Friday, June 13, 2014

Sons And Daughters, American Documentary Films, 1967 (Jon Hendricks with The Grateful Dead)

Jon Hendricks, backed by the Grateful Dead, recorded the songs "Sons And Daughters" and "Fire In The City" in October, 1966 for the soundtrack of the Sons And Daughters documentary. The tracks were released as a single by Verve Records in early 1967,
The Pacific Film Archive, at 2575 Bancroft Way in Berkeley, opened in 1966, and it was one of the things that set Berkeley apart from other places. In the shadowy old days, before Netflix, Cable TV or even VHS tape, movies that were not on TV were largely lost to history. Like many college towns, Berkeley had a great old Repertory movie house, the UC Theater, that played touring prints of "old" movies that rotated on a daily basis, thus allowing people to see Lawrence Of Arabia or Yojimbo every year. PFA was something else, however--they had their own library of movies, and there you could see amazing movies that were available nowhere else.

Today you can see anything with a few clicks, but back then, going into the comfortable, dark, and yet popcorn-less theater on Bowditch Street was an invitation to another world. For decades, until the video revolution, I could say I had seen Wages Of Fear, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (the one from 1959) and Shadows Of Our Forgotten Ancestors, and got a glimpse of the unknowable. Imagine if you could only hear a great 60s Dead tape once every few years at a single place in Berkeley--that's what going to PFA was like.

Although the landscape has changed with greater modern accessibility to video, ironically enough the history of film is more important than ever, and the PFA remains a thriving institution. In the Fall of 2014, the PFA will be showing rare films from the 1960s, and one of them will be a rarely seen documentary called Sons And Daughters, directed by Jerry Stoll and released in 1967. Although the film is largely forgotten, it has remained on the radar of Deadheads because the Grateful Dead participated in the soundtrack. The band recorded two songs backing jazz legend Jon Hendricks, the title track "Sons And Daughters," and the song "Fire In The City." Both tracks were released as a rare single on Verve Records under Hendricks' name. A recent email query caused an investigation into the recording session for the soundtrack, and that will be the primary subject of the post.

The Vietnam Day Committee and Sons And Daughters
It is very difficult to sum up the history of 60s Berkeley anti-Vietnam War protests in a few paragraphs, but I'll try. By 1965, Berkeley was already a vortex for protests against anti-communist witch hunts and in favor of Civil Rights, both of which were intimately connected at the time. The Free Speech Movement at Berkeley had garnered national attention. The United States had ramped up its war in Vietnam following the Gulf Of Tonkin Resolution in August 1964. By mid-1965, 500,000 US troops were in Vietnam, most of them draftees. In May 1965, a group of Berkeley students held "Vietnam Day," a 35-hour demonstration against the war. The students were using the tactics of the Civil Rights and Free Speech movements to protest an American war, a hitherto unthinkable development.

After the Berkeley Vietnam Day protests in May, a loose coalition of student groups and activists planned Nationwide protests at numerous sites for October 15 and 16, 1965. The coalition was called The Vietnam Day Committee, or VDC. Berkeley was Ground Zero for protests, but in the end there were demonstrations in over two dozen locations, including college campuses and cities all across the country. The Sons And Daughters movie, whatever its exact origins, was a documentary of what was expected to be--and in many ways was--a watershed moment in American political life.

I do not know the financial history of Sons And Daughters, but I assume that like most documentaries, it was financed on a wing and a prayer. Thus although it covered events in October of 1965, it was another 18 months before the movie was ready for its public debut. Apparently there was some awareness of the film, as Ralph Gleason reported on the movie in his Ad Libs section of the Chronicle, and his phrasing was such that the subject already seemed known. In his October 19, 1966 column, Gleason wrote "Virgil Gonsalves has done the score for the "Days of Protest" film now renamed "Sons and Daughters."

Virgil Gonsalves (1931-2008) was a baritone sax player from Monterey, and well known around the local jazz scene. He had put out a few obscure records in the late 50s (I have one--its pretty good for that sort of thing). Gonsalves was in the final version of Electric Flag (which morphed into the Buddy Miles Express) and he was also in the rock band Pacific Gas And Electric in the early 70s, so he was definitely down with the hippies.

