Friday, March 15, 2013

April 6, 1969, Avalon Ballroom: Grateful Dead/Flying Burrito Brothers/AUM (Wayne Ceballos)

On the weekend of April 4-6, 1969, the Grateful Dead headlined at the Avalon Ballroom, the last rock show at the Avalon for almost 40 years. The final night was broadcast on KPFA-fm, generating a tape that was one of the few good quality '69 tapes in early circulation. The two opening acts were also broadcast, and those tapes circulated as well, if less widely. Second on the bill were The Flying Burrito Brothers, not a particularly successful band at the time, but who ultimately became quite legendary. Burritos' sets from the first night (April 4) and the last night (April 6) were ultimately released as an archival cd set in 2009. The third band on the bill, AUM, from San Francisco, have remained generally unnoticed by Deadheads over the decades.

However, AUM and their leader, lead singer and lead guitarist, Wayne Ceballos, shared the stage with the Grateful Dead a number of times throughout the Spring and Summer of 1969. Intriguingly, Ceballos jammed onstage with the Dead a number of times, a very rare occurrence for an opening act. As part of my intermittent series on acts who opened for the Grateful Dead, I am going to look at Wayne Ceballos and AUM and consider why Ceballos had the opportunity to jam with the Dead when so many other fine opening acts did not. Ceballos joined the Grateful Dead on stage four times in June 1969, and while the first time may have been partially accidental, his subsequent appearances confirmed that he was a welcome guest.

AUM
AUM appears to have been pronounced "ohm," and seems to be a reference to the Buddhist chant and possibly to the electrical term for a unit of resistance as well. The name was capitalized, but I don't think it stood for anything. The group probably formed in early 1969. The earliest date I have been able to find for them is March 11-13, 1969 at The Matrix. Since this was a weeknight booking (Tuesday thru Thursday), and AUM shared the bill with two other groups (All Man Joy and Birth), that is a pretty clear sign of a newly formed or newly arrived group. AUM was a power trio that featured Wayne Ceballos on lead guitar, harmonica and vocals, Ken Newell on bass and Larry Martin on drums. They performed original material and a few blues covers.

AUM released their debut album Bluesvibes, on Sire Records (distributed by London), in 1969. I have not been able to determine when in 1969 it was released, so I don't know when it might have been recorded. The album isn't bad, although it has some typical 60s excesses. In any case, all of the evidence seems to suggest that the band was formed, and quickly got management and the opportunity to play high profile gigs. Although AUM may have "gotten it together" in some out of the way place, less than a month after their Matrix debut, AUM was opening for the Grateful Dead at the Avalon. The next weekend, April 11-12, they were opening for Blood, Sweat & Tears and Albert King at the Fillmore East (Savoy Brown played April 12 in place of King--both acts were replacing Jethro Tull).  Because AUM played Fillmore East in April, I have to think that AUM must have just released their debut album.

All signs point towards AUM as being a Bill Graham sponsored group. At the time, Graham was trying to branch beyond concert promotion, opening up different corporate branches for both Talent Management and Booking, and later starting a record company. I know that AUM was booked by Bill Graham's Millard Agency, just as the Grateful Dead were in early 1969. This accounts for the number of times that AUM shared the bill with the Dead, since they were booked by the same agency. I think Graham was also AUM's manager, through one of his various subsidiaries. Later in  1969, AUM released their second album, Resurrection, on Graham's own Columbia-distributed Fillmore label. They toured the East Coast a little bit, too, including another stint at Filmore East (October 20-26, 1969, opening for The Who and King Crimson)The band continued on until 1970, but eventually faded away. As far as I know, Wayne Ceballos is still touring and recording to this day.

June 6, 1969, Fillmore West: The Grateful Dead plus Wayne Ceballos minus Jerry Garcia
Jerry Garcia was never in a hurry to get to a show, and apparently that drove Bill Graham crazy. This was particularly true in the days when Fillmore shows went around the bill twice--the headliner would play the 3rd and 6th set of the night--and were thus tightly scheduled. Apparently, on Friday, June 6, 1969, when the Grateful Dead headlined over Junior Walker And The All-Stars and the Glass Family, Garcia was nowhere to be found. An angry Graham presumably told the Dead they were going to go on stage anyway. Ceballos was backstage, and Phil Lesh invited him to sit in until Jerry arrived. Obviously, there was an element of desperation, but clearly Phil thought Ceballos could handle it. The tape shows that he clearly could. There isn't any doubt about Ceballos' presence: Ceballos tells the story himself:
Seems to me "I" was playing guitar on "Beat It On Down the Line" that night. I was walking by the stage when Phil (Lesh) asked me to come up and sit in on guitar. I distinctly remember playing guitar on BIODTL. Things were so crazy that night- but I DO remember playing on BIODTL.

