No. 1 dressing room, rigged the bandstand for sound, and went to work." Tjader later said his group had "never been recorded better." Following Jazz at the Blackhawk, the venue would house a "Stereo 6 channel mixing panel cross-mixed to an Ampex 350" better capturing the clubs' unique acoustics and natural reverberation and giving later live albums by Miles Davis, Shelly Manne, and Dave Brubeck the Blackhawk sound. 

A Night In the Life 

     As for Blackhawk proprietors John Noga and Guido Cacianti, their roles were to keep “the bells” from ringing during the Sunday night business-as-usual recording session, mainly the phone and the cash register. The two men "supervised operations from behind the bar," Gleason notes on the album. "During the recordings, it was Guido's responsibility to make sure the telephone bell didn't ring, and with the exception of a single goof, he performed this task admirably. John Noga was responsible for making change quietly and not ringing the cash register whose shrill tone, while music to some ears, clashes with the overtones of the vibraphone." However, despite the Blackhawk being known for one the strictest shut-up-and-listen policies among the Bay Area performance clubs, you can still hear the patrons talking, the glasses clanging, and "the bells" ringing, most notably, twice on Side Two, Track 2; "I've Never Been In Love Before," -sonically capturing the Blackhawk as a working 1950s jazz club (note: these “atmospheric” sounds were removed from the later remastered CD version). 

   The atmosphere of the scene is what Al Torre recalls with vivid senses the most. "During intermission, I would step out and get some fresh air or go up Hyde Street to the Lafayette Hotel Cafe and get a burger. The chef looked like Boris Karloff, but he made the greatest hamburgers in the world. I had to get out and clear my lungs. There were about 75 different types of cigarette smoke and poor ventilation. They would smoke the crowd out (of the Blackhawk) in between sets.” Although it was just another night to some, the evening is noted as a “great success” which Ralph Gleason attributed to the “liveness of the group sound, the good acoustics of the club and excitement of recording before a jazz audience,” with the quickly developing technology of portable tape machines “making it possible to bring the studio to the musicians in their natural habitat." 

Pave Paradise 

    More than sixty-five years later, the long-darkened Lafayette Coffee Shop neon hangs a few doors up from the parking lot at 200 Hyde Street where only diminishing memories of the smokey club remain. The former location of the “Center of West Coast Jazz” was marked with a plaque in 2012 -the only hint of the sites significance. Fortunately, live audio recordings, such as Jazz at the Blackhawk from 1957, offer more than just a hint of memory to the culturally pivotal moments and historic places lost to music history. 

Q: Where Was the Jazz at the Blackhawk Album Cover Photo taken? 
According to Cal Tjader drummer, Al Torre, “The album cover was taken when we got off a plane at Burbank Airport. We flew in and were met by a representative of Fantasy Records and photos were taken outside a building. So now you know, the cover was taken somewhere at the Burbank Airport.” 

Jazz at the Blackhawk - Cal Tjader Quartet 
Released: May 1957, Fantasy Records, San Francisco, California 
Recorded: January 20, 1957 @ The Blackhawk, San Francisco, Calif. 
Cal Tjader, vibraphone; Vince Guaraldi, piano; Gene Wright, bass; Al Torre, drums. 

              “The fine sense of dynamics and vivid imagination displayed (on Jazz at the Blackhawk) make for excellent listening.” Billboard, 1957

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Torre, Al. Jazz at the Blackhawk, drummer. Phone Interview by Geo Thelen. Thelen Creative, March 2023 
Gleason, Ralph. The Cal Tjader Quartet - Jazz At The Blackhawk, Liner Notes, Fantasy Records LP 3241, 1957 
Rose, B. The Cal Tjader Sextet - A Night At The Blackhawk, Liner Notes, Fantasy Records LP 3283, 1958   
Bang, Derrick. Vince Guaraldi at the Piano, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. North Carolina, London. 2012
San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library, Uptown Tenderloin Historic District  
Thelen Creative Collection

Other Articles by Geo Thelen
Vince Guaraldi - In Person LIVE at the Trident
Marin Magazine - Five of Marin's Top Historical Music Sites
Sly's Last Epic Album
Music Origins Blog - The Record Plant

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#thelencreative #jazzrecord #sanfrancisco #california 

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Recent Writing Project Acknowledgements: 

Lift-Off Global Network Filmmaker's Sessions OFFICIAL SELECTION Short Film Content - 2023
Citizen Journalist Award Winner - Writer / Prod. (TV Doc - PBS SF) 
FINALIST Best Mini Music Film - California Music Video & Film Awards - 2021 
SEMI-FINALIST Best Documentary Music Video - Munich Music Video Awards - 2021 
FINALIST Best Inspirational Video - California Music Video Awards - 2021 
FINALIST Best Doc Music Video - International Music Video Awards, London - 2021 
WINNER BEST MUSIC DOC OF THE MONTH - Tracks Music Awards, Los Angeles - 2021 
WINNER BEST SHORT MUSIC DOC - International Music Video Underground Paris - 2021 
FINALIST Best Micro Film / Best Editing - Oregon Documentary Film Festival, Portland - 2020 
HONORABLE MENTION Best Short Doc - Marin (CA) 2014 Int’l Short Film & Video Fest - 2014 
2x Cal. Council for Promotion of History Innovation Winner 
2x Broadcast EMMY-Award Winning Program Host

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