However, the practice at the time for a movie appealing to young people was to have at least one rock song that might get played on the radio. This fit in with the idea of a soundtrack album--there were plenty of movies that had an accompanying soundtrack album that consisted of a title track hit single (like "What's New Pussycat") and some background music from the film. The filmmakers engaged legendary jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks, and somehow, by a sequence of events I have been unable to pin down, the Grateful Dead were recommended as his backing group.

Hendricks was deservedly legendary in jazz circles, and even if you don't like jazz vocals--I don't--Hendricks and his partners Dave Lambert and Annie Ross were something else entirely. Hendricks and Ross would create lyrics for jazz solos, and the trio would sing them. This would be followed by scat-vocal solos that have to be heard to be believed (check it out: Lambert, Hendricks and Ross from 1961). Modern acts like Manhattan Transfer and Van Morrison owe plenty to Jon Hendricks and LHR, and he remains a revered figure long after his career wound down (although, at age 92, he's still with us).

Dennis McNally describes some of the details (p.173-74)
Shortly after they signed their contract, the band had a side adventure in recording, spending a couple of days with the distinguished jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks, who'd been commissioned to produce the sound track of a radical film about the Vietnam Day Committee's antiwar demonstrations called Sons And Daughters. Hendricks had grown up in Ohio, five doors down from Art Tatum, then formed the jazz vocal group Lambert, Hendricks And Ross. He was a genuine hero, and the Dead leaped at the chance to work with him.

Ralph Gleason's Lively Arts column from the November 20, 1966 SF Chronicle
The Grateful Dead had agreed to their contract with Warner Brothers in October of 1966,  but did not actually sign it until around December 1. Hendricks and the Dead worked at Columbus Recorders at 906 Kearny Street for a few days (they would also mix Anthem Of The Sun there as well, in the Spring of '68). Thanks to the Yellow Shark, we can put a pretty good bracket around when the Dead recorded with Hendricks. Gleason wrote about the session in some detail in his Chronicle column of Sunday, November 20, 1966. Yellow Shark:
I will throw my hat in to the ring and say that the recording dates for the Hendicks’ cuts are October 1966 - as they were delivered by Hendricks himself to Columbia the first week of November 1966 (when he was playing Shelly's Manne Hole in Hollywood).
By November 20 when the Sunday afternoon at the Fillmore featured the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Stokely Carmichael and The Staff, James Cotton Chicago Blues Band, Johnny Talbot and Da Thangs with Jon Hendricks and John Hardy as MCs, Ralph J Gleason had already mentioned the recordings in his "Lively Arts" column for the Chronicle.
 Supposition: October provides three nice little gaps when the GD could have been in the studio with JH – commencing October 3, October 10, October 17 and October 27. I think I can comfortably ignore the 3rd after the events of that previous weekend. I rather like the last two dates – particularly the last where JH could have left with the tapes for LA right after they were completed.
Hendricks, for all his legendary status as a jazz icon, had no record contract in 1967. So he probably bought the tapes to Columbia's Los Angeles office in the hopes of getting a record deal. This may shed a little light on why the Dead put off signing with Warners on what they had apparently agreed to--they may have wanted to renegotiate if there was a chance to appear on a Columbia album with Hendricks, or something like that. Nonetheless, Columbia did not bite, and just a single ended up coming out on Verve Records, which was basically a jazz label.

The complete story of how Country Joe And The Fish came to be, and how Peter Krug's songs ended up on the b-side of their record, is too long to fit in a caption, so you'll need to see Country Joe's blog
"Sons And Daughters" and "Fire In The City"
Ultimately, two songs were recorded and released a single on Verve Records. I do not know if Verve thought the songs would be a hit--maybe they were thinking that if the single caught on, they could release a soundtrack album with the two Hendricks songs and Virgil Gonsalves' soundtrack score as well. McNally has some interesting descriptions of the sessions (p.174)
Weir was not familiar with Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, and Garcia and Lesh gave him an education. The session was hard for him [Weir], and he felt considerable pressure. Hendricks enjoyed himself: "Pigpen was the one I was told I was going to have so much trouble from. He was like a child, he was very sweet." Jon had heard of Jerry, and said much later that Garcia had the respect of some of the local jazz musicians. The band as a whole "seemed to feel like they were in training. And I didn't realize it myself until about the end of the first day. They didn't seem to want any latitude at all. Garcia said, 'look, anything you want us to do, just let us know. And we'll do it." And when it got to the singing, Pigpen was brilliant on the vocals.
To me, the fact that Hendricks was told that Pigpen was the one who would be "trouble" was a clear sign that whoever made the connection between the Dead and Hendricks did not actually know the Grateful Dead very well. Pigpen had a scary appearance, and he was the least interested in getting high, but by all accounts was actually far friendlier and easier to work with than the others. I think the connection to the Dead came from some people on the Berkeley political scene who had seen the Dead, and perhaps met them, but hadn't really had any musical association with them.