I can back up my statement up because Jerry (Garcia) himself states in Bill Graham's autobiography that

"...One night I came to the gig REAL late and there was this OTHER guy playing guitar with the Grateful Dead. This guy from AUM.(my band) He was a pretty good blues guitar player. I thought, 'Geez, Bill is gonna fuckin' kill me,' but he didn't say anything..." (P. 220- 222, I believe).

Photos of Wayne Ceballos' band The Sound Machine, from the 1966 SF Band ID Book
The Sound Machine
I have not been able to find out much about Wayne Ceballos career prior to AUM. However, Ceballos has said elsewhere that his friendship with the Dead went back to Warlocks days. The one firm trace I have been able to find of Ceballos was his band's picture in the 1966 Band ID book, dating from about Fall 1966. Some entrepreneur put together a little book of "hip" San Francisco bands in Fall 1966, with their pictures and management contact information (the Grateful Dead were part of it, too), and the odd little booklet has been a goldmine of source information for scholars ever since. Some of the groups are well remembered, and others are pretty obscure. I know absolutely nothing about The Sound Machine beyond the captions of the pictures (above and below). It appears that they were a trio with Ceballos on lead guitar, Ty Tolomei on organ and Lee Better on drums. The manager seems to have given the phone number of a bar on Powell Street for contact information.

Photos of Wayne Ceballos' band The Sound Machine, from the 1966 SF Band ID Book

An ad from the entertainment section of the SF Chronicle from August 6, 1966
update: I found an ad for The Sound Machine. There was an SF Chronicle ad in August 1966 for a joint called Lefty's, at 209 Powell Street. It says LEFTY'S Proudly Presents "The Sound Machine" Rock 'n' Roll Trio. I know nothing else about Lefty's. 209 Powell Street is near O'Farrell.

A late 60's ad for Lefty's, at 209 Powell. Francis "Lefty" was a San Francisco baseball legend
update II: Yellow Shark tracked down Lefty's. It turns out that it was the establishment of San Francisco baseball legend Lefty O'Doul. More
Ty Tolomei is the link to Lefty's. Lefty's at 209, Powell was a bar being run by his mother, Margaret Tolomei, and hosted seemingly only a very few musical performances. Mrs Tomomei was subject to violent robbery after returning home with the takings in mid December 1967 and the bar seems to have closed pretty soon after - being re-incarnated as Lefty O’Doul’s right around the corner (at it's current location) at 333, Geary in early 1968. The Geary location also hosts occasional performances including three featuring Joe and Barry. These included Lee Houskeeper's Birthday Roast and shared stages with the likes of Carol Doda, the Rowens and Joli Valenti.

The Millard Agency
Bill Graham opened the Millard agency in Fall 1968. The initial clients were the Grateful Dead, Santana, Cold Blood and It's A Beautiful Day. In short order, Millard signed other promising local bands, including Elvin Bishop Group, Sanpaku and AUM. One of Millard's strategies was to take bands who had some status at the Fillmore and find bookings for them in the suburbs and other parts of Northern California. There were a lot of teenagers who wanted to go to the Fillmore but couldn't, so Millard effectively brought the Fillmore to them. A unique feature of the Fillmore was that the posters were very famous, so groups like It's A Beautiful Day, Cold Blood and Santana, who had not yet released albums, were still familiar names to Northern California rock fans.

Throughout the first half of 1969, Millard found bookings for the Dead all over California, and they were regularly supported by the above named Millard names. When the Grateful Dead played the Avalon on April 4-6, 1969, the Avalon was no longer promoted by Chet Helms, but the venue was really too small to compete in the rock market. Nonetheless, Graham was more than willing to have his agency book shows with a competitor.

Based on the paucity of AUM shows prior to the April 6 KPFA broadcast, I think AUM recorded their debut album before they had played, or played much. Graham did not have a record company at this time, but I think part of the management deal was that AUM would be able to get good bookings on the heels of their release, which is why I assume Resurrection was released around April. Although AUM's name was on the April 4-6 '69 poster, I happen to know that the Millard band Sanpaku played the first two nights. Based on discussions with Sanpaku's road manager, I think Sanpaku took the first two dates, but AUM played the night of the broadcast.

AUM also opened a couple of shows for the Grateful Dead in May. AUM was one of many bands booked at the "Big Rock Pow Wow" at the Seminole Indian Reservation in Florida on May 23-25, 1969 (Ceballos has a few amusing comments in Blair Jackson's liner notes for the Grateful Dead's release of an archival cd from that weekend). A few days later, AUM played the People's Park Bail Fund Benefit on May 28 at Fillmore West. As a marker of Millard's strategy, the high-profile Wednesday night benefit featured three prominent Fillmore bands--Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and Creedence Clearwater Revival--supported by three Millard acts: Santana, AUM and Elvin Bishop (Bangor Flying Circus were from Chicago, but had Graham connections). Since the show wasn't for-profit anyway, Graham's bands benefited from the exposure.

Given the Millard affiliation, it's not surprising that Wayne Ceballos was hanging out backstage on June 6, even more so if he had been friends with the Dead since the Warlocks days. It was serendipitous that he got the opportunity to sit in, but he acquitted himself well. Various archive commenters have observed that Ceballos sounds somewhat like Garcia, but as others have pointed out, he was playing with Garcia's rig. It's also worth considering that Ceballos does not seem to have been tied to any specific style of guitar playing. Playing live with AUM, Ceballos had a sound reminiscent of Cream. but he surfed through various styles on the two AUM albums. While Ceballos didn't have the distinctiveness of, say, Neil Young, his versatility made him a good candidate for sitting in. You don't have to take my word for it--the Grateful Dead invited him on stage for substantial jamming three more times in the next 8 days.

June 8, 1969 Fillmore West
In an event shrouded in confusion and mystery, on Sunday June 8, Owsley brought a strange new concoction to the Fillmore West. It did not help anyone perform better. A lot of musicians appear to have been backstage, both because they probably had nothing to do Sunday night and because their had been a big rock concert in Golden Gate Park that day. I have written about this event at great length, but it appears pretty clearly that June 8 was the day when Garcia was just too out of it to play, and he seems to have missed most of the second set (remember, there would have been a two hour gap between set one and set two, while the other bands played). Elvin Bishop and Wayne Ceballos stepped up to the stage, and joined Pigpen in an extended "Turn On Your Lovelight," Once again, Ceballos was the man on hand when an emergency arose.

June 13, 1969 Convention Center, Fresno, CA
AUM and Sanpaku opened for the Grateful Dead at the Selland Arena (Convention Center) in Fresno on Friday night. This was a typical Millard gig. The Grateful Dead, while not hugely popular, were Fillmore legends, and AUM and Sanpaku got a chance to build an audience out of town. Wayne Ceballos and Sanpaku flautist Gary Larkey were invited on stage for "Lovelight," and this time it wasn't an emergency, so Ceballos was obviously in good standing.

June 14, 1969 Gym, Monterey Peninsula College, Monterey, CA
On Saturday night, Millard had booked the Dead, AUM and The Bitter Seeds (a Monterey group) played the relatively small junior college gym in Monterey, yet another chance to bring the Fillmore to those who could not get there. Once again, Ceballos joined the Dead for "Lovelight," so clearly the band was enjoying playing with him.

Aftermath
AUM continued to tour throughout 1969, and released their second album Resurrection on Bill Graham's Fillmore label later in the year. They played Fillmore East in October, and continued to tour around. The only time I am aware of that AUM played with the Grateful Dead again was at the San Diego Convention Center on January 10, 1970, with the Sons Of Champlin (who had replaced Savoy Brown). I do not know the Grateful Dead's exact booking arrangements, but they had stopped using the Millard Agency, so they rarely played with all the Millard bands again.

By Spring 1969, Lenny Hart was asserting control over the Dead's finances, and that must have been critical to the separation with Millard. It also appears that the arrangement with Millard was a quid pro quo for when the Dead had had to borrow some money from Graham in late 1968. In any case, AUM and the rest of the Millard bands stopped playing much with the Dead, and Ceballos never seems to have had the opportunity to jam with the Dead again.