The movie's title track was written by Hendricks. The other song, which was the b-side of the single, "Fire In The City," was written by Berkeley songwriter named Peter Krug. The hyper-obscure Krug song, never really remarked upon to my knowledge, suggests an overt Berkeley connection. There had been one prior recording of the song, released on Joe McDonald and ED Denson's "talking magazine" Rag Baby. The A-side of the EP is Country Joe and The Fish, doing "Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag" and "Superbird", and the b-side is Peter Krug doing "Fire In The City" and another song ("Johnny's Gone To War").

The Rag Baby EP had a press run of about 100 copies, and any copies not bought personally from Joe McDonald were only available for sale in the basement of Moe's Books on Telegraph Avenue. Thus there is essentially zero chance that anyone outside of Berkeley knew about this song.  In 1966, at least, there were still plenty of connections between the Berkeley Anti-War hippies and the Haight Street crowd. The split between them didn't really set in until after the Human Be-In, in January of 1967. The organizers of the VDC would have had all the phone numbers of the Grateful Dead (and every other band) and seen them numerous times at Harmon or Pauley. They also would have thought that all the bands were sympathetic to The Cause, which turned out to be not nearly so simple.

The surprising thing, really, is that the filmmakers didn't hire Country Joe And The Fish. If they knew about Peter Krug, they surely knew about Country Joe And The Fish, and they were far more committed to activism than the Dead. Of course, the Dead were "bigger", as in more infamous, so they probably got the first call, which they accepted.

Sons And Daughters, American Documentary Films, Released April 1967
However, shortly before the release of Sons And Daughters, the Dead withdrew their names from the  project. McNally:
when the film was being prepared for showing, the Dead asked that their name be removed from the credits. To [Dead manager Danny] Rifkin, they were about music, not politics. Weir remembered 'We were getting a lot of heat then." The FBI had a tendency to stop by 710 looking for Bear or other well-known "underground" people and "they knew our names'"
Sons And Daughters  debuted on April 21, 1967, at a theater in San Francisco (possibly the Washington Square at 1741 Powell). Steve Seid, the video curator of the Pacific Film Archive, describes the film:
It clearly depicts the anti-war marches of October, 1965 from the point of view of the students and activists. An occasional, semi-poetic voice-over talks about the yearnings of youth for a just world. The first cut of Sons and Daughters begins with about three minutes of black with just the Sons and Daughters theme song playing. That was eventually cut out and Sons and Daughters only plays over the end-credits.The song announces the optimism of youth versus the indifference of parental authority and with that in mind you enter the film. The two marches shown left from Sproul Plaza and were both turned away at the Oakland border by hundreds of police.
About two thirds in, Sons and Daughters takes a bit of a diversion to racial unrest around Hunters Point in the city. There is a montage of African American guys scuffling with the police etc etc. This is when Fire in the City is played. This section is somewhat extraneous to the main thrust of the documentary.
It is hard to say without seeing the film, but to Berkeley students in the mid-60s, the Vietnam War and the struggle for Civil Rights were intimately connected, so whether or not the film effectively portrayed that, it did reflect a common viewpoint of the time. 