By 1970, the Grateful Dead were bringing the New Riders Of The Purple Sage on the road with them as an opening act. By 1972, the Dead pretty much stopped having opening acts. Thus the days when a friend might be in the opening band and be casually invited on stage for the final rave-up  were gone. Wayne Ceballos, while hardly a major name, seems to have a unique status in Dead history for the couple of weeks where he found himself backstage and then onstage with the Grateful Dead because they kept inviting him back.

AUM Discography
1969 Bluesvibes - Sire 97007 LP
1969 Resurrection - Fillmore 30002 LP
1970 Bye Bye Baby/Resurrection - Fillmore 7000 45
1970 Aum/Little Brown Hen - Fillmore 7001 45
  • Wayne Ceballos - Harmonica, Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
  • Larry Martin - Drums, Vocals
  • Ken Newell - Bass, Vocals




10 comments:

  1. Did your previous work on this date figure out if Sanpaku opening this evening as they had the previous two?

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    1. What we were able to figure out was that Sanpaku got paid for April 4-5 (Fri/Sat) and of course we know from the tape that AUM played Apr 6 (Sun). Sanpaku themselves did not remember the gig, they just saw it in an old account book. Given that the Avalon in '69 was run on a shoestring, I doubt they could afford 4 bands. Since Sanpaku and AUM shared an agency, logic points to them substituting the first two nights, but not appearing on Sunday, but it is still impossible to say for certain.

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  2. In the week after 6/6/69, Ceballos seems to have been the go-to guy for Pigpen's tunes, Lovelight in particular.
    Perhaps he was friends with Pigpen - or, just as likely, something like Lovelight was one of the only songs in the Dead's repertoire that he would know! At that point, Lovelight was also turning into the Dead's wild & crazy showpiece, where they'd throw in everything but the kitchen sink... Another singer? Why not! (Lovelight was the traditional "guest spot" that summer, with Pigpen handing the mike to Janis, a Santana member, and various members of the audience on different dates.)

    But Ceballos seems not to play guitar with them again after the 6th - no Ceballos/Garcia duets...

    It's also notable that Pigpen is much more restrained in his singing than Ceballos (and, I think, is more effective for it).

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  3. There is actually another guest appearance in this Avalon run that hasn't been mentioned before -
    In the Lovelight on 4/4/69, there is a different organ player, not Pigpen or TC. He clearly isn't too familiar with the Dead's Lovelight. But he gives it a shot...
    Given that Sanpaku opened that night, and they had an organ player, he would be my bet for this mystery guest.

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  5. On the CD of the FBB's set Tom Constanten is credited with playing organ on "Hot Burritos 1 and 2" There's also organ playing on "Train Song". They all sound a little rudimentary to be him but who knows...

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    1. Man, I've got that cd and I never even noticed. I think Gram played a little keyboards on stage, so maybe TC played the part one night. As to being rudimentary, much as I love the Burritos, it would be a little hard to play a Bach fugue to their music.

      A cool find, thanks.

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  6. I found an ad for The Sound Machine, from an August 1966 SF Chronicle. The Band ID Book was published in Fall '66, so the work for it must have been done earlier, so the ad is contemporary for the group. The Sound Machine plays a place called Lefty's, at 209 Powell (at O'Farrell, near the Cable Car turnaround).

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  7. Ty Tolomei is the link to Lefty's. Lefty's at 209, Powell was a bar being run by his mother, Margaret Tolomei, and hosted seemingly only a very few musical performances. Mrs Tomomei was subject to violent robbery after returning home with the takings in mid December 1967 and the bar seems to have closed pretty soon after - being re-incarnated as Lefty O’Doul’s right around the corner (at it's current location) at 333, Geary in early 1968. The Geary location also hosts occasional performances including three featuring Joe and Barry. These included Lee Houskeeper's Birthday Roast and shared stages with the likes of Carol Doda, the Rowens and Joli Valenti.

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    1. This is great. I updated the post accordingly.

      Lefty O'Doul was a San Francisco baseball legend. He was a Pacific Coast League star in the 1920s who went on to success with the New York Yankees and other teams in the 1930s. He was manager of the AAA San Francisco Seals from 1937-1951. Besides the current restaurant, there is a bridge named after him, and a gateway to the current SF Giants ballpark bears his name as well.

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