Like many documentaries, Sons And Daughters was probably poorly funded and had difficulty finding a distributor. Anti-war films were not likely to find an audience in 1967. Seid explains
American Documentary Films was a short-lived endeavor. Jerry Stoll, who died about 5 years ago, had teamed with Stephen Lighthill, then a very young cinematographer but now somewhat of an esteemed shooter. They had differing views about what Sons and Daughters should accomplish. Soon after the premiere in North Beach I think they parted ways. The film had very few actual screenings and then vanished into Stoll's basement. Lighthill rescued the film probably 10 years ago, gave PFA two prints, and the UCLA Film and Television Archive has additional prints and the original materials. 
The original press kit apparently lists the Grateful Dead's drummer as Bill Sommers. "Sommers" was the name on the fake draft card that Kreutzmann used to be allowed into bars (I do not know what Weir used).

An interesting comment online at the Archive
https://archive.org/post/227528/gd-incunabula-12-05-66

- you will find me in the credits of the movie in question as one of the sound editors: Don Cochrane.
- you found confusing data about the name of Jerry Stoll's fiim. it is not "Fire in the City"; it is "Sons and Daughters":
- dir.- Jerry Stoll, camera, Stephen Lighthill, Jerry's assistant was Sally Pugh. his son worked on sound as well.
- it was produced by American Documentary Films.
- title song ( which may have been "Your Sons and Daughters" ) was written and sung by Jon Hendricks, backed by the Grateful Dead.
- the sound quality of the song in the movie is good, but someone added an unrequested echo to the version used for the record and- in my view- ruined it.
- I made 20 minutes of the sound track- mostly creating audio for silent AP film footage of the Vietnam War. an example of the work i did was to "live up" AP footage of American troops, walking in shallow water. to create this effect, i waded through the reeds of a pond, carrying a Nagra tape recorder and then staggered and multiplied the recording, so that one person became several.
- as you say, it is hard to find "Sons and Daughters". i remember seeing it in old film catalogs. had little- but not no- luck, googling it.
- i do have a copy of the poster for the world premier at the old theatre in Washington Square in North Beach, San Francisco.
- it was the only American feature film made during the war that opposed the war.
- it won a European film festival- i think Leipzig. (my guess is, that prize was a political choice to tweak the nose of our government. Leipzig was part of the [Soviet Bloc] at the time.)

A poster for the SNCC Benefit at Fillmore Auditorium on November 20, 1966, with the Grateful Dead and others. Ralph Gleason announced that Jon Hendricks would be the MC at this event. Did they...?
November 20, 1966  Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA: The Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/James Cotton Blues Band/Johnny Talbot And De Thangs/MCs: Jon Hendricks and John Hardy Benefit for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee

Gleason promoted the Fillmore benefit for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on Sunday night, November 20, 1966. The Dead and James Cotton were billed at the Fillmore over the weekend, but Quicksilver and Johnny Talbot were added. The event when from 3pm to midnight and included speakers as well as bands. Jon Hendricks, though not on the poster, was announced by Gleason in his column as MC for the evening (along with KDIA dj John Hardy). The MC gig, in fact, seems to have been a reason for Gleason to mention the Hendricks/Dead sessions, and thus the reason the Yellow Shark could make a good guess as to the date of the recording.

Hendricks had met the Dead, worked with them for a few days, and seemed to have liked them, enough that he remembered them many years later when Dennis McNally interviewed him. Is there any chance that Hendricks went through a nine hour show and never once came on stage? I don't think so. And maybe, just maybe, he stepped out on the Fillmore stage for some "Fire In The City" or  a little vocalese with Pigpen? Maybe not--but I prefer to think he did, until someone can prove otherwise to me.


2 comments:

  1. It is also a mystery to me how the Dead got the call for this, but it's interesting to hear about the Berkeley connection.

    Hendricks' account of the studio session is also notable - the Dead as uncertain session hands, wanting to be told what to do! (Garcia would take the lead much more when he joined Jefferson Airplane in the studio the following month - in contrast, evidently the Dead didn't feel at ease in the Hendricks session.)
    It's odd to hear that "Garcia had the respect of some of the local jazz musicians" already, unless Hendricks is conflating a later memory of Garcia's reputation.

    What would really have been cool is if they'd played some instrumental music with Virgil Gonsalves for the soundtrack!

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    1. I agree with you, Hendricks' remark about jazz musicians respecting Jerry seems a little mis-dated. I'm sure jazz musicians did respect him, compared to other rock guitarists, but I just can't see how any of them had heard Garcia in '66.

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